Saturday, 25 April 2009

New Mudclaws/ Red moss revolution recce

New shoes yesterday. Inov8 mudclaw 330s. To test them out we went out late on (c.7.45pm) to the carpark near Threipmuir reservoir to run the course of the Red Moss Revolution race which I ran last summer and was most taken with. It covers a little of pretty much all terrain so a great testing ground for new shoes and has long stretches of easy running where you can get the pace up.

It was great to suddenly be on misty moorland after short ago leaving Leith where the Friday nighters were already working themselves up to a crescendo of binging, vomiting, shouting and fighting. Up on the hillside the larks were giving their endless breathy running commentary, the cuckoos were calling, marsh birds were beeping (curlews), things scuttled into the undergrowth.

My legs were stiff and sore to start with. Right knee was hurting and my left foot. It takes a while of shuffling real slow to get these wrinkles ironed out. Soon though it was all starting to come together.

The first part of the Red Moss is relentlessly uphill. It goes up the road, inbetween the trees and then up the Drove road before turning left onto Hare Hill. Hare Hill can be extremely wet and marshy but its been really dry lately and there was a pretty good path for most of it. We only encountered extreme wetness on occasion. I must say I always feel a bit of panic when I hit those really marshy bits. As a child I was regaled with stories of people sinking without a trace into marshes and I wonder if its ever happened up Hare Hill? Anyway, the new mudclaws were light and agile on the grassy ascent to Hare Hill, coped admirable with the heathery, bumpy wetness on the hill and then were superbly grippy on the steep fall to the Green Cleugh.

Neither of us wanted to get our nice shoes irretrievably dirty in the oily waters of the Cleugh so we tiptoed along the wall that runs through it.
The next part, after the initial steep rise onto the side of Black Hill is some of the best off road running I've ever come across. Its a peaty, rocky path (but not too rocky) that runs downhill for the best part of a mile and even I in my cautious slowness can get up a good speed and rhythm on this section. In its current dry condition it is next to perfect. The course then crosses the edge of the reservoir and turns back along sandy paths that then go into scented pine woods and emerge onto rocky paths that take you pretty much all the way back to the start. We somehow went wrong on the way back and took a turn down a very nice path along the edge of some woods, which I suspect probably leads back down to Balerno by the number of dog walkers we were encountering. Realising we were heading off in completely the wrong direction we reluctantly turned around and then easily found the proper way.

The course was as good as I remembered it. Perfect for people like me that like a bit of road and a bit of trail and a bit of hill. My mudclaws were absolutely perfect, didn't hurt my blackened and tender toenails or my oversensitive right heel but gave all the grip I'd expect from Walshes and more.

I'll try to attach the course as recorded by my Garmin when I ran the race last year.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Another long run in the Pentlands

I've fallen out with my Walshes after yesterday's long run in the Pentlands. When I first put them on they felt a bit tight but I've not worn them in a while so I assumed they'd ease up over time. Either my feet have grown or I've gone soft or both but by the third hour (tipping along in the beautiful sunshine) my feet were nippy, and by the fourth hour I was seriously considering running barefoot as an alternative. Going uphill was hard and then coming downhill was horrendous. My difficulty was I didn't want my feet to touch the ground but I couldn't find a way of running without this happening.

The pictures speak for themselves; it was a spectacularly lovely day. Long slow run with much complaining, variations on a theme of the Skyline. 16 miles and 4hrs 10 mins "running".

Wish I could make my own shoes like Billy the Shoe (see blog list), but until I develop this skill I should maybe buy some new old lady's shoes with a bit more cushioning.
I've had a fairly happy time with my Swoops, - they're pretty comfortable but the grip isn't always the best. I'm thinking I should give the Inov8 mudclaws at least a try-on in the shop. I liked a lot of things about Montrail Highlanders but they're too high at the back of the heel which annoys my achilles so I just don't wear them anymore. Plus the colour scheme's pretty crazy. Any suggestions of a good grippy hill-running shoe with a lowish heel then leave a comment and I will know that I am not alone.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Easter Monday Long Run

Ambitious long run, but it was a nice day. Our legs were still scratched and aching from Saturday's hill race but it seemed a good idea to get another long run in while we had time. Next problem; where to go? "Off road if possible" says Buchanan so I went away and thought about it.
After a while it came to me. Multi-terrain from Leith to the Pentlands, over the other side and back home somehow or other. We took plenty money in case we had to bale at some point. I really didn't know how many miles getting up to and into the Pentlands might be and hence what the best way home might be.

We ran up the side of Arthur's Seat and then across to the Hermitage. Up from near Morningside to Fairmilehead and then Hill-End. Up over a few tops until we could choose whether we wanted to get back down at Bonaly or carry on over another hill and go down via Balerno.

It was already over 10 miles as we neared the Bonaly turn off and although we were enjoying being out in the hills both of us were pretty tired already. As we got onto more familiar territory, aka the Water of Leith there was no longer any novelty keeping our attention and we ran home at a crippled pace. I say ran home but I must confess I ran to exactly 20 miles and then walked as I had promised myself I could walk at 20 miles. This led to a strange floating sensation. We were still a mile and a half from home so after a while of cooling off I consented to start running again - mainly to get warm.

Several hours later and after scrambled eggs with ham and tomatoes and cheese on top and several cups of tea I am feeling a bit better, but my legs and feet are letting me know it was a bit ill-advised. Day off tomorrow I think.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Clachnaben Hill Race

Exhausting but enjoyable hill race on a lovely, sunny spring day. I felt in good spirits throughout this race despite the very rough ground and felt I held my own surprisingly well on some really difficult descents.

