Monday, 21 January 2019

feel the burns hill race

I had done this race the first 4 years it was on (2013~2016) then missed a couple. So this was the glorious return and fifth attempt. Mary's first. She has been having something of a comeback recently and felt strong enough to bash out a couple of races. It is a great event - the relaxed atmosphere, the challenging course, the post race haggis and soup. All brilliantly managed by Sheila, with help from loads of locals and Graham H, sadly unable to run these days but still marking and de-marking the route.

We nearly blew it though, leaving Edinburgh in what seemed plenty time to get there for 11.20. But it was about 11.40 by the time we arrived (note to self: leave at least 1hr30 for travelling next year) and there was a bit of a scamper to pick up numbers, have a kit check and run over to the start line for the midday kick-off. I'm sure the extra adrenaline didn't hurt, but it was a little too close for comfort.

dirty windscreen

There was a reasonable turnout from Porty with these 4, me, Jim, Mark and George.

I bought new Salomon Speed 2 hillshoes from Pete Bland a while ago. Initially I had bought Hoka EvoJawz but they were unusually long fitting on my feet and I had to return them unused. Rather than get a half size smaller (and risk toe-rub) I knew from previous Salomons, these would fit fine and were reduced from the somewhat extravagant £150 rrp. Light and matt black! I had been struggling to find an opportunity to break them in, mainly doing road runs recently. So I had run all of 6 miles in them before the start line. I reckoned they were more hard wearing than the EvoJawz for running through heather etc. and I only got one blister (unburst) on the bottom of my left big toe (probably from the ground being iron hard from the frost,) so pretty much got away with it. 

The weather had changed from clagged-in at Edinburgh, to sunny between low cloud cover near Selkirk, so I ran in short sleeves, but with gloves and buff, which at times felt too warm lower down but about right on the hill tops. The marshals were dressed for Arctic conditions, and I'm sure it felt like that standing on the hill-tops. I carried my b camera, lashed into the front pocket of my race gilet (carrying the obligatory waterproofs etc.) but didn't get it out as much as usual as I was taking the race quite seriously. It also played up - possibly moisture/condensation on the shutters jamming the start-up, and several times it asked me to shut it down then re-start it. Which, while running over treacherous ground, is surplus to requirements. Sorry not to get a pic of Graham H who was roadside and cheering in the first mile, his grinning face a picture as ever!

So it was after the first hill before I got it out to take the first pics. I had started the race with my customary zeal (ie too fast) and so the first serious hands-on-knees ascent saw all the folk who should have been ahead, go ahead. Fergus went past but predicted we would pass again later. Sadly he was right. I noticed he was wearing Hokas. Probably a good choice for such unrelenting hard ground, although mine tend to shave skin off my toes when I do fast descents in them and there are several fast descents on this course.

I enjoyed all the flat and downhill and struggled on the ups as usual. But felt stronger than I remembered the last time or 2 when I did this course. (It undoubtedly helped to have done a few days in the Pentlands recently.) I think I usually slack off during the Winter and this race catches me napping. Several folk who wouldn't always finish ahead of me, have scalped me here in previous years. Graeme D, I felt, was the barometer of this circumstance and his presence just a short way behind (never seen after mile 1, but instinctively felt for all 12.9!) was encouragement to keep the needle in the red. There were a few Carnethy pals from Thurs night intervals running and I swapped places with Alex once or twice before he pulled away on Minch Moor.


After the 3 brethren it is flattish up to the highest point. This was in the cloud so the camera stayed away. I caught up with Fergus and we exchanged a couple of words about Hokas then I pulled ahead. You couldn't see the highest point in the clouds and the climb seemed to go on forever. Passing through the stile I immediately overtook a couple of places then got in behind Alex for the long and often single track descent off Minch Moor. It is a fabulous downhill but almost goes on too long, before flattening out, then dropping through Broadmeadows. In the past I have done this section full throttle and then burst on the climb back out the valley. So I watched Alex pull away and went at a more comfortable pace. This seemed to work and the next section after the water table wasn't as bad as I remembered. Not that Foulshiels is ever anything less than unwelcome. It's a stinker!

New road means no stream crossing this year.

