Written by James Campbell - https://jamescampbell78.wordpress.com
My 2018 Hardmoors 60 Race Report is conspicuous by its absence from these pages. Usually, it’s a case of “James runs a race, race report appears within a week”. However this time I made an exception. Partly because I have only a little bit of detailed recollection of the race and partly because I felt without investigating and pulling together some learnings, this would be little more than a rehash of my 2015 Hardmoors 60 Race Report.
With these learnings included, this piece is a lot longer than most of my previous posts as it contains a summary of what I can remember from the race, followed by the investigation I did afterwards and what I learned from it. The latter part of this feels fairly technical and possibly something that might bore someone simply wanting to read an account of the race, so consider yourself warned (and forgiven if you decide to give it a miss).
After my failed Hardmoors 110 attempt, which ended at Kildale, I was very positive and felt that I was in very good shape for the 60. I no longer had the overarching need to protect the finish in order to preserve a Super/Grand Slam or Triple Ring attempt, I decided I would use the 60 to have a serious crack at bettering my 50 mile PB of 13h:00m:00s which I set during the 110.
I had a week off running following the 110 then did White Horse Half, which I treated as a bit of a training run and completed the 26.7km “half” in 3h:08m:18s. I was pleased at how well I’d recovered from the 110 and made only minor adjustments to my summer training plan, which wasn’t much different to my approach to the 55 and 110, but did include six Wolds Way recces spread over two weeks in August. The shortest of these was 13km but three of these were 26km runs. I clocked up 133km over those two weeks and felt great throughout.
I followed this up by sweeping the 50km Princess Ultra at the beginning of September before winding down for the 60.
As usual, I planned for the 60 by splitting the course down into manageable chunks, the only difference between this plan and previous attempts was that I split the chunk from the start to Saltburn down further because I thought it was too long. So I included mini-splits to Highcliff Nab and Slapewath in between.
Usually, my plan is based on the output of a tool I have built in Excel that uses the times of my most recent training runs. Normally, I put in my best and worst recent 20 mile plus runs and have a look at what is most realistic. Other times, I take a bit of an average of the two. If I’d used this method for the 2018 race, this is what it would have looked like:
This plan wouldn’t have seen me through 50 miles in my target time of 13 hours, but would have seen me shave 15 mins of my previous best for this course.
What my actual plan looked like was:
What I was trying to achieve was to go faster in the earlier sections and bank time. I knew I could complete the splits to Saltburn, because I did these only a few weeks before, on one of the hottest days of the summer and none of the other splits were unrealistic based on previous runs and recces.
I had a pretty poor night’s sleep before the race, but apart from that, my pre-race prep was not much different to any other.
I planned to start the race with three bottles. Two 500ml UD flasks, one with water and one with Lucozade Sport in and a 500ml soft flask of Lucozade Sport carried in my hand or pocket.
At the start of the race, I remember going off very quickly up Belmangate before getting a grip of myself and slowing down. I remember that I felt comfortable all the way to Highcliff Nab chatting with Brenda Wilkin and Paul Elsley before pulling away from them on the climb. Based on my watch, I reached Highcliff at 00h:34m:51s, pretty much bang on time and I stopped there to tie my lace. I remember feeling hot on the climb but the breeze on top was quite cold.
I remember feeling comfortable all the way through Guisborough Woods and passed through Slapewath at 01h:09m:47s, again pretty much bang on target. After this point, I did notice the day was hotting up, but upon arrival at Saltburn, neither of my hard flasks were depleted and the soft flask was about ¼ full, so I ran straight through the checkpoint at 01h:58m:40s feeling rather pleased with myself for getting there just over a minute ahead of plan and saving 2 minutes rest time by passing straight through the checkpoint.
I can’t remember much about the section to Skinningrove other than I know I used a lot of the water in my bottle to soak my arms, neck and head to keep cool and that I arrived at Skinningrove at 02h:50m:59s. Still just a shade ahead of plan.
Between Skinningrove and Staithes, the weather became overcast and there was even some drizzle at some point, but it remained very humid and warm. I remember feeling that my energy was going just before the climb up to Hummersea Cliff and somewhere around then I told myself that a 50 mile PB wasn’t on because continuing to push hard in this heat wouldn’t end well. Having slowed down somewhat I felt a bit better, even more so for seeing Phil Owen coming down Boulby Bank and getting a water top up from him and cruised into Staithes at 04h:11m:32s. Now behind plan, but no longer concerned about that. At Staithes, I planned to nip into the Royal George to top up my water bottle and buy some Coke. I tipped the remainder of my Lucozade Sport out and went into the pub, but couldn’t find any staff to serve me. So I trotted out and went to the Cod and Lobster instead where I got some water and Coke, topped both bottles up with ice and to the bar staff’s amusement put ice under my armpits, in my buff and down my top. I spent just under 5 minutes stopped at Staithes instead of the planned 2 minutes.
I can’t remember much of the section to Runswick Bay, but arrived there at 05h:17m:49s. I remember seeing Rebecca Quinn and Joe Williams at the CP, both of whom run similar times to me in races, so I had no real concern about my pacing at this point. I remember not wanting my bottle of Lucozade from my drop bag and I think I opted for CP Coke instead, leaving my Lucozade on the table for someone else. I did see a can of Cream Soda on the table and downed that. I also downed the can of Red Bull from my drop bag and took on water from the CP too. I think I also had some melon before heading off across the beach.
Going up the steps at the far side of the beach was hard, but no harder than expected, but at the very top, I felt physically sick and needed to sit down on the bench at the top. I know a few people passed me and expressed concern that I looked ill, but I just took the time to gather myself. I reasoned that I’d took a lot of fluid on board before the CP and at the CP, but I hadn’t balanced it out with electrolytes. I eventually got walking and started eating some of the Pom Bear crisps I had in my drop bag. I also took an S!Cap tablet. After about 500m I got jogging again and remember feeling iffy, but moving. Occasionally I felt a twinge of cramp in my calves, but kept eating the crisps and drinking fluids. I vaguely remember thinking to myself that I could eat my way out of trouble and started to make sure that I eat something either sweet or savoury every 10-15 mins.
At Sandsend I’d started to feel a bit better and bought a cup of black tea and a can of lemonade from a kiosk. I remember running with both in my hands and seeing Karl Shields and laughing about not spilling a drop, then later being passed by Karl and Harriet in their van and handing my rubbish over to them. Things got a bit vague then, but I think I might have bought a slush in Whitby but I can’t recall carrying it or drinking it. I do remember feeling cramps in my calves again and walking through Saltwick Bay caravan park being heckled by some lads outside a caravan.
At the Saltwick CP (08h:16m:25s), I had watermelon, melon, orange juice and I topped one of my bottles up but not the other (I forget which it was). I’d taken several S!Caps between Runswick and Saltwick, but took on more there and I moved away feeling OK. I remember running well on the descent following the big climb after the lighthouse for a couple of kms before I started to feel the cramps in the calves again so I slowed for a bit before going again. Approaching Hawsker Bottom, there’s a set of steep cobbled steps which I started descending. I was only a couple of metres down when a huge cramp flashed all the way up my left leg and left side of my back. As I stiffened up, I slipped and fell down several steps. I laid there for a few minutes waiting for the cramp to subside and took some water on board.
I was about to try and get up when Peter Kidd and Claire Wheeler arrived from behind. They spent a few minutes trying to help, but every time I tried to move, a new cramp flared up, some so painful that it made me feel sick. Peter and Claire moved on and after sitting for a bit I got my poles out and walked on for a bit. My next cramp came a few minutes later on a flat section and affected both legs and I found myself locked up on the floor.
I dragged myself up against a drystone wall and sat there trying to work out whether I needed someone to come and get me or whether I could walk to Robin Hood’s Bay after a bit of rest.
I went in my pack for my phone to ring race control to let them know I intended to finish at Robin Hood’s Bay, but would be moving slowly, but lo and behold I had no reception. I was passed by several more runners and walkers, all of home took a moment to see if they could help, but I assured them that with some rest, I’d get going.
I must have been stopped for half an hour before I hobbled to my feet and walked slowly on with my poles. I’d been going for 5 minutes before I vomited for the first time. I felt a bit better and moved on. Shortly afterwards I vomited again. After a while I saw somebody running from the direction of Robin Hood’s Bay. It was Neil Widgley who had been told by other runners that I was struggling. He’d came with warm clothes and first aid kit just in case I needed them. He walked me back to Robin Hood’s Bay. I remember feeling generally OK, apart from any time we had to climb a hill, which caused me to quickly become out of breath.
As we approached Robin Hood’s Bay, we were met by Kev Borwell and Emy Jones, upon their arrived, I greeted them by throwing up again. We walked into Robin Hood’s Bay together and arrived at 11h:15m:35s as darkness began to fall.
I was assessed as being dehydrated. Kev made sure I put my warm kit on and Emy made sure I had plenty to drink and massaged my legs back to a point where they weren’t cramping as much with a solution made from Magnesium and water before Kev drove us both back to Filey.
A couple of days later, I chatted online with Emy, who is a qualified PT, nutritionist and life coach with a whole host of exercise and race specific experience. I got some advice from her on hydration and nutrition. I also did some further research into dehydration and cramping in long distance/ultra runners.
So what went wrong?
Essentially, what ended my race was cramps and later, vomiting. I became unable to move faster than cut off pace due to the cramps and the vomiting, as well as slowing me down, prevented me from replenishing my fluids and fuel effectively.
Why did it happen?
After my further reading and advice from Emy, I am in agreement that the vomiting was entirely down to dehydration.
My further reading also lead me to the conclusion, that dehydration was also a significant factor in relation to the cramping, however I have found that among experts, the causes of cramps are hotly debated.
Many do feel that in hot conditions, the rise in body temperature results in excess sweating leading to a loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which means your blood volume decreases and your heart rate increases. All of this reduces the body’s ability to dissipate heat, which accelerates fatigue and takes its toll on our muscles ending in cramp.
Tim Noakes wrote around 430 pages in his work Waterlogged countering this view, believing the causes of cramps to be neuromuscular.
In a podcast with Trail Runner Nation, Noakes explained:
[Dr. Martin] Schwellnus developed the theory that there are reflexes in the muscle that prevent them from cramping…. When we run, and, in particular, when we run slightly faster than we want to (or that we really should be running), it seems that that reflex gets tired, and the inhibitory reflexes become less strong. And as a consequence, the excitatory impulses… become dominant. And as a consequence, the muscle goes into cramp.
And we know that, because if we look at the electrical activity in the muscles, we notice that before they cramp, the activity starts to rise. So something’s changing in the muscle, that’s making it more prone to going into cramp. And then, you continue for a bit further, and it goes into a full cramp.
And the point is, it is an electrical phenomenon, a reflex, that may originate in the brain (or more likely originates in the spinal cord), but has almost certainly got nothing to do with dehydration or sodium balance, and has almost everything to do with genetic predisposition and also has got everything to do with how tired you are, and how hard you’ve exercised.
The remedy, unfortunately, is to do lots of stretching to the [affected] muscle, lengthening the muscle, because what we have also found, is that, muscles that haven’t been lengthened – muscles that have been working in a small arc, and working in a shortened position – those are the muscles that are going to cramp. So you need to stretch the muscle, lengthen it, to make it less susceptible to cramping.
More recent work has studied the incidence and prevalence of cramping. (Schwellnus, Drew et al. 2011) and two factors did emerge that separated crampers from non-crampers: the crampers ran faster versus the rest of the field, and they had a history of cramping in previous efforts.
This resonated with me, firstly in this attempt at the 60, I’d gone off way quicker than my own training and split planner said I was capable of and secondly, I had a history of cramping under these conditions (my 2015 attempt at the 60).
It also stood to reason, that my increased effort had caused a higher heart rate, higher body temperature and consequently a higher sweat rate than I was used to. This, combined with my drinking at a rate that was not in line with the effort and the higher temperatures of the day meant that in the early part of the race, I became dehydrated, which in turn had a massive effect on muscle performance.
My fluids, did not contain the correct proportions of the electrolytes that I was sweating out, so that delicate balance was messed up very early in the race. As I approached Staithes, I’d recognised the dehydration problem and addressed it by drinking heavily, which probably served to dilute my electrolyte balance.
