Tag Archives: rowing

I’ll be better next time, I promise!

So, how much time has passed since my last update? Basically half a year, I think!… This is definitely not going according to plan ๐Ÿ™‚ .

Anyway, my last update was immediately after I handed in my thesis (end of April). I started my new job as a post-doc researcher the week after. The new job is still at the same place, with the same people — but with additional responsibilities (and without the pressure of a thesis to write…)!

I had a slight break in between, though – my dad came to visit and we did some sightseeing (Dover Castle in extremely foggy conditions, but we powered it through anyway – I’m becoming too English ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and at the end of his stay I had my first coastal regatta (@ Worthing) of the season (well, there had been one in Deal in early April but that didn’t count). Funnily enough, we ended up winning our Nov 4+ category that day (unfortunately that was the _only_ win I had during the whole season – we did get quite a few third places, though!).

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Some of the HBARC squad after prize-giving in Worthing regatta! (photo by M. Marques)

So yes, most of my summer weekends were spent on several different beaches around the Kent and East Sussex coast – with all culminating on the South Coast Championships which took place precisely at Herne Bay! It has definitely been fun, if tiresome at times.

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We like the rough water! ๐Ÿ™‚ (although in my opinion rough water is fine for sweep rowing, not so much for going out on a single scull! But I guess I just need to get some proper sea legs…) (photo by J Dining)

One other ‘big thing’ that happened over the summer was our house move. We finally moved out of the student digs in Canterbury we were in to a nicer place in Herne Bay. Not only am I now only 10 minutes away from the clubhouse by bike but we now have a proper garage and workshop where I can work on my bikes and other assorted projects! (it also has a nice kitchen, with a 5-burner gas hob and everything! Luxury…)

Oh, and there is also the viva. Yes, that should actually have been the first thing on the list, but I am trying to do it in a chronological fashion (it does make more sense in my head than in the actual text…). So yes, according to my supervisor, when confronted with the size of my thesis (obviously… ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) my external examiner required the whole 3 months to read it. (he did also say that my thesis was probably the heaviest item in his luggage – but I blame the university policies for that, which prevented me from printing on both sides of the paper, making a 250-page book as thick as the Bible!).

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Everything ready for the viva! In the UK the PhD viva is only attended by the two examiners (one internal, and one external) and obviously the candidate. Makes it for a more one-to-one conversation; and even though I had prepared a 30-minute presentation, that ended up being an informal conversation about my work. And no, I did not bribe my examiners with Lidl biscuits, although they were quite welcome ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, I’m digressing… so, my viva. It took place on the 2nd of August, and everything went according to plan – I had booked a nicer room (our group’s meeting room, which has a proper meeting table, AV facilities and also the kettle & coffee maker: these two are very important!), refreshed my memory by reading the thesis and checking relevant papers (and spotted quite a few mistakes in the process – outch!), so everything was properly prepared. The questioning wasn’t that bad, really – I was just surprised to be asked to compute matrix multiplications and simple signal theory concepts – and in the end I got out with minor corrections (could have been just typographical but since I wanted to change some diagrams, they allowed for that a bit more time). I felt quite honored to be told by my external examiner (who is a very big name in the field, and the editor of one of the biggest journals in the field as well!) that he had actually learned something from my thesis. Amazing stuff, especially considering he started his academic career more or less when I was born!

After properly celebrating with my workmates, my supervisor, and Sally of course, August went on, with a couple more regattas, followed by a lot of water sessions in preparation for the South Coast Champs. By then our crew was coming together – there were sessions when the boat felt really, really good, timing- and balance-wise. It was a long time coming but we felt really happy when it finally happened!

