Saturday, 7 June 2014

agony and ecstasy

CAAC 5 miler vs thank Friday it's Pentlands.

These 2 outings shouldn't really appear in the same blog as they were on opposite ends of my running spectrum. Most of this was due to the weather which was foul on Wednesday and beautiful by Friday. However it didn't help that I ran like a twat at the Corstorphine 5 miler and found nothing much about it enjoyable.

Great to see Susan Johnston (139) back to racing after falling at the Fling and breaking her jaw.

I cycled home earlyish from work getting soaked for the second time that day. I then changed and caught the airport bus (zooming past the slow trams) to Maybury; to the rather downbeat industrial estate from where the race starts. It is a pretty grim place to base a race and the steady rain did nothing to improve the scenery. After chatting to a few Porties and other pals we set off down the traffic light roads between Maybury, the airport and Barnton. It's an okay route neither ugly nor particularly scenic, though I would prefer a course that rose to a midpoint and descended to the finish.

Michael had a strong run.

The first mile is problematic. After a small rise it romps downhill at a pleasant gradient. I think they used to call this a “friction free” (more correctly friction compensated) slope in physics, where a vehicle attached to ticker tape will accelerate at blah blah blah. I have never referred to an iota of my higher physics till now and I think it was irresponsible of them trying to cram that guff into my head when there are a million life lessons you could be putting into the head of a daft teenager. O Grade and Higher physics is not even close to important.

Golden girl Nicola set course record. The power of coordinating kit.

Anyway picture a Buchanan on a friction free slope running at 5.18 for the first mile. After 2.5 miles how f*cked does he feel? This physics (those physics?) happened almost identically last year. It's that first mile. I had even warned Nicola not to set off too fast – she is still not fully injury free but missing the thing she does so well. Don't get carried away in that first downhill mile says I and then I do exactly that. First to come past was Paul Thompson. There goes £30 for first 50. Then first lady Sarah and, keeping her in sight, Nicola. (Nicola goes on to set a course record winning £100! Hurray!) Michael came past a little later than last year though shows us all how to do proper pacing, finishing ahead of Nicola and Paul T. There was a downhill section and I kept my place but on the next climb (which seemed WAY steeper than the little blip on the garmin gradient) my lungs bottomed out and I got a stitch as if my whole ribcage was in a corset and felt a heart attack was just around the next corner. No such luck.

This went on for a hellish long time and then we had a steeper ascent before topping out and into the last mile which at least is downhill. To remove any relief from this Colin F appeared and as we dropped down onto the finishing straight and the last 2 minutes, he went past. I didn't have any come back and frankly couldn't see the point in fighting over 2nd or 3rd m50. He put a determined 7 seconds and another competitor between us. Hats off to him, I just wanted to get changed, go home and get out of the flipping rain. The rain got heavier after we stopped and I was very drawn to the cakes and homebakes (like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly)– a sure sign I was a bit low-blood-sugar. 

The only vague success was running exactly the same time as last year but in much worse conditions. I was thoroughly hacked off and went home in a filthy mood, getting soaked through for the third time. I met a runner at the bus stop who was pleased with his time and had enjoyed the race. I only just managed to avoid telling him how shit a race it was and that I was much quicker than him, which I think you'll agree was pretty sporting.

Thank Friday it's Pentlands
The forecast remembered it was summer and promised sunshine, and lots of it, on Friday. Angus had been in touch. He was giving a lecture in Edinburgh on Friday and was keen to head into the Pentlands afterwards. I put a line through the day's work and threw some snacks, a drink and the good camera in a back pack. We dropped off Angus's suit and schoolbooks at Waverley Left Luggage and caught the bus to Balerno terminal. I had initially been reluctant about the bus option remembering shivering on the long wintertime journeys in the days before the Berlingo. However the day was warm and the bus miles flew by (zooming past those sluggish trams) and in no time we were off the bus and heading into the hills. It only adds an extra mile to and from the Bavelaw Car Park. Quite a steep mile though. As I waited for a Garmin signal and unpacked the camera Angus headed off and it took a bit to catch up. The heady aromas of the damp fields drying in the sun wafted across the road. And seedy blossomy things snowed out the bushes. It was all very promising.

white blossom fluffs across the road

I decided to leave the Red Moss walkway as the pièce de résistance and we headed up Beech Avenue, turned right and out the drove road towards West Kip. The chat never let up despite the climbs. Well we possibly reduced the blethering going up West Kip but the climb was worth it for the view along the ridge. Angus's interaction with the Pentlands up till now had been the Carnethy 5, so not the most relaxed introduction to these hills. Today we went at chatting pace and the weather was ideal – a mild breeze to cool the baking sun which soaked your back and head.

3 men in a boat

self timer on Beech Avenue

West Kip

Like last Friday when I did much the same route with Michael, the hills were not busy – just a handful of folk, all enjoying the sunny interlude in preference to the torrential rain and thundery downpours earlier in the week. We were having such a good time that when we descended from Scald Law with the option of heading down to the Howe, Angus decided we should knock off Carnethy as well, and see off the ghost of the C5 when a nearby runner declared at the bottom of the climb, “prepare yerselves for 20 minutes of hell!” I ran ahead towards the top and set the self timer to catch us approaching the summit. 

A female Emperor Moth
("a beautiful fluffy moth" the only large moth with 4 eye spots, one on each wing)
This website says "the males fly during the daytime in search of the greyer females which fly at night. Which I'm not sure I understand, but check out the fancy pyjamas of the males in the website picture. (And also the caterpillars which I have often seen in the Pentlands and wondered about.)

Meanwhile Angus, seeing me occupied with the moth made a break for the summit of Scald Law.

Approaching Carnethy with Scald Law behind.


Great views and constant banter, we then descended the way we came and turned right down the path towards the Howe and along the coffin road back along to Balerno. A quick scoot round the raised boardwalk, although the bog cotton was not out in force as it was this time last year.

But a delightful end to a brilliant run and as we approached the bus stop Angus asked how far we had run. Last week's run with Michael had been just under 8 miles. So I was surprised to see the Garmin said well over 12, and equally surprised to see we had been out for 2hrs45. I had been thinking we would get back into town for 5~5.30 however it was 6 as we got back to the bus terminal. The time had flown by. The distance is less certain. For sure we had run an extra bit to Carnethy and back and the couple of additional miles to and from the car park but closer inspection of the Garmin details has us flying across Threipmuir Reservoir at... .09min/miling = 400mph. We had a good run but not that good. I wasn't wearing the towelling band under the Garmin strap. I have previously killed a Garmin by sweating profusely into the connection on the back and the towelling band helps prevent this. So I think the erratic parts of the run with sudden jumps across the wormholes of the Pentlands can either be put down to alien abduction (again) or my perspiration leaking into navigation control and adding a couple of diversions.

This more reliable map is from last Friday's run with Michael. The route we took then in solid red was 7.8 miles. Today's route started and finished at the bus terminal which is a mile from the car park. Then the out and back to Carnethy would take it up to around 11.5 miles possibly.

There was a bus waiting for us at the terminal and while I chatted to the driver, Angus, never shy, sauntered off to a nearby house and asked if he could have a glass of water. We had run out of fluids a while back and Angus had already been drinking from the stream below Black Hill.

It was a perfect day out in the hills and we finished it off with a couple of pints in the Cafe Royal, a haunt from my past I hadn't been in for decades. They were possibly the best pints I have had in decades as well, and I floated down Leith Walk somewhere between 7 min/miling and 400 mph dodging through the Friday night trash stoking themselves for a hectic night out. It was a superb day's run and difficult to believe it was the same week as the CAAC5.

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