Nicky Spinks is a legendary Lake District fell runner; a veteran of many tough endurance trail running races and amazing mountain feats. I listened with huge respect to her at this year’s Fort William Mountain Festival when she very modestly told her story of being a runner, beating breast cancer and returning to running.
She has set many off-road running records including the ladies Bob Graham Record, the ladies Charlie Ramsay Round, the Philip Tranter Round. Notable wins include the 10Peaks Extreme and the Grand Raid Pyrenees.
I wrote about her record-breaking Bob Graham Round.
Nicky Spinks at the OMM
Nicky took part in last week’s OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) in the Elite category. Nicky and Jean Brown were the only ladies in this category.
This category race 40.8km on the Saturday with a total ascent of 3390m and 11 controls. On Sunday they run 33.1km with a total climb of 2710m and 13 controls.
Nicky and Jean finished the two-day mountain marathon event 14th overall, 1st ladies and 3rd vets.
This was the 3rd Elite event that Nicky has taken part in.
Nicky’s tips for the OMM
Don’t be afraid to try again: Last year, Nicky was very upset to be disqualified in the OMM. She says: “With my partner, we finished about 16th on the Saturday last year in 11.30 hours but then I lost the plot on Sunday and mis-punched a control thinking it was the one we wanted. On reaching the finish we were disqualified. I was devastated. I wanted to return this year and redeem myself.”
What to wear: The weather looked wet and wild for the 2015 OMM and so Nicky ran in thermal tights and Rab Ultra top. She also packed warmer clothes, including Inov-8 Race Elite 250, Race Elite 220 and heavier waterproofs, OMM Kamleika jacket and pants.
To cope with potentially muddy terrain, Nicky wore her trusty Inov-8 Mudclaws.
She also carried a stove, pan, 100g gas canister, headtorch (Alpkit Muon) and overnight food with the total weight of her pack coming to a neat 6kg.
Nicky used bubble wrap instead of a sleeping mat and carried a warm but lightweight sleeping bag.
Jean took the tent on day one and the pair shared out more weight on Sunday after eating all the food. On the Sunday, Nicky carried Jean’s sleeping mat, the tent poles and pegs.
Good fuelling: Nicky knows the importance of eating well throughout endurance events. For day food she carried seven bars, three gels, a money bag full of liquorice allsorts, another money bag of salted nuts, Hula Hoops, a bag of Cheddars, plus two energy powders (both Saturday and Sunday.)
For evening food she took a vegetable curry Expedition meal, two Mountain House custard and berries puddings (one for breakfast), salted nuts, coffee, tea, hot chocolate x 2, soup x 2, Fruit and Nut chocolate (4 cubes x 2) and a vanilla essence bottle filled with whisky as a nightcap.
She says: “My leftovers included one bag of allsorts, two bars, one gel and two powders.”
Think in stages not overall: Nicky tried to think about each of the stages of the race, between the checkpoints, in small bits rather than as one long run.
Pace not speed: Nicky advises that you shouldn’t set off too fast. She says: “On Saturday we were going well but did make time to eat while I think some teams were running hard and not eating. Subsequently some seemed to struggle on the Sunday.
“Our split times on the Sunday were much better compared to everyone else’s.”
A good night’s sleep: Sleep is important during two-day events and while Nicky says she normally finds it a bit of a struggle to get comfortable in a tent, during the OMM 2015 she slept well.
Nicky says: “I wasn’t as warm as I have been previously on the OMMs and it might be that I need a new sleeping bag. However, I was very comfortable and lying down was pleasant, which was nice. Usually I ache too much and have to fidget a lot.”
Be prepared for all terrains: Nicky reports that many people found the heathery areas hard going. But she says: “You have no idea what the terrain will be until you get there and if it wasn’t going to be heather it would have been tussocks.
“It is very unlikely that we could cover such a huge distance and not come across all sorts of terrain. Anyway, I rather like it rougher than flat and fast.”
Navigate on the move: Nicky prefers to navigate bit by bit as she goes along and as the terrain determines. She says: “I do change my mind quite a bit as I go along. For example, I changed tack to avoid the heather and the marshes and then, when the ground got to be more runnable, I changed it back again.
“Towards the end of Sunday I just started to straight line everything as a lot of paths didn’t seem to be as on the map and couldn’t be trusted.”
Follow your instinct: Nicky says: “If something doesn’t feel right then it’s a good idea to tell your partner. Stop running, read the map and make sure that everything you can see makes total sense on the map.”
- Also see a first timer’s report of the OMM