UXB is the dive for me !

Posted by Mark Lyons in diving, Fun | 2 Comments
Hellooo there ...

Hellooo there …

I am intent on getting my diving skills back up to scratch again for various reasons so most of my spare time seems to be spent on … you guessed it !! DIVING!  so heres another diving post 😀 …… with a twist 😉

Stobs Camp 1903

Stobs Camp 1903

Since the early 1900’s Stobs Camp has been a huge part of Hawick and indeed the Borders history. Originally a training ground for soldiers, then a prisoner of war camp , a Polish refugee camp and even a territorial army stomping ground until it was decommissioned in late 1950’s. Above the camp was a series of lochs created to supply the water, some of the dams were blown up but the largest one remains and is now used for fishing by the local angling club. I use it regularly with friends for wild swimming so I thought it might be a great micro-adventure to explore beneath the surface. Stories abound as to what lies on the bottom, from Sherman tanks to Sten guns I have heard it all. So I enlisted the help of Undersea Wullie and we headed to the Barnes loch as it is correctly known.

Unloading at the Barnes Loch

Unloading at the Barnes Loch

You need a four-wheel drive to access the Barnes loch, so we were in luck. Otherwise a 2 mile walk in diving gear would certainly have put us off :)   we unloaded and geared up .. the water was  sub-10 degrees and had a visibility of about 2-3 metres. As we dropped to the bottom I lost sight of Wullie quickly so we surfaced again , swam closer to each other and descended again before setting out exploring the bottom. It was stoney at first but as we finned away from the beach it became obvious there was a deep layer of silt .  I put my hand in and it disappeared up to the elbow .. scary . It’s the kind of place you could hide a body in. Hmmm!! I shit myself as the thoughts of Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th set in.  Slowly we zig-zagged and cross sectioned our way up the loch , finding only an old tyre and several cans with naked women on the side 😛 … every cloud has a silver lining 😉

Every loch has one :D

Every loch has one :D

But then finally we hit pay dirt as what appeared to be a mortar bomb loomed out of the murky depths just above the silt line … Aha !!  it was indeed , an old bomb from a bygone era , but was it dead? I resisted the urge to touch it , even photographing it I felt a little nervous. It’s not every day and unexploded bomb is 6 inches from your nose. I moved on and subsequently found 5 separate mortar shells  PIATS is what we think they are  … I thought of the times I have swum over the top of these, scary !  and I bet the fisherman would get a shock if they landed one of these babies 😀

Booom ...

Booom …

I don’t really know how dangerous these are, they are obviously wet and have been on the bottom for 80 years at least, better to beware all the same .. I have heard stories of someone finding one in Alemoor and taking it home and defusing it in his sink , sounds a right nutter by all accounts  !!!!  😉

Another beauty ..

Another beauty ..

We changed our wild swimming course to avoid crossing them, wet or not you never know !! I certainly do not need to be getting blown out the water , I have enough injuries already !!  😀 😀

Undersea Wullie...

Undersea Wullie…

lovely place to hang out ....

lovely place to hang out ….

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Kushimoto .. Japan rocks the diving world.

Posted by Mark Lyons in diving, Fun, Mojo, Motoviation | Tagged , | 2 Comments
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hanging down Fuji way :D

Recently back on the diving scene, I have been lucky enough to have had some cracking dives across in the Mediterranean sea off Cyprus Lebanon , and latterly the infamous UK North Sea !  So what better way to fill my weekends on a month-long working trip out to Japan than to hunt down some undersea adventure in the Pacific ocean. And man !! … I sure wasn’t disappointed with what I found ……

Kushimoto

Kushimoto coast line…

After hours of research on the internet I decided Kushimoto was the place to be and as luck would have it I was working less than 100 miles North of there. A wreck called the Stellar Polaris looked very interesting but my February/March dates coincided with some very strong and exceptionally dangerous ocean currents so I was to look elsewhere.  Finding good information was a nightmare, It was scarce on the ground and even harder to find in the English language. My Japanese may be good enough for ordering a tasty Ramen but for nailing down technical dive lingo it certainly is not !  So I posted on the Osaka/Kansai Diving club website and I hit the jackpot when David Graham CEO of Fourth Element dive equipment got in touch. A real cool and very helpful guy indeed, he put me on to the Mr Miyagi of Japanese diving Akihiko Tanimai … What this fellow hasn’t dived isn’t worth diving and he even hooked me up with a stay at his legendary diving hostel, the Bayside Inn , full of fellow divers and right on the harbour to boot .. Aces !!  

Bayside ..

Bayside ..

The trip finally arrived and soon I jumped on the train for a 3 hour trundle South through beautiful Japanese countryside and coast to the Kushimoto station.  Aki was waiting for me and after a short tour of the town we headed straight down to the dive centre. Time to sort out equipment and dive plans, the weather on the coast was wet and windy but Aki was keen to get me in the water. After a cup of sweet tea and a few tales of what to expect in the Pacific ocean (sharks, hungry ones) I met Nakajima who was also to accompany me on my first dive exploring the undersea pinnacles of Kushimoto point, the most southerly point of the Japanese mainland. We geared up and headed for the famous Nanki Seaman’s club. A dive centre, boat charter hub and a staging point for many famous south Japan explorations.

