Tuesday, 31 January 2017

edinburgh alps

I was a little weary on Sunday. Game for a few miles in the Pentlands given the snow and sun, but not delighted to hear Mary was after 12 miles to make up her shortened running week. Even freshly ground coffee out the new percolator didn't give me the usual joie de vivre. And I wasn't looking forward to the queues at Flotterstone since we were late in setting off. The car park would be jammed.

It was but we got lucky and folk were leaving by the time we arrived. No idea why folk prefer the supposed moral high ground of an early morning jaunt when the forecast says the best part of the day will be 1 and 2pm. And it pretty much was. The skies darkened worryingly around Scald Law but then relented and it was fine, more than fine, for the rest of the circuit.

We raced to get up the first hump, Turnhouse in under 25mins, doing it with a handful of seconds to spare. It was Mary setting the route and goals today, I was just along for the ride, and according to some, not in the best mood. I tried to keep quiet, not always managing.

The plan was to run up Carnethy in one go rather than breaking into a walk. Tricky with all that slippery stuff about. I took a random shot over my shoulder which wasn't easy as I was trying to run, and also the camera was on a leash to my pocket (in the event I hit the ground, it wouldn't) so it wasn't able to reach much of a distance, and only really good for shots of my ear.

Mary wasn't far behind.
Her running seems to be on the improve currently. Hurray!

We set off to do the same running-all-the-way with Scald Law as well but quickly came to a halt as we bumped into Joel and Merlin. Should have taken a photo of their better sides.



Now the above (the long arm of the Hunter) is a lesson in why not to stand on the end of a team photo when shot with a wide angle lens as it distorts your fat ass and you wonder if you are really that wide? No, but now it's up on facebook and folk are body-shaming-victim-blaming you. A long arm is good you say, it can grip the edge of the frame and support you on slippery ground. There's only one of us on slippery ground here I hear.

We turned right before the Kips (although did do South Black Hill, so weren't complete slackers) and ran down a different path (from the C5 route) past the sheep folds but then left and round the back of Black Hill. I was defo feeling the miles by this point while Mary was shouting TWELVE at me if I suggested shortcuts or missing hills. My legs were beginning to ease off though and I cheered up once I could see the end was in sight. It was a very pleasant day to be out, almost unbelievably nice after the horrors of the day before.

I always appreciate those reeds at the end of the reservoir and imagine they are home to a number of mottled brown birds that sit motionless while you run past. Never seen any.

Just before the gulch between Black Hill and Bells Hill Mary stepped through the frosty surface into some deep mud. TURD FOOT! Right up and over the sock! Bad luck.

This path again round Castlelaw. Now a firm favourite. Very sploshy though.

And that was about that. Dropped down to the tarmac and ran back to Flotterstone. Lovely run, just a little tired. Slept well though.

map of run
12.5 miles, 3600' ascent
reminds me of a parrot-headed hippo doing a downward dog. 

parkrun vs squaring the circo

Nick has definitely caught the TB bug. The first opportunity to run a February Tynecastle Bronze was on Saturday (because WW1 started on the 28th July). And he had noticed that on Saturday Jim H was leading the annual (Carnethy) Circo run round the perimeter of the capital and likely to notch up 33 miles. Since we hadn't planned a better route why not join in. Well 2 reasons: first was the start point, Hillend at 8.30am. Second the route is a bit, well, plain.

So we compromised. Instead of the early start on the other side of town Nick picked me up at 8.45 and we drove to Cramond for a parkrun. Or to give it it's full title - feel-the-fear-but-run-it-anyway-Parkrun-5k. This had been on the menu for a few weeks but various excuses had been keeping us away. Since the weather wasn't going to be all that, there was no excuse and it wouldn't be as bad as the first 5 miles of the Circo through Danderhall? Or would it? If we lived to tell the tale we would meet Jim and the C Crew at Portobello for bacon rolls.

I haven't done a parkrun since 2013. Up till then I'd run 12. And 10 of them sub18. I had no doubt that in the intervening 4 years the game hadn't got easier. The conditions weren't ideal on Saturday - persistent drizzle all day - but at least there wasn't a strong second-half headwind as there often can be at Silverknowes. We arrived plenty early which was good as I needed to unpack my legs, still a bit crocked from Weds and Thurs entertainments. (See last blog.) We probably did at least a mile warming up with a couple of sprints. The most useful preparation was Nick saying we needed to do 5.47 m/m to get under 18mins.

