Blue Runnings

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

2018 Review

2018 really has been a milestone year for me – both in my ‘fitness’ life and in my personal one. I’ve tried an assortment of new things, many of which I’d jump at the chance to do again, and had some amazing people by my side through all of it.

I’ve managed to hit all the targets I set myself at the start of the year (albeit just in some cases!):

  • complete 10 races – I have completed 17 but am not sure in hindsight if this target was to make sure I had stuff booked in to keep me going out, or if it was supposed to stop me booking in for everything and act more like a limit!
  • complete 15 parkruns – after a parkrun-heavier December, I’ve finished the year on 16 for 2018 and 42 total – looking forward to hitting 50 next year, and I think I’ll set myself a volunteering target for 2019 🙂
  • run 500 miles – this has eluded me, by quite a bit, for the last two years so I’m really chuffed to have hit it this year on the 29th of December. The idea of this target was to keep me heading out for 40-50 miles/month which is a level I’m quite happy with for keeping my fitness where I like it and not feeling I’m missing out on other activities as I am always running. I didn’t get out as much as I should have at the start of the year, so the mileage is very weighted to the back of the year, but I’m still absolutely chuffed to have hit it 🙂

2018

I’ve been a lot less active online both on my blog and on facebook, and as such there’s races I haven’t reviewed and several months ‘dark’ on my page – I am not yet sure which direction that will take for next year. There’s some race reviews I wish I had written this year (RAF Spadeadam Half and the Red Kite Trail Race neither of which I’ve run before for example) and will hopefully feature next year, but I have also found I prefer not plastering my daily activities for everyone to see in some cases – just the bigger milestones or the particularly enjoyable runs or ones where I’ve had the camera. I have stopped posting to Strava for the same reason; it’s nice to just do it for you sometimes!

In summary, 2018’s been a bit of a rollercoaster! I’ve tried new activities like snorkelling, new event types (I much prefer duathlons to triathlons!), new races, found new running routes and adopted new running buddies. I feel incredibly privileged to have some very special people in my life and I’m very grateful to all of you – you know who you are. Shall we do it again next year?!

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George Ogle Memorial Race 2018

A new route this year – and a few new faces at the race start! C for some reason had believed only the ‘flat bit’ of my race description (the last mile or so) but has disregarded my comments about hills and steps as apparently it’s more likely I am winding her up than that anyone could POSSIBLY put flights of steps in a race event. The Nile is not only a river in Egypt… It can’t be that bad if we all keep going back year after year 😉

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Photo by CM (Blackhill Bounders)

I think the best way to share the route for this is to just let Derwent Valley Running Club do it themselves with their fab video of the route!

There was a slight modification to the route this year – apparently two horrendous hills is not enough so a third near the start was very kindly added in by some generous route-finding soul… I confess here and now to marching it! When we set off I had faint hopes of getting under the 1hr marker for the first time (previous times 1:09:48 in 2015 and 1:00:24 in 2017 I have just discovered) and I’d basically thrown that out the window by the time we turned through the gate for the first hill – the new one – and figured I’d just see how I did and concentrate and getting to the finish line!

I don’t know how many flights of steps there were in this race – maybe 5? – but I know I only ran 1.5 of them and walked at least part of all the big hills! I was in good company 😉 I was therefore delighted to get back round to the viaduct and find that I still had a shot at getting under the 1hr marker – and the terrain was going to be in my favour (for once) for getting there if I could keep the pace going.

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I did – even with the walk breaks – end up coming in under the hour marker at 57:48, which I’m really pleased with 🙂 Definitely making progress with the pacing! Plenty of spot prizes at the race with the finishing gifts – our group walked off with a bottle of wine and another of gin! This race usually gives goodies instead of medals and this year was no different – water bottle, buff and B’s favourite jellybeans 🙂

B, G and I will be back next year…we’ll wait and see if J3, C and R join us again! According to some it’s not a race without bling at the finish 😉

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You can download a GPX file for this route from my Dropbox account by clicking on the link below:

George Ogle 2018 route file

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April 2018

Definitely starting to feel back on track with exercising – I set myself the target at the start of the year of hitting 500 miles by the end of it, and as such needed to hit just over 40 miles a month – 9.5 miles a week. January, February and March I think I hit about half of that each month which has been increasing the amount I need to run each month for the rest of the year to still come in green without breaking myself in December!

