A challenge in review, and a new adventure ahead

Thames Dragon Boat Club

Thames Dragon Boat ClubThe Year of the Dragon hasn’t been entirely a success. I have raced with the team. Trained with the team in the winter with the freezing water. Worn bandanas in the summer when training with the team to stop stinging sweat from getting in my eyes. Dressed as Spiderman for a party with the team. Felt disappointed not to win an award for being the best newbie. Drunk bottles of supermarket beers with the team in a Regatta centre car park.

But I said I would compete in an international competition. That was my self-imposed goal, that was the challenge. That was the adventure. It didn’t happen. Sometimes it can be hard enough to get a team together to race anywhere outside of London, I lacked the courage or confidence in myself to go alone.

I lost my job a few months back, and the black dog came padding back almost unnoticed. Unnoticed except for a loss of interest in doing things. My original motivation to get up and go swimming every morning fell by the wayside, and when one week a training was missed and another week training was missed, I find myself having missed more trainings than attended.

Next month I leave London, and have made the decision to leave the team when I go. It’s hardly worth the round trip car journey to and from London on a Sunday morning, likewise commuting into London when my current job has me working from home.

We can’t call the Year of the Dragon a challenge bested, but a challenge attempted is better than one not taken up.

Next month I leave London. Early next year I leave the UK, and probably for good. That’s rock climbingan adventure all of its own, and I will find a new dragon boat team in Australia to join and train and paddle with.

This week, after a delay of far-too-many years, I am getting back into rock climbing. It’s hard to believe it’s now been a few years since I last climbed. I climbed, I passed my safety test, then I broke my collarbone snowboarding and haven’t climbed since. But this week I will again.

And although I have nobody to join me climbing, I will go anyway, and find my peace on the wall once again.

A new year begins

New Year ResolutionsIt’s turned biting cold in London this week. It’s funny. It’s winter, it’s England, and yet we’re surprised that it’s cold. England has a way of doing this to you — it gives you unseasonable weather, and then when you’re not expecting it, hits you with reality.

Take last week on the dock, Dragon Boat paddling, as an example. I wore nothing more than a pair of trousers, a t-shirt, a bouyancy aid (it’s the requirements of the docks n the winter) and a pair of non-slip gloves for paddling. Though I started out wearing a hat, I got too warm and kept slipping over my eyes. Yesterday, there were several reports on the radio of weather warnings — and I sarcastically commented how important it was to warn people that it’s winter and it might be cold. Yet, I ignored these warnings, went out without wearing a hat — and sorely regretted it.

Today, I wasn’t going to make that mistake on the dock — and upgraded my t-shirt to a long-sleeved thermal baselayer (last worn in the Arctic wilds of Norway), and kept my hat on. It did the job, although even with gloves my hands would get painfully cold at times — particularly the one that kept dipping in the water.

But here we are, 2013. The new year is well underway, and I don’t have those back-to-work blues because I didn’t really stop working over Christmas and New Year, apart from weekends and the bank holidays.

There’s not much to report. Along with seemingly the rest of the population, I’ve returned to the gym, some old faces that I haven’t seen since last summer have returned to the docks on a Sunday morning to join us in a dragon boat. I can only imagine it’s a new year inspiration, nobody would think “Gee, it’s bloody freezing out today, I should get back out in a dragon boat”.

Even if it’s not actually a resolution, the new year prompts new adventures. For me, returning to the gym wasn’t done because it was January: it was because I have a membership, enjoy going, and need the exercise. December was just a lousy month for that kind of thing. The fact that I am also planning on getting back into rock climbing (yeah, just like I was this time last year) may have more to do with a new year: it inspires you to do the things you’ve been putting off, and unlike in the past I actually have two or three friends who want to climb as well, which will help to motivate me.

We had several new people paddling with our dragon boat team this morning; I’m not sure where they came from or how they found out about us, but we managed to get two boats on the water which hasn’t happened in a long time. After our training session, we were sitting around in the pub talking, when one of the newbies asked about competitions. She was told that we compete nationally — and she laughed. Not, apparently, at the thought that we “as a team” compete nationally, but that she could. If she stays with the team, she’ll realise quickly this is not nearly as absurd as it sounds: after all, I competed with the team in a national competition last summer, and hope to compete in an international competition this year.

The Year of the Dragon is still the adventure of the moment, and in between getting fitter and rock climbing, it looks like this year will be a big one for sports and fitness. But I don’t make resolutions.

