Monday, 1 July 2013

Long time no post

Well it appears that I've grown lazy at updating my blog. It was bound to happen and I can only apologise to those few people who were actually nice enough to read it. I will try to keep it up to date in future, but as I'm off to France on Friday I'm not sure if July will be a very fruitful month in blog terms.

As for running I have been out there doing it, just not as frequently and not as many miles as previously. I've still been doing regular short faster runs with the Cani Sports Edinburgh group, including a splendid run this evening at Dalkeith. I took my neighbour's Fox Red Lab 'Oakley' and he was a great puller so I was flying! Nethy wasn't happy about this and certainly wasn't happy about the attention Oakley was paying to her rear end so eventually I took her of the double line and let her free run beside me.

It's been quite warm for dogs recently so last Monday some of us humans went up Traprain Law for some hill reps (without the dogs). It was awesome but tough! I'm not naturally built for hills but I really enjoy the challenge. It's the same on my bike and once you get into a rhythm it feels really good. Was watching a clip of the vertical kilometre race that took place in Chamonix the other day. The course is actually 3.8km but there's 1km of vertical ascent. Last year we got the cable car up the mountain in question and I remember commenting how I wished I was walking up the zigzag path instead of dangling precariously over it. This year I might try to 'run' up it just to see how my legs and lungs cope! lol

As I said my running distances have been pretty low recently, but on Thursday evening we were in Edinburgh seeing my niece and nephew for their birthday. I had my running gear with me and although after birthday pizza and cake I was tempted not to bother, I got Matt to drop me and Nethy off at New Winton on the way home. I thought it was about 5-6 miles home on the trails from there, but it turned out to be almost 10! Given we started our run at about 9pm it was almost dark when we got home! I loved every minute, especially running through Butterdean which was dark and silent and quite spooky! I was glad to find that 10 miles didn't tax me despite the fact I'd not done more than half that distance on foot for weeks. My cycling has obvioulsy been keeping my fitness levels topped up nicely.

Talking of cycling I had a great trip to Glentress at the weekend. We went on Friday night with some friends and their kids and after a very nice evening drinking Leffe and eating barbecued mussels the ladies got a rare chance to go for a ride on Saturday morning. My 2 friends are old hands when it comes to mountain biking. Both of them have raced in the 'olden days' and one of them is the partner of the man who 'built' the trails at Glentress. Mountain bike royalty I guess :) Even though they are good friends it's always a bit intimidating going riding with people who are better than you. Turns out I needn't have worried cause I nailed the climbs and the descents! All those hours I've been spending on the bike have really paid off and I felt strong and confident on the trails. We did a combination of the red and the blue routes, which made for a wonderful 3 hours of riding. We even got to go and have our lunch like proper grown ups before the men folk brought the kids down to meet up with us.
Twas a fab weekend :)

3 days at work and then we're off to France for 2 weeks in the camper van. We have our ferry booked but haven't made any other plans, other than knowing we want to go to Chamonix and Morzine and to Alpe D'Huez to see a stage of The Tour de France. As always I'll not be taking a holiday from exercise and will be packing all of my running and cycling gear. Would be rude not to....

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Ride of my life

Well what a weekend this has been for me. I entered the Selkirk mtb marathon because I wanted to do a mtb event and this one seemed a great option as the course designer is a friend of ours - Pete Laing. I chose the 25k not as an easy option, but because that's what I thought I'd be able to manage with my abilities. Little did I know...

The event was not a race as such, more a sportive. The British mtb marathon champs were being held on the course so for those men and women it was well and truly a race, but for the rest of us mere mortals it was just a chance to ride on some amazing trails and singletrack in a very beautiful area of Selkirk. We massed in Selkirk town centre at the very civilised time of 12.30 and the sun was beating down. There was a field of about 350 folk of all shapes and sizes including some ridiculously skinny elite athletes who were taking part in the british champs. Luckily they were allowed to go off first. It would have been embarrassing to knock one of them off their bikes during the 4 mile de-neutralised zone!

This 4 mile start is supposed to allow riders to sort themselves into some sort of natural order before we hit the trails. I found myself moving up the field quite comfortably so I just went with it. I was really excited and felt pretty confident I was going to enjoy the ride. At the 4 mile point the race split and the 25 km riders went off one way through Bowhill Estate while the other riders (50km and 80km) went off in the opposite direction. I found myself in a small group of 4 but no-one was riding very fast so I nipped past them and then caught a few guys in front. I reckon there was about 5 men in front of me and I was definitely the first female. It was very early days but I felt strong so I really pushed myself. I gave some of the men a run for their money on the uphills and then our first descent of the day I nailed it. It wasn't particularly technical but there were some quite tricky bits and I couldn't help wonder how some of the other 25km riders I'd seen at the start would cope.

