Saturday, 21 October 2017

Moody autumnal days

It was kind of moody and autumnal round Gullane and Dirleton today. I don't know what happened in Dirleton graveyard though. Woke up hours later feeling weird. Either that or got carried away with Photoshop. 

We were set to do maybe 13 or 14 miles today, but I was out of steam half way round, so trimmed it to 8. I think all the excitement of the last 2 weekends is catching up with me.

Monday, 16 October 2017

and then Gullane again

They're burning Peter's best butterfly bush! Hope the ticks get them.

This makes me think of the Fall of Icarus.

So after all the excitement of two weekends racing, and nearly winning and everything, it was a relief to get back to the shore. The wind was blowing hard and Falko's is now gone. The Gannet's Deli always seems to be closed so we got our coffee at the Village Coffee House. I say "we", but what I mean is I sat in the car while Peter obligingly went out coffee hunting. Came back with jammy scones too. Nice.

P hates the winter and had already been anticipating and bemoaning that there would be no wildlife as we drove to Gullane. What could he get obsessed about now? If only we were interested in people, there are streets full of them everywhere. But they're no good. Neither pretty nor interesting.

I realised when we got there how tired I was. It really was an effort to get out the car. But once we got moving, it was quite warm, despite the wind, and we started to have fun. But round at Aberlady nature reserve, on the way to the beach, we smelled smoke and then spied a burning bush and then saw to our horror that middle-aged people in stupid hats were burning down Peter's best butterfly bush. I don't know how Peter felt, but I was in shock - and I hurried him past. But what in the hell did they think they were doing? He's emailed the ranger to ask.

And on down to the beach. We'd promised ourselves to do no stupid sprint sessions on the sand following racing. We did it after a hard Pentlands run before and Peter strained a glute and I got the worst DOMs I'd ever had. So we kept it nice and even.

We extended the run to the woods, just to see if we could see any deer or anything - but nothing was showing itself at all. Just people and dogs. No points for that at all.

Today we're awaiting Hurricane Ophelia and the sky was a dirty brown this morning, and it poured with rain. I realised after a while that I wouldn't be going out a run at all. I am absolutely knackered. I had no ambitious plans for the day except going for a deep tissue massage up the road with Juan. Any fool can just lie on a table, so that's what I did.

Not looking forwards to cycling to work tomorrow in the hurricane winds - but taking the bus is just so boring.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Manor Water Hill Race 2017 (and 2006)

2006 - The Porty contingent and Ben's wife Alison
(I've still got that North Face fleece and I was wearing it today. It's my standing around at races fleece.)

Storming home in 5th place in 2006.

Davy had the wind up before the start, but he needn't have worried.

Registration hasn't changed in 11 years.

But what if there is someone right behind me?

Mr and Mrs.

Unexpected outcome...

I thought I'd done Manor Water twice before, but looking back over old results, all I can find is once, in 2006. So 11 years since I've done it. We were so young then. And so fresh. With short curly hair.
Other things I'd distorted in my memory - I thought I remembered it was kind of just straight up an easy angled grassy hill for 5 miles and then back down again.

It's usually on the same weekend as the Skyline, which is probably what got in the way of my ever doing it again. I remembered liking it and that I found it more runnable than most hill races.
So anyway, enough of that.

When I saw it was on this Saturday I kind of wanted to do it. It's about 10 miles and not nearly as hilly as the Skyline and it's low-key and usually not over-busy. Peter was up for it, so we headed down, just beyond Peebles. My kit bag was still pretty much packed from last Sunday so it was low-prep - and with a 1pm start, we didn't even have to get up early.

It was meant to be a dry day but it started raining on the way down the road to get there. I was hoping it was just a shower, but it set in a bit more sternly later. I must admit to thinking that since it tends to be a small race, I might be in with a shout for a V50 prize - depending on who turned up. When I saw Kathy Henly arrive shortly after us I realised that I would have competition. Our form of old is - I can beat Kathy on the uphill, but she can take it back on the downs. We played out exactly this scenario at Philiphaugh a few years back. The only thing to be done to protect my imagined V50 prize was to get up that hill as quickly as I could. So that's what I set out to do.

