A Place Above the Clouds

January passed almost silently, and then there came a big shock. I’ve had my head down dealing with it all, and then before I even noticed, the middle of February came and went as well.

At the start of January I set out to get my year’s training off to a good start by heading up a reasonable sized hill every weekend. I finished with a hill in hand, although I’d repeated one too so really I’d call that all even.

The day before my beautiful greyhound Ronnie had his accident, I’d been up Dumgoyne – one of my local hills. It’s the very distinctive lump at the western end of the Campsie Fells just north of Glasgow. There are a few routes up and round it, with a notoriously steep track that goes straight up the middle.

I’d chosen one of my favourite running routes that day, taking the pipe track from Blanefield out to Killearn and then coming back along the West Highland Way. I added a steep stomp up Dumgoyne to collect the required weekend hill.

The mist was dense around the pipe track, but it was clearing higher up above me and in places there was a bit of blue sky peeking through. The strange Victorian waterworks emerged from the fog as I ran past them and it was eerily silent.


I set off up Dumgoyne, taking the slightly less steep side path. The ground was frozen solid in places but with patches of very sticky, slidy mud.

I almost came back down without going all the way up. My normal shoes were wrecked so I’d worn another pair that were good on grass and trails, but hopeless on mud. I lost a lot of confidence in my feet after the fall in Austria a couple of years back, and although better now, I’m still building it back up.

The reason I carried on, apart from the obvious draw of the summit, was that I suspected it would be clear on the top. I could see more of the sun as I went higher although the mist was still thick in places. Finally I was past the steepest part of the climb up and I began to make my way along the narrow path across the face and then up to the top.

As I plodded, something caught my attention to my left. I was astonished to see my first Brocken spectre – a slightly creepy trick of the light that happens on foggy days when the sun can cut through the mist.

There I was, or rather my shadow was, bathed in white light and a rainbow halo. I shivered a little bit, and choked down a couple of tears. Just in that brief moment, despite the thrill of what I was seeing, I felt desperately sad to be out on my own with no one to share the moment with. It passed, and I headed onwards to the summit.


Soon the mist was level with my knees, then far below me. As well as the Brocken spectre, I had finally bagged my first cloud inversion too. The sun was bright, I was high above the clouds now and I could see over to various other mountain summits poking out.

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There were a few other people at the top enjoying the experience, and we shared laughter and our wonder at the whole thing. After a while I headed back down, slightly fearfully and therefore extremely carefully. I made it safely back to the path dodging small boys who were enjoying hurling themselves down the muddy slopes, and I continued with my run.

The next day, I had gone to visit my parents in Dunoon with my dogs.

Ronnie broke his leg chasing after young whippets in my parents’ back garden.

Sadly it was a nasty injury and with the support of my wonderful vets, I made the decision to let him go. He was very old, and he had lived out a long and very happy retirement with me. He was a dog who was impossible to love too much, and everything I gave him, he gave me back a million times over. He left the world in one of his favourite places (he absolutely adored going to the vets) and he got to say goodbye to all the people he knew and loved the best.

When I look back now to that awful day of the accident, I think of the day before, and I imagine that maybe wherever he has gone now, he has found some company and it’s like the top of Dumgoyne that time I was up high above the clouds. Peaceful, filled with sunshine and warmth and laughter. Among good spirits, and not so far away from home.



 

 

Interval Alley **

Rep 1 I set off at a pace I know I cannot sustain over 8 reps. Am I going hard enough? I am pumping my arms, lengthening my stride, breathing hard. So hard. How do I know if I can do more?

Keep going, keep breathing in rhythm, don’t look at your phone, just wait for the beeps.

Is that a beep? Oh, yes it is, wait, there’s another one. Thank fuck.

Recovery 1 Walk a little, try to run slowly. Keep breathing hard.

 

Rep 2 Can I do this? For 7 more reps?

Keep going, keep breathing in rhythm, don’t look at your phone, just wait for the beeps.

Trust that they will come.

Count to 20 over and over. Am I going hard enough?

