Tag Archives: Hardmoors 60

Hardmoors 60, Guisborough, Saturday, September 15, 2018

60 miles

Aaron Gourley

There’s always the potential for me to have a disaster in the Hardmoors 60. My record with this race leading into it was as follows: run 4, finished 2, DNF 2, so I had this year’s race down as the decider.

I was not going to be beaten this time – Hardmoors 60 is a Beauty and the Beast race. The course is stunning beginning in Guisborough following the Cleveland Way out to and down the North Yorkshire coast through places like Saltburn, Staithes, Runswick Bay, Whitby, Robin Hoods Bay and Scarborough before finishing in Filey.

There are long sections of coastal running which weave in out of inlets and up and down steep ravines. There are sections across beaches and climbs to the highest east-facing cliffs in England along paths that run precariously close to the dramatic and dangerously crumbling cliffs.The towns and villages provide an assault on the senses after the solitude of the open countryside – Whitby being particularly tough to negotiate at midday on a Saturday.
I have a love-hate relationship with this race for the reasons already stated. Each running, successful or not I’ve said never again, only to return. This year I had my sights set on completing the Hardmoors Triple Ring – finishing three of the organisation’s ultra races in a calendar year. For this I’d already completed the 55 in March, the 110 in May, so I had to finish this one to complete the challenge.

However, my running this year has taken a dip – in fact, it’s been a tale of personal worsts.

From poor displays in cross-country early in the year, to fell races that have been DNF’d or were hugely slower than in previous years. Then there was the Hardmoors 110 which became a battle with my body to complete. It’s like I’m stuck at the foot a steep-sided valley with long distance running on one side and speed on the other, with the bridge to the gap above me, whilst I walk underneath it.

My training throughout the year has been particularly good, or at least consistent, but on reflection not particularly specific to any specific event. However, life has gotten in the way too often so maybe that has played a part, but that’s not to say I haven’t done enough.

Going into the Hardmoors 60 I’d been able to get out on some fairly lengthy runs in the Lakes – not particularly long distances but long hours and lots of elevation being the main focus. The week before the race I’d ran the Great North Run and recorded a course personal worst by 11 minutes. Not particularly anything to do with my running but more from where I started the race and the inability to run the pace I’d have liked due to the number of people – in all I wrote that race off as a bad experience on the roads.

So at 2:45 am, on Saturday 15th Sept I woke, got quickly ready and headed off down the road to Filey for the 5:45 am bus back to Guisborough for registration which was efficient as ever. There was a lively buzz in the room and after a short delay, we were moved outside ready for the start of the race. At 8:15 am, we were off.

My mind was set to start conservatively, run my own race and not worry about being passed as the route headed west into Guisborough Woods before swinging south up the very steep Tees Link path to High Cliff Nab to join the Cleveland Way. From here we headed east to the coast at Saltburn.

I’d started near the front so I was aware that I’d be passed by a large number of people, but I had to stay focussed to maintain my own pace. The first few miles were about finding a rhythm and my natural place in the field. It’s around 9 miles to the first checkpoint and I was feeling in control and enjoying the morning. The temperature and conditions were almost perfect for running.

At Saltburn, I made swift the chance to refill bottles and grab some treats before setting off for the climb out onto the coast. From here the route meanders south along pleasantly rolling cliffs. I was enjoying myself, still taking it steady and was feeling good as I made my way to the next major checkpoint at Runswick Bay, 21 miles-in where I grabbed my first drop bag.

Again I stopped only for as long as required to pack the extras from my drop bag and refill bottles before making off down the road to the beach, crossing to the ravine that leads sharply back onto the cliff tops. Onwards I pressed eating and drinking well.

Into Staithes I rolled and back out towards Sandsend, happily chatting to other runners and Cleveland Way walkers, keen to know what we were doing.

At Sandsend the route drops to sea level and joins the road route to Whitby which is a steady climb but nothing major to worry about. But then my toils began. Near the Golf club I came a cropper – once more nausea got the better of me. 29 miles and in turmoil – the battle between my body and mind began.

I made my way to and through Whitby at a snail’s pace but with determination to reach Saltwick Bay checkpoint. Once there, I didn’t stop, and pressed on – my mind was now focussed only on getting to Ravenscar. If I could get there I could rest and recoup. But first I had to negotiate the 5 miles to Robin Hoods Bay then the 4 miles to Ravenscar via Boggle Hole – possibly the toughest section of the whole race in my opinion.

It took an age to reach Robin Hoods Bay. The checkpoint at the top of the village provided welcome relief and another opportunity to refill and refuel. I stayed for a few moments longer than I should have and set off hoping to make it to Ravenscar in good time, but my body had other ideas. Not my whole body though, just my stomach.

In fairness, my legs felt fine. I was clearly benefitting from the long hours out on the fells. Although I was in a state, I felt strong climbing and descending, my only problem was pace. Anything beyond a slow walk made me feel ill. It wasn’t pleasant.

