Wednesday, 7 June 2017

200 Hardmoors miles

Forward Note
I thought it would be good for my support crew to write a piece about the Hardmoors 200 from their perspective, as in these type of races support can play an essential, sometimes crucial role if you are to finish. I would not have finished the Hardmoors 200 with the issues I had, if it was not for the fantastic support team I had in place and a little luck My lovely wife Ang, daughter Katie, Sam, Dawn & Eddie, Graham, Martin, Garth/Julie/Charlie and Ellie. I also had great support from Ravenscliffe High School Thanks Martin and Jo!
Special mentions have to go to Tom Humphries, Paul Burgum and Sams sister Steph, for assisting my wife Ang, Sam and me, through our eventful weekend!
Jamie Hauxwell - I bent your ear early doors and I listened to your issuesWe both finished mate   
Thank you Karl, Jason/Gail, Jane/Anne for your support along route!
Finally, Jon/Shirley and all the Marshalls that know, saw and helped me over the weekend!
I have probably missed some names of people, too many great folk to mention what a weekend!

Shift 1; Ang -
Morning of the race and we were ready and eager to go, setting off from home in good time, makes a change to have a short journey to the starting point, usually we have to travel for miles. So we were in good spirits, I sent Chris Evans a text for a shout out on his radio 2 breakfast show for all runners and crews but not sure if we got a mention as we were busy prepping when we got to the village hall in Hull, but I wanted to tell the world that this bunch of crazy but brave people were setting off to run 200 miles across some of the loveliest countryside on our island.

Race brief over and the runners come out, fresh faces, smiling, wishing each other good luck, slaps on the back and they make their way up to the road for Jon to say a last few words and send them on their way.

                                                                Photo above from Chia Charge

They go, I smile to Steve, wave and take a few snaps on my phone. I make my way back for the crews race brief, first time we have had one, I guess its such a long race that Jon wants us to be prepared for whats ahead and all the info like road closures, where we can and cant park etc. Race brief over, thats it, lets go and get out there.

Get in the car, oh no I cant believe it, I feel mild panic as the car wont start. My heart is racing a little faster, Im thinking I have to get to the compulsory check point, how long do I have, what shall I do, keep trying, over and over pushing my start/stop button. I have a car full of stuffkit and food for 2 days to support Steves run, clothes and kit for our week following the run. Would you believe it, this has never happened before.

I get out, walk down to the village hall and see Jon and Wayne loading their cars. I tell them Im their first problem of the day. Its about 8.10am, Jon looks at me as if youre not my problem lady, Shirley takes pitythank god. She calls James who turns up minutes later with jump leads and attaches them to my car, between that and myself pressing the button a million times, somehow it starts.  Reliefpanic subsides.

I go, conscious I need to get to the checkpoint and to hatch a plan.

And I do just that, arrive at the checkpoint, but dont turn the car off as still not sure if it was the battery or this message about my key? I need to hatch a plan, and with the help of Tom (many years experience in the AA, he tells mefantastic news to me in that moment) recognize it is probably the key fob, so I need the spare, but somehow need to ask and find the spare car key without alerting Steve to the fact I have a problem. I have a rummage through one of the clothes bags in the car, hoping I can find the spare key, so he wont ever know, with no success…damn it.
If the car failed to start with the spare key I was going to call the RACbut much laterafter daughter Katie meets up with me at Friday Thorpe, so I could take her car if needed if mine didn’t start…. this was my grand plan.
All this going on in my head with several phone calls to Katie and to Sam who was crewing later on, just to keep them in the picture.

Oh Lordy, the day had just begun.

Steve arrives, the car engine is still running but he doesnt notice, he gets his checkpoint drink and food, I casually enquire if Steve packed the spare car key, he did (hooray I think), where is it, in the clothes bag I ask? No, in his back pack (are you kidding me?), which is on his back! I need it I tell him, for something, its ok, can I have it, ill get it out (grumpy Steve complaining cos Im in his backpack, hands down to the bottom, ferreting around and phew, I find it!) see its ok, nothing to stress about, off you go

My thoughts. I will stick to the plan and try it later, in the meantime, dont turn off the car. just in case.

