Sunday, 13 October 2013

30 miler with Coastkid

The forecast for the weekend looked unpromising. Even worse for Sunday; and the thought of a dreich and windy Skyline was deeply unappealing. Plans were forming about catching a train to N Berwick and a run home from there with the wind to our backs. Then Bruce aka Coastkid posted a comment on my last blog about a proposed cycle vs running journey we had contemplated.

Mary ran the first hundred yards with us - before heading back towards Edinburgh.
Her blog here

Mary is keen to run at her own pace these days so we got the same train but went for different runs. I had suggested 15~30miles to Bruce as I hope to do Glenogle ultra next month and had forgotten to do much in the way of long training runs for it. The sun was breaking through the clouds on the train ride and we felt we were in for a better day, at least to start out, than forecast.

Sandy on the beach. He asked had we come from Edinburgh.
(It wasn't even 10am and I was thinking unlikely!)

The tide being in meant there were a few scrambles above the beaches.

Bruce has a stable of bikes with fat tyres - originally developed for snow cycling by Minnesota based company Surly, they are brilliant for beach and trail cycling, the low pressure fat tyres floating over the soft sand and rocks of the coast. His enthusiasm for coastal cycling and blogging has made him the epicentre of local and national fat biking.

As we travelled together it quickly became clear the benefits and drawbacks of cycling vs running. It is easier to run with a small camera in your hand than while cycling. Bruce stashes his camera in a handy bag on his cross bar, and it doesn't stop him getting it out and taking well timed shots like the above. (I have nicked some of his photos off his blog: If I'm featured, he took the photo.) Crossing bouldery beaches is easier on foot than on bike, although Bruce didn't have his most off-roady Moonlander which can cover some very unlikely territory for a non-suspension bike. Climbing steep grassy slopes - also no surprises who found that easier. But as soon as we hit long sandy beaches, roads, and smooth trails the bike left me standing. Technical trails were interesting and we were about equally matched when they became so technical the bike speed was limited. 

The sea was still choppy from the strong winds of last Wednesday

The plan was roughly to head towards Dunbar. Low tide was around 1pm so we had to climb a couple of grassy hills off the beaches as the sea comes up to the cliffs at Tantallon. We did a mile or so on the road then dropped back down to the coast at Seacliff and had a look round the tiny harbour there. I was grateful to be back to off-roady terrain as the bike was far more efficient than running on the roads. Bruce would be sitting chatting breezily while I was working at near race pace. 

2 feet easier over this ground than 2 wheels

From Seacliff the coast just gets better and better. The vistas expand round every corner. And it was an unexpected joy to get such good weather - we had been anticipating grey skies and cold breezes. And there was no shortage of banter. Billy the Shoe, after we ran some of the Highland Fling together said of me "and boy, can this guy talk." I took that as a compliment, and one I'd apply to Coastkid. He had the advantage however, of being sat down, and of being on one of the most efficient machines on the planet. I spent a lot more of our five hours together breathing a little too quickly for replies much longer than uhuh, yes, I see, etc. 

We went past St Baldred's Cradle and towards the estuary around Tyninghame picking up the "secret trail". Amanda and I had come across this last time there, but I hadn't followed the trails over the salt marsh and round to Mosshouse Point which has a rise that gives a good view over the surrounding low ground and estuary.

Nice to get a different view of Tyninghame House - normally only seen from Limetree Walk.

From here we went a long way to travel to the other side of the estuary, following the path through the estate woods and onto Binning Woods picking up the John Muir Way near East Linton and following it down to Hedderwick and on towards Belhaven Bay.

crossing the ford 

squadron of geese at Hedderwick

cold day for toasting marshmallows

By now I was pretty tired. We regrouped at the new toilet block near Belhaven Bay, refilled water bottles and I suggested we head back to N Berwick knowing it was still a good few miles running. The pace had dropped from 9mph to 6mph and slower yet on difficult ground. I had started out quite ambitiously - wanting to prove running wasn't a poor second to biking, but there's no way you can match a bike for endurance over a longer distance. The best of the weather was now behind us and I was cold and damp. 

apparently to be able to bunny hop with flatties you have to have had a mis-spent youth on bmx

When we got to East Linton I had to call into the co-op for a pastry and energy drink as I was getting a bit low blood sugar. 

Then up the hill and back to the JM Way and you can see journey's end.

There is an abundance of berries this year.

Next time I'm taking the flower bike.

What a great day out! I think (I had a Garmin malfunction) we did over 30 miles: most of them off road and beach. Bruce has an encyclopedic knowledge of local history and goings-on. It was an education to have him point out hidden trails and bothies as well as WWII stuff about the derelict buildings from the war and coastal defences. It brings to life a landscape rich in history as well as natural beauty. Next time though I might ask to borrow one of his bikes. 

5 hrs later and still chipper - well, one of us was!

Here is the best I could cobble together from the Garmin. The solid red from NB to the estuary is 7.87miles. I must have knocked the stop button on a tree at the secret trail so have estimated our path with a dotted line until I reset the Garmin the other side of Binning Woods and recorded 19.14 miles to Belhaven Bay and back to North Berwick making 27miles plus the dotted line. Dotted line estimated at 4 miles. I also ran a mile to Waverley and shuffled a mile home from there. Possibly 33miles total.

Bruce's blog of same here


  1. Great post Peter!, the coast is more of a leveller for bikes and runners than the Pentlands as i found running with my sisters long term partner Ian Campbell of HBT which most of your readers probably know.

    You guys are still whippets across the rocks an up climbs from the coast!
    We should do Longniddry to North Berwick and film with helmet cams on the bikes, it is not arace, but a comparision of fellow coasters view on the coast -:)

  2. Sounds good - we should get Climbing Mandy and Scott along too.