Saturday, 31 August 2013

Breezy 16

It was to be a strong west wind so we parked up behind our friends Ben and Alison's house and ran on the road to the turn off down to Aberlady bay. With a stop off at Gullane. I'd eschewed the concept of 2nd breakfast (about a week ago) but it was more than 4 hours since I'd eaten when we set off so I decided to take 2nd breakfast up again as a thing. So coffee and a sticky bun in Gullane was marred only slightly by political ladies selling an independent Scotland. I signed up on the spot hoping that this would make an end to the interaction. I wasn't interested in much except eating bun and gazing into space - but Buchanan loves to interact and debate and engaged another scotland flag waving lady in discussion. She stood a little bit too close to me and I couldn't help feeling she  was spoiling it for me and it was Peter's fault. So I set off a bit earlier than him and made him run hard to catch up.

Down at the shore the view was stunning. The wind had blown the sand flat and it snaked along all ghostly before us as we ran. I was running strongly and was really enjoying it so was discouraging any distracting chatting. I really wanted to think my own thoughts.

The beach flew by - not much to say. It was a good bit cooler today than it has been lately and it made the running easier. The wind was whipping up the sea and making the grass dance. It was a pleasure being out. Before long we cruised back into North Berwick. We snuck up B & A's back garden path to see if they were in and surprised them in the middle of a post-lunch dance to Paul Simon with the kids.

Alison put a huge container full of plums from a neighbour's garden in front of us so I munched my way through what was probably an unwise amount.
After sitting for about an hour and a half I could hardly bend my stupid yoga leg, so I went from running along fine to hurpling until it eased off. I don't know what to do for the damn thing but I can't be sitting about the house all weekend! Definitely signs of autumn around. The long hot summer has kind of made up for the Siberian spring though.

Friday, 30 August 2013


(This is not me)

I was up at the New Royal Infirmary for an MRI scan today. Way back in February a cardiologist said that they would like to take a closer look at what's going on in there...
I was reflecting, as I made  my way along the long carpeted corridors of the nRIE that I may not have been anywhere on holiday for some time but I have been on a long "patient journey". Maybe that would do.
There was a bit of a wait, as apparently the woman who was in before me "had no veins and they couldn't get the cannulla in". I appreciated being told, actually. It made me determined to have veins when it was my turn.

When it was my turn the holiday theme continued. Getting squeezed head first into the plastic tube was a little like going on an aircraft. I had a similar itchy panicky feeling. You really only can see just above your nose a little bit. So I closed my eyes. For 45 minutes a woman told me to "breathe in...breathe out...stop breathing now.........................breathe normally again. From when I held my breath until I started breathing again there would be a succession of space-craft noises. Half way through they injected me with a dye, I guess so they can see how the blood moves through my heart. By the time we were finished I was almost used to it and could have gone for longer.

So anyway - that wasn't a bad experience. I now just have the slight anxiety that they find something outrageous that they weren't looking for. (Or if they found my Helly Hanson running gloves that I lost one day last winter, that would be good. I nearly went crazy looking for them.)

On the way home on my bike I wondered if I had a crash and spilled some blood - what colour would it be?

Meanwhile my yoginjury continues, although it's by far the worst when I get up out of a chair. It really rather likes running, although I think the impact, but not the motion, sets it off a bit afterwards. I'm missing my yoga though.

Saturday, 24 August 2013


I seem to be giving Amanda a secret signal

There was always a danger it would happen. Yoga is intensely stretchy and I am not. But I had been keeping my head and never going too far into a posture. However, last Thursday, which was the last class of the series, the teacher for "Beginners 2" had not shown up. We (Beginners 1) share a hall with them although they are normally secreted behind a screen - so we can hear their funny breathing, but we cannot see them.

So this night we had our class altogether, and instead of the usual gentle babying we get from Linda our teacher, everything went up a level, in speed, number of poses held, how long they were held for and how far we should take them. I did my best to keep up. I seemed to still be intact that night but the next morning getting out of bed I found I had a nasty pain behind my left knee. It's an old injury, I think it's probably one of the tendons that tie my hamstring on to the back of my knee. That knee hyper-extends if I'm not careful and I think this was what happened. It all just got too competitive between beginners 1 and 2.

