Run Tourism – Holland

Earlier in the year I ventured into the world of run tourism for the first time on a trip to Spain, I made sure to ask my wife if she minded me taking my kit and I was given the green light so off I went exploring around Albir, Althea and Benidorm.

IMG_20170818_151111Last week we went to the Duinrell holiday park in Wassenaar, Holland, when I say “we”, this wasn’t your average family holiday, this was 10 adults and 14 kids aged 3-13. I didn’t need to ask if I could take my kit this time, being in the middle of full on marathon training at the moment Catherine knew it was coming and that I’d be disappearing a couple of times to explore and get some miles in my legs.

Before travelling I put out a request on Twitter for any recommendations and the very kind Heart Runner Girl suggested a couple of possible runs for me based on her local knowledge. I managed three runs while I was there, all on different routes and all had their own particular features.

After the overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam we arrived at Duinrell on the Saturday, the first day was spent acclimatising and finding our way around the park and what it had to offer. I was already itching to get out though and so first thing on Sunday morning I was up and heading for the beach. It was a beautiful morning and after running down a few tree lined avenues the road turned slightly and the dunes that dominate this area of coastline began.

What I immediately noticed too was how everyone appeared to be catered for. There was the road, then a separate cycle path, a separate pavement and also a sand covered bridleway. Part way down to the beach the route forked and the road went off to the right whilst the other paths veered off left. I’m always cautious crossing roads abroad so the knowledge that I was on my own path helped me to relax and enjoy my run. After around 5k the path and road converged again at the main beach car park and then I followed the short path down to the beach itself, having taken a few photos I made the return trip and arrived back just as the rest of the family were waking up. It was a very straight forward run and clearly a popular one as I passed over 20 other runners in the 45 minutes of so that I was out. Without fail, everyone acknowledged me with a nod, a smile, a wave or said good morning (at least that’s what I think they were saying, my Dutch isn’t that great!). The knowledge gained during the run came in handy the next day when we decided on a trip to the beach. There was no way I was going to try and walk down to the beach with the kids given the distance but I knew we could park easily and having seen the bars and snack outlets I also knew that we’d be well catered for.

My second run was very much in the “make it up as you go along” category. This time I headed away from the beach and into the centre of Wassenaar, I came across a beautiful old windmill as I wended my way through the streets and then I discovered the various dykes and waterways that criss-crossed the town so I decided to follow them for a while and see where I ended up. The run was so tranquil, despite it being late afternoon and it was great to take in something so quintessentially Dutch. I did end up at a dyke that I couldn’t cross and so had to do a U-turn but that’s part of the adventure of exploring in this way. Eventually I ended up back at Duinrell after just over 10k and in time to fire up the BBQ for some well earned burgers, bratwurst and beer.

The third and final run was another early morning start this time in the direction of Den Haag. I followed the cycle path signs which indicated 10k to the city which is the official seat of Dutch government, home to the Netherlands’ monarch, parliament, ​and supreme court. The cycle path and pavement are away from the main roads and there were some gorgeous views of mist lingering across the fields as the sun came up. The cycle path signs made this a very easy route to follow and nearing the outskirts of Den Haag the signs changed to point you in the direction of various local landmarks. I decided to follow signs for the World Forum and this route took my through a beautiful park. I’d deliberately not checked my Garmin during my run but I felt like I maintained a decent pace assisted in no small part by the flat landscape which was in stark contrast to many of my normal routes. Just after 11 miles I checked my time and it looked like I could be on for an unofficial half marathon PB if I kept the pace up (I say unofficial as to me official PBs are set during races, I know people have different opinions on this but that’s my view). I felt good at this point and so I worked hard to keep going. My total distance for the run was 14.1 miles but when I saved the run I got that lovely “new record” message saying my new half marathon best time was 1:42.13, my official best time set at the Leeds Half Marathon earlier in the year is 1:44.55, let’s just say the two landscapes are rather different and I’m hoping that the flat lands around York can bring me an equally speedy time in a couple of weeks on my marathon debut.

All in all this was another great run tourism experience, I loved finding my way around a new place and taking in some of the local sights, next time you are away somewhere new why not take your kit and give it a try, don’t forget to put your feet up too though!

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10 Weeks To Go

One of the main reasons for me starting this blog was to allow me to document my ymtraining for the York Marathon on 8th October and give me something to look back on in years to come. Although I have provided training updates as footnotes at the end of several posts this blog has branched out into everything from vlogs, to interviews with other runners and various commentary pieces on running related matters.

This week’s post then is very much about getting back to basics. I have now completed week 6 of my training plan and on the whole I’m pleased with how things are going. So far I have run just over 173 miles of my plan and I am now at the stage where my long run every week will be a new longest ever running distance for me which is exciting but also a touch daunting. Over time I have learned that running, and in particular distance running, is not just about physical but also mental fitness and I am keen to maintain positive mental health as it will sustain me through those inevitable bad runs, the times when I doubt my ability and those moments that I’m anticipating on the actual day when I need to look deep inside me and find some positivity.

