Monday, 25 February 2013

Rad Road Reps

Yesterday, while people were away at the Devilla Forest Races, I did a hilly 10 miler round Arthur's Seat, in the middle of the day, for the brief time that the sun was out. (It still snowed a bit too.)

Today, having finished my morning's tasks and then diddling about at home all afternoon instead of doing  the course work I should be doing, Peter and I settled on going and doing some reps of the rad road. It took us quite a while to get out the house. He was tired from yesterday's racing. I was tired from him snoring all night. It was warm next to the computers and c-c-c-old out there.

It was a beautifully still afternoon and evening though. We hit the streets just as rush hour was at its frenzied worst. It was good to get into the park and away from the cars. Running up the rad road made me forget all about the cold. It is a while since I have been up there. I'd forgotten how steep it is, especially at first. It's a very in your face, short, sharp, shock kind of challenge though. The first 200 or so meters are the steepest by far and then it levels off to a more manageable gradient where you can get your breath back a bit - then the last final twist of the road is steep again at the end.

On the first rep, the people were a problem. There were really quite a lot of people out, taking in the sunset and the views. Standing around in the path and getting in the way of wheezing runners. Just plain selfish.
The reward at the top was a run down the other side and then down Hunter's Bog. This is a very nice angled descent and a pleasure as long as nobody tries to race you and spoils it...

The second rep, the people were thinning out and the city was lighting up down below. It felt easier than the first one and I was a little disappointed to see I'd taken 20 seconds longer at the top - maybe why it was easier. Still it wasn't a race, this was all about survival for me. My lungs have definitely not worked this hard in 6 months. The second time down past Hunter's Bog the light was getting pretty low and we decided we better run down the side of the road after the last one. A heron stood in the middle of the bog looking picturesque. I think Peter maybe even got  a picture.

The last rep was under a blushing pink sky. It  was getting tricky to see the stones underfoot, perhaps why I was another 10 seconds slower up this time. I felt great at the top though. I think I am now a bit afraid to really push in case I blow a gasket, but I certainly taxed my cardiovascular system and all my gaskets are still fine as far as I know.

As we were coming back onto London Road we saw that an enormous full moon had just risen over the rooftops. Perfect end to a very pretty run.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The Leaden Light of the Lammermuirs

Pre-new job, pre-popped ribs, I booked a week's annual leave in February and a week's annual leave in March, planning to use them as high mileage weeks in preparation for the Highland Fling.

The popped ribs extended my weeks of low mileage so, although I hadn't calculated how much running I would be doing by now, I certainly thought it would be more than the 25 I knocked out last week. Still, with some free time the thought was still in my head that I could get more running done this week.

18 very slow ones on Sunday seemed quite manageable and I recovered quickly. Peter has a race this coming  Sunday so we didn't want to go long running tomorrow - so we settled on today. The weather reports all seemed to be saying that the weather would be better earlier in the day. Not just better but in fact they were showing clear skies and sunshine. "Why don't we", I said, wondering if I should finish the sentence, "Get up REALLY early and go up the Lammermuirs for the sunrise? It could be spectacular!"

To my astonishment, Peter considered it and then agreed! I didn't expect him to go for this at all. He prefers to go out in the afternoon, and then he likes to prove that this was the RIGHT  decision by saying we got the best part of the day. People that get up early to run actually make him angry. He finds them self-righteous. So I didn't expect him to be agreeing - nor did I really want him to, as, since I stopped working at the hospital I have not had to get up uber-early and I have never once wished that I did have to. Still, since he'd said it, I went along with it. I never expected it to happen. But he seemed to be taking it awfully seriously, even making sandwiches last night. (Honey and Peanut Butter).
This morning, when my alarm went off at 5, I felt it was my last chance to call his bluff. Surely he would turn over and say "This is a bad idea" - but he didn't, and once I'd had a cup of coffee I was committed. I wouldn't be getting back to sleep so I might as well go and run round the Lammermuirs.

