Waking up Saturday morning at 5:00 am to the sound of what could be a freight train passing my window, but what I knew was more likely the wind, led me to the conclusion that, for a change, the Scottish weather forecast was correct. I had planned to join a group for a 24 mile, hilly route, and my ride (Claudia) was due to arrive at 6:15. I ate what I could stomach, got dressed, packed my rucksack with food and water, and thought more and more how much I wanted to go back to my warm, dry, cozy bed.
My calf was still not right – it felt tight when I bounded across my living room during a ‘test’, and I was worried about doing real damage by demanding so much of it during a training run. I was also particularly cautious, because I didn’t want to hurt my chances of actually taking part in the St Valentine’s 30k the following weekend. Defeated, I picked up my phone and dialled Claudia’s number to tell her to head straight to the meeting point, and that I was not going to make it.
Claudia’s phone went straight to voicemail. This meant that I had to at least go to where she had arranged to pick me up to let her know, so I didn’t bother changing out of my kit. About 10 minutes before I was due to be picked up, I told Ian I’d probably see him in 15 minutes, and headed out into the cold, wind, and rain. I took my rucksack with me. Just in case.
When Claudia arrived, I got in the car and said nothing. By the time we had picked up the second person, it was too late to go back. I sent Ian a text to let him know I was just going to go for it.
About an hour later, after dropping some cars of in Banchory, 15 of us were heading towards the start point of our run – a parking lot somewhere within some woods. Somewhere. It was early, I didn’t really have much of a clue where we were, I just knew I had to follow the people that did. Here we are at the start:
Although the rain had been bad earlier, and for basically the entire week before, it had stopped by the time we started running. This cheered everyone up for about 100 meters, by which point everyone had wet feet. We ran along the trail from the car park for about a mile or so before we got to our first hill. Veering off the path, we headed strraight up, battling our way through soggy ground and heather. I had assumed this whole run would be on some kind of trail, so my heart sank as we plodded further up, becomming more exposed to the wind, and being shrouded in cloud. We hadn’t even reached mile 3. Nearer the top of the first hill, Mount Shade, the terrain became a bit more forgiving, and we picked up a bit of speed.
At the top, we decided it would be best to crack on back down the other side before stopping for something to eat, as we’d have more shelter lower down. After a brief rest, and narrowly being the first person to fall on their ass thanks to lightning-quick reactions that I am amazed didn’t break both my wrists, we started up the second hill of the day, Clachnaben, which I’ve been up countless times in the past, and would have known exactly where we were. Had we not been enveloped by cloud. Only near the top did the prominent tors become visible, heralding the end of our second climb.
After another comfort break to eat/wait for everyone to gather, we started off down the other side, where snow, ice, and slush came into the mix. During this section, the sun briefly came out, and everything looked beautiful. Rhona managed to snap a great photo of some of us running along, bundled up:
Sadly, the sunshine was not to last, and we took solace in the fact that, despite the wet conditions underfoot, it wasn’t raining that much as we headed along to the summit of Edendocher.
After about 10 minutes, we headed outside again, and pressed on. This is the first section on road we encountered, and there were a couple of 12% inclines to walk up. Eventually we came upoon a farm house, where we knew there should be a path that veered off to the right before the house. We found what we assumed was the path, and trudged through very boggy ground to a river. Which we needed to be on the other side of.
And of course, the only way was ‘through’. We found a narrow section, with fast flowing water, but it only came up to around my knees (apart from the bit I was hauled over by helping hands). Unfortunately, there were one or two slips involving wet crotches. Having experienced early onset hypothermia from my brief stint in the water, I can only imagine how uncomfortable that was for them.
Luckily, we had quite an uphill slog ahead of us up Kerloch, so we soon warmed up, though trench foot was starting to take hold on all of us. We climbed for what seemed like an hour, before finally starting the rocky, and quite technical (in my opinion) descent. I rolled my ankle a few time here, and it was not comfortable. Thankfully, the rocky section came to an end, and we were treated to a gentle downhill section on a dirt track, which was heavenly. For the first time, we could see Banchory in the distance, and our final hill, Scolty, with the tower on top. Being able to see the end point was uplifting for those beginning to struggle, and we continued downhill onto road, and to the base of the path leading up Scolty.
We made it to the tower at the top and took shelter from the howling wind inside, before taking a group shot once everyone had arrived:
From the top of Scolty, it was pretty much downhil for the final 3 miles, which was good news to hear. We dodged dog walkers and a few cars on the way back, and the pace noticable picked up the nearer we got to the supermarket parking lot where we had left the remaining cars over 7 hours before.
Upon reaching the end, I looked down and joked that we could add on an extra .7 miles to make it a marathon distance, but nobody was game. I was grateful for that. I was also grateful for the supermarket cafe where we all ate a well deserved hot meal, despite having the shittiest service I’ve experiences in such a long time. I won’t even start…
In the car, heated to Claudia’s Panamanian temperature requirements (perfect!), I nursed my tight calf, but was pleased that it felt no worse than it had throughout the week (though no better, for sure). My ankles, the only exposed part of my skin other than my face, were no match for the heather and rocks, and were stinging. My left hamstring was a bit tight. My right hip was a bit tight. But overall? My calf held up, I’d covered 25+ hilly miles, and I had earned a Sunday sleep-in.
Today (the morning after), my calf is extra tight, so I’ve given it a 3 mile walk and a yoga/thai chi style class to help loosen up the legs and give them a stretch. I’ll foam roll later this evening, and I’m hopefuly that after a few more days of this, it’ll be feeling much better.
Here’s our route from yesterday: