Monday, 29 December 2014

december death swim


My brother Neil had mentioned interest in the open water swims we have been doing this year. He doesn't have a wetsuit but thought he might come along for a shot. His son Ryan, my nephew, slightly hungover, also came along. Sue came along in a holding-the-coats capacity and perhaps to be there to call an ambulance if things turned out bad. Things, in fact, turned out great. Another day of fab weather really helped.

That hat by the way was a freebie from the Bike Coop when they ran the NYD Triathlon (way back) which we did a couple of times although never that seriously.

As we were approaching Gullane we passed these horses. Not a great photo I know but I put it here because they turned up later.

The weather was mostly blue skies although we could see a fog bank over Fife and there were moments when it threatened to get misty here.

Neil had worn his cuttin aboot the hoose (©Burnistoun) clothes anticipating leaping out the sea and changing into a loose warm outfit (in the ambulance).

action time

It's funny to look at these and note the same hunched shoulders, the same postures, the same thinning hair. Neil and I don't spend a lot of time doing stuff together but we aren't really that different. I kept catching glimpses of my dad in both of us. 


The moment of truth.

3,2,1, go!

The water was REALLY cold. After less than 3 minutes feet were achingly sore and legs numb. We ran back up the beach. We then felt so exhilarated and by now warm (by comparison) that we went back and had a second go. 

I have to say it wasn't any warmer the second time or any easier to get back under.

 Those horses again.

Now why would you want to do this? Well it is a challenge. And it's good to challenge yourself. I don't mean go to a spa and have warm pebbles laid on your lower back. That is a crock. I mean putting down the crisps and chocolate, getting off the couch and putting yourself in a bit of jeopardy. Go mountain biking or on a mini-adventure. Camp out somewhere. We have all but removed the struggle from modern life and are growing fat and complacent as a result. Sometimes in order to appreciate a plain drink of water or a slice of buttered bread (ahem low fat spread) you have to work up an appetite. Contemporary culture would suggest the answer is adding ingredients or fancy baking. I am very much of the opinion that you can improve the enjoyment of your dinner by going for a 20 mile run or a splash in the sea. Ok it doesn't have to be a channel swim to feel the benefit. The four of us today all feel massively different for that ten minutes of challenge (3 or 4 minutes in the water another 6 to get dry and changed) - it's like going on a fun-fair ride or doing a hard rock climb, or perhaps even being involved in a car crash. You can't deny the power of the experience. And it makes your dinner taste so much better. There will be a few dookers on the Prom directly after the Promathon race on the first. Bring a towel.

Mary's less preachy blog of today here.
 (thanks to Mary for use of her photos and the waterproof camera)

Sunday, 28 December 2014

7 hills / skyline mash up

Days like this don't come along often. Today's run was OUTSTANDING and that was mainly due to the weather. It could easily have been a bit grey and damp like a week ago. Instead it was blue skies, sunshine all day and hardly a breath of wind. The Pentlands were lightly dusted with a heavy frost (less snowy than the Ochils) and the stage was set for a brilliant day out. Graham had decided to combine elements of the 7 Hills race with parts of the Skyline. Not the first time these 2 runs have been combined, but a bold choice in December; to consider bolting a 14 miler and 16 miler, both quite hilly, into one dawn-till-dusk monster.

The first surprise was Mary decided to come too. Since she has not run more than 12 miles in the longest time she never planned to do much more than that before peeling off and catching a bus home. 

Lucy also came along for part of the route. (Unable to spend all day away from Kipper she also cut things short. And forgot to distribute the sports nutrition pictured.)

It was a very promising dawn although quite cold and frosty.

We set off just after 9am and after Calton Hill dropped back down to Waterloo Place and followed the usual 7 Hills route. (Graham and I did 2 laps of the 7 Hills last year at this time and while it was entertaining I was glad he had chosen a different mission today. Also it would take us into the Pentlands which I was hoping would be snowy. To capture the scenery I took the non-compact camera (Lumix G3) on a tripod. I also carried the compact just in case though it didn't come out once.

On the castle esplanade.

On Johnston Terrace we bumped into Keith who came along for a mile or 2.

