Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
As to tonight's Bridge Inn race, that also went well. I'm not talking sub 18 minutes. I'm not talking sub 19 minutes. What am I talking is - ssh, stop, no rude interjections, thank you - what I am talking is a fifty second improvement from last month down to 19 minutes and 32 seconds and more importantly a much more focused and controlled run. So, I set off a bit over excitedly, closing down the first kilometre on my pb pace of 3:38. Too fast. Way too fast. I consciously slowed it down while all the time focusing on my stride length. By the 3k marker I could feel myself slowing. I kept the focus. I could feel my muscles tightening as I did my utmost to keep the stride long, the back straight and the form good but the early pace took its toll in the last kilometre. With such a fast - relatively speaking - first kilometre the price was always going to have to be paid. With that 'bloody taste' forming at the back of my throat I pushed aside the pain and stayed focused to the finish.
I'm pleased with the manor of tonight's run. I'm pleased with the improvement. I'm not so pleased with the fact that I can see the road back is going to be a long one - and almost certainly as windy as badgers burrow.
ps I know a badger lives in a sett
Monday, February 27, 2012
I'm hopeful I won't be quite so slow as last month. That was a shocker. OK, so I didn't really try that time out but I'm scared. What if I try - and believe it or not I do intend to try at least a little bit in tomorrow's race - and still run like 'Mad Runner The Amazing Human Slug'? I feel I've made some gains this month despite not really committing to any specific speed work. Focusing on lengthening my stride during my normal every day run has helped and I hope to focus on that tomorrow night.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
And with the sun shining I could not put off that first cut any longer. With the temperatures creeping up after the cold snap the grass has started to grow. I can see that if I left it another week or two I would have needed a machete to get through it. As it was, I reckon I caught it just about right. It certainly looks a lot better. Not exactly ready for crown green bowling - but then again, it never will be but that's not what I'm aiming for. It looks tidy and that's enough for me.
Also been busy sowing more herbs. This time I'm trying coriander, rosemary and thyme. There's still no signs of growth on the basil, chive, tomatoes or chilli but I think it's still at least two weeks away before I'm expecting to see signs of life. Around the same time I reckon my chitting potatoes will be good to plant up. There are tiny shoots beginning to break out on my seeders but those tiny shoots need to be 2+ cm before I plant 'em out - or so the books say. I'm quite looking forward to watching it all grow - providing of course that any of it actually does grow. I know I will feel very disappointed if it all amounts to nothing.
On other front's I've a Paul Holywood fruit loaf proving and I'm planning cauliflower cheese for dinner. All of which hides the fact that my legs are achey breaky. I can't face a run despite the bloody marvelous weather. Did I mention I tidied up the decking? Well I did and as soon as this two hour gentle bike session is complete I am heading out there to bask in the sun with a fresh brew and a good book.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
I followed my planned route from Cwmgwdi along the road following the Taff Trail - yes, it really is called that - to the Storey Arms and from there I headed up into the mountains. Y Garn, Blwch Duwynt, Graig Fan Ddu, Craig y Fan Ddu, Graig Fan Las, Fan y Big, Cribyn and finally - leaving the biggest till last - Pen y Fan were all on the menu in today's 22 miles with 5,000 feet of ascent.
I really went well. I felt it on the last two climbs but by then I was closing in on twenty miles run so that wasn't too surprising. Add in the slightly too ambitious pace early on and the fact that I didn't fade too badly all hints to the fact I'm getting fitter and stronger. I even managed to run far more of the climbs than I've been able to of late. I ran the entire section from Storey Arms to Blwch Duwynt and I don't think I've ever managed that before. And the icing on the cake, I even got wolf whistled by a group of partially sighted ladies.
Then it was all over, almost too quickly, 4 hours and 20 minutes after I set off. Back at the van I jumped in the back and got the cooker boiling up a brew. There I sat for a few minutes looking out at the view as I drank my coffee and all too soon it was time to head home...
Friday, February 24, 2012
First up the curtains. To give a bit of privacy and keep out the light. All of five minutes and they were up - back of the net. Really please with how they look and how much light they block out.