My injury was still as crotchety as hell when I got out of bed this morning, despite  being fairly careful with it yesterday, and icing. I was praying I could still run. What use is a weekend if you can't run? I was sore limping around the house, but, as I say, I've had this before and running doesn't seem to make it worse. We had a plan to go to Aberlady and run approximately 10 miles. The tide was meant to be really low at 10am. It turned out to be so. It was misty and windless and the air was soft.

When we got to the far end of Gullane beach, we hesitated for a moment, looking at a dog that looked like our friend Amanda's dog Horatio. Then out from the dunes popped Amanda and Lucy Colquhoun and Richard + Harris the dog and Kipper the dog! Much dog and human fun was had. We hadn't seen Lucy since last year so we had much to catch up on. It's hard to see how we could have got the timing much better.

After a long stop we got going again. The tide was out so far we got onto Eyebroughy (?) Island for the very first time. It smelt very fishy and there was little sign of humans being there. This was more the bird's territory I think. I was getting very hungry by then though so I had to push on. Unusually, we had parked at Aberlady bay instead of Gullane so we still had a way to go and my tank was empty....

In the end the tide was so far out, causing us to explore bits of beach that are normally under the sea, that we ran a full 12 miles rather than 10.

I'm so pleased I can still run, although my leg was sore as hell by the time I got out the car.

Monday, 19 August 2013

WOL - canal - meadows - home.

This is where I went wrong

Saturday's run was a bit of a sad affair, and yesterday my legs were sore from trying to run in sinky sand on Saturday, so I didn't even go a recovery run. As a result the internal pressure was building. The wind was still due to be westish today and so yesterday, musing on where I could go today, I remembered that I used to go a run up the Water of Leith and back across town via the canal when the wind was blowing west, - as the westward leg up the WOL benefits from a lot of cover and then the exposed part (i.e the canal and the meadows) has the wind behind. I have over-done running the Water of Leith over the years though, to the extent I can hardly drag myself out that way - and in the past year or so it has been bedevilled with building works and diversions. Fortunately I was in no mood to indulge myself, having run a shocker on Saturday. Today there would be no camera, no quibbling about the route, no food and no stops for food - no second breakfasts, in other words. I took 500mls of water divided between 2 250ml bottles and set off at 8.40, into the rush hour.

Running on a Monday morning when everyone else is going to work is sooooooo working for me. There is something just delightful about it. Am I going to go and face my responsibilities? I think not. The whole thing felt like a great big skive, which is not how going a longish run always feels. There was the added attraction of there being next to no-one on the path. Anyone who ever runs that way knows how jammed up it can get with dogs and kids and walkers and smokers and fishers and cyclists and what-not.

To my surprise and pleasure, much of the water of leith walkway is now fixed up! You can get along past B&Q at Powderhall again. Not only that but they've made a raised walkway so you can see over the high wall into the river. Rochheid path is likewise mended and the bit along the river that ends in iron stairs climbing up past pizza express is also resurfaced and open again. Further along the Dean Path, there is still a diversion due to something or other. It was easily negotiated however. I didn't run into trouble until I discovered at the end of the path that goes past Murrayfield ice-rink that there is now a diversion that takes you along the left side of the river instead of over to the right. There are signs there confidently declaring this is definitely the way to Balerno, so I went with it. Pity they didn't carry on with the signage. There were 2 more yellow arrows pointing the way and then nada..... I went in a straight line at first but found myself round at the entrance to Murrayfield proper. Wrong direction! So I went back along the road in the other direction and up another street and found myself on the main drag for Gorgie and Dalry. Hell and damnit. I had to go back to the last yellow arrow and once I did so realised that you just had to go round a building there (I think it's called Westfield House) and at the back of it there's a bridge that takes you over the river and back onto the old WOL pathway. In the meantime I had added a mile and a half onto my total. Secretly I didn't mind as this probably meant I didn't have to run round the back of Arthur's Seat at the end of the run to make my mileage up. The hill at the end is always a killer.

So the miles clicked by nicely and pretty soon I was on the canal. This isn't as nice as it used to be since they tarmacked the path. Still the wind was behind so it was easy. I watched some university students (presumably) losing control of their sculls and getting all tangled in the greenery at the side.

By Tollcross I was debating whether to stop and get something to eat or whether to push on and stay empty. There was a green man at the crossing over to the King's Theatre, which surely meant push on. Anyway, I was feeling hungry but fine. I was much fresher than I had been on Saturday and I was enjoying it.

