Thursday, 25 June 2015

The benefits of exercise - The Skye half marathon

Exercise is good for you. All the latest health advice says so including the eminent doctor who presented the prizes at this year’s Isle of Skye half marathon. In fact Dr Hanson was in full flow regaling us with how low cardio vascular fitness was the single biggest killer, bigger than smoking, diabetes and obesity put together, when Davie entered the room. Now Davie has completed every Skye half marathon there has ever been as such should be held up as an example of fitness par excellence and so the timing was just perfect. At the very moment when Dr Hanson was extolling the virtues of exercising in later life Davie crawled up the stairs, dragging a leg and grimacing all the while completely oblivious to the thread of the good doctor’s speech. A true example of the benefits of exercise. It was enough to have us rolling around laughing especially as Davie had no idea what was going on. Coincidentally enough the pub chat the evening before the race was all about plotting a graph of the gradual physical decline of runners over time and to hear some of them talk you would think they were at death's door. The graph was supposed to give figures that we could extrapolate (the word of the evening although by closing time its pronunciation was causing problems) I’m not quite sure what the extrapolation of these figures was supposed to prove but the overall trend did seem to point to a downwards decline…

The Isle of Skye half marathon has that effect on your legs. The hills coupled with a strong wind made it a testing day out and having other team members gunning for a team prize definitely meant no slacking on the day. Soon after the start of the race I had clocked that Perth Road Runners had a strong team so I made an effort to keep the two who were a little way ahead of me in sight over the first 6 miles without going too fast and blowing up later on. Robin had passed me at about two miles and although I was very tempted to go with him I knew I would probably suffer badly for it later so I held back and watched as he gradually worked his way up the field. When Mairead went past me and the two Perth road runners up ahead I decided that I should probably do the same although I was more keen to wait for long climb after 8 miles before starting to up the pace as I have “previous” for running too fast in the early miles of this race and paying the price later on. However this time it paid off, I didn’t die on the hill and HBT took the team prize. In fact I felt pretty strong running down into Portree and wasn’t in my usual wobbly legged state.

This was the coldest Skye half marathon that I can remember. Just moments after finishing the race I was starting to get very cold so there was no hanging around at the finish line and I headed for the sauna swiftly followed by the BBQ set up by the RNLI. In previous years we have sat out in the sunshine at Marmalade enjoying a few pints but this time the cold saw us retreat into the snug interior of the Isles hotel where the few pints did an amazing job of reviving runners who seemed to be very crocked just hours before. Beer is the secret to recovery… Unless of course you are John McKay who professed to drinking 15 pints the day before the race and wasn’t seen again after the race. Fortunately Dr Hansen didn’t cover the topic of alcohol consumption in his speech.

Warming up with a post race burger
The winning team had an average age of...
HBT men and women's team prizes
And the prize!
The next day the weary limbs were crammed into a kayak and transported out on to the waters of Loch Eishort which were reasonably sheltered from the strong winds buffeting the Isle of Skye. Still, the outward journey across the loch was into a strong headwind and for the first 10 minutes I felt ever so slightly unstable in a different kayak.
Setting out from Ord
The blue skies and clear water were deceptive - it was quite chilly for June
Seals basking on the rocks
Heading to Boreraig
Looking over towards Knoydart

We headed across the loch eventually landing at Boreraig for lunch and to explore the ruined village, the fossilised rocks and go searching for adders which are known to sunbathe on the stones of the ruined houses. As we arrived at the shore we noticed other people walking around the village and I felt irrationally irritated – I’m here to escape people! How did they get here?!  Some of them were certainly not equipped for the long walk that would have been necessary to walk there. However when a little boat appeared it all became clear.
Boreraig was destroyed during the Highland Clearances

The gorgeous waterfall was just too tempting not to take a dip in however the water really was cold on my hands and head (the rest of me was protected by a drysuit) but splashing around in the clear water was lovely. In fact we had so much fun we hadn’t noticed the incoming tide was starting to pull the kayaks out to sea!
The waterfall
and vanish

The next couple of hours were spent exploring the islands in the loch looking for seals and other wildlife and no paddle around this loch is complete without a visit to the coral beach. This time we were rewarded with a plovers nest on the beach as the adult birds ran round pretending to be injured so as to lure us away. Another nest yielded an egg that was in the process of hatching and although I would love to have stayed longer and filmed the little beak as it poked in and out of the hole in the shell I didn’t want to be there so long that it caused undue stress on the adult bird so I took a quick photograph and left. The birds seemed to be hatching much later in the year than normal reflecting the cooler than average temperatures that we have been experiencing.
The coral beach
Stunning views
Exploring in depth...
Aww cute
It was hatching!
At the end of the day we paddled back to Ord tired and happy with the day finished off with a dip in Gordon and Morag’s hot tub – the hot tub with one of the best views in the country.