Friday, September 30, 2005

Taking baby steps...

Second time I have run this week. Went round a rectangular loop which I thought was about 8km (from rough estimation on the map). Legs can't really remember how to run, hence felt a bit tight at the start. By the time I got to the final edge, I knew it was short of 8km. I don't think I am in the sort of form to do 30' 8kms! Had to add on a small detour but still finished in around 35'. I say around 7km and keep the change...

Location 31°N 120°E

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A new start?

Went to a bike race today (to race, not to watch). Being a proper runner is but a fleeting memory.

More interestingly, have been trying out anonymous proxy servers to get round the Great Firewall of China. This is because is also now blocked here. I've had some success and that's why I can now post here again. I shall try to keep this updated once again.

Many stories to tell...

Location 31°N 120°E

Thursday, August 11, 2005

So long and thanks for all the fish

Haven't been updating this since February. Lots of excuses for this. One major reason is that all * sites are blocked from China, meaning that I can't even see, much less update, my own site since my move to Suzhou in late April!! I know, still doesn't totally explain the lack of posting from February.

So I shall be moving everything to a new site which is hopefully not blocked. I have checked and it isn't blocked (yet?). Go there for new updates. Currently there is just a test post and a test photo.

I am going to do a bit more testing when I get to China tomorrow and if all goes well it will go live soon...

Location 3°N 101°E

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Last day on the treadmill

Didn't have enough time to run this morning. It was very cold outside and it snowed again last night. Probably couldn't really have ran outdoors as the pavements were covered in a thick layer of snow. Got back to the hotel after a full day working and ran on the treadmill again.

Yes it is so boring. To keep going I had to play mind games with myself, first pretending that I was going to stop at 6k, then 8k but finally ended up doing 10k in about 46 minutes. Did 5:00/k for about 8 minutes to warm up, then the rest of the way at 4:23/k with the last couple of minutes at 4:08/k, then a quick warmdown. Wasn't breathing very hard for the whole session, just slowly going crazy from having nothing to look at despite the TV being on (can't really hear it).

View outside the window

Location 44°N 93°W

Friday, February 18, 2005

Outside in the snow

Did my first run outside on this trip. Just about getting light at 6:30am when I set off. It snowed yesterday morning so there was plenty of snow around (at least for me) especially where it had been piled up by snowploughs. Ran along a long straight road on the pavement. Pavement was mostly clear of deep snow with only a thin layer of compacted snow. Traction was fine on these. Problems arise when there is a dark patch with no apparent snow. These areas are potential areas for slippy slidy ice.

Ran for around 17 minutes along the wide 4 lane road past some houses, a couple of very big malls until the pavement disappeared under a thick layer of snow. After some searching I gave up and turn round to go back. Don't want to risk stepping into a big drain which is hidden by snow. Did a small extra loop near the hotel to make it 40 minutes along a residential streets. Houses round here are usually made from wood, pretty typical to what you see in some American movies.

Didn't feel too cold even though I think it must have been below freezing. Not being windy probably helped too. Had a medium weight long sleeve jersey and running tights with a windproof top over the jersey.

Location 44°N 93°W

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

On the treadmill

Missed breakfast this morning as I was getting picked up at 7:30am from the hotel but got delayed at the gym. Had to wait for people to finish their workout on the treadmill before I could get on. I wouldn't call it a workout as he was going so slowly that he might as well go out for a morning walk. Should have gone for a run outdoors as it is still unseasonably warm (above freezing) outside with the pavements being free from snow. Ended up doing about 8 minutes of warmup at 5:00/k and then 5x (2:30 @ 4:25/k + 2:30 @ 3:45/k). It was hard as I always find running on a treadmill more difficult than running outside.

Location 44°N 93°W

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Hello America

Finally got to the hotel at about 8pm last night after the BMI flight into Chicago was delayed, causing me to miss the connecting American Airlines flight back over the lakes to upstate New York. This made it an 18 hour day from leaving home this morning.

Flew over Newfoundland and Quebec in Canada before crossing over the great lakes to land in Chicago. The part of Canada that we flew over was covered in snow. However, the landscape was quite different compared with Siberia. Had a very unique light meal before landing in Chicago. It was several little sweet and savoury pastries on a nice glass serving plate. Tasted nearly as good as it looked.

