Saturday, 17 May 2014

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside...

This is what they mean by post run re-fuelling...isn't it??

Home from home for the Mainland Mules this weekend was the marvellous Cullen Harbour hostel with its fabulous sea front location. It is just across the harbour from the stretch of golden sands that the Mainland Mules charged across in the last leg of the Moray Coastal path relay, well to be fair some charged more quickly than others – by this time I was knackered and well in need of the supberb catering provided by Mule Meister Eric and Lynda for the hungry Mules. Even better, there was plenty of hot water which is often a concern when staying in hostel accommodation where everybody wants a shower when they get in at the end of the day. It was one cosy well equipped hostel and I’d definitely recommend it.
Cullen Bay Hostel (I wonder what he is carrying - a bottle of sports rehydration drink maybe?!)
Findlater Doocot
No Doos though!
I found this just a wee bit creepy...
Starting at Forres railway station this route makes it way to the coast at Findhorn via small country lanes and then follows the coastline to the finish line at Cullen. We ran on quiet country lanes, golden sandy beaches, precarious cliff top paths high above rock formations weathered away by millennia of winds and tides , through shady pine forests and through couthy little villages and holiday parks. This route has a lot to offer, masses of variety, although maybe not in terms of mountainous climbs.
Mules ready to run
The start line was at Forres Station
The beautiful Moray Coast
Time Keeper Finlay
Robin examines the contents of the Dodd Tucker Wagon
Race sustenance
It was like watching a Python swallow an egg...
 Even better, this year Cath and I didn’t get lost although we had the novel experience of having to stop within 5 minutes of the start of our leg, the first leg of the relay, to let a train go past at a level crossing. We neent have been too concerned about the delay as when we reached the change over Robin hadn’t managed to get ready in time. Time keeping was ably carried out by event organisers Finlay and Allan who were keeping us to a very tight schedule….well  it was a bit tight…I didn’t want to be out there running ALL day…
Cath and I finished our run but Robin wasn't quite ready to go... check out the mad panic going on in the background!
Allan and Robin
A Mules Charge
Enjoying the sunshine...
and still going strong...
 During the next stage I made an effort to look out to the Moray Firth as it seemed to be perfect dolphin spotting conditions, still and calm, but there were no dolphins to be seen.  
Lovely golden sands
and a blaze of golden gorse with its strong aroma of honey
Cath tackles a wee incline
  Simon had elected to run the “long” leg of the relay little realising that 10 miles of soft sinking sand whilst avoiding the army taking pot shots at him (did he really ignore the no entry signs?) was going to take its toll. And it did. He wasn’t too enthusiastic about the prospect of doing the final Mules charge across Cullen sands. We weren’t complaining though as it gave us plenty of time to bask in the glorious spring sunshine – yet again the sun gods have smiled on a Mules weekend away! (well, ok that’s ignoring one very soggy trip to Knoydart many moons ago…)
Our bold lad is up for the challenge
Here they come...
A slick change over with an unusual baton
and away to tackle the beach
as he disappears into the distance
Deep in thought. This time keeping is tricky business
We didn't really mind how long Simon took as we had found a great sunbathing spot
 I ran the last 4 legs of it and have got to say the start of Leg 6 was easily my favourite, along a winding trail through a shady pine forest by the beach. Just perfect. 
A route finding discussion..."its that way!"
It wasn’t until near the end we made our first navigational error which saw Hamish scrambling up a vertical rock face while Heather, Bert and I tip toed away to find an altogether easier route. We were joined by Allan, Eric, Heather and Rob and Cath for the final few miles into Cullen and thus setting another Mainland Mules World Record!! Everyone had run at least one leg of it even the very doubtful starters which was definitely a bonus given the list of pre-run injuries...Davie's archilles, Bert's foot, my ribs....
Bow Fiddle Rock
Heather led the Mules Stampede into Cullen
The final stretch was across the golden sands into Cullen
Tired Mules
  For anyone interested in the route….
Leg 1 – Forres Railway to Findhorn – 5.7miles
Leg 2 – Findhorn heritage centre – Burghead beach caravan park – 7.4 miles
Leg 3- Burghead beach caravan park – Hopeman East beach – 2.6 miles
Leg 4 -Hopeman east beach – Lossiemouth – 6.5 miles
Leg 5 - Lossiemouth – spey bay Dolphin centre – 9.6 miles
Leg 6 -Spey bay dolphin centre – Buckie – 5.8 miles
Leg 7 - Buckie – Findochty – 3.5 miles
Leg 8 - Findochty – Portknockie – 2.6 miles
Leg 9 - Portknockie – Cullen harbour hostel – 2.1 miles

As usual the running was followed by an evening of wine and fine foods celebrating another Mainland Mules World Record. Inevitably this led to a somewhat leisurely Sunday spent wandering around Portsoy and eating ice cream. Maybe it was the effect of running through so many holiday parks and tourist spots but whatever it was the whole weekend really did have a bit of a holiday feel to it. Some of us decided to be proper tourists for the weekend and went to Findhorn for a look around and others went for a high tea at the impressive Cullen Bay Hotel set up on the hill over looking the beach. Some brave souls even ventured out for a run!
Just chilling..
I dread to think where Robin found this!
At the top of the slippery slope
Strongbow with a whisky chaser. Classy.
Eric and Lynda did an amazing job feeding us for the whole weekend.
The Mule's pudding connoisseur delivers his verdict - "just leave the dish next to me..."
This didn't contain contained something far deadlier - eh Cath?
Taking the sea air at Portsoy
Finlay is on an expedition
Portsoy Harbour
All in all it was a superb weekend of running, socialising, wining, dining, seaside, sunshine and ice cream…what more do you need? Oh yes! A new World Record!

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