Saturday, 2 July 2016

A climb

The climb out of Kinlochleven is always tough ..
You have climbed and then dropped to sea level 
Only to climb again .. 
The roar of river gives way to the relentless rise
The step after step to the wee switch back 
Then climb on some more ..
We chat away we go up 
We move upwards 
Always upwards 
Turn around to look at where we have come from 
The rock face granite I think ..
The last few bits and we are there .. 
The snaking path of a glorious Lairigh Moor greets us..
Last hill, 12 miles to go..
Downhill but with the climb in our legs 
It remains, it builds 
If not for today but for tomorrow 
Or tomorrow's to come ...
Every run is a training run
We build on what we do
Until we stop we climb 
We descend 
And we climb some more .. 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Rannoch Moor 2016

A week on and a different world .. 18-June 2016 and I am out in the middle of Rannoch Moor.. A little under a marathon to go.. 167 miles or so in in my legs .. The way no longer forgiving .. Every mile earned but at the same time a joy.. All quiet, a warm day.. A mate by my side and friends and family up ahead.. The goal remains, the way no easier but the goal remains.. It is there and it is not for changing .. The only thing that can change is the pursuit.. The goal remains.. 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Lost and found

Occasionally we need to get reminded that no matter how fit or experienced we think we are, there is a price for arrogance, complacency and stupidity. Luckily this story has a a happy ending, with a lesson being learnt. A lesson that has been paid for with the upsetting and distress to those closest and dearest to me, which is a price high enough, but at least there is change from what would have been the alternative.

A quick summary of the day. The weekend was for my friend Chucks last Munro. There was 32 people invited up for the weekend, with the plan go up Bein na Lap near Corrour station. For anyone who has seen the movie Trainspotting, this is where they all go for their day in the Highlands . Out in the middle of no-where.. We drove up to Tyndrum on Friday night with a load of kit to cover all weather conditions. Had a few beers, wines and whiskys which led to a 3:30 bed time and a bit of a slow start to the day.. A good breakfast of porridge and a bacon roll was had. Took the train to Corrour at 10:30 on Sat.. Was feeling a little rough on the train so really glad when it stopped and we were able to get out..

We all started our wee trek up the hill, which given that we were starting at about 500m was not that hard. A pretty well worn trail took us to our destination where champagne was popped and pork pies, salmon on bread and other snacks. All of Chucks family were there and a lot of people from the mountaineering club and Hunters Bog Trotters. It was quite cold up top so I put on my waterproof trousers over my running leggings. Walked the descent back to the station with Jamie, chatting away about running, injuries and the like. We made it back down to Corrour about 2:30. Had a cup of coffee with Carrie and we swithered about going up the Corbet just the other side of the train track. The train back was at 18:20, so a bit of time to kill. Knowing that I did not want to spend a whole arvo in the pub I decided to go up. Jamie had left 10 minutes before me but it was a very simple ascent across boggy ground and thick heather. I made it up to near the top after about an hour and and saw 2 or 3 folk from the day out coming down then after about another 10 mins came across Jamie and 2 others. I asked how far to the top. "5 minutes just up that way - you can't miss the cairn - there is a bit of cloud so you wont see much, but its all fine, just follow your footsteps back in the snow. ." .

I swithered for a moment thinking I would just go back down with them and have a beer in the pub but thought not much point coming all this way without getting to the top. They said they would walk slowly back down..It was probably about 16:45 by this stage..

Made the summit in 5 mins, took some photos of me at the cairn then turned tail and followed the footsteps in the light snow back the way I came. It was indeed cloudy and couldn’t see anything below the cloud.

And somehow took a wrong turn and went down the hill .. The wrong side..

Descended about 50m or so and realised that the terrain was not what I had come up in.. So went back up the hill, but could not find the line I needed. If I had a compass, it would have been good, but of course I did not - Yes I am an idiot ! A mobile phone - useless - out of battery. (Yes - I am an idiot - my 'running phone' with a battery that lasts for a week was back in Tyndrum). Map - ?? Nope.

By this stage I was starting to get a bit worried. I decended one more time but still could not see what I needed to see as the cloud had possibly come down a bit more. A mild panic started to settle in .. Then the full reality of the situation . I was going to miss the train. My friends were going to be worried. I would be spoiling their party. My girl Sam, my girls, family, loved ones and other wider friends would also be worried.

"Oh dear - you have really f***ed up this time Keith". I said..

