Saturday, 23 March 2013

Dream of the Silver Maserati

Rad Road Reps

NB2E run

Quite a tale to tell, so I'll try and keep it as streamlined as I can. Last night I thought I better do SOMETHING. The 10 miler round Arthur's Seat in the dark and the freezing cold wind didn't appeal at all, so when Peter suggested we do 3 rad road reps instead I went for it. At least it would be different... It was after 7pm and I already wanted my dinner when we headed out into the thin snow, like sand in our faces, and I couldn't really believe I was doing it...but do it I did. I did my rad road reps fairly conservatively. That's a kind way of putting it. But to be fair I couldn't really see where I was putting my feet.

It was grand once it was over and made me enjoy tea all the more. It was only a bit over 7 miles rather than 10 but had been more diverting and it seems peevish to quibble. I could have just NOT gone out after all. The idea behind having done that was that I wouldn't really have to go out today at all. I firmly intended to get on with stuff at home. Do some washing, do my course work, do other stuff, maybe even hoover! So I went to bed with a clear conscience, feeling that running 40 miles for the week wasn't, err, "ultra", but it would do.

Then I had a busy night dreaming. First of all I dreamt that Peter and I were running the WHW race. 50 miles into it I realised that we were only running the Highland Fling. "We've only got 3 miles to go!" I thought, and went to tell Peter but he'd disappeared off somewhere. We'd been running for 11 hours and 22 minutes so I knew that I could actually run the Fling quicker than last time. But where was P? I grew more and more frustrated and enraged as I waited for him to arrive back as people ran past me. Then I woke up.

The next dream I dreamt that I was in a hotel and I was telling a girl there that there were only 3 more miles to run. "I doubt it!" she said - which annoyed me, because I'd run it before and should know if there was 3 miles to go or not. Somehow, though, I couldn't get it together to get out of the hotel and it was getting later and later...soon it was night. We needed somewhere to sleep the night and Jim Bruce of Stornoway Running Club said it was no problem because his aunty owned a huge house with lots of spare bedrooms and we'd be welcome to stay the night. That meant we didn't have to worry about that. He was going to give us a lift to where we were going to set off and run these 3 miles that still needed running. We went out to his car and it was a silver Maserati (I have no idea what a Maserati looks like) and it only had bucket seats in the back so there was no room for us. Still, we were going to squeeze in when I remembered I'd forgotten we had left something back at his aunty's house and went back for it. All the time there was this growing sense of time urgency....

So when I finally did wake up I had an urgency in me about Fling training. Gone was my plan to take it easy and go out on Sunday. "Today we take the train to North Berwick and go all the way round the coast home". I decided. When Peter surfaced he was up for it. He only had quite a short turnaround from breakfast to running up the road to get the train. The wind was sharp as a knife but we knew it should be behind us for most of our journey. I felt surprisingly jolly inside as somehow my mojo had come and found me. It has been missing in action for a long time.

When we got off the nice warm train at North Berwick the wind stabbed into us. A short run into it and down onto the beach and it was behind us and we were better able to appreciate what the wind has been up to. The beach was a changed thing. There were far more stones than there had been, and huge drifts of sand in sinuous patterns and out at sea the waves were towering  and crashing in. It was a high energy day. Both of us were high with it. The wind was so strong it was fairly easy to run fast although I didn't want to do too much of this early on. I figured if we went all the long ways we know we could stretch the run out to 27-28 miles which would be significantly better long training than I have managed so far.

Down the coast a few miles (or up the coast I suppose) we saw three runners like us. Runners in lots of clothes with rucksacks. One of whom turned out to be Portobello's Bernie Devoy. So we had a bit of chit-chat for a while although they were much too fast for me. After a while we parted company. They were heading to Aberlady where they had transport.

The sea was pretty far out but not quite far out enough to get down below the rocks in the transition from Gullane to Aberlady Bay so this entailed some quite daring climbing over seaweedy rocks and then dashing across the sand in between the big surging waves.

By Aberlady we were well ready for quelque chose pour manger et pour boire. Today I wasn't taking any chances. I had purchased a thermos thingy for 0.35l and it was filled with coffee and sugar. It is a silver cylinder, a nice looking thing, but I have formed the unfortunate association that it reminds me of the devices in Papillon used to "store" valuables. I'll let someone else tell you...

This unfortunate association has stuck and my new silver thermos whatsit has become known as the charger. But I carry it in my ...rucksack. That's not a euphemism.