2012: a year in review

End of the world weather

“It occurred to me the other day the Age of Aquarius is supposed to have begun. Everyone thinks it’s going to be this new age — I hope it is! It would be nice if people were more interested in spiritual things, instead of…buying settees. But maybe what it really means is we’re all going to live under water.” – Jarvis Cocker, Glastonbury 1998

Another doomsday has come and gone without event. After Harold Camping’s failed prophecies of the rapture last year, attention turned to the Mayan 2012 prophecies. Or lack or prophecy, since the Mayans didn’t ever really predict anything for 2012, it was the end of the thirteenth b’aktun’, a cycle of 5,125 years which marked the end of one age and the beginning of another. According to some, each b’aktun’ ends with great cataclysm, or great upheaval from one age to the next. And a lot of people hoped it would mark the start of a new age: just like people did when 1999 turned into 2000.

I remember 1999 — I was an 18-year old undergraduate in the first year of my degree. I remember one night in a pub a friend was evangelising about how in Egyptian philosophy the 20th century represented an adolescent male, while the 21st century was symbolised by a 20-something female. What he was saying was that the 20th century was immature and tumultuous, while the 21st was going to be wiser and more mature — things would get put into perspective better. I suspect he made the whole thing up, but it was a comforting thought: that we could be entering a new, more mature age. Unfortunately, Dave also believed there was vampires living in the catacombs under Paris, and there was a secret UFO in the Millennium Dome and at midnight on the turn of the century, the Prime Minister was going to reveal the existence of extra-terrestrial life.

One year turned into the next, and like the hopes for the 20th century once were, the 21st century has turned out to be more of the same. Like the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, nothing happened. No spiritual awakening, no great tribulation. In the UK, it’s pouring with rain and after an unusually wet year, there is widespread flooding — but the dolphins are still here, and we’re all a long way from living under water.

I should really have written this post earlier in the week, just in case the world did end yesterday. There’s no point writing “A Year in Review” post if the world has already ended and there’s nobody left to read it, so it’s lucky for me that there was no massive solar flare or gamma-ray burst obliterating life on earth.

2012 started with “A new year for adventure“. The Arctic Adventure was rapidly approaching, and people were looking me up and down, asking if I had done any training because it was surely going to be hard work. I was increasingly terrified by what I was letting myself in for. It’s a good way to start the new year: with the terror of a looming adventure. I bet Ranulph Fiennes never starts the new year feeling that way.

The adventure was in March, and you can read about every day of it in this blog so I won’t summarise it now: other than to say it was exhilarating and awful and inspiring and tremendous all at the same time. I fell in love with a beautiful Norwegian in the Arctic. Her name was Anneka, she had the most soulful brown eyes and she was crazy about me too. She also had a wet nose and a very waggy tail, and of all the dogs in my dog sled team, she was my favourite — I wanted to take her home with me, but I expect she was just one of those very affectionate dogs who was like that with everyone she met.

In 2012, I had the opportunity to see my favourite band Our Lady Peace for the first time: and a day later, for the second time. We’ve been celebrating Canada Day, my friends and I, for years now: even after our token Canadian friend returned to the great frozen North. And for years, we’ve joked about how wouldn’t it be good if Our Lady Peace were to perform at the celebrations. We didn’t expect it to ever happen, but this year it did: the band were every bit as good as I hoped they would be. When we saw them again the next night in a small venue in Islington, they were even better. Once or twice, I have tweeted about listening to them while I’m at work and one day they even replied.

Other highlights of 2012 undoubtedly include the change of job for me: from one job to another might not sound that interesting to me, but my work has taken me to new cities including Munich, Dublin, Lisbon, Paris and Antwerp in the last 6 months, and next year it promises Brussels, Miami, Stockholm, Berlin, Frankfurt and Tel Aviv on the immediate horizon. I’ve taken planes and trains, I’ve stayed with a Portuguese family in Lisbon, taken a walking tour of Paris, lost myself in Antwerp and enjoyed trying to work out if I had amnesia whether I would be able to work out what country I was in.

July had me try dragon boat racing for the first time — and enjoyed it so much, I promptly went out and joined a local team, the Thames Dragons: and set myself a challenge to take part in an international competition with the team within one year. I already have taken part in a regatta in the UK, so I’m part of the way there: unfortunately, the first two races of the Henley Winter Series have both been cancelled due to dangerous water levels, but there’s more races and adventures to be had with the team in 2013.

