Sunday, 25 May 2014

Edinburgh Half Marathon 2014

We drove up to Edinburgh this morning and parked up at Canongate. Walter Scott once described this as ‘the path to Heaven’. Not at the crack of dawn on a Sunday. Maybe he needed to get out more. At least the parking was free. We were up for the half marathon. In the words of Peter Kay ‘it was spittin’. We made the baggage bus for M. who was off from the Regent Road Start and I then jogged down to London Road  for the Red pen start. I had spent the best part of a week with no beer, more sleep than Rip Van and less carbs than Ebenezer Balfour on the Atkins diet a week before payday; Oh and not to forget the beetroot overload...say no more;  that was up until yesterday morning when I went for the porridge-granola-toast carbo triple salko followed by an all day sit about as the rain just kept on coming.

Evening time. The lite breakfast was followed up by a generous veggie spaghetti bolognaise with more garlic than a village would need to keep both Nosferatu and Bela Lugosi at bay for a month. Bauhaus. Liked their Ziggy Stardust rendition.   I digress.  They had long queues snaking out from each portaloo and I noted the retro minimalist pissoir’s on London Road. Any other day you might have had a member of the constabulary taking a dim view of this sort of thing, but not this morning.
We stood around for what seemed forever in the rain. I looked behind me to see a long line of waiting runners gyrating on the spot to keep themselves from petrifying. After the longest 5 minutes in recent history, we got off and it was steady away as the rain came down. It was pretty quiet without much of a crowd. Most of Edinburgh was still asleep.  A small group of lads huddling in a bus shelter off Lochend Road gave us some mild entertainment but there was little else of note. The rain had stopped. A grey haired runner came by and I tucked in behind him untill the start of Seafield Road along the prom, where a tall young runner came past with a long steady stride. I spent the next 2 miles behind him as the easterly gusted gently in our (his) face. When we reached another rangey  Gainsborough runner just before 7 miles, I was, for a short time, in a wind free zone and was thinking of having a picnic, getting my cigar out and blowing a few smoke rings.   However, it was too good to last and just as I was looking for my Zippo, man mountain slowed and three came by.  

I jumped across to one of them. He wasn’t wearing a club vest but his cadence was even and I sat behind him as we passed Musselburgh and began to work the last 3 miles. It was interesting to see the leaders coming back, passing us in the opposite lane. At the turn with just over one and a half to go, I did a miles worth at the front, mostly to impress a clubmate whom we’d caught, but then I fell back again as the pace in the final mile seemed to lift and it was a quick turn into Fettes and the finish. I saw 1:26 on the clock and blanched. I was way off the recommended Ally pace expectation meter. After downloading the garmin which I hadn’t looked at once, my pacing was strangely metronomic, clocking 6.35,6.35, 6,29, 6.41,6.35 etc. All very impressive if I’d set out to run like a metronome, but the metrical beats I had tapped out were 20 seconds a mile slower than required. I had ran; ran fast even, but not raced.

No matter. Caught up with said clubmate for a natter and then waited to meet up with M who was happy enough with her run. After spending 30 minutes waiting to get her bag, we made our weary way back to the car, stopping off at Newington Road to take luncheon at Reverie, where the staff and food were A1. We mused at the huge rain falling from the skies outside that we were fortunate that we hadn’t opted for the marathon.  When the waiter asked if we wanted to see the desert menu, I proclaimed that there was no desert for me, I was an athlete. On second thoughts...
(Finished 5th v50 and 164th overall. Not sure about this no public results thing they seem to be doing-wots that all about?).  

Sunday, 18 May 2014

British Masters Road Relays 2014

Sutton Park in Birmingham is a long way to go to spend 18 minutes running.  I've run there before; 2008 was my first trip. I blogged about it again in 2010, when apparently the highlight for me was getting free donuts off the donut man. He wasn't running. The Masters Road Relay championships is a small victory in the war of staving off the inevitable. Only the best, the brave or the loyal may be found competing. Its just a little difficult sometimes working out which category you fall into.  I was in a four man team of 'only if you need me's'. It was good of someone to ask us to run, and a small feat of endurance for someone to drive us down and back.  The spirit was good though and we've never looked out of place in the past. There were plenty of self deprecating jokes about evergreen runners and such like in the car on the way.

The weather was hot and still and a good crowd was present. We put up the new tent and slung the bags in before setting off to run the course, checking that it remained as we remembered it. The course was the same, but those of us who'd been there before were just a bit older.

As our first runner set off at the start, the field in our age group of 45-55's comprised around 40 teams. The ability range was wide, but there were some fast lads present and they set the pace. Each runner worked their way around the course and before I knew it I was off and chasing. The distance between the runners I could see ahead of me was not insignificant and it took me until nearly halfway around the 3 mile course before I began passing folk. I got by three. However, they were all in the younger age group category (35-45).

Ahead of me, I spied another group of three and ploughed on in the heat and was soon on the shoulder of a Les Croupier runner. We never see them up our way, and whenever I see their name, all I can think of is roulette. They're from Cardiff and had a nifty team out. The lad I'd caught was going well though and I clung to him while he, in turn, chased hard to catch the other two who had crept ahead.

