Summer Spine Challenger June 2021

Summer Spine Challenger June 2021

After posting a DNF in the winter Spine Challenger 2020 due to extrem stomach problems I was still determined to complete at least 1 100 mile ultra run. The Summer Spine Challenger seemed a much more benign option, held in summer, being dry, warm and with 16 hours of daylight. I hadn’t set myself a specific target, though still had 40 hours as a reasonable target. 40 hours would be less than 3mph average – theoretically walking pace.

Having recced all the route for the 2020 winter event and then run half of it before retiring at Hebden Bridge I was confident that I would not get lost with the route on my Garmin Fenix 6 and SatNav plus the guide, which I never used. So with only 20 miles a week in 2020 I set off on the train from Colne to Edale on the Friday

Finishing time 40:53:27

Summer Spine Challenger Results

Mallory Park 29/03/2015

So the eagerly awaited first race of the season and I was all raring to go. Over the winter I had been given some excellent tuition from Oliver Barnard at Preptech. He had coached me on some of the finer points of racing such as getting on the power earlier, getting the car setup but not upset on turn in and having the confidence to let the car run right out to the apron on certain corners. It is also an eye opener how using a gear higher can pay off if you can be both smooth enough and decisive enough to apply the throttle earlier enough. I definitely recommend tuition from Oliver, the 2011 MG Trophy champion.

I had also fitted a brand new cylinder head complete with cams and VVC mechanism as a compression test had revealed one cylinder down to 170 psi and the other pressures marginal. With the pressures restored and the engine sounding a lot sweeter I was hoping for a trouble-free run up to the event. But that wasn’t bargaining for the driveshaft bearing failure 2 weeks before when my son Charles and I went for a trackday at Oulton Park. Still £50 later for a second hand ‘box out of a Grandad’s ZR and I was on the road again! That is one of the reasons that I have always run near standard cars being a Lancastrian and all that.

The last time I competed at Mallory was the rally of the Midlands in 2009 driving a BMW 325 rally car. I remember we were having a pretty torid time. The tachymetric relay jumped out at Merevale Hall then we got lost in a sea of cones at MIRA proving ground. The only highlight was getting 1st and 2nd fastest times at Mallory Park. We used the infield where the paddock is and the bus stop before the Esses. An ex 205 Challenge champion commented that I was the only one that got the line right at Gerrard’s and that is what reawakened a long burning ambition that I would like to try this going round in circles! After a test in a Formula Vee and then musing about Mr2s, MX5s and Mighty Minis I ended up in a ZR.

The weather forecast of rain and wind was quite annoying in some respects but then I have always enjoyed slippery surfaces so I couldn’t really complain. I got there what I thought was nice and early to only just be able to bag a slot then went for a track walk, which was of debatable use as I was permanently cowed against the rain. It seemed that most of the speed was to be had coming out of Gerrards and the hairpin. Nick Ashman gave me some good tips and advised me to be wary of the painted exit curb coming out of Gerrards, which was to prove quite prophetic…

Qualifying was a bit turbulent and I didn’t actually get a clear lap but only pole sitter Paul Clackett passed me so perhaps I wasn’t doing too bad. It was a definite advantage having the Dunlop full wets that ZRs running to the Trophy regs. are allowed to use and I was chuffed to bits to qualify 3rd overall behind Ashley Woodward. I wasn’t really sure whether there was more to come or not as I didn’t feel to be exploring the limits but then that I would probably have got ragged and slowed down had I have pushed it harder.

There was a lot of indecision in the hour leading up to the 2:40pm race start as we all paced up and down the pits nervously prevaricating over wets or intermediates. Really all this F1 stuff was a bit of a joke as it would have taken me 10 minutes minimum to change all 4 wheels on my own so wets it was. This seemed to be the choice of everyone apart from Ashley Woodward who proved that this was not a good decision by spinning nearly immediately into Gerrards! Keith Egar had made a blistering start from 8th to 3rd but then ended up on the outside of Ashley so lost a lot of ground. I took to the grass trying to leave a big enough margin and just held off Philip Standish in the LE500. From there on I was pretty much on my own. At one moment I got all excited thinking that I was catching Paul but that was just the deception of braking into the hairpin. So I paced myself for easily my best race finish of 2nd overall and 1st in class.