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At the end of a training session with my mate Carlos on the coxless pair. There are few better ways of finishing the day… ๐Ÿ™‚ (photo by N Tricks)

Naturally, during all this time my research activities were carried on – we finalised a paper which is now going to be re-submitted soon (issues with reviewers being silly, nothing new there), and I’ve developed new systems, new software, and obtained lots of pretty pictures in the process. Hopefully if I become a bit more committed to updating this thing more images will eventually surface here…

I also bought a new road bike that month. It was a bit of an impulse buy – we had gone to Halfords to buy L-plates for Sally’s car so she could practice and naturally my gaze was diverted to the bike section, where I spotted a big discount on old stock. Ended up getting a low-end Carrera (but with carbon forks and half-decent wheels) for ยฃ199 – quite happy with it so far, although I haven’t done any very long rides with it yet (mostly 20 miles-ish each so far). The N+1 rule does not apply here, at least not until we have our own place and not have to worry about moving everything, so I had to get rid of one of my bikes ๐Ÿ™ . But I wasn’t really riding the hybrid Raleigh that much, especially considering that the bike itself was a bit too small for me! Ended up selling it to one of my co-workers, which was probably the best thing I could have done – it went to a loving home and I still see it from time to time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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My two roadies enjoying the sun. I took this picture after finishing fitting a new fork on the Granada, since the original one had been damaged during a head-on collision with another cyclist earlier in the summer.

In late August I flew to Porto for a mini-holiday with my family, followed by the customary week-long Physics summer school at my old university, where once again I mentored the LEGO robots project (this was probably the last time I’ll be involved in this, though – I think it is time to move on and let new faces take over and create a whole new project!). Away from my crewmates and the training sessions, and with the Championship looming, I ran and I cycled as much as possible, and I was treated to some nice rides with nice people, as the picture below shows!… ๐Ÿ™‚

Me and my mate Cris after a long-ish bike ride along the seafront and riverside. Great time!

Me and my mate Cris after a long-ish bike ride along the seafront and riverside. Brilliant time!

September came and went, with a very welcome mini-break with Sally to Portugal – it was her first time there, and we had a very tightly-packed schedule, so things were a bit hectic. Still, we enjoyed the countryside, Porto, the river, and the nice food (not to mention having my family around). And on Easter next year we will return for more!

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In the Douro valley with Mum, Dad and Sally!

After returning to the UK, winter slowly started to set in. We fought for a bit, still had our Indian summer for a while, not really wanting to swap the summer with the winter clothes or turn the central heating on but we ended up capitulating on early November (although theย  icy weather only really started around here last week!). And with November a few more things appeared in the horizon – I became qualified as a session rowing coach (I have completed a British Rowing course – the first one on the coaching ladder – alongside a few people from HBARC and Spitfire), and I had my graduation ceremony where I finally became a doctor of philosophy in Physics (woo, fancy title! ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Naturally, for this momentous occasion I had to have my family over, so my parents came to visit, and after graduation day we took a couple of days off to show them around. Despite the torrential rain in one of the days (there you go, England!) we still enjoyed ourselves.

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Me and my parents at the Cathedral on graduation day. (photo by S Makin)

And now it is finally December, and Christmas decorations are sprouting here and there, there’s Christmas music on the radio, and today I bought my very first Christmas jumper! ๐Ÿ™‚ This year I’m actually spending Christmas and New Year in England, for the first time in my life. My brother and sister are actually spending Christmas with us (which is also going to be a first for them), so I’m quite looking forward to the festive season. But there’s so much to finish before that happens… better get on with it, and hope I still have some time to keep this updated. At least let’s hope it won’t be another 6-7 months until the next update… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Monthly updates?…

Judging from the past posts, it is starting to look like that indeed! Anyway, better late than never, isn’t what they say?

So, since New Year’s Eve (and day) a month has passed. New Year’s Eve wasn’t that exciting, I have to say – a combination of not having any plans and the family heading off to theย  countryside meant that I did not join the festivities in Porto. New Year’s Day was actually spent with some quality time with the family, while eating obscene amounts of food at my grandparents’ ๐Ÿ™‚

I had planned my flights to stay for another week in Porto, thinking that I would be able to combine some thesis writing with nice bike rides in crisp, cool January days (same time the previous year the weather was absolutely gorgeous! I remember even taking some work to a seaside cafe and trying to do some work under a gorgeous blue sky, with the waves crashing in the distance…). Unfortunately, this wasn’t to happen this week, as it rained copiously throughout the week – Rui and I barely had the opportunity to go for a little ride to test his new (for him) road bike (and we got significantly soaked in the process anyway!). Even the river became off-limits as the Port Authority closed it to any vessels, so no rowing either :-(.

