Sunday, 25 September 2011

Two Breweries Hill Race

Does my bum-bag look big in this?

Lovely Photos on the Hill - Ian Nimmo
Scrappy ones of afterwards - me
Folks milling around before the race - Neil G. Campbell

It was 2 Breweries time again this Saturday. I think it was Michael Geoghegan's sheer love for this race that clinched the deal and made us sign up for it as a last long run before Kielder Water Marathon in 2 weeks time. (Actually Peter isn't really on board with the notion that we shouldn't do a long run next week too, but I'm not going to, not unless its something good...)

We've done some hilly runs and quite a lot of long but to try and get ourselves in shape for coping with all the ups and downs of the Breweries we went and did a mid-week Pentland Skyline 2 weeks ago. I didn't find this easy at all but was relieved to have done it.

We had an unusually large entry of females this year leading me to fantasies of team prizes til Michael G. tactfully told me he'd read the entry list and there were some...erm...quite good girls running. Oh well.

There's a bit too much hanging about before the start, which could only be reduced by having someone willing to spend their day ferrying you about. You have to get to Broughton in plenty of time to get the coach to Traquair as its a point to point. Having said that, its all quite good fun and very well organised. There was coffee, tea and hot-chocolate and scones available at Traquair to keep us going before the race start. This was Gillian, Rachel and Lynn Morrice's first attempts at this race so there was quite a lot of last minute kit decisions being made. I hadn't left myself with much choice. As it turned out I had it a bit (but not drastically) wrong. With hindsight I'd have taken less food and more to drink and I would have worn a layer less right from the start. The sun came out and apart from on the tops where  there was quite a brisk wind it was really pretty warm. I took off the t-shirt under my vest after the 1st mile realising I was already uncomfortably hot.

Douglas and Jennie Young had driven down just to give us a send off, which was lovely of them. I don't know what they'll have made of it though. Pre-race runners brains flip about from thing to thing I think. Our chat was probably a bit odd.

Although I ran this race last year I pretty soon didn't know particularly where I was or what was likely to happen next. Peter had given me stern instructions to go round rather than over the 1st hill - which I did - though it seemed quite long. Quite soon we were on a descent that took us all the way down to the river which I could have sworn came after the next bit, which was a long slog up a heathery hill, over a fence and then a hard-going traverse onto a very peaty path. Around here I caught up briefly with Lynn Morrice, who's just coming back to racing after being injured. She had taken the path over the hill earlier and was bewailing the fact that Michael Nowicki had been behind her before that, had taken the low road and was now ahead. I told her not to worry as I thought Michael was going too fast for himself. He had been glancing anxiously behind when I was behind him on the hill and it was too early by far in the race for that. I think my going past Lynn helped revive her fighting spirit as about half a mile further on she went past me (and Michael N. who we both spotted just ahead simultaneously) and I never saw her again.

For the first few hills I overtook Paul Eunson (who cracked some ribs in the 7 hills race on the grassy death slide coming down from the castle and so has not had the best summer for training) on the ups and he came past me effortlessly on the downs. The ground on the Breweries race is pretty rough and I've not been out in the hills that much so my downhilling was dispiritingly bad. By the time I spoke to Lynn - about 7 miles in - I had gone past him on the last up and didn't see him again. After the peaty path there is another fairly short up and then a long descent marked by orange markers over surprisingly good ground this year as the heather was nice and short. This was quite enjoyable at first but went on too long - by the bottom part of it which gets quite steep and rocky and comes out onto a road to a farm I was feeling pretty whacked. I remembered it from last year though and had felt pretty bad at this point as well - its just about exactly half way - so felt sure I could recover on the next stretch of road and the next fairly gentle path up hill.  I tried to relax, trotting along the road, and spied just ahead Michael N. walking along with his head down. As I drew even he was shaking his head saying "I am SICK, SICK! I am dropping out at next check-point. I am VERY SICK!" Not far up the road was water and juice and jelly-babies. I was pretty dry by now, having some lucozade in my bum-bag, but being sick of its filthy sugary taste. A couple of cups of water went down very well and I trundled on - although quite shortly afterwards I was feeling thirsty again. I had a chocolate protein bar but I quite literally bit off more than I could chew. It seemed to expand exponentially in my mouth and I couldn't get it beaten down. I had to use the last horrible drops of lucozade to get it under control. Phew. Then I decided to tighten up all my laces. After this bout of procrastinating I had let a couple of people who were already ahead get a bit aheader, and I was caught up to by a Carnegie man. He trotted past and I settled in behind him for a while. We were coming up to the bit where last year, enjoyably, a whole heap of people went wrong. (There's nothing quite like running with someone and then finding that they are a good 10 minutes behind you!) This year, I was sad to note, the organisers had left nothing to chance, and the path into the woods and up the firebreak was marked with a swathe of pink ribbons and a plethora of yellow arrows.

