Sunday, 31 July 2011


Got the details through, via email, of the route for the Coastal Marathon in three weeks time.
Hmm. Much running on sand and paths. PB out the question. Looks like one to simply put down to.. "I'm going along for fun".
They say the course has been "measured", but if any runner feels its too short they can feel free to run on for a bit longer if they want!!Very good.

As per usual there has been no structured training regime or schedule for this race. Just doing what feels right on a week by week basis. Last couple of weeks have been a bit high mileage (65+), and I may keep up that trend this week and next, then have one weeks taper/easy week the week before the race.

Managed to "back fill" all the dates from March onwards into my backup log (took bliddy ages). Must remember to keep backups a bit more regularly.

On the old jazz front, after last weeks little dip into the avant garde I've been keeping it a bit straightforward and mainstream this week.
Got a copy of a classic album not so long ago. Johnny Dankworth and his orchestra "What The Dickens".  Where has this been all my life?? What a fantastic record.
Well sadly, for most of my life it's been "unavailable" (it's life being ever so slightly shorter than mine). This record isn't available on CD! I can't believe it.
It's a veritable who's who of UK jazz from the golden age (early 60's). Dankworth, Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Jimmy Deuchar, Bobby Wellins... even a young Kenny Wheeler.
I love this set. 15 tracks; each based on a Dickens character (or characters). Favourite has got to be "Ghosts". Inspired by the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, where past, present and future are represented by Christmas music played in the form of trad jazz, mainstream jazz and modern jazz (in that order).
Beautiful, record. It almost makes me wish I hadn't signed the pledge..... Winters night..nice hot fire..crystal tumbler of Glenfiddich..and this album playing..perfect!!
As I say though, not available as a CD! Unbelievable. Who owns the rights to this record and why on earth hasn't it seen the light of day these last twenty odd years? They should be taken out and forced to explain themselves...(then shot).
I only managed to get this as some wonderful soul has loaded a bootleg copy onto t'internet.
I don't feel bad about downloading. It's an excellent quality copy... but if this was released tomorrow on CD I'd still rush out and buy it.

Thursday, 28 July 2011


That is the sound of a runner who keeps his running log on a spreadsheet.
A spreadsheet that resides on a USB flash drive. A flash drive that he's just formatted (don't ask..)
A spreadsheet that he hasn't kept a backup copy of since March.

Bollocks. Bollocks. Bollocks.

Got 99% of my runs since then in Garmin connect so I'm not completely lost - but it's not the point. I had a wee year-on-year graph thing going so I could quickly compare "where I'm at" this year with previous years. And I had conditional formatting on the "average heart rate" field, sot hat it showed what runs were in what "zone" ("green", "blue" etc..).


Pen and paper from now on I think.

Lost some work related stuff as well...but I don't give a toss about that.

Monday, 25 July 2011


Out to see a gig last night. Magnus Ostrom, at The Hub.
Jesus. What a lot of baggage this guy's bringing to his work. You can't possibly have been a member of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio for about 15 years and it not have a bearing on peoples expectations of what your own sound will be like.
Luckily I'd heard the new CD before the gig and, while it is different from any EST album, it is in the realm of where I suspect EST may have been heading (if the last album " Leucocyte" was any indication). A move closer towards "jazz-rock" a move which, for me, left me feeling doubly upset that I knew, obviously, this would be the last EST album - I personally do not see it as their best.
Certainly there are a few numbers on the new Ostrum CD "Thread Of Life" that do cross the boundary of what I, as a listener, am completely comfortable with (my problem, not his). But there are a few such as the wonderful "Ballad for E" and the titular "Thread Of Life" that share some of EST's ambient jazz feel, where gentle ballads are washed over with soft electronic effects and Ostrum's brushes take on a rthym that washes over the listener like gentle waves.
Ostrom's drumming was amazing with as much more work being done softly with the brushes than hard hitting thrashed out solos (though one hard hitting solo on the final, as yet unreleased, encore was amazing). 
I have to be honest and say that Andreas Hourdakis on guitar wasn't really my cup of tea. An excellent guitarist there was nothing wrong, that I could see, in his technical ability. Simply put; I prefer my guitarists to be a bit more redolent of Wes Montgomery or Kenny Burrell and owe a bit less to "Slash" or "The Edge" (feckin stupid names, both). Pat Metheny, who appears on the CD version of "Ballad for E" is about the limit of my listening extremes.
I also felt that Gustaf Karlöf on piano was excellent, though perhaps a bit under used. I can understand Ostrom not wanting to become too reliant on piano for his music; too many comparisons... this has to be Magnus Ostrom's own sound not EST II.
A good night out and I'm glad I went. But was it "jazz"? I'm not sure, as I said the jazz-rock line was crossed more than once and not onto the side that I favour. Would I go again?? Maybe, but there are other acts I'd go to see first.
Another minor point. This may a symptom of my tinnitus or it may be a symptom of my early-onset-old-fartedness but to me the music works better on CD with the volume cranked down a bit. Felt some of the subtleties were lost in the loudness of the mix.

