Blue Runnings

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

North Eastern Harrier League – Herrington Park Cross Country

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Grey skies did greet us when we woke in the morn,

The rain already fallen where we soon would sojourn.

We packed up our trail shoes, our spikes and our wellies,

Loaded our bags with sandwiches, wraps and fruit jellies.

To Herrington Park, mis-remembered as flat

Already deep in mud, by the tents we did chat.

Awaiting our times to head off to the start,

Eyeing up all the hills with a faltering heart.

Two loops for the ladies and three for the men,

Over hills, through the woods and the grass-covered fens.

The grass is a bog; on mud and weeds do we slide,

Jumping logs in the wood, ground like glue either side.

More than one lost a shoe, others dignity too,

The race almost as long as the the queue for the loo!

Finish we all did, we all made it round,

Like mud-covered champions to the tents we did bound.

There we ate all the cake, the bakewell tart and the sweets,

Changed out spikes for trainers, donned clean socks on our feet.

Home to fill all the bathtubs with mud from legs and from shoes,

We’ll be clean until Thornley Hall Farm plays its ruse!

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Run 2 Remember Sunderland 2016

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Run 2 Remember has rolled around again raising money for 4 major military personnel supporting charities. This was high on J’s list of favourite runs last year so it had to make the calendar this year – and they had a raffle and tombola! Who doesn’t love a race where you can win things without even running?

This is the second year we’ve run this one, and it’s setting a trend for sunshine, even if there was a bit of a shower on the way there. ๐Ÿ™‚ We also had another friendly face we recognised (we didn’t know anyone except Hippie the photographer and his family last year) in the appearance of R at the start line! J was obviously getting into the zone right from the gathering at the starting banner, and as we started off she shot off looking for ‘space’ and I don’t think actually heard me when I attempted to start a conversation with her as we set off. Ironically after a few hundred yards when I’d just decided to set my own steady pace and leave her to it, I actually had all the space around me, while J 50 yards in front was still in a pack of people. There was the most enormous buzzard overhead on the starting half-mile and J (usually a birdwatcher) was completely oblivious to it.

R caught me up as we reached the bottom of the hill and prepared to set out along the field to the lake, and given how close behind me he finished (we’ll come to that later!) presumably stayed not far behind me for the rest of the race though I was blissfully unaware of this and pootling along in my own little world. I saw The Buzzard, many gulls, swans, ducks and heard something making an odd noise at the bottom end of the lake, though I didn’t see the owner of the little voice…

J was getting an increasing lead by this point – I was waving at her from the other side of the lake as she started her second lap ahead of me – and the irony of doing the same thing the year before when I was finishing my second lap and she was starting hers was not lost upon me! I caught a glimpse of a pink-sided ninja vest as I joined the straight along the field and she was reaching the end of it, and that was it until the finishing straight at the end of the hill! Last year, it was me that was ahead and I must confess to sneaking a walk in on the long hill back up to the finish line, while J (very indignant when she found this out) had kept a steady pace up and managed to make it up the whole thing. I don’t think I’m capable of ever being quite as stubborn as J when it comes to much, but I did decide to myself that I was going to get into the J-zone and repeat her steady all-the-way-round approach of last year and make it up the hill, still pootling along.

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This is my race – and I am equal to it

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Followers of my Facebook page will know that I have been somewhat absent for several weeks – since the end of August in fact. This has mainly been because I have not been up to much. There would have been several weeks of alternating ‘cycled route 1’ and ‘ran short route 2’ over and over again, combined with me still moaning about the heat and lamenting that the cooler months weren’t here yet. And that gets boring very fast. For me and you both. I also spent the second half of September playing host to a lovely cold bug which still insists on being my constant companion even now – but at least I don’t need to carry around his sidekick Bodyweight-in-Tissues, I just frequently hack and cough in the beautifully elegant way with which I do all things I undertake.

Knowing the Kielder 10k was coming up, about 3 weeks ago I wanted to make sure I was getting comfortable with the 10k distance again, so I headed out hoping to repeat the 7 miles J and I had done from my house down towards Swalwell on the Derwent Walk. I had a nice steady pace of about 10:30-11 min miles I was quite happy with right up until the 5 mile mark when it dropped right off as my shoes started to rub. I don’t know if this is summer adding injury to insult – I’ve had blisters in the same place with three different pairs of trainers and three different styles of socks if I do more than a couple of miles. Guess I just get glamorously sweaty feet! I did make the 10k in an ok-ish summer time so I made my peace with that, and then Mr Cold moved in and I did absolutely nothing at all for the 2 weeks coming up to the race in the deseparate hope he would move out and find a new friend. He seems to have sent all his brothers and sisters out to visit all my friends, but he’s staying for now.

I’ve missed running while I’ve been hosting, and it’s shown in how tetchy I’ve been getting about things at work – it’s been a lot harder to keep things in their boxes and not take things personally. Working at Tesco’s or Starbucks has been looking very tempting sometimes! Or, you know, just being a full-time bum! I think I’m fully qualified already for this position but P says no because blah blah mortgage blah blah money blah blah sensible grown-up boring stuff.

