Blue Runnings

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

A Week Too Far

My marathon attempt at Kielder last week did not go quite according to plan due to my poor clothing choices in rather wet, windy and cold weather, but I genuinely felt as I made my way round the lake that I had it in me to finish. Even when I decided to pull out, it wasn’t because my legs couldn’t keep going.

I’ve spent three months ‘training’ for the marathon distance, and to be honest haven’t really enjoyed the latter half of it, so having determined that I probably wouldn’t be putting myself through it again anytime soon I decided I wanted to make one more try at the distance, and try going from Prudhoe to Newcastle Quayside and back – a flat route where realistically the distance was the only challenge.

The weather was once again rather soggy; drizzle forecast for the whole afternoon but fortunately not as wet and windy as Kielder had been.

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I’d decided to try something slightly different to what I normally do for this one – I normally get as far as I can in one go, then interval at no particular time or distance after that depending on legs and terrain. This time I decided I’d try for steady; intervals from the start of 5 mins jogging and 2 mins walking in the hope that as I got more miles in, my jog speed would be maintained rather than slowing down as it normally does.

My personal trainer and faithful companion J was braving the ikky weather to accompany me and time-keep and generally chatter me round, for which I was very grateful!

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We set off steady enough, heading down to Wylam and past Newburn without incidence or really notice, which was good as last time I did the run past Wylam and towards Newburn on an 8 mile run 2-3 weeks ago, I had to really fight to get that far. We followed the Hadrian’s Wall walk from Newburn towards the Quayside, coming down through an industrial estate including a Warburton’s factory neither of us knew was there (I can at least be excused not being a local by birth, but J seemed most put out at not having known in advance all the things there were to know!).

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Dark Skies Kielder

HavingΒ  seen all the photos from last year’s race, where the runners set off in blue skies and sunshine, and were treated to some fantastic night skies when the sun had set, it honestly never occurred to me when I booked this race that it might rain. Cue Storm Katie. Normally I don’t watch the weather forecast before, well, anything; looking out the window is good enough for me! The week preceding the race I was watching on a daily basis, praying it would improve – it actually got worse every time I checked it. This was the forecast the morning before race day:

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Looks like it might clear up for the majority of the run time (approx. 17:00-23:00), but it was basically mostly drizzle and light rain the entire time on the hourly forecast as the race got closer. Those wind figures never budged either <_< lovely; just the type of evening everyone looks forwards to!

P & I set off up to Kielder mid-afternoon (1 hr nap squeezed in!), my parents and midgets having kindly come to visit for the weekend and cheer me on were to follow a bit later for the offset. We picked up my race number and t-shirt – not everyone did; there were 42 who didn’t bother to turn up for registration – I can’t believe they all had personal circumstances come up at short notice so suspect the weather to have been the primary detractor!

It was drizzling when we set off, here we have some of my lovely family looking rather soggy at the start-line! (Yes guys, Hippie caught you too! There’s no escape!)

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To me, once we set off, it didn’t feel as wet as it looks in this picture – more of a misty drizzle and I was more concerned with how warm I was getting wearing a fully sealed waterproof top and hat, so I stashed my waterproof on my backpack elastics and put my gloves on – my hands at least were rather chilly! I’ve run in drizzle before, and stayed warm as long as I keep moving so I didn’t really think anything of it, but this is the start of the whole race going downhill for me (unlike the route which I swear managed to be uphill 90% of the time!).

I was feeling pretty calm and steady as we headed off to the Northern most tip of the reservoir; I didn’t get dragged along with the speedies and just concentrated on a steady jog off to “the hilly bits”. All was well.

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I only look slightly ridiculous with my hat under my headtorch and over my headphones!

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Marathon Training – Week 9

I don’t really know what to write for this week to be honest, so I’m going to just ramble…may have my moaning minnie hat on a little bit!

