Monday 31 May 2010

Crawfordjohn circuit

31st May 2010

Route on Garmin Connect

Just been out for quick 29-mile circuit from Crawfordjohn with Ellie. My first time in years doing this route. The air was thick with mayflies, all living for the moment. Lovely quiet country roads, although next time I must remember my yellow tinted lenses to make the countryside look a bit brighter.

The highlight of the route is the fantastic 6-mile descent from Wanlockhead to Mennock down sweeping smooth tarmac.

Sunday 30 May 2010

Tour of Ben Loyal

29th May 2010

Route on Garmin Connect

After the night of torrential rain at Achmelvich, we broke camp and headed into Lochinver for expensive petrol and Spar shop coffee, which looked and tasted almost entirely unlike coffee.

The weather was still looking pretty grim and unsettled so we headed north in search of inspiration and a proper cup of coffee.

The Kylesku Hotel looked just the place, but we arrived at 9.45am which was 15 minutes too early to be served. So we kept heading north, over the fantastic Kylesku Bridge (which was opened on my 21st birthday), and up to Scourie to that strange Scourie Hotel, jam-packed with fishing paraphernalia and memorabilia.

The coffee took forever to arrive, but was thankfully worth the wait.

Now with caffeine in the system, some form of outdoor activity seemed more of a possibility. But with the weather still so grim, we delayed the inevitable by carrying on driving north.

Passing the Kinlochbervie junction I knew we were close to the fateful location of Brenda'a horrendous accident last year on the track below Gualin House where she managed to comprehensively destroy her right shoulder joint. This lead to me driving her first to Durness, and then all the way to the Raigmore Accident and Emergency in Inverness.

It was strange therefore to see Brenda (and Maisy) in the Raigmore yesterday in such different and happier circumstances.

Anyhow we passed Gualin House without drama this time and arrived in Durness in horrible cold rain only to see a bunch of bedraggled but rather familiar looking cyclists. I'd met some of these guys a few weeks ago at the Galashiels Moffat Toffee 200km Audax. But today they were all doing a 300km route from Portmahomack called the "Durness Duress". It looked like a truly daunting outing, especially given the awful weather.

We left them to it and headed on to Tongue. Scene of Manny's final Corbett last year. And after another coffee and the world's smallest piece of carrot cake at the Ben Loyal Hotel we thought it was just about blummin time we should go out and do some exercise. The choices were a yomp up Ben Loyal, but that looked pretty grim in the pishy cold weather, or a 50-odd mile bike ride around Ben Loyal and Ben Hope.

The bike ride seemed slightly more appealing so we set off at about 1:30pm up the big hairpin drag out of Tongue and over the high ground to Loch Loyal.

At first things seemed OK, with conditions only moderately rainy cold and unpleasant, but after the Altnaharra junction things took a turn for the worse. The descent down Strath More towards Ben Hope required a strong mental approach to blot out the feeling of being frozen to the core with freezing torrential rain.

The rain just kept on hammering down. I was so wet and cold in my flimsy pertex top and shorts. It felt like I was cycling along completely naked with no protection from the elements. I kept wiping the layer of water off my Garmin 205 to count down the minutes and kilometres.

It was a huge relief when we reach Hope, knowing it was just a 5km flog uphill, followed by a swift descent to the Kyle of Tongue causeway.

We were only out for 3 hours 15 min, but I can't remember ever feeling quite so cold and uncomfortable on a bike.

Once I'd managed to peel off the sodden clothes and force my numb hands and feet into dry clothes, it took a good 30 minutes with hot air blasting downwards in the car to finally de-frost my feet and get the feeling back.

We drove down to Lairg to re-fuel on fish and chips, and tried to decide what to do next. The fact that we had a car full of sopping wet kit, and a soaking wet tent meant I wasn't that keen to camp and do anything tomorrow. I had vaguely thought of heading to Torridon to track down Spyke on his record-breaking Munro Round. But without anywhere to stay, we decided to hit the A9 and get back to Glasgow.

