Reflections on 2019: Dreams, Goals and Injury

Goals (and Dreams)

This year I set myself 2 goals:

A marathon PB and a 1st club standard.

I achieved one of them.

A dream came true when I ran the London Marathon, loving every minute of it (despite prior nerves that it might just all be too much).

The plan thereafter had been to recover and then have a strong Autumn season, hopefully chasing down the coveted club standard. Sadly it didn’t happen due to injury, but I did have a rather awesome summer prior to that running the Fife Coastal Path.

We managed a few hills together (and Bruce did quite a few solo) before embarking on the West Highland Way as a wee ‘rest’ in October.

Injuries

Finally after a few months of very little or no running (a whole 10 weeks off) I had my own Christmas miracle in the form of a cortisone injection and, touch wood, will continue running pain free into the new year. I’m four runs in and it’s feeling good so far.

New Goals

There’s a lot of fitness to build back up. For now, I’m loving being able to run once again and enjoying it for what it is. My GFA for London 2020 has been deferred and my goal is to get back to consistent mileage before targeting times.

First up, my parkrun goals: 200 separate volunteer days and 200 parkruns; in that order.

Happy New Year

Here’s hoping that 2020 brings you the opportunity to pursue you dreams and just enough challenge to keep it interesting!

Fife Coastal Path: Day 4, Anstruther to St Andrews

What a day! I’m delighted to have made it to St Andrews after yet another glorious day in Fife and probably the most challenging terrain of the walk.

Setting off from Anstruther I felt good. The Spindrift Guest House was brilliant – Jenni and Mark were outstanding hosts, I’d had the best sleep of the trip, was well fed and watered, and had enjoyed excellent chat about all things running and triathlon with Mark over breakfast. First scenic spot on the route was Anstruther Harbour where the tide was well out. I also passed Anstruther Lifeboat Station – huge thanks to them for responding quickly to my message last night (more on that later)!

Anstruther Harbour

The initial trails were pretty decent. Some grassy paths, some sandy trails, but mostly quite natural. This made slower going than I’d have liked. I quickly discovered that trying to run overgrown single track isn’t the best idea as it’s too easy to turn ankles or feet; I was in this for the long game!

The scenery was beautiful once again. I never tire of the views along the coast, especially when the occasional treasure such as the Caiplie Caves is thrown into the mix.

Caiplie

I’d been informed by the route guide that Crail was the only stop on the trail, so although it was just short of 5 miles from where I’d started, I stopped for tea and cake just to be safe, ensuring my energy levels didn’t drop too much. I also bought a painting of Creel Harbour as a souvenir of my trip so it ended up being a very expensive cuppa! It will arrive sometime next week as I didn’t have room in my ultra vest for it!

Anyway, chatting to the chap here, I was assured that the tidal section wasn’t an issue. Worse case scenario he suggested I’d be able to go cross country and over the fields.

Leaving Crail, refreshed again, it was time to admire the views again. I enjoyed chatting with an older couple at the top of the village before heading through the caravan park. As always, it’s good to look back.

Crail beach

Again, terrain varied between sandy tracks and grassy trails. I passed an old WW2 bunker, part of the Crail airfield. Along this section the trail narrowed to singletrack and I bumped my toe on a boulder. No major harm done but I did need to extract a thread of my sock from my toenail that’s split slightly further down than I’d like! Eek

Shortly thereafter the route went down onto the shore again. There were warnings of not using this section at high tide. My dark sense of humour came to play when I saw what happens to runners ignoring this advice.

I had another short stop around here at The Toast Shack. While very tempted to have a toastie – they looked amazing – I settled for a packet of salted crisps and a can of ‘proper’ Coke. The rain started spitting here but it was welcome. The heat was quite something again despite the breeze.

Again, continuing on, the paths were narrow and lacking clarity in places; in other sections there was some brief respite and clearer tracks. I did love the sight of the beautiful poppies growing wild in the fields and verges.

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Towards Kingsbarns there was an opportunity to opt out and head towards the main road. This would make a lovely walk in itself – Kingsbarns to St Andrews – as the coastline was particularly attractive from here onwards. The golf course here was stunning! I’m not a golfer, but would happily walk this course. The path often led alongside golf courses today, sometimes very roughly at the side of a well manicured fairway.