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The most southerly point in Japan … and the site of our first exploration of the pinnacles.

The boat was ready and we loaded the gear onboard…. out to sea we went, in what can only be described as an “interesting” conditions. After 30 minutes of literally bashing our way across the ocean we arrived at the dive site. The dive boat was pitching wildly and I wondered whether we would be diving at all but Nakajima sat calmly on the edge in a kind of side-saddle position and dropped into the water on the lowest point of the pitch.. Oh well fingers crossed, when in Rome (Japan) :)  I rapidly descended to 6 metres, just below the swell where the sea was much calmer, met up with Nakajima to start our descent. Dropping a further 40 metres down into the darkening Pacific we had reasonable visibility even with the swell above. We started our exploration of the pinnacle and after a brief stint in a large dark cavern ,  ascending slightly to check out some amazing rock structures and marine life. Over the course of our dives that day I managed to see many new sea creatures that I had never encountered before and I was elated to see a Shark Ray which can only be seen in the early months of the year so my timing was perfect !

Going down ...

Going down …

My trip later saw me explore several other great dive sites and I had the pleasure of meeting many, many very friendly and accommodating Japanese divers. I also stood goggle eyed at some “out of this world” camera and video equipment that certainly put my Go-pro to serious shame 😀 😀

Camera club !!  :D

Camera club !! :D

Kushimoto was exceptionally beautiful with a coast-line that will make your jaw drop. A fantastic place to visit and spend time, not just for the diving but for the scenery, culture and especially the people. . I will let the rest of my pictures do the talking ….

The most southerly point ...

The most southerly point of Japan..

Aki and I hanging ..

Aki and I hanging , he really was an amazing host.

Watch the sunrise on the most southerly point .. right here !

Watch the sunrise on the most southerly point .. right here !

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Picture postcard beauty …. it truly was a spot that no camera will ever capture

Kushimoto coast ..

Kushimoto coast ..

Shrine to missing divers :-/

Shrine to missing divers :-/

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Pacific Butterfly

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Clowns and their anemone host , always my favourite

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Box Puffer

 

Kushimoto Storms ..

Kushimoto Storms ..

parking the boat .. :D

parking the boat .. :D

Bayside Harbour ..

Bayside Harbour ..

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Puff puff puff …

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Grrrrrrrrrr….

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Mbu

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Pinnacle top

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follow that guy …

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Eric …

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Heading out ..

Heading out ..

allo allo ..

allo allo ..

lets av a butchers then ...

lets av a butchers then …

leaving at sunrise ..

leaving at sunrise ..

Beautiful time of the day ...

Beautiful time of the day …

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room for one more ….

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bubbles …

D.

hanging around for a spot of deco ,,

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sea spider …

 

 

The indomitable Paul Giblin …. Ultrarunner extraordinaire

Posted by Mark Lyons in Fun, hill racing, Mojo, Motoviation, mountain running, Ultrathon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paul Giblin doing what he does best !

 

 

I met Paul Giblin years ago,way before he was the running monster he is today. A modest, friendly and warm character that I liked instantly .. , we stayed friends and I’ve watched him grow into one of the UKs number one ultra runners. His achievement has been inspiring and what ever he is doing it works !! He was as happy plodding round the trails chatting with me as he was blasting to the podium in an Ultra-race. I really couldn’t think of anyone more approachable and better qualified to help ANYONE achieve their running goals .. It takes more than just medals to be a running coach/mentor, you need knowledge,communication and the ability to form a good relationship. Paul has it all in abundance .. Go check out his website and no matter your ability if you think this might interest you then don’t be afraid to make contact, there’s a friendly voice waiting. http://paulgiblin.co.uk/

chicken legs

The infamous White Sock run …

 

The Ice Bucket Challenge ….

Posted by Mark Lyons in Marathon des Sables | 2 Comments
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Bill Gates taking one for ALS

The Ice Bucket Challenge ….

Lately its all been about the ALS ice bucket challenge , a viral fund-raiser where  people are nominated by previous challengers, then after doing the challenge themselves they are able to nominate the next unlucky people and so on. Originally orchestrated to gain recognition of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) the American name for the condition we Brits usually call motor neurone disease (MND) .  Here in the UK the leading organisation is called the Motor Neurone Disease Association. It brought about good and bad press, stories of huge wages being drawn by the directors of ALS have abound but icy bucket after icy bucket has been poured over heads all across the world and well over $50 million dollars worth of donations have been made, Even Bill gates was seen online soaking himself for the cause  …. 

Ive had a few Ice baths in my time as a kayaker ..

I’ve had a few Ice baths in my time as a kayaker ..

