Friday, 7 January 2011

Happy New Year (and all that)

Hello everyone! Hope you all made it though the Christmas holiday unscathed!

I think the following picture sums up my festive holiday:

Oh. My. God.  This combined with the fact I'd not been rowing for a while due to stupid ice everywhere now means I have a slightly "was once athletic but has recently put on a load of weight really fast" look about me. It is not a good look.

And I know I should have done and ergo instead. However, between writing this post and Christmas I have been very much library bound, and to be perfectly honest, a bit of a slob. I have consumed a lot of cake. I am not proud. 

If there hadn't been so much fucking snow around I would have gone out on t'Bianchi for a blast or headed out to Ely for a date with the boat. But not being able to do either of those things I just though "Fuck it" and returned to the inviting warmth of the department. I think I needed a little time anyway to sort my head out. The important thing though is that I'm over the "being a slob" hump now and want to train again (though with a strict limit of one session a day to prevent degree fail-age...).  Including running Monday, Wednesday, Friday in a bid to be less fat (my rather boring New Year's resolution).

The one time I did go out when there was ice out it was minus six (shit that's cold) and there were pieces of broken up ice floating around that were TWO INCHES THICK. 

HOW FUCKING THICK THE ICE WAS, as modelled by Charlotte :-)
 So, with a great amount of trepidation and layers of kit, I headed out into the great unknown. It didn't take long for me to hear the horrible crunch of ice hitting my bows. Then I caught a c. 3 metre square bit with my blade. Now, I maybe one for hitting the catch too hard, but not even my aggressive catch placement can get through two inches of ice.

I got to the closest you can get to falling in, without falling in. Now if you've never been out in a single scull, you won't be able to relate to the terror of this.
 You're instantly full of adrenaline and time does that weird thing of slowing down (that happens when I crash my bike too). However, unlike crashing your bike when you know what's coming to you (i.e. the fucking hard ground at a rate of knots), in this situation you have the sickening unknown ahead of you. Are you going to rescue it and sit in your boat for the next five minutes gripping your blade handles very tightly and saying "Shit that was close shit shit shit" over and over again? Or are you going to fall in the river and, given the ambient temperature, very quickly die of exposure?

Seriously, I'd given this dying thing some thought. Some background on rowing in Ely: it's got a 5K long straight (yessssss), with about 1.5K of wiggly river to get to the stretch with the boathouses on (illustrated below).

OK, so let's say, hypothetically, that it's below freezing and I fall in 3K up the straight. I'd have to get back in my boat in the middle of the river (it's got tall corrugated iron banks/banks of reeds on either side so no dragging your boat to the side) which is pretty hard in itself (especially if you've just been winded by how cold the water is). I've then got three options:
  1. Row the best part of 4.5K back to the IoERC. Only there's no boathouse there, and no source of warmth at all. I do have dry (cold) kit though. I get changed into that then cycle as fast as possible to the station to get a train home. Result = I die on the platform waiting for a train.
  2. Row 5.5K to the CUW boathouse. Break in (I know the code, it's fine. And it's my old club, so no worries). Perhaps boil a kettle? However, I'd have no warm kit to change into. Still very likely to die.
  3. Row the 5.5K to CUW, but then walk to the left a little to the CUBC boathouse. They have hot showers in there and a changing room full of Xchanging kit and I can see coffee and a kettle in the kitchen bit! I'm saved! However, being a girl and therefore not hugely eligible for rowing for CUBC, I don't have the means of getting in. (I could smash a window I suppose, if I have the energy...). Result = I die, staring at the means of getting warm and clawing at the door to the boat bay.
This is why I decided that rowing when there's ice out is stupid.

EDIT Apologies, I completely missed off the Cambridge Lightweight men. They boat from a car park a few hundred meters down from CUBC and win the prize for having the worst facilities ever. (But they are closer to the train station, Tescos and Costa coffee than all of the rest of us). Only in Cambridge could you get such a huge discrepancy in the facilities between different university boat clubs. But I'm not bitter. Not at all. (I should mention, for the record, that CUBC do let CUW and CUL use Goldie boathouse for ergos.)

Oh oh oh! I did do something active in my six week cake holiday (as it shall henceforth be known). I played squash for the first time AHAHAHAHA.

