Sunday, 31 May 2015

Edinburgh Marathon 2015

No it's not a distortion. I do have really long legs.

"So where are your long legs now?"
Honestly, give it a rest.

Lets get this thing over with. I knew that having the brown start was a bad omen.
As you'll know, there was all kinds of weather forecast for the Edinburgh Marathon. It was really hard to know what to wear. By Saturday I had decided to run in a jacket with a bum-bag and a camera as the pouring rain and high winds were going to turn it into a novelty day out rather than a race. And then the day came and it really wasn't bad. Just a bit of rain - and too much west wind. I decided to travel light instead and wear little.

That was fine for the first 18 miles but then when I turned around into it, the cold wind made my tummy go funny. Yes it did. These are medical matters I am describing. You can trust me. I'm a nurse. And I had to pay a little stop to a portaloo. That wasn't too bad but it didn't set things right either and I had a miserable few miles with more insistent cramps coming and going in my midriff. I hear from Amanda there was a girl who didn't find a Portaloo and paid the price. I'm glad that didn't happen to me. I was scared to drink anything or have a gel and it was all just getting horrible.
A 2nd trip to a Portaloo just after the Pans led to an 18 minute mile. I didn't feel very well and I thought I might be found dead in there, like Elvis. I didn't die though, or if I did, I am now in a parallel universe. After that I was able to have a gel and a drink of water and I started to revive. I was nearly okay again by the time I got into Musselburgh. It was a relief to stop. 4.15. As Peter kindly said. "That was the worst you've done at a normal marathon isn't it?" (The not normal marathon was the Everest Marathon, which took me 7 hrs 33 mins and got me 3rd lady vet.)
It was by some stretch. Even the Cape Wrath marathon which we ran in a hoolie and to which I took a rather cavalier attitude was a 4.03. Oh it's only times anyway. What do you do? Have a half pint of ale with some lemonade in it and cheer the feck up.

And then do a Tynecastle Bronze. We'd had a mile warm up before the marathon so we just had to walk 2 and a half miles and find a war monument afterwards and we were there.

Monday, 25 May 2015

A Cautionary Tale

It was a fine sunny day for a hilly 10 miler today. The temperature was definitely up. "Just in time for the marathon" I reflected. "That reminds me of the first time I did a 50K race".

"What happened the first time you did a 50K race?"

"Oh you don't want to hear your old grandma's tales of many years ago do you?"

"Oh yes grandma, we doooooo."

Oh alright then.

So it was 2007 and we'd signed up for the Everest Marathon. It felt like the pressure was on for us to up our game. As training we would have to do awesome things. So when our friends Ian and Emma asked us over to Maine to run a trail 50K race Ian was organising, that seemed like exactly the kind of thing we should be saying yes to.

It was to be our first venture over the marathon distance. We didn't train by going over the marathon distance, we had no idea how to train for it really, so we did what might be termed a bunch of stuff, including doing the Lochaber Marathon and Stuc a Chroin the week after.

Maine has long, cold, snowy winters but then, round about the end of May, can suddenly get hot.
And that's what happened. So when Buchanan and I arrived in Portland, Maine, still swaddled in our winter fat, there were temperatures in the high 80s and 90% humidity, whatever that means. If these numbers are wrong, it doesn't mean your old grandma is a liar, it just means she can't remember so good.

We arrived in the dark, and the next morning Ian and Emma had us up sharp for route setting. I was a bit lost given the lack of sleep and the sudden heat and being in America. I had difficulty crossing the road and putting the lights on and I confess I never did understand the course. One of the way-stations was the yurt, pictured above.