Eventually several nominations ended up in my lap from various people including  my sister who lives over in Qatar so I was forced to play the game … However given my history as an International White-water kayaker who has had his head, and occasionally whole body 😉 soaked in Icy water in more countries than I can remember, left me with no option but to make an extra effort …. So I rocked up to the local loch with the lads, which on the night sat at a “penis shrinking 12-13 degrees” and swam a 1 Kilometer lap in my swim shorts .. and I’m not afraid to say that half way I was afraid I had been a little ambitious but I kept going and made the challenge stick :)  bloody freezing man !!! BBRRRRRRRRRRRRRR…… 😉

I would like to note that I am making a small donation to MS Borders  and not ALS , it’s a charity that I support in any way I can , a local one where unpaid volunteers give their own spare time to care for MS sufferers here locally … no half million pound wages for these guys … just satisfaction :)  .  If you can find it in your heart to give a small donation to help them then you can do it RIGHT HERE

MS Borders .. a truly deserving charity ..

MS Borders .. a truly deserving charity ..

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Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……………….

Running the Waverley line …..

Posted by Mark Lyons in Marathon des Sables | 13 Comments
Beware of the Trains ....

Beware of the Trains ….

Now I’m definitely no trainspotter but for a long time I have had an interest in the Waverley line. The one time rail link from Carlisle to Edinburgh was decommissioned in 1969 at the hands of DR Richard Beeching and his cut throat handling of the British rail restructure. A cut which subsequently left a whole region without any form of rail service despite having no adequate road links. Effectively cutting the Scottish Borders off from both Edinburgh and Carlisle…. The line has its place in history for this alone but it was also highly famed for its beautiful journey across Southern Scotland. Climbing steeply through hills , moorlands and past riversides it was renowned by many. It boasted the steepest rail track inclination of its kind in the UK. And right now its very topical due to the Government rebuilding it at the cost of ten million pounds a mile, yes you read that right, TEN MILLION! … From Edinburgh to Galashiels they are re-building it with the intnetion fo an early 2015 opening . Locally there is also a campaign to continue rebuilding it all the way to Carlisle again. If I am honest I really wish I had thought of running it way before the work had started on the Northern section, as to have ran the whole line from Edinburgh to Carlisle would have been mint, and quite the achievement :)

Shankend Viaduct ..............

Shankend Viaduct …………..  gem of the Waverley line

I live barely 2 fields away from the what is now a long track-less causeway that carves its way through the Borders making its presence known with bridges , derelict old railway buildings and long overgrown embankments. Everyone from my area has walked, played or looked upon this railway line … it is just begging to be explored fully :)  I run along it a lot , in both directions, normally as a start or finish to a longer run, but I have never until recently ventured beyond my regular section on my Stobs camp run. I have recently found a bit of motivation in my running again and this trip beckoned , so after a little recce last week It had to be done while the momentum was there, so a plan was hatched. I would go from Central Hawick where the old Railway Station had been and run from there all the way along the Waverley line to Carlisle staying true to the track as best I could. map   I plotted the course out on Map My Run and decided that I would leave late Friday night, running 13-14 miles and hit the bothy at Riccarton before sunset for a decent sleep before heading for Carlisle 30 odd miles away early the next morning. The weather looked to be on my side so it was on :) The plan had been for a solo mission, however my mate Mark Watson rang me on Thursday afternoon wondering if I fancied a hill run in the evening, I told him I couldn’t and filled him in why. Secretly sewing the seed of interest nicely, an hour later he was back on the phone and he was coming :) I expected this, the lad likes a challenge.  EXCELLENT !!

Hawick Station back in the day ...

Hawick Station back in the day …

As usual a last-minute deadline had me working late, rushing home, grabbing my kit and heading to meet Mark all in the space of 15 minutes. I parked the car right next to the bus stop. We would be getting off right there on our return. After all I certainly didn’t want to walk far after 45 miles of running 😉 We saddled up our packs and headed off !  Straight up an old railway embankment left from the long gone bridge and right away we were running down the old line .. The Waverley adventure had started. Soon we had left Hawick behind and had started to weave our way over old bridges and through the tree-lined avenues of the old line, at a steady pace we notched up the miles and soon we were approaching the Whitrope tunnel , the 4th longest in Scotland at 1200+ feet. We couldn’t run through it as it has been fenced off due to a cave in. Instead we followed a bridlepath up and over the hill , this was to be our highest point of the trip at 1406 foot.

approaching Whitrope tunnel and the heritage centre

approaching Whitrope tunnel and the heritage centre

After a long descent we found ourselves at the Border Railway Heritage site where a group of enthusiasts have rebuilt a section of the railway and now run it as an educational tourist attraction. It is quite amazing to come across this station in the middle of nowhere. From here we had just a couple more miles of running before we arrived at “Wills Bothy” , a stone shelter renovated and equipped to commemorate William Ramsbotham a mountaineer and fell runner who the day after breaking the Cader Iris fell race record , died climbing on the same mountain . an extraordinary fellow by all means.