I had a gel just before the water table so I could bin the wrapper there and wash it down with half a cup of ice cold water. Not sure I really needed it or that it would do any good but it was quite a dilute one so I thought it wouldn't do any harm. There was a group of runners about quarter of a mile ahead and the same behind. I thought Graeme might possibly be the red vest to the back of those so kept a decent stomp going up Foulshiels. (Horrible horrible horrible!) At least I wasn't losing as much ground as I have done in past years, keeping those ahead and behind about equidistant. I didn't realise till after the race one of those following was Steve M. Our paths haven't crossed for a while, which makes me realise how few hill races I have bothered with lately. He said I bombed off after the hill top. I'd like to think that was the case but I suspect it was just the distance compression of the steep hill lengthening back out. 

putting the foul in Foulshiels Hill

Steve and pals

I had forgotten the false summit at the top of the hill. Oh right enough. F sake. I hadn't forgotten the rocky and unpleasant ground that insists on careful footplacing and could twist an ankle or bruise a foot easily. There is quite a lot of downhill on the broad rocky path before it belts off at an angle through much faster heather to some marshals gabbing at the corner of a wall that leads through a smooth field and some grassy 5 minute downhill miling before lumpier gound and stream crossing and you are on to the last track for a full mile. I made the final distance 12.9miles. With half a mile to go I saw a red vest up ahead and could see I was catching him. My legs felt strong and as we went into the final field I took a slightly sharper line cutting the corner and reducing the distance between us until I could see the tattoos on his neck. He must have heard me wheezing and suddenly raised his pace. I felt my legs could go even faster but also felt some nuts and bolts work loose in the engine room and a rather weird feeling in my chest that might have been the start of a burp or a heart attack. Not worth it mate was the implicit message and I settled in behind the Carnethy. So that explains the lap time of 5.23 for the last .9 of a mile. I have been overtaken by Rich in this stretch so know how it feels when the boot is on the other foot. Much better to be chasing folk down. Which I'd put down to the December training. It works.

The record was broken this year on what was a dry and ice-hard and therefore fast course. As Mary pointed out this will ruin everyone's pecentage on the SHR site. It was my second fastest out of 5, (1hr50m) the swiftest being an unlikely 1.43 back in 2014 which was my strongest ever year for running.

Graeme arrived very shortly after having done a best ever time.

and Fergus

Rather than wait for Mary I went straight back to the Rugby Club and got a great hot shower and changed into warm dry clothes. Mary enjoyed a good race and arrived woolly haired and red-cheeked a bit later. The haggis pie and soup were tremendous and we all sat around chatting about the joys of the course. Sheila did an excellently quick and efficient prize giving. It is 10 years since she did the first Philiphaugh race and during that time she has emerged as one of the best independent race organisers of some of the best races about. Long may she and her team continue. Sorry not to be able to spend longer in Graham H's company as he was out walking the course taking in the arrows and tape. Good man!

Thanks to the photographer just before Broadmeadows who took this photo
and posted on Selkirk Fund Runners page


12.9 miles of fun and games

Saturday, 19 January 2019

none of the birds but starlings

Supposed to be doing estimates this work week. Then I saw the forecast for Thursday and estimated it was time for an NB Circuit. A while since I had done the excellent 18miler. I was thinking if it all went too well I could extend it round to Longniddry and knock out a 30 miler. Old habits and that. However I set off on the comfortably relaxed 10.43 to North Berwick which was leaving it late for a longer run. And due to the large sun lamp in the sky I was stopping every 5 mins for a photo. Over 600 of them. And here are the top 60! What a day!

this out the train window - first stop Law top.

The sunshine brings out the tweeting birds. There was a goldfinch, a handful of bluetits, chaffinches, 3 buzzards and lots more that all eluded the camera in the first 3 miles and I got the feeling today was going to be none of the birds but starlings. Nice to see lots of finches etc, but, like those afflicted by strava, if I don't get a photo it didn't happen. And crows, hundreds of crows. 

