Sunday, 28 June 2015

Flowers for Algernon

It's been a good weekend, but Peter has all the best photographs of it. He will probably tell you about it if you'll let him. I thought I might take you down an avenue of thoughts through which I wandered while I was out running the other day.

I had a good 7 hills and felt fitter than I have since before 2012 and all my heart malarkey. It's a cheering thing but it casts a shadow too. I recently came across an article in the Cleveland Journal which gave the incidence of recurrence of atrial fibrillation with and without secondary precipitants. Without secondary precipitants is really what I had...which means nobody knows why I got it...the numbers aren't good. After 5 years 59% recurrence, after 10 years 69%, after 15 years 71%. I'm on year 3. And I might beat the odds. But I might not.

It put me in mind of a gloomy short story we had to read for either O grade or Higher English called Flowers for Algernon in which, well you've probably read it...they find a treatment to make a mouse more clever, so they give it to a man, he becomes a genius and then the mouse starts to lose it. The man, from the height of his abilities sees that he must necessarily lose it all again. Of course this is all of our stories as well. Or at least everyone who has realised that the wrinkly people are in fact the same species as us, just after time has passed.

I started to think about the other things that I remember from the curriculum for school English...and I discovered a certain slant to them all. See if you can see a similarity.


Wilfrid Owen, "Futility" about the horrors of war

Sylvia Plath, "Daddy"  - on her dead father, bad marriage, depression and suicide attempts.


Death of a Salesman -  a washed up salesman weighs his son down with expectations and then kills himself

An Inspector Calls - an apparently nice family are shown to be exploitative and hypocritical

Plus Hamlet and Macbeth.


A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. Well it's a complex plot, half of which I'd forgotten although I knew it was bleak. Four English children are captured by pirates. One of them dies, two of them are sexually abused and one of them murders a pirate. (Early on the pirates get a monkey drunk and it falls to its death from the crow's nest.) When the three surviving children get to England, two of them act as if nothing has happened and one of them has gone mad. Happy Days.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  You all remember this one. English boys are lost on an island. Things go wrong quickly, particularly for Piggy. Sucks to your Assmar Piggy.

Oh yeah and The Catcher in the Rye I'm going mad, the world's such a bad place, everyone is phoney. I have a feeling of disappearing...


I'm too depressed to tie this up or make sense of it. Sunday nights. What are they even for?

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Over The 70th Hill

Yesterday's Hip Test

It's the kind of thing you could only do after a race. Sitting around, feeling smug, surfing around on the internet. I counted up how many times I've done the 7 Hills, and it's 10. 7 races, 3 challenges.

The prospects for today weren't good. My hip has been giving me jip. Such bad jip that when it woke me up in the middle of the night last week I had myself nearly talked into having a fracture. Ask NHS 24. A cause of sudden hip and leg pain in older adults. Mind you I can be a bit of a hypochondriac. When Peter caught me googling the symptoms of shingles the other day he swore at me. Can you imagine? "You've got to be f**king kidding me!" He expostulated. Shame on him. It's just I'm covered in little red dots. "Bed bugs" was his opinion. Bed bugs???

Yesterday I went out for a run with PB and my hip was no worse after the run than beforehand. I thought I might as well do the race and carry some money. If I had to drop out, I'd drop out. I'd be going out a run if I possibly could anyway.

So it was with no hopes and no expectations that I set off up the road for the race today. I say the race but I asked Alan the organizer to switch me to the challenge, about a month ago. Sick of having horrible races I suddenly realised that doing the Challenge would be less pressure and much more enjoyable. It's still a race, don't let anyone tell you anything different.

I set off steadily and was resolved to keep it that way. Nothing worse than feeling tired in this race early. Despite having climbed a few stairs recently, I haven't been doing any hill training. I kind of meant to, but then real life took over. I thought I might well be struggling by the end. Back in 2013 I was in a right old state by Arthur's Seat, which was particularly painful because I used to be able to romp it.

Today went well. It started off okay and then just got better. My highlights were taking the best line off Corstorphine Hill ever. (I don't think I could reproduce it.) Going up Craiglockhart I found truly terrifying. My Hokas weren't getting any grip on the ball-bearing dry earth on the steep slope, so I had to plan my ascent of the bank like a climb - deciding in advance where I was going to put my feet and which roots I would cling to. I had a massive rush of adrenaline from this and was quite shouty at the top. Shouty and sweary. I couldn't help it.

Going up the grassy bit of Craiglockhart the sight and sound of Michael G had me run all the way instead of the half and half I had planned.

It was lovely being passed by the leaders and being greeted by name, by Mike Reid and Dessie Flanagan and then later Stewart Whitlie on Blackford Hill. What other sport would that happen in? On Blacket Avenue Peter came past. I kept him in sight and I took the best line through the halls I have yet. By the foot of Arthur's Seat I was in a really good mood. I still had the energy to get running for most of the way up. Tony Stapley gave me a heroes welcome at the top and Willie was taking photographs. I was a floundering fool by then and came down much of the steep upper half on my arse. I was grateful to the guy in front who did this and showed me the way.

Then it was not far to go. I saw from my watch that 2.30 was possible. I'd have preferred sub 2.30 but 2.30.13 was beyond the wildest imaginings I'd had pre-race. Yahoo! A happy race! A happy ending!

