Tag : university

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A New Era

My last blog was way back at the beginning of April, and since then it certainly feels like a fair amount has happened. I have become a writer for WideWorld Magazine, and things are moving fast with both the team at Wardour and Oxford, and my expeditions, the first being just over a month away to Kyrgyzstan.

But by far the biggest milestone is the completion of my final exams at uni which turned into a mammoth task of revision, sitting at a desk for 8 weeks with no sport, and a rather remote sense of interaction despite being in the centre of one of the largest cities in England.

The situation was made slightly harder by the fact that this was the heat of the Everest season, with a few friends on the mountain this year. It took all my self-restraint to refrain from contacting a few friends, however as hard as this was, it seems to have worked.

The revision however was a great learning experience both literally and metaphorically and I was amazed just how much I was able recall with the correct strategy. I did however make a few interesting discoveries whilst sitting in a rather lonely place in the university. This place was the silent area in which I waited for 4 hours prior to each exam. It had the unique feature however of being right next to the shelves of books with titles which make you question the value of your own degree, not great immediately prior to a final exam!

As you may or may not be able to see from my potentially award winning photography, I was sat next to quantum physics and condensed matter shelf which had to be worth a look. As much as I thought some last minute cramming would be helpful, I trusted that after the prior 2 months of reading, I could not possibly squeeze in another reference to please dear old Mr. Examiner. There was a method to my madness, and fortunately, I would find out that I was right to start revising quantum physics as it gave me some time to relax prior to my exams, however at each exam, I became increasingly disappointed that I was never able to utterly bewilder the examiner with my new found ability to spell the ‘nonlinearities in the Schrödinger equation’.


Never the less, rather sensibly I thought, I decided to start at the beginning, and take a look through perhaps the easiest book in the section; ‘Basic Quantum Mechanics’.


However, as I soon found out, there is nothing basic about quantum physics, and only found a page full of integral symbols, which are not usually the best friends of mathematicians.


Upon abandoning my first book, I came across a second book which to my relief was not only written in English, but was perhaps the most advanced but useful physics book I have ever come across.

Its title was simply Nuclear Energy. It doesn’t go into detail; and in fact possessed the unique quality of being the only book I have ever seen to have written itself, considering there was no author.


However, as they say, never judge a book by its cover… So I read on, and upon reaching chapter 13 (admittedly after some skipping) I reached a page titled ‘Making radioactive isotopes’. So at this point I am reading with interest, and finally come to the conclusion that this is a nuclear DIY type book!


I read on… And eventually (admittedly after reading backwards from chapter 13), came across some of the most advanced DIY pages ever written. The first was just self explanatory, entitled ‘Making a Nuclear Reactor’. At a first glance, it looked like a bit of a jump from your regular IKEA construction guide, but on closer examination, this section gave a step-by-step guide, which if it existed, would be comparable to a ‘Nuclear Reactors for Dummies’ book.


The subsequent page simply added to the excitement, revealing the exact process, including materials (most of which are available in any good DIY shop, perhaps excluding the refined uranium) to build your very own nuclear power station/control room. This picture however looked suspiciously like the work place of Homer Simpson.


So finally, after an hour of reading, I reached the grand finale of the book which answered perhaps the most fundamental question of anyone who has been able to follow the building instructions this far. This question simply put is: ‘Now I have my nuclear reactor, how do I install it in a Nimitz class warship?’

Admittedly, this is somewhat of a challenge; however again, the book comes up trumps, and gives intimate descriptions for anyone in this particular conundrum.


(Perhaps unfortunately, in the FAQ section of the book, it states nuclear reactors are not suitable to power inflatable type boats, since the reactor generates 140,000 horse power. Multiple inflatable boats may be tied together, however once installed the boats are liable to melting, after the nuclear fission process which reaches around 1,800degC has commenced.)

Aside from all the lunacies of physics books, I did manage to find a book during my first year which turned out to be one of the best mountaineering books I have ever read. It is fast paced, and is written by one of the legends of mountaineering and climbing, Dougal Haston. It is beautifully titled ‘In High Places’, and unlike any physics book, is poetically written.


And so, at approximately 13:15 on Friday the 27th of May, replaced my final quantum physics book in its rightful place on the shelf, headed off to my final exam, and 3 hours later, the last 3 years of my life had come to an end, albeit a diverse ending.

Finishing university, now over a week after completing my final exam, still has not completely sunk in, especially the last few months which where the pressure of 3 years all comes down to a final 3 hours.

