Sunday, 17 February 2019

Weekendo Running

Irrelevant picture, but I didn't want to waste a nice sunrise.

On Saturday Nick W was coming with us to Gullane for the full experience...scones, coffee, chat'n'run. The boys were very considerate and I could just about keep up, but there wasn't any down-time, so just a handful of photos. 

Peter has been saying for a while that my panoramas had suddenly started looking kind of old fashioned. I finally sat down and had a look at my camera settings after I saw the photo above - and found it was set to retro. Well how did that happen?

Anyway, yesterday's run good. Then today it seemed I should be starting the long run thing for marathon training. Peter and Nick were going to do the PRC group long run. I dreamt up a route which I thought would be about 16 miles. There was to be a strongish SW wind and a bit of rain in the middle of the day. I thought I'd tough it out by setting out uphill and heading SW so that I'd have something to look forwards to for the 2nd half. It occurred to me to run out past the RIE and then up the road through Ferniehill and Gilmerton that turns, at some point, into Captain's Road. I've cycled down it and remembered that it was straight with wide pavements. The reality was a bit twistier, but it wasn't a bad route. 

Continuing west this turns into Frogston Road and it occurred to me that I could continue on down Colinton Road and come back along the WOL - that would likely make it up to 20. Maybe another day. As I was approaching Fairmilehead I was just shy of 9 miles and I tried to figure out how I would find another 7 miles to get back to Leith.

I took a detour through the Hermitage and it looked for a while like I had sufficient mileage. But as I was nearing home it was becoming more and more apparent that I was still going to be about half a mile short. I was out of patience and my legs were sore, so there was no way I was going to go and run round the block a couple of times to find another half mile.

I arrived, rather grumpily, home, feeling tired and not too optimistic about how much fun marathon training is going to be. Then my Garmin wouldn't sync and for a while I was in serious trouble. What if I had to put my pitiful, short run into Strava by hand? Then I wouldn't even have the elevation figures and there would be no excuse for my woefully slow pace?

Actually, I should know better than this. This kind of talk is very bad for morale. Upon mature reflection what I did today was an ambitious and well-conceived route on tired legs and it will stand me in good stead for my excellent marathon journey this year. Smiley face.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Carnethy 5 Hill Race and a wee Gullane recovery run in the sun

I'm reluctant to get into all this. Sunday night is looming and the week's nearly starting again. Aaaaah! Anyway the 49th Carnethy Hill Race needs blogging and it won't blog itself. So here goes...

I was feeling unusually cheerful about running this Carnethy 5. We've had quite a lot of time out in the hills in January, so I guess I knew I'd be okay, and I had to miss last year due to injury, which puts things in perspective. At least I could run. And it was a cold and very windy day and it would have been a struggle to think where to run anyway. So why not go up some hills with a handful or 500 or however many it was like-minded friends? The forecast was saying much wind but also much sun so there was some hope it would be spectacular and so I took along my cheap'n'crappy camera in case there was anything to see.

There was a degree of uncertainty as the event approached and an email from the organisers said that, due to the forecast high winds, they'd only go ahead if they could get the marquee up in the field at about 11am. If they had to cancel they'd email everyone at that time. I didn't really think it would be cancelled (part of me hoped it might be)..and it wasn't.

Olly Stephenson, who normally organises it has been getting chemo and so Gordon Cameron had stepped into the breach as race director for this year. This is a big and relatively serious event and there's a lot of organising involved, so I didn't envy Gordon and the team having to make decisions about whether to go ahead or cancel. I knew that Mike Lynch and Jim Hardie had been out marking the course - quite a job! I'm sure there were a million other things going on behind the scenes. It puts our Porty summer beach race into perspective. I can't criticise though because I never help. Well I've marshalled a couple of times and helped with the results, but I got sick of it. Lol.

Anyway, Ollie Pound was coming along with us in the Berlingo. We had arranged to meet up at 11am to set off for the race so we were watching closely for last minute emails as we set off.

We had allowed ourselves enough time for 2 or 3 things to go wrong en route, mindful that the car-park fills up pretty quick at Beeslack School. We only had one minor nav error so we were there in plenty of time. Too much plenty of time really. I was feeling rather gloomy and nervous until Michael G arrived in full enthusiasm mode. He was just delighted to be there! His recent 35 minute 10K pb was a very welcome surprise after such a difficult year last year - having his own cancer and chemo journey. It was fabulous to see him so happy and well.

