Sunday, 29 November 2009

Borders XC series #2; Lauder

The above photo was taken by Stuart Hay of Dunbar Running Club.
No photos of today from us as Buchanan was having a bad day and thought the weather was too miserably grim to even bother taking photos -which was a pity. When I'm having a grim time and running in deep mud under glowering skies I want documentary evidence. Plus there was a really good turn out of Porties. Our hearts were gladdened when we arrived to find Johnny, James Harrison and Rachel already there. Also there and fast becoming an honorary Porty, definitely a fellow race-addict, was Alex, man of Rachel.

The weather forecast was pretty terrible; 30 mph winds and metcheck cheerily predicted it would be 3 'C but windchill would take it down to the equivalent of - 3 or 4'C. Reluctantly decided a long-sleeved top was a necessity despite being against the spirit of the Cross-Country.

(Rachel, however, still ran in a vest!)

I was weirdly up for this. I don't know where it came from. I was so exhausted from the half marathon yesterday that I was in bed by about 9.30 and I tried to read for a while but passed out without ceremony, head in book. (It is a good book, Mark Beaumont's cycle round the world, and he's nearly made it back to Paris so I wanted to read it but couldn't.)

Peter was over-tired and was carping about the weather in a miserable way as we drove out, windscreen wipers on double-time, the wind bashing our wagon Lauder!

All we could discern from the Borders XC website was that Lauder was liable to be hilly - and hilly it was. As yesterday's shennigans was largely downhill my uphill legs were still firing and after a flattish first mile we set off up the Southern Uplands. This played to my strengths and I passed a few ladies I'd been sitting behind on the flat. Running over the tops was lovely (once the oxygen deficit eased) and the wind was pretty much behind us. It was reminiscent of the tops at Yetholm Hill Race, which I also don't have a photo of, but its good running on short grass, on gently undulating ground up the top of round green hills. Out taking photos was a man in a Russian hat and great coat who shouted me on using the voice of Stuart Hay. Peter tells me that he has remained injured since becoming ensnared in the wire at Norham, leaving us feeling saddened and guilty; Peter because he used Stuart's misfortune to get ahead of him at Norham and me because I used the hanged man in the Tarot to depict him on my blog. Did I jinx him in some way? Anyway, returning to the present day...

Amongst the ladies I had fixated on early in the race were a woman in a Carnethy vest and also a slim runner with long dark hair wearing what looked to be a plain red vest. I'd passed both of them and wanted to retain my lead. I lost focus a bit crossing a hill-side on a path with a steep camber. This reawakened my ever present left knee trouble. Ever after a marathon in 2004 when I jiggered it that knee is apt to start tracking wrong. I picked my way rather carefully down a steep ferny, muddy drop. By this time a number of runners had caught up with me giving me impetus to try and get going again. A man from Penicuik Harriers hailed me and said he liked the downhill but did I plan to get ahead of him on the flat again? I told him that was my plan and set off as hard as I could. He sat in comfortably behind me and as there was a head-wind I realised he was running a cleverer race than me. I had a good head of steam up again though and wasn't thinking all that well so went the wrong way after not one but two stream crossings, losing me time and ground. I determinedly shot to the front of the group that had passed me again; which included the Carnethy lady. I then led us through some weird diversion...there was a yellow sign pointing left and next to it a hole in the wall so I took us through the hole in the wall. The minute we were through it felt wrong. There was no obvious path or markings and we had to dodge through young trees til we arrived at another hole in the wall which we jumped back out of. I was heartened as we got back on the main path to see a trail of people following the same route we took. I don't think it was really the route. Peter certainly said he never saw anything like that! Then there was just a short, very muddy, very rocky path to run down, then a sprint round the grass to the finish. I was very worried that the Carnethy lady would get me right at the end so I kept up as much pressure as I could. The man from Penicuik passed me easily but it wasn't him I was worried about so I kept focused and going. And then we were finished. Now that I'm writing about this I think people were shouting "Come on Pamela" which means it could have been Pamela Whitlie. The results will tell all. Shortly after Rachel came in. She looked a bit down. I never got a proper race analysis from her but I'm guessing she didn't like the downhills. Don't know though. She said she nearly got me in the middle but then I got away again. Alex was extremely muddy. James H. looked very chipper. (Turns out he was 4th overall!)

