Wednesday, 31 December 2008

here's to a successful, happy and healthy 2009 ...

December 31st 2008 ... the end of what has been quite a year ... my own treatment has gone well, and I'm doing fine (happily), as far as my consultant is concerned, but sadly, that wasn't to be the case for my big sis, Brenda, and, as many of you know, we lost her in July to this terrible disease, cancer.

But maybe something good has come out of all of this ... my own experience and, in particular, Brenda's loss, were the inspiration for me to develop the 365challenge to raise as much money as I could for Cancer Research UK (CRUK) to help them in their battle to defeat cancer. It has been so rewarding to see the response the 365challenge has engendered across so many people ... the support for my own efforts to date has been wonderful, with over £6000 in the fund-raising pot so far ... and still 8 months of my personal challenge to go!

But it has been the way others have taken up the baton also, and the interest from CRUK themselves that has been really exciting. Anouska, Debbie, Sabrina, Audrey, Mark, Carl, Frederika, Jonathan and Rory (along with several others still in the planning stages) have started or are just about to start their own 365challenges to raise funds for CRUK (or associated charities). And in December, all of the Area Volunteer Managers (AVMs) for CRUK were provided with an information pack on the 365challenge so that they can promote it to anyone interested in fund-raising for CRUK into 2009!

With this backing, and more in the pipeline in 2009 hopefully, this new year of 2009 could be truly a momentous one for the 365challenge. And Brenda's memory will be well and truly honoured ...

Thank you to
everyone who has supported me and/or sponsored me so far, and if you feel that you want to, but haven't yet, you can by going to clicking through to my Just Giving page ... maybe you could become one of my 1%ers ... or even take on a 365challenge for yourself ...

Whatever you choose to do is fine with me ... your on-going support is very much appreciated. I'd love to hear any thoughts, comments or suggestions from you for how I can take this further into 2009 and beyond!

But for now, may I wish each and every one of you a healthy, happy and successful 2009. May the road rise up to meet you ... Colin xxx

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

drifting through the Christmas/New Year "non-week" ...

How did it get to Tuesday? December 30th? Already?? I've taken this week between Christmas and New Year off, with LOTS of good intentions ... reading I wanted to do, updating my website, knocking off a good chunk of miles for my challenge, etc, ... but the time just seems to have passed by, with me drifting through somehow, occasionally drifting into town or losing some time on the Wii - though I have been working my way through the WiiFit programme, which is surprisingly good!

I have managed a couple of trips to the gym for my challenge, but my knee is still not right, so I've had to go easy on it. It's disappointing, because I had really wanted to get the cycling to the point where I'd have just 1000 Km left by January 1st. I'm sitting at 1040 Km to go, which isn't too bad, I guess, but if my knee had felt better, I'd have ground out those extra 40 Km over these past couple of days ... but there you go! I'll get there, I know, but it's always a little disappointing when you miss a goal, especially when it's not from slacking, but because your body is not playing ball.

And now, even with 6 more days off, I really don't know what I'll get up to with my time ... the joy of household chores is calling just now, but after that ... I actually just want to hide in a warm corner somewhere and drift on through this "non-week"!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas makes training HARDER!

It's a week since I last did any meaningful training for my 365challenge (don't think I can count time spent on our new WiiFit, somehow!), and getting back to it after a very pleasant, but I'd have to say not especially over-indulgent Christmas has been quite hard today.

Add to that the fact that my knee was still niggling me on the bike in the gym today, so I ended up cutting my planned 20 Km back to just 5, as a knackered knee does not a successful 365challenge make! I did manage 5 Km on the rowing machine though, split into 2 x 2.5 Kms, so that's something, I suppose, but the numb fingers do start to sneak in at around 2 - 2.5 Km, so I'm going to have to watch this. I may have to look at how I might cover the distance some other way ... though swimming the rest of the 250-odd Km left on the Thames doesn't really appeal either!

Any ideas anyone?

Monday, 22 December 2008

Fred's 365challenge ... for chairs!

Frederika Poole saw my poster for the 365challenge in the gym, and wanted to join in too.

Fred's step-father, Archie, died from cancer in 2007, and she's been thinking about how she could honour his memory, so when she saw the 365challenge, she knew it was just what she was looking for. However, Fred has decided that, rather than taking the 365challenge directly for CRUK, she wants to support her mother's charity, Archie's Chairs, set up in Archie's name. This charity is actually linked to the Christie Hospital, one of the North West's top Cancer Hospitals, which is, sadly, where Archie died, but clearly worthy of support.

Fred's mum spent many long nights there with Archie, trying to sleep on a wooden chair, so when he died, she was inspired to see what she could do to make life a little bit easier for families at this very difficult time. She came up with the idea of providing Lazy-Boy style chairs to the wards at the Christie Hospital, for families wanting to stay with loved ones through their treatment and terminal care. I can understand why she might want to do this, and fully support this idea. The chairs cost £1750 each, so Fred has set this as her fund-raising target, so that she can buy one chair from her challenge ... I reckon she can do this, and who knows, maybe a bit more too!

She has set herself quite a challenge: 2 standard triathlons a month for a year! That's 2 x 10 Km running; 2 x 40 Km cycling; and 2 x 1.5 Km swimming a month! Go for it Fred!

Check out her website to see how she is getting on ... Fred's 365challenge.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

mega-spun ...

The morning after ... so I completed my channel swim on Friday, as already blogged, then yesterday, Saturday, I went along for the Christmas Mega-Spin at Total Fitness - it's an hour and a half long spinning class, designed to off-set all that Christmas decadence before it happens (well, my heart rate monitor reckons I burned about 1100 calories in the session, so that's a start, but I may need a couple more of these classes before the festive season comes to a close!).

