Sunday, 28 January 2018

flat light outwith the flat and gull wing gulls

I can't remember any of the fine tuning and details of last Sunday's run so bear with me and I'll just make some stuff up based on the pictures. It's been a long week. And a 5 week job was coming to an end. So my focus was not running. Of which I did not a jot between this run last Sunday and 5 days later on Saturday. And there were difficulties. Always difficulties.

The camera, the B Camera, was playing up to begin with, meaning that by the time I had stern words and got it sorted, Aileen (above) was already on her way home having run alongside for a bit of the Links.

Then Rabbie, below. Some of the Me Too gang, the mob forming to lynch all those who don't adhere to certain behaviour, were throwing their hats in the air about our National Bard and his birthday because, well because he wrote some poetry. I don't have strong feelings about those being condemned for Me Too behaviour or the Bard, but I don't think you can pretend to be invested in pc behaviour and celebrate Rabbie without being called a steaming great hypocrite. Because Rabbie was a drunk and a womaniser. This is NOT in doubt. Read this. So it would be hypocritical to be championing both, the Me Too-ers, and R Burns. His crimes against women are a couple of hundred years old but I don't think his poetry mitigates that. I was surprised nobody noticed this but not surprised at the shallowness of certain humans. A little bit of whisky and Tam O' Shanter goes a long way?

But all that is merely background white noise to the necessity of work. I would leave my bike in the rain for 9 or 10 hours then cycle home. Rusty orange chain. Next morning stepping heavily on the pedals and the chain snaps. Luckily near home. I thought I had a chain tool, could've sworn. Mary had one. 20mins later; and most of those scraping the filth off oily fingers, and stepping on the pedals again, but gingerly. 

Finally the job is hoovered and done but not before it robs me of Wednesday club run and Thurs Wintervals. I phone mum and she asks if I could pop round and help her up the stairs to bedfordshire, she is too tired to risk it without a back stop. I put my shoes back on. 

Back to last Sunday and marathon training. The day is dull and not worth driving anywhere. Pop some bread in a back pack and run along the coast to Cramond. I run with Mary for a couple of miles then pick the pace up to marathon pace (sub 7 min miling) and struggle to keep this ticking over to Cramond. How can it be possible I'll ever keep this going for 5 times this distance? In April. Oh well. The first bit of thrown bread hits the sand, none of the rest do. 50 black headed gulls fly over to circle and swoop taking the bread from my fingers. They know the format, and the Winter strictures sharpen their enthusiasm. Their feathery chests and wings beat against my hands as they barge and squawk, all pretence of shyness banished till Spring. The light is crap and so are the photos but I am thrilled by their proximity including a one-footed friend who catches my eye and is rewarded every circle with extra rations. I fetch more bread fingers out the bag on the ground and it is nearly empty. Someone has been pilfering! Scoundrels! I am pouring the crumbs out as Mary appears and we return by the cyclepath. 

fired out a cannon

mightily bushy

About a mile from home the snow falls heavily on Mr Heron

Now someone (Steve probably) highly recommended Terres De Galets.
The cat is waving, the bird chirruping and the Hula lady hula-ing. 

My indoor footwear (Nike Frees from a decade or more ago) have given up the ghost. I was looking at £40 slippers online, but unconvinced. Meanwhile I got these Hokas which will be worn (wetsuited) walking over the gravel from the car to the reservoir, and meanwhile at home. £24. Bargainatious! 

This though I am excited about! 

Picture it: height of summer, sun blasting down and 25 miles into a long run you pass a burbling stream. Dare you drink from it? Dead animals upstream, liver flukes, polluted water? Worry no more! Fill this 0.6lt softflask with dubious fresh water and it filters as you squeeze it through the mouthpiece filter into your gob. "Would you drink from the Water of Leith?" says Mary. Probably not! I doubt it is that good but hopefully it keeps the bugs and shit out "fresh" streams up in the hills. Roll on Summer!


Sunday, 21 January 2018

the best way to clean your shoes

So it snowed midweek and I wondered if it would last (along with the sunny forecast) all the way to the weekend. To my surprise, and against the odds, it did. And the snow didn't even have a shin scraping crusty ice topping or get too deep to run in. Resulting in one of the best Winter day's running EVER!