In the end I did manage to get some work done, my thesis is chugging along OK, although it is sometimes difficult to find motivation to work on it while other things are happening around me, both work and leisure-wise.

So I flew back home (funny how I consider this “home” now, isn’t it?…) and went straight back to work. Two days after I was off to Ashford to spend the day at the hospital, thankfully that had nothing to do with me or anyone I personally know! No, we were invited to visitย (and shadow) a pair of ophthalmologists who have been working with our research group for a while. Sylvain has covered the visit on his blog, and I make his words mine, it was a very fascinating experience! (I did not faint though, too many episodes of Casualty andย ER did the trick! ๐Ÿ˜› )ย Rather good to see exactly what are their real needs, as most of the time we seem to think we know what’s good for them, technology-wise, but it is not until we are actually inside the operating theatre that one realises the constraints the equipment has to respect and what is effectively useful for the eye surgeons during their procedures and also during their clinic work.

Afterwards, life became a continuum of work, thesis and training (perhaps I should find a synonym of “work” which starts with a “T”!). As mentioned in previous posts, I have been training at HBARC since September, and it has been an amazing ride. Hard to believe that I’m now pulling sub 2:00/500m splits for 5-6k at rate 19! And if a few things do go forward there might be a possibility of some racing happening this Summer. But I’m keeping that sort of under wraps for now ๐Ÿ˜‰

It may not look like much, but back in September I would be lucky to finish 5k at this rate in 21 minutes! Training has been paying off, although there is still a lot to do :)

It may not look like much, but back in September I would be lucky to finish 5k at this rate in 21 minutes! Training has been paying off, although there is still a lot to do ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, it has been really nice and I’ve been meeting some great people. I may be a bit biased but I feel that any rowing-motivated connection or acquaintance has all the potential to go well – due to rowing I have met quite a lot of great people, some of which I consider good friends. I think it may have something to do with this psyche of working really, really hard towards a common goal, and pulling it together all the way till the end. And I had been missing that for these last couple of years, ever since I left Porto. Not only the training together (the psychological effect of erging together is amazing – I would have never dreamed of delivering what I am doing now, with an added increase in endurance and general strength!), but also the social part: we have been having club meals and events at the boathouse which have been great, brilliant sense of community there. ๐Ÿ™‚

Right, I’m going to wrap this up here (this is what happens when I start musing about rowing…). A few posts will start popping up over the next couple of months (in addition to these monthly-that-I-wanted-to-post-more-regularly ones), since I have been selected by Epson to review a running watch/HRM, the runsense SF-810. In return for posting a few videos portraying my impressions when using it, they will let me keep it at the end of the programme. I have already started the video reviews, with the mandatory unboxing and a first (muddy) run in Blean Woods last weekend. Stay tuned for the next ones! ๐Ÿ™‚

Already November?

Goodness me, how time does fly! On my last post (theย car one aside) I was still on about my holidays in Porto and my new “toys”. Well, October came and went, I managed to do a few things in the meantime.

Well, to start things properly, something that I had already been doing in August was to join Herne Bay Amateur Rowing Club – I did went out on a 4+ and did some land training with them, but made it “official”ย it as soon as I got back to the UK. I had had enough of training on my own in the university gym, not to mention the fact that during term time is almost impossible to carry out a coherent training session given that the place is so busy with all the annoying undergrads. I really missed doing gym training, erg sessions etc with properย rowers, which is what I had been doing until I moved to the UK. Not to mention the “coastal” side of it, which I hadn’t done until now and it is good fun!

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The view from the boathouse in Herne Bay on a not-so-nice day. Oh well, land training then… but erging with sea views (yes, we take our ergs outside!) is really quite something! ๐Ÿ™‚

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The historic centre of Copenhagen at dusk. We were quite fortunate with the weather, in September it was quite similar to Kent in that respect!

So yeah, now I divide my time between the boathouse in Plucks where I still go out on the single when the weather is nice, and the land training in Herne Bay (although the Autumnย has been kind to us, we were still able to take a couple of 4+s out a few weeks ago!). And a bit less frequently I have been also helping out my Spitfire coach teaching some youngsters how to row. Good teaching and coaching experience…

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Snapping a shot of the hire bike on the bank of a big lake north of Copenhagen (near a place called Lyngby). Single speed, with coaster brakes – quite a bit different from my Granada!