Mark warming up by the fire in Wills Bothy

Mark warming up by the fire in Wills Bothy

Fourteen quality and continuously interesting trail miles full of beautiful hills, old railway buildings , Jacob sheep and highland cattle , not a bad nights work.  Satisfied we settled in to the bothy , shed our sweaty running kit and got the fire going .. Mark had a fantastic array of goodies hidden away in his pack and we ate like kings .. the highlight of my night was a little tin of beans and sausages , we know how to treat ourselves us lads 😉 😀 IMG_9296 6 o’clock i

the morning  and my alarm was buzzing .. brrrrrrrr,  it was a beautiful crisp morning , 3 degrees and sunny … I slipped my running kit on and found my hat .. gloves would have been nice but unfortunately no cigar …. we sorted out a little breakfast but our intention was to punch out the next ten miles to Newcastleton and have something substantial before embarking on the final 20 miles. The run from the bothy was fantastic , the views staggering in the early morning light as we ran along the track sat high up in the forest and took in the views of the valley far below us .. soon we were dropping down into Newcastleton, a beautiful little village not far from the English Border. Home alos to one the world famous 7 Stanes MTB venues .. Here we filled our boots with rolls and coffee , before heading along the line to Penton the next railway station on the track …

Mark Watson taking in a beautiful early morning view high above Newcastleton ....

Mark Watson taking in a beautiful early morning view high above Newcastleton ….

Here however progressed was hard fought , we had found the first of what would be some epic bushwhacking .. up to this point the running had been on perfect trail , now we were up to our necks in jaggy bushes and nettles . There seemed to be a switch that tripped in our brains, maybe from tired legs, it was one that prevented us heading back over old ground to find a way round , we fought on regardless with dogged determination .. and for this we paid severely .. falling out of this Scottish jungle exhausted and severely stung by uber-virulent nettles from ankle to knee .. I had tan lines from the stings .. f**** I was sore.  if you intend to do this run , then seriously look to find a detour for this 2 mile section it just isn’t worth it :) I am still paying for our battle today 😀

Mark catching a breather after the "Im a runner get me out of here" battle with the Penton jungle

Mark catching a breather after the “I’m a runner get me out of here” battle with the Penton jungle

After this we had a good time , running great trail , following the river Esk all the way to Longtown with ease and found the High street stape, Spar . In hindsight we should have called it a day here and waited for the bus but we intended to get to Carlisle no matter what ! Our legs were still good and we only had 5 more miles to go  .. what could go wrong ?  😀  The trail from here gets pretty rough and very overgrown.  And Gypsies littered the last few miles , using the track as a scrapyard or small holding where ever there was a road access. One particular gypsy didn’t want us to cross his land and when he agreed his last words were watch out for the horse …

Gypsy attack Horse ..

Gypsy attack Horse ..

I had to run and quickly jump a fence from that particular very aggressive sabre toothed  horse and f*** me with 40 mile in the legs that wasn’t easy ! It was nearly RIP when a herd of cows stampeded us , crashing through a fence in front of us , taking half it with them… then a Bull in the last field from home was just icing on the cake.. The mental image of Mark and I running/limping for that final gate still has me laughing … but we made it , we certainly did … the Southern section of the beautiful Waverley line made a fine running adventure indeed ..

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The trip along this line was at times beautiful, the views up high were staggering especially on the cold brisk morning we encountered but that wasn’t what made the trip .. It was how continuously interesting this trip was ,throwing bothies, bridges, tunnels , the architecture of old stations and even the way mother-nature had grown around this disused line …. I dare you to try it sometime , have a change from pacing the roads or being in the mountains .. make an effort to find this Waverley line and enjoy something different, it will repay you a thousand time over … three cheers for the Waverley line !

I forgot my passport ..

I forgot my passport ..

notes:    Hawick to Newcastleton in my opinion is a very fine trail run worthy of 5 stars anywhere in this country , you will be rewarded with excellent running , fantastic views and continuous interest … after Newcastleton there are nice sections but nothing quite as continuous due to some parts being overgrown and the views not really comparable to the section before.

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nice trails on the english side ….. some of the time :D

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The Border Esk near Canonbie

Wills Bothy ...

Wills Bothy …

William Ramsbotham ...

William Ramsbotham …

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Finally the welcoming pylons of Carlisle 😀 :D

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Borders Railway Heritage centre….

F*** me I think I went to far :D

F*** me I think I went to far :D

Running the Hawick Circular

Posted by Mark Lyons in hill racing, Motoviation, mountain running, Training | Leave a comment

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Hawick Circular

Just follow these and you will finish … MAYBE !

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I was first introduced to this route by my friend and fellow outdoor sportsman Kenny Short , who in one of his first ventures into long distance hill-racing had used it in his training for the famous Lairig-Ghru race.    It is a superb adventure indeed whether ran in its entirety or in shorter sections. And with the recent upsurge of Hawick off-road runners I have been asked a lot about the running of this, so I will try to write it up in a rough running guide style.

