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Finishing Lines

8 Nov Credit: BitScan Pty Ltd

There are two kinds of lines where meeting one automatically means meeting the other, but the reverse is not trrue. I’m talking deadlines and finishing lines. Meet your deadline and you’ve crossed the finishing line, pass the finishing line but the deadline may well have past long a go. With most projects, deadlines seem to act as a vague guideline because invariably they keep getting pushed back. Construction projects and house building seem to be a prime example. How often do Kevin McCloud or Peter Maddison revisit a build to see months have slipped by and they are still awaiting planning permission for a crucial feature wall? Well, it seems building an app is no different.

The past few months have involved dozens of meetings, where we have asked the question: How long now, two weeks? Do you think we’ll be ready by September.. Make that October? Mid October? Oh…

 

There is never one person or company to blame; as with all things technical, issues arise, things breakdown, pieces of code don’t work, updates are always available; as with all things human, people fall sick, people do make mistakes and people underestimate how long a ‘relatively small job’ will take.

However, the months, weeks, days and hours of talking, researching, planning, designing and head-scratching is coming to a close and we can now talk about the launch of our new app in matters of days. It is exciting. It’s exciting because we are, currently, first to market with anything of this kind, and because we are actually pretty pleased with the result.

Without attempting the bitcoin explainer again (see previous posts), the app has been designed as an interface for all and any users of bitcoin. It is packed full of features and we hope offers a sleek, user-friendly and fully functional application whether you want to trade, invest, analyse, inform, sell, promote or spend. It is, as we like to say: The World of Bitcoin in the Palm of Your Hand. For details about what it does and all its features, if you are interested, you can read more here. What might encourage you is that bitcoin is growing in value steadily again. Over the past few weeks it has grown in a fairly sustained, measured way and the price is now at an all-time high of around $300 a bitcoin. It has proven resilient to the Silk Road bust and resistant to attempts by the FBI to crack its code seeing as even they cannot access the almost 489,000 bitcoins it seized as a result, safely stashed in an encrypted wallet. With China now entering the picture, it is unlikely that bitcoin is going to disappear for a while. It seems a prime time to be launching the app. The finishing line is in sight.

Credit: BitScan Pty Ltd

The new BitScan app

I happened to cross another finishing line a couple of week’s ago. That of the Sydney’s Rebel Run half marathon at the Olympic Park. It was not an easy run and for whatever reason that day, I really struggled. I tend to be able to pace myself quite well and have enough in reserve for a bit of a spurt at the end, but not this time. Training had not been easy due to the searing temperatures we had been having. 30-degree plus days in October are not what I’m used to and the atmosphere for a few weeks has been hazy at the best of times with the smoke from the bushfires blowing over. Most mornings I felt I could have been training for the Sahara desert run! I had done a few long runs in preparation and had managed a sub 1hour 50minutes in training.

The weekend in question, our friend Will came to visit from Melbourne, which was brilliant and great to catch up with him. When the sun’s out and there are beers to be had (it was the Sydney Craft Beer Festival that week) Will and James were keen to head out. I joined them for a hog roast on the Saturday afternoon, although no alcohol, plenty of fluids, and plenty of pasta that night was order of the day for me!

As with all race mornings, I felt a little nervous with the anticipation of the 21.1 km ahead of me. A little tired as well, but only to be expected when you have to get up at 5am to make the 6.30am gun. I set off well, but possibly a little fast. After 11 km, the distance markers disappeared because we were running along track by the river and through parkland. I do not own a Garmin watch, and wasn’t running with my Nike Plus, so was having to estimate how far I had gone, but by what must have been about 16 km, I was starting to flag. The day was already warming up and a grey, smoky haze suddenly wafted over, which is never helpful when you’re relying on oxygen! Apart from once when training too late in the day and it was nearing 26 degrees, I have never had that urge come over me to stop like I did then. Of course, I couldn’t. If I stopped or walked, I knew I’d never get going again. I felt as if I was staggering along, forcing one foot in front of the other, not feeling breathless, just lethargic. My energy was completely sapped. Despite my little jelly bean stash for a glucose hit as I went round, my blood sugar must have taken a serious dip because at one point double vision set in. Dreams of making it anywhere in near 1 hour 45 vanished, I knew 1 hour 50 was going to be highly unlikely and I had to hope I could still finish in under 2 hours. I just kept telling myself to keep going. My muscles, which never usually suffer from lactic acid build up, were suddenly screaming, and my head was screaming at me in a different way. I have never had such a mental, let a lone physical, struggle during a run.

