Sunday 19 May 2024

Pilgrimage to Goatfell

It felt like a pilgrimage. A three hour drive to Irvine, an overnight stay at the harbourside, a morning drive to Ardrossan, the ferry to Brodick and then a half a mile walk to the hall, race HQ, for the mighty Goatfell Mountain Race. I think it should be re-branded 'Mountain' not 'Hill' as it sits proud on the edge of Arran with a 'come and get me if you think you're hard enough' attitude. A beacon for the intrepid racers and dozy public alike. 

I paid a visit to the Harbour Lights for a nightcap on the Friday night when we got to Irvine to watch the end of the Raith Partick match. Many of the punters were evidently less interested in the game,  numerous bodies lingering in and across my line of sight. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, given the result. 

A light sea-haar threatened as we passed a rather nasty looking single vehicle crash on our way to Ardrossan. Speedy Joe and I arrived in good time and parked the car. It was a cuppa in the terminal before boarding the compact McBrayne ship. Boatymcboatface.  We got our race numbers on the boat. I was happy to get out on deck during the voyage due to the very questionable air quality circulating around our seats. Nobody was putting their hands up for this anti-social behavior. There was no view on the trip out with the damp grey clag gripping the sides of the ship, but it had cleared to reveal the island as we began our approach. 

Last year when I ran this race, I was overhauled by 3 runners in the last mile on tarmac after my legs went all Rowntrees. This year I planted a pair of road trainers at the bottom of the track to Goatfell where gravel meets tarmac. My plan was to change quickly from fell shoes to the road shoes. Studs offer no bounce on road surfaces. I needed all the help I could get.

I replaced my waterproof trousers from my bumbag with 2 bottles of water. This was also a first; me taking water up a hill. However, it was hot, cloudless and windless and I knew we were going to cook. Speedy had done Ben Lomond the week before and said there was no water on the hill. I knew there was a stream on Goatfell, but its at the bridge near the bottom. 

Around 130 or so set off and I took up my place toward the back. The run-in was bearable with a 7.05min. first mile. However after the second mile through the forest I had begun to walk. When you walk, the folk behind you, for the most part, also take this as a signal to walk and I enjoyed a period where no-one came past. I did hear a lot of heavy breathing so they were close enough.  I decided early on that the heat was such that I needed to manage my body and it would be better to keep my energy for the descent. 

The hill was busy with walkers of all shapes and fashions and I shipped a few salt tabs on the way up. I kept a bottle of water handy for Speedy. With this race being a straight 'up and down' affair, I knew she would pass me at some point. As we ascended, a chap behind insisted on a bit of 'merry banter' with fellow runners and the passing public and it did my nut in. I'm afraid I was rather curt with him when he tried to engage me, when I turned and in a rather sour tone said that 'I wasn't interested in a chat'. It didn't deter him, maintaining his commentary to various as I sat in front and then behind him toward the peak. In the meantime, Speedy had come past on the descent going well and duly took the water bottle: jobs a good 'un. I thought.

At the top the view was apparently splendid, but my mind was on other matters. I binned 3 runners straight away, 2 of them looked like they were M60's or perhaps they had just had a heavy night at the Harbour Lights. A younger lad got past me early on, but I tracked him all the way down and he ran out of steam toward the bottom. Another younger guy was catching us.  Onto the road, I glanced back to see both runners around 15-20 seconds behind. I dived to the side of the road and changed shoes - probably losing around the same amount of time as I had on them and, as I set off, they were almost on top of me. The road shoes had bounce and were fresh and cool. I put my hands in my fell shoes as I carried them and realised how hot they (and my feet) must have been. The new shoes also gave me a psychological boost and I began moving away from both runners. At the junction ahead, the Marshall lauded me on the shoe change strategy and I began wondering if the change also had an effect on the psyche of the runners behind. 

I plugged on toward the finish and felt the last sparks of energy ebb away. I was done in. Entering the field, it was a lap on grass left to do and I was caught and dropped by one of the youngsters. Collapsing over the finish in around 2 hours, this 10 miler in the sun had drained me. I spent several minutes splayed out on the grass before the inner thigh cramp struck and it took another minute or two to stand and recover. It was a nice spread of cakes. I am certain that I won the competition for most cups of tea drank. I caught up with Will Horsley of NFR who is running again. 

