CTS Northumberland – Race Day Review

This is my all-time favourite race – and the only race I have done three times on the trot.

Coastal Trail Series Northumberland incorporated 4 different distances – 10k, Half Marathon, a Marathon and an Ultra and takes in the beautiful and scenic Northumberland coastline. It is so well organised and enjoyable that I keep coming back!

I drove up in the morning – as always, meeting my mate at the services and driving up in convoy. A cold and foggy start changed as we headed north and the sun burnt off the fog and the skies cleared. I always feel happy in Northumberland, although driving across from Beadnell to Bamburgh, I felt a bit choked up as memories from last year flooded back. I knew there was a bit of a risk this happening but on the whole, it was good to be back.

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The finish line flags

Parking up at the bottom of the Castle, walking up and registering, I was a little gutted that we weren’t inside Bamburgh Castle like in previous years (I later found out why – no Warden to let us in, and the stables were being converted into a bar!). The sun was glorious and as it was so mild – I decided to run in capri pants and t-shirt.

The briefing was long and thorough and because the buses were running late, I did get cold waiting to get bused to the start however, once down there and once running, I knew I’d be ok. It is genuinely the only time my mate has seen me smile before a run! Much to her amusement.

The start line was nearer the harbour this year (making the course 400m shorter with alterations to the finish line) but we didn’t have to wait as long on the start line to get going. I will point out now that anyone who has read recent blog posts or follows the Twitter feed, I spent two weeks very ill and did very little training for 4 weeks. Unlike last year where I actually trained! Regardless I wasn’t nervous, I just enjoy this race as a run.

We set off and my pacing wasn’t too bad. I know the area quite well and knew what to expect. People say running on sand/trail is harder – and it is, but somehow I seem to enjoy it more and run better. The first half of the race went well but there is always a but. After the checkpoint at Seahouses, I could feel the familiar feeling of burning on the ball of my right foot. By the 7k point I was really feeling it. I knew there would be a blister and I knew where I had gone wrong. I’ve been using Tri-slide (this is so much better than body glide) with my road trainers due to ongoing issues and didn’t need them with the socks I was using and neutral shoes. By 8k I was wishing I had a Shotblok or something just to eat, like last year. I don’t normally for this race but going at lunch time I was hungry by the time set off. What was most glorious about it though was just running the race, in the sunshine, in February in a t-shirt!

There was no major disasters or anything – I felt a bit sick – I was definitely working. The last 600m has always been horrific and nothing has changed. The race photos were actually pretty cool and I was smiling on them. I was glad to finish though – I always am!

The fish and chips with mates at the end was just the icing on the cake!

Fluctuating Mojo – Training and Dating

It happens to us all but this week has been generally quite rubbish training wise and I’ve had my thinking cap on to try and figure out why my head hasn’t quite been in it.

  • General tiredness – last weekend I was on a coaching course – two long, busy days, followed by three long work days (including new assessments). Think it has just zapped me – coupled with probably not enough sleep.
  • Training on my own – I ran with my mate one night last week and it was SO good just to go for a steady run (run/walk as she gets back into it) and have company. I went out on the bike today and really felt it – not just lack of general cycling fitness but missing company. End of last year, mileage on my own didnt bother me. It did today.
  • Realising my own lack of fitness – I texted one of my mates this afternoon having a mini-moan, she reminded me about how ill I was in January and to be fair, she is probably right, its probably had a longer lasting effect than I realised as I came back to training, felt better and then had two or three quite heavy weeks considering time of the year and previous illness. It maybe genuine tiredness. She also told me I need to get training because I’ve some silly races coming up. She is right.
  • Diet – This week I know I haven’t eaten as much or as well as I should. Last few weeks I have made breakfast bars at home and had these – which have been great. This week I haven’t (made some today – see below). In conversation mentioned above with a mate, suggested lack of iron (and maybe protein). Monday through to Wednesday I really struggle to eat well and properly. I need to try and get better organised with food I think to make it easier to get decent food in me as well as drink enough.
  • Sleep routine – It’s rubbish and I spend too much time looking at screens late at night and not enough reading – too much going through my head too. I don’t give myself enough down time and try to fit too much in.

I also appear to have fluctuating dating mojo too. I’ve a third date lined up on Thursday – he’s lovely but (I hate buts) there is just something that is niggling me and I’m not entirely sure what it is. The lad I was dating July/August time – I wanted to see him, was willing to make time to see him etc etc – he also cycled. It was easy in that respect. Maybe it’s just I feel I am too busy – but I don’t feel I want to make the time – it is almost like a hindrance and this isn’t good! Surely if its right, I would feel I want to make time and wouldn’t feel it was a hindrance? He mentioned a date on Valentines (way too soon!) but I said I was running with a mate – I wasn’t but I did end up going climbing with another mate. Surely I shouldn’t be doing this?! As things are getting busier again with work and training – I just wonder if I am doing the right thing. Someone shared a clip of a film called A Boy, A Girl and a Bicycle on Twitter the other day. The guy in the bike shop (on the right, with the suit on) with the woman, who clearly races and is holding said blokes dog, says ‘They all look the same to me!’ – the look on the woman’s face, alongside the bike shop owners face, says it all. I want a bloke whose face is like that of the shop owner – haha!

