This is from the other day on my way to work. It was lovely and peaceful with all the school children not there and the sun coming up over a snowy, crispy Davidsons Mains Park.
Today it took quite a long time to get out running. The wind was howling but the sun was, surprisingly, out and about. We headed for the Seat about 1pm or so after a lot of navel gazing, dreaming, staring into space and too much looking at bloody Facebook with the heater on. The best thing about going to work is someone else is paying the heating bill. Says Scrooge.
Anyway, I got in a race with some guy wearing tights and shorts which got me stirred up. We were running down the Innocent railway path and I could hear him behind me - but he kept hacking and coughing which made me think I would like to beat him - so I upped the tempo of my little legs. I beat him to the lights at the bottom but then there was a wait until they changed, which he took advantage of by cutting across at an angle and going in front of me. Red flag. Bull. I figured if he couldn't catch me running downhill, he wasn't going to beat me on the way uphill so I went past him. Once you've done that you're committed - so while Peter jogged around taking photos I stamped my authority on my anonymous friend. By the time I got to the Duddingston turn off he was 100 yards behind. Yay for me.
The next plan was to run up the Duddingston steps and all the way to the top. Peter complained a little bit but I didn't pay any attention. It's a hard half mile or so though and takes a bit of focus!
The top of the seat was like bleedin' Picadilly Circus. Who even are they? What are they doing there?
Peter was very scornful about the parliament being pink, but I rather like it.
Happy New Year.
Anyway, it's time to think about the year that's just been. Looking back on it, it wasn't my best year ever. I spent a lot of time doing things I didn't really want to do. I was still doing that CBT course until August - until I'd failed the maximum number of things I could on the course and still pass - and then one day - I passed! It was a surprise when it happened, and it was a relief.
Meanwhile in June it looked like there was a good chance of getting a new job that I would really like - but it took forever to be advertised - and just before it was advertised it was changed to a temporary post for 18 months. At first I was going to go for it anyway, but then I remembered the horrors in the last few years of NOT having a permanent job and having to continually think about it. 18 months is hardly time to really get your teeth into a new job - so I didn't go for it. That non-event took from June to September.
So looking back on it, and to my surprise, probably the most successful things I've done this year (apart from keeping up the payments on my mortgage) have been running. I'd given up on running glory really. "Paula," I'd said to myself, "there will be no more Olympics for you." And I'd found a kind of peace in that.
Still, I entered Stirling Marathon pretty much out of habit (the habit of running a marathon every year) and because it was new. My training went badly right from the off. At first my long runs were slow, painful and dispiriting and then they got worse. So I went to plan B which I've always meant to try but never been brave enough. Plan B is to back right off the training and then hope that having fresh legs will get you through on the day.
I did a few sums before the event and figured I should try to stick to 8.50 pace or so and that would leave me a margin for slowing down later on. There was absolutely no reason to hope I could actually do this - but it was just what I had to do if I wanted to go under 4 hours, so I tried for it. To my amazement by mile 20 or so I was still on track and I did the whole thing at something like 8.52 pace. I felt pretty terrible all the way - I'd like to tell you I felt great, but I didn't. Empty and bored. But I liked the result. I'd finally gone sub-4 again - something I used to be entirely casual about.
The point of going sub-4 was that I could then get a good-for-age place for London 2018 and go and see my pals Steve and Susan while I was at it. Sadly, this was a total fail. I didn't realise the applications had to be in by June. I waited until October to have a look and realised that that boat had long sailed. When you miss something by that kind of margin, it doesn't even hurt.
Then, late in the summer, I formed a notion that I'd like another stab at the Pentland Skyline. Again, if I did it, I wanted to go under 4hrs. I've never gone over the 4 hours for this and I didn't want to start.
I thought I'd try training and see how it went. It went much better than I thought. I found that I loved being back in the hills again and quickly extended my runs.
The training was the best part. I didn't really enjoy the race - I had to get up too early and there was too much hanging around. I used to like racing but now I don't like the whole jangled nerves and caffeine thing.
I was just concentrating on running as canny a race as I could - not over-egging the first part - so there'd be something left for the 2nd half. By Bell's Hill I thought I'd probably blown the 4hrs thing but there's nothing to do at that point other than get to the end as quickly as you can. That's actually the plot of every race.
here I am smiling at Mary Lye who was out on the course with a tent full of children.
In the evening after the race I took my pulse in the shower, as you do, and it was 88, which is too high for a resting heart rate! It's hard work all that racing.
Unusually, Manor Water was on a different weekend from the Skyline, so I thought maybe I should go and spend the last of my hill fitness there. I'd done it in 2006 and fondly remembered it was just running 5 miles up an easy angled, grassy hill - and then back down again.
Ah memory, and its glossy kindness. Manor Water Hill Race - it turns out - is a terrible uphill thrash into the wind and rain - being chased by Kathy Henly. I'd seen Kathy at the start and thought that maybe there would be an over 50 prize at stake. I've beaten Kathy on the uphills before - but not the flat or the downhills - so I set out to get up to the top as quickly as I could. (I know, again, this is the plot of every race.) She was too close behind me at the top though and I knew I was beat. What I hadn't realised though was I was running as 1st woman for most of the 1st and some of the 2nd half of the race. Kathy beat me but I sure made an effort on that long, rough 5 miles downhill to the finish line. All this was very, very exciting - not really enjoyable - not until later - the tea and scones and all that.
Is it just me or is there some kind of an appraisal going on here?
Winner, winner chicken dinner, and me...2nd lady...Bloody marvellous!
So those are really the moments that stand out. My glory moments. Worth doing a 2017 just for that.
I would love to stay here and revel in my glories but apparently my washing is ready (subtext - empty the machine!), I need to do some stretches and then it'll be dinner time.
A Very Happy New Year to my patient readers out there. :-)