Sunday, 25 October 2009

Another Pentlands Run

Another low level Pentlands' run today. Peter went off a little earlier with Ben. (Who else could get him to get up early at the weekend?) I set off to meet Amanda and Scott at Flotterstone for 11.5 miler on road and track. The team were a bit banged up but not broken. Scott's knee is still hurting after falling on it with a rucksack on on some ill-advised ultra running epic weekend. Amanda was suffering from being underfed and overactive and running that edge between training hard and illness. (You should have seen her doing reps. of 6bs at the climbing wall yesterday. Won't mean much if you don't climb but basically you have to be made of wire and steel to climb 6b and something even tougher (I've run out of hard stuff analogies) to do reps on them. At our very best we scratched our way up the odd 6c but not repeatedly.) My legs felt like half-set concrete, a combination of yesterday's 5K and the unaccustomed exercise of climbing afterwards. The wind was forecast to be blowing at 21 mph in Leith so I don't know what it was blowing in the Pentlands. All in all the team were pretty hearty considering and set off in good time.

About a mile into the run (uphill and in to the wind) we saw Douglas Young flying down the road towards us, doing the same circuit but the other way round and starting and finishing at the other side. "Its pretty windy at the top of the road" he warned us, which at the time seemed fairly obvious but a couple of miles further up we saw what he meant. We knuckled down to it -each in our separate worlds. Speaking was impossible because of the wind - and in my case, because I'm not as fast as S and A so I was chugging along behind. Tough it was but fairly enjoyable too. The wind wasn't too cold and there was a fair amount of light around considering the cloud cover. I made the effort to snap a few pictures but I couldn't hang around as I was already getting well dropped.

Amanda started dying off because she hadn't had enough breakfast and she was audibly regretting not having her porridge and contemplating a stop at the burger van which was parked bizarrely at the other side of the hill. At first I thought Amanda's remarks about burgers were coming from a wishful thinking place - but no - there it was - that smell of fat and yellow and red squirty things full of mustard and tomato ketchup. We didn't stop for a burger though and Scott and Amanda charged determinedly up the hill ahead as I puffed and chuffed my way along behind. (I think I can I know I can.)

We all arrived back in good time and shortly afterwards Ben and Peter appeared having been on a trip round the high tops. A and S scooted off to get food and I drove Peter home. Viva the Pentlands. Think I might have persuaded Peter to have a go at the Fling. And when I say I've persuaded him I mean I think Ben might have. Now; tomato soup, oatcakes and processed cheese, cup of tea; bliss.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Park Run

I've had a strange assortment of ailments this week that started with a runny nose last Thursday, went away by Saturday and then came back and turned into a sore tummy on Monday and stayed for days. I don't know what it is or why, just that its been sore enough to stop me sleeping at times but not so bad that I can't cope and it was a lot better by Friday. It did occur to me more than once that I might be dying of something - but I quite often have that thought and couldn't possibly go to my GP everytime this worried me. When I have gone he generally looks a bit concerned and says, "Oh well, come back if it doesn't go away" which is quite a good deterrent. I've had abdominal pain before when I've been exhausted and I wonder if its something to do with the marathon. Anyway, I thought I could take Peter along to the Park Run at Cramond and if I felt okay I could run too. There wasn't much at stake. Its free and its near to home.

Saturday dawned and the most taxing thing to deal with was the string of complaints coming out of Peter (who has been burning the midnight oil of late) who seemed to think that everyone else should change how they live to suit him - just because he has never fully shucked off the mantle of art student even though he is now a painter and decorator and nearly 50. His specific complaint was that the race was too early. I couldn't find any sympathy for all these complaints, especially as the Park Run is SO benevolent - it doesn't promote any companies, its manned by volunteers, its free, hassle-free and the results are out by lunch-time.

We got to Silverknowes esplanade in good time and it was drizelling a little bit but was otherwise fairly nice weather. Most importantly, the wind wasn't bad. I've run the promenade far too often on long runs and scenic as it is I kind of loathe it as its often very exposed to the wind and you can see exactly how far you have to go which is cruel.

Amanda and Jenni were there already and we had a bit of a jog around and a warm up. Andrew Jeske was there taking photos; taking some time out of running with a foot problem he's getting sorted at the moment.

With very little preamble we took off and I felt pretty reasonable for the 1st mile. As we branched off left to go round a loop at the end of the esplanade a relaxed looking Ray Ward was leading the field back in the opposite direction and was still able to smile at the marshall who was cheering him on. The 2nd mile was a lot slower but I tried not to let this bother me. I figured if I had anything left at the end I could try to pick it up. The 3rd mile back came the belly-ache and I just had to focus on running as evenly as possible so as not to jar it or make it worse. It was a bit disappointing but not as bad as not running at all and my time was pretty reasonable anyway at 22.43. Five minutes after stopping running my guts were fine again. I hope to cut my time back by doing as many Saturdays as are practicable.