With the curtains out the way it was time to make a start on the storage and cooking unit. I wasn't sure how much I'd get done but with the outline design to hand I set about constructing. Bit by bit it all started to come together. At first it all seemed a bit wonky but as the work continued it all seemed to drop into place. I'm bloody glad I had the chop saw. It was worth its weight in gold, making light work of cutting the wood to length.
In the end I settled on a fairly basic layout. No fancy lifting lids or sliding bits. The main work top has a double layer so I can stow the cooker and utensils, pots and pans underneath. As you can see there is still a bit of finishing off to do. I want to enclose the ends and sides with 3mm ply. That won't affect the usability but it'll make it look a bit nicer. I don't think I'm going to bother putting doors on the bottom section but I may put down a strip of wood to stop anything in the storage area sliding around the floor. I might also sub-divide that area (above the wheel arch) but I'll wait and see how I use the space first.
All in all it's been a very productive six! hours working on the van and she's pretty much fully operational now although I still need something to black out the rear windows.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
I have purchased the curtains to shut off the cab from the living area in the van. Plain black and double lined. For the rail, I'm going with a piece of 25mm diameter dowel - this thing is happening on a budget after all. All I need now is a day off work to fit them - ooh, that's lucky... Tomorrow I'm going to make a start on the kitchen unit as well. I won't get it finished but once I've got the ball rolling, it'll hopefully gather some moss, I mean, won't gather any moss - hang on, that should be a stone. Oh well, what ever. Maybe, if I'm lucky I'll find the enthusiasm to get out for a run as well.
Tonight I am totally chilling. With the software tests very nearly complete I'm after a total rest day from training. This evening I relax. The sofa beckons as the microwave heats me a lovely bowl of homemade beetroot soup with it's secret ingredient of a couple celery sticks - oops. It's really bloody tasty - even if it does turn everything red - am I mean everything...
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Yes, I have managed to get entry to the three peaks fell race - excellent. Having given it up as a missed opportunity after I left the entry too late, the race being full, I have managed to procure a place from a mate. With the dust barely settled I'm looking forward to it already. I've never run it before although I did once watch from the sidelines. At the time I wasn't fit enough to race the gruelling 24 mile race. When I next visit Ribblesdale I shall be ready - fact.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Oooh er. That is, it was hard work running over Dundry on the lunch run. We ran anti-clockwise today - the harder direction in my opinion - and the wind was blowing strong in our faces - but what do I know? Despite that, I felt good on the long and steady climb. It didn't feel fast on account of conditions but I plugged away and I was disappointed to reach the top in quite a slow time - damn it.
My left calf was, once again, a little tight after Sunday's run and I wasn't able to stride out in quite the same manner as last week. I did try to get up onto the balls of my feet and stretch things but my calf wasn't having it. There was no spring and I just never quite got going. Despite that I pushed hard to get home in my quickest time for over a year on the anti-clockwise loop by some thirty seconds. I can't be anything but happy with the run but it's not generating quite the same buzz as last week but it still feels good.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Anyway, to the run. I decided to try something a little different from the normal Malverns out and back. I parked up in a small lay-by just off junction 2 of the M50 and started my run from there. A short section of road led me onto the Three Choirs footpath which I followed over to Hollybush - my normal starting point for the Malverns out and back. The new section was pretty descent. Quite flat to get you in the mood before you get to the hills and quite scenic and most importantly it adds on 12k to the normal out and back meaning I can use it as a long run.
With time at a premium I set myself a 90 minute cut off. Meaning when I hit 90 minutes running I would stop where I was, about face, and run back. With the extended route I knew I wouldn't make it all the way to the Worcestershire Beacon but I wasn't actually that far short. By my reckoning I was less than two kilometres shy of it which means the new route will be just over 30km with about 4,400 feet of ascent. My abbreviated run took me close to 27km with around 3,700 feet in a a pretty descent 2 hours 40. I seemed to flow today.
