Sunday, 30 October 2011

Back to the Pentlands

It took discipline to get out there today. Still just a bit knackered. Need to get aff the wine!

We did the Pentlands "road run" in reverse today for a bit of novelty. Road shoes. The trails were dry. Difficult to believe after the deluge we witnessed in the West.

The car park at Flotterstone was full to over-flowing. The roads were filled with dogs and walkers. There were quite a lot of mountain bikers but pushing your bike seems to be the new making an effort. Tsk.

Subdued autumnal stuff going on.

My last two weeks mileage has struggled to make it into the early 20s but there's no point pushing the boat out now as we've got the Glenogle 33 miler on Saturday. I'm just thinking Kielder on the 9th of Oct will have to do as our last long run. Tried to push the last 3 miles down the road from the Howe but given it was all downhill with the wind at our backs it seemed a bit of an effort. I think our blood sugar was getting low as we bickered our way out of the car park and home. Soup and rolls helped a lot.

Just under 12 hilly miles.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

H&H Cashel "Trail" (Hill) Run

Julia's dog-bite. Get your dogs under control!

This photo of after the race - stolen from HAAC website.

Today's racing fun was the H & H Cashel Trail Run - a handicap race set up by Julia Henderson and Gordon Howat of Helensburgh AAC for fun and to raise some money for a cancer research charity.
We drove through to Helensburgh the night before and stayed at Julia's and drank maybe a little too much wine with Julia and her parents who entertained us tremendously.

7am this morning therefore seemed very dark and a bit surreal. We had heard the rain battering down sporadically over night and the roar of the wind in the chimneys. As it slowly and reluctantly got light it seemed pretty clear that it was not going to be a dry day.

At 8.20 we went and picked up the eponymous Gordon, and also Kevin, president of HAAC and made our way on flooded roads to Cashel Forest.

It was wet but it was very lovely - nice Autumn colours, the air temperature was pretty mild and it was too late in the season for midgies - which is always a bonus. Gordon sorted out some last touches to the course marking, runners started arriving, Kevin went to the top of the hill, and Julia's parents manned the timing. Pretty soon we were being set off up the hill.

We'd had time for  a recce so we knew that at least the 1st 1K was  steadily uphill. I was  happy with this as going uphill has been suiting me well. Jan Fellowes was setting off 1 second after me - so I knew I had to capitalise on this as best I could! I hadn't run since Wednesday so felt pretty fresh and eager to get going so I went off fairly hard. I could sense that I'd pulled away from Jan quite quickly and started to sight others up ahead. I followed Alistair Wiley for a  while but then when we turned off the stony path onto soft muddy trail I caught up to him. Likewise I went past a few others. Road runners who had been tricked into running a hill race! I wasn't sorry to see the top and Kevin was standing on a bench up there shouting encouragement. We ran round him and then headed off down. My only real issue was 2 out of the 3 knots on my right shoe had come undone and I was praying that the last one would not give way and make me have to stop. It held on though and the stony track gave way again to off-road trail. It was a great fun down hill. Near the end I passed the 2 guys who had set off first and I started to think that maybe I was going to win this thing! But then I heard the unmistakable sound of someone gaining effortlessly on me - in the form of Damien Theaker, closely followed by Helensburgh's Julia Henderson. When I made it to the finish line, three were already in so I was 4th but Julia disqualified herself as she was an organiser so I was honorary 3rd - for which I got a generous £20 token for Achilles Heel running shop in Glasgow. There were lots of prizes - I didn't know all the people so I haven't got the detail.

Julia's empire biscuits were absolutely delicious and some people had brought flasks with hot water so there was coffee and tea. If you were going to have a flash race, like a flash riot, it would be like this. Then we were going on for lunch near Balmaha so we tidied up and were away in minutes.

Its a great route and deserves to be run again before long. We've promised if its happening again we'll bring more Porties along with us.

On the way home on the motorway the heavens opened over Glasgow but the sun came out too so there were rainbows  everywhere - getting thrown up off the surface water on the road and double-arching across the sky. I had to harangue the Buchanan to get out his darn camera and get snapping. The driving was a bit tentative and the visibility was hellish but it was beautiful. Unfortunately we never got the shot I wanted    which was all the cars appearing to drive down a mirrored road, with the low golden sunlight and rainbows over Easterhouse. Oh well. Great wee adventure West.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A measly little run up the Braids and Blackford Hill

I had a most inconvenient appointment for occupational health this morning to get my MMR2 - yes, mostly babies get this, but I agreed to have it for the good of the nation, as measles is back on the rise. I've been on about this before.

