Samsung Stalker!

It’s funny how along a spectrum of things which the average punter would find really easy versus highly specialised skills which only a few can successfully complete, I have very little consistency at either end. Take my mobile phone for example. After using a Blackberry for business, I found the transition to using touch screen and android systems, completely alien. There I’d be with the grannies, all desperately stabbing at their phone screen with one cumbersome finger and then scouring the bus queue for a young person to ask for help.aaeaaqaaaaaaaan9aaaajde1mmixotm2ltgyotktngm4nc04zjizltu5otuwoddkngewoa

Then I went through a real spate of Killing Phones. Usually by mixing water with the hand-set: placing it in a tupperware box with rice doesn’t work folks, I know because I’ve tried. After writing off several hundred pounds of Smart phones, I conceded that I was (a) not smart and (b) could not be trusted with grown –up technology so I found myself with a handset that could basically make calls and write texts, for the sole purpose of safety whilst out and about running. Gradually over time, I managed to rebuild enough confidence to allow myself a HTC and after smashing the screen (a new killing method over the usual death-by-drowning Modus Operandii), I got a Samsung with huge shock absorber casing and this survived a long time. At last, when I became a student and required to travel from Brunei to Malaysia for my residential classes, I got a Smart phone with dual SIM. 3-2-1, I’m back in the room and I was doing technology stuff and my own top –ups and Everything!

And then I got rubbish again. Technology must take a leap forward just when I’m almost caught up and competent. I’m taking this as a sign of getting older. Case in point, I received a lovely message from a running friend who had taken pictures at an event and captured two of someone from My Running Club. Since there was no official race photographer, they had posted all their pics to a Closed Group on FarceBoook but did I want to pass these finishing straight pics onto said team mate? Aye OK. That’s fine, sure thing. So I sent the pictures on to someone else from the club, as I had never met the runner in question. No worries.

So pictures sent by messenger save into a Gallery Folder for easy recall. No bother. However, to my slight confusion and dismay when I replaced my Asian SIM cards with my UK ones (one for the town and one for the south of the island if you would believe the ineptness of the Hebridean phone coverage), said pictures appeared rather prominently on my phone. One was the wallpaper and one was the locked screen-saver. Hmmm. How interesting. I’m walking out of the airport and I’m thinking I should top up my phone and change those pictures and then my Older person technology hitch kicks in: I select other pictures and crop them, but they don’t save! I repeat this action several times before the penny drops that this is just not working. I’m stuck with this strangers running pictures and nice as they are, I’m not particularly thrilled with having Some Young gent who I’ve never met, greeting me every day. But that he does, sprinting away on the screen of my phone whilst it’s on charge and there he is again, in the background whilst I’m flicking between FB, What’s App and Instagram. First world issues indeed!

I google my predicament with no resolve. Over the next few days, I start asking other people what phone they have in the hope that someone can show me how to work my own Ruddy Contraption. More days go passed. I get used to having this dude on my phone. I try a reboot. I ponder a factory re-set….not that the pictures are so terrible by the way but I didn’t want to turn up to the island as knowing my luck, someone would see and challenge why I had that screensaver. Alert the rumour mill, hashtag: inappropriate  😛

By now, I’m on the island and I feel a bit churlish, like some sort of stalker and my story starts to sound much more like an excuse than the truth. I FB message the phone manufacturer: they send me instructions to do what I already know how to do and which doesn’t work. I resign myself to staring at this running dude forever or resorting to deliberately breaking my phone. I go to a running club event and manage to suitably guard my phone, as if there are nefarious texts on there that could get me fired or arrested. Eventually I am busted on a trail run with a couple of local ladies who I come clean to, after “forgetting” and handing the phone over for some on-the-go snaps. I am a techno-failure at best and resounding letch at worst. It is suggested that the male in question might be a little bit too young and polite “for me” and they both basically ROFLOL. Oh Friths sake! This is serious. I cannot have these pictures on my phone, period. That evening, I turn the handset off and e-mail the online support from my laptop. Eventually it all gets resolved and I feel a little better as it’s not me, it’s a bug only with the DuoS version of my (now 3 versions behind) handset. After being asked why I didn’t “just delete” the pictures? Now it was my turn to feel smug “because the pictures are in the conversation with my friend and re-appear every-time we FB message, which is almost every day”. Nope. Another fail. There’s a setting for that too……