So, to cut a long story short, 15.5 miles done, all quicker in the 2nd half. I feel like I have got a good jump on the week and made up for Saturday.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Saturday Run

Not the luckiest day or the day of best decision-making....I thought I'd go and do a long run round the beach again. It looked like it was going to be a pretty stiff wind coming from something like SSW. (I can't remember just how this goes but more south than west is what I'm getting at.) It seemed like a good idea to start in North Berwick and run back into the teeth of the wind and then get the wind at my back for the beach. But as I was heading along Seafield Road, all the flags outside the big car shops were blowing towards me, so it looked like it was more of an I decided to park up in Gullane, run to NB and run back the beach with this easterly at my back. It was always going to be a bit of a difficult weather day. Strong winds and stronger gusts were predicted, and heavy downpours of rain. As I was getting near to Gullane I did think the grass seemed to blowing the other way now, but I was tired of shilly-shallying so just went ahead with my plan. It started pissing down about the time I arrived.

Running along the side of the road to North Berwick was fine, but I could tell by the faces of the cyclists coming in the opposite direction that the wind was now decisively blowing from the west and I was, in fact, in for it when I turned around. But once a unit of mass is in motion it takes more energy to change its direction than just to let it carry I barrelled on to North Berwick. I was thinking more about having a "second breakfast" in North Berwick really than anything else. In North Berwick, disappointingly, there were pas de pain au chocolats dans le coop. However, there was one pain au raisin (with a small cloud of fruit flies round it), that looked like it might be an adequate substitute, and I went and got a take away coffee out of one of the many thousands of coffee shops on North Berwick High Street. I poured half of it away right away, as the "small" was about a mug and half's worth. And then I drank about half of what was left. And that was plenty.

At the beach, things were as predicted. A head-wind and the sand had gone all sinky. There were periods of respite when pieces of coast provided a wind-break and sometimes the sand flattened out - but mostly it was super-hard going. Super hard-going but kind of pretty though. I was enjoying being out in the weather - some other weather rather than just sun - but it was a shame it was all against me. When I got to Gullane beach I toyed with the idea of going round Aberlady bay and getting a 17 miler in but my legs more or less refused and I headed back into Gullane to make just 12 miles. 12 slow miles at that. Barely enough to justify second breakfasts etc. but I wasn't to know!

When I got back to the van I'd covered 11.63 miles so I did that Garmin thing of running around the putting green there to nudge it up to 12 miles exactly. As I did so I spotted the familiar sight of Chris from club and then Karen Munro, Margaret Sandeman and Cath Webster all arriving round the corner and finishing up what I think was a 20 miler. I was invited for shortbread and a cup of tea back at Chris's car but I declined as I in fact had to go and whip myself with a birch twig.

As I arrived back in Leith my heart sank to see a sea of pasty-faced people with green and white scarves shoving pasties in their mouths. Yep, a Hibs game. So I had to park a good half mile from the house.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Another Monday - run for the hills!

Another Monday escape into the hills. I was getting chased by some pretty dark clouds but it only rained on me once. September is approaching fast - and another term time -  and I will probably be too busy to take Monday mornings off so I'm appreciating it while it lasts.

I saw maybe 4 people while I was out there. A nice antidote to Fringe madness. Or is it Festival madness yet? I'm never sure.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Saturday Run

It's been a good week for running, things continue to improve. I had a new post-op pb for my Arthur's Seat 10 miler on Wednesday, despite it being swelteringly hot. Having imagined that I had reached some zen like non-competitive peace within, on Wednesday I found I suddenly had the urge to beat other people again. There were plenty people out running round the seat so I worked hard to over-take everybody that I could, and came home melted, but happy.

Today Peter was heading for the Haddington half. He is in pretty close to best ever form so is keen to capitalise on it while he can. I thought I'd go and do 16-18 miles round the coast - you know the route by now. Since it was a Westerly wind the plan was to start in North Berwick - run the road, into the wind, to Aberlady, and then get blown down the coast for the good bit. However, before you accuse me of always doing the same thing I'll have you know I varied it a bit.

The only time I let myself have a second cup of coffee for the day these sad days is when I go a longish run. The last 2 or 3 times we've arrived at the Londis shop in Aberlady, however, and wanted a rubbishy but rather enjoyable coffee out of their machine, the machine has been broken and we have gone away disappointed. All they really need is a kettle and they could charge us a pound for a teaspoon of instant coffee granules. Oh well.

