Summer Handicap – July, Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Finishing position NameFinish TimeActual Running Time
1D4John Greathead48.0145.31
2D2Jonathan Clark48.5346.23
3D3Alison Smith52.0949.39
4G9Peter Hart53.143.1
5G8Chris Shearsmith53.1643.16
6F4Andrew Thurston53.1745.47
7G4Sarah Fawcett53.2543.25
8H8Helen Parker53.2540.55
9G7David Walker53.3443.34
10H1Mark Foster53.5441.24
11E3Vicky Brown54.0849.08
12F1Jan Young54.2246.52
13H5Andrew Munro54.4542.15
14L1Mark Griffiths54.4632.16
15H4Jane Ranns54.5642.26
16F2Catherine Walker54.5747.27
17E1Stephen Lumsdon54.5949.59
18E2Lee Stephenson55.1150.11
19J1Mike Barlow55.2737.57
20G10Ashley Price-Sabate55.2845.28
21J2Philip Connor55.3738.07
22D1Sharon Campbell55.453.1
23H9Ian Spencer55.5143.21
24M2Chris Callan55.5430.54
25I4Craig Walker56.1641.16
26F3Nicola Dorricott56.3649.06
27F5Sue Walker56.3649.06
28I3Pavlos Farangitakis56.3841.38
29L2Emma Thompson56.4334.13
30I6Roz Layton57.1442.14
31G3Debra Thompson57.2447.24
32M3Michael Anderson57.2432.24
33K2Richard Hockin57.3137.31
34G2Lynne Waugh57.3747.37
35M4Jack Lee5833
36L3Dan Mitchell58.2235.52
37C1Sophie Dennis59.1559.15
38G5Emma Cumpson59.2149.21
39H3Alan Smith60.1147.41
40I8Clare Wood60.3845.38
41M1Sally Hughes60.5935.59
42G1Anita Wright61.5651.56
43I1Angela Greathead63.3248.32
-Sue Gardham1 lap-
-Stef Barlow1 lap-
-Helen Linton1 lap-

 

Northumberland Coastal Run, Beadnell, Northumberland, Sunday, July 23, 2017

Grand Prix Race.Endurance Champion Race.  ~14 miles

Jonathan Hamill

2nd time lucky?  Last year, I settled for a rather splendid long sleeved top in lieu of my entry, and heard the tales of a splendid and scenic coastal run in the sun.  This year, the race sold out in a matter of six hours but fortunately I secured an entry again, and had my sun tan lotion at the ready.

Saturday evening saw me consider various weather forecasts, and contemplate my shoe and clothing choice.  Having packed my hydration vest, at the eleventh hour, I abandoned it and decided for the minimalistic approach of club vest (fear not, I had shorts too) and trail shoes given the inclement weather anticipated.

A Sunday morning reveille at 0600hrs (what else would any sane person do on their wedding anniversary?) saw me tiptoe around the house, and jog up to meet the Strider bus.  As I had stayed up quite late, reading old race reports of the Coastal Run and contemplating what lay ahead, I quite fancied a snooze on the bus but this notion rapidly faded, as the bus filled full of other chatty but half asleep Striders.

Team Purple
Photo courtesy of Catherine Smith

We made good progress, and parked up in Beadnell, donning waterproofs to saunter down the road to the Boat House for registration.  I always find it a challenge with my OCD to attach a bib number perfectly straight – to do this in the rain, with a fresh breeze on the upturned hull of a small boat compounded the challenge.  Event clips and bib attached, I processed along the beach toward the start area at Beadnell Bay.  There were portaloos aplenty, and a fairly short queue leaving time to join fellow Striders to shelter and stay warm(ish), stowing bags on the baggage bus at the last moment, for the obligatory team photo on the beach.

Lined up on the start, and raring to go, I listened intently to the official at the front – I relayed his information to other runners because I thought it was wise to heed the advice, which I summarised that runners should stay between the first set of marshalls to avoid perishing on the slippy rocks.  Then we were off, across golden sands, the warmth of the sun on our backs, the breeze in our hair, amidst children building sandcastles, and enjoying ice-cream [error, that was a figment of my imagination]. Then we were off, across a sandy base of rivulets fed by the Long Nanny River, which set the scene of what would be a challenging race.  I had struck out at a pace just sub 5 min/km, which softened as I met the first constriction point of soft sand and rocks up to High Newton by the Sea.  I was amazed at this point to see a runner relieve himself against the dunes in full view of other competitors – how could he have missed the vast provision of portaloos, and council facilities adjacent to the start?

‘Enjoying the downhill’ Photo courtesy of Camilla Lauren-Maatta

Having climbed this initial hill, I enjoyed the short fast downhill section to Low Newton and the sands at Embleton Bay.  We then negotiated the inland side of Dunstanburgh Castle, on mud, grass and rock paths, with a few slips and falls.  I halted to check one poor soul who had taken an impressive tumble, landing hard but he was fine to continue.  I passed a few runners, at this point lamenting their choice of road shoes, and wondered if Matt Archer had his racing flats on.

Next up was Craster Village, at which point we were looking a little more bedraggled, our muddy battle paint splattered up our legs, and higher!  Support was evident here, and water was provided.  The encouraging sight and sound of Michael Mason galvanised my resolve as I climbed up past the harbour past The Heughs, where there was a cheeky kink taking us along the headland to Cullernose Point.

Then a treat of a section of road past Howick, and on to Sugar Sands where the majority of runners took the bridge across Howick Burn but some hardier souls opted for the water crossing.  A short but punishing climb ensued, up a rocky path, which I decided to run passing a couple who were walking, clearly conserving their energy to pass me on the flat on the top!

Into Boulmer for the final water stop, which I needed, where supporters braved the conditions to cheer us on.  Leaving Boulmer, just prior to dropping down to Foxton Beach, a cheery chap stood beside a sign which advised ‘about 2 miles to go’.  He shouted encouragingly, that it we were nearly upon the beach and only 10 minutes to go.  I looked at my watch briefly, trying to calculate what this meant but gave up as ‘nearly 2 miles’ was too imprecise a measure for me, a detailed metric man.

Photo courtesy of Phil Owen

This beach seemed never-ending, and I remember thinking about the meaning of this approximate 2-mile sign.  I tried in places to pick up my pace, mainly because I thought if I did the race would be over quicker but there were slippy rocks, and dilapidated fences (really!) to cross.  On one particular fence, my ability to hurdle non-existent, my right hamstring cramped as I ungraciously ‘hopped’ over it.  I recovered to catch the magnificent sight of a blue inflatable finish arch.

The arch got closer, and I tried to pick up pace, hastened by Jon Ayres who was doing a sterling job as a bare-chested Mr Motivator having already finished.  Attempting to follow Jon’s advice of lengthening my stride, I managed to briefly return to that sub 5 min/km pace again, prior to what felt like sinking to my knees in the softer sand near the finishing arch.  Through the finish, I immediately felt that sense of accomplishment which makes it all seem worthwhile; and a quick check of my watch confirmed a pleasing sub 2-hour time (subsequently 1:55:31 chip time).

I grabbed some water, and headed over to provide some encouragement to my fellow Striders.  Jon congratulated me, and I quipped that that last beach was like a club committee meeting in length!  Then via the baggage bus, to the Strider bus, which now resembled something of an impromptu changing room.  I was grateful at this point for Lesley’s advice to take a change of footwear, and in equal measure for her encouragement to attend this race.  Prize giving was in the nearby Alnmouth Links Golf Club, which provided an opportunity to dry out, and celebrate the team achievement.  It was great to see Stephen Jackson pick up a prize for 5th place, a valiant effort indeed after his Durham City Run win of only a few night’s previous, and to see other age category winners; Tamsin Imber for 1st FVET40, Christine Farnsworth for 2nd FVET65 and Margaret Thompson for 3rd FVET65.

The organisation of this race by Alnwick Harriers is first rate.  Marshals and locals alike are friendly, and supportive.  The coastline and scenic aspect is fantastic, and where else can you run ~14 miles through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on a mixture of sand, road and trail?  In summary, I’d encourage anyone to have a go at this race – I’d certainly like to do it again, but hopefully next time on a drier, more summery day!

