Saturday, 27 February 2010

Under the weather

Hmmm, not feeling so great - not ill but not well. Dodged club night on Wednesday as it was freezing and pouring with rain and I was tired. Got up at 7 am the next day with the intention of running 10 miles in the morning as I had to be at work for noon. At 8.30 after a full pot of coffee (I think its equivalent to 6 expressos) I went back to bed and slept until 10am, feeling a bit better by then. Yesterday I'd created a modified plan. I would get up at 8am and run 6 miles before work. This time I did it despite the cold wind and the rain and I felt okay. Work was even okay where it has been very loud and hectic all week. So I was looking forwards to my day off today when I thought I'd get in a moderate 10 or 12 miles.

Over night I got a headache which I tried to shake by drinking. I quite often forget to drink at work. In the morning it was still there though but I was reluctant to take pain-killers. I forced myself out a run in the afternoon in the cold and grey. At least it was dry. It was an effort and I never shook the headache but it wasn't too bad. Didn't make me feel any worse. Just enough mileage to get me over the 50 miles for the week. I guess I've got a bit of a cold or something. When I got in, sick of suffering, I had paracetamol and ibuprofen, which I don't recommend by the way but its worked nicely. I guess now's not the time to push the mileage or the pace. Back to work for 7 tomorrow morning. Bleah. February.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Henry Run

I've been dreading this one for a while. The original idea had been that Graham was offering to take me and Richard a long, 25-30 miler down in the borders, at a slow pace, to help us get some long training in. Peter wanted to come too which I think initially bothered Richard because he worried it would up the pace but I knew it would be fine. Peter can run with me so can modify his pace for anyone. Then Graham had to be in town to attend to some business so we rearranged that we'd run round Edinburgh somehow or other. I knew it would be pretty much impossible not to go off too fast in the 1st hour with everyone being so much stronger than me and so accepted that this would happen and that the attrition would set in later.
Preparation was a 5 mile xc the day before and then plenty of wine at Ben's house as he and Allison are moving Down South (bad idea).
It was a bright day, but really cold again and there was plenty of ice anywhere out of the sun. Graham took us on a magical mystery tour out towards Portobello and Musselburgh via back routes, greens and alleys. After Musselburgh we started to head inland but I had no real sense of where we were. We ran up old cobbled farm roads, past disused barns....eventually popped out at Craigmillar and headed left over the hill and down the other side to the back of the New Royal. We then took an interesting route to Gilmerton through what looked like someone's front door onto a path, past a huge private house and then on into woods and paths and over fields - my brain has lost the sequence, eventually arriving at Graham's mum's house. She was out but Tinker was in and he showed as much enthusiasm for cake and tea as the runners.
After eating and drinking our fill of cake and tea and crisps (fruit was on offer but was mostly ignored) we headed off back out.
We'd covered 16 miles so were now looking for a further 8 to make the day's tally up to 24. At this point I seriously started to fade and it was a bit of a battle from behind from here on in. We headed off to The Hermitage and the Braids and took a really nice road I never knew about quite far up hill and down the other side to then reconnect with the golf course on the Braids, and then the 7 hills route back down into the Hermitage. I was ready to go the shortest way home and abandon the team by this time as I was pitifully slow but Graham wouldn't hear of it. So I carried on a bit longer and a bit longer.
My quads started to feel like they were doubling in size as I jogged round the side of Blackford hill and down to the pond. I knew I didn't have long left in me. Coming out onto the road I again made a bid for freedom but without effect so I shoggled along behind the still bouncy men until at Chambers St. museum I must have finally got some finality into my voice as I waved them off and told Peter I'd see him at home. I had run 24 miles. And then I had a lovely walk. It was a stiff legged walk right enough and people were giving me funny looks but I would have been quite prepared to poke them in the eye if they'd said anything and they didn't. My legs started to ease a bit by the time I got to Tron Square and as I waited for the green man at the big crossing there I had some ginger and honey fudge and the last of my drink. Half way down the North Bridge I knew from my daily commute on my bike that it was exactly a mile home so I thought I'd try and see if I could bump the days mileage up to 25. So stiffly I set off again and it wasn't too painful - just a bit of people dodging which was awkward.

