It was only really in the last few days before the race that I started to get some mojo back, but once I got my head around the fact that the race was finally here, I felt I was ready and it was time to get my game face on.
As previously, my support crew was made up of my wife, Tracey, and my father, Paul, both well aware of the role they would have to play in a successful race - Team Troman rides again!
Some carefully planned logistics left us with our camper van in the car park of the school in Filey for the finish, a chippy tea eaten in Filey, Team Troman ensconced in the YHA in Helmsley, registered and chatting the evening away with John and Katrina.
|John, Katrina and Tracey in the YHA|
This is not going to be a step by step account of the whole race (I'll put together a video that should give a better account in that respect) but instead, I'd like to give a flavour of the day along with some thoughts on my approach to the run. Regular readers will know that I generally like to start conservatively and run a strong second half to my 100 milers - this seems to play into my hands psychologically as I try to feel good when most others are starting to suffer. I have, however, been keen to try and put myself "in the mix" from the start of a 100 mile race to see how I would cope, both physically and mentally, and to see what the race outcome might be. As you can imagine, it is difficult to try out a new strategy in a race when you only do one or two super long ultras in a year - it is a lot of eggs in a basket, especially when there is a chance that you might drop the basket! The Hardmoors 110 was originally going to be my "A race" for the year, however, that changed slightly once I was fortunate enough to get a place in the UTMB later in the year, so the thought occurred that this could be the chance to try a different tactic.
During my training recces, I measured the time taken to run between the checkpoints, as I normally would, but this time these splits were only a guide as to how much water I would need to carry, rather than a series of time intervals that I was racing against. During the race I did not take splits at any point. What I did notice was that I probably felt a bit more relaxed over the first 10 hours or so, particularly when approaching the checkpoints. Normally, I would have been looking at my watch, wondering if I was roughly on time, but here I was always chirpy and looking forward to some food and drink - my stomach definitely enjoyed the more relaxed approach without the time pressures.
Right from the start of the race, I settled into the second pack, deciding not to run with the leaders as, again, I wanted to keep the pressure off. I knew the pace was good but I was really enjoying the run, concentrating on being smooth and efficient.
|One hour into the race|
Within a couple of hours, the field had spread out and I was sitting in 4th place, very happy with my start and still running quickly without overcooking it. What was different, was that I was more interested in what others around me were doing, whereas normally, at this early stage, I would just concentrate on my own race - I guess this was just a knock-on effect of a different strategy. Whenever I came into a checkpoint, I always asked Paul how far ahead the next runner was, was I gaining, how did he look? Yet, I was still nicely relaxed and eating well.
Sometime after Osmotherly (22 miles) the weather started to take a turn for the worse, with the wind picking up, rain starting and the clouds covering the hills. The roller-coaster section over Carlton Bank, Cringle Moor, Cold Moor and The Wainstones were a bit grim, but sections that I quite like and I knew I was making good time. I stopped at Clay Bank (33 miles) and put on my OMM jacket and changed gloves, feeling that I needed to "run warm" for a while, especially over the long slog past Bloworth Crossing to Kildale. My sole aim in these conditions is to not tense up. As the temperature goes down, as the rain increases, as the wind increases, you have a tendency to hunch your shoulders and increase the tension in your neck which, in turn, transmits to the rest of your body. I figured if I could keep relaxed I'd be using less energy and cover the ground more quickly.
Just before Bloworth Crossing (37 miles) I finally caught up with 3rd place runner, Mark Collinson - with the weather conditions and visibility of only around 20 yards, I think we were both as pleased as each other to have some company and we ran together over Ingleby Moor to the Kildale checkpoint (43 miles).
Kildale felt like a significant point as this is where John K and I started our two day recce at Easter and I felt that I was on a familiar route where I had had such positive feeling last time I was there. I had some coke and rice pudding, taking my time and left feeling ready for the next part of the adventure out to Saltburn on the coast. I was now in 3rd and my mind was starting to focus on 2nd place, currently held by Gareth Wilson, who I raced against in the Hardmoors 55 earlier in the year. The out and back section to Roseberry Topping might give me an idea of how far behind I was.
As I write this, I find it interesting that I have made no comments about the length of time I have been running, the splits between checkpoints or the relationship of my race time to a schedule - non of these thoughts were in my head during the race or now, which stresses the different approach to this race.
As it turned out, I was about 19 minutes behind Gareth on the out and back section; far enough for me to take stock of my own running and, for the first time in the race, spend a few hours just ticking off some miles.
On the approach to Saltburn (58 miles), I felt that I was flagging a little and in need of a boost - boy did I get one! Firstly, I got a quick hug from Katrina in the checkpoint and then when I dropped down to the support car with Paul and Tracey, I was greeted by what I dubbed the "Happy Crew" - five friends who had driven over from Yarm to cheer me on (thanks Jeremy, Bev, Imogen, Alison and Louis, I can't begin to tell you how much that visit meant to me). I ate and drank some more as the whole crew walked along the prom before I set off up the hill.
|The Happy Crew|
I had a good section along the cliff tops towards the small car park just before Staithes, but again, I was not really thinking about the other runners - that changed once I met Tracey and Paul again. Here I was informed that the leader was starting to struggle a little and that I had closed a couple of minutes on Gareth. Suddenly, I was pulled back into race mode.
