I wanted to run a 100 miler at the start of summer time, mostly in preparation for another crack at Tooting Bec later in the year. Yet another failed ballot attempt at the West Highland Way race meant I had to look at other options. When it comes to actually picking races I really need to look for ones that I am able to take my kids to, and that they can support me throughout. It's part of the reason I enjoy these long races so that they can experience it, and see people digging deep when they really don't want to. It is a much better way to spend my running tokens rather than away somewhere without them. When I looked about for other races Hardmoors seemed an obvious choice. Early enough in the year, loads of off road and most importantly no "ballot" required. The entry process was simple, fill in a form, they reviewed it and I was in after meeting the criteria. Doubled up with a weekend down in Yorkshire with the family it seemed perfect.
Training went well, I had the usual few set backs with some missed runs and some time off due to being unwell but come race weekend I was in a good place, lets felt great and I was good to go. In the lead up I seen it was planned for heat, so I went for 6 sauna sessions (all that I could manage) to try and cope with the heat better. These were all 30 minutes long, and by the last one I was coping well with that amount of time. Up until race day I had done more climbing than I had ever done by this point in the year. A good bit too, so I was confident I'd feel good on the hills like I had been in training.
We travelled down on the Thursday before the race. I didn't want to be stuck in traffic for hours with a screaming child the day before the race when ideally I should have been sitting with my feet up and getting my final plan details sorted. We stayed in a nice wee B & B in Filey which was perfect. It was about a 5 minute walk to the race start which we did the day before race day and then walked about 2 miles of the course so I didn't get lost before a ball had even been kicked. It seemed pretty straight forward to begin with. I did have a gpx file onto my trusty Suunto 9, but I was going with the idea that this was only as good as the person who ran it, so if they went the wrong way, so would I. But all seemed simple enough when I looked at the overview of it. The race info pack was also full of directions, which confused me a bit as I didn't know the areas, but for anyone familiar with the area I think these would be bang on and they were detailed enough. Bob travelled down on the Friday evening and met us at the B & B to go over the race plan, nutrition and all that stuff.
The rest of the evening was spent filling bottles with tailwind - how Friday nights should be spent, and making some minor adjustments to where they would meet me according to the race instructions. A few beetroot juices later and I was good to go!
The registration was held in a sea cadet hallway about a 2 minute walk from the start. We were there and registered early, got my photo and tracker attached, and had enough time to wander about and watch some of the 200 mile runners come through our start line. Sadly for the organisers, the toilets were out of order which caused problems for some, but they had kindly let us know this the night before. Not ideal for pre race nerves but these things happen. Soon enough the briefing was over and it was the count down to the start. The first 400m or so was rapidly downhill, and I really didn't want to be off at a 6 minute mile so I held back from the first line, and then settled into the pace I had planned. The route starts fairly flat along some cliff tops like this...
so it was a decent start, with nothing to cause any trouble and easy enough to settle into a nice comfy pace. There were quite a few sets of stairs over the first few miles (more on these later) which did slow the average pace right down, but to be honest I enjoyed breaking it up even that early. One chap went off in front and I settled into a group of 3 which were going at my target pace. Well maybe a little faster but nothing that should have bothered me, it was way slower than 8 minute miles which was ideal.
This continued on fairly uneventfully for the next hour or two with me dropping then getting dropped by the same few runners over a few miles. The path along the cliff top was awesome, with big drops down to one side and seemingly endless fields on the other side. The weather was dry and warm, perhaps a little too warm, but it wasn't bothering me in the slightest. The route dropped down to Scarborough and although it was a cracking day, the early start meant there were no crowds and I didn't need to people dodge. I ran most of this section with a chap who would eventually finish second in the race, and it was good to tick off a few miles sharing stories about the different races we had done.
Not long after Scarborough I caught the race leader, and shared a few miles yo-yoing between first and second. I really enjoyed this section of the route. It was pretty rolling, no major climbs and only a few set of stairs, but it was getting pretty hot by this time and I was drinking more than usual, and already struggling to eat.
I then opened a small lead of about 2 minutes or so going into Ravenscraig, where Bob topped up my tailwind, fired me a banana and then sent me off on my way F1 style. No time to hang about. There was a wee out and back on the road to the Ravenscraig checkpoint, where my wife and kids were waiting. They almost managed to miss me on the way up, only spotting me due to my accurate banana throwing skills aimed at Mrs Shaw. Then they did miss me about 2 minutes later when I trundled past again. I felt good at this point. I was maybe working a wee bit harder than planned but it felt right. How wrong could I be.
The next place was Robin Hoods Bay, which I thought seemed a cool place to run through. It turns out it was, the drop down the steps to the bay and then through the wee town and up a small very steep climb. There was a good crowd gathering here and we were ushered up the hill by spectators, which only slightly masked the cramp that was developing in my quads. A bit early in the day for that.
