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Hardmoors 55 Race 2015 - Cloudy Skies and Rain

21st March 2014

55 miles








t would be fair to say that preparation for the Hardmoors 55 Race 2015 had gone reasonably well. I had sustained a good block of training in November, December and January hand performed a recce of the route (well most of it) at the beginning of February. A slight strain to my hamstring had not pushed me back too much and whilst I had not done any speed work, instead focusing on endurance, I was expecting a decent run.

The Hardmoors 55 was one of three races I had planned to build up to my main goal of the year, The Lakeland 100. I had chosen this instead of the Highland Fling which is run a month later. No specific reason, I just fancied a change. The big question was should I race or not race? One thing for sure was that I did not want to trash my legs but I think it is hard to treat a race as a training run so I would go for something in the middle and keep it steady and aim for a time similar to my Fling time from last year which was 10 hours 51 minutes.

Emma would be supporting me so there was no need to utilise the early morning coach from Helmsley to Guisborough. Instead we stayed in a Premier Inn about thirty minutes’ drive from Guisborough. We arrived at the event centre which was based at the Sea Cadets and I had my kit checked and received my race number. I managed to catch up with Jane and say hello to Charlotte who I had met on the Recce but did not see Rich or Nikki (both Rich and Nikki went on to post amazing race times).

I had initially put shorts on but the wind was pretty strong and after a little deliberation with Emma, I decided to change into my running tights. With Emma meeting me at half a dozen locations throughout the day I could always change if the wind died and the sun came out. We went for a coffee to kill some time and at 8.40am we were back at the Sea Cadets for the race debrief. Jon Steele, the race organiser, delivered a relaxed (and often funny) speech and as the start time approached I was really looking forward to getting under way.

Guisborough to Osmotherley – Time 6:12:20, Distance 32 miles, Leg Position 96

At 9am we were all lined up on the road and once the traffic had been cleared we were on our way. I love the start of races. Everyone jostling for position and settling into their rhythm. We headed up the road and then all diverged as the route headed up some narrow steps up onto the disused railway track which would lead us onto the Cleveland Way. Once on the railway track I settled down into a nice easy pace. The first mile was pretty flat and it gave me an opportunity to warm up. I deliberately resisted the temptation to get “caught in the moment” and run too fast. Instead I just ran the flats and downhill’s and walked any incline.

Over the next six kilometres the path gradually ascended as I climbed through Guisborough Woods towards Highcliff Nab. From here it dropped down and then headed up and down the iconic Roseberry Topping. At only 320 metres, Roseberry Topping is not exactly in th unro category but it dominates the skyline and offers amazing views from the top. From Roseberry Topping the path continues towards Captain Cook’s Monument and then onto Kildale. Emma was waiting for me at the car park just below the monument and I grabbed some Coke and a chocolate covered rice cake, eating and drinking on the climb up to the monument.

Hardmoors 55 Race 2015 - 8 miles into the race after the ascent and descent of Roseberry Topping
8 miles into the race after the ascent and descent of Roseberry Topping

By the time I ran through Kildale I had covered 11 miles and the race had stretched out.  From Kildale the path heads up across Battersby Moor to the self-clip at Blowarth Crossing before cutting back and heading over Urra Moor to the next checkpoint at Clay Bank at 21 miles. When we had run this section during the recce, it was deep snow and absolutely freezing cold. There was no snow now though and although there was a fair wind, it was directly behind me. As I ascended up onto the moor I got chatting to a guy called Mick. We seemed to be running the same pace so we just stuck together as we headed along the path. Mick had ran the UTMB amongst other races and we chatted about this and other ultra-marathons as we headed towards the self-clip checkpoint.

Jon Steele had joked that he had attached the ‘self-clips’ deliberately high so that any small runners would not be able to reach up to it. Whilst I could reach the ‘self-clip’, it would not stretch to my number, which was attached to my running tights. There followed a couple of humorous minutes whilst I ‘shinned up’ the pole and Mick clipped my number then we alternated so Mick, who had also attached his number to his tights, could clip his number.

Thirty-five minutes later we dropping down towards the crew meeting point and checkpoint at Clay Bank. I decided to take a five minute breather and grab a sandwich and some fruit. As I was preparing to set off, Jane arrived and headed straight through and then up towards Wain Stones. Mick and set off at the same time so we just continued to run together (we would stay together pretty much all the way to the end). I was really looking forward to this section. It was amazing when we had run it on the recce. The path undulates up and down and hugs the edge of the hillside as it ascends a number of peaks. It also gave me the opportunity to have a chat with Jane. She was running really well and looking strong. She gave me the news that Rich and Nikki had flew off at the front but Charlotte was carrying an injury.

