Saturday, 28 September 2013

Mixed Fortunes

These photos don't really illustrate today's story, but later on you may be glad of that.

The longer I write this blog the more I realise that I am constantly scanning my life to see if the tide of fortune is running in my favour or not.
This week it seemed like not. A few things happened, the most disappointing of which was that Sean Connery didn't want to give me any money (he has a trust fund to help people seeking further education), the other thing of note was that a light lit up on my dashboard on Monday night.

It looked quite nice - it actually looked like a queen's crown. I read the car manual and discovered that I was required to top up my coolant. "Can do!" I thought to myself. I even had made up coolant in the boot. I topped it up. The light went off, I hoped this was the end of the story.

The next day the light went back on. I put the rest of the coolant in. The light went off. The light came back on. I got more coolant - with literally the last £12 in my bank account. I poured it in. I looked under the car. I saw it dripping out the bottom of the car. Damn it sir. I had just poured my last £12 onto the road. Probably bad for the environment too. Not my biggest concern at the time.

I never had a car for 38 years so I know how to be without one. One thing I'm damn sure of, I don't want to be without one. I love my car. Was fortune going to take away my car? I couldn't get near a garage until Saturday so I booked it in at my local Citroen garage for this morning, praying that it wasn't going to turn out to be something big. The best case scenario was a bit of a hole in one of the hoses.

Saturday being my long run day I figured I'd dump off the car at the garage early, then get the train to Musselburgh and run to North Berwick, via the beaches, get the train home and I'd be home in plenty of time to pick up the car if it was fixed.

There was forecast to be a bit of an easterly, but nothing too much, and I'd much rather run from the relative nastiness of the road through Musselburgh and the Pans etc. towards loveliness that run in the opposite direction. It's such a heart-sink running from East Lothian back towards Edinburgh. Things get less and less appealing and then you're home!

I caught the 8.39 train to Musselburgh by the very skin of my teeth and thought the omens were looking good. Running through Musselburgh I saw a blue piece of litter with the queen's face on it...the queen's face on it! I stopped and went back Sure enough, there lying on the road was a fiver. Nice one! That was nearly my train fares paid for right there.

 I ran on in a great mood, quite sure the gods were smiling on me. It was an exceptionally beautiful morning. The Pans swished by without incident. At Port Seton I stopped for a coffee and a pastry and thought how nice the world was.

By Longniddry I wasn't feeling so good though. The easterly had sprung up and it was sharp and cold. I was wearing my Inov8 race rucksack which is nice and light but not very breathable, so if you sweat your back gets all wet and stays wet. My t-shirt was soaked through and the wind was making me cold. My stomach started to hurt.

By Aberlady I really wasn't feeling very well. All the hairs were standing on end on my arms and I was getting waves of cramps through my stomach. I was breaking out in a cold sweat from this which was just adding to my t-shirt being wringing wet and making me colder. With regret I decided to stick to the road and just get to North Berwick as fast as I could rather than going round the coast.

About a mile beyond Gullane I suddenly realised I would need to utilise some bushes. I climbed over a wall and found myself in a nettle plantation just behind the targets where the titular archers of archerfield must go and do their archery practice. Not the safest place to be, but there was no sign of anyone and I was desperate. You, I and Paula all know that running can cause GI distress. I had a bout of GI distress. That's as nicely as I can put it. And sacrificed a pair of pants to the clearing up of this distress. I felt a bit better and came back out of the woods. I tried jogging for a while but that wicked cold wind just brought the feeling back. As the road forked for Dirleton I thought I would stay on the main road and  throw myself at the mercy of my fellow man. I felt really bad.

So I tried hitch-hiking - without any hope really. I don't think I would pick up a hitch-hiker any more - not near a big city - so I didn't see why anyone else should. Unless they realised that I was really near to North Berwick and I was just in a t-shirt and shorts and I wouldn't be trying to hitch a lift unless something was wrong. Lots of posh cars swooshed by. Someone even honked on their horn at me. Presumably some kind of abuse. I was well beyond caring. I was feeling sick and frozen and really wanted to get on that train. At last a lovely woman pulled up in a 4 by 4 and took me to the train station. She apologised for all the other traffic that hadn't stopped. She was so damn nice and I told her so.  At the station (train due in 3 minutes, the tide of fortune turning again already) I had to surreptitiously nip down a lane and vomit on a grassy bit as tactfully as I could. When I got on the train I found a seat in a pool of sunlight and started to feel better. By the time I got back to Edinburgh the hairs on my arms were lying back down again and I felt much better. I ran down the road and managed to make my mileage up to 18 miles.