There is something absolutely magical about this next little bit. I wish I could show you. Suddenly you are right in amongst the trees. The air is scented and is cool and soothing. The forest floor is littered with fantastic toadstools. After this is a rather challenging and very steep forced march to the top of the fire-break and a couple of marshals sat in the grass. These marshals, like all the others, were cheery, had made themselves comfortable and were very encouraging...

After this is a long sweep downhill. This sounds nicer than I found it. My feet and legs were already protesting. The ground had been very wet so was very boggy in parts. A couple of people swept past at this point including Fabienne Thomson, which made me wonder where the hell she had been...perhaps pacing herself? My friend from Carnegie caught up to me again. He was fearful of getting tummy problems, finding eating hard to do on a long race. I had tried to cheer him up by saying we'd be getting pizza and soup at the end and he only just restrained himself from telling me what I could do with my soup and pizza. "A cup of tea would do me!" he said, and I felt like a bit of a fat bastard for going on about food. I wasn't hungry either, just feeling a bit cheapened and sickened with sugary rubbish. Anyway, me and Mr Carnegie had another bit of a chat further along the way. He hadn't done it before so was anxious to know the stats. How far was there to go? I did my best to explain what I knew of the next bit of the course. We introduced ourselves. He was called Steven.

Up the road after Stobo I came to a complete halt. Barring the way were 2 large and fully formed bulls. Peaceful enough looking but I wasn't reassured by that. I tried to revise everything I knew about bulls. That wasn't much use. "They're terrifying". I looked to see if there was a fence I could climb over but that didn't help - over the fence were some horses who probably wouldn't have liked me climbing into their field. I thought of the man-eating Mares of Diomedes (the benefits of having a classics teacher for a mum) and thought better of it. Plan B., wait, like a child, for Steven. "Right" he said, "Hold my hand." So I did, hiding behind him like a child as we walked past the enormous, black, slightly curious bulls. Jesus H. Christ.

After that I was ready to get trotting again, but Steven was tired. Whats the etiquette for that? If someone's just saved your life and your race, is it alright to beat them? I trotted on anyway.

Fairly soon Trahenna was rearing its rather handsome heathery head. A man in yellow (John) told me he'd had a tip off that left of the trees was a good way to go, so having wallowed through bog to get to Trahenna last year, I followed. The route seemed longish but the paths were better. I felt I could run again but John was only walking. Point of etiquette 2. If someone has just shown you a useful route - is it okay to beat them? I went on at my own pace and as it happened John swept past easily on the way back down from Trahenna, so I did the right thing. He was a downhill man, not an uphill man.

The march up Trahenna was dizzying. There were quite a lot of very unhappy people ranged out up the steep, steep heathery flanks. I made relatively good progress, but was not feeling great. None of your walk/run nonsense. It was walk/walk - and that was better than the walking and stopping I could see going on around me. At very long last I topped out to see the Nimmos and some others? Who let me have some water and some encouragement before the final stage downhill. Last year I was blissfully unaware that there was close to a mile of road at the end. This year it was preying on my mind. I'd glanced at the Garmin as I was descending from Trahenna and saw that it was already 4hrs 20mins - my finishing time for last year. This took a little more wind out of my now ragged sails. I tried to calculate when I might get done but just couldn't. A lot of concentration was needed to avoid tripping on the trods on the way down. They were narrower than I'd remembered from last year.

