Friday, 30 April 2010

First Run

At last nearly all the pain of the DOMs after the Fling have subsided and left me with a pain in my right ankle that snakes up the outward side of my shin from time to time. Done a bit of googling and I think the problem is my anterior tibialis tendon which helps pull my foot up. Its more affected by uphills and downhills and uneven surfaces which makes sense as it got really sore in the last few miles of the fling on the steep uphills and downhills.

All week at work I've been sore and though I'd planned to jog to club on Wednesday night just to force people to congratulate me and soak up a bit of glory, when it came to it I had a fierce pain up my leg and I thought better of it. The reaction amongst the smokers and eaters at work is that I'm crazy for running that far anyway and if I'm injured, well OBVIOUSLY I'm going to get injured. I'm used to it but it isn't exactly morale boosting. The fat fuckers. There I said it. (Not that I'm not a little chubby - but that's different.)

This morning - 1st day not at work - I'd planned to get out and try a bit of a run in a controlled environment. If it was going to go badly I didn't want it to happen under the unsympathetic gaze of the smokers outside the pub downstairs, and the toothless roaming gangs of track-suited neds so I'd planned to take the car to Cramond and run along the front there. In the end I couldn't be arsed with this level of faffing though so I just stepped out my front door after all and Leith wasn't all that bad yet, it being the morning.

My ankle and shin are still sore - but much better on the flat than on inclines up or down. I ran up to the meadows and lifted my speed just for one turn around them. It was sore but didn't seem to be getting any sorer and the relief of running after nearly a week off was phenomenal. I felt as strong as a horse and I felt like running for hours. There was nothing that I would have rather done. Then, remembering that the plan was just to do 5 or 6 miles if possible and then see how I was afterwards and how badly it affected my injury I talked myself down and ran home. Downhills are still a significant problem and I had to walk down the steep bits. Fingers crossed though -its not too bad.

My hope is that if I go easy on running and ice afterwards and intersperse it with cycling to supplement my fitness I'll get clear of this soon. Next target is the Stornoway Half at the end of this month. Its pretty hilly.
I'm grateful that this morning went as well as it did. 6.49 miles. Lowest mileage week in quite some while!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Highland Fling

Yesterday I discovered I had trained for a 46 mile race. There's no real way to find something like that out without trying though.

At the start of the race I had donned a protective cap of denial to ease my fears. Am I here setting out on a 53 mile race? Silly old me. It was dark to add to the unreality of it all, and a bit misty. Julia and Andrew Henderson were there in the dark in the car park to take the drop bags for Rowardennan. Peter came along earlier than he needed to to see me off and to my surprise Robert Kinnaird and John Pickard had also come along an hour early just to wave me off. I was disappointed in myself that I had nothing to say.

It was good to get going and right away the going was pleasant, through misty woods on soft piney tracks. My mantra for all of the early part of the race was "Don't race, don't race, don't race." Having to be so conservative takes some of the fun out of the racing, although it also takes the pressure off. The trouble is once you take the pressure off you discover you're really quite sleepy and still not quite recovered from a hectic and irritating week at work. Still, we'd eaten so much the day before that we really had to run 53 miles or sign up for weight watchers immediately.

The runners seemed to spread out after Drymen (Ironicallyh it was raining at Drymen) and I ran on my own most of the way to Balmaha. I enjoyed going up Conic Hill. It wasn't bad going at all and it was nice to emerge from the mists just about the time the sun was finally coming out. On the slippery and steepish descent I caught up to a tall guy in yellow who was making rather a meal of it. I said something or other to him and after a long pause he said "What?" as in "Do you mean me?" I realised from his accent he was foreign so I asked him where he was from. "The Netherlands" he told me, which explained his downhilling.
"What is this hill called?" He asked. "Conic Hill" I told him. "I think its the only hill."...Well people only ever mention Conic Hill. Oh the poor man. I hope he dropped out. In my mind's eye I can see him struggling up the many ups and downs to come muttering "only one hill, only one fucking hill, she said there was only one hill." As it turned out there was quite a lot of hills. Especially in the latter stages. Which I really don't mind. Its just I didn't know.

