I’m going for a flat and fast PB at Bamburgh, I thought, as Danny picked me up at 7.20am and we raced off to Bamburgh (fast driver!) for 8.50am to pick up race numbers and stand ages for the loos – well I did! Overcast, slight drizzle, pretty cool but not bad race conditions all told. Time flew till we were at the start at 9.30am just up near the Castle, and I stood right at the start line. Danny reckoned it would ruin his PB chances standing that far ahead, but I reckoned I had as much right as anyone to be at the front, but moved to the extreme left so the mega-fasties wouldn’t stampede over me once the klaxon had gone. Only about 200 runners, but a canny turnout for another Run Northumberland scenic 10k race.
Woosh down the hill, heck it was hard to hold back down that little steepie onto the road below but I let the ultra-fasties race ahead and watched my pace as we went up through the village and then turned left onto a minor road and along the first 5-6 km before turning back. I was aiming for 7.30 min miles, and it was harder to maintain than I thought it would be. Too fast on the little and frequent downs, and too slow on the equally frequent and slight ups. Maybe it will even itself out I thought, sploshing merrily through half-decent puddles at about 7.15 min/ miles from time to time, then feeling the burn up slow drags soon after. Hmm, not REALLY that flat, unlike Blaydon, I mused.
Anyhow, the kilometres passed by (no mile markers, that sucked, I like totting up the MILES) and before I knew it, it was 5km and on the turn back to the main road for the second half. At 23.50 halfway I knew my time had slipped a tad, but someone said it was downhill ALL THE WAY back -oh yeah! If you wonder about view, well it was a bit mizzly for that, and being on the back road there wasn’t much to see, fields and fields, but not unpleasant. Then came the main road, and onto open roads on the way back. Hmm silly cars, didn’t they know there was a race on?
By 7km my calves were burning with repeated little uppy-downy bits and I conceded that I had run too far the preceding week and was not quite as fresh as a daisy as I had hoped, but never mind. I ummed and ahhed whether to fight for the pace or let it slide, then realised I might still JUST skim a whisker off my time if I gritted my teeth and fought hard. So I did. I had come for a PB whether seconds or minutes. Ignoring the Garmin, I put my head down and ran as best I could, up more slight but obvious pulls, willing them to finish. Where’s the ruddy flat bit, I thought? I could have flatten the numptie who had obviously talked out of his butt at that point!! (joke)
The funny thing about the last 4km was that the Castle was there, kinda taunting you in the distance, a bit like the beach finish at Pier to Pier – seemingly sooo near, and yet annoyingly not. And behind another little undulation. and another. Until 9km came in sight and I knew it was going to smooth out a bit. Think I was doing about 7.40 by then, so held on for a last surge at about 9.8km when a daft marshall bade me halt a wee second and go round the back of a car. What? Stop and change ruddy direction? Cheers, mate, at a right crucial point. So I dodged back behind said car, across the road slightly bewildered and (as Danny kindly pointed out after, with loss of a good few seconds no doubt!!) onto the path leading to the finish on the grass of the Cricket Pavilion. Goodness knows what the official clock was doing, showing time it wasn’t. 48:16 my watch said, 48:18 theirs said. A PB by 8, nay ,6 seconds!! And those ruddy uppy downy bits had my legs all wobbly afterwards, I worked MUCH harder at that than at Middlesbrough where I got the previous PB.
So, flattish, uppy-downy, not THE fastest, but a pretty fast course. Beautiful view of the Castle on the way back, albeit somewhat tantalising as it dipped behind another gentle incline time and again. Danny rocked home about 90 seconds after me and needed to sit down. He had worked hard too and wasn’t for speaking straight afterwards (unlike me). Cups of tea, bananas and Snickers followed (Heaven) and an unexpected wait for my family to pootle on up to meet me meant a welcome trip to one of Bamburgh’s lovely teahouses, where we sipped copious cups of coffee, warmed through, and Danny had a ploughman’s brunch to boot. We wondered at the weird-looking straw people draped around the Cricket Pavilion obviously made by schoolkids for the Torch Relay three days prior and felt a warm snoozette come on…
With it being Father’s Day this Sunday, Jacquie and I were keen to pop down to see her parents who live in Beverley. While we were there anyway it would have been daft to miss out on this which we ran last year wouldn’t it?
