Thursday, 16 June 2011

Interesting run or epic adventure?

It was both :-) it was an interesting run which turned into an epic adventure!

My long run for Saturday was 18miles from Strathclyde Park to New Lanark visitor centre, this route runs alongside the River Clyde for nearly the whole journey with only a couple of departures where it climbs away from the water for a couple of miles before dropping back down again - this is actually a nice description of what a friend commenting on my run called "Killer Hills" she wasn't wrong! Worse, I wasn't expecting them :-)
The run is mainly on trail with a few miles on country lanes/farm roads a mixture of tarmac and concrete, with the worst parts for me being the very narrow trail through the fields of long wild grasses which meant that due to the rain my shoes quickly got soaked!

OK to try and give you the proper chronology...

We set off early as usual to parkrun although only John was running, I was spectating and setting off to run after he'd finished.

It was unusually, a beautiful morning, the sun was shining and even more unusual there was no gale blowing across the loch, nor were there any "beasties"!

John ran the first mile with me on a lovely wooded trail with the sun dappling through the leaves and river running along on my right hand side, he turned back to go and get the car so that he could drive on ahead and meet me along the way, so I was off on my on on a totally new trail :-)
I met a few fellow joggers and a couple of dog walkers along the first couple of mile, then at around the 5mile mark I met my first obstacle:

Should I go over it or under it? In the end I had to go under and over it as I was approaching it from the other side to this photo - it was about 4ft off the ground at the point where I'd to climb over! Once safely on my way the next obstacle was a sign which said that the riverbank was prone to flooding and an alternative route was available which rejoined the river 2miles on... John's parting advice was "keep the river on your right hand side" needful of this I started off down the "path" through a field of cows until I got to a point where I couldn't pass as the cows were grazing right across the path - the path was in truth only where the grass had been worn by the cattle and sheep. Now I should explain that I grew up in dairy farming country so have no fear of cattle, in fact I find cows really friendly gentle animals - most of the time - these ones however were nursing very young calves and this meant I was giving them a wide berth! I met a man walking the path and asked if he knew where the alternative route went but it was his first outing too so I headed back the way I'd come to look for the route mentioned above... Long story short I couldn't find it - an extra km or so back and fro over really lumpy terrain and I decided to give it one more shot. Fortunately by this time the cows had moved away from the path so I headed onwards. Another couple of miles along the way and by this time I'm on a farm road, when...
Fortunately I could walk around the edge of the root stump so managed to get on my way again - oh and by this time it was raining!
Only about another mile further on there was yet another tree across the path but again I was able to walk around it.
By this time I had still only covered about 8 miles - it seemed much further :-) I wasn't tired, I'd just had to contend with so many obstacles along the way! About half a mile later I met John who ran a mile or so with me until we came to Rosebank, he went back to the car and I carried on along the river. The track here was more like gravel which I didn't particularly like but it was flat so I made good time, soon I headed into the woods, again a really lovely place to run, it was still raining but in the trees it was mainly dry, and the trail underfoot was much more enjoyable to run on. It started to get hilly here with a few sets of wooden steps and boardwalks over burns etc - these are fun to run on as you get a wee "bounce" and the changing terrains while challenging add welcome variety.
Then I met my first hill, and it was probably the worst! It was a really steep 87m ascent and an almost immediate descent! The next 4 or 5 miles were hilly and wooded, but I was listening to a podcast where a guy was retelling his experiences on a German trail run, and it was really funny so took my mind off the pain :-) I do believe in the "psychic ipod" theory...
John caught up with me again as I reached the next flat section and he had a banana with him which we shared and chatted as we ran along, I really like doing my long runs on my own, but I really really enjoy when I meet him like this for a mile or so and then I can look forward to catching up with him again later - especially when like on this route, I don't know where. It's a lovely surprise :-)
I had my fuel drink in my backpack and a bagel to nibble on as well as a couple of gels so I was feeling comfortable in terms of my nutrition etc.
This is becoming an epic post so I will move swiftly on, another few miles - I think it was probably about 16miles in but by this time my Garmin had thrown a wobbly and was somehow displaying in Lithuanian or Romanian or similar, and it had already stopped and I'd had to restart it - I think it was the heavily wooded sections to blame - if it loses a signal for too long it will think it's stopped and do a reset and I didn't hear the warning beep... as for the language change? Who knows I must have managed to press some combination of keys with my jacket cuff or something!

Then... the final injustice!
I came to a sign which said the bridge ahead was closed, it also mentioned the construction of a temporary footbridge, so as I had no need to cross the bridge until a mile or so further downriver, I thought ok will keep on going... WRONG! Not only was the bridge closed - the temp footbridge wasn't opening until Mon 13th June - remember this was Sat 11th! But worse, the whole path was closed off by the repair works. I retraced my steps to the sign which also had a detour map on it - unfortunately it didn't have that little red dot with "You are here" so I hadn't a clue where I actually was on that map! My iphone mapping wouldn't work as I couldn't get a reliable phone signal in the woods... I rang John and left a message saying the bridge was closed and I was going to try to find the diversion but if I couldn't I would retrace my steps back to Crossford which was the last place we'd met.
I then met two young men who were hiking, but it was also their first time on this path so they had no clue either, however one of them had his OS maps for the hike on his phone and they were able to confirm my suspicions that the detour was indeed through some long grass and up a big hill across some fields... This was indeed the way, and I climbed up until I came to the village of Nemphlar, village is a loose description, I think there were about 5 houses... I decided then to stay on the roads and not try to get back to the trail as I knew that if I stayed on the roads and headed back downhill towards the river I would end up close to my intended destination. I was trying to call John reasonably frequently at this point to let him know that I was safe but wouldn't finish where he expected me to, but by this time he'd headed along to look for me and he had no phone signal!
I made it out onto the main road and headed in to the town of Lanark from the far end by which time I managed to get in touch with John, poor thing he'd all sorts of messages on his phone including a funny one where I had called without realising it on the redial function and the message I left was the sound of my shoes squelching as I ran down the road :-)
It all ended well, he met me in the car in Lanark and we set off for home, I didn't quite make it to the visitor's centre, but I did add another 4 miles on to my run so it was indeed an epic adventure! It has taken me almost an hour to type this up so if you manage to last to the end I am Well Impressed!!

Hmmm wonder where my long run will take me this Saturday?

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