You can read about the first 53 miles of my Hardmoors 110 run here.
CP7 Saltburn to CP8 Roseberry Topping (10 miles)
Although I was well ahead of time, I was now feeling pretty dreadful. Thankfully we had arranged that Neil (and our dog Bamber) would run the next 4 miles with me as far as Slapewath where he would then pick up the car and crew for me overnight. I’m totally at ease running alone in the dark in the middle of nowhere, but didn’t feel so comfortable about going through some of the urban areas in this section on my own.
As we headed out of Saltburn and through the Valley Gardens it started to get dark and we got our headtorches out. I was not my usual chatty self and was struggling to talk without feeling like I was going to be sick. Neil was concerned that I needed to get eating and drinking again, but I still didn’t feel I could get anything down. We agreed that I would concentrate on getting some liquid in and see how it went. Neil got a water bottle and every couple of minutes gave it to me and encouraged me to take a couple of small sips. At first I felt it was going to come straight back up, but gradually it started to help, my body started to digest the mass of food sitting in my stomach and by the time we reached the descent to Slapewath I was feeling back to normal although I still didn’t really want to eat anything.
Once we got to the car Neil tried to get me to have some food; I managed a couple of mouthfuls of Chia Charge and sucked on some melon, but I was still struggling to get much down. Neil wanted me to wait and try to get some more food in, but I didn’t want to hang around. We agreed that I would carry on but had to report what I had managed to eat when I next met him after Roseberry Topping. I think he hoped this would be sufficient threat to get me to eat something! I picked up my poles from the car and set off up through Guisborough Woods.
I made slow but steady progress up through Guisborough Woods as the lack of food started to take its toll on the pace I was able to sustain. There were headtorches all over the place as people missed path turnings and tried to make their way back. I concentrated on spotting the acorns (the National Trail markers) and tapping out a consistent pace with my poles; it seemed to take ages, but eventually I reached the top at Highcliff Nab and then was able to enjoy a fun descent on the flagstones heading across to Roseberry Topping.
The wind was now getting up and was bitingly cold, so I stopped at the gate before Roseberry Topping to put on my waterproof jacket for some protection from the wind. Roseberry Topping seemed incredibly quiet compared to my last trip up it on the 55, but the climb here seems to suit me and I quickly reached the top to be greeted by some very cheery marshalls and sent on my way back down to Kildale.
CP8 Roseberry Topping to CP9 Kildale (5 miles)
My poles proved helpful for a speedy descent and I was soon back at the gate and picking up the path round to Gribdale Terrace. Here I nearly missed Neil as he came up from the car park to find me and we failed to recognise each other due to the glare from our headtorches! However, the tracker came into its own again and Neil was able to see that he’d missed me, turn around and catch me up again.
I duly reported that I had managed to eat plenty of sweets since last seeing him and headed off up to Captain Cook’s monument. As I started the steep road descent to Kildale I realised that my feet were now starting to feel extremely sore; the dry weather had left the Cleveland Way tracks incredibly hard and it was like running on concrete. I used my poles to take some of the weight off my feet and tried to ignore the soreness.
The village hall in Kildale was a scene of carnage, with many runners trying to snatch a few minutes’ sleep on the chairs or floor. I had arranged to meet Neil just outside Kildale, so just gave in my number and headed straight back out of the door.
CP9 Kildale to CP10 Clay Bank (11 miles)
It was very quiet and peaceful as I headed out of Kildale. There were a few support crew cars parked up at the side of the road, but whereas throughout the rest of the race they had been cheering everybody on, there was now silence as everyone hunkered down in their cars trying to get a bit of sleep themselves.
I met Neil and although food was still difficult I knew that I needed to take on something more than a few sweets before the long crossing of the moors to Clay Bank. Fortunately eating was starting to get easier and I managed to consume my normal ultra rescue food of a pot of custard and a couple of mouthfuls of cake. I also took the time to change my socks and put on a fresh pair of trainers and so I had a new spring in my step as I tackled the long road climb onto the top of the moors. Neil walked with me up the hill before leaving me at the top to head back to the car.
I know a lot of people don’t like this section between Kildale and Clay Bank, but I always really enjoy it; I love the isolation of the moors here, the masses of crazy grouse and the history of the disused railway at Bloworth Crossing. I knew it was a long way to Bloworth Crossing so settled into a walk and shuffle routine; the fact that I was now well hydrated again meant plenty of pee stops were needed, but thankfully this was easy in the darkness. It was now just gone 3am and I was starting to feel very sleepy, but I knew that it would be getting light in about 45 minutes and if I could hang on until then everything would get a lot easier.
The new day dawned just before I reached Bloworth Crossing, but brought with it a harsh cold wind which whipped across the exposed moor, chilling us to the core. I got my hood up and pulled it tight around my face, then focused on covering the 3 miles to Clay Bank as quickly as possible.
I had lost some of my time buffer during my nauseous period, but had now gained the time back again so was worrying that my parents would not have made it there in time (they were now taking over support crew duties again from Neil). Thankfully they made it just in time and as I came down to the gate to the road it was a relief to see Mum waiting for me (unlike one of the runners just behind me who came down to find his crew still asleep in the car – this race is very tough on the support teams too!). I had some chocolate milk and attempted to regather myself ready for the next section which is the toughest of the whole race. I checked in at the official checkpoint, complete with a very surreal giant dinosaur, before heading on.
CP10 Clay Bank to CP11 Scarth Nick (7 miles)
The next few miles provide the biggest challenge of the whole race with four big climbs and descents over 6 miles which provide a significant test on fresh legs, never mind having already completed 79 miles! I had planned for this by allowing plenty of time in my schedule so that I didn’t need to feel any time pressure and as a result this section went much better than I had anticipated. At least in this direction the steep stepped sections are all tackled going up, which is easier than downhill on sore legs.
