This was my first attempt at running the Hardmoors 55, which was run from Guisborough to Helmsley for this first time this year. (it normally starts at Helmsley). It has also been my first race of any distance, since the Hardmoors 60 in October last year. My preparation for this race in terms of training has been following an Advanced Marathoning plan by Peter Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. The HM55 is my longest run in that plan, which is 5 weeks out from my marathon. A link to my slightly modified version of the plan can be found here. As you can see I am falling well short of the weekly mileage targets. That is the point for me, if I can not even find the time to meet the mileage for a marathon plan, then why follow an Ultra plan. I think the mixture of speed and endurance is better for me than the more endurance based ultra plans. Most of my running for this plan has also been on trails rather than tarmac. The slight changes I made are that I do longish runs on Friday and Saturday and the obvious one is that the original plan does not have a 55 mile long run :)
Just getting to the start line was an adventure wheel spinning my way up a very snowy Sutton Bank was not for the faint hearted. Once at the top I doubled back to help a stranded runner stuck near the top of the hill. Once there I joined the coach at Helmsley to take us to the start at Guisborough. It was good to catch up with everyone on the bus and discuss the upcoming race, just looking out of the bus at the snowy wintry conditions it was clear that it was going to be an interesting day.
Race registration and kit checks went very smoothly and it was good to see full kit checks being enforced given the weather. Thanks to Ray for snapping me before the off. My hopes for this run were to be able to run all runnable section, survive on minimum food by running at a steady pace. Given that this was a training run towards a marathon and also preparation for my first 100 miler in May, I was not wanting to go out to hard like I did in my last Ultra (Hardmoors 60). In short I wanted to see if it was possible to enjoy an Ultra, in terms of time I was hoping that I could break 10 hours for 55 miles. We learned at race registration that the course was being shortened to 52 miles, given the weather I was keeping an open mind about the time target.
Once under way it was good to get the legs moving and kept reminding myself to take it easy early on. The first real sign that that the weather was going to be a big part of the day, was the climb up Roseberry Topping. The wind whipping across the hill was vicious, top marks to the two marshals that were running the checkpoint on that hill. I was more than glad to get up and down of that hill. After passing through the first indoor checkpoint at Kildale we started the long climb towards Bloworth Crossing. It was this point that I started my highly complex nutrition plan by consuming a single fig roll. Here are some key facts on my new super food :) I am using Sainsburys fig rolls, but I am sure other brands are very similar ;)
|There are 71 calories in a 1 roll serving of Sainsbury's Fig Rolls.|
|Calorie Breakdown: 23% fat, 72% carbs, 5% prot.|
The first hints of strong wind were to be found on this hill,as the wind was blowing strongly into our faces during this climb. Once we started to approach Bloworth I had my breath taken away by the wind! I had to put on my hat and pull my coat hood over my head to prevent the side of my face freezing! The side wind was that strong it was literally blowing my sideways whilst running. The knee deep snow in places, stopped us from being blown away though! Full marks to my Montane minimus jacket for keeping the wind out. It was during this period that my water supply froze, so the only water I could drink was at check points that had water.
Most of the route was runnable, but the drama of that wind and the 2 to 3 feet snow drifts in places, added a real sense of drama to the day that made the run a real adventure :)
I had not had chance to recce the parts from Bloworth to Osmotherly miles 18 to 32. There are some great climbs in this section and they come thick and fast. As I approached Osmotherly (second indoor checkpoint) I had consumed almost a full packet of fig rolls, but I was looking forward to some savoury food and a good drink of water!
After leaving the checkpoint at Osmotherly we hit some of the longest and deepest snow drifts with strong cross winds again. This section was pretty tough, and it was slow going wading through the snow. I was looking forward to reaching Sutton Bank,as from Sutton Bank you start the run in to the end at Helmsley. Once at Sutton Bank, time seemed to go into slow motion as I started the run into Helmsley. What kept me going was the desire to finish an Ultra without needing a head torch and on checking the time, it looked as though a sub 10 hour finish was still on the cards, if I could keep going at the same effort.
I managed to reach Helmsley in just under 10 hours and was delighted to have broken the 10 hours barrier in such challenging conditions. I was 14th overall. Really pleased that I seemed to have proven to myself that running in fat burning mode for an ultra has enabled me to have one of my best finishes in a training race :) It was also the first ultra where I felt in control of the pacing throughout the whole route. I would also like to give a special thank you to Shelli, Hardmoors leading lady for helping me with pacing and route knowledge. Also many thanks to Jon, the helpers and marshals. This is my second hardmoors race and I am big fan of their race series. I look forward to running the HM55 and HM60 again. I remain very nervous about joining the two together to run my first 100 miler later this year though :)