The other good thing about the Malverns is they provide a great hill session as a bonus. None of the climbs are massive but they are quite steep. What that means, provided you work them, is that you can give yourself a pretty good hill work-out. In today's run - and with hard effort - I managed to run all but one of the 14 climbs and yes, I did miss out miss out Midsummer Hill on the way back but as I didn't walk it I'm not counting it in the stats. Was a really good work out and in some way I feel I put in more than enough effort to compensate for being a lazy bar-steward yesterday. So if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of the Malverns I highly recommend a run...
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Back to the goodlife, with the leg out of action for running, it seemed like an opportune time to go and get a few things to kick off the home growing experiment. Oddly, I also had a tweet out of the blue from someone into self sufficiency and with an omen like that I'd have been stupid to ignore the calling.
Now I don't intend to spend a fortune. That would kind of negate the whole purpose of growing your own but there are a few things I need to get me started. So, using my Christmas B & Q voucher, I bought some wood to build a couple of raised beds. A few pots - and I do intend to become a bit more inventive in the future, and make pots from recycled things. Some compost and, most importantly, some seeds.
In my first season I'm going to try an early crop of potatoes and some beetroot. In the conservatory I'm going to start off some tomatos and chillis and on my sunny kitchen window sill I'm going to try some basil, corriander, chive and rosemary. To start with everything is going in its own pot. Maybe in a year or two I'll learn the art of inter-cropping and working out which things can grow in the same pot but that assumes I will stick with it. I hope I do.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Yes, the carbon monoxide alarm is installed in the van. Ready to warn of the silent but deadly killer and I've upholstered the dual purpose back rest matress section. Admitedly it is a bit pants but as long as you don't look too close it doesn't stand out - much. In any event I've got lots of material left over if I decide it needs to be redone - properly next time.
Resting up tonight as I plan tomorrows long run. I think I'm going to head to the far side of the BMs to run something along the lines of stage one and two of the traverse. Don't think I'll go for the complete out and back but I'll find some way of routing a long run over that ground.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Martin and I went out for our weekly run. Started steady and then I seemed to feel OK on the climb for once. OK, I thought, the steady start must be really really steady. No problem - but hang on. Me? Leading Martin towards the top? Something seriously wrong there... Especially as I felt so comfortable. Definitely on for a slow one but that's OK. But hang on, no, I was over the top in my quickest time since 2010. OK, so Martin did catch me by the top - but only just. Then, on the descent, up on my toes, striding out, I caught him back. I held on as long as I could but in the last mile he finally edged past and I was spent. I dug deep to finish in my fastest time since November 2010 and a time that probably makes my top five. I was a fraction tired at the finish but really pleased.
Today, I concentrated on striding out thoughout the run. My stride has been getting shorter and shorter as I've moved to longer stuff. It just goes to show how important running form is. Just focusing on my stride length helped. Can't wait to see the affect it will have when I actually manage to get in a speed training session...
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
..after having received hundreds of valentine cards - yeah, like that was ever likely. Have to say work is grinding me down. I need to be motivated but I can't do it. On the drive home, the nearer home I got, the more I just wanted to just splurge out on the sofa - ooh er misses! - I cleared up afterwards.
I did muster for an hour on the bike - and I did actually crank up the resistance big style, to be sweating like a bastard by the end... but I need to be up and motivated for a run after work. The bike just doesn't cut it.
On the upside, I am in the office tomorrow and I WILL get out for the lunch run with Martin - that, or I will slap myself for an hour....
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Monday, February 13, 2012
..Power does the cars air-con use!! And why can't I switch it off when I select windscreen de-mist? All the other modes of heating or cooling can toggle the ac on or off but not windscreen demist. Oh no, that needs the ac switched on. All of which has nothing to do with running but as I've been lazy I need something to talk bollox about.
Anyway, I finally worked out why my fuel economy has takes a nose dive during the colder months - only taken 18months, doh. It takes a big hit. Down from a cracking 63 miles per gallon during the summer to a rather pants 56-58 mpg right about now. It finally dawned on me that the ac indictor comes on when ever de-mist is sellected and then, being a total nerdy geek, I set about some testing. With steady speed attained on a flat section of road I was able to drop the instantaneous mpg from 62 to 56. Turn de-mist on - 56, turn it off - 62, on, 56, off 62, 56, 62, 56, 62. Yep, fairly conclusive in my book. Suffice to say I shall be keeping the de-mist on a much tighter rein from now on - every little helps...