It’s a nice civilised 11am start and only about 15 mins from Jacquie’s parents so we took advantage of a rare lie in and parked up next to the Hessle Rugby Club, being careful not to get trapped in the main car park so we could get out quickly.
We popped into the Rugby Club which doubled as registration and the aroma of Bacon and Eggs was fantastic – in the event we resisted, probably wisely and I settled for a coffee which has become an essential part of my pre-race preparation of late.
We also met up with some local ladies Jo and Mandy who Jacquie ran with here and in the Humber Bridge Half last year and also in the East Hull 20 earlier this year. Jo had successfully completed her first marathon (Hull) in a time almost identical to Jacquie’s at Sunderland, but was unfortunately injured for this event and just spectating.
I remarked that numbers seemed to be well down on last year, even though conditions were bright and sunny, if a touch breezy, but I think I must have been a touch hasty because as we assembled in the road for the start a little later I could see there was a good crowd. Perhaps the good parking and easy access for this meant that local runners just left it late? It was also nice to see a familiar Crook AC vest, although I didn’t recognise the particular runner.
Soon enough we were off and starting the climb up into Hessle village and then along and onto the bridge. The route is pretty straight forward. Up and over the bridge using the pedestrian walkways which run alongside the main bridge carriageway, off and round at the other end, back up and onto the other side and then at the end of the bridge down the hill back into Hessle.
The climb isn’t particularly tough and I knew from last year that this was quite a fast course. What I hadn’t factored in was how windy it would be on top. The wind (luckily?) was westerly and therefore blowing across us rather than in our faces or behind us, which would have meant the opposite on the other side.
I had a steady if unspectacular run and it wasn’t until I came back into the rugby field at the end and saw the race clock still showing 43.xx that I got a bit excited and put a sprint on. I guess the time spent in the shadow of the huge bridge must interfere with the Garmin as from my pace I wasn’t expecting to be as close. I was very pleased with a top 50 placing.
Jacquie followed shortly after – not a bad run for her, knocking a minute or so off last years time, especially considering the bottle of red wine she had with her Father’s Day meal the previous evening (I was driving). Finishers prizes were a great tech tee and a packet of multivitamins, which seemed a bit random until you realised the Seven Seas factory is just up the road.
Most of you will know this already, so apologies. For those who don’t know, Joss Naylor is probably England’s best known fell runner. He has lived all his life in the Lake District valley of Wasdale where he worked as a sheep farmer / shepherd until his retirement. Joss is well into his 70s now but still does some amazing runs for someone of any age (e.g. 70 Lakeland peaks at age 70 in under 21 hours!). In his prime, Joss held many very impressive fell running records:
Winner of the Ennerdale fell race in nine consecutive years;
Holder of the record number of Lakeland peaks climbed in under 24 hours;
Winner of the Lake District Mountain Trial in four consecutive years;
Completed the Pennine Way in 3 days 4 hours;
Completed all the ‘Wainwright’ tops in 7 days (aged 50); and
Many, many more amazing feats!
Chris Brasher described Joss as “The greatest of them all (with)… sinews stronger than any man made substance and his will is harder than a diamond… the toughest runner in Britain”.
So what of Joss’ Challenge? Joss set this up in 1990 after running the route in 11hrs 30mins under atrocious conditions. It is a self organised challenge for veteran runners over 50. The time allowed increases with age and runners must be accompanied over the route and raise over £100 for charity. The linear ‘course’ runs from Pooley Bridge, at the ‘north east end’ of Ullswater, to Joss’ home at Greendale in Wasdale — a distance of around 48 miles involving 17,000’ of ascent across 30 Lakeland peaks.
