Saturday, 31 December 2011


Its the end of the year and the end of the Marcothon. Ran every day in December (and the last few days of November too) partly so as not to feel left out like I did last year and partly because Peter's running took a sudden upturn following his Marcothon last December. Has a similar upturn happened to my running? Hmmm. Not discernibly. The Promathon tomorrow, which is a Portobello championship race, might tell me something. Or not. Or the Tortoise and Hare race through in Fife the day after...

Tomorrow I have kind of a boasting wager on with Jimbo Ramsay that if he jumps in the sea after the Promathon I will too. I'm about 50/50 whether to do it or not. Surely if you go in the sea on New Year's Day that means you'll definitely be lucky all year?

Pains are chasing each other around my body. I have had a sore calf, sore tendons, a sore shoulder, a very sore hand and I've now got a sore hip. That's not anything new though. I've been trying to stay on top of the pains with my new foam roller. Sometimes I think it helps and sometimes I don't. I hurt my shoulder using it. In order to get myself out for the Marcothon in the dark and rain I've worn loads of layers plus hat and gloves. All those layers make it difficult to run at all fast so I've been doing a lot of plodding and I think that that probably exacerbates sloppy form and causes aches and pains. I think some of its psychosomatic. What I need is a good race with a good burst of adrenaline and suddenly all that stuff melts into the background.

I have been thinking long(ish) and hard(ish) about what, if anything, to adopt as a New Year's Resolution. I used to have New Year's Resolutions back in the days when shops actually closed at the New Year. I remember one Hogmanay resolving to stop smoking when my cigarettes ran out and then having to turn the small town of Stromness upside down to find a fresh pack. The cigarette machine in the Ferry Inn turned out to be the answer. Of course, what I learned as the years drew by was that the ideal time for stopping smoking is not during a national drinking holiday and I succeeded in stopping many year's later, not at the New Year but on an ordinary day in September. I did so by having a plan - nicotine chewing gum and knitting - not by fervent wishing or through the magical properties of bells.

But anyway, I thought for next year that I might adopt the practice of standing on my head everyday. I have long thought that it would be a good idea to do yoga but can never find the time. There's just too many things  to fit in. I signed up for some classes years ago but never completed a whole set. Then I found a book in the library which I subsequently bought called "Yoga self-taught" by Andre Van Lysebeth. The book is a ripping good read and very convincing. I did try really quite hard to learn all the poses and to do them regularly but it slipped by the way-side. It is very hard to learn yoga poses from a book as you have to keep stopping and consulting the book again - and losing the page - and all that...

I want to give you a taster of the writing in this book. This is him on the benefits of the Head-Stand or Shirsasana;

We consider that if only one asana could be practised it would have to be Shirsasana.
Why stand on the head when we have so much trouble in learning to balance on our feet, so that our first steps marked one of the greatest days in our lives?

Man is the only being to hold himself upright: an attribute unique to him, and a fatal one at that, because man became a human being when he acquired it. We rose up from the earth and our forelegs turned into hands, which are really extensions of the brain. Set free and able to grasp objects the hand of man has become a creative tool, the only one by which he can crystallise his thoughts...

...In the quadruped (the horse or dog for example) the bulk of the body remains parallel to the ground, and gravity acts evenly on it, so that the circulation, working horizontally, is not much influenced by it. In man, on the other hand, the circulation operates in the vertical plane, and gravity exerts an overwhelming influence upon it. …

...This is the logical reason why yogis recommend the head-stand, to eliminate, instantly and infallibly, the disadvantages that stem from standing upright. (pp187-188)

He goes on to say that standing on your head is good for your posture, your circulation, your eye-sight, your prolapse (no I haven't got a prolapse). He also asserts that we age from the top of the head downwards because of the gravity thing. Grey hair and a wrinkly face... well you know he's got a point! I haven't got wrinkly legs! Not yet! So I may stand on my head everyday.

As the year is fizzling out, so am I, so I'm away to put the dinner on.

Happy New Year to everyone out there in Blogland.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


In a post-Christmas, pre-New Year lull I decided today that I would do some  tidying and sorting things out while I had time to. Me and Peter are both pilers. We build piles of things to do something about later. Before you know it you haven't seen the surface of a table for quite some time. And then if there are piles of things everywhere you can't hoover - well not properly. Anyway today I got in about some of the piles of things and I've been quite enjoying it. I get lots of nursing stuff though the post that I'm not interested in but always feel I should look at before throwing out. Peter gets Crown Decorating magazine - a ripping good read. (Its free - he's not subscribed to it!). Then there's a bunch of other pointless stuff. Napier University's "Red Triangle" magazine, my Runner's World magazines, The Edinburgh Bicycle catalogue, The Yellow Pages, The Ikea catalogue....important information about changes to my bank account, old receipts, notes, letters...

