Saturday, 26 March 2016

It's a long road...

I had Good/Bad/Black/Easter Friday off (I always get confused about this. Good Friday? That's a bit of an attitude isn't it?) and it looked like it was going to be sunny. I tentatively said to Peter "No promises, but I'm off on Friday and the weather looks good and I need a longer run - maybe we could go to the Lammermuirs."

I'm always a little trepidatious about saying things like this to Peter. He wields his disappointment like a heavy, black hammer...("But YOU SAID!!!!") He knows it as well. "Oh we're definitely going to the Lammermuirs on Friday?" he says, with a big smile on his face. Jeezo.

But I need to get my mileage up and the Lammermuirs is a big, fat, slice of running pie. It's remote and steep and committing and tough. I've got a 50K in less than a month and I haven't run even the marathon distance in nearly a year. That would have been...let me the marathon last year.

Oh that marathon? The one you spent 12 minutes in various Portaloos along the way?
Yes that marathon. Funnily enough I haven't felt like running very far since.

And on Friday, when I got up, after a crappish night's sleep, tired from the week, I still didn't feel like running very far.

Going running with Peter is a nightmare, really, if you're feeling at all bad about your running. I can be going eyeballs out, breakneck, hammer down, heart attack hard, and he can still be jogging along beside me, quite oblivious, telling me the things that he has seen on facebook that annoyed him; wrongs he has had to put right. Subtle and less subtle feedback doesn't really work. Setting off for the Lammermuirs on Friday I felt like a condemned (wo)man. I was really too tired. It's a walk in the park for P who has taken to doing regular 40 milers at the weekend. After a bad few years  and last year being a particularly stinky failure of a year for long running for me my confidence and morale is in bad shape.

We drove to Hope Reservoir to start - we usually start from Blinkbonny woods but more recently there has been an unfriendly sign there saying not to park. We've parked there anyway but the aura of unwelcomeness has taken the shine off. I was hoping starting at Hope Reservoir would trim the mileage in the hills, but if anything, it added to it. My survival instincts were kicking in and I knew that if I was going to survive the day I would need to mete out my energy very carefully, especially as the run starts with about 3 miles uphill.

Mile 20? Nope...about 2 miles in.

So as Peter ran hither and thither, snapping pics and shouting about the blue skies, I just kept my head down and kept on keeping on. Part of what was weighing me down was tiredness, and part of it was fear, and part of it was the Mrs Tilly's fudge in my rucksack. But that was for later....

After maybe 4 miles I was warmed up and although still really feeling too tired I was willing to speak.

Part of the deal was that when we got to Carfrae Mills, 9 miles in, I was going to get a big round piece of shortbread and a large coffee.

I know, I'm sounding like bloody hard work. And I was! But then it was! And quite honestly Peter is!
So we might as well all knuckle down.

Carfrae Mills cheered me up. They didn't have mugs of coffee but they did do top ups, so two biggish cups of coffee and  pieces of shortbread the size of saucers later, we were having more fun and giggling. Running along the road to get back on the path through the hills is always quite frightening. It's a narrow road but a fast one and there's really nowhere for pedestrians to go - and the side of the road is littered with skulls and bones to emphasise the point, as if it weren't fairly obvious, that it's not safe there.
We got round the corner and relaxed a bit and shared a stoat's bar. I was hoping it wasn't going to be yet another run where I somehow end up eating more calories than I actually burn while I'm out. Spirits were higher. I often take to singing loudly when we're out running and I want to feel better and, well yes it kind of is a way of torturing Peter too. I tackled 'Poor Leno' by Royksopp - which has quite a challenging vocal harmony.

What I was coming out with wasn't even close. Especially in the upper reaches. My tonsils were a bit sore and all I could muster on the higher notes was kind of a screech. And I didn't really know the words either so I was making them up. A heady mix, you'll agree. Peter ran off down the road a bit.
I'm particularly good at singing because I sing the instrumental bits as well. I'm available for weddings and events.