My JNLC Experience
It was Christmas last year when I decided that I would attempt the ‘Joss’, as soon as I turned 55, when I would become ‘entitled’ to an extra three hours for the challenge. A sub-12 hour ‘Joss’ had never really been on the cards for me – but 15 hours — well that might just be about doable. However, I received a ‘wake-up call’ on a late winter outing across ‘leg 3’ of the Joss, with two merciless NFR task masters Paul Hainsworth and Dexter, when my fitness was shown to be woeful. The only solution, as it often is in life, was hard work i.e. I needed to put in more long hard days, over unforgiving mountain terrain, preferably in bad weather. So that’s what I did — mixed in with supporting Paul on his successful sub-12 ‘Joss’ and training with Steph Scott for her ultimately successful BG.
Come the big day I still wasn’t fully convinced that I was sufficiently fit. An attempt to run three of the four legs three weeks previous had ended in me having to cut the day short (mind you the temperature was 25°c !) and I thought I was still a couple of long runs short of a picnic. The knees were also starting tell me that I should be descending at a more sedate pace than they’d been happy with five years ago. The weather wasn’t playing ball either, resulting in postponement from Saturday to Sunday and the loss of some key pacers and navigators.
Driving with Susan from Jenny’s abode in Bothel round to Pooley at 6am it was still raining and the cloud was down to about 1000’. However, it was dry in Pooley when I set off at 7am with three very able pacers (Kevin Bray, David Atkinson & Phil Green). After having a punishing couple of months Kevin had to ‘drop off the pace’ as we made up six minutes getting to the first hill. The cloud licked the tops of the fells, and the westerly wind was stronger than I expected, as we pushed on to pick up the plethora of grassy tops on the first half of the first leg. Dave interrogated Phil to find the secret to his surge in fitness since last autumn (buy a turbo trainer!) – although I interrupted frequently requesting various items of food and drink (that salmon and potato baby food was a mistake!). I felt fine on this leg, making up minutes here and there and hitting all the tops ‘spot on’ — any ‘lack of fitness’ wasn’t apparent thus far.
I felt quite buoyant when we stopped at the first road crossing, nearly half an hour ahead of schedule, and Susan had ensured everything I needed was at hand. The five minutes rest was quickly over and off I went up a misty Red Screes followed by Steph Scott, Bernard Kivlehan and Dave on his second leg. How wet the conditions were underfoot was hilariously illustrated on the descent from Red Screes when Steph and Bernard managed to ‘measure their length’ simultaneously; one head first, the other Salomons first! Helped by such entertainment I continued to make up time through the showers and across the rockier terrain of Hart Crag and Fairfield. Still the perceived lack of fitness hadn’t materialised and by the time I reached the next road crossing at Dunmail I was 42 minutes ahead of schedule. I felt able to allow myself a smile!
Susan’s organisational skills were once more to the fore as I was able to eat, drink and change my sweatiest clothes all within 10 minutes – recorded by Graham Daglish the official photographer. Beginning to enjoy myself I exclaimed “here we go” when the rest time was up and Paul Hainsworth, Dexter (David Armstrong) and Tom Reeves swung into action. Paul led us up what Dexter later described as “one of the toughest climbs in the Lake District” (Steel Fell). Even here I made up a couple of minutes but knew the next section was one of the toughest on the ‘challenge’. It seemed to go on forever and for the first time I began to ‘feel the pace’. Having convinced myself that I must have lost a boat load of time getting to High Raise, Dexter gave me the news that I’d made up five minutes. I was amazed! This pattern continued for the next couple of hours: I felt as if I was struggling, my mood started to ‘dip’ but I continued to make up time: six minutes on Rossett Pike, six minutes on Bowfell and nine minutes onto Esk Pike. I was so surprised that I checked with Tom to confirm that Dexter was telling me the truth! He was — I arrived at the last crossing point (Sty Head) 1 hour 14 minutes ahead of schedule!
Another quick turn around and I was off again this time with a new NFR crew of John Telfer, Peter Reed & Chris Little. At last the weather started to improve; the wind had decreased somewhat and by the time we got to the top of Great Gable all the remaining tops were clear of cloud and the sun was even threatening to come out. My ‘low mood’ had picked up since Bowfell and improved even further as I made up nine minutes getting to Kirk Fell. There was now really very little possibility that I wouldn’t beat the 15 hour target and I started to enjoy myself. Warned, on my instruction, that I was unlikely to respond to any ‘chat’ on this leg, my pacers were surprised to find me almost ‘personable’ – readily engaging in conversation and even joking! The climbs came and went without me having to pause at all. The amusing antics of Chris and John kept me going as they dashed back and forth like rings on a curtain pole taking photos and filming my ‘epic journey’.
