|And the prize for the best dressed team goes to....|
Oh the irony. After running day after day in the Himalayas, sleeping in freezing cold mountain huts, eating rice and suffering from the usual list of physical ailments caused by running long distances in mountains at altitude as well as the inevitable bout of “Delhi Belly” I felt better and more alive and healthier than I ever have in my life. After a festive break spent sitting around doing very little other than shovelling in rich food and drink I felt as lethargic and depressed as I ever imagined I could.
There’s a lesson there. And an eye opener – If the lectures by Dr Andrew Murray and the seemingly endless flow of news reports and government statistics on the health of the nation are to be believed, sitting around watching TV and shovelling food and drink in is how the general population spend their leisure time. So Shock! Horror! Despair! I had become a statistic - fat, lazy, inactive and depressed.
After that you would think I would have been itching to get going again but it didn’t seem to be so. The feeling of lethargy was compounded by resentment as circumstances had conspired to mean the festive break was an opportunity lost to get in a decent level of training, after all I had all day for the duration of that week didn’t I?. But the best laid plans of mice and men….and trotters….. I was feeling decidedly miserable and unmotivated. I thought that the Himalayan race would have given me something to build on but instead I had lost all my fitness, and after all the work I had put in it was bitterly disappointing. My beautiful new mountaineering boots lay untouched and unused in their box and to make matters worse the inactivity, and no doubt the alcohol, had caused us both to become argumentative and tetchy – aaah... the festive time of year at its best….
Oh heck! This is beginning to sound like one of those “my life is so hard and crap” postings that frequently pollute facebook and that take all my self restraint not to reply too. But yes, for quite I while I was wallowing in a very deep bath of self pity.
Time to snap out of it and try to get back to doing the things I love most so Scolty Hill was tackled on a few occasions as was a slow lurgy ridden attempt at leg 2 of the Devils Burdens relay as a means of getting my running mo-jo back. It was a probably a case of too little too late as the annual Lynx Pack pilgrimage to the Inverness half marathon loomed on the not-so-distant horizon but come race weekend any pre-race apprehension and negativity was dispelled by fantastic pre-race socialising with entertaining friends at John’s sister Joannie’s house and I would even go as far as to say I felt pretty cheerful as I toed the start line. As always the weather was the hot topic of conversation especially as the Saturday was grey wet and windy but race day dawned fine and bright and clear. It didn’t last, 10 miles into the race the heavens opened and by the end of the race many runners were looking decidedly chilled.
|Team Lynx Pack|
|The Guinness Cake - it was St Patricks day after all|
|Now which one should i have first?|
|John asks for a wee top up for his hip flask|
|And the strangest injury of the weekend was caused by...|
Bert wasn’t running due to injury and had positioned himself on the opening straight of the race to get some photos of team Lynx pack in action – then failed to spot any of us. The frantic look on his face as he desperately tried to spot 5 runners out of the 2000 or so running straight at him kept me chuckling for the first couple of miles.
I sidled up to Mike on the start line thinking that if I could just stick with him I would have a good run but we lost sight of each other within the first mile and I spent the first half of the race convincing myself that he was behind me and catching up and the second half of the race thinking that perhaps he’d got past without me noticing and had scampered away. I enjoyed the course as I always do at Inverness and the conditions weren’t too bad really although it was a bit of a plod and I started to tie up at 7 miles so it was a case of keep working to the finish. All of team Lynx Pack successfully finished although John was complaining of a sore calf muscle.
|The MacPherson Dream Team|
|Geoff ran a pb|
|John looking focused and determined|
|Me looking like a drowned rat|
|The best butternut squash soup ever!|
I pondered this concept of luxury and relaxation during the following week. I have long ago realised that my idea of fun and luxury and relaxation are well off the mark of most peoples and I really don’t think I was designed for “normal life”. The race at Newtonmore the following week just reinforced that to me. A 10 mile race in the snow and ice followed by tea and cakes and beer and socialising with friends in a nice warm pub – bliss!. Particularly when followed by a lovely comfy soft warm bed in a lovely hotel with a chilled out and welcoming staff and a chilled out and welcoming bar.
Again the weather was THE big topic of conversation. This time last year we were sat outside in shirt sleeves but this year the roads were blocked due to snow although the police were opening and closing the roads intermittently during the night most people seemed to make it to the race and Geoff and Ali bravely stuck to their guns and went ahead and held the race when they could have easily taken the wimpy option and cancelled it.
|Nice spring time weather...|
Predictably the pre-race chat was mainly about the weather and the all important clothing strategy. Some went for the “less is more” tactic and wore vest and shorts but as far as I was concerned “more is more” and I went for a layered approach. Lots of them. Fortunately the temperature must have been high enough for the lying snow not to have frozen over night making underfoot conditions slushy rather than slidey and so trainers were the ideal footwear. Just as well, as I really didn’t fancy running the 10 miles in fell shoes.