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At Boarhills the track turned inland and went slightly upwards through a woodland area. I loved this! It was cool and shaded, very welcome after the sun shining pretty much continually throughout the day.

Fife Coastal Path: wooded section at Boarhills

Having passed through a farm it was then back towards the shore via yet another rough, grassy track. This also involved a couple of stiles, not the most well received by my weary legs! Buddo Rock, more stiles and more overgrown paths followed. There’s a theme emerging here – going was tough and slow (again), the path was overgrown (again), and at times I was reduced to a walk in order to best preserve my feet and ankles. Unfortunately my leg didn’t fare so well and the left one in particular now looks like I’ve been mauled by a large animal! (Perhaps a slight exaggeration – very tall cat?)

Conscious of time for the high tide, I was very much on the clock at this point, hoping to reach the tidal section by 2 pm to give me a couple of hours grace. During some of these ups and downs, I found myself among very high undergrowth (as tall as me!) including something flowery like hogweed (cow parsnip?) and possibly triffids or something vaguely related. Work colleagues, you’ll appreciate ‘Walking through the jungle’ popping into my head and becoming my earworm here. If you don’t work with me, search YouTube for ‘Barefoot Books’.

Finally, I reached the tidal section of the walk that I’d been concerned about. The guidebook (and other route guides) I’d looked at had suggested that this was dangerous at high tide, going so far as to suggest waiting for the tide to recede May be the only option. This had concerned me to the degree that I contacted Anstruther RNLI to see if they could offer advice last night as I had no idea how soon before high tide I’d require to be there. Huge thanks to them for responding, especially as it’s not part of their usual patch and they were not entirely certain but gave sound advice all the same, all the more so in light of them being volunteers! A bit like Mountain Rescue on the hills, the RNLI are the unsung heroes of our beaches and seas. As it transpired, the section in question was very short: was that it?? Descending via yet another set of steps, my personal advice would be if there are waves lapping the bottom steps, turn back and take a cheeky wee detour across whichever golf course or field is at the head of the steps.

Beware: Tidal risk on Fife Coastal Path

Got chatting to some more people once past the dangerous part, their kids playing on the shingly beach. Enquiring about the trail ahead, they advised that it would head up before winding down into St Andrews. Up the steps I went after the Rock and Spindle. A tough slog, bumpy paths.

Up more stone steps, St Andrews was fully in view and it was with great delight that I made my way down towards the beach.

Having resisted all week, I could resist no longer! Paddling in the sea I felt like a big kid. I only just resisted the urge to go swimming, so good did the water feel, as I was concerned I might not get into my B & B if I turned up on the doorstep drookit! Had I realised that there would be a torrential downpour on route I might have reconsidered my options – hindsight’s a great thing!

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Thus, my Fife Coastal Path trail ended. It’s been a great few days, definitely helped by the glorious weather. It’s been exactly what I’d hoped for when I originally set out – relaxing, restful and generally good for ‘me’!

Just short of 19 miles today, 63.9 miles for the week, husband arrived to meet me = one happy runner!

Clare, happiest outdoors: in St Andrews

Fife Coastal Path: Day 3, Leven to Anstruther

This has definitely been the best day on the trail so far. I woke feeling pretty refreshed, had an early breakfast and then headed back to bed to let it digest. The upshot was a bit of a rushed start to the day in order to get my bag ready for collection, then leaving later than planned – again!

Setting off, I followed the promenade along the pavement, not wishing to get sandy feet this early in the day. This quickly moved off the tarmac to run alongside the golf course.

Fife Coastal Path alongside Leven Links Golf Course

Further on there was the option to run along the beach itself. As the tide was well out, the sand was firm and this was an inviting option.

Low tide: running along the beach on the Fife Coastal Path

It was quite enjoyable running along the sand, although the slight camber at times can make it challenging on the legs. I was quite happy to get a return to trail path for a bit of respite.

Fife Coastal Path: heading towards Lundin Links and Lower Largo

The next section of the path was lovely, running along grassy trails. The terrain was easy going and the surfaces kind to the legs. I’m growing very fond of the shore, the flowers on the verge, and the feeling of freedom. Being in such magical surroundings by the sea, as with the mountains, makes you realise what a small part of the universe you really are.

