Race Reports, January 2016

Cong Burn Orienteering, Waldridge Fell, Chester-le-Street, 31st January

Blue Course

Scott Watson

Ninety-six hours after a bruising encounter with a pedestrian barrier, where the winner by knockout was the barrier, I found myself in a chilly car park on Waldridge Fell near Chester-le-Street together with Joan Hanson, my chauffeuse and fellow competitor. We made a sorry couple: me nursing bruised ribs and Joan what appears to be becoming a somewhat intractable hip flexor problem.

Keen to capitalise on her Hamsterley success, Joan was figuring that at worst she could just walk around a light green course which indeed she could such is the accessible and inclusive nature of orienteering. I would normally have chosen the longest course - brown - hoping that I could keep it all together sufficiently not to embarrass myself. However, problems with the simple act of drawing breath persuaded me to opt for the blue course that was generously - at 6.3 kilometres - almost a whole kilometre shorter.

Today's event was organised by my own club - Northern Navigators - and is held in one of the few orienteering areas that I am reasonably familiar with, in steep wooded denes and over one of the few remaining areas of lowland heath still to be found in County Durham.

I consider that I've done well if I finish a course out of breath because that means I've been running hard and have been finding controls consistently. Often it's more like interval training where I have brief bursts of activity interspersed with minutes of stressful bashing around through bushes until by some fluke I come upon the control. I almost always have at least one 'nightmare' though and today's came at the second control.

Sometimes I just need a little bit of time to 'get into it' and it's difficult to say specifically why I go wrong. There are a great many factors that go to make up a successful orienteer but I seem to be lacking in quite a few. I was a good four minutes longer than the quickest competitor in my class in finding the second control and in orienteering terms that's a lifetime. However, once I'd found it and moved on it all seemed to start flowing much more easily.

As usual it wasn't long before I was soaked. I rarely opt to look for a bridge when crossing a watercourse and have no idea whether anyone else does. At one point I found myself up to my knees in the greenest of bogs that looked like it hadn't been disturbed for a hundred years: I could imagine Jenny Greenteeth, on holiday from her native River Tees, stretching out a bony arm to pull me down to keep her company.

Somewhere along the way I came across Dougie who had opted for the brown course and was studying his map with great intent at the bottom of a steep woodland slope. It was here that I became locked in battle with a chap who was clearly also on the blue course. I definitely had the legs and was even a bit affronted when he rather obviously tried to pull away from me when he could have just waited and let me make a couple of little errors because his accuracy was clearly much better than mine.

But we carried on in that vein, more or less in each others' footsteps, his slightly more efficient map reading against my physical advantage. As it continued I tried to concentrate harder on the map but it's not easy to do whilst running through dense woodland and I didn't see the overhanging branch that nearly put my lights out and left me with a bloody forehead.

The forest is definitely not my favoured terrain and when at last we emerged onto the moor for the last couple of controls I was able to start running with a greater sense of purpose and even set a fastest split for the last control (leaving my erstwhile foe behind). When I got back Joan had already finished and was bemoaning a couple of navigational errors that had let her down, but that's orienteering - just when you think you're getting somewhere it has a nasty habit (for me at least) of bringing it all crashing down and forcing you to rebuild whatever it was you think that you had.

These events are however,very friendly, cheap (£5.00) and easy to access. You don't have to be a member of a club and the courses up to light green are pretty easy to follow along footpaths, walls, fences and stuff. It's properly adventurous stuff too: you find yourself happily running through terrain that would make a fell race look tame!

THE TRUTH

The Northern X/C Championships, Witton Park, Blackburn, 30th January

Mudman

There was a boxer plying his trade in the 1980s & 90s who went under nickname of "The Truth". At the time I considered it a little pretentious but after yesterday's race I gained more of an appreciation of the message he was trying to convey. In going 'toe to toe' with the Witton Park course you would discover "The Truth" about many things including: your commitment; your resolve; your degree of competitiveness; your fitness; your physical condition; your running technique; your gear choice etc. All of which would be given the most sternest of tests.

Four Striders chose to undertake these tests and merrily travelled to Blackburn on the Durham Harriers coach "with the elite" as we were informed. The elite proved to be very friendly and included a number of old friends (and a new one: Tracy Henderson from Sedgefield Harriers) who were more than happy for us to use their tent which we duly helped to carry and put up. The light cast inside the tent by the bright orange material was unusual to say the least.

