Thursday, 30 September 2010

Lovely day in the Pentlands

I was thinking about doing the whole Skyline course but when I got to Scald Law I realised that would be greedy and that I should save some of it for race day so I snuck down to the path that goes to Black Hill via the path just before East Kip.

After all the nasty rainy days it was a real corker and truly warm. I didn't really take enough fluid and lost 4lbs while I was out there. Now rehydrating on tea.

It has become de rigueur in the club lately to include photos of yourself mugging in the hills so I wanted to get in on this scene. This face denotes fear and awe.

This face shows pain and determination.

A load of sly cows lying in wait but I got past them. A lyrical pastoral scene? I don't think so.

It was about here I was starting to think "lets leave a few miles for another day".

Little furry friend was a welcome distraction going up Bell's Hill. It would have been wrong to stride past it.

And then the scenery going up Bell's Hill demanded a picture. I was very frustrated to keep stopping but it was only right.

A beautiful sheep like a beacon in the sky.

Its (nearly) all downhill if you can just get to that white thing...

Oddly today's run was nearly 16 miles despite cutting the end off the course but I did start at the Hill End road car park rather than at the ski centre. I've got a bit of a cold so I was puffing a bit but my legs stood up well to the challenge today. Hopefully in good shape for the Skyline proper in 10 days time.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Tuesday is half marathon training day

...Or it seems to be working out that way. This morning my quads were finally easing off after Saturday's excesses of hill-climbing and descending.

It was back to the question of how to run a better half-marathon in November and as Peter was kicking around too I devised and then revised a session aimed at tempo, tempo, tempo running! The necessary stuff for speed training for me is 

  1. not having to think,
  2.  no crossing roads and 
  3. no distractions 
so I chose a dull route along the coast and back again.

Initially I was thinking we should run 14 miles with 5 min repeats at 10K pace with 3 minute recovery jogs but I began to question why we should be running so  far - wouldn't it be better just to focus on running hard for the 5 minutes hard? I'm glad I did revise it. We ran 10.25 miles, starting the session after a little over a mile (getting the road crossings out of the way) and stopping a little over a mile from home. It added up to 8 sets of 8 minutes.

It was a grey day and there was a breeze in our faces on the way out sapping our strength and taking "10k" pace down a peg or two to half marathon pace. (Or at least I really hope that wasn't 10k pace). Still we were working hard. Turning around at the Musselburgh Quayside was quite rewarding as suddenly we had the wind behind us and the pace picked up well.

I had 2 thoughts while I was out there. One seemed like a really good idea at the time. I thought (because I was thirsty no doubt) that I was going to market a new refreshing beverage called Promenade. It would be fizzy, delicious and thirst-quenching and everyone in Portobello would want to drink it. My 2nd thought was on the subject of Latte art. I came across latte art for the 1st time yesterday in a cafe near the university and I'm sure it made my coffee worth the £2.40 it cost me. NOT. For god's sake people get a running habit and then you won't even know about latte art.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

2 Brew in Pictures.

What the Garmin said. Apparently Trahenna was nearly vertical. It certainly felt it.

Picture above stolen from Carnegie Hillbillies
Thank you Neil G Campbell

So pleased to be finally summiting Trahenna and Ranjit (just ahead) suggested we should run for the camera. I thought I would surpass myself by not only running but doing an impression of Mrs Doyle (off Father Ted) as well.

You WILL, you WILL, you WILL...

2nd last 2 photos taken from SHR flickr site. Peter tells me it was Anne Nimmo taking the photos. I was too spaced out to know really.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

2 Brew!

Garmin stuff here

This week has been like the fortunately, unfortunately joke. You know the one. A man jumps out an airplane. Fortunately he's wearing a parachute. Unfortunately the parachute won't open. Fortunately he lands in a haystack. Unfortunately there's a pitchfork in the haystack.  Fortunately he misses the pitchfork....

So this week I started my  new course, and fortunately it seems great, unfortunately its pretty expensive. Fortunately I got a totally unexpected gift of £1000 from my mum! Unfortunately I put the van in for a service and it needed so much done it cost £1092!

