I find being on the start line of an ultra marathon can be a daunting experience at the best of times, but when my training hadn't gone so well and a last minute injury was playing on my mind it was hard to take a positive outlook on how the day would go.
The Hardmoors 60 is a 62ish mile race starting in Guisborough then on to the Cleveland Way and ending in Filey.
Having ran sections of the route in the weeks prior to the race I knew that the ground after the hot summer was bone hard and thought that an aggressive trail shoe seemed pretty pointless. However, just as I had made my mind up on what shoe to wear the weather changed and a week of rain hit us.
The start of the race goes from half a mile on concrete straight on to trails leading vertically up to Highcliffe Nab, this section of the route is notorious for being like a mud slide so at the last minute I changed my choice of shoe to something with a bit more grip and i opted for the Saucony Peregrine.
The first 13 miles went well but in the back of my mind I knew I had gone off too fast. Even though i was careful drinking enough water and taking regular salt tablets I started to suffer with really bad cramp in my right calf and for the first time ever in my quads. I decided that I would try to make it to the next checkpoint at Runswick Bay and if it didnt improve then I would have no choice but to call it a day.
The was my first Ultra using a support crew and looking back on how the race panned out it was a good job I did.
I had loaded the support car with more things than I actually needed but there were two things I had packed that changed the outcome of my day.
The first was a change of shoes, once I had got that initial muddy climb out of the way the rest of the route was dusty, bone hard trails or slippery rock steps. So at around 20 miles I changed in to a pair of Topo Terraventure shoes.
The difference was massive. My toes could move and the extra cushioning was not only a relief for my feet but also gave me something positive to focus on, something I had struggled with since the cramp had started.
The next item I had packed in the car was a very last minute decision but luckily had opted to pack some light weight running poles.
The cramp in my quads was now so bad when I hit any incline that I figured I had no choice but to go with the poles to give me some additional support up the hills.
If you want to know how i ran with them i suggest searching youtube rather than listening to me. It is fair to say that I simply would not have completed the next 40 odd miles without them. They managed to take just enough pressure off my legs when climbing what seemed like 1000’s of steps to stop my legs from cramping up again and again.
This not only was a relief for the legs but mentally it was like a huge shot of adrenaline to the soul.
I had gone from thinking that this was going to be my first ultra DNF to actually starting to enjoy the route.
The miles passed and eventually I just kept the poles in hand even when doing a slow jog this again gave me something to think about and past quite a lot time.
The last 9 miles of the route were pretty slow but I would put that down to a relative lack of training more than anything and finished the run in 1 minute over 15 hours.
In hindsight I am sure I made some training and nutritional mistakes which caused the first 20 or so miles to be pretty grim.
It goes to show how a change of plan and a positive outlook can really change the day.
I will remember for future events. If a run isn’t going the way you planned then move on and adapt.
Will I be using my Scott running poles for all future ultras? Probably not but I know for a fact they will always be with me now for when they are called for.