LOVEultras 043 Dragon’s Back 18 weeks to go

In my latest vlog LOVEultras 043 I chat about my training plans for the Dragon’s Back.

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Dragon’s Back Training Week 1

My big race for 2019 is the iconic Dragon’s Back. It is a 5 day stage race along the spine of Wales from North to South.  I’m really looking forward to it but I’m under no illusions that it is going to be tough and at the limit of my ability to complete.

Basically I won’t have too much room for error so I want to give myself the best chance possible to complete the race. Last year I have reccied the first 3 days over 3 weekends with my good friend Andy Cole. We have planned to cover the days 4 & 5 over 3 days on April.

So I have a good idea of what I need to do training wise to prepare myself for this race. My plan is to run 5 times a week. One of the things I’m going to record is the amount of ascent I do each week. I’ll be aiming for at least 5,000ft of ascent every week once I get going.

This first week I wanted to establish a pattern of running five times a week. Since my final ultra (Hardwolds 80) in November I have been ticking over running 3-4 times a week.

Monday 7th Jan – Club Fartlek Session

  • 8.25 miles – 1:08:42
  • Ascent – 259ft

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There were a good group of 12 runners. We run round and round the Linwood parkrun course. The two loops are about mile.

The session was [3mins (90 secs recovery), 2mins (1min), 1min (30 secs)] x 5.

I was keen to start steady and try and keep a steady pace going throughout. I averaged 6:43 pace throughout the session and ran 4.46 miles for the 30mins of ‘on running’.

I was quite happy with this first session.

Wednesday 9th Jan – Road run

  • 6.33 miles in 57:39 (9:06 pace)
  • Ascent – 377ft

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I had a busy day at work so couldn’t run at lunchtime. So I ran after work which meant a run in the dark. I chose a route which had a few hills to try and add a few more feet to the run.

I purposely ran as easily as possible and didn’t push too hard. It felt good and legs felt okay after Monday’s session.

Thursday 10th Jan – Conic Hill run

  • 10.78 miles in 2:16:51 (12:41 pace)
  • Ascent – 1604ft

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I’m planning to try and do a hill run each Thursday. I’m starting with Conic Hill and then I’ll be climbing Ben Lomond once I get going.

Katrina was keen to join me so we met up after work and drove to Drymen. We set off at 4.30pm in the fading light. We put our head torches on after about 35mins. It was a pretty dark evening but quite mild.

We took it steady and walked when we wanted to. It gave me a good bench mark for where I am at the moment.

Friday 11th Jan – HillFit exercises

HillFit is a ebook written by Chris Highcock. I reviewed it a few years ago but haven’t been doing the four exercises for a number of years. I decided it would be good to try and do them a couple of times a week. They are designed specifically to strengthen the muscles needed for hill walking

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The other thing I’m going to do if weigh myself each Friday morning. My target weight for the Dragon’s Back is 11st 10lbs.

  • Weight 12st 5lbs

Saturday 12th Jan – Gleniffer Braes

  • 15.80 miles in 2:55:02 (11:04 pace)
  • Ascent – 1860ft

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My good friend Cammie was keen to join me so we met up at 8am and set off for our regular run. Cammie is having a go at the Bob Graham round in June so we are hoping to share some training sessions over the next few months as we are both wanting to do lots of hill runs.

We had a great run this morning as we chatted the whole way round. It was good to catch up with our various news.

The loop is 12 miles and I wanted to do 15 miles so I gave Cammie the choice of doing another smaller loop or do 3 hill reps at the end. I was happy when Cammie opted for the hill reps as it gave me more ascent.

The hill we ran up is pretty steep so a really good effort. We ran for 0.54 miles and then ran back down.

Here is the profile of the whole route and you can see the hill  reps at the end.

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The 3 reps took me …

  • 10:17
  • 9:41
  • 9:36

I think I will be repeating these hill reps and I may well just do the hill reps on their own.

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Sunday 13th Jan – Road run

  • 6.53 miles in 56:11 (8:35 pace)
  • Ascent – 354ft

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I was out at 8.30am for an easy run before church. It was very windy so the first couple of miles were with the wind and I was flying along but the last two miles were into the wind and a bit slower!!

Summary for the week …

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I didn’t reach 5,000ft ft ascent for the week but it does give me a bench mark to aim for.

I’m also going to aim to run 2019 miles in 2019. I’m slightly behind after 13 days but hopefully I’ll soon catch up!

screenshot 2019-01-13 at 09.50.07

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Review of December and 2018 stats

In December 2018 I ran 90.29 miles. I wanted to have an easier month to finish off the year before starting my build up to the Dragon’s Back in May 2019 which is my main target for the first half of the year.

Dec runs

Dec Graph

Dec summary

Looking back over the whole of 2018 I ran a total of 2063.40 miles which means I accomplished by goal of running at least 2018 miles in the year.

