Archive for July, 2018

My first ultra – laying a demon to rest by Chris Roberts

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Being quite old my relationship to the Great Outdoors goes back a long way. In October 1983, having stumbled across reference to the Lyke Wake Walk and having read Bill Cowley’s book on the subject, I made an unsuccessful unsupported solo attempt on the challenge walk. I then tended to keep to the nearer to home areas of Lakes, Dales and Pennines until this year when I completed the route as a competitor in the Lyke Wake Challenge, an annual race organised by the Quakers’ Running Club.

The LWW began as a challenge walk in 1955 with the aforementioned Bill Cowley being the principle instigator. The classic route starts near Osmotherley and finishes 40 miles later on the East coast at Ravenscar, having traversed the North York Moors. Start and finish points have been adjusted over the years and parts of the route have changed but it remains a similar challenge to cross the moors and bogs in less than 24 hours. Crossings can be completed in either direction and records also exist for double and triple (and more!) crossings. Joss Naylor took the record to 4.53 in 1979 and Mark Rigby’s 1984 time of 4.41 is the current record.
A few months ago I was casting around looking for a race around 40 miles to test the effects of the training I had been doing and The Lyke Wake Challenge seemed the obvious one to go for. Never having raced further than marathon distance it is a fair step up and at the same time would allow me to redress the balance by actually finishing the challenge!
I left entering until almost the closing day but then fell and injured my knee the next day. This set back my training and meant I arrived at the start line at 5.50 on 14th July less well prepared than I had hoped. Incidentally start times are handicapped based on previous performance or your own estimate of expected lapsed time. I suggested nine and a half hours based on nothing more than my roughly six hours on the Ingleborough marathon.

With me on the start line were four other runners. Three local lads who stuck together throughout and another chap who turned out to be a veteran of many crossings. The first part of the route takes you along the road from Cod Beck Reservoir but soon joins the Cleveland Way route through some woods and then onto the first decent climb. Conditions were already warm with little breeze but the views from the escarpment were good as early mists evaporated. I was feeling good and the knee was behaving so I more or less kept pace with the others who had started with me. I was a bit slow on the steep descent of Carlton Bank into the first checkpoint but spent little time there and pressed on for Clay Bank. This section is mainly good paths and tracks and we were making good time. I noticed at 6.4km (one tenth of the way) I had taken 48 minutes. If I could keep this up that would be an 8 hour crossing! As I was approaching checkpoint 2 I was delighted to see that Sophie had come up the hill to meet me and chase me in. At the checkpoint Sarah was also waiting for me with everything I might need. I am so grateful for my support team who had a long day and some interesting roads to drive along to keep me fully supplied. To be fair the checkpoints were all well stocked with food and drink and very cheery marshals as well.
Leaving Clay Bank there is another climb as we headed towards the highest point on the course. I had covered about 15km with another 14 to the next checkpoint. The path was still good as it shares the route with the Cleveland Way until Bloworth Crossing, where the Way turns north and the Lyke Wake makes use of an old railway line. Along this section I began to slow down although it is fairly flat and smooth. I was beginning to have aching quads which is unusual for me so early in a run, but was a result I think of straining them in a DIY related incident earlier that week. The view down into Farndale was some compensation but the heat was beginning to become oppressive. This was the section that did for me back in 1983 so I was glad to keep moving and arrive at the Lion Inn where Sarah and Sophie were once again in support. What a treat to get rice pudding and tinned peaches from the checkpoint team! I had a bit longer here while I stocked up on food and rubbed some Ibuprofen gel into my legs. I took a couple of paracetamol for good measure too.
Leaving the Lion Inn there is a couple of miles of road before striking off into the wilderness which is the infamous bog section. Normally you can expect to sink into deep bogs along here but with the extremely dry conditions following weeks of drought it was mainly dry all the way. Indeed some parts were as hard as concrete, with other bits nice springy peat. I had left the three lads back on the railway line but they passed me along here and stayed ahead all the way. Still, I racked up the first 32 km in around 4.38 so felt on schedule. The reality was that I was slowing down and later splits confirmed this.

Running down into Hamer checkpoint I had covered 38.5 km in 5.37. It felt like late afternoon but was not yet even midday! I had another longish stop here to check my feet. This involved re-applying tape where I would expect a chance of blisters, but none were apparent yet. I had agreed that Sarah and Sophie would skip the next checkpoint as the road distances make it difficult to get there and to the next ahead of the runners. This wasn’t so bad as the legs are only 6 & 5 km. However I was now slowing even more, as the path became very rocky after Blue Man i’ th’ Moss (a standing stone). I wasted no time at checkpoint 5 but pressed on, down to Wheeldale Beck and back up and over Simon Howe to the NYMR railway line and so to Eller Beck, cp6. With the next and last checkpoint close to the finish this was to be my last prolonged pit stop so I refuelled and set off again at an even slower pace!

