The weather forecast looked promising as we drove NW on Friday to Ullapool to catch the ferry for Stornoway. We had Richard aboard the Berlingo, also heading to the Stornoway half, but from there planning to run daily and in stages to the next race in the series - the Benbecula half.
We met up with Andrew Henderson on the boat, who was also camping and running the next day so we headed together up to the now well known Laxdale campsite. There we pitched our tents in the rain and said an early goodnight to each other.
All weather reports had suggested that we would be basking in fine sunshine the next day as the rest of the country shivered in the rain. There was no wind however and so the rain clouds sat tight where they were and emptied their contents sporadically on our chastened heads.
The team were going into battle in odd form. Peter's been doing well since the Fling and has had some good results but his training has been a mish-mash of long days in the hills and club training and races. I haven't made it to club in a long time and hopes to do some speed sharpening pre-Stornoway were dashed when I was held up with injury for a couple of weeks post-Fling. Despite efforts not to I've also managed to pork up a bit since the Fling. Sad days when us athletes are a bit under par.
Saturday dawned rainy. It could have been worse. It wasn't very midgy and it wasn't all that cold.
We'd got ready to go in a rush on Friday morning, work commitments having held both our attentions right up until Thurday night/Friday morning. In the camping box which lives above the washing machine I found a jar of coffee from a previous camping trip so decided just to take that along because it still smelled alright. It produced the most evil bitterest cup of coffee I've ever had in my life. The caffeine content was still there - you could feel it, but it left me feeling a bit sick -so much so that I never dared drink until mile 9 in case it went wrong on me.
We met Richard and other Hebbers known from other years at the start and pretty soon were heading off into town for another Storno half. (My 3rd - it must be Peter's 5th or so) The first mile is always quick as its nearly all downhill so I got a satisfying 6.59 mile in. Then my speed steadied to a more cautious 7.36 pace for the next few miles and then we went up into the 8s and continued so for the rest of the race. Try as I might I could not generate anything more although the strength was there and I could have gone on and on. I was chasing Maureen Mcleod, who I knew was in my category and who I'd beaten by a small margin the year before. At mile 11 I thought realistically I'd be looking at 1.43 although I was still trying hard to go quicker - and the sight of Deborah MacDonald not far behind was incentive to keep doing what I could.
The sad reality was 1.44 at the end, never catching Maureen nor allowing Deborah to catch me.
The good things were that I had no problems with niggles or injuries - just a generalised sluggishness.
At the end I thought that I could at least win the race to the showers, so this I did, being 1st lady overall and getting the room to myself. The showers in the Bridge centre were powerful and hot and the shower rooms spacious so I amused myself by getting some stretching in as the water hammered down on my tired muscles and sweaty head.
I was an age in there and worried that the others would wonder what had happened to me but we'd been hurrying all week and all day the day before so I took my time.
Back out amongst the post-racers there was a soup, sandwich and cake bonanza in full swing. There were 160+ people for the half and a similar number for the 10K which ran at the same time so there were a lot of hungry people in the hall, elbows out. I met up with Richard and Andrew, both having met their targets - Andrew sub 2hrs, Rischard sub 1.30, so they were both pretty chipper. Peter arrived a while later having stood in the rain waiting for me because he'd forgotten that the womens' showers were at a different venue from the mens'. He had taken a bit of a beating out there and was resigned and rather forlorn.
At prize-giving the 1st places went to the Dave Wright and Megan Wright husband and wife team. The HBTs were out in force and were growling HBT and cheering wildly as the £300 cash team prize went also to HBT. Peter thought he was well out the vet prizes so was pleased to get in at 3rd MV and so got a Lewis chess man and a black pudding to compensate for his feelings of defeat.
Then we wished Richard good luck with his odyssey to Benbecula and Peter and Andrew and I headed up the road to the campsite. We fancied a beer but we did not fancy wandering about Stornoway on a wet Satuday so we bought a beer each at Tesco's and sat in the camper's cooking hut at the campsite and drank our beers and told stories as the rain hammered down outside. It brought back many a bored, teenage island weekend with grey skies, nothing to do and nowhere to go. No wonder islanders drink.