The Olympics came to East London this year, and the whole world was surprised when everything went well. London included. The rain that we’d had all year long so far stopped just long enough for the games, nobody needed to use the rooftop-mounted surface to air missiles, the transport network managed to hold itself together, and Boris Johnson continued to act like anything good that has ever happened in London (including winning the bid for the Olympics) was entirely his doing and that we’d all been living in caves before he came along. So, nothing new year. I didn’t get to any Olympic events — not being a huge fan of just watching sport, but I did try and get tickets occasionally, without success. For the most part, I was unmoved by the Olympics: it was nice and all, but not really my scene, I was just happy enough that it went well and London didn’t erupt into rioting, like the summer of 2011.

According to Facebook, I’ve made 40-something new friends in the last year — so I might wonder why it is always such a struggle to get more three or four people to come over if I have a birthday party. But there has been lots of new people to call a “friend”: from colleagues who then became friends — either because we parted ways professionally, or because we met for the first time at got along — to Calvin’s, one of my very best friends, wedding — that brought with it a heap of new people to meet and like in Canada, as well as the opportunity to visit Canada for the first time and discover that Canadians are probably the nicest people on the planet.

As well as raising £6,000 with the Arctic Adventure, in November I was part of my work’s Movember team I also helped to raise over £1,000 for mens health, and could possibly have raised even more had I been able to grow a moustache that was visible in photographs.

There’s more than a week of 2012 left to go, and a lot can happen in a week. In a week you can trek the whole of the Inca Trail, or sled some 200km across the frozen Arctic with a pack of huskies. You can spend the time at a conference in Belgium, before realising the day before you leave that this part of Belgium isn’t really French-speaking. Or, more likely at this time of year, you can eat and drink a lot, see family, see friends, and in the midst of it all try and get some work done because 2013 is going to be a busy year: even without any apocalypses planned, that I’m aware of.

Help save the docks for public use

Save the docks for public use

Save the docks for public use
Image source: http://flic.kr/p/7cVg6E
East London became the focus of the world’s attention this summer with the Olympics in Stratford.  Many people hoped that the inspiring spirit of the Olympics would long continue.

It seems that for Newham council the future of sport isn’t quite so important: as they consider a planning application to permanently berth a cruise ship at the London Regatta Centre in the Royal Docks as a floating hotel.

There are dozens of other hotels in the immediate area — with some having only very recently opened — but this floating hotel at the London Regatta Centre will mean losing several lanes worth of water permanently.   All kinds of water users would be affected by this and be forced to relocate, including three Dragon Boat teams and various rowing teams.

We only have until 19 December 2012 to get as many people as possible to object to the application and save the docks for public use.  Please help by objecting to the application yourself here: http://pa.newham.gov.uk/online-applications/ and searching for application no: 12/01956/FUL

You can also help by spreading the word and sharing this as widely as possible!

What drives the world’s greatest living explorer?

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph FiennesI was up and out of bed early this morning (*cough*forasunday*cough*) because — of course — Sunday mornings means training with the Dragon Boat team. Yesterday, there had been a message that it was possible training would get cancelled today because of weather conditions. We can’t go out on the dock if it’s too windy. But this morning my alarm went off at 8.45 and there was no word to say training was cancelled, so I showered, dressed, layered up, packed my rucksack with clean, dry clothes to change into, and headed out to the dock which is about a 10 minute walk from my flat, if that.

Yes, it’s December, and yes a lot of the time at the moment it is bloody freezing out: but that’s no excuse not to go out in a Dragon Boat on a cold Sunday morning when you have been out the night before, drinking and bowling. When I stepped outside into the Sunday morning air my first thought was that it actually wasn’t all that cold. That could have had something to do with the long thermal underwear, two t-shirts, a hoody, jacket, and hat I was wearing — but it was a nice morning, and when you’re paddling in the boat, you tend to stay quite warm anyway. There was also not a very strong wind, so I could see why the training was still on.

Except on the way to the dock, I began to have doubts: crossing a small footbridge between Royal Victoria Dock and Royal Albert Dock, the wind was quite strong and the water on the docks looked rough. And I was right: when I arrived I was told we might not be able to go out, and we were waiting for the final word: it didn’t take long for us to be told “No”.

While we were waiting, I picked up a copy of the Docklands newspaper “The Wharf”, and read an interview with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, wherein he talked about how he will lead a team across Antartica during the winter. I’ve mentioned before how this expedition is being described as the last adventure open to be had (which I disagree with).

