My First Parkrun

Today was a big day - I decided that it was time to participate in my first ever Parkrun. The weather was great and I was up and ready for a run at 7:30 am. Paul and I arrived early and I was surprised at just how big the whole thing was, there were almost 400 participants, some seriously committed.

 Great Lines, Gillingham, Kent

Great Lines, Gillingham, Kent

Since this was my first run I didn't want to put the hammer down too hard but I also wanted to try and get a respectable time. The course itself was nice and level, with a mix of paths, track and grass. Having others running alongside you makes a huge difference to performance, I didn't want to be overtaken too much, but enjoyed the thrill of overtaking others!

 Me, Great Lines Parkrun #253

Me, Great Lines Parkrun #253

I clocked in at 28:08 for the 5km distance, which is a personal best time for me (outside of Parkrun too), it felt great and I am confident that I could shave more off of that in the future too. My position was 163rd although I was virtually last in my age bracket! As a complete novice, I am pretty happy with my time, It's certainly better than I would have been able to achieve earlier in the year.

I absolutely loved the run and am looking forward to hitting more events soon! Waving goodbye to my Saturdays.

Marsa Alam, Egypt

Can't get enough of that Red Sea diving! Shortly after getting home from Singapore I was heading east once again and couldn't wait to get in the water. My previous trip to Egypt was on a Liveaboard, a week-long holiday on board a 26-berth yacht, it was great (I'll get round to writing the blog at some point) but I wasn't a huge fan of being confined to a small space for an entire week. The trip this time was planned around shore-based diving and so allowed for better accommodation a more relaxed pace and the chance to get out more.

After some planning and coordination, part of my itinerary was a trip to Cairo; the plan was to join the group for the package-holiday trip in Marsa Alam and leave a day early to travel solo to Cairo for a few days. While Cairo isn't on the list (actually, I'm going to add it), I have always wanted to see the pyramids and thought that this would be a good opportunity to do so. I'd then fly back home to London from Cairo and get back in time to be in the office on Monday. The plan was sound but didn't quite work out, I'll explain...

 Me enjoying The Red Sea, Marsa Alam, Egypt

Me enjoying The Red Sea, Marsa Alam, Egypt

Landing in Marsa Alam Airport was a very different experience than Hurghada, the airport is tiny and most of the few flights are to European destinations to serve the tourism. After buying a visa at the exchange desk and a 10 euro SIM card it was a 40minute drive to the hotel and dive centre. The roads here are quite perilous, not the worst I've experienced but are pretty sketchy.

We were staying at the Dreams Beach Resort Marsa Alam and diving with the in-resort centre, Deep Ocean Blue. Janine and Tony had been here before so knew what to expect, they are good friends with the owner and have even instructed at the centre before - I knew we'd be in good hands!

 Ant, Me and Janine, Diving in Marsa Alam, Egypt

Ant, Me and Janine, Diving in Marsa Alam, Egypt

Over the week I did several dives with my dive buddy Ant, the house reef was particularly good, it was great to be able to walk to the beach and just dive in. The highlight of the trip was an excursion dive south of the resort where after waiting around in the water we were able to see a Dugong (Sea Cow) which was absolutely fantastic.

The resort was good but not amazing, we were visiting in the low season so there were very few guests in comparison with the size of the hotel. The quality and availability of food was, however, very good, as were the drinks and snacks. Unfortunately, a few days in I was not too well and spent much of the holiday recovering from The Pharaoh's Revenge. It didn't really stop me from doing too much but it certainly wasn't a pleasant experience!

The day ahead of my flight to Cairo I decided that I wasn't well enough so sadly decided to cancel that portion of the trip. Luckily the hotel and flight to London were both refundable, so it wasn't a huge problem. It was a big shame, I was really looking forward to getting to the pyramids and checking out Cairo.

 Zodiac in Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam, Egypt

Zodiac in Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam, Egypt

One of the highlights of staying in Marsa Alam was Port Ghalib, a large marina south of the airport where there is a collection of restaurants and shops catering to international tourists. The atmosphere here was very relaxing with great beer, drinks and food available at reasonably cheap prices. behind the major promenade, there is a small street where vendors sell knockoff handbags, watches and shoes. If you're in the market for that kind of stuff, this is the place.

 Dinner in El Qoseir, Egypt

Dinner in El Qoseir, Egypt

On the last day of the holiday Nader, the owner of Deep Ocean Blue took the group to a restaurant in El Qoseir. The town was a 40-minute drive from the resort in the opposite direction to everywhere else we had been. It was an excellent experience, we ate Egyptian bread, tahini, lamb kebab, chicken and soup. While in El Qoseir I was able to sneak away from the table and buy some unusual snacks and drinks for the way home, including some Egyptian cheese (of course). We spent only a short time in the town but It was very interesting, it was almost completely untouched by tourism, I loved coming here!

