Sunday, 21 January 2018

2018 A year full of uncertainty

It is almost the end of January and I have not run much and have entered very little. I feel in a sort of limbo state. I know I cannot just ignore my foot but trying to get it resolved is making me wish I could just ignore it and hope for the best. I was told to expect an MRI appointment in early/mid Jan so we didn't go skiing, just in case. The NHS 'crisis' soon meant that date seemed unlikely (and I am not complaining as meant patients are much worse off). Then a date of 28 Jan appeared - but it is now too late to ski this month and the consultant appointment is 8 Feb so now space in between and then it is half term...... you get the idea. Oh and I had some sort of flu/chest infection that has left me weak and coughing. I have entered The Northern Traverse in May )as I had a discount from marshalling) and really want to do it but I have no idea if my foot will be solved by then, nevermind the lack of training in the run up.  Uncertainty is starting to get to me.
On the plus side... got to look for the positives.... my frost nipped toes seem to have recovered, we have joined the climbing wall and gym so can go daily for no extra cost. This means my climbing is improving and I am discovering exercises I should be able to do to stay fit even if my foot is operated on.
I have been out for a few slow runs- checking out the new Calderdale Hike route, checking street O map and controls plus an attempt at a long hill run when I had to sit down for a rest! Then I spotted a race entry for the Hebden on sale. OK, lets give it a go. I have done this twice before but not for 4 years. I looked up my times; 4hrs 13 and 4 hrs 22. Surely I can manage to run slowly for that long.
The forecast deteriorated as the week progressed so Bob decided not to come and I cannot really say I blame him. So instead of being in the van on Friday night I drove across early on Saturday. I didn't sleep well as I think I was worried about icy roads.  By 7am I was in a very icy Mytholmroyd car park and skating my way to the church hall. I was early enough to treat myself to tea and toast and still have time for a toilet visit before the queues.

Chatting to so many friends meant it was very soon nearly 8am and time to move outside. The start is now round the corner in the station car park. It  was nippy but not freezing. I probably had too much clothing on but was worried that I might not be moving very fast. It wasn't long before Albert came skipping past and then Josie and Tony shot off too. I settled into what I thought was a comfortable pace for me but was struggling a bit even this early. As we climbed towards Old Town I felt better and ran more, except where I feared black ice or slippery bits.
Love LDWA events and cake

Somewhere on the next section I skidded a bit and pulled my groin. I stopped to rub it and bending over set off what we think is a hernia, twice. I tried to run but it was run a bit, walk a bit all the way down to Hardcastle crags and along to Gibson Mill.
I was going so slowly that I ignored the stepping stones and went to the bridge
People I can usually beat came running past but there was little I could do. I thought about stopping but I was sort of enjoying the snowy scenery and decided to try to jog round the best I could. It was interesting running with different people for a change.There was a guy in shorts with tattoos and I made a plan to stick with him.
I almost went wrong as I missed a sneaky left turn but luckily a runner shouted. Then on the concrete track down to CP3 I had to stop for a pee.
The best stollen!
 My groin and abdomen still felt a bit dodgy at the CP so I grabbed a piece of cake and dashed off before I could decide to retire there. Shorts man was still in sight and I worked hard to keep it that way. He got ahead as I stopped to chat to Dave Bradshaw who must have wondered why I was so slow, walking and even happy to stop and chat.

Climbing up onto Stoodley Moor I started to reel in a few runners and this lifted my spirits a little.

The tops were snowy but I was cosy and concentrated on chasing the shorts as I wasn't sure I could remember the way into the woods. The woodland path was a bit slippy and shorts man got away. I left the CP where the two routes diverge alone and hoped I could remember the way. Luckily yes and then I caught my friend again. We ran together through to the pub at Crag Vale and up onto the final moor. Julian was taking numbers at the CP and I was starting to feel better. Then as I rounded the track bend I spotted orange fluro shorts and a white cag. It had to be Nick.

This gave me another boost and so after a quick photo I shot off running.

Next I spotted Wally who had earlier commented that I must be taking it very easy if he was overtaking me. I managed to stick with him all the way to the end but couldn't quite bring myself to try hard and overtake him on the final road.  As we started to descend to the valley the snow vanished and the thick mud began.

