I’m now officially on my two-week Easter holidays from school, and to take full advantage of this time, Pat and I immediately headed to the Highlands last Friday night for a weekend getaway in Carrbridge. The weather at home on the east coast was foggy and chilly, so we hoped we’d at least see the sun while we were away. If not, at least we had some zombie-watching that would keep us busy.
Pat loves trail running, and was very excited to be in the thick of forest trails around Carrbridge and Aviemore. I love Pat and being in the mountains, so we opted to do our long run Saturday, as Sunday we’d be driving home to the east coast. Pat planned an 8.25 mile route to do our slated 80 minutes easy pace, starting at Inverdruie, just outside Aviemore, taking us through the forest, by a loch and eventually back to the main road; the main road along which we ran our first half marathon this past October.
We left Carrbridge early-ish SAturday morning, and got out first glimpse of the still-snowy Cairngorms mountain range.
The run started from the Rothiemurchus car park, where we head down an undulating tarmac road, only to make two brief toilet breaks. I never do that during a long run! I made sure to stick to a pace around 10:30/mile, as last week I mentioned I may have been doing my long runs too quickly. Two miles into the run, we veered off the road and up a landrover track to the huge fences of a deer farm. A deer farm with a sign that read to keep out during October to December, which is deer rutting season (also known as mating season). Stag’s can get pretty bad then! We had to climb over a fence, which Pat assured me was purpose-built for people to walk through the farm.
Now when I say ‘farm,’ I don’t mean the farms us North Americans are used to. This deer farm was basically fenced off land that kept in deer. There were trails through it, and gates leading in and out. And within seconds of being inside the fence, we saw our first doe, a deer, a female deer thankfully. I was concerned that there could be a testosterone fueled stag close by though. We also passed an open enclosure with many does, who as Pat assured me, were more afraid of us than we were of them.
Luckily, our time in the farm was limited and we soon climbed another fence to continue on our merry run in the woods.
We joined up to Loch an Eilein, a small loch with a very small castle built in the middle of it.
Just past the loch, we separated, with Pat taking a smaller, more rugged trail which would join the larger trail I stayed on. As I was running, I approached a group of walkers who were spread across the trail. I said a polite ‘Excuse me’ so I could get past, and it turned out that one of those walkers was Nanette from my running group! We hugged each other and had a quick chat, before I was off up a hill to meet Pat.
Now, I assumed this wider trail would continue all the way to whatever meeting point I was supposed to get to, but it got more and more narrow, so much so that at one point, I turned back because I thought I was on the wrong trail. I knew the trail Pat had taken, and using my common sense, I figured that if he were to continue straight on his trail, it would join up with the trail I was currently on. I took my chances and turned around again to continue along the trail, despite how narrow it became.
I was alone in the woods at this point and started to get a bit concerned that I hadn’t seen Pat yet. I yelled his name to see if he would answer back, but there was no reply. I did get a quick thought of zombies!, but then came to my senses and realised they aren’t real. I continued to yell Pat as I jogged and walked along the trail, hoping he’d answer back. About ten minutes passed before I saw another human, an older man to whom I asked ‘Have you seen a man, dressed mainly in black, running past?’
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Although he’s long passed.’
With a sigh of relief, I kept running until sure enough, there Pat was. We stopped to check out the map before continuing on our way.
We made a left turn towards Coylumbridge and the main road, now passing many couples walking along the trails. We also saw some dramatic clouds in the Cairngorms.
My Garmin hit 80 minutes long before we were due to get to our car, so we just kept running at a very easy pace, knowing we were fit to continue. We made it to Coylumbridge and the main road, turning left (and downhill) to the Inverdruie car park and the finish. We picked up the pace considerably, probably because we just wanted to finish!
The run lasted 90 minutes instead, with many stops to take photos, climb fences or consult the map. It was a tougher run due to the change in surface and plenty of hills, but overall, I felt strong throughout. After a quick stretch, we headed to one of our favourite eateries in Aviemore, the Mountain Cafe, for their delicious salads.
The rest of the day was spent resting, watching zombies and enjoying a roast chicken dinner.
Sunday was a bit of an adventure for me: I tried mountain biking on proper trails for the first time! Pat’s #1 sport is mountain biking – he raced as a teenager – and he was keen to check out the new trails centre in the Glenlivet Estate. Glenlivet as in the whisky. I don’t have my own bike, so I got to use Pat’s old Canondale, which ended up being too small for me
We climbed our first hill and got some stunning views.
And then the fun began! We sailed through a downhill section, with lots of curves and rollers, perfect for the mountain biking enthusiast. I went pretty fast through this section, but found it to be a bit like skiing: I wanted to go fast, but still maintain control, because if I didn’t, I would’ve bailed hard.
The rest of the trail consisted of a huge hill climb, some of which I pushed the bike up, then another downhill section with rollers. Overall, I really enjoyed myself and found it very exhilarating. I can see why Pat loves mountain biking so much. It was difficult cycling up the hills, and I knew I could’ve easily run up them, but I’m happy with my efforts that day.
We quickly changed and packed the car, and headed home, driving past a very comical sign.
We drove over this picturesque bridge, having had a very relaxing and fulfilling weekend.
Do you prefer road running or trail running?
Do you like mountain biking?
Half Mary Musings is coming up next!