Over Quebec in Canada

Small Treats

Weather here is far warmer than expected, probably just around freezing at night. Hotel had a good gym, good at least in terms of treadmills. There were two heavy duty treadmills which have maximum speeds of over 16km/h. More than enough for me. Did about 10k on it this morning in around 48 minutes. Played with different speeds (from 4:20-5:00/k) to keep me occupied as it was so boring.

First day of visit to operating site here. Should be an interesting week.

Location 44°N 93°W

Sunday, February 13, 2005

On the way to the airport...

Left home at 0700 this morning to drive to Manchester Airport to catch the 1050 flight to Chicago. There was a warm glow on the eastern horizon with the remnant lights of a few bright stars still just about visible. Little did I know what I would be driving through in about 20 minutes time.

Driving past the west side of Birmingham on the M5 it started raining. The rain started getting heavier but it wasn't big splotches of water. The view from the windscreen started to resemble a room where several feather-filled pillows had exploded. Big flakes of snow filled the air. Beginning to feel the highly variable traction under the tyres of the car. The grip was especially poor in the outside lane. By this time I had slowed down to a sensible speed for the conditions and stayed in the middle to inside lane where it was just water rather than a slushy mixture.

Before long there were blue flashing lights ahead where a police patrol vehicle had stopped because a car was stuck on the inside barrier facing the wrong way. It must have lost traction somehow and spun round. There was another similar incident a bit further down the motorway, and then another. This went on for a bit and I must have counted at least 4 more. Pretty scary. Maybe they were driving far too quick for the conditions.

Just as quickly as it started, the snowstorm ended. It must have been a wave of cloud passing through. Bright morning sunshine again ahead. Got to Manchester Airport with plenty of time to spare. Refueled and dropped off the hire car (Peugeot 307, not very exciting to drive so no review) only to get stuck in a slow moving queue at check in...

Location 53°N 2°W

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Keep it moving

Did what should have been a nice 1 hour run today over a decent route. However, what spoiled it a bit was the lingering remnants of Tuesday training in the legs. Didn't have the normal smoothness and had to put in a bit more of an effort but I survived.

Location 53°N 1°W

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Short and sharp

10x80m + 6x150m + 10x80m all with very little recovery... It was HARD. Not the sort of hard training that I like. Didn't feel too hard at the start of the sessions but it gradually hits you. Towards the end legs feel like jelly and throat burning from the cold air. It was by a sweets factory too so had to contend with the smell of mint in the air.

Location 53°N 1°W

Friday, February 04, 2005

Horizontal on the pavement

Led the usual Thursday group on a route of my choice. We usually take turns to choose the route. A bit of an up and down route, with two long hills. A bit like running around the 15k Lake Gardens route in KL. Except that the area around Lake Gardens are far more pleasant than this route which goes through some less salubrious areas of Sheffield. Perhaps not a good way to go if you are a slow runner on your own. Not from the threat of violence of course, more from the shouting and abuse you might get from youngsters.

Anyway, went over the first hill, downhill for a bit, and then started on the second long hill. Nice evening, not too cold, no breeze, and more importantly my knee was fine. Despite regrouping every now and then, gaps were beginning to open up by now. Having reached the top of the second (and final) hill in the front, I turned back down the hill to meet up with the tailenders. They were a long way behind. The rest just continued on their way while I finally met the last two people and ran with them up the hill again.

Going along at a nice easy pace and chatting about the likes of Bekele losing a recent indoor 3000m race because he miscounted the laps. Next moment I realised I was heading for the pavement. It's those moments when things happen so quickly that there is no thinking involved, just instinct. In a flash it was over. I must have slid a little bit along my chest, face down but my hands did not touch the pavement too much. Not even the smallest scrape on my chin. Quickly got back up and felt sore on the bottom end of my left palm and right elbow. Checked other places for damage. Perhaps a bit of skin loss on the right knee (thanks to the tights) and a little nick on my right palm. Luckily nothing serious. Looks like I tripped over a big piece of stone (probably about 40cm x 20cm x 20cm) which had fallen off the side wall onto the middle of the pavement. The two other guys moved the stone out of the way and asked how I was.

Well I was good enough to resume running whilst going through the checklist that one makes after falling down to estimate the damage, a bit like an insurance estimator. Looks like no major damage but will hurt quite a bit in the shower. Damn!! What's the funniest thing about it? Apparently the group ahead saw the rock and avoided it while making a comment that someone could really trip over it. Why didn't they stop and move it? Maybe they thought that no one would be clumsy enough. It was a wonderful run though if it wasn't for the accident.

