Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Enjoying my stay here on "plant time off". As per, at this time of year, .... getting into a really calm groove.
If only the same could be said about the weather! Yesterday was a strangely calm day and I enjoyed an almost 13 mile run over by the wind farms and Crichness that was mainly on trail. Lovely stuff. Beautiful blue sky. Perfect post Christmas weather.
Every other day? Howlin' a feckin gale! Jeeze - I was out for 9 miles this morning and just about got blown backwards at one point! That said I'm glad I went out reasonably early on for my run today as it was forecast to get worse as the day goes on... and it is.

Don't usually get drawn into the whole "January Sales" thing. But I got an email from one of the sports shops I've used in the past, to inform me that they had the type of shoes I run in at 50% off (Brooks Adrenalin). Given that I actually do need new shoes right now it seemed stupid not to.
Going to spend some time one day soon going through all my kit - see what I can get rid of. I've a bad habit of buying new kit, but not getting rid of the old stuff. I've a drawer full of new tee shirts that I've hardly had on - yet I seem to wear the same old skanky two or three all the time!
And shoes? Jeeze the "old" shoes that I hang on to after I stop running in them. It's like playing "shoe jenga" in our utility room sometimes. You try to get one pair out and about six other pairs end up falling all over the place.

Monday, 26 December 2011


Happy lad yesterday. Awoke to discover that Santa had left me a shit-load of jazz (as opposed, thankfully, to a load of shit jazz).
Some real crackers in there and I'm looking forward to some quality time getting myself acquainted with it.
Drummers feature large in this years bag. First to get unwrapped came a CD by the late Tony Levin. A quartet date he did in Germany in 1987. The quartet consisted of Levin on drums, Paul Dunmall on baritone sax and Jerry Underwood and Andy Sheppard, both on tenor sax. Not your usual quartet arrangement then and possibly leaning towards the "avant garde".I don't think this will be an "easy" listen, as such, but it should be a rewarding one.
The next drum related treat was a box set of cds by Phil Seamen ("Seamen's Mission). A selection of sessions from the mid to late 50's by one of the most in demand British drummers there's been. This collection looks like a "who's who" of UK jazz, with Jimmy Deuchar, Joe Harriott, Ronnie Scott, Stan Tracey and Tubby Hayes all making an appearance. Looking forward to going through that.
Loads of other jazz as well. Oh... and quite a bit of aftershave, gels, deodorants and various smelly lotions, that, if I were a cynical man, might lead me to believe that not everyone in my family agrees with my earlier assertion that all a chap needs is a bar of soap, a toothbrush and a razor!!

Yesterday also saw me eat a tad more than I normally would. So that, coupled with the strong wind today, made my nine mile Boxing Day run a bit of a slog to be honest. It doesn't help that it's unfeasibly mild for the time of year either! Had on a Helly Hansen top and a tee shirt over it and ended up cooking!
Still, I was out on Christmas Eve, and we both went for a wee 4.5 mile trot yesterday morning, so I'm going to try and get out every day while I'm off. The "theme" for this holidays running is going to be "easy" pace. I', going to try and get miles in without knackering my legs too much.

Friday, 23 December 2011


Sent from my pbone

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


If there's been one defining "feature" about most of my runs this year it could be summed up as "extra effort - less reward".
I know it's a common moan/gripe/constant grumble among most runners, but "it ain't getting any easier".
I've been looking at my log and, with a few exceptions; based solely on average heart rate as an indicator of "effort" a lot of my runs are "as", if not "more", effort laden as previous years. But the "reward" i.e. the times are all slower (albeit very slightly). Runs that I might regularly have done in 40 minutes at 145bpm I'm now doing in 42 at 150bpm for example.
I realise you cant keep improving (it would be nice - but you can't).
In awful moments of self doubt I've even pondered if that "thing" that starts in "A" and ends in "E" with a "G" in the middle might be a factor. But surely not.

So. There are two options open to me (that spring to mind).

One: Reassess my goals. Maybe do different runs/races/events - focus on endurance a bit more and speed a bit less?
Two: Bury my head in the sand and refuse to give into the inevitable. While coupling this blind refusal to let facts distract me, with an increase in the training (mileage and effort). Push my body to destruction and go for one final year of improvements.

Lets face it ... it's two. "Death or glory" - Charge!!

