Sunday, 29 January 2012


Down to Berwick today for the sixth and (for me) final leg of the Borders XC (there's one more leg in the series - but I won't be doing it).
A fairly straightforward route - along the beach, up towards a cliff-top path, along the path, round a marked point near an old building ...then the same in reverse.
The start, through dunes. on soft sand was tough. Tough and crowded - as 145 runners jostled for position.
But pretty soon you go round a corner onto the "main" part of the beach and you can spread out a bit and get into a bit of a rhythm.
This year it was strange to see the field split into three distinct lines going along the beach. Some opted to head down to the waters edge and firmer sand. Some opted to stay on the shortest path between two points route (but I imagine the sand would be a bit soft at that point). While some, including me, opted for a middle route that gave firm(ish) sand but a slightly shorter line.
A bit of a sting awaited us this year as we came off the beach. Berwick had altered the route! The old way up the steps towards the path was obviously deemed too easy, and this year we were forced to walk/climb/clamber up a grassy bank. This really knocked the wind out of me and I found it tough getting back into a rhythm on the path...but I did...just.
Got along the path and round the turn fairly incident free and passed about the same amount of runners as overtook me.
The climb/clamber down the grassy bank cost me a few places as I hippity-hopped my big-girly way down. Though even my descent was slightly more dignified than the bloke who joined the descent behind me, tripped, then passed me sliding down the banking head first on his belly!
Back onto the sand and took more or less the same line as the way out and just tried to consolidate my place.
The final couple of hundred metres on soft sand are bloody tough going.

I'm aware that I don't have too long till my Spring mara' and, while I like the XC, I'm aware that it eats into my time that I should be using for long distance runs.
Didn't help that yesterday's run had to get cut short when a part of the route was inaccessible due to a shooting party!

Supposed to be going to Kilmarnock next weekend for another XC race (the masters) - so that's another opportunity for a long un' out the window. Weather permitting, I think I might fore go the "traditional" six miles bombing round the streets of Dunbar on Tuesday, don a head torch and head out for a few miles more.

Friday, 27 January 2012


Interval training last night. Miles and two miles. Tough going. Especially when you have to do mental arithmetic while running. However, here are the findings:

"Naw, naw. You need to carry your three..."

  • 1 mile = 1609 meters (give or take a baw hair).
  • So: 1 mile ran on a 400m track should be 4 circuits of the track plus an extra 9 meters.
  • However: 1 “normal” running track = 400m BUT 1 “Hallhill” running track = 410m (within a baw hair).
  • Or: 1 "Hallhill mile" = 1.019 "normal" mile
  • Assuming: 1 “Hallhill mile” (4 complete circuits of the track) = 1640 meters (baw hairs apply).
  • So: 1 “Hallhill mile” at 6:00 pace = 1 “normal” mile at 5:53 pace (baws…etc.) (0:6:00 ÷ 1.019 x 1 = 0:5:53)
Or.... just wear your GPS.


Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Last night's club run was a little oasis in an otherwise blustery week. Or "month" probably.
Last night there was little or no wind at all. As is our want in the winter months the relatively short run was taken at a fast pace and there was a feeling that it had been a good session.
So. Today? Today, when I'm working from home and get that wee bit extra time to go a bit longer at lunchtime? Yes. My old pal "the wind" is back (has there ever been a windier January?).
Back on a mission it would seem. His mission being to make my run as bloody awful as he can manage.
Very few people, I imagine, look back on last winter's weather fondly and miss it. But I'm one of those few. Give me snow any day. I'll run in cold and won't complain. I'll run in the rain and I won't complain. But wind? Frickin' hate it. And today was one of those days when every time I turned a corner the wind turned too - so it was always in my face.
Eight mile - but it felt like twelve!
I do enjoy my Spring marathons... but the winter training can be a bind at times.

Monday, 23 January 2012



I was looking at the details of some races recently. Trying to get a handle on what I want to do.

Got one or two in mind.

But it dawned on me that I still haven’t entered the Edinburgh Marathon for this year and I found myself wondering “why”. I’m afraid the best answer I can come up with is, quite honestly, that I’m bored with the Edinburgh Marathon. I’ve done it nine years in a row….and I need to give it a rest.

I’m afraid that being a member of the “Mile AYE” club isn’t really enough incentive for me. Edinburgh is a good marathon and it’s got PB potential – I’d recommend it to anyone (it is a bit dear though). But it’s shaped my [running] year for too long. Its time for change.

I still want to do a Spring marathon – so Lochaber here I come. Entry away and hotel booked.

