@Peskyzombies runs Ultramarathons. He started with a boring 2012 London Marathon and apparently thought :‘Meh. This isn’t far enough. Also, it’s flat, I’m not caked in mud, and I can sleep if I need to. This is not yet fun.’
After which he took up trail Ultramarathons. . .some of which are pretty local in North Yorkshire. He’s run the hardmoors 160 and 200 several times. I’ve done support crewing for these events a few times, being a night owl, I’m happy to drive around the deserted moors at night, park in odd locations and watch GPS tracker like a hawk. Hand back to his family at dawn and dusk and find somewhere to pee and sleep. 2017 was a doozy. Race write up on PeskyZombies running blog. With the car crash and the police and the emergency backup support crew. It didn’t put me off in the slightest.
He wasn’t going to do the 160 in 2020, preferring to hold out for 2021 and the 200. But COVID. Other races got put off. So August rolled around, restrictions were eased a little, and why not pop in a quick 160 miles. ( a.k.a 6.15 marathons back to back )
Race preparation was needed. I have the spreadsheets, and the maps, however I had managed to lose clipboards before. With so many checkpoints and things to remember I needed a plan.
I dug out a flash card key ring, washi tape and highlighters and did exam prep for crewing.
Every checkpoint. ETA, points to note, nutrition, gear, split time, in and out, any issues. GPS location
Pocket sized race plan
Emergency contacts. Useful info and locations. Reminders. Packing lists.
Other runners info and usual pace times. Notes on when checkpoints could get busy. Earliest time to arrive to be ready for the running zombie..
It clips to a lanyard and I never put it down!
I’ve had an AIR BNB booked in the general vicinity. Two bedrooms so both support crews can grab some z’s, shower, eat ( unlike the PeskyZombie ).
I often feel weird at these events. Lots of crews have big 4×4’s or camper vans. MrsZombie has a Volvo , and I’m working with a Mini Clubman. With careful loading it’s possible to be fully equipped and sling a 6’3” PeskyZombie into the back for 10 min catnaps. I carry my own kit in the storage space under the boot ( spare boots, spare hoodies, electric kettle, storm kettle, flasks, water, packet soups, tea, coffee, couscous, noodles, first aid and LED Lighting /batteries) sleeping bag and inflating mat tuck behind seats. It’s all good.
The three weeks beforehand , I spend the weekends combining checkpoint and route validating. Where can I park, is there a toilet, where’s the running route. Have we an alternate location.
I also have a copilot. Nephew B is learning to drive, has his own car and loves long trips. He’s going to join me on the second night, which has some cattle grid/gate combo’s.
Day of the race. Theres a COVID safe staggered start at 17:00 Friday afternoon. I set off about 3pm. Get to Air B n B around 4.00. Sack out for 2 hours, then head to Fadmoor for my first handover several checkpoints in.
Fadmoor : Checkpoint 3. MrsZombie gets PeskyZombie through the checkpoint. It’s crowded here, as the pack is pretty tight at this point, but only the first few runners have gone through. We’re tucked around village green. I load up my car with the transferable nights necessities: gear bag, food bags, vest kit, emergency kit. I’m also running with backup supplies of the non specialist stuff, so gear swaps are minimal. All sorted I hand over keys and directions, and MrsZombie heads back to eat and sleep and I start my first night at 9pm.
Stape : checkpoint 4. Over the last couple events, I’ve learned to spend my waiting times already at the next checkpoint so I’m well ahead of my runner and I’m not in a hurry. I can usually grab snack, drink and nap for 2 hours between check ins. The next checkpoint is at the side of the road near a farm where the trail crosses. ETA is 23:30, and it’s pitch black, but dot watching indicates PeskyZombie is ahead by 30 mins or so.
I’ve opted to light up my car like a circus. Two battery powered LED strips run around the roof and boot on the inside. It’s like noon inside the car. Outside, well, I wanted something memorable.
The Watermelon lights : Gag gift from a sibling. Ideal to identify a black car on a dark night. Wearable too as battery powered.
PeskyZombie comes through Stape ahead of time, drawn in by the watermelons. Still a few cars here as the lead runners are giving it a lot of effort. I get him topped up and moving on, still lots of enthusiasm this early on. Take five minutes to pack up car, then gear up and head Hole of Horcum.
