Sunday, 31 October 2010

Coffee and Chocolate in Ikea Carpark

The beautiful weather dictated that we must run today, but we were pretty tired and had to pick up some oil for work surfaces at IKEA en route. I had the genius idea that if I got myself some kind of caffeine and sugar fix from the food market that I'd feel a lot better about the run to come. While Peter hurdled the Ikea furniture and storage units, somersaulted the Sunday shoppers and darted in and out between the shopping trolleys, I went to the Bistro at the exit and found a big bar of hazelnut chocolate amongst the smelly fish paste and meatballs, and got us two coffees and retreated to the car.

It worked well. I was still slow as hell on the run but I was in a much better mood. We ran a variation of the Red Moss race again but this time taking in West and East Kip and Scald Law as well. As you do, at the foot of West Kip we decided that we had to run every step - which was tough, and made me work. After that, obviously, we also had to run East Kip because its much easier - and after that it seemed evident that we'd have to run all of Scald Law. This hurt like hell but opened the lungs up and woke up my hill running muscles and made us feel we'd worked.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and still and cool. Peter had left his camera battery at home charging and so cursed every time he saw something nice.

Another hilly 9+ miles. I am quite glad that I'm too busy to run tomorrow because I am knackered.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

To the Manor Born

Back to the Dalmeny estate today but this time armed with Amanda and a camera. We parked a bit further along than Thursday, at Cramond proper, so we could avoid the long endless windy front.

As it turned out Amanda hadn't even been up the side of the Almond for years so that made it better. Its always nice taking someone somewhere nice that they don't really know.

We showed Amanda "Eagle Crag" also apparently known as Hunter's Crag not realising that as a climber she would be straight up it without thinking twice. Peter then had to climb it too. I stuck to terra firma.

We had house envy all the way along the coast. What a lovely place that would be to live. I think Amanda and I both felt that we really should be living in Dalmeny House, but even one of the cottages down at the shore would have done us. Oh well. Last day before the clock's change so we made good use of it. Nice run out in the Autumness again. Just short of 13 miles. Another day races past...

Thursday, 28 October 2010


I had quite a tight plan for the week which never came off. I was going to run on Tuesday, Work on Wednesday morning, club on Wednesday night, day off and longer run on Thursday, work on Friday and there was the weekend....
But on Tuesday I was pretty  knackered and hadn't got out by darkness so I thought I'd give it a miss. I'd been meaning to catalogue a load of academic papers I had in 2 shoe boxes for ages so did that instead. The work I had set up for Wednesday and Friday I didn't really want to do. It was at the Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit and I find it both scarey and monotonous. Every time I've booked myself in there I've got ill - although I just suffered through it.

Wednesday morning I woke up at 5am and every time I moved my head I got dizzy. I got up anyway - (nearly falling through the clothes drying rack at the end of the bed in the dark) and had breakfast and a pot of coffee but I was still getting this horrible woozy head-rush every time I moved. So I called in sick and cancelled my Friday shift too thinking it must be flu and I went back to bed and after the coffee wore off I went back to sleep. When I got up later I was a bit better but still not good so it was another day of ghosting around in the house and trying to do studying and not going running.

This morning I woke up at 11.30 with a headache but with the wooziness almost resolved. I had been dreaming I was in Dracula's castle and concentrating on trying to keep safe and was irritated with the other people who were staying there who did not appreciate the danger and kept leaving doors open, which I had to close and lock. When I got up I popped some paracetamol and let Peter persuade me to go out a run. He's worried about his figure and I had 3 days of non-running building up in me like a bad debt...

First of all we were going to go to the Pentlands but it was pretty windy and we were there just recently so we settled on a new idea which was to go and park at the Granton end of Silverknowes and then run along Cramond and then out towards S. Queensferry on the paths that go through the Dalmeny estate and along the shore - turn around at about the 6 mile mark and come back. The wind was SWish so we thought we'd have a wind assisted return which is always nice.

