Monday, 22 May 2017

Stirling Marathon and Other Stories

As usual I have things I need to do. However, I'm having trouble moving on from post-racing obsessing, so maybe I can put it all down here.

It starts the weekend before last, when we went through to Kinross to see friends Ian and Emma who were over visiting from America.
We went a run up the Lomonds in the drizzly rain. I was going to try to limit how far I ran to 6,,,or maybe 8 miles...just because my legs were full of aches and pains, so it seemed like I shouldn't push it. It was great to see them however, and we made some route choices, and in the end ran 11 miles. I actually did some sprints when we encountered a horde of savage cows too.


The next day was much brighter. I stopped to take a photo every chance I could because I had discovered that running really wasn't my thing. My thing is taking photos of clouds.




And then it was on into the week. I've been busy and am still under pressure with the CBT thing, so I did 3 unremarkable and lack-lustre runs and wasn't really thinking about the marathon. My achilles were sore all week. Whenever I got out a chair I had to take off slowly until my tendons got used to the idea of my feet flexing. 
None of my shoes have been suiting me. 
I got some Hoka Clifton 3s fairly recently, hoping they would make a good marathon shoe. I don't know if it was me or the shoe, but we never got on. I went out one long run in these shoes and my left leg was stuffed by the end of it. Something must have happened to my gait, odd at the best of times, and I 've had a pain at the side of my left knee ever since - I think it's where my IT band attaches.
So then I got to thinking - I've been enjoying wearing Hoka Claytons, but they're a lighter, faster shoe for shorter distances. Aren't they? But maybe if I got a brand new pair for the marathon they would have enough cushion to protect me?

But I couldn't get the original Claytons on-line, - they'd moved onto version 2. I ordered version 2 and they just didn't feel the same.

My other option was a pair of off-road shoes that have loads of cushioning in them. (Hoka ATRs. I just couldn't bear to write 'Hoka' again.) I knew they wouldn't do anything bad to me, like throw my gait off - but they're a bit clunky and warm for road-running. On Saturday, I suddenly woke up to the fact I had decisions I needed to make and tried on every combination of shoe and t-shirt and gel belt and ended up going for the Clayton 2s after all, because when I put on the off-road shoes my feet felt stuffy and when I put on the Claytons they felt light and airy.

While I'm boring on about this I may as well tell you about my vest choice too. You can just skip it if you like! I had a nicer vest top which I could wear with a gel belt or I had a vest-top which I'd bought from Run4it which  was a bit over-engineered and was the wrong size because they didn't have my size. What was good about it was that it had gel pockets - and in fact a paracetamol pocket, although maybe Ron Hill didn't know that's what it was. It also had a bunch of elasticated straps round the back for even more gels. More gels than you could ever need. The down side? Well, it was a bit horrible. In fact Peter told me that I looked frumpy in it and should wear the other one. I agreed.

I hate wearing anything round my waist in a race though, because it can set off a stitch. And in truth I have been feeling rotund of late and didn't relish the idea of anything around that area. The clincher was the large cardboardy Great Run number. If I wore a gel belt it would interfere with the number. It's the kind of thing you can just do without when you're running a marathon - your gel belt trying to scissor your number off. You need the whole team working together.

So I went for the frumpy top and the Claytons - which just happened to work together colour-wise quite well.

Fast forwards...

Marathon morning. There were shuttle buses setting off from car parks in Stirling ridiculously early. Buchanan is not a morning person and I felt there was only so early I could winkle him out of bed. I figured out the very latest I could afford to leave and still have a little bit of wiggle room for the unexpected was 6.45am. He grumped but he accepted it. I was even leaving later than Dr Neil Jones, a man notorious for his last minute arrivals at races.

0645 hours and all's well. Well maybe 0650hrs.


All went well until we went over the rise in the last mile on the M9 before junction 10 and saw a tailback all the way to the junction. We were still in good time, but that line of traffic wasn't moving.