Just before the road Peter and Michael were already dressed and were taking photos and cheering. I felt down-hearted and like a bit of a failure. The road was nasty. A car was tailing me even though there was room to pass. I jumped up on the pavement although my legs were protesting just to get the thing to go away. There was a guy ahead of me who wasn't getting any futher ahead. I concentrated on him and thought if I could cruise in at this pace it would be enough. He crossed the road early so I followed suit and then I heard footsteps behind me. I took a look and it was Rachel. Bloody hell! I hadn't seen her all race and now here she was. I did my very best to raise the pace as we went down the track to the finish, but I couldn't do much about it.  Rachel pipped me to the post. Oh well. It was good to stop.

Lynn was still at the finish and we were all kind of agonised. Lynn's back was really sore as was mine a bit. We tried sitting different ways or stretching. Walking back along the road things started to feel a bit better - it was just tired achy muscles making their feelings known! As Lynn unloaded a huge blueberry cake from the back of Rachel's car, Paul Eunson and then Gillian came past and finished. Good to know all the Porties were in. A while later, with the aid of pizza, soup, coffee and cake, back at the hall, everything was starting to look a bit better. (I know what you're thinking - you're thinking "I thought you said you weren't really interested in food?")  Peter and Michael were in great form. Peter had run a pb. for the course so was fine and happy. Michael had run a stormer and come in 10th and looked bright and happy. His training after the Moray Marathon had consisted of going to India and not running at all as his hamstrings had been giving him bother. This strategy had appeared to have paid off. Both of them were guzzling the free beer on tap on offer in the corner of the hall. I should mention Graham Henry was also there and ran and I'm sure did well but I don't really know how it all went for him as we never had a chat. He was his usual relaxed and happy self afterwards anyway. He loves the two breweries. (Michael N. had recovered  enough to be eating and drinking beer.)

Fast-forwards to prize-giving. HBT ladies and men's team prizes. Stewart Whitlie and Mark Harris in shock "crossing the line hand in hand" as winners. Our Gillian was 1st FV50. The prizes were generous so our Michael G. got a prize of beers for 6th senior male.

And then we all went home.

It was a wonderfully organised event - and the spread afterwards and the free beer is as generous as the course is hard and cruel! Lynn and Rachel were talking about what training they might do to come back and run a faster time, but I don't know. I was probably better trained this year but ran 16 minutes slower. Go figure, as the Americans say.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Stirling 10K

Conditions probably couldn't have been much better for the Stirling 10K today; cool, just a wee smirr of rain on the wind and only the slightest of breezes. There were a handful of other Porties but no females with whom to compare myself which was actually quite restful mentally. I felt quite anonymous in the crowd.

There was a lot of chatting at the start (all those west coasters!) and I never did hear the gun. I just figured we were under way because the crowd was "surging" (walking slowly) for the start. I had 16 seconds on my Garmin by the time I went over the chip mat and from my final time it looks like the gun had gone off 8 seconds before I put my Garmin on.

A surprising amount of people had been between me and the purple start/finish arch. It hadn't looked like that from where I'd lined up. The first couple of K was all about passing people - not that I'm complaining because its a very encouraging feeling and there was generally space to pass.

I'd absolutely promised myself I'd go out reasonably and not make the race into a nightmare for myself - it was steady, steady, steady for the 1st 7K or so and then I started to take some chances. The whole thing passed suprisingly quickly. There were some very fast people out front heading for 30 minute races. I do like a race where you get to encounter the leaders coming back at you. It should be demoralising but its not - its exciting.

My goal was to get a season's best which I thought was about 46.20. My Garmin showed 46.19 as I finished so I thought I had it cracked - my chip time being about 46.03. So I was a bit saddened when I saw I had a gun time of 46.26...until I had a look at what my Haddington time was - which was its all good.

God these bloody road races and the agony you can give yourself over tiny increments of time.

There was a bevy of Helensburgh's there, including the super fast super vet Paul Thompson and Julia Henderson setting a new pb of 37.10. (2nd FV35-44 prize), and Willie Jarvie took 3rd MV50 prize. The Buchanan was forlorn having not only not set a new pb but being 30 seconds off his old one. He is shaking it off now but its taken some time and some bacon and cheese toasties...

Stirling is a pretty well organised and genuinely fast and flat 10K and being so far inland it doesn't seem to suffer so much from the strong Scottish Breezes (although nearby Alloa seems to get its fair share of wind on half marathon day, so maybe its a seasonal thing). We all got a t-shirt and goody bags with biscuits and lucozade and water and a banana. My only grumble would be not hearing the gun - although looking at my Garmin data I see we set off at 10.14 - so maybe there wasn't a gun? Maybe we all just started moving?

