Monday, September 29, 2014


I must have mentioned my goal of running a sub-3h marathon at some point. It was always likely to be a little ambitious, as running time calculators (which estimate likely times based on other races, eg here) suggested I would be very borderline based on my 10k and half marathon times, and the formula on which they rely are well known to be rather optimistic at extrapolating from shorter distances up to marathon (for running geeks, the Riegel factor for most people gets a little larger when you cross the ~2h time barrier, due to the need to take on food and water). After failing - but not disastrously - at Tsukuba last year, I had set my sights on Vienna as a fast flat course likely to have good conditions (if not too hot) but that was a long way off so for a various reasons we settled on running the Chesterfield marathon as a practice, with jules doing the half which conveniently coincided.

The early start required us to stay the night before, which was a little concerning when a friend who commutes from Nottingham to Sheffield said he had ruled out living in Chesterfield because it was too rough! But perhaps I misunderstood something, we had a pleasant walk around the town admiring the famous twisted spire before settling on a huge plate of ribs and potato for dinner. 

Most unusually, jules and I failed to clear our plates which was a good omen. The hotel was very obliging with an early breakfast which enabled us to wander down to the start in good time feeling as well prepared as it's possible to be for an event such as this. 

I didn't actually set out with the aim of running sub-3h, I could see the course was far too hilly for that with the organisers' claim of 287ft of climbing directly contradicted by their own course profile which showed rather more climbing (my Garmin trace agrees with the profile, and estimates ~350m of climbing):

Not knowing what time to aim for or how hard to set off, I decided to just run by my pulse meter and keep to no more than low 150s as this seemed to be the threshold above which things got difficult in Tsukuba. I hoped that with this strategy I would at least enjoy the run more and perhaps shave a bit off my previous time. The first 10k were rather uphill so it was no surprise that I was 20 secs down on 3h pace at that time. What was a surprise, was that I caught that deficit up and more on the 2nd 10k and went through half way in under 1:30 feeling very comfortable. It wasn't until about 30k that I started thinking seriously that I might do it, and allowed myself to start working a bit harder on the hills. The last few miles were mostly downhill and would have been fast but for the unexpected appearance of a gravel path twisting around a park, followed by what felt like the steepest climb of the course. Luckily it didn't drag on too long and I was able to enjoy the final lap of the cricket pitch where a fair sized crowd had gathered to watch.

(Pic courtesy of Barry Dyke photography)

It's not often that I will get the chance to hear the commentator announce my name and 8th place, so I thought I should make the most of it. Of course the serious marathoners in the north west were all preparing for Chester which is still a week away, I'm under no illusions about my level of performance! The winner was a local who pretty much turned up on a whim and ran it in 2:37 as a training run - a bit of google stalking reveals he's been 10 mins quicker at London. Jules also ran a PB for her half despite the hills. As well as being better prepared than last time (thanks to the Jack Daniels book and accompanying marathon plan) the weather was perfect - quite cool with no wind, which suited me much better than the late autumn heat in Tsukuba.

Overall the race was well organised for a first effort - I would have liked better signage at some points, as it was not always obvious which way to turn and at one point I ran for a couple of km on a completely unmarked road wondering if I'd gone off course. The locals turned up to give good support which was appreciated especially as the second half was pretty lonely! Most importantly perhaps, the distance was spot on, which matters when you're cutting things this fine...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

[jules' pics] Pen-y-ghent

Not sure whether to go backwards, forwards, or randomly in time with my backlog of unblogged photos.

This one was taken yesterday.

Sun continues unabated. Well, OK, so there is the occasional heavy rainstorm, but this is upland Britain for goodness sake... Sunday is the 3 peaks cyclocross race, traditionally a cold and rainy mudfest. After the driest September in forever, perhaps it will be a pleasant roll over the hills. This is the third peak - Pen-y-ghent - as seen yesterday, from the back of a high-speed tandem .

