Friday, March 29, 2013

We're All Going To The Zoo Today

Still don't know if I'm happy with zoos or not. Jury's out. Ate up five hours and it was interesting. Yesterday we visited Sagrada Familiar. Now I'm not one for religion but it was a fantastic place. A truly majestic place - although I did shit myself going up the tower. I might have a fear of heights but that don't stop me. My nephew and niece, despite the bravado, had it worse as I talked them back down to terra firma. Before the SF there was the walking tour of the old city - an interesting three hours.

Back to tonight we finished off tonight with a double round of cocktails in Cafeparis. Happy days.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hot And Cold

One minute it's hot in the sun. The next, chilly. Most important it ain't snowing - happy days.

The holiday started with the drive to Gatwick. The upgrade to club class with it's access to the BA lounge was quality. No queuing. No hastle and free food and drink in the run up to boarding - gert mint. Oh, and of course, free drinks on flight. Beauty.

The apartment is nice and close to things and we've been out seeing a few of the city's sites (on the sea shore). The Casa Batllo, Parc Gueil, Camp Nou and Parc Espanya. Lots more planned for the next few days. Been doing lots of walking but not much running. Tiring though.

Tootle pip, got to pick tonight's eatery.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Soon To The Silence

Not sure how much blogging is going to happen over the next week but I wouldn't bet against not a lot...

I managed a bit of a run this morning but its damn soggy out there and I got bored with it. Coupled with the fact I've got loads of things to get done today I headed back early. Why do I leave everything to the last minute? Anyway, leaving on a jet plane tomorrow and if it's still bloody winter when I get back I am not going to be happy. Not happy at all. I still haven't been able to get my tatties planted. Going to be April now. What the hell is going on?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Good Training - Rubbish Orienteering

Flippin' eck I was rubbish today. I awoke to a couple centimetres of snow and thought about shying off but once I got outside and realised it didn't feel that cold I was happy to head off to Mallard Pike for another attempt at orienteering - and by god it was a rubbish attempt.

I was one of the first out the blocks. Pioneering the route that others were to follow - if they were that stupid. I was out there a whole long time and barely managed any speed. It was so damn slippy. I made a few mistakes but I was never far off course. I just seemed to take too long to pick out the features amidst the snow. All good fun though.

After I'd run my race I hopped in the van for a brew - in this case a piping hot cup of soup - and to warm up my hands which tend to get a little cold in this weather. I'd volunteered to help collect the controls and once all the runners and riders had returned I set off on another gallop around the route in kind of reverse. It's funny how when you take your time the navigation is all so easy. Okay I'd already been to most of the controls already but even so I was approaching from different directions this time but it all seemed so easy - maybe I'll just walk at the next race...

Anyway, with my race and warm down complete I reckon I covered around 19km with 700m of ascent and now I feel surprisingly tired. Not sure whether to run tomorrow's Wentwood orienteering or do a steady 10 miler. Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Yep, It's Being A Bad Week

Never thought I find myself looking forward to spending the day at the site that can't be named to get away from the other site that can't be named. Been a ripe turd of a couple of days. I hate coming away from a job having not been able to nail down where the fault lies. The one thing I'm certain of though is that it ain't my software. On the plus side there's only two more working days before Barcelona and a week off the grid... Happy days.

Managed a short run yesterday and after long day at work today, just an hour on the bike tonight. Now the sofa beckons. I hear it calling and I am unable to resist it's allure....

Monday, March 18, 2013

I'm Smelling A Bad Week...

I was in the office first thing but ended out on site - and stayed there later than I was hoping for. Alas, I'll be heading back there tomorrow - and preparing for another long day....

The silver lining is that come the end of the week I'm off to Barcelona for a week. Boy do I need me a holiday. Really looking forward to taking my mind off work, training and everything. Talking of training, my legs feel achy and being home late the words, 'feet' and ' up' come to mind - and as foretold in the prophecy, it didst come to pass. Ahhhh bliss.....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Well I Made A Meal Of That...

Suffice to say today's orienteering did not go to the plan. I was a bit rubbish today, making a few errors here and there and a particularly bad one to control four - the sad part on that one was I didn't have the conviction to push on just another 25m or so and ended up going for a bit of a wander... ho hum.

