Sunday, 29 November 2015

Peebles XC

Nothing looked very promising about this race. The weather forecast was dire; a black cloud with two drops and a gusty wind. Kate Jenkins had posted on the "book" that the course was water-logged - that it was hard, at points, to distinguish the course from the river. I didn't give myself any time to think about it because I couldn't see what I might think that would do me any good.

Steve and Willie had both run the WOL half yesterday and so were suffering before the race. Peter was pretty fresh and had loaded up with Red Bull before getting in the van so there followed a torrent of passionate opinions. I like having Steve in the car because he helps me navigate. Usually it's all up to me. It was even wet in the van. I think the seal must have gone on the passenger side window. Peter's side had a good sized pool of water anyway.

I had the wind-screen wipers on "double" at times and the wind was shaking the van. I remembered how back in the Citroen AX the single windscreen wiper broke one day on the way back from a race on the motorway from Stirling. It was in the middle of a deluge and in seconds I couldn't see a damn thing.  Scott Ferguson was in the car and I thought "I bet he won't want to travel with me again", even though he didn't complain. Luckily we were near the turn off for the service station. Damn, it's amazing what you survive. The next time Scott came in the car it was icy outside and the heater had broken so we had to drive with the windows wide-open to stop the windscreen from steaming up.

Nothing like that today. I thought our timing was pretty nice. No point in being too early - conditions were too extreme - but there was plenty of time for a pee and a warm up - the essentials of country life.

So, fast-forward. The boys went off to warm up and I sat and finished the coffee in my flask in peace. A big flurry of rain blew over and I realised that I'd forgotten to bring a rain-coat. What a twit. I'd been about to, and I'd been swithering about which one to take. I recently bought a new waterproof and I still love it too much to stink it up! So I was considering my options and then something happened and I forgot all about it.

When I got out the van I was stiff as cardboard but a wee run about loosened me off. As is often the way with extreme weather, it was really daunting going into it and then being out in it was enlivening. To my surprise I found I was enjoying myself.
The start was hectic as I hadn't really left enough time to get my layers off and then everyone's kit was getting blown away by huge gusts of wind. Ian Nimmo of Carnethy jammed his kit in the roots of a tree along-side mine and I weighed them down with a big stone. Then I had to go as it was off time. I didn't hear the safety talk, or the start. Off we jolly well went into the teeth of a gale.

And yet I was warm and happy. I'd worn two vests as a concession to the weather and I had my buff jammed over my head. I wondered how long I was going to stay cheerful like that, but it lasted. Turning around in the park was delightful. All you had to do was stay in the air as long as possible and the wind was doing the work. I felt like I was flying along and yet very comfortable. The second time into the wind was fine, I won't bore you. It was all good. I was enjoying myself and I relaxed into it. Joy Division was playing away in my head...."What you going to do when the novelty is gone?" Thrashing guitars. I toyed with the idea of a few Ian Curtis dance moves. Maybe at the end.

Before I knew it we were on the climb up through the trees on the far side of the river. And then before I knew much more we were climbing up that short, sharp hill. And then it isn't far to the end. And so it went all the way. Ya-hey!

The team seemed to be in good spirits at the end. Steve's legs were set concrete after yesterday's half. Willie had a niggle which was worrying him. Richard had an impressive gash out his leg although I didn't hear the story of it. I think a branch came down on Steve's head. Peter had had a good run and was buoyant. I needed to make up my weekly mileage to 30 miles for my OCD so Peter and Steve came a run with me.

And now we are home. And I am still in my duvet jacket and muddy know the story...

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Dance Off

Shiatsu Massage
I don't really have time to be writing, but I'm missing my blog. I've just been so jam-packed, unbelievably busy...Today, in a little while, I'm going to go and try out some Shiatsu massage. I discovered by accident that students at the Shiatsu school need people to massage for their exams, so I can have a third year work on me for an hour for £15. Well it would be rude not to. I'll let you know how I get on. I thought this was kind of interesting so I said to my colleague Karen yesterday "I'm going for a Shiat...." Before I could say "su massage tomorrow" she said "Mary Hunter! TMI!"
How we all laughed when I explained.

