Tim and Andy Spine Challenger Q&A
Supernatural Fuel fans Tim Pigott and Andy Morley finished first and third respectively at the prestigious Montane Summer Spine challenger earlier this year. Following the Pennine Way from Edale to Hardraw, featuring 110 miles and 17,000 feet of elevation gain, it is a seriously arduous ultra! Tim and Andy have kindly agreed to delve a little deeper into this triumphant achievement.
First off congratulations to you both on a podium finish!
Tim you’re a physio and endurance coach. How did it feel to take the win and also how did it feel to coach Andy to third place?
Tim – ‘It really was one of those magical weekends away with mates where we all surpassed external expectations but realised our true potentials. Not only did we have Andy and myself on the podium, but Joe Horne in 4 th too for almost an HP3 clean sweep, plus Ian Cocks in 6th. I knew Andy was in good shape and during the first 1/3 of the race when we were running together he was actually going better than me. If he’d have gone on to take the win I’d have been just as proud after all the work he put in. For me to actually take the win and course record was just the perfect race experience.’
Andy was it just one of those runs where everything went to plan? I bet you were ecstatic your coach took the win and you managed to podium?
Andy – ‘It was definitely one of those rare times where everything went to plan! But I did have a sneaky but cautious feeling that I was going to do well as my training went very well and I had a good plan going into the race which I was determined to stick to. Something that worked very well on a previous 100 mile outing which was the Lakeland 100. I think you need to be confident and positive going into these events if things have gone well. Just don’t do anything stupid! I was hoping for a top ten finish, but I never imagined that I would actually podium. It is by far my best performance to date! I was delighted for Tim and his amazing performance, very well deserved after learning what he went through just to be able to run again. Very inspiring! He’s not just my coach, he’s a good friend as we’ve known each other for several years, so it was great to see my mate succeed too.’
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your running background?
Tim – ‘I’ve always been a runner, the longer the distance the better, but I was not especially focussed on competing when I was younger. However when I was 20 I was involved in a major car crash thanks to another driver on the wrong side of the road, which resulted in me breaking every part of my body except my left arm! I was lucky to survive (5 days life support) and was told I would never run again. However, after 3 years and multiple reconstructive surgeries (including re-breaking my right femur to lengthen and straighten it again) I began to run again. I initially got into triathlon to get my endurance fix without running too much, however as the years progressed, I’ve slowly been able to increase my running volume. My body remains a bit of a mess, held together with titanium and stainless steel, but I continue to defy the odds and I continue to run. The day will come when I can’t run anymore, so I’m grateful for these experiences now and will enjoy the moment. Life is short so we’ve got to make the most of the here and now.’
Andy – ‘I’m a 40 something HGV driver from sunny Manchester. I have a passion for the outdoors from being a child, spent several years in the Air Cadets and a few years after, I joined the British Army and spent several years serving. Obviously, I had to be fit to be a Soldier and found that I had a bit of a liking for running. After leaving the Army, I ran sporadically over the years and only took it up seriously in my late 30’s. Starting off doing road running, marathons and the like. But I soon got bored with that and gravitated to fell and trail running, I’ve not looked back since! I love the sport and have competed in many races up to ultra-distance events.’
How far out did the race specific training start and what did it look like?
Tim – ‘Sept 2021 I DNF’d at Ultra Tour Monte Rosa due to trying to race with a chest infection which then resulted in an asthma attack at mile86. I needed to get over that and prove I could race a 100miler, but first I needed a finish. In January I raced the Lady Anne Way 100, taking it fairly conservatively to ensure a finish and managed to get 4 th place. Despite that being held in the middle of storm Malik with 60mph headwinds I managed to match the pace to break the record for the Spine Challenger. I then spent the next 4 months recce’ing the Spine route over and over until I could visualise the whole route in my head. Testing kit, nutrition and pacing until I had it all dialled in. For an event like this training the mind is more important than the body. You’ve got to run the miles, but it’s the time spent on planning and mental strategies which really determine the final outcome.’
Andy – I began working with Tim late last year and we discussed then that I’d like to go back to the Spine Challenger and beat my previous time. I competed in the Spine Challenger North earlier this year (January) and after a rest, we started the build up from there. We had a good, solid six ish months to build me up. Lots of long runs and strength & conditioning work as I was prone to injuries, possibly down to weaknesses. Also, some cycling too which helped my strength and injury prevention. We did lots of recce runs on the actual course too which was great as it was race specific and getting lost was one less thing to worry about! I also fine-tuned my nutrition and hydration during training too. This is something that is often overlooked.’
