Sunday, 31 December 2017

End of the year review. Well not really.

This is from the other day on my way to work. It was lovely and peaceful with all the school children not there and the sun coming up over a snowy, crispy Davidsons Mains Park.

Today it took quite a long time to get out running. The wind was howling but the sun was, surprisingly, out and about. We headed for the Seat about 1pm or so after a lot of navel gazing, dreaming, staring into space and too much looking at bloody Facebook with the heater on. The best thing about going to work is someone else is paying the heating bill. Says Scrooge.

Anyway, I got in a race with some guy wearing tights and shorts which got me stirred up. We were running down the Innocent railway path and I could hear him behind me - but he kept hacking and coughing which made me think I would like to beat him - so I upped the tempo of my little legs. I beat him to the lights at the bottom but then there was a wait until they changed, which he took advantage of by cutting across at an angle and going in front of me. Red flag. Bull. I figured if he couldn't catch me running downhill, he wasn't going to beat me on the way uphill so I went past him. Once you've done that you're committed - so while Peter jogged around taking photos I stamped my authority on my anonymous friend. By the time I got to the Duddingston turn off he was 100 yards behind. Yay for me.

The next plan was to run up the Duddingston steps and all the way to the top. Peter complained a little bit but I didn't pay any attention. It's a hard half mile or so though and takes a bit of focus!

The top of the seat was like bleedin' Picadilly Circus. Who even are they? What are they doing there?

Peter was very scornful about the parliament being pink, but I rather like it.

Happy New Year.


Anyway, it's time to think about the year that's just been. Looking back on it, it wasn't my best year ever. I spent a lot of time doing things I didn't really want to do. I was still doing that CBT course until August - until I'd failed the maximum number of things I could on the course and still pass - and then one day - I passed! It was a surprise when it happened, and it was a relief. 

Meanwhile in June it looked like there was a good chance of getting a new job that I would really like - but it took forever to be advertised - and just before it was advertised it was changed to a temporary post for 18 months. At first I was going to go for it anyway, but then I remembered the horrors in the last few years of NOT having a permanent job and having to continually think about it. 18 months is hardly time to really get your teeth into a new job - so I didn't go for it. That non-event took from June to September.

So looking back on it, and to my surprise, probably the most successful things I've done this year (apart from keeping up the payments on my mortgage) have been running. I'd given up on running glory really. "Paula," I'd said to myself, "there will be no more Olympics for you." And I'd found a kind of peace in that.

Still, I entered Stirling Marathon pretty much out of habit (the habit of running a marathon every year) and because it was new. My training went badly right from the off. At first my long runs were slow, painful and dispiriting and then they got worse. So I went to plan B which I've always meant to try but never been brave enough. Plan B is to back right off the training and then hope that having fresh legs will get you through on the day.
I did a few sums before the event and figured I should try to stick to 8.50 pace or so and that would leave me a margin for slowing down later on. There was absolutely no reason to hope I could actually do this - but it was just what I had to do if I wanted to go under 4 hours, so I tried for it. To my amazement by mile 20 or so I was still on track and I did the whole thing at something like 8.52 pace. I felt pretty terrible all the way - I'd like to tell you I felt great, but I didn't. Empty and bored. But I liked the result. I'd finally gone sub-4 again - something I used to be entirely casual about.

The point of going sub-4 was that I could then get a good-for-age place for London 2018 and go and see my pals Steve and Susan while I was at it. Sadly, this was a total fail. I didn't realise the applications had to be in by June. I waited until October to have a look and realised that that boat had long sailed. When you miss something by that kind of margin, it doesn't even hurt.

Then, late in the summer, I formed a notion that I'd like another stab at the Pentland Skyline. Again, if I did it, I wanted to go under 4hrs. I've never gone over the 4 hours for this and I didn't want to start. 
I thought I'd try training and see how it went. It went much better than I thought. I found that I loved being back in the hills again and quickly extended my runs. 
The training was the best part. I didn't really enjoy the race - I had to get up too early and there was too much hanging around. I used to like racing but now I don't like the whole jangled nerves and caffeine thing.

I was just concentrating on running as canny a race as I could - not over-egging the first part - so there'd be something left for the 2nd half. By Bell's Hill I thought I'd probably blown the 4hrs thing but there's nothing to do at that point other than get to the end as quickly as you can. That's actually the plot of every race. 
here I am smiling at Mary Lye who was out on the course with a tent full of children.

I was surprised and delighted to get in in 3.57 something or other.

In the evening after the race I took my pulse in the shower, as you do, and it was 88, which is too high for a resting heart rate! It's hard work all that racing.


