Sunday, 25 October 2015

Clock change weekend

Yesterday was the Cumbernauld XC relays and the second last of the club championship races. But I am becoming increasingly protective of my weekends, and the thought of spending a precious Saturday freezing in a field in Cumbernauld was too much for me. I opted out. Instead I went for what seemed a 'long' run, up the Water of Leith and back down the canal, which can be 12 or 14 miles depending how you play it. It was kind of nice and autumnal but I was tired and my legs were sore and I cut the corner through town from the King's theatre, wading through the students on Forrest Road and dodging tourists on the bridges, bringing it down to a nice round 11.6 miles. Then I had a big lunch and a sleep on the couch. Before I even had a shower. You always know you've had a good sleep when you wake up and discover you've been drooling...

Today I'd had a lovely long sleep due to the clocks going back. We headed out of town to the coast. Of course we did. It felt cold and it was an effort to get out the van when we got to Gullane. I've created a new regime for myself where I do burpees every day. They're so hard I started with 3 a day and I've just upped it to 9 (after several weeks of build up)  - so to get ourselves in the mood to get going we did 9 burpees in the car park. Then we got going. To start with it was a bit grim and grey but when we got down to Aberlady bay we were starting to enjoy it. There were lots of nice little details which Peter probably caught with his camera. Tiny red and orange mosses. Clever shell colours. A rusty cannister. A coke bottle full of what looked like milk. A lightbulb. Sea know?

Peter was set on going for a swim, whereas I have mentally hung up my suit for the year. I had brought it but had been sure from the first encounter with that cold West wind that I wouldn't be going in a swim. P felt he just had to though, so I went for a paddle. The thermometer says the sea was only a couple of degrees colder than the air temperature but it was really painful on my feet. I don't really know why. I got used to it but some cheeky waves came along and wet my shorts, which was a pity as we still had to go to Tescos and I didn't have a change of clothes.

So it's the first evening of GMT and the window is all black. Here comes the winter.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Heaven Up Here

 Up the seat 2 weeks ago.

There were two races I was not doing today; The Pentland Skyline and the cross-country down in Peebles. Actually, there were certainly more races I was not doing today, for instance I think it's the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii this weekend and I'm not doing that either. But I never expected to be.

I thought about the Skyline and even did a bit of training, but I didn't have enough time to get a serious number of hills under my belt and I decided not to do it. It was difficult to see what the point was. Then I was going to run the XC in Peebles. It would be short and sharp and in contrast to dragging myself round the hills. But some dodgy lung lurgy has knocked the stuffing out of me, and when I realised that only 3 ladies were needed for a team and there were 4 of us, I withdrew guilt-free, knowing I wouldn't have counted anyway.

Me and P went for a run around Gullane and a swim in the sea yesterday, and it was nice. But I was flat as a pancake. I found myself pointing things out for Peter to photograph so I'd have an excuse to have a long stand...after a while he cottoned on to me and there were no more stops.

The water was much colder than it's been. Maybe caused by the wind swinging round to the East and blowing the cold North Sea back up the Forth. It was murky too, which curtailed Peter's camera fun. We swam a few 100 meters and that was enough. P was complaining that his face was getting colder and colder. We walked back up the beach kind of sadly accepting that the sea swims might be pretty much over for this year.


So today Peter was off to the XC and I wasn't excited about anything. The grey skies and windless days are getting to me. It feels like a big fat slice of nothing to look forwards to. Well unless you count winter, icy commutes, much darkness, Christmas (yuk), my 49th birthday, did I mention icy commutes? Hands frozen to the handlebars. Nose drips turning to icicles. Trying to remember to charge up batteries for lights. Taking forever to get home because there's ice on the cycle-path.  We're having one of many, many reorganisation things at work at the moment and I'm not loving it. Sometimes work brings me joy. Not at the moment. In other aspects of living there are so many things other people like that  I just can't care about...try Christmas nights out, bake-offs, weddings, things called 'The Voice' or 'Strictly'... I'm not a big fan of dogs....Downton Abbey...have I alienated everyone yet? Do we really all have to like the same things? Lets add in  getting drunk. I used to like getting drunk but now I can't be bothered any more.

So what would I do today?