Outside Dofo's the pet center I was surprised by the familiar form of John Blair who called out "Can't you run faster than that?" I think I managed to stop my swear words half way out as I realised he was with a small person. So I explained that I'd run 24.5 miles - really didn't know where I'd been, and no, I couldn't run any faster. Then who should happen along but Lynn Morrice, also of Porty, also of the Porty's rather good national xc team from yesterday. So I walked a short way and chatted to Lynn. Seeing the pair of them gave me a huge boost. I set off the last wee bit and it wasn't any bother at all and it was a delight to get home. The end.

The Nationals

Yesterday was the National XC at Callendar Park in Falkirk. We had a full lady's and men's team this time and most of the ladies came with me and Peter in the car.

I'm still not quite back in the way of racing and so was nervous on the way out. It was a beautiful day but really cold.

We got our numbers at the school at Falkirk in plenty of time and Amanda, who was making her own way there arrived shortly after. The ladies were up 1st so we went and got ourselves to the start of the course and had a bit of a warm up and I gave a (sadly inaccurate) route description.
Pretty soon we were off and despite all warnings to myself to not take off like a bat out of hell the levels of excitement generated at the nationals seem to be such that I cannot help runnning faster than I should. Up and over the 1st hill and round and down to the frozen loch and some of the realities of life start to reassert themselves - in the form of better runners going past! Oh well. 10 minutes in I was in a horrible place, the 1st excitement having worn off and nothing coming in to replace it. I hung in as best I could but felt rubbish and frankly scared of the amount of distance to still be covered. Ann Hay passed me early doors and then receded further and further away into the distance...and there was nothing I could do about it! I'm hoping this means a return to form for Ann, as she's been injured, rather than that I was just pants. I worked hard. I know I've gone better but really I felt I made not too bad a job of it. In the 2nd lap I started to feel a bit more hearty, I guess some kind of endurance engine kicking in , and I picked off a couple of people on my way to the end. There was great support all the way round the course.

At the end I was greeted by Lynn and Amanda. Amanda ran a stormer coming in at, I think, 37th place. Delightful to see her starting to regain some confidence after her last year of setbacks and illness. You could see she was starting to lose the faith. I think Lynn ran a stormer too, obviously, because she substantially kicked my sorry ass, but I think she felt she hadn't really warmed up enough and suffered as a result. I think I would also have done better to have worked harder on a proper long warm up. I've found in the past that when I'm doing longer training I start needing about 3 miles in my legs until I can really get going. Lynsey came in not long after me. I hadn't met Lynsey before, but she was very good company and a good 4th member of the team. She's been having children and exercise has had to be on the back burner but her running style looks good and I'm hoping she'll be up for more off-roady adventures.

Porty lady's team came in 12th of 20 teams beating the likes of Carnethy HRC and Carnegie. Go ON PORTY!

I don't think the men were quite as organised as the women but they got there. Graham had cycled there but took a rain check as he was not on his usual form and wasn't needed for the team. Lovely Tony Stapley was there applying his new principles for preserving the last of his knee joints - he's only racing now, not bothering to train in between. It must gall him as his Fife cronies have managed to get a bit ahead of him as he can't train - but he hides any frustration well.

I was on photo duty so had to get into my warm kit quickly after my race so I'd be ready for action. I pretty soon ran into ex-Porty Gerry Scullion who had a bit of a cold so had decided to spectate instead of run. (He's gone to the dark side now...Bellahouston.) Gerry LOVES the cross country so it was fun to try and keep up with him as he darted from position to position to cheer the field on. He left before I was ready at the back of the course on the hill but I found myself beside him again further round the course. Peter had been speculating as to Gerry's form during the week, anticipating a bit of a battle with him.
In the 1st lap of the men, Peter was ahead, and then Gareth Green and Willie were close to each other a bit back, then Ricky, Scott, Steve and Tony. I thought I could tell from the look of Peter that all wasn't well in his world, and he slipped slowly backwards as I made my way from point to point around the course. The field spread out a great deal as the front runners were absolutely flying. I would have liked to have seen it filmed from above. I can't find any old results to check but it seemed to me that the senior male field was absolutely enormous.

