Smiles for 200 Miles
Posted on 10th June 2022 at 10:12
200 miles of fun, frolics and pain. Oh the pain.
I’m sat in a coffee shop, perusing the fine selection of fancy pants barista offerings, skinny soymilk Frappuccino with a half rainforest certified syrup splash? Or just my usual horseshoe coffee (make a coffee, place a horseshoe on top, if it doesn’t float, add more coffee).
I go with the horseshoe, and once I’ve loudly declared my order at the till I add…. “I ran 200 Miles this weekend”.
I’ve been doing it everywhere, at the till in Tesco (thanks for the club points, I ran 200 miles this weekend), at the STD clinic (yes that is an interesting rash, mine looked a bit like that once when I didn’t grease up before a run, no I don’t work here, I ran 200 miles this weekend) and on Jury service (yes we have reached a verdict your honour, we find the defendant guilty… of not knowing that I ran 200 miles this weekend).
This may go on for some time because, did you know, I ran two hundred miles this weekend, it kind of feels like an achievement.
Early on in this article, I should also point out that whilst doing this I was raising money for my two favourite charities, Humber Rescue, and the Royal Marines Charity, so far I’ve raised £900, thanks to everybody who’s donated, if you too would like to contribute, please use the following link (note: just giving doesn’t allow me to do a 50/50 split of all donations, instead I ask that you consider splitting your donation when you contribute, uforunately this might mean going through the rigmoral of having to donate twice, sorry about that, thanks)
I’m not sure how to write this article, there is a lot of route miles and a lot of hours to cover, and most of it is a rushed blur in my memory now, besides I’m the worse person to discuss the course, since my family turned up to wave me off at Victoria dock I zig zagged along the track taking more wrong turns than a door knob at a no.10 work meeting with cheese and wine. Which brings me to my first highlight.
Highlight No.1. My amazing Navigation
I love wrong turns, each missed gateway is an opportunity to experience something new, something different, to lay eyes on a fresh landscape you’ve not eye inhaled before.
Like the one near Millington which I’ve ran a dozen times before no problem but for some reason found myself facing a gate with a large stream in front of it that went up to my knees and left my feet and socks drenched early on with just one hundred and sixty-five miles to go.
Or the route change I hadn’t paid attention to beforehand, previous attempts at the Wolds way I’ve ran the more direct road through from Arras wold farm to Millington, but the route for the two hundred instead goes through Market Weighton, I continued on thinking I knew the way and my watch GPX must be off for some reason, only to turn back round when I realized that not even my navigation can be off this much, to be fair this only took me an extra mile off track and what’s the point in doing this event if you’re not going to greedily embrace “bonus miles”.
The worst part of it all is that I have ran parts of this route almost every week as they are near my Personal training Studio in Hull.
But the best wrong turn must go to my effort somewhere between Fridaythorpe and Wharram Percy. Travelling down a hill I wondered why my watch was going a little haywire and telling me to go back on myself, I had been a little absent for the last half hour as I jogged along listening to the latest Audio book by Anthony Horowitz, a brilliant adaptation of James Bond, so I when I became more alert to my surroundings, I found myself off route and unsure which way to go. No problem, I’m the best secret agent Britain has ever known, I’ll take a break from killing Russian generals with mind hacking skills to sort out this little track error
According to my watch I had to go over a little fence, there was just a couple of problems, the first and most obvious one was that the fence wasn’t Wolds way signed, first reg flag. But the more serious issue was the large group of stinging nettles I had to wade through in my bare legs, after a hundred or so meters of this, finally realising I was off course and that I needed to be on the other side of the fence, I waded through yet a few more meters of nettles and over some barbed wire to get on track.
Finally I was on route and running up a path with another runner coming towards me, turns out it’s my old friend Joel, we last met a year ago on the HM160 when he helped me out of a running slump, a quick word about Joel here, he’s a Canadian ultra-runner with more tenacity than any other runner I’ve met, nothing wears him down and no matter the challenge he just keeps on going. He finished the race with a well-deserved second place..
