Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Bingley Five Rise Locks

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 | Sport

If you know what a canal lock is, you can probably work out what Bingley Five Rise is.

It’s quite a climb on a bike. I’m not pretending that it’s long, or it’s anything like what the professional racers are tackling on grand tours (for kilometres at a time). But, compared to the rest of the canal, the 18 metres of climbing is a lot. Wikipedia pegs it at 20%.

Indeed, having done around Eccup and the airport, I would say it’s as short, steep and nasty as anything that Leeds has to offer.

I haven’t been beaten by a climb yet, though, and this one was no exception. A bit of first gear and some riding out of the saddle and bingo, you’re at the top.

Except you’re not at the top. Because, when you get to the top, you run into a gate. Still on the hill, so you can’t just comfortably put your foot down and wheel yourself through. You’re still on the climb, trying to navigate this stupid wooden fence.

And yet, if I were to take a chainsaw to that wooden fence, in the eyes of so-called British justice, I would be the one in the wrong.

Gendered cycling helmets

Sunday, November 12th, 2017 | Sport

Recently, Elina and I bought cycling helmets. You may think that they would just be one design for everyone. After all, men and women have basically the same head. Sure, men have larger heads, on average, but that isn’t a reason to gender them: just make them in a variety of sizes.

But that isn’t how it works. Men, who presumably spend more money on such gear, get a range of sizes. And features. Mine, for example, has MIPS. This is the latest safety standard to protect my head in the event of a crash.

Sounds good.

Elina on the other hand, bought a woman’s helmet. Here is what hers has:

Yep, it has a little hole where you can put your hair through. It’s not even special. I can do that with my helmet.

This is how the 49ers can make the playoffs

Thursday, November 9th, 2017 | Sport

At 0-9 this year, some would say that things are looking pretty bad for the San Francisco 49ers.

But all hope is not lost. Indeed, there is still a chance we can make the playoffs. Here is how:

  1. The 49ers win all of their remaining games, taking them to 7-9. Not a likely result for playoffs, but possible. I think it was always Kyle Shanahan’s plan to build dramatic tension before going on a winning streak, anyway.
  2. The LA Rams, currently at 6-3, go on to lose all of their remaining games. This takes them to 6-10.
  3. The Seattle Seahawks, currently at 5-3, go on to lose all of their remaining games except for one (they have to beat the Rams). That takes them to 6-10, too.
  4. The Arizona Cardinals, currently 4-4, go on to lose all of their remaining games except for two (they have to beat the Rams and the Seahawks), which also takes them to 6-10.

Thus the division ends with San Francisco on top with 7-9, and everyone else below at 6-10.

It’s a fair bit to ask, I’ll admit. First, we need to win all seven games. Then there are another 16 games were not involved in that need to go exactly our way. Which is every other game that everyone else in the division is involved in with no margin for error.

Abbey Dash 2017

Monday, November 6th, 2017 | Sport

November means the Abbey Dash. Last year I set my personal best over 10k, 56:45, which bested my previous PB of the awesome time of 59:59 set at the Leeds 10k.

This year I had a support time, as Elina and Venla came down to the starting pen. Much welcomed given how cold it was as I could keep my hoodie on until the final 10 minutes before the race.

This year seemed bigger than ever. The announcer said 11,000, though whether that many actually showed up I’m not sure.

My target time was 54 minutes, nearly three minutes ahead of my personal best. It was carefully calculated from the Run Less, Run Faster conversation tables which told me that if I could run a 54-minute 10k, I could do a sub-2 hour half marathon.

However, training has been going really well recently, including taking my Parkrun PB down to 24:37, so I decided to set off fast and slow down when my chest felt like it was going to explode.

As it happens, I managed to avoid this and bring it home in:


Very chuffed. Well ahead of my target. I had done a sub-50 training run, but it’s always harder on race day because you can never take the perfect like, so you always end up running an additional 100-200 metres with all of the dodging around people and taking corners wide.

I came on to the finishing straight, and Strava told me I had hit 10k with 49:11, giving me 49 seconds to sprint to the actual finish.

Does this mean I can run a sub-2 hour half marathon? Hopefully! It’s not as straightforward as it might seem. The Abbey Dash is very flat while the Leeds Half is almost entirely set on hills. Second, the weather is often very warm in May. But that is certainly the target.

The conversation tables also suggest I can run a sub-4 hour marathon. But I doubt that would be true!

A big shout out to Jane for whom this was her first 10k race. And it was great to grab a beer with Rob, Dr Chris and Elina after the race.

Parkrun 131

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 | Sport

Last Saturday I completed my 131st Parkrun. I was feeling good so was determined to make it a PB (personal best) day. Of course, intentions don’t always match up to how you feel on the morning.

As it happens, the wind as with me. Not literally, there was a headwind on the back straight. But I pushed, and having only set my current PB back in August, managed to set a lower one of:


I’m pretty pleased with that, especially with the Abbey Dash looming large. Here is an updated graph of my Parkrun history:

You’ll notice that with the trend line, I should be world champion sometime next week. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.

