Written by Paul McCleery

I first ran an official ‘ultra’ back in 2012 after taking part in a local relay race that covered 36’ish miles. I ran the first leg but wanted to see if I could continue to run the whole thing, fortunately I did and that was my Ultra career started.

Having run race distances of 36, 50, 69, 84 a 100 and the MDS multi stage I found myself really enjoying the Centurion Community and the races they provide. Mainly because I live in East Sussex and therefor local terrain always feels nice.

Forward winding to late 2016, I had conquered a few races and had heard of the ‘Grand Slam’ that Centurion offer of either the 50 or 100 mile series, this appealed to me but I really wanted to do more. After a brief process of thought I decided I’d enter myself into both the slams In 2018. Fortunately Centurion offer a place for volunteering so I committed to as many races as I could do guarantee some entries and before I knew it I was entered into all 8 races and a plan had to be made.

I’m a PT and run coach so I was fairly confident in getting myself ready for the line, but this was to be a much bigger and respectful challenge and this I knew I would need help. Late 2017 I made contact with James Elson at Centurion about coaching and he introduced me to Neil Bryant and we had an initial exchange and I covered my reasons and intentions for the year ahead and goals. A plan was formulated and training started in Dec 2017 giving a good few months before the SDW50 in April. The training was enjoyable and much easier to adhere to than just my own plan because there was accountability and specifics to achieve with each section of the plan. Long runs, pace work, tempo’s were all part of the plan and all ticked off by the time the 1st race arrived.

Having run the SDW50, 100, NDW100 and A100 previously there was the temptation to run quicker times on these races. However I had to be mindful that completing each race was essential to complete all 8. You simply could not entertain a silly mistake or injury early on. That said, my SDW50 opener was a flyer and I came home in 8.24 which was quite a bit ahead of a previous attempt. This filled me with confidence and showed me that training had worked and I had pace. At the time I was also still competing with my local run club and so did the Brighton Half Marathon in Feb as well as a few other ‘short’ distances.

SDW50

Next up, TP100, a race that I had not ran previously and I was aware of the low ascent and a hopeful fast race and time that could be on offer. I’d decided and accepted a kind offer from a good friend and fellow lady ultra runner to pace me on all of the 100’s. This wasn’t an easy decision, by my own admittance I’m not the happiest bunny in the depths of the night between 80-100 miles so was unsure a pacer would work for me.

The weekend arrived and being Great Britain, the weather could do what it dam well liked and well it did and it baked the hell out of everyone and made it such a difficult run. Training through the winter is never good prep for 30+ degrees of sunshine, so hydration and nutrition had to take priority. A sub 24 goal was plan A and thankfully I came home 23.16 and this was definitely to the benefit of having a pacer.

TP100

This is where it started to test my recovery process and prep for the next race which was the NDW50, this followed very quickly (2 weeks) so I made sure I slept, ate, had a sports treatment and readied the head. I had not run the NDW50 before, but having run the 100 and not remembering it fondly I was a little worried about a, the heat and b, the legs going into a hilly course. It wasn’t an easy race, but I decided to have my wife and two young girls meet me at the end and this really helped bring me home and although it wasn’t the best of races, I still came in 9.30 and 45th and enjoyed running to the line with my daughter who was so proud of her daddy.

NDW50

Following this we had the SDW100 and NDW100 the first back to back 100’s but fortunately a healthy break in between them. Just for good measure I had entered Ironman Bolton which sat in the middle of the break. SDW is my favourite race and I ran it well, it was also very warm but a healthy course PB of 21.35 was very pleasing and nothing needed to change in terms of recovery, prep, planning or training.

SDW100

Then the second half of the slam was upon us and things got hard. NDW100 was such a tough race, we had again very hot weather and by the time I had reached Bluebell Hill to meet my pacer (around 73 miles) I was dead on my feet and barely able to keep awake. I was refused a sleep stop, and dragged myself around the last 25 miles and refused to run another step. Looking back, I remember how tired and fatigued I was and even now don’t believe I would have been able to run, so had to be satisfied with the 28.25 finish.

NDW100

I had listened to many ultra running podcasts and I remember Ken Fancett commenting on the need for sleep. I also had a chat with Neil at this stage as I was feeliing unsettled and now in a low patch where I wasn’t sure about how to pull things back together for the remaining races. We talked it through and changed to a weekly FaceTime call which gave a better opportunity to discuss various points and thoughts. This definitely helped me realign my head and focus on the next three races. The one ability I have is mental determination and I’ve never failed to finish a race, so onwards we went.

Chiltern Wonderland 50, a race I hadn’t done and didn’t know - a steady game plan, cooler weather and as always many familiar faces on the start line. A thoroughly enjoyable race, but the body was just not working as well as the start of the series and I remember stopping for a coffee at one of the latter checkpoints and walking too much. That said a time of 10.03 wasn’t too bad, it’s definitely a race I’d like to return to at some stage.

CW50

A100, a race I’d done before and sub 24’d. Maybe I was too confident, maybe the cooler weather and wet forecast lured me into a false sense. This one felt the toughest of the year, it threw the lot at me and by now it was clear - I was knackered, the body was done and everything was just giving up on me. I remember walking most of the ridgeway and on the way back to Goring I fell asleep walking down the road and almost fell in a ditch. I needed a sleep at Goring so sat down and got 20 mins - this threw me out of sync and it was such a battle to get out the door and finish I ended up confused and no idea on time. Reaching the turn point at Reading with about 10 mins to spare, it was peeing down and I had about 4 blisters. I decided I needed to finish so head down and jog through the pain for as long as I could to make up as much time as possible and guarantee I was able to finish. Finish I did, but with a sweat on and just under the time out in 27.38 - 22 mins to spare !!!

paul


This meant 7 done and one left - the infamous 5x laps of doom in Wendover Woods. Game plan was simple, keep eating, keep moving and use walking poles. The race went better than the last and although a slow time I was supported by family and close friends and there was no way I was going to cock it up so I pushed on and finished to claim my 50 slam and final 8th medal in a time of 11.36.