Hopefully this will give my motivation the kick up the behind that it needs to get me out doing some longer runs.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


A bit on the blustery side again yesterday - so yesterday's run was cut short a wee bit to 9 miles.
This morning however the weather was a bit more favourable so I ventured a little further and went via Spott, Burnhead and Pitcox then along by the bridle path by the side of the A1.
Really nice running weather, and I felt a little over heated in my running jacket.
It's been a while since I ventured out that way and I had almost forgotten how bloody awful "Starvation Brae" is to run up, especially if you've already done 11 miles. There's only one thing worse than running up Starvation - cycling up it.
It's cruel of me, I know, but every time we're driving down Starvation and we see cyclists struggling up it I always give them a smile and a cheery wave as we pass. It's psychological, but you can see the disappointment in their faces - once they know they've been spotted you can see they don't want to lose face and get off and push. I like to think I'm helping with their motivation! On the down side it can get a bit hairy when a cyclist is out of the saddle pushing away at the pedals and pulling on the handle bars - and then try to wave back!

I couldn't help but notice today as I ran along, just after Spott, that the "Witches Stone" had quite a collection of loose change on top of it. The Witches Stone is, allegedly, where witches were put to death (by burning) in the 17th and 18th century, so perhaps the coins are there to appease the spirits of the dead.
Some people claim that it's the location of the last witch burning in Scotland, but I think that claim has been taken by others and those responsible for the Spott stone seem to agree and have changed their notice to read "...the last burning in the South of Scotland...".
Given that the stone has been "refurbished" in recent years and a nice metal fence put around it I hope, at the very least, the money goes towards it's upkeep.

Quite a good week last week. Managed 65 miles. Next weekend my opportunities for longer runs will be limited (XC at Berwick on the Sunday). Normally I'd cut back a bit the day before a race but, quite frankly, my XC performance has been a tad on the poor side this year anyway so I might as well just go for a long run on Saturday and treat the XC like a hard training session.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Heres a thing.
Lidl toothpaste and Poundland "dry skin cream" both look pretty similar (if youre an idiot).

Oh how I laughed as I walked through a busy office to wash the liberaly applied toothpaste from my face.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

WIND (And a Cat With No Taste)

As per usual last nights run with the club turned out to be an eyeballs out, lung buster.
So todays run was always going to be a more sedate affair anyway. Probably just as well thats what I intended as the wind put paid to any ideas of speed.
The route I do on a Wednesday seems to be particularly expossed to the wind - the slightest breeze seems to hit you, and it seldom seems to be in your favour. I think that the prevailing wind is westerly and our bit just lies at the end of a funnel created by the Lammermuirs...Maybe. Or maybe I'm clutching at straws, looking for an excuse for a crap run.
I'm sure its all good training......just not fun.

FINDINGS: Did Fatso the cat dig the new Red Rodney CD? Did he feck....did a runner about twenty seconds into the first track. No taste.

Monday, 16 January 2012


Today is, I believe, “Blue Monday”. Supposedly the most depressing day of the year L

It’s got something to do with debt after Christmas, being back at work and length of time till next pay day…apparently. Really? Personally today’s just another case of D.D.S.S. (different day same shit). Miserable is my default setting.
It looks as though “misery” may be a bit of a constant companion for me for a while, as the country is plunged into a two and a half year (!!) referendum campaign. Two and a half years of having to watch that fat bustard Salmond’s smug, arse-like, face looming at me from the telly every night. Jesus wept..

Anyhoo. One wee “highlight” today has been the removal of traffic management and removal of scaffolding from Salamander Street close by to my office. This has once more freed up my 5.5 mile run down towards Seafield and Portobello. It’s was closed for weeks towards the end of last year, due to road works. Then it reopened just before Christmas but then closed again in the New Year after the high winds when a building became “unsafe”.
I’ve enjoyed the 7 mile route I’ve been doing as an alternative, but it is nice to have a bit of choice.
Very, VERY cold out running today though. Quite exhilarating – gets the blood pumping. Though the cold does affect my breathing a bit when I try to start too quickly without an adequate warm up. And, given that I’m at work and time is limited … so is the warm up. Well I say “limited” – there isn’t one.
Don’t know if it’s just the effect on my breathing, or the extra weight and encumbrance of more clothes – perhaps it’s a sensible fear of slipping – but I do go a bit slower in the cold.
Still good fun though.