I know this sounds like a bad review. It's not meant to. It was good (mostly). I think it's actually more a criticism of the realisation of my limits as a listener.

Saturday, 23 July 2011


In hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, my preparation for the Musselburgh 10k was not ideal.
I've had quite a hard week. I'd done 65 miles, but more importantly I'd done three runs back to back (to back) that were all quite quick (certainly in my "blue zone").
Anyway. Having missed this race last year after my unfortunate run-in with the tarmac in the DGP I was looking forward to it.
It's a flat route, but it's not quite as easy as I remembered. Lots of changes of terrain (grass, gravel path etc.) and quite a few tight corners that all take their toll.

Click for bigger picture.

The route starts in Loretto playing fields, goes out to the harbour, a quick turn, back the way you came, then over the "electric bridge" and a circuit of the ash lagoons before heading back over the pedestrian bridge (tricky wee chicane here) and back into the playing fields.
It was a beautiful day and there was a large turn out for this race. It's always nice to start a race somewhere like this, where there is a large area for runners to warm up.
That said. I took one look at the queue for the lavvy and decided to incorporate a wee jog down the road to the Brunton Hall as part of my warm up routine, to use the facilities there.
Got off to quite a good start, but knew within a couple of k that I wasn't going to keep up with the group ahead of me that included Grant and Peter B of Portobello. Just had to spend the rest of the race trying to limit the amount of a lead they were getting on me.
Came back into the park in time to see my PB time slip away, but a mad sprint for the line ensured that I got in under 36 minutes - just! 35:59 by my watch. Got to be happy with anything sub 36.
Great race - and you get a free ice cream from the second best ice cream shop in Scotland after the race (I'm a Luca's man, myself!).
Thats enough speed for me this weekend though - do a bit of LSD tomorrow.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Oh arse ... not another "tribute album". Good 'cause it isn't. Well not really.
Imagine an album dedicated to the meory of Chet Baker by one of the greatest contemporary trumpet players. It's got to be good, right? Well then imagine it's actually by two of the greatest contemporary trumpet players ... joined by one of the best piano players! All Italian by the way (if that matters).
Not a "new" album (it was released in 1999) but new to me "Shades Of Chet" by Enrico Rava (trumpet, flugelhorn); Paolo Fresu (trumpet); Stefano Bollani (piano); Enzo Pietropaoli (bass) and Roberto Gatto (drums).
A selection of songs not necessarily by Chet, but certainly associated with him "My Funny Valentine" "Line for Lyons" etc. But - not necessarily played in a Chet style and thankfully not sung at all (à la Chet or otherwise).
Two trumpets might clash but here they seem to weave and flutter between and around each other quite happily. Great playing between them on the cover of "Doodlin' ".
Some nice piano. Though sadly only one or two, all too brief, solos from Bollani - but given its a tribute to Chet Baker that's probably to be expected, though the brief high paced piano solo on the version of "Strike Up The Band" is a worthy exception.

I do like Chet Baker (trumpet... very much - vocals... less so). And I do accept he is hugely influential among today's trumpet players. But it's a bit of a shame that him and Miles seem to "corner the market" in tribute albums. Like to see a bit more attention payed to Clifford Brown myself.
I also wonder if the Chet "myth", or perhaps more accurately "legend" hasn't elevated his status slightly more than it deserves?? Maybe not.
"Tribute" albums can be tricky, but this one seems to be more a collection of tunes, some with a connection to Chet but played in the bands own way. If it wasn't for the title of the album it would be less a "tribute" and more a "friendly nod towards..." - which might have been better.

