Archive for May, 2018

Skipton Parkrun

Thursday, May 17th, 2018 | Sport

I was heading over to Ilkley for a sportive last Saturday but I didn’t want to miss Parkrun. The solution? Find the closest one. The answer turned out to be Skipton Parkrun.

It takes place at Aire Valley Park, which is the same place that hosts Skipton Triathlon. It’s a great venue because the parking is reasonable (50p for one hour) and you can use the leisure centre toilets.

I tried to pace myself for a hard weekend of racing, so I aimed for around 25 minutes. I brought it home in:

24:56

So, I think we can call that a success. One lass was about to get married, so did the run in a wedding dress. Presumably not her actual dress. But she still managed to out-run most of us, including me.

It’s a four-lap course. I did get lapped but only by the front group of two or three. Afterwards, there was free cake. So, all in all, a pretty good run.

How many tags do you need?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 | Sport

If you’re sick of hearing about the Tour de Yorkshire by this point, don’t worry, this is my last post on the subject. Whenever you do a sportive, the organisers give you some tags to put on you or your bike. But, in the case of TdY, it seems they need to go everywhere.

Here is the first one. It goes on the front of your helmet.

Here is the second one. This one is a timing chip that goes on the side of your helmet.

Number three, this one goes on the front of your bike.

Number four, this one goes on the back of your bike. It is not very well designed as it is almost impossible to fit a saddle bag, reflector and tag on your seat post.

And finally, the race number that goes on the back of your jersey.

Surely there must be a simpler way to do this? It took me nearly five hours to complete the sportive and about the same amount of time to get all of the tags off.

Facebook ad fails #3

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018 | Business & Marketing

This week, I’m looking at a classic mistake people make when targetting their ads: not targetting it at the correct level of customer. To do it, I’m using this ad that popped up in my newsfeed.

Here’s what I don’t like about it: I have no idea what a “mumbler” is.

At first, I thought it was some kind of speech impediment group. I’ve got a lot of friends who have come through the McGuire Programme, which helps with stammers, so I assumed it was something similar at first glance.

But then it mentions babies, so I’m wondering whether it’s a mum’s group.

None of what they are doing makes any sense.

First, why am I seeing this? They could set the targeting to be people who have interacted with their page or visited their website, in which case it makes sense to go straight into your sales copy without explaining what your group is.

Or, if it’s a general ad, they need to explain what it is. Think of Eugene Schwartz’s levels of awareness. They need to tell me what their group is.

If it is a mums group, why am I seeing it? I’m a dad. They can set gender targetting on the ad to just include mums, or they could have a separate version of the ad, targetted at men, which makes it clear that dads are welcome too.

Conclusion

I’ve written before about how community groups should not use Facebook ads. Do it if you know what you’re doing. But you probably don’t know how to write copy or set the targeting, so you’re probably wasting your money. This ad is a good example of that.

If you do want to use Facebook ads, then make sure you know how to target your ads appropriately and come up with relevant ads for each audience segment.

Tour de Yorkshire sunburn

Monday, May 14th, 2018 | Life

It was a roasting hot day for the Tour de Yorkshire so I was worried about sunburn. Of course, being a computer programmer and being from Yorkshire, I’m worried about sunburn pretty much all of the time.

I started with some factor 50 and then re-applied a special factor 30 “sport” edition at each feed station. The sport edition is more resistant to sweat than normal suncream. It feels more like you’re spreading an ointment than some cream.

For the most part, it worked. The only problem was there was a slight gap between where my suncream came up to and where my cycling shorts came down to.

I’m not sure if I didn’t cream high enough or whether my shorts rode up a little bit during the ride. But, either way, I’ve got these little strips of sunburn that have been hanging around on my legs all week.

Still, at least it was nowhere near as bad as Iceland.

Tour de Yorkshire 2018 pro finish

Sunday, May 13th, 2018 | Photos, Sport

After finishing the sportive, we went down to watch the pro men’s race finish.

The first man through was St├ęphane Rossetto who went on to take the stage win. This was on Burley Road, a few hundred metres from the finish. The chasing pack weren’t too far behind.

