Sunday, 29 August 2010

Perth in perspective

I’ve been trying to focus on the 24 hour race at Perth but it hasn’t been easy, my running has been fine, thoroughly enjoyed it as always.
I’ll let an email I sent to a good friend I don’t see very often explain.

Hi ?????,

Sorry I've been awfy slow in replying, and awfy sad to hear you and ????? are splitting up especially with being together for such a long time but always look forward with your head up that way you can see all the good stuff ahead.

One reason I've been slow in replying is I got some sad news too, it's my Mum, she has cancer, it was very sudden and a shock.
How long have you got? I'll give you the whole story.

Nearly three years ago an old friend of Mum and Dad's, Crawford, (he and Dad had been pals since school) had emigrated to Australia around 1970 with his family and he came back to Scotland for a last visit and looked up Mum and Dad not knowing Dad had died. But rewind back to the 50's Mum had gone out with Crawford but had split up when he went off to do his National Service.
They got on really well and kept in touch after he went back to Oz, then Sept' 2008 Mum and her brother went out for a holiday and they became a couple. He came over in Jan' 2009 for six months then last August they headed back to Oz for six months, it was quite hard saying bye at the airport, I've never not had my Mum close by and we were always round at hers a couple of times a week but I was happy for her, they were like giggling teenagers together having a lot of laughs, and how many folk do you know in their early seventies having so much fun! But at the beginning of this year, just before they were due to come back Crawford was diagnosed with Leukaemia so Mum had her visa extended, Crawford responded well to treatment and is now in remission and the plan was to come home in August. Mum started to feel not well in May, it was the Monday before the WHW Mum told me it was cancer and they were doing tests on how far it had gone. (So that was one of the reasons I had such an enjoyable WHW, running 95 miles with a wee chest infection was easy compared to the battle facing Mum.)
The results were not good the cancer is in her bones, so treatment is to be prolonging rather than curing. It has been so hard knowing Mum was miles and miles away and I couldn't do anything for her. But after radiotherapy, the first part of her treatment in Oz Pauline went out for less than a week and escorted them home. They've been back just over a week now, Mum looks fine but is very tired, but she's still fighting, laughed at her chasing a cat out of the garden at the weekend, she hates them shitting in her flowerbeds! Not that her garden is looking too good at the minute, but I am being supervised, it won't take too long to get it back to its former glory! I feel so much better having her home and that I can do stuff. She starts chemo next week I think, that's going to be rough. But you know me, I'm a tough dude and I'll do what I can to give my Mum the best care and laughs.

On the racing front... let me think... oh yeah, a big one! It hasn't been at the forefront of my mind but on the day I will do my best. It's at the Perth Ultrafest. The Six Nations 24 hour Championship AND in a Scotland vest next weekend. So if you're at a loose end between 10.00am 4th Sept and 10.00am 5th Sept come along to the Inches with your Saltire and shouty voice, I'll need all the help I can get! Pauline should be running too but has had a few wee problems, after the long flight home she's had a problem with her knee, and is not sure about running, but if she starts she will finish, no half measures.

I'll finish with a wee quote from Rosie Swale Pope - Just a Little Run Around the World (a story of her 5 year run round the world raising awareness for prostate cancer after losing her husband.)

Never miss the chance to be happy.

Fiona xxx

Thinking of my race next week, I will still be giving it my all, if I have to run until the blood seeps though my shoes, or my quads turn to concrete or I spew my guts, there’s nothing new there, this is all stuff I’ve ran with in the past and they haven’t stopped me before and if something new adds to the challenge I’m sure I’ll deal with it. Another quote from Rosie – Yesterdays hardship is today’s anaesthetic.

I will have an intense 24 hours, I will get sore and I will get tired but at the end I’ll get to lie down, sleep and recover, and with that thought it will be easy. I am not disregarding how hard a race of this stature is I’m just comparing it to the battle ahead of my Mum and many others.

I know Mum is proud of me as all Mums are but it’ll do no harm to make her smile even wider. I will be going in fighting not just for my country but for my Mum too. On the outside I’m a wee Fife wife, on the inside I am not just one warrior, I have the strength and heart of a whole legion.

Here’s my song for this years race.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Tour of Fife 2010

This is a cracking series of races taking in road, trail, beach, hill and a short but nosebleed steep uphill time trial (the drive up to the car park at the finish is in second gear!) This was my seventh tour and I love it, it’s the only time I ever start and finish every race as fast as I can go! (Ok, stop rolling around laughing at the thought of me going fast, compared to my usual race pace its blistering!)