WW50

I recall a conversation with James Elson and he said “I don’t advertise or reward the double slam specifically” he also said “people underestimate the challenge and distance” I remember replying “I’ve underestimated it and although confident I’ll complete it, it’s not going to be easy”

In 3 years only 12 have entertained the double slam, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Given time again I would attack both slams individually and give them the time and respect they need. The 100’s are challenging enough, so you have to determine what’s important for you. For me time was initially, then it was just pure attrition and get it done no matter what. So I sit here now after just finishing the Arc of Attrition and I have no medal or t-shirt that says I ran 600 miles and 8 events just 5 buckles and 5 medals and 10 T-shirts and lots of amazing photos .

Very soon the 2019 centurion season will be underway and my achievement will fall into history. But I know that I did it, and that I had the drive and determination to finish it. If I decided to do it again what would I do differently ?

I wouldn’t have entered an Ironman, I would have made sure I ate and drank more on those hot races. I would have definitely had my family and friends at more races to pull me around and most of all I would have still continued to believe it was possible and maybe have run those sections that I went on strike and walked on.

My advice to anyone who may be tempted.

“Don’t be blinded by the bling, understand what is required of you, ask yourself if you can deliver it and then put in place everything you need to ensure you do - deliver”

Remember - Smiles make miles so keep smiling and all will be fab !

Written by Steve Birkinshaw - http://stevebirkinshaw-wainwright2014.blogspot.com/

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If it wasn’t exciting enough to have one record-breaking runner to blog about, try having two. That’s right, Wainwright round record-holder Steve Birkinshaw tells us about his experience of running as support on a leg of Kilian Jornet’s record-breaking Bob Graham Round. Beware: this news and it’s associated stats will make your mind boggle. I’ll let Steve pick up from here.

I received the email from Martin Stone on the Thursday.

Kilian Jornet, the world’s greatest mountain runner, was in Keswick and was going to attempt to break Billy Bland’s thirty-six-year-old Bob Graham Round record that Sunday.

KJ on his BG round

This record for the 106 kilometre/sixty-three-mile round, with 8,200 metres/28,000 feet of ascent of forty-two Lake District peaks, had been thought by many to be unbreakable. Martin was organising the logistics, and wondered if I could run with Kilian on a leg. I was delighted to be asked, but very worried about whether or not I could keep up: although I have recovered from Wainwrights round – which is now four years ago – I am still five to ten per cent slower than I was then.

I looked at the schedule and reckoned I could just about keep on legs four or five, so I offered to help on one of these. Martin put me down on leg four with Paul Tierney and Scoffer. With the ground the driest it has been for years, and warm, but not unbearably hot weather, conditions were nearly perfect for a record-breaking round.

Kilian’s plan was to keep the record attempt low key, so we were asked to keep the details private. However, by the Saturday night details were leaking out on social media. After two legs Kilian was thirty minutes up on his record-breaking schedule, and the excitement was building up on social media.

Steve on BG round for KJ

We took the long drive to Wasdale and waited for Kilian to arrive after leg three. He had picked up more time and his pacers on that leg came in looking very tired. I was even more worried about keeping up so I set off straight away while Kilian had some food and drink. We were scheduled to do thirty-three minutes to the top of Yewbarrow; working hard I managed to do it in twenty-nine minutes but was caught by Kilian, Paul and Scoffer who did it in twenty-seven minutes. I was getting dropped going up Red Pike, so I missed the summit of this and the summit of Steeple.

Kilian was loving running down the rocks, it was his recovery time, while I needed to concentrate really hard to keep with him. On the flatter sections I was finally at a relaxed enough pace to have a chat with Kilian. He was really enjoying running in the fells and the commented on the beautiful views. He was very grateful for the support team coming out and helping him. He was great to run with and checked I was OK when I fell over while running behind him.

A very small bit of rubbish blew out of his bum bag when he was getting some food out while climbing Kirk Fell. As a support runner I should be running after it and picking it up while he continues, but he immediately ran after it and picked it up before I could grab it. With my experience from doing the Wainwrights I warned him that excitement was building on social media and there would be a lot of people waiting in Keswick to see him finish.

scenery

His speed up and down Great Gable was so quick than I had to contour round to keep up but then he suddenly seemed to slow down. Instead of having to work hard to keep up, it was easy. Dropping off Grey Knotts down into Honister at the end of the leg he was struggling badly. Neil Talbott was there with his food and he stopped for a minute and ate some before continuing his descent into Honister. He had completed the leg in two hours and fifty minutes: fourteen minutes faster than his schedule. Interestingly this was the same place where Billy had a really bad patch thirty-six years earlier, and Billy had to sit down at this point to recover.

Kilian had about five minutes’ refuelling at Honister before setting off on the final leg. There were about fifty people there watching. It would have been great to see Kilian finish but I could not face the crowds. So I went home and watched a live feed as Kilian ran in to set a new record of twelve hours and fifty-two minutes; amazingly just over a whole hour faster than Billy’s previous, standing record.

It was really nice to be involved in the record and great that it has gone to someone with a genuine love and respect for the mountains.

If this sort of feat tickles your fancy, you should check out Steve’s own tale of his record-breaking Wainwright round: over 300 miles – plus many thousands of metres of ascent – in only six days and thirteen hours.

There is no Map in Hell by Steve Birkinshaw (Great book!)  

For more trail running guides and narratives from Vertebrate, click here.

Words by Camilla Barnard, editor at Vertebrate Publishing, and Steve Birkinshaw.