There is a small kick up about 400m before the finish and I dropped back a couple of seconds and it was at that point that I realised (as the fuel gauge hit empty), that I wouldn't be passing any of this group today. They all moved ahead and I found myself looking back, which I never do, but today I thought the task beyond me. Croupier took 10 seconds out of me by the line.

We finished a gallant 20th which was fine with everyone making a contribution.  I'm going to have to work hard next weekend in Edinburgh to carve out something respectable, but its probably just what I need to get me back up there.  

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Caught in a rainstorm

Its just as well I'm not superstitious. Today saw me at a 9am 'meet and greet' at the dentists; and when I say 'greet', it was not the smiley kind. lying in't chair with t'gob open, I could feel an unwelcome draught swirling around the empty corners of my mind. I though I heard someone mention something about a metallurgist?  After thirty minutes of swooshing, bite together, open, bite together, and so say all of us, I made my escape for another 6 months. Cheap entertainment. Nice job with the amalgam though.

This afternoon, as feeling returned to my jaw, I peered out the window with tea in hand. I thought I might knock out a good, steady 10 or 12 miles. Certainly double figures. For sure.
'Looks nice outside. See how it goes' I told myself.

Things can only get better after my PW (personal worst as opposed to personal best) set at Saturday's Park Run. I've not yet had the inclination to strip off the tights in favour of shorts only so far this season, but after 6 or 8 miles in this humid weather, I reckoned I'd be plenty warm, so eased out of the house onto the pavement in shorts and skimpy t-shirt at a steady 8 mile/hour pace. I took my bumbag as I decided that I was going to listen to the radio on my mobile. Its also got a camera which might be useful to illustrate the sheer speed of this particular session, the honest tenacity of my sweat.

After 3 miles or so and just a mile into the woods along the river, I heard the rumble of thunder over Alison Moyet's Love Resurrection and spied a dirty looking, pregnant sky overhead through a gap in the trees.

I didn't spend two months in the scouts for nothing. Lightning and woods don't mix. I decided to make a U-turn before I got a) fried or b) soaked or even c) soaked then fried or d) gently marinated in a red wine and ginger sauce.

By the time I got out of the woods the black clouds were overhead and the rain had started. I wandered around the town jumping from archway to doorway to trying to furtively shoehorn myself under other peoples umbrellas, but failed miserably in my timing and after 5 miles skelped through the graveyard at St Marys to huddle under the stone arch. It was coming down in rods by then. My mobile was shorting in my bumbag, water running down from the earphone wires and little sparks firing out from behind the plastic casing (well not quite, but you can imagine).  I was droukit. There was half an inch of water in the bumbag. The cars were throwing up huge waves of grey surf as they passed by. I could hear the Beach Boys.

Typical. It no sooner arrived, than it went, and the sun was up and a supercharged rainbow brightened the horizon. I would have taken a photo, but the mobile was making worrying gurgling noises.

I suppose I could have run on and probably would have dried in a mile or two, but the thought of a cuppa and a bit of shortie sounded a better option and it was hometime. The forecasts improving so might try a longer one tomorrow.... or might not!


Friday, 2 May 2014


Holy macaroni. I nipped into a stationary store today to buy paper, a swivelly chair for Aggie and a new phone. The paper was for me. The chair offers cheap entertainment to her majesty. Her idea of a good time is to jump out of the hedge at you while you're cutting it with a petrol driven hedge trimmer. We need something safer. The phone had broken but is also needed so that she can practice her shouting when she can't hear whose at the other end of the line.

At the checkout they asked if I wanted insurance - some sort of extended guarantee 'just in case the chair breaks' they said. I declined. Did they know whom I was getting it for? They then tried to foist a store card on me. Also declined. I was waiting for them to ask for my email address which is the most recent way to squeeze you dry of your personal details, but by that time I had swivelled my way out of the swing doors. My inside leg measurement was safe for another week.

On the way home, chair and phone safely tucked up, I stopped at the local mini-supermarket to buy toilet paper. Yes, I'm not afraid to admit that those that frequent the small room in chez Al are not blue blooded. Well that's the commoners, at least: Aggie claims to be descended from Cauldwell of that Ilk from the 17th Century. I checked this. Apart from missing 150 years of evidence, it could well be true. I think, however, she goes too far with her tiara, white gloves and sedan chair.  I digress.

The till operator asked if I wanted a bag for the bog roll, which was already in a bag. I said 'why not?'. They asked if I had a store card. I advised not. They asked if I wanted one.  I declined. They then gave me my change and sent me on my way saying 'Enjoy'.   I its toilet paper, not caviar?

...look at the verge on that..
Back home I mused on this weeks training. I had knocked out a sterling 35 miles from Sunday to Wednesday including an exotic midweek 6 miles round Lincoln in the sun; but yesterday was a no exercise day, as a result of being down country, but mostly because I was on the M6 where its tricky to park up and jog. Today I'm thinking there could be a race on at the weekend and the idea of a 45 minute plod through the woods may prove adequate. If I'm a little short of miles by the weekend I could always ask someone to tape me into Aggies new chair and launch me down the hill - 'sgotta be worth a couple more miles. By the way, caviar is about eighty quid for 30 grammes. Just so you know. Stick to the gels.