Once all the Porties were in we made off quickly to try and get the best shot at getting one of the two showers. These, disconcertingly, periodically ran icy cold - I think when the men's showers were on the women's went cold. You had to be ready and jump backwards out the water to avoid the cold.

The cafe was shut and we were all clearly cold and tired so we went our separate ways pretty much right away. Peter and I stopped at the garage just down the road and had sandwiches and Pecan pastries of a calorific value higher than anything we burned off in today's hills. They were good though. Particularly the pastries. I felt my sandwiches were just a rather dull preamble to the main business.

So, back to work again tomorrow. The dishes are not done. My laundry is not done. I am a little more tired than I was on Friday. No races next weekend after doing 6 in 3 weeks. I think it will be relaxing but rather empty.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Porty small win the WOL (half marathon)

Today's race was the Water of Leith Half marathon and this year, for the first time, I had what I considered to be a generous handicap and knew I had to throw everything at it! This great, small, low-key handicap race runs every winter - up until now organised by Jim Bruce and Stornoway runners but soon to be taken over by Porties own RD (Richard Dennis) and PB.

At the bus which takes you up to the start we were pleased to find Jim Scott, as well as Ben, Richard and Lucy C. As there were 6 of us we could make 2 teams and as we couldn't be bothered to figure out all the ramifications of how our handicap times were likely to help or disadvantage us we decided to divi up the teams on the basis of height. Thus the teams Porty Tall and Porty Small were created!

I had a handicap of 1.46 and was pretty sure I could run 1.41 so wanted to make the most of this. The rules are that if you beat your handicap by more than 5 minutes you get penalised by 5 minutes but in practice I think if you won by taking more than 5 mins off your HC they would let you off with it. I set off determinedly and was making good headway although it was hard work. The pleasing thing about a handicap is you get to pick off runners who you can be fairly sure must be running less strongly than you or you wouldn't have caught them. I probably put too much into the 1st part of the race, but its downhill, so its hard to decide what would be a reasonable pace. I went through 10K in what would be a pb time and had no idea if I could sustain what I was doing but was willing to give it a bash. There were footsteps quite close behind me but not trying to pass for quite a while and I was trying to not let this bother me.

As I crossed the road at Arnold Clark at a bit more than 7.5 miles 1 of the 2 girls in pink I had been chasing for sometime was lying on her side in the central reserve of the pedestrian crossing. Her friend hurriedly told me I needed to stop to help, which I did as did the man who had been behind me. She was already in the recovery position and I checked her pulse which was fine and steady and she was breathing fine and her face was pink. "Have you got a phone?" the guy asked the vertical runner in pink. He phoned an ambulance for her. I in the meantime had put my Garmin off as a matter of habit. I was pretty much thinking my race was over. There had been some slight chance that I could get my first win in a race but that was receding quickly. I was pretty sure the girl was okay. The only things I would recognise would be a heart-attack or heat stroke or hypoglycaemia or anaphylactic shock. Or a faint...but she didn't even look pale. Some paramedics arrived in a car and jumped out so I switched my Garmin back on and took off - realising I now had no idea what my "race time" was.

My splits got much worse after this. Whether I was due for a crash due to overextending in the 1st half or whether the whole thing had just put me off my stride I didn't know, but instead of running steadily I was now struggling and in a bad frame of mind.

I passed a few more runners. One set of runners, suspiciously, I passed twice! I didn't start to get passed myself until after Powderhall B&Q, near a wooden bridge, I heard a runner closing down on me and then the stern tones of Richard Dennis telling me to dig in as he rushed past. Another guy passed me I think and then, as I turned for the last sprint to the finish line back down in Leith, Lucy C. went by. "Well done Lucy" was my 1st (audible)response, and then "Maybe I can catch her!" echoed in my head so I did my best in a sprint for the line but Lucy held me off!

