Two Counties Half Marathon – Sunday 9th September 2018 – The Race

As is fairly typical I was one of the first to arrive at East Carlton Country Park, venue of the Two Counties Half Marathon, two hours or so before the start. I had a relaxed build up to what appeared to be a fairly relaxed, low key kind of race. Around an hour before the start I went on a one and a half  mile warm up which doubled up as a recce of the infamous hill that we would face at the end of the race. It’s the same hill that many a runner has moaned about in the Corby 5 Mile Race. To be honest I didn’t think that much of it – it was certainly no Casthorpe nor Minnett’s Hill, but I could see that in the final mile of a half marathon it would be a great deal harder to climb than during an easy paced warm up.

The warm up itself felt okay, if a little concerning in the sense that the head cold I had caught was definitely just knocking that 1-2% off my peak capacity. I still felt I could run a good race, I just had to be careful I didn’t push too hard. A final trip or two to the toilet and I was good to go, making my way back to the base of the steepest part of the hill where we would start. A couple more trips to a bush to lose some of the fluid I had taken on board (it was around 19C – so reasonably cool, but warm enough to require good hydration) and I was finally ready to  take my place near the front of the field on the start line.

The start of the race. Picture c/o Adam Brooks.

At just before 10am we were sent on our way. A fairly young runner (the bearded one on the video above) who had lined up just behind me, wearing the oversized Oakley Jawbreaker style sunglasses that have come back into vogue, shot past me and hurtled into the lead. We were running slightly downhill but I sensed immediately he had no hope of maintaining his pace, which I estimated to be well under five minute miles given that my watch suggested I was running at around 5:20 pace for the opening few hundred meters.

A lone figure in green with a sea of Corby blue at the start of the race.
Picture c/o Adam Brooks.

Sitting in fourth I deliberately held off the pace off the runners in front of me for the opening mile, slowing enough to go through mile 1 in 5:49. Shortly after the opening mile came the first challenging climb of the race – I was pleased to see that I could close on those in front of me without having to go full gas, although they did then pull away again on the following downhill section. At a mile and a half we reached the end of Wire Lane and headed into Ashley Road to begin a near 10 mile clockwise loop, shaped rather like a bow tie.

We had a headwind for the near two mile long stretch to the village of Ashley. Mile two was a 5:51, mile three was 6:08, but worth 5:49 on Strava gap once the ascent was taken into account (and perhaps worth a little more given the headwind). By now the gap to third and second which had been around 10 seconds had begun to close down, so that by the time we went through 5K in 18:32 and headed north to Medbourne, I was hot on their heels.

The runner who led the first 3.5 miles. Picture c/o Adam Brooks.

Aided by a tailwind and the adrenaline of running on a road open to fast moving traffic while catching those ahead of me I caught and passed the third and second placed runners in quick succession, running the fourth mile in 5:36. The fifth mile saw us run through Medbourne and it was here where I caught the leader since the start of the race, who was quite dramatically paying the penalty for his over exuberant start.

I quickly put a gap on him but noted that I still had company. The runner who I passed when he was third had moved up the field just behind me and had now closed onto my shoulder, passing me as we went through mile 5 (5:39).  The standard racing tactic would have been to sit on his shoulder and try and hold on but, given that I knew that the hardest sections of the race were still to come, I decided to stick to my own pace and let the gap grow to around 10 seconds as we passed through mile 6 (5:51), running the second 5K in 17:41. The runner at the front of the race was Luke Montgomery of local club. It was soon apparent that he was pretty well known to those supporting the race, cheering him on nearly all by name and clearly giving him that hometown adrenaline buzz.

Luke Montgomery of Corby – local hero and long time race leader. Picture c/o Adam Brooks.

Mile 7 was was another fairly swift one at 5:38 as we enjoyed flattish terrain and a rear crosswind. Not long after seven miles we began to climb. I’d had information from a club mate who had run the race in 2017 that this was a fairly testing climb. I was quite pleased to see that the Luke was coming back to me quite swiftly. Indeed as we turned off the main road to head south through Bringhurst and the road ramped up again, I caught and briefly passed him.

Feeling the legs start to get heavy from the effort of climbing I looked at my Garmin and noted that my HR had climbed over 175, which is getting towards the upper Z5 levels of my capacity. Knowing it would be unwise to go too long into the red I eased up and allowed Luke to overtake me once again and pull away as we went over the top of the climb and onto a fairly long descent. The gap pulled back out to around ten seconds before stabilising. I didn’t give up hope of a potential victory – I knew that the worst climb of the race was still to come and if I could leave something in the tank it could be expected that I could close the gap again and retake the lead.

Mile 8, which featured the long climb was a 5:57, mile 9 a little quicker at 5:53 but effectively saw a  slight slowing as it was mostly flat. This was also the diciest section of the race as the narrow road, open to traffic, was busier than it should have been thanks to a local car boot sale that was just starting and attracting plenty of somewhat impatient visitors.

As we ran first through Cottingham and which led near seamlessly into Middleton, there was a sharp right hand bend which took us onto a pleasant tree covered road that would take us back to the opening road of the race and the finish. There was good crowd support here for a small rural race – all of it though was for the leader, who appeared to be coming back to me as I clocked the gradually uphill mile 10 in 5:58.

