Another glorious day on the Cleveland Way and a plan executed reasonably well all things considered.
At the start of 2015 I’d chosen two ‘A’ races – London Marathon and Hardmoors 60 and I wanted to perform to my limit in both so allowed plenty of time for training. London went well in 2:54 but in the lead up to this race my final 4 weeks training were hampered by illness then a knee injury.
I only managed 54 miles in 4 weeks. Normally leading up to a big race I like to go up to 60-70 miles a week then drop right off in the final week.
Enough complaining though! At least the knee wasn’t broken – it was a muscle alignment issue pulling on the knee so 2 weeks of rehab at least got me to the start line without it hurting so the plan for the race was unchanged. I was aiming to go out at a slow pace and still be running that pace at 50+ miles rather than like last time in 2013 when I went out in the usual early race scrum and blew up halfway through.
To the Cleveland Way
The first 9 or so miles to CP2 at Saltburn Gardens are pretty decent running apart from the 600ft climb to Highcliff Nab from the start which get the blood flowing then it’s some mixed forest track and moorland along with some residential roads to get you towards the coast and the cliff top route. I stuck roughly to the planned pace I wanted to run and kept an eye on the people in front as there are a couple of little twists and turns that you could accidentally follow if you weren’t switched on.
Saltburn to Runswick Bay (9 – 22 miles)
Leaving Saltburn Gardens CP you get up onto the cliff top path which you basically now follow for the remainder of the race. It’s easy to follow from this point, the basic instruction is to keep the sea on the left. You really can’t go far wrong!
It was a stunning day, bit hot and no real breeze but I made decent progress to Runswick Bay which was where I’d agreed to meet my family and I do love running down that steep hill and round the corner to see a crowd of friendly faces cheering the runners – it’s a nice lift after 3-4 hours of running. My plan was to cover the first 20 miles in about 4 hours and I think it was about 3:55 getting into Runswick Bay so a little ahead of schedule but not much.
Important at this point was that while slightly up on schedule I felt fine and running was pretty easy although stopping to top up bottles, chat for a minute then having to continue down the steep hill was a little painful.
Runswick Bay to Whitby/Saltwick Bay (22 – 31 miles)
The next official checkpoint is just after the abbey in Whitby but after meeting my mum, dad and son Felix at Sandsend (about 26.5 miles where there was a checkpoint in 2013) I was happy to get a quick top up of water as the heat started having an effect. I must say seeing everyone on the beach – including Felix who was off to play on the beach.
I missed the events that happened – I assume after I’d been through – where Dennis Potton rescued two children from a current in the sea before carrying on his race. Bravo to him and thank goodness there wasn’t a tragic end to the day there.
I don’t like Whitby – it’s everything I hate about seaside towns that have become popular. Crowded, full of tat and generally not that pleasant.
Trying to run through the tide of people to get to the infamous 199 steps to the abbey is a trial in itself. I have to admit the 199 steps don’t seem that difficult when you’ve been up and down cliff paths for hours already but it was great to meet Ally and her mum who were my support crew to get a drink top up and grab some more gels.
I didn’t actually stop for ice cream this time!
Quick number check and cup of coke at the actual CP after the abbey and on to Robin Hoods Bay.
Saltwick Bay to Robin Hoods Bay (31 – 37 miles)
I was still feeling alright at the point physically but I have to admit I was already beginning to wonder how much I really wanted this once I’d reached halfway. About two miles after leaving the CP my troublesome knee suddenly burnt with pain where I’ve been struggling despite it being absolutely fine all day.
There were some general aches and pains but nothing I wouldn’t expect from 33 or so miles running but the knee was a surprise. A quick stop to stretch out my glute using the rehab given to me by the physio recently seemed to help along with a word to myself – I’d put pressure on to run anything less than steep inclines but I had to walk a little just to get going again.
I’m sure I’m not alone in having the acceleration of an oil tanker during ultras when you go from walking pace to a positively Farrah like 11 minute mile..
At this point my mindset had to change anyway. We’re beyond halfway – it’s still a lot of distance to cover but no point backing down now and mentally my next goal was always to hit Scarborough (about 52 miles) before it got dark.