Contouring along the final scarp edge was interesting as was the final footpath before the cycle track. Here I spotted Linda ahead. I was now boiling but too close to the finish to fret about taking a layer off.
The time was a PW by almost 20 minutes but at CP3 I expected a PW of over an hour so I guess I did make up for some lost time. Tony finished in 4hrs 13 (my fastest time) and Josie in 4hrs 20 so perhaps the mud slowed us a bit. Given how much I walked in the middle section I was surprised not to be further behind.
I took my time eating, drinking and chatting in the hall. Where else can you  have mulled wine, pie and peas, a huge apple crumble and custard and also have your empty plates whisked away. I was finally introduced to my double.

I knew there was another Karen Nash and I knew we even had the exact same birth date as it had caused confusion with results and a race entry in the past. It was lovely to meet her and chat.
I couldn't face walking back to the car for a shower and then back to the hall to eat and then back to the car to go home. A quick change into warm dry clothing on the stage had to do. Driving home the sun came out! and then my foot started to hurt. At first I was worried the frost nip effect had returned but it seems it was just the mortons neuroma? and a very bruised big toe nail. I seem to be collecting injuries and if I was a race horse they would have put me down by now. Still, I enjoyed my day out and was glad I hadn't given up. Something about being out on the hills even in iffy weather always makes me feel better about everything. Putting climbing shoes on tomorrow should be interesting though.I think I have missed Rombald's entries but the next LDWA should be Anglezarke Amble and then maybe Peeler's and Two Crosses.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Tour de Helvellyn

This race will always have a special place in my heart. It was the 62nd ultra in my crazy year of multiple ultras but there are so many more reasons too..... It rounds off my racing year, the organisation is low key but spot on, the food is fantastic with real food on the way round and real home made food at the end. Why else do we run ultras except to eat well afterwards? I always know I will meet friends and it isn't actually that far from home. This year I ended up travelling up on Saturday morning, alone in my car, which was different to our usual habit of sleeping in the van on the start line. As I walked into the hall Tony, Albert and Josie were about to set off- damn, I was just not ready to go just yet. Finally I like the race because I know it will be tough and test me. This year just turning up was about 50/50  after frost nip in Nepal damaged my toes and the likely mortons neuroma on my foot got progressively worse. I was quite worried that cold wet feet from the snow would cause me pain but also maybe damage my toes more permanently ( if you have never suffered you won't understand just how painful it is). I am seeing a new consultant on Monday about the neuroma  and as the forecast was OK (although not as good as it had been earlier in the week) I decided to fit in one last run in case what he has planned means no running for a while. Sounds a bit melodramatic but the discomfort and pain have really started to get to me towards the end of this year.
My plan was to start at around 8am so that I would not need a torch on the way out and maybe not on the way back either if all went well. The walk up from the icy wood-yard had been chilly so I kept most of my layers on . It was interesting to see runners in more clothes than even me and yet others in shorts and T shirts. At the kit check with Shane I joked that he needn't do more than lift my sack - to weigh that much I clearly hadn't skimped on gear. Starting on my own meant I could ease into the first climb out of the village with no pressure. I could see others just ahead and in fact I caught Heather as we went through the gate and onto the common, just before Nicky and a friend overtook me.  I love the grassy tracks and paths across Askham Common and the icy was only patchy and very easily avoided for now. I concentrated on keeping my feet dry and warm. I had a cag plus hat and gloves on and was aware I was getting damp but I think it was all just mist and clag not really raining. Dropping off the common there was slightly more ice on the paths but it was still avoidable and didn't slow me down much. By now I was hooked in behind Tony and ??? ( i must ask Josie) and using them to tow me along. I played cat and mouse with them and a few others for much of the day. I dropped to the lakeside and then took the road up to Martindale church as I remembered the alternative path as boggy. I don't think it makes much difference time-wise really.The road  meant slightly more climb and had a few greasy patches. My poorly feet had forced me to wear the oldest and widest trainers I could find but naturally they had almost no tread left on them! A quick scan at the church CP and we were off on a short road section. It wasn't long before this morphed into the track and path to Boredale Hause and we were passing some runners who had set off earlier than us. I lost some time on the descent to Patterdale. I am becoming a real slow coach in old age on steeper descents especially if there is any rock. I caught most people up again at Side Farm as we stopped to be scanned and also grabbed some food (cheese, tomatoes, crisps) and a cup of tea. I set off munching malt loaf. Yum. I made good time along the valley floor and then it was the steady climb up to Greenside mines. The race is relatively unusual in having an open start window of a couple of hours. It is nice to have people to chase down and as others come flying past it also means you see more of both the slower runners and the elite end of the field. Somewhere on the climb Katie, Caspar and Tom came past me and then I caught Chris H. I had not seen him for ages and it was good to chat. After the mines there was deeper snow and before long I stopped to put my kathoolas on. Not much point just carrying them and my worn out shoes were giving me no real grip. They gave me the confidence to move a bit faster, although speed is a relative thing.

