Monday, 29 June 2009

Holden Beach NC (My Paradise!)

For the next two weeks I will be at Holden Beach North Carolina soaking up the sun and spending some quality time with my family. The beach is as lovely as ever and the sun is certainly shining :) Here are some great shots from our first day!

Walking on the beach:

The Summer Sun:
Eagle Kite Flying in the Sky:
Sunset looking back out towards the Causeway:


The day before I came home to the States for good, I took the train up to the little river town of Henley-On-Thames to watch some of my Yale friends row in the international rowing competition known as Women's Henley. The town itself was in one word: CHARMING! From the gingerbread-like houses along the river to the traditional English pubs, Henley-On-Thames was the perfect boating town.

Some cute little cottages on the river:

The Angel: Where we had traditional English pub fare

I was SO HAPPY not only to see my friends but to see them row in competition! Tt was AMAZING! The power and grace and spot-on timing of their strokes was MAGNIFICENT! I am so proud of Allix, Dara, and Caroline and now that I have dabbled with rowing, I can further appreciate their efforts and accomplishments!

The Yale Women's Eight rippin and ready to go at the start line:

Allix just after her race:

The Yale Women's Eight boat is currently competing at Royal Henley- one of the largest rowing competition in the world! Good luck Caroline and lady bulldogs!

Visiting Laura in Durham

I also had the wonderful opportunity to go visit my best friend Laura up in northern England in the little town of Durham. Her college (St. Aidan's) was hosting a Summer Ball called "Out of this World" that I went to with Laura and her friends. We had a blast singing Karaoke in the bar, Boogieing at the Silent Disco, and chatting in the Mood Pods!

Laura and I at dinner in St. Aidan's dining Hall:

I got to meet "The Queen"

After another all night/morning long ball I was pretty whipped! So we relaxed the next day and went to a BBQ party at one of Laura's friend's house. The next day though we were up and rearin' to go for a fundraiser Netball tournament. This was REALLY fun and a great chance to meet more of Laura's friends. We had fun dressing up or wearing "fancy dress" as they call it in England. Our team did not really have a theme to our costumes, but we certainly had pizazz (with fake mustaches to boot!)

Laura and John celebrating after Laura's score:

Shaun diving around with his cape on:

Human Pyramid:

Then Laura and I took a day trip up to Scotland and poked around for a few hours. We didn't do anything that touristy, but just walked around the city enjoying the nice weather and the gorgeous/haunting architecture of Edinburgh!

Then it was back to Durham and then back to Oxford. Here are a few picturesque photos from my trip to Durham:

Regent's Park Summer Ball

As I mentioned before, Oxford has a long tradition with hosting Summer Balls. Regent's Park (my college) hosted and Arabesque themed ball in June. There was an outdoor tent layered with rich fabrics and poofs to relax on while smoking flavored tobacco. There was a fortune teller's tent where you could have your palm read, your fortune read in a crystal ball, or your future determined by the shape of your tea leaves. It was a nice opportunity to hang out with friends the entire night long and watch the sun rise!

The Magician Show: Here he is throwing knives!

The Shisha tent:

Playing with an African Python:


After the wedding I took my cousin Sharon's wonderful children to our local amusement park: Kennywood! We had a blast on the water rides and in "Kiddyland"

Down by the Turtle ride eating the famous Potato Patch fries and corn dogs! Yum!


The Wedding of the Century!

I absolutely adored being a part of my brother Max's and Lauren's wedding! Seeing my family and meeting a whole new family was AMAZING! I don't think i have had that much fun in a long time :)

Here we are at the rehearsal dinner which was at a charming country mansion. The bridesmaids and brides decided to test out strength by attempting to lift up the groom for some photo ops!

