Tuesday, 14 April 2015

hail mary

Weekend of 11th and 12th April,
Wednesday night, club night and I overdid it. Thursday is hill training, so on wednesday, rather than train with Shery who was doing hills, I went along to Bert's session at the golf course. I haven't done the mile and a quarter laps in the longest time and was looking forward to running with the group of 5. Bert said it's not a race. Well, we weren't wearing numbers. First lap 7.02. Ninety seconds recovery then 7.01. On the third there were footfalls close behind and I reckoned we'd blown it by doing 6.54 or something. I was losing the power to read a watch and felt it would be almost impossible to beat that on the final lap, however Jake had saved something and overtook shortly after the long drag up to the main road and overtook on the flat section. I pushed back and once we got onto the descent and flat I went for broke and got back to the pavilion in 6.48 I think (5.26 pace). I was winding up the rest of the team about being beaten by the 2 oldest in the group. However broke was the word and next day I had a bruised right foot, the bones around the ball of my foot and big toe having taken too much of a stomping. No hills on Thursday after all.

I also declined an invitation to run in the Pentlands on Friday evening even though the weather looked excellent. The foot was mending (probably not a stress fracture then) but if I wanted to be fit for a longish run at the weekend then I better not push my luck. Another day's rest Friday, and when I say rest I mean 8 hrs on my feet and up and down ladders. I was thinking quite a lot about pain and self harming and how good runners, marathoners upwards, are probably quite good at soaking up pain. I know 2 strong runners, currently winning races, who have used pain as a release, and many others (I would count myself in that number) who accept pain as a large part of the training programme. The harder you train the more pain you pile on your plate. Or call it enduring. When, a few weeks ago, I was cycling more than running, I noticed I was free from the early morning hobble. And the niggles and aches were but a distant memory. After Wednesday I was feeling my age but if I could go back and run the same session again would I reign it in? Hell no, I would run just as hard, it was a total buzz!

However it did take a toll. On Saturday Coach Mary reckoned what with the cold westerly we should run to NB again and a fair amount of that on the road (as marathon training). She didn't want to do the whole lot and I suggested we contrive a race, with her setting off ahead and me trying to catch her. She would catch the train from Waverley to Musselburgh (missing the worst of the urban sprawl) then run from there. However the run up to Waverley was becoming a sinkhole in her spirits and she was totally failing to get going. Then she realised she could drive the van to Musselburgh, park up at the quayside then start the run 5 miles in. We did a quick estimate, realising if I left from home around the same time we would both hit Aberlady (15+miles from home) around the same time, where we could have a coffee and snacks before doing a warm down 9 miles on trails and beaches to North Berwick where we would catch the train back to Musselburgh and run a mile to the car.

We left at the same time and the traffic was such that I overtook the Berlingo going through Leith Links. I was keeping a careful eye on the stress fracture but although I could hear distant drums the music was mostly upbeat. The wind was to my back and although the forecast was mixed there was plenty blue sky. I noticed the pace was about 7 minute miling. After Wednesday my thinking was don't push your luck. So it went well along the prom, the third mile bleeping exactly outside Tumbles, the fourth exactly as I reached the metal gate at Joppa. But by the fifth there was a hot spot under either foot on the outside of either sole midway between heel and smallest toe. This appeared really suddenly and as someone who regularly runs 30+miles without blisters I was at first disbelieving. I had even poured some talc into my socks because the camber on the E2NB roads is pretty bad and I have made blisters many times between Port Seton and Gullane. Very quickly the hot spots were getting worse and disbelief was turning into alarm. (With hindsight I reckon I had done the damage on Wednesday, not noticing the rubs until I quickly brought them up to date with moderate running along to Musselburgh.) I had done about 8 miles; still had nearly 20 to go, and my feet were trashed. I had tightened my shoe laces in case loose shoes were the problem but that hadn't helped. Okay, think calmly, next chemist would be at the Pans. Drop the pace slightly and stop at the first place to sell plasters or tape or in an ideal world, as worn by the patron saint of ultras, Compeed plasters.  