Anyway, the weather in Blackburn was cold and windy and peppered with the occasional snow / sleet / hail shower. The course wasn't as muddy as we'd expected although this would change significantly during the course of the day. After watching the many junior races Steph and Susan adjourned to the 'Orange Palace' to prepare for the fight. The Northerns are longer than the HL (8K rather than 6) and tend to be a bit tougher - well this time they'd gone overboard with the toughness. The whole course was now covered in thick, deep mud the sort that allows no rhythm to your running. There were steep hills too where the mud made ascent an exhausting business and descent a slippery dangerous process. There were also a couple of opened gates where the mud had been turned into a wet, brown blancmange hiding stones of various sizes. All perfect for establishing those truths.

350 women set off on the three laps of torture. It was great to see Susan and Steph slugging it out along with all the other women from far flung places such as Sheffield, Liverpool and Hull. They included the very speedy & well known names, to the less speedy but equally determined women who are no doubt heroines in their own clubs and, after yesterday, to the rest of us as well. Susan and Steph both finished strongly, while being showered in hail, and felt fairly comfortable with the truths they had discovered! Many thanks to you both and well done!

The men's race at 12k, 4 laps & 8 hills was the final 'event of the evening'. Mike and I lined up with the other 700 plus expecting a bruising encounter and to discover the answer to those truths. We both knew we had plenty of commitment because we were there on that startline ready to go, but those other truths? Well we were about to find out!

It was thick mud from the start, impossible to get any rhythm, but I stayed upright, unlike one or two others, so technique mustn't be too bad. Mike passed me fairly early on and I didn't feel I could stay with him - perhaps my competitiveness was lacking. The prospect of four laps in these conditions was daunting but there was no way I was dropping out so my resolve was in good order. However, those hills, two on each lap, were testing my fitness to the utmost and, after suffering a series of niggling injuries over the past five months, fitness was proving a bit 'wanting' - an uncomfortable truth. Descending too was proving difficult (normally a strength). The top of one downhill bit in particular was treacherous and the heels of my 'spikes' provided little purchase - perhaps I should have worn my fell shoes?! Heavy hail showers were proving my decision to wear a 'thermal' was a good one though - so gear choice wasn't all bad.

The laps were getting fewer as one runner, just in front of me, went head first into the blancmange. He appeared unhurt so I just ran around him - my competitiveness and resolve was obviously ok then. But the fitness was still a problem on those hills and the truth about my physical condition wasn't all good either. While the injuries were holding up well (hamstring, calf & back!) those few extra pounds put on during enforced inactivity and Christmas celebrations, were starting to make their presence felt. But I managed to make it onto the final lap and get up and down the final two hills. Approaching the finish I spotted two 'local' vests ahead: a Darlington Harrier and a Tyne Bridger. The latter had been irritating me for most of the race as he would stop and walk quite often, when I would overtake him, only for him to sprint passed me moments later. Anyway, the truth about my competitiveness was that it was in good working order as I 'stepped on the gas' to pass both these runners in a dash for the line. Mike was there to 'welcome' me having finished a couple of minutes ahead which bodes well for greater challenges ahead.

So it was all over. One of the toughest x/c races I've ever run, and what about those 'truths'? Well, here's my verdict:

Results

men
Pos Name Time
1 Charlie Hulson (Sale Harriers, Manchester) 0:43:16
465 Mike Hughes 1:05:38
521 Geoff Davis 1:08:01

719 finishers.

women
Pos Name Time
1 Claire Duck (Leeds City Athletic Club) 0:30:21
212 Susan Davis 0:44:09
249 Stephanie Piper 0:46:19

358 finishers.

MLN Orienteering, Marne Training Area, 27th January

blue course

Dougie Nisbet

I wasn't surprised to get no takers for my offer of a lift to Marne Barracks for a bit of orienteering. However, a last minute check of the email and I saw that Paul had decided to accompany me on this drizzly Wednesday for a trip down the A1 to run around an abandoned airfield.

We were somewhere south of Scotch Corner and we'd pretty much solved all of the world's problems when I noticed the road noise through the roadworks was a bit excessive, and it seemed to be a bit bumpy too. A minute or two of this and I realised that this was just one possible interpretation of the noise and bumps that were hitting our senses. Another interpretation could be that we had a puncture. Yes, the more I thought about it, the more the puncture scenario seemed to fit the evidence, and driving along in a state of denial wasn't going to change the facts.

Well there's no point both of us getting our knees dirty. I'll just keep an eye on things.

We pulled off the A1 and had a look at the tyres. One of them had a flat bit at the bottom and I knew that wasn't good. I contemplated calling the AA but, despite being ok for time, wondered how long they'd take to attend a scene for two blokes too feeble to change a wheel. I mean, it couldn't be that difficult, could it? I'm sure I've done it before. The first step was finding the spare wheel. We found it, eventually, under the back bit where I always assumed the fuel tank was. Trying to get the wheel out was a different manner. As an IT technician I then did something that pained me greatly, I had a look for the manual. I'd already tried switching the engine off and on again but that hadn't helped. We got there eventually, except for the small matter of the jack, which we eventually found in a cubby hole in the car that I never knew existed. We were unstoppable now.

