Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Sunday, 19 May 2013

4th May: North Yorkshire

The penultimate stage of the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series (10/11) was the first time this event and course up in North Yorkshire had been run, with the coastal section being along the Cleveland Way. As such there were no hints or tips as to what you might expect, or for that matter GPS data from previous year's runners on the Garmin Connect website to provide a kind of crib-sheet; just the usual map posted on the website with the 'subject to change' disclaimer.

North Yorkshire is somewhere I have not been to since a week's holiday there as a child in a Forrestry Commission log-cabin, so there's no real memories of the place or what to expect scenery wise other than moorland situated in North Yorkshire!

Driving-up I did my usual thang of arriving there just after midnight and settle down in the howling wind for a sleep. The forecast was for strong winds and some showers, so all-in-all not too bad a prospect for the running conditions.

This race did not have the option of the early start for slow marathoners wishing to go out with the ultra crowd so I was down to go out with everyone else - although if I chose to I am sure I could have snuck-out with them and no-one would really have noticed! The result of this was a theoretical extra time to kip... I say theoretical as sleeping in a car means you tend to be up with the light or with the sounds of the movement of others around you.

After my breakfast of flapjacks and a couple of cups of coffee (I like it strong and black like my men - to quote Airplane) I drove back round the corner to park-up with the others just outside the base marquee in the village of Ravenscar.

Registration went without a hitch for myself, although one poor chap was having a bit of a mary registering as his surname was the same as a couple running the ultra and they were all mixed-up! I recognised a few faces from other runs, although no-one to talk to, and hung around till the briefing - which was very straightforward with no warnings of deaths and casualties on the route, or goats for that matter!

With the car next to the event marquee I prepped myself for the race and remained in the warmth there as the morning air still had a chill to it and the passing rain showers did not help.

With spring supposedly sprung I had decided to leave my winter running jacket behind in favour of my new lightweight shower-proof Dare2b 'Spedfast'. I had debated whether or not to bother with one at all with the temperature set to be around 13 degrees, but with it being on the cost I erred on the side of caution. Jettisoning the winter jacket meant I now had a storage issue as I went from having 3 pockets to 0 with the new jacket so a storage strategy had to be planned for this race. With my Vango hydration back-pack there is very little space for anything as there is nothing more than a key pouch on it. With the medical kit that is mandatory, plus the need for snacks en-route, as well as space for the camera and iPod & phone I decided I needed to get the running belt out again. The front pouch on this was good for the camera and the iPod at a squeeze, with a first-aid pouch purchased for the food & gels to sit on the belt for their carriage and the proper first-aid kit jammed into the key-pouch on the back-pack. With the damage sustained to the bungee cord on the back and the realisation that the current set-up is far from ideal I've decided against anything going on this and keeping everything compartmentalised and safely secured. I also made the decision to cram a 3L bladder into the 2L backpack with the race being 'hotter', just in case I were to run-out as by the end of Exmoor I had nearly finished the 2L one and time spent refilling at a water station would be a waste. This race I had decided to run wearing a cap for the first time. Over the winter I had bought a standard style light-weight running cap, but I do not particularly like caps and their big bills, so I decided to wear my 'Wessex CTC New Forest Gridiron' cycling cap as it is purely to stop the sun from burning my balding pate and the flippable bill is smaller and the thin flexible polyester nature of the cap makes it perfect in my eyes, if a little garish! Gathering my kit I attached my number to my shorts, put on my Asics XC trainers as the ground was pretty hard (and they are far more comfy than the More Mile's in general!) and suddenly realised that it was later than I thought.

Why is it when you think you are organised by being early that you always find yourself running late? I soon found myself rushing to be ready for the start... With bowels emptied, anti poo-pills popped and vitals greased-up I rushed to the start, just next to where I had been sleeping the night before.

Huddling against the wind.
Cliff-top start.
In no time we were under starter's orders on the cliff-top and away we went southwards. It seemed to be a slow incline all the way along this cliff-top path. I was feeling quite smug about choosing to wear my new jacket, although in the hat & gloves principal I have discovered in other races, I was soon feeling not-so smug and as the wind died-down and the sun shone and the temperature rose. 

Cliff-top view from the trail
After about 3 miles of running along the cliff-tops we soon came to the descent to beach level. I was chatting to one lady running the race who arrived at this point at the same time as me. She is normally a mountain biker and was experimenting with marathoning and was finding this section very hard going, especially as she said she would happily fly down it on a bike, but on foot is a different matter!

