Wednesday, 29 January 2014


Off for my six-monthly session of thinly disguised contempt and ridicule this morning. Or as it is sometimes better known – my dental check-up. I’m convinced that, irrespective of gender, dentists would make ideal wives… there is nothing that they can’t find fault in. Do you floss? How often do you brush? How long do you brush? Why don’t you use an electric brush? Why do you brush up and down? Why don’t you hold the brush at 45 degrees. It’s feckin relentless.
Unfortunately, because I did have a dentist appointment, I was unable to do my “daft o’clock” run today. I shall have to try and make up for it.
My preparation for the marathon in April is not going well. Not going well at all.
Desperately need to get some long runs in.
What I DID have time for this morning though was a really good listen to the new offering from Arild Andersen, Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccia, “Mira”.
I know we are only four weeks into a new year, but this really could be the record of the year. Real gentle Nordic “folk” type ballads for the most part. I was listening on my Ipod while I walked into Dunbar (in the dark) and the wind howling through the trees actually added to the overall effect. It's mostly, very reminiscent of what I think of as "classic" ECM type jazz.
You know how Nordic TV is often better than ours and Nordic crime fiction is often better than ours? No real definable reason - it just "is". Well this is the same.
One "cover" among the album of originals - perhaps the best cover I have ever heard of Burt Bacharach’s “Alfie”. This is Alfie, as I’ve never heard it before. The trio seems to take the song apart like a tangram puzzle, then rearrange the parts into simplistic but beautiful patterns. Different from the original, yet still constructed from, and recognisable as,  the same components.
This version may finally be enough to place the last nail in the coffin of that awful version, of what should be a wonderful song, by Cilla-Bloody-Black.

Friday, 24 January 2014


Our 400(ish) meter track at Hallhill is in an appalling state right now. It’s lumpy, uneven, muddy and generally bereft of grass in large patches. We still have interval training on it, though in effect what we are doing is the equivalent of trail running round a roughly 400m long sheep track – a sort of thin, bare, muddy line that at one time used to follow a white line in the grass. What used to be “the inside lane” now has the distinct feel of a shallow trench. It’s surprising that “Time Team” haven’t turned up to look for old WWI relics.

Still. It’s what we have…so we use it. And the effort put in to a session, if done properly, is just as great – so the rewards should be the same. Last night session was a fairly tough one (1 mile followed by 6 x 1000m) and it ended what’s been not too bad a week.

Managing to keep the weekly mileage up above 50 – which isn’t too bad for a working week, but I’m aware that I’ve got a marathon in only ten weeks – so I really should be pushing that up a bit and getting some quality long runs under my belt. Not always an easy task when you’re weekends are “spoken for” with XC races etc.

XC at Berwick on Sunday, so I’ll have to try and get a long run in on Saturday.

Got a few days leave that I have to “use or loose” before the end of February – so using one and taking a long weekend. Might try to get in a decent run on Monday as well then.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


I really DO try to keep up the mileage and just haul my lazy arse out of the doors regardless of the weather. After all, you might as well train when its crap weather because you never know when you are going to have to race in crap weather!
But there are times it really is a drag. I’ve been “troubled” by a wee bit of a winter cold/sore throat type thingumy since about Wednesday and it appears to have affected my mojo. I know I should be out there clocking up the miles, but all I want to do is loaf about, reading, listen to Charlie Parker albums on the old gramophone and fill my face with Mars Bars.
But…. I’ve put my name down for the Lochaber Marathon in April…times drawing in and all the crap …best get the shoes on and get there.
Yesterdays 11 mile run wasn’t too bad. Got soaked through to the bone, but I seemed to get round ok. In fact, the worst part of yesterdays run was standing in the kitchen trying to get off all the cold wet gear, with numb hands, after I got back.
Today? Well today was just horrible. The rain was worse. The wind was worse. And as for my “mojo”? Well. It appears to have gone missing in action – alongside my “will to live” and my “joie de vivre”.
I had intended to do 16 miles today. The plan was to set off towards Crowhill, then turn up by Cocklaw, Oldhamstocks and then home. Sadly by the time I got to Crowhill my enthusiasm had drained out of me. I got to the bit where I should have gone left …..I headed right and back for home. Feeling miserable, cold and slow the last thing I needed added to the mix was guilt. But that is exactly what I got - guilt. Not quite as bad as the feeling you get if you pull out of a race and get branded with that awful “DNF”, but I started to punish myself with thoughts of “quitter” and “loser”.
So.. when I got to the end of Innerwick top road, rather than turn at Primrose Cottages for home I got the head down, turned right and set off for another loop past the caravan park, along the Market Road and back through Innerwick.
Because I did one part of the route twice I ended up passing the same group of cyclists twice. Once at Crowhill, where they had all stopped while one of their number sorted a puncture and then again later on down at Innerwick where they had stopped while another one change a punctured tyre. At least I wasn't alone in my misery.
Got home wet, cold and miserable, but at least I’d managed 15. Not the 16 I had planned but a lot better than it might have been.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Strange how quickly we become “reliant” on technology. Wasn’t able to run with my Garmin last night due to a bit of “operative malfunction” (I’d previously left it turned on in my kit bag and the battery had drained).
Now last night was just the usual “town run” with the club, and I’ve done it so often that I could just about run it with my eyes closed – though with my history of falls and tumbles I’m not about to try. I know where all the mile markers are and, using a “standard stop watch” I should have been able to pace my run. But without that all important “pace” reading and without those comforting “beeps” to confirm another 1mile lap chalked up I just felt like something was missing.
Strange thing is though, that without the information I think I maybe under estimated how I was doing and just kept pushing harder and harder.

