Sunday, 31 July 2011

Tour of Fife Day 5 - the twisted twisted chicken run

I pulled a number of funny faces today

This being another of them

But this being the strangest - what expression is this?

Last day of the Tour of Fife. I felt more relaxed right from the start. Not so Peter who had a margin of just 7 seconds between himself and Patrick O'Kane in the competition for the V45 prize. I tried to amuse him by singing the "7 seconds away" song (still don't know what its about)  but he didn't seem to find this as funny as me and went about scowling and muttering.

Ruth and Willie arrived at the flat for 1 pm and we set off in the Porty bus together. The Berlingo knew the way by now and it took very little attention or thought to get to Strathmiglo. We arrived with over an hour to spare so all went our separate ways to pass the time until race time. I went a run a mile up the course and then back. It was a sultry kind of day and everything was looking superb. The crops were lush and golden and there were giant pink flowers and grasses lining the cycle path. I decided to just live in the present and enjoy the day.

Back down at the car Ruth was getting ready and her nemesis Brian came and told us the most alarming story of Melanie Sinclair falling in the river in the winter and getting pulled under by the currents and swept away to under the bridge where she just managed to hold on and the runners that were with her just managing to grab her hands and haul her out. It was a sobering tale.

Up the road I caught up with Judith Dobson and had a chat with her til it was nearly time for the off.

Julia arrived looking lean and mean but nervous having come in second yesterday. We didn't help - pouring the pressure on!

Pretty soon we were lined up in the field and we were off. I felt good this race and felt better as the race went on. I was finding the uphills do-able and I was mercifully free of any kind of tummy pain which was a pleasure in itself. I didn't have anyone I needed to beat particularly being a good ways ahead in my category and no competition for the FV45s. There was just the enjoyable swapping places with people who I'd come to look for over the week. Helena Sim went past me at about the 1st mile and said she'd see me later on - which was possible but I wouldn't have put money on it. She is quite clear about not liking going up hill, but even if I caught her I knew she would catch back up on the downhills. I was interested to see what Jonathon Whitehead would do as well having been around him all week.... I did catch up to Helena but didn't draw any conclusions about it having been in this position before. As the leaders started to race back down towards me I got involved in shouting and cheering people on. It was great fun and really very exciting and I found I'd forgotten the pain of climbing and given myself a big boost by the turn around at the half way post.
I was right behind Jonathon Whitehead and bellowed at him - "Right then Jonathon, show me how its done!" a bit loudly and intensely I think in retrospect - its just I'd got hyped up seeing the leaders fly downhill. My thinking was that I have been catching him on the ups but he's been better than me on the downhills and the flat so maybe he could show me what he's been doing....

I was still feeling good and still didn't have a sore tummy running downhill which was just so relaxing. I found myself edging away from Jonathon and catching up to another guy in yellow. Helena and a girl in blue came past and I tried not to let them get too far ahead - there was after all one more short hill on the cycle path before the last downhills to the finish. I did catch up on the uphills, but not enough - still I was pleased with myself and although breathing wildly and very hot, enjoying the excitement of the whole thing. I got a bit held up on the path on the way down - wanting to hop over to the other lane before the bottom of the field but some chap was running in parallel and I couldn't cross without knocking into him. At the same time I couldn't run faster than him so I had to slow up marginally to fit in behind him. My side of the path had run out and gone under some trees. As I reached the bottom turn, someone (Alan?) drew even with me and it was clear it was going to be an all out sprint for the line. I did everything I could think of to get myself to the finish line as fast as I could. I'm sure it looked bizarre. I think he just pipped me but I didn't care - it was just great fun and good to feel that I was competing.

And on to the cake eating, speeches and prize giving. It was a great end to the tour. Chris Russell did a great job of thanking everyone and there was a buzz of warmth in the hall. When he said he wanted to say something serious now my stomach turned over. I was pretty sure he was going to speak about Andrew Henderson and I wanted him to and I also didn't want him to. I've certainly been thinking about him all week. Its impossible not to. Andrew was a big part of our last two tours and you expected to see him at every race. It was almost like he was nearly there but just not quite. And it was just so good to see Julia there and running so fiercely and determinedly and knowing Andrew would be so proud of her. There was massive applause in the room and then a deep silence and Chris managed to pull us all back together somehow. I think he slagged someone off so we could all laugh and move on from the poignancy and sadness.

