After what has proved to be an extremely busy year on business, and hence far away from these Northern trails, it was with extreme hope, probably above expectation, coupled with a certain amount of trepidation that I arrived at the start line of the running of The Crosses 53.
As the title suggests, the Crosses is a 53 mile challenge event comprising a circular moorland trot passing by the ancient stone crosses strung around the high tops and low villages of the North Yorkshire Moors. Starting away westwards, the route skirts around the heads of Glaisdale and Great Fryup before heading down Blakey Ridge, through Lastingham to Appleton-Le-Moors and then climbs back north east through the forests of Cropton and Wardle Rigg, passing Fylingdales and the last loop towards Robin Hoods Bay before a retrace back through Newton House Plantation to the finish.
Directly quoting from the Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Teams own site the Crosses was ..
First run in the early 1970's to raise valuable funds for the the Scarborough and District Search and Rescue Team, the event starts and finishes in Goathland and traditionally has to be completed within 24 hours.
The event was held through the 70's and 80's but, unfortunately the team had to call a halt when entries had fallen to such an extent that it was uneconomical to hold the event. The team are resurrecting the event as a one-off just for our fiftieth anniversary over the weekend 4th - 5th July 2015.
After the misty start of the first section, following the steady climb through a steamy Comb Wood , around Murk Mire Moor, onto Egton High Moor and through Wintergill, the air cleared revealing fabulous views over the head of Glaisdale.
And it just got better and better, and greener, and clearer and hotter ...
And then a sudden mad descent through bracken and hidden scree tumbled us down towards Mountain Ash Farm; down along and around the winding lane, passing Yew Grange to the first self clip ... followed by a proper stiff climb up Caper Hill; breathtaking to breathless within 5 minutes but with stunning views opening over our shoulders.
This next section skirting Glaisdale Moor, around Great Fryup Head to Trough House was magical ... sparkling skies with green and purple moorland in every direction.
The wind full in the face, running into the teeth of the prevailing breeze was a joy; I never felt better than on this section ... but I was soon to feel a lot worse.
Leaving Botton Cross, retracing steps back to the Danby Road, passing Fat Betty on the right, with Ralph Cross nicking the horizon in front and with the left swing towards the Lion, the wind was brought across my beam ends; like a hair drier pointing into my right ear. And, ...was that a stone in my shoe?
... and to catch the runners in front I tried the old "walk strongly" for 50 paces and then "run" 300 paces which worked perfectly for a good hour or so ...
Now, beyond the Lion and down onto the old railway track, Rosedale and the old minings stood as a terrific left hand backdrop all the way down Blakey Ridge ...
That stone in my right boot did bother me all the way along the old railway cutting, It appeared that I kicked it badly, and accurately, with every stride and it did come keen. I had taken gels every 6 miles and with plenty of water on board ( even the luke warm plastic water we all carry ) I felt that all was going well, however, the inevitable happened .. nausea always seems to haunt me after a few hours on these mid summer outings and I did feel quite sick above Rosedale Chimney.
The views all down the ridge were stunning ...
Even managed a glimpse of RAF Fylingdales in the far eastern distance ...
and it was only 3.55pm ...
But, I was baked and as has happened before on more than one occasion on the heights and under the gaze of the full sun, I was sick and shot ... and my number was nearly up.
Finally away from the ridge and down into the shady village of Lastingham.
Was it only me who enviously regarded the two blokes under the awnings in the Blacksmiths Arms taking a cool lager or two? ... was it only me that felt this bad?
For the few hardy souls that have managed to read this far, you'll be relieved not to have to stand me banging on from here about the history of the Crosses: About how that good servant Lilla flung hisself in front of the Kings would be assassin and paid with his life, or about Peter de Mauley obtaining the Mulgrave Estate by marrying into the de Turnham family and moving "his" cross to gain more land!. No, that may come later but this is a challenge event first and foremost and that challenge proved insurmountable following what was, for me, a strong first half of the race.
Running 27th into Appleton-Le-Moors, I was sick again on the lane and that stone in the shoe felt like a house brick. The big toe on the other foot was also showing signs of stress: I knew I'd lose the nail on that one too ......... what was happening?
My theory, well supported by amongst others Jay Hodde, Rod Dalitz and Karl King is the acknowledgement of the difference between proper hydration and well hydration. Being well hydrated says nothing about the sodium content of fluids and this combination of good hydration yet low sodium causes extra fluid accumulation in the tissues and hence the increase likelihood of blister formation: With too little salt, the layer under the skin swells which makes it easier to disconnect from the underlying tissue.
Karl King says "Black toenails are often a result of insufficient electrolyte management. Too little sodium makes hands and feet swell. You can see your hands, but you can`t see your feet because they are in your shoes. When the tissues swell because they have excess water, the mechanical strength of the nail footing goes down. Then any movement will do tissue damage. Most of the damage is done in the second half of an ultra when electrolyte status is often thrown off if you don`t take care of it. Not many people get black toenails from a 15-mile run....." that could be me then? Couple this with a pair of old but well worn shoes and a reluctance to throw away that lucky pair of gnarled old Thorlos then this combination proved a toxic combination too far.
Perhaps the general sickness was just the effects of pushing on within the intense heat of a hot July day? I sweat like a cheese at any event but I have noticed salt rings accumulating over the day on my running gear which does add weight to the argument that I lose salts and just dont get enough back in? .... any recommendations anyone? anyone tried E-caps Endurolytes?
Stumbling into Appleton-Le-Moors, a couple of other crosses - High and Low - came and went and i enjoyed a fabulously welcome hot cup of tea!
The first opportunity to head back north east, through Cropton Forest, was the final straw. Not being able to keep anything down at all and walking with what felt like a bag of marbles in each shoe became a real trial and with the relentless trekking up the long drawn out gun barrel straight avenues I felt like Dante's pilgrim descending into the heat ... this section seemed to go on forever.
From here, I was overtaken by legions of fellow competitors and without exception all enquired after me ... thank you all, it was very much appreciated and typical of the friendship I have always enjoyed. However, all things must end and finally at Mauley Cross checkpoint the feet had given up and I presented an opportunity for the medics to get to work ... that never was a stone in my shoe ... "I have a canula?"
Patched up and hobbling along the track up towards Newton Dale and Saltergate I reflected upon my failure and have concluded that the fault lies with me entirely and I'll try and address these issues over the coming weeks and months. Well beaten on the day, but not cowed, I awaited transport back to Goathland from Saltergate as the sun set on a glorious day.
Savaged by the late cloud of midges was the final ignominy but I was privileged to see the first two runners back to the hall in 9.57 ... plenty to think about after today.
Huge thanks to all the SRMR Team for a super day out and a very personal thanks for the team members at checkpoints 7 and 8 for your help, assistance and support ... couldn't have gone a step further ...... but I'll see you all at Saltergate when the temperature is down. Give me a snow flurry anyday.