Here is why you need every single cycling accessory

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 | Sport

Every bike shop is stacked to the rafters with expensive accessories. But, wanting to be frugal, I rejected the idea that you needed them. I bought a bike and nothing else. No accessories at all. I refused to be pulled into this expensive world.

And then the real world hit me, and I realised how wrong I was.

This is my story. A story of how you actually do need a bunch of accessories, and will massively regret it if you don’t get them.


True, you don’t really need these. Just like you don’t need a cup even if someone is going to kick you in the genitals over and over again. But any sustained time on the bike and you’re going to start getting sore.

I managed one ride. By the end of the first hour, my bottom was regretting it. Padded shorts are well worth the investment.

Bottle cage

Human beings literally die if they don’t get water on a regular basis. Even by re-using a sports bottle that I already owned, I still had to buy a cage to put it in.


Oh, you want to fit that cage to your bike? Too bad, because the Allen key size doesn’t quite match the six different ones you have left over from Ikea. So, you have two options. One is to go cap in hand around to your dad’s every time you want to change your saddle height. Or two is to buy a multitool.

I tried to get away with option one. But my parents go on holiday too often for it to work.


Great, so, I’ve now got my water, but nowhere to put an energy bar. Or my wallet or keys, or basically anything. This is because if you have a regular pocket on a bike, things fall out of it. So, you either need to use shorts or trousers will jip pockets (of which I do not have loads), or buy something with pockets.

Like a jersey. Which has three. For things like keys. It’s that or use some kind of elaborate wave system to try and tell your wife you’re home and want to be let back in.

Inner tube, pump

On my fifth bike ride, my back wheel fell off. I don’t know how to change a wheel. But even if I did, it wouldn’t have been much use because I don’t own a pump or a spare inner tube. Useful purchases, then.

Saddle bag

Oh, you want to have those things for when you need them in an emergency? Looks like you will be buying a saddle back to store them in, then.


Now we’re rocking and rolling. Sure, we’ve had to give in and buy seven accessories, but now we’re set, right?

Well, yes, unless you have any friends. Or want to ride your back to any kind of location. Because if you wanted to do any of that, you’re going to need a bike lock to lock it up at your destination.

Again, you have options.

You could get your friend to use their bike lock to secure both your bikes, for example. In which case, hope you have a generous friend with a suitably flexible bike lock.

Or you could move to Oxford, where nobody really uses them.

Short of that, you will be investing in an expensive lock because even the expensive ones only provide about a minute’s protection from determined thieves. And one lock is pretty much a starting point: you will want to get a second one to try and hang on to your wheels as well.


Now your bike is covered in expensive things in a country where it rains all of the time. Maybe you have an indoor storage area. We live in a flat, so the bikes have to live on the balcony. That means investing in a rain cover.


I don’t bother with a helmet because the evidence for them is mixed. But a lot of people look at my weirdly. And if I want to ride any organised events or competitions, a helmet will be mandatory.


Lights are optional, unless, of course, you ever plan on commuting on your bike. In which case, you best hope you only work 10 am to 3 pm, otherwise, you’ll be riding to and from work illegally.


Glasses aren’t required unless you want to a) see where you are going in the sun and b) ever ride near a canal or river. If you do want to ride by a waterway, you have the choice of either wearing some glasses or repeatedly being hit in the eye by insects until you blindly ride your bike into said waterway.


You can live without gloves unless you want to be able to use your hands at the end of the cycle. For example, being able to use a keyboard in the office or operate your keys to unlock your front door when you get home.

In either of these scenarios seem likely, you will want to ensure there is at least some heat left in your hands when you arrive at your destination.

Mud guards

I don’t care about getting muddy when I go cycling. However, if you ever plan on riding when anyone else, you might start to care. And, if you go out with a cycling club, they are likely to be mandatory.

Things you don’t need

There is one thing you genuinely don’t need to buy for your bike, and that is a computer. The one thing that is actually fun and interesting. Which really digs the claw in. If you want to be frugal, you need to buy every single cycling accessory except the one you actually want.


People sometimes say that you should avoid spending a fortune on cycling accessories.

However, that is a little unrealistic. I tried it. I bought zero accessories for my bike. But, one after another, I was forced to invest in them. Cycling is a tricky thing to do on a budget.

NFL offer refunds to European customers

Friday, October 13th, 2017 | Sport

On Tuesday, the NFL announced they would be partially refunding all of their European Game Pass customers because of the problems people experienced with the streaming service.

The announcement comes just six hours after I published my article setting out the problems. I’m not saying my blog post was solely responsible for their announcement, but the timing is clearly too similar to ignore.

They’re giving everyone 20% back, which is fair, though not beyond expectations.

However, the real test will be whether they sort the streaming issues out. Roll on Sunday…

Yorkshire 10 Mile

Monday, October 9th, 2017 | Sport

Early October means the Yorkshire Marathon Festival. It’s a “festival” because not only is there the Yorkshire Marathon but they also run a 10-mile race alongside it. It’s set on the streets of York which makes for a flat course.


The route starts out on the university campus. It runs into town, going around the minster and then leads out into the countryside. At five miles the marathon and 10-mile split before joining back together later on.

