Friday, 24 April 2015

eclipsing the eclipse


I have been feeling blessed of late. Or call it fortunate. Being able to take time away from work while the weather has been pretty spectacular, and able to get out running and take photos. And plenty of rest between hard sessions. One such was Wednesday evening and the club session, moved to our Summer venue of the Commie Pool, and so the running is often in Holyrood. Willie opted to run round the oval below "Salisbury Hill" finishing each 3 minutes with a push up the steep incline. 8 times. A good tough workout. The 9.8 miles on the Garmin took the week's total from last Saturday up to around 92 miles. So, Thursday and Friday left to make a hundred mile week.


Holyrood Abbey

Iain posted his usual encouragements to attend Carnethy Thursday evening intervals. Normally I wouldn't take the camera to a session where we don't even chat much due to the severity of the workouts, but since it was such a nice day I did. I forgot to wear the Garmin but reckon by the time I got home I had just about covered that 8miles. 


are you winking at me?


Thursday evenings start here, 7pm all welcome.


And what was the session? One minute on the flat round that oval then one minute pushing up Salisbury Hill. Hells bells. Oh and 8 laps. Oh well, no point in complaining. It is rare the 2 nights cover such similar ground. And it's all good training.




Arthur's Seat ...gone.

Towards the end of the session we noticed that there was a mist rolling over the crags, which grew in density. As we did the last lap it was becoming something of a pea souper and beginning to block out the sun. I said my goodbyes to the nearest runner and said I was heading up the hill to get a better view.



That hump of cloud is the Crags, seen from a bit more than halfway up, above the gutted Haddie.


The crags completely shrouded.



From the coll between Crow Hill and the Summit



the beginnings of a Brocken spectre


Although this looks like the backdrop for one of those worthy, spiritual or inspirational quotes that litter the internet the dude in question was smoking a cigarette and texting.


The haar was rolling in from the sea



The majority of folk up the hill were overseas visitors sitting around like this happened every night, although there was the occasional local like myself running around totally gobsmacked saying stuff like wow I hadn't expected this!


Crow Hill from the summit.




The fog eventually rose to the point where it swamped even the trig point. It was also very chilly - I was only dressed in a vest and shorts and while I was anxious not to miss any further developments it was clear as the mist rose that that was the end of the show.





But what a show - this was the visual spectacle that the eclipse wasn't. An amazing finish to a hundred mile week. I jogged home slightly skewed by the mist. Really familiar paths on the hill became less readily recognisable in the swirling clouds and all the cars had their headlights on by the time I crossed the Queen's Drive. Oh and thanks Iain for the session. Always tough, always worthwhile. Very glad I took the camera along.





Thursday, 23 April 2015

herring road off the bone


longer, harder, hotter
The optimum running forecast pictured below happened to coincide with a week when I have finished one job and not yet rushed in with undue haste to start the next. Ooh that's handy I could go for a 40 mile run.


There was half a chance I might have some company, but on the day I ran solo again. Probably a good thing as I was able to pace myself as I felt. I started very slowly (<4mph!) but got faster all day to the point where I was sprinting the last bit like a parkrun, but more of that later. Conditions were outstanding. My favourite running weather: sunglasses and (light) gloves. And the gloves didn't stay on long. I caught the first possible bus from the station to Lauder getting me there for 10.20am. 


I spent 5 minutes having a bit of a saunter through the churchyard - the other white building on the right of the town hall. And very nice it was. I was looking for another war memorial to make this a valid Tynecastle Bronze run. Now since it is my second TBer of the week and probably can't be carried over to next month it was not absolutely manditory that I mark the run with a wm but it has become something of a habit. Anyway, having visited the official wm at the other end of Lauder I was looking for any grave dated between 1914~1918 or in fact anything war related. The "rules" don't state it has to be WW1 but I left the pleasant churchyard without any valid photos of war-related paraphernalia. I'd find something later. (Trouble was I'd already covered much of today's route with previous TB runs and used up those memorials - and there is no using the same wm twice.)


I suspect there'd be something wm-ish here, in Thirlestane Castle, but it was closed.

There are a few miles of delightful wooded paths on the climb up to the Lammermuirs.

This is my sister's place about 2 or 3 miles away across the valley. If I had had my thinking cap on (now that I have a x20 zoom) I'd have phoned over and got her to stand outside the back door and wave. 

The brassierre of the Eildons.

This was a highlight of the day. As I was walking across a slightly marshy bit in about the second mile a female Lapwing flew off this nest nearby and I found these. The fragile, beautiful eggs so full of promise, perfectly painted to match their surroundings were like finding an exquisite treasure - and really tasty - no just kidding. The rest of the run I back-tracked alighting birds, maybe a dozen times or more, but never found another egg.


down to that bridge, up to those woods.

lambs - and a lot just hours old I think, judging by how unquestioning they were - they would come running across to a "baaa" despite me not being remotely sheep-like.




