Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A Tale of Endurance - The Hardmoors 110 Ultramarthon

I did it ! and loved every minute of it.

"I completed the Hardmoors 110 - Ultramarathon". 

I would like to dedicate this post to my wonderful wife, family and friends for their continuous support throughout my strenuous & time consuming journey to completing the Hardmoors 110 Ultramarathon.

I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to 2 genuine and hardworking individuals, who without them my race might of been a different story to tell. They are Jason Cameron and Ray Wheatly, who played invaluable roles as my race Support Crewe. Thanks lads !.

Further to this, I would like to congratulate my racing partner Jackie Buston on his fantastic finish of the Hardmoors 110. Well done Jackie !.

Ok then, so here are the details and the "NITTY & GRITTY" leading up to and finishing the race.

Following on from last years Hardmoors 55 mile race, "this by the way is where my friendship evolved with Jackie". I was challenged by him in a friendly manner to join him on a 100 mile running race. I am sure that most of you who know me through various sporting themes that "I do love  a challenge" !. As this challenges my planning and preparation skills learned from my own experiences out in the racing arena by  constructing  a training strategy and nutritional plan that is both "flexible and balanced" towards the demands of family, work and general life stresses. 

So we registered to compete in the 2016 Hardmoors 110, which is a 110 mile running race set out in the stunning North Yorkshire moors. 

I kick started my training plan shortly after the Christmas holidays. After successfully completing the "West Highland Way" 95 mile race in 2015. I decided to follow the same proven and successful principle called "PERIODIZATION"

You may ask yourself what is meant by the term periodization ?. It entails devoting specific periods of time over the calender year to emphasizing different types of workouts, the three major ones being; aerobic base building, high intensity workouts and competitions, and  rest / recovery periods over the duration several months.

Further to this there was two other very important ingredients that I had adapted. With the latter being uncovered while  listening to a Podcast (episode 26) of the "Science of Ultra". Presented by Shawn Bearden.

1/ Creating a strong & focused - "ULTRA MINDSET" preached by elite endurance athlete Travis Macey. That I could recite each day leading up to and during the race. Where I would recite to myself my own positive statements during any encountered low points of which  would help to convince my mindset  of the reasons  why "I CAN FINISH" the race. 

2/ To remember this powerful word "FLOW" and use it when times got tough when a "MENTAL FOCUS" was required. This concept was created by elite endurance athlete Terri Schneider during her preparation of  the Kona - Hawaii "IRONMAN" competition. Details of this can also be found in her new book "Dirty Inspirations" where Terri expands on this further;


The raw ingredients of my strategy had included long back 2 back runs over most weekends, club hill runs with the Sunderland Strollers and long aerobic  runs of up to 55 miles in distance. High intensity workouts such as strides, AT (anaerobic threshold) runs, hill repeats and gym exercises for explosive power. Most importantly lots of rest / recovery.

My strategy went 90% to plan as I developed a virus and a pre existing piriformis injury which had resurrected it's ugly head. However, as my training strategy was designed to have a flexible and balanced approach. I was quick to adapt various microcycles to suit my mood, available strength and general well being.

Not to bore you any further with training plans or strategies. To the point, the race went to plan and I completed the 110 mile race in 34 hours & 35 minutes. I was pleased with my performance  as I only suffered one low point which occurred at 90 miles in to the race, where hallucinations was triggered by sleep depravation. However, I quickly took charge of my tired mindset and aerobically cruised past the 100 mile checkpoint in style and completed the race with a traditional sprint finish. To be honest, I felt as thou I still had another 20-30 miles left in my legs to carry on further. One final element that would make my  epic journey complete, was to see Jackie crossing the finishing line within the 36 hour limit.

After 10 days of rest from all exercise I had my first trail run, which was the kick start of what I call "maintenance base" miles. And to help me asses when the time was right to start my maintenance milage. I used a heart rate monitor that would give me data of my "resting average heart rate". From 67bpm (beats per minute) back down to my normal 56bpm. 

