Monday, 18 August 2014

a close shave near the Polloks (and throwing, up)

Something of a contrived title I admit.

Go to enough events and you are eventually going to forget your shoes, your shorts, or leave insufficient time to get there and miss the race altogether. Today was the closest I have come to the latter and it was only thanks to Steve and some expert driving and subliminal navigation that we arrived at the SVHC Glasgow 800, 10k champs at Pollok Park.

We set off at 11am and some time after 12 were crawling along the M8, taking 30mins to cover a half mile. We were still several miles away from the venue and it became gloomily apparent as the clock hit 1 then 1.10 that we weren't going to be taking part in the 1.30 race. Steve suggested we take the next off ramp and risk a sat-nav free last minute drive across Glasgow, navigating by smell alone, which we did. Around 1.20 I was planning what run we might do instead of the 10k as we were still hopelessly boxed in by slow moving traffic who had, like us, also abandoned the M8. All of a sudden the roads cleared, we got back onto the M8, back off a mile later and turned into the event car park. It was about 1.28 as we ran from the car and caught the last 2 ladies of the organising committee stepping out of the registration building. They kindly gave us numbers (only £2 a pop!) and phoned the starter to delay kick off while three headless chickens pinned on numbers, peed (faster, faster damn you), and sprinted the 2k to the start. Not simultaneously.

When we got to the start there was nobody there and the panic continued until we turned a further corner to find the start had been taken further back up the road to accommodate a slightly re-routed course. We arrived there breathless, and the considerate starter gave us a minute to recover, then we were off. I could scarce believe we were running in the race given I was convinced there was no way we would make 1.30. Sure enough it was 1.40 when we started.

I was also surprised by the low key friendly turn out. Last year (the only time I have run this one) the start was jam packed with hundreds of quality veteran runners. This year about 80 and they looked much more local and friendly. And no age group numbers on vest backs this time. The explanation being it was a British Champs race last year.

Now this race wasn't on my radar until last Wednesday when Steve told me it was happening and he was going along with Willie J. It is a Scottish Veteran Harriers Club event and if you want to be selected for the Scottish Vet XC team later in the year a good performance here might draw you to the attention of the team selectors. I had already mentally drafted my email in the car to the organisers saying how we tried to take part but sadly missed the start but that I was sure I would have been up there with the best of them! Now I was running down the road watching Paul Thompson up ahead and wondering if I could keep him in sight for at least a couple of k. I wasn't sure if I was under-warmed-up or over-. The weather was about right and although windy, we seemed to have got lucky with the direction: behind us on the uphill section as you exit the park onto the pavement, and only in our faces as we came back into the park on the flat and later on the downhill. I didn't have time to tune the garmin into Jodrell Bank so can't show you the elevation. I'm sure it wouldn't have been big pointy hills over the 2 laps but it is sufficiently undulating to discourage pbs. Or to put it another way, with the sort of energy I expended I was surprised to find my finishing time about 40 seconds slower than I thought it might be.

Anyway I sort of slipped in and out of consciousness while trying to keep the needle just into the red area, but not so much that I burst a major organ. I looked at my watch at 15 minutes and was a bit concerned to think we weren't even halfway. Oopsie. Possibly the travel-adrenalin and Red Bull worked together to hijack my race plan not to spend myself in the first half. Then another peak at about 27 minutes and just about had enough IQ remaining in the oxygen depleted brain cavity to work out there was still quite a bit of suffering left but that I should be considering the marvellous 27 minutes behind me rather than the 5 or 10 remaining gaspers ahead. And who are you kidding, much nearer 10. Good news: I could still see Paul T on the longer straight bits. Just.

Some folk came past and I overtook some of them back. Then one came past (Michael McL who I mistook for Dave Thom because they both share the same hairstylist) who I thought had already come past. I thought it unlikely he had taken a pit stop in the shrubbery but you never know. We went back and forth a bit with him finishing ahead: second 50 and me finishing 3rd 50 a couple of seconds behind. Dave Thom wasn't running and neither was Colin F so that was less of a whipping for me, for which I should be grateful. And I said hello to a Tour of Fifer who in fact doesn't appear in the results and therefore was another doppelganger. He must have thought I was awfully friendly for a stranger. Paul T (first 50) finished nearly a minute ahead so no room for complacency.