There was still the backmarkers to pass however, most of whom were on far less favourable tyres and RWD so were slipping all over the place. I passed an MG Midget on the outside and was catching Colin Offley’s Sprite on the exit of Gerrards. I could see he was struggling for grip and obviously trying but had plenty of speed and so lined up to pass on the right when suddenly he did what Nick had advised not to do and dropped a wheel on the kerb and then right before my eyes there was a red projectile spearing across the track at 90 degrees. I steered right but found myself funnelled towards the scene of the accident. It was and unescapable collision all played out on this clip. Needless to say both cars are badly damaged but the drivers are OK although I have since heard that Colin has sustained a broken rib so best wishes to him.

Of course at that point I though why am I doing this and not running or biking or doing something much less expensive. On reflection though it was a very good weekend up to that point and hopefully I will be out at Donington Park in 2 month’s time.

Results and lap times.

Calderdale Hike 12/04/2014

The Calderdale Hike is a classic in ultra running circles, having been run since 1979. There are variations of walking and running with 26 and 37 mile routes. I would be competing in the 37 mile run in preparation for the 50 mile Lakeland 50 in July. As I alluded to in my Haworth Hobble ramble I had done the maths and extrapolated 32 miles of Haworth Hobble @ 5:55 into 37 miles of Calderdale Hike @ sub 7 hours. I was to be proved wrong…

Steady away from Sowerby Cricket Club things were going fine and I was enjoying picking out parts of the route from the Calderdale Mountain Bike Marathon (still wishing I was on my bike!). I use the Garmin Edge 800 as a Sat Nav with 1:50,000 mapping supplied. It is little different from walking GPS with the exception that, if you put it in your pocket the touch screen can get all excited and give you various combinations of super zoom or random settings when you look at it again. It is not purist I guess but it is better than getting lost. The reason I mention this is that you also need to be flexible because the supplied GPX file uses a route that is about half a mile longer as you drop down into Mytholmroyd. The string of runners gives the game away so better to follow the pack than the GPS at this point.

On to Stoodley Pike and the reverse of the Haworth Hobble, overtaking some more cautious runners on the descent and then into Lumbutts Methodist Church for some great ham sandwiches and fluid refill. Things were feeling fine now and I just has to be patient on the big ascent to the Long Causeway and then about 3 miles of total bog across to Gorple reservoir. I felt that I should have been enjoying the bog since I live only a mile away from a boggy ascent up Boulsworth Hill but much as I told myself that this was real man’s terrain I couldn’t wait for the hard standing of the classic Gorple track down to the Widdop checkpoint.

Well 3 hours gone and not even halfway but my legs felt OK and I knew the route over past Top Withens and to Penistone Park so plodded on and ate my first Muller rice. This time it has imploded in my sack so I need to look at a better way of transporting it. It was only that I got to the top of Penistone and saw Stoodley Pike in the very far distance that I realised the enormity of what still lay ahead. If you had have told me that anyone would be able to run to the East of that landmark and further having already come from there I would have said you were mad a few years ago. How many fell walkers amongst us used to shake our heads as runners scurried past us on terrain that seemed suitable for walking only?

The results are here, which show me finishing 44th out of 83 37 Mile Runners. In the bottom half and a lot of work to do before the Lakeland 50.

Strava Run Profile.

Silverstone National 29/03/2014

8ian winstanley 006 SmallThis was to be the first race of the 2014 season with the only time in the car since my last race at Oulton Park 7 months ago being a track day, again at Oulton Park. I would have to rely on my in car from the race 2 years ago at the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit and remember to turn right not left at Maggots onto the much shorter National Circuit!

Qualifying went OK but not brilliantly, lining up 4th out of 12 in class and 11th out of 24 cars in total. My usual good starts don’t appear to be working too well in the mixed configuration Cockshoot Cup field as the RWD cars get a better start – especially the mid engined MGFs and that puts me out of sequence. So I dropped down to around 13th in class after the 1st lap then made up a succession of places at the end of the Wellington straight, where you can be really late on the brakes into Brooklands if you are looking to do a dive up the inside.

8ian winstanley 003 SmallAfter Peter Bramble spun at Copse I was up to 3rd in class then in quick succession both of the quick MG Midgets of David Morrison then later on Mike Peters, retired leaving me 1st in class and 7th place overall. It was quite a lonely race from then on and all I had to do was keep it tidy for my first ever class win in racing. Roll on Croft!

Class B Results

1st Ian WINSTANLEY MG ZR 160 18laps 21:58.2
2nd Keith EGAR MG Midget 17laps 21:20.0
3rd Peter BRAMBLE MG ZR 160 17laps 21:28.0

Haworth Hobble 15th March 2014

This was to be my first “ultra run” (over 26 miles) although I had done a 31 mile practice from our house to Pendle Hill and back and was in the land of the living dead for the last 3 miles. Since I am running 50 miles in July whilst competing in the Lakeland 50 I really needed the long distance practice.

