Sunday, 8 January 2017

fishing for ham

Saturday we did the Gullane thing. Very little to tell as it was low cloud and grey. Falko's was closed and we tried the Gannet Deli as an option. It was fine (and cheaper) and lifted Mary's mood which was tired and grey as well. By halfway round she was gibbering nonsense (normal service resumed). There were wagtails. But no great photos so maybe we will skip right to Sunday.

Paxton (Borders Series XC) was on but neither of us fancied travelling all that way for 4 miles so we wimped out and did nearly 10 of the high top Pentland miles instead, getting some C5 damage limitation in. Again low cloud but the novelty of being here cheered us both up. We used to come here every weekend but a few years ago traded that in for the East Lothian coastline. Nice to come back - like visiting old friends.

Old friends who make you gasp and stagger that is. Never easy doing the long climbs, but the temps were mild and the wind gentle. Not a bad re-introduction. And the more of this we do the less bad that dreadful race will be. A few pals are doing direct recces of the C5 course. I don't understand that at all since it is about the least nice part of these hills. You would never say show me the best 6 miles of the Pentlands and expect THAT. Much more likely to find yourself doing pretty much what we did today. Only we did half as much again because we were having such a good time.

But could all the people who are filling the Flotterstone car park just, ahem, go elsewhere. I'm assuming it's a new-year-resolution thing and within a week or 2 will return to normal. It was jammed with cars circling for spaces like vultures. You certainly don't see that many folk over the summits. In which case take a walk round Lochend Park or even Holyrood. In this weather you wouldn't notice the difference. 

More Suunto stories. First a shout out to Pascal who emailed to tell me how to toggle between Nav and Exercise. Thanks Pascal! Haven't tried it yet but it sounds about right. Next up I thought I'd check the accuracy of the altitude setting. The above photo is of the trig point on Scald Law. Or rather the Ordnance Survey Bench Mark S1579. At first I thought that number might be the height but as I'm sure I don't need to tell you Scald Law is 579m or 1899feet though I have seen it rounded up to 1900. Mr Suunto however rounded it up to 1959ft. 60ft extra. Hmmm. Carnethy, Turnhouse and Black Hill were also between 40 and 62 feet out and not consistently the same height out but always greater. 

Mary said something about science being an inexact science. Possibly in response to me (not complaining but) pointing out Mr. Suunto regularly gave me different amounts of ascent to descent over circular routes where I returned to the same point (car etc.) You'd think there would be a wee line of programme in the software that says if you finish at the start, then round off the one to match the other as I can't imagine a circumstance that would allow for different figures. Unless of course you enter the wormhole on South Black Hill that travels directly to Black Hill; why else did you think they were named as such? Today was closer than most: 3330' up and 3325' down. Really only the difference of a strong coffee or 2.

I had said to Mary one of the few things I missed going from Garmin to Suunto was the "lap" details. A mile-by-mile breakdown of pacing. Mary (who enjoys such challenges) helped me sort this out which is done on the Movescount website rather than on the watch. She/we also set the auto-pause function as I am not smart enough to pause the watch while taking a photo. OK I can do that, but inevitably will forget on the third occasion to re-start it. It's good to know your limitations.

an unsuccessful Skyline competitor from last year

After doing some high tops on the South Ridge (Turnhouse, Carnethy and Scald Law) we descended, ran past the Howe and along to Black Hill. Since we had been round the back just the other day and hadn't been over the top in a while we opted for the summit. Back into the cloud. At the very top there was a fishing rod set up. Which was strange as it's quite a cast to get into the nearest body of water. It was supported by 2 trekking poles and I guessed correctly that its owner was nearby. I put my finger to my lips at Mary to stop the stream of invective flowing freely at the sight of such a bizarre contraption. She hadn't seen the fisherman tucked under a lip of peaty heather out the wind and humidity. It wasn't raining but you wouldn't have been able to dry washing either. He was pleased to have curious company and told me (as I guessed) that he was fishing for radio signals. (Ham not trout.) His enthusiasm was impressive. He had been there sat on his insulated mat for 90 minutes. I was feeling the chill after 30 seconds and Mary pretty much saw he hadn't caught anything sizable and set off across the Black Hill plateau. No shortage of eau in that plateau. Soaking feet all round.

