Sunday, 29 January 2012

Peeeee Beeeeeee!

One of my favourite races of the year today, the good old Lliswerry 8! 8 Miles of flat tarmac - always cold, always tough, always well organised. I did a personal best by over 2 minutes, - 52:58! Well chuffed with that, especially as I went off way too fast and was hanging on for dear life in the last mile. Well worth the £12 entry and things bode well for the years running ahead.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Bewildering artwork

As well as a love for the outdoors I have a liking for pencil art - I've shared a few of my own pieces earlier on this blog.

So I just had to post a link to an artist I found whilst browsing deviant art. A chap called Dirk Dzimirsky from Germany. His charcoal and graphite portraits are incredible. Photorealism is not for everyone, but I love it, perhaps because I'm fairly good at it. But this is another league. 

The work of Dirk Dzimirsky

I'm not sure if it's okay to link to my favourite piece of his work here, but hopefully it is as I'm only showcasing him. If not I will remove it if requested.

I cant quite fathom that this is done with charcoal! It's stunning. 

Monday, 16 January 2012

Twmbarlwm Trek

Twmbarlwm is a cracking little hill (my favourite in fact) that is right on my doorstep and offers easy access to some great walking and running. A friend of mine, Beggy, who works for Caerphilly council is organising a Twmbarlwm Trek on May 12th this year. Entry in advance is a paltry £4 and there are 3 routes of varying length to choose from. I hope to run the 23 miler as a training run with a few mates.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Grwyne Fawr..or is it Grywne Fawr?!

I love it when you plan a walk and the weather just happens to play ball on the day. Today was one of those occasions. Cold, crisp, clear. Perfect for a 9 mile loop around the Grwyne Fawr Valley, deep in the Black Mountains.

Jasper, Chopper and I did the usual early start (Chopper was even ready on time when I pulled up at his place?!) and we were parked in the layby in the Grwyne Fawr Valley by 8am. Easily confused, Jasper was dressed for ballet lessons and I had my concerns that he might be a bit cold in the conditions, but he assured me he would be fine. I gave him my spare insulated jacket as soon as we got out of the car!

First stop, the old Grwyne Fawr Reservoir dam. Years ago I'd abseiled from this dam a few times with a friend. He actually went down naked, but that's a different story. There were never any signs telling you it was prohibited back then - there are now. That's abseiling down the dam in general that's banned, and not specifically abseiling down naked! No ropes today so no abseiling.

The water was like a millpond and the sky was clear.

It was only 9am and felt great being out in the fresh air rather than being slouched on a sofa or still in bed.
Next destination was the Grywne Fawr Bothy at the Northern end of the reservoir. I wanted to see if it was in better shape inside than it was a few years back when it looked like some w*nkers had trashed the place.

As we approached we saw smoke coming from the chimney.

When I knocked the door it opened to reveal 3 lads from somewhere over the bridge (judging by the accents) cooking 8 rashers of bacon on a small gas stove. Jealousy overcame us! All we had were malt loaves and macaroons, plus a few cereal bars. The Bothy did look pretty tidy inside which is nice to see. I opted not to ask if I could take a picture of them cooking brekky!

We headed up to the top of the valley to pick up the path up and over Waun Fach and Pen Y Gadair Fawr. At the head of the valley we were greeted by a fairly impressive inversion hanging over Talgarth and the surrounding countryside! Although I managed to take some fairly unimpressive shots of it.

The wind picked up as we headed up onto Waun Fach past the Dragons Back. What an impressive looking ridge this is from certain angles, with an equally impressive name. I must remember to walk it sometime this year from Pengenfford.

The main advantage of the subzero temps up on Waun Fach's 800m summit plateau, is the frozen ground. It means that the usually boggy chocolate cake underfoot, is like a nice crispy cereal bar, and your feet don't get wet! It was cold though, and the wind had picked up a lot. Macaroon and Malt Loaf time (main reason for bringing Chopper on these walks). The Summit Team shot was a disaster! :( I checked the test shot I did from atop my rucksack, but it must have sagged slightly when I pushed the auto-timer button for the team shot. My ugly mug was then chopped off just like poor old Louis 14th, or one of those other handlebar moustached French monarchs. Not a bad thing I suppose. I guess it pays to be short at times, eh Chops?

