I’d read many things that say once you’ve decided on a plan for race weekend stick to it. So when I chose to change my plan at 4:00pm on the Friday afternoon it wasn’t made lightly. I’d changed my mind from driving down & staying over the Friday night to getting up at 2:00am & driving down at 3:00. This change of plan worked great I got a better night sleep in warmer, more comfortable conditions, decent breakfast & use of facilities. So I set off on my journey happy & well rested with plenty time to spare until I was driving along a road & started noticing road ahead closed signs then eventually arrived at a blocked off road at which point I thought “probably should of stuck to my original plan” & mild panic set in.
No Internet signal, no map, no idea where I was with 35 minutes till the bus left I turned the car around & hoped for the best, some frankly reckless driving & blind luck later I arrived at the bus pick up with 4 minutes to spare, boarded the bus then we were off on our way to Filey and the start line for The Hardmoors 110.
After disembarking the bus & making the short walk to the registration tent we were quickly through registration and after putting my drop bags in the relevant areas I made my way to the local cafe for a nice Mocha and a bit chat with some fellow runners. Upon leaving the cafe & heading over to the start area which was now bustling with runners & support crews I made my way through the crowds looking for some familiar faces, it wasn’t long till I spotted some tiger legs hanging out the back of a car & knew I’d found friend & running buddy James Campbell heading over to have a bit chat with him I hear “now then Nez” turn round to see David Scott getting himself ready next to the wonderful Double D crew mobile! After chatting briefly with David I headed over to James for a bit craic & to get myself ready for the run.
After getting myself ready into running gear & putting my clothes in my bag to return to Helmsley I headed back to use the facilities one last time, bumping into John Freel on the way who was quite exited & looking forward to the run. I spoke briefly to Linda Morgan-Roach before arriving back at the start area where Gareth Barnett & Dave Cook were now waiting with James & Lesley, their respective race crews. It was now that we learnt the race start was to be delayed by 15 minutes because Jon basically wasn’t there. When he finally did arrive it was to a big WAHEEEEEY when he stepped out of his car. A quick race brief later & we were shepherded over to the start line to stare 110 miles in the face and up to 36 hours non-stop movement
5, 4, 3, 2……wait for it, 5 4 3 2 1 GO!!
The 99 runners moved as one, through the cheering crowds, into the sun, into the unknown & into ultimately the battle with ourselves.
As with any Ultramarathon it’s never won in the first part & you’ve got to be wary of going out too quick & burning yourself out for the later sections. It’s so easy to get carried along & end up running someone elses race which can be disastrous. So I’d planned not to go out too quick, needless to say 3 miles in running an average 10min/mile pace I knew I’d once again gone out too hard but it was a lovely day & I was feeling great. Nevertheless I chose to back off a little luckily this was as we passed through checkpoint 1 and were sent on our merry way down to Cayton Bay only to head straight back up the other side. I’d caught up with Team Double D, David Scott & David Baker, I introduced myself to David Baker as I’d never met him before captured a photo then went on my way.
Checkpoint 2, Holbeck Hill, arrived I had a quick refill of my water bottle grabbed a couple of Jaffa cakes and was on my way. Having never ran down Holbeck Hill I just leant forward put my arms out & flew down like an aeroplane, so much easier than running up it! After passing along Scarborough seafront whilst helping myself to some Haribos & a Snickers from my pockets I headed back up onto the cliff tops. When mile 10 arrived & I was still under 11min/mile pace, I thought oops definitely going too fast but never mind & I cracked on to checkpoint 3, 13 miles, at Crookness.
I was having myself a cup of Pepsi when John, Linda & Louise Arnison with another 3 or 4 people in their group arrived after a few moments we all left the checkpoint together.
I stuck with this group for the next 3 miles where upon it became very apparent that I wasn’t just running with them but running to keep up with them. When I pulled up at around the 16 mile mark when my right achilles & calf both cramped up I knew I had pushed to hard to keep up so I backed off again & let the group disappear into the distance. I soon walked off the cramp whilst having a bit more food & taking on a lot of fluids. Then it was back to running at a more comfortable pace making my way to Ravenscar & the first drop bag.
Ravenscar, mile 22, first drop bag of 3. I’d planned on taking no more than 15 minutes at each drop bag & not to sit down. I stuck to my plan well refilled all the pockets of my vest, topped up my water bottle & refilled my bladder with Mountain Fuel, I put extra water in as well as I knew it was 46 miles to the next drop bag. After speaking briefly to Brenda Wilkin who was mile 69 into the 160 & seemed in good spirits, I ate my sandwiches then bid farewell to the marshalls & left the village hall.
