Sunday, 28 April 2013

Rannoch Moor Run

Archetypal Scotsman

Since Peter and Ben were going to do the Fling, and we already had a room booked at the salubrious Premier Inn in Milngavie, I thought I could take the opportunity to get out of town. I drove us all to Milngavie on Friday night. Peter got up at 4.45am to get ready for his 6am start. My plan was to get up a lot later when I felt like it. My body clock had other ideas though and I woke up in that emphatic way you do when you know you're not going back to sleep, just before 6.30am. As it turned out that was about right though. I did pretty much everything I wanted to do and with little time to spare.

When we supported Richard Dennis to do his WHW race a few years ago now, I had really liked the look of the bit of the Way that comes out onto the road up to the Ski Centre, just before Glen Etive. My plan was to drive there and run back towards Tyndrum for 6 miles and then 6 miles back. I also thought I might go for a quick dip in the river Etive so I wouldn't be sweaty for the rest of the day, and then drive back to Tyndrum to get photos of the people starting to finish the Fling, meet Peter and Ben and then drive them home.

It was 11.30ish by the time I got to the Ski Centre (I had to stop in Tyndrum for a second breakfast of coffee and cake to give me strength for the run.)
The air was cool and the sun was coming and going as big clouds floated over the landscape. I had fondly thought of this bit of path as being "flat" and was surprised to find myself on a long ascent, followed by an even longer descent. I had to revise how far I was going to go as I realised time was getting a bit tight. The running was superb though and I found myself really enjoying it. The scenery was spectacular (sorry, no camera). There were a handful of walkers making their way west and I got a friendly greeting from everyone I passed.

I found myself wondering why no-one had ever mentioned what a nice bit of track this was and then realised that most people I knew who had run there had about 70 miles in their legs already and probably didn't appreciate its finer qualities! Also, it was quite stony in places and decidedly hilly, so they probably suffered with this too. I love when you're up in the mountains (any mountains) and it's sunny but the air is cold and pure. It was like that yesterday. The cold air was almost like a cool drink of water - really refreshing. I finished my run (which I'd trimmed to 10 miles), in a great state of mind.

I didn't have time for any dips into the Etive (shame!) but instead raced Shearings coaches back along the road to Tyndrum and got myself out on the Highland Fling course.

The winners had already won by the time I got there, in times of just over 7 hours. The first runner that I saw that I recognised was Marco Consani as I walked from the end out onto the course. Not much further back was Richie Cunningham. Then a bunch of relay runners and full Flingers that I didn't really know. I find it hard to know what to say to runners when I'm spectating - the subject of how far it is to go is a sensitive one by the end of the Fling! Whether people are looking good or not is also arguable and subjective. I settled on "Well Done". Even that is contentious. If you've just run what for you is a turkey then  you don't really want to hear "Well Done". But I couldn't say "What happened to you, you sack of shit!" either. There should be a guide book.

I found I was horribly over dressed. The ambient temperature was pretty cool when you were standing still, so I was wearing my running stuff  + tights + a big fleece and a duvet jacket. There was quite a lot of shelter on the trail though, so I when I decided to jog a bit I found myself bathed in sweat in about 30 seconds. I realised there was no point in moving too quickly out onto the course as I would then have to get back again.

I walked in about 2 miles. The course was completely different from what I had in my memory from Finishing the Fling in 2010. It showed me just how minced your brain is by the time you've come all that way. The stares on the faces of the people who were passing me were something to see as well. A few people managed to crack a smile but mostly what I saw was pain and focus. When I finally came across Peter, a little further on (from my perspective) from the Strathfillan Wigwams, I only recognised him at the last minute. He was looking exceptionally "focused". A little behind him was a ridiculously fresh looking and ebullient Andy Johns. I stayed there for a little bit longer because there was a lovely view and then headed back, figuring I would catch people (I was particularly looking out for Ben) as they overtook me,

Fast forward back to the finish, getting Ben and Peter in the car was like herding kittens. They didn't have a brain cell to share between them. I definitely felt like their carer!
Peter ran a stormer dipping just under 9 hours. Ben took a little over 9hrs 30 mins which is a triumph on his very minimal training regime. I wouldn't like to spend much of my time hanging about spectating other peoples' races, but it was a beautiful day and it was fun.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Nice to see...

