Archive for July, 2019

Masters graduation

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019 | Life

I finished my masters degree last year (with a distinction and 82% in my final project, thanks for asking :D). Because it takes the exam board a few months to award the degree, and then you have to wait for the next set of graduation ceremonies, that meant nearly a year’s wait.

Earlier this month, the day finally arrived.

Beckett is currently holding their degree ceremonies at the Leeds Arena. This is not as pretty as the Headingley campus but did mean there were enough seats for everyone. This was critical as it meant I could take Elina and not have to decide which one of my parents I loved the most.

The ceremony itself was long and dull. There were 1,000 students graduating in the same ceremony. Some in absentia, but that still a lot of people. And, because of the way they lay things out, I was almost last. Literally, I was sat next to the three PhD graduands whose presentations are reserved for the end. However, the vice-chancellor did give a good speech at the end.

After the ceremony, we headed over to the Rose Bowl where they had turned the car park into a reception area with some food and drink stalls and places to take photos.

All in all, a nice ceremony, but not a patch on Leeds University. When I graduated for my bachelors, the whole school got together and put on refreshments and all the staff were there to congratulate us. This was very different. It was all run centrally, very busy, expensive, I saw almost nobody from my course because of the size of the group and there was no school-specific stuff or any of the faculty there.

I did get a video, though, including a slow-motion relay:

Women’s World Cup 2019

Monday, July 22nd, 2019 | Sport

After our third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup, it was looking good for England in 2019. But yet again it was going to be heartbreak.

We made it as far as the semi-final, where we faced a top-ranked United States team. And, to be fair, we gave them a great game. If it hadn’t have been for the penalty we missed, or the goal disallowed, we could easily have beaten them. As it was, they won and went on to beat the Netherlands in the final.

Still, it would not be a proper World Cup without some England heartbreak.

4 ways to stay ethical while keeping healthy

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 | Life

Keeping fit and healthy is important for us in our daily lives, but how can we be certain we aren’t supporting unethical practices when we purchase things to help us stay healthy? One of the things you need when exercising is activewear that is designed to be light, stretchy and able to wick away the sweat.

But many of the clothes that are produced for this market use less-than-ethical practices including modern slavery in their production, and it can be extremely hard to find garments that are made from sustainable materials like organic cotton or bamboo. Similarly, buying healthy food is important, but you don’t know how that food is farmed and many food products are needlessly packaged in single-use plastic packets that aren’t recyclable and don’t biodegrade.

To address these issues, let’s look at four things you can do to stay ethical while keeping yourself healthy:

1. Buy activewear from brands that are against modern slavery

As shocking as it may seem, as many as 20.9 million people are directly affected by modern slavery every single day, so it’s important to buy from responsible brands to ensure you aren’t inadvertently supporting this. Forward-thinking brands have a far more transparent supply chain than ever before, enabling consumers to see how the garments and other items were produced and feel confident they are not giving their money to anyone engaging in modern slavery practices. Take the time to learn about brands and the garments they sell when you make purchases for your runs, swims, cycling and gym sessions.

2. Buy workout wear made from sustainable materials

There is a common misconception that only artificial materials can deliver the light, flexible, sweat-reducing properties needed from workout clothing. This is simply not true, as garments made from organic cotton, linen and bamboo can be specially designed to have the right properties for the job. It can be harder to find these types of garments since activewear made from Lycra and similar materials is cheap and easy to produce, but if you put your mind to it you will find ethical alternatives. And you’ll be glad you did since these types of clothing are typically higher quality and will last you longer as you put them through their paces working up a sweat.

3. Use your car less

This one is simple, but it is a great way to both stay healthy and be ethical. With more cars in the world than people, we are polluting the planet on an unprecedented scale through the overuse of our vehicles. So often, we use them for convenience for journeys that could easily be made another way. And if you choose to walk, run or cycle instead of using your car, you are also being healthy, so it’s a no-brainer. So don’t take the car for your next trip to the gym; try cycling or jogging there, or better yet just work-out at home – that way you’ll have a healthier bank balance, as well as a healthier body.