The drive back was unbelievably tiring in pouring rain and pour light conditions. I stopped at Tomatin services, only to discover they've been demolished. We stopped in Aviemore for coffee at Smiffy's. We stopped on Drumochter for me to sleep for 2 minutes. We stopped at Pitlochry, but the petrol station was closed. We stopped at Perth for more coffee, then finally negotiated the maze of cones on the A80 upgrade stretch to arrive back in Glasgow at 1am.

Black Isle bike ride

28th May 2010

Route on Garmin Connect

The day started with a drive from Glasgow to Inverness where we dropped by the Raigmore to see Brenda Paul plus new baby, Maisy Jane Barbara Gorman who was less than 24 hours old, but with a full head of dark hair.

Ellie & I then stopped at Dingwall to assemble the bikes and had a plan to cycle up the Black Isle to Comarty to catch the Nigg Ferry, however when we reached Comarty we discovered no sign of any ferry, and were told that it's broken and won't be running for a month or so.

We had little choice to but to continue on round the Black Isle, but without a map we were just guessing the route. We seemed to be on National Cycle Route 1 for part of the time, but accidentally ended up on the busy A832 out of Fortrose in a heavy squally shower that proved pretty unpleasant, but we eventually found a sequence of cycle paths to get us back to Dingwall.

We then drove to Ullapool for some soup, before heading north to look for somewhere to stay. It was getting late and was a horrible rainy evening when we called by at the Inchnadamph Hotel, but they were full, so we kept driving to Achmelvich near Lochinver in torrential rain. Thankfully the rain abated enough to allow us to pitch the tent, but it pretty much poured down all night, so we didn't get much sleep.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Clydebank 10k

27th May 2010

Results | Route on Garmin Connect

The second race in the 2010 Polaroid 10k Series. It was my 3rd shot at this race, and once again it was going to be a massive PW, but I just wanted to get another time on the board and jog around to get used the feeling of running again. Lots of familiar faces drifted past during the first few kilometres. I more or less held position from kilometre 4 onwards, or at least I didn't catch anyone at all, and I only got passed by 3 or 4 more runners including both Robert Wilson and Danny McLaughlin from Greenock Glenpark.

I made a bit of an effort to get dragged along by Danny from 5 kilometres onwards, and only finished a few seconds behind him. I think I missed my 38 minute target time by 1 or 2 seconds, but was pleased to by out running 2 nights in a row after the Chatelherault 6-mile handicap last night.

Johnston Orr, the only other Westie running, finished around 20 seconds behind me, and Iain Thompson from my work appeared delighted that he'd run comfortably inside 50 minutes for a massive PB of 48 minutes something.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Chatelherault Handicap

26th May 2010

Results | Route on Garmin Connect

My 4th year in a row at the Westies Chatelherault Handicap, since inventing the route in 2007.

We had a good turnout of 18 runners, with Adam Gatens clearly the fastest of the bunch. I set off 2nd last with Ken Macmahon knowing that Ken would burn me off, but at least I could try to hang onto him for a while. My plan sort of worked, and I more or less kept up with Ken until White Bridge, by which time I was puzzled that Adam wasn't closing us down, after Green Bridge I caught Don at the top of the climb, and looking back several times still couldn't see Adam, which made no sense to me. I could see Tom floundering in the distance, so made a bit of effort to catch him, but it took until after White Bridge 2nd time around that I finally worked my way past. Then for the final 3km there was reasonable stream of folk to pass until finally I could see Susie just ahead on Duke's Bridge. I was pretty confident I'd close her down in front of the big house, but she kept matching each effort I threw at her, until I was going to have to all out sprint the last 20 metres which I wasn't prepared to do, so drifted across the line a second behind her in a massive PW for the course of 44:48, but pleased to get around without too much discomfort.