I missed the best direct line up but was soon on well trodden snow and in sight of Stu and his bridge.

 Later I believe it got sunny here but for now it was all fogged up with a watery sun not making much impression.

You couldn't see how far up Sticks Pass was, just a straggled line of runners disappearing into the gloom.

The compacted snow was good for running and I was enjoying myself.

There were skiers and snow boarders having fun or flogging up in the hope of fun.

Then suddenly we were at the top and I prepared myself for losing more places again on the descent. Even in kathoolas I was a bit timid although in fairness my big toes were now wet and cold and so painful.A quick scan with Shane and it was onward on the rocky muddy path to Swirls car park. More real food and another cup of tea plus a quick moan to Gaynor (sorry) about the state of my foot. Then the seemingly endless forest track.... I was too lazy to stop and take off the kathoolas and they were not as uncomfortable as I expected. I was keeping Tony etc in sight but now also had a chat with Steve W as I passed and then spotted another Steve W up ahead - it took me until the bottom of Grisedale to catch him but I did eventually. In the meantime we had Raise Beck to climb. There was some ice but not so much. Part way up was John Bamber in full Santa gear with his camera and then the top and Grisedale |Tarn appeared.

 It looked amazing but the path was less consistent than at Sticks Pass and the danger of some deep holes slowed me down. Here runners split.

 I should perhaps have gone down the grassy bit towards the stream as I was definitely not fast on the icy rocky path, The vis was now clear and I could see all the way to the bridge so it would have been safe and perhaps faster. It was at the bridge where I took kathholas off that I eventually caught Steve W and trotted off happily on the big wide track. The lure of more food at Side farm was pulling me on. Along the main road in Patterdale a car honked it's horn- Stu on his way to Side Farm but he didn't offer me a lift. One think that long ultras has taught me is positive thinking so as well as the food and another cup of tea at the CP I was buoyed up by the thought of only having to  climb Boredale Hause not Place Fell!

It should only be 2 hours or so from here. Yay!  The stop for a cup of tea was well worth while. I had been thirsty at Grisedale and drunk from streams and even sucked some snow.

Now I concentrated on keeping up with some and catching others. The descent was easier than I expected and apart from 100m or so was easy and fast running. The lane seemed so much longer than on the way out this morning even though the first half was gently downhill.  Then up and up to Martindale church but knowing that the last real climb was now done.

I missed the best line down to the lake but was soon on the path by the wall and heading back to Akham Common. I concentrated hard on picking runners off and had some success although at least one runner did pass me.

 I ran well over the common, past the cockpit and on to the skyline that would drop me to Askham. I must have put just a bit too much effort in because at the fell gate it all fell apart and at least 5 who I had overtaken caught me and headed off to the village. I was tired and even though the end was close I struggled to make myself run. I knew my chance of a PB had faded up at the fell gate but as I headed down to the village in ever thickening mist I hoped I could make sure it was not a PW. No torch was needed and I was back in 8hrs 27. So not a PW. Not a great time perhaps but I was happy and I later found I could have kept up with Tony and Josie after all.
Soup, real brown bread, more soup and then 3 cups of tea and I started to feel normal.  A relaxing chat with Tony, Albert and Josie with ore tea and cake before I suddenly started to feel chilly. A quick escape to the toilets to strip off damp layers and get my feet warm and dry made me happy again. The walk back to the wood-yard seemed twice as long even though it was now down hill and even though the road was not icy as I had feared. I got the car heater blasting hard and then realised the harm it was doing to my frost nipped toes. I nearly stopped at Tebay services as the pain in my right foot was so intense but instead coasted the downhill as I massaged my foot and turned the heater down. Tony et al shot past me at Sedburgh but  despite the mist it was an easy and fairly short drive home.
Not a bad day out to end the racing season. Thanks to all at Nav 4. I enjoyed the local beer that evening too.

Monday, 6 November 2017

End of the - well, end of the Runfurther series

The White Rose Ultra would be event 12 in the Runfurther series.

