Sunday, 29 January 2012

Berwick XC 2012

More Borders XC today, this time at Berwick. I spent all day yesterday reading and trying to write an essay and then spent all night dreaming about it and was just thinking I might skip racing today as I woke up until I remembered I was driving and we had a full bus...

My brain was full of reluctant chemicals and I felt like clinging onto the side in the pool of life, but there was nothing to be done but get up and get on with it. A pot of coffee and some serious porridge later I was feeling a bit better. We got our kit on and got out.

Ally and Michael turned up promptly and we were on time for Graham and we headed off down the A1, to England and beyond. The chatter in the car seemed less manic than it has on other xc days - but there was still a fair buzz going on.

The day was cold and there was a blanket of dappled grey clouds right across the sky. The Forth looked like a millpond reflecting the sky. Nice to know there was going to be nearly no wind.

We arrived with an hour to spare. My plan had been to get in a good long warm up but somehow ended up standing frozen to the spot for the first 20 minutes after arriving. Amanda had arrived and was as sleepy as me. She made me feel better in fact. Horatio and a bonneted Scott were also there.

We got moving and checked out the conditions on the sand. Not too bad. Fairly firm underfoot..

The start was held back a little bit waiting for the last junior to come jogging in to a rousing cheer. Then with minimal preamble we were set off. I started off fairly far back in the crowd and so the journey over the sand dunes was fairly measured. On the sand a lot of people went further down the beach but I reckoned it was good enough just taking a beeline to the rocks which marked the spot where we were to come back off the beach again and up the hill. On the hill, instead of the steps it was straight up a lumpy grassy bank. I found this much preferable to the steps.

I was feeling fairly good and concentrated on neither slackening off nor pushing too hard too soon. The leaders came back looking focused and I was pleased to see Peter fairly well up there with a big smile on his face and a guy in a Berwick vest who I guessed must be the guy in his category who has been routinely beating him,  about 5 seconds behind. Looking at the results they held this relative positioning all the way to the end.

Pretty soon we were turning round and setting off back. Hilary Spenceley of Carnethy caught up and passed me. She's done this in a few of the xcs recently - and come in ahead of me - so I tried to not get in a tussle but not let too much space open up. She was about 10 feet ahead when we came to going back down the lumpy grass and to my delight, she and the girl she was with appeared not to like it? What's not to like? Lovely grass pillows to bounce down on. I caught my breath and overtook and made  away with a few feet and knew I'd been given an opportunity. I would try not to waste it.

A lot of people went further right down to the sea again, and I nearly followed but convinced myself to hold a steady course in a straight line across the beach having found nothing too difficult under foot on the way out. We all came off the beach at about the same point and were back in competition over the difficult deep sand. I found trying to speed up was counter-productive but treating the running over sand as a series of one legged leaps seemed somehow to work although it was exhausting and I was breathing hard. Hilary was just right behind me but I thought if I could get onto the sand dunes first I would be able to hold her off.

The sand dunes were by no means easy and the sand there seemed deeper now than it had at the start but none-the-less I managed to keep just ahead and made a sprint for the line with much shouting from Graham and Peter.

Today's reward for all this effort was muffins and coffee from Amanda. Delicious.

We stood around and chatted for a while until we realised it was still as cold now as it had been this morning. We dropped a disconsolate Michael G. at the station for his journey South and then set off in the happy bus back to Edinburgh. By the time we got back we had a firm arrangement for going to the Forfar half next Sunday. This racing is a very dangerous drug. Very more-ish.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Pans 2 NB 2 - kinda long

I'd promised myself I'd try to make better use of my Fridays, which consist of getting up earlier than I want to and then working for 4 hours and coming home. Despite it being a good early start to the weekend I usually feel a bit crap by the time I'm home because I'm tired and tend to waste the day. This Friday I hatched a plan to have a plan and then come home from work and execute it before getting too comfy shuffling around in pyjamas. We're both needing to do more long running so we thought we might take the train to Prestonpans and then run the coast to North Berwick and get the train back...but the timings weren't working out great.

Last night we couldn't agree on the best course of action so we just left it. Today dawned very cold but nice and still with a lovely pink sunrise going on as I cycled up the Bridges. As luck would have it my nice charge nurse remembered that I'd worked 2 extra half hours recently and set me free an hour early. I got down the road and the train timings still weren't working out great so we drove to Prestonpans station and ditched the car and set off. It was very cold and it took courage to wear shorts but I was remembering how yesterday 5 minutes into the run I was too hot. I feel like tights just slow me down and I don't want slowed down so...shorts it was. Not 5, but maybe 15 minutes into the run I was nice and warm and had to ditch my gloves and buff. It had been a bit grey when we set off but the sun came out and stayed out.