The road was now closed to traffic as it would be to the finish. Mile 11 was slightly downhill for the most part, the pace picked up up to 5:48. Without consciously picking up the pace I had all but caught the leader. Rather than sit with him and run at his pace, risking the possibility that he could rally in the final stages – especially with the local crowd support, I maintained my pace and pulled alongside and ahead of Luke. He tried to stay on my heels, but as we turned left into the long, mainly uphill finishing straight, the gap began to quickly grow as Luke appeared to crack.

Me in the closing mile of the race – looking surprisingly fresh. Picture c/o Adam Brooks.

Mile 12 was 5:49 and the biggest test of the race was about to commence. The first of two climbs, the first was a short, sharp test, which I managed without too much difficulty. I relaxed as I went over and down over the other side, encouraged by what appeared to be the race organisers roadside. Taking a breather as I knew the bigger climb lay ahead, I took a little look around and was relieved to see that there was no one in sight.

Looking not quite so fresh a few seconds earlier.
Picture c/o Adam Brooks.

Knowing that, barring absolute disaster, victory was mine, I could have eased up the final climb and cruised to a win. However, this was a club GP Series race and times converted to age grade is the all important factor, so there was no letting up. My rather brilliant Peter’s (Race) Pacer data field on my newish Garmin had been telling me for some miles I was looking at a low 1:16, which began to drift a little as I began the final climb. Keen to keep it under 1:17 I kept the effort high, pushing all the way to the top of the hill and onto the finishing line inside the Country Park.

There was a little celebration at the finish, the raising of both hands and a big smile across the face. The finishing time was 1:16:52, which was apparently a new course record (The race is only in its second year). The final mile was the slowest of the race at 6:12 but the Strava GAP reckons it was worth 5:37, which makes it one of the quickest of the race.

The winner’s finishing medal at the Two Counties Half Marathon!

As a result of this strong final mile the record books will show that I ended up winning by a fairly comfortable minute and fifty seconds. That won’t tell the full story of the race, how I sat off the pace at the start, took the lead only to lose it, then sat fairly patiently off the leader suspecting that he may not be able to sustain his pace.

It turned out to be a high risk strategy that paid off, especially when I looked up Luke’s Power of 10 profile at the end of the race which revealed he has a  10K PB nearly two minutes quicker than mine. The reason he cracked was that he specialises in the shorter distances (he runs a lot of 3000 and 5000 meter races on the track) and this was only his second foray over the half marathon distance (his other effort was in 2014) and he found his stamina on the day a little wanting.

With plenty of spectators wishing me a warm well done I moved back a few yards down the circuit to see in the small contingency of fellow Grantham Running Clubbers who were also taking part. We had to wait an eternity for the ultimately rather low key prize giving, but it was worth it for the generous cash prize that came my way. With the sense that I had won the race in the quickest possible time with the least possible effort and hadn’t strained myself too much – especially with the cold I was carrying, it was definitely a sense of mission accomplished as I made my way back home.

Trophy and cash in an envelope for winning the Two Counties Half Marathon!

Two Counties Half Marathon – Preparation

Returning from the Tour of Britain / holiday on Wednesday 21st August any thoughts of a relaxing couple of weeks with little or no running soon dissipated with the continuing good form compelling me to get out there and keep on running. The day after getting home I did a club run which included 4 miles of threshold pace which wound up being 5:43 mile average with the final two miles run at 5:25 and 5:23!

There was finally a day’s rest on the Friday before I headed to Belton House parkrun on the Saturday. With seven miles already in the legs I had little expectations of a fast time. However with a rabbit just ahead of me for much of the run and not paying any real attention to my lap splits (I don’t tend to reset the Garmin at the start of a parkrun) I had little idea until I got home that I’d run something quite quick and saw that I was one second off my parkrun best on Strava. The official time of 17:01 was indeed one second off my Belton House parkrun PB and again frustratingly close to that sub 17 clocking!

The next day I ran the Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon course with a mile and a half or so either side of the course. Pleasingly and with not much effort (Z2 HR on the flat Z3 on the two big hills) I averaged 6:37 for the 16 mile run. There was though some warning signs in a bit of a tight left hamstring which led to a tight calf so the following day it was a Zwift session only on the new Inssbruck course.  The Tuesday saw the Witham Wheelers Hill Climb Championships. I rode 24 miles getting to Harby Hill and warming up, before going full gas for the three quarters of a mile effort. I went out far too hard too early and died a thousand deaths at the end. Slower than my effort a couple of years earlier I wound up third and a bit disappointed. The 19 mile ride home with Stephen was quite fun as the light rapidly disappeared and we raced as fast as possible to get back to Grantham before darkness totally fell!

After an easy run and Zwift on the Wednesday, Thursday saw more easy Zwifting in the morning followed by the Grantham Running Club Handicap 10K in the evening. I have no chance of winning, so I treated the event as a solid run – 5 miles at marathon HR and the final mile at half marathon HR or thereabouts. The result: 35:55 and 35 seconds quicker than in 2017. Pleasing!  Friday and work saw an enforced rest before Belton House parkrun on Saturday. Again there was seven miles before doing the parkrun itself. Buoyed by the quick time seven days earlier I made more of a concerted effort to break 17 minutes. Despite a fair crack I fell a little short, clocking 17:06. I think this was partly due to coming first by around 90 seconds and having nothing to run or chase down. A steady three miles home and I clocked a half marathon distance in 1:24:03.

The following day was the Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon, rescheduled from it’s postponement back in March when the Beast from the East swept through Grantham town. Despite having an entry I was unable to officially take part – work on the Italian Grand Prix had to take preference. Thanks to the race organisers at GAC I was able to pick up my number and set off to run the course at 8:45, well ahead of the 10:30 start time.  I ran the course steadily, picking up the effort a touch in the final miles but never putting in a full effort. I clocked 1:23:40 which, largely due to the rapidly rising temperatures, would have seen me finish in the top five in the race itself. I was somewhat grateful I was unable to race!