So runner guy has gone and has been replaced by a gender neutral, non-stalkerish picture of the croft. Just when I was getting used to him too. Not to worry; if I miss him, he’s still there in my messenger gallery folder! Can hardly wait to meet in person 😉

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Head in the clouds

There is a very unusual cloud formation on the island and I’ve observed and photographed it several times and I really must find out the scientific reason for why it happens. It’s a vertical column that seems to go from the bare rock straight into a more fluffy “Cumulus” cloud and I’ve been calling it Jacobs Ladder. If I see it I almost instantly feel better, which seems so inane that a cluster of vapour can make that kind of difference. But I think it’s more the spiritual associations which make me feel happier. I’m not often in need of a pick-me-up, however this overhead phenomenon when combined with a run, can be a perfect mood enhancer. Cue that fixed grin. Suddenly I can overcome anything. I might even become a good and worthwhile citizen one of these days.

I really dislike answering this question and I get asked it a lot as a new inhabitant of the islands: which church do you go to? Because once I answer, a thousand inferences and judgements will be made and I always thought that this response was very unchristian! But it’s difficult not to judge and it’s very human to do so; best  [printable] reaction ever was “….absolutely no way do you go there!”

In reality the hills are my church. I’ve never felt as close to God as when I am on the top of the highest peak, preferably balancing on the cairn with the wind making my stay ever more precarious and invigorating. Well it *is technically nearer isn’t it? Being high up to be closer to God is reflected in the Bible itself and as a kid I always loved the story of Jacobs ladder, the premise of the tower of Babel or that Sermons or visions often happened “on the mount”.

I can be in a church and feel slightly despondent at the pomp of the schedule and drill of the psalm and reading order. But then, I’m not a very structured person and routines don’t often suit my mood, so I usually avoid them where possible. I get a feeling of freedom and an openness to think about my beliefs whenever it’s just me and the expansive sky above. Where the air is pure and the bustle of life is a mere speck in the distance; this is my kirk. I go to the mountains to feel Closer to God, there, I said it.

Runner-girl’s chocolate: don’t touch!

I was out earlier today, doing some semblance of running on one of the local trails and afterwards I decided I would treat myself to some high calorie convenience food, y’know, to counteract the good healthy benefits of All That Slogging.

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I circled around Tarbert’s 1 way system so I could park close to the shop and duly went in looking for one of the two Holy Grails of junk food: The dark chocolate Bounty or the biscuit n raisin Yorkie bar! Now these two delicious beauties are normally in short supply in the average corner shoppee but I’m finding that they are available all over the islands, much to the chagrin of my ample buttage.

So I’m in the shop, dressed head to foot in polygiene wicking material and with a good spattering of mud and coo sharn on me, but no matter. It’s blawin a hooley outside and slashing down too, so there are a number of folks procrastinating in the store, pretending to be deep in tough decision about whether to buy the Stag bread or the MacLeans loaf. With all the coffee shops closing for the end of season this is what a day out consists of in Tarbert!

As I’m weighing up which should win out of Giant Cadburys buttons or Family -sized Minstrels, I spy a youngish lad with one of those big hole gauge ear-ring thingies. I always personally thought these things were a bad idea; quite novel when they first appeared on my local scene about ten years ago; how cool will they look on a 60 year-old Grandpa, with mad droopy ear-lobes is another matter. Anyway! Since I’m bored and loitering with the rest of the punters, three things cross my mind (1) the old very judgemental person in me thinks “I bet he’s not from The Island” [because *nice island boys go to the Free Church and don’t have piercings & tattoos] (2) the slightly younger part of me thinks “but I bet he probably likes some decent music” [because boys with tats n piercings are *always into Punk or Metal] and then (3) the philosopher in me thinks about how it would be great to have a music friend on the island, or even just know some people who liked the same music as me. All the while I’m standing with these Giant buttons, melting in my hand, looking like a total spungle. *I am the Queen of the pigeon-hole generalisms today!

