Saturday, 23 April 2016


I'm sitting here getting quietly sozzled and I should probably leave this for another day - but on another day...well it won't have the immediacy.

I was too busy all week and didn't have time to give much thought to this, which was probably just as well. So, kit decisions were made at 5.30 this morning. At 6.15 I was setting off up the road, enjoying the fact you can hear the birds singing in the morning in Leith before the residents get up again and start drinking, singing, shouting and fighting. The train wasn't until 7.07 but I was ready already and had no desire for a last minute race up the road. I had far enough to go. Peter spent a bit longer fannying around making sure everything was just right and then caught me up.

Pretty soon we were in Dunbar and Nick picked us up and gave us a lift to registration at Foxlake.
It was sunny and very cold and the lake at Foxlake couldn't have looked less inviting. I felt grateful that I hadn't signed up for any foolish triathlon or malarkey like that.
We still had a bus-ride to the start so I kept my mind amused and didn't let it dwell on what was to come. I wouldn't say I was scared but I would say my preparation for this was skeletal - probably just about the bare minimum I could get away with. The chances of having a really long, bad day out would have seemed quite high if I'd done any calculating of odds, so I didn't do any. Toby Durant helped me in this by keeping me entertained on the bus, telling me about a high speed police chase of car thieves through gentile Gullane, resulting in a stolen BMW on its roof in a field, some intercepted car thieves and some triumphant police. Phew! High drama.

Pretty soon we were in Port Seton and hiding on the bus because outside it was bright but baltic.

Conditions couldn't have been much better. The wind was behind us and there was no sign of the rain that had been forecast earlier in the week. Off we all set....
It was fine, but it was so early in the race...and it was so far to go. I was still really afraid to think about anything.

It's almost easier later on in the race when the pain sets in than earlier on when you know it's coming.

A lot of a longer race like this you can spend running on your own and then you get entangled in little groups of people who are running the same pace as you. I became entangled with a couple, who I'm sure are lovely, from about mile 8 - 10. But they were doing my head in. They just kept talking about how it was! Thinking about it, I can't even remember what they were going on about, but it was roughly that we were in a long race and that parts of them were aching and that there was a long way to go and the pavement was hard and the wind was cold and that running in a long race on the pavement was hard. Especially in a cold wind. Oh for God's Sake.

I didn't want to drop back and I didn't want to expend the effort to race ahead. At the 10 mile aid station they forged ahead however. I took my time. When I set off again I was back in my own space.
I think maybe I passed a guy who was running quietly on his own. Either that or he caught up to me from behind. I had one of these moments, which happens probably more than it should, when I fell off my own foot. I don't know how it happens but it does. I suddenly stumbled because...nothing. He asked if I was okay and I said yes, just clumsy and we fell to talking. He asked me about my Hokas.

I was wary at first because sometimes when people are asking this what they're asking is "Why are you wearing those funny clown shoes?". That doesn't sit well with my Radcliffe self-image. But it seemed like this guy was just interested. I gave him the story - Peter's plantar fasciitis, the minimal footwear movement, the Hoka backlash, Peter's return from his ashes, how they worked for me. He told me he was fairly new to running. He was mostly a cyclist, and was off to do a race from Turin to Nice later in the year - but last year he'd gone to do this race - Brussels to Istanbul? - with a friend - but his friend crashed out in Rimini and this guy went over the top of him - and it was a race they were racing in pairs - so they tried to keep going, but really it was game over...At the time it was quite nice to stop - but his morale was hurt...

I was there. And because I had been listening to a tale of heroism and painful defeat I was entirely distracted from the cold wind and the pain in my legs and the distance we still had to travel.

Somewhere near Dirleton, Neil Jones and Harry appeared  and kept me company all the way to the life-boats at c. 16 miles at the far side of North Berwick. It was here I re-discovered the delights of Coca-Cola.

I know, I know, I'm not normally a huge fan of Coke. But today I was.
I remembered my friend Douglas Sinclair telling me back in 4th year at school that he'd been drinking a glass of Coke when his older sister's boyfriend, who was somewhat hostile, turned to him and said "Coke adds life....where there is none." And burst out laughing.
Which is the joy of long-running on your own on the sand. The randomest things bubble up from somewhere deep down inside and you think "Oh yes, I remember that."
Sometimes you say it out loud by accident.

Anyway...come on, we've still got 15 miles to go! And it's 8pm and you've not even had a shower yet!