The week prior to the Two Counties Half Marathon did at least have something of a taper in mind, although I went into the race with the mindset that the target races would be the Great Eastern Half in October and the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K in November – so the mileage didn’t really drop much, although the intensity of effort did. There was Zwift in the morning on Monday, followed by a 12 mile club run in the evening, five miles run at a steady lick along the canal. Tuesday saw an easy ten miles in the morning with a Zwift race in the evening. Wednesday morning saw me running up the toughest climb in the area – Minnett’s Hill – in preparation for a hilly half. I didn’t go full gas, but it felt pretty easy, inspiring some confidence. Thursday had more Zwift racing in the morning followed by a 11 mile club run in the evening, where I ran hard down Casthorpe Hill to practice the start of the race on Sunday. Friday saw a day off and the beginning of a mild cold. It wasn’t severe enough to stop me doing parkrun on Saturday, which I ran progressively after a very easy start, picking up the pace and the places to finish third in 18:40 or so. I would have liked the heart rate to have been a touch lower and the chest a little less tight, but I was fairly confident the cold wouldn’t hinder me too much.

 

The ‘2018 Tour of Britain’ Leg One – Stockton

The ‘Tour of Britain’ – An Explanation

Back in 2016 on my first three week caravan holiday I attempted to run pretty much every day. I missed a run on the opening day thanks to problems with the car and then took two Fridays off. After ten days or so I aimed to run at least 10 miles, but for the first week, thanks to some injury issues and lack of established plan I had a few runs of less than 10 miles. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the places we visited through running and also the challenge of finding three pictures to be uploaded to Strava to reflect what I saw on the run.

For our second three week caravan holiday in 2018 I formalised my running plans some time before I left. Quite simply I aimed to run a minimum of 10 miles a day for each of the 21 days I was on holiday. I could run where I wanted or at any pace, the only condition was I had to start and finish from wherever I was staying – no travelling by car to a possibly more preferable venue. As in 2016, I also had to upload three pictures to Strava that told the story of the run.

We stayed at seven caravan parks on our three week family holiday, spending three nights at all of them except the last, where we spent two nights, but I would attempt three runs.

A note about the data used for the reports of the runs: the mile splits in the written reports, distances, times of runs and Strava segments come from Strava. The Split Summary at the bottom of each day’s run and the Leg Summary comes from FetchEveryone, with the exception of the Total Ascent, which comes from Garmin Connect with, in most instances, the elevation corrected as the altimeter/barometer on the Garmin Forerunner 935 leaves a little to be desired.

Leg One – Stockton-on-Tees

The Water Sports Centre

Stockton is a market town on the River Tees with a population of 105,000 and closely neighbours the better known Middlesborough.

The Tees Barrage

Staying at the Tees Barrage Caravan Site we were impressed by the water sports centre.

The Water Sports Centre

We also thoroughly enjoyed the Stockton International Riverside Festival which, by pure coincidence, began the day we arrived in Stockton.

The Stockton International Riverside Festival

Day 1 – Thursday August 2 2018 – Stockton to Middlesborough & Back

The first run of the Tour took place, not long after arriving in Stockton-on-Tees at the warmest part of the day (4pm) and what would be the warmest run of the holiday at 25C and pretty humid. The run was a simple out and back affair to Middlesborough town centre and back. I used the cycle path that runs along the River Tees for the most part. This section was quite enjoyable – the bit through some industrial zone in and around Vulcan Street was less pleasant with some reminders that this is not the most affluent area in the country.

A Bridge on the River Tees

Once in Middlesborough I looked for some decent buildings to take a photo of. This proved a bit of a struggle and I resorted to black and white to make things look a bit more impressive. 

Middlesborough Town Centre

A struggle too was the actual run itself. I’d left Grantham feeling sub-par with some mild virus which affected me badly on a cycling TT just two days earlier. Added to that the right Achilles was grumbling and not enjoying the warm weather – plus I picked up some weird sharp pain in the left foot at just after halfway which led to me removing trainers and socks expecting to find a thorn or something equally sharp, but finding nothing. The pain soon went and did not return.

View from Stockton Tees Barrage Bridge

All that said, 10 miles at 6:46 pace was a solid start to the campaign.

Split Summary
===
1) 1m – 7:24(7:24/m) 133/148bpm 94cal 8.11/9.02mph
2) 1m – 6:37(6:37/m) 143/157bpm 92cal 9.06/9.64mph
3) 1m – 6:40(6:40/m) 152/156bpm 100cal 9.01/9.98mph
4) 1m – 6:36(6:36/m) 153/158bpm 99cal 9.08/9.43mph
5) 1m – 6:53(6:53/m) 146/157bpm 90cal 8.72/9.46mph
6) 1m – 6:48(6:48/m) 146/155bpm 89cal 8.83/10.18mph
7) 1m – 6:48(6:48/m) 152/158bpm 98cal 8.81/9.29mph
8) 1m – 6:39(6:39/m) 153/159bpm 97cal 9.03/9.68mph
9) 1m – 6:44(6:44/m) 152/158bpm 91cal 8.91/9.35mph
10) 1m – 6:32(6:32/m) 154/161bpm 94cal 9.18/10.08mph
11) 0.13m – 48(6:03/m) 158/162bpm 12cal 9.92/9.96mph

Best Strava Segment Performance: Forty Foot Teesaurus – 24th/334

Day 2 – Friday 3 August 2018 – Stockton Loops

Not beginning the run until 11am meant that I was unable to use the Caravan site toilets (They were closed for cleaning) which meant the first couple of miles was spent trying to find a public convenience, which I eventually found in the Stockton Shopping Centre.