After a bit of chat (Emily R = 100th parkrun! well done,) we set off. Alastair B on the start line said "this is a bit vanilla for you?" I explained we were doing some extra miles afterwards.

Now I don't mean to be harsh about the fuckwits who stand at the front of the race, run hard for 200 yards and then drop back immediately forcing proper runners to go round them, but there were about 25 folk ahead of me and Nick at the get go and only ten of them ahead by the finish. So could you please have a word with yourselves and realise this is neither appreciated by other runners nor doing yourselves any favours. The "secret" to a decent parkrun is even pacing. Not crash and burn. Now I know I used to do this myself and to a small degree employed this method on Saturday, but at least I ran a mile before slightly slowing. Next time I will be slapping heads as I pass - you have been warned.

So I am looking at Mr Suunto and he is saying 5.35 and I feel as if I am coasting. Well this is good but keep that pace and don't overtake or push up to the red line. Nick is just ahead and since he is in pretty good shape these days I have no intention of going past. The first mile passes and my transmission acclimatizes. We get to the turn-around-triangle and I feel sufficiently confident to go past Nick and the first woman, a young girl I haven't seen before. (Chloe is running strongly in 2nd.) Alastair B goes past showing the head starters a lesson in pacing. He looks even and comfortable and goes on to finish 30secs ahead of those he just passed.

From here on in it's all red mist and holding it together as waves of OMG crash onto the shore of diminishing returns. I look to Mr Suunto and although I feel the effort is even the numbers have dropped from 5.38 first mile, to 5.42 second and seem to be saying 5.55 too often. (Last mile 5.53 with a slight increase for the last bit.) Nick comes past once we hit the trees although I manage to stay ahead of the teenager who just limbos under the 18 mins one place behind. I pushed my stop watch at 17.59 but am fairly sure it was after I had crossed the line. I am much relieved to have found a form similar to that of 4 years ago. Life in the old dog yet. Although it is the lowest equal placing I have ever had (meaningless) it is the second highest age graded placing I have had. And with it being wet underfoot there is room for improvement.

Right, just got 27 miles to run now. We decided to park Nick's car near Iona St and run back to Porty. I change my shoes and socks as they are soaked through, throw my wet clothes in a pile and run out the door in fresh dry kit feeling ok, a bit frazzled but up for a few miles at a lower pace. We meet Caroline, a pal from the old days running on the prom and she runs with us back along to the cafe where we have a bacon and egg roll to fuel the next marathon. Judging by the backs of the legs of the other runners we were wise to miss the first 8 miles. Early on Nick takes me off on a diversion into Ocean Terminal to grab a quick TB War Memorial. It's an impressive plaque to an outrageous act of courage by a young man, Thomas Peck Hunter (son of Mary Hunter) who gave his life to draw fire away from his comrades, earning a VC in the process. Story here.

We regrouped at regular intervals. Mark in above photo is telling Nick how handsome he is and about his favourite runners (male.) It certainly cheered up the surroundings which were so bleak I left the camera in it's poly bag for most of the day. I took about 10 photos. The rain was steady and stayed on all day. The banter and company was just about enough to keep us going, although if I had known just how bad the weather was going to be (luckily the weather people lied again) I might have stayed home after parkrun.  

Jim with eleven fingers on his right hand; sometimes a benefit.

Next stop Cramond Inn. I was initially impressed that we had a reserved area. Then I noticed it was the only part of the pub with lino not carpet. Fair enough. Then we noticed the fire was an electric one with just the light bulb on, and that the only heating was a small fan heater. In the other rooms glorious log fires roared. Hmmm. And the tea we ordered (following a pint of beer) was hot tap hot rather than kettle hot.

horses left out in the rain had shrunk

The ponies were the last time I got the camera out, and we still had about 20 miles to go. Which is not to say the rest of the day was a wash out. There was some interesting chat about dry Januaries and where to bury a body (we passed a couple of places incl Fly-Tip-Central just after Cammo Tower.) Mark took some photos including the 2 below. The next pub stop was Juniper Green where I opted for coke (Pepsi) in the tradition of ultras before we headed into the hills. We tried to push on rather than linger as the unseen sun was probably descending.

photo Mark H

photo Mark

There was a moment approaching Cammo Tower (above, photo credit Mark H) as we plodded through sticky mud that I was thinking, " the only decent thing right now is the Caramel Wafer I am eating and when that is done so am I." But we still had the joys of the Gyle and the long slow climb towards the Pentlands.