While I was off doing my bridesmaid duties, my brothers and parents took part in the pre-wedding photo shoot

Here we are moments before walking out to the ceremony! There is always time for a little photo shoot ;)

The ceremony:

Me and my cousin Jamie at the reception:

With 325 guests at the reception, we were bound to have a great time! The food was excellent and the DJ made fantastic music choices and EVERYONE was on the dance floor :)

Sunday, 21 June 2009

One Week Holiday at Home

I was so lucky to travel back to the States for 6 days in early June for my brother's wedding. Pittsburgh was gorgeous in the summer and had completely shed its bleak winter exterior. I was greeted by my parents with giant bear hugs and a delicious home cooked meal! The city was also quite lively because the Pittsburgh arts festival was in full swing and we could hear the variety of music played down at the Point all day long. It was spectacular!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

In the boat house after our second day bump

I'm wearing the white hat (third from the front) at seat 6: known as "the engine" seat because you normally put your power rowers in seats 5 and 6.

Final day of rowing

Carrying the boat back in on day 4

Brasenose College Men's team: note the giant crowds gathering at the Boat House

Our Cheerleaders (how American!)

At the fancy Lincoln College Boat Club Dinner following the last day of Summer Eights

Summer Eights: My Take On It

So lets backtrack a bit. Previously I blogged about my crew's qualifying race for summer eights. We found out the results and our boat came in 9th out of 46 boats who tried to qualify (we were really excited for such a high result). Happy that our 4 weeks of training paid off, we began to prepare ourselves for the hectic bumps racing of Eights! Instead of working on building our stamina, we worked on our starts. In bumps racing, when you are only a boat and half length from the boat behind you, it is ESSENTIAL to have an excellent start (to give you a good head start away from the boat behind you and to get a good pressure start on catching the boat in front of you).

Lucky for us, our crew was considered one of the best (if not the best in our division) and we definitely had one of the strongest starts. Out first day of racing we caught Mansfield College WIII in less than 20 strokes! I can remember sitting on the starting line, my heart racing, my palms sweating, dreading the rain that was pounding down on my back. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember hearing our Cox Paul call out start. Roaring "DRAW! DRAW! DRAW! Wind IT! Wind IT! WIND IT! NOW LENGTHEN, LENGTHEN WITH THE LEGS!" and before he could call us to "Stride" he screamed "POWER 10! GO! 1...! 2...! 3...! 4...! 5...!" and before I could even breathe or think or worry about anything, my oar was whacking the side of Mansfields boat! We had bumped right off the start- the IDEAL bump! When the adrenaline began to ebb and we realized what had happened, our boat erupted in cheers and a round of high fives rippled from rower to rower.

The second day of rowing was even more exhilarating. Our success on the first day fueled our drive to get the ultimate Oxfrod honor: "blades"- four bumps in a row. We were focused, driven and nervous as could be. Sitting on the start line we saw the University College WIII boat pass us and we exchanged a few intimidating glances. Their color coordinated t-shirts and heart shaped sunglasses looked like symbols of weakness in comparison to our full Lincoln college gear. We were going to inhilate them (woohoo)! You could almost see them shaking in their seats. We waited for the gun...breathless with anticipation. It was a beautiful day: 70 degrees and cloudless- the heat was draining- but we were determined to have the perfect end the race in as few strokes as possible. BANG! The gun echoed throughout the empty hallow and the blissful sound of perfectly timed blades wooshed out over the water. Within 25 strokes we had caught the Univ III boat and we were exhilirated- another bump! Images of winning blades began to flash across our minds even before we paddled back up the river to the boat houses.

The third day were were going after Green Templeton's 1st boat. They were our biggest competition of Summer Eights. We knew going into the race that this would be our most difficult day of rowing. It was even more difficult because Exeter WIII was in front of Green Templeton and they were a really slow crew: so our biggest problem was catching Green Templeton before they caught Exeter. We decided as a crew that we would go out with a REALLY hard start and pour all of our energy into the first 30 strokes in hopes of catching Green Templeton as quickly as possible. Come race time we had a solid start, but had trouble finding our "stride" or "race rhythm"- we still were gaining on Green Templeton. Mixed with high emotions, cramping muscles, and thoughts of exhaustion I heard our coach screaming in the distance and our Cox yelling at the other cox "CONCEDE!" "We have overlap CONCEDE!" I was so exhuasted and my mind was telling me that I couldnt row another stroke...and before we could muster another ounce of strength to complete the bump, Green Templeton had pulled away and in 3 strokes and caught Exeter. Our dreams of blades VANISHED in the flick of a blade. It was all over....we were all so upset that we just stopped rowing in the middle of the race. Thoughts of anger, doubt, dissapointment flooded our minds...HOW COULD WE LET BLADES SLIP FROM OUR GRASPS? But before we could even imgine attempting to answer this question we were pulled out of the trance by our Cox who began to scream "....they are GAINING ON US! ROW!" Then all of a sudden we had to throw ourselves back into the race and complete the course before Univ III (the team we had bumped the preivous day) could catch up with us. Somehow we found strength to row that last 1200 meters to the finish line.