As we went out to get on the buses we discovered it was pouring with unexpected rain. Surely not! Happily it dried up by the time we got up to the starting field and never returned.

The wind was cutting as we got off the bus and a fair number of runners were already there and hiding in the lee side of the marquee. We were questioning whether we'd be able to find the will-power to take our jackets off before the start - and yet there's only been once or twice in a race when a jacket has actually seemed like a good idea. We went for a warm up run and did indeed warm up. As soon as you get moving you get more expansive and the whole thing starts to feel more like an adventure than a punishment.

I was just hiding in the gorse, plucking up the courage to take my jacket off shortly before the start when a north of England voice said "Hello Mary. Are thee alone?" Me  - "Wha?" Other person - "Are thee by tha' sen?" Me - finally recognising Scoffer, despite the Mexican style facial hair and orange tights. "No, Peter's away for a pee." I probably haven't seen Scoffer since he organised and we ran the Borrowdale Hill race in 2007. They had to cut it short due to crazy weather and I wasn't sorry.
He appeared to be wearing one of the original, if not the original, Borrowdale vest, and some disco tights. It didn't slow him down though.

Most of team Porty - I think George Lupton had his running children along so he had his hands full, and I met Keith Harper during the race, where we had a brief exchange about whether we enjoyed climbing Scald Law or not.

At the top of Scald Law the wind was crazeee and I was fighting to stay on my feet. It was all quite good fun. Running was a full contact sport as no-one really had that much control. If you took both your feet off the ground on the way over to S. Black Hill - which inevitably you had to - you'd get blown side-ways - and if there was someone beside you, well you'd be getting blown into them. End of. I stopped for a walk going up S. Black Hill and it was the one and only time I got the wee camera out. It was just too much hassle.
The marshals were impressively cheerful and encouraging. They must have been freezing.

Photo by Joel Sylvester.

Photo by Kathy Henly.

Back in the day I remember getting to the white gate after the descent off West Kip in around 40 minutes. I took quite a bad line across the bog yesterday and so the first part was very slow. I was going steadily past people after this but there are bits where it's hard to get past, like going up Scald law. I looked at my watch before East Kip and it was already 41 minutes. Humph. The up-side was that I could feel January's training in my legs and I was walk-running up the kips where most people around me were walking. I found coming off West Kip better than usual and I actually overtook a few people. I got to the gate in 47 minutes, which didn't seem too terrible, and meant I really shouldn't have to worry about the cut off of 1hr 15 minutes at the Howe that the organisers had set because of the weather.
It was nice to get running on the way down to the Howe although there are rocks and holes to watch out for. 
At the steep slope down just before the track to the Howe I could see someone with a Porty vest with a few others sitting at the top of the slope. I thought that must mean Ollie was injured, which was a sickener. As I was running along the track to the foot of Carnethy, the white rescue land-rover was coming in the opposite direction.

Then it was "just" the run up Carnethy to go. The bad news is it goes on and on, the good news is it really is the last hill. I'd never realised it before now, but looking at Strava, the run up from the Howe to the summit of Carnethy is pretty much exactly a mile. I walk-runned up as much as I could, and as we got higher, the wind was catching my back and giving an extra push. I straightened up instead of doing the usual hill runner's hunch, and that was actually helpful.

So anyway, too much detail. I got down the nasty, heathery side of Carnethy as best I could with the usual rising feeling of frustration as my legs turned to rubber, and was welcomed to the finish by the enthusiastic exhortations to "Come on Mary" by Kathy Henly, with which I joined in, because my brain was burst and I was glad to be finished. Then it was all biscuits and tea and chit-chat and buses and school dinners. To our delight our Ollie Pound turned up uninjured. He and George Lupton had stopped their races to help another runner who had broken his leg.  There was more talk about running and kit and plans and races and eventually we dropped off Ollie in the Tescos Leith Car Park to see the sliver of a new moon in the sky and Ollie remarked that it seemed like more than one day since it had been the morning.

So today it was sunny and there was less wind and we went a run around at Gullane at low pressure pace. You can have a look at the photos and decide what you think happened, a la Rorschach - email me, and I'll tell you what's wrong with you. (But really you should be able to work it our for yourself. NOBODY should feel that way about their mother.)

Thank you. The end. X

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Feel the Burns and the TEL XC

Why does the title of this race make me think of the killer in Silence of the Lambs, who lisps, "It rubs the lotion in its skin. It does this whenever its told."?