You can relive the Northumberland Coastal Run here

Full results available here

Bibno.Participant Finish time CategorySpeedPace
630Stephen Jackson01:17:41MSEN10.81 mph5:32 min/mile
936Gareth Pritchard01:20:19MSEN10.46 mph5:44 min/mile
121Matthew Archer01:31:36MSEN9.17 mph6:32 min/mile
949Phil Ray01:31:54MSEN9.14 mph6:33 min/mile
595Andrew Hopkins01:33:33MV408.98 mph6:40 min/mile
618Tamsin Imber01:42:29FV408.20 mph7:19 min/mile
185Elaine Bisson01:45:23FV357.97 mph7:31 min/mile
1110Malcolm Sygrove01:51:57MV507.50 mph7:59 min/mile
526Jonathan Hamill01:55:31MV407.27 mph8:15 min/mile
872Dougie Nisbet02:03:08MV506.82 mph8:47 min/mile
661Fiona Jones02:03:21FV406.81 mph8:48 min/mile
898Helen Parker02:03:55FV406.78 mph8:51 min/mile
204Jean Bradley02:04:00FV606.77 mph8:51 min/mile
777Rachelle Mason02:04:55FV356.72 mph8:55 min/mile
462Sue Gardham02:05:35FV406.69 mph8:58 min/mile
1024Chris Shearsmith02:06:35MV406.64 mph9:02 min/mile
1109Kathryn Sygrove02:06:47FV506.63 mph9:03 min/mile
605Melanie Hudson02:07:18FV356.60 mph9:05 min/mile
984Dave Robson02:07:19MV656.60 mph9:05 min/mile
744Emil Maatta02:07:32MSEN6.59 mph9:06 min/mile
247Karen Byng02:07:54FV456.57 mph9:08 min/mile
1016Anna Seeley02:08:14FSEN6.55 mph9:09 min/mile
223David Browbank02:08:39MSEN6.53 mph9:11 min/mile
1047Catherine Smith02:12:17FV406.35 mph9:26 min/mile
429Sarah Fawcett02:14:00FV556.27 mph9:34 min/mile
283Jonathan Clark02:18:44MV406.05 mph9:54 min/mile
576Alison Heslop02:21:36FV455.93 mph10:06 min/mile
394Katherine Dodd02:24:12FV455.83 mph10:18 min/mile
1127Helen Thomas02:24:32FV405.81 mph10:19 min/mile
825Karen Metters02:24:32FV405.81 mph10:19 min/mile
1255Jill Young02:25:59FSEN5.75 mph10:25 min/mile
407Jane Dowsett02:26:00FV455.75 mph10:25 min/mile
933Katherine Preston02:26:00FV455.75 mph10:25 min/mile
929Alison Pragnell02:26:11FV355.75 mph10:26 min/mile
1044Alan Smith02:26:14MV705.74 mph10:26 min/mile
341Beth Cullen02:26:24FV355.74 mph10:27 min/mile
902Joanne Patterson02:34:07FSEN5.45 mph11:00 min/mile
1011Aileen Campbell Scott02:34:12FV455.45 mph11:00 min/mile
1232Karen Wilson02:37:11FV455.34 mph11:13 min/mile
427Christine Farnsworth02:40:12FV655.24 mph11:26 min/mile
144Kerry Barnett02:43:07FV455.15 mph11:39 min/mile
434Kirsten Fenwick02:46:43FSEN5.04 mph11:54 min/mile
1067Diane Soulsby02:46:45FV505.04 mph11:54 min/mile
473Rebecca Gilmore02:47:47FSEN5.01 mph11:59 min/mile
1136Margaret Thompson02:59:17FV654.69 mph12:48 min/mile
468Laura Gibson03:11:14FV404.39 mph13:39 min/mile

Dales Trail Series DT30km, Muker, Upper Swaledale, Saturday, July 15, 2017

30km

Elaine Bisson

Photo courtesy of Foxglove photography

This is in the series of my A races this year and is my favourite of the three. Just under 20miles following trails, bridleways and bog! It starts in a field next to the River Swale in Muker following the river along past Keld before it really starts to climb through Stonesdale Moor (where the bog really wobbles) up to the Tan Hill. From here it drops back down to Keld along the Pennine way before it climbs again to the second summit just above Swinners Gill (aka Runners Hell). From here there is a fast runnable section down to the hay fields of Muker before you go through the gates of hell (about ten of them) which are absolute torture after the long descent, you only build up enough speed until you have to stop to open another gate and if you’re being chased the bang of the gates sounds like a death knell!

I travelled down with Jon and a car full (no really) a car full of soup…enough to feed the three hundred runners. We were both in poor spirits and it took a while before we started our usual joking. We register in the barn, chat to marshals and runners (many of whom have done previous series.) From here there is about a mile walk to the start. I’ve given up slightly, poor prep…I’d spent the last week recovering from supporting on Scotts BGR and struggling with tiredness. I recognise some speedy ladies and realise I’m well off the prizes today. But then there is always the second lady in Grand Slam who is giving me daggers!
Photo courtesy of Foxglove photography

For the first three miles said 2nd GS lady sits right on my shoulder until I give up and let her past. My heart sinks while I watch her disappear into the distance but it’s not long until I realise I’m gaining ground again and when we hit the climb up to the Tan Hill I pull up and away from her.  By now I’m running again with Jon. Glad of the company and the funny chat. Also glad to have someone to give me a bit of a nudge…which I really needed. When we hit the road (only 400m worth) we can both barely be bothered to run. I remember saying come on its flat, it’s tarmac and we up the pace. I know this should be where we can gain some places on the descent down to Keld but the wind is right against us and visibility is poor and underfoot is splodgy.

Photo courtesy of Foxglove photography

We eventually pick up speed down a lovely sheltered track and hit the turn up to Swinners Gill. I feel a bit queasy by now, it really was a bad race day! Anyway I’m looking forward to Swinners Gill. The climb isn’t too long and it’s a bit technical which I’ve come to like. It’s not long before we reach the last gravel trail and a fastish descent back to the meadows of Muker. I’ve tricked myself to believe there are 12 gates to pass through, so when the countdown is still going and we reach the final little hill before the finish we are both over the moon.

I’m 3 minutes slower than last year and 4th lady but all things considered it wasn’t too bad a run…I do know I’m  capable of much better with better prep so I’ve a feeling I will return to this. We wander back to race HQ to collect our t-shirts and go separate ways. The lovely campsite showers await and I spend a while scrubbing off mud and enjoying the clean warm water. Then it’s back to the barns to enjoy the soup, cakes and tea and welcome in other runners.

I wasn’t sure whether to log a race report, it certainly wasn’t my best race but it remains one of my favourite trail races. I had a great time despite feeling a bit rotten and it goes to show what a difference good company can make…and of course running somewhere you love. I have also retained my number one spot in the Grand Slam and have gained quite a lead on the second lady. I now look forward to the final of the three. There is work to be done and certainly good tapering but I’m determined to do it right!

Endure 24 and Emma’s debut as a Strider, Bramham Park, Wetherby, Saturday, July 1, 2017

Emma Thompson

After reading about Anna’s epic achievements at Endure, my effort seems a bit feeble but hopefully my account of running this as part of a team is of interest to those who would never dream of being able to run this solo!

Back in January my sister rang me to ask what I thought about a 24hr team relay event – was this a silly idea? I’m not sure what response she was hoping for, but I thought it sounded amazing and so we both signed up, along with other members of her club, Jesmond Joggers, for Endure 24 at Bramham Park, near Leeds.

The event can be run solo, in pairs or teams – grouped into small (3-5 people) or large (6-8). The route is a 5 mile loop through Bramham Park. This would be more miles than I had ever run and it was difficult to envisage how the stop-start nature of running in a relay would play out over the 24 hours. I had grand plans for training, with longer distances and shorter recoveries between runs. But nearly 2 months of injury finished those plans off.  By June I had given up all hope of participating at Endure. But after seeing an amazing physio 3 days before Blaydon, I was back running. I completed Blaydon and with a few more gentle runs under my belt, and an understanding team, I was off to Bramham park for Endure on 1st July.

A clash with my 6yr old daughter’s dance show meant a quick drive back to County Durham after registration, so I missed the start and my first lap. I slotted back in on everyone else’s second lap (which notably was my first run in a striders vest on my first official day as a Strider!).

The route profile had looked hillier than we expected, but actually turned out to be quite a fast course. Over 90% paths, very little grass, a few hills but nothing too challenging. As the laps ticked by it became clear we would all be running further than expected, as we were running much faster than anticipated.

