Archive for the ‘Activities’ Category

3rd Kyu

Posted: January 14, 2014 in Aikido, Diary

I recently took the aikido 3rd Kyu grading. As before we watched novices up to 4th kyus grading first. Soon it was my grading partner and I who sat in seiza alone on the mat. I was uke first and he did a great job in each of the suwariwaza and tachiwaza techniques.

My turn came and I found I was already tired from the pre-grading course and being hurled around during my stint as uke.

Some of the techniques I was concerned about went quite smoothly, while other, more simple techniques I had done several times went pear shaped.

I was particularly pleased with my chudan tsuki Soto kaitenage. I managed to blend well with my partners attack and managed to maintain my center through the technique.

We also had to perform a set of ushiro waza which again went quite well.

I was quite warm by the end and glad for tge chance to rest up and watch the following 2nd and 1st kyu gradings.

Not everyone was awarded a grade this time, so I was glad when I was called to receive mine.

Looking forward to the next test which should be later this year…


Sub 22 Minute 5K !

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Running
Tags: ,

I love parkrun, wooohooo!

Nos Galan 2013

Posted: January 1, 2014 in Diary, Running

Another visit to the Mountain Ash night races or Nos Galan. This was the first 5k race I ran 12 months ago. I really enjoyed it and was looking forward to the 2013 event.

The weather was grim as we drove to the village in the Cynon valley.  The event had sold out early with another record number of people entering.  I knew what to expect this time and had arranged to meet a friend who was also entered to race. 

My times had improved over the 12 months and I nearly enteres the elite race – but an illness,  injury and work commitments kept new from being confident of an elite time. 

As we watched the elite race and warned up,  a persistent drizzle settled in,  which coupled with the cold temperature made waiting around very uncomfortable. After what seemed like an age,  the course was clear and we made for the start. 

Being in close confinement made things a little warmer,  but the rain continued.  Soon,  we were off past the back of the workman’s institute and bus station.  The sharp incline leading up to the mount pleasant pub caused the runners to separate out.  I managed to pass several people who must have misjudged their starting pace and were slowing. Then other was back toward the town centre and looping around to the next lap. The rain got progressively worse, the rain going horizontal and chilling to the bone.

I lost count of the laps and took a look at the Garmin. I was nearly done.  just as well as tge rain was sleeting and dispite the warmth generated by running, it was pretty uncomfortable. Heading toward the finish a group of friends and family shouted to me and I managed a sprint finish passing a couple of runners who were flagging.

Moving past the finish line, I colected my goodie bag and medal.  I hung around for my friend to finish and we went off to find the others in the fun fair. 

Another great night which could only very improved by better weather.

Ugali & Sukuma Wiki

Ugali & Sukuma Wiki (Photo credit: ‘Bacardi’)

I don’t usually read this type of book,  but picked it up in a varying book store for £2.99. It’s a sort of autobiography of the, athletics journalist, Adharanand Finn. He decides to move his family to Kenya to learn the secrets of Kenyan running.  The narrative focuses mainly on his various running exploits in training for the Lewa Marathon. It’s quite a good read and has some insights into the portrayal of Kenyan athletics in the world press and the craze for barefoot running.

The author compiles a list of “Kenyan running secrets”. This includes the local staple of ugali. This it basically corn meal boiled until it becomes a solid block of starchy white goo. I had bought some corn meal by mistake last year and it was still in the cupboard so thought I would have a go.

Ugali on it’s own didn’t sound too appetizing so a quick search on the web resulted in a Kenyan curry recipe that sounded just the thing. Sukuma wiki means “Week pusher” in Swahili. It’s a simple stew with lots of vegetables and meat that would go really well with the ugali. It was a wet and miserable day today so just the thing!

The original recipe is posted at the website.

I made a few substitutions but it turned out great! I used turkey instead or beef or chicken. I used a tin of chopped tomatoes and 2 table spoons of curry powder. I didn’t bother with the stock cube and instead of Collard (or spring) Greens I used a mix of spinach and kale.

The recepie is a bit unclear on the water required for the ugali. I went with 2 mugs of water and a minutes of corn meal and there was enough for about 4 people.

There was plenty of Ugali left over for pudding too! Just add jam…

For the last few months the Garmin has been playing up. It began by not automatically synchronising with the PC and then started failing to download workouts. I have no idea what the cause was, but after some web research, i found it was a fairly common problem. The explanation was that somehow the data on the 310xt had corrupted. I found this hard to believe as the device was quite happily storing run, bike and swim data. Following some frustrating screwing around, I found I could upload activities by re-pairing the device with the computer each time. There appeared not fix for downloading new workouts.

