A much smaller medal hoard than previous years. I'm still enjoying the races but I've reduced my participation with race events as I wanted to focus on other on other life events besides active ones. Yet I still had the opportunity for new experiences such as the original obstacle race Tough Guy, 6 hour Endurance Race at Gravesend, Make the Future Live eco event, a Ninja style competition, 6 hour Endurance race in Paris and finally got to roll along for the annual Skate Fresh Party.
I hope to keep active in 2018 with lot more fun, exciting, active experiences however they may be.
We took the 10:00 Eurostar train from London St Pancras and we were in Paris by lunch time, ready for a long skate weekend.
Our accommodation was at the Three Ducks Hostel. Nice place, it had all the usual things you'd expect. Universal (USB) plug sockets seems to be becoming more common which is always handy.
After an afternoon of sight seeing we were ready for our first ever Paris Roller, a three hour officially organised street skate which legend has it inspired London's own skate scene. The difference here is that as well as the volunteer marshals they also have police motorbikes and an an ambulance keeping everybody safe. They however have much more continental start time of 22:00 which would be around the time London finishes their night street skates!
Saturday was a day of indulging the sights and culinary delights of Paris.
Venturing with some off skate culture.
Sunday however was the main reason why we were here. The 6H Paris Skate is an annual endurance Le Mans style relay event. It was held in Muette Park to the west of central Paris. The 2.5km closed road circuit winded through a forest which felt like a Centre Parks experience.
Our four person ESS team were non competitive, meaning we weren't going to be too hard on each other with any hiccups such as baton drops or missing your change over. We did have a little structure, with each of us doing two laps at a time. A close eye on the timing of each other's laps also allowed us to gauge how long our breaks were between shifts.
Unsurprisingly our first lap was mostly the fastest. The heat drained us as the hours ticked by, even though it was cooler than usual for August.
Just out of curiosity I used my recreational skates (80mm wheels) instead of my speed skates (110mm wheels) for one of my shifts. It felt noticeably slower. To keep a decent pace it meant I had to focus on my technique more and making every push count. Which makes me think maybe I get a little lazy with form on the speed skates... So although I really had to work on these two laps I did have one of the most memorable moments of overtaking a Lycra clad speed skating paceline! That felt brilliant!
I missed out by twenty seconds on the six hour cut off for another lap. However it turns out that attempt was also my fastest lap. (05:00:533 ms) I guess it helps when there is some motivation!
At the event there were skate stalls. One in particular is Ligne Droite where I got some spare parts. They were very friendly and were keen to point out that they are happy to create custom skate packages as well as the ability to ship to the UK as well as other parts of Europe. Will keep them in mind for the future.
The 6H Paris Skate event was such good fun! Whether you're pro speed skaters or recreational rollers it was a good track for an afternoon of rolling. It wasn't too difficult to get to and we were able to catch the 20:30 train from Gar du Nord, allowing us to be back home in London the same evening.
Thank you Christine Dumouchel for the photos.
Make the Future Live was a free event hosted by Shell which was a celebration of pioneering eco friendly innovations over the second Bank Holiday in May. The Queen Elisabeth Olympic Park was once again our venue. We choose to attend the Friday Lates session as it was adults only. (Anything to avoid the crowds). Another plus for the Lates was the live podcast debate that evening hosted by a Jason Bradbury and Richard Ayoade. Three entrepreneurs pitched there ideas which included flat easy mount panels for harvest kinetic energy (such as from wind in train tunnels), using byproducts of coffee production to create log fuel and utilising a tighter eco business flow model.
When we entered the event we were all given passes with QR codes. So you can vote with it for your favourite innovation ideas. Also on certain activities they linked the recorded video or photo with your pass so you can later download it.
The main event had plenty of interactive exhibits, not dissimilar to the Science Museum. One of the highlights was running inside a giant zorb ball for 30 seconds in order to generate as much energy as possible. Three zorbs were available for you to duke it out with your friends!
So below is a their video of me running in the hamster ball. With the tumbles it felt more like being in a tumble dryer! It's a fun automated edit, but would have liked to have seen an unedited video of my run.
They also had an eco car marathon event going on. It just seemed a waste when they retired for the day and that super smoothy looking surface had no skaters tending to it!
This was a great event full of fun, inspirational and uplifting science. In their follow up email they said 'see you next year!'