It was more than the earliness putting me off. This is a super-hilly course which starts off with 2 miles pretty much straight uphill. I've been struggling on the uphills and more than the physical difficulty of getting up them I didn't really want to get into the emotional territory of feeling frustrated and angry that would inevitably come if I was having a bad time.

The dark and the earliness actually seemed like a help. The whole thing had a dream-like quality, it wasn't too horribly real. We were out in the car in the freezing early morning by 6.30am and heading up the A1 to the hills. As the sky lightened there seemed to be an awful lot of cloud up there - hard to believe there would soon be a dazzling sunrise transforming the sky with it's crimson fire.  Hard to believe because it wasn't going to happen. The only fire was in the pants of the weathermen. A grey, grey dawn was indistinguishable from the grey sky that had preceded dawn and the grey skies that were to come later in the morning too.

But, hey, we were there. We set off out and up.

I found if I took my running like someone new to mountain biking, I had a pace akin to using the granny ring. For a long time I have been too proud to use my actual granny ring, and have been too proud to run THIS slowly, but THIS  slowly was exactly how fast I needed to go if I was going to keep running up hill rather than break into a walk. And it has to be good training for a long, long run like the Fling. (I don't know if I'll make the Fling, but I still intend to try to get there training-wise.) After a few miles I was still feeling okay and started to feel confident that this run was going to be okay. As we approached Carfraemill I was thinking it would be awfully nice to have some hot coffee and something sweet to eat. As luck would have it, the hotel there was open and Peter was willing to pay so we had hot coffee and short-bread while admiring the monkeys on the wallpaper and the print of the sofa and the "no touch" paper towel dispenser in the toilets.

It was still a very cold, still, grey morning but we were feeling cheery after this. Peter doesn't drink coffee generally so it has a noticeable effect on him. A mile into our journey he declared "Look at that lovely bunch of grasses coming out of the snow. Look how pointy they are!" I turned around to see some buff dried out old grass reaching forlornly for the skies. The 2nd part of the journey, back into the hills, always has a wildness which makes this run feel adventurous. There are rivers across the road to cross, fewer and fewer habitations, often lots of the bones of small animals and birds litter the path. In the summer you tend to see rabbits and sometimes even stoats but there wasn't that much wildlife around today. Then the path heads steeply up again. I was down-hearted until I remembered my granny ring and then I found I could manage.

Up here on the higher ground we saw a few hares in white winter coats. There was very little snow so they were quite conspicuous. We hoped we'd see more at the top of the hill and sadly our hopes came true as we came across 10 dead hares all lined up in a row. Presumably trapped or shot or something. I hope they were going to be eaten. A bit further on we came close to the wind farm. There seems to be a lot more mills since I was last here. None of them were moving and they looked surreal.

By now my sore ribs were getting more sore and my legs were getting achy so I was glad we were on the home stretch. The last few miles went by relatively quickly though and soon we were back at the car.

In the nice warm car on the way home we both started to get pretty sleepy so soon after getting in I went for a l-o-n-g sleep. This is the life.

So my mileage for the week (unless I go out tomorrow) is 52 miles, the highest in ages and more than double  my mileage last week. That's what the experts say isn't it? Increase your mileage gently by about 100% a week to avoid injury?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


Image nicked from here

I have a week of annual leave from my job at the Sexual Health Clinic. I have some course work to do and some reading for tomorrow but I have all day to do it so I thought I'd get the day started with a run. I had a notion that I wanted to go up to the Meadows and do some kind of speed session, however lame, so I figured out how to get the Garmin to time me to run "hard" for 3 minutes and recover for 2. Times 5. The science behind this was that I felt I could face 5 X 3 minutes efforts. Because of my sore ribs (which are getting a lot better), I can't wear my heart rate monitor, and I think this is probably a good thing. So I was gauging "hard" by feel.

I wasn't sure what the Garmin would show me during an interval - and as it turned out all it showed me was the time counting down, so I had no clue as to my pace either.

It was a beautiful sunny, icy day. A good day for it. I haven't pushed hard in some time and it felt pretty awful. I had forgotten how to do it. Breathe and don't think. It felt better in the last 2 or 3 efforts but then as I discovered later, I'd slowed down for them and that was probably why.