I love the atmosphere in these allbeit artificial woods. Just a couple of steps in and the temperature, the birdcalls, the light, everything changes.


On the other side of the woods I saw this bird working the valley of a stream. It was SO impressive - somewhere between a buzzard and an eagle, and a superb flyer. Turns out it is a Red Kite. I took some dodgy film of it that was disappointingly distant. But then it took pity and swooped round for a second visit and I got these photos.






On the top of a small shooting hide there was this: I presume it is a bird pellet. "Virtually all birds that swallow indigestible items regurgitate pellets": the inedible bits of mice and small creatures regurgitated in a furball and looking like a miniature collection of mice and small birds. Also by way of happy accident is the mouse's head relief left by the reverse silhouette of my glove with the red barn in the distance the mouse's eye. If you see what I mean.

I'm sure I've seen most of these being sold in the health food shop as cereal bars



skylark - there were dozens of these and they were the soundtrack of the run.


fifty metre butterfly

Looking up the hill to Twinlaw Cairns.

Twinlaw Cairns



Start in Lauder and following the Southern Upland Way (or Herring Road) and your Garmin will bleep 10 miles exactly just as you reach Twinlaw Cairns. You can see them for a few miles before you reach them and there is usually something fun left in the second one. Someone had refurbished the large tupperware box recently and there was a new and fresh visitors book plus a jar and bottle. The jar had a singular sweetie so I left a nākd bar to keep it company. I was feeling moved to such generosity because I had just had a swig of Bells from the bottle beside. This had raised my already burgeoning spirits to a dangerous level. I sharpened one of the pencils (sharpener left - how thoughtful are these people!) and tried to limit my expansiveness about the day in my log in the book. Didn't think much of the biscuits though.


you can see the heat haze behind the welcoming committee


Up till the cairns the pace had been glacial. Every time a bird took off I rushed over and searched the ground for eggs. And there were so many things worth photographing because they all looked marvelous in the sunshine. (Lichen, tiny frogspawn, tiny tadpoles, lambs every mile, dead hares etc. I would start up and say to myself got to push on if I go at this pace I'll be 10hrs and not get home till after dark. It took 2.5 hrs to reach Twincairn Law. So I put in the fastest mile at mile 12. Mile 11 had been pace-polluted by forgetting to put the Garmin off at the cairns where I stopped to eat a sandwich for 10mins. It took a moment to work out why mile 11 (starting at the top of the hill and going down quickly) was paced at 20odd mins per mile, so feeling cheated I sped up to go sub seven for mile 12. Despite a stile and stopping for a couple of photos I made it, however it wasn't all plain sailing as the road dowhill stopped before the mile was up and I still had .2 to go (on the road ^ above) before I could ease up. I spent that uphill trying to work out how many yards was .2 of a mile. I made it 340 but it should have been 352. Fastest and warmest mile of the day = 6.56 pace.


This is where the SUW turns right and heads towards Watch Water Reservoir and Longformacus. I kept on the Herring Road which follows the wide windfarm track although when you descend on the far side towards a Southfork-looking farmstead (in photo ^) take the right fork and descend to the stream, head left along the road and look for the sign that is currently lying broken on the ground saying to cross the stile into the field and head thattaway. The path can be seen in the above photo rising left of the building heading towards the top left corner. It is a long pleasant climb with little to see other than the fields of heather and grass and the skylarks singing like the blazes. 



After another descent, chance to fill a waterbottle at a stream, and road-crossing you get onto the dirt trail that heads towards Whiteadder. That becomes tarmac at the farm building and there seemed to be a lot of roadkill all around there. This grouse had escaped the traffic but didn't seem in any hurry to be off. There is now a mile or 2 of tarmac although the only traffic that passed me was a dude on a road bike. 



The above point (Point A on map below) is "important decision time". Roughly 20 miles in. The snaking trail to the right is up the Herring Road to Dunbar and a further 10 miles. Alternatively carry on straight towards that farmhouse and into the hills above it for the Garvald / Stenton trail. That is going to take another 18 to get to N Berwick. All figures approximate. I opted for the latter but took a lap round Pressmennan because it is awfy pretty.


This dude from Musselburgh spent some time trying to catch me going up the hill. I assured him I'd slow down once he was past.

One of the reasons I went the Garvald Rd was to miss out Crystal Rig windfarm. I thumbed my nose at it from over the hill and they did likewise back.

What about this Green Tiger Beetle for a sharp dresser? And they have some of the fastest runners in their boggle-eyed clan. Freaky flying alien of the day prize. 

