Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sunday Sermon: Supporting Godless in Dixie

I am a great fan and supporter of Neil Carter.

Who is Neil Carter?

Neil is an ex Evangelical Christian still living in the American Deep South.

His writings, and You Tube videos I rank as some of the most reasonable and well argued dialogues about Religion that I have ever come across.

And so I highly recommend the above video and that you visit  

his Website

his You Tube channel

his Patreon

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The State of the OnePlus 7 rollout June 2019

Soul System: Lovely Day

A little story about Patience, Money and the Merits of the Late Adopter

But First
So Friday, June 28th, after an improbably large number of sales of items on Facebook Marketplace.  And having to deal with time wasters,  idiots, scammers and various other unprofessional potential buyers ... Drum Roll, I finally saved up enough money for a brand new Oneplus 7 Smartphone

In the UK, available here

OnePlus 7 499 - 549 GBP
OnePlus 7 Pro  649 - 799 GBP

Already Reluctant June 1 2019

I already commented here  that I was pretty reluctant to take the step UP to OnePlus 7 ownership of any form and since I wrote that article on June 1st the situation is even more pronounced.

The OnePlus 7 & 7 Pro whilst good products are not great, and are not the upgrades that existing OnePlus 6 clientele where hoping for

Two frames of reference

OnePlus 7 Forum
OnePlus 7 Pro Forum

As of June 29th 2019

- It's a very very small upgrade over the OnePlus 6T, some claiming some of the 7 features even constitute a downgrade

- Nobody thinks the Speed Increase is relevant, you have to concentrate on features like a 90 Hz Screen Refresh  (7 Pro) or 48 MP Rear Camera

- Nobody needs 5G networking in 2019.  I remind all that in another home  (outside of the UK) I can receive 20M Bytes/second download on 4G, 4G is not the limitation in most countries including th UK and the US, it is the implementation.

Continued angst with ...

- Top heavy OnePlus 7 Pro

- Too Large Oneplus 7 Pro

- Nobody has a decent Google Camera Port and / or one that produces 48 MP photos rendering the increase MP count of the OnePlus 7 currently irrelevant.  In fact the instability of the Google Camera ports and the number of them is also another annoyance

- The curved screen of the OnePlus 7 Pro continues to annoy many including anybody trying to apply a new Screen Protector.  What a nightmare!

And the final killer.   The OnePlus 7 is not sold in the US Market so the OnePlus 7 development scene is not as strong.  Overall 3rd party development is fragmented because of the 2 model release strategy and I think this is really hurting the community.

I'd still recommend a reduced price OnePlus 6T over any OnePlus 7, but if you have to go 7 then make it the standard phone and not the Pro.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Countryside Alien Invasion

We are having a heatwave in England too. Not quite the 35 degrees of Lausanne Switzerland. Last night the study temperature exceeded 27 degrees but the study door refused to open.

Today it was time to try and fix what was a jammed door  (and hint: there is a happy ending)

Jammed Patio  Door :-(


Luckily with a lot of force and pushing and pulling on the frame we got the door open.  Then we can see that the lever by the handle and the ganged levers at the bottom and top edges did not retract fully as they were designed to do.

The handle would not seem to turn any further, but it was not a full hard stop, there was a little bit of give and take.  In retrospect this is because it was caused by a clogging of the whole mechanism with pollen and bee material, not as first feared a broken metal part jamming in the lock mechanism

Removal Sequence

- 01 Remove the front and back handles.  We did this by removing 2 screws on the inside face plate and then the front and back handle faceplates come off

- 02 Remove the barrel lock

First take out the Philips screw which is just below the bottom of the lock on the door edge

Now put in the key and take it to about 15 degrees past vertical, one way of the other.  This makes the internal lever flush and you can then simply slide out the lock barrel

- 03 Lastly remove all the Philips  (Cross head) screws.  These are the ones holding the strip into the door.   Leave all the hex screws alone.  They are part of the door mechanism

Using 2 people we carefully removed that strip which was completely covered at the back with pollen and particles taken in via bees or other creatures.

Alien Invasion

The three places: top, middle and bottom where a lever comes out have a cut out in the wooden door, where the mechanism behind the strip lives.

This was full of little alien creatures.   Not sure if they were solitary bees inside pouches or something less appealing like a colony of earwigs :-(  

All were removed and put into our garden recycling bin

Recovery Actions

All the Yellow powdery gunk was removed.

