The cabins were surprisingly cold at night given how hot they were in the day. I had assumed that a sheet would be enough and I used my blanket as a privacy shield, but I woke up several times from the cold and from stomach cramps that first night. I eventually got the balance right (using the sheet and towels and a shirt as the privacy screens, the blanket to cover me, and closing the window before bed) near the end of my stay.
Anyway, I woke up for breakfast on the first day, somehow managing to be last out of the cabin despite being first to bed!
I still needed some time to adjust to the new environment so tried out my new wristband at breakfast. Unfortunately not everyone was used to the system yet and someone enthusiastically tried to summon me over to their table (I was already halfway through my meal as well). I declined with a smile, but she kept at it. I didn’t quite know what to do then so I just kept my head down and ate my breakfast. Probably not the right thing to do but it happened. I have no idea who it was – if you’re reading this, mystery friendly girl, I’m sorry!
Breakfast was okay, food-wise, but not great (I got a bit sick of congealed eggs by the end of the stay). I had checked out the tea situation in advance and was assured that they had “normal” tea (not always a given, in America) but didn’t take into account the fact that the kosher restrictions would mean that no milk was provided! #verybritishproblems, eh? They had a variety of milk substitutes, the nicest of which was probably the vanilla almond milk I had on that first day.
We had been given the class schedules ahead of time and I had annotated mine with my “musts” and “wants”, and notes about if classes repeated and how often. I also made a rough guideline for the first day.
Period 1: Create Your Hero Toolkit
I took my tea with me to my first class of the day: Create Your Hero Toolkit (with Amy Clover). This was a pretty cool start to the week. We covered needs, boundaries, goals and social relationships. Amy gave us each a handout (it had things on about working out what your goals were, mantras and journalling) and explained what to do for it so that we could work through it in our own time. We also did a visualisation and discussed journalling and mantras as a group. I liked the idea of “inner child journalling” where you write half with your left hand and half with your right. I also realised that a) mantras are really cool and b) I have at least 4 of them already.
She was a very friendly and knowledgeable teacher. People kept asking questions that seemed unanswerable, but she had useful advice each time! There’s an emotion called elevation that I found out about through SuperBetter – it’s kind of an uplifting, positive feeling of warmth in your chest – I basically had that feeling for the whole duration of the class. I really wished Rui could have experienced this class too.
There was also one funny moment near the start where she introduced the Wizard who was helping out:
Amy: “This is Paul everyone.”
Whole class choruses: “Hi, Paul.”
Paul: “Um… my name is Jason.”
She was embarrassed but I think it was good as it broke the ice and eased the self-consciousness that I think a few of us were feeling due to it being the start of the week and a self-improvement class.
The group discussion was also really enlightening. It didn’t start out as a group discussion, but people would specifically raise their hands to say something helpful to a previous person’s comment instead of asking a new question. Some other great perspectives that came from this, including, “Give from your saucer, not from your cup.” So many people had great things to share, and I was feeling comfortable enough by the end that I raised my hand and shared a couple of things of my own that I thought might help people, like “Oxygen mask,” which is a phrase Rui and I use to mean, “Take care of yourself first, don’t worry about me until you’ve sorted yourself out.”
I planned to go up to archery for the next class, but I hadn’t realised that Amy’s class had overrun, so I took some time going to the loo and collecting my international badge from HQ and then saw it was 10:27 and I wasn’t going to make it all the way up the hill to archery in time 😦
Instead I decided to take a break during this period, collect my badges from the Oracle, review what I had learned in my first class, get started on some house quests and pick my openers for the powerlifting competition later that day.
Nerd Fitness has a system of classes (like in RPGs) where you can decide if you want to be a scout or a ranger or a fighter or a monk. When I first read about it, I really identified with the idea of being an assassin – doing functional bodyweight exercises, climbing, parkour and so on. It got me excited enough that I signed up for the Academy (back when it was cheaper and I had more disposable income). Since then, I got more into powerlifting and working with barbells and increasing my strength – which, by their definition, would make me a warrior – and they also added the adventurer class, which I think describes me pretty well as well.
So I’ve kind of viewed myself as a sort of warrior-adventurer-assassin hybrid for a while now. But whilst we could have a badge for our guild, we could only have one. No multi-classing 😦 It needed some thought, but eventually I settled on warrior and got my badge. I also picked up my international badge, for travelling to Camp Nerd Fitness from the UK.
