Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Review -> "Music for Torching" - A.M. Homes

Another my reviews that I've been posting on LivingSocial's facebook app... I may as well re-cycle my words for anyone finding my blog.

"Music for Torching" - A.M. Homes

"Having read "This book will save your life" I looked to the authors other work and picked this for a holiday read. Well good grief it is as gritty and hyper real as anything I've read. Quite often I was moved to queasy uneasiness, and at points found it a disquieting read. The writer draws you in to the world of dysfunctional relationships, and suburban America. I had come to believe the book was a post-modern farce and that it was heading for a puerile but grand comedy reveal of an ending. Only I was absolutely, totally and utterly wrong.

The ending is masterful, in one chapter it all swings around and brings everything abruptly into perspective. I would absolutely love to gush about why, but I'd ruin the ending for anyone who might read it. If you really want to read a book that will make you examine the preoccupations of selfish existence, and peer relationships get this and bare with it to the end. My admiration of the authors skills have increased many fold."

Green eyed monster

This morning on my walk with the dog I pasted by the rowing club and suffered a pang of jealousy. The trailers were half loaded ready for the weekends racing,... and I felt the urge to go racing. I hadn't ever recognised that I enjoyed racing as much as to miss it. After a broken season of training, illness, bad luck and so on I didn't race as anywhere near as much as I have in the last couple of years.
Taken on the Taff Trail using my mobile phone

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Whoops, five times 2k... fast, slower and slower

Tonight I was a bit daft in my five 2k training session this was what I managed:-

2k 1- 7:15.7 - aver. 1:48.9/500m - 26spm -very happy, decent time with energy to spare.
2k 2- 7:37.6 - aver. 1:54.4/500m - 25spm -hmm, too fast first 2k?
2k 3- 7:51.2 - 1:57.8/500m - 24spm -yes, too fast on the first 2k!!
2k 4- 8:24.6 - 2:06.1/500m - 22spm -oh no, no power left!! :o(
2k 5- 9:59 - warm down -even as a warm down this was a long, long time.

My wife thought it was hilarious that I went too fast and blew my bolt too soon... and there I was a week ago all happy and chuffed with my pacing and effort, hoo-hum!

Now I seem to be well and truly back on the move all I need do now is get back on my bike (to commute to work) and sort out my eating habits again... like I said, hoo-hum! :o)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Website Wednesday

I have been browsing a few things with a view to updating my blog links, along the way I found :-

Men's fitness UK
Pete Reed's rowing form guide

The British Olympic rowers guide to using an ergo effectively. The article is a bit brief, but very useful if you have only ever abused the rowing machine in your local gym rather than 'rowed' it ;o)

WorldRowing website

Great website to follow all of international rowing, from Juniors through Senior to Masters level. Coverage of the Semi's and Final's (including live streaming) of the World Rowing Championships in Poznan, Poland starts tomorrow.

The website includes events, results, and athlete biographies (including MEET THE ATHLETES - Video Interviews)

Facebook fan group

Week rolling on

Last night (Tuesday) saw more circuit fun, I managed to pace myself much better this week but it still hurts today! There wasn't a great attendance again, but the six of us did have plenty of room to work hard. Even with just six we had to have the fan running in the gym because of the muggy humid weather we are enjoying this weird weather summer. The stretching at the end was once again the hardest part, I really am not very bendy at the moment. Its probably something that requires me sticking with the more awkward stretches rather than doing the easy ones a lot.

No training today, but a long day in work followed by attending to and putting to end a grumpy and crying daughter has completely finished me off. Still being a bit more on the move of late should keep me going until the weekend :o) I intend doing another 2k ergo session tomorrow evening, which should prove very interesting?!?

