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A Lyke Wake up call

Yesterdays Lyke Wake Challenge wasn’t the worst run I have had, it certainly wasn’t the best, but it was one of the strangest. If you asked me why, I wouldn’t be able to explain coherently, all I know is it felt….blah.

The Lyke Wake challenge/run/walk is well known in North Yorkshire almost as a rite of passage for anyone in the area who is outdoorsy. It is a 40 mile crossing of the moors, from Osmotherley to Ravenscar or vice versa, and originated in 1955 as a 24 hour challenge. Since then, thousands of people have completed it as its popularity rose in the 1970s and the path became well worn. It got so popular that it was banned for a period because of the damage to the land, and even now, it isn’t an ‘official’ route on any maps. For those of us that don’t navigate brilliantly, this adds to the challenge! The Lyke Wake race was fairly recently resurrected by the Quakers Running Club, and Jayson had done it twice, completing in super speedy times as fastest finisher. They had to cancel this year, but the race date was such good timing, I decided to try it on the same day. I had always assumed that it was too boggy and rough for me to enjoy it, plus the lack of marking would make it frustrating for me, but this year, with all of my races cancelled, I decided it would be something to aim for. I would see how it went, then make a decision about whether to try the Hardmoors 160 in August.

A few weeks of recceing and I was sort of confident that I could find my way across to the coast, plus the boggy bits were not too bad, just bouncy more than anything. Then, this last week, we had rain. Lots of it. This wasn’t going to be as quick as I had anticipated! No matter, this was not a race: I really just wanted to see how I felt over a longer distance than I had done since last summer.  Despite not seeing it as a race, some part of my brain was telling me I had to do it in under 7 hours, as that was a ‘good’ time. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have even looked at past results or picked an arbitrary number, as it meant I had a battle with myself all day about how to run it. I wanted to give it my best but how much did that really matter when it was a training run for something so different?

We arrived at the stone marker outside Osmotherley just before 9am, to see some Scarborough AC friends also about to set off. We didn’t know it at the time, but Nikki Carr-Walls was aiming for the ladies record in that direction and had clearly made a much better plan than me! She set off a few minutes in front of me with a pacer and ‘mule’ (someone who carries stuff for you) to ensure she had the best chance. They flew down the road and I entertained no thoughts of trying to stay with them, even though I knew Nikki knew the course really well. If I had been able to keep up, I wouldn’t have had any dithery moments! I set off at what felt like a decent pace, with Jayson set to meet me at Clay Bank, about 9 or so miles in.

I knew this section well, as it covers the Cleveland Way, a well trodden, heavily paved path. I was feeling pretty good at the start, and kept my target of roughly 6 miles an hour going well. It was when I got to Lordstones cafe that I made my first mistake though. There are two options here: one is to go over three big hills and stay on the Cleveland Way; the other is to take a lower path that is still really obvious and has a lot less climb. I have done both countless times before but for some reason, found myself on a path I knew was wrong. I couldn’t work out whether I needed to drop lower or stay up, and for what seemed like 10 minutes, I dithered and went up and down until I recognised the path again. I felt like I was focused but maybe I was wrong! Plus, being a few days into my period can sometimes make me discombobulated, bad at making decisions and a bit clumsy, so not the best day for stringing together a route I had never done before! Riding the rollercoaster of the – now correct – path, I saw a runner coming towards me. It was Debbie, one of my coached athletes, on her own exploratory run. We had our athletes taking on race routes this weekend, so that we could all share in something together and Debbie had chosen a fell race, Clay Bank West, as her challenge. She looked great as she ran towards me and I really wanted to do a high five! We wished each other luck and a minute later her daughter Megan followed. As I came level with the second of the Three Sisters hills, I heard a whoop above me and looked up to see Jayson and Indie barrelling down the hill. They had come to see how far they could get before seeing me, and using Garmin Livetrack, had seen I was further than Jayson thought. They ran down to Clay Bank with me, where I again almost missed the path down to the road. I said I was okay for food and drink and would see them at Blakey, in another 9 miles or so. By now, I had started getting some niggly pain in my left piriformis, ITB and behind my knee. It was worrying so early but I tried to ignore it as it wasn’t a deal breaker and kept on.