April 2018

I need to hit 48.57 miles flat profiled for the rest of the year, and for April I’ve hit 49.5, I would probably have done the extra half a mile while I was out if I’d realised and hit a round 50 but I’m not going out just to do half a mile for that 😉 Mixed up in that mileage is a duathlon (Washington Novice Duathlon) and two races – 1 road (North Tyneside 10k) and 1 trail (Washington Trail 10k). I’ve also attended four bounce classes – not included in mileage – and done three training sessions (two intervals, one hills). My longest run was 7 miles for a Bounders Sunday run along the Derwent Walk.

April 2018 Graph

I’m slightly behind on my mileage target – should be 33% by the end of month 4, but at least achieved the mileage I needed + 1 so we’ll get closer to target as we progress through the year if I can keep that up, and I’m bang on with parkruns. I’ve actually run in four different locations in the last six weeks – one of the local ones at Gibside and then three new ones; Sedgefield, Stockport and Pennington Flash, meaning I’ve also hit my target of running in 10 different locations!

I’m ahead for races having completed four events so far out of ten, but looking at my calendar I’m only booked in for another six, so I better not miss any of them if I want to hit ten for 2018! Got to be in it to win it! Or, you know, at least get the shiny thing at the end! I’m deliberately keeping the summer quite empty – I’ve got two races in May (Pier to Pier and George Ogle) and two in July (Red Kite Race and Northumberland Coastal) but nothing for the rest of the summer as P & I have just bought windsurfing rigs :O :O :O I’m keeping the weekends quite empty and am hoping to get in some long runs when there is either not enough or too much wind for us to be out on the water 🙂

Next month’s aim – keep up the exercise levels while not eating all the cake on the planet (I must have had four or five birthday cakes this month and am getting a reputation as a cake fiend!!!). Off to a good start – no sweet treats for the last week of April and down 4lb – just need to shift a few more and work on toning up ready for our holiday in June 🙂

Onwards to May! (Seriously, where is the year going?!?!)

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Washington Duathlon

A few years ago, despite being just about able to float in water and having been on a bike twice in the previous 10 years, I signed up for a Go-TRI event in Prudhoe just to see what it was all about. I came away with two lasting impressions: various exercise segments being comfortably within your grasp does not mean they will remain so when you’ve shoved them all together, and I do not like swimming.

My main aim for 2018 was to try new things and have fun with exercise, so when I saw a novice DUathlon in the local area, I was down to give it a go – and why not drag someone else along for the ride?! I really like the ‘intro’ level events that some clubs hold to get people into sport – they are much less daunting than signing up for a ‘full’ event when you have no idea if you’ll be able to do it all and are still shaky on what’s involved with ‘Transition’ and really don’t want to be shouted at by a marshall for making the biggest faux pas in the world ever in complete ignorance.

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There were two events on today – a Novice event, and double the distance for the Sprint.  Being undeniably new to this, B and I had signed up for the Novice event; a run of 2.7km (2 laps), cycle of 10km (2 laps), and a final run of 1.35km (1 lap).

When you turn up at an event like this, the first thing they do when you register is cover you in numbers. Everywhere. You know when you go to a theme park and there’s small children with bracelets or writing on them with their responsible adult’s details on incase they get lost? It’s like there’s an assumption to do one of these events there must be something special about you, and thus they make it obvious you are undertaking such an event. This way, if some kindly soul takes pity on you cycling in circles round and round Sainsbury’s carpark, they will at least know which way to point you to return you to your kind. We had pen numbers on our arms and calves (I still haven’t got them off two washing attempts later), stickers for our helmets and our bikes, a number bib for pinning to our belts incase the smaller ones just weren’t obvious enough and a house-arrest convict style ankle bracelet which is allegedly for timing but may or may not contain a GPS tracker… It is claimed these are to stop people stealing your bike – it must match your numbers, your bib – it must match your body art, and your helmet – which must also match all of the other things. We know the truth 😛

We succeeding in levitating our bikes ready in transition (there was a fence too close so they didn’t touch the floor!) and were about as ready as we were ever going to be to set off.