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Part of the reason I skipped training was down to wanting to finish the van - or at least move it on to the next phase. For that I needed to upholster the walls and roof - which I did. So the day's not been a total waste. It was hard work though, taking five hours and the result is not my greatest. Not sure I should have tried to do the roof and walls in once piece. It's done now though, and I'm not going to rip it off and start again. It doesn't look too bad - provided you don't go looking too hard. With that done I can finally make a start on the kitchen and storage units.
Currently punishing myself with two hours on the bike for I have been a naughty boy...
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Friday, February 10, 2012
On other matters I'm happy to report I did indeed make it out of the house and down to Bristol. As suspected the 'blizzard' warnings were just a lottle - that's the opposite of a little - over egged. As to training, I'm building up for another long run tomorrow but I'm thinking of running from home and into the forest to get a more stable paced long run, while avoiding the ice into the deal. Yes, I do think the ice will be a hazzard - far more of a hazzard than the 'snow'. I reckon it's going to be a cold one and I'd prefer to keep to a faster pace in order to stay warm. I might even try and get up early enough to head over for the Parkrun as a half-time speed burst - but that might be pushing it. More bike tonight in the warm. I was going to head out but its too damn cold.
And tonght I even had time for a quick half hour of work on the van before my hands froze. I've installed the LED lighting. Well, when I say installed, what I really mean is wired. At the moment they are stuck in place with tape. I need to find a few hours to upholster the walls and roof before I can truly fix them into position and call them installed. They give good light though and each side is independently switchable between on, off and door activated. Pleased with my choice.
Thursday, February 09, 2012
Will I? Won't I? Make it in to work tomorrow? I reckon I will - but I've been proved wrong in the past and may well be proved wrong in about eleven hours... I hope I'm right because I really need to get the software signed off. The clock is well past ticking down. Tick tock, tick tock.
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
But I managed something - which is always better than nothing. It was a mentally tiring day at work but productive and I'm always happy to have had a productive day. The light from the end of the tunnel is finally filtering through - but even at the speed of light, it won't arrive for another week or two, grrrr...
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
From the top things did improve a little. Having hit the top in close to my slowest ever I picked up the pace on the run in to finish in a reasonable time. I was fair surprised at the time showing on my watch as I crossed the line. It wasn't my quickest but it was quite a bit faster than my slowest.
Monday, February 06, 2012
My back is a bit achy from all the contorting of yesterday's van diy. I could have done with being a bit more active today but needs must though. By the time I got home I couldn't face a run in the dark, nasty, misty drizzle. More bike I'm afraid but that was actually in the training plan believe it or not - believe it you swine.
I've lined up a lunch run for tomorrow so baring incident that should happen. I'll be looking to put in a hard effort over the Dundry loop - got to take on that hill with gusto and then push over the top...
Sunday, February 05, 2012
I also insulated the four existing ply sections in the back and side doors and removed the original central light and wired up two points for the addition of LED lights. One above where the cooker will be and the other above the bed. Just need to buy the LEDs now...
So having spent the best part of six hours on the van I'm a bit pooped. Going to hit the bike for an hour or so in front of the telly later. My legs ache from yesterday's exertions so I decided to take it a bit easier today.
Saturday, February 04, 2012
I'm never one for taking risks these days - not that I ever did - but I'm even worse these days. I took a myriad of kit in the rucksack which weighed a ton and I was wearing so many layers I looked like the michelin man - but I was nice and toasty. Better warm than cold, I say.