2018 miles graph

I like to keep a track of the types of runs I do over the year. Due to my injury I didn’t do many Fartlek or Tempo sessions over the first 8 months of the year and I think that helped me not aggravate the injury.

types of runs


Spreadsheet of all my runs in 2018

Finally here is a summary of all my monthly totals since I started ultra running in 2007.

2007-2018 monthy mileage

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Review of 2018

I started the year coming off the back of a long term injury and unsure just how the year would unfold. My big target for the year was the 190 mile Northern Traverse in May which I really hoped I’d be able to train for and complete without aggravating the tendon injury in my right ankle.

Thankfully I was able to complete that race and four others, one in the build up and three in the second half of the year.

Here is my summary of the year highlighting the five ultra races I completed.

# 1 – Hardmoors 55 with Katrina – Saturday 17th March 2018

Katrina had been keen to do one of the Hardmoors races so I suggested the Hardmoors 55 in March as it is on a route similar to the Highland Fling that Katrina has done a couple of times and it would be a great preparation for me to test out some kit and my fitness for the Northern Traverse a couple of months later.

I’ve done the race 4 times before and after the first year when the weather was pretty touch I’ve had good weather. Famous last words!!


With Katrina before the start

The race started at 8am and the first hour or so the conditions were very pleasant with the sun even appearing in the sky!


After an hour or so in the sunshine!

It didn’t last long and by the times we had been going for 2-3 hrs the snow and high winds started and bascially continued for the rest of the race.

These photo taken by SportSunday give a good idea of what it was like!!


Just about visible in the snow! (Photo thanks to Ann Brown)

In a strange way both Katrina and I really enjoyed the challenge of keeping going in tough conditions. We continued to move well all day and stay positive. Katrina was struggling a little bit on the slippy descents on the stone slabs so was grateful for the poles to give her a bit more support.

We had a longer stop at Lord’s Café where we found a small room to add on some layers as we knew the three sisters would be quite exposed.

The worse of the weather we encountered was the section from Clay Bank to Bloworth Crossing and then to Kildale. It was getting dark and the visibility with the snow/mist was pretty much zero.

We kept moving but hadn’t eaten or drank much as we didn’t want to take off our gloves to open up our bags.

We went past a number of runners on the way to Kildale. We arrived there in good shape and knowing we only had 12 miles or so to go and plenty of time. We decided to spend a bit longer than planned in this indoor checkpoint so we could get some hot food inside for the final leg.

Sadly just as we were about to leave the race was called off due to the weather. We were disappointed that we couldn’t finish but fully understood and accepted the decision.


At Kildale just after the race was stopped

It was very interesting over the next few days to see what the press made of the event. Without knowing all the facts they jumped on the story and made it sound 100 times worse than it was. I felt really sorry for Jon & Shirley Steele who organise the race and took most of the flak. The Hardmoors family know better and were very supportive.

Katrina doesn’t often like to do the same race twice but we will be back in 2019 to complete the race!

#2 – Northern Traverse – Saturday 12th to Wednesday 16th May 2018

I was really pleased that my training for my main race of the year was going well. I covered the majority of the course of 190 miles over three weekends in February, March and April. It was good to be able to work out the navigation and see the various terrain and climbs I would be facing.

By the time the race came in May I felt as prepared as I could be and confident I would be able to complete the route. I had an ambitious target of 72 hrs which didn’t allow for too much sleep which in hindsight was a mistake!

I was running this unsupported which is easy to do as the race organisation is excellent. You are allowed two large drop bags which are taken to the four main checkpoints. One goes to Patterdale & Richmond and the second ones goes to Kirkby Stephen & Lion’s Inn.

This does cause for some preparation trying to work out what you might need where. It also means you need two sleeping bags, mats etc but I was able to borrow from friends so that wasn’t too bad.


Looking fresh and happy at the start

As with all my ultra races I write a full race report but for this review here are the highlights.


The start line at St Bee’s

I would say St Bee’s to Shap went pretty much to plan. I joined up with Andy, Rob and Russ and the four of us helped and encouraged each other especially through the first night when it was quite wet and potentially easy to lose time getting lost. Between us we made an excellent job of staying on target.


Running along Ennerdale Lake (photo thanks to Marcus Scotney)


Selfie with Andy, Russ & Rob

My plan had been to get to Kirkby Stephen before sleeping which is what I did but I was pretty tired by the time we got there. I stopped for a couple of hours and then was off again.


Checkpoint at Kirkby Stephen with Andy

The four of us set off for the next main checkpoint at Richmond and we suspected there would be lots of drama on the way. I felt strong climbing up to Nine Standards but I started to struggle with some blisters so decided to sort them out letting the others go on ahead.


With Andy, Rob & Russ at Nine Standards

They had a slight mix up at Keld so I caught up with them again. We had now reached half way and we were bang on schedule for 72 hrs. We soon went into the second night. Andy & I were pushing ahead a bit but missed a turn and ended up behind Russ & Rob!

