Monday, 30 March 2015

wild weekend weather

wild weekend weather - cancel everything!

Just as Spring seemed to have arrived a low pressure squatted over the country unleashing high winds and low temps. While certain smartie-pants say stuff like there's no such thing as bad weather, you just have to have the right clothes for it etc. most of the folk out on the WHW doing a recce of the Fling would probably disagree. Nick's excellent report and grim photos couldn't disguise the hardships or pretend it was all as delightful as it would have been in sunshine and flip flops. And photos of the the other 30 drowned rats braving the elements out there spoke of enduring rather than embracing.

Fortunately I didn't have anything big planned for the weekend and seeing the bad weather approaching opted for a big run Friday and nothing much over the weekend. Just a couple of recovery outings, the first one on Saturday with Mike. His son Archie was going to a party at Foxlake so Mike planned to fill those 2 hrs with 9 or 10 miles of trails around the tri-trails of Hedderwick and Belhaven Bay. I was pleased to get a lift there as it is some of the best running in East Lothian.

I also had a slight agenda: regular readers will know I have been looking for a point across the Tyne so that I can take a more direct route from the above photos to Baldred's Cradle just the other side of the estuary. It would be less than a mile. Currently following the JMW along to the A198 and running up that across the big stone bridge then taking a right along the terminally boring Limetree Walk takes about 2.5 miles and travels along far too much tarmac. 

The pink dots follow a proposed short cut across the estuary but rely on the old bridge over the river. I was discussing this bridge with Toby on Friday and he painted a pretty poor picture of an old bridge that is locked and has deterrents - spikes on top - to discourage the likes of me. I think Ben K once looked into this as well and came to a similar conclusion. I haven't checked it out because it is quite a hike to get to that spot. I was reluctant to spoil Mike's run by taking him to this point so I put it off till later but instead wanted (being low tide) to check out the other possible route North which would be a wade across the estuary if there was any point shallow enough. Also I had never run on the pointy bit of peninsula on the south side of the estuary mouth and thought that was worth a look.

But then the spoilsports at terns-R-us put this fence line to stop us having a closer look at the depth of the estuary. Had they not been patrolling in their little sand buggy we might have crossed this line. I mean we weren't going egg collecting. I think the terns should man up and just accept there will be an occasional human sharing the planet with them. And most humans these days are sofa surfing not checking out the depth of water at the estuary crossing. Foiled again. Watch this space I will be back. By the way plan B (wading) involved a drysack I was carrying in my bumbag into which I planned to put everything below the plimsoll line while immersed. Mike looked less than keen about this.

Then the sun came out and it was pretty nice for a moment or 2. There was also a strong wind giving everything below the knees a sand blasting.

The bridge to nowhere.

Presume this is a non-native species making a prison break from East Links family park, past which we were running.

Big thanks to Mike for driving us there and back and buying me a hot chocolate afterwards - he knows how to show a man a good time!

Next up, usual Sunday "recovery" run (and swim?) at Gullane but wait, what's this? Yak H has lost her sense of adventure and refuses to get out the car. After a whole winter of cold water she has had enough and won't play anymore. So why did we drive to Gullane? Knowing there is no point trying to resort to logic or common sense, carrot or stick, verbal or emotional blackmail, I let Mary sulk in her "emotional, spiritual, physical and moral breakdown" and go for a run on my own. Since we are here anyway and THAT IS WHAT WE DO.

After a bit of a run through the woods at the far end I struggled back along the beach into the wind. Then it darkened and started raining and I thought maybe Mary (listening to classic fm and watching the weather from the warm car interior) had the right idea. Talking of classic fm, this is mainly Mary's choice of music, and although I approve of a certain amount of their output I do think it is Radio 3 lite (at best) and a large scoop of their airtime is hugely dumbed down, and stuff builders might whistle. On the way to Gullane we listened to Maria's theme from West Side Story (Maria, I just did a fart called diarrhoea) which is NOT classical music. And neither is the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean. 

The wind was now whipping the rain and sand horizontally into my face. The only good thing was the strength of the wind meant that everything would blow over in 10 minutes and the sun would come out again, which it did. So it turned out to be a good option to postone the mass-submergathon. The westies had bailed out with injuries/illness and the locals were losing enthusiasm at the sight of low temps, cold stormy water and strong winds. Having said that it was (between squally showers) very dynamic to be out in, and I spent as long as possible standing about taking photos after running to the other end of the beach. But not a great day for a mass swimathon. Although the water was too choppy for proper swimming it wasn't (due to offshore wind) big enough surf to be exciting. The kite surfers were enjoying the strong wind but after less than 40 minutes out and about I was happy to forgo the swim part and head to Tesco (classic fm playing in the background) for the weekly shop. Still it could have been worse - struggling along the WHW with Nick and the dead goats.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

mojo rising

The recent display of brighter weather and a promise (if not the actual arrival) of Spring has fired up my running attitude. Time for some proper training and less shirking. Put down the wine glass and lace up the Hokas.

