What are your running goals for 2016, the questionnaire I was filling in for Jayson Cavill – Running and Fitness Coach asked?
I put down just 2, finish the UTMB in the top 5% and get a top 3 place on the Hardmoors 110.
Like many I scored enough points in 2015 to enter the draw for the 2016 UTMB, but never expected to get a place.
When the draw was announced and I got a place I knew I had to get some serious training done and started looking for a coach who could transform me into someone who could slay the UTMB.
In the 9 weeks we’ve been working together up to the 110 his training routine has transformed my running and in the lead up to the event we talked about going for the win, which by the time the race came around I was confident enough in my ability to have a crack at. Push myself and see what we can learn for the UTMB we decided.
I woke my ever supportive wife Victoria at 5am, had a quick breakfast followed of porridge followed by Mountain Fuel Morning Fuel and we set of for Filey.
After a week of weather that can only be described as changeable we were met by clear blue skies although there was an icy chill in the air.
Stage 1: Filey to Ravenscar Village Hall
So at shortly after 8am on Saturday 30th April we lined up on Filey Brigg and I cranked up Vangelis – Conquest of Paradise in my headphones to try and replicate the UTMB experience and set the mood, then we were off on a 110 mile journey around the Cleveland Way in reverse to Helmsley.
I settled into a steady pace as we left Filey behind and headed towards Scarborough chatting with Ste Lord and Kirk Hardwick as Paul Nelson did his usual disappearing trick and shot off like a rocket in front.
As with a lot of ultra-runners I have a tendency to go too fast at the start and suffer later on so this time I was determined to take it slowly and ease myself into it, there was a long way to go after all.
After the freezing cold start the temperatures began to rise and I took the opportunity to take my base layer off as we climbed up through the woods at Cayton Bay.
After the bad weather we had been having all week that included snow, hail, strong wind, rain and pretty much everything else it looked like we might get lucky with the weather.
The sun was out and the trails were much drier than expected so it was shaping up to be a nice day out in the hills.
It wasn’t long before we dropped down onto Scarborough sea front where Victoria was waiting for me. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to see her in Scarborough so it was a pleasant surprise to see her there. I walked with her for a short while and then was off again.
Thankfully the stretch along the sea front was much quieter than the last time we ran through on the Hardmoors 60. I won’t say I enjoyed this 2-3 mile stretch as flat road sections is easily my least favourite type of running but the lack of crowds made it bearable this time around.
I was trailing the main pack by about 20 seconds or so at this point, usually I would have put my foot down to make up the gap but I just plodded along content in the knowledge there would be plenty of time to get past later.
I had already decided the coastal sections were just the warm up and the real race would begin when we turned inland towards the moors.
Coming into the first drop bag location at Ravenscar we passed Paul Nelson on the out and back who was flying at the front. I took had a quick bathroom stop and refilled my water bottle with Mountain Fuel, stuffed my pack with the stuff I had prepared and was off again.
Stage 2: Ravenscar to Kildale
Kirk and Ste were already gone by the time I left. I really need to work on getting in and out of aid stations quicker. According to Strava I lost 45 minutes over the day being stationary.
I set off along the coast making good time and feeling pretty confident. My legs felt good and I was running to plan. I felt really strong on the short steep climbs that dotted the route and I was starting to slowly catch Kirk and Paul who were now running together at the front of the race.
It wasn’t long before I saw Whitby Abbey come into view and was pleased that this time we were going down the steps rather than up them.
A small navigational error by Paul and Kirk allowed me to catch up with them at the bottom of the steps.
Getting through Whitby was the usual battle of fighting your way through the crowds of tourists slowly shuffling their way through the narrow streets. We’re in a race get out of the fucking way I was saying to myself in my head as we politely pushed through the crowds.
The fast pace at the start was starting to get to Paul and as we passed by the Whale Bone and out of Whitby Kirk and I pulled away and ran the remainder of the coastal section together.
Kirk was great company and we chatted about future plans and previous races. We had both ran the White Rose 100 last year where Kirk finished first male nearly 4 hours ahead of me so to be running with Kirk at this point made me realise that all the hard work and training was paying off.
We must have eased off a little too much because as we were leaving the Runswick Bay checkpoint another runner came in so we picked the pace up slightly in the hope of putting a bit of distance between us again.
I was still feeling good at this point despite the fact the coastal paths were starting to become really tedious with the same terrain for miles and I started to think of the moors section and how much I was looking forward to it.
It wasn’t long before we reached Skinningrove, well 50 miles and 8 hours since we started, and I knew it wasn’t long before we would reach Saltburn and the turn inland towards the moors. That was after we negotiated the pretty horrible beach section and climb leaving Skinningrove.
We must have taken our foot off the gas coming into Saltburn as Ste Lord caught us and left the checkpoint in front of us whilst we took a bit of time to sort ourselves out.
I left the aid station slightly ahead of Kirk and waited at the top of the steps while he had a quick change of shoes. Whilst I was waiting Kevin and Jamie came up the road section and we set off all running together through Valley Gardens towards Skelton and the Moors.