I put off the last one so reluctantly thought I better go this time. The problem is Wednesday morning is a running morning as I have university all afternoon and evening. I thought maybe I should drive up to the Astley Ainslie and then use the fact I was in that part of town to go a nice run up the hills up there. I had some  sprints to start with which was to do with not getting parked and then being late rather than any new radical warm up. I was late so I was delighted that the nurse came and got me about 2 minutes after I arrived, ahead of all the other people in the waiting room. (They loved that.) I guess the schedule was running late and they were all early.

So anyway, that all went fine and I got up to the Braids for a run as planned. What a lovely morning! It was strange being in that civilised part of the world where dogs don't come and noise you up and everyone says good morning. My legs were a little stiff from double-racing at the weekend but not too bad. The path round there is absolutely filthy. When I got round to the path down to the Hermitage I went down there and up the other side and up the hill to the top of Blackford Hill and then back down and back up to the Braids again. Got scratched to pieces by thorn bushes, stung by something I never saw and covered in mud. Lovely.

So I'm told that the evidence that seemed to point to a link between autism and the MMR jabs was discredited. But I'm still going to keep an eye on myself. I'm suddenly feeling it might be good to read the phone book. Where did I put it?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Run of the Mill Hill Race (with a particular focus on the Porty Female Vets).

2nd picture by Allan Harley featuring me with Susan coming to get me!
3rd picture by Westie John G. Donnelly

It was the 2nd running of the Run of the Mill Hill Race today. Myself, Peter and Andrew Stavert set off at 10 am for Alva. There was some squabbling about route choice and some aspersions were cast about my driving! Honestly, its lucky I'm a patient person. Some woman in a BMW who undertook me got flashed by the speed camera - Yes, justice at last. Andrew thought I was being a bit of a fascist. Maybe I was.

We arrived at Alva without any major incidents or anymore getting lost. I had to protest about my passengers who were suggesting I might be going the wrong way without having done any concrete research themselves. As it happened I found a very neat little way to Alva. It wasn't rocket-science, it was sign-posted Alva. People think this weekend adventuring is light-hearted fun but it takes a firm resolve and a steady hand sometimes.

Anyway, there was an impressive array of Porties collecting in the glen. As a championship race there were points up for grabs. The senior male, vet male and female vet positions were to be hotly contested. Lets focus on the female vets as I am still (but only just) one of them. (Soon I'm going to be super). In it to win it were Ruth Johnstone - not mad about the hills but always tough. Emily Ramsay - will beat my ass at any distance on the road - also beat my ass at the 7 hills and at Crieff 10K....could she get me on those uphills? Probably more at home off-road, the limber and fast Shery Johnston...but I beat her at Carnethy...just. Could I do the same again and get far enough away on the uphills so's she couldn't catch back up to me? Only time would tell...

I remembered from last year the nasty stony road which I thought was a bit of an ankle twister. I tried to keep it steady here, ready to put in a real fight on the uphills. The weather forecast hadn't been very promising so I was wearing 2 vests, but I was already heating up uncomfortably. Shery was away out in front. Emily put in a determined move up the hill and I stuck behind and we went past Ruth. Then further up, and onto the hill, I went past Emily and (I'll never get to say this again so I'll "drop" it in here) her friend Nathalie Christie-Cooper.

Now I had to keep ploughing on if I meant it so tried to run up the hill to the next clump of folk, have a bit of a walking breather and then run past to the next clump. I repeated this over and over, sweat pouring out my pony tail and dripping down the backs of my legs. I had to do something about the heat I was generating so when I got stuck in a queue of people walking at a narrow bit took off both vests, got the under one out and put the top one with the number back on. That was better. A little further up the way I passed Shery who was in a bunch with a few good runners - I think Alayne Findlay, Susan Harley from Fife, a Carnethy runner I didn't recognise and Susan Johnston of Corstorphine.

I felt surprisingly good so I kept pressing on - into a part of the field where I didn't really belong - but you can't think like that. Eventually the steep climbing was over and we were on the more undulating stuff at the top. There's not much to say about the next few miles. It was a repeat over and over again of the same thing. At first it was good not to be going uphill but then I'd find the going tricky and I'd be fighting to keep a rhythm and not slow down but all the while feeling people closing in on me. Then I'd hear them, then they'd go past me, then we'd come to a hill and I'd make up some ground again. Repeat times 3.

Eventually we were topping out on the last hill and I turned around and tried to have a good look and see if I could see where Shery was. I saw someone a bit away that I thought might be her as they were wearing a white vest over a flouro yellow top. That was enough information for me! I wished I hadn't looked. I hared off as quickly as I was able.

Down the hill people went by in dribs and drabs. I wasn't doing terribly but I was losing ground and the only approach I could think of was to not let it get to me, keep going as fast as I could and not give up. So that's what I did. Down the grass, down the road, - someone went past in a vest and flouro top and it wasn't Shery - down the steep grass and rocks (on my arse for safety) and then down the gravel path, all the time running from the spectre of Shery. Did I dare hope I could finally capture 10 points in a championship race? I was DELIGHTED to cross the line first Porty lady. The people at the end must have wondered just what I thought I had to celebrate, but that didn't matter.