We got started with little fuss - apart from Nick Williamson making a dramatic last minute arrival and being put together by a team of men (number, shoelaces, kit) so he was ready to start. He was doing a Park Run and Hill Race combo as some rather outside-the-box marathon training for 2 weeks time. It might be the perfect training for steady marathon road miles, although, you know, a taper at this stage would be a more typical approach. :-)

Anyway - low fuss - off we went - up into the mud, and clag, and stones, and in your teeth wind, and blowing rain, and mist, and electric green mossy bog,... on, on, on. Where was the gradual green slope I had invented in my head?

I was determined to run as much of it as I could, having convinced myself it wasn't steep. I had to walk because I was stuck in a queue from time to time but other-wise ran. Some real memories were emerging as I ran - like how many rocks and hidden holes there were, so I wasn't really looking forwards to coming downhill, being a pussy and all.

Davy Duncan came alongside at 4 miles to say it was a bit disheartening when the front men hadn't appeared yet - how far was there to go? I broke the news that there was still most of another mile to the top. 

Eventually the front runners started to appear. Stewart Whitlie seemed a long way out in front. (I love races where you see the race front coming back because it gives you something to think about and involves you in that part of the race.) I got a friendly shout from many of the first men as they were coming down - which was just really nice. 

Shortly afterwards Peter came down looking happy the way he didn't in the Skyline, and downhilling well and he gave me a load of encouragement - which raised my spirits - which lowered about 30 seconds later when I heard Kathy shouting at him from close behind. Hell's teeth! Not enough of a gap! Still, this was no time for defeatism.

It was a relief to turn around at the top and get the wind behind me, even though I now had to run as hard as I could downhill - which isn't very fast - because I'm not very good at it! Strangely, it didn't occur to me until quite a way down the hill and a woman coming up said "Well done first lady"....that I hadn't seen any women coming back, which I meant I was in first! In the name of all that's holy - how the hell was I going to keep Henly behind me so I could storm home to the glory of my first every win?

The answer came soon. I wasn't. She caught up behind me. I KNEW. I could hear lady breath. It's different from a man's breath. She exchanged some words and then went ahead. I figured I was done, but I wasn't going to give up. I tracked her as best as I could. She was showing weakness on the uphills, so I went past her. Honestly, I was relentless. I didn't once let myself think "second is pretty good too". Once we'd got over the final rise and she was still ahead I knew I'd lost her...and so the game was to keep going as hard as I could so nobody got to take that 2nd off me. And so it went.

The whole of that 2nd half was like a mad video game. I was heartily happy to finish.

So instead of getting a V50 prize I got 2nd lady, and 3 beers - 1 just for finishing and then 2 for 2nd.

We hung about in the beer tent for ages, with the shepherds from the sheepdog trials, drinking tea and eating scones. 

Lots of prizes for pals. Stewart Whitlie stayed in first place for the win. Me and Kathy got 2nd and 1st. Nick got the M40 prize and Peter the M50. Big smiles. We even got out the muddy parking field without getting stuck. More big Smiles. I'm off to drink some beer. :-)

Thanks very much to Euan Boyd and Carnethy HR club for putting this on today.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Pentland Skyline 2017

So at last Skyline day came around yesterday. In order to distract myself from thinking about it and not go for some foolish run the day before (it's easy to do), I signed up for a dreams workshop. It was pretty good actually, thanks for asking. 

I didn't sleep all that well the night before the race, which was a shame. It was a cold, grey steely day - not very inviting. I used to be used to the whole adrenaline-fuelled, tension-rising thing of races but I now no longer am, and I don't really like it. Everything went fine though and we got parked up in plenty of time. The list of things that can go wrong gets shorter right up to the start-line. I even managed a pee in the gorse 10 minutes before kick off, so come start time everything was as good as it could be.

