Sunday, 30 December 2018

A week of mostly being off in the winter.

Trying to think back a whole week highlights something; I'm in a bit of a dream most of the time at the moment, and the memories aren't sharp...

Then an aha moment! I have no photos from last Monday, but the memories are of a  very sharp day indeed. It was a sharp, cold and bright day. We had arranged to meet up with Michael G and Nick W for a run. We drove out to Gullane together. I knew this was going to be an ask for my sorry self after a race on Saturday, and a longer run on the Sunday. I did my best to hang in at the back of the pack. I heard some of the chat, although I couldn't contribute. Because it was an intense effort for me  and I had to concentrate, it seemed to pass very quickly. Before I knew it we were back at the van and driving home. Nick had to go but Michael came and drank cups of tea and got us back up to speed with his life. Peter has photos. It was a lovely day.

During our natter with Michael, he had somehow persuaded us, or we somehow persuaded ourselves, to go and run the Christmas Park Run the next morning. On paper it looked like it could be okay - cold but not icy and not too much wind. In the morning when it finally began to get a bit light, however, the "light" was a leaden grey and the air felt cold and damp.

Apparently there was a record number of people there for the run. You wouldn't know it to see my photos. Neither Peter nor I wanted to get out the van when we arrived. Our performances reflected our levels of enthusiasm. I pulled a personal worst out the bag. I wasn't too bothered. I knew I was tired, and it was so busy at the start I had to walk for the first few seconds and then break into a gentle run.

After that we went past Peter's mum's and drank cups of tea and ate her Christmas Biscuits. The conversation was a little circular but cheerful. 

Having done that, all Xmas obligations had been fulfilled and we settled in for the day. Again, I couldn't tell you much about it.
There's something about this time of year that turns your brain inky. It's not even that I've been drinking too much because I think I haven't drunk anything at all. And it's not unpleasant. It's just that it's possible to lose time and get absorbed in stuff for no real reason. Facebook is a major trap.
I am setting  the bar low for the day in terms of achievement. Why be cross with yourself? If we get out for a run during the day and have some kind of adventure, and maybe manage the dishes later on, that's good enough.

On Wednesday the weather seemed reasonable and we ventured up into the hills. It's just dawning on me that we are signed up for the Feel the Burns race on the 20th January and have been doing very little hill work. 

Peter wanted to go to Bonaly so I concurred, it being no skin off my nose. We weren't very impressive on the hill and only managed 5 miles, however, it was good to get out. We went through some woods near the reservoir where there is a seat and a stone fire-place. The seat was covered in thick, dry, moss and was warm and comfortable. I have this on-going ambition to bivi out some night. Maybe that would be the place.

The next day I was tired from the hills, so foolishly suggested we head to Corstorphine Hill. I really was tired (of running at least) by that time, but I knew I had work and wouldn't be running the next day so I made an effort. It was very mild and there was hardly any wind and the birds seemed to be out in force. We heard, and saw glimmers of, lots of birds; tits and finches, cute little wrens, and Peter even caught a glimpse of a kingfisher. Getting photos was a whole other game though. The light was low and shutter speeds were slow and I came home with many blurry shots of twigs and not much else.

After Corstorphine Hill, I wanted to take the most direct route home, which is through the centre of town, whereas Peter wanted to go back down the Water of Leith. He was still longing to sight a dipper. We separated, and that worked well for both of us. I quite like running Queen Street  - doing short bursts of speed on wide pavements and then getting a breather until the lights change. I like running down Leith Walk as well because it's pretty fast and easy.

So on Friday I went to work. I quite frankly welcomed the opportunity to spend many  hours sitting on my arse, and rest my weary legs. I got a lot done too because people were on holiday. I share a small office with four other people at its busiest and it can be hard to concentrate. I saw some people and got some letters written and the day flew by. Peter went out and ran a nearly 20 miler, and he was welcome to it.

Then Saturday - yesterday - was blowing a hoolie - but sunny at long last. We made a plan to get out to the Pentlands promptly, and we stuck to it. We arrived at Flotterstone around 11am - not super-early by many people's standards, but not bad for us at all. We had some extra coffee and big wedges of cranberry cake from the cafe there before heading on up. It was so windy it was genuinely intimidating. We'd both gone for wearing two long sleeved tops and a gilet on top and we carried jackets in case that wasn't enough. I think we probably dressed just right because we neither took off nor put on layers. The very worst of the wind was at the top of Turnhouse, which often seems to be the case. I was trying to take a panorama with my camera while the camera case, which I had secured to a leash on my rucksack, kept flying up and boxing me in the face. It was vexing.