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It is a well-known strategy for particularly longer races that you find a nice bum and follow it. We hadn’t been running for long when we were passed by several of the people doing the Sprint (and well, compared to us – sprinting), one of them with a very…distinctive bottom?! We dubbed him Window Bum Man as for some reason he had a circle of netting in the back of his tri-suit…

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Gibside Night Run 2018

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I ran Gibside Night Run for the first time in 2015, and since then it’s made the list of ‘races I want to run’ every year – but this is the first year I’ve actually made it back: I missed one of the intermediary years due to illness, and another due to it clashing with another night race J had booked us all on to. This year, I managed to sucker B into attending me as a late entry and we both headed off to Gibside with G as official bagholder for the fee of 1 post-race pizza!

 

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I’d remembered some stretches suprisingly well given it’s 3 years since I last did it, and had blissfully forgotten the length of some of the hills, and the steepness of the second-to-last one! I’ve run at Gibside enough times to know there’s always a hill near the start – it doesn’t matter which way you go, unless you’re just doing the Avenue and back you are going to hit a hill.

There wasn’t a huge amount of chatting up the first loooong hill, but we both made it to the top maintaining a steady jog, and passing several people who’d dropped to a walk from about halfway up. One of the great things about hill training and having pretty much any local run you try to do featuring at least one hill in it somewhere is you get to be pretty unphased unless they’re particularly long and/or steep. It was a marked difference in approach to last time I did this race, where I definitely walked every one of the uphills after the first few steps up them.

The one thing that wasn’t different was how much I enjoyed it – this is very much a fun run; it’s not chocka with club runners, it’s popular with families, walkers, people with dogs, you name it! It’s very low pressure and at 6km is a distance you can either push yourself over or just kick back and enjoy it.

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Pier To Pier 2017

It’s Pier to Pier time again! I ran this in 2015 and spectated in 2016 due to illness, so it was good to be out running it again. Last time I left my car at the start and caught the metro back when I’d finished as I had no idea where I was going at either end, but this year I took advantage of the coaches which had been enlisted to ferry people who had parked at the finish back to the start line in good time for everything kicking off. I’d definitely use this service again if not getting the Bounders coach as it was very smooth – I found parking easily (not so in 2016 when I was meeing J at the finish as it was full of presumably runner’s cars!) and didn’t have to wait at all for a coach.

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The start of this race is on the sand by the pier at South Shields – and more than one person had to empty their shoes of sand from crossing the loose stuff before the start time. I’d opted for my Goretex trail shoes – the pink canoes – and they did keep the bulk of the sand out – I’d picked up some by the end of the race just from what was kicked up over the top as I went round, but I wasn’t aware of it being there – sand blisters are not pleasant and are to be avoided if possible!

I ran with G for this one and we had a good natter and a birdwatch on the way round. The long sand stretch at the start had us both feeling very heavy-calved very quickly which was not a reassuring start to a 7 mile-ish run! There are three routes you can take across the Leas when you leave the beach, I suspect the middle or road ones are the fastest, but we opted for the coastal path just for the view – the sun kept just lighting the wave tips of a very calm sea and the cliffs were gorgeous.

The first part of this course is deceptively hilly, and it took until about mile 2 to get into a comfortable stride – the route flattens out across the cliffs, and then you have a longer downhill across the clifftop to Souter Lighthouse and the water station. From Souter all the way to the finish, with only one or two small blips, it was blessedly downhill or flat.

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It’s difficult to judge your progress by landmarks on this route, as there aren’t really many…you go across winding clifftops with higher bushy edges and not much visibility of the course ahead for the first part, then you can see a tower building and a lighthouse. The tower is now a restaurant or something and there are steps down to Marsden Beach (there were so many points along here where I was itching to go down to the beach to explore the cliffs or go for a paddle!) and the lighthouse is Souter Lighthouse and marks the halfway point between South Shields and Sunderland piers.

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Sunderland 10k 2017

I last (and first!) ran this race in 2015 when it had a slightly different route starting and finished at the Stadium of Light. It was absolutely bucketing it down and J & I were soaked in our bin bags before we’d even got from the car park to the stadium! It was very quickly clear (or not) that I was wasting my time trying to see with my glasses on, they were pocketed and I saw very little of Sunderland. I remember the grey wall of a battleship thing and the waves crashing over the walls at the seafront at Roker and lots of soggy clothes. J enjoyed it enough to go back again last year, when I opted for donning my Terrible Photographer hat and stalking her and some of the Bounders round the course.