By Runswick Bay (70 miles) I had pulled up into 2nd place with Gareth some 23 minutes ahead. It was time to get kitted up for the night. Yes, obviously I had a large print list of the stuff I had to carry for the night sections so it only took a minute or so to get sorted. By this time my stomach had started to stop playing ball so I had pretty much switched to a liquid diet using Mountain Fuel energy drinks which were doing a great job of keeping me going when most other options were now a non-starter.
I started to struggle over the next section to Sandsend, particularly on some of the short steep downhills, but I was still running everthing I thought I should be, which at this stage of the race is a big positive. The steps down into the checkpoint at Sandsend (75 miles) were a bit of a trauma and I'm glad there was a strong handrail. I had now been running in the dark for about 15 minutes and had got my head around the darkness of the next 6 hours. My new head torch (a Lenser SEO7) was working great, even on only the lower setting and I had the advantage of both Sandsend and Whitby to run through where I wouldn't need the light at all.
I was braced to tackle the drunken hoards in Whitby but, in fact, it was relatively quiet. Like most people, I tried to count the 199 steps up to the Abbey but came up with 200. It was over this next section to Robin Hood's Bay that I mentally settled for 2nd place, even to the point that I said to myself "if they gave me 2nd now, would I take it?" - to which I replied an emphatic "yes". Gareth was obviously running well and pulling away from me and I had to be more concerned about getting caught from behind. Every time I looked back, I convinced myself that head torches were approaching and I began to wonder what I had left.
After Robin Hood's Bay, it was a relatively short section to Ravenscar (90 miles) and I asked Tracey and Paul to take some kit into the village hall for when I arrived as I thought I needs a short sit down (for the first time in the race) as I dealt with my pit stop. This was a good move as I left feeling slightly more chipper, knowing I only had another couple of hours at the most in the dark and Paul assured me that there was no one immediately behind. One further positive was that I had now swapped to my last map for the race, covering the route from Ravenscar to the finish.
I used the long, gentle downhill road section from the village hall to get my rhythm back, but had a slight panic when I couldn't find the path that cuts across the fields back to the coastal route. It took some convincing that I hadn't gone far enough and then I caught sight of the road sign just after the turning and let out a relieved sigh.
It was around here that I passed Lee Knight, the leader in the Hardmoors 160 mile race - it seemed strange all weekend to think that my 110 mile race was not even the toughest event going on (as some described it, "the fun run"). We had a short chat before I pushed on, shaking my head, absolute legends, the lot of them!
I must admit, I spent a lot of time looking back along this section, worried that I might lose 2nd place after all this work and I was feeling pretty jiggered. I had decided that I would try to preserve something for the final push from Scarborough to Filey and I started to question myself "if had had started steadily, would I be here now and running stronger?"
Like everyone, no matter where they were along the coastal route, I was brought back to reality with an amazing sunrise over the sea, which gave me the perfect lift just at the moment I most needed it. I knew I needed to get myself out of this low point and get back to ticking off some miles, so I allowed the sunrise to soak into me and just enjoyed being in this position at this time (bit zen, I know).
I felt a little better as I made the long trudge round the promenade from North Bay to South Bay in Scarborough and shuffled my way to the checkpoint (101 miles). It was especially nice to see Tracey and Paul this time and it felt like we were on our way home from here. The three of us walked out along the prom together on the start of the final leg as I drank some coke, I said my good-byes and struck off for home.
I had taken care to talk to Race Director, Jon Steele, before the start with regard to the route just after Scarborough as it was slightly different to the route I had recced and this focussed my mind for a while. I was relieved that everything fell into place exactly as Jon described and I was soon back on the track I knew. Although I was walking all the hills, I was pleased that it was done at a good strong stride rather than a crawl and I was making time at about the pace I would expect at this point of the race.
About a mile or so before Filey Brigg, Paul came running out to meet me and it was great to have some company for these last couple of miles having ran on my own for so long. I think we had a conversation, or at least Paul spoke and I occasionally grunted and we were soon onto Filey sea front and the final checkpoint before the couple of miles up to the finish.
At last I could relax, there was no one in sight behind, I had secured 2nd place and would be well under 24 hours for the race. I managed to keep some kind of a "run" right through to the finish and simply let the wave of applause wash over me as I went into the hall and the finish if the race.
With no dramatics, all I wanted to do was lie down and close my eyes. I found it difficult as there was a small part of my brain saying "talk to people, tell the tales, at least show some appreciation to your crew" but that part was out voted. I did, finally take my socks and shoes off, having worn the same ones for the duration of the event, something I have never done before, but I just didn't feel I needed to. Thanks Skechers.
The next couple of hours consisted of sleep, pain, mud, sleep, shuffling (just), sleep, shower, massage, Twiglets and sleep, though I may have got the order wrong!
I finally caught up with John who had had a really strong run to take 11th place. If you haven't lost the will to live after this report, you can read his account here.
As every runner will tell you, this is a team effort and I have to say thank you so much to my dream team of Tracey and Paul, I couldn't have done it without you. To Jon and Shirley, you have an amazing event(s) that is organised with the runner in mind, thank you for giving us the opportunity to test ourselves. To the marshals along the way, you were so motivating and helpful, it made our job that little bit easier. A final well done to all the competitors, I hope to see you again at one of these events so we can test ourselves once more :-)