Its funny how quickly you can be gounded in rowing. Shot back down from the stratosphere of euphoria, so to speak. Our final day of rowing was both sobering and at the same time a chance at redemption. We were going after Exeter III who, in our opinion, had conceded TOO EARLY to Green Templeton! This would be as easy as the first bump we made because Exeter was a rubish crew. We went out focused, determined, and driven to end Summer Eights on a good note. The first part of our start was ALL POWER. Every member of our crew could feel the connection, the internal ryhthm of our stroke. We were going to destroy Exeter! But as soon as we had made the connection somthing ruptured our focus: our 7 seat had "caught a crab" (her oar flipped and acted like an anchor) and our boat decelerated alarmingly fast. We tried to row on with only 6 rowers, but were unsuccessful and we reluctantly called a hault to our charge on Exeter and watched Univ III row past us. We were disappointed, but immediately consoled by the fact that we were not going to be exhausted from a long race. We paddled back to the boat houses with our heads held high and embraced the spirit of Summer Eights (and the mixed drinks and tailgates to go with it!)

Back at the Lincoln Boat House pitchers of Pimm's (the traditional crew drink) with mixed fresh fruit and lemonade were passed around liberally. "The Pimm's were flowing" as they say. Our crew had raced quite early in the day (at 11:30 am) and we got to stick around and watch a majority of the other divisions race. I was able to cheer for Lincoln College and Regent's and I stuck around for the "Head of the River" races as well (which started at 5:30 pm). The crowds were absolutely RIDICULOUS! I felt like I was on the movie set of "Rudy"!

All in all Summer Eights was increadible! I wish you all could have been there to experience one of Oxford's oldest traditions (and too see me race as well!)

Summer Eights: The Explanation

The Long Winded Explanation:

Summer Eights is a bumps race that constitutes Oxford University's main intercollegiate rowing event of the year. The regatta takes place in May every year, from the Wednesday to the Saturday of the fifth week of Trinity term. Men's and women's coxed eights compete in separate divisions for their colleges, with some colleges entering as many as five crews for each sex. Summer VIIIs has seven men's divisions alongside six for women's, encompassing a total of 158 boats and around 1400 participants. Including the qualifying rounds (where success is termed 'Rowing On') the number of participants in 2003 was over 1800.

The racing takes place on the Isis (part of the River Thames), a stretch of river that is too narrow for side by side racing. For each division, thirteen boats line up at the downstream end of the stretch, each cox holding onto a rope attached to the bank, leaving around 1.5 boat lengths between each boat. The start of racing is signalled by the firing of a cannon, each crew attempting to progress up their division by bumping the boat in front, while avoiding being bumped by the boat behind. Once a bump has taken place, both of the crews involved stop racing and move to the side to allow the rest of the division to pass. It is possible to 'over bump' if the 2 crews in front of your boat bump (and so drop out) and your boat can catch the boat that was in front of them. They then swap places for the next day's racing, whether that be the calendar day or the first day of racing in next year's competition.

The ultimate aim of a crew is to become "Head of the River" (top of the first division) and stay there. This entitles the winning crew to commission trophy oars in their college colours with the names and weights of the successful crew on them — commonly called 'winning blades'. As this is only possible for crews already near the top of division one, another way to win blades is to bump on each day of the competition. As the responsibility for awarding blades to crews rests with the individual colleges concerned, there are slight differences in the criterion required.