There is a slow building dread growing, about the fast approaching Stirling Marathon. My injuries are well on the mend but during recovery I got into the habit of running fewer times a week and can't seem to get back to training hard and running faster. I just can't be bothered. Or am too tired after a day's work. I am not fired up enough and can't find the enthusiasm to get out the door. Once out and about, fine. Although fat and lazy and more interested in taking photos or dicking about. As the weather improves I just hope my attitude does as well.
Lots of races last weekend. That big over rated marathon in the filthy capital. And Hunters Bog Trot. Mary was doing the Great Edinburgh £30 for 10miles on Sunday and it went well for her, although I stayed clear and put in a longer run. However on Saturday we did a 5 miler down at Gullane. Pleasant enough. High on coffees we got to discussing a possible adventure-seekers arm of Dignitas. Instead of drinking a cup of poison you are helped into a wingsuit (sans parachute) and from the top of some Swiss Alp take one last swandive into the great beyond. Additional features; you aim (after swooping through the trees and canyons) for a cemetery in the Dignitas backyard and a newly dug plot. If you miss, the wingsuit doubles as a zip up body bag.
The sun came out halfway along the beach and it was lovely. We kicked a football back and forth for a while and found a coconut. Not sure if it was from the Caribbean or Lidl, Musselburgh. It was unemptied and I wondered about the saltiness of the contents. The tide was pretty low and we ran past the subs before turning and running back. When we reached the Gullane end of the beach (30mins later) the swimmers were still in the water, which seemed slightly irresponsible given the young age of one of them. And they didn't seem to be doing very much to keep warm.
Next day and since Mary was off to race 10 miles (her blog here) I thought it best to thrash out another 20 miler. I decided on doing Dalmeny againy, having made a mess of it last time. The wind was back to the norm so I aimed to catch the train to N Queensferry and run back home with a circuit of the airport. First mistake was not checking the train times. I bought a ticket and rushed onto the platform but the 12.17 train had just left. The next was 12.55 and I was not dressed for hanging around on windy platforms for 35mins. I tried to pass the time stretching and not looking like a jihadi in an inov-8 suicide vest on the empty platform. I took a few photos - incl the one below of my new shoes. My feet had been feeling battered by the harshness of the tarmac miles of marathon training. I remembered seeing a pair of Constant 2s in Run and Become a while back. They are the Rolls Royce of comfy Hokas and were a successful strategy for my last road marathon in Orkney July 2016. I need every possible aid to minimise pain on the roads and these shoes are the business. Not the lightest shoes ever but it's like running on deep pile carpet. I visited R&B and wore them on Sunday first time out the box with no blisters or nail issues. A shoo-in for Stirling.
Eventually the train arrived and I stopped shivering. I had planned running reasonably fast - faster than Tynecastle Bronze pace - but allowed myself to stop for photos. And not go all out like last time and blow up early. It was a bright but cold day with a breeze and before I was even off the train I was taking loads of photos at Queensferry, and the bridges. I had a vague memory of the route from the station to the pedestrian path onto the Road bridge having done the Fife Coastal Path before, and remembered getting directions from someone in their garden. Uninstinctively it goes up the hill, although I went down to the next street before recalling this. You'd think there would be signs. I wondered how Mary managed this on her own a few weeks ago. Later when asked, she said she went the wrongest way possible ending with a climb up a long set of stairs having descended to sea level.
So (from the station) one street down (south), turn right then head up between houses to a grassy field and cycle path that drops down to the road bridge.
nearly a direct line
Almost immediately I have the camera out and have stopped running. It's just too spectacular. As always I am far more thrilled by the splendid visuals (and better colour) of the rail bridge - the newest crossing looking like a string and concrete quick fix, compared to the empire building engineering of the rail crossing. For all our computers and modern toss we still can't compete.
