Friday, 31 May 2013


I appear to be over Trane-ing  at the moment. And I am benefiting from it immensely.
That private space that I inhabit called Planet Jazz is teaming to the sound of John Coltrane these days; the man himself, Coltrane influenced sounds and sounds simply associated with the great man.

I love the “early” Blue Note works and the Atlantic records are really good. The Impulse albums are a bit of a problem (for me). They are situated either side of a dichotomy; either out of this world – A Love Supreme … or…. I simply don’t “get” them – I know I should like Ascension – but I just don’t.
A painting of St. John Coltrane from the African Orthodox Church
(this dates from the 1970s - but note the spelling of his middle name - nothing is original).

Anyway. There is no getting away from the man’s influence. You’d be hard pushed to find a sax player who doesn’t name check Coltrane as one of the great influences on their art.

I’ve been listening to a couple of Coltrane influenced works recently. Alan Skidmore’s “Impressions Of John Coltrane” which does exactly what it says on the tin. However, I’ve also been listening, again, to a lot of Nat Birchall. A saxophonist whose sound is absolutely steeped in the essence of John Coltrane’s sound at its most spiritual. A wonderful player. I’m only sorry I didn’t come to listening to his stuff until relatively lately.

I’ve also dug out a fair bit of Pharaoh Sanders music lately – perhaps because he’s coming to the Edinburgh Jazz festival (still not got tickets though).

Another disc that’s been giving me a lot of joy lately is from a guy who can’t help the association with John …. His son Ravi.

Got hold of a fantastic “bootleg” of a live recording done at the recent Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Really good quality recording – it must be lifted from a digital radio broadcast.
Must be a heavy, heavy burden to carry.. To be the son of such a significant figure and then to opt to go into the same sphere of business (must be worse if your old boy is literally considered to be a saint, by some). So it’s great credit to Ravi that he’s found his own sound and forged his own place without trading on the family name.
This is “modern” jazz, edging [back] towards mainstream that probably sits closer to the music of the late Michael Brecker than it does to the music of dad.
A great recording of a great concert. One of those occasions when a “live” recording beats a studio album hands down.

Thursday, 30 May 2013


Out for a meal last night …. And it was lovely. David Bann’s on St Mary’s Street.

Nice place. A vegetarian restaurant with a bit of class.
I’ve been to too many “veggie” places that go a bit too far down the old road of “eco-green-warrior, knit-your-own-sandals-from-organic-nettle-fibre”, type of thing. Where none of the cutlery matches and all the bowls and cups look like they've been "thrown" by a blind potter with no thumbs.

Other specifically vegetarian restaurants are often “type” specific – Indian vegetarian for example (not that there is anything wrong with that mind). This seemed, to me, to be a really good mix of styles. Something for everyone.

Not like me at all, but I actually had three courses, it was that nice. Highly recommended.

Though I did question the wisdom of doing a fast paced 6 miler at daft o’clock this morning. Less of a training run and more of a bit of penance for being a bit of a breedy gastard the night before! A distinctly “heavy” feeling to my run today.

Didn’t help that as I tried to pick up the speed at Salamander Street I got passed by a club mate going into his work (twice - he got caught at traffic lights) . No matter how bad you feel – you never want to let it show when someone you know sees you. :-)

Sunday, 26 May 2013


Me, Anne and Ian Sills went off to Falkland on Saturday for the Scottish Athletics National Trail Championships.
The sky was clear and blue, the sun had his hat on and there was hardly a breath of wind at all! It was a beautiful day.
And, as it was to turn out, it was a beautiful location for the race.
We arrived in Falkland with loads of time. That combined with the fact that none of us had any clue where we were to register etc offered us a great excuse for a wee look round.
I'm sure at some point I must have been to Falkland before - I just cant remember it.
I remember in the 70's my Granny used to read the People's Friend magazine. It always had a painting of some wee village or "landmark" on the cover that was always painted as though the whole of Scotland had been frozen in time in the nineteen thirties - everywhere looked really "nice".
Well .... visiting Falkland is pretty much like stepping into a cover painting from that great journal.
We had enough time to go for as welcome coffee and cake before the race then tootled off to get our numbers. Even the tea shop had a sort of thirties feel about it.