Anyway. Balmaha marked off the 1st nearly 20 miles and it was a relief to have taken this chunk off the total. I was still making a point of not thinking anything like "Only 33 miles to go". I felt okay. Not great. Not terrible either.
Richie Cunningham flew in just behind me at Balmaha which meant he'd taken about 2 and a half hours for the 1st section. He looked strong and cheerful and only spent a few moments getting stuff out his drop-bag and from that moment to the end of the race I was convinced he had it won.
The next section I perked up a bit and chatted for a while to another runner called Bobby. Bobby had done the race before and he believed firmly that you should walk the uphills and run the downhills. I'm stronger on the uphills and I did try but it felt like a waste of time. I could feel such a sense of disapproval off him when I did run the uphills that I got a bit ahead just so's he couldn't see me.

At Rowardennan (about 27 miles) I saw Andrew and then Julia again, and it was good to have made it half way - though still, I was trying not to contemplate the real meaning of that, because "only 26 miles to go" could go wrong in your head. As in "you've just run a marathon - why don't you run another one?" There are so many reasons why not. I had a bag of Doritos as an experiment at this stage. They were enjoyably salty but may have added to the wind problem I had for the next section of the course.

The running was kind of complicated root dodging along the edge of Loch Lomond. I like running in the woods and I like a bit of undulation so I was enjoying myself - just pottering along and trying not to trip over the edge into the cool water below. Just before Inversnaid (35ish miles) there was a kind of crashing through the undergrowth and a lot of shouting and this turned out to be Peter and Graham Henry just behind. They were going at an unbelievable rate, having whipped each other into a frenzy. I let them past assuming I'd not see them again til the end, so was surprised shortly afterwards, at Inversnaid aid station,  to see Graham having a lie down on the grass and Peter's drop bag nearby so clearly he hadn't gone through yet either. Graham told me he'd just been pacing Peter and was going to slow right down after this. He's had a hard week and wasn't ready for a fast fling. I begged a bit of a caffeine drink from Peter and this gave me a powerful kick. I had a Lucozade Shot in my drop bag at Beinglas Farm which was meant to give me a boost for the last unimaginable 12 or 13 miles to the end - but I wanted something sooner.

I was in a much better mood after this, my previous longest run being 35 miles I was now in new territory and I felt like  I was now living the race rather than storing up my energy for the future. I was pretty happy from Inversnaid to Beinglas. In this time, Graham dropped back, Peter went on, Ben Kemp came past at a canter. I was feeling good and passed a fair few bods. All was good til about 45 miles where I thought I was nearer the end than I was. (The Garmin died at 36 miles, I knew it wouldn't make it to the end.) I asked someone in the passing how far they thought it was to Tyndrum and they said "8 miles". I tried not to let it bother me but the thought of how long it would take me to get there - of Peter hanging about waiting...At about 36 miles I did an unspectacular leap from one rock to the next and I felt something minor go just above the ankle of my take-off foot. If I'd run maybe another 3 miles on it then I'm pretty sure I wouuld have felt it as a weakness for a couple of days and then it would have disappeared - but by now it was beginning to really hamper me. The route was getting increasingly steep uphill and downhill. The uphill was okay on my foot so I welcomed it although I was tired and moving at a shuffle by this point. On the downhills I often had to walk because it really hurt this ankle thing if I dug my toes in. On and on it went. On and on and on and on with nothing to do but keep moving. I caught up to a couple of sweary blokes who were obviously having an equally bad time. "I've got plenty of grub in my bag if you want some mate.", one said to the other. "I've got Chicken Dhansak and a cheeky fucking little beaujolais.", he said, and they both laughed. I passed them and the road finally, mercifully, flattened out. I stepped aside to let a guy in black and white who was moving faster than me through at a stile. "How are you?" I asked. "Wrong time to ask!" he barked. "Everytime I make a false move I get cramps everywhere."

There was something in those last few miles making people mighty angry. Maybe bad nature spirits. I wasn't exactly ebullient either. It was the thought of being injured. Anyway, I wasn't over-joyed about it but sub 12 hours now looked doable so I get plodding on as best I could. Did I mention it went on and on and on and on? I hope it builds character. If it does I have a character like a brick fucking shithouse my friend. Although I kind of think you gain character if you do it but you lose character if you moan about it like I'm doing now, so good-bye character, it was nice knowing you.

Eventually I turned a corner and it was the By the Way cottages, and a little further on Peter at the corner of a field, and then, "You're kidding me on, all the way over there!" Another field and stream to cross and then the piper and the Run and Become finishing gate thing.

When you've been running that uncomfortable for that long the pain doesn't stop when you do. My front of ankle hurt like the dickens and I could hardly walk. Cramps shot up my legs. I was cold and hot. I downed my much thought about beer as quickly as I could hoping for its relaxant and anaesthetic properties to kick in.