The prizes came thick and fast, and Porty were in line for a few of them! Peter had held off Patrick O'Kane to retain his lead and his V45 prize. Willie was more comfortably 1st over 50. I got the ladies' V40 prize. It wasn't fair for Ruth as we all got prizes and she didn't and she'd run much better than me. In retrospect I wish I'd given her one of my caramel eggs! Sorry Ruth! The men's winner was the swift and light Lewis Millar and the lady winner was - hurray! - Julia. She got a massive round of applause.

Brian Cruickshank had made some Andrew Henderson fridge magnets for the people he knew that would be missing Andrew. It was such a lovely gesture. If I'm ever hating the human race - which I do from time to time - I'm going to think about being in that village hall and the sense of kindness that was around. I'm very impressed with Chris Russell for having the courage to speak about what isn't easy to speak about but was in the room anyway.

One last thing...the prizes were great!!!! I got a mug with my own lovely self on (among other things) - heaps of chocolate, miniatures of drink!!and oats so simple -the staple of any runner. Thanks so much to BC and all the organisers of the tour. I'm exhausted and I think I should have a shower...

Tour of Fife Day 4 - Chariots of Fire (and Water) race

Photo from the Tour of Fife Photos site - thanks

Last night was the iconic Chariots of Fire Beach Race. Much as people moan and groan about the uphill race, I dread this one as if you've been dodging your basic speedwork (and I have) well - this race will find you out! Decision of the day was to wear old road shoes as I've worn trail shoes for the last 2 years and had come to suspect that the narrower trail shoes were more apt to sink in the sand and far from providing grip were actually counter-productive. We had a recce of the course beforehand - but not the whole course of course because if we had we'd have had to run 4 miles (2 miles out and back again). So I congratulated myself on the flat hard-packed sand that my footwear was just fine...until...

No shoe would have helped much on the horrible sinky sands around the headland but then we were onto some vile green slippy surface and my road shoes skated around and provided no traction at all. I'd heard that the word was that we would get our feet wet in this race but I had assumed it would be some mild river crossing - that kind of thing - not a deliberate diversion into the sea and round a pole! By this time my fine athletic focus was broken as I was teetering and giggling and muttering to myself. I saw Jonathon Whitehead's Carnethy-vested back romp off into the distance and take a piece of pay-back pie...

Before the start I had exchanged a few words with Sophie Mullins and conveyed my sense that I had no plan, no purpose, no hope. She helpfully reminded me of a few basic essentials of beach running. Make sure and be with people when you turn around into the headwind on the way back. Aaaaah. If only it were so easy. I slo-moed as runner after runner presented their back to me for me to duck in behind but my legs refused to move faster and I was out, once again, not to be too dramatic, but like Jesus in the Wilderness as the devil muttered in my ear "just ease up a bit, nobody will know".  I had a bit of a stitch in my left side - nothing too bad, just a discomfort. I addressed the problem of what to do with my mind  as I ran along the flat, endless expanse of sand. I tried counting. I tried shutting my eyes. (This was quite relaxing but I felt foolish). I tried "reeling in" the runners ahead. I was holding steady on the man ahead in the distance, but reeling in I was not.

And at very long last the tiny figures at the finish grew taller and I could hear the polite encouragement of spectators who have already watched much better runners fly past ages ago...and... it was over.

We milled about on the beach for a while. Ruth had run a stormer and was in fine fettle. Julia had just been pipped to the post for the first time and was thinking about how to get fresh for tomorrow so she and Adam went in the sea and bathed their legs Paula style. I eventually followed when I saw how amazing the beach was looking with the shining sand and the low sun. Peter was a bit disconsolate as a certain Patrick O'Kane has taken a bite out of his lead of the O45s and feels he has his work cut out for him today. Willie, like me (but much faster), had found himself in the wilderness on the way back and had dropped back a few places.