The other big mistake was, that I chose to rehydrate with drinks that had a high sugar content. Sugary drinks (I now know) exacerbate the effects of dehydration. At a point just after Runswick Bay, I realised I’d possibly had too much to drink, without including electrolytes, so I started taking S!Caps. S!Caps contain 341mg Sodium and 21mg Potassium, so while they did do something so redress the balance, they do not contain the whole spectrum of electrolytes that I was losing (typically 500ml sweat contains 575mg Sodium, 887mg Chloride, 138mg Potassium, 9mg Magnesium and 30mg Calcium), so were probably, too little, too late.
During the latter part of my run, as the cramps became more prevalent, I also took too many S!Caps and did so without drinking an appropriate amount of plain water to support them. This accelerated the process of dehydration, resulting in vomiting.
So with this starting point, I went back to the data from my training leading up to the 60 and the 60 and examined my efforts. I then compared these with previous ultra-efforts, with the notable of my HM110 effort as I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor for that race.
What The Data Told Me
Looking back at the average heart rate per km of my long training runs in July and August 2018, it was possible to group the HR displayed into bands based on Phil Maffetone’s arbitrary 180-age formula. At 40, my ideal HR would be sub 140bpm.
I colour coded anything sub 140 as green. However, I recognise that the world is not perfect and when you are moving over varied terrain and in different weather, your HR will naturally fluctuate. During my training, I never looked at my HR as I preferred to train off feel so there will have been time spent above 140 that felt OK. To recognise that, I coloured anything 140-144 as amber.
I then added another category, that level of effort that’s just above the comfort zone, that’s OK to enter for short periods but not to stay there 144-149 became amber with red font.
The next category was 150-159, the zone you might expect to spend time in during short to medium training runs, but somewhere I wouldn’t really want to spend any time on a longer run and especially not during an ultra. This was coloured pink with red font.
Finally, there was the red zone, 160+. This is the zone that hurts if you spend time there, usually, I only visit this during sprints and only stay there for prolonged periods (or so I thought) during 5k, 10k and half marathon races.
To gain context, I added in the pace/km and the elevation gain/km. This meant that I could compare the effort to the pace achieved and also see, if the HR/pace correlated with any sustained climbing. To assist with this, I coloured any gain/km of 20m+ in yellow.
It can be seen fairly clearly that on most runs, I stayed at an averages of 130-140bpm but often under 130bpm, the exceptions being both runs on my local 20 mile loop, a Hardmoors 60 recce from Guisborough to Saltburn and my Hardwolds 80 recce from Ganton to Filey.
On both of the 20 mile loops I spent sustained periods (almost 3 hours on one and two hours on another) over 140bpm, often with long periods over 150bpm. The notes on both of these runs indicated that I suffered as a consequence.
The Hardmoors 60 recce shows that I spent the first 4km above 140, which is kind of understandable as this section is all uphill and included the Teeslink climb to Highcliff Nab.
The time spent over 140bpm in the Ganton to Filey run, was due to a deliberate decision to run hard from the top of the hill above Muston and therefore not particularly reflective of how I would hope to run on longer outings.
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Looking at all of my ultra-distance races, it seems I have a habit of going hard in the first 21-24km. My worst performances (2014, 2015, 2018 HM60 and 2018 HM30) all have one thing in common. I went into the red zone one or more times in the early part of the race.
In this year’s HM30, I was injured and trying to bank some time before the injury slowed me down, so this could probably be disregarded.
In the 2014 HM60, I had no real concept of how to manage my pace and paid for it severely later on.
In the 2015 Hardmoors 60, I went into the red on the way to Highcliff Nab and again on the climb out of Slapewath and pushed pretty hard almost all the way to Staithes. I hit serious issues at Runswick and cramps ended my race around 2km before the cramps started this year.
On this year’s HM60, it was a similar pattern. I went into the red going up Highcliff Nab. That’s almost 14 minutes with my heart rate above 160, probably a fair bit higher given that things tend to be a little lower when they are averaged.
In other races, I do have a habit of going into the 150-159 zone early on, but these spells seem to be punctuated by dips back below 150 where I had perhaps looked to rest a bit. Also, the harder spells seem to be more closely aligned with climbs.
In my more successful runs (2016 Lyke Wake, 2016 HM60 and 2018 HM55) I have gone off at a lower level of effort, even if I’ve gone over 150bpm, it’s been an average of 3-4bpm lower than in the races where I’ve suffered.
What this seems to tell me, is that my long training runs in the lead up to this year’s HM60 were mostly conducted in the <140bpm zone. Where I exceeded this, I suffered. This indicates that I was not sufficiently conditioned for sustained periods of time/distances of harder efforts and if I wanted to run that hard for long periods, I should have been using my shorter training runs to build up to those sorts of sustained efforts.
The result of this was, that when I ran hard for the first 24km of this year’s race, in warm weather, it was an effort that my body was not accustomed to. My muscles were worked at a level that was simply not sustainable. As a result, my body worked harder and I sweated more than usual. I did not counter the sweating with an appropriate level and make up of replacement fluids and an exacerbated the situation. In effect, I’d probably done most of the damage before the Saltburn checkpoint, but I might have been able to salvage a slow painful finish from it, if I’d been better at rehydrating.
What I’ve taken away from this, is how I manage myself on longer runs needs to change. All the data in my training and racing going back years tells me that I have a much more comfortable, incident free and successful run when I maintain an average heart rate below 140bpm.
One of my key beliefs in ultra-running is, that completion is all about success, through minimising failures. In other words, there is a long list of things that can go wrong in an ultra. That list gets bigger and more likely to happen the further along the race you are and the risk increases massively beyond 42.2km. So it makes sense to me that working to keep the heart rate below 140bpm on long runs would benefit my racing performances.
To this end, I’ve built a Suunto app which causes my watch to beep at me every 10 seconds where my lap average heart rate (a lap being the current 1 km lap) in the first 24km of a run exceeds 140bpm. This allows me to know when my rate of exertion is higher than expected and take measures to get things back under control.
I had initially built the app so that it beeped at me whenever I spent more than 10 seconds above 140bpm, but this meant that it was going off far too frequently due to the little spikes in heart rate that you get when climbing etc. The idea behind the 24km limit is, that in my race efforts, 24km seems to be the point at which I settle down into a more sensible effort naturally. I have also found during training runs, that once I’ve spent a couple of hours running at the lower effort, it becomes habit so a reminder is not needed after that point.
There has been a trade off in pace/speed, but I’ve found that I’ve been able to sustain my efforts for longer at this lower level. While at the distances of 32-36km (which are the longest I’ll do in training) this doesn’t pay off against the overall times I was achieving running harder, it is still reasonably close and I am finishing feeling strong and it’s not a massive leap to project this pace out to 48km (30 miles) where I can see the tipping point where being able to sustain this slightly slower pace for longer returns a faster overall time.
Conserving my effort in this way has also allowed me to perform harder efforts later in the day if required without the suffering that would occur if I’d been pushing hard all the way around. Proof of this occurred last weekend when I pushed hard up a 500m section of hill I use to test myself at the 32km point and I sustained an average of 150bpm for that whole lap, presumably with a higher heart rate on the hill then a subsequent dip as I returned to normal effort. During the effort, I felt comfortable, a bit more out of breath, sure, but comfortable. After the effort, my heart rate returned back to an average of 135bpm and I continued comfortably to the finish at 37km.
The other learning I have put into action is all about hydration and nutrition and is almost entirely as a result of my conversations with Emy.
Previously, I had been hydrating with Lucozade Sport and plain water. Later in races, I’d top up with Coke, Dandelion & Burdock or Lemonade from checkpoints.
Remembering that sweat, on average contains 575mg Sodium, 887mg Chloride, 138mg Potassium, 9mg Magnesium and 30mg Calcium per 500ml. Lucozade only contains 250mg Sodium and does not provide replacement for any other electrolytes. It is also very sugar heavy and therefore, once dehydrated, taking on Lucozade is likely to make things worse. Other drinks like Coke, Dandelion & Burdock etc while tasting nice (something that is not to be ignored as a benefit later in a race) don’t provide any electrolyte benefit in terms of maintaining the balance.
Emy recommended that I go back to using High 5 tablets in my drinks. I had previously used these (including the 2015 HM60) and still suffered. Emy had advised using two tablets per 500ml, where I had previously only used 1. Using 2 tablets would provide 500mg Sodium, 140mg Potassium, 112mg Magnesium, 18mg Calcium and 56mg Vitamin C. Much closer to the electrolyte profile needed. This is advice that I have taken on board and put into action.
The other recommendations I have put into action, is to take a drop of MegaMag magnesium supplement in a drink the night before a long run/race and to start using Pink Himalayan Salt in my diet to bring up my levels of Magnesium. She also recommended rubbing my legs down with or bathing in water and Magnesium salts as a recovery activity. The role of Magnesium in the body, is to regulate muscle contractions, so it stands to reason, that being on top of my Magnesium intake would be beneficial in preventing cramps.
I have also cut out some of the sugary food from my intake during long runs. Instead of taking Wine Gums I have switched to savoury food in the form of pouches of Ella’s Kitchen baby food, which is essentially real food blended and kept in a resealable pouch, ideal for carrying on longer runs. I still use Chia Charge bars and Snickers and have found that with this combination of food and drink, my stomach has been more settled on longer runs too.
I’ve now run 6 or 7 long runs, including some tough hilly work putting these learnings into action and not only have I had no issues in terms of feeling bad, struggling, cramping, being sore etc. I’ve actually felt stronger during the runs and recovered more quickly afterwards and been able to train more frequently than I previously had been able to.
The next step is to put all this into action in a race situation, which is fast approaching in the form of Hardwolds 80 on 24th November.
Written by James Campbell - https://jamescampbell78.wordpress.com
I came into the third race of the Hardmoors Superslam feeling really strong, which in a way is a good thing since it involved running further than I ever had in a single stage race in my life.
The training I put in had been really solid and during the taper I was feeling like I could go forever at a decent pace. The final week of taper was a nervy and edgy affair where I tiptoed around life trying not to over exert or injure myself. I spent the time pulling my kit and food for the race together. My primary worry was how a piece of temporary dental work would hold up over the weekend rather than anything related to my general preparedness.
Food for the race assembled in the car prior to setting off
The travel plan for this race was for Natalie and myself to check into our hotel in Helmsley on Friday afternoon then my crew, Dave Cook would meet us and load the two boxes and one bag of kit/food into his car before Dave and I headed off to an Air BnB he’d booked about 15 minutes from the start at Filey. All of which went pretty much like clockwork.
Over food in the Londesborough Arms in Seamer (highly recommended) Dave and I went over the plan of what I wanted and when for a final time. In a race like this, you can’t really plan pacing, certainly not beyond the furthest distance you have run, but I pulled together a rough plan to give myself something to aim for. The high level one in the written instructions I left Dave was:
- Ravenscar (33km) by 1240:12:45 (4h:40m-4h:45m)
- Saltburn (85km) by 21:00 (11h:00m)
- Kildale (110km) by 02:00 (18h:00m)
Afterwards by discussion, but aiming for……
- Clay Bank (124km) by 05:30 (21h:30m)
- Lordstones (129km) by 07:00 (23h:00m)
- Square Corner (146km) by 10:45 (26h:45m)
- White Horse by 14:30 (30h:30m)
- Finish by 18:00 (34h:00m)
This was based on my usual system of slightly handicapping my worst times from training and recce runs with a slightly bastardisded version of Naismith’s rule. I’d tested some of the assumptions out on the route either solo or running with Dave and was fairly confident in the detailed splits (below) which I then factored in time to be spent at checkpoints. As well as giving this plan to Dave, I gave a copy to Craig Davie who’d agreed to meet me at Kildale and pace me to the end and he’d be the one having to make me stick to the pacing.
The general plan in terms of food/drink was to start with 2 Chia Charge bars and 2 Snickers bars and just top up my supplies with what I felt like each time I met with Dave. The crew plan was as follows:
- Scarborough/Holbeck Hill – Quick sense check for kit adjustments (e.g. if too hot, drop clothes off, if too cold, put some on)
- Scalby Mills – Pick up poles
- Ravenscar – Have a Pot Noodle and a few minutes rest, drop off poles
- Robin Hood’s Bay – Pick up poles
- Saltwick Bay – Drop off poles
- Sandsend – Top up food and drink supplies, use toilets if needed
- Runswick Bay – Compulsory CP but plan to spend as little time as possible here. Just another health check
- Staithes (Cowbar car park) – Health check, pick up poles and any kit needed for early evening weather changes
- Saltburn (Cat Nab) – Hot food (porridge or Pot Noodle), hot drink (hot chocolate or coffee), change into night clothes and top up food and drink supplies. Drop off poles
- Fox & Hounds (Slapewath) – Pizza, pick up poles
- Gribdale Gate – Food/drink top up
- Clay Bank – Welfare check
- Lordstones – Hot food and drink, change into fresh clothes for day and stock up on food/drink
- Square Corner – Food and drink top up
- White Horse – Food and drink top up
After food, Dave and I went back to our Air BnB (a nice caravan behind a farm house on the main road in Seamer) and got settled in. I laid all my running kit out on the bed and went through a last minute check before bed.