Before long the group of guys had built up a few minutes lead on me and I was on my own. This turned out to be a good thing as there were some bits of trail along the river that were quite tricky. The trail was very thin and rooty and there was quite a drop down to the water, so I was glad I could negotiate it without anyone around me to put me off.

Before long I was heading towards a welcome bit of road where I knew I'd see Matt marshaling. Just as I approached it another female came up behind me and we ended up side by side on the road. We seemed pretty well matched and I asked if she'd seen any other females from the 25k group nearby. She said no so in my head I thought "ok, I could at least be first or second"! I kept pushing and when I reached the junction where Matt was he said I looked strong and he really hadn't expected to see me so soon. A few hundred yards after Matt we reached feed station 1 where my friend Ali was handing out goodies along with her daughters and Ruby. It was great to see the kids and I took a cup of water and guzzled it down. I asked Ruby to give me a gel which I wouldn't normally have, but it was so hot and I'd not eaten much that morning. I tucked it away just in case and headed off. This is where it all went a bit wrong, but in a good way!

Basically just after the feed station there was another split in the course and I was supposed to take the left fork. Me and the other girl didn't see the signs and we kept going straight on. We were now on the 50km/80km route! We had no idea we'd gone wrong so on we rode. By this time we were being passed by a lot of elite riders and where we were pushing our bikes they were spinning up the hills looking fresh as daisies! I kept glancing at the numbers on the rider's bikes that passed us and they were all low numbers which meant they were doing the longer courses. This made me rather pleased as it meant we were still the leading female riders, of course we didn't realise the other 25km riders were on a completely different (and much less severe) course!

The ascent went on and on. I had to push my bike up most of it and eventually I wondered if I'd actually be able to get back on and ride ever again. The other girl was doing the same and we were well matched. Just when I thought it couldn't go up any more the single track went up again! We were climbing for such a long time and all the while the sun was beating down on us. After one last very steep ascent I reached the top of the '3 Brethrin'. I had to stop at the top to catch my breath, even though the other girl had disappeared on the downhill by this time. I had been looking forward to some downhill, but this wasn't like anything I'd ever done before. A very narrow channel of loose rocks with high sides covered in heather. It was so difficult and I really had to concentrate, especially as other riders were on my tail and they were desperate to get some time back after the long climbs.

The open hillside finally gave way to a forest and the trail narrowed even more and the joy of roots and low branches added to the fun! I managed to up my speed for a while until the track got steeper and more technical. I didn't care who was behind me at this point I just needed to get down in one piece. At the bottom of this section there were some Mountain Rescue guys who gave me a big smile and said well done. I didn't dwell too long on why they'd been stationed there, but again my mind wandered to think of all the 25k 'rookies' who I'd seen at the start. How the hell would they cope with that descent? (yip...answers on a postcard!!)

I kind of hoped that the descents would keep coming and I'd be on my way back down towards Selkirk at this point. Unfortunately I'd forgotten my Garmin so I couldn't even check my time or mileage. If I had my assumption that I should be continuing my descent to the town would have been spot on, but unfortunately I wasn't on the 25km route so what should have been a fairly straightforward ride back to the finish turned into a bit of an epic! The fire road continued uphill and this bugged me cause Pete had told me there was only one climb on the 25k route. It didn't bug me enough to stop and ask questions, and actually there were no marshalls about, so on I went.

There was no sign of the other girl who I'd been riding with and for a while I just assumed she's nailed the downhill and got some time on me. After a while (and more climbing) it started to dawn on me that perhaps I wasn't going the right way and I had visions of her having taking a turn off that I'd missed and her speeding her way back to the finish to take all the glory!! I kept climbing and finally I reached some dibber points. That was the moment I realised I was on the wrong course! I started to ask other riders if they knew what distance we were at and none of them knew, but they did know that they were all doing the 50 or 80km ride! PANIC!

I got my phone out and called Matt. I was upset cause I had used up most of my energy and I was really worried that I'd got to a point in the course where I'd have to keep riding for another 20 or 30km to get back. I also felt upset cause I was standing at the dibbers that marked the beginning of a descent that had red signs saying 'Warning. Gnarly trails'. Matt couldn't offer anything other than sympathy as he had no idea where I was so I called Ali. She didn't really know where I was either but said she'd phone Pete and come back to me. At that moment I found a local rider who talked to Ali and confirmed our location and to my relief he said that at the bottom of this descent (of doom) I could bail out onto the road and get back to Selkirk. I felt better immediately and I even dibbed my dibber so I could record my time on the death descent!