4. Choose healthy foods that aren’t wrapped in plastic

Our awareness of the damage that plastic does to our environment has grown significantly in recent years. If you take a trip to your local supermarket, you’ll see the astonishing prevalence of single-use plastic. In fact, items packaged in plastic are often cheaper than the ones sold loose, which seems counter-intuitive.

Instead of giving your money to supermarkets and accumulating more and more plastic in your home, start looking for alternatives that involve little or no plastic at all. Try greengrocers, reusable coffee cups and bamboo toothbrushes – the alternatives are there to be found, it just takes a concerted effort on your part to make the changes. You can eat healthily and go plastic free!

There it is – four simple things you can do to improve your ethical fitness while working on your physical fitness. Everyone should be making the effort to stop supporting unethical practices that are harming people, animals and the environment. Keeping fit is a noble pursuit, but only if you are making sure that your efforts aren’t doing harm elsewhere. Don’t be that person who closes their eyes while they contribute to global problems – make the effort, and make those changes.

Allerthorpe Sprint Triathlon 2019

Sunday, July 7th, 2019 | Sport

I completed Allerthorpe Sprint Triathlon last year in a time of 1:30:17. This year, I dragged Elina and Venla along, thinking they could enjoy the sunshine and paddle in the lake. As it turns out, the day was cool and overcast: perfect for racing.

I had come down ill on Friday and still felt pretty rough. The combination of having a toddler and a compromised immune system from a training load designed for ironman hasn’t been working out well for me: I had a cold for Driffield and World Triathlon Leeds, too. However, I decided to power through and race anyway, especially as I set a great time at Leeds.

The swim

The swim went well. I was in the last of three waves setting off five minutes apart. I mostly used breaststroke with some front crawl to try and say on the feet of other people when I needed to speed up. Just at the end, I managed to overtake one of the slower swimmers from the wave in front of us!

Having cramped up in my ironman swim, and in one of the long prep swims, I was a bit nervous of it happening again. This was irrational because I only cramp after over an hour in the water. But it still played on my mind and I had to back off once or twice.

The bike

I had decided to go without socks on the bike, so as I entered into T1 I just had to pull my wetsuit off and pull my tri shoes on. This made for a T1 time of just over two minutes: a far cry from the 16 minutes at The Yorkshireman or eight minutes in Leeds. I forgot to take my neck protector off, though and had to do the entire bike with a giant piece of rubber around my neck.

The bike felt pretty fast and I tried to keep my watts around 220. My swim was a bit faster this time which meant there was an uber biker that was a slower swimmer than me. Baring that overtake, though, it was business as usual with me gaining places consistently throughout the bike and run.

The run

In T2, I pulled on my flat cap and headed out for the 5km. I went out a little too fast on the run, but nothing I could not handle. After the first kilometre, I settled down into a sensible face and held that to the end. I managed a sprint finish, hence the look on my face as I came through the finish gate.

The result

My official time was:

1:20:10

It’s a shame it wasn’t 11 seconds faster. I was 17 seconds over 1:30:00 last year, and I just missed three hours by 15 seconds at Allerthorpe Classic. But that was somewhat intended: I didn’t look at the overall time on my watch because I knew if I was around the 1:20:00 mark, I would push myself harder than I wanted while I was ill.

Splits were as follows:

Stage 2019 2018 Diff
Swim 18:21 22:01 -3:40
T1 01:52 04:39 -2:47
Bike 35:55 37:10 -1:15
T2 01:43 1:27 +0:16
Run 22:17 25:01 -2:44
Total 1:20:10 1:30:17 -10:07

Pleased with almost everything there. A sub-20 swim is a great swim for me. Maybe a bit disappointed by the bike time as I’m now riding a super aero ride bike with aero wheels on, too. That is a lot of cash for very little extra speed. T2 was slightly slower because I put my socks on in T2 rather than T1. 22:17 is a super 5km run time: only 11 seconds slower than my all-time 5km PB.

I came 75th overall, out of a field of 166 finishers. 11th in my age group.

It was also my first race in my club tri suit. Does that account for the 10 minutes knocked off my time? Maybe so!