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
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.