Anyway, the event was sort of in aid of Cancer Research (CRUK), though they forgot to have the collection box in the room ... people were asked to donate on the way out of the gym at reception, so hopefully some at least did. I donated two CRUK t-shirts as prizes for the best fancy dressed man and woman to keep the charity in the spotlight too. There were a couple who made a half-decent effort, including a fairy and a guy wearing some reindeer headgear - and Dave the instructor, who also put together some great Christmas songs to spin to (though I could have coped without Mr Blobby's Christmas song, I suspect), wore a full Santa outfit, which was falling apart by the end of the session due to his exertions!

It was a great session overall though, and I got a really good workout from it ... apart from a niggling twinge in my right knee towards the end, which has lingered. I may hold off from the gym for a day or two more now to rest that, as I don't need an injury just as I'm gearing up for some serious biking and rowing into the New Year.

Anouska was along, as promised, and I got a chance to chat to her afterwards. Her challenge is getting back on track now, and after the mega-spin, she headed off for the treadmill to catch up on her running! How fit is that! She's also looking forward to taking delivery, very soon, of her new bike, in preparation for her actual Land's End to John O'Groats cycle in the summer, AND she's got a place in the Edinburgh marathon at the end of May, (maybe find some local support up there from Audrey too) so she's actually going to manage 13 marathons for her challenge across the year! Very real respect to you and your great efforts, Anouska!

Friday, 19 December 2008

comment ca va ...?

Bon soir, mes amis, comment ca va? I'm sitting here, on the northern French coast, enjoying a lovely glass of red and some beautiful camembert, savouring having finally made it and finished my swim across the channel ... felt great to "reach land", but now have to get back somehow ...!

Wow! It felt just soooo good as I entered my last 25 metres ... I KNOW I was in a pool in Chester, but, hey, I've got a vivid imagination, and I could really feel the elation of knowing that I was closing in on the French coast (I may need to see someone about these delusions ...).

I've really enjoyed my swim, and (whisper this), because of that, I'll probably swim back over the coming months - I guess I need to get out the goose fat again in a bit!! But before I do, there's the little matter of the Mega-Spin tomorrow morning ... 1.5 hours of spinning class to "celebrate" this latest achievement in the 365challenge! (If anyone reading this doesn't know what I'm on about ... visit my 365challenge website and see what I'm up to in support of Cancer Research UK ...)

All in all , a great day today, feeling very good tonight, very positive and only looking forward ...

Salut, everyone, and Bon Chance!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

anouska's feeling the pressure ...

Anouska emailed me today ... she's been unwell and hasn't been able to get on with her 365challenge ... so now she's feeling the pressure ... come on, girl, you'll be knocking those miles off again soon ... there's plenty of time! Break it down and it doesn't look so bad. Come on ... here's a shout out to help you get back on your way! Look, you've completed 2 marathons already! You'll be back on track in no time ...

She mentioned that she was going along to the Mega-spin on Saturday morning - her first time back at the gym in weeks - and said she see me there ... which kind of reminded me that I hadn't signed up for it! So I went in this afternoon (Tuesday) for my swim, and asked to sign up for Saturday's spin - AND THERE WERE JUST 2 PLACES LEFT!! So, I'm in there now, but that was close ... me going on about it and promoting to the other local 365ers and then nearly not making it myself! And a quick scan of the names on the list looks like it's just Anouska and me from the 365'ers, unless Carl and Adam (gym staff) make it along too.

So ... 2 miles of swimming to go to reach France, which I expect to do now by Friday (well ahead of schedule) and then Saturday morning about 45 KM on the bike ... and if I'm in France, does that mean that I'm going in completely the wrong direction for my Lands End to John O'Groats ride???

Hey Anouska ... wait up ... I've got some catching up to do now myself!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

just a final quick note for today ...

I've been keen on my blogging today, eh, this is my fourth of the afternoon (well I've been quiet lately)!

Anyway, I wanted to update everyone on my progress with the 365challenge.

Just 3 miles to go with my swim. That's three swims, so really, I should be finished my Channel swim by next weekend, hopefully in time to drag myself out of the water onto a bike to take part in another of the Mega-Spins that Carl is organising as part of his own 365challenge fund-raising efforts at the gym for Cancer Research UK. There's a degree of madness that goes with this blooming charity lark!

For any of you local (Chester) Total Fitness 365'ers, the Mega-Spin (one and a half hours long) is on Saturday December 20th at 10.00 am, with Dave leading the spin - if you want to come along, it would be great to see you. You'll need to book your place at reception, as these spins do get busy. It's a fancy dress spin, by the way - if you come in costume, the fee/donation asked is halved (it's only £1 or £2 anyway).

I reckon I cover around 45 Km in one of these classes, so with a bit of a push, I should reduce the distance still to go on my Lands End to John O'Groats ride down to just 1000 KM by Christmas day! A doddle for 2009, eh?

good news ... and an explanation for my numb hand

I guess I should mention that I had an appointment with my oncologist the other day! This was one of my routine follow-up appointments, which now happen every four months, seeing as it is now just 15 months since my operation to have my tumour removed.

As usual, I went down to the tumour department (it just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?!) and was sent off for my chest x-ray. I have one of these every visit, because if there were going to be any secondary growths from my tumour, they apparently develop in the lungs. I used to have a CT scan too, but these have been discontinued now as they have been clear in the past and so they don't need to any more, which is great. Then back to the tumour department to await the call to see Mr Leahy about the results.

Anyway ... the good news is that he is very pleased with my progress. The x-ray shows nothing of concern, and everything is in order. He did comment that my forearm, where the tumour had been, felt a little "woody" to the touch, but figures that this is just the effect of the radiation therapy that I had to have, and it may become less woody over time.

