Experiments with macro photography

August 4th, 2013 by UFO in Czech Republic

I always wanted to try macro photography, so when I found out, that my friend Jirka is a fan, I persuaded him to lend me one of his lenses. I took many pictures, mostly flowers (see attached gallery).

I enjoyed the photo session and encountered several problems. The depth of field is really small and taking pictures from hand without a tripod is a challenging task. Maybe I will try it again some time in a future.


Volkswagen Prague Marathon 2013

May 14th, 2013 by UFO in Czech Republic, Health, Traveling

I started running in July 2011 during my preparation for the final state exams at the university. Maybe you are familiar with this situation: you do anything, just not study. After passing the exams, I suddenly got free time and decided to start moving. The beginnings was tough, but in October I ran my first quarter marathon. I started to like running more and more, and in January 2012, I did a Couch to 5K and Bridge to 10K programmes that trained me to the level when I could run 10 km in one hour. I beat my first half marathon in September in Ostrava with time 1:49, which encouraged me to think about going to marathon.

As I wrote in January, I had signed up and then started training for the Prague International Marathon (PIM). The plan was quite clear: four runs per week with increasing load, some fast runs, intervals and also very long runs. Everything was going well until I got ill. I was repeatedly ok and sick and in total missed almost half of the training sessions. I started to feel good again less than a month before the race. I was on the verge of quitting, but thanks to the great support of people around me, I endured and got most of the training in this last month.

The race took place on Sunday 12th of May 2013, but I got to pick up my starting number at least the day before. So I booked a hotel and went to Prague, already feeling very nervous. In the expo I got a number (5552), backpack and lots of materials. At the expo many sport companies were selling their stuff like clothes, shoes etc., but I was not in the mood to buy anything. Then I met with my friends, that were also going to run and we went for a dinner together (large bowl of pasta, of course).

On the 9th km (thanks to Zuzka for the photo)

During the night from Saturday to Sunday I almost could not sleep, mostly because I was very nervous, partly because my hotel room was next to the elevator shaft :-D. In the morning I had a small breakfast (I was not able to eat much) and took a tram to the area of start, where I met the support team, my brother :-). I gave him a backpack and walked to the corridor „H“ I had been assigned to. I was awaiting the start together with other 9500 runners.

The race started at 9:00 sharp with the sound of Vltava. It was very strong and emotional moment, almost indescribable. I felt very glad I was there, that I had made it to the start and that I was running my dream. It took me over six minutes to get to the starting line on the Old Town Square. The view of Pařížská street packed with runners and cheering fans was something I am never going to forget, it was simply astonishing.

I was little over-dressed, I had expected between 12 and 15 degrees and cloudy sky. However, just after the race started, the clouds disappeared and Sun started to shine. I rolled up my sleeves, kept running and hoped a cloud would come. I felt hot for the first 5 km or so, but then it started to get windy and it was all right again.

The first 15 km were very nice and calm, I was enjoying the run and the surroundings. Then I started to feel my knees, so I sped up a bit and felt comfortable again, with pace between 5:40 and 6:00 (per km). On the waterfront, south of Vyšehrad, it felt like being on a grill. Long, wide road with no shade and no wind. I compensated the heat by drinking more at the refreshment stations. I passed the half marathon mark (21,0975 km) with time 2:05. I still was on the right track to finish with time between 4:00 and 4:15.

I made it to the finish line!

The first bigger crisis came on the 24th km. My legs hurt a lot, but the feeling I am past the half gave me strength to continue. On 28th km, just before the refreshment station I consumed a energy gel/syrup/who-knows-what that turned my stomach upside down. I almost vomited, but a cup of water calmed things down. From kilometre number 29 I was running on auto-pilot, shutting down the brain and conserving energy. When I passed the sign that stated „30 km“ (time 2:58), I told myself: „now you are further than ever before, keep going“. And I kept going… 9, 8, 7 km to go, the finish line was getting closer and closer.

On the 37th kilometre I felt like visiting hell, my legs ached and burnt a lot, I felt sick and dehydrated. The reserves that kept me running for the past 10 km were out and I had to switch to walking. I walked for a minute or so and then ran again, but could not keep the pace for long. I was alternating between walking and running, looking forward to the refreshment station. When I finally got there, I took two cups of water and drank slowly while walking. I managed to start running again, almost to the next (and last) refreshment on the 40th kilometre. I forced myself to eat something, took even more water and gathered some strength for the last two km. There was a tunnel nearby that provided the much needed shade and because of that (and because of the large commercial on its entrance that said „boost your run now“ :-D) I ran again. Again, the pace did not last long, the tunnel ended with a slope, which was not very steep, but in my condition I felt like rock-climbing. I passed a 41th km sign. People on the side of the road were cheering and encouraging me to run, but I could not, my body refused that. I passed other signs: 900 m, 800 m, 700 m to go… I was almost there. Then, from out of nowhere, a strong push to my back. A nearby runner pushed me and said: „You have to run! Don't stop!“. And I ran. Don't know how, don't know where did the strength come from, cannot explain that, but I ran. The final part was the exact opposite of the starting one: Pařížská street to Old Town Square. The street was full of people as I headed towards the last gate. Blue carpet, finish line… I did it, I could not believe what had just happened. With tears of happiness and pain in my eyes I got my medal.

