Sunday, 21 July 2013

Henry 14 miler (18.8 miles)

Mary had been suggesting I run with more suitable persons than herself. In search of an adventure I noised up Mel and Graham, and got an invite to go along to their Sunday run; kick-off 9am-ish. A little earlier than I would choose but Mel's folks turning up later meant this was necessary, plus she is not keen on the warmer weather forecast for the pm.

Mary kindly brought me a cup of tea at 7.30am. Anybody sensible would have gone to bed 8 hrs before rising, which I had indeed planned, but remembered as I sleepily passed my shoes, that I needed to sort the lacing system. I had some cord from a long time ago about the same weight as the broken lace. It took maybe 40 minutes to thread this through the fasteners and eyelets. (I did both shoes as the second one was about to go.) Then a giant moth Mary had noticed about, made its presence felt. (The downside of open windows.) I had been hoping to meet it, but it kept me from my beauty sleep for another 10 minutes while I chased it around the sitting room with my sandwich box. Eventually I wrestled it into the tenement stair – it was just about big enough to ring the bell to ask to come back in.

I find it harder to get to sleep in the warmer weather but once there I can stay out almost indefinitely. This isn't always regarded as a talent. The other night (in dreamland) I was wandering through a chip shop looking for the toilet. I was directed through the door behind the counter where I found myself in the vast auditorium of a theatre (empty) and wandered corridors for quite some time looking for the facilities. I'm not sure it would have been a fabulous outcome if I had found the toilet. Probably just as well I woke up.

I should maybe have cycled out the Western Approach Road to Slateford, but it always seems the sort of road where you would die under the wheels of a speeding juggernaut. Instead I took the magical mystery tour of the West End, the Bermuda Triangle of tram works and misdirection that is quickly emptying Shandwick Place of shop-leased businesses. The council appears to be racing to make York Place equally desolate and I can only imagine it is the masterwork of a Glaswegian entrepreneur who has managed to bankrupt Edinburgh and ruin the city centre in 10 short tram fuelled years. So what should have cost under £400m and produced a city wide network will now cost over £1 billion and run (if it ever runs) the length of Princes Street helping cyclist dismount over their handlebars. The council totally ignored the warnings in their own Macdonald report of 2003 which then clearly stated that 139,500 households (some 280,000 people at least) would suffer worse pollution if the tram project was to be completed – why pay for a consultant's report and then ignore it? You do hope the right people were properly punished and unemployed for this mighty cock-up and it's not just us left to foot the bill and suffer the consequences. To say nothing of the business people on every street blighted by this fools errand of a vanity project.

These cheerful thoughts swill around my head every time I have to cycle to Dalry Road. I was just about over it by the time I locked my bike at Mel's and we set off not long after 9 for Graham's “14 miler.” (It could be nearer 16 winks G.) Now I think I was partially to blame as Mr Henry knows I am keen on an off-roader, the more miles the merrier. And if you can extend that into the Pentlands so much the better. Mel, not so keen on both those. Also she rode 50+ fast hilly miles with the peloton yesterday and her achilles are reminding her of this. I promised not to run off with Graham and leave her behind since she invited me along. And so the order for the day is set: Graham leading out, Mel close behind with me bringing up the rear.

After 4 brisk miles I am having to reassess the run. Graham is pushing the pace and I am drenched in sweat. I sort of hoped this would be at a chatting pace but I don't even have breath to suck from the camelbak tube on my water supply. I wasn't sure whether to carry fluids or try to go without. At this pace I am very glad I opted “for” and am now regretting I didn't fill the reservoir to capacity. Mel also seems to be finding the pace tough but is less surprised. Graham ran an ultra last weekend and most folk would take time to return to form, but Graham seems to have used it as a boost to his strength rather than to diminish it. He allows us to stop for sips of water now and again.

The route he is taking us seems to be out the canal / Water of Leith, Bonaly way, Juniper Green, Curry, round Heriot Watt then over to the Pentlands. Every time I begin to recognise a section of road or trail we take an unmarked footpath or small lane down the side of some garages, across a playing field and several times over gates or fences. Graham is reluctant to be specific about the intended route and a certain amount seems to be a spontaneous reaction to the opportunities as they present themselves. I put this to him and he replies that “that cannae come as a huge shock?” I have been on his runs before and they are always lively.

Mel, when up against it, goes quiet but carries on. Around 10.5 miles we are heading up Harlaw Road and it is now apparent that we will be running far more than 14 miles even if we take the fastest, straightest line home. Which we do not. Instead we find ourselves on the long climb up to Maidens Cleugh. I thought we would turn left for Torduff Reservoir but we only turn left at the top of the hill, rising higher to contour around Harbour Hill. The glucose sweets I gave Mel seem to have worked and they both threaten to leave me behind when I pause briefly to take a couple of photos. I have to work hard to catch up. Mel is stronger on the ups than downs and when we eventually make our way down off the hill on a similar track to the Boxing Day run I hang back with Mel remembering my promise.

We find a slightly different route back to Colinton Dell and get back onto the Water of Leith path, then the canal. I don't remember how. But I do remember the pace lifting in the last mile of canal and wondering if I could keep up. Some folk out enjoying the weather nearly got a free swim as the three of us belted along the narrow path.

The final count on the Garmins was 18.8+ and everyone agreed it was far easier to go out for a 14 miler than the thought of a 19 miler. And we all managed didn't we? Big thanks to Mel and Graham for the goose chase and allowing me along. It was fun.

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