I woke to perfect conditions for this fast race. A 6km jog brought me to the school and a packed but well organised event. I think it’s hit its capacity now. I checked my bib to see what my starting pen was. Dalmation. A dalmation’s quite fast I think. I hope I didn’t put anything too ambitious down for estimated finish time when I entered all those months ago.
I’d expected to be shivering on the start line but the sun was out and there was no wind and all was good. I heard some woofing and off we went. Previously I’ve found it a bit of a crush initially but there was a bit of space and I settled down resisting the temptation to go off too fast. I’d decided not to look at my Garmin until the first kilometre marker.
In a measured race like this I usually go on average pace. My PB for a 10K was 47 minutes from 2012 on the same course. Realistically I’d be happy with a sub-50. A confidence boost that my training was settling down and a useful benchmark.
At the first km I checked my watch. Average pace and actual pace. They were awfully high. I realised I was wearing my old watch and it was calibrated in old money. And I didn’t even have it set to show elapsed time. This was stupendously frustrating and I spent the first half of the race trying to convert 5 min/km in my head to min/mile pace. Not with any success
I felt like I was running ok and didn’t think I had much spare. At the half way point I edged up the pace with the view of running a good negative split. It’s a great spectator course and I’d already spotted Roberta as I’d flown past Elvis. What. A. Voice. And as we got to around 6km I saw her again as I passed under the pier.
I like a good bit of music on a road event and Southport must put the classiest act on that I’ve ever seen in an event. The Rock Choir. The race is worth it for this brief blast alone.
I pushed on and kept winding the pace up. It was a fast day and with 3 km to go I felt I was running it about as hard as I could. My concentration was not what it might be though as I had …
Till I see Marianne walk away I see my Marianne walkin’ away
… going round and round inside my head. Who sang that?! It took another kilometre before I finally clicked the connection. Boston. More than a Feeling. Sung like I’d never heard it before. Brilliant.
I ran a tight controlled hard race even if it was effectively blind and I was none too pleased to cross the line in 50:14. These 14 seconds stung. It would be easy to think that if I could have seen my pace I might have been able to nip under 50 minutes but I’m not so sure. Great conditions, hard race, good controlled negative split. I realised that I wasn’t really that bothered about the 14 seconds as I’d ran a controlled race. I jogged passed the queues for the buses to the park and ride. Why get the bus when a 6km jog back to base can be all part of the training.
I ran the first Mad Dog 10K 9 years ago and watched it grow to be one of the best races in the country. You have to be pretty quick to get in nowadays. I don’t know if a ballot system is an inevitable consequence of its success. What I really like about it though is the feeling of being part of a local grass-roots race organised by volunteers where so much of the income is donated to small local charities.
Orienteering isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I hadn’t expected much of a response when I lobbed one of my periodical e-mails onto the list promoting a local event. It just made it all the nicer when first Nigel, Jan and then Shaun and Ros turned up at Cong Burn on a sparkly sunny cold winter’s Wednesday in January. This was an army event so were only three courses on offer and Jan and Nigel were going for the hardest one (Blue) while Shaun was approaching with more caution and opting for the middle course (Light Green). Shaun’s logic being that he didn’t want to end up doing so badly on Blue that he never wanted to do another event again.
I’ve said many times that Orienteering events are surprisingly daunting when you first turn up because they seem a bit complicated and everyone else seems to know what they’re doing. In an army event like today there are also a lot of soldiers with racing vests that often include words like ‘rifles’ and ‘lancers’ somewhere. Which doesn’t help. Even our neighbouring orienteering club Newcastle and Tyneside Orienteers are more often known by their acronym NATO.
Jan was a bit nervous so I suggested just treating it like an interval training session. A bit of fartlek. Which is basically what orienteering is. Speed work where the speed, effort, intensity and duration depends largely on how good you are. The worse you are, the better and longer the workout.
