Concordia Blogs-Lawrence

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Blog 2: Return of the Blog

Well, I’m back.

It’s been a long summer, it’s been a mostly boring summer, but it was a good summer.

Looking back, all I really did was swim, work out in the gym, and do a little bit of coaching. I also got to spend some time with my girlfriend, Kristina (who will likely feature in some of the blogs to come), which was something I enjoyed much more than usual because I didn’t see her as frequently as I did when I was at school. I guess you could say, I missed her. (Awwww).

Like I said, over the summer I did get the opportunity to continue on with my swimming. I had a great time in the pool, swimming with a relatively local club team called ORCA (Orange Regional Competitive Aquatics), under coach Mark Tierney. With him I managed to score best times in all 4 of my events that I did at the Sectional Championships in California/Nevada at the end of July. If that’s my last ever swim meet, which it could be, at least I would be going out on a high.

Why could it be my last ever swim meet? Well, I don’t want it to be. Honestly, I enjoy swimming, even though there are many downsides (that include but are not limited to: smelling like chlorine, disobedient hair, early mornings, endless, boring laps following a black line, butterfly, cold water, getting wet), swimming is a challenge that I’ve only just realised I enjoy taking on. Unfortunately, because I graduate in December (excited cheering), I will not be swimming with Concordia this semester. However, graduating in December requires me to take 18 units this semester, all of which are history classes.

The average history student will tell you that just a single history class can require wading through more paper than the average Redwood tree can produce. 6 history classes then, seems a little bit like suicide. And I think that although it means I get to graduate in December (more excited cheering), come week 7 or 8, you may notice that my tone becomes a little less upbeat and more whiney as I complain about Plato and drivel on about “why did he have to write that stupid book that’s causing me so much misery?”

It’s funny that I’m actually very glad to be back. I didn’t think I would be, because doing nothing over summer sounds very exciting after 2 hard semesters that were jam packed with things to do. Changes in my life mean I’m no longer a student-athlete, so will be able to focus much more on being “just a student” and my classes. I know it’s only day 3, but I feel I’m off to a strong start. As they say, “begin as you mean to go on!”

 

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Keeping Off the Freshman 15

You may have heard (or been lucky enough to experience) of the dreaded Freshman 15; the inevitable 15 pounds of weight new college freshman gain during their first year of higher education. Well, when I say inevitable, what I really mean is, strongly unofficially advised. It’s seen as something that just happens, so there’s no point in fighting it or trying to eat healthy, instead it’s much easier to just lie back in a big, comfy recliner chair and let those little fat molecules creep up on you and reap havoc on your BMI.

So, I’ve decided to create a list of things that you can do at Concordia to keep your 6 pack and toned triceps in the best shape they’ve ever been in…

1. Firstly, make use of the new CU Active gym. I have no idea who was responsible for paying and inputting this new gym in Sigma square, but they did a very good job of it. They spared no expense in selecting some of the nicest and newest weights and cardio machines. Sure, it might not be enough for a varsity athlete, but it’s surely enough to burn some of those delicious calories you devoured in the caf.

2. Climb French Hill. French Hill is the huge intimidating pimple that backs Concordia’s campus. While it is not actually part of CUI property, students, faculty, staff and residents of Concordia University have full climbing access to this incredibly steep and rather challenging hill. It doesn’t matter if you run up it or just simply walk, your legs will know either way it’s just carried you half way up to heaven.

3. Join in intramurals. I’ve never got the chance to join an intramural team, but that’s because I’m too afraid that I’ll do something stupid and get injured, and then have to explain to my coach why I can’t compete at the meet this weekend because I landed funny when attempting to spike a volleyball and now my ankle is broken. But still, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, simply because it looks like an awful lot of fun. You can choose from Soccer, Flag Football, Volleyball and Basketball.

4. Run around Campus. Our campus is blessed with lots of hills, wide open spaces and, if you’re creative, plenty of places to run. Incorporate some push ups, sit ups and burpees into your run for a total, full body, calorie blasting and sweat inducing workout.

5. Walk on to a varsity team. Whilst some teams may not let you walk on (like Basketball, unless you’re MJ reincarnated, which I’m not even sure is possible yet since he’s still alive), others, like Track and Field and Swim, probably will if you can prove you have what it takes to keep up and contribute in some way to the team.

