Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Hardmoors 60 Ultra Marathon

My main reason for entering this event was to gain enough "points" to enter the UTMB (Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc). However I discovered that the Hardmoors events are worthy challenges in their own right, and although no where near as hilly as other long distances challenges I have done, the pace required to complete them in the time limit makes them very tough propositions.

My friend Jules caught a nasty virus a week before the event and so I only knew one other person taking part, Matt Beardshall from Chesterfield. I'd arranged to meet up with Matt on the bus going from the finish (Filey) to the start (Saltburn by the Sea) at 5.30 am on the Saturday morning. With a good forecast for the weekend I felt well prepared as I pitched my tent on Friday evening just a few minutes from where I would be catching the bus. A restless nights sleep followed however, and next thing I knew it was daylight - that was odd I thought for a split second before I looked at my watch and realised I had overslept by 2 hours!

I bundled the tent into the car and drove like a maniac northwards. The car sat-nav said I could get to Saltburn by 8.10 am, that's after the race had started. However the quiet roads meant I got there at 7.35 am just as registration was closing. So I had 10 minutes to register, leave my "drop bags" for the route, have my breakfast, a drink, get changed, check my running kit was all packed, put on my foot cream and anti chaffing cream, sun cream, etc, etc. I just managed this and caught the tail end of the briefing and then it was time to set off! I felt worn out before I started.

Matt had tracked me down and we set off together at a steady pace to the Coast, trying hard to avoid the temptation to "race" the other 65 starters. I had a garmin GPS to allow me to try and judge the pace, it is very easy in distance events to go off way to fast and then grind to a halt later. To start with we were doing 10 minute miles, plenty fast enough, perhaps too fast?

The first checkpoint at Runswick Bay (13 miles) was just a mile away when I tripped on a section of cinder track and fell hard onto my knees and hands. It was like falling onto sandpaper and a considerable amount of blood oozed from the wounds, not a great start! 

By the second checkpoint at Sandsend (19 miles - 3 hours 22 minutes) I was starting to feel fatigued, not a great sign so early in the event. But we were about 20th and had quite a lot of time in hand, so no excuse to "pack in" now. At Whitby a few miles later I did feel like stopping, weaving through the crowded streets I felt tired, jaded and the though of carrying on for another 40 miles was not appealing. I couldn't even appreciate the superb coastal scenery of the Cleveland Way.

I told Matt to carry on ahead as I was holding him back, and he gradually pulled away into the distance until I couldn't see him any more - very dispiriting! I did overtake another two runners (although by now much more walking was being done), especially on the vicious descents into places like Robin Hoods Bay and Boggle Hole. Forcing a couple of gels down I rallied slightly on the long climb up to checkpoint 3 at Ravenscar (32 miles in 6 hours 33 minutes). In the village hall at Ravenscar there were 5 or 6 VERY tired looking runners, including Matt. I just guzzled rice pudding, peaches  (about 3 tins worth I think!)  and warm tea, refilled with water and started to feel much better. Setting of with Matt 12 minutes later we rattled off the next few miles at a good pace, even having the energy to have a good chat for the first time. Things were looking up.

Scarborough hovered in the distance for a long time, never seeming to get any closer, but  when we did eventually reach the promenade I found it very hard to run for more than a few minutes at a time, and even then it was at a very slow pace. We spoke briefly to Julien Pansiot who had caught us up before dropping behind again. He had been feeling ill earlier in the race and was doing well to carry on. The 43 mile checkpoint at Scarborough was actually at 45 miles but we got great encouragement from the Hardmoors checkpoint/support crew (we were in 13 place approx) who refilled out water and handed out goodies.

By now our average pace had settled to 12.30 minutes per mile, and indeed the miles were clicking over steadily. We had done 2 marathons in just over 11 hours by the time we got to the Filey Brigg checkpoint at dusk. Filey Brigg is a peninsula that sticks out just North of the town that marks the finishing point. However this wasn't the Hardmoors 53.4, so we had to go right past the finish line to complete an extra 10 mile loop to the South West of Filey. This meant nearly 2.5 hours wandering through fields and deserted villages to reach the last "clip" at Stocking Dale and finally return to Filey.

What a wonderful welcome as we walked in the hall to a huge round of applause. We finished = 13th in 13 hours 45 minutes.

Thanks to Jonathan Steel and the Hardmoors crew, I would throughly recommend your events to anyone. And thanks for the lift back to my car at Saltburn!


Hardmoors 60 route

mile splits - notice the slow down towards 32 miles and the recovery afterwards

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