One piece of advice. If you are falling down, a natural reaction is to stick the hands out. However, this may be a bad idea if speeds involved are high because you could damage your wrists or break you arm. On the other hand, if your shoulder hits the ground hard enough, you might break your collarbone (scapula). Many cyclists get this injury but I haven't heard of a runner doing it to himself. Injuries caused by scraping along the ground are usually not very deep but look a lot worse than they really are due to the area. And yes, it does sting like hell in the shower...

Location 53°N 1°W

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The sweet taste of hills

It was fartlek training today. Fartlek doesn't refer to any bodily function. It is merely a Swedish (I think) word meaning "speed play". And so it was, a good fun session which I like. It involves running fairly easily and then putting in several hard efforts as you wish. In this case it is when the coach wishes. A coach with over 20 years experience in coaching long/middle distance runners (most notably the 4th place finisher in the Olympic marathon in Athens 2004 and Sydney 2000 in his younger days, also another runner who has done 61' in a hill half marathon) and a good runner in his own right (just sneaked under 40' in recent 10k, will be 60 in a few months).

Starts off with a bit of a warmup, a moderate run on flat roads along the valley. Effort for 400m. "Recovery" if you could call that is up a fairly steep hill which is about 600m long, a bit more recovery on a rare bit of flat road. Hard for 100m flat then round a sharp bend for about 100m uphill, recovery down a flight of steps, repeat once. After this it becomes a bit hazy trying to get breath back and clear lactic acid in the legs. It mostly involves jogging on the flat bits and doing hard efforts up long and short hills, some of which pretty steep.

Legs felt a bit weak on some of the flatter bits where the speed demons just went for it. Come to the steep hills I found that I still had a bit of a kick in the tank. Maybe its my lack of weight or something. Just able to find that extra bit on. Managed to overtake someone with a half marathon PB of 75' on a sharp rise and also getting close whenever the road turned skywards. The last effort is probably the longest one and it is flat. Unfortunately my legs were a bit weak by then but could still hold on to finish with a bit of a sprint. Well no, the real ending was bending over with hands on hips gasping for the last bit of cold crisp air. Total distance is around 11km including warmup and cooldown runs.

Don't think I'm a 100% yet. Still a bit light on the flat sprints. But at least its a good session. A large part of running is mental, if you feel right, you will go well. If you believe you are good at a certain aspect, the belief makes you push harder or train more in that particular area. Ah the sweet taste of hills when you feel that you are just floating up them.

Location 53°N 1°W

Monday, January 31, 2005

What's the h*ll is wrong?!

Went for the Sunday ride with the club. Again did about 90km. Legs still pretending that they have done some hard work recently despite the fact that they clearly haven't. Neither spinning nor pushing gears felt right. At least there were no signs of anything hurting. This must be what overtraining feels like but I haven't really done anything last week. I think I should just give up and vegetate...

Location 52°N 2°W

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Running is *)^$&^"*%

Original plan was to go out on the canal, run south along the river, cut back across the fields in St Peter and then do a few hills. Legs really sluggish even at the start along the canal. Path next to the river was very muddy and slippery. Slipping and sliding all over the place. Shoes covered in mud felt like they weighted a ton. If I wanted to do mud I would have come in my cross country shoes.

Still couldn't get my legs to wake up in St Peters. Had done about 30 minutes by now and decided to cut the run short and head for home. Didn't think I could last the full distance over the hills. Totally no spring in the step to burst up the sharp little hill past the Little Sauce Factory. Worried about my knee so again took it easier on the downhill.

Practically crawled up the last steep bit to the apartment for a 45 minute run. Running is sh*t! I hate running!

Location 52°N 2°W

Friday, January 28, 2005

Another plain old run

Usual Thursday evening run with the club. It was starting to drizzle slightly when we set off. Thought of going back to the car to get a rain jacket but decided not to bother in the end. Regretted it in the first few minutes as it got progressively colder. I didn't know which route we were taking today, but I wasn't bothered anyway. I just want to hide in the back and get pulled round by the group.

Still a bit of heaviness in the legs. Don't exactly know why as I haven't been running all that much. Have felt this for quite a while, indeed since my IT-band first started acting up. Coming up to a mild uphill. Grovelled up the hill feeling sh*t but still overtook almost everyone. Regrouped and continued on near the back.