It was the usual set off with some people panting and puffing and running way too fast. I let them go and stuck to my sub 135bpm target. Up the cobbled street out of Haworth and then familiar territory towards Top Withens and over into Calderdale. The average was not too good at below 5.5mph here but I knew the route to the Long Causeway would bring the average up. At the long causeway halt I refilled the water and downed my new anti indigestion tool – Muller Rice. It seemed to go down well but was a little bulky to carry around with me.

Things seemed to be going well and I could see my destination of Stoodley Pike on the skyline. Most of the route down into Todmorden was mountain bike territory for me so I felt at home on the old pack horse trails. The route up to the Pike is a bit of a killer but I was still feeling OK at this point and my average had risen to 5.8mph. I was doing my usual trick of reeling in some of the fast starters as well. Down from the Pike it drops into Pennine Bridleway country in Challis Wood. This is where I started feeling a little queasy and needed a second Muller Rice as I knew the slog up to Heptonstall would be a killer. Walking was about as much as I could manage at this point.

It was the long haul up stairs that was the sting in the tail and most of us were by now running / walking. It was good to chat with others and all pretence of competition had now gone out of the window. This was about survival. You know that you are tired when even the downhills are difficult to run and how much did I wish I were on a mountain bike descending stairs! Only over Penistone Hill and I would be in Haworth. I could see a Trawden vest behind me and ran like hell, nearing the finish and still in front. Then I took a wrong turning and lost out by 11 seconds. It was irrelevant really but it is amazing how soul destroying that can be when emotions are running high.

My finish time was 05:55:28 133rd out of 509 starters so a significant improvement over my usual top 1/3rd finishing rate – see I was tired but not shattered and was hoping to do the forthcoming Calderdale Hike in sub 7 hours based on the fact that it was only around 5 miles longer.

Strava Run Profile

Scotland Coast to Coast September 14th – 15th 2013

Welcome to the first blog on my new personal website. This and forthcoming articles will be detailing my participation in various running, biking and adventure events as well as some motorsport competition.


Team manager!

Christine and I had been planning the Scotland Coast to Coast for the past 9 months. Unfortunately Christine developed a stress fracture, which I will explain in more detail in another article. Suffice to say that it renders you incapable of running and so sadly I would be competing on my own, though Christine would be giving me much-needed support over the weekend.

The event entails running, biking and kayaking 105 miles from the East to West Coast of Scotland, roughly following the Great Glen and the Caledonian Canal. It is not an elite event, in that it is not sanctioned by any particular body (such as the Fell Running Association or British Cycling) and, as such attracts a wide variety of competitors. For some their sole aim is to complete the event, whilst others have very firm goals in terms of pace and position. So there is something for everyone and there is little of the pretentiousness that you sometimes get at certain cycling or running gatherings.

The logistics for this event are pretty substantial, requiring the Friday and Monday off work, unless you live in Scotland, and a lot of gear. Since the route is not circular you will also need to think carefully about what equipment ends up where. If you have supporters they can move the gear and clothes from each location but if not you are able to use the bag drop off at various points on the route. The permutations can seem a little intimidating at first but the first rule is that your initial bag should not be more than 65 litres and weigh no more than 15Kg. This is dropped off at the registration at the start in Nairn on the Saturday morning (not the Friday evening when you first register). The bag will then follow you to the midway halt at Fort Augustus on Saturday evening and the finish in Glen Coe on Sunday night. If you plan to leave your car at Glen Coe you will not need your Sunday night stuff as this can be left in the car at Glen Coe. This option involves driving up to Glen Coe to arrive no later than 12:00am on the Friday morning, whereupon you can board a shuttle bus at a cost of £30, which will take you to Nairn, where you can register, fasten your number to your bike, pedal the 7 miles to deposit your bike at the Saturday transition and then get a shuttle bus back to Nairn for your overnight stay. Got all that!? For more information you can read this year’s pre event briefing notes.

Nairn Start

Getting ready for the start

My training for this event had been quite focused. From someone who had never run until 2 1/2 years ago and who used to skip the school cross country, I had built up from a few miles per week to eventually completing the Yorkshire Dale 3 Peaks Fell Race in 4 1/2 hours this April. We also competed in quite a few Sportives to improve our road cycling and bought a Cyclocross bike apiece as this was considered the best compromise for the event. To be honest a Cyclocross bike is a slightly more robust road bike with cantilever brakes and more space for big tyres. I manged to pick up a Trek Cronus Ultimate for less than a £1,000 from eBay – a full carbon monster that cost £3,000 6 months ago and weighs only 16 Lb (7.5Kg). This easily doubles up as a swish road bike and the Schwalbe CX Pro 700 30 semi slick tyres are little slower than full road tyres.