In Praise of Running
Among the things I haven't had much time to do has been running. I squeezed in a 40 minute run before work yesterday which meant getting up at 5am instead of 6am - still I was hardly really there in body or spirit. It was dark and cold and I was still more than half asleep. I've had a burning conflict in my head since Wednesday. This is often the case in nursing and therapy world. It throws up dilemmas and I've never been very good at just letting stuff go. My mind grinds over and over things when I'm conflicted about them. So, despite my best efforts, whenever I've had time to reflect over the last few days my mind has started going back over this ground...on and on...
I didn't really want to go out running today. I was tired and the grey sky and icy wind weren't inviting. As soon as I set off all this stuff bubbled up into my brain again, continual argumentation, back and fore...Before I left the house I felt like today's run was just going to be a grind and that I'd left it too long since breakfast, and I wouldn't have any energy - but once I was out I found  I had run the quickest mile up the road in quite some time, and the next mile, which is up a long hill, was even quicker! Then half way through my run, without even trying, I suddenly realised that I was thinking about something else. Hallelujah! Praise be! And everything no longer looked so unappealing. Instead it looked subtle. I liked the shaggy brown and white cattle in the small field at the side of Arthur's Seat, blending in with the brown scrubby grass and reeds and black rocks and bleached grass. I was quite enjoying that icy wind on my bare legs and even the feel of it in my gummed up lungs. (I've had this cold that's been going around. The one that Peter calls 'bird flu'.)

Dance Off
And finally, for today, I want to say how lucky I am that I have landed up (for now) where I have at work. After several years, which were quite all right, of working with colleagues who were either much older or much younger than me, I have landed in a place where we are all much the same age and can easily get each other's cultural references. I mean "culture" such as Sid James, Shari Lewis and lambchop, Paul Evans and "Hello This is Joanie", Petrocelli...all the odd things that were a back-drop to our 70s childhoods. So when, on Thursday, I suggested for some reason that we should have an Ian Curtis dance off on Friday, just to let off some steam, this suggestion was not only understood but was immediately adopted and held to be a good idea! Before I knew it I had been tasked with bringing in a Joy Division CD. Ann on reception, who wasn't very sure what we were talking about, was selected to be a judge.
We couldn't set an exact time, but about 3pm, after my last patient for the day had left, seemed naturally to be the right time. (Can I just say that according to our contracts we are allowed a 15 minute break in the afternoon.)
And what followed was indescribable, and it has been a long time since I laughed so hard. If I've ever laughed so hard. As with all these things, you probably had to be there.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, but would like to.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Doing the Double

This won't happen very often, so I might as well enjoy it!

Yesterday was Tinto Hill Race, last in the Porty championship series. None of the other ladies in my category had entered this, as it turned out, so the only pressure on me was internal. That fool in your head that thinks it knows where you should be in a race. I remembered not much liking Tinto when I did it in 2011. I'd done Glenogle the weekend before so I was a bit lack-lustre and there were people ahead of me who shouldn't be. I've had this experience over and over in the last few years. At the time I wasn't that pleased because I only ran 50 minutes. Yesterday I think I did okay and I came in in 53 minutes. That's a large section of humble pie I've been eating for quite a long time now. You'd think I'd be full up.
The weather was looking like it would be horrific but it was actually all right. There was a bit of snow up the top and a coldish wind, but nothing to write home about. It's quite a rocky path, especially on the upper reaches, and I was super careful not to fall over, break anything or twist a stupid ankle. I enjoyed the lower section a bit more because it was possible to push. I thought that Helen F, who is coming back from injury and a lay off, was behind me, but I wasn't exactly sure. I was expecting her to come past me, and wondered where she was. Plenty of other people were coming past. I 'let' them.
At the kissing gate near the very end I looked behind me and I saw to my horror that Helen was right behind the woman right behind me. It was so late in the race I didn't want to just concede it without a fight, so I gave it everything that I could find. So much so that I actually have sore abs today...not usual after a race. I dug deep, nearly died, and held it to the end.

After the race everyone was all happy as usual. Well except the Stave who had had a tussle at the line with some other bloke and was feeling incensed. There was a bit of talk about how I should be going to Dunbar tomorrow. I like to think my foolish racing days are over and the days of squeezing two races into a weekend are behind me. I've got books to read. I got a new guitar for my birthday that I'm working out some tunes on. If I got desperate there is even house-work I could be doing. I dismissed the idea of a second race and when I went to bed last night I was quite convinced that that wouldn't be happening. However, something happened this morning and I found myself rolling my legs with the trigger point roller and putting on my spare Porty top. I was headed for the Dunbar XC...

