After Alnwick …
Captain’s Roundup, Monday, March 4, 2019
If you missed it, the final cross country fixture of the season was at Alnwick Castle on Saturday, with a strong end to the season for all involved. Stephen Jackson weaved his way through the 550 strong field from the fast pack to finish a cracking 11th overall. Stuart Ord finished strongly to gain promotion to the fast pack for next season, closely followed by Rory, Michael L, Allan Renwick and Georgie making up the men’s team. In the ladies race, the counters were myself, Susan Leight (continuing her strong start to cross country and gaining promotion to the medium pack), Zanna Clay and Laura Jennings. Special mentions to Alison Smith, who took nearly 3 minutes off her time for Alnwick last year and to Susan Davis, who it was lovely to see back on the start line at the Harrier League!
Down at Dalton Park on Sunday, Chris Callan also had a flying return from injury to finish an impressive 2nd place at the Dalton Park 5K, good work!
(Details of tonight’s runs have been circulated by e-mail and are on the Striders Facebook group.)
The light nights are almost upon us, only a few more weeks of dark running!
|Pos||bib||Name||Race Time||Pack||Cat||Actual Time|
|1||285||Gina Howorth (Elswick Harriers)||29:55||S||FV35||29:55|
|359||394||Zoe Dewdney||Elvet Striders 41||:12||S||FV35 41:12|
|Pos||bib||Name||Race Time||Pack||Cat||Actual Time|
|1||208||Joseph Woods (Blyth RC)||36:31||S||Msen||36:31|
|491||460||Jordi Sabate Villaret||54:45||S||MV50||54:45|
During the Summer of 2018 I entered GB24, an event where you had to run as many 5.7 mile loops as possible, in 24 hours, I absolutely hated it and vowed never to enter a looped event ever again. Fast forward 7 months and there I am stood on the start line of Last One Standing Castleward a looped event with no pre-determined end.
The format of the race is simple every hour, on the hour, you set off to complete a loop of 4.1666 miles (meaning every 24 hours 100 miles is covered) once you have completed a loop you have to be ready to start the next on the stroke of the following hour. If you fail to complete a loop within one hour you are timed out, if you are not in the start area at the stroke of the next hour you are also timed out. The race continues indefinitely until only one remains, they are crowned the champion and everyone else is officially classed as DNF.
So why would I ever enter such an event when I hated GB24 so much? The reason behind this is I love pushing myself to the limit, big adventures and races that are a little different. One of the most famous extreme ultra marathons in the world called The Barkley Marathons is hosted by a guy called Lazarus Lake, this legend also puts on a race called Big Dogs Back Yard Ultra, Laz stated he would grant automatic entry to his race is you won Last One standing, I just couldn’t resist giving it a shot. Big Dogs Backyard Ultra attracts some of the best ultra runners in the world and I would be joining them out in Tennessee in October if I could pull it off, there were a number of events worldwide that could get you into ‘Bigs’ and the first two golden ticket winners did it in 104 and 129 miles.
At 12 noon on 16th February me, my good wife Susan and 127 others stood on the start line with no idea of how long we were going to be running for. Susan had only decided to enter 4 days previously and the plan was she would stay with me for as long as possible then help support me for as long as it went on for, we were hoping she would complete about 6 laps as she hadn’t run over 10 miles in ages and her distance PB was 26.2 miles.
At the stroke of 12 the race got underway and it just felt really weird as everyone was trying to go as slow as possible, everyone was stressing they were going too fast and people made comments about how stupid some were tearing off at something crazy like a 10 minute mile pace. There was a great atmosphere from the off and everyone was really excited about the prospect of going as far as they possibly could.
As there was 129 of us on relatively small forest trails everyone just snaked along, it felt as if we were part of a big club social run or something. Everyone was just chatting away, enjoying the scenery and getting to know each other it was really very pleasant. The first lap finished and this is when the stress began, we only had 10 minutes to eat, drink, queue then go to the toilet then get ready to start the next lap, it was amazing how fast those few precious minutes went.
The same pattern continued for the next five laps, easy going out on the trail and then a massive stress to get ready for the start of the next lap, completing a 4.1 mile loop in one hour is very doable for most club members however if you need the toilet on your break it can take up a few minutes and you constantly have this little voice telling you if you don’t fuel up properly its game over.