Obligatory hike up the Law. What you don't see is the sharp wind that cuts through 3 layers and means no loitering. Took a few snaps then hurried down and onto the JMW along to Balgone ponds. I have been taking lots of pics of those curly blonde stick weeds that catch the sun against a blurred out background. They remind me of natural design lessons in first year art school when we would copy vegetables and flowers in pencil line and slowly you would recognise that all nature is beautiful lines, elegant curves and never a ugly corner or lumpy volume. Even scrappy weeds next to a pond. Lots of development and maintenance going on there (Balgone estate), which is good to see; new jetty replacing the old one which I ice-bucket-challenged off a couple of years back. And tree felling and path building. 

curly blonde stick weeds

new jetty

swan in a pan


starlings darlings

not sure about these (tree sparrows maybe) but there were loads

more backlit grasses and tiny fairies

Newbyth House

Binning Woods

I exited Binning Woods at the North East corner having just missed Bob M - (saw his back disappearing with 2 doggies and thought that might be Bob) and went along Gauger's Bush carrying straight on and through Brownrig Wood. It was all delightful including a pheasant(?) rearing enclosure where I disturbed a squirrel in a blue feeding bin that took off like a bat out of hell doing ground circles then up a tree in 3 nanosecs before I could raise the camera and stop laughing.

I know I know! the long awaited return of ICM (intentional camera movt.) Do the shake and snap and put the freshness ...bap. (Needs work.) Here's what it looks like sober...

The Laucht cabin where Richard Log was married.

best view in the world

had the whole place to myself

On the beach I had had the strangest sense there was something of an oniony flavour about the place. I was pretty sure it wasn't emanating from myself, but hey, the aging process can be a magical mystery tour with something of a contrary sense of humour. I wasn't sure whether it was just a waft of something stranded above the tide line or a phantosmia: an olfactory hallucination. "It can result from neurological conditions such as migranes, head injuries, strokes, Parkinson's, seizures or brain tumors. It can also be a symptom of mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, intoxication or withdrawal from drugs and alcohol or psychotic disorders." That's 2 full drawers of bad news right there and I had my fingers metaphorically crossed for the next mile until I turned the corner and the mystery was resolved. The farmer in his green tractor was harvesting leeks. The place was almost overwhelmingly leeky, an invisible cloud of leek gas hung around the place like a ..ahem, gas leak.

eau de leek

I think this shed might have heating inside, perhaps a grain drying warehouse or the like, as the roof is always popular with the pigeons. Maybe it just faces the sun and warms up. I was checking back to the same run I did in Feb 2018 (blog here) and noticing how many of the same photos I have taken previously. Many nearly identical. Sad but true!

This for Jason.
(And if you squint your eyes the shadow looks like a winter beard.)

towards Trap Law

As I ran past Seacliff Stables and the very next house (the only one between the stables and the road down to the beach) this black lab came barreling out the open gateway barking like an attack dog. It was too fast to outrun so I turned and slowed, knowing if I kept running it would take a bite. I said in a very friendly tone "hiya, good dog" and placating words to that effect. Confused, it regrouped and stood, still barking like mad but wagging it's tail, not sure if I was friend or foe. I retreated cautiously but reckon I was that close to getting bitten. Next time I go past, I will be armed with a weapon to defend myself.

It was a toss up whether to go down the hill and along the coast or straight on past the pottery and then turn right. I really must hone this last few miles as it is a poor finish to a brilliant circuit unless the weather is nice and you drop down through the golf course along the shore. It was getting cold and I couldn't be bothered messing about on the coast so headed inland knowing there are sometimes funny goats/sheep that way. Not this time though: a chaffinch and a bluetit did their best to lure the camera out before flying off. 4 scarecrows weren't so flighty though and I enjoyed their parade. And another gang of starlings catching the last of the sun high on a wire, posed long enough for a pic.

No train to race for I took it easy over the last couple of miles realising I would be midway between trains and have to wait half an hour. Instead, to keep warm, I ran from the station to the far end of NB and the toilets opposite the chip shop where I ran my hands under the warm water and washed my face and felt the better for it. By the time I jogged back the train was on the platform and I had taken the 18 miles and change, up to 20. (Plus 2 station~home miles.) Superb day out, and great weather for photos, which really helps get a body through the Winter. 

20 + 2miles, well over 4hrs running