Saturday, September 29, 2012

Friday Fit-up(date) - a day too late

My Friday to Friday fitness activities log...

Fri - ran 3.80 miles - an easy pre-race run, during which I walked a couple of blocks to keep myself from doing to much.

Sun - Swansea Bay 10k - 51:32 a new PR.

Tues - ran 5.54 miles - slow and steady with a kick on the end, which was very pleasing.

Wed - Ergo three times 4 minute efforts - set a PR for this measure.

Fri - ran 3.86 miles of intervals (or what I am calling 'sprintervals' - I think you can see what I did there).

Weight - unchanged through the week.
High - new PR over 10k even though the weather was challenging.
Low - not managing to make more progress up the Concept2 challenge series leader-board.
Observation - Autumn is here as I did my first 'early' evening run in the dark for months.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Three Things Thursday - in pictures

My fantastic finishers medal from last Sunday's Swansea Bay 10k run
The last of my Brooks Beast running shoes?
Top - penultimate pair (now kick about shoes);  Bottom - final pair (maybe) of training shoes before I move over a different prescription shoe for good
A family favourite toy reminding me of my other big exercise passion - you are never just a runner ;-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

For a friend - Rest in peace Jake-e-boy

Our dog, Jake, passed away this weekend just gone at the ripe old age of thirteen and a half , he suffered a stroke and so for reasons of his quality of life we choose euthanasia as simply the best thing for him. I was immediately hit by grief at his passing, flooded with good memories, and left at a loss at what I would do with out his company for daily walks. It is a true mark of a quality life of any living thing that they are remembered so fondly when they go and no one who had met him had anything but good words for him.
Jake, aged 13, stood looking all noble New Years day 2012
There are some things that come along in life that are hard to describe to those who perhaps haven't been in a similar situation, and I guess having a large pet in the house is one of those. Some people don't have cats or dogs (or any other pet) in their space for many reasons, those that do find their time changed by their presence. I had never really been sure about dog owning, I have a respect for them that borders on a mild fear. Having spent the last years with a greyhound in my life I am a convert to keeping dogs appropriately - we spent our time making sure we set good boundaries and reaped the rewards of treating our dog so well.

So thank you Jake for showing me what dogs are really all about and educating me properly in what it means to share your time with a non-human animal. We miss you, but we thank you for being the most lovely, faithful, cheeky, handsome greyhound a family could ever have.


Notes - my wife took Jake in from the lovely people at Greyhound Welfare (a registered charity that specializes in re-homing abandoned greyhounds in the South Wales area of the U.K.).

It seems odd that by coincidence it is Dog Week in the U.S.A.*, please remember rescue animals if you are thinking of a new pet this week or any week.
* I noted this mentioned on the blog Shut Up + Run and then found another reference link -

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Blackbox" - Nick Walker

Carrying on my occasional non-sporting thread, here is another long overdue book review...

"Blackbox" - Nick Walker
"I can't remember where I saw the recommendation, I have a suspiscion it was just somethhing that floated to the top of my Amazon recommendation list.  I got it as a present for my birthday from my wife, and was really very pleased she went to the trouble.
The pacing and narrative are astonishing.  It is one of those books that once you get going is hard to put down, the pace draws you into it.  The subject matter is on the graphic side of gore, but the writing is clever enough in its humour to diffuse a large measure of any distaste.
Very much a modern read in its style and staccato, punchy construction; well worth a read.  Reading the back cover again afterwards I found that I had to agree with the shortest of the review clippings "Brilliantly developed... DARKLY COMIC" - Independent."
Basically seeing as I had been waxing lyrical (or not) about the books I'd read on LivingSocial's facebook app I thought may as well re-publish my opinion for anyone who finds my blog.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Swansea Bay 10k - how my race went

Now three out of five race runs that I have entered this year have featured wind, rain and cold weather so I am now very much accustomed to it. In fact it is probably true to say that I would have struggled far more this year if all the runs had been in clear sunny (hot) weather - I very much function better in cool conditions, I am one of those people who in general has a warm constitution (I am a human radiator very often). So that it turned out the Swansea Bay 10k was my third race in cold rainy conditions didn't really bother me too much.

The preparation for the race in general went well, I got my race pack in good time and had all the arrangements for the day straight (travel, the kids, fuelling, kit and so on). The organisation of the event is just great as they have run the event there for many years and the arrangements run pretty much like clockwork - even in the bad weather. The immediate pre-race was marred by the death of our family dog on the Saturday night, he had a stroke and was euthanized as a kindness as he had lost so much quality of life to the condition. He was my first dog (though he was my wife's before I met her / them) and so I found it very difficult, as we all did. I will be at a loss for some time, and days will be very different without him around.