Monday - on the move type job

Outside my office window on Monday morning I was treated to a demonstartion of a truly on the move job...
Yeap, absailing window cleaning. That definitely is no desk bound job, and very spider-man!!
The guy had his tools hanging off a kind of Batman utility belt, simply awesome!! Not that I was in anyway jealous, oh no.... I suffer from a fear of heights / vertigo. So much though his job is great and completely on the move, its not one that I'll ever be retraining to apply for, no fear!?!?!?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Almost broken, plus latest training table

Today was a bit of a tiring one, it started with a long 4 trip session on the river in a double scull (two in the bow seat and two in the stroke seat), and ended with a long afternoon digging our allotment. The double went very well, so much so that my partner suggested we did some 'work' - starts and full pressure rowing. It seemed to go so well that my partner was wishing there was more of the season left to go racing, hehe.

The allotment digging should perhaps go in my training log, as I got a bit carried away and was treating it like a sporting event!! I ended up having to have a hot bath when I got home just to try and avoid too much stiffness tomorrow. Felt good to be working hard, but Monday morning work will prove interesting... I might be moving pretty slowly.

Happily this weeks training log (see below) shows a welcome return to quality "on the move" work, I am chuffed and look forward to keeping it going :o)

Training LogRowStretchRunErgoCircuitWeightsCycle
Thu/20/8/09.Y.5x 2k...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Further adventures in 'singling'

This morning I continued my recent adventures in a single scull, and tried a different boat. The change of equipment wasn't through choice it was necessary as the river bank was bustling with rowers today. Everyone is in training for the Gloucester and Ross regattas over the up coming Bank holiday weekend. I hadn't realised we had another boat I could use, but the alternate was actually a good looking proposition. It went very well, I managed four trips up and down the river. I didn't fade too much through the outing, although I did have a few sticky patches.

After the event I was quite tired but happy to feel that I am getting fitter each week. Unfortunately my backside is killing me as I forget to take a seat pad with me!! Some of the other crews out on the water looked promising, and I had a good bit of banter with other single scullers. One comment from the bank suggested that I give up sweep oar boats and stick to sculling... hmm, we'll see how things go.

Single sculler
My cartoon sculler rides again!! [Drawn in a my own special way using Microsoft Powerpoint] 
By the way the answer to the scullers question is simply that different boats are rated for different weights of rower / sculler. I had been in one designed for heavier and one designed for lighter, before finding one that was just right.... no, the three bears involved, although as I read that back it sort of sounds like it ;o)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book review -> "Sail" - James Patterson, Howard Roughan

I thought seeing as I've been waxing lyrical (or not) about the books I've been reading on LivingSocial's facebook app I may as well re-cycle my words for anyone who finds my blog ;o)

"Sail" - James Patterson, Howard Roughan

"I was a little troubled even before I started to read this, by two things. Firstly a second author tucked away in fainter type under the bestselling main draw, and secondly the size of the print in my edition could be read by a passing satellite. Why did this trouble me? A second author often feels like one or other had half an idea, and they thought they'd 'bash' it together with a mate in an attempt for mutual gain. The edition screamed trashy pulp fiction before I even broke chapter one. Trival as you might find this, it turned out to be a telling premonition.

The story is 'b' movie, I think that's where I suspect they hoped to take this. The characters where left so empty as to be played by near enough any actor, making a directors job nice and easy. Plot twists are painful, and there are numerous clumsy drop ins of pop culture that are meant to connect the reader to this fiction - Apple's hardware range, car magazines, and the good restaurant guide appeared to pass as research / cultural 'touchstones'.

Yes this book is pacey, yes it is a decent enough light read (each chapter lasting an average of 2.5 pages), but no I won't be looking up other of this authors works in the near future."

Going Global - well a bit!

Wow, a bit of recent blogging and look what happens to my ClustrMap counter thingy....

[Screen grabs from my ClustrMap this morning, cut together with Adobe Photoshop]
Just last week I had visitors from perhaps six countries now I have so many more. All because I have been blogging that little bit more frequently. I can only hope all those who stopped by liked what they found (ahem, I hope!!).

Stop the press - I have also just spotted that I have my first 'Follower' (still not actually certain what one is), from Brazil - "Hello Cantora Lauriete" :o)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

2k, 2k, 2k, 2k, 2k and thunder!