Peter says the K markers were off but I wasn't really paying any attention to them so never noticed.

Next up - the 2 Breweries on Saturday. Time to start puzzling over the route again.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Long Run

I have just started back at university and have had a 4 day intensive start to it - which has been great - but its involved quite a lot of sitting on my arse and some cake-eating, some almond croissant eating and the drinking of gallons and gallons of strong coffee. My mileage tally for the week has been pretty poor - only 13 and a half measly miles up until today, so I thought, come what may, today I needed to get out a long run.

The Met Office were saying it was going to start chucking it down at 1pm while the BBC weather site was predicting a more modest light rain round about the same time. Both sites were in agreement the wind would be from the East. I put aside my desire to have a nice sleep-in this morning and got up early enough (it was quite early) to catch the 9.43 train for North Berwick so I could commence running at 10.16 and have about 3hrs of running with the wind behind me before it got too nasty. The plan was to do all the longer alternatives around the coast early on so if I needed to bail out of the run I would already have got 20 miles in, and then if I wanted to go longer and things weren't so bad, I could.

This all worked out kind of smoothly. It was dark and overcast but it wasn't too cold and it was nice to be outside again at last. I'd taken my ipod and enjoyed trotting along the beach with the wind behind me and the grey sea to my right. After about 10 miles I was getting a bit sore and sleepy also. At 11 miles I was at Aberlady so had a Chocolate Crispie bar and a bottle of Lipton's tea, sitting on the stone wall in the light rain as a funeral party walked past.

By Seton Sands I was losing the will to live despite the going being relatively easy back on tarmac and with the wind behind. I tried being brave for a while but that wasn't working so when I got to Prestonpans I decided to hunt down the train station, which I've seen signs for but have never really known where it is. I found it up a sizeable hill as the Garmin turned over to 19 miles. Unfortunately the next train would be nearly an hour so I ran back down the hill and hopped on a bus.

There's a kind of low grade pleasure sitting on a warm and steamy bus on a dark rainy day in Scotland and watching people in the towns of Prestonpans, Musselburgh and Portobello all going about their business. By the time I got off the bus I was stiff as a board but I wanted to make my mileage up to at least 20 so I forced myself to run anyway. At Scotmid I was up to 19.96miles so I thought maybe I'd make up the difference when I came back out again. In the meantime I got some tomato soup and some other stuff for tea. When I got back out the shop I couldn't be bothered trying to make up 0.04 of a mile by running while all my shopping worked its way through the ultra thin sides of the plastic bags it was in. So I didn't bother.

This is not the most heroic blog I have ever written.

I was kind of planning to have a day off running tomorrow to be fresh for the Stirling 10K on Sunday but I think maybe I need to run after all.

Photo - Francesca Woodman

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A return to form....

By which I mean...we skipped the long run today because I'm going to do one on Friday anyway. My legs were stiff and achy and my mouth was a little dry from drinking wine last night.

We settled on driving to Gullane and going for a traily 8 miler in the windy weather. All the while I was having  fantasies about food. I wanted bacon and melted brie. I wanted cake. I wanted haggis and turnips in a baked potato. It was impossible to get any kind of speed out of myself and I realised I was settling back into my old ways. No speed training at all and food as a reward wherever I go. However there was no way I was leaving Gullane without a visit to Falko's. No cheese and sausage tongues left so we had pretzels and Peter had a raspberry tart and I had some kind of extravagant danish pastry with glazed fruit on the top. It did the trick though and we stopped arguing and there was peace in the car.

A day off is in order tomorrow and then maybe shorter, faster stuff until Friday when my next long run is due. In a fit of enthusiasm we've signed up for the new Glen Ogle 33 mile race in November. There's something about this long run business that keeps calling you back. Maybe its the amount you can eat afterwards.

Next Sunday will probably be a horrible shock at the Stirling 10K but lets be positive. All I ask is a season's best, which is about 46.20ish. Possible? I dunno. Then the week after that is the 2 Breweries race. I'm afraid that my hill-running legs keep using up all the protein making my quads extra big and then there's nothing left for my speed running muscles. Wherever they are...I'm toying with the idea of going back to Tuesday night intervals, especially since I'm not going to be able to make club nights for quite some while. Can I put myself through that?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Reverse Red Moss Plus in the beautiful evening light....