Stockton Town Centre, looking for toilets.

Once that had been sorted the rest of the run was trying to explore Stockton without resorting to an out and back effort. The town centre was all geared up for its Riverside Festival (Which we enjoyed the following day). The first half saw me try to follow the River Tees unsuccessfully, making my way through the Durham University Campus and back to the Tees Barrage where I was staying.

A Cycle Path on the Second Loop, close to a prison apparently.

The second half had me following a Cycle Path around the back of the Caravan Site. This proved fruitful literally in the discovery of a bounty of early ripened blackberries which the kids returned to later that day to harvest. This path went past the Asda I had spent ages trying to find by car the day before (It was around half a mile away if you walked, rather than drove, which was nearer 3-4 miles). It then went over some barren land around the back of the prison with a path which looked like it served some other purpose years ago.

A Foot Path on the Second Loop

The cycle path briefly degenerated to a footpath before once again becoming a fully fledged cycle path. I could have followed this for ages but with over 10K covered I opted to head back into town on a main road before returning again on the Tees cycle path and back to the caravan park with a loop or two of the site to bring myself over 10 Miles.

As with Day One I was still feeling a little sub-par with the right Achilles hurting a fair amount. Some hamstring stretching appeared to be helping though. The photos too were struggling for inspiration…

Split Summary
===
1) 1m – 7:54(7:54/m) 123/138bpm 85cal 7.59/8.72mph
2) 1m – 7:53(7:53/m) 128/140bpm 87cal 7.61/8.35mph
3) 1m – 7:18(7:18/m) 134/144bpm 91cal 8.22/8.87mph
4) 1m – 7:05(7:05/m) 136/141bpm 88cal 8.48/9.25mph
5) 1m – 7:06(7:06/m) 139/148bpm 89cal 8.45/8.93mph
6) 1m – 6:59(6:59/m) 132/141bpm 71cal 8.58/10.54mph
7) 1m – 6:49(6:49/m) 134/141bpm 72cal 8.79/9.48mph
8) 1m – 7:02(7:02/m) 136/145bpm 76cal 8.53/9.83mph
9) 1m – 6:49(6:49/m) 140/148bpm 81cal 8.8/9.5mph
10) 1m – 6:51(6:51/m) 140/148bpm 79cal 8.76/9.52mph
11) 0.07m – 26(6:33/m) 141/142bpm 5cal 9.15/9.46mph

Best Strava Segment Performance: Dubliners to Barrage – 11th/115

Day 3 – Saturday 4th August 2018 – Tees Barrage parkrun

It took a lot of convincing that it was a genuine coincidence that the first caravan site of the holiday was literally less than 400 meters from the start of Tees Barrage parkrun. I only caught wind of it a few weeks before the holiday, but was unsure of the route. It was only when I arrived in Stockton that I guessed this would not be your typical parkrun as none of it actually takes place in a park.

Setting off at 8am, an hour before the start, the first mile or so had me wondering whether I’d be able to complete the 5K course – the legs felt dreadful! It took at least three miles before the legs felt anywhere near half decent and even by the time I’d run 5.5 miles (Mostly covering sections that I thought were on the course) I held little hope for a respectable performance.

Pre parkrun at the start line five minutes before the off.

The pre-run guide to first timers was the best I’ve experienced so far at a parkrun – they had printed a large laminated map of the course and told me, as someone hoping to run around 18 minutes, to take a good look at it! I tried as best as possible to memorise it, but wasn’t totally convinced I knew where to go.

When the traditional question of whether any tourists were taking part, by coincidence I was stood next to a pair of runners who came for Holme Pierrepont Running Club, which is based in Nottingham – the closest city to Grantham. Talking to them further after the run, if this wasn’t coincidence enough it transpired they had taken part in the Belton House parkrun the week before and had spotted me running to the start of that parkrun along the A607. They also pointed out that I was wearing the same 2017 London Marathon finishers’ T-Shirt as I did at Belton House. They also noted that I finished first at Belton House. Would I repeat the feat 105 miles or so further North?

The Millennium Bridge – which we only covered once, thankfully!

I made my usual fairly cautious parkrun start, that is to say I didn’t set off at a pace I couldn’t sustain. After 200 meters or so I found my legs were working quite well all of a sudden and I soon eased to the lead, eking out a 20 meter gap as we headed to the Millennium Bridge. As I’m really not a fan of bridges over water, especially when on foot or on bike, I went a bit more conservatively than those behind me and I was caught by a small group which soon became a group of myself and one other runner. We were running relatively swiftly, enough to ease ahead of the following pack, and as I wasn’t totally sure where I was running, I decided to stick on his shoulder and let him, for the most part, lead the way, only moving ahead when I felt the pace was slowing too much.

The canal section of the parkrun course (this photo wasn’t used on Strava).

As the course traversed canal paths, bridges and rivers, it soon become apparent why this is not a particularly quick parkrun course. Despite being pretty flat there are numerous sharp 180 degree turns and a fair number of steps to be climbed too. I’d overheard a runner at the start saying that once we’d crossed the third bridge it was a mile to the finish and mostly free of any twists and turns. I took this as an opportunity to put the hammer down and picked up the pace. If you believe the Strava segment I ran the final mile and a bit at 5:06 pace, which I find surprising, but could explain why I pulled out 24 seconds on second placed James by the finish, which came all of a sudden and a bit sooner than expected!

