Monday, 29 December 2014

Death Swim!

Last night Peter's brother Neil got in touch again and we decided on today as the day for our cold winter dip. The forecast was not encouraging - freezing cold and freezing fog - but unexpectedly the sun came out. I went out for an earlier run. On the way down Pilrig St the graveyard to the left caught my eye. Freezing fog swirling round grave stones. It reminded me that we had called our swim the Death Swim! How very auspicious.

When I got back from my run, times had been agreed, so off we set for Gullane. I was still in denial. "I don't think I'll do it" I thought, "I don't need to do it!" I thought, "I was just in at xmas! And I'm going in again on Thursday after the Promathon!". But when we got there Neil and Ryan had geared themselves up for it and it was irresistible.

It was the coldest day I've gone in today. Neil's wife Sue came too, just to spectate. We got down onto the beach and got changed at the top of the wet bit on the sand. It was spectacularly cold and bright. There were other people on the beach, walking and wrapped up well. Ryan had been feeling ill on the car on the way. He said he was "too hot". His parents said he had a fierce hangover. Anyway, he was up for going in the sea.

When you're doing it, you can't quite believe you're doing it - that's what gets you in. The air was icy - and the sea was icy. I hid behind the camera for a while, trying to get a shot of the others going in and then forcing myself under the water before we ran out...but then once we'd run out, we thought we weren't cold any more, so ran back in, just to make sure.

The 2nd time around my feet went completely numb and I was losing the power of speech. It was a buzz though. Ryan declared it "Very Refreshing!".

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Brave Sunday Run

Peter was going out for another Graham Henry run today. This one was going to be the 7 hills of Edinburgh plus a Skyline. Nobody in their right mind would do that obviously, but I did fancy some company for a longer run. I knew it wouldn't be easy, and I would be the group moomin, but I taped my bus fares to the inside of my rucksack and went along anyway.

I can't tell you exactly who was there. Lucy was, and can be seen showing what elite athletes take along for a long run after xmas. Also there was Nick from Dunbar, Richard Hadfield, Mark of Carnethy and a tall friend of Graham's. I don't know his name but they were at school together and Graham was trying to tell stories about what he got up to when he was 9 and this guy was protesting that it was quite a long time ago....and we met up later with Paul Eunson, for whom we were very late...

We set off at a brisk pace...for me...and I knew that I'd need to keep my head down and concentrate to stay with the group for any length of time. It was a beautiful morning though and the air was very cold and clear. We rose steadily through town and although I knew it didn't make much sense for me to continue up into the Pentlands, I also felt I wanted to get there...just to top out.

We got there somehow...I'll never know how. I forgot to concentrate for a minute or two and then I was hopelessly lost - but as we came up into the hills I started to recognise where I was. I was wearing road shoes - I'd pondered over this a while - but all my off-road shoes are on their last legs and have no bounce left in them, and it didn't seem all that likely that I'd even make it to the hills,  so I thought on balance I'd be better off with road shoes. I, in fact, wore my pink road shoes that have not had much action for a while. I've been preferring to use my Hokas, but sadly I seem to have not only worn all the tread off my Hokas but I am now into the mid-sole...

It was icy and although going uphill was okay, I could foresee that coming down hill in road shoes on the ice would be tricky and slow. As the group turned right, I turned off left for the hill with the white thing on it - is it Allermuir?

I'd enjoyed the company but it was nice to settle back into a pace that was comfortable for me....and to be able to stop and take photos without worrying about holding up the group. I'd already run 11 miles so I didn't need much more. Descending down the sky-line route took an age. The path was a sheet of ice and I had to stick to the heather so as not to slide the whole way down. I kind of vaguely thought I might run a good part of the way home - but it was 15 miles by the time I got to the bus-stop at Fairmilehead, so I stopped there.

Soon I was on a number 15. The bus-driver was grumpy and the bus was cold and there were children in the back who had obviously recently learned about knowing things. To everything their adult said they shouted out "I KNOW. I KNOW that ALREADY!" And when we went down past a school one of them said " I have to come here EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR SCHOOL! I HOPE I NEVER SEE IT AGAIN AS LONG AS I LIVE!" It was like they'd been taking lessons in being emphatic. There was also a dog that had one shoe on that made it's leg look like a golf club. I tried to take surreptitious pictures of it but it moved.

That was pretty much all the fun to be had on the bus. We went along Princes St and I hoped it would be full of busy harassed shoppers so that I could feel superior, but actually there were a few people but not that many. And then we terminated at Waterloo Place, which is pretty  much where we'd set out from - so I set off up Calton Hill for the 2nd time that day. My legs were exceedingly stiff after a long, cold bus ride and it took some doing to get going again. It was good to get onto Leith Walk though and run down without much effort.

