Saturday, 30 March 2019

Edinburgh parkrun - and a bit more running

A mad dash from work to the train station on Friday evening meant that I got to Edinburgh just before midnight to join Husbando, who had driven up for a book fair on Thursday.  I barely registered my surroundings as I collapsed into bed, offering prayers of gratitude to the parkrun gods for decreeing that Scottish parkruns should start at 9.30am rather than 9.00am!  I was still less than overjoyed when the alarm went off on Saturday morning - we'd allowed plenty of time to run the 'six-ish' miles to Edinburgh parkrun.  We had a quick breakfast, checked the directions on our 'phones and off we set.  The skies were slightly grey and foreboding, but the promised rain seemed to be holding off.  

Plodding along at an easy pace we tried our best not to whinge about 'all the bloody hills' we were going to have to run up on our way back into the city after  parkrun, the route we plotted had some interesting bits, through Princes Garden for example, but a long stretch of the route was along the A90 Queensferry Road and through residential areas.  A wee bit dull and we were both thinking that jumping on a bus to do the return journey might be a very good idea.  

At one junction we stopped to check the route on our 'phones.  A taxi driver slowed down and asked us if we were heading to parkrun - we confirmed that we were and he pointed us in the right direction - downhill to the beach!  

Cramond is to the northwest of Edinburgh - Miss Jean Brodie spent much of her 'prime' in Cramond visiting Mr Lowther and one of Ian Rankin's "Rebus" novels was set there too - although I can't remember which one... might have been "Fleshmarket Close."  The beach is home to an 8 tonne carved stone fish, a sculpture created by Roland Rae that used to be on display at Holyrood Park and then at the Falkirk Wheel.  There is also a poignant golden bicycle on the promenade.  A little bit of research suggests that it is part of a scheme to raise awareness of childhood cancer.   I couldn't look at it for very long. 

We made our way to the start, chatted with a man from Tooting/Clapham Common parkrun, listened to the first timers' briefing and then waited for the start.  We thought we were quite close to the front of the pack but suddenly eleventy billion runners appeared from nowhere and we were very much towards to the back of the field.  We weren't too worried - we had 6 miles (and I may have had a few G&Ts on the train the night before) in our systems.  The run briefing was the quietest run briefing I had been to for a very long time, 649 runners listening in virtual silence as we were welcomed to the parkrun.  Milestones (both arbitrary and real) were announced and applauded and then we were off.  

It took forever to get going.  Note to self: get closer to the front of the pack old girl!  The route is an out and back along the promenade.  As I ran the 'out' part I was mildly concerned about how the front runners would contend with the seething throng of runners as they attempted to run back to the start.  I needn't have worried though - a loop at the end of the course meant that this problem did not arise.  Anyway, after walking the first 10m to get past the start line I ran a fairly sedate first mile, overtaking people and watching Husbando almost vanish into the distance, as we rounded the corner the headwind immediately made itself felt.  To be fair, we had been warned about this during the first timers' briefing - it really did take my breath away.  The path was wide and flat, the views over the water were lovely and running felt relatively easy.  I was overtaking people all the way up to the finish - which is always a lovely feeling - but I didn't manage to catch Husbando finishing 37 seconds behind him.  More importantly I was three seconds slower than my overall parkrun PB.  Gutting!  Had I realised what a fast course it would be I would have made sure that I started a lot nearer the front.    The long finish funnel was well organised and runners kept moving down the line to collect their finish tokens and get their barcodes scanned. 

Once we'd been scanned and collected our discarded jackets we made our way to the Boardwalk Beach Club  where I resisted the fantastic array of cakes, settling for a pot of tea, while Husbando inhaled a bacon roll and a cup of coffee.  We chatted with other parkrunners and learnt that there was a slightly shorter and more interesting route back into the centre of Edinburgh.  We thought about it and decided that, as the training plan called for a 12 mile run this weekend - which was unlikely to happen on Sunday due to being stuck in a car all day, we really ought to just get on with it and run back.  

The run back took us back along a cycle path that follows a disused railway line.  Husbando was thrilled!  He was even more thrilled that we passed though two old stations... I hate to admit it, but I don't think I'd have noticed the platforms if he hadn't pointed them out to me.  We encountered many rugby fans making their way to Murrayfield so had to do some weaving to avoid collisions, but following the path was a lot easier than having to keep checking which way we were going.  It was also a lot flatter than the route we had taken earlier in the day.  We finished our run just short of out hotel in Princes Garden - stopping to take selfies with the castle in the background!

Huge thanks to the volunteer team for making today's run happen.  A flat course that has the potential to be very fast - it - I thought it was great.   Thank you one and all.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Possibly the most fun I've ever had at a race.

