Saturday, 29 January 2011


The days are whizzing by again so I need to compress a few days together. Wednesday I was off during the day so as it was AGM night at club, with only a quick run along the prom planned for beforehand, we opted to go for our run during the day. We ran a 12 mile loop starting and finishing at Gullane and taking in the Wildlife Reserve and beaches along to Yellowcraigs, then back along the road to Gullane. Despite it being a  grey, windy day we both enjoyed it and topped it off by popping into Falkos at the end to get 3 cheese tongues and a piece of plum cake to eat in the car. By the time we got home it was dark and we were pretty  knackered and it was an effort to get ourselves back out to club.
Thursday I was back at work early in the morning and then Friday off again.

I've been wanting/needing a new pair of trail shoes for training for the Highland Fling for some time as my newest pair of road & trail shoes are about 2 and a half years old. Since I'm a bit injured it seemed sensible to try to eliminate all possible causes including knackered old shoes - so we called in at Run and Become on the way to the Pentlands for an easyish hill run. Sometimes none of the shoes seem all that exciting but not this time. I was in love simultaneously with Adidas Adizeros, a really nice pair of Mizuno trail shoes that I've forgotten the exact name of (Harriers?) and Brooks Cascadias. I opted for the Cascadias in the end thinking they were the most likely to provide a mixture of protection, cushioning and grip closest to what I'll need over the longer distances.

Then we went a run up t'Pentlands. (But not in Cascadias). I'm surprised and not too pleased how much hill fitness I seem to have lost over the snowy season. My recent sore heel had very little to say about the run, so that was good. Again, we headed home in the dark, feeling knackered and took longer than we should to get everything done. By 'everything' I mean the usual things, washing, cooking, eating, plus I should be studying but am finding it hard to concentrate - easier to surf! and Peter's got to get his tax return in for Monday.

Today was a grey old day again but I wanted to test out the Cascadias, so after a bit of head scratching about where to go we both really just wanted to go to the beach again because its so nice, so this time we went to Gullane again, but aimed to do a 6 miler, round the shore and back into town.

Even though it was cold, grey and drizzling it was  nice on the beach and we admired the colours in the sand and the subtle grey and violet colours in the sea, stones and sky. Finishing a run wouldn't be the same without a quick trip to Falko's (I know, there's a bit of a habit forming here.) We chose a red wine cake - which was quite like iced gingerbread - and an almondy, marzipany thing with chocolate down the sides, and washed it down with some hot blackcurrant juice and some token bananas and oranges...

So once again, we made our way home in the dark and rain, a bit knackered. On the way back into town, just, LITERALLY just as I was saying how good the van has been considering I bought it in a hurry and had to pretty much trust the car salesman when I bought it, having no mechanical nouse of my own, the fecking FECKING fecking FECKING  exhaust fell right off in the street.

Fortunately I got it replaced at Kwik-fit a year ago and it has a three year guarantee. But will it really work? I'll find out tomorrow.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Berwick XC - (Everyday is like Sunday).

Lynn Morrice bakes exceedingly good cakes....

It was a dull, grey January day and Berwick upon Tweed was looking a bit like the "sea-side town that they forgot to bomb" as 4 of us arrived in the Berlingo for leg 2 of the Borders XC series.

Peter, Michael, Andrew and I arrived together, and shortly after saw that Lynn Morrice and Kevin Clark had also turned up.

Peter and Michael had done the Devil's Burden yesterday so the journey down was filled with the re-living and re-telling of that particular adventure. So much so that I offered to write Peter's report for him - I reckon I could give a blow by blow account - but my suggestion was ignored with the dignity and distain you would expect from someone who had run 1 hour and 1 minute for the 3rd leg of the Devil's Burden...

Andrew and I were bleeding slightly at the ears by the time we arrived but did what we could to warm up and get into shape...

What I was thinking about mainly was my heel, heel, heel which is dictating quite a lot of what I can and cannot do at the moment. It was strangely soothed by my trip up into the hills the other day though and seems to have benefited from some more rigorous stretching that would have been out of the question about a week ago - so I'm very, very tentatively starting to think its improving. I could feel it warming up today. It feels not unlike someone has thoughtless stapled the very end of my heel so that my stride's a bit shorter on my right leg than it should be - but by the end of the race I couldn't feel it at all - for the first time this year certainly...

It was blowy out and it was with great reluctance that I took off the duvet jacket and big fleece I'd been warming up in and went for a quick run around before the start.

The race - I started further forward in the field than I meant to and felt I was almost carried through the first bit through the dunes and down onto the beach. Then there were choices to make about where to run - whether to go further in search of firmer sands or stick to sinky sands in the short-term knowing they'd resolve into better running before long. Whenever I was presented with a choice I favoured the straightest line possible, not feeling very boisterous or like running further than I had to.