The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough. We had a sleep and then went out for dinner - met up with an old friend of Peter's and later went to the race ceilidh where HBT were putting on a good show. Back to the campsite just about 1 am. under skies that had now cleared - the good weather having only been delayed, not cancelled. Sunday morning we went and had a big lunch in one of the only places open while waiting for the 2.30 ferry departure and we then had a 5hr drive back down the road to Edinburgh, getting here about 10pm, a little crumpled and a bit heavier than when I left due to all the meals I had over the course of the weekend.
So I better get training hard because its the Benbecula half this coming Saturday and I'd like to do better there...
Taken with Scott's notion that setting off straight up Turnhouse from the Flotterstone carpark is too much intense climbing too soon, I thought up a variant today that would introduce me more gently back into the hills. I thought I would run up the road, or the grass at the side, to the Howe, between the hills to the other side, up the Drove Road to West Kip and from there run the hills back (including S. Black Hill).
It was a still grey day after yesterday's sudden surprising sunlight and heat. There were the sounds of the birds, the lambs and automatic machine guns raking the hill above.
It felt good to be out in the country again. I realise I feel much more relaxed away from the neds and the teenagers and the traffic. Some slight feelings of guilt for missing another club session tonight but today is my last day off until a week on Friday when we set off for the Stornoway half so last chance to go a longer run. I'm not keen on waiting all day to go a run at night, it feels like a waste of a day.
All went well and pretty soon I was off the road and the track and making my way up the Drove Road. The ground is very dry and perfect under foot making a nice hollow drumming sound. Passed a few folk out walking up in the hills. Stopped to take pictures of chimneys spouting steam into the low cloud and a view of the Pans and my favourite witchy trees.
Some protest from my legs that aren't used to marching and trotting up hills and I was slow and hesitant on the way down but did my best. The larks never stopped their trilling noises and there was a strong sheepy smell everywhere. 12 and a bit miles in 2 hrs 20 some. Good to get back up there...
Richard had been suggesting for a while that we should get together for a meal - and that maybe we should run the low level Pentlands route and then go to the Flotterstone Inn to eat afterwards. We made the odd arrangement for meeting at 5pm at the Flotterstone carpark to go for a run and then dinner at 7pm. Normally that would feel like breaking up a good running day too much but I was glad to have heaps of time to get ready as I was overtired and a bit hungover when I rolled out of bed at noon on Sunday. I had a sleep deficit to make up from work and then 2 glasses of wine the night before were enough to compound my state of dehydration and make my head hurt. What a state. Richard came and gave us a lift at 4pm, by which time I had struggled out of my pyjamas and drunk enough fluids to feel okay.
Amanda and Scott were at the carpark. Amanda shivering with cold to begin with. We set off up the hill into a stiff breeze and pretty soon we were all perfectly warm.
I felt like a human ache, struggling along at the back, remembering belatedly that all these buggars are better than me. I hadn't run since Friday though, so was kind of up for a battle so battle on I did. Peter had run Goatfell on Saturday so that had taken some of the shine off him, and Richard had run from Edinburgh to North Berwick. Amanda had been climbing all day Saturday. Scott had been locked up in a shop so he was probably the freshest. I had been sitting on my arse all day Saturday so reminded myself to keep fighting on...
Its always great to get up to the top of the 3 miles of climb to the Howe and set off on trails between the hills on a more moderate gradient. The last time Peter and I had been here with Scott and Amanda we realised was in the big snows, when we spent a fair amount of time wallowing and post-holing. It had turned into a lovely warm evening.
I remembered the raised walkway over marsh land I'd found on a previous solitary run around the Pentlands so got the others to come and try it out. They liked it as much as me. There's something intoxicating about running on a platform raised above the ground. Like being a train!
The rest of the run was a bit of a blur. I determined to dig in and keep up as good a pace as I could, ttook shortcuts whenever I could, kept plugging away. Got dropped quite badly on the long slow trail back over the hills but did not give up. The run down the other side was mostly a pleasure because I heard no complaint whatever from my recently dodgy leg.
We were back in the carpark for 7pm and I was glad to see the others were sweating and huffing and feeling that they had worked hard too. We had a skanky wet-wipe bath and changed into everyday dress and went along to the Inn.
The food was really good. If you ever do this don't leave it too late though. As we went in they said could we order as quickly as possible as the kitchen closed at 7. You would have thought they might have mentioned that when Richard phoned to book a table.
