Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

Feel free to leave comments.

Friday 30 March 2012

Making the most of it

It seemed like a fairly simple plan. Mark was going to be off work on the Tuesday and rather than sticking to the Pentlands or visiting a trail centre, we'd both felt in the need to go a little bit further afield. Normally, I have a drive time: ride time rule. Never shall the former exceed the latter. However, I was prepared to bend it a little to make it up to the Cairngorms again, so much do I love that area for riding. As luck would have it, we also ended up with a little spring-time mini heatwave.
I'd spent the evening before the drive looking at maps and trying to work out what rides we could do, but here we were driving North and I still couldn't decide. A big loop - Burma Road perhaps? Play around in the corries? There really is so much to do that I only really decided as we saw the turn off the A9. We'd head for Loch Morlich, go over An Slugan to Nethybridge and back round via Ryvoan. Nothing technical, no gnarly jumping, just pleasant tracks through beautiful countryside.

I had the Scandal 29er with me. I'd been playing around with bar position a little, fine tuning it. This would be a good test and as we headed up the good landie track to An Slugan, the Scandal felt really nice, with the bigger wheels making smooth work of the trails. I'd only come this way once before and the forest had been pretty much cleared since then. What I remembered as a long, dark, steep climb was over in a flash and we had a real blast on the descent down to the road. I could see that Mark, on his Ibis, was able to blast over the terrain faster than I could, but that just made it more fun trying to keep up. 

After a short road section to the Boat of Garten junction, it was back into the woods all the way to Nethybridge. This is a great little trail - rooty, with little climbs and sharp descents. Very engaging. Out of Nethybridge, it was all landie track again to Forest Lodge and then that lovely vista which hits you when leaving the forest with the track of the Lairig an Laogh very visible over the shoulder of Bynack Mor. And what a day for it. with a stunning, clear blue sky and temperatures in the high teens, I felt truely privileged. 

Before too long, we rocked up at the Glenmore Visitors Centre for lunch, having begun to feel hungry just before. While the "main course" was good, we were both saving ourselves for the mega slice of Victoria Sponge which we'd spotted whilst ordering - and that was awesome!
With no hurry to get back, we decided to detour round Loch Morlich to see how we felt before making more plans. As it was, the weather was just getting better and better, so we set off on the Loch Einich track. Again, I'd only been down this way once before. I didn't remember it being quite so bouldery but I was certainly glad that the crossing of the Beannaidh Bheag was possible without dismounting. My previous visit had entailed a knee-deep wade! The track also seemed to be quite a bit longer than I remembered and it seemed that, like some mirage, Loch Einich was getting no nearer. Eventually, we made it to the loch. I took he opportunity for a quick head-dunk in the cold water and lay back on the grass just soaking in the sun, the sounds and the situation. With mountains on three sides, this really is a marvellous spot and it thoroughly put me in the mood for some camping.
After a while, we could sense the cloud just thickening a little and a cool breeze came down the loch. That was our signal to go and off we set down the boulder-strewn track. Again, I could see that Mark was having a slightly easier time of it on the Mojo and my cause wasn't being aided by a growing numbness in my hands, caused by the vibrations. I was very relieved when, 10 minutes later, we were on to smoother tracks again. 

The small climb from Rothiemurchus to Loch Morlich was despatched with wearier legs than had set out in the morning, so it was rather pleasing to reach the van and get ready for the drive home. 

Lessons learnt today? 
(1) Sometimes, rules are worth breaking.
(2) My handlebar position needs looked at again. 
(3) I need to get the bikepacking kit organised.

A big thanks to Mark for the company and for letting me use some of his photos. 

Wednesday 14 March 2012

A new buzz

If you've read the wee "about me" box on the front page of this blog, you'll see that I make reference to some foot problems which have severely curtailed my hillwalking. I've had every type of test and scan available, tried foot-beds and gels and yet just can't crack the problem. 

Despite this, when my wife was beginning to get into training for her Everest Base Camp trek, I accompanied her a couple of times out running. It would appear that, if I'm careful, I can avoid the heel-strike which causes most of my problems. Now - I haven't run for years. Not since school in fact (other than running for a bus of course). It was therefore somewhat of a surprise to me that if I kept a nice steady pace and didn't run off hell-for-leather, I could actually do a couple of miles without any major trauma. 

With a few more attempts, I was able to go out one day and knock off 11km in a time just over an hour. I was very pleased and started to consider doing more. However, the colder weather hit us, the trails and pavements got a bit icy and my wife decided she'd stick to other forms of exercise so I left it at that.

Fast forward to spring and there I am in Go Outdoors looking at some snazzy Salomon Cross Running shoes. I had to have them! 

So today, and after a couple of recent bike rides when I've been feeling a bit low on energy, I decided to slip into my trainers and try a couple of laps of Harlaw Reservoir again. It was a bit of a shock of course, but after half a lap or so, and to he sounds of Ibiza Euphoria, I found I was really starting to enjoy it. The two laps I'd decided to limit myself to went in pretty quick and easy and when I stopped I did, indeed, have a sense of "euphoria". 

I never thought I'd be getting into running at the age of 53, but I'm definitely finding it stimulating and already pondering which hills I'll be using to break in my new shoes!