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I’ve had a bit of a mixed bag of runs this week; I went out with one of the work peoples who wanted to try running (something about getting a “beach bod” before he goes to the US) on Tuesday, turns out he’s a bit quicker than me so I’m booking him in as my speed trainer on Mondays once I get this monster run out the way! If my base-level fitness hadn’t improved so much lately I don’t think I’d have maintained the pace over the 2 miles (and 2 miles at that pace was more and faster than I was intending after Sunday’s 20! I just wanted a leg-loosener!). It’s actually within 5 seconds of my fastest pace, which I think was set on a 5k around the village so pretty happy with that.. I enjoyed it but I think I’ll leave the speed training for a few weeks! Then I shall learn how to become a speed ninja…

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I’ve really missed just doing my ‘junk runs’ and just getting out when I feel like it to clear my head and pound the trails. I went out for one on Thursday on the hill route round Leadgate. I’ve only tried this twice before but it’s a nice little 4 mile loop local to me and I’ve enjoyed it before, so I was looking forward to heading out on this one. N came with me and we left at a pretty normal pace for me, but I wasn’t really feeling it – I actually felt slightly sick part-way round and had slowed riiiight down coming up the last hill (to be fair, it’s a pretty big hill). Being tired after four miles on anything but a cross-country course has been becoming pretty unusual for me as my fitness improves, and the warning alarms should really have been going off at this point. I took Friday off work with how long the week felt, and actually slept 3 hours Friday afternoon I was that tired.

For some reason I didn’t connect my need to sleep all hours and heavy legs while running with the fact I was doing a long run on Saturday, and just assumed I would pootle off as I normally do for the half marathon at Bamburgh Castle by Endurance Life. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, and was expecting to cope with it easily having run 4 runs longer than the half marathon distance (2 x 14M, 1 x 15.5M, 1 x 20M) and one only two miles short (11M) this year already. That’s in 9 weeks. I’ll just let that sink in a minute. For someone who hadn’t done much more than a 10k for 3 months before Christmas that’s huge, and for some reason I just decided I would be absolutely fine doing another one. Body says otherwise. This is the toughest race I’ve ever done – which considering it’s flattish and not an unfamiliar distance is not something I was expecting to say. Rather than repeat everything here, I’m going to direct you to my dedicated Bamburgh race report if you want to read all the minutiae. However long it took me to get there, and however hard I found it, I crossed that finish line and I’m taking that as a win.

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Endurance Life Challenge: Coastal Trail Series – Bamburgh

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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Marathon Training – Week 8

Looking at the number of rest days, it looks like I’ve had a very lazy week this week! I can promise you that with the exception of Saturday (which was a VERY lazy day), it hasn’t felt like one! It’s looking more and more like I’m deviating from my original marathon training plan, and truth be told I am. I’m trying to concentrate on quality over quantity – I was finding as the long runs got longer that the ‘junk runs’ were just eating into my recovery time and sapping my energy, so with the exception of the odd mile or two along the river after work as a gentle pootle along, I’ve pretty much cut them out until I’m in my tapering period (which isn’t far away now!!!) and am just wanting to keep my trainers going.

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Wednesday’s training session was an intervals session again – 4 mins effort along the main path up and down Blackhill Park and 2 mins recovery, six times. Last time I did an interval session I set off at a ridiculous pace, and as a result was about ready to pack in by lap 4 and my last two laps were at a normal jog – that felt like effort by that point! This time I set off much more steadily – still faster than my normal distance pace, but hopefully sustainable over a longer period with the breathers.

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It does seem to have worked! With the exception of lap 4 where I must have remembered to push ‘lap’ but forgotten to have stopped my watch…I was going faster than that, I promise! N came with me for this one – her first training session – and I think she enjoyed it…after she’d got her breath back! I find it’s one of those sessions where I’m fine for the first 2-3 laps, but I have to start digging a bit deeper when I get to 4 and 5, and I’m relieved I’m nearly done by the last one!

