Tag Archives: Hardmoors 55

Hardmoors 55(50), Guisborough,North Yorkshire, Saturday, March 16, 2019

55 miles

Simon Graham

Having run a few marathons in previous years, 2018 became the year of the Ultra. My other (better) half, Jill, decided that we should run Paris Marathon as a training run for the Dukeries 30 miler, which in turn was a warm-up for the St Cuthberts Way 45 miles.

Upon completing St Cuthberts I found myself looking for another challenge. Did I want to ‘just be’ a marathon runner in future? I decided that since I prefer the challenge of off-road to pounding the miles on tarmac racing, after a time, and having felt I had more to give after Cuthberts, that I’d go for it. The Hardmoors 55.

This year the 55 became the 50 to commemorate 50 years of the Cleveland Way (along which the race is run). The route was shortened (to 54 miles) and an extra trip over the summit of Roseberry Topping added for ‘fun’. To make things even more appealing the route this year ran from north to south meaning the big climbs would be in the first 30 miles. The second half is by no means flat.

I spoke with my friend, fellow Strider and Hardmoors 1000 club member Dave Toth about doing this with me and sticking together throughout, as I had no intention of plodding around the moors alone. Dave agreed, and I knew he would keep me right pace-wise. I have a history of going out far too fast and blowing up!

Roll forward months of training and miles and the day arrived.

At 6 am in Durham I opened the front door of the house to discover heavy snow falling from the skies. ‘Great’, I thought, just what we needed!

We arrived at Guisborough Sea Cadets at just after 7 am. It was a wet and miserable 4 degrees. Storm Hannah had decided she was going to make an appearance bringing with her 50 mph winds and driving rain. This was at a low level, what on earth was in store for us when we hit the tops of the moors I thought. We started the race in full waterproofs and were to need them all day.

A few minutes delay to the start meant that waterproofs were already coming in useful as we assembled outside of the Sea Cadets in Guisborough. At 8:20 (ish) we were off.

With Dave knowing how to pace these things, I was very careful of not getting swept away in the rush, jogging out of the Sea Cadets and up the hill towards the stile where we would go off-road. Over the stile and through the woods was a good place to start just gently running towards the first big climb of the race, the Tees Link, up to High Cliff Nab, where we would join the Cleveland Way. This was the first real challenge. The Tees Link was a bog fest and staying upright was the challenge. At least the woods provided some shelter from the rain.

And then the wind hit…

At High Cliff Nab, already wet and covered in mud we were greeted by Hannah and her 50mph winds. Undeterred we pressed on towards Roseberry Topping with rain coming at us sideways driven by the fierce winds. Climbing up Roseberry was tough, descending for the first time even tougher. The front runners were already flying down Roseberry for the second time as we went up for the first, the wind not seeming to affect them. These guys are machines I thought.

So, up to the summit of Roseberry Topping, down the other side to the marshals who then told us to simply turn back around and ascend Roseberry again before rejoining the Cleveland Way and heading off to Captain Cooks Monument.

At the summit of Roseberry, we were greeted by a familiar face. My better half Jill (who was acting as support crew for the day) had climbed up from the car park at the bottom to provide some much-needed cheer! I’m not sure who was crazier, me for entering this race, or her for going up there to see me for 20 seconds!

The section from towards Captain Cooks Monument and from there into the checkpoint at Kildale is mainly downhill (apart from the climb to the monument itself) which allowed some actual running to be done but by now after a tough start, I could feel my legs hating the constant force that running downhill puts on them.

Kildale to Clay Bank, from what I can remember of it, is mainly just a huge climb up to the top of the moors followed by a long slog across the exposed moorland. We attempted to run parts of this but the wind and horizontal rain were simply making it all seem rather pointless with little progress being made. It was here, somewhere near Bloworth Crossing, we were passed by someone wearing snow goggles. There had been lots of discussion on Facebook about snow goggles in the days before the race, but I hadn’t actually expected to see someone wearing them! Onwards we plodded, power walking and running, or at least attempting to, towards Clay Bank.

At Clay Bank Checkpoint there was Jill again with coffee and a much-needed food resupply.

Onwards we pressed over the ‘Three sisters’ (even though there’s four of them). Climb up, run a little over the top, descend and repeat three times before coming into Lord Stones Country Park.

At Lord Stones, or what I thought was about the halfway point (turned out to be only 22.5 miles), we met Jill and our friends David and Debbie who has driven down to provide some support. I think the support was as much for Jill, spending the day sat driving from place to place and waiting, as it was for us. A quick change of clothes into a fresh dry kit, a food resupply and again we were off, this time up the ‘fourth’ of the ‘Three Sisters’ Carlton Bank and towards the indoor checkpoint at 31 miles in Osmotherley where I knew there was freshly cooked pizza waiting. Well, there was for me anyway. Vegan Dave could have whatever he wanted, I just looked forward to warm pizza!

Leaving Osmotherley we walked to let the food settle in our stomachs, and since it was uphill to Square Corner it would have been silly to run. The rain seemed to have eased by this point and the wind had died down making the conditions much nicer, or at least it would have had it not simply soaked the ground through so much that what would have been solid, was now just pure mud. We did some ‘Ultra Shuffling’ on the downhill bits we found, but mostly it was power walking uphill to see Jill, David and Debbie again at Square Corner. From Square Corner is another big climb up Black Hambleton hill, fortunately, this is a long and steady climb which was actually somewhat of a relief to me following the previous big steep climbs.

