Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Had a dental appointment today at lunchtime, so I decided that I would go my run at "daft o'clock", so that when I did finish working the rest of the day/evening was my own.
This meant going out at about 6:15 on a wet, dark, shitty, dark, rainy, dark, dreech morning.... Did I mention that it was dark?
Yes indeed, the old head torch came out of retirement this morning. I really only used it for the first part of the run through the woods, it was getting light enough by the time I got back. But it has now been put into permanent residence in my kit bag (along with my reflective bib).
I've had that torch for two years now and have never changed the batteries yet. So, I'm going to do it now. "Better to be safe" and all that.

To be honest, given that it's taper "week" I probably could have got by without a run at all, but I've decided that other than Saturday I'm going to go out every day - even if it's only four miles or so.
Taper is a terrible time for me. When I can't get running I get tetchy and irritable (or more so). When that happens I get in a bad mood (or more so), and when I get in a bad mood I buy jazz to cheer myself up. Bloody taper, costs me a packet.

Sunday, 26 September 2010


Very little, in our house, is elevated to the level of "must-see TV". It's more a sort of, "if-Im-in-and-it's-on-I-might-watch-it-TV" sort of a house. The result is often that by the time a new series or whatever is of interest to us we end up buying it as a DVD box set ("West Wing", "Sopranos", "MadMen")!
Few indeed are the programs that are not to be missed. One of them that did make it onto that list was "The Great British Bake-Off" a sort of weekly "cake porn" for breedy gastadrs.
Got me inspired anyway, so it was on with the pinny again yesterday to make a batch of my (now) signature dish "chocolate and orange shortbread". A fatty, sugar filled, carbo rich, runners treat!
Bought the book last week (for Anne .... obviously), so I might try and progress to other things.

So carbo loaded as I was, I set off to do the Norham 10k today. It's a nice course, though a tad on the hilly side (not a course for a PB then).
Most of the "schemes", "plans", "training schedules" and what nots for marathon preparation all seem to think a 10k a week before a marathon is a good idea. It's a week till Loch Ness - so what the hell? Though given that I haven't been following a scheme, plan, or whatever, suddenly taking their advice a week before a mara' might be the actions of a desperate man.
Also, after a high mileage week last week (80+) I wasn't at all confident. I'd struggled to keep up the pace on Tuesday's club run (I got dropped at the first climb) and found Thursday's track session really tough going.
Anyway. I went. I was there...I was going to make the best of it.
Did quite a good warm up along with Ian and timed it quite well that we were not back and hanging about the start for too long.
I was a bit baffled as to why Les made everyone walk back from the start line and line up about twenty yards behind it. He also warned us before we started that part of the route was a bit "agricultural" going through the estate.
The race went well, mainly. Always a quick start, despite the fact that even the first half mile through the village in on a slight incline.
Just before the first mile or so you cross the border into Scotland and the foot of a fairly short, steep climb. There's a separate prize for the first runner up the climb and this helps to keep the pace up a bit.
Passed a couple of guys on the approach to the climb and the climb itself, and by the top I found myself in fourth place looking at the familiar blue and red vest of Moorfoots Wull Hynd ahead of me.
And that is how it stayed for the entire race, with the gap between us gradually increasing.
The "agricultural" section was just a bit of road outside some stables that are obviously used to house horses that are elderly and incontinent. Jeeze.... what a load of shit.
Mile five to six is a quick one taking you back down the hill and back over into England and the finish line at the village green.
It was with about 100 meters to go that some arse of a driver chose to pull out of their parking place and into the race route ...... right in front of me. The course then took a very sharp left which had been coned off. This idiot was so careful going round the coned off tight corner that I just about ran into the back of them, and ended up having to undertake them on a tight left hand bend!
Finished forth in 36:03 which I'm more than happy with. Also happy that it was enough to blag the first male "over 40" which came with the kind of voucher I like best (cash). Anne also had a good run and managed to blag the first female "of a certain age" trophy.

I shall take some of my shortbread to Inverness next Saturday for my pre-race preparation the following day.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Tried to fob me off with that 13 years ago as well!

Anyway. Back to the present (or the very near past to be precise).
Been for my hearing test today. Fan-bloody-tastic. What a palaver just to get told what you already know.
The test itself was quite relaxing to be honest, and saw me sitting in a sparse little room with a nice set of headphones on listening to ..... well very little to be honest (which was an immediate worry). For anyone familiar with the greatest Jazz Trio of the early twenty first century the test was a bit like listening to EST's Ad Interim from the album "Leucocyte" (for those not familiar - may the lord have mercy on your souls).
The second test? Well I didn't like that as much. One earpiece "simulated" the white-noise familiar to those with Tinnitus while the other earpiece bleeped away.

