Pentland Skyline and the taper is FINALLY here!

But how does one Taper for a multi day event?  3 weeks to go!

Having run a final hard run of the training, that didn’t exactly go to plan (more on that run below), I find myself in an unplanned Taper.  As usual, my training is largely winging it, though I cross that with running on how I feel and what I should do.  I know I should reduce the weekly mileage – Cue me going to actually view my weekly training log in Strava.. I’ve just gasped as it didn’t make pretty reading.  Though the low milage was partly due to injury and I did cross train a lot, by walking EVERYWHERE.

Anyhoo, back to the present.  My fitness is not going to improve, and I read an encouraging blog post by a 2016 competitor of the Cape Wrath Ultra – Paul Armstrong.

Here, he talked about how he mostly walked the route and that gave me hope.  I can walk, I have endurance, I just need to keep it slow. This makes me happy.

Back to what I’m going to do these next 3 weeks..

I think I should do some back to backs still, perhaps 15km at most each day.  I might just continue this during the next 2 weekends and the final week just walk everywhere, and a few 5kms.

I am going to go to the gym more, I have found my right glute isn’t as strong as the left, and it is the left leg that has been getting the bother.. hmm go figure! I aim to strengthen, and Lengthen.

My final weekend foray into training was again, unplanned but needed to go and do some length of running. I decided not to travel afar and found a ‘nice’ route around the Pentland Hills, my favourite place to train.  The route just so happened to be the Pentland Skyline, which is something I’ve never done in one go before, so I thought, why not?!

Off I head, after a sleep in and waiting until the nicer weather, to Hillend.  Hillend is where the Pentland hills end, aptly named.  And there is a dry ski slop on it too.  The route, as prescribed by the annual race starts here and ends here.  A kind of lasso route where you run over the same two peaks at the start and at the finish.  You then take a clockwise route around the other peaks, see below from Carnethy Hill Club who run the race.  You see you do Allermuire and Caeketton twice.


So the rain was still on when I left the car and faffed whilst my HR monitor stopped showing a BPM of 200! I took a pee in a bush and then began the ascent.  I could see the tops were covered in cloud.  The start is pretty steep, up it goes and out came my poles.  These proved to be a god send, my usual lower back pain with climbing is non existent when I use the poles, so that I definitely a plus!

I got to the top of Caerketton and got my breath, and ran to Allermuir, and by now the rain had stopped, sun was out and I took of my waterproofs whilst viewing the scene.


From Allermuir West, Castlehill on the left, you can see the track wind up to the top. 

The route took me to Castlehill, a nice downhill section meeting the Army track to the top of Castlehill where there was a Landrover with a sleeping Armyman in it, clearly happy that there was no impending threat.  The Union Flag flying in place of the usual Red Danger flag. I skirted the danger zone and headed down the steep hill toward the Castle fort and rounded down to the road to Flotterstone, losing quite a bit of height in the process – the lowest point on the route.

Heading up to Turnhouse from here is another steep slog of a climb, the sun was belting down now with a cool breeze.  The Army guys making loud bangs got my heart rate going just a bit more than the 190bpm!


Looking back toward Castlehill where I descended before

The slog up Turnhouse was brutal.  And as soon as I reached the top, another sharp downhill greeted me, this time not much of a descent but it was tough on the knees.  Back up Carnethy, the track was easy going here and the poles were again making going better.  I was starting to get thirsty and kept drinking a lot. Not thinking about how much I was actually using.  I managed to get to Scaldlaw with a Clif Bar and half an SIS bar.  But I was flagging. Scald Law is the highest of the peaks and I had a great view of what was left, a couple of kips, a Hare, a Black, Harbour via Bells, and then Capelaw before going back over Allermuir and Caerketton. It was still a long bloody way.

I took a breather here before ascending a bit to South Black Hill, the going was good and I felt OK but was drinking a lot.  I didn’t have much remaining in my bottles.  The Pentlands don’t have many water sources.  And being where I was, I was on top of the hills with no running water.  I decided I would carry on and see what happened.  I packed my poles away here and decided I would attempt East and West Kips without poles.  I managed fine here, but I was getting worried about water.  The half SIS fudge bar was hard to swallow so I just gave up. The Red Road was a good chance to get some time and running under the belt. A lot of this route is un-runable by me anyway.  This was fine though. I managed to get to the bridge and I looked at the water flowing, it wasn’t flowing well and there was a lot of livestock about.  So I gave that a miss to fill up the bottles.  This was my only hope until I could get near another source of running water.  I headed up Hare Hill, which was a nice gentle slope but I hiked it, not run.  Skirting the top, I tried to find the way down, but couldn’t find the route that the masses would take on the actual run, so I went to find the track I usually run on.  This was tough going as I was wading through heather, all the while the sun was beating down and a cool wind was in my face.

I got to Green Cleugh after going a long way about it.  Next was my nemisis, Black Hill.  I hate it everytime I get to the top.  I was ready to give in, and head toward my mate Nina’s when I thought that I might as well as I’ve made it this far.  I always get lost ascending it. I never find the right route.  I take the nice single track that rounds to the North Side, then I take the Diagonal path to the fence line and follow that.  I mean I run the track that skirts the Northern slopes a lot and I never see the path that takes you to the summit. This was another of those times.  Black Hill is covered in Heather, mounds of heather. I decided to bee line to the track I could see in the distance where at that moment, in the distance, I saw a runner, running well and running strong. They must know where the path is! I had detoured a lot.  I was tired and dehydrated.


Rounding the top of the hill, Black Hill is quite long, no steep sides, but it is flat on the top and boggy.  I tried to run but my legs were shot and didn’t like the bouncy unforgiving terrain so I had to walk.  Coming off the other side I knew there was a track that headed straight down, but somehow I lost that, and ended up bounding down the heather toward Dens Cleugh.  I slipped and fell on my arse.  This was a low point.  I was thirsty and tired.  There was no good water flowing here neither.  At this point I made a decision not to do Bells Hill proper, but just follow the fence line to Green Cleugh.  It was almost the same height as Bells but it was more direct.  I stopped on the hill, catching my breath, and attempted more of the chew.  I needed water.  I was so tempted to detour now to my mates and get a lift back, but determination came through and I headed up over Harbour Hill.

Back on Bells hill I noted that I was only 5kms from Hill End and I made the decision that whilst I wanted to do the Skyline, I had done that, but that I would go down toward Dreghorn and take the low road home, via Swanston, missing Allermuir and Caerketton, which I had done earlier in the day. Not the official race route but I had done all the peaks!

I got to the bottom of the long drag toward Dreghorn and I knew there was a stream, it was fast flowing, there wasn’t livestock up the hill, so I gave it a go and couldn’t see any sediment, so decided to neck it.  And it tasted cold and good! The army guys looking over at me looked perplexed.  I was happy though, happy enough to break out the Hula Hoops! Washed down with Pentland Water mmm.

Back at the car my watch read I had done about 27kms and 1600m of climb.  I was chuffed but a bit demoralised I had underestimated the route and my water needs.  I must make sure I have at least one full bottle on the Cape Wrath Ultra!


2 responses to “Pentland Skyline and the taper is FINALLY here!

  1. Tough day at the office but some useful stuff learned and its all time on feet and miles under your belt (sorry for all the clichés) 🙂

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