When the stewards in the sidelines yelled, “3km to go” I think I deflated even more. In the grand scheme of things, it was a short distance and this was usually when I would have started to increase the pace slightly if I had anything left. I didn’t. In fact, one man, running by, must have seen me wilting and said, “We’re nearly there, come on.” I had no intention of stopping but I think the feeling of disappointment that my goal times were a distant memory was an extra burden I was dragging along!

The last stretch along to the Olympic stadium felt never ending but even in the state I was in, there was something about running through the tunnel and into the stadium that meant the struggle was forgotten for a brief few seconds. Any fantasy of sprinting over the finish line with my hands in the air remained just that. As soon as the line was crossed I staggered to one side, collapsed in a corner and did not stand up again for a good five minutes.

Finishing the Rebel Run half marathon

Finishing the Rebel Run half marathon

Amazingly by the time I was home half an hour later, I felt fine. No aches, no pains, just ready for a nap! There was no stiffness over the following days either but the thought of running anything over 10km didn’t appeal so much!

Oh, and you’re probably wondering how I did… Well I crossed the finish line in 1 hour 52 minutes, which given everything, absolutely amazed me. Not my finest hour (or two) but it’s one finishing line I don’t have to worry about again.

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City2Surf 2013

14 Aug

Last year I waited anxiously on the Saturday evening before my first City2Surf as the wind howled around the house and rain battered the windows. I was hoping the following morning would at least stay dry. It did, thankfully, and I completed my first City2Surf run in a fairly respectable time of 73 minutes. What a difference a year makes. Clear blue skies and temperatures well into the double figures greeted us for City2Surf 2013 and it was not just me running but James and five other friends as well.

I have now run this event twice and feel qualified to say, I love this race. There is a real buzz and sense of fun that you do not always get with more competitive, accredited races. With a previous qualifying time, I was in a different start group to my friends and just after 8am, my gun went off, followed by James’ 20 minutes later. The nerves may not have been as bad as last year but the pressure was on. Last year, it was about finishing and experiencing the atmosphere that you can only get in amongst 85,000 runners, pounding the streets of Sydney all the way to Bondi Beach. This year I had different expectations and a time to beat. I had not put in as much training and I knew heartbreak hill was going to prove more of a struggle than I wanted but I thought a 70-minute race might just be possible if I didn’t let the muscle burn get the better of me.

I started well but it was hard to tell how I was going (I do not have a Garmin or timing device) and in amongst faster runners, I was very much ‘one of the pack’. If anything was going to spur me on, it was knowing James was going to be on my back, and although starting well behind me, I admit there was a little competition going on between us, as well as with myself!

©Louise Edmondson

©Louise Edmondson

©Louise Edmondson

©Louise Edmondson

There are not many timed running events where you can high-five children lining the street, pass a man running in a policeman’s helmet or dressed as a smurf, get sprayed by water pistols by onlookers and feel the mutual sense of pain as you all dig deep to get up that hill. The urge to pat people on the back and just say, “keep going, you can do it,” was quite strong!

Once heartbreak hill is conquered, it is not, as some people like to believe, “all down hill from then on” in fact there are a couple of pretty sneaky but nasty ascents along Military Road before Bondi comes into view. The approach to Bondi is always the hardest part. You are so close and the finish is in sight yet the course, parallel to the beach, seems to go on forever and then you have to double back on yourself to the finish line. I saw a friend among the spectating crowds and gave a yell and a wave as I ran past and then it was the final stretch to the end.

It’s a tough course, no doubt. Need to see the faces on people as they finish?

Finishing relief!