Damn. Okay. This is how the next bit went

  • sand in my shoes
  • needed a pee
  • getting passed by relay runners
  • had a pee and emptied my shoes
  • not a metaphor like Sian Lloyd in 'I'm a celebrity', just take it literally
  • my toe bandage goes awry and I have to take my shoes off again
  • 26.2 miles, ya beauty!
  • pfoof, are we there yet?
  • are we
  • I can hear Debbie Harry singing, we must be nearly there
  • I am there
  • Peter gets wood
  • I mean he won a wooden trophy
  • The lovely Hays give us a lift to the station
  • Waverley
  • Burgers, beans and eggs
  • One bottle of Dark Island
  • and two glasses of wine....
God, that was a lot easier.

I am proud that I have survived my first ultra since....2011?
And I am grateful that there is no reason for me to ever run so far again unless I want to.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Outrunning my hangover 10 miler

All the emotion of the day catches up with Buchanan

You wouldn't have thought it was the best prep for a race but now I might do it every time.

We were at Peter's niece's wedding yesterday so I had a glass of fizzy on an empty stomach, and then half a pint of Best. Then I had 2 canapes (In my mind this word rhymes with "apes", I read it long before I heard it. I don't know why they're called canopies.) Goat's cheese and sun-dried tomato. My first sun-dried tomato fell on the carpet though, sorry carpet. Then I had a hot haggis ball but I didn't have the sauce.

The photographers were taking pictures for a bit longer than expected. I was trying very hard not to get too drunk. I barely drink, and I was hungry. I could easily have just scoofed more drinks at the bar. But I held back.

Then it was sit down and the speeches and toasts. The bride's dad Neil and the bride and groom and the best man were all toasted, and through some parallel process I found I was also getting toasted.
Then there was the matter of a tiny bottle of sloe gin at my place setting with my name on it. It would have been rude not to. And some of Peter's too...which was...I

I had chatted for a while with Peter's step-mum and sister, Elizabeth and Caitlin, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We don't see each other much but there are many parallels in our lives and it's easy to relate. I normally only talk to runners and mental health nurses so I'm a bit tongue-tied at social events. Well I say 'at social events' but actually I usually don't go if I can help it. My mental health nurses at work have given me a diagnosis of social phobia...I don't think they're right but I think that reflects my enthusiasm for attending social events. I don't know where the horror of it comes from but it goes way back. Especially formal occasions. I remember feeling puzzled and alienated by social occasions ever since I was small, and I still do. There are all these weird roles and rituals and I don't get them. I feel like an alien. I suppose the clue is in the name. "Formal" which means it's all about form. I remember an old friend Jamie once telling me that whereas many people are all form and no content I was the exact reverse. All content and no form. It's all starting to make sense...

Anyway. Race prep. Some black bread and butter. We asked the pony-tailed waiter what the black bread was. Wrong question - we should have asked him what the black constituent was - but we didn't, and he didn't know, so he went away and asked and came back and said it was bruschetta noir. Ah...the blackness is noir. That explains it....

So I had that and a big slab of pate and some toasty things and mean-time they were serving up red and white wine. I was still doing my best to keep myself on the path of righteousness and so I asked the waitress if I could have just half a glass of white wine. I was a bit puzzled when I looked at it and it was up to the same level as Peter's. He explained to me that what I said sounded like "can I have have a glass of white wine". Oh whatever. And then they were topping up which is flipping fatal.

We were into the main course and I ate two humped chicken backs and a crispy potato or something. I thought I would reach a little further out of my comfort zone and actually talk to a stranger, so I talked to the man on my right. It started off civilised enough...what do you do etc etc, his son was in banking, other son was doing something else. He asked me what I did and I said I was a mental health nurse and he said something like "Oh it must be difficult working with these people." I tried to be patient but the drink doesn't always help the patience, but I explained to him carefully that I mostly see people with anxiety and depression who come from all echelons of life and I didn't add that I probably see more people from the banks than anywhere else, because it's a brutal unforgiving environment to work in. He said "The thing is for these people to admit they have a problem, that's the first step." I didn't say much more, but  to be fair I didn't say "What the fuck do you think you are talking about?" So actually I did quite well and I was very well-behaved.

Pudding was splendid it was sugary sugar on a stick. Or I think it was some kind of chocolate pie and ice-cream. By then my alcohol soaked liver was asking for me to pour in some sugar. "Go on" it urged me, "as much as you like, get it in!"