A few metres down the road I spotted a friend who was also doing the 160, Chris Haswell, in the back of his van so went over to chat only to find out unfortunately he was pulling out due to an injury to his foot & bad stomach pains. I was offered any help I wanted ftom his wife & himself but as I’d just topped myself up I kindly declined wished him well & moved on. Rounding the corner I saw Louise heading up the street with a big jacket on, looking at her quizzically I was informed that her IT band had gone 5 mile back & she was out of the race, gutted for her as she was running really well in the lead up to this race but obviously had made the best choice. So I set off on my way again to Robin Hoods Bay but a further 20 metres down the street I saw Lesley & stopped to ask how Gareth was getting on then 2 minutes later he appeared round the bottom corner big smile on his face we had a bit chat & he asked why I wasn’t already at Robin Hoods Bay & told me he didn’t want to see me again!
This time I was off & had a quite enjoyable run along the 3 mile section to Robin Hoods Bay even managed to have myself a donut I’d carried from Ravenscar on the descent into Boggle Hole.
It was during this section I caught up with Jo Barrett who was running with a lad called Ricky. We ran together for quite some time but I was noticing I was starting to feel very nauseous. The section from Robin Hoods Bay to Whitby was an absolute struggle with bile rising in my throat on numerous occasions. Having never felt like this on a run before I wasn’t sure what to do so I focused my attention on getting an orange ice lolly at the top of the 199 steps & trying to distract myself from being sick. We arrived at Whitby caravan park by this point I was feeling really not good a quick refill of water from Lesley, a kindly no thanks to Emily & Scott on the offer of any food and away, focus, orange ice lolly, walk through Whitby, repeating to myself I’ll be ok, I’ll be ok, I WILL BE OK!!
So the top of 199 steps arrived I got my ice lolly & headed down the steps by now I was feeling dizzy & uncertain on my feet but I wobbled my way down the steps determined that this shall pass. Part of the way down ice lolly in hand I heard a lad who just passed me say to his mate “well he’s obviously not racing” that made me smile and I pushed on through the crowds and to the bridge few drunken girls in a pub beer garden starting going “go on number 142, you’re behind number 101 you’ve gotta catch him” I crossed the bridge and was just about to turn right when Jo reappeared having gone off track somewhere. We pushed on together through Whitby and as we were passing the colourful sea huts I noticed the nausea was starting to lift a little, magic ice lolly! So we carried on together chatting all the way to Sandsend quickly through the checkpoint and onwards towards Runswick Bay the nausea had passed & I made the conclusion it was either the donut or the nrg drink I’d had in Ravenscar which had caused it & I certainly wasn’t eating or drinking any of them that were in further drop bags. On reaching a farm before Runswick Bay Emily & Scott were waiting for Jo I kindly turned down their offer of any food, again, but refilled my water bottle & moved on. I started getting a decent post nausea pace back up & started enjoying the run again. On the final stretch into Runswick Bay I commented to a fellow runner how glad I was to be not coming up the steps from the beach, I got to the top of them & flew down them I heard the runner behind me shout “you’re going down them ok” then hit the beach to see the beautiful Runswick Bay.
Arriving at the checkpoint Lesley refilled my water had my photo taken by Marion Bets then headed out feeling good. I managed to press stop on my watch when unhooking the charger for an unknown amount of time. I didn’t care at this moment I was running really well & on course for my aim of reaching Saltburn in 14 hours so I cracked on bumped into Dave who told me his distance was 1.8 miles longer than mine so I had an idea how long I’d stopped my watch. I was flying along in a zone feeling great I dropped into Skinningrove where passing the car park I heard a shout of “Andrew” looked around & saw 160 runner Jane Raper with her support crew, I shouted over asking how she was getting on then pushed on not wanting to break my stride. As I passed through the gap in the jetty, which was much bigger than it looks from up the top of the cliffs, I spotted Johns green shorts going up the steps at the top of the cliff I eventually caught up with him & we ran into Saltburn together where I was due to meet my support runners, Ian Hutchinson & David Jackson from my running club Derwent Valley Trail Runners, at 10:00 the only problem was I’d arrived 3 & a half hours before cut off & not the 2 hours I’d been expecting. A quick look around the big car park & the car park where the checkpoint was & I knew they weren’t here yet. I turned round thinking I’m going to have to ring them to see their van driving round the corner, David pointing at me with a look of he’s already here? all over his face. They went to the big car park & I followed them along to get changed into warmer clothes for the long cold night section.