And there it is. My lungs feel like they are going to burst out of my chest through the back of my throat. It’s going to be horrible.

Yes, you are going hard enough.

Recovery 2 Walk a little, try to run slowly. Keep breathing hard. Look at the stars and the lights and the hills.

 

Rep 3 I think I’m going to be sick. I actually might be sick right here. There’s someone coming. Oh arse. I’m going to be sick everywhere and someone’s going to see and ask if I’m alright and what I’m doing and why.
Trying to get faster.

Just to see what it’s like and if I can do it and for how long.

Back off a little, keep going, don’t look at your phone, just wait for the beeps.

Recovery 3 Walk a little, look at the stars and the lights and the hills.

 

Rep 4,5,6,7
Don’t look at your phone, just wait for the beeps.

Lungs need to slow down, fine but keep going, just keep trying to lift your legs a bit and keep using your arms.

Shoulders back and down. Where are your elbows, your neck, your arms, your fingers, your head, your pelvis. God this is like harp practice.

But instead of thinking about the position of every single bit of your body to avoid injury and make a great sound, this is about something different.

This is about learning to go faster. PRACTISING going faster (thank you awesome coach last year who put it into musical terms and helped me get it)

This is about learning to explore, and learning to trust that your body can do it if you let your mind just try.

Rep 8 is barely faster than my normal slow run.

Finally, there are the last beeps.

I’m back in proper training and it feels good.

 
My legs are wrecked. They’ve never felt like this before, I’ve never tried quite so hard before. The slow plod back to the house feels weird, my legs feel like jelly and lead all at the same time. The short slope back to the main road that I always run up even at the end of the longest run feels like a mountain.

It’s over.

Until next week.

It is next week now.

Tonight, interval alley awaits. It will probably be raining or snowing. But I quite like it like that.

** Interval Alley isn’t really an alley. It’s a section of path near my house, but it’s quite enclosed by trees and hedges and is often dark when I tend to go, so feels a bit like an alleyway. There are rarely any people on that stretch at the time I go so I don’t feel too silly.
It goes through a farm, and usually there are only sheep for company, occasionally a couple of horses or cows or even deer, and every now and then I’m joined by an owl or a bat. I can’t even remember why I picked it now but having a silly name for it now makes it feel a little bit gladiatorial. I quite like that.
I never thought I could do intervals but I worked with an amazing coach for a little while at the start of last year and he made me make myself do them. I was stunned by how much I enjoyed them (afterwards) and how they made me feel so strong after, literally like I could do anything I set my mind to, maybe even take on the world.

Afternoon Off

Last Friday I played for my last wedding of 2016. It was just 2 minutes’ drive from my house, at the hotel that I walk past every morning with my dogs. The staff are great, the food is great, it hands down beats many more exclusive venues I’ve played at for friendliness and attention to detail, and the ceremony was wonderful.

The bride and groom’s little boy stood still as a statue throughout the ceremony clinging onto his granddad, and looked at his mum and dad with a beautiful expression of sheer wonder.

I was home and had the harp unloaded by 2.30, and was heading up into the hills behind my house just after 3pm. It was the most glamorous I’d ever looked on a run as I realised I still had all my makeup on! (rosy cheeks down to the biting wind, no cosmetic enhancement on these)

 

I’ve been up a fair few hills this year, particularly while I was training for the Great Lakeland 3 Day event back in April, but I was a bit shocked to realise that this was my first time up here since last year. These hills are so nearby, almost in my back garden, and it’s not a long run from the car park to get to the trig point at Cort ma Law, one of the higher peaks in the Campsie Fells. But this is proper tough hill/fell running territory, and there is a high chance of getting lost or getting stuck in a bog. For whatever reason, I’d chosen other places to train this year.

I’m desperately unfit at the moment and I knew a good stomp would get my training kickstarted again. It was a beautiful day, clear but very cold, and truly a grand day to be out in the hills.

Once I’d staggered up the initial climb, I could soon see Ben Lomond, Tinto Hill, the Pentlands and even the new Queensferry Crossing over the Forth.

