Although not one of my highest mileage months, January has been one of my most satisfying. Here are it's highlights:
Running on the Glennifer Braes forms the 'back bone' of my training as its on my door step and offers some great hilly terrain and many great routes. Most of my routes on the Braes start and finish by running through Glen Park. Hurricane 'Bawbag' and the subsequent stronger storms had swept through the park with an awesome display of destructive force. It was quite a spectacular sight that greeted me in the few days of calm we had between squalls. The photos don't really fully portray the scale of the destruction created. Most of the parks paths were blocked by fallen, broken and smashed trees or had been wiped away from landslips. It made progress slow on my runs and the novelty of climbing over and crawling under trees soon wore off!
West Highland Way Training run: Tyndrum-Bridge of Orchy-Tyndrum:
I had planned on running to the cairn on Mam Carraigh, overlooking Loch Tulla, but ended up turning at BoO railway station platform. I had to run against a strong headwind in both directions and had rain, hail and sleet with a 30 minute spell. However, when the cloud did lift, oh my god! The views were spectacular and made up for being cold and wet for 2 and a half hours.
The day after my WHW run above I decided to walk up Ben Lomond, going via my prefered route over the Ptarmigan. The weather after reaching the Ptarmigan was mingin. Ice, snow, rain and then there was the wind! Christ, i've never 'walked' in such a ferocious wind than that before. On the steep pull up to the summit, through the rocky outcrops, I was actually reduced to all fours to get to the summit! The snot was being blown up my nose. Not surprisingly the summit was deserted (I met 4 people on the mountain all day). The decent was pretty miserable as the wind was so powerful it drove the rain straight through my waterproofs. I broke into a jog a few times on the decent just to get down below the foul weather quicker. On the plus side I got a great resistance workout!
Back to the running:
3 Parks Run:
Another regular run takes me through Bellahouston, Maxwell and Pollok Parks in Glasgow and as you can see from the photos they too took a hammering from the winds during January.
The alarm was set for 6.45am for a planned early start to avoid any build up of traffic. After hitting the snooze button umpteen times I got out of bed just after 9am. Opened my curtains to reveal a beautiful blue sky. Yeeehaaa! Dressed, breakfast, kit packed, out the door, drive to BoO, arrive at Victoria Bridge at 12pmish. Good to go. I last ran this WHW section during the Devil O the Highlands race and back then during the race I didn't appreciate just how amazing this area, hidden from the road, really is. The weather was better than perfect as you will see in the photos. I never met another soul the whole day, which added to the enjoyment of the run. I stopped at the cairn on the Black Mount high point before dropping down towards the ski centre. I held my breath for around 30 seconds. Not a sound, no bird song, no wind and no noise from the road below. Astonishing. The Buachaille looked fantastic with it's white powdering of snow and the sharp blue sky above. I ran back feeling hugely lucky to be out here today and soaked up the big sky and mountain views. A day of days indeed.
