A Cardiff (Wales) Runaround

Last Thursday I had a quick day trip up to Cardiff for some work meetings.  Of course, it was somewhat a bit of a near-disaster in that I didn’t realize I was going to Cardiff until about 14 hours before I left.  Not because I didn’t know of the trip, but because I assumed said trip was to London.  As that was where I last had meetings with this group.

For those unfamiliar (which would be 99.9999% of you), Cardiff is not London, nor, really anywhere near it.  It’s about 2.5-3hrs away by train from London.  Which would be sorta like going to Washington DC when you meant to go to Philly.

In any case, I found the singular flight a day from Paris to Cardiff (mid-afternoon, sigh), and flew up there.  It was a prop plane, with all of about 4 people on it.



Upon arrival I grabbed a rental car and pointed my phone GPS at the hotel.  About 5 minutes later, I found myself in a cow pasture.  Go Team Google Maps!

I backtracked to the airport and then simply followed road signs to the city centre, which was about 35 or so minutes away.  The unfortunate aspect being that I wasted much daylight in my cow-tipping excursion.

Thus, by time I got to the hotel, changed super-quickly and headed back out, here’s what the scene looked like.  A pretty scene, sure, but a bit low on the daylight factor.  Therefore you’ll have to excuse the non-pristine photos taken while running.


As always, I was testing some random device…or four.  In this case, the Garmin Vivofit was out on a run, comparing it to metrics from other units.  The Vivofit connects to your ANT+ heart rate strap, so I was looking to see the differences between the data captured on a traditional Garmin GPS, versus that on the Vivofit.  My heart rate is displayed below – 59bpm.

VIRB Picture

After GPS signal was received by all devices taking part in today’s effort, I began my run.  For the initial portion I’d run alongside the Cardiff castle walls.  The castle was closed at this time of day, so I’d have to remain outside.

VIRB Picture

VIRB Picture

I’d run perhaps 1/3rd to 1/2 a mile along the walls before dipping into the massive Bute Park that surrounds the castle.  In the park were a number of running trails, as well as a river that ran through it.  All of which were mostly quite visible to the human eye, but a bit more fuzzy to the camera.

VIRB Picture

At the end of the river trail, the path crosses a bridge to the other side of the river.  I figured I’d just make a loop out of it on the trails, but unfortunately the paved trail was closed that time of day.  So I had to take a small diversion through a non-paved trail to get back to a paved segment out along the street.

While it looks all Blair Witch, it’s actually fairly light beyond the brush, and there’s a number of people walking/cycling right behind me, and up to the right in front of me.

VIRB Picture

I completed my loop around the park just as I was finishing up my first 15 minute build section of the workout.  After that was done I’d be starting into a bunch of 800m repeats.

In this case, I selected a loop that went right by the main football stadium in Cardiff.  What was interesting was that I’ve actually been to this stadium – and thus by extension, have actually been to Cardiff before (a tidbit I’d forgotten about).

VIRB Picture

See, back in the 2012 Olympics they had a football (soccer) game here that we went out to watch.  It was a bit of a mess to get to from London at the last minute, but, the game was enjoyable.  You can read all about the game in that post (and, if you’re bored this morning, you can read all my 2012 Olympic posts).  You can also watch the short YouTube video that explains that Wales is technically a separate country from England.  It’s very confusing.

And ironically, I was just as confused about the placement of my rendezvous this time as I was last time I had something in Wales…that I thought was in London.

In any case…

I did loops.  At 2:54/800m, or about a 5:48/mile pace.


It was relatively flat, so my paces were pretty stable each loop and while the effort was pressed, it wasn’t that bad at all.

VIRB Picture

On the far side of the stadium (there was a river/canal in between that I’d cross bridges at, at either end), a TV camera crew was there doing spots for one of the BBC variants.  I think after the 3rd or 4th loop they started to wonder about me.

