Saturday, October 24, 2009

Race Report: Paisley 10k

Hey look, my blog is still here! Flips on the light and peers around. Alright, who wrote "clean me" in the dust on my monitor?

Seeing as I have another race tomorrow, I figured I'd better get moving and actually finish my race report from my last race, almost two months ago now.

Right. August 30th I ran my fourth 10k race in Paisley. It was also my best 10k race! I ran it in under 1 hour 17 minutes, beating my previously best time from a year ago in the Great Scottish Run by 39 seconds. Woot!

I had several goals for the race, and I'm happy to say I met most of them.

  • Goal 1: I was not last! Ok, given that there were over 1000 runners, this wasn't likely, but you never know. As it turns out, 65 people were slower than me. Knocked that goal out of the park.
  • Goal 2: Yep, I beat my times from the Great Edinburgh Run and the Great North 10k!
  • Goal 3 (unstated): Set a PR -- Check! My best 10k time before this was 1.17 something in the Great Scottish Run in September last year. That also happened to be my first 10k, but that's neither here nor there.
  • Goal 4 (unstated): Finish in under 1:15. Nope, didn't happen. This was a long shot, but it's a goal that is within reach. I think. Eventually.

The race itself was fun and well organized. Highlights of the race were running through St. Mirren Stadium and along the Paisley canal towpath. The only downside was this one pair of runner-walkers. As I was running the whole thing (woot!), we kept passing each other. Unfortunately, these two were conversing nearly the whole time and completely oblivious of others who might be around them. Just the two of them somehow managed to run/walk such that they often were taking up most of the path. And once, they even ran past me, immediately crossed right over in front of me, and then dropped to a walk, nearly causing me to plow into them. Argh!

However, aside from those two, it was a great race!

As to Paisley itself, well, it's basically a suburb of Glasgow. It wasn't always that way. At one time it was a textile powerhouse. They had several statues and monuments dedicated to various dead guys named Coats. By the way, if you sew, this is the same Coats associated with the thread company.

I got there late enough in the day on Saturday that I didn't get a chance to see anything of the town. But I did take some time on Sunday after the race to walk around and see some of Paisley. Here are a few pictures that I took.

Paisley Town Hall
Paisley Abbey
Public Torture Device on display at the Paisley Museum

My next race is tomorrow, the Jedburgh 10k. Given how I've been currently running, I don't think the under 1.15 time is in my legs just quite yet. But who knows, maybe the fall leaves will inspire me and I'll surprise myself!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I survived The Coffin Route diversion

Warning: This post contains a heck of a lot of whining.

I'm writing this post from my room at the Kames Hotel, near Tighnabruaich, on the Cowal Penninsula in Argyll. A hotel which has three small bar rooms in the floor below. Joy.

What am I doing here? Well, this is my big walking weekend at Cowalfest, the Cowal Walking and Arts festival! More about the walking festival in another post. This post is reserved for complaining.

The walk I'd signed up for today was The Coffin Route. In the festival program(me), the was is described as follows:
Imagine you are a pall bearer carrying a coffin. From Glenkin we take the Coffin Route over the saddle to the graveyard at Inverchaolin church and explore the history of the area. Forest roads and some rough open ground at maximum hight of 400m.

I admit that I was a bit nervous about this walk because it was rated as an E on a scale from A to E with E being the most strenuous. But I was looking for something a bit more challenging, and this seemed the best possibility for Saturday. And it didn't look impossible. "Some rough open ground at maximum high of 400m" seemed doable.

Well perhaps it would have been doable. The only problem was that thanks to some folks who wanted to go shooting, we had to divert from the usual route (which would have taken us within range of the shooters) to higher, rougher ground. A lot higher and a lot more rough ground. It's funny. Those hills seem so nice and smooth looking at them from far below. You'd never know that they were full of ankle-twisting ground, knee-high grasses and bracken, and moss so deep and spongy it swallows your whole boot when you step on it. I fell several times, and I'm still amazed that I didn't break an ankle.

Oh, and that first time I fell -- yeah, that's whem I'm pretty sure I lost my camera. (And trust me, there was NO POSSIBLE way I could have gone back to try to find it. I could have dropped it 5 feet away, and I probably couldn't have found it. Such was the terrain. It's what they call heather moorland.)