The finish of the parkrun.

18:11 was a pleasing time given how bad the legs felt when I first started running, and has me 24th all time currently at the time of writing. After a good chat with the Holme Pirerrpont runners it was merely a case of an easy 1.5 miles warm down and a couple more loops of the Caravan Park to take the mileage just over the 10 miles.

Split Summary
===
1) 1m – 8:15(8:15/m) 118/134bpm 83cal 7.28/9.04mph
2) 1m – 7:31(7:31/m) 132/137bpm 94cal 7.97/8.37mph
3) 1m – 7:26(7:26/m) 134/142bpm 91cal 8.06/8.77mph
4) 1m – 6:56(6:56/m) 141/145bpm 94cal 8.65/9.06mph
5) 1m – 7:28(7:28/m) 136/147bpm 87cal 8.04/9.46mph
6) 1m – 6:04(6:04/m) 152/168bpm 85cal 9.89/13.3mph
7) 1m – 5:48(5:48/m) 166/169bpm 96cal 10.35/10.96mph
8) 1m – 5:50(5:50/m) 170/176bpm 99cal 10.29/11.33mph
9) 1m – 6:08(6:08/m) 156/175bpm 85cal 9.79/11.4mph
10) 1m – 6:55(6:55/m) 140/149bpm 78cal 8.67/9.5mph
11) 0.07m – 28(6:27/m) 142/144bpm 5cal 9.3/9.18mph

Best Strava Segment Performance: Difficult 4th km – 7th/1966

With the third run completed it was onwards and upwards to Berwick!

Leg One Summary

Distance Run: 30.3 miles. Average Pace: 6:55 per mile. Accumulated Time: 3:29:32. Average HR: 142; Total Ascent: 150 meters.

The ‘2018 Tour of Britain’ – Leg Two – Berwick-upon-Tweed

Berwick-upon-Tweed panorama.

Berwick-upon-Tweed is the northernmost town in England, so close to the border with Scotland that it has changed country allegiance on more than one occasion (The football team plays in the Scottish Second Division) and has been fortified to protect itself from attack over the generations.

Spittal taken from the Caravan Park.

Famous for its castle, its walls and its impressive railway bridge, we didn’t actually spend any time in Berwick itself, staying at the Caravan Site in the town of Spittal (across the Tweed from Berwick).

Seahouses harbour.

We spent our leisure time south of Berwick itself, enjoying the famous Barter Book Shop in Alnwick, the beach at Seahouses and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

The multiple benches configuration at Seahouses harbour.

Having stayed near Alnwick on our previous visit we passed on the opportunity to revisit the impressive Alnwick and Bamburgh Castles.

Seahouses beach.

Day 4 – Sunday 5th August 2018 – Exploring Berwick

Spittal Beach

Sunday morning saw us travel north along the A1 to Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is just about as far north as you can get in England before entering Scotland. I expected a tough run on tired legs but, surprisingly, I felt pretty fresh and blissfully free of Achilles pain after a calf stretch on some railings early in the run at Spittal promenade.

Berwick-on Tweed – inspired by Lowry.

I headed to the historic town of Berwick, stopping frequently to take photos, some of which inspired (poorly) by the work of Lowry, who apparently loved the place and painted numerous scenes around the town.

The Royal Border Bridge

I found the viewpoint for the spectacular River Border Bridge, which carries the same trains that run through Grantham, albeit more grandly than the all too low bridges that are the curse of Grantham lorry drivers. From there I found a shared cycle path (Route 1 if I remember correctly – a favourite from my 2016 holiday, which runs from Dover to Shetland) and headed along the riverside for a mile or so before heading on more dedicated cycle lanes which brought me tantalisingly close to, but not quite at, the Scottish border.

At the top of the main climb for the day I checked Google Maps in the hope of  making a loop of the run rather than an out and back. There were a couple of options but as they included running alongside the A1 I decided to play it safe and returned the way I came to Berwick. Feeling good I picked up the pace quite a bit back along the river path where I felt sure there would be a Strava segment to contest. To my disappointment there wasn’t, but I made a mental note that this would be one of many segments that I would have to create when I returned home and had access to a computer (And some decent internet). Alas I was only 4th.

From there it was a continued tempo effort back to the Spittal promenade and along that for a segment attempt (This did have an existing segment – only 9th best for me) before returning back to the caravan site – 10.6 miles bagged.

Split Summary
===
1) 1m – 7:35(7:35/m) 119/136bpm 78cal 7.91/8.97mph
2) 1m – 7:16(7:16/m) 133/146bpm 92cal 8.25/8.93mph
3) 1m – 7:40(7:40/m) 131/155bpm 84cal 7.83/10.08mph
4) 1m – 7:12(7:12/m) 144/156bpm 99cal 8.33/10.29mph
5) 1m – 7:03(7:03/m) 144/163bpm 90cal 8.52/9.37mph
6) 1m – 6:41(6:41/m) 137/159bpm 73cal 8.99/10.42mph
7) 1m – 6:12(6:12/m) 143/156bpm 74cal 9.67/12.33mph
8) 1m – 6:12(6:12/m) 152/165bpm 88cal 9.68/10.9mph
9) 1m – 6:31(6:31/m) 151/158bpm 93cal 9.2/9.81mph
10) 1m – 6:33(6:33/m) 146/154bpm 79cal 9.15/9.54mph
11) 0.59m – 3:59(6:48/m) 146/158bpm 49cal 8.83/9.23mph

Best Strava Segment Performance:  Just a Climb – 1st/7*

* A segment I created.