Man at Work.

A false start where we started trying to jack the car on one of the crunchy bits rather than the proper tough bit, but soon we were cruising. Well, I say we, it was mostly Paul. It had started raining so I spent most of the time standing in the bus shelter taking photos and making encouraging noises.

Back on the road and into Marne Barracks, where passports were shown, disclaimers were signed, and we were driving slowly down the old runway looking for somewhere to park. Speed bumps on a runway, no matter how obviously disused, are an incongruous sight. The last time I orienteered here registration had been at the end of the runway out of a transit van. This time it was inside a nice building, with toilets, drinks, warmth and a costcutter. It seemed a shame to go outside again.

choice: control 15 to 16Paul and I were both doing the same course and I went of first with the organisers observing a strict 90 second interval between starters. The first few controls were around the buildings and access roads and navigation was easy, and by the 3rd control I'd already been caught by the guy starting after me, which was pretty depressing. Then out into the woodland and the navigation got a bit more interesting. I bumped into Paul a few times which, given that he started about 6 minutes after me, meant two things. One, he was running a lot faster than me, and two, he must be making a few errors otherwise I'd only have seen him once.

At control 15 our paths crossed again and Paul sped of to the east, which, given that the control was due north, confused me a bit. I headed straight for the control, knowing that there was the small matter of a fence between it and me. Whether it was 'crossable' or 'uncrossable', I was about to find out. Thankfully it was the former, but Paul had decided to go for the fast long way round. We finished at the same time, which was handy, as Paul's dibber had failed to work properly, and we could use my time minus the time that he'd started after me to work out his.

Our journey back up the A1 was less eventful than the outward journey and I had fully intended calling it a day until Paul said he was doing a 'gentle' 'slow' headtorch run that evening. The 'gentle' and 'slow' bit I liked the sound of. Turned out there was a bit of mis-selling going on there. Perhaps I should've offered to help a bit more changing that wheel ...

The next army event is at Scarth Wood Moor, Osmotherley on Wednesday 10th Feb. It's not somewhere I've orienteered before but it looks nice. I'll be going if anyone wants to tag along. Must be good at changing wheels.

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Brass Monkey Half-Marathon, York, 17th January

Catherine Smith

Catherine out for another PB
Having found myself up at some ridiculous time earlier in the year to secure the entry I was once more rudely awakened from my sleep very early on Sunday morning because of the Brass Monkey!

Road trip for me, Kerry Anne Barnett, her boyfriend James (second claim Strider) and Gareth Pritchard we set off on the icey journey to York Race course

I had high hopes for a PB with all the talk of a fast and flat course but was also nervous my PB at Keilder had been a fluke and that the ice may scupper any plans we had for a fast race.

We arrived to a beautiful sunrise and got ourselves 'race ready' (selfies, numerous toilet stops and other essential pre race activities!)

It was great to catch up with some of the strider posse before we all went outside and lined up for the race.

Gareth and I had discussed what I needed to aim for pace wise to get my sought after 2.05 ish PB so I stood in the appropriate time pen with Rebecca Devine (more selfies... Obvs!)

After a few announcements we were off, it was absolutely freezing, but bright and clear and there was a great buzz from the crowd - runners and spectators.

I was enjoying the pace & soaking up the atmosphere and soon enough the first mile was ticked off. I checked my watch and saw I was ahead of planned times so I slowed a bit, didn't want to peak too soon! Wise words from Allan ringing in my ears, golden rules 1-5 - don't set off too fast (and repeat x4!)

Along the way the support from the marshalls & spectators was great and I thought the surrounding areas were very pretty, despite it being a road race. I spoke to a couple of Striders on route, Robin Linton and Jayne Freeman which was a welcome distraction for me but all in all just tried to focus on sticking to pace and not spilling icey cold water on myself at the water stations!

I had a bit of a panic when my garmin dropped out and said I was doing 11 min miles all of a sudden as we went through a wooded part but some lovely regular Brass Monkey runners said "that always happens here love" phew!!!! Apart from that minor shock I was loving the race, I was ahead of pace and feeling strong, I was starting to believe I had sub 2.05 in me & pushed on.

I struggled a little from mile 11 so the frozen jelly babies were very gratefully received around Mile 12.

Pacing still on track and lifted with the sugar hit and shout outs from the crowd I pressed on, trying to work out the pacing maths in my head distracted me from the pain of the last mile and a bit which seemed to go on forever!