Having gone to bed planning on waking up at 5am, I woke up at 1am, Dave woke up at 3am (he had a crewing nightmare) and I woke up again shortly after. At which point I got up and decided to make a cuppa and we both got a head start on getting ready for the day. I took my time taping my feet up and cutting up spare sections of tape to patch my feet up later if needed while having a breakfast of porridge and banana.
We headed off down the road to Filey and arrived around 6:30am, I was quickly checked in, picked up my race number and tracker and we now had an hour or so to kill before the race brief. We nipped to the Filey Brigg cafe for another coffee and mingled with other runners, keeping our distance from Race Director Jon Steele who kept telling us he was poorly.
Following the race brief, we quickly assembled at the race start and we were off, a mere 3 minutes later than the advertised time, which was really an indicator of how poorly Jon was, usually he manages to talk for another 7 minutes or so.
The going out of the Brigg for the gentle uphill towards Blue Dolphin was very firm and it was easy to get caught up in a faster pace than planned. I ran for awhile chatting with Aaron Gourlay who is usually a lot faster than me, but for now the average pace of around 6m:30/km suited me and felt good and just before Blue Dolphin, I stopped for a walk break and to just take stock.
I got going again, and kept the pace about the same, but noticed that something was rubbing between my shoe and the top of my foot, so stopped to address it. It seemed that my calf guard had rode up slightly and the tongue of my shoe was pushing on the folded material, easily corrected and worth stopping to make sure it was nothing serious.
I hit the cut from Cayton Bay caravan park to the beach (7.2km) at 46 minutes and felt comfortable, as I entered the field ahead of a group of runners, I took the chance to scope out where the cows that normally inhabited the field were. Confident that they were all well away from the path, I pushed on up the hill to where the first set of supporters were.
Cayton Bay – Photo, Scott Beaumont
I pushed on down the steps and was followed by a runner with a southern hemisphere accent who caught me on the climb back up the steep steps to Osgodby and we discussed briefly the challenges of training for a hilly race in his current town of London. At the top of the steps, I was greeted and cheered on for the first of many times by Keith and Kristy Wise and I got a jog on up the road before turning right onto the overgrown path back down towards the clifftop. I was overtaken here by Duncan Bruce who I’d met and overnighted with at Hardmoors 55 and we passed each other back and forth all the way into Scarborough.
As I approached Holbeck Hill, I took stock and decided that I had dressed about right for the weather (overcast and cool) and that my food supplies were OK, so shouted instructions to Dave about what I wanted at Scalby Mills and kept running. I passed Scarborough Spa at 1h:26m, 9 minutes ahead of plan.
Holbeck Hill – Photo, Dave Cook
I’ve never enjoyed running through Scarborough. I find the concrete surface unforgiving and usually the crowds are an impediment to running well. Thankfully, at 9:30am the latter wasn’t much of a problem and a lack of traffic meant that I could run much of the seafront on the softer surface of the road, hopping back onto the path when a car approached. To pass the time, I played an often used mental game of running for 10 lamp posts, then walking for 5 which allowed me to maintain a reasonable running pace, while keeping my mind off all of the negative things I associate with running this stretch. As I arrived at Scalby Mills, it was starting to spit onto rain, so as I topped up my bottles with water and Lucozade Sport, I asked Dave to pass me my armwarmers with my poles. This gave me the option of a warm layer in case the exposed clifftops became windy. I left Scalby Mills at 01h:56m, still tracking 9 minutes ahead so I decided to take the next section easy and walk a little more using my poles to protect my knees on the frequent steps up and down on this stretch.
I ran for awhile with Angela Moore who was going well and again passed back and forth with Duncan Bruce but, apart from being over taken by several groups, I was mostly running alone all the way to Cloughton Wyke where I was caught by Aaron Gourlay who’d taken an unscheduled stop in Scarborough. We chatted as we moved along, both noting that the weather had warmed up and I was now giving myself regular showers with my water bottle.
I was looking forward to getting to Hayburn Wyke, where the diverted part of the Cleveland Way (to avoid a landslip on some steep steps) ran in shaded woodland and by a stream. I arrived at Hayburn Wyke at 3h:14m now 13 minutes up on my plan and could hear a familiar voice behind me. I was caught by Matthew Swan who is another runner I know is a bit quicker than me and I took as a sign that I needed to rein myself in a bit. I knew that my plan already involved putting in a fast first 80km so being ahead of plan meant I needed to slow up a bit. I let Matthew and another runner pass me and slowed to a walk through the cool woods, stopping by the stream to soak my buff, which I kind of regretted as it left it feeling a bit gritty as it dried, but it did the job of keeping my temperature down as I tackled the long road climb out of Hayburn to the farm buildings at Staintondale on the diverted section of the Cleveland Way. I was passed by Paul Munster, which gave me a bit of comfort as Paul and I often run similar times in races. Glad to be off the road and back onto the grass clifftop path on the Cleveland Way proper, I picked the work rate up again on the draggy uphill section that Dave and I had run together just a few weeks ago. Running this section fairly recently had allowed me to remember cues in the landscape to measure distance and regulate effort well. Just before Ravenscar, I was caught by Dennis Potton and we chatted all the way into the village. Dave was parked on the road near Raven Hall, but the checkpoint was up the hill in the village hall. This allowed me to let Dave know what I needed as I passed which was the planned Pot Noodle. I walked towards to the checkpoint with Dennis, who met his wife on the way in and checked in. I grabbed some coke at the checkpoint, a couple of cheese and pickle sandwiches and a bowl of rice pudding while my bottles were filled up with water and coke. I then jogged back down to the car and eat my Pot Noodle while Dave topped up my food supplies with more Chia Charge bars and added some Wine Gums to the supplies. As soon as I finished the Pot Noodles I downed a can of Red Bull, then dumped my cap and armwarmers as it was now way too hot for both and decided to wear my buff around my head to keep the sun off if needed. I got Dave to apply some BodyGlide to my back as my pack had started to rub. I ran out of Ravenscar at 4h:45m, still ahead of plan.
Running down through the woods away from Ravenscar was pleasantly cool and after spending almost an hour moving uphill, it was nice to open the legs up and run a bit. Coming off the hill I passed last year’s 110 winner Jason Millward who was spectating, but so quickly I didn’t recognise him until I had gone past and continued down towards the clifftops again.
I was now aware that it was really hot and the top of my head was feeling the sun a little, so I put my buff over my head to give it some cover while soaking it periodically with water from my bottle. As I made the road that led down to Stoupe Beck, I remembered I had put some money in the side pocket of my pack and decided to make a stop at Boggle Hole Youth Hostel for an ice lolly. The promise of this kept me going down the steep steps. On the way back up the other side of Stoupe Beck, a group caught me up, just in time for me to slip on some wet rock and take a slight fall. The runners were treated to my choice language before making sure I was OK and passing me as we got to the top of the steps. I jogged the short distance to Boggle Hole and took the steps down very cautiously, mentally assessing my left foot (which had taken the brunt of the fall) as I went. Things seemed OK, so I pushed on down to the youth hostel passing people enjoying meals, beer and ice cream on the way in. I grabbed two Calippos, paid for them and stuffed one down the front of my shirt while I started up the steps out of Boggle Hole, the ice cooling my skin nicely, while I ate the other.
By the top of the Boggle Hole steps, I’d switched the Calippo from the front of my shirt to down the back and under each arm while finishing the first. I gave it a few more minutes against my skin before eating it, which took me nicely to the top of the slippery wooden steps that drop you down into Robin Hood’s Bay. I took these nice and slowly, breaking into a jog/trot at the bottom for a short period before the turn left up the fearsome steep section of road that takes you up to the next trail section of the Cleveland Way. I jettisoned my empty ice lolly and Chia Charge packets into a bin and pushed on up the bank arriving at the top at 5h:43m, just 4 minutes ahead of plan.
At this point I’d planned to take my poles from Dave, at the same time, I took the chance to get my water and coke bottles topped off and got him to apply some sun cream to my ears which had started to feel hot and are prone to burning in the sun. I moved out of Robin Hood’s Bay after a longer than planned stop of 3 and a half minutes at 5h:46m and pushed on towards Whitby.
This section was the hottest of the day in terms of weather and one I always find hard going no matter what the weather. The track undulates and there is rarely a flat section, however today had the added bonus that the trail was not ankle deep in slippy mud. I jogged what I could and walked the uphills making sure that I ate and drank regularly. I chatted to several runners as they passed, including Keri Lewis, who I’d run with for awhile during HM30 in January. As the temperature rose, the coke in my bottle began to taste too sickly sweet and I needed something else more palatable to drink. I decided to use the stop at Saltwick Bay to grab a bottle of Erdinger Akoholfrei beer and drink it while walking through the caravan park so I could dump the bottle in a bin before pushing on. Erdinger Alkholfrei is isotonic and is really good for dehydration, which I knew was now an issue. Running further along, I tried to think what else I could have instead of coke. I toyed with the idea of pouring some Erdinger into one of my bottles, but experience told me it would fizz up while I ran and most would overflow out of the bottle. I decided I’d see if Dave could pick some lemonade up en route and let me have some at Sandsend. By now, I was really feeling the heat and looked for an opportunity to soak my buff at the next stream, however this was teeming with tadpoles, so I had to wait until the next one a bit further along where I dipped my buff, carefully avoiding getting my feet wet and pushed along further.
On the approach to Saltwick Bay, I looked over my shoulder to find a topless Dennis Potton had caught me up. We chatted our way into Saltwick where we arrived at 7h:18m a quarter of an hour behind plan (I didn’t know this as I didn’t check at the time). While Dave stowed my poles and opened my beer, I topped up my pockets with salted nuts and tried to eat a pot of rice pudding. I got a mouthful in, but my stomach warned me that if I forced any more down, it would be coming straight back up. I let Dave know this and walked with him through the caravan park drinking my glorious tasting beer. I was passed halfway through by Matthew Swan who had bought himself an ice lolly at the park shop and on the way out of Saltwick I left my beer bottle with Gareth Barnett who’d set up a pop up water station in the car park.
Coming into Saltwick Bay with Dennis Potton looking like a pair of Englishmen in the midday sun – Photo Dave Cook
Coming out of Saltwick, I picked up my pace from a walk to jog and ran alongside Matthew Swan and Emily Beaumont on the abbey approach. I dug out a banana from my pocket and managed to get it down me without any complaint from my stomach, but still did not like the taste of the coke in my bottle. Going through the church grounds at the top of the 199 steps was frustrating as I has to dodge, weave and sidestep through the crowds. Going down the steps was worse, it seemed that no matter how careful I was descending and picking a seemingly empty line, that somebody climbing the steps with their head down, would weave into my path at the last minute. As I reached the bottom, I headed into a shop and bought an orange ice lolly to get me through town, which was positively heaving and almost impossible to run through. Going up the Khyber Pass towards the Whale’s Jawbone, I spotted Emily Beaumont buying a slush from a kiosk and I followed suit with the last of my change. After climbing up the steps to the Whale’s Jawbone I could see Matthew and Emily about 100m in front of me and I tried to jog along and catch them up, but couldn’t seem to make ground. Drinking the slush was a great change from coke in both flavour and consistency and just before the descent to the slipway behind the golf club, I decided that the slushy texture might make the coke more palatable, that and I’d be able to bin the cup while there were still bins to use. So I poured my slush into the coke, binned the cup and had two paracetamol and a protein gel at the same time.
I walked up the bank behind the golf club, giving myself a good shower with my water bottle and trying to make ground on Emily who was still in sight, but she pulled away running at the top of the climb. I again followed her example and began to use the long downhill drag to power an extended run into Sandsend.
On the approach, to the checkpoint, I decided what I wanted again. I decided against taking my poles, but wanted some savoury food, so opted to take a bag of Pom Bear crisps with me. I also ditched the foul mix of coke and slush on the run in.