All the moving parts had liquid grease sprayed into the mechanism

Then the vertical metal strip was re-screwed into the wooden door.   We used new wood screws   ( assortment box available from IKEA!)

We have tried to seal up any obvious large holes so that bees and other gremlins can't make a return visit and start to colonise the space again

Smug Mode
Yet again,  Marcus and Agata working together fixed the problem.  We did not have to call out an expensive lock smith or door person.  We did make use of YouTube research and tried to patiently fix the issue.  Smug mode is definitely on since we never claim to be DIY experts, but we do claim to be patient and tenacious.  

Composite Door Lock Video Help
Jammed Internal Door Mechanism

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Assuming Digital Perfection

A wonderful friend just met with Nadia Comaneci and it brought back memories of watching her memorable Montreal perfect 10 performance live, this is shown above

Normally it is between rare and impossible for a human to achieve perfection, but at Montreal according to the judges Nadia managed it.

Taking It For Granted

I contrast this with my digital tools, which by exception I take it will perform perfectly, no matter how many millions of instructions the computer is doing per second.    A great example is suspend and resume.

This week has been spent researching Wireless protocol weaknesses and it included compiling ...  let's see

Well over 49,000 lines of code using an Arduino Integrated Development Environment  (IDE) ready to push onto a 10 GBP (i.e. low cost) NODE MCU computer.

But it was taking so long that I thought nothing of suspending the computer, mid compilation, going for my daily cycle, then returning 2 hours later, resuming the laptop and expecting the laptop to burst into life, and complete the compilation.  Yes, it picked up exactly,  made the .bin binary.   No errors.

But Sometimes

So this Wednesday I am upping my game.  I finally decided to bite the bullet and install Kali Linux onto my Test Raspberry Pi.  Kali Linux is now the defacto choice for Ethical Hacking, so I have said goodbye to Raspbian on this device temporarily.   (I do hate having to learn multiple UNIX though.  Brings back haunting memories of decades past).

3 times the Kali install worked

The Filesystem expansion worked

But the OS package list Update and then Upgrade failed with a system that cannot boot a desktop GUI.

Totally busted :-(

Each cycle took about 2 hours, so after 6 hours of failure ....

I used 2 tools h2testw and MiniTool Partition Manager to verify and cross check the 32GB microSD card.  It appears that whilst the basic OS sat nicely in the valid first few GB of the card, when I expanded the filesystem it wandered into areas of the card that were buggered.

In fact the tests seem to show that the card of claimed 32GB size was actually only readable to 16GB, so the card either failed like this or it was a fake sized card, which worked until I tried to use the fake part.

Learning Points
In a world of assumed Digital Perfection sometimes we have to give ourselves a break and realise that we might actually be doing everything right, and our digitally obedient and notionally perfect computers might just this once have let us down.

As always, a second opinion "phone a friend :-)"  and a good testing methodology helps.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Review: Vauxhall Opel Mokka X

This is not just a short review of the Mokka X it is also an existential rant about owning a car in 2019

Changing Times

The Goliath that is every countries native Motor Industry is about to change forever.  And even countries , example Switzerland that merely import cars have a large infrastructure to sell, maintain and fuel vehicles.

#0 Childhood Dreams
The childhood ambition to own a car, normally a fast one, and drive at a speed that seems reasonable to you as a teenager is one that most adults today can relate to.  But youths today might be more interested in a better phone,  an exciting holiday, or perhaps being famous.   Owning and driving an exotic car is not so much on the radar

#1 Snob Value
Owing a fancy car, and arriving in it as you visit your friends or work was part of living in England.  But times change.

- Using a car for work may just not be smart anymore.  High parking costs, running costs.  Maybe it is just more intelligent to use Public Transport

- Decent cars are well ... expensive.  And they depreciate like a stone.  It really is a status symbol that many British can just not afford any more, and that is pre Brexit!

- Actually, improvements in manufacturing lead to new designs and refreshes being performed on most car lines every year.  So, to really stay ahead you would need to change that frequently, and with over production and corresponding showroom depreciation being at an all time high, this is now a very expensive pastime.  Best avoided.

#2 Own or Rent
After your House, owning a car is probably your second biggest purchase.  By why own your car if you can do without one?  Perhaps you live in a City with decent public transportation, or crucially with access to rent on demand services like ZipCar.  In London for example; the Congestion charge, and parking charges are forcing people to reconsider the economics of car ownership.  And it spreads to many other urban cities in the UK.