Speedy won her race and I finished 2nd M60, losing to a Musselburgh chap who I had spied passing me near the top. He was well ahead and regardless of strategies, I wouldn't have caught him. More training required. However, I will enjoy the beers I won. It was an ice cream afterwards where I got chatting with an old just retired couple on holiday from Louisiana. It was back onto the ferry at 4 and the long drive home later in the evening, via the chippy in Dalkeith. Good work, but exhausting.




Wednesday 1 May 2024

The Rehab reaches Deuchary

The rehab continues.  After another Parkrun on Saturday, I was still intact and had shaved another sliver off my 2024 5k times. Such was my excitement that I was happy to rock up at Dunkeld the next day for Adrians Deuchary Hill Canter. Forty eight hours earlier I had sat and stated for the record that my racing days were over, that my body needed a break and that I should park the ego and accept my decrepitude. 

Run, yes, good :)

Race, no, bad :(

Me and Speedy Joe arrived early. Sufficiently early for me to get my number and have a catch up with ProTays Sharon and Partner.  I was all for the joining with the early start group who set off half an hour before the main race. There were 7 of us and I led from the gun. I ran with purpose but my lungs weren't bursting. The route had been altered to accommodate cows in a field. I also recalled going off course last time round, so I was wary. However, Adrian had done a sterling job on the tape and route marking. The sun made a brief appearance and, as always, I was overdressed, but stuck to my task and reached the hilltop in an hour. The Marshalls seemed surprised at my quick appearance. I looked back down the hill and saw a lad not far behind me. Best get a move on. Ooops, not racing...remember! 

I trogged back down the hill and came to a junction which threw me. The sign was pointing right, but the tape said left. There was also a straight-on option. I stopped for a good wee while to let the blokey catch me. We decided if we were going to get lost, we would do it together and we went left with the tape. It proved the correct option and I was soon on my own padding across the gravel and hard packed forest tracks. I was caught with about a mile to go by the eventual race leader who passed me at a fair pace. I felt a few tweeks of cramp in my calf, but at 11 miles I didn't have far to go and finished in just over 2 hours. Pretty pedestrian and well down. However, I was pleased with the run and with no after effects other than some blood blisters, I think we're going in the right direction. 

With only 40 finishers, this race deserves much more and coupled with the soup, tea etc and prizes galore afterwards, its a cracking wee race. Speedy got back as first female after also having to stop and cracking herself on the face with a deer gate - daftie. We were a box of chocs and a bottle of malt better off on the way back.




Wednesday 24 April 2024

The exercise-ist

Bless me father. I'm making some progress at last. I know you'd want to know.  Two sports massages banked and stretching every day peppered with gym or swimming is sorting me out. No hills yet, mind. 

I felt goodish as I lined up at the Elder Park run on Saturday. I happened to have a social in Glasgow over the weekend and with it being such a beautiful morning, I took the clockwork orange into Govan and walked to the Park with Alma from Reigate. From her accent she sounded Australian, but I didn't want to ask. As I warmed up, Chris Upson appeared from out of the early Spring foliage. I wasn't phased, however. I had to run my own race and wanted a sub 23, and was probably up to a sub22 given that there are no hills on this course. Right enough, I clocked 21 minutes and left the park smartly with a spring in my step. It was a fancy lunch from one till 5pm at Exchange Square. The meal was first class and the company entertaining. I gave myself a high-five, keeping away from the alcohol. I even elected for a mocktail at the Blue Dog as the gang took up the back of the bar. We left around 7pm and I celebrated by making a whistle stop visit to The Griffin, a pub which on another visit, I will have a proper mans pint of frothing ale. 

Making the most of the weekend, I breakfasted on Sunday on scrambled egg and tea. We mosied along the streets to Glasgow Green for the 10k. Marg was doing the 5k. It was drizzling and the organisers had taken 40 quid off us for the experience, promising a medal at the end. I bridle at the cost of some of these things.

It was cool and grey as I mashed up and around the park, clocking 21 minutes again for the first 5k. Having not done 6 miles since December I worked hard on maintaining my old mans shuffle during the second half of the event but slowed to a 23 minute second half. As I turned the final corner, the large coffee I had had at McDonalds made itself known and exited in a fashion that reminded me of the exorcist, even as I was gagging for air and trying not to let my head swivel round so much. Hopefully the blokey at the end with the camera failed to capture this caffeine projectile art installation and, by the time I got to the finish, in a touch under 45 minutes, I had got it back together and was smiling, albeit with brown teeth, watery eyes and a snotty nose. I know, I know, too much information. We didn't need the priest after all! It was back to the hotel for a shower and the train south. What a palavar.    