On a cheery, jazzy, note.. I have a new recording to listen to - Red Rodney “No Turn On Red”. An album of, mainly, originals, by the one time bopster and Charlie Parker sideman. The album dates from 1986 but wasn’t released till 89 when his career had had a wee resurgence on the back of interest generated by the movie “Bird” . I remember my neighbour’s cat Fatso “dug” my last Red Rodney offering so I’ll have to see what he makes of this on Wednesday, if I get a chance to play it when he’s hanging around.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Quite a good weekend (so far). Did 12 mile yesterday then 16 today.
As it turned out yesterday was actually quite grey, drab and I decided to save my long run till today. And it proved to be the right choice for once. This morning was perfect for running. Cold, crisp, clear and calm.
Though I probably did over dress and ended up cooking for half the run - but there you go.
Today's run was mainly off road and was a sort of convoluted route round the wind farms and over to Crichness then back into the wind farms by a wee path near the car park/picnic area at Crystal Forest.
Loads of hills so a nice slow pace was the order of the day.

Started watching the DVD box set of season one of "The Walking Dead" which Frank gave me a loan of. Pretty good fun. Basically a zombie story about a cop who wakes from a coma (after being shot) to find himself in a world where the dead are walking the streets. I'm only a couple of episodes in, so why the dead are walking the streets hasn't been explained yet.
Quite gory in parts and possibly not the best viewing while your tucking into a big bowl of pasta in tomato sauce! Though to be truthful the "zombies" are nothing compared to what can be seen on a daily basis shuffling down by the chill cabinets in Lidl in the Kirkgate.

Speaking of shopping - I need to get out this week and buy more plastic sleeves for CDs. I'm afraid that even by my slobby standards the "overspill pile" from my collection is getting a bit untidy. I found things in the bottom of the pile that I'd forgotten that I even had!

Friday, 13 January 2012



Last night’s interval session was bloody tough (as it should be). One mile, followed by 8 x 600m.

Got tantalizingly close, a couple of times, to getting round in under 2 minutes on the first few goes - but just couldn’t manage it.

So, on the second-last interval I just decided to go off like a rocket from the start and then try to just hang on. Got round in 1:59! Sadly I left myself so knackered that I had to jog round on the last 600m. For one reason or another I didn’t do as many interval sessions as I would have liked over the last 12 months or so, so I’m more than keen to keep it up and give it as much effort as I can when I do go… I’m convinced you get the rewards at the end of it.

Enjoying a rest day today. Going to try for a 16 mile run one day this weekend. I normally “save” my long run till a Sunday – but if the weather is nice tomorrow I might just go for it then.

Looking forward to my Friday night C.C.J. tonight (coffee, cake and jazz while reading John Fordham’s normally excellent jazz reviews in the Guardian). Still working my way through my festive haul of toons but I’ve also got a new acquisition – “Early Piano Music” by Ketil Bjørnstad. It’s a re-release of a couple of solo albums he recorded in the early to mid 80’s just before he switched over to the ECM label. Some really melodic and ambient stuff here, as well as a couple of more discernibly jazzy numbers that are reminiscent of some of Keith Jarrett’s works (but without the annoying Muppet like mumblings).

I thought, on first listening to some of the tracks, that they already sounded “familiar”. Not surprising really as Bjørnstad states in the album notes that while these were just spontaneous “doodlings” some of the themes he was playing with did get developed and incorporated into his later work “The Sea”. None of the tracks are “named” as such but are just labelled as “Prelude 1”, “Prelude 2” etc.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012



Didn’t mean to (at first), but I’ve just gone 12 months without reading a complete “book”. Nothing to be proud of there perhaps, but…. I have read quite a few novels . Well, 60 (I kept count).

However, since early January last year every novel I’ve read has been an ebook. Obviously, when I first got an ereader I was keen to try it for a little while, but it was only after realising I had gone 5 months or so without reverting to paper that I thought, “OK. Lets see if I can keep this up”.

I’ve actually got two ereaders. The first one I got has a small TFT screen which, while having the benefit of colour, isn’t as comfortable or easy on the eyes as my eink model that I now use daily.

Obviously, I have “dipped into” and had quick looks at “old fashioned” paper books, but I must admit that I am very much converted to ebooks. Infinitely easier to carry about if your commuting and I don’t have to worry about lugging multiple books for long journeys etc. Also, it’s very light so even reading weighty tomes is comfortable.

I’ve never been one for “collecting” and displaying books anyway. Once I read a book I’m happy to get rid of it (there are very few books I would want to read more than once anyway). So, unlike collecting music on CD rather than MP3, I don’t feel I’m missing out on any aesthetic or tactile pleasure some may get from book collections. It could be argued that I have enough CDs cluttering up the house that I don’t need to add to the mess with books anyway.

I don’t know if ebooks are any more “eco friendly” than their papery cousins or not - I’d like to think they are, but does the energy used to create an ereader and continually keep it charged equate to more than the energy used to “create” 60 paperbacks??