I could finally see the finish line and I knew I was ahead of the sub 2.05 target - I was so elated but just kept telling myself not to fall over! I crossed the line at 2.03.13 (official chip time). I actually squealed as I read the text much to the shock of those around me at the time who thought something bad had happened!

I was absolutely delighted to hear that Gareth and James had also PBd along with many of the other purple posse!

Battling it out at the sharp end.

We celebrated Kerry coming in ahead of her planned time and then went on the hunt for much needed refreshments hearing the achievements of many of the club as we passed them enroute including Penny, Matthew, Michael and Kelly who all reported excellent PB times.

I have officially classified this as my new favourite race (didn't have an old favourite race to be fair!!) I loved the whole day (not just cos I PBd) and will definitely be setting my alarm for next years entry!

Results

pos bib name category gun time chip time
- 1855 Dan Kastral (Barnsley Athletic Club) (M) 1:08:53 1:08:52
- 90 Sharon Barlow (Darlington Harriers & AC) (F) 1:18:35 1:18:33
1 884 Stephen Jackson (M) 1:16:21 1:16:18
2 1305 Gareth Pritchard (M) V35 1:17:33 1:17:31
3 1027 Michael Littlewood (M) V40 1:19:01 1:18:58
4 42 Matthew Archer (M) 1:24:52 1:24:48
5 227 Penny Browell (F) V40 1:27:13 1:27:02
6 161 Elaine Bisson (F) V35 1:31:48 1:31:38
7 429 Sarah Davies (F) V45 1:39:30 1:38:50
8 1705 Graeme Walton (M) V40 1:40:37 1:40:04
9 1588 Malcolm Sygrove (M) V45 1:40:39 1:40:05
10 802 David Hinton (M) 1:42:10 1:41:17
11 1469 Tim Skelton (M) V35 1:43:55 1:43:02
12 922 Greta Jones (F) V50 1:45:12 1:44:17
13 386 Lucy Cowton (F) 1:45:20 1:44:25
14 1762 Nicola Whyte (F) 1:47:08 1:46:14
15 728 Diane Harold (F) V40 1:48:40 1:47:59
16 923 Karen Jones (F) V45 1:49:02 1:48:07
17 1519 Ian Spencer (M) V50 1:51:08 1:50:13
18 91 Stephanie Barlow (F) V40 1:51:56 1:51:16
19 1587 Kathryn Sygrove (F) V50 1:54:27 1:53:21
20 1476 Alan Smith (M) V65 2:03:26 2:02:26
21 1484 Catherine Smith (F) V40 2:04:33 2:03:13
22 1239 Mike Parker (M) V40 2:06:54 2:05:09
23 781 Lucy Herkes (F) 2:07:30 2:05:45
24 1025 Robin Linton (M) 2:07:36 2:05:51
25 595 Jayne Freeman (F) V45 2:07:54 2:06:59
26 458 Rebecca Devine (F) 2:11:32 2:10:12
27 1814 Jill Young (F) 2:11:37 2:09:53
28 1099 Debbie Mcfarland (F) 2:13:10 2:11:26
29 837 Karen Hooper (F) V40 2:15:13 2:13:28
30 353 Kelly Collier (F) 2:15:37 2:13:50
31 1634 Margaret Thompson (F) V65 2:28:56 2:27:34
32 96 Kerry Barnett (F) V40 2:29:37 2:27:30
33 899 Neil Jennings (M) V50 2:32:39 2:30:31
34 701 Lisa Hall (F) 2:33:54 2:31:46

1512 finishers.

Do they know it's Christmas?

Christmas Handicap, 3rd January

Pam Kirkup

Mandy easily Breaking Free To bring to an end our 30th anniversary year of celebration focusing on 1985 seemed entirely appropriate. A few of us would remember fondly (or otherwise!) New Romantics, David Bowie, the end of the Punk era ... Margaret Thatcher. Others would be toddlers or in nappies! However, scope for fancy dress seemed vast and the runners did not disappoint. Numbers were down from last year as it was still very close to the New Year's festivities but by 11.00am we had a motley crew of runners, leaders and supporters ready to face the quagmire which was Houghall Woods.

Back to haunt us all! At 10.30 it was still very quiet in the cafeteria at MC and then in burst Freddie Mercury in true Live Aid garb, an unrecognisable Mandy Dawson. There followed Dougie, resplendent as Adam Ant (Prince Charming mode!), Anita as a cross between Toyah Wilcox and Cyndi Lauper and George as John McEnroe. Another version of Adam Ant appeared along with Doc Brown from Back to the Future. Tom seemed to be Too shy as Limahl and Catherine Smith brought You cannot be serious! her welding helmet from Flash dance. Michael came in a chavvy shell suit and then, the piece de resistance ... Margaret Thatcher in red suit and gold handbag - Mike Bennett by any other name.