A stop to adjust shoes meant we weren’t running with Kevin and Jamie for long which left Kirk and I to start the climb up through Skelton together. We were both starting to feel the distance at this point and I was starting to have problems with my stomach which was churning away as we progressed.
We were finally broke free of Skelton and the last bit of population before Helmsley climbing the long slow drag up Airy Hill Lane wit Ste just ahead of us.
Dropping down the steps to Slapeworth I made sure I took extra care as the last time I went down them I nearly broke my neck after catching a toe on the uneven wooden steps and going flying. I didn’t want a repeat performance and end my race here.
On the section through Spa Wood we encountered the first bit of mud all day, not bad considering the weather we had the previous week and the fact we were 58 miles or so into the race. We decided to walk this section and save some energy.
Both Kirk and I were starting to struggle a bit at this point. I tried to get some food down me but couldn’t face eating anything. I knew I had to and it seems such a simple thing to do but after 60 or so miles I really struggle to eat anything. It’s my biggest weakness now and something I really have to sort out before the UTMB.
We progressed slowly up through Guisborough Woods towards Highcliff Nab and Roseberry Topping and that’s when all of a sudden I projectile vomited the contents all over the side of the track. I apologised profusely to Kirk but that’s one of the funny things about ultra-running, it’s almost acceptable to do this sort of thing in front of people you only met a few hours earlier.
It turned out that this was what I needed to sort myself out and it wasn’t long before Kirk was starting to drop back and I started to pull away. I could see that I was starting to catch Ste as well so I pushed on. It was my turn to feel good and as we approached Roseberry Topping I passed Ste who was suffering from cramp.
I stopped and checked he was ok and gave him an S!Cap salt tablet and then pushed on towards Roseberry Topping. I was now on my own in the lead and thoughts of winning started to creep into my head.
At this point I was running really well, felt good and my legs felt fine. It was like a switched had been flicked from being tired and knackered to being full of beans. I dealt with Roseberry Topping fairly quickly. I’m never sure why it gets its fearsome reputation as you can be up and down it in no time.
I passed Kirk on the way down and wished him well, then bounded off towards Kildale and the second drop bag looking forward to getting some goodies down me.
Stage 3: Kildale to Square Corner
Darren West from Harrogate Harriers was going to meet me here and run with me to Lordstones so as I dropped down into the village it was great to see his smiling face running towards me and we ran into Kildale Village Hall together.
I changed into my leggings and spent a few minutes sorting my feet out as I could feel the start of some blisters on the bottom of my feet. Compeed Blister Plasters are a life saver in these instances and I always make sure I carry some with me on races.
We left Kildale before anyone else arrived at the aid station. We jogged to the foot of the road climb up to Bloworth Crossing which I used as an opportunity to get some food on board.
I knew I wanted to take the initial climb easy and had planned on taking this easy and then getting back into my stride once we had cleared the steep climb and the path levelled out.
In the race I just couldn’t get going again and spent far too much time walking. In hindsight I think this is where I lost the race. If I had pushed myself more I could have opened up a big gap on the rest of the field.
We reached Bloworth Crossing and stopped to put our headlamps on as the last of light was fading. A few minutes later we were at the highest point on the course at Round Hill and I could see a head torch in the distance.
The long downhill section to Clay Bank was a lot harder than I remembered it and in my mind I knew it was not going to be long before we reached the hardest section of the course. The Three Sisters are a series of steep rocky climbs followed by technical downhill sections that are difficult enough in daylight never mind in the dark with 75 miles in my legs.
Climbing each of the 3 sisters took a lot out of me as I was trying to push hard and open up a bit of a gap on the head light behind me. I could see the tops silhouetted against the dark sky but it seemed to take ages to reach each one, the never seeming to get any closer.
The descents weren’t much easier and I took my time to make sure I didn’t slip and injure myself. I ran this section the week before and it took me 40 mins at what I thought was a leisurely pace but in the race it took me just over 1hour.
At Lordstones checkpoint we met JDan Simmons my next pacer. It was good to see Jayson here who had just arrived after being up in Scotland for The Hoka Highland Fling. It was good to see him and after a quick hand shake we were off again.
Another tough climb up to Carlton Bank was the first section we had to tackle but I knew after this we would have a good few miles of nice downhill that I could use to pick up the pace and get moving again. I was still in the lead at this point but knew the other runner wasn’t far behind.
I was really starting to feel the effects of around 80 miles and around 15 hours of running at this point and started to have a real bad patch. The section which I thought was going to give me the opportunity to get back up to pace turned into a never ending drag and even though I knew it was a good runnable section all I could muster was a slow plod.
Dan was doing a great job to keep me motivated but I was dead on my feet and really struggling so it was no surprise that as we slowly plodded down Green Lane towards Osmotherley that Ste Lord came past looking fresh as a daisy. The S!Cap I gave him earlier must have done the trick and as we climbed up the grass field towards Huthwaite Plantation he disappeared into the distance.
It was tough going towards Osmotherley and the steps up through the woods certainly didn’t get any easier. I had gel in a bid to get some energy into my body and as we reached the first self-clip at the TV mast I was starting to feel a bit better and started to manage some more running and by the time we reached the village I was feeling pretty good again.