In the end I was running for the memory of our dog and I think he might have appreciated my effort if not my speed - he was a greyhound after all :-) I set off to hold a pace quicker than the Cardiff race two weeks ago, but not to go crazy and go too fast. It looked like being a bad headwind on the homeward half of the race so I didn't expect to negative split, and if anything resolved to run the first half hard knowing there would be a slowdown. The slowdown didn't come, and in fact I did manage a good negative split running the fastest mile of the race in the final mile.
Spot the guy in the orange vest! - I went with bright colours on a rainy day :-)

During the run two people went past me just after the first two kilometers that I resolved to follow, they were talking between themselves so from that and their running style I reasoned they were on a schedule similar to my own target time. I was cheeky in using them a hare to chase, but I suppose I took a leaf from my greyhound friend and went with it. In the last two kilometers I could see they were flagging and pushed on beyond them. I looked up their times afterwards and we had identical times as they must have been a little way behind me in the start area.

The Swansea Bay 10k proved to be my best 10k race thus far, I managed a small personal best beating my old officially measured time by 4 seconds! My time was 51min 32secs - I will go under 50min at some point I can feel it. I was very pleased with how my run went, how I approached the pacing and the strength I found over the last mile.

At the moment I am so very pleased with my bounce back from a difficult summer of illness, I feel like I am somewhere near where I was in the spring with pace and fitness. I am determined to stick with three intelligent runs a week as a basic week (one long, one pace, and one intevals), from what I read there are advocates for this sort of training and it will allow me to mix in other training (rowing and so forth). The work from here is to build a solid Winter base for Spring races and hopefully more PBs (PRs).

Next stop the Cardiff Half-marathon in less than three weeks time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wittering on Wednesday - super brief

Due to a bout of tiredness, and I mean to the core tired, I haven't had the energy to think about wittering this week. I was in my bed just before 8pm last night and I feel like I could happily do the same again today... I am hoping it is just training fatigue after a busy weekend and that a couple of easy days will see me right.

I other news I am all set to shut down my 'Training' page and go back to popping training updates back into the day to day posts, though I have yet to decide a format (one decision at a time here! hehe!)... anyway here are the last weeks efforts...

Week beginning Mon 10th Sept 2012
Wed..Y.4 x 4min firm..

Friday, September 14, 2012

Concept II challenge series

So I have a new challenge in my life thanks almost wholly to an old school friend. The challenge is the monthly Concept2 challenge series.

Concept2, as far as I am aware, are a World leader in stationery rowing machines (ergo-meters) and on their UK website (and so probably their international sites) they have a range of coaching advice, training plans, on-line exercise trackers, and the challenge series. If you sign up to the series you then row a different challenge, either a different set distance to see how fast you can go, or a different set time each month to see how far you can go. Once you log your distance you are placed in rank order for your age group (and frankly the competitive element in you may then run rife). This month is see how far you can row in 4 minutes.

I am giving it a go as a new challenge, great core / full body workout to include in my mix, and as a cool thing to see how my old friend and I get on. As a former rower I thought it would be straightforward to do well, but my fitness strength seems to lie wholly in my running just now - so a regular challenge should help keep me all over toned.

Diary - warm, breezy, overcast with threat of heavy showers. Happy to have a new job, challenged by tweaking my blog about a little, and delighted that my girl is enjoying new school so much.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wittering on Wednesday - including Tennis, legacy, heat, blogging and ice cream(!)

Special bit of wittering this Wednesday, Andy Murray has cracked it, in case you missed it (how could you) he won the US Open in a thrilling five set final against Novak Djokovic. The summer of shear joy for British sport just took another level step up, just when we all thought there was nowhere else it could go after Bradley Wiggins triumphed in the Tour de France, and the GB and NI team excelled during the London 2012 olympics. Phew, as a huge sports fan (aka TV sports-aholic) I am just about out of steam - I stayed up until gone 2am to hear Murray win on BBC radio.

Olympic bounce - local rowing legacy?
I ran into a former rowing colleague the other day who told me all about the apparent effect the Olympics has had on our local club, Llandaff Rowing Club. Each year an event called the "Pub and Club" is run which encourages teams of four from local workplaces, clubs and pubs to get together learn to row for a month culminating in the "Pub and Club sprint regatta". There were, I was told, queues down the stairs and out of the clubhouse door coupled with cars parked all over the place apparently during the initial sign up evening. As an event I know they will love it, it was my introduction to rowing and left me totally hooked.

Any sign of an Olympic 2012 legacy, or an inspire a generation, sports effect near you?

Bring the heat
I am trying, and I am not sure how I am doing, to mix up my running a little. Yeah I know my training log looks pretty much as it always has, but it belays a change in approach which is seeing more speed-work. For me speed-work is a relative term of course (closes mind to how fast the Olympians covered such distances), but having spent a very very long time running at and just below 10min/mile pace for greater and greater distances I have needed the change and gone looking for it. At the moment it is not especially structured with me doing one session a week (at a mid-range distance) with sprints or sustained bursts within it. Like I said I don't know how I am doing but I am certainly less 'bored' with working my way around every course at 10min per mile.

