Middle months The Tide Turns

Friday 2nd February (02/02/2018) Cairn Corrabheinn 3 arch flats home

Ah this is just one of these runs where it all goes on! Back from work a bit early on a Friday so decided to try and get a better one in. Met dad and he was going to head up the Cairn so I went with him and Corra, nice and steady up with dad. I left him on the ridge and headed for Corrabheinn. Just trying to get a bit of climbing legs in really, not too worried about times yet. Made my way to the lochs at Evans walk, started climbing the north track of Corrabheinn. I was finding it pretty hard going to be honest. This black lab appeared beside me and Corra, and then close after Doc Martin. Martin is the kind of guy who has just taking to fell running and the outdoors here on Jura, always out with the dog Manny. Think he had done some road running earlier on in life , half marathon type stuff.  Couple of fell races later and now attempting ultra’s he’s a well experienced and fit fell runner. We made the summit of Corrabheinn with a nice controlled pace, taking about what new gadgets we had for this year’s training and how in general the training thus far had gone. Turns out this was both our first “real” climbing run. We descended Corrabheinn the Fell Race route down toward the three arch. We tried the north side of the river and at the salmon pool we crossed over at outlet. Martin and Manny crossed without a hitch but Corra decided to stop and get swept into the washing machine outflow chamber, I called her but she couldn’t escape the undercurrent. Half holding on and half jumping in I grabbed Corra out and she dusted herself off and continued with me up to the Ardmenish flats. Probably oblivious to almost drowning! Parted with Martin at three arch. On the way home Corra froze on the main road and she had come across a hind in the ditch stuck. It was in really bad condition and couldn’t move, perfectly camouflaged though to passing cars. With a bit of grunting I managed to pull the poor beast out of the ditch and across the road on to a safe area. Lay her down and looked up to see Corra licking the animal on the head, I wish I had a camera or phone on me, but I didn’t. Corra must have been empathetic to the fact this poor beasty was on the way out, it couldn’t stand or hardly lift its head. It was a nice moment shared between the two of them and one I’ll remember. We got back to Ardmenish and had showers settled down for the night with Amy telling tales of our adventure up Corrabheinn! Trivial Pursuit and a couple of beers in front of the stove ended an eventful day for our Pup! The day Corra licked a deer on the head!


“It’s everywhere you go on Jura, nature has no dilution here. There is an Annual Sports day on the island, The Ardlussa Sports in July, the community gather to compete in different events, running, heavy events and a ceilidh later. A few years ago the races and hammer throwing just stopped as the entire field were held awestruck by whales in the bay rising in the shallows in the summer sun. This is what we have, we are lucky folk living in such a place”

Sunday 4rth February Ardmenish Cairn Beinn Bhreac Evans home

Over the last few years I’ve fell upon this run and it’s good to get some miles in, you’re climbing just under 2000ft and covering 10 mile but it doesn’t feel like a lot of climbing. Lots of chances to try and motor the ground quickly and only shorter bursts of climbing with nothing too steep.  Cairn to begin then following hill machine track out towards Evan’s walk until you hug north of the glen and climb steadily up on to the tops where the further west and north you move the views just take your breath away. This was one of those days, I’ve seen it before but you never tire of it, it’s so grand and endless it never looks the same. Getting to the Cairn tops looking out toward loch Tarbert where you see almost the whole loch splitting the island is unbelievable. A white hare the only company in the vast silence which Corra had a good go at chasing but not fast enough thank god. We trotted back home after what was a fantastic day on the hill, magical scenery, getting fitter too! It’s probably one of the most magical panoramic views on Jura.

Corra on Bheinn Breac loch tarbert north behind

“I’ve ran this route a few times and often wait till really good weather, it’s such a feeling where the ground dry’s and the short heather makes that crunch under foot, your shoulders for the first time since last year get the warmth of the Hebridean sun!”

Hill 60 looking south over Ardmenish

Tuesday 6th February Keills 3Arch Forrest and back 5 mile

I don’t like the road I hate the road, what do I do? Run on the road!  A cold east wind has been blowing for a few days and I thought I’d do something loose on the road, it wasn’t loose and it wasn’t pretty, blisters and 5 mile of quite hard toiling will keep me of the tarmac for a while again!

