Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

So, I work with an Itallian. He is always talking about food and wine and how easy it is to cook fantastic food.

I have always enjoyed carbonara and even attempted to cook it once. I made a roux, added cheese and cooked ham, combined it with the spaghetti and quite enjoyed it.  it was garden work though…

My Itallian friend laughed at this and quickly corrected my attempt. He emphasized the use of parmigan cheese, freshly graded so it didn’t smell like sick.  He also stressed the simplicity of Italian cooking, where generally you only need one or two pans.

His method was dead easy and 100% authentic:

1. Put on the spaghetti to cook as per the packet.
2. Grate parmigan
3. Beat 2 eggs together
4. When the past is a couple of minutes from done, fry some Bacon lardons in a frying pan.
5. Drain the pasta and throw it in the pan with the bacon
6. Take the pan off the heat and mix the pasta and bacon
7. Add eggs and mix
8. Add cheese and mix.

You shouldn’t need to return the pan to the heat or the eggs will scramble. 

Serve. How easy is that?


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…

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.

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.

About a week ago I hit a bit of a “wall”.  I got up on Monday morning for my usual pre-work run and felt like I didn’t want to do it.  It wasn’t a mental block,  it was more like my whole body rejected the thought of running.  I did it anyway and struggled through what was usually an easy run.

I felt terrible the rest of the day. Muscles ached,  I couldn’t concentrate and everything seemed like hard work. I had planned a speed work session for Wednesday and could not complete it. Something was wrong.

I think I had been over doing things. Following a half Marathon training programme, taking an Aikido grading,  attending a two-day Aikido course,  more swimming than usual and some extra work related stress had taken its toll.

The half Marathon plan had peaked in terms of mileage at 10 miles. Instead of running this in easy conditions, I decided to run it over a series of hills around an iron age hill fort. This was probably a mistake, although I felt absolutely fine after the run.

On completion of the half Marathon plan,  I was going to start on the next level up. I am toying with the idea of taking part in a local half Marathon in October, having committed to a 10k road race in two weeks time and a 10k adventure race at the end of September.

Instead of launching into a more advanced training programme, I took a week off:

  • increased my food intake – especially carbs
  • did some light exercise (to avoid “exercise withdrawal”): 1 Aikido weapons session, easy swim with the kids, 1 core training session.

I found doing some light exercise is good as it keeps your focus and allows you to move forward in terms of skills and drills rather that excessive heavy, endurance or speed sessions that caused the over training in the first place. Several resources on the net advocated complete rest.

I started running again today with the same 5k I struggled with a week ago. Happy to report that it went well. Lesson to learn on this is that you need to recognise when your goal changes. I have entered a transition period, moving from getting in shape to increasing fitness and performance.

I think my issue is around not consuming the right food to recover properly.  Generally, I majored on protein and not enough carbs. I was extending my training and staying on a reduced consumption diet. I will do some more research in this area…


Posted: July 27, 2013 in Aikido, Diary
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Today I passed the 4th kyu test. After a 3 hour morning session we stopped for a half hour lunch break.  The grading began with a single novice grading to 6th kyu,  then several 6th kyu grades taking the 5th kyu test. Two of us took the 4th kyu.  My grading partner went first.  He did a very good job and I tired quickly playing the role of uke. My turn to be tori (or nage in some styles ) appeared to come quickly. There was a brief respite while a few gaps in the mats were kicked closed, then my exam began.

The first techniques were very straightforward suwariwaza nikkyos. Then we moved to tachiwaza and a couple of techniques I was concerned about went smoothly.  My uke was begining to tire as we moved to the last couple of yokomen attacks. I had not practiced these much and had to repeat yokomen uchi shihonage omote a few times until the panel were happy to move on.  My uke was struggling to his feet and only just managed to make the yokomen attack.  This was good as it gave me time to make omote with a preemptive atemi. To avoid an inadvertent contact, I began to ki-ai to alert uke that I was attacking.  This worked well and it was with some relief that we were asked to return to suwariwaza for kokyu-ho.

Another interesting and positive grading experience. Looking forward to 3rd kyu early next year!