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Gateshead Trail 10k 2016

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The Gateshead Trail 10k turned three this year, and I was lucky enough to get wind of it the first year it was running (this was before I went on a race-booking bender in 2015 and booked every race under the half-marathon within a 200 mile radius), and have made sure I’ve been booked in every year since. It’s a relatively flat trail race within 10 miles of my house, and covering ground that I do on various routes through the rest of the year. With 2 short-ish hills and good quality mixed paths it’s a good intro to trail running without the need for fancy shoes or a degree of multi-terrain balance!

I’ve been doing my usual anti-social summer running where I hide away from all social running sessions and sneak out at mega-early times or in bad weather hunting for cool and having a mental strop at how slow I am when it’s hot ๐Ÿ™‚ It was therefore really nice to catch up with several of my running friends from Run England and the Blackhill Bounders who were also running this one – I haven’t seen some of them in ages and it was good to see some familiar faces.

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F and I parked up at the Cricket Club this time – there’s a lot of parking at Blaydon Rugby Club for race participants, but there’s also a lot of people who use it and last year I got there early enough to make sure I got parked and took a book – for both the wait at the start and the end – there’s normally a massive queue to leave and it takes a while to get out. The parking at the Cricket Club still had spaces even when we left – without having to wait to get out, and was only 10 mins up the road at a walk – a good warm-up/cooldown and opportunity for a chat so I’ll definitely be doing this again next year!

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Butterwick 10k 2016

Today was a repeat run of one of last year’s – my third repeat of the year – which considering how many races I did last year by now is almost impressive in itself! J and I went to the Butterwick Hospice 10k last year, and enjoyed it despite finding the route very challenging – those hills! – so it was one the definitely made the calendar for this year.

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We had quite a few walk breaks last year as there were some rather serious hills, particularly at the start. They’d changed the start and finish points this year, which slightly modified the route. It felt like the starting hill was longer, but not actually steeper – the elevation graph shows different and we netted out at the same height, but the difference is that this time we made it all the way up without stopping! We came back down the hill and crossed the ford at the bottom – which we’d both forgotten about – WITHOUT getting wet shoes! Hurrah!

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It was around this point that I discovered my shoes were starting to rub…maybe 3-4km in? I’ve worn my Cascadia’s several times before – they’ve done nearly 150 miles with me without this problem, through sand, mud and sunshine, so having them rub was a bit frustrating. Maybe it was my socks? I don’t know. Annoyingly I’d nearly put my road-runners on but decided that no, I’d paid good money for trail shoes for exactly this sort of race so I should wear them. No point stopping to check, such things don’t get better being looked at and we had a race to finish!

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Washington Bottoms Up Cup 2016

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I was originally down to do the Durham Coastal Half Marathon today, and looking at the photos I am definitely going to be doing this next year as it looks right up my street. This year however I decided I was not fit enough right now to be trying to do a tough terrain half marathon (320 steps and no flat bits!) right now and entered myself in for the Bottoms Up Cup at Washington, which I did in its inaugural year last year and quite enjoyed. It’s a club-run organised by Washington RC, and was well attended this year, with I think 80-ish runners present.

It’s been cold in the mornings all week, and often foggy, so of course today while it started off cloudy it burned off before the race start to a ridiculously sunny day in much the same way it did for the Washington Trail 10k a few weeks ago. I was a little more prepared this morning having actually bothered to check the weather forecast before getting dressed, and determining very rapidly that shorts would be a sensible idea even if I needed a jumper in the morning before the race start.

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I woke up rather earlier than I would have liked this morning dreaming of Dun Niffelem and ice giants (don’t ask) so had my tired head on when I set off with as many trainers in the car as J normally takes when she’s racing! I was wearing my Cascadia trail shoes, having removed all the bits of grit and sand which were stuck in the holes in the insoles and I found last time I wore them for a run with J last week after they gave me a blister from bits of rock rubbing against my feet! I hadn’t completely committed to wearing them so also threw in my other road-running shoes, and a pair of shoes for afterwards. As it happens, I did wear them and they were fine ๐Ÿ™‚ Checking my insoles has become a regular part of my pre-run prep…particularly if I’m going more than 10k – I’m always checking for balls of cat hair, cotton buds (presents from said cat) and build-ups of grit and sand which you don’t notice when you first put them on but boy do they start to rub after a mile or two! I don’t normally actually have to check IN the insole though – these were embedded in the little drilled through holes.

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Washington Trail 10k 2016

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I must admit 2016 is not sticking in my mind as being the best for races, but it must also be said that none of it has been down to the races and their organisers themselves! With the exception of the Cragside 10k, not a single one this year has gone to plan for me!

The plan for the Washington Trail, which J and I did last year so I did have some inclining as to what the route and terrain was going to be like, was the same as for Cragside – slow and steady and pootle round going steady regardless of terrain. The WT10k is a moderately hilly course. The problem with this came with the weather – a foggy morning which burnt off around about start time to give 20 degrees of baking sunshine. Heat. I hate heat. I hate doing anything in the heat. You could seriously bake a full English breakfast on my face after about a mile of trying to run in the summer. Ok, I may be exaggerating very slightly. Only slightly though. Point is, me + running + summer do not get along!

