Sunday, 20 December 2009

Snowy Pentlands

The team decided to crack down on their recent sloth and alarms were set to get us up and out to the Pentlands early...however, I woke up with the alarm at 8.30am and felt tired and uninspired. Got up and had a look out the window at grey spindrift on Arthur's Seat under a dull sky and went straight back to bed. Buchanan was taking no responsibility for the day - to him setting an alarm means telling me to make him a cup of tea half an hour after I'm up - "and not so strong this time." I prodded him once to see if he was going to insist on getting up - but he asked how the day looked and when I told him said "might as well rest up then. "

There was a worry in the back of my mind that we're both becoming less and less remarkable in terms of hard work and dedication. Were we just going to become increasingly round until running would be something we reminisced about? As our waistlines expanded our recalled pbs would get faster and faster. Sleep soon removed these worries but instead I had an unsettling dream in which I was remembering having fallen backwards off a 100 ft ladder. In my dream I was remembering grasping for the top rung but not trying very hard and then to my horror falling away backwards. I felt a mixture of horror at having fallen and relief at suffering no consequences.

Finally at 11.30 I woke up again and feeling a great deal better got up to a much more affable looking day. Buchanan was still of a mind that we should be going to the Pentlands and the wind seemed nothing like as strong as had been forecast so I didn't put up too much of a fight, just muttering under my breath about how it was going to get dark and we'd be benighted in temperatures below zero or else get lost in a white out.

The road at Flotterstone was a sheet of ice and the carpark was full to overflowing so we had to park at the side of the road. The path up Turnhouse had been polished to a high glassy sheen by sledgers and the wind at the top was cutting and incredibly sore. We kept going though and got out of the worst of the wind. The snow was deeper than its been for a few years coming down the far sides of the hills and it felt pretty safe under foot. (Mostly, although Peter cartwheeled past me at one point, emitting a high pitched shriek.) There was a plethora of walkers - most of whom seemed overdressed and burdened by rucksacks and poles and with their hoods up so they couldn't see the view. I was impressed however by one guy who had an orange balaclava and sunglasses on. It was both a good look (sinister as hell) and would have saved us from the wind sting.

The light was fading so we headed right at the foot of the East Kip down to the Howe and then along to the back of Black Hill where there's a nice little path. We climbed a last hill at Bell's Hill as the sun was setting and then headed down the path onto the road and then back to the car.

Nice run, albeit very slow and felt toasty throughout. We were out for 2hrs 45 mins and felt fine. Maybe shaking off the cold at last.

I am now obsessed with Andre Agassi and intrigued with the drive that sports' people have to be the best. Graeme Obree described just feeling relief when he took the hour record because he hadn't failed. I found a (semi) interesting article in the Guardian on-line about Agassi and other troubled sports' stars. Cricketers, apparently, are particularly prone to depression and suicide.

So I wonder is there more than one way of doing this or do you actually have to have demons to accomplish great things? Is Paula just keeping it quiet? Bjorn Borg? Troubled? Or is there more than one way to skin a cat? I can't finish this thought yet so I'm off to have my tea.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Dicing with ice

We thought we better get out a longer run today before we had to put elastic in our clothes to accommodate our fuller figures. We both continue snuffly and have been lounging around in our jammies drinking red wine and never getting out til after dark. I have seen my abs disappear under a new layer of fat this week. Its a shame. I was never exactly lean. So anyway the best way I know of burning up some fat is to get out a long run.

It was bitterly cold and the thought of going out was daunting. We started planning to go up the Pentlands and then thought better of it and thought we'd go and run out to the airport, but even that started to seem too barren and exposed so we settled for running up the Water of Leith to the bike tunnel then back down via the canal, into town and round the back of Arthur's Seat to get somewhere near 17 miles.

Outside the pavements were very slippy and icy making for difficult running. This got a bit better further up the Water of Leith on the muddier paths. It was a nicer day than it had looked from within a cocoon of cosy heat earlier on. It was overcast but lighter than yesterday. Peter was delighted with all the icy formations and prettinesses the snow makes so ran around taking pictures while I plodded steadily on, somewhat less buoyant. The change of gait to accommodate the ice and snow made for very stiff legs later on.

Anyway we did it, stopping at Scotmid across the road from us to buy soup and rolls for a late and delicious lunch.

