Saturday, 18 January 2014

A New Year with a Difference.....

I knew that I needed to get a long run done on New Year's Day, but I wasn't sure exactly how motivated I would feel in the morning, with a combination of tiredness, a head cold and poor weather all taking their toll. In order to give myself no option but to get out and run, I decided to go to the Hardmoors 30 - a 30+mile trail race on the North Yorkshire Moors around Whitby, Robin Hood's Bay, Ravenscar and Cloughton.

Although I'd been to Whitby as a child, I wasn't familiar with the area so it was also an excuse to run and explore a new place, without having to plan a route out. I was slightly perturbed, however, to see that part of the compulsory kit was a head long were we expected to be out running? A map and compass were not on the list, but I planned to carry them anyway for safety's sake.

After a nice meal and some wine for New Year's Eve (with a lemsip chaser) my mother kindly offered to come down with me the following morning. It was incredibly kind of her to offer as it meant leaving before first light and that she would be hanging around for a good part of the day in all kinds of weather. However, it gave me some company on the drive and some help in finding the hall in Ravenscar (for registration) and also meant that I would have the chance of a hot bath and food at my parents' house afterwards before continuing on home.

The roads were strangely quiet as we drove down......well I guess it wasn't that strange as it was pre-dawn on January 1st, but we didn't see anyone staggering home, and even the petrol stations were open. This meant the drive took less time than we anticipated so there was plenty of time for hanging around in Ravenscar Hall at registration, catching up with 2 of my clubmates (Seb and Craig) and also with a friend that I hadn't seen for a few years, who was going to take part in the 15 mile event.

I had a few clothing dilemmas as it was cold, but not actually raining (though this was forecast for later) and we had to keep race numbers visible at all times. I opted to pin my number to my capris, so that it wouldn't be masked later on if I got my waterproof out of my pack. There was a briefing inside the warm hall and then we all trooped out to the road and set off (at 9ish.....).

As Craig and I had been chatting before the start, we found ourselves right at the back. I quickly realised that if I remained trapped behind walkers (and those with dogs) it could spell disaster as there was only a very brief section of road through the village before we turned off onto the cliff top path (the Cleveland Way), so I put in a turn of speed unusual for me! 

A small group of men seemed very sure footed in the mud and disappeared off into the distance immediately. I settled into a nice pace, which meant I could cope with the head wind and watch my footing. I passed a couple of runners and was then surprised to see some others joining us from the right hand side (they had headed the other direction from the hall so cutting off the first small loop of the route) but they were also soon behind me.

After about 4 miles there was a steep slippery flight of steps to descend to Hayburn Wyke, a wooden bridge to cross, and then further steps to ascend on the other side. I caught up with the man who had run away from me on every downhill, and he helped me when I got stuck in a rather muddy field. We had a nice chat as we ran along the old railway 
lines towards Ravenscar hall, and wished each other luck for the rest of the run. 

Although not hungry, I thought that I should pick up some food at the first checkpoint, but unfortunately things did not go to plan. I ran in, gave my number, and could see nothing except masses of people and the race timers, and so headed out again. My mother later told me that they had laid out lots of food and drink for us "30 runners" at the back of the hall, but it was hidden by the "15 runners" milling around waiting for their start time (lesson noted by the organiser to alter the gap between the 15 and 30 mile starts for next year).

The old railway line

The next section of the route was good running along the old disused railway line all the way to Robin Hood's Bay. The miles ticked by really quickly as I chatted all the way with another fellow runner, and we arrived at Robin Hood's Bay before the checkpoint had been set up. We shouted out our numbers and grabbed a cup of water from behind a car in the station car park and carried on our way. It was lucky that I had a map and the route description close at hand, as it was easy to get lost amongst the houses (and the two guys running at a similar pace to me ended up following me to get back onto the railway path).