This descent was a very loose stony steep rocky clamber down 'steps', and I use the word as loosely as the going was under foot! There was no speed to be had here as a consequence.

The beech at the bottom.
At the bottom of the mountain-goat stage to the bottom and across the stream by the beach, it was up the hill on the other side. At this point it was getting too hot for the jacket so off it came - after around 30 minutes of use! Fortunately with it being so lightweight it rolled nicely on itself to tie around my waiste.

Once at the top we hit tarmac and ran back northwards - I realised there was around 20 miles left to go and we were running past these speed signs, which served a dual purpose here!

The sign @ 20 miles to go - it couldn't be better placed!
After a short while we were on to the disused railway line that until the Beeching cuts had linked Whitby to Scarborough. With the descent from the cliffs to sea level and now coming back-up I realised that we would be running up-hill the majority of the way back to the start on this figure of 8 loop.

The run here was mostly in shade as the woods have grown over the track (the rails themselves long gone) with the going underfoot quite good as it was a cinder bed that has been laid. We did divert off the line at one point through some woodlands, over a field and up along on to another trail. As I merrily jogged on. All of a sudden I saw somebody running up to me from the side, who seeing his top noticed was a marshall and stopped for him. He told me that the direction markers had been nicked again (3rd time that morning it turned out) and I needed to rejoin the railway track at the point he had emerged from. Thinking quickly I told him that there were 2 people I was aware of in front of me, the mountain biking lady by about 30 seconds and a male runner around a minute in front of her, so off to catch them he sprinted!

Joining back on to the railway track, we traversed past one of the stations en-route which was now somebodies whom and seemed absolutely idyllic.

The converted station house
Running along the 'track' in their front garden!
I followed the incline - a good 3 miles in total until Ravenscar arrived once more. Leaving the railway track we ran back on to the coastal path and jogged along in the direction of Robin Hood's Bay. As I progressed I found myself in amongst some of the half marathoners, including a lady running it as her first 'Canicross' race with her beloved hound.
North to Robin Hood's Bay
Where's the path gone?.. One of the landslips we skirted around!
Getting closer.
We left the cliffs to descend down into the wonderfully titled 'Boggle Hole' which was alive with ice-cream eating tourists all bemused at the steady stream of runners coming through the village: down one side and up the other, although their welcome encouraging claps and cheers helped us onwards.

Just after this point the halfers bore left and it was just us marathoners who continued in to Robin Hood's Bay and the fearsomely steep climb through the town to the top and CP2. At this point I could see some of the ultra's returning from this top loop so figured that it was a good 30 minute/ 3 mile trek to get back here.

Where we left the coast.
After about 1.5 miles we left the coast for good, with a very steep ascent next to some stunning cliff-faces and with a beautiful view down on to where we had just been running we headed inland and off to the moors via bridleway and farmland.

Looking down to where we had just come from.
This particular stretch was the 'uninspiring' section. It seems all the races seem to have a bit of these to link-up the beautiful sights of wilderness, so you accept these for what they are - a bridge to the next good bit.

After CP4 we hit the moors. At this point, you could see the runners stretching out in front of us. I had been running and chatting with one lady who had overtaken us and we had jockeyed position a few times before she steamed-off on the moors into the distance. One guy had been catching me up to the point I was holding the gates open for him as he kept catching-up, although at this point I began to drop him, and in turn be overtaken by another lady who seemed to be having a strong final section of the race.

Across the moor to the antenna.
The navigation of the moor was simple: head for the TV antenna and descend just past it! This was the fun part and I soon found myself picking-up speed and overtaking some people myself, including some of the halters, which was a terrific confidence boost. Once off the moor it was a simple task of following the signposts back in to Ravenscar and the finish line, the last 2 miles being up hill.

Me in action across the moor as one of my friends from uni days said: 'rocking the pirate look'. Thanks Kate!
I crossed the finish line safely in the middle of the pack to complete 6 of 7 of this year's coastal trail series, with the next marathon being the final CTS race of the season in Flete.

I sat down at a picnic table on the old Ravenscar station platform and enjoyed my post-race recovery shake and scotch-eggs. After changing, breaking with 'tradition' I drove home in a oner after stopping for fuel in Scarborough seeing as the in-laws were down for the week and I did not want to miss quality time with them.

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