Hardmoors 110, Saturday, April 30, 2016
I first started to run Hardmoors marathons in 2013 – I think Osmotherly was my first one. At the time, it nearly killed me – 29 miles and 5000 feet of climb taking me about 8 hours. I didn’t think that I would do another one but you soon forget the pain and get carried away with everyone else and before I knew it, I had entered a few more. In 2014 I first attempted the Hardmoors 60 which I didn’t manage to finish and I attempted it again in 2015 again not finishing. So you are probably thinking why would I then decide to enter the 110 miles?
Well it started when I was running around a muddy field on a dark, Monday night last November with Denise doing Tom’s grass session. Just very much in passing she told me that she was going to enter the Hardmoors Grand Slam in 2016 (the 30, 55, 60 and 110). I had never really aspired to the 110 or the Grand Slam even though I had seen others who I had met through Hardmoors achieving this and watched their immense satisfaction at what they had done. However I also knew that it would be much easier to do something like this if I had someone to train with so the next week, I entered the Grand Slam myself.
Denise and I decided that the best way to train for something as challenging as this was to follow a training plan and Denise found a 100 mile race training plan on the internet. She adapted it to fit the races that we were planning, starting with the Hardmoors Roseberry Topping marathon in the middle of December.
In addition to the training plan, I also did an hour of personal training every week which included calf raises, squats, lunges and lots of leg strengthening work.Unfortunately, Denise had an accident and broke her foot soon after we started and although we hoped that she would recover in time to train for the 110, this wasn’t to be the case.
I found the training plan really hard at times and had to take out training on a Monday night (grass session) as I literally didn’t have the energy left after long runs at the weekend to do it and to be quite honest it was getting me down (even though I really enjoy the grass sessions). Once I made the decision to take the Monday session out, I found the training a lot easier although I use the word “easier” very loosely!
Incorporating as many races as possible within the training plan was a blessing as I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, if I have committed and paid for a race I am far more likely to do it and this helped significantly with my motivation. During the period of training from mid November 2015 to the 30 th April 2016, I entered and completed the following races:
- Hardmoors Roseberry Topping marathon – December 2015
- Hardmoors 30 Miles – New Years Day 2016
- Disney 10k – January 2016
- Disney half marathon – January 2016
- Disney full marathon – January 2016
- NEMC Winter wonderland marathon – January 2016
- Hardmoors Saltburn marathon – February 2016
- NEMC South Shields marathon – February 2016
- Hardmoors 55 miles – March 2016
- Woldsman 50 miles – April 2016
My endurance improved significantly over the training period and when I completed the Hardmoors 55 well within the cut off I knew that I had a chance of completing the 110. My final race before the 110 was the Woldsman 50M and then I started a 3 week taper going down to just 15 miles a week which was really hard after peaking at 50 miles a week earlier on in the year. I didn’t know what to do with my time! During the 3 weeks of taper leading up to the 110 I drew up a plan of how I would complete the race and at what point I needed my support crew to help me (you are not allowed to enter the 110 without a support crew if you haven’t previously completed a 100 mile race). It is also compulsory for support crews to check in to checkpoints on the day and if they didn’t, you can be disqualified! I met with the support crew to agree who would do what on the day/s and I drew up a written plan so that everyone had a copy. I prepared a couple of bags of clothes/running shoes/gels etc and handed these out to support crew who would be at different points of the course.
The week before the race the weather was pretty nasty with hail, snow and gale force winds. This made me rethink what I would wear and I ordered some additional thermal running clothes very last minute.
The day before, Kerry and I travelled down to Scarborough with a car full of kit to try to meet every eventuality. The weather forecast had changed and Saturday was going to hopefully be a nice day, although Sunday was still forecast to be very cold with heavy rain. We spent the later part of the Friday eating as much as possible (carb loading) and we also had a couple of glasses of wine to aid sleep!
When the alarm went off at 6.15am I was feeling pretty anxious and even a little sick. We quickly got ready and headed off to registration at Filey Brigg. At registration I was fitted with a tracker which I had paid an extra £20 for so that my friends, family and support crew could see my progress. We were told that we had to carry full kit at all times which included waterproof jacket and trousers, head torch, a litre of fluids, emergency food and first aid, hat, gloves, mobile phone and I decided to carry a spare pair of gloves, an additional base layer and a buff. I had tailwind added to my water which was going to help with my nutrition and I also had a pork pie!