The last full week of March and I finally (first time this year) got round to fulfilling the sporting schedule. Monday: circuits/boxercise; Tuesday: spinclass at Pedalhouse; Wednesday: clubbo; Thursday: Wintervals; Friday: long run. The real reason I had the energy and time for this was a light work week. Paperwork, estimates and working through a things-to-do list as long as your arm. I also got round to seeing Bart at Sighthill for the follow up VO2max test. 


Green Craig, the white house seen from the coast road before Aberlady


Having done the initial familiarisation I wanted to leave as long as possible (to improve fitness) before doing the real test. The distance to the campus and weekday slot was not easy to accommodate but I was very pleased when at the last possible moment I made the Thursday afternoon slot. Bart had changed the protocol to a reduction in the incline on the treadmill (angle increase 2' not 3', every 3 minutes). A different mask and remote sensors meant running with a small back back rather than being hooked up directly to the controls. The headwind on the bike there made for a more hectic 40 minute cycle than would be ideal, and I probably shouldn't have done the 2 mile time trial on the prom the night before, at club. I heard Willie J earlier on Thursday had managed to increase his score to 60 and hoped I'd be able to do similar, having made 59 on the familiarisation. Prior to the test I thought your VO2max was set in stone like a shoe- or lung-size, not realising it moves with your fitness, and to a lesser degree on the method used to determine. Johnny L (currently in magnificent form in prep for Manchester) had scored highest, out of Bart's group, with 73.

The test started at 8kph, which seems like a brisk walk. After 3 mins it moves to 10kph then 12 then 14. Then the angle increased by 2' every 3 mins. I had no access to the read out and my watch was removed so I couldn't judge my performance other than by feel. It felt a bit unusual at first running in a mask and the cable over my shoulder was catching on my ear. I tucked away a flapping strap of the back pack knowing the small irritations might build horribly as you begin to flounder and fail. So just what is running to exhaustion? Do you wait till your vision darkens at the edges and risk being spat off the treadmill, or do you step off, dignity intact, but wondering if you could have survived 15 seconds longer during which time your VO2max figure climbs dramatically. I suspect most are halfway between these points. The familiarisation is precisely to allow you to get past the discomforts of the experience and focus on the effort. I seemed to bed in nicely during the first half of the run and so probably gave it very close to max effort in the second half. Bart stood next to the treadmill saying encouraging things which helps you wring out as much as possible before you start thinking any second now.....   and then you step off with chest heaving wondering was that more than last time, could I have hung on another five seconds? I think I inherited my sportiness from my mum, but my boneheaded-ness, the stubborn streak, from my dad. I suspect it is the combination (and more the latter) that grits your teeth for the likes of this, or the determination to do well at races. Bart wasn't immediately forthcoming about the result and it was only after I had wandered zombie-like to the chair beside the treadmill he pointed out that after a run lasting 20mins and 1 second I had managed 75.8 

I was delighted and rather surprised about the test. I had been feeling that all the cycling should have been increasing my fitness but there had been very little evidence of that during Alloa Half. I cycled home from Sighthill reassured and still slightly damp and wobbly. Then went skipping off to Wintervals (30mins parlauf at Holyrood, sprinting into a stiff breeze.) So I was a bit broken for a long run on Friday but having seen the impending gloomy forecast for the weekend thought Friday was a better candidate than either of the 2 following days. I put a hasty note on facebook of my intentions and planned a mainly West to East route as the wind was gusting in that direction. Toby contacted me saying he would run from Gullane to Longniddry and catch me as I stepped off the train, to run back towards Gullane and beyond. The daffodils were out and I was still running on the high from the VO2max test.

12 miles in and I could have nodded off.

The reason I had to get a 30 miler in before the end of March was to keep my Tynecastle Bronze record up to date. March had nearly snuck past and the weather was deteriorating. So I threw too much stuff in the back pack and set off. Google told me there was a WWII memorial plaque inside Longniddry Parish Church nearish the station (not exactly WWI but close enough to qualify) but Toby and I were blethering so much we missed the turn and being unfamiliar with central Longniddry we were out the other side before we found it. No doubt it will be ticked off at some point in the next 3.5 years. The weather improved and we had the wind to our backs as we ran East taking the coastal trails round Kilspindie Golf Course rather than heading up the usual way to Aberlady. The sun came out and it was rather splendid. 