...the sun again after all this time. Not that warm though. Yesterday's run was the Gullane 10 miler. Today we sat out the morning wind and rain and tracked London Marathoners on the computer. In the afternoon, when the sun had come out we went up Arthur's Seat. It was absolutely hoaching with "visitors" and this and my piss poor pace (I had to walk going up Arthur's Seat) had me in a fierce bad mood for a while. Running up the main drag to the top of  the seat was bloody awful. Running down and onto Whinny Hill was better. There were no people there, which helped, and also my legs felt like they'd woken up a bit.

In general I've talked myself into being laid back about my running and not looking for an improvement. It'll come in its own time if it's going to come at all. But sometimes the reality of how much worse I am than I was hits me.

I can't leave you on that note. Watch this. It makes me laugh.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The return of the republic has been foretold.

This must have been the "official weather" as it bore little resemblance to what was actually on offer. I hate wearing a jacket when I run so I thought I'd gamble on it staying pretty much dry while I was out - and it did. At one point the rain teemed down but the sun wasn't that far behind and the air was warm.

I thought we'd about done with the easterly winds by now but nature is having its own way this year and stubbornly persisting with them so I ran 5 miles into the wind and 5 miles with the wind at my back.

Of note, there was a big wheeling of gulls as I passed the bus depot at Portobello. I was watching them nervously because I thought maybe they were going to strafe me with bird shit like they do to my car. But then I saw what I think was bothering them. Behind the bus depot was a man in a fluorescent jacket with what looked like an eagle on his arm (and a mobile phone in his other hand, which he was talking into).

No, I mean it. Really an eagle. I've had one on my arm at one of those bird wildlife places a bit North of Aberdeen, and it was the same. Although I wouldn't have talked on a mobile phone while it was there because it looked like it wouldn't have minded scalping me.

Actually now I've looked at the photo of the eagle, the one at Portobello was smaller than that and it was all brown....
Quite exciting for Porty anyway.

I've been watching the re-run of I Claudius on More Four, really just for old time's sake. My mum was a classics teacher and she got us all to watch it. It was fairly saucy so we didn't mind. Brian Blessed has been hilariously funny in it the whole way through. Pity he had to get snuffed by Livia. Anyway, any Roman worth their salt knows that seeing an eagle is an omen. I'm not sure, but I think an eagle on the arm of what was a man in working clothing  foretells that the country will soon be back in the hands of the working man and woman. Especially as it happened at the time of Mrs T's funeral.

In my mind there's a connection between Diana's big funeral and this one. There are a lot of feelings around I don't share in. And there is a big expensive ceremony I feel remote from. I keep wondering if Elton will sing at this one too. I hope he can hold it together.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Knights in White Satin

I don't have much to tell you about running so I may skip around from subject to subject here. Well yesterday I planned to go for a short run, maybe once round Arthur's Seat - the standard 5.58 mile run that is my default. I didn't go out in the morning though, because it was teeming down and forecast to be sunny (though very windy) in the afternoon. By 4pm I had sat too long in front of a hot computer doing course-worky stuff and was also starving hungry, so I put off the computer and readied myself for a run.

Only the computer wouldn't shut down and being temperamentally unable to just walk away I forced the thing off and then put it back on again just to make sure it was still working. And when it came back on it wasn't. It was very busy with something, but nothing I'd asked it to do, and it was barely responding to anything I did and there was no internet connection. Aaaaaah. Mental anguish. Plus I hadn't backed up any of the work I'd been doing all day. (I usually email it to myself so it exists somewhere in cyberspace.)  So my run was forgotten. I had a bowl of soup and a roll to take care of the starvingness and got into a long session of restarts and system restores, ending two hours later with me uninstalling Microsoft Silverlight and everything getting back to normal.

It was now 6pm and I was still kind of full and didn't feel like running but I couldn't square not running with myself either, so out I went. My belly swashed with soup and when I started running up hill it got sore. So at the top I decided, instead of running all the way round the seat I'd just cut down a slightly different way and go home a bit short of mileage. I got home having just run 4 miles. Better than nothing.

Today I couldn't be bothered with a run either. Too many days of so-so running were taking their toll. I was still a bit disappointed in myself that I didn't go in swimming with Amanda and Peter on Saturday though, so I decided I'd go up to the Commie pool to see how my swimming was going these days.