Amanda said, and I agree, that we need to get back out properly into the hills though - so next time we go its the high tops. I've got some annual leave soon so am trying to think of somewhere new to go that we haven't gone and thinking we might use Steve Fallon's book to go and check out the route for the Glenshee 9 which is on the way to my mum's - and so make in-roads into the Cairngorms.
On Sunday we wanted an adventure with Amanda and Scott. Amanda's being cautious recovering from her recent London Marathon effort so she and I were going to go a bike ride together. Scott is recently reinvigorated with Ultra plans and has decided to do Strathaven 50 miler later this year so was up for somethng long and hard up the hills with Peter. (Ooh err matron.)
We went down to somewhere near Selkirk where A and S had scouted out a 36 mile loop for me and A. Before the start of our cycle we dumped off Scott and Peter in a carpark to set out over the hills, with an arrangement to pick them up later at an Inn at the end of St Mary's Loch.
Early in our cycle A and I realised we were on the route of a cycle event, and then it slowly dawned that we were cycling the opposite way round to the cycle route for the triathlon that some of our clubmates were doing that morning. Hoped to see and even photograph them, but it was not to be. 7.5 miles into our cycle just as were turning off onto a quieter country road Amanda's chain stuck a few times and then broke. We had a few tools along but not a chain tool and I have tried to fix a chain for someone when I HAVE had a chain tool before and couldn't see any connection between the tool and the chain and the problem. We had a think for a moment or 2 but once we'd realised that we probably couldn't splice the chain with grasses from the verge, we knew we were sunk as far as our cycling plans were concerned.
What to do then? We kicked around a few options. Amanda suggested I cycle on anyway - but where's the fun in that? Plus, I didn't know the way, and wasn't at my brightest, still a bit stupified by recent night-shifts. At least if we ran back to the van we'd have had a bit of exercise and the day would not have been a write-off. We were both a bit concerned that I was pushing my luck as I was only just getting past my injured leg and I was wearing trail shoes and we'd be running on the road but it seemed the best option so we decided to try it out. A. was wearing non-running shoes too and must have suffered running so slowly (she's much faster than me and I'm on a go slow.) It gave us a chance to have a chat anyway.
Eventually we got back to the van having admired the roadkill along the way. (Varied and colourful.) and went back to pick up our bikes and then onwards to pick up the boys.
We got to the inn (I've forgotten its name) (Tibbie Shiels apparently) and despite not having done very much I've kind of got in the habit of rewarding myself liberally with food for everything I do! So while A. had a parsimonious scone I had apple-pie and warm custard. Amanda was a bit worried by the non-appearance of P and S but I was too busy to worry much. We couldn't get phone signals so after a while went out to see if we could scout them out. Just when we were giving up hope Amanda spotted a blue and a yellow blob making their way at pace towards us round the back of the loch. I lay in wait behind some bushes hoping to surprise and delight them when they came along the path, but they were too hungry and tired to show any surprise at all and barely slowed down. Some beer and some food back in the inn lifted them enough to get a story out of them. Their route had been undulating and hard and despite both of them denying there had been any element of racing both admitted they'd got up the first hill "very quickly". They were now shot anyway.
Home about 7.30 at night. The pile of dishes none diminished.
The next day I was stiff as a board but the problem was particularly in my right hip so I've been hurpling for the last 2 days - but at least its a new hurple. I think the problem is that I put the saddle on my bike up having lowered it during the snows earlier this year and its altered my cycling style too abruptly. I don't think that would normally cause me any problems but my whole system's still a bit tetchy from the Highland Fling.
Looking back recently I realised that I'm often injured or ill in May following a winter of training and some spring event. I might as well just relax.
Time to turn day back into day. We made a "blackout" out of a thin red quilt we got at Ikea staple-gunned to the window surround. A hasty solution but an effective one. I've been waking up in a dark reddish room and sleeping better during the day than I ever have while on night shift. Still I am way down on my normal hours sleep after being up all night for 3 nights. The first night was the worst. My body kept telling me I shouldn't be there - and I didn't need told. There was a fair bit of disturbance on the ward - angry spats and shouting and irritability. It took much patience but settled down eventually. The 2nd night things were at a lower intensity. By last night everyone had tired themselves out and were sleeping. After 2 nights of being unable to concentrate, last night I found I could read and retain what I was reading.