I hadn't really been properly out that  way since before you were allowed to and last time had been on a bike. It was nice then but was tainted by the constant fear that some landowner was going to chase you down with a big shot-gun. So it was nice to be there and be allowed to be there...well nearly, there were some signs up saying not to pass because there was tree-clearing going on but we went anyway and there wasn't any tree clearing going on. The route was fabulous, twist, turny, soft underfoot and interesting and the miles raced by. Peter was cursing me because I told him not to bring his camera and the trees were all aflame and there were nice little beaches and views over to Fife. He'd been racing Willie at club last night and consequently was sore which I was enjoying and was therefore pushing the pace as much as I could. (Just to hear the old man grumble and groan.)

We got to more than 7.5 miles out so I put my foot down and insisted on a return as we had nothing to drink etc. and I was, in theory, ill and recuperating, although I didn't really feel it. The return journey seemed to fly by and was only slightly marred by a snarling dog and some insolent lawless gentlemen - 4 of them, who I would gladly have fought with Peter but I think they had us outnumbered....

Anyway, I think my dizziness was as a result of eye-strain, having done a bit of googling. I spent hours and hours staring into the computer on Tuesday evening and I could hardly focus my eyes by the time I went to bed. But I also think my body hates going to IPCU and I'm thinking I just shouldn't go there. Horses for courses and all that. Although this horse is a little worried about the lack of work around.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Run of the Mill Hill Race

Chris Upson thought up this race to raise some funds for the upkeep of his great Scottish Hill Racing website.  There was a good turn out of the hill running fraternity to support  it. Far from 'run of the mill' as it turned out....It was a stunning cold but sunny autumn day, just right for running. We were swithering about whether to wear long sleeved tops under our club vests but were both glad we did when we got up a bit higher and encountered a real stinger of a cold wind.

I thought our race preparation might not have been ideal as we ran a hilly 9 miler yesterday and then I had a craving for meringue nests which I gave in to while Peter necked a couple of glasses of red. Peter then stayed up til 2 or 3am trying to sort out a report for the XC last week and I couldn't sleep because I'd only got up at 10.30 that day and the moon was shining brightly in the window and the great and good of Leith were out in full voice, laughing, screaming, beseeching, threatening, berating and breaking glass as they went...So this morning when my alarm went off at 8am I kind of hoped Peter might have left me a note saying "Lets not bother racing today!"

He hadn't though - he'd left his kit out all organised for the race and left a none-to-subtle note saying "I'm getting up at 9am....tea." (He told me later he thought it might be a 'subliminal' message as he'd written tea in a different colour.)

So anyway...Alva, some slight navigational challenges, registration, meeting lots of hill runners, the start...GO!

Off we surged and then stopped and then surged again as there was some bottle-necking. I wasn't liking the first bit of path because it was rocky and covered with leaves...just right for turned ankles...and I wasn't warmed up yet so fell a bit behind for the 1st 2 miles. Onto the hill and I was gambling on my legs being strong from the 2 Brews and then the Pentlands, and so it proved. I got past teams of people on the way up and not daring to look behind me just kept it up as insistently as I could. Derek Jablonski spotted me and told me I'd just given him something to run for. (I thought maybe he wouldn't see me) and Matt of Lothian who I chatted with in the Skyline came on up with me. Its always a worry passing people, expecially ones who can beat you, because its amazing how often they rally and come too (while I'm thinking "no, no, that wasn't the idea, go at the speed you were going at before"). I went past some of the 'Fife Wifies' (their term) who have consistently beaten me this summer and hoped that they wouldn't take me seriously.

Eventually the angle eased off a bit and the running got easier and then there was some pretty intense but enjoyable undulating running on the top with that knife-like wind and the sun beating down and a great view of some windmills. (Peter thinks the mill in the name of the race is a water mill and I thought it must be these windmills. Answers anyone?). The marshalls were clearly freezing and did very well to stick it out up top. Eventually I was aware I was cresting the last hill and I was close to a Corstorphine lady who always beats me by a good margin so I was feeling really positive about my run. All that remained was to not disgrace myself on the way down. I had to accept that there'd be a few folk going past me - just so long as it wasn't too many.