We certainly will!
SUP Armada is a day festival of activities based around the aqua sport of Stand Up Paddleboarding at Bewl Water lake in Kent. It was an hour train ride from Charing Cross station to Wadhurst station where we took a 15 minute cab ride to the location. I'd recommend Elba Cabs, Clive our driver was very friendly and accommodating for us!
We pre paid our entry fee of £15 a while ago but we then on the day made a £10 donation for board hire and £2 for buoyancy aids which goes towards their charity. This led us to believe we could just pick up a board and paddle to take to the waters, this was not the case. As we were queuing up for registration we told there were "plenty of boards for all of us to use." It wasn't until we got to the lake we discovered that most activity slots were already booked up, if not till late afternoon.
Some of the instructors could see were a little miffed by the situation so one of them very kindly made time for a slightly shorter introductory session for our group.
It was the first time SUPing for the six of us and we all managed to stand up and get paddling fairly quickly. The more advanced turns which required us to move our feet had us taking plunge before figuring out our stance. I'd say it's a little more advance than kayaking but as we were on a fairly calm lake it wasn't too much trouble to get going, Just the head wind made it more challenging to paddle against.
After watching a race I could see people were using a bit of knee bend with their strokes to gain more power. So on my next session it did prove to be advantageous. (Knee bending seems to be a cross subject of a lot of sports!). An occasional wave from a passing boat gave the board a rock which stopped my confidence from getting too far ahead of myself!
The most exciting part of the day was the group paddleboarding. A massive board could hold eight of us for a fun but somewhat competitive race. We didn't come close to winning but it was great having a more unifying activity.
The final event was the World Record attempt for the most stand up paddleboarders on a circuit at once. Although it's one of those records which is more about organising a huge amount of people rather than an individual talent it was still a fun challenge getting around the 2km course. The wind certainly picked up for us which made it feel like I was on a treadmill, paddling right in front of the finish line for a couple of minutes! Well the organisers managed to pull the record off. 390 SUPs.
SUP Armada was a good event, although the individual activity sign ups could have been done a lot better. They should have known the volume of people who would show up! Would have liked to have done the SUP yoga.
Bewl Water is such a lovely area that I'd definitely like to come back again either for SUP Armada or as a place to make a long weekend of. We'd like to hire some bikes to tour the whole lake and hopefully we'll have more of that summer sun we were blessed with!
So today I've made a lot of my friends incredibly jealous because I went to The Crystal Maze. Originally a television game show from the 90's that pretty much the whole UK nation was hooked on. In a nutshell contestants enrolled individually into a games room. Their teammates scream assistance from outside. If you're successful you'll gain a crystal. Each crystal entitles you to 5 seconds in the last challenge, the Crystal Dome where you have to collect as many foil credits as possible.
This new maze was crowd funded on IndieGoGo. I still remember watching the energetic video pitch (see video below) for the first time and that it sounded far too good to be true, especially as there is always an element of risk with crowd funding. Therefore I decided to not purchase the final ticket but instead I bought a pair of 'tester tickets,' for half the final price. We were one of the first groups to try out the maze before official opening. As a tester we understood that we may not be getting the complete experience. Having said that I tried not to let my excitement get the better of me, as the organisers have a lot to live up to!
The location of The Crystal Maze was under tight wraps and for a long while we were only told it was in a secret location in Kings Cross. It's actually very convenient to Angel station.
There are plenty of free lockers for you to store your belongings whilst you partake. We were required to put away our phones and cameras so no sneaky pics from within the maze here. (Pics from the lobby).
There are a few variants on the show that make the experience more practical and enjoyable. For starters you are assigned to one of four teams, each with no more than eight participants. My friend Andy and I were on a team with six others. They got us to don the distinctive television show jackets; these uniforms made us strangers feel part of a team.
We were then ushered into a room where clips of the show were played to us reminding us of why we were here. After the video finished our maze master appeared. We all know that no one could ever beat the original presenter Richard O'Brien, but our new host was brilliant. His own charisma and energy was a real part of the experience. Quick fire questions were shot at us before being asked to introduce ourselves. His witty and hilarious interaction broke the ice. We were given a group salute to shout that was was ridiculous but fun, revving us all up for what was ahead. As the Crystal Maze theme tune began the maze master beckoned us to follow his lead through a narrow door.
