Tag Archives: Hardmoors Princess Challenge

Hardmoors Princess Challenge Ultramarathon, Ravenscar, Yorkshire, Saturday, September 2, 2017

31 miles / 50km

Jonathan Hamill

The Hardmoors Princess Challenge provides a choice of distance, with each option providing a challenge in their own right.  The Short n Sweet (8.5 miles), the One in the Middle (17.5 miles) and the Ultra (31 miles).  These races are not just for princesses, although wearing tiaras, tutus and pink garb is encouraged.  I had a tiara set out but my daughter sat on it, although I did pack a pink Trail Outlaws buff as an alternative!

 

Photo L-R: Jonathan Hamill, Kathryn Sygrove, Andy Greener, Kath Dodd

The Ultra was billed as a circular route, starting at Ravenscar, dropping South to Hayburn Wyke along the Cleveland Way, then along the Cinder Track (disused railway lines) via Ravenscar, continuing North to Whitby.  Taking in the 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey, the route returns along the Cleveland Way to Robin Hoods Bay, and finally back to Ravenscar.  It’s a toughie in terms of elevation!

 

 

I’m no mountain goat 🐐 but recently I’ve been falling more for trail than road.  I can’t put an exact finger on the cause but it is connected to my endless pursuit of ‘fast’ times.  I enjoy the sensation of running quickly and trying to beat my times.  I had a great year in 2016, breaking all my targets (e.g. 5k, 10k, HM).  Earlier this year my focus was on completing the Paris Marathon (oops, I’ve just remembered that I haven’t yet written a race report!). I started to wonder what happens if I go sub 4 hours? Do I then aim for sub 3:30, and do I keep going, or is there something else out there?

I’d never considered myself to be capable of running ultramarathons – maybe that doubt alone provided sufficient motivation. In any case, the prospect of the Hardmoors Princess 👸 Challenge captivated me. At 50km, it seemed a logical step up, and mindful of the added challenge of terrain, I entered the event with Andy (who had conquered the race last year).

 

In terms of prep, this differed substantially from my rigid and detailed 12 week Paris Marathon plan.  I run a fair bit usually and had done a 30km run (probably too fast) before going on holiday to France.  Fortunately, I managed to keep the legs turning a fair bit during my holiday (probably too fast) but in the few days between my holiday and the race, I had a feeling of being a little underprepared.

 

After a shopping trip on Friday afternoon to equip us with various snacks for the day, we agreed to set off at 0600hrs on Saturday morning.  Andy was in charge of pacing, and my responsibility was to ensure we navigated adequately.  Having bought an OS map, and armed with the route description, I set about marking up the map late Friday evening.  I think I had just over 5 hours sleep (a little less than usual – the excitement aplenty) and then the alarm went off – fortunately, I managed to silence it, and cancel the reserve, and the 2nd reserve alarms prior to tiptoeing around getting my stuff together.

 

And we were off – and in a little over an hour and a half, we were the second car into the parking field near to Ravenscar village hall.  We had a few moments, so we examined Andy’s extensive shoe collection in his boot, and he opted for a trusty pair of well broken in Brooks road shoes, and a length of gaffer tape (just in case).  A short walk to the village hall next, and we subjected ourselves to the mandatory kit check, prior to collecting our race numbers.  You do have to take mandatory kit lists seriously given the terrain, and environment but I did think that if we really needed a head torch, we’d be in a bad place.

 

Compared to road races, there was no limbering up, no strides, but there was a coffee van parked outside for those who required a shot of pre-race caffeine.  Having packed and adjusted my vest, we were summoned to the race briefing outside.  We then lined up on the road, had a quick photo taken, and we were off! 

 

I remembered all the advice from accomplished ultramarathoners of not setting off too fast, yet our initial downhill kilometre was 5:47/km.  We slowed as we joined the Cleveland Way and headed South.  The weather was fine and by the time we hit CP1 at Hayburn Wyke, the sun was out.  I had two 500ml soft flasks and had only drunk half of one (note to self, drink more early on), so the option for some Dandelion & Burdock drink and a handful of jelly babies seemed in order.

 

We joined the Cinder Track and returned to Ravenscar, with Kath who was suffering from jet-lag having just returned from the other side of the world, and Kathryn who was suffering from a bout of giddiness, so much so that we banned her from any more cola at the next checkpoints.  Undeterred, Kathryn sang her heart out to provide some musical accompaniment, the ‘bam-ba-lam’ of her tune keeping our cadence alive.  We approached CP2 at Ravenscar village hall and paused briefly for some water and refreshments.

 

And on we pressed, where my first navigation test presented itself – left or right.  Intuitively (as the map was well tucked away), I called left, and we joined the Cinder Track to Robin Hoods Bay and CP3, located conveniently beside some Public Toilets.  Prawn Cocktail crisps were gladly received at this point.  We then had some more Cinder Track miles which felt hard on the legs, and we were pleased (understatement) eventually to reach Whitby, where having amused some good tourist folk as we dashed through the town, we had the 199 steps to climb to Whitby Abbey.  The race instructions said we had to run them, and foolishly I did initially but with the wind taken out of my sails, I settled for a more sedate pace (walk) to the top.  Battling the urge in passing the ice-cream van, we pressed on along the cliff path, and we gladly reached CP4 just past the Saltwick Bay mini-market.  The marshalls at CP4 were delighted to see us, and we replenished our stocks of water, prior to continuing along the cliff top path.

