Time to stop doubting, and start believing!
This could be a long read, so grab a coffee or tea and make yourself comfortable. This year the race was shortened slightly to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of The Cleveland Way and 10th Anniversary of the running of this event.
The route of the run went from North to South, Guisborough to Helmsley via Roseberry Topping (up and over it twice!) This proved to make this race extremely difficult due to the direction of the run. Whilst the run was as long as it was difficult, the biggest factor was the weather. This proved to be the undoing of a lot of combatants; I don’t use this word lightly, because it was a battle out there between the elements and sheer willpower. During this Race Rundown, I will attempt to, not just describe the miles I crossed, but to try and convey what was going on inside my head at the time.
Friday night before the race, full of hope and optimism, I packed my race gear, a lot of essential kit to carry on an ultra. I packed two drop bags, with extra gels and Haribo for Drop 1 at Kildale, and ham and pickle sarnies and pork pies for Drop 2 at Osmotherley. All set, good to go, early night then race day! No matter what race it is, I love race day, the excitement of what’s about to unfold, the uncertainty of how it will go, the buzz of anticipation from all the runners, its palpable.
It was raining on the morning, but did not dampen anybody’s spirits, well, not yet anyway. The race was under way 15 minutes late, after registration and everyone had to have a tracker taped to their race vest.
The first couple of miles were uphill, no surprise there, and across to the Tees Link, which was a vertical mud-bath climb straight to Highcliff Nab. This was relentless, but weather wise, shielded from the wind was not too bad. Once we got to the top and a few hundred yards later the wind came into its own just as Roseberry Topping came into view, in all its rugged splendour. Runners were already streaming down one side of Roseberry and on to Captain Cook’s Monument before I even made the first climb over it. Once up and over, we turned around and did it again then on our merry way. The wind was horrific, almost catching people off balance, this was set in for the day. After 5 miles the first of the retirements were logged.
Between mile 5 and 10, I was not in a good place. The sheer difficulty of the climb with wind, and rain combined got me thinking about the next 40 miles. My legs were stiff, knees with a niggle I have had on and off for a long time, Kildale seemed an easy decision to call it a day! Gutted!
On the approach to Kildale I started running a little more freely, maybe it wasn’t gonna end here after all. I was of course soaking wet, but not cold, benefits of carrying a few extra pounds I suppose. My inner Andy told me, get inside, hot drink, grab your dropbag and go. The problem with staying too long in warm indoor checkpoints is the fact that it’s warm and indoors!! So I decided to have a go to the next check point, up and over Bloworth Crossing to Clay Bank. It was 10 miles. I had arrived at Kildale 45 minutes ahead of cut off, so to have a go and carry on was my decision, based on the fact that if I ran every now and again my legs and knees loosened up and felt better. Off we go.
10 miles crossing Bloworth I started thinking about the next big cut off point at Osmotherley, which was a further 10 miles away and included the 3 Sisters. I had until 6.00pm to do another 20 miles. There was a small group of us traversing Bloworth together, not a lot of conversation, driving rain coming at you sideways and wind gusting up to 45mph took all of our concentration. We leap-frogged each other (not literally tho! Lol! ) on that 10 mile stretch. Each time a faster person went past, words of encouragement were given…” nice one, keep it up” … “ well done, looking strong” and other short words of motivation. The runner would then stop and walk a while, others picked up the proverbial baton and it was their turn to stretch their legs….This went on for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality, 3 hours. Bloworth is bleak on a Summer day, never mind on a day like this. But all I could think of was making Clay Bank and evaluate my mind and body as to carrying on or calling it a day.
