The clocks have changed. We gained an hour but there is no advantage when daylight is taken from the evening and handed to the morning, particularly when I'm not running or training first thing.
Rake out the head torch then, it's not been used since the WHW race, still the same batteries but it seems bright enough. Pack my gear for a Friday evening run after work. I did toy with the idea of running home again but thought better of it. Nothing would have been gained doing marathon distance with just over a week till the Fraserburgh half.
Park in Methlick, it's dark and deserted. The car tells me 1 degree c. It will be cold and I have no hat or gloves. It's not long before I swap the sodium glow of civilisation for the pitch dark of woodland.
It takes a bit of time to adjust running in torch light again but there is something comforting about it.
My concentration is limited to the illuminated circle a few feet ahead. I start to relax and unwind, my mind thinks about races ahead and my plan for 2014.
The double Cateran, I know the route well and visualise running it in reverse, and wonder how it will be at night. The moon is out tonight, lying on it's back but it's not lighting the way ahead, it's too low, just peaking through the tree branches on this frosty night, tantalising and mocking.
On I run into the night, a steady rhythm of footsteps, breath steaming up the beam of light ahead.
Woodland creatures don't like me, every now and again scuttling noises can be heard as they flee from the thudding of my feet.
My mind wanders back to the task ahead, this is how it will be. This is the kind of terrain I'll be running on the 16th of May. But I would like some help, more help than the torches I will be carrying. I've already checked the lunar cycle, my friend will be full, glowing on the 14th May and if the night is clear during the Cateran he'll show me the way.
Squirrel bridge, I love it here and stop to take in the silence and solitude. The stars are bright above, there's not a sound. My headtorch acts like a spotlight as I scan the river for Otters but there's none to be seen, all is still.
I must be mad, I've entered a 110 mile race with a 13 hour cut off and 28 hour limit. But I know I can do it, must do it. I want to be part of this unique event, Scotlands first ultra over 100 miles. To do it I must get some things done, and done right. A right balance of winter training along with a build up of core strength. Pace, the big one, I must get my pace right for these long distances I have planned for next year.
After squirrel bridge it gets a bit technical, up and down hill, slippery muddy sections and stream crossings. I feel alive sprinting through the woods, frozen leaves crunching under foot. There is a call far in the distance, a hoot. It's a lonely sound, it penetrates my soul and makes me feel isolated and alone. It's regular call is haunting and beautiful at the same time, I soak up the atmosphere. A frosty star filled night, the moon on it's back and woodland wildlife, this is the pinnacle of running and I'm loving every minute of it.
The West Highland Way. I have not entered it yet. Note the word yet. In my excitement of entering the double Cateran I didn't stop to think the WHW race is only 5 weeks after. Normally I can do the Cateran and the WHW race but is the double Cateran a step too far? Not only that but I have a challenge next year which I still hope to do. Far East Scotland to Far West at the end of July. Now I certainly don't want to burn myself out but the key to my challenge is high miles at a steady pace and I can't think of a better race to help me achieve the challenge than the WHW. However, I must be realistic and I'm in two minds whether to enter the WHW race or not. I have until the end of November to decide.
The Ythan, I'm on the river bank section now. I take care as the path is only feet from a drop into the icy water. I can hear rapids well before they are reached then it's back to the quiet section, the Otter pool where I have completed the loop and head back to Methlick.
Stretching. Along with core strength. Two things I completely neglect but not any more. I am now attending a friends fitness class twice a week, not only a fitness class but stretching based on yoga as well. These classes were a shock to the system. I couldn't believe how stiff my hamstrings and calf's were. Also core strength, my core felt like a plate of jelly. These classes are part of my plan to be fitter and in better shape for the challenges next year.
My friend is watching, lying back low and flickering through the trees. I can see the village glow ahead and stride out, running far more confident in the torch light than when I set out. I find a good balance of foot strike and breathing rhythm, I almost feel like I'm floating. I leave the magical and mystical Braes O Gight, back to the streetlights for a walking warm down before driving home.
Happy winter training everyone.