Hardmoors White Horse Trail Half Marathon 2017 Race Report

I have a love hate relationship with running, or at least I used to. Pre six months ago I battled with injuries and couldn’t imagine ever finishing let alone enjoying the longer distances. Six months on and I’m writing my Hardmoors White Horse Trail Half Marathon race report.

Needless to say Jayson Cavill is at the heart of my progress and ‘coach’ suggested I take this one easy with the Wainstones marathon in mind…so when asked if “I was drawn into a race?” this will be my reaction.

To say I prefer dry conditions is an understatement, so the past weeks weather was much appreciated. My day began (Sunday that is) at 6.30am, I wanted plenty of time to avoid stress and get sorted. After some porridge with honey I prepared my race gear and headed out for Sutton Bank. Arriving 90 minutes before the race I avoided a very busy car park.

The time passed as I ate a banana, applied factor 50 (us redheads burn baaaad) and visited the loo about four times. Then, smack on 9.45am Jon Steel called the race briefing. Among the usual was an update to the course, it would be extended to 16.8 miles and miss out a section of private land. From memory this had one nasty climb so that was a bonus, but the extra half a mile was Jon’s little treat. We then shuffled along to the road side as the race count down began, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….

Hardmoors White Horse Trail Half Marathon Race Report

The start had a bottle neck effect as we sprang from the road to trail. The jostling and jiggling had already begun as I settled in around the middle of the pack. The first 2-3 miles passed as the field spread out along the Cleveland Way, at this phase I was around 30th to 35th. The early miles were pleasant, flat and even down hill in parts, the major ascent would come towards the end. With this in mind I had planned to stay around the 9 minute mile mark early on. A glance at my watch showed 8:40 minute miles…that seemed a little fast but my breathing was rhythmic and legs felt fantastic so I decided to maintain.

I’ve heard plenty about the fine folk at Hardmoors races and this was no exception. I enjoyed a couple of pleasant chats and the enthusiasm from all the marshalls helped more than they know. Somewhere after the 5 mile mark I plodded along with a guy called Lee. Easy conversation stopped me from obsessing about time, effort, my legs and all the other crap that scatters around your head. Hopefully I’ll see Lee again at Osmotherley or Rosedale to see how his London Marathon went.

At this point I realised just how energized my legs were. One of few running every climb I gradually moved through the field. At mile 11 I had picked off five or six places at least and found myself alone. I couldn’t help but smile, striding along a decked out wood and at a faster pace than I thought possible, the trickle of a stream and sun beaming through branches was truly special. This felt really good.

Just past mile 12 the course showed its true colours. The elevation gains were persistent but less severe than I had expected. Though the hardest climb grinded me to a walk (the only one of the day I am proud to add.) Around mile 14 things got tough, I’d just finished the steepest climb and decided to pursue those in front. My legs were tired and tight but I knew I had more to give. From here I passed around 6 or 7 runners and with a mile to go put my foot down.

I was now running at 8 minute miles and passed another two runners in the woods. As I approach a road leading to the finish line my watch read just shy of 2 hours 28 minutes, I’d be damned if I didn’t go sub 2:30. Flying through the visitors grounds I slammed both hands on the table and read aloud my number…my time, 2 hours 29 minutes and 49 seconds. This placed me 16th out of 131, a result I am quite proud of considering all the injuries and my past problems. This was my first Hardmoors, longest distance and hopefully the start of something great!

Hardmoors White Horse Half Marathon Race Stats

Kit List

  • Saucony Peregrine 6 trail shoes
  • Ronhill Infinite Racer shorts
  • Salomon Trail Runner Short Sleeve Tee (AW16)
  • Inov-8 Merino sock high
  • Salomon Advanced Skin Hydro S-Lab 5
  • Precision Hydration 1000 tablet (one taken with 500ml of water)
  • Precision Hydration 1500 tablet (one taken day before race & one morning of)
  • Salomon 500ml soft flasks (one with plain water one precision tablet)

Race Nutrition

I couldn’t have nailed this better if I’d tried. Carb loading began on Friday night with a healthy beef and courgette Curry, followed by carb snacking all day Saturday and spaghetti dish the night before race day. Sunday morning I had porridge with honey and took a banana to eat 90 minutes before the start.

During the race itself I took on a small cranberry Chia Charge bar every 35 minutes stopping after my third and moved onto three Jelly Babies in the last 30 minutes for added energy. I’d highly recommend Chia Charge as part of your training nutrition too. Very simple to implement (just eat one small bar every 30 minutes) and they taste great. Besides, Tim Taylor and his partner are great people and its always nice to source locally.

As for hydration. I piggybacked on Kim Cavill’s advise of using Precision Hydration. I took one Precision 1500 tablet with 500ml of water the day before the race and another on Sunday morning. Then dropped one of the Precision 1000 in my soft flask to sip during the race alongside another flask filled with plain water. I can’t say if it was the lack of alcohol the night before or the tablets but my hydration was perfect so I’ll implement this strategy again.

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Darren Smith

Training with purpose since October 2016 Darren has gone from trailing the pack to winning local races and the times keep on falling. A true believer in hard work over natural talent he writes to help others realise their true potential. Darren's race schedule for 2018 includes the Hardmoors Wainstones marathon (1st place), Keswick Mountain Festival (10th place), Scafell Skyrace and Salomon Ring Of Steall (World Championship race.)

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