I lost my camera!!!

I'm really upset about this, in part, because it was my camera. My parents gave it to me. But what I'm really, really upset about is losing my pictures of this somewhat horrible day. Plus, in theory I have one more walk tomorrow, and I won't have my camera for that walk either! (Ok, I did stop to buy a disposable camera on my way out of Dunoon, but it's not the same.)

Sigh. In spite of the struggling through bracken and twisted ankles, the scenery both macro and micro was beautiful. I was trying so very hard to capture as much as I could so that I could remember and share. Even the darn twisty grasses and mosses of the moorland were beautiful. Golds and greens and even some reds. The heather was mostly done blooming, but here and there a few small, purple buds were mixed in to add little dots of color. The top of the hill was in clouds, which made for chilly walking, but also whispy views. Argh!!!! I want the pictures on my camera!!!

I guess, it kind of feels like I did that walk all for nothing. Just about every muscle in my legs is aching. I am grouchy and tired. I really wish I had stayed in Dunoon for another night or two rather than comming out to the other side of the penninsula. Because the buses don't run on Sunday and now I'm basically stuck here until Monday. Whine, whine, whine.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to go on one more walk, but I don't know. As I said, my legs hurt, and I'm really feeling like wallowing in my misery. I think I'm going to leave it to fate. Will I wake up in time, or won't I?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What have I been up to?

When last I posted, I was off to Paisley for the Paisley 10k. Given that was 3 weeks ago, you might be thinking that off to Paisley is a euphemism for goes off never to be heard from again. Or not, considering that most people who read this are likely friends and family who know very well that I was off having a lovely vacation back home with family in Ohio, with excursions to visit friends near Niagara Falls and Pittsburgh.

So although you wouldn't know it by my blog, I've actually been up to quite a bit over the past three weeks, and I have lots to blog about. And quite a bit of stuff upcoming as well over the next month or so. So watch this space for my Paisley Race report, pictures of Niagara Falls, McConnell's Mill State Park, Loch Leven and Lochleven Castle, and Muckhart, where alas, I forgot talk like a pirate.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Off to Paisley

That sounds like a euphemism for something, but tomorrow I really will be off to Paisley. As in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. And yes, it was once a textile powerhouse, from which the paisley design takes it's name.

This particular Paisley is over on the west side of Scotland right by Glasgow. They're having a 10k race on Sunday that I'll be running in. It's only about an hour and a half away, but with Sunday morning public transport being what it is, it's not possible to get there in time for the race. So, I'll be taking the train there tomorrow and spending the night. And hopefully seeing a few things in the afternoon, if I get there in time and am in the mood.

I hear there's an Abbey.

Anywho, the 10k race. I have high hopes that it will be better than my last two 10k races. After all, I haven't been sick recently, nor have I walked up any big hills since last weekend. And it's supposed to be flat. Still my actual goals for the race are pretty modest:

Goal 1: Don't be last. I'm actually not kidding. This is going to be a much smaller race than either the Great Edinburgh Run or the Great North 10k in Sunderland, and I'm still pretty darn slow. Not that there's anything wrong with being last, but I've already been last in a race. There were only about 40 people in that race, but still. I've had my turn.

Goal 2: Beat my times from the Great Edinburgh Run and the Great North 10k. Seriously, if I just run the whole race for a change, this should be possible.

I've got a couple other goals with respect to finishing time, one of which is possible and one of which is likely not in the legs yet. But who knows, maybe I'll surprise myself!

So, off to Paisley tomorrow. That still sounds like a euphemism for something.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hill Work Saturday

Today was the day for hills! It was also the nicest day we've had for about two weeks. It hasn't rained (yet), and we actually have had sunshine and blue skies!


This morning, I ran the Horrible Hill Route. Just like last week, I was able to run all the way up the hills, although I had to drop down to a walk at the top of the Horrible Hill to get a handle on the gasping and wheezing. But I didn't stop! That might be a first. And I shaved about a minute off my time from last week. Woohoo!

But that is not all! I also spent a couple hours rambling up and around Arthur's Seat. It's a regular walking club walk, but I somehow found myself running just a bit late, and then I had the worst bus karma, and then I had to stop at the loo and there was a queue. Yes a queue for the loo. In short, I was about 20 minutes late. But this weather was not to be missed, so I started rambling around on my own on some of the less well traveled paths, and lo and behold I actually ran into the group from the walking club about an hour later. Woot!