The weather was kind to us - no rain and it was reasonably mild. The woods were very muddy but everyone managed to get around. Mike amused the passers-by by delicately holding up his red skirt in order to run. Has anyone seen my DeLorean? There was great teamwork with the marshals and helpers at the finish and I'm very grateful to Anna, Tom & Anita for leading some of the newer runners around the course.

After a successful run we went back to the Court Inn for a very well deserved lunch. Santa, alias Nick Young - a member since 1985 and a former chairman - assisted Paul in the presentation of prizes. Fancy Dress prizes were also given to Tom, Anita, Dougie and of course Santa for their help and support on the day.

Once again, I'd like to thank everyone who helped out today. It was a very happy sociable event.

Results

Santa's Striders
pos name cat 5M Time h'cap finish time actual time prize
1 Gareth Pritchard M S 29 34 65.13 31.13 Fastest Male
2 Paul Swinburne M V 36 27 61.04 34.04 Fastest Vet
3 Conrad White M V 37 26 62.55 36.35
4 Alex Witty M S 40 23 59.51 36.51
5 Mike Bennett M V 40 23 61.57 38.57 fancy Dress
6 Mandy Dawson F V 40 23 62.19 39.19 fastest Female & FD
7 Andrew Davis M S 40 23 62.58 39.58
8 Michael Ross M V 42 21 63.17 42.17 Fancy Dress
9 Camilla Lauren-Maatta F V 42 21 64.54 43.54 fastest vet F after MD
10 Victoria Brown F S 45 18 63.35 44.35
11 Victoria jackson F S 44.5 18.5 65.26 46.76
12 Steve Ellis M V 45.5 17.5 65.23 47.53 Fancy Dress
13 Mike Parker M V 50 13 61.24 48.24
14 Catherine Smith F V 46 17 65.35 48.35 Fancy Dress
15 Jonathan Hamill M V 50 13 62.25 49.25 Fancy Dress
16 Anja Fetchner F S 46.5 16.5 66.01 49.31
17 Jan Ellis F V 49 14 63.36 49.36
18 George Nicolson M V 52 11 63.29 52.29 Fancy Dress
19 Fiona Wood F S 48 15 67.48 52.48
20 Wendy Littlewood F S 60 3 56.11 53.11 1st finisher
21 Margaret Thompson F V 61 2 56.44 54.44
22 Erin keeler-Clarke F J 40.5 22.5 69.08 56.08 Junior prize
23 Joanne Porter F V 50 13 69.09 56.09
24 Joanne Richardson F V 50 13 69.1 56.1
25 Shelagh Barton F V 57 6 64.25 58.25
26 Kay Cairns F S 60 3 62.31 59.31
27 Sarah Watson F J 48 15 74.47 59.47 Junior Prize
28 Kath Bartlett F V 63 0 60.31 60.31
Rebecca Talbot F S 58 5
Kerry Barnett F V 55 8
Joanne Parkinson F V 55 8
Kelly Collier F S 51 12
David Shipman M V 50 13
Debbie Jones F V 50 13
Ryan Johnson M J 46.5 16.5
Steph Piper F S 45 18
Junior Swinburne M J 44 19
Helen Thomas F V 43 20
Jan Young F V 42 21 1lap
Louise Warner F S 40 23
David Spence M V 39 24
Peter Hart M S 39 24 1lap
Elaine Bisson F S 38.5 24.5
Jack Watson M J 32 31 1lap Fancy Dress

Morpeth 11k Road Race, 1st January

Aaron Gourley

I ran this for the first time last year and it felt good to be back on the start line for my first race of the year.

I was hoping for an improved performance this year but was feeling slightly nervous as I lined up alongside some very athletic looking runners from Morpeth Harriers and deciding I really do need to trim down - a lot.

The course starts at the top of a bank near Morpeth Rugby Club and heads out along the winding back roads towards Mitford. There are a few steep climbs one of which at 5km I was dreading but turned out to be less terrifying than I remembered.

At 6km, the climb evens out and it's a long, mainly downhill run back to Morpeth. Its here I feel that I can make the improvement in my overall time and give it some extra effort. Making good ground I began to overtake a few people but I hoped I could maintain the pace as I started to tire coming in to the final 2km.

The final swing into Carlisle Park saw the few people I was chasing up the ante and the race really pick up as we crossed the 10km marker. I pushed and pushed to catch the guy in front but he was too strong and got away from me in the final dash to the finish.

I improved my time by 1.35mins finishing 46.31mins in a respectable 68th place.

Hardmoors 30, Ravenscar, North Yorkshire, 1st January

Kerry Lister ...