The Hawick Circular

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Distance: approx 25 miles;  Ascent: 2115′ by Garmin   Map: OS Landranger 79

Navigation: Straight forward, mostly sign-posted and never really gets to far from a road despite a nice feeling of remoteness on the off-road sections. I have added 2 downloadable maps at the bottom of the page.

Terrain: Rough fields, sheep trods, tarmac road and gravel path.

Start/finish:  There are many starting points. Really anywhere the circular crosses the road. Personally I like to run it anti-clockwise starting from Hornshole. Mainly so I have fresh legs for the biggest climb and on VERY tired legs a long descent to finish.

Time required:  depends on how fast you are :)  I am not a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination and I have always managed to finish this run between 4 1/2 and 5 hours when fit … but its been 5:36 and a dook under the bridge at Hornshole for my sore legs when I haven’t been 😀  Definitely plan for longer times if its your first time round given the need for navigation.

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The Hawick circular is a riding route circumnavigating Hawick in the Scottish Borders and makes a fantastic off-road running route, primarily made up of four short sections and can easily be split up for a shorter run.  It is sign-posted for the most part with bright blue and white horse shoe signs that can be found on most if not every gate you go through when entering or leaving a field , so you shouldn’t ever get to far off track. An anticlockwise run with a start at Hornshole is my preference so I will describe it like that here.

The Start of a hard day out

The Start of a hard day out

Its a long climb up from Hornshole out to Clarilaw via Appletreehall or with local knowledge find an off-road alternative but once you reach Clarilaw take the little track heading up the hill and your finally off-road, follow this up and then cross Hassendean burn before a rough trail leads you to the old Drove road at Muirfield and turn left , a long slow climb ensues on a rough landrover track until you reach the junction with the A7 just north of Halywell Hill.

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The highest point of the runDrinkstone Hill 318m

Look across the road and to your left, you will see a small gate with the Blue sign on it , enter here and go right almost running straight up the field following a faint trail to the top resisting the urge to veer left . You will find a little gate through a dry-stone dyke. Enter here and run left over rough fields along the dyke , pass the pylons heading for a break in the dyke taking you through the woods.

Groundistone

Groundistone

From here follow the fields using great sheep trods , past a derelict Shepherds cottage at Drinkstone and a gradual but still undulating descent over beautiful countryside, until you descend onto the tarmac of the drove road near Calaburn , follow this down to the roman road and then up following Wilton Burn until you reach the stile … I personally do not run the road section , it’s probably faster but it’s a long way on tarmac for my liking so I either jump the wall and join the Langheugh trail run through the hills to the stile or I cut off and run up and over WiltonBurn hill, a look on the map should make this clearer.

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Drinkstone Hill

From the stile you head over the field and pick up the trail heading right up and round the fields bringing you out on the Roberton road. From here another few miles of road takes you via “The Joogly” bridge and across the A7 to the start of a steep climb up Haysike. Here you cut right up a small road about a third of the way up heading for Fenwick common where you join a trail leading to the bottom of St Leonard’s Park race course , locally called The Mair or Mare ?  , scene of the finale to Hawicks famous or rather Infamous “Common Riding” .

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The Flex

From here you follow the trail up and out of the race course and head towards “The Flex” a long road section through a beautiful descending country road before entering a great off-road section over Collifort Hill.

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Up you go (steeply)

Beware of the steep start , its a killer! but after this its a beautiful trip over the hills on a good trail, running past another old cottage and through some woods, enjoy the views over Adderstone Lee.

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Adderston Lee

Soon you will join a long farm track slowly descending until you hit the road near Kirkton. Follow this for only a few 100 metres until you see the blue sign heading up past a little track right of a cottage.

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Cavers Church

From here you run a rough track through a few fields and a forest, before joining a B road. From here keep and eye out for a little gate on the left running through an avenue of trees . Follow this before crossing a field and coming out at Cavers Knowes. follow the road for a short section before cutting right down a steep path bringing you out at Cavers Church and just right of it a stile and follow the signs down the field for the victory mile to reach the finish at Hornshole… :)

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The Finish

 

Downloadable map

Downloadable map

 

Downloadable map

Downloadable map

 

Shout out to the Kayaker , a true king of adventure …

Posted by Mark Lyons in himalaya, Mojo, Motoviation, stories from the past, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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Sat here on holiday looking out the window at the rain, semi-consciously willing it to lay off just for a short while so I can chance a quick hill run to keep my training schedule in check. A 100% turn around from a few years ago when I would be up North with my kayak praying for more rain and the chance to dive off exploring hidden highland gorges full of pumping white water,  this got me thinking about…..

THE KAYAKER …….. 