A bit more walking, a pint of cider, and a small ice cream (dipped in Belgium chocolate) later, and I am back home, writing this. Unfortunately, in my rush I forgot my camera, so I shall leave you with this picture taken back in July, when I walked up Arthur's Seat with Little Sis. The picture is looking down the back of Arthur's Seat toward Dunsapie Loch.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Aberdour Castle and Modern Scottish Wedding Attire

After my walk on Saturday, I decided that I still had enough time and leg strength left to go see Aberdour Castle.

It's pretty old, a bit of a fixer-upper really.

Although the doocot is still is pretty good shape, should you be in need of a source of protein and open to the idea of raising doves and pigeons.

Much to my surprise, they were in the midst of a wedding at the castle. I was told to just ignore the wedding party in the terraced gardens.

I can see why you might want to get married in a castle. It's very romantic after all, and you can send any kiddies off to explore the ruins. Part of the castle even still has a roof, where the ceremony can be held. And the gardens are pretty.

But then you get people like me, who insist on sneaking around the ruins taking paparazzi-like pictures of the ladies in funny hats.

And the men in kilts.

I'm ashamed really. Sneaking around a castle to take pictures of men-in-kilts and then posting these pictures of strangers, who didn't give me permission, on my blog. Ashamed. I'm sure Karma will make me answer for this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I came very close to running the whole Horrible Hill route tonight. I ended up averaging only about a 13 min/mile pace, but I'm just going to roll with it and be happy. I think my idea of walking up hills as a form of cross training might actually be paying off.

The question is, can I do it again? Check back next week for the answer to that scintilating question.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Walkabout Scotland: Kirkcaldy to Aberdour

As previously mentioned, on Saturday I conquered went for a really long walk up in Fife. With a bunch of strangers. Fife is fairly close to Edinburgh, being just across the Firth of Forth to the north. The 9-mile walk was part of the Fife Outdoor Access Festival and led by some folks from the Kirkcaldy Ramblers.

It was a very enjoyable day, and I had a fun time chatting and meeting the people on the walk. I have to say, though, going on these walks is not necessarily the way to meet guys my age, if that were my goal (which it is not). I was easily the youngest person on this walk by 15 20 years.

Anywho. The walk started at Seafield near Kirkcaldy (Kur-caw-dee) and ended in Aberdour (Abber-dower). The beginning and end of the walk was spent along the Fife Coastal Path. For the middle bit, we detoured inland at Kinghorn to the Fife Ecology Center, where we stopped for lunch, and then onto Binn Hill above Burntisland for some terrific views.

If you like maps and/or care where I actually walked, here's the approximate route. If you're only here for the pictures, skip below. It was a beautiful day, and there was some beautiful scenery to view along the way.

View out over the Firth of Forth near the start of the walk. Far, far in the distance on the very left you can see Berwick Law.

Seafield Tower, dating from the early 16th century.

Seals! No really, there are seals out on the rocks! Click the picture to make it bigger.

Thistles gone to seed. I really like thistles, especially when they are all fluffy and soft like this. I think the ones that are gone to seed but not yet fluffed out look like they could be used as paintbrushes.

Daisies. Yes, I like flowers. You will just have to put up with it, just like the other folks on the walk did.

I think this is a cormorant out on the rock. I'm also thinking I need a pair of binoculars.

Cool tree!

Just a picture from along the Fife Coastal Path. Far in the distance you can see the Pentland Hills. And on the very far left, you can see Arthur's Seat (the saddle-shaped hill).

Pretty, pretty flowers. Anyone know what kind they are? I think this is my favorite picture of the day.

Boats along the beach in Kinghorn.

View from the beach in Kinghorn.

Kinghorn Loch.

Lunchtime view at the Ecology Center.

Thistles on the hill.

View from Binn Hill.

View from Binn Hill, looking south toward Edinburgh and Arthur's Seat.

Looking east towards the Forth Rail Bridge.

Looking back toward Binn Hill.

An unexpected waterfall along the Fife Coastal path, heading toward Aberdour.