I mentioned the fact that my left hand does tend to go numb if I am exercising using my arm for any length of time ... telling him about my rowing experiences (see October post "one-handed rowing"). He figured that this may be because of a build up of fluid in the arm while exercising, which puts pressure on the nerves so that I lose feeling there. The build-up happens because the radiation has effected the cells to a degree (hence the woodiness) and the normal flow of fluids isn't as smooth as in other parts of my body. The numbness eases when I stop exercising that arm, as the fluid then has the chance to dissipate and all is well in the world again.

His recommendation for my rowing efforts on my 365challenge: don't row for as long in any one go on the rowing machine! Has he any idea of how far I still have to go on this part of my 365challenge? I guess I'll have to break up my efforts better, but it is going to make the rowing even harder and a greater test of my endurance. But, hey-ho, it wouldn't be a challenge if it didn't throw obstacles at me from time to time, now would it?

serendipity and a coincidence ... moo

Again ... a just giving influence here. I was reading the Just Giving blog review of the year, and they mentioned a link they have made at the start of 2008 with a company called Moo, who print your photos onto mini-cards, postcards, greeting cards and even stickers.

For just £9.99 plus P&P, you can get 100 mini-cards printed with photos of your choice or with pictures you select from their large library of images on one side, with your contact details ... or details of your 365challenge and Just Giving page web address perhaps(!!) ... that you can distribute to friends, family and acquaintances to promote your challenge, for example! The Just Giving piece shows some examples of how people have used them.

The cards are colourful and eye-catching, and can really reflect YOU and your personality. I had a play with uploading some images, including the 365challenge logo, but I may need to tweak things a little to get that to fit. But as a simple and effective promotional tool, these could be really good for all you 365'ers out there to have in your armoury as you go out and about telling people about your 365challenge.

Where the coincidence of the title of this post comes in is that when I finished reading about Moo on their website, I went downstairs to find a box marked with the Moo logo on the counter in the kitchen. Donna - my other half - had found Moo via a different route, and had ordered a box of mini-cards - with 100 different images from their image library - as her personal business card, including the address for her personal blog (mainly about her knitting adventures, but many other happenings from our lives turn up there!).

And the cards look great! Slightly smaller than a business card, but bright and fun. She tells me that the order arrived within three days of her placing it, despite their site saying they would take up to two weeks to come through.

Worth a plug, I reckon ...

just giving tips for facebook

I've been browsing through the Just Giving blog recently - Just Giving being the site that hosts my on-line sponsorship page for the 365challenge - and I have to say that it is an inspiring read. They flag up people and events that use their services to raise money, and some of the stories are wonderfully up-lifting, so it is worth a browse now and again.

But what I've found really useful on their blog recently has been their piece on using Facebook more effectively to help with your fund-raising efforts. I've emailed the link for this to all the people who have signed up to take the 365challenge along with me, but I thought I'd mention it here too, with a link for anyone to follow up on it - just click through on the Facebook link above.

The Facebook phenomenon is something else, isn't it? I've found it a great way to just have an overview of what friends are getting up to, as well as keeping closer links with friends than I may have done in the past, simply because life just gets busy. But with these tips, I hope I can also grow my support base for the 365challenge and help others in their fund-raising efforts on the challenge for Cancer Research UK.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Day 100 already ...

Wow! It's Day 100 of my 365challenge already! How did THAT happen; where did the time go??

I've been focusing on my swimming this past week or so, and I am now just 5 KM from France in my Channel swim. I will certainly complete this part of the challenge before Christmas day, and possibly even by the end of next week, which is great. I've really been enjoying the swim lately, and am a little concerned that I'll miss my regular dips ... so, as hinted in my last post, a return trip may well be on the cards. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts, dear readers. Anyone got a view ... to swim back or not to swim back ... or swim somewhere else ... ??

Remember, I still have 1100 Km to cycle and over 250 KM to row, so it's not as if I'll be SLACKING OFF or anything! Come on, share your wisdom, your considered opinions, your witty(!) passing thoughts with me to help me on my way ...

Oh, and by the way ... my fund-raising pot crossed the £6000 mark this week. What do you say to that then? Not too bad, eh, for four months work ... I don't imagine I'll match that sort of turnover in the coming months, but I will keep encouraging people to support me ... next target, £7300 (double my original £3650 target) ... what do you think?... can I get there? ... you decide! If you haven't been there before, you can support me by clicking through to my Just Giving page.

And maybe become one of my 1%ers Club ... only 4 to go to reach 100 members!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Knocked off another 64 lengths (1 mile) tonight - so just 7 miles left until I get to France ... I reckon if I knuckle down - okay, maybe splash on might be more accurate - I could be there for Christmas. How great would that be? Champagne and good brie will be required for the celebrations!

What I have found interesting about my swimming this week is that, with the increase in distance that I've taken on this week (see post from last week), I'm swimming further and getting less tired! Up until last week, I was aiming for 40 lengths per visit, and feeling it, so that I was sometimes having a rest at 20 lengths. Since I've upped the distance to 64 lengths, I've been feeling great and keeping going for 40+ lengths without a thought. I reckon I could have kept going, but I wanted a drink!

I think some of the improvement is because of a tip another swimmer - a triathlete - gave me the other day about my stroke. He reckoned I needed to widen my stroke to make it more efficient, and since I've done that, I do feel that I've been swimming much better. Now for those of you who don't know me, I'm not really a swimmer. I never learned how to swim properly as a child and kind of put my front crawl "style" together from how I "thought" it should look. Then a couple of years ago, I did have one lesson to try to tighten things up a little, but that's been it. But I've never really got my kick together at all, so most of my efforts are focused on my arms and shoulders. In fact, tonight I did a quarter of the distance with one of those floats you hold between your legs (when you actually want to work on your stroke) without any difficulty at all!