Amanda was easily 1st lady so she was chuffed, and Jenni had done a 2min pb. and come in just behind me so she was also in good spirits. Peter had forgotten his earlier misanthropy as he was 6th and 1st over 45 and was delighted to see later that according to age grading he had in fact won, although Ray Ward did put in a good effort. (Ray Ward actually won and then continued to run the same course again.)

My original thoughts were that if I did the run I'd go home afterwards and go back to bed but Amanda told us she was going climbing at Alien Rock. We used to go there all the time but climbing faded into the background about 8-10 years ago - around when we started racing. We've always had a hankering to go back. The forecast was miserable and it was just going to be a flat-bound Saturday at home so we went climbing too. By 1.30 pm I was knackered, my forearms were popping, my toes were shrieking and this time I did go home and go to bed. Now walking funny and its difficult to type but my tummy feels okay...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

VFF 1st strike

Took my Vibram Five Fingers out for their inaugural run today. First of all went a quicky round the seat in normal shoes and then changed into the VFFs once back outside the queen's hoose. I'd put them in my big OMM bum bag (that's fanny pack if you're in the USA) to carry up to the park with the thought that I'd swap and put my ordinary running shoes in the bumbag while I cantered around the green in my zombie shoes - but it was a very tight squeeze and I got the inside of my OMM bag all muddy which I didn't like. Next time it'll be a rucksack with shoes in a poly bag.

I felt a bit self-conscious putting on these crazy shoes but I needn't have worried. If anyone noticed they didn't show any emotion.

The next challenge was how to take photographs for the blog! Not easy really. I've done my best. As you can see it was a very grey, rather gloomy autumn day.

The point of the shoes I guess is that they encourage you to use your best natural stride. Feet are full of nerve endings and so the more sensitive and non-interfering the shoe, the more the brain gets feedback from the feet and the better, non-injuring gait you adopt. That's the best I can be bothered to try to explain it. The idea would be to start with a small amount of "barefoot" running and work up, hopefully ironing out lazinesses of which you are unaware because cushiony shoes protect you from the immediate impact of running wrong. The idea of VFFs rather than truly barefoot would be as protection against dogshit and glass. I won't go into the kind of people who's lifestyle produces dogshit and glass as a by-product.

So anyway, my achilles tendons ouched a little bit as I set off in my VFFs but this soon stopped. It was very lovely and soft underfoot, - as running on grass is. I managed to dodge some enormous dog cigars because even if they're not going to squidge up between my toes I still don't want to be cleaning them off later.

After a while I forgot I was wearing them and had a good fast run across the grass which felt great. Today was meant to be about recovery though so I reined it in and after running a mile I changed back over to shoes normale and went home. A good start.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Back to the Country

Saturday was a stunning day for the first Porty outing to the cross country this year; the 1st of the EDCC league held at Stirling University campus. It was quite a few people's 1st cross-country ever, so me and Peter were thinking they'd be lulled into a false sense of security. It was cool but warm in the sun. There was no wind and an absolute minimum of mud.

I went to uni here many moons ago and am always a bit nostalgic when I visit. Why you would be nostalgic for a 4 year long hangover I don't know. I have swum the loch in the middle of campus, after the pub. I have slept in these grounds...

The course was a good one with a nice selection of up and downhills and different terrain underfoot. Even though it wasn't particularly slippy I was glad I had good grips on my shoes quite early on.

Peter and I arrived a bit stressed, so arguing. Peter had lost the name tag off his bag and wanted to go and find it. Meantime my last chance to get a good warm up was slipping away and with such a short race it seemed important to get moving a bit beforehand.

Gillian McK came along despite having a marathon (Venice) in a week's time and managed not to pick up any last minute injuries despite falling in a hole on the way round the course! I knew she had run 10 miles the day before so used this to try and keep the faith that I could stay ahead of her but she has been very strong the last couple of Porty training sessions and she made me work for it. Phillipa and Jenni did fine but haven't heard their post-race analysis as I was on media duties immediately my race was over.

Ian Brodie made me and a third of the field laugh shouting "Go on Porty, never mind those HBTs, they're pish!..." as we videoed the start of the men's race. There was a huge and impressive turn out of guys. (The women's race was quite small.) I had stern instructions to then get myself across the other side of the course and put the video cam on a red fire hydrant to film while I took pictures with the camera. As it turns out it wasn't the same red hydrant Peter had intended for me to use, but it did fine. We took way too many pictures and way too much film and are going to have to make a full-length feature film to justify it. I wonder what the plot will be.