As is the custom, I started off avoiding all the bogs as much as I could. It was really hard going – although the hills look like a plateau with just an initial steep climb, it is anything but flat on the top. There wasn’t much running done really, partly due to the terrain and my lack of fitness but also because I kept stopping to take photos.

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the first cairn

I am really bad at judging falling light in relation to the distance I can cover, and while I had an idea of the sunset time, I also knew from prior experience that if you are in one of the dips up there, it can become very dark very quickly. I had my headtorch with me and plenty of spare kit, so there was no need to worry whatsoever, but I guess the uneasiness I felt was just down to lack of familiarity and losing my confidence a little bit over the summer. I knew deep down I’d be fine, and I could manage whatever happened.

It’s strange feeling like this when you are so close to home that you can almost see your house, you’re just a few miles outside one of the biggest cities in the UK and yet here you are in remote wild hill country with just a couple of sheep for company.

I’ve headed off course up here even on a warm light summer evening, just losing concentration and thinking of other things. I was surprised that night just how disorientated I felt and how quickly. It should be easy – follow the cairns, keep Glasgow on your right on the way up and on the left on the way down. But this assumes you’re not in one of those dips and you can still see Glasgow. A compass helps of course, and I think on that occasion I used the one on my phone just to point me back in the right direction again.

One of my usual tracks to Cort ma Law was really really wet – it was incredibly slow and tough going and I doubted whether I would get to the trig point in time to get back down in the daylight. I cut across to the slightly more well-used track instead, and tripped over a couple of times along the way over the long clumpy grass. I was up here on my own, it was getting dark, it could go wrong at any time and no one would know. I made it down fine as I always do, but it did surprise me a bit that while this had all felt so normal just a few months back, now it felt alien, disconcerting and a little scary.

It’s good to be scared though – partly because it’s exciting to be scared by just the right amount when you know you can handle whatever comes, and also because it reminds you to stay focused and switched on and to understand the risks of what you’re doing in the name of Fun.

The sunset was breathtaking, and I was reminded of just how beautiful the colours can be in the low winter light. From green to gold to red and other colours besides, I felt very lucky and very special getting to enjoy this on my own.

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lights on at the Celtic FC training ground in Lennox Forest

On the last bit up to Cort ma Law there are a few bigger bogs and little streams to jump across. These are quite a stretch for little legs like mine, but they are also one of the things I enjoy most about running up here. I loved the hurdles when I was at school, and there’s something about judging the distance, the impact of landing and the heart-quickening moment just after you’ve jumped when you wonder if you will actually make the other side.

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looking east from Cort ma Law towards the Forth bridges

On the way back, it didn’t matter about the bogs any more. My feet were soaking wet and a few more bogs wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference. I was really quite cold by now, and very aware that I was running in just a couple of thin layers. Nothing different to what I would normally wear at this time of year, but I really noticed the feeling on the first truly bitterly cold day in a while. I was glad of my gloves and buff that day and I rarely wear those unless it is seriously cold. I could taste snow in the air – not necessarily imminent although I’m sure I felt a few raindrops that could just as easily have been snowflakes, but it was definitely on its way.

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At the last cairn on the way back, I noticed a black dog ahead of me. He was making his way towards me and just for a moment I hesitated. I was attacked by a dog earlier this year and it has made me much more wary of dogs off the lead than I used to be. I needn’t have worried, this one was an absolutely gorgeous creature and he was very happy to be fussed. He was lovely and warm and very affectionate with a very thick fluffy coat, and I needed some of that heat so was in no rush to head off.

Soon his owner appeared. Here was one of those guys you see out in the hills, thin as a whippet and twice as fit with a superbly healthy glow, sparkling eyes and a big smile, impossible to age but very possibly at least 20-30 years older than they first appear.

