Thursday May 18, 2006

A new half marathon PB

Last Sunday saw my second go at the Sheffield 1/2 Marathon. Last year was my first go at it, and I ran a PB (Personal Best) time of 1:30:29. This year I think I am less fit, but I paced myself better and ran another PB of 1:30:04!

Throughout the whole race, I was convinced that I was on a 1:31 pace, so it was a significant surprise to me to see the clock showing just past 1:30 when I was trying to sprint down the finishing straight. The clock showed just 1:30:12 when I crossed the line, but since the race organisers were using chip timing, my time was corrected to 1:30:04. If I'd known how close I was to getting under last year's goal of 1:30, I'm sure I could have found another few seconds in the last two miles, which is when I slowed up.

I'm very pleased with the outcome though. I think I can do better than that when I run the Bristol Half Marathon in September, and with a bit more focussed training, might even be able to take off more than just a few seconds!

My next scheduled race is a 5-miler next Wednesday evening as part of the South Yorkshire Road Race Championships. This is a club-only event, so the competition is much more severe, and instead of being in the top 10%, I'm nearer the bottom 10%, but they're fun events with a great turnout from my club, so I don't really mind where I finish.

Monday Apr 10, 2006

Sheffield Lord Mayor's 10K Race Report

I've suffered from an excess of work, travelling and a bad head-cold over the past 3 weeks, so managed to do no training whatsoever. As a result, I nearly didn't go to Sunday's race.

At the very last minute, however, I decided that if nothing else, I could use it as a training run, so I quickly changed into my running gear and headed out across town to the location.

In my enthusiasm to enter, I'd managed to forget to put a stamp on the envelope for the organisers to send back my number in, so the first task was to locate the organisers and pick up my number (apparently I wasn't alone in this transgression - there were at least 74 others who didn't do it!!). This proved to be a quick and easy job, and I was soon out doing a warmup on the track which is used for the start, finish and a couple of loops in the middle of the race.

Last year's race was on a very cold March morning. This year it was a few degrees warmer, although the periodic snow/sleet showers did their best to keep things cool.

I set off a bit further down the field than I normally would, figuring that I was probably going to run around 2 minutes off my normal pace just due to the lack of training. Often, this leaves you struggling not to trip over the feet of other runners and having to dodge those people who are not as fast but like standing near the front at the start. However, yesterday although there was a little bit of that, the first lap around the track spread the field out a bit, so I didn't have much issue in getting up to speed.

Other than the sleet/snow, the race itself was actually pretty uneventful for me. I did push myself a little more than I intended and came home in 42:05 - 1:30 off my best time, but acceptable given my lack of training. That gave me 91st position out of a field of over 700. Positionally, it compares with 40:47 and 89/732 last year. I'm pretty sure that had I been able to train these past 18 days, I could have come in at under 40 minutes - a lingering goal from last year. I'm not disheartened or disappointed though - there are plenty of people (even within our club) who'd be extremely gratified to be able to run a 42 minute 10K, and I salute them for their achievements too.

This week, I'll be competing in a 5-mile club-only road race on Wednesday evening and then another 10K (plus 2K fun-run with my daughter just before the 10K) on Sunday. I'm not expecting to do anything close to a personal best in either race - the challenge will be just completing 3 races in 8 days!

Hopefully, I'll get back into my proper training routine next week and improve my fitness before my next scheduled race which is the Sheffield Half Marathon in mid May.

Monday Mar 06, 2006

Another 40 miles under the belt

I had a great week last week for running, which included 17+ mile club run on Wednesday night, a 2mile run/walk with my daughter on Sunday and two speed sessions.

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that my legs were rather tired when I got home (a bit late) on Wednesday night, as the most I've ever run before is a little over 16 miles!

This week, I think I'll take it a wee bit easier and aim for 13 miles on Wednesday and _maybe_ a track session on Thursday night with the club plus some treadmill work and 7-10 miles on Sunday.