However as this section of my life comes to a close, a new era begins. My university life was an amazing experience which I will never forget, however for me personally, it was made more special through my time at one of the, if not the best squash clubs in the world. NSRC was my second home for 3 years, where I was privileged to play, train, and make friends with some of the best squash players in the world, and a few up and coming who are most certainly destined to be future champions.

One relationship that was by far the most interesting was formed when along with professional squash player Mark Fuller; we set up a company called UK-Racketball. Many experiences ensued, both good and bad which could perhaps be anticipated with running your own business. After leaving the company at the beginning of my 3rd year of uni, it took me time to realise the full nature of the experiences we had shared, in fact almost a year. It turned out that actually setting up a business, is one of the most frustrating, lengthy and demanding processes that can be experienced, however equally, there are not many satisfactions greater than succeeding in something you have created from scratch. An experience that sticks out as one of the defining moments was working from 9am through till 5am the next morning; sleeping for 5 hours, and then going again. This is a lot of work just to learn the intricacies of Div Tags. Despite everything however, many life lessons were leant in those early months, and it was a privilege to be given the opportunity to do something very few people have the chance to experience.

So… if anyone reading this has any desire to play racketball and preferably buy some kit, visit the guys here: http://www.uk-racketball.com/ and to view the new project from the creators of Uk-Racketball, please visit http://fantasysquash.net/index.html

My new era is perhaps beginning with a rather extreme take on training. On Monday the 6th of June, I will be leaving from home on my bike, and covering the 160 miles down to Southampton. I will then be walking with my friend and Everest climber Becky Bellworthy around the Isle Of Wight nonstop for 70 miles, before cycling back for 160 miles.

In addition to this, I have been able to take the skills I learnt from those months at UK-Racketball, and work with the guys at Wardour And Oxford who are helping me to achieve the financial requirements for my Everest expedition in 2012, to maintain their site: http://www.wardourandoxford.com/

It has been a tough few months; however the satisfaction of being able to graduate will be far greater than any pain endured along the way, perhaps this is only now starting to sink in.

A new era has begun!

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Sprint Study

Having just finished as a participant in a PHD researchers study, I thought it would be a good chance to give a small insight into the testing at this level. As an undergrad, it’s a great chance to get involved in many weird and wonderful studies, and essentially become a guinea pig leaving you usually very tired and normally with less blood than when you started.

The study I was involved with was a test of the supplements Beta Alanine and Sodium Bicarbonate, on football specific sprinting performance, at altitude led by PHD researcher Bryan Saunders at NTU. This was a great test for me, as it marked the first time I was able to use the Olympic Certified environmental chamber for its altitude function, in the run up to my Everest climb, and my 2 preparatory expeditions.


The first session was the most difficult, as it involved a lactate threshold test, and then after 15 minutes, a Vo2 Max test to fatigue. This was ironic as it was the only session not done in the environmental chamber, therefore at sea level, yet still the hardest. The final Vo2 Max test involved running at a steady 12km/h and, starting at a 1o incline, increase the incline by 1o every 3 minutes, until every muscle is screaming at you to stop. Unfortunately, you have to give the testers a 1 minute warning as to when you are likely to stop, so they can take a final oxygen sample. If you are sensible, it’s easy to guess when you have a minute left; however if like me you wait until you are completely exhausted before the sample begins, the final minute is pure agony in slow motion. So after that little escapade, I received my Vo2 Max result, which was 65 ml.kg.BM-1; firmly in the athlete category, even if I say so myself; but I had earned it, right?!


Now the preliminary testing was out the way, we could get on with the real thing. This was split into 5 sessions. The first, a familiarisation which was half of a normal session, enabled me to get used to the protocol so everything ran smoothly during the actual testing. Then came 4 actual tests; 2 in the first fortnight, then 1 month taking supplements, then the final 2 tests in the next fortnight.


So for a quick over view of the study protocol on each day of testing:

Arrive at uni at 9am (v.early for a student). Get a fixed breakfast (toast (often burnt, sorry Bryan!) and jam) and 12 tablets of either Sodium Bicarbonate or the placebo. At 11am, have 8 more tablets, a banana and a nutri-grain elevenses bar (pure heaven). The study then started at 1pm. First was a 5 minute warm up, followed by a 10 minute rest in the chamber which was set to 15.5% O2 (2500m). A blood and blood gas sample were taken, then 5 x 6 seconds maximal sprints, on a non-motorised treadmill follow. These are the hardest sections of the protocol, since they are flat out, and are a test of pure power. As soon as this is completed, the bloods are re-taken, and a 15 minute rest follows.


