Thursday 6 June 2019

Blog: Volunteering to run 110 miles non stop

Runner Vicky

The Hardmoors 110; a story about 8 heroes, lots of other lovely people, and me.

Three weeks ago

I took my dog to Stamford park, she pulled me at top speed and bagged a 24:24 new personal best (PB). The feeling of pleasure at this PB soon subsided as I realised I had hurt my ITB. I’ve had ITB trouble in the past and know that it can take a long time to heal. This could have been the end of my 110 mile adventure 3 weeks before it began.

Step up hero number 1: Linda Isherwood of Lyndan Sports Therapy. Two sessions, acupuncture, some very specific stretches and advice to NOT RUN AT ALL, later and I took my leg out for a little test run. A very specific test run, with very specific, couch to 5k type instructions from Linda. My leg was OK, not brilliant, but OK. If I spent enough time in denial then I could at least bring myself to start this race.

Cue anxiety dreams, waking early to pour over maps, lists and lists and endless lists, planning and anxious phone calls at ridiculous times to members of my (AMAZING) support team.

7:30am Saturday morning - The start

Hero number 2: David Carter, my husband, along with heroes 3&4, Lexi and Logan, our crazy little energetic children, and I were in Filey for the start of the race. There are no toilets at the venue. We had to drive to Tesco to use the conveniences. “Do either of you need the toilet?” says I to my doting children. “Yes” says Lexi, “No” says Logan. (I know exactly what the sensible among you are thinking, and you are right, I really should not have taken no for an answer.) On returning to the race start, getting my head together and chatting with other nervous runners those inevitable words come ringing across the park “MUMMY I NEED A POO!!!” David gathered up the children (had to take Lex as well in case he couldn’t get back for the start) and headed back to Tesco. While I awaited their return I happily stumbled upon a Saddleworth runner, Sandrine Fraisse, she was supporting another runner, but spent some of her time chatting to me and putting me at ease. The race “brief” started. Anyone who has ever done a Hardmoors event will know that Jon Steel’s briefings are far from brief. Dave and the kids arrived back with moments to say bye to me before I set off. The kids were fighting and screaming at each other in the car, Lexi had taken some chunks out of Logan’s arm with her fingernails, Dave came to give me a kiss. Logan came and gave me a kiss. Lexi refused to get out of the car. I was off. Perfect start to the race.

The first 25 miles or so were largely uneventful. The North Yorkshire coast was beautiful, the weather was great, and I passed the time chatting merrily to other runners and looking around at the amazing scenery. Other people have said they don’t much like this part of the route, but I never tire of staring at the sea. Besides, navigation is a doddle when it mainly involves keeping the sea on ones right. At Ravenscar was the first major checkpoint. The marshals, as always, were amazing.

Heroes 5&6 (Emily and Scott Beaumont – they feature more later) were here as well. Emily took my bladder pack, emptied it out and refilled it, as the water in it had tasted funny and I was a bit put off from drinking it. Consequently, I was starting to get a bit dehydrated. Marshals brought me a cup of tea and about 4 cups of coke. I went for a wee (never forego the opportunity to use a functioning toilet) and I set back off with a spring in my step and water that did not taste like chemicals.

I am particularly fond of the section of the Cleveland way that runs from Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay. I was making good progress and feeling pretty good. At the top of the hill up from RHB I treated myself to an Orange Calippo. I had to walk while I ate it, it was as good as taking a break. The rest of the way, through Whitby, Sandsend (saw Dave and the kids and Emily and Scott here. I mostly remember my children eating Emily and Scott’s chips…), Runswick (where I got to see Dave and the kids again) and Staithes, was good. I felt I was moving well and really enjoying myself, although I was starting to suffer with my right ITB – not the one that I hurt 3 weeks ago, it was behaving perfectly.

8:30pm Saturday - Pain starts

As I was running out of Staithes and along towards Saltburn my feet really started to hurt. It was a pain I recognise from last year at Endure 24 and was the reason I stopped running after 19 hours. This signalled to me that I would be retiring at Saltburn. I walked on, the pain in my feet becoming increasingly intense and unbearable. I phoned hero 7, Helen Smith, my sister-in-law to be, excellent runner and brilliant physiotherapist. I told her about the pain in my feet and the twinge in my ITB and asked if there was anything she could do. The ITB she could help with, but she’d have to think about the feet. She was due to meet us in Saltburn anyway, so I was to walk on and I’d see her there.