I was reading a couple of chapters of a Jungian author, about how we ignore unconscious processes at our cost. If we make (this is what I made of it) our everyday lives too rational and reasonable then the irrational and unreasonable facets of ourselves will eventually burst forth out of control. The author was suggesting that war was an example of this. There's something in war that despite its awfulness also appeals to the human spirit. Its an opportunity to live more intensely - but at too high a cost. So we need to make room for a bit of irrational glory in our lives. This chimed with my experience of running. Difficult to explain why you would seek out the suffering and hard work associated with running, to the uninitiated.... So I was having one of those luminous moments that only happen in the middle of the night where you feel like you're understanding something.
Not so this afternoon at 1.30pm when I once more awoke blinking in the reddened gloom of my room. My brain was still suffused with dark chemicals and it was hard to find any motivation for anything.
I wandered blinking through to the kitchen and found Peter doing some dishes. "I've got your cold" he announced cheerily.
We settled on a modest plan for making the best of a short day. We cycled down to Cramond - there to test my pesky leg - if it was at all functional, we'd run along the riverbank etc. round the airport loop and back and then cycle home. (Taking in a cafe maybe, I thought to myself, storing a tenner in my shorts.)
There was a bitch of a cold North-Easterly blowing and we were both pretty cold, but the running worked out really very well. After a very cautious initial mile, nothing was majorly going wrong so we set off up-stream. Never pushed it, took it easy. Plenty of entertainment up the river, the ducks and heron on the water, the smell of the wild garlic. Most of my attention was kept focused on my sore leg though - watching out for anything that would tell me I needed to stop. Its still sore - but not very. I didn't push my luck or the pace. We ran 8 miles and then I put in a bid to try out the cafe along the river there. It was nicely sheltered from the cold wind and I had a small moment of perfect happiness with a coffee and a piece of chocolate cake while Peter, who was feeling stingy, opted for being hungry and photographing some shrub in bloom.
And so home again now and we've been tucking into a bottle of wine and I'm fighting sleep just now in the hope that maybe I won't ping awake in the middle of the night. Tomorrow may well be a cycling adventure with Amanda while Scott and Peter do some long training because Scott's thinking about doing Strathaven 50 miler sometime in the Autumn.
Stornoway half is now looking like a real possibility again though the "speed sharpening" I thought I might do in the run up to it won't be happening - or not much. I'll be running off endurance only. Any running is much better than no running at all...
All my Christmases have come at once. I'm injured and I can't run, I've got a cold and I'm starting night shift at work tonight. Not a great fan of Christmas. So I'm going to have a little moan.
I'm trying to break out of the work that I'm in but I've not got far so far. I just don't want to work weekends and nights anymore. Ideally I'd like to not soak up abuse on a daily basis, but maybe you can't have everything. With the inability to run it all comes home to ROOST somehow. Like I can't get away from it. I want out I want out I want out.
If I'm lucky I'll spend much of tonight sitting outside the ill-fitting smoke-room door breathing in other people's smoke. If I'm not lucky I'll be trying to stop people from shouting and shrieking and banging about so that other people can sleep. And that's just the staff. Haha. And all for 11 hours 15 minutes of my precious life. In the final throes of the Fling I was thinking "This is taking even longer than a night shift!"
I took my sore right leg out for a run on Monday and tried to show it who was boss. It wouldn't run downhill very well but I wasn't very sure why so I tried a number of different ways of running down hill on it. The upshot? I've put it back a bit. It went back to being sore all the time. I am going to have to be a bit more patient and take it easier. Swimming and cycling yesterday soothed it so it feels better today. Maybe tomorrow, if things continue to improve, we'll try 4 miles on the flat.
I don't really sleep when I'm on night shift so I'm expecting to be fairly crazy by Saturday when I finish up.
I'm off to see if I can make some kind of black out for the bedroom so I don't get woken up by the sun baking my brain. Wish me good luck.
Don't tell anyone but this race is a lot easier by bike.
I had a few aims today. Get some biking miles in, try out my new HRM which I got for cross-training, follow the race and take some photos.
It was a grim, grey day with a nasty north wind and Peter was swithering about whether to do it or not. He went to the start just to see what he thought and I felt fairly sure that the contact adrenaline he'd get from just being in a race atmosphere would make him race. Race he did.
