Sunday, 23 June 2019

7 Hills Race 2019

A hard week at work. Painting a stair in a tenement which involved using a heavy segmented ladder that could be manipulated into different configurations then carried and placed on stairs. It was like a work out at the gym. Then muscles were a wee bit tense while balancing on said ladder. Anyway I arrived at the 7 Hills a bit knackered and not looking forward to this annual bunfight much at all. I felt undertrained and tired. However the weather was ok and it is a great race: so full of variety and challenges you never stop to think this is a bit boring. Good turn out from Porties as always.

Mary was doing the challenge and set off at 9.45. I then took a few photos and tried to get into character for kick off at 10.15. I hoped the caffeine drink would fire me up enough to get me round. I had noticed Stewart W wasn't taking part this year which left the m50 cat up for debate. I spoke to Rab who suggested while his short game was fine he wasn't really fit for longer stuff. The 7 Hills although only 14-ish miles can feel like 18 due to the climbs and descents.

Great to see ex-coach Gordon
who cycled the route as we ran.

the Jones clan feeling a little nervous (me too!)

I had wondered about setting off at a reasonable pace. But there is something so rebellious and refreshing about running down the steps into Waterloo Place and up the Bridges then up the High Street that it has to be done at full pelt. I could see the lead runners up ahead and wanted to keep in touch with Nick, Rab and Donald. The excitement and caffeine seemed to be working fine and all thoughts of tiredness faded into the background as I cruised down Johnston Terrace ahead of Donald.  (How can that be?) (Don't know but Kerry took a photo, so it must have happened.)

photo Kerry

I just missed a gap in the traffic where Bread St. crosses Lothian Rd but spirits were high and so I resorted to Nick's method of looking at the drivers as they approach - making sure they've seen you, then waving a halt-but-also-thank-you hand gesture and running across in front of cursing traffic. It works quite well but should be limited as eventually you will get knocked down.

I usually flag slightly going through Coates / Roseburn but noticed it was Nick this year who seemed to drift just slightly. It was an early indication he was maybe not having a great day. I seemed to be doing fine and anticipated the roadworks at Roseburn, crossing sides then crossing back for the next climb at Murrayfield Road.

As we ascended that harsh track up to Corstorphine Hill, David L appeared. I assumed he would fly past and said he should follow Nick, who had got 35 yards ahead on the ascent. Nick and I had recced the route off the hill based on a line I had taken last year following a Corstorphine - who better to know the hill. However David said he was fine sticking with me. I could see Rab up ahead and Nick following him with maybe a couple of runners between us. We clipped at the tower then headed back turning quickly down by the aerial. Rab went left early and I followed him and a great line through the trees coming out at the top of Kaimes Rd. No sign of Nick and Donald though. David said something about Donald being so far ahead we couldn't see him. I was pretty sure they had gone wrong in the woods and were behind not ahead. This proved right and I didn't see either again till after the finish.

It's always a long haul over to Craiglockhart. We began to overtake challengers. The steep bank of mud up Craiglockhart was littered with runners and I went quite far left to get around them. Trail shoes gripped well.

thank Mari for photo

Going up Craiglockhart
photo Michael Philp

There were plenty runners to pass on the way up to Braids Hill. On the single track path I shouted "coming through on the right" to one of the runners who then moved to the right. "Or the left" I said in as sardonic a way as possible which Nicky F told me later (for it was her) she didn't really appreciate. Similarly across the golf course I got onto the wee trod down to the Lang Linn Path just ahead of 2 girls who were dithering at the top. It is not an easy place to overtake and so I kind of ran through rather than queue behind them for 5 minutes. All done politely enough though, hopefully.

It is a number of years since I have done the slither down the hermitage into the burn. You are asking for an uncontrolled skite and many an arm and thigh have muddy skid marks and friction grazes as a result. Instead I take a left about 60 yards from the junction and head down the zig zag path that takes you to the bridge and a dry footed crossing of the stream before a slithery clamber holding onto rocks and roots with teeth and claws before emerging breathless sticky and grubby but undamaged at that lovely field. I saw David L go left along towards the big house presumably to ascend on easier paths. I got 100 yards ahead of him again. 