Started reading Andre Agassi's autobiography "Open" last night and stayed up longer than I meant to reading - and then dreamed of tennis all night. He had a pretty fierce father! At first I thought it was overly wordy but once I'd settled into it I forgot about that which I guess means he's a good writer. He says tennis players talk to themselves because its the loneliest sport in the world. He says you're out there on the court by yourself and you're not allowed to talk to anyone and you have no real contact with your opponent and you end up just speaking out loud. That's happened to me on some of my longer runs a few times. Find yourself suddenly exclaiming things (or swearing) or having a chat with the sheep. I think long distance running might be up there in the loneliness stakes. Maybe that's why blogging seems like a good idea.

Why would I not speak to Peter since I was out running with him, you might ask. Because he runs too damn quick and just annoys me.

Photos by Peter.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Yak in a Buffalo

It was a nicer day today and my flourishing and increasingly productive cold was fighting with the desire to get out and do some training since I'm off work for a week. (Random annual leave to preserve sanity before Christmas.) While enthusiasm was winning I dreamed up a plan to go and do mile intervals at the meadows at 10K pace with half mile recovery jogs X 5. I went to tell Peter about this (who was still in bed having been up tinkering with the website and putting some friends' wedding video together) but even while I was explaining the session I realised that I felt dizzy and maybe it wasn't a good idea. Luckily he didn't think so either and instead he suggested we noise up his brother Neil and see if he would be available for a gentler run round the park.

Neil is strikingly like Peter to look at and presumably has similar running potential but he only dips his toe in from time to time so he remains in the first stages of running. It was a nice change to jog down to his house about a mile away and set off for Arthur's Seat by a different route from normal. We went round the perimeter in the mud and thorn bushes, rather than round the roads, starting at the London road end. For once we stuck fairly consistently to chatting pace.

I had worn my Buffalo - a nice bit of kit made of fleece on the inside and pertex on the outside that friends who live down in the Lake District swear by. It hasn't seen much action over the couple of years I've had it as it often turns out to be too warm. Its got zip-down sides for ventilation and is designed to be worn with nothing or a minimum underneath, so ventilation has to be balanced against indecent exposure. It was just about right for today anyway. It was raining on and off after we started running but it didn't affect me at all. Neil and Peter were chatting pretty much all the time and it was nice to run along in company but not say much. I'm not good at running and talking anyway and my breathing was a bit laboured with the cold.

Once we'd gone round the park we were still quite fresh so we did a couple of laps up one side of Hunter's Bog and then along the path that takes you up to the top but branching left so we came down a ridge at the other might be called the Dasses. The trouble with having been running round Arthur's Seat for years is I've made up names for bits of A.S. where I know what I'm talking about - but nobody else would. I call this the old middle way. So we went round the old middle way!

It was grey above (although there were some nice views of a sunny looking Fife from time to time) and it was wet and muddy under foot, but it was good to be out and about. We tried to talk Neil into various adventures...with who knows what result. He has the sporting gene too but has concentrated more on swimming thus far. (Although he has run a marathon - he's done more than many people with his running.)

Anyway - another winter's day's run so we will be allowed to eat again this evening! We are both just trying to minimise the damage of our colds and this time of year's pull to be lazy and eat too much. Tomorrow night is Club championship awards night and Richard's nasty handicap race in which we get given a hellish handicap as punishment for making off with our age group prizes for another year. I have to say Peter probably deserves his - and I deserve mine for consistency, attendance and resisting the temptation to have a baby for another year - but I'm maybe not the best runner in my age-group! You know I would gladly relinquish my champion status if more of the women would come and do the championship races. If any of you are reading - come on, it is fun! and it makes you good at racing.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Dunbar XC

Lovely race which went fine despite having a dicky tummy yesterday and less so today. I've got a kind of cold that seems to come and go too - will probably be a bit worse tomorrow again. Today it was great to get out in the daylight and Dunbar and surrounds looked fabulous in the hazy sunshine. It was mighty cold but there was almost no wind.

I had to fight very hard to keep Rachel behind me.