Peter was in a great mood and Ben also. They'd both done really well. Lucy gave me a hug. It was nice to get in. I'd had a party planned in my mind, drinking beer and telling lies about my race with the best of them but once I got into our hotel room that was pretty much it. I had a shower and then got into bed to warm up and lay there feeling feverish and ill and moving every 4 minutes to accommodate new bouts of cramp and my aching leg. Happily Peter was in better form than me and very kindly went and got me 2 kinds of painkillers and strapped up my leg and poured me Highland Fling white fizzy.

When I got out of bed this morning I couldn't walk right away - it took working on. I was relieved to find I could drive however, and we enjoyed a post-race analysis on the way back in the car. We stopped at a road-side cafe for a big second breakfast and it was handily equipt with ramps and handles on the wall at the steps up to the toilet, presumably for the aging coach holiday customers.

Now I have a compression bandage on my damaged leg and it feels more stable and I'm just subject to more normal horror-doms.

I need to say that The Highland Fling is brilliantly organised and I was met with huge encouragement and warmth at every stage of the race and I had a lot of fun. The goody bag is massively generous. We all got a bottle of fizzy white and a Montane t-shirt that is properly technical and properly fitted, free stovies and free beer and £4 off a meal in The Real Food Cafe. It is a fantastic race. And when the pain wears off that is all I will remember.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Fear

So tonight is the last and only opportunity to get organised for The Highland Fling on Saturday. I'm feeling the fear and avoiding the facts and figures so I thought a spot of blogging might help. We've got to figure out;
  • When the trains are from Tyndrum to Milngavie
  • When to leave for Tyndrum
  • Where to park the car
  • What kit to take to Milngavie
  • 4 drop bags for along the way
  • What to put in them?
  • What to carry
  • What the weather's going to do
  • What to wear
  • What to eat for breakfast
  • Where the checkpoints are
  • Where the start is
  • Where the Premier Inn is
  • Where the Tyndrum Lodge Hotel is
  • What speed to go at
  • Which shoes? (No I still don't know)
  • Will I carry a camera?
  • Parasol or umbrella?
  • Smart or casual?
That's starting to feel a bit better! I guess what I have to do is picture what has to happen at every juncture and then figure out what I will need, what I will have to bring, what I can get en route.

Other important things to remember...tape the London Marathon!  I suppose I better get on with it. The running will be easy in comparison to all this stuff.

For that reason I'm not looking forwards to supporting RD in the WHW. Being organised is for WORK dude. Running is about being FREE!

Monday, 12 April 2010


I have the day off work today and I've just worn through the toes of the shoes I was going to run the Highland Fling in so I thought I could mix business (shoe buying) with pleasure by going to Run and Become. Pleasure because running is spoken fluently in that shop. Sadly they turned out to be having a week's holiday.

So no disrespect but 2nd choice was Run 4 It. It was hot and busy and I got queue barged by a couple of men in business suits and an American until I figured out I'd have to put myself forwards if I wanted anything. I asked a harrassed but helpful woman assistant about getting a gait analysis and some advice on what shoes I should be buying. I have remained sceptical about this for a long time because I think that people look for easy answers in a complex world. Everyone who gets a gait analysis seems to come back saying that they've suddenly discovered that they're an over-pronater and they need stability shoes. Everyone who goes to see a podiatrist comes back saying they've got one leg longer than the other and they need orthotics. Its too easy... What if its normal to over-pronate and to have one leg longer than the other, and the body can deal with this?  Like I once read 40% of oriental people are short-sighted. Who originally said how far and how clearly a person should be able to see? Its opinion dressed up as fact.
But I also like trying new things and I was in the mood for a little experimentation so I asked for the gait analysis treatment.

So I took off my socks and shoes and rolled up my jeans like I was going for a refreshing paddle in the sea and walked up and down the shop a couple of times. Then I went for a run on the treadmill. The shop lady asked me if I could run on my heels more because it was quite hard to see what I was doing - so I tried to, but I had to make an effort to lean backwards to do so. When I came off the treadmill she said that I shouldn't be wearing neutral shoes because they don't provide enough support, that I'm an over-pronater (yawn) and that I should be wearing shoes with a bit of stability. Now I was expecting to hear this because I undoubtedly do have a funny gait - it wouldn't strike you as smooth and economical. And I've been curious about how using a stability shoe might go for a while, so I was for going with the flow and letting her recommend something to me. We went for Asics 2150s and they felt fine on my feet and on the treadmill again - although once again the shop woman had to exhort me to heel-strike. When I came off the treadmill she told me that I should try to heel strike or the shoes don't work. Now I feel like a rat for criticising but FFS - alter my gait? To make the shoes work?