Then Neil came over and offered us a drink. I really did want a drink but I asked for a half pint. I did! I did! But it turned out there were no half pint glasses at the bar so I had to have a whole one. Even as I started to drink I still thought I might just leave half of it in the glass. But I forgot.

It was way past our bed-time by then so we said our goodnights and hopped on the bus Gus.
I really didn't know if I 'd be racing any 10 mile race or not. I had probably just guzzled as much again as  everything I have drunk in the last 3 years, all in one go.

FFast forward to this morning.

Everything seems funny - I wonder why?

Joy written all over his face

"Ewan makes some last minute adjustments."
I like knowing everyone's name. I think we should wear name tags all the time.

Raggle-taggle warm ups

6 miles done and I'm okay.

The alarm went off at 5.50am as usual and I checked out my condition. Racing didn't seem like a good idea but it also seemed quite funny. There was no way Buchanan was going to pay £30 for pounding the city streets so I was on my own with this one. I don't like the feeling of still being a wee bit drunk in the morning but people who knew me in my 20s and early 30s will know that whether I like it or not, I have plenty of experience with it. When I stopped resisting the whole experience it was okay. I decided to go with the flow. I had to run at some point today anyway so why not do the Great Edinburgh run with a few 1000 friends I hadn't met yet...and some I had.

Coffee perked me up and as I had Diana Ross's "upside down you turn me" kicking around in my head I put it on You tube and had a bit of a dance. It was followed by more funky sounds of the 70s.

Oh my, I'm flagging. My hangover is just behind me. I must get on with the story quickly...quickly...before a great tiredness overtakes me....

Well it goes like this...

After grooving for a while tout seul I jogged up to the park. This was the best part of it. It was a 12 minute run to the start.  I ran past two runner girls who were walking and wearing coats and tights and when they saw me running past said a little bit loudly "She's keen!" I still had potential gobbiness kicking around inside but I managed not to get in a girl fight and kept on up the street.

Up at the orange start I met Stephen Maley who disappeared from club for a couple of years there. We had a chat and then more and more Porties started to arrive.
I have been stiff-muscled all week, probably from upping the mileage a bit too quickly. My hopes for today were modest. I hoped I could get round without too much of a headache or any nasty tummy tricks. I hoped that maybe I could go sub 1 hr 25mins which would be 8.30 pace, and somewhere inside me I had the odd idea that maybe I could run 8.16 average pace. I don't know where I got this number from.

I spoke to Shelagh McLeish for the 1st mile. I wouldn't normally do this in a race but I know Shelagh from way back at the start of my time with Portobello and I haven't seen her properly for years now. I think our talking was irritating the runners around us as I got barged a couple of times on quite a wide road where there was plenty of space! There was no way I was setting off anything like hard. I didn't have a plan but it certainly wasn't to go off too hard and then suffer all the way round.

Shelagh dropped back after a mile or so. She's had trouble with her neck and her mother so hasn't been able to train like she used to. I'll say it so she doesn't have to. Back in the day she could whip my ass and her marathon pb is 10 minutes quicker than mine is.

So I just ran my own race after that. I like hills. They give my body a break. I like the changes of position. I like the fact that other people hate hills and sometimes they walk on them. There's nothing I like better than people walking on the hills in a road race. It gives me a huge surge of "Ooooh I'm going to run past you and not even breathe hard". Today was a hilly course and I liked it. As we eased our way up the Mound an English girl running next to me broke into a volley of swear words. I relished it.

There was kind of a boring middle phase that went round the road and through the university and along the Meadows and then up and over back down into the grass-market. From the Grass Market it was all more or less downhill for a while and I got a cheer from Jim Scott and John Blair which gave me a lift. I still had some of the drink whirling around in my brain so I show-boated a little, punching the air and giving it whoops. yeah I know, I don't care though.

Then it was all the way up St Leonard's. Again people were suffering. Actually I was beginning to suffer too. I was kind of running out of sugar. I would have liked a cup of coffee, something like that. At the top of the hill I saw John Forker however, who I had previously seen at the Meadows. John is another Porty who I haven't seen for ages. Shelagh was telling me he was injured, so just spectating today. He told me I was looking strong and so I told him and the people around me that I was getting stronger every single mile! I think they were quite impressed.

