Wednesday, 9 May 2018

bluebells and beaches

After a long week I wasn't feeling up to a big Saturday, however the forecast was promising and somehow I managed to get out of bed and jump on the bike. First destination was Dalkeith Country Park. Happily I had overestimated the time it takes to bike there (under 45mins for 8.5miles) and I arrived plenty early. This gave me 15 minutes to take photos of the bluebells and chase Orange Tips before I met Seamus and pals for a recce of the Bluebell Trail 10k & 5k which is on Sunday 13th. 

If you still don't have an entry, you can get one here and they might even do you an entry on the day. Or if you don't want to run (or are just bringing your kids along for the fun run, 1k for 13 y/olds and younger) why not sign up to help out marshalling. If you can volunteer, click here to see some options, and thanks for helping out. It really is a worthwhile cause. All the heavy lifting has been done by Seamus and his team, and, fingers crossed, the inaugural race will all go according to plan on Sunday. I intend to be racing, despite lack of 10k fitness - the course has dried out nicely, (road shoes would do, trail shoes ideal, hill shoes overkill) and it was a pleasure to run round on Saturday. Bluebells and butterflies, on beautiful trails: what more could you want!

Orange Tip

Great to catch up with the Bluebell crew. Hopefully on Sunday the weather will be similarly kind. After the recce (which was done a bit more briskly than I was expecting) I jumped on the bike and cycled a couple of hundred yards to just beyond the entrance in Dalkeith. Mary was parked there and I put the bike in the back of the Berlingo and we set off to Gullane. Mary didn't want to risk aggravating her current injuries round the Bluebell trails and felt she should limit her running to a gentler jog at Gullane, giving her more options about stopping and stretching and/or quitting after a shorter distance. 

It clouded over for a bit but was pretty glorious weather again by half way round the usual circuit there. The wind was probably discouraging any lepidotera and I am beginning to think there would be more butterfly action inland away from the sea breezes. Yet again pretty much nothing in the way of butterflies. 


a whole fence of these delightful migrants

Just before the beach there is a sheet of ply. When you lift it you see all the way down into the underworld, though mainly snails, sandhoppers (amphipods), and the occasional squat black toad. If you are VERY lucky you might just find a newt, as we did on Saturday. (This made up for the lack of butterflies!) It was so small I didn't see it at first and would have gently replaced the timber but for Mary pointing out the tiny amphibian. We have only found one other here; there is limited fresh water nearby. This was a smaller specimen than before, and not terribly keen to have its photo taken. They have a striking orange line down their bellies, but again not keen on flipping over to show you. Not sure if these are Palmate or Smooth, possibly the latter. They are very similar. This was a young one as its tail had not begun to grow and flatten vertically, like the ones we saw recently in Monymusk. Mary got better pics than I did as it's tricky trying to hold and photo the wee beastie at the same time. We put it on top of the sheet of ply to get photos and video and it quickly made its way to the edge in a wriggly run before disappearing underneath again. Extremely cute!

By the time we got to the beach the sky was amazing.

photo Mary

photo Mary

blue sea and giant bee

just one solitary (and reluctant) small tort

nice to bump into Toby

I told Toby we were planning on a quick dip and he suggested temps were about 7'.
I think the water was maybe nearer double figures but our thermometer is unreliable. Just checked the Suunto output and it says that the temperature measured 49.8~71.6 (aprox 10~22' C) . I can only guess at what this means as there is no accompanying explanation. I'd say the water was 10' and the air was (in direct sunlight) 22'. 

While we're here talking temperature, can I just say how annoying it is that we have 2 systems of temp calibration: one we use in Summer - it was in the high 80s (30+' C) - and one we use in Winter - it was down to -2 (28.4' F). This is totally fucked up and really, can we get that sorted? Worse than imperial vs decimal for distances, let's just choose one and stick with it.

photo Mary

I was determined to try out the new wetsuit. I had taken it along the last 2 visits to Gullane but it had stayed dry. This week though, the air was defo warmer and maybe the breeze less cutting. I also knew I needed practise putting on the wetsuit. I bought it a while back from Alpkit - I have heard only good things about their wetsuits - and this is their Silvertip extra warm version, for chicken-hearted softies like myself. I got the "medium, tall" version as I have a freakishly long torso to leg proportion. However when it arrived I was surprised how thin and flexible it was. And tight! It was really difficult to put on and although I read all the info about it and treated it with a great deal of caution, first time putting it on at home I still managed to put 3 tears in it, 2 fingernail nicks (I have short nails, and would suspect this was a fingerpad pull) and a 1.5" surface tear. Also when I got it on it felt too tight round the neck. I was not particularly pleased about this, (putting it mildly!) and had to buy some wetsuit repair glue and fix it. (Easy to use and fix.)

So I knew some practise was in order. I took my time particularly getting the legs as high as possible - the lower limbs being particularly tight on shins/calfs and needing worked up slowly. I have since found that after several swims, this has all eased up considerably. The thinking here I imagine is that a really clingy thinner suit keeps the water from flushing through and so you stay warmer. Also pulling the suit up from the inside only rather than hauling on the fragile Glideskin neoprene outer material avoids tears. (Not to be hurried.) It is a completely different beast to the old Blueseventy Ironman suit I have used till now, which is like a scooped out whaleskin; much heavier, much less figure-hugging and less flexible for swimming action. And you could kick it from one end of the beach to the other without damage.

The Silvertip is lined with fleecy like material which gives the suit better heat retention. After a few wears it is going on with much greater ease (comes off fine, bit tricky over ankles) and feels very comfortable. I am reluctant to cut the neck (or cuffs) to make a better fit. Currently it is a bit tight and I have found a buff is essential under the neck rim to avoid abrasion. But it may just be a thing I get used to with wearing in. I get the feeling the technology is miles ahead of the previous suit - which is prob 10 years old or more, I got it second hand a long time ago. It is taking a bit of getting used to but is really very good once on and I forget about it completely in the water. I suspect it is really warm, which helps getting into the water at this time of the year.

I was in the water for 15mins at Gullane but doubled that in Gladhouse on Monday evening and wasn't shivering on either occasion. Water ingress through zip is minimal and due to compression doesn't flush through the suit, keeping it nice and warm. Also the long ankles come way over the tops of my neoprene socks keeping water out longer and feet warmer. I suspect I will come to love this suit, but I probably wouldn't wear it for boarding or canyoning as it damages too easily.

photo Mary

It is a while since I have been open water swimming and had almost forgotten the joys. As Mary says the high you get afterwards is like a factory reset. Looking forwards to a summer of fun!

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