Back on the tops of the moors it was head torch time, and although this section was pretty boring with no scenery (it was dark) it did allow quite a bit of running (shuffling) to be done towards High Paradise Farm and the descent into the disco (yes, they had a disco going on with lights and everything!) checkpoint at Sneck Yate. Straight through this checkpoint and onto Sutton Bank Visitor Centre where once again we met with our amazing support crew, took a few minutes to refuel and pressed on to White Horse.

The Hardmoors Run Director Jon doesn’t like to make things easy, and so rather than simply being allowed to head towards the finish at Helmsley from to top of Sutton Bank, he put in an out and back section to the car park at the bottom of the White Horse. Yes, you go from the top to the bottom and back again climbing loads of stairs along the way. It’s like Roseberry all over again. Once you’re back at the top of the White Horse stairs though you know you’re on the home straight with about 9 miles to go.

From the White Horse to Helmsley is almost all downhill, with no significant climbs left to do. Unfortunately, its also on a lot of grass and tracks which had been turned into what can simply be described as a mudfest by the preceding runners. Thanks for that fast lads (and lasses), as if I wasn’t slow enough I now have to slip and slide my way to the finish!

So, it’s muddy, it’s slippy, it’s dark, I have tired legs and Dave is a power walking machine up any hills. I said its mostly downhill, but not all. I chased him up pretty much every climb on the course.

We pressed on knowing that the end was in sight and that we should just make the cut off of 16 hours. Before we started, and in good condition, I had thoughts of being able to do this in around 14 hours. How wrong was I. The end was in sight though and leaving the mud and hills behind we descended into Helmsley where Jill, David and Debbie had walked to the top of the track at the end of the Cleveland way to meet us and see us to the finish.

Solid ground and tarmac was a delightful sight, but this was a Hardmoors event and it wouldn’t be complete without one last hill to the finish at Helmsley Sports Club. It’s really just a gentle incline that normally I wouldn’t think twice about running up, but this was mile 54 and there was no running up any inclines going on!

We had done it. Finishing in a time of 15 Hours 48 minutes. Dave for his 6th (I think) time, me for my first (and last!) time. Jill, being the amazing support that she was had even got our beers for the finish (She’s a keeper) and boy did they taste good.

What have I learnt, and what’s next?

Well, I have learnt that whilst I have the time to go for long runs on a Sunday morning, what I don’t have the time for is all of the other miles. The back to back long runs, the cross-training that is required for an event of this nature. Running 18 miles on Sunday is all well and good, but doing it again on a Monday after a full day at work, now that’s hard!

What’s next? I have the remainder of the Hardmoors 26.2 Half Marathon series to look forward to. The longest ‘Half’ Marathon is around 17 miles which are comfortable and doable on my planned training schedule of a couple of 10k’s, a parkrun and 10 miles/ hm’s on Sundays. During the long-run training, I’d forgotten just how much fun and enjoyable a 10k (or about an hours run) can actually be and I look forward to enjoying my runs again, not being permanently tired, and being able to get out of bed without aching again.

Oh, and I have also promised to return the favour for Dave Toth and accompany him on the St Cuthberts Way 45 miles. Guess those pain-free mornings are just going to have to wait.

(Visited 299 times, 1 visits today)

Hardmoors 55, Helmsley to Guisborough, Saturday, March 17, 2018

55 miles

Aaron Gourley

Photo courtesy of Chia Charge

This race received a lot of negative media attention – most of which bordered on hysterical – mainly from the masses that I would assume are the same people that claim Health & Safety has got mad!

Yes, the forecast had told us that the ‘Beast from the East’ was set to return, but one thing is for certain, we (Hardmoors 55 runners) all knew what to expect and were well prepared for it.

Jon Steele’s rambling emails in the lead up to the race drove home the point that mandatory kit and checks would be strictly enforced, but a new addition for this race was the inclusion of a GPS tracking device that all competitors were to be given at the start. Not only do these trackers allow friends and family to see where you are but they also add another layer of safety for the race organisers who can keep track of all on the course.

So with the impending weather on my mind, the night before the race was a bit of a nervous time, selecting kit to wear, what to carry and what to place in my two drop bags. After a few hours of faffing and constantly checking the forecast, I finalised my gear and then headed to bed.

I woke just before my 4 am alarm so set about getting ready and took an easy drive down to Guisborough to meet my running buddy Jen and where the buses would pick up the mass of runners all huddled behind a public toilet block in a car park and take them to the start in Helmsley.

Once at Helmsley we were deposited from the buses and made our way to the sports club where a slick kit check and registration process left me with nearly two hours to kill before the race start. There was far too much time to allow nervous energy to build but thankfully ample to allow for a good toilet break before the start of a long day.

Finally, as 9 am approached we were ushered out into the cold where Jon gave one of his now legendary rambling race briefs. At 9:10 am the race finally started and I found myself at the front with all the speedsters as they dashed off down the road towards the start of the Cleveland Way footpath.

I checked my watch and noticed I was pushing 7:10 mm pace so I eased right off once on the official start of the Cleveland Way and watched Jen make her way up the field. I was quite happy to drop back and allow the faster runners to go past but not too many did.

The weather at this point was cold with a strong intermittent wind but there were no real signs that the ‘mini-Beast from the East’ would be anything more vicious than an angry puppy whose toy had been snatch from it.