By now the merest hint of any grit in my trainers was irritating my sore feet and I stopped several times to empty out my shoes. Lord Stones café was eerily silent as the road leading to it was closed for resurfacing. A few people went past me, but I felt in control and stuck to my own pace knowing that this would see me to the finish.
I was now starting to feel hungry which I took to be a good sign that my stomach was finally starting to feel better, but I decided to wait until Scugdale where I knew that my support crew would have some hot pasta for me, rather than overloading it with more sugar. This went down very well, although I couldn’t face the offered chair and decided that sitting on the floor in a pile of manky straw was more comfortable – hygiene had gone out of the window by this stage!
My legs were a little bit stiff when I got up , but were soon going again after a few uncomfortable strides. From here there was another big climb up through the woods to the next checkpoint at the cattle grid at Scarth Nick just before Osmotherley. On the flat path at the top I met another lady and her support runner who were going strongly; the sight of them still managing a good running pace made me determined to get some proper running going again rather than the shuffle I had been doing for much of the night. I started to concentrate on my form and trying to pick up the pace a little and found that I was still able to maintain a reasonable pace on the runnable sections.
At Scarth Nick the marshal told me that it was just under 6 miles to Osmotherley Square Corner and the next checkpoint. This meant that I still had a final marathon to complete – at this stage it seemed like the finish was a very long way off!
CP11 Scarth Nick to CP12 Osmotherley Square Corner (6 miles)
As we made our way over the final hill before Osmotherley low cloud and drizzle set in and I couldn’t see very far ahead. I was struggling now, feeling I was making slow progress and that everyone was leaving me behind; however, a kind female runner coming in the other direction lifted my spirits when she told me that there were other runners only just ahead. Just before Osmotherley we had to pass through a field full of young cattle which was rather nerve-wracking; they seemed fairly docile, but I had my poles at the ready just in case.
As I came into Osmotherley it was a relief to see Neil waiting for me on Rueberry Lane; we had planned for him to run from Square Corner with me but he had come down to give me some encouragement for the steep climb up from the village. As the weather was still bad we stopped on a bench on the way out of Osmotherley to get me sorted out; it was much more sheltered here than higher up at Square Corner. I decided to change my socks one last time; my feet were now very sore and any grit in my shoes was agony.
It was a relief to reach the checkpoint at Square Corner after the tough climb up from Osmotherley. With only 20 miles to go it felt like I was properly on the home stretch!
CP12 Osmotherley Square Corner to CP13 White Horse (12 miles)
Neil was now going to run with me for the next 7 miles to Sneck Yate Bank. I explained to him my frustration at my slow progress and he encouraged me to pick up the pace. We started to push harder on the climbs and to put in some proper running on the flats and downhills. I started to feel determined that not only would I finish, but I would finish well.
Arriving at Sneck Yate I ate plenty of melon and yet again emptied out my shoes. My Mum offered to run as far as Sutton Bank with me as Neil now needed to drive the car, and it was nice to have her company as we admired the lovely views. She is a keen hillwalker, but not a runner so got a bit of a shock when I was still doing plenty of jogging, but rose admirably to the challenge! The well maintained but very firm paths along here were very hard on the feet, but I tried to keep running as much as possible.
At Sutton Bank Neil took over again to run down to the White Horse with me. Thankfully I had already experienced the route of the loop on the Hardmoors 55 as the descent and then climb to the White Horse car park seem to go on forever!
CP13 White Horse to Helmsley (10 miles)
I had psyched myself up for the steps up from the White Horse but in reality they felt insignificant compared to what I had already done and I was soon at the top. I knew I had 10 miles to go from here to the finish; it seemed barely anything and an insurmountable hurdle all at once. I tried to forget about the finish and instead focused only on reaching the next village or junction and it all became more manageable again. Amazing how quickly the brain can be tricked!
It was good to be back on grassy tracks heading over to Cold Kirby and I was running well on the long straight track after the village. Now my tummy started to play up again though and I had to stick to a walk past the ponds and along the road. I suddenly started to feel really cold and shaky, but a quick sit down at the side of the road while I got my coat and buff on and I instantly felt a lot better.
The sign at the start of Whinny Bank Wood saying “Helmsley 2 miles” was a very welcome sight, but it still felt a long way. I clambered down and up the last sets of steps in the wood and as I emerged onto the field edge it started to feel that Helmsley was almost in touching distance. I found my last reserves of energy and began to manage more running.
As I came down the track to the end of the Cleveland Way, Neil was larking about, videoing me and asking how it felt, but at this stage I genuinely didn’t know, I just felt completely numb. However, as I made my way up through Helmsley and saw the marshalls directing me up the last road, my emotions started to surface and I felt the tears coming. I took a deep breath and kept myself in check; I wasn’t there yet. One last evil incline up the road, through the car park and into the hall to receive a wonderful welcome and a very hard earned medal and T-shirt. Now the emotions came rushing in and there were a few tears in amongst the big smiles!
I had finished in 33 hours and 23 minutes, well under the 36 hour cut off and a far better performance than I had expected. Once again the Hardmoors team had delivered a wonderful experience and it was a joy to have experienced the whole of the stunning Cleveland Way non-stop.
After 6 months focusing on this race and all the emotions of the weekend, I don’t think the achievement has fully sunk in yet. When you spend a lot of time around other ultra runners it is easy to lose your sense of perspective and think that completing this sort of event is just normal! However, the slightly incredulous reactions from other people on the school run this week have provided a good reminder of how extreme a challenge it is to run 100 miles. Time to spend a few weeks revelling in some very happy and proud memories, before I switch my focus to the Hardmoors 60 in an attempt to complete the Grand Slam…