There were a few walkers out on this next section but they thinned out as I got to Blowarth Crossing, so I turned a podcast on, The Guilty Feminist, as I ran. This section is so hard packed and pretty flat, that it was a great chance to work a bit harder and gain some time, but I just wasn’t feeling it at all. My left leg felt much worse on this kind of terrain, so the podcast was a good distraction. I was still making decent time but wasn’t enjoying myself. Jayson and Indie came out to meet me again and as we turned off to climb up the Lion Inn, I was not shy about how I was feeling. There was no question of stopping but this just wasn’t fun. Jayson said he would drive up the road to where it turned off onto moorland track and I could get topped up there. Running up the road felt hard after all that solid track and I got to the van feeling pretty tired. I topped up with water, coconut water and some home- made sushi, and pushed on. When I tried to eat the sushi (not fish!), it was so soggy it made me gip, so I couldn’t eat it. I thought I would manage fine for the time I had left on Chia Charge, date balls and Kendal Mint cake so it wasn’t a disaster but I need to learn how to make sushi properly!

The next section is another bit of road, before turning onto some rough moorland that can be boggy and pathless. I had another moment of doubt here, even stopping to call Jayson as I thought I had gone too far on the road, but I realised where the turn was and kept going, another few minutes down. The moor slowed me down as it was wetter than our recce, but I mostly managed to stay on track, until I reached the road at Hamer. Some more or our athletes had come out to meet us, Shirley and Simon. Simon had completed the route the day before, in wet weather and a fantastic time for his first ultra. I felt bad that I was so down in the dumps after they had come out to support but I couldn’t seem to lift myself out of the slump I was in. 40 miles isn’t long enough for me to get a second wind apparently! I got topped up again and kept on, over the next moorland section of around 10 miles towards Ellerbeck and the last leg.

This was another podcast section as I felt like I was trudging away, dragging my left leg behind me. It certainly helped to keep me distracted and this section was fairly straightforward to follow.  The deep cuts in the moor were muddy and sucking in the middle, but spongy around the outside, so that combined with rock hopping meant I had less chance to think about how much my leg hurt.  Across the stepping stones and up to Simon Howe and I was on familiar turf again. Jayson and Indie made it to the top to meet me and luckily, Jayson was able to guide me down a slightly drier path to the railway crossing. He ran ahead to top my bottles up and I was off again, stopped briefly by all the traffic going to and from Whitby. I had a little walk up here, eating my date ball and trying to focus on getting the right line, which I hadn’t managed on my recce. I was a bit more successful this time, but still drifted off the right path which slowed me once more. Once I got to Lilla Cross, I knew it was a straightforward track, so I did enjoy running the long descent to Jugger Howe and the last road crossing. Another sloggy climb – which seemed a lot more sloggy than my recce! – and I was at the end. Only not quite! The official route finishes at this high point, another stone on top of the moor next to a mast, with a great view of the sea. I wanted to stay true to the race route though, so this meant another mile or so of mostly downhill into Ravenscar itself. Jayson and Indie met me up here, along with one of our athletes, Graham, who had just finished the route himself when Jayson convinced him to do the last little bit too! I tried to pick up the pace here as I had reached this point in around my target time so decided to try and stay under 7.15. I rounded the corner into Ravenscar and could see a small crowd in front of the hotel gates, my finish point. As I got closer, I saw it was Nikki and her crew, clapping me in, so it almost felt like a race finish! This cheered me up, especially when Nikki told me she had done it in 6.10 for a new ladies record! That news honestly made my day after not having a great time myself. She worked really hard and had clearly done her time on the route, so it was a fantastic result. I finished in 7.11, including about 13 minutes of stoppage time! Not a bad time at all considering and it certainly was a proper training run, with lots of lessons learnt.

Overall, there are things here that I think are direct results of the whole Covid situation. I have been knocked out of my usual gym routine, even though run training has been pretty good. Not being able to see my usual practitioners who help keep me going as well as my wonkiness allows has made a big difference too. This will be remedied next week! My head just wasn’t in it at all and I think that is partly lack of practice racing recently and also that things have been so uncertain, I haven’t wanted to fully commit to anything.  One really positive thing though is that I seem to have found a sock and shoe combo that works! Usually, even on a 4 hour run, I get very sore toes, but today that didn’t happen with my Drymax socks and slightly bigger Altra Lone Peaks – hurrah! Also, thank you to Jayson for dealing with my mardiness and being everywhere for me. This is a tougher route than I anticipated but if I do it again, I will know better what to do and hopefully there will be some other people on the journey with me![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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An hour in the life of an ultra runner.The Hardmoors 160 2020: for all we know, we might not get tomorrow.