So you may ask what is next ?. Well Jason, Jackie, Ray and myself have decided to compete in the 2017 "Sandstone Way" Ultramarthon. This is a 120 mile running race starting in the beautiful seaside town of Berwick and finishing in the rural market town called Hexham.

The following is a link to the Trail Outlaws Sandstone Way site;


“Keep on running & be inspired”

Darren Barnes

Follow my running activities on Twitter @enduranceruner

Facebook "TEAM WLAC (We Love A Challenge)"

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Tales of Endurance Introduction


"Tales of Endurance" are stunning accounts of the most extraordinary feats experienced in my journey to competing in the gruelling and famous "Hardmoors 110", (110 mile ultramarathon). Each tale will describe my key objective and give you a first hand insight into how my anatomy deals with the stress of extreme exercise, whilst developing a positive
ultra mind-set. 

It was Monday 8th February, when I officially registered my name to compete in the Hardmoors 110 ultramarathon. This endurance based event follows on from my recent success in completing the iconic "West Highland Way" 95 mile ultramarathon. 

The following extract was taken from the Hardmoors website. For further details, please follow the link below.

About the Hardmoors 110

The Hardmoors 110 Ultramarathon follows the dramatic Cleveland Way National Trail encircling the North York Moors and the Cleveland Heritage coastline.
Commencing in the North Yorkshire Market town of Helmsley competitors will have a time limit of 36 hours to complete the 110 mile single stage trail race, passing through the North York Moors and the beautiful Cleveland Hills before following the stunning Cleveland Heritage coastline visiting Saltburn, Runswick Bay, Staithes, Dracula's Whitby, The old smuggling town of Robin Hoods Bay, Ravenscar and the seaside resort of Scarborough before finishing in Filey. The Hardmoors 110 holds 4 points to UTMB qualification

The following video about Hardmoors is narrated by Jon Steele race director.
So I ask you to join me on this incredible journey as we build together our endurance and strength to developing a positive ultra mind-set. 

Meet my race support team 

Let me introduce to you my race support team. They are Ray Wheatley aka (Ultrarunner Moorsman), 
John Shemmings and Jason Cameron.

To compliment their experiences as described below. They had also played  important roles as part of my "West Highland Way" support team.

I have asked them to introduce themselves and briefly describe their  experiences in their own words. 

Ray Wheatley aka "Ultrarunner Moorsman".
Support runner profile
Started ultrarunning after a couple of years of road running "half and full marathons". I had advanced to fell races and was hooked by the natural beauty and tranquillity of the moors. I then entered the iconic Hardmoors 55 ultramarthon, but failed on the first attempt as I was carrying too much kit at the time. My second attempt I had  failed due to hyperthermia at 42 miles, but I kept my focus and learnt from these slight setbacks. I had gone to Scotland and completed the famous Hoka Highland Fling 54 mile ultramarthon. Following this I competed in the Lyke Wake race before completing the Hardmoors Grand Slam in 2013, which included "30, 55, 110 and 60" mile events all in same year.
I have also been a support runner in several races of 40 - 50miles and including the second half of the iconic West Highland Way 95 mile ultramarton.

John Shemmings 

Support driver profile
Support driver and number one arse kicker !. Commando trained at Royal Marine college Lympston barracks. I earned my green beret in 1985 and served as a PTI in the Commando forces. I was the heavy weight boxing champion in CDO Regt and to be honest I  never liked running. I am built for power and strength. I successfully climbed Mt Mount Kilimanjaro and completed many  multi charity events for charities such as the Grace House Appeal, Meningitis Trust and Cancer Research. I was awarded the Angel of the North award from the Sunderland echo and Vaux Breweries. I am an all round crazy guy, I love fly fishing and mountain biking.