I didn't bother warming up beyond a 60 second jog beforehand, because the race is long enough. The first couple of miles felt pretty awful as a result though. I reckon I need 3 miles for my engine to start working properly. There were some narrow bits right at the start so the first run up past the ski-slope was quite start and stop - frustratingly so, but there was nothing to be done, so I tried not to worry about it.
By Turnhouse I was feeling fine - in a smoother rhythm. Andrew Stavert came barrelling past on the road down to Flotterstone but I went past him again on the uphills. The thing that was foremost in my mind was respect for the distance, and just how bad you can feel if you do too much too soon. Peter and I have done these hills (Turnhouse to West Kip) so frequently recently that they seemed very manageable. I know every twist and turn of the paths and I know how hard I can go at them.

Summiting West Kip. Photo courtesy of the powers of facebook and John Viv Busby.

I had been a bit worried about the cut-off time  for the Drove Road of 2hrs 15 mins. I've lost all my Garmin stats for old races so wasn't sure what was reasonable. I thought I remembered that it was 5 or 10 minutes over the 2 hours when I tended to get there, but have no objective proof. I arrived at the Drove Road water station in just under 2 hours though, which felt reassuring. I was surprised to discover that Richard Hadfield was just behind me and while we exchanged a few words (I wanted to re-tie my laces, drink water and eat a bourbon cream), Andrew Stavert barrelled through once again, very focused, only pausing to grab a drink and discard it, and then taking off hard down the Drove Road. Richard wanted to keep him in sight and took off too. I finished off my water and bourbon cream and didn't bother trying to stay in touch. Both of them would take me apart on the road and I wanted to give my tummy a bit of time to absorb the water.

Mrs Doyle was just so excited she was going to get water and a lovely biscuit too!

My tummy wasn't really for absorbing cold water and a bourbon cream on the way down a bumpy track and the whole lot came back on me in a painless, if rather unpleasant brown fountain of biscuit and acidic water. I was glad there was no-one near me as I spat it into the nearby reeds. I didn't feel sick or ill, so wasn't concerned in that sense, but I'd made the decision not to carry water, which meant it looked likely I'd be feeling pretty dry before the race was over.

Hare Hill is a tussocky hell and I hate it. There's nothing that I consider runnable after you get to the top and make your way across the boggy, heathery waste to the descent. I did my best though. The organisers had set a route to keep the landowners happy, and I quite liked that because despite three recces I never found a satisfactory way across it - so at least an enforced route took the pain of decision-making out of it. I arrived at the board with red and white tape at the top of the descent but wasn't sure which way we were intended to go. I followed a couple of young guys to the left but then corrected when a woman down in the Cleugh shouted up that we should be further to the right. None of this was fast but it gave my muscles a change at least. Coming off West Kip I'd started to feel that I was too old for all this. My hips were hurting, and my knees, - just in an achy way. The different terrain in the 2nd half, although taxing, was softer under foot and demanded a different gait and this eased my legs up.

So Black Hill - we got directed to go through the gate before heading up, which I wasn't all that happy about because I had the earlier route pretty much down. However, it was fine. The route up there has deteriorated in the last few weeks with too many recces and the rain so the running was a bit slippy, squidgy and uneven but not bad. There was a female marshal at the top of the hill and she was making a big fuss of the runners. "Here comes number 52!" She shouted at me. "Number 52 is looking VERY  good. VERY good indeed!". I couldn't help but smile. 

The bog at the top of Black Hill is kind of legendary. I'd almost be disappointed if it was dry. The far side of Black Hill has recently had its heather cut and I've been finding that this has made for the best running down towards Bell Hill there's been for years. I enjoyed seeing people who clearly hadn't recced waste their efforts on the muddy and uneven path when the short heather at the side was almost perfect running and cut a really nice economic route to the bottom. 

Going back up Bells Hill is never easy. I'd hoped to have a caffeine gel at this point to give me courage for the last 4 hilly miles home, but with no water and already having a slight headache I just couldn't risk it. I had an isotonic gel with me too and I thought maybe I could chance that, as it shouldn't make me more dehydrated, but it was bowfing -  some kind of concentrated, super-sweet berry horror. I offered it to a fellow traveller, who wasn't interested, and so I emptied it out on the grass.

By this time I was fairly predictably going uphill better than those around me and then getting passed on the downhills. I have no idea what happened in real terms of how many I passed and how many passed me and stayed past. I was getting to recognise a few people though.