The sets for the four themed areas, Medieval, Aztec, Industrial and Future zones were well constructed. You can see a lot of attention went into the details. As you look around you're instantly taken back to fond memories of the show. In addition some areas had smells emitted to help immerse you in their different worlds. To get around it involved a mix of running, climbing and crawling, with an optional slide to enter the Aztec zone. Someone on another team twisted their ankle on the slide but it was no more hazardous than being in a kids' outdoor park. I was elected as team captain so whenever it was time for a new game our maze master would turn to me with beaming eyes as to who I'd want to partake in a skill, physical, mental or mystery challenge. Once I'd made my decision he'd set us running through the maze. I'm sure we were running back and forth through the same rooms but I did feel like we were the only ones running through this labyrinth. Maybe once I saw a staff member but otherwise they did a good job behind the scenes of keeping up this illusion.
On our first game, our player just entered the room and the rest of us popped our heads through several windows to see a peculiarly shaped tree that sat in the middle of this medieval room. We could see our teammates peeping through another set of windows, leaning in with their green Crystal Maze jackets. Immediately we started shouting advice and the maze master announced the clock had begun and we were determined to win our prize. That was a magic moment. Wow, they've nailed it. I am in the Crystal Maze.
I don't want to go into too much detail with the games as I feel the fun is actually working out what on earth you are suppose to do! All games were 2 minute long. Some of the games were identical to the show, or at least the ones I remember. The scenic artists and games designers did a superb job in getting everything looking right. We periodically kept looking at one another and saying "this is amazing."
A few of the games were easier than others. For example when you had to navigate your way through a room without touching the lasers, our guy just crawled all the way along the floor with ease. The tile-shifting puzzle on the other hand seemed impossible to do in the given time. However as testers our feedback will allow the organisers to tweak the rules for individual games to make them more fulfilling.
Those who watched the show would remember Mumsie. People have asked and unfortunately she was not there today, however this will be a feature of some sort...
Traditionally if you didn’t escape the room within the time limit or made too many game faults you would get an automatic lock-in. One of our members faulted and was instead escorted to some chains where he was ‘tied up.’ He remained there until the next game, during that time he had to work out an answer to a question to win back his freedom. Lucky for him he got it right but I’m not sure what would have happened beyond multiple fails… (Would be a pretty rubbish experience to be left there for the rest of the time). On their site they mention a special jailbreak challenge...
As my blog stems from obstacle running I naturally choose to do the physical tasks. These challenges did seem easier than the other tasks as it was generally straightforward in what you were required to do, that's not to say they weren't fun. It was great constructing my stairs to climb my way up to grab my first crystal!
Although each team member only played two games each I can say I could feel my heart pounding after every round. It was very exciting shouting advice and rooting for your teammates. This is a brilliant team experience.
The Crystal Dome.
Before we entered each team announced the number of crystals they had won. We got eight, which on the show was quite a lot. Other teams scored higher with eleven! The first group stepped into the dome, with it’s door modified from the one on the show to cater for the chunkier contestants that may participate.
"Can you start the fans please?!!" bellowed out each maze master before his team's grand moment. I nearly cried when I looked at the dome with the theme tune once again blasting out. A childhood dream of many comes true. Previously the closest I got to this experience was throwing Monopoly money in front of a fan.
The one difference with the game rules was that there were no silver credits to deduct from your total. Just grab everything! They measured the credit by roughly assessing how much of your box you've filled up. I guess it's just more practical than manually counting each credit. To be honest I think everyone was just happy to play and not actually bothered by the results.
Only thing that was a little weird was that our maze master got us to boo the opposing teams when they came out of the dome. We knew it's only silly banter but I can't say it added to the experience in a positive way.
We had forty seconds in the Crystal Dome. It was pretty tricky grabbing the credits just flying up in the air. Harvesting the foil that clung with static on each other’s jackets was much easier.
The outing ended with the scores announced. Joint second place for us.
The Crystal Maze was fantastic and is one of the best events I've been to which left me on a 90’s nostalgic high. I love how they got us to wear the classic jackets to run, crawl and slide from Medieval, to Aztec, to Industrial and Future zones before finally entering the legendary Crystal Dome. While the full asking price of £60 for a 90 minute experience will definitely put people off, a lot of people would happy to do this as a one off. At the time of writing it's fully booked till November and that's without people knowing how good it actually is. So although it's only scheduled to run till March 2017 I think it's got a lot longer shelf life and I would love to see this as a permanent London attraction.
