Saturday, 28 May 2016

New 20 miler; Innocent Railway to Hailesland to Musselburgh to Cramond Brig Inn

Another weekend, another 20 miler. Peter and I were having very different views about what we needed to do. His plans are too epic for me. Too epic and too late in the weekend and the day. I want something mundane and nearby and early so I can do other stuff. The week has taken the stuffing out of me. We reach an impasse. I formulate a plan....well I say I...but it kind of comes to me. I have a secret genius for dreaming up routes. Well I think it's genius. And that's all that matters.
I think of a longish and greenish way to get to Musselburgh and then plan to run eastwards along the Forth, as far as I need to go. I think it'll be about the Cramond Brig Inn for 20 miles, but I'm not sure.

The route starts off going round the side of Arthur's Seat. I am lucky with my timing. I had forgotten about the "EMF". Not the electromagnetic field but the "Edinburgh Marathon Festival", which today had a 10K, a 5K and some kiddies' races. The 10K has been by the time I get to the seat, and the 5K has been delayed, or I might have had a long wait to cross the road. I have the questionable benefit of large speakers playing disco music to me (yeah I know, not disco music, but I don't know what it's called. It was sleazy, pleading pop. What do you young uns call that?) all the way up the road. I'm tempted to use the Portaloos because they're there. Just like Mallory. But I don't. Instead I cut down the Innocent Railway Path.

My plan is to carry on along the no.1 cycle route as far as Brunstane. As soon as you cross the road from the Innocent Railway Path you are heading towards Niddrie, and it's not always a good experience. I used to cycle to work this way every day, back in the day, and I used to dread this stretch. My bike was a never maintained brown Raleigh bike with 3 Sturmey Archer gears. I never pedalled very fast because I never wanted to get to work. I spent a year out at Kinnaird Park sorting soil samples for archaeology. "Exciting" you say. Oh yes it was. What I did was sit on a stool in a lab and pick all the charcoal, bones and insect pieces out of soil samples, bag them, weigh them and label them. Call it a gap year if you like. I did go on to do a Masters the year after that but I didn't know that was going to happen at the time. The thing was, I was lost, and Thatcher's actions had precluded a career down the mines, and at least it paid the rent.

I was only joking when I said it was exciting. But I took a perverse pride in staying focused and doing it right no matter what. A big, gay friend of mine who I used to go out drinking with came and worked alongside me for a while. He made focusing more difficult. He used to bemoan the lack of romance in his life, quite loud enough for everyone to hear. "The thing is Mary." he used to say "You don't really know someone loves you unless you feel that sperm up your back."
Those were the days.

Anyway, I was meaning to tell you about that stretch of cycle path past Niddrie. It used to be one of these places where mattresses, burnt out cars and three legged dogs with bad tempers all accumulate. The river was full of shopping trolleys. The children were frankly frightening.
I saw very little of that today. The river was running clear. There were no burned out cars. There were no children. Has Niddrie been up-cycled?

Anyway. I knew there was a flight of stairs over a railway line and then nearby there was a path you could take through a field that took you down to Musselburgh, and that's where I was intending to go. However, right across the road from the stairs over the railway there was a new (to me) path called the Brunstane Burn path. I figured it was worth a try and it was a delight. A nice shady path which took me down to a junction. I knew I was near Musselburgh but I decided to take the right hand fork to Newhailes to see what that turned out to be. It turned out to be lovely running on grassy paths and through the woods past some grand old house in need of repair. There were lots more paths to explore, but I didn't want to get too side-tracked today so I'll be going back for a proper explore.

I emerged eventually onto the main road down to the West Side of Musselburgh. Time for a pee stop, a drink of water and some Mrs Tilly's Belgium chocolate fudge.
This was about  7.5 miles.

It's important to prepare well for a long run. I find if I can make my hair nice, I feel better all the way round!

