Friday, 31 July 2009

Tour de Fife, jour deux

These lactic-acid loaded evenings are not making for the most restful of sleep. Last night I was dreaming that I wanted a bath but it was full of visitors' coats and I had to move them all aside before I could fill it. Sigh. Don't even have a bath really.

Last night's race was the Chariots of Fire race on the beach at St. Andrews. The sand was smoother and more hard-packed than I had imagined and I almost regretted not wearing road shoes (I dug out my aging swoops that did well at the Sandy Slither) -but further along the beach there was some soft sand and I think the grips on the Swoops helped.

I took off more steadily than the previous night as my tired muscles were slower to respond but probably ran more evenly as a result. Psychologically, these long flat races where you can see where you're going are the toughest. I did everything I could to simply not think about it and keep on keeping on. There was a fair breeze in our faces on the way out and my mouth was as dry as the Sahara.

The turn was a relief in some ways as we got the wind behind and made our way back onto the firmer sand but then there were no more excuses and there was nothing between me and the finish line except time, distance and air! I passed a few women at this point, I think my off-roady legs possibly dealing with the sinking sands better than the more sprightly road runners but sadly seeing me pass must have perked them up and they passed me again at a pace I wasn't going to attempt to match.

I was aware of Jennifer Cruikshanks, an U17 Anster Haddies runners, who I'd passed at half way, gaining on me so I did my best to keep the pressure on. I dropped her for a while (you could see who was behind you by this time by the shadows stretching out ahead on the sands. Beware pony-tails!) but she came back at me just at the line so it was an all-out sprint. Found some strength from somewhere and just kept her behind. She is something like 6 seconds behind me in the tour now.

The tour itself is shaping up. Sadly I've dropped off the end of the V40 ladies. There are a triad of them all within seconds of each other and about 3 minutes ahead of me, so it should make for interesting competition for them. As there's one FV40 prize there's little chance of them ALL falling by the way-side, so my aim is just to turn out the best tour I can!

Tonight is the uphill time trial, which I'm secretly quite looking forwards to. On Fife ac website its compared to the alpe d'huez in the tour de france. I know it was the Ventoux that Tom Simpson died on in the tour but I shall be thinking of him. Too much brandy and was it cocaine? might do for me too. (Or this could be Red Rooster, the co-op's version of Red Bull) (I might have my stories mixed up. I went through a tour obsession and read all the books about doping scandals etc.)...and caffeine suppositories. I haven't seen any evidence of doping so far on the tour but I will stay vigilant.
In the meantime I have a day off so its time for all the household chores we have been dodging by being too busy. Peter says he's working. Probably off sleeping in someone's garden...

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Tour de Fife Volume One

Last night was the first night of the Tour of Fife. A 5 mile race from near Strathmiglo village hall. The whole day was a race just to get to the start line. My legs are completely unused to starting to run without much of a warm up and I felt stiff throughout but by 3 miles in I was into a racing mindset and did what I could to claw back a few places I'd lost along the way.

I was pleased to realise the course involves some of legs 3 and 4 from the Devil's Burden so had been there last January with Amanda when there was sheet ice on the paths down from the forest. Now everything was in full summer bloom, and the cattle frolicked in the fields as we passed.

Racing and then eating late at night led to some strange and troubled dreams. Dream one; the "coverage" for the arsovertit race is interrupted due to a poor satellite link. Dream two; someone tells me that Brian Cruikshank has killed a competitor as he is jealous that he is not running the tour. "He shouldn't have done that." I comment in a sudden streak of moral brilliance.

I am glad to be awake again really.

I was very delighted to win a goody bag right at the start of the tour. Even more delighted because it contains drink! In an effort to lose some extra weight I've made a new but somewhat flexible rule that I'm only allowed to drink drink that I win. (At Harris this rule was superceded by another rule, "You've got to have a drink at Harris" and there is another rule, soon to become relevant, which is "You can't not drink when you're in America") So now I have a non-brand name Bacardi Breezer and a miniature of Whisky! Quite the mini cocktail cabinet! There are also lots of other goodies in the bag, I will photograph when I get time.

So I'm off to work again in a minute. Tonight's schedule for getting to St Andrews will be even tighter unless I can persuade the folk at work I need an hour's time due. My aim is either to get a better warm up or I'm going to have to invent a warm up you can do whilst driving....