The hard-earned medal

My brother was waiting for me at the end of the finish corridor. I almost wasn't able to speak, but managed to tell him that I need him to take a photo of me :-). We walked to the technical area, where I got the finish time engraved on the medal and then sat down to KFC, where I drank over half litre of cola to replenish my blood sugar. I turned on my phone and got dozen of messages with congratulations from people that were watching and tracking my progress on-line. Thank you everybody for the support!

We stayed in KFC until it was time to get home. He went with me to the train station and made sure I boarded the right train. On the way home, I could not sleep, although I was extremely tired. My mind was occupied, I was replaying the memorable moments from the race and tried to comprehend what I had achieved.

Some stats:

Real time: 4:22:16
Official time: 4:28:30
Rank: 3718
Rank M/F: 3291
Rank Cat.: 1577


RUNKEEPER activity (with map and speed) ->

Training for Marathon

January 21st, 2013 by UFO in Czech Republic, Health

During the end of the year I signed up for the Prague International Marathon, which will take place on Saturday, 12th May. The distance, 42,195 km is a great challenge. As of today, I have started my training. I enlisted to the Sub 4-hour Marathon training program on Runkeeper, which consists of 4 runs per week with increasing intensity (16 weeks total).

I am going to train diligently and hopefully make it trough the finish line. Wish me luck.

My Photos – Best of 2012

January 1st, 2013 by UFO in Czech Republic, Traveling

Last year I did not photograph much (or as much as I would like to), but still I had a lot to choose from. While selecting I realized how many awesome things happened during the whole year. Thanks to everyone that helped to make it that way!


Weekend Spent Drawing II (Crayon)

October 15th, 2012 by UFO in Czech Republic, Fun stuff

This June I attended a weekend long workshop with the goal of enabling my brain to be able to draw with a pencil :-). From my point of view, it was great a success. I got from „drawing simple diagrams“ to „drawing a portrait“. I really liked it, so when my mother had invited me to join her on course focused on drawing with crayons, I immediately accepted.

The course took place in Frýdek-Místek (in Místek to be exact). Saturday was focused on drawing with standard crayons and to teach us the theory and practice of mixing and blending colours. Drawing with crayons is all about colours, it more relaxed in actual shapes and shading than drawing with pencil had been.

My version of tulips (acrylic crayon)

On Sunday we got another set of crayons – the acrylic ones. It looks like a crayon, it draws like a crayon (probably also tastes like one), but you can blur it using brush and water. The result (see the gallery) seems more like painting than drawing.

After two days of doing something totally different from what I usually do, I felt exhausted. But it was pretty much worth it and I am again looking forward to attend another workshop like this.


My first triathlon race

September 2nd, 2012 by UFO in Czech Republic, Health

Last weekend I finished my historically first triathlon race. It all started as a small „push“ from my colleague from work Vojta. He persuaded me to sign up, with arguments like „it is easy / lots of amateurs will be there / it will be fun“. Since I had wanted to try it for some time, I signed myself up.

The triathlon (called „Větřkovický triathlon“) consisted of approx. 600 metres swimming, 20 km mountain bike and 4 km run. I was mostly concerned about the swimming. I would not tell I am a good swimmer, at that time I had been swimming regularly for about two months. Before the race I had added some extra sessions as a protection against drowning :-).

August in Czech Republic was very hot, heat waves, 30+ degrees and so on. But on the night before came a large storm with heavy raining. When I woke up in the morning, it was still raining a lot. With the great help of my support team (my parents), I got to the start. Due to the weather, only 59 out of 120 signed up people came. However, my colleague David, who also started at a triathlon event for the first time, was there, not disgusted by the weather all :-D.

The announcer shouted „start“ and we all ran to the water. I tried to swim freestyle (which I had not practised enough) and felt totally winded after about 20 metres. From there I continued with breast stroke as fast as I could (I admin I was sloow). After sixteen minutes, when I finally were at the beach again, I was glad I survived. I was also unable to run to my bike, had to walk and slowly tried to catch my breath. My first „pit-stop“ was the slowest of all racers. I felt totally out after the swimming. As soon as I was riding, it got better.

The bike course was hard, two laps, in each two steep hills with 300 metres elevation combined. I felt like a tourist, mostly walking next to my bike and pushing it uphill :-).