I drove over to Speculation and parked the van before embarking on my five mile jog over to Bracelands. I felt quite spritely, even managing to climb the steep sections without too much puffing and panting. Definitely getting fitter.

I arrived early-ish to the orienteering, registered and headed out. It looked quite a posh event with a few stalls and wot nots set up at the registration area. Also looked like a pretty good field assembled - and by that I mean there seemed plenty of young blood as compared to the normal events where it's heavily loaded by us old farts.

For a Brown it was shorter than normal on account of there being a lot of ascent - but I think I managed to bump up the distance to something more in keeping with a brown course. I started off okay but took my eye off the ball on the way to four. I just didn't engage brain and pause for a second to consider things. So after doing a lap of honour (or two) I finally got it - but not before I'd gone a right pearler. Quite literally head over heels - but I know how to fall. I rolled over on my head and shoulder and then as soon as my feet touched the ground I was up with the momentum, hardly breaking step.

With four finally achieved the rest went okay although I think my route choice on a couple of the long controls was far from optimal. I finished though - even if I was sitting pretty in last spot. In my defence  there were 31 still out there on the course and all but two of the finishers were younger than me - and I'm rubbish at orienteering - and I'm slow - and I'm old - but not bald (for now at least) - and, well I can't think up any more excuses. Anyway, hopefully somebody will manage to knock me off last spot by the end of play, please, someone, anyone?

In all I measured it at 10.3km with 385mm ascent and with my 7.9km run there and then 7.4km run back, I managed to clock up a healthy 25.6km with a total ascent of 630m so not too bad a days training in the grand scheme of things.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Change Of Plan

So the weather didn't seem to bad first thing. Okay, the weather in the hills can be a lot different but I reckon it wouldn't have been too bad - had I made the journey. I woke with a sore throat and felt a bit congested so I decided against it. Going to park over at Speculation tomorrow and run there and back to the Symonds Yat orienteering. That should get me 25k tomorrow without the risk to life or limb raised by running in the middle of nowhere when not at 100%. I'm no longer worried I'll be ready for my welsh races. I've plenty of time through April and May to get in a few more long runs. April's headed towards being another bad work month. I'll need make every effort for the weekend long run. Then mid May I want to get a long weekend up to Snowdonia for a look at a few sections of the routes. In particular I want to look at the Crib Goch descent down to Nant Perris, the Tryfan descent and a recce over the Carnedds.

So instead of the long run I dug the raised beds in preparation for the tatties - I now have the worlds largest cat litter tray in the garden.... Also sowed my chillis (scotch bonnet and bird eye), peppers (minimix), cherry tomatoes (two varieties, one of which is a tumbling variety to go in hanging baskets!) and herbs - coriander, sage, basil, parley, thyme and lastly rosemary - a nice girl. So the day wasn't wasted. I've now got a bit of back ache but don't feel so congested anymore so I should be fit for action in tomorrow's orienteering.

Oh, and I saved the route I had planned for today as I reckon it's worth running on another occasion - maybe I'll manage it in April...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Now I'm A Little Scared

I think tomorrow's route might be a touch ambitious.... At 38km with 1,700m of ascent it won't be out of the question but then when you factor in the terrain which is going to be mostly rough and unforgiving it might be too much too soon. I reckon the terrain effect could add on another 5k in terms of effort. I need to make a sensible decision on things in the morning. If it looks iffy on the weather front I will re-evaluate and plump for something less daunting. Then again I've nothing else planned so I could afford to be out there all day as long as I take plenty of kit....

So will the 24 miles and 5,700 feet scare me away? Quite possibly! Anyway, here's my planned route...

The intention is to run clock-wise starting from the Storey Arms
and heading up to Bwlch Duwynt first and then onwards....

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Cat Burglar

Well I was in to work early to avoid the traffic on the drive in - and apparently stayed too long. By the time I came to leave I'd been forgotten and the porta-cabin locked - with my stuff and more importantly, car keys still inside. From the window I could see the key to the cabin hanging on the hook next to the door - not a lot of use there. Working at a site in the middle of nowhere I was, to say the very least, in a bit of a pickle. That was, of course, before I turned to cat burglary. 'Jiggling' the window latch with a bit of wire from the outside I was luckily able to release it . Then it was just a case of jumping up to grab hold the top ledge of the cabin, pulling myself up and in through the now open window. Result and with my keys regained I was able to exit stage left for the drive home...