I hatched a plan way back in 2012 which I only 'actioned' a couple of weeks ago. Back then, after 3 weeks of a constantly shifting pulse rate I had taken myself to the doctor who had hastily written a letter and sent me off to the Acute Receiving Unit at the Western General Hospital. I spent the evening getting various tests and a couple of ECGs and spent the night hooked up to a monitor. Acute medicine must be full of runners...well it seemed so. The attending Consultant that evening was Claire Gordon who's a top-notch mountain runner. She did actually run from one patient to the next. I wasn't 100% sure it was her so I asked one of the nurses. She looked a bit funny not wearing a brown vest. "Oh yes. She puts us all to shame", said the nurse, "she's very fit. She runs to and from work.". "She's not just fit you tumshee, she is a legend" is what I didn't say. But I thought it. I was quite pleased when I beat Claire's dad at the Park Run. It wasn't easy.
A cardiologist came by. His partner ran marathons and was side-lined with achilles tendonitis I learned. "What's your PB for a marathon?" He asked. "3.28, I told him." "Oh very good" he said. It must have been put in a report because the following morning a doctor came round with a gaggle of students. "Now this lady has presented with lone atrial fibrillation. She has run 3.20 for a marathon". "Umm, it's 3.28", I said, "Or it's got better over night." "That happens here." he smiled.
Later, another junior doctor came by and asked me some questions and then said "How long does it take you to run up Arthur's Seat?"
"Well 22 and a half minutes is the fastest, I think... ...but that's from my house in Leith."
He was living in Causewayside and had been timing himself to run up from there.

So a strange thing happened that night and the next morning. While I was lying there with everything in jeapardy, quite unsure whether I would ever run again or not, all this attention was making me feel like quite the runner. In a way it was fun and in a way it was searingly painful because  I so badly wanted to be that person who was timing themselves to run up to the top of Arthur's Seat as fast as they could and I so didn't want to be that person with a dicky fucking ticker wondering what the fuck was going to happen.

Two weeks ago I remembered about this and I decided to go for it. To the top of the seat! It was an early morning as I had a therapy weekend thing on and the only way I could get out a run was to get up at 5am. It was a beautiful, beautiful morning and I had my camera so it was with regret that I didn't stop to photograph the drifts of freezing fog on the Queen's Park. I'd set the rules for myself. I could stop at busy road crossings, but once I was in the park there was to be no stopping until I got to the top. I passed a few perplexed looking early morning tourists. They were strolling down gently and I was steaming upwards, blowing like a train. One of the things I like about hills is that they blow your cool completely. You just cannot attack a hill and try to look casual.

I deliberately didn't pay any attention to the timer on my Garmin as I didn't need the pressure. I couldn't go any faster and if my time was dreadful it would take the wind out my sails. And I needed the wind in my sails. So I had no idea how long I was taking until I got to the top and STOP. 24.27. I was happy enough with that. I breathed like...I don't know what. Slowly the red mist dispersed and I could see beautiful views all around me. There was a big, wide peace in my mind.

So today it seemed like a good idea to go and do the same thing.

It wasn't so beautiful today. It was cooler, less sunny and later in the day, so there were far more people to get past. Still, the challenge felt good and pretty soon I was once more steaming up the hill blowing like billy-O. (Whatever that is.) At what felt like 2/3rds of the way up I started to wonder about time. I thought I'd caught a glimpse of my Garmin by mistake and seen 18 minutes and 20 seconds.  Could I make it to the top in less than 6 minutes? I really didn't think so. I looked again...only 15 minutes and 20 seconds had passed. Things were still possible! I dug in and went as hard as I could. At the shoulder of the seat I glanced at my Garmin again and by now 22 minutes had gone by. Oh hell's teeth. How long would it take to get up the last bit on the polished rock? I had no idea. I got on with it, got to the top. STOP! I looked at my watch and it said 24.27.

So it was the same. I was quite pleased about that. I ignored the hordes of...well it seemed to be a large contingent of Spanish people today...or could have been Portuguese. I stood, I panted. Slowly the (internal) mist cleared and I could take in what I was seeing. In the distance I could see the Skyline looking at me slightly reprovingly. "Oh get lost" I told it. "I would rather be here now, amongst the Spanish people." and I ran off down on to Whinny Hill which is always quieter and circled round a bit before running home.

So, for now, I am glad about this. I can run to the top of Arthur's Seat as hard as I can and I do not have a funny heart.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Bellicose birthday.

It was Peter's birthday yesterday and we were both tired. Tired from the week. There's a lot of pressure at my work at the moment. Waiting lists and that kind of thing. And I had a change of venue for my counselling practice. And I've started running a group for the PG diploma Counselling course which I did a couple of years ago. Which is kind of, well, "eek!". And I've still got a cough after 5 weeks. I know, I know, I should go to the doctor. I don't know any nurses that go to the doctor if they can help it though. It's not that bad, it's just still here. I keep taking it out for a run and in for a swim but it won't seem to go away.

I wouldn't say I was grumpy though. I wouldn't, but Peter would.

