An LDWA Hundred. Whatever the route, it’s 100 miles and each one needs ticking off. There will be hills, so they will need climbing. There are 16 checkpoints so thought needs to be given to diet and timing. And thought needs to be given to gear. I spent a long time packing my S-Lab 12 pack, so that it balanced right and everything I needed was to hand. Maps had been prepared, GPS files loaded and I knew how to use all my devices to do the task needed.
All I had to do now… was do it.
I bade Helen farewell and the mass of 500 or so runners and walkers set off at 10am from Malton School. I like my own space so I try to keep as far up the field as I can. OK, the gazelles soon disappear but it’s not long before we average runners start to form clusters and I fall in to a space between two of these. This is ideal for me. The route is good and quick – lots of lengthy stretches without stiles or major hindrances – and it’s not long before the drinks stop at Checkpoint 1 is upon us.
A long run over Slingsby Banks followed – delightful – and Hovingham soon arrived. The day was hot and humid and one marauding thunder cloud had already targeted us successfully. I arrived in the hall saturated in sweat and delighted at the choice of fare offered. I decided to stay simple and had just a few jam sandwiches and crisps, topped up my bottles and was off again.
Now it was flat across endless fields – a pattern to be mirrored at the end of the route. The result of these first stages was to propel you along the route quickly and get the first miles ticked off relatively easily. A great start.
At Hutton-le-Hole there was a kit check immediately on arrival which a little off-putting as I was sweating heavily and still in motion-mode! Still, it was soon over and welcome beef stew in Yorkshire pudding followed, chased by rice pudding – ideal for the stage ahead, a long moorland tramp over to Rosedale Abbey. My nutrition model was holding well and I felt I was making good progress.
Moorland is my favourite terrain; it was good to get amongst the heather and peat again. The field was reasonably well spread out, I was still in my own space, and feeling good.
Great to see familiar faces at Rosedale Abbey (32 miles) and, as elsewhere, the marshals were keen to help: bottles filled, coffee served and sandwiches brought. I said Hellos and Goodbyes, grabbed a slice of chocolate Swiss-roll and made my up the Rosedale Valley. This is a great place, full of the atmosphere of our Industrial past. The kilns could be seen across the valley, by the side of the old railway line which loops around the head of the valley and which we would soon join. This was around 8pm and the sky was darkening through a mix of dusk and thunder clouds. Occasional distant rumbles could be heard but nothing further came our way. After a lengthy climb the iconic Lion Inn was reached. I know this place well after many Lyke Wake Walk crossings – my last being the Golden Jubilee race in 2014 on a blisteringly hot day. In fact as I passed White Cross / Fat Betty I noticed the same piece of orange peel on the shoulder of the monument. Really? After 3 years? I later checked my old photo and there it was. It may be a favourite stopping point a local run but it’s a little untidy to leave it in such a prominent place.
The steep and awkward descent into Botton was in near darkness but the well-positioned flags placed by the organisers made the task of route-finding easy. Botton is a magical place. I remember it from the Cleveland Classic days and the magic is still there. My wife, Helen, was waiting there and it was great to see her and catch up on her slightly more leisurely day. Head torch on and it was off again into the night and the long endless slog up the steep, slippery hillside above Botton towards Glaisdale Rigg – again, well flagged. The Rigg gave a chance to stretch the legs again and the long ridge helped tick more miles off quickly.
The Marshals at Glaisdale – from South Wales LDWA – were dressed in daffodil outfits apart from one tall man dressed in full coal-miner’s gear, complete with blackened face. Now this chap is tall and stood framing the doorway as I arrived – what a sight! Brilliant.
From Glaisdale to Sleights the route followed the Esk Valley Way, at first through woods and then along a long wide track which, again, helped the pace. It was a quiet night, little wind and I was feeling ok, tiredness not yet a problem.
If Daffodils and Coal Miners were visions of the night then at Sleights we were confronted by pirates and buxom wenches!! Great atmosphere and great service; again everyone really helpful and plenty of appetising food. On leaving Sleights the dawn chorus was in full song – in glorious quadraphonic sound. I only needed my head torch for a short while longer before dawn streaked the sky and the sun quickly rose over the sea in a blaze of pink fluffy clouds.
After a quick pit stop at Hawsker it was on to breakfast at Fyling Hall, a public school in a stately home.
I retrieved my bag, changed socks and topped up various goodies in my running sack. I put my Garmin fenix 3 watch on a portable charger (you can still walk/navigate whilst it charges) and sent my bag back to the start. I ordered a full breakfast but mainly ate the sausage, egg and bread and butter even though it was beautifully cooked. I wanted to keep the impetus and left as quickly as I could but the climb onto the Moors was steep and draining.
Once on the Coast to Coast path the pace picked up a little but the morning had brought with it a strong breeze, and after having a breeze behind us most of yesterday today it was head on. Still, the miles ticked on and the route left the Moors for Falling Foss (which I couldn’t see) and then a hermitage which was passed on the way to Littlebeck. Here everywhere was covered in plastic sheeting- the chairs and the floor – but sensible offerings for digestion were available and as always the marshals were so helpful, cheery and uplifting.
Out of the checkpoint and into a sequence of stiff climbs that seemed to go on forever. The day was bright and warming up, though once out the valleys the wind was still quite firm. I arrived at Goathland moments after a steam train on the North York Moors Railway passed through. Helen was on this, heading for Whitby and it was a shame I wasn’t able to film it passing – just minutes away.