We had planned to get to the Prudential car park by 7.45 and get the 8am bus to the race start at Blair Drummond Safari Park. 8am came and went however and we were still on the M9. We finally got parked up about 8.25am. The last bus was supposed to be at 8.20 but we could still see buses coming and going so were hopeful the situation was still retrievable.

The photo below is straight from the camera, which clearly chose to put an artistic gloss on the stark reality that we were standing in a huge queue for the bus to get to the start of the race.


We got there though - but with little time to spare. There was a huge queue for the toilets so I went for a pee in the woods. (Me and the men.) Happily I noticed as soon as I was out the woods that my gel pockets were now empty! I ran back and retrieved them both. At the time I thought it wouldn't have been too disastrous to lose my gels as I thought I'd read in the information pack that there was going to be 5 stops with lucozade at them in the race. This made gels a bit superfluous, but it's nice to have some control over things, and one of the gels had caffeine in it, so I wanted it for a late race booster.

As it turned out, what I thought were going to be lucozade stops were "zero calorie isotonic sports drinks" stops, so thank God I retrieved my gels. At that point I had to readjust my thinking. Would 2 gels really be enough? Well, I'd be finding out, wouldn't I?

Anyway - before that, we had to get to the start. Peter was still hoping for a spell in a Portaloo. We thought the race might be delayed as the buses were running late. I couldn't make out what the usual overly-loud spewing of enthusiasm from the loud-speakers (with disco music backing) was actually saying, but from the sheer pitch of it, it sounded like the race might be starting on time - which was in 3 minutes. I parted company with Peter with him still looking for a Portaloo and never knew all race what had happened to him. I felt very bad for him. He was wanting to keep up a good pace but if he was, as I feared, starting behind me, he would have to negotiate his way through a sea of slowies to even get started. Happily he  vaulted two fences and ran through the lion enclosure to get further up the field. I should have had more faith.

So anyway. Oooooh Marafun. Feckin' terrible. Boring and horrible. I'm just getting it out, because I need to move on. The scenery. Who gives a rat's ass about the scenery?
8.50 pace. I figured out that to have any chance of achieving what seemed utterly impossible - a sub 4 hour marathon, I should start at a steady 8.50 pace. This would leave me a margin, and hopefully wouldn't destroy me for later in the race. If I was going over 4 hours I only hoped it wouldn't be too far over because the longer you're out there the more dispirited you feel and the worser it hurts.

The actual physical act of running wasn't too bad. The thought of the endless miles ahead was.
 "What would you like?" I asked myself. "Do I have to be conscious for this bit?" I replied to myself.
I wanted the first bit out of the way so I could get on with suffering my way into the 2nd half. The trouble is by 20 miles you pretty much know if it's possible to do what you wanted to do or not.
I told myself some stories but there was a forced quality to it. I have much history in this part of the country, because I was a student in Stirling for 5 years in all. "This is where we went on a pub-crawl and Sandy drank the Tabasco sauce sitting on the bar, then he went bright red and made Scottish noises and poured with sweat."

A couple of nice things happened though. Lying awake the night before I had found myself thinking about a particular nightshift when I worked at the Royal Edinburgh. I can't say much about it, but it was a PTSD quality film reel. I was working with my friend and fellow nurse Caroline and that night we had a flood and a fire on the ward, had to evacuate all the patients, and had to have a van load of police to come in and help us. I don't know why I was thinking about it - just passing the time - but as I was running through Doune someone said "Hello Mary". I looked up and it was Caroline. I haven't seen her for years as she moved back to Forth Valley. What a coincidence. It made the day feel a bit special.

Also later I got a cheer from Andy who was on my counselling course. Again, I haven't seen him for ages as he's been living up North at Apple Cross. These cross-overs from other parts of my life were helpful.

At Bridge Of Allan I got a shouting at from Julia Henderson of Helensburgh. I thought she was shouting "Where is your party vest? Where is your party vest?" I kind of thought she might mean I should cheer up. It was only about a mile down the road I realised she meant my Porty vest. Where was my Porty vest? If my Porty vest had gel pockets and a paracetamol pouch I might have worn it!

