Sunday, 29 March 2009

BST Long run

A bit of lack of focus for this run. First of all I was going to get up to join Bert's group for a 20 miler. Then thinking about how crap I've been lately I thought I'd be better doing the same run but setting off 20 minutes earlier and making the game all about catching me - or me avoiding being caught... but then I worked out that entailed me being at the bowling club at 8.40am, which was really 7.40am as the clocks were to go forward in the middle of the night. Before I knew it I'd watched the last episode of Dexter and episode 5 of The Wire and it was after midnight BST.

"Why are you going to get up early if you're going to run on your own?" asked a sagacious Peter. Why indeed? "Well I'll just see if I feel like getting up at 7." I told my bad self.

When the clock beeped for 7am I didn't feel that much like getting up as it happened so I slipped happily back into my dream. A disturbing dream right enough, but I could handle it. In my dream I was back on the main street of the town where I went to school and I realised I had a latin and a history exam coming up and I had done no work for them and had attended no classes. Why do I keep doing this in my dreams? Essays to write and piles of books to read in a matter of hours and I have done nothing, nothing, nothing... But in this dream I managed to rationalise and I figured that I didn't need to spend any more time on English that term, I would definitely pass, so therefore I could devote the rest of my time to cramming Latin and History.

I woke up somewhat relieved by this solution, and then even further relieved to discover I had no impending history or latin exams. It was 9.10am and some clown seemed to think the wheelly bin below the window was a bottle bank and was posting bottles into it one by one. The sound of breaking glass chased away the last vestiges of sleep and I thought that I better get up.
Peter had long since set off to meet up with Ben to run to North Berwick and catch the train back again.

"Carpe diem" I thought to myself sluggishly. I may have dodged an early start but the fact remained that there was some long running to be done and now I'd passed up the chance to do it in - or ahead of - company, I needed to think where on earth to go.

A winter of doing local long runs has taken a considerable amount of the shine off all of them. The best I could come up with to get shelter from the west wind and add a bit of variety was to take the cycle path out to Cramond, do the airport loop and then maybe come back alongside the Forth with the wind behind me.

I went wrong almost right away, cutting through a housing estate and missing the path that leads to the cycle path so I had to turn back on myself and added in a good half a mile. Then again, running along the cycle path even though I was constantly looking for the turn off that takes you to Barnton somehow I ran right by it and by the time I was absolutely sure I'd done this I'd come out in Corstorphine. I tried to think of ways that maybe I could hook up with the Water of Leith and divert to another route but the thought of more Water of Leith didn't appeal so I turned back on myself and this time found the well-marked turn off without any problems. By this time I'd added a good 2 miles onto my intended distance but I was feeling better than I'd expected and was enjoying the fresh springy weather.

To cut a long run story short the rest of my run went without much incident except stopping my garmin when a puppy went for my legs and then forgetting to put it back on for a further half a mile or so. Because I'd gone further than I intended I thought I'd avoid the front at Cramond altogether and go back via the cycle paths. By this time it was getting a bit busier so I had to dodge neds, dogs, bikes, drunks, children and walkers. My legs were stiffening up but all in all I was feeling okay and even tried to pick it up a bit for the last few miles.

When I got in Peter was back in bed, complaining in a childish voice that "Ben ran too hard".

21.47 miles in 3hrs 16 mins at 9.09 pace av HR 142, or 21.98miles in 3hrs 25mins at 9hrs 13 pace if you include puppy time. (Motion-based just ignores whether you have your timer on or off.)

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Wire

Had a good run on Tuesday round Arthur's Seat before work and then keenly anticipated a run on Friday hoping I'd got some bounce back. (Actually I'd planned to go out Thursday night but come Thursday night it was blowing a gale and raining and I was tired from the week so I put it off.)
Friday morning I spent waiting for the man to come and fix my windscreen, which he did, but he was a couple of hours later than he said he would be. So I got up early for nothing and had a hangover from the wine I drank the night before.
When I got out my run I tried hard and knocked out a middling kind of 10 miler. My legs felt slow and heavy again and it was hard to push hard.
Afterwards my legs got really stiff really quickly. I don't know whether I need to run more or less or what to do to get out of this depressing slump. Or maybe I'm just paying too much attention to individual runs now because that famous runner Chris Hoy is having his half marathon next week and I'd like a new pb when I get there. I'm boring myself.

