Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Long and the Short of it

It’s become a bit of a balancing act of late – fitting in all of the short races, but still compiling the sort of overall mileage required for an impending marathon.  A tiddler of a race at the weekend, especially if on a Sunday, can put a big hole in your total distance for the week – the race itself is neither here nor there, and you don’t want to do too much the day before or else you might spike your guns.

And I began the period since my last post with shredded legs from the Carfraemill to Gifford run.  Although only around 10 miles, it includes a fast rocky descent down off of Lammer Law, which is a bit like jumping off a low wall at every step.  Quite a lot of stress is put on the muscles, and I am convinced (admittedly with no real evidence or research to support the theory) that I ended up with a bunch of micro-tears in my quads.  Thursday’s intervals were tough, and I could barely walk downstairs by the time that Friday came around.

So I made my way along to the Oldhamstocks Flower Show Hill Race on Saturday the 15th of August, with a dash of pessimism and lashings of compression wear. 

(photo: Syd Woods)

Scanning the entrants on the line, it looked like being pretty much a straight fight amongst the Dunbar boys (albeit David was wearing his Haddington vest) – Graham Nash of Carnethy was unable to defend his title due to injury.

(photo: Syd Woods)

Following my usual plan for short hill races (see this race last year, Oxton, etc), I charged off up the valley, trying to build a lead that I might have a chance of holding when I walked up the hill.  I am not a fan of this hill as it is just the wrong type for me.  You could say that it falls right into my “sour spot” – if it was tarmac’d, or equally rough but slightly less steep, then I might manage to run it.  But the combination of the two variables is enough to do for me.  And it is not so insanely steep that it forces everyone to walk, so puts me at a disadvantage.  The plan was actually more successful than normal though in that I managed to get to the foot of the hill first, and was only passed by Stuart and David towards the top.  Indeed, I was able to pass David again immediately while his legs were recalibrating to the flat, and Stuart was only about 20 metres ahead.  Now for the next part of the plan to kick in – the really fast downhill section back towards the village that Strava reckons is my fastest mile ever, and where I could put the hammer down having saved myself on the climb.  Except that my ruined quads hadn't got that memo and Stuart and David ran away from me.  Bah!

(photo: Syd Woods)

David won his private battle with Stuart to claim a very handsome silver cup, and in fairness Stuart didn't seem too upset with second IN A HILL RACE!  I consoled myself by focussing on my bravura performance in the (secret, only existing in my head) Oldhamstocks Flower Show 1 Mile Valley Race…

(photo: Ethan Lee)

It turns out I was about 30 seconds quicker than last year, which is something I suppose, although I think that can be explained by benign wind conditions – last year it was “blowin’ a hooly” down the valley.

The following day, Stuart and I made the most of a glorious Sunday morning to do a nice steady 22 miler.  Some of our recent runs together have started off on the understanding that we were taking it very easy, but have then gradually and inexplicably become faster than intended.  I was keen to avoid that, and so we agreed that 8 minute miles was a hard line that would not be broken.  As it turned out, we managed the 22 miles in 3 hours and 10 seconds.  Stuart mentioned Ian S’s theory that your 22 mile training time is a good rule of thumb for your full marathon race time.  I said I’d take that, until Stuart made the extremely valid point that I wouldn't be happy about the extra 10 seconds on the day.  And he should know, having once run 3 hours and 26 seconds at Edinburgh, at a time when he had yet to break the 3 hour barrier.  Just imagine – 1 second per mile!

I got to the end of the week having run every day other than Friday, with the log revealing a nice round total of 60 miles.

Next up race-wise was the East Lothian Summer Series race at Musselburgh on Tuesday the 18th.  For a change (every other race I've done in the series having had a sunny night) we were treated to a light drizzle at the start.  Which meant that numbers were down slightly from usual.  The course is like a truncated version of the Musselburgh Festival 10k, except that we start and finish near the Yacht Club at Fisherrow.  Ali Wilson (unattached!), this year’s revelation, jumped out to an immediate (and ultimately decisive) lead, with Mike Jones of Musselburgh making an early secondary move which David was quick to try and cover.  Leaving me to simply hang on behind in fourth.  At least my legs were feeling better.

By the turn, David had managed to stretch out a gap of about 30 metres over Mike, with me still tucked in behind.  Coming back along the road towards the Electric Bridge, David let out a blood-curdling roar which gave me a fright and confused me at the same time.  I wondered if he might be calling out to someone to clear a path on the footbridge.  When he let out another cry a minute or so later, I realised that he was actually simply trying to gee himself up.  Now I know this wasn't Bond spotting Le Chiffre weeping blood at the poker table, but recognising a “tell” gave me a real boost – maybe I wasn't the only one suffering?  Maybe, instead of hanging on for fourth, a punt at second would be worth a try?

