Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Gastric Cure

I've been having a week off work. The first full week off work, I realise, since November. I must have frittered my annual leave somehow last year because I've got precious little left so I've been going sparingly with it.
The weekend was tough and left me feeling a bit done in, but I had an easy going 5 mile recovery run on Monday and then went further afield for an 11 or so miler on Tuesday. Almost perversely I found I wanted to run most of the way to work and then over the hill and back with the wind behind me along St John's Road. This was a very urban run but the weather was pretty miserable and there was nothing to see and I was appreciating how living in the city you can at least get a bit of shelter in the winter and find places to run that are not muddy. At the top of Clermiston Road you could see across to the Pentlands looking bleak with patchy snow cover.
I arrived back at the Scotmid with £15 in my pocket thinking I could have anything for lunch I wanted. I was kind of thinking along black pudding lines again - but there was no black pudding - the nearest thing was "Blaggis" which claimed to be a blend of black pudding and haggis. This made me laugh out loud but it wasn't what I wanted. "And maybe I've been over-doing this black pudding thing anyway" I thought to myself. Then I saw some Venison burgers and some venison sausages. I quite like the idea of eating deer because they're good runners for a start - and also to get revenge for all the Lyme disease that's going around - although it's probably not really their fault. I went home and had a fabulous lunch of venison burgers and a baked potato and a big salad. Part 2 of my day, after a shower, was reading a book on the sofa with the heater on in the full and certain knowledge that pretty soon I would be s-n-o-o-z-i-n-g.....oh heaven. Why have all the trouble of travelling when you can have this much fun on the Costa del Leith?

But I woke up with a bit of a sore throat. Nothing too bad but just not great.
I planned to take the next day off running anyway - and then Peter made some plans for me. It turns out there were some ladders he wanted picking up from Morningside - and pots of paint. I felt a bit grotty and the weather was grim so I did it with reasonable grace. I'd been waiting on a new pair of Hoka Speedgoats for weeks (another story) and they'd arrived that morning, so I appreciated the grip on the pedals as I drove around town. They were very positive on the aisles when I popped into Tescos. It had been my intention to pop into Tescos and leave Peter in the car because he strays and wants things and takes ages, but he had somehow talked his way out the car and come with me. True to form he disappeared for ages and when I tracked him down I saw him gassing with one of his mum's friends like they had all day. I cleverly thought to phone him and direct him to get to the check outs so I would not get hooked into some eternal conversation myself. (I know what you're thinking. He's a lucky man!)
We got home and I generously shared my venison sausages with him and then went for another snooze on the sofa. But this time it wasn't just as blissful. Life's like that. Always moving the goal-posts. I did fall asleep but I woke up with my throat feeling even scratchier.

The weather forecast said it was going to be sunny on Thursday morning and we had a loose plan that we'd get out and run down at Gullane and drink some coffee and eat some cake. That, or Peter was pushing to go further afield and recce the course for the 20K trail run we were both signed up for for on Saturday. I wasn't keen, because I was feeling ropey, but the jury was still out. As it turned out it was a moot point and I'm glad we didn't bother arguing about it.

At this point it kind of looked like I was going to get a cold or something, thus making the 20K on Saturday pretty unwelcome. By Wednesday evening I was losing my voice. We both kind of hoped that a good night's sleep would sort me out. But I didn't get a good night's sleep. What I got was very very hot with aching arms and legs. I moved through to the sitting room to the sofa just for a change of scene. It's more spacious in the sitting room and cooler. It was probably actually freezing in the sitting room but it didn't feel like it to me. I could not get comfortable and my arms ached and when I thought about it I could hear Bjork singing "We are the earth intruders", very unwelcomely, over and

For those who don't know. A lullaby it's not.

over and over. And I had this building feeling of....what was that? That I might be sick? Surely not. That wasn't part of the script. Oh yes it was. I got the nearest receptacle which was a little grey bucket the council gave us - I think for putting food waste in - but they never explained - just dropped it on our doorstep one day. I'd like to tell you it was easy to be sick. It used to be back in the day. Lager was obviously more slippery than whatever I eat now. This was a horrible torture. There's all that control I've carefully built in over the years so that none of my sphincters open at the wrong time and it's hard to relax it. It's hard to just let it go....

Enough already. Time for a bit of abridgement. Okay. Whatever it was...could have been the venison burgers...but it seems a bit late...and any food I thought of gave me the disgusted horrors...or maybe it was a virus...I guess I'll never know. It went on all night and all the next day, and my plans, loose as they were, were laid aside so I could do stuff like try not to puke for an hour so I could absorb some paracetamol (this should be an olympic sport) which took my temperature down and turned the volume down on Bjork (although she got replaced by Randy Crawford. Randy Crawford!!!! WTF????)