 The pressure was on in oh so many ways. Bob  (and Nick, but I don't  live with him) was hoping to complete his Grand Slam and we had very rashly decided to do the Runfurther AGM and Prize giving immediately after the race. It may not have been so bad if there had been more than a weeks break since race 11 Jedburgh. Getting Jedburgh results uploaded and new leader boards was soon sorted but some positions were still to be decided on the day after the WRU. (I won't be suggesting we do that again).
Bob and I drove across late on Friday afternoon and after coffee and cake were met by Wane who ushered our van into the inner sanctum of the Visitor Centre. It was warm and sunny so we put up the flags and banners at a leisurely pace before retiring inside to admire the building, drink more coffee and talk ultras. We were the first very early runners to register. A few more runners started to trickle in after 6pm and we went out to the van for our evening meal.

The weather then deteriorated as the forecast had promised it would. The cold and drizzle of evening became heavy rain for much of the night although the wind stayed calm.

I heard Wane go off at some stupid early time to drive round and check all his arrows were still in place; I just turned over and went back to sleep. By 6.30 we were up, dressed and eating breakfast. I left Bob to his last minute faffing and chatted to runners inside until the heat drove me out into the courtyard. I had been unsure which shoes to wear and I didn't really get it right. My old Scotts are on their last legs but have a roomy toe box. I should have worn them and not worried about the few slippy bits of terrain. Instead I went for the new pair and although they are meant to be the same size they have just never been as comfy. I had to change out of them on H200 and really wished I could today.
I had run the inaugural event back in 2013 when it took me 5hrs12 in fairly grim weather. I could remember more road than I like, some very steep tarmac descents and freezing hail coating me and the road at the top of Wessenden. The rest was mostly a blur now - except the spot where I fell heavily and ripped my tights, grazed my knee and bashed my shoulder. This year the race centre was another new location (it has moved several times as the race has expanded) and the route had some changes too. Sadly the first bit of hillside is now road due to local access issues.

As we stood on the start line the weather was already improving and before the top of the first road runners were stripping off cags. Climbing up Wessenden and the views of the reservoirs and waterfalls is the nicest bit of the route I think. By the time I was on this track I was settling into a steady pace and my foot was behaving; for now. The main road at the top was fairly quiet and we were soon turning off onto paths and tracks again. This year there were so many arrows you could not go wrong so I missed the pavement where I had tumbled. A short road section and we were back onto another track and heading for a little reservoir and a CP. I had opted to carry my own food and did not need water yet. I was surprised that they were not taking numbers. There were other runners around me here but nobody very close. I remember a descent and then a more urban bit, a fork where we could see no arrow and then a climb up to Golcar. My foot was now starting to throb. A lady runner was just ahead and I tried hard not to let her get away. I had no idea how many other women were ahead but thought at least 2 or 3. The eroded cobble path down to the original start at the cricket club was slippery and I was a bit cautious- my toes were now regretting my shoe choice. I almost enjoyed the stiff climb up the north side of the valley but once at the top my foot pain became unbearable. I did try to massage it back to normality but I couldn't get it comfy. I tried to hide as by now there were tears. In the end I gave up and hobbled on. I concentrated on stomping hard up and through the golf course area  and did catch some runners who had passed me. It was a joy to leave the lanes and to climb the very muddy boggy path up onto the bit of moor. Sadly it was over all too soon and we were back on lanes. A gentle descent was bearable but on steep tarmac my toes were now adding to the foot agony. What should have been easy running was torture. I cursed my stupidity and tried to just run through it. I knew there were some even steeper descents under the railway and into the valley where Marsden sits but I had forgotten how cruel the end of the route is. You climb steeply up and up away from the finish (which you can almost see) and then look west for about a mile (well past the finish) before the final turn for home. On this very last bit the woman I had thought was ahead came past being paced by a friend. She had gone wrong near the golf course and had been struggling to catch me up again. Then I spotted another woman- no way was I being overtaken twice. My foot just had to lump it. It was not far to the finish and for 5 minutes I blanked it from my mind. It meant tears and pain on the finish line but I did stay ahead. I have no idea of my time but think it was about 5hrs 20. Not too bad all things considered I suppose.
Once my foot was bearable I chatted to Dick who was handing out spot prizes- Thanks Betadesigns, another much needed pair of Injinji socks. A quick strip wash in the van and I went upstairs to find food and Andy, the Runfurther webmaster. Although not running he had come to update the leader board and sort out today's results ready for the AGM. We spotted Nick finish his Grand Slam and then I waited for Bob. Luckily I was downstairs as he finished and so I was able to get a picture of him and congratulate him on the line. Fantastic effort and our first ever V70 Grand Slammer. A good day for Runfurther- Rory Harris did his 4th race and jumped to 3rd on the overall results, Ken was 3rd and so took overall lead and Kevin although poorly completed the 30 miles and was 2nd overall. Lee who is part of Betadesigns finished 2nd so we need to sign him up for next year.
Once Bob was back Andy started to try to get results while Dick and I went up to the pub to start organising the AGM etc. Martin and Lee were already there. Despite hassle with results the AGM went well- it's fairly short and informal. Andy stood down from the committee but Kevin Smith has volunteered in his place. Then the food arrived- it was worth the wait! The prize giving was awash with Ultimate Direction, Injinji products plus some PBland vouchers.  A few runners were missing due to family commitments or illness but the room was full and lively.

