Race Review – Hell on the Humber

Hell on the Humber? I am trying to remember when I signed up for it. It was certainly before the injury and the following sickness. It was supposed to be one of those lap races, one of many I do every year, that boost the 100MC numbers and get me steadily closer to my goal. Me and lap races. SVN, Saturn running and Phoenix run 6 hour races. Simple. One lap and you are done. 6 hours, do as many as you can. If you head out with time left you are allowed to finish the final lap. I am no stranger to Lap Races. No stranger at all. We are on speaking terms. More than speaking terms. We played Evil Kneival at each other’s house on BMXs and scuffed up our knees. If I sent Christmas cards I would send one to Lap Races. In fact I shall.

I have run half a dozen Saxon Viking Norman races, a couple of Phoenix runs and was signed up, but was too injured or sick to run a couple of Saturn Running races. And that is what I have to compare to Hell on the Humber, or HOTH as it is known. But with the Tower injury and then the lung thing, this run of the mill lap race turned into more. After a few cough filled 10Ks, this was my comeback race or, at least it needed to show me that I could keep going longer than an hour. I needed it to be good. I had originally just wanted the marathon or above 28 mile distance in 6 hours, but how I have been feeling, I would be glad with anything but 28 would be sweet. 28 being 7 laps of the 2 miles there, 2 miles back, lap of the bridge, with the starting point being in the country park by it.
I needed the Magnificent 7, Blakes 7, 7 Samurai. The world record for cramming people into a phone box? 7 Laps needed to be counted as a marathon? 7.  And, after a mucus filled slow Pride 10K I needed some more miles in my legs. The year is rapidly running out and I have 9 races left, 4 marathons, one ultra, and the potential of one at Hell on the Humber.
HELL ON THE HUMBER
CHASE THE SUN WIMBLEDON 10K
Merrell Spring Night 8K (Cape Town)
LOCH NESS MARATHON
GREEN MAN ULTRA
CHELMSFORD MARATHON
GUNPOWDER 10K YORK
ATHENS
NOTTINGHAM MARA

The Race

Phones and Music devices were banned which was very disappointing for a crappy lap race across the pedestrianized parts of a bridge. They should at least allow open ear headphones. Some people are running for 36 hours. That is a very unnecessary rule in my opinion. I don’t want to spend 36 hours in my head. What? Am I crazy?

It was an odd time too, the pre-race. I knew a few people from Instagram and Twitter would be there, no one I had met before, but certainly a few I had spoken to, including DesignRach and neither of us were too happy with the level, or tone of the communication via email or on the website.

Here was one such email.

Darling,

Don’t slouch! Now, let us proceed.

Once again we stand prepared to face the toughest of challenges, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sister stand ready to be bound for all eternity in ne’er so vile suffering, suffering which can only bring glory of the type which makes those who were not with us think themselves cursed. HOTH has found us, and we it, and we shall conquer… In other news, it’s HOTH this weekend so you probably need to get your act together and start packing.

Now, this is a challenge for many, I know, but please at least try and read this ENTIRE poorly configured email. It contains the answers to many of your questions (about HOTH, if you don’t know where babies come from by now, you need the type of help I can’t give.)

So, read the ENTIRE email (yes, you know who I’m talking to), digest, and assimilate into your plans. Please. For once.

Registration

Registration will take place at the Event HQ Tent at the following times:

36 Hour – 17:00 – 18:00 Friday

24 Hour – 06:00 – 06:30 Saturday

12 & 6 Hour – 19:00 Saturday

You’ll need to bring yourself and your sense of humour, and you’ll need to make sure you DON’T leave it until the last minute, because you’re going to sulk (or not) if we leave you without a number or a race because you didn’t turn up in good time. If you owe for your entry, bring the exact money in a sealed envelope with your name written on it, and pay at registration. You know who you are, don’t make me hunt you down.

All of your event merchandise, including hoodies and polos can be collected at registration time, too, but these need to be collected from the HOTH Shop. Please bring EXACT money, as we likely won’t have change (we’re not that helpful), and you really wouldn’t want to cross this year’s new shop boss… Hoodies £26.50 / Polo Shirts £20.00. We know who’s paid what, and who hasn’t. Bring what you owe, and don’t make me let the shop boss hunt you down. Also, FOMO HOTH Hoodie and Polo envy sufferers will have to wait until all merchandise has been collected if they’d like to purchase one of the very few left overs. You can leave your name with the shop boss, and she’ll decide whether they’re given on a first come – first serve d basis, of if you’ll have to go through some sort of ‘Hunger Games’ style selection process.