Anyway. There was a good turn out of Porty men for this race. Peter twisted his ankle early on but recovered and it doesn't seem too bad now. More seriously, Willie's knee, which has been giving him gyp for some time started really hurting with the hilly nature of the course and at the end he was thinking he'd have to give Jedburgh, Tinto and Templeton Woods a miss. He was sick because apart from his knee he's fit as a fiddle. Douglas Young was unable even to start as a last minute trip to the toilet in the Sports Pavillion turned into disaster. When he got in, 3 minutes before the start of his race, the lock dropped off so he was unable to get out until help finally arrived 20 minutes later. Johnny ran a really even race going past Willie towards the end to come in 2nd Porty. Bert was a good sport about competing on hills and uneven surfaces. I enjoyed standing around in the sun taking photos and soaking up the crisp autumn sunshine.
After I stopped feeling sick after my race I felt amazing and enjoyed the rest of the day. I seem to be making a good recovery from the marathon which is really heartening. My oldest sister is over from South Africa so I had more wine on Saturday night than I've had in a while and I was a bit fragile yesterday morning, but me and P went out a hilly 12 miler and I enjoyed all but the last 2 miles when I was a bit thirsty. My mind is turning to what adventures we can set up for next year. I've got a hankering to do the Lairig Ghru again next year but can't do it if it clashes with the WHW. (I said I'd crew for Richard doing it.) I quite like the sound of the Rome Marathon in March - and its quite cheap which appeals - but I've yet to convince Peter. I also have a growing half notion that I ought to give the Highland Fling another go, but train for it more gently this time...Who knows.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

New van, Pentland run, Skyline spectate.

Didn't fancy doing the Skyline so soon after the marathon, particularly thinking about how tough it gets in the 2nd half and how the marathon fatigue typically also sets in later in a race... a recipe for misery you would have thought. However Peter was up for it so I offered to give him and Ben a lift in my beautiful new van (goodbye go-kart), drop them off, go for a run myself on the lower level 11.5 miler in the Pentlands and then get back to get some photos of folks finishing the race.

As it happened Scott F. also fancied a shorter run in the hills so with uncannily good timing arrived at Flotterstone just as I was getting ready to set off and we took off without much preamble.

It was a nice day, sunny but quite cold and breezy. The first few miles were a bit of a struggle, being uphill and into the wind. Coming down the other side, past Threipmuir etc and then back up to the foot of Harbour Hill was a pleasure though being easier angled and with the wind behind. Scott's knee had been playing up but there was little sign of it as he took off down the rocky path back to the road which leads back to the carpark. On the last stretch of the road some Skyliners were spilling off Castle Law onto the road to the water stop before Turnhouse. We recognised the distinctive form of Ben Kemp and gave him a big shout. We stopped for a while and clapped people as they passed and shouted the people we knew. It was good to see Lynn from club was running. Scott expressed some twinges of regret that we weren't racing but I was really quite glad.

Scott F. went back to do some painting and decorating at his folk's house and I made my way back to Hillend via the garage for some diesel and oil for my NEW VAN and a Boost bar and some coffee for me. Life seemed pretty close to perfect sitting in the Ski Centre car park listening to music and eating chocolate and drinking coffee in the sunshine.

It was a bit of an effort to set off out again up the hill into the wind to get into position to take some pictures and do some shouting.

The top of the hill was very blowy and blustery. The first man (not sure who, Shettleston vest?), was miles ahead and on his own. Then people started to arrive a bit more frequently. Stewart Whitlie was spectating at Loch Ness last weekend so there was some symmetry in spectating him this weekend. He was well up the field.
Some people were smiling and some people were under a cloud and holding grimly on. I was just thinking I'd have to go back down as too cold when a very muddy Peter swung into view. I was so excited to see him I pressed the wrong button on the camera and put it off! Peter told me he was stewing about this for the rest of his race. Anyway, he was well up there again, especially for an old bloke. (Although old blokes - and if you ever read this you know I'm just joking - Wull Hynd and Chris Upson were well ahead.)

There was no sign of Ben which was surprising. I had half expected him and Peter to stay pretty close together. Ben's training has not been ideal but he always puts up a good fight. I trotted back downhill, taking the long way in case I got in anyone's way. When I got in I found Ben with a big ugly chunk out of his knee and blood down his shins and also his elbow. He took a hard fall fairly early on which had hampered his race. He said it was with horror that he ran into the unusually deep but always septic waters of the Green Cleuch and submerged his open wound.

Alison, Ben's wife, arrived with Reuben who is considerably bigger than the last time we saw him and pretty jolly.

