Sunday, November 02, 2014

Jedburgh Running Festival 2014...

By Frank

The Jedburgh Running Festival is a 2 days event of different distances. An ultra, half marathon, a quarter marathon and even a wheelchair event, it's a celebration of running! And since I am over at Scotland, I might as well use the chance to visit the country on foot, well alt least at the town of Jedburgh. I opt for the greater 2 events which are back to back, being the 38 Miles or 60.8KM ultra trail marathon across 3 peaks there and the half marathon across the country side.

Jedburgh is a small town about 3 hours drive from Aberdeen and about 16KM from the England border. Together with Chee Kong and family, we left Aberdeen on Friday at about 4PM. Drive was smooth without much traffic and soon arrived at Jedburgh and proceeded straight to our very cozy hotel, Meadhon. My room was fantastic and I seriously felt the warm in there. Only complain was the small shower cubicle!

My little cozy and warm room. RM265 a night!

Awesome dinner at Carter's Rest nearby. I had a taste of Scottish specialty, the haggis which is made of lamb's spare parts. Click on this LINK to know more.It taste pretty good so don't think when eating them. Looks like meatball though. Main course was succulent pork fillet and we all certainly had our fill before returning to our room to prepare for our first event the next morning, the Three Peak Ultra Marathon across the mountains.

Tasty warm haggis balls.

Event: Three Peaks Ultra Marathon 2014
Venue: Leisure Centre, Jedburgh, Scotland
Date: 25 October 2014
Time: 8.00AM and 11.00AM
Distance: 60.8KM
Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 4

A very chilly morning! I was awake at 6AM and all my pre-race rituals went successfully and was ready for breakfast at 6.50AM. I pre-ordered bacon, eggs and brown toast though there were cereals ready for us too. Truly a hearty breakfast for the long day ahead.

Cereals in the jars!

The Three Peaks Ultra Marathon at the point of writing is going to be my longest trail ultra and probably my toughest since the one at Lion City isn't much of a thing ($orry!) A rush to the Leisure Centre nearby after I had to answer the call of nature just before leaving the hotel. Glad we made it in time and collected our race pack which consist of the race number and a piece of very nice and simple event tee. We then dropped our drop bags off at the nearby car park where the support vehicles were. 3 check points over a 16KM distance each with only water each, we runners have to pack well.

Registering and picking up our race pack.

As I am not familiar with the area of the race course, here's the description for the race's website:

The Thee Peaks Ultra Marathon is a 38 Mile event that start and finishes in Jedburgh and follows in the footsteps of Saint and Warriors. The route is a mixture of some road, track, path and hill running and passes through some of the most iconic and beautiful Border countryside.

The 38 miles race takes in some of the most stunning scenery the beautiful Scottish Borders has to offer.

Starting under the shadow of Jedburgh's history Abbey, the gentle opening 10 miles follows redundant railway lines, swing bridges and the pathway used by St. Cuthbert on his way to Holy Island.

Trail through country estates and battlefield on your way to the delightful hamlet of Maxton, where it starts getting tricky. Neptune's staircases help you cut along the banks of the world famous River Tweed before enjoying even more  breath taking scenery as you approach the villages of St Boswells and Newtown St Boswells.

From the Rhymer's Stone, the route take you up and over the Three Peaks of the Eildons. These extinct volcanoes are challenging but allow you the most amazing panoramic views across the entire region. They are tough, but they're worth it.

The Three Peaks of Eildons.

Enjoy the return journey through the idyllic village of Bowden before heading back towards Maxton and onto the home straight, if 10 miles to go can be called a home straight.

It's a testing route, with around eight miles on the country roads and the other 30 on hillside tracks, forest trails, river paths and parkland, but it will be a rewarding one.

A cold morning with Chee Kong. Glad I was blessed with these gears.

At 8AM sharp at a nearby small grassy area just outside the Leisure Centre, 133 runners were flag off. The journey out of town was alongside pavements and grassy area which was about 4KM or so before the first trail welcome the runners. Single track through the beautiful countryside with sheep and cows munching on the grass just beside us, it was an experience I've never had the chance to enjoy back home.

Despite feeling cold, I was running pretty well, at least to my own standards where the rest of the Scottish runners just bulldozed their way through. I had a few other runners around me as I made sure that I will try to stick with a few of them for fears of a Malaysian getting lost in the trails or woods of Scotland.