The course was varied and interesting - the hardest bit being the 1st stretch of sand which was soft and power-sapping and I wasted a bit of strength trying to find somewhere with better grip to run on. There was a bit over a mud flat where the surface was strongly reminiscent of sticky gingerbread. The stuff through the forest was my favourite. It was the last stretch and by this time my lungs were hoo-ing but I had to go for it. Gently undulating and nice to run on but with the odd root that could cause a major upset if you let your attention slip. The course was nearer 5 miles than the usual 4. Thank you Dunbar for another stunning race. I ran the whole way with the song "Meantime" sung by Georgie Fame blasting away in my head for some reason. I am really enjoying the Borders XC series. Can't recommend it highly enough.

After that we went for a post race run on the beach near Lucy C's at North Berwick. I "let" the faster runners go and enjoyed pottering along on the sand looking out to sea where there was a mysterious cold mist with various large rocks jutting up out of it. If you ignored the cold you could nearly convince yourself you were somewhere exotic like Vietnam. N B Law had a furry blanket of fog over the top of it and a few skeletal trees that looked oriental. (I'd have to say Chinesey. Is that a word?)

Thanks to Ian Nimmo for taking pictures of the Porties (especially me) and then letting us know about it.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Running Noses

Hoho, did you see what I did there? I wouldn't write at all but ever since I spoke to the lovely John Forker at the running club Christmas night out and he told me he reads my blog regularly and EVEN LOOKS FORWARDS TO IT I have felt a prickling of bad conscience about not writing anything. The thing is we ran home from the night out (or shambled home drunkenly across town - it was quite good fun) and saved ourselves a £12 taxi fare. And the next day I demanded that we run 10 miles in the dark hungover or not so I could make it to over 40 miles for the week. And the next day we felt bleak...but I put it down to working. Well Peter had a cold anyway and spent the week compounding it by cycling 20 miles a day in the cold. The next day I felt pretty rubbish but forced myself out for an 8 miler in the dark after work. By now the thickening in my head and lethargy was identifiable as a cold rather than a vague sense of ill-being (the opposite of well-being).

So we skipped club last night and ran round Arthur's Seat in the dark instead, throwing in 6 X 100m sprints just to liven it up. The 1st sprint Peter hardly got away from me. I thought I'd broken him at last. But after that every "sprint" consisted for me of that awful feeling that I was trying my hardest but actually going backwards as Peter shot forwards. I'm used to it though. We hawked and snorted our way back home and felt better for having been out.

Its a shame. We've avoided illness so long maybe we really thought we were impervious. The plan now is to try and rest up for the Dunbar XC on Sunday.

If my cold could speak, what would it say?

It would say I hate this miserable, dark, depressing time of year. I hate the dark, I hate the damp cold. I hate forcing myself to get up when all I want to do is sleep. I hate even the debate about whether Christmas is any good or not. Clearly it isn't. I hate all the Christmas nights out (quite liked our one because Christmas wasn't much in evidence), I hate the music DJs think they have to play. I hate people saying that Christmas is too commercial and then doing it anyway. People who live as far North as we do are clearly intended to hibernate and take it easy in the winter. We should be having short days with long nights of dreaming. We should be staring into the coal fire and inventing bridges and television and tarmacadam in our heads.

Oh well. Shortest day is soon and then we're on the up.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Rainy day tempo run experiment.

I dodged the club session last night as just too knackered from work and getting up at 5am etc. Thought I would try to do some kind of tempo session today and simultaneously get out in the daylight as I've worked all the daylight hours since Sunday. (Not hard to do.)

As it turned out there wasn't much light today as the clouds were low and it was raining. The temperature was just above freezing and there was a cold West wind blowing. I struggled to think of a session so I turned to one of our favourite running books "Running Tough" by Michael Sandrock. Looking at a few sessions I thought I would invent a session based on heart rate. As most books seem to identify lactate threshold pace as being around 85% of MHR I thought I would run to the meadows and run 6 miles - starting at 85% of Max and then increasing in intensity by 1% for each mile. It would be a 12 mile run with 6 miles tempo in the middle.

It was quite a diverting session but my pace isn't very quick at 85%. My first mile was 8.03 and then the rest did get quicker. I worry that this is too slow but I was tired by the 6th lap which I did in 7.40. Is this really the right intensity to be running? Dunno. Anyway, why am I giving myself a hard time? I ended up running 13 and a bit miles as I ran round the back of Arthur's Seat on the way home to make up the mileage. Never even noticed the rain once I was going. Great soundtrack Peter recently downloaded from somewhere but I couldn't tell you what it was...Photo stolen randomly off the www.