Tuesday, 31 May 2011


We may or may not have happened to do a bit of the 7 Hills route with Emily and Jim and Peter's brother Neil. Memories are hazy though and we don't know really where we went. There was some pretty steep climbing in a howling gale though. It was great fun. Its a great race.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Broughton Heights Hill Race

Almost too tired to write anything. This was a new race devised by Mark Johnston and hosting the UKA intercounties something fast runner series. We nearly didn't go because of the damage it would do to our Scottish Hill Racing percentages and because we were tired. But the course looked good and, well, we decided to go for it.

I went out a wee run yesterday and was sore as hell after Wednesday's short, sharp shock session at club. (The Thatcher Relays.) Today, surprisingly, while I was warming up before the race, I didn't feel too bad. I think what made the difference was a wee wash of adrenaline with all the excitement and buzz of pre-race runners and their chat.

The rain was lashing down before the race but was replaced by lovely warm sunshine just minutes before the race start. Amanda turned up with Horatio to spectate. (Sorry no photos.) There was a good turn out of Porties including Gareth Green (running for his county), Johnny Lawson, PB, Michael Geoghegan, Willie Jarvie, Michael Nowicki, myself (coward of the county) and Tony Stapley.

It was a good, hard, kinda runnable thrash up and down and up hills till the final 1.6 miles down hill. (Total distance 6.6 miles). I felt absolutely knackered afterwards and Michael G. looked like he was going to fall asleep. Too much buzzing around the country racing even for him! Gareth did us proud but felt afterwards that he's not fit enough!

It was good also to see our pals Jim Davies and Scoffer from Cumbria. They were going so fast they had gone by prize giving which was a shame because I think they were 2nd team.

Photos by Chris Upson.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Back to semi-normal now. I'm definitely a bit tired but not terrible. Went for a 6 miler in the high winds on Monday. Tuesday night, coincidentally, 2 of our runners who we have lost to "Down South" were up so I went a run with Peter, Michael Geoghegan and Ben Kemp round and over Arthur's Seat. I hung in long enough to see how they were doing and then fell off the back, legs entirely empty of power...but it was 8.30 at night and we hadn't eaten yet and I hadn't planned to run 8 miles!

Last night was back to running club where we had a relay for everyone in the club as a large percentage of our runners had been racing at the weekend at the "EMF" or elsewhere. We had teams of five running approximately 400m, one trial time to get everyone understanding what was happening, and then 4 times continuously. My team was last, but I picked them on the basis of looks. We were by far the nicest looking with the best manners.

400m is just such a different proposition from all that long slow running. I had strange leg pains last night which I incorporated into my dreams, and I have exacerbated some slight dodginess on my left leg which is possibly my IT band or something to do with my hip. It was great fun though. I like the bit when you first set off just before the oxygen debt kicks in...

Saturday we're thinking we might have a go at the new Broughton Heights Hill race .

I've got the usual post big event lack of clarity about what to do next. I think I need to be doing shorter faster stuff to get a bit quicker again. I want to do hills because that's what the summer's for. At the same time I've got an itch to train for and run another marathon just to prove to myself I can run quicker than 4hrs! Hmmm, we'll see.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Cape Wrath Marathon

The weather didn't get any better and the Marathon on Cape Wrath had to be cancelled so an alternate marathon course was put in its place. We went a route recce the day before in the van and Graham Henry gave us a blow by blow account as he's had to run the bad weather route before several years ago.

It was pretty much into the wind and, after some undulation, up a 6 mile hill for the first half - the 2nd half being the reverse of this.
We were tired and none of us were keen. The change of course also entailed a change of start time to 8am for some reason, which was not universally popular.

Fast forward - the winds blasted rain against the side of the house. We had to be out by the morning of the marathon so had to get all ready to leave the night before - only leaving the things we needed for marathoning out. Despite our better intentions we cracked open a bottle of red to toast the next day's endeavour. It was really the right thing to do and in the spirit of the whole week.

Feeling the marathon wasn't going to be about pbs (understatement) Peter, Scott and I all took cameras along for real time action pics. Peter didn't get his camera out though because he was working hard up the front. It was also pouring with rain and I think I may have sacrificed my friend the camera by letting it get soaked for hours and hours as it's no longer taking pictures...in which case, the last things it ever saw are displayed above.

So after much uneasy hanging about it was kick off time and we set off into the teeth of the wind and rain. The weather report had said it was going to be wet until 9am and I realised that maybe I was being a bit literal minded when I looked at my watch at 9.15 am and tutted because it was still raining. I needn't have worried because it wasn't going to stop raining for another couple of hours.