We always have a handful of safety pins spare, but you’re advised to bring some with you just in case. This way you won’t be disappointed when you have to share 3 between you.

Race Start

The races will start (prompt) at the Event HQ at the following times:

36 Hour – 19:00 Friday

24 Hour – 07:00 Saturday

12 / 6 Hour – 19:00 Saturday

Kids Tower Run – 17:30ish

Parking

All cars belonging to participants and crew will need to be parked in the SOUTH BOUND CAR PARK. This is the car park near Race HQ (Through the gate), and the car park you’ve never been allowed to use in previous years. Exciting times…

Cars and their contents are left entirely at their owner’s risk, though we haven’t had any problems in the past (but there’s always a first time. eBay is calling).

The main car park ‘may’ be open for the duration of the event to allow your friends and family can come and visit you and cheer you along. However, this may change on a whim.

Event HQ

Event HQ is based in the wooded area at the entrance to the Southbound Car Park. On race day you’ll see the large black tent pitched, that’s where the event crew operates from, and where you’ll find us if you need any help and assistance. This is also where you’ll find the event medic and the water and back up snacks.

You can pitch your tent anywhere in the wooded area, though please remember that it does get very dark in the trees (it gets very dark in there), and you’ll need to use lights or other glow in the dark markers to identify any trip hazards such as ropes. You’re advised to pitch behind the treeline, away from the hydrant, and away from Natalie’s tree.

Please remember: NO NAKED FLAMES ARE ALLOWED ON SITE AT ANY TIME! This will get you a DQ, a lifetime ban, and see you escorted from the bridge via the quickest route. Even if it takes us a while to drag you up there kicking and screaming. Also, if you smoke, please go and stand in the middle of the car park to do so. 1. – We don’t want you burning the very dry groung 2. – It kind of smells and people don’t like it, especially when running lots, and if they’re going to vomit I want it to be because of HOTH, not your JPS Black full strength.

If you don’t have a tent, and don’t have a crew, you’re welcome to leave your kit in one of our HQ tents. Though we can’t guarantee they’ll be there when you get back. However, space is limited, so we recommend planning this in advance.

Toilet facilities are available in the toilet block next to the Visitor Centre. Please remember that these facilities are used by the public, so keep them tidy, and clean, and please don’t get naked in there. I know I shouldn’t have to say it, but it has been known for people to walk in on a naked runner standing in a sink and having a strip wash… More than once.

Please make sure that you use the toilet block, and don’t be tempted to relieve your bowels / bladders on the bridge / in the trees. The full site is monitored by the bridge control team using CCTV. If I have to watch a video of somebody going to toilet where they shouldn’t when I attend the debrief with management, you can be assured that you’ll receive a DQ and a lifetime ban.

Nudity… Yes, I know. Again. While nudity in public places and the toilet block are frowned upon, we do understand that you’ll need to get changed from time to time, and we accept that there is likely to be a certain amount of nudity in the HQ area. However… Please try and keep this to a minimum, and keep it in your tent if at all possible. Keeping it at night would be better. Games of nude lunchtime volleyball will be frowned upon this year, again.

Those bringing children with them will need to make sure they keep them on a leash at all times, and be prepared for the fact that they may be exposed to some nudity when people are changing. Also, your children are your responsibility. If they annoy me, I’m selling them. Also, they can get you a DQ.

What To Bring

Many years of HOTH events would suggest that the weather is going to be everything. Expect unrelenting heat during the day, unseasonal cold at night, or tropical humidity, blasting winds are quite normal, as are the occasional torrential shower of biblical proportions, or two, and there’s absolutely nowhere to hide when you’re on the bridge. Bring appropriate clothes for every occasion, and spares for when what you’re wearing gets wet / starts to chafe / falls apart (it happens more than you think). You WILL need warm clothes. You WILL need comfortable clothes. Lots and lots of them. Spare shoes for afterwards may help too, though I’d recommend something with laces that can be stretched open and not 6 inch heels. Bring dry bags to store your clothes and pack wet clothes.

Bring your own first aid kit. Plasters are popular, for nipples and feet, and compeed blister plasters are particularly good for when things start to go wrong (though I haven’t seen them on nipples). If you use medication, BRING IT. Bring it and advise the medic what you take, why, when, and where they can find it if everything goes wrong. If you turn up without your inhaler and you’re asthmatic, we are just going to leave you and sell your stuff on eBay because you’re stupid. However, if you’re not stupid and you just made a genuine mistake and forgot your drugs, let us know so we can try and support you. Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t make us suffer at all. Ever.