My level of planning for this weekend's main event is evidenced by the fact I was surprised when my friends said they would pick me up at 6.15am.  SIX FIFTEEN AM!  It was only then that it dawned on me that the race was starting at 8.30am and a long way away!  I got into the car having observed that it was tipping down with rain and a wee bit blowy - I'd had to go out earlier and move the blown over recycling boxes from the driveway and muttered words to the effect of 'whose bright idea was this?  I only need to run 15 miles this Sunday, why am I running a marathon?'  But I'd paid my entry fee, I knew that the medal would be epic, White Star Running always have great medals, and I have an almost full collection of the 'old style' Larmer medals (the only one that is missing is the 10 mile race), so off we set towards Larmer Tree Gardens.  The wind buffeted the car around a bit, but we could see blue skies ahead.

We parked, collected our numbers, said hello to some friends, visited the loos.  I can honestly say that I have never felt sea sick in a portaloo before today - but the wind was so strong that the loo was rocking.  It was somewhat alarming to note that six of the loos had actually been blown over!  The portaloos weren't the only casualty of the wind, the start was delayed due to a tree having been blown down, but soon we were off.

The first couple of miles were quite crowded and I was quite happy just trotting along.  About a mile in a friend (who I met at the Larmer 20 back in 2016) said hello!  I haven't seen him for absolutely ages, so it was lovely to find that he was running with a group of friends.  I asked what his plan was for the race, his reply was that they wanted to 'extract the maximum amount of humour from the day!'  This seemed like a jolly good idea so I joined them.

From then on we just had a blast!  The wind was epic, it knocked us sideways at times, it made it pointless to try and run when we were going directly into a headwind and, on a few occasions, virtually lifted me off the ground and propelled me forwards!  We walked up the hills, and into the strongest winds and ran the downhills where we could.  The hills, oh my, the hills!  I am not quite sure how I could have forgotten how steep some of them are.  We chatted and chatted, covering all sorts of topics (apologies to anyone who had to listen in), I couldn't believe how quickly the miles were passing!   We stopped for snacks and drinks at well stocked aid stations (I'd brought along mini Soreen Malt Loaves - which I think may be my new running snack of choice) and some people even imbibed schnapps and beers at the Love Station.

I felt no pressure to run fast, I was pretty sure that this was going to be slower than my previous marathon here, but I didn't care.  I felt comfortable and running (when we could be bothered!) felt natural and easy (when it wasn't into a headwind!) and was amazed that the miles seemed to be flying despite the rather large amount of walking we were doing!  The views were stunning, the weather was, with the exception of the wind, relatively kind to us.  We did have a few short bursts of hail - that really hurts and lowers the temperature dramatically.  There was mud, but it wasn't too muddy - last year we were running in the aftermath of the 'Beast from the East' when there was still snow on the ground!  This year all we had to do was avoid falling branches!

Soon we had passed the last aid station, just a flat section (that was much drier than previous years) and a longish uphill towards the finish.  We came out from behind a hedge to run towards the finish, and were hit again by the wind.  Our thoughts of running triumphantly to the finish were delayed somewhat!  We'd start to run at that sign, no, the next tree... We did run to the finish, crossing the line in a happy, laughing gaggle of hugs!  We collected our gorgeous medals and food vouchers before getting a cup of tea (a couple of us had been talk about a 'nice cup of tea' for about 8 miles) and going to collect our food.

Free hot food for the runners is a lovely touch - it also means that you get to hang around with your running buddies and chat about how amazing the race was!  I felt great, I didn't feel as though I'd run a marathon.  I thought that my time must be slower than when I ran in 2017, but looking back at the results I was 17 minutes faster this time.  It wasn't by any means a fast time - but it was a fun time.

Thanks to Andy and his team for another excellent event.  The weather can't have made things easy - I am surprised that the gazebos stayed in place, and the marshals and people on the aid station were out in the cold for hours and hours!  We really loved all the hills (honest), the route was stunning and the signage was both informative and amusing!  I'm sure we'll back for another event soon.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Sand, mud, puddles, wind and rain!

 On Friday morning, year 9, in an attempt to delay starting to do any actual work, asked me what I was doing this weekend.  "I'll be at parkrun on Saturday and I have a race on Sunday," was my reply.  Apparently this is the answer I give nearly every weekend, and I guess it is probably true.  It doesn't make it any less enjoyable though!

