Thursday: Easy Run & comparing Hardmoors to whw

Time: 12.40pm
Route: Loop from Lourdes PS
Run Distance: 5.09miles
Time Run: 39mins 45secs (average pace – 7.49)

My recovery run this lunch time was a lot easier (and faster) than Tuesday. I could still feel my calves but they were so much better than Tuesday.

I know I wrote last week that I wouldn’t write anymore about the Hardmoors but this morning I read Andy Cole’s excellent post about what makes an ultra hard. I was thinking about it on my run today and thought I’d use Andy’s points to compare the whw race with the Hardmoors race and which was harder for me and why …

Andy reckons there are three main factors to take into account, The Length, The Height gain and The Ground underfoot. So here is my comparison on those 3 factors and then I’ll add another one that for me made the Hardmoors a lot harder ….

1. The Length
The Hardmoors is 15 miles longer than whw and as Murdo McEwan wrote in his report last year, ‘At 110 miles it is 15 miles longer. This may not seem much in the scale of these things, but I knew that it was a big extra. Indeed, it’s been said that WHW is a race of two halves. The first half is the first 80 miles; the second half is the remaining 15. Another way of looking at it is to imagine a concave slope, with the length of the slope representing the distance covered. The first 15 miles is very gradual. The second 15 gets a little steeper. And each 15 miles is harder than the last one – so this extra 15 miles at Hardmoors is by no means “just another” 15 miles tagged on to the WHW distance.’

I would agree with this and I found the ‘extra’ 15miles were a factor right from the start of the race. As I started I was aware in the back of my mind that this will be the furthest that I’ve ever ran.

So the Hardmoors is definitely harder in the distance factor.

2. The Height Gain
Again Murdo summarised it like this, ‘There’s more climbing on Hardmoors than WHW – c. 5,700m (18,700 ft) of ascent compared to c. 4,500m (14,700ft).’

Andy is his blog post wrote, ‘The cumulative gain is important, but so is the way that it hits you. Long slow hills that you can run or walk quickly have much less impact than the in-your-face one-or-two-miles-an-hour jobs that just wear you down.’ I found the height gain in the Hardmoors so much harder than the whw. The first 55 miles to Satburn felt very similar to the whw. Lots of runnable bits and a good number of slow climbs that I walked but kept a good pace going.

It was the second half of the Hardmoors course that really got to me. There were so many inlets on the coastal path and each one had a number of steps to climb down and climb back up again. Also there were loads of stiles. So I found the accumlative affect of all the short up and downs really depleted by energy reserves.

So again I would say overall the Hardmoors was a lot harder in the Height gain factor.

3. The ground underfoot
This one is a bit more even. On the Hardmoors there was nothing as technical as the bit north of Inversnaid on the whw route. I found the Hardmoors easier to run generally when I could run but as mentioned above it was more the amount of steps there were. For those who have run the whw it was like the steps coming off Conic Hill again and again plus the same amount of steps back up again.

Andy also mentioned other factors, ‘There is other stuff of course like altitude, start time, how much is in the dark, how much navigation you have to do, how much kit you choose or are obliged to carry and so on, but I think the three I’ve pulled out are the most important.’

I would agree that those other factors do contribute. For example in the whw I had just 3hrs of darkness whereas in the Hardmoors I had 11hrs over the first night and another 5hrs during the second night. I also had to do more navigation (and didn’t do very well at Scarborough!) in the Hardmoors than the whw.

BUT for me what made the Hardmoors so much harder was the fact that I didn’t know the route. I have run the whw at least 12 times over the past 3 years and so know it really well. I have markers every 3-4 miles and I know exactly what is coming, where I should be running, when a hill is coming etc, etc.

I had never set foot on the Hardmoors route before the race. I had researched as much as I could but there is nothing like actually training on the route. For me I found that really hard. I never knew what was coming and it made the Hardmoors so much harder.

Andy concludes his post by writing, ‘The strong will survive, just as John did in the Hardmoors, but it will be a tougher experience than they expected. For the rest of us, I think we just have to plan for the long haul. I don’t think this necesarily means going as slowly as possible and just beating the cutoffs, but still being far more conservative in the first part of the race, and not get drawn away from the plan by other people or the surroundings. But I think above all it needs practice, so that it isn’t a once a year experiment. I think I need to get into that “second night out” zone more often, so I know what works and what doesn’t. So I’ll take a different approach from John, and enter MORE hundred mile races next year!’

I think Andy is right in that if you want to run races that take you into a second night then you need to train for it. For me I’ve decided to stick to the whw race as my longest one. I feel that is a race I know well and love running. It is a race that I can run the whole way and I still feel I can go a little quicker than this year.

In the future I may well decide to have a go at races like the Lakesland 100, UTMB etc but I will need to change the way I train and work on how to run for over 30 hrs.

Before I go and have my tea I’ve come across Scott Jurek’s blog and his web site.

Stan left a message on my post yesterday directing me to a podcast about barefoot running which I’m listening to as I type this. It’s very interesting and worth a listen.

Finally I’m looking forward to following Ian on his 24hr race at Tooting starting at 12noon on Saturday. Richie is also planning to run but I see on his facebook that he is unsure about running.

Anyway all the best to all those running. I hope you get as far as you can!

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2 Responses to Thursday: Easy Run & comparing Hardmoors to whw

  1. Andy Cole says:

    Hi John, understand your reasoning, especially as you have the WHW on your doorstep, I'm sure you'll get even better at it. But don't leave the others too long or you'll end up as old as me before you start! Cheers, Andy.

  2. Tim says:

    Hi John, I can sense that you're torn between the wanting to stick with the WHW as your longest race and looking for new challenges.

    Barefoot (or at least in VFFs) seems the obvious way to turn your favourite race into a whole new ball game.

    Thanks for posting the podcast link. As you say, an interesting listen.

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