Tuesday, 11 June 2019

The weekend that just was.

I have been trying to allow myself more time to recover from the marathon than usual. I had a course all weekend the weekend before last so I just went for an hour's run in the morning on the Saturday and the rest of the weekend I sat on my arse.
I was gagging for a run by Monday, so, unusually, I got up early and went out a run before work. On Wednesday I got out a longer run in the morning and realised that I felt better - and that in fact all the taper and then the marathon and then the trying to recover malarkey was getting in the way of my regular running which keeps me ticking over nicely. Still, sometimes you need to lose a thing to appreciate it. 2 years ago after running Stirling I kept my running mileage up initially, even though I felt all stiff, until I tripped over a wee root and re-cracked some ribs. I took this as a message from the universe, something like this, "you're tired, you twat, take it easy, do you never learn?". "Thanks universe." I said, rolling my eyes.

Anyway, last Saturday it was forecast to pour with rain. That seemed a bit unfair as I'd been banged up at work for all the good weather. Peter was agitating to go and do Traprain Law but I couldn't get behind the idea of waiting all day for a 3pm start for a run in the rain, so went out in the morning. It was drier in the morning than t'was foretold so I felt smug as I arrived home about an hour before Peter was due to set off with Nick for the race. Traprain is quite an exciting wee race however, so I thought I'd just go along with my rainy gear on and take some photos.

The whole afternoon was more active and more fun than I'd anticipated. I wanted to try to find a way to get to the far side of the river crossing without getting my feet wet but I didn't know how far it was to the bridge and along the other side. It wasn't actually obvious how to get back along the river - there wasn't a path along the riverside, so once I'd crossed the bridge I went up a path and along a road and then down into the wrong field and waded around in neck high thistles and nettles. Realising, after a while, that I wasn't in the right place, I waded back up to the road and down another path, and this time, thankfully, arrived at the far side of the river crossing just as the eventual winner arrived there too. An interesting selection of styles were deployed by the various runners.



It stayed mercifully dry most of the time although it was humid and must have been tough running. As soon as everyone was through the river I ran back to the other side so I could get photos of everyone heading for the finish after they'd been up Traprain Law. Apparently the leaders were sent a bit wrong up the hill, (not by me, despite rumours to the contrary). To my surprise, the 2nd person who burst through the bushes on the return journey was my companion in life, Peter Buchanan.


"The leaders were sent the wrong way!" Peter some how squeaked out as he passed. "Save your breath Sir and capitalise on your gains!" was my advice, or something like that. Perhaps it was "Run like fuck!". He did indeed, arriving at the finish in 3rd place.

I can't put up all the race photos again because there are about 130 of them so I'll put up a wee selection...

"I was sent the wrong way!" quoth Nick as he passed.

I like the contrasting Carnethy vests and verdure.

The rain was always threatening and never far away.

Go Kathy!

Is this argy bargy?



El Presidente gives a rousing speech at the end.

So that was Saturday. I was exhausted after all that. Before I knew it it was Sunday. I have been worrying about the Berlingo because I hadn't been in it for a while and it doesn't like the rain so I was very impressed when we climbed in and it started first time. Hurray! It was great to get back to having coffee and cake before running and then just mucking about. Peter had some kind of butterfly mission - in search of the elusive lemon sherbet or something. I joined in anyway. The air was thick with Painted Ladies who Peter assured me had drifted in on a warm wind all the way from France. He wondered aloud what the collective of painted ladies was while I wondered quietly if a man's  testosterone just goes a bit wrong when they hit 55 and fills their brain with insect-longings. Whatever. It's good to have a passion in life.

Here are some pictures.

This baby seal was alive! But it was right at the top of the beach and looked exhausted. I phoned it in when I got home so hopefully it is okay.

The end again.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Edinburgh Marathon 2019

Alright then, let's get this thing over. Which is more or less what I was thinking from the start.
The weather forecast had thrown several options out there during the previous week - none of them that appealing. Different combinations of rain and wind mostly.  "Could you do me a cold, bright day with very little wind?" I asked the weather gods, but they were set on their rain and wind.