Any other gripes? Yes. No cover of "I'll Remember April". Sad.

All in all though a dam fine album that, given I really like Rava, Fresu and Bollani, should have been in my collection years ago.

Monday, 18 July 2011


Great weekend. Shitty weather – but a great weekend.
Anne, Ian and me joined HELP for their annual West Highland Way relay. The route had been split into 14 “stages” that pretty much mirrored the sections between check points/feeding stations of the official race and one runner was assigned the “timed” runner for that stage – setting off when the previous runner arrived.
However, as well as your official timed stage you could opt to do as many or as few other stages as you wanted.
The mini bus set off from Haddington at 1:30 on Saturday morning and by the time we got a few miles down the road to Tranent to pick up Eddie, George and Jimmy the rain was coming down like stair rods… pretty much setting the scene for what was to be a very wet day.
George Armstrong was the first runner off on a 95 mile game of leapfrog where the minibus had to drop off, pass and pick up runners as we made our way to Fort William.
I had one “official stage” between Balmaha and Rowerdennan but opted to run a couple of stages as “fun” runs (Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy and Lundavra to Fort William).
When I started my first (and “timed”) leg it was from a very, very wet car park at Balmaha. My “warm up” consisted of nothing more than a wee jog out of the car park and along the road a bit to ensure I knew exactly where to turn off onto the way.
Eddie came in from his leg and I was off. The first couple of miles of this leg were fairly straightforward, but there was quite a few short but tough climbs along the way. It also “meanders” across the road a few times and I did start to wonder at one point if I’d missed a turning.
I had my new Gortex jacket with me and decided to give it it’s debut. It more than earned its keep. However, all my other kit was absolutely soaked within about the first mile.
Thankfully I’d brought a change of gear with me and after an impromptu “sink-bath” at the car park at Rowerdennan I was able to get changed into dry gear. The sight of me trying to dry out this gear under the hot air hand dryers at the Green Welly in Tyndrum drew some funny looks later in the day though.
By the time I started the leg between Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy the rain had eased considerably. I’ve never run this route before and, while there aren’t any “easy” stretches of the WHW this must surely count as one of the easiest? A manageable climb out of Tyndrum then a well defined undulating path that crosses over and under the railway a couple of times before turning off under the railway station to the finish. If memory serves me correctly the sun even shone through a few times on this part!
By the time we headed north to Kinlochleven we were running ahead of schedule – though the weather had taken a turn for the worse again.
Ian had opted to run all the way from Kinlochleven to Fort William as the official timed runner (unfinished business with that part of the way) and headed off looking pretty determined.
Earlier in the day a few runners had expressed an interest in joining in the last stage at Lundavra for the last 7 miles into Fort William. However, tiredness and the weather took their toll and by the time we got there, there were only two daft enough to go for it. So… when me and Anne got off the bus we weren’t even sure if Ian had passed by already or was still making his way here. Either way it was his time that would count so we might as well just head off anyway. Some had done "multiple stages" but had done them back to back. I'd opted for three stages but with a break in between each one. Not sure I made the right decision.. I think every time I stopped and then sat for any length of time on the bus I just started to seize up. Anne had opted for this approach as well.
A combination of other things – the early start, the weather and the fact that we’d both already done a couple of stages meant that we just bimbled along at a fairly sedate pace. We passed a couple of girls out hiking and I asked if another runner had passed by this way a little earlier. Just as the girl was telling me “no”, Ian came round the corner to meet us, although given he was “on a mission” he didn’t stop and just went on his way to, as he put it, beating his PB for that stretch by 4 hours!
The last part of this stage just seems to go on and on and on…but eventually, after meeting Ian Carrick, we got to Fort William.
Between 13 or so runners we had managed to cover the Way in a little over 15 hours.
A very welcome shower and a change into warm clean “civvies” back at the hotel and then a really nice meal followed. And, for those who partake, alcoholic beverages were on offer at the bar till the early hours.
A great weekend away and a fantastic way to get a flavour of the WHW without having to do the whole dam thing.

Thursday, 14 July 2011



Did the Berwick “Curfew Run” last night. One of those nice mid-week, summer races that I don’t do enough of! I always go into summer full of good intentions but come out of it having done very little.

