Blog Archives: July, 2010
(Getting caught up on old blog entries…) Over Easter, I went up to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Coast for the long weekend. The Whitsunday Islands are a beautiful chain of islands just off the shore a few hundred kilometres north of Brisbane. They are also very expensive, so I stayed in Airlie Beach on the shore, a much cheaper alternative to rooms starting at $300 per night on the islands. I had planned to go to Airlie Beach a few weeks earlier, but they had a bit of a typhoon and most of the area was under 10 feet of water, so I postponed a few weeks.
On Good Friday, I went kayaking in the sea around the coast. Apparently even though I’ve only been kayaking a few times, I’m apparently an experienced kayaker, or at least my canoeing experience makes me a relatively experienced kayaker compared to your average tourist. We had a few island stops. We had lunch on one of the islands, South Molle Island, with some spare time on the beach after lunch. Rather than lounging around, I set out with my camera for a bit of hiking in the hills of the island, and came across fields and paths filled with butterflies. They seemed to enjoy posing for my pictures.
One of the main purposes of the trip was to do a bit of scuba diving. I got my PADI Open Water Diver certification in February and this was my first dive since the course. While the Great Barrier Reef does stretch as far south as we were, it is quite a bit further out from the coast than it is further north. I assumed that the boat I was on, entitled “ReefJet”, would go out to the Great Barrier Reef, but in fact it did not, which was a bit of a disappointment. We ended up going to a place called Luncheon Bay on Hook Island (Yar!) which has a reef just off the island. I still got a good dive in and got to practice my skills, and, as always, I enjoyed swimming with schools of fish.
Our last stop before heading back to shore was Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia, although the day we were there the weather was cloudy and the beach was not very photogenic. Apparently the sand from that beach is quite pure (98% silica) and was used in the construction of the Hubble Space Telescope.
The rest of the weekend was quiet and relaxing. I took a bus way out of town to go to church on Easter Sunday. (While the church was packed for Easter, the church and community were a bit underwhelming: the “choir” was a tape player.) And mostly I just read, having found a nice used bookstore in town. Sadly, I succumbed to a book every tourist is required by law to read at least once on vacation: The Da Vinci Code. Mildly entertaining, but no masterpiece.
I even managed to fit all my scuba gear back in my suitcase — and relatively dry too — to get back home.
More pictures from the trip are available in 2010’s Australia gallery.
Earlier this week I was in Sydney for 15th Australasian Conference on Information Security and Privacy, where I had two papers being presented: One-time-password-authenticated key exchange (joint work with Kenny Paterson, Royal Holloway, University of London) and Predicate-based key exchange (joint work with James Birkett, Queensland University of Technology).
After the conference was done on Wednesday, I spent the afternoon wandering around downtown Sydney. It was drizzling rain early in the afternoon, but that cleared up and it was a lovely day. The Sydney Opera House was of course a prime subject for photography. The best view of it was from one of the pylon lookouts on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which provided the viewpoint for the picture at right as well as the following two panorama shots.
I then took the Manly ferry across the harbour to the seaside town of Manly, where I wandered around and watched cool surfers in the cold water. Coming back across the harbour on the ferry, it was dark, and the city was beautifully lit up. I spent some time taking long exposure night pictures, some of which came out very well, I think, before heading off to dinner at a fantastic little Italian restaurant with a line-up out the door. And then back to the airport for my flight back to Brisbane.
The rest of my pictures from Sydney are available in my Sydney gallery.
Last weekend I ran in the Gold Coast Half Marathon. I started training back in the beginning of March as summer waned in the southern hemisphere. My goal was a personal best, aiming to beat my previous best of 1:43:38. At the beginning of the training I believed this was a feasible goal, but the last few weeks leading up to the race I was doubtful as I had been travelling a lot and was not very mentally prepared for the race.
The race started at 6am in Gold Coast, about an hour’s drive from Brisbane. My running partner Ken drove me down (though he did not run in the race that day), and a PhD student from the office, Chai Wen, also came along to cheer me on: the biggest cheering squad I’ve had since high school cross country. (Though sadly I didn’t see them, nor did they see me, the entire race.)
I was not particularly thrilled about running that morning. I didn’t sleep well the night before, and when the alarm went off at 4:00am I seriously thought about skipping the race. I managed to get myself up and out the door though.
The temperature before the start of the race was around 8°C, so I decided to run in long sleeves. I started off at the front of the 1:40-1:50 time block, and that was fairly close to the front of the race. I crossed the start line within a minute of the start of the race, with U2’s “Beautiful Day” blaring over the loudspeakers.
The first kilometre was slow for me, as it always is, with so many people crowded into such a small area. By the second kilometre I was on my target pace of 4:45/km, or 12.6km/hr. I did not have much of a plan for the race, beyond “run at or slightly better than my target pace the entire race”. I was able to do this easily for the first few kilometres and was feeling quite good, so by kilometre 5 I was confident I had a good chance at achieving both a personal best and my stretch goal of 1 hour 40 minutes.
At around kilometre 7 or 8, I noticed someone ahead of me running exactly my pace. I stuck with her, just a few feet behind, for over 10km. I felt solid straight through to kilometre 18, with very consistent split times, no more than a few seconds off my target. At around 18.5, I started to feel a bit tired, and noticed my pacer was fading a bit too. I left my pacer behind to ensure that I stayed at my target pace. Kilometres 19 and 20 were a bit tough, but I picked it up in kilometre 21 and finished strong, albeit without much of a sprint.
My watch showed a finish time of 1:40:08, which I was quite happy with, but it was just a tad over the elusive 1:40:00. When I got home and checked the “chip time” results, which corresponds to the time the race coordinators recorded for me as my timing chip crossed the start and finish lines, it was 1:39:59. Who am I to argue with that?
I was quite surprised, really, to have achieved that personal best and to beat 1 hour 40 minutes. Analyzing the data when I got home, I was pleased to see that I had a strong negative split, with the second half of the race being a full minute faster than the first half of the race. I’m very pleased with the result and enjoyed the training leading up to the race.
My next race is in four weeks’ time. Ken and I are going to run a 10k here in Brisbane, with a goal of speed. I haven’t run for speed in a long time — ever, really — so this will be literally and figuratively a change of pace.