About mountchris

I use my blogs to record my Expeditions and Challenges. The most recent ones were Swimming the River Thames and making 52 Spoons in a year. Slightly random I know. In 2014 I left my job as an architect and moved to Finland to train as a wilderness guide. I have spent the last year working as an outdoor instructor in Surrey and will be working as a husky guide in Finland this winter.

Learning Finnish – 6 Months Are Up – Am I Fluent?

Just over 5 months ago I came to Finland to spend the winter working as a husky guide. I set myself the goal of becoming fluent in Finnish in these 5 months. I didn’t know whether ‘fluency’ was even possible in this time, but it had a nice ring to it, and I think it is always better to aim higher. So here I am, almost 6 months down the line.

So, am I fluent in Finnish I hear you ask? Hell no! But, I can speak basic Finnish, and can have simple conversations with people. The purpose of this post is to sum up the last 5.5 months, and also state my next plans. It’s quite a mammoth post, and I found it pretty hard just trying to write down everything in some kind of order – languages are absolute beasts! But maybe, if you’re learning Finnish or another language you can take some pointers. If I were to offer just one piece of advice for aspiring language learners, it would be:

“Just Start”

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Becoming Fluent in Finnish – Dealing with Procrastination / Studying Wisely

If there was an award for procrastination I would be some kind of world champion I am sure of it.

I know this and if I let myself get distracted I will spiral out of control on an eating / cleaning binge, suddenly spark up an interest in double clutch gear changes or watch super slow motion videos of people being slapped in the face, or sometimes, I even find myself writing a blog post when I should be studying. (I actually started writing this a month ago, then procrastinated about my procrastination). You get the idea.

This was starting to happen more regularly, and at times I really wasn’t looking forward to doing my language studies. So I thought it would be useful to look at my routine and try a new approach.

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An Overdue Update – Becoming Fluent in Finnish

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Selection of my Finnish books

Almost three months have passed since starting my challenge of becoming fluent in Finnish. I don’t even know where to begin with this journey, but here goes. It has been very tough at times, and hugely rewarding in others. I won’t go into massive detail about the language itself, but rather I will explain my approach, where I am now with Finnish, the highs and lows, and where I see myself at the end of 6 – 8 months.

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2 Years Ago Today – First Spoon of 52

2 years ago today I had just completed my first wooden spoon of the year. It was the start of a slightly bonkers challenge for 2015 where I decided to carve a spoon, using only hand tools, for each week of the year. I completed the challenge and ended up giving a handful away, keeping my favourites, and selling about 35 of them – donating half of the money towards the charities I supported whilst swimming the Thames. To see all the spoons take a look here.

So, if you bought one of the spoons, or gave it to someone as a present it is about time it needs an oil. What if I don’t have any special oil I hear you ask? Not a problem, just use regular sunflower oil. Apply it to some paper or a cloth and wipe onto the spoon. This will keep the wood nice and supple and stop it from drying out. Don’t use olive oil though, it will make it smelly.

And don’t oil if you bought:
Spoon 23 – The Paella Server (Just oil the unpatterned side) – Anna Hobbiss
Spoon 34 – The Egg and Spoon Race Spoon (Just oil the spoon bowl) – Antony Joury

Also, I would love to see some pictures of the spoons in use, or wherever they may live now  Happy Spooning!

 

Next Challenge – Becoming Fluent in Finnish

Moi moi. (Hello in Finnish) My next challenge is going down a slightly different route. For the next six months I am stepping away from physical challenges and I am going to try something different – to become as fluent as possible in Finnish.

Why Finnish? My answer is, why not? I am going to be working there for the next 6 months, so I thought it was a good opportunity to learn the language. I nearly didn’t do it. Finnish is meant to be a really tough language to learn, and my over riding fear was ‘What if I fail?’. What if I fail! Seriously, why does the thought of failing hold you back so much? It’s like your body would rather just carry on in its comfort zone than trying something new.