The days training did not, however, get off to a great start. I parked up near the Cider Mill and headed up to Pen Cerrig Calch. Except I didn't get there. In truth I was never aiming to. The plan was to undercut it and follow the path to Pen-Gloch-y-Pibwr on my way to Pen Allt Mawr and beyond... But even that didn't quite go to plan. As I approached the ridge, having climbed about 3/4 of the ascent towards Pen Cerrig, I realised I'd left my food rations and emergency food in the bloody van - school boy error. On a different day, in good conditions, I might have carried on but on a difficult day there's no way I'm heading out for a day in the mountains not 100% prepared. Nothing for it, so back down I went, got my rations and then back up again. After that little hiccup I knew I couldn't follow the planned route so I decided to use the escape route at Waun Fach and head back south-east on the ridge past Pen-y-Gadir Fawr but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The top was snowed out and the paths were difficult to discern but not impossible. Visibility was down to under 50m and it was slow going. Wading through inches of snow is energy sapping and shortly after hitting the ridge it began to snow. A kind of nasty, icy snow. Not the nice, fluffy stuff. The kind of snow that ices up your glasses and stings your eyes when you peer over the top of them. Lovely.
By the time I reached Waun Fach it was in total white out. Visibility was zero. I known my navigation is sound but I have to admit I found it tough going. In fact, I didn't actually find the summit of Waun Fach at all and gave it up as a bad lot.
For the crossing to Pen-y-Gadir Fawr I dropped slightly south of Waun Fach until I was running on a slight contour with the higher ground to my left. I followed the contour and eventually picked up the main path to Pen-y-G. The difficult navigation wasn't over though and I struggled in the stinging snow, to keep my direction, meandering around quite a bit. Finally I stumbled on to Pen-y-G having had to climb through several feet of snow drift on the final 20 metres to the top, not having been able to find the actual path.
From there, the ridge run past Pen Twyn Mawr wasn't exactly text book either. But I kept my wits about me and finally got to the turn off and dropped off the mountain into the valley. Once off the top visibility improved and the snow was less icy. From there I plodded my back round to whence I had started.
It was bloody hard work out there, in possibly the most treacherous and testing conditions I've ever had the delight to run in - all though there was an awful lot less running than I was intending. Still, it was good training if more navigational than actual running but the mileage, at 36km with about 5,000 feet of ascent, is my longest 'run' of the year so far...
Oh, and once again Vera was worth her weight in gold. To be able to climb in the back and change out of the cold and snow was just ace - and she even managed to get herself back onto the driveway in snowy Longhope but it was a struggle. It took me about ten minutes using a combination of low gear and handbrake control to edge her up and over the snowy brow of the hill and down to the house. I don't think she'll make it out out tomorrow though. With the temperature back sub-zero and the snow still coming that's it for us as to travelling anywhere tomorrow.
Friday, February 03, 2012
It was cool out there today as Martin and I ran the Malago Park route at lunch and surprisingly I managed the afore mentioned '40 off' my previous quickest. Almost dipping inside thirty minutes for the 7.2km route. Maybe next time...
To spice things up we ran through the park and round the road as opposed the more conventional round the road and through the park - oh yes, we know how to live life on the edge. In fact, we were so on the edge we almost fell off. A good run and I finished off the days training with an hour on the bike before turning my thoughts towards tomorrows run.
To that effect I am undecided. I really fancy a go in the snowy black mountains - maybe better named the white mountains at the moment. When the snow is down the vistas are even more stunning than normal. But will it be too cold for me? The alternative is a long run in the forest which is almost as spectacular in the snow - but I don't reckon we'll get more than a light dusting at best. Either way it's got to be a long one. If I do go the way of the mountain I'm going to stay close to the main A40 and run a loop up to Pen Cerrig Caulch and all the way along the top ridge. That route gives me options of escaping early if things aren't going well. I will call it in the morning...
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Cocky, eh? No, not really. It wasn't difficult for me to realise my time at last night's Bridge Inn 5k was slooooow and I was indeed not quite as close to twenty as I'd hoped. Then again, starting as far back in the field as I did my 20:20 probably could've be 20:00. Either way I felt I held my form well. But it has shown me how much work I need to do. Just quite how far back I have slipped. I still feel fit and strong for the mountains but outside twenty for a 5k is, quite simply, bloody well not on. It will be my spur. I will improve and I will commit to doing so. Don't get me wrong I am enjoying getting out there into the mountains more than ever. Sometimes for the solitude. It's a time for reflection. A time to be at peace but at other times its great to run with friends who like the doing same. I shan't give it up - but I'd like a little bit more speed when I need to call upon it...