The Last Post

This website,, created back in 2003 and the ISP user ‘homepage’ that preceded it have always been, first and foremost, a sandpit, a place to play and to learn. Here I have experimented and learned practical things like HTML, CSS, PHP and WordPress and also with writing and interacting online and with what we now call social media.

It has also given me the opportunity to grapple with the more abstract: what about our online and offline lives does it make sense to share in the 21st century. At what point do the dangers out way the benefits of maintaining contact with a diaspora of friends from the online and offline worlds.

The site has, since near the beginning, been home to this blog. The time has come to draw that blogging project to a close. It was fun. I learned a lot. I was part of a great unplanned experiment across the interwebs that involved millions of people experimenting with blogging.

Blogging lives on but it does with those who are dedicated to it and often, thankfully, good at it. I am neither of these things. So I remain an avid reader of a now much reduced list of blogs but am drawing a line under this project.

I did learn eventually to reject the notion of the sanctity the posted and to accept the idea of curated content. It’s time to take that further and draw the project to a close.

For most of us now the desire to share and participate online and the benefits we get from that are best met with other platforms where the tools make it easier to share content, to interact with the content generated by others and to be selective about what we share with whom.

While the blog is being retired the website lives on. For now it will simply be signpost to the platforms where I participate online. In the future, who knows…

For now I am an active user of twitter, and flickr. I’ve not quite decided what to do about goolge+ and facebook but I am on both.

So long, and thanks for reading.

Race Calendar Winter 2013/4

Who is joining me where, then?

Abu Dhabi Striders 10k Series
11 October, 2013; 10 January, 2014; 28 February, 2014
Road race series run one, run two, run three. 10k and 5k options.

Abu Dhabi Striders Half Marathon
November 8, 2013
Road race here in Abu Dhabi

Dubai Marathon
January 24, 2014
Classic road race, I’m planning the full. There is also a 10k and a 3k but no half.

Run Wadhi Bih
February 7, 2014
5 person per team relay run, in the Omani countryside, about 15k per person, NOT flat

And the wildcard option, I’m seriously thinking about this…

Tri Yas
February 28, 2014
Triathlon on Yas Island (specifically in the marina and around the F1 circuit). Sprint and Olympic distances.

A Short UAE Holiday

Camel Rides

It is possible to forget, for a very long time, to do the tourist stuff where you live. It possible to become so blasé in fact, about the stuff going on around you that it’s not until you come to leave that your find yourself with a very long list. I never did get to brewery at Plzen, for example.

So I was rather pleased to discover, somewhat unexpectedly, that I had two days leave to use before the end of March. A UAE long weekend stay-cation was on the cards.

We had four days to spend and quickly picked an activity for each day.

Dubai is just down the road. From where live at the very edge Abu Dhabi it’s really not much more than an hour to get in to downtown Dubai. I had been, back in January, with M for a 12 hour eat, drink, sleep (a little), run a 10k whistle stop tour but hadn’t really seen very much. Thus, day one of the holiday was spent on the Dubai tourist trail. We started with a beach walk next to the Burj Al-Arab, took in malls with ski slopes, malls with shark tanks, various other bits and pieces ending for fruit juice and kebab at Dubai creek at sunset.

We were back in Dubai the next day for Taste festival. A park nestled beneath some enormous skyscrapers is taken over for the weekend. There are tents with cookery schools, tent based extensions of many of Dubai’s best restaurants, a well stocked beer tent and a stage for live music. Add a little sunshine, stir vigorously and you have the recipe for a very nice day out.

The third day of our little break was spent closer to home. Just down the coastline from where we live are the Eastern Mangroves and we’d booked a mangrove safari via kayak. Paddling around the in shallow water in the sunshine was jolly pleasant – once we established who was supposed to be steering – and there is a surprising amount of wildlife to see. Tree climbing crabs definitely being the highlight. We live next to the water and our apartment complex even has kayak storage – there is more kayaking in my future I hope.

