Getting comfortable with 17km

I went for another long run this morning, from Canary Wharf over to Green Park again. All part of my preparation for October’s Royal Park’s Half-marathon (you’re getting so bored hearing about this, I just know it!).

Anyway, I was a little bit slower this morning, partly due to some pretty horrific insomnia last night (heat-induced, I’m sure) and because the newly-updated Nike+ app insists on giving my progress updates every half-mile, not half-kilometre. Because the updates are more infrequent, this keeps me wondering if it’s tracking me (silly, I know) and makes it more difficult to estimate my progress.

I can’t help it – I think, and run, in kilometres. Not miles.

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Hopefully the next update to the app will fix this. Bizarrely, I was actually faster on the last three miles than on any of the previous. And it’s when I hit Baker street that I think I got into a nice, consistent running rhythm. I’m actually really getting to enjoy the run between Islington and Edgeware Road, despite having to negotiate the traffic around King’s Cross. Pedestrians, bikes and cars!

It was very enjoyable though and I finished up in Starbucks by Green Park tube, ordering myself a ma-hoosive lemon and lime refresha. Just what my parched body wanted.

This is all in aid of Epilepsy Action and I got my running vest for the race from them the other day. They’ve updated the design and I love it! It should make me easier to spot in the crowd. 😜

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I’m still wondering how much running I’ll get done in Barcelona and Sitges this weekend. I mean, it’s definitely very hot over there. But can I really miss out on some quality time on Platja de Balmins and instead hoof it around town looking really out of place while everyone else is chilling out?

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I guess I’ll have to, at some point. So if that has drawn even a shred of empathy from you, be a good sort and throw a pound or a euro towards my fundraising pot. I’m at 78% of target and really keen to hit it before the race itself.

My next long London run will repeat the above, but continue past Green Park and take me down to Waterloo, where I’ll get the tube home. It’s about 20km all in and I’m really looking forward to it.

More meaty goodness at Boisdale

@FrankDJS and I had an early dinner at Boisdale, Canary Wharf last night. I won’t beat around the bush – it was superb. I’d completed a bit of a run earlier that day and had worked up quite the appetite.

I began with a super starter portion of haggis, neeps and tatties and a glass of very tasty prosecco. Every mouthful was a delight. It’s something I don’t think I could be bothered to cook for myself, with all that potato-peeling and turnip-wrestling. So I always order it when I see it on the menu. Vegetarians look away now. Oh, and don’t click on that link explaining what’s in haggis.

Haggis, neeps and tatties! Delicious. #Boisdale #haggis #canarywharf #food #london

A photo posted by Richard MacKinnon (@macpsych) on

This was followed by a wagyu beef burger and the most amazing chips. The burger came topped with a fried egg, perfectly cooked with a liquid yoke – which is how I like it. Seriously, there are few things that can’t be improved with the addition of an egg or two. Preferably with a runny yoke.

The chips were definitely fried it something in something a little special – my guess is duck fat – and came cut thickly and perfectly salted. I had a hard time finishing all of this, but like the gastronomic hero that I am, I just about managed it.

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of the burger. I tucked into it with gusto (and a knife and fork – I’m not an animal) and was almost finished before I realised my mistake. Take it from me – it was large, tasty and filling.

There is no real story to tell here, except that I’ll gladly sit down to some haggis at the drop of a hat and there’s something wonderful about being able to walk home after a nice meal out. Night Tube or not, a trip on the Underground takes the sheen off a nice meal. Oh, and I’d recommend Boisdale to anyone looking for a nice meal in Canary Wharf.

It’s not all banks and bankers, you know…

 

Royal Parks half-marathon: just a little bit further

I had a fab run yesterday morning. I’d planned to go a little it further than last time and cast my mind back to my training runs for last year’s London Marathon. (Oh, the painful memories!)

Anyway, I wanted to have a challenging, long run an not simply go round in a loop. My most enjoyable runs last year were when I headed out with an Oyster Card, planning to get the tube home after going as far as I could in one direction.

So yesterday morning, I left Canary Wharf, headed through Shadwell, up to Old Street, then up to Angel, King’s Cross, Baker Street, Edgware Road and then down to Green Park. There, I popped into Starbucks and ordered a venti coffee, took a breather and hopped on the Jubilee Line home.

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All in all, it was 17km and I enjoyed almost every step of the way. Obviously, as soon as I got to Old Street, the heavens opened and I was caught in a downpour. 🙄 I got soaked through and did start to worry about blisters – whenever my trainers get wet when out running, I always seems to end up with epic blisters.