Tour de Yorkshire scenery

Saturday, May 12th, 2018 | Photos

Taken during the Tour de Yorkshire sportive. I think this is Thruscross Reservoir. There are definitely worse places to be cycling.

Tour de Yorkshire

Friday, May 11th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I completed the Tour de Yorkshire sportive. The medium route, 84km (90km once I had ridden door-to-door) was not only the longest ride I had ever done, by some 10km, but also included a fierce 1,200 metres of climbing.

It started up at Woodhouse Moor, where they had a small event village and meeting point. Due to the number of people that took part, there was a long queue to get started. It took about 30 minutes from joining the back of it to getting on the road.

Once at the front, we were off. The route took us along Meanwood Road up and up to the ring road, where we crossed and headed up towards Eccup and then on towards Harrogate. We climbed through North Rigton and the rolling road towards Beckwithshaw where the first feed station was located.

It was a pretty crap feed station. There was around a 40-minute queue for water, and the food available consisted of crips, bananas and Jaffa cakes. Certainly not up to the standard of other sportives.

Back on the road, we turned west on Penny Pot Lane and then north again to Menwith Hill before starting the journey homeward via Blubberhouses. The scenery up there is spectacular. Once you get on top of the moors, you can see for miles.

The hills

The road between Blubberhouses and Otley is a hilly one. By this point, the long route had re-joined us and so the road was filled with medium and long route people. Even though these were all cyclists that had chosen a harder option than the short route, people began struggling. Many people got off and pushed their bike up Snowden Bank.

I miscalculated the road we were coming out of Otley on. For some reason, I had gotten it into my head that we were taking the main road. It had Tour de Yorkshire signs all over it, after all. But we didn’t. We went straight out of the back of Otley and up Chevin Bank. 1750 metres at an average gradient of 9.4%. It just kept coming.

And, after all of that, we then went straight back down the hill to Pool in Wharfedale where the second feed stop was located. This one was better, with sausage rolls, pork pies and jelly babies. And, more importantly, reasonable access to water.

The final stretch included another tough climb: Black Hill Road into Arthington. This one was only 1500 metres at an average gradient of 7.2%. But that is deceptive because it starts off shallow and them ramps up the higher you go. The 90-degree bend half way up is rated at an eye-watering 19%. This was probably the hardest climb of the day, although I suspect that was because I already had Chevin Bank in my legs.

The finish

Finishing on The Headrow was amazing. I had enough in my legs to open up my sprint. Maybe I should have savoured the moment, but it felt great to pretend to be a pro racing for the line. Unlike the big runs in Leeds, there weren’t that many people finishing. So, when I raised my arm in victory and everyone cheered, there was a cause and effect thing going on. Thank you to everyone who cheered us home!

Results

My official time clocked in at:

4:42:54

That’s nearly 12 hours ahead of the so-called winner Greg Van Avermaet. Some would argue that doing the medium route of a one-day sportive is a lot easier than the four days of substantially longer routes that the pros did. But he had teammates and a peloton to protect him, I did it all on my own.

My average moving speed was 19.5 kph, although that is door-to-door, not just the sportive. It’s pretty slow compared to the 23.4 kph I managed in York-Leeds-York (and any objective measure), but it was very hilly.

Conclusion

I think the Tour de Yorkshire is my favourite sportive so far. In part, its a number game. They claimed to have 5,000 riders taking part. It certainly was busy and it’s nice to ride with other people. A common problem with sportives is that, even if you have 500 people, when you spread them out over 100km, there are not many of them around. It gets lonley. Here there was none of that. The feed stations were poor, but the finish was excellent. And the scenery was beautiful.

Parkrun #153

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 | Sport

The weather has warmed up. Why did I ask for this again? I hate the warmth. This was a terrible idea.

Fresh from Middleton Woods Parkrun last week, I was determined to run a fast one this week. And luck was on my side. The first Saturday of the month is a pacer month. This month included only three pacers but one of them was perfect for me: the 23-minute man.

In April, I took a minute and a half off my PB but even then, I knew I could go faster. So, I set out following the pacer to see how long I could hold on for.

It turns out the answer was about 2.5 km. Halfway through the second lap, I started to lose touch with him as my legs just wouldn’t keep up the speed. I slowly slipped behind, maybe 5-10 seconds over the next lap. This doesn’t sound like a huge gap now, but it felt like one at the time. I knew if I could just keep him in sight by the 4km mark, I stood a chance.