It hasn't improved since the last time I was there, in fact it's got worse. I can get by with breast stroke but I couldn't get the breathing right for freestyle at all. The water felt like a heavy weight on my chest making it hard to pull in enough air. I think the chlorine or whatever's in the water makes me wheeze a bit, which is probably why.

My standard swim is 20 lengths of the Commie Pool (1000m). I used to knock this out in 20 - 25 minutes after work many moons ago. Those days are long gone though. I did manage to do half lengths of freestyle(ish) swimming and then got my breath back doing breast stroke. Luckily the pool was pretty empty and there wasn't much pressure. At 18 lengths I'd been in there for 38 minutes (including breathing at the side time) and I thought I'd call it a day. What the hell. No point in putting myself off!

As I was having a long shower in one of the few private compartments in the "Changing Village", trying to shut out the sound of children babbling and shrieking all around me, the song "Knights in White Satin" came into my mind. Now why would that be? The next line "never reaching the end" cleared it up for me. I took it to be internal commentary on my short run yesterday and my short swim today. It was only when I got home and had a google that I discovered that that song is in fact "Nights in White Satin"! I have discovered a new Mondegreen.

For the uninitiated, there is an explanation of Mondegreens here. From this website;

Mondegreens – Misheard Lyrics
Mondegreens are a sort of aural malapropism. Instead of saying the wrong word, you hear the wrong word. The word mondegreen is generally used for misheard song lyrics, although technically it can apply to any speech. They are oronyms(homophones) which are discussed on a separate page of this site.
The term mondegreen was originally coined by author Sylvia Wright, and has come to be quite widely used. As a child, Wright heard the lyrics of The Bonny Earl of Murray(a Scottish ballad) as:
Ye highlands and ye lowlands
Oh where hae you been?
Thou hae slay the Earl of Murray
And Lady Mondegreen
It eventually transpired that Lady Mondegreen existed only in the mind of Sylvia Wright, for the actual lyrics said that they "slay the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green."And to this day Lady Mondegreen's name has been used to describe all mishearings of this type!

There are a number of funny examples at the website linked above. "Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear" is probably my favourite.

For many years of childhood I thought there was a hall called a Dancing Dee where people went to dance. I'd got this from the words "I am the lord of the Dancing Dee."

Please feel free to add your own Mondegreens in the comments section.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

At last, the sun...

At last the sun had come out and the temperature was in double figures. Me and P set out for a run round Aberlady bay etc.  with the possibility of a swim with Amanda afterwards. We couldn't get hold of Amanda so set off anyway. The running was no great shakes, but the being out on a sunny day was great. Only 3 weeks ago we'd done our Siberian Spring run with 3 layers on top and ice blowing with the wind.

We detoured out to the mini-subs and over rocks, extending the distance a bit to 11 miles back into Gullane. As we turned back onto the road from Archerfields I saw a white van and suspected it was Amanda and Scott's adventure wagon. When we got into Gullane Amanda was already wet-suited up and waiting for us. I had peaked too soon and was now hungry and tired and bowed out. Peter, who earlier had been sceptical, went for it.

It was warmer today but it wasn't that warm. Alison and I froze just watching the swimmers from the beach.
That's an early season fail for me in our ambitions to swim Gullane bay by the end of the summer...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


This image pinched from here

Some small quantities of unheroic running have taken place in the last week. I had a nice run on Saturday with Amanda. We ran 10 miles round Aberlady at an easy(ish) chatting pace. It was the warmest day we have had for a good while and Amanda kept mentioning how she wants to go swimming in the sea and by the end of the summer she wants to be swimming right across Gullane Bay. One of my first reactions is to sign up for this as a challenge, but I felt I should tell her about my distressing encounter with a jelly-fish there.
It gave us both pause for thought. I think the take home lesson from that experience was that if you get stung you should stay in the sea to wash off the stings and to rinse off your skin. I got stung just before I got out the water and I think that made it a lot worse. Also, I wish I'd taken a photo of my hands at the time as they swelled right up and I had big red weals across them, but now  I have no evidence.

Monday Peter and I forced ourselves out the door late on. We were both tired and the grey skies and cutting winds were just so uninviting. It was really just a nod to running so we could eat our dinner guilt free.