It was exactly a mile on the Garmin to the steps at the far end of the beach where we headed up onto the cliff-tops. Andrew Stavert had sneaked ahead of me in the latter stages of the beach - a bold move - but I figured I might be able to catch him on the hill. Kevin Clark had likewise got ahead on the beach but was more convincingly ahead and although I wasn't that far behind him for a long time he was definitely pulling away.

I passed Andrew towards the top of the hill and could tell from his breathing he wasn't finding this an easy process so decided to press ahead as much as I could and see if I could open up a bit of a gap.
All the time I was really dreading the last nasty mile on the beach into the wind so I could never get too happy about the way things were going. A Carnethy lady and a younger woman passed me on the cliffs on the return journey and that focused my mind and gave me something to work off so I stayed as in touch as I could. They were clearly feeling stronger at that point but I'd just put in a stupid burst of speed when I'd seen Lynn coming back towards me, just out of excitement or something... So I hung in there.

The beach on the way back wasn't quite as awful as I'd pictured it. The wind was more of a side wind than a full headwind. Carnethy lady headed quite far down the beach in search of a better running surface so I decided to gamble and stay where I was. I think this decision paid off. I slowly seemed to be reeling her back in and finally passed her just as we got back up onto the really sinky sand before the sand dunes and the finish. The running on this deep sand was reminiscent of the frozen mud at Paxton where it seemed you could make better progress trying to jump from one good surface to the next rather than try and keep a running rhythm and run where the sand was all churned up. It was a profound relief to get back onto a surface that held in the last 20 yards or so and I was able to pick off one more runner.

So after leg 2 of the series I guess I'm 1st Lady Vet over 40 but in an ugly twist of fate there isn't a good turn out of ladies in that category and I'm in imminent danger of my category being collapsed into the LV35-39 category. Not good I can tell you! The LV35-39s are turning out very good performances and if I was to fall into that category they would chew me up and spit me out...

If you're an LV40-44 and you ran at Paxton or today's race, do me and yourselves a favour and get along to the next two. You know you want to...

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Emperor's New Claws...

Last week at the cross-country I noticed that my beloved Inov8 mudclaws  were getting really uncomfortable. I could feel the individual studs pressing up through the bottom of my feet. I'd had them 2 years and got a lot of use out of them, so, thinking they might be a contributing factor to my iffy heel I ordered a new pair from Pete Bland. (Very good service - if you have to order on-line you could do worse.)

Ordinarily I'd go to Run and Become because I love them but I couldn't get there during the week plus I'm skint and Pete Bland was offering a good price so I ordered on-line. I was kind of hoping they'd arrive today (ordered on Wednesday) but there was no sign of them mid-morning so I rationalised I'd probably be better off with an easy run round the park to shake some of the kinks out from Wednesday night training.
Then just after midday the buzzer went and it was the postie with some new shoes for me. I immediately had to think it was a nice day to get out in the Pentlands. Maybe I'd go and test my heel out on something flattish like the Red Moss Revolution course...Peter is running in the Devil's Burden tomorrow and had a ton of things to do so I set out myself, somewhat late, to the Red Moss car park.

In contrast to my old Mudclaws, the new ones were spongy, warm and supportive. (They also still smell nice. Bonus.) My heel was a bit creaky jogging down the tarmac to the 1st hill but then so was the rest of me. It was very still and silent up in the hills and the ground was frozen underfoot making for great running. It took a wee while for my legs to loosen off but then I started to enjoy it.
On the way up I decided I'd extend the run so that rather than turn left at Hare Hill I'd continue up the Drove Road and then up onto West Kip, and from there take the route from the Carnethy 5 down to the Howe and  re-join the course of the RMR from there. As I crested West Kip I saw that there was thick cloud creeping up the valley and coming for me! This combined with the fact the sun was getting kind of low made me feel a bit anxious as I took some quick photos. I took a moment to take  in the scenery and then set off back down.

I had been confidently telling others that the course of the Carnethy 5 is "very runnable" from West Kip to the foot of Carnethy. Ahaha  fool! I had forgotten how relative this description is. Sure, compared to high-stepping up through deep heather its "runnable" but its still a tussocky, slippery horror. My heel was behaving very well however which put me in a  good mood and I kind of enjoyed the bumpy ride to the bottom. Then it did indeed get more runnable and I had an enjoyable stretch out nearly to the Howe. As I teetered down the last steep drop off the side of the path to cross the river I remembered chatting to a guy at the Run of the Mill race who broke his ankle putting his foot in a hole just at this point. "Luckily" there were 1st aiders with a stretcher near by so he didn't have to walk far!

