Sunday, 30 November 2014

Peebles XC

Apparently Dracula's castle here overlooks the course. I've never seen it. Lucky I finished before dark.

Anna Henly coming to get me. She didn't but she's closer every time.

I wasn't quite right for a wee while afterwards!

Porty splashathon

It was a beautiful day for the Peebles XC. We headed up to Morningside to pick up Mike and Michael and headed down the road. Almost no route finding problems until we were actually into Peebles, where we did a little bit of chasing round in squares and some mild swearing. None of it with much conviction. The sun being out helps a lot.

For a warm up I went and looked at the scary bit before the finish. Hmmm, still scary. Rocky, slimy, narrow, rooty single track with a steep drop off.

This was my 3rd race in a month and it was telling. I was back where I used to be. It was hard. The high I got from the Lauder XC and less so at Gala (I loved the course, but not the PRESSURE) had now all but worn out and I was pecking along too hard to be at all comfortable and yet too slow to be at all fast. I didn't HATE it, but....Oh well....anyway it's a nice course. I preferred when it was up or down rather than flat because I do seem to have accumulated some crafty old dogness over the years and can steal some kind of benefit when the going gets rough or tough.

The last downhill bits were good and then I saw Anna Henly catching up behind me so did my best to hold her off. I was actually quite cunning, well I thought so anyway. There was a biggish bloke who looked like he was struggling with the technical descents so I slipped just in front of him just before the scary rocky bit feeling sure that no-one would be able to get past him...this worked out until I caught up to another woman in roady looking shoes who had actually stopped completely - was refusing the small slither down to the path. I had to go round her, losing my advantage. Then it was just a horrible push to the end with all my internal alarms going off and the nausea rising...

My history teacher used to have this exclamation that I've never heard anywhere else. "Ye Gods and Little Fishes." For some reason it's coming into my mind now. Ye Gods and Little Fishes it was tough out there today. Afterwards there was the deep silence of damn all going on in my brain.

I enjoyed the merry race talk on the way home in the car.
And I liked my lunch when I finally got it.
Can't believe it's Sunday night already.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Saturday Swim

Just what you want to see - the grim reaper coming for you, walking on the waves!

One eye was more awake than the other one

God I was tired this morning. For some reason I just don't sleep in anymore though, so I got up anyway. I think it's one of those things older people do. It was hard enough adjusting back to GMT, it took me a couple of weeks to stop waking up at 5am.

And there was a good reason to get clear of the house. Peter and Richard were organising the Water of Leith half and they kept thinking of things I could do to help...what they were having difficulty understanding was...I didn't want to help! Anyway, I had a new neoprene under the wetsuit vest to try out - so I set off for Gullane.

First of all I needed a medium sized run. There's more Borders XC tomorrow so I wanted to stretch my legs without doing too much. 6 miles round the trails there woke me up. I was impressed with the size of the surf. It was a relatively windless day so I actually thought it was going to be one of those calm days when there'd be a chance to dig in and swim a bit further. It was not to be. Big rollers were rolling in and crashing on the shore. It wasn't just me that noticed. Death was out surfing already - as pictured above, and 2 other surfers arrived once I was in.

I did try swimming but I swallowed too much water and gave up on it. It was a bit frightening but also great. I went out and bobbed about in the big waves and got knocked over until my feet were frozen and then called it a day.

I have a waterproof camera on order from Amazon so hopefully the pictures will improve dramatically -

Monday, 24 November 2014

Plimmer Tree

A 14 miler up the WOL and back by the canal today. I didn't really feel like a longer run. (Anything more than 10 miles seems like a "longer" run to me at the minute) but in the interests of staying strong and probably weight control I still thought it was a good idea. It was meant to be sunny, but it wasn't. As I ran up the WOL however, the day revealed its more subtle charms. The air was cool and it was quite still. There were a lot of mossy greens and yellows.

At the skate park, there were no children for once, so I stopped to take a picture of the eskimo astronaut thing I had seen many times before and quite liked. As I turned around I thought I saw lots of crows sitting in a tree. A second look revealed that the tree was full of plimsolls. Just how long has it been like that? Anyone who has watched Burnistoun will remember their song "Whose shoes are they?"


Well that was in my head for pretty much the rest of the run.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Does the Buddha's Face Look Bothered?

I've had a quiet weekend. My very faithful readers will remember I nearly went to a day's mindfulness retreat about a month ago but then things happened and I ended up putting it off. Well it was on Saturday. I did think about not going again. I had things I needed to do you know, like going for a run, picking up a parcel from the depot (I swear the postie waits round the corner until I go out and then dives up the stairs with a red card) I didn't have all that much I had to do. I got up at 5 though, so's I could run and get my parcel. I was hoping that the parcel was a neoprene vest I've ordered off Amazon, for going under my wetsuit, but it turned out to be a book. I did the weekend shop at Tesco super early and I was back and showered in time to get to Mindfulness. The revelation of the day was really pumping up the tyres on my bike. I noticed the other day that they were a bit soft so I put some air in there. I swear when I went out on it it was like it was brand new again. Rolling resistance is real!

I suppose Mindfulness is about not being constantly distracted by your own mind. For someone who constantly tells themselves stories like me, that's a big ask. And I'm tempted to make up a big story about it. But I won't. I sat perfectly still for ages and never said anything and my mind did quieten down considerably. In fact on the last leg, at about 3pm, stretched out on the floor with a blanket over me, I did accidentally have 40 winks.