I lost a bit of time buying waterproof plasters in the co-op before noticing the co-op chemist next door which had (hurray), Compeed plasters. They even let me sit in the chair by the door and apply one to either foot – over big loose flaps of skin the size of 10p pieces. While this was going on a shower of hail fell out of a roiling dark grey cloud and although this was spectacular enough to merit a photo out the window, my main concern was how the hell I was going to run another 15 miles with scuffed feet. (On the upside, the stress fracture had faded nicely into the background.) I left the sanctuary of the chemist but almost immediately could feel the right foot blister hadn't burst and was squelching underfoot wedging off more skin. There was a newsagents nearby and I went in not knowing what I was going to buy until I saw safety pins. Good enough. Down a side street in the falling hail like some kind of back street abortionist, naked foot in the filth and I pop the blister with a safety pin, using the third of 5 Compeed plasters to cover the drained wound. That'll do pig. Sock on, shoe on and ignoring the pain, or rather, embracing the pain and enduring, the pace gets back to reasonable and I wonder where Mary spent the hail shower. She was a mile or 2 up the road and a hairdressers' shop spotted her shivering in vest and shorts as the ice fell and ushered her indoors in a very Good Samaritan way. Nice! Her story here.

By the other side of Port Seton I had stomped the blisters into submission, back up to 7min miles and the sun was shining again, literally and metaphorically. I missed the glove tree but was pleased to see all the kite surfers at Longniddry. I was concerned I was behind schedule having lost 6 mins to blister-gate and somewhere between Longniddry Bents I and II, I left the twisty sandy trails and risked the pavementless roads to make up time. It was faster but every car that went past was a potential killer. I saw 4 guys, walkers in rambling gear, over on the trail and the one at the back gave me a wave and big smile. I was elsewhere in my head and only at the last minute recognised Scott F. I shouted out “... didn't recognise you WALKING,” and heard it come out shrill and accusatory. I think it was the turmoil of the situation bursting through what little veneer remained. Scott shouted something but I didn't hear it. I wanted to stop and ask had he seen Mary was she far ahead, what was he up to and did he have a rescue car near by? Instead I ran on, not in the least relaxed. Another car squeezing by on the road convinced me to rejoin the trail, and as I did (on the last section before Gosford House) I saw Mary up ahead. I had thought I might well catch her, but thought it would be just before Aberlady. I got a huge wave of relief and joy. I didn't have to risk my neck on the road and I could ease back off my shredded feet into a pleasant chatty run.  

Mary wasn't looking back and the noise of the traffic disguised my approach. I enjoyed catching up knowing she wasn't aware of me while I could see her. I thought about approaching fast and barking loudly to see how high I could make her jump, then thought much better of it and ran close by till she noticed she had company and we stopped for a quick catch up and then ran together into Aberlady swapping stories of hailshowers and hairdressers. “So did they offer to cut your hair while you were in there?” “No.”

We shared a Toffee Monster Muffin and had coffees out the machine. This gave me enough fuel in the tank to cross the bridge at Aberlady feeling very much lighter than earlier. My feet were a bit sore but nothing from the phantom stress fracture, so all was well and just 9 pleasant miles of sunshine and beaches to go. Mary was a bit low and nearly refused to come out from the shelter of the scrubby shrubs when it looked like we might be in for another soaking. The clouds slowly blew away, although it was pretty baltic and we both had all our extra layers and gloves and hats on.  

I am climbing over a 2 string fence here - not just making a spazzy move to look cool.

The sky cleared and we had the wind behind us and it was just chug along and enjoy the scenery. The dramatic skies were very dynamic and much more vibrant than that low grey wintry cloud. Mary seemed to pick up as we got towards NB. We had accidentally arrived in perfect time for the train otherwise we might have visited Kemp Hall for a cup of tea. We got one of those (and another muffin) at the wee shop that is sometimes open in the station waiting room and they congratulated us on our bike ride till I set them straight, still rabidly caffeinated.

Saw three fat bikers - later identified as Craig, Mark and Stuart

see that marquee on the point...


Here is the marquee and a load of folk doing a wedding. Now I'm sure it was perfectly nice but who wants to dress up in starchy outfits and stand around making small talk when you could be out running down the beach. Honestly, I felt sorry for them.

