Highland Cross 2014

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Snaking up the hill in the early stages of the 20-mile run

The legs are slowly recovering after completing my second Highland Cross. I knocked around seven or eight minutes off my time from last year, coming into Beauly 5 hours, 22 minutes and 12 seconds after setting off from Kintail. The coast-to-coast duathlon involves a 20-mile run including a huge climb (part of which can be seen in the photo above) then a 30-mile cycle from Glen Affric to the finish in Beauly.

Here’s my Garmin breakdown of the event – run/transition/cycle:



A successful spin around the Borders

There’s a fine art to cycle touring and I think I might just be getting the hang of it. The 250-mile Border Loop was my aim and I managed to complete the circuit, made it to my planned destination each night and even managed to odd detour while I was at it.

The really surprising thing, though, was that I didn’t suffer a single mechanical issue – not even a puncture. That was definitely a first for me.

My friend Peter joined me for the first couple of days and we enjoyed a great ride despite the torrential rain we encountered on day one when we met at Kelso. I’d followed the official route from Berwick-upon-Tweed, meandering along the country lanes knowing that Peter’s train was arriving later than mine. He would take the direct route to Kelso and see me there.

Soaked to the skin, we decided a night at the youth hostel at Kirk Yetholm was a better option than camping. Things brightened up the next day, thankfully, and – with the exception of a mini storm that afternoon – my remaining five days in the saddle were to stay dry. Not only that, I was applying the sun cream regularly in the unexpected summer heatwave.

With camping gear and all the extras, I was carrying around 16-17kg across my four pannier bags – a substantial amount but then I’ve never been a light packer! For a start, I enjoy the luxury of having my two-man tent with a serious porch. I cut down my pans and stove to the bare minimum and even reduced the spare clothing, though in hindsight I could have been even stricter on that part.

All this was in preparation for next year’s Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle which is in the planning stages. I’m confident after this experience that I could manage the ride with that sort of weight but there are areas I can cut down and make it easier for myself – and the luxury tent may have to be the first thing to go, sadly!

Our second day on the Border Loop took us along wonderful country roads from Yetholm to Hawick then on to the Ettrick valley, where we camped at a nice site at Hopehouse. A hilly day followed as we rode past the highest point of the route then down a seriously steep road to reach the A701 at Tweedsmuir.

This is where Peter left to return home and I headed north then east to Peebles and Innerleithen. I had a shorter day planned after that, following a nice gentle climb (if it wasn’t for the nasty headwind) north before returning south-east to Galasheils and Melrose. I detoured to a campsite near Ancrum so I could visit my in-laws, who live outside Jedburgh, for the evening. That added a few miles to the trip but was worth it for the socialising – and the home-cooked meal!

One long day remained before a short hop to Berwick on my final day. My plan for day five was to go from Melrose (now Ancrum) to Eyemouth on the east coast. It started well as I got an early start and made excellent time to Duns for lunch, where I ate outside a lovely cafe in the town’s bustling little square. The afternoon would be hilly and hot but I felt good and made steady progress, arriving 63 miles later in Eyemouth before 4pm – only to discover the caravan park there doesn’t take tents.

The alternative was a few miles back up the road so, after an ice cream and a breather, I headed along the main road to Coldingham and set up camp. A beer and a pub meal were well-earned that day.

I now had 20 miles or so to reach Berwick before my afternoon train, so took the final day very slowly, enjoying a leisurely lunch at Paxton House, the finishing point of the Loop before the 3-mile link to Berwick.

* I will be writing a feature on the Border Loop for Scottish Cycling magazine in the near future.

Border Loop live tweets

The Border Loop is a 250-mile cycle route around the beautiful Scottish Borders. I’m loading up the panniers to do the route this week, starting and finishing in Berwick-upon-Tweed. You can keep up to date with my progress on this live Twitter feed and – data signal permitting – see photos from the ride! Feel free to add your comments below or reply via Twitter.

* All tweets tagged #borderloop14 will show up in this feed, whether or not they are sent by me!




Final countdown to Highland Cross

It’s less than two weeks until I start my second Highland Cross, a 50-mile cross country duathlon. So I headed to Aviemore for a final long run that will hopefully set me up for completing the 20-mile run section of the course.

On a hot morning I headed out from the visitor centre at Rothiemurchus to Loch Einich, eight-and-a-half miles up the glen in the shadow of Braeraich and Sgor Gaoith. My approach was to treat it as two runs – one to the loch and one back – which meant I didn’t panic over the distance! Apart from a few stops (to apply suncream and take photographs, mostly) I managed to run at a fairly credible pace for this sort of terrain.

You can see the details of my run on my Garmin page below.

Please click here to sponsor me for this year’s Highland Cross. Anything you can give would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!




Trail running in the sun – and rain

Fell run on Dove Crag

Fell run on Dove Crag

The joy of running is so much greater when you can escape the city streets and explore trails, whether they be gentle countryside paths or serious hill routes. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve done a couple of hill runs that have got me out in all conditions, and these two photos show the extremes I have enjoyed!

The first picture is from the Lake District, where I was on a camping holiday with my family recently. We had a glorious few days and I had to get up one morning and drag my brother out for a quick run onto the fells. He might argue that he was the one doing the dragging, though!

It’s taken on the way up Dove Crag from Brother’s Water, appropriately enough.

The second photo is from a run at the head of Strathconon, back in the Highlands, which I did as part of my Highland Cross training at the weekend. After a glorious day of sunshine on Saturday, it was horrendous weather on Sunday morning but we weren’t to be deterred!

Our route took us round the back of Bac an Eich, with river crossings, rough paths and plenty of climbing.

Battling the elements on a hill run in Strathconon

Battling the elements on a hill run in Strathconon