Anyway. Test done and after a nice coffee and cake from the WRVS stall before I was called in to meet "The Expert".
I knew it was bad news when he started shouting as I walked into his office... "just take a seat. I'll be with you in a minute! I've got your results!"
"Yes. I know. I saw the nurse hand them to you.."
"Oh".. slightly deflated that his exciting gossip had been stolen he settled into a more normal mode... "You're a bit deaf in one ear, and you have Tinnitus".
"Yes. I know. That's why I was sent here.."
"No. You were sent here because we thought you MIGHT be a bit deaf. Now we know you ARE a bit deaf. Tell me, do you work in a noisy environment?"
At this point I was sorely tempted to tell him that I work beside a load of Civil Servants and have to listen to them talk shite all day, but settled for the more medical "no".
"I'm going to send you for a scan. It's a bit like a picture of the inside of your head, see if we cant find out what's causing this".
A picture of the inside of my head? Though not a medical man myself, I am fairly familiar with the concept of a "scan". I was beginning to wonder if he had my notes, or if he'd got me mixed up with some poor four year old who was still sitting in reception.

Anyway. As well as my "picture of the inside of my head" I'm also getting sent to a clinic that helps people "self cope" with Tinnitus (WTF ??) Apparently, there are ways and coping mechanisms to stop this white noise blighting your life. Knowing the NHS they probably just give everyone a Phil Collins CD - listen to that a few times and the white noise would be a blessed relief!

Anyway, for the meantime I'm just going to sit hunched over my right speaker on my HiFi and listen to solo piano recordings by Keith Jarrett or Ketil Bjornstad.

I'm getting a wee bit paranoid as this confirmation comes about a month after I got my first ever pair of bifocal specs!! I'm falling to bits. I've missed out the "starting to look like your dad" stage and gone straight onto the "starting to look like your grandad" phase. Honestly, if it wasn't for the knowledge that I still have my Paul Newman like boyish good looks I'd really be depressed.

I've a theory - the human body only has so much power, energy, essence, mojo... call it what you will. The more you channel that into running the less there is for other parts. Maybe these good times and PBs I've been getting are taking their toll. More power in the legs = advanced decrepitude elsewhere ??

Monday, 20 September 2010


Today me and my old "slightly-less-worn-than-my-new-shoes" shoes went out for what I plan to be my last long run before the Loch Ness mara'.
Felt quite good. Just kept the pace down a bit and manageable. In fact, today as I got closer to home and noticed that I had only done about 18 or so, I did throw in another wee loop and bring it up to 21 miles.
So the "master plan" of having two long runs this weekend has worked! And I've still found time for my other hobby - sitting staring blankly into the middle distance while listening to jazz.

And this weekend has been pretty much dominated by a sort of 90's, British, calypso influenced, pop, jazz type sound. Courtesy of one of Leiths many fine charity shops and Mr Jean Toussaint.
Not a Brit himself, he grew up in the US Virgin Islands, Toussaint "passed through" and "graduated" from Art Blakey Jazz Messengers in the early 80's about the same time as Wynton Marsallis. However, he moved to London and hooked up with most of the late 80's early 90's jazz musicians who were around at that time. And that's what drew me to the first CD I bought from the shop - "What Goes Around" with the likes of Alec Dankworth, Julian Joseph, Jason Robello and Mark Mondesir all appearing on it I thought it would be worth a punt. Very similar, to a lot of what Courtney Pine was doing at the time. Pop influenced Jazz as opposed to Jazz influenced Pop.
Went back into the same shop a few days later and got another of Toussaint's albums. This time the more recent "The Street Above The Underground". Another great disc and perhaps my favourite. More use of soprano sax rather than tenor (again - Courtney Pine appears to have made this move as well) and a bit more energy to the tracks.
Anyway. Thought I'd exhausted that wee supply in the charity shop. But then on Friday I popped back in on my way up to meet Anne at lunchtime. They had a third! "Life I Want" from '95. Again the list of musicians reads like a who's who of 90's Brit jazz. This one has a really nice version of Red Cross by Charlie Parker. Given that the sleeve notes state that the title "Life I want" is a quote from a musician Toussaint was talking too about his desire to live "drug free"; and as issues about the jazz "scene" and drugs makes up the theme of the album it's no surprise that there is at least one Parker reference.
I shall go back to the charity shop for another look, but I think its a bit unlikely that I'll be lucky a fourth time!

Sunday, 19 September 2010


Holiday weekend is pretty much going to plan.
Did a long run yesterday. Twenty one miles.... I had intended doing 23.
I got near the house at the end of the run and saw it was "only" going to be 21 and thought momentarily of adding a little bit on, but I was overcome by a great wash of ah...f**k-it-ness and just couldn't be bothered.
The run itself wasn't too bad and I felt as good as it's possible to feel when out on your own for that length of time... but my legs felt a bit heavy. And I think I know why.
On looking at my shoes after the run I noticed that the outer sole has completely worn away at the heel and I'm actually running on, and rapidly wearing out, the EVA midsoles! A new pair of shoes might be in order (checking my shoes a bit more often might be in order as well). Certainly need to get a new pair before Loch Ness.
To be fair, looking back at my log I've done about 740 miles since I got that pair.
Went out this morning for a short run and just wore  an "older", but unworn pair and felt much better.