I was in a team of 6. With missing the first lap, I completed 5 laps in total – 25 miles, much further than the maximum 13.1 miles I had completed before. Between the 6 of us we completed 35 laps, 175 miles, finishing 5th in the mixed large teams, out of 31! My sister’s team of 5 completed 37, an amazing effort, finishing 2nd in their category of mixed small teams. Having all gone purely to participate, with no experience of this kind of event, to finish so high up the field was amazing.

The rests made a huge difference. My legs on the last lap felt tired and heavy, noticing the hills much more, but still maintained a consistent lap time.  After finishing, I actually felt less tired than after a half marathon (and the dreaded post race stiffness never set in!)

Running through the woods with a head torch at 2am in the morning, through an avenue of trees with fairy lights and back into the race village to change over, was a fantastic running experience. The team work was amazing – we didn’t miss one changeover, even through the night. Being woken after an hours nap, to get up shivering and go for a run in the dark, was a bizarre experience to say the least – with just a fleeting  “I’m not sure I really want to go for a run/what am I doing?”!! The cameradie from all the different runners was great.

Totally inspiring to watch the efforts of the solo runners. Huge congratulations to Anna and Kerry whose individual achievements were incredible. I can’t believe how fresh they looked the next morning, about to go back out for further laps.

I will definitely be back – but will stick with a team! Hopefully that can be with fellow striders next year. It very much is an event for everyone. With the different team sizes, it allows for all runners. Anyone in???

Photos credited to Catherine Smith.

Red Kite Trail Race, Dipton, Stanley, Sunday, July 9, 2017

8 miles

Joanne Patterson

July would be the month I would take part in 5 races – clearly I was very keen at the start of the year, and signed up for most things that I missed last year due to getting into running just that bit too late forthe popular races.

4th of July saw me take part in my first Bridges of the Tyne – I was really looking forward to this race – it was only 5 miles, mostly flat, I had been running quite well I thought – this could be my race. But apparently, attempting to race on a school dinner and a packet of hula hoops isn’t advisable. I struggled from the first mile, both physically and mentally. I finished the race feeling disappointed in myself and completely disillusioned with running.

This is when being part of a close-knit club comes in very useful. I had some great advice and caring words from my fellow clubmates (namely, Mark, Vics, Matt , Tim & Catherine).

  • You put too much pressure on yourself
  • Pick one of your races that you want to do well in, and focus on that. Use other races as training runs
  • You need to make running fun again, and not about PBs and beating yourself
  • Mix it up – try not to focus on times for a bit

I took this all on board when I decided I would still take part in the Red Kite Trail run on 9th July. This was 8 miles of trail – basically four miles downhill and then four back up. I was never going to be very good at this race, but before Tuesday, a silly part of me would beat myself up massively, regardless of the result. Taking all this advice on board, I decided I would run my own race – not worry about competing with anybody, not caring if I was last Strider home. Taking it back to how it used to be, and trying to enjoy running instead of turning it into something negative.

I arrived at the Community Centre in Dipton (practically next door to my daughter’s nursery school) and immediately found some Strider friends, who all seemed to be in the same frame of mind. We had the usual photo opportunities, then out to the front for the start.

Running on Tarmac in Trail shoes is a bizarre feeling on your feet, but before I knew it we were off road. Down some glorious grassy hills into the middle of the countryside. The sun was shining, I had a pretty awesome playlist on my phone and things felt good. Up until mile 3, I had to stop like a million times to climb over stiles (possibly exaggerated), this would normally have frustrated me as it would ruin my splits – but today, i was thankful for the stop, trying to take it all in. Chatting with fellow runners and thanking marshalls. There were a few ropey ankle situations, which reminded me of cross country, and I saw an injured Mr Bisson hobbling back to the start (it doesn’t matter how many times he reminds me of his name, I always want to call him Mr Bisson – i guess that’s what happens when you are married to a club celeb like First Lady Bisson). Throw in a refreshing stream crossing (i can confirm going straight through is more advisable than trying to cross the rocks – is that right Anna??) and before I knew it, I was at the halfway point.

I had seen the elevation profile prior to the race, so I knew what I had ahead of me. I stopped at the water station (something I would never normally do), drank some water and inspected the massive blister forming on my big toe. This running thing is so glam. Off i went again, expecting the next 4 miles to literally be a sheer vertical climb. Happily it wasn’t quite as bad as that – some running through fields, into the woods and straight into a massive muddy bog. At some points in this run, there was nobody behind me, and nobody in front of me – it was almost like somebody had just marked out a nice Sunday route for me. I tried to catch up with a runner in front, as I felt more comfortable with somebody in front, so that I could follow them and not end up lost!

So the elevation profile was true to its word – the hills made cross country hills seem like nothing. I was comforted to see everyone walking the hills – this had been my plan. I got talking to some lovely ladies from Morpeth Harriers, and we encouraged each other to run the flats and downhills, then catch each other on the next uphill. Up to the top of the last hill, and i saw the place i get my nails done, so i knew where i was. I blasted the last little bit to the finish line, mouthing “Jesus Christ” to Catherine and Anna who were waiting at the finish line for me. Hugs from the Morpeth ladies reminded me what a great sporting community I am part of.

Considering I am from the area, these were trails I never knew existed. The sights and smells and a renewed view of what running means to me made this a great run. Thank you so much to my ever suffering team mates for helping to get me here. I’m not saying that I can treat every race like this, but, for now you have helped me more than you realise.

Endure 24, Bramham Park, Wetherby, Saturday, July 1, 2017

Anna Seeley

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. If you think about quitting think about why you started. Look in the mirror, that’s your competition. Ask yourself can you give more, the answer is usually yes. A few of the motivational quotes from the K markers placed round the 5 mile course which would be my home for the next 24 hours. People ask why and I think these quotes help summarise it. Having raced every standard distance going I got fed of PB chasing and wanted to see what my body was really capable of.

My body may have had other ideas though and having fought off multiple injuries and still carrying a few niggles I then went down with a stinking cold the week before race day. A few of you shook your heads as there was no talk of a DNS despite by Wednesday still coughing up a lung and having virtually no voice. The whole year had been building up to this weekend and I wasn’t ready to give up all the hard work but I was sensible enough to readjust the goals. My 100 mile in 24 hrs target scrapped I settled for a C target of 6 laps (30 miles), another ultra ticked off, a B target of 10 laps (50 miles) and an A target of 15 laps (75 miles) which would be a distance PB.

Friday and feeling better but far from 100% I set up camp with the help of Catherine and Gareth. After registering and getting my number it all became a bit more real and we set off to recce the course but due to a lack of markers got a bit lost. Saw enough to know it was going to a be a road shoe job though then had a mild panic as I realised I’d only brought old knackered road shoes with me, for use in an emergency, along with my decent trail shoes. Never mind, what would be would be. A meal out on table 24, fate, and it was back to camp to enjoy the festival atmosphere, drink some beer (medicinal of course) and catch up with other solo nutters who I’d managed to pitch near. Very little sleep was had that night, maybe not best prep for staying awake for 24 hours but I was still fairly relaxed as I was joined in camp by Kerry (running) and Rob (support). Photos with Kerry and fellow strider Emma who was running as part of a team and it was time to get ready to go.

Saturday 12 o’clock on the dot and we were counted down, 3, 2, 1 and a hooter went to go. The relay runners went flying off but the majority of us solo runners went for the more relaxed approach although on fresh legs that still involved a sub 30 min first 5K, I’m blaming the rested fresh legs. Once out of the race village we were onto hard packed gravelly trail which made up 95% of the loop and would result in the trashing of many a foot. A downhill to the 1K marker was followed by a gradual 1K ascent nicely named Temple Drag. Downhill past the camper van pumping out tunes at Temptation Corner came the second climb up to the 3K marker and start of the woods, which quickly became my second least favourite part of the course, we’ll get onto my least favourite part later, due to the random stones sticking out which could easily trip without concentrating and became an even bigger nightmare in the dark. Get out of the woods and you could see the main checkpoint with endless supplies of magical pink electrolyte drink and shot blocks, I don’t even like shot blocks but the sugar was greatly appreciated. Down a gravelly path to the only tiny steep hill, it grew longer the more laps we did, on the course then over a short grass section before hitting my least favourite section. A K long v slight incline which unfortunately was being blasted by an evil headwind rendering it much harder to run up than it should have been. The next downhill section was lovely, sweeping and not too steep and then there was the little molehill named Bramhall Climb and you could see the race village. Still 800m away but an achievable target even on knackered legs as it was predominantly downhill apart from a little kick at the end of the lap. I didn’t see the point in the K markers on the first lap but later in the race they were absolutely fab, even when knackered it didn’t take long to get to the next. You had 7 distinct points to work towards on each lap and each marker had a quote on to motivate you.

