On The Road Again

This blog details the tale of the Trimpell 20mile road race in Lancaster on Sunday but as Kate and I stayed up in Lancaster (well Morecambe) in Bri the Campervan on Saturday night the story starts with us getting on the road again.

We headed out up to Morecambe in Bri the Campervan. Bri is a 1997 converted Iveco van that we bought back in September, and obviously named it after my Dad. We’ve only done a couple of trips so far and we’re still learning the ropes. The van is in great condition and we love it, but it is fairly old and there’s still a few things that can go a little wrong on it.

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Bri The Campervan on a sunnier day!

On Saturday it was the heater blower. In fact the heater blower motor has been temperamental since our last outing up in Keswick for New Year. We’ve been on the lookout for a new one (well second hand) since then but we’ve not yet found one. Before we left on Saturday we had the van in the garage to give it a once over, and all was working fine.

Now the weather was pretty awful on the way up to Morecambe, and it was lashing it down as we were driving up the M6. Around 30 miles in to the journey the heater decided to stop working!  That’s not a problem if the weather is nice, or even if it’s just cold, but when it’s lashing it down and when its cold it means a really steamed up windscreen. Which meant we were driving up the M6 in the pissing down rain and wiping the screen with cloths and towels!

Eventually the heater started working after many Fonzie taps on the heater controls, but by this time we had just got in to Morecambe so it was a bit late! Anyways, we got to the site, found out pitch and got all set up for the night.

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We had a bit of tea and cake and I prepared my kit for the following morning then we got ready to hit the town. Well when I say town we went The Hurley Flyer pub over the road from the camp site for us tea. Hopefully this was the first and the last time we go here. The food and the service were pretty terrible and we’ll never go there again. Anyways back to the camper for some foam rollering, an early night and a good night’s sleep. Well almost, I think we need a mattress topper for the van and the wind and the rain was pretty wild throughout the night which made for in interesting night’s sleep.

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Tight squeeze for foam rollering

So up bright and early to have some breakfast and to pack up the van before the very short 4 mile drive in to Lancaster. A lesson learned here, as I did not give myself enough time to both get ready and pack up the van. I really need to add a half hour on to van packing up before the morning of a race again. I was very rushed, and felt very under-prepared getting in to Lancaster and I was extremely stressed. I tend to get stressed out on race mornings anyway and the idea of coming out for the night in the camper was supposed to reduce this not make it worse! Kate dealt with me very well indeed and I must apologise for being so stressed and narky!

As I was in the camper I had to find a suitable car park and this so happened to be a little way away for the race HQ where I needed to pick up my race number so it necessitated a jog to get to the whilst taking on my pre-race energy gels.

On my way up to Lancaster Castle I met up with my training buddy Helen and her mum & step dad. I was still highly strung at this point and Helen helped me out pointing me in the right direction for my race number and stuff. Interestingly the race numbers were collected out of some prison cells (until 2011 the prison at Lancaster Castle was still functioning).

Anyways we headed down to the start line, when I say line I mean tunnel. I’m not entirely sure where the start was but we made it there in time, and set off out in to the wind and rain.

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The first mile or so was quite difficult going as we were getting stuck in lots of traffic and the paths were pretty tight so it was hard work getting passed people. Once over the Millennium bridge that goes over the river Lune the path opened up again on to a walking / cycling path heading out towards Morecambe and coming close to the campsite of the previous night. The course then went round the Trimpell Sports club where the race must of got its name from before doubling back on itself heading towards Lancaster.

After heading back over the Millennium Bridge the course then dropped down to follow the Rive Lune heading back in land away from Morecambe. The difficulty was at this point keeping a sensible speed as both Helen and I were going a little bit faster than planned. In fact I found the first 10 miles of the course very easy and was going very strong, although I could already start to feel some hot spots on my feet so I was anticipating blisters (despite my best efforts of pre-emptive blister plastering and taping).

It was at 10 miles Helen and I split up. It had started out very cold on the morning of the race, but your temperature soon goes up after running for a bit and Helen needed to lose some layers so I left her at the 10 mile marker and I carried on alone. The next 8 miles where by far the most scenic of the course. Basically you ran out on a mainly trail path to somewhere near the villages of Caton & Brookhouse at 14 miles and double backed on yourself for the return to Lancaster. On this section there were a couple of bridges that took you over the River Lune and you were privilege to some cracking views (there happened to be a photographer there at that point too – you can see the out and back pictures!). The miles between 10 and 15 were getting a bit tougher for me and the pain from my blisters started to get a little bit worse, but I was still going pretty good.