Peter was sympathetic when he found me on the sofa on Thursday morning with my grey bucket full of tomatoey liquid.  True to his trade he gave me a size 2 paint kettle to be sick in, which actually made me feel a bit better. It was white and more clinical. Had cleaner lines.
I'm no slacker and I made my way to the toilet to be sick during the day. That took me back as well. It kind of sums up wretchedness, kneeling with your head down the toilet. It might be actually good for your soul. I'm not sure.

On Friday morning I had more of a peaceful sleep. Like Mina after they'd killed Dracula. I stopped the fitful dreaming and began to recover a bit. Life opened out beyond the 4 hour trajectory of paracetamol relief. I set myself some fitness goals. I went up and down the stairs twice. Once to take the rubbish down and once to go all the way to Barnardos with some old trousers and then go to Scotmid to buy something to eat. (Probably a quarter mile round trip. I should have worn my Garmin and put it on Strava.)
It was a problem. Everything I could think of was absolutely disgusting. Even my old friend porridge had turned on me. I made myself a bowl but it was an inedible wodge of bland turpitude. I'd tried potatoes with gravy the night before - that would be alright you'd think? No. It was a resounding no. The potatoes were weighty and dull and the skins were unchewable. They tasted of mouldering earth. The gravy was....I don't know. I don't know why anyone would want that. Ech.

I tried to imagine something I'd like to eat, anything at all...and I suddenly thought of roast chicken with salt on it and brussels sprouts. So that's what I had. And it was nice! I only ate a little bit but it was actually nice.

I'd like to tell you that was that, then. I'd stopped puking but I still felt pretty grim. Still I was able to read. My eye was caught by a book I'd got for  £1 in a second-hand shop in 2011 when I was up north doing the Cape Wrath Challenge week. That week was extra challenging because I had a cold. I probably had a cold because the week before, instead of doing the Highland Fling, which was the plan, I'd been climbing the wall because I had an abscess from some unwise last minute root canal treatment and hadn't slept for about three nights until I got some antibiotics and they started to kick in. Anyway, the book was called "My Dark Places" by James Ellroy, who wrote L.A Confidential and was about how his own mother was killed and dumped by a road-side, how he went off the rails as a teenager and then, in adulthood, tried to solve the crime of his mother's murder. He went and got the help of the policemen who had been involved in the original investigation and went over the old evidence and ended up doing a kind of in-depth study into, not only his own mother's death but the psychology of murder investigators. That's if I remember right. He said something like they all have a murder victim somewhere in their past that they want some redemption for. I can't remember if he got any further with his mother's murder or not.
So I read that for a couple of hours, lying on the sofa, which no longer seemed like heaven on earth but more like a place to wait out my sentence as comfortably as possible. I don't know just how I missed it the first time round but the book was mighty grim. He starts out by giving the "facts" of his mother's discovery and investigation, through the eyes of the police. He also gives a kind of God's Eye view which quietly describes the San Gabriel Valley where his mother died. I wanted to give you some excerpts and then realised the whole thing deserves to be read in a oner. It is the most jaded of jaded histories of a place.....oh okay then, just a snippet...

The population skyrocketed through the '50s. The agriculture biz declined. Manufacturing and light industry flourished. The San Bernardino Freeway stretched from downtown L.A. to south of El Monte. Automobiles became a necessity.
Smog arrived. More housing developments went up. The boom economy brought a new look to the valley - but did not in any way alter its Wild West character.
You had Dust Bowl refugees and their teenage kids. You had pachucos with duck's-ass haircuts, Sir Guy shirts and slit-bottomed khakis. Okies hated spics the way the old cowboys hated Indians.
You had a big influx of men fucked up by World War II and Korea.
You had packed suburbs interspersed with large rural patches...
...You could go drinking. You could hit the Aces, the Torch, the Ship's Inn, the Wee Nipee, the Playroom. Suzanne's, the Kit Kat, the Hat, the Bonnie Rae or the Jolly Jug. You could see what was shaking at the Horseshoe, the Coconino, the Tradewinds, the Desert Inn, the Time-Out, the Jet Room, the Lucky X or the Alibi. The Hollywood East was good. The Big time, the Off-Beat, the Manger, the Blue Room and the French Basque were okay. Ditto the Cobra Room, Lalo's, the Pine-Away, the Melody Room, the Cave, the Sportsman, the Pioneer, the 49'er, the Palms and the Twister.
You could belt a few. You might meet somebody. The '50s divorce boom was peaking. You could draw from a big pool of at-the-ready women.

Doesn't that paint a picture?
After a couple of hours I realised I might be better re-reading this book on a day when I didn't already feel disgusted by everything.