“Never learn a simple lesson once, road bad, hill good!”

Sunday 11th February Ardmenish Burn and turn!

Not often, very rarely but every once in a while I’ll go out and start off then chuck a run after only a mile or so. Now it’s not the chucking it after such a short distance it’s the lingering negative thoughts that dwell after such a run that totally knock me till I can redeem myself on the next run. Headed out to do the Cairn today and got across the burn on the Ardmenish flats and turned with a wall of hail and wind sending me scampering back down to the Caravan. I get a pretty deep guilt or even bordering on slight depression (for a day or so) if I don’t get out for a run but turning back from a run in motion is not taken lightly and I had to prepare myself for the runners soul searching which penetrates far deeper than the uninitiated may believe! The worst case of this I have had was 2012, I was fittest I have been to date, anyway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . there was this party! As Jura party’s do it finished as the sun rose and on the way home you could see the first yaughts coming down the sound for the island peaks, in my wisdom I ran out to the foot of Beinn A’Chalois and watched the sets of pairs descend still well inebriated! I joined a pair climbed the other two paps and thought this is great running with these folk learning a wee bit, being cooked up training on my own over here it was so good to see runners! Coming off last pap I twisted my ankle, badly, this was a Saturday morning. Sober now I was so annoyed that with a week to go to the race I’d had a drunken ankle twist. To rub salt in my own wounds we had a three day bender of a session that can only happen in the west coast of Scotland. The only medication I knew to solve the feeling of hangover and stupidity and inner guilt that I’d messed up so badly the last week of training was to strap my ankle and get up Corrabheinn. I had to get that feeling out of my system as soon as possible the only way I knew how!

Music, sessions & running all on Jura

“Looking back it was pretty hilarious weekend before the race but I beat myself up something terrible about it, I don’t think it had much if any effect the following weekend, but it’s a story of how not to prepare!”

Tuesday 13th February Cairn with Corra

Basic Cairn after work with the dog, wee bit more go in the legs! Good start to the week especially after turning back on the last outing! A little more power and go in the legs though!

Paps from the point Lowlandmans bay

“It’s been a slow start to the training this year but it might not be a bad thing to hold off with bigger stuff till weather improves and days lengthen”

Wednesday 14th February Jimmy’s reps

The Cairn track is so wet this time of year it’s more than a task to head out that way every time so headed up towards Hill 60 and done some hill repeats on the high fields and around Uncle Jimmy’s grave, so begins Jimmy’s reps in the training diary. Hill 60 is dry underfoot it feels magical to run on compared to the bog and burn of the Ardmenish flats. You’ll never build up lots of climbing but as a token getting out its something new and fits the bill. The high fields of Ardmenish look over the sound of Jura, Lowlandmans Bay and the paps it’s a great spot.

Hill 60 looking over Ardmenish flats paps and Corrabheinn behind

“Hill reps is something I’ve been intrigued by from the first time I heard the term, I suppose the down side to Jura is it’s hard to meet up for a club hill run and do hill reps or whatever, we probably wouldn’t know where to start!”

Thursday 15th February Tempo hill 60 and Hen house

Trying to get the legs moving a bit quicker that and the fact the track to the cairn has turned into a swampland of Jura. Did move well today couple of sets of reps on hill 60 then two laps of hen house fields and top fields. Another one under the belt at best.

Amy and I up the trigg

“Building the momentum slowly, can’t wait till the Jura weather turns, blink and you miss the transmission from winter to spring sometimes”

Friday 16th February Walk to Torpedo Bay with Amy

Amy and I got home together and decided to try a walk somewhere, we decided to head to Torpedo bay and had a nice wander along the shoreline north for a while until it started to darken. We found a 2015 Rugby world cup ball washed up which we gave to Chris as a wee present as he is the rugby man in this neck of the woods. The weather turned really nasty on the way back added to Corra almost running off a cliff after a grouse. Anyway all is well once the Caravan door is closed kettle on and fire lit, soaked through to the bone, showers then some dinner and a settled wee night. Home is always filtered by the most basic of needs warmth, food, drink and if lucky enough companionship. Maybe that’s why people love camping because that point is really hammered home, a cup of tea has it ever tasted better than when camping? A cheese sandwich on the hill in the middle of nowhere? Open fire in a mountain bothy?  Bonfire on the west coast?  It’s so apparent that’s all you need, no thrills or spills just simplistic components of life .In modern life I suppose it’s easy to drift from that but I like to think we are aware at least of these simple pleasures and their soulful benefits.