Arriving at 8h:27m I wanted a quick turnaround, so I nipped to the gents while Dave filled my coke bottle with the desired lemonade. i had another stab at eating, but nothing appealed and I jogged out of the checkpoint and was halfway up the steps before I realised I’d forgotten to pick up some crisps. I looked back down and decided against going back for them and pushed on.
The section of disused railway line ahead looks flattish and runnable, but experience has taught me that it’s a false flat that is best approached with a fast as possible walk, saving the legs for the climb back up the steps at Deepgrove Wyke onto the clifftops. I used this time to chat to a passing runner and eat a couple of nuts and wine gums, but again, just the attempt unsettled my stomach. The lemonade however, was a Godsend. Climbing the steps in the shade, I decided to try and force more food down and managed half a Chia Charge bar. I knew from the top of the steps, there was a bit of an uphill drag before a decent runnable stretch. I fast walked the bank then got moving into a nice jog/walk pattern. I was again caught by Matthew and Emily who noted that my crew stops were getting like formula one pitstops. I passed the home-made waymarker on the Cleveland Way and remember thinking that it was wrong. In my mind, I’d mis-read it as saying 45 miles had passed since Filey and spent a couple of kms trying to puzzle it out, but this was clearly a symptom of poor concentration as the sign clearly says 37 miles.
A reminder of the distance covered and that still to come
Pushing along the clifftops, I managed to stay in contact with Matthew and Emily until just before the descent to the Runswick Bay steps, which I again took very cautiously and feeling sympathy for the walkers coming the opposite way up these steps, from experience I know they’re hard work, even on fresh legs. Having tiptoed across the beck at the bottom of the steps and made my way onto the beach, I carefully navigated my way to the hard sand at the edge of the water, trying to simultaneously keep my feet dry and prevent the ingress of sand into my shoes.
Coming off the beach, I spotted Kathryn Hammond, who was supporting her husband Tim and got a boost from the familar face. I pushed hard up the steep hill that led to the checkpoint at Runswick Bay. On the way up, I ran through what I wanted in my mind. I wanted crisps and additional fluids. I decided to take my soft flask with some Lucozade Sport to carry in my hand, then put in my pocket when done. I was also going to have another go at eating something more substantial here. I arrived at the Runswick checkpoint on 10h:03m now around 18 mins behind plan. While Dave sorted me some bottles and crisps, I tried some more rice pudding and failed to get more than a mouthful in, so drank another can of Red Bull and headed out in under 2 mins.
Arriving at the top of the steep bank at Runswick Bay – Photo, Dave Cook
Once back onto the trail, I got a decent jog going and the now familar pattern of being overtaken by faster runners who’d spent a little more time at the checkpoint repeated itself with Kelly Felstead and Lisa Bainbridge overtaking me in quick succession. They were shortly followed by Emily who caught me just before Port Mulgrave, but there was no sign of Matthew, which didn’t surprise me as he’d told me earlier in the day that he was having a long stop at Runswick. I upped the work rate pushing along towards Staithes and was quite pleased to note that the temperature was dropping fairly rapidly, the breeze coming off the sea was also picking up a little. Just before Staithes, my concentration faltered again and I nearly took a wrong turn along a farm track while talking to some walker, thankfully, they corrected me and I gave myself a mental slapping about focus. I pushed on down into Staithes, which was still quite busy and managed to push hard up the climb to Cowbar where my next meet point with Dave was. As Hummersea cliff came into view ahead, I could see that it was shrouded in low cloud, so as well as my poles, I decided to ask for my armwarmers. I reached Dave at 11h:14m, which at 70km I knew was 56 minutes behind plan. I told Dave I’d walk on while he ran back to the car to get my armwarmers and he took my now empty soft flask in return for the poles and armwarmers. I confirmed to him that I wanted porridge, hot chocolate and my change of clothes at Saltburn while I put my armwarmers on, then pressed on harder in pursuit of a runner I could see crossing the field ahead towards the next big climb.
As I got to the bottom of the climb, I stuffed some crisps into my mouth and worked hard up the first section, slowly reeling in the runner ahead, I caught him at the cottages that signal the end of the paved section where he had stopped to sort his feet and I used the first section of slightly flat trail to get some running done. At the foot of the climb, I pushed harder than normal to try and make some time up and just before the top of the climb, I was breathing heavily. I was again caught my Matthew at this point and mentioned it to him. He expressed the opinion that it was more the hill than any reflection on form. Matthew slowly pulled ahead into the gloomy mist, which at times provided a worrying empty void by the side of the trail where the cliff face dropped off. I was trundling along, making sure I munched on a crisp regularly, at 12 hours I made sure that I had another protein gel and popped another couple of paracetamol, despite not feeling I really needed them. I was now at 75km and realised that I was only a moderate effort 5k away from a 50 miles personal best. I pushed on over the last section of the high clifftop and started on the descent, again being pleased that the trail was nice and firm, unlike the last time I was here a few weeks ago, when just staying upright was a challenge.
I passed through the farm buildings that signalled the end of the cliff proper and the start of an undulating descent that leads to the steps that drop into Skinningrove. Coming off the farm track, I could see a pair of runners about 400m behind me. I decided that I needed some motivation and gave myself the goal of getting through Skinningrove ahead of them. I pushed hard down the bank and to the top of the steps, again descending these carefully. Once at the bottom of the steps, I gave myself the goal of running all the way to the next section of beach, passing several crew cars parked up.
I walked carefully through the sand dunes, again trying to ensure no sand got into my shoes and reached the bottom of the steps up to the clifftop. I checked my watch and 12h:50m and 79.8km. That meant I was certainly going to make a 50 mile PB at some point along the clifftop. I took it easy going up the steps and jogged through the 50 mile mark at exactly 13h:00m:00s then slowed to a walk up the next long drag of a hill. I remembered from doing this section at night a couple of years ago, that it feels quite a long climb, so just took it at an easy pace. I was passed by a the pair of runners who’d followed me down to Skinningrove and as they approached, I realised that dusk was falling quickly and my head torch was in the car with Dave. I suddenly got worried about being benighted on the clifftop and marched a little quicker, arriving at the charm bracelet sculpture on the clifftop. I indulged my superstition and climbed up to the sculpture touching the start charm and giving the hammer a clang against the frame, which must have amused the runners in front before following them down the path alongside the railway line. As the path started to point down, I could finally see the bright lights of Saltburn and Redcar and surged forward with longer spells of downhill running. It was almost dark when I arrived at Saltburn at 13h:42m. Upon seeing Dave, my mood rose and I bounded to the car and started getting changed while Dave prepared my food and drink. I stood chatting with Paul Burgum’s brother while liberally re-applying BodyGlide and getting changed, then stocked up my pack with food for the night section. I grabbed my head torch and also my battery charger and wire for my watch and set it away charging while I tried and failed to eat my porridge and drank my hot chocolate. I moved back onto coke in my bottles and was delighted to see Dee Bouderba and Jo Barrett in the car park. Having had a quick chat and picking up my charging watch, I asked confirmed my pizza order for Slapewath with Dave bounded out of the car park and headed over to the offical checkpoint to check in with them before leaving Saltburn at 13h:53m, much quicker than planned. There was a loud kareoke playing at Vista Mar and I remember leaving the checkpoint singing along and telling everyone I was going to sprint the steps back up onto the top, which I actually tried to do before realising and telling myself to get a grip halfway up. I was absolutely buzzing at this point and walked on checking that my watch was charging nicely.
I joined with a group just before the woods dropping into valley gardens, but slowed and dropped behind while I re-adjusted my night clothes, which felt a little uncomfortable. Dropping into the woods, I felt too warm and I wasn’t the only one as a runner in front had stopped to take a layer off. I pushed on knowing things would cool soon enough and found myself in between two sizeable groups. As we climbed out of the woods heading towards the Skelton bypass, I was overtaken by the second big group and held onto Kelly Felstead and Stephen Gibson as we passed into the housing estate in Skelton. I was soon gapped as we climbed up the steps and across Skelton Green. As we passed onto Airey Hill Lane, a thick fog descended and I soon found myself alone and unable to see much more than a few metres front and back. I walked on, but it was hard to judge pace in the fog, which closed in further the higher I climbed. It seemed to take forever to make it to the last farm houses before what I knew was a flat section followed by a downhill. But the flat section never seemed to come and what was worse, the surface seemed to be muddier than the farm track I remembered. I suddenly went deep into some mud and realised that in the fog, I’d somehow wandered off the track and dragged myself back left to pick up the trail again.
As the farm track turned down and into the section of field I knew I needed to cross to reach a stile that led to a better running surface, I tripped and fell, cutting my thumb. It was a tiny cut but seemed to bleed a lot. I sucked my thumb to clear the blood and more came and the blood had a weird taste. I decided to just let it bleed and pushed on along the trail, now descending out of the thick murk. I hit the top of the steps down to Slapewath and felt pretty knackered. I was looking forward to my pizza and I had decided to make sure I ate at least one whole slice, no matter how bad I felt. I was also looking forward to getting my poles to give my legs some respite.
As I came into Slapewath, I saw Dave and he asked how it was. I shook my head and told him it was really tough. He re-assured me that everyone else who’d passed had said the same, this was normal. It was just a hard section. I eat my pizza and chucked my watch charger back into the car as my watch was now 100% charged. I think Dave offered me some Red Bull, which I turned down and I went to get my poles, but they weren’t in the back of the car. Dave had a look and couldn’t find them either and after a minute or so, we’d come to the conclusion that I must have left them leaned against the car while I got changed instead of putting them in the car as I’d done all day when I hadn’t physically handed them to Dave himself. Dave told me he was going to head back to Saltburn to find them and that he’d find a way of getting them to me before Roseberry if he found them. I told myself that I couldn’t change this and that I could only deal with it positively, but as I trudged through Spa Wood, these thoughts felt empty and I let negative thoughts push their way in. I was overtaken by a pair of 160 runner going up the concrete hill to the top of Guisborough Woods and was caught by a large group containing Elaine Wilde at the top. This gave me a boost, as I’d paced this section for Elaine last year and running with this group seemed like a really positive thing, but going up the next hill, into yet more thickening fog, I just couldn’t hold their pace.
As I dropped down through the heather to the foot of the climb that takes you back up to the fire road which the Cleveland Way follows all the way to Highcliff Nab, I heard my phone ringing. I pulled it out, it was Dave, he’d found my poles and was asking where I was. I told him about 2km after Spa Wood, which meant little to him, but a voice in the background told him it was “too far”. He handed the phone over to someone else and they asked where I was. I looked around and couldn’t see anything but thick fog and told them I’d just dropped through the heather section. I got a reply to the effect that he knew where I meant. I then asked “Who’s this?” and got the best reply ever, “It’s Craig you divvy, I’ll meet you at Highcliff with your poles”. I was over the moon, Craig was exactly what I needed to get me moving again. I told him the fog was grim and that I’d meet him behind Highcliff and pushed on.
The fog was so thick, that it didn’t feel safe to run as I couldn’t see anything around my feet that I might possible trip on. I was passed by Andy Pickering and Joanne Abbott and we didn’t even recognise each other. I told them I was looking for the path that forked off to Highcliff, but was worried I’d miss it and was told it was awhile away yet before they pulled off. I got another phone call from Craig asking where I was and I told him that I thought I should be right on the fork but couldn’t see it. The next thing I knew was that the path was heading downhill and I could see a torch ahead. I knew then, I’d missed the turn for Highcliff, no idea how given the number of times I’d run these woods in the dark and in all weathers. When I reached Craig, my mood lifted again. He told me that other people had missed the turn and he’d even turned some people back from the path leading down the Tees Link towards Guisborough.
We had a bit of a walk to the paved section of path that leads to Black Nab and got a good run on, overtaking Andy and Joanne. We slowed again at the next climb and again, the fog came down making it hard to push any sort of pace. Craig was trying to encourage me to eat, but I fancied nothing. He offered me some chicked and cocktail sausage which I had and took my time over, forcing myself to eat it. As we approached Roseberry he even risked his fingers to feed me a Jelly Baby. As we dropped down the side of Little Roseberry, several groups were on the way up and they all told us the wind was bad up on Roseberry and that it was cold. I tried to make good progress down the slope, but each step was an effort, by the time we started climbing, each step was like lifting dead weight. We passed a few more runners coming down Roseberry and were overtaken by a couple going up, it felt positive to be in amongst traffic but even then it was hard going.