We joined up together as we reached Reeth in the early hours of the morning. This is were my race started to go badly wrong. I was struggling with my eye sight again. When I’m really tired I start to see double. I have had this checked recently and discovered I have lazy eyes which mean they turn inwards when I’m tired.

I badly needed some sleep. We stopped in the open air for a 15mins and then tried to sleep on the floor of the cycle shop in Reeth for an hour or so.

We set off about 4am heading for Richmond. After an hour or so I was still struggling with my eye sight and blisters and falling behind the others. As they pushed on I made a decision to stop as long as I needed at Richmond and not worry about times. It was going to be all about the finish.


Coming into Richmond with double vision!

Basically that is what I did. I stopped for over 3hrs at Richmond and had a completely different focus for the final 60 miles. It was all about enjoying them as much as I could and making sure I completed the race.


Superb morning of my third day over the Three Sisters


Final checkpoint at Lion’s Inn. Just 35 miles to go!!

I stopped when I needed to. I ran when I could and I kept moving getting closer each step to Robin Hood’s Bay.

I made a couple of silly navigational errors which cost me some time but it didn’t really bother me because it was all about the finish.


At the finish at Robin Hood’s Bay. The smile says it all.

I finally made it Robin’s Hood Bay at 4.25am on Wednesday 16th May which was 91hrs 25mins 57secs after I left St Bee’s but I had done it and had the medal to prove it!

#3 – Ring o’ Fire – Friday 31st August to Sunday 2nd September 2018

I entered this race in 2017 and did a 3-day recce covering the final 75 miles in the preparation but due to my injury I wasn’t able to run. So I was really keen to run it this year but waited until after the Northern Traverse to make sure I didn’t aggravate the injury which thankfully I didn’t.

The other main reason I wanted to run the race was to experience a multi-day race in preparation to running the Dragon’s Back in 2019.

As a child I visited Anglesey every May as part of a cricket tour my Dad played in so the island has lots of good memories.

A number of good friends have run the race and everyone said how well organised it is and what a lovely route so I travelled down after work on Thursday afternoon really looking forward to it.

It was great to share the race with Mark & Helen Leggart who have run the race a number of times. I didn’t see much of them on the course on days 1 & 2 but we bunked next to each other over both nights.

The race covers the whole island in 3 days as follows, Friday – 35.7 miles starting at 1pm, Saturday – 65.9 miles starting at 6am and Sunday 33.4 miles also starting at 6am.


Before the start with the impressive race T-shirt

I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to pace a 3-day race and especially how to look after myself between each day so I could recover enough to be able to run strongly on days 2 and 3.

Friday was pretty hot and I struggled for a few hours but once the evening drew in I felt a lot better and finished happily in 8hrs 18mins in 36th position. I hadn’t run any of day 1 in my recce run so I really enjoyed seeing that part of the island. It was some of the most rugged of the whole island.

Navigation wise I was fine and thankfully didn’t make any mistakes though I was grateful to join up with a couple of runners at key times who helped me find the ‘honesty’ books that are placed to encourage runners to keep to the coastal path and not take any short cuts!


Near the end of Day 1 at the honesty book flag

On Friday night we slept in a Sports Hall at Amlwch and I got as much sleep as I could expect! I felt pretty good starting off on Saturday morning for the long day.

After 5 miles or so I caught up with Chris and Melissa and stayed with them for the majority of the day. It was great to have their company and we all helped each other with the navigation.


Running with Chris & Melissa. Photo by Nick Wishart who was on holiday in Angelsea and came out to cheer us on. 

The first 25 miles were new to me but after that I had run the rest of the route though there were parts I couldn’t remember too well especially when it got dark later in the day.

It would be fair to say that I was hanging on to Chris and Melissa for the majority of the day. I was keen to run my own pace and when I felt they were stronger I let them go but each time I caught up with them.

When we reached Sea Zoo with just under 20 miles to go I was in and out of the checkpoint quicker than them and decided to see how long it would take for them to catch me! Basically they never did and I finished over an hour ahead of them!

I finished the day in 17hrs 41mins 42secs in 22nd place and was really encouraged that I paced the day well and finished strong.

The overnight was in a village hall and a little tight for space but everyone had enough room to sleep! The highlight of the overnight was waking up to discover that our daughter Emma had had her second boy and our 6th grandchild! Emma lives in Bali, Indonesia.

I really enjoyed the final day and again was really happy with how I felt. I was working my way up the field running with people I’d not seen on days 1 and 2.

One of the highlights of day 2 was the bacon rolls at the first checkpoint! I would say for me the lowest point was the final climb after the lighthouse. I was also done but still had the final few miles to do but eventually I got there and was very happy to finish day 3 in 8hrs 33mins 22secs in 19th place.


Overall I finished 21st in a total time of 34hrs 33mins 04secs.


With Helen Leggart at the finish

It was a great race in every way and it was a real confidence booster as I plan for the Dragon’s Back in 2019.

