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?

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