After getting changed & managing to sit on a peeled orange in the process we moved out, I’d layered up well but was still freezing cold from standing around so wanted to get moving as quick as possible. It was 15 miles till the next proper checkpoint with only the checkpoint on top of Roseberry Topping between here & Kildale. The 3 of us met John & Dave at the checkpoint & headed out up the steps & along towards Saltburn gardens. John & Dave stopped for a toilet break & we carried on, I was at walk inclines, run flat & downhills pace now well aware of the hills that were coming up so figured they’d catch up pretty soon. Starting to warm up a bit now I took my gloves off & hat as we headed up through Skelton on the long drawn out climb up to Guisborough woods, ahead I saw Emily & Jo heading up the steps & figured she’d decided to run with her to The Fox & Hounds pub. We soon dropped down & through the pub car park only stopping briefly for a quick photo.
Heading into Guisborough woods we found the first real mud on the route so we slipped & squelched our way through to the concrete path uphill then through the woods towards Highcliffe Nab. Lost count of how many dead rabbits we saw, fun topic of conversation at the time! Still running really well passed quite a few runners between here & Roseberry. Loved Ian’s reaction to the fact that we climbed Roseberry gave my number then turned round & went straight back down he said “I can’t believe they make you go up there then come straight back down, the bastards!”. So we pushed on again I had a Snickers off Ian as I’d ran out of food in my pack & was starting to get hungry with 5 miles before Kildale. We reached the car park at the bottom of Captain Cooks monument where Jason Hayes had taken over crewing for Jo. I finally said yes to a bit food after turning down Emily & Scott countless times & grabbed 2 squares of peanut butter sandwich, the hardest thing I have ever eaten ever!! But it was fuel not for pleasure & it got me through to Kildale perfectly. We arrived at Kildale & drop bag 2 at 68 miles. Still around 3 hours under cut off & greeted by David Toth with the option of warm rice pudding or pizza I chose pizza which was promptly put in the oven while I took advantage of the buffet & my drop bag. The pizza arrived & it was like a little slice of heaven I’d been dying for some warm “real food” for some time now. I decided to make use of the facilities while the opportunity was there only to be greeted by what I named the toilet seat of doom! The seat wasn’t attached to the toilet so you had to balance it on top then sit down, I was gyrating like I was doing the hula hoop & was amazed it didn’t end in half naked getting rescued embarrassment. I spoke with Jo & Dee who was running with her. Then David told me he heard Dave say John had pulled out, I went over & found out John had been struggling all day with an injury & had decided to pull out he’d never said anything to me about this when we’d been running together. I realised then that was why they’d never caught back up after Saltburn gardens & I felt a bit crap for pushing on without them. I couldn’t dwell on that though so quickly got myself ready, went & asked Denise Benvin how Sue was getting on I was buoyed by the news she was still going strong & well ahead of cut offs. The 3 of us moved out for the section of the route I’d wanted them there for, Bloworth Crossing & The 3 Sisters.
Stepping out into the cold at 02:30 & thinking well if it’s this cold here its going to be awful up on Bloworth Crossing! As we started the long ascent from Kildale & I moved past 24 hours of being awake. The heady mixture of darkness & tiredness resulted in seeing things out the peripheral of my vision & having to double take almost everything to get my head round what I was actually looking at. This kept me amused in my head whilst the lads conversations kept me in semi-reality, well as real as it could be anyway, since I learnt more about chickens in those 3 hours than I’d learnt in my previous 38 years of life! We had a conversation about trig points which I was able to inform them that we would soon be passing the trig point that is the highest point on the North Yorkshire Moors, it turned out that soon in my head & soon in reality were 2 completely different things! Trudging up to Bloworth Jo, Dee & Dave came flying past us then we passed a pair of runners at their support vehicle just after this point I realised using the toilet seat of doom had also removed my bodyglide. So standing in the middle of the path bodyglide stick down my pants rubbing away as the 2 runners from their support vehicle passed was another amusing highlight. We got off again & passed the 2 lads so we were ahead of them with the head torches of Jo, Dee & Dave off ahead of us the head torches turned right through some trees then disappeared & we kept trudging and trudging and trudging. Then it started to Dawn on me that there’s no trees up here so what had I seen & more importantly where had the head torches gone? My mind was in full on trick mode & I started doubting I was going the right way, I knew there was a metal gate but surely it wasn’t this far? Have I missed a turn? The 2 lads are still behind us but are they just following me? Where the f**k is this gate? Then boom there it was I proclaimed “YES” Ian & David looked at me as if to say what? I just said I wasn’t sure we were going the right way which they found highly amusing. So we headed off towards the self clip and seitch back towards Clay Bank the sky started getting lighter & I knew day was breaking. We passed the trig point, what felt like days after I’d been talking about it, they decided they wanted to go get a photo I thought well there’s no way I’m walking that extra 20 metres just for that & carried on. When I saw the photo I wished I had, although if I’d climbed up there I’d probably be still there now.
But as I carried on I saw a sight I’d never seen coming from this direction knowing what I was looking at, The 3 Sisters in all their glory.