Sunday, 18 December 2011


A wee bit of FC LSD today - with the "FC" being "feckin' cauld"!
A beautiful, cold, icy, clear, blue skied December morning. Just the ticket for a nice, circular, thirteen mile route round by Crowhill, back through Innerwick then finish off with a climb up to Weatherly and a nice downhill last mile back to the house.
It was that cauld today I even wore a jacket and leggings - what a jessie.
Noticed that my road shoes are almost worn flat on the soles - hardly any grip left at all! Going to try and use the trail shoes during the holidays and get off road a bit, but maybe try and get a pair (or two) of shoes in the January sales (if there are any).

Back home and on planet jazz my desire to listen to tunes of a fesive nature is wanning already - and there's still a week to go! I feel sorry for shop workers who have to listen to it all day every day from early November!
Not all Crimbo tunes though! Managed to get a hold of a recording I've been after for ages. Stan Getz and Kenny Barron - "People Time" a double CD that features the best performances from a four night stint the duo played in Copenhagen about three months before Stan passed away in 1991. Exceptionally beautiful music. Stan Getz had such a feathery, light, breathy, whispering tone to his sax.
If Stan was trying to leave a legacy with this recording..he managed it magnificently.
There seems to be quite a bit of sorrow that comes through in the music, but not regret.
The feeling he could put into music was astounding. There is another recording of Stan's from 1971 "Dynasty". This one was recorded at Ronnie Scott's club. During the residence Stan learned of the death of his father and came up with the tune "Ballad For My Dad". Beautiful.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


I saw two shooting stars last night.
I was out for a wee four mile trot. I had decided against going to the club. Yesterday was my works Christmas Lunch and the thought of tanking round the streets of Dunbar with a belly full of food did not appeal.
However, I felt a bit sluggish and bloated so I decided that a gentle trot might be just the thing. So...mindful of the weather I wrapped myself up, put on my head torch and ventured forth onto the country lanes of the Innerwick/Spott conurbation.
First half, with the wind behind me was unbelievably fast - too fast at one point. I was literally getting blown along and, while I like running with a head torch, I'm always mindful about not seeing your footing so I take it a bit easier (four falls in two years after all).
Just as I turned to come home I noticed that the sky was crystal clear and that's when I saw the two "shooting stars" (maybe Billy was right and they were just satellites). Things like that never cease to amaze me. I know its a very common phenomenon, but you just have to be looking at the right place at the right time, so to see two pretty close together was something. I enjoy racing and I enjoy running with others, but I'm equally happy when I'm out running on my own; I love the sense of isolation you get, and darkness just adds another dimension to that.
Shortly after though I was aware that I was losing sight of the stras ahead and the skys were darkening as a massive bank of cloud hurtled towards me. My last mile was run head on into a howling gale with sleet and snow whipping into my face..but the strange thing is that even that was fun.
40 minutes for just over 4.5 miles!

Oh... Talking about the importance of seeing your footing. I discovered a new "adventure sport" the other day. Based pretty much on running (trail running to be precise). But this involves hurtling quickly down a hill on a stoney path and approaching a cattle grid... just in time to look down to check your footing then discover you still have your bifocal distance/reading glasses on!!

Sunday, 11 December 2011


The clubs "Festive Half" this morning. A handicap race that starts and ends at Hallhill Healthy Living Centre and takes in a few streets of Dunbar before heading off road into John Muir Country Park and then a wee loop of Lawhead and Knowes Farm before heading back.
Some runners seem to think the "handicap" is to festoon themselves in fancy dress and further burden themselves by carrying sacks of sweets or ringing bells! I opted for the more traditional shorts and tee-shirt look. (photos HERE)
I set off with Ians "S" and "R" with a 1:25 handicap in mind. For the first couple of miles Mr S set the pace, but for some reason as we were going through the woods in John Muir I found myself out in front and for reasons that I will never fathom I started to pull away.
By the time I got to the road up towards Lawhead I had a plan. Well "plan" might be too much, but I did at least have a "theory". Both Ians are better off road than I am... I had a little lead when we went onto the road.... if I could just crank it up a little and extend that lead I might have enough to see me back through John Muir. I'm not trying to say I'm good on the road - rather, I'm just not as bad as I am on tracks! If I was to create a lead it would have to be there.
So I just got the head down, ignored the digits creeping up beyond the "careful now" level on the HRM and went for it.
Bugger me - it worked! Not first back but still managed to get 1:23:46 which pleased me for a half that's mainly off road. Though I do suspect that both Ians were taking things a bit easier today.

