Monday, 27 April 2015

The HOKA Highland Fling 2015

And so it finally arrived.  I’d signed up for the Fling back in October, in the week before the Amsterdam Marathon, as a bit of a distraction from temporary tapering insanity.  Or perhaps because of it.  Or perhaps going on the theory that it’s important to have your next holiday already planned and booked, so that you’ve got something to look forward to at the end of the one just past.  But I’m a great one for signing up for everything anyway, on the basis that it’s just opened on Entry Central and you don’t want to miss out.  Plus, it was ages away yet, so no need to worry about it too much.  Middle child (Georgia) was her typically blunt self when I told her what I’d done – “oh my God, you’re going to die”, being her pithy assessment.

Which is pretty much where my mind had turned to on Thursday evening.  What have you done; what on earth makes you think you can run that far in one go; etc; etc?!

Conscious that I would get next to no sleep on Friday night (I’d agreed to meet James and Jen at 3.15am in East Linton), I felt quite a lot of pressure to sleep well the night before the night before.  So of course that didn’t happen – I saw most hours on the alarm clock, and even had to get up for a while at 4am.  Given the warmth of the night, I actually also felt slightly nauseous which had me worried that I’d caught a bug from one of my work colleagues (one of whom had been off for most of the week with pleurisy – he can’t have had his feet in his wellies).

Last minute preparations were made on Friday evening including assembling the all important drop bags (judging by the Fling's Facebook page, some folk seem to have spent more time buying the entire contents of Tesco than they did training), buying Jaegermeister for the after-party, and loading my hydration pack with the essential minimum.  After a bit of internal debate, the essential minimum included Jamie's small camera, which I am very pleased about in hindsight.  I now tend to agree with Peter's view that, especially for events like this, the small amount of time you think you lose in taking pictures is probably more then recouped by giving yourself a bit of a breather, taking your mind away from darker places, and being in a position to share your memories later.

Loading up the Green Meanie
The trip through was efficient and painless - thanks James and Jen - although the weight of rain on the windscreen was a little dispiriting.  The forecasts in the preceding week had pretty much covered all bases (including sleet and snow), but the most recent of which had suggested that the rain would go off after a couple of hours or so.

We arrived in good time for registration and then added our drop bags to the boots of the relevant cars heading for the respective checkpoints.  Seriously though, some folk must have been feeding the five thousand.

We had a bit of a scout around to find club mates Andy and Lee, and the Haddington crew of Norrie and Adrian.  I was also on the look out for my friend Martin, who as you may recall is a hard core ultra runner who was doing the Fling mainly for the UTMB points.

Friend, and recce partner, Martin

Team East Lothian (minus Andy S)
As we assembled in our start pens (James, Martin and I decided on sub-10), it was also nice to see and say hello to a few of the guys that I recognised from last month's D33.  After a few words from Johnny Fling, we were finally underway in light drizzle which seemed to be growing lighter along with the sky.  My plan for the race was based on the idea that, beyond my primary goal of simply finishing, I'd like to go under 10 hours, with every minute closer to 9 being "jam".  Having pored over results from previous years, and drawing on my own recent experience of how much more difficult the second half of the race is, I decided that I'd aim for 4 hours to get to Rowardennan, and allow myself 6 hours for the rest.  In spite of how relatively flat and runnable it is until you get to Conic, I told myself to heed all of the good advice and start s-l-o-w.  A first mile at 9m/m+ pace fit the bill nicely.

Although probably not "on message", I find everything up to Drymen to be pretty uninspiring.  So I was glad to be running with James, whose conversation helped to pass the time.  His breakfast coffee was making itself known however, and he had to stop at least 3 times in the first hour "to make water".  He'd stop and then gradually come back to me again.  Which gave an early insight into how much ebb and flow there was throughout the day.  Folk that you hadn't seen for hours would suddenly reappear as if by magic.  

My expression perhaps belies my feelings about this section of the course

"Yeah? I'm kind of busy at the minute."