I got along to the end of the prom. and 2 professional looking cyclists arrived and turned out to be Rachel and Jacqui. I took some practice photos of dogs on the beach etc. and told anyone who would listen about my injury and the Highland Fling. It was an unpromising looking day for photos. I did my best but the camera's not so quick in the lower light and some of them were blurred.
I soon got into the racing aspect of trying to cycle ahead of the racers and then get off and take photos and then get going again. Peter started off in a group with Stuart Hay and a few others, well up the field. There was quite a long gap and then another group containing Willie J, Gareth Green and Johnny L. I was surprised at how well P seemed to have recovered from the Fling.
All the Highland Flingers from last week were racing except me and I temporarily felt a bit down about it. Damn. Bad day for E2NB though. Cold stiff head wind all the way.
After stopping and recording how Stuart Hay and group had dropped my poor Peter and Willie et al. were gaining on him I determined to find the head of the race. I had no idea the E2NB race has a race car! It does. I had to overtake it. Yer man out in front was a long way out on his own. At least at Aberlady nature reserve he was.
I was pleased with how easily the cycling was going, having never knowingly gone further than my 8 mile round trip commute since we cycled about 30 spectating the Edinburgh Marathon last year. I had a bit of a longing look at the food shops as I went through Gullane but had to press on as I still hoped to get some photos in Dirleton and then make it to the finish in time, if not to photograph the leaders, then to capture the people I knew.
Beyond Gullane I found that Johnny Lawson had made a break from the group and was out ahead alone. I gave him a big shout. He looked very focused.
In Dirleton Johnny still led the Porties. Willie et al. had long since made mincemeat of Peter.
I want to also mention Michael Geogheogochan or however the hell you spell your name Michael. He was running ALWAYS hard and ALWAYS alone into the wind, and never slackened off.
(I have started drinking beer and the effects are taking hold. I mistakenly typed Abeerlady before instead of Aberlady and now I have become a beer lady.)
I cycled lickety-split to the end but it was not fast enough and I had missed much of the action. Peter ran in relaxed and looking non-ferocious. Johnny was looking very grey around the gills. I must admit I assumed that Johnny had taken the top Porty spot as he seemed to be building an insurmountable lead the last time I'd seen him and it was not til later that I found out Willie J. had done a Willie J and got him at the end! No wonder Johnny didn't look as chuffed as I thought he should.
I'd been leap frog biking with Rachel and Jacqui and Lynn all along the way and they were at the finish, now joined by Toby, who could barely speak having cycled a million extra miles and needing food and warmth rather acutely.
I was impressed to see Graham finish in good style looking strong. Ian Mac. got the attention and appreciation of the crowd with his blood-curling cuss filled yells and final charge for the line.
I hung around for a good while and took photos until I was cold and very hungry and needed to get moving. At first I thought I'd get some coffee and something to eat in NB before making the trip home but Mrs Ian Mac. had planted the idea of Falko's in my mind and as I cycled through the main street of NB I thought it would be a lot easier to cycle the few miles back to Gullane and go there instead. It was a pity because shortly afterwards I got a call from Amanda to say she'd just arrived in NB and needed to eat right away. (She was also on bike and had been marshalling the back markers.) By this time I was in Dirleton or I would have headed back but it seemed like she had to eat right away and by the time I got back she'd be finished and I was also getting a bit low blood sugary - so decided to press on. At Falko's (Konditormeister -whatever the hell that is!) I found the other cyclists; Lynn, Rachel, Jacqui and Toby. Couldn't have planned it better really. I had the most amazing fruit tart. I think I was shouting because I'd been in the wind for so long so I apologise. Caught up a little bit with what people have been doing and are going to do. I've been a long time away from club and that looks set to continue with night shifts coming up next week...
And then home. Really quite an enjoyable cycle once I'd got moving again. A back wind made the whole game a lot easier and the time whizzed by. I've been meaning to get back out on the bike for a good while but running always wins if thats the choice so I'm seeing my injury as maybe a little blessing in disguise. I did about 46 miles and I'm pleasantly tired and hungry but it was fine. I enjoyed it.
Time to put the photos up. There are a whole lot more photos that'll go up on the web-page too.
Well done to everyone who ran the race today. It wasn't the easiest day. Jazz man Stuart Hay looks in fine form coming up for Edinburgh Marathon this year if he can stay on his feet! haha