Having run the whole of the first lap I had already decided on where the walking was going to commence from the second lap on. I could have run a good few more laps but energy preservation is key, it’s all very well running strongly for a few hours but in the grand scheme of things you will go further if you are sensible from early on. Coming down the hill at the 5K mark on the second lap I felt the horrible right quad twinge that I’d first noticed at Windermere marathon earlier in the year. Surely I couldn’t have managed to flare old injuries 8 miles into a 24 hr race, well yes I could and had. By the end of the lap the quad was joined by my hip flexor and groin in a competition as to which could shout loudest at me. Just as well I wasn’t in the mood to listen as this would have been a rather short race report.

Somewhere between 25-30 miles I first became aware that my left ankle was jealous of my right thigh and wanted to join the pain party. I’d been having trouble with this ankle for weeks but had hoped that I’d done enough to settle it, obviously not. Slowing down I had my first wobble of the run, I was only just into ultra territory and my legs didn’t want to play ball. Luckily I knew from past experience that if you refuse to quit and keep moving your head will eventually back down and let the legs do their job and soon I was moving well again. My stomach however was having none of it and other than a slice of pizza when back at camp later I don’t think I ate anymore solid food after the end of lap 6. Luckily I had pre-empted this and packed plenty of high calorie fluids so the rest of the race was fuelled on smoothie, milkshake and of course coke. Not a fuelling strategy I would recommend for anyone but needs must.

At 8 o’clock we all had to have headtorches on so after 40 miles I headed back to the tent to search it out, change into something long sleeved and decided to change my shoes to super cushioned ones which I’d never run more than 5 miles in, what could possibly go wrong? The hard surface was playing havoc with my legs and the B target of 50 miles was looking unlikely. I was slowing down and everything was hurting. At last minute I decided to chuck my race pack on with front bottles so that I didn’t need to worry about water. What a mistake that was. I’ve never run without the pack loaded up with the kit on the back and hadn’t thought about how much the bottles would move without the counterbalance. Result was that miles 40-45 were mainly walked as the swinging bottles were going to cause yet another injury. Ditching the bottles at the end of the lap some running could start again but while my legs were starting to understand the game my head rapidly giving up. So what do you do when the wheels are coming off, you message our ever cheerful enthusiastic captain who will provide you enough memes to brighten the darkest of moments, thank you Catherine and Gareth for chipping in too, I must have sounded properly miserable! 50 miles done in 10:38, somehow a 50 mile PB. At some point Dave Toth appeared as well, super encouraging and a much needed friendly face who having experienced the ultra pain knew what we were going through, thank you.

Lap 11 was the first one in complete darkness and I remembered why I only run with a headtorch when I absolutely have to. The swinging light makes me feel sick and I hate the loss of your peripheral vision. I was convinced that one of the super quick relay runners was going to come crashing into me as they seemed to come concerningly close before swerving. Unnerved I headed back to the tent at the end of the lap to retrieve my spare headtorch, maybe the spare would be brighter, and bumped into Kerry. Out we went, lap 12 for me and the magic 10th lap for her to take her to 50 miles. The woes of the previous lap forgotten we chatted and weaved, neither of us seemed capable of going in a straight line, ticking off the Ks until finally we were done. Massive distance PB for her, she went to find food while I decided rather unwisely to get another lap done before resting for a couple of hours. In hindsight I’d have been better stopping then and restarting at daybreak but wanted as many miles ticked off as possible.

End of the lap and I managed to find my tent, not difficult but my brain was a bit mashed, and settled down for a couple of hours of shivering, getting into a sleeping bag after 65 miles isn’t the easiest task in the world so I gave up and just threw it over me, and attempting to snooze. 5 o’clock and I was back up having forced some more fluids in, I’d given up eating hours earlier. I persuaded my legs that they did want to move and dodging guy ropes I managed to make myself back through the camp site back to the course. Bumping into my friend and 3rd lady at the start point of the lap I had company from 65-70 miles and that helped massively. She was falling asleep on her feet but had 100 miles fixed in her head, had worked out precisely what she needed to do each lap in to achieve her goal and went on to nail it.

Maybe stupid but as I started each lap I mentally ticked off the next 5 miles as I knew I wouldn’t quit mid lap so as I set off on lap 15 I knew I’d have achieved my A goal for the weekend of a distance PB. My legs by now were majorly protesting, I couldn’t move my ankle and my entire right upper leg was throbbing but nothing was going to stop me unless I was pulled off the course by the marshals and fixing a smile on my face was going to prevent that. Each K seemed to be getting longer but eventually the 7K mark appeared and once at the top of the hill the sight of the race village and finish line spurred me on. Finishing the lap on a high and having posed for another photo, smiling of course, for Dave I insanely decided to push the distance PB a little further, how hard would another lap be when you’ve already done 15?

Very very hard and immensely painful would be the answer. The first K was okish but then it rapidly went downhill. Simply putting one foot in front of the other on anything other than the flat, which as I’ve already mentioned there wasn’t much of, was absolute agony. Any sane person would have quit but I’m far too stubborn for that. After everything I had overcome to get to the startline and get that far one more lap wasn’t going to do that much harm so I again recruited the aid of our captain to keep me amused from a distance by messenger. I’m sure every K marker was moved further apart, every hill had grown but finally 1:55 later I dragged myself over the finish line.

80 miles, distance PB, further than I’d ever dreamed I’d get at the start of the weekend and a total that from early on when injuries decided to rear their ugly heads seemed impossible. Even my lack of ability to walk wasn’t going to wipe the smile off my face, already entered for next year, anyone else joining me?

Willow Miner Trail Race, Houghall Campus, East Durham College, Wednesday, July 5, 2017

5.3 miles

Elaine Bisson …

The Inaugural Willow Miner Trail Race …

 

5.3m, 438 feet elevation gain.

I had somehow fallen into running this race. Michael couldn’t run, he suggested I have his number, a few texts and emails later and it seemed I was in the running.

I had a few reservations. It was THE strider race of the year…the pressure would be on. It wasn’t in my plan, there were events on the horizon that I wanted to concentrate on. My last few races had been reasonable but had left me disappointed. My race head was at an all time low. I was recovering from an injury and didn’t want to aggravate it again. Oh, the list, how it goes on!

Anyway, I arrived at registration slightly later than planned…it didn’t matter, I had resolved to use it as a good training run, nothing more. If I started after the gun, all the better. Hopeful faces greeted me and I dismissed their optimism with, I’m not racing, I cant be bothered!

At the start I met a very bouncy excitable Rachelle, she attempted to lift my glum mood…and failed.

We all assembled on the lush grass before the start line, after a race briefing and a minute silence to remember Alan Purvis, we were off across the race track which was laid out in front of us. I was running at an easy pace, I watched gleefully as the fast group fought to gain good ground and disappeared into the woods. Now I could relax, I was just going to enjoy this. However, it wasn’t long before I got stuck behind a woman who decided to walk and then block my path through the woods, feeling frustrated, I picked up pace and started picking off people. This was fun, the pressure had all gone…disappeared into the distance. As I speeded up, I started to target runners to catch up, it became a bit of a game. I’m not entirely sure when the game became a race, probably when I caught sight of those that I’d thought had long gone. Susan’s encouragement of “at the moment, your 4th” really got me, it’s what I needed. The little shove to move up the ranks.

As one of Geoff’s guinea pigs during his Fell Coaching Training, I knew every hill possible on this course, and had suffered on EVERY hill, whether that be running hard up or down. This race then felt familiar and even the big hill up to the willow miner…was now doable. By then Penny was in my sights, then 2nd lady. I clung on to her, waiting for my move. I thought it would come on one of the hills in the woods, unfortunately it was much later. We ended up hurtling onto the grass track to the finish neck and neck. Every time I tried to increase speed, she would match it. Many thoughts whizzed through my mind, the overriding was how much I wanted to reach that finish line before her. With time running out and the line fast approaching, I gave one more push and finally pulled in front, one stride ahead and there it was, the white line. It was exhilarating and totally unexpected. Second lady, first strider lady for the third year.