 

The next stretch seemed to go on forever, and we ran past cows, up hills, up more hills, and eventually reached CP5 (which was the earlier CP3).  It was at this point that I thought the CP team were doing a weird dance, waving their arms – in fact, they were trying to describe the horror of the ups and downs that lay ahead.  Then the downhill stretch into Robin Hoods Bay – torture on the legs because although part of me wanted to cover the ground faster, my sensible side told me that a gallop downhill at this point would end in disaster.  What goes down must go back up, and we ascended countless steps up onto the Cleveland Way, heading to the delightful Boggle Hole – a lovely Youth Hostel apparently but a tortuous descent and ascent to escape towards Stoupe Beck.  Our route description said simply, ‘Ascend the steps’ but there was nothing simple about this.

Our pace had suffered on this stretch – the challenge of multiple descents and ascents taking their toll.  At one point, I became delirious that we had passed the marathon distance, and promptly took an unplanned dive for the deck.  Pride dented, we pressed on, and Ravenscar was in our sights but still some distance away.  There were some fairly brutal climbs, the worst perhaps being past the Cleveland Way Alum Works but we emerged past the National Trust centre at Ravenscar to familiar territory and the short climb up to the village hall.  We managed a graceful trot to reach the welcome sight of Ravenscar village hall and the finish (in 7:23:58)!  Those present (including Kathryn who had fled from us in the final section) gave us a clap and a cheer, and with medals in hand, we enjoyed a fantastic chip butty with salt, clapping and cheering for Kath and Claire (who had joined us earlier in the race) stormed through the door.  We bid our farewells and headed for the hills!

 

I’d urge anyone with ultramarathon curiosity to have a go at the next Princess Challenge. Sure, it’s a tough race with over 1100m of climbs but what makes it easier is the camaraderie of the organisers and marshalls who do a fantastic job – most are accomplished ultramarathoners in their own right.  The cola, dandelion and burdock, food and friendly cheer served up at the various checkpoints would galvanise the weariest of souls.

 

I really enjoyed the feeling of isolation, particularly on the cliff paths, with the odd reminder of us being in Yorkshire, as friendly hikers passed in the other direction with the odd, “Eyup”.  I learned that next time, I need to drink more early on.  I also might experiment with my choice of Cliff bars – I had two during the event but found the dry consistency challenging.  Yes, it was tough and hurt in a different way to a road race but on 2nd September, I became an ultramarathoner.  I’m grateful for the support of Lesley, Andy, this club, and Kelly and her team, including Scarborough & Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team who make the event happen.

 

The Princess Challenge is a fundraising event for the Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team.  If you can support their vital work via a donation, please do so here.

You can also relive the route via this link.

Hardmoors Princess Challenge, North York Moors, Saturday, August 30, 2014

30 miles

Kate Macpherson

Last Saturday as we drove from Durham towards Whitby and the sunrise turned the North York moors from grey to purple, I wondered what on earth had possessed me to get up ‘mind numbingly early’ (as Anita Dunseith had put it) to go and run for 30 miles. I had never run anything longer than 26.2 on the flat, comfortable tarmac. And here I was about to attempt my first mini-ultra on rolling terrain and coastal paths. I’d always vowed I’d ‘never run a marathon’ and ‘ultra runners are just insane’… and yet I ran the marathon I’d vowed I’d never do and the thought of trying an ultra niggled away at me until the point that I knew I had to at least give it a go.

I’d heard and read about the Hardmoors races and fancied trying one of them so when the Princess Challenge was announced it seemed the perfect way to dip my toe into ultra running. The Princess Challenge is the Hardmoors Charity Run, the proceeds from which go to the local Mountain Rescue. My lovely Dad was rescued in January by Edale Mountain Rescue when he slipped and broke his ankle in three places while out walking in the peak district so this run felt like a good way to say a tiny thank you to those amazing volunteers.

Ready to Go.

We arrived at Ravenscar bright and early and registered. It was nice to see the posse of Striders although Dave Robson’s comment that ‘the last 10 miles are really hard’ wasn’t quite the confidence boost I needed! The race director, Kelly, gave us an incredibly warm welcome which was lovely, it’s really something to be greeted by name by a race director rather than just being an anonymous number in a crowd! After a route briefing from Flip we gathered outside for photos and then, just after 9am we were off. Kath Dodd, a friend and experienced ultra runner had very generously said she’d run with me, normally she’d kick my butt and leave me in her dust!. (By the way Kath, when are you going to join Striders?) Kath and I agreed that Flip’s briefing hadn’t really allayed our fears about getting lost however, route description safely tucked into our race vests (or Jet Pack as my 8-year old likes to call it) we had no choice but to go for it …

The sky was crisp and clear as we set off south along the coast path. The terrain was quite tricky underfoot ( a mix of grass and narrow path) but every now and then we had to slow down to look down at the ocean and say wow! The sun had risen and sparkled off the water and at the risk of sounding cliched it was simply stunning. We then turned off the coastal path and headed back towards Ravenscar Village Hall. The first checkpoint. 8 miles of this run completed. Not really being used to the way these races worked I was surprised that we spent a few minutes hanging about the checkpoint, chatting, using the loo…and drinking cola. I hate coke. I never drink coke. The coke tasted like nectar.