Another long hike up another featureless hill. However at the top there were the first vistas down towards the coast and NB Law in the distance. This made it feel much closer than it probably was - possibly about 8 miles and 2hrs+ running.



mafia of the farmyard

I saw a couple of things too quick to catch on camera near here. One was a hare the size of a fox and light brown like a fox. Another was a large deer crashing through the undergrowth trying to get to where I was running along the road. Well trying to get past that point before I got to that point. I got the feeling there was an abundance of wildlife round those parts.


So I get to 25.5miles, run in just under 6 hrs. And I have come to Pressmennan Woods. Do I take an extra 2+ miles to go round? Hell yes. I've only been there once or twice but it's right up there as one of the best places in the world - a mature wood full of birds singing and a long lake with an undulating trail running in and out the trees. Fantastic. Must sneak back soon with the wetsuit, (or mountainbike but only on a weekday) probably don't even need a wetsuit, the brown water looking very inviting.





launch pad

yet more lambs

Back on tarmac for 3 miles from Stenton to East Linton. Quite quickly everything is hurting and the miles are creaking by very slowly and painfully. I aim to make E Linton before 6pm just in case the co-op closes then. I am trying to decide what food and drink will go down best. If I don't make a clever list I will just take armfuls of the first cold food and drinks I can see. I am aching and try to put my head elsewhere. The roads in are depressingly long and straight and hot.

Now here is the proposed war memorial. 
(Also since I might not be counting today on my list of monthly TB runs I may have to use this memorial at some point again later.) Given that the wm doesn't have to be from the '14~'18 war I suggest that this is a memorial from the current war "on terrorism". Do we have a name for this conflict yet? One of the sobering things about going round looking at war memorials is how little progress we are making in terms of sitting round a table and sorting things out before somebody gets out a knife and says fuck it let's fight instead. Especially as historically they weren't doing the fighting and dying. So I suppose we are making some progress. Although Tony Blair is still alive. 


While you chew that over, here is me chewing a cheese scone, drinking a quart of orange juice, a pint of water and eating a pan-au-chocolate and the thing I enjoyed most was a co-op (loved by us) Chocolate Brownie. Man alive that hit the spot. (I made it to E Linton around 5.55 btw didn't check their opening hours.) I kept the wrapper because I wanted to pass this on: if the shops are open go and get one NOW they are the business. 285kcals for 60g so you better be running at least marathon distance. I was going to link to a picture of the bar but the Co-op don't have their products online. I suppose they are 20 years behind the cutting edge. I also started my meal with 2 x paracetamols. 

Bit of a hike out of E Linton but all that food and drink was working well and I felt much better very quickly. Slightly unsettled in my tummy as I had left it too long without eating properly and everything slooshed about for a bit. I think the painkillers also helped and the miles began to travel at normal speed again. 

And I was smiling!


Then a strange, nearly mystical thing happened. About 3 miles out from NB Station I noticed the time was fast approaching 7pm. I cursed out loud. I would just miss the 7.23 and have to wait an hour for the 8.23. The adrenalin of anger gave me a boost and I ran along the side of the field increasing my pace like it wasn't the 38th mile of the day. My legs unlocked like Forrest Gump's as his calipers dropped off and I charged up the incline of the field and out the gate. I was now cruising along the tarmac thinking if I can get to the car park below the Law for 7.15 then just maybe... and I looked at the Garmin which said I was running at 6.15 pace. Not possible! I covered the ground to the corner superfast and headed onto the last field-side track - and still the legs held it together. Past my favourite sign. I was running alongside the butterfly wall and they were all jumping off the wall and swirling about my head like a living kaleidoscope of colour, one touching my leg and I was in the moment and the sun was shining, two girls walking dogs stepping off the path as a crazy, soaking runner flies past with a swirl of butterflies in his wake; and there is the Law, there the carpark and it's 7.12 and less than a mile to go, it is surely in the bag but let's not count our chickens, and I roll down the hill and into the station for 7.19 and train isn't even in yet. Oh and it leaves at 7.26 not 7.23. Even time to buy a ticket!



So the last 2 full miles were just over 7m/m Which includes a couple of stiles. Technically the last mile of the day was down the road from Waverley. I had been doing quite a bit of stretching and flexing on the train so it wasn't too bad. (I tried to be discreet and get a carriage on my own, esp as I had to change into dry compression tights and fleece top, all of which makes that last mile home runnable, but inevitably there was some company and they probably thought I was escaped from some institution. Such is life. I have found from experience it's better to look a bit of an arse and run off the train than keep your cool and have to be carried off with solid legs.)

Anyway, fab day out, highly recommended and total distance 40 miles nearly exactly plus one up to the bus station and one home from Waverley = 42 (the answer to life and everything etc.). I think the Pressmennan diversion added 3 or 4 (you could take a straighter line to NB from the Garvald Trail so you could probably hone it down to around 36 if you did your nav properly.