James contemplates another pit (I said "pit"!) stop
I was fortunate that, during one of James's absences, I had first Joanne T from EAC, and then Matthew C from Carnethy to chat to.  Joanne explained that this was her second attempt at the Fling after taking to the line with an injury last year.  She had got to Rowardennan in 4 hours, but decided that discretion was the better part of valour and that 27 miles was a “decent enough training run”.  She was very much hoping to finish this year though.  Matthew and I ran together for the section of old railway line with the multitude of gates.  We timed things pretty well though, and were at the end of a little group that would open the gates for us and all we had to do was give them a little nudge so that they stayed open for the next guy.  Keeping your momentum going felt important.

On the drag up the hill coming away from the little hamlet (Gartness) that has the outside honesty fridge, I got talking to Barry and Willie from Garscube.  Both were targeting sub-9 hours, so I was in equal measures pleased to be keeping up with runners on that schedule, and worried that I'd gone off too fast despite my best intentions.  Willie was apparently 21 stone (he must be half that now) as recently as 3 years ago.  The transformation has been amazing, although he assured me that he "did much better with the ladies" as a fat guy than he does as an athlete.  Barry told me a little further on that Willie has been running 140-150 mile weeks.  It showed.

First glimpse of Loch Lomond
A worrying list to the side (photo: George Furmage)

Shortly before Drymen you are invited to leave the road and take some steps down beside a bridge.  You then see some worn footmarks in the grass which lead up to a WHW marker post at the brow of a hill.  But having done the recce with Martin four weeks ago, I knew that that line took you to the left of an area of marshy ground, with no real alternative but to try and cross it, or come back on yourself to try to go around it.  Instead I veered further to the right which meant I didn't go over the highest part of the hill and entirely avoided the wet ground.  I must admit to feeling very smug about that as I watched "the lefties" slow down and try to tiptoe their way through (mostly unsuccessfully I'm sure).

Climbing up the wee hill towards the road crossing at Drymen (photo: Muriel Downie)
I can't remember much of anything to tell you about the next section from Drymen towards Conic Hill, other than to say (i) that the enthusiastic crowds who turned out at Drymen were a real boost, and (ii) the decimated forest is pretty ugly - I know there are commercial concerns involved, but it strikes me that leaving a few sections of trees in place would be more aesthetically pleasing than clearing an entire hillside.

My plan had always been to walk up Conic.  Little to be gained when everyone else was walking it as well, and plenty to be lost.  I was surprised to see what I thought was Martin a short way further ahead though.  When we lined up at the start, he'd taken up a position about 10 metres behind, and I hadn't been aware of him passing me.  But the early miles were so crowded that I couldn't be sure.  I started to walk a bit faster, until I got close enough to call his name, and he turned.  Again, a small stroke of luck to be chatting to a friend on a difficult section.  Looking back down the hill I could see James and Matthew coming close behind.  The views from the top were spectacular, although the fact that there were photographers stationed up there meant that I didn't take my camera out.  Which I regretted until I saw the picture that James had taken, and which I couldn't have bettered.

James's stunning picture from the top of Conic Hill (it stands up well to the repetition)

The descent off Conic can be pretty treacherous.  Martin had fallen on our recce so said that he was going to take his time to avoid it happening again.  And despite it now being as near as dammit dry, I was also much less gung ho than I might have been on a shorter race.  

Coming into the first drop bag zone at Balmaha was extremely uplifting as again the marshals and supporters were superb.  I’ve never done a triathlon, but I imagine the hubbub of people, colour, noise, nervous energy, and athletes (including James and Matthew) heading in all different directions to ransack their stash and get themselves sorted as quickly as possible for the resumption of the race must be very similar to a transition.  I thought that I’d “transitioned” relatively well – not wasting too much time to pour a bottle of Lucozade into my hydration bladder, throw down a gel, grab a mini banana Soreen to eat on the run, before sacrificing the rest to the Gods – but was then a little surprised to find Martin peeling off layers in the woods just beyond the checkpoint.  Nothing if not predictable, I serenaded him with a few bars of “The Stripper” before running on.
He had a point though.  The sun was now fully up, the skies were turning a glorious blue, and despite it still being before 9 on an April morning, it was getting pleasantly warm.  I made a mental note to remove my merino wool base layer on the trudge up the next suitably long and steep incline.
Before long I’d settled into another (different) chain of about 4 or 5 runners, which was being led by a purposeful HBT (Ivor, as it would turn out).  As we “wriggled” our way along the coastal paths at the margins of the Loch Lomond shore, there was a short, very square diversion off the main path.  Right, left, left, right!  Ivor the HBT took the second right a little too sharply and wiped out on mud in painful and voluble fashion, which induced a wince and a sharp intake of breath from me (and I’m sure the other runners).  His knee and thigh were rather scuffed up, but happily the damage didn’t look race-ending, and he urged us to carry on.  Which was a relief for all, as the pre-event literature is very clear on not leaving fallen comrades behind, “even at the expense of your own race”!  Stories that emerged over the course of the day highlighted the importance of this rule though.  One chap (Facebook later revealed his name to be Allan Conry) apparently had an episode of fatigue-induced brain fade and forgot to duck for the low “troll” tunnel near the main road after Beinglas.  With bloody, white-shirt-ruining, consequences.  But huge credit to him, after being patched up by the medics, he soldiered on to finish in a smidge over 9 hours.