Taking a rest day today with an easy something planned for tomorrow so I'm rested for 'the long one' on Saturday. The mountain forecast looks 'poor' - read hail and thunder moving in through the day! Let's just hope the forecasters are as 'brilliant' as they usually are...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Twenty Seconds....

Doesn't sound a lot. Call it three seconds a kilometre and it sounds even less but I'm actually really pleased. I think I worked about as hard as last week. No more. No less. I'm moving in the right direction.

We set off steady and were soon into the climb. The climb over the top of Dundry as always it is, was tough. We were about fifteen seconds up with Martin leading by a few metres. He had the legs for the climb while I puffed bad on the last third. The descent was a relief and I caught and over took him. From that point there was no looking back - no really, I never look back, I told you that last week.

I just about held things together on the 2km run it along the A38. I was on the limit and I was just as wasted come the end as last week. A twenty second improvement means I'm on track. Despite no focused training the few fairly low key, short distance road runs have had an instant affect. I think I need to make sure I keep on incorporating road running. Ideally a bit of speed work but at the end of the day I'll take a few road runs if nothing else. Sad as twenty seconds sound I feel quite buzzed...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Planning For The Weekend

Well it has to be another long run this weekend so it's time to plan the route. Needs to be twenty miles but with more hills than the last long run two weeks ago or twenty four miles over similar hillage - that's another new word to add to the mad-ctionary. I'm thinking perhaps a trip to the dark side.... read west side of the Black Mountains. Perhaps Storey Arms up to Corn Du then back down and westward past Ystradfellte Reservoir, round to Fan Fraith and back over Fan Nedd, Fan Llia and friends back down to the start - or will it be the finish? The downside to the plan is that it still looks like it could be bloody darn cold - and for me, that's a pretty big downside. Don't want to get caught struggling in cold conditions as it's pretty wild and not well travelled over there on the dark side...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Early Worm

I can get my blog written early today. Not that I've finished my running for the day mind. On that front I pretty much can't whimp out though. Come snow or high water I've got the return journey of this mornings run to collect my car from the garage and its service. It's not a great distance, just 5k but I will have done it twice - and I ran quite hard this morning. Not so sure I'll run quite so hard on the way back. Quite pleasing training all told and it'll be my third road road run inside a week - ahhh.... 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Heck It Was Chilly For Shorts

After many failed attempts to do the old Ashton Court run with Rick W I finally managed it today. Has to be thres years plus since I last got down there for run. There's been a lot of changes not least of which the £1 parking charge! Then there's the posh new tarmac car park where it used to be a scabby - but usable - affair. Last up the fancy pants new cafe where once there was the 'characterful' old hut... My how the years have swept in the changes....

Anyway, we ran for just over the hour in what turned out to be quite chilly conditions. For the first time this year I ran in shorts. Thinking it was going to be quite mild I didn't even take the leggings - it was quite cold around the Urals until we got into the cover of the woods.

It was nice to catch up although the group has changed. People come and people go but the ever youthful Rick remains. He now has a group he leads out from Bristol's best running shop, Up and Running. Adding to his Tuesday and Thursday night sessions he's adding in the Sunday Ashton Court run once a month. I really enjoyed heading down the old trails. Might have to try and get down a couple times a year.

And here's today's run...

Friday, March 08, 2013

Mulling Over The Routes

I've got to skip the long run this weekend. I need to get my raised beeds constructed if I'm going to get my tatties planted. I'm going for some earlies and a main crop this year and unless I get cracking with the beds my earlies ain't gonna be very early. It's also time to sow my seed - ooh er misses, shh, no, stop it. Cherry tomatoes, scotch bonnet and bird eye chillies and various herbs all need to find their way to the cultivator. Going back to the raised beds I need to decide what other veg to grow but that's a decision for another day...

