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 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.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Cramming and a deep tissue massage.

Is it you again?


I thought you had given up running?

Yes I had.

I woke up on Sunday morning feeling kind of contented because instead of trying to thrash myself through another long run I was just going to run about 6 miles and then tidy my room. Maybe other stuff. I was looking forwards to it.

So what happened? I don't know. I looked at the weather map and the wind was going to be light and turning east. So I could just go back the way I came last Monday. I'd get all the nasty stuff out of the way first. Also I remembered Alan Aitchison's look of scorn last Saturday when I told him I'd set out to do a long run but retired at 10 miles. "When is your marathon?" he asked me. "The third week in May" I told him. His brow furrowed. "It's not an exam. You can't cram for it."
Damn these runners and their plain-speaking ways.

I told Peter and we put a plan together.

I felt really fine for the first 7 or so miles. In fact I was concerned I was going too fast - I thought Peter would not ever catch up with me at that rate. We'd built in a pretty large pace differential and I was not going as slow as I was supposed to be. So I dillied and dallied. I took a while tip-toeing down the scary Salveson steps that are looking a bit more cork-screwed every time I see them.

Anyway - round about 8 or so miles I heard the familiar blowing of Buchanan barrelling down the path and I knew I was caught. By this time I was nearly done anyway.

By 13 miles I really was done. So was Buchanan. I had some paracetamols, which I don't approve of. But I did anyway. It took about an hour to notice them but then it was nice my legs didn't hurt so much any more. By this time we were jogging and chatting. Peter compared me to Willie Murray, our club-mate - which is a compliment, because Willie is world class, but he's also in the over 70s.

Anyway, I won't guff on. It was a bit of a cheaty long run. Super-slow and I only covered 17.8 miles to the train station at Dalmeny. However I had run a 63 mile week. Which was a bit of a jump from the 36 miles I'd run the week before.

Today I got up and ran 5 miles on reluctant legs and then I went for a deep tissue massage at Knot Stressed on Montrose Terrace. Oh my word. The pain. The pleasure. I was extraordinarily spaced out by the time I left, in fact I felt like I was drunk, so I came home and had a big sleep. The guy I saw was Juan Mases, and I'll be going back.

But tomorrow I'll be going back to work. :-(

Saturday, 15 April 2017

To hell with it.

The day after my 20 miler I have some crunchy pain in the side of my knee. It's sore in bed. Whenever my leg's been straight and I have to bend it it hurts. Every time it's been bent and I have to straighten it it hurts. It hurts in bed. I'm a bit vexed. Add your own swear words. I know I did.
Feckin' marathon training. And I've been reading a depressing book about your older non-elite runner and the heart. It's actually very good. It's called 'The Haywire Heart' and it's by Lennard Zinn, John Mandrola and Chris Case. I've been aware of John Mandrola's blog for quite a while. He's a keen cyclist who got atrial fibrillation - and also a cardiac electrophysiologist, so he has a lot to say on the subject. Lennard Zinn I was aware of as a cyclist. I've had his 'Zinn and the art of bicycle maintenance' on the shelves for years. Sorry Chris Case, I'm not sure who your are. Anyway, it's about how more and more endurance runners and cyclists have been turning up with heart rhythm problems. These have been written off as being just bad luck - but they've gone into it a bit deeper and put forwards a pretty convincing case of what's happening - that too much endurance training and stress can predispose you to getting heart rhythm problems - and once you start getting problems you really do need to back off. A few things happen - you get inflammation in the heart which converts into scar tissue - which interferes with the conductivity of the heart cells. You get thicker heart muscle and a baggy right ventricle, which also interferes with the conductivity and the beat. Finally, the low heart rate which we endurance athletes are so proud of makes you more vulnerable to getting little clumps of rogue pace-making cells setting off odd rhythms.

They spell out how you have to be stubborn to do hard training, but then it's easy to get into a cycle where you're tired and you're doing less well so you just try harder - and that's the worst thing you can do, for your heart certainly.

It's a good book. They're quite realistic about their audience. Nobody ever got good at running or cycling by listening to stories about how they should be cautious.

It's taken away any desire I had to push. Well much of it. Having a heart problem is fucking miserable and I want to be able to carry on pootling around the beach for as long as possible. It's 5 years since I got atrial fibrillation and I remember well struggling to keep up with Peter pushing the trolley round Tesco's, having to get up slowly for months and having blue lips all the time.

Midweek we went a run round Gullane and it was windy but the sun was nice and bright. My crunchy leg didn't mind too much as long as I didn't try to push the pace. 


Remember all that spawn from a couple of weeks ago?

The next day I went for a run round Arthur's Seat but my leg was a bit worse and decidedly didn't like the downhills. So I backed off and did nothing yesterday.

Today I was worrying about needing to do a 20 miler but it being soon after the last one, and still having a sore knee? Side of knee? Tendony thing? I talked myself down. Since when has trying to push long runs with an injury ever really produced anything of value?

I've got the Edinburgh 10 miler next week, so kind of can't do a long run, or not easily. 