How did Supernatural Fuel play a part in your nutritional strategy come race day and in training?
Tim – ‘Supernatural Fuel is quite honestly a game changer for when pushing hard for extended periods of time. It sits in that grey zone between a quick acting gel and ‘real solid food’. Because it is blended up real food it’s much easier on the stomach than chewing and swallowing something solid, so you don’t get the GI stress of dealing with more solid food. But it’s got enough texture and flavour to give your mouth a change from simple gels. Because it is real food you also get a little bit of protein and fat, which has been shown to improve performance in ultramarathons, vs only getting your energy from carbohydrates. I find that when racing for 10hrs or more I can get ‘hungry’ even if I’m taking on enough calories from gels or drinks. Supernatural Fuel can stave off these feelings of hunger by giving my stomach something to work with, but it’s easy enough that it doesn’t cause any GI upset (something I’ve struggled with in the past). My strategy therefore is to have a Supernatural Fuel pouch every 2hrs, with a gel or drink every 20-30mins. This helps prevent taste fatigue from the gels/drinks and looks after the stomach.’
Andy – ‘I was really chuffed to discover SF when I did to be honest. I started using it at the beginning of this year which was perfect as I had several months to get used to it and to make sure it worked for me before the race. It’s ideal to use on long days out when I start craving something a bit more substantial than the usual powders and gels. Even though it’s a thick paste in consistency, I feel as though I’ve eaten something proper which gives a mental boost. It’s very easy to get down, even without a drink. Which is also ideal when you’ve got to the point when you can’t face anything solid. I had a good supply of them come race day and they worked a treat alongside my usual stuff and my Hula Hoops, I love my Hula Hoops!’
Tim – ‘I actually like them all for different reasons! Berry & Quinoa has a bit of an ‘earthy’ flavour thanks to the quinoa coupled with the sweet-sharpness of the berries is a great combination which I find helps refresh my palate during long races. Dates & Sesame is the best for energy intake with its higher fat and protein content. Now if you could make a date and almond/peanut butter version we’d be onto a winner! So I generally alternate between those two in races. I use the other flavours in training though.
Andy – ‘I’ve tried them all and I can safely say, Dates & Sesame is my favourite. I love Dates already.’
Would you consider returning for the full winter spine? Britain’s most brutal?
Tim – ‘Never say never, but that is a different beast altogether. For now I want to continue to explore my limits at running hard for 100km-100miles.
Andy – ‘The Jury is still out on whether I’ll toe the line on the Winter Spine race. I’m not too sure I would put up with the misery of the Pennine Way in Winter for a full week! But you never know. I will however be entering the Summer full Spine race next year (2023) the weather should be half decent in Summer, fingers crossed.’
What other races have you got planned in for this year?
Tim – ‘My next scheduled race is ‘Lakes in a Day’, again with a good group from my coached athletes squad ‘HP3’ so I’m looking forward to another long day out in the hills with mates.’
Andy – ‘I’ve only got one more race planned for this year. It’s the Peveril 33, a great looking event held in the stunning Peak District. I’m hoping to do well, let’s see. I’m also toeing the line in the Spine Sprint race in January 2023, I’ve got a plan and a goal for that one too!’
And finally, if you could run one last trail one last time where would it be and why?
Tim – ‘A loop from Chamonix to Le Signal via Mer de Glace then back via Plan d’Aiguille. It’s got a little bit of everything and an absolutely classic route in the cultural heart of trail running. I love running in forests and mountains, this has both.’
Andy – ‘It would have to be the Western States endurance run route in California. It is the one that inspired me to get into ultra-distance events, after reading articles and books about it. It’s considered as the grandfather of ultra-distance events by many. To actually compete in the race itself would be a dream come true and I’d retire a happy man after that one!’
A massive thank you to Tim and Andy for taking the time to talk to us, providing great insights and inspiration.
You can follow their progress and Tim’s coaching business at the links below:
Tim Instagram – instagram.com/timpigotthp3
Andy Instagram – instagram.com/andrew.morley
HP3 Coaching – https://www.hp-3.co.uk/