In the post-race euphoria Kathy Henly somehow convinced me that what I should do was the Craggy Island Triathlon at the other end of the summer. An open-water sea swim, a mountain bike and then a hilly race to finish. Actually it's a great idea. So I've signed up. There's the summer's agenda set right there.

Friday, 19 June 2015

What I did on my holidays

I was over-busy, double-busy before my holidays. I had the marathon and then a course on trauma on Monday and Tuesday. I finished up  where I've been doing volunteer counselling on Wednesday. On Thursday I went and squeezed as many hours of being a nurse in as I could and on Friday I had to go to do an exam for my counselling professional body through in Weegie-land.
On Saturday and Sunday I was on a therapy weekend. Don't ask. On Monday it was time to pack before our flight out to Portugal.

To tell the truth it is so long since we've been out the country I didn't believe our tickets would work. It was almost a  surprise to land in Faro airport on a warm and scented Monday evening. The air smelled subtle and sweet, like honey. We still had a transfer to get to where we were staying. 11pm at night we got there. We had had our tea on the plane. I had rice-cakes and cheese and Peter had big slabby sandwiches. All holiday we hoped that the times that we didn't get much to eat would somehow off-set the many many days when we had plenty to eat.

Peter was raring to run. He's going well, it's understandable. But he wanted me to run too. "I'm TIRED and I need a HOLIDAY" I would protest. But it fell on deaf dog-like ears. I do get it. I have gone on holidays where running was the holiday, but I had more catching up with myself to do than that. I'd run on Monday morning and I all out refused to run on Tuesday. It was the hottest day - 30 degrees, and I was having trouble breathing. I didn't sleep because of the heat and I was dog-tired. I found out I'd forgotten loads of stuff when I was packing, which is unlike me. Really irritating stuff like connecting cables for the computer and the charger for my phone. Plus the place where we were staying was minimally kitted out for self-catering. It had tiny little cups and little flat bowls and nothing for washing up and no sharp knives. We went on a shopping trip and Peter went a run himself while I cooked.

The next night I slept better and we went for a 10 miler Peter had researched. It was cooler that day. Just 29 degrees. The air wobbled. It was nice to get running again but I was done towards the end of it. We ran along the top of terrifying crumbling cliffs and then on boardwalks along the beach and over some marshes.

The next day I wanted to go a recovery run. It turned into a 5 miler, which was okay. I'd finished for the day, but Peter was pressing for going another run. I stepped sideways in the shower and a pain shot down my leg. I thought it would fade as fast as it had come but it just kept on coming. I tried some stretches to see if it would get any better, but that was making it worse. We had planned to walk into Portimao, which was about a mile and a half away, to find out about getting buses to places, but a half mile into the walk I had to call it a day. There was something dead wrong with my hip. Back at the apartment the only way I could get comfy was on the sofa with my knee up, propped on a cushion, facing the wall. My focus narrowed right down into the present and trying to get comfortable. I got the rest I'd been needing, although I didn't quite want it like that. Peter went off on a mega-run of 30 miles arriving back not long before midnight. I think it did him good - took some of his urgency to run away.

The next morning my hip had eased up a bit. We went a very sedate 5K round the harbour. It was a still morning and quiet. Was that the first day we went swimming in the sea? I can't really remember. I remember that the sea felt freezing at first, because my skin was so hot, but once you adjusted it was really fine and we were swimming around for ages before we started to get a bit cold.

The next day Peter was pushing for an adventure and I thought my hip would just about take it. It was a typical foreign land adventure with a bus-driver who didn't understand us. We over-shot where we were supposed to be going and then had to run back up the busy main road. I knew I had GPS on my stupid phone (which I am liking better and better) so I turned it on, and it was kind of helpful, but I couldn't hear the lady's voice over the thunder of lorries rumbling by, trying to squash us. When we got where we had meant to get off the bus we started off down a marked trail. "Isn't this wonderful" or something like that, quoth the Buchanan. I don't want to be dramatic but it was close to my worst nightmare. We went down a narrow road past a series of large houses with big fences and every one was equipped with an enormous barky dog. A rally driver nearly took us out on a tight bend. All the fences seemed to be in good repair thankfully, and contained the baying hounds until the last house on the right where an enormous dog (with eyes like saucers) was standing casually on the wall. It could have dropped down on our shoulders, getting a piggy back and biting our necks at the same time, but happily it didn't.

Peter loved the day more than I did. I was glad to get back to our apartamento and chill out.

I've no idea what day it was by then, which is what is good about holidays. I think the next day we went swimming in the sea again. Swimming in the sea was my favourite thing. My legs are still done from the marathon and the heat was knocking me out and my hip was still achy although manageable. One day I went swimming in the sea and then had a bath when I got in. I love having a bath but our flat is too wee to have one so I take one when I get the opportunity. It was 27 degree heat but I had a nice hot bath anyway. After my sea swim and my hot bath I slept like the dead. I'd highly recommend this if you're an insomniac.

Then what happened? I knocked out a hearty 3 miler at 11.30 pace on the last day. My legs were done. Peter doubtless went for a bigger run somewhere. I can't remember!

And then I have been working ever since and I have just finished.

Yesterday my hip was so sore again that I had to fill myself full of painkillers and hurple around. Today it was magically a lot better. Will I be able to run the 7 hills on Sunday? Who knows.