Switching to Polish Priorities

All of a sudden, we have become very busy.

With the flight to Poland booked for Saturday 5th August, there is now an almost overwhelming necessity to focus on preparing for the three-week stint abroad. It’s been a week where I’ve had to change my priorities- bringing Poland to the forefront, with other smaller projects now on hold until September.

So far I’ve booked flights, a taxi to Heathrow, and sorted out travel insurance, but hotels for two of the open nights between the programmes still remain. It’s not just preparation for the trip itself either, this week I have been powering my way through the 120 hour online course, which consists mainly of the theory behind EFL teaching. There were ten modules, each of which contained an exam at the end, and on Saturday I managed to complete all ten with 100%. This was a serious grind throughout the week, and took some real intense reading. It is however a period in which all of these gritty errands have to be run though, so that when the real thing comes around we are best prepared.

I structured one module for each day, and then once the content shrunk to just covering how the theory can be applied, I was able to wrap the last three up on Saturday. The planning, learning, and working, not to mention a considerable amount of hours logged doing part-time work this week, has been reminiscent of the mentality used throughout the past year at university. It feels strange, and obviously a bit stressful to tap into that mindset midway through the summer, and I think there are signs the work is starting to catch up on me.

With everything that has been going on, I have also been trying to fit in my half-marathon training as the schedule moves into the more intense weeks. The timing is a little bit awkward, as from this week I covered 8 miles for my long run, and then will continue to increase the mileage to 12 miles on the week I’m participating in my first programme in Warsaw. Having said that, the other two programmes take place during my taper, and so it’s relieving to know that the physical intensity will eventually calm down. It needs to, in all honesty, because my runs this week were exposing many of the signs linked to over-training.

I realised during my midweek runs that the benefits of fartlek training are beginning to plateau, and instead I am finding it difficult to keep breathing properly. There’s a tightness in my throat, and a weakness in my legs- it’s made this week’s training a huge task. I’ve felt lethargic in the mornings, and have needed a few extra hours of sleep to find a bit more energy, although each morning has been greeted with the mental note of all the modules I need to complete, and the travel arrangements I need to plan. Additionally, the hours spent standing and bending down at work leave me rather drained at the end of each shift, and it’s definitely noticeable the following morning when running. It’s been a challenge, and has certainly been taxing on the motivation.

As I pulled up to catch my breath during a 4-mile fartlek on Thursday, I knew I needed to act somehow to combat this fatigue. Therefore I’ve decided to drastically reduce the fartlek work, replacing them with normal steady runs, and use the option for two rest days more often. I implemented this strategy immediately, and was able to endure a smoother run on my longest distance since the marathon. There’s still a lingering weakness in my thighs, and I put that down to a long shift the previous night, but that’s nothing a bit of strength training can’t help- it’s time to squat for glory; I want to break that two-hour half-marathon barrier.

Despite the exertion, the week hasn’t consisted entirely of work. In fact, it opened with quite the opposite, as my dad and I headed up to the Dome in London to visit the Star Wars Identities exhibition that we had been meaning to go to for months.

IMG_8402It was a wet and not-so-summery day, but like last time, there was a pleasant atmosphere at the famous landmark.

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After a short wait in the queue, we embarked up the escalators into the dark hall where we were handed wristbands and a headset. It turns out that the Identities exhibition is an interactive experience, in which you work your way around the linear path answering ten questions to construct your ‘identity’, in this case, your own Star Wars character.

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It was a really cool concept- you touch your wristband on the panel, and tackle questions within a scenario by choosing the answer most relevant to you. Additionally, there are short video clips playing around the hall which introduce the presence of psychology within the Star Wars universe. It was a fascinating take on how the characters’ mental traits shape their personalities, and ultimately their fates within the films.

IMG_8422As cool as the interactive game was, the main attraction of the exhibition was seeing all of the real props, models, and costumes used in the Star Wars films. It was a surreal experience seeing the actual models used on-screen. To think they had been hand-crafted forty years ago ahead of the original film, which no one at the time believed would become such an iconic franchise was fascinating. 

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I walked around catching a close look at all of the famous concept artwork; we may have seen Ralph McQuarrie’s original designs online before, but to see them in real life, with each and every intricate brush stroke and pencil mark visible was very special.

 Further inside the exhibition was the Millennium Falcon, the frozen-in-carbonite Han Solo, the puppet used for Yoda in Empire Strikes Back, and all of the costumes for the lead characters, including of course, Darth Vader.


It was a truly awesome experience; I really felt like I was walking amongst history.


And of course, after rejecting the dark side, I got to see what I would look like in the Star Wars universe, and it is quite fantastic:


You can read my full identity here.

Afterwards we had worked up a real appetite, and headed to a restaurant for some damn-right spectacular burgers.


The whole day was brilliant. Ever since starting university I look forward to days like this; they don’t come around so often, but when they do they are always special.


As the week progressed, I managed to find an afternoon to meet up with Ethan, Gianni, and Rob down Rochester, where we chatted in the familiar surroundings of the Deaf Cat cafe.


The weather has been disappointing this week, and my hopes of going to the beach with everyone are very quickly diminishing. Under the grey sky, we made do with a walk through the high street, and a quick stop for some fried chicken. 


Amongst all of the planning, it’s been a fairly quiet week, but the luxury of no longer having the burden of school is that we all now have the extra time in September available. I’ve already thought of a few ideas for when the autumn comes around, but for the time being it’s nice to just have the prospect of still having things to do after Poland.
We find ourselves in another busy period, but this one is more compact; put in the effort now, and it will be very rewarding upon completion. Before I fly out on Saturday there’s still plenty to do: I’m down for a few more shifts, with more runs planned, and a lot to organise. With things getting busy, at least it looks like I’ll get one more meeting with my friends next week.

It’s all happening! But it’s these next four weeks which could make this summer, and the whole year for that matter, one huge success.


Onto August.


 

 

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