Bring the food you like, and that you know works for you. We always supply a selection of high calorie snacks to keep you ticking over as a back up, but your nutrition is your responsibility. Bring what you can stomach. If this is your first time, something salty later in the race is good and very welcome! We also supply water (often Direct from the Humber at no extra cost!), which you can help yourself to, but energy drinks are down to you.

We hope to be able to supply access to hot water and tea and coffee at infrequent and unpredictable intervals, so bring a mug, as I’m told that trying to drink coffee from your hand is challenging, at best.

A torch, for finding your kit in the dark, or anything else you’re searching for in the dark. Please don’t illuminate the nudes.

Toilet paper. Just in case somebody’s having a challenging day. We supply it, and we’ve never run out, but some of you have tried hard in the toilet department in the past.

Sense of humour.

Crew

If you’re racing the 24 or 36 hour event it’s recommended that you have a crew. That is somebody to look after you throughout the race. Those of you with experience will know that the best crew make the best race experience. They have food and drinks ready at the right time, clothes ready, the works. A bad crew will eat your food and fall asleep, leaving you to do everything yourself. You’ll fall out with them after a few hours. If you don’t have a crew, borrow one, talk nicely to one, bribe or blackmail one. They’ll make your life easier.

The 12 and 6 hour runners don’t need a crew, but you’re welcome to bring somebody to look after you.

Crews are acting on your behalf and part of your team, and they can get you DQ’d from the event very easily. Don’t let them badger us, don’t let them annoy us, and all will be fine.

Your crew MAY accompany you on a lap of the bridge with permission of the Event Director. However, this is limited as we have to manage participant safety, and we can’t allow too many people on the course. Crews may not accompany athletes during the kids tower run, or during the first three hours of the race starting. Crews MUST NOT use bikes on the course at any time, and any pacing will result in a DQ.

Volunteers

We always need them. If you have a friend, family member, or child (of an age where I don’t need to look after them) who can give us a few hours to help with timing, lap counting, and keeping the water and yum yums flowing, please bring them along. If you bring me a timer or lap counter (really, it’s easier than you’d think, and includes writing a race number on a piece of paper) for a full 12 or 24 hour period, I’ll give them, or you, a free entry next year. Drop me an email if you’re interested.

The Rules

All that you’ve read so far is important, this part is the bit you really don’t need to miss.

  1. The decisions, instructions, whims, and musings of the Event Director are FINAL. There is absolutely no arguing with this at any time. You’re strongly advised not to test this rule.

As all event crew and volunteers are working on behalf of the event, their word is supported by the Event Director. In short, do as you’re told and don’t argue.

  1. All participants must complete at least one full 4 mile lap of the event course in every 3 hour period. Failure to meet this requirement will lead to your withdrawal from the race. You are advised to run / walk on the left at all times, and overtake on the right. You should also communicate effectively with other participants when approaching and overtaking, and at all times be aware of stray pedestrians, cyclists, and dogs who each year manage to get themselves caught up in the race.
  2. Unsporting conduct and language will not be tolerated at any time. Behave like an a*se to other competitors, the crew, or the public at any time and we’ll behave like an a*se to you, which will involve an immediate DQ, a lifetime ban, and a walk of the plank. This rule applies to competitors, their crew, and their supporters and friends, even their pets or that kid they knew at school who looked at them funny that one time, so don’t let your people, or people we decide are your people, ruin your race. Or let your mouth ruin your race. Or your face ruin your race if we don’t like the look of you. This is frequent.
  3. Use the toilets. I can’t overstate this. If you’re found using the bridge / a tree / somebody’s sleeping bag as a toilet you’re in more trouble than you can imagine. The event will be closed down if this type of behaviour happens, the bridge management team have made that very clear. Well, maybe not the sleeping bag part, and I can’t promise I won’t do this to somebody.
  4. No iPod’s or any other devices using earphones are permitted at any time during the race. This rule is enforced strictly, for both my own personal entertainment and your safety. Several hundred people are involved in HOTH each year, and it can get busy! If you have earphones in you can’t hear safety instructions or the communication of other participants, so it’s a no. Don’t even ask. No. If you want to carry an 80’s ghetto blaster, that’s fine, though you will be expected to finish with it!
  5. There is no spoon.
  6. Don’t drop litter. Not on the bridge, not in the camp, not in the car park. If you bring it, you can take it home or put it in the bin. It makes the event look bad, and it makes you look bad. Don’t do it. Also, regulars at the event will call you out if they see you, and people will report you, and you’ll be walking the plank.
  7. Count your laps. Report you laps. Each time you pass through HQ it is your responsibility to stop and make sure the lap counters have your number recorded. If you don’t, you can’t complain if a lap gets lost at3am.It’s worth stopping for! However, don’t come and ask us your tally, and don’t send your crew. We’re not going to tell you until the end.
  8. Whether you walk one lap every three hours or you’re chasing the course record, you’re racing for anywhere between 6 and 24 hours. Just think about that… People train all year for a 10k. You’ll do more than that. It’s possible that at some point you’ll feel a little low, or sick, or dizzy, or pick up an injury. If you’re not feeling well YOU MUST report to the event crew and / or medic IMMEDIATELY. It may just be for a check up, but not letting us know isn’t an option. Fatigue and exhaustion can creep up on you, and the last thing we want to do is find you unconscious somewhere on the bridge. We will look after you, and we will only remove you from the event if continuing poses a risk to you or others. Remember, this isn’t an olympic qualifying race! What you get when you finish is a medal, a t shi rt, and a huge personal achievement that nobody can take away from you. HOTH isn’t going anywhere, so you can get those things any year in the future, because none of it is worth your long term health!