The run down the side of Black Hill is getting increasingly rutted and pitted and isn't as much fun as it used to be. Still its nicely downhill. By the time I got to the bottom my funny foot was getting a bit grumpy so I was pleased there was just a mile or two to go. I was rewarded for setting out so late by some pretty sunset scenes over the re-freezing reservoirs. It was spooky in the woods mind you and I was careful to keep a good pace going so I could get back to the car before dark...

Lovely to get out in the hills again. Its been too long.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Livingston XC and a trip into the Lammermuirs

The weekend is getting away too quick so I'm going to have to squeeze things together.

Yesterday was the combined final leg of the East District XC league and the East District Cross Country Championships at Livingston.

The weather was so appallingly bad that it was all quite funny. The rain lashed down all night and abated a bit for the runners - but not all that much, and the wind likewise blew a hoollie all night and continued to blow throughout the day.

4 intrepid Porties set off together, myself, Amanda, Peter and Andrew. It was as if there was a curse on the Porty men and the 10 men the pre-entry list boasted was whittled down to a forlorn 5. When Gareth couldn't find the venue in Livingston they were down to 4 men; not enough for a team. The women did rather better having 4 out of the 6 pre-entered women finish and coming a reasonable 9th ladies' team. We'll come higher up in the East League team results I think but these are not out yet. Amanda came in an amazing 18th overall and looking pretty comfortable. Ruth, me and Jenni each came in within a minute of the last so we made quite a good cluster.

I think the course was really good but I found one lap was enough! I was a bit too far up the field in the first lap so suffered for it pretty badly in the 3rd quarter and then rallied enough to hold my place to the end. Peter has catalogued everything he didn't like on the Portobello Website.

Today we set off for an "adventure" with Scott and Amanda. Jim Hamilton, a club member, had suggested a route to Peter that starts at Longyester and goes up and through the Lammermuirs to Carfraemill. We thought it might be a reasonable out and back for a long run.

We'd arranged to meet Scott and Amanda at the car park at Blinkbonny woods at 11.30 and we even set off 10 minutes early because we've been late for them pretty much every time we've set a time. All was going well till the instructions on our Google map sent us off up the A199 heading for Dunbar and we had to turn around. We found Gifford okay but then the road out to Longyester got narrower and more confusing and we overshot the road we wanted and ended up stalled at a crossroads with signs pointing in every direction and none of them saying what we wanted them to say. A phone call to Scott sorted us out and we were soon with them - only 10 minutes late. It must be fate.

Amanda and I found we were decidedly tired and creaky after yesterday's cross-country. Peter seemed oblivious as usual. Scott was probably the freshest. He has a knee at the moment but you're not allowed to mention the knee.
We were soon in our usual positions with me puffing along behind. Out of the car it was pretty much 2 miles straight uphill. I was puffing an awful lot, I guess its carrying some extra Christmas pounds that's doing it.

From below it looked like all the snow had gone from the hills but when we got higher we found it. Some of it was reasonable to run on and some of it had been rotting in the recent thaw and we did a few dramatic plunges through the surface up to our thighs.
Once we were up the road undulated a fair bit. It was sunny and the there were good views in all directions. Quite a contrast to yesterdays dark and rain. We were making our way down the map pretty quickly so hatched a plan to try and make a loop rather than an out and back by going up some smaller paths and hooking up with another track that ran back approximately parallel further east. The first part of our detour involved passing through someone's courtyard with dogs in a cage barking, pickup trucks with lights and you could pretty much hear the first few notes of "duelling banjo" being plucked. (This after a less threatening theme from the James Herriot series which had been playing through my head as we ran down the small roads and tracks up to this point.)

We got past the house unsavaged by dogs and felt we might be safe. Then we got into a field and started heading down a small path that followed the fence. Then BOOM or perhaps splosh, I was down. (For the 2nd time that day. I forgot to mention I'd already taken a nose-dive earlier on and then slid along the glassy ice. The others suggesting I was doing a Torvill and Dean.) This time, looking around to see what had caused my topple I saw that I'd tripped over a bit of wire. Looking closer we saw that it was a snare. Then having realised there was one snare we saw that the whole next part of the path was littered with snares. It made for interesting running. A bit further on and we realised we'd been descending steadily but according to the map should be plateauing so we did a bit of running hither and thither and trying to figure out just where on the map we really were. Finally Amanda put her foot down and suggested we should just make our way back and that would be plenty for one day. Thank god someone did. We took one further short-cut which worked out this time and were heading back along the track, this time with the wind behind us and a 2 mile descent to finish off, which was fun. I had one more fall on the ice at the top of the hill, a proper face plant, which seemed to cause much laughter and no sympathy...

So 12 and a bit slow, hilly miles, but having made inroads into the Lammermuirs we shall explore further.
Now to try and cram all the other things we were supposed to do this weekend into the remaining few hours...