Sunday, 14 May 2017

Not the Mules Weekend

And another one bites the dust….

No sooner had the Lynx Pack weekends looked to be dying out (with more of a fizzle than a bang, it’s got to be said) then it was turn of the Mainland Mules. After a glorious 4 year renaissance of Mules weekends and “world record attempts” reaching a climax with the Tiree half marathon last year enthusiasm at first waned a little, limped on in the form of a flurry of planning emails, and then died completely. The original plan had been the resurrection of the Dee-Don-Spey relay route which formed part of a corporate challenge relay run for oil companies some years back. The big idea was that by extending it to start in Aberdeen and Finish in Newtonmore we could complete the coast to coast route that was started 2 years ago with the Fort William to Newtonmore relay (The Great Glen/East Highland Way relay) But it was not to be and so I was left without a plan on a free weekend, and a holiday weekend to boot, so I decided that Newtonmore, being surrounded by a lot of hills, was as good a place as any to spend the May bank holiday and booked us into The Dower House and Eric and Lynda's amazing hospitality. If anyone is looking for a place to stay in Newtonmore I am not sure you will find anywhere better than the Dower House!

Outside, in the rain, with my fish and chips
Perfect after a cold day
 There was still a fair amount of snow on the Cairngorms and it was a grey evening as we drove over to Newtonmore arriving late after fish and chips in Granton and I tried to raise spirits by pointing out that at although it was raining at least it wasn’t actually snowing like it was this time last year when we drove to Oban to catch the ferry to Tiree. My enthusiasm seemed to have little effect.

Due to the amount of snow still lying on the high summits, plan A to run from the Cairngorm ski centre was aborted and substituted with a run from Glen Feshie up to the summit of Mullach Clach a Bhlair and back. When I say run I mean it in the loosest sense possible as I was still struggling from whatever seemed to be slowing me down and making me a bit lethargic and Simon was most definitely struggling with fatigue. I think he might still be suffering from the after effects of Campylobacter contracted courtesy of a British Airways in flight meal (I am now vegetarian on every flight) Morale was not markedly improved by my suggestion that we cross the second bridge across the river that was marked on the map despite a sign post saying that the first crossing was also the last crossing. At this point in time unplanned additional mileage or “extra training” as I referred to it was not seen as a good thing.
I should have paid attention to the sign...
 We backtracked, followed the track on the other side of the river, clambered down some badly eroded paths, made heavy weather of some river crossings, tried to find a pth through the forest, got pissed off when we couldn't, and then finally started to climb up the wide track which curved around the side of Meall nan Sleac and skirted the edge of Coire Garbhach offering a spectacular view into the corrie and over to Carn Ban Mor. Higher up the track started to become obscured by snow, at parts knee deep which slowed progress and the bitter chilly wind was making itself felt which didn’t really encourage much in the way of hanging around at the summit to appreciate the views. The thick grey clouds were just skimming the tops of the high mountains of the cairngorms so visibility wasn’t too bad. A few photos and then we were off making pretty good time on the very runnable descent gradually getting warmer and warmer until we were back in Glen Feshie and this time the river crossings proved to be less of a headache as I splashed straight through them all.

Glen Feshie
Still climbing
Snow covered peaks
It was freezing at the summit
But warm enough for a picnic in the glen
The following day Simon opted out of the run and slept in the car so I decided on a short but runnable route out to Ryvoan Bothy, up Meall A Bhuchaille then back to the car at Loch Morlich. It was even chillier today and so a faster run on clearly marked paths was welcome as it meant less hanging around and general faffing. The cold wind was making itself felt lower down the slopes and this clearly deterred the walkers as I had the hill all to myself. Bliss! Expecting to be tired after yesterday’s 4 hr + outing I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt. Maybe escaping the cold was a good incentive to run faster.

Looking back to Ryvoan bothy
The summit was empty of people
Looking down to Loch Morlich
S slept in the car while i ran up a hill
A Dower House snack bag
Bit of a chilly day for a picnic
The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and eating and drinking and Simon attempting to stop me from blowing a fortune in any outdoor shops in Aviemore. It was also the Spirit of Speyside Whisky festival and it would have been rude not to join in. I signed Simon and myself up to a whisky making course at the Speyside distillery under the watchful eye of the master distiller which was great fun, I know at first glance it would appear that all distillery tours are the same and the process of making whisky is always the same but in reality each individual distillery will do one or two things in a slightly different way, they each have tiny differences and nuances that lead to creation of the very individual product of each distillery. 
First BBQ of the year
A Dower House pancke stack
Simon making whisky
So if the next batch tastes a bit odd you'll know why
Sadly I was driving
 So what to do about the Lynx Pack and Mules weekends? What does the future hold? Before the winter I was eagerly thinking of a relay attempt on the Bob Graham round or a similar extravaganza, but now what? Are these running events just a bit too much?
What could the incentive be?

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