Sue and Kerry looking sunny

I decided to enter my first Ultramarathon when entries opened for the Hardmoors 30, encouraged by Denise Benvin and Sue Jennings, with the reassurance that Sue would run with me.

So, after abstaining from the usual excesses of New Years Eve the alarm woke me up at 530am Friday 1st January 2016 for the journey to Robin Hoods Bay, the weather was promising to be kind to us with a beautiful red hue, hopefully we'd be finished by the time whatever it was warning the shepherds of.

Friendly faces filled Fylingdale Village Hall and we were kit checked by Phil Owen and Anna Seeley. All present and correct, tramp stamp obtained, number pick up was as easy as pie, as always with the well organised Hardmoors events. Time enough for a cuppa and peanut butter and banana crepe before race briefing.

Jon Steele reminded us of all the usual stuff, be courteous to other people using the routes, no litter, watch out for the missing dog Betty, no swearing at the marshals but sweepers were fair game.

Then we were off, down the Cinder track en route to Whitby, so far so good, we could still see other runners in front of us and the sweepers weren't in sight behind us. Pretty plain sailing so far, very light wind, some surface water on the track, dry feet all the way to Whitby. First real challenge was the 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey - I'd love to know if anyone did actually run all the way up those!

Then we hit the Cleveland Way back to Robin Hoods Bay, this is where the fun starts! Mud, mud glorious mud! Slipping, sliding, giggling, squealing, what fun! And Sue even managed to stay upright...... for now....... The 15 ers started going past us, some of them at break neck speed, they were awesome!

I couldn't believe it when we arrived back at Robin Hoods Bay after 13 ish miles, feeling good, happy to see Denise with hot tea, cakes and jelly babies. After a brief stop we were off again. This time from Robin Hoods Bay we were headed to Ravenscar ... a slow long drag up to the next checkpoint. Hallway up started feeling grit getting down my socks so a quick stop to re Vaseline the feet (a blister already forming) and change my socks then off we went.

Marshmallows and rola cola at the next checkpoint, a nice shout out from Mark Preston and off down the cinder track again headed to Hayburn Wyke the down, the up, the mud, the slippery stones, the little stream at the bottom, beautiful. And still the weather held out.

Time to layer up now, we were hitting the later part of the day and it was starting to get a bit chilly, the wind was biting but still not strong. Debating if we should get our headtorches out but decided we had about another hour of light before we needed them, the aim was to get back to the Ravenscar checkpoint before darkness fell. We did it, we got back to Ravenscar and over took 5 people on the way!

couch to ultramarathoner Feeling pretty pleased with ourselves we embarked on the final leg of the course. In the dark, close to the cliff tops, in the mud. We managed to maintain our lead ensuring we weren't going to be last.

Then it happened, Sue's spectacular fall. Don't know quite how it happened but she ended up on her back what seemed like inches away from the cliff edge! Scary stuff. Once we'd ascertained she wasn't in any real danger and wasn't hurt we could appreciate the funny side.

Just Boggle Hole steps to encounter now quads burning and lungs feeling like they were collapsing we made it to the top. Only a mile or so (and that steep hill from the bottom of Robin Hoods Bay) to conquer. A few young people asked what we were doing "finishing a 30 mile run" we said, "Wow" they said.

And we did it, we finished the 30 ish mile route in 8:18 to a huge round of applause. Hot tea and hugs from Phil, Anna and Denise, a welcome bowl of leek and potato soup and the coveted medal and Tshirt.

So from couch to ultramarathoner in 3 years- I think that's something to be proud of!

... Sue Jennings

When I got a message from Kerry asking me whether I would run the Hardmoors 30 with her on New Years Day I was well pleased as it meant that I would have company around the route rather than spending the whole day on my own or with the sweepers!

We set off from Kerry's at 7am on New Year's Day in Beryl (Kerry's car) and arrived just after 8am and managed to get one of the last parking places. We went in to the village hall at Robin Hoods Bay and registered and then did the usual round of loos, drinks, check backpacks, etc and it seemed to take ages till we eventually set off at 9.30am.

It was a fantastic day weather wise - cold but no/little wind, a bit of cloud and no rain - two years ago I ran this race and it was the most horrific conditions - a lot of people said they would never do it again and I remember 2 ladies turning back on the cliff tops after 25 miles saying they couldn't stand up in the wind!

We did the section from Robin Hoods Bay to Whitby along the cinder track (about 6 miles) and then hit the steps going up to the Abbey at Whitby which are always a tough climb - 199 steps in total. The section from Whitby back to Robin Hoods Bay was pretty muddy but no more than we had expected for this time of year - the picture above is from this section.