Talking of which. Around about 9 miles when I was having the chat with myself about whether I wanted to be conscious or not, I thought that losing a little pain would be losing a little consciousness and decided to take the paracetamol which were for "just in case". From training I realised they took pretty much an hour to kick in, so if I was going to take them it might as well be soon.

It was kind of a concern when to have my 2 gels as well. There didn't seem to be much sense in waiting until I had run out of energy so I had one at 7 miles and the one with caffeine at 11 miles. After that I would have to rely on running to get me through.

Something happened round about 15 miles. I had been flagging and I assumed I was on the usual trajectory to a slow, painful, disappointing marathon. I didn't fight it as I've learned if you're going to fight it better be late on. Otherwise you just exhaust yourself for nothing. But round about 15 - thinking about it - I think people were starting to cramp up and walk. And I was still fine really. Bored but fine. Just the same. And I was still mostly doing sub-9 miles. In an unusual burst of enthusiasm, Peter had said the day before that he had decided that the fact there were 3 laps of Stirling to finish was a good thing. "I think it'll be good" he said, "you'll have all the country stuff out the way, and you'll be tired, but then you'll have the crowds for a boost!" Aliens must have actually taken him over because anyone who knows him knows he doesn't relish the crowds, in fact he usually calls them names.

It was as good a thing to think as anything, however, so I adopted that thought. 

And there was some truth in it. God knows how the crowds in the centre managed to keep that level of enthusiasm for such a long time but there were about three clumps of people who seemed to adopt me on the way round the course and so every time I went past I would get a "Go on Mary! Fantastic! Well done!". It was getting later and I was starting to realise that my sub 4 hour marathon was a possibility. At 20 miles I was under 3 hours and I thought that meant that as long as I kept the pace above 10 minute miles I could finish in under 4 hours. I did the sums several times as I didn't trust myself at all.

I wasn't running anywhere near 10 minute miles, however, most of them were still sub-9. I'd slowed down but only a little bit. As success seemed likelier and likelier I got more and more paranoid that something would happen to stop me from getting there. The laps were getting busier and people were tiring so sometimes the person in front of you would just suddenly start walking and it would take a quick side-step not to run into the back of them. Just profoundly unwelcome at that point. On the third and final lap of Stirling the route was getting even more crowded as more and more runners joined in. At times it was clogged completely, right across. I'll admit to a rather unsporting bellow of EXCUSE ME, at a narrow bit, as five or six people running in slow motion blocked the way entirely. I squeezed through.

Then finally I neared the finish. For 2 laps we'd turned right at this point and then if you were finishing you got to turn left. It was such a joy to do it. Still I was paranoid about people walking across the route with baby strollers, and taking me out right at the end.

But they didn't. 3.55.08. Just way better than I could have hoped for. Strava says I ran an average pace of 8.52, but that was for 26.4 miles.
Looking back at my splits I ran the first half in a bit over 1.55 so I ran the 2nd half in a little under the 2 hours making it one of the most even-paced marathons ever. I think at Lochaber I once ran 1.44 for the half and 3.32 for the full marathon, but I lost my Garmin Training Centre data for 11 years of running when I updated from Windows XP to Windows 10 on my laptop, so tragically the world will never really know for sure. We'll have to rely on my increasingly unreliable memory.

I was so pleased, I bought the over-priced official race photographs.

If you are still with me, well done. It was a long journey wasn't it?




Oocha.

Pleased to see Peter again, long since over the line and waiting on me coming in.


Dr Jones. Who arrived early and missed the queues.



More bus action with Gus.



Hurray.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Glen Lyon Trail Race, and some more failure.

 I shouldn't be doing this, as I have a lot to do...and yet I find that I am, so I'll try to be quick about it.
We had the Glen Lyon Trail Race planned for the weekend, and to prevent a long drive up from Edinburgh early in the morning on Sunday, I'd booked somewhere to stay in Killin on the Saturday night.