It was interesting to read Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ own words, since I describe myself as an aspiring or freelance adventurer. What struck me most was where he was asked if he was “excited or scared” by the prospect of his winter adventure in the Antarctic. Apparently, Sir Ranulph’s teams for his adventures are chosen on the basis of the individuals being “someone who hasn’t got much emotion”. Being a former British Army officer, Sir Ranulph is described as “emotionally detached”, which is something I can imagine is important in the Armed Forces (and probably one of many reasons I didn’t get very far when I once tried to join the Royal Air Force).

I can’t imagine contrasting with Sir Ranulph much more than I do. Adventures both excite and scare me, and I think emotion is important to my adventures. I don’t do things just because they’re there, I don’t do them to beat someone else (like wanting to beat the Norwegians to a trans-Antartcic winter adventure), I do them because they excite me, I do them for the people in my life I care about, I do them because I get to a point where I can no longer imagine not doing them.

There were times during the Inca Trail I was scared: the morning of Dead Woman’s Pass I remember feeling very confronted by what lay ahead, since not everyone is able to make it — often due to altitude sickness, a lack of fitness, or under-estimating the mountain and trying to do it too quickly. There was times during the Arctic Adventure that I was unhappy: I was hurting from falling off the sled and being dragged behind it, I was cold, and I felt I just wasn’t good enough. I would never make it onto one of Sir Ranulph’s teams: finding something exciting would immediately preclude me. A history of depression would also not count in my favour. Being sometimes so excited and inspired by everything there is in the world to see and do and experience and share and wanting to do it all now, at once, without delay, all of it certainly are not the qualities of the man the Guinness Book of World Records describes as “the world’s greatest living explorer”.

I wonder what motivates Sir Ranulph, if these adventures don’t excite him? Does he get that same wanderlust that I do, that it’s been a while since a big adventure and there’s a siren call just outside of hearing? Does he unexpectedly one day think “I want to travel the entire distance of North and South America in one trip and by any means necessary“? Or does he approach everything with a detached, scientific outlook? “This has not yet been done, and so I should do it before someone else does”.

I write about my adventures because I write compulsively, and I like to share my adventures: I hope that they will inspire people to have adventures of their own, in the same way I am inspired by adventures I read, and for people who prefer to read than adventure I hope to give a vicarious adventure. What drives Sir Ranulph? I’d like to ask him myself, but I don’t think he’d approve of me.

Sometimes fires don’t go out when you’re done playing with them

The Mongolian Derby

The Mongolian Derby
Source: http://bit.ly/SkQxxb
Adventuring has been quiet of late. For the entire month of October, I didn’t leave the country — and it seems strange that it has become normal for me to be packing up and flying out, dashing from one place to the next, waking up in the night and feeling a sense of panic when I can’t remember where I am.  As I say, October has been quiet.

But November is back to business as usual: this week holds a last minute trip to Paris for a couple of events, and some time digging stuff, then a couple of days at home before I board the Eurostar again to Antwerp  These are a bunch of first times for me: my first trip on the Eurostar, my first trip to Paris (as a disclaimer, I have visited France before, and even driven my car to Lille on one occasion, just never Paris), and my first trip to Belgium. We can expect more blog posts with pictures and journal entries from these new cities: and I should really brush up on my French.

In other news, last month I presented to a crowd of about 500 people at the Hacker News London meetup.  As I had arranged for my company to be a sponsor, I got to have two minutes just to say a few words about us.  I had planned my presentation carefully to be almost exactly two minutes long and cover all the important points I needed: but on the night, I changed my mind. The sponsor before me said only a few words, and I didn’t want to look out of place giving a more prepared and much longer intro — so I followed suit, just explained who I was, who my company are, and told the crowd to come to our next user group meeting.  I regretted this when the two sponsors who followed me did give longer intros.  I have resolved to do better next time, and to somehow make it interesting and if possible slightly funny. It’s not beyond me: I can make people laugh with self deprecating humour when I perform at open mike nights, I just have to work on it.

At this Hacker News I was lucky enough to see a presentation from Linda Sandvik on, in her words, “Making things better”.  Linda was inspirational to me as an adventurer: she takes Mondays as an opportunity to force herself to do things she wouldn’t normally do, from little things like making phone calls to much larger things — such as the longest, toughest horse race in the world, the Mongol Derby.

Linda decided one day to enter the Mongol Derby, despite not being a professional nor having ever competed in anything more strenuous than gymkhanas and openly admitting to not having been fit in several years.  Linda just decided she would enter — and what’s more, she did it, too.  She didn’t just talk about it, she didn’t give it up as a bad idea: she actually went ahead and competed in the Mongol Derby.