I can't remember at what point Peter was no longer 1st Porty but he continued his backward trend despite clearly working hard. Gareth Greene got well ahead and then Peter was being tracked quite closely by Willie.

I thought my camera had stopped working as as I tried to take pictures of the guys working up the hill while chatting to Sarah legge it told me that the memory was full. As it had a 2GB card in I thought that most likely I'd been forgetting to delete old photos. I vainly tried to figure out how to start deleting photos but wasn't getting anywhere so I thought it best to run and get Peter's camera as I really didn't want to miss the end of the race.

It turned out later on that I had indeed filled up the whole of the memory card - in my excitement taking burst shot after burst shot of the whole field. A ton of poor quality photos! I've been doing a lot of deleting at home since...and I nearly filled up the memory card of the other one as well.

I was at the finish in plenty of time to catch the leaders and it was tremendously exciting as they flew in. My finger must have got stuck down again. They were throwing up huge gobbits of mud as they flew past but I think missed the camera lens.

It seemed a long time til the Porties came in, the front guys having gone so fast. First in by a good margin was Gareth Greene. Then...Peter and Willie came onto the track together! Aaaah. Willie is so good at sneaking past at the last moment we call it the Jarvie manoeuvre and that's exactly what he did. I've got photographic evidence that as Willie went past Peter actually smiled. You have to hand it to him. Then in zoomed Ricky, (having also done the Parkrun in the morning, we later learned!), then a bit back Scott, further back Steve - and I caught Tony on his way out for his 3rd lap and he is a brave man! I think its an unfortunate part of the course that one end of the field are just setting out on their 3rd lap as the other end are finishing. Thats got to hurt, but happily they don't let it put them off.

SO. Its a beautiful game, we all had a good time and went home!

Janet Dunbar ran the Park run yesterday and was 1st lady by a good margin in a time of 18.48. That's going to be a bit of a stretch for me in terms of championship points. (Sigh)

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

rage and complacency

Today dawned (dawned at 9.30am) cold and grey and damp. Clouds hung around Arthur's Seat like they do in Japanese prints. I guess its something to do with humidity although I don't know if its still humidity when its cold.

I had planned some kind of speed session and for want of a better idea I headed up to the Meadows for 5 X 1 mile at "pace" with half mile recoveries in between. Before I went I tried to think about what pace might mean at the moment. Maybe if I could squeeze my heart rate up to round about 93% of max. That's about where it is for a 5K.
Trying to run hard is so different from trying to run long. Running long is all about keeping a steady head on you and not getting in a flap about anything. Trying to run hard is about getting in a flap. Well I assume so. I'm crap at running hard - or I am at the moment - and I immediately got into a place of conflict. As my heart rate went up then all my sirens started to go off. "I cannae hold her Captain, she's breaking up", shouted Scotty from the engine room. I saw my heart rate settle back down as without thinking I slowed up. "Get a move on Bozo", chibed another voice, "this is a speed session isn't it?". I was helped by a girl with a blond pony-tail who had the temerity to run past me. "I'll bloody show you!" I thought, and held on just behind her until she stopped. Presumably she was following her own interval session. I was delighted to fly past trying to look better than I felt. My breath was rasping and I felt sick. "Hang steady to the end of the road" ordered the Captain. "Aye, aye Sir" I rasped and did just that. At the end of the 1st mile my heart rate was 173 - 94% of max.

I knew that I'd gone off too hard and was unlikely to equal my first mile but I had managed to break the thick crust of my complacency and start to hurt myself. Hurrah!

I had my half mile recovery to get my heart rate back down and have a bit of a think about things. There's nothing like running harder than you want to to make you appreciate running easy. I wondered if bad temper and irritability is really necessary for running hard. Maybe not - and yet, to paraphrase a Zen master, you cannot achieve anything without risking your equilibrium...

So the 2nd and 3rd miles went a bit easier than the 1st. Harmless students morphed into stumbling idiots as they walked in clumps and failed to make room for me as I bore down on them with my little pink fists pumping. "Out the way you fuckers!" I didn't shout. (at least not out loud) "Someone making an effort here!".

