January is a hard month for an ultra runner in Scotland. The weather is at it's worst and the days are short. So what better way to make things more interesting than a night run in the hills??
It was Oscar who made me do it. His idea was to run from Galashiels to Peebles then on to Innerleithen and get the bus back to Gala. Why? To prepare for the High Peak Marathon of course! It's a 40 mile race on THE toughest terrain I've ever ran on/through, it borders on the farcical when, in the middle of the night your running partners (and you) regularly "lose" a leg up to the waist in freezing peat bog and everyone trots on as if nothing has happened... I can't wait!
So, Oscar and I slipped and slid the first few miles in the dark along the Southern Upland Way hoping to recreate some of the HPM's testing conditions and thus give ourselves some kind of valuable advantage!
It had all been going according to plan until we arrived in Peebles at about 4am in torrential rain, it was real stair-rod stuff and I was soaked to the skin. I mentioned to Oscar that this might be a bit dodgy as we climbed back into the hills but after a short discussion we agreed to stick to the plan and do the loop back to Innerleithen. So, we started the climb up Kirkhope Law and the rain went off, but then the sky cleared and the temperature dropped rapidly. Very quickly I was freezing cold and unable to get warmed up with the wind increasing and going right through my wet clothes so we pushed on almost to the summit then decided it would be sensible to go back to Peebles and catch the bus there as we had some tricky navigation to come and anything going wrong in these conditions could be pretty dodgy. We timed it perfectly, as we rounded the corner into Peebles high street the bus was waiting, we grabbed some food in the bakers and sat on the bus shivering, looking like two complete weirdo's who had been to some sort of strange lycra fetish party (I believe they exist in Peebles) with 33 miles and a load of climbing in the bag... mission accomplished!
Dark and rain above Peebles
Next up on the schedule was the Devils Burdens Relays in the Lomond Hills. It's always a really enjoyable race with Carnegie putting in nine teams this year. Great to see some new faces trying out in the hills for the first time. I ran leg 3 again with Sandy as my partner and had a pretty good run, then ran leg 4 to make up the numbers in another team so had a good fast flat run too.
Yesterday was the club cross country race at Loch Fitty so I decided to do it as the course is excellent. It was really muddy this year and made for hard running so I was pleased to only be about 15 seconds outside my pb from 2007 and in 2nd place.
Then to complete a weekend of fast, muddy running I went up to Forfar to do the multi terrain half marathon which is a mixture of road, trail and hill with lots of mud too. I haven't ran a half marathon for years so wasn't really sure how this would go. I set off at a good steady pace then pushed it a bit at about 3 miles to make up some ground, then at 4 miles had a nasty fall in a huge muddy puddle gashing my knee and hands so that took the wind out of my sails for half a mile or so. One wrong turn later I was running with another two guys until we found ourselves in someones back garden realising something was wrong when the path reached the garden shed. Then back on track again I took my chances on my own as they didn't seem to have much more of an idea of the route than me, at least when I took wrong turns they shouted me back... very sporting! I finished up in 13th place in 1:25:29 and had a good long soak in Forfar Loch to celebrate.
Some fast stuff lately has blown the cobwebs away making it quite a good months running with mileage totalling just over 280 and a fair mix-up of road, hills and people's back gardens so hopefully I can keep it going.