I have more or less put myself into Winter training mode already, and in that vein I have decided to keep my heavy 2k session in my week of exercise. It should prove a good guide to my progress over coming weeks, if I keep it up ;o)

Tonight I was really quite happy with what I managed:-
2k 1- 7:28.6 - aver. 1:52.1/500m - 24spm
2k 2- 7:35.1 - aver. 1:53.7/500m - 24spm
2k 3- 7:36.2 - 1:54.0/500m - 25spm
2k 4- 7:40.6 - 1:55.1/500m - 24spm
2k 5- 9:04 - warm down

Pictured below, the instrument of my own self-imposed torture (there's probably a word for that kind of activity).
I realised halfway through that I had my feet too high, and found the adjustment far better for my posture. At the beginning I had adjusted the drag factor (resistance setting) to better suit someone of my weight as well. All the little details probably contributed to this being a better session than last week. Below is a picture I took tonight showing the fantastic view I have as I put myself through my paces...

As I was finishing my session a thunder storm broke that made me glad that I was in the gym and not out on the water like the rest of the club. I was also chuffed that the thunder came during my warm down as it proved to be a huge distraction, and that I had lovely fresh cool air to head home in.

Glorious morning for a pun...

Indeed, despite the rain (drizzle) it was a glorious morning for a pun. This has been on a felled log on the Taff Trail for some weeks (if not months), but today I finally thought "yeah, it's about time I photographed that!". It is just as simple a piece of witty tagging / graffiti as I've seen anywhere in some time, and is somehow enhanced by its setting....
Taken using my none too fabulous mobile phone (I'll bite my tongue on bitching about that piece of kit for anow) on the Taff Trail overlooking the river Taff

It isn't in my weekly training log (see the very bottom of this blog) but walking the dog a few mornings a week (past the log above) really does add to the "on the move" weekly total - was that I kept such a total - which I don't!! Just about any activity can be an "on the move" activity :o)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Circuit dizziness!?!?!

Tuesday evening saw me heading to the rowing club for a circuit training session. I had to turn down an row in an eight to do it, but I have more than realised that fitness is the key to getting the boat moving. Unfortunately too many colleagues circuit like crazy all Winter, meaning they are superbly fit come March, then do little or no work during the Summer when the lure of long days and water prove too much. This means the average crew gets slower through the summer months, ironic, unproven, yes, but I suspect pretty much on the money.
(c) copyright: A.J. Hollins
[Another cartoon effort using the 'fine art' PowerPoint drawing tools - I call this "Circuit Dizziness!?!?!" - a true work of classic post-modern doodling. ]

Only a shame you don't get a sense of the pain involved in a rowing circuit from the cartoon!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Novice Sculling Cartoon

My very own little cartoon sculler muses his own weekends shortcomings.
[Drawn in a my own special way using Microsoft Powerpoint - that great artists pallet and creative tool!?!?!?]

Last weeks training table

Slowly but surely getting back into all things active...

Training LogRowStretchRunErgoCircuitWeightsCycle
Wed/12/8/09.Y.4x 2k...

Weekend madness

It started with a single scull outing, which took in three trips up and down the river. I could feel after one and a half that I wouldn't be able to do more than three. My brain was saying "hey, lets go fast, we've spent too long messing with technique", unfortunately my body was saying "I'm shattered now from staying upright doing all that technique!". In the end I did a 500m 'pressure' piece from just above the bridge on the last bit of the second trip, and then limped up and down the third one. I could feel the battle between concentration and fatigue during almost all the final trip. At least I managed to win the battle to stay upright :oD

After the rowing came loft sorting, box moving, shelf building, lawn mowing, allotment clearing, shopping, and all manner of other weekend madness. It was a busy weekend, which left me so tired I had to go for a nap when our daughter went for hers!! I feel that a bit of fitness will make these kind of weekends a little easier... I am still pursuing that, after several weeks of no rowing training and heavy summer cold. happily things are on the move ;o)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Double coaching

I had a brief outing in a double scull last night helping a friend get to grips with using two blades. It went very well, they are actually more proficient than I first thought and more so than they gave themselves credit for. I found it interesting that I swiftly ran out of useful things to say, as it was hard to tell what they were doing sat behind them and worrying about where we were going.