20160713_090420I immediately feel guilty for thinking these things, so I hustle up to the counter whilst avoiding eye contact with the lady from the caravan park, who frowned at me whilst I was feeding her Heilan Coos sliced bread the other week (she went with the Stag scones….). I decide last minute on the red Bounty and put that and the half melted buttons and a few other things at the till, as the big earlobe guy totes it all up. I avoid staring at his earlobe, pay with exact change like the proper weirdo I am and rush out of the shop feeling really quite bad about the whole visit.

Now I drive home at the tail end of a stupidly long line of traffic arriving down the A859 and plonk my goody bag of atrocities down, ready for a big choccy munch. Alas and alack, no effin way, the Bounty is not in the bag! I check the car….nope, I bet that bad boy has not made it off the shop counter! I am a sick seething anger of hysteria. Over two hours in the wind n rain and No Holy Grail Chocolate! For Friths sakes.

So I call the shop – like the weirdo I am – and demand to know where my chocolate is. Actually it went something like this:-

Me: is that the Tarbert shop?

Shoppee: Yes.

Me: are you the guy with the beard and …..unusual ear-ring?

Shoppee: No (seriously. No other words were said)

Me: well do you think I could speak with him please? I left something behind in the shop earlier. [The phone goes down]

Shoppee person 2: Hello there!

Me: Hi, I bought a dark chocolate Bounty earli….

Shoppee person 2: yes, yes, I have it here. When will you be back for it?

Me: I could come by tomorrow

Shoppee person 2: Very good. I’ve put it under the counter for you

Me: Are you working tomorrow?

SP2: No, but not to worry, I have put a stick-it note on it “Runner Girls chocolate: don’t touch”. Should be quite safe.

He sounded well pleased with himself and I have to say, I quite liked being called Runner-Girl. I will check tomorrow and hopefully it doesn’t say “fugly burd who shouldnae be eating anything except lettuce, dust & air”

…..and he’s definitely from The Islands.

 

I’ll have a Hamstring sandwich please

If there’s one main aspect of running I dislike (aye, because I’m pure pish at it), it’s having to try and run “fast”. Setting out on a fast-for-me mile goes something like this:

(0-20 seconds) – arms and legs are in full flow, nice quick foot turnover, breathing from the diaphragm and I’m smiling. All is right with the world & I feel awesome

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(21-60 seconds) – my lungs start to complain, the legs start to return to a shuffle as my knees drop & heel strikes, the world is a little greyer & the pace slips from 6.XX to 7.XX something minute miles.track2

(1-3 minutes) – heaving lungs and an ominous feeling of sickness, as I wonder why I am doing this and ask God what I have done to deserve this punishment. Constantly battling against looking at the watch, to check whether I’ve reached the half way stage yet. Start to worry that I need to use the loo and that I look like a flailing octopus, as my running form ceases to exist & the real porn-star panting beginstrack

(4-5 minutes) – I dislike this running malarkey. Running sucks. I go through all the reasons why I just can’t run fast including genetics, diet, past lifestyle choices. Then the excuses come – of having worn high-heels for most of my adult life, which has obviously shortened my Achilles and given me bunched toes & being sat at a desk for most of my working life, which has permanently shortened my hip flexors. That’s over 25 years of training to be crap at running versus 7 years of couch potato to Sturdy Girl bimbling.

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(5-6 minutes) – I hate running and I hate myself for trying to run outside my comfort zone. I am too fat to run; I wonder if I’d be any good at lawn bowls? I mentally check through all the body parts which I’m probably injuring and start reasoning that I just shouldn’t run fast as I’ll pull my hamstring, tear my calf,  have a Tena Lady moment before the mile is up…..the world is Dante’s inferno & I’m on the final level.received_10210525558996694

(6-7 minutes) – I am running like a zombie; possibly covered in slaivers n snotters. I’m desperately trying to un-hunch my shoulders, control the breathing and teary eyes, trying to pull myself together & press on for any kind of sprint finish, as if I could pretend to the outside world that I’ve been doing that all along rather than b*tching about hating it all.

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(7 minutes something) – the mile ends and I solemnly promise myself that I will only attempt this type of running if wolves or bears are after me. Breathing returns to normal quite quickly & I feel bad because I probably didn’t try hard enough. So I go and console myself with some very slow and enjoyable Other Miles, whilst secretly being Very Pleased with my stats on MyFitnessPal and STRAVA.