Then I phoned the Citroen garage and it was the best case scenario. A hole in one of the hoses. It cost me less than £50. I didn't want to spend £50 but compared to how it could have gone it was a result.
Having eaten and drunk and dressed up nice and warm I am back to feeling that the god's are smiling on me.
What's it all about?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

NB18 again, this time in muted pastel shades

Same run as last week, saves some explanation. Except this time Amanda had messaged Peter to say she was up for a run. Peter didn't want to run too far - he's got Dumfries Half Marathon tomorrow and has spent the week getting no sleep because of a toothache that gets worse at night. He's been finding little sips of whisky help. You can see how someone's life could just begin to slide under these conditions. It's worse for me. I've woken up in the night a few times to see someone sitting up asleep, looking for all the world like Psycho's mother. This was Peter with his dressing gown wrapped round him sleeping upright because the tooth didn't hurt so much that way. Anyway, I digress. Amanda didn't want to run far because she's got a bit of a cold. They agreed to go for 10. I wanted 18. I dumped Peter off in Aberlady as the last of the sun for the day went behind the clouds.

Much as I enjoy stopping 4 miles into my run for coffee that gives me a massive adrenaline rush, I rather scared myself with my heart rate last week, so decided to make a cup of weak, instant (sigh) and hide it in the undergrowth in a thermal thingmy at Aberlady Bay. I went fore-armed with a pain au chocolat from the Co-op, which, to my relief, survived the 6.5 miles of shoogling in a rucksack it got before it was time for it to be eaten. (I thought if I hid this in the undergrowth, something with teeth would surely get it...) I also hid a water bottle, as you only really need to drink on the second part of the journey.

The outward journey along the road went by without incident. I quite like seeing the pelotons whizz by, and the odd solo cyclists always give you a nod. The picnic at Aberlady Bay was only slightly spoiled by some twitcher having already bagged the bench so I sat on top of a drain cover instead. There was very little wind and the miles were going by easily. My minute/miles are so much improved on how they were earlier in the year, it is very heartening. I reflected that although at that time I was trying to be brave about running slower than 10 min/miles, every time I did  I felt like hurting a puppy.

Just after Gullane I ran into Peter and Amanda. Peter informed me he'd been "expecting me sooner", implying that I was slow. I don't think he can actually help himself. Amanda was in good form, having recently won a half marathon for which she got £300 and a £50 token and some other stuff. I asked her what she is going to get me with the token but she hasn't told me yet. Must be keeping it as a surprise.

By Yellowcraigs and all that my legs were tiring but it wasn't far to North Berwick.
Another 18 done today, a bit quicker than last weekend, although there was less wind and the tide was further out so I had easier terrain to go over.

40 miles for the week again. Good enough.

Saturday, 14 September 2013


I found your make-up bag by the way

Peter was away for some punishment in the Pentland Hills with Gareth Green, which meant I got to mosey around the coast tout seul. I wanted 18 miles. You know the routine. I parked up behind Ben's house and set off into the cool, light west wind back along the road to Gullane.

At Gullane the triathlon was on. Specifically, where I was, the cycling bit. The police were doing a very  nice job of stopping the traffic so the cyclists could take a right turn down to the beach for the running leg, without having to wait at lights or wait for traffic. I sat and watched with approval, drinking half a cup of strong coffee and eating a cinnamon pastry from Falko's. I had to stop myself asking for a cinnamon danish as clearly it should be a cinnamon german. I was trying to remember if the danes hate the germans or is it the other way round. Actually I think it's the dutch. Historically I mean. Stereotypically I mean.. My brain was having a Fawlty Towers moment.

I don't think I really needed any coffee, I was already kind of high. I don't know why. Maybe seeing the sun out again after a sombre grey week. But I couldn't resist it anyway. It's my Saturday treat.

There's not a new thing to be said about running round the coast. Except today everyone was very smiley. Maybe I was smiley and didn't know it. When I got to Gullane I joined the running route of the triathlon (or they joined my route really, it's just where I normally go...) so I got a few cheers. Always nice.

At 16 miles, just along from Yellowcraigs I ran into Uncle Eric. I don't know why I call him Uncle Eric, he's actually Marc Grierson's uncle, but it fits him. He's such a nice man. He's aiming to run 60 marathons before he's 60 and I've already forgotten how many half marathons and 10Ks. He says he has 50 marathons in the bag and 2 and a half years to get the rest done. And he's looking great.

At North Berwick I had a bit of distance to make up so I ran to the far end of the beach. There was a regatta on (which I was too lazy to photograph) and a thing for the life-boats. Don't ask me what kind of a thing. There were bag-pipes. Then I ran back along the main street in North Berwick - a bit hectic on a Saturday afternoon - and then round the block at Ben's to make it to 18 miles.