I felt kind of bloated and fuzzy on race morning. I knew I wasn't going to run that well but the day was going to be an experience. There were big tables of food at the aid stations - an alien concept to my road runner's mind. I'd never eaten and run at the same time. I thought it would be churlish, however, not to give it a go. So I did. I had big slices of melon and chocolate and other stuff. It didn't sit that well. I drank a lot of sticky Gatorade too, to try to combat the heat and keep me hydrated. My mouth was a vile, dry sticky mess and my tummy was uncomfortable. I didn't know what I needed. At the end of the first loop I dodged into the portaloo to see if anything needed to happen that might make me feel lighter and better. But nothing did. It was hot in there...and when I came out I ran off in the opposite direction. Happily I noticed my mistake before too long, maybe the runners coming towards me should have been a clue.

Anyway, it wasn't my finest performance, but I did finish, and I won a plaque for 2nd Yard Lady. It was a category my friends made up in order to give me a prize! But I don't know what you're judging me for. Once you have been a Yard Lady, then you can judge.

The free beers afterwards were mighty good, and the atmosphere of runners sitting around, happy and relaxed, chatting and drinking beer in the afternoon sun was superb. The Pineland Farm trail events have grown and grown since then and there are now a whole series of them.

My tummy didn't feel right though, just not comfortable. And over the next couple of days developed a deep crampiness and some of the foulest wind I have ever countenanced ever. Not even Seafield on a still day after a heavy rain could compete. This was unfortunate as I was staying with friends and I wanted to keep them, so I had to try to keep it all under control somehow.

We'd happened to speak to a lady at the races and told her what we were doing and she, with massive generosity, offered to let us use her holiday home on one of the islands that are near to Portland. We took her up on her offer and once there I went to bed for 24 hours and finally began to mend internally. Peter took it all philosophically.

So that's the end of my story.

"But what else happened?" Well, Peter might have been 4th in the race, which was really not bad for his first ultra. Emma did the 25K trail race and she was first lady.
On our last night in America, Peter made an utter beast of himself. I've told the story here.

Here's to a lovely hot marathon! I would marginally prefer that to a windy marathon. But it may well be both.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Agenda free and Tulsi Tea

We had big plans for Saturday. We'd both signed up for the Goatfell Hill Race. Peter was going to do the Black Rock 5 on Friday night and then have a quick turn around and be fit to fight again the next day. I was working until just before 7pm on Friday. My car (oh no, not more of your car trouble...) has developed a rumble which I think from Googling is my wheel bearings. Sigh. It didn't seem wise to drive to Ardrossan on Saturday morning but getting up for the train meant something like a 5am start....and the weather was looking a bit bleak....

Both of us came to the conclusion it wasn't that great an idea. We've been busy the last 2 weekends so it seemed like a good option to have an agenda-free weekend and relax.

So yesterday we rolled out the door about 1pm. That's not great for my running. I'm better if I run earlier - and before I have an egg sandwich. However, you can't control every detail in life...or you can but it's exhausting. We went as we were. We went to do the run we intended to do last weekend, - start at Longniddry and run to North Berwick and get the train back to LN.

I had some intermittent intestinal bother with the egg but generally we were in good fettle and much laughter followed us. It was a brisk west wind and there was one particularly fierce shower. By that time we were out on the Aberlady nature reserve and we went to ground in the little scrubby forest just before the duck pond.

I took my new phone, which I can't work, to take pictures with. It bothered me all run by letting out little "pings". When I looked there were no texts, no messages, no phone-calls, no nothing. I don't know what its game is. It was only yesterday I figured out how to answer a call on it.

By near Gullane we were both hungry and Peter had all the money so I'm afraid I may have indulged in some rather childish wheedling and pleading to get us up into Gullane to buy a bun. I suggested we share a raisin brioche, but Peter quite rightly dismissed this as being ludicrous and we had one each, sitting on the bench across from Falkos in the sunshine and sheltered from the wind. It was a moment of pure happiness and peace. We could both have easily eaten another one each but didn't. Instead we set off on stiff legs along the road. Peter wanted to go back on the beach but I'd had enough of running on lumpy ground and being battered by the wind. I found it hard to get moving again at all.