I did not feel too bad after crossing the line. There was the sense of achievement at having finished and kept running and there was the knowing I had raised over $400 for my chosen charity, The Butterfly Foundation.  I had no idea of my overall time but I knew it would be close whether I had cracked my sub-70 goal.  Fortunately, James and I managed to meet up and walked home (up another hill), feeling a little tired but proud to have completed the, let’s say, ‘undulating’ course! A sunny Bond is not a bad place to end:

James_medal

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Once home, as much as the temptation was to have a soak and fall asleep, we had a party to prepare for. We had decided it would be a good afternoon to have our belated housewarming party so there was no time to sit and relax. There was food to get ready, barbecues to light and a house to clean. We were so lucky with the weather: sunny, cloudless skies and 22 degrees, perfect for taking advantage of the views and getting use out of the balcony. This became not just a sun trap but a tourist viewing platform, with everyone getting out phones and cameras to take pictures!

Our View!

Our race times came in by text. James, 76 minutes – very impressive considering just a year a go he was hobbling about after a knee operation and myself…. 71 minutes, a minute over my target so a little disappointing but at least a bit quicker than last year. When I thought about how I could have shaved off the minute, I started blaming that brief stop at the water point, the zig-zagging between people at the beginning, the seconds spent waving to my friend in the crowd… At the end of the day, I just needed to run faster!

Next year, there is always next year… But first, there is the Sydney Half Marathon in just over one month’s time.

Giving the knees a rest (SUP and the adventures of the multi-vitamin aisle)

13 Apr

I’ve always been a bit sceptical about multi-vitamins, or perhaps, more cynical about the companies  persuading us we need the multi-vitamins. I was always of the school of thought: if you need to spend $50 on a tub of vitamin C and Echinacea then go and spend $2 on a bag of carrots. However, I admit, there are clearly circumstances when supplements are required and I confess, last year when I was run down with a virus that would not budge for weeks, I succumbed to a women’s multi-vitamin with Zinc to give me an added boost.

I think the reasons I’ve avoided fish oil were two-fold: First, I am useless at remembering to take pills and get into that routine where you must have one after each meal etc and second, I have always associated them with ageing. They are the things my dad took when his joints started to creak.

Then came my first knee twinge. After blogging about our running training for City2Surf, I am now looking to ease off the road running for a few days because knees (and James knows this more than anyone) are quite useful joints to have functioning well. I relented and figured that if I want to keep up this running lark, I should probably give the joints a helping hand.

Omega 3 Krill Oil

So it was, with some reluctance, I entered the domain of the vitamin aisle in the local pharmacy: shelves upon shelves, towering with an array of tubes, bottles and tubs of every type of supplement for every type of ailment or condition you could name. All I wanted was a month’s supply of fish oil but there were about twenty shelves of fish oil to choose from—and not just fish oil—now it’s krill oil they are waxing lyrical about. There are many more clinical studies on the benefits of fish oil but krill oil is the new darling of omega 3 supplements. It is supposedly much more potent than regular fish oil and has a 60% better absorption rate, depending what you read. Krill vs. Fish oil, I had no idea, but if it was a choice between needing one tablet or nine, I’ll go with one every time. For a doctor’s view on whether one is better than the other, I refer you to this blog.

I scanned the shelves and clearly my vacant stare and slack jaw drew pity from a sales assistant because she attempted to guide me through the minefield of krill oil options.

I ended up with a tub of Swisse 1000mg high strength wild krill oil for no other reasons than it is a reputable brand, the krill was ‘free range’ and as well as the usual benefits for the joints and heart, it claims to help ease symptoms at the ‘time of the month’. Hey, this was as much a pill for James as it was for me!

Sorry for banging on about krill but I shall report back on my findings (if I remember to take them everyday. Let’s face it, this will be no clinical trial or scientific study , but I may notice some improvements.)

So, in the name of protecting my knees, I ventured out on an SUP board this morning with James. This is great for core-strength and very low-impact (unless you fall in of course.) James did the usual race and is still getting to grips with his new racing board (did I mention he has bought a new toy for the garage?) and I pottered about happily in the bay and the sunshine, admiring the fish swimming about in the water and hoping I’ll soon be reaping the benefits thanks to their little crustacean cousins.