The good thing was that Porty small had all finished in quick succession quite high up the field and I thought a team prize was likely. Quite soon after I saw the unusual sight of Peter finishing a race and then shortly afterwards Ben Kemp came thrashing in. I'd run a personal GARMIN time of 1.41.44, but that did not take into account stoppage time. As the WOL half is a bit longer than your average half it was an average of 7.34pace which I was pleased with. There was a massive spread of cakes and coffee and I got tucked into sticky ginger cake with very sweet white icing - sugar RUSH. At the presentation afterwards, sure enough Porty Small were the victors, so we each got a Stornoway black pudding for our efforts. I gave mine to Jim Scott because he was telling me he loves black pudding and I've read too much about hard fats and heart disease now to really be able to enjoy.

I've been looking at my data on Garmin Connect for the race today and it looks like I was stopped at the traffic island for 1 min 18 seconds, so as long as the winner beat me by more than that its alright...

Monday, 23 November 2009

Monday Long run

Pentlands again. We had visitors in the morning so were late to set off and take advantage of what little light there was. Plan for my re-introduction to the hills and general long run was Turnhouse, Carnethy, Scald Law, S. Black Hill, E. and W. Kips, down the Drove road, hop across to the path between Black Hill and Hare Hill, go down the side of Black Hill and cut across the reservoir and right down to the where the path turns back up to take you between Bell's Hill and Harbour Hill, then back down onto the road and back to Flotterstone. This was an untried route but got all the big hills over with in the 1st half.

It was cold and there was a stiff breeze blowing. We took it genuinely easy. Peter normally pushes the pace without intending to, but not today. Like last week, 2 races at the weekend seems to put paid to that feeling that you should be going faster. We were both fairly jolly but tired from the weekend and plodded along gently. At the tops I had pause to remember how in the wind you (or at least I) seem to drool and snotter simultaneously making nasty wet arcs which billow out sideways in the wind. "Why am I drooling?" I wondered, "Is this so delicious?"

The best I could come up with was that its something to do with your nose and mouth being condensing chambers. I noticed in America that my nose didn't run at all when I ran, when presumably the outside temperature was nearer the temperature of my blood. Answers on a post-card. Or a comment, help yourself.

So we were no great shakes speed-wise but enjoyed the rather savage scenery as the clouds scudded across the sky, the sun sometimes too bright, sometimes totally covered.

Because of our late start we had cut it rather fine by the time we were heading home between Harbour Hill and Bell's Hill and it was difficult to make out the rocky, slithery, muddy path. Back down on the road we could look around enough to enjoy the half moon and presumably Venus throwing their light on the water between the Pine silhouettes. Our stomachs were very empty though and we began to fantasise about food. That got us down the last bit of road to the car where there were bananas and chocolate and hot peach juice in a flask. I've promised Peter when we're well into our training for the Highland Fling we can start eating custard and jam doughnuts. I think he's going to hold me to it.

13.45 miles in 3hrs 09 minutes. I'm going to be tired for work tomorrow.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

East District CC league #2 Dunfermline

Race no.31 of the year. They're stacking up! We did question why we were going to do this race but remembered how sublime it was in January when we last did this. The world was made of mud, low sun and ice. Fantastic winter skies. Thick slicks of mud.

So after making the same navigation errors we made in January we arrived just about in time at Queen Ann High School and made our way over tothe cross country field.

We were expecting mud and were not let down. Even the grass in the school grounds was muddy and squelchy. Our feet took their first proper plunge in icy water on the path to the course.

There were no other Porties anywhere to be seen other than Gert who was already making his way home with a host of small children, so it was clear we wouldn't have a male or female team.

Still we've been going to the country long enough now so we know or at least know the faces of a fair few people and it was not a lonely experience. I had the usual difficulty taking off my coat, hat and gloves in readiness for the race to come. I started right at the back as not feeling in anyway like pointless fights. I don't think this did me any harm and it meant I went past quite a few people throughout the course which is always good for morale. I can honestly say I enjoyed the 1st part of the race round the smaller loop. It was tricky underfoot but not impossible so presented an interesting challenge in terms of trying to take the best line etc. There was plenty of room for passing when needed so never felt boxed in or harrassed. In the 2nd lap the fatigue of having to high step through all that mud set in and I felt I wasn't making much headway. Still it was okay. I had to concede a few places in the ploughed field, but also gained a few going back up the hill. Pretty soon I was finished and I was on camera duty.