I got into a box I keep under the coffee table where I fling important things that I don't want to lose but I can't be bothered (that's "haven't got time") to deal with and found about 3 years worth of Motor Insurance renewals and Buildings Insurance documents and a few other semi-important things and realised to my surprise that this year I've changed nearly all my insurance policies and what not so that they are  cheaper and more closely reflect what I actually want. I knew I'd been  concentrating harder than usual on not wasting money but when I saw just how much I'd changed I was impressed. I thought I would go for the burn and finally cancel my subscription to Runner's World which I've been thinking about doing for the longest time. After all if I was going to drop 5 lbs and run faster with less effort I probably would have by now. So its done. So I should continue to get magazines up to April but after that I'll have to make it up myself. Which I am confident I can. We'll still be getting Trail Runner shipped over from the States so we can ogle kit.

Anyway - hopefully I'll be moving streamlined and more efficiently into 2012. And they say virtue is its own reward but when I lifted the hoover out from where it stands in the hall I found £3 under it. Yay!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Boxing Day Challenge

This was part 2 of the Graham Henry Christmas time challenge and to be honest I was intimidated. Yesterday, on Christmas Day, we went a smallish run up Arthur's Seat in the stormy wind before going round to Peter's brother and sister in law's for Xmas Lunch etc. (Superb by the way) and I felt rubbish. How was I going to cope with some hellish gallop through the Pentlands? By last night I had convinced myself that I had a bit of a fever and this morning when I got up I had a sore throat. I'm not usually keen on reaching for the drugs in order to be able to run but this morning I had 2 echinacea tablets (I know, I am a fiend) and 2 paracetamol and a jug of coffee - and that was all I really could do in preparation.

So when we set off I found that I was feeling okay and things really weren't so bad. The howling wind "cleared" my nose beautifully. Despite the wild wind it was really pretty warm and I soon had to strip down to a t-shirt. If I'd had shorts with me I'd have been wearing those too. I approve of this new climate. The global warming's working at last.

I'm too tired to say much more about it except that it was a good day, lots of fun and I was pleased with how I felt on the hills. Running every day does seem to be doing something for me.

Soup and bread and many cups of tea apres run were also great fun in good company. More plans getting laid for the year to come. My cold seems to have gone away on its own. Vive Ecosse Ya bass.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve Challenge

On top of his usual Boxing Day run Graham Henry had thrown down the gauntlet challenging the Facebook contingent of Portobello Runners to a Christmas Eve run. What would it consist of? Nobody knew. We were up and about and were going to go out anyway so a trip along the coast to Gullane seemed a good idea. We intended to arrive early and get a run in along the coast but weren't that early so only managed 2 miles until we had to be back at Gullane Car park for "registration". Registration consisted of my chatting to Kathy in the car while Graham and Peter chatted outside. Then we were ushered along the beach by Graham and introduced to the challenge.

We had kind of thought it might involve running up the big steep sandy bit. We knew this bit of the beach from climbing days when we went along there to boulder with the idea that the sand would be nice and soft to land in. The bouldering isn't that easy though so we never made a habit of it.

Graham had us running reps up the sand, 1st up to the grassy bit and then all the way. Some of the sand wasn't too bad - where there were already footprints in it and it was stamped down, but right at the top it was deep and sinky and steep and impossible. We all just did as many as we felt like, with Graham and Peter doing a good few and Kathy and I choosing to do less. I was already thinking ahead to Boxing Day in the Pentlands and its already going to be trauma enough without a case of killer DOMs on top.

It would make a very good club training session. One summer evening...

After that we went a run along the beach and dunes and then back up through the forest and along the little twisty trails behind the dunes. Its great fun running there. As Peter and Graham were out front we weren't even having to think about where we were going. Kathy filled me in on recent events.

Great day. Loving this "warm" spell. The wind was pretty harsh but this time last year it was a hassle getting out anywhere to run. As Graham would say Vive Ecosse ya Bass. Oh the R. Mackintosh turned out to be Rowntree not Rennie. The 3 piece suite turned out to be 3 sweets. I got a Snickers Bar, Peter got a can of Pilsner (that's a man's sweet) and Kathy got a box of Jelly-babies.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


There's an ancient monument up in Orkney called Maeshowe that is aligned so that at sunset at the winter solstice the sun comes in the window and lights it up. They've got a webcam in there now so I think I've captured the exact moment for you. Exciting isn't it? (More information.)

I have been off today and had a super-duper run around Arthur's Seat. Worried that I've not run any distance at all recently I set out to do around 12 miles. The temperature has leapt up about 10 degrees so it was nice to run in shorts again. Because I was going out alone I thought I'd take some music along for a change. This meant putting a few tracks together in iTunes.