We had to run through farms and climbing over fences and it's one race that I've step over so many sheep and cow dungs! By the way, the fences are properly built hence there are mini steps for people to climb them over. Even the wooden gates were solid and there was a very nice bridge too bringing runners over a river, River Tweed I assume. And from there, orange maple leaves was all over the ground which was a beautiful autumn sight, though it made my running just a little slippery. The single tracks were not easy to run on though as there were uneven, and some covered in grass which makes things a little tricky for me. My ankles were both rolling and twisting along the way and I had to be careful not to sprain it.

Beautiful bridge across the River Tweed.

Single track along the River Tweed.

There were flight of stairs, both up and down as I ran alongside the River Tweed. A sneak preview of my Hong Kong trail next year perhaps? I enjoyed this part very much as it was really peaceful with the only sound coming from nature, river and ducks.

The flight of stairs. Some dirt while some natural. Seen here is the wooden ones.

And soon after about 16KM of running through the first segment, I arrived at the first check point at Maxton. Most of the drop bags was already gone as I emptied mine into my back pack before continuing on. I ran through a golf course where some of the golfers even joked with the runners. Then a steep climb out of it and into a small town before resuming on the trails again. And it's here I met Mike, before knowing his true identity.

I ran with Mike and some other runners through winding and rocky paths and we were all together for most of the time. It's good to have someone almost run the same pace especially when in a foreign land. And honestly, I was still feeling good although I've started walking. The sun began to rise but the cold was still there.

Fast forwarding through the trails, I soon arrived at Rhymer's Stone where the second check point is located. I was a little surprise though with the distance recorded on my Suunto as it was about 3KM short. It was supposed to be 32KM but it only recorded 29KM. Hmm... A quick check with Mike and it seems true. Oh well... Perhaps the organizers had their reason for the next segment is not an easy one and probably didn't had any proper space for them. I had a yummy chocolate waffle which I've put in my drop back here. Emptied a Sneaker bar and a bottle of Cola into my back pack and off I went again.

A mild climb across the country side welcome the runners. Loose rocks but not technical yet as the views of the peaks slowly came. The wind also got stronger as we approached Eildons. And it's here, I found the out the true identity of Mike as we chatted along the way, in an exchange of our culture. I mentioned that I will be only leaving the week after as I was still hoping to gain entry to the Glen Ogle 33 race which Chee Kong successfully entered. And with all out of sudden, Mike asked if I really wanted an entry and I began to suspect. He was the race director and in a very odd situation, I was entered into the race! AYE! Thanks Mike!

Through the countryside and beautiful rainbow, I met Mike.

Soon, the first peak of Eildons was upon us. The climb started becoming technical and so is the wind getting really strong. Orange soil, loose rocks and a steep climb as some of us start our climb. Though really tough and not reaching the peak yet, the view was already magnificent and when I found the chance where the wind stop blowing at least for a little while, I quickly took out my phone and started snapping away before resuming my climb.

At the top of the first peak, though the view was spectacular, I did not have the chance to take some photos as the wind was just too strong till I almost lose my footing! I can only remember the view which includes a pile of rocks on top there in my mind. I started my descend after enjoying the view and the way down was equally just as tough as it was filled with loose rocks.

Halfway descending, there as a participant sitting down on the trail shivering and receiving aid from a lady. Asked if he needed any assistance and he said that he was only cold and just needed to open up his foil blanket ensuring me that he will be all right. In the distance of the second hill, the medic vehicle was on their way and soon I continued on.

Tackling the ascend to the first peak.

The ascend to the second peak was just as tough as the first as it included more winding paths. I looked back from where I came and clearly saw the participant in cold earlier had already received assistance from the medic. Soon, I arrived at the top and wind the wind manageable this time, I quickly took out my phone and started snapping photos away. I even took video of the magnificent surroundings!

Descending from the first peak. Notice the orange spot where the participant in cold is. It was his orange thermal blanket, mini camp or some sort to keep the cold away. And the white spot where the medic drove to.

Approaching the second peak.

View from the second peak.

The wind was still blowing strong as I started my descend. It was pretty all right this time and the third climb was within reach and it wasn't as steep. It was the easiest among all 3 but still a test of might and strength in this condition.

After scaling the heights of the 3 peaks and from the third, it's now the return trip. A single track welcome the runners with lush greenery before entering the woods again via a park or some sort. It was really a nice stretch to witness the orange maple leaves again by the path. Myself and Mike kept running and soon arrived at a critical junction which was suppose to take us to the village of Bowden. There was  an arrow signage there hence he followed it by turning right. Upon reaching the end with a fence there, a group of 5 runners came fro the opposite saying that they are lost without any markers ahead.