Fortunately I was going to run the 2 Breweries at the weekend, unfortunately by Thursday it was pouring with rain but fortunately it stopped. Unfortunately I got a cold but fortunately I didn't feel all that bad, so fortunately I decided to go ahead and run the damn race anyway and... it was great. Peter had told me it was arduous but he'd forgotten to tell my that its got long slow climbs which I like and lots and lots of good runnable stuff; sometimes missing in the hills. Unfortunately I didn't know the way and I'm not keen on trying to read maps but fortunately I followed the right people and then when I found I was on my own I made the right decisions.

I passed a few folk in the latter stages, even whilst going up Trahenna, and then miracle of miracles I passed 3 more people on the way down the hill (one of whom was a girl, yeah!). I wasn't keen to run hard on the road at the end but I forced myself as recompense for dropping out of Moray ... and managed to hold off 3 burly blokes in purple (I thought it was the girl coming for me).

Somehow I've compensated for Moray and I now no longer consider myself at high risk of DNFing.

After the race there's a punishingly long walk to the village hall but its compensated for by a big salty lunch of bread, soup and pizza, (and cakes and tea), and a sea of prizes and a ton of beers as prizes and free beers for the non-driving participants.

Unfortunately I'd gone through at the toe of my left foot of my running socks but fortunately I won a pair of running socks in a spot prize. Unfortunately they were pink but fortunately they will soon be brown...

It was a strong field and the winning times were spectacular. Peter will do a more coherent report I'm sure. It was a happy band in the Berlingo (me, Peter and Michael Geoghegan) on the way home as the sun set behind the Pentlands.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Magic Roundabout

The Americans are coming and have got us to sign up for Glen Clova half marathon so its about my last chance this year to get my act together and run a better half. I ran 1.39 at Alloa which I was fairly pleased about because it was on the back of all long running and very little speed training. After the Fling, times took a nose-dive and I managed 1.44 three times  in a row for the Heb races. Still in denial I thought each one was a fluke and I'd surely pick up soon.

Today I thought I'd confer with smartcoach off the American Runner's World site (much much better than the Brit site) to see what I could expect to do at Glen Clova based on my recent 5K times and it sarcastically told me that I'd be lucky to run 1.46 if I trained hard. FFS!!!! (As they say in HBT land.) This cannot go on. Time to do something... That something turned out to be a speed session up at the Meadows. After a bit of half marathon schedule perusing I settled on 10 X 3mins at 10K pace with 2 min recovery jogs inbetween. Peter has been idling at home this week having forgotten his work ethic at his last job, so he came along too, only complaining mildly, "50 minutes that's a long time, I wish I'd brought some music along". 

The good thing about speed training is that it can be quite diverting and the  dullish prospect of trotting round and round the Meadows was much improved by hellish efforts followed closely by grateful 2 minute recoveries, with a little student dodging thrown in and the ambience of paedophiles smoking on the benches next to the kiddies playpark and ambulances screaming down Melville Drive. I missed the beginning of one of my hard sessions because I saw  a cyclist head straight across the road at Middle Meadow Walk while the lights were still green (for the road) and a motorbike was speeding towards him at 30 mph. They didn't collide but I had to swear a bit and then realised I'd missed the beeps.

So round and round we flew like Dill the Dog and Zebedee and I was very glad not to get lapped.

So, there's very little that beats the feeling of having done a good hard speed session and it going fairly well, followed by toast and tea and a spot of blogging.

This weekend's rather unusual half marathon training is doing the Two Breweries. It's a new one on me.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Minch Moor Magic

We were fancying a new trail run - Peter was suggesting finding something in the Lammermuirs, so I had a bit of a Google to see what I could find - and didn't find anything in the L's but found this promising looking trail down just beyond Glentress.

We printed off the little map and the instructions and also had the sense to take a compass with us! Things all started off straightforwardly. The start of the course is just over the river from Walkerburn. It started to get a bit more complicated as the map said we should take a route up left off the main forestry track. There were lots of little tracks off to the left from the main forestry track as it turned out there were lots of downhillers' cycle tracks. (I've been googling a bit more and discovered that this place is downhilling heaven for mountain bikers.)