Paul and first 50 trophy

I made the mistake of checking last year's time and see the wind (and backdraft from Paul T's slipstream) slowed me down by around 40s this year. That would explain why at the finish I wasn't on the ground coughing furballs like last year. And the course (taking some steppy acute corner rather than swoopy long corner) measured 6.2 on a few garmins. And any other excuses.

2 other Porties in attendance not in the photoshoot were Willie Murray (there for a shot at the m70 xc team places) and Andrew Fraser, who was race walking the event, not running. Watch out for the launch of Andrew's race walking website and club, Scotia Racewalking.

Results here

Also looking at last year's blog of this event, I see I was complaining about Great Bake Off and how it wasn't unlike having a tv show telling you how to cook up your heroine or distill whisky in your garage...

Because baking is probably killing more people than heroin, cigarettes and whisky all in the mouth at the same time. But is there a warning on the packet? Is there a graphic picture of an obese person on a couch with crumbs on their chest? This is far more important than a nominally ambiguous independence so-called question, yet it is swept under the carpet because there is a porker on the Scottish throne.

And good to see the Independence debate (spelled debacle, pronounced debate) had already started shovelling shit into our living rooms as well. And now only a month to go before we can bury that one and never mention it again in our puffs. What would you say the total price tag of all the whitish papers, the newspaper columns, the hottish air and telly hours on that topic was? As much as the trams? More? All for a no vote we could have wrapped up in 2 weeks and £7.85 Because no light has been shed since then till now that wasn't coloured by an interested party. Anyway, nearly done.

So instead of complaining about that, perish the thought, I'd like to share with you a question that came to light while watching the throwing events in the European Champs. Sturdily built Eastern European men hurling hammers into the Zurich sky. I have little interest in Javelins, Hammers and Discii (discos?), and less in throwing them, but wondered about the relative distances of one against the other and the world's longest throws and any quirks attendant. Lots in fact, and courtesy of wikipedia so they may be wrong. (This went down inappropriately like a lead balloon at the bring-your-own-curry dinner party Saturday night and only Scott who knew quite a bit about the re-jig in '86 was even vaguely on-topic. Or just being polite.) (And today in the car on the way home perhaps the exertions of the race distracted the attentions of Steve and Willie in the front seats – they surely couldn't both have been sleeping?)

photo nicked off internet

Anyway, hier soir, while I was trying not to drink anything in quantities that would take the edge off today's performance I posed the question: which of the disciplines records the longest distance? As you would imagine it is the javelin, (max points to AGF and others). However did you know (as did Scott) that in 1986 the javelin was revamped and the centre of gravity/mass moved forward 4cm? Which lowers the nose in flight causing the spear to fall short by around 10%. Because as records extended over 100m there was a real danger of the javelin travelling the length of the stadium and landing in the crowd. And nobody wants to see that.

The hammer, 16lbs (male) 8.82lbs (female), rather than the 800grams of the javelin, travels up to 79m (female) or 86m (male). So it has a bit to go before it reaches the spectators. But will make a bigger splash if it does get there. The discus, a heavy lenticular disc, is, perhaps, more than the sum of its parts.

"There are six key movements of the discus throw: wind up, move in rhythm, balance, right leg engine, orbit, and delivery. The wind up is one of the most important aspects of the throw because it sets the tone for the entire throw. The wind up is both mental and technical. It is mental because the wind up sets the thrower up for the rest of the throw. Although the wind up sets the tone for the entire throw, the rhythm of the throw is the most important aspect. (Hang on there didn't you say the wind up was?) It is necessary to move in rhythm throughout the entire throw."

