Sunday, June 02, 2013

Hardmoors 110 - race report

The bare facts are that I finished in 7th place in 27:25:38. Of course the bare facts are just that; very bare. A lot happens in a day and a bit on the trail, both physically and mentally; from euphoria to abject misery, total alertness to overwhelming fatigue, running with ease, then pain, then more pain.

Jenny and I set off for Helmsley after lunch on Friday arriving just after 15:00. I had felt good in the days leading up to the event but Jenny was very tired having been away in France with work all week. On the drive up I was feeling guilty about taking up another weekend, and the forecast of persistent rain during the evening didn’t really help. For the last hour of the journey, I just wanted to turn around and go home; the thought of running for 113 miles wasn’t filling me with a huge amount of joy.

Once we arrived there was no turning back and I busied myself with registering, sorting out kit and eating. It was great to see so many friendly faces: Jon and Shirley, fellow Spiners Andrew, Annie, Gary, Jonathan, Mick and Jackie, Robert, and Tim. Also Ben and Ricardo from the Viking Way, Lakeland 100 and others.

The provisional plan was that Jenny would meet me at Osmotherley (23 miles) and then catch up with me in the morning somewhere on the coast. She was staying at the Saltburn CP (Spa Hotel) but she needed a good night’s sleep, so I had arranged to have a drop bag there. She was under strict instructions to not let me drop out unless I had bone showing or an arterial bleed!

As I readied myself, Jenny began to get into the swing of things and into ‘support mode’ – she really is very good at looking after me. She quickly decided to also meet me at CP1, White Horse.
113 miles to go!
It was soon time to start, and after a short briefing (a brief briefing just doesn’t sound right) it was the off. A group of about 10 runners set off at 10k pace; I let them go. I have learnt a lot from all my DNFs last year, particularly at the Viking Way, where I should have finished, and went into this race with 3 strict rules:
  1. Run my own race – totally.
    • Don’t try and keep up with anyone, and don’t slow down just to maintain company
  2. Go from checkpoint to checkpoint
    • Break the race into manageable segments; 10 miles to next CP, not 30 miles to the finish.
  3. Always go forwards – relentless forward progress
    • Pain is temporary, failure lasts forever
With these in mind, I set off at an easy pace!

The first few miles seemed to take forever. My legs felt really heavy and I was feeling progressively more guilty and beginning to fight some serious mental demons. I even suggested going home at CP1; Jenny told me to get a move on!
I continued to fight my body and mind, all the time fighting a losing battle, convincing myself to call it a day at Osmotherley. However, I got a bit angry after a significant detour around 20 miles and suddenly was into my running.

At Osmotherley, I collected my night gear and poles, and had a bit to eat. I discussed my thoughts with Jenny, who said that she was starting to enjoy herself. This put my mind in a far better place, and munching on a peanut butter and jam sandwich I set off into the night with Ricardo.

As we chatted the miles rolled by. I love running at night and I felt great; I barely felt tired going up the 4 consecutive climbs. Visibility was extremely poor at times due to thick mist, which made running tricky even on the flat. Even though I’d recce’d this section, it was still full concentration on navigation.

Coming down from Blaworth crossing, I began to pull away from Ricardo and 3 others that we’d met up with, including Karen Nash who was doing her first 100 miler. I then had a wonderfully peaceful and soulful 2 hours, running on my own in my own bubble of light. It’s nice to have company, but sometimes one’s own company is all that is needed.

After Roseberry Topping, with continuing poor visibility, I took a wrong turn but quickly realised I was heading downhill too soon and having consulted my map, headed back up only to meet Boris who had done exactly the same thing. I managed to convince him we were both wrong and we were soon back en route. Boris was also doing his first 100 in preparation for the UTMB. It was early dawn by now and I really enjoyed his company as we neared Saltburn at 58 miles.

Reaching Saltburn just before 06:00, I was met by the amazing sight of Jenny waiting for me. She was meant to still be asleep! As I changed shoes and socks, and discarded tights for shorts, she informed me I was on 26 hour pace. One very good decision I made here was to continue with poles; I had planned to discard them at Saltburn, but they were to prove invaluable on all the steps. Alistair Stewart, crewing for Tim Bateson, said I looked sickeningly well and I have to say I felt remarkably untired. 
"Sickeningly well" at Saltburn CP
Boris was planning on a longer stop so, munching on my breakfast of a salami and cheese sandwich, I was soon off on my own.
A glorious morning at Saltburn
The route was now almost totally down the coast to Filey, 55 mile to go, but I was only thinking of the 12 miles to the next CP of course! I was enjoying the early morning sun with the accompanying sights and sounds of all the sea birds swarming off the cliffs, and made good time to Runswick Bay (70 miles), passing through some lovely seaside villages via plenty of steps. 
The picturesque Cleveland Way
Another quick stop with Jenny again sorting out water, electrolytes and food and I was off towards Sandsend (79 miles).