Staggered starts can sometimes make these sociable events surprisingly unsocial. By the time I’d got myself registered, organised and to the start the others had already gone. Shaun had been miffed to discover that you don’t get a look at the map with the course on it until the watch has started. I always advocate sprinting around the first corner, hopefully in the correct direction, in a purposeful manner, then as soon as out of sight of the start, stop and have a proper look. Although nowadays I’m a bit more relaxed and sometimes my starts involve a lot of Not Moving until I’ve had a good at where I’m going and got something approaching a plan.
Conditions were great for orienteering and the ground was crispy and lovely to run on. I’m not ashamed to say I was well chuffed to discover I’d caught Nigel and one of my NN clubmates Bob Cooper around control 6. Mindful of a similar experience with High Cup Nick 10 years ago I didn’t allow myself to get overconfident. Nigel had fluffed up control 3 and lost a lot of time. Orienteering is like that. One bad control and you can haemorrhage time away. When it happens early in a race you have to give yourself a bit of a talking to as it’s easy to lose enthusiasm for the rest of the course.
Nigel, Bob and I were in each other’s radar through to control 8 where things suddenly got interesting:
What would you do? It’s not a long leg, only a couple of hundred metres direct. I’d already forgotten my advice to myself about over-confidence and decided by far the best and quickest way was to drop down to the beck, leap it like a gazelle and a quick lunge north would take me to control 9. I noticed Nigel had decided to stick to the path and take the long way round.
I didn’t see Nigel for the remainder of the course. He remained ahead of me while he gradually got more into the groove and his split times steadily improved. What I did see from my vantage point of knee deep in a disgustingly brown (I hope it was peat) marsh was a slow scrub where Jack Frost had decided not to tread leaving it perfect for energy sapping trudging. Good practice for Allendale I guess.
Although the time lost wasn’t a lot these mistakes tend to dent your confidence and you either compound things by running about in a panic or slow yourself right down and collect your thoughts. Since my legs were wet, cold, and a disturbing shade of brown, and the only things flapping were my shoelaces I decided to notch things back a bit and had a fairly uneventful few controls where I got warmed up again and into the adventure.
Control 13 to 14 brought the next interesting challenge. What would you do?
The temptation is to contour directly along the steep south-east bank or to climb up and run along the road. In my experience with this sort of leg if there’s easy running further away it’s best to take the long-way round. I crossed the bridge and had an easy run along to the bottom of the bank at 14, back across the beck and up to the fence. The fence rather obligingly had a stile and a proper path on the other side so I hopped over and ran alongside the inside where it was easier while looking for the control. It was a good clean leg and I was pleased with myself.
I didn’t notice at the time but the red vertical lines on the map show that this area is clearly out of bounds and I, along with half the army, had taken the inviting path on the OOB side of the fence. In the grand scheme of things it made little difference to my time but I was annoyed at myself for not noticing and had this been a big event and I’d been spotted it would’ve been an automatic DQ. But few people noticed and it’s not as if I’m going to write about it on the internet or anything.
The remainder of the course was reasonably straightforward but the planner had made good use of terrain forcing competitors over a wide variety of challenging terrain and vegetation. I finished and back at download I found Nigel having a cuppa where it soon became apparant Jan and Shaun were still out on the courses.
We walked back out onto the fell and into the sunshine where we could get a commanding view of runners finishing. Like battlefield commanders we surveyed the surroundings and speculated where Jan and Shaun might be. Shaun was first to finish getting doggedly round all the controls. He had been frustrated by his Garmin’s auto-pause feature which interpreted every pause as an opportunity to stop recording so he was a bit unsure how long he’d been out.
Jan kept us guessing but before we got to the ‘should we getting worried’ stage she showed up at the download area. We sent her packing to the Finish which she’d decided to skip, then come back to download. It was largely academic though. Jan had a duff dibber that hadn’t flashed at any of the controls she’d visited. And the controls she had visited had been in an order of her choosing. Of all the tips I thought of offering before the start, visit the controls in order hadn’t been in there. Perhaps I should have though. I had a similar conversation out on the course with Sue and Kerry at the Durham City Night championships in 2015. If your experience of orienteering has all been score events, and no one has told you otherwise, you could be forgiven for thinking that order is optional.