Day 5 – Monday 6 August 2018 – Cows and Cliffs

I’d spotted on Sunday’s run that  Cycle Path Route 1 continued its way past Spittal promenade and along the coast southwards. On Monday morning I decided to run along this path on a straightforward out and back – making it just past the small village of Cheswick before turning around and returning.

The cycle path looking to Spittal.

As it was a cycle path – off road in parts, the terrain was never particularly demanding and not at all technical, which made for a pleasant, mostly trouble free run, where the emphasis was on recovering from the hard efforts of the previous two days. The coast line was at times stunning, other times obscured by the grass in the dunes of Cheswick Sands. I thankfully had a side wind for the entirety of the run – when I met it briefly head on near the turnaround point, it certainly did its best to stop me in its tracks!

Cows on the cliff!

The only drama of the run came in the form of a fairly large herd of cows who had made themselves comfortable by the cliff’s edge on the cycle path fairly early on in the run and later on when I returned. I’m not a huge fan of cows and not at my best by the edge of cliffs – so the two combined made for rather interesting moments as I briefly stopped the Garmin and walked through the herd as unobtrusively as possible. Thankfully the cows seemed largely disinterested in me and more concerned with gorging themselves on the grass, and I was able to continue on my run, which ended just as the Garmin accumulated 10 miles entering the Caravan Park. I was disappointed to see there were no meaningful Strava Segments created so, once again, a note was made to, at a later point, create some of my own.

The coast line.

Split Summary
===
1) 1m – 7:46(7:46/m) 119/133bpm 81cal 7.73/8.35mph
2) 1m – 7:42(7:42/m) 132/147bpm 93cal 7.8/9.85mph
3) 1m – 6:58(6:58/m) 133/146bpm 84cal 8.62/9.16mph
4) 1m – 7:08(7:08/m) 138/145bpm 91cal 8.41/9.18mph
5) 1m – 7:25(7:25/m) 143/153bpm 99cal 8.1/9.02mph
6) 1m – 6:54(6:54/m) 138/149bpm 80cal 8.69/9.27mph
7) 1m – 6:57(6:57/m) 141/146bpm 85cal 8.64/9.2mph
8) 1m – 6:54(6:54/m) 145/154bpm 92cal 8.69/9.08mph
9) 1m – 7:09(7:09/m) 143/150bpm 89cal 8.38/9.16mph
10) 1m – 7:00(7:00/m) 141/147bpm 80cal 8.58/9.25mph
11) 0.08m – 39(8:05/m) 150/154bpm 9cal 7.42/8.5mph

Best Strava Segment Performance:  Quiet beaches to be found* – 4th/87

* A segment I created.

Day 6 – Tuesday 7 August 2018 – A Bit of Everything in Berwick-upon-Tweed

A Lowry Rip Off!

On a very overcast morning for the last run in Berwick, I was in the mood for exploring! Back it was into Berwick, running along the castle wall and ramparts; mimicking the work of Lowry and generally trying to see as much of the town as possible.

Cliffs In Berwick – a bit too much for me!

This exploration took me on a path around the back of the golf course and a holiday path. This was all well and good and I opted at a footpath junction to try and head to Marshall Meadows Bay. The path became increasingly technical, increasingly narrow and increasingly closer to the cliff’s edge. This was the explanation behind the slowest mile of the holiday at 10:09! – It wasn’t long before I abandoned this increasingly perilous idea and returned to the safety of the A1167 and the less scenic, but more comforting sights of a McDonalds drive thru and a Morrisions. This slow mile and the stop-start affair of the opening miles meant that this would be the slowest run, on average, of the Tour at 7:41 per mile.

Returning to Spittal it was clear I had to make up some miles to get to and beyond 10. So it was then a climb up the old A1, down Cow Road, over a Level Crossing, back through Spittal and a lap and an extension of the Caravan Park to bring it home in a smidge over 10 miles.

Split Summary
===
1) 1m – 7:45(7:45/m) 122/133bpm 88cal 7.75/9mph
2) 1m – 7:56(7:56/m) 129/143bpm 93cal 7.56/10.02mph
3) 1m – 8:22(8:22/m) 122/139bpm 81cal 7.17/9.87mph
4) 1m – 7:35(7:35/m) 132/145bpm 86cal 7.91/8.93mph
5) 1m – 10:09(10:09/m) 127/143bpm 94cal 5.91/8.06mph
6) 1m – 7:07(7:07/m) 134/144bpm 81cal 8.44/9.1mph
7) 1m – 6:55(6:55/m) 129/138bpm 66cal 8.68/9.5mph
8) 1m – 7:11(7:11/m) 141/154bpm 90cal 8.35/9.02mph
9) 1m – 6:58(6:58/m) 141/154bpm 84cal 8.6/9.35mph
10) 1m – 6:59(6:59/m) 135/153bpm 72cal 8.6/9.81mph
11) 0.03m – 11(6:42/m) 136/137bpm 1cal 8.95/8.18mph

Best Strava Segment Performance:  Old A1 Climb* 3rd/78

* A segment I created.

Leg 2 Summary

Distance Run: 30.7 miles. Average Pace: 7:15 per mile. Accumulated Time: 3:42:35. Average HR: 136. Total Ascent: 495 meters.