Period 3: Parkour (or not)
After lunch I headed down to the Lon Lon Ranch for parkour. I was pretty excited to try parkour at some point during my stay, but I started getting apprehensive as we stood there waiting in the baking sun with no shade in sight. It was in the 30s, temperature-wise, so not unbearable, until we started doing some quite heavy exercise learning quadrupedal movements. I’ve fainted due to the heat in the past so I know to watch myself and keep an eye on the warning signs, and I decided after a while it was better to bow out. It took me quite a while of sitting on the porch drinking cold water before I felt recovered enough to go back up the hill to my cabin and take a cold shower to cool down further.
So that was a bit disappointing, and even though I knew I’d done the right thing for my body, I felt bad that I’d had to drop out of my first exercise class at Camp Nerd Fitness. Sadly it was followed by another disappointment – the Anyone Can Cosplay class (run by a “normal camper” as opposed to a specially-employed Headmaster) which I’d been looking forward to turned out to be a bit disappointing. I won’t go into the details here as this is a public space and she obviously put in time, effort, money and bravery to put her resources together and come up with an outline and then deliver that class. (Kudos to her for doing that.)
Anyway, after that I headed over to warm up for the powerlifting competition and to submit my openers to Staci. I’d never done a competition like this before and it was kinda fun. I was the baby in all of my lifts, going first in my flight and lifting the smallest amount, but everyone was really supportive and I didn’t feel self-conscious at all.
There were about 85 of us signed up to the competition, which they split over two afternoons. We had 4 squat racks but only 2 bench racks and deadlift platforms, and in a powerlifting competition you do 3 attempts at each lift, so it took a good few hours. Apparently in previous years the powerlifters have missed dinner! Luckily, that didn’t happen to us, although it did run pretty late.
It was really hard judging what increments to increase by – if the last weight felt easy, does that mean I should increase by 5 kg? 10 kg? 20 kg? I think I could have pushed myself a bit more than I did, but having read this excellent article beforehand my main goal was to hit all my attempts 9 for 9 – which I did successfully.
I haven’t particularly kept track of my PRs up til now because as a relative beginner I haven’t been testing my one-rep maxes, I’ve just been doing solid workouts at weights that are challenging but that I can keep good form on. Everyone else, of course, was paying a lot of attention to their PRs and whether they’d beaten them or not. Between the fact that I hadn’t been properly thinking about them before and the fact that all the numbers in the powerlifting competition were in pounds instead of kilos, I wasn’t sure if I’d set any records or not. I managed a 90lbs (40.8 kg) squat, 62.5lbs (28.35 kg) on bench and 120lbs (54.4kg) on deadlift. I estimated these were all PRs but when I got home, converted to kilos and checked my notes it turns out I managed a 55kg deadlift the week before camp. So I was short by 600g! If I’d known that I might have added an extra 2.5 lbs to my deadlift attempt!
You can see the results (joint over both days) in this Google spreadsheet. I was near the bottom and probably could have pushed myself more but for my first competition getting 2 (almost 3!) PRs and going 9 for 9 on all the lifts without any failures was a pretty good result I think and I’m happy with it.
After that we had to dash to dinner to make sure there was some left (my flight finished first so I had slightly longer but there wasn’t a lot of time) and then get ready for the costume party!
Evening: Costume Party
I was dressed as Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. She doesn’t really have one single outfit but ripped fishnets are frequently featured. I chose to wear a giant shirt over fishnets that I had strategically ripped and sewn together. I wore plain black underwear underneath (the idea was to look not-all-there, rather than sexy). I took ages preparing my wig before I left for camp – she has multiple looks, but the one I was going for was the one where she has very short uneven hair on one side and streaks of pink and green on the other. So I started with a base blonde wig and hacked off one side. Unfortunately the synthetic hair didn’t look very natural at that length (it was too flat) and I couldn’t cut it as short as I wanted because you would have been able to see the wig net. So I spent hours hacking it into suitably disordered chunks and hairspraying them one layer at a time to get them to stick up right and also cover the base. I also used some dry shampoo to try and give it more volume, and used some blonde dry shampoo to make the wig a bit less pale. And that was before I even started on colouring the hair, which I had to do with hair chalks because normal hair dye doesn’t work on synthetic hair as it’s not porous. I also had to cut and shape the “long” half to make it shorter and more messy.
So after all that I was a bit worried that the wig would get squished in my suitcase and all my hard work would be for nothing. I brought some emergency hairspray with me in case it needed touching up, but without hours to spare to redo the whole thing there would be a limit to what I could do. Thankfully, it was okay – although it did release little puffs of chalk/dry shampoo whenever I set it down on anything.
The one final thing I needed to do for my Delirium costume was coloured contacts. Delirium has multicoloured eyes (one blue and one green) so I bought a single set of “vivid” green contact lenses (my natural eye colour is blue, so I didn’t need a second set) as I thought that would be awesome and lend a little something extra to my costume. Sadly, the difference in eye colour was barely visible, especially in the low light.