Anyway, the all important weather forecast said "grey" but the sky said sunny and blue. It was a beautiful day. There was almost no wind which makes the sea nearly perfect for a sea swim. The plan was to go down the coast and go for a run and then in for a swim, after a bun and a coffee at Falkos.
Peter was waiting on a parcel of shoes coming through the post and I had a delivery of cardigans I was waiting for. (You can't get too many cardigans.) I had a red card from the postie which had been put through the door saying that there were two items in my name at the sorting office, but I kind of thought one of the parcels might be Peter's parcel.

There is a man at our sorting office who is one of these people who sets out to make every transaction as difficult as possible, and he makes my blood boil. I have watched him in action whilst waiting in manys a long queue and seen it time and time again. I actually hate him. He has a sly way of trying to make other people wrong, while covering up his own mistakes. He flashed into my mind, and I told Peter he should take ID even though the card said the parcels were for me.

When we got to the sorting office I walked in and there was my man in all his glory. I handed him my card and he said "What is your address?" even though it was written on the card. After I told him he said rudely "It's better if you tell me your post-code!"  "Snap" went one of my ties of self-restraint.
"If you want to know my post-code it's better if you ask for my post-code!" I told him in a slightly louder voice. That shut him up for a moment. He looked at the computer.
In an accusing voice he piped up "It says there are two items!"
I was holding on. "Yes it does say that."
"One of them is not in your name!"
Jesus Christ.
"It probably says Buchanan" I said.
I could see he was now delighted with himself.
"HAVE YOU GOT ID?" Ha ha. He thought he had me. He thought he was going to get to ruin my day by not giving me the parcel.
I was so pleased I had Peter's passport with me.

But I was deeply irritated by the whole interaction. I'd predicted much of it so Peter wasn't that surprised when I piled back in the van swearing a lot. He was delighted to get his new shoes, which was some compensation, and I tried to let the blue sky and the sunshine and the prospect of coffee and buns soothe my sense of irritation

Things did look up from there. And though tired, we were in high spirits as we came down to the beach at Aberlady bay. We had decided to do another high intensity interval session and so we headed straight for the subs, which was our starting point last time and so guaranteed we wouldn't run out of beach.

Behind the the sub there was a man with a big camera taking pictures. We didn't pay much attention and we weren't there for long. We were just going over the rules. 5 minutes of 30 seconds moderate, 20 seconds fairly hard and then 10 seconds all out. Best to set 'chrono' times on our watches as it gives you a visual check of how many you've done. This information can get lost surprisingly quickly as the oxygen debt sets in. Before we were ready to go, however, the man with the camera started shouting. He must have been about 30 yards away, and was really just a rotund silhouette against the backdrop of the smooth shiny sea.

"Come on you two! I know what you're doing! Can you get out my shot! You can SEE I'm trying to take a picture here and you're standing in the way on purpose. There's plenty of space for you! Come on, get moving!"

Jesus H Christ. Another one of my restraints broke.

"We're going in just a minute" I shouted back at him.
He persisted. God knows what he had to say. Before I knew it I was strolling up towards him. I told him that we were going in just a minute, and also that we would be BACK. I say I told him, but I think it's likely that I was shouting. It was hurting my lungs anyway. And my poor brain, already prickly from my encounter with Mr "I hope there are difficulties" at the sorting office, was in pain really. Fairly soon Peter and I set off. I thought the man might move off, he was bound to be embarrassed when he thought about himself. We ran a 5 minutes session, rested for 2 and then set off back up the beach. This stuff holds your attention fairly tight and I wasn't really thinking about the man anymore. I could hear Peter approaching in the last 10 seconds so I did everything I could to keep him behind me. He was just behind me. We were back at the sub.

Your man was still there and he started right away. "Are you two STILL IN MY SHOT" Holy shit. We had just been gone for 12 minutes. "I'VE DRIVEN 150 MILES TO GET THIS SHOT!" He was shouting.As Peter says it wasn't my finest moment. I could feel the futility of it all, even the humour, as I was telling him that he was one of the most ridiculous people I'd seen in my whole life. Did he really own the beach. That he was right. That it was his beach and his sky and his sea too, and why didn't he tell the sea to go out because it was SPOILING HIS SHOT, and that there was probably a reason why he was so lonely he had to drive 150 miles to get one camera shot on a Saturday and I hoped he had a nice day and everyone stayed off HIS ROAD on his drive home.

Oh my. We still had a final 5 minute interval session to do and we were well over the 2 minute 'rest' period, so we just took off. Looking at my heart rate on Strava later I see that it came down to a restful 160bpm druing this interaction.

The sea was superbly smooth and we had a lovely swim in the clear waters. The rest of the day went without incident. We got home, had our tea and watched a documentary about Honey Badgers.