It was too cold to hang around for long at Aberlady and it took a good mile to get the feeling in my hands back. I had taken my gloves off and sat on them to keep my bum warm in Aberlady (we were sitting on stone steps, trying to hide from the wind) and also so I could eat.

What to say? The miles went by. The pace slowed, inevitably, still I wasn't the desperate snivelling state I had been a couple of weeks ago. If I felt any pressure to speed up I threw it out. It just wasn't helping. I allowed myself 2 walk breaks. This set Peter off a bit but I did't pay any attention to him. None of his business. I had a 5 minute walk break at 19 miles and another one at 23 miles which coincided with the beginning of the Porty Prom. It was long since dark by then. Peter didn't complain because it gave him a chance to try and take pictures of the lights at night. I realised around then that if I managed the whole 27 (It was clear by then it was going to be 27) then I would have run 67 miles for the week. It has been a long time since I have done that. I certainly didn't do it last year. This, plus the fact I have plodded the last 3 miles back from the bowling club in terrible shape after many a Porty run session made the last few miles seem doable. Finally we were on the Leith Links and then finallier we were home. Peter went over to get a bottle of wine from the Coop and I made my way up the stairs. So that was about an hour ago. You'd think maybe we'd have eaten by now? Nope. Peter is looking at his photos and I am blogging. Get a grip people!

It was a good day though. This is the first time I've had an idiot notion and then the oomph to follow through in quite a while and I am feeling celebratory.

 lots more photos will appear on P's blog.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Sleety Run

I had a day's annual leave to take before the end of the financial year, and I settled on this day, of all days. Sleet blowing in a 20mph easterly. 1 degree centigrade, says Metcheck, feels like -5. Hooray.
I wasn't going to go anywhere. I have stuff to do. But then my new rucksack arrived from Wiggle.

It's an Inov8 race elite 8 litre pack. I chose it because it was relatively cheap and it has bottle holders at the front instead of a bladder system. I can't be bothered with bladders and cleaning them out. They're kind of intransigent. Bottles are easy to fill up en route, or empty out if you find you're not drinking.

So then I wanted to go out for a run to try out my new kit.

I dressed up very warmly and never regretted it. To take the wind into account and minimise the amount of time sleet would be blowing directly into my face I thought I'd run up round the side of Arthur's Seat and then along the Meadows and onto the canal. The wind should be behind me all the way up to Colinton Dell at which point I'd set off back down the WOL and the trees and what-not would provide some cover.

As often happens, just after I was despairing of ever having an enjoyable run again, today's run sort of clicked into place. The canal was a visual representation of a Smith's song. Everyday is like Sunday.
At 10 miles I was fading and starting to think about running to Haymarket and getting the train. To stem this tide of wanting to give up I took a break just near Murrayfield and went into the local Co-op. I found some bored and friendly staff in there. The guy who was sweeping the floor told me I was "hardcore" and that he used to run but it buggared his knees and what he'd really liked was triathlon. The only other customer was buying 4 cans of Carlsberg and I suspected he was further up the "hardcore" scale than I was. He was away off to sit in the street and drink them!

I settled on a can of Irn Bru and an insubstantial Bueno bar, to cheer me home, and stood at the bus shelter and had my pavement picnic. I didn't used to take lunch breaks in the middle of my runs...but you have to roll with it. I am a changed runner.

The last few miles were a thrash, but they always are. I tried to avoid bits where the WOL was possibly closed and so got stuck at the posh bit just off Belford Road, trying to get down to the river. I went down the wrong road and circled for a while, cursing amongst the expensive houses and cars as it was quite hilly and I wasn't in the mood for this.

Home at last and a big proper lunch. Because Peter's out at work I have had a shot of his Camerabag program for jazzing up photos. If I'd known I could make everything look so austere I would have got in about the graveyard on the way home. Maybe a trip to Warriston is on the cards.

14 and a bit miles anyway which takes my weekly total up to 26 and a bit so far. It would be nice if it was dry tomorrow.

Monday, 18 March 2013


Ultra training is not going ever so awesome. Although it was a slow slog I thought last Sunday's 23 would be a good springboard into a higher mileage week. But then I didn't run on Monday (tired and busy) or Tuesday (tired and busy). Still, Wednesday morning I knocked out a 'kind of' hard session - running to Musselburgh and doing  intervals on the way back, of 4 minutes hard and 3 minutes easy. Hard felt hard - it was into a cold, westerly wind. Not fast. So I was sitting at 33 miles for the week. Could I capitalise on this?