We got back to Robin Hoods Bay (13 miles in) and we were back at the start - could have been quite tempting to stop at this point but that never even entered our heads as we were enjoying ourselves too much. At this point we had been running with a lady with a dog and the sweepers.

We left the check point to head up to Ravenscar which is about a 500 feet climb over 4/5 miles on the cinder track - we power walked this section. I had a time in mind that I wanted us to get to Ravenscar in and we missed it by about 3 minutes - at this point the sweepers caught us up and followed us down to Haeburn Wycke - this was a lovely down hill section on cinder track which we ran most of. However what does down must go up as they say.

The next section back to Ravenscar was along the coast which was quite muddy and very much back uphill! Fortunately for us, the weather was even more kind to us as the wind had picked up but it was behind us pushing us towards the finish. We had completed about 23 miles by the time we got to this section so were a little tired but we were soon pleased to see that we could see people in front of us. One of the tail runners, Roy, said you will catch them and we did! Before the checkpoint at Ravenscar we passed a 4 people and a dog - just shows the benefits of taking things steady!

At Ravenscar we had to switch our head torches on as it was dark but fortunately I knew the route back over the cliff tops to Robin Hoods Bay. We did make a small error and turned down a lane to a farm but quickly realised this was the wrong way and turned back. One of the other runners caught us up at this point and I said to him about passing us if he wanted to. He said he preferred to stay with us, The three of us continued across the cliff tops back to Robins Hoods Bay until I had a fall and hit my head! I wasn't injured though thankfully and we eventually got back to Robins Hoods Bay and climbed the long, steep hill back up to the village hall. The three of us finished together in a time of 8 hours and 18 minutes.

We had a fab day out and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the race and course. It is a beautiful area of the country to run in and although it was challenging at times, it was well worth it and we would recommend this race to anyone who enjoys off road, longer distance challenges.

Grand Prix Race. King/Queen of the Mountain Race.

Captain Cook's Fell Race, Great Ayton, N.Yorks, 1st January

BS/8km/318m

Gareth Pritchard ...

Gareth goes off-road
This was a very different racing experience for me, fast flat road running and PB hunting is all I've ever trained for. I'm the first to admit that fell and mud running is just not my bag. I hate the constant stop/starting, sliding in the the mud, kit list, carrying kit, worry about correct shoes, getting lost, navigation, walking steep sections, and being completely unable to compare one race to another. This is just a small list of the preconceptions which I held before the race which thankfully I no longer hold due to first hand experience.

Entry on the day was very easy and people soon started talking about kit you would have to carry and kit checks which made me panic as my kit consisted of a running coat, cheap fell shoes and that's about it. Thankfully when I was watching people slowly gather and talked to other more experienced striders I soon realised I could ditch the coat and warm up best I could before the race.

Pre race strider photo call done, it was time for a quick pre race catchup and getting some info on what I had let myself in for.

I've been struggling with injury problems for the last 3 months and this was my first race back. Feeling heavy and not in the best shape I was not expecting much and was just hoping to not embarrass myself too much. I've decided to try some different things for this year and captain cooks fell race seemed like a perfect start.

Conditions were wet and very muddy, but the predicted black ice did not show, so my shoes just about did the trick. The start is fast and felt like a road race for the first mile but wearing the wrong shoes. Then the hill slowly hits, then the monster mountain knocks you out. I'm sure this is normal for fell running but I've never experienced pain quite like it. You have no option but to walk it's that steep, and even constant walking was almost too much at times.

We slowly peeked at the captain cooks monument and then the mad crazy dash down the muddy hills begin. I've always been OK on down hill but my legs just would not recover. I slowly picked the speed up and even passed a few people on the down hill. Then the true fell runners flew past me and I was left in awe and eating their dust. Truly a different species and something very special to see.

The last section was again more like a fast road race which felt good to me, then a quick XC mud dash and sprint to the line. All over in a painful flash and confused blur as somehow I'd just managed to keep things together.

It's hard judging your race time in an event like this but most seemed pleased with their runs. A few got lost on the top, a few bumps and falls too. With Thomas Reeves sporting the most cuts closely followed by Catherine Smith.

We all retired to a local pub for some much needed food and refreshment. Some great performances and a really enjoyable way to start the new year. A well deserved 2nd place for the elvet female team and a respectable 6th for the men's. Definitely something I will try again.

... Louise Warner

Louise overcoming her mud intolerance
Being a fan of tarmac and intolerant to both hills and mud I never really considered attempting a fell race. And then I was presented with potential of the Captain Cook Race which was on New Years' Day when let's be honest, most of us are a little worse for wear after feeling obliged to stay up late the night before, drinking. After several wonderful reports on this 'little, punchy race perfect for beginners' I somehow agreed.