The race was late starting and we didn’t get off until 8.20am. I hadn’t managed to eat much of my breakfast as I was too nervous as a race of 110 miles was a complete unknown to me having only every completed 55 miles in one go previously. I did know though that I was probably as prepared as I was ever going to be and I had completed my training plan so if it didn’t happen this time, it never would!
I had times on my plan as to when I would get to the checkpoints and my plan was to count down the checkpoints (of which there were 19) rather than the miles. I hit the first checkpoint (5.5 miles in) with about 10 minutes to spare according to my plan and at the second checkpoint just before going in to Scarborough (7.5 miles in) Kerry was waiting for me to see if I needed anything. I changed out of my long sleeved thermal top and put a t-shirt on as the sun had come out and it was turning in to a glorious day and set off eating half of my pork pie (which I didn’t enjoy at all – in fact it might have put me off pork pies for life).
I then ran along the sea front at Scarborough running in and out of all the holiday makers of which there were many and then headed back on to the Cleveland Way to checkpoint 3 at 13 miles where I drank some water and took a few jelly babies. There were quite a few climbs up and down stairs along this section of the coast including Haeburn Wyke. I continued until I eventually arrived in Ravenscar (22 miles) where again I met Kerry and the plan was to change socks and refuel. I didn’t actually change my socks but just added some talcum powder (a tip from Craig my personal trainer) which made my feet feel really good. I had managed to get to Ravenscar 40 minutes ahead of plan and left with a skip in my step as I was feeling really positive about the day/s ahead.
I knew the next section to Robin Hoods Bay well and helped a couple of other runners along the correct route. It has a lovely long descent down and then a few cheeky steps at Boggle Hole and then down to Robin Hoods Bay. At Robin Hoods Bay I started the long climb up to the checkpoint and I bumped in to George and Ann who had come along to support me. What a fantastic surprise this was for me as I didn’t know they would be there. We checked in to checkpoint 5 (26 miles in) and then George ran a short section with me towards Whitby. George turned back but said that he and Ann would see me again at the next checkpoint, Sandsend (36 miles in). I carried on along the coast to Whitby and at the caravan park a mile or so before you go in to Whitby I bumped in to Emily Beaumont who was waiting for a runner that she was supporting and gave me a very welcome drink of cold water – it had turned in to a really lovely, warm day.
I carried on and then bumped in to Joanne Abbott who was heading back to support Brenda Wilkin who was attempting the Hardmoors 160 miles and had been running since Friday night – I had passed Brenda a couple of miles previously. When I reached the top of the Abbey steps in Whitby I treated myself to a 99 ice cream with raspberry sauce and it was absolutely gorgeous! I climbed down the abbey steps as I was eating it and then through the town which was packed with people and over the bridge following the Hardmoors sign to head onwards to Sandsend. I stopped and bought a packet of chips which I tried to eat as I was walking along and then my mobile phone started ringing. It was Catherine who was worried that I had gone off course as the tracker was saying that I had gone inland. I was pretty confident that I was on course at that point and that I was also only a couple of miles from the next checkpoint at Sandsend (turns out that tracker isn’t always 100% accurate and that I was right thankfully).
I carried on moving still trying to eat my chips which tasted like cardboard. I forced a few down as I knew that I needed as much fuel as possible to get me through the rest of the day and Sunday and then I binned the rest. I carried down towards Sandsend and Kerry, George and Ann were waiting for me. I checked in to the “checkpoint” (number 6 – 36 miles in) and then Kerry had to dress a burn that had started on my back underneath my bra. I also added some more talc to my socks and decided to continue in the same shoes. I probably spent about 10 minutes at the checkpoint.
On leaving Sandsend it was a steady climb for a couple of miles and then undulating along the cliff tops of the Cleveland Way. Then there was a steep descent down to Runswick Bay and a short run across the sand before a steep ascent up to the next checkpoint (41 miles in) where Kerry was again waiting for me. I somehow managed to go in to this checkpoint from the wrong angle and ended up having to climb over a barbed wire fence which was fun!