Today I went to a completely different event which had no finish line for me to fight for, although there were plenty of t-shirts and other merchandise on offer at the London Film & Comic Con Spring.
As someone who has never been to this type of convention I'd describe it as if Forbidden Planet had a big party, where only a few people remembered it was fancy dress. (Or cosplay as it's known here). There were some truly talented people out there expressing what they love through this form of creativity. While as mentioned not everyone dressed up it certainly is one of the highlights of these events.
Today I decided to take my camera. As I was travelling up I thought I should have printed off some web address on bits of paper so the cosplayers could find my photos easier. Only a 'Pre-adamantium Wolverine,' asked if I was uploading my photos so I pointed to my carefully chosen t-shirt with the Scream At My Face logo which helped on this occassion. It turns out some of the more dedicated cosplayers have gone a step further and have printed proper business cards.
Well my name is going to Mars at least anyway. It's being etched onto a microchip and sent on board INSIGHT. You can do the same here.
My Race Plan.
So my own personal target was 2 hours 15 minutes. Which would be fine if I followed with my training of staying in my heart rate 3 zone, before stepping it up towards the end. Earlier this year I ran a 10k in heart rate 4 zone, however I have not since. This made me weary about being able to sustain the same demand over more than twice the distance. Plus my last run was not particularly enjoyable.
30 seconds in and I'm pulled along with the stream of runners. I'm already in heart rate zone 4. Race plan out of the window but it felt comfortable. After a couple of minutes I see my friend Chidi waving us off which spurred me on to continue at this pace.
As I ran I noticed a cute oriental girl with the purple shorts was just in front. Her pace faster than mine. Some people would use that as motivation to step up. A guy in the grey top decided to do this. It was still early on during the race and decided better of it, especially with this being my first half marathon event. Eventually purple shorts and grey top were gone... alas.
I'm always going to be a street skater first when it comes to sport and it showed with my running mentality which I realised with this race!
Another thing I noticed was that I'm easily influenced by whatever is happening around me. So I'd stay happily behind someone without noticing my pace has dropped dramatically. This is especially the case when the path got narrow with little room to overtake. It was also reminiscent of the organised street skates when the pack of skaters get very tight, I'd slow down and end up at the back without realising. Something to take away from this is to keep my presence, keep in check with my own pace for these moments.
On one of the hills I could hear there was a band at the top trying to get a bit of runner participation with little success. As I got to the top of the hill I started clapping above my head for the musicians, I then heard a Mexican wave of clapping behind me. That was an amazing race moment!
What's that sound?!! A growling bear closing in?!..... and another!!! No wait, it was some panting sweaty people. Good for them they were persevering through their struggle, but the gasping zombie bear sounds was really putting me off. (That's why people wear headphones). In all honesty I still prefer not to wear headphones as use miss out on engaging with spectators and musicians, lap up the atmosphere!
I smashed my race target with a final time of 01:55:34.
Guess my goal was a little reserved but it's given me confidence and courage to push my pace up for the full marathon in September. Looking at my GPS data there were points in the race I slowed down a lot for no real reason, it's quite easy to lose focus. As I've come to realise it's as much a mental feat as it is physical.
Looking at the organisation of the event it was run very well. Staff were very helpful whenever I had questions. It was a shame with the rain after the event as it meant there were just three people standing at the stage for the after party. Hear hear for the non-alcoholic beverage Erdinger at the finish. Could have fooled me!
They also organised a 3k fun run after the main event. In an attempt to persuade more participants they also called it a "cool down race." I was already cooled down by the time they started to be honest. However our cheerleader Chidi took part in this event and it was nice for us to see her off and welcome her through the finish line.
All in all, it was an enjoyable race and weekend with the positive race results being a bonus. I'll certainly be back one day for another race or to continue sightseeing and over indulging on my food tour...
I heart Ireland.
"Any tips, reviews and advice are my own opinions and are not to be taken as professional view points. The information on this site is what has worked for me and is here for guidance only, but I hope you gain insight into the various activities I partake in." Jonathan Chen