Position, 59th, 170 finishers. 10h 53m 30s
Total Distance: 86.9km (approx. 54 miles)
Total Ascent: approx. 2700m (approx. 8860ft)

In reality
… I completed it which in the context of my 3 aims (completion, completion under 10hours, completion under 10hours within the top 5%) is the least satisfactory but when compared to my past attempts (2012 Did Not Finish, 2013 Did Not Start) is a great success.

The Hardmoors 55 route - North to South

The Hardmoors 55 route – North to South

The day started with an overnight in Helmsley and 6am coach to Guisborough for the 9am start. The weather was always predicted to be unsettled and indeed proved to be so with hail, rain, heavy cloud and warm sun in mixed and changing durations. This informed my choice of running wear (though everything I wore was part of a mandatory kit list), leggings, merino top and waterproof jacket.

Toeing the line I did my usual hang-back and with the off kept my pace low though this was also a product of tiredness. Acutely aware of my reasons for dropping out in 2012 (too fast: in 4-5th at mile 22, major drop-off in pace between 22-42 miles and pulling out at 42 miles) I maintained a pace I thought I could maintain and achieve a sub-10hour time (10min 55secs per mile pace).

During chats with other runners it was estimated at points I was running a 9 minute mile, so that at Kildale (after 12 miles) I was running at 8mins 50secs while by Osmotherley (32 miles) my pace was at 10 and half minutes per mile. From this point onwards, for the last 22 miles, my pace slowed to an average of just over 14 minutes. All told this gave a race pace average of just under 12 minutes per mile.

To put this within perspective of of my other 2 aims to finish under 10 hours I needed to average a 10:55 min/mile pace and to finish in the top 5% (170 finishers so the top 9), I needed to average a 10:10 min/mile. In this race I was neither a racer or even a runner just a finisher.

Descending from Roseberry Topping

Descending from Roseberry Topping

It was in the last 22 miles that I started to hit a serious energy low – you aren’t eating enough to keep up the pace which amusingly makes you less hungry! I found I was getting sick of my jellies and realise that I need variety in my race food. From the drop-bag point at Helmsley I found my self needing food that was more than just a sugary cube or gel. I found myself wolfing down rice pudding, sausage rolls and caramel slices. Yes, it sat on my stomach taking longer to digest but it was ultimately more palatable.

Night had fallen by the time I came in to the Town Hall at Helmsley, to be applauded by those already there and my girlfriend with our sleeping daughter. Legs tired and heart weary I am ultimately glad I’ve managed to finish.

Well done though to ALL those who started, tried and/or finished…

Position, 5th, 86 finishers. 04h 24m 38s
Total Distance: 50km (approx. 31miles)
Total Ascent: approx. 700m (approx. 2300ft)

While not a race with a considerable amount of climbing or distance I thought it enough. This considering I was still supposed to be watching for signs of long-term concussion after my head-injury in California where a piece of basalt cut through my scalp and grazed my skull.

In the end I was generally pleased. And again confronted by the idea that I could do better IF I was more consistent with my running/training. It comes down to two aspects.

At the core of it I’m a dreamer.
I can imagine worlds that will never exist. I can see myself as running wild. Through woods. On trials. Ever upwards. Scree. Mountain slopes. To the top. I can envisage myself achieving these things. And to a certain extent I run to achieve this. But “things” often get in the way. That, and I make excuses. I don’t like where I’m running, it’s too flat, etc.

So despite this why did I come in where I did.

Because I’m also bloody-minded and competitive.
Yeah I was never going to win (Ricky Lightfoot – some sort of international level individual) but I believed I could compete. So I tried to catch up to the next person and came in where I did.

Now this year I would like to race in a number of events.
I will train and in my mind I’ll be a triumphant egomaniac.
In reality….

Sun sits high. Temperature climbing. Excitement. Look at those mountains. The sky so blue.
-Yeah I’m good. Pick me up at noon.
In to the bush. Trail still wet. Over streams. Shoes will dry soon. In to the trees. Bear country huh?
-Don’t get between Bear and Cubs.
-Back away slowly.
-Don’t run. Okay.
Legs pump. Uphill climb. Drink water. Eat gels. Through meadow to trees again. Slow around corners. Scarring myself. Sing.
-All the leaves are brown…
Past the tree line. Rise to the summit. Look back down, across the ranges back south. The rest of the Sierra Nevada.
Back down.
Half way.
-Good Morning.
-Yes gorgeous.
-Haha no I do this for fun.
-England. On holiday mainly but here for a race too.
-Don’t know. Are you familiar with long-distance races? Ever heard of the Angeles Crest 100?
-It’s a 100mile running race.
-Yes. As I said fun. Haha.
-Well have a good day.
Onwards.
Down.
Water. Gels. Sweat. Tired. Late.
Stumble.
Toe catches.
Trip.
Fall. What.
-#”*!whatthewhat.
Blood. Head.
What.
Cut. Scalp. Blood. Blood.
Where’s my water? Where’s my bottle?
What. #”*!. No racing. Damn it. DamndamnDAMN.
-Ruined it. Where’s my water.
-#”*!.
WHERE’S MY WATER.
Tears.
Calm.
Sit. Left side face. Covered. Sticky. Fingers to wound. Numb. What else? Left knee. Scrapped. Bruised. Left chest. Scrapped. Can still stand. Can still walk.
One bottle.
Calm.
Where’s the second. Okay. Was in right hand. Thrown to right. Okay. Found it.
Wound. Neck Scarf. Fold. Place over head wound. Hold down with….
-Now where’s my sodding hat?
Just off the trail. Large rip. Same place as cut. Jeez……
Hat over scarf.
Bottles in hand. Drink. Gel.
First step onward.
Sore. Pain. Fine.
Run. Slight limp. Still able.
How far? 3-4miles. Still getting hotter. Enough water. Bear country huh?
Sing.
-I went for a walk…
Keep going. Don’t let your imagination wander. Shadows.
No racing now. Realisation. Sorrow. Anger.
-I’m sorry.
Tears.
Could have been worse. Could have been worse.
-I’m sorry.
Am I there yet. Can I stop. Am I alright.
Knee pain. Head numb.
Is that right.
No more bleeding. I’m not a bleeder. But a healer.
-I’m a good healer. Haha.
Nearly there.
Trees to meadow to trees.
-Could have been worse.
A story to tell.
Across streams.
Car.
Late.
-Don’t worry but…
Sing.
-California dreamin’…

