Ok, so besides getting my second paper accepted, I also had an extremely successful month on the road bike: 1420 km, 46h 40m, 5550 m elevation gain, 37500 kcal burned, with an average of 30.4 km/h, 158 bpm, and 91 rpm. My best month so far. Yeah!
Let me give a quick summary of my February. I have been sleeping, training, working and eating (plus watching TV series, usually during eating or training). And this covers probably 99% of my activities. My second first-author paper is basically accepted (I got only minor comments from the referee, and the report was very positive), and I worked some days on another topic for Steven’s paper, which also got accepted in the meantime. In general, I was very motivated this month.
You can see my training log for February above. 1188 km, 38.5 hours, 27500 Calories. For a winter month, this is kind of amazing for me. I had a training every day, except for Mondays, which are my highly anticipated and appreciated rest days now (with an extra day of rest on Thursdays, if needed). The goal (and challenge) is to keep up with this throughout the cycling season (and maybe raise the mileage as the days get longer and the temperatures rise), with let’s say a minimum of 250 km per week (and a maximum of whatever I can manage). Of course this is tiring (but in a satisfying way), but as a positive side effect, I have no problems anymore with going to sleep before midnight, which means I can finally get up at 8, and be at work at 9. (In practice, I have replaced a lot of useless internet surfing time with the extra trainings :D) This means that as soon as we switch to summer time (which is now less than a month away), I can have my two hour outside rides still after work, in a much more convenient way (because now it is not so easy to arrange outside rides during the week – for the indoor trainer, it does not matter if it’s already dark outside). Of course I already feel the benefits of the extra training, for example I felt much stronger during the last Velodrome session (staying with the fastest group all the time, even jumping into some sprints with other guys), and yesterday when I went on a training ride with the KU Leuven team, I could follow the first guys on the climbs, and it was me who had to say to two of the other guys after the last climb, that we have to wait a bit, as we had lost the other half of the group… I do not want to be a champion or anything (the other guys do triathlon and/or real cycling races – I was the only one who was not riding in a team outfit -, so they asked me if I was also racing, and they were a bit surprised to hear a negative answer), because cycling is “only a hobby” for me (and because I have started too late for that), but I want to be able to keep up with the best non-professionals, and I want to enjoy group rides, and I definitely do not want to be dropped… I want to feel strong on the bike, this is my main motivation. And a good training can give me a satisfying feeling every day, while it is much harder to get the same feeling after a day of work.
But not the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ;) Anyway, I always publish in Astronomy and Astrophysics… Sorry for the bad astronomical joke… (If you can call this a joke…) But as I had no posts recently on the blog, I have to admit there is no better title for this entry. And this might get more and more common in the future, as my motivation for blogging is lower and lower these days.
Starting with a reference to A&A was not completely accidental, as I spent November and the beginning of December working hard to finish my second first-author paper, which I will submit to the mentioned journal in January. I spent several evenings at the Institute to meet my internal deadlines, but it was not that difficult (the stress is on the relative difficulty, I am not complaining that I had not enough pressure or tasks to deal with), as November is the low season in cycling (which means that I basically did not ride at all), so I had nothing else to do. Now the paper is basically 99% finished, and my supervisors – and me too – are very happy with the work I have done. We still need to wait for the final comments from the rest of my co-authors (I have already received two very positive ones with only minor comments to consider), but then it should not take more than a week of work before I can really submit after the Holidays. So I expect to have a second paper by the time I turn 27. Damn, I am getting old…
No matter how much work I have, I do not work on the weekends, this is one of my principles. This way I could join my friends to Bredene (where we played board games, had a great walk along the nice coast of Belgium across high grass and sand dunes in the wind – unluckily I expected crappy weather so I had only my phone with me to take pictures with, instead of my DSLR -, and we went to the concert of the Symfonisch Orkest van de Vrije Universiteit Brussel in which Ilse plays the French horn), help Tijl in building his terrace, play FIFA12 online (sometimes I rock, sometimes I suck, it really depends on how much I can concentrate, so now I do not play it anymore after midnight), and watch Rules of Engagement (thanks to Clio’s suggestion), which is really great (and especially Season 5 is hilarious).