Physically I am feeling good. I’ve had a somewhat gammy (yes that is a valid medical term) toe for the past fortnight but that now appears to be just about fully recovered and apart from an odd niggle I am able to run, and importantly, recover well. I deliberately gave myself a longer training plan so that I could increase my mileage gradually in the hope of avoiding injury and touch wood that is working. With the help of various SIS products and some homemade cakes my fuelling and refuelling is also working well and my body is comfortable with what I am giving it.

 

 

Although I have yet to absolutely nail down my race pacing I have become much more consistent in pacing myself, helped greatly by regular checking of my Garmin whilst out and about. I am developing my ability to hold myself back and ignore the urge from my legs to stretch out a bit more, people online have commented that I am quick, I am quite a self-effacing person and I genuinely don’t think I am. My aim is to pace at around an 8 minute 30 second mile, to try and avoid getting pulled along too quickly at the start and to conserve as much energy as I can by getting into a rhythm and sticking with it. Whether I can maintain that pace for the full 26.2 miles remains to be seen but I am up to 16 miles so far and that pace is manageable.

As I head into the final 10 weeks of training I do have a couple of concerns. I have tried to mix up my training in terms of adding off plan speed work and hill sessions as well as some general core fitness and this has been enjoyable but actually finding routes for long runs is proving problematic. I have a go to route that is just over 13 miles and I can then add on some extra distance to that to get me up to around 19 miles but this means running the same route time and again. I could run a couple of laps of a shorter route but I enjoy different scenery and get bored with laps, I could stretch out some of my shorter routes but that would mean running round country lanes and whilst there are some great views where I live I find that I don’t relax on these roads as I am conscious of listening out for traffic which distracts my focus from actually running. I may have to put up with the boredom as a means to an end.ym2

My other concern is an impending 8 day holiday to the Netherlands. It was planned into my training spreadsheet, and appropriately coloured in orange, but I need to factor at least a couple of 13 mile plus runs into the holiday and at the moment I have no idea how that will work out. This isn’t your average run of the mill family holiday either, this is 14 children and 10 adults descending on a holiday park for what could be absolute carnage. I need to get some research done on potential routes, I’m assuming in a rather stereotypical view that the roads will be flat which will mimic the route around York nicely but I may need to just grab time to get out when I can which means fuelling could be interesting, has anyone written a nutrition plan based on a diet of raw herring, cheese, chips with mayo and copious amounts of Amstel? Thought not!

 

 

All being well this week then should see me plod out a further 33 miles or so. I’m sure the coming weeks will bring more ups and downs but I am determined to enjoy and not just endure the journey and the big day itself. Training this much has for me been life changing and even if this is my first and last marathon I want to mark it as an occasion to remember and be proud of.

Pendle Running Festival 10k – Race Review

A pile of horse manure, plenty of hills, homemade flapjack and the warmest welcome you could hope to receive, it may sound like a rather odd combination but that pretty much sums up my Saturday morning at the Pendle Running Festival 10k.

If you are looking for a big budget event with all the trimmings then this race is probably not for you. What you do get here though is a wonderful running community spirit, some spectacular scenery (albeit shrouded in mist this morning) and a course that asks you plenty of questions.

I arrived around 45 minutes before the start and headed to the registration at Barley village hall to collect my race number, the great and good of the East Lancashire running scene were already in evidence with plenty of runners from Trawden AC and Clayton Le Moors Harriers sporting their club colours. There were also a smattering of runners from other clubs and I passed on a bit of local course knowledge to a few chaps from Holcombe Harriers as they stood inspecting the course map.

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Following the signs down to the start I did wonder for a moment if I was lost, I went down a path, over some cobbles, then down another muddier, rockier path and emerged in a clearing next to a rather large pile of horse manure. I was soon joined by others though and given there was a Start sign here we figured this was it. The race organiser appeared and after a short briefing about the dangers of narrow country lanes and the promise of home baked goods and bacon butties at the finish we were off.

The festival holds a 10k and half marathon on its first day and both groups set off together, 131 runners in total, going back up the path the way we’d come was a bit tricky, thanks to the man holding the low hanging tree branch up out of everyone’s way here! We soon emerged onto the road though and fanned out down towards Roughlee.

The weather was overcast with slight drizzle, perfect in my mind for running and the first mile and a half or so went by pleasantly, we even took in a bit of local history passing the Pendle Witch statue.

 

I knew things were about to change abruptly though as we took a sharp left turn onto Stang Top Road. It felt like a scene from the Tour de France, one minute the peleton is racing along in a bunch on the flat, the next they head uphill and it splinters. Stang Top Road is tough, steep and pretty much unrelenting save for a short downhill section before the final climb, if you do the half marathon you have the pleasure of running this beast twice! Some people started to walk, others seemed to be going backwards, I kept my head down and my legs moving and put my faith in my training and the fact that I actually enjoy hills, weirdo!

