Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Ultra no 5 Yorkshire Ultra

Ultra no 5 saw a return to the beautiful North Yorkshire coastline and parts of the Cleveland way. The route was an out and back Starting at Whitby Abbey it followed the Cleveland Way heading southwards until the outskirts of  Robin Hood's Bay where the route left the Cleveland Way, climbed upwards and joined the cycle track into Robin Hood's Bay and followed the same track into Ravenscar. The route just before entering Ravenscsar climbed up to the mast (anyone who has done the Lyke Wake will remember this mast pretty well) cuts off inland and does a large circular route around Sneaton High Moor Plantation before following the same route back to Whitby.

I had mixed feelings about the course. The coast is beautiful, but the circular section didn't seem to have much imagination (ok I'm a Race Director, so I ought to keep my trap shut, Glass houses, stones and all that!!! But I'm writing this blog as a runner not as a RD, and these are my opinions, I'm sure this may be more interesting to you? then if I skirted around it?? Plus this is nothing more than Ive had a hundred times over ) I think the thing for me was if you call it the 'Yorkshire Ultra' that is a bold statement!!! You are representing Yorkshire!! You are representing, the Yorkshire Dales, parts of the Pennines, Bronte Country, the Cleveland Hills, the list goes on.... So you have to make every inch of that Ultra beautiful!! The vast majority of that extra loop wasn't. It felt like someone had just looked at a map and thought, there we go that will do and had never been there on foot. Okay less ranting, well sorry a little bit more to come...