Which is why I thought I'd write about The Wire instead today.
We'd read and heard a lot about The Wire so we thought we should get a season off Love Film and see for ourselves. Typically this arrived the week before its going to be televised, but still its good to have the control of choosing when you want to watch them. So we watched two episodes on Thursday night and two episodes last night, saving the climax of that series for tonight.
Because it had been hyped to the skies there was an element of disappointment with it. It was also with relief that I realised that I could understand it okay. There had been much talk about how uncompromising it was in telling its story without slowing down to underline the main points for the jelly-heads and its sticking to the Baltimore vernacular and idiom without apology or explanation. "Fuck the average guy", declaimed the writer, David Simon.
Maybe he meant to flatter his viewership by putting out the message that "If you're understanding this you're one cute cat."
In truth it wasn't that hard to understand or follow.
Talking of putting out a message, well, there's a lot of that. The police force and local government is full of Machiavellian string-pulling, favour-doing and manipulation. "The Captain's giving me a message that we shouldn't try too hard with this thing."
The only difference with the bad guy drug-dealers are that they are also killing people. (The police only occasionally beating people up.)
I'm sure this is the point.

The downbeat view of the police force is that in any division there will be about three police actively involved in fighting crime while the others are inept or burnt out. The people at the top are only concerned with maintaining or improving their position.
I'd say its a bit like the NHS but Peter depends on my wages so I retract that.
The newspapers are seen as the counter-force that protects society. If things get into the paper the people up top have to take notice. If The Wire presents a cynical view of the police force then surely it presents an idealised view of the newspapers with their ill-researched drivel?
Anyway, in summary. The Wire is a good cop show with a reassuring number of people up each others ass ("I've got the Captain up my ass!") a la NYPD Blue and I'll buy it.

(As an aside, there is a difference in proportion of dud guys vs good guys in the division between NYPD Blue and The Wire. If I remember rightly in NYPD there were mostly good guys but with one ambition-filled snake in their midst. Is David Simon's vision pessimistic, paranoid or realistic? Discuss.)

Today I'll maybe run 5 easy miles and drive my car about to check out the new windscreen. Rather alarmingly while I was waiting for the guy to come yesterday I was googling citroen ax windscreens to see if I could find out what they REALLY cost (I couldn't), when I came across a review for the car calling it the "Devil's Go-Kart" which I liked and then saying that insurance companies count it as a 9 out of 10 in terms of risk of death in an accident. Ow. The guy who was writing advised not to drive it over 30mph. I'm sorry but that won't do! Here's hoping we can get another season out of the Devil's Go-Kart without meeting our makers...

Monday, 23 March 2009

Dark Skies are upon us

Sunday, Richard, Peter and I went out for a Pentlands' run. Our remit was to go for 3 hours, so roughly the equivalent of 20 road miles.

I had a good plan of doing the last route I did in the Pentlands with Harbour Hill and Castle Law thrown in (also the hill between these two but I can't remember what it's called...roundy hill...).

It had seemed a little windy earlier in the day but we weren't prepared for the sheer fury of the wind on the tops. By the time we all came off West Kip we were battered and weary. When I got onto the path I realised that I was going to be rubbish for the rest of the run.

The only add-on to the run was to investigate a new board walk which had appeared on the left just at the foot of the steep hill on the road that leads back down to Balerno. We hoped that someone had thoughtfully put a nice board walk right round the reservoir and over the reeds but it led only a short way into a strange wooden bird-watching hut. We went in and were greeted with the sight of a fair number of stern-faced people in green jackets silently watching some bluetits eat some nuts in an orange net.