Those runners who had completed 4 counting races collected their rewards- a Giraffe neck tube for first timers and a T shirt for the rest.

As we were relaxing those on the 60 mile or 100 mile were of course still out and in worsening weather. A special mention to Runfurther runner Steve Spence who completed his 4th 100 miler for 2017 and in a 100 mile PB. (not that we knew this til Sunday).
Then it was back to the event centre for Bob, Dick and I as we still needed to take down all the flags and banners. Phew, finally over and we can relax. Well almost... there were some wet flags to dry first.

Monday, 16 October 2017

It's been a while

After a big summer race It now seems ages since I really ran. I loved supporting Bob on the Hardmoors 60 and we have also supported for the weekend of Lakes in a Day. In between times we had a fortnight in Scotland- mostly on Skye walking and scrambling.
There were not many opportunities to run in this time but also my foot is so sore that I sort of lost the love. I can do shorter runs from home and at under 2 hours my foot generally behaves reasonably well but it doesn't really inspire or enthuse me. It should have been a joy to run from Oddendale near Shap but after 2 hours I was struggling and frustrated. I did enjoy a run back along part of the LIAD but it was not really pushing myself as I knew I had to get back. With all this at the back of my mind I knew Round Rotherham would be tough. I think it is quite a tough race anyway as it so fast and flat , with no hills to stomp up, that I feel I should run every step.
I do like this race and wish more people would give it a go. It is much more varied and scenic than it sounds, the RO team are great, the CP staff very helpful and you get food at the end. The timing is Si now so results and split times to CPs are instant. I think it is about my 6th running of the event. It also has an interesting set of race maps- not sure if Henry's strip maps are unique or not but I love them.
We drove across early on Friday and after a quick lunch in the van spent a lovely afternoon walking along the track to Elsecar, exploring the historic sign boards that I never usually get the chance to read and then collecting sweet chestnuts in the woods. We did also try out various garmin nav devices - I think I prefer to make the best I can with map and compass; the tech got me more stressed and that was without the dark, pressure of a race and tiredness.

