Thursday, 7 September 2017

Better mental health

So I'm not sure what has brought about a change in my mental health, I've an idea that it could be eating a healthier diet, with fewer takeaways, though not takeaway free and starting to train for World's Toughest Mudder which as of  starting to write this post, a mere 64 days away.
The main thing is that I'm feeling a lot better in my brain, I've known this entire year that I needed to get out and train as my fitness has declined over the last couple of years but I've always had no motivation to get out there and build my fitness back up to the point where I was continually running when I wasn't doing obstacles, don't get me wrong, I've loved taking part in all the events I've done this year, from travelling to the US to the smaller events I've ran in, I just haven't been fit enough to get the times I could do, also having gained a bunch of weight back has made getting over obstacles more challenging, although I have managed to beat Kong (the rings suspended over the crash pads, for any non Mudder readers) several times and the current version of Funkey Monkey, though I did come close in Scotland to beating it, just not enough momentum to get off the last ring.

So as I sit on the bus and spot someone out running, thinking I wish I was out running, I think I can say that since getting the news before the first year of my degree that I wasn't getting course fees paid which is what seems to have caused my depression to kick up, I'm getting back to a mentally healthier and a physically healthier me, which I'll bloody take and hope I can avoid falling into another slump any time soon.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Tough Mudder 50

So after a great run on Saturday, where I pushed myself through everything and only avoided pitfall and Everest so that I would keep my hands dry for kong, which ironically I slipped off the third ring as my hands were too dry and dusty from the mud but I said to myself no I'm going for this, i wet my hands to get a bit of grip and made it across, even going back and having a play when I'd finished, making it across twice and then two and a half times, l had high hopes for Sunday being a good day.

We arrived on site and I quickly got into my outfit for the run complete with bow. A quick hello to Owen and Laura then across to the main village for our bibs and face marking. A quick greeting to other familiar faces and into the warmup pen, I got to be on stage warming up the crowd, though the warm up woman thought I was Aunt Sally from Worzel Gummidge rather than Dorothy from the wizard of Oz.

As it was a milestone event, Gil did a fabulous start area warm up, with me in the centre, then I got to do the countdown and high five / hug the mudders setting off, which was cool. I caught up to the back of the wave and plodded on, running and walking, lots of people liked the outfit, which was nice. Once I hit the mud, I knew it would be much harder wearing the dress. When we got up to mud mile part of it was closed, as someone had gotten stuck the day before. We met up with Thomas and Jake at hero walls.

The course wound around the grounds of Loughcrew really well, with the half event being incorporated in the full course in the best way I've seen as yet, if there was any criticism it would be having a single lane for cage crawl as that meant there were some larger queues waiting for people to get through. Thankfully the weather stayed really nice for both days and the threatened rain never turned up.

I was trying to emulate Owen walking the block for blackness without falling in the water but I managed it once before ending up in the water, i dont quite remember wgat happened as I went in the water for the second block but I smashed both shins against the edge and a surge of adrenaline raced round my body and I felt incredibly cold even though I knew the water wasn't cold, it took a little while for it to wear off but I knew I wasn't cutting the course or quitting, as I wanted to finish my 50th event properly, so we continued on (as a sidenote, I dont recommend this, as there is little muscle in the shin area so my leg has swelled and is painful to walk, stand or have in a vertical position).

I went through pitfall but kept my hands away from the mud and I looked at Everest and I immediately said nope, not a chance, it was dangerously slick looking and knowing my luck, I'd have injured myself.

I climbed up to the rings of kong and got to the third ring which was covered in mud but after picking myself up, went round and got across, then Gil had me going through electro shock therapy, I noticed the wind blowing the wires so I went down the side of it avoiding the wires so avoided being shocked, before being crowned with the black and gold headband by Gil and crossing the finish line under the arms of an archway of mudder and volunteers, which was great fun, so I'm the 6th person to reach 50 events, which has taken 4 years, 7 months, 22 days since my first one back in November 2012, with every year increasing the amount of events I'm going to take part in, this will have been the busiest year, with a bewildering 22 events.