Then off we set again, it was lovely to have the company of fellow Striders Dave Robson and Melanie Hudson as we ran north now on the cinder track towards Robin Hoods Bay. The cinder track was undulating and rocky, but the views down towards the Cleveland Way and the coast were beautiful. Dave and Mel were doing well and pulled ahead (Kath and I were a little worried at this point as we referred to that pair as our ‘Sat Navs’ as they had done the run a few times before. Kath can get lost in her own back garden so without Dave and Mel the navigating was down to me….). However, before we knew it we were heading into Robin Hoods Bay and the next checkpoint. At that point a badger ran into the road and ran along in front of us. Kath and I stopped and looked at each other to make sure we’d both seen it. We couldn’t possibly be hallucinating, I’d heard that ultra runners sometimes experience hallucinations but we hadn’t run far enough to hallucinate. Had we? The guys at the checkpoint didn’t believe us. “ Are you sure? Badgers are quite big you know?” Yeah, thanks for that. The coke tasted just as good at this checkpoint although the fact that Kath can eat Bacon crisps half way through a run still amazes me. Flip very kindly showed us the way back onto the cinder track and we were off and running towards Whitby. This was a lovely downhill run, lots of cyclists and walkers sharing the path and smiling at us as we passed them. We caught up with Dave and Mel again and it was great to have their company for a few chatty miles. I tried to ignore the fact that we were going steadily downhill. There were still over 10 miles to go. It couldn’t all be downhill…

Still smiling, must be an Ultra.

I was just starting to flag a little (Mel and Kath set a cracking pace whilst chatting away merrily!) when a marshall waved at us and said that the next checkpoint was only a couple of hundred metres away. A couple of hundred metres that included some very steep steps down. Ouch! The warm welcome at the checkpoint cheered us up considerably and the person who had decided to supply chunks of watermelon was simply a genius.

And then it was into Whitby. The sun was shining and Whitby was heaving with tourists. Many of whom seemed bemused to see sweaty runners wearing bizarre jet packs weaving in and out of them. “Is it a sponsored walk love?”….”yeah, well, sort of!”. Mark Dunseith had caught up with us at this point and he decided he’d stop for an ice cream. This was the moment I realised I was loving this run. How many other races have you done where it’s perfectly acceptable to stop for an ice cream? We climbed the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey, heeding Flip’s warning not make friends with any black dogs. I also tried not to make friends with the slightly tipsy bloke who offered me “£35 quid for your backpack love, you’ve only got chocolate in it”. When I declined (and pointed out there wasn’t any chocolate. Like there would be chocolate after 20 miles!) I had to spend the rest of the climb up the steps explaining why and what we were doing. Fortunately although he rather liked my jet pack, he was less enamored with the idea of joining us as we ran off again along the cleveland way at the top of the steps.

Mind the Gap. Now we were heading homewards. 10 miles to go. I’d be entering unknown territory and tried to stay mentally calm. Inside I was having a bit of a wobble, would I be strong enough to finish this run? The coastal path back to Ravenscar was beautiful, the sun was shining and the cliffs rose in sharp definition against the sea. But oh the steps! So many steps, down into the ‘holes’ and back out again. Periods of exhilarating running along flattish paths only to be greeted with more steps. At 22 miles I hit the wall and my legs decided to call it a day. I’ve never experienced that before. “But its flat, I should be running” I whined to Kath. In her wisdom she just said “eat something”. One marmite and almond butter sandwich later and everything seemed a little brighter. Maybe I was strong enough, maybe I could complete this run. We started laughing at the steps, joking and chatting with the walkers we passed and thanking the lovely ladies who cheered us on with “you go girls”. We passed 26.2 miles and I felt a little overwhelmed. The furthest I’ve ever run in my life and I’m loving it. The last few miles pulled steadily uphill but we were getting there. And then the final few metres of the run, turn right past the church and there was the village hall. As we walked in everyone clapped which overwhelmed me all over again! Then we were handed the best and blingiest medal I’ve ever seen in my life. And then I got to sit down and eat my own body weight in pizza and drink 10 cups of tea.

My aim had been to finish the run and finish smiling. I did both! It was an amazing experience, the Hardmoors organisation, welcome and camaraderie is legendary and I can confirm its all true. Such a generous and encouraging group of people, even to newbies like me. If you want to run in a beautiful part of our country, meet some fabulous people, challenge yourself to do something you’d never believe you can do and get to eat as much cake as you like then get yourself signed up for a Hardmoors event. I’m just off to check out their race calendar for the rest of the year….

Whitby.