Written by James Campbell - https://jamescampbell78.wordpress.com

The idea behind the Cleveland Hills Challenge formed in my mind in around October last year when I stumbled across the Wikipedia page for the Cleveland Hills.

On the page, it lists all the summits in the range with height and grid locations as below:

Name

Grid reference

Height

Urra Moor (Round Hill)

NZ594015

454 m

1,490 ft

Cringle Moor

NZ537029

432 m

1,417 ft

Carlton Bank

NZ519026

408 m

1,339 ft

Cold Moor

NZ551035

402 m

1,319 ft

Hasty Bank

NZ565036

398 m

1,306 ft

Tidy Brown Hill

NZ603052

396 m

1,299 ft

Bilsdale West Moor

SE553966

395 m

1,296 ft

Warren Moor

NZ616075

335 m

1,099 ft

Gisborough Moor

NZ643123

328 m

1,076 ft

Easby Moor

NZ590101

324 m

1,063 ft

Park Nab

NZ614084

324 m

1,063 ft

Roseberry Topping

NZ579126

320 m

1,050 ft

Live Moor

NZ505013

315 m

1,033 ft

Highcliff Nab

NZ610138

310 m

1,017 ft

Codhill Heights

NZ614127

296 m

971 ft

Eston Nab

NZ561800

242 m

794 ft

It got me thinking that all of the 300m (1,000ft) + summits were all in a single range and it was probably possible to summit them all within a single run and quite possibly do that run in a number of different ways.

Having eliminated Codhill Heights and Eston Nab from the list, this left a list of 14 hills and me being slightly OCD (and feeling a little guilty for removing Codhill for a mere 4 metres) I decided that Newton Moor which stands more than 300m and is halfway between Highcliff Nab and Roseberry Topping might make a good addition, especially as it’s on the next ridge along from Codhill Heights.

Having formulated the idea in my head, I sounded out a couple of running friends who agreed it sounded like a fun challenge to have a go at so I went public, created a Facebook group and put it out there in November for people to have a crack at.

There was some chatter over the winter about possible routes and a lot of interest in giving it a go but by the end of January nobody had planned in a firm date. With races now appearing in peoples calendars I decided to give it a shot in April.

I made enquiries about getting a crew together and had positive responses from a number of friends including Peter Kirkham and Shel Winspear whom I’d been Facebook friends with for a long time but had never actually met before.

Having been cajoled into setting an actual date by Jayson Cavill, I set a firm date of April 9th and went public with that. No going back from it once it’s out there.

The run up to April seemed to come really quickly, having performed well in the Hardmoors Three Sisters night race, in brutal weather and completing a 32 mile recce run of the Hardmoors 110 from Staithes to Clay Bank with Brenda Wilkin, Dave Cook and Dee Bouderba in snowy conditions in January I felt confident of my ability to cover the distance and climbing involved as long as I kept progressing my training.

I had also entered a duathlon race, so in between trail running training, I was also doing some cycling (nowhere near enough for the race I’d entered) and road running. I was however during most of February and March piling on weight and I felt it’s effect during Sun City duathlon where I really struggled due to my lack of cycling specific work and the additional weight I was carrying.

Having started to eat more sensibly, in conjunction with my training, I’d started to lose weight in the couple of weeks leading up to 9th April and with it, my running seemed to be improving.

On the Tuesday before the challenge, I met up with Pete and Shel and walked them through my intended route and meeting points so that they’d know where and when to meet me. Having never done any crewing before, I was determined to make things as easy as possible for them and keep meet points to obvious road crossings and all of my kit to one bag.

The route I chose started in Commondale and headed north across Gisborough Moor which I’d recce’d twice in training. Once across into Guisborough Woods I’d head up to Highcliff Nab, then follow the Cleveland Way to the foot of Newton Moor, which I’d follow a tractor trail to the top of and make my way to the highest point (based on the OS maps I’d used to plan the route).

After that, I’d follow the tractor trail down to another part of the Cleveland Way (which loops round to the other side of the moor) and head north along it before making and out and back to climb Roseberry Topping. From Roseberry I’d follow the Cleveland Way along to Easby Moor and round Captain Cooks Monument before descending into Kildale at the first agreed meeting point.

I’d chosen Kildale because it’s 5 minutes’ drive along a the same road from Commondale and has a tea room that would allow Pete and Shel to keep warm, dry and fed while they waited. Based on distance, I’d estimated two and a half to two and three quarter hours for this leg.

leg1

After Kildale my intention was to head up the Cleveland Way towards Bloworth Crossing and the next meet up point of Clay Bank, taking minor detours to pick up Park Nab, Tidy Brown Hill Warren Moor and Urra Moor (Round Hill) on the way. For this leg I budgeted three hours as I had no idea what conditions on the most exposed part of the route would be.

At Clay Bank I’d resupply with food and fluids as well as deciding whether to use my poles over the Three Sisters of Hasty Bank, Cold Moor and Cringle Moor before dropping down to the Lord Stones Country Park for another meet up, which again would be convenient for Pete and Shel as there is parking and the café for food etc. I’d allowed an estimate of an hour and a half to get there.

For the final leg, after a couple of recce’s I’d decided to use the Cleveland Way to pick up Carlton Bank and Live Moor then run across the heather down to a lower track which I could use to link up with a path that would take me directly to Bilsdale West Moor where I knew the huge TV transmitter there was slightly south of the summit, but where I’d never actually been before. Allowing for distance and tired legs, I reckoned on about two hours to the finish, following which I’d drop back down into Chop Gate for a pick up maybe a couple of miles on top of the 32 miles I’d have already run.

leg2

Having gone through this and what I’d do in various situations such as feeling unwell, getting injured or changing route we were all ready to go.

