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The Grand Hotel, and running from Croatia into Bosnia.

I’ve been posting lots about running recently, and whilst this will descend into my tale of taking a steep run from Mlini into Bosnia, I’m going to start off with some very “Bucket of Tentacles” style pictures of the Kupari resort in Croatia. Not your typical holiday photos, Kupari is a derelict hotel complex located to the south of Dubrovnik.

Back in the early 90’s, when I was mainly trying to step into teenagedom, there was a war going on to which I paid very little attention. It was the break up of Yugoslavia and during the early part, the luxury Kupari resort was captured by the Serbs and ended up being mostly ruined.  Now, standing awkwardly against a beautiful mountain/sea backdrop it is an urban-explorers dream.  Its completely open to the public and unlike the UK, not a warning sign or barricade in sight leaving you free to roam. So roam I did, camera in hand and visions of a post apocalyptic world in mind.  Here are a few of the pictures.

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Derelict building? Lets go through on our mopeds!

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Another holiday-snap taken from the Dubrovnik City Walls

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Not your typical holiday picture, but I liked the collection of people, particularly the gent on the left clearly worried about calf-sunburn.

Post-apocalyptic world out of the way, earlier that day I’d had another rather larger dose of adrenaline after planning to run up Malastica, a local summit rising steeply from the hotel we were staying in.

I made my way out of the quiet tourist areas and into “real” Croatia. Receiving occasional odd glances as an Adidas-clad runner pranced through the usually quiet roads, I carried on up the steep ascent as a thunderstorm blew it’s way in from the Adriatic. It wasn’t long before I was sodden, t-shirt clinging to me and looking up at what seemed like an endless stream of zig-zag paths leading to the summit.

This soon changed though as the cloud curtain opened up revealing the magnificent views ahead.

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A further trudge along the path and I arrived at the following sign:

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It didn’t look like too much of a warning sign (and I later translated this as “State Border”), so I stepped past it into another country.

Only a few metres in and everything felt more Bosnian. Embarrassingly not knowing much about the country other than there had been a war I wondered what life was like for people on the outskirts of this remote landscape.  I reached some kind of peak and took in the view. The glistening Adriatic Sea on one side, the coast populated with hotels and bars but circling round to a rolling mountain range. I sensed a wilderness I’ve never felt before. An unknown landscape staring at me menacingly/beautifully and me staring back:

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The path abruptly ended.  Looking ahead I saw a distant road and some buildings nestled in amongst the hills. I wanted to get there, but could see it would be a tough jaunt, no signs of any paths or trails, just natural grass, clumps of trees/brambles and sharp rock formations. Without my own full consent I clambered off the path anyway and headed towards the distant road.  This was tough terrain and very slow-going, and the reality dawned that I had only just dried out, I hadn’t seen any humans since the start of my ascent sometime ago and I was clambering over sharp rocks somewhere in Bosnia.  Common sense was restored and I decided to turn back. The kilometre I travelled off-track took me about 25 minutes and that was moving as fast as I could, such was the terrain.

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I carried on along another ridge which must have been the border between Croatia and Bosnia, regular abandoned outposts and walls reduced to rubble lined the edges of the paths high up in the hills.

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It was around about then that I introduced myself to a snake. Midnight black and about a metre long dryly slithering across the trail.  Realising we were both completely terrified of each other we parted company as quickly as we could going our respective ways with a nod of encouragement. Now running low on water and energy I reluctantly knew I needed to head back so weaved my way back down the rocky paths.  What a fantastic descent it was.

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Finally reaching a road I stumbled into a bakery selling chocolate milk and very large slices of pizza which truly was a dream come true!!

Later, I found out about the land mines….. warnings on wiki travel to not venture off any roads or investigate any derelict buildings.  Ignorance is bliss as clearly this would have added a new element of fear to the whole journey. As if I needed to worry about a little snake! Its hard to know how “real” the danger was and if there were any land mines in the vicinity – wouldn’t a country’s border be the “perfect” spot?  In any case, I made it back alive, with a wonderful life experience tucked under my belt!

All hail the trail!

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Coniston (Photos and Marathon Running)

I spent some time in Coniston in the Lake District last weekend, predominantly to run a marathon (which I report on below), but first up are a few photos I took over the few days.

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First up a lowly gate combined with the fantastic evening sky

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The beautiful calm of Coniston

A Grange

This is Grange-over-sands where we stopped off on the way.  I initially wasn’t too taken with this shot, but the more I look at it the more I like it.  Nice sky, great brickwork and a summery girl at the bottom to bring in a bit of colour.

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A field, a couple of hills and some drama

Race Report: On to the run itself.  Having recently run the 50km Canalathon followed swiftly by Manchester marathon, I was reasonably confident for getting round the Lakeland Trails Coniston Marathon.  Its only a few extra hills isn’t it?  In my head I’m already a long distance trail runner, but the reality is quite different.  I’ve ran a marathon distance three times (all during 2016) and done plenty of trail running but never actually combined the two, so this was my chance to get out there and prove it!  I had about 8 weeks since Manchester marathon so no sooner had I recovered and started getting the distances up it was time to start ramping down again, my longest run being a hilly 30km in the Peak District.  Was I going to be ready for this??  Well here I am ready to go, 8am with a lovely stroll down to race HQ where it’s a hive of activity.  Its worth noting now that even pre-9am it was already looking to be a scorcher of a day.