The start was at Falkland House - a beautiful setting. So much so that I did state to Ian that it was a shame we had to race. Wouldn't it have been so much nicer if we'd all agreed, by consent, just to treat it like a big training run and savour the surroundings.
Sadly, twas not to be, once you get that number on your chest it means one thing only - eyeballs out effort - and for all the notice you will be taking of your surroundings you might as well be running down Leith Walk than some tree lined glade!!

I'd taken my trail shoes and my road shoes with me, and after hearing a description of the route and going out for a bit of a recce with Mr Sills opted for the road shoes.

The course was pretty much on well defined forest roads, with the odd marrow grassy path thrown in, but even those were very dry and fairly firm underfoot.

The route, for the men, was two big loops and one little loop (15k). The women did one of each loop (10k).
The first mile was on a tarmaced road and I decided that if I was going to try and make time - that was the time to do it.
For a lot of the race I was "between groups" with some runners ahead of me that I was desperately trying to catch and a few behind me that ia was desperately trying to keep away from.
The course was described by Alex Jackson as  "undulating", which, as every runner knows, is a euphemism for "bloody hilly".
The trail roads reminded me of the type of road we have to the back of the cottage, up towards the windfarms.
There was a real sting in the tail when you came out of the woods and back onto the drive UP to the house. The last couple of hundred metres was up a pretty steep climb - not quite as severe, but a bit like the finish at the Black Rock 5. I had nothing left for a sprint finish at all.
Happy with my time of 57:48 and position (4th vet).

Fife AC had laid on a fantastic race. A well organised event, a well set out and marshaled course, great venue and a nice feed at the end.
One I'd happily go back for.

Thursday, 23 May 2013


Can you have too much music? I’ve always thought “no”. But I’m starting to have my doubts.

My MP3 player “only” contains about 90 albums or so, and they are  my most “recent” acquisitions. I’ve not even loaded any of my long time favourites onto it.

I’m finding these days that I listen to an album once or maybe twice – and then it’s time to move onto the next new one.
I’m sort of harking back to the old days. In the 80’s for example I used to cycle to work from Musselburgh to Newtongrange, and  I remember at one point I had the same cassette tape in my Walkman for about a month: just for the commute. It was a tape of Woody Herman and his orchestra - and I loved it. I knew the running order of all the tracks. I knew the names of most of the soloists and I knew the name of each track: Opus de Funk…Blue Flame…Woodchoppers Ball (or as we called it “The Timber Hackers Knackers”)…etc. I could, probably even now, “time” where I should be on that cycle trip by what track was playing at any given point. If I wasn’t passing the Cockatoo before North West Passage was playing I was probably going to be late.

I don’t feel I’m getting that familiarity with my music at the moment. I’ve listened to some really good stuff lately, but that’s the problem I’ve “listened” to it when I should be “Listening” to it. Too much is washing over me rather than immersing me. Does access to a huge amount of music devalue the individual pieces? I really don’t know.

 I’m not suggesting that I ditch the mp3 player and go back to tape (as I believe some “hipsters” do). Maybe I should just “force” myself to keep the shuffle function off for a wee while. OR I could get rid of some of my music (Jesus – wash your dirty mouth out, Stuart, for even suggesting that) OR I could slow down my acquisition of new stuff ……. Problem with that is – now that the idea is in my head I really, really want a copy of Woody Herman playing Opus De Funk.
I suppose it's a bit "off" to be "complaining" about having too much of something. Anne keeps accusing me of being a "glass half empty" type. Well... that's not really true. I'm more a sort of a "glass not only half empty; but it's a chipped and dirty glass to begin with- and some bugger has put an old fag end in it while I was away at the bogs" type.

Monday, 20 May 2013


No. Not the sound of a roadie testing microphones at the start of a gig.
It’s me going up stairs at the moment.
When all is well I normally go upstairs two steps at a time. However, while my left knee is hunky-dory when I’m running I get a sharp pain in it if I go upstairs two steps at a time.
One at a time? No problem. Two? Pain. Result? Rather than simply adopt a one at a time approach I’ve started this peculiar two with the right one with the left approach to stairs.
Not that handy when you work on the second floor of an office and are going up and down stairs a few times a day. Especially when the stair well is open and in the middle of the office.
Probably look like a right nutter.