6. Take advantage of CU’s athletic facilities. We have some gorgeous facilities here, from a basketball court to running track, gym and to astro-turfed ¾ sized complete with soccer goals and tires that you can use for flipping and incorporating into a really hardcore workout.

At the end of the day, staying in shape is simply a choice, but it really isn’t hard if you do a little bit every day. There’s so much choice and opportunity here, so don’t let that sneaky Freshman 15 get you! Remember, sweat is just fat crying!

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God’s Certainly Not Dead

First off, I would like to apologise for the huge silence on the blogging front. I’ve had a really long couple of weeks dealing with some rather significant issues, including the possibility of graduating in just one more short semester, meaning I would graduate in the Fall of 2014. This opens up all sorts of new life choices that I have to make, and I don’t have an awful lot of time to make them.

Anyway, let’s get down to it.

If you haven’t seen it already, go see God’s Not Dead. Here’s why…

For one, it totally defies the critic’s ratings. It has something like a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 4.5 on IMDB. Let me tell you, as someone who appreciates some good cinema, that this movie is a solid 7.0. Whilst the plot is unbelievable and somewhat predictable, the characters (occasionally) awkward and again, unbelievable, and the editing a little questionable, the underlying message and the way the movie was made makes up for it.

Because at the end of the day, the movie wasn’t made for the strength of its plot, or the realism of the characters. That’s not what the movie is about.

The movie is about standing up for your faith. Standing up and being proud, not shying away from confrontation or giving the wrong answer when asked about your faith.

The plot of the movie was written with that in mind. The characters were unbelievable because they were representations of people that you will meet in your life. Sure, while there may not be any university professors who demand writing down “God is dead” on a piece of paper or receive a fail for the class (and other examples I don’t want to give for fear of spoilers!), these characters serve as people who aren’t that far from people you may come across in life.

One of the most refreshing parts of the movie was the intelligent debate in the classroom. It wasn’t a, “well it’s in the Bible so it’s obviously truth and if you say otherwise you’re wrong” kind of argument. No, instead it was a science backed by God; guided creation… what I would call the Christian Scientist’s way of explaining how things came about.

So I wouldn’t say it was religious propaganda. Instead I would say it simply served as a case for christ that many would not get to hear otherwise. And the reason I think it got the reviews it did was that the critics who saw it judged it on either the movie as a movie (message aside), or disagreed with the message.

So if you go and see this movie, which I would urge everyone to, keep those things in mind. Keep in mind that the characters are mere representations, the plot serves simply to get the point across, and most importantly, go into the movie with an open mind.

If you do that, I promise you’ll have a positive experience.

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Nationals Part 3: Climax

The meet started for the swimmers on Thursday. For the divers it had started the day before, but for me, Thursday was where it was at. Tuesday and Wednesday were taken up by resting, swimming twice a day, stretching and getting as flexible as possible. By Thursday morning I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

As it was, Thursday was the easiest day of the three for me; I only had one race in the evening; the 800 Freestyle relay, which I was leading off. There was a lot of pressure on me, but it wasn’t placed on me by outside forces such as my teammates, coaches or competitors. I placed that pressure on myself — I wanted to swim as fast as possible, I wanted to get as close to my best time as I could. I wanted to do it because I wanted to prove something to myself, that despite all the adversity and all the setbacks and other rubbish I had put up with and gotten through over the year that I still had really fast swimming inside me.

I don’t have the time to detail every race, because in total I swam 11 over the 3 days. 6 of them were swam on Friday. I will give you all a quick summary of my performance, because then it’s out of the way and I can get on with more interesting reading/writing. I ended up placing 4th in the 200y freestyle, which wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was 3 seconds off my best time that I swam my freshman year, and if I had swam that time I would have scored 2nd. Still, I can’t complain.

I came 8th in the 100 back, but I had to swim a swim-off (when two swimmers score the same time in the prelims and have to swim head to head to see who gets into the A final), and the time I swam in that would have placed me 7th. I also came 10th in the 200 back, being beaten out of 9th my a fellow teammate by just 0.04 seconds! The times we swam would have placed us 6th and 7th. I was also a part of 3 of 5 CUI relays, 2 of which placed fourth and the other placing 5th. I finished the meet having scored the most points out of any male CUI swimmer.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad meet. I can’t really complain, given everything that had been going on earlier in the year. I would have liked to have swam a little faster, but I’ve already started training for the summer season, which is in many ways going to be bigger and more important than this college season.

