All posts filed under “London Life

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Slowly reconnecting

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted regularly here. Essentially the run-up to Henley Royal Regatta consumed every scrap of spare time I had. If you haven’t heard of it, Henley is one of the top rowing regattas in the world. It’s held on an absolutely beautiful stretch of the River Thames that has a straight section of just over 2km, the standard of international rowing races. Henley Regatta has existed since 1839 and has had a royal patron since 1851.

More importantly, Henley is known for being one of the most exclusive regattas in regards to talent. Virtually all of the best rowers in the world have raced there, and all of the best UK domestic rowers have. To have won Henley is a BIG feather in your cap; to have raced there means that you were at least a fairly serious rower.

Unfortunately, our crew failed to qualify to race at Henley this year. We’ve had some good races and some poor races, and the Stewards didn’t think we were of the standard to pre-qualify. Twenty-seven crews raced for seventeen places in the regatta, and we were the second-fastest non-qualifier. Though we rowed quite well on the day, if we had been just half a second faster (over a seven-and-a-half minute course) we would have competed this year. What’s even more unfortunate is that the conditions changed while the crews were on the course, and our division experienced significantly more headwind than other crews. This inevitably would have cut our time down enough that we would have qualified (in my opinion).

Since we weren’t of sufficient standard to pre-qualify we were subject to whatever happened on the day of qualifying races; this year simply didn’t work out for us. It’s tremendously disappointing for a whole host of reasons, and I was in a very non-sociable mood for several days afterward.

The one benefit of the experience is that it has completely drilled into me the standard of rowing and fitness I need to be at to achieve what I want to achieve in the sport. (See photo at top.) My focus for the next months and years will be to focus on the fitness and technique I need to reach my goals. It won’t be easy, but at least I know the size of the mountain I need to climb.

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Running silent…

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Hello, everyone.

I’m going dark here on the blog for a couple of weeks. I have a backlog of things I want to write on, but Henley Royal Regatta is coming up and my entire non-work focus is dedicated to that. The photo above is a IV, but I’ll be racing in an VIII.

Wish me luck! (Particularly this Friday and next Wednesday.)

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Rowing training camp

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I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, and finally have gotten around to downloading the photos. (My wife’s photos; she’s the photographer in the family.)

Thames Rowing Club spent just over a week in Temple-sur-Lot, France, which is about a 90-minute drive southeast of Bordeaux. The area is apparently well known for its pears and prunes. This year was my second training camp with the senior squad; I spent two years on the novice squad which had a four-day camp in Devon in southwest England.

Training camp involves at least three outings a day, and often concludes with an additional stretching/core stability/general pain session. The outings are fairly long, and are often filled with “pieces.” You can pretty much eat as much as you want and you won’t gain weight with the kind of training you do on camp. I generally got eight hours of sleep a night, and also caught an hour or so nap just to let my body recover in the middle of the day.

CrossDressing.jpgThis year our new coach (Lubo) added something else to camp; evening entertainment. Instead of a few drinks at the pub (standard Brits on holiday routine, even at a training camp), each squad was responsible for entertainment one night of the week. The women kicked things off with a games night, where we had wheelbarrow races, passed oranges under our chins, and also had a clothes-swapping race between a male and female member of each team!

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The men followed with “The Y Factor,” after the British hit show “The X Factor,” which is very similar to Pop Idol/American Idol. I was part of a three-man team that did the “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling,” Top Gun-style. The novices did a piss-take of the coaches and a pub quiz.

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We also organised an evening’s dinner at a local restaurant. It doesn’t have a Michelin star anymore, but did just a few years ago. The food was fantastic, and the views were incredible. It’s situated at the top of a ridge, and the sun set across the valley from us while we were eating. It was fantastic!

Not all of camp was brilliant. The weather was grey and cloudy for about four/five days. The dam that keeps the water level stable had to be lowered for a few days (supposedly because of rain upstream?) and that actually prevented us from rowing for a day and a half, which was very frustrating. We couldn’t get the boats down to the water safely, and even if we could have, logs the size of telephone poles were coming down the river. Luckily the coaches found plenty of other things to keep us going. Long runs and seriously hard-core cycling kept our legs quite tired until we could get back on the water.