He asked where I had been and who I ran for, suggesting one of the very serious local hill running clubs. I chuckled a little bit and said I was far too slow for them, but he was rightly having none of it – everyone is welcome there as we both knew. I mentioned I ran mostly on my own as it just seemed to work out that way, he understood and we swapped a couple of local routes we knew and had enjoyed. He also suggested a route between Cort ma Law and Meikle Bin, which I had spotted but never done. Definitely time to be ticking that off the list.

He asked if I had enjoyed my day, and I confided I was a little worried about taking my elderly greyhound to the vet later that afternoon so I had been up here clearing my head.

He put his hand gently on my arm and rubbed it a bit. I dipped my head and swallowed a few tears, grateful for Mac the dog’s comforting presence – he was now stood between my feet keeping my calves warm. We shared a few words about the worries of having older pets, and then went separately on our way, hoping we would maybe meet again up here one day. It was good to share just a little part of my run with such warm, friendly company both canine and human.

Last night the snow arrived.

 

October

Somehow it’s the middle of October, and going by how quickly the year has flown by so far, it’ll be Hogmanay before I know it.

This has been one of the most hectic years I’ve ever had, on all fronts. Now that harp-related work is winding down for the year, my existence will become slightly more normal and less time-pressured.

Has it been worth it?

Sitting here right now, in this moment, desperately trying to fend off my first proper cold in 18 months, I am exhausted, spent, and rather withdrawn from my normal all-guns-blazing say-yes-to-everything, what’s-the-worst-that-can-happen self, and so no I’m not sure whether it was worth all the effort.

All the time given up, all the money spent, all the things missed out on.

But, looking back, it really has been worth absolutely everything I’ve put in.

I’ve worked really hard for everything that has come my way, and now I’m hoping to be able to relax a bit, to breathe and stretch myself out and shake myself down ready for the next stage.

The debt battle is just a few months away from being won, for good this time.

I can’t quite believe it’ll all finally be gone and I’ll be free of all the things I’ve been carrying around along with those massively depressing numbers.

As a result of that, I’m thinking hard about long term things – about where I want to live and the sort of work I really want to be doing.

Applecross
the shit had hit the fan big time the night before. but I learnt so much about myself that weekend in Applecross. huge thanks to G for the awesome photo.
Entries for next year’s chosen big running event open very soon, and assuming I get in, my winter will largely be built around training for that. It will involve some very big hills, getting to grips with walking poles and a trip to Switzerland (not to France though, it’s not that one!).

There are big harping plans too, and at last I can say I have a much better relationship with music and my harp than I did at the start of the year. I’d even go as far as saying I think I am figuring it all out. Well, harp-wise anyway.

It will be quite a challenge to keep both harp and running things going together, but I’m gradually learning more and more about what is really, truly important to me, and I’m gaining the confidence to sidestep all the other things that suck my time and my energy. I’m grateful to Helen Mirren on that one – a marvellous quote that is never far from my mind and one I could really do with putting into action a whole lot more.

 
I have a weekend off, and it really couldn’t have come at a better time.

I finally hit the buffers last night. Something quite silly set it all off but of course, a good night’s sleep fixes most things and so I felt much better this morning.

I was planning a long run in the hills tomorrow but there is a lurgy lurking, a sofa calling, with two big black furry pals to snuggle into. There’s loads of (motor)bike racing on the telly, my Kitchenaid will be called into action to make some pizza dough and I might even paint my nails – my ultimate sign of spare time.

And, assuming this cold makes a swift exit, I hope to blast away the last of the lurgy with a trip out on my motorbike.

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September

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago when September had just arrived.

It’s one of my favourite months of the year. Not just because my birthday is in September and I normally get good weather for it, but also because it remains a month of fresh starts. It’s a while since I was at school or college, but I still get that feeling of progress, of movement and of new things to come.

The school year actually starts in early August here in Scotland but it always catches me out, it still feels too early.

Since I moved up here, it’s also a time to start looking ahead to the winter and the changes this brings. It gets darker much earlier, and the nights draw in much sooner. A couple of weeks ago, it was dark at 9pm, now it’s almost dark at 8pm.

