Some hill training was required (up coming Caac 5 and 7 Hills to mention but 2) so we took ourselves off to the Pentlands on what was fast becoming the most glorious day of the year so far. We left after midday, accidentally hitting the Best Part of the Day. It was just a perfect run – the ground underfoot dry with only an occasional patch of damp, minimal wind up the summits and wall to wall sunshine and blue skies.
Mary led some yoga moves in the car park at Balerno to offset the stiff limbs from yesterday's run. Limbered up and flexible, I put in a request to run the half mile of raised boardwalk round Red Moss: it was amazing. Normally one of the most attractive kilometres in the world, the bog cotton and burgeoning undergrowth made it even better. And the dubiously bendy planks of the second half have been replaced by new timber on what seems to be newly sunk posts. The fab new walkway is topped with chicken-wire for cornering at 28mph in Inov8s. At least I assume that's what they were thinking of when they made the snaking pathway across the titular red mosses. It is such a blast, although I was caught between the desire to stop for close up photos and to zoom round at top speed. I did a bit of both and was up to high doh (cousin of play doh) before we had even got into the hills.
Slight confession: I had a swig or 2 from the bottle of Tesco's generic energy drink (red-ish bull-ish) in the fridge before leaving. I usually save the caffeinated battery charger for race day but a clandestine swally before a sunny outing lifts spirits to max (and slightly beyond) and puts something of a spring in my step. Mary does not approve as she feels I am already mental enough at the weekends. By the end of the boardwalk I was wanting to run into the middle of the mossy swamp and roll around in the bog cotton.
“Do you think I was a dog in a previous life?”
“What do you mean previous?”
Mary was not looking forwards to the long climb up Beech Avenue but found the path near the trees suitably distracting and we were into the hills without too much slog and flog. The sun baked down and I seemed to turn its heat directly into uphill energy, romping up the first few undulations. I would return and jog with Mary or set the camera on the tripod and film us going by. There were many more hikers and hill walkers than usual, the excellent weather bringing them out.
We regrouped at the first steep up to West Kip. I ran ahead and set up the camera to shoot some film at the top. I resisted asking Mary how things were. Sometimes if her heart is limiting her running I get the black scowl like I suggested couldn't she just pick the pace up and get on with it. So I tried to can the caffeine flavoured jibber-jabber and just ran about taking photos and shooting video which may or may not be made into a wee film if I can find the time. There are a few projects in the wings currently, some badly overdue.
Everything seems to be around 3 or 4 weeks late at the moment. A poor wintry Spring was somewhat late in arriving and the new red shoots in the grass and heather are just beginning to show themselves making a beautiful reddy orange carpet in the hills. A bit of a dearth of wildlife though. There's not often much on the Pentlands, a mountain hare, a few birds, an occasional finger sized hairy caterpillar, or a lizard if you are exceptionally lucky and sharp eyed. But today everything was indoors.
We did the high tops from W Kip to Carnethy (missing S Black Hill) then back over Scald Law before descending to the base of East Kip then turning right (North) along the path that takes you to the gate and a right turn down towards the Howe. When Mary chose to go back over Scald Law rather than descend at that point I knew things were going well. Up-hills used to be her forte. Since her heart procedure they have been really challenging for her and the effort of soldiering on has at times been very frustrating. However I kept my mouth shut and was getting positive vibes rather than the poisonous scowl, and when we climbed again over the big hill I knew Mary was having a good day. I think her feelings were cautiously optimistic.
Descending from East kip to the Howe there were some sections of new grass on smooth down hills that encouraged a turn of speed. I would run ahead then take photos of M zipping past. It doesn't really get any better than this. Before arriving at the Howe we turned left and along the pass (the Coffin Road ? ™ Graham Henry) back to Balerno. We stopped at the stile and saw a runner on the thin path above. I recognised the running style of Kate J long before I could see if it was herself. Indeed it was and she joined us for the last mile or so back to Balerno. Lots of chat about the immense Tri-Ironperson thing the day previous. (She had been supporting Craig and Stewart.) You had to swim the Forth, cycle to Fort William and eat Ben Nevis. She was parked at Threipmuir and went in for a quick splash before driving off. We did another circuit of the Red Moss walkway just to round off the perfect run bringing it up to 10.5 hilly miles.