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The final thing I have to say about training camp is that the last night is legendary. At that point we’re all done with rowing, the boats are washed, cleaned and tied down to the trailer for the trip back, and we’re largely packed to go home. There is nothing left except to get completely and totally pissed. Then…. well… what goes on camp, stays at camp.

More photos are below for your curiosity/enjoyment.

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Penny

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Friday, April 18th was a very sad day for us; we had to put our lovely cat Penny to sleep.

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We originally got Penny a year and a half ago, after we’d been living in our flat for about a year. We needed a totally indoor cat, as we didn’t have any easy outdoor space for her at the time. After contacting a rescue place, there was in fact one cat that fit the bill… Penny. She was deaf and largely blind, and had been rescued from near starvation after being found in someone’s garden. The cat rescue people even drove her a couple hours across London to bring her to us!
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Penny, being deaf and blind made for a very unique companion. After a few days she knew the general layout of our flat, and after a few weeks/months, she was an old pro getting around. (Albeit for her, getting around also involved putting her head down and walking until she ran into something, hopefully at an oblique angle, and then get her bearings from there.) Because of this, she always kept her head down, she never looked up. We think it was because her ears would always start to run into a door or wall before she would, and gave her a fraction of a second of time to prepare!

Penny went downhill quite fast in the end. We noticed that she hadn’t been herself about a month ago, and the vet ended up diagnosing her with cancer.

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Some of our favourite memories of Penny:

  • Since she was deaf, she couldn’t hear herself meow. WOW, did she have some lungs on her! Penny would get to the top of the stairs in the flat, and just meow at the top of her lungs, letting us know that she was there. (Or at least that’s what we figured.)
  • As I mentioned above, Penny always kept her head down. But she’d also do this when she was just sitting somewhere. She would sit like a normal cat, but she would put her head down so far it would essentially be touching the floor (or couch). We never quite figured that one out, and many times referred to her as a “headless cat”.
  • We had had her for about six months or so when she rapidly lost quite a lot of fur, but only from her neck down to mid-way on her back. Some of it eventually grew back, but mostly it just stayed that way.
  • Penny loved warm things. This included napping directly under the flats radiators, and resting on anything that put out heat. We would find her sitting on power adapters, network routers, and for a while she loved sitting on a laptop! (Photo below.)
  • For quite a while, she didn’t like being up on our bed. I think it was because we have a rather fluffy duvet, and it was easier for her to walk on more solid ground. That said, in the last few months she was alive she did start to like snuggling up to us in bed at night.
  • Speaking of walking, it was interesting to see her walk. She did a lot of “double-tapping,” where she’d put her paw out, tap to make sure the floor was still there (ie, not at the top of the stairs!), and then move it slightly forward & put her weight on it.
  • Feeding Penny could also be interesting; if it wasn’t mounded up, it was very difficult for her to eat. (She couldn’t see it, and had lost most of her teeth.)
  • Challenging bit about a blind cat and litter trays: Penny would get in her little tray to s**t, but end up hanging her bum outside the litter tray. Ugh.
  • Penny also loved being on laps, and would occasionally venture onto shoulders. When I was working from home, she would recognise that I was sitting on a chair, and start climbing up my leg to sit on my lap! For a blind cat, that’s both desire and confidence.
  • Not too uncommon I think, but she loved having her neck scratched. After a lot of her fur fell out, I think it felt really good to her.
  • Did I mention she was tiny? At her peak, she weighed 3kg, or just about 6lbs. At the end, she was down to just 1.5kg.
  • We felt really bad when it happened (but always laughed) when she thought she knew where she was going and just ran straight into a door, table leg, doorframe, or wall. It was a literal “BONK!” sound.
  • The only time we saw her with her head up and craning her neck was one day when we were curious how she would find being outside. We took her out to the sidewalk in front of our flat, and just watched her. She stood up very straight, craned her neck, and VERY slowly walked around. After a bit we brought her back inside, and she seemed much happier to be there.
  • She owned our alpaca throw. As soon as Annie brought it home from hush, Penny really took to it. It was her little luxury item. (We didn’t have to pay full price, luckily!)

Those are some of our favourite memories of Penny. She was a great little cat, and we were happy we could provide a home for her for so long.

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