Whitby Abbey

It was still dry but it seemed to be getting cooler as we got closer to Whitby. Having not had any food at the last checkpoint either, we got some out of our packs and shared it as we ran. We did worry slightly as the path seemed to be going downhill and so we were running faster then expected - we were sure this would come back to haunt us later. Whitby Abbey came into view on a hilltop, but unfortunately we seemed to be going the "long way round" as our route headed away from it. It was nice to see several families out for a New Year's Day walk, though all were rather more wrapped up than we were. 

Having crossed a viaduct on the outskirts of Whitby, the path seemed to come to a deadend straight ahead of us. At the last minute, we saw an arrow pointing down a slope to the left away from the guys standing at the end of the path in high-viz jackets. As we headed down the slope, the men ran down some steps to meet us and apologised for having nothing set out for us. We were there 30minutes ahead of the time that they had been told to open the checkpoint. I dived into the backseat of their car to get some pieces of flapjack and mini swissroll that they were going to set out, and then headed down into Whitby.

The 199 Steps

I was surprised at how busy the streets were, which made for an interesting run through town, dodging tourists, feeling slightly out of place (running along streets in trail shoes wearing a backpack and race number). Having crossed the river and negotiated the cobbles, it was time for the 199 steps up to the abbey.......and I'm happy to say that I ran the whole way up!

It was again this point that I took a slightly wrong turn, going left too soon, so I found myself coming up against a wall at the end of the graveyard. Luckily I didn't have to backtrack too far before I could hurdle the wall, cross a field and rejoin the Cleveland Way as it headed back onto the clifftops.

Trapped in the graveyard

The next 10 miles were to be the toughest of the race. No longer was there a nice surface for running was now slippery, slidy mud. Having turned to head back south from Whitby, I was now running alone into a headwind......and then the rain started. Initially it was just spitting with rain, and I thought I'd be better off just pushing on as I was rather than stopping to get my waterproofs out. It was difficult to negotiate round walkers on the narrow muddy path which climbed uk and down into every bay. On a few occasions I had to hold onto the metal fence and pull myself up a slope hand over hand as there was so little traction in the mud.

Robin Hood's Bay

I was so glad to find the checkpoint at Robin Hood's Bay again, but by this time my hands were getting rather cold. The first marshal I met did not seem inclined to help me get some water, and so I was desperately trying to get my numb hands to turn the tap on. Thank heavens for the other marshal who immediately came over to help and so I was then on my way for the final leg of the race.

There was an incredibly steep road descent through the town down to the sea, and then a tough climb up steps back onto the cliffs. Some people did not go all the way down and back up again, cutting across onto the clifftop path earlier, but I was religiously following the route description. I knew I was on track now as my course joined the "15" course and suddenly I could see someone ahead in the distance.

I thought that the final descent of steep steps into Boggle Hole meant that I was nearly there, but had forgotten how high up Ravenscar village is. The final climb (and I confess to walking some of it) was a gain of about 600 feet in less than a mile. A lady passed me on the final few metres of tarmac back to the hall but at this point I didn't care......all I could think about was getting warm and dry. 

There was nobody outside the hall as I approached (understandable as it was pouring with rain, though apparently my mother had been out several times to look for me).......and so I surprised the timers as I ran in to finish second overall, in a time of 4 hrs and 7 minutes.

My mother really came into her own when I finished as my hands were too cold and numb to be very useful, so she unclipped my pack and promptly got a hot cup of soup inside me. The benefit of finishing early is that I could get changed and attack the buffet first, and them help other cold runners with their packs and hot drinks (including Craig and Sebastian who came home in 5:23 and 5:28 respectively).

Craig, myself and Seb after the race

Some race stats from the race website:

134 started the Hardmoors 30, 119 completed the full course
93 started the Hardmoors 15, 91 completed the full course.The 2012 Hardmoors 30 Record set by Jim Mann (4.20) was reduced to 3.52 by 1st place runner Jayson Cavill.2nd overall and 1st Lady Jo Zakrzewski finished in 4.07 (previous ladies' record 5.03) followed by 3rd Overall and 2nd Male Matthew Brennan in 4.12. Fantastic results in some pretty dire conditions.

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