The last full week of March and I finally (first time this year) got round to fulfilling the sporting schedule. Monday: circuits/boxercise; Tuesday: spinclass at Pedalhouse; Wednesday: clubbo; Thursday: Wintervals; Friday: long run. The real reason I had the energy and time for this was a light work week. Paperwork, estimates and working through a things-to-do list as long as your arm. I also got round to seeing Bart at Sighthill for the follow up VO2max test.
Having done the initial familiarisation I wanted to leave as long as possible (to improve fitness) before doing the real test. The distance to the campus and weekday slot was not easy to accommodate but I was very pleased when at the last possible moment I made the Thursday afternoon slot. Bart had changed the protocol to a reduction in the incline on the treadmill (angle increase 2' not 3', every 3 minutes). A different mask and remote sensors meant running with a small back back rather than being hooked up directly to the controls. The headwind on the bike there made for a more hectic 40 minute cycle than would be ideal, and I probably shouldn't have done the 2 mile time trial on the prom the night before, at club. I heard Willie J earlier on Thursday had managed to increase his score to 60 and hoped I'd be able to do similar, having made 59 on the familiarisation. Prior to the test I thought your VO2max was set in stone like a shoe- or lung-size, not realising it moves with your fitness, and to a lesser degree on the method used to determine. Johnny L (currently in magnificent form in prep for Manchester) had scored highest, out of Bart's group, with 73.
The test started at 8kph, which seems like a brisk walk. After 3 mins it moves to 10kph then 12 then 14. Then the angle increased by 2' every 3 mins. I had no access to the read out and my watch was removed so I couldn't judge my performance other than by feel. It felt a bit unusual at first running in a mask and the cable over my shoulder was catching on my ear. I tucked away a flapping strap of the back pack knowing the small irritations might build horribly as you begin to flounder and fail. So just what is running to exhaustion? Do you wait till your vision darkens at the edges and risk being spat off the treadmill, or do you step off, dignity intact, but wondering if you could have survived 15 seconds longer during which time your VO2max figure climbs dramatically. I suspect most are halfway between these points. The familiarisation is precisely to allow you to get past the discomforts of the experience and focus on the effort. I seemed to bed in nicely during the first half of the run and so probably gave it very close to max effort in the second half. Bart stood next to the treadmill saying encouraging things which helps you wring out as much as possible before you start thinking any second now..... and then you step off with chest heaving wondering was that more than last time, could I have hung on another five seconds? I think I inherited my sportiness from my mum, but my boneheaded-ness, the stubborn streak, from my dad. I suspect it is the combination (and more the latter) that grits your teeth for the likes of this, or the determination to do well at races. Bart wasn't immediately forthcoming about the result and it was only after I had wandered zombie-like to the chair beside the treadmill he pointed out that after a run lasting 20mins and 1 second I had managed 75.8
I was delighted and rather surprised about the test. I had been feeling that all the cycling should have been increasing my fitness but there had been very little evidence of that during Alloa Half. I cycled home from Sighthill reassured and still slightly damp and wobbly. Then went skipping off to Wintervals (30mins parlauf at Holyrood, sprinting into a stiff breeze.) So I was a bit broken for a long run on Friday but having seen the impending gloomy forecast for the weekend thought Friday was a better candidate than either of the 2 following days. I put a hasty note on facebook of my intentions and planned a mainly West to East route as the wind was gusting in that direction. Toby contacted me saying he would run from Gullane to Longniddry and catch me as I stepped off the train, to run back towards Gullane and beyond. The daffodils were out and I was still running on the high from the VO2max test.
The reason I had to get a 30 miler in before the end of March was to keep my Tynecastle Bronze record up to date. March had nearly snuck past and the weather was deteriorating. So I threw too much stuff in the back pack and set off. Google told me there was a WWII memorial plaque inside Longniddry Parish Church nearish the station (not exactly WWI but close enough to qualify) but Toby and I were blethering so much we missed the turn and being unfamiliar with central Longniddry we were out the other side before we found it. No doubt it will be ticked off at some point in the next 3.5 years. The weather improved and we had the wind to our backs as we ran East taking the coastal trails round Kilspindie Golf Course rather than heading up the usual way to Aberlady. The sun came out and it was rather splendid.
