Monday, 29 February 2016

Northumberland Coastal Trail Series Half Marathon

As part of my long term training plan for 2016 I wanted to get a half marathon fixed in the diary and found that the CTS Northumberland Half Marathon fitted well in my time frame. The main reason for choosing this race was to visit a new part of the country and have a mini-adventure. Tim has run in the area before, but it was completely unknown to me. My first impressions were how flat the coastal part of Northumberland is - not quite what I'd imagined after recently seeing photos of the Cheviots. We didn't have time to go inland at all so that part was sadly missed, but once we got going in the race it was absolutely worth the 4hr drive for the stunning coastline.

Bamburgh Castle - we were allowed to wander round after registering

I was a little apprehensive of running this distance, mostly because I suffered a muscle strain in my hip at the end of November and have only done 3 long-ish runs in the past month. I didn't run for almost 4 weeks in December which is unheard of for me and then was just starting to build up distance and fitness again in January when the dreaded cold/sore throat lurgy struck. With all that behind me and fitness starting to come back I had to rejig my initial hopes of a sub 2hr time. I settled for a comfortable finish, hoping to be somewhere around 2:20.

The CTS Northumberland races are all linear - they do a 10k, half marathon, marathon and ultra all on the same day - and all runners are taken by bus to their respective start points south of Bamburgh Castle. It would be a welcome sight on the northward route to see the castle once more.

View southwards from Bamburgh Castle, we'd be running up that coastline soon

The first 5km were run at a fairly quick pace, and my hip was not hurting at all so I just got on with one foot in front of the other. Tim was running with me, obviously a much slower pace than he's used to so all photos are credited to him for running ahead or hanging back and then catching me up.

As with all my races, I do seem to struggle with the first quarter or so, and it must have taken me a good 30 minutes for my body to accept that it was going to be continuing to run on for another while. I settled into taking my mind off my various moans by observing the beautiful scenery. The route takes you over a mixed terrain from muddy grassy paths, over a golf course, along a few road sections through villages and three decently long stretches of beach. Yes, you will get sand in your shoes, and yes, you will get wet feet as you try to take the straightest line across the beach - and cross over some fresh water flows.

Not too far into the route we passed by Dunstanburgh Castle

Beach running - why does it always feel like you are going uphill!!

I was surprised that we couldn't really see Bamburgh Castle very much as we made our way northwards. Only a few glimpses which you could have easily missed. Then on the final few kilometres of beach where you'd expect it to be standing tall and proud above the dunes it is frustratingly hidden from sight by the dunes themselves.

Later in the route we were steadily overtaking some of the 10k, marathon and ultra runners

Finally Bamburgh Castle is in view - last mile or so to go

After the relative flat route (which incidentally feels like it is all gradually going upwards) there's a punishing final climb to do up through the sand dunes and into the grounds of Bamburgh Castle. The final 700m kicks you upwards for a measly 33m which seems so much grander.

We'd run the final few kilometers alongside another lady, and I was pleased that we both got the same time as we dibbed on the finish line.

At £40 each these are expensive events which is likely to sway whether I'll do another one. That said, they are very well signposted so no navigation is necessary, there were two check points on the half marathon both stocked with some food (bananas and other things) and water, and we got a t-shirt and medal. I don't do races for any of that stuff really, it is all about taking part for me and for this one it meant we visited a new area and had a wonderful evening on the coast the night beforehand.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Snowy La Plagne

A mid-winter mini-break found us flying from Manchester to Geneva, then a road transfer the 3hours to La Plagne for a few days of relaxation in the snow. The weather was mostly sunny, fairly warm and dry with no new snow but sufficient for everyone to go skiing and me to go walking or running. There was plenty of time to enjoy doing not a lot, read a fiction novel (something I rarely settle into) and have a good time socialising. Enjoy the photos....

Tim's first time on skis for quite a while
La Plagne Centre
Forest trail up the mountain
View across the valley
View of Mont Blanc in the distance

Mont Blanc way off in the distance
Beautiful and peaceful trail
World Telemark ski competition just metres from our apartment
La Plagne Centre
Solitude up on the cross-country trail....I was running it though!
Nice to bump into Tim on the mountain
Dogs eagerly barking...and high up on the mountain I spied some mountaineers
Delightfully empty cross-country trail to run on
Inov8 Orocs an absolute necessity on the icy trails and snow
Sunset on our last night