Thankfully, that never happened, though I didn’t dry off until I got to Baker Street, once the sun was out for a while. The only injury I experienced was some pretty intense chafing in the nipple region (too much information?) as a result of my wet running top. I can live with that, as I’ve not a jot of leg or foot pain (or even stiffness) this morning. And it’s partly my fault for forgetting to apply a liberal measure of Vasoline to the usual nooks and crannies. (Yes, too much information…)

I won’t forget it on race day, that’s for sure.

I was really pleased with how the run went, including the fact I kept a reasonable pace through and was only slowed down by either pedestrians or road traffic. Average pace was 5:23, which I can definitely improve in the coming weeks. I’ll do this long run again, but will continue past Green Park tube and head down over the river to Waterloo. I think eventually, I’ll end up back at Tower Bridge or nearby.

My challenge in the next couple of weeks (if you can call it that) is that I have two business trips coming up. This makes training harder, but not impossible. I’m in Sitges and Barcelona next weekend and then in Jersey the following Friday. I’ll bring my gear to both, but will have to take it slightly easier in the heat of Sitges.

Anyway, in case you’ve missed the whole reason I’m training for the Royal Parks half-marathon, it’s epilepsy. I’m living with it, have done for 15 years and want to raise some money for the people behind a great resource: Epilepsy Action.

You can sponsor my run via this link. As of this morning, I’m at 78% of my fundraising target, so every single pound/euro/dollar could help me get there. Huge thanks to everyone who has donated so far.

 

An iPhone without a headphone jack? Sporting the ‘Lobot’ look.

The iPhone rumour mill is in full flow right now, with Apple set to announce a couple of new handsets in the next month. If I’m honest, the update doesn’t sound particularly exciting and (if it’s all true) it represents a iterative rather than significant update.

That said, one of the most interesting – and slightly perturbing – rumours is that Apple are going to remove the headphone jack. That little “hole” where you “stick in” your headphones cable.

Sorry for the overly technical language here.

Apparently, it’s going to be replaced with headphones that plug into the lightning port – which is used to power the device and connect it to external things like speakers. This would imply that you couldn’t charge the phone and use earphones at the same time, for example.

Hmmm.

The tech gurus are pointing to Apple emphasising the benefits of bluetooth (wireless) headphones, and this is where I have a bit of a problem. While I use bluetooth a lot at home – connecting to a TV and two Beats Pills bluetooth speakers in this apartment alone – I’ve not used it on the move. And, while I recently bought a pair of kick-ass bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones, they’re really for use at home and on long flights.

To put it another way, I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing them outside. Here’s an image for you:

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Yes, the charming and not at all creepy Lobot from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. This is pretty much what I look like when wearing them, so…no. Purely from an aesthetic perspective. I couldn’t handle the mocking.

Also, I have finally found the most perfect pair of wired earphones for both running and general commuting and I’m not about to give them up for bluetooth, no matter what Tim Cooks has to say about it. I’ve used them for months now and they are perfect in every way.

So I’m not hugely keen on giving up wired earphones. I’ll need a lot of convincing. But as we’ve seen, where Apple goes, others tend to follow. Removing floppy disk drives. USB-C. And the rest of the developments that seemed so disruptive at first but we all got used to after a while.

If the next iPhone doesn’t have a audio jack, it had better be water-proof. The Samsung Note 7 shows what you can do with a high-end handset and from my perspective, Apple has a lot of catching up to do there.

So, no. I’m not enamoured at the prospect of looking like Lobot in public. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my contribution to the iPhone 7 rumour mill.

Style over substance once again.

Torn between iOS and Android? Kind of.

The experiment isn’t over!

Some of you may remember I got myself all Androided-up a few months back. I bought a Nexus 6P and fell in love with it and its OS, Android. I kept my iPhone and Apple Watch in a drawer and lived a Google-focused existence.

Since then, I’ve moved between the two devices, as well as a Nexus 7 tablet for a couple of months. The good thing about buying your mobile phones unlocked is that you can simply switch SIM cards between them when you want to. All of my apps are cloud-based, so it doesn’t take long for one to catch up with the other (Calendar, contacts, Spotify etc).

Here’s the thing, though. I’m not living in one ‘world’ or the other. I regularly use my Nexus 7 while I’m at my desk, to flip through Twitter or to look at ToDoist. I’m still using my iPad Pro when traveling for business, paired with a bluetooth keyboard. I still wear my Apple Watch (most of the time), which means I have my iPhone 6s Plus on me too.

Torn between the two?