Cachefsstat wierdness

I've just set up my Solaris 10 work system so that it mounts a directory from a Solaris 10 x86 box and to try to improve the performance, implemented a cached file system:

# cfsadmin -c /export/cache
# mount -F cachefs -obackfstype=nfs,cachedir=/export/cache,actimeo=300 xyzzy:/export/docs /docs
Now, I can reference the files in /docs just fine, and a quick snoop of the network shows that after the first read of a file from that directory, susequent reads appear to be fulfilled from the local cache (ie there is no NFS read at the time of the access). However, cachefsstat insists that I have a 100% miss rate:
# cachefsstat /docs

    /docs
                 cache hit rate:     0% (0 hits, 18729 misses)
             consistency checks:  25717 (25717 pass, 0 fail)
                       modifies:      0
             garbage collection:      0
I can't find anything in SunSolve which helps, and although this seems to be a reporting issue rather than a genuine 100% cache miss, I'd still like to understand why the reporting is incorrect. Any ideas are welcome !

Wednesday Mar 01, 2006

Riddle me this x86 experts?

My x86 Solaris box has a minor quirk in that if you switch it on and leave it, it will hang at the prompt which says something to the effect of "Press ESC to abort auto-boot...".

If I am not there or simply miss the time window to press ESC, the machine just hangs (forever?) at that point and I have to reset it to get it going again.

To get it to boot, I have to press ESC before the timer expires, accept all of the defaults on the following boot config screens and it then proceeds to boot up just fine.

Have I got some dodgy hardware, just a dodgy configuration, or a boog ?

Tuesday Feb 28, 2006

Another couple of runs with my daughter

We set off Saturday for a distance of around 2.5miles, of which I intended to run some, walk some so that my daughter didn't become to tired. However, events conspired against us, and we ended up walking all but a few hundred metres. Needless to say, we were both rather disappointed :(

However, on Sunday afternoon, we tried again and this time managed about a mile and a half with just one short walk up a fairly steep gradient. This was an excellent effort and my daughter even managed to do a couple of short sprints up the long hill to our house to finish off with. Roll on next weekend!

Indoor track running

Last Friday, at the end of my "feeling knackered week", my new club organised a session at the indoor track at English Institute of Sport - Sheffield.

I went along out of curiosity more than anything else, but was keen to have a run round a track to compare it to road running.

There was a disappointing turn-out from the organisers point of view - only 6 people ran, although a few others turned up to watch or help out. However, it made it fun for those of us who did run as we weren't hanging about waiting for a chance to run.

The indoor track at EIS is a 200m loop (I assume that's standard for indoor tracks because of the size of stadium needed for anything much bigger), but the wierd thing is that it is banked on the bends at the ends - similar to a velodrome, but they tend to be banked slightly on the straights too, which this is not. What this means is that the outer lanes are actually quite steeply sloped around the bends, which is wierd to run on. An additional quirk is that because the straights are flat, there is actually a hill up to the bend and down onto the straight for those running in the outer lanes. I think this makes it more difficult, although I confess to not noticing it when racing - even in lane 6.

In the end, we did one race of each of 200m, 400m and 800m. I managed a respectable (I thought) 2nd, 3rd and 3rd (out of 5 each time), although I must confess that the guys behind me were a little older ;) My times were:

  1. 200m - 31.7s
  2. 400m - 1m 12s
  3. 800m - 2m 44s
Nothing world shattering about them, but at least now I have times for these distances (albeit indoors).

The indoor track environment is certainly radically different to road running - there's no wind and the track is much more cushioned than the road, yet not as soft as grass. The air in the arena is also much drier, making me a little wheezy afterwards. However, I enjoyed it a lot and it has encouraged me make an effort to attend outdoor speedwork sessions at a local track too.

One slight downside to the indoor run is that I had aches in all sorts of wierd places on my legs over the weekend. However, worst was that my hamstrings were very tight (even after stretching) so that put paid to any idea of a decent run on Sunday - which I was kinda thankful about anyway.

If you enjoy running, I'd heartily recommend you try an indoor track if you can - preferably with some fellow runners to test you - it is hard, but also rewarding too.

