I did not enjoy this race.
Any race report which begins with the above statement usually means lots of complaints and whinging about the event. I can’t fault the event, the route or anything else. I simply had a bad day.
Anyone who has ever ran a Hardmoors event will be aware why they are called ‘Hard’moors. They are not easy events, nor are they designed to be. The North York Moors is not flat and each event in the series comes with bonus miles to give you more value for your money, or so Race Director Jon Steele says. I could have done without the bonus miles at this event. On second thoughts, the bonus miles weren’t too bad. It was the main event I struggled with.
Starting at Chop Gate Village Hall on a glorious sunny day I wasn’t sure how the day was going to go. I have been struggling recently with a series of ‘niggles’. Nothing that quite constitutes an actual injury, just niggles. Right knee, left hip, right ankle, one of them always seems to want to give me some discomfort. Joining me today was my friend and former Strider Bill Ford. Bill has been struggling with an actual hip injury and had dropped down from the full marathon distance to the half to see how the day went. We were never planning on running this event together, and I, expecting to be somewhat quicker than Bill took his car key off him so that I could collect our bags from it at the finish. Joining us on the start line were fellow Strider Jane Dowsett, who was also struggling with and injury, and Durham Mum on the Run Yvonne Collingham. Shortly after 10am we were off.
The start of this race is the hardest start of any race that I have ever taken part in. A 30-meter sprint to a stile (I just walked because of the queue to get over it) and then a 700-foot climb up hill (Approximate Figures from Strava) for the first 1.2 miles. I felt good during this climb and although my heart was pounding I was maintaining a good stride walking up the hill.
Once at the top you begin a steady and enjoyable run downhill (mostly) to the Checkpoint at Scugdale which is around 6 miles in. This was probably the most consistent running I did all day. I found myself overtaking people on this stretch, and whilst maintaining a consistent pace began speaking with a group from Glossopdale Harriers who had travelled up from the Peak District to run this event as a group. I was set to pass, then be passed over and over by this group throughout the day.
Leaving the Checkpoint I started ascending Carlton Bank, before entering the woods. I probably should have been running, however a mouth full of Jaffa Cakes picked up at the Checkpoint prevented that, and by the time I’d successfully devoured them it was too late to run. Up the Steps in the wood, out of the wood and up, up up. Some running did occur on the top before the first of the technical descents.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a technical descent is let me summarise; lots of uneven rocks / stones forming a path / steps down the hill. Steep downhill running isn’t my strong point to begin with. Throw in uneven ground and steps and, well, you get the idea. The fast guys seem to simply grace over terrain like this, not worrying about turning an ankle or going over. Me, I’m 15 plus stone, not exactly in the best of shape, being light on my feet is not a feature I possess.
A cautious steady stumble had begun to the bottom and into Lordstones. Descents such as these really take it out of your knees and quads, at least they do mine. I was feeling the climbs in my legs and still faced the ‘Three Sisters’. I had my water bottle refilled at the bottom. I’m not sure if it was an official checkpoint or just a nice lady with a jug of water.
Once again on ‘runnable’ ground I proceeded to run to the bottom of the first of the ‘Three Sisters’ Cringle Moor. Running is a term I use loosely as my legs simply weren’t loving life. Jogging, perhaps? More likely just shuffling.
Up and over Cringle Moor, followed by Cold Moor and finally Wainstones. The first two of these are essentially a tough climb up followed by a tough technical descent with no room for any actual running to occur. The third of the ‘Three Sisters’ and the one which the race is named after the Wainstones does allow for a short amount of running on the top but not a great deal. After going up and down the first ‘sisters’, scrambling through the Wainstones whilst watching some guys climbing them (think ropes and helmets) my legs had nothing left in them. I can’t recall actually running any of the top before descending to the checkpoint and road crossing at Clay Bank, about 12 miles in.
At the checkpoint, feeling tired, I made a huge mistake.
Whilst having my water refilled I was asked by the Marshal if I’d like some electrolytes in it. I stupidly said yes, and she dropped half a Zero tablet into my bottle. Now I regularly take Zero Tablets, just not whilst I’m running as I have found they upset my stomach. On I pressed eating Jaffa Cakes whilst ascending the last real climb of the course up Clay Bank, sipping my Cherry Zero infused water as I went. As I reached the top I remember greeting a marshal with a few select swear words that really shouldn’t feature in a race report. My comments weren’t directed at him by the way, just the course and my condition in general. He took it all in good spirit and said, “Well done, You’re nearly there”. I suspect I wasn’t the first to mutter similar at him.
The next three, yes, three, miles were all pretty good in terms of being able to run, I however was not. I started running but the niggles were kicking in, left hip, right knee. All bearable though the real damage was going on inside. The Zero in my water was now making me feel sick, running and shaking it all around inside was not a nice sensation. I adopted a run walk strategy on a part of the course I really should have been comfortable running. I pushed on though thinking that I was still ahead of Bill, Jane and Yvonne. If I was finding it this tough, how were they finding it with their actual injuries.
Mile 15 to 16 is all downhill back to the finish, it wasn’t a particularly steep descent either so should have been runnable. I however was really starting to struggle, the pain in my right knee was hurting presumably just from all the impact of the descents and I was still feeling sick each time I ran. I mostly staggered my way downhill to the road which brings you back to the village hall and the finish. I crossed the stile onto the road and with the finish in sight proceeded to run. I might be hurting, feel sick, and not be in a good place but I was not going to just walk into the finish.
I’d finished. 4 Hours 30 according to my watch. I’ve ran marathons faster. This was a real tough challenge with not a huge amount of running in the middle. I was exhausted. Then I heard a voice.
“Where’ve you been like?” It was Bill. “If I’d know you were gonna have a nightmare I’d have kept my car key”. Bill had dropped out at half way, his hip injury causing him pain. All my thoughts of at least I’m ahead of Bill and haven’t been passed by Jane had been pointless. Bill had been sat round waiting for at least an hour, and Jane finished about 5 mins after me. If the race had been 17 miles and not 16.5 I’m sure she would have passed me too.
I haven’t seen the official results yet, but at least I (think) I can take away the claim of being the first Strider home in the Half. Mark Kearney had to go one better and win the Full Marathon, probably in less time than it took me to do the half. Bloody show off!
|Place||No||Time||Surname||Name||Cat||Club||First in Cat|
|3||353||2:36:35||Leake||Alice||F||Leeds City Athletic Club||1st F|