Sunday, 27 January 2013

Sunday Run

Its not so much the time of day that makes early, early, it's how many hours sleep beforehand that counts. So I got up at Jesus Christ o'clock and watched the dawn break (surprisingly free of the forecast rain) while having breakfast, before jumping on the bike and cycling 5 miles to the Quayside for the Porty training run. Somebody's probably doing marathon training but I really just went along for Jenni's chocolate crispies. Also company for a long run. Company can make 20 feel like 14.

I took this photo at the D&C Home as I wondered if it would be the last of the good weather

Fourteen can still be long though, especially if there is a lot of water on the ground and some in the air. The stuff on the ground was cunningly mixed with dirt to stick to shoes and make the 14 feel like 20.

A good crowd met at the harbour and I was glad I had arrived in plenty time to secure my bike and achieve Garminisation before Jenni led off the troops at 9, shortly after the dot. I would have recorded this for posterity but I was still believing the forecast which said a black cloud with 2 drops all morning. So my camera was in a bag in my backpack. You'll have to imagine the first 9 miles. I was up the front chatting to Willie and not really noticing we were drifting ahead until we met Scott H at Whitecraig.

I know a couple of routes to the start of the cycle path but Willie took me a different way yet – on the road rather than the pedestrian paths. We were busy chatting and the going was pretty decent but relaxed. Once onto the path it was evident we were not going to be keeping feet dry. Puddles spread the width of the path and although we skirted the first few, after a while we just sploshed through. Once your feet get soaked they can't get any wetter. In theory.

The Jarvinator

Willie had planned on doing around 14 miles but we were cruising along so easily he was reluctant to cut it short and kept finding another turn-around spot: 7.5 miles, 8 miles, Ormiston Bridge... The latter was nearly 9 miles so I hope he took it easy on the return leg. What he would have found out and was waiting for me 5 miles later was that when you headed back along the path you quickly realised what direction the rather cold wind was blowing.

Gonna be wet feet

I got the camera out and took a photo of WJ then ran on towards the Winton Estate, a favourite 5 mile detour loop off the Pencaitland cycle path that Mary unearthed some years ago. Since the sun had come out I carried the camera in my hand. The weather varied over the 3 hrs and several times I removed hats and gloves, then put them back on, turning a corner into a vicious hail shower. For a bit the camera remained on duty taking snaps of trails and mud, particularly mud and deep pond-like puddles to use later as evidence in the court of slow running excuses. The stretch between Ormiston Bridge and the road crossing before Winton was the worst part with neck deep puddles and giant mud bings.

Not this, this is lovely running. Obviously.

Luckily the partially ugly weather seemed to have deterred all but the hardiest of dog walkers. At one point I was accosted by a tiny and disproportionately aggressive west highland terrier (white) while the owner told the traditional lie (also white) “she won't bite you.” It was the pronoun “she” that discouraged me from booting it over the fence into the adjacent pond saying “damn right”.

Past the worst of the swamp and across the road to the Winton Estate. The trail rises and I thought that should make it drier. Partly yes but still large patches of squelch where you could read the imprinted history of dog-walkers, horse-walkers, and fat-bikers. Not a derogatory term for overweight cyclists but a description of them by their extra wide wheels – the Hoka equivalent in the bike world. I was wearing my Hokas by the way, and since I have slowly worn off most of the treads they now have the grip of a (seeded) loaf of bread and one skates across the mud much like the Rev Walker on Duddingston Loch. Thankfully lots of water to wash them clean. Even bits where rivers appear to cross the path. Through the trees for a bit, then out onto the road for a bit (them horsey girls again but this time with a peloton of (thin) bikers.

Then back off road along to the crossroads and back the way I came. Unfortunately including all those swimming puddles and mud baths. 2 right turns later and I'm back onto the Pencaitland path and this is where I find out about the wind. Undeterred (2nd gloves back on) (camera away) I reckon I can't be far behind anyone in the pack who did the full 20. Every long straight (and there's not many) I see nobody ahead. Just need to raise the pace a bit. I try not to be discouraged by the wind in my teeth, the hail shower and a niggle in my hip flexor (rhs) no doubt the result of yesterday in the Pentlands.


I ignore all this and let my mind drift. Probably my pace as well. 14 ~ 18 is pretty hellish but then we're onto the down hill and only 5 miles left. The sun comes out around Whitecraig and the hip flexor eases off. There are so few straight sections there could be 10 Porties just around the next corner. Last three miles I pick up the pace. Or rather increase the effort – Mr Garmin debates any substantial increase of pace, but I didn't jog it either. The only person I see is Scott H running back to Whitecraig I presume, near the weir on the Esk. The Esk is in spate. I couldn't be arsed getting the camera back out so you'll have to imagine that as well.

more evidence

I usually HATE that last bit along the Esk. It is a pretty green park so there is no real reason to, but the number of times I've run through there, twenty plus miles into a run with a heavy heart and long distance ache, just counting the yards till stop time... There must be some heavy gravity stuff or extra stubborn tarmac on the path. Its nearly there but still 2 miles of pain. Today, unusually, not so bad. Maybe the Hokas working their magic, who knows, but I am now moving swiftly along the riverside and refusing Mr Garmin the opportunity to deny this.