The hills leaned down towards me and lisped,
"It feels the burns. It does this whenever its told". I'm not really saying this race was a torturer of course. Or that it wanted to wear my skin.

"It runs upon the rocky track. It does this as fast as it can". All right, all right already.

Me and Peter had an argument about the race that went like this; 
Me - "yeah, it's a trail race really, with a few hills thrown in. I couldn't get any speed up on all the flat bits."
Peter - "It's a hill race, that's why it's called a hill race."

We were very nearly late for the start, flying down the A7 at more than 40. It was very nice to see the sun break through. Edinburgh had been under a grey blanket so thick you forgot it was a blanket and thought it was the sky.

I had new Salomon hill shoes to wear, which were lovely, but I'm so used to wearing comfy Hokas. The stony paths and fields were killing my legs and feet. I pushed up hill as much as I could because I'm better at it than the downs. I got in a regular pattern going round, over-taking the same people on the ups and then seeing them hare past me as I went as fast as any sane person would. You know.

I was a bit nervous about the race - it seemed quite committing and I had no idea where I was going and I didn't want to make an arse of it. From that point of view I think it went fine.

Back Selfie, thanks to Digby Maas.


Much happier having let those big girls go on ahead.

Another Back Selfie - thanks Digby.

I was very glad to finish. My Garmin found it to be just under 13 miles rather than the 13-14 I'd been expecting, which was only a bonus as far as I was concerned. I saw Richard Hadfield at the end and some other Porties. Richard was immensely cheerful having enjoyed himself and run well. Some people told me about the views, but I didn't see them. I was watching my feet a lot of the time. Infinite opportunities to trip and knock my teeth out. It really was stony ground. 

Arriving back at the Rugby Club I met Graeme Dunbar, who was happy with his race, and Kathy who seemed to me to have run a stormer. (She was first W50). She told me the showers were freezing which I was relieved to hear as I couldn't really be bothered with all that anyway - preferring to fill my face with haggis pie and soup, and then coffee, and then Fen's banana bread which had somehow made it to the table even though she wasn't back yet. The results were announced after a short wait. It was all very well organised. The course was beautifully marked. The pies were hot. I would do it again but I would wear my trail Hokas. The last mile is on steep, downhill, stony trail and I had to run at the side of the road on soil because I couldn't take any more pounding up my legs.

It was my first race this year, so it didn't make any sense to sign up for a cross-country on the coming Saturday. The 'Team East Lothian' XC was a Porty championship race however, and the course was at Foxlake, which is nice running. So we signed up. Since Feel the Burns I have had a little scratchy pain at the side of my right knee. It's right where I was injured so long last year so it made me feel cautious. It is in no way as bad and if I hadn't been injured there before I would ignore it entirely - but I really did manage to run myself into the ground last year, so I'm not keen on doing it again.

This was on my  mind as we arrived at Foxlake this morning, and it was grey, and I was tired and quite hungry and all in all I didn't feel very much like racing. The course was 2 X 4K laps so Peter and I went out and warmed up by running a lap. My spirits lifted a bit. It was nice running on the springy, sandy soil. Today I had opted for Hokas for comfort over hill shoes and that seemed fine as a choice. It had been raining in the night but the ground had drained. The course kept the interest up all the way - it was now uphill, now downhill, another steep up and down and then out onto a trail - then through some trees, which was fun, just keeping as straight a line as possible without crashing - another trail, through some dunes, over a bridge, some more trees and then the same run through the field to the finish as in the JMW 50K.

I felt much better on the start line as I had a half an hour before.

And then....we were off! We were bunched to start with and then spread out. I could see Shery ahead and tried to keep her in my sights. I was fairly sure there was another Porty person or two close by but wasn't sure who they were - it turned out to be Julie Moffat, and a little further back, Angela Leggat. I think it was into the 2nd lap that Julie made her move - but when she did it was decisive - she caught up to Shery and they ran together for quite some time. They weren't far away but they were moving forwards away from me, and I was actually quite surprised to even be in touch - but I tried not to settle. I still wasn't 100% sure who was behind me but I kind of thought it was Angela and I was trying to stay ahead of her - that was my motivation to keep on keeping on. Mile 4 was my slowest and I was struggling to remember how to run. How do you go faster? I tried this and that - moving my feet faster or pumping my elbows - I wasn't sure - it all seemed such an effort. Angela told me later that she'd been having some similar thoughts. There was a patch of slightly muddy trail that curved round - just a bit uphill and into the wind - where, as Steve Cram and Brendan Foster would say, questions were asked, and answers were needed....