Elated by the breaking of the day & starting the descent to Clay Bank checkpoint we picked up the pace a bit & dropped down the final steep section to the road quicker than I ever had before. A couple of quick cups of Pepsi at the very cheerful musical checkpoint then we were off to tackle the sisters.
I’d been dreading this section since having a nightmare on it on the 55, which was the main reason I asked for support runners. It’s safe to say that by the time we reached the trig point on the far side of Lordstones those fears had been well & truly put to bed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I enjoyed it but it wasn’t a bad experience & I got through it a lot quicker than I had anticipated. I know this was down to Ian & David being there we’d reached the point where Ian had now ran further than he ever had before & that gave me a lift knowing he had done it for me! I was really happy knowing they both had done the worst hills the Cleveland Way has to offer just to help me out.
Now we started across the Moor picking up a nice pace & dropped into Scugdale in no time at all, where I had my water bottle refilled by somebody waiting for there runner to arrive. Again we moved on down the road, over the field & through the woods then with a loud “oh shit” it dawned on me what steps were just around the next corner. I counted 99 pieces of wood across the path 3 of which couldn’t qualify as steps but the other 96 certainly were steps & they sucked!
We ran along the forest track to the road, crossed the cattle grid & started the climb up Scarth Moor to the TV mast & the self clip. My feet were on fire by now & the stones under foot were just making things worse I wanted to cry but instead I started doing some mental mathematics. By the time we’d reached the self clip I worked out that if I could keep this pace up I’d finish at 15:15. David said give yourself a bit breathing room & say 4 o’clock (I turned the last corner at Helmsley onto the road that led to the sports hall at 4 o’clock on the dot).
We descended it Osmotherley at a good pace & I was feeling surprisingly good. We reached the alleyway & it was time to say thank you & goodbye to Ian & David the last 12 hours had been made infinitely better by them just being there! I moved on on my own towards square corner and the final drop bag at 90 miles. It was on the final part of the ascent to square corner that the weather started to change the wind was picking up & it was spitting on to rain. As I neared the top I saw David Scott who just said “I’m out I’ll spare you the details you don’t need that in your life!” Then as square corner came into view I saw Dave with James & Jo with Dee heading away from the checkpoint. It was then i thought should of had my support runners meet me later this is going to be hard. I ate some sandwiches & few other bits had a cup of extremely fizzy Pepsi then checked my watch 10:00am I said thank you to the marshalls turned into the rain & headwind & made my way up the ascent.
The section from square corner to high paradise can be summed up really simply, absolutely awful. Headwind, rain, 90% uphill, screaming legs & burning feet basically nothing good was happening I ran/shuffled when I could but was mostly forcing myself to power walk rather than getting sucked into barely walking. I felt like stopping numerous times even though I knew it was nearly done I was fighting all the way. It didn’t get much easier after high paradise to be fair my ability to run was almost at zero by the time I crossed the road & headed onto the last section towards Sutton Bank. I was just plodding along the path when I heard a voice from behind me say “how’s them sticks working out for you?” I should point out that from the very start of this race I’d carried my walking poles on my race vest but I was adamant I wasn’t going to use them from the start. Now this lad made an excellent argument how they were a great help right now this must’ve been around the 100 mile mark. I took my pack off took 1 stick off it then put it straight back on my pack & put my pack back on, stuff it what difference is it really gonna make now? So I shuffled on, if you had of seen me you would have thought I was 100 year old, then bumped into a lad doing the 160 we stuck together more or less for the last 10 miles keeping each other going I hasten to add he was moving a lot better than I was & he was 50 mile further into than me! Weird & funny thing that could only happen at that point in time it transpired that his first & second name was John Andrew mine is Andrew John, what’s the chances of that? Arrived at the turn off from the Cleveland Way & headed to the final checkpoint, the quiche was absolutely outstanding! Everything felt like it was taking forever but I was still on track to get to the end within the 45 minute window I’d worked out. Pushed on through Cold Kirby down into Rievaulx and up into the woods where I got my final burst of energy, it lasted maybe 100 metres, then that was it I barely walked the last 1-2 mile into Helmsley. When I reached the last road up to the sports hall I manged a half shuffle to loads of people cheering & clapping through the car park & into the hall.
It was done, I was done, I was never doing it again, I was wondering how I’d do next year……….
So the final figures were in:
Hardmoors 110 2015
60th out of 61 finishers
38 hours 12 minutes 43 seconds
Hardmoors 110 2016
41st out of 66 finishers
31 hours 46 minutes 25 seconds
I’d not only beat what I’d planned to do but wiped a whopping:
6 hours 26 minutes 18 seconds
Off my previous time.
Words can’t explain how happy I felt neither could I at that point or for a few days after as I was an emotional wreck.
That’s why I love Hardmoors events.