Work-wise, I attended an interesting workshop in Denmark, which was hosted by NKT Photonics (the industrial partner in the Marie Curie programme some of my colleagues in the group are on). We were also given the opportunity to visit the company and the labs, and I have obviously also enjoyed Copenhagen while I was there, I even had the chance of taking one of the bikes from the hotel and go on a nice little tour of the surrounding villages.

And more concretely I have been busy with the angiometry system which has finally started giving some images (I have installed a few tubes and I can control the flow of the fluid passing through them using a peristaltic pump, a fancy toy which we got very recently!), although there is still some work on the polarisation-sensitive OCT to be done. And the thesis… well, it is getting to that point where I know that I need to sit down and write but I can’t quite summon the will to do so. I need to get a bit stricter with my self-discipline…

I have also recently learned that the abstract I had submitted to Photonics West 2016 has been accepted for oral presentation (this was based upon the paper we published back in the summer, available here). Now I need to find the money to go… I’ve been busy sending applications for funding to various schemes and societies. I have to say, it may feel sometimes a bit unfair that some PhD students on better funding conditions (ie, with research grants and European programmes backing them) don’t have to go through this process that seems almost like begging, but at the same time this is exactly the same as applying for grants and funding schemes for future research, which is something any researcher will be spending part of his/her careerย doing (not that I am still 100% convinced that academic research is the pathย I want to go after the PhD, but anyway…). So it is definitely an useful exercise to go through, although if the funding doesn’t get granted in the end it is a missed opportunity, and attending a few conferences (and presenting there!) is definitely something any PhD student should definitely have under his/her belt.

Right, it is getting late and it is a “school day” tomorrow! I better go… plus I definitely need a rest, the 10x500m sprints we did on the erg today really did me up! ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ™‚

Holidaying… sort of!

Well, today is absolutely pouring down outside so I have some time to update this thing, at last! (and I can scrape “Update blog” off my to-do list, too ๐Ÿ™‚ )

So, what has been happening since my “blacksmith” post? (which wasn’t…) August was spent working in the lab, with the occasional leisure moment – including some coastal rowing in Herne Bay and a lab BBQ at mine which even included a game of football in the recently cleared-up garden!

Some of the work we’ve been doing finally paid off, too – two research letters have been recently published in Optics Letters, including one covering the two-port, two-gratings spectrometer (using Talbot bands) and another describing a polarisation-sensitive OCT system that is immune to fibre-based disturbances. (in case anybody wants to have a look round but doesn’t have an OSA subscription, the preprint versions are available in Kent’s academic repository, here and here.)

And I’m now trying to piece together all the research I’ve been doing over these last three years and make it thesis-friendly – ie, I need to make all the little projects and set-ups I’ve worked with blend together in a coherent manner. No easy task… but it is true that the hardest part of the work has been done already, which is to research and retrieve the information. Still… this is going to take a while ๐Ÿ™‚

The robot that was built by the students. This year they were a bit more ambitious and they placed an ultrasound sensor for the robot to stop once it found an obstacle in its path!

The robot that was built by the students. This year they were a bit more ambitious and they placed an ultrasound sensor for the robot to stop once it found an obstacle in its path!

Late August I returned to Portugal, and over the first week of September I have been again involved with the Physics Summer School (for high school students, 16- to 17-year olds) in my old Department, tutoring them in the Lego robotics project (and teaching them some LabVIEW). This time there were no dramas (apart from my Monday morning tour of Porto & Gaia to try to find a printing place where I could print the course for the robot, only to discover the old course later the same day stashed away in the back of a cupboard! Argh!) and the students seemed to grasp it properly (although the hardest part is to explain to their peers what on earth they have been doing throughout that week…).

My new beautiful road bike after a first trip down to Espinho (thank you Augusto Caetano for the photo!).

My new beautiful road bike after a first trip down to Espinho (thank you Augusto Caetano for the photo!).