Oh so tired

Last week, I managed a mere 20 or so miles, after a record 42 miles the week before.

I started the week okay with a pyramind speedwork session at the gym:

2.5min @ 15kph + 30s recovery jog
2min @ 16kph + 1min recovery jog
1.5min @ 17kph + 1.5min recovery jog
1min @ 18kph + 2min recovery jog
1min @ 20kph + 2min recovery jog
Then go back down again (1min@18, 1.5min@17,...).

I actually really enjoyed this, although it was a little tiring. However, come Tuesday night, my tempo run was pretty much anything but that. I really struggled to get my legs going, and came back around a minute off my best pace. I was disappointed by this - not by the time, but by how tired I felt.

Wednesday was club run night, and despite my legs still feeling very tired, I ventured out - stupidly running the 4 miles to the leisure centre we meet up at (although that wasn't too bad). Fortunately there was a good turn-out, and the guys organising it split the runners into a group who wanted to do a fairly fast pace (sub 8min/mile, which I'd normally thrive at) and those who wanted a little more relaxed pace. Being almost completely shot, I opted for the latter - which I think ended up at around 9min/mile pace, and even then I struggled to keep it going for the 7 miles that we ran.

So, I gave myself Thursday and Friday off to recover, and also ended up not doing any significant running over the weekend either (but there was a slightly different reason for that).

I think I'm now fully recovered, but can't work out why my body was so tired last week, unless I'd picked up some sort of virus. I don't attribute it to 42 miles the week before as I was still feeling fine on Monday for the speedwork. Anyway, it's all in the past now and this week has had a good start, although I doubt I will take it much over 35 miles.

Thursday Feb 23, 2006

Sun to acquire Aduva

Yesterday, Sun announced its intent to acquire Aduva.

I've been fortunate enough to have been able to take a close look at Aduva's product offerings and can safely say that their technology is very exciting and offers Sun's customers the prospect of significant gains in managing software packages and patches deployed on their networks - both for Solaris and Linux.

If you are a System Administrator (Solaris or Linux), you'll know the nightmare that is managing software dependencies for both application packages and patches or maintenance releases: your user wants package X installed, so what else do you need to make this both functional and up-to-date as far as patching is concerned ?

Well, Aduva's technology takes care of all of that for you. You tell it that you want the system to have package X installed, and the On-Stage software takes care of figuring out what works with that package, what doesn't, and what (if any) patches you might need to also install. All within seconds! No more trial-and-error. No more searching Linux/Sun patch sites for required patches and then finding that they have dependencies on other patches. It's all done for you - even the installation!!

This is quite the coolest technology I've come across in a long time, so if you're a Sys Admin or IT Manager, I suggest you have a read through the On-Stage literature and see how it could help improve the management of your systems.

P.S. I can't tell you anything about how this technology will fit into Sun's offerings until after the deal is closed, so please don't ask me. Just watch this space!

Wednesday Feb 22, 2006

42 miles last week

I think that might be a record, although I got close on a week off during the summer.

I had a week off the previous week due to a combination of different factors, not the least of which was a streaming cold. However, after a good rest, I was ready to go, and had a great week of running.

I've decided that my mid-week club run will be the long run of the week. This takes the pressure of the weekend and also means that I'm a bit fresher for the speedwork at the gym on Monday. Two long runs a week just aren't necessary as I'm not training for a full marathon, so just don't need that many miles.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, being a club member entitles me to a £2 discount on race entry fees, so I've made the most of that and entered two races so far. The first is a local 10K, which is run over a route we regularly use on Wednesday night club runs. It's a little hilly, but nothing too severe, and judging by last year's times, I should be the second or third club member to finish, which will be a positive start to membership. The second race I've entered is the Bristol Half Marathon. It's not 'til mid-September, but fills up within a few weeks of applications starting to be taken, so I needed to get in early. More on this race nearer the time.

I have a few more races lined up to apply for, but am waiting a couple of weeks as they aren't until April/May and don't fill up quite so quickly. In fact, if I go ahead with these, I'll have three 10K races over 3 consecutive weekends in April, which will be entertaining!