We overshot where we were going to and had to back track and then heading up into the trees probably went wrong almost right away - we still don't know - the paths were clearly not seeing very much traffic anymore so were overgrown and unclear. We got far too far South and then had to bravely dive into the forest heading due north in the hope that we'd bisect the route that we should be on. I wish the photos in the trees had turned out better but it was very dark - and very eerie - green mosses and red toadstools and a very old path - which made you feel people used to come here before...the incident. I felt moved to promise myself that we would definitely be out of there before sundown! Eventually we emerged from the trees to a view of a run up to what must be the Minch Moor. (By now we were calling it Midgley Moor, lost and confused.) There was a path - but again - not one you'd want to mountain bike on - plenty of high heather to get caught in your spokes and brakes and stop your pedals going round. For runners it was probably easier but very scratchy and uneven. We were glad to emerge at the top and find ourselves back where we should be.

There were no further difficulties of orientation after that, a fairly straightforward 2 and a half mile run down hill which had the legs protesting a bit by the end. All in all a good day - but it took all day. As usual its night, we need to eat and I haven't had a shower yet so better get moving.

I signed up to work this weekend because they were a bit desperate and I was a bit desperate for money so today had to count. Billed as 12 miles we ran 13.58.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


I thought I better give the title "Pentlands Run" a bit of a rest....but it was a Pentlands run none-the-less. Both of us are  a bit done in and defeated by marathon running. After our park run exploits yesterday we both had an afternoon nap, and after watching a bit of some Romanian film (Tales from the golden age, don't bother) I was back in bed by 10.30pm. I'm reading Freud's Murder, Mourning and Melancholia and enjoying (aspects of) it at the moment but I fell asleep with my head on the page within 10 minutes and pretty much slept through til 10 this morning.

Today was meant to be brighter than yesterday and we thought that we should do something in the hills or on a trail, maybe go a bit further afield than usual, but in the end we just went to the Pentlands again. We're planning on doing the Skyline again this year so we thought we'd follow the law of specificity and run some of the course.

So we took it very easy - ran Turnhouse, Carnethy, bumped into Sandy MacDonald and had a bit of a natter, then Scald Law, S. Black Hill, E & W Kips, the Drove Road, Hare Hill, picnic on top - new favourite running snack Power Bar chocolate protein bars - then Black Hill, Bell's Hill (or "That Bastard Bell's Hill" if you're getting a bit tired).  Peter took me a "new" way off Black Hill by the way, through razor sharp burnt heather and lacerated my shins. On, on over Harbour Hill, Whosit hill (I've forgotten what the next one's called) and then round on the red road past Castle Law Hill and down on now sensitive feet on the hard stoney path and back to the car.

I feel renewed and good again. It wasn't too bad at all. I can't help feeling that Richard Cunningham may have spoiled the Skyline by doing it twice in a row as a training run, making sport of us mere mortals and our sensitive feet. But what can you do?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Park Run

...reaches the parts other runs can't reach.

Its a major endeavour to get up on a Saturday when you don't have to and go to the park run. Yesterday I worked a long day back at my old ward - 7 in the morning to 8 at night - and when I got home, although I'd been playing with the idea of getting back into the park run thing, I decided I'd chill out and have a glass of wine and do something else today instead. But then when I was flicking about on the internet prior to going to bed I suddenly saw that the BBC weather site was predicting almost no wind for this morning.

The major adversary at the park run apart from your own lack of fitness is wind so the idea of a wind-free run was just too appealing, so I went through and told Peter and we decided we'd go for it anyway, even though we were tired and a little bit drunk.

So up we jolly well got this morning and got ourselves along to Cramond. It had clearly been raining hard over night and the ground was wet but it was actually quite sunny and warm and there did seem to be no wind. Neither of us were feeling springy as we warmed up. Neither of us have run since Wednesday's club run. Peter was so knackered after pushing too hard on Wednesday he had to walk a couple of times on the 3 mile run home. I was delighted. Its usually me who's begging for mercy after pushing too hard on a Wednesday night.

