I entered this event before I'd even considered the ring of fire and had been quite looking forward to it. I love the opportunity to explore new places and I've never been to Yorkshire where this event is set.
My work colleagues are getting used to my responses when asked what I'm doing at the weekend being slightly out of the norm, but when I replied "just a 100k race this week" it still received the same questions of "why?"
The why for me is that I get to visit amazing places I wouldn't normally go and push myself in ways I wouldn't normally do, with the hope of achieving the (sometimes) impossible.
It has only been 3 weeks since the Ring of Fire and I've been high as a kite since then, although I spent a week hobbling round on a fat cankle which I was concerned may be a stress fracture - fortunately an xray showed up nothing although it still hurt. In these three weeks I've done pretty much nothing in the way of running, but the intention was 2 weeks rest, which I dutifully did, and before finalising transport and accommodation I went for a little spin round my local trail and was surprised at how bouncy I felt! The ankle felt fine, the groin twinged a bit (not like that) but my outer thigh hurt where I'd drunkenly cycled back to the station from the pub and fallen off then being woken up by the train manager in London after missing my stop. Fail.
Anyhow, back to the race. This one as the name suggests is 60 miles in the north Yorkshire moors, it's worth 2 UTMB points, so it was never going to be an easy 60. Especially with 3500m of ascent and a pretty tight cut off of 16 hours. The route take on part of the Cleveland way which is largely a coastal trail, I knew a few people who were doing it from the Spine Race so was looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and catching up on their adventures.
In my brain 60 miles seemed highly manageable after the last race, I mean - I would be starting fresh and I can just stop at the end and that's it. Done. Right?
I arranged my logistics so that as I was in the London office on Friday (and a tad hungover) I would get a train out to Peterborough to rent a car and drive up to Scarborough from there and hence saving about 3 extra hours in the car. Also the added bonus that I could drop in to see Penny and David on the way up and back. I got to P & D's to drop off my valuables that I didn't want to leave in the car overnight and was "talked into" having dinner. If anyone remembers PENNY'S AMAZING CHOCOLATE CAKE from my TR24 report a few years ago, you will maybe be aware how amazing her cooking is. So obviously I couldn't turn it down.
I eventually headed up to Scarborough to find my hostel, half an hour into the drive I realised I'd left my charger in my laptop bag - at P & D's. I looked at the phone - 33% battery - my phone is a guzzler, and the mandatory kit stated that a fully charged phone must be carried. So I stopped off to pick up an in car charger. I arrived at the hostel around 11:30pm to find the doors locked up... hmmm..... I went round the back and saw there was someone inside and pushed the door open. He said the reception fella was in bed so I wasn't really sure what to do. I went upstairs and tried a few doors, until I found one unlocked. Poked my head round the door to find a guy in bed reading with a headtorch on. I explained what had happened and asked if I could pinch one of the bunks, we introduced ourselves - his name was Lawrence and was also doing the race - and getting up at 4am!! Waaaa!
I got myself sorted and settled into a fitful sleep to be awakened at 4, I snoozed until about 4:30 and decided to get up, I had to be at Filey School before 5:40 in order to get the coach to the start at Guisborough.
Packing my kit I soon discovered I'd forgotten my headtorch (another item of mandatory kit) I was wondering if they'd let me start on the assumption that I'd pull out when I got to a check point nearing darkness. I didn't think this would wash. So I hurriedly pack my stuff and set off early in search of a 24 hour garage. What I found was even better - a 24 hour Tescos - perfect - I could buy some breakfast too.
So headtorch and breakfast and a cheeky iced bun for my drop bag later I'm at Filey School and waiting eagerly for the bus where I spot JZ of the Spine fame. We get on the bus and chat about the adventures we've been having, which we're planning. He began trying to convince me that attempting the full spine race would be a great idea! (it's a bad idea) in fact, on my drive up, I decided it's about time I wrote up that experience so I'll do that soon :)
We arrived at the registration, signed on, had kit checked, and before we knew it, it was time to go! I was feeling pretty good and excited to get going, let's see what the day has in store.
JZ, myself and his friend Nigel teamed up and started chatting and running together, almost immediately we hit a climb which took us to Highcliff Nab - I'd read somewhere that the first 3 miles climbs 1000ft - whilst it wasn't totally destroying at this stage it was a harsh start!
We ran along at a fairly decent pace for the first 10 miles, getting a little carried away at the potential finish times. It was too early days to be looking at that yet! Rob (another Spiner) also joined us and the 4 of us trotted along happily for a while, enjoying the nice trails, lots of steps which came and went seemed so harmless in these early miles. I was being careful to keep grazing and sipping, so I didn't bonk and it was paying off. The weather was amazing! Gorgeous clear skies, a slight breeze and the sun beaming down no us.