On the morning of New Years' Day I suddenly felt a little nervous. I had no idea what to pack and so after being told I needed no specialist equipment, threw three outfit changes, several pairs of trainers, a packet of baby wipes and a chocolate milkshake into a ruck sack and set off in pursuit of my first fell race. As I was picked up by a bunch of hardened and experienced fell runners (Penny, Paul, Tom and Joan) I got the opportunity to ask lots of questions but still arrived at the destination full of trepidation.

The Royal Oak pub was filled with serious looking runners and plenty of friendly faces wearing purple though I was then informed at registration that I needed to carry a waterproof jacket during the run as minimum basic FRA equipment. Steph Piper came to my rescue with a spare bum bag, waterproof jacket and whistle which then left me able to continue.

Right on time, at 10:55 we assembled across Great Ayton High Street, somewhere close to where the imaginary start line would be and after a minute or two worth of instructions about 'being careful on the black ice' we were off, en masse in the direction of some very large hills. I started slowly making sure I kept lots in the tank for whatever presented itself but it was clear from the start this 'race' was going to be nothing like I've ever done before - my two previous favourite run events being the GNR and Blaydon! The run started with a relative gentle upwards gradient first on road and then more onto a trail-like track becoming narrower and narrower until it was quite quickly a single file traffic event running up the side of a progressively steep hill, the top of which was not yet apparent.

The next 1.5 miles involved no running at all and were essentially a battle against the laws of physics with me scrambling up the side of a very steep hill (mountain') trying to reach the top in as dignified a manner as possible. Jan Young was a welcome sight halfway up the ascent, shouting positive comments to spur us Striders on. I was also aware Mandy Dawson was right behind me and so my ego kept me going, upwards. Oh what a sight the summit was''..

It was like a game of two halves with the next part being all of the fun. After 100m of flattish track the path went sharply down and I suddenly seen the pace quicken though this was nothing like I was used to, not even with a couple of XC events behind me as experience. This is where the seasoned fell runners came into their own and a couple of incredibly fast men came almost literally flying past me down the side of the mountain. And so I attempted to join them and leaving my inhibitions behind went as fast as I could through the mud, bog, bushes and uneven ground, downwards towards the village, just about managing to curb my desire to shout like a child as I went. The terrain flattened though the mud remained and I almost lost a shoe to it. Once I'd arrived back on solid, flattish ground, and knowing the end couldn't be much more than a mile away my confidence picked up and I then started to 'race' in the sense I previously understood. The end was incredible with a good sprint finish to prevent the guy behind me from winning and then I was met by a sea of friendly faces at the finish line (again imaginary) and many Striders, either spectating or already finished ahead of me. Including Tom who had seemingly hurled himself of the side of the mountain and was sporting two bleeding hands, two bloodied knees and a large graze up one thigh, shorts ripped. Though he'd incredibly spared the pink bum bag he was wearing!

As confused as I was about whatever had just happened I very much enjoyed this run and would definitely consider doing it again next year.

All the money raised from this event (£2108) goes to charities. There's more information in the Esk Valley results and race report - Ed.

Results

pos bib name time cat/pos/pts/total
1 263 Harry Holmes (York Knavesmire) 32.39 MO/1/50/189
14 1216 Caroline Lambert (Wetherby Runners) 35.22 FO/1/50/50
18 1051 Gareth Pritchard 35.41 MO/10/39/39
32 310 Paul Evans 37.57 MO/17/32/74
73 1241 Penny Browell 40.38 F40/3/46/46
88 528 Thomas Reeves 41.17 M45/8/41/84
96 1061 Mike Bennett 41.44 M60/4/45/45
119 417 Danny Lim 43.11 M40/26/23/53
127 1108 Mike Hughes 43.44 M45/14/35/35
145 1240 Louise Warner 45.18 FO/8/41/41
149 1084 Shaun Roberts 45.33 M55/14/35/35
153 1230 Mandy Dawson 45.46 F45/2/48/48
178 1046 Nigel Heppell 47.18 M60/6/43/43
179 1208 Sally Hughes 47.29 FJ/2/48/48
213 1243 Camilla Lauren-Matta 50.05 F50/3/46/46
223 21 Stephanie Piper 51.24 FO/17/32/75
225 1047 Ari Hodgson 51.30 MJ/3/46/46
246 1244 Stephanie Barlow 54.55 F40/7/42/42
259 1247 Victoria Brown 57.28 FO/21/28/28
261 1242 Anita Clementson 57.34 F45/11/38/38
264 1231 Diane Watson 58.33 F50/8/41/41
268 1019 Emil Matta 59.18 MJ/4/45/45
269 1246 Catherine Smith 59.18 F40/12/37/37

289 finishers.