It didn’t last long though and as we left the village towards the final drop bag at Square Corner I started to feel bad again. I really need to get my nutrition in the later stages of ultras sorted out. Now my fitness is
much better this is what is letting me down.
By the time I reached Square Corner where my wife Victoria was waiting with my third pacer Nick Andralojc I was dead on my feet. I stopped briefly to refill my bottles and tried to get some food down but the only thing I could eat was a handful of crisps as we headed up the last big climb of the route.
Stage 4: Square Corner to Helmsley
At the top of the climb I knew we had a good stretch of slightly downhill running and I wanted to try and get myself going but I had to settle for a run a bit, walk a bit strategy as I just didn’t have the energy to run at this stage in the race.
The temperature had really dropped at this point in the run and I was freezing cold. Nick very kindly lent me his mittens to help keep my hands warm and every 20 – 30 mins tried to get me to eat something. All I could manage was a few gels every now and again.
We reached the penultimate checkpoint at High Paradise Farm and dropped done the hill towards what I knew would be a really horrible muddy section before reaching the last checkpoint at Dialstone Farm.
I think this section was the toughest of the race. It was very slimy mud and my Scott Kinabalu Enduros just couldn’t find any grip. Coupled with the cold and the last of energy all I could muster was a quick walk. I could see Stes headlamp just up in front but more worryingly I could see another headtorch behind me now but I just couldn’t respond, I was knackered.
At Dialstone Farm we met my final pacer Tony Essex, the Harrogate Harriers club chairman. JDan and Nick also joined us at this point and as we were leaving the checkpoint the head torch came into view.
This was the kick up the arse I needed to get me going again and I suddenly snapped out of my tiredness and lethargy. It was mostly downhill to the finish just 8 miles away in Helmsley and we pushed on, trying to put some distance between me and the other runner.
It was getting light by now and the sun was starting to rise over the finish in Helmsley. The last section was pretty easy with just a few small inclines which after 100 miles and 20 hours of running felt like mountains.
I emptied the contents of my stomach again just before Rievaulx Abbey and as we can out of the woods got another boost from both being sick again and seeing Tony’s wife Mary parked at the side of the road cheering us all on.
It was great to run this last section together with the guys from Harrogate Harriers and although I think they got slightly more out of the views than me it felt good to have the company.
Eventually Helmsley came into view and the 110 mile journey that started 21 hours ago in Filey was at an end. It was good to see Victoria at the finish, who I think was very relieved to see me in one piece.
I finished second in a time of 21:21:08. Ste had finished just 18 minutes in front of me and took a very well deserved win.
There’s no doubt since working with Jayson my running has improved considerably since my last 100 mile race, the White Rose Ultra where I completed the 103 mile course in 22:45. I ran the 110 just over 2 minutes a mile faster over much tougher terrain so it’s given me a lot of confidence looking towards the UTMB in August.
I’m much more confident in my abilities now to the point where I look back on the race now and although I’m happy with my second place, I’m slightly disappointed with my performance. I could have pushed harder in certain sections and think I could have knocked at least 30 mins off my time. That’s something to consider for next year I guess.
I’m still trying to find something I can eat after the 60- 70 mile mark and I think once I crack this I won’t fade as much as I did. My legs felt fine but there was just no energy there to keep going. I’ve just started reading Feed Zone Portables where I hope to find some solutions to my problem.
A rather long list but here goes.
Thank you to my beautiful wife Victoria for putting up with my daft hobby and supporting me throughout. I really couldn’t ask for more.
Jon and Shirley Steele for putting on these events. Hardmoors are such great events and you have created something wonderful
The marshals, helpers and supporters who help make these Hardmoors events great and unique. They couldn’t happen without you and what you do for everyone is brilliant. I’ve been told I’m a demanding pain in the arse at checkpoints by Victoria so thank you for all your assistance and patience.
Jayson Cavill Running & Fitness Coach for the training advice and guidance. Working with you has really transformed my running and if anyone is looking for a trainer I really can’t recommend Jayson enough. Next stop UTMB.
Darren West, JDan Simmons, Nick Andralojc & Tony Essex for pacing for the last few miles and keeping me sane throughout the night. I can’t thank them enough for spending Saturday night trudging the moors with a grumpy runner who was being sick. Also Tony’s wife Mary-Anne for giving up her Saturday night to ferry people around and support us.
Harrogate Harriers for all the well wishes and support on Facebook.
Ste Lord & Kirk Hardwick for the company and pushing me on. Congratulations on a well-deserved win for Ste. Looking forward to the next race.
- Scott Kinablau Enduro Trail Running Shoes
- Jack Wolfskin Exolight Texapore XT Softshell Jacket
- The North Face E-Tip Running Gloves
- Petzl Nao Headtorch
- Garmin Fenix 3 GPS Running Watch
- Anker Fast Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank
- The Northface Flight Series – Better than Naked Long Haul Shorts
- The Northface Flight Series – Better than Naked Short Sleeve T-shirt
- Salomon Advanced Skin Hydro S-Lab 5 Set
- The North Face Beanie
- Mountain Fuel Sports Drink
- Hammer Nutrition Espresso Gels