Tuesday, 29 September 2015

2 Breweries Hill Race

Can I just say I had nothing to do with the 2 Brews being a PRC champs race. No idea who thought this was appropriate but I wouldn't have recommended it as it is a BIG DAY OUT even for seasoned hill runners. However if you put in the right preparation it can be done. Andrew the Stave Stavert proved exactly this by starting hill training a couple of months back, making sure he had the right gear (hill shoes and back pack suitable to carry water, snacks and the mandatory kit,) and spending several weekends running round the Pentlands. I take my hat off to him as all the preparation paid off and he beat the odds and survived the experience. I am hoping he will write up his adventure for the Porty website as it - the experience - was a nearly ideal example of how a road runner can transfer their skills to the hills and nearly enjoy the process. It was also Craig's first 2 Brews and he also acquitted himself excellently. Fourth PRCer Richard was back for the third time and took another chunk off his 2 Brews pb. However before we get down to business I had a trip to a gallery on Friday which was worth sharing....

The exhibition was a rare chance to view the work of M.C. Escher. I have been a fan of this since I first came across it in my teens. I used to like it for the really accurate draughtsmanship. Escher was training to be an architect when a tutor spotted his talent for graphics and printmaking and steered him towards what would be a lifelong practice. He became famous for "tesselations." Tiled patterns or animal images that repeat among themselves, a phenomenon inspired by Islamic tiling and the like. Also his impossible buildings and optical illusions became something of a trademark. Like many, I was familiar with most of his images however I had never seen any of the images in the flesh. The gallery at Belford Rd proved I wasn't the only person intrigued by the prospect and this being the last few days there were queues up the front stairs, round the corner up the staircase and continuing on and on and on......(that joke on loan from Tim Neighbour.)

One of his most popular prints Day and Night

Actually there were only about 5 people ahead of me to get in the front door at the exhibition, but the amount of folk viewing it inside meant you were forced to enjoy each print at another's pace which was the least enjoyable aspect. However it was refreshing to see so many people out visiting the works (virtually his entire output as far as I could see) in this world of low-brow dumbed-down Saturday night tv and short-attention-span-facebook-guff. I believe the queues grew over the final weekend. 

It is a long while since I have spent 2hrs studying Escher and I find I was less drawn to his magnificently crafted illusions, interlocking imaginariums and graphic conundrums, and more pleased by his landscapes and less complex studies. Like the puddle above and the leaf below. He was a man who did meticulous work while dressed in a suit and tie and I found I was drawn to the more sketchy material which showed his workings and pencil lines, thought processes and work-in-progress. There were also plates from which he printed as well as photos. A great exhibition.

Back to the 2 Brews.
Craig gave the three of us a lift to Broughton where the bus took us to Traquair and we spent a leisurely 80mins warming up and eating stuff. Having not eaten since breakfast before 7.30 it is advisable to fuel up before the 3.5hr race. I find I get cramp if I eat or drink anything major after 2hrs of heavy hill running so I was stoking up to avoid having to eat later and risk the legs stiffening up. I have run the 2 Brews maybe half a dozen times and never without at least a twinge of cramp. Every year I try different strategies to reduce this but the current one of less eating later on seems to be the most efficacious.

war memorial anyone?
I toyed with the idea of doing a Richard Dennis and somehow adding 12 treadmill miles to make this a Tynecastle Bronze (for about 2 seconds) but thought better of it.

Bet those 27 Kings had a good party.

team PRC
Photo Nick

feeling nervous?

Nick and family

Dude in green top next to Peter Baxter is the brewery owner who gives away all that beer! HURRAY!

I wasn't expecting Nick to show up - it was a pleasant surprise. He had done his first sub3 marathon just 6 days before in Germany and nobody in their right mind would then toe the line for the Breweries. He had planned to take it easy and coast along not perhaps realising just how arduous all those hills can be. I hoped he would stick around for company but he dropped back almost as soon as we got going off road and I didn't see him till back at the village hall 4+ hrs later. His (very amusing) account here.