The bloody, but very brave, Allan Conry

Others would not be so fortunate.  Norrie told me later that he’d witnessed at close quarters a “poor lassie” take a sickening faceplant on one of the rocky technical sections approaching Inversnaid.  She had to be evacuated out by the Trossachs Mountain Rescue team (whose speedboats were buzzing back and forth along the shore), and was rewarded with a broken nose and several stitches in her lip.  Another chap slipped outside of Rowardennan, broke a number of fingers, and spent a night in A&E.

So no cakewalk this then.
Indeed I’d started to notice some “singing” from my left hip.  Not so much a soprano belting out at you in the front row of the opera house; more like a sombre requiem coming from a stereo on low volume in the next room.  But concerning nonetheless, so I washed down a couple of liquid ibuprofen tablets, and waited for the conductor to silence the choir.
The next section through the Rowardennan Forest is “undulating” which allowed me to go, if not “taps aff”, then at least down to bare arms.  At which point Ivor the HBT caught up again.  When asked how he was feeling after his tumble he said that the adrenaline was holding things together.  We then agreed that there was no good reason for the trail not to follow a less hilly route around the headland, instead of straight over the top of the highest bit of ground in the area.  
Arriving at Rowardennan was a huge buzz (see photo below), as I did so before my 4 hour target, and again the welcome party was in good voice.  A couple of snaps, a quick rummage in the drop bag, and I was moving again pretty quickly. 

Rowardennan checkpoint

Elated to have made it to Rowardennan in advance of my 4 hour target

On leaving I noticed an attractive (presumably quite modern) war memorial that I had completely missed on the recce – probably because Martin and I had left while it was still dark.  Here it is, for Captain Henry’s log:-

Rowardennan war memorial

Due to repair work, a section of the traditional WHW route after Rowardennan is closed, and the diversion follows the Forestry Commission roads for a few miles.  While much smoother than the lochside trails, a lot of extra altitude is gained so it is something of a trade off.  While the field was rapidly thinning out (if there were any long straight avenues through the trees I tended to be able to gain some reassurance from the sight of one runner ahead and, if I glanced back, one behind), the number of walkers was increasing as if to compensate.  And they were uniformly polite and friendly, despite the potential to feel aggrieved that the best part of 1,000 runners were spoiling their peace and tranquillity.

Before Inversnaid I finally got onto the aforementioned rocky technical section.  I had been dreading this after the recce, expecting the pace (but hopefully, touchwood, nothing else) to fall off a cliff.  But a conversation with club mate Jamie, who had done the Fling in 2014 (and incidentally had a great run and PB at the VLM this year – well done!), gave me a new perspective on it.  He said that he looked on it as a positive, because you had to go slowly, everyone else would as well, and you could use it for a bit of recovery before pushing on to the end.  Buoyed already by these wise words, the actual experience was totally different to the recce in any event.  A month of good weather had transformed the underfoot conditions.  Yes, it was still rocky and technical, but at least you didn’t have to go searching off the path for dry places to put your feet.
So I had a good vibe as I arrived into Inversnaid.  Which was improved further when (i) a marshal told me that I was the first runner they’d seen come through taking pictures, and (ii) he and a colleague proceeded to give me the most fantastic butler service with my drop bag.  “May I open your gel Sir?”  “Would Sir like his suspicious urine-yellow looking liquid (i.e. flat Red Bull) decanted?”  “Can I top Sir up with water?” Utterly flawless.