#3 Electric
The UK and most of Europe is aggressively switching to Hybrid today, and full Electric cars tomorrow.  Investing in any purely Petrol car today is questionable economically.

You might still be of an age  (i.e. older), somebody who regards car ownership as a right and pleasure.  You might have the cash to burn.   You might not want to analyse the economics of the situation.   You might live in the countryside and have to use a car to get anywhere.  You might think Electric cars are the future but right now the technology is too expensive and the recharging infrastructure  (especially in rural) too pathetic to implement right now.

The Review

We had the car for 7 days driving thru Switzerland and France.   What did we appreciate?

- As a mini SUV the view to the road was great

- Our car had a mere 1200km on the clock.   It was the base 120 model but it was happy to sit on the legal French and Swiss motorway limits with zero effort.   It was quite fast enough in town thank you.  Realistically it might only be a 1.4 litre 120HP, 1500 kg vehicle but it is enough right?

- The car was extremely quiet and felt like it all fitted together brilliantly.   Whether this new car feeling would continue at 50K km who knows.  But at 1K km it was there aplenty

- Decent boot space with folding seats and 5 door accessibility

- The configurator is here
Doing the Job Well and Competently

It's not ordinary but equally not plush.   Rather functional I would say.  This is the basest of models mind.

It was a nothing special car, that did everything well.

Decent Electronics

Marcus and Agata have not driven a 2019 aged car or anything modern for ages.  It's amazing to us how far Car electronics has progressed.  So many features to twiddle and set that make your journey pleasurable.   

 Just a real eye opener

Would I buy One?

So the base price is just over 20K GBP for the lowest model.  So the answer is absolutely NOT, I would not want to buy at this  (high to me!!) price.  But I would recommend it as a hire vehicle.   Just did everything well.  I suspect something like a VW T-Cross  or Audi Q2 might do everything more stylishly but perhaps rental / Zipcar prices would be much higher if you can find them.

Opel Mokka X

Vauxhall Mokka X UK
Carbuyer Review


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Amazon UK Factory Tour

Marcus and Agata just planned and executed an Amazon Factory Tour. Here is our report.

Not that we need a reason but here are multiple ours:

- We lived for over 15 years outside of a country where fast mail order was not easily possible and return of goods was basically impossible

- We've been customers of Amazon since before 2000 having seen them first as an online bookseller then an online media seller of Audio / Video until their transformation today as online seller of all

- We've followed Amazon's progress as the worlds leading supplier of Cloud Web Services, it not much an of an exaggeration to say that Amazon is the defacto dominant cloud services provider.

If you buy stuff online, and I mean not from Amazon, there is a good chance that the computer infrastructure behind your online reseller is hosted at Amazon.

How to Book a UK tour?
You would follow this link

Our Experience

Bear in mind that both Agata and Marcus have over a decade of experience with manufacturing systems, familiarity with large Retail.  It would have been great to have had a technical introduction to how their warehouse works, but that is not what happened.

- It is a one hour visit

- It's clearly more of a PR exercise to show you first and foremost that Amazon cares for its employees

- In our talk and factory tour there was very little time devoted to how the factory operates and processes goods.  The explanations were muddled and unclear.

The most that I understood was that the BHX4 fulfilment centre was not a goods store.  Goods arrive from suppliers are opened and categorised and sent to other amazon warehouses internationally that are closer to customer delivery.

- Photographs were not allowed except right at the end

- We were shown some nice HR related places like the Canteen, the Prayer Room, Lockers, Staff offices

- We got to see a real line of inbound goods and a sample scan station though the explanation of what was happening was muddled to me.  Was not clear.

- There were 3 staff showing us things on the tour with one principal speaker.  To me none of the staff were knowledgeable to any degree on scanning systems, or high bay warehouse, or computer systems to support the operation, or procedures.  But then perhaps my questions were at the advanced end and non IT Engineers would have been more than happy with the tour as is.

- I wish there could have been an advanced tour

- I wish we could have freely taken photographs as on Youtube Amazon does have videos detail their setup internationally and I don't see what confidential information could have been 'snapped'.  But rules is rules and we complied.


Okay, respect to the team that setup the Wifi.  Now that is a work of art.

 Looking back to the sorting and conveyors

Looking at Good Outwards

If I had never been in a large Retail Goods warehouse and / or if I was actually thinking of working on the shop floor at Amazon this would have been an impressive tour.

