Monday, 30 April 2012

Loch Long Shortie

The day after the Kaim Hill race I decided not to run, as I had planned, as my left hamstring decided it wasn't in the mood. The day after I thought that a wee 5 miles or so would do the job to loosen it off. I'm forever looking at OS maps to find new routes to try out in the hope of finding a wee gem of a track somewhere I normally wouldn't run. One route I've looked at a few times starts at Tarbet (Loch Lomond) and follows the railway line down past Arrocher and follows the shoreline of Loch Long to Garelochhead. I had no intention, early on, of running the full return trip. I planned on only going so far as the MOD site, opposite Coilessan and back, which would be 5 or 6 miles. The track I took, which started on the hillside opposite Tarbet Station, is part of the 'Three Lochs Way' footpath (Balloch to Inveruglas). I parked at Tarbet Station and crossed the road to walk up the steep tarmac service road to get to the gate where the path I was taking began.
The first mile or so was very rocky and I found it very difficult to run on for fear of twisting an ankle or landing on my face, so I took it fairly easy for this first section. The path gradually gains height and soon the Cobbler, Beinn Narnairn, A Chrois and the Brack came into view, looking back the views of Cruach Tairbeirt and up Glen Loin and over to Ben Vorlich were just as awesome today. My legs and especially my hamstring felt fine so I pushed on.
After the Ardmay Hotel there was a very tough climb and at the top I had fantastic views down Loch Long. As I passed below Tullich Hill I decided that as I was feeling great to take advantage of the good weather and extend my run by turning into Glen Douglas. In the end I ran just under 15.5 miles. A 'bit' longer than the planned 5 or 6 miles, but as I'm always saying, these unplanned runs turn out to be the most enjoyable. So as I entered Glen Douglas at Creagan Sithe I was feeling great. I wasn't in a hurry and wanted to sook up my surroundings, having never run or even walked in this area before. I half expected to see Steve McQueen on his bike trying to jump the huge fence that runs around a third of the way down the Glen on it's southern side.
This high fence surrounds an MOD munitions dump (shhh... don't tell anyone!) and I couldn't help feeling I was being watched from the hillside. This was no doubt due to me pointing my camera in their direction. When I reached Tullich Farm, in the Glen, I knew it was just as far to keep going as it would be to turn back and return the way I had just come. Thankfully the Glen, although high above sea level, was fairly flat and had for the most part and new looking smooth surface. I had to step off to the side a few times to let the occasional car pass, but on the whole I had the Glen to myself, except for the cows and sheep. There were lots of new born lambs and calfs (or is it calves?) in the fields on both sides of me as I ran down the Glen. I had a chuckle when I came across one massive Highland Cow in the road with MASSIVE horns standing in the middle of the road facing down a very small car with forign plates. The cow remained totally unfazed as I ran past a mere three feet away. It was not for budging! That poor couple are probably still sitting there. Not long after I caught my first glimpse of Loch Lomond and then Ben Lomond's snow covered triangular peak.
There was a very steep downhill section here that took me down to the A82 and into Inverbeg. I crossed the road onto the cycle track which runs along the lochside. From here it was a fairly straight forward run all the way back to Tarbet. I stopped a few times on the Lochside to enjoy the views up towards the top of the loch.
It wasn't long before I sighted Tarbet and was soon back at my car. I purposefully ran behind the hotel to run up 'Still Brae', which brought back very faint memories of when I lived in Tarbet as a wee yin. I would walk down this hill on my way to school, many many many moons ago!
I was back at the car in 3.5 hours. It's a route I'll run again as it's a great trail run on the Loch Long section.

It's now two days since I ran my 4th (Hoka) Highland Fling and I'll be posting my race report before the end of the week. Contain your excitement until then.

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