Peter complains vehemently that I have ruined the music library in iTunes with my predilection for tunes from the 80s. As its already ruined I couldn't see any  harm  in downloading a few tracks from The Cult which were rattling around in my head. Genius put together a collection of 50 of my most intimate musical friends and away we went together.

Outside was blowy but warm. I was overdressed with a Helly Hansen under another long-sleeved top and gloves on but its been so harsh recently I really couldn't get out the door without them. I thought vaguely about hiding a layer in a tree and picking it up late in the run but I couldn't really be bothered with stopping and starting so decided to just be hot and run.

As its that time of year when review comes automatically I thought I should have my own review of the year and thoughts for the future.

I think I have to have another stab at the Fling. I can't let it go quite yet. Current thinking for training is train more, like I did last year, but maybe don't eat so much this time! (We'll see though - this can be revised.) One thing I didn't like about the training is my muscles just get awfully stiff but I've been taking fish oil capsules and I (tentatively) think they have helped. When I get into the 30 and 40 mile runs I'll really be able to say.

I've a hankering to do a spring marathon and try and run a bit quicker than I've managed in the last couple of years. Lochaber looks likely. Can I do quicker marathon training alongside slower, longer training? Time will tell.

THE 80s.
Now that the 80s are essentially back I think its quite legitimate for me to listen to music from that era. There are a few differences. I'm a bit older. David Cameron's voice is not as horrible as Margaret Thatcher's was. I thought there was value in living through that era where nothing was handed to you on a plate. I was one of many graduates entering the "real world" at a time when there was high unemployment and there weren't that many people looking for graduates in English. What happens when there's no chance of getting a job that you're suited for is you get to take a tour of other jobs. See the world. See hotel kitchens. Push a wheelbarrow for an archaeologist. Work in the gift department of John Lewis' as a Christmas Temp. Its interesting just to see how things work. One thing that has been of lasting value in my life has been cycling to work. Cycle to work and if things aren't the way you want them to be, don't waste your time blaming the government.

One more piece of advice. I've got a wee widget on my blog that can tell you what searches people did to come to your blog. The search that most people have used that has brought them to my blog has been the search for an image of a jellyfish. Not that they stayed once they got here - but if for some reason you want a lot of hits on your blog put up an image of a jellyfish.

I think that's it. That's my review of the year and my advice for generations to come. Don't waste it.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Fife AC Christmas Cracker Trail Race

Another great day out. The Berlingo was full with Ally Robertson, Gareth Green and Richard (who ran 40 miles in the snow yesterday!) coming along with us to Falkland for the Christmas Cracker Trail Race. Ice was forming in the car park at a rather alarming rate as we arrived, so it was cold but it was very still - had been sunny earlier in the day but was now overcast.

Today's race was 3 laps of a bit more than a mile over varied terrain which included a river crossing with a steep bank upwards straight afterwards. The 2nd lap was the hardest, mentally, and I was starting to drift off on the road section and think about other things when Innes Bracegirdle caught up to me and I remembered I was in a race. It was by no means certain that I could get ahead and stay ahead of her but I think I might just have it in the river-crossing and bank-climbing stakes. Very important skills to have.

The round trip of 80+ miles is not all that green and may seem excessive for 3.64 miles of running but the racing chat in the car is one of the things its all about. By the time we were back in Edinburgh we had talked ourselves into a whole stack more races to do in 2012.

Crooky (Brian Cruickshank) and Fife AC, as ever, put on a great fun event. The cakes and coffee afterwards were absolutely delicious. Nice to see many familiar faces from hill running and from the Tour of Fife.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Modern Day Triumph

I don't expect for a moment that you will follow this story, dear reader, as it is as banal as it is complex. My Norton antivirus on our main PC was up for renewal and at a cost which , while not extortionate,  was not minimal either. Since trying and failing to remove all traces of Norton antivirus from my PC about a year ago I have felt vaguely bullied by Norton. "Give us our money or we'll give your computer AIDS!!!", they seem to shriek. From Googling it is easy to see I am not alone in finding that once you have installed Norton antivirus on your computer its not easy to get rid of it completely and other antivirus programs then don't install well and won't work properly. About a week ago Norton  started flagging up that my subscription was about up and I'd need to renew. I thought about going into battle again, to cleanse my hard drive and registry of all things Norton but my experience is that as soon as you start to monkey with the guts of your computer you may learn a lot but you better have a lot of time on your hands because these things get messy and they get complex. Since the best projected saving I would make would be about £15 I thought it best to just let it pass and renew.