I felt I made a fair job of the downhills. Any monotony was broken up by the sound of Derek Jablonski calling from on high. "I'm COMING TO GET YOU MARY HUNTER", making me laugh and  breaking my concentration. He can charge down the Ben race so there's no disgrace there. Then I was aware that there was a lady breathing behind me and I dared not look but was pretty sure it must be Hilary Ritchie of Fife because I'd passed her on the up but she's been in great form this year and I was pretty sure she'd come back for me at some point. At a stile that took us off the hill and onto a pleasantly soft road I saw that 2 behind was Hilary right enough so I did my best to keep moving but inevitably she went by. Plenty to keep my mind occupied anyway, down and down and down hill and then a wee bit of trail running and just when I was thinking "Oh no I hope its not another mile or something" I rounded a corner and it was the end.

Hurray! What a blast of a race. It was great seeing all the hill runners out and there was a lot of chatting to be done. Results not up yet but I think Al Anthony won and Natalie White for the ladies?

This race and the Largo Law Hill race get my vote for best races of the year so far.

Top 2 photos thanks to Melanie Sinclair of Carnegie Harriers
next 4 thanks to  Peter
action shot thanks to Bill Fairmainer

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Race Prep.

I half planned to force myself to get up and do the park run this morning just to get some speed in as I missed club on Wednesday night again. Also because, although nasty, its short, so not likely to  hurt me too much before Chris Upson's new race the Run of The Mill Hill race tomorrow.

However, come 7.30 am I didn't feel keen. I could have got up, but Peter wasn't getting up - and I haven't seen much of him in the last week...So at 10.30am I woke up again, feeling altogether better. Post-breakfast the sun was shining and we thought we could take a quick turn in the Pentlands.

First of all we thought we'd do the route of the Red Moss Revolution because we really like it and its relatively low level - but then Hare Hill was going to be soaking wet after the heavy rains last night so we thought we'd run up the Drove Road past Hare Hill and up onto the Kips. We came off East Kip and angled down to The Howe and then along the path to Black Hill. The path was running with water - the rain must have tipped down last night. I never saw or heard it.

After running down the side of Black Hill we extended the route further right a bit and then headed back along the path back to the car at the Red Moss Car Park. A bit more than 9 miles altogether so maybe a bit much the day before a hill race of about the same length but it was really nice out and we were both enjoying it...

We'll see what tomorrow's like. Unprepared would be an understatement for how we are at the moment. Better have a shower...

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Big Plans

Its that time of year again, and I've been feeling the need to plan something big to give me a reason to get out the door this winter. Both of us feel that we'd like another go at the Highland Fling. I think that with a bit more and longer training I could be stronger in the last 12 or so miles. Peter ran a pretty good race so he runs the risk of just trying to push harder and suffering as a result. Still there's no doubt he'll match my training so if I up my training he'll up his too.

Plan no.2 is the Cape Wrath Challenge. I think (you'd think I would know) that its 6 days racing starting with a half marathon and finishing with a marathon. The timing might be a little tight as its only a couple of weeks after the Fling but we're thinking positive...maybe we'll be really strong! 2 weeks after the Fling this year I was having pain walking on slight inclines so there's a reason to get plenty training in...

Went out for a brisk 15 miler today, up the WOL, down the canal. Cold westish wind and carpets of leaves. I kept up an encouraging pace. First of all I thought I better back off - and then I thought, nah, I would just keep at it and see how it worked out. Legs were pretty done in for the last mile but that's as it should be. Erlend Oye and Underworld soundtracks playing in my ears. The only slight glitch in the day was that my headphones are degenerating and the music kept hopping from one ear to the other. Fortunately I have a birthday coming up.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Stirling EDCC XC (Negative Splits)

Yesterday's cross-country seemed like the short, sharp shock prescribed by Thatcher for deterring offenders from - well in this case - probably dodging Bert's endless intervals on the Prom of a dark winter Wednesday night.