I have lived in Finland for a year before, and felt like I had started to understand their culture, but at the same time I felt I was only scratching the surface. I feel like learning the language will help me to explore Finland in a new light, and get to know its people from a different perspective.

I have never been much of a language-y person. I mean I did French GCSE, but left feeling confused, and incredibly un-confident at speaking the language. I have spoken to my Dad about learning a language a few times, and he texted me the other day saying:

“Remember you were going to learn a new language – you could get a Finnish tape.”

I replied saying it was a good idea, bu the only thing holding me back was the fear of not being able to learn it. To which he replied.

“Remember the famous saying. There’s nothing to fear except fear itself. Don’t expect miracles, its obviously a very tough language – give it a go.”

So that’s what I am going to do. And even though I am still a bit worried I wont be able to grasp it, I am going to give it my best shot and see what happens.

End Goal

I feel like having an ‘end goal’ will help to see how much I have learnt over the next 6 months. So, I am going to perform a speech/song/poem and also write a blog post in Finnish.

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I have been recommended this book by a friend who is learning Arabic. Let the learning commence.

Swimming 137 miles down the River Thames

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It has been over two months since I clambered down a ladder into a small river at Lechlade, setting of on a 137 mile swim down the River Thames, finishing 15 days later at Putney Bridge. The physical reminders and sore muscles have long since subsided, but the memories and emotions forged during countless days in the water will stay with me forever. It seems like a hazy mad hatter alice in wonderland dream and I can’t quite believe I even attempted it.

WHY?

I’ve been asked this numerous times. I undertook this trip as the thought of doing such a thing terrified the crap out of me. I wrote about my fears in a previous post here. I remember hearing about David Walliam’s inspirational Thames swim several years ago, and I was completely in awe the someone could swim that far, especially in the murky depths of the Thames. But subconsciously I think a seed had been sown and around 3 years later I decided to take on my own swim down the Thames. It was shortly after I had run the Pennine Way and I was looking for next year’s challenge. My right knee was in absolute pieces so the thought of doing a running challenge was out of the question. I’d been mulling over the idea of swimming a river from source to mouth for a while, so whilst writing a sponsorship email I decided in the space of about 5 minutes I would attempt to swim the Thames the following year. I then emailed 2 more people asking for advice, and once you’ve emailed or told 3 people or more, it becomes official.

I also undertook the swim with the hope of raising £5000 for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Helen & Douglas House. We ended up raising £3200 in the end, which I am really happy with. I chose Helen and Douglas house, as they are a local hospice that supports children with life shortening conditions. I chose The Cystic Fibrosis Trust as a family friend’s daughter has CF, and I know how hard the illness can be.

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Knowing that what you’re doing can potentially help someone with a life threatening disease made the harder days of the swim pale in comparison to what they have to go through on a daily basis.

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Suunto Spartan Ultra – GPS Watch – Review 02 – Looks, Menus, Movescount & Battery Life

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I have been using the Suunto Spartan Ultra now for around 3 weeks for all my exercise activities. This has mainly consisted of cycling and hiking, with one or two runs and a 5 mile swim.

In my first review of the Spartan I kept it pretty basic and went over the my initial impressions of the watch, as I had literally worn it several times.

As I have used it a little more now, in this review I will go over my thoughts of the watch thus far in a little more detail, including: how it looks, the menus, using movescount (Suunto’s online facility) and its battery. In the final post I go over the activities I have done with the watch.

It is probably worth noting here what I want in a GPS watch. To be fair, I have never owned or used one. I have always used my phone. Why would I buy a GPS watch? For ease and practicality – what I love about a GPS watch is that you are already wearing it (practical), and I just need to push a button a couple of times and it records what you do (easy).

It’s also pretty awesome that you have a record of your training without having to log anything on maps, and if you do want to look into specifics such as Heart Rate, exact route, altitude climbed and lost, how hard you were working etc then you can.