The night before, I packed all my food/fluids and kit for all weather eventualities into a bag.

The morning of the 9th arrived with damp, and drizzly conditions in Hartlepool. Pete picked me up at 7am as agreed and as we drove to Commondale to meet up with Shel (with children and dog in tow) it became clear that it was going to be foggy on the tops in line with the morning’s forecast. The afternoon forecast was for it to get brighter but with showers expected.

Once out of the car, I decided on wearing a base layer, leggings, thin jacket, hat buff and gloves in addition to the tri-suit I always run these distances in. I was also wearing gaiters for only the second time on a run and was interested to see how well they’d keep dirt out of my shoes over really long distances. For food I had a bag of Wine Gums, a bag of dry roasted peanuts, a bag of salted peanuts, an energy Gel, two Snickers bars and a banana. I also had 500ml water and 1,000ml Lucozade Sport split between two UD bottles and a UD soft flask which went in my back pocket with the food. I had a moment of panic getting out of the car when I couldn’t find my MP3 player and thought I was going to have to complete a long solo run without music, then I found that it’d rolled out of my vest pocket to the back of the car boot.

I got Pete to drive me to the edge of the first footpath then I was off, jogging slowly at first as I unravelled the tangled mess of my earphones (why do they always end up like that no matter how carefully you pack them?)

As I approached the gate that leads onto the moors path, I blundered into a series of puddles soaking my feet with icy cold water. The path beyond the gate itself was submerged and my first dilemma was whether to continue along the path to where I knew there was a bridge or hop over the stream that runs across the route and re-join the path where it loops back and up the hill.

The jog up the hill on fresh legs seemed relatively easy and I settled into a decent rhythm quickly and it wasn’t long before I was off the single track and onto the main path across the moor with was a nice wide trail.

As the trail wound upwards, the mist grew thicker and at times I was down to less than 50m visibility, feeling quite cold I had to use a buff to cover my ears and neck.

Soon I was within sight of the cairn that precedes the summit and decided to run to the cairn to see if it was an appropriate summit marker or if the junction with a path ahead was truly the highest point of the moor. A couple of minutes of boggy heather trudging later told me that the path junction was the true summit.

With the first summit conquered in 33m:39s I had some food and got a jog on, using the gentle descent to pick up some of the time I’d lost walking the steeper inclines on the way up. The fog seemed to lift a little as I descended but was quickly replaced by drizzly rain. I passed the trig point on the moor and turned the corner onto the path that runs parallel to the top of Guisborough Woods. I ran to the beat of the music along the path until I reached the gate into the woods themselves and turned onto the fire road that leads up to Highcliff Nab. I took a walk break and used the time constructively to text my wife, Natalie and let her know that I’d fed the dog before I’d left the house just in case she gave her a bonus meal. The fog seemed to hang in the woods and visibility was quite limited, so I was surprised when I arrived at the top of the hill where the woods cleared and the path headed along the ridge to Highcliff Nab. I reached the summit in 57m:43s and rewarded myself with a banana, munching on it cheerily as I descended via the rocky path onto the Cleveland Way.

I passed a couple of early morning walkers and continued along the flagstones towards Black Nab and my next objective, Newton Moor. About halfway along the path, the fog seemed to suddenly clear and I stopped to look back at Highcliff Nab and take a picture before heading on quickly.

InstagramCapture_c73fc82e-2427-4b51-8ff7-73f50fc11787

As I ran I realised that the soft flask in my back pocket was bouncing around and it was annoying me, while I’d almost emptied the one in my vest so I stopped at the path junction before the ascent to Newton Moor and emptied the soft flask into the bottle which made me feel happier.

To ensure I hit the correct part of the summit, I set my Suunto into navigation mode where I had all of the summits saved as Points of Interest and my planned route for the day saved. My route took me up the winding tractor trail as expected, but I spied a single track leading off the side to the ridge I needed to be on. As the tractor trail was rocky and muddy in equal measure, I saw this as a good option and quickly got onto the ridge which I found was covered in nice, deep, wet heather but as expected had a single path running across it from north to south. I followed the directions of my route south and passed a cairn, checking to see whether this was my waypoint, nope, onwards through more leg soaking heather pleased to note that the gaiters kept the various loose bits of heather and other grit from entering my shoes. Ahead I could see a small standing stone and it soon became obvious that this was the actual summit as marked by my waypoint. I touched the stone at 1h:23m and retraced my steps with Roseberry Topping firmly in my sights.

Once back on the tractor trail I bounced down the less boggy bits of the hill and danced around the puddles where I could but my feet got a good soaking two or three times on the way down to the Cleveland Way where I turned right and headed along to Roseberry. Once through the gate onto Little Roseberry I thought I could see somebody on top of Roseberry Topping but when I looked again a minute later they were gone. The stones on the path down to the foot of Roseberry were slippy and I was descending with care, conscious that I had a long way to go and didn’t want to pick up a knock nor did I want to fall and break something here which was quite far from vehicle access.

Soon I was climbing Roseberry Topping, using the same technique I did on Hardmoors 55, very small steps with minimum pressure placed on the muscles, no real rush. I was feeling strong and running to plan. I was soon on the top and run up to touch the trig point at 1h:44m before heading straight back down the way I came. On the way back up to Little Roseberry I passed a walker who commented that the weather was awful. I looked ahead to Captain Cooks and noted that for the first time today, the fog had cleared enough for me to see the monument, however I looked back at Roseberry to find it obscured by fog just a couple of minutes after being able to make out the summit clearly.

I ran most of the path to Gribdale Gate, passing more walkers who were also doing the same little dance as I was around the boggy bits and puddles. I arrived at the foot of the climb to Easby Moor from Gribdale Gate at 2h:08m and began to walk up at a decent pace. I could see a dog walker and a family ahead making their way up and I resolved to overtake both before the summit in order to give my walking a bit of focus.