I got up at 7am and looked out the window and a real rain was falling - not only the kind that would clean up these dirty streets but the kind that would send a fair-weather runner diving back under the duvet. In fact Peter said he wasn't going to get up with such conviction that I believed him. I think he believed himself. After a while he did get himself up though. The rain slackened off and Arthur's Seat became visible again and maybe it would be okay.

We got ready and went out the door and thought it would be that thing where you go outside and think "it's not so bad", but what we discovered was a cold wind to back up the still falling rain.

Kathy Henly and Amy Kerr had bravely signed up for marshalling duties and had been out in the rain for hours before we even arrived as the half-marathon set off at 8am. They were none-the-less buoyant and very funny, which was good, because nothing much else was. The sky had cleared for a while but right about when we'd just put our bags on the baggage trucks  it started to really pelt down. Runners pressed themselves against the walls of the nearby buildings as if that was a thing. Then it was time to go to your "pen". I had to say goodbye to Peter, which is always a bit sad before a marathon. Will he survive? I don't know. He's quite old now. 

I huddled in. A young guy asked me what the Edinburgh Marathon was like and I'd told him it was quite boring before really mentally testing how this might land with him as he stood there in his yellow rain hood having travelled from the South of England and no doubt spent the night in an over-priced budget hotel, all for the privilege of this. The loud-speakers said "It is nearly your time" and everything seemed a little bit comic-book sci-fi surreal which is just my way of holding unpleasant realities at a distance.

Then off we jolly well went and I spent the first mile warming up. My hands were actually cold which is unusual for me. We galloped down the Mound and then were herded round the galleries on some kind of horrid metal walkway.

Some days you just have it, and yesterday I did not. I was a bit sore from the start, and without enthusiasm for the task ahead. I was still hoping against hope that maybe the wind would miraculously drop somehow. There seemed to be a possible weather window where the rain was easing but the wind wasn't picking up, but it didn't happen. A surprise 3rd element came out in the form of the sun which actually shone quite brightly for a while and threw heat into the mix. I had taken some paracetamol on a strip which I thought I'd have at about mile 11 or so, but I decided just to take them at mile 4. My legs were sore. Getting them out the strip with cold, wet hands proved more of a challenge than I'd thought, and I had to resort to putting them in my mouth and popping them out with my teeth - then spitting out the silver paper. 

We landed on the prom and trotted along. Seeing Tony Stapley was a highlight - he gave me the usual full name check "There's Mary Hunter!" which made me feel famous for a good minute or two.

I never saw Nick who took the photo of me passing the green coffee caravan thing, which begs the question what on earth I thought I was grinning at. I don't know. Leave me alone.

And then off and away and out and out and out towards Aberlady. I was in quite a bad mood and I was irritated by the behaviour of other marathoners. We were shovelled in together quite closely and maybe half of the people were wearing headphones and would suddenly stop and walk without warning, calling for a sudden swerve or the brakes going on, which was highly unwelcome. At 10 or so miles I contemplated turning around and just trotting back to Musselburgh and "hanging out" until Peter got back. But it just seemed too defeatist and I forgot to stop running so after a while it wasn't an option any more. I was slowing inexorably and for several miles there was a regular tide of runners passing me. This just never feels good, but I hadn't wanted to admit defeat right from the start so that meant setting out at a pace that on my best day I could possibly sustain. This wasn't my best day however and I couldn't sustain it. Sub 9min-miles degraded to just over 9 min-miles to well-over 9 min-miles and then kind of evened out.

You're supposed to go into your marathon with 3 outcomes in mind - your ideal time, your it would be good and kind of possible time and an "I'd really like to at least get this time". Well that's my take on it anyway. So miracle times would have been sub-3.50. There were times during my training when that seemed possible. Good would have been sub 4hrs - and then the next marker was 4.06 which was what Julie Moffat who is in the same category as me for the club champs had done at Stirling - and also what John Blair had done at London. I quite liked the cheekiness of thinking "well I want to beat John Blair". So miracle time was off the table as soon as I'd gone over 9 minutes. Sub 4 was still possible but increasingly unlikely as time went on. I ducked just under 2 hours at half way and knew I was steadily deteriorating still. All the way running east there was the knowledge that when we turned there would be at least 6 miles into the wind, and the wind was getting stronger.