Toby ran with me 12miles to Dirleton. He had had a very good run (superbly evenly paced) at the D33 and we chatted loads about, surprise surprise!, running and ultras. We had run on the beaches and trails from Aberlady but popped up through Archerfields to Dirleton to catch the war memorial there. He then turned back to Gullane and would have clocked up about a marathon distance by the time he got home. He was thinking about a walk on Tyninghame beach with his gf later that afternoon and since I was heading there myself expected to see him in a couple of hours. I tried not to think too far ahead as the previous day's exertions were still in my legs, and when Toby left the pace dropped and I stopped at any excuse to take photos or lounge on hammocks. I was now pinning my strategy on a caffeinated refuel at N Berwick. 

Never noticed Puffin Cottage before.

The sun was now properly out and my legs were properly trashed. I had measured 13 on the map to NB but (after circling Longniddry and adding Kilspindie) had taken 16 to arrive there. I went into the co-op and to my surprise bought a bacon and egg sandwich as well as a large can of Monster. I was carrying various food and drinks but it is always good to respond to stuff as it appeals on the shelf, and spent a happy 20 mins on a bench on sunny North Berwick High St, eating the sandwich and shooting up drinking the whole can of caffeine drink. The normal NB circuit is 19 miles so I thought I might shave a couple off. And because of tide times (low water 13.21) I would do the coastal part first. It was already past 2pm when I left NB.

I ran along the edge of the golf course then along the beach until a couple of corners before Tantallon where I hiked up the grassy slope and ran the road to Seacliff. I wasn't in the mood for either a slow scramble over the rocks or wet feet on the incoming tide. It is impossible to resist the call of the Bass Rock to have it's photo taken.

I ran down here but stayed on the road rather than dropping down to the beach.

him again

I always enjoy these reeds at the edge of the Peffer Burn but have yet to find a decent way to capture them in a photo.
The caffeine drink at lunchtime had set in motion events similar to the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where graverobber I Jones (H Ford) steals an ornate Mayan head. I was hoping to make it to Binning Woods before the pursuit reached its conclusion, as Binning Woods is an ideal place to lay a body to rest. However it fast became apparent that any sculpture was going to see the light of day long before then. I travelled on from Peffer Burn much relieved.

I left Tyninghame/Ravensheugh at the exit up to the log cabin. To my surprise I didn't see Toby. At the rate I was going he may well have been and gone (and flown a kite and been in for a swim etc etc)

high on caffeine

not how you spell log houses

By now I had given up on any kind of pace and was really beginning to enjoy the run. After the log cabin I had left the gravelly main trail that heads towards Binning Woods and headed into the pine plantation just because it looked more fun that the manufactured road. I wasn't expecting to find a trail but there was quite a well trod path (and horse hoof prints) which made it hugely preferable and a much softer run along to the edge of the woods, then a short stretch of tarmac before crossing the road into Binning Woods. Normally I'd go left (East) but just for the hell of it I stayed on the low side because I'd never explored there before. I found a thin trail of excellent single track that was a complete pleasure, and slowed to walking pace for much of it as there was too much to see at running pace. I took dozens of pics and eventually came out at the far end of the area they use as a cemetery, where my dad resides. I wasn't sure if it was the walking, the scenery or the caffeine but I was now enjoying the day a lot more, and ran with a light heart the last handful of miles along the JMW from Stink farm to NB station. The timing was spot on to arrive at NB around the same time as the 5.54 train although had I been between trains I could have popped up the Law as it was now a glorious evening, or nipped into Ben's for a cuppa.

Near Ali B's resting place.


So again today I had been reminded that going long is great if you can lose yourself in the experience. Worst thing is trying to think ahead to point x and racing to get there, or ticking off the miles thinking only 2 hrs till I'm nearly done. Much better to just roll along and enjoy the present and what is around. Make sure you are properly fuelled and dressed for the weather. I found the first 20 miles harder going than the last dozen although mentally things tend to improve when you know you are turning around to head back, rather than still heading away from the destination. It also helped that the weather continually improved throughout the day, and that I got finished before sundown. Just. I spent the last mile or 2 contemplating the homemade sandwich in the back pack I would enjoy once I got on the train: homemade seeded brown bread, honey and lemon curd with thick slices of mature cheddar. As I have said before, good food and drink is not about fancy ingredients, masterchefing and elaborate recipes,  it's really all just about the preparation. As the train pulled out of the station I took the first bite - utterly superb. 

33 miles between 11am and 6pm with a couple extra up to and down from Waverley.