#33: Plean

Walking down the street the other day, I saw a poster for an Adele tribute show. Now, usually when you have a tribute act, you get a nice pun on the name of the original artist. I personally quite enjoy the ingenuity of the word play here, and was quite amused to see that Ted Sheeran is already out there gigging. Adele though is quite a tricky one, and so far I’ve been unable to think of anything here, except for Adelton John, which would obviously be the songs of Elton John sung in the style of Adele. (The reverse I can’t see working quite as well.) After a little bit of discussion with wifey, I’ve decided that if I ever decide to take the tribute act world by storm, I’m going to try it as Shitney Houston*.

With the usual additional Christmas Day and New Year parkruns, the Scottish weather decided that it had had quite enough of all this nonsense, conjuring up icy conditions for 30th December which put the kibosh on a swathe of events here in Scotland. Some even fell in London in solidarity, including my old friend, Finsbury Park. Only the strongest survived the onslaught, and as a poor young fledgling event, Plean never stood a chance. With both Edinburgh events and nearby Vogrie also putting their feet up, I took the opportunity to have a lie in. I think I managed to stay in bed till about half past eight. Imagine!

I’m not sure if this phenomenon is limited just to my office, but in our building which hosts a number of companies, I find that the loos get fairly busy between 10.30 and 11.30. I guess by that time, peoples’ first meetings are finishing, and those cups of tea first thing have now started to work their way through. I’m starting to refer to this as flush hour.

I don’t have any other terrible jokes, that’s it now.

Just a single week, and allegedly a whole year later, we were back on. With a whole week to think about things, it might well be imagined that I would do more research on the event. Things like finding out how best to get there, where the car park was… and given my lack of any sort of directional sense, I did no such thing. I did read a little bit about the course being muddy, and by ‘read a little’, I mean scanned a couple of comments on the Plean parkrun Facebook page. A quick check on Google the night before told me that the drive would take about an hour. Suitably underprepared, I set my alarm and went to bed.

My lovely wife is not a big fan of the morning. I’d say that she was dragged kicking and screaming from her bed, but that would imply a lot more energy than she can normally muster before coffee. A quick breakfast, dig out the trail shoes and eventually about 8.20 we left the house. Past the Kelpies, hurray! Then the satnav directs us off up the M876 heading for Kincardine. For those not familiar (which included me at the time), this is very much not in the right direction. Still, we blindly followed the greater wisdom of the machine, which as luck would have it took us straight to a petrol station with toilet facilities. I’ve no idea how Google knew that the loos at Plean Country Park were out of action, and that we might appreciate this, but I’m choosing to believe that this is why we were taken in a big circle in the wrong direction. Having left a little bit on the late side, we were now worryingly behind schedule. The lack of preparation on how to find the parkrun now became slightly more pressing, as the ever reliable satnav now instructed us down a small lane, before immediately right through a locked gate. Fortunately on the other side of the gate, I could see a giveaway flourescent sign with an arrow on it. We’re here, but where is the car park?! Fortunately at this point, some runners arrived and told us parking here was fine. Ten minutes to go till the start, we best get cracking.

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We started walking up the lane in the direction the arrow pointed, following behind the helpful local runners. It was now around 9.25, no sign of the start line yet, so we decided a steady jog might not be a bad idea. As we arrived at the start line, the briefing was just getting under way. Strip down the layers, hang them on the fence in front of a derelict country house which worked really well as a coat hanger, and we’re moving now to the start line. As we’re getting there, out of the corner of my eye I spot one of my club mates. Brilliant!

Reaching the start line, we then turn around to face where we’d come from which takes me by surprise. No ceremony here, 3, 2, 1… go!

Back toward the house we go, my club mate dashes past me at an alarming rate, and I stupidly go with him. Round the house, spat out the other side and briefly the ground is fairly solid under foot. I see a big white structure in the distance coming toward us, but things are getting softer under foot now and I’m having to concentrate. Before I have time to wonder what it is, we swing round to the right, and all I have now to look at is trees and the path ahead. The path is mulchy in places, stickier in others. I’m picking my way through, haring my way through it and absolutely having a blast. The theme tune from Black Beauty is buzzing round my head as we dart left, then right, jumping rockier bits, over sticks… this is brilliant. The path narrows, the sun is hazy in the sky and the way ahead shimmers. I see paths heading off to the left and wonder where they go. We’re going slightly downhill now as the pace stays high, a right then a sharp left and still we’re descending. Mile #1: 6.57

The path is now hard packed, so we’re able to get a good gallop, weeeee! The path then descends faster and corkscrews round to the right, and up ahead I see the entrance where we came in. Hard right now and since we came in this way, I now know that the fun is over, and what goes down, must come back up. The path is now quite wide, hard packed and we have a long slow climb ahead of us. The combination of not having any time to warm up, and a rather excitable first mile are now hitting me like a sledgehammer. I grind and grind, and get slower and slower. I look to my left, to the burn which threads down along side us. The water has a silvery blue hue to it, making it appear almost gelatinous. We pass the start line, fork left and things have levelled out a little. I’ve not caught my breath when we pass a couple getting out of their car, as we dart left and things get muddy again. Up we go again, over a small bridge over a burn and up to a stile which we dodge round. Mile #2: 7.53

Up again, and through a hedge which looks like a portal. Coming out the other side, we’re directed hard left through a small gap in the wall and now, on the flat, there is a long section which alternates between big tree roots, rocks and thick mud. I’m so chuffed that I brought my trail shoes today; road shoes just would not have been good enough. On and on come the obstacles, I dart left, then right as I aim to take some sort of sensible course through everything flung at me. This came to an abrupt end as we rounded a left hand bend, and had a steep descent to play with. The surface here was pretty hard packed again, but given the last section I had no idea how much caution I could afford to throw to the wind here, so I reigned it in for the most part. Once I saw clearly ahead of me, I let myself fall a bit quicker, gleefully negotiating the sharp right hand bend round the tree at the bottom, before plummeting the rest of the way down to rejoin the long slow grind from before. A sharp left and I was on my way back up to finish this off. Up we go again grinding our way past the house, this time forking to the right to come round the other side of the house, past a small pond and into the finish. As I was approaching I heard some rapidly approaching confident steps catching up to me, and though I managed to raise my pace a little, the damage was already done and I had no issue as she cruised past me.

Talking to the ED after the race, I’m told that this was one of the easier routes they had proposed. I noticed a number of trails leading off the route we took today, and as ever my brain was scanning around and wondering where they all went to. I definitely want to go back and try the course again, but I’m also really keen to just go for a run here sometime and explore.

Scores! 16th place, 22.58

*I have nothing at all against Whitney, I was just quite amused with the word play. Besides also, I would be absolutely terrible.

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2 thoughts on “#33: Plean

  1. Well done on completing your Scottish tourism (again). Plean sounds like a challenging course but a lot of fun. I’ll have to try it soon. I think it’s my NENYD.

    Liked by 1 person

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