At the Aberlady turn-around, surprisingly, I felt a bit better. The last time I had done this was in 2015 where I'd run a fair effort up until that point and had in fact arrived 8 minutes sooner - but I'd had a gradually increasing rumble in my abdominal jungle which had resulted in taking flipping ages to run the last 6 miles. This time, although I was slower, there was nothing acutely wrong, and also...other people began to walk. Now I know it must be wrong to feel happy when I see other people throw the towel in like that, but it's remarkably helpful. At 20 miles I had pretty much an hour to get back to make 4.06, so there was still everything to play for. So I headed back out onto the road and got my head down and worked it to try to get back in time. The wind was quite extreme at times and there was increasingly a walker's lane in close to the kerb and a runner's lane out towards the middle of the road. So I never walked. The worst mile, which I'd anticipated for a while, was that shelter-less patch between Seton Sands and the Pans where the power-station should be but isn't.

Coming out of the Pans there was a deal more shelter and Musselburgh was looming closer and closer. I did everything I could to lift my pace without going into some fatal crampy spasm that would take me down completely. 4.06 was just on the road ahead of me, almost possible. I chased it down. Coming into Musselburgh there was a wall of noise. I couldn't remember where the hell Pinkie Park was - I concentrated on running and didn't look at the time until I was rounding the corner and saw that 4.06 had been and gone and I was not yet done. Just an odd run over the strangely bouncy metal finishing straight and I ducked under the finish in 4.08 and then enjoyed a slow achy walk over the astro turf with my fallen comrades littered all around me.

Thank Goodness. 

Then it was all about keeping moving and getting my stuff so I could get to the beer tent where I was to meet Peter. He was there with Graham Dunbar  who was mighty grey around the gills and had had better times. The beers were £4 a pop and to add insult to injury I dropped a pound on the grass and couldn't pick it up because it was too much of a stretch. I had to just leave it.

The beer helped a great deal. I knew it would. When we were tired of lager we had some cider for pudding. Graham went off to get something to eat and our friends the Neighbours and Jennifer turned up and we had fun with them. Eventually we acknowledged it was time to get moving and hobbled off as far as Portobello and then got a bus.

We discovered, belatedly, that we were quite sunburned as well as everything else. My face was all hot in bed and my eyelids hurt. I had a wakeful night interspersed with odd queasy dreams with a Royston Vasey flavour. No more marathons, at least for a year, perhaps longer.


Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Another 2 weeks!

After Camerageddon, I lent my camera to Peter for a while and he gave me an old one of his to use. It was okay, but much harder to zoom in with. We went a very nice run around Gullane, but taking 3 hours to do a 1 hour run. Weekends are short and I was beginning to protest.

The next day we planned a run with Nick in the Lammermuirs. I was a bit worried about going to the hills with these two as they are a million times faster than me and very hard to control. I wanted to make sure and get a proper run in and not also end up just standing around contemplating my navel while Peter danced around in the short heather looking for adders. There was a bit of this early on but then we got moving. I had it in mind that I'd like to take my Strava  CR back up the big hill. (Yes it's that vague). I didn't know exactly where the segment started or where it ended - all I knew was which hill it went up and that I had it and then some girl took it off me and ever since then I'd been trying to get it back. I set off to run steady and ignored Nick and Peter as they jogged past me talking. I puffed my tugboat heart out and was very glad to stop at the top for a breather. Then we headed on to the big windmills at 7 miles. I hadn't been running hills very much so was aware I'd probably suffer for this later, but I was enjoying it at the time. There was a hot sun and a cold breeze. A nice combo for running. Nick was moving well up the hills, haunted, in advance, by the spectre of his run with Nasher at the SIPR the following weekend..

I got home and uploaded my Garmin data to Strava and to my delight I had indeed re-taken my CR.
This is a sentence straight out of Brave New World, isn't it?


