Monday, 6 April 2009

East to West 4th/5th April

The forecast was several hours behind itself on Saturday, resulting in not only a battle against a strong headwind on the bike out from Edinburgh towards Carnwarth, but lashing icy rain as well. At times I was struggling to break 7mph which, even considering my inadequate cycling skills, was dire! I gave up near Tarbrax, leaving Craig to batter on to Carstairs. It did occur to me that anyone attempting to cycle in this weather should probably be 'inside' Carstairs! The spin back was frequently at 30mph and fairly efortless in comparison. 40 miles felt like 100.

Sunday's weather made up for it with stunning spring sunshine but a strong head wind remained as we ran west for 21 miles to Linlithgow on the Union Canal. I had the least painful run for well over a month which was a relief. After a late night and too much birthday-celebratory-wine, the Scotrail seat home with coke and chocolate was more than welcome, but the steak and chips later won outright.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Edale Skyeline. Sunday 29th March.

Having not been able to run all week thanks to shooting pains through my hip and down my leg, it was with some anxiousness that we approached Edale. The weather was perfect for the race, offering bright sunshine, cloudless skies and not a breath of wind, yet the fields not yet graced by the sun remained under a hard frost. I then knew that it was not an option to miss out on this Classic and, even better, it began uphill which is the least painful angle for my current aches, so I could kid myself all was well!

Climbing Ringing Roger, for once, having (forcibly) rested for over a week running-wise, I was pleased to feel not too bad, and was even more surprised to be told I was 2nd lady. The run over to Win Hill was far more pleasant that it had been when, Craig, Duncan and I reccied it mid January when we battled icy strong winds.

Climbing up Lose Hill felt good and I paused, as I did throughout the race, to snap lots of pictures. The stunning views were too good to miss. However, suddenly everything changed on the descent towards Mam Tor. I was accidentally nudged by another runner which caused me to slip and twist the painful muscles in my hip. I yelped, landed flat on my side and rolled over twice before picking myself up, rather cross. and very jaded. I’d knocked the wind out of myself and felt utterly shattered and quite sick. Things didn’t improve, sadly, for the rest of the race and it was only the reassuring company of other runners and the unbeatable views that kept me going. I wondered whether hitting the wall on the bike last Saturday had anything to do with the similar way I now felt. Negotiating the rocky and peaty paths in the last 5 miles was tough, as I was forced to land at angles which caused considerable discomfort. My hip was screaming by this stage and the end simply couldn’t come soon enough. Rachael Lawrence came tearing past me, looking inpirationally strong, and there was nothing I could do but shuffle, but I was pleased to keep my 3rd spot till then end, thankfully.

So, the third long race in March was completed- 21 miles and 4,500ft of ascent.. and hec could I feel it, but I couldn’t have passed on such a beautiful route in the sunshine. I’ll just have to hope that the sore bits will calm down before London- or rather hope that I’ll for once have the sense to let them! ….Back in Northampton we eased the aches with a few easy lengths in the outdoor pool, followed by a much needed hot tub session and a large beer.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ben: Arthur's Seat with 7 legs Saturday 21st March

Anyone who knows me will be familiar with Ben, my much loved Spaniel (and more recently my terrorising terrier, Tim). After loosing a back right leg only 5 weeks ago, Ben remarkably climbed Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat without a care in the world. The only malfunction error was to lift the wrong (only) back leg to have a pee, resulting in an amusing (now painless) thump.

5 weeks ago I walked in pristene sunshine in the snow near Balfron. Ben jumped what he thought was a wall near a reservoir. The structure was actually a wall, a 1.5m void with steps going underground and another wall with a gate with spikey wrought iron railings. Ben didn't make the distance and hung from his back thigh, fully impailed and spurting blood, from the railing. I lifted his limp body off and he lay, dazed in a pool of blood in the snow. Thankfully we had help taking him to a nearby vet where I was told that due to all the skin being torn away to the knee joint, skin grafting was going to at least an 8 month job and in the very high £thousands. However, after working with Ben, they realised that this was not a dog who would let you near his injury with any degree of safety in the post-op period. Grafting was not an option and I was told I was going to have to loose him. It was then that I had to hand over to a vet-friend to further disucssions, as life without Ben, my 9 year old running compnaion, was unthinkable. Whilst uncertain due to the level of penetration of the wound and lack of remaining skin, amputation was agreed upon. I brought him home that night and felt torn seeing him in such hepless agony. I thus then never imagined that he would be scampering up the hills again so soon. It's a miracle :-)

Grumpy non-runner taking it out on the bike- 188miles 21st/22nd March

Ok, so for only the second time in over 20 years of running I have to admit that I can't run, or at least at a pace more than 12 minute miles! Fop the first time ever I have been following a 55-70 mile marathon training schedule, aimed for my London entry. Right now I have decided that I have got along quite well on my own Kate-ism schedule, which has given me consistent times between 2.56 and 3.10ish. Whilst I like long races, I can't handle long training, evidenced by the fact that my best marathon, ultra (incl. West Highland Way) times were set on no more than 40 miles a week, but, in the name of 'greed for speed' I have learned the hard way re what I can't cope with, and have gradually become more and more knackered causing random injuries like the big toe (pre Wye) and now my butt/ sciatica. So, the schedule is in the bin and when (if) I can run properly again, it will be back to 1mile/ 2 mile reps on grass. Why practice edurance when I'm lucky enough to have it in my blood anyway?

