If someone had said to me a few years ago that I would be getting up at 5.45am on New Years day to run an ultra marathon, having not touched a drop of alcohol on New Years Eve there is absolutely no way I would have believed it. But there I was, after a couple of hours drive to Robin Hoods bay, on the start line outside the Fylingdales village hall ready for the Hardmoors 30 ultra trail race.
The route is relatively straight forward firstly on the cinder track up to Whitby and I was surprised to be in the leading pack from the off. Equally surprising was the 6.45 minute mile pace I was clocking (unintentionally!) but it was a relatively flat and easy section so a good opportunity to make up time early on. The route is not marked bar a few checkpoints and other major sections, so you need to be fairly comfortable with your sense of direction and mine was tested going through Whitby, almost taking the wrong turn before a friendly pedestrian pointed me in the right way. Up the “199 steps” to Whitby Abbey (no I didn’t run them all) and you then picked up the Cleveland Way back to Robin Hood’s bay. I have walked this way before in warmer, less windy and less muddy times but nothing beats getting battered sideways by 40-50 mph winds, waterfalls that are blowing uphill (never seen that before) and slipping and sliding by the cliffs. It is an incredibly dramatic route and I loved every minute of it!
12 miles in and on the approach to the checkpoint back at Robin Hoods bay I realised I was catching the three runners who at one point seemed miles ahead of me (clearly they weren’t as much of a fan of the mud) and I managed to dib-in in second place. Setting off towards Ravenscar the route re-joins the cinder track and I was soon passed into third place. A relatively boring flat section, never my favourite, followed and I lost time on second but fourth was no-where to be seen so I began what would be 18 miles of racing completely on my own. At Ravenscar the route again took the Cinder track down to Hayburn Wyke and again I had a few map consultations to check I was still en-route. Running for so long on your own makes you doubt yourself at times. Finally down at the checkpoint it was nice to have a conversation with the marshalls (and see other people at last!), at which point I took my jacket and gloves off and decided to brave the t-shirt for the final 9 miles. It was bloody freezing bear in mind so I knew I would have to shift to keep warm!
The last two sections re-join the Cleveland Way which meant re-joining the spectacularly windy cliff-tops once again. Another 5 miles back to Ravenscar for the final checkpoint then the final stretch back to the bay, via a number of steep climbs and descents involving steps, mud, sea spray and wind until eventually dropping down to the sea for the last time. The final mile is a pretty steep one from the bottom of Robin Hoods Bay up the road to the finish at the top of the village. Somewhat surprisingly I ran the hill at a decent speed (given it was the 30th mile of the day and my 90th that week!) and checked in to the village hall to finish in third place overall in 4 hrs 5 minutes. I was 6 mins off first place and only 2 off second, making it by far my best race performance especially at a well known ultra. More important was the fact I really enjoyed it.
I am not a fan of new years resolutions, outcome goals or pb’s and focus more on the process- if you enjoy and work hard at what you are doing whatever that may be the results will come naturally. I have been trying to work hard on my process goals over the last few months specifically technique (higher knee lift) and fitness (by increasing training- I am a naturally lazy trainer!). I have always enjoyed competition, but running is now bringing out that I also enjoy enduring.
It has also taught me that not having a beer on New Years Eve isn’t so difficult after all.
Ross Bibby, rock-running.com