As a team, I think everyone feels like although the result wasn’t bad (4th for the men, 5th for the women), we all would have liked to have done better. We’re already looking forward to next season, and many swimmers are training and preparing already.

So by no means is anyone, from the coaches and athletic administrators down to the swimmers, going to settle for this result. Whilst satisfying, we’re more hungry than ever before for a bigger and better and faster season next year.

Bring it on.

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Nationals Part 2: Lead Up

Whilst most of the students at CUI got to go home for spring break and enjoy time away from school with family and friends, relaxing in front of a TV or going nuts in Tijuana, the members of CUI’s National Swim Team got no such luxury. Instead we got one last week of practice, one final week of preparation before the climax of the year; the meet everyone was talking about and gearing up for.

The week before a major competition such as Nationals is usually fairly relaxed. Obviously not lying-on-a-beach-with-a-drink-with-a-little-umbrella-in-it relaxed, but fairly relaxed relative to the weeks before that one. We go through a phase called “Taper”, in which we swim shorter sets, focus more on race skills such as starts, turns and finishes, and swim at race pace more often. The purpose of taper is two-fold; first: to prepare the swimmers mentally and physically for what’s ahead. A perfect taper will rest the swimmers’ bodies whilst maintaining their level of fitness. A coaches’ abilities and skill is usually tested at this stage, because tapering 30 different and unique individuals is no easy challenge. Secondly, it serves as last minute practice for those things that may have been over-looked during the season, such as relay takeovers, starts and turns, as well as work outside of the water, such as stretching and recovering properly.

This lead up week is probably more essential than any other week of the year. If the lead up is wrong, it can spell disaster for a swimmer (who would “miss their taper”). If the taper is right, a swimmer who has swam average times all year may suddenly explode and swim disproportionately fast times. This usually goes for the bigger, heavier swimmers (such as myself), who struggle during the season but when rested just seem to go off. As a rule, distance swimmers and those with less muscle mass require less of a taper since their muscles do not need as much time to repair and recover. This is why you could imagine that tapering an entire swim team can be extremely difficult!

As it was, we got through the week, with at least one practice every day, and with the shadow of the national championships growing ever closer. But we felt ready. Physically and mentally, no-one was more prepared this season than they were then. I even got waves of anxiety come over me, giving me the shakes and getting rather restless. I was like a coiled spring ready to go off at any moment.

On Sunday we were all packed and ready to go. We grabbed our luggage and headed up to the Grimm Hall parking lot to board the bus that would take us to LAX. After that, it would be a short flight to Las Vegas, and then a slightly longer flight to OKC.

The weather in OKC was cold (sufficiently cold enough for there to be a large amount of snow on the ground). It was so cold in fact, that Oklahoma closed a large number of schools and universities around the area, meaning we were stuck in the hotel with nothing to do on Monday. However, the next day, OKC got its act together and reopened the city. It was time for us to head to the pool…

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Nationals Part 1: The Chaos Begins

Right now, it is March 12th at 10.09 am. I’m sitting in the library at school, having realised that I haven’t written a blog for literally weeks.

Sorry.

I do have a good excuse though. The past few weeks have been so immensely busy few could fathom just how busy I’ve been. Ok, well, maybe not THAT busy, but I’ve not had an awful lot of free time (or energy) to do many of the things I would usually do on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. For example, usually I would make all but maybe 1 of my classes a week, would complete all my homework and studying, work out, write blogs, drive vans and find a bit of extra time to devote to Family Guy and my girlfriend (not necessarily in that order). However, lately that list has looked significantly shorter; consisting of only working out, driving vans and watching Family Guy and hanging out with my girlfriend (not necessarily in that order). Now, before you go judging me, there is a good reason for this.

If you’ve been following my blogs at all lately (although, I admit, there hasn’t been much to follow) then you would know that the last you heard of me I was just starting to taper (rest) for the climax of the college swim season: the NAIA National Championships. Although for taper you usually get more time to yourself since you’re not working out either as much or as hard, tapering usually means you still get tired, usually because you’re recovering from the season and your body is trying to catch up and rest from being so broken down. As a result, finding the will to do anything is immensely difficult. Of course, the problem with this is that I’m now very behind on a lot of things, blogs included.