After a few sandwiches and soup in Hallhill we went off to get our Christmas tree. We go to Beanston Farm for our tree. Have done since we moved here 13 years ago and I think it would be closed during the week after work times so it was either today or next weekend. The plan had been to buy it, keep it outside then bring it in and decorate it tomorrow or Wednesday.
"Best laid plans" and all that...... Don't usually put our tree up this early, but what the hell!

Tommy Smith's Christmas Concert back onto the old music player...marvel as Tommy gets "We Three Kings" to SWING...... "great"! The saintly Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas album going on next.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


Went out a little while ago for a nine mile run, up round the wind farms at the back.
Fantastic fun. Especially as everything after Weatherly was covered in a layer of snow. Nothing serious at all, perhaps about half an inch deep. Its strange that sometimes I find just a little covering of snow actually improves the grip underfoot. One of the things about running, and walking I suppose, is that you experience the same routes at different times in different conditions - gives them a new perspective and makes them seem fresh again.
Enjoyed running along and trying to figure out what some of the animal tracks were. "Oh yes. Definitely a fox" I thought, as I saw one line of tracks cross the road. Then my eyes followed the track to its end and I saw a sheep standing looking at me! Jack Hargreaves I ain't!!

Anyway. Little or no wind today which was really nice after the battering we've had for the last couple of days.
In fact on Thursday the clubs interval session was cancelled - not often that happens.
Another "victim" of Thursday's strong winds was our electricity supply - which does all-too-bloody-often happen. In fact you know you get a lot of power cuts when you know Scottish Power's "emergency helpline" number off by heart(08452727999)!! Thursday night to Friday lunchtime this time. Not too bad as on Friday we were at work anyway. In fact I was in work early on Friday to get a shower before I started (no electricty = no hot water at home).
Even although we weren't out running on Thursday night we still "kept the faith" by sitting about the house with our head torches on !! Very little on telly that I really want to watch, but I've been getting into that comedy "Rev" that's on Thursday nights. Have to try and catch the repeat sometime.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Training has a habit of stepping down a gear at this time of year. Not because of commitments or time constraints (though I suppose that can affect some folks training), but primarily because of the weather.
The weather might not exactly dictate what you do, but chances are it influences what you do.
Take yesterday. I was all set for my usual 7 mile run up by the majestic Clyde. However the weather had contrived to make the pathways as dangerous as possible. The snow from Tuesday night/Wednesday morning had melted slightly - only to freeze over again. It was treacherous underfoot.
So... I ended up tippity-toeing half a mile or so along to Glasgow Green and from there just running about the grassy areas hither and tither. I like running on grass that's got a sort of ice covering on it. Nice and crunchy underfoot. Till you hit one of those spots that's deceptively muddy underfoot!!
Quite a few other runners had the same idea and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. Noticed that while the weather didn't deter runners the ned count was way down (no bad thing). Including the tippy-toe run there and back to the office I still manged 4.5 miles.
The speed though was way down on my usual lunchtime run - it was perhaps natures way of getting me to take it easy.
And it was probably just as well I had an easy lunchtime run as last nights club run was yet another eyeballs out session (the more temperate climes to be found in the east are much more conducive to road running).

Then today it was the wind that affected my run. Went out for a 7 mile easy run, so I didn't mind too much when the wind slowed me down - I just let it. Keeping the heart rate steady was more important today than speed.
Not looking forward to tomorrow though (90mph winds forecast!).