The route makes its way from east to west out towards the first major checkpoint at the White Horse near Sutton Bank, which meant the wind was behind us. There were a few flurries of snow, some driven by the intense wind, but cleared quickly each time to sunshine.

I reached the White Horse in a good, steady time had a quick drink and refill of water bottles before setting off once again. I saw Jen at the top of the steps and thought I might catch up but that would be the last time I’d see her for the rest of the day.

Photo courtesy of Chia Charge

From here the route headed north to Osmotherley across higher, more exposed ground so the wind was driving in across more starkly now but was still bearable with the kit I had on.

I was happy with the way I was moving and despite a few people passing I seemed to be holding my position well. I was adamant not to get sucked into running to keep up with people ahead. As the route made its way towards High Paradise Farm, the wind started to pick up and drive in the snow again, but luckily we were sheltered from the worst of it here.

Upon reaching High Paradise Farm I caught up with a woman who, for the next few miles to Osmotherley, I would trade places with several times. She had a brilliant ultra-plod and made up ground really quickly and then I would catch her as she began to walk.

This section brought us out on to the first real exposed moorland stretch of the Cleveland Way and the wind made its presence felt driving across the snow and trying to knock over anything or anyone in its path. It was a case of head down and keep moving.

Eventually, the wind eased as we dropped down to Osmotherley Square Corner before making our way to the first indoor checkpoint at Osmotherley Village Hall. Here I picked up the first of my drop bags which contained a couple of corned beef sandwiches and a few other treats to see me through the next, and in my opinion, toughest 20-mile section to Kildale.

The village hall was a warm retreat from the four-plus hours of freezing cold temperatures I’d endured to get there but I didn’t want to hang around so made a quick exit once I’d had a refuel.

I walked out of Osmotherley and back out towards the TV mast before dropping into the woods heading to the next checkpoint at Scugdale. Cutting across a very muddy field I slipped and went sliding for a few meters – luckily the ground was very soft and no damage was done other than a dent in my pride and having my whole backside covered in mud.

At Scugdale the route begins to rise again up onto the moors as it heads towards Carlton Bank and Lordstones Country Park. The wind was still blowing hard and the exposure of this section meant there was little respite. I felt ok and was never too cold as long as I was moving.

The ground here was noticeable hard from the cold and coming down the flagstone steps, was made treacherous by the ice that covered them, which made for slow progress. I opted to take a fell runners line on all the descents along this section gaining as a result plus it was far easier to negotiate.

I still felt I was moving well. I began my crossing of the ‘Three Sisters’ which includes Wainstones, a tough little rocky outcrop made more difficult by the wind, snow and ice.

Interestingly, an Eagle Owl has decided to make this section its home and had been attacking runners and walkers in the weeks leading up to this race so all eyes were on the sky in the event of an attack. Instead of an Eagle Owl, however, at the top of Wainstones, a marshal stood armed with a camera taking pictures of weary runners.

From here there is a run across more open and exposed high ground which the wind and snow driving across was making difficult. Teasingly in the distance, when the snow stopped, the peak of Roseberry Topping would come into view – so near yet so far.

The route then dropped to Clay Bank where there was another checkpoint. Here I refilled my bottles, which had started to form ice in them. In fact, the one I’d had orange juice in had started to freeze like a slush puppy. Not hanging around I crossed the road and back up the steep path towards Blowarth Crossing. This is a long and arduous section and one of the most exposed parts of the route.

I was still moving well, walking the ups and plodding the flats but Blowarth has a reputation and form in this race – in fact when I first ran this race back in 2013 (in the opposite direction) Blowarth was probably the toughest few hours of running I’d ever encountered.

Today it didn’t disappoint. The wind picked up and brought with it the most intense snowstorm of the day. The puppy was maturing and bearing its teeth now. It was unrelenting as the route took a turn right into its throat. But I, and those around me, had our heads down and kept moving. Eventually, the turning point at Bloworth appeared and took us out of the direct force of the wind so that it was cutting across east to west once more and on to a flatter section where it was easier to run.

But the wind and snow kept coming, and the path seemed to never end. I contemplated stopping to put on an extra layer but decided it was far better to keep moving and get to Kildale where I could take stock.

Pressing on for what seemed like an eternity, I finally made it to the road leading into Kildale. The snow was being blown intensely and the road was covered. I got to the village hall at 6:38 pm and was relieved to be out of the wind for a few moments.

Here, Sue Jennings and Denise Hughes were on hand. I grabbed my drop bag, which contained a spare top and a pair of fresh socks whilst being handed a slice of pizza and a bowl of rice pudding.

From Clay Bank to here I’d been debating in my head whether to change my socks (you’ve got to think of something when running long distances!). I had already decided to put on my waterproof layers as they would give me a bit more protection against the wind and change my top so I decided I was definitely going to change my socks. The only problem was, I couldn’t get the changed pair on, so I spent far too many minutes struggling with them.

Whilst running over Bloworth both my water bottles had frozen solid so I’d not had a drink for a while. Denise took them and filled them with warm water which would at least give me a bit more of a chance to have a drink as the temperature was dropping as darkness fell outside.

It was around 7 pm when I went to leave the village hall, but as I made my way to the door, Andy Norman who was on timing duties stopped me to inform me that the out and back to Roseberry Topping was no longer part of the race due to the conditions outside.

I was slightly disappointed as I’d been targeting this for most of the day as it loomed in the distance but I could understand why the decision had been made and I was sure I’d be thankful at the end of the race.