What we needed was the healing and restorative power of chips, so we stopped at the chippy on the way back. (Heaving with Carnegies it was.)..and we had a chippy tea. Less guddling about when we got home. As this was the first full meal our Mr Jarvie had had in a week he promptly fell asleep in the back of the car. It was a beautiful clear night for driving back. There wasn't much chat, just listening to music and cruising along in the darkness. So I suppose I better start thinking about today, for in less than 2 hours we'll be away again - off to Strathmiglo for the Fin de Tour....

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Tour of Fife Day 3 - The Uphill Time Trial (Night of the Underdog)

Feeling nasty, looking nasty...

Friday night was uphill time trial night. Still suffering from some kind of mild tummy thing I could hear my insides swoshing as I jogged to the top of East Lothian behind Peter and Willie to get a warm-up. Ruth had declined the warm up, thinking she was going to be running far enough uphill soon enough. While we were checking out the views on the top, Ruth was transforming herself into supergirl and checking out the opposition.

We mucked about on top for a while, putting off the evil moment and then it was time to jog downhill to the start. Ruth and I had left ourselves about 10 minutes of standing getting terrified time, as the competitors were called up to the line and set off in pairs. The conditions were about as perfect as they could get. It was sunny and bright but a small wind was cooling things down.

Ruth and I were paired off to set off together which had filled me full of dread. I was afraid it would get competitive and I wouldn't judge the hill well. We chatted about it beforehand though, which helped.

We set off and I initially took the lead. Before long Ruth caught up to me and overtook and the temptation to try and stay with her was mighty strong but I resisted it. It was too early to be pushing too hard and I stayed with what was going on inside. To be honest, at that point I pretty much thought Ruth had it and without wanting to be defeatist I was okay with that. Despite having a marked dislike for hills she has been doing very well on them recently and although I nearly got her at Traprain Law, I never got anywhere near at Crieff. You can't write Ruth off as she's tough and determined and very strong! There was little to take your mind off the pain. The piper was playing particularly badly as we rounded that corner. Ruth says she thinks he was trying not to laugh as Supergirl charged up the road followed by Puffing Billy.

Ruth was ahead but together we were making progress through the field. We overtook a few of our competitors that had taken off before us. Finally, (I think it was about the mile mark) I realised that now I was catching up to Ruth and if I wanted to make my move I should do it soon. I went past Ruth who immediately started walking! (But not for long) and I don't know if it was before or after but I went past Judith Dobson who has been running excellently. Both urged me onwards and I tried to reply but there wasn't any spare breath for fully formed words.

I'd forgotten how hard the last bit of this race is. Its relentlessly uphill. I couldn't see the finish per se but could see the 200m to go sign, still looking tiny up ahead. I've never seen a 200m to go sign and thought that 200m was a short distance! And last night was no exception. Time slowed down, my legs moved in slow-motion, pushing through treacle, and all I could hear was my wheezing lungs. Brian Cruickshank, aka the devil, got me full face with his water gun, which was a helpful distraction. And at last I was over the line. I looked at my watch and it ticked over from 14.08 to 14.09. Just 1 second shy of my time 2 years ago then - and although I'd have like to have dipped under 14 minutes I was pretty pleased with that.

About 30 seconds later Ruth came in with a deal more aplomb than me. I was under strict instructions to go and get the camera and get some photos - which I did - but it was a while til there was enough oxygen in my brain so they're not very good and I've used mostly roadrunpics instead. He had the sense to take pictures of the runners in the sun with the stunning views behind them - but I couldn't work any of this out.

There is little more peaceful than standing at the side of the road watching people finishing the uphill time trial once you've finished it yourself. My brain was quiet and happy. Beside me was a small batch of Fifers who offered me tea, juice and jaffa cakes. It was too soon to take anything on but it was nice to be included in such a friendly way. I had a bit of a chat with Judith too. There were some very strong runners out last night. Most people seem to kind of jog the uphill time trial and so its always noticeable when someone's really running it. Julia H. powered up the road looking totally focused in a fabulous time of 12.13 and ahead, at last, of brother Adam.

