Monday, September 12, 2016

Double Bubble

With apologies to my knitting/crochet/gardening/Nature chums, or for those of you who read my blog because your lives have been affected by dementia, for the complete lack of anything other than running on here at the moment but there really aren't enough hours in the day. Normal business will be resumed eventually but for the next few weeks it's probably going to be all about marathons as my 100th looms ever nearer (gulp!).

Here I go again, another weekend, another double marathon. This time though the marathons were only a short distance from home rather than the usual 1.5 - 2 hour trek so I didn't need to get up at silly o'clock for a change.

These were the inaugural marathons from newly formed race organisers WeRunTheyRunIRun, fellow runners and members of Eastbourne Rovers Athletics Club which was a good omen - runners know what fellow runners want from an event and they certainly didn't disappoint.

From left to right: Debbie & Richard Davis, Russell & Zoe Gardham

This was a 2 day event based at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve which I am ashamed to say we'd never visited even though we often visit the beautiful town of Rye itself (I've even written about it several times on here). Having run there and shown Mike the photos we'll definitely be heading off there for a wander some time this week!

Saturday, Day 1

The venue was easy to find as you just followed the signs for Rye Harbour and when the road ran out you found the large, free car park adjacent to the holiday park. Race HQ was inside the park and there was free tea and coffee before, during and after the race which was a nice touch. Even better, there were real toilets rather than the usual portaloos.

When you collected your race number you were given a pink wristband which you had to get marked at the end of each 5.28 mile lap. You also got to choose between a meat or veggie burger to munch at the finish which was a nice touch.

There were plenty of the usual suspects there - here we have Kirsty and Dee chatting with Jodie who'd brought her family along for a camping trip at nearby Camber Sands.

After a few hugs and a chat I headed outside to take a few snaps around the start area. It was grey and overcast but warm to begin with.

This Martello Tower, number 28, was the first to be built in Sussex and is known as The Enchantress Tower

Ooh look, the aid station!

Before the goodies were laid out....

...and after. My banana cake's there along with Debbie's wonderfully gooey chocolatey concoction which she really must make again. Notice the watermelon which I don't like and always avoid then watch me eat my words on day 2!

A panorama taken from the start line:

Heading back for the race briefing I bumped into Millsy with Andy in tow:

Then Anna arrived and so we had to have a girly group photo:

From left to right: Dee, Kirsty, Anna, me with Elaine behind (I wonder how many hundreds of marathons we've done between us).

At the race briefing Russell announced that if anyone didn't "speak Northern" they should find an interpreter which made me chuckle as his accent is similar to mine except he hails from the other side of the Penines. He gave out all the usual information and then we had just enough time for a final trip to the toilet if need be before the start so we headed back inside before congregating at the start line.

I nearly managed to snap Debbie sneaking in some breakfast before heading out for her marshalling duties!

The map below shows the out-and-back route we took. The route was well signed and the turnaround point was marked by a cone with a bin bag attached for any rubbish you needed to deposit. Unfortunately, as there were lots of dogs out for a walk this soon became a magnet on which to relieve themselves!

It was a 6 hour timed event in which you could run as many or as few laps as you liked as long as you headed out for your last lap before the 6 hour cut-off. This meant it was an ideal event for anyone wanting to try out their first marathon or ultra in a friendly and less pressured environment. I've noticed that people often do more laps than they intend to as the camaraderie amongst fellow runners really helps lift your spirits and helps you achieve more than you thought you could.

At 8:30am we were off with Rusty leading the way on his bicycle with Lee in hot pursuit. I positioned myself near the back as usual and settled into my pace quite comfortably. As I was doing both days I knew I wasn't going to push for a specific time although I secretly targeted 5.5 hours.

When we set off we didn't know how windy it was until we went out onto the course itself and boy was it windy. It was one of those winds that side-swiped us on the way out no matter which way the path went yet on the way back it didn't seem to help us at all which seemed a bit unfair. We all grumbled about the wind but could have eaten our words the next day as it was even hotter and completed still! Thankfully it didn't affect my asthma and my breathing was fine on both days. However, it did get rather hot as the day progressed and my comedy tan lines were even more noticeable by the time I finished.

It was a very friendly event and the miles seemed to pass quickly as there was lots of friendly banter and so much to see. It's really nice to see the speedy runners a couple of times on each lap which of course you don't get in a point to point marathon. I made a conscious decision not to visit the aid station until I'd completed lap 3 as it's so easy to spend more time there than you should.

The Nature Reserve was a delight for a Nature geek like me and as always I had to restrict myself to taking photos on my last lap or I'd have spent all day snapping this that and the other. It was so beautiful.

For the marathon distance I needed to complete 5 laps and by the end of lap 4 I looked on target for 5 hours if I carried on at the same pace but that would mean no photos so that idea went out the window straightaway!

I love this snap taken by Richard as I head out for my final lap. It captures the place so perfectly.

Here are just a few photos to give  a feel for the scenery:

One of the man-made lagoons which are a magnet to wildfowl. I spotted lots of cormorants and several skeins of geese flew over. The wind turbines were spinning around really fast.

Looking over to Dungeness you could imagine the power station is a large ship if you didn't know what it was.