Back outside, it was really dark now and as I made my way through Kildale, I noticed a group of head-torch lights heading down a path that was off track. I gave them a quick shout and made sure they were aware they’d gone wrong before making my way through the woodland and back out towards Captain Cooks Monument.

From here the route skirts around Roseberry Topping. The wind was still howling but the snow had stopped. As I looked over to Roseberry, I could see head torch lights on its slopes. I wondered if we were still going up and down it? Eventually, I reached the gate at the start of the out and back where a marshal pointed me away in the direction of Guisborough Woods.

I was definitely not going up Roseberry Topping and felt guilty that I was taking the places of those last few that had gone through before the decision was made to close it. From here the route winds its way up to High Cliff Nab providing extensive views of the lights of Guisborough and Teesside below.

The route takes a cruel detour through the woods and away from Guisborough before dropping onto an old railway track which heads back towards town. With a mixture of walking and shuffling, I eventually reached the bridge above the Rugby Club before dropping on to the road towards the finish at the Sea Cadets.

It was such a relief to turn the corner and head into the hall where a young lad was ringing a bell to signal the arrival of runners. I was handed my t-shirt and medal and went to sit down feeling exhausted but elated.

I must have looked a sight as Shelli Gordon came over and gave me a nice hot coffee and a thick sleeping bag to warm up in. I swear I felt ok, but what I didn’t realise at the time was that the race had been stopped. It was 9:31 pm when I finished but over in Kildale, the race had been stopped due to the deteriorating conditions.

It wasn’t until I got home and woke the next day that I found out what had unfolded. I could totally understand the decision and as the day progressed and news spread it became apparent that this was going to spill over. I couldn’t say what happened in Kildale but from my experience, Jon & Shirley who organise Hardmoors made the right decisions throughout the day.

I ran this race in 2013 in what were probably worse conditions underfoot with deep snow and high winds, what was different this time was the unrelenting nature of the wind, the colder temperatures and the amount of people on the course towards the end of the race.

Of those ‘rescued’’, most if not all, would have completed had they been able too, but on sound advice of Mountain Rescue, and the conditions on the roads the decision was made to call it a day which was a shame for those not able to get back out in time.

If you look at the Hardmoors website, it clearly states ‘Do not underestimate this race!’ It’s a winter race – it’s the conditions that make it appealing to me. If you want to be mollycoddled then look elsewhere.

I entered this race in the full knowledge that the weather could throw anything at us. In fact, I’ve done this race four times now and each in completely different conditions, but each time in the full knowledge that my safety and that of other competitors is of paramount importance to the organisers.

What happened on the 17th March has put this race on another level in the ultra community and I’m sure its appeal will only grow as a result.

(Visited 28 times, 1 visits today)

Hardmoors 55, North Yorks Moors, Saturday, March 22, 2014

55M / 2700m

Aaron Gourley

“I want to get to the end and feel I’ve enough in me to turn around and head back,” said Phil Owen as we chatted at race HQ in Guisborough Rugby Club. For many, running an ultra of 55 miles is simply incomprehensible, but for Phil, this was merely preparation for the Hardmoors 110 later this year, and that is a distance beyond even my imagination can stretch to.

Mmmm ... lovely bit of downhill ...

My day had started at 4am, for the drive to Helmsley where three coaches picked up nearly 200 runners to be taken to the start in Guisborough. Following a thorough kit check I bump into a nervous looking Anna Seeley, probably more nervous of someone stepping on her broken toe than the challenge ahead before I meet up with some of the guys I’ve been training with over that last few months for a chat. I’d arranged to run the race with one of them, Russ who is of a similar pace to me.

For this race I’d decide that I would gauge it by how I felt so stripped myself of any watches or GPS devices. My aim was to go steady but try to get as close to the White Horse check point (45 miles) before it got dark. All I knew was that sunset was at 18:22 and would have approx 20mins following that before I would need a headtorch.

The weather forecast for the day was reasonable although I was conscious that at some point we were in for a soaking, but given last year’s conditions I wasn’t too concerned. As 9 o’clock approached we made our way to the start line on the disused railway and without a moment’s hesitation we were off. What seemed like most of the field passing me, I plod along conscious not to get caught up in the excitement by dashing off. After a mile along the old railway line we were directed off up a track for the first climb of the day and onto the Cleveland Way.

At this point the weather took a turn pelting us with snow and rain but it didn’t last long and as we gained height up into Guisborough woods a wonderful rainbow appeared. Russ and I maintained a steady pace as more people continued to stream past us as we made our way to Roseberry Topping for the first really big climb of the day. The field was well stretched at this point as we headed out and back to the summit check point. On the climb back up to the gate I’m greeted by the shout of “elite athlete coming through!” as Phil surges in the opposite direction followed by Anna tentatively making her way down behind him.

Captain Cooks monument is the next highpoint before we make our way down into Kildale for the first main check point of the day. Here I collect my drop bag with some food in preparation for the next section up to Bloworth Crossing. This long slog of a climb is demoralising at best but it was runnable and the conditions weren’t too bad so I pressed on. Upon reaching the checkpoint I realised I’d pulled away from Russ but he wasn’t too far behind. From here we change direction and head off across the moors towards Clay Bank.

