Report from Sarah F
Anyone who went on the training weekend last year will remember the ‘beast from the east’, which also coincided with the Hardmoors 55 race (the race ended up being called off 20 miles from the end for the majority of the field including me). I entered the race again this year, my third time and hopefully my second finish. The weather couldn’t possibly be as bad as last year could it ? Enter storm Hannah – or the pest from the West !
Coupled with the rather inclement conditions, Jon (the rather sadistic RD) had laid on a special treat for us to celebrate the 10th year of the race and 50 years of the Cleveland way – this was in the form of 2 ascents of Roseberry Topping, a rather steep cheeky hill, one of which was the full ‘long side’! So all in all it was always going to be a bit of an epic and it soon became apparent I’d need to work hard to stay up on the cut offs (never normally an issue in this race!). I quickly revised my ambitions from a ’13 hour finish’ to just ‘finish and not get timed out’ (and going over blowarth crossing to ‘get off this damn hill without dying or being blown out to sea’!)
We started in torrential rain, which didn’t relent until just before square corner at 33 miles. This was of course deeply unpleasant but the wind was the main issue and of course the prevailing winds were in our face much of the way ! The first long steep climb up the tees link was predictably a slippery mud chute and Roseberry was ‘interesting’ (twice!) with some ridiculous wind and particularly gloopy mud. I was wearing reasonably aggressive shoes but staying on my feet was a real challenge. As the Roseberry hill reps were an out and back it was both depressing and encouraging to see how many people were in front and behind you! The rest of the way to Kildale at mile 10 passed without incident and I was pleased to arrive a tad damp well over an hour up on cut off.
Bit too much time spent scoffing, faffing and then trying to find my poles, which some bloke has taken by mistake (thankfully he realised quickly and brought them back as I was starting to panic!), then on up and over Blowarth crossing, which as usual was long and boring but hard to run even downhill due to the wind – nice ! I finally fell down the hill to clay bank feeling rather like I’d spent the last 2 hours in a washing machine! I think I lost quite a bit of time going over here as would normally be running a lot of this section but it was such a battle at times even to get a march on and at other times just to go forward rather than backwards!
Next up the three sisters (there are actually 4 steep climbs and descents in quick succes sion!)- I really enjoyed the climbs partly as it was sheltered from the wind and I could catch my breath and talk nonsense to whoever was around at the time (spent a bit of time with Andy Cole here – a legend of the ultra world and Dragons back vetran so really useful to get his thoughts) and partly because for a change I felt strong ! Crossing the summits and getting down again was on the other hand desperate. Anyway eventually I rolled into Osmotherley covered in mud over half hour ahead I think – had to take a short break to thaw out and sort headtorch etc as well as get a big old feed and a couple of brews on board.
I climbed hard after leaving the checkpoint partly to warm up and partly as was now worrying about getting timed out! I kept plodding walking the ups shuffling the downs and run-walking as much of the flats as I could (where it wasn’t knee deep in mud or water!). And it stopped raining at last! After square corner I started catching people and then it got dark and the rain stopped (one could almost claim it was a pleasant evening!) and then a weird thing happened – I got a massive second wind and started passing more people and running harder. I made the white horse checkpoint Just 15 minutes up on the cut off and pushed on after a 2 min break. 9 miles to go and I was now running the best I had all race – a 2 mile section of deep gloopy mud interrupted the running and was really slow so I was really panicking now! I hit the track again and ran hard (well it felt hard it was probably a comedy shuffle in reality!) alternating a bit of walking here and there. I passed a lot of people each time focusing on catching the next runners up ahead which provided a challenge and distraction! I hit the final woodland section and another steep climb again I was passing people constantly which was a real buzz I knew I would make it now but kept pushing why on earth couldn’t this feeling have started earlier I was wondering!
Finally I was climbing the road up to the finish and even managed to run a lot of it as some guy challenged me to a race to the finish (I won but I think he let me win!) which was hilarious and then it was over! What a day ! I finished in 15 hours 42 or something like that. In those conditions I was just happy and relieved to finish under the cut off and very chuffed how strong I felt towards the end hopefully a good sign ahead of dragons back but I was also hugely disappointed with my time so a real mix bag of emotions and feelings! I was 249th out of 442 starters – 289 received an official finish time (under the final 16 hour 15 min cut off) 153 more finished after the official cut off, were either timed out at earlier checkpoints or retired.