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.

Project Sub 1:16:47 – Training Weeks 1-3 (ish)

Following the new 5 mile and 5K PBs at the end of July, the target soon switched to Nottingham and the Robin Hood Half Marathon on September 28th. As someone pointed out, I’ve broken my old bests over all distances save the half marathon in the last year. I’ve peppered the half marathon best, standing at 1:16:47 three times since last September – I’m fairly determined I’m capable of going quicker. 

Paradoxically training for the upcoming race coincided with two weeks of a significant drop in training volume – the first week deliberate, the second down to illness. A couple of days after the Lincoln 5k I headed down with the kids to see my family in Minehead. I managed three runs during the five day stay.

The first was a fairly gentle affair up to Dunster Castle and down to the beach back to Minehead as the legs slowly recovered from the long drive. The next day I headed to my personal nemesis when down in Minehead – the Greenaleigh Lower Road Climb which takes you out of Minehead and towards North Hill along the coastal path.

With an opening 0.4 mile ramp of 18% average and then shortly after 0.3 mile at 19% average, I’ve never made it all the way to the top without stopping at some point for a breather – sometimes in my lower moments I’ve walked much of the way up. It was one of those Rocky moments as sometimes slowly, but determinedly, I made it all the way to the top of these Strava segments and beyond all the way from sea level to 800ft above it without stopping, except for a few necessary seconds to negotiate a gate. I was rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounding moors and coastline, a KOM on Strava for my efforts and a pleasant run back down into Minehead as the heavens opened – marking what has effectively become the end of the pleasant summer weather we had in June and July.

I took a couple of days off before taking on one last run on the final day before heading back home. I returned to Dunster forest – where I’d enjoyed a pleasant run back at Xmas. The weather was shocking – torrential rain – the forest was a good place to be offering some shelter. It rained so much my heart rate monitor got a little frazzled and gave some truly erratic readings. I enjoyed my little adventure to Carhampton and back though, taking on over 1800 ft of climbing in just over ten miles along good quality trails.

Back home in Grantham there was a short run on the Wednesday before a routine club run of 14 miles on the Thursday evening, albeit with a couple of quick miles near the start of the run when I caught up the lead pack after a stop at the bowling alley (No time for a quick game, alas). Friday saw no running as it was time to attend the wedding of a good friend. My wife and I had a blast, my head didn’t thank me and the four miles run early on the Saturday morning were painful on the head until the adrenaline did a good job of blasting the hangover out of me.

There was no time to rest though as we were straight off on our family holiday to the Yorkshire Dales. I managed a run on the Sunday morning – this time completing it just before the heavens opened for the day. Heading to Ingleton and back on fairly narrow country lanes, it was an enjoyable if sometimes hair-raising run as the constant undulations and blind bends made it a challenge to safely avoid the traffic. I also had annoyingly forgotten my Garmin ANT communicator, which meant I couldn’t create or follow any pre-planned routes, which would mean it was going to be mostly out-and-back affairs.

That run also featured the first tickles of a sore throat, which by Monday had developed into a full blown cold. By Tuesday I was feeling decidedly unwell, if I wake declaring no intention of entertaining a run at any part of the day, I know I’m feeling decidedly sub-par. This continued through to Friday, when the cold relented just enough to head out on a run with the camera.

Mostly enjoying the scenery but allowing as much effort as the tight chest would allow on the hills, it was a sometimes groggy affair, but a relief to have at least got one good run in during the holiday week and one where I took my camera with me to capture a few images.

Houses typical of where we stayed.
Houses typical of where we stayed.
The River Greta
The River Greta
Plenty of hills like this to be found
Plenty of hills like this to be found
A fishing lake
A fishing lake
The busy road marked the point to return home.
The busy road marked the point to return home.
The busy road marked the point to return home.
The busy road marked the point to return home.
Yorkshire cannot help but be scenic.
Yorkshire cannot help but be scenic.
The hill I had to tackle twice...
The hill I had to tackle twice…

The last shot is of a fairly steep hill (The photo doesn’t do it justice) I stupidly decided to run it twice near the end as I’d stopped to take the photo, ran off to the bottom and beyond, then realised I’d not started the Garmin. I somewhat weirdly decided to run back to where I’d took the photo to recommence the run…

The following morning saw a short 4 mile run before driving home. Painfully low on mileage for the week I opted on the Sunday morning to join some club members from GRC on a long run which turned into a 21 mile two lap affair, where I used and abused three training partners on different parts of the run. It was here that the Turquoise Nike Air Pegasus’ finally destroyed themselves mid-run, making the last 8 miles or so quite a sore affair.

The first week proper of training for the half marathon began the following day with an easy 6 miles breaking a new pair of Pegasus’. Club intervals on the Tuesday saw a welcome visit from Britain’s #99 marathon runner from 2013 Alastair Pickburn. Running hill repeats, we had a good, fairly evenly matched session together, which saw me take another second off the Strava segment for a rep and overall a much better performance than when we ran the same session a couple of months earlier.

Wednesday saw an easy paced run just shy of ten miles; Thursday was a little more complicated. First was a run to the train station to get a train to Nottingham to run to the hospital to pick up the wife, which was all done with a rucksack and laptop in tow. Once I’d driven us back home, caught up on about three hours of work in an hour, I hot footed it to the running club for a most enjoyable off-road run which came in at exactly half marathon distance. Not quick at any point and something of a struggle on tired legs, it was a welcome antidote to the stresses of the real world. I was shattered by the end though with eighteen miles completed on very little food – the protein shakes came out for the first time since Sub 1:16:47 began, and plenty more were consumed over the weekend.

Friday was a mere four miles of recovery in the evening. Saturday should have been an early morning run but I woke too late – it was almost planned as I’d really fancied a little quick run in the evening. This turned out to be a swift 6 mile affair with the pace wound up in the final stages to sub six minute miles – still a rarity for me in training.

Sunday should have been a 13 mile long run, but with work I decided to break it into two 10KM efforts. The morning run was fairly pleasing, averaging 6:41 pace only just after getting up. After a busy day behind the computer desk, I headed out in the evening for a second 10KM. The legs felt decidedly shaky at times, the head a little woozy as I was clearly tired, but pleasingly I was able to knock out a forty minute ten km effort, with the second five km run in just over 19 minutes. I’m not sure what this training weekend will bring, but I’d like to think that the repeated miles at a pace I don’t run that often will see me in good stead.

Monday was a Bank Holiday so felt like the weekend. The weather was rubbish, feeling like a cold day in October rather than late summer. The legs were a little weak for most of the run, but I managed 11 1/2 miles comfortably inside my Jack Daniels prescribed easy run pace.

So the opening three weeks or so of training done, one good solid week behind me. Some aches and niggles, but hopefully nothing that cannot be contained. The next few weeks are key, the plan to continue hopefully with the reps and to mix up the runs so some are run reasonably quick. It’s a fairly sketchy plan, so expect it all to change without warning….