After I was done with the paper, I had time to do other things too. First of all I took part in our programming battle at work (no results yet – update from January, 2012: I won 2 out of the 4 categories, the precision, and the length (so the shortness) -, but it was a nice task to solve, and I did it using python of course), then – maybe I had a bit too much time in my hands – I have written a small code to do N-body simulations in 3D. It was something I always wanted to try, and it was even useful, because I finally managed to figure out how to do 3D plotting in python, and how to do numerical integration using different methods. So it was not a waste of time at the end. (See video and description on Youtube.)
In December I restarted training on the indoor trainer (this is already the beginning of the next cycling season), and the AstroTeam went to the Velodrome in Gent again, now in our custom cycling kit, as a real team. I was a bit annoyed by the fact that I had forgotten my helmet at home, so I had to rent a crappy one, but besides this small mishappening, it was a great evening. I did three twenty minute sessions, and in the last one (which was the best of all) while I was riding with a fast group (at approximately 40-45 km/h), high, near the top of the curve, the guy in front of me crashed (after touching the rear wheel of the biker in front of him), and although I had already accepted the seemingly inevitable, that I would unavoidably crash into him or his bike turned across the slope in front of me, I passed him by centimetres as he slipped down the steep banks quick enough… I was a little bit shocked. I have never been this close to a real, classical bike crash. It was really something you normally see on the TV.
Now I am back in Hungary for the holidays, so I might have time to write about other (hopefully more interesting) things during these two weeks.
A month without posts on the blog can be a sign that my life just became boring, or that it is just so good and my days are so filled with things to do that I simply have no time/energy/psychological need to write. I can assure you that the latter is much closer to reality. But now, having a week of holidays in France, I have some time to sum up things from July.
The main topic of this month was cycling (while I am still working on my second paper, so no big news work-vise, before anyone asks). I set a goal for myself to ride at least 1000 km before climbing the Mont Ventoux somewhen during the last week of the month (see next post soon). I managed that surprisingly easily, with 3-5 trainings per week (mostly my standard 50 km rides before or after working hours, and then one or two rides above 100 km on the weekends or national holidays). I even had company sometimes with the AstroTeam, though they all say that it is impossible to keep up with me, and that my training rides are madness :D I have to admit that hearing these things always make me feel better ;) But now I am really so used to the trainings, that if I don’t ride my road bike for two days, then I really start feeling bad about it, and I really need to hit the road and ride.
On the last weekend before going on holidays, I went on an organised ride (Herent – Landen – Herent) with Tijl, wich would have resulted in reaching the 1000 km goal already before the last week (and the Mont Ventoux) of the month. Unluckily, the ride ended much sooner than expected, as after 20 kilometers (which I later decided to not even count as training for this month), I hit a car. No, I was not hit by a car, I hit a car… It was clearly my fault, we should have given the right to the car turning out onto our road from the right hand side (willing to continue in the direction from where we were coming from), but the fact that it let two other cyclists pass before us confused us for a moment. This moment was long enough for my brain to decide that it will be all right and we will just pass in front of the car as the two other cyclists just did, so I did not start breaking (while Tijl who was more in front already came into almost a full stop). Unluckily, the car driver probably only saw Tijl stopping, so he went on with his original plan of turning out onto the road, and at this point I was too close and way to fast to stop. The rain and the wet roads did not help me either, so missing Tijl just by centimeters, I basically went straight into the side of the turning car with a speed of 33 km/h (data from my GPS log ;P)… Luckily, the car was big, so I could not fly over it, and its side had an angle of 45° relative to my ‘speed vector’ (because it was turning), so I could slide along it during the impact. This probably saved me from a ride to the hospital. I was relatively lucky, because I only hit my knee into the car, and my helmet a bit while I was sliding along the side. With a full frontal impact, it would have been probably much much worse. Unluckily, my front wheel broke (again, damping the impact quite a lot), and the damage is unrepairable – and of course I had the fancy expensive aero-wheels on… But again, no other damage to the bike besides this, which I think is quite unbelievable – given my momentum. Also, the side of the car got seriously bent in (so it was really not a tiny little impact) and scratched, but my insurance will cover that. Tijl helped a lot with filling in the accident report form, and on the afternoon he looked up lots of insurance related stuff for me. As I could not ride any further from this crossroad, I got a ride from the organisers (that’s also a reason why these cyclosportive events are really good…). By the afternoon, my right knee looked like an inflated ball, so – as already as a first thought right after getting up from the ground along with some nice Hungarian swear words – my biggest worry was ‘how am I going to ride up to the Mont Ventoux in less then a week’s time’. Yeah, I was not really shocked by the accident itself. So on the afternoon I took a shower with my bike, and inspected it for further damage (luckily there was nothing), and then spent the rest of the weekend with resting (except for Sunday evening)… But I was quite optimistic about the following week anyway… (Hey, my guardian angel up there, thanks again if you read this.)