By lap 6 the head torches came out and Susan still felt great, this was a massive bonus for me, we just continued on around as if we were on a Sunday afternoon run out. The laps quickly passed by and as there hadn’t been too many early fallers Susan was determind to keep on going, we hit 10 laps and this is when she decided she had another 2 left in her, if she hit 12 laps that would be 50 miles and a new distance PB for her of 23.8 miles. Susan absolutely smashed it and we were both so happy she’d achieved such a massive distance PB.
Starting lap 13 felt strange, I was now out on my own, there was still a real social feel to the run as everyone is together at the start of each lap and most people are concentrating on going slower rather than faster, you chat a lot along the way. I found myself constantly trying to work out who my real competition were, I would strike up conversation with the people that looked like they were really good runners along with those wearing t shirts for seriously hard races that I intend to complete myself one day.
The laps steadily past by and I continued to feel great, I knew the race would go on a long time so had always just tried to think of the first 24 hours as the warm up, this probably sounds pretty crazy as 24 hours means 100 miles but so much is needed mentally to keep you in a race like this and I had to get my ‘warm up’ right.
By 6 am I was really ready for the night to come to an end as the morning meant I was within reach of my ‘starting point’. At about 6.30am I caught up with another runner who’s head torch had died, as I had a spare I lent him mine, he was very grateful, however unfortunately for me my battery failed 10 minutes after this meaning I was now in the dark without my spare! After 5 minutes of running in the dark, hoping the sun was going to rise any minute, another runner came to my rescue and I borrowed his spare to help complete the lap.
The first 7 minutes of my next break were going great when suddenly I got really bad stomach cramps, in any normal situation I would have headed straight for the toilet however the problem I had was the next loop started in 3 minutes and I simply didn’t have time, I carefully made my way to the start wondering how on earth I was going to get out of this predicament when all of a sudden I felt fine again panic over and off we went.
More time and loops passed by and before I knew it I was coming to the end of loop 24, the 100 mile mark and the long anticipated end of my ‘warm up’. We were told there was going to be a photo to the celebrate the 100 mile club so I spent the last 2 mins of my precious 10 desperately seeking out my striders vest for the photo, I think I made it to the start area with about 15 seconds to spare.
By the end of lap 26 I was on a total runners high, I was buzzing and asking Susan to dig out the head torches again as everything would need to be fully charged as I was definitely going for another night. I don’t think Susan was fully sharing my enthusiasm at this point, she had completed a massive distance PB herself only hours earlier and had, had virtually no sleep as every hour I would come storming into the tent waking her up asking where was this, that and the other, looking back now I don’t know how I didn’t get punched, think I’ve definitely got a good one there!
By the end of lap 27 things were starting to change and I could feel the dreaded death spiral looming. My lap times had all been pretty consistent but when you can hear the call for the next loop to start in 15 minutes and you are still about 10 minutes from the end of a loop it really starts to mess with your head. You are tired, you need a rest, the toilet, to eat, to drink to plan what your next move is but you also know you only have 5 minutes to do this before it all starts again. I finished my lap sat down for a drink trying to think straight then the call came that we had only two minutes to get to the start for the next loop, I could have cried!
My three children had recently arrived with my sister in law and although it was fantastic to see them it didn’t half cause me to have a roller coaster of emotions, when I first saw them I was so happy but then my kids wouldn’t come near me cause I was too smelly!
I started loop 28 trying to put on a brave face for the kids but I was now in serious trouble, I did the first 300 meters or so then my eldest two Oscar 6 and Katie 4 came running across the grass to meet me at the first turn I was way behind the other runners now and am not ashamed to admit I burst into tears when I saw them cheering me on Oscar’s face dropped asking what was the matter I told him I was trying my best and he should always do the same, he told me he would.
I was in a right state, I’d brought my phone on this lap I was listening to my favourite fearless motivation album, I started messaging a people I’ve spent a lot of time training with as well as looking through all the messages of support on the Striders Facebook page desperately seeking for motivation to pull myself out of this hole, I am very grateful to everybody who helped pick me up at this point. I ate a load of sweets, drank a lot of sugary stuff and continued on. My first two miles of this lap must have been really slow but I managed to pull it around somehow and caught a good few of the other runners up, much to their surprise, and finished the lap.