Wales Blogger awards
I have seen on other blogs mentions of the awards for Welsh bloggers (I first noticed it on the very professional blog via my twitter feed), unfortunately I don't read enough of them to give a real judgement about their merits but the short-list is a fun way of taking the temperature of blogs in this part of the World. Some I think will be retained as regular reads - more on those in another WoW perhaps.
Take a browse of the 'Peoples choice' nominees list if you like at

Swansea next...
Not long now until I tackle the Swansea Bay 10k. I have to say I am looking forward not only to the course and a lovely day out by the sea with Mrs. Taffi but I am also looking forward to my Joe's Ice Cream. This is a family thing inspired by my wife's love of the ice cream that they concocted in their ice cream parlours, when we go to Swansea or the Mumbles (or anywhere vaguely close actually) we have to 'pop' in for an ice cream. Very good stuff it is too, and I am looking forward to a well earned scoop or three ;-)

Diary - sunny, shattered showers, modest breeze. I am feeling inspired by all things running at the moment, and reading loads of great blogs and magazine articles. Job interview later - which should be fun.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cardiff 10k - how it went for me

I did what I haven't done for 18months and had a cup and a half of black coffee though it was in the name of running. Having read articles in running magazines and health magazines about the benefits of caffeine to sporting endeavour I gave it a go - though as an experiment I have no way of knowing how it would have gone without (I don't have an identical me around to run the control experiment for me). Needless to say it is my last cup unless, and until, I decide it might be useful for another race event.

Everything went well, I got my food right, I got my kit right, and even timed my arrival at the portaloo start area just right as well. I cycled into the city centre so I had a nice gentle warm up on the way in enjoying the near perfect weather on Sunday morning.
Pre-race during an early dog walk to get moving
- note I already made sure I would find my race number pins later :-)
The race
I had no goal in mind really, I knew my PB was not going to be in any danger but I didn't want it to be my worst time either. Within the start zone I worked out roughly where to put myself in the field, and on purpose choose the outside of the masses on the side of the first major bend. My primary aim was to go out at a pace that felt right, not too fast and not too slow - Goldilocks speed! Through the first mile I felt that I had found the pace I was looking for and began to feel out what could be possible for the miles that followed.

The second mile goes up a the gentlest of inclines along a nice wide street, and here I opted to hold a rhythm rather than try much with pacing. I had figured after the third mile was the place to enjoy the very slight decline and try to move on. My Garmin was telling me good things so I wanted to keep a flow. The support along the route was great, and there was a nice atmosphere amongst the runners. For a change there were not too many latecomers (or nutters) deciding to sprint through the crowds chasing their times, a lot of the runners seemed to be in training for the Cardiff half marathon in a months time so perhaps this helped to make a settled pack of runners.

Through the second half of the race I focused more on maintaining a sensible pace instead of my plan to push along harder. I was not sure what I had in terms of a pace lift, and didn't want to push in any way that might set back my training again. It became clearer to me that I was 'feeling' my way through the thing with the biggest fear being a new injury. Happily my watch was reassuring me that things were steadily moving toward a decent time.

Within the last half a mile I did step on a little and down the final straight-away I strode out without full on sprinting. In the final GPS analysis I managed a happy even pacing and even a negative split (albeit small) for the race. My official finish time was 54min 37sec, my third fastest 10k only a minute slower than the same race last year (which had a much much better preparation phase).
SportsTracks plot of my 2km split times for the Cardiff 10K
I collected my race medal, a very nice little number, that made me smile a nice cheesy "thank you" grin at the volunteer handing them out. Afterwards I collect a free bottle of water then strolled through the athletes village (which was very well appointed with some very tempting shop stands!). On the bike ride home I saw some of the rest of the field coming in and again broke into a cheesy grin or ten at the looks of joy on their faces as the finish line appeared before them. The ride home was good for my legs, which I treated to an ice shower to help any yet to develop aches. Already in my head I was throwing forward to the Swansea 10k and Cardiff Half with excitement having gotten the autumn races off to a good solid start :-)
My fab Cardiff10K completion medal
(that now hangs with my small but growing running medal collection)
Post post-race
Two days on and I am still happy with how it went, the aches developed in a good way (if that is ever possible!) in that I felt mild un-troubling aches in the 'right' places. After a couple of days recovery I now hope to put a good block in before the next race arrives.

Friday, September 07, 2012

More post-Olympic blog posts

It appears that as the 'dust' settles on the London Olympics more and more competitors have been able to take stock and take a perspective on their efforts. They are a mix of honest, reflective, philosophical view points, here is another that caught my attention...