After the first main checkpoint, I felt a bit crappy - maybe I'd eaten too much flapjack, JZ, Nigel and I left Rob at the checkpoint as he was with his Mrs so said he'd catch us up.
We then had an almighty steep climb up some steps - not the steps you get in the street, these are giant size steps with uneven spacing between and an extra lip that trips you up if you don't lift your leg quite high enough. These are interspersed with steps carved out of the mud on off camber pieces of ground. I reached the top to see the other two had made got quite far ahead of me; well about 50 meters but that's a fair amount to catch up after a leg burning climb. I let my legs flush out before trotting on to see if I could catch them.
I wasn't feeling too good so I just ran at my own pace for a while, assuming they'd now gone - which was fine. I was thinking perhaps I'd set off a little quick so best to put something back in the tank. The weather was really hotting up and I was really feeling it.
After a couple more ridiculous climbs of steps - the downs were as painful as the ups - I found JZ and Nige at the top waiting for me, I said to them to carry on, and I'd catch them later as I wasn't able to keep up at the moment so they trotted off and I followed behind at a slower pace, slightly glad of less pressure to keep up.
The next 15 or 20 miles were a bit of non descript, I was feeling a bit "can't be assed" and was having thoughts like, I could just do 30 and go home, 30 is enough isn't it? I don't know what got into me, my heart just wasn't really in it. I was feeling a bit of pressure on the pace as the cut offs were pretty tight so there was no time to enjoy the scenery or take photos (which is why there aren't any) I was struggling with the heat too and started to feel burnt so put my cap on to stop a week of peeling forehead!
There was some confusion entering one of the towns so I had to do a map check - which I'd much rather do than wander aimlessly, got back on track and carried on. The route passed over a beach and up a waterfall type thing, which I regret not getting a picture of now as it was stunning!
Heading into Whitby and I'd done about 30 miles now, I was halfway and not in too bad a time - a sub 7 hour 30 over that terrain was good for me. That was a good landmark and started to feel more positive again, I gave myself a slap for having lazy thoughts and told myself off, what is the point in entering events if you can't be assed to finish.
Whitby was a horrid place for a runner, it was crawling with stoppers (stoppers for those who don't know are people who mindlessly stop right in front of you; the types you get in busy London streets) the narrow streets were littered with tourists with dogs on trip wires. I showed that I didn't care by trotting through smiling like a crazy person, not really sure which way I should be heading, until I saw a sign which said "199 steps" - I recalled someone mentioning this. I found them and climbed on up - these weren't so bad after all - they were concrete ones so very much pedestrian friendly.
When I got to the top, I stumbled back across JZ and Nigel who'd found an ice cream van and were tucking into cans of coke and I presume 99 flakes. Nigel had been suffering badly from cramp but we all ran on again towards the next check point which was to be at about 37 miles or so. We were running on fairly well now, and catching people and overtaking, chatting as we went. More sets of steps took as up and down the cliffs, the legs were starting to hurt with them now! Nige was really struggling with cramp and not in the greatest of moods but still carried on, although JZ and I had to force him to run.
We pulled into the checkpoint where there was soup and hot drinks and salt, all had a little sit down, refuelled and then got on our way to the next check point which was just 5 miles away. My legs felt stiff after a few minutes sitting down but it wasn't long before we were climbing again up a monster of a hill into Ravenscar where we picked up a few more runners, Nigel seemed to be getting worse but still, kept going onto the next checkpoint where we topped up our water and snacks for the next stage to Scarborough, which was a long 11 miles.
We set off and before long it became apparent Nigel really wasn't well, he was complaining he felt feverish and his core temperature was too high, I pointed out that he was running, of course it would be high, but he insisted that he doesn't sweat even running in the heat, he was struggling to run at all and before long he'd stopped and puked up what could have been his entire stomach contents.
We let him recover and realised that looking at the miles we had left and the time in which to do it wasn't looking good to make the cut off. The sun would be setting in the next hour so I suggested we ran until the sun set as after dark we'd naturally slow so JZ and I took in turns setting the pace in the front and stopping to wait for Sick Boy to catch up, he really wasn't up for running and I'm sure he wanted to smack us in the face everytime we set off again, but I was impressed by his ability to carry on.
Sick Boy made the decision to pull out at the next checkpoint and that we should run on and leave him. Of course we weren't going to do that to someone in that state, so we slowed the pace down and let him attempt recovery.
The sun set a beautiful sunset and the moon rose beautiful and orange shining with a moustached of clouds reflecting across the sea, I so wanted to take some photos but we had no time. As we were trekking through some spooky woods with yet more steps, I pulled out my trusty Tesco flashlight and was impressed that it was actually pretty decent for ten quid!