HOTH is a family. A very dysfunctional family. However, along with the weird uncle, gobby sister, and aunt that likes the vino, there’s lots of support for each other. If you see somebody struggling, give them your time and make sure we know about it. If there’s an emergency on the bridge, use the orange call box to contact the control room and we’ll send you a medic! Let’s all finish in one piece.

  1. When everything’s over, collect your t shirt (the size you ordered!!!), relax, and appreciate what you’ve done. Most people won’t ever even think of doing something like HOTH. Be proud of yourself. Whatever reasons you have, whatever your motivations, whatever your finish mileage, be proud of yourself. You’re great.

HOTH 2019 Early Bird Entries

The final piece of very important information you need to know is that a limited number of entries to HOTH 2019 36, 24, and 12 are available on race weekend, with a huge chunky discount which will save you a massive £15, £15, and £12.50 respectively on the regular entry. So, if you want to pick up an early bird entry and save yourself a fortune on your inevitable entry to come back in 2019 (Yes, HOTH will be on the bridge in 2019!), follow the instructions below

Put your entry fee in a sealed envelope, write your name and email address clearly on the outside, along with which race you want to enter, and be one of the first 20 people to get to me. Once the early bird entries are gone, they’re gone, and they are limited. The only alternative to this process is if I know you well enough to accept an envelope containing a payday IOU. Drop me a message if this is you, and I’ll do what I can to work with you 🙂

SWEETIES!!!

No, I’m not being nice. That rarely happens, if at all.

It’s been suggested (in research and stuff) that boiled sweets can be great in helping patients battling with cancer to cover the metallic taste that chemotherapy can sometimes cause, and the local cancer unit at the Queen’s Centre at Castle Hill Hospital have asked for help so they have enough sweets to give their patients (sometimes they see over 60 people from Hull, Yorkshire, and the Humber Region each day!)

One of our awesome runners, Tamzen, asked if HOTH could help with this, and naturally it was a big YES!. So, here goes… How about everybody racing at HOTH this coming weekend brings with them a bag of boiled sweets? It doesn’t have to be a big bag, unless you want it to be, as I’m sure that every sweet will be appreciated by somebody having an otherwise crappy time of life (though please make it a sealed bag, so your tissue, pocket lint, and questionable hairs haven’t attached themselves to said sweets. Nobody wants that). We’ll then put them all in a box and deliver them to the Queen’s centre on behalf of the HOTH community?

I know that everybody has their own thing, the charities and good causes close to them, and I don’t want to take away from that at all. So if this isn’t you, don’t stress, nobody will be watching the collection box and nobody will judge. It’s there if you want to take part.

I remain, Sir & Ma’am, your obedient servant.

Karl, ID-10-T & Bar

HOTH Event Director & Supreme Commander

Joint HOTH Headquarters

Narnia

End of email
Music to get you through? Nope. Phones (for music)? Nope. Litter. Nope. I think the tone was what got me. It certainly triggered Rachel’s tourettes a few times. But the thing about email, and websites, is that you don’t necessarily get the tone. The communication all came over as harsh control freak trying to be funny. But when you meet the guy, and listen to his lengthy race briefing, it is funny, it is honest, and he does have to be harsh, as there are CCTV cameras everywhere and any of the things he lists that could get you a DQ, could in fact get the race cancelled. So I put my hands up, I was too quick to judge.

I never want it said of me that…

I am happy to admit that he was funny, and the rules, except the music and the full nudity in the toilets, I agree with.

