Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Dumfries Half Marathon

Earlier last week I was doing what is now usual for me. Despite being fairly careful over the weekend I seemed to have pulled a new injury out of the sky. I'd done something to my hip in bed. I was lying funny so as not to hurt my knee on the other side. Jesus, old age came on rapidly.

On Tuesday I was hurpling with a sore hip. On Wednesday there was that super-duper short-lived storm so I couldn't even go for a cycle. I went for a swim at Leith Victoria. The water was nice and warm and it was relaxing. There wasn't much room for swimming though. I think I timed it exactly wrong. When I got there I discovered ex-fellow Porty and speed walker Andrew Fraser behind the counter. I hadn't seen him in a few years  and he'd been having a few of those kind of years - the ones where everything goes wrong - so we were chatting a wee bit. I turned around to discover that since I'd arrived a long queue of resentful but quiet older men had formed behind me. I said goodbye to Andrew and got in the pool. I had it largely to myself for about 5 minutes and then everyone else arrived. It didn't matter anyway. My swimming isn't that great. I hadn't been since February. I did 30 lengths with generous rests in between and called it a day.

On Thursday I was a bit better and I went out for three cautious running miles.

So on Saturday the plan was still on. Drive down to Dumfries and spend the night - push the boat out - have an Indian meal - even have a pint of lager! I soon remembered why I don't try to please Peter very often. It's impossible. I thought of driving down and staying over night because he was moaning so much about catching the early coach for the race on the Sunday. But then when I told him about the hotel and all I could tell he wasn't that pleased. Oh well. On the road on the way down he was saying wistfully that he was missing some drinking run in the Pentlands with the Carnethies. (And I thought HBT were the piss-heads of Edinburgh Running World).

We made reasonable time down the road and only drove round Dumfries 2 or 3 times before finding Glenlossie Guest House, our lodgings for the night. I can't be bothered going into it but our room wasn't the best, despite its generous 8 points on Why have a large window if half the view is underground? I'm only asking. I hated the smell of the room. Someone had left one of those lemon plug-in things in and on. What is that smell better than?  Maybe there was a corpse in room 8 across the way. There was a loud buzzing sound issuing from it anyway. I could swear I booked a room with an en suite toilet but lo and behold we had a shared toilet and we were sharing with room 8, which seemed to be housing the Lord of the Flies.

Undeterred, or not too much, we put on our party clothes, (Peter put on his book-group tank top and I didn't get changed at all) and hit the town. 


I don't think we took the most direct route to the centre of town, but it was good to stretch our legs. Dumfries had the feel of a town that has seen better days. Quite a lot of the young people seemed to be spending Saturday night driving about in a car with loud music on.

The Royal India was busy and we were a long time waiting. This was Peter's first smile though. Or it might have been  just wind. When the food came it was good and we ate more than our fill. Then we waddled home, full as eggs, under the nearly full moon.

Robbie looked down askance at some very drunk and shouty ladies in high-heels. 

We were in bed by 10 and might have had a good night's sleep if there hadn't been something wrong with the heating system. But there was. So pipes in the wall and ceiling knocked loudly all night. The building was unstaffed so there was nobody to complain to except each other, and there was no point in doing that because we already knew.

So the next day we were tired. But it was a beautiful Sunday. 

Look this is the course. My Strava friends have suggested it looks like a man's parts and now I can't see it any other way. Check out the course profile though. Terrible. Lots of downhill in the 1st half and then uphill and into the wind in the 2nd half. I've got to be honest. I didn't enjoy it. I didn't expect to. I hoped maybe I could get under 2 hrs but it turned out I couldn't. I strolled in in 2hrs and 2 minutes. I think that's a PW equal with the last Haddington Half Marathon I did where I had to take a toilet stop in a field. But it was fun being out the house and seeing people, and I was glad I managed to enter a race and then actually run it.

