Saturday, 16 February 2013

More Borders Abbeys Way

Today I ran another section of this 60 or so mile trail route that takes in Kelso, Jedburgh, Hawick, Selkirk and Melrose. Melrose to Selkirk and back was todays outing. Below are some photos, but as usual with me they have uploaded in a random order, so a bit of wordy stuff first.
I had two aims in mind for this run. Firstly it would be my last long one before the Northumberland Coastal ultra in two weeks time. Secondly I needed to learn how to take walk breaks in a structured way for this ultra.
My life is pretty unstructured and I am not good at following plans etc so i have not trained for this race in any recognised fashion. However, I have realised that walking is an important part of "running" an ultra. With this in mind I decided to run 55 minutes and walk 5. I am pleased to say that I (almost) managed this (I was 5 minutes late for my last walk break!)

I set off just before 8 am in good running conditions, even if they did not lend themselves to scenic photographs. The first 3 miles are run along the banks of the river Tweed and are very gentle, ideal leg looseners in fact. Quite soon I realised that I was having a touch of what we can euphemistically call "runners tummy" :-( Fear not dear reader, for I have learned from previous mishaps and today I was packing Andrex. So much nicer than leaves! Enough I hear you cry. OK, Onwards!
The route leaves the river and heads past Abbotsford, former home of Sir Walter Scott, climbing quite steeply. This section is road, changing to forestry track. Cauldshiels Loch appears and I start running on proper hill ground: muddy, wet, a bit boggy and exposed. The views would have been very impressive had it not been for the low cloud.
After passing the donkey sanctuary, the route drops sharply down on tarmac to Selkirk. I couldn't help thinking that this would be tough on the return journey. It was, although my second walk break coincided with this. All in all, this is a very pleasant section of the Borders Abbeys Way.
I often struggle to remember what I thought about on a long run. Today I have two quite clear memories. I thought about how I sometimes think of a holiday in the sun and realised how stupid I've been. As I approach 50 years of age, I am discovering some fantastic amenities pretty much on my doorstep. Like the Borders Abbeys Way, Southern Upland Way, Berwickshire and Northumberland Coastal Paths. They're not new, they've been there for years, only I havent found them. Thanks to runningI have now. Took a bloody long time!
My second memory of todays run occurred as I took my last walk break. I asked myself how I felt physically and was delighted to feel absolutely fine after 17 miles. It amazes me what the body can get used to. Its not long ago that really struggled to run a half marathon and all but collapsed at the end.
I also wondered where the last 3 hours had gone. How could 17 miles and 3 hours pass seemingly unnoticed? The best answer I came up with was that my life, and indeed all our lives, is dictated by time out of necessity. I have to be at work at such and such an hour. An appointment at 11 am or whenever has to be kept etc etc. Yet whilst running long this doesn't apply. I could have taken 3 hours or 6 hours so time was irrelevant. And this was a very liberating thought. On the downside, I also realised that I only had 2.5 miles to go and so another long run would be over all too soon.
In summary: 20 miles, 3 hours 32 minutes of hills, mud and tranquility. You gotta love running.
 Cauldshiels Loch about 6 miles from Melrose

I was tempted on the downhill into Selkirk:-)

Donkey sanctuary

Not the best day for views

 Winter hasn't gone entirely yet.

 The Eildons come into view
 Ive seen more useful bridges!
 A steep pull up
 The river Tweed

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Bit of the Southern Upland Way

Today I explored another section of the Southern Upland Way. This time I ran from Lauder to Melrose and back. I have an ultra in 3 weeks so I have combined running new routes as part of my "training". I'm not very good at training, I just run. Its all a bit haphazard, however I decided I needed to do 2 weekends of back to back decent runs. Last weekend I ran parts of the Borders Abbeys Way, 18 miles on Saturday and 25 miles on Sunday. This weekend I ran less, rightly or wrongly, but I enjoyed both runs more. So in my book thats a result in itself. I ran 10 miles yesterday around the woods of Duns Castle Estate. This is just the most amazing running playground, right on my doorstep. A privilege I'm very aware of and grateful for. Today I ran 20 miles from Lauder to Melrose and back.
I prepared better than usual in that I was asleep by 9.30 and had a good sleep (something that is increasingly rare...grr). I got up around 6.20, enjoyed my morning tea (echinacea and raspberry always!) and some muesli. I'd got most of my stuff organised the night before, but gathered a few extra bits and set off around 7.
I arrived in Lauder as dawn was breaking if it ever would as the low cloud was, well LOW:-) I got my shoes on, Camelbak complete with biscuits and Midget Gems and set off. The first little stretch is up, as in straight up. Nice way to waken the legs and lungs. The first couple of miles were quite hard due to their up and down nature. Oddly I found them easier on the return. Perhaps my legs had given up complaining by then! The next stretch was very very boggy, which then led onto farm tracks. These were muddy but generally a good running surface. I took a wrong turn at one point, which added no distance but did involve going way downhill and so way back up hill. Once the Eildons came into view I dropped down considerably to Gattonside and joined the banks of the river Tweed. I ran along the banks for a mile or so and crossed the suspension bridge that I used to jump up and down on as a 10 year old:-) Rather than running into Melrose and turning around I ran along the other bank of the river until I found the road bridge, headed back towards Gattonside, found the track and back up the hill.
The return journey saw the wind pick up a little and some light snow fall. What seems to happen to me at this stage of this sort of run is that I drift off. I'm not sure if I think of anything. I am aware of my surroundings, acutely aware, yet time seems to stop, I see my tracks in the mud from the outward journey, I remember passing "that tree" or whatever. I play little mental games like "when I get to xxxx I will have run yy miles and have zz to go". I am always amazed how soon I have finished (and thats not because I'm running fast!). All runs are different. Today was a special one. I saw long slow hills ahead and before I knew it I was up there and feeling good, feeling strong.
So much of this running game is in the head not the legs. Today I had my A1 head on. No pictures today as the light was so crap, but if youve got this far you've read my words instead:-)

A day at the beach

The kids, dogs and I had a fantastic day yesterday on possibly my favourite place on earth: Goswick beach. It has something that does something nice to my being. I just like being there

                                          I love the driftwood and the "animals" it looks like
                                                 My boys, Scrim and Sonny
                                                          Sam, Joe and Gina

                                                         Future trail runners?

                                                         Happens every time!

                                       Sonny met some play mates but was too scared to play

                                                                              E.T. ?

                                        A fantastic day, followed by fish and chips for lunch.