Sunday, 26 February 2012


Off to Kincardine this morning for the Devilla 15k trail run. Organised by Carnegie Harriers and starting from the  Scottish Police College at Tulliallan.
When we got to the registration we met up with Andy and Lee who was busy trying to "blag" an entry for a race that was already full. It's testament to the man's powers of persuasion that he managed it.
An excellent course, with great organisation and the college offers good facilities for the runners after the race (i.e. loads of hot showers).
The race itself? Well, what exactly is a "trail race" and when does it tip the balance and become a frikin' long "cross country"?

The vast majority of the route was on what I would call trail (i.e. very well defined forest roads and paths), but a couple of times we got routed on to decidedly squishy sections that saw us dodging in and out of trees (one of which I very nearly didn't dodge quick enough - just missed a "face slap" into a tree).
But those sections were certainly not the norm and most of the route it was easy just to get the head down and dig in.
I can remember one propper "climb" that went on for a wee bit, but the majority of the route I would define as "lumpy", which is the sort of terrain I enjoy.
I ran for the first part of the race in a wee group that included Ian S, Mike from Moorfoot and a bloke from Bellahouston. I knew that at least a couple of Carnegie runners, Darrin from Moorfoot and Johnny Lawson from Portobello, as well as a couple more, were ahead already.
As the run went on though Ian and the Bellahouston bloke started to ease away, but surprisingly (to me) I managed to pull away from Mike.
Mr Sills remained in my sights for the remaining few miles and I just concentrated on reeling him in (sadly, it wasn't to be).
At the 7 mile point (by my GPS) I passed a marshall who told me "you're in the top ten".
That gave me a bit of a boost and just the encouragement I needed to keep on diggin' in.
By the end I was 10th (58:09) just behind Ian.
Turns out Ian was 4th vet and I was 5th.
A really enjoyable run. Today's conditions were pretty much ideal as well. Cool rather than cold, overcast and very little wind.
A really well organised event and I was pleased, for the organisers, to see that it was fully subscribed.

Got to do it all again next week (on the road this time) at Lasswade. So a fairly "easy" week this week I think (effort wise at least, if not mileage).
Oh. Every runner got a bottle of beer as well. So that's Anne got two then. Given that Anne enjoyed the run, but has come home with a bit of an injury then she can use the beer as an anaesthetic (my diagnosis is tendinitis/shin splints). Though she didn't seem overly confident in my diagnostic technique or my display of medical terminology when I asked "do you get a squeaky feeling in your shin when you move the flappy bit of your ankle"? I knew what I meant.

Saturday, 25 February 2012


Last night was the clubs annual dinner and prize giving so we were at Zitto's in North Berwick. I've been hearing good reviews about this place so I was really looking forward to it.
Excellent food. Really good. I thought I was about fit to burst at the end of it. The food just kept coming, but it was so nice I didn't want to leave anything (so I didn't). Italian food - bring it on. I'll never understand how some runners can get bored of pasta when they are carbo loading.
That said. With what I ate last night I feel like I've carbo loaded in advance for my next two marathons!
I could probably count on one hand the number of times in a year I have three courses in one meal, so to have four last night was a bit of a challenge.

Problem was I felt sluggish today and, even leaving my run till a bit later on, I didn't feel "in the zone".
But "needs must" and all that and I popped the shoes on and headed out the door. I actually wanted to go a bit of a run anyway as I got a new pair of trail shoes on Tuesday and for one reason or another I haven't been out in them yet. Given that I'm away to try my hand at a 15k trail race tomorrow (Devilla Forest 15) I thought it might be a bit of an idea to try them out and make sure they are comfortable.
Seemed to be OK, so I'll see how I get on tomorrow.

Entered the Lasswade 10 for next weekend as well. A bit of an old favourite for me - but it's also a race that I "fear" in a way. It's a good indicator, early on in the year, as to how you've managed your winter training and how your likely to cope in the coming months!

I'm making tea tonight....what else? Pasta!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


As I’ve said before I have an “iffy” ear (the left). It just doesn’t function as well as the right. There are a lot of sounds at either end of the spectrum that I just can’t seem to pick up.

It is too be blunt a feckin’ pain.
It is worse when listening to music through headphones. Unfortunately listening to music through headphones is something I want to do - a lot.
The problem is, believe it or not, “stereo”. I seem to miss out on a lot of what goes on in my left ear.
For example: say I was listening to a duet by Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. While both could be heard in either ear, the way stereo is mixed one would be dominant in the left ear, while the other would be dominant in the right. All hunky-dory if you have good ears, but it means the right is dominant with me. I might end up missing bits of Desmond or Brubeck, depending on who was in my left ear (and I don’t want that).
So, I've been thinking..... Could it be that what I need is to revert to “mono”?
First thing I looked at was a software solution (rip my music to mono). Two problems here. “A” I have a shit-load of music already ripped in glorious stereo, and “B” while I have a problem with my ears, it is just that – my problem, not fair if you share music to expect others to put up with second best.