I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to make lap 29, within the hour, however I was never going to give up from the start line so my only option was to set off and hope I didn’t make it back in less than an hour as that would mean I would have to go again, it really screws with your mind!
After the first few hundred meters it was pretty obvious I didn’t have a chance in completing another loop within the hour so I just walked and stumbled round very slowly. I saw Susan her dad and the kids about a mile into this loop and told them it was game over, I think they were all relieved. I stumbled on to the second mile marker and hoped I could just cut back from there taking the final two miles off the course, I was informed this wasn’t allowed so if I did this I would lose the two miles I had done, I wasn’t going to lose these off what was already a massive distance Pb for me so I stumbled on like an 80 year old drunk.
As I stumbled on I came across a border collie that seemed to be with a man on a bike, the dog kept following me and I’ve got to say I quite enjoyed his company, five minutes later the guy on the bike returned to ask if it was my dog as someone had lost one. I told him it wasn’t mine but I took it by the collar and said I would keep walking the race route with it so to let the owner know if he saw her again. I found a piece of rope to make a lead and continued on with my new buddy kind of hoping the owner wouldn’t find me before the end so I could walk in with it for a cool finish photo. The grateful owner caught up with me 200 meters before the end and I was robbed of my ‘Big Dog’ finish
I think I completed lap 29 in about 1h30 and fell into Susan’s arms on the finish line, I was done but am proud to say I gave it everything I had. I waited to shake the hands of the remaining runners and was driven away completely in ore of the 8 remaining runners heading out onto lap 31 with no end in sight and much talk of a 200 mile plus race!
I ended up being 9th last one standing with just over 120 miles whilst the winner Peter Cromie went on to complete 41 laps and over 170 miles!!
Overall both Susan and I absolutely loved this event and we will definitely be heading back next year. It would be fantastic to see some other Striders over there and to have a team tent where we could inspire and motivate each other on to meet our own personal goals so if you fancy a bit of a Striders on tour event please get in touch if any of the following appeal to you:
- You will most likely set a new distance PB
- You have the opportunity to push yourself to your absolute limits both mentally and physically
- You will be surrounded by like minded people in a very social setting
- You will be massively inspired by being surrounded by so many people achieving huge personal goals
- Speed means nothing, pacing and endurance is everything
- You could get a few days in beautiful Northern Ireland out of it
- If you bring your partner you can enjoy hours of quality time together even if you normally run at completely different paces
Captain’s Roundup, Monday, February 25, 2019
This weekend gone was the big one! For many people – 17 of us travelled to Harewood House for the National Cross Country Championships, competing amongst the Nations best on what felt like a summer day – no mud was to be found anywhere! A great day against a stunning backdrop, with performances to match!
Congratulations to all who ran the various distances of the Endurancelife Northumberland Coastal Runs, challenging courses but it looked beautiful!
Lastly (though I’m sure there will be more I’ve missed, sorry!) a mention for Sam Renwick, who completed the Transgrancanaria ultramarathon – 128 km long with 7,500 m of ascent – phenomenal achievement after just over a year of running, well done!
Coming up next – the final Harrier League fixture! The ladies and men’s teams are both safely in division 1, but Alnwick is one of the best venues, and we usually finish well here. Anyone who hasn’t collected their number, or who would like one for this weekend please contact Elaine or Geoff, and come and have a go!
The Duergar Nightcrawler Run, Simonside Hills, Northumberland, Saturday, February 23, 2019
Intrigued by the picture on the Duergar Run website of a fierce looking character, and the prospect of being chased through the fells by a wild creature or suchlike, I decided to find out more. I discovered that Duergar comes from the old Norse word Dvergar which means Dwarf. There are many old stories which suggest that these Duergars live in the rocks and hills around Simonside, their purpose being to lure unsuspecting hikers or travellers by torchlight over rocky ravines or into deep bogs. I reckoned they would be happy to target unsuspecting runners too.