A moment or two to be proud of

Since moving up to her new school, my daughter seems to have discovered sport.

Not only does she climb at the local climbing wall once a week, but she's progressing well in Tae Kwon Do - with her black-belt grading scheduled for October, and also playing hockey after school once a week.

One thing I didn't expect her to do, though, was take up running! In the late autumn, the school makes the kids take part in a couple of 1.5 mile cross-country sessions during scheduled sports lessons. My daughter was towards the back in the first run, but in the second run a week later, left her slow friend behind and came in around the middle of the girls group. However, she has decided that she'd like to be in the top 10 (at least) next time, so before Christmas, asked me if I'd go with her round the course to work on improving her time.

Fitting it in amongst all of the other activities we get up to with the kids has been a problem, but as the days are getting lighter, we had our first run together last Saturday afternoon.

I think I must have been the proudest Dad in the area during that half hour or so that we were out together - especially seeing the positive looks from people (pedestrians and runners) we passed on the way.

The run itself was a bit stop start, but my daughter is committed to improving her time, so we will be making it a regular event, and now she's even considering taking part in a 3K fun run later in the year, which I'll be more than happy to join her in! Long may it continue!!

My son has stated that he'd like to run, but there never seems to be a convenient time for him (perhaps because he's a tad lazy). However, I think his enthusiasm might improve now that he knows that his sister is going out regularly with me. Who knows, he might enter a fun run - or even a 10K - if I can get him out and enjoying it!

Tuesday Jan 31, 2006

Back with the training

Well, Christmas has come and gone and now it's time to prepare for racing in 2006.

I managed to get in some good runs over the Christmas break, giving me 28 and 33 miles respectively in the last week of 2005 and first week of 2006. Unfortunately, I then had to go away on business for a week, and only managed a very meagre 5 miles (although it was along the seafront!).

However, I'm back into the swing of things again now and have done 26 and 35 miles in the past two weeks respectively. Moreover, I've sorted out a routine which enables me to work on my speed (which has sadly dropped off since last spring) plus endurance. The current training regime is now:

  • Monday - rest
  • Tuesday - 5+mile short run with threshold run for last two miles
  • Wednesday - Long club run (12-16 miles)
  • Thursday - rest or recovery run
  • Friday - Speedwork on the treadmil at the gym, plus some weights for core strength
  • Saturday - Short run or long, easy run, depending on how I'm feeling
  • Sunday - Long, easy run (10+ miles) or short moderate run, depending on what I do Saturday

I've finally taken the step and sent of my application form to join my local club, who I've been running with now for a couple of months. They're a great bunch of people, of mixed abilities, and we do a good spread of faster and slower sections over 7-9 (hilly) miles. My £12 ($20) joining fee also gets me £2 off entry into races and free entry into a local 5-mile road-race series which takes place during the year. Of course, I'll probably need to get a club shirt now too, but a guy can't have too much running gear ;)

So far, I have not entered any races for this year, but the Sheffield 10K is in early April, and the Sheffield Half Marathon in May, so they're on my list once I've got my club membership. I'd also like to run a 5K and a few more 10K's early in the year this year, but we'll see how things go.

Thursday Jan 05, 2006

NetBeans 5.0 CVS integration rocks!

Once again recently, I've found myself struggling with the idosyncracies of NetBeans 4.1, so I downloaded the most recent stable build of NB 5.0.

It seemlessly copied over my prefs and open projects from the 4.1 installation and I was ready to go. Good so far!!

What I then did was opened up a project I had started in NB4.1 and which I'd closed before committing to our CVS repository. I was no less than amazed to find that NB 5.0 automatically read the CVS config files and even highlighted those files which were (already) changed between my copy and the repository. Top marks and looking rather good too!!

I added some new code, modified a few more files, then selected "CVS->Commit" from the project's context menu and it popped up a window showing which files were new, which were updated and gave me space to enter a commit comment - all in nice colours. This is just great!