The men went off astonishingly fast and I had to keep moving on from one vantage point to the next to make sure and get as many different shots as I could. The ambient light was great and there were lovely vistas of greens and browns and blue trees in the distance. My face and hands froze up however despite having put on many thermal layers after my race so I was glad when the men went round a third time and finished. I still have the mud on my legs trapped under my thermal stretch tights so I guess I better go and deal with that.

Tomorrow; we're both off, so a long slow run in the Pentlands is on the cards. Hope it's dry.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Another Park Run, Another PB.

Another Saturday dawned with filthy weather forecast but a little pocket of calm and sunshine from 9 - 10 am was enough to allow the Park runners to have their race unscathed. Difficult not to think its some kind of divine reward for getting up when we don't have to.

The weather was about perfect. It was cold and sunny. Slight headwind on the way out but nothing to speak of. I'd nabbed a massive PB last week so really had no expectations - or was trying not to have any.

Its becoming an increasingly social event as well. I've seen Clare Gilchrist of Ferranti at races for years but only really got speaking to her at the park run. Also there today were John Blair, making a comeback after a few years out, quite a few Porties including Shery (who is Johnny's sister but I had not realised), Bert almighty and Kerry getting in a wee sneaky low-pressure race post 2nd baby.

Ran off far too hard because Jenni and Shery were ahead of me, clocking up a foolish 1st mile of 6.39, which I paid for with the next 2 being 7.05 and 7.04 according to the Garmin.
It being my 4th Park run all the different parts of it are becoming familiar. The familiar feeling when the Garmin beeps for the 1st mile when what I usually think is "Christ is that only one mile?", and that desperate feeling at 4K when the finish still seems a long way off and its all to play for.
Long story short I finished in 21.16 according to my watch or 21.18 according to the organisers. I must figure out just exactly where the finish is! Another chunk off my time and going sub 21 now seems truly possible. Shery streaked past me at the end and I had nothing to respond with but I'll know to keep an eye on her in the future! Jenni also set another new pb.

Post-race we went off and met Amanda and Scott to climb at Alien Rock and by the time we came back out it was cold and wet as forecast.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Rainy Long Run

We'd thought we might go to the Pentlands or maybe the Lomonds of Fife for a long easy run following the weekend's raciness but the opportunity to get up early came and went and recovery seemed more important than another day's discipline. The weather forecast said quite high winds and rain. Never encountered any high winds but it was raining most of the time we were out. What better place to go and celebrate the abundant wateriness but up the Water of Leith and down the canal with the ducks and the coots?

Racing 2 days at the weekend made it more acceptable to plod along at a nice easy pace and take in the pleasant things that were around. There were leaves blown everywhere in lots of different colours; green, gold and ghostly white! There was no lack of mud.
The few people who were out were as nutty as us and generally grinned ruefully.

16.3 miles in a leisurely 2hrs 40 mins with stops to try and take pictures of the beautiful golden trees but were using our "B" cameras and the lighting was very low and the damp was making them fog up, so it was difficult. Results above.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

2 out of 3

There were 3 quite appealing races up for grabs this weekend. 1stly the ParkRun, fast becoming a favourite way to start a Saturday. Getting up early on a Saturday seems, umm, counter-intuitive, to me and Peter anyway, but after a zingy 5K along Silverknowes you feel set up for the day. At least until later on. The 2nd race on offer, which is a favourite in this household, was the Braids Cross Country; run by students for students, but old people are tolerated. The course is good and exciting and the atmosphere is always a buzz with ridiculously fast young people who probably have hangovers showing up their elders and betters. Peter cycled to this because I refused to budge from a comfy spot in the house, having run a pb. at the Park run and having decided to rest on my laurels and catch up with other business.

Sundays dish de jour (I know, why pretend to be able to speak french?) (I can't help it.) was the first of the Borders Cross country series which was at Norham; a nice little quiet town just over the border into England. Questioned my motives again as the alarm went off yet again on a day off, but there was no going back as we'd arranged to give Johnny L and Alastair Robertson of Lothian Running Club a lift there.