An age seemed to pass til I caught sight of Peter and Willie coming up the road. They, like Ruth and I, had been set off together, and were still nearly together quite near the end. When I first saw them Willie was just on Peter's shoulder but of the two of them you would say Willie definitely looked fresher - and just at that point Willie set off the booster rockets and powered up to the line 3 seconds ahead of the hapless Buchanan who clearly could not respond.

"Its good it was someone he loved who did that to him!" I quipped to Judith beside me - and that was pretty much Peter's sentiment. If it had to be anyone it was best if it was Willie Jarvie.

So tonight's "fun" is the beach race - this is the one I dread the most! Acres of flat sands! Mirages! Endless distances! A finishing line you can see from well over a mile away and never gets any closer! Oh holy cow...

Photos; Roadrunpics, Peter, me

Tour blog by Lady Tour Leader Julia Henderson here

Friday, 29 July 2011

Tour of Fife Day 2 - Tarvit Trail Race

The tour madness is taking a firm hold. I noticed quite soon into my 1st tour 2 years ago that balancing work, travelling and racing along with late night eating turned my dreams all weird on me. I had some humdingers last night but one that I care to share is that I was waiting for the dog to cut my hair - and then I realised how foolish I had been. Its the monkey that cuts your hair! (The dog can't hold scissors in its hands.) Of course!

Last night's race was a trail race in the grounds of the Hill of Tarvit Mansionhouse. Having been too busy to suss everything out properly during the day I was horrified to hear we were to be doing laps. The greatest temptation to drop out there is! It was a great course though. Quite early on I realised I could take an approach to it similar to my approach to nightshifts. There's no way to avoid dreading the first one but then once you start the first one, well, at least you've started - and as soon as you start the next one (I used to do sets of three) - well there's only one more after this. Starting the third one is nearly cause for celebration - it hurts but the anticipation was worse...and so the race went too.

Helena Sim played a cruel game with me on the way round - stopping once to tie her shoelace and allowing me to catch up only to bomb off again - and then later, similarly, on the hill, stopping to walk just til I got pleasingly close and then running off hard again. Still, this kind of kept me going, as did the Carnethy-vested back of Jonathon Whitehead who I have seen in my part of the field in a few races recently so I know he's not impossible for me to catch. I thought Jonathon had me beaten as towards the end of the last lap he got a fair distance from me - but then I noticed I was catching up to him on the hill - so I pulled even with him on the grass on the final 50 metres or so and risked a sprint past him. He didn't respond, so I just pipped him.

Good game. I was a bit further up the field than the night before and my digestive system was working  more smoothly - however its still not right. I do think its psychosomatic - but its also real, so I've taken some loperamide for the first time in my life to try and stave off trouble at the dreaded Uphill Time Trial tonight.

The first year I did this one it was rainy and it was pleasingly cool and damp - about right for a 1.4 mile stomp  uphill. Last year there was a breeze which at least cooled things down. I'm hoping its not going to be hot tonight but it looks like it might be...

I got brilliant support last night, particularly from BC himself and from Susan Thompson and Hilary Ritchie from Fife. I felt most unworthy but I soaked it up anyway and tried to turn it into leg-power.

So now I've promised I'll try and do some dishes the afternoon so I better go and do that. Housework, as usual, has been coming quite low down the list of priorities...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tour of Fife Day 1 - Black Hill Race

The three sombreros 1 and 2.

The Tour of Fife kicked off today (if I can mix my sporting metaphors). No 1 was a hilly trail race on a beautiful sunlit evening. The Porty Bus contained 4 Portobellos, Peter, Willie, Ruth and I. Amanda had a note from her mum saying she had to take the tour off as she lost her appendix in New York...she hopes to come along as a witness for some of the races with her cute little doggy Horatio.

We were very pleased to see Julia H and her brother Adam. Pleased also to see so many familiar faces of Fifers, tourists and race junkies. It seemed normal enough lining up for a series of 5 races this evening. A simple thing but difficult to explain to others outwith the running fraternity..."You're doing WHAT? On a bike? Running? Everyday? Is that good for you?".