By 18:30 it was dark and I took stock of the situation. I had a mental calculation that Moutain Rescue would be called but it would take them at least an hour to get a helicopter to me .. (I later found out they would not have come until first light due to the cloud on the hill). I could not stay on the hill, it was cold, the ground icy and sodden. I looked for shelter from the light rain, but there was none in the low gorse bushes and rocks. I was lost up a hill in the dark.

On the plus side, I did have adequate clothing. Shorts, running leggings, waterproof trousers, socks, Hokas (I had left my Innov8's back in Edi). T-shirt, long running top, Waterproof Jacket, Waterproof gloves, lycra hat, wool beannie.. 1/2 a Mars Bar, 1 small block of Cadburys Milk and Nut, 2 Carbo gels and a pack of Minties.

I really had to focus on what to do. I could keep trying to go up the hill, looking for the right path to the train station that would be less than 2 miles away, but at the risk of falling on the hill or off a ledge. It was a full moon, but the cloud was playing havoc with visibility. I tried following a number of tracks off the hill but once again these led me to dead ends. As I looked around I saw in the distance the outline of Blackwater Reservoir. Beyond that I saw a light, if this was train, truck or illusion I do not know but I decided to head down off the hill and go that way. I knew that I had seen that stretch of water from the top of the Devils Staircase a number of times, so figured it was as good a direction as any.

Probably came off the hill about 19:30, in stopping for a drink I lost a glove.. With no head torch I could only use my camera flash to search the ground, although flurescent on one side, it landed face down and hence invisible. Ooops.

The next 8 or 9 hours were spent trekking across the expanses of Rannoch Moor. As I got down to the shores of Blackwater Res. I once again saw lights in the distance - over the other side. So I went left, and avoiding the many little streams, jumping puddles, tripping over gorse, falling waist deep in bogs and got to the bottom. At one stage after about 5 hrs without a break, I got really tired and lay down in the lee of a rock to see if I could just rest. Within minutes the cold had seeped through my body and I knew that if I stopped I would be in trouble. I had a Carbo Gel which was good but made me feel a bit crook.. I was eating the chocolate to keep me going . Had ran out of water, so topped up my water bottle from the loch or running streams.

I could hear Stags in rut, when the full moon was out and the drizzle stopped it was quite surreal. All I could think of was everyone else that would be worried. If I could have taken that out, and known where I was, then I might have even enjoyed it.. I was bloody lucky.. The rain whilst constant was only light. The wind was negligible, there was no snow and the temperature was maybe 3-4C. A heard of geese (I thought they were dogs ) exploded behind me and scared the shit out of me .. I was tired but working hard and not in really any danger whilst I kept moving and focused..

I kept walking, wading and lifting my legs. The ground sucked the strength from me.. It was like a wee walk George and I had done on the SUW back in December, with better weather but without even the semblence of a course, and alone. I finally got around Blackwater and headed North again, to try and pick up the light I had seen earlier. It was really boggy, many times having to pull myself out with my arms as I was deep in the mire. Gorse and heather held me back, lucky I only fell once and landed on soft ground. Rocks turned into houses, moonlight became beacons..

At about 2:30AM I saw a steady light in the west, so started to head in that direction. It stayed still but was a long way away ! A while later I saw a moving light south of the first one which I realised was a car. It was a long way away but decided to use my cameras flash to see if I could signal for help.. I took a bearing on the light and walked towards it .. Unfortunately there were no further cars so I lost the line and was then stuck again so just had to keep heading in that direction. In the light it seemed that a huge loch lay between me and the 'road'. At about 3:30 I turned around and behind me saw what appeared like 2 lights. It meant not heading to the road but I had to make a choice and decided to change course. By this stage I was getting very tired, both mentally and physically. I was really pinning my hopes on this light and every time I dropped down into a dip, or to cross a wee stream, or behind a hill, I would pray that when I can back up the light would be in view.

The last 30 mins as I got closer were really hard. What would I do if the light was just random roadworks ? As I got closer I could see the outline of trees, then had to jump a fence, then ultimately the house appeared with all lights blazing. 2 cars parked in front of the first house, but no answer. I walked past the stables where a dog barked and a horse neighed. The next house was no better - all the lights on, the curtains open and a bed that looked as if someone had just left it .. I tried the bell but no-one home. I tried the door and it opened and into the warmth I stepped. I called out and apologised and after removing my wet shoes, went into the house asking if anyone was home. There was no reply.