Unusually, Manor Water was on a different weekend from the Skyline, so I thought maybe I should go and spend the last of my hill fitness there. I'd done it in 2006 and fondly remembered it was just running 5 miles up an easy angled, grassy hill - and then back down again.

Ah memory, and its glossy kindness. Manor Water Hill Race - it turns out - is a terrible uphill thrash into the wind and rain - being chased by Kathy Henly. I'd seen Kathy at the start and thought that maybe there would be an over 50 prize at stake. I've beaten Kathy on the uphills before - but not the flat or the downhills - so I set out to get up to the top as quickly as I could. (I know, again, this is the plot of every race.) She was too close behind me at the top though and I knew I was beat. What I hadn't realised though was I was running as 1st woman for most of the 1st and some of the 2nd half of the race. Kathy beat me but I sure made an effort on that long, rough 5 miles downhill to the finish line. All this was very, very exciting - not really enjoyable - not until later - the tea and scones and all that.

Is it just me or is there some kind of an appraisal going on here?

Winner, winner chicken dinner, and me...2nd lady...Bloody marvellous!

So those are really the moments that stand out. My glory moments. Worth doing a 2017 just for that.

I would love to stay here and revel in my glories but apparently my washing is ready (subtext - empty the machine!), I need to do some stretches and then it'll be dinner time.

A Very Happy New Year to my patient readers out there. :-)

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Boxing Day and Beyond.

The forecast had promised the clouds would clear away over night, after leaving a dump of snow on the Pentlands. We got up in the dark and arrived at the summit of Turnhouse as the first tinges of light could be seen in the eastern sky. decided to try out our team prize of mystery drinks from the Water of Leith half the night before. Jim Hardie had given us this advice, "Save the berry one to last, it's the best. Then the gin. The Whisky is something you should sip before pouring a glass."
Somehow or other we both got this backwards. We started with the Berry Vodka. It was very berry. Then we moved on to the gin. I've had a life-long fear of gin and this didn't do anything to alleviate it. It just tastes like something that made you sick as a teenager. It probably did. I can't remember. That might be part of it. It was dressed up as rhubarb and custard flavour. Hmmm, nope. Like a bitter old crone in girl clothes. I wasn't fooled for long. There was the twang of the gin. Euchhhhhhh!

Then the whisky. I approached with care. It was eye-smartingly strong, but then unexpectedly smooth and warming - and it seemed to have ethereal flavours of honey and lemon. How delicious! By this time I was pointing my finger a lot and laughing. Peter was laughing too. I'm not sure what the joke was.

Jim seemed a bit surprised when he heard I'd liked the whisky best. He said it was 'Rowantrees randoms dissolved in it." I take it that means those gum things. It worked a treat. I didn't even seem to get a hangover.

So it wasn't the crack of dawn when we left. It was half-past twelve by the time we got running and we were lucky to find a parking space at Flotterstone. Happily some people were packing up and going home for the day.

It was cold to start out but we soon warmed up and everything seemed pretty benign. Most of the people who were out were never going to make the little spinney of trees half-way up, let alone the summit of Turnhouse or anything beyond there. They were just out for a dawdle.
We passed them pretty quickly and got onto the higher ground, which really was another world. The wind was sharp and was blowing the powdery snow around. The usual paths were covered and visibility was poor. It was exciting and felt quite serious. We were both questioning if we really had enough clothes on or gear with us, but it's so easy to just drop down off the Pentlands we pushed on.

Turnhouse and Carnethy weren't too bad under-foot but Scald Law was a slog to get up and I spent a lot of time weaving to and fro trying to find better ground where I wasn't post-holing so much. Half way up Scald Law I saw that I had my own Brocken Spectre which I tried and tried to get a photo of, but it was faint at best, and then the wind would drop and the powder come out of the air and it would disappear. I guess spectres are like that.

A bit further up, a runner came out of the yellowy haze, and then shortly afterwards Digby Maas. Digby had been on tough ground and was finding it hard going. The snow on the other side of the Law was taxing. I discovered I couldn't say Digby and the nearest I could come up with was Diggaby, at which point I realised my face was numb. Very similar to winter swimming in the sea! Peter's hands had been frozen all the way. He had gloves on, but not his fattest ones, and his hands get cold more easily than mine. Both of us agreed it would be wise to drop down to the road and come back that way, even though it isn't very exciting or appealing. 3 miles downhill on road in hill shoes isn't pleasant and the valley was mostly in a deep, cold, refrigerator gloom.
It passed fairly quickly though. It was a relief to get out of the knife-like wind.

I only realised back at the car that I'd accidentally dug a hole in the back of my heel and never felt it.

There is a Brocken Spectre there. You just have to believe.

