Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

Endurance Life Challenge: Coastal Trail Series – Bamburgh

on 27 February 2016

A year ago I ran the 10k version of this race and really enjoyed it, so this year I thought I would book the half marathon and use it as a training race as part of my marathon journey. N & P came with me; N to try her hand at the 10k as I had done last year, and P as official driver, hoody holder and finder of food-places for afterwards.

This is the first run I’ve ever done where I seriously thought I was heading for a DNF – ironic for a race series who’s tagline is ‘Never Give Up’. This wasn’t any slight on the race itself. The course was great (more detail to follow) and the marshalls and support from other runners was excellent, but I’m coming to realise how incredibly exhausted training for the Dark Skies run is making me. N & I did a 4 mile route 2 days ago that I’ve done before and felt I flew round, and I just about made it to the end. I was tired after that 20 mile slog on Sunday, no surprises there, but I’ve carried that tired with me all week without being aware of it too consciously when doing day-to-day stuff – including through to today.

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After registering at Bamburgh Castle, one of P and I’s favourite places in the North-East, which was straight-forward enough even if I feel very slightly like a convict or a toddler with my race number written VERY clearly in marker pen on the back of my hand incase I get lost or can’t remember 3 digits for the 10 seconds it takes for me to get my timing chip and paper number. We headed back down to the carpark to sort safety pins and find the coaches which would take us to our start lines. As I was running the half, my coach would leave to take me to my start to head off about an hour before N left Beadnell as I was heading off from further down the coast.

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After taking half the beach home with me last time and getting some rubbing on my arches and the inside ball of my foot (dust, mud and sand always seem to collect here for me) from a combination of wet feet and a sand collection in my shoes, I’d opted for my goretex lined pink canoes and thought I’d try a pair of ankle gaiters, in theory to stop sand coming over the top of my trainers as I was hoping the goretex would stop it getting in. I think the gaiters were a bit of a waste of time…One jump down to the beach and they both rode up over the back of my trainers (the bit they were supposed to be protecting) and I know there was sand on the back of my sock when I tried to readjust them. My feet were kept mostly dry, and I got a lot less sand in them than on previous beach runs so I think the trainers were the right choice 🙂 I’ll be breaking them out again at the very latest for the Pier to Pier with the Sunderland Strollers 🙂

The coach drive to the start line seemed to go on and on and on…and I was feeling a nervous excited apprehension for getting there – ye olde familiar pre-race butterflies. I swear it took us 20 mins, and 20 mins by vehicle is a lot longer on foot! We actually started from Craster – somewhere I’d heard of but not actually got around to going to before. In true well-planned pre-race fashion I obviously knew exactly where I was leaving from when and what route I was supposed to be doing. I never just turn up and see what happens. Ever. *cough*cough*

I wish I’d gotten a photo of Dunstanbargh Castle, which we passed in the first 0.5 miles, but as I’d been near the back of the pre-race loo-queue (that must-have racing experience) there was no time for happy-snapping before the starting beacon went off and we were on our merry way across the fields. It turns out there’s not a huge amount of long stretches of beach around Craster and Northwards – lots of rocks, the tide doesn’t go out anything like as far, and there’s small cliffs rather than friendly slopes down to what sand you can find. We were heading out along the headlands, golf courses and through the dunes to just South of Beadnell and the 10k start-line.

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Having done the beach stretch before, I was expecting more of the same – but it was more like an early season crosscountry course. Not quite the freshly-ploughed and following a herd of cows ankle-gripping deep wet mud of the hard-core winter XC playground but enough to be a bit squishy and for the ground to be soft and harder to run on. It just sapped all the energy out of my legs and I was checking my watch for distance before we’d even got to mile 2! It’s the sort of ground and route I would have enjoyed more if I were fresh and well-rested for it, but I found it a real grind as it was and had already had a couple of short walk stretches (some forced by narrow paths and many people, or going through gates but definitely not all) by the time I reached mile 5. Fresh, I would have been not a million miles behind the start-time of the 10k, normally taking just over an hour on flattish ground to hit that sort of distance, but I was about 15 mins off my own time and 30 mins behind N’s start (we left late too) so didn’t see even a glimpse of a blue jacket in the distance!

By mile 8 and coming up through Beadnell and towards Seahouses, I seriously considered calling P to come and pick me up. I was fighting for every step mentally and physically, and if you’ve lost the mental battle you haven’t even entered the ring for the physical one. I’ve not failed to finish a  race yet but this one really had me over a barrel. I was only starting to jog again because it would get me nearer the end just that little bit quicker. Every little thing was making me feel worse – the water at the aid stations was freezing, and combined with the jelly babies to make a sloshing sugary soup when I tried to jog again – not something I’ve experienced with this combination before. The three grains of sand in my trainers were getting on my nerves when I jogged, and I knew P would be worrying about me if I was nowhere to be seen around my expected finish time.

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I was just counting down; 5 miles to go and soon that will be 4 miles, and then 3 miles, and then 2. Just keep moving forwards. I hit 10 miles at about 2 hours – my worst time I think ever for this distance but I was still moving at least. P phoned me at about mile 11 and I nearly broke down trying to explain over the phone that I was still quite a way away and having a really bad time. I was still jogging intervals by this point, and he met me further down the beach and walked me back the last 1.5 miles to the finish line. In true mean trail-running style, the last 0.5 miles of this route is uphill over loose sandy dunes, and really meanly doesn’t show on an elevation graph. I didn’t even attempt to run it but N did a cracking job and made it all the way to the top (quite a long time before I did!!!)

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If I wasn’t the last half marathon runner to cross the line, I wasn’t far from it, and I was exhausted. It was a relief to be able to stretch off, change into fresh clothes and get back to the car and be driven home. This year they were giving out Clif products instead of gels, which was right up my street – I don’t really like the Builder’s bars but the other ones are what I munch on when running or afterwards anyway, so I got something I’ll actually use out of it, and a nice orange t-shirt this year 🙂

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The start of my racing year is not going well so far – I’ve missed one for illness and over-worked myself before the second. I wish I’d been feeling a bit more myself and had more (any) steam in the tank for this one. The route and race organisation was great, the weather was perfect for running in – not too hot, cold, or windy and the beach section had blue skies and sunshine. A little muggy for me coming through the dunes but you can’t have it all ways. I still think it’s a great race, and it’s kept its place on the race calendar, but I might try the 10k again next year so I can concentrate on enjoying it rather than fighting myself over 13 miles! And now, I’m heading to bed for at least 12 hours sleep, and not getting my trainers on for a week. My body is definitely telling me that it really, really needs a break.

CTS bamburgh 2016

You can download the GPX data for this course from my Dropbox account by following the link below:

GPX data on Dropbox

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