The following three posts are an overview of the Lost Year (the last 12 months). They include posts written soon after the events with additional editing as well as new material.

Position, 4th/5th, 122 finishers. 04h 25m 30s
Total Distance: 42.2km (approx. 26.2miles)
Total Ascent: approx. 1410m (approx. 4651ft)

Despite concerns raised in my last post about under-training, I approached the Sunday of the Howgills pretty good. A few things account for this. The primary reason being that my little brother Rob was running too and I was buoyed by his if-it-happens-deal-with-it attitude, that and competition always seems to get to me…

So with Bagels for Breakfast and a lot of random Katy Perry Dubstep Remixes in my head we toed the line.

The first 1.5miles was fairly genteel but even at this stage Kim Collison (the eventual winner at 03:38:04) was already blitzing ahead. The climb up Winder, then to Calders and The Calf, all within the first 5miles, was primarily a walk, back stooped, hands on legs, pumping up hill. It was at this point Robert and I parted company.

At this stage I figure I was in a kinda “third” group of about 4 or 5 – Kim off on his own, and Charles Sproson and Sam Blanshard forming a second group between. On the downhill section along the Bowderdale I let my self go and pulled myself in to a convincing fourth place, mostly out of site of those behind and only occasionally glimpsing those ahead.

At about Weasdale (12 miles) I realised that someone was gaining. This turned out to be Jack Simpson who caught me just prior to the check-point at Ravenstonedale.

At the School I was meet by three smiling young ladies (consisting of girlfriend Amy, and two friends Rebecca and Becca) who clapped encouragement and who pointed me in the direction of cake. Assuring me they would see Rob through I set off again.

Coming in to the check-point and then leaving with Jack, I don’t know who feel in to step with whom. (I suspect he had the better pace and I was continually playing catch-up!) But so it was we ran the rest of the course. At a couple of places Sproson and Blanshard where tantalising close but I know I was unable to pull anything extra out of the bag.

Of course with 50m to go to the finish both Jack and myself made a gentlemanly pact to sprint to finish, which we did, none of our timers registering as we crossed, so having to put on the brakes and walk back over the line. Honestly I think we could take at least 3 seconds off our time.

Meanwhile Rob was going strong. At the Ravenstonedale check-point (so I was informed) he too shoveled down several pieces of cake much to the delight of the point attendees and relished in the attention of the race photographers. I think he enjoyed his first marathon.

Rob's return

Rob’s return

Overall two points were learnt: race pace needs to be trained for (to sustain it) and jelly cubes make good energy snacks.

Totals Week Starting 15th April 2013
Location: South-West Coast Path, Cornwall
Total Mileage: 29.6
Total Time (hh:mm): 04:42
Total Ascent Feet: approx. 7502

Its annoying to be at this stage in the year with the races ahead that I have and to be at this low level of training.

At the end of February my plica started to twinge again. This is my reoccurring niggle but its last occurrence was in March 2011. unlike the last time though, where I could not identify a trigger event, I believe I isolated the the likely event/events that triggered this episode. During a long run in the tail end of February I think I over extended my landing leg on some pretty harsh/technical downhills, not leaning forward enough, so that my foot was landing far ahead of my centre of gravity, effectively acting as a break and unnecessarily impacting the knee joint.

So on a subsequent run it just went – the plica inflaming and strumming against the hard aspects of my knee like a guitar string being plucked.

On this happening I stop running. For about three weeks. Then started to run a bit. Slowly, for short distances, with the knee strapped.

Due to work (and a mental belief that I knew what I was doing) I did not go to see a physio till the beginning of April. At this point I needed a a bit of confirmation as to what the niggle was, a refresher course of knee-tapping (Edit: I think I mean taping – knee tapping might work but I have limited rhythm) and more tape. Jeroen confirmed that it was my plica and that yes my strapping had gotten sloppy (tapping too high pushing the knee back in to the joint not cradling it) and two roles of tape.

So its April. Running is good again. Not least as I am at presently in Cornwall my joint third favourite county (Joint 1st Cumbria/ North Yorkshire; joint 3rd Cornwall/ Suffolk).

Yet I am in April with a lot of work to do….

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