So. I thought, “firmware”? Sadly there is nothing in my players firmware that allows you to muck about with stereo/mono settings. Yes, you can fiddle about with EQ settings (which I don’t), but not mono/stereo.

So. It’s got to be hardware. New headphones? A quick look on the ineterweb reveals that there is very little in the way of mono headphones these days – and what few there are make the wearer look a tad, shall we say, “special needs”.
So. I did a bit thinking. And I appear to have come up with something….

I found an adaptor that takes a stereo signal and converts it to mono – it takes left ear channel1 and right ear channel2 and combines that into left ear channel1+2.
All good and well. BUT while one may not work perfectly I still have two ears. I don’t want all the music coming into my good ear and my left ear being “polluted” by weegie banter on the train, for example. Likewise, I don’t want to be wearing a single ear piece.
So. I got another adaptor that takes a mono signal and splits it into two channels for stereo… BUT not “true” stereo, its more “dual mono”. In other words in right ear you get channel1+2 and in left ear you get exactly the same channel1+2….

And you know what? It bloody works a treat. It looks bizarre – it looks a bit like a “Christmas tree” fitting that you’d find on an oil well (as I believe they are called). In fact it looked so stupid coming directly from the mp3 player that I have added a small extension lead with this gubbins in the middle.

I fully accept that mono is a step backwards for most. But for me it’s an improvement. In other words for me good mono is better to listen to than hissy stereo. I'm still not picking up everything in my left ear - but at least I know that what I miss in the left is now still in the right.
Listened to a few recordings on it already and I’m aware that I’m picking up on bits that I’ve been missing.
The futures bright – the futures mono.

Monday, 20 February 2012


My old pal the black dog has been hanging about so I thought I’d try and tame him a wee bit and took him out for a brisk 7 mile run early doors this morning.
I know that those endomorphins start buzzing about your system when you have a good run and you get a bit of a “high”, so I often find a morning run is the best way to put me in a ….. well, I wouldn’t say “good” mood, lets just settle for a slightly-less-foul-mood-than-usual.. for the day.
Really noticing a difference in the light these mornings (i.e. there is some!).
Sadly yesterdays run didn’t put me in too good a mood as I had to pass by the corpse of a badger about a mile and a half from the house. I know that farmers don’t like them and you shouldn’t get sentimental over road kill. You live in the country – things die – get over it!
But I like badgers. Bad tempered irascible wee buggers. I see them as kindred spirits.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


Where's my Sunday gone??

Down at Kelso today for the 7th and last leg of the Borders XC. Beautiful weather, absolutely stunning location, a lovely course and a great crowd........or so I'm told.

A stunning location....apparently

I was helping out with the results and only saw the inside of a windowless little committee room in a nearby rugby club.
Didn't get a chance to chat to many people either - though I did get the chance to talk to everyone when, unbeknown to me, it was decided that I would do the announcements for the presentations.
Anyone who has heard me doing this type of thing before will testify that I'm possibly one of the most sweet-natured hosts you could wish for, and make Bruce Forsyth look like a rank amateur.

My criteria for a "successful" event are pretty simple, and I set the bar quite low to be honest. Runner enjoyment etc all take a back seat when it comes to what's top of my check list...
  1. Did anyone get killed? - No
  2. Were there any serious injuries? - No
  3. Is there anything we could get sued for? - No.
Then, it was a successful event.

Though at one point there was a bit of a problem with the results when =IF(ISNA(VLOOKUP($A3,'7 Results'!$B$3:$J$406,8,FALSE)),1000,VLOOKUP($A3,'7 Results'!$B$3:$J$406,8,FALSE)) was wrongly transcribed as =IF(ISNA(VLOOKUP($A3,'7 Results'!$B$3:$I$406,8,FALSE)),1000,VLOOKUP($A3,'7 Results'!$B$3:$I$406,8,FALSE)). Oh, how we laughed.

Got home and went out for a brisk nine miler before I sat down to finalise the results and put them on the web. It's now nearly tea-time and after that I'm looking down the barrel of the start of another week at work.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


Once open, keep refrigerated
and use within one week.