This Saturday was unavoidably wet. For a while it looked like East Lothian might miss out on the general soaking that Scotland was getting. It looks like contenders in the Scottish Islands Peaks Race maybe did miss the rain, but it fell on Edinburgh and East Lothian fair and square. We scrapped any plans of going anywhere, and after a few hours of stalling I announced I was going out and round Arthur's Seat, ready or not. Peter, realising that if he didn't come with me he would most likely not go out at all, came too. We hadn't been communicating well - or at least I assume so. We'd had a conversation like this P - "What way are you going?" Me - "I'm going to go up to the top of Arthur's Seat as quick as I can" (thinking more Strava segments you see). Later; me heading off up the path at Arthur's Seat. P - "You didn't say we were going off road". Me - "Yes I did. I said we were going up to the top of Arthur's Seat". Me - "what shoes are you wearing?". P - "road shoes". 
Both imagine how the combination of road shoes, wet grass, steep slopes and a camera might work out.

We were all right though. Peter kept his physical and mental balance and his camera survived unscathed. We were chatting again and I forgot about Strava Segments until it was too late. There was a crow and a snail. It's amazing how quickly you forget the winter and all that hardship. Under harsh conditions you make the best of any fun you can find....

The next day I had a need to do a decent run though. The marathon is looming up and I have been feeling less runny every day. My legs have been sore and jumpy. I started googling jumpy, restless legs and the first few google entries were about opiate withdrawal. Wait, could it be lack of running that was making my legs like that? Was it some kind of endorphin withdrawal?

I wanted to run 10 miles, and I wanted to run them all in a row, at a hardish effort and with no stops for butterflies at all. I made this clear from the start. Sometimes Peter just goes along to get along and hopes I'll forget what I've said. So I had to make it clear, clear, clear. He saw that I meant it and then we started to make realistic plans about how that might work. Depending on what he found in the butterfly world he might chase me round. If the natural world was all a-flutter, he might meet me back at the van in about 2 hours.  I never did the maths that, even for me, even for off-road, 2 hours was a bit long for 10 miles. I set off feeling better than I had the day before and was well past half way by the hour - I was also realising there was no chance the route I had planned was 10 miles. I had looked at an old map of it on Strava which had said 10.3, but it must have been some variation of the usual route and I hadn't noticed the difference. I had forgotten about the possibility of Peter chasing me as I headed back up through Archerfields. I was enjoying running and I had kept up a good effort all the way. Suddenly a whole fly flew into my eye and I had to stop to get it out. It must have been one of Peter's flies sent ahead to warn me, as I turned around and there he was, galloping up the road. 

A bit of hard blinking and the whole fly rolled out and I was good to go. We raced on towards the finish without slowing down to chatting mode. We arrived back at the van, 11 miles in the bag, pleased with ourselves. Peter said he ran very hard to catch me but had felt strong. My legs felt the best they'd felt all week and I felt more confident about running again.

So the marathon is very soon. I wish I felt better. I went out for a run today and my legs felt like they weren't on the right way. I went to Feldenkrais and went to stretch out my feet and the right one nearly went into a full cramp - I just pulled back from the brink at the very last moment. I don't get cramps. I think I must be short of magnesium or something. Or maybe opiates.

Probably by the time we speak again, it will have all happened.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019


It wasn't a bad weekend for running but it was a terrible one for photography.

The Berlingo still being sick and in the car hospital, on Saturday Nick took us to the Lochend Woods parkrun in Dunbar.
The morning was cold, grey and windy and I couldn't seem to wake up no matter how much coffee I drank. Nick regaled us with tales of dancing in the Dalriada though and the journey to Dunbar was short and fun.

Cramond is getting over-crowded and the prom holds few surprises so it was a relief to go somewhere new and do a different course.

The course goes in and out of the woods a couple of times. I was very soon quite lost but the course was well-marked and the marshals knew what they were doing, so there were no problems. It was good to get out of the cold wind and into the trees. 

As I was coming out the woods for the first time I was warned to keep over as the leaders were coming through. Who should come flying round the corner but Peter and Nick. Hurray! We were winning!