Not the most auspicious start to the weekend...apparently it was the Ned Revels last night, which took place next door to us. For us this consisted of 10.30pm to about 3.30pm boom-boom music, ugly voices and laughter, doors slamming, staffies barking. We slunk off to bed hoping if we ignored them they'd just go away. "Someone else phone the fucking police this time" was my thought. Really. What is wrong with our other neighbours? In the name of behavioural modification and consistency we should have phoned the police but neither of us wanted to get into the whole thing. I tried my ned noise combatting head-phones and even the white noise I'd down-loaded from the internet, which worked to a certain extent, but I felt sorry for Peter and got tired of the space-suit noises. Also I like to lie on my side.

So I woke up this morning about 11.30 in a pretty bleak mood. Rumour has it that our neighbour will be leaving soon but in the meantime every time there is a full moon and his disordered blood rushes to his tiny head the whole building has to throb to his imbecilic beat until the rage has passed...

As I surfed around on the internet while eating my breakfast I was pleased to discover that this is the Year of the Rabbit and as a Horse, I'm not really meant to be having a good time this year. Having to temporarily rein in my nature and put up with things I don't like. Lower earnings and loss of status in order to achieve long term goals. Lower than usual amounts of luck. Yep, yep it fits. As long as there's a reason for it I don't mind.

So then there was the question of where to go a run. The Buchanan has rather pushed the boat out in the last week. He ran 26 miles for my 20 on Sunday and then went out another run on Monday. (About 7 miles?) Then we both did the Pentland Skyline on Wednesday and yesterday he cycled to Musselburgh to meet up with Johnny Lawson and ran 21 miles with him, cycled back, and then came out for 5 and a half with me. So today he wasn't as keen as usual, which was quite nice for me. I suggested that we do the extended Red Moss route we've cooked up but vary it a bit and do it in reverse as I always struggle with the last flat mile at the end. Both of us were stiff to start with but the drizzle that had been around earlier in the day had cleared up and there were bursts of low evening sunlight. It was a bit dark and dismal to start with, but the wind was warm, and for once Peter wasn't pushing the pace which made me feel like I was moving quite well. As we got up onto the Kips the sun came out and the wind was blowing hard and everything looked golden in the low light. We had a superb 3 mile swoop downhill from the top of West Kip back to the car with a small diversion at the end round the board walk over the moss. We were both much lighter in mood by the end.

So then we only had some left over pasta for tea so bought a pizza to supplement it, and some wine to supplement that and then we watched a bizarre but enjoyable Mighty Boosh-esque film called Bunny and the Bull - which is approximately about taking risks and for the moment all is right with my world. Tomorrow is long run time again. Where will we go? I really don't know.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Midweek Skyline

Photos PB

The trouble with running ultras is you buy all this food that when you're running you find disgusting. "Chocolate raisins? Gag. Fudge? Oh I'm so sick of this stuff. Chocolate Brownies? Oh no I couldn't." And then you bring it home and one fine night when you're sitting in the house watching The Killing on the telly and you haven't done anything even vaguely fact you didn't even go out for a piddly wee run because you just couldn't be bothered, the goodies start calling to you from the cupboard.

And so it was that after a pretty lavish tea thank you we raided the ultra box last night and had half a big bag of chocolate raisins each. It was at about this moment that I had the brilliant idea that we should go and do a whole Skyline today rather than wait all day and go to club training at night. I was off work and Peter didn't HAVE TO be anywhere. And we do have the 2 Breweries race coming up in just over a couple of weeks, which is  long and hilly, so it made sense...

It was a pretty nice day. Bright and blowy. My legs weren't keen on the idea. I hadn't run since Sunday's long run and I was stiff and sore - probably worse than I would have been if I had run. Half way round I had a real dip but was rescued by eating something and the fact that we'd turned around so the wind was now behind us. We ran a bit further than the Skyline as we'd parked in the bottom car park at Hillend. So about 18 miles and 5 hours later the deed was done. I'm so tired, but never mind, its tea-time and The Killing's on soon and the ultra goody box is now empty.