Annabel Vernon in her BBC support blog posted this reflection on her Olympic experience of both London and Beijing (fifth in the 8+ in London, silver in the 4-), and though claiming to be confused she eloquently conveys the trials, tribulations, efforts, joys, lows and highs of high level rowing. Moreover the effects I suppose of making competition sport your life / career.

Diary: very pleasantly warm, high scattered cloud, cooling breeze, very chilly overnight. Later I should complete my last pre-Cardiff10k run. Received an offer of an job interview today so I am pleased, but unsure where it might lead (not my first choice of direction). Grateful for my beautiful family and their continued support (including silly kitchen dancing).

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Cardiff 10K cometh - bring out the pins!

It was a bit lazy of me the other day to post only the t-shirt and not the rest of the race pack from the Cardiff10K people. It came with paperwork (not shown), the t-shirt (previously modelled), race number, timing chip (ankle strap variety), a race guide pocket fold out, and two safety pins! I could hardly contain my joy at the pins I am always hunting the things as race day nears - ahem, even to the point that at this years Milton Keynes marathon I went in three separate shops the night before trying to buy some! It was often a similar story the day of a rowing event too. Though the irony in both cases is that we have tens or hundreds in our house pinned together in sets of four and cunningly placed so that we will find them quickly when we need them - I have just realised we are safety pin squirrels - you guessed it we (okay, I) never remember where!

The all important race pack, including those special little pins :-)
Race day is this Sunday, and I am looking forward to the test of just where I am this autumn. The race is now closed to late entries I believe (though please check) -
They can be followed on pretty active feed on Twitter - @Cardiff10k I am not running for charity this time out I should mention that the events lead charity is the Kidney Wales Foundation.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Busy day equals tired boy

There is something satisfying about a busy day, there is something good about being tired for the right reasons. I got a load of everything done, everything from making loaves of bread to running to job searching. The run was born out of the fact that I helped out my wife with a short bit of stationery rowing for her PhD work and found myself nicely warmed up in sports kit - so it almost seemed rude not to nip off for an unplanned 4.5 mile interval run (6 x 30sec bursts this time).

I am aware that I have hit the mileage relatively hard in the last few weeks from more or less a standing start, so I will be taking out a planned session and not adding more miles to my week. At the moment I am a little concerned about maintaining this good return to training and not falling foul of over-keenness.

Diary - cloudy and overcast clearing up to a warm sunny afternoon. 4 x 5min firm erg rowing, 4.5 miles running. Really ready for a good night of sleep.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Sad tale of 'sad' sites hiding in the blogger stats

I wouldn't say that I hang on the every click, but I do check the blogger stats page when I log in to get a feel if there is anybody out there (no, not in an alien way - or was that just me drifting off into other uses of that phrase?). Of late I had been pretty pleased with myself because through the year I have had a pretty regular (though not huge) monthly count... only I have discovered the vast majority were probably eronious sites trawling for some kind of business. I am not going to give the site names here as it is really just to give them a little more oxygen to breath if I do, but I will pass on a little info that I found.

The basic message is IF YOU SEE STRANGE ADDRESSES OR LINKS IN YOU BLOGGER STATS DON'T CLICK THEM, which of course is a fairly applicable mantra for large parts of the web. If you really want to know where these 'visiters' are coming from put a piece of the address only into a search engine and you'll see a site synopsis (again don't click through) or perhaps a forum article where other web users have described their experiences with the erroneous site/s.

How does it work? Well apparently low hit blogs are targeted as we are more likely to see the links and follow them back to source, bigger more popular blogs lose these in the tens, hundreds or thousands of genuine visitors if the sites even bother stinging them.

What harm? Well here I have to say I am not entirely sure, I get the impression they just want the afore mentioned web oxygen (people visiting their sites so they get sponsor monies). There may be sites that have more 'viscous' intentions though so all the more reason to follow the mantra.

Funnily enough from what I read third party sites that track your traffic for you are better able to give truer stats as they don't see or register them. These links are, in a sad way, for bloggers eyes only and for bloggers to fall foul of if they think "oh, that's cool a new site has me listed in another country wonder if they list many sites like mine?" and then click through to them.

I can only really refer to these sites as 'sad' - if the sleaze (and yes it is often 'those' sites) can't generate enough traffic from the titillating garbage they contain from genuinely interested nutters then just what they gain from a few earnest bloggers tripping into their traffic stream I can't fathom. Some parts of the Internet amaze and inspire, other parts well mmmm, just depress the average human being.

Diary - sunny, windy, high broken cloud. Rest day from training. I am happy that I might have avoided the above nonsense, and hope any real readers don't get stuck in these traps. Although unhappy that it seems that the little bit of fun in the stat page reports has completely gone.