I was still running all the flats and downs, and walking the ups. However, my definition of an ‘up’ was beginning to lessen! There were lots of steps.
At Sandsend, still at 26 hour pace, I was re-joined by Boris who was still looking very strong. Moving through Whitby and on towards Robin Hood’s Bay via lots more steps, I was still moving well.
Whitby Abbey
However, as we began to climb out of the Robin Hood's Bay I began to slow. As we approached Ravenscar CP (90 miles) my legs suddenly decided they didn’t want to run anymore and I was forced to walk the last couple of miles to the checkpoint, with Boris moving ahead. I knew Jenny had a hot meal waiting for me and I probably hadn’t eaten enough since the last CP.

At Ravenscar I had a good sit down and a lot to eat. I was tired but the thought of stopping never entered my head. One step at a time, one check point at a time. With that in mind I left along with Boris feeling much better.

Within 2 miles, my legs didn’t want to run again. Boris soon moved off as I settled in a solid walking pace. I knew this phase would go…..eventually! A few miles from Scarborough, and probably after more steps, Karen passed me at a steady pace, looking focused. We exchanged a few words but she was soon out of view.

At this stage, I wasn’t having a huge amount of fun but I still had an unshakeable believe in my ability to finish whatever. I made my way down to Scarborough North Bay thinking I’d be able to run now. Not a chance! I ended up walking all the way round both bays. After 24 hours of eating trail mix, sandwiches, muesli bars and suchlike, my mouth was a little on the dry side and I decided that an ice cream was called for. A three-scoop tub was sensational and I arrived at the checkpoint with tub in hand, much to everyone’s amusement. It was great to see everyone there especially Jenny and this gave me real boost.
Ice cream....mmmm
Fuelled by ice cream I felt much better, and left on the final leg. Navigation out of Scarborough was interesting due to high tide but after much checking of map I made my way up some steps along the detour before picking up the Cleveland Way again at Cayton Bay, and made my way down and up yet more steps. It did occur to me that this was like spending 12 hours on a step machine at the gym!
Looking back towards Scarborough
I had now settled into a gentle jog as I made my way across the cliffs towards Filey Brigg. I soon saw the marker signifying the end of the Cleveland Way in the distance but as I neared I realised that it was actually a large bush. This was, at the time, completely demoralizing. Soon enough though I was at Filey Brigg. I self-clipped and then turned down into Filey with just 3 miles to the finish line.
109 miles done!
Having recce’d this section, I knew exactly where to go. A few people congratulated me as I ran along the seafront, and soon enough I approached the finish at Filey School. Jenny was waiting outside and, with a big smile on my face, she directed me to the finish, and I crossed the line in 27 hours, 25 minutes.

It was great to finish and sit down. I had a couple moments of contemplation and emotional relief. The last 20 miles had been fairly tough and it was nice to now be able to relax, physically and mentally, and have a quick massage!

Job done!


1. A great race, really well organised. It follows a lovely route in 2 very contrasting parts; moors and coastal, both tough and picturesque. I would totally recommend any of the Hardmoors series of races. Jon and Shirley do a superb job, the races are all great value and still relatively low key.

2. This was a race that I had to finish and from Saltburn I had an unshakeable belief, that barring injury, I would. Last year I DNF’d at The Viking Way after 113 miles. Essentially, I had just had enough and fought a losing battle with my mind. The thought of 30 more miles overwhelmed me; I should have broken it down into manageable chunks. This was my first 100 mile finish, and hopefully I have now banished most of the demons of my DNF at the VWU. My nutrition and hydration were good, but more importantly my mental attitude after Osmotherley was spot on, I broke the distance into manageable chunks and tried to remain positive at all times, even when the going was tough. I stuck to my rules.

3. Support. Logistically, I could easily have done this race unsupported. With drop bags at 23, 58 and 90 miles, and several CPs in between, there would have been no problem replenishing fluid, food and kit. However, I can’t express the value, the uplift, of seeing a friendly (and most lovely) face at regular intervals. At no stage beyond Osmotherley did I need persuading to continue, but the boost to morale that I got every time I saw Jenny was immeasurable.

As I said at the time, “If Carlsberg made wives………..”

Thank you Jenny

4. Enjoyment. People think we are mad, and to be honest, the idea of running 100+ miles is pretty stupid. We run for all kinds of reasons but first and foremost it has to be enjoyable. Yes, there is pain and innumerable highs and lows, but there are also those moments when I look around and am in wonder at nature, and the opportunity to experience it in such a way. Living the dream!

I enjoyed this race as much as any for a long time. Perfect weather, lovely and contrasting scenery, the sounds and sights of nature, great company interspersed with moments of great solitude. 

Loved it!
What it's all about

1 comment:

Ultras and a lttle bit more said... [Reply to comment]

Nice report and good to meet you Richard. It took me some days to realise it was you I ran thru Kildale with and shouted back at that first road junction. I hada couple of navigational uncertainties after you had gone but then made a huge error after R Topping- probably the same one you and Boris made (there were foot prints and a jelly baby) the difference was I continued and had a long long loop down in tne forest to put it right.
Bob like Jenny wasa star and although I had all I needed to be unsupported it was, as you say, so good to see him everynow and again

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