Anyway, we were soon finishing. Our friend and fat-biker Jason Liddell was at the end so I have him to thank for the photo. I am impressed I have my eyes open and I'm not making the dying fish face. Must have made a special effort for the camera.

There were a fair few Porties in the prizes, which is unsurprising as we fairly dominated the race in terms of numbers. Grace McKenzie was 2nd and Amy Kerr was....1st vet? Ex-Porty and Edinburgh AC Jill Morrow was not only 1st V50 but 3rd over all.
In the men I think Willie got the  V60 East Lothian prize. Peter has a new V50 nemesis called Mike or something. He looks fit and beat him at Binning Woods and again today. It will keep him focused!


It was good to see lots of Porties today, old and new. If my leg behaves itself I think we'll be heading for the hills tomorrow. The temperatures are dropping but the sun is coming out....

Sunday, 13 January 2019

OMG we're halfway through January.

It's nearly 7pm on a Sunday evening, again. There's not much time for chit-chat. I'm doing fine thanks. Maybe a slight grumble in my right knee. We've done a massive increase in hills because it's the Feel the Burns Hill Race next weekend. I still haven't reccied it.

I loved being off a bit at Christmas and the New Year. Let's put down a representative selection of photos taken since Jan 1 and I shall weave some commentary around them...

January 1st, Peter was up to some Shenanigans on Hogmanay night and didn't get home until late. I had had a big long sleep so I was fine. We went to Gullane and ran around late on in the day and there was a dramatic sunset on the beach, which was kind of fun.

That evening I casually mentioned that the weather was looking super-duper for the next day, if you like bright and cold, and really what we should do is get up into the Pentlands before dawn and take pictures. Now it was a big ask for Peter who, even normally, is no early bird, and who had trundled home the night before somewhere around 4am. To my surprise, however, he liked the idea. We were out the house just after 7am the next morning and needed head-torches as we set off in the cold and dark from Flotterstone. Even at the top of Turnhouse, it was not truly dawn, and even at the top of Carnethy, there was a bit to go, because of the cloud on the horizon. So we were on our way up Scald Law when the sun really began to shine on us.

Peter had said there was a runner behind as we were running up Scald Law. I had a look over my shoulder when I was 2/3rds of the way up and to my horror they were catching fast. Fergus Johnston passed me just before the top of Scald Law last summer and for some reason I didn't want to be overtaken just at the last moment like that again, so I put in every effort to hold off this runner before the top - 
 whoever he was. Well he turned out to be Stewart Whitlie!

The sun came out at last but it was still very cold and not the weather for hanging around. We ran on a little way together and then Stewart took off up East Kip while we headed down to the Howe and then on to Black Hill.

It continued to be a lovely  morning - we carried on over Bell's Hill and Harbour Hill and whatever the next one's called and then down the wee path that skirts past Castle-Law on the right hand side. We were very impressed with ourselves to be finishing a longish run just about noon.

Then there was another run at Gullane. We set off much too late. I had meant for us to run 13-14 miles but there was no way in hell. We were already behind but the tide was way in and the water was very still and Peter suggested we run round the outside of the nature reserve at Aberlady, close to the water, which turned out to be challenging. We only had time to run 6 before it got dark. You can't win them all.

Then I had some new hill shoes and we both had Wednesday off and it was a nice day so we headed back up into the Pentlands. It was a good run but we were both a bit tired and perhaps a bit nippy with each other. The views were spectacular. I was tired the next day and glad to just do a wee run on my own and then go off to work.

Shangri-La, this is the top of the long climb up from the Howe to the shoulder of Carnethy Hill proper, and the worst climb of the Carnethy 5 Hill Race.

Yesterday we planned to go to Gullane but a whole series of things happened which ate into our running time. Then the weather closed in and it started to rain lightly so we cut our losses and ran locally - running 10 miles round Arthur's Seat. It was late, dark and un-scenic so no visual record exists. I remembered how sore running on the road can be and tried not to think unhappy thoughts about marathons and all that.

Today we headed for Gullane as soon as we could rouse our idle bones to do so. It was very blowy and there was dramatic low light. Finest kind.

Jake the Peg.

Zombie Apocalypse.

Best be getting on. Happy New Years All. :-)