Sunday, 29 June 2014

sat. in the hills


No racing this weekend. A pleasant change and an opportunity to go for a relaxed run in the Lammermuirs. Lucy had been unable to come along last trip with Steve but the idea had taken hold and she went on a solo run a couple of days later. Mary and I have worked out routes there by trial and error; there seems to be very limited info on circuits there, but no shortage of running and it's well worth an exploration. A couple of days after Steve and I, Lucy set out, aiming for a similar route and, recognising landmarks from a Carnethy handicap many moons ago, ended up heading off piste and doing a long loop ending with a few weary miles of tarmac to get back to her car. 

This new sign suggests the landowner is developing his resources.

So we parked up at Blinkbonny Woods and set off away from the hills to loop round Hopes Reservoir before tackling the more gentle gradient into the hills from there. The weather wasn't quite up to the forecast and it was a bit drizzly to start with. I had the good camera and it mostly stayed in a poly bag for the first few miles. 

After something of a hiatus from racing and running Lucy is in recreational mode - running for fun and to be outdoors, rather than rocking the ultra world and setting course records. We began today with different options in mind and when we got to the turn off for the turbines reckoned there and back would be fine. 

This little chap, on the hill up from the cabin, was boldly defending his territory and let us know who was in charge.

I'm sure there are 2 more turbines every time we visit.

Back down towards the cabin and here he is again.
Does anyone know who owns the cabin? It seems to be called Timmy and would be a great venue for a BBQ / party.

My apologies for posting a photo of a stoat in a trap. The traps are all over the hills as part of the grouse farming. The upside is the traps are remarkably unsuccessful - in all the trips there, this is only the second one I have seen occupied, out of the hundreds set. (Last time was with Mary back in August 2012 on the Yak Hunter Blog  here.) There are 2 varieties - the log over the ditch (as above) and the stone slabs impersonating a burrow entrance. I have a theory based on my experiences of setting humane rodent traps that these only work once and afterwards the messages left by the expiring animal warns subsequent visitors, but this is just conjecture. 
It was too upsetting for Lucy who legged it up the hill while I was taking photos...

There were glimpses of sunshine between the clouds but the overcast weather was winning today with low clouds just above the summit of Lammerlaw. Slightly clearer views to the Forth than when I was here with Steve but still a bit misty. I was carrying some food for a small picnic but the weather wasn't really nice enough to hang about, so we ran back to the car before checking out the tearoom in Tyninghame - top spot for walkers and cyclists.

Just above Hopes Reservoir is the path we came along earlier.

Some sunshine to finish off a lovely run.

Some of us prefer trails and hills, while others, roads. 

Map from snake hunt with Steve - we followed the same (clockwise) route today taking the left path up to Lammerlaw summit rather than the usual dotted line back to the start.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Sandy Slither


Where did June go?
Another PRC champs race. David and I caught the train to Glenrothes where Andrew picked us up and drove us to Lower Largo. The great thing about the train was I got a Metro, which they supply so you can stuff your shoes after they get soaked through, in the race.

I must have been feeling tired and nodded off on the train. (Could be the 4 mile sprint on Tuesday and a good pyramid session with Bert on Wednesday.) It was very warm with the sun streaming in the windows, and packed with commuters and I dozed despite the caffeine booster taken earlier. We arrived without much time to spare. The relaxed team doing the registration were looking with concern at the amount of luggage piling up in the kit-transport-car. Being a point to point race (Lower Largo to Elie, 6 miles away) there are a couple of considerations. Folk had various options from leaving their cars at Elie and running / driving another back to the start, to hiring a taxi. We opted for this. Just time to pin on a number, visit the facilities and run a couple of strides to warm up. 

Alistair wearing a prophetic number 2

I didn't even get much of a chance to see who was all on the starting line. I was chatting to Brian C when the organiser gave us a brief warning about the descent off the cliff path, then with very little chat the timer said go and we were away. David went off with his customary zeal and I felt compelled to chase him and take a photo or 2. Perhaps the caffeine drink had got into the system after all. It's usually worth making a bit of an effort at the start as there can be a bottleneck leaving the tarmac for the beach at a smallish gap in the railings. However the marshal there stood in front of the gap and encouraged us all to take the steep and tricky steps down to the sand. I overtook David and hit the sand in first, which wasn't really the game plan. I eased off a little bit and Alistair B took the lead with Keith H (both Corstorphine) coming alongside sharpish and moving through.

