I was watching the weather nervously for an opportunity to do this month's Tynecastle Bronze. I have been up to here with the WoL race organisation and today, Wednesday, was about the only day I could squeeze in a 30miler. Or yesterday, at a push. The decks were just about cleared around midnight last night and all I needed to do was print out a map and find a war memorial in Gala. Easy peasy. Only I hadn't bought a printer. All the advice when my printer flashed up the message "Service required" was to ditch it and get a new one. I mean who pays for a printer to be serviced. I really resented Epson for stalling and effectively killing a machine that was working fine. I checked online for some tricks to make it work again and got another 20 pages out of it but then it dug it's cartridges in and demanded to be serviced. OK buy a new one. But make sure it's compatible with cheap ink because that's where the expense is. Going round in circles I eventually serviced the old one because that was half the price of a new one and we still had a year's cheap ink in the drawer. Then last night around midnight (about 20 prints after we got it serviced) the printer says Service Required and refuses to print maps. There is no way I can run across the Borders just trying to remember where to turn left and right. So I went online, downloaded some software (free) and got the bastard working. However it did take till 3.30am leaving only 4hrs 30 sleep. Before getting up to catch the 9.22 train to Gala on the new Borders Line to run 30 miles over hills I have never seen.
My health is not best - when I cough it sounds like shovelling coal. But I didn't want to drop a month. I decided a train to Gala would make an interesting change from E Lothian. And it opens up a new world of war monuments. I got in at 10.30 (about 6hrs before dark) and asked a student if he could point me to the Burgh Chambers, the big building with a dude on horseback outside. He looked as if I had asked how to find Virgo in the night sky. An older lady supplied the info, and I also visited the library and it's facilities before heading out the other end of Gala towards Clovenfords. I was surprised it took 3 or 4 miles of dull road to get there including an unmarked no-through-road which I tried to employ as a short cut. Honestly the amount of bad words I have shouted in 24hrs is painful.
I was tempted to use Burns statues as war memorials. (Haven't quite refined the argument.) I quite liked the inscription on this one (not being aware of the Braw Lads of Gala Water till I just googled it.)
Beyond Clovenfords everything improved exponentially. I had to carry the map in my hand as I checked every 5 mins what to expect and when next to turn. I am not familiar with this area. I wanted to head into the hills near Innerleithen and had a course marked on paths and wild moorland over to Gladhouse Reservoir. I also wanted to bail out at Gorebridge or Newtongrange as soon as I had racked up 30miles. I packed my bag with headtorch AND small hand held torch and fully expected to be out long after dark. Reading maps while running for me can be MUCH slower than running a known route and I hadn't had time to check the hills I was crossing on google earth to see if they looked good on top (nice worn trails or just endless deep heather and watery graves.) Or if you can even tell.
Near the turn off at Blackhaugh I got speaking to Andrew Elliot (of Elliot Houses) who confessed he wished he was fit enough for a run over the hills. He was pretty much the only person I spoke to all day. He pointed out the ascending road saying it deteriorated as it crossed several cattle grids. I thought it improved greatly, until at the top it went over a last grid and turned into a dirt pack 4x4 trail. I had studied the map on the train journey (52mins) but other than being able to know whether the path rises or falls you never really get the full picture until you run it. I was loving this.
looking back to where I'd just been
I really must subscribe to OS online maps. The print out I had was long out of date and I always have to go by rivers and older permanent geographical markers rather than recent buildings and felled forests. There was a farm building (not on my map) that you just about had to go through the french windows and out the back door. Happily no dogs about and the trail continued beyond.
horny dude in yellow was the man!
look at all my bewetiful wives says he
Almost 10 miles exactly (as long as you run up and down a no through road,) and you come to this junction. We're onto page 2 of the map (of 4) and I double checked I was taking the correct line by taking a bearing and having a sandwich. I was enjoying all the interesting place names and forgot to identify and take a pic of Craig Head for Scott C. This ascent goes up to Redscar then fizzles out on the map I have. I wondered what came next other than a climb over to the trig point on Windlestraw Law and down towards Wallet Knowe. Other points of interest: Cauld Face, Southerly Nick, Windydoors, Scroof Hill, Wolf Cleugh and Deaf Heights.
As long as the sun is shining I can do nav.
When the track ran out there was this. Quad bike tracks and a LOT of splosh. I didn't even try to keep the feet dry. Several miles of this beckoned. And it was cold water too. I used the compass to follow a bearing across a sea of heather. I felt like I was swimming way out from shore and there were miles of unfriendly nothing all around me. I marched on and met the quad bike tracks again over by the fence. Oooh look a nice wide furrow alongside the fence I wonder why the bike tracks are ten yards in from there, running parallel. Oh because it's a swamp fest. As you were.
I got the feeling it had been a bit snowier and icier and was melting. But still not superwarm. I ran all day in 2 long sleeve tops, lower a Helly. Buff and 2 pairs gloves. Never cold (never stopped long.)
gonna get wet again.
Check where the quad bike crossed. Glad I wasn't on board.
After the trig point it looked like this was the next target. So right down to the road between and then up the other side and 5 or 6 miles of rough ground to Gladhouse Reservoir. OM as they say G.
loving the bright colours,
hating the speed.
there was a lot of this and I nearly went down several times
oh look some lovely DRY road, going all the way to Edinburgh
When I came off the big wet hill I admit I had thrown in the towel. It was after 2pm and would be getting dark from 4. It had taken a longer time than planned to cover the ground and it would take way longer than that to get (over unknown territory) to Gladhouse Res. And even then I had only been there once and it was very soggy and muddy. The road looked appealing and I was fairly sure it ran towards Gorebridge and Newtongrange and I had in my wallet the second half of a cheap day return. All I had to do was notch up 30 miles. It was 14 to the road. I briefly exchanged a sentence or 2 with a postman who reckoned it was quite some distance. 20 miles? Not that far. OK sounds good. Three miles later I was flagging from sheer boredom, on quite long straight stretches. I got out the secret weapon, nearly half a litre of caffeine drink I had been saving for such an emergency. 2 miles later I was singing and shouting. I knew I had to hit 28 miles (and the surplus to and from Waverley would bring it up to 30.) I hoped that Gorebridge would come into view right about 28. I counted down the miles. 25 was a glorious outburst. 26.2 MARAFAN! Then turn right into charming Gorebridge. Ahh a herd of buses, 33s - I'd often read Baberton on the front of buses but never expected to visit. Curses, exactly 27 miles to the station. Train was due in 9 minutes. Time for a quick mile! Genius! I legged it up the high street - is that a high street? Main Street maybe. I thought I might even find another wm. I ran half a mile on the Garmin then stopped for a pee one of the few all day and it went on and on and I looked at the watch and the train would be arriving in SECONDS. I did the fastest half mile of the day back to the station where the 16.27 was pulling in and 20 secs later, breathing hard, we were off.
best sign of the day
least timid grouse
Solo cyclists kept passing me, saying hello, acknowledging
another solitary mental out doing themselves the benefit.
I turned this corner (just after the Borders/Midlothian signs) to see the Pentlands and Arthur Seat and down to the coast although it was long time before the road (B7007 and before that the B709) joined the A7 and went in that direction. It was 13 long road miles from where I joined, to Gorebridge Station). On the way down from Waverley (no diversions required) a new Indian restaurant on Leith Walk had a dude outside with a tray of chopped up Peshwari Nans to let folk try. I took a couple of bits as I ran past thinking "How good is my fucking life?!"
(pissy wee map from Garmin doesn't tell you anything useful)