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Sam Ellis and co … men with little boats looking for adventure at the famous put in for the Stikine Canyon in Northern BC

The Kayaker with his little plastic boat and paddle, dressed in his Helmet , buoyancy aid and dry-suit is amongst the most adventurous of explorers. Pitting against natures most unpredictable of elements. Fighting in the wind , the rain and often in dangerous almost inescapable places.  The kayaker travels hundreds of miles in a weekend searching for the hallowed white-water. The Kayaker is on the river as much as is humanly possible during the short daylight hours of winter. The Kayaker finishes a river in the dark with only the light of a head torch.

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Leaving the Kinglass of Argyle in the dark … only 5 mile back to the car

The Kayaker goes to places that no one but fellow kayakers will ever be, literally flowing through the arteries and veins that feed the beauty of the surrounding Countryside.  The Kayaker sees the moody magnificence of rain-swept mountains, hears the rush of remote rivers and the surge of crashing waterfalls.The Kayaker feels the power of the river both under him and within him.  The Kayaker knows the fine line between the knife-edge of control and a beating..

 The Kayaker lives for adventure!

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In the UK a kayak day is a precious one, it will have rained heavy through the night , the levels are right for a favourite river or a recce run of a new section. Often involving several miles of rough hiking over hills and through forests to the river. Arriving at the access , an abseil may be required to get the kayak and kit to the river’s edge . A good team of strong kayakers will be trained in white-water safety and rescue , have first aid knowledge and ALL will be equipped with safety equipment.  A trip into a flooded  gorge will require a sharp, forward thinking and very aware team. Team work will be the essence of a smooth and safe trip. Navigating a fast flowing and extremely powerful environment where one mistake can cause chaos, the team must be capable of minimising the risk to acceptable levels.

Neil F EasaC

EasaChataidh , Glen Orchy

Abroad there are well-developed relatively safe areas like the more common rivers of the French and Austrian Alps to hone the skills of the less experienced but for the skilled adventure kayaker the world is waiting. Fabulous river trips abound in Norway, Canada , India , Pakistan, South America to name but a very few of the destinations that offer real adventure to the Expedition kayaker.

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Very few outside the sport of Kayaking will have heard of our top UK whitewater explorers , paddlers old and new like Mick Hopkinson , Dave Manby , Pete Knowles , Andy Jackson, latterly Sam Ellis , Daz Clarkson , Simon Tapley and many more unsung kayak explorers, the latter who in the past few years have travelled the globe . sought out and navigated some of the worlds biggest and most remote rivers including the mighty Stikine river in Canada yet even now get no more a whisper in the press ..

Second full descent of the grand canyon of the Stikine from SB Productions on Vimeo.

Adventure Kayakers due to the nature of the sport rarely get or want recognition. After all who without having spent time learning and fine tuning the skills to pilot a kayak in white water can truly appreciate just how difficult it is ?. Who can appreciate what a large Himalayan rapid looks like when sitting 3 foot high bobbing around in a little plastic boat. Who can appreciate the chaos in a maelström of fast moving heavy whitewater, the need to hit perfect lines in a long dangerous rapid. ..who can appreciate what the Kayaker sees and No-one but the kayaker can feel what he feels ……

A big shout out to The Kayaker !  King of Action Adventure !

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Cheers to everyone in my pics , the makers of these amazing videos and good luck to all the Kayakers out there in the big water … YOLO and all that 😉

Runners Own …. Short Videos to fire you up

Posted by Mark Lyons in Marathon des Sables | Leave a comment

RUNNERS OWN

Video Shorts made by runners for runners 

Following on from the brilliant little Vid of Finlay Wild Natural Obsession , I want to start this page as a collection of runners own short home-made videos that inspire you to lace up those shoes and no matter the weather get out and on those trails and hills.

The first two I’m adding are really nice little edits and capture a little of just what it means to “get out there” even in the worst of weather. They have been produced by the indomitable Paul Giblin one of Scotland’s elite Ultra runners and present record holder of the West Highland Way race.

Christmas on the Braes

Encapsulating the mood and atmosphere of a wild day out yet still managing to portray the fun

Isolation – reasons to run .  

You get up , you get ready , you get out .. you enjoy .. your on your own.

If you have a favourite get in touch and let me know about it but try to remember the page is not about professional edits or big projects , It’s about that raw, made at home edits that light us up inside.

Natural Obsession

Posted by Mark Lyons in Marathon des Sables | 1 Comment

Natural Obsession ……

 

Every now and again you see something online that encapsulates just how you see the sport you do …. I saw this video and it set me on fire with fresh dreams

Natural Obsession starring the amazingly talented Finlay Wild .