The next bit I found it harder to follow the path but I got back on it and took my phone out for the first time for a selfie at the cross on Lilla Howe. I was now crossing Fylingdales Moor and was out of the “bog” section, but was finding the stony track hard going. My right foot was sore if I hit any rocks so I walked much of this part. There was a drop down into the valley of Jugger Howe Beck then a climb out to the final checkpoint. Pausing only to guzzle a goodly quantity of electrolyte I pushed on, keen to beat 11 hours. It was already 4 o’clock but the last leg is only 3 miles. A nice grassy path leads up to the radio mast which I had first spotted long ago. Once there I opted to take the road route for the last mile or so to the finish at the Raven Hall Hotel. I was able to run all this part and even managed a sprint across the line, where I collected my most hard earned t-shirt ever! Total time 10.52, distance 65.26 km, height gain only 1215 m. (Footnote. Wake is the watching over a corpse and Lyke is the corpse itself).

Lyke Wake Crossing – Sunday 24 June 2018

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Potential witches – Wendy Wadsworth and Michelle Dorgan
Driver/Cook/England football score updater – Lisa Carter
Statistics: 17 hours total time
15 hours walking time (as per Strava)
18 pee stops
Weather – sunny, dry with no wind (except as a result of eating too many flapjacks)

The alarm woke us from our pitiful sleep at 3am on Sunday morning, we packed our bags and had a quick breakfast and we left our ‘driver’ asleep in bed and headed off into the early morning light with a beautiful dawn chorus ringing in our ears.

We left our YHA at 4am and had a 2 mile walk to the start of the Lyke Wake Walk so we reached the stone marking the start of the walk at Scarth Wood Moor at 4.30am

The Explorer maps combined with the fact that I had read the Lyke Wake Walk Guide by Brian Smailes and gone over the route many times over the last few months made the journey more straight forward with only a few wrong turns.

The route to the first check point at Carlton Bank was very pleasant with a lovely walk through Clain Wood (remember the path off to the left beside the two seats or you will continue into the wood) and along the road at Hollin Hill to the long climb up through the wood to Round Hill, Gold Hill and along Carlton Moor. (The telephone box at Huthwaite Green had disappeared but there is a little post box) The dawn mist lifted and the view from Carlton Moor was magnificent. It was starting to warm up so our layers started to come off one by one.

The route to check point 2 displayed more views of Middlesborough and Guisborough and far across to Roseberry Topping in the distance. It was a hard slog up to Kirby Bank but an enjoyable walk on the path alongside Broughton Plantation. A lot of trees had been logged and the stone steps beside the wall were very difficult to see and we missed them so we went along the wide track to the road and saw check point 2.

The route to check point 3 (and our only official stop on the walk at the Lion Inn) was quite arduous. There were a few people on this route to talk to – walkers, mountain bikers and some lads on motorbikes racing past sending up a dust storm so strong we had to cover our mouths and nose to stop us coughing– and it was a lovely walk to Round Hill. The area around Blosworth Crossing was stunning.

The long disused railway track seemed to go on forever however and we were desperate to see the red roof of the pub. We did see large patches of beautiful cotton grass which were pleasing to the eyes and so soft to touch.

We eventually saw the pub and took the little path to the left hand side of the pub and met our awaiting support team (Lisa). A toilet stop and a coke for me and a cider and cheesy chips for Michelle! I only allowed half an hour to refuel and stock up on water and snacks, enjoy a respite from the burning sun and replace blister plasters and socks!
After saying goodbye to Lisa we continued along the really busy road up to Rosedale Head and stopped to take photos with ‘Fat Betty’. Other people had left fruit and snacks on ‘Betty’.

We continued along the road to the small car park in a little layby and took the path on the left to cross the ‘boggy’ section of the walk. As it had been so dry over the past few months, this area was quite dry and only a small number of bogs which could easily be crossed by either jumping across stumps of grass or just walking across. We crossed straight over the road to Hamer Bridge (checkpoint 4)

The track continued to Blue Man I ‘th’ Moss and we took the path straight on keeping the Wheeldale Plantation on our left. This path was very difficult as it was narrow and very rocky underfoot which slowed us down a great deal and sapped our energy.
We eventually crossed a small road and over a stile which reminded us to be wary of snakes and headed down the steep ravine to Wheeldale Beck which we crossed using the stepping stones and ascended up the other side, following a track to Simon Howe’s circle of stones.

We could see Lilla Howe in the distance and the military area of Fylingdales but were they getting any closer? Our tired legs carried us onwards.

We eventually came to the railway line where we crossed the little bridge which brought us out into a field of butterflies. There was a budding butterfly enthusiast who proceeded in showing Michelle the uncommon blue butterfly species.
We crossed the very busy A169 and reached Ella Beck Bridge. Continuing over the boggy area of Lilla Rigg we reached Lilla Howe. It took every ounce of our mental determination to keep walking. Our conversation was limited and so too was our water supply. Our feet were aching from the hard ground and the sun had almost completely sapped our energy but despite this we kept going.

Continuing over High Moor we reached the infamous Jugger Howe ravine which I had read so much about. It was much worse than it looked on the map and I had to drag my body down the ravine to Jugger Howe Beck to cross the little bridge and ascending the path opposite. From here you could see the cars on the main A171, Stony Marl Moor and the beacon signalling the end of the walk.
After crossing the main road and up the embankment the other side, we proceeded to walk along the track one foot in front of each other with our sights set on the beacon in the distance. Half an hour the book said, 30 minutes the book said! But it seemed a lot longer than that. We eventually reached the Lyke Wake Stone and finished the walk at 9.30pm with dusk gradually descending upon us. ‘Never again’ Michelle said. ‘Not for a while’ I said with a smile.