The weather was glorious, if perhaps a little hot for a sprint, and that seemed to have encouraged a fairly sizeable field and quite a lot of spectators. Certainly there seemed to be a lot more runners than the last time I did this run 4 years ago.

1.2 miles around the old “town walls”. The race starts at 8:00 and runners are supposed to complete the run in 13 minutes – that being the time that the “curfew bell” takes to ring. That said, I’ve never heard the bell while I’m doing this race….. maybe they don’t ring it anymore.

Because it’s only 1.2 miles seniors and juniors set off together and there is a chance that you can get boxed in on the narrow paths at the start by overly enthusiastic kids! Not last night though and I got away fairly quickly.

There is a tough little hill about half way round the route, as you go along the banks of the Tweed and then under the arches of one of the three bridges that span it. The climb can also prove to have a little sting in it. You get to what you think is the top only to find you have a right turn and the climb goes on for another 100m or so.

Don’t know what my position was, but I was fairly happy to get round in 7:16. The legs were not too bad after Tuesdays tough run, but a judicious, moderate dosage of brufen before the race may have helped.

Nice wee run, well organised and with a good “community feel” – and you manage to get back home in time for a late(ish) tea and get up to date with the highlights of the Tour De France J

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Tough club run last night.

The "big house"

Not quite every year, but usually round about this time of year someone has the bright idea of going through John Muir, up along the North Berwick road then turn right and along the back of the "big house" (along "limetree Walk"), out onto Tyninghame beach and then through the river Tyne and back via John Muir. And last night was the night.
Can't remember who suggested that route, but it was decided, to [mis]quote bloody awful management jargon, to "run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it" - and like a pack of idiots - we did!
Did not enjoy the last 4 miles or so at all. That's the bit after the river crossing and while it wasn't too deep this year it's still a bloody slog running over sand and mud banks with soaking wet shoes (and shorts). When you first clamber out of the water you seem to be running on muddy muscle beds for ages - horrible. Even when you get back to John Muir, what seemed so easy on the way there seems now to be so rough and uneven that every footfall suddenly becomes a considered effort.
Probably didn't help that I'd went along with Ian and the first 8 miles were all about 6:30 pace. I was enjoying the first part and I felt quite good, but somehow I knew that I'd suffer after the crossing.
Probably didn't help myself either by doing 7 miles at "pace" earlier in the day.
Don't rate my chances of a good time at Berwick tonight - legs are empty.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


Anne was a bit off colour earlier this week. Bit of an upset stomach.
Turns out both our next door neighbours have been similarly affected by the lurgy.

Coincidence? Perhaps.

But then yesterday we got a letter from the council... Our private water supply gets tested every now and then. Usually passes with flying colours...... not this time.

Our water is awash with various bacteria and germs and all  sorts of gruesome what-not's. All this is put in "boffin-jargon", but a quick delve through the portal of google into the murky depths of the interweb reveals that the water may have become contaminated with some *ahem* "natural livestock by-products". Oh dear... Sounds like bull shit to me (or coo shit or sheep shit).

The water is OK to boil and to cook with (apparently), but not to drink straight from the tap. Think a wee trip to the supermarket to stock up on bottled water may be on the cards.


Trying to keep up to date with the Tour this year. What I've managed to see I've quite enjoyed ... especially yesterday's successful breakaway by Da Costa. I do like to see a breakaway like that work out. Sprint finishes are all good and well but they do tend to get a bit "samey".

Keeping up to date with the Tour would have been easier if my digi box receiver/recorder hadn't gone "fizzzzk" on Wednesday.. it's been playing up for a while, and the internal hard drive was sounding like an old tin box full of bolts, but it finally gave up the ghost (with a little help from me). And, of course, since the "switchover" I didn't even have good old reliable analogue telly to fall back on (how's that "progress"?).
But I'm back in business with a new receiver and a new recorder so I should hopefully be OK for the important mountain stages.
The new recorder doesn't have a hard drive in it. Instead it's got three USB ports and you can record to any device you plug in. So not only can I watch stuff on my telly, but I can watch it on my PC or a portable device. Handy. Don't know if I will watch anything on a PC or portable device... but at least I could if I wanted.

Still. Not sitting about watching TV all day. No, no. Still getting out for runs. Couple of long runs for the last few weekends, so this weekend's LSD was only about 10 miles on Saturday and 13 today. Quite enjoyed it though. Northumberland Coastal Marathon coming up in 6 weeks though, so I'd better get a couple of 20+ runs under my belt fairly soon (couple of days off might be on the cards).