Got back from my run today in time to watch Haile Gebrselassie start, dominate and win the Great North Run. Wonderful, inspiring stuff. How good it is that at least one truly great and inspiring man can find time to visit this country and lead by example. There's something almost spiritual about it!

Inspired as I am, and with a pair of shoes that don't hurt my legs, then I think I'll go out for about another 18 tomorrow.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010



My days are all mixed up this week. Due to Herr Oberfuhrer The Pope’s immanent Blitzkrieg on central Scotland tomorrow I’ve decided to swap my working at home day to Thursday.

The Dear Green Place will be plenty busy enough tomorrow without my unwilling arse getting dragged through there to swell the numbers. With the streets awash with black uniformed nuns and priests it’ll probably look like occupied Warsaw in 1939. Though to be fair, given how I feel about the DGP I don’t really see that as a bad thing.

Anyway. Working from home usually means a slightly longer run at lunchtime. But I might keep the distance down tomorrow. I’m still feeling the legs a bit “heavy” after Sunday’s half. Also, my attempts to keep the mileage up before Loch Ness saw me do about 17 mile yesterday - 6 and a bit at lunchtime then just over 10 at night with the club, and the club run was fairly fast and hilly. The result? Well, I felt quite slow when I was out today.

Planning on doing two long ones (including a 23 miler) over the long weekend. Then a “fairly” high week (70 miles?), the Norham 10k a week on Sunday and one week of taper (30-35).

Sunday, 12 September 2010


Well. That went a hell of a lot better than expected.
My first race in two months, and I picked one of the hilliest halfs I know of.
The Hawick half. Sadly [at least for the organisers] it's not been as better attended than it deserves to be. Although it's a hilly course it's mostly very scenic. Well signed, well marshaled, adequate water stations - and you get a feed at the end that, quite frankly, could keep you going for a week!!

Anyway. What of the run? Like last year - I was second overall in 1:21:03 (4 seconds lower than last year).
Like most races the first mile is a bit of a mixture mad dash and then trying to get into a position and pace you are comfortable with.
After the first half mile the route goes up a bit of a steep incline past some industrial units, before heading into a gradual climb that just goes on and on for 4 miles. It was just after the first mile marker or so that I realised that I was in second place, behind Wull Hynd of Moorfoot. Now, while I was second at this race last year, I really had no intention of "going for it" again, but just decided to dig in and try and consolidate my place.
I noticed during the first few miles of twists and turns that Wull was using both sides of the road to take the shortest line through the corners. Needless to say I went for that approach as well.
At six and a half miles or so the road goes into a hell of a steep downhill. Not my strong point by any means, but today I just opened up and let rip. All this time Wull was about 30 to 45 seconds ahead of me and, while I suspected I'd never catch him, I wanted to try and keep his lead down to as little as possible.
Anyway, after that stretch, the road is quite twisty and "undulating" - it's very easy to lose sight of someone who is only a little bit ahead.
I was determined not to look behind me to see who was chasing and how far back they were, but every time I went by a marshall or spectator I tried to listen out to hear if they were encouraging anyone just behind me. I was heartened that I couldn't hear anything.
In the last three miles when I did catch sight of him, I could tell that Mr Hynd was having a strong run. I felt good and my GPS didn't suggest I was slowing down so I can only assume he was speeding up.
Just kept the head down and forced myself to keep the pace up till I hit the line.
Thought I'd dropped last years time by a bit more than I have.
Ian came in 4th in 1:24:08 just behind third placed Craig Greive of Teviotdale.

Anne had quite a good run as well though crossed the line with a well chosen expletive when she realised she hadn't beaten last years time either (though it was a lot windier this year).

Showered and changed then tucked into the massive buffet - loads of vegetarian stuff. Then hung about for the prize giving - obviously.