Just over 40 miles for the week. It felt like another good week's work. My heart rate has taken a while to settle down today though. I don't know why. I guess I need to go easy on the coffee...

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The wonderful miracle of refrigeration.

The other day our fridge packed up. It's pretty annoying. We've only had it for 16 years although it was here in this flat when we bought it so god knows how old it was when we first got it. Back in the day when I had some surplus money in  my bank account I would have tried to solve the problem by buying a new fridge. I would have done it as quickly as possible before Peter had a chance to get involved in the decision making.

Peter doesn't like to make a bad decision so this slows things down considerably. He likes to look at all the options and consider all the alternatives. So it took him 2 years to buy his last bike. I don't know if we can really wait 2 years for a new fridge. I very nearly ordered a fridge from Curry's. Peter came in and said "Where else have you looked?", but I ignored him. I got stuck when I realised the delivery slot was 7am - 7pm. There's no day in my life when I'm going to guarantee to just sit in the house from 7am - 7pm. I felt defeated. Peter got involved. We looked on gum tree and found 2nd hand fridges for about £40 a go, but they're going very quickly. We saw 2 suitable ones and contacted the owners but they had already gone.

Peter put a message on facebook to see if anyone had an old fridge they didn't want. Our friend John Coyle in Mull suggested that we turn our one upside down and shake it. Something to do with this stirring up the gases and getting a bit more life out of it. This brought me to the realisation that I had no idea how a fridge works. I don't have much more idea now but I looked it up. Something to do with gases getting compressed and expanding. Anyway, we shook the fridge upside down. Really, we did. I was afraid I would drop it and lose a toe or something but it wasn't that heavy with no food in it.

It didn't start working though. For the third day in a row now the fridge is a rather warm, fusty smelling box. My milk keeps going thick. The margarine has developed a mould. The yoghurt is actually delicious but I'm being very careful with it. I recently had a tub of yoghurt that went off and I put it on a bowl of fruit before I realised. It tasted like a leper's foot. I have never spat anything out so quickly. It was a horrible waste of lovely fruit.

Anyway, I can't shake the notion that things happen for a reason. 2 winters ago our shower stopped working just before christmas, and we could neither afford to replace it nor find anyone who would be prepared to fit a new one for us, for a good 4 weeks, I came to appreciate the wonder of the modern day shower. We washed ourselves with buckets of water filled from the kettle in our unheated bathroom as a thick fog formed as the steam hit the cold air. The only time I'd experienced anything like it was when we were in Nepal in the Himalayas and we stayed at a lodge that boasted a "hot shower". We keenly anticipated having a shower as it had been a good 3 weeks since we'd even really washed. The thin air made smell travel less. Well I hope so anyway. The "hot shower" however turned out to be a thin trickle of warmish water in a room which was 15 degrees below. It created a lot of condensation. I was so cold after a while that it was hard to get dried off and get my clothes back on. I could hardly bend my arms because my muscles were all tensed up. Getting my hair wet was a mistake. The next day I had a head-cold.

Our christmas without a shower was like that everyday. We were doing the marcothon at the time so we were running every day and really had to wash every day. Being cold makes me miserable. When we finally had a new shower, standing under a stream of hot water seemed like one of the greatest pleasures you could experience. That feeling has never quite left me. Maybe that was the point of it all.

But I'm wondering if we could shorten this experience of not having a fridge by appreciating the wonder of refrigeration right away.

In other news I went out for a long run today. I accidentally doped. It was a shame. I wanted to run 17 miles and thought I should take along something with a bit of sugar in it to keep me going for the last few miles. Peter had some of those "shot bloks" in the cupboard, which I have always scoffed at because they are only 20 calories a shot. What is the point of 20 calories? That's like 2/3rds of a rice cake.

Early on in the run I felt pretty knackered and even questioned the wisdom of running 17 miles. Should I cut it short? I was reluctant to give up so easily, however, so didn't make any decisions. I had a shot blok early on. A little later I found the miles were swinging by and I was feeling good. At mile 9 I stopped and had another shot blok and some water and then read the packet. I hadn't realised that each little shot blok has 25 mgs of caffeine in it, and what I had mistaken for a feeling of natural well-being was actually a caffeine kick. What I had thought was CHI turned out to be C8H10N4O2. Ha ha. Chemist's joke.

The caffeine helped but 40 calories didn't cut it. At Murrayfield, at 13 miles, I had to go into the co-op and find something to eat. I got a bar of dark chocolate as everyone's always going on about how good it is for you. Mistake. Not enough sugar and not delicious like milk chocolate. Still, it got me home.

17.3 miles felt relatively easy and I've run a 45 mile week. Things are getting better.