So the day goes on, Steve running well, car running well (ha ha), only problem is I cant leave it as I darent turn it off. So I dont drink, cos I cant get to a loo! Great. didnt think about that that did I, in my grand plan.

At teatime, I arrive at Fridaythorpe, Katie is on her way. Its time to turn off the car…. Oh my… heart beating a bit faster, anxiety levels just creeping up a notch.
Have you ever fist pumped the moment your car starts? Me neither until that moment, car off, car on. Yes I say, fist pump. All is well.
Katie arrives, its ok I say. Steve arrives; he knows nothing (!!)……….Food and drink checkpoint Charlie as usual, nothing unusual to report.

We drive to Wharrem Percy to meet and hand over to Sam, cos she is crewing next. I get there in good time; can turn off the car no problem, Katie still with me just in case. Catch up with Tom, hand over to Sam, say bye to Katie, and head off to Chopgate to the cottage we have booked for the week, to get bags unloaded, car sorted, into bed and then ready for my next stint, to leave the cottage around 3.30am.

It’s longer than I thought to Chopgate, feeling pretty tired and thirsty by the time I get there. But jobs to do first, feed the dog, unpack the car, reload the car, sort food and drinks, dump clothes bags upstairs, get clothes ready for when I get up at 2.30am, have a cup of tea, jump in the shower, set alarm, fall into bed.

Shift 2; Sam -
I am super prepared this year. My checkpoints are all in the overnight sections, so I thought I'd make sure I knew where they were. Two days the previous weekend jaunting around North Yorkshire making little gps dots on my iPad, checking phone signal & public toilets. I am organized!
On the day, car boot is laid out, fuel is topped up, then headed over to pick up cottage keys and meet Angie at Wharram Percy ... hoping the car starting troubles are over. Steve still has no idea, and no point worrying him!
Cottage is up a mile of single track, and there are "road closed" signs everywhere. Locals ignore them, so I do too. There is no phone signal at cottage, only wifi. Nice & quiet.

Sun is still shining when I meet up with Angie who has a handy space saved, and the transfer of essential kit takes place ( two gear bags, 1 shoe bag, checkpoint bags, mountain fuel juice, mountain fuel for milk, general food & spares bag ) and Angie's car starts so it's all good.

Check in with Marshals (compulsory) and begin the process of following Steve's lucky number 13 dot on the open tracking site, and comparing to his planned times to gauge when to start checkpoint prep, which is as follows:
When dot is ten mins out
   unpack chair & blanket/ sleeping bag
   check hot water
   load & prep juice / water bottles
   Extract checkpoint specific top up snack bag
   get milky mountain fuel ready ( it's sludgy and it takes a lot of stirring )
   prep tubbies of handy foods.
   Cross check multiple checkpoint lists.
   Watch dot/horizon.

Steve comes in ahead of target, looking positive, but saying he's not feeling right; Little did we know this was the start of his troubles.

   Empty vest pockets of debris. Bag it.
   Switch out bottles
   Stuff pockets.
   Keep steve warm while forcefeeding him :
   Assorted nibbles.
   Check for anything else we can get down his neck.

He's on his way again and it's time to clean up & pack away. Next stop roadside in Sherburn.

Sherburn is actually more of a pull in by the farmers gate by the side of a single track road. Watch the sun go down and boil up the storm kettle to top up the hot water; Listening to the increasingly weird sheep and unknown animal noises. I nod to other drivers heading up and down the road.

It's dusk when Steve and his pack of runners come through, he breaks off for 5 mins to top up...while the pack heads on to meet their suspiciously parked support crews in nearby country lanes. Repeat cycle of keeping him warm and trying to force food and liquids into him at every opportunity, before he darts off again, poles in hand.
I sit on the boot and finish my cuppa before heading off to Flixton Wold, growing increasingly weirded out by the things that don't sound like sheep.