The Celtman 2013

Posted by Mark Lyons in Events, Mojo, Motoviation, mountain running, Race Update, Training | 3 Comments

The Celtman 2013 

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I was pleasantly surprised when my good friend Kenny Short asked me to support him in the Celtman , an Iron distance extreme triathlon and part of the Xtreme race series which now includes the Norseman and Swissman . My surprise was not because I haven’t supported him before but because the Celtman requires a support runner to accompany the racer over 16 miles of mountain running. I’ve not exactly been training much this year , mainly due to a double shoulder operation and tendinitis in my knee. This has made it all but impossible to stay fit. And let’s be honest when it comes to racing Kenny can leave most in his dust!! Ricky Lightfoot would be a more fitting companion for him :) and right now hes so fit that lately I have struggled to keep up with him even on his “easy” runs. But he was happy that after 2.4 miles of Sea swimming , 120 miles of torturous road biking around Torridon and 10+ miles of running over the Coulin pass I wouldn’t be holding him back any. So one weekend in late June we headed off to Torridon.

torridonmap

We arrived on the Thursday night after a long but very beautiful drive the length of Scotland. Upon arrival at our Hotel we met one of the race support crew. Rhoda from Innerleithen who presently between jobs was taking a little time out and had decided to cycle from her home in the Scottish Borders all the way to Torridon for the event , nice one !  We checked in and met the organisers who are mainly based in the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh.  Kenny was on good terms and we joined everyone for dinner later that night. I had already met Paul , pony tailed endurance warrior and the easy going main man of Durty events when I had joined Kenny and the Border triathlon club for a hilly night run up the 3 Brethren.  The rest of the group was just as charming and I was happily entertained by their stories of past events.

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The swim Exit .. Brrrrrr….. 10degrees if your lucky

The next day after breakfast we headed to registration, did the necessary and headed out to recce the course . A short drive took us to Shieldaig where the swimmers would exit the water and transition to the bike . I popped down to the water’s edge and took a temperature reading ,10 degrees !! Now that’s gonna be a cold one. just then  Sean MacFarlane arrived , he’s an outstanding athlete and had taken second place the year before. I have previously written of his exploits here and here .. a top fella and always full of positivity for his races , he’s there to race hard but he also very much loves what he does and he has a glint in his eye he talks of his challenges and every time I’m impressed. Kenny and I headed off from the transition to follow the first part of the 120 mile bike section. It climbed steeply out of the bay and headed inland over for the most part winding and undulating roads through staggeringly beautiful if occasionally harsh countryside.

Gruinard Island , Beautiful yet deadly !

Gruinard Island , Beautiful yet deadly !

I have kayaked this area many times , the rivers are short , steep boulder strewn torrents when full , a testing area even for expert kayakers. Most will give a scary fight for your life before spitting you out into the sea . The famous Little Gruinard river throws you right out in front of the infamous Anthrax island , you will be amazed just how close that Anthrax testing was to the mainland.

towards-beinn-eighe

After agreeing on a manageable support plan for the bike stage we headed to the finish of the Coulin pass and start of the mountain run stage . This is where I would be expected to join Kenny and accompany him over Bhein Eighe . A serious mountain stage with a steep ascent to the ridge and summits then an even steeper descent to a half way lochan before a fast run out to the finish. There was a cut off time for this stage and it would favour only the fastest competitors for safety. A plan was drawn and times were agreed . I looked at the mountain and secretly hoped Kenny’s legs were trashed when he arrived at my stage .. well a man can hope 😉

Briefing ...

Briefing …

It was now time for the scheduled pre-race briefing, so off we headed to the Torridon centre.  We arrived to a hall full of very fit people !  Triathletes have a more muscular build than ultra runners and more often than not are a lot more methodical in their training and diet . It shows . although I like the fact that ultra runners are the dark horses of the fitness world . A rag-tag bunch capable of running for 20 hours at a time yet most wouldn’t even get a second glance in the gym with their skinny legs and the occasional pot belly , compared to the ripped triathlete with quads of steel making all the girls weak at the knees 😀 😀      The briefing was funny and light-hearted yet thorough in its need to impress the seriousness of the races nature. Some times these briefings are a little overboard to keep everyone in line. Lets be honest, these types of races may be physically tough but they are ultimately fun races, not an expedition into uncharted danger , everyone is an adult after all and everything takes place in a relatively safe and risk controlled environment so there really is no need to go overboard.  Soon we headed back to the hotel for food and a good nights sleep ..

heres the big fish !

here’s the big fish now !

The alarm went off at 3am , we were to be at the bike transition for 4am , Kenny would then be bussed to the start line out of sight at the other side of the bay. The weather was clear but a growing wind had stirred over night making for a choppy sea. I waited at the transition with my Binoculars watching for the swimmers to round the bay.  Sure enough the sight of the safety kayakers guided me to the little yellow swim caps struggling to be seen over the chop. Slowly more and more heads appeared round the bend .. Finally the first of the swimmers reached  the exit wobbling their way up the causeway. Gradually more and more swimmers wobbled their way up  , they were now coming out thick and fast.