I’ve realised that you don’t have to pick a side, but you can pick and choose from within the two major ecosystems. I’ve regularly gone out for coffee bringing an iPhone and the Nexus 7. Not an iPad. Because the Nexus 7 is what I found useful at the time.

I don’t think it’s a groundbreaking thing to say that both ecosystems and operating systems have their strengths. For iOS, it’s the millions of apps and with iPhones it’s the easily-available multitude of accessories. My bank balance is testament to the latter. I have a drawer full of various iPhone cases, covers and stands.

For Android, (for me at least) it’s Google Now and just how accurately Google understands me when I speak with it. It’s uncanny. It’s also the flexibility of device set-up.

On the other hand, Apple devices cost a lot more than Android ones (mostly). And Android isn’t supported as widely as iOS (for now, at least). I’m talking very broadly here, before a fan-boy from one tribe or the other decides to have a pop.

My tools of choice, app-wise, are available on both platforms and are pretty comparable: Evernote, ToDoist, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Slack, WhatsApp etc. My mail (iCloud, business and gMail), contacts (Google) and calendars (iCloud and Google) are also ‘out there’ and not tied to a single device.

So in theory, I could swap phone devices on a daily basis, if I had the time and inclination. What stops me doing this is messages. Unless you turn off messages on all your Apple devices, there’s a good chance text messages from others will fail to show up on the Android device. It’s happened before. And it’s very, very annoying.

A second screen

But there’s nothing to stop me using my Nexus 7 alongside my iPhone, for example. The information on both is up to date and the only major difference in content is in Google Now, which is far superior on the Nexus.

Similarly, there’s nothing to stop going out to work with my Macbook and the Nexus 6P. For exactly the same reasons. And as both work off USB-C chargers, this seems to be an ideal pairing.

But what about the “third screen”? My Apple Watch. This is where it gets a little complex. I also got myself a Pebble Time smartwatch at the same time I bought the Nexus 6P. And while are both smart-watches, they’re hugely different. The Pebble’s battery will last for days at a time, even with heavy use. Whereas the Apple Watch needs a nightly charge. The Apple Watch display is a thing of beauty, while I have to regularly squint to see the Pebble’s screen.

It looks like the next update to WatchOS is going to make there Apple Watch even better (in terms of speed, at least), so I’m not tempted to make the switch permanent.

And seeing as an Apple Watch will only work with an iPhone, I’m ever so slightly stuck with the iPhone 6S Plus as a my ‘daily driver’. This is no hardship, by any means, but it does take some of the flexibility out which device I use each day.

Some very full pockets!

Now, there’s no way in hell I’m going to become one of those guys who carries more than one mobile phone out of choice! (As opposed to those poor souls who have to carry a work handset and a personal handset). Neither am I going to wear more than one smartwatch. I mean, I’m a geek, but there are limits – even for me. Yes. Even for me.

In reality, either the iPhone or the Nexus 6P offer enough speed and power to be the only thing I need with me for my mobile needs. Frequently, a tablet is a luxury, especially hen I’m trying to lighten the load of tech I find it my bag.

That said, I’m still leaning towards the world of Apple – if I have to make a choice – due to the Apple Watch pairing and my need to leave one handset at home.

So what does the future hold?

We’re about to see updates to both operating systems in the next couple of months. Google will roll out Android N (Nougat) in the next few days, if the rumour mill is correct. And Apple is going to release iOS 10 and WatchOS “in the fall”. Hopefully, that means September.

I’m going to update all my devices when the time arrives and do another comparison. Meanwhile, it looks like I’ll be using the iPhone 6s Plus combined with an Apple Watch and a (3 year old) Nexus 7 tablet when I’m out and about.

How’s that for eclectic?!

(In fact, I think a blog post all about the Nexus 7 is in order – it’s one of my favourite devices right now).

It works for me. It combines everything I like about iOS, allows me to use my Apple Watch, and gives me access to pure Android and Google Now. And before you ask: yes, you can install the Google app to access Google Now on your iPhone, but its functionality is severely curtailed compared to the Android version. Believe me, I’ve tried it.

Any questions?

I’m also aware that very few people get to buy handsets like this and compare them. I’m lucky like that. So any questions about working in two operating systems are very welcome. Maybe I can help you make up your mind!

Wholesome family viewing…

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After thoroughly enjoying the BBC Proms Gershwin concert on TV, I headed to bed with plans to explore Netflix and start something new.

For whatever reason, I ended up starting to watch ‘American Horror Story’, which was indescribably creepy and, at the same time, something I just couldn’t stop watching. It’s so much more than the traditional haunted house or bogeyman story.