I did that thing where you try to work with the people around you into the wind to take it in turns at the front - but the usual thing happened that when I went in front whoever I was with either melted backwards or immediately overtook again and started racing. Oh well. I was glad when the hill started, really just to engage with it. As I've said we'd driven it the day before and it felt good to know what was ahead. I kept it steady. Some people seemed to be doing a bit of jockeying for position and racing but that all seemed far too early for me. I kept it as even as I could and took shelter when there was some and got on with it when there was none.

 I had the most random selection of music playing through my head. I think the constant howl of the wind made it easier to "hear" tunes mentally. One that went on for ages and ages was the Pink Floyd track "We don't need no education" (don't know the title), complete with long and quite complex guitar solo. Not a favourite, but there it was in its completeness with words and everything. Then a Doors song; "Break on Through to the Other Side"....Shortly before cresting the hill Peter came by in 2nd place which gave me a tremendous boost, and then a little later, the Porty bus of Amanda, Scott (cheerily taking photos), Graham Henry and Richard came past with a few others (we're a friendly club). I picked up my pace to the half way point then, looking forwards to the 6 mile romp downhill.

At the halfway point I stopped for a couple of minutes and took more pictures and had a blether with the marshals. This approach doesn't make for fast marathoning but it was enjoyable. Then I took off and tried to pick off everyone who had just passed me. I think I achieved this. Certainly I passed a few bodies and no-one passed me in the 2nd half. I was hoping that my Fling training would make me, if a little slow, at least strong so that 26 miles wasn't the usual horrible thrash towards the end. I was pretty good to 20 miles and then it did get hard and I had to try all kinds of mental jiggery pokery to keep myself going. 6 miles of downhill was fun but is tough on the legs too. When the hill bottomed out I had to make peace with gravity all over again. 

At last it was just a mile (uphill!) to go to the finish at the Village Hall. Then just a few hundred yards. I could hear Amanda shouting on me and then Scott singing  Eye of the Tiger (ironically) to me, so I sung it back to him and then on to the finish....

Shameful really... 4.03...but I did feel I made a pretty good job of the thing. It could have been terrible! At the line the news was like the end of an American Movie. All good. The Porties had done well. Peter had held on to 2nd (well lost it and found it again, but he'll tell you about that), Graham Henry came through in 4th and 1st MV, Amanda was 1st lady in a stonking 3.12 (Peter was PERFECTLY HAPPY with a time 10 mins off his pb. so what does that tell you about Amanda's performance?) Lucy was 2nd lady. Scott Ferguson had gained in prowess over the course of the week's racing and drinking and pipped seasoned ultra-runner Richard Dennis to the post. 

Amanda and Scott had to head home, and Richard headed home after a disappointing puncture and a long wait to get it sorted out. Peter and Lucy and I had some beers and then went to the evening dinner and ceilidh where we ate an obscene amount of food. I was too full to take pictures of the puddings. Lucy stayed to dance but we  had had it with the early start, the marathon, the weather, the beers and then more food than the Romans would consider acceptable.

We creaked our way back to the campsite and slept peacefully under canvas.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Cape Fear

Not much in the way of internet connectivity up here, but I've heard a rumour that the Smoo Cave Hotel don't mind you tapping into their wifi connection as long as you buy a pint. I'm going to test that out later.

Day 3 of racing done today.

The whole thing got off to a bad start as I got a sore throat the night before we were setting off. Any more of that and I'll be getting a chaise longue and some smelling salts. I felt ill all weekend but there wasn't anything too strenuous to do, so I rested up and tried not to spray bugs about.

Monday kicked off with a choice of a half marathon or a 10K. I was signed up for the half but was able to change and it seemed like a good idea to try and shake off the cold. It wasn't the most auspicious start to the racing. The wind howled, the rain tipped down and for some reason there was a hold up with the buses that were to take us out to the start of the course. The half marathoners were getting bussed to the start of their race and then the buses had to come back to pick up the 10kers. In all we were about an extra hour waiting around in cold, wet clothes before we got going. I set off like a bat out of hell just to try to get warmed up, but then steadied after that. The half marathon runners came past quite soon after we'd set off. I missed the front runner so when I saw Peter striding along, leaning to the left, looking very focused just behind another guy I thought they were no. 1 and 2. It turned out no. 1 was way out on his own and they were no2 and 3. It was a hilly coastal road with a stiff headwind for the last 3 miles but some very good views out to sea after the rain cleared off and the sun came out. It felt vaguely unreal to me but finished soon enough.