Crystal clear view over the sea at Nairn

The costs can also build up quite a bit depending on where you choose to stay. Entry starts at around £195 for early birds in 2014, rising to around £255 for very late comers. Before you start thinking “how much?” do bear in mind that Rat Race are a commercial organisation, who have to employ people as opposed to volunteers and that the event is linear not circular with all the complexities of kayaks, bike transition etc. We stayed at a B&B in Nairn on the Friday evening (book very early) at a cost of £70, the Lovatt Arms on the Saturday, which is £120 without the evening meal or £170 with it. The hotel is a “boutique” hotel and is very lovely, with excellent food. Finally, on the Sunday, we paid £120 to stay at the Isles-of-Glencoe Hotel, which is directly at the finish point. The accommodation can be replaced by camping of course but you have to ask yourself how much fun it might be trying to dry wet gear, queuing for the shower and getting a good night’s sleep. It depends on your budget and how much you like camping.

Cawdor Castle

Transition after the first run

The event started off at 8:00am on Saturday morning on Nairn beach, signifying the East Coast, with a 7 mile “trail run”. As the first 2 miles were tarmac and pretty flat it should have been easy-going but I realised that all my recent training had been 15 mile or more fell runs or shorter runs across pasture and my shins were giving me hell on the hard surface – not a very auspicious start. From my initial number 2 position I slowly slipped down the order, which I was prepared for. By the time we arrived in transition at the leafy Cawdor Castle, I was in 40th position on 59 minutes, with the fastest runner clocking just under 52 minutes. I remembered where my bike was racked in transition and had packed my helmet and SPD shoes in a plastic bag in case it rained, Transferring my running shoes into my Inov-8 Race Pro 12 rucksack I was off down the driveway to the castle and left onto the scenic minor roads to the South of the main A82 and Loch Ness.

Heading towards Fort Augustus

Having fun heading towards Fort Augustus

From reading other reports, even though the terrain was not initially very steep. the prevailing South Westerly wind would batter me into submission pretty soon. However either the wind was not too strong or I had saved myself enough to be pedalling pretty well, passing bunches of bikes every mile or so. It was pretty obvious that anybody on a mountain bike was fairly hamstrung, not so much on the uphills but on the flats and downhills when the aero efficiency of a road bike was a massive advantage. I did pass one person later on who promptly passed me again! Little did I know that I would be dicing with him on day 2.

Slipstreaming with Nick

Slipstreaming with Nick

Towards the end of the 48 miles somebody said “hello” and a younger guy on a straight road bike sidled up at the side of me. “I have been trying to catch you for miles”, he said, which was quite nice! “Where are we” I asked. I thought he said 21st which wasn’t so bad but I was hoping for a little better. We then took it in turns to slipstream each other. He was obviously a “roadie” and was pretty accomplished at this so we spurred each other on. The downhill into Fort Augustus is huge with my poor knobbly tyres struggling to grip the sinuous bends at over 40mph. Still it only took us 2:40 to do 48 miles and 3,000 feet of ascent so not too shabby at 18mph average into a headwind.

Kayak Across Loch Ness

Day 1 Kayak Across Loch Ness sharing with Nick Thompson

We arrived in transition together and racked the bikes then had a short run through Fort Augustus and down to Loch Ness. I could probably have left my biking boots on and I definitely didn’t need to bring all my bike gear with me. Once Nick and I got in the Kayak we realised that we only had a few hundred yards to go but Nick kept getting the dreaded cramp due to the unnatural position. Still we arrived at the jetty and stumbled into the water and then had another quarter of a mile to run to the day 1 finish outside the Lovatt Arms hotel. I punched my dibber and it said 1st out of 2… “So that means we are 2nd and 1st not 21st” I said to Nick! Despite a 00:07:29 on the Kayak, which left us 332nd, I was now leading day 1 by 2 seconds, which was way beyond my expectations.

Cyclocross in the Forest

Single track biking along the North shores of Loch Lochy

The weather was amazingly warm and, as we took the opportunity to walk along the locks at Fort Augustus the sun was actually burning! So, after a nice evening at the hotel we awoke to torrential, driving (and I mean driving) rain. The second day’s ride was 32 miles in total, divided roughly between canal path and single track off-road and on road to Fort William. Straight away when we set off I knew I was not quite as fresh as on the Saturday. Still I pushed hard and caught and passed all but 2 bikers as we pedalled for around 5 miles along the canal towpath. With them still in my sights we entered the single track in the forest, where I was convinced that I was going to trounce them.

