Testing Times

It’s the exam period, and this is its most difficult part.

You may wonder why, considering the fact that the actual period in which we sit this year’s papers still lies just under a month away, but it’s these distant, yet not so distant weeks (as we mentioned previously) that pose the biggest challenge, while yielding the biggest pay-off.

Being in my own little world in the countryside is such a far cry from the focused working environment of the city. Being away from the campus often allows you to leave the intense mindset behind, and leave those stresses to another day. While it’s necessary to take each day slower and relax this Easter, there is the risk of delaying the thought of exams right until the point in which it shocks you into a panic, knowing that by the time we return they will be a mere fortnight away.

That’s the hidden challenge of this period, the absence of the adrenaline. The stress overdose is often what kick-starts the most effective revision, because you know you have little time remaining. On campus you will also be surrounded by many students camped in the library, furiously writing away because they too have exams, and some of them may even be doing the same exams as you. They often indirectly push you to get working yourself, because no one wants to be left behind. Yet for many of us away from campus right now, we have a dangerously safe distance from that pressure.

It’s the same sort of realisation that has repeated throughout the year: the only source of motivation is ourselves.

I’ve also realised that this week has probably been the most troublesome to adequately complete, with the sheer volume of flashcards taking so much time to go through. The economics flashcards are so far working very well, but I feel the Japanese culture cards are panning out similar to Media Studies in previous years, where instead of cards, it’s more productive to memorise essays.

There’s plenty to consider, but getting these flashcards out of the way has very much been the main target of this Easter break. 

It’s a lot of staring at paper, and then staring at it in the mind, but it’s starting to work- and it will be worth it, very worth it.

From next week, the quantity to learn will deplete, and with the basis of knowledge acquired the long hours at my Dinwiddy desk will be much more efficient.

In all honesty, I’m anxious for these exams; I want to be ready for them now, safe with the knowledge that I can and will be able to do them. It’s the same story as previous years, accompanied by the same sleepless nights and weird dreams- it’s a natural part of it all, and cannot be helped. We cannot rush too hastily to correct every issue; patience and faith in gradually hitting each target is the key to clearing this year’s biggest obstacles.

That said, this week hasn’t all been revision. On Monday, Mark, Gianni, Ethan and myself ventured to the Dockside cinema to finally see the new Power Rangers film. Although a tradition more associated with the Star Wars films, we had a Nando’s before going in, which was a pretty emotional meal following the 17 mile run from the proceeding weekend.

I was keen to make the most of the bottomless drink option, but almost imploded when that third Sprite tried to go down. Regardless, these meals are nice knowing they’re a merit of hard work.

As for the film, aside from getting to grips with the different approach to Billy, it did an amazing job in capturing that Power Rangers essence from the original series but placing it in the modern world without seeming too forced.

Billy did take a while to accept as David Yost’s original Blue Ranger was less of the archetype nerd, and more of a dignified intellectual. Overall though the modern portrayal just about makes the cut, and I think all the characters matched the original “teenagers with attitude” concept.

Rita and Zordon were also very different, aside from the obvious canonical differences (they were never Rangers). While the original Rita was loud, obnoxious, and comically crazy, the latest edition sees a far grittier insanity to her character, one that probably matches the antagonist of Lost Galaxy more than the original. Zordon’s character also felt different, and not necessarily for the better; I can say I did prefer the God-like floating bald head in the original, partly because he was never fuelled by any personal agendas.

Regardless though, the bar was never high for Power Rangers, and as a film it was great for adding a bit of depth to the team of five who usually turn up, team up, suit up, and fight evil for a year’s series. The famous lines “It’s morphin’ time!” and the theme tune (although brief) definitely made me tear up a little, it was Power Rangers; it was an amazing reboot into new horizons. Jason David Frank’s cameo was brilliant, and the hint at Tommy Oliver’s appearance in possible sequels makes me very excited. Was a great film, loved it.

The rest of the week was primarily time to recharge my batteries, but we did meet up again for an afternoon of football at Palmerstone. The difference from our days as 16 year-old youths recklessly shooting from anywhere was noticeable. A couple of us had retired to wingers, pinging balls in for the others to finish; we weren’t that bad at all.

It wasn’t a good day though overall- West Ham threw away another lead, Hamilton threw away pole, and in general sometimes you just don’t have the energy.

There was a good reason for that, as Friday was the day I went out on this week’s long run, to try and achieve the next target of 18 miles. It would consist of three 6.09 mile loops around Hollingbourne, this time in much more favourable conditions. Following last week’s letdown, I devised a fuelling strategy of 45g of carbohydrates per hour, strapped on a bumbag, and off I went.

The key components of the strategy were jelly babies, bananas, and an energy drink. Every 15 minutes I would take one, usually a banana per hour and then gradually incorporating more energy drink in towards the end. With regards to my energy levels, the strategy certainly did the trick, and no walls were hit. However, it’s very much a work in progress- the sight of me running with two bottles under my arms while rummaging through my bag of sweets probably didn’t look too professional.

Given the course, I was pleased to complete the distance, taking around 3 hours 10 minutes. The strategy took me all the way, however it’s now subject to further tests and tinkering. I’ve three more long runs going up to 24 miles to find an optimal strategy. I am very much looking forward to next week, not just because we will finally break the 20 mile barrier, but also to try these:

We are getting serious next week. And as a result we will go further and get better. The flashcards will be complete, another long run down, and a big step closer to each goal.

This truly is the most testing period, we have to push ourselves when nothing else will. Doing the exams and running the marathon are the easy parts, they’re the celebration because we’ve done all of the preparation and hard work for them. Now is that preparatory stage, the untold hours of hard work required, the training runs with no medals at the finish line, the past papers with no grades at the end.

It is these weeks which sow the seeds for success.


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