However though I am very grateful to seeing first hand some of their systems it would be nice to have a more advanced tour where Amazon could share with me their setup and operation, only the parts that are not confidential obviously.

Still a good day out and I would recommend the tour, its a one hour free tour and multiple locations in the UK.  The link again

Monday, June 24, 2019

Wythall and Hollywood 10K Fun Run 2019

It may surprise some to know that Marcus and Agata live only 35km from Hollywood.  Of course this is Hollywood, UK in Worcestershire.

And so as we continue to integrate and really lovely our Run Alcester running club, the club arrived en masse for the

Wythall and Hollywood 10K Fun Run

Race Report
As usual Agata did the organising and booking.  I was surprised to see that it was only 13 GBP for each entry for a course on closed roads and the ability to listen to music.

When we got there early there were a lot of people. I mean hundreds. Would we ever get past traffic if we started from the back of the race?

Actually, they had a request for people with sub 40 minute 10K and sub 20 minute 5K race predictions to start at the front.  And whilst Agata and Marcus and most of run Alcester are not quite that quick quite, a few of us made it to the front-ish part of the start.

The 10Km course was 2 loops of a tarmac course including  a few small long distance tiny hills.  Thankfully the last section was just a small downhill which meant the finish line speed could be respectable.

Both Agata and Marcus gave it our all.  Despite some pretty good recovery exercises last  week I can say that I was still a little tired from my French and Swiss expeditions of the last 7 days.  Not sure what is happening to Marcus' legendary next day recovery time.  Old Age I think :-(

Marcus posted a decent 42.25 minute 10K run time and Agata was as usual just behind me.

I have to hand it to my running partner for the day  (on the right) Matt Browne who paced ahead of me for much of the race and was a target that I tried to catch, but failed.  Motivation to catch him definitely pushed me along a little faster.  Must do better next time I think to myself.

NB: Technically I could have run much faster at start to mid of race.   But I noticed at km 9-ish that I started to run out of breath.  Very odd combination I must say.  Also, I had no breakfast and had overeaten (and drunk) the night before.

Some nice photos of other team members finishing

It is honestly a great pleasure to have been accepted into the bosom of Run Alcester and be able to happily participate in these team events.

So the weather was decent, the company excellent, the costs were modest, and the results for all ... very good.  I cannot say better than that.   A wonderful start to our Sunday.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday Sermon: Fighting Discrimination with Fairness

I want to tell you a story, which from Marcus' viewpoint is sadly true.

Agata and Marcus recently finished a 7 day car hire.  The tale however concerns the booking.  We diligently searched out and pre-paid for a car rental.  We made sure to arrive with all the necessary documentation and were polite and to the point with the assistant.  We asked for the best car (please). After a long wait at the Budget rental, we picked up a car, sans upgrade.

But as a lifelong people watcher I was interested in the booking at the second counter adjacent to me

- A stereotypical beautiful young woman, white, with an expensive coat
- Booked a cheap car
- Pouted and asked for an upgrade "my legs would be cramped in an A class Mercedes" she cooed.
- Was upgraded to C Class at no extra Cost
- It all went wrong when the Agent found out her details did not match, and there were other irregularities on her base booking.

We left before finding whether she had 'charmed || scammed' her way into a upgrade

The Discrimination Game

The factors that I've consistently observed over the last 40 years plus that can help you to receive freebies tend to include

Being Tall
Being White
Being Beautiful ( or certainly not ugly)
Being Slim ( or certainly not obese )

If you have all of these characteristics you might strenuously deny my assessment, but people without any or all of these attributes may be able to correct you

Being Fair

One levelling proposal is that people who are in my claimed discriminated against demographic, positively discriminate towards like people.  So, if I'm a short car hire assistant I prefer to give upgrades to shorter clients.

But I've 100% opposed to this.

I set a much lower standard, because another very upsetting discovery, again learnt after decades of study, is that typically those Discrimination against also discriminate against their own demographic.  I know it's absolutely ridiculous.   In my example it would be that short in stature car hire assistants gave favours to tall clients.

So my fix is simply this:

To all of us discriminated against on a daily basis, simply be fair.  No favours to our own demographic, in Marcus' case, that of shorter people, but equally I certainly won't favour tall people.  I will leave that to others.