There is only one hill in the whole of York and it is at the start and finish straight. This is the worst design ever: at the start, you go down the hill, when you’re fresh and bottlenecked in so you can’t take advantage of it. On the way back you’re exhausted and have to up the thing.

It takes in a lot of lovely scenery. However, the sections through the centre of York are often cobbled, uneven and cramped, so you have to spend your whole time watching where you are going. Once you get out into the country you can relax a little more.


The event was well organised. They had several transport routes including a park and run option and a city shuttle bus. I decided to get an Airbnb in the centre and then get the shuttle bus over. I didn’t turn up until 9:30 am and still managed to get to the start by the time the race kicked off: 10:15 am.

Here is me on the bus:

As soon as I finished there was a bus to take me back, too. There were some queues for another bus, which I think was the park and run. That did not open until noon, which is after some of the 10 milers finish, so that could explain it.

There were plenty of toilets and separate urinals. There were not many pacers, but those that were there had the big flags that Run For All always put on.

The only confusing thing was the event village. You get off the bus and then it is quite a walk to the start and finish line. Not only does this add a lot of walking but it is quite confusing to find. On the way there I followed everyone else. However, on the way back I had to find my own way and got confused several times.

Goody bag

I’m going to have to give them a D for goody pack quality. It had three chocolate-type bars in there. But two of them had peanut in: not much use for anyone with an allergy, or merely a strong dislike of peanuts. And the shoestring sweets where impossible to tear into.

York as a city

York is a beautiful city as most of us know. However, accessible it is not. Anyone with a pram (like us), wheelchair or simply limited mobility is in for a rough time. It’s not just that the buildings are inaccessible and the streets are cobbled. It’s that the pavements are often small, broken and badly maintained. This makes it very difficult to get around if you are not a fit and healthy adult.


I haven’t been doing much long distance stuff since the Leeds Half Marathon 2017 and have been ill for the last couple of weeks so I set myself some fairly relaxed target of 1:36:00. My stretch target was 1:30:00 as this would indicate whether I would be able to go sub-2 hours in the next half marathon (of course, Leeds is a lot less flat).

In the end, I felt pretty good on the day and brought it home in 1:27:30, two and a half minutes ahead of my stretch target.


Here is me at the end:

I waited around for the first marathon runner to finish. I thought they would finish before me: 90 minutes running plus 45 minutes head start means they only needed to run a 2:15:00 to beat me back. As it happens, the first runner didn’t make it back until 2:24 something. Far faster than I could ever run it, but a good 22 minutes behind the world record. He was also white, which suggests that serious marathon runners don’t come to York.

Speaking of unusually white people, here is Venla with my medal:

My new trainers have been causing a few blisters on my longer runs (anything above 10k) so I was quite pleased that I finally put enough vaseline on my toes to keep them healthy.


This was a fun event and good test for me to see how running a race away from home worked out (everything in Leeds starts next to my house). I am looking forward to going back to the festival next year.

It’s a good race to do if you want to avoid hills and see some nice scenary, as long as you’re willing to brave the transport challenges.

Kirkstall Abbey 7

Sunday, September 24th, 2017 | Sport

Kirkstall Abbey 7 is a trail race staged by Kirkstall Harriers. It starts and ends at Kirstall Abbey, taking in some of the canal towpath, River Aire and surrounding countryside.

Despite the rain, I was reasonably cheery as I went over the start line. I tried to take it easy as I was still recovering from food poisoning, and had already done a hard weekend at Parkrun, but still managed to bring it home in 1:04:55, five minutes ahead of schedule.

The scenery was really nice. Some parts of the race could have done with trail shoes. However, given how much was on hard surfaces, I’m not sure they would have been pleasant to run in for most of the race.

Kirkstall Harriers did an excellent job of organising it with plenty of marshalls, a water station, chip timings and a goodie bag with a much-needed chocolate biscuit in. Plus a bottle of beer.

Bike & Go review

Friday, August 11th, 2017 | Sport

Elina and I are considering getting back into cycling. So, I did what any self-respecting young professional would do, and went out and bought a fancy bike at the cost of nearly £1,000.

Actually, I didn’t do that. What I did do was to spend £3.80 hiring a bike from Leeds CyclePoint to see if we could both still ride a bike.

It turns out that you really do never forget how to ride one. It must be 15 years since I last rode my bike and I was rather cautious about stepping back on. But as soon as your foot goes down you’re back in old habits.

The scheme is called Bike & Go and you cannot really go wrong at £3.80 per day. You can register online and get started straight away: you don’t have to wait for your membership card to turn up.

It has plenty of features, too: a kick stand, an integrated bike lock and easy-to-use hub gears.

That said, as your day-to-day bike, it wouldn’t cut it. It’s incredibly heavy. I struggled to lift it by myself. It barely fits in the lift in our apartments (might be a problem with all bikes). The seat is rock hard: even a few minutes riding leaves you sore. The brakes don’t fill you will too much confidence, either.

But, overall, it does the job. For the price of a cup of coffee.