A little drama here as Mike called back to Angela. Though with 6 other runners, I was a little worried as this may be my "DNF" for this year as it has so far been a good clean year for me. We ran back to the junction earlier and Mike snap a photo of the arrow signage mentioned earlier. Apparently, it wasn't part of this race and the actual marker has gone missing! We asked 2 people who were also on their way to Bowden and apparently there weren't too sure too!

The decision came when we were told to follow the path to St. Cuthberth Way. We continued running from where we came from, pass the fence and ended up at a junction which one will bring us down to a farm, through a technical area. No markers again and a decision had to be made.One of the runner went straight and after a while, Mike made the decision to journey to the farm. The rest followed and so did I.

And after a flight of stairs, root, fences and gates through the woods, we soon arrived at the farm with the medic team waiting there. We were on the right track as we treated ourselves to some sweets prepared by the team. Mike also informed them of the runner that went ahead earlier before we continued with our journey.

Back on the right path again, the group started to break away. I however stood with Mike. Sometimes he was fast, while sometime I was faster. It was a good way to motivate and keep each other company although there weren't any much conversation as we were not side by side.

Fast forwarding ahead through a small town, I caught up with Wilson who was part of the Metro Aberdeen running club. We took a stroll together and chatted about our running adventures and in exchanging our cultures. We walked through the golf course where we came from earlier before I broke away. The third check point at Maxton which was the first earlier was just ahead as I arrived there safely.

Loaded everything into my back pack which include an extra bottle of water. Lots of food was left behind by the faster runners which includes sandwiches, bananas and even whisky! As I was about to leave with Mike, Wilson arrived.

16KM is what it remains and I had about 4 hours to get back. It should be doable as the final stretch hasn't had any major climbs nor technical trails. However, I was wrong myself. Though it was the path I came from earlier, the tired legs made things difficult and challenging. I just had to keep moving.

As I arrived back at the farms, sheep and cows was everywhere and not to mention their dung too! I can't myself but to take photos of them. It's a sight and experience I don't get back home and not to mention often. The sheep looks cute and a little dumb as they much on the grass and sometimes stare at me.

Wonder why some sheep's face in white while some in black?

How are you? Baaaa....

A selfie with a cow? Glad wasn't wearing my red CompresSport trail shorts else...

Through the flight of stairs along the River Tweed and pass the wooden hanging bridge, I know I was near. About 5KM or so to go. Went through the final stretch along the River Tweed, up the stairs with volunteers there cheering, across the main road and back on the countryside road again, it was now the real home stretch. No more trails here as myself and Mike ran together as now we chatted more!

Though it has become gloomy, the sun has not totally set hence there wasn't a need for the headlamp which I've carried along since the start. Oh and yes, thanks to John who borrowed his Petzl Nao to be use in this race too. Continued running with Mike and soon, the Abbey was in sight. And in a while more, both Mike's children was seen running towards him as we approach the finish line.

A run to the finish with Mike and his kids!

It's a pleasure to complete the race with Mike, the race director of the Glen Ogle 33. And thanks for the race slot!

And after spending 9:33:18 on the road, trail and mountain, I've successfully completed the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon alongside Mike just before sunset. Truly a beautiful event which I enjoyed very much and unlike marathons like the one from last week, I was on the runner's high! Such a breathtaking route with magnificent views and a chance to be running along side sheep and cows, something I don't get to experience back home. Thanks to both Angela and Noanie for organizing it and to the friends I met along the route, it's been a pleasure! AYE!

A cold start leads to a cold finish too!

Chee Kong already completed the run 2 hours earlier, very fast indeed and was there to pick me up. Back at the hotel to clean up before dinner with the rest of the runners at the nearby Belters Bar. A hearty dinner of Shanty Burger (fish) to recover and to load up for next day's half marathon and from there, it's back to the room to call it a night, a satisfying one.

Dinner aka recovery meal at Belters Bar. Yummylicious!

Event: Jedburgh Half Marathon 2014
Venue: Town Hall, Jedburgh, Scotland
Date: 26 October 2014
Time: 11.00AM
Distance 21.1KM
Shoe: Saucony Type A6

The temperature was pretty similar to yesterday albeit starting at 11AM because I had less cloth on me! But surprisingly, the legs didn't feel that thrashed from yesterday, well at least during my walks. By 8.30AM, I was ready for breakfast. Same brown toast with bacon and eggs, this time I added in a tattie scone and Chee Kong shared with me some black pudding, another Scottish specialty. Click on this LINK to know more.

Tomatoes, bacon, egg, tattie scone (below egg) and black pudding.