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Heading Out
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Heading Back

I started to get tired and my feet started to get worse from mile 15, and I know at the appoint that I wasn’t going to get a particularly quick time so I stopped for a quick picture of my own from the Crook O’Lune Bridge.

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Although the scenery was good I was starting to get a bit fed up from mile 17 and my pace slowed right down. Not only that but I had an issue with my headphones so I had no music to take my mind away from my painful blistered feet. On reflection I should have stopped to investigate why this was. I guess it was just a loss of Bluetooth connection, but at the time I though the batteries had gone flat. It also felt the wind was in my face on the last 5 miles heading back towards Lancaster.

I really struggled from mile 17, and I had to stop more than once as my feet were getting very painful. However the other runners on the course were so supportive so I persevered I was glad to see the 19 mile marker located just before the course headed back in to the city and towards the castle.  I had been warned that the “little hill” (as the race organisers put it) that heads up towards the finish within Lancaster Castle was brutal. I part staggered part jogged up the hill, turned the corner then was met with another smaller hill on cobbles which felt horrible but at least the finish line was now in sight and I was extremely relieved to limp over the line in a time of 3.08.23.

As you can see I ran this course in my Widnes Running Club shirt. There was great support out on the course from some the faster guys from the club out there and also from other runners giving  me a “Come on Widnes” shout which was very encouraging and felt great. It’s also good to see the club getting noticed as we are still in our infancy. The encouragement from the marshals on the course and from the volunteers on the water stations was also fantastic and much appreciated. Its this kind of support that really gives you a boost and makes running these events enjoyable (or gets you through the event!).

After picking up my medal, t shirt and wolfing down a chocolate bar I seen Helen come in to the finish just a couple of minutes after me. After a post-race chat and rest I headed back to the van.

The conditions on the course had not been great with some quite heavy showers and blustery conditions, however the weather really decided to take a nasty turn as I limped back to the van. The heavens opened and it absolutely pissed it down. I was drenched and very very cold as I got back to the van.

Luckily for me Kate had got some minestrone soup and a cup of tea ready for me for when I got back to Bri the Campervan. After me being pretty fed up with all the stress it had caused in the morning this is when the van really come in to its own. I had somewhere to shelter, get warm, something to eat and drink and somewhere to get changed and clean myself up. A real god send after a 20mile race in tough conditions and blisters from mile 10!

Once I finally got warm and ready it was almost time to go. As we had heater problems on the way up I decided to run the van for a bit to get the heaters warmed up whilst we cleaned up and done the dishes etc. Now we had parked on a slight incline and I needed to take the van out of gear to start it. After getting the van running I headed back around to help Kate with the cleaning. I then noticed that the post in front of the van was moving away from us! “Shit, its moving!” I shouted as I ran my last few meters of the day back around the front of the van and jumping in and hitting the brakes before the van rolled gently down the hill! Another lesson learned. Always keep the van in gear when parked up!

One final note on my blisters. I have seen a podiatrist prior to this run, and I was waiting on some orthotic insoles (which I got the day after the run), the advice that she gave me was NOT to go a half size up like suggested in the running shops, and to wear shoes that fit. I also have a weakness in me left ankle which causes my right to hit the ground harder which goes some way to explaining why I tend to get worse blisters on my right foot (and why in the past I’ve tended to get things like ITBS and shin splints worse on my right leg). I have been told to work on strengthening that ankle, to stretch my calves and hamstrings EVERY day and to get lots of sports massages! I now have the insoles and yet ANOTHER pair of trainers this time in the right size (those Hokas are going in the bin) and hopefully this will help reduce the blisterage. Though I won’t be running as far as 20 miles now until the marathon.

All in all this was a tough run, painful for the last few miles in pretty bad weather conditions but I’m glad to of completed it. I also learned a few lessons about staying in the campervan, and I think this can work for me going forward (I just need to give myself an extra 30 minutes). Hopefully with my new insoles and trainers I might see an improvement on the blister front. One the plus point my feeding and nutrition strategy seemed to work ok for 20miles so I can transfer this to the marathon.

I’m heading for the trekking holiday in the Swedish Arctic wilderness for a week this coming Sunday. Not ideal preparation for a marathon in 4 weeks but I love adventure and this was booked long before I decided to run a marathon and it’s going to be the trip of a lifetime. I’ll try to blog about it on my return!

Peace and Love.

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