I think it's just drugs really. That surge of adrenaline and whatever courses through your system and keeps you buoyed up after a race. I told myself it was a short race and there'd be time for doing other things in the afternoon and evening. (as if). Peter and I went for a warm up and tried to ease off some of the terrible aches left over from the race yesterday. Unusual places were hurting. My abs, as I mentioned, and my lower back, and the inner side of my knees. After a mile or so warm up it was all loosening off nicely. It was pleasantly mild and the rain was holding off. 

Stuart Hay had us have a minute's silence for the people in Paris before the race start. It was impressive to witness the large, cheery crowd quieten immediately and hold the silence perfectly. You could hear a child shout in the distance "Daddy!", but there was no noise coming from the crowd. After a minute there was a round of spontaneous applause.

And then we were off. My 'tactic' was to hold back for the first wee while. To save it - whatever I had - for later on. Then, bizarrely, and I've no idea how, I went right over on my ankle on the perfectly flat and smooth sand. It was a sore one. I took a few limpy steps and then it seemed to pull itself together. I was thinking maybe I should drop out when I came back up off the beach, but I got cheered on by Bert Logan who is 59 today and was out spectating as he's injured. That made it impossible to drop out somehow. It doesn't come easy. So I was just a bit careful for the rest of the race. I felt like I'd got away with it largely, and I was planning, after I'd finished, to go for a warm down. As soon as I stopped racing, however, I could feel it, and the warm down was cancelled.

So that's a bummer. It's not that bad. I can weight bear fine, it just isn't flexing well, and should hopefully be fixed in a few days. But how the hell am I going to burn calories over the next few days? Especially as the freakish winds are supposed to be coming back tomorrow. It won't be any good for cycling. Sigh. Do I have to go swimming tomorrow? Maybe that would be good...
As ever, it's Sunday night. There is a mound of dishes to be done in the kitchen. There is a mound of wet and muddy running kit to be washed and hung up. There is a shower that I should be having...and I can't figure out whether race madness is a good thing or a bad thing.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Seven Squared

I'm 49 today, and to celebrate the heavens opened. The forecast said "wet all day". I toyed with the idea of going down the coast and running on the beach in the rain and then maybe even going in a swim - in defiance! In theory there shouldn't be anything difficult about swimming in the rain, and once you're in, there isn't - but it's the getting in that's a problem.

I tried to take the edge off my lack of enthusiasm by bullying Peter a bit. I let him sleep in until 10 or so and then told him that we'd be going running on the beach in half an hour. "Fair enough" he said, sleepily, and then passively resisted by getting involved with Facebook over a cup of tea. There were a few things wrong and he had to try to put them right. Someone had spelled something wrong and then someone else had expressed the wrong sentiment. It's tough for him, getting everyone licked into shape. It gave me time to think about my plan. It was fine in theory, but the reality would be more than an hour driving in the van with the creak of the windscreen wipers, looking out on a rain-streaked landscape...

Easier, quicker, better, to go for a 10 miler round Arthur's Seat. Once we got into it we would be fine.
PB does usually cheer up once we're out, but not today. He elucidated a number of things that were wrong with the world. I can't run faster than him so there's no escape. It was never ending. I told him he had to say a list of things in his life that were all right - in fact he had to say 100 of them. I hoped once he got in the swing it would really flow. I got him started with about 5. He gave it a go. he said he was looking forwards to Jim Hardie's "7 beers of Edinburgh" event in a couple of week's time. A deeply unwise plan to run the 7 hills of Edinburgh with a beer for every hill. I don't think he'll survive. Then he said he was glad he had his health, but didn't sound that convinced. What can you do?

Nothing. We got a run in, anyway. And I'm enjoying doing very little in a low key kind of way.

Do you know, that's it! I've got a niggly knee. Hope it doesn't get worse. Next week is Tinto Hill race, which I'm not looking forwards to. Pax et Bonum.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Lauder XC

We went out a nice run yesterday, followed by some tom-foolery on the beach. We didn't do any sprints, but apart from that were making no allowances for the cross-country today. I had no idea why I had signed up for a race but can't keep DNS-ing and anyway we were giving people a lift - so I was committed.

I've got one of these things, which is supposed to roll away all the stiffness in your legs - and you know actually I think it's working. The hardest part is remembering to do it. It's agony - especially over my achilles and calves, that's where I feel it most, but it does seem to make a difference. So I had a good old roll this morning as preparation.

Steve won first prize for the best gate vault.

Peter came a close 2nd.

Nuh-uh. Refusal. 3 points.