OZ SUP  Rose Bay

Rose Bay, Sydney

SUP racing board

Louise SUP

Up and running

12 Apr

This post could equally be entitled ‘Running Up’ for that is exactly what James and I have been doing – getting into training once more for this year’s City2Surf running race and running up hills, one in particular.

Heartbreak Hill now conquered, we just need to start upping the distances as well. (For those not familiar with this hill – please see last year’s post…)

Having run it last year, I now have a time to beat and so will be aiming to run in under 73 minutes, and why not just make that under 70 while I’m at it? With my qualifying time I can also move up a group so will competing against faster people. If anything will give me the drive to run faster, seeing someone half (or even twice) my age, speeding by, will do it. For James, who ten months a go was on a surgeon’s table having a broken patella operated on, I think being in a position to even run the 14km course, is achievement enough.

Training has commenced in a light-hearted way but as the weeks go on, it will kick in more seriously, although the distance is very doable and so I am contemplating doing the half marathon a few weeks later. This would be a challenge but still feasible – the full marathon may be a little beyond me (and my knees.)

Bondi runners

As with last year, I am raising money for a chosen charity and James is also doing the same. We have both chosen charities which we feel strongly about and want to support. James is running for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and I am running for The Butterfly Foundation. So – once again, we hold our hands out for donations! As there are two of us begging, we have both got modest targets in the hope people can split their donations between us. Every dollar counts and will certainly motivate us to get up at 6am for a run, come rain or shine!

Links to our fundraising pages are posted below. C’mon guys – it’s all for charidee!

https://give.everydayhero.com/au/james-edmondson-1

 https://city2surf2013.everydayhero.com/au/louiseedmondson

Surf’s Up

4 Mar

Surfing is great to watch; seeing the guys (and girls) paddling out, wait for their wave and then elegantly spring up on to their board and seemingly effortlessly ride the wave; enjoying the feeling of weightlessness as the force carries them towards the shore. People describe the freedom of flying though the water, carried purely by the power of nature, no machinery, just you, a wafer of foam and a sliver of board. When a friend asked if I fancied joining her and another girl for a surf lesson, I knew I had no reason to decline. It was time to face the fear and give it a go. Eighteen months in Australia and I had not yet stepped foot on a surfboard – it was time to correct this.

The day in question, I am waiting at Bondi Beach for my pick up. It is one of those beaches where, come rain or shine, the ocean is always filled with boards; small black dots in the mid-distance, bobbing about in a huddle, all waiting their turn for the right wave. That is, everyday but this day, when the sky is purple and pregnant with rain and the wind is blowing palm trees sideways. Ten minutes later, a four-wheel drive with trailer and surfboards arrives to collect me and Rob, the instructor, his two dogs and I, head off to meet the others who are joining for this lesson.

Tellingly, one girl is wearing a fleecy tracksuit and has brought cuppa soups to keep warm. The rest of us stare out at the impending storm. Then we have to sign the waiver, the sheet of paper that informs us: Surfing is an extreme and dangerous sport, which can result in injury or even death.

An hour later via a toilet, food and fuel stop (for there are no amenities where we are going), we drive down on to the beach, only accessible by four-wheel drive and not a soul to be seen. We stand shivering, sheltering from the wind behind the car, as the high tide laps at the wheels and Rob decides to drive on a little further so we aren’t digging a jeep out of the sand later that afternoon.

Wet suits on and surfboards laid out on the sand, seven of us start following the instructions about paddling and the steps to stand up on the board. Then we are apparently ready to go and head out into the white foam that is the churned up ocean before us.

With the first rain drops being felt and the wind blowing at around 40kmh, we walk into the surf, struggling to keep our lightweight training boards from spinning around on the leash and into someone’s face. Luckily we are only going to be practising in the small waves, nothing beyond the white water, which is lucky, because anything beyond the white water is now barely visible due to the bank of low cloud and stinging rain.