I moaned quietly, or maybe loudly for much of the 2nd half, having had enough and bewailing my sudden, drastic loss of form. My right foot had been taxed on the steep uphills earlier and now ached mildly but persistently. Despite my encouraging Peter and Richard to go ahead and go up Harbour Hill etc. to get their extra time in they chose instead to keep running back to me, letting me know just how slow I was going.

I promised myself an extra low mileage week to try and rest my heel and improve my energy levels. I cut back to 38 miles last week but it obviously wasn't enough. So tonight instead of running I'll be shopping and cooking, oh and doing the dishes.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Heriot-Watt 5K Trail Race

Scorching action today at the Heriot-Watt 5K trail race. New pb of 21.57. "God that's really slow", Peter helpfully remarked. Still better than before. The Garmin said its a bit short but hey! its hilly and its off-road. Give me a break buddy.

Plenty of students there made for an enthusiastic start with lots of walkers half-way through. The joy of ageing; you can pace yourself better.

My legs felt like they were stuffed with wool, but I did enjoy it. I found the remainder of last week's cold was making itself felt so I made horrible choking sounds and further frightened the wee lambs from university. Running much faster than those around me on the downhills which was pleasing, and still making my way through the field towards the end.

One last determined burst, sprinting with fists ready for a fight across the field and it was all over. Peter had some kind of technical hitch with the camera so only got me in the far distance. He knocked out another pb so was happy with himself.

One slight stain on the day is that my windscreen is mysteriously cracked so I'll have to hand out $$$s next week to get it fixed. More than the car cost anyway. As I had to stop my debit card earlier in the week as someone's obviously got my card details and is happily topping up their phone with them, I am feeling a bit picked on by fate.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Housework workout

Attempting to back off running until my heel gets better, my cold goes away and now until some tummy bug I seem to have goes away. Its the down-side of running; illness and injury. The up-side of these being with all those extra hours you can do other things.

 Yesterday I did a mere (and slow) 10 miler up the water of Leith and back and then set about trying to hoover up some dust in the house which has been building up as both of us are usually too tired and sore to push a hoover around. Friends Jane and Jim and baby Rosie were coming around.

We're not really a baby friendly household so I acted as High chair at Rosie's tea-time. I got to wear a fair amoung of chicken stew stuff and then some apple stuff for afters. She's very strong and nips a fair bit.

I had to tell Ben and Richard the night before that I likely wouldn't be doing the Highland Fling and suffer through their reactions. I couldn't bring myself to tell Graham Henry.
It was soothing then to tell Jim and Jane who couldn't give a hoot about doing the long stuff and thought it was infinitely more important to avoid injury than to follow through no matter what...

Now laying plans for doing Stuc a Chroin as Jim and Jane are up for it and Ben's quite keen too. Also thinking we need to enter Lairig Ghru soon if we want a place on the bus. Having a reevaluation of the summer's running plans...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Heel Trouble

Last week I got a cold and that alongside my sore, deformed looking heel/achilles made me think I better back off a bit so I had three full days off running. The heel thing's feeling a lot better but I haven't tried it out in different shoes yet. Last week I couldn't wear any of my off-road shoes and even some normal day-to-day shoes were a problem. Work has temporarily taken over so I haven't had time to really assess what's going on.

I'm thinking I might just not bother doing the Highland Fling. I could do with backing off from my training and I could really do without getting injured just before the summer season gets under way. I've been sleeping on it for a few days and have not yet mustered anything like a feeling of regret if I don't do it. I get so excited about races this makes me think I shouldn't really be doing it, because I feel like I just don't care.

It was a relief to go running last night again at last. I went up to the Meadows to do a tempo session of some kind. I hoped I might be in flying form, and I feared I might still be hobbling with injury but the reality was somewhere inbetween. Knocked out 7.35 pace for 4.5 miles round the Meadows in a total run of 9.5 miles. It was late on and I was tired so it wasn't bad. Never got my tea til 10 to 10pm.

Here's a photo of my heels. The one on the right is the problem. Heels look a bit weird and alien out of context don't they.

Monday, 9 March 2009

I was tricked.

