Blenheim Triathlon 2013 — The Race

September 26, 2013

Part two — The Race (see also part one — prep)

Well what can i say? After racking my bike1 it was time to make my way down to the swim assembly point on the edge of the lake. After safety briefing and course description (basically turn at the first buoy towards the boat house) it was time to walk along the very wobbly pontoon and slip into the grey water.

After the initial shock of oh-my-god-this-is-so-cold I swam around a bit and remembered what they had said on the training day about if you’re unsure hang back a bit or stay to the side so that you don’t get crushed at the start, however i found myself dead centre right on the virtual line between the two markers!

Then the klaxon2 went and we were off! I managed to keep going forwards and about 1/2 way was starting to feel my arms ache as i had set off too fast trying to keep up with those around me.

Once out of the water i had a bit of a wobble as I tried to regain my balance and then there was a tortuous uphill run of a few hundred meters to get back to the transition area — and the start of the bike leg.

Found my bike easily and wheeled it to the start line where i wobbled a bit as i tried to get on too quickly and then set off. Stupidly i had my bike gloves but had not put them on in transition so the first problem was a mouth full of glove while trying to get up to speed. I had no idea how good or bad my swim was so i went pretty quick. Seeing as we were the first wave of the day it meant anyone ahead was motivation to overtake. First lap went well and then as confidence grew ( i.e. i knew the course now) i went all out — going as fast as I could for the second lap.

After an almost incident free transition ( forgot to take the cycling gloves off) I set off for the run section and my legs felt soo soo heavy. I fixed on a guy a little way in front of me who seemed to be going at a good pace and just tried to keep up.

When i finally got to the finish line i was so out of breath i forgot to look at the huge foot-high clock showing the finish time which meant i had no idea of my time!

In the end my final times where:
Swim — 00:08:49
Bike — 00:27:24
Run — 00:15:49
Total 00:59:40

I did the Blenheim Palace 2013 Super Sprint in under one hour! I was amazed, both how close it was but also that i got such a respectable time.

Finisher’s medal

Finisher’s medal

  1. As i have yet to find a way to swim in my glasses i had to leave them with my bike, which causes problems as then i can’t really see the swim course!
  2. It may have been a whistle

Blenheim Triathlon 2013 — prep

June 9, 2013

I woke up a little after 4am. “Oh that’s great, this is going to be a bad day” I thought to myself as I tried to go back to sleep.
After ½hour I gave up and went and had a shower.
I put my Lucozade sport and a water bottle in the freezer and then put one of my spare water bottles by the front door — the aim being this would remind me that there was one in the freezer. Drinks prepped I had some cereal and a coffee for breakfast. I went through the numerous checklists* I had made over the last few days and was reasonably happy I hadn’t left anything out. I re-read the welcome pack notes for the umpteenth time (Super Sprint is TWO bike laps and ONE run lap).

I then pumped up the tyres on the bike and went for a quick spin into Summertown to get some cash so I could go for a drink afterwards. Everything felt good and the excitement was starting to build.

Got home and took my drinks bottle out of the freezer, put on my transition bag rucksack and set off for Blenheim palace — a quiet 6-7 mile ride mostly on cycle track.

On arriving at Blenheim I followed the cars to the parking lot thinking that was the easiest way to get to registration. I had to get off my bike as I was worried about the effect of the gravel track on my road bike.

The registration tent was supposed to be open at 7:25 and I was one of the first there (I had cycled a little faster than I probably should have done!). I chatted with a chap who I met at the training day in Richmond who was also doing the Super Sprint as his first Triathlon and it was great to have a joke and dissipate some of the nervous energy.

At around 8 they opened up registration and a I duly queued up to collect my timing chip. Then it was time to head to Transition and rack my bike.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Part two, the race, coming soon, but in the meantime check out the photo story I put together over on Flickr.

* There are so many articles on the internet about how to approach your first triathlon that every time I read one I start another ‘top tips’ or ‘must have items’ list.

Bike Blenheim Palace 2012

August 19, 2012

On the 4th August I signed up for the 40km off-road sportive at Blenheim Palace.

A couple of times a month I cycle to Abingdon along the river which is about 10 miles each way. So I did’t think the distance would be an issue. The main problem is that both my favourite routes, along the river side & the canal tow path, are pretty much flat. Oh and I usually stop for a rest and a pint before turning round and coming home.

The designated charity for the event was Breast Cancer Care. They organize the more famous Pink Ribbon Ride — a 26 mile road circuit through the country side around Blenheim palace.

