Monday, 27 May 2013

No 29 Hardmoors 110 An adventure into the unknown

I knew I wanted this to be my first run over 100 miles but did not know whether I could do it or if it was a good idea to try in the middle of my challenge year. It felt right as Jon was RO and had been so supportive when I asked if I should have a go at 52 ultras. As usual I fell for Jon's motivational and persuasive comments and decided to give it a go. I asked the boss if I could skip Friday afternoon and was suddenly panicked by what I had done when he said 'Yes, just go'.

RO Jon hard at work
Now I had to do it. I spent the week in the lead up nursing a sore throat and then taught two days with no voice. Typical of my luck- just as I make plans things start to get tricky! I didn't dare take time off and prayed it would be OK by Friday. My voice did sort of come back and my chest felt OK so I knew I would give it my best shot. My plan was to abandon my car in Helmsley and worry about how to collect it afterwards but my husband took pity on me and came as unofficial support.
Now the car would get to the finish and I would see a friendly face every so often and have the luxury of a little more support than the drop bags.The drive was uneventful and I managed a full strip change as we drove plus a huge pot of pasta and tuna as a rather early tea. We arrived at the pavilion just a registration was setting up. Almost two hours of nervous chat and numerous loo trips. Simon D was there early but nervous about whether injury would let him have a good run (OH YES IT DID) and I tried to decide who would be running at my pace and keep me sensible. Should I run with Mick C who I knew had run that far before? What about Sarah and Andy who knew the way?  I also met Martin who was nursing a cold and Annie who was bubbly as ever and had the biggest run pack I have ever seen.
The 2 hours vanished and Jon had us grouped outside for the race briefing. The weather that has worried me so much looked like it was improving. I was very anxious about being cold and wet going into the night but this was now looking less likely. By 5 we were out on the lane and after a couple of shuffles to let cars past we were off. Shelli set off like a rocket and even the lead men were gob smacked.
I tried to go steady but realised I was going faster than I intended but felt OK. I settled into the pace and chatted to Kevin who was local - yes, if I could keep with him my nav worries were over. By the White Horse/ Glider Club escarpment I knew I had overcooked it slightly and dropped a few places as I slowed and took care down the steps. Bob had walked up to meet me- the first of many little surprise visits that kept me going. Jon gave me abuse at the CP.
I had questioned his first cut off time as harsh but now I was so far inside it to worry me. The flog back up to the top was hard work and the lads I was with pulled ahead. The views along the top were fantastic and the running relatively easy. I hit the bad patch that I knew would come after about 12 miles. The muscles took turns at locking up and punishing me for daring to go off so fast. Unusually I seemed calm and just backed off the pace and enjoyed the views.
 It would be OK after a bit, and it was. I caught up my little group again only to recognise one as Andy who was grouped next to us in the Fellsman.  I passed Kevin who sadly later tripped, fell and pulled out. We ran as a loose group all the way to Osmotherly.
Bob had driven round to Sneck Yate and also to the car park on Thimbley Moor just before we dropped down to the village. He was there at the village hall as I arrived. Refreshed with a cup off tea and a rice pudding I was off again wanting to stay in touch with the others ready for the inevitable dark. We made our first nav error in Clain Wood and had a bit of cross country downhill to get back on track.
It probably only cost us 5-10 minutes but was enough to make me be careful over the next few hours. Jon had found enough marshalls for all the CPs on Live Moor, Cold Hill and Carleton Bank so no worries about finding a tiny self clip. The group was good company and we moved along at  a steady pace.  Before Lord Stones we needed torches. The tops were easy running but the decsents with the funny muddy rock steps were slow going. I was determined not to risk injury this early on. Cringle Moor and Hasty bank passed in a bit of a blur. I lost Martin and Andy at some point and ran with Richard over Wainstones. I remember Shirley at the road crossing and recognised it as where I was bundled into a warm car on the 2009 H55 race. No need today though as I ran through and up onto Round Hill. Our loose grouping stretched and tightened repeatedly as we hit Blowith Crossing and turned towards Kildale.