For the final day of our UAE mini break we’d booked a desert safari. There are, I’m sure, many types of desert safari but the most common incarnation is the tourist oriented taster day for a collection of typical activities. It was exactly what we were looking for and a great first foray into the desert. We were bused out to a desert camp and offered Arabic coffee and dates while a somber Emirati gentleman allowed us to take turns acting as a perch for his falcon. Next up was dune bashing where our sombre Emirati friend suddenly transformed into lunatic in charge of a Land Cruiser dancing and whooping in the driving seat he took us and down dues, often sideways in plumes of sand on a wild ride – more fun than any roller coaster I’ve ever been on. After that we enjoyed the more stately camel and horse rides before sitting on carpets at low tables for a delicious barbecue dinner. After dinner we got to see the falcon in action before watching the sun set over the dunes and finally relaxing with a sweet tea around the campfire.

The desert, it seems, is not just a baking hot, featureless sandpit.

There are some photos in the gallery.

Moving on Again

How is one supposed to feel about the city one lives in? We’ve certainly had some great times here. We’ve used Prague as a base for exploring the Czech and Slovak countryside which I love. I’ve learned to ski (after a fashion) and we’ve been a few time to the Austrian alps. I’ve done some great runs. We’ve spent many, many happy weekends down in Slovakia. Most importantly though, I’ve made some great friends here and that, I think, is ultimately what makes a place feel like home and Prague does feel like home.

But how is one supposed to feel about the city one lives in? Hangzhou set the bar really high here. I loved Hangzhou the moment I arrived and to varying degrees that feeling never went away. Now don’t get me wrong, there were ups and downs. I had my fair share of bad-China-days, like everyone else I lived the cycle of funk, but Hangzhou, like a siren held me rapt throughout and it was a sheer act of will that got me to leave. That’s not to suggest the story ends there, I hear the siren-song still. Barely a day goes by where I don’t think fondly of Hangzhou.

Poor Prague then, had a tough act to follow. Prague, for her part, pulled no punches. Apparently, I had a series of tough lessons coming and Prague dolled them out with relish, so it seemed. We got off to a bumpy start.

In the background was always this sense that, eventually, I was supposed to feel the way about Prague, that I did about Hangzhou and that, in all fairness, probably set the bar impossibly high. I like Prague, but it was never love. I did, in the end, come to be at peace here.

In a way, then, I suppose, I’ve been writing this post since I arrived. We’re leaving Prague.

I have said on occasion, and can never quite shake the sense that, an expat life is only worth it if you’re “living the dream” – by whatever definition you choose to attach to that phrase. The alternative would seem to be working a lot harder, suffering varying deprivations just to get back zero, to the life you would have back home.

So which is to be, I hear you ask? Packing it all up and beating a trail back to Newcastle? Or a return to the pseudo home that Hangzhou will always be, to pick up where we left off, “living the dream”?

Not a bit of it. We’re moving to Abu Dhabi. And I will miss Prague.

We Run Prague 10k

Ten kilometer races are funny things aren’t they? I guess maybe a lot of people get into running with 5 and 10k races but that’s not the route I came. My first race as an adult was the Hangzhou half marathon. In actual fact before this weekend I’d only run two competitive (ish) 10ks.

Even If It Rains Shirt
… and it did.

The first was a very competitive club run in Newcastle back on January 1, 2008 that I some how stumbled into with realizing what it was. I came in 94th out of 100 finishers. I’ve actually just now found that out (first time I went to look). At the time I was convinced that everyone behind me was a DNF. Insult was added to (psychological) injury by the fact that this was the first event I’d run in the UK for something like 20 years and therefore the first time my Mum was in the crowd. It was a disastrous start to what was supposed to be a year of running, to celebrate turning 30, that stumbled from one disaster to another. Time: 61:05 on a soggy and somewhat hilly course.

The second was the PIMS 10k in Prague back in 2010. Which I just turned up and ran without really thinking about, let alone preparing for. Time: 56:06.

Given this history it was with some trepidation that I set myself the goal of actually setting a time at the Nike We Run Prague 10k this year. I even managed to drag myself to the gym to force my unwilling legs through tempo runs once a week for the last month or two.

Nike had issued t-shirts with running numbers printed on them (I’m not sure I like this idea) and runners were offered the opportunity to put a club name or motto on the back. We went with Even If It Rains which ticks both boxes. Not reading the backs of the shirts was a bit like trying not read subtitles on the telly – hard. The chosen phrases ranged from the down-right offensive to the rather witty but in the end I had twee-aphorism-fatgiue from reading them all the way round.