I have to catch up on work in all 5 of my classes, I have more midterms and tests right around the corner, papers are coming up and finals aren’t all that far away. I also have to catch up on the work I missed last week in Oklahoma whilst I (and the rest of the swim team) were at the National Championships competing.

We are, very definitely and unfortunately, on the back foot.

However, the story isn’t all that bad, and if you’re into that sort of thing might be quite interesting. Hopefully it’ll be interesting even if you aren’t into that sort of thing. Anyway, stay tuned because the story of how I’m in this impossibly busy situation I’m in now is coming up in a thrilling and gripping X-part series (I don’t know how many blogs it’ll take to cover the past couple of weeks) that’ll have you on the edge of your seat and screaming for more.

Just don’t fall off your seat and hurt yourselves…

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Hump Daaaay!

Like Geico’s Camel, I get really excited on Wednesdays.

Actually, I don’t. I hate Wednesdays. They are by far and away the hardest day of my week. I start at 5.30 am to go swim, paddle up and down until 8, rush back to school for breakfast and class at 8.30. I don’t finish with classes until 3, and then I work from 4-8pm. Only then do I get done for the day, which ends about 2 hours later with me passed out on my pillow.

However, Wednesday means it’s the middle of the week. Hump Day! And the middle of the week means that once Wednesday is over we only have 2 days left to go until the weekend. It also means that once Wednesday is over, I don’t have another Wednesday for 7 more days! Which, as you can imagine, is extremely exciting.

I always find it interesting to find out what people’s favourite and least favourite days of the week are. Of course, the usual favourite is Saturday, with Sunday coming in a close second. And Mondays are usually the least favourite. Which I don’t think is fair. Monday’s aren’t that bad; you’re refreshed after the weekend and, if you did your weekend right, should be ready to face the week to come. Tuesdays is an acceptable worst day of the week, because you haven’t yet reached Hump Day, and you’re already into the week. However, for me, and for this semester at least, Wednesday is the worst day of the week.

It’s just exhausting. And that’s not good, because it’s in the middle of the week. It’s not like I get that much of a break on Thursday or Friday (especially not this week, with up to 4 midterms taking place on those last 2 days alone), so I end up going into the back end of the week tired and cranky. And cranky Lawrence isn’t much fun. Especially for my room mate, who has to deal with my constant mumbling and grumbling about how I’m annoyed that the week isn’t over yet and for that matter, neither is the semester.

But the plus side is that once Wednesday begins, it’s usually over pretty quickly, because I’m on the go for 14 and a half hours. One part of the day seems to merge into the next, and before you know it I’ve only got 1 hour left of my shift at work and the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming something that isn’t so far off any more.

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A Belated Valentines

If you follow my blogs, you would know that from Wednesday to Saturday last week I was away at a swim meet. Of course, that means I was at a swim meet for Valentine’s Day, and since I have a girlfriend this means she was going to be disappointed.

So, in order to do my best and fulfil my boyfriend obligations, I said we would celebrate Valentine’s Day on Tuesday instead of Friday, and we would also go out on Sunday after my swim meet had ended. As it was, Sunday was also our 15 month anniversary (aww).

Now, before I go on, I would like to express my views on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is probably the most ridiculous of all the holidays. It serves only to make single people more aware of their lonely status and make boyfriends/husbands bankrupt. Also, whilst I haven’t yet had the problem as me and Kristina have only celebrated 2 Valentine’s Days so far, I could imagine that for couples who have been together for more than 10 years, what gets written in the card gets more and more… well, repetitive. This reminds me of a comedy sketch by Michael McIntyre who claims to have written in one card to his wife, “I still love you, see last year’s card for full details.”

My point is, it all seems rather silly. And expensive. Especially for an already poor college student trying to support not only himself but also a girlfriend, an extra day in the year that demands presents (and thus expenditure) is a bit of a burden. Don’t tell the girlfriend I said that though.

Anyway, since I wasn’t able to spend actual Valentine’s day with Kristina, like I said we made it up by spending Tuesday and Sunday together. We did the usual date kind of things, go out for a meal, exchange presents, maybe go out and find something interesting to do, stay in the dorms and watch Family Guy (because I like Family Guy, and Kristina can tolerate it).

As it was, Kristina came up to the meet on Friday evening to say hello and watch me swim/drown. Whilst I was very happy she came and said hello and gave me a Valentine’s Day kiss, I didn’t really see the point in it and figured she could have better spent her time doing something more useful with her time. This viewpoint promptly lead to an argument, which I promptly went and lost.