Some Carnethies plotting to do well by running fast. Devious!

We arrived early at registration and stood in a small, terrified group. Well I was. I felt immobilised by all the hanging around and not wanting to race. In the end I realised I needed to break away and just go and run and felt better almost as soon as I did. The boys were showing me how you should get over a gate but I can't bring myself to even try to vault a gate. My body doesn't know how to do it. I guess I'd have to practice with a small one and build it up.

Up the top of the hill and down the narrow slippery rise we met a bevy of fast boys. I was so star-struck I headed into a patch of gorse and nettles over my head. It took me a little while to realise I'd gone off route. When I re-emerged with thorns sticking out of me and bleeding from my arms and legs the lady marshal was laughing heartily. I think she'd heard me squeaking "This can't be the route!" in disbelief. We had a bit more of a run around and some water jumps before heading back. Peter declaring every 5 - 10 seconds what a marvellous day it was. And it really was. It was bright and sunny and nearly windless and there were autumnal things happening all around. I was still dreading the thought of racing though.

Back at the start, after a bit more dreadful standing, we were given a safety talk and then another talk, which we couldn't hear. It seemed like a huge field. Andrew was excited and was shouting "biggest field ever. Is it? Is it?" I had no information on this so kept quiet. Monica reminded me of when we'd been in a hill race together before and she'd fallen down. I couldn't remember at first and then it came back to me slowly. Red Moss revolution c. 2009, running full tilt down the path at the side of Black Hill, I had been trying to stay in touch with Gillian MacKelvie and Monica was right behind me and then "WHUMP!" she went her length. A very quick health assessment. "Are you alright?" She was still speaking so presumed out of danger and I took off again after Gillian. I don't think I caught her either. After the race today Amy raised the question of what the etiquette is with fallen runners. Not something that is much discussed. The thing is, you don't want to ruin your run for someone who is just being a bit clumsy, but at the same time you don't want anyone to actually die because you didn't help them. You'd feel bad after the adrenaline wears off. It's not our fault. It's fight or flight. Usually a mixture of fight and flight when you're racing.

Anyway, I digress. After a while all the bollocks waiting was over and we were just running and at last I settled down, remembering that there is a fairly precise speed that you can run in a race. It's right at the top of what you can sustain, and it's a felt thing. If you go any faster you get a kind of grey feeling and your engine stops running properly. If you run any slower it's like a certain excitement goes out of it. The pace feels hum-drum. So if you can stay in this groove it's the best place to be. Heart-rate wise it was 167 for me today, a wee bit easier on the down-hills. A miracle happened. I started to enjoy it. In the Lauder XC, once you are up you are up! We ran along the top of a ridge with the sunny-looking countryside falling away on either side. We'd all spread out according to our ability by this time and so there wasn't much argy-bargy or to-ing and fro-ing. Instead I encountered a fair amount of friendly helpfulness, a couple of people stepping out of the way on the narrow bits so I could get past when it was clear that I was moving quicker. It didn't seem to take long to get half way. In the valley, where there was no wind, it seemed almost hot, and I was sweating freely! We'd recced all of the last part of the course so there were no mysteries. I went slightly slower up the last steep, narrow climb than I had on the warm-up because now there was the odd person exhausted and walking and it's too large an investment of effort to try to run in the long stuff to get past. One long run down the hill. Then the vaulting gate. A few of the runners went through the kissing gate and I climbed the main gate instead, putting me marginally ahead of the lady who had been just ahead of me. I blew my advantage having fun with it though. She said "On my!" And I told her I'd gained a vital 100th of a second over her and then we both laughed, and she ran off...Then a nasty tentative run over the slimy stones hidden under the leaves and a nastier sprint in full view over the grass to the end. Full throttle ahead.

After a while it was all good. Sitting on the tarmac at the side of the building eating a fruit scone and drinking a cup of black tea was bliss. Monica asked me whereabouts in Leith I lived and I had to have a long think to answer her. The name of the street where I've been living for the last 17 years escaped me. I asked Steve what he was thinking about during the race and he gave me a very honest answer. He was having a bad day having recently contracted a cough and so had had to watch a bunch of people go past him on the hill, which would normally have been where he felt strongest. I'd categorise what he was thinking under the umbrella term "dark thoughts". Racing can get you like that. It's a tricky business. How to try without trying too hard, and give yourself credit for doing your best without reference to anyone else?

I'll leave you with that thought. I need to do something about these legs.