So this morning I renewed and in doing so waved goodbye to the last of the money in my bank til next Thursday - things being particularly tight at the moment. It was while I was idly looking at my subscription details that I spotted that the antivirus I have on my laptop is licensed for 3 machines and is not due for renewal until April next year. "You Bastard" I nearly shouted at myself and if I had the capacity to kick myself in the head I might have. I had just wasted the last of my money completely needlessly. I was starting to remember vaguely that last April I had got a new subscription of Norton on my laptop thinking I would download it to the PC come December. This is the kind of thing that I would have remembered in the past and where the hell you're meant to write all these things down I don't know. Anyway, I'd completely forgotten until it was too late. Except it wasn't too late was it? Was it possible that I could speak to Norton and get a refund? It was by no means obvious how to communicate with the great Norton. "Contact" took me to FAQs along the lines of "I love my Norton subscriptions so much I was just wondering how I could get some more?"...but finally I found that I could CHAT to someone on a helpline.

 "How do I know they're not charging me £10 a second?" I wondered paranoidly to myself so the first thing I asked the Indian sounding chap or chappess was "Am I being charged for this service?", but they responded fairly quickly that the service was free. To cut a long, pointless story short, it wasn't that hard to secure a promise of a full refund and then I just had 10 tension filled minutes of waiting to see if my antivirus from the laptop would REALLY download onto the PC or if Norton would come striding in at the last moment and go I TOLD YOU IF YOU DIDN'T RENEW YOUR SUBSCRIPTION I WAS GOING TO GIVE YOUR COMPUTER AIDS YOU LITTLE BASTARD AND THAT'S WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN!!!"

Ah but all was well and I now have 111 days of subscription still to go. And I have a little money in my bank again - or I will do after it has gone out and come back in again. I celebrated by buying a 2nd hand book off of Amazon for 46p.

Now I'm finding it hard to contemplate going for my Marcothon run as yesterday we ran 10 miles quite hard and having been mucking about on the computer all day it is now nearly dark and I am still in my pyjamas. Shameful. Get out there.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A flap up the seat

Today's Marcothon fun was a saunter up Arthur's Seat in the icy wind. Its a very good way to get warm. The rest of the day has been pretty much freezing. Now that we've hit austere times I'm not allowed to leave all the heaters on anymore.

Today's morality tale is that in a bid to get warm I went and tidied up my running kit which was a horrible tangled mess in a wire basket. As a result of this wholesome activity I found a completely new pair of woollen Hilly socks, bought, doubtless, during a wealthier era in our lives and tossed thoughtlessly aside. I also found a knitted Peruvian bowler hat my dad's old girlfriend Vigdis gave me some years ago. Me thinks it might be quite good for the cross-country.

Tonight we are off to prize-giving at club where I believe I am in line for a 3rd place trophy.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Marcothon goes to the museum

We are getting into increasingly complex levels of combining running with other sports in our attempt to keep running everyday. Today's melange de sportif consisted of cycling our bikes up to the bike fixing shop - leaving them there. (Boohoo). Then running across the Meadows to the Museum. Peter's got some project where you can blur things in the foreground and background of photos and then the things in the middle of the field look tiny. Search me. Why doesn't he just go a long way away from them or else just photograph tiny things? Anyway - he wanted to go to the museum and take pictures of the people on the ground floor from the 2nd floor balcony so I pottered around looking at busts of dead people and also Hanuman, the monkey god, a little god of wealth whose name I have forgotten (and I fear he has also forgotten mine) and a bewildering variety of other objects which seemed to bear no relation one to the other.

One particularly poignant bust was of a Hugh Miller, who, according to the plaque, was torn between his interest in fossils and geology on the one hand and his christian faith on the other and so committed suicide. Sad, I thought, but couldn't he just be creative about bridging the gaps, be a bit less literal about the bible, that kind of thing? As it turns out I've been googling him and Wikipedia has a quite different take on the same story, saying that Miller suffered from persecutory delusions and killed himself as he feared he might harm his family. Does whoever put the collection together in the museum have an axe to grind with Christianity? Perplexing.

I had an odd distrust of the public today, and we were a long way up with only a slim, 3 foot high barrier between us and the short flight down to the stone floor below. I kept a wary eye out to see who was sneaking up behind me. I was troubled, as I am at cliff-tops, by the feeling that I don't want to jump but I might jump thus doing the wrong thing irreversibly. It was a relief then when Peter stopped fannying around and we retreated down into the very bowels of the building where we spent too much money on coffee and cake.

Then it was out into the lowering darkness, the driving rain and the battering wind, a mile up the road and 2 miles back to make up another day's running.

Since the bikes are away getting fixed I am determined to grasp this opportunity to tidy up the hall which is a morass of filthy running shoes and cycling paraphernalia and not just sit around blogging and getting cold.