I found the scree slope off Haycock, made a successful descent while the final steep climb onto Seatallen (about which I’d had nightmares) fell to a determined ‘heads down’ no nonsense assault. It was almost in the bag – just the relatively easy crossing of Middlefell to do and then it was a quick run off the fells to Greendale. Both of these were accomplished with minimal fuss and at just after 8pm, nearly two hours inside the 15, I ran onto Greendale Bridge to be embraced by Susan and greeted by a smiling Jenny. Joss soon arrived and seemed genuinely pleased that I’d made it in a ‘quick’ time. The six of us chatted for a while about the day, recent weather, Joss’ life as a sheep farmer in Wasdale and his forthcoming Olympic torch bearing. We’d probably still be there if, as Joss said, we hadn’t “brought the laal midges” with us!
Well that’s it — all done, and life carries on. Challenges such as the ‘Joss’ cannot be achieved without your own hard work. However, their real appeal comes from the need to involve a like-minded ‘Team’. An NFR ‘sage’ recently pronounced that “friendships are forged through shared experiences” and I’d like to thank all my friends who shared this experience including the pacers named above (particularly Paul who navigated leg 3 ‘carrying’ a twisted ankle for best part of it), those at road crossings such as Graham, Jenny Wren, Linda Bray & Jan Little who saw to my every need, the pacers ready to help on the 16th but couldn’t make the 17th when I changed days at the eleventh hour, Joss himself and of course to Susan who’s help on the day was second to none and who has been so supportive in hundreds of ways since I decided to ‘have a go at the Joss’. I would also like to say a special word of thanks to Kevin & Linda Bray who, apart from Susan, are the only people to have helped on all of my ‘big three’ Lakeland challenges: the Bob Graham Round (1999), 50 peaks at 50 (2007) & the JNLC (2012). In addition, Kevin has always been ready to assist in the fell challenges of my friends, some of whom he may not have met till the actual ‘day’!
And finally… my challenge raised an amount of money for a worthy cause — Parkinson’s UK — a charity that works to find a cure for the disease that blighted the final years of my Aunt’s life who died last year.
It was the first time I had ever done a Trail race and only my second 10k (give or take a few metres re Blaydon). Was I looking forward to it, yes in a kind of way, very nervous as I have just recently starting running again after a bit of a foot injury but with doing the Blaydon the week before I had got a kind of ‘race bug’ going on. Mark is also sporting an injury so we have been doing a bit of rehab running.
Paul and myself travelled over on Saturday afternoon after a fantastic time at Stocksfield watching George with the Torch. Katherine and Mark travelled over on the Sunday morning but were staying Sunday night, well it was Katherine’s birthday after all.
After a very wet Saturday, Sunday morning turned out not so bad at all. Dry, a bit of sun, warmish and no wind but a very boggy field was ahead, and that was just the starting area. There were other races starting before the 10k including the Marathon and Half Marathon, but the 10k started at 11:00 in a couple of waves. We set off doing a loop of the start area which was a bit odd, running past the starting area again before heading off onto the old railway line for about 2.8 mile before the climb started. “It’s not a big climb” said Paul to Katherine, oh how she was laughing and praising him when she was heading up it! According to my watch we had a steady climb of around 30 metres to the start of the hill then around 200 metres up to the top of a 1.4 mile climb (approx). The views along the way were spectacular though, you could see right across to Derwent Water and the surrounding fells of Cat Bells and the Coledale Horseshoe. You could also see to your right the Marathon and Half Marathon runners heading up and around Lonscale, well done to you all.
There was a lot of walking up the hill, in fact mostly walking up the hill (or a friend said – Mountain) but once at the top you had to get the legs working again and after dodging and heading through a few puddles we went past the car park for Skiddaw and heading back down to the start area. Well normally I am very careful of heading down the hills, actually quite soft, worried about slipping and scree but suddenly with running shoes on, my legs just took over and took me at a very fast pace down the 1.4 mile downhill section (which made up for the very slow pace upwards). We got to the bottom and it was only around 500 metres to the finish, up the road and turn right over the chip mats and through the very very muddy entrance to the finish sprint and a brilliant goody bag.