The field was nicely stretched out on the first lap round the playing fields so in the woods there was little exchanging of places. I passed a couple of people but they didn't like it so they passed me back. Around about the middle they moved away ahead of me and I thought that was that but towards the end I noticed I was gaining on people again - I guess it's all this long training I've been doing. I passed a couple of "girls" in the last few hundred meters and only realised after looking at the results that they were over 50, same as me. Haha. I was 2nd over 50 "girl". 1st was Clare Gilchrist who was 2 minutes ahead and therefore never caused me any trouble at all.

Nick and Peter had their own battle for supremacy and in the end Nick prevailed with Peter a very close 2nd. It was all very exciting and afterwards we were ready for some ginger-ale. Or cake. Well Nick suggested more coffee but this was vetoed by the two oldies, scared it would interfere with our afternoon nap.

Afterwards we went for a tootle around East Links. PB saw some orange tips which flew away into the llama enclosure and just about drove him mad.


The next day I was to run at least 21 miles, according to my schedule. It was to be my last long run before the marathon so I wanted to be sure of doing it. There was talk of all of us going running again but I thought if I really wanted to get that run done I was best running myself. Peter and Nick were going to run together but then plans changed and Peter decided to chase me down the road, giving me a head start of an hour or so.

I was heading to North Berwick, hackneyed as that is, as the wind was favourable and the trains seemed to be running again. It was cold but the morning was cheered by seeing a number of friendly familiar faces along the way. I saw Bert Logan  and Neil Burnett of Carnethy and then Judyta who does the pilates on her bike, and then Michael Law on his bike. I got high-fived by Roly McCraw as I was coming out the far side of Preston-pans and he was closely followed by a possie of Porties. I remembered how nice it was to be part of the running scene! It makes living in a city feel more like living in a small town, but without the gossip.

At Seton Sands I spied a baby seal which had "passed on" and was now smelling to high heaven. It was a grizzly sight and was the first thing that had made me want to get my camera out. When I put it on it told me the battery was flat, however,  and put itself straight back off again. Hmmph. It was only my light camera which I ungenerously call my "shitty little camera" anyway. My back-up camera was the camera on my phone which is laughably bad. It wasn't a particularly scenic day and I was supposed to be getting a shuffle on anyway so I wasn't too bothered. Nobody probably really wants to see a rotting seal anyway.

Not long after I was on the sandy paths through Longniddry Bents I was hailed by PB, who was all in a lather. He was relieved to see me as this now meant he could slow down. He'd run the first 12 or 13 miles at 7 minute mile pace, with a big rucksack on and had a wet back. I took some photos with my phone just for fun.

Once we were running together we both slowed down. I'm sorry to say we were bickering a bit. We were both tired and running on the road isn't lovely. We had some coffees and snacks  at Aberlady which cheered us up. After that we headed to a top-secret location where Peter had had a tip-off about some butterflies. More than enough said. When we arrived at the location everything went surreal for a while. Some butterflies did, suddenly and unexpectedly, emerge. It was cold and grey and we thought there was pretty much no chance there would be anything. They were very flighty and Peter gave frantic chase, camera at the ready - but they kept just ahead and frustrated him. Then he had turned around and was coming down a steepish slope at speed, when his feet went out from under him and his camera hand went down instinctively to save him and....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....his camera was broken!!! That wasn't a good moment. Oh my jiminy cricket no.

I'll tell you what though, I started running faster again after that. All the adrenaline and horror. We picked up the pace. As we were nearing NB it seemed touch and go if we could maybe catch a train. Most of them were at 20 past the hour and one was at 24 minutes past the hour. That was all I could remember. We'd missed the 20 past cut off but as we passed the Welcome to North Berwick sign there was still conceivably time to catch a 24 past train......We would have....if there had been one...but there wasn't one....there were no trains at all. They had all been cancelled. It would have been nice to have a small serving of success and happiness on top of the bitter biryani we had already been served up. But instead we caught the bus home.

Well I did get my 23 miles run. And we think Peter's camera is still under warranty, so it could all conceivably come right. Especially if we ever get the car fixed. It's still waiting on a part.

Phone selfie.