Pen y ghent

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 9/27/2014 03:14:00 PM

Friday, September 26, 2014 The future of climate science

The future of climate science
Posted: 24 Sep 2014 09:08 AM PDT
I recently had the pleasure of a trip to Brussels, courtesy of this workshop, organised by Michel Crucifix, Valerio Lucarini and St├ęphane Vannitsem. Titled "Advances in Climate Theory", it was a chance to discuss ideas related to…advances in climate theory, surprisingly enough. In practice, that included lots about the dynamics of the wiggles that are seen in paleoclimate cores (are they noise-induced or due to an inherent instability?), various nonlinearities, some entropy stuff which (deservedly?!) got a bit of rough ride from the audience. My talk was not so much on theory as practice, that is, the practical aspects of using the past to improve predictions of the future.
We were based in the Royal Meteorological Institute, which was a nice site some way out of town (walkable from the hotel, which was great apart from the day we had a brief downpour of biblical proportions just as I sneaked out a little bit early). Here is a picure of Michel orating on dynamical things…
IMG_7110.JPGIt wasn’t all fun though – on my first night I had to forage on my own and only found some gueueuze for dinner, along with geueze-flavoured pate.
IMG_7100.JPGBeer is the answer – it doesn’t matter what the question is.

Thursday, September 25, 2014 Connected!

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 03:45 AM PDT
It took a month and ten days to get Ye Olde Chapel connected to the internets. But when the engineer finally arrived this morning he seemed to know what he was doing. We had quite a bit of fun trying to trace the phone line through the house. The previous occupants of the house were shonky DIYers so nothing is very logical. At the height of the confusion the engineer dubbed them DDIYers (don’t do it yourself-ers). But it was worked out in the end, and so far is running smoothly. Hopefully this means that normal blogging service will soon be resumed! I certainly have quite a backlog of pickturs that I would like to blog, and we remain forever hopeful that James might think of some interesting words to share.
It is very fortunate that the common man now demands unfeasibly fast internet to stream video and play games. For Blue Skies Research our usage boils down to downloading data to analyse later which is, by comparison, a light demand. A few years ago it would have been impossible to consider working from home using a normal home connection, but not any more. Having said that, one big reason why we chose to live in inner-city Settle (population 2,421), rather than out of the way on some hilltop, was the “super-fast” internet. Fast broadband was already fast here, and fibre was due to arrive shortly. It think it will come to most places in the National Park within the next few of years, but it didn’t seem sensible to try and survive for any length of time on 1-2Mbps, as it really isn’t sufficient for doing science. We paid the few pounds extra to get fibre, but it isn’t fibre right to the door, just to a “cabinet” about 300m away. From there the signal travels down ye olde copper cables. This is probably just as well, as our external telephone line appears to be underground, but it limits the speed to a maximum of 20Mbps.
I have got LOTS of paper reading to catch up on now. An 8 month backlog sits in my Google Reader!

Friday, September 19, 2014 Settled! A home for BlueSkiesResearch!

Posted: 18 Sep 2014 09:21 AM PDT
Eight months minus a day since our return to the UK, we completed on our new house in Settle. James already had a trip to Belgium planned (hopefully he will write something about it soon), so it was another couple of weeks before we started moving in earnest. We are now sufficiently settled to do several hours work a day, which is nice. Doing science at our computers is pleasant relief from scrubbing the very grubby house and wondering what to do with all our stuff. Anyone need any appliances which run on 100V?
Here is the house. It is an old Roman Catholic chapel, built around 1870, after Catholicism was re-established in the mid 1800s, then converted to a house in the 1970s or 1980s when the congregation moved to a new building nearer the town centre.
And here is the local pub, which seems to have 6 local beers on tap, different ones every time we have visited.
It has been unremittingly sunny since we arrived. This climate scientist thinks it can’t last much longer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We're the best!

Another year, another increase in Geoscientific Model Development's impact factor. Last year I reported that GMD was a whisker behind ACP in the EGU journals, and this year our impact factor has risen still further to over 6, which comfortably leapfrogs ACP and places GMD 6th in all geosciences journals (aside: who or what is Gondwana Research, and should I be embarassed at never having read it?). Of course, the future direction of the journal is no longer my (shared) responsibility, but I will keep an eye on how things progress...

