My original Hardmoors 55 report was written by a rather broken man. I checked in for my flight to Iceland four hours after finishing the race and washed the mud off in Reykjavik! Reading my muddled report a few weeks later gives a sense of what ultras do to your body and mind! so this is the official polished version...
The Hardmoors 55 was always going to be an interesting day out. Heavy snow meant I only just escaped the Lake District before they shut the roads. The A66 across the Pennines was already closed so I took the long way round to the north. A five hour drive brought me to Helmsley Rugby club for a welcome couple of hours sleep in the back of the van. All too soon the car park became awake as various runners stretched their limbs after a cold cramped night in their cars. The town was almost snow free but I’d already seen the deep drifts on the Cleveland way escarpment the previous night. A cold northerly wind was already blowing with the threat of more snow as the buses ferried us north to Guisborough and the start of the race.
I’d suffered from tight hip flexors in my last couple of races which presented themselves as acute pain on the outside of my knees or in my foot. A very busy schedule mountain guiding in Scotland & Norway meant that the first chance I got to see the physio was only the day before this wee jaunt, not exactly text book but Jo had done an amazing job and loosened everything up while not leaving me feeling too pummelled! Today was all about finishing injury free with a critical couple of UTMB points hanging on the outcome. I was also flying out to Greenland for a couple of months of guiding work just a few hours after the finish of the race!
The ground was nicely frozen apart from a couple of muddy spots and from the start the run over to Roseberry Topping went well. I quickly settled into a comfortable trot resisting the urge to push in the good conditions.As expected after a winter in big boots I had no speed in my legs but I did have an advantage in the occasional knee deep snow! Many of the tracks were at right angles to the prevailing wind and on
the exposed ground were buried in deep snow drifts. By the time I
reached these areas a good trail had been worn in although it was still
almost impossible to run and the leading group must have had a very
tough time of it. A number of gates would have needed digging out
although on one occasion the drift was big enough just to step over!
I’d opted for two pairs of running tights, a thin thermal and The North Face Alpine Project Wind Jacket. My extremities were protected my a Powerstretch beanie, a buff, Powerstrecth gloves and Sealskinz socks. I carried a The North Face Primaloft jacket as back up but in fact ran the whole race in the kit I started. A number of runners had gone too lightweight and their were plenty of stories of competitors who had temporally lost the use of their hands in the cold conditions and were struggling to eat and drink. Frozen gels and waterbottles were also causing problem.One of the most pleasing aspects of
the day was getting my nutrition sorted. A combination of sausage
rolls, cheese and cereal bars kept me on an even keel throughout the day and I
didn't really experience any low points.
There are two main checkpoints in the Hardmoors 55, a couple of very welcoming village halls staffed by enthuastic volunteers. I’d chosen not to use a resupply bag carrying everything I needed for the distance with me but a quick cup of tea was very welcome and it was back out the door just a couple of minutes later before the warmth tempted me to sit down.
As night fell the checkpoint marshals seemed surprised to see me on my own as many of the other competitors had linked up in the conditions. Over Christmas I’d spent a wild and woolly night route checking for the Dark Mountains Mountain Marathon and been given a 550 lumen running head torch for my efforts. This was its first real outing and I did feel like I was cheating running with what amounted to a car headlight strapped to my head!
Approaching Sutton Bank through knee deep snow I was following a good trail ploughed by all the other runners ahead of me. With the car park and checkpoint almost in site the trail began to descend. Within a few meters the alarm bells were ringing and I had the map out. My suspicions were confirmed by a line of weary head torches climbing back up the trail having reached the bottom before the horrible realisation dawned. We later found out this well trodden track had fooled a huge number of runners including some of the leaders. Breaking trail through thigh deep snow we regained the top of the escarpment but the Cleveland Way was still completely buried. We opted for the edge of the wind scoured fields for a never ending trudge into the checkpoint
The end of the route had been shortened slightly to avoid a very icy White Horse. Conditions improved as we headed east away from the drifted snow on the edge. I was please to be able to pick up my pace and overtook a number of teams. However a silly mistake found me on a wee trod the wrong side of the river watching those teams reclaim their lead on a good gravel track. A very chilly wade and a steep muddy bank soon had me chasing them down and I finished feeling strong in 13:28 and 82nd place. Huge thanks to
the organisers for taking an chance and going ahead with the event in these conditions. In
fact many competitors failed to battle through the snow to the start but
those who did had a memorable day out fighting the elements.