Flixton is busy, I find a space near the marshals and settle in to read my book for an hour. Definitely starting to get colder as it approaches midnight. The Marshall has her kids with her, wrapped up in sleeping bags, sprawled over her 4x4 conveniently close to the biscuits. They're surprisingly perky! Finally remember to eat my own tea, and periodically stroll up and down watching support crews jostle for space.
Steve gets in minutes after midnight, definitely still feeling rough, but one of the other runners support(Tom) gives him some Imodium which fingers crossed will help. He's still smiling, and I force him to hold still for 20 seconds to grab a picture.

Filey is my next stop. I check the location of a 24 hour Spar on the way to grab a couple things, and ship off.

This is where my plan deviates from the printouts. Just before 1am I slide off the road trying ( and succeeding ) in avoiding a Deer. It's a low speed skid, up and over edging rocks and through an iron fence. I get control back long enough to not hit another fence, and sort of wheeze in shock.
Smell of petrol, oil, brake fluid, washer.... everything. I've basically ripped the bottom out of my car, and got no venison. Cue panicky phone calls to other half, Police ( property damage )  Angie ( still sleeping with no phone signal ) Katie, and Graham... pacer waiting at Filey, and insurance companies 24 hr helpline.

Police turn up, send fire engine away as spill contained. Try to explain concept of people running 200 miles for fun. They look at me like I'm weird.
I'm keeping an eye on the clock, and trying to work out ways of contacting Angie so that Steve doesn't have to quit.
The police offer to take me to Filey with as much of Steves gear as I can cram in the back seat with me. Quick stop at farmhouse to leave my insurance details and then I rocked up to Filey Brigg, in police car and unloaded at Marshalls tent.
I meet Graham, a pile of marshalls offering tea and sympathy, and all I can do is watch Steve's dot, and get his Checkpoint gear ready.
Might still be a little shocky at this point.
Paul Burgham, who's finished his marshaling, offers to take me to Scarborough to meet with Angie. At which point Steve has support again and I can work out what to do.
There are a lot of cups of tea offered, and Steve's dot is coming in on target, ahead of time. I've got stuff setup by the side of the marshals tent and if he looks a little surprised that I'm not dragging stuff out my car, I keep smiling. It's all good.
He's moving ok, he's watered and fed and I'm chock full of adrenaline and wide awake, and clutching half a dozen bags full of Steve's gear. He's picked up his first pacer, Graham, to keep him moving along the coast overnight.
It's all good. I text Angie, tell her Scarborough is back on.

It's 2:30 am. Paul loads me & Steve's gear into his van, and I meet molly, his terrier who is a doll. I'm still babbling, and determined Steve's not dropping out due to lack of support.
There's a slight detour round Scarborough as we realise the van we're following is not going to same checkpoint. Oops.
I babble about the school Steve's supporting. Paul tells me about going back to university and the youth work he does. I watch the sun come up, and look for a Qashqai.
Paul's boiling the kettle as Angie arrives and I return all of Steve's gear, and she kindly offers to drop me back at my car (Google maps has recorded it as parked ! ) after Steve gets through checkpoint.
Angie is much more organised at this, and manages to get soup into Steve, who's noticeably tired now.

The only motivational thing I can think to say is "Keep bloody running. I made the last two checkpoints without a car. You're not allowed to give up "

Shift 3; Ang -
2.30am alarm gone off, feels like it cant possibly be, Ive only been in bed for 2 minutes havent I? Groggily get myself, dog and car ready and leave the house, no phone signal in the cottage so dont know how things are going, but hope all is well and start thinking about getting to Scarborough on time, so Sam can get off and get some sleep.
Driving out of the village, signal arrives as does ping, ping, ping, ping, text after text.. panic is the first thing I feel. I pull over and read the text messages fearing the worst, hoping Steve is ok.
Sam texting me to say she has crashed her car.what?! oh no. I call Sam, she is ok, but has no car, needs me to get to Scarborough and will fill me in, but basically she swerved to miss a deer and ended up through a railing, and broke her car!

