Lessons from the Hardmoors 60

I ran home today for my first run since Saturday’s race.  I’ve been really pleased with how quickly I have recovered. Another indication that the race went well!  I spent the time thinking about Saturday’s race.

The Hardmoors 60 was my 29th ultra since I started in 2007. I’m still learning and find it really helpful to write down some things that I’ve learnt after each race. The race on Saturday couldn’t have gone much better than it did so here are some of the things I feel I got right …..


This year I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of preparing for the four races in the Hardmoors Grand Slam from January to September. After the HM110 in May I had a few weeks of easier running and then planned out an 8 week build up to the HM60 race which included the 46mile Tour of Skiddaw Race with Katrina.

I felt this helped me to arrive at the start line on Saturday as fit as I could be and importantly injury free and ready to go. Ultra races are hard enough when you are fit and healthy!


All my kit is tried and tested and nothing let me down this time. My feet were fine with one tiny blister on my right little toe. My feet were dry throughout the race which really helps but it was great to be able to run without any feet issues.

I keep thinking I should try one of the new Vest type rucksacks but I really like my North Face Enduro pack. It is very comfortable to run with and has room for everything I need. The only slight issue I had on Saturday is that I had the waist band too tight but once I realised that my stomach was fine.


I must admit I was fairly relaxed about food for this race. I felt I could eat and drink enough to fuel me for 12hrs. Here is a list of what I ate and drank ….

  • 4 pieces of Malt loaf with jam
  • Half a banana
  • 1 piece of flapjack
  • Handful of yogurt covered raisins
  • 2 Greek style yogurts
  • Cup of soup (thanks to Lydia)
  • 1 energy bar
  • 1 piece of watermelon
  • Handful of heart shaped sweets
  • 5 x 600ml of Matrix Energy Drink
  • 6 cups of Coke
  • 1 x 600ml of Coke
  • 500ml of water

I felt I kept going pretty well throughout the race.

Pacing/Heart Rate

Over the past year or so I’ve been experimenting a bit with pacing races and in particular trying to run to heart rate. A couple of years ago I had some tough races and had a real battle finishing them. I’ve never not finished a race but I started to question whether I wanted to put myself through a death march every time.

So my aim became simply to finish a race strongly with a smile on my face. I realised to do this I would need to start a lot more conservitably so that I could finish well. This led to thinking what is the best pace/HR for me to try and aim for in an ultra race.

My friend Robert Osfield has helped by looking at various races I’ve done and coming up with a spread sheet with an optimum HR for races from 3hrs to 48hrs. For a race of around 12hrs he suggested that I should be able to run at a HR of 135.

So I set off on Saturday with a very clear goal of trying to stay around the 135 HR. I also had my mini-splits for each section. These are basically 2-4 mile legs throughout the race which are based on previous races/recce runs. But I wasn’t going to get too upset or down if I fell behind them as the HR was the key factor.

I set off about a third of the way down the field and spent the first 10miles to Saltburn chatting with folk and keeping an eye on my HR to make sure it didn’t go too far past 135. I arrived at Saltburn 20mins slower than my plan but it was a mile further than I thought and the climb up to High Nab Cliff was steeper than expected so overall I was happy with that.

One of the interesting things for me is looking at the results of those who arrived at Saltburn with me. Most of them finished 2-3hrs behind me. Did they go off too quick? Did I go off too slow? A combination?

If I had got there 15mins faster would I have finished 15mins quicker? I honestly don’t think so. I know for certain that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the race as much and I wouldn’t have been able to finish as strongly as I did.

I reckon I must have caught over 20 runners from Saltburn and while I’m not particularly motivated by my position I do get a boost from catching people and it all helps keep the positive frame of mind going.

Here is my HR for the race. It looks like it lost connection for a bit near the end ….

hm 60 - hr

Robert left this comment on my race report which I found very helpful as always ….

Great run and post John. 2nd in the Grand Slam too. To training for, avoiding injury, tapering and race well over four different races in one year is a big achievement.

You’re average HR of 136 being a little higher than pre-race estimate just shows how hard you raced. I suspect that you pushed on a little too hard between Saltburn and Saltwick Bay and it may have contributed to the later struggles. When working a little harder you digest less food and drink, and burn a little more glycogen which will be imperceptible at the time but later you’ll feel the effects when you have less in the tank.

On the mental side, it’s interesting how you mantra’s helped. Negative thought processes really aren’t helpful for ultra-runners, unless it gives them the kick to evaluate what is wrong and fix it. Getting the adrenalin back pumping in lows is pretty important, as it’ll not only give you a physical boost but can help diminish the perception of pain. Caffiene and music might be good ways on getting one back up. Having good support crew can provide this boost too.

I have found that Splits can work both ways, if you are close to your split then you can feel that your goal is still achieveable and worth pushing on for, but once you start slipping behind it’s easy to get demoralised and you then have to distance yourself from them and find other means for keeping you motivated.

So overall I was very happy with my pacing/HR. I was able to maintain the intensity right to the end and I achieved my gold goal of a sub 12hr finish. I agree with the splits comment.  I find they really help me if I’m ahead but can discourage if I fall too far behind.

Tough times

I don’t think I’ve ever done an ultra without at least one dip or struggle and this race was no different. On Saturday it came with about 18miles to go. I had been running fairly strongly but Scarborough and the final checkpoint was still 8 miles to go.

I started to struggle to run the bits I thought I should be running for the first time in the race. A few negative thoughts came in and I was caught by Stuart (another M50 runner). I was prepared for the struggle and decided I needed to get through it and trust that I would feel stronger soon.

I remembered how I’d used some mantras in the past to help me. They are based on a seminar by Jack Black I had been to a few years ago. Jack had explained how positive thinking can help you physically so my technique to get through this bad patch was to repeat over and over ‘You are strong’ ‘You are fit’

It really helped me to get through my tough section and push on to the finish.

I had one navigational error which cost me a few minutes but I felt I dwelt with that well and it didn’t bother me too much.




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1 Response to Lessons from the Hardmoors 60

  1. Thoughtful analysis, helpful for the rest of us as much as yourself.

    The HR graph tells the story of how felt and how hard you pushed throughout the race. The easy first two hours followed by a quick step up suggests to me how behind on the splits coupled with feeling good influenced you. I think your stepped up a bit too much in intensity at the two hour mark and this might have been a factor in your later dip physically and mentally.

    I also wonder if the tailing off in the HR in the last hour or two was a second dip, but because you were near he the end and were looking good for your sub 12hr time your didn’t percieve it in the same way as your earlier dip.

    Techniques for getting out of dip like mantra’s/positive self talk looked to have work which is great to see. When it comes to dips I feel prevention is better than cure though.

    I think the best way to achieve this to make sure your fluid, food, electrolyte and stimulant intake is regular so power into the system is consistent, as well as even pacing so that the power output is well matched to this input. A perfect race will see this balance maintained right to the end without any dips. If one does get it right then the mental strength required to keep pushing on is much lower, so there isn’t any real big struggle of wills to finish strong, a strong finish happens because it’s still fun.

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