At the road crossing we’re met by Dave, a friend whose unfortunate accident a few weeks ago meant he wasn’t able to compete. A quick stop and we press on for the first of three killer climbs and it’s on this first that I feel my quads tighten up which sends me into a bit of a panic. ‘Not now, it’s too early in the race for this!’ I think to myself as I make my way down the other side with the next climb looming large. The next two climbs hurt, a lot but others are suffering the same around me and then it starts to snow, great. I press on; the pain is only in my quads when climbing so I’m happy as it means I’m still able to run.

As I reach Lord Stones checkpoint it’s snowing hard and it was only then that I realised I had pulled away from Russ again. This time though I had no idea how far behind he was but I didn’t want to hang around as it was freezing so I decided to press on to Osmotherley, the second indoor check point where I knew I’d be able to get warm food and changed if I needed it and wait for him there.

I have a chance to recoup at Osmotherley, grab a bite to eat and a cup of tea before I set off on the next section, a ten mile stretch to Sutton Bank and the White Horse check point. Upon leaving Osmotherley, I realise that I’ve completely forgotten about Russ, I’m in race mode. My main aim had been to get to the White Horse before dark and it had become an obsession. I had no idea what time it was but knew I had to press on.

These selfies are getting everywhere ...

This section, like last year, presented me with my darkest moments, but not in the same way as it did then – I was battling with my mind this time. The weather had cleared and it was now bright but fresh. I felt really good but my mind was telling me to stop, that I didn’t need to continue, even questioning whether I want to run another ultra ever again, but I press on with a mix of walking and running. Again it’s clear I’m not the only one having a tough time as I swap places with a few other runners along the six mile stretch to the check point at Sneck Yate Bank. I take a rest and have a drink of the cheap cola on offer and try to figure out if the music that is blasting from the marshal’s car really is AC/DC. (It was!)

I set off for Sutton Bank and the White Horse as the sun begins to fall in the sky. I run past a sign proclaiming ’50 metres to England’s best view’ and who am I to argue as I took a moment to soak it in. Finally, I reach Sutton Bank; from here it’s a mile to the next check point at the bottom of the White Horse car park. The light is fading fast but I eventually make it. I’m lifted as I’ve achieved my aim of getting there before dark. Dave is there to greet me but tells me that Russ had dropped out at Osmotherley. That makes me feel bad as I was supposed to be running with him. I felt selfish but I had a race plan in my head and I couldn’t think of anything else.

It quickly gets dark so I put on my head torch and plough on with the finish is with sight, only nine miles to go. This is relatively easy running but very, very dark and tricky navigationally if you’ve never ran it before. I catch up with around eight runners all tentatively making their way in the dark. I pass and offer my assistance but I think they were weary of my confidence and soon I’m out of sight. A peculiar thing happens in ultras whereby if you are able to keep running, no matter how fast, you gain a huge amount of ground on your rivals.

Make no mistake, I was tired but I was still running and eventually I pick my way through the woods before the lights of Helmsley appear on the horizon. I’ve made it and I eventually drop into Helmsley Market Square where I’m greeted with a round of applause outside of the Town Hall before the final insult of having to take my muddy shoes off then climb the stairs to the finish.

Mmmm ... so nice when you stop...

12hrs 3mins of hard slog. Not quite as fast as I had hoped but very pleased all the same. I definitely didn’t feel like I could have turned around and ran back, Phil!

(Visited 12 times, 1 visits today)

Hardmoors 55, North Yorks Moors, Saturday, March 23, 2013

55M / 2700m

Aaron Gourley

First and foremost, this race report would not have been possible without the countless volunteers who spent hour upon hour out in the freezing temperatures, often in quite remote places, to ensure this race went ahead. I owe you a huge amount of respect and my sincere thanks to you all.

I’m still not quite sure why I chose the Hardmoors 55 to make my ultra-marathon debut, but I did, and in the days leading up to the race the nerves were kicking in. I’d enlisted the help of two friends to provide support at the two main check points – Kildale and Osmotherley – and I was to run the race with my good friend Jen, but she’d been having real problems with her knee which had kept her out of training for at least six weeks. Jen’s plan was to get to Kildale without injury and that would be her race done, but I wasn’t convinced that was her true ambition.

Jen and Aaron. The weather forecast in the days leading up the race had not been good and with a number of races already cancelled it seemed touch and go as to whether this would go ahead. A final email from Race Director Jon Steele, confirmed that the race was still on. There and then you just knew this was going to be epic.

Race registration on Saturday morning was smooth, kit checks were thorough and there was an air of excitement and tension as 133 runners (or as my friend put it, idiots) gathered to take their place at the start. During the race brief we were told that the out and back loop of the White Horse had been taken out due to the conditions and that a decision was still to be made as to whether we would be taking the high pass over Wainstones or directed along the low path.

And so the race began, off along a disused railway line out of Guisborough, the cold easterly wind was biting but manageable. Keeping the pace slow, after a short distance we turned off this path and to the first little climb out onto the Cleveland Way. Having run this section plenty of times before, I chose to start the race in my Mudclaws but the freezing temperatures meant the tracks were frozen solid making for very uncomfortable running.

The seven miles to Roseberry Topping passed without incident, but taking the first check point at the top gave me an indication as to the true conditions I would face later in the day. The two marshals manning this check point deserve a medal for standing in the unrelenting gale force winds and still smiling and chatting to competitors. I didn’t hang around and made a sharp retreat off, flying past Phil Owen, who I think was aiming a camera at me. I don’t suspect he got much of a shot.