So as a proud holder of a black and gold headband, I'm curious as to when the next colours will be coming out an what they will look like, I'm hoping they are a combo of silver black and gold black but reversed, so that silver/gold is backed with black. Though well see if enough people start reaching 50 events but with the numbers already past 25 it won't be too long till a lot have passed the 50+ mark.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

App development

So after I had finished my first year at college I wanted to work on an app that would combine my enjoyment of building Android applications and my love of Nes games, I had started collecting them and had no way of remembering which ones I had, which meant I picked up an extra copy of rad gravity pal version. So I started to design and build my Nes collection app, this originally started as a way to catalogue European games but as I owned a couple of US games, I thought this would make sense to include the entire official and unofficial list for games released for the system, I included unofficial titles but left out the pornographic titles as they were so incredibly rare that there is little chance of the average person actually getting their hands on them, I also included one entry per game regardless if it had a different title in the US or Europe.

I started out with a handful of games and the cover images, just to ensure that I could actually get the images to display as I'd wanted to do this years ago but couldn't find a solution but also didn't really try to find one, I tried a wide range of methods until I discovered that questioning the file where each asset and onscreen button, text box etc. are listed would give you the id for each image file, it was then just a simple task of setting the image to the image view and it would show on screen.

With this problem solved I was able to proceed with the building of the app, I realised once the basic functionality was in place that this would be a mammoth undertaking as I had discovered that there were 800+ games released for the Nes and that each would need an image, synopsis and details of who published it and the year it was published, plus the genre and sub-genre that it belonged in.

As I was putting the basic features into the app, I kept coming up with a new list to show the games to the user and then when that was created, I would come up with a feature that I thought would improve the app for myself and other users. One of the hardest issues to deal with were the bugs that would occur due to the way that I had put the database together and because I've not used a database helper class, I needed to tweak and change the way that I put the sql string for querying the database together.

Once I had a fully working version, I decided to release it as a beta version, so that I could get some feedback on crashes and how the app worked for the users, I got some useful feedback that helped me to fix issues that I hadn't discovered when testing, I also got a lot of people asking how they could play the games, which meant that I had to change the name of the app slightly and add "this is not an emulator" in the short description and full description on the play store app page, I did receive fewer bits of feedback asking about how to play the games after that.

One of the biggest annoyances is that Samsung has released some devices with really high resolution screens, so I kept getting crash reports when users were trying to view the list of games, I can only put this down to the images being resized and the device running out of memory, which was a pain and meant I had to try and find some much larger images to use thankfully I was able to and although the app is now a bigger download, the images look quite nice on smaller resolution devices, which is a nice bonus and hopefully I shouldn't get anymore crash reports from those devices.

The one thing I've enjoyed has been finding ways to solve problems that I've had and I think it has helped me grow as a developer, I need to start working on other ideas that I have, plus I think people want other apps that catalogue other Nintendo and Sega consoles, which I want to do but the amount of work involved collating the information and cover images is going to take some time.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tough Mudder 47/48 - Scotland

What a weekend, the weather was scorching hot, the course was undulating and hilly in places, the friends were many and the event was really good, with a couple of exceptions, one of my favourites so far. As the event isn't too far from mine it didn't take too long to there, even having to stop off to ensure we didn't get there too early.

We'd entered the tougher wave, which is the first wave to set off on the Saturday morning, with prizes for the top three finishers. I have no chance to win but you do get a different headband and t-shirt which is always nice to have. We set off and maintained a steady pace with me thinking as I always do that I should have trained on hills to make it easier, I should really have trained full stop but that's a whole different thing. Mud mile was deceptive, as it was really dry until you hit the mud, so after rolling through which is easier than crawling, I was covered in mud, which was really heavy and meant that running was harder, it meant that my energy was being drained, so climbing skidmarked was really difficult.

It was starting to get really warm so artic was a nice refreshing dip, pyramid scheme still had the ropes on it to get up, which was helpful. the rest of the course was well laid out, with enough hills to make it challenging, they had penalties if you couldn't get across funky money which I didn't but as time was getting on there was no penalty to do. I ended up using the rope at everest which was hard but I;m still wary of that since last year at the Midlands. We collected our legionnaire headbands and only kong left to tackle, When I got up there the young lass volunteering said "you've got this" with my brain thinking I probably don't, as I felt tired but as I reached the forth ring, I thought perhaps I do have, reaching the fifth and getting to the other side had me feeling really ecstatic, so much so that I was telling anyone I knew that I had managed to get over.