With John & Sarah Smith 

Jason Cameron 

Support runner profile
My name is Jason Cameron and I would like to write a little bit about how I started running ultramarathons with Darren Barnes. I have only been running with Darren for about three years and over this time. I have done things I didn't know that were possible, especially for an overweight, drinking,  smoking 41 year old who hadn't really done any sport for about 20 years.  
I first met Darren about 5 years ago when I moved house and lived directly opposite to him. Having a young family and working shifts, I was often up at very unsociable hours and I often used to see this crazy guy going out running at all times of the day, night, in all weathers wearing a head torch and a fully loaded rucksack. I would also see Darren when I was out walking my dog running up, down and around  the ski slope at Silksworth sports complex and I often wondered if he was actually sane. Feeling inspired I decided to start running myself and entered the great North Run and Hamsterley Forest 10k trail run. I was buzzing after completing these two achievements and proudly mentioned this two Darren when passing one day. I knew Darren was running long distances but I nearly fell over when he told me he was training for the 95 mile West Highland Way Ultramarathon. I did not realise people actually ran these distances. Darren was always asking if I fancied going out for a run with him, so one day I decided to give it a go and the rest as they say is history. Myself and Darren over the last three years have been on countless training runs, where my Saturday morning would consist of running a marathon distance around the Cleveland Way or Pennine Way or around our favourite stomping ground Penshaw Hill and woods. During the last three years I have also raced in some great ultras including the Haworth Hobble, Jedburgh Three Peaks, Hardmoors 55 and Hoka Highland Fling. I have also swept (Last Running Marshall) for some great races like the
St Cuthbert's Way, Sunderland Urban 35 and Jedburgh Three Peaks ultramarthons. Darren and myself had also swept together this year the Hardmoors 55 and the St Cuthbert's way ultramathons. Darren has introduced me to some fantastic people in the ultramarathon world and I look forward to running many more races alongside him.   

With Jason & Jackie Buston 

Let the journey begin...

                                                  “Keep on running & be inspired”

                                                          Darren Barnes

Follow my running activities on Twitter @enduranceruner

Facebook "TEAM WLAC (We Love A Challenge)"


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Tales of Endurance #1

"Tales of Endurance" are stunning accounts of the most extraordinary feats experienced in my journey to competing in the gruelling and famous
"Hardmoors 110", (110 mile Ultramarathon). 

      “Keep on running & be inspired”

                 Darren Barnes

Follow my running activities on Twitter @enduranceruner

Facebook "TEAM WLAC (We Love A Challenge)"

Thursday, 31 December 2015

"My EPIC journey into unknown territory"

West Highland Way Race - 95 Miles

So here we meet again, as I embark on a journey that requires great endurance. A journey that also requires  self discipline, the ability to maintain focus and deliver mental strength as Travis Macy author and endurance athlete quotes  "having the ULTRA mindset".

"A Journey into unknown territory, as I endure the famous 95 mile West Highland Way race"

With countless hours of dedicated training that required self discipline, focus and hard effort that would propel me through my "Periodization" cycle. 

You may ask yourself what is a Periodization cycle ?. 

Periodization  is a training plan which consists of a series macrocycles. There are three phases in the macrocycle;

Preparation - Base miles
Competitive - Build, Intensity, Peak, Race
Transition - Recovery & Rest

These cycles are the build up to your objective race. Each Macrocycle can vary in length between 12 to 16 weeks all pending on the race plan. They consists of a series mesmocycles, which are a group of activities that include separate sessions of (base miles, strengthen training, tempo or hill work). 

These are the core principles and foundations that I used to constructed  my race plan and strategy in preparation for the West Highland Way race.

It was Friday 20th June as I checked over the equipment, nutrition and hydration that my support crew would need to assist me with during the race. 

I was delighted when Ray and Sarah took up my offer to join me in the race as my valued support crew. Their experience of competing in races of over 110 miles and working well together in a team  was second to none. 

In advance of the race, I had carefully scripted out a race plan and strategy. However, after countless revisions. I decided to settle on version (6), which I issued out for them to familiarise themselves with my requirements. I must commend them on being very tolerable with my perfectionist approach to the overall race plan.

Leading up to registration, my crew carefully prepared my pre race meal of porridge with jam, wholemeal bagel with almond butter, water with chia seeds and a banana.

1am Saturday 21st - June race day


My race support crew - Sarah & Ray

The below link takes you to the start of last years race, which  I also competed in.