On Thursday I got another piece of CBT course work back - and this one was a substantial fail. I'm not going to dwell on this particularly. Just it means more days of May will have to be given over to the perhaps fruitless task of trying to re-submit and scrape a pass.
Lying in bed I was trying to describe for myself the way that I felt about it all. Two words came to mind. One was "spewing". This was in my head from when my friend Paul Edwards had to stop and stretch 22 miles into a marathon because he was getting cramp. We had always been friendly rivals. I was half glad to go past him at 22 miles, but knew it was bad news for him. I asked him how he was a week later and he said he was spewing. By this it was clear he meant an emotional state rather than a physical act. I am likewise spewing about the CBT stuff.
The other word is scunnered. I told someone off my course about it and she said "Oh, what a scunner." Again, bang on. I was scunnered.

I felt so scunnered I felt like I didn't want to go away at the weekend. I couldn't be bothered and I couldn't see the point. I thought it would likely turn out to be one of these endurance weekends where you are trying to be cheerful about enduring discomfort, bad food, being cold, being sore, being tired, not getting a good night's sleep and bad weather. Buchanan and I would be butting heads. Maybe the car would throw in some of its tricks. But I'd spent a fair amount of money on the weekend, which was now not refundable....so I went.


The drive to Killin was a bit bad tempered. For whatever reason, Peter and I were irritating each other. This turned around remarkably quickly when we went into a bar and had a drink while we were waiting on food. We were both pretty hungry so we felt fairly drunk by the time our food came. We ate stodge and then had stodgy puddings with ice-cream. After that we went for a wander around Killin. It was nice to be in a place where the noise of birds chattering away is much louder than the sound of traffic. We loafed around a bit, and then went back to the place we were staying and got to bed early for an early start.



I'd taken my tablet, which is the cheapest one that I could find, so's we'd have access to the internet. I had never tried out the camera on it, so I took a picture of Peter reading in bed. 
The camera's maybe not its best feature.


The next morning dawned bright and cold. The woman running the B&B where we were staying (Ardlochay Lodge) was very nice about giving us breakfast early. We filled our faces at 7am. Peter went for the full cooked breakfast but I'd already eaten twice as much in muesli and toast as I would normally have, so thought I better not push my luck. I didn't want to come home fatter than I'd left.
It turned out the people in the room next to us were known quantities in the form of Gordon Eadie and Michelle Hetherington, so we all had breakfast together.
They'd done the Glen Lyon ultra the day before so had some inside info on the trail run we'd be doing. The info which interested me the most was that Michelle thought the route was more like 15 and a half miles than 17. Obviously they might throw in an extra bit, - but if it was just round the loch, as it was rumoured to be, it would likely be a bit short.
I like nothing better than a short race and I perked up.

The drive to the start over Ben Lawers was spectacular and a bit frightening. I'd had a whole cafetiere of coffee to myself so I thought part of my alarm might just be adrenaline pouring into my system. There were some very slim single track roads on blind corners with a precipitous fall through space in a van being the reward if you misjudged it. I could see, when I occasionally took my eyes off the road, that we were in a wild, mountain landscape. But most of the time I was watching the road.

Further along the road we saw Eoin Lennon riding his bike in to the start. We offered him a lift but he was happy with his 16 mile cycle as a warm up before the race. Peter had already been telling me that Eoin had run...15.11? for the 5K race on Friday night, so we were aware he was in good form.





Arriving at the start it was cold, but sunny and bright. Most of the competitors had that "ultra" look. Lots of compression socks, hats with visors and camel backs. There was a nice low-key atmosphere.
There were 90 sign ups for the race but I heard there were only 55 actual starters. I was, again, very pleased with this. I was in the mood for a nice, peaceful, low pressure race - and it looked like that was what I was going to get.