I was tricked into doing a long run today. My thought processes (if you can call it thinking) went something like this. "I feel tired, maybe I'm overdoing it. I should just have an easy week." So I decided that I'd do about 12 miles and maybe a short one tomorrow and then club on Wednesday and something on Thursday and let this be a low mileage week and let my heel and myself recover.

Once I was out I felt better than I thought I would so I thought I'd do about 15 miles; 8 miles up the Water of Leith and then back through town via the canal. This adds up to about 15.5 miles. Once I'd come off the canal I told myself it would be a pity to have a long run for the week which was less than 17 miles as I read somewhere once that technically long runs begun at 17 miles. In order to make my run up to 17 miles I did a complete round of the Meadows. As I came off the Meadows I saw that I'd done just over 14 miles so I knew as long as I went round the back of Arthur's Seat I'd have run 18 miles for the day.

You'd think that would do. What happened to resting my heel and having a low mileage week? Half way round Arthur's Seat the thought occurred to me that I should really be extending my long run each week and that I should take another turn around Arthur's Seat. No! Up the hill? Into the wind! Why? Why me? Because otherwise it won't be a proper run. In the grip of this evil logic I set off back up the hill instead of heading home at the Palace. I could hardly move my feeble legs and I knew the people in the cars driving down the road were deriding and mocking me. At the top of the hill things got a bit better again and it wasn't too bad. It wasn't really too bad all the way home, just painful dodging the people who had been released from their work and were trying to make their way home. They weren't getting in my way on purpose so I kept my feelings to myself.
So anyway now I'm totally knackered. I hope that my weird heel doesn't diversify any further. My friend Jim has a bunion so lavish that it has its own name (Bob) and a quite distinct personality. Mind you, I wish I could run like him.
Total distance; 21.63miles in 3hrs 19 mins, av. pace 9.12 min/miles av. HR 148

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Gartmorn Muddy 6 miles

Up at 7am this morning to head through to Alloa in time for the Gartmorn 6. Had heard Edel Mooney of Lothian Runners talking about this one a few years ago and always intended to go and check it out. The weather was not very promising first thing. Arthur's Seat was covered in snow again and the wind was howling all night. The streets were full of slush when we went out to the car and pretty soon it started sleeting. My single windscreen wiper struggled valiantly to clear me a view as tossers in 4 by 4's kicked up a ton of stoor overtaking on the motorway at 85 in poor visibility. It was really quite anxiety provoking. Also I don't know what Peter put in my screenwash but it seems to be greasy!

Anyway we arrived there in plenty of time and got changed and found the start without problems. My funny heel is refusing to wear certain shoes but is quite happy once in the shoes it chooses. It was sore in Swoops or Walshes which would have been my first choice, - and then also in my Grizzlies so it was a relief when I tried on my new Pegasus Trail shoes and it was fine. I hope it is not planning to stay too long as this could get inconvenient.

I had some highish hopes for this race as I have had a good turn of speed (for me) at times recently. I thought I might be close to 10k pb form. My legs felt a bit slow however, not really kicking, and I got disappointingly out-sprinted right at the very end. Its a cracking course though, probably best trail race ever. I love running in the trees anyway and then there were these great planks over streams to cross, that had mesh on them to give a very good grip but no side rails. It added a real excitement. A brief glimpse of the reservoir brought back flashbacks of Draycote Water (Oh no please don't make me run round 7 times!) but that part was soon over and had a thin line of trees for protection from the wind and then we were back into the woods again. Hey I never mentioned the mud. There was thick, black, slick, slippy mud all through the woods and all that winter cross-countrying seemed to stand me in good stead as I started to gain on others the minute I got on the muddy bits. Where I was not so good was on the windy road, somehow I couldn't get moving.

Have put up some exciting pictures of muddy legs specially for gIANt Parlin. See if you can tell which is me and which is Peter.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Airport Run Again

Today it was time for another long run. Swish new pair of Nike Trail Pegasus so wanted some trail to run on. I am running out of ideas for nearby long runs so as the wind was blowing west again I went for the airport run as its into the wind on the way out, wind supporting on the way back. Felt neither tremendous nor terrible and my legs were pretty sore by the end but I could forget about them. The mud nearing the airport was its blackest, slippiest worst, which is a shame because it can be very good running there but when its wet its just too much.