Reaching Lower Largo, one of the first things to be seen is the sculpture of ‘Malagan’ in a garden. I noticed going through these wee villages the care that people take of their gardens. There were so many beautiful flowers, baskets and interesting features – a true joy!

Back onto the sand, I managed well, only getting the toes of one foot very slightly wet on a water jump, and was feeling quite pleased with myself until I realised I’d missed the path off for the bridge over the burn; this was too wide (and deep) for any hopping across, so there was no option but to double back on myself.

I met a young woman from the Netherlands, also doing a good chunk of the coastal path, and enjoyed a blether with her before moving on. More good, grassy trails followed and I met some more people to chat to. The coastal scenery became more interesting again.

Through a caravan park, up and over a small incline, again, taking advantage and walking any lumps or bumps to conserve my energy, before long I was in sight of Elie where I stopped and enjoyed a cup of tea and a chocolate crispie. I’m learning vital lessons should I ever wish to enter the world of ultra running: cups of tea on the run are just fine; small amounts of cake are tolerated well with a very short break between eating and running; and excruciating stomach pain ensues when dehydrated! Fine today, but suffered quite a bit yesterday so have made sure I take on lots of fluid today.

I enjoyed a good rest with my cuppa, leaving around 45 minutes of a break. The rain had started spotting by this point but rather then being an irritant, it was welcome, just light enough to provide a very pleasant cooling sensation.

More lovely beaches and natural sculptures followed along this section of the path between Elie and Pittenweem.

There’s also a windmill that used to be part of the salt pan industry, now used by the Coastguard. Not long after passing this the village of Pittenweem pops into view. Thinking ahead, I wonder if tomorrow will feel harder as there are very few stops. Today, as yesterday, I’ve spent as much time stopping to admire the sights, take photos and chat, as I have moving!

On reaching Pittenweem, I couldn’t resist the ice cream shop. Scottish tablet – delicious! I wonder if ultra runs have ice cream vans? I wonder if there are any that let you run a paltry amount of miles over several days? I also enjoyed wandering around the harbour. Again, these little harbour villages remind me of childhood, especially those with fishing boats, as we often visited Hopeman, Lossiemouth or Burghead, and they were always busy, particularly on Sundays when many of the boats headed out.

The distance between Pittenweem and Anstruther is nothing at all, and I enjoyed this last bit of the journey, heading straight for the pub to have a late lunch before finding my B & B for the night. At the moment it’s shaping up to be my best night so far. Spindrift is lovely! So comfortable with a fantastic guest lounge. I’ve now also been out and had an amazing dinner in the Dreel Tavern. The rain’s on, hopefully clearing the air for tomorrow, and I’m in for the night.

Approaching Anstruther

Last day ahead – all the way to St Andrews! The longest stage yet. Wish me luck!

Fife Coastal Path: Day 2, Burntisland to Leven

Started the day feeling less rested than I’d have liked. My neighbours in the hotel were somewhat noisy in the wee small hours, moving between rooms I think – an important life skill: learn to close a door quietly!

I therefore couldn’t resist banging around a bit on starting my day, not as early as I’d have liked as breakfast wasn’t served until 8:15 am, but definitely ahead of anyone else being up.

I was late in leaving, around 10:30 am, as I wanted to let breakfast go down a bit. One positive in where I was staying was that I stepped out the front door and right onto the Way, initially following the pavement alongside the A921 to Kinghorn. This brought back fond memories of childhood holidays having once stayed at Pettycur Bay Caravan Park.

Pettycur Bay

Kinghorn was my point of getting lost today. Like yesterday, signage isn’t always great through the villages, but it didn’t take me more than a hundred metres to realise the error of my ways and retrace my steps. I’ve come to realise there’s generally a Fife Coastal Path logo on the lamppost if there are no signs.

Moving out of civilisation, I was glad to return to trails rather than pavements, although with humidity feeling high it didn’t take any incline at all to slow me to a walk!

Fife Coastal Path

In fact, I only managed 5 miles before being tempted into Morrison’s Cafe for a cup of tea! Passing right by I couldn’t help myself – the prospect of ditching the warm water in my bottles definitely swung it.

There wasn’t much to see in or around Kirkcaldy, although I did run close to the shore along the prom. As always, I felt happier again when off the tarmac.