2016-10-15-08-25-211So why would I want to go through this cycle more than once? And why would I sign up to do this, say, NINE times in a given day as was the case with the Mod Nan Eilean Siar 2016 relay? These are very good questions and I can only suggest it’s because I was curious to find out if I could get to the stage where I just accept my fate and get on with it, rather than gurning my way though the same vileness of the above cycle. The answer is no. I went through the same horrendous feelings every single mile of the Club relay, with the added bonus task of trying to muster a smile when the club van went past (I did) and also try and place the relay baton nicely into the hand of the outgoing runner, whilst encouraging them for their mile, which I *sometimes did.

I am not a fast runner. I am weak minded and tight of glute and hamstring. Why did I volunteer to run then? Well….I guess I did it for the banter: during the event and as story fodder for when I meet up next with my other running friends. Isn’t that what all my runningbeautyplus_20161015014008_save exploits are really about? Ah. The Craik has a lot to answer for…….

Charity MÓD relay

Okay. Confessions of an over-eager plodder (Part 276) and if you laugh at me for this, I will batter you the next time I see you.

A running club e-mail came out which I Dutifully read from cover to cover (scanned) and after hard deliberation & careful consideration (immediately and without thinking) said yes to taking part in something referred to as “the mod relay”.

Relay – a race with a baton; don’t drop it or your team mates will hate you forever. No worries.

Mod. That’s a scooter boy who dresses like Paul Weller avec target motif parka or if you’re going old-skool, a sharp dressed gent preening to Booker T & the MGs, right?

Hmmm or could it be something to do with the Ministry Of Defense? Either way I was in! Images of slapping a baton into the outstretched palm of a fellow running club member, to a soundtrack of The Who, possibly involving buff M.O.D. army guys all sounded like quite decent fun. So after a few e-mails I’d committed my time and I started telling people about this Ministry of Defense run I was doing. Between Oban and Ullapool…..pause the movie a second here, what the Hell!?! I’d seen a few pictures of previous years events on the club website and it looked like a jaunt around the islands…….what was this Mainland location all about?

What the Mod is actually about

Well They say to Never Assume and I’m delighted now that I have some facts and it’ll definitely be great craik to do about 16 x 1 mile reps with an unknown rest interval between each, carrying a message from the town of the previous Mod to the location of this years festival.

The Royal National Mod

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But how could I have got this so wrong? My head didn’t even associate mod with gaelic festivals and that’s bad, especially as I am a Modladyte of by-gone years, having been a Ceilidh-tastic fiddler in my youth (amongst other things) and attending the inaugural Feis Rois in Ullapool in 1986, with my boy-short hair and screen print tee-shirt. [OK, feel free to spot how much I haven’t changed since primary School :-D] but I remember it was a great privilege to be selected to represent the school & The Shire, even if it was only to squeak out some badly bowed Piobaireachds. It will also be quite an honour to run this message across Scotland and back, arriving in Stornoway for the start of the 2016 Royal Mod.

And we’re raising awareness for this cultural event by running, because that’s what runners do. Hashtag If in doubt, run. Quite a long way too and of course, we want your hard earned money to do what we love and that comes in the form of charity donations for Macmillan cancer support and also the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI)! Here’s the justgiving page. Don’t forget to tick the giftaid box 🙂

www.justgiving.com/teams/SRAC-mod2016

 

 

 

Impending Icy Doom

When I flitted from Aberdoom, I mean Aberdeen, to Brunei in March 2013 I had a temperature gradient to scale. I left behind a wintry skite of ice (see above featured picture from my last drive into work) and arrived on Borneo at the end of monsoon season when it was hotter than Ghandi’s sandal. And now? I’m about to do the opposite traverse when I go back this weekend, to the prolonged intermittent snows of March, from the epitome of el scorcchio here in Brunei. However do the lambs cope with this chopping and changing of the weather? Is it spring yet? – yup the crocuses are out and Next is having a sale – no, wait, it’s frikkin snawin. Again. And Mum has careered the i10 on black-ice into the tree stump at the bottom of he drive. [who PUTS those tree-stumps there so inconveniently?]

