Thursday, 20 December 2012

Winter arrives in the Trossachs

With my last post I provided a few photo's of my runs in October and November, the theme was lots of autumnal colours and mud.  This post will chronical the rapid change in weather that ushered in winter of the 1st of the December, the theme is snow and ice, and more ice!

At sunrise on the 1st December I headed out with two friends, Toby and Andy, to do the run/cycle the 15 mile route around Glen Finglas. Toby planned to cycle, which Andy and I were running.  This plan hit the buffers as soon as we head out on the farm track, it was covered in ice, walking without slipping was a problem, let alone cycling or running.  It was beautiful though.

Toby walking his bike on the icy trail, Loch Finglass and the Glen Finglass hills ahead.
After a couple of miles Toby abandoned the bike as it was clear that the constant ice wasn't going to abate, and we gingerly joggled/walked around the first real ascent at which point Toby headed back, leaving Andy and myself to start the climb.  After 5 miles of constant icy trail the climb rewarded us with  snow covering and suddenly the run was transformed - we had grip and even more awesome views!

Andy at the summit of the trail.

A picture for shoe geeks - Inov-8 Trailroc 245 + Inov-8 Gaitors worked well in the snow 
The first few miles of descent was a blast while the snow cover lasted, but as got down into the valley bottom the glass like ice on the trail returned.  Both Andy and I slid on the ice, neither Andy's Mudclaws on my Trailrocs were up to the challenge.

A couple of days later the snow fell down in Callander, so I had to head out in the virgin snow for a run the 6 mile Scout Pool loop.  I was the first person out on the trails, not the first animal though - plenty of deer and bird prints added the wildness of the day.

View looking west towards Ben Gulipen and Ben Ledi
View south towards Keltie Bridge.

View looking from south bank towards the new Bracklin Falls Bridge
View looking north from Bracklin Falls Bridge

Looking down from the bridge toward the south bank where the early photo was taken

Heading north from Bracklin Falls
Emerging from the Forest looking North West, Ben Ledi and Stuc a'Chroin in the distance
Cross the concrete bridge, looking south towards the Scout Pool
View looking north towards Stuc a'Chroin an Ben More.
Return leg takes you down the Bracklin Road, here looking South West towards Callander

 A few days into having the snow all the trails that I run on had vehicle tracks and plenty of foot in prints that compressed the snow and with the slight daytime thaw the trails became more and more icy and rutted.

View looking West towards Ben Ledi with spectacular wave system set up above, trail was awful to run on though.
My children had lots of fun making this snowman, but as the week progressed it's waistline become improbably thin, alas the next day he was no more.

By the second week of December most of the snow had melted in Callander but the all trails had undergone so many cycles of freeze thaw that became treacherous.
The side to side icy on the Cohallian Wood trail
After giving up on the Trails on one run I headed up the Invertrossachs Road to Loch Venchar

On my return trip something caught me eye
A red squirrel feeding on a tree by the road, they are tiny and sooo CUTE :-)

In an attempt to make running the trail a little safer I put screws into the bottom of an old pair of Roclite's and tried them out on a run up Ben Gulipen

Running on Ice? Must have a screw loose!
View from Summit of Ben Ledi, just below cloud base

Starting descent down Ben Ledi, heading East back towards Callander

Footprint in light snow covering over 3cm thick ice, note screws work cutting down to ice but not enough to cut into it.

Even with the screws in the shoes I was still slipping where ice was on a gradient, the ice was just too thick and solid for the screws to cut into it.  The screws scratched the surface to provide a bit of resistance so while I was still slipping at times most of the time had enough grip to keep balance. 

After two weeks of running on icy trails the weather finally warmed up enough to start melting the ice, since mid December the local trails have been clear.  While I never fell in the all the hours on the ice, I did slip several times and once jarred my back - paradoxically it was the lack of resistance on footfall that caused by back to jar as my core muscle were activated in preparation for the expected landing forces.  The constant small slippages and hard uneven trails have also stressed my Achilles and Soleus muscles so am now having to take my training easy while they recover.

On a more positive note, my plantar fascia problems that have plagued my running since August has started to improve - I'm no longer need to hobble around for the first few minutes on getting up each morning, and only tend to find aches from the feet in the first mile if at all.

With Christmas Festivities just round the corner and heavy rain currently falling the tone of December is changing once more.  I can't wait till Christmas, I'm sure Santa will be able to deliver a few running goodies :-)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Autumn in the Trossachs

I've had half a dozen blogs posts on various topics that I've wanted to write over the past six weeks but been so busy with work and family life that the blog has rather languished.  My training hasn't though, after being ill for a bad cold through October by the time November came I had got over it and have been out running and steadily getting back my fitness.

While there was plenty of rain and flooding here in Trossachs in November there were days in between when I got out and the weather and scenery were spectacular.  I recently downloaded photo's from my phone that chronically some runs as Autumn progressed.  I thought I just upload the Autumn pictures for this post, and will follow up with another post for pictures now that Winter has become in earnest.

My first set of Autumn photo's was from my last long run the weekend before the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra, I might have been full of cold by the forest colours and sunshine were uplifting.

Looking north from the Cohallian Wood trail next to the Mollands Estate
Looking south over Callander from the Crags - I climb it three times on this run.
A constant theme for Autumn, muddy shoes!
Scene of destruction left by storms earlier in the year - there used to be a small path here!

A few weeks later for a lunchtime run I headed out up Ben Gulipen for a 9.5 mile, 1250ft ascent/descent hill run, a great run for big skies and wide vistas.
Emerging from the  Cock Hill woodland and looking north towards Ben Ledi
Looking south east from the summit of Ben Gulipen, Stirling and Ochills in the distance
Return leg looking north east back towards Callander and home

Towards the end of November for I headed out for an early morning 11 mile from Callander up to Bochastle hill, then down the switch backs that take you southerly end of Loch Lubnaig and then back along the trail past the Falls of Lenny and then finally the cycle path back to Callander.

Callander Meadows heading west towards Ben Ledi, crowned by the first snow
Looking back along the cycle path towards the sun rise
After ascending the trail up Bochastle hill, looking back east towards Callander, low lying mist clings to the valley bottom
Back to earth, heading east along the Cycle path back to Callander, there was a grazing roe deer right in the middle of the path, alas phone camera just doesn't capture it well.

The blue skies in this series of photo's doesn't really convey just how many days were overcast and wet this Autumn.  Almost every run in November my shoes ended up seriously muddy and in need of a wash.  A small price to pay for getting out in the country side as the trees change colour.

As Autumn was drawing to close so was my running season, thoughts turned to next season.  The lure of West Highland Way races loomed large, and a few more grey hairs appearing added a little reminder that I'm not getting any younger, if I am to tackle the great race then it's probably sensible to start planning sooner rather than later.  After much reflection I decided to put another year of more modest ultra's under my belt, and entered Highland Fling and Devil O' the Highlands.  I did the Fling this year and really enjoyed it, and have long wanted to do the Devil but always left it too late to enter, not this year thankfully!  With entries in my focus is now the slow ramp of training for these two races.  I plan to enter other races, but these will be a lower priority and will be done to support my build up to these "A" races.