The parkrun was a new one.  I know that 'inaugural chasing' is discouraged, but I was invited down there by a friend who is local and this weekend was the only one I could make for ages and ages.  I needed a chauffeur though, so took a friend! We arrived early at Mountbatten School parkrun, so had no problems finding a parking place.  Mountbatten School is an 11-16 school that opened in the year I was born and converted to academy status in 2011.  The parkrun is 3 laps around the school playing fields.  I am sure it will become an easier run as the path gets worn by hundreds of feet running the route, but on Saturday it was a really tricky run!  It felt like every footfall was at a different angle, the ground was soft to muddy (and therefore slippery) with some very tight turns and long stretches with a real camber on the path.  I think my left leg is now longer than my right one.  For a flat course it was very slow!  I passed the finish, at the end of my second lap, at 17 minutes - and there was no sign of a first finisher!  I think he came in about 40 seconds later.  The parkrun ran smoothly, barcodes were scanned, results were processed etc. but there was no cafe.  I always feel a bit sad when there isn't a cafe that loads of people go to!  As there had been no cafe announcement (and nothing on the web page) we asked, and were told that they were hoping to be able to persuade a nearby coffee shop to open earlier (than 11am) and that this week the volunteers were going to the Costa in a local leisure centre... so that's where we went.   If I recall correctly, Paul Sinton Hewitt was always very keen on the post run coffee part of parkrun.   This is where the community part of the parkrun magic happens.
Pre race hydration

Saturday night was spent with friends 'planning' our trip to Paris to run the marathon there.  We seem to have a lot of meetings that involve food, wine and maybe about one useful planning decision, but they are a lot of fun - if not ideal in terms of pre race food and hydration!  Paris is my 'target marathon' for the spring.  The one where I want to run a good time - at the beginning of the year that would have been a sub 4 hour marathon, now I would like to get a good for age time for London.  Every year I pick a target marathon and write this on my laminated training plan, the one I have used since my first marathon in October 2012, and then sort of follow it.

Note the Sharpie attached to the laminated sheet
- you can take the teacher out of the school...
By 'sort of' what I mean is that I do the mid week runs, pretty much, work permitting, and make sure that my long, slow run is at least as long as the one in the plan.  And then I get click happy on the internet and enter races, lots of long races, or races that have the potential to be long races.  This year, and in a previous year (2016 I think) my running has been going really well.  The temptation to run all the long races as fast as I can is huge when running is going well.  In 2016 this did not end well, I ended up running the Paris Marathon in 4hrs 01 minute - utterly gutting!  So this year, having run two marathons, one sub 4 hrs, and an even faster paced 20 miler already this year, I have decided to stick slightly more closely to the plan so that I don't arrive in Paris with nothing left to give on the day.  

Today's event was another one from On The Whistle.  I love this company and not just because, being local, I don't have to get out of bed at sparrow fart on a Sunday morning!  They run excellent, low key, multi lap events with a six hour time limit.  The venue today was Hogmoor Inclosure - a former Army tank training ground.  I woke up to rain and wind - thank you Storm Freya - and a little bit of me was hoping that the event might have to be cancelled (we had been told that the situation would be kept under review because no one wants trees falling on them).  It wasn't cancelled.  I had to get ready and get to Bordon.

I arrived and bumped into a teacher I know from a school I used to teach at... I didn't know he had started running and to find that the gazebo had blown over!  The rain was coming at us horizontally, if you could find a sheltered spot out of the wind and rain it wasn't actually too cold, but it is hard to run while sitting in your car!  There were lots of friendly faces out today, but it was hard to recognise people as they hunkered down inside coats and under hats!  Once we got running we felt a bit warmer, until feet met puddles...

The route was an out and back with a small loop at one end which went in a U shape around the Hogmoor Inclosure - we got to see a lot more of the place than we see at parkrun and I am tempted to go back (in nice weather) to explore more.  Lots of the route was on firm paths (with puddles) but there were long sections on sand - of varying degrees of wetness!  I can't over emphasise how sapping running on wet sand, in the rain, with a cross wind is!  Out and back we went.  Six laps would give me 19.8 miles - which was as close to 18 miles as I could get it, so that is what I was aiming for.  At one point it stopped raining, and I thought 'f*ck it - may as well run a marathon,' but then it started tipping it down again so I was happy to stick to six laps!

I had lots of chats with friends.  I knew that one of them was planning to run a half marathon (four laps) and knew that I was slightly ahead of him.  I hadn't seen him for AGES, so thought I would put in some effort and catch him up.  I thought I was on my fourth lap and that he was on his third.  I arrived at the aid station to see him with his medal - I'd got my lap counting wrong!  Oops!  But on the plus side I had finished lap five and only had one more to go!

After finishing and collecting my medal (my younger daughter thinks it is the most adorable medal ever) I peeled off some of my wet clothing and went home via the supermarket.  I was hoping that some of the mud would fall off my legs before I got home (it didn't - the photo shows my legs when I got home).  Standing in the shampoo aisle I suddenly regretted not running the extra two laps, but not for too long!

Thank you to the On The Whistle team for another great event, it was great to see you out on the course today... roll on the next event!