Finally this month I made it to Mechelen without my bike, as we had a nice day there with Elise, visiting a photo exhibition, the tower of the cathedral with more than 500 stairs up to a height of almost 100 meters (and with the bells and mechanical parts of the carillon inside – did you know that Belgium has the second highest carillon density over surface area in the World after the Netherlands?), and the city park, plus we have seen the Big Jump event (people raising awareness for the water quality of Belgian rivers by jumping into them) too :)
Then a week later, I made a three course dinner at my place for her (as the main idea was to go and listen to the Daan concert that night, which turned out to be a bit too crowded unluckily), and even though I made everything for the very first time in my life, it was perfect! (I was very proud of myself, as I am not the biggest chef at all…) If I had known that it is so easy to make pancakes, I would have made them every week :D So I made them on Sunday again (ok, a bit less fancy version, but the pancakes were the same) for some of my friends, and they also liked them!
For the rest of the month, I went to the Hungarian embassy in Brussels to make a new passport (took me 5 hours…), saw the last Harry Potter movie (it was OK), and had the experience of hopping on the train after work to arrive in Gent after only one hour, then have dinner (and get invited to the Mont Ventoux) there, and still arrive back to Leuven at a reasonable hour. I could never imagine this happening in Hungary between two big cities ~100 kilometers away from each other with the trains there… Sorry, but this is true. So this was the story of July till the 24th, I will tell you about the last week in the next post!
Again a full mont passed since I posted anything here. I do not have the same motivation as before (to write regularly), but still, I would like to remember what happened with me, and my – built in – memory is not sufficient to handle all the information. So I write a post every month – at least. Now I am flying over Spain towards La Palma, with the clouds below, so I have time again :) Pictures are slightly randomly spread over this time. Figure out what is what ;)
First of all, this month, I have biked a lot. And when I say a lot, I really mean it. If I look at my calendar on Garmin Connect, it is full of rides. There were times when I rode too much, I could tell it from the way my legs denied to move as fast as my mind requested them to do. So with all the KUL trainings, the Brabantse Pijl (the sportive version, not the Race – which was the first out of the four wins for Gilbert early in the season, making him the ‘Armstrong of the spring classics’ this year), the first ever AstroTeam ride (with colleagues), the usual lonely rides to Mechelen, and a really good day to the citadel of Namur, I rode 885.44 kilometres (spent 29h 28m 08 s in the saddle, and burned ~25000 Calories), which made this April my best month on the racing bike ever. And I could have done more if I wanted, but there are other things in life, not just cycling. (Yeah, shocking statement, I know :D) But I enjoy every second on the road. I really fly on the bike :)
Work is OK, but a bit slow. Sometimes I have my ideas but I don’t feel like woking them out. I know the road which leads to the solution, but I don’t want to walk along it. And then it is sometimes really hard to force myself to stay concentrated on the details… But after Easter, we had a four day workshop at the Institute on binary stars and the Kepler satellite, and it was really good, I have learned a lot of useful and new stuff, which I will be able to use probably very soon.
