The 21st March might be Spring Day, it was definitely still winter on the 23rd! Given the extended winter we're having this year, conditions on the moors were rather tough. And I was exposed to them even before the race. The fourth edition of Hardmoors 55 was run in reverse, from Guisborough to Helmsley. The football/cricket club at Helmsley was kind enough to let us camp there, which meant being 100m from the coach to the starting line, and again 100m away from the finish line. As I had packed my best sleeping bag and bought a better sleeping mat the day before (*), this was actually not a big deal, despite the high winds dropping the temperature inside the tent down to about 0°C. Other runners were not so lucky with their sleeping equipment, and ended up sheltering in the club house in the early morning. On the plus side, camping next to the race finish meant pub diner with fellow runners before the race, including usual suspect Dave Kamis.

Out of 200 registered runners, 130 turned up for the race on Saturday morning. Some prevented by the snow on the roads, others by the call of their warm duvets... The start was given at Guisborough, and although it was a bit cold and windy around Roseberry Topping, the conditions were not too bad until Kidale. A nice 20km warm up, catching up with fellow runners such as Henry Morris. Things changed dramatically as we approached Bloworth Crossing. A strong and cold side wind (probably 40 to 50km/h), combined with ankle-deep snow at least, and up to knee-deep when crossing omnipresent snowdrifts meant it was very difficult to run. But there was no other option. The desolated moorland offers no protection, you have to keep moving.

Things were slightly better on the ridges to Osmotherley, still with a lot of wind, some (avoidable) ice, but less snow. After Osmotherley, again strong winds and snowdrifts made progress difficult. Jon was kind enough to cut off the White Horse loop, saving 5km and a bit of ascent. So as the night set at Sutton Bank, I had only a relatively easy section to Helmsley left to run.

Although the route was slighlty shorter this year, you can see that the weather conditions compensated for that in the following graph showing the number of finishers per time slot. The 2012 curve is a typical Gaussian-like runner distribution, with the finisher's peak between 11 and 12 hours. The 2013 curve follows the same pattern until 11 hours, where it peaks first, before strangely dropping and peaking again in between 13 and 14 hours. This is rather odd. It looks like the typical first third of the pack didn't get affected too much by the conditions (or a least, this was compensated by the slightly shorter course), but the rest of the pack got delayed significantly for some reason. Maybe inappropriate equipment (I met a runner with road running shoes and a very weak head torch integrated in his cap, luckily someone lent him a better option on the way), or just not used to harsh conditions. Any thoughts?

Hardmoors 55 runners distribution

I'm rather happy with my race. Despite (or maybe due to) the conditions, I found the race rather enjoyable, both physically and mentally, without any major issues. Simply the perfect day out I'm looking for, just start running easy, and enjoy it until the end. And I'm still in the ever-shrinking club of runners who have completed all editions of the Hardmoors 55 :)

Ultra snow

(*) That is, the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite. Unbelievably small when packed, especially for someone who hasn't moved away from the old-school closed-cell foam mat!