Monday, 25 May 2015

Balerno Rigg Race

Another week day night, and another town festival run.  This time the Balerno Rigg Race, which forms part of their Children's Gala Week.  Well what else are you going to do on a Bank Holiday Monday?!

This was one I'd done last year, so I knew more or less what to expect.  A 6 mile rough square of a course that turned right every so often.  The first half is quite tough as you climb steadily up to the 3 mile mark before a bit of a helter-skelter back down to the finish at Currie Rugby Club.  The quid pro quo being that you get a really nice run along the Rigg between around 1.5 miles and 3 miles, with (providing you get a night like tonight) some pretty stunning views of the Pentlands to your left.  And the views to the right, back down towards Edinburgh and the sea, are almost as nice.

However, we are in danger of getting ahead of ourselves.

Last year I did this race the day after the Edinburgh Marathon.  The marathon had been a near total disaster and I was determined to get right back on the horse and salvage something from the weekend, sore legs or not.  So this year I came into it much fresher having not done a marathon the day before (best to gloss over the 30 miles on Saturday, eh?).

Being an event on our club championship list, I arrived at registration to find Anne and Stuart already there, with David and Andy A not far behind.  Dr Neil was, as ever, the last to arrive.  But at least not in a cloud of tyre smoke, lobbing his keys to the nearest valet to park the Jag for him!

Stuart and I embarked on our warm up, which thankfully did not take in the entire course tonight.  We managed to restrict ourselves to just 4 miles - turning at the 2 mile marker.  Although it was only a warm up, and we were blethering, I was concerned how slow the pace up the hill was given the amount of effort expended.  On the plus side, I did get to chuckle at a guy mending his fence who was using a hammer on self-tapping Phillips screws...

The start came courtesy of the Gala Queen and her Champion (who had a pretty powerful voice on him for a little lad).  We careered out of the car park onto the road just in time for the 44 bus.  Stuart was a little ahead and appeared to be leading it out like in the early days of the internal combustion engine - he just needed a flag to warn approaching pedestrians.  While I was sandwiched between its left flank and the pavement, waving to an old biddy on board with a very fetching raspberry beret.  The Artist formerly known as Prince would no doubt have approved.

Panic at missing the last bus home!
(photo: Syd Woods)

We got away from it when it stopped to drop some passengers, and began the slog up Mansfield Road towards Bavelaw.  Michael F from Porty and Stuart were still within touching distance, and I was running more or less alongside David.  David has been in very good form all year (including trouncing me at E2NB and BR5), so I knew my only hope of beating him (and securing 9 club championship points for second to Stuart) was to work hard on the upwards incline and hope that I could build enough of a lead that he wouldn't overhaul me on the descent. 

Around Mile 1
(photo: Barry Davie)

I put in a fair bit of effort, particularly where the hill is at its steepest snaking around the SSPCA building, and turned the corner at Red Moss in what I reckoned was 8th place.  By this point Michael (then 4th) and Stuart (then 5th) were perhaps 150 yards ahead, but the gap was growing.

Red Moss

Two or three guys that I'd been able to keep at arms length on the steeper section of the hill came past me on the flatter first section of the Rigg, seeming to prefer the faster going.  

I then managed to hold station as the route started to rise more gently again, topping out around the 3 mile mark, and the next right turn back towards Balerno.  A sneaky peek going round the corner, hopefully under cover of the trees, revealed a chap in a light blue (Lothian?) vest who seemed to be making ground.  I couldn't see David, but then it had been a very quick look.

Satisfyingly gnarled beech trees

The 4th mile has the greatest elevation loss of the race, and I fell into an eerily familiar trap of kicking for home with 3 miles still to go.  Determined not to give any unnecessary encouragement to those following, I put in a 5:40, which compared favourably with the very near 7 minute mile of the 2nd.  But meant that the less-amply assisted (i.e. flatter) 5th mile seemed to go on for ever.

A peaceful pastoral scene - entirely out of kilter with the screaming from the engine room - "she cannae tak' any more Captain!"

Spectators started popping up along the route during that 5th mile, and I listened carefully to their applause - trying to measure the gap to the next runner, and trying to work out if a short burst meant a single runner, as opposed to a longer burst which might signify a pack hunting me down.  