Just as the horn was sounded to confirm the start of the race, the heavens opened and it started to rain. I thought to myself, drat here we go again for 3rd time. As I approached Conic Hill at 3:30am at 16 miles . Without warning I developed a sudden sharp pain in the side of my right foot and lower calf. As you can imagine, I was starting to think to myself why was this happening to me. If I do not take swift action and attend to the matter quickly, then this could be the end of my race. Foolishly, I decided to take a chance and carry on running until I reached CP1 (Balmaha) at 18.5 miles.

Check point strategy - Time scale 5 minutes 

• Take off rucksack and replenish with snacks and hydration.
• Drink 500ml of water.
• Address any skin or clothing issues.
• Put back on rucksack and adjust for comfort.
• Spray on Mozzie spray & Suntan lotion.
• Leave CP and walk while eating food accompanied by either Sarah or Ray to collate & dispose of waste in to the nearest bin.

• Crew to keep me informed on my run time and cut off times.

After 5 minutes of R&R, I was off running while still eating my porridge. Have you ever tried eating porridge and drinking tea from a mug at the same time ?. Ho and not forgetting the biting mozzies!. However, as I always tell myself "it's all character building".

As I approached the shores of Loch Lomand, I started to suffer pain from a grumbling IT band. Drat I thought to myself what's bloody next !. Its a rarity that I suffer from these type of  muscular issues, as my upper and lower body core is solid and robust.

Upon arrival at CP1, I decided to change my trainers for my comfy HOKA Stinsons. But to my surprise, the toe boxes had stretched and were far to big for my feet. It was time to introduce plan (C), my 2nd pair of Sketcher- Go Ultra trainers.  I had learned a valuable lesson form this and that is to "never leave your wet and dirty trainers to dry out or they will deteriorate quickly".

Further on into the race, I was starting to feel energised all thanks to eating dried dates. However, the issues with my IT band was still present and it felt like someone was pulling at them with a pair of pliers. Upon reaching CP5 (Auchtertyre) 50 miles, I was ushered to the weigh station and to my surprise, I actually gained body weight. Could this be down to consuming to much fluids ? or, was it due to me wearing heavier mid layers?. I shall never know. My mind was fixated on reaching my next objective,  which was to reach CP7 (Glencoe Ski Centre) 70 miles before the 12am cut off time.

On the way to the weigh station with Ray

As we (Ray) and I approached Ranoch Moore, our spirits were high and our bodies in great shape. Although the under footing was hard going with protruding rocks and sharp stones. Our running economy was undulating "moving with a smooth wave - like motion",which I put down to practising endlessly (basic skill sets) during my weekly base training sessions. 

We arrived at  CP 7 (Glencoe Ski Centre) just after 10:30pm, which ment that I was 120 minutes ahead of last years race time. After a quick 5 minutes R&R, we were back up running on the WHW (West Highland Way) race.

Photograph taken the day after the race

Upon starting the ascent of the Devils Staircase in (Glencoe) at 74 miles, I had to stop and attend to an aggravating  blister. It was just after midnight and I had been running for over 23 hours and we still had another 21 gruelling miles to go before the end of the race, "Rome wasn't  build in a day"!. During the ascent the weather had started to turn for the worst, bringing with it wind & driving rain. In fact the rain was  hitting us hard at 90* degree angles. During this very tough time, I played over and over in my mind a song that would help me overcome these difficult times. 

The song was written by Amber Rubarth and  it is called "Desert Runners"       http://youtu.be/lnWjOFOv4qM

We reached  CP8 (Kinlochleven) 80 miles in to the race just after 4am. After a brief consultation with the race doctor, who managed to address my achilles tendon problem by packing out the rear of my trainer with felt. I was quickly back out on to the final stage in the race.  The weather was atrocious with high winds and driving rain, but we still had high spirits. 

