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By Andy Mouncey, May 9 2017 12:07PM

So – apparently – said the great Killian Jornet currently girding his loins for a speed attempt on Everest Now I get where he was going with this – really I do – but here’s the footnote:

‘But If It Really Really Isn’t Fun – You’re F***ed.’

Last weekend was supposed to be Redemption.

After a third aborted Spine Race back in January www.thespinerace.com I’d picked out a 110 mile jaunt on The North Yorkshire Moors as a chance to reset the dial. (film of Hardmooors 110)

Now if at this point you are expecting me to regale you with a warts and all take-it-right-to-the-wire account where our hero digs into his soul to drag his sorry ass once more over a finish line and Salvation…


It wasn’t even close.

‘Cos I binned it at 21 miles.

By Andy Mouncey, May 4 2017 12:00AM

There needs to be a pretty special reason why I’d want to let a guest loose on my blog, and Steve Birkinshaw’s account of his attempt to beat arguably the most intimidating ultra distance fell running record - 300 miles over 214 Lake District mountains - fits the bill.

Those in the know thought that this record - a shade over seven days - would never be beaten. It had stood for 28 years. The person taking on this superhuman challenge would have to be smart, willing to push harder and suffer more than ever before. There Is No Map in Hell tells the story of a man willing to do just that - and a family and support team that made it possible.

I like it ‘cos it’s much more than an account of a bloke haring up and down mountains. Contributions from family and friends bring it to life. Steve has also written about the price he paid. Two years on he is still paying and has used this book launch to share some of the aftermath as well.

This extract is part of the Blog tour for the publishing of There is no Map in Hell

By Andy Mouncey, Jan 23 2017 01:05PM

So were you ready then?

Well, no – clearly I wasn’t given my Spine race ground to a halt at 75 miles. And while 75 miles is no mean feat in the normal scheme of things this jaunt is so far off normal that you almost have to invent a new language just to start to describe the thing. So given the goal was 268 miles, 75 feels pretty pathetic.

Clearly someone thinks I’ve still not earned the right to finish the thing yet.

Mrs Mouncey was most put out given that she’d planned A Week Without Husband that – so she said – revolved around checking the live tracking every 7th minute then sharing OMG etc messages with her other Spine groupies. The children might get cursory attention every now and again but that would be a bonus.

‘Bit of a bummer when I shuffled in late on Monday night then.

I was quite philosophical Tuesday – then the slide began:

Wednesday: Questioning, reviewing and generally starting to pick at the scab of my race wound.

Thursday: Starting to growl as I collect way more questions than answers that make the Situation-Choice-Response at 75 miles look increasingly shaky.

Friday: Starting to stew.

Saturday: Stewing nicely.

Sunday: Resolve to black-bag the whole damn thing and move the f*** on (sigh).

Which is a shame because it was a record-breaking week on lots of measures:

Largest field ever to start

Most mud ever encountered on the course: It was pretty much a 75 mile mile quagmire

Warmest – and therefore most low cloud/extensive poor visability

Record-breaking Mountain Rescue Team challenge

New record on the 108 mile sprint distance

Most international competitors

Largest ladies field by a big margin

Ladies record obliterated

Most lady finishers ever

Probably the most nail-biting racing at the top end ever seen

Social media coverage through the roof

And that’s just the stuff I know about.

Both mens and ladies winners work in the medical profession – he’s a doctor, she’s a nurse – so clearly there’s something about working long hours on little sleep and making decisions where the stakes are high that is perfect preparation.

(All us Spine DNFers are gonna be making a beeline for the NHS recruitment line then. Heck, it’ll save on the training!).

My fun and games? I’m still not really completely sure. Here’s what I do know:

Lotsa stuff did go well – I was much better organized and checkpoint transition was slick, for instance. (Though I’ll admit to some world class faffing the day before and in the hours before the start that amounted to packing and repacking my bag a ridiculous number of times. Nerves had made basecamp in my head – lots of them).

I was short of running – my hiking was fine – and my contact points failed at the working interface. I could feel familiar symptoms starting to spiral: First pins and needles in the soles of my feet that over time progress to something akin to broken glass. Meanwhile sodden tissues continue to swell till the soles of the feet become unbearable to touch.

The choice I was given at 75 mile by the medic was framed as black and white: We can drug you and strap you and you might get 2 or 20 miles up the trail. What happens after that and what trouble you might store up for long term problems is unknown. We suspect nerve damage to the balls of your feet and the saturated tissues are making it all worse.

Or you can stop now.

It was a career-ending scenario that was painted that threw me – genuine rug-from-under-feet stuff: ‘You might have to change your sport…’

Sufficiently shocking that I had a big cry embarrassingly in front of big boys and hard gnarly bast***s that rather annoyingly didn’t seem to help me at all.

So I had another one just to be sure.


Some days later from the luxury of a warm bath and after consultation with trusted folks and a serious bout of structured reflection I’m less than convinced and starting to rue what is starting to look like an opportunity lost.

And yes, I know: You don’t second-guess decisions taken on the battlefield from the safety of a bunker, and you gotta work on the basis that you take the best decision you can at the time with the information you have and the resources at your disposal.

That’s all fine and dandy – and it still all feels abit s***.

What DOES stand out is that I have to be even more proactive re footcare (and foot wear) on the big stuff in crap conditions. Because it’s damn certain that if I can reduce the water-logging in the feet what nerves I still have in there will thank me for it. And this is a far simpler way to start than the orthotic or surgical options that were floated.

What THAT means is that the project continues with some tweaks.


Winner reports from www.grough.co.uk



Stacks of clips and pics https://www.facebook.com/TheSpineRace/

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