Last time I ran across the road bridge I had run from Kirkcaldy and put my vertigo down to the 20 miles in my legs already. However, fresh off the train and 1 mile into this run I still felt reluctant to go close to the edge and definitely held certain muscle groups in a light clench until I got nearer the far side. There is something about the exposure and height and very climbable railing that makes me uneasy and every time I told myself I should pull my socks up, I'd see a ladder over the edge and bet myself I couldn't cheerfully climb out over the HOLY OH MY GOD and the electricals between stomach and knees would start fritzing and tingling. I put the camera over the side and took snaps to freak out to later, but there was nothing to give a sense of scale.
Halfway across there is a couple of railings installed with lovelocks; padlocks declaring love, mostly of a "to my darling wife" sort of thing though I stopped to read precisely none of them. Normally I'd poke fun at this cheesefest of eternal love for less than £20 a pop. But for 2 things. I rather like the randomised shades of the padlocks which have a kind of faded anodised titanium colourways about them that makes the installation more than the sum of the parts. And also they raised more than £10,300 for the Queensferry lifeboat charity, which is no bad thing. So they get a thumbs up from the normally cynical Mr. B.
I think it was around here that I realised I'd be trashing my average pace if I continued to stop and take photos. So I thought I should follow Mary's lead. She puts her Garmin off at every traffic light and sometimes even to step up a kerb or round a group of tourists. Then puts it back on once she has started running again. I put the Suunto on pause and to my chagrin noticed it saying "Starting". I had paused it while taking photos at the start of the bridge and neglected to re-start it back then. Really I shouldn't be allowed out on my own.
jumper's last view
trying to scare myself and succeeding
While they were moving at a decent clip this scene had the look of some people who had signed up for a cruise but found themselves in this situation instead. Or were approaching landfall after a dreadful accident and 2 weeks of hell. (We had to eat the cabin boy.)
Dalmeny Estate is a delightful place to run. Unlike last time I decided to start easy and not at full throttle. I did stick to the dirt trails rather than my preferred route down to the sandy beaches, and at least pretend I was here for the running and not just the photos.
Around here the breeze dislodged a pine cone which zipped past my ear, then bounced back up to hip height but I fumbled the catch. Everything was budding and growing and in the sunlight it was difficult not to stop every hundred yards for more photos.
On the run up to Cramond Brig a couple of the fields were overflowing with rapeseed in flower. I had been looking forward to getting some photos of the cheerful yellow fields and cavorted amongst the perimeter plants. I looked like I had been rolled in yellow flour when I got back to the trail.
focus on stick in front of bird
focus on stick in front of bird
After the Cramond Brig I dodged through the lower car park area and continued up the riverside trails to where the railway crosses the river. Round the airport square, down Nether Lennie and back down the river to Cramond. The Salvesen Steps are going through further development and if you had a bike you'd have to be a bit more Danny MacAskill about it. Level of difficulty has increased but it is still feasible for those sufficiently determined.
At the bottom of the concrete steps on the other side (some further poles to climb past) I was swooped at by a flying thing unseen. I thought it was a dragonfly but stopping to look I came across this brand new peacock. (That's not a peacock mate, that's a butterfly.) Unfortunately 2 folk were nearby and I only got one shot, moving in for the close ups, before their approach inadvertently chased it away.
Coming off the dirt trails and onto flat fast parkrun tarmac I realised this was the preferable direction to run this route. I put the camera away and easily upped the pace so I was seeing 7.30 ~ 7.15 or faster much of the way. I had had some stuff to eat at 12 miles and so felt well enough - achey, but SO much better than last time, when I got to 14miles and felt ruined. The remainder of the run is boring but easy going, especially with a tail wind helping. I stopped for several of these plaques which I'd seen but not realised were a thing. They are so charming I am tempted to take paper and waxy crayons or whatever is required to make rubbings. Very disheartening to see one was missing, please tell me folk haven't crowbarred one off, because life has dealt them such a poor hand they have turned out like bad ----s. Well done to whoever dreamt up this little decorative joy. Originals by schoolkids, translated into brass plaques by Kate Ivo. Details here.
20miles dead on depending how much of the bridge I had "paused"
new shoes excellent - just need to fit a motor