Tell you what, once I've made it across to France, I just may have a few proper lessons to work on that kick thing, and maye then I'll make the swim back a little more easily. What do you think?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Only managed 2 swims since last blog entry, but have cracked the mile each time (64 lengths) so at that rate, I have only 8 more swims to get me across the channel and finish that part of my challenge, which I fully expect to do by the end of December (especially as I'm having a bit of time off over Christmas).

I think I'll work on swimming and maybe some rowing through December. I'm getting behind in the rowing 'cos I really am not enjoying it just now - and I've failed to track down the meditation recommended a while back by a reader. I'll just have to grit my teeth and plug away at it so it feels like I'm getting it done.

Good news from Debbie and Audrey, who have started their own 365challenges this week. Check out their web pages by clicking on their names and see just how daft some people can be ... no, really!

But I'm so pleased that they have taken it on - and it means that the 365challenge has graduated from Chester and is happening now as far afield as Fife in Scotland and Leicestershire (I think - at least that 's the area that Debbie covers for work), with more coming on-stream soon, I believe, including Brisbane with Jon, and there is a little whisper that Dublin may happen in the New Year too, with Rory.

Any more volunteers out there? Or do you know someone who might be interested in taking on a truly special challenge? If so, do please get in touch or send them this blog and let's see if we can coax a few more 365'ers out of the woodwork for the New Year.

And finally, a welcome to Roy ... hope you enjoy some of these ramblings!

Friday, 28 November 2008

365 on facebook

I know several of my regular readers have already found their way there, but for the rest of you, I thought I'd let you know that I have started a group on Facebook for anyone interested in the 365challenge You can log on to Facebook, and then search for the group 365challenge for Cancer Research UK.

After just over a week, the group already has 59 members, and is growing, so come on down. I'd like people to use this forum to discuss their cancer-related stories and successes, fund-raising efforts and, if they take on the 365challenge, what they are doing and how they are getting on with it.

I've posted a couple of discussion topics that I'd love to hear your thoughts on, particularly the "What is your ultimate 365challenge?" What would you like to take on if you could? It's all a bit of fun, but with a serious message about supporting the vital work of Cancer Research UK, so why not join us on Facebook some time soon?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

no-one will know ...

Went for a swim tonight, to knock off another 40 lengths in the channel swim. Got talking to another swimmer there, who I've seen in the gym over the weeks. His regular target is 64 lengths - which is a mile - and that got me thinking ... I know that my 40 lengths are keeping me nicely on track with my challenge, but I don't seem to be getting any strong as a swimmer. So maybe I need to up my effort and see if I can manage to swim further and test if that will give me more stamina in the pool, get my stroke stronger. And then, when I was putting my 40 lengths onto the spreadsheet where I record my progress in the challenge - see Track My Progress on my website - I got thinking about how far there is to go ...

So (as if I've not got enough on my plate) ... I'm going to try to up my regular distance in the pool to 64 lengths per visit for the next week to see how I get on, and if that goes well, I'm going to see if I can actually make it to my total (1416 lengths - 646 left to go) and have crossed the channel by the turn of the year! It's a bit of a chunk to bite off, I think, but hey, it'll soon be Christmas, so I'll have a little time off, work will have slowed down a little, and anyway, who needs sleep ...!!!

Oo-er ... what have I just committed to? If I press "publish" on this blog entry, does that mean there is no way back ... nah, I can always edit it, and even delete this particular entry if it looks like I'll not make it ... I mean, who reads this anyway ... I've only got 4 followers, and one's in Ireland, one's in Oz, one's got her own 365challenge to worry about so she won't be checking on mine (sure you're not, Anouska?), and one is distracted by writing and wool. So I'll be okay, then! :-)

Monday, 24 November 2008

more recruits ...

Had a short weekend break away with Donna at a friend from Uni's 40th birthday bash down in Gloucester. Stayed in a pleasant Holiday Inn, which had a small gym and pool, so I managed to do a little on the 365challenge while down there. I have to say, though, that trying to do lengths in a 12.5 metre pool is a hassle. I'd barely be getting into my stroke when I'd have to turn around again, so I'm afraid I quit in frustration after covering half my usual distance, just 500 metres this time.

But I came home to some great emails (yes, I lasted two whole days without the internet!), so thank you everyone who has been supporting me.

Following on from my presentation last week to the Area Volunteeer Managers for Cancer Research UK, the ranks of 365'ers have grown by 4 - two AVMs and two of their friends, with the promise (threat??) of more to come. Thank you Sabrina and Debbie for your wonderful messages of support and for taking on these great challenges.

Sabrina, who lost her grandfather to cancer, and two friends are going to run the Race for Life every week for the year of their challenge, while Debbie has targetted a huge challenge, in memory of her friend, Duncan, who died aged just 27 years from a brain tumour. She's going to run 1 marathon a month (12 marathons), swim the channel (22 miles), walk coast 2 coast of the UK (Wainwright's St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay, 190 miles) and cycle across the USA (at 3200 miles, or 62 miles a week)!!!

I love the craziness that the 365challenge is bringing out in you people ... come on, readers, what might your ultimate challenge be for 365challenge? Let me know and I'll put details up on the 365challenge website.

By the way, I've also just created a group on Facebook for the challenge. It's called "365challenge for Cancer Research UK" (snappy, and so concise, eh, how long did that take to come up with?). It's just a week since I set it up and tonight I see it passed the 50 members mark. I'll have to make use of this group and get people thinking and discussing topics on the discussion board. If you've not signed up yet, please pop along to face book and search for the group by title, then it's a doddle to join it.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

briefly ...

I just have to put this up here ... it's really exciting!

I've just picked up a message on my mobile (from someone who is now gone on holidays, so can't expand on this for a little while) - "real potential in 365challenge to deliver significant income for (us) ... now looking at how best to support rolling it out nationally ...!!!"