Toby ran with me 12miles to Dirleton. He had had a very good run (superbly evenly paced) at the D33 and we chatted loads about, surprise surprise!, running and ultras. We had run on the beaches and trails from Aberlady but popped up through Archerfields to Dirleton to catch the war memorial there. He then turned back to Gullane and would have clocked up about a marathon distance by the time he got home. He was thinking about a walk on Tyninghame beach with his gf later that afternoon and since I was heading there myself expected to see him in a couple of hours. I tried not to think too far ahead as the previous day's exertions were still in my legs, and when Toby left the pace dropped and I stopped at any excuse to take photos or lounge on hammocks. I was now pinning my strategy on a caffeinated refuel at N Berwick.
The sun was now properly out and my legs were properly trashed. I had measured 13 on the map to NB but (after circling Longniddry and adding Kilspindie) had taken 16 to arrive there. I went into the co-op and to my surprise bought a bacon and egg sandwich as well as a large can of Monster. I was carrying various food and drinks but it is always good to respond to stuff as it appeals on the shelf, and spent a happy 20 mins on a bench on sunny North Berwick High St, eating the sandwich and
shooting up drinking the whole can of caffeine drink. The normal NB circuit is 19 miles so I thought I might shave a couple off. And because of tide times (low water 13.21) I would do the coastal part first. It was already past 2pm when I left NB.
I ran along the edge of the golf course then along the beach until a couple of corners before Tantallon where I hiked up the grassy slope and ran the road to Seacliff. I wasn't in the mood for either a slow scramble over the rocks or wet feet on the incoming tide. It is impossible to resist the call of the Bass Rock to have it's photo taken.
I always enjoy these reeds at the edge of the Peffer Burn but have yet to find a decent way to capture them in a photo.
The caffeine drink at lunchtime had set in motion events similar to the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where graverobber I Jones (H Ford) steals an ornate Mayan head. I was hoping to make it to Binning Woods before the pursuit reached its conclusion, as Binning Woods is an ideal place to lay a body to rest. However it fast became apparent that any sculpture was going to see the light of day long before then. I travelled on from Peffer Burn much relieved.
I left Tyninghame/Ravensheugh at the exit up to the log cabin. To my surprise I didn't see Toby. At the rate I was going he may well have been and gone (and flown a kite and been in for a swim etc etc)
By now I had given up on any kind of pace and was really beginning to enjoy the run. After the log cabin I had left the gravelly main trail that heads towards Binning Woods and headed into the pine plantation just because it looked more fun that the manufactured road. I wasn't expecting to find a trail but there was quite a well trod path (and horse hoof prints) which made it hugely preferable and a much softer run along to the edge of the woods, then a short stretch of tarmac before crossing the road into Binning Woods. Normally I'd go left (East) but just for the hell of it I stayed on the low side because I'd never explored there before. I found a thin trail of excellent single track that was a complete pleasure, and slowed to walking pace for much of it as there was too much to see at running pace. I took dozens of pics and eventually came out at the far end of the area they use as a cemetery, where my dad resides. I wasn't sure if it was the walking, the scenery or the caffeine but I was now enjoying the day a lot more, and ran with a light heart the last handful of miles along the JMW from Stink farm to NB station. The timing was spot on to arrive at NB around the same time as the 5.54 train although had I been between trains I could have popped up the Law as it was now a glorious evening, or nipped into Ben's for a cuppa.
So again today I had been reminded that going long is great if you can lose yourself in the experience. Worst thing is trying to think ahead to point x and racing to get there, or ticking off the miles thinking only 2 hrs till I'm nearly done. Much better to just roll along and enjoy the present and what is around. Make sure you are properly fuelled and dressed for the weather. I found the first 20 miles harder going than the last dozen although mentally things tend to improve when you know you are turning around to head back, rather than still heading away from the destination. It also helped that the weather continually improved throughout the day, and that I got finished before sundown. Just. I spent the last mile or 2 contemplating the homemade sandwich in the back pack I would enjoy once I got on the train: homemade seeded brown bread, honey and lemon curd with thick slices of mature cheddar. As I have said before, good food and drink is not about fancy ingredients, masterchefing and elaborate recipes, it's really all just about the preparation. As the train pulled out of the station I took the first bite - utterly superb.
33 miles between 11am and 6pm with a couple extra up to and down from Waverley.