Inside the CP at Kinlochleven waiting to see the race doctor

After passing through Lundavra at 90 miles into the race. Suddenly and without warning my body stopped moving forward. I had bonked !. This was the only time during the whole race, that I had experienced this sudden sensation to stop moving. What is happening to me I thought to myself ? "Bonking or hitting the wall means sudden fatigue and loss of energy, which is caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscle". My mind had started to play tricks and my muscular system was starting to fail me, which I endured for over 60 minutes.  I tried to consume as many carbohydrates as possible without throwing it all back up. I digested endless amounts of Jelly Babies and dried dates.


Views of the WHW route from Lundavra

During the final stage of the race, I had experience hugh swellings around both my calfs and feet. The structure of my running shoes were stretched so wide to protect my swollen feet.

I eventually cmpleted the West Higland Way race after 34 hours and 11 minutes of running. Soon after I crossed the finishing line, I was presented with my WHW finishers Goblet. 

The day ended with a curry and several beers shared with my wonderful race team.

With Ray & Sarah holding my WHW Goblet
Below with Jason & Ray

The West Highland Way race is a fantastic event & challenge. I struggle to compare any other race to this incredible experience. 

The race is extremely well organised & supprted by race marshals &  volunteers.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger says "I'll be back " for a PB !


“Keep on running & be inspired”

Darren Barnes

Follow my running activities on Twitter @enduranceruner

Facebook "TEAM WLAC (We Love A Challenge)"

Monday, 31 August 2015

Coming soon.

The sequel to 

"My EPIC journey into unknown territory"

Did I do it or did I DNF?.  The latter is a word I use sparingly.

Don't miss out on my incredible journey.

Darren Barnes 

        “Keep on running & be inspired”

                      Darren Barnes

Follow my running activities on Twitter @enduranceruner

Facebook "TEAM WLAC"  (We Love A Challenge)"

Thursday, 20 August 2015

An EPIC journey into unknown territory - My preparation for the (WestHighland Way Race)

"My EPIC journey into unknown territory"

To prepare my mind, body & sole on my 3rd attempt to compete in the famous (West Highland Way) 95 mile race.

It took time to decide on a perfect title that would summarise my EPIC journey, my accounts, personal sacrifices and changes that I had to make in the preparation leading up to the West Highland Way race.
This would be my 3rd and final time that I will be competing in this gruelling 95 mile race. I had placed myself under extreme pressure to ensure that I had the best chance ever of successfully completing the race. This had meant that several personal sacrifices and changes had to be implemented such as lifestyle, diet, training plans and race strategy. 
It was the Christmas holidays and I was restricted to my bed with a very serious chest infection. As I lay in my bed,  I reflected back over my previous races, analysing the good practices, triumphs and mistakes that I had endured over the past five years. Then it struck me !, I thought to myself. If I want to compete in the West Highland Way race then things would need to change now !. So it did, I carefully scripted out a six month training plan, but this time I threw into the race mix the famous (Hardmoors 55) ultramarathon as my first race of the season. Shortly following this I would then compete in the (HOKA Highland Fling) ultramarathon. However, one other important element had to change such as cutting out all processed foods and meat from my diet. I decided on having a Vegan diet. 
As I stood on the weigh scale  the gauge displayed "14stone 10lbs". Ho "Bollocks" !, I thought to myself.  I had to remind myself  that my body's composition had contained very little body fat as it was constructed from well defined and sculptured muscle. However, I had decided that I would need to loose about a stone in weight, while still maintaining muscle definition and building on body core strength. So I purchased a new type of food blender called the (Magic BULLET). Each morning I would prepare and drink a homemade fruit smoothie. The ingredients would include kale, spinach, berries, hemp or soya protein powder, chia & flax seeds. My daily food intake would consist of between 5-6 small meals, made up from 60% carbohydrates, 30% protein & 10% non saturated fats.  This would include fresh (fruits & vegetables) such as  granola bars, natural nut butters, figs, mango, dates, lentils, rice, potatoes, grains, kale, spinach, peas, beans, beans and more DAM beans !.
Soon after recovering from my chest infection, I immediatley kicked into action my (base) training plan and strategy. Due to work and family commitments, I decided that 80% of my training time should be completed over the course of each weekend. This would include B2B2B (back to back to back) running with regular daily mileage in exceess of marathon distances (26.2 miles). I also included brick sessions, which is also known as a durathlon (run, cycle, run). Most of my long runs would be on hard compact trails and hilly terrain. These would be completed on trails around  the North Yorkshire Moors & the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland. I had to think about my diet such as what "whole foods" do I need to consume during those long and hard runs. So I started to experiment with dried fruit such as mango, figs, raisens and dates. They had to be easily digestible and have an abundance of  long lasting fruit sugars that will prevent me from bonking (hitting the wall).  