Stage One – Teddy Bear 5 mile Road Race
Sunday 25th July
Position 125 Time 41.44mins

An out and back “lollipop” route on road with a teeny wee undulation from Giffordtown. The sun was shining, it was a perfect day for a run. This race had mile markers, I had a quick time check at the first mile, 8.10 oo-er missus! Lesley went past me, I said “So far so good!” One more mile and there goes my delusion of speed, the lead guys had been round the lollipop and were heading back. I concentrated on breathing deep and even, visualising air going in down past my belly button and keeping good posture, at around 3 miles Lesley was walking, I didn’t care that she might still have the Clyde Stride in her legs or that she was clutching her side with a stitch as I ran past I shouted “Four letters! TTFU!” She laughed, there’s no sympathy ever given or accepted between ultra runners. I belted down the little decline pushing on in the sunshine, I didn’t feel too hot just solar powered, muscles lovely and warm. I didn’t lose control of my breathing in the last mile but it was every orifice for its self! Laughed at a photo at the finish, I looked like my Uncle Brian he’s 70! The last time I resembled him it was in a photo taken in the last hour of a 24 hour race!
Uncle Brian

Stage Two – Loopy Loch Trail Race 6.5 miles
Monday 26th July
Position 129 Time 55.31mins - Overall Position 121 Time 1.37.15

Two loops round Loch Ore at Lochore Meadows, I was feeling a bit rough, over celebrated yesterdays first stage, my hangover wasn’t as big as an elephants arse on racing bike but I was still a bit queasy come race time also I must have slept in a crumpled heap last night, I had a crick in my neck which was fine as long as I didn’t look over my shoulder, never do that in a race anyway except at the top of Loch Lomond in the West Highland Way race and there I pause briefly to take in the stunning view down the loch. I set off at a go for it and see what happens pace, if I spew so be it. My stomach settled after a load of burps, Lesley sprinted off never too be seen again. It was a flat loop with a couple of wee undulations, just after halfway in the first loop a couple of guys went past me then seemed to slow down boxing me in, harrumph! I pushed past them and kept up the effort. Just after the start of the second lap the wind had picked up and was right in your face, I tried to tuck in behind the girl in front but she was useless, too skinny, where’s a wide bloke when you want one? I wasn’t struggling but it was a bloody hard effort, I was wondering if I’d overcooked the pace, another thought gave me a wee giggle to myself, it’s quite common for the date to change during my races so how am I meant to know how to pace six and a half miles! So told myself just to keep running like my arse is on fire and I’ll soon be finished.

Stage Three – Lomond Lungbuster Hill Race 4.5miles/697 ft climb
Tuesday 27th July
Position 125 Time 45.42mins Overall Position 117 Time 2.22.57

I was looking forward to this one, a wee bit of a shake up for the road running racing snakes, although the “proper” hill runners dismiss West Lomond as a pimple it’s still a hands on thighs slog on the steep path to the top. It was another lovely night, a wee bit chilly on the way out with a strong wind in our faces, kept a good strong pace on the rough path, I was well chuffed I made it up the incline to the bottom of the hill before the leaders had made the top and descended round the long way back to the path. With my hands on thighs I pushed up to the top, taking a quick glance at the view before heading down, the descent isn’t scary, not for short arses with a low centre of gravity anyway. I worked hard to maintain the pace I picked up on the way back, I even managed a sub 8 min mile with gravity assistance picking up a few places too.

Wednesday 28th July – A rest day but went for a nice easy 40 minutes just to keep the legs ticking over.

Stage Four – Chariots of Fire Beach Race 4-ish miles
Thursday 29th July
Position 129 Time 37.24mins Overall Position 117 Time 3.00.21

West Sands at St. Andrews is a long beach, and feels even longer on the way back although it’s a straight out and back route. First you’re on firm sand then sinky wet sand where footprints at least three or four inches deep, eventually you’re on soft dry sand before turning and heading back, this year it was a wee bit longer than usual to make up for last year being a wee bit shorter! It was a lovely sunny night, the wind wasn’t too strong but I doubt St Andrews is ever calm and, of course, it was behind us on the way out and in our faces on the way back. It was just a slog, pushing hard all the way but feeling like I was going nowhere, I past Lesley having a wee walk on the soft sand, I gave her the usual encouragement “TTFU!” Looking towards the Finish the big Tour of Fife feathers are a teeny weeny dot in the distance that never got any closer. Back on to the firm sand I breathe hard and push hard to the end, I was breathing so hard I didn’t hear Pauline’s warning or Lesley sprint up behind me and take me on the line! We went for a post race paddle but that North Sea is freezing I got an ice-cream headache in my feet and ankles! I was shivering just watching the hard core nutters swimming! The beach race was the hardest so far for me, I didn’t move up any places but that will soon change.