Friday 5 April 2024

Start Me Up

After failing to shake off my calf/achilles strain, I have at last acquiesced and been to see a physio. I crossed her palm with silver and, right enough, after a laying-on of hands, she recommended 3 exercises, more swimming and yoga... 'the start of the running career could be initiated after a trip for a sports massage' she said. I am not opposed to more squeezy oily muscle business particularly given my inertia on the stretching front. More silver will need to be delivered into yet another set of slippery expert hands. However, its a bit like going to the doctors (except that you can get to actually see a physio and sports masseur). Once you've been diagnosed your brain tells you you're already half way to recovery and hopes rise. 

I came away from the physio via the Cook and Barker at Newton for an expensive fish n' chip lunch, because I'm worth it; and a little bit fishy. 

Its been back to the gym over the last few days. Being an old fogey, I struggle with the choice of canned music.  I will have to get spotify and a pair of over large headphones like half the folk in the gym. Having thrown the dice into the ring for Ben Lomond, I'd love to be up and jogging in my baggy trousers next weekend. Madness I know. There's a lot of work to do between here and Snowdon where I want to make sure I'm not squeezed off the M60 podium again.  Its all about the gun time with this race, not about the chip time!  The other target is a continental mountain race...well, I can dream.  

In other news I have, at last, finished 'the Bookseller of Inverness' by S.G. Maclean. I enjoyed the setting and it was competent enough, but the story meandered rather too much and it wasn't a page turner for me. I've moved on to 'Smut' by Alan Bennett.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Jura no more

Its been a good wee while since I last put my thoughts down on record. After a routine blood test motivated by nothing more than age and gender, I found myself dealing with a 'medical' which has now been, thankfully, sorted. My recovery is, in no small way, a result of terrific expertise within the health service, not to mention supervision from Mrs Mac who excels in this arena. I am indebted. But its safe to say my fitness is taking a while to return. While I have reduced my parkrun time in the last 3 weeks from 27 minutes to 23 minutes, I am still lacking motivation to lace up the trainers. I have been swimming again though, which is something positive at least. 

Jura has always been up there on the to-do list. I filled in the form early January and subsequently found myself on the reserve list for this 18 miler. Its 5000m of ascent. A day or two later I was invited to run. A dilemma. I wavered between paying the fifty quid and convincing myself that the calf injury would resolve itself by May, and, then, conversely, staring at the screen and realising that it probably wouldn't.  So last night I declined the invite and will look for other pastures to make my comeback on. The calf seems happy enough on the flat, but faced with some proper gradient, it goes all William Tell and I'm left to hobble back to base. There is nothing else for it than to go and see someone and I will look around for a running shamen of repute to allow me to regain last years form. Given the above, I shouldn't be too hard on myself and might try a low profile race this weekend, should any take my fancy. Alternatively, I might just continue taking the tiles off the bathroom in preparation for the new bath. Nice to have choices. What excitement!         

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Winter Training Camp 23

What with one thing and another its been a busy wee time at Al's HQ. I had nothing much planned a month ago. It was a Sunday early in November and the Elswick 10k at Exhibition Park was on. Rememberance day. They were taking entries on the line, which was refreshing. It was a beautiful morning, crisp, autumnal with very little wind. I asked Linds, who had left before me, to see if she could get me a number. I was overdressed at the start and lined up without my club vest. I was running below the radar and didnt want any pressure. With comparatively few miles on the clock, I started well enough and clocked along at a bearable pace. A 10k is tough, no doubt about it. I caught up with Linds with 8k to go - she looked like she had started too fast. I eased a little for a kilometre and then went ahead toward the end. The course is too twisty-turny for my liking. I scraped 41 minutes at the end. My first 10k in a good while. Not an event I like.

Last Saturday I turned up for the last cross country league event at Akeley Heads on the edge of Durham City. It was a very decent day again and I set off steady from the slow pack. I was committed to keeping my heart-rate down as I knew we had the Giffordtown 5k in deepest Fife the next day. So there was no drama on this 3 lapper and I noticed no obvious difference in the way I ran or where I finished compared to my usual eyeballs-out and slightly misguided previous efforts.  Taking it steady is certainly the way to go. 