Start heel-striking? I'm trying to stop swearing so much but struth, crikey, no I can't help it - that's pretty fucking off the wall advice. Its lucky I don't listen to anyone, but what if someone who believes people were to listen to that? Let the buyer beware, I suppose. I'm going to give my 2150s a go anyway. I'm not going to try to heel-strike though - although I think I do anyway - maybe not on a treadmill.

There was a point to this originally, other than just shaking my head at how stupid people are. Some clever person said that every runner is an experiment of one, and I think that is true.
(Just googled it and it was Dr. George Sheehan, some blurb here )
We have to try things out to see what works. We are not machines. If we've adjusted to running a certain way then we need to alter that cautiously. There aren't absolute rights and wrongs. I've been running since I was 25 which is 18 years now, with 2 bouts of injury bad enough to stop me running, each of about 4 weeks duration, I'm not trying to sell myself anything and I trust myself most.

Shopping does put me in a bad mood though. Why do people even offer their opinions? Next stop was Waterstones where I thought I'd get a map of the West Highland Way (about time I figured out where it is) and get a coffee and something to eat while I was there. I ran into a woman I know and we had a bit of a chat about running just near the counter of the cafe in W's. The guy behind the counter had clearly been drinking too much of his own brew. "I'm sorry for  listening into your conversation", he said, "but are you into running/" "Yes" I said (tolerantly).
"I'm not really into cardio at the moment, I'm working on building up my muscles at the moment", he volunteered. "Good", I affirmed.
"What time of day do you go jogging anyway?" he asked. "When I can fit it in.", I said, not reacting to the "jogging" slight.
"You should go in the morning", he said, "before burns the most fat."
I really don't think he was trying to be rude so I paid for my coffee and went to a table.
But really...Think, before you drink (your own coffee) before you offer an opinion, especially in a bookshop where there's more chance that the people you'll be talking to are keen on thought and reflection.
I'm just going on for the sake of it now. If you live with someone you'll end up like them eventually.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Sunday beach and grass run with cheese tongues.

Its taper time and no long run today. Amanda and Scott were up for doing something in the beautiful spring weather. We couldn't help but suggest we meet them and run out from the nature reserve just beyond Aberlady. When you find something great I guess you want to share it.

It was nice not to feel that I had to be conservative with my pace and I had a particularly tense and cliff-hanging kind of day at work yesterday so instead of settling quickly to the back and trying to minimise my effort, I made pointless challenges for leadership, bounded up hills, got into foolish sprints for no good reason. It was great fun. (For me at least.) The sandy, grassy trails are great under foot. The weather was superb. The beach was breath-taking and mysterious as the haar rolled over and disappeared again.

We got to Gullane beach far quicker than I'd thought we would ( we were in a bit of a dream last week), so we just kept going. Where last week we had to head inland as we got to the house (which Amanda tells me was where R L Stevenson stayed when he wrote Treasure Island), this time the tide was further out so we managed (just) to scrape round the top of the beach and along to Yellowcraigs.

After the remoteness of where we'd just been, Yellowcraigs was a bit busy for us - and the barbecues smelt so good it reminded us how hungry we were getting. Amanda took off like a horse bolting home - and we all followed. The next couple of miles to Gullane were at a good tempo pace that had us all sweating in the heat and ended abruptly outside Falco's in Gullane from which Amanda emerged with Cheese Tongues (new one on me) and some other pastry looking things. Peter and I went along to the deli and got millionaire's shortbread and lemony limonata and we found a seat on the steps up to the graveyard and stuffed our faces. Perfect, perfect happiness.

The last couple of miles I could feel all my earlier fooling in my legs and I settled into a  more "ultra" pace. The running equivalent of shifting onto my granny ring. (That sounds a bit weird doesn't it?)
Back in Gullane we bumped into Lynsey Lawrie just finishing up her 15 miler and looking for her hubby on the road who was meant to be picking her up.