Well tonight I've been trying to work out the routes for my two target races - the Welsh 1000s and 3000s weighing in at 20miles/9,500ft and 30miles/13,000ft respectively. I think I've managed to pull together the routes from various sources of information. Not one hundred percent sure they're exactly right but pretty happy that they're close. I do think I need to get up there in April/May for a few recces though. April is going to be tricky with work but I can't let that wreck things - read I won't let it wreck things this year. There are a few sections where the route I've plotted might not actually be feasible in practice and there are a few other spots where the route is right but where I think it needs deeper investigation on the ground.

Anyway, here are the outline routes, 1000s then 3000s...

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Over The Hill....

After a five month sabbatical away from the hill Martin and I finally managed to find ourselves both in the office at the same time and decided to return to the hill. We knew we'd struggle but sometimes you've just got to do what you've just got to do. The old bell from the saloon bar clock struck out those twelve chimes and we knew it was time....

We set off steady but it still wasn't easy. Our Dundry loop isn't the longest. Nor the steepest but when we get going it always seems to be competitive - despite the relative slowness. One thing was for certain it wasn't going to be a 30 minuter today.

As we hit the climb, shallow to begin with but getting steeper the further in, we both began to puff. I took an early lead but only by a metre or two. As we eventually crested the summit there was nothing in it and if anything Martin had climbed the better.

I was thankful of the runnably steep descent and managed to creep a few metres back in front. As we ran the final stretch along the A38 I could hear Martin above the noise of the traffic. I never look back - that's a sign of weakness - but he sounded close. I pushed on. He pushed on but never quite closed the small gap. It was a few metres all the way and we both worked bloody hard. I finally finished in 32:38 with Martin a few seconds back. The time was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting something closer to 35. It was a damn good session. Felt good to stretch out the legs and get a bit of speed going - only a little bit of speed, don't want to go getting carried away or nuffin.

Maybe we'll manage to get out again next week....

Monday, March 04, 2013

Hum Drum

Oh well, Monday's here and it was back to the day job. Wasn't too bad though. Can't really grumble. As to the legs? Well they legs feel pretty good. Surprisingly so. It's another sign that I am getting there although yesterday's result did somewhat flatter me. Me in 5th place! From a field of 82 starters but only 69 finishers! And a Welsh Champs race. You have to chuckle - well I've did today as the memory slipped in and out of my thoughts. How can so many fell runners be so bad at navigation? I'm thinking of only running races when there's thick fog....

Well despite the legs feeling okay I didn't want to over stress things so I put in an easy half hour on the bike. Should be fully operational by tomorrow...

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Greatest Race?

In foggy conditions on the tops it was definitely a day for the navigators. I set off in the middle order. My legs hurt a little and I wanted to ease them into it and not get carried away. The first climb from the upper Blaen y Glyn car park to Craig y Fan Ddu is annoying at the best of times. Today I was puffing a little but eventually hit the top path.

As I ran along the path on the east side I kept taking a glance right to see where it was going to be best to drop off on the return. It all looked bloody steep and I wasn't looking forward to that descent on tired legs.

Anyway, I continued along steadily if somewhat slowly before cutting across no mans land to what I shall call the Brecon Beacons race ridge - you know the one I mean. I got lucky with my line and picked my way along a small trod. The route from there to Fan y Big was pretty simple even in the fog and being so far down in the field I was able start picking up a few places. It felt good to be overtaking people and somehow my legs began to feel a little more responsive.

I managed to descend Fan y Big pretty well over taking a few more before a steady ascent to Cribyn. It wasn't the fastest but I still managed to gain a few more places. At the summit, the marshal reported that I was 20th - hey, where had all the rest of the runners gone! I shouldn't have been twentieth. I know I'd picked up a few spots but not that many.

The descent from Cribyn was good for me. Staying out wide, sticking to the grassy, more runnable areas I gained another five places - 15th, I couldn't believe it! Now, even if I were to lose a few of those on way back I'd still be top twenty. Could I do it? In a Welsh Champs race, on tired legs, claim a top twenty spot....

The climb past Fan y Big went well. I was starting to feel the buzz. I ran as much as I could but admitted defeat a few times. Still, no one came past. Finally to the ridge I cut off too soon - ahhh, school boy. Realising my mistake quickly I bore back to the east to pick up the proper Beacons Way path. It didn't really cost me much. Once on the Beacons Way I hatched a plan. A plan of cunning. A plan so subtle... I decided to break from the BW where it turns the corner to the east and keep going straight and slightly east...