This year I’m not doing the Porto half-marathon so I took it lightly in my trainings (plus I spent most of August not running, trying to recover from that injury I got during the Les Golding 10k…). And because I felt I needed a decent bike around here to do some trainings & nice tours, I finally took the plunge and went to Decathlon to get the lovely Triban 520 road bike I had been dreaming about for the past few months. I’ve clocked in a bit over 100 km already, it runs beautifully! (although I had to get used to the shifters being on the brake levers and not mounted on the frame, as is the case with my Raleigh…) It is also very light (around 10-11 kg) – I suspect I’m going to feel the extra weight when I get back to England and to my other road bike…

The Mac wall. There is one G4 missing (on loan) and a IIsi which is currently under my desk in the UK, apart from that they're all there! :)

The Mac wall. There is one G4 missing (on loan) and a IIsi which is currently under my desk in the UK, apart from that they’re all there! ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, so after the Summer School I’ve been basically spending my time running and cycling, being with friends and family, and working a bit – I have a presentation during a workshop which will be taking place next week in Denmark, plus there are a few deadlines for grant applications that need to be submitted before the end of this month… I’ve also finally got round to get some shelving units to store my vintage Apple computer collection – I have to say that they look good once they’re all together in some nice, purpose-built shelving, don’t you think? Now I have to get round to update the sub-website I have here, as there are some models which have not found their way into the website yet…

I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning that I’ve received some very sad news once I got back to Portugal: Mike Kennedy, one of the coaches I knew from both UKent Rowing Club and Spitfire, passed away after a battle with cancer. I had been with him a few weeks before, talking about rowing and bikes and everything in between, actually I had spent a few nice afternoons having chats with him over this last two years. He even managed to do some remote coaching, correcting my sculling technique after I sent him some videos – those were quite helpful indeed. Thank you Mike, for everything.

And on this slightly more sombre mood I will finish this post. Next Saturday I’m already flying back to the UK and back to some proper work, I could say also back to the slightly more rubbish climate but it doesn’t seem that way when I look outside the window right now! (although I’ve seen the weather forecast for Porto during the coming week and it seems really nice… of course it does, I’m no longer here!! ๐Ÿ˜› )

 

Early bright mornings…

This morning I was in for a treat – a bright mildish (not too warm, not too cold) morning with absolutely zero wind! Obviously I had to head out to the boathouse under these circumstances ๐Ÿ™‚ . By the time I got there (at about 06:30 AM) it was already very, very bright – it makes the dark days we have in Winter around here a bit more bearable when you know that by this time of the year it gets this nice! ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

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Look at the lack of rippling from the water – it is a perfect mirror! If it wasn’t for the frequent logs and bits of garden waste that are quite frequently present in the river it would have been an absolutely perfect training session this morning.

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(and yes, the HDR feature on my phone works really well, I have to say! No way I could ever get these images on a single frame acquisition…)

Today I was sculling with drag setting 10 on my boat!

Today I was sculling with drag setting 10!

Battling the current whilst heading upstream back to the boathouse I came across a few streams of vegetation which got caught in the fin of my boat. It looks insignificant but it does create a big wash behind it – and big wash = large drag. ๐Ÿ™‚

In the summer it is going to be worse as the river level will drop quite significantly…

(and yes, the boat needs new tape round the edges. Considering it was green (literally) after almost 2 years outside it is not faring too badly anyway!)

 

Whew!

Again, it has been a while! ๐Ÿ™‚ Where to begin?

Well, Porto came and went (too quickly, indeed…) and I returned to the island and to my busy schedule (at times). Funnily enough, as soon as I got back one of my university mates came to visit and we spent a nice weekend roaming around Kent, with the mandatory stop at Whitstable to get some oysters.

May was a bit slow… between work at the lab, a pile of lab reports to mark (yeah, I gave myself a proper holiday in Porto and didn’t evenย look at them during the whole time I was there – but then the problem came in May when I had to finish them all in a very short span of time! ๐Ÿ˜› ), and a very busy time at PARSUK (we had to assess the student applications to the summer placement programme we are sponsoring – and there were a lot of applications!!) I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything else.