Corra the stove and my stinky feet

“A fire to warm your bones, a wee cheese sandwich and cuppa tea who could ask for more”

Sunday 18th February Ardmenish  Neils  bay Gatehouse Forrest Cranbuie

Soaked to the skin on Friday  but I don’t think I can blame this flu on that walk, woke up Saturday shaking like a leaf and temperature up and down like a yoyo. Ah well we usually get one cold or flu in the winter so just got to get on with it. Round about walk today up the coast with Amy and Corra up to Neils bay and back over the hill to hear. It feels like the ruins there are of the oldest humans to have lived in this part of the world, scraping a living off the land. Working everything in sync with the seasons, tides and weather, the old ways. Don’t think these people would be crying over a dose of the flu.

“On the walk Amy and I wondered what it would be like to go into the past and see how folks used to live and survive, to have a look at how it was, what a wonder that would be”

Monday 19th February Easy Hen House Laps

Hen house fields

Managed out for a wee jog for three mile in the Hen house park, couldn’t do too much more than that. All low tempo today.

“General rule of thumb I think is if it’s not in the chest you can run, you might keel over but you can run”

Tuesday 20TH February  Walk with Amy and Corra down to An Dunan

Now that’s a place in Ardmenish, the Viking stronghold fort. It’s got a feel about it, a presence. There are certain places you go in your life where there is an undoubted aura, an underlying tone of the other worlds and times. It’s immersed in that type of vibe. Weather was nice and Amy and I just enjoyed a stroll with the dog in the late afternoon.

Hangman’s rock An Dunan

“Cold flu is shifting but not a nice one, get back into it more seriously next week”

Wednesday 28th February  Cairn Beast from the East meets the wolf of the west!

There has been this east winding howling through the country for few days (the beast from the east)! Anyway in my wisdom I know the cairn is generally east and I have gravity on my side on the way back down so I managed a blowy Cairn after work.

“Wind is commonly my most unwanted element, I can take rain and bit of snow but wind is just a real back break sometimes here”

Thursday 1 March Jimmy’s Reps

Again the wind is roaring but mentally when it hits March for me there has to be “genuine” reason not to be making efforts to run! Slight cheating going over to run in the high fields but to be fair I gave myself a pretty fair work out on the reps and didn’t leave much in the tank just short of four miles and 500 odd feet ascent in 36 minutes odd.

“I’d call this a short tempo run but not entirely sure what benefit it has to hill running”

Corra in the Shaw’s old strawberry patch

Sunday 4th March Corra

If all things come together this year I will probably see this run as a bit of a turning point. After spending the last few days pretty flat out with work because of the massive thaw from beast from the east I got back and made a point of getting up Corrabheinn as quickly as I could. So I did. The ground was beautifully solid from the hard frost which means dryness and a traction from your push off stride that feels like it requires a little less energy than usual. Run went well and for the first time this year I felt like there was a little reaction from the legs saying yea that was good, we can handle that, more please . . . .

Me and Corra on Corrabheinn

“Corrabheinn is the hill of my home, we are like good friends that don’t need to speak for long stretches then we meet and feel like our last conversation was yesterday! We fall out, we have had many disputes but always returning with a better understanding of one another. I have been up this hill in more conditions that I could imagine weather to have, unrelenting sun to the harshest of northern winds cutting through you like the knife that grallochs the Stagg. It’s raw its wild its Jura’s sting in the tail at the end of the fell race more than that it’s been my sanction for many years and hopefully for many more to come”

Myself on the trigg

Monday 5th March Glass Bheinn from Keils

Have developed a run straight up Glass Bheinn from Keils that has been a constant for the las couple of years. Much of the ground in that Keils basin is like what Frodo, Sam and Gollum had to guide through by “not following the lights” but after talking to Ross he said there is a track right on the north side of river which is decent. It’s a god solid climb with Glass Bheinn from the basin being a far more challenging climb than that of the fell race route. My best I think is 33 odd up it, its tough though and a good one for some steep instant climbing after the basin floor is out of the way. Legs were heavy after yesterday but happy to get another good climb in and two on the trot means its getting to the business end of things!