I was feeling very dry-mouthed and quiet before the race, a bit frozen in fear. Soon enough we were towing the line and we were off. I didn't feel great but I felt alright and I hoped that the hilliness might play to my strengths once I got into the race. This seemed to be panning out fairly well and I was catching people on the ups but when we set off down again I got the feeling that the delicious Double Decker and cup of coffee I'd had at 4pm maybe hadn't been the best idea and I spent the rest of the race with a more and more pressing need to get to a toilet. I don't think it particularly slowed me down but it was a shame because its a really nice run down hill through the green trees on good paths but I was preoccupied throughout. There was a Fife Lady (Innes - I heard lots of people cheering her on) hot on my heels and I was doing my best just to maintain my position. Almost immediately I finished I set off to get to the toilets at the Village Hall but it all got a bit too pressing so I burrowed into some tall nettles and thistles and went al fresco...Well it must happen to most runners at least once. My legs are still burning with the nettle stings. Once that was over I felt quite loose and relaxed and jogged back easily to the hall!

I caught up with the race news a bit later. Peter's going well. We knew that! The results show him to be sitting at 10th and 1st V45. Willie is 1st V50 - he doesn't have the 5 minute cushion he was hoping for but he's got well over a minute working in his favour. Ruth is in a very competitive category so despite running an absolute stormer she has a few senior ladies to catch up on. To my surprise the lady vets ahead of me are all FV45s and FV50s so I look to be leading the FV40 category! Huzzah! I suppose its possible the categories will collapse and the F45s might in fairness get the FV40 positions...We shall see. I at least have an aim now. I can battle to stay top of that category.
Julia flew in, Ist Lady in 33 minutes, just pipped by her brother Adam.

I also got a nice spot prize of a tour of fife t-shirt, a lucky number 70 to run under for the rest of the week and some nice cheers from the Fife Ladies who were not participating because of injury and up-coming hill races.

Photos - Peter
Results here

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Few Miles More

Peter had an unexpected day off. To try and push the mileage in the most pleasant way possible we headed up to the Pentlands and ran up from the Red Moss car park to the Kips and then back down to the Howe, across to Black Hill and following the route of the Red Moss Revolution back. The Pentlands are looking lovely. The grasses are looking lush. Another 8 and a bit miles done. Not masses of miles but something...

Now we're ravenous and arguing about who's going to wash the dishes, who's going to get the shopping in and who's going to cook...better get moving.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Long Lammermiles

A wall to wall working week meant I only managed to squeeze in 3 runs last week. Its nearly August and we're signed up for the 36.5 mile Speyside Way race at the end of August so today had to be about doing longer runs again. Our last attempt at a long run petered out at 16 miles and ended up with us eating sweeties on a bus. So it was with trepidation that we headed back to the Lammermuirs for a repeat of the 21 mile run we did there at the start of July.

Peter ran 2 races yesterday and one on Wednesday so he was pleasingly handicapped for today. I hadn't run for two days so my legs were relatively fresh but my head, despite a good night's sleep last night, was a bit foggy and tired. Still, the weather was absolutely beautiful and there was just enough of a cool, fresh wind to help blow the flies away. As last time, the Lammermuirs were hoaching with life. Lots of hares. Plenty newly shorn sheep and glossy cows. Crickets chirruped in the undergrowth. The sun beat down and we ran.

The first "half" (8 miles to Carfraemill) seemed to go by much faster than last time. The route is loaded so the 2nd half is much tougher and hillier. The streams across the road on the return journey were deeper than last time we were there and required some negotiating. Still, it all went easier than last time. By 15 miles our feet were sore and we were complaining quietly but it didn't seem long until we were on the last 2 mile sweep back down to the car. Home, exhausted, a couple of pounds lighter despite drinking well on the way round the route and back at the car. We should probably be getting in some longer runs to prepare us for our 36 miler and we will try but the week's coming Tour of Fife means it might have to be the week after next...Still today was a lot more encouraging than last week's long run and the hills felt easier.