Same spot as for the "drowned rat" photo from my debut blog post, but light years away in terms of an experience

Thrust back into the tricky stuff, I was glad that my fast stop had allowed me to reel in a couple of guys in front.  Not because I was bothered about places, but because I was glad of the company.  When one tried to wave me through, I assured him that he was not holding me up, and that I was happy to follow the line of someone who seemed to know what he was doing.  I certainly didn’t want to put any pressure on him to go faster than was comfortable.

My only injury of the day came on this section, when I thrust my hand into a thornbush, as I prepared to steady myself for a jump down between rocks.  I washed the blood off in one of the cross-streams and could see it was just superficial stuff.

The rapidly approaching sounds of a pursuing runner gave me a bit of a fright, but then he shouted that he was “just a relay runner”, so we let him past and wished him well.

Bye bye to the Loch

After a further spell we left the loch behind, and started the drag up and over to Beinglas.  It was here that I caught up with “Jonny Stornoway”, who Roly and I had run with at the D33 before he motored off to a very handy finish.  He didn’t seem to be enjoying the terrain much, saying that “this stuff’s like a different sport; I’m a road-runner, not a rock-climber”.  I told him that we’d now passed the worst of it but, having learned myself the hard way, advised him not to lose concentration completely or he could come a cropper.

Beinglas checkpoint

The marshals at the Beinglas checkpoint were again excellent, and provided a couple of chuckles to boost potentially flagging spirits.  The first came when a lady asked if I’d like my nuts out of their wrapper.  I responded that that would probably be indecent.  The second was when I asked how far it was to the finish, to which one said 11 miles and another said 13.  You need to go away and try to get your stories straight…

But the Garmin said I’d reached 41 so, even working on the worst case scenario, it dawned on me that not just a sub-10, but a sub-9 was a possibility.  I’d reached Beinglas in under 6 and half hours.  Surely I should be able to manage a 2h30m half marathon?  But on tough ground, with shot legs?  The slow grinding gears of my brain as I tried to work out the pace I’d need helped to distract my attention for some of the “rollercoaster” section that followed.

We were back to good wide well-made windfarm type roads, but there were lots of ups and downs – the sort of terrain that I’ve been training on with Stuart at Crystal Rig.  Except that I was now quick-marching (sometimes doubled over and with arms driving thighs) on absolutely anything that had a gradient, and running the rest.  My hope was that this would keep delivering the sub-12 minute miles that I needed.

There was a succession of really picturesque wooden footbridges over a meandering river (sorry, footage not found), but they tended to have a number of steep steps up to the gantry and then back down again.  Which did not go unnoticed by my quads – the first tell-tale signs of cramp were like a gathering storm on the horizon.

After negotiating first the “troll” tunnel and then a more generously proportioned tunnel under the A82, I was met with words of encouragement from a spectator who said that there were “3 guys within 4 minutes ahead”.  I replied that I didn’t hold out much hope of catching them, but I suppose it did act as a bit of a spur.  Again, not because I was bothered about places, but because I was now looking for ways to help keep the pace respectable and see me home.

The first runner I managed to bridge to was a chap called Hugh, who was happy to pass the time with some chat.  Although we appeared to have settled into very different rhythms (he running everything at the same steady pace, and me walking a lot but a little faster than him when I did run) we did just about manage to hold a coherent conversation in spite of the yo-yo effect.  He commented that he thought it was a strong field.  I admitted that I wouldn’t have known which names should have stood out from the entry list.  I asked how many he thought were ahead of us, and was blown away when Hugh said he thought we must be somewhere around 25th. 

And even on this worst of muddy sections – known as “Cow Poo Alley” – the ground conditions could not have been better.  The dry weather and likely heavy footfall seemed to have packed it down and squeezed the moisture out, forming a nice hard line.  