After our usual chest thump and high five he asked why I was going the wrong way, “wrong way?” I said, “you’re the one going the wrong way”
“erm…no.. he corrected me, just follow me down this path, let’s continue onwards”, he took me under his wing and led me gently onto the right course, and I meekly followed. Sometimes British agents must rely on their Canadian counterparts.
All went well for the next one hundred miles or so, we ran through the Wolds way stopping at various points for photo opportunities and to highlight bullshit hills put there purposely by psychopaths like this one.
At one point Joel, Steve and myself all ran together as a pack, Steve would later go onto finish in first place, and having ran with him numerous times on various Hardmoors events I have to say it’s an absolute honour to run with him and to learn from his wise ways. To run alongside him is to find the pace gently becoming easier and easier no matter the gradient, it’s like running alongside Ultra Yoda with his wise mantras.
“run or run not, there is no try”
“park runs are the path to the dark side”
“the wrong pace leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to quitting this bullshit”
“the dark side I sense in you McKeating”
And on it went, at some point we went our separate ways, I leaned on Joels support for a drink and an orange, he had some pretty slick operators in a camper van helping him along, and as the night wore on, crew change no.3 meant that Leanne, a crew member from Humber Rescue met me around Flixton, I got some much-needed calories and water and continued towards Filey.
Nutrition good up to this point, hydration falling behind, pace dropped off a bit so decided to take a fifteen-minute nap in Leanne’s passenger seat, which mostly seemed like fifteen minutes of wild hallucinogenic trips, after which I staggered up, and on I went through the night, a few cheeky hills, and suddenly I was in Scarborough as the Sun came up.
It’s great to start the second day on an Ultra run, there is already a sense of achievement, like you’ve already gotten so much behind you and now you can relax a little. The Cleveland way is a beautiful route along cliff tops which took me up and down various hills, big surprise at Ravenscar as I discovered the route had been diverted from its normal stop to take me an extra ½ mile up the road to a building which at least had a buffet and coffee waiting for me. It was about 9am, and somehow pizza seemed like a fitting breakfast to start the day.
Quick Facetime back home as I walked and ate to say hi to Mel and the kids, and then a light jog to Robin Hoods bay, one of my favourite places in the whole world, and to the hill which by tradition I always like to run up (the idea is that if I get to live a few more decades I might still be able to run up this hill in my eighties and beyond).
At the top of the hill, Mike (Royal Marine like myself) and his amazing son/crew support Harry met me, we had a little sprint together and the little bastard beat me, and I wasn’t event letting him win.
This was Mikes first turn on crew support, and it was a chance for him to see behind the scenes before he attempted his first Ultra Run a week after mine, a distance of 169 miles, which I’m happy to say he did successfully, I was honoured to help him prepare him for it, he also raised £6,000 in the process for Rock 2 Recovery and the Royal Marines charity.
Mike did an amazing job, we got hydration and food sorted in a quick turnaround, also a change of socks and a quick charge of my phone, headphones and watch, this whole time Mike had the RM flag flying high and a loud speaker playing the Royal Marines band trumped out inspiring support, but then things turned a bit grim as the next track came on as I set off towards Whitby, it was the last bugle, not sure if he was sending me a message.
It was hot and I knew I would have to slow my pace, Mike and Harry met me at Whitby Abbey and got straight on it, I felt like a formula one car pulling into a pitstop, no sooner had I sat down than an ice cream was put in my hand, along with a cup of frozen berries. Just as I got up to leave a head buff which had been dipped in ice water was squeezed onto my head to help keep me cool and I felt great. This was just one example of the amazing professionalism my support crew showed me. Any errors made during this run are wholly down to me. Which brings me to the first one.
Big Mistake No.1 Sun burn.