About halfway up I managed to overtake the dog walker and about three quarters of the way up I overtook the family of walkers.  As I approached the top, I started jogging again and touched my next waypoint, Captain Cooks Monument at 2h:22m and began my descent into the always boggy woods aiming to hit Kildale by the 2h:45m point.

Once through the woods and onto the road I managed to maintain a consistent pace all the way down into the village, the only obstacles being a few sheep who’d chosen (or rather their lambs had forced the decision) to feed their lambs in the middle of the road.

I arrived at the cars bang on 2h:45m, had a quick catch up with Pete and Shel, dropped off the now empty soft flask into the boot of the car and resupplied my back pockets with Snickers bars for the journey ahead.

Having given an estimate of three hours to get to Clay Bank I headed up Battersby Bank to my next objective, Park Nab, another summit I’d never visited before.  On the way up, I took some photos of the improving visibility across to the Three Sisters and continued at a steady fast walk up the hill. I eventually reached my turning point off the main road and headed up a muddy tractor trail towards the Park Nab summit.  At this point I was making mental notes to update the Challenge Facebook page with landmarks for each summit.  Park Nab was entirely devoid of any useful marker.  In fact I hit the summit at 3h:12m but continued further than I needed looking for a decent marker until it became obvious I was descending again. I turned around and made my way back over the muddy, greasy summit sliding around a bit as I went and earning my feet another soaking.

Once back on the road I cracked on to my next objective, Warren Moor which was less than 1km away. I arrived at the gate/cattle grid in the road where my Suunto was telling me to divert left onto the moor to reach the summit, but it was obvious from my current position, that I was already at the highest point of the moor, so marked time at 3h:22m pleased to have picked off 7 summits in a fairly quick time.

I was now heading onto the most exposed part of my route, the old coal road that leads on to Bloworth Crossing, most of which sits over 400m above sea level and often throws hostile weather at you. The last time I crossed this section of the moors was in January, after midnight in drifting snow and thick fog. At least the fog was clearing up today and I actually thought I could feel the temperature rising a little.  I was running well on the slight incline, only breaking to walk when the path steepened every now and again. I could see the ridge upon which my next target, Tidy Brown Hill sits from a long way off and I kept moving steadily, only stopping once to take a couple of photos of the trail behind me and another of Captain Cooks/Roseberry in the distance.

I was soon level with the ridge I needed to be on and switched Suunto back into nav mode as I looked for an easy path up through the thick heather. I soon found a section that had been cut back and started to climb towards the waypoint marked in my watch. I’d only climbed about 10m or so when the ground got very squelchy and I was having to hop over bouncy peat to avoid the masses of standing water. As I reached the top of the ridge I could see that thew waypoint was again going to be lower than the highest point. I was too busy looking for a marker when I went knee deep into a muddy puddle.  At that point I turned back and headed to the ridge where I took my mark of a lone mini pine tree planted roughly at the highest point. I was now 8 summits up in 3h:51 minutes and just under 26km into the run, which I guessed was around half the distance I needed to cover.  If that was true, I was well ahead of the 8 and a half hours I’d guessed I’d take.

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I bounded back down to the Cleveland Way, again thankful for the gaiters in keeping the nasty stuff out of my shoes and cracked on towards Bloworth. At this point my legs were starting to feel a little sore, so since I was alone I decided to repeat the mantra that had worked so well for me on this stretch during last year’s Hardmoors 55. I was soon running along repeating “I am strong, I am fit, I am running well, I am running pain free.”

Pretty soon, the pain had subsided but the sun had come out, another thing I noticed was that there wasn’t a breath of wind, almost unknown for this trail. I made sure I was drinking regularly and plugged on to Bloworth, reaching the turn towards my next summit Round Hill, which sits atop Urra Moor at 4h:23m. As I passed Bloworth, I was in bright sunshine and was about to start stripping layers off, when a welcome rain shower made an appearance keeping me cool and refreshed.

The path was getting quite busy too, I passed several walkers which helped me pass the time greeting them. The trig point for Round Hill came into view and I turned off the path and headed up to the summit on 4h:45m.  This was the highest point of my route and since it was also the highest point of both the Cleveland Way and the North Yorkshire Moors, I paused to take some photos, one of which was the Bilsdale Transmitter way off in the distance.  I made my first of many promises to the Bilsdale West Moor then.  “I’m coming to get you!”

I was off on my toes again, this time headed downhill and making faster progress, knowing that I soon had some of the toughest climbing to do, I took some paracetamol while on the move to make sure that any aches and niggles were dulled before I got there. I was now sweating profusely and had taken my hat, buff and gloves off and stuffed them in my back pocket.

I was now bounding downhill heading towards my next meet up with my crew at Clay Bank, as I got onto the road I could see Shel and the kids waiting there and I jogged down the road, emptying the last of my Lucozade into my mouth as I went.

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At Clay Bank, I stripped off my base layer, knowing that I was definitely too hot with it on, but decided against stripping my leggings off. I soaked the buff on my wrist in cold water, topped my water and Lucozade bottles up and stuffed some more Snickers into my back pocket. Before heading off, I decided to play my trump card and downed a can of Red Bull in one go.

I grabbed a banana to eat while climbing Hasty Bank and then I was off, across the road and up through the woods back towards the Cleveland Way gate. I finished my banana half way up the steep section of Hasty Bank and feeling hot, sloshed some fresh water over my head and upper body.

