Saturday, 30 May 2015

A whole new ballgame

It's taper time, we are now only 3 small weeks away from the West Highland way race. Let the taper madness begin.

Since the Fling I've been feeling pretty good. I recovered pretty quickly and was running again by Tuesday. Last month has been pretty busy with work & life. We marshalled at the Cateran and I was also  doing the cooking. I was up at 4.30am having gone to bed at 1am. Cooked breakfast for runners & marshalls then headed off to our Checkpoint where we had an 80's disco complete with genuine ghettoblaster.  We had a proper blast, thanks Helen & Julie, great fun.

Then it was back to Lodge to get cooking dinner. Luckily had the very able helping hands of Helen and I even managed to sneak off for a bath at some point during day. Only person I managed to see finish was the awesome Ritchie who won it comfortably . For rest of day I was stuck in kitchen, not even seeing the presentations. Long tiring day but worth it to take pressure off Karen and happy that everyone seemed to enjoy it. I love the Cateran, was very envious of all the runners, its the most beautiful route.

 I've recently moved jobs and I'm no longer in city centre. I was only 2.2 miles from work but tended to do 7 or 8 miles most mornings by meandering a bit, and I'd usually do 3 home. I think 10 miles a day is just fine. But now I'm based out at Edinburgh business school at Heriot Watt. It's 8.02 miles door to door. If I don't run I'd have to either walk 2 miles to Princes st or get bus there. That would mean 4 buses a day. For anyone who knows me also knows about my bus rants. Something had to be done.

So I decided to get a bike. I've never had a bike, not unless you count when I was ten that is, even then I was never on it. Its only for when I'm not running, ie- tapering r recovering from races or injured.

apologies for anyone who's already read this on fetch!

Ian was dead excited, makes noises about cycling holidays and long bike rides together, I looked at him as if he was nuts

 I thought you could just go into a shop, pick a bike and cycle out. It would appear not, there are lots of bikes in shops, just not for sale.
I went to Edinburgh bicycle co-operative at first, Ian got his there and was happy with service and loves his bike. A proper bike for road cycling, not the kind I was looking for. I looked at a few I liked look of, apparently you don't go for ones you like look of though? Isn't that what you do when you buy a car? Oh, that looks nice and its red-I'll take it! That's how I buy things, you know- dresses, shoes, bags etc.

But no, girl steered me away from ones I liked and towards ones I didn't. These were lighter, faster ( I don't want faster!) better handling, better gears (gears? ) aaargh. It just stressed me out. I got one and cycled round shop, bumping into anything within a fraction of me.   And it was more than I wanted to realistically wanted to spend. Its not that I cant afford to spend a lot, I just don't want to. This is purely functional, its not for pleasure.

left there feeling a bit downhearted, Ian suggested trying Evans seeing we were out anyway (we'd ran and weather was fowl) So off we went. I actually ended up buying one from their website, well I put a deposit down it anyway, could get it back if I didn't like it when it arrived. He said 2 or 3 days so I expected it in on Tuesday/Wednesday. True enough got phone call on the Tuesday so ran from work and popped in to see it. Except I couldn't. They were too busy to build it, they'd got over 200 bikes in that morning and would be working from 7am till 10pm building them don't you know. my would be ready in week.
That's my problem how? Don't tell me my bike will be ready by midweek then tag another freaking week on to it. I was bit annoyed and told them so. Ian was doing his sportive that weekend and I thought I could've taken it up and cycled round a bit and get used to it at my leisure. hmmph.

So no bike for Sportive, hey ho. I got call & email to say it was in, again I ran there. I got told when I ordered it I could add on mudguards and a pannier rack, that they'd do it when I went it to test drive/pay for it. only guess what? they were too busy, they'd had lots bikes delivered blah bloody blah. Another days wait.

EVENTUALLY I got the bloody bike. The seat is down low, yes I know its too low, stop telling me its too low but until I feel comfortable on it I want my two feet to go flat on ground, deal with it folks. I paid rest of money (cost me around £400 all told) and pushed it out of shop and towards meadows. The shop is next to a very busy road and no way was I jumping on it and looking like a kid trying to ride a bike for first time in middle of lorries and buses.
I got to meadows and jumped on, I genuinely had no idea what I was doing, I have no clues what the gears do and kept moving them which made them jump a bit and me nearly fall over. All too soon I was through the meadows, had to cross a road into oncoming traffic and get onto cycle lane. got beeped at for not getting across fast enough.
Once I was on cycle lane it wasn't too bad, its wee bit slight uphill then a downhill toward causewayside, the cycle lane is clearly marked but sometimes there was a car parked in it which freaked me out having to go into middle of road. I've seen the way cars pretty much ignore cyclist. I was proper scared.