I downloaded the GPX route and imported it into my OS Maps app – my ‘just in case’ navigation aid, then pondered the relative merits from my shoe arsenal, opting in the end for my newish Hoka Mafate Speed 2’s, which amongst comfort and cushioning promised much for technical trails. I checked that I could comply with the kit list and that my head torch was charged then set off for the 1-hour drive North to Rothbury.
I couldn’t make this event last year due to a clash with the Northumberland Coastal Marathon which Lesley had run. Although Lesley had recommended I run the Coastal Marathon this year, our eldest Son’s drum exam meant that the only sensible alternative was to take my chances on the Duergar Run!
When I arrived, I parked near to Tomlinson’s Café and Bunkhouse where registration was taking place. I noted a swathe of competitors engaged in essential carb-loading preparations, the choices on offer making me lament my choice of a triple-chocolate muffin from a global chain of coffee shops en route.
I strolled across the bridge to Haugh Car Park, engaging in discussion with other runners (including fellow Strider Karen Wilson) about the ‘steep climbs for 4 miles’ and ‘treacherous declines’. We listened attentively to the safety briefing, which amongst other things called for dynamic risk assessments by all runners. Then we were off, and up, up, up and up a bit more on Whitton Bank Road and Hillhead Road until we hit a trail which continued to climb. Leaving the normality of farm tracks and paths, and passing the first water station, we encountered the challenging climb past caves and a man in traditional costume fiercely beating a bodhran.
At various points which followed we encountered marshals who encouraged us but we also heard screams and noises which could only be associated with a dreaded Duergar! The climbs were often on stone steps which slowed progress, and on the flats (or sections which were less hilly) we had the challenge of running on stone slabs, which were irregular and with gaps between them sufficient to catch an unsuspecting foot.
After Simonside Crag we had a steep technical descent and then a set of forest trails, which were certainly not tourist paths but on balance less climbing to contend with. We enjoyed a further series of descents on slippery loose rocks before the lights of Rothbury started to appear in the distance. At the final water station, I had three jelly beans which provided me with a welcome sugary boost and then I set to work on the final section which was net downhill.
Pleased at this point as I knew I was within 1km of the end, I let my guard drop and on exiting (falling through) the final gate at the drop down to the bridge in Rothbury, I performed one of my trademark barrel rolls. Having managed to maintain forward momentum I regained sufficient composure to lift my pace over the bridge to the finish. A friendly welcome at Tomlinson’s, a t-shirt and a welcome cup of mulled wine followed.
I’d recommend this event without reservation, if you are content with a challenging trail/fell route and the prospect of being captured by a Duergar! Well done to Cold Brew Events for slick organisation, and to the marshals and those involved in supporting this excellent event!
Max elevation: 425 m
Min elevation: 82 m
Total climbing: 522 m
Total descent: -522 m
Total Time: 01:34:31
The GP results have now been updated with the results from Thornley XC5. The next GP event is the final Harrier League event of the year at Alnwick on Sat 2nd March.
Captain’s roundup, Monday, February 18, 2019
Captains Roundup, Wednesday, February 13, 2019
For those who missed it (where have you been?!) we had a cracking weekend at the Thornley Cross Country fixture – first timer Susan Scott followed me into the funnel, soon joined by Corrine and Emma leading the ladies to first place and promotion to the medium pack for Susan and Corrine.
In the men’s race, Stuart Ord was first home in 10th place, followed by Sam Renwick in his inaugural cross country appearance in 20th, both gaining promotion to the medium pack. Graeme Watt was next home in 27th from the medium pack, gaining promotion to the fast pack – well done Graeme! Completing the men’s team were James Garland (who was promoted to the medium pack), Paul Evans and Matt Archer, leading the men to a strong finish in 2nd place.
We also had a great turnout of 17 women and 27 men! Everybody put out a great performance, Thornley has a reputation for being the toughest course so this just shows that we have some equally hardy runners!
Alnwick is less than 3 weeks away – it is a bit less hilly and a bit more scenic than Thornley, lets get the same turnout and do our best to repeat the performance of the weekend!
Not content with a hilly 6 miles, I would also like to mention for those not on Facebook that Mark Kearney won the Saltburn Hardmoors (bit-more-than-a) marathon!