West Highland Way Training Run: Balmaha-Inversnaid-Balmaha:
The week before this run I had been a bit sniffy and tired so had taken 3 days off from running. On my next run after this rest I felt like my legs had lead weights attached to them. As a result I decided I would be happy if I only managed to Rowardennan and back. But I would see how things during the week went and how I felt on the day of the run. This wasn't going to be a race, just a run with friends and otherWHW Race hopefulls. There would be a variety of running abilities in attendance so the important thing to do was just go at my own pace and enjoy the day in good company. Runners from all over the country were converging on Balmaha for the weekend, including an overseas contingent (Grumpies from Skye and Bute). The weather on my short drive to Balmaha was an indicator as to how it would be throughout the day. Windy, wet and windy. The Oak Tree Inn bar was full of runners ready to go. Despite the hoolie outside there was excitement in the air. With this being a training run there were no set distances to run, you do what you felt you could. Although you had to bear in mind that what you run out you had to run back and the limitations of daylight hours at this time of year. There was no pressure to run the full planned 30 miles. I think most folk ran beyond Rowardennan and the majority of them went on to Inversnaid and back. A few people had started running just after 9am but the majority started at 10am. After a quick brief from Ian and some photos outside the Oak Tree Inn we were off on our way. It looked like there were around 60 runners here today. Some were away very quickly and I had no intention of going out too fast today. The wind was getting up as we climbed Craigie Fort. I met some of the 'Grumpies' on the climb (Fiona, Rachel, Victoria and Fiona R). After decending and running along the shoreline I pushed on and didn't see them again until I passed them on my return leg about a mile from Inversnaid. The outward leg was incident free and I felt good and was happy with my pacing. The weather was changeable but the main constant was the wind driven rain. My waterproof was on, off, on , off and I eventually gave up and left it on. Underfoot progressively got worse as the miles went by. I was behind a couple shortly after Craigie Fort when one of them went down like a Sumo Wrestler. He limped for a bit but soon looked ok. This was the ever present danger today. I didn't fancy falling on my face in all this mud. I kept meeting familiar faces as I ran and chatted for a bit with some, including Andy McHendry a couple of times. It's good to see the NPA is on the ball and have removed all the fallen trees from the WHW route. It was a fair mess in parts of the track from fallen trees and landslips, including one MASSIVE big rock on the high point between Rowardennan and Inversnaid. Starting from Balmaha on fresh legs meant it went fairly easy for most of the day. I arrived at Rowardennan in around 90 minutes and passed a few runners sheltering at the 'tourist hut'. Between Rowardennan and Inversnaid there are two main climbs which were best tackled by walking up them. In today's weather this felt like a right old slog. I ran/walked with the same couple of runners on and off until the top of the first climb. Here I managed to reel in a small group including Ian, Sandra, Helen and Andy and managed to keep pace at their backs until we got to Inversnaid. Along the way we caught up with John K and passed Silke and Katrina who were running together. At Inversnaid every possible place of shelter had runners huddled together, some only arrived and immediately turned around and started their return leg. I decided to refuel for 10 minutes. I'm sure the hotel staff wouldn't have thanked us if we had trailed mud through their foyer. As it was I squeezed into the front porch with another 7 or 8 runners, including Karen D, George R and Mike R. I had a museli bar and a quick drink. One by one everyone was on their way again. I met Andy again, who took a photo for me. He wasn't heading back to Balmaha and instead was pushing on to Tyndrum. Hopefully he made it ok as it looked like the northern end of the loch was getting hammered. So I set off back down the lochside on the heels of Mike R, who quickly dissapeared ( I caught up on the climb just after Rowardennan, but again he soon pulled away). With all the rain and runners out today the return on the same route had churned up the already rubbish surface. I slipped on my ass twice the return run, luckily only my pride was pummelled. On the long climb and then decents towards Rowardennan I kept close to a couple of runners, until I had to answer a call of nature. One of these being Katrina (Johns wife). I caught up with Katrina again at the hotel at Rowardennan but again had to stop for the toilet. Well done Katrina, you were running strong on the way back and looking good for the Fling. Not long after Rowardennan I passed George and Karen. I saw a bit more of George than I was expecting as he had stopped for, call it, a 'rest stop'! The remaining 5 miles or so were run/walk/run/walk. My feet were very cold from all the water soaking into my shoes. I was no longer avoiding the muddy puddles. What would be the point as I was soaking and covered in mud. On the final shoreline section I nearly got blown off my feet such was the strength of the wind. Climbing Craigie Fort was mental with that wind. Then it was done, back into Balmaha. I spent about 25 minutes trying to peel of my running kit in the car, causing me to get cramp in one leg. Anyone who saw me must have thought I was having a seizure! It was well dark now and I was glad I wasn't still out there running. Despite the mingin manky weather and ending up manky mingin from a couple of falls it was a good day out and has boosted my confidence on longer runs. Good to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones. do it again soon.
All I need to do is find the time!