Heading back into town from Musselburgh, the loveliness factor went down temporarily, although by this time the sun was shining and I was enjoying the whole thing a lot more than I expected to. I wondered about the owners of these flats... just down wind from Seafield Sewage plant and with a scrap heap for a view, did they really do their research before they bought?

And in only a couple of miles I was popping back out of town and things were opening out again. Coming away from the traffic I particularly enjoyed smelling the sea and hearing the waves lapping. I spent a fair amount of time at this point trying to think about my form. I had caught sight of myself in some glass at a bus stop and chin in the feet pointing characteristic knees up mother brown style....When I went to Rolfing the guy tried to help me sort out my form - the head needs to drop, the shoulders and arms need to come down, the chin needs to come in, the chest needs to rise up, the thighs need to rotate in, my bum needs to extend out the way...there it was...for whole pace improved and I could feel I was running more economically....

I am often bored by the Silverknowes Promenade, but today it was lovely. There was a nice cool easterly blowing me along...I had run 16 miles already and was feeling okay. The sun was out as were the dandelion clocks. Even the people and dogs and children on bikes did not annoy me.

To my surprise, along the Almond Walkway, Peter appeared running hard in the other direction. This was never part of the plan so there was no time for photographs. He stroked my ego as I passed by, asking me where I'd been and had I stopped for coffee. "Whatever" I told the shrubbery once he was past - and then remembered that I had stopped for coffee. Right at the start. I went over to the Co-op for some Mrs Tilly's fudge and thought that everything might work a lot better if I had an Americano and a Star bar while I was there. No wonder I had lasted so well...

Eventually I got to the Cramond Brig Inn and still had most of a mile to run. So I ran along the side of the busy main road there until I got to a bus stop. 20 miles, ya beauty.

A bus to the West End of Princes Street and then I hopped off for a 1.5 mile cool down back home.

I saw this reconstruction of last weekend's Hibs action in a shop window. If they'd knitted some bins and some beer they'd have got closer to it.

So now I have had two lunches and the day is nearly over, what with running and blogging. But I am pleased that I've got another long run in. The Orkney Marathon is getting closer and the time left to train is short. Tomorrow it looks like the wind's going to drop so it might be a day for a short run at Gullane and a swim in the sea....

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Hibomination and Tramspotting

 The plan was to go for a 7 hills recce. I had decided to take the weekend off from "long runs" meaning 20+ milers, as I was feeling lack-lustre. A team of fasties were going to meet at Calton Hill for the recce at 9am. I thought I'd set off half an hour early and the game would be to catch me.
Unfortunately "The Hibs" had won in Glasgow but, operating on instinct, with the IQs of salmon making their way upstream to where they were originally spawned, the "fans" still thought they'd come back to Leith to celebrate. There were several hours of chanting and bin-bashing, smashing and shouting. Hard to figure out what was happening really. These people seemed to think they had won a sporting event and yet looked like they had never participated in a sporting event in their lives. "Their team" had won, however. Theirs by virtue of their having bought an expensive season ticket and kitted out their rotund youngsters in shiny green and white nylon. Wo-ho, wo-ho.

I tried to read my book in bed but with the din of a mindless mob outside that was never going to work. In the end I found the best way to handle it was the same way as when you have an intolerable pain like an abscess in your tooth. You have to just stay in the present and not think.

I was very pleased to win the club championship in 2006. It came right down to the line and was only won in the last race. In the second last race, which was the Dunbar Doon Hill Race 10 miler, Kerry, who was my main contender, beat me by a mere 15 seconds. I had to beat her in the Braids XC to win. It's a longish story, but in the end I made it, running out of my own skin in order to do it and leaving both eyes on the trail as they both popped out as I was running at 140% of my maximum heart rate. I was very pleased, but still I never saw fit to come home and slam the bins for 5 hours shouting  WOHO WOHO while swigging beer and breaking glasses.

Impressive. Sunshine on Leith. Arseholes.