Shortly after Shery appeared, and shortly after that Emily. I was glad I hadn't dawdled! Not long after that came Ruth.

Derek Jablonski had snuck past in the latter stages again - this time not giving me as much warning as usual.

After a bit of post-race analysis (Gareth Greene came in 1st Porty, Michael Geggs came in 2nd...after that I'm not sure) we squeezed into the no.5 Inn for salty soup and prize-giving.

And then home. Better have a shower. Great day out.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

What's it called?

Whose idea was it to do this? I couldn't remember. We headed west into the deep unknown to do the National XC relays. WTF are they? None of us knew. Some people thought I would know, but I didn't. Where is Cumbernauld? We thought it was in Glasgow, turned out to be in Lanark or somewhere. I had been there some 25 years ago for a couple of hours while my friend Graham picked up something from his mum's house. He told me he grew up just down the road from Lloyd Cole. The centre of town was built like a ship or something.

So off we set, a convoy of 2 cars of Porties from Leith and Willie and Jenni were coming from Musselburgh. Amanda came wth Horatio who tried to bite my gear changing hand and eat a hanky box. Amanda thinks he might be exceptionally bright and that's why he acts like this....

We had a little detour before Cumbernauld. We found ourselves driving over the Clackmannanshire bridge. Hmmmm.....doesn't seem quite right... and had to do an about turn. Not that M876 you idiot. The other M876. There was shouting concealed as talking in the car. We got there in plenty of time though. Jenni had picked up our numbers and we figured out who should go when. Not that it makes much difference. I was glad to go first and get it over with.

4K, pretty much 2.5 miles. I think its the shortest distance I've ever raced. The course was a good course, all of it runnable but some good hills for a cross-country, for which I was grateful - and I didn't do as badly as I thought I might, so that was a bonus. 3 times I thought I was raising my game for the finishing straits only to find a twist in the route and a new uphill into the wind and I'd have to try to pull myself together again and keep on keeping on. There was a generous amount of Porty support which was much appreciated and Robert shouting "there's a Fifer on your tail" helped me make one last effort for the line to pip Innes Bracegirdle. Afterwards I had to spend some time doubled over to calm the desire to be sick.

Then Peter and I took Horatio out onto the field to take photos while Jenni ran and Amanda got ready for her third leg. H was trying to eat my laces and kept weaving in front of me because he is exceptionally bright. Still it was a great course to spectate, as it was easy to run from one part of the course to another without having to run as fast as the people who were racing.

Pretty soon it was the men's turn so Willie led out for the Porty team. We were slow getting organised to get back out and take photos, apologies Willie, but when we saw him he was looking strong and still moving up through the field right to the end. Andrew did some tremendous show-boating when we shouted him on, producing the best photographs of the day. Robert ran a solid 3rd leg but I only got one photo because by now I was out on the course on my own and wandering around with my oxygen starved brain, frozen and starving I lost my bearings and forgot where the course went. Older age doesn't come alone.

Finally Buchanan was set free from his cage and hurtled round at an impressive rate. Chastened by my recent experience of getting lost up the top of the hill I stayed near the end where I knew I could probably get a decent picture of him coming flying down the hill. By the time that happened the other Porties had caught up with me and we decided to get to the end and get the maximum out of him so shouted him on furiously for the last 200ms or so. Then we all realised it was a while since we'd seen Amanda or Horatio, but they turned up soon having got lost in the woods nearby and having had to ask the locals how to get back to the course. Horatio was probably lucky not to have been turned into a hat.

On the way home we got lost again and so came "via" Stirling. Sigh...not a day for navigation.
I should say the Fife Ladies vet team got silver medals today. Not sure what else happened yet.

Tomorrow - Run of The Mill Hill Race! We'll find out if the wine therapy works.

Monday, 17 October 2011


The Meadows at Lunchtime

...didn't look exactly like this, but nearly. Day off today and as I ached so much yesterday I went out on my bike instead of a run I thought that today I should try to have a bit of a speed session and get my act together. You know the type of thoughts...

Nothing was getting Buchanan out in the rain. I think he's afraid his glue will melt or something. So I went solo to the meadows via Arthur's seat with a view to doing something like 5 mile repeats at joke marathon pace with half mile recovery jogs.

At the foot of the radical road some of the big boys of hill racing were starting to gather for the Monday "7 hills of Arthur's Seat" run I have never yet had the courage to sign up for. It was teeming down. There was water standing on the grass despite it being on a good slope. Undeterred I made my way up the hill aux meadows.