The next bit was longer than I remembered but fairly flat across the moors and then downhill. I collected a dropped control card en route and arrived at the CP with Richard. It is always a small world- he lives where I was born.  Unfortunately he gradually pulled away as we climbed to Captain Cook monument (again photo from Bob some hours later) and as I dithered about which path to take Lorraine caught me up.  Bob in the meantime  had driven round to the next road crossing, slept a couple of hours and was standing in the car park to greet me as we ran through. It was lovely to see a smiling face at 2.30am and I hope he forgives me for just a quick wave and being off. Tiredness and dark made me hesitant over the next section and I even ran back and checked Lorriane was following at one point. She was so I pushed on towards Rosebury Topping. (pic from Bob once it was daylight not 3am when I was there)
The climb up was fine but the descent on the rocks was hard work. Next time I need to now where the grassy descent is.  I passed Andy and Martin as I ran down and this gave me a boost of enthusiasm. It was to be my downfall. Having retraced my steps to the had gate I took the wrong path on the moor. Sadly so had another runner so when I got the the next stile there was a wet footprint and a jelly baby. Must be OK then. It wasn't but I ploughed on. Soon I started a steep descent. I knew this was wrong but could not face retracing my steps and it was still darkish.I reasoned that if I dropped to the next forest track and then headed east all would be OK. I passed an enormous boulder, the Hanging Stone, but could not find it on the map. (view of R Topping- what we would have seen if it wasn't dark)
I did meet a forest road but now faced some huge looping miles as the track followed the contours through the woods above Guisborough. I put the map away and kept running. I was mad at myself for making such a mistake and refusing to go back uphill. I ran hard as self punishment. I crossed the Tees link and did consider dropping to the old rail track path but decided that would be cheating. Instead I carried on east and climbed until I hit the concrete road and was back on route. All the time I wondered how much time I had lost and how many had overtaken me. As I climbed to Airey farm I spotted two runners ahead but had no idea who they were.  At the railway viaduct I caught them up and ran with Lorriane into the CP at the hotel. The hard running had taken its toll and my throat was like sandpaper.
 Fortunately Bob was there to meet me with a cup of tea and the offer of strepsils (probably the first ultra fuelled by strepsils? think I ate a whole packet over the race). I took my time and gathered myself for the next section. I left with Bob and Boris. The sun was up and it was a new day. Just what we needed. I ran most of the next section alone enjoying the views of cliffs and rock platforms. I remembered most of this from the H60 last autumn and there was not really any nav to worry about- just keep the sea on your left! I met many early dog walkers and runners. I am not sure what time I thought it was but it seemed strange to be greeted with good morning after we had been going so many hours.
 Boris and me leaving Saltburn. Wow- sunshine.
At Runswick I caught up with Lorriane who had not stopped long at Saltburn. She has a big support crew that kept appearing on bikes and it was cheering to have them shout well done etc. Approaching Whitby I knew I needed food and ate some marmite sandwiches. I had thought about a hot pie but the town was in full bank holiday tourist mode and all I wanted to do was escape through as fast as I could. The streets were too narrow to avoid tourists and it was such a relief to reach the Abbey and leave them all behind.
Somewhere on the next section Lorriane dropped behind and I spotted two runners up ahead in the distance. I did not chase, having learnt my lesson in the woods.  I promised myself chips or a pie in Robin Hoods bay and ran on. The day was glorious- warm, sunny and with a cool breeze. We could not have asked for better. I hoped Bob was getting the good weather and had gone back to Rosebury Topping for his walk. Part of me also hoped he might be in Robin Hoods bay as I was warm and hoped to change into shorts and out of wet socks.
He wasn't there and the chip shop had a queue about 20 people long. I remembered refilling my water bottle in the public toilets on the H60 and should have done today. The next part of coast has numerous descents to cross becks and inlets. I knew this section would be tough. Clinging onto the handrails where ever possible I  negotiated Boggle Hole and Stoupe beck. I also ran out of water and filled from a stream.
Not far to Ravenscar and the next drop bag now. Bob was at the top of the road and a supporter/marshall had walked down with water and to guide us in. It was good to sit in the village hall and take a few minutes to recover. I changed into shorts and tried not to worry at the state of my feet. They were very white, wet, soft and squidgy. Oh well, new socks and shoes might help. 91 miles done and I was determined I could now finish, even it meant some sort of death march.
 Boris and Richard L set off as I was smearing vaseline on my feet. I followed a few minutes later leaving Bob to clear up my smelly socks, shoes and tights. As I crossed the cinder track cycle path I imagined finding a bike and free wheeling all the way to Scarborough. Ha ha, no such luck, so stop dreaming and get on with it. I knew I needed to eat again but really could not face any of what was left. Coughing led to a disgusting mouthful of the wierdest gunk I have ever known, but I'll spare you those details. I must have been moving faster than I hoped because I caught up Richard and passed him. 