The view towards St. Mary's is enticing and I've meant to do something with it for a while, however today it was just a quick photo in passing.

2nd mystery guest was this guy in grey shirt who gave me a knowing look. It was only after he left at the tram crossing that I realised it was Mike A of Carnethy who I shamelessly used as a windbreak at Lauder XC but failed to overtake.

Corstorphine Hill

nice graffiti while Jim balances a shoe on his head (a street lamp)

Graham had parked his mum's car (mobile picnic wagon) at Bonaly/Colinton so we had something of a snack and waterstop there. Also picked up Paul - having got the timing badly wrong and left him waiting 45minutes. He was remarkably forgiving of this.

Mark popped into fellow Carnethy, Graham's place for a toilet stop (how to win friends) but was unable to get Graham to come along.

As we climbed into the hills the scenery got more and more exciting. The sun was now blasting and it became quite difficult to see while running towards it. 

These lens flares are caused by pointing the camera into the sun and are, I believe, frowned upon by proper photographers.

By around mile 12 Mary was concerned about heading back. She left to catch a bus from Fairmilehead and tells her full story here. Also Lucy wanted to get back to walk Kipper and headed down to Bonaly I think.

Meanwhile the remaining 8 climbed up to Harbour Hill Summit where the sun was lighting up the ice-topped grasses. The lack of icy winds made the landscape a total delight.

We headed off Harbour and towards Black Hill. It was unusual to be doing the Skyline in reverse.

Black Hill is always a long haul.

At the far side 7 became 4. Mark decided to continue on round the whole Skyline route, and others headed off the hills, leaving Graham, Richard, Nick and myself to redesign the Skyline route. We thought it best to miss Hare Hill, the Kips and Scald Law by taking the Coffin Rd from Green Cleugh to the Howe then climbing Carnethy, before descending to towards Glen Corse and climbing up the other side to Bells Hill (again.) We would then head out the park via Bonaly and pick off the remaining 7 Hills. One reason we were obliged to do this was Graham's mum was collecting her car from Bonaly around 2.30. Also we wanted to be finishing the 7 Hills route before deepest darkest middle of the night. (Think: a slippy treacherous climb and descent of Arthur's Seat without headtorches. Asking for it!) And while the Skyline was in near miraculous conditions, missing a few tops on the South Ridge and near Hillend wasn't a big deal.

Not sure who was leading the route off Black Hill but it's not a line I ever want to take again!

This bit was excellent! Like an alpine trail in Switzerland.

We then dropped down to the Coffin Road which was suitably sombre and cold in the shade.

We could see the groove through the hills we had followed as we climbed up Carnethy. (Not happy memories from the C5 came to mind.)

Running from the shade into the light was like someone switching on a heat lamp.

Distant walkers atop Scald Law

Just beyond the summit of Carnethy, in the lee of the hill we stopped for lunch.

Just as we were eating Harry and the Gilmore boys ran past.

We then dropped down a long traverse off Carnethy, across the road and up the other side which took us back up Bells Hill (oocha!) and then another traverse round Harbour and over to Bonaly on this trail.

After another refuelling at the car (24miles run), and waving bye to Richard whose gf lives nearby, we headed back towards Craiglockart Hospital which famously treated WW1 soldiers and poets etc.

Although I think this may be a more recent extension.

Craiglockhart Hill (then over to the Braids, then across the golf course and Hermitage to Blackford.)

Nick was very keen and led the route for the most part. 

A kestrel hovered near the trig point at Blackford.

Just one hill to go.

The sun set before we got to Blackford giving us about an hour of twilight and Alpenglow.
This was at the top of Arthur's Seat.

Back to where we started at Regents Road. 32 miles run. (Plus one up from home and one back down making 34 miles in just under 8 hrs. (Home before 5pm.)  Mark did 34.5 in 8.5 completing the Skyline. Not sure if he finished the 7 Hills route.

Graham arrives while I shoogle the camera. It was a fantastic day out, a real cracker. There must have been nearly a dozen runners involved in total but only 3 (and perhaps Mark) got back to the start/finish, doing the 30+miler, completing the Tynecastle Bronze.