J may or may not have noticed, when we were prepping for the GNR last September, I didn’t really do many sociable runs leading up to and pretty much kept to myself. I didn’t go into it at the time but I was really struggling – 5k was a fight which was incredibly demoralising for someone who a few months before was getting comfortable with doing 10M on a weekend. I really worried about getting round. This summer, I’m a bit more prepared in knowing what to expect – I found it a lot harder going out in the summer, but actually was matching my previous Spring pace (even if it didn’t feel like it), and it meant I reaped the benefits when the temperature dropped again. Just gotta get through it to autumn again! A slightly sad countdown when it’s only May and summer’s just beginning…

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GO TRI

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I like to occasionally try new sporting activities, but I also like to try them in ‘taster mode’ so I don’t have to spend a fortune on kit or dedicate three months of my life to a different type of training in order to finish it – this is why I’ve never done more than a 5k mud/obstacle/paint run – 5k is enough for me to experience them without the full on tiring slog or insane amount of ingested paint of the bigger 10k and even 10 mile events, and I can decide what I think of them without risking ending up passing out in a heap too badly by the end of the day. It’s also cheaper doing the smaller ones than forking out for a 50 gazillion obstacle race and finding out by obstacle 10 that it’s not your cup of tea and you’ve got another 3 hours to go but you can’t pull out because you sold three kidneys to get in. And hey, if you do like it, you can escalate from the tiny tapas plate to the full whack next time!

When I saw that one of the local triathlon groups (Castle Tri in Prudhoe) was doing a beginner triathlon at the town where I used to live, I saw an opportunity: I would get to try doing a triathlon without actually doing anything that would result in me drowning in a lake, ending up in a ditch across a mountain side with my wheels in the air, or falling flat on my face in a field with a broken ankle (well, less chance of this than usual!). So, knowing nothing more about triathlons than that swimming, cycling and running were involved, N and I booked onto it, and then promptly forgot about it for the next however many months as something to be thought about once I’d got Kielder out the way.

As the event got closer, I started getting a bit apprehensive; I’d been in a pool once in the last few years, and had been more tired than I’d cared to admit after what I rather wish was a longer number of lengths; I am a haphazard flat-route cyclist at best; and I had no idea how triathlons worked. Do you really go straight from the pool/lake/sea to your bike and just throw your trainers on and go?! (YES) Even if you’re doing like a million mile cycle ride and the wind is blowing a gale?! (YES) Doesn’t everyone get pneumonia and turn into icepeople?! (MAYBE?!) What am I supposed to do about my lady-holsters?! I’m not doing a run with just my swimsuit! Apparently one wears one’s necessities under one’s swimming garb and just has it soggy but hopefully supportive all day!

This was starting to look a bit bigger than a quick dip in the pool, a gentle cycle in the country and a pootle in the park. The mysterious ‘Transition’, the fourth event of the triathlon obviously needed more thinking than I had previously considered! I felt a bit better when the pre-race info came out; some more detail on the routes and a kit list, and some info on transition, backed up and elaborated on nearer the time by some helpful posts on the Running Ninjas facebook page by others who would also be attempting this feat!

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Dark Skies Kielder

Havingย  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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Run Nation – Cragside 10k

I know the detour around Rothbury is probably a massive pain to the locals, but personally I love heading up the A697 and hitting the open moors when the view just opens out and you can see the Cheviots and the heather – red and brown and somewhat stark at this time of year but it won’t be long before it’s glowing with purple and the yellow flowers are already coming out on the gorse bushes. Cragside seems oddly planted in comparison to its surroundings – there’s not a tree visible on the drive in until you drop into the valley.

Based on a couple of afternoon runs along Prudhoe riverside I was afraid I was going to have to break out the shorts with the weather warming up already, but it’s still been cold at night and in the mornings and this morning was no exception – still a little muggy and cool, but winter’s definitely easing its grasp. Not a day for shorts.

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I’ve not been having a good year for racing so far this year – I had to miss the Gibside Night Run due to illness and over-did it before the CTS at Bamburgh and didn’t enjoy it as much as I was anticipating (entirely self-inflicted!). I was really hoping I’d break that streak before Kielder, and didn’t really have any pre-conceptions for this one having not done it before. I’ve seen elevation profiles before and knew there’s a teeny weeny short hill about 2 miles long in the second half but that was about it really.

With Kielder only a week away, this was a taper-chill run, no ambitions for pace I just wanted to enjoy the setting and hopefully get my pace settled – something I’ve been struggling to find on my last couple of longer runs which has been a bit frustrating. This was also my first run of the year in my Bounders vest, and it was nice to spot a few familiar faces at the start and finish; I’ve been missing the social side of the running world while I’ve been doing my distance runs and hiding and it was good to feel part of something again.

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