Coming close to North Berwick I looked at my watch and realised that there was a chance of catching a train very soon but the timing would be tight. This is a terrible pressure, especially on tired legs. I cranked it up as much as I could, which was only to 8.30 pace or so...but it proved enough and we caught the train with maybe 2 minutes in hand.

Today we've had a "recovery" run which was a deal brisker than the run yesterday. I wanted to get some Tulsi tea from Holland and Barrett. I's a long story but I think it's too much cortisol which makes me slow down and my muscles ache. I'm a bit of a stress monkey and tend to see the problems ahead. I realised just today that when thinking about our holiday in the near future to Portugal all I thought about were the likely snags rather than my original vision, which was of running on cliff-tops in the sunshine and swimming in the 19 degree sea. Too much focus on the hurdles in life drains you. So I've been googling to see how I can calm my system and one of the things that came up was Tulsi tea. New age fad. It may be. But it provided focus for our run today.

So we went out the start of a normal recovery run for me, but then we ran up Dundas Street - a good sized hill - and then we went to Princes Street and had to dodge between all the people trailing about with their umbrellas up. I hadn't been 100% sure as we approached Princes Street whether H&B was to the left or to the right of where we were, but I thought it was to the left, so we went left. Peter expressed his misgivings more and more insistently the further along we got but I was pretty sure that it was quite near the Easterly extremity of Princes St. I particularly enjoyed him opining "Well left was definitely the wrong way to go!" as we arrived exactly at the door of the shop....

Monday, 11 May 2015

Lost Weekend

"In what way lost?" I hear you ask. Well it's gone isn't it? Lost forever? It just sounded good. Don't be so picky.

This weekend's roller coaster ride got off to a fairly quiet start. On Friday Peter and I had a notion that we might go and do a long run. I was so tired when I got up though. And he wasn't much better. We just gave in to it. I don't think I made it out of my pyjamas. Oh well. We could do a long run on Saturday.

Saturday my new phone arrived. I have been stubbornly resisting the trend towards smarter and smarter phones for some time. I have stuck with my old phone that doesn't take photos and can't go on-line. But I saw one that was pretty cheap on Amazon and I thought I would get it.

It gave me a very hard time at first. It kept spending my money, even though I hadn't made a phone call. I eventually figured out it was because it was downloading data on the phone network and charging me handsomely for it too. Now I'm getting to quite like it and filling it up with essential apps. Anyway, the point of telling you that was that I got caught up in trying to figure out the phone, so we ended up not leaving the house until about 1pm for our run. We drove to Longniddry and set off from there, figuring we'd run to North Berwick and get a train back. About 8 miles into the run, however, the wind unexpectedly switched up on us and so we reconsidered and turned around at that point. It would save us the train fares and a potential wait at the station. The ground was soft, though, and the going was tough. It was unexpectedly warm and muggy.

We arrived back at the car at 6pm. Not ideal really as we were supposed to be at a party at 7.30. This is a rare occurrence, but I think there might be a spate of 50th birthdays coming up. We made it shortly after 8 and were by no means the latest. It was out in Pencaitland so I was staying sober and driving.

It was a bit sobering, although it isn't news to me that I'm kind of nearly 50. Still, it's surreal. We sat around trying to talk and grumbling that the music was too loud. I saw some old pals and we talked about how we hadn't seen each other for more than 20 years and tried to figure out what we were doing then. A lot more drinking, that's for sure. Somebody's husband told me about the tax system in Switzerland. Apparently there are three taxes. There's a national tax, which isn't too much - and then there's a tax for your county, and then a larger tax for your village. Everyone gets together and decides what to spend it on. New litter bins mostly...ahah, no, that's stereotyping.

