Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Variety is the spice of life

It's nice to try to do things with a focus on others rather than yourself, so that's what the past couple of weekends have been mainly about. A friend was celebrating his 60th birthday by cycling (with another friend) from Dunnet Head (Scotland's most northerly point) to the Mull of Galloway (Scotland's most southerly point) over a week...ending on the actual birthday itself.
The last day cyclists!
It was interesting to see the pictures they posted every day, and I went out (with their wives) to meet them in Newton Stewart on the Friday night, so that I could join them for the last day of the ride. It was a nice sociable day as another friend also came out for the ride, and the "wife support car" met us along the way with sandwiches and traybakes (yummmm!!!). I was worried that I would be holding them back, but after a week of each other's stories, I'm sure that the original pair enjoyed having other people interested in their tales. We mainly cycled on the back roads which were rather quiet...and beautiful to ride along. I'm sure they got tired of me exclaiming over the views, but when you see the sun (OK, so we cycled through some showers too!) glinting off the sea with some beautiful beaches, you wonder why people feel the need to go overseas for holidays when Dumfries and Galloway has so much to offer. It was nice to have a change from running -  I felt that I better able to look round as I was slightly higher up,  less tired, and didn''t have to worry about tripping up if I glanced at my surroundings!
Lunch at both ends of D&G!
The sting in the tail was that the final few kms were rather "undulating" with a climb right up from sealevel up to the lighthouse on the promotory...but it was worth it....especially when you consider the tot of whisky we raised to the 60th birthday, and the lovely soup and cake in the cafe afterwards!
I did manage a long run the next day....though it seeemd weird to be having lunch in Gretna, when I'd been right at the opposite side of D&G less than 24 hours beforehand.
The next weekend saw the inaugural Glencoe Skyrace, which one of my friends was due to compete in. Unfortunately, he was rather unwell the day before the race, and though he tried to rest as I drove up there, he did not recover enough to be able to take part, which was rather disappointing for him to say the least. Still, at least it meant that he didn't have to brave the midgiefest that I endured as a volunteer/marshal.
I helped with registration until after 11pm on the Friday night, then slept for a few hours in the back of the car before starting to register the final competitors at 5:30am. Being "on the other side" again, and cacthing up with lots of friends, did give me race envy, but I knew that I had to keep my sensible head on. We weren't officially allowed to stop the traffic, but could wave high viz warning signs to alert drivers (and hope they slowed down), so it was rather scary to be manning a road crossing within the first mile and have runners pouring down the race route towards you, and a big truck bearing down the main road at you at the same time. Luckily a police car appeared at the last minute to assist us, and all the drivers kindly stopped to let the runners cross safely.
Not bad as morning views go.....
I then went further down the valley to where the race route crossed the road again between two ridgelines. It was great to be able to encourage the runners as they came through there, give them food and drink, top up water bottles, ring cowbells etc, and it was interesting to see the different expressions of pain, tiredness or pure enjoyment on their faces as they came through. Then it was time to say good bye to the Highlands and head back home ;-(
There was a local trail race the next day, and so I decided to use it to try to get my legs turning over a bit faster. I got a clue as to the conditions for the race when I cycled out to the start/registration, as it was rather warm and humid, despite the overnight thunderstorms.
I always find it interesting how people start races - although I know I start slower than most, it never fails to surprise me how fast some others sprint off so that within metres, I'm behind those that I never usually see in a race. At least we started with 50m of road so I could worm my way around a couple of runners before a sharp 90 degree bend though a gate into an uneven rutted grassy field.
The race profile
I knew my friend Ruth (from Shettleston Harriers) was a good short distance runner with good cross-country and hill running skills, but she just seemed to fly away from me into the distance. By the time we exited the field and crossed the river (her by the steps on the bridge, me via the steep muddy slope alongside) she was almost 50m ahead of me, along with Kevin (one of my clubmates). We then had a brief section of gradual climb on a minor road, before turning off onto overgrown forest roads/tracks that climbed more steadily up and up. They were wide enough for passing and I gradually reeled in the two in front of me, to pass them just after the 3K marker, but then we started to descend. This part of the course was shady and rather wet underfoot, with uneven rocks, stones and roots as well as mud - I was very aware of not giving myself a silly injury, and so was quite happy to ignore Kevin who soon passed me again on the long downhill stretch.
Both Kevin and I were briefly confused by seeing a runner ahead of us in a club vest, but it was Frank, the race organiser, who'd turned back early to check that everything was running smoothly and the marshals were happy. We seemed to be running back the way we'd come into the forest, and so I actually checked my watch as I couldn't believe we were on the homeward leg already. I needn't have worried as we were shortly directed back off onto some more forest trails (yup, to climb again). The final part of the course had us out into the sunshine, along trails and through fields, before climbing back up to the road via a farm. Kevin was running well and so I didn't pull alongside him until we only had a mile to go. Then it was a case of lengthening our stride along the tarmac until we ducked under the main road again, via the original rutted grassy field.
Souvenirs of the weekend
You could really feel the uneven boggy surface taking it out of your tired legs, especially as it was now a drag uphill - as opposed to the carefree gallop down it at the start. Luckily it was just a short rough stretch until you popped back out into the road to finish in front of the pub (who can complain with a finish line by a pub for further refreshments?). It was nice to chat to everyone over food and drink before changing shorts and shoes again to cycle home - all in all a very varied but enjoyable weekend!

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