I headed to the gym on Friday, hoping it would be quiet – it was – and I would be able to work through my whole circuit without melting into a puddle as I had last time I was there. In this, I was successful, but I fear I may have done a little too much for how tired I was feeling. Sleep did not come easy to me for some reason last week, a few too many silly little things floating around my head and building up on each other. Lots of frantic clean-all-the-things at work and knowing I had a mega-distance run on Sunday I suspect being rather large contributors for the other detritus to build on. I felt ok Friday evening and Saturday morning, but by Saturday afternoon and into Sunday morning my thighs were starting to feel rather stiff 😦 I blame the leg press.

I got up early on Sunday so I had plenty of time for breakfast, and was just about ready to go when P got home from work with the car. I was heading down to the finish line for the Bounders anniversary run at Blackhill Park, intending to run from there to somewhere near their start-line, meet them at about my 10 mile mark and turn round and come back (they were doing 11). This was also my first run where I would be trying Imodium V Nature Mk1, and for someone who doesn’t really like taking paracetamol let alone something for when I’m not ill, I wasn’t really relishing the prospect. I took one about half an hour before starting, and one halfway round – and it actually worked just fine. I don’t think I’ll bother with it once this is out the way as for 14 miles or less I seem to be more often than not fine, and I’m not intending to run more than that for a long time after this! It’s handy to have in the running box though.

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Marathon Training – Week 7

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Those of you with an aptitude for numbers will notice that Week 6 is missing from my marathon training journey, the reason for this being that I didn’t really do any marathon training in week 6 as I was completely and utterly struck down with plague. Normally when I get a headcold I soldier on anyway and just carry my own bodyweight about in tissues, but this one really did a number on me and I spent last weekend not able to do very much of anything at all!

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This week has been about getting back on track again as I’ve been shaking off the cold and finding my trainers again. I went out on Monday with J and her step-son G who was going for his first trip into trainer land, a one-way ticket to a new addiction! We did just over a mile along the river and back, and G did excellently – a full half mile straight off the bat without a walk break (he wasn’t spared a talk break – I like to yak when I’m running with people!). I have been reliably informed he has already been for his second run! (Possibly in slightly less loose trousers…least said and all that!) I shall be watching to see when he starts overtaking me as I suspect there’s quite a nippy runner hiding in there!

I was intending on going out and doing another few miles after bidding J & G farewell, but the sun was setting and the wind along the waterfront was getting rather cold, so in the interests of not going completely back to square one with my cold, I wimped out and went home πŸ™‚ I did go for a run on Wednesday, heading out over Consett way for a tidy 6 miles. Pretty happy with my pace of 10:27 total, especially with a 300ft elevation at one point coming up the bank. I was feeling a bit more like myself for this one: It was a dark, clear night with a bright yellow crescent moon and I could just breathe deep and head out. I was toying with going for 8 miles but decided not to push it too much too fast and just feel pleased about how comfortable the 10k distance is for me now. Not a pb time, but with the hill and not pushing myself hugely, probably not a million miles off! That <1hr 10k time is getting closer πŸ™‚

I bought a new headtorch recently, one the same as one of the Bounders uses which is something akin to a mobile sun. It comes with rechargeable mega-batteries, and when I bought it I’d ordered a couple of extras wanting backups for Kielder. It’s a good thing I have – it was used for 1hr-ish at Gibside Night Run (which I had to miss with my chest – absolutely gutted – P & I filled our face with pizza while N ran it for the first time) and then for a further hour for this local run without a recharge in the middle, and it was getting decidedly dim at the end – fine for being seen, not so great for seeing, so I’m definitely going to need all 3 sets of batteries for Kielder as I’m expecting to come in around the 5.5-6 hour mark and would dearly love to be able to see where I’m going to the end!

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Marathon Training – Week 5

Another week down, and as I sit here this morning it’s actually my triceps that hurt more than my legs! This period from New Year to Easter and my first marathon run, is also my first attempt at writing and following a training plan for an ambitious target, and this week has been as much learning about myself, my limits and listening to my body as it has about cranking the miles out.

