Sunday, 25 March 2018

Borders Abbey Way

go directly to jail

Graham emailed to say he was planning a run along the Borders Abbeys Way. This was developed in 2005 but became more handy when the Borders Rail line opened a couple of years ago. The plan was train to Gala, bus to Jedburgh then run 35miles back to Gala via Hawick and Selkirk. With refreshments in either town each about half marathon distance running. Forecast GOOD!

I was pleased to be doing this as the alternative was Mark and Jonny's 17 Wards of Edinburgh the same day with 40-odd miles of mainly tarmac back and across Edinburgh. It turned out to be 49miles and only Jonny finished the whole route. So something of a lucky escape there. Meanwhile after a train ride and bus fare to Jedburgh we took a team photo near the Abbey and headed up the road: John, Nick, Graham, Auren and myself. The sun was shining and the birds were singing.

no through road

Very soon we were on to pretty rural trails. There is a website for the Abbeys Way here but a far more useful one here from WalkHighlands that gives you the gpx files. So I uploaded them and ran off my Suunto in sat-nav mode. Most of the way was well marked (yellow Ws and wooden posts and signs) but there were times when you could easily go wrong. The first few miles were continuous climb (route profile and map at bottom of page) but we were fresh and it was a pleasure to be reaching good vantage points for the views. 

When I say fresh I am exaggerating. I ran hard at club on Wednesday and then led the Wintervals session on Thursday, the usual suspects being absent. Fergus will be surprised to hear I had everyone run up the Radical Rd. He knows it is not my favourite venue for reps. However I was utilising an old session coach Gordon had us do back in the day. Up the Rad Rd and along to the end of the crags. Turn left and descend into Hunters Bog, run down the west side till it joins the tarmac road which takes you back to the bottom of the Rad Rd. That's one lap. I offered the people 3 laps plus the icing on the tail, the sting in the cake being a fourth ascent of the Rad Rd. Slower runners I gave the option of  2 laps and a final ascent. I thought it might be fun to see who got to the top of their final climb first, the 3 lappers or the 2. And that it would keep everyone focussed. I had remembered the laps taking about 14mins and this wasn't far off. I did the first lap in just over 12 but added a minute to each one following. I did worry that maybe it was a bit longer than the usual Thurs session, but I had finished by 45mins. Unfortunately of the 11 who met at 7pm (although that included 2 newbies who didn't bring headtorches) only about 5 arrived at the end of the task. A couple had DNFed and left word but there were also a couple missing in action and I hoped they weren't left dead or dying in a muddy puddle in the dark.

Auren had also been trashing himself on Thursday doing 5 x 1mile reps fast, and said his legs were like boards on Friday with the doms. He was still very chipper though (VERY!) but might not have been pushing the pace as much as usual. I'm not sure if it was me feeling tired or just the company (being all very experienced and enthusiastic runners) and the initial hills, but I felt the pace was brisk and I would have struggled to go any faster. Auren described it as steady, in his accent stiddy, by which I took it to mean just about race pace for ultra distance.

Not knowing the route was interesting. We'd see a hill up ahead and not know whether we were going over the top or round which side. Having heard the route was undulating rather than hilly I was surprised just how hilly it actually was. 

Having done a couple of TB runs this month already I didn't "require" this war monument near the happily named hamlet of Bedrule. 

Vitruvian Nasher

Now this sign struck me as kind of unusual. It seemed like a strange name for a home and what's with the date? The battle of Hornshole (1514) is detailed here. The sign may well have come from a shop selling Curious near the pub we went to in Hawick. It had a number of signs in this manner, done like street signs but with legends like "The Thin White Duke" and other non street name mottos. 