It turns out I couldn't. Thursday I was ....tired. Friday night I forced myself out for 10 round the seat in the dark. Okay, not a high mileage week but I thought if I had Saturday off then by Sunday I'd have some energy and I could do another long one.

So last week's totals were 43 miles spread over 3 runs. Not great, but maybe not that bad.

Then on Saturday (the weather was dismal), I was levering myself out of my chair where I'd been sitting doing course work on the computer when I pulled something in my left hip/lower back. Unbelievably, I seemed to be rather crippled! Peter made a lot of jokes about how much older I've been getting recently. I can only agree. That difficult transition from sitting to standing getting the best of me. By the evening it was still really sore and it looked like the next day was going to be a write-off. Off I went wearily to bed.

In the morning it seemed a bit better but it was pissing down outside. We put off a planned morning run until the afternoon when some brightness was forecast, so at about 3pm we were arriving in North Berwick, planning to run east along the coast to Aberlady and then run back the roads - our usual route in reverse.

Neither of us felt particularly special getting out of the car. The sun did come out, which was good, but it was  icy cold, and yet I was over dressed. I had lead in my legs and it was a huge struggle to run.  By Gullane I rebelled and told Peter there was no way I was running 18 miles and my preference would be for drinking coffee and eating cakes in Gullane before tackling the remaining 4 miles on road back to the car. He wasn't for it. I could at least run back along the coast. Without coffee or cake. Sigh. It was a long slow plod back into the cold easterly wind. In fact I don't think I've ever run that slowly.

It isn't encouraging. Which is a shame because in my head I'm quite up for doing the Fling. I've just ordered a new super-light rucksacky thing off the web and an insulated cup so I can have a coffee and a cake at Beinglass just when I'm needing it and then carry my empty insulated cup the last 12 miles in my new super-light ruck-sack. Good plan.

And now bleak, wet sleetiness is blowing past the window as I type. Think I'll go for a nap.

Some more photos over chez Pierre

Sunday, 10 March 2013

OMG, 23 with AGH

I was planning to get the 1st train to North Berwick and then run home with the wind behind me. I'd had a brain fritz though and thought it was only 23 miles. WRONG! It's 23 on the road but quite a few more on the beaches and trails.

Anyway, my friend Amanda (AGH) said she was going to meet me at NB station and run back with me, at least part of the way. Both of us are meant to be training for the Fling and are way behind. Amanda's a much better runner than me even at my very best for ultras is all about time on feet...isn't it?

The plan of running back from NB was to get the stiff north-easterly and snow behind us - and that was a pretty good plan. It was baltically cold. Then from time to time the sun came out and tricked us into taking things off - then the dark clouds swept over with snow and hail.

The first 10 miles or so were fine and passed very quickly. They were also the nicest miles and we knew that. Heading back into "civilisation" is always a difficult direction to go in, even with the wind behind.

At Aberlady, sadly, there was pas de pain au chocolat and the coffee machine isn't fixed yet. I had a nasty cold banana with a hard bit in it and a little lion bar. And a few mouthfuls of diet 7 up. It was hard to drink because it was too cold. When we set off again I had a little while dedicated to burping back bubbles making AGH declare I was just like her dogs.

In truth I was pretty much done by then, but couldn't think of any excuse to bail. From there the difference in AGH and I's abilities became more and more apparent. She'd run off ahead and then come back to me - looking fresher every time. I tried not to feel sorry for myself (lie! I felt sorry for myself), whilst shuffling along like Eddie Izzard. At the invisible line between Seton Sands and the Pans we stopped at the Coop as AGH has discovered the chocolate twists they sell there. I thought I didn't want anything - but I did want coffee, or maybe I just wanted to stand still, so we went into a coffee shop over the road for a carry out coffee. Then we hid behind a wall to get out of the wind. We weren't the first people to do this as a hole in the wall was stuffed with Marlboro cigarette butts. I quite fancied one but Amanda said no.

I had half of Amanda's chocolate twist (she did insist) - my they are delicious - but I'm sure they're making them smaller than they used to. Then I span out my coffee so long Amanda made me start walking. There was a pattern emerging. OMG AGH, don't be hard on me. I'd have quite happily bailed at this point - about 17 miles by now, but I still couldn't think of an excuse. The miles ahead didn't bear thinking about.