I reach the last mile and assuming this is where I'll catch the team I put on a bit of a show. Then turning the corner on the front am slapped by the wind into a near dead halt. I struggle against the wind along the front at crawling pace and try to look relaxed and refreshed as I get to the Quayside and am presented with a chocolate crispie by masterchef Jenni. They don't tell me if they have been there long but everyone is changed and looks like they might have had a spot of lunch while they waited. I have no idea who has run what distance or if they decided at mile 5 that was plenty and to just turn around there and take the quickest route home. I'll tell you what though, a long run certainly passes much quicker in a group. And I can confirm no one was left behind. I think I might have been left in front though.

I would also like to thank Mary. Later in the day while I sat zombied in front of the computer doing the important work of the facebook, Mary presented me with a fish finger sandwich, (with tomato ketchup.) Somehow I had never realised the importance of this culinary delicacy until now. However it is exactly what you need after a long run in harsh conditions, when you are reduced to drooling in front of low IQ Sunday afternoon tv or looking at reduced price running shoe websites just wondering if its ok to go back to bed. Fish fingers in bread with ketchup – wow, snack-nificent!

Edinburgh Alps 26/01/13

I was cursing: I had missed the bright weather of the morning. It was 1pm by the time we pitched up at Bonaly car park, (my fault.) Flotterstone had been really jammed with dog walkers and sledging families last couple of weekends, so Bonaly was deemed likely less busy. We were correct. But what route? Mary had planned a trip over Harbour and Black Hills going round the Drove Road to the S Ridge and along the high tops cutting back to the reservoir and back by way of Phantom's Cleugh.

Its difficult weather to dress for as out the wind things are fine for running in a couple of thin Hellys. Up the hills there was a cruel wind blowing and jackets and hats and gloves were essential, especially when conditions made progress slow.

ministry of silly walks

There was still plenty snow around, despite the thaw in town and sunshine of Saturday morning. The sun continued to shine for about 90minutes while we trudged up Harbour Hill walking in others' footsteps. I caught up with a runner on Bell's Hill but he was nobody we knew so I waited for Mary who was cheering up as the views were becoming better and better. A bit of a slip-and-slide down to the bottom of Black Hill then a long hike up through the deep snow clad heather. You could only just see where the paths were and sometimes it was easier marching on the heather as the snow was less deep. Around halfway up we were the only footprints and the snow had an icy crust on top that your foot went through. If you tried to race you caught your shins painfully on the icy crust. I think by this point we were doing 26minute miles.

After a long, frustrating and painful climb things improved and we were able to run again as the gradient eased off and the snow was less deep except where it had drifted. On the flat top it was like an alien landscape with sculpted drifts and hidden drops. It was quite cold but I shot some video and took loads of photos. Then as we reached the far side and descent, an amazing snowy panorama opened out in front of us, complete with atmospheric lighting. It was like a very well painted backdrop from Star Trek circa 1970s. We were both cold and a bit done-in from the climb but it made us both perk up and pay attention. You can spend a lot of time in the Pentlands without seeing anything this wonderful. I was beginning to feel missing the morning sunshine wasn't totally a bad thing.

We thought the South facing descent off Black Hill, warmed by the sun, would provide easier ground. In parts it did, but there was still quite a bit of shin ice and many's a zig zag to get down the hill and off. We were both getting tired and cold through, and desperately needed to get moving quickly again to warm up. It made me realise that disaster can lurk just around the corner from fun and games out on the Winter hills. I put on all my extra kit. We were both wearing shorts which was earning raised eyebrows and compliments from the overdressed hill walkers but apart from skinned shins the shorts weren't the problem. 10 minutes of running and we were safe from the cold.

But having felt the proximity of danger we opted for a less challenging route, heading down and round Threipmuir and past the Rangers Lodge, climbing up to Maidens Cleugh and then over Harbour Hill and back to the van. After such a moment of outstanding scenery the rest of the run was a bit of a plod. We were both glad to have changed to a shorter route as the sun stayed hidden behind a large grey bank of clouds for the rest of the day and we were both keen to be finished sliding about the uneven ground.

Something like 11miles in 3hrs – a ridiculous tariff by road standards but in the snowy hills, par for the course.
Video HERE