The second half of this run is the better half. It always feels slow but it's only looking closely at the elevation on Strava that I realise, for the first time, that it's pretty steadily uphill all the way. It's a valley so somehow it doesn't look uphill. Well not to me.
There were a few challenging stream crossings for tired legs and big Hoka feet. Peter was watching me very closely with the camera. I think he's hoping for that £250 film clip for 'You've been framed' of me toppling into the river. He says not though. He says they don't take stills. He's clearly looked into it.

At Bunny's Bothy behind me there I had oatcakes and Mrs Tilly's fudge and had a bit of a revival.

At some point over the years I made a rule for myself which is fairly arbitrary but it serves me well so I keep it. It is this. If your legs are hurting after running 15 miles that's fair enough because 15 miles is quite a long way to run....

I found my legs being a bit sore at 9 miles worrying and at 13 miles quite dispiriting, because in my head "13 miles isn't that far." But when they were creaking a bit after 15 miles that was fair-dos and to be expected.

The last few miles over the hills were pretty tiring. The wind blew up quite strongly, although happily it was behind us a lot of the time. I was much happier and relaxed inside though. It was getting to be late afternoon and the light was fine and we were tired but we were going to make it. I knew for a fact that the last 3 miles were pretty much downhill - actually too steep to run fast on sore feet - but also fairly effortless.

I even got my own camera out for the first time on the trip. We trundled into the car park quite happy with ourselves at 21.75 miles. 4 hrs 15 mins of 'moving time'.

That can count as 22 miles I think. Next weekend I should probably be running the marathon distance. A week to think of somewhere nice to go.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Happy Monday

The top three photos were from last Monday. Sunset from George IV Bridge and The Mound.

Apple Parcel!

This is a very good example of the Muller-Lyer Illusion.
These posts are exactly the same length. Hard to believe isn't it?


I was lucky enough or smart enough to have the day off today. (I still do!) It seemed to strike Peter as unfair as he packed up his bag to start work today. I tried to jolly him out of his mood but his bottom lip stretched further out and I gave up. As you know, work is very good for the soul, so lucky him getting that. I had to make do with setting out to Gullane for a bit of a recovery run and to see how things are developing along the paths and shores of East Lothian.

Monday isn't the best day for going to Gullane because Falko's is shut. I considered going for a run without coffee and cake but my inner child wasn't happy. Eating cake in the car is definitely part of going to Gullane. It reminded me of a moment, years ago, when a guy I worked with, Dave, had brought his 5 year old son in to work for some reason. We were in the house of this older lady we looked after and she asked if Dave's son would like a treat. Dave's son indicated that he would like that so she reached into the fruit bowl, picked up an apple and offered it to him. Dave's son's face was a picture of anger, disappointment and despair as he wailed out "But I only eat goodies!"  Dave was embarrassed and tried to reassure the rest of us that his son didn't only eat goodies, but my sympathies were secretly with the son. Leave it to the pre-war generation to think some nasty old dried up apple that's been in the fruit bowl for more than 6 months is in some way a treat.

Anyway, my inner child was only for eating goodies today too and as Falkos would be closed I went to the Scotmid and bought an 'apple parcel', which is practically a piece of fruit. And I took some coffee in a flask.

My legs were not bad considering I ran a half marathon yesterday, but I was tired and stopped often to take photos. Nature was being rather bashful today, hiding in bushes and in the long grasses and camouflaged in the mud. I had to keep my wits about me to catch it.

Now I have had quite a big lunch and I am full as an egg. I had planned to do the dishes from last night but I think that first of all I will read my book on the sofa, which more or less means that I'm going to have an hour or two's sleep on the sofa.
I know you have heard this story before but it is one of my favourites.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Alloa Half Marathon

No photos from today so I've had to be a bit creative.
It was a nice sunny day for the first day of spring. 13 miles seemed an awfully long way to run on a road for a race. There was a queue to get to Alloa in the car and then a long queue for the toilet and then a queue to leave the place as well. I had 1 1/2 Double Deckers as pre-race preparation and had the other half when I finished.