Got to Suffolk road after being passed by about 5 cyclists literally whizzing past me and it was straight road down to house. This is very nice area full of big nice expensive cars. There are cars parked both sides of street so only one car can get up or down at certain parts. As I was cycling down a big fuck of Landover which has no place in the city centre came towards me, I had space to cycle down side no bother, I was horrified to find driving towards me whilst txting on his fuckin mobile. I was nervous enough without arseholes like that around ffs.

I glared at him and cycled down to house and to put bike in bike shed. I got off feeling shaky and bit seasick! I'd only cycled 2 bloody miles.

Its like riding a bike. Ian got home from work and he took me down to cycle around estate a bit to get bit more used to it, look I'm even smiling.    Next day I was cycling to & from work. Scared face. Its ok, it's like riding a bike.

I left about 10mins later than I'd normally, I cycled same way I'd came night before, Roads very quiet at 6.30am thankfully and soon enough I was on canal without incident. Until I got to aquaduct. There are signs asking cyclist to dismount, no problem there, no way am I cycling along cobbles on a path half the width of one I'd just been on. Of course not everyone does that, and sure enough I came across a cyclist hurtling towards me whilst I tried to keep in as close I could banging my ankles, legs etc. for the umpteemth time I might add.
only 1.5 miles to work from there, phew. Got to my turn off and tried to turn bike round sharp corner only to fall off it, bike landed on top of me and I just lay there thinking, fuck this malarkey. Its like riding a bike.
Girl cyclist came from behind me and asked if I was ok, I was. I wasn't hurt. I said that thank you I was fine, just an idiot new cyclist out on her shiny new bike for first time. She was very kind and told me it was very sharp corner. I smiled & thanked her again. I pushed bike up the hill and got back on for last mile which I managed without falling off again. I was pretty relived to get to work. 9 miles done and dusted which is mile longer than my run route as I take the *less road* approach.

So then I had to do it all again at end of day. It wasn't too bad on way back except for the 3 cyclists all coming towards me on the aquaduct. ignoring the signs. Got home, got off it, felt seasick, wtf! Seasick? Legs felt bit wobbly, how does anyone do a triathlon? Not that I *actually* want to know, I just felt crap, not exactly the exhilaration I was hoping for. Oh and the bell, I do have freakishly small hands but the bell feels like a million miles away from my wee hands, I have to move my whole hand. Not easy when you're wobbling all over shop and about to go under a bridge with cobbles. God only knows what cyclists, walkers or ducks thing of me when looking at me.

I have no huge desire to run to bike shed and cycle to work or anywhere else for that matter. Like I said before its functional. Its like riding a bike I'm told, only if you've not had a bloody bike then what's it like?
The bike and I are not friends, merely acquaintances. I'm afraid Ian will have to keep dreaming of cycling holidays for a bit longer.....

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Flinging it.

The Highland Fling is now in its 10th year. Ian ran the first 6, the first year they had 17 runners. to get from that to 1000 in 10 short years in phenomenal and shows just how much not only running, but ultra running has moved forward. 10yrs ago I had only just started running. I said I'd never do anything beyond 5k. Clearly things have changed since then. In 2007 I asked my friend George to pace me at Lochaber Marathon. Some of you may have met him. Surname -Reid - aka Legend. He said hey, no problem Sandra, I'm racing day before but I'll pop over in morning and pace you. I remember asking him again what race he'd been doing the day before. He went on to tell me all about this crazy 53 mile trail race. I told him he was utterly nuts, and said to him "you'll never get me off tarmac, I hate mud, I never even run on grass!"


I was cajoled in 2009 to run the relay. Sucker. by 2010 there I was lining up at 6am to run whole thing.

In those days it finished across the river and by the cottages. You still got ice cold beer, still got bubbly, tshirt, medal and stovies. It's always been a stupdily too good value for money race IMHO. Some folk moan about changes to the route but hey, we're not the only ones using the trails, they have to be preserved for future generations. Anyway.. i digress. Lets fast forward to 2015 race.

As my last blogs have said I was feeling strong. I got message from Donnie  telling me to run strong and remember how good I was feeling and wishing me luck. This was my 5th fling but I've only finished twice. again its been well documented if you fancy reading back. Prep wasn't best I've ever had, I'd liked to have had day off on Friday but I've just moved jobs and things were difficult. I was on feet all day Friday, but hey. that's not unusual. it is what it is. Ian picked me up and we got to Milngavie, settled in, got registered and had dinner. Susan
arrived and i went off to have few glasses wine with her.  I slept really well and was up at my normal mon-fri time. 6am starts really suit me

soon enough we were at start. I wished Ian good luck and positioned myself in second pen, I was looking for sub 11, so that's where I stood. Weather was a bit crappy at start, wet and coldish. I knew I'd discard jacket and hat before too long and had vest on underneath.  I also had sunglasses in bag in anticipation of the sun shining, its the fling, of course its going to shine. Johnny fling cant organise such a superb race for it not to.