I spent about 15 minutes at this checkpoint as I needed to go to the toilet, refuel, fill my water bottles up and change my top to a long sleeved top. Kerry left her car here and then ran with me through to the next checkpoint. We met up with an American lady who was attempting the 160 and she tagged along with us for a few miles. This section saw us go through Staithes and Skinningrove and we eventually reached Saltburn (checkpoint 9) and 53 miles in at about 10.15pm. Here, Kerry and I were met by Angela who would run the next 57 miles with me and Teresa who took Kerry back to Runswick Bay for her car. I had a full change of clothes here in to thermals as it was getting really cold.
Angela and I left this checkpoint and now had to carry the route description because I was unsure of the route for the next 10 miles as I hadn’t had chance to reccee it. It turned out that we didn’t need to worry because I actually recognised a lot of the section as part of the Saltburn marathon and we headed up towards High Cliff nab through Guisborough woods. This however is where we became a bit unstuck. The route description said we needed to turn right and I knew that if we turned right we would end up going right down in to the woods and I didn’t think that this was right. However, instead of listening to my gut instincts, we followed the route description and ended up completely lost in the middle of Guisborough woods! I was cursing as I knew this could end the race and mean that we wouldn’t achieve the Kildale cut off of 5am. I also knew though that if we carried on we would eventually find a climb out of the woods that I know from other Hardmoors marathons so we decided to carry on rather than going back.
Luckily for us Anna was sat at home watching the tracker and realised we were off course. She phoned me (it was 1am by this point) and she guided us back out of the woods and back on course – we had lost about 50 minutes of time and it was going to be hard to now meet the cut off times. I was gutted as having got this far I would have been disappointed to not meet the cut offs and be timed out. Poor Angela had to put up with me cursing away for several miles!
We finally reached the top of Roseberry Topping at about 2am (66 miles in and an hour behind schedule) and again I was cursing because of the impending cut offs (Roseberry Topping was checkpoint number 10). There were still other runners behind us though so we decided to continue forward as fast as we could and I am glad that we did.
We left Roseberry Topping and headed off up to Captain Cooks monument. From here we descended down towards Kildale and at the bottom of the very long hill down Phil was waiting for us – it was fantastic to see him. He drove off up the hill to meet the runners behind us and we continued in to the checkpoint at Kildale (it was 4.30am so we were fine for time – 70 miles in). Dave Toth and Denise were at this checkpoint and they filled us with warm tea and pizza which was yummy. We only stayed at this checkpoint for about 10 minutes because of time constraints and we left without seeing Phil again and off to do the very long, steep climb out of Kildale. It was just starting to get light at this point so we took off our head torches.
I can’t remember that much of the next section over to Bloworth Crossing apart from that it was cold but beautiful seeing the sunrise come up.
At Bloworth Crossing there was a self clip and then we turned off to the right to head over to Claybank and checkpoint number 11 (79 miles in). As we reached the top of the sharp descent down in to Claybank it was fantastic to see Phil again and also Danny Lim who had come out especially to see us.
Danny took this next photo of us at the top before the climb down.
Down at the checkpoint we met Kerry and Catherine and were given hot tea which was really refreshing.We were quite behind schedule at this point so couldn’t hang around too long. I decided not to change clothes or shoes but to continue with what I was wearing. The next section of 11 miles was going to be really tough as it was over the infamous 3 sisters. Kerry and Catherine then joined Angela and I and we set off up the really tough climb up the first of the sisters to the top of Wainstones. I was actually still feeling quite sprightly at this point!
The four of us carried on up to the top of Wainstones and at the top you have to climb over large rocks as you start to descend down the other side before you hit the tough climb up the second sister.
Then eventually climbing up and over Lordstones – the views were breathtaking! On leaving Lord Stones we had the unenviable task of climbing the fourth huge hill in a row (I’d only told the others that there were 3) and even after this climb we weren’t completely finished as there were the long steep steps before we climbed down in to Osmotherly.
The weather took a turn for the worse at this point and it started to rain and hail heavily, along with strong winds on the tops this made going forward pretty difficult. As we came in to Osmotherly, Phil was waiting for us and said that we had enough time to get to Osmotherley Square Corner (another 2 miles further on) before the final cut off. I wasn’t convinced and had a bit of a melt down at this point as I thought that I was going to end up being timed out at 90 miles and after getting this far, I didn’t want to give up.
We dug deep and started the steep climb up to Square Corner. When we arrived at Square Corner the marshals said I had just made it and that it was ok to carry on and I was elated with this news.