There was the usual mix of fun meeting people before the race and fear at the prospect of trying to run hard and then we were off. I've run worse races and worse park-runs (well one, time-wise), but I felt I paced it reasonably and did what I could. Each park run follows a predictable pattern. The 1st mile was fairly quick - but not outrageous. The 2nd mile was a good bit slower. When we turned around at the end of the prom a headwind had sprung up from nowhere so that was the end of the dream of the wind-free run. It would have taken more than a lack of wind to help me really, but I managed to pass a few girls in the last mile, which IS good because I have often had to suffer the agony of a stream of runners passing me towards the end of the run. The finish line appeared and gave me heart to lift the pace just enough to hold off a few runners who were dangerously near behind.

My hope is to get in the habit of doing the park runs again and that things will improve from here.

Tomorrow we're thinking something hilly in preparation for the hills and cross-country to come....

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

80.1% of The Moray Marathon....

Which is an "A" by the way....

I'm tempted to give you more crap about the 7 plagues of Egypt and the abominable Dr Phibes but having just been up at my mother's I have remembered where my tendency towards obfuscation comes from and I might try to be a little more straightforward.

The Saturday before the marathon was a long day and I had a bit of a mystery tummy upset which held us up getting up the road, so we only arrived in Elgin about 9pm and ate at 10pm. We had a reasonable night in a hot, dry room in a Premier Inn. Woke up for Peter snoring on a good number of occasions but that is par for the course. I had a plan (don't tell Premier Inn) to cook up some proper coffee on a stove in the bathroom in the morning so I wouldn't set off the fire alarms, but discovered late on Saturday night that I'd forgotten to bring any coffee so I defaulted to the two tubes of Kenco instant coffee provided by the P.I. I can't imagine that this alone was enough to explain how I was feeling so tired and unexcited before the marathon come Sunday morning.

It was nice to see Scott and Amanda, and Michael, Marc and Eric before the start, and I enjoyed all that, but felt flat about the running. Warming up I felt creaky and slow but I thought this might have been because we overdid the taper...ran only 16 miles in the week running up to the marathon, more because other stuff got in the way than from intentional planning.

I'd promised myself I was going to take a whole new tack. Every other marathon (except the Everest Marathon), I've set off trying to do sub 8 minute miles with the idea of holding on as long as possible and ideally going under 3.30 for the marathon - which I've managed just once. So usually I'll set off at sub 8 pace and then die a slow and inevitable death and get in in about 3.40 - 3.45.  I thought that if I deliberately set off at 8.30 pace, the rate of attrition shouldn't be so steep and I might be able to run even splits and pull off 3.41 ish. It was disappointing to set off in a marathon at quite such a sedate pace (although it didn't feel as easy as it should) and maybe this added to my lack of excitement about the whole thing.

My legs were kind of achy but I thought this might wear off as I got into it and I kicked along between 8 and 8.30 pace for the 1st 10 miles or so. My breakfast sat rather sullenly in my stomach and I was struggling for things to think about, which wasn't a good sign. I groped for things to distract me from the sheer number of miles ahead. The default tune in my head was "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" which surely wasn't good...I think I managed to bump onto a bit of Bowie - still not terribly upbeat - I'm thinking Rock and Roll Suicide...

It was warmish for the first few miles but nothing terrible and there were ample water stations so no chance to get thirsty. The wind was pretty much behind us after the initial loop round town so this wasn't an issue to start with. But still I just felt tired. I can't remember where specific things happened. Only that we came out of some woods onto a more main road and then might have been going a bit more into the wind - at 10 miles I'd run a disappointing 1.26 so I was not managing to stick to 8.30 pace. I had a caffeine gel which I'd meant to save up for the last 6 or so miles of the race to give me a boost but I think I had it at about the half-way mark  - which was a 1.52 half marathon (projected time now 3.44 but absolutely no chance that I was going to hold it), just to see if it would make a difference but it didn't.