Thanks to the workshop, I have met some old friends, and we had great dinners all week long. Just to mention one from the many, I had the best salmon of my life in the Lodge in Heverlee. Also, I served as the official photographer of the event, taking not just a series of static, but a full HD group ‘picture’ too ;) Everyone liked the idea – you can check it out for yourself on YouTube.
Just like last year, my mother came for a visit – and brought cake, wine, and Túró Rudi with herself :) Everyone asks the same question, so I have to make it clear, that I would have been happy to have her around even without these nice add-ons ;) But I would be a terrible liar if I were to deny that this way it was even better :D We had a nice weekend together, and this time the weather was also fine. In general, the weather in April was almost unbelievably sunny, warm and dry. Belgium is not a rainy place at all, the two years I have spent here really forces me to draw this conclusion.
And at last, but definitely not least, I spent three great days with Elise, whom I got to know last month in the Stuk. First, on the 20th after a morning meeting with my supervisor, I went to Antwerpen, where she gave me a tour around the city, but avoiding all the shopping streets :)
This really improved my opinion about the city a lot! Then on the last day of April, we went to Den Haag to the Netherlands – again for a picturesque city trip. It was the Queen’s birthday, so the abundance of people dressed in orange was extremely high.
We took quite a large amount of pictures too! Oh, and just to mention one special thing, I sat in the drivers seat of a tram – which we later took to just go around the city. And we ate delicious bread and cheese :) Then, to close the day we went back to Antwerpen to a nice Italian restaurant, where they served the best pizza of the city.
Finally – when I was almost on the train back to Leuven (I have already filled out my Rail Pass for the trip), we decided to have another trip on the following day (and be surprised, I was happy to cancel my cycling plans without any doubt), as the ticket inspectors were not too active on the trains that day (it might have something to do with the fact that crowd dressed in orange were blocking the aisle…), and our weekend ticket to the Netherlands stayed untouched ;) So I slept on the couch at Elise’s place (though I almost had to fight for it with her cat :D), then after a delicious breakfast (what a smoothie she made!), we left to Rotterdam.
I have seen some parts of the city when I was there last year to photograph the Tour de France and I already liked it a lot, but now it was even better. We walked around a much bigger area (so I have seen things a have not seen before), had an amazing clear and sunny – but not too warm – weather (perfect to lie or sit down on a square or at the river banks and just enjoy being there), and – the most important of all – I was not alone.
I really like the city, it is modern (has amazing architecture) but with a lot of green, and some well preserved and integrated older parts too… This was my best weekend for quite a long time. (We are just leaving the coast of the continental Europe behind while I am writing these words.) I really enjoyed taking pictures and talking with Elise, and then checking out our images on the trains back to Belgium. We had a wonderful time.
I missed the cheerful atmosphere a lot when I finally went home to Leuven, especially because I had to spend the next day with preparing and packing for La Palma, but I was very happy about the time we spent together. And for a side note, I really hate packing. And even though I really wanted to finish in time now, it was 2 AM when I finally closed my bike box. I have no idea how can I pack for such a long time… And now comes the funny part of the story. As usual, I have asked for a cab for the morning (5:15) from the same taxi company I always use, but it did not show up… I was waiting with my 60 kilograms of luggage in front of the house, and nothing… I tried to call them, but there was only voicemail. As I did not know any other companies, and it was pretty much too early to try to phone someone for help, I walked (rushed/struggled) to the station with all my stuff (I think I was quite a sight on the streets of Leuven – even for people who are used to see students travel with their suitcases every Friday and Sunday evening – with my backpack in front, the huge – and I am not kidding here – North Face XL travel duffel on my back, and pulling the bike box next to me – thank God it has wheels…), and took a taxi there. Luckily I was still in time, so if everything goes well, I will land on La Palma in one and a half hour :) Now it is two weeks of work and a week of holiday (cycling up and down) on the Canaries. This is the part of my job I like the most ;)