I had a better night last night but still a disturbed sleep with a singing head and aching arms.

So today I thought it was time to go outside and get some air. I layered up thickly, afraid of cold wind and rain but needing to go out and get a lungful with my new Speedgoats on. It was a horrible shuffle to start with, but pretty soon I was getting too hot and shedding buffs and gloves. As I hoped, the rainy wind was actually refreshing compared to paracetamol nights and queasiness and horrible cooking smells from adjoining flats. God, life can be disgusting and running makes it better. And who knows, maybe tomorrow I'll be feeling a good bit better and get out a proper run....

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Snowy Race Weekend

Yeah I know, it's not a very good title. It's the best I can do. I'm tired. I need a shower. The dishes fairy hasn't been. Very unpredictable that particular sprite. Let me tell you about my racy Valentine weekend while I still have the strength.

Day 1. Carnethy.

OMG. The Carnethy. But it's snowing heavily in Penicuik. Maybe it'll be cancelled. Dream on.
This was my 12th Carnethy 5. I went back over all the results to see.
I did a bit of training for this - a couple of weekends out in the snowy Pentlands and some runs up Arthur's Seat and I'm glad I did. It was white out conditions all the way round and I thought I did okay considering even if it wasn't the best "time". I found it pretty slippy on the ice and there were bits where I wanted to run but couldn't get any grip.

The sleet slicing into your face was a bit uncomfortable - particularly coming down to the Howe. I still have a twitch in my right eye today. I felt warm enough though and it was only after I'd finished I started an impressive full-body shiver which was a bit embarrassing on the bus on the way back to the school. I knew the woman sitting next to me must be able to feel it though her seat.

The Finish. Photo: Digby Maas, pinched from Carnethy website. Tak!

Back at Beeslack school I found my friend Jane in the dining hall. It was nice to see her even though I think the cold and exertion had knocked my brain off-line. It really was a tiring day. We had to do a Tesco's shop before we got home and we got in at 7pm, got dinner ready and I was away to bed by about 9. Peter stayed up later thinking of ways to complain about the race for his blog. The trouble is people are egging him on and his Victor Meldrew reputation is spreading far and wide. He is going to have to dig deep if he wants to build to a crescendo of denigration of the much loved Carnethy 5 race for his 21st race. He has 5 to go until he gets a quaich and can retire.

Truth be told I don't really know what a quaich is, or how to say it. And neither does he. And I pointed out that...I can't remember how much the Carnethy cost in the early days of doing it...but say it was £5 for the 1st 7 years and then £10 for the 2nd 7 years and it's £15 for the 3rd 7 years then...well that's £210. I think he could buy a pretty handsome quaich for that.

Actually there's no excuse for not knowing something in this age of the internet....

Anyway, I think this proves that he's doing the Carnethy 5 because he likes it. I think you can see my logic.

Day 2. Borders XC Final Leg - Galashiels.
There's been a lot of snow. Maybe it'll be cancelled? Dream on.
I was hungry as hell this morning. I had my normal breakfast and less than 2 hours later I was going back for more. With my belly full I felt like going back for another sleep. What's that you say? An XC race in the Borders? Are you sure?

The car (we have a sympathetic bond. It's my car.) didn't want to start. We have the automobile equivalent of a defib we keep in the back though. Peter attached the wires to the battery. The patient was shocked back into action. We set off down the road. It started to snow quite earnestly for a while. Would we really make it in one piece to Gala? Would it be so bad if we didn't make it there in time? The snow stopped.

We made it in plenty of time. There were a huddle of Porties in the swimming pool building drinking lukewarm coffees out the vending machine. We joined them. Slightly tubby children in swim suits were playing on large floating fun know...animal the pool. It looked warm and cosy. I was pretty sure I have a swim suit in the back of the car from last winter's sea swimming adventures and I did consider it. Maybe I'd just do a few laps in the nice warm pool and play on a big duck, leaving the other Porties to exert themselves outside in the snowy conditions....

Oh come on, get on with it.

Okay. Back outside, after I'd run a mile with my duvet jacket still on I felt a bit warmer.

Shortly after that we were "off".
It wasn't too bad to start with but then the rot kind of set in. Or it wasn't really rot, but enthusiasm it was not. Starting up hill my legs complained. "You're having us on." "Come on, keep moving, I'm not asking you to sprint!" "Well as long as you aren't." My brain and body came to a workable agreement. Towards the top of the hill the sun came out and the scenery was nice. Some very pristine looking white iced hills in the distance. Running down through the field in the snow was a pleasure and I stretched out a bit, grateful that there was no-one to catch and no-one was catching up on me so I could just stay in my own rhythm. Back in the woods it started to snow again and it was fun. Not bad under foot. A river crossing and I picked my way through carefully. No heroics. No splashes. I got to the finish line. The end. Of the race anyway.