So about the race…Its a beautiful route, showcasing 5.3miles of our amazing training ground. It is tough, with many undulations, fast downhill sections and long drags back up. It is extremely well marked (even tree routes are highlighted green), marshalled and supported by our wonderful club. For £11 you can ‘enjoy’ this brute, quench your thirst on water and coffee sachets at the end. Then drink some more, fill your belly and share trauma stories with fellow club mates at The Court Inn. What better way to celebrate Elvet Striders?

… Kay Cairns …

You’ve heard from the 1st Strider Lady now how about the last?…

I had toyed with the idea of entering the Clamber for the last couple of years, always deciding against it at the last minute. I was tempted again this year with the re-vamped Willow Miner Trail Race, I’d heard it was a toughie and got the impression it was only for ‘serious runners’ but when I looked into it I was assured there were no cut off times and everyone was welcome to take part… I decided it was probably for the best if I gave it a miss, it was the night before my son’s Birthday and I’m usually pretty busy blowing up balloons and wrapping presents! Then about 2 weeks before the race a notification popped up on the Striders Facebook page – Mike Parker couldn’t do the race due to injury – and against my better judgement I said I’d take it… I had already agreed to buy the T-shirt after all!

Leading up to the big night I had been hit with a head cold and my training was abandoned, I managed a couple of miles here and there but I felt utterly defeated. I was only 2 weeks in to my GNR training and I had already hit a brick wall! I was starting to feel a little better the week of the WMTR, I went out for 3 miles on Monday and I wasn’t too bad. I knew I was going to take part on the night but I wasn’t feeling fit, the night before I had a nightmare about the race (I can’t remember specifics but I think I forgot my watch, my number, went to the wrong race… you get the gist) and I was nervous all day thinking about it.

In reality I arrived in good time and collected my number “ah 22, that’s my Birthday” maybe it was meant to be! When I arrived on the field with all the other runners from so many different clubs it really did feel special; but I was alone, my usual running buddies were all marshalling (how sensible) so I was forced to do a real warm up! Usually we would start to warm up and get distracted with talk of cake…

When the race started I stayed at the back, I knew I would be the unofficial tail-runner and I’d come to terms with that fact. Before we’d even left the field I saw another woman turn back, telling her friends she was ok but she wouldn’t be running. Just 1 mile in I could see I was falling back even further than I had expected, but I kept going… up the steep steps at Houghall Woods then I was keeping a steady pace on the flat but I couldn’t see a soul in front.

Almost 2 miles in, I was already fighting my own demons and trying to keep my breathing in check (after still being in recovery mode from my head cold) then out of nowhere a guy walking in the opposite direction said to me “you want to go faster than that, you’re last” – and just like that I felt everything. The pain, the fear, the doubt, the anger, the defeat …I couldn’t breathe, I was fighting back tears. I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter, of course I was last, who cares! I was never in it for the win – if I was I wouldn’t bother getting out of bed! I’m not built for winning, for speed! Then I could see the next marshal point, Kate and Katharine, so friendly and encouraging – just as much for me as they were for the 1st runners along the route – and I broke down and hugged Katharine, not sure if I could even carry on.

I’m not sure how long I was there, I don’t think I fully explained myself at the time but it was clear I might not continue. Then I thought about my club, and the T-shirt I was wearing, it had been modified to not only show the club logo but also to promote my role as Mental Health Ambassador and #runandtalk was emblazoned on the back. This role means a lot to me. It isn’t just about letting people know it’s ok to talk and that running can improve your mental wellbeing – it’s about setting goals for yourself that push you out of your comfort zone, it’s about running and talking (to yourself sometimes) and being that positive voice inside that pushes you further than you ever thought possible.

If I was going to continue to be that voice for others then I had to step up and be that voice for myself. I was going to finish this race.

All I remember about the rest of the race is, well, the marshals! Yes there were hills, there was pain, and there was a Willow Miner along the way I believe. But the marshals were all amazing – smiling, beaming faces, supportive cheers, many bending the truth about how many hills were left, but all so genuinely happy to be there supporting every single runner.

Thank you Striders for having me, for supporting me, and for letting me be last.

… Tamsin Imber

‘Own it!’

‘Believe!’

and

‘Just f*****g go nail the b**ch!’

were some of the quotes I had in my head as I whizzed down to Maiden Castle on my bike. The latter quote from a hilarious book I am currently reading about a lady who is trying triathlons! Actually I was really excited about this race and looking forward to it as I’d enjoyed it a lot last year. It had been a great, local, low-key event with a cross country vibe! I was just feeling a little anxious as it was to be my first race in club vest since London. So the quotes were to give me confidence. Even so, my legs seemed to spin extra fast on my bike on the way down! On arrival at Maiden Castle it was nice to see lots of friendly faces. Lesley Charman at registration gave me number 74. Stephen had number 73 so this could only mean good things! Following a quick one lap round the track before it is ‘out of order’ I made progress to the start area. I bumped into Stephen Winship, a family friend, who has been in the Striders a while and is getting back to running now. Lovely to see him! Great to chat to lots of Striders at the start! Nice to see new members and also some much older members of the club! Yay, Elaine and Penny were here! I looked forward to attempting to race them!

The course start/finish area was looking highly professional with its taping and flags! The water station table was all up and organised. Although it had been raining for days, it had stopped for this evening. The course could potentially be quite wet and muddy! I went on a small warm up along the course and found that after the grassy field the route headed up a near vertical mud bank! Excellent! Humm, also a potential bottleneck. Earlier this year I remembered having to stand and wait behind a bottleneck just after the start of the Hedgehope half where a road turned into a single file path. Also at the Grasmere Gallop where I became jammed in behind Nordic race walkers on a wall lined bridge. So I planned to start near the front and peg it to the bank. I now joined a group of Birtley runners also going for a warm up, we just ran a little way along the foot of the Bluebell woods and then back to the start. The evening air was damp and still, and the mud was squelchy underfoot, with areas of slippery tree roots for extra pazazz. Geoff may have ordered these in specially.

It was time for the start! Following our President’s briefing with a rather impressively large megaphone!, and Barry’s speech, the whistle was blown and we all surged forwards! Out of the taped funnel, across the wet trainer-drenching grass of the field..To The Bank! I was there! Bank attack! Arms and legs whirled up the mud bank, and onto the level, then zoom along the undulating muddy path. The pain was slightly brutal! I realised I was exceeding a ‘not setting out too fast’ pace. However, unfortunately pre-race nerves had the better of me and it was nice to expel them in this fashion! Plus it was exhilarating hurling myself recklessly down the hills along with everyone nearby! Down another steep, dicey bank and at the bottom were two marshals, my glasses/eyesight were impaired by exertion but I think one was Lesley Charman. Very loud urgent shouts of ‘Left’ ‘Left’ ‘Left!’ I flung my arms to the left hoping the rest of me would follow in a bid to wing a sharp left. As we wendled  [‘wendled’? No, wendled is fine. Works for me. ^DN] round the winding path, yet more encouraging marshals were found. And then up onto the long grass meadow. Penny was a bit ahead, I could still see her at this point. Though not for many other points! The ongoing up was hard! I really appreciated all the marshals as this area is riddled with footpaths. Up to the Willow Miner was a whole group of encouraging Striders! So nice! I felt my pace drop from my setting off too fast pace, but tried to keep going best as I could.

Bit of a downhill now past Sarah Davies. One of the Birtley runners I had met earlier happened to going at the same pace as me, but now seemed stronger. He kindly encouraged me and said he would be third lady if I didn’t tag on, ha ha! Penny was way ahead now and without looking I could feel the presence of Elaine behind! And right I was!

After Jack Lee, up the small flight of steps, Elaine passed! I charged on as fast as possible trying to up the pace, and I think I did so was pleased! Past yet more friendly shouts from great Strider marshals, back past the Wicker man and I was caught up by a Sunderland Stroller that I had met last week at the Lambton 10k. I was pushing hard as I knew it was only a few miles now. We were similar pace and ran together. My head felt like it would explode! We charged down the very steep hill to the slimy bridge over the stream. I saw Carla cheering at the bottom and wind-milled my arms in a kinda Strider to Strider greeting! Then up up up, up…up! Steeply down! Mud! Steps! Mud! Then careering back through the Blue bell woods! Nearly there! Yippee! I pushed on and so did Sunderland Stroller. Phew! There was Allan, marking The Bank. Horray! Kind cheers! We plunged down The Bank, back onto the field and the finishing funnel approached! I tried to give a bit more as the line was in sight! And over the finish! Yay! …..And woah!… I so so soooo needed to sit down! !!