Admittedly, she didn’t complete the race and was hospitalised for several days with a collapsed lung, and other injuries, but to me it’s the taking part that’s important. Linda is the kind of person who would enter the Dakar, even if they had never ridden a motorbike before — and even if people said it was crazy and dangerous.  After all, when I first started talking about it people said that my dog sledding challenge was crazy and that I’d freeze to death.

For the minute, I have slightly less lofty goals: as well as the year of the dragon (which is progressing well, even if I think it will take many years to master the art of dragon boat paddling) I’m discussing the idea of presenting at one of my work’s conferences some time next year.  Not being technical, all I could present on would be community management. My boss is fully supportive of the idea, to the extent that with her encouragement I am founding a meetup group for community managers: just a place for people like me to discuss their experiences, and on opportunity for me to learn what I have to offer.  I would also like to present a whole talk to the Hacker News London meetup, rather than just the two minute intro.

These might not seem like big adventures, but they form a part of trying to be a better person: as well as getting fitter (I am now visiting the gym several times a week, as well as dragon boat paddling), and trying to be more positive (to be happier), I am also trying to be the person that does things, and doesn’t just talk about them.  I also have to balance this with trying not to take on too much or risk burning out: so there’s an adventure in trying not to have too many different adventures all at the same time.

The Strokes know when you drop your pace

Royal Albert Dock

Royal Albert Dock
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31505964@N08/3602629469
On Sunday morning, the water in the Royal Albert Dock was calm and flat, and reflected the sky like a mirror.

Sunday mornings in Docklands are unusually peaceful.  London City airport doesn’t begin operating until midday, and the only other people on the water was another dragon boat team — there was plenty of room for our team and theirs to be far apart from each other, so far a while out there the only sound was the splashing of our paddles, and the shouts of our respective team helms.

It’s been a while since I updated about The Year of the Dragon.  Since I last wrote about it, I have raced with my team in the London Regatta — technically, we had two teams: our premier team, and our scratch team.  No prizes for guessing I was in the scratch team — but we also had some Olympic-level athletes in the premier team.  Overall, Thames Dragons came 5th place in all 3 race distances (100m, 200m and 500m) — and most importantly came in above the other London teams.

Now the BDA League is finished and the days are becoming shorter — we have already stopped training on Tuesday nights, since the London Regatta Centre requires us to be off the water at sunset, and sunset is rapidly approaching 6pm in London.  Sunday mornings have stopped requiring sun block, a hat, and a bandana to stop me from getting stinging sweat and sunblock in my eyes.  This Sunday morning, the air was cold when I left the house in a hoody and a jacket and I wondered if I was going to be able to stay warm enough out on the dock.

With the Henley Winter Series coming up,  Sundays have a focus on technique (especially for newer members, like myself) and distance paddling.  I was in the second row in the boat, which was unusual for me — but it’s a good place to be, since you take your timing from the front. It makes it much easier to see what the people at the front are doing if you are sat right behind them, and I could also look more closely to try and emulate their technique.  I don’t know if your position in the boat, other than the front row, is any kind of comment on your ability or just a matter of weight distribution.  Undoubtedly, there were better paddlers sat behind me — this is without question, the man directly behind me would occasionally tell me when my timing was slightly off, but also it wasn’t possible that out of a boatful of people I was even among the best.  That isn’t really important.

Sunday was just a beautiful morning to be out paddling; the sun was shining and the sky was clear.  When I’m on the water I enjoy the very short breaks we have, just for a minute or two to look around me and enjoy the surroundings — there’s no opportunity to look around when you paddle, even if your technique is perfect — you need to be watching the front of the boat.  Although, as a training technique we did try paddling with eyes shut occasionally.  It sounds crazy, but sometimes when you’re racing the water can be rough or there might be so much spray you won’t be able to see — so it’s important to be able to use other senses.  We’d start off with eyes open as normal, get into our rhythm and make sure everyone was in time: then it was eyes shut and keep paddling.  It’s surprising how quickly I’d lose timing: I’d be counting to myself and thinking I was still doing fine, then there’s be a whack as my paddle hit the paddle of the person behind me.

The distances are also a new experience.  In the London Regatta there was a 500m race, which was a distance some of us (myself included) had never covered before — and it was surprisingly difficult.  This Sunday we trained over distances of 1000 and 2000m.  The important thing is to focus on power and pace.