#4 – Dunoon Ultra (33 miles) – Saturday 6th October 2018

My fourth ultra of the year was my shortest but another one that I was really looking forward to running as it would be the first time on the course. Last year I supported Katrina as she ran the race and it was one that I was keen to run for myself.

Katrina decided she would rather run than watch so we both entered and made our way after picking up Lesley McKerral to the ferry at 6am to make it to the registration and start line.

The race is very well organised and it was great to catch up with lots of friends who were running. In particular, it was really good to see Chris McGlennon and Neil Fowler. We hadn’t seen them for a number of years so we spent time before the race catching up with their news. It was lovely to meet Chris’ wife Sara who was supporting Chris throughout the race.

I had a goal of running the race in under 6hrs which worked out at around 10 mins per mile which I knew would be a challenge for me these days!


With Katrina at the start

I really enjoyed the route and was able to maintain the required pace for the first 24 miles to Benmore Gardens.


Climbing the first big hill (photo thanks to race organisers)


With about 7 miles to go. (Photo thanks to Morven Walsh)

I was spot on my target but the final 10 miles or got harder and harder and I eventually finished in 6hrs 6mins 11secs for 47th place.


The finish on the pier is a great touch (photo thanks to Sara McGlennon)

Overall I was fairly happy with my performance and really enjoyed everything about the race. I would fully recommend it to anyone wanting to run a first ultra. It has a bit of everything that is great about ultra-running.

#5 – Hardwolds 80 miles – Saturday 24th November 2018

My final ultra of 2018 and my 45th overall was a new race to the Hardmoors family organised by Jon & Shirley Steele. I was keen to do one more ultra and when this one was suggested I didn’t take long to put my name down.

While it was in the back of my mind for a few months it was only when I started to plan for it that it really dawned on me that 80 miles is a long way! Having run the 190 mile Northern Traverse and 135 mile Ring of Fire it is easy to get a bit blasé about running 80 miles!!

I hadn’t reccied the course at all but I had visited all the checkpoints when I supported Any & Sarah Norman when they ran the Hardmoors 200. The 80 mile Wolds way is the first section of that particular mammoth race.

I travelled down on Friday after work and slept in the car before catching the 5.45am bus from Filey to the start at Hessle (under the Humber Bridge). The weather in November could be anything but we were fortunate to have a lovely day and just a small amount of rain through the night.

Again it was great to catch up with friends who were running the race. I ran the majority of the first 20 miles with Andy & Sarah Norman. It was so good to catch up with their news and the miles passed quickly.


At the start of the race

I had a gold target of sub 18hrs 30mins but it was a bit of a stab in the dark and I wasn’t too worried about whether I achieved it or not. I was more interested in enjoying the race and for me that means finishing well and to do that I need to start comfortably.

I wanted right at the back of the field which mean I could run my own race and slowly make my way through the field. It worked pretty well and I went from 146th (out of 204 starters) at the first checkpoint to finish in 85th place.


Coming into Arras Wold (Thanks to for the photo)

I can honestly say I enjoyed the whole race and was really pleased with my effort and pace. The only low point I had was about 7hrs into the race as it was getting dark and the rain started. I delayed a little too long in getting my jacket on and it took a while to get going again but once I did I didn’t look back and ran through the night well.

One of the challenges of this race was the fact that over 12hrs was in the dark. Fortunately it was almost a full moon and while a head torch was absolutely necessary I wasn’t in the pitch dark.

It was great to run with various people throughout the day but the majority of the time I was on my own which I prefer as it means I can go at my own pace.


At the finish with Jon Steele

I finished the race in 20hrs 12mins 34secs which was outside my bronze goal of sub 20hrs but it was more about how I felt and I felt really good so I was very happy with my run.

# Other highlights

I ran a few parkruns over the year but my other main running goal for the year was to run at least 2018 miles in 2018. I write this on 30th December and I have one more run of about 5 miles to do tomorrow so I will end up with just over 2064 miles for the year.


So 2018 was a very successful year running wise especially after the disappointment of 2017 when I didn’t run for over 4 months due to injury.

The big target for next year is the Dragon’s Back in May. I turn 60 on 20th March so I’m looking forward to moving up to the M60 (Veterans) age category and chasing some silverware!!

If you have followed my blog at all this year thanks for your support and I plan to do some more LOVEultras vlogs as well as sharing my training and race reports on this blog.

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Review of November 2018

November was a good solid month with the Hardwolds 80 dominating the month.

In total I ran 15 times for a total of 184.27 miles.

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Hardwolds 80 Video Diary

I’ve made a video diary of my Hardwolds 80 race. It lasts 13mins 13secs.

Posted in Hardwolds 80, Video | 2 Comments

Hardwolds 80 Race Report

Saturday 24th November 2018


I was looking for a final ultra race for 2018 and a friend recommended the Hardwolds 80. I’ve done lots of the Hardmoors races on the Cleveland Way and enjoyed each and every one. Jon & Shirley Steele, who organise the series of races, are good friends so it didn’t take long to decide this was a race I wanted to finish my year with.