Quite a few punters out with dogs and babies and children on wheels (prams, skates, scooters, bikes). Hard to dodge on tired legs so I was cursing them.
20.26 miles in 3hrs06mins, 9.12min/miles, av HR 148. Just over 55 miles for the week.

Monday, 2 March 2009


Yep today's blog is going to be a bit pretentious. Off to the Pentlands to my surprise really. I could easily have had the day off running having run the last two and having a slightly worrying bump on my right heel which I have internet-diagnosed as a Haglund's Bump and which would probably like a bit of rest. However the desire to go the Pentland's which I woke up with did not dwindle, as sometimes happens, upon facing the reality of getting changed and ready to do it. I was up for it.

Strong west wind and showers today, one of those days when bright sunshine is chased across the landscape by dark clouds and sudden rain. Peter had to work and set off with his panniers full of paintpots and a rucksack strapped to some step-ladders on his back. I think he could join some painting and decorating circus act. He can get the same things on a bike that most people would use a van for.

The air in the Flotterstone carpark was cool and clean-smelling; that scent of pines. I set off to the sound of light artillery and some machine gun fire coming from Castle Law. I soon blocked this out and went into mp3 land - the sound of music sometimes being drowned out on the tops by the very fierce wind which took me by surprise and very nearly knocked me on my back at the top of Turnhouse. The sun kept chasing the clouds across the hills and it was really lovely. It is definitely spring. My favourite bit was the fresh green shoots in a field contrasted with the yellow sunshine. (Pictured above.) I did the same route we did when we went out with torches; T'house, Carnethy, Scald Law, S. B. Hill, E & W Kips, Drove Road, Threipmuir reservoir, back up between Bell's Hill and Harbour Hill, down onto the road and back to the car. 13.1 miles in 2hrs 40 mins. I felt impressively fresh, all this long stuff must be adding up.

Right calf is tight and achilles not keen to stretch, with a bump on it, but its not too painful, just a bit inflexible. Will keep stretching the calf and icing the bump and hopefully I can stay on top of it.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Chicken Madras

Pappadoms, Chicken Madras, 4.5 pints of lager and a big glass of red wine, muesli when I finally got home at 2am and some supplementary rehydrating drinks throughout the night. 12 units of alcohol by my reckoning and I'm pretty sure I was the most sober person there. A standard Scottish Saturday night out. I knew I'd recover from it but felt pretty sure my Sunday was wasted which these days is a major major sacrifice.

To my surprise I slept well and deeply, finally deciding to get up at about 11am. I gingerly tested out my condition but I felt surprisingly good. Was I going to be good for a run today after all? The sun was shining through the window. Maybe 10 miles. Maybe up the Water of Leith 5 miles and then back. There was a brisk west wind blowing for which the Water of Leith is a good option.

When I went out I thought I'd made a mistake only wearing shorts and t-shirt. The wind was pretty icy and 3 minutes into my run it started to rain and then hail. I thought maybe it was a mistake to carry on but that wasn't how I felt. I felt fantastic. The strongest I've felt for ages. Presumably this is more to do with my 35 miler last Sunday than my binge drinking last night. I had a great run, slowed only by Sunday walkers who I suppose really do have a right to the path too..

I was mostly running sub 8 minute pace, which I hear you sneer isn't all that great, well for me it is. Its really unusual for me to go out on my own and run sub 8 minute pace. I can do it in races and I can do it for the entire duration of a marathon but its very rare to do it on my own and not racing. Today it was a joy. My legs felt strong and the air was sharp and bracing and its definitely nearly spring.

I had to do some essential slowing to accommodate the needs of others and to allow traffic to pass, so average pace is 8.09. 10 miles exactly, time taken 1h21mins, av HR 157. Yeehah.