I’m still convinced it’s the quads and ITB that are the problem. Loads of stretches and strengthening exercises seem to be helping (coupled with liberal rubbing of the thighs with my “lucky” cats eye) J
Every time I pass the sports injury “clinic” in Leith I’ve used a couple of times I wonder if I should pop in and make an appointment, but my natural procrastination always gets the better of me.

Friday, 17 May 2013


Frikin’ philistines.

This ….

Has been placed upon the door of the shower I use at work.

It saddens me to think that it’s message is aimed at me.

When you listen to the crap on the radio these days that passes as “popular” music you would think that people would appreciate a wee change in direction. A little quality added to their daily diet of rubbish.

Obviously not. It would appear that scat vocalising of the music of Thelonious Monk is not everyone’s cup of java.
The ill hidden "tuts" and the looks of contempt that I often get are bad enough - but this just hurts.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Not a lot of people know this, but one of my “guilty pleasures” is the study of the origins of place names. I find it fascinating.

Take Penicuik, for example, it actually comes from the Old Brythonic language, and derives from  “Pen Y Cog” which can literally be translated as “who put that fuckin’ hill there?”.
One of my other guilty pleasures is lying through my teeth.

Yes indeed. Yesterday saw us off to the pretty little hill settlement of Penicuik to take part in the Penicuik 10k – a race, it turns out, I haven’t done for six years (I knew it was a wee while - but six years?).

In seriousness; it’s a craking race, really well organised and a great course – but not one for a PB. Oh – and it has a spread of home baking at the end that’s well worth a visit.

I’d toyed with the idea of doing this race for a week, but when I saw the weather on Saturday I must confess I was leaning towards the “oh feck this,lets not bother” approach to entry on the day.
Luckily, Anne is made of stronger stuff than me and we ended up doing it.

Registered and got our numbers and went out for a wee warm up. With “warm” being a bit of a misnomer – the wind was howling off the hills and it was bloody freezing. The sky had also turned decidedly leaden and fat globs of rain were starting to fall.

I don’t know why – but I’m starting to feel the cold in my hands a lot more than I used to and I was really miffed that I hadn’t packed my gloves. Non runners might think it looks strange to see someone, in a vest, with bare arms but wearing gloves. Well for some reason, while the rest of you can get fairly toasty while your running, the hands are often really cold.

As part of our warm up we ended up in the town square and were intrigued to see that some trees and a fountain had been “targeted” by some “yarn bombers”. Yes indeed – Penicuik … it’s that cold even the trees wear pullovers! Don’t know how long the woolly graffiti had been there, but it looked quite good. Those who are unfamiliar with the term “Yarn bombing” or “craft bombing” – it’s a sort of semi-legitimate form of impromptu art/vandalism for otherwise respectable crafters with far too much time on their hands! In fact - if they are looking for something to do with all their spare wool next year ... just knit a big pile of gloves and leave them for the runners at the start line!

"Yarn Bombing" at the fountain
Headed back to the start. Then at the last minute stripped down to the vest and left the long sleeve top in a tent at the finish line ready for me when I finished.

Lined up with the 220+ other runners (a record turnout I believe), a few words from the starter…and we were off.

Start was a quick dash from the park gates along to the high street and then after half a mile or so of quick downhill and a couple of turns it’s down to the serious business of the day and the first climb. A climb that just goes on and on and on… Pretty much for about two miles to be honest. Two miles of simply looking at the ground trying not to loose too much ground to others. As per usual, I wasn’t paying that much attention to who was passing me and who I was passing, but I knew I wasn’t loosing too much ground.

Once the top of the hill is reached there is a sort of “undulating section” of a mile or so where you can try to get into a bit of a rhythm. But the wind was so strong this year it was difficult – a couple of times I was buffeted so hard I actually ended up swaying over the pavement (apologies to anyone trying to pass me – it wasn’t a deliberate ploy).