Below are my three race pics, taken in short succession. There was actually somebody behind me but I've managed to eclipse him with my head.
I had company for the first 2 miles as a runner came and chatted to me for a while - but then I was heating up and had to stop to take my long-sleeved top off. After that I was running pretty much tout seul. I went past a bunch of people on the first hill as there were a good number of people doing the ultra thing and walking the hills. It was no steeper than the Arthur's Seat road so I didn't feel inclined (no pun intended) to walk.
After the hill I think 4 people passed me. The whole of the 2nd half I could only see a girl who had passed me at the water stop at 9 or so miles. She was going faster than me but only a little so she gradually got smaller and smaller.
The wind was behind for the first half and in our faces for the 2nd. The course was kind of hilly but never as steep as the first hill again. In the last few miles I was still hoping the course would be a bit short. I was feeling okay, but just pretty creaky, and I had no desire to push it. I was very glad to catch sight of the dam, which meant the end, when I was at about 13 miles.




2 and a half miles later I was sitting in a camping seat eating a huge scone with jam and cream. I saw Eoin there and asked him how he got on. "Okay" he said, so I realised I needed to be more direct. "Did you win Eoin?" I asked this time. "Uh, yeah". He went for a scone too, and a big wedge of chocolate cake.

It was also lovely to see friends Richard and Christina and their baby Ben. We stood around and chatted until we got cold and then headed for home.


It was a good-sized drive home, but it was fun. I had forgotten how much I like getting out of Dodge and going to have an adventure. It helps when the sun shines brightly all weekend.
This morning it took me half an hour to climb out of bed after my alarm had gone off, knowing I would have to come back down to earth and face my CBT demons. Which is what I should be doing now.
Sigh.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Nasty last long run and a breezy day at the coast.


Saturday isn't my best day for running but I wanted to get this weekend's long run out the way. It was meant to get windier on Sunday. I dreamed up a godawful urban run. It did actually have some good bits - but I was sluggish beyond belief and my legs started aching in earnest round about 6 miles in. My inner princess was protesting. Peter laughed at my increasing grumpiness and took pictures of what he called my "funny face", and then ran off. I could do nothing about it. It was a hell-trip. I have no photos, just the map above from Strava.

Today, it was nice to wake up and see the sun shining. Yesterday was unremittingly grey, and cold, I forgot to mention that.
This morning just felt better.
We headed for Gullane for our normal coffee and cake routine. There was a stiff easterly blowing so we used our sense - okay I used my sense - and planned an easterly route through the trees to get maximal cover from the wind, and then an exposed run on the way back on the beach with the wind behind us.

Despite sore legs from yesterday, it was a lovely fresh day and we both enjoyed it.







eek!

The dog was wondering why the hell there was a man in a bandanna in there taking pictures of himself.



One of the highlights was running along the diagonal path through the rape field. It was like a Scottish version of the scene from Gladiator where Russell Crowe has a fly through of the olive groves on his way to the Elysian Fields.





Another highlight of the run was getting to the beach. Sometimes my clever plans for having the wind behind us go wrong, but not today. I went from 10 minute miling to closer to 7 minute miling, at least for a while. We bumped into Dr Neil coming the other way, and I wished I'd taken a picture. But I didn't. The sand was perfect underfoot for running.




We took a detour past a pond we'd found a few weeks before, teeming with tadpoles. We hoped for frogs, but the pond was still teeming with taddies. I think last week's cold spell slowed them down a bit.


I surprised myself by unintentionally running more than 11 miles today.

Okay. That's another weekend over and I have to...stretch! shower! watch telly! Pronto.

In other news, however, Look! I'm the proud parent of a lemon tree. I planted some lemon pips. (Much to Buchanan's scorn.) But one is coming up!
You're invited round to the house for lemonade next year. :-)



Monday, 24 April 2017

Another Weekend

 A spanner arrived in my works on Thursday. Or was it a fly in my ointment? A thorn in my side certainly, in the form of finding out I'd failed my last piece of flipping CBT course work. It's a while since I failed anything. Cycling proficiency at the age of 11 - that was one thing. I think I got a bit bored with what we'd been asked to do, so I added in some of my own moves. I was enjoying the attention of the police officers. I might have been pretending I had a brain tumour and hoping they'd notice. They mistook my being a fantasist for not knowing some basic manoeuvres on a bicycle and failed me. Fortunately there were no real world consequences, just some wounded pride.

