It’s almost 4 years (3 years and 350 days to be precise) since Matthew Turnbull asked me the now immortal question “Do the words ultra and marathon scare you?”.

I knew at this point that I was coming to the end of my rugby career, was looking for a new challenge and had already dabbled in multi-sport, having trained for and entered Stokesley duathlon alongside Matthew.  My answer of course was “No, of course not”, possibly this was part bravado, but either way I was committed.

Now we’re 4 years on and as a result of that conversation I’ve completed a 24 hour bike ride, rode the Coast to Coast in a single sitting, run over 26.2 miles 4 times and met a whole host of wonderful people on the way.

Matthew himself has gone on to complete an Ironman, an ultramarathon, a 24 hour bike ride and qualified for 4 world and Eurpoean multi-sports championships both in triathlon and duathlon, including a top 10 placing in the European triathlon championships in Kitzbuhel.

In short, it’s been a bit of a journey for us both.

So here I am now, 4 days from a second shot at the Hardmoors 60 ultramarathon.  Of the 27 races I’ve taken part in, this is the only one I’ve failed to complete.

My effort a year ago failed, mainly as a result of inexperience of racing that distance, over that terrain against cut offs.  I made poor pacing decisions, carried a huge rucksack full of food and didn’t eat it regularly and generally made a load of rookie errors.

Even so, it was one of the best race experiences of my life and immediately resolved to come back and try again.

On the way, I’ve spent time marshalling night races to understand how to move quickly along the trails at night and in bad weather, I’ve trained more extensively over rough terrain and spent a lot more time speaking with experiences ultra runners.  I’ve learned a lot and that’s mainly down to how inclusive the ultra running community is and how accessible it is to novice runners.

In my first main race of the year, Osmotherley marathon I had pulled together the kit I thought I needed to finish an ultra, I sat and planned my race out in advance and completed a very tough 28 mile course.  I made mistakes that day too, learned from them and made tweaks to my kit and plan for the next big race.

In March I completed Hardmoors 55 and surprised myself at the ease in which I completed the race when using tried and tested kit and a sensible plan.

In May I crewed Dee Bouderba in the Hardmoors 110 ultramarathon and as part of that experience learned from seeing athletes race over multiple days, partly on the course I have to complete at the weekend.  it gave me yet another opportunity to think what I needed to be physically capable of and what equipment I’d ned to do it.

So now it’s almost here.  The training is all done, the kit decisions all made, the biggest of which is my decision to race using poles to protect my knees from all the step climbing and descending this course has to offer and I’ve got my pacing plan, which is not set in stone but it’s a rough guide, I’m flexible enough to change it should conditions or some external factor dictate it.

I’ve discoverd over the last 12 months that it’s often the little things that cause you to come unstuck in an ultra.  Little things in a race that lasts an hour can be tolerated.  When you’re racing for up to 18 hours then a small problem early on can become huge over the course of the day.  Multiple small problems can add up into huge issues, if not physically, then in your mind.

The big difference between my Hardmoors 60 attempt last year and my Hardmoors 55 attempt in March was mainly my state of mind.  Despite a really difficuly week leading up to Hardmoors 55, I managed to take a lot of positive energy into the race and keep my mindset positive almost all the way through.

In last years 60, I had a lot of self doubts that niggled all day, I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the route, took a wrong turn, lost confidence, then panicked and ran at an unsustainable pace for several miles. I forgot to eat for awhile and suffered dips in energy for periods of time which made me feel mentally and physically terrible.

This year I’ve minimised the risks.

I know I’m physically capable of 55 miles, I’ve done it.  I did it comfortably with enough in the legs for more, certainly enough to make it to the 62 miles required on Saturday.

I’ve ran several different parts of the route, I’m comfortable with my navigation and know which hard bits of the course are coming where.  To back up the map and route description, I’ve loaded a GPS version of the route into my watch.

I have an eating plan that worked on both Osmotherley marathon and Hardmoors 55.  I’ll be eating a variety of different foods that I know I can stomach every 15 minutes.  Little and often.

My pacing plan was the hardest to come up with.  I’m going for a time in my mind.  It’s realistic, it’s faster than the 55 but with a purpose.  I made up my mind a year ago that I wanted to be at Hayburn Wyke before dark so I worked back from that goal looking at the pacing I achieved last year and during my recce runs.  I also considered how I managed after the 30 mile point on Hardmoors 55.

As races go I’ve never been as excited to just get on the starts line and get stuck in, this is where I put a big wrong right.

For the peace of Natalie’s mind and for anyone who’s into watching a dot move slowly along a map, I’ve even set up a tracker so that my progress along the route can be viewed by clicking on the link:

Hardmoors 60 GPS Tracker 

The tracker will be live from just before 8am on Saturday morning.

Hardmoors 60 Pacing Plan

Location Target ETA Split Ave Pace (m/km) Cumulative Average (m/km) Split Dist
(km)
Total Dist
(km)
Split Time Total Time
Saltburn 10:14 08:45 08:45 15.37 15.37 02:14 02:14
Runswick Bay* 13:21 09:00 08:52 20.73 36.1 03:06 05:21
Saltwick Bay 15:50 09:30 09:05 15.73 51.83 02:29 07:50
Robin Hoods Bay 17:13 09:45 09:15 8.48 60.31 01:22 09:13
Ravenscar* 18:20 10:30 09:30 6.43 66.74 01:07 10:20
Hayburn Wyke 19:15 10:00 09:35 5.47 72.21 00:54 11:15
Scarborough Spa 21:43 11:00 09:47 13.45 85.66 02:27 13:43
Filey 00:22 11:30 10:00 13.87 99.53 02:39 16:22
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