That was brutally fantastic! A superbly organised and very enjoyable race with great Strider Support! Bring it on next year!

That’s all folks! See you all next year!

 

Results

BibFirst NameLast NameCatClubTimePoscatposprize
75StephenJacksonMSENElvet Striders32.28111msen
76MikeJefferiesMSENRichmond & Zetland Harriers32.38222msen
48LiamEmmettMSENJarrow & Hebburn AC33.21333msen
56JonathanGilroyMSENJarrow & Hebburn AC34.3844
88MichaelLittlewoodMVET40Elvet Striders35.47511mvet40
149MarkWarnerMSENElvet Striders36.1765fasterstrider not in cat
47KevinEmmettMVET50Jarrow & Hebburn AC36.35711mvet50
142GaryThwaitesMVET40Sedgefield Harriers36.54822mvet40
158LiamWintripMSEN37.0596
54JamesGarlandMVET40Elvet Striders37.121033mvet40
66PeterHarrisonMVET40Durham City Harriers & AC37.141143mvet40
12MartinBlenkinsoppMVET40Sunderland Harriers & AC37.27125
131AlexSneddonFSENJarrow & Hebburn AC37.281311fsen
159PaulWintripMSENRun Peterlee37.46147
40StevenDicksonMVET4037.49156
152PaulWeirMVET40Durham City Harriers & AC37.55167
91BrianMartinMVET60Quakers Running Club38.161711mvet60
7GaryBaileyMVET40Run Peterlee38.25188
37MarkDavinsonMVET40Derwentside AC38.59199
108NickNewbyMVET40Birtley AC39.022010
84JamesLeeMVET40Elvet Striders39.32111
18DavidBrownMSENElvet Striders39.38228
120ThomasReevesMVET50Elvet Striders39.522322mvet50
145DavidWalkerMVET50Sedgefield Harriers40.032433mvet50
125StuartScottMSENElvet Striders40.222510
70LeeHetheringtonMVET40South Shields Harriers & AC40.272612
65GaryHargraveMVET40Sunderland Strollers40.412713
25DanielCarneyMSENElvet Striders40.472811
10ElaineBissonFSENElvet Striders40.52922fsen
16PennyBrowellFVET4040.53011fvet40
71GeoffHewitsonMVET50Crook & District AC40.56314
41LeeDrummondMVET40Birtley AC41.093214
112DarrenParksMVET40Jarrow & Hebburn AC41.253315
135JohnSutcliffeMSENNorth Shields Polytechnic Club41.263412
141MichaelThorntonMVET50Jarrow & Hebburn AC41.27355
153DaleWilkinsonMVET50Sunderland Strollers41.48366
74TamsinImberFVET40Elvet Striders41.543722fvet40
21NickButchartMVET40Washington Running Club41.563816
52SteveForemanMVET40Sedgefield Harriers42.023917
24RaymondCarmichaelMVET40Sedgefield Harriers42.094018
31ChrisClarkeMSENWashington Running Club42.424113
103RobertMorrisMVET40Sunderland Strollers42.494219
134MarkSunleyMVET50Run Peterlee42.52437
97AllanMcmanusMSENSunderland Harriers & AC42.544414
28PaulCartwrightMSENRun Peterlee43.034515
36VikkiCottonFSENSunderland Harriers & AC43.054633fsen
148LouiseWarnerFSENElvet Striders43.07474fasterstrider not in cat
29NeillCassonMSENBirtley AC43.364816
20PaulBurnMVET5043.51498
157StephenWinshipMVET50Elvet Striders43.52509
133ChrisSumsionMVET50Tyne Bridge Harriers43.545110
34PhilipConnorMSENElvet Striders445217
86MalcolmLeeceMVET40Jarrow & Hebburn AC44.015320
6BrianBailesMVET50Birtley AC44.125411
55SimonGentMSENNorth Shields Polytechnic Club44.145518
44CatherineEatonFSENTyne Bridge Harriers44.22565
90BarryMarleeMVET40Sunderland Harriers & AC44.315721
105LouiseMortonFSENElvet Striders44.32586
115RichardPodmoreMSENElvet Striders44.365919
79EJohnstonFSENTyne Bridge Harriers45.14607
50AnthonyErskineMVET40Sunderland Harriers & AC45.26122
9MichaelBirdMVET50Hunwick Harriers45.336212
85Paul LeeLeeMVET50Sedgefield Harriers45.396313
101PeterMilburnMVET50Aycliffe Running Club46.296414
53DavidFrancisMVET40Birtley AC46.376523
33MartinColbornMVET40Run Peterlee46.386624
87SuzanneLewis-DaleFSENNorth Shields Polytechnic Club46.39678
138MalcolmSygroveMVET50Elvet Striders46.456815
121ShaunRobertsMVET60Elvet Striders476922mvet60
27KevinCarraharMVET50Sunderland Harriers & AC47.067016
127JudithShottonFVET50Sunderland Harriers & AC47.147111fvet50
82BrettLambertMVET40Aycliffe Running Club47.247225
81JaniceKellyFVET4047.297333fvet40
147GillianWallaceFVET40South Shields Harriers & AC47.4744
45ChrisEdwardsMSENElvet Striders48.167520
107JoanneNewbyFVET40Birtley AC48.25765
35KatherineConwayFSENWashington Running Club48.38779
110NatashaNewsonFSENNorth Shields Polytechnic Club48.47810
77LauraJenningsFSENElvet Striders48.437911
150RosieWarnettFSENSedgefield Harriers48.448012
15DavidBrowbankMSENElvet Striders48.458121
58SimonGrahamMSENTeam Coco48.518222
160StephanieYoungFVET50Birtley AC49.048322fvet50
137KathrynSygroveFVET50Elvet Striders49.118433fvet50
136RichardSutcliffeMVET4049.118526
43AndrewEatonMSENTyne Bridge Harriers49.218623
73BrianHurstMVET40Jarrow & Hebburn AC49.268727
104AdamMortonMSEN49.38824
94RachelleMASONFSENElvet Striders49.398913
126JennySearchFVET40Elvet Striders49.45906
68ChristineHearmonFVET50Sedgefield Harriers49.46914
67PeterHartMVET40Elvet Striders49.489228
14JillBridgesFSENRun Peterlee49.539314
32NicoleClarkeFSENWashington Running Club50.019415
57TracyGlaisterFVET40Sedgefield Harriers50.03957
102SusanMilburnFVET50Aycliffe Running Club50.11965
69IanHedleyMSEN50.179725
146MarieWalkerFVET40Sedgefield Harriers50.27988
13AdamBridgesMSENRun Peterlee50.499926
62MaritaGrimwoodFVET40Elvet Striders50.561009
17AlexBrownMVET40Elvet Striders5110129
11ChloeBlackFSENElvet Striders51.0410216
118JaneRannsFSENElvet Striders51.0410317
59BobGrattonMVET50Sedgefield Harriers51.0610417
113DebPennickFSENRichmond & Zetland Harriers51.0710518
132IanSpencerMVET50Elvet Striders51.1310618
154JocelynWilkinsonFSENRun Peterlee52.1510719
5PhilipAtkinsonMVET40Birtley AC52.1510830
1EmmaAldersonFSENElvet Striders52.2510920
143LauraToddFSENRun Peterlee52.3511021
3LloydAshbyMVET40Crook & District AC52.5511131
129AlanSmithMVET70Elvet Striders53.2811211mvet70
83GaryLaveryMVET40Run Peterlee53.3211332
92PaulMartinMVET4053.5711433
123JillRudkinFVET40Elvet Striders54.1311510
51SarahFawcettFVET50Elvet Striders54.151166
117AshleyPrice-SabateFVET50Elvet Striders54.581177
93SandraMartinFVET50Quakers Running Club55.051189
156SarahWilsonFVET50Quakers Running Club55.5311910
122DavidRoundMVET50Sedgefield Harriers56.212019
100KarenMettersFVET40Elvet Striders56.3112111
49TraceyEmmettFVET40Jarrow & Hebburn AC56.4212212
42AndrewDunlopMVET40Elvet Striders56.5812334
4SamAskeyFVET40Elvet Striders57.0312413
116JudithPorterFVET60Aycliffe Running Club57.1912511fvet60
98DebbieMcRoryFVET50Sunderland Harriers & AC59.5512611
39ZoeDewdney ParsonsFSENElvet Striders59.5612722
64DenisHargraveMVET70Sunderland Strollers61.2312822mvet70
60SandraGreenerFVET40Elvet Striders62.1812914
46JanetEllisFVET50Elvet Striders62.213012
139LauraTedstoneFVET40Sunderland66.4113115
22KayCairnsFSENElvet Striders73.5213223

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 1, 2017

BL / 32.2km / 1219m (20 miles, 2 hills and a smattering of bog)

Joan Hanson …

The thing about entering an event months in advance is you can have that hazy positive belief that in x months time you will be bounding effortlessly over the afore mentioned 20 mile course, laughing in the face of some decidedly sucky and squelchy stuff underfoot and hardly noticing the however many thousands of feet of ascent and descent the said 2 hills (Cheviot and Hedgehope) will entail. And you will have the most enjoyable, relaxing day of running possible…. As I said a hazy and possibly rose tinted vision.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks before the event and the realization that you aren’t quite as fit as you had envisaged being and that this year they have removed the walkers option so you have 6 hours to complete it in. Hmmm.