Chapter 1; Saltburn Marathon
“Please can we go to Saltburn in February” is a phrase few will say whom are of sound and rational mind and there are many good reasons for that……however as a trail runner and lover of Hardmoors it is a necessity to arrive bright and early on a Sunday morning, at that time of the year and in that very location.
The Half Marathon at Saltburn in 2017 was my first ‘trail’ run and was perhaps the hardest 15 mile I had ever ran. Yes, I had completed Marathons and events in the past, but nothing compared me for the climbs, mud, sleet, hail, rain, snow, wind with the occasional presence of sunshine over a 2-hour period.
Now we fast forward two years and after the mental and physical torture of 2017 we have added multiple Hardmoors experiences to the locker and now think its big and clever to double the distance and take on the marathon series.
Training had gone well, a good result in the HM30 the month before and I felt confident going into the race with some good miles behind me. A recce in the snow the week before had given some knowledge of the elevation and terrain of the back half of the route and on checking the weather forecast no more snow was due; only winds provided by some storm called Eric.
The morning of the race was surprisingly calm, the wind had gone, no rain, no snow, no hail…was this Saltburn? The conditions near perfect weather wise as we parked up and registered for the event. As usual, seamless teamwork from the Hardmoors family as we registered, smiley face for the kit check and we packed our bags in readiness for the race briefing and the call to go outside and toe the line. Walking out we passed Striders Simon Graham and Jill Young, happily saluting us with coffee cups and wishing us good luck…..with the caveat that they are not as crazy as us and are happy to be taking part in the half marathon, due to start at 10am.
We walk outside on mass, traffic stopped, marshalls in place and Jon says we’re off; so we’re off…. down a main road (at least in force so some element of safety) until we hit the track into the dene to drop to the coast. The leader seemingly intent to break away, hitting a fast paced first mile to the coast before the coastal trail path sections and the first flight of steps….slowing us all down as we walk the climb. The course taking the scenic coastal path route, along the cliff tops into the bay and then back up for the climb to the top of Loftus before a fast paced tarmac section. A chance to open the legs after a firm but damp section along the trails. Seeing friends and fellow runners marshalling and exchanging in general banter as we continue on our merry way.
In a true fashion the trails continued to undulate, generally following the bows of yellow tape placed in many part by our very own Dave Toth in the days before. Climbs followed drop, drops and climbs, stairs, steps and hills with few flat and fast sections in between before we start to reach mile 18-19 and the Tees Link up to High Cliff Nab. For those not familiar with this section of Guisborough woods I would encourage you all to have a trip out and take in the elevation and views at the summit, the climb can be challenging in the best of conditions and after the recent snow this climb was the hardest I have experienced in running these events. Unfortunately, the view from the top was one I couldn’t appreciate during the race but looks good on google.
This was the hardest and biggest climb of the race with a long run back through the woods and over to Quakers Causeway before heading down to Boosebeck and climbing to Skelton. The taping of the route and support of the marshals was impeccable throughout the route with fully stocked refreshment points and supportive encouragement throughout. The views, freedom and lack of people and animals on the moors is one of peacefulness; no noise, traffic and only the voice in your head to talk to as you cover the boggy moor landscape. Michelle likes to comment that listening to me have a conversation with myself is her idea of torture; I quite like it as I generally turn out to be right when I’m finished my discussion.
Reaching the other side of Boosebeck enables the Marathon race to join the end of the half marathon route and it was good to see runners again, to be able to say hello and not continually look for yellow tape as I could follow the pack, to target people to try and reach and have a little competition with myself for the final couple of miles. Dropping down the steps I had expected to see Dave Toth at his marshalling point but apparently, he had popped to the shop for refreshments so we continued on back into the dene and the final climb to the main road where the finish line and the leisure centre awaited.
Running into the hall, stopping the watch and desperate for a shower I was happy to end in a time of c3:48 minutes and take first place. Happy the race had gone to plan, pushing on when required and all in better conditions that we could imagined.
I would encourage anyone to take part, try a 10k(ish) if you’re not sure and I would be surprised if even a little bit of you didn’t enjoy the event and people involved.
Round 1 completed, 6 to go……