At 4:20 AM I lay down on the floor next to a still warm radiator and collected my thoughts. After 5 mins or so I went and found a phone and dialed 999 for the first time in my life. After 10 minutes of speaking with the coordinating police officer I got put through to Fort William Police station and spoke to the very nice Duty Sargeant Kirstin.

"Hello Keith "
"Hello - you might have me reported as missing "
"Yes, we do, there are a lot of people worried about you "
"Yes, I figured that "
"Where are you "
I told her, and we worked out i was about a mile or so from the A82, maybe 16 or so miles from where I started.
"How did you get there "
"Mmmm I don’t really know. "

In the next hour Sam (who had travelled up from Edinburgh during the night with our great friends Nick, Nyci and Perry ) came and picked me up.. She had clearly been very worried. We then went back to Tyndrum where Carrie, Kata, Jamie, Chuck and all the others were waiting and also very relieved. I found out about people who were on their way to come and look for me, of all the stress my little adventure caused.

I have done longer runs and been put for more hours but mentally and physically this was as challenging a few hours as i have ever spent. To be truly lost and alone is a rare thing these days. Looking back now with the memories fading it doesn't seem so bad... I was bloody lucky that despite my lack of kit and basic common sense nothing really bad happened. I still feel really bad for all the upset that I caused and am glad that at least people didn't need to walk around at night trying to find my silly arse. Thanks to all those people who were ready to come and help and of course to my lovely girl Sam who somehow ended u with a broken finger from the night and who was so upset..

So next time , if I am allowed out again, I promise to check the phone, compass and map.. And maybe go with a friend... If you are a potential idiot like me, maybe you should do the same...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

On a full

On a full Noon in June
Our paths cross
We swoon
And dip and fail
to climb again and

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

All different, All the Same

To take a stride
Longer than the norm
and fill a day with thoughts
of just doing

the pace it varies
but at the end it completes
it is about the finsh
and the sharing with friends and family
of something that is more
than the humdrum and the mundane
That removes us from the same
and maybe the sane
existence of the day to day

We run but that is not the end
The pace is a marker
that does not define
The run is what binds us
A mutual admirer
and the distance our friend

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Le Grande Tour Du Sept Collines

Le Grande Tour Du Sept Collines

Just a little run to see Ian King off on before his little adventure in France in a few weeks time. We have been running together for a few years now as a gang so we all managed to meet up and have our usual trot around the 7 Hills of Edinburgh.. So a decidedly French theme to send him on his way..

Weather last night was scorchio, tonight a constant drizzle but nice and cool and great running conditions... Me, Ian, Emma, Antonia set off from mine picking up Norm at his work then heading to Costorphine.. Got there about 5:45. Carrie had said she would meet us later so up we went..
Got to the top and got a text from Carrie saying she was on her way up.. A slight bit of confusion but all good and we headed down the hill and on to Craiglockhart. En route we met Kim and we all rotted around to the hill.. Pace pretty reasonable but good chat.. Unfortunately Emma was struggling with a calf injury so bailed out at the canal..
There is probably no better feeling when you crest a hill in Scotland to find a bloke n a mad beret, a UTMB t-shirt, ringing a cow bell and handing out hobnobs.. Of course there can only be one man that you would want to see up a hill.. He name is Murdo and he is Magnificent..

Cracked open a cheeky French White Burgandy which made us all a little buzzy, left the great man and on we went.. Run to Braids was nippy, Kim and Ian setting a great pace.. we all cracked on and made it up to the top to the renamed Brioche Braids... Sensational job from Carrie and really perked us up.

Run down across the golf course, in the rain, through the bracken and nettles and then up to Blackford.

Here Norm gave Ian a training aid – a tin of French Onion Soup to put in his pack for the next 4 weeks training runs.

Here we met Lisa – random chick from Chicago just minding her own business having a run whilst on holiday... “Wanna come with us.. “ “Yeah sure..”

So back down the gentle slopes past the Royal Observatory, then to the long road section through the University and the high security fencing and the up Arthurs.. Could not see much when we got to the top. Lisa well and truly holding her own, Kim setting a cracking pace on all the hills and everybody enjoying the run.. Bloody slippy on the rocks.. At the top it was time for some bruised Brie, yummy... Thanks again Carrie.. Kim left us to go home from here.