After 15 minutes, the first 45 minute sprint protocol is started, which involves varied sprint speeds, controlled by a computer, which vary from 0km/h to 25km/h. Initially, this is a weird feeling, as the computer controls the speed, and does so at an instant. So there is great potential for flying off either the front or back of the treadmill.


As soon as 45 minutes is up, more bloods are taken, and a second set of maximal sprints begins immediately. This again is a weird feeling, since this treadmill moves freely under your feet, and you are restrained only by a waist harness to stop you simply running into the wall. At this point, the sprints are killers, and only Bryans legendary motivating shouts keep you working maximally for every sprint. As soon as this is finished, another set of bloods are taken, and a 15 minute rest ensues. This rest time flies by; and as soon as it’s over, a second 45 minute variable sprint protocol starts. At this point the 25km/h sprint sections start to hurt; but mainly because in the back of your mind, the hardest section still awaits. This was made much easier however by the modern ghetto-blaster on wheels which hurled out hours of trance, a definite highlight of the experience!.

As soon as the second sprint section is over, another set of bloods are taken, and the hardest section begins. After almost 100 minutes of running, 5 more maximal sprints remain. Each one a killer, until eventually the last sprint is reached. After a final 6 seconds of pure anaerobic pain, the finger goes over the side for the last blood samples. End!

After every session, the weight is measured, and each time, I lost on average 1kg of body weight through sweat.

This protocol is then repeated 4 times during the full study. Unfortunately for me, the altitude packed up during my first test after I was over half way through, so maybe fortunately, or unfortunately, I was given the pleasure of doing the whole thing again!

In between the first 2 tests and the final 2 tests, I had 1 month to take the supplement, which was either Beta Alanine or the placebo. I had to take 8 large tablets each day, for 4 weeks which when plated up, was enough for a full meal….

I also had a lot of time to think of things during each 90 minute protocol, so I sadly counted up all the features of the study; which in turn made the sessions go by much quicker!… I calculated that during the course of the whole study, I had done 80 x 6 second maximal sprints, 10 x 45 minute variable speed sprint protocols; and had been given 120 x bicarb/placebo tablets, 250 x beta alanine/placebo tablets, 370 x tablets in total, 37 x blood samples and 37 x blood gas samples. So to summarise, I had run a lot, ingested a lot of tablets, and given a fair amount of blood.

A thank you goes to the team at NTU for allowing me to use the chamber; and Bryan for his study, endless banter, and his epic iPod full of trance!


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A Humbled Ambassador

Well; the last few weeks have been a bit manic to say the least, so it’s hard to know where to start.

To get the tedious bits out of the way to begin with, the dissertation has been completed, bound, and submitted, all 90 pages of it!

The madness really started about 2 weeks ago, when I sent an email ‘by chance’ to a global business development agency, Wardour And Oxford.

The first week was full of ideas being thrown around, most of mine completely overshadowed by the global thought process at Wardour And Oxford.

Eventually however, after some in depth conference calls, some over 4 hours long, we agreed on an idea. Unfortunately, another website was in need of creation, so after a day of rapidly coding a page, Climate Unchange, a Wardour And Oxford brand, was born.

How I fit into Climate Unchange however is something that I am extremely proud to be able to announce:

‘I am truly humbled to announce my appointment as ambassador of Climate Unchange, a brand of Wardour And Oxford, a global business development agency. I will be working closely with leaders of Climate Unchange to bring attention, response and action’.

My role as ambassador will be to promote the awareness of both climate change and Climate Unchange, a company which aims to tackle climate change head on, through the offset of carbon emissions.

The current press release can be found via the link at the end of the blog, and more information will be released as and when, but for now, I simply feel humbled to be associated with a company whose aim is to tackle one of the most important issues that modern societies currently face. I am still on the search for corporate sponsorship, however I am definitely moving in the right direction, under the wing of the team at Wardour And Oxford.Interspersed with a healthy dose of uni work, my training has also been going equally well. I have one more session to complete, for an altitude study at NTU, and have been gradually upping my training intensity as uni becomes more manageable. I also just got back yesterday from climbing at Red Point in Birmingham, a great 3D venue, where I managed to ascend the 6a stalactite.


Finally, congratulations to Becky Bellworthy who has just secured sponsorship, and is climbing Everest via the South Col in an effort to become the youngest British female to do so. My guide from Scotland, Zac Poulton is also going to Everest, guiding on the North side. Both are leaving in around 1 week, so best of luck to both of them, and everyone climbing on the mountain this season.

For more information:

Climate Unchange Press Release: http://www.pr.com/press-release/307175

Climate Unchange: http://www.climateunchange.com/

Wardour and Oxford: http://www.wardourandoxford.com/