Sunday, 30 January 2011


I had planned to do about 17 or 18 miles today. And I did.
Just not in the one go.

I'd planned on going out with Ian S and doing a 16 miler in the Pentlands. Then events overtook my plans. The club is hosting the fourth and final leg of the Borders XC in four weeks time. We had planned to host it at John Muir country park and had the route all sorted.
Then last week I got a phone call to say that the cooncil could no longer accommodate us (they were double booked) and we would have to find an alternative!
Panic ensued...
Anyway. After a couple of discussions with the council it's now been relocated to White Sands and Barns Ness beaches.
So today. I ran the 7 miles from our bit to Barns Ness at a nice steady pace. Then stopped my watch.
I immediately re-started my watch and jogged around the proposed route looking for alternatives/problems/dangers/wet bit to take the runners through etc. Now, this "jog" will end up longer than the final route the runners will take, because a few times I wandered off in one direction, only to change my mind and have to retrace my steps and go another way. It was also very stop/start, but all in all it was quite an enjoyable trip.
Then I stopped my watch. Re-started it and ran the 6 miles home at a steady pace again. And I know it was shorter home, but that's because I went another way.

What I need to know is.. "do three runs, two steady and one jog, equate to one long run"?
Probably not, and I'm not sure how to record this in my log either.
And I've got XC both days next weekend. I'll get one bloody long run in yet.


Jazz gets very little coverage in the national press.
Luckily the coverage it does get in the Guardian is of a very high quality and is usually provided by John Fordham - a critic who I admire quite a bit.
It's very rare that I will make a purchase solely on the say-so of a critic, but I have a couple of times based on his recommendations and not, yet, been disappointed.

Anyway. It's part of my Friday ritual... coffee, cake and jazz while reading the jazz reviews in the Friday Review part of the Guardian.
This week there was a fairly extensive article about the pianist Gwilym Simcock. He really does seem to be the "man of the moment". Read and heard a few good things about him lately. Quite a nice wee piece and I enjoyed reading the little extra bit about other pianists steeped in the classical tradition....
So. It was no great surprise that yesterday while out shopping I got myself a copy of Simcock's new solo piano album. Very Keith Jarrett like (or at least it seems to be after one listening).
Not his first album, but it is his first on the ACT label.... Hmm first ACT sign up Yaron Herman and now they sign up Gwilym Simcock. As long as they give them freedom and don't try to fill a void by turning them into Esbjorn Svensson clones.
But then... was it "fate"? Or, more likely, just happy coincidence... The Guradian article also mentions Andre Previn. I pop into an Oxfam books and music shop and whats there on the shelf? Well not an Andre Previn album as such, as it happens. But an album by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra featuring Andre Previn. "Happy Session" from 1958.
I might consider myself a bit of a "bop" fan who's really into small combos but I have a "guilty pleasure". I really do love a bit of big band jazz. So this was a must. Two piano players are listed. The other being Russ Freeman who is best known, to me, for his work with the likes of Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan.
A really happy find and addition to my big band collection as it doesn't have that many of the old Goodman standards (there are a few). This album features a couple of really nice covers including a really atmospheric cover of "Diga Diga Doo" that's been done by the likes of Duke Ellington and Artie Shaw.
Pure "Cotton Club" era jazz!
Picked up another in the charity shop. "Blues at Bradley's" by the Charles Fambrough octet. Still to give that an airing.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Two runs yesterday.
One at lunchtime. Through in the DGP. Work has been a bit hectic and fraught as of late, so I used my run as an opportunity to exorcise my demons through exercise and took in 6.7 miles at a brisk 6:35 pace. Quite enjoyed it and felt a bit calmer and more at ease with the world on my return.
The last night was club night, and it ended up as an "eyeballs-out-on-stalks-and-heart-competing-with-lungs-for-room-in-the-rib-cage" pace, 6.4 miles. Enjoyed it.

Anyway. Net result? What should have been today's steady 10 miler turned into a "in-the-name-of-christ-shoot-me-now" 8 mile plod. To be honest I felt OK for the first three mile or so, but by the time I came to the turn off for the small loop that takes the 8 mile circuit to 10 I just thought "feck-this" and kept on the short road. I don't like doing that.
Though in a twisted sort of way, it's useful to have a run like that every now and then. You go through wee patches where your running well, and the temptation is just to keep on and on, but down that road injury through over training lies. Need a wee reality check every now and then

As an aside.. I may have mentioned that my run in the DGP takes me past the tradesmen's entrance of the High Court and I often see the prison wagon in dropping off and picking up...
The one day I'm not there....
"Three in a bed"? No problem where he's off to....