I told Hugh that I hadn’t been much beyond here on the WHW before, and asked what to expect.  He said that there was one nasty climb up into the Crianlarich Forest, it then “undulated” (that word again!) through the Forest, before dropping down to a flat run into Tyndrum.

It was on that nasty climb that my quads started to cramp up – the muscles directly above my knees tensing solid at times.  My poker face can’t be that bad though, because the photo below doesn’t give the game away.

Climbing into Crianlarich Forest, with Ben More and Ben A'an in the background (photo: Conor Cromie)

A strong looking runner (later learned to be Dale from Northern Ireland) came past me on the climb, and I tried to keep him in sight as a hare to keep me motivated to the right pace.  By this time I had figured that I could drop to 15 minute miles and still break 9 hours, so was pleased when a succession of walk/jog miles ticked themselves off at sub 12 pace, increasing the cash at bank.

And I started to encounter runners and riders who appeared to be coming out from Tyndrum to welcome us in.  Which must be a good sign?!  I asked again how far we had to go and was told around half a mile to the road crossing and a further 2 to the finish.  Although something was then muttered which I didn’t quite catch, but I suspect was an upwards reassessment.  It certainly sounded a little too good to be true.

After crossing the A85, and finding ourselves on decent roads through flat-ish farm country, I managed to join up with Dale and we introduced ourselves.  His company over that final stretch was a big help.  Still full of questions about unknown territory (I had become concerned that our destination might be at the far end of Tyndrum near the Green Welly), Dale was able to tell me that the By The Way campsite was in fact at the near end.  Bonus!

An information board said these were the Tyndrum Hills - I remember thinking that that was hopefully because they are very close to T, and not in a "London Road in Edinburgh" sense

A large sign saying “You are half way on the WHW” announced our approach to the campsite, and I remarked to Dale that that would be hard to see if you were trying to run the whole thing.

I was then shocked to hear a cry of “oh my god, it’s Nick”, before spotting Jen and her Mum and Dad.  She told us that there were only a few hundred yards to go, and then Dale said that he could hear the pipers.

The final approach into By The Way (photo: Jen Matthew)

A swoop up and round a bend led us to the wonderful sight of the red carpet, national flags, and the “bouncy castle” finish arch.  The crowd cheered, and I shamelessly milked their applause, before crossing the line with Dale (who it transpired took 1st V50, ahead of Ivor the HBT).

I forgot to take a picture running up the red carpet, so if you like you can imagine that my quads were so shot that I ran it backwards

And then I became suddenly very emotional.  I needed to give myself a metaphorical slap so as not to burst into floods of tears.  Which would be a little unbecoming.  Trying to explain it, I think it is because there were no guarantees that I would finish.  Fatigue, injury, mishap, or bad mojo could have ended my race at any time.  I suppose you could compare it to a non-serious runner doing a marathon.  When I do marathons, I know that I can do the distance fine, because I have trained up to it and beyond.  The questions surround how fast you’ll go, and how much it might hurt to sustain the right pace.  But I knew nothing of an ultra of this nature.  So the sudden dawning of my achievement was a bit overwhelming.  Brilliant, elated, overwhelmed, disbelief.

I gladly accepted my goodie bag (top drawer), my free beer (did I want it opened? Of course!), bought a hoodie (it would be rude not to), and then shuffled off for a massage.

And then hung around cheering folk in, and unpicking the details of the run with the likes of James, Martin, Matthew, Jonny, Ivor, Joanne, Andy and Adrian.  A chat with Barry Garscube revealed that Willie was in a bad way (thankfully after finishing his run) due to the amount of caffeine he’d ingested, having absolutely no tolerance to it.

Which was a taste of what was to come for me.

I found the post-race beer pretty tough going, and it soon became clear that while my body had tolerated the massive amount of shitty sugary gloop and caffeine I’d forced into it under duress, and with the adrenaline gone, it was rapidly rebelling.  So much so that it soon entered full-on purge mode, and my stomach began rejecting even small sips of water.

As you can imagine, that put something of a downer on my planned big celebration.  I was terrible company for James and Jen back in the caravan, and could barely touch the caramelised red onion steak burger that Jen very kindly prepared.