I arrived in Saltburn approximately 1 hour later than planned. Dave and the kids had got me a cup of tea and veggie pizza with extra pineapple. Hero 8, Alice Rawlings, my friend of 19 years, a strong woman and dedicated friend whose tenacity more than rivals my own, had been deployed to source gel insoles. I sat down with blanket round me and tucked into my pizza and cup of tea, said bye to Dave and the kids who were now off duty, and Helen worked fashioning some insoles to help alleviate the pain in my feet. She then felt up and down my right leg, did some cris-cross thing with some pink tape on my thigh, punched and kicked my glute med for a bit (at least that was what it felt like) and sent me on my way once more. The difference was incredible. The pain wasn’t gone, the feet still hurt, but it was manageable pain. I could run again, and I made really good time for the 6 miles to the next meeting point at Slapewath.

2am Sunday - Running in the dark

The night section began in Earnest. I now had company. Alice Rawlings had a 9 hour playlist and a spare power pack, and she was not afraid to use it. Alice and I have partied until dawn on many occasions, how hard could this be?

We started well, headed into Guisborough woods to follow the acorns. Just went a little bit the wrong way at one point where an arrow had gone astray. We found our error very quickly and were soon back on the right path. Up and down Roseberry, stopping on the way to move a slightly disturbed toad off the main path. Got a hug from Tim at the top then headed off towards Captain Cook’s monument. We stopped en route to eat some home-made leek and potato soup which a supporter didn’t want to waste, it was delicious, and the perfect time to eat something hot. By the time we got to Captain Cook’s monument dawn was starting to break.

We were into Kildale a little after 4am. Lovely to see Jo Barret and the other marshals. I was well ready for a cup of tea and some slices of pizza. Didn’t hang around too long, time to suck it up and get out onto Blowarth.

I truly believe that Blowarth is the worst place in the world. I am still having nightmares about it from March’s 50 mile race. Leaving Kildale we headed up the long hill towards the heather moorland of Blowarth. At this point I was really feeling the need to sleep and was fighting it all the way up the hill. Alice was doing her best to keep talking to me, but I was nodding off while walking. Once we were away from any houses Alice put the music on. There were some quality tunes and I listened away as I continued to try and stay awake… but then... Town Called Malace! OK, I can get up here.

We were on Blowarth for what felt like forever. I tried “1 minute run, 1 minute walk”, but that lasted as long as it took me to remember I hate staring at my watch even more than I hate Blowarth. We settled into the music and followed the rules: walk the up-hills, run the downhills and whatever else you can manage is a bonus. David Guetta’s Titanium kicked in just as we were reaching the crossing, I may have got bit giddy. I know there are still miles to go from the crossing, but I always feel you are at least on your way off when you get there. We arrived at Clay Bank 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Alice had just run 21 miles. She was a legend. Spirits lifted, music on point. Thank you for keeping me awake, keeping my spirits up and keeping me moving.

7:15am Sunday - Wise words

Scott and Emily were waiting at Clay bank with a cup of tea. I knew they’d be good. Scott warmed me up some soup which I devoured before heading off up the three sisters with Emily. What Emily lacked in distraction she more than made up for with quiet determination. Emily knows what she is talking about. She has completed this run 3 times in the past, and last year completed the Lakeland 100, so when she talks, I listen. Scott has supported her on these runs, and that showed as well. Decisions were taken out of my hands now, Emily and Scott were calling the shots, all I had to do was keep running. I felt very well looked after.

Getting over the three sisters, in the pouring rain, seemed to take an age, but Em was constantly reassuring me we were fine for time (she was right of course). She had Scott meet us in Lord Stones car park so I could eat; eating was getting harder now, I just had a couple of grapes.

Vicky running on moors during the Hardmoors 110

Emily didn’t nag me, but she did have Scott meet me at the next road crossing. I could tell that the “I’m just going to swallow a bit of fruit and plough on” approach was not going to wash with Emily. I ate a piece of last night’s pizza. We made pretty good time from there, but the wheels did start to come off a little.