Sunday, 23 January 2011

SAND .......................... AND SPINACH

It's Sunday morning. It's January. It's dull and dreech. The wind is picking up.
Yipee it's cross country!
Second leg of the Borders XC today at Spittal Beach near Berwick.
We went down early to help out with the registration. Peter and Jeanette from Berwick did the registration for the seniors while me and Anne did the registration for the two other categories - juniors and that sort of in between category of mono-syllabic teenagers who slouch along in their parent's/guardian's/keeper's wake.

Because the juniors star 30 minutes before the senior race I still had enough time to get changed and go for a warm up with Ian and Brian.
And then it was time for the race itself..
A difficult start along a narrow path through the dunes. Easy to fall or get boxed in.
However, once round the corner onto the main beach it's pretty wide open. There is a choice... "do I head in a straight line for where we come off the beach" or "do I dodge a bit down to the waters edge onto the firmer sand". It's got to be the later. I know it's good for you and I know it's good training, but I really don't like running on sand.
I just tried to get into a comfortable rhythm and keep the pace steady.
By the time we got off the beach and onto the cliff top pathway I found myself running behind Ian and Pete Buchanan.
And that's pretty much how it stayed for the rest of the race.
While Ian and Pete had their own wee race going I was trying to hang on to either of them.
At one point I thought I was doing not too bad, but in the last half mile or so they seemed to pull away a bit.
I knew that the runner behind me was not going to catch me so I wasn't too bothered.
Time of 29:14 and 11th place wasn't too bad. Only two more races left in this reduced series, but I won't be able to run the leg at Dunbar so I have to do the next.
Hung about at the end to watch everyone else coming in and have a bit of a natter. Then we collected the results sheets and headed home so I could fire up the Babbage Difference Engine and get the results posted.

Calculating results - the easy way.

After the race Ray from HELP kindly gave me a CD he'd picked up by Benny Carter. It's a profile of Carter's earlier works with various big bands, mainly in the 40's. But theer's also three numbers from Carters own quartet of the late 50's. Bit of a multi instrumentalist, Carter's main "thang" was the sax but there are a couple of numbers that feature him on trumpet.
His playing is mostly "swing" tinged, but there are a few boppish riffs, especially in the later 50's quartet numbers.
I've only got a couple of Carter albums and they are predominantly later works, so this is a nice addition.
One vocal track on it... "I Didn't Like It The First Time (The Spinach Song)" by Julia Lee And Her Boy Friends. Bit of a novelty number where Ms Lee tries to thinly disguise her growing appetite for sexual gratification as a growing taste for the titular vegetable. How that got past the censors in 1947 is anybody's guess.
Anyway, the CD kept me going while the Babbage chuntered away.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Did my LSD today. Normally I'd do it on a Sunday, but tomorrow sees my dance card already marked off for the second leg of the Borders XC. So "needs must" and all that, I ended up going out for a long un' today.
Maybe about 13.5 miles. But nice and hilly so I was out there "working" for about 1:35.
I'll try to do a 16 miler next week. The main thing is the weekly mileage is now up to about 55. A bit down on what it was this time last year, but maybe that's no bad thing.
I really do need to get new shoes. Given the fact that I got this pair before the Loch Ness mara' I think they've long passed their useful lifespan.
The state of the post thaw, muddy, salty, country roads has not been kind to them either.

Anyway. Briefly and elsewhere...
Never been a big fan of science fiction literature. Except the "classic" stuff like HG wells.
But I read a book this week by the authour Stuart MacBride - "Halfhead".

MacBride is  best known for his Logan MacRae crime thrillers set in Aberdeen, but this is an earlier work of his. I enjoyed the MacRae books I've read so far so thought I'd give this a punt.
It's basically a crime thriller about a serial killer, set in a "not-too-distant-future", lawless, Glasgow populated by a mixture of semi-lobotomised menials and a large, feral, drug addled, unemployed, riot prone, under-class, crammed together in high rise slums..

There is a lot of humour in his Logan MacRae books (albeit very dark). While there are a few spots of humour here they are few and far between and come as welcome relief from the bombardment of gore laden murder scenes.
Entertaining enough, but I hope he keeps it as a one off.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


One of the good things about working from home is that I get to put on the washing.
One of the bad things about working from home is that I get to put on the washing.

Why does there have to be so many dials and nobs? What in the name of god is "half wash"?? Who only wants rid of half the dirt?

I only have two settings that I need/use, and have been sorely tempted to take a permanent marker pen to the front of the machine and rename these "cycles" to more sensible titles: "running gear" and "stuff that needs a good boiling" (though to be fair to the olfactory senses of others the two need not be mutually exclusive.)

Now there is a third category of laundry that doesn't fit into either of these cycles.... "What's that? Oh sod it I'll just leave it for Anne".