Home at last, tired, wind-blown and very hungry. It was so good to be out in the hills. Back to the rigours of work tomorrow...

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Loch Ness Marathon

It was all rather a trauma for Peter as the marathon was the day after his birthday, which entailed travelling up to Inverness and staying in a hotel on the day of his birthday.

I tried to get a picture of him newly 47 but he was too quick for me and ducked under the covers.

When I say we were staying in a hotel I mean a Travelodge. When we got there we discovered the light didn't work in the bathroom. (Which had no windows.) We went and told the amusingly uninterested girl in reception who said "Okay I'll go and have a look." Assured that she'd be able to sort it out we went and had a meal in a golfing restaurant. Peter couldn't get the pleasure to be had in the drab, functionality of it all. It was Down by Law meets Dogma.
We had microwave lasagne with a side helping of pale chips and some garlic bread. (I'm turning my nose up but at the same time we did eat every scrap.) This was followed by cheesecake and ice-cream. Peter had muddy whotsit pie and ice-cream. I asked him if he was having a good time but he was determinedly glum saying he was having the worst birthday he'd ever had. We couldn't even drink.

When we got back to our room we couldn't get in so we had to go back to reception. The girl had accidentally locked us out of our room. While we were there we asked her if she'd fixed our light. "I'm not sure?" she said. Which made me laugh. There wasn't to be a light in our bathroom and that was that. It was kind of a shame because I thought I might have a bath for the novelty but not in dead dark inky blackness. Also I thought if the extractor fan wasn't working then the steam might set off the fire alarm and we'd have to evacuate the building.

So the day dawned bright enough the next day...a little after we got up as the organisers demanded we be at the finish for 7.30am for a prompt pick up by the buses that were to take us to the start of the race. Imagine our surprise then when the buses didn't leave until after 9am. Rumour has it 5 buses never turned up and one subsequently broke down. (With Paul Edwards on it.)

When we finally arrived at the start at 10.20am it was being announced "the race start will be postponed". I had only swear words for the whole situation by then. I was tired and I was cold and my breakfast was disappearing into the distant past. I was going to set off hungry and cold after 11 am having got up unnecessarily early at 6.

The plus side was seeing some cheery Porties. Ben Carter was running despite recent injuries and lay offs.

I set off at a good pace but felt comfortable so kept it going as long as I could. I was through the 1st 8 miles in an hour and for a while honestly thought I was on for a pb. The first 9 miles are on average downhill but that doesn't stop them from having many small sharp uphills and although at first it felt fine I think I chewed my legs up pretty badly in the first 3rd of the race.

For a while I was a comfortable 3 or 4 minutes sub 8 minute mile pace but after mile 9 I started eating into this margin and at mile 18 I had sadly lost it. I had a couple of bad miles when I was incredibly sore and then kind of rallied realising I was nearly at the end and not doing myself any favours feeling sorry for myself. I managed to get more positive. "Imagine how good it'll be to see the 23 mile marker!" I told myself - and then it was. I did the same for the next few miles. Around 25 miles Paul Edwards came scooting past at half marathon pace and invited me to join in but I was already going at top speed. I passed a fair few people in the last few miles so I can't grumble.

Once I knew I'd lost the 3.30 mark I wanted to still make it in sub 3.40 so I was very pleased with a 3.36 finish. Paul had come in a minute or so ahead in 3.35. Ben had done well given his recent inability to train with 3.33. Further forwards Peter, Mark Grierson and Johnny Lawson had all set off together and it was hard to know how they would all do. Mark pulled ahead of Peter at 18 miles and did an astonishing 2.50, only a few weeks after running 2.57 at the Moray Marathon. Johnny ran a great 1st marathon in 2.56. Peter was not too chagrined to be third Porty "given they're half my age" as he told me, and also because he was less than 30s off a pb himself, coming in in 2.57.

It was nice to see Stuart and Ann Hay of Dunbar picking up numbers and later on, on the bus. Stuart once again went just over the 3hour mark and I think Ann was suffering with a bad back. Hope they had a better evening.

The course is great although tougher than I expected it to be. People had said it was hilly but I've heard that about courses I thought were absolutely fine. This one is hilly! The running part of the race; the marshalling and the route and the timing and the great goody bags were all fabulous. It just seems they've expanded too much and that's why the start was a shambles. The DJ guy was bragging "Its great, this is the biggest entry ever" but hearing that while you're standing in a massive crowd waiting for a portaloo, really late because there weren't enough buses, really didn't sit well. Anyway, I'm sounding like Peter. The 2nd part of the marathon was driving home with my legs cramping up and only a bar of chocolate to eat on the way. But we made it.