As Ian pointed out after the race - I think the whole "rib injury thing" is well and truly over now. Never knew he was a medical man :-)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


Things have been a bit "quiet" on the old jazz front lately. Didn't buy anything while I was on holiday (though to be fair there was nowhere to shop!). Made up for it a wee bit by a couple of visits to Amazon.
Still, it's given me time to give a bit more listening time to some favourites.
I did however, receive on CD via t'internet while I was off... "Harlem Airshaft" by Alan Barnes; a man who just keeps on delivering really, really, good solid mainstream jazz albums. Nothing too fancy, but always engaging enough to hold your interest.
This is an album by his octet and features a dozen or so "lesser" known Duke Ellington compositions.
There is one track on it simply called "Fife". Could it be, I wondered, that the Duke had some association with "the Kingdom"??
I know that one of Ellington's sax men for many years was Joe Temperly who originates from Fife (though he now lives in the US). So I wondered if it was in some way a nod to him. Though given that the main instrument in this sounds like a piccolo I've come to the conclusion that the Fife part is the flute type instrument.
Still none the wiser about the tunes origins though. The only other mention I can find of it is in a live recording of the Dukes 70th Birthday concert. Very fine piece though, from a very good album. Makes a change to get a "tribute" to Ellington that isn't just the "usual suspects" (Satin Doll, A Train etc.).

Trying to "swat up" on my ECM collection right now as well. Just got tickets to see the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra with Arild Anderson doing a concert to celebrate 40 years of possibly the classiest contemporary music label - bar none. From what I can see on the concert listings the gig is to include music by the likes of Jan Garbarek, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Gary Burton. I suppose given that Arild and now Tommy Smith are in fact both "ECM artists" it gives the whole concert a bit of a seal of approval.
Tommy Smith has often been compared to Jan Garbarek (sometimes fairly and sometimes not) but this gig could be a dream come true for him.... "Tonight Mathew, I am going to be.....". Pretty easy for Tommy Smith to sound like Jan Garbarek while he's playing, but it would be even easier to "get into charachter" - I've seen Jan twice now and never heard him utter a single word to the audience.
What is highly unlikely, but I would really love to hear, would be for Tommy Smith and the orchestra to do something from Andy Sheppard's recent ECM album. Unlikely, but given that Arild played bass on that it not impossible.
Tommy and Andy ...sax players with different styles - but I've followed both of them for twenty odd years. It would be interesting.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010



First “post holiday” run through the DGP and along the banks of the majestic Clyde today. Lovely – seriously.

There was a bit of drizzle but not enough to make it uncomfortable and there was hardly any wind. Probably not what I should have done, but I was enjoying it so much I just kept on cranking up the pace a bit and ended up getting round in 6:33 pace. Not horrifically fast, but I’ll probably regret it when I’m out doing 10 miles or so tonight with the club. The only bit I slowed down was when I gingerly edged past an all too familiar log.

I think one of the reasons that I enjoyed it so much is that the schools are now back fulfilling their essential role as places of containment. The park and the river side walkway were noticeably quieter than they have been these past few months.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


Back to work tomorrow - "bollocks"!! And even worse, back to the Dear Green Place for the first time in 4 weeks! Feck!
Though I am intending keeping well clear of the DGP next Thursday when they are expecting a largish crowd for a sort of open air living history lecture from one of the last surviving members of the Hitler Youth... or some such (always nice when a "wrong un" can put their past behind them and make something of themselves).

Anyway. Back to happy thoughts, and time to reflect on two weeks holidays. The long summer evenings sipping cocktails and watching the sun go down. The lazy days by the poolside. Seemingly endless meals where I've eaten far too much.....
Actually I've done nowt of that! But I have done a fair bit of running. Especially this last couple of days.
Friday saw me going out for an 18 miler that took me out to Pitcox, the "chicken farm" and back via part of the Doon Hill route. I felt absolutely knackered after it and, quite frankly, wondering if I'd bitten off more than I could chew by entering the Loch Ness mara.

But then this morning I went out for a hilly,[mostly] off road, 18.5 mile run with Ian and, other than a couple of times where I probably slowed him down by going downhill in my usual girly fashion, I felt quite good.
Though, perhaps the fact that I've not had a rest day for the best part of three weeks is starting to have an impact.
Going to try and have a high(ish) mileage week this week - but nothing fast or hard, and then see about doing a half at the weekend. Be nice to get back out there and get a number on again.

Thursday, 2 September 2010


With Thursday's planned long run postponed till Friday I found myself at a bit of a loose end today.
We're having to stay in and around home awaiting delivery of a gas cannister for the fire. Still managed a quick 7 miles early on before the "delivery window" so at least I've had my daily fix.

Anyway.. "the devil finds work for idle hands..." and all that! For some inexplicable reason I got it in my head that I wanted to bake something... Shortbread to be specific.
Not too bad, if I say so myself.
I do like a bit of shortbread.

As well as baking, being at home has had other sources of amusement today. Next door are getting gas heating installed - a wise move indeed when you live in the middle of nowhere are are prone to electricity cuts (your only source of heating). But they have opted for the big tank at the foot of the garden approach as opposed to the "two hulkin' great orange canisters the size of WWII torpedoes chained to the wall" approach favoured by us. Anyway, it's been fun to watch their builder pootter about in his little digger as he dig, dig, digs his little trench from their house right over the road and down to the far end of their garden.
Oh how we laughed as he dug, dug, dug with his little digger ... right through the mains cable !