Anyway. Thought I'd broken the dam thing this morning. I'd bunged in my running gear earlier and went into the kitchen to make a coffee while it was going through its spin. I looked at the glass bowl/window-type-thing. There were red flashing lights inside the machine! Now, I'm not much of a technical expert but I know that's not right! It was all lit up with flashy birling red lights - it was like something from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

In a panic I stopped the machine.
I peered into the belly of the beast.... my LED arm band!! Been wearing it last night and obviously just threw it into my kit bag with all my sweaty gear. How it got switched on I'll never know.
Problem was, the drum was full of water. Did I stop the cycle and try to get it out? If I'd done that I risked flooding the kitchen floor.

Just left it... Seems to be OK. So there you go. ASDA's own LED armbands - 100% waterproof.

Sunday, 16 January 2011


Since turning my back, metaphorocally, on alcohol there are still things I like to do that give me a bit of a "high"...

LSD. I've actually been into LSD for a wee while now and at this time of the year I like to start to up the dosage a bit at the weekend. Not the sort of LSD that Timothy Leary may have advocated though - I'm more into Long Slow Distance.
I've decided, again, that I am not following a structured plan/schedule/what-not prior to the next marathon. I'm going to stick to what seems to have worked for the last couple of years.. Two speed session during the week (club nights), a couple of steady runs during the week on my own and a couple of longer runs at the weekend, including one really long 'un.
For various reasons I missed out on long runs this festive season (weather, injury, etc.) So today saw me start off on my first long run for a bit. Did about 14 miles. Pace was quite slow but I enjoyed it all the same. Went through Spott, Burnhead, Pitcox, along the bridle path at the A1 and then back via Starvation Brae. It felt like the first proper "Sunday run" I've had in a while.
Unlike yesterday, when the run got cut short from about 12 to 8. The bloody wind was really picking up, and on a few stretches I was leaning 45 degrees into the wind, the heart rate was going through the roof and I was getting nowhere. Not nice at all.

Books. Last week I read "Casino Royale" by Ian Fleming. Read a few of the Bond books when I was younger, and I've always thought they were better than the films they inspired. To be honest this is more of a short story than a novel and I read it in two sittings.
Timid by todays standard of crime/action thriller but a dam fine ripping yarn.  Got the whole series to look forward to. Added bonus? Nowhere in the novels is the action ruined by a lisping, golf club wielding, beardy, SNP loving twat!

Jazz. Oh lordy, too much to talk about. Way too much lately. I've been getting it quicker than I can listen to it. Got round the other day to "re-listening" to an album by Julian Joseph - "Universal Traveller". What a great album this is. There is a version of the standard "Never Let Me Go" that is breath taking. Every note from the piano sounds like it has been precision engineered. Each note falls into place with such clarity. It's as if icicles are melting and pure drops of water are falling into crystal glasses from a height. This sounds like vintage Bill Evans!
Then, as if I didn't have enough to listen to, I aquired today a recording of the Carla Bley band live in Hamburg in 1984. Only three tracks long but what the hell. Especially when one of those tracks is a version of one of my favourite Monk tunes "Misterioso".

Sunday afternoon. 14 mile run - done. Book - open. Jazz - present and correct. Bung a coffee and bit of cake in my hand and I'm happy as can be (and that's bloody rare).

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


As well as running and listening to jazz there's very little I enjoy than sitting starring into the middle distance.
It's not a form of meditation or anything - it's just sheer unadulterated arse numbing idleness. I love it.
Some people want to be on the go "24/7"? Super - have a great time. Just forgive me if I don't join you ... I'm pretty busy doing feck all right now.
Occasionally though I do like to lift the boredom a tad and that's when I enjoy a good book.
So. It was after quite a bit of "humming" and indeed "hawing" that I went out the other day and bought myself one of these new fangled "eReaders" (don't mind the prefix "e" - if it had been an "i" I would have left it on the shelf for some other techno sheep).

Now, there is a good choice of books to load onto this thing so content wouldn't be a problem. But would it be as good as a proper book??
The screen isn't as bright or glaring as a PC screen. On a PC even emails of more than a couple of paragraphs have to be printed out so that I can read them comfortably. But on this I can read for long periods with little sign of any discomfort.
What I do miss is the feeling of physical progression that you get with a book. You can not only see that you are half way through or nearly finished - you can feel it. With these little things all you get is a small counter at the bottom of the screen. Proper books are tactile .... this is, but not in the same way.
It's certainly more train friendly than some larger heavier books. That might not seem like a problem to some people, but given that my bag normally has two sets of running kit, shoes, shower paraphernalia, lunch and less important stuff (like shit for my work) already in it, any small saving on space and weight is a plus.
It reduces the dreaded fear of ending a book halfway between the DGP and Edinburgh and having to sit and look at my fellow travelers. From now on? Just click on another book.
One big down side? As far as I know you can't buy "second hand" ebooks in charity shops!
Not going to stop me from buying and reading paperbacks, but it might slow the process down a bit.