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A Boy, A girl and a Bicycle – the guy with the flat cap – look of shock when someone says that bikes all look the same – I need that bloke in my life.

On a more positive note – one week until my first race of the year and one week to go until my holiday. I am also on a road trip tomorrow to Blackpool and I am very excited about this! Next week will be better.

She wouldn’t believe it!

This post has been flitting through my mind without even realising it until today. I’ve partly categorised this under ‘Matters of the heart’ because it is a subject that is close to my heart – education…

Random thoughts this morning while heading to the gym to swim included the thought that one day I would like to write a book. I’m not sure if I ever will but if I do it will probably be related in some way shape or form to triathlon. I say random thought but I think it was triggered after seeing that Sean Conway’s new book is available for pre-order. This then got me thinking about who I would dedicate it to – which links in with a random tweet from someone the other day about school PE and former PE teachers.

To put this into a bit more context. The tweet in question was something along the lines of how being a chubby (fat) child, people presume you would be bad at sports – yet there she was having running an ultra as an adult. I was a chubby child, more academic than sporty. Sorry. Academic and non-sporty. I was rubbish at sports and dreaded PE. I had this the other day with some lad over on POF when I announced my dislike of team sports, he presumed that it was because I was rubbish at sport – not an uncommon assumption. He carried on to say that it didn’t matter if I was the slowest etc – I could still train and play – or words to that effect. I clearly put him in his place (don’t get me wrong, I’m not the fastest but I’m definitely a competent swimmer and reasonable cyclist). I just don’t like team sports such as netball (or football etc).

So all these thoughts and things coming together – if I wrote a book that was sports related – I would dedicate it to Mrs Houlston – one of my PE teachers from secondary school.

As you’ve probably guessed, I really did despise the majority of PE in school. Most of all team sports. Netball topping the list. Being picked last is demoralising. I hated most of it. Although ironically, considering my love hate relationship with running, I never minded XC and I loved badminton (the only sport I ever played as extra curricula at school – we were just allowed to play, it was run by the male DT teacher and with hindsight was probably rather dodgy!). That’s about it. You may have already noted – these are usually solo events. Even now I hate team sports or anything like that – although relays are fine. I put it down to school mostly but when its a solo sport, you’ve only yourself to upset/let down really, anyway this is going off point a little.

Where does Mrs H come in in all of this? Why would I dedicate a book to her?

By the time I was in Y11, I was walking a lot more, being generally more active and I’d started to lose the puppy fat that had plagued me for as long as I remember. No-one ever said I was fat or anything like that but I wasn’t slim and my mum always just called it puppy fat. There was a complete transformation in my appearance – when I show people my Y7/9/11 school pics they don’t believe its the same person.

There is one PE lesson, or rather snippet at the end of a lesson, that really stuck in my head. It was summer, we were playing rounders. Yes I’d been picked last again but as I wasn’t carrying the weight any more suddenly I was managing to run and get half/full rounders. We were walking back to the changing rooms and Mrs Houlston was walking beside me and just happened to say something along the lines of how well I’d played or compliment me on how much faster I was/fitter I seemed. I told her about the walking, she seemed impressed. I don’t quite remember the words, but I remember the feeling. I’d had a compliment/praise from a PE teacher! I was secretly proud as punch – praise was less meaningful in other subjects as I was pretty good academically. The other thing to note about Mrs H, especially compared to my other PE teacher, Mrs P, Mrs H was always more understanding of us less sporty girls – encouraging yes but never berating us for thinking we weren’t putting the effort in or make us feel awful. It’s like she knew how much we despised it and tried to make it tolerable (she did know, I’m sure of it!). Mrs P always seemed full of over-enthusiasm and had obvious favourites – the sporty ones. We always copped it.

That feeling that I got from the quiet praise and the fact she had noticed, means that Mrs H will always be a bit of a hero when I look back. Its been the comment thats stuck with me more than anything at school. It’s probably inspired me more than I realise too as I often wonder what she would make of what I get up to now! I’d like to think that she would be a little bit proud. She will have no idea just how much of a lasting impression her words have had and I would love to just bump into her one day and tell her. My inner teacher is reminded that teachers hold more sway than they realise sometimes and sometimes its the littlest things than make the biggest impact.

So if and when I do write that book… I will dedicate it to Mrs Houlston, with a massive thank you for recognising that I maybe wasn’t quite as rubbish as I thought and for just making my last term of school PE ok.

 

(I’m starting a triathlon coaching course this weekend. I don’t think she’d believe it!)