I’m used to being the only Strider at these events so it was lovely afterwards to head down with the Strider platoon to the Tea Barn and investigate the coffee and cakes and indulge in a bit of data analysis. This was an event where there were often varied and quite different route choices between controls. Not necessarily better or worse than each other. But always with consequences.
The plan was coming together in early 2018. A friend and I were talking of taking on the Hardmoors Marathon series in 2019 after several 10k and half marathon races in 2017 and 2018. The aims of increasing the distance, the elevation, the number of events over a 12-month period were all challenges we believed we were up for….and as part of the training in advance of the first ‘Chapter’ of the Hardmoors series we thought it would be good to take on the New Years Day Hardmoors 15. 15 I hear you say, but the title says 30…. there must be a mistake, a typo in the report which needs correcting…..alas no. The only error occurred by me failing to log on in time to secure a spot in the 15 being forced to sign up for the 30. The cursor hovering over the payment button longer than usual given this was on New Year Day…..however it was not enough to deter me, we pressed proceed and we were in, booked up for 30 Hardmoors miles.
Generally having a good weekly mileage behind me I was confident I could manage the distance but with little hill work other than races in December I went into Christmas wanting to know what I was getting into. A recci of the route a week before helped me understand the areas I thought I could gain time against the ‘mountain goats’ in the race and have a better understanding of the terrain and stages of the race.
An early morning start as usual for the race with the long drive to Robin Hoods Bay for the 9:30 klaxon. As usual the registration area was already busy, seeing some familiar faces and already feeling the warmth and positivity which these races and the runners seem to have in bucket loads. I collected my number, passed the mandatory kit check (and was asked if I was running with my travelling back pack…scary), packed up the hydration vest and started to go for the warmup and congregation on the starting line.
As the competitors gathered on the starting line around me I often reflect on the why, the what and on the where did all this seem normal. A near 40 year old man, wearing compression tights, a race vest, hydration pack and even packing walking poles and a compass…. On New Years Day in 2000 if I could have saw into the future of 2019 I would have reached for another beer to take the image from my mind.
I knew the route, I had completed the research, first 6-7 miles was along a cinder track to Whitby, through the town and up the steps to the abbey. I new this would be a good stretch for me, solid footing, slight incline but steady pace would have me in a good position I hoped a quarter of the way into the race. As the race started there were 4-5 of us in a pack for the first mile…. steady pace until the lead runner picked up the pace and started to kick out 6:30 min/miles towards Whitby. I responded by increasing slightly but knowing we had 27+ miles to go wasn’t interested in a foot race this early on in proceedings and stuck to a slightly revised version of my plan.
After the climbing of the steps I had opened up a gap behind me to the third placed runner but had no sight of the leader. Thinking he had kept his pace going I kept the best rhythm possible on the contours of the Cleveland Way on the route back to Robin Hoods Bay for the half way check point. The ground and weather to us were kind in equal measure as we ran along the cliff tops, the ground hardened since the previous weeks recci which I was extremely glad of which allowed me to make good time over the first 13 miles.
Back into Robin Hoods Bay check point at mile 13/14, shouted out my number, gave a wave to the marshal, grabbed a handful of jelly babies and off I went. Next stop Ravenscar and Hayburn Wyke for the third quarter of the route. Again I knew this was back on the cinder track, firm footing but a steady climb to Ravenscar before flattening to Hayburn, chance to push on to see if I could see the leader…..all to no avail but knowing I had tried left me confident I shouldn’t have lost time on third place. Here I filled up my water for the first time since the start before the last push back along the coast and the Cleveland Way to Robin Hoods Bay. Taking on more fuel I prepared for the technical part of the race, a series of climbs and descents from cliff top to bay, down stone steps, boggle holes and the like as we raced back to Robin Hoods Bay; wind in our faces as we made our way over the cliff tops and through the tree lined trail.