So today I decided to switch my allegiances and stop in Gullane instead. I got a coffee at Falkos - a brisk, no nonsense German one. But I didn't want any of their cakes, I wanted a pain au chocolate, which I procured from the Co-op down the road. They went together very well. Kind of an entente cordiale, except with the wrong countries. I didn't actually finish all my coffee as I realised it was going to push my mood up a little too high. I stopped about 2/3rds of the way down the cup and threw the rest of it away. Just as well.

I must have blacked out for a while and came to running naked in the long grasses...

Well not really. But I was pretty high. Everything looked perfect for a while and running was easy. I think in reality everything was pretty perfect anyway. Although my photos show it wasn't as sunny as I thought it was. Still, there were big billowy clouds in the sky and the long grasses were waving in the breezes. Down at the shore, the tide was a long, long way out, so I knew I'd be able to run below the rock-line at Gullane rather than going over the cliffs. This is always a treat. The sand was mostly nice and smooth and I was making good time along the beach. I didn't even really feel tired until at about 13 miles. And even then I think it was because I hadn't had any water to drink, just 2/3rds of a cup of strong German coffee, 4 miles into the run.

I had been following the tyre marks of a fat-bike for some time so it wasn't a huge surprise to happen upon Bruce Mathieson of Coastrider fame and a bunch of buddies. Bruce said this terrible thing to me. He said "Are you walking or running?" To be fair to him, I was standing still at the time. It reminded me of a time on Leith Links when a couple of school boys asked me if I was a prostitute. Did I look like I was hanging around at street corners? I was running quite fast! Stupid school boys!

Anyway, the only other thing that happened of note on the run, apart from me enjoying myself, was
 a woman picking up a big piece of driftwood with lots of spikey branches and throwing it behind her for her dog without looking. She in fact threw it right hard at me and it stuck me in the chest and bashed me on the hip. She looked like a nice lady though and she was so thoroughly appalled at what she had done I couldn't really bear to make her feel any worse, so I pretended it didn't hurt, which it bloody did, and I have a big bruise on my hip.

Her husband was looking on from about 30 feet away and looking kind of amused and kind of ready to run. Maybe she does that kind of shit all the time.

Then I was back in North Berwick. End of. I wonder how Buchanan did in his race.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sunday Recovery Run

I'm trying out doing a super-easy run on a Sunday in between a sandwich of harder runs on a Saturday and a Monday. This was my second go. I read a book about heart-rate training once that suggested you should do some of your runs at a super-low heart-rate in order to train some other system in the body - probably your fat burning system. The idea was to go out and keep your heart-rate under a certain figure no matter how slow that proved to be and that you would find over time you were running faster at the same heart-rate. I did a few 8 mile runs like this at the time and there were three major hurdles. One was that it was a neck if you saw anyone you knew. I saw Steven Malley from club one day while out on one of these runs and he said, with concern, "Are you alright?"
The second hurdle was that it was really boring. You had to arm yourself with something to think - not unlike doing an ultra. The third hurdle, and why I gave up on it before I saw any benefits was it alters your gait and I started to get a bit injured somewhere on the lower leg...

Well I've dredged up this old plan for my super-easy Sunday recovery run. The trouble is I'm too lazy to find the book and see what heart-rate I was trying to stay under. I think it was about 140. So I try to keep my heart-rate around 130 but failing that under 140. In order to avoid lower limb injury and to ease the boredom I've settled on 4 miles for this run, which just takes me round a local circuit which I quite like.

Another thing about running slowly is that it sort of brings you more into contact with the environment than usual. I block out a fair amount of what's going on around me most of the time when I'm running, especially when I'm in Leith. I just keep the basic sensors on so I don't run into a person or in front of a car. So running slowly  around Leith you encounter it in a more intimate way than usual. This isn't always something that you would seek out.

Still Leith was showing its best side, with the sun out and summer in full bloom. I met no hostility or even vague threat. No incidents with  barky dogs or neddish children. No sun-baked alcohol soaked chauvinism from the old boys placed permanently smoking and squinting into the sun outside the pub downstairs. The least savoury part of the run was the police cordon at the bottom of Leith Links where they found baby parts in a bush. But you can't have everything.

I got a bit of a pain in my right ankle - that pesky thing from altering your gait. I'll keep an eye on it. Hopefully it won't develop into anything.

The thing is, I wasn't going all that slow. I was actually running slower when I was trying earlier in the year. So that seems like a very good thing.