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After J & I’s monster windy session last Sunday, I had Monday off and then headed out to Run England on Tuesday night. In myself I felt fine, pretty neutral, not ready to go zooming off the starting blocks but not dragging myself out the door either. My legs had other ideas; knees twingy and pace very slow for me for this session. With group 2 I’m usually near the front and manage 5 miles in the hour without too much hassle. This week, I really wondered if I was going to hit 3 I was that slow. It was only an hour out the door, but I found the session very humbling – I was obviously asking my body to do a little too much but bless its cotton socks it was still plodding along carrying me around to the finish again with every little bit of drive it could master.

I decided as I plodded along at the back of the group that I definitely needed a re-think for this week. I’d missed a full fortnight of gym sessions (all of them basically since I got my program set up) and that certainly wouldn’t be helping as I continued to push the distance up every weekend. There’s an important balance in any running venture between endurance and strength building, and I was doing a lot of one and very little of the other – which is a sure recipe for injury. I scrapped Wednesday’s training session. If I was struggling to potter about the roads then a hill session was just going to push me to exhaustion, and I did a home workout instead working through my core training sequence, an extra leg strengthening one and my normal weights one for my arms and legs. All low impact for my joints and I definitely felt better for doing it.

I kept Thursday as a rest day and hit the gym after work on Friday. It took me 1.5hrs to get through everything, and I’m really happy with what the nice lady has set out for me. There’s a really good mix of cross-training cardio and various weights, and this time it’s not my threshold weight that’s listed so I can actually achieve at least one full set!

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A couple of things to do differently next time – I’ll be taking regular earbuds instead of my bone-conducting ones, all I could hear was the treadmills! I shouldn’t assume there will be water in the drinks vending machine incase I end up with cola. I should remember to put the ball shaker or the mesh thingie in my shaker bottle. Either would be fine. Neither is a little lumpy.

As well as my workout, I did enjoy the fact they didn’t have Jeremy Kyle on the TVs (not the ones I was watching anyway!) so I learned many things about food and caterpillars/butterflies (not on the same program fortunately), not all gym sessions are this educational. πŸ˜‰

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Marathon Training – Week 4

I’ve had a bit more success hitting my workouts this week, even if I’ve had to swap a few days around to do it. I’ve managed to do a core training session and a home workout, even though work once again stopped me getting to the gym, and I’ve gotten 3 running sessions in – from 3 miles at Blackhill Parkrun right up to my long run of the week, 14 miles in high winds.

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All the work-related sabotage of my plans is starting to tell on my monthly mileage total, I’ve not missed a long run but I was really hoping to hit 100 miles this month for the first time ever, and while it’s achievable still, if I miss anything it’s going to be very out of reach rather than within a mile or two’s grasp.

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P reminded me that I need to be careful I don’t do too much just to hit some arbitrary target I’ve set myself, there’s always next month, and he’s right – I would be more gutted if I hurt myself trying to do too much on Tuesday’s run trying to hit it, and then was 20 miles off because I missed my training session and my long run, than if I was 1-2 miles off but ready to tackle next month’s training in a fit shape. I’m going to play it by ear and see how I feel but I’m still hoping to scrape through to the big 1-0-0.

I was feeling very stiff on Monday after my last long run, thanks to my rest day being a little too restful with an all-day meeting, so I was moving so little I stiffened right up! By Wednesday I was feeling more myself again, but knew that trying to run 11 miles off the cuff was going to be stupid so I decided to go for the more realistic target of 8 miles along the river, with J accompanying me on her bike as distraction and safety guardian – lone running in the dark in areas with no street-lights and few people is silly. I felt pretty ok with this, but I would have struggled had the terrain been any tougher than flat or if I’d had to go much further. A small amount of rubbing on my right arch, presumably from some squelchy mud or something but escaped unscathed apart from that πŸ™‚

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Marathon Training – Week 3

I’ve remembered why I so rarely plan anything. Life keeps getting in the way. Another week where I have completely failed to hit even 50% of what I was going for! Last week it was a cold bug which I was just about shifting, this week it was work, which went bang rather spectacularly away from plan on the machine shut and meant I spent two days running around the blinking thing climbing up and down and over all the things. By the time we actually got the thing running (briefly) on Thursday afternoon and having slept badly the night before there was not much left in the tank by the time I got home! That put Thursday’s gym session out the window, and to be honest I’d done enough across the two days I didn’t feel I’d missed it! Early bed, disturbed by a work phonecall at 10pm so I knew things were not going well, and I was probably not much use for anything on Friday.