This people, is not my idea of the Australian surfing dream. Where is my sunshine, glassy water and clean waves? Instead we are faced with a leaden sea covered in white caps – and haven’t I heard that sharks are more likely on an overcast day?

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At waist height, Rob tells us we should lie on our boards and he will help us catch our first waves. At this point what does rain matter when we are wet anyway (?) and on the positive side, the sea is quite nice and warm. I look back at the large breakers and wait for the white water to roll in towards me. Rob gives me a gentle push and I am off, speeding on top of the wave and I hear, “stand up now,” and I do, and I am, and first go, I am stood, albeit slightly wobbly, on a surf board and ‘riding a wave.’

Beginner’s luck? Yes, definitely. After that I am tipping off, rolling off, nose-diving off, however you can possibly fall, I am (along with everyone else I hasten to add.) After an hour I have probably swallowed more sea water than I have surfed it but I am making some progress. I begin to instinctively know when to start paddling as I feel myself being sucked back slightly then pushed on by the wave and as long as I get into a standing position fast enough, I can actually stand. Even if it is just for a few seconds, I do experience that sensation of gliding on top of the water.

After lunch, sat huddled in the van munching on chicken salad and orange slices, two of the girls decide not to go back out. Looking at our collection of bruises, the grey cloud and choppy waves, I am almost inclined to stay with them, but as long as other people are going back out there, I am too. The second half of the day, the waves are more powerful and my friend and I decided to stick closer to the shore. We are aching from dragging the boards in the wind and this time, I cannot stop my teeth chattering. The only solution is to get moving again in the water. After a quick recap on the moves to get up on the board, I have a few more successful surfs. Just as enjoyable is catching the wave and kneeling, when in the seconds I have to stand up, I lose confidence and  back out.

I am not sure I can say I have ‘surfed’, not in the real sense of the word. I have stood on a surfboard though and I understand to a point, what they mean about the freedom of flying on the water.  There is that heart-skipping moment when you realise you are stood up and it is just you and a wave. I cannot imagine what it must be like to experience that in the heavy surf breaks. To be honest, I am not sure I want to. As enjoyable as the day was and as proud of ourselves as we all were to get standing occasionally, I think I’ll stick to the more enjoyable beach past time of surf watching – at least now knowing a little of the challenge and sensations they are experiencing.

Unfortunately there is no photographic evidence of me stood – I’m afraid you will just have to take my word for it.

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Stand Up and Paddle!

20 Oct

Louise has mentioned in a few blogs that I have recently got into Stand Up Paddle boarding.  I thought it might be interesting if I wrote a quick blog about it for our site.

Stand Up Paddling is known as SUP, pronounced ‘S’… ‘U’… ‘P’.  It involves the paddler standing up on a long, wide surfboard and using a long paddle to propel yourself on the water.  You can paddle almost anywhere: on the flat water of rivers, harbours and lakes, in the surf and even out at sea (down wind and with the sea only).

I first tried it a couple of years ago when I was in Florida and when we arrived in Sydney last year I was pleased to see loads of people doing it in Rose Bay.  Only now that I have a little more time have I had the chance to give it a real go, and for the last few weeks I have been going with a Club in Rose bay a couple of times a week.

We train every Tuesday and Friday at 6 am (Aussies tend to get going earlier than Brits!), and there are races on Wednesday evening and Saturday mornings.  Both training and the races are fairly chilled affairs, but my competitive side has begun to show through in the races and as my technique and fitness improve, I am keen to improve my course times and get further up the leader board!  The trouble is there are different styles of board, some suited for racing, some for surf and some hybrids.  Then you have different lengths and widths and volumes of the boards, all of which have an effect on the boards’ stability, but the more stable the board, the slower it is!   As you can see there are many factors affecting the race, and I haven’t even begun to describe how wind speed plays a massive part.  Needless to say I am starting off at a disadvantage over someone with a smaller surface area than me!

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Unusually for a new sport and me, I have not rushed out to buy a board and all the accessories – I am not allowed!  But I am hoping that by showing that I am really committed to SUP I might be allowed to invest in a board of some kind in the not too distant future!!!  Meanwhile I am lobbying hard for my own paddle for a birthday or Christmas present…..