The first year I was here, I hated it the endless grey and gloom but gradually I’ve got used to it. I am now totally in love with how the seasons affect me. There are inevitable changes in feeling, weather, light and surroundings. I could happily do without the soaking wet 6am dog walks, but that’s a small price to pay.

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I get to see how the light moves across the hills behind my house and how the low sun catches the trees. I’ve lived here for four years now, and as a result I’ve come to feel a wonderful sense of recognising the patterns of the changes in light, and this brings a sense of moving through the months.

Last year I read a gorgeous book on living through Scandinavian winters which also helped me change my approach. I also had some great advice from a yoga teacher a few years back – she said that winter is a time for hibernation, for rest and renewal ready to re-emerge totally refreshed in the spring time. I now look forward to curling up with my dogs on the sofa, to the satisfaction of a hot shower after a freezing cold wet run in the hills, and I know to make the most of the sun and the dry weather on the days where there’s a break in the long Scottish winter.

It has been a particularly tough year for many reasons, but it has also been another year of growth and learning and of realising what is important to carry forward with me on the next phase.

I went for a long run in the hills on Sunday, the first in a very long time.

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Ben Ledi in the distance – a wonderful sight as it has always been shrouded in mist whenever I’ve come past it before
It was the furthest I’ve run since I did the Great Glen Ultra in back July.The recovery period from that race has been harder than expected, both physically and emotionally, and as a result I decided not to do a race in October that I’d been preparing for. I’m just not ready, I really wanted to give it my all and at the moment I would just be plodding round and not enjoying myself. My time is so precious that I’d rather use it for something else, and I can go and do the route any time really.

But however tough it was on Sunday (and 16 miles round the Glen Finglass/Mell loop is never easy!), it was a great reminder of how much I love being out in the fresh air, miles and miles from anything and anyone, and how much I appreciate what my body is capable of now.

One of the reasons that I love running so much is that I’m really not very good at it and it JUST DOESN’T MATTER.

(OK occasionally it does matter, but only if there are other people around)

I get so much from it that I don’t get from anything else, even from riding a motorbike or having animals or playing the harp or eating peperoni pizza, which are my other great loves.

I honestly never thought I could love something that I wasn’t any good at.

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Looking towards Glen Finglas from halfway round the Mell circuit in the Trossachs National Park. This is one of my favourite long runs – it is a tough route and is wild, exposed, isolated. I only saw a couple of people in 4 hours which is a big part of why I love it so much.
There are lots of 15-20 mile trail/hill/mountain routes I want to do up here, and if I never enter another race or run any further than that, I know that this will always be Enough. That’s not to say I don’t want to do more, but rather that my reasons for wanting to do so have changed.

Enough has become a big, important word lately.

Not in as in I’ve Had Enough (although that has certainly come to mind a few times!).

But as in Being Enough, and Having Enough.

My upbringing was heavily focused on striving for academic brilliance, for musical genius, always working to be something better than I was, or to have something better than what I had at any given time. I literally don’t know any other way, and while this has brought me some fantastic opportunities and experiences, finally this year I’ve had to face the more negative aspects of this mentality.

I saw a great billboard on the train home a few weeks ago, and it seemed to say everything that I had not been able to. In fact, it made me laugh out loud and think very hard indeed, all at the same time.

It was in turn utterly ridiculous and yet totally correct, and as a result it has become a bit of a mantra lately.

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Things to come

It is beautiful in Glasgow this morning. The sun has lit up the shoulder of Slack Dhu and Dumgoyne, and I can see the snow on the mountains around Loch Lomond. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve loved seeing various blog posts and photos from fellow Scottish runners hailing the return of the early morning light, and today was the first time I’ve not needed my headtorch on the morning dog walk. 

I’ll miss seeing groups of eyes staring back at me from behind the trees and the resulting scamper of deer running away, but oh the anticipation of the longer days to come, the evenings up in the hills and hopefully getting out on my bikes again.

Tomorrow, at last, is long run day. 

Weekends have been packed since the start of the year and there has not been any space for a decent run. Evenings have also gone by, not so much in a blur but in an awful rattling shrieking express train of stress, pressure, conflict and general unpleasantness. 