When I'd finished I had a look at the numbers - they were pretty bad - I'm not telling you how bad - but then I now remember all the times I thought I was running badly and in retrospect I now think I was running pretty well. So if my running future is not just to be a repetitive sequence of me thinking I'm doing badly only to find out later that things can get worse, I think I have to take a radically different attitude. So all I'm saying about today is that I ran pretty well!

Tiny little Nicola Duncan was flying round the Meadows in her pink shorts while I was out there. She didn't see me, but with our speed differential, she probably mistook me for a tree.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

WARNING - Sweary Words - If you don't like 'em, don't read on...



I set off on a solo 18 miler, from North Berwick, along the road to Aberlady and then back along the beach to North Berwick. Peter was going to meet up with long, tall Ben Kemp and run with him from Edinburgh to North Berwick, and we would try to all meet up in NB - other wise it would be the train for Buchanan.

I set off on stiff Carnethy legs feeling a bit grim, still non-plussed by just how rubbish my running remains. About 5 miles into it I found myself thinking about my young nephews calling themselves, each other and everyone else "Fucktards" and it made me laugh and lifted my mood. It was no road to Damascus moment but it was cheering.

For the rest of the run, I took little seriously. I wondered if the people I was meeting along the way at Aberlady Bay were fucktards or not. You'd have to ask my nephews. I don't know what the criteria are.

Further along the beach I was knackered but there was the most  beautiful and still sunset so I didn't hurry. I was pretty sure Peter and Ben were going to be ages anyway. When I finally got back to the van at NB I phoned Peter and he and Ben were in Dirleton. They made it to NB just after dark, looking pale and sweaty.

It was a lovely day.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Carnethy 5

I ran so well I took a bow at the end

Ooooh I can hardly bring myself to blog about today's Carnethy 5. But here goes.
I gave myself 2 days off beforehand so I could be as fresh as possible for today. And my ribs weren't too bad, I felt them after rather than during the race.

On the way up Scald Law I was well below the top as I saw 22 minutes tick by....I've been at the top in 21 before. By West Kip it was 40 minutes as I was going up, and I knew full well I'd been down the other side and through the gate by that time before.

Oh it was going to be slow!

The trudge up Carnethy seemed eternal, and I tried a few times to put in a bit of a run, but to no great effect.
The run down the other side wasn't much better.

Before the descent I saw my previous "worst time ever" of 1h24m go by. That was made in 2001 on Carnethy, which was then my very first hill race.

I finally crossed the line in 1hr 34mins. My new worst time ever.

I could revel in this badness if I was convinced that that would stay my worst time ever, but there are probably new lows to come.

I have to counter my utter race-sickness by remembering that running is my friend. You can't give it up. Look what's happened to Brendan Foster.

In the rest of the world news, I can't believe Oscar Pistorius has killed his girlfriend and ruined his own life. Also, instead of doing the reading for my course work I've been rebelling and instead reading a biography of Timothy Leary "I have America Surrounded". It's a ripping good read so far.

If I'm not too creaky tomorrow I'm going to go a longish run on my own in the sunshine.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

East Linton Lope

The team were at their unfocused worst today. Aiming to get out earlyish and maybe run 18 miles from NB to Aberlady on the road and back along the coast, we dillyed and dallyed and were only just leaving the house about 1pm.  By this time I'd trimmed our ambitions down to a 10 miler from Gullane. We hadn't been down that way in a while. It would be nice. We could extend to 12 miles if we were having too much fun. I think the problem was it was just such a grey, overcast day. Not BAD for running but nothing was calling us out the house either.

We set off out the A1 to get to Gullane and got chatting and somehow forgot to watch out for the turn-offs - til before we knew it we were arriving at the near side of Dunbar. We had a hurried re-think and decided to drive to East Linton and run 7 and a half miles into Dunbar and then back. We just about had time to do it before dark.