There was still a long way to go before the checkpoint at Scarborough and time was getting away, but Nige wasn't in any state to run. So we walked on and got caught up by another trailing group. We all teamed up for a while, one of the was intermittently heaving up his guts so I skipped past him so I didn't run through a pile. The guy who took the lead of the group set a crazy fast marching pace, but miraculously Sick Boy was able to keep up, whilst I had to keep running to keep up! It was a bit of an annoying pace, I'd rather have just run, not runrunrunrunrunrun......walk....runrunrunrunrunrun......walk but we were making better progress now.
We were getting closer to scarborough now and the CP list said it was at 51 miles in, we'd done 50 now so it must be close, we walked along a twisty trail and all of a sudden the hills filled with the sound of horror... the sound of a man being attacked by a wild boar and falling from a cliff, the sound of a man falling and yelling for help!
We all stopped dead, to see the kerfuffle, one of the group was on the floor yelling "Cramp! Cramp! push my toes back!" a couple of the guys helped him
I immediately got the giggles - I know I shouldn't have but the drama that went on was a bit excessive. At first I'd thought he'd fallen into the thistle bushes he was near which would have been painful! I tried to urge Nige on past - they were blocking the whole trail and we were running out of time. Once more the world filled with terror and screaming, and the man seemed to have been electrocuted into a stiff horizontal state and again I just couldn't help my giggles.
I don't know what had gotten into me, I think I'd been getting grumpy upto this point but we then all carried on and the group split as some of them met up with support crews as we dropped into Scarborough. We could see far in the distance round the cliffs that we had a long way to go to the checked point, the current mileage said we should be there and inside the cut off but reality was we had 3 miles to go and 25 mins to get there. I joked that if we could do 8 min miles we'd make it, JZ reckoned we could, Nige didn't want to run on the tarmac so we just trudged our way there, he was still talking about pulling out here.
I was getting grumpy about the mileage being wrong and probably missing the cut off, we finally made it there (54 miles in case you wondered!) and although we were outside the cut off they said we could carry on. It was only 9 more miles to the end and I said to Nige that he should do it, it was silly to pull out now and we could walk it back in.
The next 3 hours, I'd like to erase from my memory.
I was an utter misery. The hills were insanely hard to get up, the steps were making my face contort, the incorrect mileage was pissing me off, I stomped behind like a spoiled teenager, huffing and puffing, grumbling every time new steps appeared. A couple of miles up was a pointless part of trail which was a whole load of steps down to the cliff edge along the coastal path a couple of hundred yards then back up another set off steps to find ourselves only 100m down the road we'd left to go down! (there was a marshal there checking that people didn't cheat here)
I was walking along, seeing things which weren't there, I was so tired that I was sleep walking, I just wanted to be in, off this stupid trail and in my sleeping bag. But no, the trail went on and on and on. I could see Filey in the distance but we'd gone past it!
I checked the mileage - we'd done 61 miles, we should be finished by now, but the trail went on. I moaned to myself, the guys were ahead of me still, probably wanting to slap me in the moody face!
We did what felt like more pointless detours searching for a self clipping check point which we never found, and ambled along. I hadn't eaten since Scarborough but was too tired to and it wasn't far now, I didn't need to. Getting more angry that we still weren't back and we'd done 63 miles now I stamped my feet like a brat!
Eventually we came to the golf course and Nige said it was just up there where those lights are and then a right turn and we're home. I could see the lights but as we walked they weren't getting any closer. It took forever to get there all the time my grumbling mardy face stuck in a big old frown.
We finally came up to the lights and turned up the road to the school, every step was an effort, I was sure I'd never been this tired before. The finish was past the car park and round the other side of the school, I had the car key with me, I wasn't going to go in, then come back to the car. No way was I walking any further since checking the mileage and just being shy of 65 miles! I stopped at the car and got my sleeping bag and a few bits walked to the school hall with the guys in a daze and walked into see Jon and anyone who was awake cheering us back. We received our finishers tshirts, and were offered food and coffee. I wasn't sure what I wanted, I don't think I wanted anything. Just sleep.
I went and had a quick tramps wash and crawled into my sleeping bag.
There was no euphoria this time, but I am pleased that I found the drive in me to push through even when I felt like utter shit. I wouldn't have got through the last few miles without JZ and Nigel with the dodgy navigation, so massive thanks to them and up until that bad patch we'd been having a great time together - as for the Spine? I don't think so.....
For going back for another Hardmoors 60? Definitely not, thousands of steps left me a broken girl!
The organisation of the event though was excellent and as always with these types of events the marshals are amazing!
For me next - a bit of a rest as I've done a lot of big events this year so a week off, a house move, a holiday in the Caribbean and then start a new training plan when my batteries are recharged :-)