I have a new favourite cup at home. Holds the same amount as a small bathtub (not as much as a Sports Direct mug but halfway between normal and that) and Mary filled it with far too much coffee in a bid to get us to the Pentlands before the sun went down. I had had a long working week and was in dicking-about-mode. Also fishing out Yaktrax mode, and after the coffee, chat mode as well. Unusually Mary conceded to my route suggestions; that we park at Bonaly (pretty much on the flyover above the bypass) and avoid the parking at Flotterstone and Hillend. Then do a mid-level run missing the high tops but covering about 7~10 miles. I had found my Yaktrax, AND my gaiters. Not sure whether to fit the gaiters' thin elastic band under or over the coiled wire of the Yaktrax. Did one on either, to see which survived. (Both did.) At this point I was considering going to Feel The Burns on Sunday so wanted to test kit before the race.

Yaktrax over Speedgoats under gaitors.
Like chains for tyres.

After the car park at Bonaly we immediately turned right onto a small track that climbs between the trees. We continued right at the top fence although we stopped for a kit change as we had overdressed. Mary took off her Yaktrax: they are great over hardpack snow and ice but less essential for deep snow and she was finding them cumbersome. There was a bit of balling snow underneath but I kept mine on and felt they were helpful. The quality of the snow was really good - powdery and good under compression and not icy. As soon as you went into shadow you could feel the difference in temperature. The sun was blasting down all afternoon. It was partly intended we set off in the pm to get the best of it, but if it had been brighter in the morning we probably wouldn't have seen too much of it. Everything was sparkling in the dazzling light.

kit change: I took off my 2nd hat and outer gloves
before we even got out the trees

it was Ochilly snowy over in Fife

While the main trail turns right, and through a gate, there is a small stile over to the left that cuts through the trees and leads to Bonaly Reservoir. I suspected it would be rather magical today and wasn't disappointed. Was there ice? Yes. Would it support a person? No. And what's more I didn't even get a wet foot finding that out. There were a couple posing at the far end but it really wasn't sitting down weather. We ran past but stopped to take pics of the backlit heavy frosting on the grasses there in the sun. I didn't get the photo I was after - it was difficult to know if the results were sharp with the glare on the screen and I didn't want to hold up Mary. She was not in the best of moods. We went back through the trees to come out on the main trail again but not before we bumped into Greig and his kid at a self made wind break and shelter, cooking sausages on an open fire. I asked was it generating enough heat to keep them cosy and the answer was no. Nice idea though. And I liked the look of the 2 fat sausages on sticks above the fire. 

Out through deeper drifted snow and up the hill. I suggested we go over the summit rather than round the contour as I suspected a better view. It was outstanding! We joked about avoiding the use of cliches like winter wonderland and Narnia

I had done a couple of variants of a 10 mile out-and-back from Bonaly but had no particular route in mind from this point. Mary had cheered up a bit and suggested we take the diagonal to the summit of Bell's Hill. It turned out to be the worst section of the day - even though the trail had been broken by someone earlier, it was knee deep a lot of the way and left the path to wander blindly over lumpy ground hidden beneath the snow. Mary was not a happy bunny and blamed me for everything wrong in the world. I was keen to avoid further wrong doing but couldn't think of a route to the Black Springs end of Threipmuir without more of the same. Once we got back on route the going improved and happily the path (pretty much the skyline in reverse from Harbour to Black Hill) wasn't too bad. M cheered up again but I could tell she was tired and wouldn't enjoy any kind of epic shenanigans beyond sundown. I was high as a kite and running about taking hundreds of photos. 

going down Bell's was tricky and the only place 
where the Yaktrax weren't a great help getting grip

we both suspected this trail would be BAD but it was bearable,
except for the poor souls who had brought their mtbs out to play

after crossing the end of Threipmuir the path goes up through these trees

there were quite a lot of folk out enjoying the conditions

We headed towards the Rangers' Lodge at Harlaw but turned up Maiden's Cleugh to contour round the side of Harbour Hill meeting the path we'd come on earlier and descending back to Bonaly car park. There were plenty sledgers on the lower slopes and hills near the car park. The last hour saw the hills awash in a low orange light - Mary's legs looked the colour of spray tan. We both felt really lucky to have had the time and energy to be up the hills on one of the finest Winter days in memory and were excited to see how the photos turned out. We were also really hungry when we got back to the car and wolfed down 3 protein bars I had taken in case we ended up in a snow cave for the night. Tremendous day out and such a difference to the following day when we were back to dull flat light and low cloud. We both slept like crazy and were glad we'd decided to give the Feel-the-Burns race a miss and instead get some early spring marathon training road miles in instead. 

8.5miles over 2.5hrs