The course seems to be a lot hillier than it used to be back in 2011 when I could run 1.39! Today I ran 1.52 by my watch which was decidedly better than last year at Haddington going for a poop in a field and coming storming in sans pants in 2hrs 02mins.

Peter declared his time disgraceful and complained bitterly on the way home in the van. If he'd only run a minute or so quicker he'd have probably been happy. What the hell? Us humans are crazy. We emerge, improbably, from and into an infinite universe, made from space dust and glueons and who knows what else, and then get ourselves down in the mouth about taking a handful of seconds too long in a road race on a spring day in Alloa.

I've decided I'm quite pleased with running that far at sub 8.30 pace.

Time for something else. Making that photo has taken the stuffing out of me.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

That difficult 2nd long run

It was that difficult 2nd long run today. Last weekend I got all happy with myself and thought it would be a good idea to enter the John Muir way 50K ultra at the end of April. My reasoning being something like this - I'm bored at the thought of a long, slow build up to a marathon in July so why not have a 'short, sharp, shock' and a reason to get that mileage up smartish? Also, ever since I heard of the JMW 50K I've wanted to do it. It seems like it's practically in my backyard. Maybe it was the sunshine, or the bird-song after a long, grim, wet winter. The decision came from a place of unreasoning enthusiasm.

I knew right away when I got up this morning that it wasn't going to be easy. I did 15 last weekend so was looking for 17 miles today. But I was just tired. It's been a tiring week. When is it ever not? The sky was leaden and grey. I looked and there were no Double Deckers in the ultra box. Peter was off to do a 48 mile run so presumably they went with him. It's his ultra box so I have no right to complain. I stole two measly flapjack things and swallowed them down with a big mug of coffee. My morale improved by a couple of points. Yes, I did measure it on my morale-o-meter if you must know.

I've over-used the Water of Leith as a place to train and I can hardly stand it but I couldn't think of a better 17 miler to do.

So off I went.

This is Dracula's actual coffin. I would never come here after dark.

Nothing sinister about an open shallow grave filled with lime. I wonder who it's for? I picked my speed up here.

Obviously there were nice bits.

And sometimes I was just looking for an excuse to stop.

Is this so wrong? 12 miles done at the King's Theatre. I thought an almond and apricot pastry and a coffee might be good for morale...

So standing on the steps at the back of the theatre I ate pastry and realised I was standing opposite one of the first flats I ever stayed in in Edinburgh...

Let me tell you about that. There's nothing to say about the running. My feet and ankles were a bit sore from the out-set. Maybe something to do with upping the mileage too quickly. The WOL was thick with black mud. Other people seemed kind of irritating. 12 miles seemed like a long way.
I still had 5 to go. Time for a trip down memory lane.

I stayed in a flat over the Burlington Bertie for most of the summer when I was 17. I'd moved down to Edinburgh just for the sake of it and because my friends Paul and Maggie were here. Paul was at college studying photography but he never actually went.
Maggie was from California and she had spent the winter crouched over a 2 bar electric heater in my caravan in Stenness in Orkney. It was hard to know what size she was because she always had so many layers on. She had sold her car in San Francisco and was using the proceeds to try living in Scotland for a while.

I got a job in a hotel as a slave, just to make enough money to get by. I was certainly getting ripped off but I didn't care about anything. I was on a peculiar high just living in a different world from the one I had grown up in. I had to clean the rooms and got to see all the seedy things people leave lying around. I served the food and ate uneaten potato croquettes off the plates before firing them into the massive dish-washers. The other kitchen staff were bitter and unpleasant and I think they probably picked on me. I remember washing dishes and one of them telling me that if I'd seen a plate, I'd taken too long with it. It was all a big pile of whatever. I knew I was going to university at the end of the summer so I was just playing really. I never said this.