The next section up to Captain Cook’s Monument provided good running and shortly after, Jen and I arrived at Kildale, 12 miles in. Mission accomplished for Jen, but I could see the desire in her eyes to keep going, Into the village hall we met our respective support crews where I was handed my first drop bag of food and a bag I’d asked them to carry with a change of clothes. Here I changed my top, jacket and socks then decided I’d be better off changing out of my Mudclaws and into my Mizunos for the next section as my feet were beginning to hurt.

Jen’s knee was holding out and she’d decided to keep going to Osmotherley. We left the village hall and headed up a steep climb where I took the opportunity to get some food intro me. (If you’re interested I had a banana, pork pie and half a Cornish pasty!) The wind was blowing strong in our face and as we reached the top of the road we turned onto the snow covered track and head on into the wind. This was fierce and unrelenting with 40mph winds, a windchill of around -20 and snow drifts of up to three foot made the six miles up to Bloworth Crossing check point an absolute battle of physical and mental toughness.

By the time I reached Bloworth I was mentally drained, the left side of my face was numb, I could barely open my eyes and my water tube was frozen solid, but for a brief moment I felt elation. Jen and I had made it; our high five was a significant celebration. At that point you could have stopped the race and I’d be writing this report with the same sense of achievement. But this race was far from over; we had three miles to the next check point at Clay Bank, but fortunately the route changed direction and I now had the wind behind me.

In the Bleak Midwinter ... At Clay Bank I was met by my supporters who forced food and water into me. Here we were to find out if we were taking the high path or the low. My heart sank a little when I was directed up the hill towards Wainstones, the first of three significant climbs along the route towards Carlton Bank, the half way point. Getting up each of these was hard, the wind knocking me off my feet on several occasions, but the downhills in the deep snow brought out the child in me.

Carlton Bank was the half way point and psychologically uplifting, but the effort needed to run in the conditions was beginning to take its toll on my muscles and I could feel the first twinges of cramp. Jen seemed to be coping well although she too was clearly feeling the strain. After Carlton Bank we dropped down into the valley where we missed a turn and ended up running in the wrong direction for about five minutes before realising our mistake. Once back on track we made slow but solid progress in our effort to get to Osmotherley. Arriving at the village hall we took our time to change, eat and relax a little as it was nice to be out of the cold wind. Fellow Strider, Anna Seeley was manning the village hall check point and came over to offer some words of encouragement. (I hope I wasn’t rude or overly vacant too you?)

The thirty-two miles to Osmotherley were hard won, and at that point the absolute furthest I’d ever run. I was still feeling good and Jen’s knee was still holding out. I knew now she wasn’t dropping out so off we set. It was 4;30pm now and we made it our mission to get as close to Sutton Bank before dark, but he next three miles out of Osmotherley had other plans. This section was a steep climb back out on to the moor and I hit the wall with a bang. I’d been conscious of keeping well fuelled and hydrated throughout the race but my water tube kept freezing so wasn’t taking on board the water that I would have liked.

The climb was steep and it wasn’t long before the path was covered by snow, just as it was heading to Bloworth. Only now I was tired and had ran thirty-two miles to get to this point. The distance between me and Jen grew quickly, I couldn’t keep up and she seemed to be getting stronger. The snow drifts and wind felt more pronounced as I staggered about forcing one foot in front of the other. Like any runner, there is a point when you feel you just can’t go on; this was my limit. Part of the mandatory kit was to carry a survival bag and I was seriously contemplating getting into it and waiting for rescue. I’d reached my absolute limit; my mind was telling me to stop, but I couldn’t stop, I won’t stop, I’ve come too far now.

I have two energy gels and push on. Jen is still in the distance but she keeps turning to make sure I’m still moving. I’ve never felt so low but eventually the climbing ceases and we are back on a level track, still in deep snow, but at least its level. I manage to break into a canter and I can feel a second wind. I’m still totally exhausted but psychologically I’ve broken through a barrier as we press on. Jen is forcing the pace now, always a good 30 meters ahead of me, making me run when I really don’t want to.

We reach High Paradise Farm check point at thirty-nine miles and the light is quickly diminishing as we head towards Sutton Bank. At this point the snow drifts are deeper than they have been and the wind is blowing across my face forcing my already sore eye to shut once again. I stop to put on my headtorch but it doesn’t help me much as I’m having real trouble with seeing. I follow the lights up ahead as they take a sharp descent down a deep, snowy track. I must have been in a trance and didn’t see Jen come sliding down in front of me from a higher route saying I’ve taken the wrong path. But I’m not taking on board what she’s saying. There are about six people ahead of us as we continue down the track until Jen finally snaps. “This is not the right path.” Everyone stops and a quick map check confirms this. We all turn to start the long hard climb to get back onto the right path.

Another mile of running hoves into view ... I feel totally dejected at this point, spending energy I simply did have on correcting a silly mistake. Once back on the Cleveland Way I find it hard to get going but I manage to start running again. Eventually I reach the Sutton Bank checkpoint. My support crew are there to greet me. It’s such a boost to see them as they tell me about the ultra-pub crawl they’ve been on as they follow my progress. A cup of hot chocolate and a few bits of food from the marshals and it’s off once more with only eight miles to go.

Its pitch black now and I’m happy to still be running on what, for the most, will be downhill into Helmsley. Jen seems to be running stronger than ever and is really pushing to get to the finish but always looking back to make sure I don’t fall too far behind. I feel like I’m letting her down. She’s waiting for me when she could probably have gone off and finished the race, but I’m eternally thankful she’s there to help me along and keep me running.