The 4th mile, as per tradition, I was all at sea, starting to feel my real tiredness but not near enough to shore to dig deep and make a proper effort. Lap 5 I pulled out as many stops as I could and matched lap 2 (the 1st lap was the quickest.) Then it was a delight to jog home. So much so I went the longer way round the back of Arthur's Seat to make the total run up to a bit over 14 miles. Back home I do feel better for having pushed into the red zone.

I've included a screen shot of my heart-rate, elevation and pace from the Garmin. The pace (blue) never tells you anything. The heart rate does show you where you're making an effort. I see that the efforts I made have a very similar shape to Arthur's Seat. The green line shows elevation and I think I've found Bert Logan's hill in the meadows. (Bert claims to have a hill session in the meadows. The rest of us are bamboozled. ) That must be what slowed me down in lap 4.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Time for another long run. Today we wanted to incorporate Scott and Amanda's 17 miler into our longer run and to show them our new route round near MacMerry off the Pencaitland cycle track. We met them at the start of the cycle track and they hopped into our car and we drove back to Musselburgh and all started from there.

We also wanted to test run some new fudge I got off the internet after a tip-off from someone in Dunbar. The fudge had arrived a while ago but we've been too busy to get out a long run so it has been sitting in its box in the cupboard in the kitchen and calling rather loudly to me though I tried to block out its cries. Actually if the truth was known I've been having a little bit every night.

I started with some rum and raisin fudge to set me up for my run. (Delicious) and again had some just after the 5 mile mark when we hooked up with the P. cycle track again. Amanda and Scott were really good about running slower than usual and we were running a bit faster than when Peter and I have been out ourselves but not too much.

It was good having company and the miles flew in. At the little hut in the woods we had another fudge stop - this time honey fudge Peter had been carrying and this was so intensely sweet it made my ears ring. I think I may have over done the sugar thing as I had a bit of a plummet after this in terms of energy. But also I'm tired as have been short of sleep the last couple of nights, so it might have been that kicking in. My legs weren't particularly tired at this point - it was just all of me flagging.

It was a lovely, still day anyway - and the sun was shining and the woods were as friendly as we'd remembered. I got a good bit slower around the 14 mile mark and Scott and Amanda went ahead. We said goodbye to them back at their car, at just short of 17 miles and set off downhill back to Musselburgh.

We were both struggling by now. Peter ran Carnethy yesterday so had had sore legs the whole way and it was actually quite heartening to see him whey-faced and a bit sore rather than bouncing along as usual. I guess misery loves company.

So. We ticked off the miles pretty slowly and did our best to distract ourselves. Back in Musselburgh Peter went the slightly longer but more scenic route along the front, while I took the shortest cut to the car and ran on the extra .08 of a mile required to make it up to exactly 22. Peter arrived shortly after, looking tired.

When we got home we had the hunger again. This time we had bacon, eggs, beans, tomato ketchup and ciabatta type rolls from the Co-op. These post long run meals are so so good.

So the fudge - was pretty good but you couldn't use it as the only thing on a longer run. I'm going to have to start thinking about salty things to eat because you start really craving something savoury after a while. When we stopped to say goodbye to Amanda and Scott at 17 miles I was thinking what I would really like would be those findus crispy pancakes you used to get years ago with salty hot fake cheese in the middle. No idea if they still exist or indeed how you would heat one up on the run...

The team post-run recovery strategy is to sit around on our arses and p0ssibly drink some wine. I'm on holiday from work for a week so ...yeh.....

Next weekend we have the horrors of the National xc on Saturday followed by some reckless forced march somewhere in the borders on Sunday led by the indefatigable Graham Henry. Frankly I'm scared.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Forfar half marathon

Up at 6.50am for today's racing challenges. The 75 mile trip to Forfar followed by the Forfar multi-terrain half marathon. We did this one last year with the course in relatively good condition and enjoyed it. It incorporates some good paths and a bit of road, some wooded area, some fairly steep hills, some wicked mud and a - this year especially - good long stretch of thigh deep icy water to wade through.

Lucy was there and Keith Harper so a bit of a Porty presence.

It was drizzly and grey when we arrived and we were a bit tired. The thought of a half marathon was intimidating - and this is a particularly tough one.