I'm not saying more than that online just yet - don't want to jinx anything - but how exciting does THAT sound? Brenda must be having a right laugh at how this is snowballing ...

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

spreading the word ... again

(another long post ...)

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, today I was invited down to the Cancer Research UK centre in Oxford – this time to present the 365challenge concept to the Central Division Area Volunteer Managers and their teams. This group deal with all volunteers and supporters of CRUK across the central band sweeping across the country: from the West coast of Wales to the far eastern edge of England; from Manchester in the North West to Bristol at the lower end, a catchment of some 20 million people (if any of the AVMs feel that I need putting right on this descriptor, please get in touch, I want to try to get things right on here!).

Peter Whalley, Regional Manager for this sector had spoken to Andrew Penny, AVM, who was part of the organising team behind arranging this division’s meeting, and as a result, I was invited to fill the final slot of the day, which is usually reserved for someone with an inspirational story or a fund-raising event to report on. Apparently, I ticked all the right boxes!

Anyway, I was invited to come along earlier in the day to attend a talk by one of the science team, and then some presentations by other CRUK personnel. And it certainly made for an interesting day. The science was inconclusive, but demonstrated how large the research studies going on around the world are … but more data is needed! Hey, where have I heard that before then?

But the other presentations helped me realise just how huge the CRUK organisation is: 2000 staff, plus 3000 scientists supported in research labs around the country (and beyond, probably!). It’s one of (if not THE) biggest charities in the country. And there is lots of work going on to develop their fund-raising initiatives so that they are more streamlined and effective in achieving their targets for the year. They set very impressive goals, and seem to have a pretty good success rate. They are involved in running hundreds of events each year, and their most successful last year was the Race for Life – 660000 women around the country raised £40m. Amazing!

One presenter spoke of new initiatives that they are developing, and I am now better able to understand why it can take a couple of years to bring some of these ideas on-line – there is a lot that they have to consider from the legal side, the promotional side, every side, and all this takes time. So, although they are now starting to look very seriously at the 365challenge, I expect that if they do get behind it formally, it could be a while off yet!

However … just ‘cos they might not officially be able to back it just yet, the reality is that more and more of the people on the ground for CRUK are getting to hear about the 365challenge because of my presentations, etc., and they all seem to love it – so as long as they go out there and spread the word, and potential 365’ers come looking to learn more from me, I’ll keep building it with them and beyond them!

Today’s group amounted to around 45 people, all hands-on folk with volunteers and supporters, the people who will actually be interested in this, and they really seemed to enjoy my presentation, just as last week’s group did. Lots of encouraging smiles and nods of heads, some good questions at the end, and again, several people saying that they want to take it on for themselves, while others let me know that they were already thinking of likely candidates from among their groups of supporters.

Lots of encouragement then, and Peter Whalley was very positive at the end, reassuring me that he would be following up with the Events and Business Management teams soon to see where they are up to.

One person asked about how they might get my message “out there”, perhaps in an information pack, and “what about a DVD?” Peter picked up on this, and started muttering about recording my presentation to put into the AVMs information packs, so they could sit down with supporters and play them … ME! Apparently they reckon I did a good job of selling the idea to them, so why not use me to sell it to everyone! Well, I’m up for most things, if it helps spread the word, but Donna, when she reads this, is going to just roll her eyes, look to the heavens and sigh “where will it end … ?”

Hopefully with the 365challenge established as a serious, on-going fund-raising strand for CRUK, generating lots of much-needed dosh!

As I‘ve said more than once … watch this space.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

half-way to France ...

Two and a half months into my 365challenge for Cancer Research UK, and this morning I reached the half-way point in the channel swim part of the challenge. Should I go on, or just turn around now and swim home? If I do turn for home, I'll still have covered the 22 mile distance , I guess ... but if I go on, will I have to swim all the way back again? Given the way things are working out, I guess I will have time to fit in the return swim in the time I still have available, but should I use that time for other activities (or simply to sleep?).

Maybe I'll just swim on, and take the Eurostar home ...

(why don't you sign up to follow this blog to see what I finally decide!)

Thursday, 13 November 2008

a VERY exciting day for the 365challenge ...

( ... a long post ...)

Today was a very important day for the growth of the 365challenge. Nothing to do with my efforts in the gym or the pool (though I am just one swim short of hitting the half-way mark in my channel swim after this morning's dip) - no, it was all to do with developing my relationship with Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

A couple of weeks ago, Peter, the Regional Volunteer Manager for CRUK, asked me if I'd like to speak to the Central Division's Volunteer Manager's conference (or something like that) about the 365challenge. These are the people who support fund-raisers around the country and he thought they'd like to hear about what I've been doing. "Great", I thought, "an opportunity to spread the word, where do I have to go?" Oxford, as it happens, on November 18th. All well and good.

Then Peter called again and told me that the head of another part of the CRUK organisation wanted me to speak to their national conference - which happened to be in my home town of Chester today, November 13th. "Sign me up, oh, by the way, who are these people?" "These people" turned out to be the Events Team, and essentially, as far as I could work out, this was to be a gathering of all the regional Events management teams, the people who organise and support the big CRUK fund-raising activities, such as Race for Life, Relay for Life, the Bobby Moore Fund, Dine at Mine, all the running events and much more. When I tell you that Race for Life last year alone had 665,000 participants and raised around £40 million, you can maybe realise just how important these people are to the fund-raising programme for CRUK!

And I was being invited to speak to them for 30 minutes about the 365challenge!!!

So I wrote my spiel, and put together my PowerPoint presentation to explain who I was, why I was developing the 365challenge, what it was and how, with their support, the 365challenge could play a part in the generation of funds for CRUK. I was told there would be 50 -60 people at the Queen Hotel in Chester, but it turned out there were around 100 of 'em, all attentive, keen to learn what the 365challenge was all about. All they knew at this stage was that it was a 30 minute slot in their programme - most of them knew nothing more, so I had to grab my chance to win them round ...

