I'd like to start by saying a big thank you to all the Spiners & Challengers (from previous races as well as the 2014 edition) who took time to complete the survey. I'd also like to acknowledge the contributions from those who did not complete the race, but still shared their experiences. I have made every effort to write this blog with sensitivity to these racers. I am always mindful of the commitment and investment of time and energy it takes to stand on the start line and face down the Spine.
The insights offered by all the respondents have been extremely useful in adding context to the conclusions. I'm also sure that other racers will appreciate trying out your ideas and methods to see if these might help with future successes. As one respondent said "knowledge is power" and the Spine is no exception when it comes to informed choices in all aspects of kit and training.
The aim of the survey is not to find a 'formula which fits everyone'. Indeed I doubt whether such a thing exists anyway. Even before the race starts, there are so many variables such as previous experience, expertise, fitness and physiology. I shall pick up this thread further into this blog when I return to the theme of the 'complete racer'. What I hope does come from this survey is range of ideas, suggestions and further discussion which racers can test out and see if there are improvements for them too.
So what prompted me to start this survey?
Well, as a member of the Spine Race Mountain & Medic Safety team (M&Ms) I have a vested interest in working for every racer to:
- Fulfill his/her potential
- Have a safe race
- Have the best possible experience (although enjoyment sometimes comes as a retrospective emotion in the bar after the race!)
Of course, footwear choice is an important factor in all of the above. Who's racing with what kit is a frequent topic of discussion among the M&Ms and it helps us form an idea of who might require what kind of help during the race.
So to the results...We had 36 respondents, of which 17 were Spiners and 19 Challengers.
Anecdotal evidence and my M&M observations of the races in 2012, 13 & 14 indicate that the Spine and Challenger are different propositions in terms of feet attrition and tissue damage. For instance, by the mid to late stages of the Spine, enough time has elapsed for additional complications such as trench foot and infection to become race limiting factors.
Examination of the survey results further justifies scrutinising each race separately to draw out specific observations for the 110 & 268 miles.
SPINE CHALLENGER (Edale to Hawes 110 miles)
- Of the 19 respondents, 5 did not make it to Hawes, 14 finished.
- The most popular shoe type was Salomon Speedcross (6 wearers).
- Other Salomons on show were a couple of SLab & one XA Pro.
- Most Salomon wearers kept with the same shoe for the whole of the Challenger (one changed from SLab to Speedcross.)
- 6 out of 7 Salomon wearers completed the Challenger.
- A range of Inov8 shoes also featured strongly: GTX 268 Boot (1 wearer); Trail Roc 255 (2); 295 (2); Roclite (1).
- Of the Inov8 wearers 4 out of 6 completed the Challenger.
- Of the 17 respondents, 6 did not make it to Kirk Yetholm, 11 finished.
- Most popular brand of shoe (worn at any time during the race) was Salomon (8 wearers)
- Again a range of Inov8 (worn at any time during the race): 285 (1 wearer); 315 (3); 319 (1); 355 (1)
- Other types of shoe (9 types all different)
- Of the 6 respondents who did not finish all wore shoes in the 'other' category. I do not think it is possible to draw any firm conclusions from this due to the small sample size in this area of the survey.
- Of the finishers 8 wore the same type of shoe all the way.
- 11 respondents wore low sided trail running type shoes.
- Of the 8 respondents who wore mid to high ankle footwear/boots, 6 started the race with them, 2 changed to them during the race (including Meindl Burma boots)
- All the respondents who wore mid-high ankle boots (or switched to them) during the race completed the Spine.
FURTHER SPINE/CHALLENGER RACE SPECIFIC TRAINING
This approach encourages athletes to look at all aspects of their skills, routines and strategies.
As with the training we offer, the focus is on what works best for the individual, using strengths to the best possible effect but not losing sight of the need to develop weaker skills, sharing knowledge so that racers can take complete ownership of their performance, which in itself can feel like a huge positive step forwards.