Adam was first back in 39:55, but seeing as he never passed me it took a while to work out where he'd been. My only conclusion was that he'd dived down onto the lower trail along by the river, thereby missing out the long steady climb that leads to the steep descent to White Bridge, such that once I reached White Bridge, Adam was already ahead. There's no way of knowing how much time Adam saved on the lower route, but I'd guess it must be 30 seconds to a minute faster. It was pity he went the wrong way, since I wanted to see if he could beat my course record of 40:22 set in 2007.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Helensburgh 10k

20th May 2010

Results | Route on Garmin Connect

Having absolutely decided not to run this race, I somehow strangely found myself on the 17:20 train from Hyndland to Craigendoran heading in the general direction of Helensburgh.

I hadn't managed a single training run this year, and the only 2 bits of road running I'd done were a PW for 5k at the Parkrun in March, and a PW for 10k at the Jack Crawford in February, so not exactly ideal preparation. I have of course managed several hundred miles on the bike the past few months, but that in no way prepares you for running a road 10k.

I have just finished reading Jamie Andrew's book Life and Limb, where he had to start again from scratch after having both hands and feet amputated, so I thought that missing 7 months of training and having persistent groin and hip pain isn't quite as bad as having all your extremities chopped off, so I decided to just blummin well run the race, no matter how slowly.

I started slowly, hoping for some oomph to emerge after a few kilometres, but instead I just got slower, with a steady stream of runners drifting past for most of the race, until at 8km when I finally made the effort to stop anyone else from passing. My finishing time was 38:19, which is my slowest ever road 10k, but I was pleased enough to finish given how rusty my legs, body and mind were all feeling.

It was good to see all the old familiar faces again, and meet a few new folk as well. In particular Ben Melby of Garscube had a great run to finish 2nd overall, assisted by the fact that 2 runners in front both took a wrong turn and ended up taking a completely different route back to the finish. I think the 2 runners who went wrong were sitting in 2nd and 3rd place at the time, behind 3-times race winner Amanuel Hagos of Shettleston/Eritrea. The errant athletes were Mike Deason of Shettleston/Glasgow Uni, and another Eritrean(?) athlete (Robel Negash) running in a Bellahouston Harriers vest.

In the women's race, I suspect that Alison Docherty of Central AC was a clear winner, followed by either Jill Knowles or Lesley Chisholm.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Ben Lomond hill race

Today I wandered up Ben Lomond to take a few photos of the race.

Results | Photos

Prasad clocked a new modern era record at Ben Lomond with 1:05:51 to win the race by more than 2 minutes from Robbie Simpson. First lady was Catriona Buchanan in 1:21:24.

I jogged up to the summit, then descended about 200 metres until I started seeing the front runners. Prasad was just miles in front. Obviously not literally miles, but he had a ludicrous lead when he came past. Next to appear was Oleg, with a bit of gap back to Al Anthony, who had Robbie Simpson close on his heels. Once the first 20 or so runners had gone past, I headed back up the hill, and just managed to have the camera ready in time, thanks to a warning from Colin Porteous who was guarding the trespasser's corner, ready to shout at any runners who dare to trespass off the nasty rocky path onto the nice smooth runnable grass.

Anyhow, I just managed to catch Prasad in full flow has he hurtled into view around the corner. Next to appear where Oleg, Al and Robbie, pretty much in a group, although Al was just overtaking Oleg. Unfortunately Al didn't finish the race, since he took a nasty tumble, and the next I saw of him he had blood stained bandages around his head, and was being escorted off the hill by Dan Gay.

That was later. For the time being I wandered back up onto the summit ridge for more photos. It was difficult to know which way to look, with runners approaching from both directions.

Eventually I'd had enough of the photos, so decided to run back to the finish line, half imagining I'd overtake loads of runners. But general lack of fitness, combined with carrying a heavy expensive camera made it felt like hard work.