I saw another job in a jeans shop on the South Bridge which paid nearly twice as much a week so I applied for it and got it right away. I went back to my old job and said I had to stop working there because I'd been to the doctor and it turned out I had jaundice and had to go to hospital. I was hoping they'd feel sorry for me and pay me back my "lie-in week" which was a week I'd worked for no pay to start with. They said they were very sorry I had jaundice but never offered to give me the £40 I'd worked for a 40 hour week when I started there. At the time the government was paying employers £15 a week for taking on people under 18 years so they were only really paying me £25 a week. I was learning ugly things about the world, but I found it quite funny.

The Jeans shop was tedious and they played the same music all day on a loop. I remember 'Wake me up before you go go' from before George Michael was gay and 'Jump' by Van Halen. They got you to write all your sales down on a sheet and whoever made the most sales got a bonus at the end of the week. If the sales assistants get too intrusive with me in a shop I'll leave pretty quickly so it's not really in me to push too hard. The girl I worked along-side was into the whole sales thing and she did make more sales than me. We were working in a basement, down a set of stairs, so it wasn't easy for customers to retreat once they'd come down those stairs. She would follow them around badgering them until they bought something. Three weeks into the job I'd decided I was leaving the next day. I decided to give her a little whup-ass as a present before I left. I figured if I stood at a certain part of the floor I could see customers coming down the stairs before she could. So I'd be - whoosh - right across to them. And I was much, much nicer to them  than she was, and I hope my customers went away with jeans they actually liked. And her thickly foundationed face was a bit crest-fallen at the end of the day when I had far out-stripped her in sales and I got a surprised congratulations from Tom the manager who was responsible for the wall-to-wall Wham! and Van Halen.

Before I finish this I have to tell you about my landlady though. Maggie and I needed to get a place quickly so we took a double room with a double bed as a temporary measure. We were paying over the odds for it which bothered Maggie more than me. As I've told you, I didn't really care about anything at the time. Maggie was a bit older and she got fed up with things. We had a neighbour, for instance, who listened to the telly with the volume up full and the window open. "Is he fuckin' deaf?" She'd explode. "People can be so fucked!" and she'd write away in her diary.

Rosalind, the landlady, was not only over-charging us but she used to trap us and talk to us. She had broken up with some guy she couldn't get over and she now never left the house in case he phoned or turned up. She kept going to mediums to find out if they'd get back together again or not. They all said they would but still he never phoned her. A friend of hers had seen him with another girl at a club somewhere and told her. "But she didn't have a pretty face" Rosalind told us. "He'll come back. Once you've gone out with someone with a pretty face you can't settle for less."

She did have a pretty face but she had a thick set of legs on her. She had done a little modelling when she was younger and had an album of photos of herself that she showed us one evening when she was waiting in for 'him' to call. The piece de resistance was one of her on roller skates with knee-pads which were cutting in a bit to her thick legs. Maggie and I held it together pretty well while we were there but then we went downstairs and cried with cruel, heartless laughter over a couple of pints of Warsteiner in Burlington Berties.

Ah now, have you run those last 5 miles yet?
Yes I have, and I've had lunch too.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Lagoons 15 miler

Mrs Doyle's Garden

Scotland's Other National Sport - what an atmosphere

Miss March 2016

Peter was up and out the house before I even got up this morning. A very unusual occurrence. He was going up North somewhere to run 40 miles with Gnasher apparently. The poor old thing is getting confused between his life and the Beano comic. I wonder what tall tales he will tell me later on. I'm hoping he won't have had too many caffeine gels.

But I had to think of a run for myself. I was drawing a total blank. It's going to be cold and grey. What do you fancy doing?
Then I remembered that I am signed up for the Alloa Half Marathon in 2 weeks time.
What - as the young people say - did I even sign up for that for?
I've run two 11 mile runs recently, but that's been the height of my training. I thought if I ran over-distance today then at least Alloa would be less painful. I remembered that round the lagoons in Musselburgh and back is about 15 miles and thought that seemed like an idea.