Any runner will tell you that nutrition is very important. You've got to get a good balance of the essentials like carbs, protein, iron, mars bars and cakes (beer - if that's your thang).
But, being a runner also involves a lot of time training and we don't always have time to prepare fancy meals. So here's a recipe for a healthy balanced supper that I made last night.......

  • Place some virgin olive oil in a pan and heat it (obviously) - I use a small wok-type pan.
  • Finely chop half an onion and three cloves of garlic.
  • Add to the hot oil and stir. Fry till soft (not brown).
  • Lower the heat a bit and add one drained can of butter beans. Keep stirring and don't let the beans burn.
  • Add a little crushed black pepper and salt if desired.
  • Then add about 3/4 of a jar of pesto that's been opened for about 4-5 weeks and stir in (don't worry if you don't have a foosty jar of pesto - a fresh one would probably do).
  • Add a hand full of green olives and a handful of black olives.

Serve hot in a bowl. I served mine with already prepared chick pea felafel's, but sausages would be nice (vegetarian obviously) and some walnut and raisin bread.

NOW. It was delicious and I enjoyed it a lot. Sadly something obviously didn't quite agree with me and I've been suffering a bit today ("upset stomach" doesn't begin to describe it).
I've been through the recipe with a fine tooth comb trying to ascertain what it was that went for me...
Think I maybe should only have used two cloves of garlic.

Monday, 13 February 2012



I got stopped the other day at lunchtime and interviewed by “I-On” magazine. Oh yes.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with “I-On” it’s a handy pocket sized *ahem* “lifestyle” magazine full of a load of aspirational w@nk and aimed at young groovy-feckers (or as they put it “urban professionals” – I’m more a prematurely aged, rural scruff sort.)

Anyway. I assume its one of those features where they stop (at random) half a dozen or so “typical” folk and throw a random question at them.

My question was “what’s your favourite place in Edinburgh?”

Now. I think the idea is to expound the virtues of some “groovy, right-on” place where all the “happening” people go. I think I maybe missed the point, and I could see the “reporter’s”* eyes start to lose their light as I started rambling on about how the Record Shak is the best place, as its one of the few places left that has a truly worthwhile choice for the jazz collector (* For “reporter” read “recent school leaver”).

I think my wafer thin veneer of grooveyness was wearing off. I don’t really think I’m I-On’s “target demographic”. I’m more a Lidl’s-offers-free-newspaper type of man myself.

Didn’t help either that they had to take my photo three times. “Smile…” “This IS me smiling” I retorted through my best Gordon-Brownesque grimace.

I have my doubts that my insights will ever roll off the printing press and my hopes of achieving opinion-maker status might be short lived.

Saturday, 11 February 2012


All my days are to pot...but in a good sort of way.
I was off work yesterday (Hurrah).
We were at a gig on Thursday night at the Queens Hall. Away to see the trio "Meadow", John Taylor on piano, Tore Brunborg on sax and Thomas Stronen on drums.
A truly superb gig. All these guys have recorded for ECM before (though not together), but their album "Blissful Ignorance" is on Edition Records. However, their "sound" (or "style") is pure ECM. Does that make sense?
Meadow really draw on the whole spectrum of north European classical, folk and jazz influences.
They played most of their [so far only] album and a few new ones that hopefully will make it onto CD soon.
I noticed that there was something "strange" about the gig, but I couldn't put my finger on it. And then it clicked... absolutely no microphones, no wires,no mixing desk, no amps and no mixing desk. It was 100% acoustic and pure. If Brunborg wanted to bring down the sax a bit he walked to the back of the stage and if the drummer wanted to quieten things down a bit he just threw a cloth over the drums.
There was only one down side to this... when they were introducing the tunes it was difficult to make them out - though I did catch that two of the new ones are called "Edinburgh 1" and "Edinburgh 2".

Anyhoo. A great night, but, while it wasn't exactly late I didn't fancy having to get up at 5 for work the next day ... so we took Friday off.

So yesterday saw us out and about doing shopping and stuff that's normally done on a Saturday. Therefore today was LSD day.
Off towards Pitcox, then along by Dunbar and out towards Barns Ness before heading over over the [busy] A1 and back via Weatherly.
Just managed to get the old GPS to tip over to twenty miles. Not exactly fast (2:44) but that was never the point of today's exercise. Nine weeks to the marathon so I need to get a few in like that over the next seven weeks or so - just get my body used to being out on the road for that length of time again.
Still trying to keep up with this new fangled "stretching" regime. Got a few strange looks yesterday when we were out and about shopping, as I would stop occasionally to stretch my hams, calfs etc. The back is getting a bit better, but perhaps I could have done with a wee bit "chemical intervention" this morning (bruphen).
Continuing my trial that I started last year into a more scientific approach to nutrition during long runs - a couple of veggie Percy Pig sweeties. One at 16 miles for a wee energy boost and one at 19.8 because that's when I remembered I had it!!