Approaching Clay Bank the 3 Sisters loomed in the distance, looking bleak and menacing. Its only 3 hills, up an over, up and over and you’ve guessed it, up and over again. I have done this section probably a dozen times, and to be fair, its one of my favourite places. Once I dropped into Clay Bank my mind was more or less made up to carry on. A lot of bodies called it a day at that point, not wanting to go any further. And who could blame them, 20 miles of being battered has taken its toll. Inner Andy told me “its not gonna end here is it? C’mon ya big Jessie, fill your bottles grab some Jaffa cakes and go!!” I would not have forgiven myself if I didn’t at least climb the next stage to Lordstones. In hindsight, Inner Andy would have being right. I had to carry on. At our amazing club at Sedgefield, I seem to have a name for liking the hills and doing reasonably well at them for a big lad. I’m not the quickest or strongest on the flat but you just have to embrace the hills, grit your teeth and grind them out. So basically I carried on, with Inner Andy and The Harriers in my mind, Wainstones 3 Sisters were smashed and dedicated to our Club & members.
I could always stop at Lordstones Café, if I was in no shape to carry on further, call my wife to collect my body from there, while I could have had a nice pint of Guinness. Mmm more internal dialogue.
To reach Osmotherley from Lordstones I had 8 miles and 2 and a half hours to cut off at 6.00pm. I was by now moving slowly so it was going to be tight on time. I discounted stopping at Lordstones and carried on. My reasoning being, Osmotherley is easier to get to for my wife and more importantly I had pork pies there! And waiting about, for an hour in wet clothes would not have being fun. So while I was still mobile, albeit wet but not cold I went onwards.
Friends of mine caught me up on the run in to Osmotherley, it was a nice distraction to chat and have a bit of banter with them, they eventually pushed on after a few miles to try and beat cut off time. I was moving slower. I knew my race was over. I made peace with Inner Andy, had an epiphany 4 miles out from Osmotherley, and looked back on the previous 9 hours and realised what I have just done in the bleakest of conditions. I was pleased with myself for giving it a proper go, no regrets, 30 miles in the bag and lots of memories.
I made the call to my wife to meet me in the village hall. I was not upset by this, or even subdued like I was at the first attempt and being timed out 3 years ago. It was the correct decision. Whilst I was wet all day, I was never cold. But as daylight faded, the temperature dropped, so for me to carry on would not have ended well. My friends missed cut off by 6 minutes, I was disappointed for them. I trundled in at 6.24pm happy in the knowledge I had given it a proper go, my wife was already there 10 minutes before me. So the day ended with coffee and pork pies, warm dry clothes and a bag of chips from around the corner. The last half mile all I could smell was fish and chips!! And they were lovely!!
Lessons learned today were, some kit worked better than others, but only a small portion of runners managed to stay dry. All sorts of big name jackets eventually failed the weather test we had, quite a few, me included were soaked after the first 3 hours. The weather made this an extremely unpredictable and difficult race for an unsupported runner like myself and many others. But the race is designed that way, to be run in one go by oneself. Even supported runners dropped out. Some guys on the race said it was the worst conditions they have encounted, and a few of them ran last year when The Beast from the East hit the race.
Will I run this next year? Of course I will, it’s one of my favourite races in the calendar.
My run by the numbers, I do love a good bit of data:
Distance – 30.5 miles
Ascent – 8855 ft – 5 hrs 27mins of climbing
Descent – 8688 ft – 4 hrs 34mins
Heart rate average for 10 hours – 132bpm
& 2 pork pies
A couple of items of kit I had are note worthy of a mention:
Runderware anti-blister, double layered ankle sock – feet were wet all day, but no chaffing or blisters and very comfortable. Feet were as good as when I started, NO HOBBIT FEET HERE!
Lanacane anti-chafing cream – one application all day, no issues at all, nuff said!
Base layer, Under Armour Cold Gear – I may have been wet because of the extreme conditions but I was never cold.
Suunto Ambit 3 Peak – Battery life amazing, only used 37% in over 10 hours of use, and I was wearing a bluetooth chest heart-rate strap.
Thank you for reading my race rundown, at the time of writing, the full set of race results have yet to be published but will appear on the Hardmoors website. The winner did finish in 8 hrs 19 mins.