A great trip diving, with fantastic company and although there was less diving than the previous trip I really enjoyed being able to relax and get out to see some of Egypt. The pyramids will need to wait!

I visited Marsa Alam in April, 2018

I'm banning Reddit and it's kind of a big deal...

Like an increasing number of people in the social media age, I spend far too much of my time consuming online content. It's an addiction; an addiction to likes, swipes and retweets - it's a waste of precious time and attention. The designers and engineers who built these systems talk openly about how concerned they are about the habits that people are forming (here's a great article on the topic). I think the concept of the 'Attention Economy' is really interesting and I'm glad it's increasingly becoming accepted as a societal issue in the digital age. So important is this issue that Apple have included controls in software to give insight and restrict how much time is being spent on our devices - that in itself shows just how important of an issue this is.

I'm going to begin to stamp it out. Inspired by my Year of Smart and CGP Grey's similar 'Project Cyclops' approach on the Hello Internet Podcast I am going to better invest my attention. I don't want to be a crazy person and cut everything out, but I do need some ground rules... The below will take effect immediately, cold-turkey style.

To avoid any confusion: Stop will mean I remove the application and don't access the site at all, my accounts will still exist. Control will mean I increase awareness for my use of the service, perhaps implementing restrictions around the number of times I check per day or only using in certain situations. Continue is self-explanatory, I hope to improve the amount of time I spend reading and writing blog posts as that's a positive use of time (typically!).

Stop

  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • Untappd
  • Facebook
  • YouTube

Control

  • Twitter
  • Personal Email
  • News Websites
  • Netflix
  • Spotify

Continue

  • Messaging (SMS, iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger)
  • Podcasts
  • Reading
  • Blogging

Wish me luck!

Passing PADI Tec40

The Tec40 cert has been on my scuba diving Christmas list for a while now and I'm pleased to say that with the help from Tony and Janine at Southern Scuba I now have the card (and the one-of-a-kind t-shirt!). Moving from recreational scuba diving to technical diving involves a big step up in ability, it's a big challenge but is very rewarding.

I started the course earlier in the year and dedicated a serious amount of time to reading and learning from the PADI books. There are a number of concepts and formula that as a tech diver you need to both understand and be able to calculate on the fly, such as calculating the maximum operating depth for a particular gas mix or calculating the gas volume requirement for a particular dive plan. This isn't difficult but it's a lot of new learning up front, especially compared to recreational courses.

 Me wearing a stage and twinset, Vobster Quay.

Me wearing a stage and twinset, Vobster Quay.

After passing my tech exams at Southern Scuba I completed my first tech dives. Thankfully I had been lucky enough to dive with a twinset (a pair of double 12 litre cylinders mounted on my back) before my first dive, while this initial piece of practice certainly made things easier I struggled to complete all of the necessary skills first time around. As with the theory, there are a lot of new techniques that need to be mastered.

One area where I initially struggled was with the gas shutdown; this skill is used for when there is a malfunction on the main cylinders or regulators and it involves the diver running though shutting off the manifold (which connects the cylinders together) and each cylinder one by one whilst also swapping regulators so you always have one which is breathable. There is a time target and the skill must be performed while maintaining trim and depth. After some practice and an additional day in the water, I managed to complete it successfully within the time target. Thankfully after some additional time in the water, I managed to master it!

 Vobster Quay Dive Centre

Vobster Quay Dive Centre

The next set of dives was at Vobster Quay, an inland quarry which allows for deeper dives. It was here that with Tony I managed to pass my final dives and finally get my T-shirt! At Vobster I felt much more comfortable and really enjoyed the diving, in fact, I think they were some of the most comfortable dives I've ever done, with my drysuit and equipment all working really well.

 Tony awarding me my hard-earned Tec-Team T-Shirt, Vobster Quay

Tony awarding me my hard-earned Tec-Team T-Shirt, Vobster Quay

My Tec40 certification allows for a gas mix of 50% oxygen, 10 minutes of decompression, the use of a twinset and a stage cylinder. While this is great in order to achieve my goal of diving in Scapa Flow I think I will need to complete Tec45 too, so that I'm sure will be on my radar before long!

Thank you to Tony and Janine as ever for their instruction, I loved completing this course despite it pushing me outside of my comfort zone!