Another hot sunny day yesterday, another day out running in the hills. This time the Lammermuirs. For once taking some annual leave has coincided with some good weather. I'm feeling lucky. Last time I took annual leave I got the Norovirus the very next day and it took a week to recover while an icy wind blew constantly from the east, making outdoors uninviting. Suddenly Scotland is transformed from the withering Siberian wasteland it had become. It's hard to get my mind round it.
Some combination of the sudden light and heat of June and being free from the shackles of studying for another summer has tweaked my brain chemistry and I am having a prolonged bout of insomnia. I can't get to sleep and when I do I can't stay asleep. Night-time has become a time where Peter's snoring (even the light whistles that I normally wouldn't hear) sends me through to the sitting room to sleep on the sofa. Nothing more intrusive there than the hum of the fridge. Then a cramped neck - because the sofa isn't really long enough - will send me back through 2 hours later to bed, where at least I can stretch out properly. So my days are becoming increasingly fuzzy round the edges. When every day is a sunny day it doesn't matter that much. Sooner or later my brain will wear itself out and sleep. Probably the first day it's grey and rains - or even more likely - the day I go back to work, I'll rediscover how to fall asleep and stay asleep.
So anyway, yesterday was kind of grey in the morning but the forecast said the sun would burn through and it did. I've signed up for the 7 hills challenge, thinking to treat it as a training run. For those that don't know, the 7 hills challenge is the same as the 7 hills race except it starts 30 minutes earlier to allow slower runners to get round. It's a long and hilly run though so I've been trying to get a few hills in so it will be more manageable. I had to swallow my pride to enter the challenge. Lots of people enter the challenge who shouldn't. On the website Alan Lawson suggests that if you can do a 1 hour 40 minute half marathon you should be entering the race. So for years Peter and I have been somewhat sneery about the "challengers". Not because they are slow but because many a faster runner hides in amongst the challengers. This year I am a challenger. I feel I am now being forced to eat a slice of karma pie. Damn that humble taste.
Anyway - we didn't want to wear out the Pentlands so went further afield to the Lammermuirs. Peter was pushing for the full 21 mile circuit. I was saying no way Jose, we'll go the 8 miler, and I'm driving so there will be no arguments...I don't want to give away his secrets but Peter may have given himself a red wine spare tyre of late. A tyre which he felt held him back those crucial seconds at the CAAC 5 miler and relegated him to the prizeless position of 2nd MV50. Suddenly he wants to run long every time..
Pulling up the long 2 mile ascent in low gear I found I was enjoying it though, and remembered there was a mid-range run we'd done before - up to the windmills and back - which would be about 12 miles. It's a pretty hilly route but that was the point wasn't it? A compromise was struck.
The heat made the road shimmer in the distance. There seemed very little wild-life. "Horse with no name" played on a loop in my sleep-deprived mind. The hills were just as steep as I remembered but that was the point wasn't it? I was determined to keep running and not stop and walk. I recently read an article with an interview with Angela Mudge in a Trail Running Magazine and in it, amongst other pieces of advice, she says, when you're racing, not to think about how hard it is. This lodged in my mind. These days every time I cycle up the hill from home I think about how hard it is, how numb my legs feel, how slow I'm going and how this never used to be a problem. Enough is enough. Every time that particular thought-train starts up now I remember what Angela says. Similarly on the hills yesterday, if I started to focus on how far I had to go and how I could hardly lift my legs over the next pebble on the road, I took my brain off else-where. Eventually we were at the Windmills. So many people hate them but I still find them futuristic and astonishing. I'm sure there were more of them than the last time I looked. Advancing over the landscape on their long white slender limbs. By this time it was a long time since I had eaten or drunk anything but it being an out and back course there was nothing to be done but to tackle the 2nd half on empty. I tried to comfort myself with the knowledge that the 2nd half is - on average - downhill. The reality is a little different. There were some very steep climbs. Peter by and large stayed out of my way. He still thinks it's funny to take photos of me when I'm barely stumbling forwards though which makes me furious. There isn't any spare breath for expressing this so I try to say it all with a "poisonous scowl".
At last we were at the last summit and on the two mile downhill run to the car. The day was still magically warm and there were hazy views right out to the coast. Difficult to sustain a bad mood.
Waiting in the boot of the car was a big bottle of juice. Hard to stop drinking once you start.
This blog has sprawled out much more than I intended. Better get on with the rest of my day. Amongst other things I need to put together an application to a trust set up by Sean Connery to see if they want to help me pay for next year at uni...that may well push me over into the land of sleep.