The race was very well organised. Hats off to the organisers. Maybe I'll risk doing the Dunbar 10 miler. Would that be pushing my luck too far?

Monday, 17 September 2018

Here comes the autumn

It had been a couple of weekends since we'd got out of town - together at least. The wind was blowing and the sun wasn't shining particularly but we both agreed that it was time for a beach run. 
We had coffee and scones from the village coffee house and then set out - late as usual - for a canter around the Gullane territories to see what was there.

Peter was bemoaning the absence of butterflies - all flown on to a better world presumably - and also telling me about a proposed trip next year with a butterfly enthusiast friend to Dunkeld to see - I don't know - something - pearl bordered fritillaries possibly. (Sound like little omelettes). There was some suggestion that I might like to drive.

My first thoughts were that I didn't want to drive. But I was drawn by the idea of what a good documentary it would make. 30 minutes - not too long - the preamble to the hunt for the pearl-bordered fritillaries, action sequences in the middle in which they do or do not find them, and then closing sequences...the two of them round a campfire, still talking endlessly and with enthusiasm about "lepidoptera" as the camera draws back to reveal the moon and stars twinkling in the background. Hmmmm.

 There was a definite autumnal feel - lots of mushrooms, grey skies, dropped leaves and grasses changing colour.

My legs were still stiff from doing the half marathon distance on Wednesday. I hoped an hour's run or so would ease them off but by night time they were worse. What could we do on Sunday that would get us outside but not make my legs worse still? It was forecast for the wind to blow even harder. It popped into my head that maybe it would be good - or at least interesting - to go and do the 23 mile route we do in the Lammermuirs, but on mountain-bikes. Some of it would be fine - some of it would be testing - there are some very steep uphills on gravelly paths that I thought might be a bit much - and the last thing I wanted to do was make injuries flare up - so I adopted a "no heroics" policy.

We set off late as usual, putting the bikes in the car. As we arrived at the Hopes Reservoir carpark there was quite a lot of un-forecast rain thrashing down noisily on the roof. We hid in the car for a little while. I told Peter we didn't have to do it, but he said we did - so as soon as it blew over we set off.

Initially the wind was pretty much square in our faces and I don't think either of us felt very hopeful about what lay ahead. I had to get off at the first really steep hill about 2 miles in. Down in my lowest gears I couldn't generate enough forward motion to get going again so I just had to push my bike up the hill. Peter managed to keep going all the way. I pretended I thought he'd got off his bike and had to push just to hear him in full song. Haha. After this, things got more do-able, the gradients eased, as we flew down the road towards Carfraemill we got onto a lovely smooth section of tarmac. What a delight! It was a bit of reprieve from the constant rattling.

We were going to stop at Carfraemill and have a coffee and some shortbread - and I had brought a bike lock to that end - but then I realised although I had the lock, the key was on my housekeys, which were back in the car. To hell!!! It was probably just as well. I was a bit intimidated by the return stretch through Glenburnie etc. I didn't know how my mtb skillz would hold up.

Actually it all went quite well. There was plenty to focus on - deep mud, large gravel chunks, quite a few water crossings. They were challenging but then that took my mind off how much effort it all was. All the water crossings went well until I crossed one that had slimy green stones under the water. I didn't slide but I thought about it, lost my nerve and put my foot down - in a foot of water. Peter came across behind, mansplaining what I'd done for me, but I already knew what I'd done. Like climbing, a lot of it's a mental game.

Coming down the last 4 or so miles was great fun and a bit frightening. They were steep downhills and control could be lost. I'd get scared, get on my brakes too hard - which can set off a whole lot of new problems - take a deep breath and let go, over and over. Buchanan was enjoying himself thoroughly and shot down the hills with no apparent fear. Getting back to the car we were both wind-battered and exhausted from the effort and the concentration. 