We actually realised at this point that we had just done a 13.5 mile section which according to the instructions should have been 11 miles and that it meant that instead of 20 miles to go we only had 18! What a bonus. I also wondered why the pain killers I had taken earlier hadn’t been working for the pain I was experiencing in my foot and realised at that point that I had taken anti-diarrhea tablets rather than pain killers – everyone was in hysterics.
Kerry and Catherine stopped here and Angela carried on with me, Denise and Rachael. A mile or so along here we were passed by a couple of runners who were in the very latter stages of the Hardmoors 160 miles and then the tail runners caught us up (Dave Robson being one of them). We then became a group of 6 trudging through the mud towards the last checkpoint just after White Horse. The mud was pretty awful in places and with really tired legs it made this section very hard. Also, I don’t know at what point my back started to go, but I found that I had developed a stoop and I just couldn’t stand upright. I was also starting to suffer at this point from sleep deprivation and struggled massively to keep my eyes open.
We reached the last checkpoint (103 miles in) and the marshals there were fantastic. Chris had also come out to support and gave me a big hug telling his kids that I was the mad lady that he had told them about! From this checkpoint to the end, Denise and Rachael helped me by supporting me either side because I couldn’t stand up properly. It was a very slow and arduous section and at times I thought we would never reach the end. If it wasn’t for Denise and Rachael I am not sure I would have! At about 4 miles to go I had to stop to vomit which was pretty awful but I picked myself back up and carried on because I couldn’t give up now. Another mile further on and we met Dave Toth who had run out to meet us and it was amazing to see him. He told a porky pie and said that the end was just round the corner and it wasn’t and it wasn’t around the next half a dozen corners either but that was his job to try and keep me going.
Finally we did get to the end of the woods where we could see Helmsley and my mum was waiting for us. She was in a bit of a state and told me that I was never doing anything like this again as she was so worried about me. I told her that I was definitely never doing anything like this again but she didn’t believe me. We carried on literally just putting one foot in front of the other in to Helmsley and eventually I reached the finish – I had completed the Hardmoors 110 miles in 36 hours and 48 minutes. 99 people had set off and 66 had finished. Only 22 ladies had finished!
Here’s a picture of Jon Steele, the Hardmoors Race Director who gave me my medal. I was handed a cup of tea which I drank and then promptly vomited up. I managed to get to my mum’s car and she drove me home. She had to help me out of the car and out of my very dirty smelly clothes and I managed to get in to the bath before finally getting in to bed after being up about 42 hours without any sleep. I didn’t even have the energy to drink a large Bacardi and coke that my mum had poured!
I couldn’t have completed this race without my support crew who were totally amazing and also a few other friends who came out and supported me. Thank you to:
- Kerry Barnett who drove me down the day before, crewed all day on the Saturday meeting me at all of the compulsory checkpoints, running Runswick Bay to Saltburn and then from Claybank to Osmotherly Square Corner and finally being at the end.
- Angela Greathead for running with me from Saltburn to the end about 57 miles (plus the bit where we were lost).
- Catherine Smith for running with me from Claybank to Osmotherly Square Corner.
- Denise Benvin for running with me from Osmotherly Square Corner to the end.
- Rachael Liddle for running with me from Osmotherly Square Corner to the end.
- Teresa Archer who came down in the middle of the night from Durham to pick Kerry up and take her to pick her car up.
- Phil Owen for popping up all over the place and giving us endless encouragement.
- Anna Seeley for being awake at 1am and guiding us through Guisborough Woods.
- Dave Toth who ran out from the end to help bring me in to the finish.
- George and Ann Nicholson for meeting me at Robin Hoods Bay and Sandsend.
- Danny Lim for turning out early Sunday morning to meet us at Claybank.
- Chris Lyons for the big hug at the last checkpoint.
- Mum for worrying about me and getting me home when I felt like I was half dead lol.
- And every other volunteer/marshal who helped out over the weekend. You were all amazing.
- Jon and Shirley Steele for putting such amazing events on.
Would I do it again, probably as it was a fantastic experience (sorry mum) but next year I am supporting a friend (Denise Benvin it’s your turn) and then after that I intend to marshal/support for years to come.
I should also mention that I am raising money for Acorns Childrens Hospice and to date have raised £615. Hoping to raise more though over the next few months. My just giving link is: https://www.justgiving.com/Sue-Jennings10.
Thanks for reading!