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I had at least started the week well; N & I tried out the hill at Shotley Bridge which I’ve been thinking of adding onto the end of my new Leadgate hills route to bring it up to 6M and an extra hill; turns out it’s a savage one! I think the addition of this one will also depend on what time of day I’m doing the Leadgate one – access to the bottom of the hill is by a non-street-lit and non-pavemented road which isn’t really what you want to be doing in the dark as a pedestrian.

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After that it went a bit off-piste…thanks work…Friday and Saturday were both rest days, and I really needed them both and some decent sleep. P and I were booked in to a star-gazing talk on Saturday afternoon so I was intending to swap Saturday and Sunday and do Blackhill Parkrun on Saturday morning, except I was away with the fairies! I really enjoyed the star-gazing talk and by the time we’d got home after our pub dinner and gone to bed obscenely early for a couple in their twenties on a Saturday night, I was feeling chilled out and vaguely human again. Ready to give my long run on Sunday a good shot anyway.

I’ve been getting very worried about the long runs and not hitting the distances I feel I need to be to have a decent shot at getting round in one piece in March, so I really needed a morale booster and a bit of self-confidence building back up again. I was originally going to park somewhere down the Derwent walk, run in the uphill direction towards Ebchester and Shotley Bridge to get the hills out the way while I was vaguely fresh, and then head back down again having turned around at some arbitrary point. I decided I’d give myself a bit of a break and try doing the full distance in the downhill direction and get P to pick me up wherever I ended up. I’d mapped out on MapMyRun that it was 10 miles to Blaydon, and if I wanted to hit the full half marathon as a minimum I needed to get to Newburn Leisure Centre. If possible I wanted to hit 14 miles and really put the half-marathon wall to bed. I’d only actually run a half-marathon twice, both in race conditions and not since September.

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Marathon Training – Week 2

Ok, week 2 complete, slightly less according to plan than I was hoping but that throat tickle I had last week turned into a throat infection and now a cold which has been a big contributor in my not hitting the mileage I was after.

I’ve put a copy of my marathon training plan on the menu sidebar so you can see what my intended activity for each day was, and I’m also tracking how well I’m sticking to it. This week I’ve unfortunately been a not-insignificant 9 miles shorter scattered across 3 different runs (click on pic to see bigger).

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I lost 3.5 miles off Tuesday’s run – I was intending to go out with Run England and got home from work late, which made it easier by the time we’d had dinner to wimp out because of the rain. The other 1.5 and 4 miles were directly related to my cold and while I’m a little disappointed, I have to make my health over the next few weeks a higher priority than pushing myself way too far for one day’s figures, so I’m trying to focus more on the fact I went out at all and achieved the mileage I did despite my throat and headcold, rather than having made the runs for this weekend shorter. A bit of give and take needed to keep me going.

I did my first training session of the year which was…interesting. It was a new format compared with the hill training and intervals I’ve done before; we were doing 7x 3 mins effort, with 1.5 mins recovery between each set, and the idea is that you should pace yourself to be able to do about the same distance in the last set as you did in the first. I failed miserably at this, setting off far too fast in my first two sets (<9min/miles) and as a result feeling my leg twinge in set 5, walking set 6 and just jogging set 7 (which by that point even that felt like hard effort!). Back to the drawing board with that one. Still, I know for next time! We’ll be doing that one again over the next few weeks.

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On the plus side, I have finally figured out how to use the ‘lap’ button on my watch! Not actually complicated but I have previously worried if I pushed the wrong button I’d lose all my route data or something.

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