About now I began to realise my error in thinking about the distance from NB to Edinburgh. So Amanda began to formulate a new plan that would give me my 23 miles and end up at her house in Musselburgh. "Don't worry too much about the 23 miles AGH" I tried to tell her - but she was determined. After the first lagoon in Musselburgh and before the 2nd one I begged for mercy. "Can we just go the very straightest easiest way?" She relented. I was utterly Izzard by then. As we arrived at Amanda's house. (Up a hill!) the Garmin was showing 22.8 miles so we ran up to the top of the street and back to make it up.

Job done. I wish I could have been a little more heroic about it. Never mind. That was super-hard. I could have got a train but Amanda ran me home and now I am still sitting in all my layers and better do something about it. Peter is blogging his 60 mile weekend as we speak. I'm quicker at blogging than him anyway.

You'll notice the camera never came out again after Aberlady, where there was an impressive knitted Easter scene.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Symposium on Failure

Last week's running aspirations did not really pan out as I'd hoped. It went thus...
Sunday night's 18ish miles made me feel I really had a jump on the running week as far as distance was concerned. Which was just as well, it was going to be a busy week. I had the usual Monday things plus a meeting with my placement manager which I had to write up later. Tuesday I was starting a new job. I was delighted about the new job but still all Monday night I had the feeling that something was sitting on my stomach. The horror of the new. I didn't really sleep.

Tuesday went fine but it was a long day and I had a thumping headache by the end of it. Still I had to catch up on my reading for university the next day. It was a kind of potted history of homosexuality. Quite interesting. I slept better.

Wednesday the filthy weather had come as promised. I'd hoped to do some kind of speed work in the morning before university and had sought advice from Willie Jarvie for ideas about new work-outs to do. Willie gave me some suggestions but they would need a bit of thought and planning so I set them aside for when life is less tight. As there was a nasty easterly blowing I ran to the far end of Portobello Prom into the wind and then ran 3 mins hard, 2 mins easy X 5 on the way back and then jogged the rest. As I've mentioned before, when you set the 310XT Garmin to do intervals, you don't see any of your data; speed or heart-rate, so I had no idea what "hard" was til I got home and uploaded the session onto the computer. The best I managed was 8 minute miles. I was a bit fed up about that. I've run a whole bloody marathon at an average pace quicker than that, how can that be the best that I can squeeze out for 3 minutes?

I didn't get in from uni until 8.30pm or so. Peter got in from running club shortly afterwards. We ate and it was time for bed. I was going in for work early the next day as they have a meeting early on Thursday mornings. The day went fine again, but being new I am still trying to get my head round things so it's still an odd kind of hard work. Hard work that produces nothing. To others it might have looked like I was just sitting on my ass and following other people around.... I got home and I was just going to relax but there was nothing for tea so I went to Tesco's instead and then while Peter was cooking I did more course work. I won't bore you with the details but I have to write about a whole variety of facets of my experience in placement as a trainee counsellor. There is a section on difference and diversity that just brings me to a full stop. I don't know what it is about it. I feel like writing "Everybody is a bit different and it's good to be aware of it. I find if I listen to what people say rather than assuming I already know what they think I am more likely to grasp their reality." I feel patronised by the question and I feel that in even writing about diversity I am being patronising and that it requires generalising in an unhelpful way. I wrote some pish and moved on.
Then I woke up in the middle of the night from 2.30am until 4.30am thinking about it.
I also realised, while I was having a good middle of the night think, that my weekly mileage was only standing at 25 miles. I hatched a plan to come home from work on Friday and run 15 miles. It was an ugly plan born of desperation.

Friday morning I wasn't too bright. Not at all keen to be awake. Work went fine. I was a bit of a spare part but hopefully I'm absorbing things and will soon become useful. Probably as soon as I take some responsibility for something. I've been through this process before.

Peter was going off on a "bad boys weekend" which consisted of getting a train to Milngavie on Friday morning, meeting up with a lot of Carnethies, running 26 ish miles along the WHW and then staying the night somewhere and then running back the next day. So when I got home from work the flat was cold and empty, the dishes were unwashed, I had the prospect of my 15 mile run, I was tired, my head ached. I went to bed for a sleep. When I got back up, after writing a little more about diversity I listened to the wind blowing the rain against the side of the building and looking out into the dark acknowledged to myself - "there's no way in hell I'm going out in that." So there we had it.

I microwaved my tea and while I was at it had a glass or two of red and surfed around on the computer, sitting in my pyjamas. I googled failure and discovered it wasn't as bad as I thought - just the "state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective". Is that so bad? I also listened to some guy on TED talks going on about how trial and error is a better way of finding out what works than slavishly following a theory. Not that relevant really but I listened to it anyway. My running goals for the week were rather ill-defined. I just meant to run "more". Then I remembered that there was a bottle of champagne in the fridge. A gift from my last boss. I had had one glass out of it and then used one of Peter's collection of port corks to re-cork it. A symbol for my life at present. All the celebration is corked up. No time for it!

