Hardmoors 55: Type Two Fun
By the time I had finished the coach journey from Guisborough to Helmsley, queued for kit check and stood around chatting for two hours, I had been up for six hours before we eventually set off on this race. Having said that, I’d got my head down at a reasonable time the night before and I always think that 5 and a half hours of decent sleep is much more valuable than eight hours of broken sleep in a B&B or wherever. I managed to get on the emptiest of the coaches anyway, and chatted to Yannick Peron who does a lot of longer events and is nice and calm – his only sin is that he comes from the wrong side of our city. It always helps to get sat near someone who isn’t going to get too agitated on the coach, because it can quickly rub off on you: I remember the guy a few years ago who was throwing his guts up on the coach because he was so nervous about the run.
Before we set off, I wasn’t really feeling like I was going to be doing a 55 mile run with over 2000 metres of ascent. People were chatting about Donny Campbell – holder of the record time for a winter Ramsay Round – being at the race and speculating what time he would do. The weather was great and it was an easy decision to start the race in shorts and t-shirt. This was a big difference from the 55 some other years. In fact, I used to feel a bit cursed with this one, having dropped out ridiculously early at Kildale in 2013 due to not being able to eat anything or stay warm – we had 5 foot snowdrifts on Blowarth that year. The year after I had to stop at the White Horse checkpoint to look after a hypothermic runner I had been doing the race with. Both of these were when the race was run in the Guisborough – Helmsley direction. It was nice to run it in the opposite direction this year, although it did feel a bit like I was doing the first half of the 110 at times; not always a pleasant sensation.
I had thought my race strategy was going to be to go at my own pace and not get dragged on by the fast lads: this was supposed to be training for the Lakeland 100 later in the year and anyway, I’ve never been able to race runs over about 40 miles and stay strong from start to finish. There was quite a strong field though, and some lads I knew whose company was fun, so I ended up running with Jamie for the first 20 miles to Osmotherley. This was much faster than I had intended, but I felt really good and there are some really runnable, fun sections on this part of the course. running along the side of the glider airfield and having good visibility over ‘the best view in England’ at Sutton Bank were real highlights. Despite moving quickly, we were eating and drinking well, taking care of ourselves as we needed to in order to ensure the later stages of the race were not too bad.
It was great to be in and out of Osmotherley check point quickly and eat some solid food walking up the hills in the mile or so leaving it. At this stage, I happily let some of the runners I had been travelling with get away from me. I knew they were better than me at the distance and I’d used them to give me a nice quick start and get some time in the bank. My main target was to finish in under 10 hours so that I didn’t have to get my head torch out and wander around Guisborough woods in the dark.
Soon after this, we hit the Three Sisters. This is probably the hilliest section of the course: you go over Carlton Bank, Wainstones and Clay Bank. A lot of runners complain about this section being hard, but after running quickly for a good few hours, I was really happy to have a bit of variety and power walk up some sustained hills. I cracked out the old trekking poles and made short work of the up-hills. Shoe choice and tired legs meant that I couldn’t take the down-hills at anything like the pace I would have liked. A couple of runners passed me, but not the stream I had expected.
It was good to stumble into the check point at the bottom of Clay Bank. I had run out of water some miles back and was feeling a bit dizzy on the descents by this point. My stomach muscles felt under a lot of strain – something I haven’t suffered before and I’m assuming it had something to do with having lifted my feet higher than usual on the quick and runnable early sections of the course. Unfortunately, the first guy I saw when I got into the checkpoint was dropping out of the race. I’d normally do my best to talk a runner out of this, but he’d gone over heavily on his ankle, and the next 15 miles were the hardest part of the course, so this was the sensible decision.
I usually take one 500ml bottle of water and one of water-with-Mountain Fuel when I run, but having run out of water on the last section and not being able to stomach the powdered fuel anymore, I emptied out my bottle on the ground to refill them both with water. It says a lot about my state that I then sat down on the ground for a rest and wondered out loud why the patch of grass I had sat on was soaking wet!
I took just a few minutes out here, then set off up the hill to my least favourite section of the course. By now, although I had all the proper food I needed in my pack, I only felt like picking at sweets. I was still drinking plenty of water, though. I would pick up in another four miles, and that’s probably because the water had worked its way into my system by this time.