As seems to be a feature of big 10k events, there was a lot of gratuitous pushing and shoving and otherwise unfriendly conduct, tsk, tsk. I’m sure the two clowns who collided in front of me in the water stop and knocked themselves, and very nearly me, to the ground were not the only two who did so. They certainly proved that it’s not possible to grab-water, drink-water, eat a banana, regain the racing line all at the same time while not looking you’re going and travelling at full-pelt. In case you didn’t know.

The target, then, when I signed up for this race was to come in under 50 minutes but by race day I wasn’t optimistic. While I’ve been easily running 4:30 kilomoters in the gym I couldn’t seem to get below 5 minute kilometers on the road. I set off running with A who pulled me through the first couple of kilometers faster than I ought to be going, such that when I pulled back at about 4k and let him go it was a relief to be only running 4:55. This had given me a little bit of a buffer but I was concious of not wanting to squander it. In the end I managed to run all ten of the kilometers under 5:00 and was positively cock-a-hoop to come in at 48:23.

According to garmin I ran at average of 95% of my max heart rate and maxed out at 98% of my maximum. Which, whether accurate or not, at least suggests I was trying.

Next up, my first Great North Run which I’m running with my Dad. We’re running to raise money for the Children’s Foundation, which funds research which helps Children everywhere and also has a local impact by funding projects including the Great North Children’s Hospital. You can sponsor us!

Update: Nike have kindly provided some photos they took of me which are shared on flickr.

Český Ráj

There is a place called Czech Paradise (Český Ráj) that I’ve been meaning to visit since I arrived. We finally made it out there for a day of hiking and to my great surprise there was little evidence of beer or sausage. Czech (sorry) it out…

[AFG_gallery id=’2′]


What to Eat?

I have consumed (pun probably intended) a lot of material over the last year or so that challenges the conventional (well, last 30 years or so) wisdom on what we as humans should eat. It seems like all of a sudden, everyone is talking about low-carb, slow-carb, low-carb-high-fat, paleo or some other variation on the theme. Are these the latest few fad diets or does this represent a shift, backed by actual* science, in our understanding of what we as humans should eat? Has the information about what constitutes a healthy diet that we have been fed (pun definitely intended) over the last thirty or so years been dead wrong?

A video series from the University of California provides some great insight here: The Skinny on Obesity.

I’ve included the first video below to get you started.

I heard about this particular video series through – also worth a read.

* As opposed to the psuedo science of those who profit from selling us certain types of food.

Round and Round in Circles

Running round and round in circles for six hours.

[slickr-flickr tag=”srichinmoy2012″ use_key=”y” type=”gallery” flickr_link=”on” captions=”on” align=”center”]

So the other day (in Pete’s blogging cadence anyway) I got pinged to go run some relay thing in the park at Stromovka. In my head relay pretty much equates to easy, just for fun, type of thingy so I said yes and thought no more of it. Friday night came and went and we had a few beers, and a few more, as one does of a Friday evening. Saturday morning was fun, we had a new bread maker to play with and then as lunch time approached I thought I probably ought to start thinking about the run and possibly getting a bit rehydrated.

So I roll up to the park to meet my team and discover that we are three, not four, that the target for the team 6 hours and that one of my team-mates has a dodgy knee. Some quick running pace calculations in my head later and I’ve worked out I’m about to run slightly more than a half marathon in four kilometre chunks with forty minute rests in between. No taper weeks, no carb loading, no carb layering, no three day hydration programme. In fact at this point all I’ve consumed for the day is two slices of toast and two bottles of powerade and it’s now one o’clock in the afternoon. I also have no idea how my body is going to react to the stopping and starting running which I’ve never done before. And it’s hot.

In the end we ran 67k between three of us, my contribution, by fluke of the running order, being 24k. Running round and round the park in two kilometre loops was actually not so bad, it’s a nice park and it was a lot less traumatic than running 21k on a treadmill which I once did in Hangzhou (it gets very hot outside). For the running geeks the track is here.

I’m not entirely sure what the event was in aid of. It appears to have been inspired by, if not started by some Indian guru guy. My mate said “it’s not some evil cult or anything” and that’s good enough for me.

We were just the tourists though, there to make up the numbers. The real runners were doing individual 6-hour or 12-hour runs in two kilometre loops, round and round the park. Respect. And some food for thought…