Plus I had visited all the checkpoints in May 2017 when I was part of the support team for Andy & Sarah Norman when they attempted the Hardmoors 200. I was pleased to see that they too had entered so I was looking forward to seeing them again.

The route follows the Wolds Way from Hessle near Kingston upon Hull to Filey. It is possible to do the race unsupported as Jon puts on a bus from Filey to the start at 5.45am in time for the 8am start.

Initially Katrina was keen to come to support and help but was asked to look after two of our grandchildren over the weekend so I was quickly ditched. I know my place in her priorities!

I left work in Glasgow just after 3pm and had a straight forward journey to Filey with one section of roadworks on the M74 which added on 40mins or so. I stopped for something to eat at a truckers café and had a lovely plate full of mince, chips and veg. I arrived at Filey at 9pm and settled down to sleep in my van at the car park where I could leave our van all day and where the meeting point for the bus was. There were a number of others doing the same.

I slept okay and was up and ready for 5.30am. The buses arrived on time and we were away for the journey to the start. I chatted to Paul Walker the whole way and the time passed quickly.

We had a short walk down to the road underneath the Humber Bridge where the race was starting. The first people I met were Andy & Sarah and their support team so it was good to quickly catch up.

I headed over to register. I did wonder how the kit check would go as it all done outside but Jon & Shirley Steele decided to trust runners to have the right gear and then have two spot checks during the day. It worked really well and meant things moved quickly.

Once I had my number I went over to James Thurlow and his team from Open Tracking to get my tracker for the day. I must admit I love races that have a tracker as you know family and friends are able to follow you through the day and night!

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It wasn’t too cold but I waited as long as I could before putting my hoody, hat, gloves and jacket into my drop bag that would be taken to the finish at Filey. I also handed in my two drop bags which I’d see at Millington and Wintringham.

I had a chat with a few friends as we half listened to Jon’s briefing then it was time to start.

01 start

Leg 1: Hessle to Brantingham 9.87 miles

I was keen to set off very easily so I deliberately went right to the back. I didn’t hear the start so suddenly we were off. I do like the relaxed atmosphere of ultras. Neil Thirkell came over and introduced himself. Neil is a friend of Steven & Nicole Brown and had been on Nicole’s support team for this year’s West Highland Way Race.

This was going to be Neil’s longest race so he was sensibly wanting to start comfortably as well. We ran for the first 30mins or so chatting away. There was a gate not long after the start so there was a little wait to get through.

I like to have a plan and so I was working on a finish of 18hrs 30mins as my gold but I wasn’t sure how realistic it was. It turned out far too optimistic but it gave me something to work on.

I had plotted the route on OS Maps and downloaded it to my Suunto watch. I had also worked out my mini-splits of between 3-6 miles as I like to break these longer races into bite size sections.

As we made our way through North Ferriby Neil said we were running faster than his target pace and said he was going to ease off which was sensible. I didn’t see him again but was really pleased to see that he finished in 21:43:43

The field had spread out quite a bit by now. As we made our way through Weldon Dale I saw Andy who said Sarah was taking a Bear stop! I ran with Andy & Sarah for the next hour or two. It was so good to run together and catch up with their news. Sarah and I both like to do a video diary of our runs so I was able to photobomb their hourly updates!

02 a&s

The miles passed quickly as we made our way to the first checkpoint. I remember walking out from Brantingham when I was supporting Andy & Sarah on the Hardmoors 200 so when I recognised the kissing gate I knew we were almost there.

On my plan I had 1:50 for this section and as I glanced at my watch I was happy to see I wasn’t far off. In the first couple of hours I had eaten my fruit bread with jam and an energy bar but I hadn’t drunk much of my Tailwind so didn’t need to refill my bottle.

  • 87 miles in 1:51:38 (overall place 146th out of 204 starters)

Leg 2: Brantingham to Arras Wolds 9.80 miles (overall 19.67 miles)

Andy & Sarah met their support team as I went straight through but they quickly caught up and we continued on together. I photobombed Sarah’s 2hr update!


This was one of two short sections I had run with Andy & Sarah in 2016 and looking back now it was fairly typical of the whole route. Lots of undulations on good paths with kissing gates to go through. I was very impressed with the amount of Wolds Way signs. It is a very well-marked walk.

I was keen to follow the route on the Harvey map to get familiar with it as the Dragon’s Back uses the same map so I thought it would be good practice. As I mentioned I had downloaded the route to my watch but decided not to use that until it was dark.

I really enjoyed this section as we ran through Bilks Hill, then Low Hunsley Plantation and just before Arras Wold a long open section with trees on both sides.