Good game.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Hello dear blog fans. I've had quite a few free Wednesdays in a row - soon to end. 
During my long beautiful Wednesdays I have been going out for longer runs (longer runs = up to 10 miles)  and hurting my knee over and over. I've got a new fave 10 miler - a nice run from here - through Stockbridge and then up Ralvelston onto Corstorphine Hill. Earlier this year I found there was a magic gateway that brings you out onto open hillside. Running down the far side is where I've been hurting my knee. There's something about steep, offroad stuff that is not working for me just now. At the bottom of the far side you come to a wee gate that brings you out onto St John's Road which is a big, nasty road but it has a nice, wide pavement and you often get the west wind behind you which makes for faster, easier running. Then it's choose your route through the centre of town and then choose your lunch from the Co-op.

But every time I've done it I've been limping for a few days afterwards.

I did it last Wednesday and hurt my knee again. It didn't matter so much as I had a course to go to at the weekend and wouldn't be able to run anyway.

I've bought myself a new camera - a Canon Ixus. It's not nearly as good as my Lumix but it's much lighter and smaller, so better for taking out and about. These photos have nothing to do with running but there was a big stormy looking cloud in the sky on Thursday evening. I was working in Shandwick Place on the top floor.

The other day I was out a run and my leg was feeling okay and I started down a line of thinking. Peter has the Dumfries Half Marathon soon. He was moaning remarking recently that the club coach leaves at the crack of dawn and that there will be a substantial amount of hanging around time at the other end before the race even starts. I was feeling a bit sorry for him because he has been doing some pretty solid training recently and could do well at the half marathon. The early start and the hanging around won't help though. I hate a long wait around before a race...and an early start. I can think of three races right off the bat where I've had to get up super-early and I felt rubbish all the way through. The Mull Monsterette, in 2008, was number 1 We were driven there on the morning of the race from Edinburgh by Ben Kemp. We caught the ferry to Mull from Oban and I think were bussed to the start. I felt rubbish right from the get-go, and  nearly followed Tony Stapley off a ridge and into the after-life. We did a terrifying correctional scramble back up on to the ridge where we were meant to be and after that I felt so wiped out (adrenaline and all) I could hardly jog to the end.
 Number 2 early start was for the Speyside Way race in 2011. We camped in my mum's garden and got up at some ambitious time like 4am so we could drive 50 miles to get to registration before 7am. There are buses to the race start and again a long unwelcome wait around in the cold before getting moving. By the time we set off I was ready for some much needed shut-eye. 20 miles in, in the woods, I seriously considered having a lie down. I didn't, but I didn't have a great race.
Number 3 early start was driving through to Fort William on the morning of the Lochaber Marathon, in 2012, with Richard Dennis and Eric from club. Before the race, I remember eating muffins and drinking coffee under the unwelcoming strip-lighting of the Fort William Tesco's cafe, with my face feeling numb with tiredness. Again, I had a disappointing race.

I think you get the point.

It occurred to me that if I drove Peter down there the night before we could stay somewhere and I could do something while he was running the race. But what would I do? Maybe there was a 10K or something on at the same time. When I got home I had a look to see. There wasn't a 10K on - not for a few months anyway, but it started to occur to me that maybe I would just run the race too.

Maybe we could drive down the night before and have a curry (yes!) and maybe even a beer or two and then I could take my light little camera and try and do something like 9 minute miles and just think of it as a weekend break or a jolly.

Before I knew it I'd booked a hotel and signed up for the race. Peter was not so impressed, pointing out how much injury time I've been putting in recently and my track record of making it to races that I've entered this year. I missed the Feel the Burns Hill Race in January, the Carnethy in February, the Manchester Marathon in April, the 7 hills in June and Philiphaugh Hill Race in August.

It hasn't been great. But anyway I've signed up. Peter is not confident enough of me making it yet to give up his place on the bus. I thought a simple, although not definitive, test of whether I'd be able to run the race was to go out and run more than the half marathon distance today, and see if I survived.