The race started on time and we were off. There wasn't much to-ing and fro-ing where I was in the field. A few folk came past after I'd over-cooked the 1st mile or so. I'd promised myself that I wouldn't go out too fast because I'm not really fit for racing a half marathon. I thought I wasn't pushing too hard at the beginning but then did slow considerable anyway. Its a good race and its good fun but I'm a bit frustrated with how slow I am at the moment. My legs felt pretty heavy by half way through and it was more of a grim effort to keep trying my hardest than a joy-ride. There weren't many women around me so I thought on the whole they were probably scarce in the race so I knew there was some chance of a prize even though I wasn't running particularly well.

The highlight was the long wade in the water - I thought to myself it was a pity there wasn't a photographer and then looking around me realised there wasn't anywhere a photographer could stand. They would have needed a boat. It was a scene reminiscent of war movies - maybe a unit on manoeuvres in Vietnam - except cold not hot. Keith Harper was with me at the time and both of us proved to be quite good waders creating a bit of space between ourselves and the runners behind us. Keith recovered quicker than me from this leg-numbing experience however and moved ahead never to be caught. It was a very peculiar sensation running on numb legs. All I could feel was my in-steps for some reason. I felt like I was running on stilts.

I'll gloss over the last few miles anyway. Its a great course but I was in a bit of a grump because I felt so slow but couldn't do anything about it. I had to tell myself it was great training and just try and hang in there.

Peter was already showered and chipper taking photos at the end. He'd run a stormer and come in 5th. He'd hung on to 3rd for a long time but was hunted down, killed and eaten in the last couple of miles. Or something like that. Passed I mean. 3, 4 and 5 all finished in the same minute. Lucy was 1st lady and had also set a course record.

Peter got a prize for 2nd MV and I lucked the 2nd LV. We both got £15 worth of Sweatshop vouchers so more than recouped our £5 entry fee. Add to that free soup and rolls and tea and cakes and you can see we'd have been fools to stay in bed this morning.

Whilst eating cake and waiting for the prize-giving we were sat with ultra stars Richie Cunningham and Lucy C and I was pleased to see them also both tired and hungry! The thought of running 4 half marathons back to back and a little bit more in April is...quite a thought...

So we are now enjoying some more of our winning beer from yesterday and not bothering to contemplate the week ahead. It turns out I left all my running kit in the changing room so we've been on the phone grovelling to the Forfar organisers. Its so not something I would normally do! Oh well. The thought of someone else having to handle my race kit is setting my teeth on edge.

I have Monday and Tuesday off. Which is lovely. No running tomorrow and then we're reluctantly thinking we better go and do something awfullly long on Tuesday. Only slightly ameliorated by the fact that I've ordered some fudge on line after a tip-off from a blog reader. I am particularly looking forwards to black forest fudge which is chocolate and cherry flavour. Mmmmm. Hope it arrives tomorrow. I will tell you about it.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Tortoise and Hare Relay

Today's fun was the Tortoise and Hare Relay race as organised by Fife AC and taking place in the woods near Giffordtown village hall. We'd done this before at the end of 2008 and loved it. The race consists of a slower and faster runner (T and H) running 2 X 2 mile loops. The woods are lovely. The atmosphere is friendly. The relay aspect adds to the excitement for everyone, making the final placing and where you run in the race more unpredictable.

I had a chance to have a chat with Sophie Mullens aka Tiny Runner who I met at the Tour of Fife last year. She's just getting into training for the London Marathon. Lots of other people from the tour of Fife too. (Also Adrian Davis who I have sat drinking beer with in Namche Bazaar, singing along to the Doors on the juke box!) This year's going to be a special tour de Fife with, I think, 6 races in 7 days. (You get a day off in the middle.) We are leaning very strongly towards doing it again this year.

Anyway, today...There was a fair bit of drizzle which intensified as time passed. Not a problem when you're running but it spoils the photos. I feel I've slowed considerably over the snowy icy Christmas etc. time and its an effort to try and run faster. Peter went first and I think came in in 5th place. I took off fast but that didn't last long! I tried to run as smoothly as possible but it was a struggle, I found it hard to settle down to it and it seemed a long, long 2miles. The next time Peter came in he was in 6th and I maintained my position all the way round. I caught up towards a runner in pink but she was too far ahead to get before the end. The 2nd lap was slower but felt a lot better just in terms of my head being right and not getting in such a state inside.