When I was at school, a long time ago now, there was a short time when I was a decent runner: but I was a sprinter.  I got pretty good, but not amazing, times for 100m, but preferred 200m. I performed well in 400m, and got a Gold award for my time, but I still preferred running 200m.  My trouble with 400m was I didn’t understand how to pace myself — I didn’t know how to start the race. With 100 and 200m, all I had to do was just run as fast as I could.  I wonder now if there is something in the power and pace techniques I am learning in dragon boating that could have been applied back then.

1000m was tough and 2000m was even harder — around me in the boat I could hear people breathing hard and panting. The Henley Winter Series involves continuous paddling for half an hour, with occasional short bursts of extra power, and for the newer paddlers like myself this is a new experience: with the short races, you are finished in under a minute.

In a campaign to be a better person, I’ve started going to the gym recently: and after only a week of activity, this week I could already feel the benefit an increase in strength and fitness has on my paddling.  With my adventures in Peru and Norway, I had reasons to train — a reason that I was missing after the challenges.  Now I am finding reasons once again: the year of the dragon isn’t just about the international race I want to build up to, it’s the fitness and training to be a better paddler, and overall being a better person.

The year of the dragon: a new adventure starts here

London's medal-winning "Thames Dragons" dragon boating team
Source: http://bit.ly/MelXrG
Photo by Rosanna Lau

It seems that maybe a new adventure sometimes comes along when you’re not looking for one.

Since before I even went to deepest, darkest Norway on my Arctic Adventure, I was thinking about what would be next.  The idea of a desert motorcycle race came up, and I did some research into the Paris – Dakar Rally, but while not yet being able to ride a motorcycle would have added an extra element to the challenge, the whole thing was impractical.

After the Arctic, a coast to coast trek in Cuba was considered — it would be another fundraising expedition for Macmillan Cancer Support, but the total being a much more modest £4,500 (rather than the £6k I raised this year) and I considered it would be possible to raise the entire total solely with full-day collections in railway stations or outside supermarkets.

This idea, too, was regrettably dismissed — I don’t want my adventures to be defined by charity fundraising, and I didn’t want friends and family to feel they had to support me financially.

I wasn’t even thinking about a new adventure when I got an email asking if I wanted to go to a Dragon Boat racing event.  I’d heard about dragon boats and dragon boat festivals before, but never seen one — though it had sounded interesting.  So I gladly signed up for this one, once I’d established I could actually join in and race.

One event does not an adventure make.

It was a good day, a fun day of racing in a dragon boat against other teams.  My team came second out of four taking part, which was a good result.  We were tired and sore but happy at the end of the day. But I think what might separate me from others on the day is that I went straight home and looked up London’s teams.

I found several teams, found the team nearest to me (although the 2012 Olympic Games in London have meant they have been evicted temporarily from their home in the docks) and contacted them to ask if I could come along to train with them.

Their answer was enthusiastic, explained to me what days they train, and that I would be welcome.

You know when you’re onto something special when it requires forsaking a Sunday morning lie-in and cooked breakfast, followed by a lazy morning listening to the radio.  Instead, I was out of bed shortly after 7am and pushing through Olympic crowds to catch a train out to Hackney and the River Lea to join the Thames Dragons for their Sunday morning training.

The team this morning were reportedly a little light on numbers — but if that made the paddling harder, it didn’t worry me.

Training with a dragon boat team is obviously different to a corporate fun day. Where last week was a few short races, with breaks in between while other teams competed, today was serious training for a serious sport.  It wasn’t altogether unlike Run Dem Crew — whom I regretfully left for a variety of reasons, but the most serious being the pain in my knees — something tough, but also enjoyable.

It was less social than Run Dem Crew, there you got good conversation while you ran, but in my dragon boat you couldn’t even really enjoy the scenery while paddling as you had to be watching the front people to make sure you kept time.  Occasional distractions on river banks or other boats would be quickly met with stern shouts to keep our eyes in the boat.  It stands to reason: this isn’t just a fun day on the river and conversation would be hard while concentrating on strokes — even though there was plenty of good humour in the quieter moments.

It being my first time with a dragon boat team, there was lots I didn’t understand — but wasn’t expected to.  I was warned of it in advance, that there would be terms used and directions shouted, but the most important thing for me was to just keep the pace — otherwise you end up being an anchor to the rest of the team.

That tired, sore but happy feeling is back — though this time I also have blisters on one hand, and can barely left my right arm above my head.  And let this blog post be a record: a new adventure starts here.

I am joining the Thames Dragons, and by the end of the summer of 2013, I want to have taken part in at least one competition. This is the year of the dragon.