Blowarth Crossing is always a bit mind-numbing. It’s not flat, but there’s no excuse not to keep running. Likewise, there are loads of large stones covering the track, so you have to watch your footing the whole time. It’s usually a grim, bleak and exposed place, but this year the weather was quite nice and somehow it was almost entirely sheltered. I fell in running with a younger guy who had caught me, and we got to chatting and running a good pace. Unfortunately, I went over badly on my ankle, exacerbating an injury from a couple of weeks ago and giving me a lot of pain. I let him go, because he was running just a little quicker than suited me at this point.
I got going again on my ankle, working my way back to a full run. The worst thing about this track is that it seems to go on forever. You can see Kildale down to your left (the next indoor checkpoint), but the track takes you past it on the high ground before allowing you to eventually turn back on yourself for the descent down a better surfaced road into the village. I turned my ankle a second time whilst looking for where best to place my feet as a sodding mountain biker came the other way along the track. Again, I started to walk the pain off, growing to a jog and then a run.
Coming down to Kildale I got a big pick-up psychologically. Not only can you see Kildale from some way off, but all of the remaining landmarks on the course: Captain Cook’s Monument, Roseberry Topping and High-Cliff Nab. There was lots of good food in Kildale village hall, but I didn’t feel like any of it. I just had half a can of Coke from my drop bag. I don’t think I suffered too much from this during the race, but it probably didn’t help for afterwards. As I was leaving the check point, the first lady was just coming in. I knew it was a pretty strong female field, so I had been expecting to be caught for a while.
I cracked my poles back out for this last section and enjoyed the running through the woods to the next check point before slowing to a purposeful walk up the steps to Captain Cook’s. I was caught by the female winner here, but didn’t really mind: big respect for her knowing the state her feet were in after the race and how much time she made up on me in this last section of the race.
I wish I could have enjoyed Roseberry Topping more, but have to admit it felt like a massive slog round to the gate and then both down to the bottom and up to the Topping itself. I did enjoy the company and view at the top, although no doubt sunset would have been more spectacular, even if it would have meant I had made much slower progress. I felt some disappointment at the top that they didn’t have any more than some sweets and water, which left me feeling a bit under-fuelled for the last section of the race.
Knowing that it was the last section (I didn’t know how far was left and underestimated it by a good bit) and having seen the positions of the runners directly behind me on the out-and-back up the Topping, I got running at a serious pace again once I had got back on the road to Guisborough Woods. It was good to see the yellow of the taped part of the course once again too. I missed one turning allowing the next couple of guys to catch me, but didn’t mind as it gave me someone to run with for the last few miles.
Again, the route takes you around the houses to make up distance, so we could see Guisborough for a good 45 minutes before we were able to drop down from the woods. The race organiser was loitering in the woods here, so I was able to lift my spirits by giving him some abuse. The final section was a mile on a disused railway track, so we ran it as quickly as we could to get it over with. Guisborough Sea Cadets was a very welcome sight at this point.
Once we had logged our times, I sat down to rest and felt pretty awful. I had felt hot all the way round the course, even when the weather wasn’t particularly warm, and now my body wasn’t cooling down. Some friends who had already finished and their families helped sort me out with my warm kit and some tea, and within twenty minutes I was feeling a bit more human. An hour later, after some chicken curry, I was okay to walk back to the car in the rain. I’d finished the race in 9:17, about half an hour quicker than two years previous in the easier direction when we’d had a following wind behind us the whole way. Donny Campbell had finished in 7:31. Jamie, who I’d been running with for the first section, had speeded up and managed to finish third in 8:11.
Running that distance fairly hard was a bit tough! I need to learn some lessons about fuelling and pacing, as well as give a bit more time over to my training and potentially look for a new model of shoe if I’m going to complete certain races later in the year. My ankle’s knackered now, but I think it’s just ligaments, and nothing one week off from training and one week gentle won’t fix. These races are definitely more of an adventure rather than a run or race, and I’d recommend them to anyone who wants to get outside for an extended period of time in good company or just a good challenge to themselves.