Now I know some people, probably not my blog readers, would think that it was all harmless fun. But I'm a bit short of sleep and not feeling that generous.

Anyway. I was tired this morning. The last I heard of the "celebrations" was at 2 am and I was up again at 6. It was a beautiful morning and it was nice to hear the birds again. It was nice to be able to hear myself think again. I was so tired I thought about not going on the recce - maybe going back to bed and then doing something else later on - but I kind of knew that wouldn't go well. I'd get up feeling grumpy later and maybe even miss the sunshine.

I have run this route too often now and I don't have much to say about it. I'd forgotten how scared I can get on the muddy bank climb at Craiglockhart. I went too far right and suddenly the jeopardy if I fell went from a long slide in the mud to a tumble off some rocks. A fifteen foot fall or so - enough to do some spinal damage. A massive surge of adrenaline and a stern talking to and I broke through the bushes at the top in a hurry, to the surprise of a passing spaniel.

The next uphill scramble at the Braids isn't so bad and I got up it easily.

The last real hurdle was getting through the turnstile at the back of the Halls of Residence. The rumour had been that it was now too narrow to squeeze through - and then Olly Stephenson had suggested that maybe the Portobellos were eating too much as he had got through it fine. When I saw the gap I felt dubious about it. I put my legs in as far as my hips - and it felt like my hips would far could I get through and still be able to retract my offer? I was all alone and bottled out of it. It suddenly occurred to me that this might just be teasing from Olly Stephenson. What if he'd never gone through it at all? I made a half-hearted attempt at climbing over the wall past the barbed wire but by this time I had lost momentum and decided just to run round the road. To hell with it. Peter tells me now that he did indeed squeeze through the wee gap so I dare say I can. I might go and try it again but this time with a friend nearby.

I had hoped the boys (and Amy) might have caught up by now, but there was no sign of them. It was always possible that they'd passed me without my knowing by using some clever route choice so I wasn't absolutely confident they were still behind me. I had taken my time.

I stopped and looked around at the top of Arthur's Seat and saw a big rain shower coming. Nothing to be done - that was definitely going to hit! Hit it did as I came down the far side of the seat. The cool rain was actually quite refreshing on my hot legs. It was quite a humid and warm day.

The boys must have been not far behind because they were at the top during this shower too. I stopped and took a picture just after it had finished because everything was sparkling.

And then I ran up to Calton Hill, and then ran home. I waited a little while at the top of Calton Hill but I had been out a long time so it didn't seem likely that they were still coming. I think they arrived about 2 minutes after I had left. Then I went to Tescos and Peter overtook me so he was in when I arrived home.

The End. Except the Hibees are back. And they are singing again. How long are they going to spend celebrating that some other people did a good job of something yesterday?

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Lovely Arthur's Seat Run

The Magical Radical Road

Dog Club


Obligatory Selfie

Sandy and Zoe

I thought I heard something in the undergrowth

Last night Buchanan returned home all happy from his fool's errand heroic day out with Graham Nash, Jim Hardie, Steve C and Roly. His eyes looked a bit small and funny and his facial expressions seemed exaggerated and slowed down at the same time. Finally it clicked.
"Have you been drinking?"
"Drinking?" The eyebrows shot up and came down again.
"Well maybe. Just..about...5 pints or something."
OMG. 5 pints. A whole year's worth of drinking in one day.

Anyway he was excited about his day out and it did sound like fun. I got caught up in the excitement and thought that maybe I'd go a run at Gullane tomorrow and then drive me and Peter to Dunbar, where he has a tryst to go surfing with a fellow runner. I thought I'd put on my wetsuit for the first time this year and go and splash about in the shallows.

This morning I woke up and regretted it. Weekend after weekend gets away with too much adventuring. Quite a lot of it is a good thing, but there comes a time when the house is full of dust, everything has gone to hell, I need new pants, that kind of thing. The little details of life are just not getting attended to. I realised I did not want to be rad today. I wanted to be moderate. I wanted to go for a run but not have it take up my whole day and all my energy and to be able to go and do other things afterwards. So I broke the news to Smokey the Bear. He took it quite well. And then I put on my off-road shoes for a change and headed off up Arthur's Seat.

