I had a full week off following the recent Leiden Marathon, doing nothing more than a yoga class, and the odd walk with Jo and the dogs. That wasn’t because I was particularly sore or anything (I’d be quite kind to myself over the second half of the run and as a result was able to go downstairs fine), but partly because the week got away from me and partly because I couldn’t be bothered.
But the last week has seen a return to action, and has actually been pretty encouraging. My first run was at training on Tuesday, which saw a select group (fellow Dutch tourists Stuart, Jamie and David, plus Andy S and Rich T) head out for what was billed as a not-too-fast 7 or 8 miles around John Muir Country Park and back via Foxlake. Somehow the pace crept up and up until our average had dipped below 6:45 per mile. After around 10k (and with one eye on Saturday’s race), I asked Stuart if we could throttle back a little. On one hand I was pleased that I had sustained a reasonable pace for that distance, but on the other I noted that my heart rate had peaked at 194 bpm. Given the rule of thumb that your maximum heart rate ought to be around 220 minus your age (very nearly 41 for me), I was theoretically exceeding mine. Even if you allow for a wider range for people who exercise, as opposed to a more average sedentary Joe Public, it didn’t suggest that I had much spare capacity if I want to go faster. Hmm.
Wednesday saw a more sedate solo run out towards the lighthouse at Barns Ness, with a run back on the path between the golf course and the shore. On another sunny summer’s evening, the views out to sea were very pleasant and reminded me what I’d been missing on my week off. A week off that had actually included some moments of unwarranted tetchiness. An explanation, if not an excuse, in hindsight.
Thursday brought another club night, and the monthly 5k handicap. I’ve been dreading these of late, as I’ve known only too well that I was going to do a poor job before I started. I was dreading this one in a slightly different way though. I had told myself that I was going to give it a proper effort, so had a premonition of the stomach cramps to come. I set off like I meant it, and was happy that I held the pace pretty steady throughout, and came home (not first, but not last) in a much improved time over the month before. Perversely, my sore stomach and gasping lungs felt good – earned, and suggesting that I am beginning to move beyond the stage where the pains in my legs dictate my speed, as opposed to my cardio fitness.
|(Haddington photos: Martin MacDonald (unless Bob M!))|
This was only my second 10k of 2016, so I was hoping for a first sub-40 of the year. Again, I decided to head out hard, and try to hang on for as long as possible. The combination of sun, warmth, wind and a rise to the highest part of the course meant that, by mile 2, I was already starting to flag.
And a few guys, including a group of 3 Harmenys, and Musselburgh’s Mike J, came past me. I had a few dark thoughts at that point, and took about a mile to mentally regroup, before finishing relatively strongly. Regular encouragement from the HRC marshals
definitely played a part.
I was more than satisfied with a 38:20, which is actually my best time on this course, out of 3 attempts. Definite signs of improvement.
I rewarded myself with a few bottles of beer from the wine shop on Haddington’s main street, which has a cracking selection. Indeed, my intention had been to only buy four bottles, but the offering was so good and the owner so charming that I came away with six. Whoops!
Plans for Sunday were to meet up with Peter and Mary at Gullane for a gentle recovery run in the sun, before an open water swim. I had been tempted by the Porty 4 mile Beach Race, but decided there was no point doing it with a 10k in my legs from the day before. As I opened my sixth beer, my son Jack came in and announced that he needed a lift into Edinburgh for 9.30am. Which meant it would be rude not to do the Beach Race after all! Another potentially poor impulse decision made on Saturday night was to sign up for the GO33, after telling Norrie only hours earlier that there was no chance of me doing it. Damn you Mr Upselling Wine Merchant!
|High as a kite and full of sh...|
(Porty photos: Tom Power)
|(numpty vest today as first choice failed the sniff test)|
However it came about, I am really glad that I did make the trip to Porty. Glorious weather, loads of mates to blether to, an enjoyable course (complete with stream crossings and a splash in the surf), a personally not terrible run, and some top notch home baking made it a very worthwhile experience. And more short stuff which can’t be bad for me.
After an hour or so’s rest, I met Peter and Mary at Falko’s in Gullane. Hopped up on caffeine, we set off towards Archerfield. They must have regretted their decision to invite me along as I was in full-on nonsense chat mode, and they could barely get a word in.
|(Gullane pictures: Peter and Mary)|
After making our way through the estate we headed back towards the main beach at Gullane. Which was absolutely hoaching. It looked like something from the Costa Del Sol, with some brave souls swimming in trunks and bikinis, and barely enough space to lay out a towel. After collecting the wetsuits and associated paraphernalia from Mary’s Berlingo, we walked a few hundred metres round the point to find our own gloriously deserted little bay.
|I still haven't shut up...|
I was slightly fearful that I wouldn’t manage to get Mary’s spare suit beyond my shins, but thankfully it was very stretchy and I got it on. It, and the gloves, boots and hat, made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the swim. Instead of being able to tolerate 5 minutes at most before numbness of hands and feet made it too painful to continue, we were able to bob around for a good 20-30 minutes (I was enjoying it so much I lost track of time). I’m just sorry to disappoint Stuart and Anne that I was wearing Mary’s wetsuit, and not one of her flowery cossies (as they had taken great glee in imagining)!
As I mentioned to Mary and Peter, I love East Lothian when the sun shines. I genuinely wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on the days when it is warm enough to comfortably wear shorts and t-shirts, but not so warm that you can’t have a run. A really great way to spend a Sunday, and topped off with a cracking walk through Binning Wood with Jo, Jamie and the dogs in the evening. I’m never glad to see Monday morning and a return to work, but it feels slightly better when you’ve rung the very last drop out of the weekend…