The descent was quite slow till we got onto the path then we fanged it .. Past the parliament, and the police out for some wedding this weekend.. Lizzy is on her way.. Then up Calton Rd and up the hill on the way to Calton .. Pushed it a bit but everyone on really good form now.. Even got a view at the top.. Carrie did her best jumping frog impression

And then it was on for the final sprint up the High St .. Antonia brought out 2 berets – a lovely hand knitted one for me from her Mum..

Norm led out, I fell over on the bridges and then we all barrelled up the High Street.. Cracking end to the run.. Always a shame the Castle esplanade is closed at this time of year but the grins say it all....

To Lisa the random Chicago chick, welcome to Scotland.
To MtM - merci buckets mate
To Ian King – bon chance mon amis, croissant, eu de toilette avec Mont Blanc !

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A run a beer and a swim on a Sunny Day

Girls back from Spain
Hamster lost then found again
So Dad not in a bad place
Heres to Sunny Days

Left the house for a little stroll up Costorphine hill. Wednesday evening, 3 weeks out so needing a bit of a kick.. Yesterday up Arthurs Seat remembering friends, absent but still with us and maybe even smiling down at us as they look at how we all are getting on..

Had been out a few times but not much, spending time in the pool, went a swim at Gullane on Sunday in the sunshine and watched the kids and the dogs play.. Been on my bike riding about, meeting people on the street, was at a ceilidh stripping the dashing white seargents willow the oter night..

Cracking evening tonight, warm and sunny, just started along Ravvie dykes to the hill.. Runnng in the evening sunshin, starting slowly and soaking up Edinburgh in the bright.. Got up the first climb between the golf courses, reckon I was doing about 8's and a bit.. Was puffing at the first climb but the excesssssessssss of life always catch up with you.. Cracked on to the Tower then dropped down along the path to the sunny meadow which opens up the Bridges, Fife, Sunshine and hills to the North.. A dog with a frisby a couple having a chat in the sunshine...

Along the meadow down to the hotel, I had been sledging with Caroline and Laura back in January down this very hill.... Lovely long grassy slope... Along to the botom of the track then through the hill to the old clearing then down to the noise, smoke and general confusion of the main road..

Back up the way I came for this is the way to the sun
to the giving light and the ife so bright

Along the meadow, past the frisby with dog attached and couple enjoying the view and back to the tower.. and then down through some more sun and then past the zoo, not a hare, gnu or kidoo to be scene...View past Arthur, down the coast, but run on to the Pentlands in front of you, basking in the sun.. A couple of blokes, having a barby and a beer i the sunshine ... "Looking like a tough arvo boys. " "having a great one.." "Smells great" "stop running and join us.. " "Reckon I might on the way back"..

Down, caning it then hit Murayfeld road or whatever its called and turn a u and back up.. Past a girl and her dog, past the boys, working it a bit, I am gonna enjoy this beer..Then had to really kick it... been running for about 70 mins or so now with a bit of hills, but the shining sunshine and the warmth and the joy of just being able to do this sort of stuff made it feel so natural .. Up to the golf courss, watched a few tee shots, all crap, catching my breath..

then down the hill as the sun raced the land to try to stay
and hang on at of the end of a lovely day
grabbing the flowers and the heather
birds and whatever
and then leaving them with a warm caress

Rob and Stewie are on the hill. A cam of Tenanants in the sushine.. Looking over at the Pentlands.. "Hows your day been today boys, whatcha been up to ? " "Been up at Harlaw fishing" "Sounds like you've had a crap day then..:-) " Talked about running, what its like to be 24, patted a couple of cracking dogs..Is there a nicer drink than a beer in the sun ?

Down the hill in the dropping sun, along the road with it cars and confusion but thats all part of it.. Onto Murrayfield, Dad and wee Daughter in kilt crossing at lights - you are in Scotland - and then onto the water of Leith, 2 girls and a dog, you don't see that a lot.. To the bridge at the Dean Galery, a bloke and his son fishing... Off with the shoes and into the flowing waters of the leith.. Out to one of Antony Gormleys mates standing out in the middle of the water, don't reckon he gets a lot of visitors.. Swim back, little bugs also enjoying their days, probably awating a bat or 2..

Phoned a friend or 2, spoke about lives anew... and happiness

A sunny day
having a run
a beer and a swim
thinking of family and friends old and new
thinking of lots of things left to do
on days of shine or not so much
it matters not for
a sunny day warms the soul eternal
with its tender touch.