At race finish, totally exhausted

Pit-stop to change from bike to running was much better than the first one, I only had to change my shoes, which I managed to do quite fast. Running was the best part for me, I felt relaxed (in comparison, in fact, I felt almost sick) after I started to run. Everything changed when I reached the first (and only) hill. I became a tourist again :-) and was very happy to reach the top. The downhill was really steep and quite dangerous, but I did not hurt myself. After that, it was flat land to the finish. I even managed to overtake one runner.

I finished in 2 hours and 7 minutes, almost 40 minutes after the winner. I felt exhausted and sick, but also very happy and excited, that I made it!

It was definitely very hard for me, but it did not discourage me. For sure it was not my last triathlon, I am looking forward to the challenge.

My results

  • Place: 45 out of 59
  • Total time: 2:07:03
  • Swimming: 16:03
  • Mountain bike: 1:22:25
  • Running: 22:39


Weekend Spent Drawing

June 5th, 2012 by UFO in Czech Republic, Fun stuff

Last weekend I attended a workshop that was focused on drawing with pencil. I had decided to try it, because I had never been able to draw something more complicated than boxes and diagrams :-).

The workshop was split into two days, 8 hours each. On the first day we were given a random photograph (portrait) and were asked to draw it. This task assessed our current level of drawing skill. Mine was, without surprise, quite low. By doing various exercises, we learned how to choose and hold a pencil properly, how to do shades and much more.

My first drawing – Audrey Hepburn

The second day was dedicated to our final drawing. From all the options I chose a portrait of my favourite actress Audrey Hepburn. You can see the result for yourselves on the picture above. I was very surprised, how it ended up. I really enjoyed the weekend and got motivated to draw at home and improve. If it goes well and stays enjoyable, I will for sure attend another workshop.


Vacation in the Eagle Mountains (Orlické hory)

May 15th, 2012 by UFO in Czech Republic, Traveling

This year I finally had the opportunity to attend the annual trip to the town of Říčky in the Eagle Mountains, Czech Republic. In the past years I could not go because of exams. Now, since I do not attend the university any more, I was glad to go again.

Since the state holiday on May 8 was Thursday, I took a vacation on Monday and could enjoy four whole days of cycling in the mountains. We came to Říčky on Friday afternoon. I immediately went running to the surrounding trails. It was tough, the terrain was the exact opposite of flat (but what could I expect in the mountains :-D).

On the „day 1“ the weather was excellent, we used the situation and went to the path on a ridge, from where we could enjoy the magnificent views.

Next day is was cold in the morning, but clouds started to tear apart and the Sun was shining again. The trip was supposed to be shorter than it had been the day before, but since the weather improved, it was the longest journey during our stay (see attached maps).

On the third day we put our stuff to the cars and went to the area of Broumov. The hills were pretty steep there, especially the one right at the start. It would be much more pleasant if the weather were not so cold (like 10 degrees all day). I was shivering through the most of the day :-/.

Fourth, and the last, day was easy and relaxing one. We went to Neratov to see a nicely reconstructed church and then straight back, so we could pack our things and head home.


Runkeeper activities: Run1 Bike2 Bike3a Bike3b Bike4 Bike5

Škodabike marathon 2012

April 28th, 2012 by UFO in Czech Republic, Health

Today I attended the event called Škodabike marathon 2012. It was a mountain bike race in the hills and forests near Ostrava, CZ. The weather was excellent, the heat wave that had come two days ago, served us almost 30 degrees in shade.

The start was on the main street in Poruba. About 600 people attended the race, so it was pretty crowded near the start line. First kilometre we rode behind a police car that escorted us to the outskirts of Poruba, where the real racing began.

Map of the race. Interactive version is here.

The race course was very hilly. On the total distance of 38 km there were 930 height metres of ascent (see the activity log for details). I knew most parts of it, because I rode through the area many times, but several parts were totally unknown to me.

The bike race was a new experience for me. I was not racing against other people (although I liked overtaking) nor time, but against myself, to find out, whether I can make it or not. I am happy I did. I am still waiting for the official results, but if I recall correctly, my time was 2:09:41.

My runkeeper activity page ->

ŠKODABIKE 2012 homepage (in Czech) ->

Back in the city

March 13th, 2012 by UFO in Czech Republic

Quite recently, not more than two weeks ago, I have moved to a new place in Ostrava. It took me a while to move back to the city, but with the start of the new year things have finally started to change (maybe as a subconscious New Year's resolution :-D). So no more commuting and organising my life around buses' timetables.

The location is just perfect for me, it is 5 minutes to work, 5 minutes to gym/swimming pool and one minute to the convenience store. And, since it is in 12th floor, I have a nice view too – I can see the all major factories of Ostrava :-).

Ostrava by night (from my window). Larger version.

The flat itself is still considered „work in progress“. I apply the approach of gradual improvement: I do not try to do everything at once, but take small steps and never stop. It seems more manageable and definitely more fun.