Foot of the big hill. Think light feet and float up the hill. Quads a little bit more tired than usual but still breathing well. Started pulling away without trying all that hard. I cannot believe this - everyone must be taking it really easy. Got to the top and turned round to jog back to "collect" everyone. Not huge gaps but certainly gaps have opened up.

Long downhill to follow. Now I am taking it extremely easy in constant fear of the soreness that might resurface on the outside of my left knee. I can just about sense it in the background, trying to make an appearance. I wish the uphill could go on forever, just continue climbing up and up.

Got back to the club in around 46 minutes. A bit shorter then I expected. Hoping for something closer to 1 hour. Doesn't matter. Tomorrow is the last working day of the week. Yay!!

Location 53°N 1°W

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Running at 2am in the morning, or so my body tells me

Landed at Manchester Airport at around 1530 after an 11 hour flight from Shanghai to Copenhagen, 90 minute stopover at Copenhagen Airport and then a further 90 minute flight. Got through immigration, collected my bag and was out by 1600. Found the car at the car park with no problems this time. Yes I now take great care in noting down where my car is at airport long term car parks having spent nearly 30 minutes trying to track it down once in freezing cold rain.

The sky was a leaden shade of grey, the sort where it seems to make everything else dull. Traffic was fairly bad and it was nearly 1700 by the time I arrived in Glossop at the foot of the Snake Pass. Just noticed through the gloomy drizzle that it wasn't totally dark. It is now just over 1 month since the shortest day of the year when it gets pitch black at around 1600. At least the days are getting longer now.

Had a nice drive up the sweeping bends of the Snake Pass, getting stuck behind a slow driver for a bit. This was quickly rectified through the long straight section at the summit. A quick glance at the horizon, drop it into third, foot down, pull back in to the left, dab on the brakes to set up for the sharp right at the end. Down the sharp bends on the other side, lightly touching the brakes before each corner, taking care not to be too heavy on the pedals on the roads glistening with moisture.

Didn't take too long to get into Sheffield. Well I suppose time passes quickly when you are enjoying yourself. Dropped my bags off at the B&B, had a quick chat, got changed into running kit and was back in the car to get to Hillsborough for 1800. I should really run down to the club but hey it's been a long day and it takes nearly 15 minutes to run back, the last 10 minutes of which is uphill.

The session today is 3 sets of 3 efforts consisting of about 400m (last 200m uphill), short recovery, about 800m, short recovery and finally about 600m (last 200m uphill), making it 9 efforts in total. Felt a bit slow on the 10 minute jog out to the hill. Probably jetlag or just plain stiff from having being on the long flight.

Took the first effort fairly steadily to gauge how I am feeling. Hmmm maybe I am not feeling too bad as I am still about where I normally stand in the pecking order. The finish never seemed to appear for the first long 800m effort. Legs were a bit uncoordinated for running fast on the flat. Was certainly gasping hard at the end of the fast section. Floated the first part of the 600m effort, then turning on a bit of a kick on the uphill section. 1 down 2 to go. And so it continued. I felt a bit better on subsequent sets except during the recoveries where I was worried that the light meal on the flight over from Copenhagen would revisit itself.

Finally finished everything feeling a bit more tired than usual. Not really in the physical lactic acid sense, more like a general dullness of mind. Hey it is about 0300 in the morning where I started the journey from so it is hardly surprising. Should be able to get a good night's sleep in tonight. I find that getting a good first night's sleep in does wonders for jetlag.

Location 53°N 1°W

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Long way round

I am sat in the airport in Hongkong waiting for a connecting flight to Taipei. It has been a really long day which started with waking up at around 0630 and won't end until way past 0200 tomorrow morning when I land in Taipei.

No direct flights between the two sides means taking a big detour via Hongkong. It takes around 5-6 hours in total for Shanghai to Taipei. If direct flights are allowed, it would be around 90 minutes. To understand how much air traffic there is, there are around 300 flights daily between Taipei and Hongkong (and they don't fly 24 hours a day).

Over the Lunar New Year period there will be "direct" flights to get people back. However, "direct" is still not direct because I believe the planes still have to fly over Hongkong to maintain a pretense of no direct contact between the two sides.