The search for a lovely day out continues.
(Jim H took this shot.)

Eventually we got to where we could see the hills through the low cloud and mist. There were white patches. Must be the rain lying. As we got near Bonaly the light and pace were fading. In order to get 30miles in Nick and I would have to continue beyond the Circo finish, which went via Allermuir summit and was likely to take a while. We opted to desert the troops at Bonaly and take the Water of Leith paths and then the canal into the West of the city and from there catch a bus if we had racked up 30miles. There was a sting in the tail at the Aquaduct on the canal which was being drained and had diversion signs a bit back that we ignored. We managed past that and thought we were in the clear when we came upon a fence barring the way through, which involved quite a clamber to get over. Not what is required about 28 rainy miles into the day. Slithery wet wood and sharp wire. And a jab of a tree branch prodded Mr Suunto who switched off and dropped the Circo miles. I don't recall the "just disregard these 28 miles?" menu screen. However we were undaunted and if anything picked up the pace and positively zoomed into Tollcross on the understanding if there was a bus we'd catch it. We turned the corner and the Ocean Terminal bus just pulled away from the stop, which was probably a good thing, as we required the heat being generated from running to avoid hypothermia. We bombed down Lothian Road and made like Renton and Spud with LUST FOR LIFE playing in my head as we video-gamed along Princes St. dodging umbrellas at eye-level, 7 min miling on the South side, on and off the pavement playing chicken with the buses. We were both fading by the East End but the gradient down Leith Walk was encouraging and we zig-zagged past the pedestrians along the last miles at a respectable pace, bookending a superb day out, albeit in weather you wouldn't walk the dog. Hot Shower, Beer and Wine. Great running, Fantasic company!

Nick's strava data which says we ran 29.7 after the 4 of parkrun. Loving the sub7, 27th mile.

Saturday, 28 January 2017


Nobody wants to hear that while they were nose-to-the-grindstone on Monday morning I was swanning about in the sunshine, running and taking photos. So let's just say early in the week I found myself unexpectedly chumming Mary on the Granton run on a day that wasn't as filled with work related stuff as it often is. 

I can't not take the camera and having taken some shots I can't not blog them. So let's just hurry through and then we can get to the weekend stuff. We have had many days of fantastic light recently and if it were like this all winter I'd be more of a fan. It only takes a couple of back to back grey drizzly days and my spirits plummet. I can feel my batteries recharging out running in stuff like this and it makes the week do-able.

saw this and thought of you

Next up Wintervals
This can seem a bit of an ask - a tough session in the dark; esp after a calf mashing road race on Wednesday eve at clubbo. But it is always over quickly and like most brief and thorough thrashings, it almost certainly does you good. I had a notion to take along the camera because the numbers seem to be consistently high across quite a broad ability group and the headtorches look pretty. And it has the warmth and attraction of a cult. I was pleased because the session had a nice symmetry and drew a tiara on my altitude map. Although something (possibly my radiation) seems to affect the readout and I return to a home much lower than the one I left. I meant to change the way it senses altitude but haven't done it yet. I know, fascinating. Anyway none of the photos came out well (and it was such a clear and crisp evening!) But some of them came out wonky and that's nearly as good, if not better. 

7pm at the Octagon

eyes tearing with cold and happiness

after the 4 minute interval this was exactly like this

stars on a leaf

we passed that other local cult HBT who were out doing something very similar

tonight's squint tiara

venue Salisbury Hill up to and beyond Commie Pool roundabout
1min, 2min, 3min (onto road), 4min (up left opp crags), 3min, 2min, 1min
but because that's not enough Fergus made us do 30second sprints between each
thanks Fergus! see you Thursday