It did help last night though that the conditions were perfect. A beautiful, still, clear night. Cold but not freezing. Unlike this morning’s Daft o’clock.
One of my usual routes – so nothing really different there. However, as I started there was a light spattering of rain, and as the run progressed it just got heavier and heavier and then..heavier still.
Today I did have my Garmin, and as the rain got heavier and heavier it kept telling me the same thing – “speed up and get out of this”!
By the time I got into the Arsehole Factory I couldn’t possibly have been any wetter. The only real downside of all this is that my little corner of the office now looks like Widow Twankie’s wash house.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Obligatory "Selfie"

The weekend that follows, immediately after, a return to work from a holiday always seems that much more important. Or is that just me?
Anyway. This was quite a good weekend.
Yesterday saw me go for a bit of a “trail run” for my training run. Up towards, and through, the wind farms at the back of us that scar the Lammermuir hills with their ugly testament to ineffectiveness (a bit like a metaphor for the Civil Service really).
Got home after the [nearly] ten mile romp and luckily JUST noticed the Amazon package that the postie had left under the doormat. Luckily as it included a new solid state SATA drive. These drives are a bit more robust than “normal” hard disk drives – but I’m pretty sure their robustness does not extend as far as having a runner rub the mud from his trail shoes over them!
I’ve been toying with the idea of getting one of these for a long time – not for my computer but for my Cocktail Audio X10 music player. One of the things I like about the X10 is that there is an easily accessable disk drive so that the storage can be easily changed/upgraded. Fancied a solid state drive as “a” there are no moving parts (so no sound) and “b” read/write times should be a bit quicker.
Only took 5 minutes to insert the new drive. Sadly it took about three hours to restore the shed load of music I already have.
New Toy
Seems to be working fine though.
Today we were off to Paxton House for the fourth leg of the Borders XC (the fourth leg but only my third race).
Got there with loads of time to spare so, after a few “hellos” to folk, I headed off for a bit of a warm up.
The route is a very scenic distorted figure of eight. One large loop followed by a shorter one.
Just finishing the large loop and coming back towards the house when I met Nick, so we headed off to do the large loop again. By the time we’d finished that it was getting fairly close to start time, so I just left my jacket etc. under a tree and went off to the start.
Race itself went well and I found myself working my way up through the field for about the first half of the race.
The terrain was fairly firm and dry. Nothing slippy to worry about, and even the one [small] burn crossing wasn’t akward.
Managed to get tenth place overall and third in my category – so all in all a fairly good day out. Doing the results for these races does pose one problem … you have to hang about to the bitter end to collect the paperwork before you can head off home.

Any other “events” this weekend? Why yes.. We finaly got round to watching the last of “Breaking Bad”. Marvelous stuff indeed. Won’t spoil it for anyone BUT …. If you like BB and you enjoyed the comedy Malcolm In The Middle (also with Bryon Cranston) then watch the “alternative ending” on the last DVD J

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Getting back into a “normal” groove. Returned to the Arsehole Factory to find it pretty much the same as it was when I left it before Christmas. The only slight change being that the canteen is a heck of a lot quieter in the mornings and the piles of scones on display are a bit higher – this I put down to all the office fatties (of which there are plenty) being on “New Year resolutions” at the moment. I’ll give it two weeks and then it’ll be back to normal.

Getting up to the sound of the alarm going off at insane o’clock isn’t filling me with joy, but getting out for an early morning run again is quite nice.

Yesterday saw me off towards Seafield and a return trip that took in what accounts for the first part of the Portobello Promathon. A strange experience running along there so soon after the race (sadly the pace wasn’t matched).

This morning I decided to head out by the Water of Leith and down towards Granton. It can be quite nice going along by the Water of Leith cycle way in the early hours. Quite a lot of cyclists, a fair amount of other runners and a few dog walkers. Generaly try to acknowledge the other runners with a wee "hello" (pace allowing - if I'm really tonking along and out of breath I might just manage a wee wave).

While I’m still fitting in runs the mileage will [sadly] be down a bit this week. Going to try and keep it at at least 50 a week though. Whats left of January and a good bit of February is rapidly filling up with "commitments" that will keep me away from long runs at the weekends. Have to try and just fit in long un's where I can.