I set off unfeasibly hard and then had all kinds of abdominal aches and pains as I stumbled blinded with pain through the everlasting, undulating course. It was actually a really nice course but I wished every inch of it to hell so I could finish and be done. Next time I'm going to take the word "sustainable" out with me in my head - because I did start to recover towards the end and in a charge for the line managed to just get ahead of Pamela Cruikshanks who had been ahead of me the whole way. I think there must have been some residual skyline in my legs as I see even from my finishing sprint my feet were barely clearing the grass - but all in all it didn't feel like a lack of strength - it was the intensity I struggled with. Enough said. That's the joy of cross- country.

Strangely, it hurt so badly that I was kind of blissed out afterwards as I jogged around the course taking photos of the men. There was quite a lot of interesting changes of positions from the Porty men. Richard and Michael F. both seemed to run very canny races making up a lot of headway towards the end. It was great to see Willie back out there and although not back to full form still scaring Peter. James Harrison made a showing and was nearer the front than the other Porties.

Murray Strain once again spoiled it for everyone else - or at least I assume he did as I watched him in the 2nd half of his 3rd lap just zoom off and leave everyone else standing. Tony still had to set out for his 3rd time round the beautiful/accursed course as the Man in Brown sped by.

There was a good turn out of Porty men but only 3 (high quality) females. Jenni had already done the Park Run that morning so she came in 3rd - if she was fresh that would have been by no means a foregone conclusion. I tracked Emily as long as I could but I had to "let her go" as I was entertaining dropping out before the 1st lap was properly over. 2 things happened which stopped me. A Dundee runner stopped and started walking and an HBT lady went over on her ankle and had to hobble over to the nearby red-cross people. That gave me the courage to keep going. I'm not sure how this works but it does.

Some dates are up on the Dunbar RC website for the upcoming Borders XC series which I somehow hope I can pull my socks up for...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Speed session

I'm still  trying to improve my speed for the Glen Clova half in November but missed yet another club session last night due to working so I had to get out there myself today and try to make something happen. Back up to the Meadows for another set of timed intervals - this time, rather randomly, 8 X 3 mins hard with 2 mins jogs in between. There is not much rhyme or reason to why I'm choosing one session over another except  I had the sense that I could face 8 X 3 min hard sessions and I could not face more of these or longer hard sessions.

I had quite a lot of trouble getting out the door but once out it was nicer than yesterday - less of the cloying dampness. On the way up the side of Arthur's Seat I encountered a troop of nuns marching down towards me, praying as they went. One of them gave me a cheery wave. It seemed like a good omen.

What "speed" is for me is anybody's guess. I did it by feel and breathing rather than any carefully measured parameters. The Garmin can't be trusted round the meadows, getting confused by the trees at times, so running by pace doesn't really work as it careens between 9 minute and 5 minute pace, getting lost and then catching up with itself. Today's criteria for speed was running with 1 breath in for  2 steps, 1 breath out for 2 steps and imagining that I was in a 10K race. This turns out to be about 7.20 pace at the moment. I've had very little in the way of DOMS post-Skyline but my legs must be a bit tired because they felt heavy on the way back down the road.

Next thing; EDCC XC at Stirling on Saturday...

Monday, 11 October 2010

Pentland Skyline

photo 1 from SHR website.
photo 2 from Carnethy Website

The weather report had said fairly bright and breezy for Sunday but the reality was low cloud cover for all of the route of the Skyline. I thanked my lucky stars more than once that I know the route inside out and still I had a few moments when everything didn't seem quite right in the mist.

I was hopeful that I would do better at this race than I have in a while as the 2 Breweries went fine and I've been enjoying the hills again. There was quite a turn-out of Porties for the race; Peter, Ben Kemp, Michael Geogeghan, Graham Henry, Paul Eunson and Michael Nowicki had already turned out the day before for the Manor Water Hill Race - and added to that was Johnny L, John Pickard, me, Richard D. and Rachel Berry (who I haven't seen for months but is looking very fit and well).

