Friday, 24 August 2012


So no talk of running this post, but just a relating of my (second) yearly Edinburgh Fringe trip. I had good intentions and took along my running gear - however I found that I'd neglected to pack my trainers, probably one of the more vital parts of kit, and I wasn't running anywhere dap-less. So I came to the necessary conclusion that lots of walking was good enough to suffice. Snort.

Just over 3 days of heady Edinburgh glory - starting each day with a spring in my step, optimism in my heart and skipping down to Grassmarket.... ending each day trudging up the hill towards Haymarket, weighed down by flyers and trying to figure out how I felt about serious things like suicide and lyrical poets.

The thing that I (along with almost everyone else) love about the Fringe is the complete departure from the normal things I would choose to go and see. Sure, the comedy brings me in, but it's all the theatre and dancing and that that I stay for. Along with the good company. And the comedy.

The only downside of the trip was the travel through Cardiff "International" Airport, which was yet again another exercise in frustration and misery. More about that in the next post, no doubt!

This year I saw a broader and more numerous selection of shows than last year, but I can definitely do better with more advance planning. Edinburgh 2013 will be EVEN MORE jam-packed and emotionally confused than 2012. The selection of shows I saw this year were:

The Booking Dance Festival Split Bill - consisting of the Hammerstep Dance Company performing some pretty impressive tap/Irish dancing/street dance fusion complete with beatboxing, and The Dallas Black Dance Theatre, with a piece inspired by a poem about painting black angels (as opposed to white ones), and a really beautiful ballet portraying some important moments of the wonderful Nina Simone's life, set to her music, and brilliantly narrated (I assume from her autobiography). This was just stupendous and gave me a glimpse of what an amazing life she led - I walked away thinking that I'd better that autobiography to my to-read pile before I forget about it.

I then when to meet my lovely host Sally to go to Caesarean Section - Essays on Suicide which was very absorbing - some amazing singing - I call it singing but it was more like emoting through vocalisation - quite primaeval at some points. It was really amazing, but I have to say, I wasn't really sure what was going on a lot of the time. There were three cast members actually moving around (as opposed to singing, playing instruments and percussing the whole affair) and I was constantly confused as to which one was trying to commit suicide and in which context the other two related to them. I think this is largely due to the I'm basically used to a very straightforward narrative, like in films, and am not particularly adept at following stories when there isn't that same kind of linear progression. I did massively enjoy it, however!

Following that, after a watching a triptych of ultra-slow-motion film clips of (mostly naked) people doing various things, which was really hypnotising, we gatecrashed a lovely wine reception where most of the people were really friendly, the wine was deeeeeeeeeeelicious and the view if Edinburgh was spectacular. Then we walked home and got proper chips on the way. Nom.

Sunday morning and my first port of call was Tony Law's Maximum Nonsense. As per, @mrtonylaw didn't fail to impress. The show culminated in a lovely song sung by various elephants, as we, the adoring, flag-waving crowd, were surrounded by spinning elephants fashioned out of neon-coloured plasticine. I can't say too much about Mr Tony Law. I envy his "twin 3-yr-old obnoxious troll" children that they get to grow up with a dad that probably, probably, might be as good as mine. If he tours, I might just go and see this show again. Brilliant.

Sunday evening, after a lovely Japanese meal at Bonsai I went to see Jayde Adams is Master of None which was a delightfully bonkers show which deserved a much bigger audience than it got on that night. Jayde used to manage my local quirky cocktail bar before heading off to London to make her name as a comedian. She was always really funny when I spoke to her so I thought I'd check out what she was like on stage. I was a little trepidatious but she was brilliant. The show was a discombobulated train ride through balloon modelling, malicious childhood nativity re-enactment, and videos - I think my favourite bit may have been the manically-fast interpretation of a massive bunch of music videos. She runs a comedy night in Shoreditch called The Painted Grin - should be pretty hila-ma-larious if her show is anything to go by.

Monday morning (ish) saw me head to a hip-hop hip-hop imagining of Shakespeare's Othello which was wonderfully interpreted through the use of lyrical poetry (I am using this as a fancy way to say: rap). All the highs and emotional bits and the miserable inevitability of a Shakespeare play, but pretty different than the last time I went through it (a bunch of bored/embarrassed 15 year olds reading it out in a South London comprehensive).

I tried to see the Oxford Imps improvisation show but unfortunately I didn't realise that Othello was 75 minutes long and they wouldn't let me in because I was late. I was a bit miffed - I could understand if it was a big intense play, but - improvisation? Hmmm.

After than was Nick Helm's This Means War, to which I went with a hastily arranged date (with the lovely Lloyd) since apparently this is a show you cannot go to alone. It was bloody hilarious, especially considering I was there are a 5 minute clip from Russell Howard's TV show. Which I have re-watched too many times to admit to here. My favourite bit of THIS show was when he had a break down in the middle of the floor and started crying to the audience member that he had pulled up and made to peel potatoes. AAAahahahahaha crying! It's funny!

Also that evening I spent a bit of time watching "graduates" from a comedy school - they had about 10 minutes each and there were some very funny people in there, so eyes out for them in the future, so I can yell obnoxiously "I SAW THEM WHEN THEY WERE REALLY NEW AND YOUNG AND TERRIBLY NERVOUS!". I had to leave halfway through, sadly, as I had to get over to The Caves on Grassmarket to watch the brilliantly dry Henning Wehn - in his own words, the most successful comedian, because either he makes people laugh, or he confirms a national stereotype. I like him because he asked my which Olympic events I went to and then blamed me for the ticket shortage, then everyone laughed at me which totes makes me populair.