The climb up the sleepers to Blackford Hill is one of the worst in the race. John Blair standing there saying encouraging things! There was a queue of challengers up the nettley way next to the fence so I went the other way just so I didn't have to stand in line.

I noticed from his strava output that Rab dropped down to the pond at Balckford and through the Grange. I worked this route before and it is shorter in distance but not (for me) in time. I had passed Rab at Chesser and not seen him again.

I wasn't moving very quickly but enjoyed the prospect of seeing Mary soon. Ran down the hill with David. I caught up with Mary just as we dropped into the alotments and tried to tell her how proud I was of her. 

my foot behind

ta daa
unusual to be so full of beans at this point

Now there was the horrible prospect of the turnstile at Pollock. I go in the lower entrance at the halls of residence. I knew David was avoiding it and I gained 80 yards on him by doing it. It misses the water station at the higher gate but takes a straighter line through the warren of buildings across to where the nazis have welded the turnstile. There are a couple of dudes ahead and I start up the left hand side but back off when it swings uncontrollably out like a barn door. I follow an HBT up the right side using my long dormant climbing brain to stick my feet on a metal angle iron and some negligible foot holds on the wall before hauling up and jumping down and....

It's Steve Crane offering a gel! An unexpected sight and a cheery one before the slog up Arthur's Seat. I choose the sleepers and over the Haunch. Some folk do the gutted Haddie and scramble but I've tried that and prefer this. I am looking at my watch and trying to remember how long it takes to get from the summit to the finish. (Eoin taking photos.) No idea but it's all going quite well. Have to not spoil it by pushing too hard on the descent and throwing the legs into spasms of cramp. It always appears just before the Parliament Buildings. Something about the proximity of so much ball-ache. 

14.24 miles

Sure enough I can feel the cramp snakes worm and wriggle around my calves and hammies. Hold it together! I walk for 5 paces and try to out-smart the cramp. It gives me a moment's respite and I start up again. Kerry cheers me on although I feel I am going at a slow jog. Cross the roundabout and determine to run every step of the climb up to Waterloo Place. And then to the finish. Such a relief to get onto the last 100 yards of grass and hear Alan L on the mic chattering away, reading out numbers. 

Ohh that's a bright coaster! Special one for 40th run!

And finally you get to sit or lie in the sunshine. 14.24 miles this year, and a surprisingly brisk 1.55.27. Enough to put my name for the third time on the M50 trophy, wee lump of lava glued back onto it's base by Stewart W after his children tested the strength of the previous glue.

Just checked the results and I have done this race 15 times now. Fastest in 2009, 1.51.36 slowest in 2007, 2.08.13. Five times over the 2hrs, ten times under. No wonder our flat is so full of coasters! (Mary's done it 12 times.)

I was slightly gobsmacked to be ahead of a load of decent runners incl. all other Porties and a few of my Thurs eve interval colleagues. I am usually too race-sick to eat much afterwards but managed to get a piece of quiche down before we headed to the pub to sit outside in the sun and have a relaxing pint or 3. Epic race. Big thanks Alan Lawson for doing this every year and fending off the council faint-hearts who would rather we didn't have this much fun because someone could get hurt and blame them. Superb event.

photo Eoin. Last hill!

thanks Kerry for photo

photo Eoin


sadly Willie pulled out before the last hill

"not bad for an old fart" says Alan L, high praise indeed


go team Porty!

Saturday, 22 June 2019

search and rescue

Monday 10th June. Perhaps just a little early to go looking for Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary but they spoil quickly and I wanted to get some photos while they were fresh, since I had failed to do this last year. I knew from the ranger survey last year where to find them and this was my third trip this year to Red Moss and beyond. They would defo be there now because there were reports they were elsewhere in Scotland. And it was surely better than working on a Monday?!

I padlocked my bike in the woods away from the car park.

Plenty of damselflies and cinnabar moths.

large red

no way to treat a lady damsel

As I stomped through the tussocky lumpy soggy swamp the excitement faded and a kind of resolve to at least try to enjoy myself seeped into my soul. It quickly became evident there was no sign of the orange beauties. Oh well. Might as well take pics of the whites and orange tip females that flitted from flower to flower. Then I had a better idea: the sun was out and here was I wasting a perfectly good day. I should head back to Holyrood Pk and see if I can see those Northern Brown Argus that Mairi and Ken have been posting photos of.