Registration opened at 0630. Brief at 0730 race start at 0800. Myself and David Cremmins travelled down the night before and stopped at one of his friends empty self catering houses. In the morning we got up about 0600 to head for registration at 0645, leaving some time before the race started  to have a chat with any familiar faces and have a catch up with Ross Moreland and Lucy Colquhoun who were travelling down from Glasgow for the race. (Later on I found out they couldn't make the race) David suggested we should leave the car and walk up to the start, myself feeling pretty lazy didn't want to face the mile back after the 50 miles, plus I like the ability to be able to get back into my car and switch the heating on after a race at this time of year if the finish hall is cold  (my temp drops so quickly when I finish a long run, and within minutes I am usually shivering) So I drove up, arrived at the car park which was full of runners sat in their cars, I thought, strange? then I realised the race HQ/registration/finish etc was a small tent!! bloody lucky we drove up or we would be stood hanging around outside in winter conditions for well over an hour!!! and when I would of finished, I would of been snookered!! So used to indoor registrations and finishes, somewhere to change and chat to people (I expected this with a £45 entry!!) I registered and was told the brief would be outside the tent at 0730. I went back to the car with David and thought sod that! I'm staying in my car until 0750!! so we did and watched everyone else leave their cars and head off for the brief ( the brief would of gone in one ear and out the other with me, ) I felt like a naughty schoolboy skiving assembly, I imagined them doing a roll call, 'Steele' 'Steele' 'STEELE!!!' 'Has anyone seen Steele'  'Please sir hes sat in his car with David listening to loud music, chewing gum with his heating on, and he said if I told you I'd get a good kicking'   Anyway I don't think anyone noticed, we jumped (ok strong word we crawled out of the warm car) with ten minutes to go and made our way to the race start. I looked around, only one person I recognised, Dave Thompson from Durham, a regular at the Hardmoors Races and Yorkshire LDWA events. We exchanged pleasantries and we were off. The route along the coast is beautiful and race day was no exception, although cold the sun was shining and the sea was bright blue, we set off at a steady pace and gradually overtook quite a few runners. The route was pretty muddy and a lot of people were struggling with the downhills, I am strong on descents and flew by quite a few runners only for them to catch me up on the ascents. Just before Robin Hoods Bay we left the Cleveland Way and with a pretty slippy ascent joined the Cycle Track, faster going but less fun. First checkpoint was reached at Robin Hoods Bay, no coke :0( just water. We left Robin Hoods Bay once again on the Cycle track and headed for Ravenscar, just before Ravenscar we left the track and headed up to the mast, the views across to Robin Hoods Bay are outstanding. We continued inland to the next checkpoint and the turnaround for David and all the Marathon runners. There isn't a huge amount I can say about the next few hours, I believe I have deliberately forgot them lol. After a run through woods alongside a pretty beck the route turns northwards cuts through some farmers fields and joins a path of sorts (more like a trench found in the 'Somme' After a few days of rain the mud was if possible worse than last week, no wind but still bloody hard, I found myself slipping and sliding, falling and swearing while people passed me by running!! after a while the lactic acid build up in my legs from the extra weight of the clay like mud attached to the bottom of my salomons was almost unbearable and when I came across areas which were quite runnable my legs wouldnt respond ( the fact is I am currently 15 stone, carrying 3-5 stone more weight than the average runner on the course, so I tend to sink more with each step, I have very strong quads and quite a lot of muscle mass there, from years of weight training. Even though I havent trained my legs in the last 4 plus years apart from running my body still holds onto it, this isn't good for ultrarunning, extra weight to carry and more oxgen needed when the quads are worked hard eg Ascents, running through mud!!, only benefit being descending, its a lot easier with strong quads.) The 3rd checkpoint was reached, a man in an old Vaude tent, I stocked up on water, still no coke!! or orange juice!! just water, I grabbed a handfull of sweets and pressed on. I could of had a tea, but making it would of taken too much time. After another long slog and half a dozen people passing me the route began to get a bit more interesting, cutting through fields, passing farms, streams and eventually midge hall. Twice I called two runners back who headed off in the wrong direction. The course was signed (So I didn't need to subject myself to the recce the week before, the one bloody time I do a recce, the course is signed!!!!) Still people were going wrong. After a nice break from the mud it was back onto the return route, back to the last checkpoint, the checkpoint marshall had run out of water and with 40 odd runners left to go through, there could be problems. Descending the mud was easier then ascending it and soon I was back alongside the beck. I climbed a stile on route cautiously as last week my foot got caught on wire that seemed to go higher then the stile and I had fallen quite hard on the ground with my foot still caught high. This time I had gone over the stile on the outward leg (no pun intended) fine, return journey my bloody size 13's got caught again, after hitting the deck I jumped up shouted obscene language at it then kicked it, told it I was going to return with wire cutters and some matches, and ran off embarrased when a lady runner came into view, near enough to hear the whole conversation I had with the stile!!. At Checkpoint 5 (which had also been checkpoint 3) I had a coffee and a mouthfull of Haribo sweets, checked the time, no chance of a 10 hour finish, on a very dry  summer day or a very hard frost then I believe a 9 hour finish would of been within grasp but the mud destroyed any chance of that! I headed back over to the Mast on a reasonable moorland path and on reaching the mast took the descent down to the cyclepath at speed, again the view over to both Robin Hoods Bay and the Ravenscar Hotel was breathtaking. Back on the Cyclepath with a gentle descent I managed to travel at a steady pace, with one runner 20 feet or so in front of me. Darkness fell, it was time to put on a headtorch but that meant stopping and I didn't want to, neither did the man in front, so for what seemed an eternity  we ran in the dark eventually reaching Robin Hoods Bay checkpoint, I drank more coffee, more haribo sweets, got my headtorch out and set off for the final 5-6 miles, these 5-6 miles of the race where the best for me, not due to them being the last few miles but the terrain, my kind of terrain, technical descents (well for the North York Moors) and narrow paths, the pace was easy to pick up  (if only all the route had been like this) over the last few miles I passed over half a dozen runners enjoying every second of it. I reached the Whitby Abbey and followed the road round to the finish, seconds later I was outside the registration tent and had finished my Ultra no 5 (only 45 to go!!) Within minutes my temperature dropped and I made my way back to the car to get warm.

I finished in 25th place out of 68 Starters in a time of 11hrs 26mins (I am not happy with my time, am I ever?)  David Cremmins took 5th Place in the Marathon in 4hrs 25mins. I wouldnt enter the 50 mile event  again but would run the marathon route.


  1. Well done Jon, 11:26 for a 100K trail ultra still ain't bad! Please though, can we have some paragraphs next time? Bloody hard work reading all that text in one block.

  2. Cheers Tim.. Will introduce paragraphs ;o)

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