Thursday, 9 February 2012



What “draws me in” to wanting to listen to certain pieces of music?

Sometimes it’s the style of music that’s on a recording that draws me to it.

Sometimes it’s the musician involved.

And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s the cover.

How good is that? It just exudes early 1950’s elegance and aspirational desires in an age of [true] austerity.

As it is, the music ain’t that shoddy either. Nothing startling or innovative – it’s not going to rock your world. But then again who wants their world “rocked” every time anyway? Sometimes we just want solid and dependable – and that’s exactly what this is. It’s a sort of super-smooth cocktail jazz that’s more commonly associated with George Shearing. Cover versions of ten well worn jazz standards treated with reverence and respect.

Lockyer went on to become a composer for TV and films and one of the films he composed for was the first Dr Who and the Daleks film (sadly not the Bernard Cribbins one.)


..."Stuart Hay - Specialist subject - The Bleedin' Obvious".

I've been getting a lot of bother from my back, my lower back to be precise. I'm as stiff as a board when I get up in the morning. It's agony. The rigmarole I have to go through to put on my socks has to be seen to be believed.
Possibly said this before but I'm not what you would call a "natural" runner. I have a very pronounced lean-back-chest-out style (if indeed, "style" is the word).
The result is that I seem to be placing a lot of pressure on my lower back.
SO ...... I've started this new fangled "stretching" I've heard so much about.
This involves "stretches" that "ease" the lower back and the hamstrings. What it also involves is much puffing, redness in the face and a fair bit of swearing until it starts to ease off.
But you know what? It seems to be working. AND, not only is my back getting a wee bit better but I've noticed that I'm a bit "looser" when running and the running seems to be a bit easier.
Who would have thought it! "Stretching".. It might just catch on!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012



It probably contravenes god knows how many health and safety, or fire regulations (arguably it might contravene the Geneva Convention on biological warfare).

It certainly contravenes socially acceptable “norms” and commonly held values on hygiene….

Got into the DGP today and discovered, at lunchtime while thinking about going a run, that I had left my shorts yesterday, hanging over my PC in Leith…to dry out the sweaty liner.

A quick phone call to Mr Brown in the Leith office at least lessened the risk of fire (I won’t be back in there till Thursday). Though I did sense a reluctance to remove the offending article by hand. There is, I must admit, a tendency for my small part of the office to look like Widow Twankey’s wash house, after a run; with all the gear left out to air.

Luckily I had another pair with me for tonight, so I just used them. As long as I remember to remove them from the top of the laser printer before I go tonight J

Sunday, 5 February 2012


Strange day yesterday.
I didn't have clothes on all day.... Oooh err. Well. Not "proper" clothes.
We were of to Kilmarnock for the Scottish Masters XC so it was a case of wake up and have a bit of a relaxing breakfast, shower, change into running gear, pack extra running gear into a bag to get changed into after the race...then head off.
We reckoned on a 2 1/2 hour journey through there and wanted to have time for Anne to get her number etc. before her race at 1:30, so we picked Richard up at 10:00 and headed "west" (my favourite direction).
Now. the weather pundits on the telly had been warning us about snow and ice and generally cold related Armageddon. What they really meant was that soft southern shandy drinkers were going to get a bit of snow, while the rest of us got ...well, we got pretty much what you would expect for the first weekend in February to be honest. RAIN! Loads and loads of feckin' rain.
So why - why in the name of all that's good - did I choose to believe the telly pundits? "Ooh, it's cold now, it'll be cold when we get there, the ground will be firm - I know! I'll only take my trail shoes"!! Yes - that's right, it's because I'm an arse hole!!
Snow? Ice? Frost?? None whatsoever. Wind? Rain? MUD?? Oh yes. Loads of that.
After an initial run through of most of the course we still thought it might be firm underfoot and we would get away with trail shoes.
However. This didn't factor into account what happens when you get lashings of rain, mud and then 500 or so pairs of shoes running over the same route five times!! (women went round twice - men three times).
It wasn't the most inspiring course I've done but there were a few bits that were narrow and contained very tight bends. Add to this mix ankle deep mud and you have the makings of a difficult route! Especially if you didn't have Spikes, Walshes or Inov8s etc!!
I quite like really cold dry weather. I don't like cold, wet and windy.
By the time we had "warmed up" and watched a bit of the ladies race, then stripped down to the bare essentials for racing I was already soaked to the skin and freezing. I wasn't the only one and a few runners were getting a bit impatient and telling the starter just to "get on with it".
The best I can say about my XC running for 2011/12 is it's been "average" and this run was no different at all.
It would be easy to blame the weather, the shoes etc. But my heart just wasn't in it. XC just doesn't "do it for me" I'm afraid.
Anyway. I did it all the same.
It was that cold and unpleasant that once Richard, George and "Ian" had finished we just headed off - no hanging about to chat in these conditions (we all finished pretty much beside each other with only about 12 places separating all 4 of us).
George and "Ian" had their car parked pretty close to the start area so me and Richard headed along the road to the local school that was being used for changing.
It was there, while looking forward to getting into some nice dry gear that I realised that the bag I had taken along isn't water proof and the tree I had left it under didn't exactly offer much protection either. The stuff inside was soaking!
So. Instead of nice clean dry running gear to put on for the journey home, I had horrible, wet, though still "clean" running gear to change into!
With the fan heater going full blast in the car I was almost dry by the time we got home at the back of five!!