12 noon Sunday – The delirium begins

The morning’s rain upset the insoles that Helen had made and they were coming out of my shoes in pieces as I ran. The pain in my feet was coming back and Osmotherley was nowhere to me seen. As the pain in my feet got worse I ran less and less. Mentally I was starting to break down and the fixation was Osmotherley. Where was it? Why weren’t we there yet? I remember asking these questions on loop, I remember Emily answering with patience and reassurance every time.

We eventually did arrive into Osmotherly. Helen was waiting for us and she made me some new insoles. Scott provided tea. Keith and Kristy also came to see me, and Alice was on hand too. They relieved me of my bag and replenished all supplies while Helen worked on my feet. I think I ate here. I can’t quite remember. I do remember fighting sleep again.

Leaving the checkpoint was slow. I had to wake back up and get my legs moving again. The insoles were good, but my feet had now done about 40 miles since the problem began. There was a limit to how much the insoles could do. Regardless, I was running again in parts. At this point I was convinced that we didn’t have enough time to finish. Emily said we did – she was right – but I was losing my mind a bit to sleep deprivation by now. From looking back at my times I can see I was moving well, but I didn’t think I was, and the drivel I was coming out with was deteriorating by the mile. We met Helen at Sutton Bank. I ate some strawberries, complained about my head not being a part of my body any more and set off to White Horse. I left Emily wit Scott at White Horse and continued towards the finish with Helen and the wolf (Mustard, Belgian Malinois, nice dog).

3pm Sunday - Utter tripe

By the time I’d got to White Horse I was spouting utter tripe. “My head’s not a part of my body”, “I’m just hitching a ride in here”, “I can’t ever imagine finishing this race.” This last resonated with my crew. Michelle was marshalling at white horse and the tears came as I declared I probably wouldn’t finish the race.

Now, I’ve had a sleep since then, and I’ve spent time analysing what on earth was going on in my head that made me say this stuff. Poor Helen took the brunt of it I think, and even a mile from the finish I was still saying “I can’t imagine finishing this race.” I don’t think this was a disbelief in myself so much as a disbelief that the finish even existed. I think I’d been moving for so long that I’d achieved a sense of perpetuity. This was me, forever, running, stopping for a brew, running, stressing about the time, forever.

Helen was great at dealing with my mental incapacity. She basically ignored it, threw some supportive words my way and kept force feeding me fruit and peanuts. It worked. I kept going.  Emily and Scott were in Rievaulx, 3 miles from the end. Emily joined Helen and me and we did the last bit together. Me spouting shite and crying a bit every now and then, Helen setting the pace, and Emily sticking to my shoulder.

Having lost pretty much all belief that the finish even existed, arriving at it hit me like a slap in the face. I cried like a child when we got into the hall. Dave and the children had flowers and chocolates for me, and a bottle of fizz, I collected my medal and t-shirt. Alice had tears in her eyes. Keith and Kristy were here as well, with their friend Jac, and their grandchild, my cousin’s boy Robert. I’d love to say I felt proud and all that other stuff, but sleep deprived and exhausted I felt like the achievement wasn’t mine, I felt detached from it. What I did not feel detached from was the input of time and emotion of all the people who had helped me. Alone I would’ve been forced to stop at Saltburn, 53 miles in.

Vicky's medals after completing three Hardmoors ultra runs

Now a few days have passed, and I am hopelessly overwhelmed by the amount of support. It’s taken me days to read all my Facebook messages, pick up all my calls and answer them. I’m starting to feel a bit more that I have achieved something amazing. It is certainly something I never thought I’d be able to do. But I remain overwhelmed by the selflessness of people, and I feel humbled.

The 110 was an adventure, an experience. I learned so much. Will I do another 100 miler? Right now I think not, but I’m certainly glad I did this one.

Thanks for reading and huge thanks to everyone who has supported me so far,

Vicky 

 

Very well done to Vicky and congratulations for completing this event. To donate to Vicky's fundraiser in support of Emmaus Mossley visit her Wonderful page.

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