From the gate to the top of Hasty Bank took around 12 minutes getting me to my next summit on 5h:37m. With the sun shining and the skies clear, the views were stunning so I stopped again to take some photos before I was off and heading down through the Wainstones towards the foot of Cold Moor. I was feeling really strong as I climbed Cold Moor (this probably had more to do with the Red Bull than anything else) and I kept cool with regular slurps of drink and sloshes of cold water over my head. I crested Cold Moor and ran across the summit on 5h:58m.

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As I reached the top of the descent, I could see a pair of walkers almost at the bottom, I targeted beating them to the top of the next climb.  I bounced down the side of the hill and overtook them going through the gate at the bottom of the hill, exchanging a greeting as I passed then jogged on to the foot of the next climb, which is one of the toughest on the Cleveland Way.  I fast walked the hill, but could hear the voices of the walkers behind me, having closed the small gap I’d managed to make running across the valley floor during the first part of their climb.  I pushed a little harder, at one point too hard, slipping on a rock but I made good progress up the hill, as I got onto the flat section at the top, I’d built a decent gap and I jogged on to the turn I needed to take to head up to the cairn that marks the summit of Cringle Moor around 100m from the main path.  The route up to the cairn was singletrack, muddy, wet and slippy.  Needless to say, my feet got wet again.

I touched the cairn on 6h:23m and jogged back down to the main path, passing numerous walkers on the way, including the ones I’d previously passed. I was down descending quickly but carefully down towards the Lordstones Country Park and my next rendezvous with Pete and Shel.  On the way down I could feel a hot spot forming on my left little toe, I ignored this and pushed on, in my mind I was smiling, only 3 more hills to go, I’d well and truly broken the back of this run and I was still feeling pretty good.

At Lordstones I topped my bottles back up, thought for a minute about taking my poles for the final leg then changed my mind as I was feeling good.  I jogged out of Lordstones at 6h:42m, having spent about 5 minutes sorting myself out for the final stretch. The sun was still very warm on my neck and I was again sloshing water over my head as I climbed. Carlton Bank is another set of steep steps and I was expecting my calves and thighs to be sore at this point, but they weren’t and I felt that I was climbing comfortably within myself. I reached the trig at the top on 6h:54m and took some more pics before moving on.  As I jogged down the rubble strewn path away from Carlton Bank, I caught my left little toe on a rock and confirmed for certain that I had a pretty decent blister forming, the right little toe also started sounding off too but I ignored both and pushed on singing alone to the music on my MP3 player, which I was pleasantly surprised that it was still pumping out tunes.  I reached the penultimate summit of Live Moor on 7h:16m just as the music reached the last track and returned to the beginning of today’s playlist.

I’d recce’d some of the paths around this part of the moor as part of my Lyke Wake Challenge prep and decided to use that to my advantage now, taking a shortcut across the heather to a track down by Snotterdale Plantation rather than heading up to the glider station at Carlton to pick up the trail to Bilsdale.

I made slow progress back up to the main trail but I’d saved myself some distance at least. I was now facing south, heading directly towards the transmitter, promising Bilsdale that I was coming.

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The trail was rocky and soon, both feet were feeling sore, hotspots on the little toes and the ball of my right foot were slowing me, but I kept pushing on.  Just past Barkers Crags, I passed some runners coming the other way, one wearing a Hardmoors 26.2 finishers shirt and I greeted them fairly manically as I pushed upwards towards the top of the moor.

I was now almost at Cock Howe and the transmitter seemed to be just as far away as it was half an hour ago. As I passed Cock Howe, at 8h:18m, the battery on my MP3 player finally gave out and I was left with only the crunch, crunch sounds of my footsteps and the occasional honk or screech of moorland birds for company

In the distance, I could see a cairn by the trail and I focused on getting there despite my tiring legs and sore feet. I arrived at the cairn which was at the top of a bit of a plateau on 8h:36m.  I checked Suunto and could see that my final waypoint was around 200m off into the heather at my two o’clock. There was no real difference in elevation between the cairn and the waypoint off in the heather so I stopped the clock on 8h:36m:59s.  Challenge complete and a happy, but tired man.

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I walked was to Cock Howe then jogged down to Chop Gate to meet Pete and Shel at the Buck Inn.  They’d been fantastic support all day and Pete presented me with the perfect tonic as I arrived, a pint of coke which I necked in one.

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The Challenge lived up to all I expected it to be, epic in it’s 52.6km distance and 1,716m elevation gain. The weather was very kind all things considered.  Kitwise I was happy with my choices and foodwise, I was happier with how things had gone that any long run I’ve ever done.

Eating every 15 minutes, alternating Wine Gums, dry roasted nuts, salted nuts then a banana or Snickers on the hour (with the exception of a single gel at the 2 hour mark) worked very well and my stomach was the most settled it’s been on a run over 20 miles. I’m now of the view that gels may be the thing that’s caused previous queasiness.

For fluids, I felt that the Lucozade Sport worked well, supplemented now and again with an S Cap.  I’m interested to see how I’d go with a more complete carb/electrolyte drink like Mountain Fuel.  That’s something I’ll probably try before July when I take on the Lyke Wake.

The route, I think I picked a good option, the only downside being that the Bilsdale section at the end was a bit of a dirge, particularly when I was feeling tired.  I’d be interested to see what it’d be like starting at Scugdale, doing Live Moor, Bilsdale then Carlton and working round the rest of the route in reverse. Starting at Slapewath and doing an out and back to Gisborough Moor might be slightly quicker too. Lots of options to explore for future attempts.

I can’t sign off without giving the huge thanks due to my crew, Pete Kirkham and Shel Winspear.  Both of whom gave up their time freely, spent a day driving from place to place and making sure I had everything I needed. The completion of this challenge is as much yours as it is mine.  Thank you!

Written by Stuart Smith - http://aim-adventureinmind.blogspot.fr

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be able to buy a bike and get out with some good mates from Bolton CTC and Lancashire Road Club nearly every week.
 