 By 6pm the Runfurther flags and banners were all up and we were fed. A brief committee meeting and we were back at the van for a natter and an early night. It was windy but very very warm all through the night.
The van didn't move for two nights
At 5am Bob got up to get to the early start. I pretended to stay asleep but it didn't work and by 5.30 I was up too.  I wished Bob and Dick well as I wandered up to the sports hall with a delivery of Romney's mint cake and Runfurther display boards and postcards. By the time I had eaten, registered and run back to the van to ditch superfluous kit there was little time to chat and it was almost 7am. As we set off there was no need for torches and the first few kilometers flew by as always. In terms of a race plan I was torn. I know it is easy to get carried away over the first 5 miles or so and then risk blowing up but I also knew that my foot would be good for 2 hours and then probably not so good. I decided to go off fast and get as far as I could before my foot complained. I had the company of a first timer who was local but now lives in Switzerland. It was good to chat so Thank You David.  David and a few others were going at an even faster pace although I did see them a couple of times when they made minor nav errors. By Wentworth and Thorpe Hesley I was catching walkers on the early start but there seemed fewer runners than usual as I jogged up to Keppel's column and then down to CP1 in Grange Park.
Keppel's column - from last year
The next section is not my favourite and I lost concentration after Dropping Well Road when I passed Bob and then a huge dog jumped up and clawed my leg. At least the minor deviation only cost me about 2 minutes and I still make good time to Tinsley viaduct.  Then 15 miles in and my foot was starting to cause problems. I had tried to distract myself with food and spotting more sweet chestnuts but it was no good. A quick sit on the verge and foot massage helped. It is always wonderful how many other runners ask if there is anything they could do, anything I needed etc at those times. Short of surgery there wasn't anything to be done really so I put my shoe back on and manned up. I hoped I would get another 90 minutes or so before it became too painful again. Catcliffe came and went along with my annual gazing across the reclaimed land of Orgreave Pit and sending silent commiserations to miners and little bombs of hate to Thatcher etc. I caught up with Dick just before CP2 and was ready for  food and a water refill. I was confused when they said I was second woman as I knew no woman was ahead of me from for 7am start. Oh well. I enjoyed my run past the lake and then along the field paths to the viaduct and towards Rother Valley Country Park. Nearly 20 miles done now but my foot was complaining again. I tried another massage but this time it seemed to have no effect at all. The British Schools orienteering champs were on in the park and I distracted myself looking for controls and people that I knew. Somewhere around here I also met up with Nigel and it was good to chat every now and again. The field paths that can be so muddy when bare of crops were a dream- dry and not too rutted. Harthill and 25 miles in about 4hrs 15 so not too bad (although I knew it would get slower). My foot was now very sore and I gave in. The nice man refilled my water bottles and I had a sandwich and some nibbles. I was a bit down but knew I would be disappointed with myself if I pulled out and I knew that Sharon Gaytor was still behind me as I had seen her husband waiting in the approach fields. I got running again  and enjoyed the fields and woods past the turbines. The minor route diversion due to a broken bridge came and went almost unnoticed although it was nice to miss the biggest stile of the whole race. I was back with Nigel and other friends in this section so the chatting helped take my mind off my foot. Planes were taking off at the air strip and the countryside was lovely. I was very glad of the unofficial drink station after the canal at Turnerwood as I desperately needed more water. The golf course took less time than I remember from the past and a kind person had spray painted arrows on the floor too. The climb to Woodsetts was hard work but 50km was now done. My foot was sore again and I knew I needed some real food. Sharon's husband was waiting for her on the lane so I dashed into the CP. Whilst I was inside trying to drink scalding hot soup, eating tuna sandwiches and trying more foot massage Sharon  nipped past and so did a young lady who went on to win (although I did not know this until much later). Ah well. It took a while to get going again but once on the field paths my muscles got used to the idea and I ran harder as I could see Sharon up ahead. After a couple of kilometers I caught Nigel again and worked on getting closer to Sharon. We left Langfold lake together and chatted as we made our way through the woods. I don't know who put the gravel on this path a year ago but I would like to shoot them! Sharon and I were to play cat and mouse from here to the end.
There were 4 wreaths this year
She pulled ahead on the last fields to Firbeck and it took me a while to catch her on the zig zag tracks over the fields towards Roche Abbey.

I love that section and it is probably the most scenic. We ran the last section of woods and then the fields to Maltby together. I had not realised when I met her last year what a running legend she was until I arrived home to an email from Wendy Dodds who was so impressed that I had beaten her she had taken time to write to me. Today we laughed about this- Sharon is modest- as we drank at the CP.  Maltby means under 10 miles to go and this always gives me a boost.  First I pulled ahead and then sitting by the lonely trig point Sharon came past.

By Micklebring we were together again and it stayed that way under the M18 and across the first fields. Her husband also told us we had closed ten minutes on the lead girl and that she was only about 3 minutes ahead now. We had our first nav blip here. We have both done the race a number of times but the fields were freshly ploughed and harrowed and some hedges seemed to have gone. there was not the faintest trod leading to the bridge over the disused rail line cutting. We didn't hesitate long but it was unnerving. From here I pulled ahead very slightly and when I turned round at Firsby Hall Farm and again at the gap in the hedge I couldn't see any more runners. It boosted me a bit and I shot off down the only mud of the whole day to reach Hooton Roberts. Across the main road and climbing the lane I spotted three 'faster' runners painfully making their way up. I used each on to pull me on- and did try to give encouragement in recompense. I now had the strip map in my hand; not because I would get lost but I was ticking off the km and playing mind games with myself. The run down the field to Old Denaby is a joy although I did lose several minutes asking a marshal to dig gels out the bag of my pack. I should have done it myself. 5km to go, how hard can it be. I was fortunate to have a relay runner with me as we headed for the railway and canal. It spurred me on. The river section was kind to me feet and was over in a flash. under 3km left as I ran down the steps and towards the dead end canal. I had a short walk leaving Swinton but then the last km was flat and easy.  Not a great time and 45 mins slower than last year but I was pleased to only be 3 mins or so behind first lady and 4 mins ahead of Sharon.