If I went out and it was too hellish or I found my mind was more enthusiastic than my body I could always turn back early.

By now I'd been up for 3 hours though - and I was hungry again. I had a kind of intuition that there would be a Double Decker in Peter's "ultra box" which is actually just a box of sweeties he keeps next to some gels in the cupboard in the kitchen. I had seen him packing armfuls of sweeties and tablet into his rucksack last night but he surely hadn't emptied the whole box?  Maybe if I was going to run 15 miles it would be all right to have a big long strong black coffee and a Double Decker?

For the second time this morning, my intuition spoke to me. It told me that scientists have shown that a single Double Decker has just the right balance of long-chain fatty acids and glycogen to get the average athlete round the lagoon run. Not only this but a nice big cup of coffee helps release the internal braking system which can get rusted on by working too much and paying too much heed to the morrow. I needed no more convincing. I went through to the kitchen, and there, sure as day, in the cupboard, next to the gels, resplendent in its orange vestments, lay a big fat Double Decker.

What followed is still a bit hazy. I flowed out the door on a towering wave of sugar and caffeine. I had a chat with the postie in the street. I smiled at passers-by. I saw Gavin Brown and Ellie Carr coming back from their morning run. I saw Roly steaming along the prom, doubtless eating up the miles. I saw Kathy Henly - Carnethy defector! - on a bike accompanying the Circa run. Everyone on the prom was my friend. I saw Graeme Dunbar and he shouted things at me from across the street. I've no idea what he said.

The first 5 miles were euphoric.

Then things slowed down a little. Not to worry - those difficult middle miles. I was still laughing to myself and having bouts of the coffee wisdom. I saw that life is a point-to-point, so it is possible to do the whole thing slightly downhill and with the wind behind, if you're clever. Out on the ash path beside the sea wall at the lagoons I thought it would be nice to go for a pee in the bushes and regretted that I was wearing a luminous beacon of a pink top that you could see for miles and miles. Every time I thought the coast was clear someone else would come along on their bike or a bird-watcher with a big lense would swivel it my way. It was a preference rather than a desperate need so I was not worried. I thought that in my pink top I could be a body double for Nicola Duncan. That made me laugh again and I decided to have a photo shoot.

You can see the results above. I'm available for calendars.
An old boy came past and gave me an odd look.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "this isn't the hardest training run I've ever heard about."
No you're right. I rather lost focus in those middle miles.

I had a plan though. I thought when I turned back to run through Musselburgh and onwards home, the wind might be behind me - and I might manage to do that thing where you run hardest when you're tired. I'm sure it says to do that in "Advanced Marathoning".

When I turned around the wind wasn't exactly behind me. I picked it up for a couple of miles - and then dropped it, and then picked it up and then dropped it. By the time I was back on the prom and I had run 12 miles my legs were sore and I didn't feel so friendly any more. I wasn't sure everyone really was my friend. A dung coloured labrador with cynical eyes loped out in front of me on purpose so I'd have to go round it. My legs hurt and I pulled a face and it gave a nasty laugh.
They were all in on it - children on scooters, people on bikes, people in wheel-chairs, tiny little dogs, all doing their best to make it difficult for me. I kept my dignity and didn't let them see I was hurting.

I got past the ex-bowling club and things were less clogged. More time to think about the pains in my legs. Was pain really just weakness leaving my body? This didn't seem likely. I wondered if studies had been done. Can you actually weigh weakness?

Then I thought that (13 miles and counting) this was the furthest I'd run in a long while. I didn't know how long. Wait a minute, I did! Because last time I ran a half marathon was at Haddington. So that's more than 6 months. No wonder it hurt.
I spent the last 2 miles thinking about what I was going to have for lunch.

And now I have had it.

Time for some stretching and a shower and then maybe that pinnacle of all weekend treats, a snooze on the couch......