The excellent photographers from were out taking photos. Thanks to Dave & Laura for these great photos …

HW80 SS 02

HW80 SS 04

I can’t remember exactly where but I lost Andy & Sarah somewhere before the next checkpoint. I had been passing and getting passed by Lucy who was running with her lovely dog Rosie and a guy who I thought was Rob but his name is Antony I see from the results!  Just before the checkpoint Yannick Peron caught me and we ran in together having a quick chat.

My overall plan for here was 3:50 and I was 3:56 so again not too bad but I realised that my 18:30 gold was probably unrealistic!

I sat down here for 3mins while I ate my protein pouch and the excellent marshals refilled my bottle. As I left I took a couple of sausage rolls.

  • 80 miles in 2:04:24 (leg split 115th fastest)
  • Overall 19.67 miles in 3:56:02 (overall place 130th)

Leg 3: Arras Wolds to Millington 11.36 miles (overall 31.03 miles)

I set off in good spirits. The weather was excellent with not much wind, no rain, not too cold and the sun was shining. I was wearing a base layer, a long sleeved top and shorts and felt comfortable. I also had a buff and gloves and regularly took them on and off as needed.

As I walked past the support cars and vans I did my 4hr update for my video diary. A number of runners did seem to have a support team but I was quite happy on my own and the marshals, as in all Hardmoors events, were excellent and so helpful and cheery.

It didn’t take too long for Lucy and Antony to catch me and we ran together for the next hour or two. Lucy was telling me all about her border collie Rosie who runs with her everywhere. Rosie was obediently trotting along by her side even when we passed through a field of sheep.

03 lucy

Part of my plan for these longer ultras is to get to 30-40 miles as comfortably as possible and if I’m still running by then I’m pretty confident I can keep running to the end. I was really pleased to feel that I was moving well and if I could keep eating and drinking sensibly then I had a good chance of being able to keep moving strongly to the end.

A good sign for me that I’m going well is when I come to a flat or downhill I start running straight away. If I’m struggling, then I have to do a countdown to get me going! As normal for me I was doing a lot of counting which always helps me. In this race I gave myself 2 counts of 4 to get going before I started counting to 20, 30, 40 or 50.

This was another picturesque leg as we passed through various villages with interesting names, Goodmanham, Londesborough and Numburnholme. Again lots of undulations, gates and a variety of underfoot conditions. Some of the paths were pretty muddy and slippery at times but I didn’t really get my feet wet at all which is a bonus.

The race route took a slight diversion from the official route to take us into Millington where the first indoor checkpoint with our drop bags. The route guide reckoned it was 33 miles but on my OS map trace I had it as 30.87 miles. When we arrived my watch had 31.03 miles. My plan was 6:20 and I was just under 2:30 so still in touch.

Lucy found a marshal who was more than happy to look after Rosie as she went into the checkpoint. There were a number of runners sitting round the small hall. I was surprised to see Karl Shields as I expected him to be well ahead. He said his legs didn’t have much today so was taking time to recoup. Looking at the splits Karl arrived at 5:57 but her is doing the 160 mile Hill race in 3 weeks so didn’t want to push too hard!

I stopped here for almost 8 mins but I needed all that time to sort out my drop bag, put my watch on recharge, drink my milk shake and enjoy a lovely bowl of warm rice pudding. We also had to show the marshal our waterproof jacket.

More runners were coming in so I decided to get going again. Some including Karl were still there as I left!

  • 36 miles in 2:29:37 (leg split 102nd fastest)
  • Overall 31.03 miles in 6:29:31 (overall 116th)

Leg 4: Millington to Wharram Percy 16.37 miles (overall 47.04 miles)

Lucy & Rosie left before me so I was on my own again. This was another section that I had run with Andy & Sarah on their Hardmoors 200 and I remembered that there is a longish climb from the village so I settled into a steady walk.

All hills are relative but because on this route there aren’t any really long climbs the ones that are to be climbed feel harder somehow! It didn’t take too long before I was able to run again. This was a lovely section with wide open spaces and excellent views of the countryside.

As I was doing my 7hr video update Karl caught me. Karl with his wife Harriot ran the 190 mile Northern Traverse with me in May so it was good to catch up on what we’ve both been doing since. Karl is a stronger runner so I was surprised to see him but he said he was struggling and wanted to take it steady with the Hill race coming up soon.

It was now after 3pm so we both reckoned we had another 90 mins or so before we would need the head torches on. This was one of the longer sections at around 16 miles so I’d broken it down to 3 mini-splits of between 5-6.50 miles.

When I was chatting to Lucy she said her plan was to get to Fridaythorpe which is around half way by 4.30pm. That seemed a good plan and that became my goal to get there before I needed to put on my head torch.

After a mile or two I caught up with Lucy and another couple of runners and was moving happily along but it wasn’t too long after that I had a bit of a struggle. As the light faded it stared to drizzle and I was feeling quite cold. I had another mile or two before Fridaythorpe and I thought I would just keep going but I remembered Steven Brown’s advice before the Northern Traverse to do things straight away! I’d been thinking I should get a jacket on for a few minutes already so decided it would be better to do it now.