The suggested fix was to factory reset the device. This is accomplished by:

  1. Turn the device off
  2. Hold down the “MODE” and “ENTER” buttons
  3. Momentarily press the “POWER” button

I didn’t really want to do this – psychologically there is part of me that says “Well, its half working, perhaps i should just put up with it.”. But another voice says “Are you nuts? This watch cost and arm and a leg! It should work reliably and flawlessly.” Today, I had a some spare time to take a shot at it.

Be warned there is no “Are you sure?” prompt and the procedure above restores the device to an “out of the box” state. On powering on you have to fill in all your stats again and the workouts and activities are cleared. It effectively cold-starts the GPS too, so it may take a while to re-acquire the satellite lock.

After filling in my stats, I tried to pair the device to the PC. I set the ANT Agent to pair with new  devices and power-cycled the 310xt. When it came back up, the pairing process kicked off and I followed the prompts as normal. This resulted in the ANT Agent throwing an exception and crashing. “Great Start!”, I thought. The I remembered the corrupt data problem and renamed the Garmin folder in the “AppData/Roaming” profile area to something else.

Pairing the devices again worked and the crash did not occur. I started Garmin Training Centre and got a warning that it couldn’t find my old profile. I ignored this and entered a new one. It automatically found the device and created a set of default workouts. I then selected the send data to device option and waited for ANT to sync. Again, this happened with no issues.

It’s early days, but hopefully the problem is solved. I just need to reset all my preferences for displays, alerts, etc.… But hey, the probably needed a clean out anyway!

I signed up for the Cardiff 10k with a few colleagues from work. We were given a special shirt to wear to train in that publicised the race and the charity benefitting – the Kidney Wales Foundation. The shirt was a good quality technical wicking shirt that I used for most of my training runs, including those in Spain and Somerset.

The week before the race, I was given another shirt to race in. Made of the same material, it was a bit brighter than the practise shirt. It will definitely come in useful during dark winter runs!

I arrived at the “race village” in better time than I did for the St. David’s Day Run back in March. I found the bag drop area and met up with my co-workers near the start. I aborted an attempt to visit the toilet due to a ridiculously long queue.

After an attempt to warm us up by a woman who’s PA was in competition with the race compare’s we were soon off. As we were a corporate team we started just behind the elite runners. This meant that although I was overtaken during the race, there were less issues with choke points like the St. Davids Day Run.

My race goal was just to beat my last 10k time. The strategy was to run at a steady 5 minute per KM pace and increase my speed on the last two. I set up the Garmin’s virtual partner to the 5min/km pace. The strategy lasted as long as it took to cross the start line!

Being in front added to the pressure to run faster and the first KM split was around 4:15. To my surprise, I maintained a sub 5min/KM pace for the duration of the race not only beating my last 10k time, but also my previous 5k time!

After the race, I collected a bottle of water and race medal. I visited the toilet, collected my bag and had a recovery shake before attending the corporate reception for brunch.

The official results were published later that afternoon, really pleased with them and I hope to keep on improving!

Each year, we try to schedule a family camping trip. We all enjoy being together in the great outdoors and exploring a new area. The kids like to make new friends and have a greater degree of freedom to play.
This year, we booked a week at a campsite on the Somerset levels, an area steeped in history and legend – King Arthur, Alfred the Great, The Holy Grail and the witch of Wookey Hole. I’ll post a separate note on the camping trip.

Even though we “Glamp” with a luxurious tent, an electric hook-up and heater for cold nights and mornings, it’s generally “harder work” than staying in your house with “all mod cons”. My challenge, after the recent over-training episode was to carry on running but without over-reaching and recovering properly.


I stuck with the basic kit I took on holiday to spain (see Carry on running… abroad!). I added a lightweight waterproof and swapped the road shoes for trail shoes.


As we tend to all be woken earlier in a tent due to the sun rise, early morning runs were out. This made it harder to schedule. I decided to go for an evening run just before our evening meal. I also brought some protein shake powders as usually I had to cook the evening meal and wasn’t allowed in the tent until I had a shower!
These worked well, I chose the High 5 brand that come in individual sachets. Halfords were doing a special half-price offer. I wouldn’t want to buy them at full price!

After a run, I mixed up the shake (using a 99p sport direct shaker) with water. After drinking, I headed to the washing block to wash the shaker out and hit the shower.

Lessons Learned
  1. My running kit dried after a rinse in the tent extension each night. Not sure if this would work in colder, damper weather.
  2. The Somerset levels are not all level! Some short sharp hills were surprisingly hard
  3. Like Spain, running is slow at times due to navigating in unfamiliar territory. The longer runs turned into speed-work and hill sessions punctuated with map reading stops.
  4. The running improved my sleep and rest periods – as did a few glasses of wine or local cider before bed!
  5. The recovery shakes tasted great and apparently helped with carb and protein intake.
  6. A running waist pack would have been a good idea to carry the map, etc.