A tragic waste of a delicious burger - one solitary bite

I was very grateful to Norrie and Karen who decided that it was too cold to stick around and sleep in the back of Norrie’s work van, and evacuated me on the last chopper out of Saigon.  Foetal position in my own bed was all I wanted.

So.  Final thoughts.  It was an amazing, rich, experience.  But not one I wish to repeat.  I hope that doesn't sound ungrateful; it is simply that it all came together so beautifully that I don't think it could be surpassed.  If I did it again it would only suffer for the comparison.  I may look to do the Devil O' The Highlands to tick off the other half of the WHW, but the full 96 is simply never going to be on my dance card.

Thanks are owed to friends, club mates and TBers for the help with training and their invaluable advice.  Also to my family for tolerating said training.  And to my fellow runners, supporters, incredible race crew, and random strangers who made for such a great atmosphere on the day.

Special thanks to James, Jen, Norrie and Karen for their very kind accommodation and for looking after me when I was poorly.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Self-inflicted pain (and the Hunters Bog Trot)

Tapering is such unsweet sorrow.  I dislike it at the best of times, but usually regard it as a necessary evil because I've got a time goal that I'm looking to hit and know that rest will make my legs fresher and give me a better chance of carrying speed for longer.

But with the Fling, speed isn't really the thing.  I don't have any target other than to finish.  And I'm not convinced that doing the odd 5 miler at barely raising the heart rate pace is going to make any difference to how knackered I'll feel at the end of 53 miles.  The phrase "rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic" comes to mind.

So I found myself looking for something short and interesting that I could do today, to stave off the boredom.  Because all I really want is to be on the Fling start line.  RIGHT NOW.  No worrying about strange new pains, no worrying that I'm getting fat, no checking the weather for Milngavie and Tyndrum hourly, no holding my breath when someone sneezes, no registering, no preparing drop bags, no getting changed, no driving there, and certainly not another week at work.  In fact I'd like to be underway, with the nerves having stopped, and the actual running being done.

"Short and interesting" (and a couple of Friday night, post work, beers) led me to the Hunters Bog Trot.  The map of the course (see below) seemed relatively benign, and how bad can a race in the centre of town be?  Feel free to bring that up again later if you like.

I ditched the car near Duddingston village, and then jogged through the park to the start near the Commie. God but that felt slow and hard work though!  I almost thought about bailing out before I got there.  And typically I got there incredibly early.  There was no queue (at that point, it would grow significantly) and I got a nice low number.  I like low numbers - nice to pretend they've been given to you deliberately because you're an elite athlete!

Being an HBT race in the centre of Edinburgh, and what with it being a Porty championship race, it was nice to see a number of people I knew before the start.  Megan and Dave Wright (with only 2 of their 17 kids!), Steve Crane, David Limmer, Kerry Costello, Richard Hadfield, Alex Oliver. And Roy Buchanan who I last saw at the start line (and in similarly warm and sunny conditions) for the Amsterdam Marathon.  David and Kerry had both done the inaugural Porty/Figgy ParkRun in the morning (David winning in an amazing time), so we shared stories about how we weren't really going to "race it race it".

The lines coming from the sun are like on a kid's picture :)

There was a very informal race briefing from someone who didn't seem to expect to be giving it - lots of "follow the guys at the front" - then a bizarre comedy interlude that involved McCains finest (chip timing - geddit?) being handed out, and we were away.  I'm always terrible at judging where to stand on the line, but my plan was to hang back a bit (not least because there were so many lean and lithe looking HBT and Carnethy lads and lasses around), start slowly and then bimble round.  I had an idea that I didn't mind what time I took or what position I came, but that I'd like to run the whole thing.

Photo credit to John Hammond (I must be in there somewhere)
Away we go, straight into (what I regard as) a hill, and I manage to stick to my own instruction of not getting carried away and just try to concentrate on baby steps.  Don't panic about the folk flying past you as you come to a bottleneck Nick! 