I thought I would just run up to the top via the shortest route, take a burl round Whinny Hill and head home. But when I saw the radical road, it looked so cool and inviting that I changed direction and ran up that way instead. The trick is not to go at the first bit too hard, as the angle gets shallower the higher up you get. It's wonderful running up it when it's still in shadow on a sunny day. I checked my time. It used to be that the rad road took me 6 minutes 10 seconds unless I pushed it, in which case I could do it faster. Today I didn't push it and it was 6 minutes 45 seconds. I am pleased to say I didn't really care. It's not about that. It's about the view over the city and the smell of the gorse at the top when you emerge back out into the sun.

I went up to the top of the Seat after that - on the route that me and P call "the old middle way". I passed an American who said "You're an energetic sort, aren't you?"
I told him it was a lovely day. He said "Yes it is!...Do you mind if I run up with you?"
Why the hell not, I thought to myself. "Yes, Come on then." I said.
"I was only joking." he said, "It's not possible. It's just not possible."
Imagine that. I am rad. Even when I am being moderate.

After that I had a nice sweeping run down to and around Whinny Hill. The grass is short and dry and perfect. It was a treat to be wearing my mudclaws. All my Hokas do a good job of protecting my feet but the mudclaws make you feel in touch with the ground - and confident on the steep downhills.

The gorse was out everywhere. I couldn't be bothered to stop to take pictures but I was thinking that it's just about the definition of happiness. Sunny spring days when the gorse comes out and smells of coconut. The bright yellow against the blue skies. I don't know many things that are better than this. That and shadowy mountain paths on bright sunny days....

Round the corner I met Sandy MacDonald and Zoe. I have not seen Sandy in the flesh for forever. I think the last time was in the Pentlands years ago when he was out walking and unable to run with a bad back. Our virtual worlds are connected however so we're kind of aware of each other. I knew he'd been at Parkrun yesterday and he knew I'm doing the St Magnus Marathon. How funny is that?

Zoe had had a hard time at Parkrun  yesterday because it was the first time she'd run in the heat. She kept telling herself to go faster but couldn't and then felt bad. I tried to tell her you have to go easy on yourself when you're a runner.

And then I ran on home.

I am going up town to get some new pants and maybe even some wider shoes as my feet seem to be spreading. Too much time running on the roads.


Saturday, 14 May 2016

How many? Dalmeny 20 miler

what are those funny dark lines? what causes them?


The Matterhorn in the distance

This kind of thing just freaks me out but I thought I should take a photo


I got water off the ice-cream van

Mrs Tilly's belgian chocolate fudge selfie

Porty bus selfie

Porty sun-shine action

not spooky at all

Maybe Peter will take the hint and get me the shirt with the kittens and stars on it

There couldn't have been much more of a contrast between last Saturday and this one. The E2NB race didn't increase my enthusiasm for long-running - and yet I have a marathon in July and the less I do now, the worse it will be.

Peter was off to Arran on some high-jinks with a bunch of guys, so I'd be running alone.
The forecast said it would be a pretty gentle north-westish wind and that it would be sunny in the morning.
It took me a while to get going, but the sky was lovely and blue and the sun looked like it was going to shine all day. And so it did.
I took the train to Dalmeny thinking I could just run the coast. I couldn't quite figure out how far I would get, but it would mean there would be plenty ways to cut it short if I was having a bad time, or refuel if I needed something and it would be easy to get home from Musselburgh or there abouts.

The last couple of times I've run through the Dalmeny estate I've been trying to run "at pace" which means going faster than I want to. Today there was none of that. I relaxed and took it easy. I don't want to do any more damage to my morale...or anything else. The sun kept shining, the air under the trees was cool and the birds kept singing.
There is something magical about getting under those trees.