A trundle over to Pen Y Gadair Fawr next. Blah  blah always looks higher than Waun Fach blah etc.

Then it was a mile or so downhill alongside the forestry back to the valley and the carpark. 9 miles in under 4 hours was satisfying, especially as Mr Japanese tourist (moi) slows us down by taking a photo, on average, every 8 metres.

Really enjoyable morning's walk, even if some of my friend's oudoor fashion sense leaves something to be desired.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Saturdays Plans

Off to the Black Mountains this Saturday for a 9 mile loop from the Grwyne Fawr Valley up onto Waun Fach and Pen Y Gadair Fawr. Gaiters at the ready! I love this quiet part of the Eastern Beacons as I did quite a lot of walking there when I was in my late teens and early twenties with, the now defunct, Newport Mountaineering Club (good memories). The forecast is quite good, with possible lingering valley fog which may mean we get an inversion to drool over. The Grwyne Fawr Reservoir dam is pretty impressive - I recall Princes William and Harry abseiling from it many years ago with their bodyguards and making the front page of some tabloid. I also recall a good friend of mine abseiling naked from it around the same period. Why? Because he could I guess! I want to pop into the Bothy as well to see if it's in a better state than my last visit a couple of years back.

Reports and pics to follow.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Tired Tyres

This afternoon was meant to be spent at Kenfig Dunes nature reserve on the Glamorgan coast with my sis and bro-in-law and their dogs. But a puncture on the M4 enroute put paid to that. The AA came and changed it (yes I can change a puncture but I wouldn't risk it on the side of a motorway, especially when it's just my little 4 year old lad and I) and then pointed out the state of the punctured and opposite front tyres. The inside edges were worn right through to the metal. I had no idea and was shocked at how dangerous they were. I even avoided a fine when the Traffic Officers stopped behind us on the hard shoulder. They were very helpful indeed and didn't even bother looking at the punctured tyre. If they had, I could have been fined up to £1000 apparently. Mores the point, it could have caused a nasty accident.

A quick trip to KwikFit and a back up plan of Roath Park solved the issue. I won't forget to check my tyres more regularly in future and I'll make sure I get them changed as soon as needed. So, Kenfig Dunes will have to wait until another day...

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Salomon Speedcross 2 GTX

I broke 31 miles for the week this morning with a great leisurely run over the Scenic Drive from Henllys with Jasper. As I parked up at the Dorallt Pub at 7am, I had a real 'I wanna be back in frigging bed' feeling. But we of course cracked on and got up onto the ridge by 7:30 with great views over the streetlit towns below. It was only just getting light as we passed across the summit of Twmbarlwm. Next time I hope to take a compact camera.

Both of us had Salomon Speedcross 2 Gtx trail shoes on. Mine in a stupid light green colour (only colour on offer when I plucked them from an online bargain site) and Jasper in his usual gothic-themed black model. For the conditions we had this morning, I found this shoe pretty ideal. It has enough grip on wet grass and mud to avoid any serious slippage - The 'Man Down' cry was only uttered once by Jasper on the whole run! They also kept my feet dry for a full 2 hours in very wet conditions. The only time they seem less than ideal is when we hit a section of tarmac for a while. They just feel a little too cushioned on hard surfaces. That's such a minor criticism though, and on the whole I love them. Jasper has not got on with his pair as much, but seemed to cope fine today. To show how leisurely the run actually was, we did 8.4 miles in 2 hours and 29 seconds! I hope to at least halve that pace in the Lliswerry 8 in 3 weeks. But what a great way to start a Saturday.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Mileage Log Success

I managed to suss out the automatic mileage log thing myself using the website runningAHEAD. 17 miles and counting....

Ultra Plans

With my fellow Batrunners, we plan to train for and enter the Brecon Beacons Ultra in November. This is a 45 mile race across some beautiful, but gruelling scenery, in South Wales' rugged National Park. With this lunacy in mind, I am going to keep a log of my training mileage here on the blog. This will hopefully give me inspiration, incentive and a sense of achievement, as well as giving the blog more use. I've added it manually for now to the top right, but I'm hoping to be able to use a gadget that automatically updates from a third party site! Midlife Crisis anyone....?

Wish me luck!