It has been a hectic few months, so I've included just a few photos of what I've been up to...
It has been a cold spring, where warm and sunny days have been the exception. Earlier this week, I went for a morning run, as my day was full otherwise. It is light very early here - before 4 a.m. - so by the time I ran past our local castle ruins at 7 a.m., the sun was fully up.
After passing the castle - it's actually a palace build in the 1500s - I turned onto a farm road, and continued my loop. Despite the recent coolness, everything is a riot of green.
Last month, I took place in the Isle of Jura Hill race. This is a 16-mile loop over the "Paps" of Jura. The Paps are three steep hills that look like breasts. The race takes these in, plus four other hills.
To get to the Isle of Jura, I took a two-hour ferry from the mainland (which was incredibly cheap - £13 ($19) round trip) to the Isle of Islay, and then a short ferry from there to Jura. Then I rode 8 miles on my back, while wearing a large backpack, to Craighouse, a small village where the race starts.
I arrived after 9 p.m. on Friday night, have come from work, and pitched my tent with the other runners in a field across from the hotel in the village.
The next morning, in the distance, I could see the enormity of the task I faced.
Long-story short: I suffered. The route lead through energy-sapping bogs, over trackless, incredibly steep hills, and down scree slopes that were like piles of small bowling balls.
I had heard that the Paps were difficult, but it was only when I returned home that I read that this was one of the most difficult hill races in the country. I should say, hill-runners are given to understatement. When they describe a route has being "a little soft" they mean that you will be wading through knee-deep bogs. If a route has "a little up-and-down", you will be climbing hills that will make your eyes pop out.
So, when they say that a race is "tough" they mean, staggeringly difficult.
I seriously considered retiring from the race after the third hill. I'd eaten most of the food I carried - why oh why did I leave that extra Snickers bar in the tent? - and my legs had nothing in them.*
But at each summit, I reasoned that I now had a downhill.
I ran the last few hours of the race in a bit of an internal fog. I just kept moving. After the hills, there was a river crossing, another boggy trial - and this was the so-called "runnable" section of the route - and then 3+ miles on the road back to the start.
On the road I was able to run, and even picked off another runner.
After a beer in the pub, I collapsed in my tent at 8:30 p.m.
In the immediate aftermath of the race, my thought was "never again". But now, a few weeks out, I think I could really cut off some time off this year's finish with a bit more work.
* I had nothing in my legs, potentially, because I'd walked across Scotland the week before. I'll cover this in a seperate post.