Grey boulders blue skys and White Hares

“Glas Bheinn has a steep sheet of scree the way I climb it and almost every time in the winter I see the White Hares hidden in amongst the grey boulder with the eagles soaring above, reminding me this is still the land of the hunter and the hunted, I am just merely a spectator in the landscape”

Famous White hares of Glas Bheinn

Tuesday 6th March Ardmenish stretch 3 mile

Token stretch with Corra around the farm, down to the light house back through the shore and hen house park finishing up at Caravan.

Looking back to Ardmenish from the point

“Keeps it all ticking along for me, and loosens the legs in preparation for the next session”

Wednesday 7th March Corra AW

This was one of these runs where I felt like I was going really well but the time didn’t reflect it, god run all the same. Up Corra in 51.56 from Ardmenish and back down in 1h28 mins so that’s fine. It was pretty wet and I’ve done a fair bit this week so pretty happy with that. Corra enjoyed a good run today with me and she seems to have her wee routine by getting a shower and her “dry dry’s” then food followed by being cosied up in her bed beside the stove! It’s relatively similar to what I do! We are becoming quite the team wee Corra and me on the runs!

Corra the coach & friend

“The company of having a wee dog on the hill is nice, the prospect of getting out a run with someone on Jura is quite difficult and something that could be a lot of fun if we could start it properly”

Friday 9th March Glas Bheinn from Keils

Again up Glas Bheinn from Keils, felt better, legs reacting to the conscience effort of increased mileage and climbing. I love that reaction from the human body, it craves more and adapts to the intensity. A good end to a solid week of medium distance runs. Try and get something a little bigger on the weekend.

Corra on Glas Bheinn

“First proper week of training and feeling like the push is on now and the wheels are turning”

Sunday 11th March Cairn Corra Cairn

After a good solid week of training managed a little more climbing at tempo today with Cairn Corra Cairn run, also in the back of my mind was the Celtic V rangers match at 12.00 so I managed it just in time. I was at one time football daft, played to a respectable standard had trials at Stirling Albion which I never quite made the grade but since fell running started I’ve drifted further from the sport even just watching it. I mean I’ll watch the old firm or Celtic in Europe or if the opportunity Barcelona cause of the way they play but the actual interest has faltered over the years. Too many egos in it I suppose and that’s one thing you just don’t get in fell running, egos don’t exist in my experience. Ian Holmes for example probably when he eventually retires will go down as one of the greats, maybe the greatest? Anyway after the fell race at the finish line in 2015 I met him and he was only interested in how I did. The guy probably just ran 3h 30 and finished in 3rd or 4th and got the over 50’s record but all he was asking was did I break the four hours? I asked how did you get on was it a good one? He shined over the question as insignificant to my own performance. I said yes I did just 3h 58 so left it late but I broke it. Standing at the line with Ian Holmes and Alan Smith who finished just behind me in 3h 59 that year I was in the presence of legends but they are the most humble of people and that’s probably a reflection of the purity of the fell running sport, there is no razzmatazz, no sponsors, and no autographs. I can’t speak highly enough of the folk I have encountered along the way in my own career.

Corrabheinn stone art it gives you a breather at the top

“To wear the Jura AC running vest in races away from Jura (abroad!) I have found is a curious experience. My first race in Stuc A Chroin 2014, Prasad Prasad comes thundering down the hill on his way to winning and shouts “Dig in Jura” I’d never met him but appreciate the encouragement and suddenly find adrenalin rushing through my legs to the tips of my toes my pace quickens and an overwhelming sense of pride carried me to the top of the Stuc. At a glance a Jura vest carries a certain respect, reputation, aura even,  folk want to talk to you like they are a long lost cousin you haven’t seen in a decade. I love that. It is the mecca of fell running locations and we are immensely proud of where we come from and what we stand for as an island. May we always return the good wishes on home soil.  You are in Jura, you are in the fell runner’s paradise and you are most welcome”

Monday 12th March Keils glen three cairns loch t-siob Ben S goat path Corra Cairn

The weather has dealt a kinder hand lately and it was a pleasure to move my legs over the hill with a longer run back home from work. Legs weren’t quite unaffected from yesterday but still managed a nice one today without killing the prospect of doing some more this week. The skys bright blue, its dry and running in slightly different ground at least for the first part of the run made this seem new and exciting. Plus a fair chunk of climbing added to some miles. Got back home with a contentment that comes from knowing you have put in a fair shift. On the right track but compared to previous years probably lacking climbing.