With me wanting to go into either the Royal Marines or the police, this year’s Valentine’s Day may not be the last I won’t get to spend with my better-half. Indeed, there’s a good chance I (and the many others who are and will dedicate their lives to the services) will miss out not only on Valentine’s Day but also Christmas, birthdays, Easter, 4th of July (for you Americans) and many other important days. When this is the case I think it’s important that one tries to find another time to catch up or spend that day with whoever it is that’s important in that person’s life. If it’s possible to be with them just for an hour, then that’s better than nothing (I learnt that last Friday). If that’s not possible, a phone call or a letter to let them know they’re being missed and thought of. If that’s not possible on the day of, then as soon as possible will have to do.

I have to admit, whilst I am very much looking forward to my time spent in the military and/or police, I cannot say that that’s a part of the lifestyle that I’m much looking forward to. So I would quickly like to say thank you to all those serving in the military, police, fire and paramedic services who often get pulled away from their loved ones on special days in order to keep things running smoothly for everyone else back home.

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Mornings

The other morning, I was walking back from having breakfast with my girlfriend. She went to class, and I went back to my room, and on the way I saw a bunch of students all walking to class. The image was quite hilarious, so I’ve decided to write about it.

I had already been up for 2 hours, having had to go to morning swim practice. I walked with Kristina towards the CU Center, and when we reached the amphitheatre we parted ways and she went to class and I went towards Sigma. The morning fog hadn’t yet cleared, and at the top of the stairs I looked down and saw what looked like a scene out of The Walking Dead.

A horde of zombiesque students stumbled their way along the sand coloured path, eyes down, hands in pockets. Half of them looked like they had fallen out of bed and into some clothes.

One girl even tripped on an imaginary pot hole, nearly falling over before recovering herself. Some other girls carried coffee in thermal cups, and those people who were walking with someone else didn’t talk to each other. It was clearly too early for a conversation.

But, to be honest, I’m not very good at mornings. I’m usually one of those people who wear whatever’s on top of the pile in the drawers. I’m usually one of those people who stumble and almost fall on my way to class. I’m usually one of those people who won’t talk to anyone before 8 am.

To be honest, getting me up before 8 am is a challenge.

I’m much more of a night person. I could happily stay up until 2 am and not get up until 9 or 10  the next morning. But that doesn’t work out so well in college usually, since a) I have morning practice at 6 am and b) Classes don’t usually go until 2 am, but instead take place in the morning. Which makes me rather sad.

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Conference

The beginning of the end is here.

The PCSC (Pacific Coast Swim Conference) championships have finally arrived, and with it the start of the end of the season. For a bunch of schools, the PCSC Championships are the end of the season, but we’re lucky and we get to go to the NAIA National Championships all the way in “scenic” Oklahoma City in just a few short weeks.

So, in a rare swimming-dedicated blog, I’m going to explain what we’re doing and what’s going to be happening at PCSC’s and after.

Swim meets like this (the big, important ones) last about 4 days, with diving and 2 relays at the beginning on day 1, and the 13 individual events and the remaining 3 relays then spread out over the next 3 days. Most events are swam twice, once in the morning and then again in the evening for finals if you managed to swim fast enough to make it back. These sort of swim meets are generally exhausting. Not only do you swim your individual events up to 6 times (3 events, heats and finals), but also a selection of relays, warm ups before each session, and warm ups and cool downs after each race. It wouldn’t surprise me if after the 4 days of swimming most swimmers would have swam up to 15,000 yards, possibly more.

For a few of us at Concordia, myself included, PCSC’s is not a particularly important meet. It’s just 2 and a half weeks before nationals, so we don’t rest to swim well for PCSC’s. We “swim through” the meet, treating it as training and an opportunity to swim fast and emulate the motions of racing at Nationals.

For the next 2 and a half weeks, our training is going to change dramatically. Instead of swimming long yards, at an aerobic pace, we’ll drop our distance and start developing speed, whilst maintaining our fitness. This phase of the season is known as our “taper”, and it’s usually the most enjoyable and exciting time of the season.

I really can’t wait.

After tapering, we go to OKC, where for 4 days we will race for the last time this academic year. Obviously, the climax of our season, the 18 men and 18 women who get to go are as ready as they ever have been and ever will be.

But let’s talk about that when we get there.