I’m just starting to build my running miles up again, carefully to allow for the worsened asthma and the constant lurgy that has been lurking and threatening to take hold since November. Somehow I have kept it in its place. 

Tomorrow I will be heading out on one of my favourite routes that takes me past some of my favourite haunts and never fails to lift my spirits. I’ll pull on favourite, familiar kit that has seen me through good days, bad days, long days, freezing cold, soaking wet days, baking hot sunny days. I’m not sure I’ll have enough oomph to drag myself up the distillery hill, but I shall give Glengoyne a wave on the way past with a nod to friends far away.

Spring isn’t quite with us just yet, but patches of snowdrops appeared a few weeks ago now, and while mine will sadly be trampled by eager greyhound paws, it has been wonderful to see them emerging on the coldest, darkest of days. Daffodil leaves are starting to poke through the soil too, and my road will soon be a flash of yellow as I come and go.

The training plan for the Great Glen is always at the back of my mind, as is the kit list for the Great Lakeland 3 Dayer. Both have given me something positive to focus on through these last awful weeks at work. I’m so excited about both, although apprehensive, nervous and more than a little bit scared. 

I entered a new race last night, which will take me to yet another bit of Scotland that I’ve never been to. This one has a deep personal connection as it’s where my parents met on teaching practice all those years ago.

Running has given me so much, particularly running here in Scotland. I’ve missed its regular and defining presence lately, and it’s so good to have it back again.

Some favourite running pictures…

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Fling relay 2014, Conic Hill. photo by Graeme Hewitson
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Fling relay again, photo by Edinburgh Sports Photography
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easter saturday 2014, epic day on Rannoch Moor with ma wee pal
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Loch Katrine marathon 2015. photo by Fiona Rennie
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closing stages of Tiree Ultra 2015, a bit tired and windswept

Four miles

I had some really good news last week. 

Finally there is an end in sight to the ridiculous work situation that has been going on for the last few months. 

I was away in Liverpool for a gig over the weekend and as I looked in the mirror while I was getting ready, I actually didn’t recognise myself. 

I’ve not been able to run due to long hours at work and some really bad asthma days. My skin looks dreadful and I’ve got the spots and redness that I always get when I’m worrying too much. I’ve put on a little bit more weight than I’m comfortable with and my food habits have slid towards the junky end of the spectrum. 

This is everything I’d worked so hard to leave behind when I moved to Scotland, and so it has been incredibly upsetting to find myself back in this awful environment of fear and pressure.

Knowing the end is in sight helps enormously. Last weekend’s gig was a cracker. It came at the perfect time and it reminded me that there are many other ways to live your life. 

Staying with a friend from a few years ago kind of put me back in touch with myself – the self that stays hidden most of the time these days (and is the Flourish referred to in my blog title) but comes out when there’s some performing to be done on my terms. 

Liverpool is a really special city for me, it holds very strong and very happy childhood memories of a couple of day trips with an aunt who isn’t with us any more. More recently, it took care of my uncle during his chemotherapy. He described seeing the Isle of Man ferry being loaded up with bikes for the TT and wishing he was sailing away, and now I can’t look at pictures of the Liverpool waterfront without thinking of him and how relieved I am that he survived.

We drove around the city afterwards, through the docks, past all my friends favourite haunts and our next gig space. I love driving round cities at night, there’s an energy around the empty streets and motorways that really excites me. It’s much more fun on a motorbike than in my old Audi estate, but sharing it with F made it all the more special. 

I drove home on Sunday feeling revitalised and ready to get through the last few weeks of work.

Wednesday night brought me a little further back to myself. It was freezing cold, well below zero, icy underfoot. I ran four miles along a route I do regularly, a flat unspectacular trot along an old railway path. My headtorch batteries were badly needing a charge, so given the slippy conditions that I couldn’t quite see, I decided to come back along the main road instead. 

I noticed the patterns on the pavements as I reached the centre of the village. 