Sia: The Greatest
(Not Tall)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Charisma, SoundBytes and Logical Fallacies

For my International friends outside of the UK you should all be aware that the Conservative  (Right Wing) Political Party is now in turmoil as Theresa May (Prime Minister) has resigned.

This leaves the way open for a new leader and we are now down to 2 remaining candidates: the charismatic Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

The similarities between Boris (in the UK), and he who cannot be named (USA) are a tad worrying.   Both in their apparent lack of attention to detail, and longer term relationship with the truth, or their definition of it.

Grabbing the Truth by the ...
I can't help notice that the UK press is today broadcasting allegations of Police being called to Boris' girlfriends London address after an altercation.

I have to compare this to the timing and publishing of those comments at the US presidential election

I must say that in the latter case, the carefully timed presentation of this truly astonishing behaviour was totally disregarded by the US voting public.  And whilst Boris' allegations are not really at the same level we can see the intent of some media to make an ad hominem attack against him.

Which brings me to the above graphic also repeated below.  Study the chart wisely.  Refer to it when your opinion about a friend or Political Candidate is suddenly swayed by some evidence   (that you have fact checked and believe to be accurate).

Are you committing a Logical Fallacy?




Friday, June 21, 2019

Samoens Trail 2019

Subtitle: Close,  But No Cigar

Our Mission

The mission that Marcus and Agata chose to accept was a 92 kilometre run in the Rhone-Alps, France.  Nothing special distance wise, however in that distance we would be expected to climb 6200 metres and descend a similar distance.  Now that is really tough.   Here is the checkpoint list:

All That Training
Due to our neighbourhood home in England being mostly flat we have had 0 altitude training in 2019.   We do aim for at least 1 hour and sometimes upto 3 hours of exercise daily so we had to make use of our base fitness level to allow us to complete the course. And complete it within the checkpoint cutoff times too.

Apart from general walking here is what happened in the week before the race

The Recce

We arrived to Samoens 2 days before the race.

Definitely not Agata's idea, but Marcus insisted on a pre race anti taper race recce intensive hiking session.  At Samoens itself.  We chose a 20km section of the forthcoming race, and it was tough!

The ascent seemed to continue forever and it was a sign that the real race would be gruelling, and we did not even know about the snow then!

00 Start 04.00 Samoens, Saturday 

And so it was another early 02.15 wake up call that got us prepared for our 07.00 start at nearby Samoens on Saturday June 15th 2019.

We started at home with a traditional porridge breakfast and then drove to the start with our already packed halfway bags each with replacement food, clothes and shoes.

There were hundreds of competitors and we started literally from the very back!  We had already tested the first 3km of the course and realised it would be very narrow and hence slow.  It was!

On courses like this; you either start from the front, and maintain a fast pace or resign yourself to walking with very slow people until the course widens up.

Since we wanted to be sure not to hold others up, keeping right at the back was the most polite position.

01 Golesse  14.1 km

The first stop came and went. The best was being able to take off our head torches as it became light. We did not need to fill with fluids here.

Once the initial thin path out of Samoens was finished the path widens and allowed us to start trying to advance thru the field of runners.

In general our secret strategy is that we always run on a flat section no matter how short it is.

Next Les Lagots and Refuge de Bostan

02 Le Cret  20.77 km

Agata took on fluids whilst Marcus was proclaiming that his 1 litre of bladder would last and last.  Since the temperature was a modest 10 degrees or so this was not difficult, not much drinking for me.

On the test hike 2 days previous, I drank 400 ml of Energy soaked fluid in 16km whilst intensive hiking in baking sunshine.  So 1 litre should keep me going to at least 30 km ...  I hope.

03 Refuge de Folly 24.5 km

Soon after Refuge de Folly the snow started.  And unfortunately it was not just a few metres, or a few hundreds of metres.  We are talking kilometres of snowy and slippery paths.

Without poles we were both in an impossible situation.   Worse,  Marcus' Salomon shoes were for dry trails and on worn soles without any remnants of grip.  It was literally hours of agony.

Traversing long stretches of angled snow is particularly dangerous because one slip can lead to a slide down the snowface and it would take you hours to get back up as you would first have to stop and then inch your way back up.

Agata with better gripping Saucony trail shoes was continually encouraging me and I was very grateful.  She kept repeating: "After the mountain peak the other side will be snow free"

So after more than 1 hour we got to the peak.   Combe aux Puaires. Over the peak and .... MORE SNOW, MORE SNOW

My heart sunk into my stomach.  But we had to keep going.  The number of times we had shouted to each other:  Why didn't we bring Poles then?