Eventually we drop into Helmsley with its street lights, and terraces, and tarmac roads. I’ve made it, we’ve made it! Following the signs we head up the road towards the football club and the finishing line and burst through the door to a huge cheer and round of applause. I give Jen a huge hug as we celebrate our achievement. 12hrs and 35mins of pure hard graft, physically and mentally.

Without doubt, this was an epic race and everyone who took part, whether they finished or not, should be immensely proud that they even made it to the start.

(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)

Hardmoors 55, Saturday, March 17, 2012

55 miles

Tom Reeves

I ran this last year in very good weather and it was an enjoyable if tiring day out on the North York Moors. I was very kindly given a lift by Andrew Thompsons’ dad. This saved me the struggle of getting my two boys out of bed and the ongoing complaint of spending weekends in muddy fields waiting for me to finish yet another race.

The race starts in Helmsley and follows the Cleveland Way footpath as far as Guisborough. Following the kit check I stood around outside with Ultra race virgins Andrew Thompson and David Gibson. I of course imparted my invaluable wisdom and knowledge on the dark art that is ultra (plodding) running. Phil Owen and Anna Seeley were also in attendance (both Ultra Regulars of course) and we had the obligatory Striders team picture. The day was still, cool and overcast just about perfect for a very long run.

Anna, Phil, Tom, David and Andrew. At 9am off we went and for the first couple of miles the path was fairly congested. By Rievaulx Abbey I was into my rhythm and having a good natter with my fellow runners. One thing about these races there is no shortage of people to chat to in the middle of the pack. I’m not sure what the proper runners at the front do?

I made the first checkpoint at the white horse (not a pub) in good order. My legs felt good and I was moving quite well. I hadn’t been able to train for a few weeks due to Sciatic problems so was feeling a bit uncertain as to whether I would stay the distance.

The race as far as Osmotherley (22 miles) is over good runable ground. I got into Ossy in just under 4 hours which was slow but ok. I decided early on that finishing was number one priority.

Tom As I sat eating my cold rice pudding David turned up and I suggested we run the next, toughest section together. Its 20 miles to the next major checkpoint at Kildale and is pretty much up and down all the way going over Live Moor, Cringle Moor and the Wainstones. David powered out of Osmotherley and I struggled to stay with him. I also struggled to keep my rice pud down!

We got into a decent running pace and passed Lordstones Cafe in good order. On the way up Cringle Moor David got cramp I did offer a leg massage but the look on his face said it all. He ordered me to “push on” or was it “push off”?

I did and for the next few miles passed one or two runners. The sight at the top of the Wainstones was glorious, a tent full of cakes. Unfortunately I felt sick and had none.

The run up to Blowarth Crossing got fairly unpleasant with sleet and I got pretty cold as I was unwilling to stop to put long trousers on. The miles from this point seem to double in length. I bumped into a guy called Paul from NFR and we ran together down into Kildale.

Now for me once I hit Kildale I know I can do it bar a major blow up. Joan and the boys met me there and really cheered me up I got a complete change of clothes and another bowl of rice pudding. I also managed a coffee in the village hall.

I ran much of this final 12 miles or so on my own. A few of us linked up when it got dark coming off Roseberry topping and this always helps when your tired and it’s dark. Very easy to lose concentration and get lost. The clouds parted as we ran along the disused train line into Guisborough the night sky looked glorious. We got a round of applause (and curry) at the sea cadets hut when we finished. David came in not long after me which was great. Judging by the grin on his face I think he was rather chuffed with himself.

Tom and David Unfortunately Andrew took a wrong turn in the dark after coming off Roseberry Topping and didn’t finish which was a real shame as he was certainly well within the time at that point. Maybe next year? I later heard that Phil and Anna had a bit of an epic after Anna had a slip and bashed her knee. They still finished within the time limits so it’s a well done to them for keeping going. As for me I might be back I would really love to get in under 11 hours, who knows?

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Oliver Sinclair Serpentine M 1 8:27:18
5 Shelli Gordon New Marske Harriers F 1 9:10:08
40 Tom Reeves M 11:38:20
52 David Gibson M 12:19:40
85 Anna Seeley F 14:29:55
86 Phil Owen M 14:29:55

88 finishers.

(Visited 7 times, 1 visits today)

Hardmoors 55, Saturday, March 19, 2011

55 miles

Tom Reeves

“I’ve never seen so many old gadgies in lycra” were my wife Joan’s comments as I got organised before the final briefing for the Hardmoors 55. We were stood in front of the pavilion at Helmsley football club at 8.50 and received our final talk prior to the start at 9am. My main aim for this was to get round as the longest single distance I’ve run since the Lakeland 50 was 19 miles. I was feeling decidedly under prepared!

The weather was absolutely fantastic and as we ran past Riveaux Abbey I felt warm and relaxed in the early morning sun. I was running along with Andy a guy from DFR and a very good fell runner. He introduced me to Dawn another DFR member this was her first ultra. The first 9 miles to Checkpoint 1 at Sutton Bank White Horse passed in no time at all and as we were nearing the White Horse the race leader came whizzing back along the escarpment we shouted well done and went down the steps to get our first clip.