Yes, there’s a house where terrible things have happened in the past. Yes, there’s a new family who move in for a fresh start. But the neighbours are also creepy as fuck and the family themselves are far from likeable. It’s not a simple ghost-and-or-slasher story.

Some nicely executed flashbacks fill in just enough backstory to keep you wondering what the hell is going on in the present.Lightning-fast cuts mean you can’t really look away from the screen without missing something important or symbolic.

Jessica Lange is a stand out in the cast. She plays the next-door neighbour, effortlessly exuding a combination of threat, evil, casual bigotry and hinted-at power and malevolence. And, as ever, there’s an annoying teenage daughter who won’t follow instructions and gets herself into trouble.

The great news for me is that there are six seasons of this show to go. Hopefully it’ll keep up the quality and fright-factor.

On the other hand, why I started to watch this while home alone all weekend frankly baffles me. When I eventually did turn it off, it was just a matter of minutes before I was out of bed, checking I’d locked the front door.

I’m so impressionable…

Old man nap time

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Just call me “Nappy McNapFace”.

After my run this morning – after which I felt I could take on the world! – I took a much-needed shower and made myself some lunch. I updated the blog, wasted some time on twitter and booked a cinema ticket.

I then had some comics to read, so curled up on the couch with my iPad and started to catch up on everything in the world of Civil War II. Cut to two hours later and I wake up from a very, very deep sleep, feeling like someone has removed part of my brain. My iPad was thankfully still resting on my chest, but I’d fallen asleep literally three pages into a comic.

Pathetic.

I guess last night’s rubbish sleep – a combination of my standard insomnia and high temperatures here in London – followed by a 15km run around London, was enough to convince my body to take a nap. A shame it was in such a weird position, with my face embedded in a cushion.

I had such a lovely case of “nap face” when I woke up, with some epic creases (more than usual) across my forehead.

It took a while to wake up properly, and by the time I’d kicked my brain into gear, I almost missed the start the film I’d booked. As I’d seen everything else that was showing, I ended up going to see “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” and, while it’s not going to win any Oscars, was pretty funny. In parts. Just what my brain needed to relax. Plus lots of Zac Efron without his shirt on, which was all central to the complex central narrative of the film.

Really.

Now I’m left with the challenge of sleeping tonight. It’s never a good idea for me to take a nap in the afternoon. Aside from waking up like I’ve been in a car crash, it makes it harder to sleep at night. Much harder.

I think I’ll deal with that by staying up late watching “Mr. Robot” and contemplating my own mortality.

Seriously, I must be getting old!

This has me so excited

The new trailer for Rogue One dropped the other day and I’ve watched it over and over since. Such a geek, such a Star Wars fan.

The trailer is so well cut – it’s tantalising and dramatic. Fleeting shots of characters and scenes you just want to know more about. It’s already being examined for clues about the wider story.

I go to the cinema a lot and some of the trailers just tell you the entire story. I always thought trailers were suppose to tease, to make you so excited about the film that you couldn’t wait to get out and see it. The creative team behind this know exactly what they’re doing here!

From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves. In theaters December 2016.

Roll on December and another series of trips to see a Star Wars film again and again!

Royal Parks Half-marathon: Taking it up a notch

I ran 9km over lunch yesterday, in the wonderful London sun. And despite waking up to glorious sun this morning, it seems to have evaporated and gone elsewhere. Nonetheless, I topped up my (very depleted) caffeine levels and hit the streets.

(As an aside, my running is fuelled by caffeine, not enthusiasm. Running sans cafe is invariably a slow, wheezing misery. I guess it how I’m built).

I managed a very comfortable 15km around the City, only slowed down by the copious volumes of dog shit on the pavements of Shadwell, the gaggles of tourists blocking all the routes around Tower Hill and the people chasing Pokey-men (I know!) all around Old Street roundabout.

Seriously – look where you’re walking! Sigh.

I’d aimed for 15km this morning and was really pleased with my pace (very even throughout) and how I felt afterwards – absolutely brilliant.

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It left me feeling very positive about the Royal Parks half-marathon, even to the stage where I’m pretty confident I can come in under my 2:00 goal. Securing that time, injury-free, would be superb.

And it’s all in aid of Epilepsy Action. If you’d like to donate the price of a coffee to my fundraising efforts, you can do so via this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/RunningForEpilepsyAction. Every single pound will be much appreciated by me and the nice folks at Epilepsy Action. Snd the good news is that I’m at 71% of my fundraising target of £350!

Big thanks to everyone who has donated so far. If you can’t, please consider sharing this blog post or the fundraising link to raise awareness.