(In one of these reversals that happen in life, the photos are taken by Julia Henderson while Andrew Henderson is running not only the tour of Fife but another tour the following week ...which I've forgotten the name of!)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Musselburgh 10k

Another 10k for no other reason than Peter wanted to do it. I had a horrible run yesterday. Had meant to go for a 20 miler up the Esk and then cyclepath out to Pencaitland and back but the heaven's opened and I got soaked through and although I'd brought a wee running jacket guess I got too cold and got a really sore stomach which I tried to run with and then somehow or other that made me sick! What a state. I had turned around at 5 miles thinking 20 miles just wasn't to be and was glad as the stomach thing got worse and worse and I ended up jogging until it got bad again and walking in between. 8.5 miles running in the end, frozen stiff and pissed off I had a shower and went to bed to heat up.
So, today - at least my legs were fresh - and all stomach problems had left me. I still wasn't very keen for a 10K as I've not been going very fast and I can hear Bert telling me that its my fault for not doing his incessant speed sessions on a Wednesday night!

Decided to run by heart rate and feel rather than pace or time and I liked this. I stayed relaxed, was working hard but not actually hurting at 93% of max so decided to try to keep it there.

The course was great. A lot of grass and off-roady trail and no traffic. There was a bit of a headwind on the return stretch over the bumpiest bit of ground and there I had my slowest mile, but as I was still working at 93% I didn't let this bother me. For the last 2 miles I could hear female breathing not far behind and I tried not to let this mess with my relaxed approach too much. The breathing finally receded as I went over a muddy bit quite near to the finish and I held her off. I did not, however, hold off that old devil Douglas Young who I believe will be 62 on the 28th of this month. There were warning shouts from the Porties as I was coming into the finishing strait but I had risked a look over my shoulder as I rounded the final bend and there was noone there, so when they started to shout I thought they were winding me up. Before I knew it the familiar form of DY motored by! He caught me by surprise and made me laugh which did not help my form but I picked it up as much as I was able. Not enough though!

Hats off. Its a season's best of c. 45.30 (Garmin wouldn't go off right away so lost some of the detail.) I feel chipper because it was quicker than Peebles and I felt better. Have lost a couple of pounds so I'm putting improved pace down to that.

Now a week of work awaits punctuated only by the tour de Fife. I am very apprehensive about this as I had hoped to take time off work but there's not enough people so I can't so will be up at 5am for a 7am shift on Wednesday, come home, drive to Fife, race, drive home, off to bed, up at 5am, etc. I'm off the Fri, Sat, Sun so will feel better then but I think the first 2 days will be pretty harsh.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Harris Half Marathon

Bit late with this one but we went straight from Skye to Aberdeenshire to scrape and paint my mum's window frames and are just back.

This was my 4th go at the hilly Harris half marathon. Its the final half marathon of the Heb 3 series where competitors need to complete 3 of a possible 5 Hebridean half marathons and who ever spends the least time at it wins. Of note is that there is a very generous team cash prize of £200 which has drawn a greedy Portobello contingent for 3 of the last 4 years.

I couldn't complete 3 of the Hebs this year due to work and weddings, but did Stornoway and Harris anyway. The effort it takes to get there, the courses themselves and the general pre and post race fun make these heb half marathons worth it and they have quite a loyal following so you see the same faces year after year.

We had a bit of an epic drive to the camp-site in Uig at the far end of Skye. We had to leave Edinburgh kind of late anyway due to not having time to get organised beforehand and perhaps some shilly-shallying so it seemed we would make it to camp by about 11pm which was later than we would have liked but we'd come to terms with it. Imagine our surprise then when we got to Sligachan, half-way across Skye and discovered the road was closed all night for on-going road work. We had to take a long diversion up the Dunvegan road and then 8 miles of very interesting single-track over the hills to Portree. At about the zenith of this diversion the car started to make a funny rubbing noise. "No please god no!" "Not now, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, with no mobile signal!" Our shiftless godless prayers were answered and the rubbing noise went back to whence it came. We finally drove into Uig Carpark after midnight and put the tent up as quietly as we could. Well I say we, - but I went to the toilet block to brush my teeth and when I got back Peter had pretty much put it up. Good man.
We both slept fine being knackered from a busy week and a long drive.
In the morning the sun baked us out of our tent before our alarms had had a chance to go off.

Up already were a possie of Helensburghs. A bit later on we were to see Graeme Jervis who was formerly of Forres Harriers but has been poached by the HBTs. Also Hamish MacDonald who we met at the Everest Marathon but we often see at different races in Scotland. On the ferry to Tarbert we met more familiar folk. Ivor Normand of HBT (His rule is, he tells me "You cannae miss Harris!" and this was his 9th consecutive Harris half.) Davie Hearn who oscillates between Stornoway and HBT (the dark side) was in his usual jolly form. From a distance we say a fit looking Dick Wall who is clearly in serious training. He went for a bike ride after the race!