I was worried we wouldn't remember to get off at Musselburgh and end up having to cycle back for the van later on tired legs. However we did remember, and Mary's internal sat-nav guided us down past Willie J's house and it was just a mile to the Quayside. The sky had clouded over again but the rain held off until we were driving home. All in all not a bad day out.

Next day and the stress fracture still failed to materialise. Excellent. And because all the faster miles were followed by a 10 mile warm down on uneven ground, (pretty much the same as a massage?) my legs weren't too trashed today so I went along for a recovery 5 miler with Mary; well I had to as we were doing a trip to pc world. At some point on Saturday night EE, our internet provider, had a large technical glitch, and “coincidentally” the antique Router they provided us with many moons ago and have consistently failed to update, finally coughed it's last url and died.

Yikes no internet, no facebook, NO EMAIL, NO BLOG! It's like suddenly being struck blind. Okay I exaggerate, it's like when you trim a toenail too short and it hurts a bit for 10 minutes then is annoying for a couple of days. Last night the email started behaving kind of weird and asking for passwords. Hasn't done that in 10 years. Apparently EE dumped everyone's passwords. Well that was the gossip in the call centre possibly in India. It took maybe 80 or 90 minutes on hold, about the time I can run a half marathon in, for EE to answer the phone while Mary and I took turns in relay on the phone, receiver in one hand while sorting photos for the blog with the other. Snappy they were not. Nor quick to sort the problem. The possibly Indian lady jumped Mary through every hoop to establish blame and responsibility before conceding the same – this took maybe 45 minutes to an hour of delving deep into the settings of the pc, before she conceded it probably was time for a new Router and they would send one in THREE TO FIVE DAYS. The blindfold descended again and we realised – even worse – we would have to go to the biggest sinkhole in Lothian (Ikea on a Sunday excluded) PC WORLD! (Cue scream.) We were either going to buy a new Router or a Wireless Network Adapter, or both; and almost certainly find that neither would plug nor play. My happy fucking life.

By the time we were done at PC World (f'Kinnaird Park) we were both totally scunnered in a way that only industrial landscape shopping can induce. There were 1300 products and none of them easy to identify, price-check or match to our needs. We engaged in philosophical debate with a member of staff who overestimated his competency and we finally left not with a Router which would have involved many happy hours setting up, but with a wireless network adaptor which despite the staggeringly high odds against, did actually plug and play. And allowed the (non wifi) pc to piggyback on the internet connection Mary had rented from BT on a weekly basis through her laptop. If you are reading this then we are still on top of the crisis. If you are not, then don't email till end of next week. Computing is not specifically difficult*, it is however very time consuming and tricky not to lose the will to live while covering the ground.

*That said, I'd have been totally stuffed as all my information comes from googling which is so much trickier when it's your connectivity that's gone-ectivity. (< joke on loan from Mary, “the brains of the outfit”.)

the router

AGF, sub1.30 at Angus Half marathon. First vet!
She had to hit this target in order to get a good for age place in Edinburgh Marathon. She now has 6 and a half weeks to train for it. 

So the run round the lagoons at Musselburgh was an antidote to the shopping and it took a couple of miles before we stopped shouting and the hatred drained out our hearts and everything felt like it was getting better. By the time we bumped into AGH and Scott F (twice in 24hrs!) walking the doggies we were almost fit to speak to. Mary insisted the return leg was to be up the pavement beside the road and racecourse and I went off to run the route of the Musselburgh 10k because it was greener. I legged it for a bit, anxious not to be proved slower but M was across the bridge before I even got to it. The cold breeze had blown the PC Cobwebs away and we drove home and had a lovely dinner. The end. (Of the weekend).

ps: here is the best sentence from the book I am currently reading. (I'm not going to mention the book because there aren't that many good sentences in it, but this one sums up a lot of the stuff I have been considering lately) 

"Ideology is for people who don't trust their own experiences and perceptions of the world."


  1. Enjoyable write-up of what sounds like a colourful weekend, complete with thought-provoking sentence at the end..

  2. Thanks Michael.
    (Oh and the new Router arrived today, Wednesday. Crisis over.)