This is the second year that we have done this event along the Cleveland Way, it could have been a completely different race. Last year, the route ran from Guisborough to Helmsley, this time it was the opposite way round. This meant that the most of the elevation (a total of 2700m) was reserved for the second half of the race- a tough ask.
We arrived on the Friday and were up at 4.30am Saturday morning for the (frankly ridiculous) requirement to catch the bus at 6am in Guisborough- bear in mind it is less than an hours drive and the race starts at 9.00am.
The bus dropped us at Helmsley Town Hall at around 6.50am, we passed through registration and kit check and tried to find a warm spot to wait out the 2 hours (!) before the start. After some exploration of the hall we found a room with a kitchenette, I made use of the large throne-like chair in the corner, much to Ed’s amusement, and tried to get some sleep.
It was very, very grey and dreary, the temperature had dropped considerably from the day before and I was feeling the cold. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I’d been full of cold last week and was only just feeling better.
We set off, taking it pretty easy, the miles ticked by and we didn’t talk much. It was fairly flat, across tracks and fields, gradually winding towards the first significant CP, White Horse. This involved a drop and then a stair-climb ascent back on top of the moors. My calves were cramping on and off through the whole race and even though I was eating and drinking regularly, it just didn’t feel like it was enough, almost as though I wasn’t metabolising very well.
We pressed on towards the next real CP, Osmotherly (22 miles). Again this involved an undulating section across the moors and a steady descent into the village. The hall was packed and I’d been feeling a bit spent, the choice of food was fairly limited (compared to the other ultras we’ve run) but I enjoyed a sausage roll, cup of sweet coffee and a couple of homemade Anzac biscuits from ‘Betty’s Tin- DO NOT REMOVE’
I started to lose it a little bit after Osmotherly. I got very cold, very fast and Ed pointed out that my hands had gone blue. I also felt nauseous, spaced out and dizzy. I briefly though about sacking it off but after wrapping up in my Minimus and drinking my coffee from the CP, I started to rally round a bit.
It was a good job because the next section consisted of very steep climbs and slippy descents, Ed refers to this stretch as ‘The Rumbledethumps’. As we climbed, I caught sight of the distinctive form of Roseberry Topping, still around 30 miles away and my word, it never seemed to get any closer. On top of the moors, the mist began to sweep in, bringing with it rain. I didn’t see the sun all day yesterday- just grey skies and darkness, no Golden Hour, just grey nothingness that felt like it would be that way for eternity.
After a CP at Lord Stones, we focused on making it to Kildale (42miles) this was the last indoor CP before the finish and significantly, the point at which the final couple of big climbs begin. We arrived cold and tired. The marshals were extremely helpful (at every CP), I was sorted out with a cup of sweet tea, some vegetable soup and a couple of sausage rolls. I felt pretty rubbish, knowing what was ahead didn’t help.
Still, we took the opportunity to layer up and get head torches on as the final 13 miles would be in darkness and light rain. I’d been chatting to a few blokes on the way round the course and it helped take my mind off the steep climb ahead. We were both losing motivation and in fact, we both hadn’t enjoyed the race as much as we’d thought we would. This was not down to the organisers, marshals or anything quantifiable, we simply hadn’t been feeling it.
The next few miles up to the Captain Cook Monument were ok, it suddenly appeared, silhouetted against the reddy-glow of the city below. It made me want to make more of an effort to run at night and I was moved by the peacefulness of that high point. From here I could see Roseberry Topping, our final climb, peppered with little dots of head torches at various points. We began a steady descent, through an extra feed stop- I grabbed a handful of Haribo Hearts- I’d eaten them at every CP and they cheered me up a bit.
We looped around and headed down towards the footpath towards Roseberry Topping. This was a steep ascent that really got the legs burning at the 49 mile mark. We reached the top and began picking our way down, slipping and falling along the way. It’s a bit like a half-pipe this section as once Roseberry is done there is another ascent back up onto the moors. What followed was muddy tracks through a forest that went on for ages, after a self-clip the path joined an old railway line that then wound its way back to the finish at Guisborough Sea Cadets.
I felt like death as you can probably tell:
So overall it was a fair race. An exercise in mental fortitude- it wasn’t the hardest race but it was tough. The organisation was good and the marshals/volunteers were excellent- thank you. It did make me reconsider some races that I was going to enter, I’ll give it some time and thought. The night following the race and day after have been difficult, maybe I should have rested and recovered but I’m pleased that I’ve done it and as with all races, new lessons are learned.