The downhill was indeed 'gnarly' and had it not been for my recent mountain bike skill course with Andy Barlow I probably would have face planted on some rocks. I took my time and remembered what I'd been taught and even managed to enjoy some of it. I was put off by a female ride who looked the part (muscles/lycra/spds) who kept falling off infront of me. She kept saying 'damn, this always happens!' and I did the obligatory 'are you ok?' and passed her and then when I had to stop she'd overtake me and fall off again! lol

Finally I reached the bottom of the descent only to find the other 25k girl being comforted by a marshall. She'd followed the same route as me and had just crashed and taken a chunk out of her ankle! First thing she said when she saw me was 'I think we went the wrong way'!!! hehe, no shit Sherlock! Bless her, she was still walking but the marshall had alread called mountain rescue so she wasn't allowed to leave. She was really upset when I told her I knew the way out and back to Selkirk and I intended to ride back. I saw her arrive later in the land rover with her bike tied to the top. Not quite the ending she'd hoped for I'm sure!

When I finally got out of the forest and back onto the road I was buzzing! I knew I'd achieved something that I never imagined I could. I'd ridden harder and taken more risks than I ever thought I could and I'd survived  to tell the tale! It may not seem that remarkable to some people but this was the hardest thing I've ever done and looking back I feel really proud that I managed it without hurting myself! Matt came to meet me on his bike and was delighted to see me smiling (he thought I'd be in bits after our telephone call earlier!). We rode back to Selkirk together and I crossed the finish line in 3hrs 26 mins which for a 25k is pretty poor, but for a technical 35-40k isn't too bad for someone like me :)

The picture below has been posted on the event website today. I hate pictures of myself doing anything sporty, and this one is no different but given that no other images of me or my lovely bike at this event are available then I'm just going to put it out there! This was just before the point I realised I was way off course, so I was tired but still enjoying myself!  

I'd highly recommend this event and I may even enter the 50k next year ;)

Monday, 3 June 2013

Doing the dirty on my running shoes

I just realised it's been well over a week since I last blogged. I have to admit that my running has been pretty limited during that time, but I'm happy to say it's not cause I've been sitting on my arse it's simply because of my new love affair...with my mountain bike!

In the words of Depeche Mode..I just can't get enough! I've emmersed myself in mtb'ing and am loving every minute of it. Attending several events in the Tweedlove festival certainly helped feed my addiction. Although I didnt actually ride myself Ruby did, and being around so many enthusiasts made me want to get out and ride even more.

Yesterday I decided to head out and explore some of the local trails that I'd heard about but never  ridden, and I wasn't disappointed. I spent 4 glorious hours in the sunshine (well mostly in the shade of the woods, but it was still warm and sunny!). I could have stayed out all day but decided my family might miss me so settled for 25 miles. On Saturday I'm doing the Selkirk mtb marathon. I'm only riding the 25km course but I'm really looking forward to it, especially as I know the course organiser and he certainly knows a good trail!

I will go out running soon. I feel like I want to and I miss it, but there's just not enough time to do everything.  Meanwhile here are some images from yesterday...

Friday, 24 May 2013

Missing satellites

Earlier today Nethy and I went to Butterdean Wood to do a recce of routes for Trailblazer's kids club next Friday. It's still pretty dry in there, which is always a miracle in Butterdean! The addition of a dog poo bin at the car park also means that there is hardly any crap on the paths which makes a huge difference. Why they didn't do it sooner I have no idea. We used to have to take our crap home in a bag in the van, not pleasant!

Driving home from Edinburgh this evening the sky was so blue that I decided I needed to go for a wee run before settling on the sofa for the night. My running mojo still isn't at full capacity but tonight certainly helped boost it. I only did a 5 mile loop but I felt like I was running fast and strong. Trouble is I have no way to prove it as my Garmin failed to find a satellite for most of the run! Come on! There must be satellites above Haddington! Surely?! And why is it that on the occasions where you are satellite-less or you forget to put your watch on you feel like a super hero? That can't be a coincidence. Maybe I should just leave my Garmin at home all the time!

My body is suffering from the HIIT workout I did the other night, and although it didn't affect my running I suspect that tomorrow morning I might struggle to get my old bones out of bed! Ho hum.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Lazy bloggers recap of the week!

I haven't run much since I did my 17 miles last Sunday. Mostly it's been due to lack of time, but also  didn't feel like I wanted to. My legs were fine and I didn't feel too tired but I just didn't feel I wanted to go out. I did hoof it out on my bike though with a bit of mountain biking on some local trails and the regular road ride on Thursday night.