Eventually, I made it to Ravenscar, 41 miles in and the only indoor checkpoint on the race. Like Kildale is on the 55, Ravenscar is a little place of sanctuary. I slumped into a chair, and after trying some of the soup on offer and a cup of tea, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
I woke with a jolt, I looked at my watch and it was approaching 7 pm, I’d been in the hall nearly 50 minutes so I grabbed my things together and made my way back out. I felt much better but still conscious of the nausea that had plagued me over the last few hours.

I’d made a decision. I wasn’t being beaten by this race, my only option was to keep going and walk it in. It wasn’t how I envisaged the race would turn out but I knew I had plenty of time to do it.

It was now dark as I made my way through the diversion at Hayburn Wyke and back onto the cliff tops towards Scarborough. This section is unforgiving – Scarborough Castle sitting prominently ahead in the distance never seems to get any closer. It’s a 10 mile stretch from Ravenscar to the next checkpoint at Holbeck car park at the southern end of Scarborough and it was 10:49 pm when I finally arrived at the checkpoint.

I knew I had the race complete now, just 10 miles left to go but was pressed for time. However, I knew I could make it before the final 2 am cut-off. I felt strong despite my earlier woes but knew I couldn’t run or risk being waylaid by sickness.

I was able to maintain a decent paced walk as the route dropped and rose along the coast at Cayton Bay before hitting the final stretch into Filey. Headtorch beams ahead made for targets to catch and those behind to beat. There was a bit of yo-yoing with others over the final stretch until eventually, I reached the official end of the Cleveland Way out on the Brigg.

The route then takes a final turn along tops and down onto the beachfront leading into the Town Centre where I managed to catch a group of four and pass them before breaking into a little trot so that I could open up a gap between them and me. The final push up the hill to the finish was done with a smile – I’d completed the race.

I got my t-shirt and medal. It was a personal worst by a (Hardmoors) mile. It took me 17hrs13mins – a good 3 hours slower than my best time but in keeping with my long line of other terrible results this year. But I’ve come to accept that there’s been toil, things haven’t gone my way, but each run I’ve done this year I’ve tried not to let it bother me. I’m out for the adventure and the satisfaction of running and being free. I know things have been better and I’ve run quicker but I think I’ve enjoyed this year more despite the toil.
However, I know there are things to fix; my nausea in races is a major problem that I will now work to solve and overcome. I have my plans for next year in place and the hard work starts now but I will try to ensure I continue, above all else, to enjoy running and never let things get me down if they don’t go to plan but to be positive in the knowledge that I can still take part in such an open and inclusive sport like running.

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Hardmoors 60, Guisborough, North Yorkshire, Saturday, September 19, 2015

62m/10,000ft ascent

Dave Robson

Kit CheckI have come to love the Cleveland Way. My initial reaction after running along it a few times was that it was designed for walkers, not runners. Lots of steps, some of them very uneven, stone slabs which can be slippery in wet conditions and lots and lots of climbs. However, after now doing many Hardmoors events, the Osmotherley Phoenix and other events there I have changed my mind. The view are gorgeous and the sense of satisfaction you get from running on the Trail is hard to beat. The trail goes from Helmsley to Saltburn on the coast and then goes follows the coast to Filey.

I had run the first half from Helmsley to Guisborough, the Hardmoors 55, in 2010 in pretty awful conditions. I had always wanted to do the second half from Guisborough to Filey and when the organiser, Jon Steele, put on the Hardmoors 60 I was very tempted to enter. However, I wasn’t confident of hitting the cut offs. This year the cut offs were extended and I thought I might make them. However, there was a nagging little voice inside me saying that maybe at sixty four years old I should have attempted it when I was younger. This was of course absolute rubbish and I wasn’t the oldest runner there.

Preparation included the 53m Crosses, which didn’t go particularly well and lots of climbs up Wainwright hills in August. I think both helped, particularly the hill walking.

The plan was that Melanie would support as her support made the Crosses so much easier, but a day before the event she came down with a bad cold. So I used drop bags and Denise Benvin, who was marshalling, offered to take a change of clothes to Ravenscar for me. That worked very well as the temperature changed dramatically after Ravenscar as the day changed from very hot to very cold.

Kath Dodd and I had agreed to run together. We and three Striders had run together at the Hardmoors Princess 31m two weeks ago and we had also spent some time running with Sara at that event. So Kath, Sara and I ran together in this event and it worked out very well. Sara had not run further than 36m and she did fantastically well finishing this event. Sue Jennings was the third Strider who ran the event, but she withdrew at Ravenscar having got there within the cut off time.

The event was 62m in total and is over 10,000 feet of ascent. I had set up the followmee tracker app on my phone which seemed to have little effect on my phone battery when the update rate was set to 15 minutes. However, at some point during the race I managed to switch on my flashlight. How I did this I don’t know and it has happened before. The result was that my phone died in Whitby, which was a shame as Melanie was using the tracker to see where I was. Luckily Flip and one or two others were able to post updates on Facebook and send texts.

Stage 1 Guisborough to Runswick Bay

I felt I knew this pretty well. We started slowly and after the first stile I was last for a short while. The climb up to High Cliff Nab was muddier than I expected, but better than on the Hardmoors Roseberry Topping marathon last December. The view down on Guisborough was beautiful.