14 miles in all. Some quite tough off-roady, some quite fast on-roady. All good.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

E2NB 31m

Okay. Last long run before the Highland Fling. And I kind of hoped it would be the longest one but didn't want to push it - in case my body pushed back! So I rolled out of bed at 10.48am, a bit foggy from my attempts to drink the Nowicki's wine last night. Being a light weight at drinking these days I only really managed a couple of glasses and some Belhaven Beer. Drinking sprees aren't what they used to be.
Peter had given me instructions to get him a cup of tea when I woke up so he'd wake up too and we'd be about ready to set off at the same time.
We both enjoyed our adventure round the coast to North Berwick  so much last weekend that we were tempted to do the same again, but this time take further detours along the way and try to go coastal from Gullane to NB. As we've singularly failed to recce the route for the Highland Fling or any of the WHW and are now unlikely to before the HF we'll just have to hope the route's a bit like E to NB. Well you never know. If there's sand dunes we're laughing. We'll have got it exactly right.
Anyway. The team had some aches left over from yesterday's 10K but we were largely okay. The weather was looking much more promising than the drizzly day forecast. We were on the road by the crack of 10 to 1....
It turned out to be a really lovely day and were pretty soon in high good spirits running along the beach at Portobello. The sun was warm and the skies were fantastic and there was almost nothing to complain of at all. It was interesting taking a look at the fall-out from the mid-week storms. There were much larger seashells and starfish than you'd normally expect to see - and these sea-worm things that were like aliens and Peter said were all over the Portobello prom last Wednesday night. Amanda sarcastically commented later that there were probably whales and men in scuba suits and red smokers and black smokers, as if we would exaggerate...
There were mounds of rubble along the sea front in parts - a mixture of shells and sea-things and human detritus, particularly plastic bottles.
Going around the lagoons at Musselburgh the skies were looking mighty threatening and I thought we might be in for a drenching - but the wind changed direction and blew it all back over to Fife. A bit further on then who should run up but our friend Amanda out on her last long run before London. She did well to modify her pace to accommodate our leisurely one and we ran for about 6 miles together, catching up on the news.
At Longniddry she took a road inland to run back and finish up her run. We ran on.
Back through the weird forest at Aberlady - which this time was sunny. Then beyond Aberlady, back through the nature reserve where this time we came across toads ...ahem...playing piggy back - and in a most undignified way. We were lucky not to tread on them. Saw another few toads and a kestrel hovering - and some twitchers looked disapprovingly at us - we thought because we looked capable of hooliganism.
This time we took the path that branched left down to the shore - we bypassed this way last time - and we were rewarded by coming across the most beautiful, pristine, deserted beach. The twitchers clearly keep this a secret and we probably should too. It was a delight. We ran for ages through the dunes sometimes helped and sometimes scratched to pieces by that very sharp grass you get in dunes. Eventuallly we rounded the headland to Gullane beach. This time we'd decided to try to get further round the shore rather than going back into Gullane town and getting the road to NB. We met with mixed fortunes. Some of it was very runnable and very nice. Other bits were a bit more tricky and we got scratched up.
Eventually the paths along the headland ran out and we found ourselves at the edge of a golf-course. We didn't want to come into any conflict with anyone, and skirted round the golf course as best we could. Then found ourselves on an immaculate road leading up past a very posh looking golf club at Archerfield. All day we'd felt relaxed and free but being here set us on edge a bit. There were no signs up saying we shouldn't be there but we still felt we shouldn't. We followed a road round to a bizarre town of flawless new-build houses, with expensive cars parked outside - no noise except the tweeting of birds. It looked like Stepford wife territory and I couldn't get out of it fast enough - but by now we'd run over 26 miles and my legs weren't taking me anywhere fast.
We found a bridle path out of there and headed down to Yellowcraigs and then hooked up with the John Muir trust paths that took us along sandy trails at the edge of the beach and golf courses all the way into North Berwick. 30 miles were now showing on the clock and our legs were definitely wobbly.A jog up the road to the station and then..we stopped. I had a strange feeling that I was falling upwards for a while until I got used to not running.
We were a bit cold and tired on the train on the way home and thought that maybe this once we could push the boat out and get a take-away. So pretty soon after we got in we order Lamb Madras and peshwari nans and basmati rice. And then not long after we were eating as much as we could - in fact I have a little more space now and may go and have some more... And we polished off the last of the wine des Nowicki's, and then we looked at all the day's photos on the computer - and now it is now! And we have not done anything else today but pre-run, run and apres-run. What fun.