Now, racing down the wiki page I noticed the top women's record distances were all longer than the men's. Also they were all set in the 1980's and from countries like URS, TCH, ROU, BUL and GDR which coincidentally are the noises made as the discus is released. I thought maybe some dastardly programme of hormone doping might have bred a race of carthorse like men-ladies with the arms of scaffolders. However it is more likely due to the men throwing 2kg lenticular discs and the women's weighing just 1kg. Discuss.

"It is also important that the discus thrower keeps their shoulders at the same level during the throw until the end." Myron's Discobolus above disagrees.

Now to put all that in perspective the “longest throw of an object without any velocity aiding feature” (yes to a piano, no to a jet engine) is a little further than a javelin. (Even the pre1986 104m world record javelin throw.) It was, ahem, 406metres and it was an Aerobie (a flying ring used in a manner similar to a frisbee.) As yet not an Olympic event. So now you know.

Other useless but “fascinating” facts: my number today was 369 (the goose drank wine, the monkey chewed tobacco on the streetcar line etc.) My time today, 36 mins 9 secs.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Tour of Fife day 5

Excellent image of the leaders just out the first field by Gordon

With Holyrood park being closed and town being snarled up with festival traffic Michael was 30mins late. Happily we had built in plenty extra and arrived in fine time. I have to thank Michael for doing all the driving every day - which added considerably to the trials of the 5 days for him. Being a non driver I was no use. It is something to consider if planning taking part in the Tour - alternating driving with a fellow Touree. 

I have many pleasant memories of past years of the ToF (this is my 5th) but had forgotten just how exhausting the whole business becomes. Also note to self: build in a holiday Monday for catching up with sleep and blogging. I had to work and it was a long day.

This was posted at the Strathmiglo Village Hall and was spot on. 
Ordnance Survey couldn't have done it better.

Unfortunately there was a bit of rain in the air. Fortunately it was only ever a light drizzle while we were running and the heavy stuff rattled down while we were indoors. Since it was trails and hills today I wore my orange Inov8 hill shoes. Good choice although there were maybe a couple of miles on road. After a bit of a warm up we returned to the start. There was a tremendous sense of camaraderie and lots of hands were shaken. I noticed that Scott and Alastair (first and second) were deep in conversation yet theirs was probably the greatest rivalry. Alastair had only beaten Scott on one occasion - the up-hill time trial, but had 19 seconds (I think) lead going into the last race. If he could keep him in sight Alastair would win, if Scott could get 20secs ahead he would win. I hoped I'd see the battle unfold. Meanwhile they were chatting like team mates. It is this friendliness that seems to pervade the Tour from the organisers down, that saturates the 5 days. Although the competition is as fierce as any race, the camaraderie comes from going through the same difficulties and facing similar aches and pains.  Graham said some words then said GO. 

All the action photos here thanks to Gordon Donnachie

The start began with a steep climb out the field and I felt ok. Most of the hills were followed by recovery flat or less steep trails and I found to my surprise I was keeping up with the (back of the) peloton. After the first 2, there was a group of half a dozen or more (mostly Dundee Hawks and MG and I) who swapped places in all the races; each taking a turn at the front and most taking a turn at the back. Martin (Carnegie) had been working well and after a massive run on Friday night and another third place on Saturday had got enough of a lead to be (barring disaster) unassailable in third overall. Then there was a tight knit group of us. I was so displeased with my runs on Friday and Saturday that I had spent Saturday evening taking and posting pictures of the moon rather than checking to see how many seconds I needed to be faster than x or y to come where. I think I had dropped to 6th or 7th on the leader board and thought I'd just see how I felt on the day. I was pleased to say I felt fine, though I was judging this solely on the others around me and I knew if I could keep up on the ascents, things should improve on the downhills. We had been told 2 miles of up. I looked at my watch as we popped out the narrow dirt trail between the trees onto the main landrover trail. Around 10 minutes. So a bit more up on broad paths and sure enough it was. But I was reeling folk in steadily, especially when there was a descending undulation. I caught up with Michael who I knew had been leading the charge of the peloton up the ascents - his ground. And then a marshal pointing us off the main trail onto a thin twisting roller coaster descent. "Let's go" I said to Michael as I slotted onto the singletrack in third place, wondering how long I would stay there. 