I don't usually drink much these days and I will often stop at one glass of wine because I don't want any more. The red wine had gone down fine though and I found I wanted some of my champagne. There was still plenty of fizz in it and the cork came out with a good healthy bang. One glass. Delicious. Then I found I was hungry so ended up having 6 rice-cakes and marmite and another glass of champagne. I was now in binge drinking territory, sitting in my pyjamas, surfing on the net, listening to the smug sounds of Classic Fm. Rock and roll.

So last night I slept well and deeply. Today I ran 10 miles round the seat, feeling a bit hot and billious but otherwise fine. I think tomorrow, if the nasty easterly persists I'll have to get a train to North Berwick and run home. What puts me off are the last 8 miles or so from the Pans into the city. Things get progressively uglier.

Only 35 miles for the week anyway. Not really enough for Highland Fling Training. I don't know how I'm going to get much more done though unless "they" improve the weather. Or maybe I can take some annual leave or something and rack up more miles. If you've read all this, well done.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Gullane Night Run

The day dawned an uninpiring grey outside. I got up and tinkered about and did some reading that I needed to do and got some things ready for the week. Then played Scrabble on Facebook. Finally Peter got up and started to make noises about "this long run" that we were doing. Oh no. I told him the only long run I could face was the North Berwick 18 miler on the strength of getting pain au chocolat and a coffee at mile 7 at Aberlady. No negotiation allowed.

By the time we got to North Berwick it was after 3pm. Yes that's right after 3pm. It was with heavy heart and legs that I set off. "This is going to be bad" I predicted. Peter took off like a horse bolting from its stable. I think he knew if he was in ear-shot I would either moan or blame him for this. So he ran off a mile down the road and then a mile back to me. Eejit.

The first 7 miles went by okay though. When we got to Aberlady the couple in Londis where we always stop recognised us and apologised because their coffee machine wasn't working. They were so apologetic I felt bad. "We  know you like a coffee" said the woman behind the counter. "I'm sorry."

We went over the road to the posh Ducks at Kilspindie House and I sent Peter in to get coffees while I ate pain au chocolat out of a brown bag, surreptitiously under the outside tables. The coffee was great, but expensive, and Peter said the woman behind the counter gave him a long up and down look as she served him. I hope the folk in Londis get their coffee machine fixed soon. It's pretty crap coffee but they're nice.

Setting off back down the coast is always good. Peter had had about 4 cubes of sugar in his coffee and was burbling on about something. I couldn't keep up to find out what. Shame really. It was a very grey day but it had its charms. It was very still, and where yesterday the sand was all patterned and lumpy, today it was lovely and smooth to run on.

Down the coast beyond Gullane the light began to lower seriously, and by Yellowcraigs it was so dark we really couldn't see any more. Luckily we'd had the sense to take head torches. Peter has a super-bright LED Lenser, I'd taken along an old Petzl one. It would have done but was pitiful next to Mr Shiny's shiny bright light. Pretty soon it was properly dark and we were running along the beach and I was finding, oddly, that I was really enjoying it. Because I couldn't see much the sea sounded louder and more immediate and  it was hard to tell exactly where the edge of the sea was until the waves broke, then the froth on the breaking waves looked like lace.
There were little birds out there peeping in the darkness.

I would have thought that we'd be able to see the lights of NB all the way along this way, but we were obviously round a corner from them, so there were few lights anywhere.

Peter was stopping to take pictures of random objects - a blue plastic canister and a big lobster pot. I started to think that if I could face putting my head in a lobster pot it would make a good creepy photo, and we could photoshop out the rest of my body later. A bit further down the beach I told Peter about this and we started looking out for lobster pots. We never saw as good a one again but we gave it a go anyway. It was strangely relaxing lying on the wet sand in the dark with my head in a lobster pot. No really.

We ran the last mile on the lovely manicured golf course as all the golfers had gone home. We had one near encounter with a very fierce sounding dog who happily turned out to be on a lead.

So today's run turned out to be one of the most fun we've had in a while. The coast is quite good for night running because the sand's light-coloured so it's easier to see if there's anything in your way.
I think another beachy night run is on the cards. Maybe next time it's a full moon.

So here comes the week. Just had dinner. It's 20 past 10. Where does the time go?