It’s a very small but subtle difference between living where I live now and where I lived before, and it seems a little strange but it’s one of my favourite things about living here. 

The pavements get gritted in the winter.

Sometimes I’m woken by a faint whirring sound outside accompanied by flashing yellow lights through my window. The first time I heard it I got out of bed to look, and there was a little white vehicle crawling along the pavements. 

I find pavemeng gritters strangely comforting, and when I see them they remind me of all the little things I love about being here, and all the things that are so minor on the face of it and yet mean so very much. 
I should be clocking 30-40 mile training weeks by now, but I know these will come when life is on a more even keel. The extra weight (that really isn’t much but is noticeable to me, and affects my asthma) will soon come off and I really don’t need to worry. 

It’s amazing what a little chilly slow run can do. 

 

pale blinds drawn all day

It felt like ages since I’d seen the sun.

It was hammering with rain on this morning’s dog walk, and again when I walked from the bus station into work.

I had a couple of bits I needed to do over lunch, but the weather wasn’t looking particularly accommodating for a wander round the city centre.

And then at some point, the clouds cleared.

I headed out to get some fresh air.

I carved my way through the office workers on lunch breaks, past all the concrete and glass . The height of the buildings around me made things rather gloomy, although the sky was clear and the sun was shining somewhere.

As I turned onto Buchanan Street and headed down towards Frasers, I was blinded by the full on low winter sun emerging through the buildings down by the river. I struggled to walk in a straight line down the street, dodging people glued to phones coming in the opposite direction, my eyes screwed up and feeling as though I was just emerging from a long sleep. The street was crowded, there were buskers, everywhere noise and crush and busyness.

The light was stunning against the damp pavements, and I wanted to grab a picture. But I couldn’t see at all.

I took my phone out of my bag, picked a spot in the middle of the street, stood for the briefest moment and pressed the button. I hoped for the best and loved the results.

The disc shaped sun in my picture reminded me very slightly of The Weather Project at the Tate Modern, which I was lucky enough to see. I can’t quite believe it was so long ago. I’ll never forget that first glimpse of the Turbine Hall, and the enormous sun beating down silently on the people so far beneath it.

Tonight when I left work, it was still light. Just a little, but it was a real turning point.

It’s coming.

Grey, green, orange

Autumn is out in all its glorious colour in Scotland. We’ve had a beautiful few weeks with only a couple of really soggy days. The combination of shorter days, turning leaves, migrating geese and lower sun in the sky mean that winter is firmly on its way. But the landscape is absolutely stunning.

I’m going into my fourth winter up here. Bad things still happen in the ‘new’ life, but I am much more resilient and able to cope with the knocks when they come. A tough hill race nearly finished me off emotionally for a few days, but I got through it and will live to fight another day. Difficult days at work are shrugged off relatively easily, and there is a freedom and a lightness that I didn’t have where I lived before.

I’ve had my head down for a few weeks but I emerged a few days ago, having had a pretty much perfect week and a visit from my parents. I’m back running again, and while Saturday’s run was grey, damp, hard and badly disrupted by my asthma, the miles out on the Antonine Wall yesterday morning with friends were the exact opposite. 

My entries are in for my races next year. This gives me some of the focus I need to keep going through the winter. There are three new ones, and an old one I didn’t complete the first time around. 

Three of them are south of the border, two are totally different to anything I’ve done before, and one of these will yet again be the biggest scariest thing I’ve ever contemplated doing. 

As a result, I’m tremendously excited while being ever so slightly terrified at the same time. But this is what I love doing, and I do it for the moments where everything stops around me and all I am aware of is my lungs working and the scenery around me.

I’ve had to rope my parents in to help with the big one, which will be a new experience for all of us. Dad is a long distance cyclist with a love of 24 hour time trials in bad weather, and Mum is really good at tough love and not giving in when you’re scared. 

I’m learning a new piece on the harp at the moment and it has become a bit of a mantra. 

Everything will be all right. 

taken from Croy Hill early yesterday morning
  
lookimg towards home from Croy Hill