I found on the train out to Dalmeny station I was trying not to but I was getting irritated by all the people. Someone had facebook notifications on their phone and it kept pinging. Two young guys were sitting across from me and they had those stupid big button ear-rings in and product in their hair. I know, I know! I sound like my dad. Or someone's dad! And one of them was sniffing.
National service, that's what they need! It was a relief to get off the train and get away from them and the fascist commentary running through my head.

In the woods I liked the people better. There were 2 girls on bikes and we kept leap-frogging each other along the route and telling each other it was a nice day.
Emerging along from the Cramond Inn, there was more lovely shade. The wooden stairs are cordoned off with a sign saying they could collapse at any moment. It added a frisson to running up those stairs! They always seem like they're going to collapse at any moment.

At Cramond itself, I was glad to find the ice-cream van sold water. (£1.80 for 500mls. They saw me coming. However it was handy.) I stopped and had some Mrs Tilly's Belgian chocolate fudge. It was delicious. The sky was blue. The sun kept shining.

The middle miles were a bit of a chore. I often run them midweek as part of an interval run, 4 minutes hard, 3 minutes easy. The path is too well-trodden to be interesting. Coming into Leith I was dodging people, which hurt. Coming onto Seafield there were queues of traffic. There was a bit of a road-ragey fight between a Polish guy in a jeep and another guy in an open top sports car. They started beeping their horns and shouting at each other. "Shut the fuck up" I said before I realised that the words had escaped outwards past the mouth portal. I'm going to get myself in trouble one of these days. Nobody heard though.

Porty prom was a melange of small and big dogs, children on various wheeled devices, old people, young people, all criss-crossing. My legs were hurty and I hated them all. For God's sake hold still. It was a relief to fire off the end of the Prom and back out onto the road. At the end of the Prom I'd done 16 and a half miles so I figured I could do a loop round some of Musselburgh and run back to the bus-stop to make 20.

I'm making this sound easy, but by this time it wasn't. My achilles were a-aching. My head was so bored. I found if I ran a bit harder my hips hurt instead of my achilles so I did that. I tried to man up. I tried to say it was only 3 miles but the troops were a bit rebellious and resented this kind of talk. "Don't tell us only 3 miles. We don't want to run 3 miles. It seems like a long way. Why should we do it?"
I could see it was no time to push my luck. I dug deep to find some kind of convincing argument for why the troops aka my achy legs, bored head, and the rest, should keep running.
I could only think of stick, no carrot.
The marathon will be hellish if you don't.
Stewart Whitlie will see on Strava and he will know you are a pussy. (What kind of talk is that???)

I ran into an ex-patient. I've known her since 2001 when I was first a student nurse up at the Royal Ed, and we've always got along well. So that was good. I got a ton of encouragement from her.

Then a woman from my counselling course, Janet, drew alongside on her bike. I haven't seen her for a couple of years and I was hoping she might chat to me for a while. That would take my mind off it. But she backed off saying it seemed like serious stuff and she wouldn't distract me and cycled off before I could find the wherewithal to tell her to stay with me and divert my brain. Maybe cycling along beside a sweaty ex-peer wasn't the boon I thought it was. The world smelled of fried fish and chips. I would happily have eaten fish and chips and sunk a beer in a cool hotel lounge bar.

I told myself that these last few miles, when your legs are burning, and you've lost the will to live, are where the true training starts. That's when you're increasing your strength and stamina. That's the time to dig in. So dig in I did.
I'd been out so long the wind had swung round. I hadn't really noticed the headwind. (More of a breeze) but when I turned back towards Porty at the electric bridge at Musselburgh it was definitely a help.

"Oh we're sore" said my toes. "I think we've got a blister".
"Honestly. be quiet. We're nearly there" I told them. And they piped down.

And then I got a bus home.

The end.