And happily so it transpired – I had enough of a kick left that I came home second, with Mike third and David fourth.  But no handsome silver cup to be collected tonight, and certainly not for second.

Having checked the weather, and noted that Saturday morning was likely to be warm and most importantly calm, I decided to make my 2015 ParkRun debut at Cramond.  As a kid I used to get terribly nervous before races, almost to the point of sickness.  Those feelings have mostly disappeared, probably as a result of having done something like 67 races of varying types since the start of 2014.  You can’t help but become a little blasé after doing something that many times.  Maybe one day I’ll feel that way about sex…

But strangely, a 5k, and particularly the ParkRun at Cramond, still has the power to get the butterflies flapping up a storm in my stomach.  Because it is just so unremittingly awful.  I go so infrequently that when I do, I am determined to make it count.  Add in perfect weather conditions (the Forth looked like someone had laid a mirror between Edinburgh and Fife), and you have no excuses for not making it count. 

So when the “gun” goes you've got to pretty much immediately turn all of the dials up to 11, and keep them there.  100 metres in and I'm already gasping for breath, with arms and legs flailing beyond the point of comfort.  And that is as good as it is going to get until I've finished.  Still to come are the gradually increasing stomach cramps.  And the less said the better about the wee invisible man who follows me adding 100gram weights to the backs of my legs every minute. 

As it is not a race in the truest sense, position doesn't really matter, only the time.  My first mile was fast for me, the middle mile was typically slower, and for the final one I managed to use a Moorfoot runner as a hare – chasing him down to finish in under 18 minutes, around 30 seconds down on my best.  Not a bad outcome though, as I reckon you need to do a few in a row to find the right pacing/rhythm.  Damn, I guess that means I'm going back this weekend!

A solo slog of a 20 miler on Sunday morning, in warm but windy conditions, with an entirely self-inflicted hangover meant that I’d broken 60 miles for the second week in a row.

At least there are only a few more weeks of this before the taper begins.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Run of the Mill

Since the Tour of Fife I've been on holiday with Jo and the girls in Turkey.  While it was lots of fun (apart from my "Midnight Express" moment at passport control on the way into the country), the running was a real chore.  I had grand plans about getting up early "when it was still cool" or running in the adjacent pine forest "where there would be shade", but these quickly evaporated in the constant inescapable oppressive heat.  I am Scottish, and don't enjoy running in temperatures much above 15 degrees.  Maybe 20 at a push, but only if there is a breeze.

I especially don't enjoy running on treadmills, but there was no viable alternative.  Two 10k runs and four 13k runs, faced with the same view of not very much.  Oh, and for one of them I realised, only after I'd started, that the air con in the gym was off and I might as well have been running outside.  By the end of it I was SOAKING.  Another patron asked if I'd been swimming with my clothes and shoes on.  This was simply surviving, not living.  All mill and no play makes Nick a very bored and crabby boy.

If you try really hard you can just about see the sea

But the perfect antidote was just around the corner - Haddington RC's excellent annual Carfraemill to Gifford run, to which Dunbar and Musselburgh runners are very kindly invited.  Described as a "not race" race, the deal is that you meet at Gifford at 6.30pm on a Wednesday night and are then bussed to Carfraemill (the roundabout on the A68 between Oxton and Lauder) whereupon you run the 11 miles or so over Lammer Law, down past Yester, back into Gifford, before a meal at the Goblin Ha'.  There is no timing (other than on your own watch), and you set off when you like, but bragging rights are available (for those of that persuasion) for setting off last and getting back first.
This mill was considerably more enjoyable.  Improving weather across the course of the day persuaded me to take youngest daughter's candy pink camera, and I'm glad I did.  Apologies for asking you to wade through a million photos, but (1) I promise I have left a significant number out, (2) they tell the story of the run more eloquently than I can, and (3) I am still catching up on sleep having arrived back from Turkey at 3:30am yesterday morning and been forced to traipse wearily into work for 9am. 
Great to catch up with everyone before, during, and afterwards, and huge thanks to Paddy, Neil and Brian for organising.

A good proportion of Team Dunbar

Dr Neil came by chauffeur (Brian) after missing the bus...

David demonstrates what I believe the youngsters call a "slut drop"

Eddie benefitting from a tow (the cheat!)

I wouldn't like to confirm whether Norrie had just said something rude...

Billy taking a short-cut an efficient line

Andrew from Lauderdale led us up the hill (with Julie even further up the road)

A welcome glimpse of the coast...

...and Julie seems to be getting closer too

The triumvirate of Berwick Law, Bass Rock, and Traprain Law


Small classified ad: "Mini for sale - would make excellent restoration project"

Too tired to talk

Andrew, who had been going well until that point, came a cropper near to where Brian was pictured above


Lesley doesn't let Dr Neil get away with a trademark finish unopposed!