At the weekend I was stuck indoors (not a bad thing on Saturday given the horrendous weather) doing a '12 hour wilderness first aid course' in Dunbar. I need this so I can complete my Trail Cycle Leader qualification. It was really good actually and I finally feel the info I'd learned at previous first aid courses has really sunk in now. One complaint would be the amount of gorey videos and photos! I only became squeamish when I had Ruby, and I had to close my eyes several times during the course. Obviously I'd not do that if faced with a real life degloving (when the skin on your fingers is peeled off exposing the bone, due to a ring being caught on something) or a compound fracture (when the bone pokes out through the skin!) EEK!

We finished early on Sunday so I drove into Edinburgh to meet Matt and Ruby at the Meadows for the start of the Pedal on Parliament. Due to Matt's injury they'd got the bus into town but I brought my bike and Ruby's and we had the pleasure of riding with several thousand other cyclists along George IV Bridge and then down the High Street to the Parliament. We met up with lots of old friends from the Edinburgh Road Club and listened to Graeme Obree and other speakers talk about their passion for cycling. It was actually quite emotional and I felt very privileged to have been part of it.

This week I've been out running twice. Nethy and I headed out on our Longniddry Railway path/Letham loop on Monday after dinner. It was like pea soup! Warm and foggy and very little air. I really struggled to get breath into my lungs and Nethy was foaming at the mouth! It wasn't my finest hour, but it was good to be out on my hooves again. Just under 6 miles in the end.

Yesterday Ruby had a day off so we went to Saughton skate park. It was brilliant and I wished I could have gone on with her, but I don't do anything that well and I would have looked like a big jessy so I just watched. I'm learning to skate so one day I'll shred it up with her! :)

We'd stopped at Decathlon earlier in the day and I bought Ruby some running tights and a tshirt so when we got home we harnessed up the dog and headed over to the park near our house. Ruby is really fit but struggled to run the full distance so we did a combination of walking and jogging. When she got bored I decided to use the time to do some hill reps. It's hardly a steep hill, more an incline but I did about 10 reps with only a jog back down as recovery. It was better than nothing and I'm looking forward to going out with Ruby again and seeing her doing the full route without stopping.

Tonight was bmx club and it was raining again when we got back so I did a HIIT workout in the lounge. It's been a while since I did one and I found it tough. It's disappointing to have lost so much strength since I gave up boxing and I've decided I need to get back into it. I feel fit enough but my back's been getting sore a lot and I think it's my core being neglected that's causing it. I guess there's just not enough time to do everything so I might need to work out a plan...double EEK!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Upping the miles

I wanted to crack 20 miles today so I'd planned out a run from Haddington to North berwick via Longniddry, Aberlady and Gullane. My idea was to do the run and then to catch the end of the novice triathlon as I know some people who were doing it.

When I realised my only options to get home from North Berwick were to wait for a bus (dodgy at the best of times but almost non existent on a Sunday!) or to run back I threw a mini hissy fit. Normally my lovely husband would have picked me up but he happened to fracture his collar bone on Thursday after crashing into a punter on a bike (very strong distinction between a 'cyclist' and a 'punter' IMO) so he is out of action as far as driving is concerned.

By 10.30 I still hadn't come up with a good alternative route and was ready to take my running gear off and forget the whole thing but luckily my broken husband came up with an to Danskine Loch and back. At first I rebelled as I don't really like out and back runs but as I looked at the map I realised I would be running almost 98% on trails and very nice trails at that. So it was settled!

Nethy and I set off and at first I thought I was underdressed as the cold wind ripped into us as we ran towards the river. I always overdress though so I resisted the urge to stop in mile 1 and put on my jacket and this proved to be a good decision. As I ran along Grants Brae on a lovely little bit of trail I saw 2 women up ahead of me who were going out of their way to avoid the trail and instead were running on the road. They had to stop several times as cars whizzed past and it made me wonder what was going on in their heads. I know some people prefer road running but why would you risk being run over when there's a really nice trail right next to you?! Needless to say I didn't stop to ask!

Running on the trail from Bolton to Gifford was a real treat as it's normally a mud bath and today it was bone dry. I'm getting used to dry trails and hate the idea that at any moment the rains will come and everything will turn to shit again :(

We had to run for a bit on road into Gifford and then into the Yester Estate. I've never ventured in here before because I get a bit worried about roaming through Estates. I am a bit fan of the Access Code and I'm always quoting it to people who dare to tell me I'm not supposed to be somewhere, but obviously there are rules when it comes to houses and the people who live in big houses can often be very aggresive if you get too close. I've experienced it before at Gosford and it kind of upset me. The fact that there are signs at the gate saying Private Property and Strictly No Dogs says a lot and it put me on edge straight away. Luckily the surroundings were so stunning that I managed to relax until I came within sight of the big house and I saw that there were some cars in the driveway. I checked my map but couldn't work out which track to take. Both options looked like they'd take you really close to the house so I ventured onto a dirt trail that rose sharply to our left into the woods. It skirted around the house and I finally chilled and enjoyed the surroundings.