Coming back to Arthur's Seat there was Lucozade, which was helpful. I only had a couple of mouthfuls as I was scared to set off any rebellions in my tummy. I needed a wee boost though and that worked quite well. Then, soon, there were only 3 miles to go, and it was on such home territory. I regularly run that route on my "tough 10 miler". Down the innocent railway and then back up past Duddingston, over the top and back down to the Palace. For quite some time my Garmin had been ahead of the mile markers, so I reached my own personal 10 mile spot at 1hrs 22. I was delighted with that. There was still a good bit to go to the finish though so I finished in 1hrs 24mins 13s according to my chip time.  I had a look to see what my unofficial average pace was and it was 8.15 pace, so I ticked all my boxes. Sub 1hrs 25min officially, sub 8.16 pace unofficially, only the merest headache and a slight tummy thing round about the university that resolved into a medium sized burp.


Back in the park I saw Aileen and we had a chat before heading home.

Now I am at home and a certain sleepy jadedness is wrapping itself around me. But I stayed ahead of my hangover as long as I needed to.

I just feel a little unprepared for the week. Does it really start again tomorrow? And then a 50K on Saturday? Oh my.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Sunday Run

The weather for Sunday promised to be sunny in the afternoon. I hate hanging around and waiting to go running. All the oomph leaks out of me. It didn't make any sense to go out in the grey though so I hung on. We drove to Gullane and had some coffee and cake about 3pm and then set off.

My legs were stiff as posts and although they eased off after a couple of miles I never really picked up speed. I've been off work and so getting out as much as I can and realised on Saturday that if you counted my mileage Sunday to Saturday I'd run 68 miles for the week!
Which is way more than I've been doing. And I'll be lucky if I don't get injured. But I've been enjoying it. It's like the good old days....when I used to run a lot....

the view from above, very Tweedledum

The weather didn't let us down. It was brilliantly sunny down by the sea-shore. I was running at glacial pace but nobody cared.

The tide got me. The photo below looked like I escaped, but I didn't, and had wet feet for the last 4 miles back to the car.


Simulation of the the Polar Bears drifting south on the north-pole ice. Brings it home doesn't it?

Unbelievable. Chips in the van for tea

So today I went out a 5 mile recovery run and a cold north wind blew and there was a splatter or two of rain too. It looks set to piss down tomorrow for going back to work.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Lagoon run and puppies

It's not running, but it's a shame to have pictures of puppies and not share them. We were down at Peter's sister Anne's yesterday giving their mum a lift back up to Edinburgh. There were new puppies in the house.

Peter's going for some 35 miler tomorrow so he didn't really need to go for a run today but when he heard that I planned a 15 miler round the lagoons he said he'd come too. I had to give him the usual talk - which is that I was trying to run 'at pace' which would require a policy of no talk, no interference. "Oh yes. Oh yes" he agreed while thinking about something else. Maybe which model of Hokas to get next. We have a very nice friendly post lady, but the shine was coming off delivering to our house today. She had a new pair of shoes for Peter. "Thank God you're in" she said, "my bag is throttling me". I could see her problem. The shoes were bulky so the strap that went round her neck had shortened. I promised her no more shoes for a little while, but she looked doubtful. Through our open door she can see shameful piles of shoes. If she could see round the corner she'd see further rows of racked shoes; some still young and waiting their turn to get out there, others which are past their best but seem too precious to just throw out.

It seemed like we set off first thing, but according to Strava it was 12.16 as we set off at a gallop. Err, a trot. Oh my legs. Well my hips really. I've been off this week and so running every day. Peter had had a day off so was fresher than me. I used the first couple of miles as warm up and loosen up miles but then slowly got into some kind of a pace. Peter had forgotten his instructions so he trotted up and started chatting about what shoes he might wear tomorrow.
Emmm "no talk remember?" "Oh yeah" he said and trotted off ahead - which is just annoying. What's the point in even trying? There's a distance at which he no longer affects me, maybe 20 feet or something he clears my aura and I can sink more comfortably back into myself.
And to be fair he only forgot another couple of times, the rest of the time he let me be.

After my initially challenging start I was moving along at quite a nice pace. I started to get optimistic thinking if I could keep that up things were definitely going in the right direction. About 6 miles in reality began to sink in and it was tougher. When we turned around at the far end of the lagoons there was a headwind and I immediately slowed. My legs were like setting concrete and the challenge was to get home before they set firm.
As usual, the prom on a sunny day with scooters, children, bikes, dogs and oldies was pretty terrible but once we cleared that we were nearly home.

And then I went to the Scotmid to get things for lunch and I have eaten my own weight all over again. I think I need a lie down. But I was 20 seconds per mile quicker than last time I ran that run 6 weeks ago, so I am quite pleased.