The big downside of this switch to ebooks? Trips to charity shops are not half the fun they used to be L

Sunday, 8 January 2012


Paxton House outside Berwick today for leg 5 of the Borders XC series.
A beautiful venue for a race and a shame to see that it too hadn't fully escaped the effects of last Tuesday's high winds.
What a difference from last year though. 52 weeks ago this course was frozen solid! This year while there was a light chill in the air at one point it felt quite mild for most of the pre race warm up.

Met up with most of the Dunbar crew in the car park and had a bit of a blether and catch up. Then headed off for a bit of a warm up. During which we saw the junior race pass by. Pass by at a very interesting point.... after a circuit of a field the runners had to pass through a gate. A gate very close to a part of the field where I suspect cattle get fed. Obviously the cows congregate to feed and do what else comes naturally. There appeared to be a six inch deep "puddle" of mud and/or shit (certainly it smelled of the latter).
The marshalls were telling the runners "just go for it" - and most of them did. Quite a few lost shoes as well!
I probably didn't help by shouting "go on.. your Mum will clean your shoes for you".

We continued with the warm up and I went back and warned the others of this "obstacle". I took the precaution before the race of re-doing my laces just that little bit tighter - and triple knotting them.
Quite funny really as I clocked quite a few runners today sporting lovely new cross country shoes (obviously Santa has been busy). It's amazing the really bright colours and pretty designs that they make these things, and you wonder "why?" they're going to be covered in glore in about half a mile anyway.
Mind you.. some runners seem to have more shoes than  Imelda Marcos.

Quite a sizable turnout for the race.
At the shitty gate I noticed that most runners were going around. However, I followed Ian R's example and just charged through it. It gained us valuable seconds... but then again just about everybody that I managed to pass at that point got away from me again.

The course had changed from last year and there was a nice riverside section that I'm sure we didn't do before. I enjoyed that bit, but the climb out of the little valley that it was in seemed to take it out of me and I never really recovered.
Finished in 22:41. Most importantly that's me done 4 races so I now qualify for my commemorative horse brass.

Strange smell in the car on the way home though.... for all the world like cow shit. Maybe was the cross country shoes this week.

Saturday, 7 January 2012


Oh thank the lord (or if I'm to be fair - thank Scottish Power).
Got in from work yesterday to find that power had been restored! A full 45 minutes before we got back in from work if the flashing clock on the cooker was to believed. So we were out for a about 82 hours ... did I hear somebody say "compensation"?
It's amazing how quickly, without electricity in our homes, we revert to our old "natural" state of grumpy boredom (or is that just me).
Equally, it's amazing how soon after power is restored to our homes that we revert back to our "modern" "natural" state of sitting there flicking through countless TV channels mumbling "is this all that's on?". I was sitting doing this while Anne was through removing the remainder of the soggy remnants from what was once our freezer.

There was a brief moment of panic last night when the power went back off for five minutes. I was standing on "hold" to talk to one of my many friends on the help line when it came back on. It was probably just a "controlled outage" while they reconnected someone else further down the line.

Anyway. Power = hot water = shower = no excuse for not going out a run today. And more importantly no excuse for not taking part in the Paxton House XC tomorrow. The "tightness" in my hamstring appears to have slipped down to my calf - strange. A nice gentle run today followed by loads of stretching. Stretching my back while I loaf out on the sofa and finish my book to be precise! I might even return to a bit of "holiday mode" and try to make an impression on some of my chocolate stash. Strange how I get addicted to chocolate at times. The Portobello race on New Years day was excellent so it says so much about me, rather than the organisation, that my only "complaint" was that the little box of raisins we got at the end weren't chocolate covered!

On a "minus" side the power being on did mean that I had no excuse for not taking part in that dreadful weekend pastime "cleaning and hoovering".

Friday, 6 January 2012

DAY 4.....

DAY 4.....

Well, dawn broke on a dull and powerless Woodhall for a fourth day today.

Life’s all getting a bit surreal to be honest. The house is taking on the appearance of an expedition base camp; with all “cooking” and water boiling being done on a tiny one burner camping stove and all light coming from candles and our runners head torches (possibly the best bit of kit ever in these situations).

I’ve managed to get an elderly MP3 player hooked up to a small battery powered speaker and configured as an FM radio. So at the very least we can listen to the radio.

Though to be honest. What’s worse than waking up in a cold, dark, house with no power at 5:15?? Yes – waking up in a cold, dark, house with no power at 5:15 and listening to Vanessa Feltz prattling away on the radio (who in their right mind gave that fat mare a job?)

Yesterday at work saw me take advantage of the “free” electricity on offer and recharge my ereader, MP3 player, Garmin and speaker J!!