And then the horror on the morning of the event when your companion for the journey (Dougie who has done this before) casually mentions the phrase ‘cut –offs’ for each checkpoint and that they seem a little on the tight side for the first half of the race.
I have felt in more positive frames of mind.

photo courtesy and © Gary Dunlop

But at least it has stopped raining and the summits are cloud free so navigation involving maps and compass will not be needed- and you can see exactly how far away those hills you are aiming for are away. Everyone is very friendly, kit checks are passed and before long we were off, Susan disappearing off into the horizon not to be seen again until the finish. Dougie and I leapfrogging for a fair part of the race, he faster on the steeper downhilly bits, me making up time going up. Both agreeing that the second half which on paper should have been the easy bit was anything but, I needed to dig really deep at several points to maintain forward momentum, at one point wondering why they put Wooler so far away.

We all made it back well within the cut offs- interestingly none of us exclaiming what an easy and enjoyable run we have just had but able to reflect on a real sense of achievement (and in my case relief) that it was done.

The Chevy Chase is a great and brilliantly organized event. The route takes in some beautiful and wild terrain, this year we enjoyed expansive views when we could lift our eyes from where we were putting our feet.

I’m glad I did it, the Cheviot’s are a beautiful part of the world and not that far away- definitely worthy of closer exploration –but possibly at a slightly more relaxed pace.

… Dougie Nisbet …

I’d done that bloke sulky pouty thing when Roberta had insisted on me packing some sunscreen. But as I nudged up with Susan and Joan outside race HQ and passed the sunscreen round (on the left hand side) there were lots of Dad comments about getting it behind straps, knees, ears and neck. Still, past-its-sell-by factor 30 wasn’t really going to cut it on Cheviot and Hedgehope in July and I was a bit crisp when I finished later in the day.

I could’ve pretty much written the script for the first half of the race. Joan’s shrewd choice of carrying walking poles had attracted the occasional derisory comment but they’d pretty much dried up as she climbed strongly to Cheviot with me using her as a useful point of purple to focus on as she receded ever further into the vanishing point.

After Cheviot and a revelation. You need to hang left, immediately. When I last did this in 2013 I carried on (zoned out following a walker to Scotland) and turned left too late and missed the trod that took a neat line towards Hedgehope on the other side of the valley. I caught Joan on the descent, pausing to shout “is that you falling on your arse again Hanson!”, before passing her and showing her how to do it properly.

photo courtesy and © Gary Dunlop

Everyone was now pretty much a walking washing powder commercial in the making and as we climbed towards Hedgehope I was unsurprised to have Joan back on my shoulder again. And so it continued for the next few checkpoints until CP6 – Brands Corner – we both paused for a drink and check in. The climbing was mostly over and there was a lot of running left now to the finish. I was looking forward to making up some ground in these last few miles.

“Sling your hook Joan, I’ll catch you up”, I said, when it was clear Joan wanted to press on. And so she did. And, I did catch her up, so to speak, after I’d crossed the finish line and she’d brought me over a cup of tea. I had a tough last few miles on what should be a lovely part of the course – the stretch up North West from Carey Burn Bridge is gorgeous, but I was far too busy feeling sorry for myself to pay much attention to the sunny scenery. Susan had a good decisively sub-5 finish, with Joan in around 5:16, then me in around 10 minutes later.

I’ve often said, to anyone who’ll listen, that the Chevy Chase at 20 miles, is twice as hard as the Durham Dales Challenge, at 32 miles. This was the first year the race has dropped the walking race and the cut-offs might need tweaking in the years ahead, but whatever the cutoffs it’s always going to be a tough 20 miles.

 

West Highland Way Race, Milngavie, Glasgow, Monday, July 24, 2017

95 miles

Aaron Gourley

 

95 miles, 14,000ft – One Incredible Experience

“I’m never running another ultra again,” I muttered to myself as I lay on the floor in the finish hall in Filey at the end of the Hardmoors 60 last September. Feeling totally exhausted and dejected after the wheels of my race fell off in spectacular fashion at Scalby, I’d decided that was enough and I wanted no further part in the activity.

But time is a great healer and before I knew it, I was entering the ballot for the West Highland Way race 2017 after being inspired by the BBC Adventure Show’s coverage of the 2016 race. I also managed to tempt my running partner in crime, Jen O’Neill into entering. With a place secured for both of us, all my focus was on this race alone and I knew I had to seriously improve my training if I was to complete and ultimately, enjoy this race.

But the West Highland Way is a race that comes with many conditions, one being the need for a support crew which is a massive commitment for anyone. I luckily was able to secure the services of Phil Owen whose experience of this race, both as a runner and support crew, would prove invaluable and a good friend who I going hiking with, Brian Shepherd.

As the race approached doubts about my ability started to creep in, a two day Lakeland 100 recce with Gary Thwaites at the beginning of June had me seriously doubting my ability and almost forced me to withdraw, but I stuck by and on Friday 23rd June I set off for the long journey to Scotland.

Arriving at Milngavie station car park was the first moment of real nervousness. I’d tried to sleep in the car on the way up but couldn’t.  The car park was full and there was a real buzz around the place. I went to register, got my timing chip and the first of four weigh-ins and headed back to the car to change, eat and rest until the start of the race at 1am on the Saturday morning. This rest was disturbed when a slightly drunk women drove into the car park and hit mine and another car as she tried to park. Not a great way to relax for a big race like this.

As 1am approached I made my way to the start line at the underpass next to the station for the race brief and met up with Jen who was looking nervous and not confident given the huge problems she’s been having with her knee lately. Soon it was 1am and we were off, through the underpass, up a few stairs and along the High Street before turning off into the darkness of the trails.

The miles from Milngavie ticked by uneventfully, it was dark and the light from head torches stretched into the distance. I kept a steady pace, trying not to get too carried away and running too fast on the fairly flat trail.  Before long we were at the first significant point on the route, Drymen where Phil and Brian were to meet. I didn’t hang around and made off again into the darkness.

Next few miles ticked over until day light broke as we approached Conic Hill, the first significant climb on the route, and provided us with expansive views of Loch Lomond below. The weather had been windy but mild, in fact almost perfect for running in, but the clouds hung low in the distance and looked ominous with the forecast for rain throughout the day. The big plus though was the dreaded Scottish midgies were kept at bay.

All too soon, after a steep drop off Conic Hill, Jen and I reached the first check point of Balmaha at 19 miles. Here we both had a quick refuel and toilet stop before setting off for the next section along the banks of Loch Lomond. The run out was good and the views were spectacular as the sun rose, but all too soon the trail got trickier and more technical to run. We made it to Rowardennan check point together for the first of two drop bag points. I had a square of sandwich and a Boost chocolate bar and we set off once more.

However, I could see my heart rate starting to creep up and was working hard to keep the pace so took the decision to drop back from Jen who was running strong. I really didn’t want to break my race at this point.

As Jen headed out of sight I made my way carefully along the banks of the loch to Inversnaid. This section was really tough and I was feeling tired having been up since 7am the previous morning. I took a moment to refill my water bottles before setting off for the next checkpoint where I would see Phil and Brian again, Beinglas Farm.