So. By the time we got in it was almost dark. I just had a quick shower...and, given that all I had planned for the evening was eating a bowl of chili pasta the size of a washing up basin and watching another episode of The Walking Dead I decided to just loaf about in my house-coat.

So. That's that. XC, for me, is over this year! Good. I can concentrate on some distance runs now.
Went out this morning for about 17. Pretty slow (icy in a few places) but I did enjoy it.

Thursday, 2 February 2012


Went out for ten miles on Tuesday night with Ian S. Bit of a head torch assisted run, out with the confines of the town and into the country. Through Spott, along to Burnhead, over to Pitcox and then back via Eweford. By the time we got back to Hallihll the GPS digits were still a half mile or so shy of ten miles, so we just went round the track a few times to round things off. Nice steady pace rather than eyeballs out.

Quite enjoyed it and hopefully it will help keep my weekly mileage high(ish) after a weekend that was a bit restricted.
Anyway. I've got two head torches and went running on Tuesday with the "full-on-in-yer-face" six LED version that I have.
My other torch is a small 1 LED job, though it still shines a fair light. However, I did notice the other day that the batteries were getting a bit low and it was dimming. A visit to one of my favourite shops for some "quality" replacements was in order - Poundland! J
The torch takes two CR2016s but I couldn’t buy these separately so had to settle for a pack that had 4 CR2032s, 2 CR2016s and 2 CR2025s. I thought even £1 for the two I need isn’t bad.
Then I got thinking - it seems a waste to “waste” the other six batteries.. “would 2 CR2016s just be the same as 1 CR2032 ?? Bugger me. It works! So that’s five torch refills for £1.
So if you have a torch that takes this type of battery – take it from me, it works.

Not everything from Poundland is quality though, and I’m not always lucky with things “electric”.. A little while ago I bought some replacement bulbs for our spotlights in the kitchen. After all a bulb is a bulb.
Apart from yesterday… when I tootled down the stairs and into the kitchen for a bit of sticky lemon drizzle cake.
I turned on the light, there was an almighty flash and one of the spots blew out of the holder like a bullet and hit me on the forehead and exploded into a thousand tiny pieces!! It didn’t simply fall down on to me – this thing came out with some force.
I thought I’d become the victim of some deranged Paul McCartney fan (is there any other type) who was armed with a snipers rifle! Took ages to clean up afterwards. If it hadn’t been for my specs I reckon I’d have got it in the eyes.

As for head torches, it might be getting close to the time when we can pack them away for a bit. I noticed this morning that it was light by about 7:20. Good news indeed for those who go early morning runs.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


OK. OK. I don't want to get into the should they/shouldn't they about the removal of Fred Goodwins gong.

BUT. What sort of a world are we living in when a banker who makes (admittedly "massive") mistakes gets his knighthood taken off him, but *ahem* super star bug-eyed scouse git Sir Paul "Feckin'" McCartney gets to keep his after crimes against humanity....
I give you the mop-top, twats new "jazz" offering ....
"Sir" Paul and his mop top chums all but killed off popular jazz in the UK in the 60's and now he has the affront to bring out this putrid bilge?

I can hardly even bring myself to use the blessed "J" word, but it is "Jazz Lite" of the worst possible sort. It's dross not even fit for "School-run-mum's" (if anything it's aimed at "School-run-grannies").

Buy it and listen to it if you must, but never, ever talk to me about it.

Simply put? The man deserves a burning tyre placed over his head.
At the very least, give Mark Chapman an early release, a loaded revolver, a cheap super saver rail ticket and a map of the Mull of Kintyre.