I could sniff home now and set off as soon as practicable. However the next stretch was quite hard work. A moorland climb followed by a long stony ridge, dotted with cairns, led to another flagged section of heather leading to a forest estate. All hard on tiring legs. On entering the forest the path seemed to go on forever, and always rising. It took an eternity to reach the small building at Stape, and once again the ritual of filling bottles, eating something, taking nutrients and then pressing on became the mantra. 23 miles to go.
More climbing out of deep valleys – twice – on the route to Lockton, but everywhere was looking very pretty and the sun was radiant. This really is a well designed route, always showing the best of each region it passed though. Though hard work this was a beautiful stretch.
I was told it was downhill all the way to Thornton-le-Dale – and this was mostly true if you ignored the hill just a short way in. In fact, after the hill the long, long road that led to T-L-D meant that Legs could start to get into a rhythm of sorts. (A curious observer might note the awkwardly deliberate strides and partial facial grimace – since dawn my sack had been rubbing my back which was now very sore, despite liberal greasing at checkpoints)
Thornton-le-dale checkpoint was quiet. A few slumped bodies at the tables, sprinklings of jelly babies and crisps and other food if wanted and the usual eager ministrations of the marshals. But I just wanted to finish.
I should introduce at this point one of the stars of my gear – my mobile charger. Having successfully re-charged fully my Garmin watch it now had fully charged my phone. Although I had a full set of printed maps and route description in my map case – easily to hand – I always find following my gps easier in the later stages, especially when heading into the second night. I use ViewRanger software on my iPhone 7plus and it is superb. The organiser-supplied GPX file was spot on.
These last two legs mainly comprised long straight tracks with right-angle junctions and across flat, featureless land. Just head-down, mindless schlepping. At the last checkpoint, in a barn lit with orange light and orange people serving orange food, I teamed up with (another) Helen and Steven and we ticked off the last few miles together as the lights of Malton grew nearer. We crossed the A64 and were guided by a Marshall across some roadworks, and then we were there. All 105 miles of it! Done. Sorted.
After the wonderfully welcome applause I slumped at a table. My wife was on her way to pick me up and a kindly marshal offered me a hot meal. I picked my way through it – mistake! Helen (wife) arrived just as I started to feel a little nauseous. I’d experienced this before on events years ago – eating too soon after hard exercise. A first-aider took me for some fresh air and I was soon feeling ok.
Certificate and bag collected Helen whisked me to our B&B where I crept up to our room and was soon fast asleep.
Thank You to the organisers for a very well organised event, meticulously planned and executed. And a final special Thanks to those who placed the flags – what a brilliant job.
A few foot notes ….
Hydration and Nutrition
Preparing for an LDWA 100-mile event is an ultra-task in itself. This year I tried to ensure everything was just right. I use a Salomon S-Lab 12 backpack and needed to buy some new squashy-bottles. Salomon’s own make had split at the seams in four previous cases, so I went for Ultra-Aspire this time and chose the ones with a red straw. I cut these to length and prepared a bag of SIS tablets to top up with as I approached each checkpoint, and topped this bag up at the breakfast stop. I aimed to drink a full litre on each leg.
I have always tended to cramp badly at some point on these very long events and I really wanted to avoid that this time, so as well as the SIS tablets I bought some salt tablets and had one of these as soon as I left a checkpoint.
Of the seven 100s I’d completed before this latest one, four have seen finish times of around 35 hours and the three more recent ones the 40-hour mark. I really wanted to get back to those earlier times but not at the risk of cramps.
Cramps usually occur after I’ve pushed myself hard for a good while, so I also wanted to manage my pace better.
I’d heard quite a bit about the Run-Walk-Run method of Jeff Galloway and had recently bought his book on the subject. Whilst I hadn’t read it all I had distilled the facts, which seemed to make sense, so I decided to adopt this approach. This takes some patience early on in the event. Once I’ve warmed up I like to keep going with the bunch of runners I’m with at the time. Walking for a spell when you don’t feel like it seems counter-intuitive, and you drop back a bit. But I kept at it and found I didn’t really lose that much ground, and did generally feel much better.
As a result of my nutrition and pace changes I am delighted to report that I didn’t cramp at all, and only once felt a minor twitch. I also managed to pull my finish time back by 2.5 hours to 37.5 hours, which is a good result for me, at almost 67 years of age.
Another issue I struggle with is tiredness. I’ve often sleep-walked along country lanes or needed a power-nap at a later checkpoint. I’d read that some people use Caffeine tablets as way of heading these spells off, and that dehydration also leads to sleepiness. I popped a couple of Caffeine tablets during the last 4 legs and although I did really feel tired at times, I didn’t need to stop.
“Why do you do it?”
Always a difficult question to answer – why do I enjoy pushing my body to its limits by running / walking 100+ miles over difficult terrain?
“Because I enjoy it”, is only part of the answer – the word ‘enjoy’ needs careful unpacking. Do I still enjoy it in the last stages with 10 miles to go and my feet and legs ache and the brain is willing me to sleep? Well, yes, but that’s part of the challenge. So, that’s it – I enjoy the challenge. And the scenery. And the night-running. And the checkpoints and people. And the food. And the bling.
And the promise of another one next year…