Off for volunteering which was tiring given how hot the day was, thankfully I didn't burn too much but I did feel sick and tired and had to take shade from the sun.

We didn't get out as early on the Sunday but we had decided to take part in the help 100 mudders over an obstacle, so we headed out between waves, to get up to skidmarked, I of course didn't get myself over before helping 100 people get over it, which meant that I had no energy to get myself over like I usually do, still I discovered helping 100 people of various shapes and sizes was really hard, if people pulled themselves up and over that helped more than if they were shorter and lighter, I think looking back I might so that again but work on lifting weight, like a sandbag repeatedly, might help with this.

Got pulled down off pyramid scheme again but noticed someone running up the side, which was quite dry so we used that to get over. we helped a few more people over and through things, I almost made it across funkey monkey, only just missing the last bar to get me on to the other side, which I was pleased at managing to almost get over, we kept plodding on and then helped a whole bunch of people at blockness monster which is my current favourite obstacle, I didn't manage kong and looking back I should have given it another go but there is always next time.

I thoroughly brilliant weekend aside from the burning temperature, midges and some obnoxious people being loud late into the night.

Pushing myself to be better

So I recently took part in an event and after chatting to a friend, I was inspired to push myself around the course and really give every obstacle a go. I did a lot of events in 2016 and either through the shoes I was wearing being utter garbage, or not feeling it, I skipped past a whole bunch of obstacles, I know that the mantra is about it being a personal challenge, I really slacked off the challenge part.

Not really facing up to pushing myself, I coasted through events, reasoning with myself that I couldn't do whichever one I was at for a variety of reasons, though some were for safety like seeing hero walls covered in mud, which made it look really unsafe, which in previous years I would have just gone for it but I erred on the side of caution.

After getting into blockness monster at the beginning of the year and it being so cold I injured my foot simply by walking, which meant after I found a medical blanket I wore that for the rest of the course and bypassed basically any obstacle that had height or water in it, they had no legionnaire headbands left at the end but I can consider that I didn't deserve one for how badly I had done, just barely getting round the course.

So after having a long chat about always bringing something positive to an event, I went out on the Saturday and pushed myself through every obstacle, I did bypass kong but that was due to being pulled from pyramid scheme and causing some pain in my arm, which meant kong would have been painful to do.

After feeling good that I had pushed myself through everything, I went out the next day and gave everything another go, even kong, which was a tricky one to do, so managed two of the five rings. I came away from this event feeling good about myself and had a desire to make myself a better entrant, Helping more people get over obstacles or offering advice to first timers, unsure of how to tackle something.

So from now on I'll be pushing myself more, to make myself a better entrant to events.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Europe's Toughest Mudder

As soon as this event was released I signed up, thinking I should manage this without too many issues, I know that I should have been training but a combination of new and old injuries ensured I did no training. As the day approached I didn't feel nervous about what I was about to undertake even on the journey down to the site, I still didn't feel anything negative, I guess I just thought it would be like a regular event just during the night which was a big mistake.
The US Toughest events had been two separate loops with 10 obstacles on each, which changed from one to the other during the middle of the event, the Euro Toughest would change this by having a single loop, which we were told would have obstacles start at various points during the event, I'm not sure if we were told they would take them off during the night but that seemed to be the consensus, which didn't happen so after every obstacle had opened they stated open all through the event, with the exception of electroshock, which I'm glad didn't open at all.

I'd managed to get space near to the rest of Team Short Shorts, with the brilliant Marc as pit crew. I decided to start in my wet-suit but only up to my waist as the sprint lap would have only a couple of obstacles open so I didn't need to be protected form the cold, I did pull it on but unzipped for kiss of mud which had a water pit, and left it on for the rest of the lap. Thankfully the big water obstacles were closed but the new hero walls t boned obstacle was open, this one I managed solo, and quite enjoyed, the grab ledge and strangely even though I was leaning back and pushing against the wall didn't feel unsafe doing so.

As I approached the four mile marker Jon Albon passed by with some words of encouragement, which was nice but I realised he was onto his ninth mile at the point, which took me by surprise. I didn't wear a watch so had no idea of the time when on course, I did find out the time near the end but didn't believe it, as that felt quite slow. After crossing the finish line at 1:31:14 I realised that was a slow 5 miles I'd ran/walked.