What more to really was nice out in the sunshine. Peter did a bit of tree climbing in the magic glade just before Aberlady. As the sun lowered the colours just got more and more spectacular. The tide was against us - just coming up tight to the shore as we got to Gullane so we had to come inland. When we got to Dirleton I had had enough and just wanted to take the road to NB but Peter wanted to go round the shore so we parted company. It was just starting to get dark and I wasn't really sure if I'd see him again. I thought he may have to do some swimming in the dark. But what to do? The Co-op was calling me with its bakery goods and I was starving...

Just after I arrived at the station and just before I forgetfully bought tickets for Edinburgh in the ticket machine, instead of remembering the car was at Prestonpans, Peter appeared. All was well. We went home.
I ran a little over 16 miles and he ran a bit more. Nice start to the weekend.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

6 days a week is fine.

When Tuesday came around I knew I wasn't going to run so my schedule is now running 6 days a week with a Tuesday off. I discover I am in good company as Ryan Hall has recently adopted the same approach. I've mentioned it before but I think Ryan Hall is great. He has let his old coach go so that God can coach him direct. Other people would call it intuition but to him its God talking to him. It seems to be working for him as he's got his best marathon time down to 2.04.58...

God didn't have much to say about whether I went a run or not this morning and I was kind of reluctant to go. I have the choice on a Thursday of going out in the morning or going later in the evening and its tempting sometimes just to put it off, but 5 minutes into the run I was glad I'd gone. It was nice and still and although it was cold I was very soon perfectly warm. A wee trot round Arthur's Seat proved to be enjoyable. Now I have my evening free for...hmmm....studying and doing the dishes. Bonzer.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Marcothon...what still? What really?

Have never really lost that Marcothon thing...I've missed the last 2 Tuesday's running and those have been my only days off since November the 27th. Its not that I have run every day but I now think I should run everyday. A pattern is emerging. Usually by Monday I really don't want to go out but I can't let myself off the hook so I go anyway...then Tuesday, that's it...I crumble. Tonight I dilly-dallied for ages until for some reason I thought of the William Tell Overture, googled it, found it on You Tube and this rallied the troops and I found the wherewithal to get up and get out there. But what will it take to get me out again tomorrow night? We'll worry about that tomorrow.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Shortish Sunday Run!

Ambition outstripped ability/motivation/effort by some way today. The team were at 6s and 7s. I was pointlessly awake in the middle of the night and then slept in. Peter was somewhat hungover. I suggested we torture ourselves with an extended version of Water of Leith - Canal - Meadows - Arthur's Seat but P recoiled in horror and said he wanted to run on the nice beach. So by 3pm or so we started running towards  the nice beach.

The wind was cold and harsh but the sun was bright. There were birdwatchers aplenty at the nature reserve at Aberlady, a pack of them rather comically looking with enormous binoculars at a tiny bush some 3 feet away from them, one of them announcing "I think its a Great Tit!" just as we ran past. We tittered. Ahead were a boy and his mother. A dog coming in the other direction barked at the boy and he started to cry. When we appeared behind him he worked himself into a frenzy running blindly this way and that and bawling and shrieking while his mother tried to calm him down. It was all a bit frenetic so in order to give the public a wide berth I suggested we try a path out through the grasslands that avoided the narrow tunnel through the trees ahead. At first this seemed promising but then we got trapped on all sides by marshland. We surprised three or so grazing deer who took off across what looked for all the world like the Savannah. It took us a mile of tracking and back-tracking to extricate ourselves from the marsh. (A 15 minute mile on the flat!) The day was not looking auspicious for long running. We had maybe another hour of light by this time. Down on the coast everything was looking spectacular. The low winter light was turning everything gold and the wind was now firmly behind us. We ran along to the beach at Gullane and then I led and misled us on some paths down the shore and then up through the woods. My legs were kind of tired from yesterday. We arrived back at the van with 8.01 miles on the clock.

That didn't stop us stopping in at Falko's for 1 x cheese tongue, 1 x yoghurt scone (I wasn't so sure about this, Peter's choice) and 1 x almond and sultana brioche. Eaten out of brown bags in the car while watching the sun set over the golf course.

Need to work on that running to cake ratio. The weekend is nearly over and a full week awaits me and I am avoiding the things I should be doing and blogging instead...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Carnethy Recce

Enthusiasm for putting a Portobello Ladies' team in the Devil's Burden waned and died this year so I ended up having a free Saturday. Peter was off with the men to Fife. Amanda wanted to go a run. I suggested something hilly so I could be "awesome" for the Carnethy 5 in a couple of weeks. Amanda suggested we run the Carnethy route. That might be taking the law of specificity in training a little too literally but its been long enough since I ran the route that I'd forgotten how harsh it is.

There was a fierce cold wind blowing today but this was off-set by it being nice and bright. We set off across the bog slightly to the right of the race route and found ourselves hurdling tussocks in a bog for 100 yards. Quite an intense start to it all. The wind was trying to shear our faces off. I'd forgotten how much snot its possible to produce in a short amount of time in the hills...