My foot was complaining and would do so for hours but it had allowed me to race and I was happy. I used the chrono on my watch to record all my  foot massage time and it was 42 minutes so in the end not so different to last year. I had thought the dry ground would make for fast times but it seemed that the heat and humidity had more than countered this with many runners about an hour slower than usual. I didn't run with my camera so finding some photos will be a challenge.

The lead runners Ken Sutor and Kevin Hoult had long gone but it was nice to eat, drink, chat with friends and then wait for and welcome home other Runfurther runners.
Bob and Badger who he had been with for some time
Bob and Dick were back in the dark but luckily I was outside dealing with flags and banners so I met Bob on the run in.

He and Nick both completed so their Grand Slam plans are still on course.


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Crewing the Hardmoors 60

Bob had rashly? bravely? decided to go for a Runfurther Grand Slam. Several races would be a challenge for different reasons but he was anxious about the Hardmoors 60 - possibly after seeing me in pieces at various Hardmoors races and partly due to what for him would be tight cut-offs. To help with this I offered to crew rather than run. It meant the van could be at intervals along the course with clean dry clothes, a change of shoes, a la carte menu etc.
We drove across on Friday and walked a bit of the route from Skelton to Saltburn Valley Gardens. A gremlin had duplicated a sentence in the race notes and talked about going under the viaduct twice. I was sure it didn't but it made a nice walk and we had hours to kill. It was beautiful and sunny afternoon but by early evening that was changing fast. A night in the camper-van with the wind howling and torrential rain beating on the roof meant that I was becoming more and more happy that I was not racing but a little concerned that this would not be great for Bob.
Ready for anything
By 5.45am we were at the Sea Cadets. Bob and Dick registered and off at their pre-agreed early start time of 6am. Having the extra two hours was a buffer that hopefully would not be needed as Bob was determined to arrive at the cut-offs within the given hours. The rain had stopped although the skies were leaden. I left them to it and was busy putting up Runfurther display boards and banners which the RO's team then moved to the finish for me.
Swollen after heavy rain overnight
I was parked up in Saltburn with more than enough time to have breakfast and read my book. It was wild and windy and a nasty squall of rain came through.

Once it was dry I set off back up the course to see how they were doing.  I thought I might get to the viaduct but they were moving well and almost at the Visitor Centre CP.  I raced back to the van to dig out a dry shirt for Bob and also to get more food ready.
Damp start to the day
I have run this line a few times but never driven most of it and our van is big so I was mildly anxious of getting stuck somewhere.
Up and over- the next roller-coaster
I moved to Skinningrove as a surprise. This time I put the kettle on and then only had a very very short run before they emerged around the little headland.
Dick contemplating the damage from his fall
Tea, food and a gear sort and they were off up the next steps and hill. Dick had fallen and was suffering a bit.
An eating ultra
Next stop Cowbar before Staithes which is impossible for vehicles. This time there was no rain and the day was brightening but as I ran back towards Boulby headland the strong northerly kept halting me in my tracks- luckily they had a nice tail wind. Any records this year will be wind assisted.



 Bob was moving well and Dick not far behind although his ribs were now starting to bother him. They refuelled in the van and moved on not too many minutes apart.

It was nice being able to run back to find then like this and take their special requests for food or drink and also ensure that they lost as little time as possible. As I was leaving I spotted the first two men flying down the old eroded road. It would be minutes before they caught Bob and Dick.
Runswick Bay had moved the CP. I had expected them in the lower car park and hoped to park the van at the top. I managed to squeeze in and it is a great CP location with an aerial view over the beach and along to the ravine and also back up the road to see runners appearing.

The lead men raced through and also in the top 6 Martin Terry who would be 1stV50. I ran back up the course again (I would be very bored at and ultra doing no running) and had a request for hot sugary tea.

Ah, we have no sugar in the van. Bob made do and took on more food- marmite and peanut butter sandwiches being a favourite (not together).

I sent him on his way and was worrying about Dick. He arrived with talk of maybe dropping out as his fall was causing him pain and we are all due to go to Scotland for more adventures next week. I knew I didn't have long to get to Sandsend  but that once there I could wait so he set off again. I couldn't get the van in the car park but found easy parking on the roadside.
Good to see Barney back
 It was now warm enough to remove my over trousers  although my reward was a heavy shower. I got talking to runners and suddenly spotted Bob on the big track from the old alum works.

 I shot off to meet him, to get his requests and then to race back to the van to prepare. He was moving well and making better time than I had anticipated.
More Hardmoors steps
I realised that if I used his ipad for photos I could upload them during the race. I took a few random runners too and had great banter with Steve and Shaun who ran for the camera more than once. I had also met Martin again and I gutted that in our haste to get a good action Runfurther photo it is a bit blurred.