“you’re looking a bit red mate”
“looks like you’ve caught the sun a bit there chief”
“cor blimey guvnor, you’re as Red as Cupid’s bed of red rose-leaves shed on Mount Hymettus and no mistake”
“Christ almighty, your red as the rains of hell”
“did you know you’re as red as the slapped arse of Prince Andrews teenage sex girls who he never met”
These among many other comments were said to me by the many runners whizzing by me on the cliffs heading towards Saltburn.
I made very few mistakes on this run, aside from a few blips with navigation that is, but otherwise everything went smoothly, pacing was good, hydration and calorie intake was spot on, however on the second day of running, somewhere between Whitby and Saltburn, I made the mistake of not re-applying sun cream.
Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it really was, and it ended up costing me a lot of time. I’d already ran a hundred and thirtyish miles at this point, with just fifteen minutes sleep the night before. My body was already under a lot of stress, trying to deal with the inflammation and muscle breakdown that occurs under such duress.
The added burden of having to deal with sunburn meant my pace dropped and I began to struggle, my saving grace at this point was that I was well on top of hydration and calories, so mentally I felt just fine, it was just the physical toll the sun had taken on my China doll skin.
Will met me in Saltburn, like a knight in shining armour he bought me pizza and chips, and after wolfing down half the pizza I took twenty minutes to nap in the back of his car (big thanks to the gentleman who woke me up after just ten minutes to check I was OK) the short nap helped me to pick up again and get going. But the sunburn would have one more effect that I’d pay for later.
Big mistake No.2 cold stress
At first the evening chill wind felt nice, it cooled my burned skin, I had slowed considerably but managed to eventually get to Roseberry topping, Will met me and ran up to the top with me and as we made our way down to Gribadale car park we rendezvoused with my support runner Matt Dass.
At this point I should give full Kudos to Matt, I asked him to run with me for a what I considered to be the toughest part of the Cleveland way, when I knew I would be tired and most in need of someone to help keep me pacing well. I had no idea what time to meet as I couldn’t predict what my pace would be, in the event he turned up at 8pm and had to wait around till gone midnight for me to eventually show up, and as it would turn out, we wouldn’t actually get to run much together.
The first few miles out of Gribdale to Kilburn were OK, pace wasn’t amazing but for that point in the race was about what it should have been, but then as the night wore on and the cold kicked in, I began to suffer. I put a coat on to warm up, then a jumper, hat and gloves, and still I couldn’t get warm, I was shivering and struggling to walk, I needed to move fast in order to generate heat, but I just couldn’t find it within myself to get moving. Every step seemed to send shockwaves of pain up my body, and I became intensely tired, yawning with every other step. The shivering took up the energy I needed to go forward, not for lack of effort I just couldn’t move fast enough.
I cant have been good company for Matt, but it was great to have him there, because I was mentally beginning to panic. It may have been the extremes of temperature, going from being too hot in the day to feeling too cold at night, plus I was extra sensitive to the cold at this point because my body fat was reducing, and my ripped abs were becoming even more ripped. The truth was I was turning into a massive pussy, and I think this is the closest I have ever come to thinking I might not physically be able to do this.
I just wanted to lie down and sleep, which might have only been marginally slower than my current pace. Matt did his best to keep my spirits up but there are only so many times you can ask someone if they’re OK. At least he could entertain himself watching octogenarian arthritic one legged hedgehogs race by me.
I asked him how far it would be till we would reach a road where we could meet Will, he did the maths and worked out it was just four miles away, which given my current pace might take a few hours. I had to summon every ounce of aggression and anger I could muster to keep going, fuck the pain, one step forward, then another, keep going, eventually we met up with Will at Clay Bank.