Around one side of the bay there were lots of kite surfers but I couldn't get a decent shot of them as it was quite murky until later by which time they'd gone.

Some of the paths we took were gravel and some stony but the path along the sea was tarmac so was easier on your legs.

Just before the turnaround point there were  some horses grazing and as I looked I spotted the blackberries so had to sample some.

Sheep taking a break from keeping the grass down.

I think this was an old lifeboat house, now abandoned and covered in graffitti. What attracted me to this view was the subdued colours, the roof tiles and the line of the fence posts as it made me think of Fair Isle knitting. There's definitely a pattern there so I've saved it to my mood board for future reference.

View from the other side. Thanks to Richard to the photo.

I love the glaucous leaves of Sea Kale (Crambe Maritima) and it looks so pretty against the different coloured stones

I was interested to see that the Teasels (with the rusty coloured seedheads) survived in such a windy area by keeping their height lower than usual.

I finished in 5:31:22 so was happy with that and set myself a target of 5:45 for the next day (but I didn't know quite how HOT is was going to be when I made such a bold statement!). I knew Anna wasn't far behind me (and that was a first as she's usually finished long before I do) so I waited to see her come in before heading off for my veggie burger then home.

Striking the official post-marathon pose with our lovely gold medals.

I didn't eat the bun part of my burger but took it home for these little beauties:

This shows how far behind I am in my updates as I haven't posted any photos of the ducklings when they were tiny. My bad!

Sunday - Day 2

A few of us brave souls were back again for day 2 although the field was smaller than the day before but some other running chums came along to join in the fun which was nice.

What had changed dramatically though was the weather. It was hot first thing and just got hotter and hotter throughout the day. The wind we complained about the day before had gone completely and been replaced by a warm and very gentle breeze. Oh how we longed for that strong cooling wind of the previous day!

Just look how blue the sky is in this photo which was taken at the same time as the very grey photos from the previous day.


The organisers had posted a note to suggest that people carry a bottle of water with them as the forecast was for wall-to-wall sun and I'd taken the precaution of wearing my ultra vest in which I had 2 soft flasks full of water with NUUN electrolyte tablets in. I started using these on the recommendation of a friend, who runs a lot of ultra marathons, when I was training for my last 50 miler as I have a rather efficient body-cooling mechanism and lose a lot of salt through sweat. I don't use gels or shot blocs etc as my body is used to burning fat as fuel as I don't eat before any of my training runs.

It was exactly the same format as the previous day but boy was it hot right from the start so I started slower than before (whaddya mean I couldn't get any slower!!!!) and settled into my comfortable plod pace.

There were lots of new people to chat with but as the morning progressed many people started to struggle in the heat and several stopped sooner than they'd intended.

The organisers were straight on the case and soon Rusty was out on his bicycle pedally towards the turnaround point carrying supplies of water and cups so that we didn't have to wait until the end of each lap for extra water. Now that's what good Race Directors do!

As a slower runner, I can't count the number of times I've reached an aid station that has run out of water on a hot day but that certainly didn't happen here. At the end of each lap when we had our wristband marked we could go down a little incline to the aid station for water/squash/crisps/cake etc. However, the clever organisers saw straightaway that some people might just want water without the extra faff of having to go down and up the slope so they set up an extra table at the top of the incline and handed out cups of water there. Full marks for that too. 

After lap 3 I was feeling rather overheated and so headed down to the aid station for some squash and crisps. For some reason I felt the urge to try some watermelon, which I don't like very much, and it really hit the spot and helped cool me right down. I'll certainly remember that for future events.

We were using public footpaths and there were lots more people out than the previous day; dog walkers, cyclists, groups of bird watchers, roller skaters. skateboarders, day trippers and families enjoying the sunshine. I found everyone very friendly and lots of people asked what we were doing.

Here are a few more photos from my last lap - just look at that gorgeous blue sky!

The sky reflected in the lagoon looked so pretty

This is where the kite surfers were the day before but there was no wind for them that day.

Each time I went down and up this incline I ran alongside the wall in that tiny bit of shade. Although it didn't cover the top half of my body I could really feel it cooling down my legs and it felt wonderful.

Probably of no interest to anyone but me as I liked the patterns of the stones in the gambions with their different shades of grey

Dungeness again, still hazy but I could just make out the pylons leading from it that day

I was looking at lines and the vanishing point but managed to catch Lee in the distance leading the pack again!

Despite the heat there were some good performances including Liz who managed a 3 minute PB time, Aislin who knocked out 7 laps and Lee who churned out another 8 laps 10 minutes faster than the day before!

I trundled home in 5:44:14 so just ahead of my predicted time. That'll do thank you very much.

Day 2's medal was a nice brushed silver/grey and I noticed that the organiser's initials were on each corner which I hadn't noticed on the gold one.

Then, same as the day before, I nibbled at my veggie burger and then took the bread roll back for the ducklings.

I must say a huge thank you to Zoe, Debbie, Russell and Richard who made the weekend such a success for us runners. I hope it was a success for you as the organisers and that it will lead to more events in the future. Well done to all the helpers too.

Oh and in case some of you don't know, Russell is about to take part in the Spartathlon in a couple of weeks so good luck with that.

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