Running down through the steep descent through Ravenscar to the Alum works, remembering this on the recci and the route to go through the works on the Cleveland Way through to Robin Hoods Bay…. or was it straight past the Alum works? I kept going knowing it shouldn’t be that much of a detour, only to come out and turn around and see third place behind me…. from nowhere. Immediately the pace picked up as I passed multiple tourists walking along the coast for a New Year’s Day stroll, a million ‘excuse me’s’, ‘runner coming through’ and ‘sorry’s’ later I was down at the base of Robin Hoods, no sign of third place…..on reflection given how bad I thought I would smell after the best part of four hours running you would think they would move quicker out of my way. Ill forgive them though due to the breeze and the fresh sea air combined with the previous nights copious amounts of alcohol.
One last push I knew, a sting in the tail, a steep climb on tarmac from the bay to Flyingdales community centre. A push and drive of the legs up to the crest and a turn back to see no one behind me…a chance to relax, gather and refresh the legs before the climbs levelled off allowing a few minutes to find rhythm before the finish line and put on a brave face….. and finally seeing the first placed runner again.
The clue is invariably in the race series title that these will be Hard but the spirit of the organisers, competitors, marshals and supporting families make these fantastic races and extremely popular for all ages and abilities and something I would recommend to anyone.
Overall a great race, great day and great way to start 2019. 4 hours of running, over 2000 foot of climb in a beautiful part of Northern England….and happy to come away with second place.
p.s. it was also great to see Dave Toth picking up his 1000 Hardmoors Mile in the 15 event…impressive if punishing running!
Weather windy but warm for the time of year and traffic pleasantly light throughout the journey.
Illness removed one rider from the start line, wisely avoiding the perils of sneezing inside a full-face crash helmet, but numbers were maintained with the welcome addition of pillion Lynn.
Four bikes (800; 900; 1000; 1100cc, and 74years old in total), four riders, and one pillion(total age – don’t ask) set off from the Rose Tree Inn, Shincliffe at 10am and travelled down to Kirkleatham Hall, our chosen start and finish checkpoint on the Boundary 500 Classic Challenge circuit. Potential navigational issues for the day were flagged up when we struggled even to find the entrance to the café!
Having decided upon an anti-clockwise circuit our first checkpoint came after a long haul to the location halfway between Leyburn and Masham; unfortunately we added a 20 mile detour through Aysgarth before getting there. A short hop on to the second checkpoint at Masham with lunch at the brewery visitor’s centre.
Back across the Vale of Mowbray to Osmotherley and a delightful road up onto and across the moors towards Helmsley; enlivened by two Hercules transport planes flying up the valley on our right and overtaking us on the same level, if not lower!
Not much route choice from there onwards but we (ok, I) still managed to miss the turning for Rosedale Abbey out of Hutton-Le-Hole which meant we had to reverse our intended direction of travel through the last three checkpoints along the Esk valley. The consequence of this was yet more extra miles but with views of some stunningly illuminated moorland scenery as the sun lowered towards the horizon but eventually with the added hazard of driving straight into the sun as we turned onto the Whitby-Guisborough road to take us back to our start point.
Finish time – 1830 hours.
Kirkleatham Hall, TS10 5NW
34 miles from Durham
Brymor Ice Cream Parlour, HG4 4PG
Masham, HG4 4EF
Osmotherley, DL6 3BN
Beadlam Grange Farm Shop, YO62 7TD
Hutton-le-Hole, YO62 6UA
Castleton Market Place, YO21 2EG
Danby Visitors Centre Car Park, YO21 2NB
Lealholm, YO21 2AJ
Kirkleatham Hall, TS10 5NW
161miles for the Classic Challenge
230miles return from Durham
248miles Chester-le-St/Washington return
Many thanks to those taking a day out of the working week and all for a fine example of sustained careful and considerate riding.