The trail started to get very muddy the closer I got to Danskine. It obvioulsy never dries out and although it was much better than the last time we'd been here walking it was still pretty awful. Thankfully the foliage is so unbelievably green and vivid and the stream that bubbles and falls alongside the trail is so pretty I forgot about the mud. I let Nethy have a swim on this stretch as it's not near any fields so there's no danger of there being any pollutants in the water. As we approached the last stretch of our run - Danskine Loch my watch was showing just over 7 miles so I knew my run back wouldn't take me to 20 miles but it would still be a decent mileage, and trail miles are harder anyway!

A lap of the Loch and a wee stop to refuel then we headed for home. The great thing about trail running is that it looks completely different when you run in the opposite direction! And I guess the great thing about an out and back route is that if you've been running uphill to get to the turning point  you get the pleasure of running downhill to get back home (tough luck if your run takes you downhill for the first leg!)

By the time we approached Haddington we were both feeling very tired and I was soaked through thanks to a combination of drizzle and a leaky hydration pack nozzle. My Garmin was running out of charge too and as I ran into the town I noticed my distance was 16.1 miles and if I ran the normal way home I'd miss out on 17 miles so I started winding my way through some back streets but still as I reached the hose it was only 16.7 so to the bemusement of Nethy I passed the house and did a lap around the block! Unfortunately my Garmin died before it could log the full run which I'm guessing must have been about 17.3 mile! The funny things that Garmins make you do!!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Roots bloody roots

Tonight I didn't feel like driving to Dalkeith for the CaniX run so after dinner I went out for a ride on my mtb. I've been feeling quite ropey today and didn't want to go too far so I decided to head to Butterdean Wood.

I thought I'd try to be a bit more adventurous en route and investigate trails that I'd never been. The first one was a bit of a disaster as I had to lift my bike over a barbed wire fence and then belly crawl under it. I survived this only to scrape my shin on a jaggy tree stump! I wonder what it's like to be a woman who doesn't have skint shins and bruised legs. I guess I'll never know! It would have been worth it had the track been decent but it was unrideable so I cut my losses and climbed over a less jaggy bit of fence back onto a quiet lane.

My next adventure took me into a field and I rode down the very dry and bumpy margin towards a wood. Unfortunately there was no way into the wood so I had to ride on the field margin for about half a mile. It wasn't very glamorous and I was feeling a bit dejected by this time, but I consoled myself in the fact that it's better than being on roads.

More farm tracks ensued as I made my way towards Butterdean. At least these ones were well defined and I felt a certain sense of satisfaction knowing I'd struggled on this section last year when it was super muddy. Finally I reached the wood and in I went. It was utterly deserted which was good as it's mostly frequented by dog walkers who often don't like bikes being on the trails. I remembered the wood being quite rooty but it's totally insane now. There has been so much erosion on the trails that the tree roots are all exposed and this makes for a very interesting ride. I used to hate roots, until I learnt how to navigate them properly and now I actually enjoy them (except when they're wet and slippy!).

Amazingly there were still some vaguely muddy patches in places, a sign of how bad the drainage in Butterdean is. I made my way along the paths to the south of the wood and finally when you can't go any further you turn to the West and here the path gets very narrow and winding. My legs were suffering at this point but I was enjoying the technical trails. There's a brilliant long straight that's got crazy roots running across it and I had a great time riding that bit. By this time the sun was beginning to set and it was shining like laser beams through the trees. I was tired but had a big grin on my face by the time I reached the car park marking the end of my loop.

I retraced my route back towards Haddington, adding in the trail that leads through Letham. It's a lovely path with nothing technical on it so you can get a good speed going through the low hanging trees. I thought how nice it would be to video this bit and decided I might try to find someone who's willing to lend me a Go Pro camera. I'm not a huge fan of these cameras as nearly everyone is wearing them on mountain bike trails now and they can make things a bit dangerous if the rider is looking to give the viewers a thrill, but I think they are good if used carefully and sparingly!

Just made it home in time before the light completely faded which was lucky as I didn't have lights with me. My legs are well and truly shot to hell now but I have 2 rest days coming up so time to let them recover before I subject them to more punishment :)