                                        I even get a mention for an Omnium trophy I won a long time ago.
We had a few other stars who helped inspire and had a few laughs with Jeremy Hunt went on to become a pro rider. Craig Battresby went onto elite cycling as an amateur. Clive Burke and Bobhat (Ian Roberts ) were stalwarts and other names pictured left at York Rally wher Clive bought a brand new Tri suit. 
 
 
 
 
Clive, Bobhat and I decide that we should climb Mt Blanc one year we decided on early June. To cut a multitude of epics short (please ask about all the stories) we had to turn around and come back down. Sadly on this snowy descent Bobhat slipped and fell and was killed. 
The last picture of him is with me top left of this collage. 
 
I decided to honour my friends memory and after being inspired into further lightweight adventures by the Crane brothers, cousins of Nick Crane running the length of the Himalaya in 100 days. Click Here
I had five days off work and ran from home to the train station in Bolton to get to Manchester Airport. I took one KIMM  bag 7kg in total no tent, stove etc just a cup, spoon, sleeping bag and minimal kit. 
 
I set off from Chamonix in mid-June to run the famous Tour De Mount Blanc. This was in the days before UTMB points dictated the run that we choose to do. I just wanted to be in the mountains and reasonably close, to lay a few to ghosts to rest, to a friend of mine. I recently read Heather Dawe Book, cunningly called Adventures In Mindwhere she tells of a similar tail. 
I travelled as far as I could each day as a solo experience. For pictures I ran forward balanced my (film) camera set the self timer and ran back PDQ to then head back to the camera. So did more than the official route and time I should of done. 
 

Note the plastic bread bags on my feet to keep out the snows of the passes. My feet went green for weeks after as the dye came out of my Walshes Fell running shoes
Kit was a cotton T shirt, Oakley Factory Pilots frames as worn by Greg Lemond, Ron Hill Tracksters over Freedom Shorts. Spare T shirt, Cotton neck scarf, sleeping bag, Karrimat, Spoon and Mug, one extra pair of undies/ socks.

I managed to run round the route in 40hrs. I lost my money in Italy after buying a small bag of biscuits, I just ran away from it as I left it on a bench. On my return to France I managed to change £5 to buy tywo bottles of wine so had something to do at least. I found a park to sleep under the ping pong tables but was rescued by a runner from Somerset who let me sleep in his car. 
 
I had a great adventure and it stemmed a lot more. Do not be constrained by perceptions, remember friends and loved one's and enjoy every step of your journey.

 

 
I feel its time to get back to Mt Blanc soon along with a few more Adventures that I have in Mind.

Written by Brie Hemingway - http://briehemingway.com

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It was less than three months ago but it seems like another lifetime. Did I really do THAT? It feels like a dream … a really, really crazy dream.

On our Thanksgiving weekend (Canadian), I descended into the Grand Canyon with seven friends to traverse approximately 80 km from the south rim to the north rim and back again, known as the “Rim2Rim2Rim.”

We drove down to Bellingham and flew Allegiant to Las Vegas. From there we rented two matching cars and drove to the Grand Canyon village, where we would begin our run early the next day. I don’t do well with lack of sleep (understatement) so I took every opportunity to nap.

I was seated on the plane next to a young guy going on a typical Vegas trip with friends. Every time I woke up he’d laugh and call me a “fly trap” because when I sleep sitting up, my head tilts back and my mouth hangs open. I admit, I’m not the most attractive sleeper. We chatted a bit and he hoped we didn’t die in the canyon.

 

After we landed in Vegas, we picked up our rental cars, stopped at a grocery store, and loaded up on food. Then we hit the road and I hit the hay again. Kyle amused himself by taking weird photos of me sleeping.

We stopped in Williams, just outside of the Grand Canyon Village for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Honestly, I don’t know if that was the greatest idea before a huge run but at least they had vegetarian options!

That night we checked into our motel rooms, loaded up our hydration packs, and laid out our clothes in nervous excitement. There was a lot of “how much food do we need?” and “is this enough food??” being asked. About half of our group had done the one-way trip across the canyon last year and knew what they were getting into, but I had never even been to the Grand Canyon so I had no idea what to expect … except a lot of down, a lot of up, a lot of down again, and then a lot of up.

 

Everyone slept surprisingly well that night and woke up bright and early for our 3am alarm. After taking a group selfie (of course), we departed at 4am and ran/walked to the South Kaibob trailhead (where we took another group selfie) and began on dark descent into the canyon. At first it was a little slow going in the dark with the mule trench and the sudden switchbacks in the trail.

That sunrise was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I took a couple photos knowing that it would never do it justice. Everything was beautiful and exciting at that moment which helped ease my anxiousness about how the hell I was ever going to finish the 80 km journey. We took a few group shots knowing that we would not be so smiley on the way back.

 

At the bottom of the canyon is a river and Phantom Ranch, a popular camping spot with cabins, a dining hall, and best of all, a flush toilet! Such luxury! I was pleasantly surprised at the facilities along the main trails. There were quite a few well-maintained outhouses and water stations.

I was also surprised by how many people were on the trails despite the many signs stating that going down to the river was not a day hike. Most of the people were prepared and fit and seemed to know what they were doing, but we did see some that were under-prepared and struggling. There were people backpacking, people doing the Rim2Rim, and even a few of the crazier types doing the Rim2Rim2Rim like us. We came across people from all over the world with interesting accents and friendly dispositions.

After we stopped to eat one of our PB&Js at Phantom Ranch, we headed towards the north rim. There was a long stretch of very gradual up and then some serious climbing. It was around noon and getting hot at this point. The canyon radiated heat. I found a small piece of shade and held my face and hands against the cool rocks for a moment then carried on. As we continued our ascent, we could see the canyon edge hovering above us at what seems like an impossibly high altitude. Would we ever get there??