The sad thing is that we had to check out of Meadhon at 10AM and that will leave us sweaty and sticky after the race without a place to shower. But we will sort that out later. With our luggage in the car, we proceeded to the Town Hall to collect our race pack which now includes a timing chip.

Cold under the Abbey.

As usual, a selfie before the start with Chee Kong.

Angela and Noanie was both at the start area near the Abbey to cheer for fellow runners especially the Dirty Double, a nick for those doing running the back to back. And at 11AM sharp, runners were flag off on a slope! I think I had a little too much breakfast or was it the black pudding perhaps that caused an irritating right side stitch immediately at the start. I bear with the discomfort though hoping it will go off eventually.

Loud supporters! Thanks Angela and Noanie (both in yellow).

As I exited the town, sadly the discomfort was still there forcing me to slow down a little to have it rectify before entering Woodend and Riverside where I was treated to the magnificent side of Jedburgh's countryside again. Only problem is, there were a few short rolling climbs here which made things a little difficult for my tired legs from yesterday. Yeap, the fatigue showed here though I mentioned that it was all right earlier.

Although I was cruising at 6 minutes per Kilometer, I was caught by surprise but simple amazed that runners of all ages and body build passed me with not much of an effort. They were awesome running machines! And at that point of time, I was worried that I may end up last, a chance to "podium" again! Hahaha...

Running towards Kelso and being chased by the Scottish runners.

Back on the main road approaching Kelso, 10KM runners were already making their return trip. I was still cruising at the same pace as before but was struggling to keep it. Besides, the cold was not helping at all as the first water station, somewhere around 5.5KM mark came into picture. Water was served in 500ML bottles but I skipped it. Then came a slight wind from the back pushing me just before taking a left turn to Nisbet where the wind later hit me from the left instead! I needed to get out of this area before I was blown away!

Quickly, I was back on the main road and this time heading towards Eckford, with the wind pushing from behind. However, as the lead runners made their return trip, I know it's going to be tough for me later going against the wind which was helping me now. I needed to take advantage of the wind right now. And as I ran, I spotted some people especially the elderly waving to us from their house. A sweet gesture as runners including myself waved back!

A candid shot by Chee Kong making his return trip.

There was a climb at Eckford and the rain came. Not really heavy but definitely more than a drizzle and it hampered my vision for I did not have my sunglasses on. I arrived at the halfway point where some volunteers were serving oranges. I was tempted to have some of them but as I had my gloves on, it made things just a bit difficult as I skip it. A loop around this area and soon it was time to exit it where the return begins with the head wind.

The head wind was exceptionally strong and I have to tilt my body to keep moving. Extra effort is needed here and I slowed down a lot, even to the extend of walking. The rain continued till I get to Nisbet and it was dry all the way here and without wind too! My legs however were stiff from the walking and the cold and it was difficult not to run pain free. I wanted a hot cup of tea, an earl grey will be nice! But I needed to keep moving if I wanted it.

4KM from the finish, runners was taken towards Bonjenward and a surprise awaits here for a climb welcome the runners. I only managed to run up halfway before walking the remaining of it. Then it was a slight downhill on the main road beside Riverside and this was the home run section, similar to yesterday's Three Peaks.

Closer and closer, I eventually saw the finish gantry with Angela and Noanie there cheering and giving out the bonus Dirty Double medal, a very suprise sweet touch from the organizers as I completed my run in 2:13:49 (a total of 6 Dirty Doubles). And yes, I got my reward of a cup of hot tea, not early grey though but was good enough.

Tough cold finish!

An addition to our finish photo together, a future runner she is.

The distance may be only a half marathon but having to do it after a 38 Miler trail run the day before is certainly tough. Besides the strong chilly wind with rain did not make things easy for this skinny Malaysian with only 3% of fat! But I had good fun and certainly was an eye opener for me to see Jedburgh's countryside.

4 out the 6 Dirty Doubles with the race directors of the Three Peaks Ultra Marathon, 

A sweet bonus Dirty Double medal!

Hung around the area (in cold) for some photos before bidding farewell to my new warm Jedburgh friends. I had a good and memorable time here. We then proceeded to the Leisure Centre to have a quick shower before starting our journey to Edinburgh for Kampung Ah Lee again to recover ourselves with Malaysian food. A quick one and its back to Aberdeen to meet up with other fellow Malaysians at Manchurian before back home to rest up and to clean up the dirty race gear. What an adventure it was at Jedburgh!

Malaysian food at Edinburgh.

Chicken rice, wan tan mee and prawn mee!

* All photos here credited to Chee Kong, Jethart's Here and the respective photographers. Thanks a lot!

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