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Suunto Spartan Ultra – GPS Watch – Review 01 – Unboxing and First Thoughts

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For the month of September I am testing the new Suunto Spartan Ultra GPS watch (RRP £599). I will review the watch in four stages. In this post I will introduce the watch and discuss my first impressions.  I will go into more detail on later posts about the menus and my favourite functions.


SUUNTO SPARTAN ULTRA – SPECS – RRP £599

  • Battery life up to 26h in training mode
  • Titanium 5 / steel bezel, sapphire glass
  • Outdoor-grade color touch screen
  • Barometric altitude, 100 m water resistance
  • GPS/GLONASS route navigation
  • Sport expertise and support for over 80 sports with racing and interval use
  • Training insights and community powered progress tools in Suunto Movescount

First Impressions of the watch are really good, and never having owned a GPS watch before I have found it super easy to set up and use – basically turn it on, charge it, and off you go. You can quickly record your activities with just a few clicks of the buttons or swipes of the screen.

I have used it for outdoor swimming, running and cycling with the HR monitor and the watch find a signal quickly and records accurately. The watch is quite large, but the design is minimal, and looks good on the wrist, you could get away with wearing it as a day to day timepiece. It is easy to connect it to your personal Movescount account, and each time you connect the watch it automatically loads all the activities.

It can also link to your smart phone (android update coming out soon), and you will be able to answer calls from the watch.

The Spartan has been released recently, and I get the impression that Suunto are taking the watches development seriously by listening to testers and users, and as such there have already been 2 software updates, refining the watches features.  See the software releases and upcoming updates here.

I will continue to use it over the coming weeks and give a more thorough review of its other features.

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Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 15

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BLOG POST – DAY 15 – 27.13.2016

Started: 10:40
Ended: 13:27
Swim Time: 2hrs 15mins(ish)
Distance: 8.9km – 356 Lengths
Total: 206.25km – 8250 Lengths


Day 15 –  Kew Bridge to Putney Bridge

And that’s that!! We made it! Was carried by the tide and flew down the river today. Touched the bridge. 137 miles in 15 days. Feels good to be here and on dry land.

There’s so many people to thank, but first I need to do a massive shout out to Josh my kayaker and my Dad. Who I wouldn’t have been able to do this without. Thanks so much. Thanks to all the people who cheered us on and donated online and from the riverside.

Thanks to the sponsors of the trip who kindly sponsored food and kit. Shout outs to:

Meridian Foods for all the peanut butter a man could dream of.
Speedo UK for the wetsuit, cap and goggles
dryrobe For the amazing dryrobe
YB Tracking for free use of their tracking device
HIGH5 Sports Nutrition for the energy gels and bars and large discount
preventsportpain.com in Brackley for all the tubes of wetsuit lube by 2Toms UK
OverBoard – Waterproof Bags for the discount on their waterproof bags
b2B Graphics for the car signage

https://www.justgiving.com/teams/ThamesSwim2016

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Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 14

BLOG POST – DAY 14 – 26.13.2016

Started: 09:55
Ended: 16:00
Swim Time: 4hrs (ish)
Distance: 11.5km – 460 Lengths
Total: 197.35km – 7894 Lengths


Day 14 –  Kingston Bridge to Kew Bridge

8:08 AM – PENULTIMATE DAY! Kingston Bridge to Kew bridge today. Around 8.5 miles. Another beautiful morning.. this is a shot our the beautiful caravan we’ve been lent for the trip 🙂

4:45 PM – Day 14 done!! THAT FOREHEAD TAN!! I would say that’s worth a donation in itself.

Almost at £1200 online with around another £1000 from riverside donations! Which is amazing thank you so much. If you haven’t already please consider donating some pennies, pounds or notes towards Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Helen & Douglas House

Today i swam 11.5 km from Kingston Bridge to Kew Bridge. I’ve swam almost 200km now. Shorter day than usual and early finish. From Richmond the river was tidal and it carried me at the speed of my usual swimming and we flew by. Having a celebratory beer. Not far now. Was also joined by Fay who did a sterling job at collecting donations.

1 more day.