Climbing Roseberry Topping – Photo, Craig Davie
We eventually reached the top of Roseberry to find Tim Taylor inside a tent marshalling. I remember feeling good and having a couple of minutes chatting and stretching my legs, before checking time and heading back down. We left Roseberry at 18h:32m and I thought that given this was 102km into the race, around the same distance as Hardmoors 60 which has a final cut off of 18 hours, that this wasn’t so bad. As we got to the bottom of Little Roseberry, Craig was a little more switched on and told me that we needed to start moving faster as we were going to start running close to the cut off at Kildale.
We passed more runners who were on their way down Little Roseberry as we climbed out onto Newton Moor. Back out of Roseberry Gate, it took a few moments to find the path, that was how thick the fog had become again. Once we found the path, we got running for a short while until we could see an odd shape up ahead. It was a runner laid by the path. We stopped and encouraged him back to his feet and fast walked on. Although the path was downhill, it was foggy and it dented what little will I had left to run. I tiptoed down the steps to Gribdale Gate and told Dave I was pushing straight on to try and beat the cut off at Kildale, I’d stock up on whatever food I needed there.
About 100m up the bank towards Captain Cooks, I stopped and told Craig I needed to sit down. He tried to encourage me up and I said I was packing it in. He told me I wasn’t. I wasn’t injured, I was moving OK, I was just having a rough patch. I told him I’d meant to pick some paracetamol up from the car, so he ran back and got some. We then moved off at a crawl. There were several times I laid down and refused to move, but each time Craig got me up and going again. I stropped, moaned and grumbled all the way to the top. Just before the top, we were passed by Lynsey Blyth the eventual First Lady in the 160 who was full of energy. We followed her past Captain Cooks and started on the descent. On the way down the steps, I slipped and clipped my ankle on a rock, which didn’t help my already shit mood. As we passed through the woods it started to get light. Craig had talked to me about trying to run this bit, but my legs just felt empty, devoid of anything. We were passed by single runners and groups. I was very surprised to be passed by Kim Cavill and almost took her to be one of the many odd illusions and hallucinations I’d had climbing Captain Cooks until she spoke and told me she’d heard about me losing my poles. Soon Kim and her runner were off into the distance.
We hit the road descent into Kildale at 20h:31m, I wanted to run down the hill, but the legs were still not playing and the feet were hurting. I kept telling Craig there was no way I’d make the 21 hour cut off and if I did, I had a hard day in very hot weather to deal with. I was 100% Mr Negativity. Despite Craig, cajoling, encouraging and trying to bully me (he couldn’t bully me, he’s too nice) I ambled into the Kildale checkpoint with a minute to spare. Andy Norman gave me the option of a few minutes to sort myself out and get back on the road. Craig and I looked at each other, I had a moment of “maybe” then common sense kicked in and I called it a day.
I was looked after at the checkpoint by Emma Davie, Phil Owen and Sue Jennings. I received a pep talk on the village hall steps from Karl Shields and as the cup of tea I’d had kicked in, the positivity returned. I’d just ran the furthest I’d ever run and picked up a 50 mile PB along the way.
Jo Barrett gave me a lift to Clay Bank and re-united me with Dave and he helped at the checkpoint before I had a sleep in his car. After a couple of hours kip, Dave took me back to Helmsley where I had a bath and a sleep, while Dave went out and supported Emily, running the final 20 miles with her.
Later in the afternoon, Natalie and I went to the race finish and were able to watch most of the people I’d run with the day before finish.
Although I didn’t finish the race myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend apart from that short time between Slapewath and Kildale, even then, there were so many funny moments and weird highs to counter the lows that it was also enjoyable in a perverse way. I love the 110 weekend, this was my fourth consecutive year involved either as marshall, crew, pacer and finally runner. I hope to be involved next year and as many years after as possible, even if I don’t run. I currently have no desire to have another go, I’m at peace with my DNF (unlike my previous DNF’s of the 60) and have realised how much I enjoy racing 50-60 milers. I now want to see how fast I can do those distances in. However, I would encourage anyone who can, to get involved in whatever way suits them. The 110 is like a massive all weekend party that moves around the Cleveland Way. As I’ve said hundreds of times before, the Hardmoors family is special.
To Jon, Shirley, all of the marshalls, volunteers, runners, crew and everyone else involved, thank you for a fantastic weekend.
Special thanks go to Dave Cook and Craig Davie, without whom, I could not have got as far as I did.
Super special thanks go to my wife Natalie, your support is what keeps me going and this year has been a fantastic set of birthday presents.
Finally, I’d like to dedicate this one to the memory of my good friend’s Elliot and Kerry Gowland’s dog Taz who was cruelly taken from them in the days before the race.
Written by Andy Day
I’ve done a few of Hobo Pace events before & I’ve got to know the organiser Ronnie. He’s a genuine guy with a clear passion for running & the countryside & this clearly shines through.
The events are always well organised, fun & friendly & the marshalls are some of the best I’ve known.
Originally I was a racing cyclist, then duathlete, then triathlete, then a runner. As with everything I start I like to push the distances & see what I can do, so inevitably running moved to Ultra running. I had returned to Ironman Triathlon over last 2 years but I actually hate swimming, so I’ve gone back to pure running. it’s raw, natural & I love it.
I’m 50 next October & 6 weeks ago I decided I wanted to hopefully run Spartathon in Greece next September. In order to get into this iconic event you have to set a qualifying time & there are a few different race distances to chose from. You have to qualify before the Feb in a hope to get in that year, so this narrowed down my options. I decided to do the RH100, as its local to me, I knew some of the route & it was in Sept, so hopefully still warm.
There are too options to qualify -
Complete the 100 miler in under 21 hours & go into the ballot.
Complete the event 20% quicker in under 16hrs 48 to get an automatic qualification.
‘Go big or go home’ was my view, so that was the plan
This gave me 5 weeks to turn my training from a triathlete into an efficient ultra runner. Upping the miles without getting injured & not doing too much too soon. I never make things easy for myself but I am stubborn, stupid & I like to push it..
Well, the training went well, I didn’t get any injuries & I arrived on the start line in the best shape I could hope for in the time..... The sun was shining, less than 10% chance of rain, a light/moderate breeze & 13 degrees over night. Let’s do this!
Ok the route (Cut & paste from the hobopace.co.uk event page)
From the hall you head out towards the Chesterfield Canal. Once the route hits the towpath runners simply follow this all the way to Worksop to eventually join part of the Dukeries race route which enters into the heart of Sherwood Forest. Navigation on the canal could not be simpler as the towpath hugs the canal water. Once you hit the forest it is well taped.
The race loops 30 miles in Sherwood Forest twice, before returning on the same towpath once again. The Dukeries lap offers some of Nottinghamshire’s most famous, finest and picturesque trail.
Following forest trails, minor roads and footpaths, the route passes charming lodges, through Creswell Crags and skirts the Welbeck Estate.
It then crosses Clumber Park and through peaceful farm land before looping back to pass by the Thoresby Estate before returning to the thick of the Forest again.
The route passes The Major Oak!
The return is made on the same Chesterfield Canal towpath to head back to the village hall for an easy navigational finish. (Oh how we laughed )
Clear marking is in place throughout so you can enjoy the race with the vastly reduced risk of going off trail. (No stop... you’re killing me )
I believe there were 115 eager runners on the start line & I positioned myself..... right at the back.
This was a new concept to me but I had no care or thought for my finishing position. I had worked out that in order to qualify I needed to run at 10 minute miles but then taking into account stops at Aid stations, I decided that I’d run at around 9 minute miles.
Now in the past (I have always set off far too fast, knowing I had set of far too fast but still continuing far too fast. In the vast majority of cases this results in struggling like fook & internally shouting “you stupid t#@t, you’ve gone & done it again, when will you ever learn” to myself.
This really is a nice event & feels relaxed. The first few miles passed as I chatted to other runners & enjoyed the morning views. I was also trying to check out the way back, as navigation is never my strong point (more on that to follow) Only a few miles in & I did that, follow the leader thing & turned left instead of straight on. Luckily the runners behind were more awake & kindly shouted us back on track. Once you hit the canal, even I couldn’t go wrong! (Turn right you run into the hedge, turn left you’re in the canal...simples )
I was keeping to my pace but still found myself running alone after about 4 miles. I had no idea how many were in front of me & neither did I care. It was all about the time.
At the end of the canal there is a very small section of road & two islands to navigate around. At this point I past two runners just before hitting an aid station. I remember the lady informing me that I was in 5th place & I smiled & said there’s a very long way yet.
I then began to hit the trail & continued on my pace, checking my watch for too many times to make sure I wasn’t going too fast.
I was looking forward to reaching aid station 6 at Hazel Gap because this is where my better half & step daughter Nicole were marshalling. I ran in in joint third but all I had been doing was my own pace. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey
A couple of pics, a nutrition top up & a kiss & I was on my way. I was told that I was 23 mins up on schedule at this point. The next part is a lovely 10 mile loop & back to Hazel Gap
I set off running with the same runner I had come into the aid station with but a short time later he stopped to stock up with his crew, I carried on alone. Back to Hazel Gap ( now 30 mins up) & then off out to Creswell Crags, tree lined Clumber Park & then back into the forest. This is another loop of around 20 miles, which again brings you back to Hazel Gap. It was somewhere around the 50-60 mile point that I moved into second place. Now for the second 10 mile loop back to Hazel Gap. I had already started to power walk the inclines at this point, in fact probably a lot earlier but I forget (I’m getting old) I do this to give my legs a break from running / use different muscles / mentally breaks it down into sizeable chucks.
Then in the last 1/2 mile back to Hazel Gap(mile 70)I saw the race leader Paul for the first time. Now this chap had flew off at the start like a steam train & was running at a great pace. I believe he came through 50 miles at not much over 7hrs - Smokey!
I hit 50 miles at 7:51 running time but 8:04 actual time.
We ran into the aid station together but here is where my race mindset really came into play. I hadn’t given it any thought at the time but Paul ran in, grabbed a quick bit of food etc & ran straight out. I on the other hand had already phoned ahead to my good lady for Maccy fries a vanilla shake (other unhealthy fast food outlets are available) & a leg rub & this didn’t change. I royally took up my place in a deck chair - munched & slurped away, whilst Di applied the baby oil & gave my legs a tender rub. 15 minutes later I set off to Creswell Crags for the second time.
**What this has finally sunk into my head after all these years is you have to just run your own race. Deeeeeeer! Lightbulb moment.
It was now just about to turn dark, so I had put on my head torch. There’s something special / hypnotising about running at night & just that bright tunnel of light to follow ahead of you, so peaceful. On this section I passed a couple of other runners & for the first time I asked how far the runner was ahead. “10 maybe 20 minutes mate” said one, “a long way, at least 15” said another.
I came to aid station 4 (drop bag zone) for the third & last time & being a tight ass I emptied the last of my food into my rear pack & threw the now empty bag into the bin. I can hand it all to Di at the 90mile point & save it all - Always thinking
The lovely ladies dutifully handed me a hearty portion of cold mushy peas & some soup. Deeeeeeelish! I thanked them & off I ran, heading back towards the canal.
I was still running quite well, walking the inclines & on track to finish within 16hrs 48, which was my only goal for the day. As I dropped down to aid station 3, The helpers kindly filled up my water flask ( as they had done all day) & told me the leader was only a couple of minutes away. ‘Really I thought. He must be struggling. I might actually catch him’
I ran back out onto that small tarmac section with the two roundabouts. The street lamps were on here & as I looked down the road I saw the rear red blinking light of the leader Paul. This was the point where we went back off the road & re joined the canal. I could see Paul just on the canal as I approached the bridge over it. I stopped... F@#k! I can’t see the tape showing me the way. I thought I saw a gap in the foliage & proceeded to trample through it but then it got narrower & I realised I was wrong. I turned around, went to run back & promptly fell face first into the plants. I stood up & saw that I was covered in prickly balls & in my yellow t shirt I now looked like a very badly decorated Christmas tree. These were also like nettles & I was now itchy all over my legs & arms. Well..... it woke me up a little if nothing else.
Thankfully I was still awake enough to ring the race organiser Ronnie & explained where I was. He promptly told me to walk back a little & I then instantly saw the tape to my left - straight on to the canal. It was that easy!