Bubba from Forrest Gump, pursued by "light blue"
(photo: Barry Davie)

I didn't need to wait very long to find out.  Just before the 5th mile marker, and the turn left down Johnsburn Road and back into civilisation, I was passed by light blue.  Not a club vest, and a comment from a mother to child suggested he was "X's Daddy" so presumably local, but happily on his own and not leading a train past me.

I tried to hang onto him as best I could, even clawing back a few yards with a very sharp racing line at the roundabout, but he was just too strong and we finished in that order.

Approaching the finish
(photo: Syd Woods)

The results are still to appear at the time of writing, but I think I might have been about 13th.  More significantly, I was over a minute faster than last year.  Stuart thought that Michael F was first MV40 in 3rd, and that he had finished a couple of spots back in 5th as first MV50.

A good friendly well-organised race (and cheap at £7) was capped by very generous provision at the finish - water, bananas, energy bars, before plentiful delicious home baking back in the clubhouse.  A fine way to spend an evening.


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Tynecastle Bronze - Seven (plus Five) Hills of Edinburgh

My hip has been feeling better this week.  I managed a very gentle solo 8 miles on Monday, a faster 10 mile club run on Tuesday, and a tough club interval session on Thursday. For one reason or another I haven't been to an interval session for over 5 weeks, and it showed.  But the hip held up without pain, even if it feels like there is bubble wrap sitting over the point of the bone.

So the obvious thing to do was subject it to a 30 mile run on Saturday.  

The reason being that I hadn't yet done my "Tynecastle Bronze" run for May, and the deadline was the 27th.  The handful of regular readers I have will probably know what TB is about, but I'll explain on the off chance I've broken the American market.  It was cooked up by Porty's Graham H as a tribute to the fallen of the Great War, and in particular to the Hearts players who signed up for McCrae's Battalion.  The idea, in its purest form, is to do at least one 30 mile run each month for the entire duration of the war, 100 years hence.  And the route has to take in at least one war memorial, no repeats allowed.  Recent amendments have been made to the rules to allow sufficiently long cycles, etc, but I'm sticking with running for the time being.  I came to it a little late in December, while the founder members have been at it since August 2014.  The months run from the 28th (war having been declared by the Austro-Hungarians on 28 July 1914) to the 27th.  Oh, and it's named "Tynecastle Bronze" because Hearts unveiled a plaque to the players on the wall of the stadium back in September 2013, and Graham is a big Hearts fan. 

So time running out, coupled with a decent forecast, forced my hand.  With the Seven Hills of Edinburgh race coming up, and because I had to drive into town anyway to drop Eldest Daughter at the airport (stealing Jo's joke: she's France's problem now), I thought it would be a good opportunity to recce the course.  I had an idea that it might be fun to run it once in the correct (anti-clockwise) direction, and then do it backwards (i.e. clockwise) on a second lap.  It has struck me for some time that leaving Arthur's Seat until very near the end is pretty sadistic, and it might be better to get it out of the way when you're still fresh.

An attempt to rope in others on Facebook brought no joy, due to a combination of weddings, holiday weekend trips, and tapering for the EMF.  So I parked up at Holyrood and set off on my own.  It was already warm at 10:30, so I was glad that I'd brimmed my hydration bladder.  I'd also managed to borrow Youngest Daughter's iPhone, so that I could take some pictures.  As you'll see below, I was extremely snap-happy in the early part of the run, until I started getting dire warnings about battery life and had to become more selective.

The Seat says "Aye, bring it son"

Game face says "trepidation"

Calton Hill

North Bridge Arcade - must have been moving quicker than I thought!

Castle Hill

(adopts Freud accent) "Tell me about your Mother"...
My route was relatively standard until I got to Dean Bridge, where instead of bearing left     along Belford Road to the Modern Art Galleries, I carried straight on over the bridge so that I could take in the war memorial in the grounds of Stewarts Melville College.  

Probably a good idea... minx!

War Memorial in the grounds of Stewarts Melville College
And instead of going immediately back up to Ravelston Dykes, I elected to cut through the lower streets before cutting up across the Mary Erskine's playing fields, and onwards towards Corstorphine Hill.

Following Club advice, I coasted the bend...

Don't mind if I do (Corstorphine Hill)

As the optimal 7 Hills route (or at least the best that I have found) is around 14.2 miles, I was in two minds about taking some of the more extreme shortcuts - I needed a little extra distance to take me over 30 miles, and certainly didn't need any new injuries.  But I scrambled up the steep bank behind Craiglockhart Sports Centre anyway. It is very dry at present and has a large number of beech nut shells, so is rather slippery - there was plenty of use of hands and tree roots.  I paused at the top of the hill for a breather, an oatcake, and a decent slug of water.