On the down hill section I tried to get as much out of it as I could. But unfortunately even on the road my down hill technique isn’t what it should be. Got passed here by a couple of guys.

As we came into the last km Roy Buchanan of Portobello passed me and, rather sportingly, tried to encourage me to "hang in" - signaling for me to get in behind him. Unfortunately the down hill effort had taken its toll and the legs were unwilling to play along.
Photo (c) Bob Marshall

Got into the park and managed one final “sprint”. Finished in 37:46 – about 30 seconds slower than my last visit. Still, given the conditions, fairly content with that.

Did a nice slow 11 miler today – in the wind.

So. Three weekends and three races. Looking forward to next weekend – got nowt on.

Friday, 10 May 2013


Interval training is good for you. Apparently.
It is supposedly good for speed training. It’s good for improving overall cardiovascular effectiveness. And, or so they say, it’s handy for distance runners because it enhances your lactate threshold.

Oh. And it hurts. It hurts like hell. Especially when you are trying to do 24 x 200m’s.

Where you go 200m full out – then try to get your heart rate back down and your breath back within less than 45 seconds before you belt off to do it again. Then try to repeat that 24 times in a row. Actually, I stopped wearing my HRM to interval training a long time ago – the readings were just frightening me.

I’m sure last night’s session did do me good – but my legs felt like jelly at the end of it. And there was a slight feeling of achievement afterwards. Achievement coupled with a  sense of gratitude. Grateful that I hadn’t blacked out through oxygen depletion.

Yes indeed, Thursday night interval sessions – one of the reasons that I have Friday as my rest day (probably couldn’t run today – even if I wanted to).

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Not a particularly fast club run last night – but a bit of a tough one.

We started off heading out for the first few miles along the sand at Belhaven Bay, before heading onto the paths through John Muir. I think I might have developed some form of “sixth sense” – I just knew that last night’s run was going to involve mud and wet sand etc. Left the new shoes at home J I don't know if it helps, or not, but last year I was getting into the habit of rinsing my shoes under the tap if I'd had them through salt water (they're wet anyway!).

Even the bit along by the A199 back towards Dunbar didn’t provide any opportunity for picking it up a bit as we were headed into a stiff wind for most of it (natures payback for giving me a helping hand on Saturday ?). Shame about the wind really – otherwise it was a beautiful evening (no doubt looking back it will transpire that that WAS our summer!)

Got back to Hallhill and the GPS was reading about 9.5, so me and Ian continued and did a wee loop of the football pitches, just to tip the total over the 10 mile mark.

The extra wee bit on a Tuesday is helping, and my weekly total is now over 60, which is where I really want to be at this time of year.

Sunday, 5 May 2013


Well the new shoes arrived on Friday and were collected from my neighbour, who had taken delivery of them, on Friday evening.
However, as planned I decided not to "break them in" on the Edinburgh to North Berwick Race on Saturday - but rather just wear my old holey pair for the race and hope they held out.

Neil Jones had come up with the idea of some of us sharing an 8 seater taxi from North Berwick to the start line on Saturday. A great idea that worked out cheaper than various modes of public transport, and gave us all a good chance for a bit of a natter before the run.

We timed it well and got to the registration with the right amount of time to collect numbers, get kit ready, loo visits and warm up without either being rushed or feeling we were killing time.

I like a bit of a warm up before any race - just to loosen off - but I don't feel the need to do too much before a distance like this, so I was more than happy to stop every now and then to chat to others.

Bit of a strange feeling to be lining up for the start of a race alongside so many others by the prom at Seafield. I associate that bit of road with very early morning solitary runs when other than me there's usually just the odd cyclist or dog walker.

I honestly didn't know what to expect of this years run. I came to it last year after doing a Spring marathon - and, more importantly, after doing the training for a Spring marathon. This year, despite my early good intentions, I've not picked a marathon (other than York in October) and, as such, I've not really done the number of long runs I would normally have done.

Anyway. A few words from Barry ... and we were off.

The first few miles passed in a bit of a blur and, to be honest, uneventful. I just got into what I thought was a comfortable pace and tried to get into a "zone". I do remember getting to the bridge at Musselburgh and thinking "Jeeze - is that only three miles?"