I could be wrong but I don't think I'd run there since 2011 when I had a sore heel. All that was coming back to me...trying to build up the miles as quickly as possible for the Highland Fling once my heel started letting me. Grinding out the muddy miles on grey winter days. The unevenness of the off-road was making my ribs ache and I'm definitely compensating somehow or other as I was getting hip and buttock aches I don't usually get. I'm guessing I wasn't particularly good company as by half way through I'd settled into a surly kind of determination to just keep going and try to get back to East Linton before dark. Luckily there were distractions for Peter in the form of llamas, donkeys, pigs and goats.

Back at East Linton it was a relief to ease off my back muscles in the car. We set off home and... I don't know...just kind of went a strange way that had us come down a steep brae into North Berwick. So we took the coastal route home.

Peter's managed to get a lift so I'm ducking out of the XC. My exciting plan is to get out for a 5 miler or something early doors and then spend the rest of the day getting caught up on some course work...I know what you're thinking. I AM rock and roll.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


No, not Guernica, Arnica! Haha. That was probably funnier in my head than it is in real life. Oh well.
Anyway, the thing about arnica is it's a "folk remedy" for bruises, sprains and strains. There have been a few clinical trials of it but no strong evidence from them that it works. The trials were "methodologically weak" according to the Cochrane Library folk. So what does that tell you? Not much. Scientist say no.

In the meantime I have had these killer ribs and paracetamol was doing nothing for me and I can't take ibuprofen because I'm still taking aspirin since my heart thingy, because if I take ibuprofen I can have a "major haemorrhage" bleeding from my gut. Peter says I'm a pussy for worrying about things like this.

It got me thinking about what else I can do, apart from sit around being sore and making groaning noises every time I move. So I decided to throw some non-science at the problem and got myself some arnica homeopathic tablets AND some arnica cream, and started using both of them on Sunday. By the end of the day I suddenly had DOMs without any reason for them. I'd run 15 miles the day before, but on a pretty flat course, and I've run an equivalent lengthed run for the last 3 weekends so there was nothing special about that run. But I had these DOMs anyway, which lasted into the next day. And my ribs got a lot better. They're still pretty nippy at times but much less raw and sore than they were.

So it might be just timing, and they were due to get better. Or it might be that there was 100mg of placebo in my arnica, who knows.

Had a nice run this morning and I was happy to even see a few sub 9 minute miles in there!

Oddly, I heard yesterday that two other members of PRC are out with bashed ribs at the moment. Ian MacMillan came off his bike while drunk and Gillian MacKelvie had such a bad chest infection she broke her ribs coughing. Must be something ribby in the air....Better go. Showers to have, universidad to go to.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Dalmeny 15

It was a nice, sunny day today at last. An easy four miler the other morning gave me hope that I'd be okay to run despite whatever I've done to my ribs, as long as I took it easy. We set off from the (unfashionable) east end of the promenade and ran along, past Cramond towards S. Queensferry through the Dalmeny estate, until we'd run 7.5 miles, turned around and ran back again.

There was only a slight headwind on the way out, which was great as it was at our backs when we needed it.

I have been sore with my rib thing most of the time since Wednesday and running wasn't the worst thing for it. It's absolutely worst on my bike, I think because I'm at a stretch. Every bump in the road, and there are lots, jars it. Every time I have to stop at a light or set off again it hurts. I was too dim-witted to check the bus time table in time so I was committed to getting to work that way. I have never taken a bus to get there and have no idea how to do it! By the time I got to work on Friday morning, weaving through the posh school drop off there was a nearly constant stream of swear words dropping from my lips. And I was late.

I think it might be getting a wee bit better. It's hard to say.

Thankfully I've wriggled out of doing the Forfar multi-terrain half marathon tomorrow and Peter is travelling up with his brother.

I am absolutely not thinking about what my newest and stupidest injury will mean for doing the XC next week or Carnethy the week after because I can't do anything about it and I'm actually quite grateful I can run at all. It has come to this!

"Unfortunately" (I need a new emoticon for this - a liar's face with shifty eyes and a forked tongue ) I won't be able to join in with Graham Henry's 38 mile ultra-runners training run tomorrow.

It was quite nice running along in the sunshine today, listening to the birds sing and bothering not a whit what speed I was running at. Maybe that's the future.