The weather for further south was forecast to be somewhat special but we got a lovely morning. There were a couple of light showers on the journey down but mostly was sunny and cold with minimal breeze.

The borders cross-country series had been described to us as real cross-country. We'd been promised muddy fields and stream-crossings. We were too idle to go and have a proper look beforehand so it was difficult to know in advance just how daunting these obstacles might be. Alastair came back to the car saying that someone had died in the river we were crossing. I pictured pushing my way through bobbing corpses left over from last year's race then took a reality check. It would be difficult for the organisers to insure a race like that.

The reality was a course that was great fun. It was fairly uppy downy with stubbly fields, slippy muddy single-track, four refreshing leg washes in the burn, some hairy fence crossings where a few people came to grief. (Peter said Stuart Hay was right ahead of him and then was somehow turned upside down by the wire fence. In my head I have the picture of the Hanged Man from the tarot...).

I managed to gain ground on the ups, which was pleasing, my hill legs coming back into season...but I didn't have any kind of a killer instinct, presumably having left that behind yesterday. As a result I enjoyed the race and felt pretty relaxed throughout.

I'm sure we'll have some good photos from today but these haven't been downloaded yet as Peter's 3 races in 2 days have caught up with him and he's conked out on the couch.

We've both got the day off tomorrow so plan to get in a long, very low-key, non-racey, slow, off road run tomorrow...

Monday, 9 November 2009

"Dipping my toe" back in the hills.

Having nearly ground to a halt with sore achilles somewhere back in August (in America) I've been avoiding the really steep off road stuff because that was definitely exacerbating it and I've not had any trouble for quite some while. Its a no brainer really - all the books say not to suddenly change what you do - like suddenly increase your mileage or suddenly do tons of hilly off-road stuff - and every year I do the latter. So now I am left a bit ambivalent about it. Roads are easier and they've cured my tendonitis and helped my speed improve...but there's not much atmosphere on a road, except car fumes, Neds etc.

Today, 1st of all I'd thought I'd go for a 16 miler on the roads as I've been sticking 2 miles on my long run each week since Loch Ness and did 14 last Monday. It was a beautiful day, however, and I missed yesterday (see last post) and I had a hankering to get up to the Pentlands as it was still and sunny and bound to be nice. In the end I thought I'd go and do a measure of the high tops and then come back down and do the rest on trails and hopefully strengthen my hilly legs without overworking my tendons. All this swithering had taken a while so I didn't make it up to Flotterstone til 2pm - quite aware that sunset would be about 4.30pm although there'd be ambient light for a while as the sky was clear.

The minute I got out the van I knew I'd done the right thing. That lovely smell of pine in the carpark and the cold fresh air running off the hills.

I'd decided not to brutalise myself so went up Turnhouse running 50 steps and then walking 50 steps on the really steep stuff rather than wrecking my legs right away. As these things are apt to turn out I was at the top of Turnhouse a bit sooner than usual, although it is unusual to have so little wind.

I was very stilted on the downhills and tried to get a bit of a relaxed flow going. I get a bit comfortable on the downhills and then revert very quickly if I don't practice. I went over Carnethy too and then wary of the lowering light dropped down to the white house at the top of the glen. I took the track along to the back of Black Hill where there's a really nice runable path - just downhill enough to make you feel fast. I was really pleased to find a new route from the reservoir about half way along Black Hill, that took me down a little path and through some trees to join up with the path that goes back up to the valley between Harbour Hill and Bell's Hill. From there its down the track onto the road and about another mile to the carpark. Just over 10 miles in all in about 2hrs - the 2nd half being much quicker than the first half.

It was lovely to get out of town and into the hills. Didn't take me long to start talking to sheep!

I put in an entry to be one of the "Lucozade 6" (sugar bombers) to get free entry for the London Marathon plus travelling, plus a swanky hotel, plus a chat with Liz Yelling and some Adidas Kit - oh yeah and plenty Lucozade to drink. Not that I'm going to get to be a member of the L6 (and I have many reservations about it all anyway. Its just my pals Richard and Amanda will be there so I thought it would be fun.) but it clashes directly with the Highland Fling which I've just about got Peter willing to do. What would be better? I really think - if I could do all the training without getting injured, that the Highland Fling would be better.