Now the results (chip times) – Paul came in a fantastic 49.27 mins, Katherine another fantastic 59.41 mins and myself and Mark 1.09.29 which I am very pleased for my first Trail 10k run.
Paul even got a Striders mention as he was coming into his finish. That’s probably what Alister was saying to Paul at George’s Torch Relay – “I’ve told you to remember to stretch out on the sprint finish, this is how big my strides are”.
Would I do it again, possibly, but it looks like Katherine has already got her mind set on the Helvellyn Trail race so might give it a go. The foot is a bit sore today but probably because of the terrain but no harm done. Once fully fit again I might look into a few more 10k’s seeing as I’ve got the bug – put that race calendar down Paul!!!
Again thanks to all the volunteers as races like this couldn’t take place without them. Oh and there go my hips and thigh muscles. All part of the fun!
Dave and I picked up Yusuf and headed over to the lake district for the Karrimore trail challenge. It was an early start and I had a sore throat as getting a cold so I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic. We got there early but the place seemed very quiet. Yusuf and Dave started before me because they were doing the full marathon, there were only about 70 people doing it. Their course consisted of two long loops and two short loops, where as I would be just doing one of each.
It came my turn to set off, the half marathon had a bigger turnout of about 300 people. It was a fairly easy start with one loop of the field and then about two miles along the railway line. It was quite nice along the line as you get to run over a couple of interesting foot-bridges. It was as we turned off the line it began to get hard as we started to climb along the road. I ran half way up but because I wasn’t feeling so good I walked the other half. Just as I started to get running again we went through a gate and were met with a sight of a very large grassy hill with people snaking upwards. Everyone was walking this one, it felt more like a mountain then a hill and made for very slow going. I was thinking about the marathon runners who would have to do this hill twice and I felt very relieved I was only doing the half.
After the climb there was the reward of a lovely view of Derwent Water and a long downhill stretch taking us back to the field where we started. It was another loop around the field passing the finish. I was so tempted to pull out at this point as I wasn’t feeling my strongest today, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that and decided to plod on. The second loop was shorter. We again did two miles along the railway line, I didn’t enjoy it so much this time around and just put my head down to try and maintain a steady pace. We turned off the line at the same point but this time headed left. There was another hill, not as bad as the first one but still hard going. I think most people were pretty sapped from the first loop and everyone around me was walking. Once past the worse of the hill it was time to start running but I suddenly felt very hungry and like I had no energy, I really should have brought some gels with me, not doing so was a big mistake. At this point there was only a bit of an incline, I was getting a bit annoyed with myself as I should have been running at this point but couldn’t. However looking around most people were still walking too so that helped me feel a bit better. Then we hit the downhill which I had no problem running and managed to make up a lot of time. It was a very steep descent, you either have to walk it or end up going down it much faster then it feels safe to do so. Once at the bottom it wasn’t far from the finish, I walked a few paces but realised I was going to do it in just under ten minute miles so started to run again. It was a very tough course made worse by starting with a cold so I was happy with my time of 2 hours 16 and relieved to have finished.
Yusuf and Dave both finished the marathon distance. It was a very hard marathon, each loop passed the finish area, how cruel to be so close to the finish three times but then have to carry on. Not only was it hard with the hills I imagine it was tough mentally. Well done to them both!
It was the first time my brother and I had run a 10K together, the weather stayed fine – in fact, perfect running conditions – however I can’t say the same for me. We met Sue Jennings at the start but no one else we knew.
The course was 2.5 laps mainly flat road surface, water stations were well supervised and we wore timing chips for the first time on this run. The Mayor was at the finish line and shook hands with every runner, each runner received a T-shirt & a bottle of water. The individual finish time was printed off immediately after the race. Unfortunately, despite my regular training runs my brother beat me! By about 5 minutes but he is 5 years younger than I am so age must tell!