A quick top up at Robin Hoods Bay CP and seeing Ally and her mum was a good lift – this was probably the only CP I’d even given a slight thought about dropping at and it annoys me a little that had I entertained those thoughts it wouldn’t have been a retirement for anything other than not enjoying it – nothing was significantly wrong physically.
Robin Hoods Bay to Ravenscar (37 – 41 miles)
It’s not far between these CP’s as the crow flies but there’s a couple of tough miles in there climbing up to Ravenscar and this probably took a good hour of running and power hiking uphill.
This was a major CP with dropbags (I didn’t bother as I had Ally to support) and after a quick stop to wash my hands and face in the bathroom – I got my bottle refilled with water and grabbed a couple of pieces of watermelon. (Perhaps the greatest item of food I have ever eaten during a hot race by the way).
Mentally at this point I was feeling a lot better as it now becomes easier to break down the remaining 20-ish miles and while I didn’t really have any doubt I’d finish this race, I was now certain I would. It was only a matter of what time I could run.
My initial goal was to run 12 hours and had the race happened a month earlier I felt I was in great condition to do that but the last month of derailed training meant it probably wouldn’t. Still, plenty of miles to cover so on we go to glamorous Scarborough.
Ravenscar to Scarborough (41 – 52 miles)
I ticked through 50 miles in just short of 10 hours which I was pretty happy with and knowing a while back that 12 hours wasn’t going to happen I figured 13 was still well within sight and chose to stop at Scalby Beck just before you enter Scarborough’s long sea front to grab my first brew of the day and change top. I was going to change to my road shoes for the last stage as my feet felt a little delicate from 50 miles in Salomon Sense Ultras which are pretty low profile but they didn’t feel right so I put the Salomon’s back on.
Being grumpy and feeling low is often a part of distance running and I was pretty miserable and bored at this stage and just wanted to get it over with so apologies to Ally and her mum for being a massive grump here!
We set a timer on the phone for 5 minutes break but that came and went before I’d barely changed shoes and I left after about 12 minutes I think. The longest stop in the race and getting moving again was a pretty pathetic display.
A note for other people with crews for future races – the car park here is a good spot to meet as it’s a lot easier to get to than the main CP at the other end of Scarborough sea front.
The seafront is about 2 miles of concrete so it was nice to pass quickly through the official CP and climb back up the hill onto the trail again.
Scarborough to Finish (52 – 62 miles)
This section isn’t too bad generally speaking. Scarborough is out of the way and I broke it down into a couple of chunks as I remembered there’s a marshal point on the road at Cayton bay which is about 56 miles so head down – get there first and see another friendly cheering face!
From there, it basically got dark quickly. It was definitely dusk leaving Scarborough but I’d put my head torch on at Scalby Beck in anticipation when I changed top anyway so no unnecessary unpacking and messing around. The weather remained plenty warm enough for just a tech tee – same as 2013 – so incredibly lucky there really for late September in the UK.
From Cayton Bay, there’s a bit of up and down before the bright lights of Filey come into view and I mentally knocked off a mile for running along the sea front and up to the finish so only 5 more to go ..
It was now pitch black on the path and Filey never seems to get any closer which is a little depressing as 60 miles ticks over and you wonder when you’re going to turn towards the sea front lights. I felt I was running along at a reasonably steady pace around 10 minute miles but running in the dark plays tricks on your mind and you’re often not travelling anywhere near the speed you feel. A few checks on my watch and I was running slower than 12 minute miles.
Having got through the whole course with no issues I made the most idiotic mistake in the last mile which I think cost me around 10 minutes, added the best part of a mile and possibly a couple of places.
I’d well and truly gone onto autopilot on the seafront and ran straight past the turn up to the finish ending up at the ravine path the 2013 left the sea front and then I got a little lost on the streets of Filey. I’d convinced myself that in the race brief 13 hours earlier they said there would be a marshal on the sea front to point us up the right road but I never saw one or any race markers. My fault I guess, the race instructions were clear enough if I had paid attention. Annoying mistake at the end of a long day.
I had to phone Ally who was at the finish and she sent the postcode which it turns out I’d eventually wandered fairly close to so wasn’t too far and I got into the church in 13:03:35 and 29th place to a nice round of applause from the fellow runners who’d finished already.