Lucy, Antony, Karl and a group of about 7 runners all went past me as I slowed down. Karl waited to check I was okay but I explained that I was going to get a jacket on. I stopped by a gate and in the time it took me to put on my jacket and head torch another 4-5 runners went past!

It was the right decision though as I felt a lot better straight away. I had two waterproof jackets with me and I decided to wear the lighter Montane one knowing I had a thicker OMM one if needed later.

I was now well behind Karl, Lucy and co and I wondered whether I would see them again. I was caught by Wendy Colling as we made our way to Fridaythorpe. Wendy is number 8 which means that she was the 8th person to complete 1,000 Hardmoors miles. After this race I will be on 812 so not too far away!

By the time we reached Fridaythorpe it was dark and the head torch would be on for the rest of the race. This was not an official checkpoint but it felt like it as anyone with a support team seemed to be meeting their runners here.

The race did have a small tent with water for those runners like me without a support team so I was able to top up my bottle. It was only 4.30pm or so but it felt a lot later somehow.

I reckon the next hour or two was probably my strongest of the whole race. I had warmed up and was running strongly again after my short wobble. I started catching runners ahead especially on the long descent to Thixendale. I ran the whole way down and I was feeling really good.

I caught up with Karl again as we went through the village and we started climbing up the hill together but I pushed on wondering if I would catch Lucy & Rosie!

It was a lovely evening now. I still had my shorts on and my thinner jacket but felt okay. It was quite a light dark sky as there was a fullish moon. A couple of times I switch off my head torch and the visibility was actually quite good though I did to have the head torch on!

I could see one or two head torches ahead but I was on my own again as I made my way to Wharram Percy, which is a Medievel Village. I didn’t quite know what to expect but it was very interesting when I arrived. The checkpoint marshals had put loads and I mean loads of fairy lights over trees, gates, fences to guide us through the ruins and onto the checkpoint.

I assumed the checkpoint would be close to the village and if I’d looked at my map I would have seen that it was a further half a mile or so. Since it got dark I had started to use the gps trace on my Suunto to guide me and it was excellent.

It was good to arrive at the checkpoint. I sat down for a few minutes to eat my Protein shake and have a drink of Coke while the again excellent marshals filled my bottle. I wasn’t too worried about my overall time now compared to the plan but looking at it now I was an hour behind.

  • 37 miles in 4:18:55 (leg split 92nd)
  • Overall 47.40 miles in 10:56:18 (overall 100th)

Leg 5: Wharram Percy to Whintringham 7.30 miles (overall 54.70 miles)

As I set off it started to rain and rained for the next 30mins or so. We had been pretty fortunate with the weather all day so I wasn’t too upset but if it was going to rain all night I might think differently.

I decided I wasn’t going to go anymore video updates as I had my Montane Gloves and over mits on so Knew it would be hassle taking them on and off every hour! Plus it not particularly good viewing when all you can see is a patch of ground by the head torch.

I left on my own and headed through the woods. It was a good path until the route turned right up a hill. I knew it was going to be a harder climb as the sign post stated ‘steep gradient’ and it wasn’t wrong. I got into a rhythm with my hands on my knees and slowly made my way to the top which eventually arrived!

When I came to the road (B1253) the map and my gps trace indicated straight on but there was a fence blocking the way. Plus the Wolds Way signpost had alternative routes but right and left.

As I was pondering which way to go Wendy arrived and as we discussed another runner came and he saw the gate slightly to the left which meant we could go straight on as indicated. It was the only difficult decision to make route wise of the whole race.

The guy who caught us was running very strongly and soon disappeared into the distance. Wendy & I ran together for the next mile or so through the woods towards Settrington Beacon.

I carry my splits on a small laminated sheet and for some reason I had the wrong one. I wasn’t too bothered about my plan time wise but I was still keen to break the legs down into my mini-splits.

This leg was just over 7 miles but according to my ‘wrong’ splits I thought it was 11 miles. I arrived at the beacon with Wendy who stopped to see her support. As I went into the woods there was a sign saying Wintringham 2.5 miles. I was expecting it to be about 7 miles.

When I realised what I had done and checked the map to make sure I was really pleased! So I only had 30mins or so before the second indoor checkpoint and my drop bag. It gave me a real spring to my step and I made good progress to the checkpoint especially as it mainly downhill.

The checkpoint was a very welcome sight. I decided to spend a little longer here as I wanted to refuel, change my head torch batteries and recharge my watch. I was surprised to see Paul Walker.  When I chatted to Paul on the bus he said he as aiming for 16hrs so I hadn’t expected to see him at all.

Once again the marshals were so helpful and I was brought hot tea and they refilled my bottle while I enjoyed some pizza and a cheese sandwich. Lucy and Antony were in the checkpoint when I arrived and Wendy and then Karl came in after me.

Lucy was keen to go and was encouraging Antony to get going. I asked Antony whether Lucy was bullying him! As they left I said to them to keep looking over their shoulders as I was after them!

