Monday, 31 January 2011

Bits n Bobs

Made a flying visit to Teesside on mother in law duty this week. I normally hate coming down here but this week I managed to get in a couple of good runs. One of them took me along an old stone flagged pack horse route that traverses the moor between Commondale and Guisborough. 
It’s a fascinating historical path, the flagstones having been laid hundreds of years ago by ancient monks as a means of getting there provisions delivered. Many, many feet have travelled that way such that the stones are badly worn and a groove runs all the way along them. Back in the 1980’s the local authority decided it might be a good idea to turn all the stones up the other way onto the unworn side, only to find some thrifty council from hundreds of years ago had already done that and the stones are worn on both sides.
My other run took me past the scene of the last in England execution by flailing. A particularly nasty form of torture involving the victim being tied arms and legs apart and their skin being stripped from the neck down their bodies. Most were dead by the time the waist was reached.  My daughter’s old history teacher now lives in the house where the condemned man ate his last meal. Can you imagine facing that and wanting to eat!!!!
My runs last week were mainly night runs but I’m really getting to enjoy them. The views from the summit of Dumyat are awesome with all the lights of Stirling and swirling illuminated mist round the Wallace Monument.
Mind you on a run that took me by White Muir lochs by Gleneagles I got the fright of my life putting up several hundred pink-footed geese. Some racket their wings mad as they all took off in the pitch dark. I wonder how they find the water again without landing lights.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Signs of Spring

It was classic temperature inversion weather today so on the tops it was a good few degrees warmer than in the valleys. I went with Marguerite and Moss to the picnic site near Glendevon and we did our route by Glen Sherup that takes us over Innerdownie, Whitewhisp Hill, Tarmangie Hill then returns us via Ben Shee and Glensherup Reservoir.

It was the first time this year I’d actually felt the warmth in the sun when we got into bits sheltered from the wind and the birds were singing their little heads off in the trees. Despite the icy ground it definitely had a touch of Spring about the weather today.

Looking down over the Forth Valley though I recon it was freezing down there as we were looking over a sea of thick low cloud looking very picturesque. I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Night Running

Last night I had a fabulous run after dark.  The conditions were absolutely spot on for it too as there was a full moon, stars and frost everywhere.
The run takes me through fields, woodland and past a couple of small lochs that are still iced over and looked completely white, as did the trees and ground I was running across. It all looked amazingly surreal and contrasted a silvery landscape with a dark backdrop.
I love running when it’s like this and I’m reminded of a similar run a few years ago when it was a dark and star filled night and I suddenly became aware of an aurora playing around in the sky. I remember having to consciously tear my eyes away from the sky and watch where I was putting my feet as I ran.
The other good thing is that as I’m still carrying a niggling knee problem from back in November it forces me to adopt a nice slow pace and so gives my body a bit of a rest too.
I’d really recommend everyone gets away from the streetlights and out into the countryside at night, it’s got loads to offer.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Running With an Absent Friend

Today I did my 20k Glendevon circuit. It’s a run I often used to do with Dario. In fact the very first time I met him we did this run and I remember it like it was yesterday.  About a third of the way round the route he climbed a fence and as if to prove how hard he was he promptly demolished the fence with his testicles, very impressive indeed.
A bit later on we were running along the drovers track through Glendevon.  Dario loved it there, he felt it reminded him of a sort of mini Glencoe and I could certainly see what he meant, and it’s a beautiful track to run on surrounded by spectacular steep hills.
Further on we were going along the single track road toward the reservoirs where he would regale me with stories from the WHW and his time training top class track athletes not to mention his own early life as a very competitive runner. Most of all though, his eyes shone when he spoke about the WHW and the characters he knew, mad Jim Drummond and the Drama queen to name just a couple.
Running back into the village I passed the pub where we used to go for a well earned pint. It’s now closed down so today I just ran home but it had been a brilliant run.
So you see, one thing is certain, every time I do this run I am never alone. Running alongside me all the way is my absent friend and though I miss him that makes me very happy.

Friday, 14 January 2011


Well the symptoms are there sniffles and sneezes etc. It really isn’t fair you know, I mean it was only a couple of weeks ago I shifted the last one, albeit a slight cold.

The strange thing is I seem to get a cold and after a couple of days Marguerite catches it. She then cultivates it, nurtures it, evolves it and mutates it into something akin to bubonic plague. She then gives it back to me a hundred times worse than I gave it to her.
Thank you so much Marguerite.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Snow Is In Retreat!

It was way back in my distant memory the last time there was no snow, maybe around the end of November. Since then there’s been that many varieties of the stuff I didn’t realise there could be so many.

First we had the initial 50cm that was soft and sinky making a normally twenty minute run take nearly an hour. Then came the freeze and for a time the snow was fun to run on, crisp and crunchy. The trouble was a slight rise in temperature meant the run became a series of crunch, crunch, *curse* as a foot disappeared to the knee as it broke through the crust.

Next came a hint of rain and the quantity of snow began to diminish as it melted only for the freeze to return making running a terrifying tippy toeing trot with every step a potential bum on ice moment (and I had one or two of those).

Then there was a series of false dawns where over the last couple of weeks the snow almost went building up hopes of carefree runs then VOILA! I open the curtains in the morning only to find another 100mm has silently materialized overnight.

Now things are different though. Looking at the weather forecast for double figure temperatures the snow is on the run. I believe in a couple of days the snow will finally be gone, at least for now. I am actually looking forward to running in the wet, wind and mud of a normal January. I can’t wait to feel the benefit of the resistance training a couple of months of running in snow has given me. I’ve had a few tantalizing glimpses lately, a couple of dozen meters of ice free grass all soft and squidgy and how easy running on it feels. Bring on the mud I can’t wait!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

It Starts Today

Today I've done two things, firstly I’ve gone public, and I’ve told everyone on Facebook I’m going to attempt to run the West Highland Way. Secondly I’m starting this blog. Not sure which is the scariest really. As for the blog I have got no idea what’s going to get written here. It may be a complete load of rubbish that everyone’s going to see but, heyho, I’m doing it anyway and we’ll see what happens.

As for the run, well I’ve got absolutely no idea what I’m doing with regard to training for an event as long as this one. One thing I do know is that it will be more a trial of mental endurance than physical. I know I’m physically fit but am I mentally strong enough? I also know it’s not a short term project. I’m expecting it to be a good couple of years to get from where I am now to being able to do this. That being the case I would say it will either happen in 2013 or maybe more likely 2014.

At my present level I can probably just about manage with some pain to run 20 mile. I think my first aim will be to up my long run mileage so I can run a reasonably comfortable 20 miles. At that point I’ll join in with the West Highland Way racers on their training runs and stretch this a little further.

I’d like to think by the end of the year I’ll get my long run up to around the 30 mile mark.
Looking further out I’m hoping that in year two I’ll be working between the 30-60 mile mark which should then give me a good platform to jump from to reach the goal the following year.