The ‘2018 Tour of Britain’ Leg Three – Markinch

The Balbirnie Stone Circle.

Markinch is a small town in Fife, Scotland, with a population of around 2,500 and lies to the east of the administrative centre of Fife – Glenrothes. It’s history is apparently much unknown, but relics of its past are said to date back to around 3000 BC.

Lomond Hills Regional Park.
Edinburgh with the throngs heading to the Festival.

Thanks to its train connections we were able to enjoy the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and with a short car journey the following day the Lomond Hills Regional Park – where the rain well and truly hit us and would plague us for much of the remainder of the holiday!

More of Edinburgh.

The Balbirnie Golf Course, where we stayed next to in its Caravan Park, provided traffic free running with its well signposted network of footpaths.

Lomond Hills Regional Park.

Day 7 – Wednesday 8th August 2018 – If You’re Fond of Bike Lanes and Rainy Air….

The route for my first run in Markinch came about by the need to check out where the train station was for our planned visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the following day.

One of many cycle paths in Glenrothes.

Once there I noted a bike path that looked interesting and so I followed it. That was around a mile and bought me out in a modern housing estate where not long after it split into two further cycle paths and then two more. I had choices on which one to take and so I chose the one that said Leslie – for no other reason than it was marked as being around 3 miles away which would be perfect for a 10 mile out and back run.

Another cycle path in Glenrothes – it even has a proper junction!

So what followed was not the most scenic run I’ve ever done in not the greatest weather (a bit rainy, not that warm) but what it was was a great example of a decent network of bike paths (I believe my path was a former railway line converted to become a cycle path) that kept the run blissfully traffic free.

View of the viaduct at Leslie.

Skirting to the south of Glenrothes I arrived at a large viaduct where a photo was required as I entered Leslie itself. A quick run up to the main high street and a look around before turning around and running back from whence  I came. As I’ve often done on these type of runs over the years I tried to pick up the pace a bit for the return leg, suspecting there may be a Strava segment or two to target. I put particular effort into the run back to Markinch train station and was rewarded for with my first crown on an existing segment of the holiday.

Once I’d made my way back to the Caravan Park and uploaded my run to Strava it transpired that the Glenrothes area has a thriving Strava community with a plethora of segments, particularly on the cycle paths, including the semi official Boblingen Way Mile. I was tempted to return to have a proper stab at that section and others but the lure to explore other areas was too great!

Split Summary
===
1) 1m – 7:22(7:22/m) 119/134bpm 75cal 8.14/8.85mph
2) 1m – 7:10(7:10/m) 134/144bpm 91cal 8.37/8.89mph
3) 1m – 7:02(7:02/m) 138/152bpm 89cal 8.54/9.04mph
4) 1m – 6:39(6:39/m) 146/152bpm 95cal 9.02/10.14mph
5) 1m – 6:42(6:42/m) 141/154bpm 83cal 8.96/10.1mph
6) 1m – 6:49(6:49/m) 139/154bpm 78cal 8.81/11.29mph
7) 1m – 6:12(6:12/m) 147/154bpm 86cal 9.68/10.33mph
8) 1m – 6:09(6:09/m) 151/154bpm 90cal 9.75/10.08mph
9) 1m – 6:12(6:12/m) 148/152bpm 84cal 9.69/10.81mph
10) 1m – 6:11(6:11/m) 155/164bpm 92cal 9.7/10.6mph
11) 0.41m – 2:46(6:50/m) 149/152bpm 36cal 8.78/9.29mph

Best Strava Segment Performance: Haig heave up ‘ta station – 1st/253

Day 8 – Thursday 9th August 2018 – Pre Edinburgh Festival Warm Up.

Thursday was the day earmarked for a full day of family fun at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival so Day 8 saw me having to get my sh*t together and be up an out of the caravan door as early as possible. I managed 7:40am, which by many others standard is fairly rubbish, but for me is pretty early!

Balbirnie Park Golf Club, resplendent in the ‘early’ morning light.

This early start meant more of a shuffle in the opening stages than usual, especially as much of the opening mile was a steady drag up the main road of the Balbirnie Golf Course grounds. Once up and out of the park I had options on where to attempt to run.  The bridle paths I could see looked a touch too technical; the A92 a bit overwhelming with traffic. My options looked limited, but I saw a sign directing me to Star, which seemed an intriguing place to visit. Moreover, once I’d tackled a short stretch of Stob Cross Road I could take a left onto a road with no name marked as a cycle route, which I assumed would guarantee near traffic free seclusion.

Sadly, while I am sure this road is probably very quiet for the most part, running on it at the height of rush hour proved to be a somewhat traumatic affair. With numerous undulations, tight bends and blind spots aplenty, it was a case of trying as hard as possible to stay on the correct sight of the road to allow car drivers as much time to see me as possible. Alas on one bend I was stuck between a rock and a hard place with cars approaching from both directions and I must of given one of the drivers a bit of a scare for she chose to beep her horn for a good 5-10 seconds after she passed. All I can do is apologise for any distress concerned, but there was little I could do.

Thankfully this dangerous section only lasted a mile or so before I could take a left into the much quieter road running through Star. This village failed to live up to its grand sounding title, for while it looked pleasant enough, it was just a small village in Fife. Before long I had run through it and found myself back on the busy road a little further on.

The road from Star to Markinch – at times busier than anticipated!