Now, I have the hand-eye coordination of a quadriplegic, blind elephant. There was a fucking reason I was always "wing defence" when we were forced to play netball at school and that reason is that I am a badgering retard whenever there is a ball around. I was therefore not expecting great things from my first ever game of squash, but I went into it anyway with a sort of cheerful resignation that I was going suck just a little bit.
I am a fan of honesty. Brutal, brutal honesty.
I was right.
One of the problems with squash is the walls thing. I ran into a few.

Even when I concentrated really hard on serving and was like "Yeah, going to totally nail it this time". NOPE.

However, when I finally hit the ball, overzealous celebration was required, nay necessary.

I probably won't be invited again to be honest. But anyway. I digress. Christmas. Yes.

Cool presents included a MARMITE TEAPOT

And and and this little firesteel striker thing. For making fires :-)

This is the reason why me and my brother spent a good two hours on Christmas day setting fire to a box of tissues on the hearth.
The fire-making joy loop.
Good times :-)

There were also awkward conversations with grandparents to be had...
...and AS Level Maths to teach to my brother. I have a rather interesting teaching style, namely aggression.
Sorry Toby. But you really should write neater.

And you'll never guess what sneaked into my luggage for the return journey to Cambridge :-D
 Ooooo! Look at this! An interesting treatise on stellar structure!

But I have rambled on in a very incoherent fashion for far too long now. And it's Friday, which means running time.

With that I bid you goodnight.


  1. *laughs* good times!

    I admire your analysis of the likelihood of dying under various courses of action ... and yes, not rowing when it is icy is probably a good plan. (Is it worth putting some of those reflective blankets you get in first aid kits in the boathouses? Or just generally carrying one with you?)

    Also I very much admire your marmite teapot. I saw some great marmite products (egg cups, toast rack etc) the other day and thought of you :)

  2. A couple of things:

    (1) You have omitted the "skanky little lightweights' field" from your annotated diagram of Ely rowing facilities. Admittedly, it combines the worst parts of IoERC, CUW and CUBC...

    (2) Catches when rowing in ice. I share with you the genius solution to this problem that I have developed over a number of years, namely putting one's catches in SO SLOWLY that by the time the blade touches the water, the ice has melted, the sun has come out and the crocuses are in full bloom. You can't fault it.

    Oh, and all the best people leave person-shaped dents in the walls while playing squash. It's called "why we row" isn't it...?

  3. Ahh the awkward holiday conversations. Or more accurately described "holiday verbal assaults."

    The work one is minor compared to the "Are you seeing anyone??? No?? Why not???"

    Makes me want to give people the Tahitian skull rip of death.

  4. @Eudoxia: Good idea with the space blankets - will make me last a little longer before I die.

    *goes and buys space blanket*
    *spends half an hour dancing round while wearing it as a cape saying SHINY SHINY LOOK HOW SHINY I AM*

    @Frankie: CRAP! I meant to put that on there, but completely forgot. Will edit accordingly. Also, slow catches FTW :-) *facepalm*

    @Kevin: "Holiday verbal assaults". Sums it up very well! :-)

  5. I remember comming back from Christmas holidays to do seat racing in Manchester.

    We rowed on a canal in Sale, canals freeze solid when it gets below freezing. So we had to get out the icebreaker (a Janousek 8), row up and down until we couldn't feel any part of our bodies and then do the seat racing with blocks of ice floating everywhere.

    I vividly remember placing my blade onto one at the catch and taking an amazing air stroke.

    It was fun :)

  6. Ahhh VIIIs.... So much less likely to fall in and die :-)

  7. When Marlow RC thought it was a good idea to do a camp over new year at Nottingham, I got sent out in my little wooden (old) single to break the ice so faster plastic boats could go up there.
    When your catch skittles over the ice you really do think you're going to fall in.

  8. 8s were definitely the easy option, not I just plough on regardless in my single and hope I don't catch anything with my blade.

    I quite enjoy crunching through the ice, it makes a very satisfactory sound.

  9. The trick at IoERC is to face the river and admire its wondrousness for rowing. But keep moving or you will stick in the mud. And we have a gas heater, so there.

    Nearly went sculling when the ice disappeared, then the launches ejected 3x4m icebergs from the slipway... Sod that, have done your 'iceberg catch' and do not want to repeat the experience.

  10. 'Iceberg catch' - you should definitely copyright that phrase.