However for the second time Paul had again ran off into the distance & out of sight. I can’t remember exactly but I think I was now about 15miles from the finish. I set off still at a steady pace & as there were no inclines on the canal, I could keep running. Around mile 87 I saw Paul for the third time, just before I had to negotiate my way around a small section (about 10 foot) of builders orange mesh & over some railway type sleepers that had been put down underfoot. I tripped & my right knee hit the deck. ‘Ouch’ ‘Ouch’ & ‘Fookin Ouch’ I thought I’d done something bad but as much as it initially hurt it soon wore off. (I think you’re ahead of me, as was Paul AGAIN!) I was beginning to think I wouldn’t catch him now.
However a short time later I finally caught up with Paul, who was clearly struggling & paying for that very fast start. “I think I’m out of ideas now” he said as I asked if he was ok. I felt for him, we’ve all been there. This guy had been out in front for 87 miles poss around 14/15hrs at this point. There was still a long way to go yet but I know the point when the brain makes demands that the legs can’t keep.
I carried on to aid station two where I met Di & & my good friend Gordon, who had very kindly travelled for over 2 hrs to pace me the last 10 miles. As I approached I was feeling good “Come on Gordy” I shouted. Di asked what I wanted & I said “Just empty my rear pocket”.
As I left the aid station Di told me I was still on track - exactly on the time I said I’d needed to be. (23:08) This meant I had to do the last 10 miles in 1hr 40 mins. It was very close.
We set off chatting side by side & then I let Gordy go in-front of me, guiding the way & shouting out any tree roots etc.. At the back end of these long events it becomes near impossible to lift the legs up high & kick back.
It gets a little hazy from here but after a mile or two, things began to change. I was obviously a little mentally & physically tired at this point. I remember that I fell down twice, hitting a couple of tree roots I believe. Each time I went down like a sack of spuds & each time I couldn’t physically get myself up. I remember Gordy having to help me up, when I said I couldn't do it myself. It was quite funny. I know I looked like a complete plonker but Gordy didn’t laugh once (well not to my face but I know he has since ) We’ve both been there before. This is one of the things I love about ultra running & pushing yourself, the mental battles you have in your head & with your legs.
I remember suddenly feeling really hungry & realising I’d told Di to empty my pockets. No fuel left!! - school boy error. In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman “ Big mistake..... huge” The fact that I actually felt hungry, meant I should have eaten a while back (Is that obvious?) Luckily Super G came to the reduce with a Nine Bar. That was the god dam best Nine Bar I’ve ever eaten. A couple of times I had tell Gordy I need to walk for a minute (even on the flat canal) We were both looking for the light in the distance that showed us aid station one at 97 miles wasn’t too far. For me, it now seemed like it was never coming! I do remember shouting out “Where the fook is this aid station” Gordy saw a light about 400m away “I think that’s it mate” We ran to the light like an excited moth, only to find that it wasn’t the aid station at all. At that point I think G phoned Di as I was worried we’d missed it. In my tired foggy brain I heard G say “ Oh so it’s just over a mile”
Oh how I laughed. “ That’s perfectly fine Gordy. I’m having such a spiritual experience at the moment” said Daysey........ Never!!!
Needless to say, even though I was running, that mile seemed to take forever!!!!
We arrived to the sweet voice of my number one girl. I sat down as I was feeling hungry & craved a peanut butter & jam sandwich with banana (Food of the gods!!)
I then had to ask Gordy to lift me out of the chair (Legs don’t fail me now!)
We knew that the Spartathlon auto time had gone now. I told Di I thought I might have to walk the last 3. “Get running” was her sympathetic reply but that’s why crew are Soooo important. They tell you the basics & make you eat / drink when you actually start to forget the simple things.
Di guided us off the canal & pointed us in the right direction. There’s a steep piece of road at this point & obviously I walked it. At the top we turned left, where I saw a piece of tape, then another but then nothing. We carried on for a short while when I told G we must have gone the wrong way. We rang Ronnie & Yeap, we had indeed gone off track a few minutes lost. Back on track we continued on & headed into a field. Pitch bloody black!! I’d ran it earlier in the day in the opposite direction but that was in the light. Now I hadn’t got a chuffin clue where to run. Another call to Ronnie, another few minutes lost but we finally conquered the field & headed in for the last mile.
Ronnie had mentioned that Paul must of had a second wind because he was catching me. I still don’t know if it was a cruel joke for me run faster but run I did. I then heard Di shouting ahead of us & G telling me to run hard into the finish. I saw Ronnie congratulating me & guiding me into hall, where I had to finish at the table. Guess what...... I ran through the wrong door. Lost again, right at the finish, much to everyone’s amusement
Sooooo I was the 2018 Robin Hood 100 winner. I couldn’t quite believe it & it didn’t sink in until the next day. It was obviously a little bitter sweet, as I hadn’t made the time but all I ever ask of myself is to do the best you can & that was all I had on the day. I finish in 17hrs 27 mins, the second fastest time in its 3 year history. I have to be very happy with that.
A massive thank you to Super G. We met ( with partners) by chance, looking at the information board in Chamonix before UTMB in 2015 & have been friends ever since. I wouldn’t have finished in that time without him for those last 10 miles. Thanks buddy!
Thank you to Nicole (Little Bit) Hamilton for helping me at the aid station. She’s a real diamond!
Thanks to Ronnie for putting on a great event, answering my numerous texts before the race, his help / guidance during the race & in advance of him coaching me hopefully towards a Sparta entry. Finally (thank god! I hear you cry) a big big thank you to my lady, my number one supporter & the best Facebook updater, Diddy. She is one in a million!
What next??? Well I ideally don’t want to risk the luck of the ballot, so I’ve entered another event. The Flitch Way 100k in January. It’s a shorter event but I think a lot harder to hit the auto qualification time. BUT nothing even turned, nothing gained. I’ll need to run the 62.5 miles in 8hrs, that an average of 7:41 per mile. However to take into account brief stops I’ll hope to aim for 7:30. Simples!! How hard can it be!?
Watch this space..... Nothing is impossible.
Oh & for you doubters out there. It was all done plant based... just saying
Thanks for reading!
Written by James Campbell - https://jamescampbell78.wordpress.com
It’s genuinely scary how quickly this race seems to have come around. It feels like only a couple of weeks ago that I was embarking on a training plan that was essentially starting from scratch.
Since July, I’ve actually completed marathon plus distance twice (Sweeping the Hardmoors Princess 30 and just scraping past the marathon distance in Hardmoors Nemesis, both in aid of Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue).
My training has involved gradually increasing the distance and elevation gain of my runs as well as hitting a variety of different surfaces while getting in a number of recces of the Hardmoors 55 and 110 route. A couple of times I’ve backed off the training due to feeling like I was pushing a little too hard but just before Christmas I managed to injure myself.
This resulted in me stopping running entirely for two weeks in the lead up to this race instead of tapering and receiving some great treatment from physio Mike Jefferies.
In the days before the race I had more time on my hands than usual to worry about the logistics of completing the race, so I pondered what do to about travelling in the event of bad weather and where to park etc. Right up until the last minute I was going on my good weather plan of travelling from Hartlepool to Robin Hood’s Bay on the morning of the race, but speaking to people who’ve raced previously, I had worries about getting parked. At last minute I decided to camp overnight and that decision was justified by the fact that when I arrived, I got one of only three remaining spaces in the car park.
Having arrived and shared a New Years Eve beer with Matthew Swan and Ian Gorin in Matthew’s camper van, I got myself comfortable in the car. I was in bed well before midnight, but knew there was no chance of sleep until the local firework celebrations had subsided. In the time before midnight I went over my kit choices and how I was going to run the race. At midnight, I video called Natalie and Martha to wish them happy new year then spent another hour planning and waiting for the fireworks to stop.
Due to the injury, my original target of beating my 50k PB (7h:09m) was out of the question and the only real goal was to get around within the 9 hour cut off.
The Hardmoors 30 course is a figure 8 loop consisting of 21km clockwise route north from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby along the ‘Cinder Track’ disused railway and back along the Cleveland Way path along the cliff tops. I knew from the Princess that the Cinder Track is very runnable in most conditions and planned to run the 10km or so to Whitby at a comfortable pace then just do as best as I could on the return leg, which was likely to be muddy and hard going.
Since the pain in my leg had subsided to fairly minimal levels in the last few days, I’d decided to leave my poles in the car and pick them up for the second loop if my leg had decided to play up.
The second loop left Robin Hood’s Bay south on the Cinder Track, climbing gradually to Ravenscar then descending to Hayburn Wyke, before returning along the Cleveland Way to the finish. The plan for this was to run what I could of the Cinder Track, fast walk back to Ravenscar and simply use anything I had left to get into Robin Hood’s Bay.
Hardmoors 30 Route Map
I woke up naturally at 5am, an hour before my alarm clock was set and had a breakfast of porridge, banana and coffee while trying to gauge the weather. The temperature on my car read 6 degrees, but in the sheltered area that Fylingdales village hall sits in, it felt comfortably warm, even though I could see clouds scudding along on a strong wind in the sky. I decided that on the clifftops that wind would feel decidedly cold so opted to wear a fleece jacket instead of a jersey on top of the standard winter wear of leggings and base layer.
Having got dressed and signed on nice and early, I left the village hall and did some light jogging and stretching to warm up then returned indoors for the race brief. Once the brief was finished, we were outside in the bright winter sunshine and we were off on the first ultra of 2018.
Hardmoors 30 Race Start by Kelli Wigham
As the crowd of runners headed along the road to the start of the Cinder Track, I was pulled along by them, way faster than I wanted to go, so as I hit the start of the Cinder Track, I slowed to a walk before jogging along at my own pace along the first flat section before the track kicked up into a climb which I negotiated in a run/walk routine until I was over the top and heading downhill. I was just getting into a good stride and running well when I could feel the first painful twinges in my shin.
I checked my Suunto and found I’d only gone 3km, which was annoying. I decided to take two paracetamol and continue running at a pace which I hoped would see me to Whitby within the first hour. I quickly realised that the pain was worse on harder surfaces but subsided on softer surfaces. Where possible, I ran on the muddier sections of track or on the grass at the side to reduce the impact on my leg and walked any concrete sections like the viaduct across the River Esk. I reached the first checkpoint at the end of the Cinder Track in Whitby at 1h:02m and grabbed a couple of Jaffa Cakes and ran through Whitby at the most deserted I’ve ever seen it making my way easily over the Swing Bridge and up towards the 199 steps which I enjoyed climbing as the stepping action seemed to relieve the pain in my leg. This gave me some hope that it might just need stretching off gradually.
Once across the Abbey car park and onto the Cleveland Way trail, I ran at a decent pace overtaking other runners and early morning walkers all the way into Saltwick Bay caravan park where the pain came back within a few steps of running on the road through the park. I walked until I reached the grass track at the far end of the park and was quite pleased to note that it was nowhere near as muddy as people who’d run parts of the route in the days before had made out. I made good time passing Laura Bradshaw of Sportsunday photography to the Whitby Foghorn/Lighthouse (1h:37m) where I spotted David Bradshaw, noting that he wasn’t at the top of some ridiculous hill for once.
Passing above Whitby Lighthouse taken by David Bradshaw of Sportsunday Photography
As I approached the next hill, I got an inkling I knew why David wasn’t at the top of a hill, the runners ahead had slowed to a very cautious pace. As I got closer, I could see that the path had become a total quagmire. I got through relatively easily and began to climb the steps up the next hill to the sounds of people slipping and sliding their way through.
The next 5km or so was a complete mudbath. Mostly ankle deep liquid mud on top of a firm subsoil that quickly clogged up the grip on the shoes and led to lots of sliding about. I expected this to hurt my leg a lot, but in reality, as long as I didn’t slip and over extend the leg it didn’t hurt. However keeping upright was that much of a challenge, I along with almost every other runner along that stretch had slowed to a crawl.
Eventually, as we approached Robin Hood’s Bay, there were some runnable gaps between to muddy patches, but almost right up to the village it was not possible to run at a consistent pace without running into a slippy patch. On the way to the Robin Hood’s Bay checkpoint, I went to the car and picked up my poles, then hit the 21km checkpoint on 2h:55m, grabbed a cuppa while the marshalls topped up my bottle with Coke.
Up to this point, my food strategy had been my usual Wine Gums and salted peanuts every 15 mins with a Snickers or Chia Charge bar on the hour. However, stopping to eat while using poles can be a pain and the checkpoint had Chia Charge bars which I know work well for me as an hourly snack so I added a couple to my back pocket to compliment the ones I was already carrying (Santa brought me a stash this year) and changed my plan to having a bar every 30 mins.