I swapped places with this runner a couple of times.

On the first big descent I took a different line from previous years, and the guys alongside. There is no path until you get over to the right and you come across a trod down past some shooting butts. However it took a while to hook up with this and it proved no quicker than the diagonal through the heather. Afterwards I exchanged pleasantries with Des C and we both felt age was a factor in belting downhill at quite the same lick as we used to. The impact is much less welcome and preservation is employed over the previous harem-scarem do-or-die downhill tactics.

Crossing a fence before the stream I noticed the runner behind gave me a look of recognition. While I ran down to the stream - aiming to the right there is a small hop-skip and jump that keeps feet dry (less chance of blisters later on) - I went through the mental card index of runners and pulled out Oliver B. Sure enough as we began that dreadfull 1000 foot climb he caught up and we chatted. Which was a welcome distraction. We even caught a couple of dudes on the way, confirming I am improving on the ups while losing gung-ho on the descents. Maybe a couple of years of Thursday evening (w)intervals is working. Oliver moved to the Lakes a while back. Prior to that we used to be in the same part of the field and regularly overtake each other on the Scottish hill-running calendar. I assumed he would be hill-fit from all that proximity in the Lakes and so was surprised when it was myself rather than himself that moved ahead as we approached the top of the climb.

Next you go through the gate and across right on a faint path to contour through heather round to a muddy single track. Initially this was far better than previous years but after the niche the path became very muddy with large patches of black tarry peat marked with studded soles shin-deep into the filth. With 2 close behind (Oliver and another) I felt the pressure to keep the pace going but I came off the other end exhausted and decided to re-group on the climb up the short summit ahead. I had a gel and some water. (Only gel/food of the race.) I watched Oliver and another get ahead by 30secs.

Then you go over a fence at the marshals and there is a long pleasant descent. Well it starts pleasantly but by the time you get towards the bottom it has become horribly rocky and you have to carefully pick a line that zigzags through brick slag heaps with a thin grass disguise on top, leaving your legs fried by the time you get to the gravelly trail at the bottom along to the aid station. I had a sip of water here and no food. Before I would always get cramp going up the fire break and so limited intake to combat this. It worked and I hit the firebreak tired but fighting, rather than broken, cramping and struggling. It did not help however to hear the far-too-chipper banter of the first lady as she got close and then overtook. 

On the easier upper part of the firebreak.

When we turned left at the top of the trees I was trying to work out what remained. I could only remember Trahenna and went through the rest of the course in my head. Did we really only have one hill left? I felt pleased to be combatting the cramp so well and it lifted my spirits. Maybe this would be the year I really nailed this event? Well no. I knew there was a longgggg section after Stobo on the slowly rising trails to the reservoir. And then the dreaded swamp. All in all it was going pretty well though and I overtook a couple of people (and first lady) on the descent to Stobo. And then saw Oliver just ahead on the way to the aid station. Again, a tiny sip of water but NO FOOD and instead of being smitten down by cramp 100yrds after the aid table I went smoothly on to the gate which I watched Oliver climb. Sure enough lifting my legs over the closed gate provoked stabbing pains in my right leg and I started running like I had been shot in the thigh. The guy behind (Alan of Westies?) asked was I ok. He ran ahead while I fought with my leg. I passed him 5 minutes later climbing the the trail looking for the longed for turn off to the reservoir. He stuck with me and I ushered him down the short narrow path first as the 3 steps at the bottom, taken too quickly, also inspire cramp.

We passed Dick Wall on the trail. I managed to avoid shouting (too much) negative abuse at him (this is all YOUR fault) (him being the originator of this event) and instead just gave him an overly loud name check "Big Dickster!"

Westie ahead

So for once I went across here taking photos instead of hobbling with cramp.