It might keep the house a bit tidier. At the moment I've a pile of about 75 unread paperbacks.
I never (or very seldom) keep a book once I've read it. I usually just pass it on. So If I alternate between proper books and ebooks I could get rid of that pile in... oh I don't know... two years???

Sunday, 9 January 2011


Finally. The Borders cross country got underway today.
After the "first" three legs being cancelled because of the weather, today's leg was "upgraded" from 4th leg to 1st leg status.

Got down there early so Anne and Ian were able to help with the registration. I had hoped that being the first to register I might get number 1 !! Sadly the numbers started at 1400 - bollocks.

Anyway. Once the registration got underway and runners started to arrive I decided to pop out and have a wee recce of the course with Ian "S". Very icy underfoot at a few places and snow covered in others. But its been so cold lately that those places where there was "snow", a lovely thick crust had developed over it. We both noticed that we were not even leaving a mark on the crust - never mind breaking it. A strange sensation, but at least it made for fairly good running.

Watched a bit of the junior race then went for a last minute pit-stop and then made my way to the start line. Over 100 runners, so not a bad turnout given the weather.

The route was a sort of squashed and distorted two loops of a figure of eight, that took in a ploughed field, a wee drop and climb through a wooded "glen" and a bit of a pasture/field that had a fairly steep drop before you ran parallel (and close) to a fairly nasty looking barbed wire fence. Lovely scenery and despite the awkward footing in a few places a nice route.

I did find some parts of the second lap a little tougher where the snow/ice had finally been broken up by all the runners on the previous loop.

Managed to get in in 15th place, so I'm quite happy.

Best bit? A very nice tea room attached to the house was opened for the event. Not every cross country where you can get a hot drink and roll at the end of it - very civilised.

Got home and worked my way through the results and got them posted (I suppose I could have just changed my number to 1).

Friday, 7 January 2011



Interval training last night. First time in eight weeks or so. Felt tough and a wee bit slower than I would have liked, but still felt good to be back out there. No structured or premeasured intervals as such, but a session to try and break us back into the year gently – run round the track as fast as you can, like a nutter, for 5 minutes…. a whistle gets blown…..and you have to turn and try to cover exactly the same distance in the same time.

Bit of a fright yesterday. Went to enter the Edinburgh Marathon, only to discover that it was “full” and entries were closed! Luckily the “good for age” entries were still open so I managed to get in that way – one of the few benefits of aging J

Anyway. That’s the next “big” event to aim for. Before then there’s loads of smaller races to look forward to. Paxton House leg of the cross country this Sunday (weather permitting).

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


And so it ends.
That's the holidays over (well as good as..) Bugger.
Decided to finish the holidays off today with a 12.5 mile run. Strange. But when it was all icy and snowy it was absolutely Baltic, but the cold didn't bother me too much. It was the type of crisp, clear, cold that seems to get the blood pumping.
But, now that there's a bit of a thaw and it's that damp, dank, grey, windy type of weather that Scotland excels at in January, it feels much, much worse.
Weird. It's technically not as cold but it just seems to go right through you and get into your bones.
Maybe I'm getting old??

Anyway. I've not had as high a mileage as I've had over previous festive holidays, but I have managed to do a fair bit of (shorter) runs. And thoroughly enjoyed it. The old knee seems to be holding out and has been downgraded again from "niggle" to "twinge". I need to look at some of the online sales ... it may be natures way of telling me that new shoes are in order.

Saturday, 1 January 2011


Two days, two races!
Last night was the club's "Black Bun Run", a one and a half mile dash through the streets from Dunbar to West Barns and back.
This was always going to be a bit of a test for the old knee. When we got down to the start and saw that Andrew Crichton was already there and warming up I thought "oh well. There goes any dream of winning - pressures off."
As it was the knee held up pretty well and even although it's slightly slower than I've been for a few years I was fairly chuffed with my time of 8:30.
Then this morning it was off to Portobello for the Prom Race. Another there and back route - a nice flat two miles along the prom from the cat and dog home, out towards Joppa, a sharp u-turn round a marshall and back. A popular race this. It's always interesting to see all the new kit that's on display!
The wind was picking up slightly and the last mile or so was a wee bit slower than I would have liked.
Again a wee bit slower than last year, but probably round about the same position in the field - so not too bad.
This time though the knee felt a bit tight at the end, so I think I'll take things a bit easy for a couple of days. Just pleased to be out there with a number on. What with one thing or another it's been two whole months since I've raced

Got home and took the tree down - that's it Christmas is over. Still off work for a bit but I'm slipping into "normal" holiday mode rather than "festive" holiday mode (pretty much the same thing to be honest - but maybe slightly less chocolate).
Can't be arsed with "New Year". It's all pretty much a case of "new calender - same old shit" to be honest.