We pushed the boat out and stayed until 11 anyway and then I gave my old friend Jennifer a lift home to Musselburgh. She astonished me by dredging up a memory of the two of us sitting at a party a long time ago feeling that there wasn't enough happening and singing - can you believe it - "If I met you on a Monday a Monday a Monday I know I would be BORED..." You get the format. I think we kept it up for a while. I couldn't remember it but I knew it was true. Rather than something as concrete as memory it was more like the faded pattern on an old carpet which I felt I recognised from somewhere. A slither of deja vu. "They" say it's all stored away in there somewhere, but I don't know if it is. Your brain forms new connections so presumably the old connections get broken. That's assuming that memories are stored in the brain. There are other people who think your  brain is just a receiving set for tuning into bits of reality and as time is an illusion, everything is happening NOW and always will be. So Jennifer and I are still singing that song. And why whoever was having the party didn't sling us out I will never know. Maybe they were drunker than us.

Sunday came around and I was frankly exhausted from having been up so late. We mooched around and went out a recovery run in the afternoon. My new mudclaws had arrived so I took them out up the Almond and round the airport run to get a bit used to them before the Goatfell Hill race on Saturday. My legs felt tired and rusty and hot. PB darted around chasing butterflies and I kept a slow and steady lope going. I do hope I am going to feel somehow refreshed before the marathon, but I'm not sure if I will.

So today is the last day of my holidays and I am procrastinating. There are a few acts of cleaning and tidying I have been intending to do which can't be put off any longer. I've been a run round the Seat in the wild wind and I saw Ivor Normand and Anne Hay while I was out. I'd like to tell you my legs were fresh, but they weren't. Maybe going back to work will sort them out.

So I have a hot tip that if you dilute fabric conditioner in 9 parts water and use it for dusting it stops all the dust immediately flying back and sticking on things because of the static. I'm off to try it out. The other thing I want to do is to try and drill a hole in the bottoms of some of our race mugs and turn them into little plant pots. We've got far too many race mugs and we can't bear to throw them out...

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Overview

After a bit of post-race rumination I realise I need to manage my expectations. E2NB felt terrible and now I'm thinking I'll be lucky to do a sub 4 marathon. So my mind flips on to the next thing. We've got the 7 hills to run in June so I need to get some hills in my legs before that. I was thinking about that when Peter came through and announced that he was going to do the Goatfell Hill Race next weekend. "Hmmm, maybe I could use it as a training run." (The hill running Gods will probably strike me down for my cheek.) I had a look at the entry system and saw that 199 of the 200 places had been taken. That settled it. Surely fate wanted me to take the last place. That may well be where I come in the race.

Having already got myself into trouble I thought I might as well seal the deal by ordering a new pair of Mudclaws I can't afford on-line. My old ones are cracking down the side and the nubbins are all smooth.

A good morning's work, I'm sure you'll agree. So I got changed into my running kit and went to vote. The funny old bloke at the desk asked if I was cycling, running or swimming which made me explode with a big guffaw. (Sssh, people voting.) Then I went a run up Arthur's Seat to see if I'm any good as a hill runner. It turns out I'm not. My legs felt spindly and weak. I ran all the way up. But it was only Arthur's Seat. Oh heck. It was nice at the top anyway. I stood around boastfully in my shorts with my hands on my hips as the normal people snuggled deeper into their fur-lined parkas. It was warm when the sun came out and the gorse smelled nice.

I've been taking a week off work this week so I'm away to do some chores. Today I plan to rationalise my drawers. Ooh err Matron.

Saturday, 2 May 2015



It was just never going to happen today. Right from the windy outset I felt dull and tired. I was excited before-hand but not when I was actually running! I don't know why. I had several plans, the most modest of which was that I should try to do 8.30 pace to see if I could do this in the marathon. I held on to close to (the wrong side of close to) that pace for 8 or so miles, but then slowed down. I went for a pee at Seton Sands because...well we weren't going to break any records were we? It was refreshing actually. I came out of the toilet and joined a new clump of runners, making a common enemy of the wind. Well for a while. Then I went backwards a bit further.