After 15mins I was ready to go knowing there was less that 20 miles to go!

  • 30 miles in 1:47:01 (split place 95th fastest)
  • Overall 54.70 miles in 12:46:49 (overall 95th)

Leg 6: Whintringham to Flixton Wolds 14.86 miles (overall 69.56 miles)

I had decided to stick with my lighter jacket rather than put on the heavier OMM jacket and I wondered whether it was the right choice as I felt very chilly leaving the warm hall at Whintringham. But it didn’t take long before I’d warmed up and was moving well again.

The route follows a fence around the village before heading up through woods. Paul came past running well and that was the last I saw of him. I assumed he would have finished well ahead of me but according to the results he was only 7 mins ahead of me in the end.

I knew this leg to Flixton was 14.40 miles as I had the right card this time! So I had broken it down into 3 mini-legs and I tried hard to just concentrate on getting to the next split and staying in the moment!

I was starting to think of the end though and wondering what time I might be able to make. My gold of 18hrs 30mins was gone. My silver of sub 19hrs was also out of the question but my bronze of sub 20hrs was still a possibility.

I was really pleased that I was still running on the flats and downhills. Anything that looked remotely like uphill I was walking but as strongly as I could.

I don’t remember too much of this section but I was happy to tick of the miles and slowly but surely get to the final checkpoint at Flixton Wold.

What I do remember though is the final climbs before that checkpoint. In my mind I was thought Flixton was Muston where I met Andy & Sarah on their Hardmoors 200. So in my mind the final mile or so was easy going but how wrong I was on both counts.

I caught up two guys as we went past RAF Staxton. I had been chasing them for ages and so it was good to finally catch them. They were both using poles and walking everything. As I ran past they commented how strongly I was running which gave me a bit boost!

At the end of the lane there was a left turn into the woods and another short steep climb. Hopefully that is the final climb before the checkpoint I thought. Unfortunately it wasn’t even the penultimate climb. There must have been another 4 or 5 short climbs and descents before the lights of the road and cars could be seen.

I was still moving well and in a good frame of mind so kept going and got there. The marshals had a wood fire going in a basin and it was all very cosy. I sat down for a few minutes before setting off for the final leg to Filey Brigg and then the finish.

  • 42 miles in 4:12:03 (split place 73rd fastest)
  • Overall 69.56 miles in 17:14:18 (overall 90th)

Leg 7: Flixton Wolds to Filey 9.78 miles (overall 79.34 miles)

I had less than 10 miles to go and 2hrs 45mins to do it if I wanted to get under 20hrs. I thought it might still be possible but it all depended on how much I could run. I was keen though not to lose any places and if I could catch anyone before the end.

The route took us through Camp Dale and then past Stockendale Farm before heading across fields to Muston. I was moving okay but it felt that most of it was gradually uphill and I was finding it hard to run uphill so I walk it was! I could see a head torch not too far away and eventually I caught up and went past.

I caught another runner as we made our way over the field to Muston then I could see two more runners head. I caught them as we went into the field around the village. I was now on very familiar ground as the 2nd time I did the Hardmoors 110 in 2014 we finished at the school and followed the same route from Filey Brigg.

I tried not to look at my overall time too much as I was going as fast as I could and it wasn’t going to make any difference. As I approached the sea front I could tell it was high tide as the waves were crashing against the promenade.

I made my way along the Promenade alternating running two sets of lights then walking for 1 set. I was thankful the Prom is not as long as Scarborough!

As I reached the point where the road heads up to the Sea Cadet Hall and the finish I could see a runner heading up. I wondered how long it would take me to get to that point having been to Filey Brigg and back.

At the end of the Prom there was another runner heading the other way and I was genuinely surprised how many runners I saw coming down as I made my way up. Jon had marked out the way with green glow sticks that helped but I’ve been this way before and was happy with the route.

It didn’t seem to take too long before I was past the final steps and could see the green glow sticks and orange tent in the distance. When I arrived I gave in my number and had a quick chat. The marshal said I was the first person who was smiling that she had seen!

I decided to look at my watch and see whether sub 20hrs was on. It read 19:45 and knew there was no way I could run the final mile and a bit in that time so I was happy to relax and get there as soon as I could!

On the way down I greeted the runners who I had overtaken over the past few hours though it’s hard to see who they all were in the dark.

It was good to reach the road then the marshal who was directing runners into Filey. I walked up the hill to the church, turned left and then made my way to the Sea Cadet Hall and the finish.

As I entered I got a cheer and Jon was there to give me my medal. I finished in 85th place in a time of 20:12:34

05 end

It was great to sit down, take off my shoes and socks and have something to eat. The simple things in life are the best!!

Thanks to Jon & Shirley and all their team of excellent marshals for organising another superb event.

  • 9.78 miles in 2:55:41 (split leg 77th fastest)
  • Overall 79.34 miles in 20:12:34 (overall 85th)


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