A bit wet!

A bit wet!



Alas, unless in the hands of an expert, a Cyclocross bike is no match for a mountain bike and they were soon gone. There were a couple of steep ascents from the road into the forest that I failed on due to the combination of narrow tyres, 38 x 25 gears and being knackered. Then there were what should have been hoots downhill but were not much fun when you were fighting the howling wind and rain.

Soon I heard a familiar “hello again” and my riding companion Nick had caught me up – on a racing bike, on slicks! We tandemed up again but this time Nick seemed to be doing more of the towing as I was flagging quite badly. The road section dragged a little but my morale was boosted when I saw Christine on the route, taking photos and waving. The route takes you part of the way into Fort William and then South to Claggan, where transition was in a forest car park. By now I was fairly cold and felt pretty tired. We were allowed up to 30 minutes of dead time here but I can’t honestly say that felt to be recovering! Christine was a bit concerned as I was all over the place.

15 mile run

15 mile run over the Highlands. Am I slavering!

Having forced down a couple of gels and a chocolate bar I set off on what was supposed to be the hardest part of the 2 days – the 15 mile run up over the mountains and down to Glen Coe. As soon as I set off I knew that there was something wrong, The back of my knee was really painful and I felt as though I had been hobbled. I was reduced to a fast walk on the steep forest track out of Claggan and people, including Nick, streamed past me. At that point I thought I was finished as I could see no way of completing another 14 miles in that state. All that hard work for nothing.

Gradually the pain subsided. I kept running through my mind what could have happened as I never get injured. The miles passed and there were some interesting single track sections to take my mind off the aching. I actually loved the really steep parts as running was unfeasible and so hence took the heat off my knee.  A new running partner arrived and we had a chat for a while and then ended up having to link hands to cross a maelstrom of a  river crossing. In fact the path, the Highland Way, was just like a river. I had long since given up the thought of keeping dry (see the pictures). Even my super dooper OMM Kamleika was saturated and Sealskinz socks are no match for fording 2 feet deep streams.

It was at this point that we saw all the runners coming towards us in the opposite direction… “The route has been changed and they haven’t moved the signs!” shouted the lead runner angrily. It seems that an executive decision had been made to divert the route from up and round Man na Gualainn to straight ahead on the West Highland Way but the marshal failed to tell us and didn’t change the signage. Even more frustrating was the fact that we had already crossed the dangerous stream that was the reason for the diversion and which we now had to re-ford!

By now I was starting to bonk, feeling light-headed and nauseous. I tried to take on another High 5 gel but it was a major struggle and to be honest the liquid diet was starting to take its toll on my stomach. The cramps got worse as we all plodded on like some kind of crazy marching battalion. Everybody else must have been shot as nobody overtook me. The new route took us down to Kinlochleven at the head of Loch Leven. I was wracking my mind like hell, trying to imagine whether we would be kayaking half the length of the Loch back to the Isle of Glencoe. Luckily they had scrubbed the kayaks and I was very happy indeed to see the finish right at the side of the indoor ice climbing wall.


Glad to be at the finish

It was only now that I realised I was in quite a bad way as uncontrollable shivering took hold. Someone kindly offered me a reflective blanket on the bus back to Glencoe but my body was obviously in quite a state of shock. When I clocked in I was 1st out of 34 finishers but that dropped to 4th out of 513 finishers. I felt slightly disappointed having led at one point but then top 30 was my aim and top 10 was the best I had hoped for so I was being unfair on myself. On further perusal of the results I was 2nd and 4th in the biking, 40th and 80th in the running and about 320th in the kayaks! So the lesson is that you can be very good at one discipline, even if others let you down, and still do well. The winner, Tim Hildreth was the person that I overtook on the mountain bike but was better on the off-road and the running. What I really learnt from this event, though, was that it is not over until the finish and not to give up even if it does mean retching uncontrollably from the stomach cramps brought on by your stomach attempting to digest nothing!

The Finish

The Finish

Writing this 5 weeks later my knee has just about recovered. It seems that I had torn my popliteus muscle, which is a stabilising muscle that runs diagonally behind the knee. Christine is due to have her air boot off this week and the lesson to be learnt from this is not to increase your workload by more than about 10% if you are planning on training for this event. This particularly applies to fit cyclists who have not run, as your fitness will take you to places where your legs may not be ready to go!

Results here

Kit list