View from East Craiglockhart back towards Corstorphine - complete with aeroplane vapour hashtag

I took the alley up from Greenbank Drive, and then Fly Walk down into Braidburn Park, but managed to foul up on the exit and took the wrong road up to Braid Road.  I took Riselaw Place instead of Riselaw Road, which meant I had to double back on myself.  An error to try to avoid on the day.

"Aye, ah'm no goin' anywhere pal"

The Pentlands look inviting, but much too high for today's business


The run off of the Braids down towards Blackford is always good fun, and I tried to remember the line to the left that Pete B had showed me from the foot of the Lang Linn Path.  I think it involves a scramble down a steep bank and wet feet, but I elected to stick to paths and the bridge.  No need for any heroics today.  I did scramble up the bank on the other side though, before the hellish slog up the sleeper steps.  I then swithered about following the path at the top, but plumped for the more direct fence line beside the radio mast, which thankfully had fewer nettles than I feared.

Blackford Hill

Instead of going towards Mayfield via the allotments (the gate to which would likely be locked) I headed right towards Kings Buildings and cut down through the side streets before the Harley Davidson tractor shop.  I didn't bother with the short cut through Pollock Halls, and instead ran up and around the Commie - the climb over the turnstile gate not proving a big draw.

The climb up Arthur's Seat started ok, but I didn't bear far enough to the left near the top and ended up following the tourist path round to the right.  Another wrinkle to iron out on the day.  The last stretch up to the summit was hoaching and, in full-on head-down stomp mode, I had to take care not to ram my head up the arse of an unsuspecting tourist.

Sitting at the foot of the trig point, it is fair to say that I was pretty knackered, and the thought of going to Calton Hill only to turn round and come straight back up again was not at all appealing - you can sod your Grand Old Duke of York.  I started thinking that I'd perhaps done enough hills for the day and that a gentle run along Porty Prom out towards Musselburgh might make for a better second half.

Nick 1, The Seat 0 (tourists about 3,492)

Hmm, Porty Prom looks flat...

Actually, the score might be Nick 1, The Seat 0.5
So it was a huge stroke of fortune when, on my way down, I heard a cry of "is that Nick? It is Nick!" from Kathy H, who was out with Graeme.  They were midway through their own recce, having started from Liberton.  The prospect of some good company was like a "will power transfusion" and made for a relatively easy decision - "Let's Go Round Again", as the Average White Band sang.

The Cavalry

"Maybe we should ditch the joker in the yellow jersey?"

"Improved Spirits"

A German tourist (a possible descendant of a Coalition member soldier?) takes a photo of a Napoleonic War Memorial (on Kathy's camera)

While a second lap might have been a little dull, I now had chat to divert me, and the deviation from the norm on the first lap meant that I wasn't covering exactly the same ground - Kathy and Graeme were taking the racing line. 

The Ministry of Silly Walks
(photo: Kathy)

Corstorphine Hill (again)

By this point it had become properly warm, so I had to make a stop at the Tesco at Stenhouse to buy a couple of bottles to dump into my now dry hydration bladder - thirsty work!

The scramble at the back of Craiglockhart Sports Centre - part 2

Graeme gathers himself for his big crescendo (and obligatory diva air-grab) while I provide percussive support
(photo: Kathy)

East Craiglockhart - part 2

"Are ye still feelin' strong Wee Man?"

Braids - part 2 - recumbent
(photo: Kathy)

Having completed their 7 Hills at the Braids, Kathy and Graeme said that they were going to head back home along Braid Hills Road.  At 25 miles into my run, I elected to join them rather than have to suffer Blackford Hill and Arthur's Seat again.  I bid them farewell at the driving range and stables, and made my own way down Alnwickhill Road before heading via Cameron Toll back up Dalkeith Road towards the Commie and Holyrood Park.  A nice gentle run down Queens Drive brought me back to the car park just after the watch had ticked over 30 miles.  Perfect!  

Around, not over. The Seat scores a late equaliser.

Yay, I can see my car!

Rewards from the ice cream van (obviously)

The Garmin description might say 7 plus 4, but I later realised I had done Calton "properly" twice