Clicking on the Commit button sent off the changes and we're done. This is such a massive improvement over the earlier dev release of NB 5.0 I tried and is even better than Eclipse's CVS integration, which was good, but not this good!

I think there's still a way to go before NB's (built-in) refactoring is any where near as good as Eclipse, but at last the team are making enough progress to have me in the camp which will start up NB in preference to Eclipse for general project work, and believe me: that's progress!

Wednesday Jan 04, 2006

Bolsover 10K Race Report (better late than never)

I had rather a busy time in the lead-up to Christmas, so didn't get around to writing up a report on my last 10K of the year as quickly as I would have liked. Nevertheless, here it is.

When I first ran this race last year, it was a cold, dry winter's morning, with the temperature just above freezing on arrival in Bolsover at around 9:30am. This year was almost exactly the same, although it was a couple of degrees colder on arrival. However, the temperature picked up a lot more quickly than last year, so it wasn't so cold by start time at 10:30 and there was no ice on the road (unlike last year!!!).

This year, I positioned myself closer to the front for the start, although by the time everyone was packed in, I was well back from the start line, which was a bit of a disappointment. The race started okay though, and unlike last year, I didn't have to run up the ditch at the side of the road to get past the slow runners. Instead, I paced myself and gradually reeled the slower folks in where the road widened. Consequently, my first 1k was in 4:18 - somewhat off my intended 4:00/km pace, but I was happy not to have too fast a start as this has cost me in past races!

Once the field spread out as we headed out into the countryside, I was able to increase my pace and reel more people in. However, I just couldn't seem to get my km times down to 4:00, and by the 5km marker, I knew that a sub 40min 10K was off the cards, so I set out just to enjoy the race. I settled into a pace of around 4:08/km and plodded on through the more "hilly" section of the course (actually, just one hill and a long, long slope).

The last 500m of this race are the sting in the tail - up hill to the finish in the local school grounds. It's not a steep hill by any means, but at the end of a race, it's not really what you want to see. Last year, it almost finished me off as I'd not saved anything for it, but this year, my more even pacing meant that I had enough to finish without gasping for breath, although not quite enough to catch the small group of runners about 25yds in front of me, which was slightly disappointing.

Overall, I finished 75th out of 651, with a time of 41:30. It was way outside my hoped-for 40:00 and 50s off a personal best, but strangely enough not too disappointing as I actually enjoyed the race! I certainly should have been able to set a personal best time and perhaps even have broken the 40min barrier, but that will come - this year!

I'm not sure yet when my next race will be, but I've already started the preparation by increasing my mileage from the pitiful pre-Christmas efforts, with around 34 (road) miles last week and one run of 14+ miles already this week. I'll get back into the speedwork at the gym later in the week and try to do a tempo (fast) 5-miles on Thursday or Friday.

Monday Dec 12, 2005

6 days to go ...

... until my last race of the year.

I can't say that I've been training as much or as hard as I really would have liked, but this latter half of the year has not been the best for me in terms of personal motivation. That said, though, I've still managed around 25 miles a week and largely kept up with the speedwork since the Bristol Half Marathon at the beginning of October.

I've given up on the idea of any drastic tapering before a 10K race - it certainly didn't do me any real harm to train before Barnsley a few weeks ago, so I'll continue pretty much as normal with training this week, commencing with speedwork today at the gym. Tomorrow, I'll either do a 5-mile run or an hour of cross-training on the elliptical traininer, then it's the club run on Wedenesday (although most of the usual runners are having a Christmas meal that night, so it'll only be a handful of us). Thursday and Saturday are rest days, but I might squeeze in an easy session at the gym on Friday just to keep everything loose.

So, assuming all is well on Sunday, this will be my last chance of the year to exceed my target of 40 minutes for the 10K. Certainly after running 40:43 personal best on a hillier course at Barnsley, I think there's a good chance of me getting close or perhaps just under the target. However, a lot does depend on whether or not it's a windy day, as most of the course is through exposed open countryside. I'd love to beat 40 minutes, but I'll be happy if I can manage to set another personal best.

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