Hole of Horcum : Checkpoint 5. This is a good spot. Big public car park, level ground, and I have a 2 hour gap at this pace. Check dots, feed face, sleeping bag and alarms, 60 minute catnap. On waking check dots again. Eyeball the distance and pace and wait for T – 15 minutes. At which point I start the storm kettle boiling water. Its not raining so I’ll use that rather than the plug in kettle. Dig out the checkpoint ziplock, make sure I have water, that new squish bottles are filled, and mug and foods are available. PeskyZombie is a tactical grazer. Gels and nibbles on the go, and a buffet assortment at the checkpoint. We make sure to get hot liquids and runny food into him where possible. Planned ETA is 02:05, actual arrival is 01:45, but I’ve been tracking. Planned shoe switch is delayed to next stop as ground not muddy underfoot. Tea, new potatoes, runny porridge, Quick sit down smothered in a blanket while he gulps, and I empty and refill running vest, then kick him off again. 42 miles down, 118 to go. As soon as he leaves, I wash up, repack, stack rubbish. Head out.
Cockmoor Hall : Checkpoint 6 is a few miles down a single track road, into a tiny gravel car park, and again, by the time I get there and get settled in, I have a luxurious 90 minutes of my own time to catnap, eat, dot watch. There are only 3 cars plus the checkpoint crew there when I arrive and the leader pack is still going strong. some of them are really killing the pace. Planned Arrival 03:55, but he’s ahead of schedule, so I tweak ETA to 03:40 and set all alerts accordingly.He’s earlier than that but I don’t sleep this time. I make a cup of mocha and sit in the boot of the car looking up at the stars. lights off. It’s deadly quiet apart from the occasional crew pulling up, parking and getting their heads down. There’s a pack ahead of PeskyZombie all bunched together and they are in, out and through before he arrives. This is 50 miles, and he’s not tired yet. PeskyZombie is upbeat, plenty warm – This is usually an end of may race, and we are at the end of august. Tea, choc oat milk, and a few nibbles. Refill and go. In and out in 5 minutes.
Crookness : Checkpoint 7. 61 miles in (two and a bit marathons ) and when I get there, there is one other car, and its the crew for the chap in second place. I’m here at just before 4 am. Before Dawn, and before the checkpoint crew.. You can see the pack have dropped back a little now. This is one of my favourite stops: a little pull in near the cliff edge north of scalby. Again, I’m not sleeping. I get my own breakfast, and watch the sun rise. the second place chap comes through and he does not look well. His crew jolly him along and through and top him up. A camper pulls in next. Which is an excellent plan. Beds, kitchen, portaloo. I pause my envy briefly as PeskyZombie is arriving at 05:45 Still chirpy, he’s been chatting to folks on the way, so he’s not been alone. Slightly longer turnaround at 7 minutes, as we get a bit more solid food into him for the day.
Ravenscar : Checkpoint 8 @ 70 miles. This is my handover to MrsZombie. Its super nice to be sat sea adjacent this early in the morning. I’m here from just past 6am, ready for Swapover. Second place has dropped out here, not doing well at all. I have dried fruit and tea and a book as I watch dots and wait for MrsZombie. I’m planning on finding a bacon sandwich on the way back to the BnB. All is for nought however, as PeskyZombie rolls in 60 minutes early and before day crew have arrived. This is not a problem. This is why we plan everything. It does mean however, that he’s repacked, refueled and on his way before she arrives. Her arrival would have been plenty of time to spare if the PeskyZombie had slowed down a little. Even with the shoe change.
MrsZombie arrives about 5 minutes after PeskyZombie leaves the location. Curses! Still, we do the gear swap, share info, and I head out back to the BnB, to get some sleep for the day, and MrsZombie gets to enjoy finding parking all the way up the coast to Saltburn-By-The-Sea on a Bank Holiday Saturday in August.
At 8 am the 110 race starts from Filey. They run up the coast through Scarborough, joining the Cleveland way and the same route as the 160. From this point on there is a pack of fresh new runners chasing the 160 leaders. The two races combine to the finish and everything gets a lot more crowded. PeskyZombie Is usually near the front of both races but parking for crews is now a challenge!!
However by that time I have shipped back to the BnB , about 40 mins drive from Ravenscar, and about 10 mins drive from my next switchover point. Its all good. I didn’t find the bacon sandwich, but I have plenty of nibbles in the car to tide me over. Shower. Bed. Zzzz
Changeover point !
PeskyZombie is tucking into a hot drink and huddling in blankets for warmth
Gribdale Gate : Night the second. CP 13 and 113 miles in. This got a little crowded. MrsZombie was here when I landed and PeskyZombie Family for a quick check in, Just as I got a visit from Sister A and Nephew B. Boy was invited to join me for the second night as driving around the moors at night waiting for runners is more cool than Stormzy or something. Also, they brought me a Starbucks, and he came armed with his own bag of snacks.