Despite never having done any form of organized cycling event I thought it would be a great thing to try and raise some money which would also help to motivate me.

After a painfully early alarm and a generous lift to the event I lined up with over 240 other riders for an exciting morning. The weather was perfect — sunshine with a slight breeze. I waited with nervous anticipation as the event briefing started. We were asked to self select our starting wave — groups of 50 riders at time — based on how we thought we would do. I found myself in the third wave which was probably a bit optimistic!

There were some guys form taking pictures out on the course and have added them here along with a couple of my own.

The preliminary times have been announced and posted up on the event website.

I did the course in 2 hours 28 minutes which I am immensely proud of — especially as I only signed up two weeks before the start! I had no idea how long it might take and am so pleased it was under 2 1/2 hours.

Breast Cancer Care have now received the donations so far — over £320.00, and because everyone who donated has used Gift Aid that total is after all the credit card and other transaction fees have been taken out!

I can’t thank you enough for your contributions.

Don’t forget to check out my JustGiving page which will stay open for a while, and there you will find a couple of photos of the big day!

Once again many, many thanks to all those who donated.

Adding the Solr extension to Zend Server Community Edition on Mac OS X Lion

September 13, 2011

Installing the Solr extension

This turned out to be more complex than I expected. Solr is a PECL extension so , in theory, all you need is:

sudo /usr/local/zend/bin/pecl install solr

If you don’t use admin privileges you get Cannot write to temp directory or Warning: lstat(): Lstat failed

I have listed the error messages and what I needed to do to solve them, in attempt to help anyone having the same issues that I did.

Install Xcode First

If you haven’t installed xcode then you’ll see something like this:

Cannot find autoconf. Please check your autoconf installation and the $PHP_AUTOCONF environment variable is set correctly and then rerun this script.

The easiest way to get all the tools needed for building software on your Mac is to install Xcode , free from the Mac App Store.

Missing curl

The first proper error I got was:
pecl/solr requires PHP extension "curl"

Add -n to the pecl install command so that will ignore dependencies, otherwise as it doesn’t load shared modules it won’t detect curl. See the last comment on PECL Bug 17012.

Missing header file

Now it at least started building but then ended with this error:
/private/tmp/pear/temp/solr/php_solr.h:87:31: error: ext/json/php_json.h: No such file or directory

So, I’m missing a file called ‘php_json.h’. Where to get it from? Well there are two options the quick way and the ‘proper’ way. We could just copy the header file from MacOS X’s built in version of PHP – however the versions might not be the same.

  • /usr/bin/php -v PHP 5.3.6
  • /usr/local/zend/bin/php -v PHP 5.3.5

I decided to get the matching version of the file from the PHP source. This is quite easy — just go to and download the same version as your Zend Server Community Edition.

Once we have the file we need a directory in the ext folder:

sudo mkdir /usr/local/zend/include/php/ext/json

Now copy our new version into the folder — change the source path to wherever your new header file lives:

sudo cp /Users/myname/Downloads/php-5.3.5/ext/json/php_json.h /usr/local/zend/include/php/ext/json/

At this point I thought i was done, ran the pecl install command (don’t do this yet) , enabled the extension in php.ini and restarted PHP.

Wrong Architecture

PHP Warning: PHP Startup: Unable to load dynamic library '/usr/local/zend/lib/php_extensions/' - dlopen(/usr/local/zend/lib/php_extensions/, 9): no suitable image found. Did find: /usr/local/zend/lib/php_extensions/ mach-o, but wrong architecture in Unknown on line 0

Pecl is creating a a dynamic module for a different architecture than php is using.

You can check which architecture your php is built for using:

lipo -info /usr/local/zend/bin/php

Non-fat file: /usr/local/zend/bin/php is architecture: i386

Compare this to the file that the pecl installer created

lipo -info /usr/local/zend/lib/php_extensions/

Non-fat file: is architecture: x86_64

My Mac is an Intel Core i7 so pecl created an x86_64 dynamic library. However Zend Server Community Edition (as of September 2011) is compiled for i386!

OK so how do we fix this? We need to tell the compiler which architecture to build for using the CFLAGS environment variable.

