Saturday, 20 June 2015

Leg 548 from Pakefield to Hopton - Recce of things most easterly

During the first week in June I was on holiday so I decided to recce our stage on the Suffolk coast. As my fellow relay runners weren’t available, I commandeered the long-suffering other half to accompany me to cycle the route.

First things first, we checked the handover point. Yep, a nice wide verge near the water tower, enough room for us and the “camera crew”. Must remind my friend and support crew, Angela, to practise night–time shots! Now decisions: my inclination would always be to get as close to the sea as possible and I could follow a track from here straight to the beach. But it will be dark and also add a bit to the route so I think we will follow the road for a bit and then take a side road to the lower promenade so we can run right past my beach hut (no 59), where I have spent many happy hours watching the waves. We won’t be able to see much at night but we’ll smell the sea and feel the (hopefully warm) breeze.

The beach was beautiful today. The Pakefield end has formed into dunes in recent years and some beautiful flowers had sprung up amongst them. The Jolly Sailors looked inviting right on the edge of the cliff but we resisted the temptation.

I did have a dip in the sea though, a refreshing 14ยบC.  Rather enjoyed but I promise Toto and I will not go skinny dipping on route to Hopton!

Running (or cycling) past all the colourful beach huts, past the Claremont Pier and on towards the South Pier is pure pleasure.  Unfortunately the sea wall near the South Pier was damaged in last year’s tidal surge. It is now getting fixed, and I'm hoping all the barriers will be gone by August but even if they aren't we'll be able to run along the prom all the way to the harbour and past the most easterly pub in Britain, the Fisherman's Wharf on the South Pier. 

The bascule bridge over the water to the north side of Lowestoft is a pain in the neck for drivers in Lowestoft and apparently, Mr Cameron has promised a 3rd crossing by 2020.  We will see...

Today we crossed the bridge without a delay, and it should not be a problem for us on the day unless someone decides that essential maintenance work needs to be done on 4th August.  Hope not, as a detour via Oulton Broad would add several miles to the route!

So over the bridge and through the rather uninspiring industrial area of North Lowestoft. Up till the 50s it was the Beach Village, where thousands of people lived and worked, mainly living off the sea one way or another. We pass the most easterly church in Britain, and follow the route of the Lowestoft Scores Race, Britain’s most easterly hill race. It is the first race I ever ran -  a tough 4.75 miles along the sea wall and up and down steep slopes, including 409 steps, between the beach and the High Street.

Now we arrived at the most easterly point in Britain, the Ness Point, where a giant wind turbine, known as Gulliver, was overlooking my other half trying to cough up a fly he just swallowed! It will be a slight detour off the route but we really want to go there.

From here we cycled along the sea wall for a mile or so. It was very windy, as it always seems to be here, and it reminded me how helpful it was to place myself behind a large bloke in the Scores races to get through this section. As the wind in Lowestoft blows against you regardless of what direction you are travelling, I decided it would be too bleak to run here at night so for the Relay we will backtrack from Ness Point and run along the road.

The rest of the route is pretty straightforward, through Gunton and Corton passing several caravan parks and holiday villages. After Corton there will be another couple of miles on a quiet, lonely and, I imagine, very dark road so we will definitely need our head torches to see our way to Hopton. But we were cycling today and had plenty of time, so we stopped for a drink in Corton and again in Hopton, where I received Casey last year, before heading back to Pakefield.

We are really looking forward to running this section. The British coast is an amazing thing in all its variety and I can’t wait to see everyone else’s photos of their routes.  Almost as good as being there!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Looking back: Leg 549 from Hopton to South Beach Parade, Great Yarmouth

Hi. I am Sirkka and I am running stage 548 in this year's fantastic Great British Relay. I first saw the posts for the relay in 2013 and thought what a brilliant idea it was. But I was just coming back from injury and didn't think I would be fit enough to run. So I was delighted when it did actually happen last year and I was able to run stage 549 with my friends Cheryl and Stuart, and the photo is of us just after handing over in Great Yarmouth. We all really enjoyed following the progress of Casey and the run itself.

As soon as this year's relay was announced we were ready to sign up again and this time I was able to grab the stage that goes through the streets and the close to the beach where I first started running when I used to live in Lowestoft. In fact we are going to run right past my beach hut!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

How NOT to recce your running route

With the GB relay now kicking off in July, I thought I'd fill a gap in the proceedings with some tips for anyone planning to recce their route in the next few weeks. These are based on my own experiences of a recce for a relay race along the Cotswold Way last Thursday. As you'll gather, it didn't quite go according to plan...

1. When choosing your recce partner, be sure to choose someone who is just as useless as you are at map-reading. This way, you'll both be as clueless as each other when it comes to deciding which way to go and you won't get into any arguments.

2. Print out the map and detailed route description and carry it in your hand. Don't look at it too often though - you might trip if you don't keep your eyes fixed on the path ahead at all times.

3. At the start, instead of going in the direction indicated by the route on the map, go in completely the opposite direction.

4. Talk nineteen-to-the-dozen from the word go, thus missing every possible opportunity to identify a deviation from the planned route.

5. For goodness sake, don't take a compass. That extra 38g will really weigh you down!

6. Those three directions in a row that didn't match up with reality? Don't worry about them. The entire landscape could easily have changed since your map was drawn. Even if you think the elevation seems to be a lot more difficult than the profile suggested, it's probably just because the hills have grown over the years.

7. If you suspect you might have gone the wrong way, don't mention it for at least 15 minutes. You don't want to put a dampener on things.

8. You can confirm your position on the map by matching up fairly generic features like "hedges" and "grass" with those in the route descriptions. It doesn't matter if none of the other, more specific features match up - you probably just missed those whilst you were talking. And if you pass major landmarks, like castles and ancient monuments, that aren't mentioned in the route description, that doesn't matter either. Just assume that the route planner was an uncultured idiot who wasn't interested in that sort of stuff.

9. Carry only enough water for the distance you had planned to run. Again, it will only weigh you down and if you get a bit thirsty you can always beg for a share of the last few drops of your running partner's water. For the same reasons, you don't want to carry a fully charged mobile phone.

10. Only check your position using a GPS-enabled device when you find yourself in the direst of circumstances e.g. when you have already run 10km away from the car you left at the start, in the opposite direction to the car you left at the end, and have no other way of getting home before dark except to run back to the start over the same monstrous hills that have been sucking the soul out of you for the last hour and a quarter.

11. Do, of course, do the opposite of all of these things.