Conversation was impossible at the tops,  and moving was problematic at times. Running didn't seem that hard as the slight edge of fear takes the edge off the effort.

We did Turnhouse, Carnethy and Scald Law, and then veered down to the right of East Kip to take the path over to Black Hill. It was a huge relief to drop down out of the wind, but the path down towards the Howe was very slippy from the rain the night before. I found I was doing some moves from the Charleston, which was surprising as I have no formal training.

Black Hill was  welcoming as there has been heather burning and the paths were unusually exposed and  easy. Also, now, the wind was mainly behind. My legs were tired from the hills but we didn't have far to go. We went over Black Hill and then Bell's Hill and then headed down on the rocky path (Maiden's Cleugh?) to the road and back down to the car.

Phew. We were back, alive, in one piece, and feeling we'd had a proper adventure.

So the troops were very tired this morning. All I was after was a slow recovery run. I have a few aches and tweaks from the sudden onset of hill work. My right ankle and my right knee felt creaky. My left achilles, too, was giving out a protest.
We decided just to go out  a jog around Leith, and look for birds, and go to Tescos to pick up some bits and pieces.

It was dark and grey and the wildlife gave us the run around. We could hear what sounded like a thousand wrens chirruping in the brambles off the cycle-path but there was no way in and nothing to be seen. We tried scrambling up a muddy bank to see if we could get a better view from above - but no. Not a thing.

Since we were up the muddy bank we ran along a narrow path for a while and then joined onto the part of the cycle path that comes out near Ocean Terminal. I've been on this stretch of the path maybe 10 years ago and Peter says he has never been that way. There are some trails going through some scraggly woodland so we had a bit of an explore. There was nothing to see, really, except trees and tree roots and mud and ivy, but it was nice and it was good to get off the cycle path with its mix of dog walkers and stoners and kids on bikes, and walkers, and stoner kids on bikes. And dogs.


Sunday, 23 December 2018

The Strange Tale of the Christmas Sparkle

 Yesterday was the second edition of Megan Wright's Binning Woods Races. The first was in 2016, and it was a good event, so when we heard it was on again we didn't really question if we'd give it another go. This year the course was a bit different, and Peter and I both thought it was better. I couldn't even tell you why. It was good last time.

Before arriving at the race we'd been talking, inevitably, about Peter's dad, who is buried in the woods somewhere. (It was all above board all you amateur sleuths - this isn't a confession.) We wondered if he might give us a sign - bubbles of light in the trees - that kind of thing. I didn't see any bubbles of light in the trees. But I'm going to come back to this theme. Please be patient.

The Hays

And Nick and son Jack.

So anyway, we arrived. We saw nice Dunbar people. Binning Woods is a lovely woods. I went a long warm up lap because I was freezing and because I think my whole system works better after running a couple of miles. I ran my warm-up lap in a jumper and duvet jacket and by the time I got back to the start I was roasting.


I know I look a bit mental. I was excited. Be kind. Anyway, I am a bit mental.

It was a good strategy. It wasn't hard to take off my jacket and jumper just before the start. I was glad to be stripped down and even in a t-shirt and shorts I was too hot after the first lap.

I was determined to run within myself and pace it and not get caught up in mini-races. This isn't so easy. It's not bad when you don't know anyone around you but then I was in bunches of people I did know. I stuck behind Anne Hay for the first wee while and used her intelligence for path finding. She was going for straight lines rather than trying to dodge the muddy bits and that worked well. There was plenty of mud but none of it was that deep. Neil Jones appeared from somewhere. He appeared to be enjoying the mud so much he'd been rolling in it.
I lost Anne for a while. I got a bit stuck behind a mother and baby unit who were running side by side and there was no way past without really barging, which seemed unnecessary, so I hung back. Eventually the path widened and I got by. It had given me a nice wee breather. I didn't know if I would see Anne again but I found myself just behind her again and this time I felt like I could keep going so I did. After a while I went past Neil with his muddy back and elf ears too, but he wasn't keen and after asking if I'd like an elf hat to wear (which I politely declined)  surged off forwards. I didn't try to give chase. I have no idea what shape anyone is in and I went back to this plan of running steadily. After a while I caught up to Ian of HBT and an HBT lady and I went past both of them. The HBT lady came back at me and did that thing - unintentionally I think - where she went in front of me and then slowed down. This switched on my fighty brain (technical term, it's somewhere in the middle of your head) and I went past her and kept moving faster for a wee while. Lap 1 was over and I headed off back out into the woods. The 2 HBTs did not come back. After a while I drew even with Neil Jones again, who by now had lost the elf hat. I sensed he was somewhat spent, and this time, when I passed, he let me go.