PeskyZombie was a little coddled therefore by all, grabbed a 10 minute catnap and then shipped out. He was still running ahead of time, so I made an adjustment to all my checkpoint times going forwards. MrsZombie headed out to forage for a meal, PeskyZombie headed off up a hill towards Captain Cooks monument, and Various visitors returned to their own abodes. I and Nephew B plugged in his tunes and headed into the night.
Not Quite Blowarth Crossing : Checkpoint 13.5. 118 miles. This is a sneaky extra checkpoint we threw in. 90 running mins after Gribdale, but before heading through Blowarth crossing. Which is apparently well known as the hallucination section of the race, so we stuck in a quick check in with PeskyZombie. To get here, we head up Bayside Farm road to the top, and sit in a little lay-by near the gate. There are two private cattle grids on the way up, which are rated for 1 ton and wobble when stood on. My mini is a little heftier than that, so we went through the sidelong gates instead. Getting to the top is freezing, but with good phone service. Nephew A amused himself with storm kettle, melon lights and TikTok.
We saw some runners go through as by this point the front runners of the 110 race had caught up . Some also brought their 4×4 pickup up the hillside track instead of the road. It didn’t sound great, and they also missed their 110 runner by 5 mins.
PeskyZombie arrived, still ahead and looking better for the nap. Nephew B mixed choc oats milk and mountain fuel to minimise effort by PeskyZombie. It went down well.
Clay Bank : 127 miles. This spot is on a hill where the Cleveland way crosses the road. There are lay-bys each side, and lots of 110 crews already here. My mini finds a spot behind an unoccupied Jag. There’s a proper name, that Nephew B explains, but … not my area of expertise. There’s no napping crew in it, seemingly parked and gone. It’s also 21:30 at night and it’s getting dark. ETA is 23:55 by plan, but we are 60 mins ahead by this point and No time for anything but dot watching and race prep. When it gets to 22:50 and the PeskyZombie dot approaches, Nephew B festoons himself in melon lights and rounds up the tired runner. He gets a ten min break, hot drink and gear check, extra warmth for the overnight section. Yeah, little bit delirious, but to be fair we are all mad here. We shoo him on his way, still in second place, giving him the rundown on 160 and 110 front runners.
First place is beating out RobotLegs from a few years before, which is insane and impressive. He’s a good two hours ahead of PeskyZombie, but 3rd place is at least an hour behind him, so we fling things into the car and head to a non suggested checkpoint.
A Road near Swainby : 134 miles . There are two official checkpoints before this, not far apart. This is a pull in where the trail crosses the road again, near the woods. There are sufficient shrubbery for an urgent pee, which really improves the night. I opt to reduce my tea intake. Deep into Dark Skies territory here, we are both wide awake and nobody else is here. After 90 minutes two 110 crews pull up, and the 110 front runners belt through.
This should be a long rest, with expected arrival at 03:00, but the 60 minutes had increased to 90, so PeskyZombie lurches out of the trees at 01:30, for a 4 minute whistle stop halt. He’s tired, but at this point it’s only one damn Marathon to the finish, so we point him at the trail and start packing up.
This is when I shut my finger in the car door and broke my pinkie.
I didn’t actually notice till 12 hours later when I got home.
This is much less gruesome than the pictures runners post of their feet after marathons with no toenails, by the way.
Osmotherly Square Corner: 139 Miles. Handover with MrsZombie. The AirBnB is a 10 min drive from here, handy for early morning switch overs. We trundle down the single track road to the checkpoint which is a bright and well lit hive of activity. And Scum and Villainy. The council has put honking great rocks round the car park entrances to put off visitors. It makes manoeuvres a little difficult. We get parked up, but no naps here. 110 front runners stagger in and out at regular intervals, and we are dwarfed by the herd of camper vans.
PeskyZombies was due in at 04:30, and although he’s lost a little speed, he’s still in second place with ninety minutes between him and number 3. A 3:30 arrival is not a problem, apart from expecting handover with MrsZombie around four am. Oops.
He comes in at 03:24, and it’s going to be a personal fight to keep up the pace. He pops in a second nap, seven and a half hours after his last, and has ten minutes. We fuel and refill him and get him on his way. MrsZombie arrives at 03:45 to watch his back heading up the trail. We do a super fast switcheroo and she hurls the Volvo up to Paradise Hill farm to kick his bum towards the finish.
This is the end of crewing for Nephew B and I. We need to give the AirBnB a once over, and checkout is at 11 so we could get a few hours sleep. We detour past a 24 hour Macdonalds and lurk until breakfast starts. Topped up with egg McMuffins, Neohew B crashes on the sofa and me in the blackout room. At 10 we get up, do a once over and check out.
we head to the coast however. Drive up towards Saltburn. Have a socially distanced Sunday Lunch and then go watch the waves fir a few hours.
PeskyZombie came 2nd, of course.