And I have to say, ... I think I did!

I got a great reception from a really interested, excited bunch of people, who can see potential when it lands in their lap. I have to say, when I know my subject, I love speaking to groups - I only realised this recently, but I don't get too nervous, just enough to get the adrenaline pumping so that I can deliver what I want to say. And I loved getting up there in front of this great room of open, welcoming faces.

The 30 minutes flew by, and we had just a little time for a few minutes for questions at the end. I got some really positive, encouraging comments from people who were nearly as excited as I was. Two stand out ... One person asked just what CRUK were doing to support me in developing the 365challenge, in an almost incredulous tone, as if they couldn't believe that the 365challenge wasn't already their next campaign. That prompted the Head of Events to come up on stage with me and take to mike to explain that the 365challenge was still very new even to them, but they wanted to do all they could to develop its potential and she reassured the Events people that one of their executives was due to meet with me straight after my talk to try to work out how they could help move this on!

The other comment came just as I was about to finish. A hand went up right at the back, and a voice called out to me that that particular table represented the North West Events Team, and they had decided right there and then that THEY were going to take on the 365challenge themselves, as a team. That prompted cries from around the room that this was going to get competitive, and other teams might just have to have a go too!! Can you imagine how much of a buzz this was creating?

I came off the stage really buzzing myself, to comments like " that was really great, what an idea" from the people at the table I'd been directed to. I was invited to stay for the last presentation before my meeting with the New Business Executive, and I'm really please I was able to. It was by a guy called Findlay Young, another cancer survivor, who has been celebrating his TWO all-clears from cancer by running ... literally running ... around the world. He raised £40,000 for CRUK through that amazing effort but has plans for even more spectular efforts next year. He was truly inspiring and from already being buzzing, after his talk, I was truly "Fired Up!"

So when I met with Suzanne, the New Business Executive afterwards, it was great. Lots of energy, ideas and creativity flying around, with her as excited about the 365challenge as I was, and coming up with additional twists to consider. It is really early days still, of course but she will now go away and talk to various people within the organisation to see how they can help me take 365challenge to another ... and another ... and another level.

And next week, I get to do it all again to the Volunteer Managers conference!

I can't wait!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

any tips on how to make rowing interesting?

Still having a good run of activity for the 365challenge - 5 days in the last 7 in the gym - so the distances are building up towards my targets. I hope to cross the half-way point in my Channel swim this week. Wave if you spot me out there!

And while the rowing kilometres are growing slowly (75 Km down, but still 271 Km to go), I am finding this the hardest part of the challenge. I'm trying different approaches to this task - 3.5 or 5 Km in one straight row; interval training with 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds recovery, up to 3 Km; 2 Km hard graft, followed by a slow 1 Km, then having a cycling break followed by another 2 Km burst. Variations on a theme, just trying to keep the interest going. But I have a long way to go still, so if there is anyone out there who can give me some creative ideas for how to keep going with the rowing, I'd love to hear them!

Other than this, I spent part of today writing my presentation for Cancer Research UK (CRUK), getting the PowerPoint presentation in order so that I can really present the 365challenge at its very best to the people who have the potential to take it to the next level and beyond ... watch this space.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

knocking off the miles ...

65 days into the 365challenge ... just 300 to go! And the miles (or kilometres) are falling steadily, I'm happy to say. Today, I hit the 400 Km mark on the bike - that's a quarter of the way along the route from Land's End to John O' Groats (LEJOG) in just over 2 months, which feels great. The swim is going well too, I'm over a third of the way across the channel too. But the rowing ... well, I'm still on track with that, but only just. That's been harder than I expected ... but hey, this was never going to be a walk in the park!

I've had a good spell in the gym lately which has been a big help - I've actually been in 12 of the past 15 days! Even I've been surprised by that when I looked back over the progress sheet. And I feel like I'm on a bit of a roll now, so as long as I feel fit, I hope I can keep this level of activity up and I can knock off plenty more miles before the end of this year.

Friday, 31 October 2008

how do I get word out ...?

As you will know, promoting the 365challenge to all and sundry is now my main focus with the challenge. I've raised a healthy amount, which I know will be added to even more over the year, but obviously, the more people I can find who can take on the challenge for themselves, and raise what they can in their own sponsorship, the greater the overall pot will be for Cancer Research UK.

So, how do I get word out? Any and all suggestions welcome, please.

I have made the local press and radio, emailed everyone I know (and some I don't!) and put some promotional material in my gym. This week, I contacted the head office of my gym - but have yet to hear back from them - to see if they will get behind 365challenge and promote it in their 24 branches. It seems a no-brainer to me, as it encourages members to be regular users and probably renew their memberships over the year, but hey, who said head office was populated with people with my take on things - i.e. with no brains!

But that got me thinking. So ... in the past couple of days, I've visited a few other gyms in the area and put the 365challenge to them too. Some initial interest, tempered with "we'll have to run it by the boss"-type responses, but at least they are going to do that! One gym manager loved the idea, but his club manager wouldn't take it on, as the gym supports another charity - so the gym manager is going to promote it personally to "a select few" he thinks might go for it! Good man!

Another gym has 78 branches in the UK, so I'll have to keep after them. Gaining just 5 365'ers in each of their gyms across the year would blow my target of 365 people taking the challenge clean away - and think what that would do to the overall pot.

This 365challenge-thingy is going to be my world for a while, isn't it!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

skiving ...?

It's a Tuesday in October, the SNOW(!) is falling outside (what's that all about then?), I've got 25 things that need attention in the office, but I'm skiving off today. Why? Because I can. Today marks the 4th anniversary of my move into full-time self-employment and if I can't take a day off now and again when I want to, then something's wrong!