The day unfolded in the usual laid-back island way. Registration and then a bus-ride down the island to the start. There is a pee stop about a mile from the start as the people who live at the actual start are sick of people peeing in the gardens and on the road where they live.

At maybe 1.20pm we were set off by a local policeman (who looked barely out his teens). He gave a few instructions, to be careful etc. and asked if there were any questions. "Why do we do this?" asked a wag from the throng of runners. "Because you are all mental." was the quick response. Without further ceremony we were off.

It was hot and there was a head-wind and after the first four miles the really serious hills begin. I swapped places with Louise Provan a few times early on, finding I was going past people on the downhills. Not so later on... It was quickly apparent that it would not be a day for fast times so I nudged the Garmin onto heart rate so I couldn't start worrying about my pace. I think this was a good strategy. I kept going as steady as I could, without red-lining, hoping to have something left for the mostly downhill (though never very fast) last 5 miles. I didn't manage to hang onto Louise and I slipped back a bit but not drastically and did manage to pick it up once the long uphill from mile 4 to mile 8 was behind me. Just before the last mile I turned around and saw a woman in a pink t-shirt not far behind. Hell's teeth! I would have to try to pick up my pace! I did this by pulling faces and making funny noises and thankfully it worked and I managed to keep ahead. I bowled into the finish area grimacing and near-blinded by the effort and the heat.
One tiny moan I have is that I think they stiffed me for 3rd lady vet. The full results aren't up yet but I beat the official 3rd lady vet's time. This also happened to me in 2007 when they gave my prize to Susan Lennon. I can see it fully from a race organisers point of view - nothing would put you off runners quicker - a bunch of moany whingers. But I also can see it from my point of view and quite frankly I wanted my prizey!

Anyway, the post-race stuff was great. We had a nice meal in the Harris Hotel with the Helensburghs. I think I was drinking Clansmans (should that be Clansmen) and then on the boat we fell in with the HBTs who insisted that Peter fill his 1st MV tankard with the HBT ladies' team prize winning wine and that we all drink. We had 2 of the 3 HBT ladies' bottles of wine and then some other stuff, peut-etre some Port and some beer and then at the pub at the end of the pier in Uig we had some beer and whisky and gave Graeme Jervis some rousing support for his pool-playing until the pub was shut and we were asked to leave. Rolled into our tent at 1am and were surprisingly good the next day considering...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Slither 2

Just came across these delightful photos that show me pretty calm at the start of the race and psychotic by the end. Its a good sport isn't it? Photos pinched from Pete of Fife AC. Thanks.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Elie Day Out

A day in Fife today with friends and fellow Porties Scott and Amanda. Peter was away to Barra so missed experiencing the Elie chain walk. Sounds alarming and guess what, it was. The sun gave way to drizzle as we arrived in Elie but undeterred and dauntless we set off up slithery polished wet rock with the comfort of a wet chain for safety. I honestly thought it was going to be a p of p being accessible to the general public as it is - but it wasn't. I had a few moments of quiet terror. Me and P used to climb so I had to call on forgotten arts such as concentrating on what you want to happen rather than what you fear - ie don't keep imagining yourself in a bloody heap at the bottom of a cliff as you make it more likely to happen! Despite the rain it was lovely going round the coastline and seeing hidden coves and inlets. Haven't been to the beach in ages.

Next stop was the Elie Deli for cake and coffee to fuel our flagging limbs for the next treat...The Sandy Slither! This year the race route was changed so it started and finished in Elie.

The old course was good but so is the new course. Its a great combination of road, grassy path, sandy trail, hilly grass, sandy beach and salty sea-water! It was touted as 5.7 miles and the Garmin said 5.69 so I reckon that's pretty accurate. No results out so I have no objective evidence for how I did. I felt a ran a fair race, starting off steady and working my way up the field a few places as we got onto more hilly and tricky terrain. A couple of years of more off-roading now seems to be showing. Not being Peter I didn't have time to charge up the road to the car to get the camera to take pictures of other people finishing so no pictures of the race unless I can nick someone else's off le web. Borrowed the beach picture off Fife AC website to illustrate roughly where we were.

Amanda's still coming back from illness and injury so I think finds racing a bit of a downer still. Never mind Amanda you will be back in top form soon!

Damn I'm tired. It was a good day. Apparently the weather is nice in Barra. Pretty wet here.