Kenny cruising

Kenny cruising

My eyes strained to find Kenny amongst the swarm of black wetsuits exiting the water in the morning gloom ,suddenly he was there,  I sprung into action and waited or him to exit the causeway  .. we ran to his bike and I helped him exit his wetsuit .. His hands and feet were freezing !! He is a tough as nails competitor so a few cold fingers wouldn’t discourage him but it made stripping off awkward. I got involved like no man ever should and I tried not to pull at anything I shouldn’t 😉  soon I was helping him into his bike gear and he was off .  That steep climb out the bay will soon warm him up I thought.

leaving Transition 1

leaving Transition 1

I headed off to find a support point 30 miles away as agreed .. Not on a climb , not heading down a hill and not on the run out of a hill were my tactics for a support stop . I was trying to keep it easy on Kenny . He arrived at the first stop in good spirits and I handed him his bottle refills .. I slowly moved from stop to stop becoming part of what was to become the Celtman convoy . At about 100 miles in a few ibuprofen were required and Kenny was off on his last push before his run …  I sped off to the run transition and prepared for his arrival .

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Head down …. only 120 miles .. lets do it !!

In he came smiling and so glad to be off the bike. A brief rest and refuel before he headed over the Coulin pass , the first of the run stages , 12 miles of low level trail through beautiful scenery although no time to hang around as the cut off still had to be made if we were to run the high level route on the mountain . He was making good time though so I knew he would push on over the pass in good time.

Coulin Pass ..

Coulin Pass ..

I loaded the kit and bike , then headed to the mountain staging point , parked up in the rough , good job I drive a landy.  It was howling with wind and lashing down with rain. A stout storm had blown in from the coast and was threatening the race. The top competitors had made it before the worst of the storm and were enduring some harsh conditions up top. As a mountaineer with a fair winter experience I’ve been out in some heavy weather , but I was trained, well practiced and geared up for it . Racers on the other hand are trying to move fast and have the minimal of gear, this shrinks the safety zone quite considerably. I’ve no doubt that there were plenty people in the race who would have taken it in their stride , but I’ll also say there were far more who would have been very uncomfortable up on that mountain top. So it was no surprise to me that long before the cut off time and I’m sure taking the racers experience as a whole. And most probably under mountain rescue team advisement the organisers made the decision to close the high level route for safety reasons.  At this point all racers were told to follow the lower level route so as to avoid the exposure of the ridge in this the worst of weather.. Do not confuse “lower level” with “low level” as at around 2000 feet and in that weather it was still to be a tough mountain run  through some fantastic scenery including passing the famous triple buttress.  Additionally it was about to add a few extra miles to the already LONG day Kenny was having. I waited patiently  for Kenny exiting the Coulin pass. The weather was filthy and demoralising but bang on plan he arrived at the final checkpoint and having worked very hard to make the cut off he arrived with plenty time to spare. I knew he desperately wanted to run the summit route so sadly I relayed the news , he stared up through the driving rain at the storm clouds now hiding the top Half of the mountain and although disappointed , he knew he couldn’t  argue . In the wind and rain we set off on the final 15 miles .

The 3 Buttresses of Beinne Eighe

The triple Buttresses of Beinne Eighe

Slowly we climbed up the tight rock strewn path leading to the col below the summit ridge, there are many highs and lows that you will encounter in a long endurance race and I could tell by the relatively slow pace and Kenny’s somber tone of voice that he was battling through a low. I kept chatting and joking , trying to lift the mood but ultimately it’s the individual who has to pick himself up in the end.  Slowly we were gaining ground on a group of four runners who were sticking together for safety in the horrendous weather. We picked up our pace to climb a little faster and pass them .  This seemed to be the lift Kenny needed and suddenly he was off ,  bouncing up the hill like we were just out the car on a training run, here we go I thought. We could see another pair of runners not far ahead, let’s have them said Kenny smiling. The terrain was tough , technical and right up our street … We leapt and bound, floated over rocks and streams and it wasn’t long before we had left several groups of runners behind, we had run through some fantastic mountain scenery over a very challenging technical track and neither of us were feeling short-changed by the route change .

working hard in the windy , wet and wild !!

working hard in the windy , wet and wild !!

 

Soon we were dropping height and had hit the beginnings of a rough descent path. The pace upped again and I checked my watch , over 10 miles were behind us and I was now struggling to keep up with Kenny , my watch read sub 7 minute miles …best pace for me and amazing that Kenny was now dragging me down the mountain behind him after over 140 miles and 14 hours of excersion. Eventually we slid out the exit from the descent path onto a small B-road and my legs suddenly were jelly , I had given it everything I had and more on that mountain and there was still a few more miles of hilly road running left … I ran behind Kenny but he’s one fast road machine so I was just holding him back , I looked back to see two of the runners we had left on the hill gaining on us,  I told Kenny to kick on without me , after all I had done my part , he said no but I didn’t want him to lose a place in this , the last couple of miles , so I told him to plug it or I wouldn’t be happy  … Off he went , finishing in what was probably a 6 minute mile , bloody machine !!   we had picked up several places on the run and he finished in an amazing 28th place overall . And I think 11th for age … Given the strength of that field , top athletes from all around the globe and awesome home-grown talent that was a brilliant result. The man is a rock !

Team Hawick !

Team Hawick !

XTRI Series

XTRI Series