Thus, I'll admit, I was frustrated on Saturday morning as the hill run/ long canal run was in the bin. Hence, starting at West Linton (and bearing in mind my cycling capabilities are low!!) I peddled, really without thinking of my route, and found my self grinding a bigger gear than I'd like for 35 miles into a headwind to Moffat. From there the 34 miles to Selkirk by stunning Grey Mare's Tail/ St Mary's Loch were largely wind-aided, but turning north for the remainder of the 105 miles back to West Linton, through Peebles were nothing but hellish into the icy wind, plus I had the added bonus of hitting the wall, resulting in a somewhat embarrasing 'leg buckle' as I got off the bike to attempt to enter a newsagent's for some boulstering Kettle Chips! I was like jelly, but their nourishment took me home the remaining 12 miles for a much needed feed.

The 1am night out on George St in Edinburgh was not really planned, or ideal, given that I was due to be up at 6am to meet friends to cycle to Alloa to watch clubmates in the half marathon. So, from 7.10am we battled an even stronger headwind than yesterday out through Kirkliston, Linlithgow, bonnie Grangemouth and over the new Kincardine Bridge (a great unexpected bonus, cutting off at least a mile-thank God!). After minimal time supporting due to the icy wind and insufficient clothing, I took my leave, turning down a kind offer of a lift home, secretly bound for a McDonald's small fries and much needed pint of tea. Fully nourished?... I was determined to get pay-back from the tail wind after the hell on the way out, and was nicely blown along the north of the Forth to Rosyth.

There, the fun started. Not being route-savvy I ended up on about 1.5 miles of A90 in a gale force cross wind with no where to hide as a cyclist. As one huge lorry sucked past me I just held my breath in terror and I was heaved in all directions. Having survived that 'not-to-be-repeated' experience, the real fun was to come. I suffer fairly severe vertigo, so the Forth Road Bridge was going to be a challenge for me anyway- I have never been able to cross it to this day, other than in a crowd in 1999 when the Edinburgh Marathon had it in its route. However, this was really my limit. I could not steer my bike straight c/o the gale force cross wind, and kept being blown into the railings with a God knows how many hundred feet drop greeting my petrified eyes. The wind was so strong that I was convinced I was going to be lifted off, before being distracted by a temporary barrier blowing straight into me. Thankfully a chap was plodding over on his mountain bike (fearlesly, of course) and let this panicking nervous wreck join him for the rest of the route. An hour or so later, I arrived home in one pieve, shattered with wooden legs, a cramping neck, but pleased that I was well 'trashed' after a cumulative 188miles in two days.

Wuthering Hike Vasque(2) Short 14th March

It had been an 'ouch' week c/o piriformis syndrome and resulting sciatica, but to do the Vasque series I had to attempt this race. It's one I love and have completed at least 5 or 6 times, so there was no stress of route finding as the course is unmarked and by no means obvious! We set off into a biting and strong headwind which persisted for over 10 miles. I was extremely uncomfortable and somewhat low in spirits but these were picked up enormously thanks to Adrian Davis, Allan Smith and Mark Hartell. Mark was almost going 'backwards' when I passed him, but we ran together till Mankinholes where he sped off up Stoodley Pike. I was pretty much on my own for the rest of the race. The uphills were a pain free pleasure but the downs were a rigid and unpleasant experience. The cobbled road descent to the finish was exactly what I didn't need as I tightened up and got bad cramp metres before the finish, but was really pleased to have held 2nd woman, about 7 minutes behind Sarah Rowell. Haworth is a great centre with numerous good pubs which we sampled once we had stabalised our tent which was on the verge of taking off in the gale force wind! Highly recommended 32 mile race over Moorland/ reservoir country/farmland/ villages etc. Reccying or running with someone in the know fairly essential!!

Morzine 4th-8th March

No suprises then that might right hip took the brunt of Wye. Running the next week was out of the question, so it was just as well that Craig and I were heading to the Alps for a speedy boarding/ skiing break. Two days of 'Glen Shee' type weather- icy winds and very low visibility were followed by 2 gloriuosly sunny days which made up for it all. The Portes du Soleil area is a vast ski mecca extending from Les Gets, Morzine, Avoriaz and over to Switzerland. The only downside? -half a beer on or off the mountain is £3.50 at current exchange rates, but worth every drop, especially after tackling the ungraded (beyond black) Swiss Wall which I had not been down since age 11 when it took over and hour with numerous tantrums and volumes of tears! Lying in the Chalet's hot tub in the eveining watching the sun go down over the heavily snow clad trees of the village and the orange glow on surrounding peaks made it all worth it.

Wye Ultra- Vasque (1) Short 1st March

Having woken up two days before the 30 mile race unable to weight bear on my right foot ball joint, it was never going to be easy! But in usual fasion I was convinced that the nauseating pain would vanish and as randomly as it had appeared! It didn't, but subsided enough, possibly due to red wine consumption the night before, to get my foot into a trainer. I decided that warming up in the minutes before the race would be a bad plan as I'd then know before the race if I could run or not. The first few metres were about finding a vaugely bearable position- and I hit 'bingo'- run on the very outside of my foot. The course consisted on 7.5miles out and back, twice due to a bridge closure. This was good news for me, given the high possibility of quitting- I'd never be too far from 'home'. I plodded on, losing 1st place at 16 miles, but regaining it shortly after. The foot position turned my legs to wooden blocks and the efort was fairly enormous evidenced by a collapsed and hyperventilating (but happy) heap on the banks of the River Wye by the finish having held 1st woman. An enjoyable course of c50/50 road/ woodland and trail.