I sorted my poles out and walked painfully along the tarmac to the beginning of the Cinder Track which I was disappointed to find was in good, firm condition and after a couple of hundred metres running, I was slowed to a walk. I was passed by Joanne Abbott and Joe Williams who said they were walking the next section, but left me for dust at cracking fast walk while I could only hobble along using my poles for support.
I kept giving myself landmarks as targets to fast walk up the hill until a pair of runners in front of me came into view as the path wound upwards towards Ravenscar. I spent the next 3 or 4km trying to reel them in with a combination of fast hobbling and slow jogging and I got to within 20m or so when I was caught by a runner from behind who introduced himself as Keri.
We walked and chatted all the way into Ravenscar and the company took my mind off the pain in my leg (which I supplemented again with paracetamol just before Ravenscar). At the Ravenscar checkpoint I had a sausage roll and grabbed more Chia Charge bars and hobbled off in pursuit of Keri.
At the old Ravenscar train station I was still in some considerable pain and wasn’t feeling great but I found Paul Nelson marshalling there. It seems I always bump into Paul when he’s doing really well in a tough race (I saw him coming off Cold Moor on HM55 and coming into Gribdale Gate in HM200) and he’s always cheerful. Being greeted by his smiling face just picked me up no end and as I hit the Cinder Track I resolved to run more regardless of how much it hurt.
I adopted a strategy of picking a tree at the furthest point I could see in the distance and running to it. When I got closer to that tree, I picked a new one and kept moving. I managed this for a couple of kms at a time only stopping for a walk to eat on the half hour or hour but eventually I began to slow off again and was passed by a succession of runners, including Michelle Boshier, Emily and Scott Beaumont who I chatted briefly with before I could no longer keep up with them.
I arrived at Hayburn Wyke (35km) at 5h:03m and found the checkpoint manned by Wayne Armstrong who topped my water and Coke up while I raided the checkpoint for more Chia Charge bars before heading down into the woods chasing Keith Wise and the two runners I’d been trying to catch up earlier. Descending the steps into the Wyke started off easy enough but further down they had been made muddy and slippy by the passage of the runners before me and I slowed down to avoid a nasty fall.
Upon reaching the bottom, I used my poles to climb back out, but it was obvious that I had slowed down significantly as I lost ground on everyone ahead of me and was overtaken by two groups of runners. At the top of the steps, the Cleveland Way clifftop path had been reduced to churned up and slippy mud, which was almost impassable.
The flat sections were tricky, anything uphill or downhill was just ridiculous. Most of this section is uphill and without the poles I would have fallen over numerous times.
Again I focused on the pair of runners I’d been chasing earlier as the light started to fade. One of the pair has started to lag behind the other, and I worked on closing the distance to him. The poles allowed me to climb faster than they could climb, so I made ground uphill but lost it on the flat. It was clear they were running together, because one would wait for the other when the gap between them got quite big.
A full moon rose over the sea to my right, as this slow motion chase through the mud played out and it struck me that the last time I’d seen a full moon rise on this stretch, I was running the opposite way during the 2016 Hardmoors 60 attempting to keep up with Elaine Wilde and Ingrid Hainey. This bit of deja vu put a bit of energy into my stride and eventually I managed to overhaul one, then the other of the pair as the light began to fade.
I was now through the 40km mark at 6h:13m and working on trying to snap the elastic on the pair behind me, more for my own psychological benefit than any competitive reason. I needed something to focus on to keep pushing on and moving through the pain. As the path approached Ravenscar, it began to get less muddy and more runnable and I was able to pick the pace up and hit the marathon mark at 6h:35m, which all things considered, I was reasonably pleased with.
Darkness was now falling and I opened my side pocket to get my head torch out, but couldn’t quite reach. I had zero motivation to take my pack off and my energy levels were dropping through the floor so I fast walked the last few hundred metres to the checkpoint where I asked one of the marshalls to help with getting the torch out while my bottles were refilled and I managed to stuff another sausage roll into my face.
Headtorch on, safe in the knowledge that there was only just over 6km remaining, starting with a very familiar descent away from Ravenscar I set off with renewed vigour. I decided to ignore any pain I was in and use the descent as best I could and rattled down it quickly and hit the path above the Alum works in full dark. The farm track was muddy but not slippy, however as soon as I turned off it to hit the clifftop path, I was back into quagmire territory. At this point I was beyond caring and threw myself along the path, no longer caring if I fell.
I was making ground on all but one of the head torches behind me, which was approaching rapidly and I tried to up my pace to keep ahead. This went on for almost 2km when I came upon a pair of head torches moving very slowly across a small dip. I asked if they were OK and they confirmed they were ‘just going steady’. As I entered the dip, I realised why and almost slid down to the bottom.
As I got through, they’d made ground on me again but I got moving and caught them up, just as I did, I stubbed my left foot into the ground and felt that combination of pain and release of pressure on my little toe that can only mean a blister has just burst. As I stopped to curse, the head torch from behind passed the three of us and moved off into the distance. I jogged on towards the Stoupe Farm road with the pair but having to slow dramatically once on the tarmac and being dropped by the pair totally as I descended the steps to Stoupe Beck.
As I climbed out of Stoupe Beck, the lights of Robin Hood’s Bay seemed tantalisingly close, but I knew that Boggle Hole was yet to come. Soon enough I was carefully descending the steep steps, listening the boom and crash of the waves below and eventually reached the bottom, ran across the bridge and started up the steps at the other side. Climbing out of Boggle Hole seemed to take forever but at this point I knew it was a case of just grinding on to the finish.
At the top of the steps, I ran through the tunnel of tree and through the gate which I knew meant that I was on the final path to Robin Hood’s Bay, I moved as fast as I could along the stone slabs and almost ran off the edge of them where a recent clifffall had resulted in the earth beneath some slabs dropping down the cliffside, but the slabs remaining in place. I tentatively edged my way around the far side of the path in the mud, until the path seemed safer then started running again towards the last set of slippery wooden steps that dropped into Robin Hood’s Bay. I hit the village at 7h:58m and started the final steep climb up the road to the finish.
Despite being painful, the various Christmas lights in the village gave me something nice to look at and distract me, closer to the top I managed to get a faster hobble on and turned into the car park and the last 100m or so to the finish, clocking into the village hall and the finish at 8h:10m:33s by my watch.
I was presented with my medal and finishers T-shirt by Wayne Armstrong and I finally sat down to take stock of myself and strip off my muddy shoes and socks.
It wasn’t pretty but I’d got around within cut off and I now had 1/5 of the Hardmoors SuperSlam completed. As a run, it was a lot harder than most I’ve done in the past. I can’t think of a single race that I’ve ever started carrying an injury before, certainly not an ultramarathon and I was happy that I’d been able to manage the pain and keep moving.
As always, the event itself was fantastically well organised and Hardmoors gatherings always have a party atmosphere. New Years Day seemed, understandably slightly more so.
The marshalls at all checkpoints, some of which were in the middle of nowhere and and in pretty cold and windy locations, were brilliant, always happy, encouraging and willing to help. It’s amazing how much that these volunteers add to this race series and it speaks volumes that people keep coming back in ever increasing numbers. So to the Hardmoors team, led by Jon and Shirley, thank you for yet another great race and Happy New Year! I’ll see you all at Hardmoors 55 in March.
Written by Steve West - https://theparttimeultrarunner.wordpress.com
Midnight on June 4th 2016, I had just finished the inaugural SW50 in second place. I had a brilliant 13 ½ hours in the sunny Welsh countryside. This was a major part of my training for an attempt at my first 100 a few months later.
October 2016 – Autumn 100 – 23:38 – this broke me for weeks.
SW50 was brutal but my 100 was relatively flat (which I now think is harder but I didn’t then), so after finishing my 100 all I could think about was how on earth can people run 100 miles all on terrain like SW50. I hoped that one day I too would be able to do that.
October 2017 – After a good block of training I had my first ever DNF at Gower 50 due to a tendon injury which didn’t go away for a few months. This really worried me as I was training for the Arc of Attrition in the February.
Arc – I recovered from the injury and threw myself into 70-110 miles a week for the next few months. I was feeling confident and I was running well on race day – comfortably inside the cut offs despite the nasty diversion and small time allowance that was given as a result. However, the Arc is brutal; the distance between the CPs, the lack of food (not at the CP’s but just because there are so few CPs) and water and the general conditions underfoot got to me and at 80 miles and in just under 24hrs my mind and body admitted defeat.
I knew I had it in me to finish a nasty 100 and I like summer and I do well in the heat, unlike others I know who are stronger than me but can struggle in the heat. I had learnt a lot about running 100 miles from both my success and my failure and of course I knew half of the SW100 route. So for 2 months the thought of SW100 as a revenge race for my failure at the Arc bubbled away in my mind. I finally took the plunge in late March and entered, not huge time to prepare (12 weeks) but I was coming off the back of good Arc training and had recovered well, much quicker than from Autumn 100. I had 10 weeks training and 2 weeks on holiday for taper – trying not to get too fat.
I ran good weekly mileage of at least 50, but often 65 and when really wanting big weeks I managed a few 90-110 mile weeks. The difference here though was I knew I needed to drop my obsession with mileage and focus on elevation instead. I live by the sea in the Vale of Glamorgan and the highest point in town is only about 200ft, and the biggest hill climb is only 150ft. I work in Bristol City centre with a similar issue. I run 3 times a day when in peak training, usually all on the flat, but this time I was doing hills regularly, twice a week to start with and in the end 5 days a week at lunchtime, 700 – 1000ft. Towards the end I was doing my long runs, which were short for a 100 miler, of about 12-15 miles on hill repeats, sometimes doing 30 reps and managing 3500ft in the process. You do get funny looks from tourists at the seaside when you run up and down the same hill 30 times whilst they are having ice-cream in the sun.
I was feeling strong before holidays, but now was danger time, 2 weeks in Majorca, don’t get fat! I knew I wouldn’t do lots of running as it was during my taper, but I thought a few medium sized runs in the heat would be good preparation as last time in ran this route (SW50) it was sweltering. A few hill sessions on a treadmill in a non-AC gym were also good practice. As well as this I did a short heavy weight leg session in the gym each day, which I still think was of major benefit. I always wonder about building strength training into my plan, but like most ultra-runners, fall back on the false belief that time not running is wasted.
I came back from holiday feeling great and in the final few days before the race did some really quick runs (for me that is), which felt quite easy. I was now feeling confident.
A lack of planning for the Arc found me out, too little water, food, clothes at the right time. I wasn’t going to make this mistake again. The CPs were much closer together on SW100 than the Arc but 11 miles over the Brecon Beacons across the middle of the day is still a long way.
There were 2 drop bags allowed for the 100, 1 at 45 miles and another at 71. I thought very carefully about what I had to carry from the start, what I didn’t need until DB1 and what I may want at DB2. For example, all mandatory kit from the stat and a decent amount of food and tailwind powder. Powerbank, watch charger, suncream and more food at DB1. Road Hoka’s at DB2, and more food and tailwind powder. A full change of clothes was also in both DB’s, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.
I knew the Runwalkcrawl CPs would regularly have my favourite snack, cold rice pudding and jam, so I knew I could access that at least every 15 miles or so at every other CP. I added a Pot Noodle and a pot of Porridge to each DB also. The DB routine was planned out well in advance. Arrive and bag off. CP marshals to fill both bottles and add tailwind whilst I got hot water for both Pot Noodle and Porridge. Let it cook for 2 mins, then add cold water. Drink/eat them quickly, grab anything else I wanted to eat. Change of clothes/socks as necessary, final grab of food for small plastic food bag to carry and eat whilst Pot Noodle and Porridge were settling in my stomach. I didn’t want to bring them straight back up again! It worked perfectly!
I arrived early for registration, got the kit check done, tracker fitted, then went for a walk with the Etrex to ensure I knew how to use it. Then it was just a matter of waiting it out and being ready for the start – apprehension builds naturally.
I had a quick chat with Emma Williams from RWC fame who commented on my cool race vest. An Innov8 race ultra with front fitting pack. I thought it was great, but I had never raced with it. Off we go streamiling live on FB. FUCK – end FB live.
Literally my first step over the line saw the front pack disconnect from the main pack. I had to try to tie it on – but it didn’t work. The ‘No Limits Photography’ video of the start shows me being the final person out fiddling with it trying to bodge it together.