So I did. I hadn't taken any snacks with me but after the first mile I came upon a tiny brunch bar. I strongly suspect it fell out of the lunch box of a primary age school child. It fitted nicely into my rucksack pocket and so became my back-up nutrition plan. Plan A was to do without and see how I got on.

I'd intended to head up the Water of Leith, coming back with the wind behind on the canal and then maybe through the meadows and down the side of Arthur's Seat, which is about 14 miles. Arriving at the Dean bridge however I diverted up Ravelston and up Corstorphine Hill instead. In order to try to save my knee I took the route towards Clermiston Tower and then down the Kaimes road. From the Kaimes road I took a bit of the 7 hills route through Carricknowe and then Stenhouse. I couldn't remember what "Stenhouse" was called but remembered that last time I'd run through it with Peter he'd made a joke that had something to do with chickens. When I saw the sign for Stenhouse Drive it came to me. Here's the question...Is there a hen house in Stenhouse? Well is there?

Who knows. I was at 7 miles by this time and still feeling fine. I had no firm plan for getting back - just that it needed to be more than 6 miles.

At Slateford road I rejoined the WOL and ran past the allotments and the graveyard and then joined the canal just  before the main road. I was slowing up by now and had given myself a free pass to do so. I just wanted to do the distance, so it didn't matter if I needed to run slowly. I ran up to the back of a girl with unicorn hair, you know the pink and blue kind. Just as I was going to pass her, however,  she looked over her shoulder, saw me, and took off!!! I've done a lot of pride-swallowing in the last few years, I haven't really had a choice, but this girl didn't look like a runner and I doubted very much if she could really keep up with me, so I picked it up. Once you've done something like this there is nothing for it other than to keep pushing. It didn't take long. Unicorn dropped. Mission accomplished. It passed a bit of time!

By the end of the canal I'd run 10 miles, so I needed to find another three somewhere. I didn't fancy the meadows and Arthur's Seat option so I took a route through town. Running through Edinburgh's "Pubic Triangle" I was close to being shocked by the casual conflation of grave-robbing and lap-dancing all in one bar! What a night out that would be. Formaldehyde shots. It's very likely the devil drinks there.

After the Grassmarket I ran up Victoria Street, past the tourists and up to the Castle, coming back down Johnston Terrace and then making my way east along Queen Street and then home.

Well that's it then. Hello again. It occurs to me that I just accidentally wrote a race report for my midweek long run. Well it's been a race-free year, apart from 2 park runs early on.

I REALLY hope, although I'm scared to, that I can just GO to Dumfries and EAT the curry and DRINK the beers and RUN the race, albeit with a slightly dry mouth and an after-taste of onions.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

A wee run and a wee cycle.

No early starts and no heroics this weekend. I was back at work this week. Peter seems to have forgotten to go back.

Anyway, Saturday we set off in the afternoon for a run. We headed to Flotterstone and filled our faces in the car park with cakes and scones and cups of coffee. For running we varied it a bit by running up what I think is Maiden's Cleugh (!!!) and then up and over Harbour Hill, the one after that with the metal thing at the top and then the one with the white thing on it (could be Allermuir). Then we came back round the front of Castle Law on a track which is usually boggy but is just nice just now.

It was rather serene and autumnal. Except for Peter who had had two strong coffees. He was flying up the hills, it has to be said. Also expressing strong opinions. We nearly had to have fisty-cuffs on a number of occasions.

My legs were okay but weren't that pleased with the downhills and likewise going downstairs today wasn't great. We kicked about various potential cycles but shelved the more ambitious options for a more humble route on cycle paths heading down as far as Auchindinny and then coming back to Dalkeith and back into Edinburgh. The sun showed briefly but was soon replaced with grey clouds again and the only cafe on the route was closed on a Sunday. Not the world's most exciting cycle although it was good to see how a few routes connected up with each other.

Peter saw one painted lady but she flew off.

there was a weird non-bow rainbow thing over Bonnyrigg.