Sunday, 5 January 2014


Back to work at the "Arsehole Factory" tomorrow.
Ah well it was good while it lasted. 17 runs in 16 days and 172 miles covered.
Out this morning for a last hurrah - a 14 mile circuit of Burnhead, Pitcox and down towards the A1. Went out at my "usual" Sunday time of about 9. It was beautiful. Blue skies, crisp, hardly any wind and just a hint of frost on the ground. Weather that encourages you to get moving and get the blood pumping.
There has been a decided lack of cold weather this holiday. A shame really. Maybe sounds daft, but I like getting out and about when its like that.
Which probably means that my return to confinement behind a desk will probably coincide with a switch to bracing winter days.

Don't know what I'm going to miss most when I'm back at work...the chance of getting out a longish run - when I want to rather than when I can "fit it in" OR the "binge viewing" of Breaking Bad! Jeeze I've only got another six episodes to go and that's it. Six more - cant I stay off work for another day or two?

Thursday, 2 January 2014


Quite a pleasant start to the reference period we refer to as “2014”. My last race of the period we referred to as “2013” was the Black Bun Run. 35 Dunbar Runners, friends and family gather on “Auld Years Night” for a 1.5 mile dash through West Barns and back. The fact that it was the last of the 2013 club championship counters may have had some bearing on it, but it did feel a bit more competitive this year. Anyway… I gave it my best shot and was rewarded with a “pb” for the course of 8:27 which actually gave me a bit of a lift; 2013 was a good year for me apart from one thing … a definite lack of PBs. So, to get one now, albeit on an “unofficial” race seemed like a small victory. Anyway, there were still two runners a good bit faster on the night so well done to them.

After the run, and a few drinks in the Masons Arms (or whatever it’s called these days) we went to Brian and Theresa’s to “see in the bells”. A great night with lovely food and for someone to invite someone who is so “anti-New Year” was a generous act! Now… as a jazz fan I know very little about “pop” music, as I believe the kids call it, but even I was amazed to discover that Ian Sills did not know that Dougie Vipond was, and indeed still IS, the drummer with popular beat combo “Deacon Blue”…. “Yes Ian… that Dougie Vipond…Yes. The one off the Adventure Show… Yes..the one from Landward”.

Got home in the wee small hours hoping to get a good nights sleep before the Portobello Promathon the next morning. Hope, however, suddenly vanished when I realised the Woodhall Hippies were having a “do”. An outdoor “do” complete with light shows and amplified music. The night time hours were therefore passed in fitful sleep, assisted by and MP3 player under the pillow with the soothing sounds of Coleman Hawkins being piped into my brain via in ear earphones, while I dreamed of Dougie Vipond and Gene Krupa taking it in turns to “battle it out” on hippies craniums. 

Anyway. The first morning of 2014 dawned and after the, by now traditional breakfast and episode of Breaking Bad, we got into the car and headed off for the race.
Got there with loads of time to spare. Met up with Nick and then had the “luxury” of having enough time to do the whole course as part of our warm up. The sun was out, the sky was a beautiful blue and there wasn’t even much of a wind. Perfect conditions.
Anne heads off for a warm up.
By the time we got back from the warm up there was quite a crowd mingling about the (ex) Bowling Club. It’s always a good chance to exchange hello’s and happy New Years and what nots. I really like this race. I’m sure there are other races up and down the country with the same feeling to them, but when you are in the midst of a period that “celebrates” excess and over consumption etc. there is something cathartic about something as simple as a race.

Tried to get myself positioned relatively close to the start as I’m aware it can get a bit crowded going through some of the bollards on the first leg out to towards the Dog and Cat home. A few words from A Jackson, a quick blast on his whistle..and we were off.
The first section of the run is very familiar to me as it takes in part of one of my work based runs of choice. However, a furtive glance at my Garmin assured me that I was going a fair bit quicker than normal (given it was a race – that was a good thing).
It’s pretty much a case of “head down and keep working” on this run. Little chance to take in surroundings etc. I was surprised though, after about two miles or so, to pass Rab Watson of Musselburgh. Turns out though he was having a bit of bother with his calf and “normal service” was restored at about two and a half miles when he passed again.
New Year - same old ugly running style.
I’d had Pete Buchanan in my sights for a good bit of the run as we went out towards Joppa and managed to catch him up not long after the turn point. From there all the way back we ran pretty much neck and neck with odd turns by each of us to pull away. I had tried to count the “SV” marks on numbers of the runners in front of us and [wrongly] though we were racing for 2nd and 3rd SV place (we were in fact going for 3rd and 4th). With about 200m to go however Pete pulled away quite decisively, and I just didn't have anything to answer with.
Still it undoubtedly helped me get a PB for that race.

So. Last year ended with a PB and this year started with one too. Can’t be bad.

More of Bob Marshall's photos HERE

Pete's blog HERE