We turned round some forlorn windswept harbour in what I think must have been Lossiemouth, uphill and into the wind and about there I think I had my 1st thoughts about not really finishing the race. At one point we passed a road end that showed a sign pointing in a different direction to the one I was travelling in saying "Elgin" and I thought longingly of just hitch-hiking back to the start. I pushed this thought away but I guess it planted a seed which grew in the fertile darkness of my subconscious mind. At mile 19 the thought was back, only more forcefully...not even 20 miles yet and I felt truly terrible. I was going to make it to 20 miles in just under 3 hrs - if I was lucky - which I would hope to do in training. Trying to get to 20 miles in under 3hrs occupied me for the next mile and I made it but only just - and then the issue of stopping and hitch-hiking was raised again. All I could really look for as a goal now was to beat my PW of 4.01 (apart from the EM!), not something I felt excited about, in fact if I did a bit worse than that well at least I could call it something - I could call it a PW.

In the meantime I was thinking about the sharper end of the race. There was a bit of a thing on between Michael, Marc and Peter - all of whom could quite feasibly be going under 3hrs - and Amanda, who was doing the half, would most likely be going under 1.30, so there was a glorious kind of possibility that they would all end up in a race to the line at the same time! And it should all be happening around the 3hr mark - which was now....and I wanted to be there much more than I wanted to be here - plodding along - with probably another hour to go....and then my left knee started to hurt - and it was only the thought that I might not get a lift if I stopped that was keeping me moving forwards. Then mile 21 bleeped on the Garmin and I saw that my last mile had been a 10.23 mile! So I put my watch off and moved over the left hand side of the road and started hitching. People weren't that keen to pick me up but just round the corner there was a water table that was packing up - so I  went over just to tell them and ask who I should tell that I was dropping out so they wouldn't have to look for me or anything and one of the guys kindly offered there and then just to give me a lift.

 Pretty soon I was driving forwards in marathon time through the runners, getting dropped off at about the 3.30 part of the field (it took a while to get back because we were stuck behind a St John's Ambulance on a single track road.) Then I did a walk of shame walking from one clump of marshal's to the next explaining "I've dropped out who should I tell?" and each time they sent me onto the next clump. I did this maybe 4 times before I was sent into the timing ladies in the library, who said "Oh" and didn't send me onto anyone else...It was a bit painful walking past the finish with people finishing in a time that I would have liked to finish in - but still my knee was in one piece - a bit sore but not injured...

Pretty soon I met Amanda and Scott and heard how hard Amanda's half had been. She hadn't been feeling right for the last few days so we hoped it would just pass but she'd felt lack-lustre and achey and trotted out 1.35. (We were thinking more 1.25 for her, she's been troubling Peter at the end of his long runs - she's been flying.) Amanda warned me that Peter's race had been "not good". I'd known this was a distinct possibility since he hates the wind and as a disproportionate amount of the course did seem to have been into the wind.

He wasn't actually as downbeat as I thought he might be. He'd come in in 3.07 and I think been glad to get finished. Michael Geoghegan had killed himself to try and get under 3hrs and had come away with an excellent but gutting 3.02. "I tried so hard to go under 3hrs" he said with big eyes, staring into space. Marc Grierson was philosophical about 3.12?, I think he just instantly projected himself forwards to Loch Ness Marathon and focused on that. Eric came in in 4hrs 40mins having had a hard time but battled on and finished...(oh my shame)...

People made their way off until Peter and I sitting on a wooden step in Elgin Town Hall realised that the prize-giving should be on so we went back over to the finish to see it. We were so not really paying attention after seeing the winners. (Steven Reid or "Stevie Boy" of Fife AC ran a terrific 2.45, pretty much on his own. Kate Jenkins was 1st lady for the nth time in a great time of 3.01) that Peter had to be told twice that Portobello had won the team prize. Marc was still there with uncle Eric so 2 of the 3 were able to collect a cup and some nice shot glasses and miniatures of Macallans. A prize always eases the pain a bit and there were smiles amongst the Porties at least....

So the moral of this tale? I don't know. If you want to drop out, you can - but you won't get a medal....