Once we hit that point I got a second wind and slowly started reeling him in down the back straight. It took the top of the park, too, but as we rounded the final corner onto the finish straight I went around him on the outside.

No sprint finish, just a desperate battle to keep the pace and stay ahead of him. I doubled-over just after the finish line and the volunteers had to shepherd me along to get me out of the way of other runners. But I had done enough.

My new PB was:

22:39

This time, I don’t think I can run any faster. I’ve set a Parkrun PB that reflects the best performance I can give right now. I’m pleased with it. It gives me an age grading of 57%, which still leaves me 3% adrift of my Dad’s best effort.

Here’s an updated graph:

I only remembered to take the obligatory selfie after I had set off running home, hence why it looks so bad.

Everyone is terribly confused by the BBC’s election reporting

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 | Religion & Politics

Historically, I’ve defended the reporting of BBC News. Both the left and right claim it is biased in the other camp’s favour and their claims often seem unequally unfounded. Recently, however, it has become more difficult to ignore their right-wing bias.

It’s not just their tedious reporting of “royal affairs” as if that is something legitimately interesting, it’s that actual research has found a systematic bias against Jeremy Corbyn.

What about their 2018 local election results reporting?

Labour gained 77 councillors and the Liberal Democrats gained 75. The Conservatives lost 33 councillors, despite UKIP unloading 123 of them, which you would expect the Tories to sweet up a few of. That puts Labour on 2,350 and the Tories on 1,332. And the BBC describes it as “no clear party winner”.

Is this fair?

Yes and no. At first glance, it looks bad. Labour has made gains and the Conservatives have taken losses. So, it seems unfair to suggest that Labour did not win.

However, in terms of the shift, it’s not a very big one. An additional 77 councillors are not that many when you already have 2,288 of them. It’s only a 3% increase. And they didn’t gain control of any councils.

When you look at the percentage increases, the only people who can be said to have had a good day are the Liberal Democrats, who increased their councillors by 14% and took control of four councils.

So, when looking at the shift in power, there was no clear winner between Labour and the Tories.

What about the popular vote?

There is one argument still to be made in favour of a bias against Labour. And that is that they did make significant gains in the popular vote. Labour moved up eight percentage points while the Conservatives are down three.

That is the biggest swing for Labour since Jeremy Corbyn took office. You have to go back to 2013 when Ed Milliband lost all of the votes to find a bigger swing. Until this point, Labour hasn’t enjoyed great results at local elections, but it is unfair to blame that on Corbyn given the amount of in-fighting that has been going on.

Of course, in our current electoral system, the popular vote is worth nothing. Nobody understands that better than Donald Trump.

Conclusion

In this case, the BBC’s reporting isn’t as biased as it may look at first glance.

Creamy sweet potato soup

Monday, May 7th, 2018 | Food

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with soups a little. Nothing too exciting, but I have decided that rather than working from recipes, I’m just going to throw stuff into a pan and see if I can do it off-script. This recipe worked out well, so I thought I would share.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Carrot
  • Fennel
  • Garlic clove
  • 1 tsp crushed chillis
  • Sweet potato
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 100g sweetcorn
  • 300ml double cream
  • Flat-leaf parsley
  • Chicken breasts

Instructions

Cook the chicken breasts in the oven according to packet instructions: usually around 30-35 minutes at 180-200 degrees C will do it. Put some bowls in a plate warmer.

Meanwhile, heat a large pan with some vegetable oil it in. Finely slice the carrot, fennel and garlic and combine it with the crushed chillis. Season with salt and pepper and cook it for a few minutes.

Peel and dice the sweet potato into any size chunks you like. Throw this in and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Add the chicken stock and sweetcorn and bring to a boil. Leave to simmer until the chicken is two minutes away from done.

When the chicken is almost ready, take a stick blender to the pan and destroy everything until there are no lumps. Add the double cream and stir to heat through. You can take the pan off the heat.

Take the chicken out of the oven and slice. Fill your bowls with some soup, then dump the sliced chicken in the middle. Chop some parsley and sprinkle that around the edges.