On my way. foot downAnxious to get there, all kinds of things in my head, hoping its ok.
Arrived around 4.30am at Scarborough, Sam there, shes ok thank goodness being looked after by Paul, smiling and telling the tale, making me smile when she says the policeman said to her  what? people run 200 miles for funas hes loading Steves kit out of her car boot into his police car boot.

Steve arrives, I have brought hot soup with me, great for when its cold and windy, he tells me hes had diarrhoea since late afternoon yesterday, he is checking Sam is ok and says bye as I am taking over now, and away he goes.
I take Sam back to her car half way between Flixton Wold and Filey in the middle of nowhere and quietly thank someone up there she had a phone signal and could ring the police for help. Her sister is on the way. I have to drop her there as I need to get up to Crookness, I pick up the last of Steves stuff out of her car and go.

What a day!

I drive almost all the way to Ravenscarr before I realize that I had just driven straight past Crookness, in my tired mind and thoughts about whats happened over the last 24 hours, so I turn around and drive all the way back to Crookness, hoping I havent missed Steve, anxious to check on him, I didnt really get chance at the last checkpoint as we were both concerned about Sam.

I see him there and realise that his diarrhoea has become a race changer, he is shot, energy gone, legs gone and I wonder whats in store for him now and start to feel guilty and question if I had been there could I have made the difference. He had basically had diarrhoea since late afternoon on Friday and any food he had consumed had been going straight out! Tom Humphries had sorted him late evening on Friday with Imodium, but it has not kicked in fully and has continued to take tablets to try and stop it!

Its at Ravenscarr that the reality of the race now being about just making it to the finish, and not about his planned finish becomes the goal. He is struggling majorly and needs to take a break. He struggles out of Ravenscar with legs that are struggling to walk and soldiers on.

Day 2 begins.

It’s a day of disappointment and frustrations, which turn into hope and determination. My job becomes about food and drink, preventing dehydration and getting calories in. At Sandsend, Steve is digging deep as he has around 70 miles in front of him which he knows now he cant run and will be walking. Im grateful he has pacers all the way to the end now.Imodium has kicked in finally (he had diaorrheo almost 24 hours) and dioralyte is topping up his fluid and electrolyte intake, fingers and everything else are crossed.

Sam is back at teatime with her sister to do the night stint, in her sisters car! They do it as a double act, I hand over at Saltburn as planned and get back over to the cottage to repeat the previous night routine, feed the dog, unpack and repack the car, get clothes ready, shower, drink, set alarm and bed.

Shift 4; Sam -
Saturday was interesting.

Plan A : Drive back to cottage. Set alarm. Sleep. Unsuccessful....

Plan B : Arrange recovery of dead fiesta. Arrange lift from middle of nowhere.  Work out what to do for PM shift. Harangue insurance company. Sleep.
My sister and nephew decide that they're not doing anything, that it might be a bit more cramped but we can get three adult sized people and all Steve's gear into a fiesta.
And sleep is for quitters.

Saltburn here we come.

Wedge fiesta into tiny space. Soak up tiredness with chips & sea air.
Do the gear handover with Angie, and convince sister & nephew that it's probably easiest to stand back during the 20 minute crazy as Steve comes in.

Steve's slowing down, and other runners are coming through. Saltburn is a pacer swap and possible shoe change.  I'm flustered, worried and watching the cliffs.
I'm also cheering on other runners, who's dots I've become invested in.
Steve & Garth are walking in, and Steve's legs don't bend enough to get into the chair. From this point on, we have to lean him against the boot.

Garth gets him a coffee. Steve does a gear swap, and can't remember drinking his milky sludge. Coax him to eat babybel cubes. His physio/pacer eases his feet into new socks. Blisters blood and painful feet.
Then I've a whirlwind of repacking and setting out again, off to captain cooks monument car park.