I went off a little too quickly and my legs started to ache early on so I backed off a bit. Its a long race. The mist was actually quite helpful at times. Some sections seemed shorter than usual, probably because you couldn't see how far you had to go. In the 2nd half going over Black Hill in the deep clag was pretty surreal. I felt I was further left than I would usually be but was on a good path so stayed with it though feeling anxious, and it turned out to be a fairly optimal route to cross the stony path and take you over to the waiting marshals.
I could just see the tall, orange and yellow vested form of Tom Bowie ahead as a reference point but I had to keep  in mind that he probably doesn't know the Pentlands as well as I do. In those conditions the urge to just follow someone else is strong.

On Hare Hill everyone had stopped at the kite (which was very near to flying away) and then run in a straight line on towards the deeper more difficult heather. At that point too I'd initially followed even though I've been up there dozens of times this summer and I know there's a pretty good path further over to the right. Realising what I'd done I headed over right again and Issy Knox and Stevie Cairns did too. For a while I thought I'd blown it and had missed the path altogether and then all of a sudden it turned up. High stepping through deep heather turned to easy running down a nice peaty trod...

Nothing much more to say. On Bell's Hill the runners around me were bewailing the number of hills to come so in response (I was trying not to weaken) I told them that what was to come was f*ck all compared to what they'd already done. They rallied a bit I think. Its very bracing being sworn at by a lady. A Lothian runner called Matt told me he knew Gareth Greene from Portobello and we had a bit of a chat going over Capelaw (running mind you) and pretty much stuck together to the end. We were both developing quite a paranoia that we'd missed the path down to the left which takes you down to the ski slope after Allermuir, but again it was just the mist playing tricks with the distances and the look of things - we were exactly where we should be and finished shortly afterwards.

Rachel B. had never run the full distance of the Skyline but got the better of me just before Allermuir and took a couple of minutes off me from there to the end. Damn. Only last winter this woman couldn't run down hill, which I used to full advantage in the Borders xc series. On a happier note, Isobel Knox, who really doesn't do hills, was out giving it a go, and was very strong and encouraging on the uphills but teetering down the other sides on her road legs. Sensing it was my one and only chance to beat her, and with her right behind me on the final slope down to the finish, I did my best to keep running hard, pulling faces and making funny noises right to the line!

There weren't that many ladies out and I knew Angela Mudge was going to be 1st lady so therefore wouldn't count in the V40 hung around like a dingo at the edges of a BBQ (what?) hoping to luck a prize and guess what? 3rd LV40 was me so I went home with a nice bottle of red which was surprisingly good and now is gone...and my mouth is as dry as the Sahara... round-up; Johnny Lawson was 1st Porty, coming in under the 3hrs yesterday but didn't look as chuffed as we thought he should... Peter was 2nd Porty and quite pleased with his performance. Michael Geoghegan came in next, having had to nurse a turned ankle all the way round and was thankfully none the worse for running. Next came Graham Henry...if the truth were told all probably quite enjoyed beating Ben Kemp who was back in 5th Porty spot having been concentrating more on his work and his son of late than training. This proved 2 important points - Ben Kemp is human and training DOES  make a difference, so well done Ben for helping illustrate these 2 points. Next, stubbornly in slippy road shoes was Richard "I'll just jog round at the back" Dennis, then newbie to the Skyline Rachel Berry closely followed by me. A little later, Michael Nowicki did a rather alarming nose-dive over the line and a while later in came John (luc) Pickard. We heard tell Paul had dropped out with a sprained ankle at some point round the course.

Well done the marshals and the organisers for having the Skyline on such a difficult day, it must have been deeply unpleasant standing on top of hills for hours in the wet mist and it must have been quite a worry making sure everyone got in okay...