We got our warm clothes on and headed back to the village hall where there was a spread of cakes and hot drinks and juice. Fife ac know how to put on a race...and it only cost £3.00 each to enter. The prize-giving was nicely handled by the now familiar team of Chris Russell doing the talking and Brian Cruickshank handing out the prizes. The prizes went down to 7th so we also got 4 bottles of beer and a jar of marmalade to take home with us!

The winners were two boys of about 12 years who surely have good running careers ahead of them. In 2nd place were Sophie M and Neil Young whose name I've always noticed in results because its the same name as a downbeat Canadian singer that I like. The Fife ac Neil Young appeared to have been designed specifically to run. Ridiculously long legs - almost cheating - and very light. He flew in miles ahead of the rest of the Hare field.

So now we are trying to maximise our recovery before tomorrow's Forfar multi-terrain half marathon - which looks likely to be very wet - at least underfoot if not also chucking from the sky. Our recovery strategy has been as follows - some cakes and tea - followed by tomato soup and rolls as soon as we got home - and then sitting around in our stinky running gear drinking tea with the fire on, too lazy to even have a shower yet. Meanwhile the plates are piling up at the sink - our laundry bins overfloweth. What was it Neil Young said? "A man needs a maid." ...A tortoise and hare need a maid.
NEWSFLASH -text from Richard Dennis just in who has been running the Thames Trot 50 miler today. He's finished in a very respectable 8hrs 12mins and was 2nd lady!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Pentlands 19

The forecast for today was sleet early afternoon so we decided to head for the Pentlands at about 9.30am to get there as soon as possible without getting entangled in rush hour or the Morningside ladies' school runs. Hmmm. We actually left the flat at about 10.30 and were up at Pentlands and ready to run by 11 am. Fortunately the weather had again relented and the proposed sleet was replaced with a thickening of the cloud and a tiny spray of snow as the afternoon wore on.

We thought - for want of a better idea, that 2 X round the Pentlands low-level route would add up to a good long day out. This consists of running from Flotterstone up to the Howe and between the hills on the cycle/walkers path - then running down to Threipmuir, along the road a bit and back up and down the other side between Black Hill and Harbour Hill to rejoin the road. For the 1st part of the day the sun was out and the day was enjoyably still and we both thought that the ground-frost and ice still in evidence here and there was reminiscent of somewhere like Finland rather than Scotland. The route along the side of Threipmuir reservoir turned out to be getting worked on and there were big fences up intended to discourage the likes of us, so knowing when we were not welcome we decided that 2nd time around we'd cut round the back of Black Hill on a slightly shorter route which would avoid all heavy machinery. Besides, it was more interesting to vary it a bit.

Today's eating experiment consisted of chocolate coated ginger biscuits and some Lees "Scottish" fudge. The ginger biscuits were pretty good but too hard and crunchy to be ideal for eating on the move. The fudge was good and sugary but had a nasty under-taste, I had a wee look at the ingredients and it was full of all that is unholy in eating including hydrogenated vegetable fat. I'm not buying that again. I'm beginning to think I'm going to have to make fudge cos I can't find it to buy anywhere. The day greyed over and there was a stronger icy wind blowing down from the Howe on the 2nd time around. The run at the side of Black Hill was spiced up by a good drift of unmelted snow. It was good to go a different way. Monotony is really the enemy on this long stuff - or so I'm finding.

By the last ascent to the foot of Black Hill and Harbour Hill I was babbling an almost constant stream of nonsense with Peter running ahead with his fingers in his ears. That and singing badly just to keep myself entertained. We were very embarrassed when we rounded a corner to see a man standing there at the top of the hill. He politely pretended he couldn't see or hear us.

Then it was but a short canter down on tired legs to the car waiting patiently in the car park. Just over 19 miles and we were out for ages = 3hrs 41 including walking breaks for eating etc.

When we got home we realised we were extraordinarily hungry so we've had massive plates of toast and fried eggs, beans and mackerel followed by toast and honey and jam... I better not have put on weight today or I'll be pissed off.
photos - Peter