As good citizens we continually stopped to let others (with poles who were always faster) pass, this just made our progress even more pedestrian.

Past the peak we had some new challenges though: Idiots and tobogganing.    Basically on some steep down sections, especially with our low traction we were forced to simply sit on the ground, legs forward and slide down the mountain.  The stopping control is diggin in your heels and to a lesser extend elbows.

This technique was committed to by others who came crashing into us and we were lucky that their, gun ho and careless attitude did not result in any injury to us.

04 Refuge de Vogealle 31.7 km

Unhappy in the Snow

 Arrival here was perhaps the lowest point of emotion for the race.   The snow had not finished but I felt that surely it could not last much longer.

Literally a brief water refresh and toilet stop and then a check that in all that mountain snow sliding; our clothes and packs were not torn.  All seemed well, so time to continue.

Sure enough about 30 minutes later we had just loose rock.  No Snow. What a joy that is after slippery snow and no traction.  Strange how relative it is right!

Onward to Fond de la Combe

05 Le Pelly 41.5 km

We ran into Le Pelly in high spirits having made 8km in the last hour, this substantially made up for our necessarily poor progress on the previous snowy sections.

Onward to Praz de Commune

06 Salvagny  52.48 km

The good news is that we arrived at just past 14.00 and the cutoff was at 16.45.  A good 2 hours early meaning that since we were now going faster than many  (snow section gone!) we felt that things could only get better.

Fantastically hot sun greeted us and there was a party atmosphere at the food tent.

We spent a productive 35 minutes at the mid point refuelling and changing our clothes with the contents of our halfway bag that we had prepared earlier and that was transported here for us.

Agata and I both decided eventually to keep the same shoes on but merely change socks.

Marcus decided to lighten the rucksack as much as possible.  I took out my Waterproof trousers and any additional food or gadgets, even headphones. Just kept the mandatory kit like whistle, Smartphone, headtorch, blanket and 100% waterproof jacket.

In view of what happened next we have wondered if we had just been faster turning around here, whether we'd have got past the next mountain section .

We now begin the climb to Refuge do Grenairon on the route that we practised just 2 days ago.  We were gaining on everybody.  Not a single person overtook us and we think we moved our race position up by at least 40 places.   What happened next then was a particular bitter pill to swallow ...

07 Refuge do Grenairon

If I told you that being stuck in an increasingly sweaty chalet with over 40 other runners for hours, without food or water, but out of the thunderstorms was the absolute worst part of the race, I hope you believe me.

It was worse than the treacherous snow section I can tell you....

As I approached the refuge a competitor in front was being commanded into the Refuge.  Agata and I had been here 2 days earlier in blistering Sunshine.  Now thunderclouds were outside and the race was now officially halted but not yet cancelled.

 I tried to sneak past the official because I knew that the following route down is actually on a stony road, partially covered with trees and not a technical path.  However bad the weather you could descend this.  Even in a Thunderstorm.

But the Security marshall was 100% strict.  NO, you must stop here and enter the Refuge

After about 20 minutes I stopped the Watch.   The race was officially terminated and worse, for our safety we were not allowed to leave

 We did have some extreme weather but after it passed and over 1.5 hours we were still being held hostage in the Refuge and being told not to leave.

The official reason is that other competitors were stuck on the track to the Refuge and they wanted everybody to arrive before working out the next move.

Whilst we wanted them to arrive safely we still feel that we should have been allowed to get to the next checkpoint at Cascade du Rouget and then retire there.  But no.

For about the last hour we had our jackets on waiting to leave.  It was hot and sweaty and no attempt was made to provide refreshments or food.  Grumpy I was, Agata was more sanguine and kept me in a good mood by smiling.

My further comments are: Bad weather was predicted and mentioned at the race briefing.  The contingency IMHO should have been to stop competitors and at this refuge and at least make them welcome with at least refreshments, food and heating, not just bare shelter.

08 Towards Cascade du Rouget

Over 2 hours later more than 40 sweaty runners including ourselves set off together towards Cascade du Rouget.  We would turn off before and get onto a bus near Salvagny that would finally take us back to the start. So the next points Sales, Col Pelouse, Lac de gers, Roux, Bemont  were officially cancelled.