I hoped a short sleep would sort me out and after a twenty minute nap in the back of his car, plus a coffee and some additional warmers gear I suddenly felt switched back on, no more pain, energy back to normal, and I have to say an absolutely massive thanks to Matt for helping me through those fourteen or so miles, it might have been a slow trudge, but without him I might not have made it at all through that section
Highlight No.2 Amazing support crew
It’s a requirement upon entering the Hardmoors 200 that you must have support crew, not only is this a safety requirement but it’s also an absolute God send to the runners. A good crew team can help you finish a race faster, fresher and with a greatly reduced toll on your body.
I knew that asking people to give up their time to help me would be a big ask, but nevertheless five people did just that, and I am eternally grateful to Ed, Adrian, Leanne, Mike and Will for giving up their weekend to wait in a car for a few hours just so that I could run by, grab some water and a snickers bar and then shoot off again.
This was the first time I had used a more slick crewing protocol to make each encounter a quick and effective turn around, I also wanted to utilize some recent findings which came out in the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s report on Ultra running just a few weeks before, according to the most widely gathered peer reviewed research, one of the most consistent findings with runners who drop out, and runners who finish, is the difference in calorie and water intake.
To that extent I wanted my crew to log how many calories I ate, and how much water I drank at every stop in order to make sure I was ahead of the game. To make things easier I bagged up all my goodies into bags and put stickers on with calorie and carbohydrate content, so for example a bag of 100g of Harribos contained 340 calories and 77g carbohydrate.
I also wanted the crew to start a stopwatch at each crew meet so we could record how long each stop was taking, it didn’t massively matter how long the total time was because I tried to keep each one as short as possible anyway, the point in timing these was just to put pressure on me not to stop longer than I needed to.
I knew beforehand that this would be a big undertaking for my crew to stay on top of, so I made them a little demo video to help show exactly how a pit stop should look, the best part filming this video was when I had a red wig on and was filming myself doing a silly voice not knowing a group of women walking their dogs were behind me trying hard not laugh until I noticed them and said good morning.
The result of all this was that my crew did a fantastic job, and not only was I bang up to speed on calories, but hydration was never a problem for me either (I aimed for 500ml per hr but in hindsight I think 300ml was more than adequate).
Highlight No.3 The big push
So, everything went well apart from the sun burn and the cold stress, I made my way jollily across the Wainstones and other large hills with interesting features, it was nice to see these in daylight as usually I’ve run across them in the middle of the night with a headtorch on.
All was going well until I got near to Osmotherly, it was at this point my watch died, when I rested at Clay Bank, I should have put it on charge, but in my fatigue, I had lost the discipline and it had slipped my mind. Now I had no GPX to follow and whilst the Cleveland way is signposted well there are a few points where the Hardmoors route goes off.
It was at one such point I had to take a moment to figure out where the route should be, I realised the live tracking link would tell me my position and where abouts I need to go to get back on track, and it was whilst checking this that I realized that someone was creeping up on my position.
Up until now I was in comfortable third place, I’ve never finished in the top three before so this meant something to me, it would mean bringing a trophy home as well as a medal and cool little prize to boot. I didn’t want to give that up easily, so with just twenty miles to go I had to dig in and push hard to earn that trophy.
As I got to Square corner I met Hailey, she was on the 110 and by coincidence her watch had also died, unfortunately she didn’t have a charger but with it being a Garmin she could borrow mine.
I had time to give mine a quick charge but if she wanted to use it also, she would either have to wait until I’d finish, or run with me to White Horse whilst her crew used the charge and gave her the watch at the next check point.
I warned her that I was going to push hard on the pace as I was fighting for third place and my rival was less than one kilometre away, she said that was fine and to be honest she ended up helping me run faster, turns out she’s quite an amazing runner and it was great to have someone alongside me forcing me to keep running hard.
When we got to White Horse, I was hoping for the guy in fourth to have seen me pick it up and decide to drop off, but it turns out he was still hot on my tail, and I would have to keep digging in hard for the last ten miles.