Peter was away in Nottingham at the Masters so when I got home I never said anything either. I ate my dinner to the sound of one hand clapping and then retired early to bed.

Appropriate outfits for the weather.

There's nothing Freudian about this picture. It's all in your filthy mind.

LOOK at my long shadow. No I'm not trying to put off going for that swim.

This morning when I got up it was dark and cold. I knew today was submerge day and I was sorry my neoprene vest hadn't come. I didn't put the heater on at home in case I lost the courage to go out. The forecast had said it was going to be sunny but the sky was grey and thrawn and there was a sharp wind. I told myself this was the point of Submergathon - to confront this very fear of the cold and exposure. "In fact" I told myself, "This is relatively easy. In an ultra you have to run for quite a long time before the real challenge starts, whereas with the submergathon you get the hard bit over at the start!"
Well nearly at the start. First of all I needed to do a wee recovery run, which I wasn't really in the mood for. The sea was grey and bleak and I wasn't looking forwards to this swim. But then the sun came out and things felt a bit better. Just a bit better mind you.

And finally I did get in. It was intense. Another couple had gone in just ahead of me. The man swam off and the woman pottered around in the water. It was very cold and very choppy. Julia Henderson had assured me the face freeze eases off after about 50 strokes so I forced myself in and on. I was getting lifted up and dropped pretty regularly by the waves though and it was exhausting. Because Peter was away I'd taken a bumbag to put the camera in and this was acting a bit like a brake in the water. Or at least I like to think so, because I was getting nowhere fast. My shoulders were really freezing and after setting off with good intent I found I was having difficulty keeping my poor little arms moving through the water. That thermal vest will not be a moment too soon when it comes. I gave it 200 strokes and decided to call it a day. Just the heel of my accelerator foot was still numb as I arrived back in Edinburgh. I got held up in what seemed to be a queue for Kinnaird park. I assume that Christmas Shopping has commenced.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Gala XC and other stuff

There's something beautifully old-fashioned about this photo of the rest of the Porties. Me and Peter were still out in the woods. Photo - David Limmer.

All my atoms were shook  up by the end. Photo Mary Lye.

Julie Oswald found the race far too short.

Arthur's Seat!

The weather is so dismal today that even the houses look sad.

I'm having a terrible time getting anything done at all today so I might as well blog! 

After 6 months race free, I just did my 2nd race in 3 weeks yesterday. Not that it felt strange, it didn't. It's 2nd nature to get up and into race kit, find my safety pins and go!
We had a newbie to the Berlingo bus in the form of Mike Lynch who got to witness first hand the usual high level of expressed emotion as we established the exact route to get onto the A7 and down into the borders. You wouldn't think this would be hard. My sister used to live in Stow, so we've cycled that road manys the time, and yet we went the wrong way and it took some swearing and sarcasm to correct our route. We had bags of time anyway - and it was lucky we did really, because a thick fog had formed and driving was slow.

Arriving in Galashiels there was yet more driving around and shouting until we followed the signs for the swimming pool (which I, ahem, had been saying all along) and got parked nearby.
It was cold and I'd put on a t-shirt under my race vest thinking I could always take it off if it seemed like I should. I had a fleece on over this and a hat and gloves as we set off on a bit of a recce.

The course was full of interest and we were out warming up and recceing longer than we meant to be so we had an unwelcome sprint just before the start. I was roasting by this time and had time to bundle my fleece and hat and gloves up and chuck them by the side of the road, but there was no time for taking my t-shirt off from under my vest. I started right at the back, which I thought might have doomed me due to the narrow trails, but actually it was fine and worked quite well for pacing. I could see the vest of club-mate Shery up ahead, so focused on making my way up to her. She has been off for about a year with a knee injury and is just coming back or I wouldn't have been near her.

As we came to the hilly bits I started to gain more places and this was very pleasing. For quite a long time it seemed like I'd never feel comfortable on the hills again, but I've regained some of my old steady pace. Nothing exciting, just the ability to keep jogging on when other people have stopped to walk. And on the downhills I could see I was more comfortable with just letting go and letting gravity do the work than those around me too, so for quite a while nobody caught me and I picked off people one by one. I wasn't complacent by the time I got to the 2nd (deep) river crossing but maybe I had relaxed. I was entirely surprised by the sudden appearance of Mark Fry who overtook me at this point. That didn't seem quite right so I did my very best to haul him back in, but he was quite at home on the fast downhill stretch to the finish and I just couldn't get him. Oh well.

The gala marshals were some of the most encouraging I have ever encountered, shouting "You're doing really, really well!". The course was truly amazing. Best ever, with a little bit of everything you could ask for. River crossings, hill-side, long swooping downhills, carpeted forest paths, the lovely smell of pine, stiles, more river crossings....

And so off we went back home again. An 80 mile round trip for less than 4 miles running! This racing malarkey is a drug, it must be. 

Today I planned to get out a run at 8am but only hauled my sorry arse out the door at 1pm. I had to trick myself that it would be "just a short one", but actually it turned out to be a 10 miler. It was nice once I was out. Much warmer than yesterday and some very subtle autumn colours happening around Arthur's seat. I like the trees with the very last bright, bright yellow leaves clinging on, and the hedges with blood red berries.

Okay, as always, I must do stuff. I notice from the results that I have fallen from 8th in my category last time to 13th in my category this race, but I can't be disappointed about it. My heart took a damn good thrashing - I had an average rate of 167. I couldn't have worked any harder and running 10 easy miles today felt fine, except I was hungry.