Anyway, that was me, all suited up. I wasn’t sure, when I was planning the costume, if I would feel a bit nervous wearing so little, but I felt really comfortable! I headed down the hill to NFHQ. Delirium generally has bare feet but I wasn’t confident navigating the hill in the dark so as a compromise I wore some old mismatched black socks (one trainer-liner, one ankle sock) which seemed in character.
I wandered around the main dancefloor for a while checking out people’s costumes and feeling a bit awkward. I wasn’t comfortable enough with my nerd creds to ask what some of them were, in case they were something from a popular nerd franchise that I hadn’t seen. Few people recognised Delirium – most people hadn’t read Sandman (the heathens!), which I was afraid of when I was considering this costume idea, but decided to go for it anyway as I thought it would be fun and I liked the character. I did find one girl dressed as another of the Endless, Death, which was pretty cool 🙂
After a while of wandering around, I decided to check out the games room. There were a couple of games consoles set up and a load of tables with people playing board games. After a quick look round to see what was being played I settled down with a group of 4 who were learning the rules of… I’ve forgotten the name… some kind of city building game. It only allowed up to 4 players and I would have been happy to just watch and chat but they suggested I join someone’s team, which was nice. After a while it became apparent that this was quite a complex game and Jordan (our rules explainer) was savvy enough to abort, which was a relief to everyone I think. So we picked up another game, Spaceteam, which seemed simpler and had the advantage of allowing up to 6 players, and were in the middle of learning the rules when the person who had brought the game, Amelia, bounded over excitedly when she saw what we were playing. With her help, we learned even faster and it turned out to be a fantastic experience!
Spaceteam is a timed co-op game where you’re working together to try and fix your spaceship before the time runs out. Like in Escape, there aren’t any rounds and you’re just flipping and solving cards as quickly as you can to try and get to the bottom of your deck (or as far down as you need to get to the spaceship parts). Each card you flip has a problem that needs to be fixed before you can move on to the next card in the deck. Cards are solved using tool cards – everyone has a hand of tool cards, but you can’t place your cards directly on someone else’s problem to fix it, you can only pass left or right. So everyone’s shouting out what they need and trying to check their own hands to see if they have what other people need as well. But sometimes cards have the name of the tool(s) you need to fix a card, and sometimes they have a picture. Other times there’s an icon (like gears or a lightning bolt) that means it can be solved using any tool card that has that icon. So you’re frantically shouting out that you need an X-throstle and some sort of yellow stick with a blob on the end and the person on your right needs any card with a star symbol so you give them one of yours and the person on your left gives you a card with a yellow stick looking thing except it’s a different yellow stick than the one in the picture on your card so that can’t be it and the person opposite needs a quasipaddle except you just passed your quasipaddle to the person on your right because it had a star symbol so now you need to get them to pass it back to the person opposite except they haven’t finished solving that card yet so the quasipaddle is still on the table so the person opposite will have to wait and everyone’s checked their hands for your X-throstle except for one person who isn’t looking and you know they must have it because no-one else does but they’re not next to you and you can’t get their attention because they’re busy frantically asking everyone for something else… and that’s before I mention anomalies.
Anomalies are special cards that are mixed in with the cards in your deck. Thematically, they’re traps or accidents that happen to you as you’re fixing the ship. They don’t need to be fixed with tools but they each have a special effect. Like the one where you get knocked out and only wake up when everyone calls your name (in the heat of the moment we kept forgetting each other’s names, which added to the hilarity) or the one where you lose all your tools and have to fling down your hand and can’t play any more until someone else picks it up. Or there’s man overboard, where you slowly start drifting away from the table and the other players until someone notices and drags you back. Or robot, where you have to play without using your thumbs for the rest of the game.
I’m already a big fan of “frantically trying to do stuff in a time limit while everything’s going wrong” games – both co-op (like Escape or Space Alert) or versus (like Galaxy Truckers). It was also a great way of getting to know people, and the imaginativity of the anomalies meant that even when we started getting better at the game (which can spoil some of the “everything’s going wrong” genre when you get too good at it) it was still fun and funny. There was also enough variety in the anomalies that some of them didn’t come up very often and we forgot about them until someone fell asleep at the table or started drifting away.
We played a few times as 6 player and a few more as 4 player and had a great time. I am not sure what happened after this, I think I might have wandered around the games room or the main room for a while before heading back up to the cabins.
Photo credits: The photos with the official logo on (and the one of the warrior badges, which lost the logo when I cropped it) were taken by Will Byington. The others were all taken by me.