Having braved the elements for Friday night's hills sprints I was surprised when Mary woke up full of beans and with the concern that maybe she needed to up the distance / time-on-feet for the Fling in 5 weeks.
I had a quick breakfast, grabbed the bigger camera, and we dashed out the door, up to the station to catch the 1.43pm train getting into NB and started running for 2.20pm. The weather was Baltic; snow flurries and a stiff Siberian breeze. The East~West wind direction had suggested running back from North Berwick rather than to NB, and on the couple of occasions we ran into the wind it was extremely discouraging.
I had changed a couple of settings on the G3 and was pleased to see taking it off manual focus led to a fewer number of badly focussed photos. There just isn't the time while running to stop and fiddle with fine tuning – especially while wearing 2 pairs of gloves. Which is not to say I kept an even pace. I would see a big wave crashing on the rocks and set the camera up to capture it. By the time I had missed several exploding tsunamis Mary had disappeared over the horizon – underlining the benefit of a steady (slower) pace, during a long run, over a sprint then stop, sprint and walk. Although we ran the same distance – 27 miles – I clocked half an hour less on the Garmin, which stopped timing (auto-pause) every time I paused for photos.
The first 10 miles were the most taxing terrain but most enjoyable, on the beaches and sandy trails from North Berwick to Aberlady. The sea was storm tossed and a sullen grey green with white breakers mashing onto the beaches. There was so much to occupy us the miles flew by and every corner revealed new spectacle. Just after Fidra we passed Ian and Jane out dog-walking.
Then 3 runners up ahead turned out to be Bernie and a couple of chums (Standard Lifers?) They were travelling quicker than ourselves but they took the rocky beach, we took the newer bulldozed path next to the green fence, and caught them just before the newly exposed WWII brick lookout. We ran with them for a bit but let them go, watching them gain ground into Gullane. They had parked at Aberlady, run the road to Dirleton into the wind, before the more pleasant trails back to Aberlady. Bernie assumed we had timed our run to coincide with the low tide. Hilarious to think we were that organised. With the new paths above the beach near Marine Villa the height of the tide is much less of a deal maker.
For variety and extra mileage we ducked into the woods before Gullane where the tree troll builders had been busy remodelling the vandalised stumps. The wind break of the trees was appreciated. The low tide let us run along the beach at Gullane Point although there was a bit of rockhopping. I had asked if we might hug the shore as I could see waves just beyond the point crashing dramatically on the rocks there. I ran across and spent so long there failing to capture the biggest waves that I got a bit cold, and Mary had long since gone. After a bit I saw her waving silhouette on the horizon.
Aberlady beach was as open and empty as I've ever seen it, the mini subs along the far end, high and dry. We didn't get that far, taking the inland trail along to the wooden bridge and car park. Just before this section Mary had warned that it would probably be into the wind. It was, and the accompanying hail / snow was deeply unpleasant. It left us well ready for the anticipated delights of the Londis shop. Coffee machine still broken but on the upside 1.5 Pain Au Chocolats each. I also had a Double Decker to ward off the cold. Mary had anticipated the broken coffee machine and carried a small light flask of coffee which we shared.
This, and the deer flying through the magic forest (as I chased them in a more lumbering fashion) raised spirits and we set off on the remaining 16 miles in good heart. Essential on a day when it would have been easy to have a cold, tiresome run in ugly, grey weather. Slowly we ticked off the landmarks – Seton Sands and the return to tarmac. The caffeine had inspired a visit to the public toilet here and I ran ahead. The increased jostling increased the urgency and it was with alarm that I hauled on the locked door. However reducing the shoogle also reduced my internal dilemma and I felt I would be ok till the aptly named Pans. Here, the same story, locked toilets. Mary advised if I stood on the shore looking out to sea nobody would see I was having a dump on the beach. (Or rather I wouldn't see anyone.) Our brains were a bit addled and as weariness and exposure reduced inhibitions I felt I might take a main street shit on the doorstep of the next locked toilet.
Mary insisted on a walk break at 19 miles. It was not a lovely evening for a walk but five minutes passed quickly while we chatted about rubbish knocking around our empty heads. I was pleased with the regularity of long run training for the Fling which means feet and toes are used to the trauma of 5 hours of pounding and don't blister. Minimising aches is the cornerstone of ultra running. I was also testing distance running without tape, the tape that has greatly helped me slowly recover from the dreaded PF foot. No tape and no PF ache. 14 months of taping maybe coming to an end.
At the Pans we ducked onto the shore (beach is too pretty a word for the coast there,) and a couple of lads gave us a cheery smile and some good natured cheek. I think the Siberian weather had kept all the neds indoors. Slowly the Pans coast becomes the lagoons of Musselburgh which we chose in preference to the shorter tarmac direttissimo home. As dusk fell the orange lights of Edinburgh called us home. Musselburgh became Joppa and Mary had another walk break around 23miles. This gave me time to set up a long exposure shot from just before the Prom. The camera “senses” when it is immobilised by a tripod or fence post and will take a several second exposure (6 seconds here) if the (lack of) light requires it. I have no idea about the processes involved in making a decision like this, but I was very pleased with the result, showing the red glow in the sky above the prom.
I caught up with Mary and took some photos of her in the orangey red light on the prom. I was using the flash but the camera decided on some longer exposure shots and there is an amount of drift that is quite fun. Messing around like this passed the grim last few miles, though with home and wine just around the corner it all went by without too much horror.
It was a major journey in very trying conditions. (On the back of a tough session the night before.) It is this sort of training that makes a long arduous race easier to cope with. We left the house before 1.30pm and returned around 8pm. All for less than £10 a piece. Bargain!
Video to follow.