I don't know how every spring I manage to turn running into a torture by signing up for a marathon. 

 So we went for a nice run to Gullane instead. It was damn cold so we hid inside the car for quite a while, drinking coffee and laughing and putting off the moment when we had to go out in the evil wind. After a mile it was alright. My knee thing actually felt better. I don't think it likes my new Hoka Clifton's, which is a shame. Today I was wearing ATRs and it felt much more stable.

I liked the big skies. I didn't like running into the wind! I liked scrambled egg and cheese on rice-cakes when I got back. Yep, you read about that first here.
It's now way too late and I need to get a shower, as usual. And have a stretch, as usual. So I better get moving.

This represents mile 21 in the marathon.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Trying to do a 20 miler.

I've been trying to run a 20 miler since Saturday.

Saturday, well, it had been a long hard week and I didn't feel like it. I persuaded myself out by telling myself to be flexible. I could set out on a long run and then if I was hating it or it was going badly I could bail. Bail I did at Prestonpans. As soon as I told myself I was allowed to stop at Prestonpans my little legs went quicker. It was a 10 mile run. You have to ask yourself, if you hate running long this much, why do it. At the station, who should show up but old clubmate Alan Aitchison. 
His wife Gillian is getting treated for breast cancer just now. They're going through it. We talked about that and we talked about running and we talked about people from the club who we haven't seen for ages. He did a very good impression of fellow club-mate Graham Henry expressing one of his unbridled truths. " A GARMIN! IF YOU'RE A SHIT RUNNER A GARMIN'S NOT GOING TO HELP YE!"

I went home and put my feet up, read a book and had a snooze. I could revisit long running another day.

The next day it was sunny and beautiful and it was a day for going to Gullane. I had it in the back of my mind that maybe I'd want to run long the next day so I should try and save my legs. I felt perky though and wanted to run harder. Peter had been on a long run the day before and wanted to tell me all the details. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

As we rounded the corner onto Aberlady bay the clouds came in and the things in the distance disappeared and it all got a bit mysterious. It was lovely and warm though. 

We came to an orange bush and had a bee off. Whoever gets the best picture of a bee wins. I definitely won. Peter doesn't know how to be quiet and still long enough to let the bees come closer. But I only seemed to get pictures of bee's bottoms.

I tried a pink bush to see if I would have any more luck. It smelled nice. The bees buzzed. It's hard to capture them though.

While all this was going on, some tics came and took advantage. We noticed them because I saw one on my arm - pinged it off and saw that they were playing 5-a-side on Peter's legs. I pinged them all off. There were none on my legs at all. Too leathery.

It was a nice run. I could have run much further than the 6 miles we covered, but I needed to save my legs, and anyway, we had to go to buy a telly.

So I'd hatched a plan for today to get the train to North Queensferry Station. My accrued sense of failure from not doing long runs was finally giving me enough motivation to do one. I figured if I ran straight back from NQ I'd hit 20 miles round about Musselburgh and I could get the train home from there.

I've also been thinking about pace. The advice that I've read many times is that you should run your marathon long runs 60 - 90 seconds slower than you intend to run in the marathon. As I only really want to go sub 4 hours, it occurred to me that I'm pushing too hard. And maybe if I was to stop pushing I would stop hating the whole business so much. I was going to test it out today.

I'd never run from N. Queensferry, and fucked it up immediately by running right down to the bottom of the hill and then having to scramble up the steep grassy bank under the bridge to get up and on it.
It had been forecast to be sunny just until about 10am, and so I figured I'd missed it. Happily it stayed sunny and bright for pretty much the whole run.

The bridge feels surprisingly airy and exposed, and the railing doesn't feel high enough. What if you were to just jump off by accident?

Five miles into it and I was still feeling okay. The birds were singing, it was a lovely day.

I could hear woodpeckers in the Dalmeny woods.

9 miles into it and it occurred to me that if I added in the 'airport run', maybe I could just run home instead of all the way to Musselburgh. This is a 4 and a bit mile loop that is mostly off road,

I was planning to have a stop at the cafe on the Prom at Cramond and have a cake or something and maybe a coffee to lift my spirits for the last 5 or so miles. It was shut though. I'd run past 2 open cafes to get there too. I didn't have any more water but I did happen to have a Coop cherry flapjack in my rucksack, so I ate that carefully. It was pretty dry without a drink, but it was nice and I think it helped. This was at 15.5 miles and I hadn't eaten anything since before I started so I was ready for it.

It was a day for panoramas. There were big skies and fluffy clouds everywhere I went all day.

The last miles felt pretty crap, but I was thinking about the scrambled egg and cheese I was going to eat when I got home, and that kept me cheery. After the prom there were 2 miles of Granton and then I cut up the cycle path. Out of 20.5 miles of running I think only 6 were in traffic. An impressively green day out.

So it was a slow run, slowed down a bit more by going the airport run, but I definitely didn't suffer as much. There was less self-pity in the last couple of miles! But do I really have to do another one next weekend?