This year, I can happily say that we were onto a winner right from the off in that it wasn’t bucketing it down with rain before we’d even got there. We had some new company in the form of A & G this year and a merry bunch we made on the way into Sunderland.

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You got free stuff before the race even started for this one – the race pack included a buff so there were many people wearing them around the course. There was a competition to win a watch for the most inventive donning of said buff; none of us were partaking but I definitely think Ms Rosie was in with a shot 🙂

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Washington Trail 10k – 2017

The Trail Outlaws organise a series of ‘Urban Trail’ races from 10k to half marathon around the North-East (and if you fancy it, right up to the 100+ miles marker not for some of us mere mortals!), and this race around Washington is rapidly becoming a regular feature in my running calendar – so when I heard J was doing again this year (straight after night shift she was that keen!), I couldn’t leave her to go by herself! It also meant I might have half a chance of keeping up with her if I caught her when she would be already too tired for any sane person to consider going for a 10k run in the hills…

I don’t know if one of the Trail Outlaws guys has a deal with the weather for this one, but I don’t think I’ve done it when it hasn’t been blue skies and sunshine, or not far off it! This is appreciated in one respect because the riverside and the woods look fantastic in the sunshine when the flowers are coming out, and it makes you really appreciate the shade, but it also means that you cook when you’re going up the hills in the first half which are a bit more exposed…

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There are several loops to this race, passing through a common marshalling and refreshments area where there’s always a ready supply of drinks – water and cola this time – and if you’re lucky there might still be some jelly babies left even by your third time through! There are always several marshalls here handing out drinks, and it’s great to see the kids getting involved handing out beakers and giving power-up high-fives to all who pass through – no matter how many times they’ve seen you already! You come downhill from the start to join the river and start your first lap after passing through this area (Time 1), heading up through the woods and towards the main road before coming back down again to the clearing (Time 2). From here, you head out across a footbridge, up a hill (there’s quite a few of them) and across the stile at the top.

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A Year in Review – 2016

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It’s been a month and a half since my last entry here, but it feels like an awful lot longer…I was expecting to log on and see it had been months! Saying that, just this week feels like it’s lasted about 10 days for some reason. The weekend could not come soon enough!

As Christmas fast approaches, I find myself going over 2016 and I confess to having found this year incredibly frustrating. I don’t think I’ll be the only one glad to see the back of it and hoping for a fresh start in January.

Having started the year determined not to spend as much time and money on races as I did last year (which was many £’s and nearly every weekend at one point!), the races I’d booked for this year were ones I’d really wanted to try from 2015 but for whatever reason couldn’t make it, or that I really enjoyed and wanted to do again. Looking over my calendar for this year, out of a total of 19 races booked across the year I missed 7 of them due to being either ill or just not fit enough to do them (one does not do a 10 mile race when one is struggling to do a 10k for example!). Of the 12 I did make it to, I had a DNF on one and nearly a DNF on another, and really struggled on a couple more. If this were Laser Quest, I would be losing rather badly!

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned this year is where my running limits are. My maximum running distance at peak fitness so far seems to be about 16 miles, and I shouldn’t try to run a half marathon every weekend several weeks in a row. I am however comfortable running 8-10 miles every or every-other weekend when ‘fit’. I tried to do far too much far too fast at the start of the year, and to be honest that’s over-shadowed the rest of my year.

I recovered from my post-marathon-attempt fatigue when summer was coming into full bloom – and any of you who’ve had the misfortune of being here a while will know I tend to disappear into a dark cave in the summer and don’t come out – heat and I just don’t get on and it always seems to come out on top! Something I did start doing this year was going out on the bike with one of the guys from work most Wednesday’s when work permitted – and I think this is all I can credit with me not being completely back to square one from a fitness point of view across the rest of this year, because I definitely haven’t been running frequently enough for that to have really helped! I’ve done a total of 165 miles on the bike this year, compared with 15.5 miles the year before, which is not to be sniffed at for someone who’s not really a bike fan!

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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. 🙂 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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