Some of this section I had covered several times, but there were sections I had only covered once. I was also unfamiliar with the location of the Saltburn checkpoint. However, the race description helped us to find this easily. I was also a little unsure of one part of the Skinningrove diversion. However, Flip and Anna and the two organisers were there to make sure we took the right turn.

Saltburn Viaduct

Skinningrove to Boulby I had done once before. There was many more hills than I remembered. At the top of them was my daughter and her husband with some very welcome supplies. It had developed into a hot day with little wind and we were drinking lots and lots of water.

Boulby to Runswick Bay goes through the attractive village of Staithes. It looked lovely in the beautiful weather. The next section was also one I had only done once a few years ago. Again there were more hills than I remembered. It was very hot and although it looked like we were going to get through our informal cut offs that I had calculated for lots of places, we didn’t have a lot to spare and I was finding the heat and hills very hard going. It did cross my mind to pull out at Runswick Bay, but we had about 30 minutes to spare at that point so I decided to just see how it went. Looking back I think I was just going through a bad patch which is just inevitable in a long event. There were others who were wilting in the heat and eleven runners withdrew at this checkpoint. In total there were 163 finishers and 32 runners who withdrew.

Stage 2 Runswick Bay to Ravenscar

I thought this would be by far the toughest section especially the very familiar Whitby to Ravenscar section.

Runsiwck Bay

Runswick Bay was as lovely as ever and the climb out wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I was rusty with the route to Sandsend, but it wasn’t too bad. We were taking it pretty easy, walking all the ascents and gently running the rest. We went through Sandsend and saw the young boy who was rescued from the sea by one of the runners being attended to by the rescue services. The runner carried on and completed the event ! We made it to Whitby where I came across Angela and John who were having a weekend away. At this point my phone was losing charge because of the flashlight, so I had a conversation with Melanie to explain before the charge slipped away. At the top of the steps to the Abbey in Whitby, Kath and I had an ice cream, which was a welcome break on a hot day.

We kept on seeing the lovely Quaker running club support team who were supporting their runners who were just behind us for most of the way. Sara’s partner Oliver and son Robin (eighteen months !) also popped up in lots of places and Flip also seemed to be everywhere. It is hard to explain what a difference this makes, but it certainly encourages me.

The Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay took us an hour and fifty minutes, about ten minutes faster than I expected. Flip was in charge of the checkpoint. The next section is only about four miles, but I have never done it in less than an hour. There are lots of climbs and descents. The descents aren’t ones you can run down with carefree abandon and expect to live. They are steep, large steps and there are some rock steps which can be uneven and irregular.

We went into Ravenscar more tired than we had been two weeks ago when we finished the Princess Challenge. The heat and the extra ten miles had taken their toll. We spent 35 minutes at Ravenscar. I changed everything apart from running shoes – Scott Kinabalu Supertrack – I still think these suit me very well. I also had rice pudding and coffee and consumed some of my food from the drop bag.

Stage 3 Ravenscar to Filey

I had expected this to be much easier than the other two sections. In reality, I found it as hard as the two other sections.

We came out of the Ravenscar checkpoint and it was very dark and although I was now wearing a long sleeved top, I realised that I was cold and shivering. I put on fleece top and that stayed on until the finish. It is amazing what a change of clothes and food can do, we ran well on the way to Hayburn Wyke, again familiar territory from the event two weeks ago. I had hoped that Hayburn to Scalby Mills at the north end of Scarborough would be straightforward. It wasn’t, it was much longer and more up and down than I had expected. I also made a minor navigational error, but that probably only cost us 3 minutes. Scarborough never seemed to arrive. We were walking more than running. When we arrived at the north end of Scarborough we were in danger of not making the cut off at the south end which was three miles of flat concrete away. We missed it by about four minutes but the marshalls seemed happy to let us continue. More coffee and flapjack were consumed.

Above Skinningrove

We set off again and we walked almost all of the next section to the finish at Filey. I was a bit rusty on the Cayton Bay to Filey section but I had saved my Garmin (my battery only lasts seven hour now) for Stage 3 and I had the route on there and this helped enormously otherwise we might have been tempted to follow the group ahead who made two errors and seemed very uncertain of which way to go. We ended up finishing with them although they had run much more of this section than we had. It was lovely to see Flip waiting for us at 2.00 am on Filey Brigg signalling us with his torch 🙂

Trophy Would I do it again ? When I was doing it, I didn’t think so, it was too tough to be enjoyable and the roller coaster of emotions you get on such events I find hard to cope with. But now, a few days after I have finished, I find myself thinking it was very scenic, the organisation was first class and the marshalls were just fantastic. I am wondering what I will think in a few days ! We were 22 minutes late into the finish, but nobody seemed to mind and there were others who came in soon after. This was the longest time I have ever spent on my feet in an event – 18 hours and 22 minutes.

Thanks to Flip for the lift back to my car in Guisborough where I slept for a few hours 🙂

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