OT female

crisper or softer?
Couldn't choose. 

getting bored of this and the 11mile cycle here

I was squelching through the wet bits when I noticed this arrangement and realised if I could get a better angle on these flowers I could get more sparkles behind the subject. I shifted behind some branches and got ready to wait for the next white to come along. Then I realised I was standing in water wasting my life here. Time to cycle back; I mean it's nice, but it is only a green veined white. Sounds harsh but it was a really good call as lots of treats awaited not 2 miles from my home.

First up I pushed my bike up to the Commie Pool end of the Rad Rd. I thought the NBAs were seen around here but hadn't been paying attention in class (again) so was just having a browse about the place before I padlocked my bike. There were these very razzly small coppers around the heathers and rocks and I meant to get some better pics of them looking just electric when I spotted something blue jink past. A Common Blue! I virtually threw my bike to the ground and gave chase but it was off and zipping away. Okay, I picked up my bike and chained it to one of the railings that are currently discouraging folk from going round the Radical Rd. This was even better than NBAs. I got the camera out and got a few photos of the blue which had returned to the same spot. I followed it as it dotted about. It was brand spanking new (possibly the first sighting in Edinburgh) and buzzing about in the bright sun. The name comes from a time when they were perhaps more widespread, and these days I feel should be changed to Uncommon Blue. As they are just that. Relatively rare and absolutely glorious. The males with their iridescent blue uppers; when they open their wings in the sunlight, it's like they open and close a gateway to another dimension. An intangible glossy aspect that defies the eye and quickens the heart. Hell of a lot better than chasing invisible fritillaries through tick infested swamp.

uncommon blue

nothing compares to a fresh blue

I was in something of a contained frenzy when Ken appeared. It was great to see him and to be able to let him know there was a blue in the area. Knowing his stuff, he instantly perked up and joined the hunt. We didn't have long to wait before it re-appeared and we both set about crawling in the grass to get photos. There was little urgency as it stayed in the area hopping from Trefoil to grass stem. After a bit, we went down the hill to where he had been taking pics of NBAs and very obligingly they did a merry dance about the flowers there. They were smaller than I'd anticipated. I had seen one down at Burnmouth but it's energy and colours made it seem larger than these. I think there might be a bit of variation in size. These were not much bigger than Small Blues even though on my wall chart they are nearer Small Copper size. (Though they also seem to change in size too.) They are so small (the Northern Brown Argus) that I can't really see them properly and only really know the results of my photos when I get them home. It was nice to see one or 2 still had the oily sheen of fresh emergence about them. This changes as the light reflects off them.

After a while of taking photos of them and the small moths that flitted about, we returned to see if the Blue was still there. It was. It seemed there was only one and it kept to a fairly small territory. Which is kind of convenient if you want to return and take more pics. This we did, nodding hello to passing tourists, some of whom were keen to see what we were clearly excited about in the long grass. Others more interested in Hutton's flippin' section (very close by) or just out for a dog walk. We chatted about cameras and elusive butterflies and I went home with a real joy in my heart, keen to see how the photos had turned out. (Usual mix of success and disappointment, Aha! and dammit, bad crop.) The light was pretty good and captured at least some of the dazzle and sheen on those amazing blue wings, if not the interdimensional enigma you feel when you see them up close in bright sunlight. It was great to chat to Ken - Mary sometimes gets a bit bored with me blathering on about butterflies! Hard to believe but nobody's perfect! Not even her. 

Because of the interest in both NBAs and the Blue here is a wee map and some photos to show where we found them. Just at the border between the rough ground and scree slopes and better grassy ground, a little way down from the Commie Pool roundabout for the NBAs. And between the first 2 barriers on the Rad Rd for the Blue, going up the grassy slope to the bottom of the crags. I believe there might be Graylings there below the crags anytime soon. Another reason to visit (and sneak behind the barriers, not that you should do that, of course.) Beware rockfall - maybe wear a helmet?

just below this large tree

Ken getting close ups
my bike tossed to the ground behind!