Then we tried to chat in the relative shelter on the stomp through thigh-length heather up to Scald Law. Having been running in the hills recently with runners who prefer roads I had formed too good an opinion of myself as a hill-runner and Amanda broke my heart and tore me limb from limb whilst chatting on this steep ascent. I sobbed and stumbled and tripped my way behind.

At the top of Scald Law it was only just possible to stay on our feet and the sky had turned black. On the run down to South Black Hill the wind was playfully tripping up my left leg with my right leg. Aaaaahhhh! Stop it!!! Then on the next stretch demons sent sleet to blind us and slice at our faces. Again we could barely stand up at the top of South Black Hill. We had to run the next bit blind as the sleet was coming straight for us...but then, when we lost some height, we were back in a relatively sheltered and relaxed world. Some walkers looked at us like we were mad. I am afraid I may have played up to this.

The run down from West Kip to the Howe was the pleasant bit and we managed a bit of chat. Then I saw to my horror Amanda  running up the path to Carnethy Hill. Can't we walk this bit? The wind was now at our backs so it was better. I made us go the wrong way. Despite having done the race about 8 or possibly more times I only today realised that the route you go up in the Carnethy is not the standard walker's route.

Summiting Carnethy, again, vertical wasn't an option. Amanda cowered in the lee of the pile of stones up there while I caught up. I would have liked to have taken more photos but also felt I was fighting for my life...AGH flew off down the hill while I made a meal of it. The ground was kind of taxing and my legs were kind of numb! We used the scree which usually isn't an option in the race, but what's the point of practising the odd jumping you have to do through heather on race day? Anyway, I'd stopped to take a picture and Amanda was now about 1000 miles ahead so I had to catch up. Then there was just the short run across extremely wet bog to the end. Huzzah! A stimulating day out. We took off in our separate cars and because the wind had blown my brains straight out my ears at the top of the hill I ended up driving to Penicuik and driving back to Edinburgh in a traffic jam. I didn't mind. There was some musty old program on Bach on the radio which I was enjoying while watching the rain chasing the sun across the sky with the heater blasting on full.

I think tomorrow I am doomed to a "longer run". It needs to happen if we're going to do the Fling, and also I miss eating cake.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Richard Dennis Birthday Handicap Run

Photos; Peter, except Kathy took the one with Peter in

What a stunning day it was today. Hard getting up early at the weekend and hard venturing out in the cold. I made the mistake of "scooshing" my dirty windscreen and the water froze instantly. Need to get more chemicals in my screenwash before the winter proceeds  much further...

Anyway, arriving at Flotterstone the carpark was very nearly full and there was a good sized group of Porties milling about and flapping their arms to keep warm. A large group of  mixed ability went off first, just to get warm I think. I held back a bit, wanting to place myself about the middle so I might catch anyone going wrong from the first group but not be too late finishing. Paul Eunson came with me and pushed me - or I pushed myself, to hit the road a little harder than yesterday's stiff legs might have liked. I "let him go" on the way up the hill to the Maiden's Cleugh and settled in with myself. The first flour arrows on the road were all but obscured but the arrows on mud were still clear and fine, thank goodness. To my surprise however there were more arrows than there were when we left last night. It looked like Harmeny Running Club were also having some kind of organised Pentlands run. The potential was there for much confusion but nobody went wrong at all.

The day was absolutely still and absolutely crisp and sunny, and it was great to be out.

The first Porty to pass me was Richard at about 5 miles in. He was cheeky about my running so I nearly had to throw him in the ditch. He was followed closely by Ricky and Roly. Then I had another stretch alone until catching up to Jenni at the top of the steep tree-lined road. She rewarded me for this with a big soft sweety (Peppa the Pig?). We were soon but briefly joined by Kathy Henly who came tanking through and barely paused. I could see her disappearing into the distance for some time with a plume of dust behind her like the roadrunner. Towards the Howe another Porty (Porty I've not met yet) came by and chatted for a minute or two before moving through. Then, lastly, I could here the train-like breathing of Peter Buchanan and a shout of "I'm coming to get you Mary Hunter!". Peter and Graham whooshed by shouting stuff.

For a good while I had been following the debonair back of the aptly named Douglas Young and I had some notions of catching and overtaking him. On coffin lane this looked quite doable at times but since I hadn't caught him by the Howe I knew he would get into his downhill stride and there was little chance I would get him. Anyway, it was still a stunning day, and too good to hurry. And my legs were a little bit sore on the hard downhill in trail shoes.

Arriving at Flotterstone there was a large group of Porties all over again. There was fruit cake in a tin (quite low down so you got an automatic hamstring stretch) and Paul Eunson furnished me with an enamel mug of coffee. Then a batch of us went to the Flotterstone Inn some for lunch, some for soup, some for coffee, all for Emily's cupcakes and some for quite a lot of beer so there was singing in the car park when we emerged a couple of hours later. Great day out. Great club. Vive Ecosse ya Bass. Happy Birthday Richard.