And, lambs aside, however will my wardrobe and running gear selection cope with the changeable climes? Ah, the vapid echo of first world issues >>>>>>

It’s all about the jacket(s) and shoe(s) darlings!

Packing usually starts with about twelve running outfits, even though I’ll probably end up running only 3-4 times a week and will have access to washing machines throughout the three week stay. So that’s been whittled down to two long breeks, two short breeks, long socks and shorts. OK. That’s probably not whittled enough but I don’t want to have to go on the rampage in TK Maxx, wantonly buying Everything in my size because it is cheap! I will convince myself at the time that brand names don’t matter and then sulk when I have to wait for my INOV-8 capris to dry.

“All this has happened before and all this will happen again” – The sacred Scrolls of the Pythian Prophecy, Battlestar Galactica

The shoes are much more of a nightmare! I’ve got the entire all-encompassing terrain display from Run-4-it laid out and right now, I imagine I’ll be galloping off up the hills, through mud and on wonderful bouncy leafy trails, breathing in those wondrous shards of icy strangletude….in reality, I’ll probably get a few laps round the block of whichever housing estate I’m staying on and if I’m lucky, a bimble along the Dalmeny railway line plus the Garioch race, so I’ll have to settle for road shoes only. History dictates that several of my off-road shoes have been purchased after the same logic has been applied, well hey-ho. I should just email ahead and get Craigdon mountain sports to look out a pair of Salomon XA in size 8 😉

Final gallery to be inserted

 

 

 

 

 

Take me away to….

…..Stornoway (sings). Well actually, dinnae take me There, but at least take me to the Outer Hebrides, where I am currently in the process of purchasing a croft and de-crofted house on the adjoining Isle of Harris.

Ach mun, I could probably have an effing huge pair of Rant-Pants flying right now as I grumble on about the slower-than-evolution process which this whole crofting commission business represents. But I won’t Go There (yet). I am still refreshing the damn decision pages every Friday in the hope that the place at Quidinish will magically appear on either the croft register or the assignation approvals list. Come on mojo! Work already! If only there was someone I could bribe, but Inverness ain’t Malaysia, lah!

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In the meantime I am doing Stuff which will aid in my transition to island life. Not really useful stuff like organising furniture or a local bank or owt, nuh, I have of course joined the local running fraternity. Because that is a number one priority for any runner! In 2016 I say goodbye to my old club The Cosmic Hill-bashers and continue my Scottish Hill-runners (SHR) and Scottish Athletics memberships (SAL), under a new guise.

Despite being warned by some of my other club running buddies that Stornoway Running & Athetic Club a.k.a. SRAC were “The Dark Side”, I had no qualms in paying my fees and ordering up my club kit & training gear (below), some of which is a ‘little bit thpeshial’ with those shorter-than-a-strippers short tartan shorts (Thankfully Not for Girls). I like running in red and my previous go-to running gear includes the Fetch Everyone forum vest and my 2011 red Saucony Heb 3 tee-shirt. I think you always run faster in red 😉 And the couple of SRACers I’ve met previously have all been lovely, despite most of them not actually being Islanders. But I’ll not hold that against them (says the Highlander!) I firmly believe it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. Unless you’re in the @rse end of under-developed South East Asia and then it’s most definitely where you’re from 😉

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What else have I been doing? Oh planning long mad routes across the islands, twenty to forty miles worth which I imagine will take me half a day with the Go-Pro chest-strapped and the invariable headwind which follows you everywhere. I am itching to get on some of those hills and my very first mission – should I get an audience with anyone who will listen for five minutes – is to get some more off-road, hill, ultra and just non-road events onto the calendar. I’ve already got a sound South Harris route and idea for a Target Zero event. Watch this space and in six months, see if I’ve even got the croft assigned to me, let alone done any race inventing.

Oh and I might have bought a really ancient Defender 90 for cruising about on the fundulations of the Golden Road in the Harris Bays area. Well, I *did* want to improve my car maintenance skills and these old Landys are notorious for breaking down. Just as well I’m capable of running the eight miles to the nearest island garage.

  •  Featured Image is courtesy of the SRAC website, totally in the public domain. Other images are my own