I couldn't be arsed to get out my compass and relied on the 'force' to guide me through the fog. If my plan was to succeed I needed to make sure I didn't drop down too much too soon or I'd be in the valley. As things went I got it just about spot on. Contouring around the west side of Craig y Fan Ddu picking up the odd trod here and there I made it to the end pretty much where I wanted to be. Then I crossed the path, continued the contour before I decided it was time to cut down to the fence corner and then a few hundred metres more to the final check point. From there it was just a trot back down through the forest to the finish.

As I rounded the last corner I was astonished to hear the cry by some weird looking bloke on crutches, 'Fifth!'. Fifth! Where the bloody hell had all the others gone? By my reckoning I was fifteenth - which I would still have taken, mind. Across the line in 1 hour and 22 minutes I really was fifth. Un... wait for it, wait for it.... believable. And to think this was just a recovery race after my main event yesterday. That's my greatest fell result ever. Heck I love the mist.

The Tor of Torpantau is a cranking race. Initially it looks fairly bog standard but because there is a surprising amount of route choice it's actually a bit of class - and all the better for the fog. At 12km and 600m it isn't the longest or the steepest but, for me, it's one of the best. Thanks to race organiser Andy Blackmore and the marshals. I'll be back for more next year.

Oh, and one last thing, this is to that chap from Chepstow Harriers with his own special route. (Secretly, I think he quite likes creating his own special routes - shh, say no more). I think the WFRA organise navigation courses every few months.....

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Feeling Stronger

I'm still bloody slow mind, but definitely feeling stronger. Today I made it about 16 miles out before I'd emptied the tank - best performance to date this year. And my tactically planned route meant those last four and a half weren't total agony. I'd deftly incorporated three quarters of the total ascent into the first two thirds of the route - that's a lot of fractions. The upshot, those four plus miles didn't have a lot of ascent and were mostly flat or downhill so even on tired legs - read bloody knackered - I didn't attain 'sense of humour failure'. Result.

I won't bore you with the detail except to say the run over Llangorse was cracking. I've not there many times outside of the Mynydd Troedd fell race and never been as far south as I ran today. I pretty much ran the entire ridge from south to north. Some great views, especially in the fantastic sunshine - took me twenty minutes before I could remember what that big, bright, circle of light in the sky was called..

All in all a very pleasing run. I've still much improvement to make before I'm ready for the big day but provided I can keep getting a weekly long mountain run I'm confident I will get there. At 32.8km that's my longest run to date, adding almost 5km to my Black Mountains run a couple of weeks ago although today only had 1,350m of ascent verses the 1,5000m of the BMs. On a second plus note, I took exactly the same time as the BMs run, 3 hours and 57 minutes - although I do feel I should knock off four minutes from today's time, being the it took me to check, double check and triple check that I was really was where I knew I was and still on a public footpath. All the checking was necessary because there were farm houses all around and the gate I had to go through had no markings and more importantly was locked! Having established I was where I was from field boundaries and other features I just climbed over that bad boy and moved on but I did waste about four minutes.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Slightly Scared

It's got to be done but that doesn't make it any less imposing. With now just three - F*(% me, only three! - months till the Welsh 1000s I've got to increase the length on my runs and, more importantly, go up mountains. Trail running over the few bumps along the Cotswolds or the Malverns ain't going to cut it. Can't believe time is going by so quickly - where's the theory of time dilation when you need it? That said you do need to be travelling close to light speed for that.

Anyway, I've plotted a twenty mile circumnavigation of the villiage of Cwmdu taking in Mynydd Llangorse, Mynydd Troed, Pen y Manllywn, Waun Fach, Pen Trumau, Mynydd Llysiau, Pen Allt-mawr and finally Pen Cerrig-calch. In all I reckon it'll be somewhere over 1,250m of ascent.

The forecast is decent so even if - or should that be when - I fade I'll still have the views to take in as I walk to the finish. Hoping it doesn't come to that... And if - eh hem, I mean, when I survive that, there's the TT on Sunday with it's eight mountainous miles. Half tempted to make a mini-break of it and camp out overnight in the van rather than travel out and back both days. I'll see how I feel in the morning...