VIRB Picture

A bit less than an hour later I wrapped up my fruit loops and headed on back to the hotel.  Along the way during my cool-down I managed to get one half-way functional photo of the castle entrance.  This portion was built in the 1400’s.

VIRB Picture

As I walked the last couple minutes to the hotel, I stumbled across the street from the hotel, and got a photo of city hall.

VIRB Picture

Of course, the most detailed and sharpest photo of the night would end up being the hotel photo.  Go figure.

VIRB Picture

For those curious, here’s a bit of a map of the clusters of photos I took.  The hotel is down where it says 12/12/15, and the 12/9 is where the stadium is.  The cluster of 6/6/6 photos is the river turnaround.  The reason all the numbers are in multiples of three, is that the VIRB was set on burst mode, which takes three photos as a time.


The next day after my meetings I’d fly back home to Paris.  Albeit I first had to drive some distance to a different airport – Bristol.  Which, btw, is in a different country than Cardiff.  Nope, not confusing at all.

Thanks for reading!


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  1. Matt

    Welcome to my great country, you are right Wales is a separate country to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland although we all join together to form the United Kingdom and Cardiff is the capital of Wales.

    The stadium you ran around is the Millenium Stadium and is a Rugby (link to en.wikipedia.org) stadium not a football (soccer) stadium!

    • Jason

      Funny, because I’ve seen many football games at the Millennium Stadium (mainly when Wembley was being rebuilt). But it also hosts international matches.

      So although it is primarily a rugby stadium, it serves other purposes as well.

    • Matt

      It’s a rugby stadium owned by the Welsh Rugby Union and like most other venues around the world it does host other events such as football/monster truck/speedway/music concerts etc

  2. Ant

    I hope you enjoyed your stay in our little city :D

  3. Steve

    Croeso i Gymru “welcome to wales” in Welsh.

    How did you get the photo cluster view on the Map?

  4. At least driving to Bristol airport you did not have to pay the Toll over the bridge as they let you out of Wales for free just charge you to get in. You ran past the Cricket ground as well but not as impressive as the Millennium Stadium.

  5. Chris Thompson


    Try the Waze app for navigation. Yes, it is owned by Google now. But, I haven’t been routed to a cow pasture yet!.

  6. Psychotext

    Surprised to see fellow Cardiffians here. :)

    Hope you enjoyed your short visit. Shame about our airport. =/

  7. Rob

    So how did you find Gods country?? Lucky you flew in as you have to pay for the privilage of entering Wales by car. Although joined, Wales is a separate Country to England and the Welsh are very proud of this fact….a bit like Canada and the USA!! Hope you enjoyed your stay!

  8. Plodders

    Durr hope you enjoyed our Capital

  9. I love how the UK just confuses the hell out of most people!

  10. Mike of Team Croissant

    Ray, you were just up the road from us when at Bristol Airport. You should have dropped in for a ride. :-)

  11. Eli

    I took a day trip to Wales during my vacation to London and Paris last summer. The main intention was to visit the Doctor Who Experience (proud fan, though the exhibit felt a little lacking), but found myself wishing I had allotted for more time in the city. Just wandering around the city center around the train station, the castle, the bay, not to mention the pubs… just lovely. I will return one day!

  12. Hubert

    I love the “cow pasture”! Thanks for making us dream Ray, hahaha.

    Ray, you are so popular, you should create a part of the blog where you announce where you will be, so we can welcome you and present the good places to you :-)
    Well, keeping in mind that your training plan may not be mine and I shall adapt.
    I know it is not easy to change the training plan for me, so should it be for you, maybe it is why you do not communicate on your next locations…

    • Thanks Hubert!

      I try and drop hints about where I’ll be when it works out. This is probably a good example of most of my trips being very last minute. I didn’t book my ticket until 1AM the night before. And in many cases, I don’t really know my exact schedule, even day of. So I’d feel bad trying to organize something and having to cancel last second.

  13. I wonder how accurate is the vivofit reading.

    • Comparing it to the GPS, it was honestly better than I expected for a run.

