Tuesday 23 June 2015

The Moray Coastal Trail - Attempt 1 of ???: How not to prepare for a long run.

I've enjoyed a reasonable amount of time on parts of the Moray Coastal Trail over the past few years.  The sections around Lossiemouth are some of Nic's favourite beach runs in the country.  On our last visit to the area, I discovered that it's a temptingly short/long 45ish miles, and hatched a plan to find a way to get out and run the whole thing.

Plans, as one often hears, have a way of going awry.

The target for the run was June 1st.  We would head up to Edinburgh, where Nic and I met, to celebrate a new age group birthday in style.  We had a fabulous lunch out on the 29th, and then carried on waddling around town in search of cocktails for the birthday girl.  Remember, there are 31 days in May.

Not all fruity drinks are good for you.  These, for example, are very, very bad for your running health!

After a bit of walking (in Edinburgh, that's really just a long, slow hill rep session) on Saturday, with lots more eating, we attempted to put the excesses of the night before behind us, and mostly seem to have succeeded.  Then came Sunday - as it happened, the day of the Edinburgh Marathon.  The weather was foul, so we were happy to get in the car and head up north, where I would enjoy a run all day along the coast.  Well, that was the plan.  Nic's car took offense at a pot hole, and we got to spend the day being relayed up to Elgin courtesy of the AA (soooo worth it, when you're halfway through a 450mi journey!).  So, that was Sunday then.

Monday, the 1st, I felt rubbish and the weather was even worse, and I had a car to get sorted out.  With dangerously high winds, we agreed to push the run over to the 2nd.  By bedtime, I still felt out of sorts, but figured I'd get up and go on Tuesday anyway - "kill or cure," as Nic likes to say.

At 5:15 on the 2nd, I woke up to lovely sunshine and cool temperatures, with a nice westerly (tailwind for most of the way!).  My gut still wasn't feeling great - surely 3 full days of recovery is enough to get over a couple of martinis and a few "Smokey Mary" concoctions.  I took comfort in the knowledge that many a run has started with the thought, "I'd be happier in bed", and pretended that everything was fine.

It was sunny for the first few minutes at the MCT start in Forres.
When we arrived at Forres, the sun suddenly disappeared and the wind started whipping (pretty much as forecast).  I headed off along the road section to Findhorn and tried to keep the pace at around 9-10 min/mi (it is road, after all).  Not long into the run, I came upon a massive stone in a glass box - not something you see every day.  Otherwise, the first section was pretty uneventful.

The Picts were here...  Sueno's Stone in Forres
From Findhorn, I turned west and enjoyed the sudden temperature change brought on by getting rid of the crosswinds.  The path is rather cobbly, but being off the beach meant I avoided the blowing sand.  For those who haven't noticed, I quite like the gorse and broom so prevalent on Scottish hills at this time of year.  The bright yellow made up for the lack of sun.  I'd picked up a bacon wrap from Nic as I entered Findhorn, and about a mile later, around the back of Kinloss barracks, I began to realize that my ropey midsection wasn't going to get any better soon.

Findhorn harbour (thanks, Nic!)
Keeping off the sand near Findhorn - oh, look, gorse!
At low tide, you can take the beach all the way from Findhorn to Burghead.  The MCT, though, takes the high-tide route behind the dunes and then into Roseisle Forest.  This managed woodland exists primarily to keep the dunes from moving inland.  It also offers a very nice selection of trails.  The highlight, for me, though, was the fantastically clean and open service point about 2 miles away from Burghead.  The run into my next stop was one of the most comfortable of my day.

Mind the roots!
Another quick stop and a chat with Nic at Burghead and I was on my way.  I decided to keep on gels and energy bars, as the food wasn't settling happily.  The track from Burghead to Hopeman is essentially paved (either actually, or so flat and packed as to be the equivalent), so I picked up the pace a bit again and reached Hopeman quickly, but with increasing realization that I'm too old to party hard on a Friday and hope to run an ultra on the Tuesday.

Nice views and a tailwind, but still not feeling the love
Leaving Hopeman, I finally reached the section of trail that made me think this would be a good idea.  I love the little ups and downs as the trail bounces in and out of little coves and coombes.  My running, though, was showing the effects of a body that was short on energy and long on indigestion.  Given that I'd only run a little over 15 miles, and less than three hours, the old adage of "it doesn't always keep getting worse" became a mantra until I met up with Nic, who agreed to crew if she could get in a bit of running herself.

Nice trail, but the smile is totally fake.  Oh, look, more gorse!

We caught the tailwind into Lossiemouth, along the wide, flat beach, and I realized that the noon high tide would be very, very high indeed.  With an hour to spare, we were already getting pushed up the beach, and Nic kindly pointed out that I was starting to slow down.  I had been mostly dreaming of curling up on my left side in a darkened room somewhere, and tried to pull it together a bit.  As we reached the car and the rain started down, I called it a day.

The answer and sand are blowing in the wind!

Just under 4 hours of running, more me against my gut than anything else, and I'd had enough.  My next segment would be 12 miles, including Lossie's East Beach, with the tide pushing me into the dunes.  The way I felt, a long walk (which was on the cards at some point) would have me getting into trouble.  I just wasn't feeling the love of the challenge.  Thursday, when Nic and I hiked around and up Ben Aigan, I was starting to feel human again.  On Friday, Nic and I took in some of the Dava Way near Forres, and I still felt pretty empty (a gel inside the first 3 miles?!).  Whatever I'd done to myself the week before had taken its toll.  Perhaps Tabasco and Islay Malt really aren't the best run prep...  Sure tasted good, though.

Note to self - these are for post-run, not pre-run!

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