Johnny, Steve and me, all making faces

This is my favourite kind of racing - sliding between the air and the trees turning left and right on a swooping downhill trail taking the speed up to the maximum without spinning off at the corners, the sound of footfalls behind drifting further back then disappearing. A thought jogs through my head I once chased Chris Upson down this trail but I can't recall the occasion - a Falkland 10k, 5k, Santa Race or the Lomonds of Fife? I did remember enjoying it although I never caught Chris. A flour arrow keeps us on track at a junction and I am brought back to reality: must pay attention, this could go well and it would be daft to go the wrong way and blow it.

Then we are marshalled out onto a road. I recognise it and my heart sinks a little. I have run here as well (Twisted Chicken run ToF 201?) and know exactly how long it goes on for. EVER. A fair bit along the tarmac I hear Geoghegan's breathing and more than one set of footsteps. I am not going to look behind. They are getting closer but so is the gate at the end. We all arrive together at the barrier and I am thinking the gap through is on my side, how is Steve/Johnny going to... but the barrier is vaulted. Was that Steve? Hmm it is late in the day for acrobatics, but hat's off to you. Every step is an effort and we now have about 200 of them till we get to the blessed relief of the descent.

Third top pic is Alastair on this bit. Scott had taken the lead on the road but Alastair wasn't that far behind from what I could see. It certainly wasn't settled at this point. That's us in the blurry group behind. Michael closed the gap on the road bringing Steve and Johnny. Now Johnny was something of a dark horse. I hadn't noticed him in the first couple of races, but then he just got stronger and did a good Friday and an excellent Saturday chasing Martin all the way and now he has just overtaken me although he is making some funny noises and faces but doesn't seem to be letting up. 

We turn the corner and race down the road. I love downhills, even tarmac ones. Michael has dropped back a bit and it is three now battling for third. I think we all swapped positions a couple of times and were probably equally raddled. I knew there was one medium length ascent before the field and braced myself, shortening my stride, trying to keep my breathing in control while not losing too much ground to Steve and Johnny. They were a couple of yards ahead towards the fake summit and on the second up I got the last gasp of a second wind and pushed on just as everyones' legs were burning up at the apex. I pushed through and gained 4 yards maybe as we all raced on in desperation for the hidden right turn into the finishing field. When I reached the turn ahead of the other 2, I had a good feeling that I'd be able to sustain it for the dangerously steep muddy curve through the field onto the finishing straight. I had already noticed the potential for coming unstuck and carefully mapped a line following the right hand tyre track to a certain point where the grassy centre section would give more grip etc. There was no challenge from either side and I romped along the finishing straight crossing the line in third and delighted, no matter what place I finished on the leader board. 

Michael, after yesterday's outing, was considerably more happy with today; proving it's all about horses for courses and today suited him (and I) a lot more. Unfortunately MG has been hampered by injuries fairly comprehensively this year which has curtailed his training. It looked at times like he wouldn't (or shouldn't) take part this last week but he came along and got totally caught up in all the highs and lows, as we all did, finishing 6th in the race, 8th in the Tour.

Steve (101) offered to show me his sad face ^ 
(because he needed to finish a handful of seconds ahead of me to (technically speaking) win first m40.)

Meanwhile dark horse Johnny (88) after 5 races and 15 secs behind today, finishes one second ahead of me on the leaderboard in 4th overall. Great running and stamina!

Martin: 7th place today but retaining 3rd overall. How to lose the battle but win the war.

the 3Ms.
Today was the longest distance the small one in the middle has run! 
All won prizes!

I could eat something off every plate here now, but at the time (having overdone the running) I could only manage a jam sandwich and small square of chocolate homebake. Impressive spread though.

I didn't get much of a chance to find out how these 2 enjoyed their first tour. Graham gave them a spot on stage to raise awareness of their cause and a £200 donation which went down very well.
photo Gordon again

Billy (7th overall) didn't have such a strong run today but got a prize for navigation
(not getting lost for the duration of the 5 days?)

first junior Sam

5th in Tour and first m50. 