Auto-edit must have lessened the gradient... (credit: John H)
The line up the Crags took me completely by surprise though. I'd done a warm up that took a relatively gentle line following the cliffs, and managed to run it all. For some reason however, we were taken down further into the Bog (don't lose height, don't lose height!!) and then fired up what felt like a really nasty climb.  I tried valiantly to keep running, but in the end had to accept that everyone in front of me was walking and there was no route around them that didn't involve long grass and unnecessary expenditure of energy.
Topping out was grand though, and it felt like I flew down to St Margaret's Loch, making up a few places on the way.  So much for not racing!
Some folk are good at climbing, some are good at descending, some lucky folk are good at both, and some unlucky folk are bad at both.  I dimly remember the Radical Road from when my parents were doing marathons back in the 80s.  I managed to run up it as a 10 year old with my Dad, and his tip was to pace yourself because it was long.  I've never run it since, and despite pacing myself managed about 20 metres before I broke into a walk.  Bugger.
By the time we had to go back down into the Bog (more than we should have to) for the cruel and unnecessary torture of that hill up to the Crags again, it felt like this:-

Another swoop down towards St Margaret's Loch, then the more or less flat bit through the Bog, before the nasty kicker, and then spat out with the finish line in sight.  I managed a pretty decent sprint for the line, reeling in a couple of places, but then cursing that I'd left more in the tank than I should have - again, so much for "not racing".

Great to see Alex back racing after the curious incident of the dog in his path

Richard H - smokin'

Steve proving that what doesn't hernia you only makes you stronger
Nice to spend some time afterwards catching up with everyone.  One of the problems of focussing on "big races" is that you don't have the regularity of other stuff.  Only wish that I could have joined Alex, Roy, and Steve with a bottle of cider, but the car wouldn't allow it.
I also saw Mr (Ian) Marshall afterwards as well.  As he was a teacher at PHS when I was a kid, I still can't bring myself to call him by his first name.  Top bloke though, and incredibly giving of his time (and probably petrol money to fill the minibus) when driving the PHS XC team to events.  It was during the teachers' strikes so I very much doubt that he was getting much in the way of pay and/or credit for it.
All in all, a good day out, and better than sitting in the house frettin'!
And now, in what may come to be called "kit corner", I had a semi-brainwave yesterday at work when contemplating how foam rollers don't really do the business for IT band issues.  Stuart had mentioned that he has a handy portable slab of road that he uses to massage his upper thigh at his desk.  The less said the better.
Anyway.  I came up with this:-

Spindle from a child's stroller/buggy toy, and a drill through some golf balls.  Positive reports already from the ladies in the house, so I may be on to a winner.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Crimson Jogger

As the taper for the Fling has now begun, I fear I’m going to have to cast the net a little wider for “running tales”.  So apologies if this seems tenuous.

Those of you who commute to work along a regular route at a regular time will no doubt cross paths with other folk making their own commute.  Some folk you will see repeatedly and are themselves regulars.  Some of these regulars stand out, and indeed become “characters”.  As I commute with my kids, the spotting of these characters has turned into a bit of a game.

“Crazy Walking Lady”, “Photographic Negative Girl”, “Head-in-a-Bag Girl”, “Suspiciously Dark Hair Man”, and “The Crimson Jogger” are all actors on our stage.  Many of them we see daily, so they foster no real excitement – like a Z-list celebrity that the paparazzi don’t bother wasting a flashbulb on.  But the sighting of others is comparatively rare, and therefore an event to be cherished.  The Crimson Jogger falls into the latter category, and is undoubtedly my favourite.  An Anthony Hopkins or a Ben Kingsley, who makes you work a bit harder for it.

So much so that Jamie proposed a resolution that we amend his character name to “the lesser-spotted Crimson Jogger”.  But I vetoed that because it makes him sound like a songbird, rather than the upholder of truth and justice that he most assuredly is.

The Crimson Jogger is an older gentleman who is always clad in an “old school” red (obviously!) heavyweight cotton tracksuit – unbranded, and the sort of thing that would be worn by a 1950s Army PT instructor.  Which he might have been in a former life – that, or a back row rugby player.  If we do see him then it tends to be in the New Town – on Drumsheugh Gardens, Dean Bridge, Queensferry Road, or near the Modern Art Galleries.  Depending on how far into his run he is, the flush of his face can complement the shade of his attire.

But this morning we made a significant breakthrough.

The Crimson Jogger was observed emerging from his Secret Hideout.  Crimson Jogger unmasked!