Life on "planet jazz" is going through a bit of a slow down as well to be honest. I'm getting to that strange time of year where I don't want to buy/acquire anything too new in case Santa's already packed it away for me. And in a week or so I'll be dusting down my collection of festive grooves (which by the 25th I'll be fed up with and grateful for some new sounds no doubt).
However, being careful about what I get doesn't mean getting nothing (oh Lordy no).
Managed to get a copy of "Super Standard" by The Super Trio. Now, apparently this was/is/should be a Kenny Barron CD, but contractual difficulties meant that it couldn't be released under his name (hence the "Super Trio"). Think the contractual problems actually led to the album only having a short shelf life and its now been deleted by the label but, I believe, it can still be bought from one of these companies that buy the rights to music then burn CDs to demand (I got an out of print Courtney Pine CD that way.... only for it to be re-released a few years later).
Anyway... I like Kenny Barron. Have done since I heard him with Stan Getz in 1989. This is a collection of tried and tested standards all beautifully done, especially Duke Ellington's "Sunset and The Mockingbird" and also "Willow Weep For Me" where bassist Jay Leonhart uses the bow on the upright bass to great effect.
Mostly ballads, though there are a couple of more upbeat ones on here too ("Cherokee" for example) and a cover of Bud Powells "Cleopatra's Dream" that has a bit of a latin groove going on.
Beautiful ballads taken at a slow and easy pace - just the ticket for those times when your thinking of slowing down a bit yourself.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Down to Peebles this morning for the fourth race in the Borders XC series and even the weather was "cross countryish". Snow!!
Not a lot to be honest (it wasn't lying), but it did snow while we were running and it was just enough to make it feel like "proper" conditions for a four mile trot round a muddy course. It also added a slightly "festive" air to the last race before Christmas (pleased about that if I'm honest - I want my weekends back!).
Anyway. The race itself has a bit of everything. Starts with a large loop around the park, to allow the runners to pick up a bit speed, before shooting them off onto a tricky, narrow, rocky, rooted, twisty path that runs along by the riverside. This narrow section is not one to try to gain a place or two.
After that you find yourself on an open flat plain before doubling back over a disused railway bridge and then into a nice forest trail that offers you a bit shelter from the wind - though punishes you by being a deceptive incline!
Out here into a muddy field, a tricky sharp left turn and then a long climb. The sort of climb that you think "it's not that steep that I need to walk ... but it's steep enough to hurt". Into the woods again briefly, before you emerge into a filed with a long muddy descent.
The last half mile or so sees you approach the finish along a path that is six inches deep in cloying mud with a wafer thin layer of leaf mulch on top for added slipperiness!
Time and place was "so so" (28:57).
Had to stand about till the end to collect the numbers and times from the timekeepers, so I had a good natter with Romie from Norham. 185 senior runners today (with about 280 registered for the series). This event is getting more popular every year attracting more clubs and a better field.

Might not be quite this white now.

Got home and rattled the results off, then went for my shower! By which time the Peebles mud was rock solid, or at least what hadn't fallen into the foot well of the car on the way home was.
As some may know I'm of the opinion that a chap's toiletries collection should consist of; soap, a toothbrush, a razor, deodorant, and bugger all else! Also if these items can be purchased from PoundLand or Lidl - all the better!!
However, I'm not averse to using stuff that belongs to others. Anne's got some of these nylon scrumpled net things (it looks like an old sprouts bag all scrunched up). Anyway, give the muddy legs a good soap then a vigorous scrubbing with one of those things and it soon shifts the toughest of cross country mud! Lovely.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


Long weekend. Had Friday as a day's leave so we did all the usual "Saturday" type things yesterday - grocery shopping, visit to the recycling centre (always a joy) as well as a Christmas shopping trip.
This left today free, with nowhere we had to be and nothing we had to do. So I decided it was high time I got out there and did some LSD. Horrified to see that this is the first real long run I've done since Inverness at the start of October.
I've been managing to keep my weekly mileage "there or there abouts" but, while I do enjoy the cross country, it sort of takes away my usual main training day (Sunday). So when I'm trying to make up the mileage elsewhere its just wee scrappy bits here and there, and I seem to take every short run at fast pace, the cumulative effect of this can be counter productive (I think).
Anyhoo, given that we're off to Peebles tomorrow I thought Id get out there and do a slow long un'.
Ended up just over 16 miles. Over by Oldhamstocks and back. Nothing too taxing but the wind made me feel like I was really working in some places. Should have chosen a better route to be honest, a 16 mile loop that ends into a head wind is maybe a bit daft.
Felt good though to be out there for a two hour run again. Some time since I've done that.
Don't know how it will effect my run tomorrow at the cross country, but I'm just there to make up the numbers really.
My three day weekend is giving me a real taste for the Christmas holidays coming up. Must try to get out for a few long runs then.

It was quite nice Christmas shopping yesterday. The shops were a bit quieter than usual (hardly anybody gets the St Andrews day holiday).
Not like Wednesday, when the public sector showed their anger at the governments pig-headed refusal to squeeze taxpayers more in order to maintain their privileged gilt edged pensions. This anger, it would appear, manifested itself in the largest orchestrated Christmas shopping trip since 1926 with some shopping centres reporting a 38% increase in footfall. Good for you comrades... good for you.