How can you not love this island

“Felt a lot more than nine miles today, legs pretty unresponsive but the break in the weather still made it a fine way to spend the afternoon”

Wednesday 14th March Cairn

Legs, Legs,Legs! We have Legs! First time this year I’ve felt response from legs properly, only did the cairn but instantly knew I felt good. Wet underfoot still but managed 22.40 to top and eased off for a flat 37 overall. Breaking 23 to Cairn top and it’s a real dash all the way, small run but gave me some confidence that things may well be coming back!

Corra helping gather sheep along Lowlandmans bay Ardmenish

“It’s a four mile jog on the hill but knowing it so well it’s a really good bench mark of where I am in the general scheme of things. Felt good feet up and stove on”

Thursday 15th March Tempo 3 Mile Ardmenish road Fairy hill gate

Token run but I tried to really blast along the road, nothing in legs just nothing, struggled to hold a 7 minute mile. Head torch on and the wee dog with me, nice to get another one in and it’s been a few on the trot so we’ll be happy with just getting another under the belt. I find it easier to run up Corrabheinn than do 3 mile at a tempo!

Fairy hill looking over Lowlandmans Bay

“I like the idea of running hard and for tempo but find it can flatter to deceive a little, enjoy it more on softer ground in field rather than road. Hope to come up with something in the end to get that real raw pace back in the legs”

Friday 16th March Ardmenish Corra Evans Ardmenish road

Craig and I hooked up for the first time this year to get out. I set off from Ardmenish and Craig from Knockrome we met at the foot of Corra on the Evans walk. Kipper Craigs spaniel is the polar opposite of Corra, he’s obedient stays to heel, comes back, sits down all the things Corra hasn’t yet mastered. Corra is a free spirit! Anyhow good nice chilled run, Craig looked pretty good considering he not done too much this year yet at all. Good stride on the climbing and sure footed. Wind whipped us up Corra in a flash as it was perfect to direct us up to the summit. We talked about the usual, life, running, and work but it all seems clearer out there. It’s seems all your doubts and worries turn into slow motion and you can logically think through them, you might not fix them but sometimes a run puts a big enough plaster over it things that you can get a breath and work through things in your own time. Steady run and by the time I’d got back to the caravan it was 8.5 mile and over 2000ft on a day I would have probably rested. Good day at the office.

“I sit very easy at night after being out on the hill with a simple contentment that allows you to drink tea make conversation with nice company and warm yourself by the fire, do you need anymore?”

Saturday 17th March Hen House Jimmys Hill 60 and Cranbuie walk Amy & Corra

Sometimes its so nice to kick back the gears, I love strolling with Amy and Corra on nice days. There’s an art to being able to stroll and relax, take your time, take in the scenery. Its ment as a compliment if someone can do it, I struggle unless in someone else’s company. Nice walk on a nice morning on the farm!

“The simple physics of moving go well to helping anyone’s mental health, you drift you stroll you pace you move and see things from a different side”

Saturday 17th March 2018 Cairn with Craig

Craig and I hadn’t run together this year before yesterday but we got out today by chance again, he came over to Ardmenish and we went up the cairn for just around lunch time. I know the feeling he’s got, couple of better runs under the belt, back to back decent stuff on the hill, the mind starts to remember what it feels like to feel good, feel fit, you believe its not far away to turn a corner and get up the paps, the impossible after few good runs can turn into the possible! Back to the caravan with Craig and some soup for lunch!

The point of Lowlandmans bay with the leap

“Two or three runs can alter your world, flip things around, the self believe in what you can do at any standard of fell running is something to be proud of, we climb mountains and that is a metaphor for any battle in life”

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