Since there wasn't really any wind (despite the picture above) I decided to do it in reverse and run up the car side of the meadows - up and round the corner until Mr. Garmin beeped and then jog from wherever that was. It all started off well enough and I marvelled at how I could somehow manage to squeeze out a bit more speed when I set my mind to it. Rounding the corner the Garmin lost the plot (it always does at this bit) and was telling me I was going insultingly slowly. I was squeezed into the narrow and puddly cycle lane but looking nervously around for bikes as the path was choc-a-block with blind people with umbrellas. A ned did a fake move in front of me which made me have to dodge, hurt my dodgy hip and step in a puddle. I could have floored him. I realised that maybe my patience was stretched a bit thin as I thought "Honestly can the government not just eradicate these f*ck*rs." A rather final solution. I think neds are neds because they're angry inside, and they can sense it in you. I don't even see them when I'm in a better frame of mind.

It all kind of lost its charm after that. The people side of the meadows was annoying and the car side of the Meadows was - well - I might as well have been running up the motorway - and increasingly I wasn't generating any speed at all. Plus my legs didn't want to move anymore. The 2nd mile was slower than the 1st and the 3rd was the slowest yet so I decided to call it a day and run home.

Back at Arthur's Seat it was pleasantly empty. There was one of the good HBTs - I think it was Ray Ward, bounding along running at some crazy pace. Otherwise no-one. Why did I even go near the Meadows?
It was time to get home anyway. I was freezing.

I stopped off at the Scotmid to buy a can of soup to heat me up and could hardly handle my money or speak.

So anyway, its only a week after the marathon and I guess I'm still recovering. I thought I would go faster than that today. Boo.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Walsh you were here (nostalgia run)

Walshes 2008 South Lakes

I had a notion to wear my old Walshes out to the Pentlands today to see how they compared with the Mudclaws I'm so used to now. The last time I can definitely remember wearing them was in the south lakes at Nic Davies' birthday weekend.

I was  sore as I set off uphill today as we went for a short run yesterday which turned into  a speed session. My right hip is bugging me and I don't really know what's setting it off. It happened a month ago and then got a lot better - and then the marathon didn't seem to make it any worse but last night it was back to being sore to the touch and I couldn't lie on it in bed. So - I think some of the excitement of last weekend and a busy week has worn off and so today I was full of aches and pains. So it wasn't really a fair test for the Walshes.

They are definitely nice and light and neat. We ran past a herd of walkers with sticks on the Drove Rd who seemed like their average age was 70 - so that was very cheering and made us feel like we were just young things. There was a lot of mud - probably a combination of all the recent rain and all the feet of the Skyliners churning the ground up. As we had an audience we continued to run all the way up to the top of West Kip. The wind was pretty much in our faces so it was a relief to top out and start down the other side. Peter was raving on about the skies and taking photos but I was watching my feet  closely as usual and monitoring my dicky hip on the right hand side and a wobbly knee on the left. I also found out why I'd moved on from wearing these particular Walshes as the grips on the bottom were pretty worn and I did a couple of  dramatic one footed slides.

The Pentlands were looking splendid in a misty, muted autumnal kind of way. There was a purple haze over Black Hill which forced my to try to sing like Jimi Hendrix as we were now on a good downhill and I had the breath. Unfortunately I don't know any of the words apart from "Purple Haze, Nah nah nah, Nahnanah nahnahah" and then the guitar solo "wang wang wang, wang wang wang". I sensed by now some distancing behaviours from Peter. (He'd run off into the distance.) My Walshes were a slipping and a sliding and I wished I had my Inov8s on.

Down the side of Black Hill seemed more bouldery than the last time I was there and was also very wet and boggy. I kicked a stone and only very narrowly avoided doing a face plant on a bed of boulders. After that I started to realise that my legs were just plain knackered. A sad slow little trot along the hard road confirmed my thoughts that things had changed for the better since Walshes were de rigeur. There's something very nostalgic about them though. They have a pared down 50s look to them. A reminder of simpler days. I might put them through the washing machine and incorporate them into the rest of my life.

When I started to write this blog I thought I might try and write it from the Walshes point of view. Something like (with a Northern English accent of course), "We've been stuck in 't dusty bloody hall for 3 years and never seen owt and then suddenly there we are out in 't blinding light of day. No bloody Citroen ax anymore we noted. No, now they've got a Berlingo! Bloody twats. And I can tell  you the missus hasn't got any lighter in the last 3 years! Crushed we were! And she hasn't got any faster either! We were designed for light-limbed young lads who ran out in 't fell herding sheep all day not great hairy bloody slow twats!"

I sympathised with some of their views but in the end they were just too abusive.

Mileage up to 45 miles for the week. I'd like to hold at around 40 but I guess I better be guided by my niggles and aches. I'm hoping I might feel fresher tomorrow and we might go and do something longer in the hills. Next things are xc on Saturday, Run of the Mill Hill race on Sunday, a trail handicap race through in the west the following weekend and then the GlenOgle 33 miler the weekend after that.