We agreed that despite mashed feet then end was now in sight if we could just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  A gel gave me enough fuel to get over Scalby and down into Scarborough. The waves were crashing over the prom and sand from the high tide was everywhere. At least there was more space for tourists and runners here. I tried to run/jog but ended up walking most of the next bit around the castle headland. It was hot, I was tired and I was getting dehydrated even though I now had water. Bob was waiting at the Spa CP. I must have looked a state and he even asked if I was going to continue. In retrospect the next bit was hilarious although I did not think so at the time.
 My arrival at the CP coincided with a change of shift in marshalls. In my haste to get on my way I missed any instructions about the high tide, a rerouting etc etc. I got to the next bay to find two foot of water and crashing waves. Ah. I decided that if I climbed the metal mesh avalanche netting perhaps I could get round the point. It worked but then at the next bay there was no way across the the big gravel path up the grass to the cliff top. Kelly's dad yelled something about rerouting and I set off up the myriad of paths where the big landslip had been. Many of these paths just ended blocked off and by the time I hit the road at the top I was in a foul mood. Definitely my low point of the event. A long long section on tarmac to avoid the high tide and a closed path was not what I needed, plus I felt sick.
 There was no way I was going through that.
 By Cayton Bay I had somehow persuaded myself to eat and to get a move on. Leaving the tarmac was a delight and when I realised that running hurt my feet less than walking I jogged steadily on for all except the uphills. I couldn't believe it, my legs felt OK considering, but my feet were hell. Realising that I could run gave me a huge boost and at least the end would arrive more quickly. I passed all the caravans with their BBQs and gardens full of lazing beer drinkers... if only..... Then suddenly I could see the next town. Was it Filey? I thought so but did not dare to get too optimistic just in case. Then I recognised the start of the Brigg. Oh yes. Please let me find the self clip quickly. It was there on the sign post just as promised.
 As I turned towards town I spotted Bob. He had walked down from the finish to meet me. It was just the spur I needed. I always get an extra rush of energy at the end of MMs and today was no different. we jogged across the Wolds way and walked across the beach to the prom. I had done all the maths wrong with my tired brain. I thought I could break 28 hours if I tried hard but Bob corrected me and pointed out I could beat 27 hours. By Martin's ravine I was jogging with determination towards the golf course. Bob went back to check I had not missed the self clip and I ran on up to the caravan site. The self clip was higher than I expected but it was easy to find. Final push. I could not remember how much after 5pm we had started and left nothing to  doubt. I felt like I was sprinting up Muston road. I got a shock when I was directed to the back of the school- how dare they make us run further! Then the door and finish was there. 26 hours 50 minutes and a welcome from Shirley, Debbie and other marshalls. I sat with a huge smile on my face. I had done it. My throat had coped and I was chuffed to bits with the time. I had thought 30 hours was possible and dared hope that maybe if all was well I could do 28 hours. A cup of tea and then a long hot shower before I collapsed onto my bed and hid under my sleeping bag.
 I wasn't sleepy but it was great to be horizontal. I am glad I risked the massage with Karen because I am sure it helped me recover. Boris went out for a chinese takeaway but I grazed on sausage rolls and let Bob make me real coffee. I sort of dozed but was awake enough to chat with Mick when he finished and to see Lorriane get in. Then I really crashed out for about four hours. By 7 I was up and hungry. The more I moved the better I felt. Sarah and Andy agreed that walking to the breakfast cafe would help and we set off together.
We wandered back in the sunshine for the prize giving at midday. It was good to see Shelli and say well done but sadly Simon had already gone home.  Big thanks to Jon and Shirley for a fantastic event.  Bob and I shared the driving home and shared a tub of ice cream on the way. I sat in the garden with a cold beer and my feet in a bucket of cold water. A long sleep and long lie in with coffee and a book and I felt fine. My legs even allowed a short jog and the two blisters on my feet will recover.
The worst part is now a rub on my bum (and I am NOT posting any pictures of that). I managed to mow both lawns before the rain and the new van now has a roof vent and extractor fan so Bob and I feel we have recovered well and made good use of today.  I have already emailed our timetable deputy to find out what I have enxt year on Friday pm- I think I am an addict and am even tempted by Jon's proposed 160 Helmsley to Helmsley.


  1. Great run, Karen - see you in the 160 next year!!

  2. Well done, Karen. Great run and brilliant write up.