It's a long way to run when you're not feeling like it. It was iron grey out there and there was a constant head-wind. I did the parasite thing for a while where you jump into other people's wind shadows, but it's irritating for them and it's actually irritating for me. I have a thing where I can't help but run at the same cadence as runners I'm near, and given I've got a totty stride I need to run with a quicker cadence than most. By 10 miles or so I thought to hell with them all and gave up any attempt at running with anyone.

At 13 miles I had a chat with a chap who nearly went up a side road by mistake. He, like me, had thought this might be good race preparation for the marathon. I joked that the sweeper bus wouldn't be far behind and he responded "I'm not getting on no bus!!". Damn. A bus sounded fine to me. Even a bus of shame.

I had another pit-stop at Gullane and was tempted by Falko's but I didn't have any money on me. Ian Duckworth and Rickie Fraser cycled along-side me. I asked Ian about his recent burglary. Someone stole his car and then crashed into several other cars before setting it on fire. He got a note from the police several days later to say his car had been found, it had been burned, it was in the pound and would cost him £150 to collect! Happy days. He had to go then because he was getting too cold but he had distracted me for the best part of a mile, which was a relief. I would have loved a radio. Or if someone would tell me a story. I told myself a story.

I told myself the story of when Peter and my sister Caroline and I went a tour of the North West of Scotland on our bicycles. It must have been 1999. Peter still maintains there was some sunshine but I'm damned if I remember it. Some fool (me) had set too big a cycle for the first day. We were meeting my sister at a camp at Dunkeld. Because we were taking back-roads it was a l-o-n-g first day and we only got there in the evening. My sister arrived even later than us. She had injured herself on the very first day. Progress was slow after that and tempers frayed. Peter and Caroline started getting annoyed with each other. They've got different temperaments. My sister is an artist and...well she's not systematic. When Peter get's tired and grumpy he suffers from the feeling that there is a right way to do things. They butted heads and butted heads and butted heads. It was miserable. I wished they would both go home or that I could. I had stopped smoking the year before and this was my first holiday without cigarettes. There seemed to be no reward for anything. At the end of the day we'd sit down to eat (we were camping) and maybe drink a bottle of wine or some cider and the midges would come down in thick clouds and we'd have to try to eat with those netting hats on.
My dad was going a tour of the Northwest in one of these big American RV things with his girlfriend Vigdis. He was going in the opposite direction to us. He had cancer and was in remission but knew he had maybe a year. Me and him hadn't got on for years but I didn't want him to have cancer. I think this was in the back of our minds for most of the trip. By the 2nd week it started raining extravagantly every day. Caroline and Peter were barely speaking. We were cold and wet all the time. I got really bad constipation. Every day it got worse. I think it was because I couldn't bring myself to drink when it was wet all the time. You start to wonder just what the hell is going to happen when finally, inevitably, things start to shift. I'll spare you that. There was one particular day when we cycled all day in the rain into the teeth of the wind and only arrived at the hostel at Cape Wrath after dark. I was fairly sure I died out there on the road and this was evidenced by my cycle-computer having completely wiped itself clear of any data. That was our last cycle camping trip. For a long time afterwards I had an obsession with buying water-proof gear.

I came back to 2015 in Dirleton. Well that was a story and a half I thought to myself. Not far to go now! And it wasn't. Once I accepted I wasn't going to get any faster I was happy enough, especially now it was going to be over soon.
At the end Steve Crane was there and took a picture. We had a chat about injuries and I headed up to the sport's centre. I was very cold and hungry and am ashamed to say I had three sausage rolls and a packet of crisps and a cup of tea. Come to think of it, I haven't really drunk any water yet.
Maybe I should go and do that.

Stuart Hay beat Peter in today's awesome battle of the over-50s. I hope they are enjoying their close competition. I am. I saw lots of nice people but I have to go and stretch now so I can't name them all.

I REALLY hope the marathon is not going to be like that.