It was at this point that my Hoka’s shoes were beginning to give me a little grief. I had bought a new pair a few months back and rather than buying a pair of Stinson ATR which had been amazing on the West Highland Way Race, I had bought a pair of Mafate Speed instead (God only knows why!!!). They had seemed fine during training runs but they were beginning to rub my ankle slightly whenever I stood on uneven ground. A blister would not be ideal so I decided to give them until Osmotherley and if they were still bothering me then change into my Salamon S-Lab Softground that I had fortunately packed in the car.

Mick and I continued along the top, taking it in turns to lead and we arrived at Lord Stones where Emma had a cup of coffee ready. Somehow, she had timed it to perfection and the coffee was just the right temperature to drink quickly. It was a good ten miles to the next meeting point so I filled my pack with some more sweets and got stuck into some more fruit before setting off.

I was now 25 miles into the race and running steady across the fantastic moors. We descended down to a tricky section of tarmac at Hollin Hill where it is easy to make a wrong turn but with the recce still fresh in my mind there was no issues here. We headed across a field and into Clain Wood. There is a big slog up some steps at this point and then onto Scarth Moor where the path gradually climbs up towards the TV mast and the second ‘self-clip’ checkpoint. This time there was no need for any aerial acrobatics and we were able to clip our races numbers without issue. We pushed on and dropped into Osmotherley in a time of 6 hours and 11 minutes.

Osmotherley to Helmsley – Time 4:45:07, Distance 23 miles, Leg Position 73

There was little point in hanging about at Osmotherley as Emma was parked up at Square Corner so I just checked in and set off. Mick agreed to grab his drop bag and carry it until we met Emma and eat his food there although by the time we set off, hunger must have got the best of him and he decided to hang back and eat. I agreed to wait for him at the Square Corner car park and pushed on.  Due to the jack-knifed lorry incident on the recce, I had not been able to run this section so it was uncharted territory. It was about 20km to the White Horse Checkpoint and it looked pretty straight forward on the map so no concerns there.

Heading past Oakdale Reservoir, I passed Jane again. She was looking strong and asked me to pre-order a cup of tea from her mum at the crew meeting point. Unfortunately I could not see Ann to relay Jane’s order but Emma was there waiting for me. I ditched my Hoka’s and changed into a pair of Salomon S-Lab Softground. I was intending to change into shorts but with the wind whipping across the moor, it was brass monkeys so I stuck with my running tights. By the time I had changed, Jane had powered past, followed closely by Mick. (This was the last time I would see Jane. She went onto finish in a great time of 10 hours and 43 minutes).

Hardmoors 55 Race 2015 - Heading up from Osmotherley
Heading up from OsmotherleyPremature celebration? Still another 21 miles to go!

Mick and I hooked back up and set off up the wide path. I did some rough calculations in my head. Bar a major issue, a sub 12 hour finish was in the bag but if I maintained the same pace and continued running wherever possible then a sub 11 hour finish could be achievable. Considering, I had been running at a pretty reserved pace throughout then this would be a decent finish. It was about 11km to the ‘Chia Charge’ checkpoint at High Paradise and during this time, Mick and I did not speak much but just alternated the lead occasionally. I filled my bottle and nailed some peanuts then we pushed on to Sutton Bank to meet Emma again. There was some amazing running along the edge of Whitestone Cliff with great views in all directions.

At Sutton Bank Emma had heated up some soup which Mick and I made short work of. I nailed some more fruit (any guess what my favourite ultra food is?) and we set off. I was really happy with my nutrition on this race and I put this down to the fact that I had ran well within myself all day. It was only a short journey from Sutton Bank to the Glider Club then down to the checkpoint at the White Horse. We arrived 9 hours and 9 minutes and more importantly in daylight. Without wasting any time, we headed straight up the steep steps and back up towards the Glider club.

It was about 14km to Helmsley and I would probably get to Cold Kirby before it got dark. Mick and I had a quick chat and we decided to get our head torches out of our packs and have them to hand so that we would not be messing about in the darkness. We set off along the top and headed up towards the busy main road and then down by the side of the pub. It was plain sailing past the disused horse racing track and down into Cold Kirby. You could still see just about but by the time we entered the forest, there was no choice but use the head torches.

I remembered this section well from the recce and knew that all that remained was a couple of kilometres on the road then a climb up through Quarry Bank and Whinny Bank Woods and then a nice descent to the finish. We ran well on the tarmac, about 11 km/h on the flat sections but by this time conversation had ended. I guess we both wanted to just finish the race.