Tom with Dawn and Andy

I’ve walked most of the route which follows the Cleveland Way on a few occasions which was handy as I managed to lose all my photo copied maps which I’d carefully marked out at the 14 mile mark past Sneck Yate Road. At this point Andy ran off with Jim, another exceptional DFR runner who came flying past after starting at 9.30am with the sub 9 hour runners. Incidentally Andy would finish in 8th and Jim in 4th.

I continued my steady plod with Dawn and we got to Osmotherley in good shape and pretty good time. I got a big well done from our very own Dave Robson who was marshalling the early part of the race. We were ushered into the village hall where our first drop bags were, I grabbed a couple of drinks changed my running top and we were soon off. I could have murdered a cup of tea but alas there seemed to be none on offer.

It’s very easy to dawdle at checkpoints so I made sure we got moving, even so my legs had stiffened even in the 5 minutes or so while I was sat down! The weather was still lovely sunny with a light breeze wow! We went through checkpoint 3 just out of Osmotherley this was a last minute addition to stop naughty runners taking a short cut up the road, tut tut. We got some great views and some really nice running over Carlton Bank, Cringle Moor and the Wainstones. At Clay Bank road crossing Joan greeted us with a big hello and lots of encouragement she also had some extra drinks which were a real boost and more importantly a new map and strict instructions not to lose it.

We were past the 30 mile mark and every mile seemed like double the distance so I decided to stop looking at my Garmin. We managed to take a wrong turn at Tidy Brown Hill and lost a fair bit of height added half a mile and lost a good 7 places which is not what you want on a long race ahh! Joan was there at Kildale which was the second bag drop. I didn’t have a second bag and neither did Dawn so we got through the checkpoint really quick making up all the places that we’d lost.

Dawn met a couple of her DFR buddies before Captain Cooks Monument and this was an extra boost for her. We had a great run over to Roseberry topping making up some more places and got a wonderful view of the massive orange full moon. It finally got dark as we ran through Guisborough woods and my legs were starting to feel tight on the down hills. The final down hill was on a concrete path then it was a long mile back along the disused railway to Guisborough rugby club. 10 hrs and 57minutes of very pleasant running. Dawn came in just after me and grabbed 3rd place!

(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)

Hardmoors 55, North York Moors, Saturday, March 20, 2010

A measly 54M!

Dave Robson

Dave looking fresh.The brief version—54m (after a late course adjustment). Started at 8.00 finished 23.55. 65 starters, 45 finishers, so 20 dropped out because of the bad weather and two of them had suspected hypothermia. Weather was light rain initially, then heavy rain and strong winds. The weather became much better after 10 hours and then got frosty as the night went on. Lots of hills and muddy

I was concerned about doing a race which would be 21m longer than I have ever done before. Doing a gentle marathon six days before was also worrying me, would it have any effect ? It turned out it didn’t which was a relief. I was also worrying about running on my own in the bad weather that was forecast, I find it helps to have company when the weather is bad. Luckily, I joined up with another runner at 22m and ran the next 32m with her. I don’t think I would have completed it on my own.

The other crucial thing for me in this race was car support. This wasn’t required as there was a drop bag system, but having much more frequent access to equipment and food made a vital difference. My friend spent her longest time in her car—almost 20 hours—much more than she has ever done before—thank you. She has never been involved with a long race before and her greetings at some points – ‘You are mental’ made me smile in a sort of mad way 😉

My equipment worked very well. Ran in Helly Hensen base layer, OMM Kamleiker waterproof top, Gore tights, Inov-8 roclites and a Raidlight Endurace back pack. I made a basic error at the start by running in road shoes. It is said you can do the Cleveland Way in road shoes and that might be okay in a Dave still looking fresh. dry conditions, but they weren’t that today as I discovered pretty quickly :-O. Luckily the first car access point was at 5m so I changed into the Roclites then. I also started with gloves that were way too thin for the conditions on the tops. My worst time was when it was sheeting down with rain and my hands got cold. Again a car access point saved me and I changed into fleece gloves. However, in the final stages in the frosty conditions, my hands were getting very cold even with those gloves.

Refueling strategy. Took stop blocks (had about 8 of them), S!cap tablets (used all 8 of them). Had a couple of Cliff bars that were give out on the way round (nice, never had them before). Made sure I had a quarter of a sandwich at every car access point. I had some cashew nuts as well. I also drank Asda’s isotonic berry sports drink all the way round, drinking when thirsty. I learnt all this from supporting Phil on the Hardmoors 110 last year and reading Clare’s experiences at the Glasgow to Edinburgh, so thanks to those two. The result was I got no cramp, no nausea and my legs felt very good all the way round. I also able to walk down the stairs this morning :-O

The route was basically along the Cleveland Way from Helmsley to Guisborough woods where it then cut back to Guisborough. There are moors, woods, lots of hills, some of some big long climbs, all of which I walked up. Had to walk some the descents too because of the steepness and rocky paths. Two out and back sections at the White Horse and at Roseberry Topping. Dave still looking fresh, how does he do it? Because it’s a route for walkers mainly and to save it becoming a quagmire, the park authority have put in a lot of large rock slabs which can be slippery and lots of assorted rocks on the ascents and descents. I could not find anyway of running down these safely. I felt I would cause serious damage if I fell on to those rocks. The uneven rocks in the path up and down Roseberry Topping were particularly tough especially with a head torch. There were sometimes fell runner alternatives to these paths, but they were often slippery.

(Visited 7 times, 1 visits today)