At first I thought if I just kept up a reasonable pace that would be enough, as he would have to not only match that pace, but dig in much harder to even catch up with me, but as it turns out he was like the Terminator chasing me down, in a reversal of roles my Personal Training Client come Support Crew Will was now pushing me hard, it was as if the years of built up resentment from me making him work hard to get extra reps out in the gym were now being unleashed on me as I ran with him shouting at me.
He kept telling me the guy was just a few hundred meters behind me, it was hot, I hadn’t eaten or drank much, I had already ran a hundred and ninety miles, but Will just kept on pushing me, I think he wanted to kill me. I felt in dire need of a safe space. I told him my concerns and he just looked at me coldly and said, “if you die, you die”. I kept going in an awkward silence.
But eventually those miles just dwindled down, the thought of a shower made me run harder towards the finish line, I knew I was about to win my first trophy if I just kept on running hard, even if it was just third place, it meant a lot to me.
The last half mile was a sprint, or at least the best I could come to a sprint at that point, I used every ounce of energy I had and forced every muscle fibre in my body to use up whatever it had left. The result was a fast finish with a near collapse at the end, enjoy the vid.
It turns out that 4th place who hounded me was a lovely guy called Paul, I didn’t get to speak to him, but I have to take my hat off to the guy and give full respect, he’s an amazing runner who worked me hard.
Pace is everything when it comes to running long distances, I managed to keep to a far more sensible pace for this run, which allowed me to have some energy at the end to push hard, at no point did I feel stomach upset or muscle burnout. I still have a lot to improve on but if I can keep this up then maybe more trophy finishes lie ahead.
Collecting that trophy, prize and medal meant a lot to me, more than anything I've accomplished in any race so far.
After most runs my body is a wreck, I can barely walk, my joints are red and swollen and I struggle to sleep properly. I was showing of my usual foot injuries when my wife pointed out that something didn’t look right.
“Don’t worry” I scoffed, this is just the usual par, after all what would a qualified Nurse with a degree know?
Turns out I had cellulitis, when she eventually dragged me to a pharmacist, they took one look and told me to get to the walk-in centre to see a doc, more or less confirming what my wife had tried to tell me, a five hour wait later, and I was prescribed anti-biotics. Cellulitis starts of harmless, but if left can become quite serious, eventually it might develop into sepsis, which is deadly.
I was lucky that I (eventually) listened to my wife, foot swelled up to a balloon, no driving for a few days and had to keep foot mostly elevated, when I did attempt to walk it felt like I had broken every bone in my foot with each step. This got better after a few days. I also damaged my wrist somehow; I think from using poles for the first time in over a year.
But overall, I’m in pretty good shape, after a few years of doing this stuff, your body gets used to it, tendons and ligaments adapt and recovery is much quicker, am now walking round like a normal person and ready to start running again in training for the Lakeland 100 in July.
Just a reminder if you want to donate to my justgiving page you can do so here, Just giving doesn't allow me to split all donations 50/50, so if you are able to please donate to each charity on the team page individually (Humer Rescue and Royal Marines charity) sorry, it is a bit of a pain in the arse.
This year I set a goal to achieve a top three finish in an Ultra, I feel great for accomplishing this, believe it or not running two hundred miles, even when it became difficult, was mostly enjoyable, I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t, but I’ve given up trying to explain to people why I do these things. Going forward I’ve learned a few valuable lessons which may even help me finish better next time, game on. Thanks for reading my article.
As an end note, I'd like to say a massive congratulations to my friend and occasional running partner Eddie, who not only won the 110 mile race, but also got the course record, and not only did he achieve this, but he did it whilst at one point having to fight off killer badgers, I would share the video as it's the funniest thing I have ever seen, but I haven't had his permission and it might be misinterpreted by some as cruelty to animals rather than a legitimate defence against Jon Wick of the Badger World set out on a personal Vendetta against Ultra runners.
Tagged as: exercise, Fitness Hull, Hardmoors, Nutrition, Personal Trainer Hull, running, ultra running
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