SUPing is great fun and anyone can do it, Louise is waiting for warmer water temperatures before she gives it another go, although we both did quite a lot down in Jervis Bay.  I have begun to meet a new crowd of people down at the paddles, and it is a really fun, social activity with some real fitness benefits.

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As a quick addition, I have just got back from my Saturday morning race and came first in my category and third overall. This a is a great achievement and considering the two ahead of me were using racing boards, it might not be too long before I am topping that leaderboard.

Dragons and skeletons

30 Oct

In a rare moment of domesticity I decided to attempt making a pumpkin pie, primarily because we were having a bit of an impromptu Halloween/housewarming party and because now we have a kitchen full of cooking utensils (arrived in the shipping) I had a sudden urge to use them!

Friday night had been spent cooking the sweet pumpkin we managed to track down and making the pastry. Saturday morning I got up early to make the filling and bake the pie so that we could go down to the bay to go dragon boat racing.

That’s when ten minutes before we were due to walk down, as I was proudly taking this pie out of the oven, James offered to help me.  Usually I’d think James, kitchen, let’s keep them separate but we were in a bit of a rush so taking a pie out of the oven – what could go wrong?

One minute later – there was an empty pie crust and a pumpkin mess all over the hob.

I stared around at the other mess, which had gone into making this thing: several bowls, sieves, spoons, whisks, pots and pans, all testament to the hours gone into creating what now sat in a sad, orange heap in front of us.

Silence.

There were words, I won’t write them.

Luckily, it was just about salvageable and I scraped together the remains of this pie and popped it back in the oven.

Dragon boat racing soon took our minds off it! We decided to go after picking up a flyer advertising an open day. About twenty people showed up, perfect for a complete crew and the team members took us out, taught us how to paddle, swap positions in the boat and a few basic instructions. It was great fun to be part of the boat and rowing out into the harbour and a really good way to meet lots of people if we decide to do it again. We were both pretty tired after an hour, with the last few minutes spent upping the tempo quite a bit but they even put on a ‘sausage sizzle’ for everyone afterwards.

 


 

We headed home (via the toy shop to pick up a few plastic skeletons and bats!) The pie was done – a little less ‘smooth’ than intended but nevertheless in one piece!

Saturday afternoon I got over my vow never to look at a pumpkin again and discovered my inner child and carved a pumpkin for the party. We set up the outside terrace and with a few lights, candles and seating, it was all set.

Some people couldn’t make it but around twelve people came  – roughly the total sum of everyone we know so far over here!

It was a lot of fun. We even had some real bonafide Aussies  – so the pressure was really on for the barbecue! James did a wonderful job – snags and kebabs all round.

Everyone bought some drinks, Pippa bought some home baked Anzac cookies and I’m glad to say the pumpkin pie went down well (this time not over the hob).

A Rose Bay Sunday

23 Oct

Post first barbecue, today was another induction to Aussie life – my first attempt at SUP – Stand-Up-Paddle.

I have heard this described as ‘surfing for those who don’t like waves’ but actually, it is possible to surf on these boards – and plenty do – and I was quietly relieved that I could try this with just a few gentle waves in the harbour – quite big enough for me on the first go!

James being a relative expert set off easily. I was advised to kneel and paddle out initially but seeing as the sport is SUP – not KUP – I attempted the stand – not as easy as it looks. With James’ help initially I managed to stand up and get going as the photo proves!

Yes I was tensed all the way round the bay, yes my feet ached for gripping on for dear life and yes, I barely got to enjoy the stunning harbour views with my eyes so intently focused on the water ahead but yes I did enjoy it and yes, I would do it again.

We both loved the fact that we could get up and be on the water together so soon  and with the sun shining and weather heating up, it was a brilliant way to start the day.

It also happened to be the day of the Rose Bay Street Fair – nothing too dissimilar to the kind of event you get in English towns: craft stalls, food and drink stands, face painting, music and the streets full of locals. The only difference: people browsing stalls for Christmas decorations in blazing sunshine – something I’m not sure will ever seem quite right!

 

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