The next morning was my last day, so I headed to the box office and picked up a bit of a lucky dip of tickets - I went to see Ride of the Bluebottles which was a really enjoyable and mostly funny play about a terrible band, Peter Panic which was a mildly dystopian and warped imagining of what would happen if Peter Pan came back and Wendy was an adult and married to the Prime Minister in a version of the UK that was being ripped apart by rioting. I can say that this was the weirdest thing I went along to watch, and I think most of the audience felt the same. There was a lot of confusion to be heard walking out of that theatre. But my favourite show of the last day was Sad Faces Remember It Differently, which was possibly my favourite show of the lot. Effing brilliant - a great premise, four very gifted comic actors, brilliant scripting wit the cracked like the lovechild of brittle toffee and lightning. Fantastic, and hopefully they will be back on Radio 4 Extra sometime soon - I CAN'T WAIT!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Garmin Forerunner 410

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I decided to get myself a lovely GPS running watch in order to make recording my running easier (My love of spreadsheets knows no bounds), and hopefully be an important motivator in getting me out and running when I really didn't feel like it.

I managed to find a really good deal on the Garmin Forerunner 410, which had some great reviews, the majority of which seemed to be most excited about the fact that the bezel on the 410 was much better than that on the 405CX. Since this is my first running watch, I really don't have anything to compare it to, but sure enough, the bezel works very well. No complaints about the bezel here!

The main display is easily customisable - I like to have the basic three: distance, time and heart rate. There are apparently 30 different metrics you can choose to display, but I really only rely on these 3. They can be jigged around too - at the moment I have the time as the largest in the main display, but I may change this as I find it pretty distracting. I keep trying to work out my pace whilst running. This is all the more pointless, as this is a built-in function -Virtual Partner - that allows you to check your run against an imaginary friend running at a pre-set pace, who smugly informs you of how far in distance and time you are behind them. This is a great motivator for putting in that little bit extra at the end of the run to improve your overall run pace.

GPS Accuracy
The product description revels in how quickly it finds GPS signals, but actually I've had some problems with this. I have to stand outside my door for a minute or so before my position is pinpointed to within 10 or 15 metres. For a few runs, I didn't bother waiting - unfortunately this resulted in fairly considerable inaccuracies in run distance. Before I got the watch, I was running the same routes over and and over, and I had mapped them out of the brilliant Map My Run, using satellite imagery - when uploading,the route onto a map, parts sometimes bears little relation to what I think I've run, and the start point is a fair distance from my house. This resulted in the same runs coming out at 100+metres shorter - maybe not a considerable difference, but the marginal gains in my pace are easily wiped out by such errors, and I rely on marginal gains to keep me motivated!

Another possible reason for errors is the auto-pause function. This is really useful when you stop at roads (or to clean up after your dog), but there is a short interlude between you starting up again and the timer starting up - I'm not sure how the software deals with these gaps in the route, so this might be where some errors creep in.

The watch isn't waterproof, but it is shower-proof. It proved its mettle in this regard a few weeks ago, when, having no other option, I headed out in the pouring rain (on the morning of my birthday barbecue, after being assured that Paula Radcliffe doesn't say "Oh, it's raining. Sod that!"). I was soaked to the skin before I ever started running, and the watch was absolutely fine - so I can definitely vouch for this claim!

Calorie Calcualtion
Also included is calorie calculation - this is done one of three ways: the most basic is a simple weight/distance/elevation/speed calculation. The second one - the option that I use - utilises the heart rate monitor, using your heart-rate for a slightly more complicated (and presumably more accurate) calculation. If you're really keen, you can go to one of a specific few centres where they calculate your VOx and metabolism, according to whichever set of criteria they deem the best, and your watch then uses this information along with your heart rate to give you an ostensibly more accurate again figure. I'm not really interested in calories (once I start running regularly, I tend to find I don't eat much more & over compensate) so I use the middle option, since I'm interested in my heart rate anyway.

Wireless Data Transfer & Software
Data transfer is the easiest thing in the world - after going through the fuss of finding the necessary driver and linking them up the first time, all subsequent watch-computer-internet communication happens without any intervention on behalf of the user. Users need to sign up to Garmin's online service, which allows each route to be uploaded to an online database which will give you all the information you require. So far, I have not been able to find any way to store the results except online, which is a bit annoying. I did download the recommended software for Garmin, but it quickly became apparent that to get anything useful from it, I'd actually have to buy a copy. I may do this if, at some point in the future I feel I need analysis more extensive that that offered by Garmin & MMR.

Effect on my running
I'd definitely say that having the watch has improved my running - perhaps not quite as much as I had expected, but there have been times when I may not have run 40 minutes required by my schedule, as my apathy would not have overcome figuring out a route on MMR, and making sure to run it - with the watch, I just slap it on and head out. Yesterday was the first time this didn't work to plan, as I'd neglected to charge it, and so just had to follow a pre-determined route and roughly keep track of my time.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the Forerunner 410 - slightly lacking in accuracy, perhaps, but it looks lovely, works well most of the time, and is small enough that it's easy to forget it's there once it's on. It makes keeping track of progress really easy, and offers tonnes of added extras if you're really into your data analysis. I'm looking forward to using the navigation function and possibly starting to use other metrics, as well as trialling use on my bike as well. Excellent!