Last year I felt I did a decent job of the swamp and Trahenna. This year I tried to follow the same route but cocked it up. Alan Westie disappeared off to the left I think and Oliver was just up ahead. Suddenly I was on my own in eye-high long grasses and a wade through impossibly lumpy swamp. I tried to get to higher ground to see the clump of trees and eventually saw Oliver and trees up ahead. Also way ahead was first lady. She must have found a pretty good line although I think a warm wet summer had turned the whole area into a jungle and there were no ideal lines across. I struggled for what seemed like forever. I eventually got to the line Oliver and first lady were taking and estimated how long the climb up and over Trahenna would take. No pb this year. In fact no sub 3.30. Bummer. On the upside the Westie had gone the other strangely popular route behind the trees on the left and I arrived ahead of him at the stile, by a second or 2.

(Jasmin was supporting not running - otherwise we wouldn't have been in the same photo.)

Nick S's photos on Trahenna
Full set here

Actually I didn't give a hoot, I was just pleased to be within 20minutes of the line with all the serious work behind. I forgot to describe the climb up Trahenna on wobbly legs. It was godawful and went on for what seemed hours. Traditionally I recall all the teachers I had in primary and secondary school and any other lists of stuff from the depths of my hard drive. Anything to distract from the process of climbing up a long heathery ladder of pain. I would do arithmetic if I had any brain power left but I don't. A wee sip of water at the summit and thanks to the marshals. Then the treacherous off-camber of the single track down off the hill. 

at last. 

I'm sure I should look worse than this - I feel worse than this. The lack of photos on the second half of the race speaks volumes. I had a cup or 2 of juice and picked up my beer at the finish then went along to village hall where our stuff was dumped. Legs cramped horribly getting shoes off. I happened to catch Craig turning the second last corner, about to be chased down by David HBT who shouted that he was a fan of my blog and it was all my fault!

There was a great deal of hilarity and camaraderie for the rest of the day. And free beers at the hall. I was very pleased all the Porties did well and although Nick had a tough time he seemed to recover quickly enough to sink 4 pints (as did I) before heading back up the road. If I do this one again I MUST remember to recce the last swamp and hill the week before (Andrew did this but got lost or rather didn't recce the proper route, mistaking the summit of Trahenna for a subsidiary summit) and do more hill training. I felt I should maybe have done a bit better. Until Mary reminded me that actually I didn't do nearly enough hills beforehand and frankly got off lightly and did a pretty good time all things considered. I suppose she is right. And as consolation I got 6 more beers for being second old dude. Big thanks to Peter Baxter and all the folk who help out marshalling and catering. It is a splendid day out although tough as blazes as well.

Here is what Craig had to say about it....
Only got one photo of the house at the start then the rest of the day I was concentrating on where the course was and where to put my feet. Great place to run, weather was perfect, friendly group of runners to be out on the hills with. Well organised, lots on offer for your money, food, beers great facility's at start to relax and at the finish refuel. Last climb of the day is like climbing into the sky, you think that you will never get there then there's a guy sitting with his camera to catch you looking your best. Never done a point 2 point race before; tough but fun, a great day out with the Porty crew and some great topics up for discussion from Andrew Stavert in the car on the way there and back. I had fun and legs were good enough for a short run today defo go back to try the course again. Porty club race again next year gets my vote with a bus so we can all enjoy the FREE BEERS.

Monday, 21 September 2015

h-i-i-t and run with Barnacle Joe

So today (Sunday) was going to be a recovery run and swim. I think. I wasn't really paying attention in class. Looking forward to the Falko's coffee and bun which we have got into the habit of having before. The coffee certainly fuels the activity. In fact it probably was the main reason Mary diverted into Gullane play area for an upper body workout 5 minutes into the run. What was she laughing about? I think I was saying although these rings look like they'll take your weight give them a good test before hanging upside down or they might be rusted through and you'll fall on your stupid neck and I'll be pushing you in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. And I was doing an inappropriate Steven Hawking impersonation.

Although cloudy it was warmish and the sun was trying to break through. It was so nice that Mary brought forward her 5k training and decided we could do a H-I-I-T session on the beach. We had tried some of this before and I was rather nervous as it is 100% full on and quite likely to end with a cardiac incident. The tide was WAY out and although the sand was a bit rippled there was a decent strip down most of the beach that was nearly smooth.