|I dont remember it being THAT snowy! (C Innes Sloss)|
|The race route (C Innes Sloss)|
|The warm up. It was needed.|
The first two or three miles were a little unpleasant mainly because of the biting wind blowing straight in the runners faces and because I really struggled to get my hands to warm up and they were quite painfully cold for about 20 minutes or so. When they did warm up I was able to relax into the race and started to take more of an interest in the competition than I had done the previous week in Inverness. I was 4th at the half way mark but lifted the pace sufficiently to drag myself into 2nd. I must have been concentrating as I failed to spot Innes shouting encouragement and taking photos at the side of the road, although to be fair he was dressed for an ascent of Everest and it was hard to discern who it was hiding under the hood. (Innes so far has the distinction of being the only Lynx pack member who can take a decent race photo!)
|Ivor (C Innes Sloss)|
|Innes. Self portrait.|
The post race tea and cakes were as good as ever, just what is needed after a race and there seemed to be a few trotter prizes won as well as the usual extensive selection of spot prizes. I think the trottettes placed second team behind Perth with myself, Jess, Carrie, Becky and Cath making up the team. Simon seemed to be under the misapprehension that this was a purely a cake eating competition and managed to miss the race but miraculously appear just in time for the cakes.
|Lovely matching winter woolies.|
Numbers at the beer festival in Newtonmore were boosted by HBT having a training weekend there organised by Murray Strain in conjunction with his birthday. The beer festival was a great opportunity to introduce lager drinkers Geoff and Mike to the joys of real ale which was a lost cause despite there being 3 different, and very lovely, real ales on offer to sample. Bert, on the other hand seems quite able to appreciate any form of alcoholic beverage – preferably in substantial quantities, and goodness knows how much Simon had “sampled” by the time I had got there. Probably the same amount as Robin who was receiving “the look” from Cath, no doubt related to some beer fuelled misdemeanour…
|Geoff isn't sure about that one.|
|Mike isn't sure about ANY of them (while Bert polishes off the left overs)|
|Meanwhile YP and Carrie are very sure about the beer. Top Trotters!|
|and Ivor particularly likes that one...|
The hangover mile on the Sunday morning was a sobering experience….and I do mean this literally as many of us were over qualified to take part but it is short, brutal and sharp and quickly over and, most importantly, it is followed by a big cooked breakfast. Although it wasn’t snowing, it felt even colder than the previous day or maybe that was purely because I had pretty much fallen out of bed on to the start line and my body was in shock.
|It was as much fun as it looks|
|A small but hardy band of runners|
|I wanted to borrow Mikes wooly gloves|
It was John’s turn to sit out the running this weekend due to the injury he had picked up at Inverness the previous week and so he was team photographer for the hangover mile. He failed to take ANY photos at all but managed to record over an hours video footage of kerb stones, lamp posts, walls, tarmac etc... what is it with Lynx pack runners and inability to take race photos?
The afternoon’s entertainment was mountain biking. Plan A had been well and truly knocked on the head by the snow as it was to be an epic 35 mile route into the mountains and, not to put too fine a point on it, I was worried that I might die. As it was I did a pretty good imitation of dying on Plan B which was a considerably shorter route around Rothiemurchas forest. The group of eager cyclists signed up for this outing seemed to decrease directly in proportion to how much it had snowed overnight and how much alcohol had been consumed. There were 3 of us who actually set off.
I was very slow on the descents provoking dark mutterings from Simon about “getting hypothermia waiting for you” but I warmed up nicely on the climbs and in the shelter of the trees. Both Simon and I had invested in some flash expensive new winter cycling kit and so I had nice toasty feet and both of us were amazed how Bert had coped in trainers, although he did concede that he should have maybe “worn 2 pairs of socks”. At a stream crossing Simon and I stood and shook our heads in amazement as Bert peddled straight through the icy water giving himself a thorough soaking....then we delicately picked our way over the footbridge. Aye, there's nowt as strange as folk.
It was beautiful in the forest and in its snowy ghostly silence you could hear every cone drop or branch crack – interspersed with me swearing loudly as I fell off for the umpteenth time. Although at no point had it been bitterly cold the trip to the lovely little warm cafe was a welcome finish to the expedition and felt like luxury (there’s a theme developing here…) and we headed back to Aberdeen with that lovely contented feeling only real relaxation can bring. It had the added bonus of inspiring me to get back training properly, that all was not lost and that it wasn’t too late for me to realise my plans and targets for the coming year (injury permitting) but that I need to be a little bit more focussed and not let silly distractions get in my way and wreck my plans.
|Look how far we cycled!|
Lest you think it always involves cold weather the converse can be true – have you ever submerged yourself in a mountain stream on a baking hot day after a run or a walk? Or sat in the sun on a hebridean beach midway through a cycle ride? Again, luxury...and complete relaxation.
Maybe it’s the case that I can only truly relax when I’ve had the adrenaline rush of a good workout first and made myself properly tired, preferably in the company of like minded friends. Maybe its also something puritantical about having to have done something to deserve relaxation. Anyway, whatever it is all I know the happy and relaxed endorphins don't kick in unless i've pretty well trashed myself with a good work out. Sad, huh?
But, like I say, I’m not cut out for normal everyday life, although from various things I’ve seen doing the rounds on facebook such as the picture below I suspect maybe I’m not the only one.
|C Shamelessly borrowed from facebook|
And as for next years festive period? – You’ll find me up a mountain somewhere!