Steve, first m40

Gillian - female winner

2nd place overall

winner Scott 
- who arrived at the finish line very nearly a minute ahead of Alastair

Strathmiglo results here
5 races results and final place on leaderboard here

I had remembered what a special event the Tour was from the 4 previous I have taken part in. I had forgotten just how tiring they are. Or maybe I am getting older? Although I think everyone has been feeling the strain. However everybody seemed to love it. The routes (some of the routes,) the summer weather, the hats, the swim in the sea, the battles with the competition, the results on the website every night, but mostly the camaraderie - old friends and new, the Dundee Hawks off to a nightclub as soon as the final leaderboard has been posted, and the memories of another great Tour from Graham and his team, who must be pretty tired themselves. Thank you and very well done, it was outstanding.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Tour of Fife day 4

I have run the "tortoise and hare" relay in these woods and a 5miler on the roads here as a previous ToF first day event. Today's race was a combination of the 2 and after all that complaining about hills I suppose I can't really complain about it being pancake flat. I hadn't managed to do my recovery massage with the magic stick so brought it along and Michael had a go as well. Bit like a foam roller but easier to get to all the fatigued leg muscles. Michael was very impressed. I have found it a very good tool for repairing tired legs especially if it's a 2 race weekend. Which this was, on the back of a three race week. I usually try to keep the stick for indoors use, as in a car park it might look like 2 guys rubbing themselves with a 22" dildo.

The woods here are really lovely to run in and I was disappointed that only the last k was on the hard pack trails here. Perhaps there is not enough mileage though and we might have ended up lapping the back markers and getting in a muddle.

MG practises ducking for the tape.

Since Friday took an age to travel across to Fife (an hour to get to the Bridge in rush hour traffic) we gave ourselves plenty of time and arrived early enough to survey the course. We drove the road section which was 2.5k then turn around a cone and head back to make 5k before heading into the woods for another k or so. Well that should be easy?

photo Gordon D

The road is long and straight which doesn't help. We set off and as the photo above shows the 2 top seeds (50 and 156) didn't run to the front. Instead Johnny from Hawks took the lead and, after a bit just behind him and foolishly thinking how easy it all felt, I pushed on. As we turned the corner and I felt the headwind I realised that leading might be a tactical error as you can't really push back in behind, out the wind. I was still feeling ok though and looking forward to the trails in the woods. Michael realising all this was going on, and knowing how I am not keen on head winds ran forward to keep me company and for a short, glorious time Porty had command of the race. I can't remember the moment it all turned to shit but it wasn't long after. The following photos are about the 5k turn off and most of the Dundee crew have gone past or are about to. And of course the 2 leaders who raced each other flat out all the way to the line.

photo Gordon

photo Gordon

It was a mild day and the humidity was misting up my lungs. I thought Steve and Billy looked tired on the start line and was hoping to exact revenge as both had whipped me on the up hill last night. I was wondering just how big a lead I would give them before showing them a thing or 2 as they disappeared ahead on the trails. I had nothing to answer them with and idly wondered how far down the leader board I would be slipping tonight. Was I just getting too old for this malarky? I certainly felt it. Michael, well he wasn't any more cheerful than I was, finishing a couple of places behind, Craig between us. My worst result was 10th place on the uphill - this 7th place was almost as bad as it was unexpected. Checking the Garmin we were not actually slacking: it says we did a 17½ min 5k. Then a wee uphill into the woods. The rest was slowly falling apart on the dirt trails and just trying to finish without hemorrhaging too much time. Curses. One upside was Keith P turned up again to walk his dog and take photos. He is definitely improving with the action photography! All the remaining photos are his.

Nothing to be done other than get a decent night's sleep and hope (yet again) that maybe tomorrow, the final race, will bring better luck for team Porty. It wasn't looking particularly good though. There was one thing I was enjoying however and that was seeing the same faces each day - if you like the people you are running with, it is a lot easier to accept the defeat.