Incidentally, page charges at GMD, and indeed all EGU journals, are rather more reasonable than the outrageous profiteering by the American Association for the Advancement of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAAAAS as it is henceforth to be known, with their new attempt at if you can't beat them, parasitise them publishing.

Friday, August 08, 2014

[jules' pics] High Street

Decided to go shopping so yesterday we headed for the High Street near Ullswater in Cumbria.

Getting there was a bit harder than expected, as there was no railway station, and it involved a 700m climb from the car park. Views were nice though.
Finally got there only to discover that the Vikings had torn down all the shops in the centuries after the Romans had left.
The other shoppers seemed almost as lost (see their little silhouettes on that rocky outcrop!). Germanic and Australian accents asked us if we were "doing the coast to coast". Just a day trip we answered.
It was surprisingly pleasant especially considering that this High Street is so far from those more desirable parts of the UK.
Here, James is looking for the Apple Store. Sure it was supposed to be here somewhere...
The street side planters were flowering nicely. This is heather, probably imported from the soon to be foreign country of Scotland.
We never did find Harvey Nicks, but a couple of hours later we were in Patterdale (named after St Patrick Patterdale) where there are pubs that serve food and beer all day long. hicc.
Best High Street ever.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 8/08/2014 08:16:00 PM

Friday, August 01, 2014

[jules' pics] The Thames Valley

Londinium has, to me, always seemed alien to the rest of the UK, but the Thames Valley has become another country too. It is so polished that it seems more like a theme park than a real place.

Palaces and pleasure boating...
Goring greenery-2
Goring greenery-1

Perfect bijou gardening...

Hand-knitted designer bricking and flinting...
designer bricking-1
designer bricking-2

For those who don't know their UK geography, the Thames is the big river that runs right through Londinium. Thus, anywhere along its banks are the most sought after places to live, as you can easily commute in to the city.


Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 8/01/2014 01:26:00 PM

Monday, July 28, 2014

[jules' pics] Londinium

We used to tell our Japanese friends that certain things were Better in Britain. One such myth we accidentally perpetuated was the value of stricter planning regulations. Japanese cities are, on the whole, an awful jumble of buildings. Not so in the UK, we told our friends. We clearly misunderstood completely. During our decade long sojourn overseas, Londinium has been reinventing itself as a poor replica of some chaotic south east asian mega-city.
On the other hand, one myth the British choose to believe is that working conditions in places like Tokyo are undesirable. And yet here you can see all the little Londoners toiling away in their open plan glass skyscrapers. hmmm...
This one is perhaps not quite as bad on the eye, but still, it could be anywhere... I don't see the point of all the planning people, if the result is just a boring version of one of the less exciting bits of Yokohama.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 7/28/2014 01:16:00 PM

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Let's Gardening

This week it is the RHS show at Tatton Park in Cheshire. Cheshire is where the rich people who are socially blighted by northern accents have to go and live. I don't know how the show compares to the real one in London, but it was fun enough for us, and cost a fraction of a ticket to something called The Open (which seems to be some kind of sporting event, not far away). 

There were a lot of little show gardens. The gardening style is quite different from Japan, with a lot less vegetative taxidermy and a lot more grass and colourful flowers on long stalks, which can look a bit scruffy if not carefully done. Here are a couple of the good ones.

It is important to get there early as it just gets busier through the day.
10am - There were almost as many Pimms & Champagne tents as there were show gardens. However, this ready access to alcohol turned out to be very useful in the early afternoon when we got a phone call from our solicitor to say we have exchanged contracts on the house we are hoping to buy in Settle! Hurrah - a home for BlueSkiesResearch is on the horizon!
By early afternoon the tents were starting to fill up.
By mid-afternoon it was warm and busy.
This was the best display I saw from a shop. 

And this is surely the best gizmo - the iMow! Uncle In Law definitely needs one of these.
There was even fashion - because it was "Ladies Day". There was also a competition for the best frocked lady. This was done, I suppose, so that they could get an even greater of a percentage of the Cheshire Wives to attend.

Posted by jules (accidentally logged in to Blogger as James! wups.)