This morning there was (and still is) an uninspiring drizzle. I usually look forwards to my Wednesday morning run but it was an effort to get out the door. I ran 8 miles round Granton. It was just a smidge milder than it has been and by the time I was beyond the climbing wall (3 - 4 miles into it) I was quite enjoying myself. I was actually quite pleased to see I was ducking under 9 min/mile pace from time to time and my over all average pace was 9.20. Things have been so bad that this seems alright. It did remind me though that when I ran the Draycote Water 35 mile race in 2009 I averaged a pace of 9.19 and I felt quite underwhelmed with that. I should have been nicer to myself. I wish I'd appreciated what I could do when I could do it!

I am trying to appreciate where I am at now, but it's not easy. An innocent at my new work, who knew me from back when I worked on the wards, asked me yesterday how my running was going these days. I had to rein myself in. I didn't give the full  or dramatic response. It's f*^cked. But at least I can still run.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Pentlands in the Snow

I went out a run on Tuesday, just to see if I still could. Once round Arthur's Seat and I still could - which was good. I was still a bit wobbly though, so I thought I'd leave it til today until I went out again.

Today I was going to do a bog standard run - 6 miles into Musselburgh and into the wind and 6 miles back with the wind behind, when I remembered that I'm on holiday and that's the time to not do your standard run. I felt very guilty setting off in the van in the sun for the Pentlands as I know Peter would have liked to come, but he was at work, and somebody has to earn money...

From a distance the hills looked white but I had no idea if it was going to be just a dusting or if there would be big drifts up there. As I got closer it became obvious that there has been a good bit of snow - there was quite a lot piled at the sides of the road.

The same wicked easterly was blowing as has been for 3 weeks or more so it was sharp getting out of the car. However, setting off uphill soon warmed me up. I was realising on the way up the road that I haven't been up there since the Carnethy Hill Race. Not happy memories. And running uphill felt pretty hard, at first anyway.

The sun came out and it was a lovely day. There were a very few folk out, wrapped up warm. The snow on the west sides of the hills was melting rapidly so I did a bit of post-holing. It wasn't really all that deep, so it wasn't a problem, but it was wet and uneven so I couldn't run up the steep bits...even if I'd wanted to.

I got as far as half way up Carnethy and suddenly realised how hungry I was, so thought I wouldn't push my luck and turned around before reaching the top. It took a quarter of the time to get back to the car it had taken to get up there, cutting down past the Howe and along the trails between the hills.

It was good to get out. I can't say I was running well, but there were a few things stacked against me, The snow would have been difficult anyway, I've not been doing much hilly stuff and I barely ate anything for a few days there.

I had a chat with Amanda on the phone yesterday and we have both come to the conclusion we won't be running the Highland Fling. It dawned on me yesterday that last weekend really was my last chance to push the boat out and get some serious miles in before some kind of taper. But I managed 3 miles. There is no point. I don't know if I'd make the 15 hour time limit and I'd almost certainly get ill or injured and I've had enough of that. Amanda had a bad cold for two weeks - the crucial weeks for high mileage. Her voice on the phone was still about an octave lower than usual. Kathy has been/is ill and I hear tell she's still determined to run. 6 months or so ago I might have felt the same but I'm coming around to the notion that without your health you really haven't got anything at all. It's worth preserving.

Still, giving up is a flat sort of feeling and that's maybe why I didn't enjoy my run in the Pentlands today as much as I might have. That and memories of the Carnethy Hill Race squashing me like a bug. Still, at least my ribs aren't broke any more! And the puking illness seems to have left me.

We've signed up for a 6 week yoga course, starting at the end of April. But I think we'll have to leave the cameras behind.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Under House Arrest

You know it's only since starting this blog that I've noticed how much of the time my running doesn't go to plan. Either that or the act of starting a blog somehow altered my fate and where once things went fairly straightforwardly they now stagger backwards and forwards like an old drunk making his way home. Will he arrive there? Who knows.

I had a week off, apart from the odd thing I had to do, so I was going to use it to up my mileage. I have to be honest and say I wasn't that excited by the prospect. As this Siberian Spring turns ineluctably into a Svalbard Summer I am sick of it being so damn cold. I am sick of wearing 2 Helly Hansens with a jacket on top. I'm sick of washing twice as much running kit as usual because I'm WEARING twice as much kit as usual. Anyhoo...

