Report from Ultra Sarah: The Hardmoors 55 certainly lived up to its name ie, it was hard and it had moors in it; 55 miles and 2700 meters of them!
I was assured by many that this was quite a straightforward race as far as running 55 miles goes anyway. The race director even re-assured me that because I’d beaten him in the Tour of Helvellyn I’d find it a doddle and should do a reasonable time.
Hmm, wrong on both counts! I found this hard, really hard, much harder than the Lakeland 50. I didn’t run a very sensible race from the off really, I set off for Guisborough at 9:00am with 199 other runners well enough, but after the first climb I was already feeling heavy limbed and not great; I had been a bit run down over the last week or so perhaps it was that or just an off day, who knows, but I didn’t do the sensible thing and slow down and sort myself out I charged off desperately hanging on, panicking about meeting the strict cut off times.
I ran the first 12 miles too fast and was in Kildale in 2 hours 15, way up on the three-hour cut off (I did enjoy the out and back to Roseberry topping though!). A quick bite to eat and refill of the bottles and I was off up the relentless boring climb up towards Blowarth crossing (aptly names as it was indeed blowing a hoolie right in our faces the whole of this section!) and this is where it started to hurt; my stomach was in bits for some reason and I had a horrendous stitch that I just couldn’t run off and my dodgy calf was playing up.
I shuffled miserably along the relentless, tedious, wide stony tracks, steadily climbing cursing and muttering to myself, always lagging behind Elaine who I’d talked into running this race with me. I felt guilty for holding her back but, thankfully, she was not at all bothered being about the most chilled person I’ve ever met, and stayed with me despite me keep saying; “crack on off you go”, (although the situation ended up being reversed in the last 10 miles so what goes around comes around I guess!).
I perked up mentally a bit when we got to the steep ups and downs around Wainstones and Clay Bank etc and actually enjoyed the variety of terrain here (a blessed relief from those horrid tracks), but was still in a pretty dark place and muttering about retiring at every checkpoint; I wasn’t even bothered when it started snowing and then a full on blizzard on the tops.
Add in the thunder and lightning, wind, a few hail storms and a bit of rain and I think we had all the weather possible in a few hours.
Finally, approaching Osmotherly my stomach pains were easing a little and I could up the pace, happy days! Didn’t last though. We were through Osmotherley (32 miles) in 7 hours 45 with most of the climbing behind us so not on for a great time but it could have been worse.
I managed to eat a bit and then started the long drag up out of Osmotherley back on to the moor edge where the tedious boring undulating tracks returned to haunt me and I started feeling rubbish again. Still we shuffled on into now a gorgeous sunny evening and the wind had even died down.
It got dark on the last couple of miles to Sutton Bank and we immediately got lost (yes I know navigation is my thing how can you get lost on the Cleveland Way etc blah blah!), wasting 10 minutes faffing about looking for the right path to take us down to the White Horse checkpoint at 45 miles.
Once I was here I knew I was going to finish but knew it wasn’t going to be pretty or impressive. Bit of a death march from here and now it was Elaine’s turn to suffer (I’m not sure I gave her as much sympathy as she gave me, oops!) but we shuffled on in the dark thankfully not getting lost again, but having to stop a wee bit to read the map as the Cleveland Way signs were pretty non-existent in places.
Eventually there was a group of five of us including a lady I’d run with on part of the Tour of Helvellyn and one of the Lakeland 100 reccies, so nice to catch up! Then, “oh joy” my head torch failed on me and you can imagine my colourful language at this point; still five miles to go and much of it in the woods.
Luckily I had Elaine and a small emergency Petzl in my bag which was a bit like running by candle light but better than nothing. And so we shuffled and mostly walked now on to the finish at Helmsley where we found we had to remove our shoes before being allowed up to the finish upstairs in the town hall!
This added about an hour to my finishing time as extracting sore feet from my trainers was near impossible as every time I bent over to try and get them off my quads cramped up spectacularly!
And so finished my first Hardmoors event, an overwhelming sense of relief more than anything as I was pretty close to a DNF several times, and I was proud I made myself just get on with it.
I finished in about 14 hours 23 minutes, a good hour or so slower than I had hoped but a finish none the less and over an hour inside the 15 and a half hour race cut-off, so all in all on reflection I’m pretty pleased considering!
I was about 145th out of 199 starters (170 finished). Did I enjoy the race? No not really truth be told, but I did enjoy bits of it and I enjoyed the Hardmoors experience; I met some fantastic people, caught up with old friends, met some new friends and the event was amazingly well organised and supported and super friendly. Having had three really good races on the trot before this I guess I was due a sufferfest!