Mystery Runner.



Today it was lovely and bright again. Again the team were slow in rousing themselves. But it was set fair all day, so it really didn't matter. A sharp wind again but East Lothian has dodged most of the snow. There was just a little frost and ice here and there.

The beach was spectacular, and cold, and mostly empty. We went a trip to the subs.

I haven't quite mastered the jumpy shadow thing yet.

I haven't had a shower yet, and it's going to be a sunny day again tomorrow! So I better get going. I like this not-working thing. I'm in on Friday, but then that's it again for a while. :-)

Monday, 25 December 2017

The wicked wind, the miracle tree and a dream of a damp christmas.

Christmas Eve there was a wicked wind blowing. There was also only a small weather window in which it wouldn't be wet, so I took Peter up Arthur's Seat for some hill training. Regrettably, despite my having worked out a fine programme of hilly challenges, Peter complained quite a lot. A frequent refrain was "We do this on a Thursday Night!".

Unusually, there was only a handful of people at the top of the Seat. The wind was doing what it liked without reference to whether humans could stay on their feet or not. It was kind of fun. It was also nice to get down lower and out of it. We ran down onto Whinny Hill.

I'd had a good surprise recently when I'd run up to the top of Whinny Hill and happened upon a fir tree with Christmas decorations on it. It had golden bells. At the time I thought I'd take Peter up there nearer to Christmas and surprise him....but then I'd been back just a few days ago and all the decorations were gone, so I told Peter about it.
This time I took him up just to see the tree that had had decorations on it - and someone had decorated it again!!! And then a rainbow came out! And Peter stopped complaining for a while.
Until I told him we were going to run down to Duddingston Loch and then up the steps and all the way up to the shoulder of the seat in a oner.

I thought it was a marvellous run and very impressive to squeeze nearly 2000 feet of climb out of a city centre run.

On the way home we went past Scotmid and picked up two bags of potatoes in case we were too lazy to go out again and get something better to eat for Christmas. Peter loves roast potatoes. I do too. So nobody was that worried when it turned out we couldn't be bothered to go out again.

It wasn't the best of evenings though. We've nearly used up Netflix. Mindhunter was great. Dexter was pretty good, but required loyalty to stay with it. Ozark kept our interest in a 'this series is going to give me a stomach ulcer' kind of way.  It comes down to the compromises you're willing to make. I've been watching Homeland but Peter doesn't like it. We've both been watching 'The Good Place' because it's quite clever and funny at times despite many obvious flaws. But we've finished it.
It's getting harder and harder to find something we can both tolerate. Peter wanted to watch  The Lake because it's "handsomely mounted". Handsomely mounted doesn't work for me if I hate everyone in it or if it seems meaningless. We both watched Limitless last night because it's easy watching. A guy takes a drug and it makes him ever so clever. It borrows freely from other films and series - the film Limitless, the Matrix and Sherlock just for starters. The main actor thinks he looks like Ryan Gosling. How can I say that? He just does.

Maybe we have to accept that our drug is running out. Eventually we'll have to go cold turkey.

Tonight we're going to go hot potato though.

Back to Christmas day. The day dawned just as rainy as predicted. Through the night it was raining. Predawn it was raining. There was a brief pink fanfare of dawn and then the day settled down to being dark and wet.

I was going to drag us round Inverleith Park just to get us out. But then it occurred to me that this would be the day to run along Princes Street - because the shops would be shut. The whiff of a bit of novelty cheered me up.

There were more people along Princes Street than I would have expected - a fair few homeless people lying in shop doorways in sleeping bags too. Still the city is vastly improved by there being a bit of space. 

We ran along to the West End and then past St Mary's Cathedral, then down onto the Water of Leith.
I think someone left the flood gates open by mistake. It was the fullest I've seen it in years. It was flooding under the path at the Dean Village and Peter felt compelled to go and see what was happening at the weir. I didn't feel like climbing over metal spikes and then down a slippy, mossy wall so I let him get on with it.

I was thoroughly enjoying this run even though my feet and arms were wet. The weather perfectly suited Leith's grimmer aspects. There were glue-bag philosophies daubed on weedy, mossy walls. Closed faced men out for a walk with their attack dogs. There were some very jolly ducks who came straight over to see us. Obviously, everybody feeds the ducks.

I was kind of hoping there might be a shop open which would sell me Christmas puddings and ice-cream, but the only shops that were open seemed to be selling primarily cans of beer and bottles of spirits. So there will be no christmas pudding and ice-cream for me tonight. There will be more roast potatoes. If I can fill Peter up full of roast potatoes and wine, he might fall asleep and then I can watch Homeland.

Merry Christmas Blogfolk.