This is a long stretch anyway. It's dark by the time we get there, tucked up by the gate. Nephew and I look for fuel for stormkettle and pass the time watching the flames and filling flasks.  Then 'How to train your dragon ' played over car stereo for surround sound.
Dot number thirteen is walking pace now.
It's pitch black, and all we can see is flurries of head torches interspersed by darkness. Steve's still amazingly only 150 minutes behind his target; Although his times are something he is not thinking about now.
It's gone midnight and it's freezing when he hobbled down the hill at Captain Cooks Car Park. We throw him in the car with heaters on, I'm not sure he registers my sister in the driving seat, but he adds more layers. We get all his food through him, cuppa soups for heat & calories.
We've got hours before Steve reaches the next checkpoint at Clay Bank, so we bed down for a nap.

We make a predawn detour to KFC for bathroom and to top up teenager, before heading to Clay Bank. We were supposed to meet Angie at Osmotherly at 4am(original schedule time), but at 4am Steve's not through Clay Bank. We do the gear handover wedged into the roadside.
My sister is nodding off, nephew is curled up under my sleeping bag, so we decide to ship out home ( 45 mins away ) , leaving Angie in the dawn, waiting for Steve.

Shift 5; Ang -
Day 3 starts for me at 3.30am, up and out, I catch up with Sam on where Steve is at… he’s not at Blow worth yet…oh no… I worry for him, so I get up to Clay Bank to take over from Sam so she can go for sleep, and I wait for Steve. He wont be expecting me there, so hope its a good thing when he sees me. Kettles on, coffee is ready, soup ready.
He’s coming down the steps, I can see its an effort, but I can also see he is ok, glad to have that section over. Hideous Blow worth crossing! Food and drink down him and onto the next, determined to keep going.

Sitting in the car I work out he now has around 12 hours to walk 30 miles as its approaching 8am at this point.
Right then. coaching hat needed, kick up the arse needed; if he is going to finish in time, he has to walk at pace, not amble like its a Sunday stroll. So over his cup of coffee thats what I told him, get on with it, otherwise you wont make the cut off.

The wind was blowing cold at Square corner; it was busy, lots of crews and support waiting on runners. I had the kettle on with 4 bags around it trying to make a wind guard, and melted one of them in the processha. I smiled as I watched someone give up on the kettle thing as the wind was so bad, he chucked it all in his car boot, tipped the table up, kicked the leg and chucked that in the car boot as well. Challenges facing us all at this point

Steves pacer Martin thanked us for the experience, we all laughed and after a usual checkpoint Charlie routine, I got a snap of Steve cant run but can still smilefor twitter and away he went, with Eddie as fresh pacer and doing ok for time.

Onwards-through High Paradise Farm, Karl says its the slowest hes ever seen Steve move but we are all agreed its a good thing that he is still moving. and then jelly legs into White Horse checkpoint, looking at his worst. A stagger and not thinking straight, I can see he is at his lowest point, Ive been waiting for it. He leans on the car as I give him some motivating thoughtsabuse really..shove some more fluids down him, no food at his point and point him in the direction of Helmsley. Dont they say red bull gives you wingswell he needed wings now more than ever……….red bull down his neck and off he goes, struggling to keep walking, sheer will the only thing keeping him upright. Over to Dawn his last pacer, to run him in’… yea right therell be no running in this time.

I worked out he would be in Helmsley between 6.30 7pm. Katie was meeting me there. I arrived at Helmsley sports club, sat in the car and reflected on the race since it started 2 days ago in Hull on the lovely bright Friday morning that it was, all that hope and anticipation, my mini fiasco with the car and Sams fiasco with her car and Steves unpredictable events due to his unforeseen diarrhoea and its consequences, Katie had said on Friday mum it comes in three’s”, well it certainly had.
It’s an emotional moment, in my contemplation and so Im glad to see Katie pull up so I can dry my eyes and get out there to go meet Steve on his last leg into Helmsley.

We walk round to where the Cleveland Way ends and meets the town and what do we see before us, Steve and Dawn jogging in! Could you believe it, what is that all about.. come on Stevie we yell. We jog too. Katie laughs and says that even after 200 miles Steve can still jog in faster than she can, as she puffs her way up the lane after him…… go Stevie, you deserve this, hes jogs into the finishhe did it.

End Note –
One of the things I like about Ultras is how there is no perfect race and every race will bring you unexpected challenges. OMG - A weekend to remember for so many reasons.

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