Thankfully although there was more traffic than desired, including a bus and a heavy goods vehicle looking a little lost, there was no repeat of the earlier passing car dramas and I was able to make it back to the outskirts of the golf course unscathed.

I had though only covered around 6.5 miles so had to try and find another 3.5 miles to run. This involved me running back through the golf course with an unsuccessful attempt to follow the path that looped much of the Balbirnie Park grounds.

Markinch Park.

With a couple of miles still required I headed to Markinch Park which I looped twice, once reasonably quickly in the hope of grabbing any Strava segments set up. I managed to claim fourth. This was though  a good day for Strava, with four first places secured on existing segments – not bad considering that for the most part it was a pretty low effort performance after the quicker efforts on the footpath the previous afternoon.

With the park run done, it was just a case of heading back to the caravan park, watching as the Garmin clocked over ten miles, stopping at 10.08, and changing quicker than a Mercedes AMG F1 pit stop to get to the train station in time for Edinburgh!

Split Summary
===
1) 1m – 7:57(7:57/m) 119/133bpm 81cal 7.55/8.31mph
2) 1m – 7:30(7:30/m) 128/143bpm 85cal 7.99/8.97mph
3) 1m – 6:54(6:54/m) 138/150bpm 92cal 8.69/9.06mph
4) 1m – 6:47(6:47/m) 133/148bpm 75cal 8.84/9.56mph
5) 1m – 7:02(7:02/m) 141/147bpm 93cal 8.54/9.52mph
6) 1m – 6:51(6:51/m) 137/149bpm 79cal 8.76/10.96mph
7) 1m – 6:47(6:47/m) 140/153bpm 84cal 8.84/9.37mph
8) 1m – 6:59(6:59/m) 134/150bpm 70cal 8.6/9.2mph
9) 1m – 6:56(6:56/m) 133/145bpm 64cal 8.65/9.16mph
10) 1m – 6:45(6:45/m) 139/146bpm 77cal 8.89/9.68mph
11) 0.08m – 39(7:45/m) 138/142bpm 6cal 7.74/7.91mph

Best Strava Segment Performances: Star Escape – 1st/19; Balbirnie edge brow dual run – 1st/42; Brow Bash Blast – 1st/36; Golf drive to wall – 1st/92.

Day 9 – Friday 10th August 2018 – Cobbled together a loop with only a couple of wrong turns.

It was another relatively early start for the final run in Markinch, setting off at just after 8 am and heading again to the nearby Balbirnie Golf Club for an attempt at following the bridle path that circulates around the perimeter of the golf course.

A bridle path in Balbirnie Park Golf Club.

The first mile was pretty technical and a stop/start affair as I lost the path on several occasions and had to resort to Google Maps to work out where to run. Once the painfully slow opening mile (8:44) was out of the way the legs loosened up nicely and I settled down into running fairly comfortably under 7 minutes per mile for the remainder of the run. I had left the Golf Club accidentally after a mile and a half and soon found myself in new housing estate a cul-de-sac. This time I didn’t rely on Google Maps but my eagle eyes to spot a footpath that took me out onto the busy A92, which thankfully had a decent pavement to let me run south, skirting past Glenrothes – the town centre of which I never did get to see.

Thornton – the flower display was the highlight.

I left the A92 to hit the much quieter B9130 which took me to Thornton, a town whose flower display in a wheelbarrow above was probably its highlight. With six miles covered I was very keen to make the run a loop rather than an out and back affair and so consulted the Google Maps to try and chart a run back. A network of roads that took me north past the fantastically literal sounding Coaltown of Balgonie and back towards Markinch looked the order of the day so I headed to them.

I very nearly missed these roads before I realised that they were in fact a series of gravel paths, not dissimilar to many found on a run in England, but slightly more unusual in that they clearly fed some traffic as there were quite a few houses en route.

A gravel road heading out of Thornton.

Nearly two miles later and I was back onto normal roads and a simple run back into Markinch made slightly tougher with a 2/3s mile climb averaging 3%. By the time I’d made it back to the Caravan Club I’d clocked 10.6 miles in a smidge under 7 minute mile average. With Leg 3 done and dusted it was onwards and upwards into the Highlands!

Split Summary
===
1) 1m – 8:47(8:47/m) 118/142bpm 89cal 6.83/7.66mph
2) 1m – 7:29(7:29/m) 133/142bpm 96cal 8.01/8.56mph
3) 1m – 6:57(6:57/m) 130/142bpm 80cal 8.63/9.12mph
4) 1m – 6:32(6:32/m) 141/149bpm 90cal 9.18/10.29mph
5) 1m – 6:39(6:39/m) 140/150bpm 87cal 9.03/9.58mph
6) 1m – 6:26(6:26/m) 139/147bpm 79cal 9.32/9.93mph
7) 1m – 6:55(6:55/m) 135/142bpm 74cal 8.67/9.25mph
8) 1m – 6:47(6:47/m) 132/145bpm 63cal 8.84/12.17mph
9) 1m – 6:45(6:45/m) 137/146bpm 73cal 8.9/9.46mph
10) 1m – 6:42(6:42/m) 142/158bpm 80cal 8.96/10.23mph
11) 0.6m – 3:55(6:31/m) 147/154bpm 55cal 9.21/9.83mph

Best Strava Segment Performances: Escape from Balbirnie – 3rd/61; Alburnie V down – 3rd/208.

Leg Three Summary

Distance Run: 31.1 miles. Average Pace: 6:54 per mile. Accumulated Time: 3:34:16. Average HR: 137; Total Ascent: 376 meters.