Dr Jones put in quite a heroic effort to sweep me off my feet! I was impressed. He must have been going to the gym or something.

Peter was in quite a good mood. "Mr Whittle" as Stewart Whitlie was called at the prize-giving wasn't there today, having already won the over-all O50 male category. That gave Peter another shot at winning that category today, if he could just beat Adam Fletcher. Could he do it? I got a blow by blow account in the car on the way home. It turns out he could. So he got 2nd place in his category overall. Willie picked up the 8 - 10 year old girls' trophy. No other Porties got any special prizes but, you know, we were all winners.

Next up, the Foxtrail 20K next weekend, which I'm sure will be good training for something else...

Sunday, 7 February 2016

All Over The Place

I keep having the thought that I might do better with my running if I stuck to one thing and tried to do it well. But now I've gone and signed up for a whole rake of completely different races so I need to do some fast, flat, hilly, short, long training. So that's what I've been doing.

I don't know if doing better is really the game anyway. The game is really to eat as much as I can without getting too fat.

I'm not sure I'm winning at that game at the moment either.

Anyway. I'm not dead and haven't been silenced. I somehow just can't get my blog-finger out.

After last week's windy beach run with Jane, Buchanan and I headed to the hills. I had been troubled by a pain just under my left knee-cap every time I walked up the three flights of stairs to our flat for the preceding days, so I was a bit worried about that. Running in the snowy Pentlands, however, proved to be fine, and I didn't have any trouble with my knee. I had more trouble with just being exhausted and took some walk breaks that could have been excused on a 50 miler but were a bit harder to explain on what turned out to be an 11 miler. Explanation, or no explanation, that was how it was however. No sense in starting an argument with reality.

Monday I went out and ran just over 3 miles, bumping into Richard Dennis on the way. I didn't have the wit to get my camera out and take a photo though.

This weekend the forecast was looking pretty grim. Saturday Peter and I had thought about going for a run in the Lammermuirs. It looked like it would be pretty cold and exposed though - without the benefit of some sunshine to at least give us a nice view. So we went to the beach, and Steve Crane came along too. Neither Peter nor Steve tried to make me run faster but I ran faster than usual out of pride or fear of holding everyone up or something. I'm somehow signed up for a 20K trail run in a couple of weeks time, so I really need to be running a bit further. The run we did yesterday is 11 miles if the tide's out and we go round the mini-subs. The tide was hard in to the shore, however, and we did just 9.5 miles, which was plenty. It was very grey out but it was a novelty having Steve along and the run went by very quickly.

Today, Peter is off to do a 30+ miler with some Carnethies. The forecast was the dreaded 2 drips from a black cloud and the wind blowing a hoolie. I've never known how to spell that. 40+ mile-an-hour winds. I had trouble just getting out of bed. I slept for 2 hours longer than usual and finally dragged myself up. But it somehow took until the afternoon til I was ready to run.

I thought about running my 10 mile Arthur's Seat route - but I didn't feel like it. The thing is I'd been reading about how black pudding is really good for you after all. I thought that I would take advantage of this 'fact' while it was still current. I like black pudding but I never eat it because it is dripping with fat. So I wanted to run 10 miles today because I wanted to eat black pudding for lunch. A mile and a half into the run my Garmin had some kind of fainting spell and turned off - and I nearly ran straight home. I had to give myself a talking to. Reality is still real even if you can't upload it to Strava. And you still burn calories, even when your Garmin's off. It just doesn't seem like it.

Once my Garmin was off though (it wasn't going back on again - the battery had somehow run out.) there was less urgency to keep the pace up. Half way down the innocent railway path I saw a cute little calf in the long grasses and he had a strange, pale bird friend. There was something beautiful, sad and nostalgic about them silently keeping each other company in the water-logged but sheltered corner of a reedy field.

Further on and round the corner, my eye was again caught, this time by a building I must have seen 1000 times but had never really registered before. "A house for Peter." I thought. There was something melancholic in its one window and no door, and its situation in the long rushes at the side of Duddingston Loch. With no Garmin, again, it was easy to just have a long stand and try to get a shot of it. I even climbed up on the crash barrier at the side of the road to get a better vantage point.
It was hard to get going again after that. Running requires overcoming a certain inertia and I was having to overcome it again and again. Peter does this all the time. I think it's one of the things that keeps him strong.

Coming down the palace side of Arthur's Seat I could find no argument for doing the last part of my run. The route would demand that I run up and round the top road, but the wind was pushing me in another direction - the same direction my hunger was pulling me in. So my run ended after about 8 miles and now I am full of black pudding and I can feel a sleep coming on.