My *personal diversion* undoubtedly cost me the 12:xx:xx finish but to be honest, I’m happy my knee held out and the soreness I’ve been feeling generally in calves and feet weren’t an issue.
Those who’ve read various other race reports here will know I’ve had various races derailed by stomach issues in particular and other times where I’ve paced myself dreadfully and blown up but I’m very pleased how my race went this time. No stomach or toilet issues at all and I was able to eat the whole way round without trouble.
Food wise I packed a load of junk (flapjacks, jam sandwiches etc) in with Ally to pick at when we met up but to be honest I never fancied it much and I stuck largely to Torq gels which have served me well. 10 in total and then a few bits and pieces from checkpoints but I didn’t eat that much. Drink was just water in a single bottle and coke / water at CP’s. This has always worked well and apart from the heat meaning I might have benefited from an additional bottle I was fine there too.
I think for me, the Hardmoors 60 is now done and dusted. I’ve been fortunate enough to finish it twice in two attempts and while I didn’t manage to make my time goal I ran the race I wanted to just a little slower each mile.
This is a wonderful race, the organisation is top notch and polished. The staff, marshals and volunteers are always there with a smile and supportive words and if you’re looking for a 100k race to try out then I would happily recommend this one anytime. It’s tough for sure but very doable.
Thanks to Ally and her mum Linda for following me around in the camper van with a box of sweets and drinks, I know that while it seems like a nice jaunt along the coast it’s actually a hectic day for crews. This is largely because apart from the locations where the CP’s are, it’s quite difficult to access big stretches of the Cleveland Way so they spent a lot of time driving around only to be greeted by my moody face every couple of hours. I massively appreciated seeing their friendly faces during the race though!
My mum and dad also bought Felix up to cheer and seeing his little face at Runswick Bay was a highlight and he got a nice day on the beach too.
Pretty minimal in the end – tech tee and shorts, Salomon Sense Ultra 4’s and my normal Ultimate Direction AK race vest with a single bottle (just water), 10 Torq gels and a LED Lenser SE07 head torch.
I also carried a small power block (£9.99 from Amazon) to top up the battery on my Suunto Ambit and as an emergency for my phone and used it a couple of times to just give my Suunto an hour of charge in my pack as I ran which was useful. It’s really small and weighs very little so a useful bit of kit for sure and could also have powered my head torch if needed (although I carried spare batteries for that).
I must admit at various points I had Hoka envy when my feet felt a little delicate from the Sense Ultras!
I have however swapped out the standard S-Lab insoles which are basically redundant paper thin things and put in the insoles from my old Speedcross which made a massive difference to this shoe. I’m considering buying some clown shoes for the White Rose 100 coming up in November though as there’s a lot of road to bash there.
Some shared lessons..
If you’re considering doing this race or another ultra that’s likely to run to 12+ hours, here’s a few things I found useful for future races that you might too:
- Running in the dark feels a lot faster than it really is. If you’re on a specific pace schedule check your watch regularly to ensure you’re not slowing as 1-2 minutes a mile isn’t as easy to judge in the dark
- Gels worked fine for me this time although not enough water on course on hot day.
- If you’re carrying gels, bring a freezer bag for the empty packets – it stops them leaking sticky remains in pockets/on hands etc.
- Watermelon is perhaps the greatest CP food ever on a hot day
- Whitby remains a heaving mass of people that are difficult to run through although I think the 199 steps aren’t as scary as they’re made out to be and the Abbey is a useful and easy landmark
- The first 10 miles require some concentration (or follow the crowd)
- It’s difficult for crew to access large stretches of the Cleveland Way in a car so plan your stops carefully as the main checkpoints can be very busy and difficult to park at – particularly when the weather is good
- A change of shirt can lift your mood
- Hike hard and fast – practice power hiking on steep hills and you will gain significant time
- Put the postcode of the finish into your phone/GPS in case you’re navigation or race brief challenged like me
- I carried a small charger and watch cable to keep my Suunto running and give me phone backup if needed
- Be very quick through checkpoints – it’s easy to lose way more time than you think if you’re on a schedule. Set a timer if you’re planning on a break at one and any others refill bottles and gels and get out quick!