Fife Coastal Path: Burntisland to Leven

Dysart was a welcome distraction, aside from the initial cobbles leading into the old village. I took my time here as it was very pretty with lovely old buildings and a pleasant feel to it. I was very taken by the harbour and the evidence of people enjoying their lives at sea today.

Onwards, I found myself in West Wemyss. I liked that these little villages were so close together as it gave me welcome respite in the heat. It was around here that the sun finally broke through, having been enshrouded in fine cloud throughout the morning. West Wemyss is home to the Frances Colliery Memorial, a tribute to those that lost their lives in the mine.

Frances Colliery Memorial

Hugging the sea wall again for a time, I returned to the trail and continued to East Wemyss. This was another attractive section of the route.

Ahead, there were steps up. Any change in height today has usually been up or down steps, and again, I took advantage of the opportunity to have a wee walk break. This particular set had some seats part way up so I enjoyed a brief rest in the sunshine.

From hereon in the Way was uninspiring as it passed through Buckhaven, Methil and finally into Leven. I was very happy to finally reach my B & B for the night! Somehow I don’t think I’ll be seeing too late into the evening tonight.

Another 16 miles today. Hoping for a cooler day tomorrow!

Fife Coastal Path: Day 1, North Queensferry to Burntisland

Having decided I was ‘peopled out’ a couple of months ago, I decided to have a wee solo venture over summer. Having looked at various ‘Ways’, the most appealing was probably the West Highland Way, but as I’ll be doing this again sometime with husband, I had to find an alternative, and having considered all options I ended up with the Fife Coastal Path.

The path originally started in North Queensferry. It’s now been extended, but my plan is to cover part of it, from North Queensferry to St Andrews. My intention when booking was to run it – I envisage a leisurely bimble with regular stops for refreshment – but I’ve also taken my walking kit in case I’m not able to run all the way.

Arriving in North Queensferry, I went out for a wee wander. The start of the path is uphill, hopefully not for too long! It’s decorated with special plaques designed by local schoolchildren way back when the Way originally opened.

I then wandered an extra few metres to the shore where I sat and read my book in the sunshine.

Day 1:
Refreshed after a surprisingly good dinner and excellent night’s sleep at The Ferrybridge Hotel, I retired to my room to let breakfast settle for a couple of hours before heading off.

The path for me began pretty much at the door of the hotel. Always a good thing when no navigation is required! Signage appeared clear. I was happy!

The path began on a cobbled track, quickly changing to trail. I felt very at home on this as I love trails. The only downside was it was a little stony, ordinarily not an issue, but with bright sun my vision was impaired slightly by my sunglasses! Perhaps this was what led to the first ‘issue’ of the day … getting lost in Inverkeithing! Which way now?!?

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Retracing my steps, the route guide printed off by husband proved handy and I made a mental note to check it when passing through villages or towns further along.

When looking back, the horizon was always dominated by the Forth Rail Bridge, such an impressive structure!

Continuing on, I reached Dalgety Bay, skirting around the village and passing by some houses with beautiful views, at least on a fine day. Carrying on there was one of the few rises of the day and my legs felt it. The track changed – sometimes tarmac, sometimes trail – and was often in woodland with views over the bay seen through the trees. I was very grateful of this as it was a hot day and they provided a little shade and slightly cooler temperatures.

Fife Coastal Path between Dalgety Bay & Aberdour

Reaching Aberdour, I was charmed by the stunning views of the wee harbour and stopped to enjoy a snack.

I was very tempted to take my shoes off and paddle along this stretch of path too, all the more so with the crowds enjoying the beach at Silversands. The ice cream van was also calling loudly but I wasn’t convinced I’d get running again if I indulged in either of these options! Onwards I went, and before long I heard the PA system from the Burntisland Highland Games.

Arriving at my hotel (Sands Hotel) before check-in, I enjoyed a refreshing drink before making my way along to the Highland Games. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon was had there, watching the track and field events.

I think the most impressive thing was the cycle races! That must have been tough going on grass!

I can’t believe how quickly today has passed. It’s been a good day. The first 13 miles of my run are complete. Hopefully the legs will benefit from a good night’s sleep as they’re going a good bit further tomorrow. Looks set to be another hot day!