Note: If you have already tried to install and it built for the wrong architecture just add -f to the pecl install command to fore a rebuild

The Code

sudo CFLAGS="-arch i386" /usr/local/zend/bin/pecl install -n solr

Now just enable the module using the ZendServer control panel


  1. Install Xcode , free from the Mac App Store
  2. Download the PHP source from
  3. copy php_json.h from PHP source to /usr/local/zend/include/php/ext/json/
  4. sudo CFLAGS=”-arch i386″ /usr/local/zend/bin/pecl install -n solr
  5. enable the module using the ZendServer control panel or editing the php.ini file.

Starving Monkey

July 21, 2009

Found this app when the app store auto completed ‘star’ when i was looking for an astronomy app. It is a simple accelerometer based game – tilt to move a monkey to get a banana which appears at a random location on screen while avoiding being shot by a hunter.
The sound effects are very cool and make it imposible not to smile while playing.
The only down side so far is the high score table seems a bit clunky but that doesn’t stop Starving Monkey from being an excellent game especially for the bargain price of £0.59

Highly recommended: 4 stars

iPhone Tutorial Roundup

May 12, 2009

Found a pair of excellent iPhone tutorials by Adeem M Basraa.

The first tutorial iPhone Localization in Xib (Nib) Files is a simple step-by-step walkthrough creating a view based iPhone Application which is localised for English and French.

In Localizing your iPhone application part 2 Adeem covers the use of NSLocalizedString and the cli command `genstrings` to generate .strings files for your application and then use them in code.

My first iPhone App (I)

March 28, 2009

So, after a trip to the USA last week i signed up for the iPhone App Developer program as an individual.

When i first learnt BASIC one of the first apps i wrote from scratch (as opposed to typing in listings from a book) was a program to find if a number was Perfect.

A perfect number is defined as a positive integer where the sum of it’s proper divisors is equal to the number itself.

The first perfect number is 6. The proper divisors as 1,2,3. 1+2+3=6


Loop round finding all factors of a number a sum them.

I have written this app in every language i have played with from BASIC through Pascal, C, LISP, Java,PHP &c.

I have never really got into Mac application development – never had the need. Pretty much every problem i come across can be solved with using a bit of code in one (or all!) of AppleScript, shell, PHP and a probably a database for good measure. Side note the first web site i built was a Hotel search system built using Applescript and FileMaker Pro, long before the days of PHP  & MySQL.)

So now the iPhone, this time i can’t bodge my way through gluing other things together. If i want an iPHone app i will need to learn Objective C and Cocoa Touch,

My first app is, unsurprisingly, Perfect. That’s the name – not a description.

Needs a text box to hold a number, a button to start the calculation, and a text box to hold the result.

OK. So i had a look at some of the ‘Hello,world!’ on-line tutorials.

One rather conveniently had a text box to type a message and a button to display it.

Audio Balance Setting for iPhone

November 20, 2008

UPDATE: iOS 5 has audio balance

Looks like enough people sent in feedback. Thank you.
On your iOS 5 device just go to Settings->General->Accesibility

I love my iPhone but have recently been diagnosed with a hearing disorder know as Otosclerosis ,sadly this is degenerative and is much worse in one ear than the other.

At the moment there is no way to adjust the audio balance on the iPhone which means i have to either have it too loud in one ear or not hear it in the other.

If you too could benefit from a balance control on the iPhone then please consider sending apple an ‘Enhancement request’ using the form at with a subject line of Audio Balance Setting.

Word 2004 Mac Find paragraph mark with wildcards

September 22, 2008

You can use [\^013] to search for paragraph marks when wildcards are active!

There is a bug in Microsoft Word 2004 that will not let you search for a paragraph mark ^p when wildcard support switched on in the find dialog.

^p Search error

The ^13 substitution suggested on some of Microsoft’s support pages also doesn’t work as the mac version seems to internally translate ^13 into ^p

The only obvious work around is to replace ^p with something else NOT present in your document!.
e.g. replace ^p with § with wildcards turned off then do your wildcard search/replace. When done just find/replace § with ^p

Note: You will probably want to disable track changes while swapping the paragraphs round.

Kludge? Yes

Does it work? Yes

According to a Microsoft support article this bug also applies to Find/repalce executed through VBA and AppleScript

Florence day 3

September 16, 2008

Breakfast from Robilio’s before walking to the bus station to go to Siena

The cathedral was supposed to be the largest in all Christendom but they ran out of money and so there is a wall which should have been the long side of the cross but is literally just a wall you can climb up and get a pretty good view of Siena
Stopped to look at the Miesta on the way out

Visited the Crypt ( which I don’t think was open last time I came) it is about 30 ft under the Cathedral but they have excaveted even further down – the fluted columns streetch down anoth 100+ ft