We left for Fife on the Sunday morning and arrived at a cold and frosty Charlottetown with plenty of time to spare. There were around 150 names down for this gig, but only 100 or so turned up which made the field seem very modest indeed. The course is ace. Flat as a pancake, its just an honest 'out and back' affair. You get a skank at the leaders as they glide back. After a visit to the woods to 'see a bear' and a less than convincing warm up, we were sent on our way and I tried to find my pace early. With not a breath of wind I knew it could be a fast day, but, alas, not for me. A 6.18 first mile was followed by a 6.26 second mile. I was on my own for the last mile and came in at 20:15. Not a disaster and probably a fair reflection of my form. The event was won by a East Sutherland runner, but no one got below 15 minutes. There was no prize-giving (not that I was on for anything). The first V60 runner came in with an early 18, which is pretty impressive. 

We took off northward, stopping at the Bridge of Earn farmhouse cafe for tea and scone and then for a wander around Tiso in Perth where I tried on a couple of pairs of walking boots. The prices were, regrettably, astronomic. 

We spent a week in the Moulin winter running camp, visiting the hotel for a pint once or twice. I love the pub, with its low ceilings and real fires but this time around I found the beer too yeasty and the place and welcome not quite as warm as I remember. The weather, however, was ideal; cold and clear with an occasional flurry of snow. I was out each day for over an hour either up Vrackie or Craigower, or running along the valley to Killiecrankie.  With all the hill miles, I felt my calf tighten on the Friday.  Come Saturday, I graced the West District Cross Country Championships in Strathaven with my presence. My efforts to upstage Feechan and Williams, however, went south as the calf tightened at the end of the second kilometre and I pulled up. It was disappointing, but I live to fight another day.  Back to the swimming pool this week I guess.

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Short Course Reality Check

I attended the Scottish Vets cross country training session at Tollcross early in October and 'enjoyed' a session of eight 4 minute efforts with a sprinkling of other oldies. It was a total of 32 minutes of expended flat-outtishness commitment. Suitably cooked, I had to take myself off to the Wellshot cafe afterwards where I dined royally on a veggie cooked breakfast supplemented by a sausage or two and tea for a fiver. Nearly veggie but not quite. It was the thought that counts.

As the bus wandered back toward Glasgow city centre, I alighted beside the Saracens Head Public House and availed myself of the facilities.A well known pub, it was pretty spartan inside and there was nothing that wasn't fixed to the wall or floor. As the low autumnal sun flooded through the half opened door, I sat in my downy jacket with a half and watched a young irish accordion player begin her matinee performance. Somewhat regrettably I had to leave to catch my train back down south. Later, as I waited in the cafe in Central Glasgow for my tea I watched a hooded hoodlum attempt to bolt crop a padlock off a voodoo mountain bike parked on the busy bike rack outside Queen Street. It was in bright daylight with a rake of folk wandering about either ignoring him or oblivious to the ongoing mischief. As it was, he fled empty handed before I had made up my mind to intervene. I compared notes with a P.C. shortly afterwards.She strolled around the corner and casually inquired if he had got away with the bike. I said he hadn't, but would no doubt be back. I guess they see alot of this sort of thing.

I didnt manage to attend the second cross country training session late in October. I subsequently failed to make the old boys team at the Home International Cross Country. Should I have attended? Who knows...who cares!

Reflecting on last years Scottish XC Short Course in Kirkcaldy, had I been V60, I would have been 6th. I ran a hilly wet course in 15:10.  This year it was back in Lanark. I did it 2 years ago and finished in around 16:30. I recall I was carrying an injury. This year I had no excuse, but got round in a lack-lustre 16:10 in good weather and firm conditions. The course is flat. Very flat, and at 4k in length, its full on and ideal for the speed merchants. I am not one. However, I finished 13th V60 which brought me back down to earth. True, I'm not as fit as I was a month ago, but I guess everyone who was anyone in the Central Belt was in attendance. So it's back to the drawing board. An easy return to some miles coupled with some swimming should see me tackling a modest handful of races this winter. But its been a good and interesting season. It would be nice to finish on a high, but I'm a bit more laid back these days and theres a few things on my plate at present to occupy me. If it would stop raining for a wee while we could get out that bit more.