Happily in the near future I'll get out in a single along side them with their buddy in a double. Perhaps then I can actually add some proper advice and do a slightly better job of coaching. One of the biggest advantages of coaching always is that your own efforts improve as a result of thinking about and explaining technique in new ways. Doing even a little coaching can put a smile on your face as well as 're-framing' technical knowledge :o)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Signs of progress?

Over recent weeks I have found it hard to put together a good run of training. On Saturday morning I tried to do some repeat 2k ergo's as a session and managed a warm up 2k of 8:51.4, a firmer 2k of 7:39.2, and a final tired 2k of 9:49.0. The three of them felt like very hard work, and I had nothing really to give in the third 'warm down' effort. It really felt like I have a long way to get back to fitness.

Tonight I tried the same sort of session and managed:-
2k 1- 7:40.6 - aver. 1:55.2/500m
2k 2- 7:37.4 - aver. 1:54.4/500m
2k 3- 7:36.8 - 1:54.2/500m
2k 4- 9:31 - warm down

I felt much better tonight, although clearly I have a lot of work to do. I hope to do a similar session once a week to work on stamina and the mental toughness of repeating fixed race plans. Its kind of a plan...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Recent activity

Hmm, when I say 'activity' in the title of the entry I unfortunately can't report physical / fitness type activity. There has been much going on, but not a get deal of exercising. My weight has remained where it is, in spite of a bit of comfort eating here and there. I have been enjoying a summer cold (no it isn't Swine Flu, I've had flu before and this hasn't been the flu). The weather in these parts have not exactly been summer'y.

I have had to take the train to work, and skip circuit classes in the last ten days or so. It hasn't been nice, but I really have had to pace myself even in day to day activity as I have been extremely fatigued.

I did manage to get out in a double scull on Sunday morning with a 'novice' sculler (I'm a novice too by the way) and it went great. Okay, so I'm not super-coach and she probably has heaps that a 'real' would analyse, but she was proficient and even getting to grips with steering. We were ahead of an eight at the bridge, and I said "lets just put a little squeeze on the legs"... next thing we are at the weir side by side with the eight clashing oars. Several stand out things in that (1) she was totally fine about banging the oars and we showed no hint of rolling, (2) this was a mens eight doing a pressure piece and we held them to a draw from a two length head start at the bridge, (3) as we began to 'race' them the pressure and rate came up steadily - natural competitor that Fran, (4) by the last 150m I was able to near enough give it full beans with no worry of the boat balance or run. It was the kind of fun session that reminds me why I got the rowing bug in the first place :o)

Book review - >"The Road" - Cormac McCarthy

I thought seeing as I've been waxing lyrical (or not) about the books I've been reading on LivingSocial's facebook app I may as well re-cycle my words for anyone who finds my blog ;o)

"The Road" - Cormac McCarthy

"There are books to read and then there are books you should read. This is one you should. Yes, it is post-apocalyptic and striped to its bare essentials (no chapters, short punchy paragraphs, direct dialogue), but it is a beautiful portrait of a parents efforts to protect and nuture their child.

The writing stretches 'normal' conventions by dropping aspects of punctuation and so forth, I took this as a gesture to the deterioration of language in the author's disintegrating world. The author deftly moves you along the father and son's journey through the crumbling remains of the planet and society using the pared down construction, and simple clear image-conjuring prose. Keeping the reader absorbed.

It might make you glum, it might make you distinctly unsure where the author is taking you, but you will not be able to put it down and you will be left having had your grey matter thoroughly exercised. A deeply satisfying read, and yes the ending might be somewhat speedy but you will being thinking about it for days."