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Living in Manchester I’m an expert at rain running, point me along a canal towpath and I’ll splash along for as long as I need to, but running……. in this heat?! We were off around 9am and I got into a reasonably comfortable pace but as we entered the first climb many shifted into a “power-hike” and I shortly followed suit (with hindsight I’d have taken it a lot easier at the start).  It was tough running, mainly as very little of the route was shaded so the sunshine was quite relentless, but things were going reasonably well and I got to halfway around 2 hours.

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The picture above was taken from near enough the highest point in the race at around 15 miles, so whilst there was a reasonable amount of climbing (my watch said 920m) it was pretty much several “ups and downs” rather than one large climb, but the views up here were fantastic and make this type of running so much more rewarding than pounding the pavement.  I really had begun to tire by this point and knowing there was another 10+ miles to go in 25 degree+ heat was quite a challenge on the mind.  I’m a stubborn bastard though so I kept repeating my mantra “The finish line doesn’t move, you do!” to get me through it.  I also put some music on (hip hop of course) but that did kind of ruin the natural vibe of the run.

Five or so miles later I found myself approaching a dead body face down in some “scrubland”.  I was quite unsurprised given the heat but thought I had better investigate just to make sure that they were either dead or doing the finest “planking” session in the north-west.  Rather than death, the unfortunate runner had got something worse – cramp.  Planking seemed to be his cure for it and he assured me he was ok, so given it was nearly lunchtime and all I continued on into the heat.

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The view above, whilst fantastic in it own right, I found quite soul destroying.  I had around five miles to go and running had become almost optional with the vast majority of people around me resorting to trekking along feeling sorry for themselves, and what could we see? Mainly nothing but a long dry path, not a water station or shady forest in sight.  But as I mentioned above, the marathon organisers were hardly likely to bring the finish line up here to me so jog on I did.  I did come across a small stream so I filled up my hat and poured the lot over my head which did seem to invigorate me somewhat!

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An hour or so later and this is me in the last 50m, incredibly relieved!! Wind-on about 2 minutes later and I was in the lake, oh the lovely cool lake.  I finished in a time of 4:42:21 which to put into perspective is a whopping increase from my Manchester marathon time of 3:27:37, which goes to show what the hills and heat can do to you!  A fantastic organised race with a really good crowd.  “Interestingly” I finished 62nd, which was also my race number so clearly I carefully planned my time and finishing position 🙂

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Its done, dunno what all the fuss was about!

I learnt a lot about pacing (slow slow slow) and a lot about my own abilities.  I know I have loads to work on to build up for some long races later this year and all being well some even longer ones next year!

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Soothing marathon feet!

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Goodbye for a while Coniston.

HDR Photos (Greenfield, MOSI, Media City)

I’ve been experimenting recently with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, which is taking 3 (or more) photos at different exposures and combining them to get the best exposure range across the picture.  I’ve been using some software called Photomatix which came free with a magazine and has a few “painting” type settings which with various tweaking seem to give a surreal effect.  I really like the output, but i’m going to struggle to take a “normal” photo again!  So….. here they are…..

First up (and probably my favourite of the bunch) a couple taken around media city in Manchester, home to the BBC and ITV:

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These ones were taken at Greenfield just a short train journey from Manchester on the edge of the Peak District (bottom one edited by Mat to get a better composition):

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Finally, on a wander round the city, I visited the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and popped into the Cathereral:

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I really like how most of these turned out and the almost strange effect that can be achieved.  I think it maybe works better on more “human built” things than the natural world, but lots of future experimenting to do!

Ancoats

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Since my Lumix GX1 suffered a heat stroke in Gran Canaria and I replaced with a GX7 back in Sept/Oct I barely seem to have used it.  When I’m out running I see so many things I’d love to photograph, but the two hobbies are very incompatible! I finally took a local stroll without my shorts and trainers instead armed with a camera and thought I’d focus on one particular area – the southern part of Ancoats close to Manchester City Centre.

Before I even knew I was destined to become a Manchester resident I visited here back in 2013 with work so spent some eerie time in the deserted/derelict Morning Star hostel and school which I mentioned in THIS POST.  Its a strange area on the fringe of the city, clearly industrial, but lots of deserted/derelict buildings with pockets of nice flats, kind of like the Northern Quarter has burst its seams and some hipsters have spilled over Great Ancoats Street clutching their Macbooks and little dogs.  I’ve not gone for beautiful photos here (ability problems) so just tried to capture the vibe of the area.  So, without further ado, here are a few snaps!.

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Anita Street, very clean and well presented considering the surrounding area!

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Nestled inside an old Mill, a coffee shop serving Ancoats Coffee.  A true hispter hangout.

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I wouldn’t try getting in here….

 

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The hawk-eyed amongst you will be screaming “That’s not Ancoats!!!” and you’d be right.  I wanted to try out keeping some colour in a B&W photo so here is my first effort.  This car is in the NQ right by Cord bar and hasn’t moved since I began living here.

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George Leigh Street

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I too, wish I knew the way.

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Swift half down Smith’s?

So there you go.  It was good to get out with the camera again and also try out a few different editing techniques on the pics above.  Until next time…..