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.

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