Back home and I have eaten my weight in snacks. The rest of the team are still out there. Peter took his big camera so there will be plenty of photos. Oh how nice it would be to feel you could stop anytime and still be able to catch back up...

Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas Crab and Boxer Day

 Ever since September I have been going on about how we are going to go swimming on Christmas day. I don't know why I thought this was a good idea but I try not to over-analyse my enthusiasms because they often end up making me do something interesting and memorable, even if I'm not sure what the point is. Xmas morning it was 0 degrees however, and it looked overcast and grey and the idea seemed about as appealing as...I don't know what...I looked carefully at the idea that it might be better just to stay in bed.

It's difficult to define the exact feeling - the lack of enthusiasm - at the thought of going in cold water. I suppose the fact that to 'pour cold water on' is an idiom for flattening enthusiasm speaks for itself. So why do it? Well what the hell else were we going to do? The clock was ticking. We were going for dinner at Peter's brother's family's house at 3pm, so we better get whatever we were going to do done by then. Up. Hup-2-hup-2....

It was a nice surprise, and at first I didn't trust it, when the sun came out. As we drove East towards Gullane things kind of opened up. We went for a four miler around and about the beach first. I executed a perfect crab. In my head. Peter generously said it was better than he could do and snorted. In my head, the only place that really matters, the judges awarded a perfect 10. Never since Nadia Comaneci had someone described such a perfect arc using only the human form. It looks a bit different in the photo though.

The swim! Well, you know, it really wasn't that bad. There wasn't even any ice on the ground this time. Peter had got us new hoods and gloves and these worked well...I swam in the region of 100 yards.

Then it was home and into the hot shower and then away down to Neil and Sue's for a dinner more fancy, varied and elaborate than we had seen - probably since last Xmas at their house. As the drinking commenced, Neil confessed to a thought that he should come with us some time and jump in the water at Gullane, and that maybe Ryan, Peter's nephew, would come too. By the end of the evening they had enthusiastically agreed that they were coming on a 'Death Swim' and Laura, Peter's niece, had warned Peter that if anything happened to Neil, he would have to do the speech at her wedding.....

Today Peter was up at the crack of dawn to go a run with Graham Henry and others. I left the house at a more sedate 11.30 to go a run along the Prom and back. I bumped into an old friend who I know from w-a-y back and talked about everything under the sun for the best part of an hour. I had to get going again because I was cooling too much, but it was great. By the time I hit the prom, which must have been about lunch-time, it was absolutely hoaching - as busy as a summer's day - and I had to weave in and out between the family's, push-chairs, dogs, kids on bikes....

Where does the time go? It's dark again, and maybe I'm going to go and cook the tea.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Sunday Solstice Swim

Me no like!

They've got Santa trussed up like a turkey ready to be burned on a bonfire on Christmas Night. There's no way out Santa, no way out at all.

Peter has been to the Dive Shop and got us new hoods and gloves. Thicker, warmer, better, more restricting, harder to put on...

He was away with Graham Henry and Richard and maybe some others to run every hour of this short day. I think they were planning about 38 miles. I say short day because I notice from the weather forecast that tomorrow is actually going to be a wee bit shorter, and the day after, and the day after. So it's only notionally the soltice. Bah Solstice Humbug!

I went off in the car to do a wee recovery run and then go in for a dip. By now you know the script. It was blowing a hoolie and it was threatening to rain, but it was a good bit warmer than it was yesterday.

The sight of the dark sea and sky was daunting me and I kept changing the plan. It's hard to stick to a plan that keeps changing. First of all I was going to run 6 miles and get back to the car, suit and boot and new hood up and get in the water. But a little way into the run I thought again. The sea was as choppy as ever. There was no way I was really going to swim today - just duck in and out for the sake of it...and if that was the case, maybe I'd be better going minimal rather than maximal. I thought maybe I'd go in in my undies 5 miles into the 6 mile run. But then...but then...well what if it was too cold...and I wouldn't have any goggles, wouldn't it be better to have a towel and goggles along? Well yes it I circled back to the car having run a couple of miles already and picked up my goggles and towel. The tide was coming in fast and high.

I ran along to Aberlady bay just in time to see a family leaving the beach. I willed them to go away quickly because the sea was nearly up to the top of the beach and I wanted some seclusion for stripping off and going in. It was blowing hard and the waves were breaking. It was really quite frightening wading in. And because I didn't have my usual layers of rubber I was doing all the hyper-ventilation of old. It makes it much more exhilarating though. After a while of over-breathing I ducked in and under, and then did it again for good measure. I made no attempt at swimming and ran out. What a rush!

I actually felt quite warm trying to crouch out of the wind and get my running stuff back on. Then I ran very spryly for the mile back to the car.

Home and it's getting dark again. I wonder how Graham and his army of men are getting on.