My mom and my little sister did came to visit me by the end of the month, which was nice, if it wasn’t for the horrible weather we had and all the miles I had to drive under that rain (unbelievable the spray that forms on the motorway, it came to a point when the water was beingย projected over the central reservation into the opposite carriageway!!). After showing them the views and going to London for some sightseeing, using a bank holiday weekend for that purpose, I felt happy but also a bit tired (after returning from dropping them at the airport on Tuesday morning I have to confess I didn’t do much in the lab for the remainder of the day!).

June started with a few meetings and workshops. I attended a National Instruments (NI)/Institute of Physics half-day meeting at Kingston University (SW London) with some of the usual suspects from the lab where I gave a little presentation in conjunction with Adrian B about the NI hardware/software we use and how that helps us achieve what we need, research-wise. It was interesting and I chatted with a few interesting people, namely one of the top level execs of NI here in the UK.

At the Summer School, where I got an award for one of the best poster presentations – feeling proud!

A few days later I went to Teddington to attend a Summer School at the National Physical Laboratory, sponsored by SEPNet (the group of the South-East universities with Physics degrees, Kent being one of them). It was interesting and refreshing, even if myself and Yong H were the only ones in there doing Applied Optics, as far as I saw… but they had some very interesting workshops, an innovation challenge that brought up the “soft skills” we are never taught but are definitely important, and Jim Al-Khaliliย as the keynote speaker! (oh, and there were a few social events as well… the weather was remarkably good for those, and in the end I even managed to cram a few nice runs in the morning, in particular a ~10k one partly following the Thames in the Kingston/Hampton Wick area – absolutely beautiful!).

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All the participants of LUSO 2014 congregated for a group photo after the event. The venue was quite unique as well!

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And here it is, the PARSUK committee for 2013-14, possibly our last group photo of the mandate. It has been quite a ride!…

And in the following week I headed for Bath, to attend the 8th LUSO (2014) – the annual meeting of the Portuguese students and researchers in the UK. Ultimately this would be also the time to pass on my duties as a treasurer for PARSUK, given that our mandate finishes at the AGM, which took place the day after the conference. It was very intense but also good fun, and I feel privileged to have been able to work with such a great bunch of people. Definitely worth the horrible ~4-hour drive there on Friday afternoon through the congested M25, followed by the congested M3, congested Windson and congested A46, all under a scorching sun (“why would I need a car with air conditioning in this country?”, I naively asked myself when I purchased my car. Well, on a day like June 20th it would have come handy… ๐Ÿ˜› ).

Cake skill - acquired! (actually it is only a yoghurt cake, possibly the easiest cake to bake on Earth, but it was still quite yummy! )

Cake skill – acquired!
(actually it is only a yoghurt cake, possibly the easiest cake to bake on Earth, but it was still quite yummy! ) And please do not ask why I am topless, it was really warm that day and the oven being on didn’t help! ๐Ÿ˜›

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Almost ran this little fellow over with the lawnmower today! Fortunately I managed to stop in time, and it stayed enough time for me to take a few shots…

At last I managed to have a weekend for myself – this weekend included some rowing, some running, and general tidying up of my house, my car, the garden (managed to mow all the lawn, trim the hedges and tidy upย before the rain started!! Big WIN!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ).

A selfie at the boathouse! Nice boat, this one…

With regards to running: Richard,ย one of my rowing mates told me about this fantastic nature reserve in Blean – Blean (duh) Nature Reserve – just a stone’s throw from campus and featuring a fantastic 7-8 mile loop through forest paths and rolling countryside, hard to believe that we are less than 5 miles away from Canterbury city centre! Given that I have just presented myself with a shiny new Garmin Forerunner 310XT (which should arrive this week – eagerly awaiting, and a review will follow!) I will probably use it to log a few of these trails, which are not very well documented, which is a shame!

OK, I think I’ll end here. It is late and I need to catch some sleep, I am dead tired today ๐Ÿ™‚ Hopefully will update soon!

The not-so-chilly morning (this doesn’t feel like late November!!)

Via Flickr:
Apart from the wind & current which made my life a bit more complicated on the way back, it was a very good outing this morning! And I had plenty of time to disembark, sort out my oars, get some slings out, take boat off the water, wash & wipe it thoroughly and still help another club re-rig their boat before I set sight on the rest of the club (yeah, I was the first one to go out ๐Ÿ™‚ )