This pic (above|) from this year's race - compare it to the photo below taken at last year's race. I didn't look at this before and think to try and take a double, I think it's probably a case of being in similar circumstances and responding in a similar manner. Interesting the angle is nearly identical, perhaps more of a sheen of sweat last year, the sun having gone behind the clouds for most of the race this year.

last year's Sandy Slither or as Nicola called it "the Sandy Slipper"

Although I seemed to have a good distance over the next runner back we weren't even halfway and I hoped I could hold onto a podium place. The race course heads for the notch in the trees and goes through a small stream just before. I completely failed to get a photo of the stream - the 2 ahead were out before I got close enough and I was focussed on getting my footing right on the short sharp drop into the water, to remember to take a shot, and then three wet steps later, out the other side and up into the caravan park. I have a feeling the dude behind (anonymous white shirt) was closing in here as I stop taking photos and possibly up the pace with a fear-of-being-caught for a while.

Just before this bit I saw a squid on the sand - a perfect brick red little chap with his eyes looking at me (really, did I imagine that?) and I was within a whisker of stopping dead and taking a photo. I still regret that I didn't!

Out the other side of the caravan park and onto coastal single track. I must have relaxed again because I notice the scenery to the right is, well, scenic. (Below.) I took a couple of pics then overtake a couple of other runners, not in the race, before heading up the hill.

I notice that last year's blog says I initially ran this 2 steps at a time then walked 2 at a time. This year I run all the way to the top. I won't be quicker this year however, as last year we had a helping hand from a stiff tailwind. This time the wind is either in our faces or slightly across the route but couldn't be mistaken for helpful.

There follows some lovely twisty descending and then much less pleasant stepped / paved descent.

These stones were tough going and I was glad of the Hokas which trundled over them like the fat tyre of a mountainbike. The sometimes optional side path seemed to be hidden by vegetation and the steps caught a few folk out: first lady Sophie skinned and bled both knees taking a tumble. Our own Steph badly twisted an ankle somewhere along the way. And David dropped a couple of places slowing down on this section.

Then down the hill and out onto the second beach. The race used to go through the grassy trails here but someone thought the beach would be better. I have no preference and it seems to be about the same speed. A marshal guided us back off the beach and another pointed us along the path next to the wall. I got my camera out to record the corner where Nicola went off route last year, dropping from first to 3rd, and there was a marshal right in the spot keeping us correct (above). They obviously took that on board. Along to the next marshal who guided us back onto the sand and the long bay of the final beach. Again I had a feeling the dude in the white shirt may be gunning for me so I kept the camera off and legged it, hoping my endurance would be sufficient. There was no way I'd be catching the first 2 but I had fears of being caught on a stretch where the wind was making it tough. 

Across the line in third and in fact there was nobody immediately behind.

And when they did appear it was Jake, who had run with us for the last bit of the 7 Hills recce the other week. It is great to see Jake running so well (although I am pleased to have kept ahead, just!)

Brian battling to keep ahead of...

Johnny, a regular here

Sophie, who graduated with a phd earlier same day finished a cracking run first lady.

Fiona won a prize

Steph - ankle ouch

Jake's mum Judith won a prize

I won a marvelous home made cake and bottle for 3rd. Last year it was either, or. This year both. Yum!

I think Fiona is asking do we drink it now or in the car.

Dobson family - Judith has inspired Jake's brother Ben and dad to start running as well.

Stavert takes in the ambience.

This is a fabulous event. It is small enough to have a friendly and local feel but taxing enough to fill 40+ minutes of your life with enough good running and delightful trails to be worth the journey through and back. (It was even worth missing Thursday evening hill intervals with team Carnethy. Since they started last Winter I have had a perfect 100% attendance - more than any of the Carnethies. I was reluctant to give this up but the Slither is one of the few things worth missing Wintervals for.) The organising team had more marshals out on the course to ensure nobody went the wrong way and the cake prizes were a delight. For someone like myself who prefers off-road stuff this comes close to perfection. Highly recommended.