Good judgement is the result of experience, experience is the result of bad judgment.
Last August I ran the Hardmoors Wainstone Marathon. It was a hot sunny day on this tough route. I ran the first thirteen miles relatively hard. Then I started to get cramp in my legs; followed by nausea and vomiting. I finished the race but it wasn’t pretty. I vowed never to run another race neglecting my nutrition and hydration in that manner.
Fast forward to April 11th 2017. This time I was running the Hardmoors White Horse Marathon. It was a hot day. Eighteen miles into the race and I was unable to take on any more food and water. By twenty miles I was sick. By 24 miles I had nothing left in the tank. I had well and truly hit the wall!
Looking back at the race it is clear to see (to me!) what had gone wrong…………
The Hardmoors Whitehorse Marathon is the baby of the Hardmoors series. By that I mean it is the youngest, only added to the 26.2 race series back in 2015.
It is in my opinion though the most scenic of the series. Starting at the North Yorkshire Moors Visitor Centre on Sutton Bank, it takes you on a circular route, covering part of the Cleveland Way at the start, then taking you over beautiful scenic countryside towards Hawnby, then over the moors towards Rievaux Abbey before dropping back onto the Cleveland Way towards the finish at the Visitor Centre.
Do not be taken in by the beautiful views though, This race has a kick. Not only is it one of the most scenic of the Hardmoors races it is also one of the toughest.
From the start you are taken down the steep descent to Gormire Lake before the climb back up to the main track heading eventually towards Osmotherley. The race would probably be over 26.2 miles without this descent. However running these races you soon get to know the sadistic mindset of the race director and diversions like this, to add extra ascent to a route is a trademark of the series. The next few miles across rolling moorland and down through woodland areas lull you into a false sense of security before hitting the village of Hawnby.
Heading out along the Cleveland Way
Lovely views from the rolling track!
Views from the top of Hawnby Hill
The tempting signs, advising you to ‘Quit Now and you could be enjoying a beer’ right outside a lovely little village pub only add to your misery as you ascend the never ending climb of Hawnby Hill.
Temptation by the CP in Hawnsby!
After the descent of the other side of the hill, the route is undulating for a while over the moors before once again having you climb upwards over Bilsdale Moor before descending back near to the village of Hawnby again. Just when you thought you had enough climbing you have to ascend Murton Bank. This is another never ending hill and on tarmac too!
Murton Bank – the photograph doesn’t do the hill justice…ask the runners!
A change to the course from here gave some respite here. Access rights to a forest stretch on private land meant that dropping down the hill and climbing back up again over some gnarly track (that had us close to being on all fours last year) was not possible this year. The diversion along a country lane was a gradual descent and brought you back onto the original track further along after the private land. I am sure Jon Steele had no other options than to include this easier option. Personally, it will be good to see this stretch remain!
The tough parts are now over and the remaining route is more undulating than challenging. A nice relaxed section running on boarded track takes you nicely towards the ruins of Rievaux Abbey. Then you are back onto the Cleveland Way and a well trodden trail path back to the Visitor Centre at Sutton Bank, with your Garmin reading almost 28 miles. Not bad for a Hardmoors Marathon (those running the half are not as lucky with that course being nearer 17 miles and just as tough!)
So, I knew what to expect as I had ran this race the previous year. Last year there had been a lot of rain prior to the event and a lot of the route was muddy (especially the section down and around Gormire Lake). This year the conditions prior to the race were very dry. On the morning of the race it was sunny but cool, with the forecast of warm weather.
John Steele briefs the runners before the start
Clearly it was to be a day for shorts and t-shirt with plenty of sun cream. My plan was to set off steady, drink about 500 to 600ml’s of water every hour and ensure that I was eating at each check point. As soon as we had set off I must have left this plan behind at the car. I was probably mid pack at the start and before I knew it I was running fast (for me) down towards Gormire Lake. The lack of mud and my success at downhill running the week before at the DT20 race probably gave me more confidence here. I took it steady on the climb out of Gormire but picked up my pace again back on the Cleveland Way track. I knew that the first CP was coming up so I made sure I had taken on my planned fluids. However at this CP I failed to take on any significant food. On previous trail marathons I had been carrying and eating medjool dates, I hadn’t brought them today. I also didn’t bother to take a couple of shotbloks that I had in my backpack. All I grabbed was a handful of salted nuts from the marshals then ran on. This continued for the next two CP’s. Then I started to realise I was feeling slightly nauseous.
More gorgeous scenery along the route!
By the next CP after the big climb up Murton Bank, I couldn’t drink anymore. I tried a cup of coke but my stomach said no. I managed to eat one shotblok and a mouthful of water, then trudged onwards. By the time I got to the end of the diverted section I was close to hitting the wall. I changed to a run walk strategy to try and preserve some energy. However the heat was starting to get to me. By the time I reached Rievaux Abbey I was wretching. A concerned runner asked if I was okay, and a passer by offered me some water. I was okay. I had been in this situation before and thought to myself that if I was sick, I could start again with water and food and feel better…..hell, even the elite ultra runners have these issues and run thought it. However I had passed the point of no return. I didn’t feel better and still couldn’t take on any more food. I resigned myself to walking the 6 miles or so from this point to the finish.
At the next CP I didn’t even bother stopping and kept moving forwards. Eventually I reached the finish area. My girlfriend was there to meet me and she could tell I was suffering. I collapsed on the ground after the finish (not in a medical emergency fashion, more as this was most comfortable for me). I was still not able to take on food or water so just lay there to come around for a while longer. After a while I sat in a camping chair wrapped in my Dryrobe so I would not get too cold (even though it was hot and sunny still. After about thirty minutes I felt well enough to take on food and drinks and able to get changed.
Even though I had suffered a lot during the race I was still almost 15 minutes faster than last year with my finish time of 06:22:59. I feel that if I had not hit the wall so hard then I could have been under 6 hours easily!
1st Male: Nick Green 03:56:56
1st Lady : Claire Howard 04:35:19
83rd: Dave Mullaney 06:22:59
Last runner: 08:40:50
What went well:
My choice of kit (Scott Kinabalu Trail Shoes, Injinji socks, Skins twin layer shorts and Hardmoors technical tee). I think it ends there!
What went badly:
Clearly not following my practiced nutrition and hydration plan during the race; and setting off too quickly for the conditions!
Question for you guys: Have you ever thrown aside tried and tested race plans and suffered badly as a result?