Finally, thanks very much to whoever it was who handed me the extra soup token. That stroppy woman in the hotel was determined I wasn't getting any!

Thursday 6 May 2010

Dumyat hill race

Last night I jogged up Dumyat to watch the hill race and take a few photos.

The race was won by Murray Strain, followed by 5 Edinburgh Uni runners: Hectors Haines, Michael Gillespie, Duncan Coombs, Matthew Sutherland and Ben Cole. First female was Jessica Martin of Glasgow University.

Monday 3 May 2010

Glen Muick bike ride

3rd May 2010

I had a strange experience at Braemar Youth Hostel last night. We had a rowdy drunken Glaswegian scumbag in a our room, who eventually I decided to have "words" with when he wouldn't shut up. This quickly escalated into a nasty aggressive confrontation, which gave me the perfect excuse to go and find a deserted room at the top of the building for a nice peaceful night's sleep.

In the morning we cleared off early and had some breakfast with Kate and Andy Kitchin in Ballater, before heading out on the bikes. It was blummin cold and windy, so we decided against cycling to Banchory and instead headed up Glen Muick, where I expected to bump into Spyke and crew on their Munro Round record attempt.

There was no sign of them in the Glen, so we headed on up to Loch Muick where we bumped into Owen and Ursula Bass hard at work cutting and chiselling some rock for some sort of map of Lochnagar. We cycled to the far end of Loch Muick, until the good track runs out, then turned back, but still no sign of Spyke's van. Somewhat baffled, we returned to Ballater and immediately spotted the van in the central car park. We then found Sam, JC and Mike Nelson at the Brown Sugar Cafe who told us that Spyke had headed for Mount Keen via Glen Tanar. To me this seemed like madness, since it is 4 times further than approaching Mount Keen from Glen Muick. And not only were they approaching via Glen Tanar, they were also returning this way, which essentially adds 30 miles onto their day!!

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, going once by Glen Tanar could be regarded as a misfortune, but going twice looks like carelessness... I'll await to hear whether their 30 mile detour paid off... somehow I doubt it, and suspect that they will be seriously late setting out over Lochnagar this afternoon/evening.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Rannoch Station bike ride

2nd May 2010

After Stuc a' Chroin, I headed to Pitlochry and stayed at the Youth Hostel. Ellie had cycled about 64 miles to Pitlochry from Callendar to avoid seeing anyone at Strathyre.

On the Sunday morning we cycled up to that weird Falls of Bruar place for breakfast, before heading inland away from the A9 after Calvine up Glen Errochty. This was fairly flat before a final steep climb and descent over to Kinloch Rannoch. From here we took the south Loch Rannoch road and kept heading westwards until the very end of the road at Rannoch Station. The station tea room was surprisingly busy with Sunday drivers.

After fruit cake and chocolate raisins we headed back out into the cold and battled along the north Loch Rannoch road before switching onto south Loch Tummel for the final section back to Pitlochry.

81 miles or 130km in total.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Stuc a' Chroin hill race

1st May 2010

Results | Photos

It was 3 years since I'd last run the Stuc a' Chroin. In 2007, I ran 2:26 during my stint of running every day for the first 6 months of the year. By contrast in 2010, I've run about 6 times in total, so it was wishful thinking to imagine I could bluff my way round the course. But I was interested to learn whether I had any residual fitness after 6 months with virtually no running. It became clear pretty early on that my legs weren't up to the job. I got cramp for most of the race, and stopped about 20 times on the way back to stretch my legs and let people past.

There isn't really any option of dropping out of these hill races, so I kind of walked and half-jogged the return route just to get back to the car. No amount of gels or powders made the slightest difference to the cramp, which was purely down to lack of conditioning with this being my first long run in 7 months.

I did manage to complete the course, albeit 35 minutes slower than last time in 2007.

I can't say it was much fun at the time, but I'll need to reflect on the experience and see if there's anything useful I can learn from shuffling along for 3 hours with cramp.