Sadly a lot of the food in the freezer has had to be lobbed out and Anne was up at 4:00 this morning clearing things out the freezer.




Still. Decided that if I was having a shower at work this morning I might as well go for a run before it, so I went out for a 7 mile route up by the water of Leith etc at 7:00.

A bit “cross country” as there were quite a few fallen trees on the route to climb over or go round by clambering up and along bankings.

My hamstring felt a lot better today (as it did last night at the club). So I’m hopeful up for running in the cross country this weekend at Paxton. If I can do this race that’s me “got my four in” for the series (won’t be doing the last race).


I’m still undecided about what “big” races to do in the first half of this year. I have three marathons in mind – Locharber, Edinburgh, and the new one at Strathearn. Out of these three I think I’ll do two. Edinburgh is a given as I need to keep my place in the “Mile AYE club” so the only real choice is which of the other two?

Thursday, 5 January 2012



“Aw Feck IT!!!!”

Not the cry of a man returning to work after twelve days leave. Oh no, it’s the cry of someone waking up to a cold dark house and the start of their third day without electricity!

Not an ideal end to the holidays it has to be said and for the first time in as long as I can remember I almost didn’t mind coming into work today – at least I could have a hot shower this morning. 48 hours with two runs, but only one shower – not nice(there’s only a certain level of “freshness” that can be attained with a packet of baby wipes L ).

I don’t enjoy being in a house without power…but I can accept it.  There was a lot of wind and a lot of damage and I accept that they have to let the winds abate a wee bit before its safe/practical to go out to repair the lines. What I don’t like is not getting to talk to a human when I phone their emergency help line. And I especially don’t like the fact that the estimated reconnection time keeps changing!

Please god…let it be back on tonight.



On the old running front. I will go down to the club tonight, but I doubt if I’ll take part in the monthly 5k handicap race. I’ve been having a wee bit of “bother” from my left hamstring for a couple of days now. Feels very tight. Keep stretching it and it’s not too bad after a few miles of gentle warm up. But I don’t trust myself to warm up adequately before hurtling off for a 5k dash. Probably best if I just went off for a few mile gentle trot on my own.

So, a diet of paracetamal and ibrufen for me, coupled with the regular and vigorous application of tiger balm.

However. I shall be down… a perfect opportunity to show off my classy new running gear. Oh yes… Lidl have jackets and leggings in again. It’s strange that a few years ago I used to scoff at Lidl (I used to view it as a sort of Waitrose for Pikies). Now I’m of the belief that if you can’t buy it in Lidl – well, you just don’t need it!!

Sunday, 1 January 2012


Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, even Easter ... I love them all. But for sheer excitement you just can not beat the thrill of sitting watching digits tick over from 23:59, 2011 to 00:00, 2012. Oh be still my beating heart!! I sometimes find myself trying to recreate these golden moments by turning on every electrical appliance in the house and then sitting with my head in the airing cupboard watching the digits on my electric metre just tick by! Magical!

Not "New Years" biggest fan, it should be said. I simply don't "get it". Is there some giant fairy Godmother like entity that I don't know about? Who with the wave of her wand changes everybody's life expectations and goals at the stroke of midnight. Even if she does; the magic appears to wear off by about January the 15th. The calendar gets changed - feck all else.

Anyway. If you do "get it" and it is your bag then "Happy New Year".

Last night saw the last race in the twelve monthly reference period known as 2011. The "Black Bun Run". A 1.5 mile "sprint" through the streets of Dunbar and West Barns. 16 runners took up the challenge this year and a good pace was set. I ended up in a two man tussle with Ian S for most of the race but managed to pull away [just] in the last stages to claim the coveted Black Bun.

Then, this morning it was the first race in the twelve month reference period that we imaginatively refer to as 2012 - the Portobello Prom Race. 4 mile from the back of the dog and cat home along the prom towards Joppa ....and back.
There seemed to be a very large turnout this year.

Got slightly boxed in at the start this time, but that was probably no bad thing -  it just gave me something to aim for and I spent the first two miles getting runners in my sights and picking them off.
At the turn point I was running with a Lothian RC runner and we pretty much worked together all the way back.
A bit confusing this one if your used to the similar race in the summer. In this one you get back towards the swimming pool and arcades ... and then realise you still have a mile to go! I knew it was 4 miles. I knew it was slightly different route. But I still wanted to stop just after the bowling club!
I was initially disappointed with my time today (22:38) as I was convinced I was faster last year. I wasn't! This years was actually slightly faster.
A great race and, even if you don't celebrate the increase in the annual reference, a great place to meet up with loads of other runners at this time of year.