Then later I was to fail history. I still think history failed me. It failed to capture my interest. No-one ever explained why I should care. Why should I care about the run-rig system or the American war of Independence? The first world war I could get more. My grandad, who lived with us, had fought through and survived the war, although he never spoke about it. Well he laughed about spending the night in haystacks, but he never mentioned the trenches, the rats and seeing all his friends get blown up.
And then I was to carry on to fail Modern Studies. Again...Communist China - hard to relate to when you're in rural Orkney.

Fast forward a few years and we arrive at - oh yes - my last CBT essay.
I'm doing my CBT course because it suits my work that I do it. I don't like it, but I'm trying to be fair. It seems quite a shallow therapy to me and it seems to have stolen all its components from other therapies. I've spent a lot of time with practitioners of other approaches, as teachers and mentors, and they've shown me completely new ways of looking at and understanding things. Their approaches are being undercut by CBT because it promises gains for short-term investment, so is supported by financers and managers. I don't want to go off on a rant, because that serves no-one. I'm not going to topple the edifice that is CBT. I just want this course to be done, so I can move on - and now I have to re-submit. I'm not getting away that easy.
I think there's some kind of universal law at work, but I can't put my finger on it...like the more you struggle the worse things get. The more you want things to be over, the longer they take.

Then on Friday there was a wasp behind my curtains. Not an idiom this time, but a real thing. A great big wasp appeared out of nowhere. As the general rule here is that you get your boyfriend to sort out things like this, I tried telling Peter. He opted to give me a hand by playing the keyboards in the sitting room, so I performed a daring capture of the wasp in a honey jar, by myself. There were a number of things that could have gone wrong, not least of which would have been taking a header out the window (we are three stories up). The wasp kept flying, as they do, to the very top of the window, which meant I was balanced on my tiptoes, at full stretch, on top of a small, shaky chest of drawers.

Anyway it was fine. I took it to show Peter and he celebrated by carrying on playing.



On Saturday I was tired, and I knew I had a 10 mile race the next day. We went to Gullane and had a slow and enjoyable bimble around the beach. The sun even came out for a while. We found a football and a coconut. What more could you ask for?





Sunday; Peter was going for a long run - and I had the Great Run 10 miler.
I think it's fair to say my running's been a bit shit lately, and I seem to be accumulating injuries at an alarming rate. Dunbar 10K was properly hard and hideous, so I had little ambition as I ran up the road to the Queen's Park for my race.

I was determined to not set off at an uncomfortable rate. The last thing I wanted was fireworks in the first 2 miles and then a suffer-fest for 8. Edinburgh is a hilly course, which kind of suits me. It means you can't take your splits too seriously as an indicator of how you're doing.

I set off at a moderate pace, stayed within myself and didn't look at my pace except as the miles bleeped on the Garmin. At first my legs and hips were horribly stiff but over time I was relaxing.
It was cold in the shadows, warm in the sun, and there was a stiff westerly as we crossed the Meadows. It was never a joyous experience but I gained confidence as the race went on. In the 9th mile, going up the last hill, I was passing people who were now walking. It's a nasty hill, and almost always into the wind, but I know the course like the back of my hand, and knew there was just one more short rise before a long downhill sweep to the finish. I hammered this, and pleased myself by taking 3 minutes off last year's time. (Last year I had a hangover, so it's not quite a fair comparison, but given my average pace was only 2 seconds slower than the pace of my recent 10K, you'd see why I'd be pleased.)


Cool, calm and collected.

So today I wrapped up warm, because there is a Baltic wind blowing (probably not, as it's coming from the West. Geography wasn't really my strong suit either.) and did an easy 7 miler.

And then I spent 2 hours on my darned essay. That's my plan. 2 hours every Monday until it's finished or it's the re-submission dead-line date, whichever comes first.

Next weekend it's got to be another long run. I wonder what kind of a meal I can make of that.