I tried to get the grey matter active and ask all the questions I would later think of. How distant was the reception area? Lisbon and Dresden. What was the standard language? Morse and in English. 

Mary was slightly more scathing: "Did you tell him about the internet? And Skype?"

He was very jolly and said he couldn't do hill running because of... (I anticipated a runner's injury here) amounts of subcutaneous fat. There are contradictions in coming to one of the most remote and desolate points near Edinburgh to contact folk. To be at once solitary and have a hobby that has to have as an absolute necessity, others of the same ilk. And, as Mary pointed out, to have recourse to an outmoded methodology and language to achieve what would be mundane and domestic in a domestic setting. It's like going to the moon in a 1930s sci-fi film. And equally romantic. He seemed to be enjoying his outing just as much as we were ours.

Coming down to Maiden's Cleugh from Bell's Hill
we briefly met this dude who was excellent and friendly.

Plenty of wet mud and stony ground to keep things focussed on this path back to the side of the reservoir. Mary was enjoying herself and trying to keep the pace going all the way to the car park. Bumped into Madeleine just before the car park. She was walking rather than running. Drove home for scrambled eggs. Man I could eat a scrambled horse.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Fife Coastal TB Run

Nick planned January's Tynecastle Bronze and we waited for the right weather window. Tuesday dull, Wednesday bright sun all day, in St Andrews and Edinburgh. Wednesday it would be. Nick picked me up at 8.30 and we drove to Lower Largo then caught the bus to St. Andrews; the idea being we would run the Fife Coastal Paths back to the car at Lower Largo. Great plan, only one small problem, the weather folk had got the forecast wrong again and the sunshine was limited to the Borders. It was a decent dry day (cold with a breeze) but just not the forecast promised. I took a screen shot of the forecast the day before. It should have been those icons for the sun breaking out from behind a cloud as this was the case for the entire day. Thursday's weather was closer to the mark. I think the salaries of the weather people should vary in line with their accuracy.


After parking at the car park of Sandy Slither fame we had 10 mins to kill before going to the bus stop so checked out Lower Largo for war memorials. Didn't find any (I think it is up by the main road). The bus ride passed quickly and just before 11 we were running through the university town where we came across this fairly standard war memorial near the cathedral ruins.

St Andrews

I didn't take many photos of the first part of the run. It wasn't very spectacular and the light was flat. Also there were several bits of difficult trail; uneven or stoney gound, stiles and twisty paths. And Nick was setting a brisk pace. I was carrying the larger camera on tripod since we had been promised sunshine and spectacle, and there wasn't much worth stopping for until we got to this unusual sandstone block, the Buddo Rock, the eroded remains of a sandstone shelf.

Nick is smirking here because he saw me get the camera out and hold back. He thought I was anticipating him taking a slip and fall and hoping to capture the moment. Au contraire, (the floor was dry, and Nick was wearing new Hokas) I was just taking a photo of a bridge - and one that could do with a scour and lick of paint. There was a nice bit just after (I failed to capture) as the stream went out to the sea, but I was surprised at the lack of more spectacle. A couple of runners had said they really liked that part of the FCP and I was anticipating more beauty. There were moments, but they were few and far between with long stretches of nothing-worth-a-photo. (Sorry Mike I know you are a big fan.) Maybe I was just a bit cranky because the sun wasn't shining and it was cold. I had anticipated the cold and wore 2 long sleeves and a t-shirt. Given the pace I probably should have worn less. I could feel my clothes get damp and swapped my winter gloves for thin ones which worked better. Nick went without gloves or headcover but pulled the sleeves of his top layer over his hands to keep them warm.

Another complaint! (You would think I hadn't enjoyed this run - I did.) There were several bits where you were obliged to clamber and stumble on rocky foreshore. Some had inland alternatives, some didn't. Most of the route was well marked. I checked out maps beforehand but it was 99% stick to the coastline so didn't even bother printing and carrying one. 