By the time we emerged from the woods, I guessed we had just over a kilometre to go. My watch was reading a race time of 10 hours and 50 minutes. If I got my skates on, I could just make the sub 11 hour time. At this point Mick was lagging behind slightly and I shouted at him to keep going so that we could push for a sub eleven hour.  I pushed on a little further and as I looked over my shoulder, Mick was slowly getting further behind. It was such a shame to leave Mick because I had ran most of the race with him but I really wanted the sub eleven hour finish so I ran down the hill and headed into the town centre. At that point, I realised, I actually did not know where the actual finish was but fortunately some passers-by pointed me in the right direction. I finished in an official time of 10 hours 57 minutes and 27 seconds.

Post Race Reflection

First things first. The Hardmoors 55 is a fantastic ultra. The North Yorkshire Moors are an amazing location to run and the event organisation was first class. I suppose my only minor gripe is the fact that it is not chip timed so it took a little while for the results to be compiled and there was no official splits available from the checkpoints. This is minor though and I would definitely run this or one of the other Hardmoor events in the future.

From my own point of view, I was happy with my performance. I ran totally within myself from start to finish and had plenty in the tank to step up towards the end when I was aiming for the sub 11 hour finish. Could I have run faster? Well yes, I think a sub 10 hour could be achievable if I trained specifically for this and the weather was as kind as it was this year. But the purpose of this race was to provide a checkpoint along the way towards my main goal this year which is the Lakeland 100. And from that point of view, I am more than happy with where I am. The only negative aspect of this race is that my sore left hamstring that has plagued me off and on now for over twelve months flared up.

Although comparing the Hardmoors 55 with last year’s Highland Fling is a little like comparing Apples and Pears, the distance measured on my Garmin was practically the identical (Hardmoors 55: 86:01km, Highland Fling: 85.97km) but  there is 300 metres of ascent more on the Hardmoors 55.

I finished the Highland Fling in 10 hours and 51 minutes which was six minutes quicker. My average heart rate for the Hardmoors 55 was 140, for the Highland Fling it was 143. When you compare both races the results seem pretty similar although if you have read my race report for the Highland Fling then you will know that I had a really tough race that day.

So if my times were pretty much the same and my average heart rate was also quite close then how is it that I felt so much better running the Hardmoors 55 this year compared to the Highland Fling last year? If I split both races in the middle then the statistics tell a totally different story.

Race Split 1 Distance (km) Split 1 Time Split 1 Average HR Split 2 Distance (km) Split 2 Time Split 2 Average HR
Hardmoors 55 2015 43.00 5:14:36 147 (MAX 170) 43.01 5:42:27 134 (MAX 158)
Highland Fling 2014 43.00 4:41:04 150 (MAX 167) 42.97 6:10:34 137 (MAX 158)

Both races were slower in the second half but the Highland Fling significantly more. The last ten miles was a struggle on the Fling and that is reflected in the time for the second half of the race but on the Hardmoors 55 I felt strong all the way through and this is reflected in the fact that there is only a difference of 28 minutes in the splits. In both races my average heart rate was down 13 beats per minute in the second half of the race. The big question is how do I move forward and can I use this statistics to help me in the next race I run? There has been a lot of talk post Hardmoors 55 of running “to a heart rate” prompted by John Kynaston smashing his PB by adopting such a strategy (article here). This is definitely something that I will look into for the future. Maybe I need to run slower to run faster?

My Race Statistics (from Garmin watch)

Checkpoint Leg Distance Leg Time Leg Pace Elevation Change Overall Distance Overall Time
Disused railway line 1.91 11:24 5:58 +22 1.91 00:11:24
Roseberry Topping 8.79 57.55 6:35 +169 10.70 01:09:19
Pale End Plantation 5.50 11.21 6:51 -31 16.20 01:47:00
Kildale 1.90 11:21 5:59 -78 18.10 01:58:22
Bloworth Crossing 9.20 1:02:38 6:49 +223 27.30 03:01:00
Clay Bank 5.60 44:57 8:02 -108 32.90 03:45:57
Kirby Bank 3.00 29:44 9:55 +10 35.90 04:15:42
Lord Stones Site 2.10 19:07 9:06 -17 38.00 04:34:50
TV Station 9.70 1:19:24 8:11 +6 47.70 05:54:14
Osmotherley 2:80 17:44 6:20 -128 50.50 06:11:58
High Paradise 11.50 1:41:25 8:49 +164 62.00 07:53:24
White Horse 9.80 1:16:31 7:49 -100 71.80 09:09:56
Helmsley Town Hall 14.21 1:47:27 7:34 -169 86:01 10:57:24
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