I decided upon a burrito and drink of water which I'd not brought anywhere near enough of, then back out for my second lap, I tried to run but couldn't get my legs to keep moving like that so just continued walking on. A few obstacles still weren't open but arctic enema was, so down the tube I went, the wet-suit kept me warm which was great, I had heard of other people who had no cold gear thinking it would be a regular event.

I kept plodding on, taking the penalty at Everest which even with the rope was beating a lot of people, when I saw someone at operation leap after being shocked I opted for the penalty. One of the rules was you had to touch an obstacle and fail, or complete if you were able, so I had to climb the Kong tower knowing I wouldn't get across before touching a ring and falling onto the crash mat, which was uncomfortable on my upper arm.

A burrito and a snickers with some water from Stuart, then I was back out on course, trying to run but having issues with the suit being so thick. king of swingers was open this time with a camera crew at the obstacle, I was aiming to give a thumbs up after jumping and turning to camera but I managed to jump/fall into the water, the penalty was really long for this obstacle, with quite a few of the other entrants doing it. before hitting the water station that I was in need of.

Stuart managed to catch me up and we chatted and plodded on, with only the t boned hero walls proving to be an issue this time, I just couldn't get myself up and over, I had nothing left, so Stuart went with me for the penalty loop.

I reached mud mile after promising myself I wouldn't pee in my suit and as soon as I hit the water my bladder decided that it was time to let go. I should have just loosed my wet-suit and had a pee. I got back to the pit and it was 6:40 so I said that if it had been 6:00 I wold have tried for another lap but knew I wouldn't have enough time to get round so called it a day and started to get changed. I discovered a hole in my wet sock that I had made with my toenail, which would explain why my foot was cold in water,

Looking back on the event, if I had gone with a thinner wet-suit, or chosen the top half over a full wet-suit, I might have been quicker getting round each lap but the cold may have proved an issue, either way if I take part next year I might give this option a try, as I'd like to have got to the twenty five miles, I should also not under estimate how difficult it is running at night, though all said and done, I thoroughly enjoyed taking part and would do it again. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Mad March Mare

As part of my aim to try and enter and support smaller obstacle events, I signed up for the mad march mare, an event that is quite local to me at Hexham race course. I hadn't been doing any training since I had ran the bootneck challenge, so I knew this wouldn't be the easiest event for me, I even forgot what the distance was  and ended up asking at the start line, a nice six mile run out. I had expected some hills but I wasn't expecting quite so many. We started off with a steady run across the field beside the race course, with a few people complaining about the mud and water, one runner even slipped and landed on their back, I hadn't expected to see so many people wearing running shoes for this event, although I did speak to a couple of people and one thought it was a fun run, which I guess I would say it was but not in the strictest usual sense of the term.

We rounded another field and ended up at a water slide which was good fun though the pool at the bottom was a little cold. An a frame to climb over and then along the road beside the race track and across another field and under a cargo net, then a sandbag carry which included a cargo net, which is truly an evil combination and really tricky. We rounded the field and ended up at the walls, there were two to choose from, I tried the largest and couldn't quite make it, so I went with the smaller one and as usual scratched under my arms. We continued along the road before heading into the wooded section.

This was the longest section of the course, with quite a few steep hills to climb and cold streams to climb up, I ran walked with another entrant for quite a while, talking about various events I've done mainly Tough Mudder and I felt quite good and thought about going for a second lap, I bid them farewell mentioning what I was doing and ran on. It was going quite well until I felt a slight pain in my foot, it seems my injury from a couple of months back was rearing it ugly head, I slowed down and drank the entire bottle of water at the water station before heading on, we had a cold stream to walk through before crawling through an uncomfortable tunnel and arriving at a large pool of water to jump into, the water was quite cold and I hoped that it wouldn't cool me down too much but I was fine soon after. I continued on round the race track and across some bumpy ground that had my other foot rolling a couple of times, which was uncomfortable, a tyre wall climb before heading to the finish and another large wall to climb.

I'm glad that I signed up and really enjoyed the day, though I wish that my foot hadn't given me problems, a great little event that would be better if made into a full ten miles, either I'll be doing that one again.