Anyway, just because I was "off" doesn't mean that I haven't been busy.

Into the gym this morning at 6.45 and knocked off a few more kilometres. Discovered the Interval setting on the rowing machine and did two sets of 3 Km, 30 seconds flat out, 30 seconds recovery (slow rowing) (repeat) until I'd covered 3 Km, with 10 Km on the bike in between. I liked this way of doing it, as it gave me some variety across the time on the machine so I didn't get bored. And keeping it to 3 Km at a time meant that my hands didn't go numb, which is a real bonus!

Then spent some time making calls to people I'd spoken to in local gyms about the 365challenge - I really want to get some momentum behind this locally so I can present a clearer picture to CRUK when I speak to them next month. Got some positive responses, so will keep on top of this if I can, without becoming a complete pain.

Then spent some time doing "things that needed to get done", like sorting out some things at the bank, so not a complete skive of a day, just a day away from "proper" work. I expect I'll pay for it tomorrow, as I chase my tail catching up, but hey, if the boss can't give himself a day off, who can?

Sunday, 26 October 2008

celebrating ...

I was talking to Audrey, one of the people taking the 365challenge for CRUK, about the website she is developing for her effort. I mentioned my Remembering page, and suggested that she could put one of these on her site, and maybe send me photos to put on my Remembering page. "

But", she replied, "I'm doing this because of my dad, and he's a cancer survivor ... it doesn't feel right to put his photo on a "Remembering" page.

Then Audrey sent me a draft of her site (when it launches, I'll post a link for it), and she had included a "Remembering" page, but, clever girl, she'd also put up a "Celebrating" page, where she will post photos of people who have come through cancer and have something to shout about.

What a great idea!

I've now sent her some photos of me(!), cos I fit this category, and, with her blessing, I've created my own "Celebrating ... " page on the 365challenge website. Click on the link to visit it, and if you would like to celebrate someone (yourself or a loved one) who has survived cancer, please email photos and details through to me via the 365challenge site.

"it's early days, don't get carried away ..."

Anyone who has been watching this blog (and, come on, by the way, don't be shy, click on the follow me link and be a proud follower of 365) will know that I am committed to the 365challenge concept. When I came up with the idea, at first I thought it was a great way for me to motivate myself to put a serious amount of effort into supporting Cancer Research UK (CRUK) over a lengthy period. Then I realised that others liked the idea too and wanted to do their bit, so the concept developed, and became more flexible, as people developed their own 365challenges.

It was a no-brainer then for me to look at how to develop this idea further. I wanted to make 365challenge something that would grab the attention and serve as a way for more and more people to raise greater and greater amounts of money to support CRUK. And so I set about promoting the idea wherever I could. I spoke first with my local Area Volunteer Manager for CRUK, Liz, who got excited and told her boss, Peter, the Regional Manager.

He came to meet me, and ... he got excited too. And he went away and started telling people in CRUK.

Then, two weeks ago, Peter called me and asked me if I'd be willing to go to speak to the CRUK Central Region Volunteer Managers Conference, in Oxford in November, about the 365challenge. Duh ... yes! They wanted me to give a 30 minute presentation on the concept to around 50 people who deal with those people looking to do something to raise money for CRUK - the front-line folk who can promote the 365challenge to the public - of course I'll do it! That's brilliant, a chance to get this idea out there to an audience who want ideas they can push ... let me at them!

I was excited enough at this, but then last week, Peter was back to me. "Colin, I know you've agreed to come and talk to the Volunteer Managers Conference next month, but would you mind coming to another conference a few days before that one too ... this one is in Chester (so it's on your doorstep, and easier for you to get to) but ... it's the Events Team Conference ... I've been speaking to them and they are keen to learn more about 365challenge".

When and where is my reply - of course I'll speak to them ... oh, who are they, by the way ...?

A couple of calls later, and I know.

Now I AM excited. I have to temper this with the mantra "it's early days, don't get carried away ...", but ... John called me, the Events Team manager. This is the team that looks at fund-raising ideas for CRUK and decides whether or not to get behind them and support them formally. This is the team who got behind the "Race for Life" concept, and made it the huge national success that is has become.

60 or 70 of these people are coming to Chester next month, and little ole' me is going to have 30 minutes to get them as excited about the 365challenge as I am. John told me that he really likes the idea and thinks it could be something they would support. So ... if I pull this off, and they see the real potential for 365challenge ... this thing could be huge!

("it's early days, don't get carried away ...")

Watch this space!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

remembering ...

Following on from a brief chat with Anouska, and building on an earlier idea, I've decided to create a new page on my 365challenge website to remember all of those loved ones lost to cancer - so people can see the vibrant, lively people they were and know why we are taking on these physical challenges and pushing ourselves to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

The page is called "Remembering ..." - click through and have a look, then let me know what you think.

At this stage, I've just got photos of Brenda, my sister, and the inspiration behind the 365challenge, and Debbie, Anouska's reason for her 365challenge. But I want to put up photos of the people who have inspired the other 365'ers too, as well as the loved ones of those who had a reason to sponsor me.

So if you have someone you'd like to include in the "Remembering ..." page, drop me an email, with some photos and some details of the person you want to remember. The address is on the website.

check out Anouska's 365challenge ...

I know I've mentioned that there are other people taking on the 365challenge since I launched the idea back in September, but I've given little information on them really. A couple have started - Carl and Mark - but they are at varying stages of sorting out sponsorship pages, etc., still, so I've not given too much detail here as yet.