Hongkong Airport ---------------- Pudong Airport (Shanghai)

Location 22°N 114°E

Friday, January 21, 2005

Meetings and traffic

Had a great night sleep and got through the day without any apparent jetlag. No running on this trip. Want to make sure that my IT-band recovers properly. Interviews this morning in Suzhou, meetings in Shanghai in the afternoon. Went to a Xinjiang (a big province in the far west of China, predominantly Muslim) restaurant in Shanghai for dinner. Mmmmm lots of good lamb, big leg of lamb.

Had a lot of trouble getting a taxi to go back to Suzhou at around 2130 because it seems that many taxis in Shanghai are not allowed to go out of the city after a certain time at night. Just when we thought we might have to spend an expected night in Shanghai, a taxi turned up and took us back.

The ride back good as there wasn't much on the roads which was a change from the usual. Traffic in China is pretty chaotic. There appears to be no concept of give way and right of way. It just seems to be a case of whoever gets a nose ahead wins. Pedestrians and cyclists cross in front of traffic. Vehicles of all kinds move too close to one another. The only saving grace is that cyclists move very slowly so there is less chance of serious injury when they are knocked down.

Location 31°N 120°E

Thursday, January 20, 2005

What time is it?

Landed at Shanghai airport this morning about 0745 local time after an 11 hour flight, so my body thinks its just around midnight. Managed to catch some sleep on the way. Just what I need for the day ahead.

Queues in arrival were fairly short for this time in the morning so I breezed through all the formalities and was out of the airport within around 20 minutes. A big difference from my last trip when it took over an hour just to get through immigration at around midday because lots of big planes landed within an hour of one another.

Got on a taxi to get to the centre of Shanghai. Traffic was flowing well until we got into town. Made a few calls to work out where everyone was. Got to the hotel where we were having the meeting. Everyone turned up within about 10 minutes so we started early at around 0915.

It was a meeting with contractors to sort out the technical details of furnaces and negotiate the price. Some areas went very well while others we a bit like pulling teeth out slowly. The last sticking point was basically price for one of the two sets. With a bit of haggling, sweet talk as well as some give and take, everything was completed at around 1600 amidst much stamping of documents and signatures. Well we have now made a commitment to buy several furnaces. Hope they turn out fine...

Need to catch some sleep now to get rid of jetlag.

Location 31°N 120°E

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Snow traffic

Bl**dy hell. Snow overnight in northern England. Just what I need when I have to get to Manchester airport to catch a 0950 flight. Heard on the radio that radio that Snake Pass and Woodhead Pass (roads between Sheffield and Manchester) are both closed. Luckily I decided to stay in Worcester overnight instead of in Sheffield.

Traffic was good for the first 80% of the journey north up the M6 motorway until close to Manchester. Everyone then slowed down because it was snowing lightly. Got to the junction to turn onto the M56 and everything ground to a halt. Split decision to get back onto the M6 to continue on north and turn off at the next junction to get to the airport via small roads.

The country roads were a bit slippery but otherwise fine. Was feeling rather pleased wih myself until I got stuck again... It was stop-start for over 30 minutes and I felt time ticking away. Am I going to miss the flight and hence the next connecting flight in Copenhagen?

Got there eventually, parked the car and got to the counter with around 1 hour before takeoff time which was plenty. Had a walk round the shops in departure but the only thing I bought was a book. Airport duty free shopping is so overrated (especially soules Dubai). Nothing really useful to buy, and quite often you can get electronic / PC items cheaper on the net anyway.

10 minutes before takeoff time but still no sign of the plane. Where the h*ll is the plane? Only have 45 minutes transfer time in Copenhagen. Eventually the plane turned up and got me to Copenhagen about 1 hour late. As it turned out, the connecting flight to Shanghai will also be about 1 hour late so I still had a chance.

When I saw the plane for the next flight, it had one of the engine cowlings open (SAS A340 with 4 CFM56 engines) with people working on it. Hopefully it isn't something related to the thrust reversers. Thrust reversers are deployed only during landing to slow the plane down (basically blow some air from the engine in the opposite direction). Not good if they accidentally deploy in flight as this results in severe damage to the wing (has been the cause of a few crashes).

Anyway, once everything was cleared we were on our way. Same old routine of switch off (Blackberry and phone), click in (seat belt) and settle down (peace and quiet). Business class was full (about 54 seats). This has often been the case on recent flights to China, perhaps an indication of the number of people wanting to go there.

Location - Somewhere over Siberia