The Route

When I ran the Hull Marathon last year, when it was city of culture (holds in sniggers), the bridge stood out as a highlight. I think that is what prompted me to sign up in the first place. In the marathon though you ran on the road across the bridge in the outside lane, then went under the road via the underpass, and then ran back along the pedestrian path the other side. I had thought initially that this was would be similar, along one side of the bridge on the path, under, then along the other path. Nope. We would start at a country park, where the race HQ with it’s tea and cake, sausage rolls, Yum yums and sweets would be, along with registration (a car boot), the tees and hoodies (the same car boot), and the start and finish line (a traffic cone).

Starting at the first cone (seen below) we would arc up and under the bridge (pitch dark at night) and then run up and onto it. We would run on the left 2 miles across to the other side and second cone, where you would turn, and back the way you came. At the end of each lap you would have your number taken by the marshals at the HQ.

How I did (Or rather, how we did)

Speaking to Sam, and Rachel, and a few others before, Rachel and I decided to run (at least the first lap) together. And why not? We ran up, as part of the 12 and 6 hour start group, knowing that the field would thin out pretty soon. The 24 and 36 hour runners had already been going for a long time. They were walking, or limping, or back at the campsite by the race HQ napping, or having massages as we completed the first 4 miles (having our number taken) at a pretty decent clip.

With no music this was one of the times you really get to know someone. Rachel and I discussed running, and races, the movie Convoy and if neoclassical economics really does underpin the reformation of centrally planned economies, oh, and boys and their willies.

Lap 2 started after a sausage roll and a cup of tea. For this we adopted the run/walk method I employ when injured, talking part in ultras, or just being lazy. That old suggestion, that if you can converse freely and be understood during a run, that you aren’t trying hard enough? Well, we were clearly not trying hard enough. It did allow us to discuss race tactics. And I know some of you will laugh, and tut, coughing “tactics?” under your breath. But for a lap race this is important. You go out and do the first lap fast (ish). You almost immediately go out for lap 2. Maybe a pause before 3. They key for me comes nearer the end. When I have 3 laps to go, do I do a lap, and immediately go out for the 2nd, then take a pause, and rest up before the final run to glory? Or do I take a mini break between 1 and 2, and then go straight out on the final lap, without even taking a pause? It is difficult enough, but when there is 2 of you, you need to keep both of you happy.

And we kinda did. Rachel wanted to run 16 miles on her plan for Loch Ness. I wanted 28 for my 100MC, and to somehow claw back the damage 9 weeks of injury and sickness has done to that particular target. I was sinking a lot of tea, one between each lap and the inevitable toilet break (sans nudity) was needed. We did put it off though, until after we had run a lap, run/walked 2, and then crazy speed marched another in a Benny Hill kinda way before heading to the toilets. And then we were out and marching again, 2 more 9 minute KM marches, and comfortably came in just under the 6 hours with a very worthwhile and satisfying 24 miles in the bag. Rach was happy with that. And, given how comfy it felt on the lungs, the legs and in the new Nike’s I was too. No marathon, no ultra, but me, at least I was back out there.

The Bling and the Tee that Everyone loves

I do love the Dia de Muertos look they have gone for. It looks great.

And people love the tee. I had more comments about that when I posted it than when I posted that I had finally run a race and not coughed my lungs out.

In Summary

God. I really actually enjoyed this race. It was better than the other lap races I have done before for a few reasons. Maybe the music would have made it worse. Certainly talking to someone for 6 hours made it better. The surface was good, the ups/downs are just a small part of it so there is a lot of flat. You were forced to run at least one lap every 3 hours to qualify, this was not like the SVNs where for £40 you can turn up, do a 3 mile lap and get a giant medal and goodie bag. You needed to run for the 6 hours, and we did. The website is shit. There is no twitter account, or there is but we think that is someone else, and it hasn’t been used for 4 years anyway. It could have been far, far worse. If it had been windy, if it had rained, or a thunder and lightning storm was going on. It would have been dismal. But it was warm. I was sweating in my tee. The company made it what it was, and our experience allowed us to formulate the race plan that gave us a comfy 24 miles including 4 tea breaks, and a toilet break, and opportunity to chat to a few people on the route and in camp. Well done on Sam for his double marathon in the 12 hour race too.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE HELL ON THE HUMBER? If local, I actually would

WOULD I RUN THE HELL ON THE HUMBER AGAIN? Scarily, yes I may.

And I will leave you with the HELL ON THE HUMBER search, for those considering the 36, 24, 12 and 6 hour races next year and on Halloween.

NEXT UP: CHASE THE SUN WIMBLEDON

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