After topping out at Clachnaben and descending the other side I found out why a few people had been wearing "flight socks" at the start. I had kind of thought they were victims of commerce but they knew more than I did. Running through the sharp shin-deep burnt heather was agony. It was not quite death by a thousand cuts but near it. Worse, I had to take a back scrubber to my cut shins to get all the dirt out of them later on. This was a test of character as stern as the race itself. Still, I digress...the best part was I still felt strong in the second half and managed a good run/walk rhythm up the last few uphills and that I didn't let myself down too badly on the downhills.

The first and last mile and a bit are on good trail so I had to make sure and not lose any places on the last stretch, which kept the pressure on nicely right to the last 400m stretch which was cruelly back on to slippy mud, uphill and through some thigh-deep puddles.

Peter was less delighted with his race, finding the downhills tough even for him. He was tired from a week of late nights and hard training though, and I guess its a case of horses for courses. He decidedly didn't like the long heather and lumpy, unpredictable bog underneath.

It was a championship race so came humblingly far down the field but none-the-less delighted with this first solo (ie not the Devil's Burden) hill race of the year.

Photos nicked off Scottish Hill Runner site. Thankyou. Me from my best angle.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Sir Chris Hoy Half Marathon

Strongish SW wind. Felt pretty good before the Sir Chris Hoy half marathon. Organisation felt a bit ropey at the beginning as we pushed our way with rising anxiety through crowds and crowds of people to find where the baggage was to be handed in. Despite the flyer saying that the baggage handover was on the map of Meadowbank it wasn't. Out on the track 2.15 runners were stood next to 1.30 runners, everyone was pointing in different directions. There were things being announced over the tannoy system but they weren't audible. Rumour spread through the crowd that we were to start off 15 minutes late. This was almost a relief as it wasn't clear how in god's name we could possibly get started from where we were. Nerves turned to shivers as the chill set in. We were piped off the track like haggises and the start order was in no way preserved, so despite having promised myself I was going to worm my way forward so as not to be unduly penalised by chip time vs. gun time I was well over a minute back. The start spread to me by rumour rather than through my senses so there was some delay in getting the Garmin on.

After that it was okay. Setting sail on a half marathon, wanting a pb with no real reason to expect one other than my endurance should be okay. I made up for a slow first mile (because I had to walk for a minute up to the line), with a couple of fasties...7.09, 7.13, well you never know, maybe a miracle had happened, oh it hadn't, 7.23, 7.29...and the race became increasingly hard going - the hardest part being that I knew at 10 miles we were going to turn into the wind and the real work was about to begin. Emily from club went by me and I tried to hang on to her but she was going well and I was now in more of a 7.30 groove and felt I'd be lucky to hang onto that (I would have been).

It was just as hard as I thought it might be turning into that wind at 10 miles. I tried to find a big back to hide behind but there seemed to be no middle ground between people who had slowed up and stopped trying and people who were running too quick for me. I found myself, as usual, in a windy no-man's-land. A man from Fife AC (looking at the results, could have been Grant Laycock, who I've often noticed in results runs similarly to me) was going at a workable pace and I sheltered behind him for a while and then thought I should take a turn ahead for a while, but when I did this he melted away. I oscillated between feeling good again ("Come on Mary, a quick last 3 miles and we're there") and feeling terrible (oops, 8.08 mile). I saw the Loch Ness Monster - I think a three man fancy dress effort - was well behind me, which reminded me that Richard had said at the beginning "make sure and beat the monster" which sounded a bit crude and I had tittered immaturely. I had beaten the monster anyway, could I do a new pb?, I couldn't. 1.39.12, not bad, 3rd fastest ever, died a death towards the end...

And then it was all over. Somewhat surprised to find I'd beaten my baggage so pulled on my new NB t-shirt to try and keep warm. A lot of Porties had done very well.

Peter had gone under 1.20 for the very first time. He was ebullient. The gloss came off this when he found on the results that he, with a good number of other people that we know, was not given a chip time separate from his gun time. It cost him 5 seconds and his sub 1.20 status and he felt sorely cheated.

We saw Chris Hoy hand out the prizes to some thin people ( he looked smaller in real life) and then walked to Portobello from Musselburgh to stretch our aching legs.

Today I'm thinking half marathons are just a fitness trial, they are not fun. Last night I couldn't get off to sleep and so I started to count half marathons I've done and I could think of 30. There are probably more...Looking forwards to Clachnaben at the weekend. Never done this one but its on the way up to my mum's. In a way its a pity its a championship race.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Pea souper

After a pretty good club night run following nightshifts (tempo run with Richard -aimed to do 8 miles in under an hour and made 59m 58s...) and a rest yesterday I thought I'd be fine today but have just been out for the most ponderous lifeless run in the thick fog. The highlight of it was when I tripped over and lay on the ground for a minute or two.

The fog itself was quite enjoyable; swallowing up familiar landmarks and making us question whether perhaps we were in purgatory (this was shortly before I fell over). We saw what looked like a couple of blokes standing right in the middle of the wet patch at Hunter's Bog. From the other side they resolved into two bushes. Round the other side of the Seat there were some pleasant things going on with sunshine and fog. Wherever we looked our world disappeared within 20 feet.

After yesterday's warmth it is chillingly cold.

Hope I've recovered by Sunday.