I was just getting worried about Dick and hoped he would figure out that the van would not fit under the height barriers so I would be up the road... No, he was worried too- that he would have to run to Saltwick and that I had abandoned him. Not a chance. A relieved man climbed into the van, sank into a chair with a cup of tea and announced that sadly he was done for the day.
I now had company for the remainder of the day which was nice as the evening came and the hours stretched a bit. I didn't fancy the narrow roads and crowds at Whitby Abbey and no support was allowed at Saltwick caravan site so we moved to to Robin Hood's Bay. We were far to early so had a brew, a chat and then I went for a wander while Dick had forty winks.
The sun has come out
 I thought I was getting a dab hand at predicting Bob's time but he stormed along this section so I missed my run. I was also worried about getting a parking space closer to the CP and had to hover and then move fast to get this. Soup, more sandwiches and a toilet break for Bob before he set off downhill but knowing Boggle Hole and the steps were coming soon. He took his better torch now too as reports said the coast road was blocked and so I might not get to Ravenscar easily. In fact we were there with plenty of time to spare and what a view it is looking back north along the coast. This time I left Dick cat napping and did get a run. Bob decided to go to the CP in the hall and not the van so we all walked up together.

Several cups of tea and many squares of quiche later he felt fortified enough to continue. Nick arrived too, and then Sarah and Andy so we had a little Runfurther party. I pushed Bob out the door with the encouragement that the next bit was downhill. Well the first bit on the road and even the first cliff top bit is...... I just didn't mention Hayburn Wyke and the other inlets. We moved on to Scalby and the Sea Life Centre. The heat was definitely going out of the day now, so much so that we put the van heater on for a while to take the chill off. We had another hot drink, did the maths to predict Bob's arrival and then waited. By the time I set off back onto the cliffs it was getting dark and as my eyes had not gradually adjusted I needed my torch.

First I met Nick who assured me had passed Bob some time back. I kept going and suddenly Bob was there only about 5-10 minutes behind Nick. He had obviously had a good patch once the terrain levelled out.

 A quick pit stop in the warm van and he was sent off around the Scarborough Proms and Bays. This is not my favourite section but I do try to see the positives- street lights, a level surface, no mud and no hills- and encouraged Bob to do the same. I sent him after two ladies but sadly they were doing a charity run on a different route.
Meanwhile we moved to Holbeck cliff top. In the dark I had misunderstood the lie of the land so it is just as well that itchy feet made me get out and explore and found the CP! I was chilly so ran back to the Spa. It was lovely seeing head torches appear and to be able to encourage runners on. Bob by now was slowing. I had taken him a cup of hot chocolate which he drank but he also wanted a warm top - an opportunity for a quick sprint to the van and back. He didn't want to eat much and I should probably have insisted more strongly. Most important was the fact that he made the CP before 9.30pm. With his two hour head start this meant he would have just made the 11.30pm cut off and so could consider he had completed the course and made all the cut-offs. There was nowhere else sensible to meet until Filey.  We had plenty of time for a last minute Tesco dash, to find a parking spot close to the hall and to chat to finishers. I took down the Runfurther stuff whilst I had spare time- I guessed that runners arriving after 15 hours or so would not be very bothered what flags they didn't see in the dark and that they would not want to read a display board! Dick went off for a shower and I had plenty of time to chat and eat. Predicting Bob's time was getting less easy. I knew he had hoped to finish before midnight but thought this would be tight. I dug out my head torch and ran out onto Filey Brigg. I met Sarah S and various other runners. Using my garmin I was able to let them know just how little they now had left. Jon had arranged for glow sticks on the steps and across the grass and cliff tops. At the slip way I met Nick and he shot off to use the beach approach and so save himself the climb and steps. I was well on m way to Cunstone Nab when I met Bob and Steve Spence. Steve was jet lagged and hallucinating. He jogged off and just wanted it over. Bob was exhausted and nothing I did or said could persuade him to run or jog.
Finished at last!
It felt a long 1.8 miles back to town and the last hill. Then the church clock was there and I urged him to keep going- getting in before 00.30am was possible. Tired but happy that the Grand Slam is still on he collapsed into a chair. Great effort, well done.

I enjoyed my day. It was nice to pay back all the times Bob has supported me and I really liked being able to encourage runners and cheer them on.
Big breakfast on Sunday