With all these changes in hand, I was now starting to reep the benefits. My pace and endurance had excelled themselves. Further to this my body weight and composition was heading in the right direction. I had to stay focused on my diet, maintain self discipline and have a positive mindset shown towards running long distances each weekend. I also included within my training strategy lower and upper core weight strengthen sessions. With all this  preparation in mind, I was starting to feel confident in achieving my long term goal the (West Highland Way) race crystal cut glass goblet.

Hardmoors 55 Mile Ultramarathon

It was Saturday 21st March and I was standing on the starting line of one of Europe's toughest winter ultramarathons, the (Hardmoors 55). I was racing 55 miles with my training buddy Jason. The route follows the long distance walking path called the (Cleveland Way), which starts from Guisborough and finishes in Helmsley North Yorkshire. Our race strategy for the day was to start off slowly and gradually increase pace towards the end of the race. This worked great as we were passing fatigued competitors along the latter stages of the race . The worst thing that anyone can do when competing in a long distance endurance race, is to start off to fast. During the latter stages of the race we teamed up with Jackie  from Southern Ireland. 

We finished the race in 13 hours & 53 minutes 


Hoka Highland Fling 53 Mile Ultramarathon

It was 6am on Saturday, 25 April 2015 where after a full hearty breakfast, I met up with my TEAM WLAC (We Love A Challenge) running friends Jenny, Jon, Mel and Jason. 
The weather conditions on the day was a mixed bag of showers, sunny periods and hail. To summarise this in two words I would say that it was all good "character building".
As the race got underway, I slipped into a slow to moderate pace to prevent myself from bonking (hitting the wal) to soon. Upon reaching the summit of Conic Hil the views over Loch Lomond were stunning to the eye. The downward decent towards Check Point No 1 was leg destroying to say the least.  Bearing in mind that only less than four weeks ago, I had successfully completed the Hardmoors 55 mile ultramarathon. Most folk would of taking time out after the race to recover.
After 24 miles, I had developed a sudden and sharp pain in my right calf. Negative thoughts were flowing through my mind to what was the cause of this potential race disaster. I thought to myself, that if I did not address this issue immediately then it  could lead to a sudden end to my race. So I STOPPED and grabed some tape out of my rucksack to strap up my calf. Once this was done I was quickly up running again and back into a confortable pace. As the distance progressed, I was having regular high points (feelling good within myself) with lots of energy derived from stored muscle glycogen. This had demonstrated to me that my Vegan diet was starting to pay off. "I had lots of energy and I had recovered quite quickly from my last race".

I eventually crossed the finishing line with the sound of bagpipes playing, spectators and friends congratulating and cheering me on. I had completed the  race in 13 hours and 15 minutes.

The Hoka Highland Fling race is not to be underestimated. With the ever changing weather conditions and the topography of the route. The rediness colour of  my eyes had proved that I was badly dehydrated but  "feeling happy" with my achievement.

I must point out that both the Hardmoors and Hoka Highland Fling ultra races were just training runs for my big race which was latter in the year (June), the 95 mile "West Highland Way" ultramarathon.

Crossing the finishing line

After 13 hours and 15 minutes of running I'm  still smiling 😊


To follow shortly;

My EPIC journey and accounts  as I compete in the famous (West Highland Way) 95 mile race.

Don't miss out....

“Keep on running & be inspired”

Darren Barnes

Follow my running activities on Twitter @enduranceruner

Facebook "TEAM WLAC"  (We Love A Challenge)"