I made it in and learned Jen had put 15 minutes on me (she went on to have a storming race and finished in 23hrs51mins – 44th place). I was tired but feeling ok. After a quick sit down and being forced to eat a few fork fulls of Pot Noodle, I was off. From here to the next checkpoint was a bit of a blur but before long I was at Auchtertyre where I was weighed at the checkpoint, I’d lost nearly 3kgs but still within the safe limit. I then found Phil and sat in the car for a bite to eat and a nice cup of coffee and a rice pudding. All was good, I’d gone through a bit of a rough patch getting there but was feeling ok, then as I stood up to head off, I felt an awful sensation run over my body, then before I knew it I was on my hands and knees being sick. The coffee and rice making an unwelcome return.

I was devastated by this then I noticed the marshal from the checkpoint coming over and I feared my race was over. But she kindly offered me a wet wipe to freshen my face with, a cup of water from someone who was supporting another runner and a few words of encouragement from Phil and I was back on my way, I had 3 miles before I would see them again at Tyndrum.

At Tyndrum I met my support and they forced me to eat some pasta and soup but I was scared it might make me sick again. I had a little bit, but bizarrely, I really craved an ice-lolly so Brian went off to the shop and returned with a Calippo. I trudged out of the Tyndrum with my Calippo. I must have looked mental to the walkers coming past the other way as the weather had turned again and the wind and driving rain battered from the west. I didn’t really care as I ate it along with a few Shot Bloks and before long I was feeling ok again as the track stretched out ahead of me towards Bridge of Orchy.

Having found my rhythm again I was able to start running as the track was fairly flat and great for running on. Before long I was making great progress and came into Bridge of Orchy full of beans. Here I had a quick turn around and Phil sent me off up Jelly Baby Hill with a handful of Pringles and a sandwich.

Jelly Baby Hill gets its name from the Murdo who makes camp at the top of the hill and greets runners with good cheer and the offer of a Jelly Baby. The wind at the top was fierce and Murdo was camped firmly in his tent, only appearing when runners reached him before disappearing back to shelter. On my approach he came out, greeted by with a firm handshake and sent me off with lovely green Jelly Baby.

The path down the other side of the hill was very runnable but the wind was fierce and biting cold. Phil had opted to meet me on the road side at the bottom and I took the chance to have some food and make a full change of clothes including long leggings, a new top and OMM waterproof ready for the next section over Rannoch Moor as I knew it would be exposed and cold on this stretch. As I left I had a few more snacks and felt good to still be running, I’d passed 60 miles now, the furthest I’ve ran up to now so I was going into the unknown, but I felt good.

There was a long climb up onto the moor and the wind was really getting up but was manageable, but then as I approach the plateau, the wind really picked up and brought with it driving rain. It became really difficult to see as the rain swept across the open moor and the temperature plummeted. I made an effort to keep running as it was really getting cold and the wind was driving the rain hard. It seemed to take a long time to get across the moor but before long I was at Glencoe Ski Centre checkpoint.

I checked in and spotted my support car so made my way over looking to get full change and a hot drink as I was freezing and soaked through. But when I got to the car I realised they weren’t there, so I headed up to the ski centre where I found them about to settle into nice warm drinks. They were both surprised when I walked in as they thought it would have taken me longer to get there but as I explained to them the conditions and the fact that I’d pressed on they both sprang into action to fetch a change of clothes and Brian kindly gave me his cup of hot tea which went down a treat.

I spent the next hour here getting changed, warming through and having a small bite to eat as Phil changed having decided he would join me for the next section to Kinlochleven. All too soon we were back out in the cold and wet as we headed down the long path and up the valley to the foot of the Devil’s Staircase. This was a drag and I’d lost my momentum, the conditions I’d encountered up on Rannoch Moor had really demoralised me. We pressed on and started the relatively short but steep ascent of the Devil, I was really struggling now and more competitors started catching me on this climb.

Each step felt heavy but then I spotted a sign saying ‘Shop 500 metres’. Was I hallucinating? was this some kind of sick joke? We pressed on and eventually another sign read ‘Shop 100 metres’ and then another at 50 metres. I was really struggling with reality then all of a sudden at the top of the staircase were two bright yellow tents stacked with goodies and cans of pop along with an honesty box. This was a tremendous gesture by someone and I’d have loved a can of Iron-Bru that was on offer but neither me or Phil had any cash on us so we pressed on.

The path down to Kinlochleven was long, gnarly and steep making it difficult to get any kind of momentum. In the foot of the valley we could see our destination but it seemed to take a long time to reach it as we passed through the forested hillside and across various streams and by a dam which was in full flow. It was now around 10:30pm but still light enough to see as he reached the village and made our way to the checkpoint which was a welcome relief.

At the checkpoint I was weighed once again and Brian was there with hot drinks and the bag full of food and treats. I have to admit I was seriously flagging now, shear tiredness was really taking its toll. Once more after what felt only a few moments it was time to head off for the last 15 miles to the finish. I knew I’d cracked it but still had a long way to go over what was probably the roughest part of the race, and it was now pitch black.

Phil continued with me for this last section as we made our way up the long climb out of Kinlochleven. On this climb we passed a guy sitting dejected, with his crew partner, he’d decided to call it a day. He simply had nothing left to give, such shame to see so close to the end but it made me more determined to finish than ever. We pressed on into the darkness. The next hour or so was a steady climb until we reached Lundavra where a marshal team were out and their Saltire flags being stretched in the howling wind. They had a table laid with various fizzy drinks. A cup of Iron-Bru was so welcoming as I sat for a few moments to gather myself.

Pressing on, the track for the next few miles began to resemble a river, it got pointless trying to find a dry line as there was so much water. The darkness was disorientating but I followed Phil’s lines. Soon we hit the forest, or at least what used to be forest but work to clear this had torn he paths up making it awful to cross. It was at this point that Phil took a tumble, (in my sleep deprived state, this is how I remember it, Phil believes I’m over playing it!) heading head first off the side of the path down the steep side of the valley.  It was terrifying to see he fall but he managed to save himself and clamber back onto the path. Then as he brushed himself down, I couldn’t help but laugh, childish I know, but I couldn’t help it.

Anyway, with Phil back up and running we pressed on. It was starting to get light again as we made the final little climb out of the forest and onto the fire road for the final 3 miles. The path was steep and we briefly broke out into a trot but I had a stitch so settled for a fast paced walk. Since Kinlochleven, we’d been trading places with various people along the way, up ahead were two runners that had passed when we had a short stop at the final checkpoint. We caught and passed them once again, then a group of around four runners passed us.

As the gradient shallowed I looked at my watch for the first time in a long time, It was after 4am, I was still moving well and though that I had a chance to get back in under 28hrs. This was the only point in the whole race where time became important and I made the decision to try and press on and get to the finish as quickly as possible.

Just as I dropped onto the road heading into Fort William, Phil took a toilet stop, I pressed on thinking he would catch up. As I ran along the roadside I realised I was gaining quickly on two people up ahead and soon I was alongside them as we ran into Fort William.

The group of four were now just ahead and I laid down the challenge to the runners I was with to catch them, so we upped the pace and soon were alongside them. Now, the leisure centre and the finish line came into view and I’m not sure who began it, but all of a sudden we were racing to the finish line.

It felt fantastic to be racing for this final 200 metres, four competitors battling for position at the end of nearly 28hrs on our feet in dire conditions.  I finished in a very respectable 102nd place in 27hrs41mins.

After a few hours sleep we headed over to the Nevis Centre for 12pm and what is a truly unique prize giving. Nearly every competitor turns up and is individually presented with their crystal goblet in order of their finish position. I must admit I felt on top of the world going out to collect mine, it was  a very proud moment. Even more special is the tradition that the person who came first presents the final finisher with their goblet. This went to a lady who showed true spirit and finished a mere 20 mins before the final cut-off and presentation to rapturous applause.

On reflection I learnt a lot from the experience. Yes, I could have trained better, yes I could have spent less time at checkpoints, I most definitely need to learn how to eat better on big runs but none of those things matter if, especially in this race, you don’t have a good support crew. I’ve never really appreciated how important a support crew is. Phil’s experience really helped and Brian’s commitment to the full weekend ensured I made the start line. Both waited on me hand and foot, made me eat when I didn’t want to and encouraged me to keep going during low points and I will be eternally grateful to them both. At the time I said I’d never do the race again, but writing this report has me thinking that I may have unfinished business, 2018 might be a possibility!

Results are available here