There were a mile or 2 of riverside trails and then roads leading in to Hawick. The Way goes round the Sports centre and then out Princes St, but we were looking for an open pub for a quick stop. The first 3 or 4 were closed and we had to traipse through town to find one (nearly deserted) with a fat bike riding bar tender. Delicious pint of Belhaven Best. I ate some chilli chicken and mashed potatoes I had made first thing and stuffed into a cupflask. Last long run I suffered badly, due to not eating enough. So I was trying hot savoury this time. When I filled the cupflask with mains of last night's dinner I put in slightly too much and the top wouldn't screw on. I had to eat a couple of spoons out the top to get it to close and it was something of an unwelcome spicy treat for breakfast. I scoffed half (much nicer for lunch!) and then dodged outside (Nick thought for a fag) to get a signal to call Graham H, the originator of the Tynecastle Bronze and our spiritual leader. He has been walking his monthly 30milers because his hip is f*cked and he can't run anymore. He was in or near Selkirk and I told him we would be through in a couple of hours.

The roads and trails out of Hawick were up, up and more up. Then a wee bit of down (don't remember this) followed by a huge up. Lots of pleasant scenery but I think the gradient was really taxing and at various points I could feel myself deteriorating. It was far too early to be falling apart so I was quite determined to get things sorted when we hit Selkirk rather than just get torn into the beer and GH chat. There was a bit of downhill into Selkirk which was a relief and helped me get my head sorted a bit. 

At the pub Graham bought us all a drink. Nick was sworn of the booze for the pre-marathon month and John wasn't drinking either. When John ordered a water and lime it sounded so good I had one as well instead of a beer. I also scoffed 2 paracetamol and the second half of my chilli chicken. And went to the toilet where I washed a thick layer of sweat and grime off my face. I began to feel restored.

And it was great to see Graham. He was in top form and regaling us with stories and banter. I think he makes something of a living from property development but it is difficult to get much of a straight answer out him and maybe best not knowing. Anyway I'm glad we didn't pass through without getting in touch. His idea, 4 years ago, of a 30 miler (and war memorial) once a month to remember the troops of a hundred years ago has become the central core of my running calendar and although the war finishes soon the TBs may continue, out of habit, for some time to come. I can't thank him enough!

Graham took a perverse pleasure in pointing us up the steepest of the hills leading out of Selkirk. He had been trying to get us to climb the Eildons as our route didn't give us as much of a vantage point as they would. We had already run 26 miles and nobody was looking for more gradient. We didn't need to take a vote on whether we would go over the Eildons. We had about 8 or 9miles left and the flatter the better. 

I was kind of dreading the last few miles. However the chicken and the pills (and lime juice) combined well and in a couple of miles I was actually enjoying running again. It was a beautiful evening. A look at the profile explains much of this: after a gentle climb out of Selkirk the run steadily descends to the finish. We were all running in an evenly paced group and enjoying teasing Nick for signing up to the WHW race in the middle of the year. Reminding him of stuff like (after running 30 miles when you can't help but feel a little weary) you'd only have another 65 miles to go if this was the WHW. Which would just make you sit down and want to cry. 

We passed a number of scenes with new lambs cavorting about (and an occasional dead sheep, oops) and I though several times, next time I will get the camera out. Or next time they will be closer and I'll get a better pic. But I didn't. So here are some sheep that were hoping we'd maybe feed them or something - they were very curious and hoping for more than just a photo.

typical of the signs we followed

We never got lost although came close a couple of times. I was watching the above scene approach thinking it would make a picturesque photo when the lads veered off to the right on a small detour, through the trees and round an alligator infested pond. I would have entirely missed the turn off, just because I was anticipating the route going where I thought it would. There were a couple of un-instinctive junctions like this but between us we avoided any bad nav. (Which might just about be a first!)

only 65 miles to go Nick! Run!

We came into Gala from the "wrong" direction so I didn't recognise where we were until we were just a crossing away from the station. I was feeling much better than I had felt around mile 22~26. We did just a fraction under 35 (plus one to Waverley and just over one home (Nick's car was parked towards Jock's Lodge?!?))

Splendid day out. Highly recommend that route. Although quite a bit of tarmac never too much in one stretch. The trails will improve given some dry weather. We all got filthy feet and legs but there was far more good ground than muddy fields and horse churned lumpy going. Excellent company and much banter, none of which bears repeating. And I got mild sunburn on my face which is a good sign that Spring can't be far away. Hot shower, nice dinner and a long cold drink. Nothing comes close!

run run run Belhaven Best at Hawick, run run run Graham H at Selkirk, run run run!