The chat at the finish was that No. 1 half marathoner was Ben Livesey whose half marathon pb was 68 mins so he was a bit disappointed with a 1.14 half marathon that day. Amanda came in 1st lady. Both set new course records.

The 2nd day was the hill run. The weather wasn't quite as grim and the race set off from the village hall so there wasn't any messing about with buses. It was a good runnable 5 or so miles over nice peaty ground mostly. The hill wasn't too stiff, no reason to walk. My cold was starting to clear and I'm afraid I spent a lot of the race with long silver ropes trailing from my nose and flapping in the wind behind me. It was a messy business. I was pleased to see that my average pace for this run was better than it had been for my 10K. I think Peter was 2nd in this one and Amanda was 1st lady again. Go awn team Porty.

We were thinking about having a little sleep after the race yesterday but the newly christened Lucy Cojones enjoined us to go for a refreshing swim in the Atlantic in a howling gale instead. Luckily we had wetsuits. It was pretty good actually but I'm glad the tide was coming in. The sea was pretty lively.

Today was a 10 mile race which I'd somehow convinced myself was going to be mostly on road. It turned out to be mostly not on road and I was a bit annoyed with myself for the first bit as I was wearing my floppiest of road shoes and I had a good pair of Cascadias under the bed back at the house which would have been ideal for the mix of peat, rocky trail, road and golf course. I found it all a bit grim to start with, running uphill into the wind with the rain spitting in my face and my feet slithering about in every direction but after about 5 miles or so I started to enjoy it. The best bit was a good couple of miles over nicely kept golf course with a fierce wind behind. I felt like I was flying along. As I am the slowest Porty Scott and Peter had waited for me but I pretty much had to jog into the hall to get my rucksack and turn around right away to get back down to the house where we're staying.

Peter was 2nd man in and there was a turn around this time with Lucy C.coming in 1st lady and Amanda coming in 2nd. Graham Henry was in very good spirits before the race, liking the terrain and the distance and came in an impressive 4th man.

Doubtless suffering from the current economic climate, all the events surrounding the challenge come with a price tag. Soup etc. after the races costs a £5 so we're ducking this, being in the middle of an economic crisis of our own.

So its 3 races down. Tomorrow's race is a kind of recovery race where you have to guess what time you're going to take (although the course and the distance of the race has not yet been decided), then, without the use of timing devices the challenge is to cross the finish line as near to your predicted time as you can. Friday is a day off. Saturday is the marathon.

There are gales predicted for tomorrow so we've got to hope that they blow themselves out for Saturday. If the weather's too bad they say we won't be able to do the ferry crossing for the marathon so they'll set an alternative course on the roads on the mainland. Worst of all worlds. Here's hoping for the proper marathon on Saturday.

The wind is whistling round the cottage just now. I might go and try to do this Smoo Cave Hotel thing. Not that I want to go the pub in the afternoon y'understand...Far from it.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Airport Loop

Can you see the bum tree?

Last 3 photos c. 1998? A rare dry moment or two...

Very nice summery run around the airport loop from Cramond. Our plan was to go a run and then go to Tescos and get supplies for our trip to Cape Wrath afterwards, on the trip home.

We ran further down nearer the river than usual which was a delight - the paths are all nice and dry and the wild garlic is pungent and plentiful. Lots of ducks with ducklings that are too good at hiding to get good pictures. We went a bit too far along and found ourselves having to climb to get up onto the bridge across the Almond. Some arguing and desperate scrambling ensued.

Its really good single-track along the side of the river and it makes you feel like you're running fast even if you're not.

Quite a  lot of big black flies around which had to be choked and spat out on occasion.

We're off to the far North West for the Cape Wrath Challenge which we signed up for in the dead of winter, and feeling gung-ho at the time we signed up for all the longer races and the marathon. At the moment the weather looks like its going to be a bit breezy and wet. Last time Peter and I were there we were on bikes, with my sister Caroline, and were at the North-West tip of our endurance having cycled/camped up the West of Scotland on what must have been the wettest and midgiest August on record. On the last stretch to Durness the wind was blowing the rain directly into our faces and I remember my cycle computer cleared itself and went off - presumably having had enough of the weather. I wondered at the time if that meant I was dead, and I definitely didn't care if it did. Happy days.

Upper photos pb.