Peter and I went for our now statutory hard Friday night session. I had the great idea of mile uphill reps up the main road round Arthur's Seat. It was freezing cold as usual, but the wind wasn't blowing, so for once it wasn't too painful being out. We had some mild explosive disagreements because Peter thought I'd been abducted because he failed to notice me coming within 20 feet of him because he was trying to take pictures of the stars or something.

Nearly 10 miles, job done.

The next day I thought I could really nail my ultra colours to the mast by doing another 27 miler and then hopefully, if I could, doing a further 20 the following day with the Porty Crew who are just peaking now for London in a few weeks time. I felt fine to start with. Peter took the news well. We took a bit of time getting ready during which I started to feel  pukey, but I quite honestly thought it was just fear.

A mile into the run, however, I wanted to stop, just to have a stand. This should have been a clue. I went another 2 miles to the Bowling Club along the Portobello Prom and called it a day. All I wanted to do was stop and walk...or preferably just stop, but I was out in the chilly spring wind in my shorts and I needed to keep moving just to stay alive. I started to jog a couple of times on the way home but didn't have any oomph and found it easier to walk. I couldn't help but notice how disgusting everything was. The side of the road and the bushes there were festooned with rubbish.

Finally I made it home and went to bed with a hot water bottle, but instead of feeling better I just kept feeling worse, until finally the queasy feeling blossomed into the knowledge that I was definitely going to vomit. It's been a few years since I've performed this act and then it was with the aid of alcohol which is tremendous for relaxing the muscles, so it was no easy feat. Our toilet is  a tiny little room just off the stairs and although you can close the door when you're in there the normal way round, it isn't possible to be in there and be sick with the door closed, so I would imagine my neighbours know I was sick too. I was past caring. They probably thought we were looking after some nasty, barky dog for the weekend...and mistreating it too.

At least being sick made me feel better for a while...until the next time. Meanwhile, poor Peter texted to say he was on the train. He ran the whole way feeling iffy and then was sick on the train in a freezer bag he had handy. I don't recommend going to his blog unless you actually want to see it.

So instead of running 47 miles over the course of the weekend, or whatever I imagined I was going to do, I spent an awful lot of time in bed. My aims shrunk down quite rapidly, as they do, so by Sunday evening I had the ambition, if I was feeling a bit better, to have a shower. I not only accomplished this but went for the burn by going out to Scotmid to buy potatoes and sausages as by this time I was past the puking stage and was now trying to imagine things I could face eating. Some rosy-tinted nostalgic vision of sausages and mash with gravy floated up before my eyes and I thought this could be the one...

Going outside I felt oddly like a ghost. I seemed to have gained a strange new super-power - the ability to smell everybody I passed. It wasn't a nice experience. At the risk of stereo-typing Leithers, nearly everyone I passed smelled of flowery gin and old cigarettes.  Either that or they had soaked themselves in cheap perfume. I was reminding myself of a character in The Edgar Allen Poe story "The Fall of the House of Usher" (which I've enjoyed looking up). Roderick Usher suffered from a nervous affliction:

It was, he said, a constitutional and a family evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy --a mere nervous affection, he immediately added, which would undoubtedly soon pass off. It displayed itself in a host of unnatural sensations. Some of these, as he detailed them, interested and bewildered me; although, perhaps, the terms, and the general manner of the narration had their weight. He suffered much from a morbid acuteness of the senses; the most insipid food was alone endurable; he could wear only garments of certain texture; the odours of all flowers were oppressive; his eyes were tortured by even a faint light; and there were but peculiar sounds, and these from stringed instruments, which did not inspire him with horror.

The mash was a good idea but the sausages and gravy kept me busy burping for the next 5 or 6 hours. I think I was running a slight temperature and Smiths songs kept running over and over in my head. It was nearly unbearable.

Today, reading over the advice about norovirus. (I assume it's that, and not whatever Roderick Usher had), I realise I shouldn't really have been out in public yesterday, in case I passed it on. I didn't talk to anyone though, or touch anyone, and I used plastic to pay, so it was probably fine. Today I'm keeping myself under house arrest and tomorrow I'll go out.

So I've done some cleaning, in between bouts of lying on my bed staring into space. Will I achieve anything ultra by the end of the week? Who knows.