What a start! I had to basically run to the first CP at 10 miles, holding my poles in one hand, which also wouldn’t sit in their holder properly (again hadn’t run with that before – I know I know!), holding part of my bag with the other. This means I didn’t have a third hand to hold the Etrex. This meant I had to run to keep up with people to ensure I didn’t get lost, meaning a quicker start than planned. What a disaster. 36 hour race and all this happened in the first 30 seconds. When I arrived at the Llantrisant CP I managed to find a way to drop a load of non-mandatory kit and somehow stuff the other bits into the 5l race vest which I didn’t think was possible. Just shows how much you can actually get in.
I thought I was pretty much last and I was trying to calm myself down, ‘don’t get angry, there is a very long way to go’…’you’re only racing yourself’. However, CP1 is where it all started to go right. I was running well, enjoying myself, taking it easy and ticking off the miles.
I forget where, but a few hours before darkness fell I started to run with Anthony Howells, we made good conversation and helped each other through the first night. We took a bit of a detour through the bogs around the wind turbines – my god they are massive – and I had to pull Anthony out a few times as his legs disappeared to his knees, but we were in good spirits. We left the final CP before Drop Bag 1 (Hirwain) just behind 2 other runners, maybe 10 mins. Before leaving the CP, Ben Morris, RD, said to me that this next section to Ystradfellte was gorgeous and very runnable especially the first bit to Penderyn and so ‘make the most of it’. I didn’t mean to leave Anthony but a few minutes later I started running and just didn’t stop. I soon caught the 2 guys who left the CP 10 mins before us, as well as someone else about 20 minutes later – I left them all and despite looking back I couldn’t see any of them.
I could now hear the waterfall at Ystradfellt. I had been waiting for this for 2 years since hearing stories from the 100 runners in 2016 when I ran the 50. I saw John, a walker I knew from other RWC events and stopped for a quick chat with him. He looked in a fairly bad way and I gave him some paracetamol and wished him well for the day ahead. Unfortunately I later found out that John DNF’d. My phone had died for some reason just after the start so I had no battery to take a photo of the waterfall which after waiting 2 years to see it was rather frustrating. (Below is a stock photo just so you can see how amazing it is). As I walked behind the waterfall I didn’t really know what to do as I couldn’t take a photo so I just stopped and shouted at the top of my voice. I had to do something to mark the occasion. I felt amazing and I ran all I could to the next CP and Drop Bag 1 where my DB routine worked brilliantly and I was leaving as Anthony was coming in about 15 minutes later.
It was all a bit of a blur really from there until Storey Arms, apart from I recall putting sun cream on before leaving DB1 CP and then sweating instantly and trying to wipe sun cream out from my eyes for the next 4 hours. Oh well I suppose it was a distraction of sorts and helped pass the time! This photo was taken somewhere in this section – I think!
The section from Storey Arms to Talybont Resevoir was the make or break part of the run. 11.5 miles, lots of elevation gain and no shelter from the now sweltering heat and strong sun. I made sure I ate a lot at the CP just before Storey Arms, 3 bowls of rice pudding, 2 bowls of soup and bread and was sure to make sure I had all my bottles full and the spare 500ml bottle was full too. Whilst only 11.5 miles it was going to take over 4 hours. Did I mention the heat?
The SF (Special Forces) Experience was out in force on Pen-Y-Fan, much like the rest of the world when the sun shines in the Brecon Beacons. I was moving fairly slowly but these people had 40lb ruck sacks on and were hardly moving at all. They also had SF people shouting and swearing at them to ‘move it’…’keep going’. One guy was half way up PYF, but he hadn’t moved in minutes, he was totally gone. When I got level with him they had almost given up on him and were now asking him if he had any food…protein bars. He replied feebly with ‘its in my car’ which was met with ‘what the f**k is it doing there’ in raised voices to say the least. I felt so sorry for him I gave him one of my Clif Bars. He tried not to accept it but I showed him how much food I was carrying and I made him take it. He actually hugged me! Very strange experience. I moved on and didn’t look back.
Corn Du – done. Pen Y Fan – done. Fan Y Big – done.
I still felt good and ran when I could. Rounding the headland just before you first see Talybont reservoir I had a short chat with Barry Griffiths who had caught up with me from the 50 starters, his final prep before LL100 attempt in mid-July. I also managed to stop for a call of nature when no one was around, it all rots away in the end!
The view of Talybont Resevoir is gorgeous, but lingering in the background is the dreaded Tor y Foel. Personally, I think its worse than anything else on the route. I hate Tor y Foel. Head down and get it done. It was slow progress but I still felt strong. Its almost the place where you can say Im going to do this. There is still a very long way to go, but the back is definitely broken.
My feet however were starting to hurt now. Not blistered just painful from unsupportive trail shoes with less support than I am used to (Road Hoka’s). I did another FB live as I had charged my phone. This was partly to break up the boredom of the now walk off the fire road into Trefil CP and DB2. My ankle was on fire as well. I said some hello’s to people and thanked them for messages of support but I stated that with over 20 hours to do 30 miles (was actually 35) I was going to walk it in and not risk running and my ankle getting worse and causing a DNF.
The routine for the DB worked well again with lots of food being consumed. Imagine an all you can eat buffet approach, plates and bowls of food all around me, whilst I got out of the sun for a bit.
The pivotal moment of my race now happened. I asked RD Ben if he thought I could get away with my road shoes. He said ‘Hoka’s, put them on’. I bounced out of the CP. I was running and running well. There was a group of 4 of us now, three 50 mile runners and myself. We stayed together until New Tredegar where I immediately headed for the shop and bought a 2l bottle of water, a white magnum ice-cream (which I had been dreaming about for 10 hours) and a mars chocolate drink.
I was walking out of New Tredegar and enjoying my ice cream thinking the other 3 had gone a good 15 minutes up the road, when one of them appeared out of Tir Phil train station, Michelle McCully. Michelle’s friend started the 50 knowing she wasn’t well or fit and very quickly decided to drop, which meant Michelle had herself a support crew for the rest of her race. We walked out of town and onto the slopes and overgrown path that led back up. The ‘No Limits Photography’ people jumped out of the bushes and caught this shot of me here too.
Michelle kept saying she was going to drop at some point and was not sure she could make it to the next CP. It was her first ultra and so I knew her self-doubt was a bigger issue than her fitness. She was strong and moving well so I made it my mission to make sure she didn’t drop – hoping she would thank me in the end.
My Garmin had buzzed once for low battery and it did it again now which got me in a bit of a panic as if I’m going to run a 100 miles I want it on my Strava! This wouldn’t usually be an issue, I would just charge it on my powerbank, but I left my phone charging longer than I should and now the powerbank was dead (its old and only holds half charge – I definitely need a new one). It was at this time that Kelly Felstead, a FB friend and fellow 100 mile runner, had been messaging me, just with encouragement and trying to get me to run quicker to catch people a few kms ahead. A few km’s really!
She had offered to meet me somewhere with a bag of goodies and alike, which was amazing but unnecessary so I declined. However not having the run on Strava called for desperate measures. I asked Kelly if she had a charged powerbank I could borrow. She said yes but then said she had had a drink and couldn’t drive. I was deflated, but only momentarily as her amazing husband and ultra-runner in the making, Dewi, had agreed to meet me instead. Now I thought this was a short 2 mins up the road for him as we agreed to meet at the Bargoed CP. However it turns out he drove, on a Saturday night, 15 minutes from home and sat waiting for me for another 15 minutes at the CP. Oh and he did bring a back of goodies as Kelly made him. The guy is a legend. I offered to post the powerbank back on the Monday and put a fiver in for a few beers.
Dewi also joked that Kelly said she would come and run with us for a bit too. I said but she’s had a drink, which Dewi simply laughed off saying, and. Michelle and I left Bargoed CP in good spirits, with Michelle again making plans with her friend to potentially meet somewhere before the next CP in Caerphilly if she wanted to drop and me jokingly saying that was never going to happen. About 10 minutes after leaving the CP and at a set of traffic lights in Bargoed town, a car pulls up, the door is flung open and out jumps a blonde woman in running kit and race vest. Yes, Kelly decided to tag along anyway – her poor husband!
Kelly knew the area well so I was able to put the Etrex away for a few hours which meant I could switch off for a bit. We chatted, ran, walked and took photos of a gorgeous sunset as we made our way to Caerphilly.
Kelly headed home and we were now approaching Caerphilly and were running on what was a lovely sloping road into the town centre. We ran it all in the middle of the road like we owned it. Why not? It was nice to get some flow going for a change.
We headed around the castle wondering where the CP was and when finally finding it and heading in we were greeted with Pizza and chips. Heaven. The chips didn’t agree with me, but the pizza, oh man!
We headed out renewed of energy and Michelle was now feeling confident she was going to get this done. This was the final section where the only real climb was Crag y Alt. We were back to the 4 of us again and despite being the only 1 on the 100 I was keen to really push on but we held it back slightly and found the compulsory clip on Caerphilly mountain after circling the top once and missing the very unobvious path to the summit. From here it was on to Crag Y Aly which wasn’t as bad as I had feared and heard about. We dropped onto the Taff Trail which allowed for some easy running but the group wanted to walk again which I did find frustrating at times.
However I was quite grateful as the climb up Castel Coch was much longer than I expected. We had a great pace on for the walk with the poles but it just went on and on. At 2am and with a narrow head torch view you can’t see or recognise anything so it is the same step after step until it’s over. Michelle was amazing on the nav around here as she used to live locally and knew the area well.
We were dreading the descent down Castel Coch driveway as it is very steep, just what the quads don’t want. We heard a scuttling noise and the next second we were confronted with 2 badgers who were heading up the driveway. The 4 of us and the badgers all stopped in our tracks. They turned around and we gone as quickly as they appeared.
My Garmin was now showing around 104 miles but I knew from previous CP supposed mileage points vs actuals that we still had about 2 miles to go. I got slightly confused as to where we were as I thought we were coming out by the Motorway bridge but there was still a mile to go on the Taff Trail first.
Michelle and I wanted to finish strong and we started to run again, somehow getting under 10mm pace – speedy stuff for 32.5 hours in. We dropped the other 3 people that were now with us, walked for 30 seconds before agreeing to run in all the way across the line. My head torch died the moment we entered the field and the finishing funnel but it was done.
31 hour and 56 minutes. 105.7 miles. 19,416ft.
After picking up our medals and having the obligatory finish line photo, we picked up our drop bags and hobbled up the stairs to sit down and let it all sink in. Michelle’s friend Hannah had promised us a can of beer if we got to the end which she duly handed over. It was very refreshing but it quickly did its work and half a can later I was feely very sleepy – not a huge surprise.
I eventually picked up all of my stuff and headed down to sleep in the car for a few hours. I tried to unlock the car but nothing happened. I slowly realised that the car battery had died. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why (turns out I had left the lights on) but I couldn’t think of anything else to do. So I just stood there….pressing the key fob and watching nothing happen. This went on for at least 3 minutes! I went inside and asked Joe (RD) for some jump leads. Don’t know why as I wouldn’t have been able to get in the car anyway to open the bonnet. There were some jump leads going to be available in the morning but what use would they be anyway. I went back to the car and just stood there pressing the fob again.
Remember now that my head torch had died so it was completely dark. It took a few more minutes before I remembered that you can open cars with keys! Boy did I feel stupid, but ultra brain fog was at work. I tried to open the back door to sleep across the back seats but it wasn’t having it and I couldn’t be bothered, nor did I have the physical manoeuvrability, to climb into the back so I just slept in the drivers seat. I couldn’t even get my sleeping bag open properly so I just lay it over me and went to sleep. I managed an hours sleep before the cold woke me up and I made myself get into the sleeping bag properly. I managed another 2 hours sleep and woke up just in time to see another group of 100 runners finish including the guys I ran with Friday night. I’d somehow managed to gain nearly 4 hours over them.
I loitered around for a short while, got the car started with the help of Pete from the RWC team and headed home for a proper sleep and feed.
This race had been in my mind for over 2 years. For most of that time it had been in my mind as unachievable or certainly a major step outside my comfort zone. The reality of the race is that I loved every second of it and I didn’t want it to end. I could have happily turned around and headed back to Brecon at least. Easy to say, far less easy to do.
Joe from RWC did offer in the following days to support me back to Brecon next year for an unofficial 150 (which I reckon would be 160) and whilst I am tempted by this, I have other plans for similar distances next year – namely Canalslam if I get in GUCR via the ballot.
I also have enough points now for CCC 2019 so I may enter the ballot for that too. Choices choices. There is something about this route though that the SW150 or even SW200 appeals.
What the hell is wrong with me!
Thanks for reading.
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