April 2011

I can sleep through Machine Head live, but I can't sleep through that

I once slept through Machine Head playing live.  Not in the midst of the mosh-pit, but on a grass slope a couple of hundred metres from the stage. It was Download 2007 and I’d followed a late night with an early start to go open water swimming (part of my, somewhat obsessive, training for my first ironman). By mid-afternoon I was flagging, so in between bands I decided to have a quick snooze, and (to my other-halfs amazement) didn’t wake up when Machine Head started playing...

The Friday night disco at the Fox Inn in Guisborough was another story though. I was back in Guisborough for a 2nd go at the
Hardmoors 55. Rather than spending a small fortune on the nearby Premier Inn I’d decided to stay in the Fox Inn ‘hotel’, within walking distance of the finish. I was pretty tired, from a string of early starts and late finishes for work, and left work early planning on getting an early night. When booking the room I’d read something about ‘live music’ at the weekends. This conjured up a quickly forgotten image of a band or singer playing for a couple of hours. When I got there a disco was setting up. The music was loud, but the main problem was the base, which made the entire room vibrate... It eventually stopped at around midnight,  so I ended up with less than 6 hours sleep before the coach ride to the start. To be fair the Fox Inn was otherwise good value for money (with friendly staff), but don’t stay there on a Friday or Saturday if you want a good night’s sleep.

In 2010 the weather was pretty crap for most of the day, and a big chunk of the field dropped out. I plodded my way around, very close to the back of the field, in 14.5 hours.
This year the weather was bright and sunny and I got to the 9 mile checkpoint in 1.50, about the same as last year and feeling fine. The next ~10 miles were a struggle though. I often feel lousy at this point in an ultra, but this was worse than usual. I was walking even gentle slopes and the runners in front were disappearing into the distance. At one point I even contemplated a quick snooze in the woods by the side of the track. It was looking like I was going to get timed out at Osmotherley (22 miles in with a cut-off of 5 hours). I gave myself a metaphorical kick up the arse: ‘if I’m too tired to run, I’m too tired to drive home, and do I want to spend another evening in the vibrating hotel room?’. I resolved to try a bit harder and at least give myself a chance of making the cut-off. The luminous figures in the distance started coming back to me and by the time I got to the turn-off off the moors 2 miles outside Osmotherley  I knew I was going to make it, just... Unlike 2010 when I had to push the final few miles and squeaked in 2 minutes inside the cut-off.

From Osmotherley to Bloworth crossing I started gradually overtaking people.  Last year I was on my own from Osmotherley until catching 3 blokes in Guisborough woods, a couple of miles before the finish. This year I had a lot more company at the back end of the field. The sun had gone in a bit, but it was still infinitely nicer than last year (even if the views did take in Roseberry topping lurking in the distance). Also, unlike last year, I managed to keep running  across the moors (running up slopes I’d been walking 20 miles previously...) and made it in to Kildale 30 minutes faster than last year.  After a quick sit down (on the floor!) to rearrange my gear, I grabbed a fistful of biscuits and set off again (gaining a few places in the process).

Onwards to Roseberry topping. Thanks to the full moon and knowing the route I was still gaining time on last year. For a little while I though I might be able to finish inside 13.5 hours (and take an hour off last years time). Through Guisborough woods I slowed a bit, partly tiredness and partly not wanting to take a wrong turn and lose big time.  Pity there was no-one in front to chase down (or behind to run away from...).  I plodded my way along the final mile on the old railway line, counting footsteps to keep me going, finishing in 13.38.

Last year the finish was deserted apart from the time keepers, and a worried wife. This year it was buzzing (thanks, presumably, to the bar and a delay in getting the drop bags back from the final checkpoint). After a quick chat to a couple of people I waddled the couple of hundred metres through the Guisborough nightlife and back to the vibrating hotel room...