But I don't want to concentrate solely on distance. Plan to go down to Berwick on Tweed this Wednesday for the "Curfew Run" - a 1.2 mile dash round the town walls. It's five years or so since I did that one last. Then it's the Musselburgh 10k in a week or so. Missed that one last year, so I'm keen to run it this time.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Oh my, oh my. Today's run was feckin' awful.
Combination of things. First up: I did a very hard run last night at the club. It's been playing on my mind for a few weeks now that during the "summer" I always seem to have a lot of other things on on a Tuesday night that curtails the length of time I can go out for my club run. So. Given that I had hee haw on last night I decided that I wanted to go a wee bit further.
Ended up running with Ian S and Grant. We went through John Muir, over by Geordies Gate and up past Biel and Pitcox. But it was fast. Or fast by my standards and, given that I was setting the pace for the first half or so, I've only myself to blame there. Ended up with the old average heart rate not far off my "red" zone (over it in quite a few cases).
Enjoyed the run, but today my legs felt heavy and empty so the eight miles I did at lunch time started slowly, sort of petered out in the middle, and the least said about the last bit the better.
Second up: The weather. People may be aware that I'm not summers biggest fan. But if your asthmatic and have hay-fever and the weather is hot, humid, damp, clammy and close, with hardly a breath of air? Well to be honest I'd be as well running along with a "Capstan Full Strength" dangling from my lips and a spare one tucked behind my ear. Every weed and bit of grass in East Lothian seems to have gone into overdrive these last two days or so. You can taste the pollen...never mind smell it.
Got home wheezing away like an old steam train.... only to have our neighbours dog Cassey bound up to me. A lung full of dog hair. Splendid...bring it on. The dog was only being playful, but I am sure they know who's allergic and do it maliciously.

On the plus side, once I'd got through the door and sooked away on my inhaler for a bit I discovered that our postie had delivered my latest "find" at Amazon. Stan Tracey - "Sound Check" a double CD, one disc with the Stan Tracey trio and one with him and his wee boy Clark improvising on piano and drums. I'll listen to that once the rust bellows that are my lungs have settled down a bit.

Friday, 1 July 2011


Got ready to go a run the other day, only to find that my Garmin was dead. Strange, as I'd only recharged it the day before - though not so strange given that after charging it I'd obviously left it on overnight! (it's working fine now).
Thing is though, I ended up having to do the run "sans Garmin" and only with my trusty stop watch.
Weird that it really took the absence of the Garmin to make me realise how dependent I've become on it.
I knew I didn't have it.. but that didn't seem to stop me checking my wrist every few minutes in the hope that I would see an indication of my pace and heart rate.
We really do become dependent on technology very quickly (or at least I seem to). You buy something as a "bit of a luxury" and in no time at all it seems to have become an "essential".
However, for that particular run (Lovely Leith) I've done it so often that I had a rough idea of every mile marker so I was able to do some old fashioned, mental arithmetic, pace judgement.
What surprised me at the end, when I checked my records, was to discover that the run was the fastest I've done that route in about two years.
Perhaps because I didn't have the Garmin I was over compensating??

Black Rock Five tonight, through in Fife. A great race. And it's a really nice night. And I left it too late to enter ... bollocks!!

Still. It's Friday and two days free time beckons. Hope the weather holds till Sunday as I want to increase the dosage of my LSD a wee bit.

Started the weekend on a bit of an upbeat note...Warren Vache "Dream Dancing". A splendid little confection of 12 mainstream numbers (a collection of toe tapers and ballads). Spoiled only slightly on Warren's decision to sing on the last track .. oh dear. The album is lifted by having Bill Charlap on piano. Both "mainstream" jazz musicians, but I'd say that while Vache's stream often flows towards the "trad", Charlop's flows in a "modern" direction. But this is Vache's album.. so ... nothing "fancy", nothing "taxing on the listener". Just really, really well played jazz. And sometimes that's exactly what you want! Unlike technology, however, I don't think I'll ever become dependant on Warrens vocals!

Been checking out Mr Vache's records for a while now and saw this one appear on t'internet cheaply (postage cost more than the disc)