Loving the trails!

Having set the bar at parkrun at the end of May, I fell off the pace in June. Half marathon training should have started (and in theory has), but the tall task of getting back to speed leaves me a little lacking in enthusiasm. June has also seen me away for work related things a few of times and overall it’s just been a very busy month.

I felt like I’d lost my mojo a little, but have been pleased to rediscover it on the trails. Thursday saw me dropped off on the back road as husband headed north. This allowed me to enjoy a loop of my favourite forest before making my way home, barely touching tar until the final mile.

Then today saw the social Sunday group hit our usual loop of Hazlehead and Countesswells. After yesterday’s hot parkrun at the beach, the damp, cool air among the trees was a true blessing!

The run started with a warm up loop with Alan before meeting the others. We then headed up the trail at Hazlehead, through the gates and over to Countesswells Forest.

Gate to Gate between Hazlehead and Countesswells

Stopped at our usual spot for the group photo, minus Ali, our usual photographer, so a couple of people are missing from shot!

Group photo in Countesswells minus a couple due to lack of photographic skill

Onwards along the beautiful trails, great in all weathers but especially pleasurable on such a lovely summer’s day!

Kingshill, the big hill of the run, is tough on the legs, but definitely helps with overall strength. First time around …

Bottom of Kingshill - waiting for everyone to regroup

And around again …

Finishing loop 2 of Kingshill

I have no idea how I ever managed to do this 5 times! That was probably around this time last year when peaking for the Fort William Marathon.

Crossing over to the other side of the Forest we run up what I consider to be the last hill – in actual fact there are two more but I find them comparatively easy.

Top of the hill at the opposite side to Kingshill, Countesswells Forest

No sprint back through Hazlehead this week as my legs were more than happy (or fatigued) by what we’d done. Finished with a run up and down the reps lane to round the day off with 14 miles.

Goal for the week ahead is to try to get some regular running in, whatever the weather.

This is where I’m at. What keeps you motivated? Feel free to share any tips by commenting.

Metro Social Sunday

Alan’s back from his travels (again! Retirement suits him!) so there was some element of organisation for today’s Sunday social run. He’s the one that posts on Facebook to remind others that we’ll be running. Admittedly it is usually the same route, place and time, but occasionally this varies). One such variation was when Ali, Marie and I opted for Scolty a few weeks ago. Marie is not Metro – she is in fact a Garioch imposter – however, we’re sociable and welcome others on our runs. It was only halfway round Scolty that I suddenly realised I’d invited a work colleague and he may well have turned up at Hazlehead at 9 am. Thankfully he had failed in his mission to get up and out; it appeared that way today also as he was a no show again. Rein in the Saturday nights if you’re reading this!

So, today’s run. A merry wee band turned up which was good: Alison and Bill (husband and wife duo, they’re also often joined by their speedy daughter, Sarah – not today though); James (physiotherapist from Spear and on a sub 3:45 marathon quest); Graham (parkrun ED and imposter); Alan (who kindly picked me up on route to Hazlehead again); and George who had run an impressive 5 miles prior to meeting us as he needed to get 15 miles in the bank today as he’s marathon training for Manchester.

We did our usual route from Hazlehead, over to Countesswells and around Kingshill. I had initially set out with the intention of doing 14 miles as I’m looking to get myself back into gear for the forthcoming Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon and aiming to build the base mileage before starting on my own marathon journey. However, with George having banked 5 miles already and everyone else happy to opt for 10 I conceded a few miles in favour of company. It didn’t take much (any) persuasion!!

Had a very pleasant run, chatting with George at the back of the pack for much of it. The others ran on ahead but waited at regular intervals for us to catch up. Conditions were excellent today. Yesterday’s wind had completely died down and it was a balmy 6C! Perfect. Another dry week also saw the trails mercifully dry.

Time passed quickly and before we knew it we were round Kingshill and headed back towards Hazlehead. As we ran between the gates I got chatting to James and ended up doing an extra loop around the roads at Hazlehead to round off his miles. That worked well for me taking me to just short of 11.5 miles for the day. I resisted the urge to run laps of the car park to round it off, happy with this. It was very enjoyable chatting to him and hearing his thoughts on various running matters, as with the job that he’s doing and his personal mission he’s picked up lots of information and knowledge.

Arriving back at the car park I was relieved to find that my driver had waited for me and wasn’t making me run home – thanks Alan! As usual, onwards to Cafe Cognito we went, with the classic post-run refreshment of scones (George and I), croissant (Alan), and hot chocolate, latte and Americano with hot milk on the side, respectively. Another great run in great company!

 

Hazlehead & Countesswells

Thankfully despite the cold it’s been very dry (therefore no ice underfoot) and we were able to get out to the woods for one of my favourite long runs: Hazlehead and Countesswells.

Setting off with Ali and Derek, we were nearly a man down before we left the car park with Derek having a minor impromptu slip.

The trails were surprisingly puddle free. It’s very rare indeed that there are no puddles to jump, run through or tiptoe around. Opting for either the former or latter, I have to say I was most delighted! I hate getting my feet wet, especially at the start.

The toughest part of this run is always the start, the first mile leading very gently up, following the route of Hazlehead parkrun. The legs are just getting warmed up and it can be a bit of a slog.

As always, the chatter passed the time and before we knew it we were coming out of Hazlehead and working our way towards Countesswells. I feel sad when I see the urban sprawl that’s developing here as the new houses are built; in my opinion they spoil the views and the overall peace and tranquility of the area.

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Derek and Ali run the gate to gate section

Before long we were in Countesswells. I’ve always loved this forest and adore running here. There are wide forest trails and smaller tracks aplenty. Give me this over the road any day! With so many trails and paths to pick from it’s possible to play here for ages without getting bored.

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Derek stick with us towards the bottom of the forest before heading off as he’s building up strength just now.

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A wee self-timed shot before Derek left us

Ali and I then continued on our way round to conquer Kingshill. This lovely hill takes you round to the back of the forest with views over to Kingswells. It had a special place on Strava where someone has aptly named it to show the love we all feel for it – not! Anyway, we did three loops of Kingshill, managing to run each one pretty steadily so we were happy.

Each loop was unique in it’s own way: the first we chugged up complaining; the second we met a melee of people at the top (including Phil, a fellow Metro man who appeared over the top of Tank Hill, much to my surprise!); the third was great as we felt pretty virtuous having already completed two laps.

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View back over the forest from Kingshill

There’s then the other side of the forest to run. This part always reminds me of Alan (who was running today in sunnier climes, the Gran Canaria Half), as it’s his favourite part of the run, twisting and turning through the trees with little swooping sections. It’s a real fun bit to run. It also reminds me of John (also running the GC Half) as he once performed some sort of levitational feat, attempting to remain upright having stumbled off the path and into the ditch!

We met lots of dogs here including the obligatory one that has to wander in front of you and attempt to trip you up. It failed.

Back over to Hazlehead we ran along to the ‘bus stop’ or shelter at the top of the golf course / Hazlehead  parkrun route before returning to the cars. 14 miles in the bank and 2 happy runners!

At this point Ali headed off so I had to go solo to Cafe Cognito. My favourite coffee shop, it’s an absolute must following the Sunday run. Perfect!

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This is why we run!