This could be the last photo I take of the chimneys. (Again)
Note the fence post doing an impression of the chimneys.

So we went to beyond the subs giving us about a mile and a half of beach. The session was 3 times 5 minutes with every minute being split up into 30 seconds at medium pace, 20 of fast and 10 of SPRINT, and without a recovery you are straight back into 30 seconds of medium pace. Which sort of becomes your recovery, although you are still travelling. After 5 minutes of this you get a whole 2 minutes standing recovery which is very welcome and passes very quickly before the next 5 minutes. I thought we were doing 5 x five minutes but it was just 3. You get a sense of when to up the pace after a while, but you also (due to exertion) begin to forget how many seconds are in a minute, or what the day of the week is, or pretty much everything. We covered a lot of the beach in each lap, turned around and went back to beyond the subs. This is great stress relief as long as you don't drop down dead. We would finish at different points on the beach absolutely spent. I could see Mary bent double, quarter of a mile off. And then we started again and finished the last lap nearly together, both totally done in. It is supposed to be a great way of training. The firm but cushioning sand was a good surface for avoiding impact injury. Once we recovered we both felt high as kites, if a little damp and wrung out.

loads of these about today
Had a search on google and they may well be Fox Moth caterpillars. Only I have never seen the actual moths at Gullane where there are dozens of the caterpillars which have the habit of curling into a ball when disturbed. I had to "let" this one climb onto my hand rather than pick it up as they stay balled for minutes after they sense a predator.

We then went for a swim. The water was calm and not too cold. We probably did about 30 mins. The tide was well out and so I opted for snorkle and big mask to see who I could see. I swam out to about 10~15 feet depth and the first chap I saw was Barnacle Joe an impressively large crab possibly with an eye and some legs missing from previous battles. My first instinct was to get my hand close for scale. My second was not to put my hand close enough to get it chopped off. He ran at quite a speed (faster than this gif suggests) and was absolutely fearless. His body was about the size of a saucer and if he had stretched out his legs, would have been about dinner plate sized. He was in about 10' of water so I would take a breath and dive down for a photo before the bouyancy of the wetsuit pulled me back to the surface. 

The water was particularly clear. You could see anything on the seabed while floating 12 feet over it. I was enjoying using the snorkle which means not having to disturb your vision to breath every few strokes. Like watching the tiles on the pool bottom it mostly keeps you right (swimming parallel to the shore.) I would lose myself just watching all the underwater stuff going by and only every now and then look up to make sure Mary was still swimming along ok. The clarity of vision does occasionally grab your imagination especially looking out into the green depths and my mind asks questions to freak me out... "what if you see a LARGE shadow lurk past just beyond the event horizon?". It is a exercise in mental strength to deny the shark-panic-button, to tell the caveman brain to get real, that there are no dangerous creatures lurking in the depths, waiting to drag me under. Most of the time I believe the evidence and logic to overcome this, and most of the swim today I was totally relaxed, blowing the water out of the snorkle every time I surfaced, without having to disengage from the underneath and splutter to the surface. Just occasionally my head trips me up and wonders what it would be like to feel 2 rows of teeth suddenly grab my ankle. Woah! brain put that thought away. I only freaked out once today; when I bumped into a Portuguese Man-o-Seaweed (photo above) which was floating on the surface. I had been looking down and only saw it after I bumped headlong into it. I played a short high-pitched tune on the snorkle-trumpet.

There were many Harry the Crabs about today. (Or is that Harries the Crab?) This one was not paying attention at all and when I came into view he nearly jumped out his shell. We said hello and he offered to shake my hand. Hmmmm.

Got almost all the length of the bay then got out and walked back with M who was feeling a bit cold and knackered. (Mainly from that sprinting.) Great swim. Very relaxing and so busy having fun and looking at underwater scenery I wasn't even thinking about swim training or technique or having to empty goggles. Just getting lost in having a good time.