09 Samoens

After a 7km hike, which turned into a bit of a run / sprint  (runners trapped in Refuge now stretching their legs) we got back to Samoens on the bus.

The race was officially over and although there was a ticket for a inclusive Pasta party our hearts were not in it.  We simply had to find our Halfway Point bags and then walk back to our car.  Another 1.5 km away :-) 

It was so very sad and disappointing.  

We ran a total of 58 + 7 = 65km instead of the 92km that we had planned.  We are 100% sure that the last 27km was possible for us and even could have been completed after the Thunderstorms and Hail had passed.  But the race organised said no and in fact had dismantled the course stops to discourage this possibility.


Whenever race legal I always choose to run with Music, but on this course my choices were disastrous.  I chose not to run with a dedicated player but use Bluetooth headphones connected to my Oneplus 6T smartphone  (it has no audio jack).

It all went horribly wrong!

The Smartphone connection to the earbuds was not reliable.  I tried to used the music on the earbud directly, but using a single earbud to listen and the other on charge  (then swap) did not work.  The earbud kept cutting out.  Totally gutted I ran the last 4 hours or so sans music.  Grumpy was I!

Agata used a dedicated (old) Apple iPod Shuffle and wired headphones.   That worked fine.

Logistics and Costs

Because living in the UK we are no longer local to Samoens, and our funds are distinctly finite,  this adventure had to be very carefully planned to minimise costs.   

The biggest sacrifice was that we were encouraged to come over at April 2019 to run the exact course as training, but even with subsidised / free accommodation locally we found that the cost would be about 600 GBP for Marcus and Agata.  This was simply too expensive an extra cost.

So instead this June we have had costs of

2, 92km race entries
7 days hire car from Geneva
BHX to GVA , 2 return flights
Cost of Taxi to BHX and Uber Back from home in Alcester
Food for 7 days
Contribution towards our stay at the Chalet
Kit wear and tear

We think the total cost was about 1200 GBP for both of us.

What Worked
A lot of things went well on this race.  In no particular order

- Running together: Agata and Marcus found it a pleasure.  Whilst we have overall speed differences  (Agata descends more quickly and Marcus can maybe run up steeper ascents) our pace is pretty evenly matched

- The track log loaded onto our Garmin 945 watches, overlaid on the Garmin's basemap was accurate and helpful.

- The signage was excellent.  Every few hundred metres there were red and white plastic strips hung from trees or vegetation.  it was literally foolproof

- The weather was absolutely stonkingly hot, well until the Thunderstorms and Hail :-(

- Agata economised the Flight and Marcus economised the Car rental booking to really minimise our overall costs

- Our good friend Heather, who also participated at Samoens too provided us with accommodation and without her generosity we could not have been here.

- Marcus' ancient 2015 Salomon S-LAB sense trail shoes were brilliant on the wet and stony surfaces.   If they had been new shoes i.e. with some tread instead of none, they might have worked on the snow too.

- Agata's Saucony Koa TR shoes proved excellent on snow, mud, wet and dry surfaces.  Highly recommended.

- Marcus' kit including the Ultimate Direction Peter Bakwin vest rucksack and the Inov Stormshell waterproof jacket worked brilliantly.  And the trail pants that Kathy Zimmerman gave me  (swim, bike run) that she got from are just the best for all conditions, even tobogganing in deep snow.


Learning Points and Conclusions

Overall we had a fantastic time on our Samoens trail, but we were deeply saddened that the race was terminated prematurely, and not for example just paused.

We managed to run a total of about 65 km of the course, leaving about 27km untravelled although we did walk part of that a few days after race end.

Our Mountain Race running preparation was not made in April so we had to rely on general fitness to complete the course which we are confident we would have easily have been sufficient to beat the cutoff times had we been allowed to do so.

Post race there is talk of attributing some ITRA (International Trail Running Association) points to our run and we have sent our Garmin tracklog to the organisers.  The ITRA points will help us compete in other Ultras which like this one are not open to anybody who has not reached a certain demonstrated Trail running competence.

Marcus' music was a disaster but that pales into insignificance with the lack of Poles combined with using Trail shoes without tread. A truly awful way to traverse any snowy terrain.  Still, we got past the snow section and were catching back competitors at a tremendous rate before the race was terminated.  Our bad luck.

I feel the organisation of the food and trail marking was excellent.  But the 'what to do in case of bad weather' planning was really poor.

If the Race organisers offer us discounted 2020 entries we are up for it :-)