The end of the walk for me, Aberdour Station, the absolute cutest, railway station I've ever encountered, almost crossing the border into twee. It apparently has won awards.

Next post: Aberdour Castle and Modern Scottish Wedding Attire!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I conquered Fife!

Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. Unless you define conquer as walking 9 miles from Kirkcaldy (pronounced Kur-caw-dee) to Aberdour (pronounced Abber-dower). And because my legs hadn't yet fallen off, I decided to spend another hour or so rambling around Aberdour and Aberdour Castle. Because who knows when I'll get back to Aberdour.

For the record, my legs do now feel like they could fall off.

Aberdour Castle was fairly small, and the price to get in seemed a bit steep for what you get. But what made it worthwhile was the wedding they were having there! The wedding was in pre-reception mode, a.k.a. drinks out on the terraced gardens. So I entertained myself mocking in my head the hats some of the ladies were wearing. (Oh to have had my little sis there to mock the hats with!) And taking stealth pictures from inside the castle ruins of the crazy hats and the men-in-kilts. Heh, heh, heh.

Pictures to come of both the walk and the crazy hats!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Autumn of 10k Races

I haven't blogged yet about the Bupa Great North 10k that I ran with my sister last month. While it was a lot of fun to run a race with Little Sis (who did terrific, by the way), my actual race was extremely meh. As with the Great Edinburgh Run, waaay too much walking had me finishing in 1:20. Gah!

I'd like to blame my performance on walking/climbing up Berwick Law two days earlier. About halfway through, my legs just decided they were done, which has never happened to me before. I tried arguing with them, but nope. Done.

So I've decided to make it my mission this fall to improve my 10k time, and in the process to build a really solid running base for a change. My goal: to run a 10k in under 1:15, shooting for a lightning-fast 12 min/mile pace.

Stop laughing, speed is relative.

There are a few 10k races happening within a couple hours away over the next several months. I've already signed up for the Paisley 10k at the end of August. I'm also looking at the Linlithgow 10k and the Jedburgh 10k in September and October.

Oh, and needless to say, I'm giving up on the idea of a half marathon for now. Maybe next year, after I finally have that solid running base.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pet Sitting, WooHoo!!

Yep, for the next week, I will be walking Crosby the dog, petting Mango and Connor the cats, and playing with two tiger-striped kittens!!! I'm just a tad excited, in case you can't tell. Really, I feel like I should be paying my friends for the pet therapy.



Mango (a.k.a., Momma Kitty)

And the Kittens!!

The kittens are two months old and out of the box, which means they can run away from me. :( But I'm sure by the end of my week I will win them over, so that I can hug them and squeeze them and name them both George.

Oh, and the grey kitten in the picture. Already left to her new home. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Williamcraigs Wander

On Sunday, I went on a walking club walk starting from the nearby town of Linlithgow. The walk was a really nice one, perfect for a Sunday afternoon. The weather even decided to cooperate. And I got to pet a few dogs who were along for the walk!

Linlithgow, by the way, was the location of the first petrol pump in Scotland.

The walk started and ended along the Union Canal towpath.

Yes, this is the same Union Canal that runs about 5 minutes walk from my flat. In theory, if I wanted to go for a reeeaally long walk, I could walk all the way to Linlithgow along the canal towpath.

After a mile or two, we ventured off the towpath to loop up along some country lanes. I saw a bunny as well as some not-so-wild life.

This guy was the most curious cow that I've ever met. Not that I've met that many, but still. He was very intrigued by us, or maybe it was the dogs. Once we passed him, he ran up ahead along the fence until he could see us again. He did this three times, until he couldn't follow us any farther!

There were also some very pretty views of the Ochil Hills to the north.

After a while, we met back up with the towpath and made our way back to Linlithgow, stopping in a small park for a nice view over the town. The building in this picture with the pointy-roof tower is Linlithgow Palace.

Back in Linlithgow, we passed an old doocot, known as a dovecote in places other than Scotland. This one is from the 16th century, and yes it was once used to raise pigeons and doves. You know, for food.

I've been wanting to go to Linlithgow for a while, and this walk gave only the smallest taste. Definitely must make plans to go back and explore the rest of the town. I have my eye on a 10k race there toward the end of September as well. We shall see.