Stage Five – The Up Hell Time Trial 2.25km/754 ft climb
Friday 30th July
Position 114 Time 16.51mins Overall Position 114 Time 3.17.12

This is my favourite, it’s billed as the Alpe d’Huez of the Tour and I love it! It’s short and brutal, just you against the hill and it can psych you out if you let it, I’m sure some of the racing snakes are quaking in their high tech racing flats that weigh about the same as an empty Mars Bar wrapper! Speed isn’t the only requirement, this race favours the carcass haulers and I’ve got medals in that category! After driving up to the car park at the radio masts on East Lomond it takes a good twenty five minutes to walk down to the start. The runners are set off at 30 second intervals and Pauline and I are off first. 5 4 3 2 1 Go! Push, push, push! I’m working on breathing, a good leg turnover and pumping arms finding a rhythm. There’s plenty encouragement from the runners coming down the hill for their race, I can’t look at them; I’m focussing only in the road in front. I loved Mel’s comment “You’re looking smooth!” She might be lying but I take that one with me repeating in my head “Keep smooth!” (Mel had also brought face paint, “Yeah, I’ll have some warrior stripes!”) At around a third of the way up a young lad is playing Highland Cathedral on the pipes, I take the inspiration and breathe. Half way, is that all? I’ve been running in the red zone since the start, its short I can do it! Push, push, push. I look up to where the ground meets the sky, my lungs and legs are screaming at me. Push, push, push! I know the horizon is not the finish. There’s another cruel crank in gradient. My lower back joins in the screaming match. “Shut up and shift!” My body doesn’t shut up but it doesn’t slow down either. Push, push, push all the way to the line.

I have a wee cough, a wee boak and try to get my lungs back in my chest. No time to waste recovering, Pauline’s at the car and getting ready, I join her putting on some warm clothes with a King of the Mountains top on over my fleece, Pauline wears a green sprinters jersey and gives Lesley the yellow leaders jersey and I also have a Saltire pinned to my shoulders and wear a devilish fleece hat. We get armed, my weapons of choice, a pot, a wooden spoon and a whistle. A wee thought crosses my mind, if anyone hasn’t seen a mountain stage of the Tour de France they’ll wonder what the hell is going on! We make as much noise as possible with shouts of “ALLEZ, ALLEZ, ALLEZ!” in between whistle blows, drowning out the screams of the other runners bodies so they can push on to the finish. The Devil gave his all to “inspire” as well. I did pick up a few places too, there was no doubt in my mind that I would.

Stage Six – The Twisted Chicken Run 5½-ish miles
Saturday 31st July
Position 116 Time 51.21mins Overall Position 110 Time 4.08.33

The last day, a bit sad there won’t be another stage tomorrow I’m getting the hang of running like my arse is on fire and as other runners were starting to feel fatigue my endurance was kicking in I’m sure I would’ve picked up some more places if the race continued for a few more days, but I was also a wee bit relieved that I don’t have to run like my arse is on fire again until the next Tour. A lot of fun was to had too with the feeling of “last day of term” I had fairly enjoyed my flounce over Conic Hill in a tutu during the Highland Fling relay and Pauline had seen some fluorescent green tutus in a the fancy dress shop in Dunfermline so I bought a couple for us and some bright orange ribbon, made and sewed on some bows, I showed them to the girls at the beginning of the Tour and wondered if any of them wanted to join us in a bit of fun on the last day. So seven tutus and fourteen metres of orange ribbon sewed into sixty three bows later, (no one can say I don’t take my job of club clothing secretary seriously) we were ready for the last race. The route for today was a mystery until we saw a map in the hall at Strathmiglo. Similar to last years Chicken run but with the added fun of bits of leg four in the Devils Burden Relay, loads of up hill (those with gizmos said there was more climbing than the Time Trial!) but this time we got to go weeeee all the way back down before heading into the wind on the long path past the chickens. Sweat was trickling down my face, a fly stuck to my cheek, I swatted it away, oh no, I’ve smeared my warrior stripes! I was along side Bob Thornton, what a gent, he told me to tuck in behind, I hung on to him until the right turn and last climb. (Bob is one of just three who has run every stage of every Tour.) Then a final descent down the side of the field and a sprint finish to be rewarded with a Fife AC famous cake fest.
Another brilliant Tour with the tough races, lots of banter and camaraderie you only find amongst like minded crazy runners. Big thanks to Brian and all his helpers, he’s got a year now to work out the devilish escapades for next year and I know I won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to, Pete, Gillian and facebook friends for the photos.