Got to the Pans and I was fourth on the road. The front guy was WAY ahead, but I could just make out the two guys in front of me (Neil Renault of Edinburgh ended up setting a course record of 1:49). Spent the next 5 miles or so just slowly trying pick up the pace and reel them in. Managed to catch up with them by the time we got between Longniddry Bents and Aberlady (I always hate that long strait stretch of tree lined road before Aberlady).

My joy at catching and passing them was tempered a bit with the knowledge "feck' I'm second". Passed Alex Jackson at the 15 mile mark who informed me "the leaders only 11 minutes ahead of you". "Oh good" I thought - I only have to pick it up to about three minute mile pace and I could win this!!.

As it was, that was not to be a worry. I got passed by two runners just before Dirleton. I had a quick look at them and their numbers and thought to myself "they're not vets" - just let them go...

I don't usually bother with "food" during this race, but this year I had two veggie Percy Pig sweeties with me that I had at Dirleton - just to give myself a bit of a boost.

Felt better on the last two miles from Dirleton to North Berwick than I've ever felt on this race and was lifted towards the end by encouragement from some Dunbar runners who had come out to marshal.
"Chest Out, Shoulders Back" The complete antithesis of “Chi” running.
Photo (c) Bob Marshall

Crossed the line in 2:04:54. 4th overall and 1st vet. Slightly quicker than last year - but I'm sure that was down to the stiff tail wind we had for most of the race.

So that's two years in a row that I've been 4th and 1st VO40. And I can categorically state that it's also the last time that will happen.

Club had a good result with Rhona getting 2nd lady overall and her, Mary and Anne bagging the ladies team prize.

Celebrated last night by allowing myself a bottle of alcohol free wheat beer with my tea - 'cause that's the kind of wild and crazy guy I am. As it's "technically" a PB some sort of jazz purchase is in the offing as well.

Today. Well the new shoes got taken out of the box and together we set of for a decidedly leisurely six miler.

Friday, 3 May 2013


What is this I see running towards me – arms outstretched – ready to embrace me?
Why, bless my soul it’s a long weekend. Thank feck.
Many people have, “careers”, “callings” or “vocations” etc. I’m not one of them… I have a “job” and it isn’t one I exactly enjoy. Truth be told I can barely tolerate it. So a nice three day weekend to recharge the old batteries is long overdue.

Starting the weekend tomorrow with the Edinburgh to North Berwick race, so while everyone else on “planet long weekend” might be looking for wall to wall sunshine for three days, I’m going to settle for cool and overcast with a nice stiff westerly wind. At least for the duration of the race – after that it can do what it wants.

I’ve ordered a new pair of shoes and, according to the wondrous “track your parcel” type thingummy on t’internet they just might arrive today.
This is good. Particularly as there is now a large hole in the upper of my “good” pair. A hole the size of a ten pence piece right on the little toe of my right foot. Usually it’s the soles that go first on my shoes, but this particular pair of Sauconys have been quite robust and instead it’s the mesh upper that’s suffered. Probably constant soakings during the winter/”spring” months.

Anyhoo. IF the new shoes arrive today I’ve got a bit of a quandary. Do I stick with the old pair for the E2NB? Or do I turn up at the start line with a pair of fresh-out-the-box shoes, in the hope that the “virgin” cushioning and fresh EVA in the midsole gives me that little extra “bounce”??

There are a few good reasons for NOT wearing new shoes for a race.

a” While they are supposedly the same make and model as my last few pairs manufacturers always make stupid little adjustments and so called “improvements”. It just might be the case that they change your gate a wee bit. “b” Flaws – one tiny, tiny flaw in the stitching might be the thing that causes blisters and pains until you’ve sorted it out. Not something you really want in a race (bad enough in a training run – but certainly not a race). And “c” – the sum of "a"+"b"=… you look a complete tit if you turn up at a race in new shoes J Turning up at the start of an event in pristine, shiny new, matching gear is for middle aged lady moonwalkers – not for runners.

Old shoes it is then. Think I’ll just give them a little “smear” with a bit shoe-goo tonight, to stop the hole from fraying and getting any bigger. Maybe a wee bit of duct tape.