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I ignored the drink station at the top and carried on, up more hills, thankfully the gradient was slightly less than vertical this time and there were a few more flat and downhill sections thrown in. What I loved was that everyone was watching out for each other, everyone talked as they passed each other, some were clearly running in pairs or threes, the roads were marshalled but still open and so whenever a car was coming the call went up and along the line of runners from back to front as a warning. I also experienced a first in running on roads with cattle grids, given the rain these were treacherous and navigated with extreme caution.

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After heading across the moor towards Pendle Hill the route took a left back towards the finish at Barley. There was another uphill section into a headwind to negotiate before the final mile or so of pure downhill. I’ve consciously been working on my downhill running and I really saw the benefit, a 6:33 mile after all the climbing my legs had done felt fantastic. I had enough in the tank for a sprint to the finish and was welcomed home by others finishers as I crossed the line in 50:01. As there was no chip timing my Garmin gave me all my times and splits but I didn’t find out until later in the day that I was actually the 17th male finisher and 20th overall in the 10k field of 63.

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I was presented with my medal and a bottle of water and remembering the briefing I went back to the village hall to pick up a brew and some lovely gooey flapjack which I enjoyed whilst cheering more runners home and seeing some of the half marathon field back out on the rest of their race.

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I can genuinely say that I really enjoyed myself. The event was well organised, well marshalled and there was a real feel good factor about everything, this was running at its basic best. Today was never going to be a PB for me, today was about trying a new event, getting more miles in my legs, taking on a challenging course and pushing myself and I ticked all those boxes and met some lovely people too, what better way is there to spend a Saturday morning? I’ll definitely be back next year, I might even give the half marathon a go, I do love them hills!

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Born of frustration

When I started blogging just over six weeks ago I did it on a bit of a whim. I’d signed up that week to run my first ever marathon and I was mainly looking for a way to record my traiukrucning and to reach out and get some advice and interaction with more seasoned runners so that the challenge I’d set myself didn’t seem so daunting. I’d been scratching around online and found various hints and tips for first timers but I was totally oblivious to the world of running bloggers and indeed vloggers already out there and at that point I was yet to sample the delights of the @ukrunchat community.

Some feedback I received raised a really pertinent point for me, “what do you want to get out of this?”. It’s not until the last week or so that I’ve actually stopped to reflect on this and think about it a bit more.

I wasn’t really looking for an audience or dedicated readership and I wasn’t even sure what I could offer to anyone else that would make my blog worth reading, my running experience is limited to say the least, so why on earth was I spending time writing this on top of the time commitments already given over to actually running?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. In my teens I wrote a couple of pieces for the Bradford City fanzine, The City Gent, at university I wrote some sports features and reports for the student newspaper, DARTS (Does Anybody Read This Sh*t) and at work part of my job involves writing quite lengthy, detailed reports on various subjects, I’m not exactly prolific though.

The reality I think is that I am a frustrated writer looking for a more regular outlet and by writing this blog I’m allowing those writing juices to start to flow in a way they never have before. I’m enjoying writing, I’m enjoying the challenge of coming up with content and I love that as someone who is naturally very much an introvert I have found my voice in a way that I am comfortable with. Behind my keyboard I seem to come alive and I am far more effusive in my writing than I normally am in conversation.

Fast forward six weeks and I now feel like a veteran blogger, I’m dabbling with vlogging and hundreds of people have read this blog and interacted with me to provide support, advice and feedback, a massive thank you to you all. I have readers from Norway to India and Switzerland to Mexico and these are people who read each post, this blows my mind and provides me with inspiration to write more but also a certain pressure that it has to be a good read.

I love reading the blogs of other runners out there too, I won’t single anyone out in particular but if you want to get into running there are some real gems worthy of a more professional status. The styles and content vary from blogger to blogger but the one thing that shines through is how much people love their running and how each blogger has their own unique story to tell.

As this is a running blog I’d better actually tell you about my recent running. In the seven days to last Thursday I ran an all time high of 32 miles across three runs through rain, hail, rainbows and glorious spring sunshine. On Sunday we also had a family walk up Pendle Hill which was a good leg stretch and took away some of the guilt of slight over-indulgence across the Mother’s Day weekend. I’ve then run 10.5 miles in just over 1hr 20 mins this evening and as things stand I’m feeling good about my training and that my preparation for the Leeds half marathon in mid-May is going well.

Given the title of this post and my apparent obsession with music I couldn’t leave you dear reader without a quick blast of the excellent James and their version of Born of Frustration.

 

As ever it would be great to hear from anyone out there who has any feedback, writing this blog is a massive learning curve for me. In addition, if you have any questions or even suggestions for future blogs I’d love for you to get in touch and I can try and work out some of my 39 years worth of frustration on putting something together.