The route climbed back up and went off road again, and this is where I really started to struggle with my legs. I had a slight flashback to Glentress where I had the worst cramp of my life, but it seemed this was just a warm up for Hardmoors. It was tough. I was continually cramping in both my quads, both my hamstrings, and both my calves! It was relentless, and at no point over the next 40 miles did it ever ease of completely. At some points I was managing to adjust my running style so that my quads wouldn't cramp, but then my hamstring would force my leg to bend resulting in a few faceplants, and while I was down there the quads and calves would attack again. 40 miles this lasted for. It wasn't fun. By this point I was getting passed for fun, which I was fine with, it was still early enough in the day and no where near finishing. I finally managed to limp into the town of Whitby. If you've never been, its probably a nice little town. Or so it seemed with hordes of people through the streets. It was terrible, there was just so many people that you couldn't run 3 or 4 steps without having to dodge someone again. I struggled with the route here aswell, and had to ask a few people which way to go. By this point I was hating every second of it and couldn't wait to escape the town. Thankfully it was short lived. Whitby - not to be visited on bank holiday weekends!
I met Bob and my family near to Runswick Bay and took my first seat of the day. More so to have a rant and let them know I was so pissed off that my legs were letting me down so early on. I knew what the problem was though, I was just so unprepared for the sheer amount of stairs. When I return I will need to sort this. I shouldn't have been suffering so much so early. Shortly after leaving my chair I took my first wrong turn of the day, which didn't help my mood much! It didn't help that this meant I had to run past the pub twice, and at this point in the day it seemed the much better option. Despite my legs constantly on cramp alert I managed to run a half decent pace at this point. I was never truly relaxed though, and it was summed up when a family held a gate open for me, only for me to be taken down by the cramp delivering sniper half way through the gate, falling beak first down to the feet of the chap holding the gate. Not great fun.
The race continued pretty much like this for the next 30 miles or so, and I on dropping down from the cliff top into the next village I was in a right bad mood. I was just so fed up of the constant cramp which was not allowing me to run consistent at all. I then took a seat at the checkpoint, and ate the worst tasting energy gel every which I immediately spewed back up. I changed some clothes and then get sent on my not so merry way up a flight of stairs, which i had to stop at the top of to find out the directions, again. On this I was soon caught by a chap who showed me the right way, and I ran with him and his pacer for about 100 yards or so before I was struck down with cramp again. It was brutal at this time, so much so that I ended up lying on the road in a half crouch/half death position. Thanks to the driver who stopped to see if I was alright, it sure got me up and going! I'm not sure what happened but all the cramp soon disappeared, as did my bad mood and I managed to put some decent miles in even though I wasn't really feeling it. I then managed to pass a few runners, and headed for Roseberry Topping. I thought it was closer than it actually was, and it wasn't helped by another magical detour that I took, having to double back on myself. However this brought a blessing in that I then met Ross Grieve, who I had had a great race against years ago, so the few miles we shared passed quickly before he left me going up the hill. I then seen Roseberry Topping in the distance which is only a short sharp climb, I was followed by a chap who was spectating, ad his words of encouragement did wonders for me here, but not as much as the sight of Bob and Reiah at the top, who had hiked up when they really didn't need to. I really appreciated this, although I didn't appreciate Reiah being faster than me on the descent.
The next section I actually enjoyed, and I was looking forward to the dark and heading inland a bit. I love running in the dark and seeing and hearing nothing but what is immediately around you. But when the time came I really struggled. I was freezing cold and although I started to string together some decent miles, I just couldn't warm up. There was a long flat section which I felt I was running along really well and I was then at a fork in the road. The GPS on my watch wasn't great here so I opted to wait for the runner behind me so find out the way because I knew he had raced before. He arrived after a few minutes and we decided it was left. I then set off to make up lost time, and about a mile later I turned and noticed he had just went back up the trail behind me. A watch check confirmed we had went the wrong way, and I was so pissed off at having to run back up the hill. Anyway I dealt with that and found myself at the next checkpoint, Bob and Reiah in waiting in the van.
Just as I got in I realised I hadn't peed all day, and my kidney being sore should have probably helped me notice this before hand. So I sat in the van for about 90 mins, drinking whatever Bob handed me (within reason) before I finally threw the towel in. 80 miles in. I knew at the time it was the right decision, but it still sucks and I've regretted it about every day since. However looking back I sure have learned a few things.
First - I simply wasn't prepared enough. Or I'm not good enough to go and race hard on a trail that I have never been on. Or probably both. If I want to race well I have to get to know things better, or at least look into it a bit more instead of simply reading a blog or two and mostly winging it.
Second - I really need to listen to my support crew. Ultimately the biggest downfall here was not taking on board what they were saying, eating and drinking when they were telling me to, and just thinking I knew what was best, when really I didn't and my judgement was rubbish.
Third - I really have the best supporters that I could hope for. From Mrs Shaw sacrificing her time for me to run all the time in training, doing everything at home and allowing me to race wherever and whenever I want, I really couldn't do it without her. I don't even think I had changed out my running gear before she was planning a trip for me to run the full route in training next year. The kids, for Rouxi telling me to "run faster Daddy" which despite how I was lookin
g I was actually trying. Reiah for always following me about and telling me she's proud of me even when I do crap. And Bob, for giving up his full holiday weekend to hand me bananas and tailwind that I never even took, and having next year in his diary before the race date is announced. I'll maybe listen to them next time.
Hoka speedgoat - https://amzn.to/2LbQiJV
T shirt - https://amzn.to/2ZuiQaf
Jacket - http://tidd.ly/b658eab3
Shorts - Higher state