I got to drymen around time i thought. I hugged Ian Shanski and ran on. Conic was good and i found it went quite quickly. Got to the top the find Graeme Hewiston snapping away, gave him hug (he is also our wedding photographer)   I knew I would get passed lots on way down. I remember way back in the day when Karen D told me about someone walking down conic and going on to place high up in field. That's never left me, I'm not great at descents, my wee legs don't cope so well with those steps but I was happy to come down slow. didn't quite expect to see Graham Kelly half way up conic after getting his blooming stookie off the previous week! I didn't have drop bag at balamaha, ran in there and into aforementioned George Reid's arms to give him biggest hug & kiss. Had to push on though and i needed so I popped into toilets to find big queue so didn't hang around there and headed off to Oak tree instead. That just felt right. I love that place.

So i came along road much to surprise of Carolyn Kiddell who asked where id been. i told her the oak tree of course! Off i went uphill where i was behind Superhero pal Ross Lawrie & who is running as Spidey. too impressive. He stopped for a photo opportunity at top (don't tell Donnie) I ploughed on.

I love this section, maybe because we've stayed at Oak tree so much and ran it so often. Onwards I went, running up those hills, passing people chatting and enjoying the sunshine. At one point i was singing *the sun has got his hat on* going up a hill, guy behind me joined in and told me it was his birthday, so I then sang to Happy Birthday to him (liam maybe) guy n front of me joined in :) that's Ultra running. superb. got there!

Into Rowardennan 4.45, happy as a happy thing and superbly looked after by Gavin Bussie. Saw my ex clubmates from Harmeny who asked if Ian was catching me yet, i said he'd be too busy peeing!  I had predicted asub 11 for Ian and i knew there was very good chance of us being very close. I did wonder if he would suddenly appear on my shoulder! Off again I went and I knew next CP Susan was there so did I wee song to myself after every mile singing 6 miles till see Susan, 5 miles till I see Susan etc.. I passed a former clubmate Lorna around here and was bit surprised (she did sub10 last yr) she passed me again bit later but then went on to get cramp

Again these miles passed by quite quickly, i came into Inversnaid singing and was delighted to see Nic & Duncan Mcgoughan which lifted me. After counting down the miles to see Susan its ironic I didn't see her until I was leaving. Keith Mabbot looked after me and reminded me I'd kicked him out of there last yr. I needed no kicking out, Quick hug to Susan and I gave her my jacket knowing the sun was staying put.

Off i went to my Achilles heel section, probably most peoples tbf. I've always lost time here. Not this time. Yes people were still passing me, it'll never be my greatest section but I was much stronger than ever and it was over before i knew it! Only photo of day was at Dario's post. Beinglas here I come baby! 8.02 hrs

Arrived there and the fabulous Matt Williamson looked after me here. I mean seriously, every CP, just the most brilliant support - the drop bags were ready as we arrived, and endless people falling over themselves to help. I marshalled last year, its a tough gig. thank you guys.

Last section I love too. Heading up to cow poo alley as i delighted to see my friend Gavin who was out supporting. he ran a wee bit with me then ran back to support other folks, great wee boost. Graham Kelly here again and took this fab pic. 47 miles in, still smiling. Up and over rollercoaster, I felt a bit of a dip here to excuse the pun! the road never arrives does it!

Got to road crossing where Muriel was standing with arms spread out to stop me crossing, I'm not stupid enough to rush out in front of all that stupid fast traffic. i waited patiently to cross when it was safe, wehey, less than 3 miles to go! Not keen on that wee tarmaccy bit leading up to Auchtertyre but kept plodding on. Always feel bit off boost as i pass through it though and i did.

That last wee windy bit, the bit you keep thinking "where the fuck IS that clearing where's the gate!" it was here that Kirsty caught me again, I was talking a bit of walk break and she pushed me on "c'mon Sandra, its only round corner"  push me on it did. Soon enough we could hear the piper, Kirsty said "lets finish together" grabbed my hand and off we went. that Red carpet looked at long way off but boy did it feel wonderful once we were on it.
10.37  job done.

Tshirt, beer, wine, soup, medals, champagne, ice cream, hugs, smiles, painful stories, wonderful pb stories, more hugs. Finish tent is wonderful
Ian finished just 10mins behind me, I'd managed to hold him off. Just. He was chuffed to bits and rightly so, still looked fresh at end.  He was soon getting back to his other day job and presenting medals. No one was more surprised than me to receive a brone medal for the Scottish Ultra trail champs! :)

Susan arrived from her marshalling stint and we awaited Nicks arrival. He came in smiling but tired. considering he told me he wasn't running 2 weeks previous that's pretty impressive. Team Santa were all back together.

Next up. WHW race.


This could be a long blog, but 100 miles is a long way. I've always had a pull to this race for various reasons. I've heard many g...