Jim H reported feeling unwell on a previous run here and taking a dump in a bunker. (There are several links next to the sea, not always welcoming runners. Wonder why?) I was pretty sure this (above) was the clunker-bunker as it was closest to the FCP (I am assuming Jim didn't cross several fairways to demonstrate his love of the game.) Just in case it hadn't been raked out we didn't inspect any closer.

Constantine's Cave. The local stone appears to be good for eroding in impressive ways often leaving nooks and undercuts. Most of them have some folk lore and a sign nearby with a dubious myth written out for the tourists. I took a photo of the one near this "cave" but it's quite long and I haven't yet worked up the courage to get through it. King Constantine (who?) was maybe killed here blah blah blah. (Several have a Christian flavour which, like a lot of Pot Noodles, isn't my favourite flavour.)

The errant sun spent most of the day doing what Nick described as Bible cover art.

The FCP passes through several charming and picturesque fishing villages. Crail is first up once you turn the corner. I was feeling the pace and suggested we do a quick shop stop so that I could get an energy drink. I was also getting through the fluids I was carrying more than I would usually on a cold day, sweating quite a bit. Both of us had nearly continually wet noses as the cold air condenses in a warm nose. The caffeine drink worked but unfortunately I gave Nick some and he felt a lift as well, picking the pace up again. 

more Bible frontispiece

more eroded sandstone
A climbing guide describes the stone as soft which I think doesn't make for good climbing.

Next charming village is Cellardyke. I shared a house with Wendy (and Isabel) back around the late 80s or 90s. (Think: (drunk) Man about the House.) Other than facebook we haven't been in touch much since then but I knew she runs the Haven, an attractive looking pub and restaurant in Cellardyke. I messaged Wendy but she wasn't going to be around when we passed by. Which was shame, but also maybe just as well as we were pushing it to make it back to LL in daylight. 

attractive if slightly twee sculpture

The above memorial is for merchant seamen and women who lost their lives in WW2 particularly on the SS Avondale Park the last ship sunk in the Atlantic by U-Boats directly before peace in Europe. This is in Anstruther which follows on from Cellardyke. Article here.

Nick spotted this gate up a narrow alley in Pittenweem and we had a closer look. St Fillans Cave, a much deeper recess, locked, so we couldn't investigate further. Video of interior here.


A couple of miles later and the windmill marks the approach to St Monans. All these places have very similar cottages and narrow streets either side of a small harbour. Nick's granny used to live in St Monans so he was familiar with the place.

Newark Castle

I was feeling tired but knew we'd soon be at Elie and onto the (reverse) Sandy Slither, and from there it was only 6 miles. The energy drink and bottle of water I'd poured into my reservoir seemed to be lasting forever, however so did the grassy paths occasionally peppered with stony boulders. Eventually we could see the aerial atop the hill beyond Elie that you run past in the Sandy Slither. Only a couple of miles beyond that.

The silhouette of Arthur's Seat below the Pentlands

The path turned right cutting across the peninsula, taking us into Elie.

Another more exotic wm.
This time Polish Paratroops, to Elie, as a token of friendship and gratitude 1940~1943

We missed the final beach of the Sandy Slither race, instead following the FCP going down the back road in Elie. Which took us out and through the dunes before climbing the hill to that aerial. From there we could see Lower Largo just across the bay beyond the caravan park. This was definitely a boost however I had forgotten the length of the beach. What a long drawn out slog that last couple of miles was. Halfway across and the sun finally dipped below the horizon at 3.48. Around 4pm we were back at the car, and not a moment too soon! I changed out of every last thing I was wearing into dry clothes, as it was all soaked through, and sipped the last of the everlasting reservoir. The heated seats in Nick's car were very welcome and we chatted all the way back to Edinburgh. That's number 30 done - 900+ miles of Tynecastle Bronze. Another good run and thanks to Nick for planning, driving and being great company.

my Suunto said 31.5miles
Nick's Garmin recorded something like a mile further
and we ran about a mile in L Largo before catching bus.