 

We reached at the last water station before the Rim and talked to a nice park ranger who asked if we were doing the Rim2Rim2Rim. We said yes and I had expected him to give us a hard time but he didn’t. I think he could tell we were prepared and we were doing alright. He wished us well and told us it wasn’t much farther now.

Finally I reached the top, where a few speedier friends had been waiting for about 20 minutes. They headed back down while I waited for the rest of our group to catch up. I was pleasantly surprised with how I was feeling at that point. Tired, obviously, but not done. I had been really doubtful about whether I would be able to make the two-way trip and was worried about what my options were if I couldn’t. I had heard there is a bus you can take back to the south rim. It’s expensive and I didn’t know the schedule but there was an out at least. Luckily it wasn’t an issue!

 

There were another couple groups that were getting ready to go back across and a some other people who had done Rim2Rim and were amazed that anyone would turn around and go back. One guy was dying for a Coke and a random person offered him one of theirs – I was a little jealous.

The other caught up and the five of us descended into the canyon for a second time. The sun had moved enough that most of the trail was in shade, although still pretty warm. I am tentative on downhill by default plus I knew that I had to save my legs for the climb out so I wasn’t exactly sprinting down.

We came across a couple hiking up the north rim and the guy asked us how far it was to the top. We told him an approximate distance and time it would take and looking very concerned he pointed way up and asked if THAT was the top. We told him yes, much to his disappointment. He still had a LOT of climbing to go. They lady assured us that they would be fine and that they had food and water.

The return trip felt even longer despite being mostly downhill. Once the route had flattened out a bit. I kept thinking Phantom Ranch would be around the next corner … wait no, it must be the next one … nope! It was dark by the time we finally got there. And I felt like my heart was pounding – I may have drank too much caffeinated eBoost. We sat down for 10-15 minutes and Courtney and I shared my last PB&J sandwich. Despite being super smushed and having been warmed by the hot sun earlier, it was a lifesaver!

A couple hikers we had passed caught up during our break and told us they coincidentally had five extra permits to camp for the night and that the five of us were welcome to have them. It was pretty tempting but we didn’t have tents or sleeping bags – just a flimsy emergency blanket. We declined his generous offer and plodded on, knowing that the hardest was yet to come … the climb out of the canyon.

Despite the south rim being lower in elevation that the north rim, the climb out TOOK FOREVER. I had my lowest low of ultrarunning ever, and basically the only one of note so far. How were we EVER going to make it OUT of here!? But I kept going, and maybe half an hour later I looked at my watch and saw the distance progress we had made. My brain rallied and I knew I had to just keep moving.

I pulled a bit ahead of the others and Courtney later caught up to me. We took short breaks here and there but I knew if I stayed still too long I wouldn’t be able to get going again. It felt like we were doing a never-ending Grouse Grind. I could see two lights up high and I wondered for a long time whether that was the end.

In the light of my headlamp I saw a tarantula on the ground up ahead. It seemed rather still and there was enough room to go around but Courtney wouldn’t pass. I threw a couple rocks towards it to scare it off the trail. At this time a random guy who was doing the Rim2Rim2Rim by himself came up the trail to us. Courtney asked if she could use him as a human shield as she passed by the tarantula, and he agreed. I was dying laughing. We talked to him a bit and he had hiked in the Grand Canyon before. I asked him about the lights and he said that they were in fact the top. Yay!

 

Meanwhile, slightly farther behind, Kyle was ready to lay down on the trail and wait for daylight. Dayna had the fun job of keeping him moving. At some point Chris realized that he had Courtney’s jacket and caught up to us because it was getting cold.

When we were finally getting close to the top, we heard yelling. Chris, Courtney and I were concerned that Dayna and Kyle were having problems behind us. They weren’t far behind but we didn’t exactly want to lose altitude to go down and see if they were okay. At this point we had some cell coverage and I managed to call Kyle. They were fine and it wasn’t them that yelled. He seemed to be in weirdly good spirits.

After what felt like forever I reached the top with Courtney and Chris slightly behind me, and Kyle and Dayna just behind them. We did it! At some point we had got in touch with the other three faster members of our group who finished a few hours before us. Hailey was waiting at the top with a car stocked with snacks and beer! Thank goodness because it was about 12:30am by this point and really cold up there!

Apparently when Hailey, Alley, and Devin finished they had just missed the bus that would take them close to Yavapai Lodge and it would be another half an hour before the next one. It was so cold and everything was closed by then so they hitchhiked realizing that they couldn’t remember what cabin we were in (there are a lot of them). They got out of the car and walked around trying to figure it out when another person offered to drive them around the grounds. Eventually they found the building with our cars parked outside!

Needless to say, we all went to sleep quickly upon arriving back at the lodge at around 1am. The weird thing is, we all woke up early! We were starving so we went to the nearby restaurant for breakfast and ate a TON of food. We then showered and went back to the south rim to take some photos and see the Grand Canyon from above in daylight. It was breathtaking.

 

Courtney gave us all custom medals she had made for us! Chris surprised us (especially me) by pulling out custom Rim2Rim2Rim Grand Canyon 2015 patches that Jesse had made for all of us and sneakily given to Chris for the trip. Did I mention that Jesse is the best!?!? These were such an awesome mementos to have of an amazing, surreal accomplishment. I was so nervous about going on this trip but I’m so glad I did (after much reassurance from Dayna). It was truly life changing.

We drove back to Vegas that day and stayed the night at the New York, New York hotel. We went for dinner, a couple drinks, and then hit the hay – not your typical wild and crazy Vegas trip. The next morning we flew home. Despite it being a wonderful trip, I was so excited to get home and give Jesse and Hadley a big hug!

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