      Vivofit: 6.64 Miles
      Fenix2: 7.02 Miles
      FR620: 7.02 Miles

      Given the run was intervals, so all over the map pace-wise, with walk/rest breaks in between, etc…that’s not too bad for an activity tracker that has no calibration option.

    • No calibration option is a surprise to me. I always thought it shares the same code base (at least the algorithm) with FR620’s internal accelerometer, so it should be calibrate-able. Anyway, looking forward to your in-depth review of it.

  14. haha
    Cardif = London is worse than ” isn’t Washington DC in Washington state.”

    Tom Jones and Catherine Zeta-Jones would be mortified.

    Thanks for sharing.

  15. cpu

    Two questions:
    1. When we can expect Vivofit review?
    2. What’s your impressions about Vivofit?

    Cheers for any replies!

    • Andrew

      Agree with cpu.
      Also any word on launch in North America? I see some countries in Europe are getting them (Netherlands), but nothing yet on this side of the pond.

    • 1) Review date: I’m currently targeting mid-next week. Probably Tuesday, short of something odd happening.

      2) Impressions: I like the unit overall. I really don’t have many/any gripes about it yet. It stays on my wrist, which is something that the FitBit Force failed to do. I do wish it had a backlight, but, that’s not really a dealbreak for me. The GC site needs some work, but I had a productive call about that last night with them, and I think things will sort/settle itself out over the next 2-6 weeks.

      3) North America: It’s already available today. For example, Clever Training has the majority of colors in stock…and you get the DCR discount and free shipping. ;)


    • Mark

      Any chance that “productive call” included a mindset change on how activities measured by multiple devices gets handled?

    • Andrew

      of course the day i ask is the day they release.
      thanks for the update ray.

      second the motion for measurements by multiple devices being handled properly in GC

    • Yeah, that’s coming (merging of multiple devices via Garmin Connect). It’s sorta complex, but it’s coming (for a multitude of metrics including calories, steps, distance, etc…).

      It sounds like it’s a few months away, but it’s something they noted to me this week they definitely want to do.

  16. cpu

    Ray: brilliant, thanks! I’ll be waiting for this :)

  17. Tom

    Wales… where men are men… and sheep are nervous.

    Love Wales, and love the welsh!

  18. cpu

    Ray: have you seen activity trackers for pebble like on11 and letsmuv? Maybe you can try to review this and compare with regular activity trackers?

    • I have, but I haven’t poked into them too much. Mostly because my current wrists each have a unit on them, and I have a one-unit-per-wrist policy. ;)

    • cpu

      Yes, yes, everything in order (Vivofit first ;-), currently I use LetsMuv just because I have Pebble and Vivofit is still unavailable in my country. Anyway when you’ll have some extra time this quick look or comparison would be nice.
      Pebble has some issues with firmware 2.0.1, data logging, accelerometer API and Pebble app on Android so it’s not mature yet to do proper test but in future…

  19. Alcatraz Rob

    Glad you enjoyed Bute Park Ray. Shame you couldn’t stay longer. Surrounding area has some great cycling.

  20. Dean

    Hi Ray,

    You were running around one of the better areas in Cardiff!

    Since moving to London it still surprises me how often people have the same opinion.

    If you go back in the next few months be sure to follow the river out of the park. Running along the Taff is my favourite spot in Cardiff, I still go running along the Taff whenever I head back to Cardiff it isn’t well lit at night but is good for bike rides and runs!

    I have switched to a job which involves a lot of travel and it is great to see how you manage it! Glad you enjoyed a city close to my heart!


  21. frank d

    Eagerly awaiting the Vivofit review ;)

    I was wondering if Soleus has sent you a GO for (p)review?

  22. Ben

    Loved the review and pictures of Cardiff! One of my fave stops on my honeymoon to the British Isles. The pictures don’t do it justice to how cool it is to walk around that city. Thanks for all that you do!