At the foot of harbour hill there were some people out with jelly babies and stuff. I asked if they had any water - and they said "No, that chap just had the last of the water" indicating a ginger haired guy just ahead. I thought that was more name and shame than he really needed! I said not to worry, but a tall young guy who I'd swapped places with a few times offered me a shot of the contents of his camelbak. This seemed a very good-natured thing to do and I thought 'Well why not'. We were perfect strangers but I had to get close in enough to get a right sook on his tubing! I couldn't get any at first until he twisted the mouth-piece for me. We tried to keep moving at the same time. I got a little bit to drink, some half sweet half salty electrolyte stuff. It didn't quite solve my fluid balance problem but the interaction was heartening. He said well done for keeping running up the hills and I explained I was just trying to run half and half to keep going for the last bit. He hadn't run it before so wanted to know if we were nearly there. I said yes, we were on the last stretch. The ginger-haired water-stealer said that we weren't. I could sympathise with that point of view, but towards the end of the Skyline it's best to think either good thoughts or nothing at all. Take it from me.

Nearly there!

So then that long roundy hill with the metal thing on top. I was walking and jogging up that hill when I came across Camp Jones, which consisted of Mary Lye and a tent on a slope out of which was issuing gales of laughter. God knows what was going on in there. Now Mary, God love her, had some actual water, which she let me have, and then she ran up ahead of me to take a picture. I reached deep down inside to see if I could find a smile. It is a matter of wonder to me how I manage to look just quite so like Mrs Doyle off Father Ted when I'm out in the hills.

And then it was just the last few hills. I saw what I thought was Andrew ahead and I tried to take a sneaky higher route so he wouldn't see me. If I could just get past him without him realising I could probably beat his ass. But Bert Logan and Amy Kerr were at the top of the hill and started shouting out to us. Stavert woke up out of his trance and started to run again. On the downhills he was uncatchable, and I didn't even try.

I found out later that Richard Hadfield had gone past 5 minutes before.
Amy got me just after my smile was over!
Andrew awakes.

I could see from my watch that it was now likely that I was going to make it under the 4 hours unless I did something stupid. The most likely stupid thing to do would be tripping and taking a header down the path, so I avoided all of that kind of thing.
The significance of 4 hours was just that I'd always kept under 4 hours, even in my slowest Skylines. This had been more by chance than planning, but I didn't want to break it.
It has been 7 years since I've run it, and I haven't done much in the way of hills in the intervening time, so there was no real reason to think I should be able to do what I used to do, but that didn't mean that I didn't want to.

So it was a very pleased and tired me that got to the finish line in 3.57.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Le Weekend

Took my legs to Gullane yesterday to see if they could still run. They still could but they were a bit creaky so we didn't push it. Missed some pretty large rain storms.

As Peter pointed out - "The Ghosts on the Ghostbuster Poster".

We woke up this grumpy fellow. He couldn't make his displeasure clear enough.

Not pleased to see us either. (sigh)

Absolutely indifferent to our presence.

Threes a charm. We wondered if you could have a plague of butterflies.

As soon as we got home it started raining again.


Today it was a palaver to get out the house. It was raining. Although in no way as damaged as last week, my legs were achy over night. In fact I have felt better. I felt like I couldn't taste my food properly yesterday. My knees ached over night. I wouldn't be surprised if I've got a brain tumour and just a matter of weeks to live. Or else I might be fine. I'm just not sure....

After a lot of humming and hawing and even considering not going out, I set off out for Arthur's Seat, telling Peter that if he liked I would lead him up some of the off-road sections.
As all the best leaders do, I led from behind on a number of sections. This was to improve Peter's confidence ahead of the Skyline next week. I had the odd sensation that my legs were not working together. I have felt perkier - but it was quite good fun. The sun came out and P cheered up by about 80%. Big gusts of wind came out of nowhere and tried to knock us off our feet. From the top we could see it was tipping down over the Pentlands, but we somehow avoided the rain altogether.
We ran a little over 6 miles round and about Arthur's Seat.

And now it is the descent into Sunday night.