Now you can't afford to get complacent in a race, but I was enjoying myself. I was mostly on my own and it was peaceful. I think there's a Japanese thing where you hang about in forests to restore your aura. It didn't seem beyond the bounds of possiblity that my aura was being restored, because I did feel good. I thought it was possible that Peter's dad was giving me a hand too.  Whatever it was, I was clicking along nicely. It didn't seem that long before the 4th mile beeped on my Garmin and there was only one last mile to go. I had no idea what other 50s ladies were in the race so I thought I shouldn't let any available places go - just in case. (I needn't have worried. As it turned out the race was bristling with top over 50s talent and I wasn't in with any kind of a chance.) There was an older looking elf up ahead of me for a long time and I thought I would take her if I could, but in the event, she drew slowly away ahead. I ran mostly on my own to the finish.

Ah, the finish. Such a good place. I stood about in a daze slowly cooling down for quite some time. Be still my beating heart.

Nick attends to his nutrition.

Peter was 2nd V50 and Willie was 1st V60. I don't know the name of man no. 3 in the picture but he was 1st V50 and was very speedy by all accounts.

When I got home and I was downloading my photos from the day, I came across a curious thing. There were weird sparkles in some of my pictures. I shouted Peter through and he looked at me suspiciously. Was I at it? Had Peter's dad decided to give us a wee message after all? Later I looked at what the setting next to "automatic" on the dial of the camera was and found it was set on a filter called "Sparkles". Well, that was some kind of an explanation, but it's never happened before. Did Peter's dad change the settings? He didn't used to be so very technologically gifted, very often bewailing the fact that Windows 95 had become redundant. But maybe he's been taking a class.


Today, Peter was off to run 25 - 30 miles with Nick and Nasher. He was crying as I waved him out the door, but there was nothing to be done. He was undoubtedly in for a thrashing and it would do him good anyway.

I set off a little while later on a more leisurely journey-run of my own making.

I've got Strava Challenges to be met and I wanted to get a bit of distance in today, and do a bit of ascent too. I also wanted to take in a bit o' "Christmas" towards the end. I thought I might use my new found sparkles to good effect. So I set off at foot-off-the-gas pace round Arthur's Seat. At the top of the hill I spotted this fine pheasant fellow and stopped and had a breather. Is he even real? Does he know he's made out of felt? No matter.

In the distance the Forth was looking ethereal. I threw in a bit of sparkle.

Fife seemed to be getting the best of the weather, which didn't seem right.

The forecast had promised a bit of sun, but there wasn't much sign of it.

Edinburgh looked quite dull.


I made my way over to Blackford Hill through the quiet back-streets.

From the top of Blackford Hill I could see a grim looking fog rolling over the Forth. Again, Fife and the Ochils seemed to be blessed with all the sunshine. It seemed the sun's benificent rays couldn't penetrate the atmosphere of seething commercialism over Scotland's Capital City however.

So we were blanketed in a chill, damp air.

As soon as I hit the more densely populated regions my good-ish mood evaporated. There were scores of yacking people in parkas with legions of dogs with them. I saw one posh looking lady kicking some leaves over a spaniel turd so she wouldn't have to bring it home. I told her what I thought of her with my eyes.

I stopped at a wee cafe just out the gates of the Hermitage and had a coffee and a tiny brownie. (To eat.) (Just a cake, shut up.) I sat in the wrong place, just inside the door where the counter was. A dad came in who obviously wasn't used to wrangling children. His 4 year old came and stared at me as I drank my hot coffee and ate my cake. I found this uncomfortable until I realized that in her all-in-one romper suit and bobble hat she looked kind of like a penguin. When I thought of her as a penguin it didn't feel so uncomfortable to be stared at unflinchingly. She wasn't getting a bit of my brownie anyway. And I couldn't take a picture, which is a shame. The cafe had a heavy door that sticks, and while the dad ordered things at the counter his penguin toddled right behind the door. If anyone had come in, the door would have knocked her hard in the head. I couldn't relax, waiting for the impact. "You're a fucking moron". I thought, as I looked at the dad. The brownie hadn't fixed my blood sugar.

Time to move on. Joy to the world.

Then it was difficult for me not to think of this as some soft-eyed paedo Santa who keeps a stable of captive bears.

"Everyone has a price little Ted" said the cynical Panda.

Even my sparkles couldn't fix the dense and dank heart of the capital.

I had thought about running a half marathon but it was time to be getting home. I arrived home having run just shy of twelve.

Tune in a gain soon for more "Bah, Humbug!!!"