However, one of the 365'ers has launched her site just today, and I'd love to give her a plug and encourage you to visit the site and see what she is up to. Her name is Anouska Watkins, and she is taking on the 365challenge in memory of her friend, Debbie, who died two years ago, aged just 27. She has devised a brilliant challenge, so click through on Anouska's 365challenge and see what she's up to.

Go for it Anouska!

Monday, 13 October 2008

come on, follow me ...

Now, I know there are people out there who read this blog ... I know, because they tell me that they do. But you'd never know by just looking at my blog, would you, because in the two months or so I've been writing it, I've had just 2 - count them, 1 ..., 2 - comments, and they've both been from the same person!

Okay, so I like writing it, and it keeps me entertained ... but I'd really like to know that it's not all just for my personal pleasure. So I noticed earlier today that Blogger had a nifty new widget that I could add to the sidebar (go on, scroll down a little, see, there it is ... follow this blog), that allows YOU - my dear, occasional other reader - to show your allegiance by clicking on a link that would allow you to show yourself as a follower of the 365challenge blog! You can even add a picture (or remain anonimous if you must) ... but hey, it would be great if a few of you lurkers out there gave me at least a little inkling that I'm not waffling on into the (completely empty) ether.

Come on. give me a boost and reveal yourselves/(self!) ...

one-handed rowing ...

I don't know if you've noticed from my "Track my Progress" page, but while I'm keeping on with the rowing part of the challenge, I've not exactly gone all out on this rowing thing. I DO enjoy it - in small doses, and it does give you a good work out ... but I can't get too excited about it really. I originally intended to do 3.5 Km per row (1% of the total roughly), but then I upped that to 5 Km per visit - mainly because I wanted to get through it! The problem however, is that this extra distance is creating a bit of a problem - or maybe that should be being a bit of a nuisance - for me.

You see, when I had my tumour last year, it was in an unusual place (NO, not there!). It was on my left forearm, about half way between my wrist and my elbow. And it turned out to be on a part of the muscle, so ... to get it out, the surgeon had to take a strand of muscle out too. He had no idea how this would effect my arm/hand, but thankfully, there was no lasting problem - which is useful, as I'm left handed!

Well ... no lasting problem ... until you start rowing 5 Km, that is! The first 3 -3.5 Km are usually okay, but in that last 1.5 Km, at some point, my left hand starts to feel a little numb, and my grip isn't so good. I keep going, but occasionally, if you are wandering around the gym, you'll spot me taking my left hand off the bar, and rowing on with just my right hand, while I frantically shake my left hand to get the blood flowing again - which it does, by the way, and I do finish with both hands in action. But it is annoying, especially when I'm trying to beat my previous time and I have to slow my pace while I get my left hand started again!

But that's why I'm not taking on extra distances on the rowing as I have been with the cycling - I just can't see me managing to get a 10 Km row in one-handed, however much I might want to!

I bet Steve Redgrave - sorry, SIR Steve Redgrave) never had this problem ...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

spun out ...

Just got back from Carl's Fancy Dress Cowboy and Indian 90 minute spin for Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation at the gym (90:10 split to CRUK).

Because Carl is still injured, Dave took the class while Carl prowled around "encouraging" us by turning up the resistance on the bikes - very helpful indeed! Around 28 people turned up - several in fancy dress. The best was a guy in chaps, waistcoat, check shirt, bandanna, cowboy hat and ... a stick-on droopy moustache! Oh, and a six-gun. Others had Indian headdresses or cowboy hats and pistols, and Dave, the instructor had a Red Indian chief's head dress , and he'd put together music from westerns for the whole class, which was great - good fun all round. I didn't dress for the role, but wore my 365challenge t-shirt to promote the challenge and got some interest.

People donated to be allowed to attend, and I reckon Carl will have raised a good few quid. He has more events like this planned - next up is a Halloween spin - more dressing up to be expected, I'm sure.

Anyway - it's been a long time since I've been spinning, and usually then it was for 45 minutes maximum, but as I've been on my bike a lot lately, I figured I should last 90 minutes for the cause. It wasn't as bad as I expected, thankfully, and though I sweated buckets and was poured off the bike at the end, it was a lot of fun. It's really hard to calculate what distance you might do in a class like this, but as I did 30 KM the other day in an hour, I'm claiming 45 Km towards the cycling part of my challenge for this 90 minute class - it was full-on a lot of the time, so I think that's fair!

Now ... I might just take it easy for the rest of the day ...

Monday, 6 October 2008

getting back into the swing of things ...

It's been harder than I thought it would be getting back into the routine of going to the gym after over 2 weeks off with that damned cold, but I am getting there, and have logged some time on all of the parts of the challenge left - cycling, rowing and today, swimming. I'm also planning to join Carl at his Mega-spin on Saturday, though I know this will take it out of me! 90 minutes of pretty flat-out spinning (Carl takes no prisoners!) should add at least 45 Km to my distance, if I survive! Come on down and join in if you can.

I've been noticed now by Cancer Research UK as a supporter of note. Got a call last week to see if I'd go to an event in Llandudno and man a display table for them, to try to drum up support. It was a a Rotary Club convention - about 40 clubs from the English Midlands represented - and the idea was to try to encourage some of them to adopt CRUK as their charity for next year. I had the morning shift and another couple - John and Moya - were taking the afternoon shift.

It was quite a good morning: I spoke to a lot of people and promoted both CRUK and 365challenge - as well as the "Adopt a Bunker for CRUK" concept suggested to me by Sue Goulding way back when I started into this fund-raising business. Sue - the good news is that it is an idea that certainly caught the interest, so watch out, it may grow - though a few people mentioned that they'd seen it before or that they already did something similar for their Captain's charity. That's fine, just next year, make your Captain's charity CRUK is all I have to say to that!

As well as seeing me as a willing supporter, there is good, (very exciting and promising) news from CRUK on the increasing interest in the 365challenge concept within the charity too. I got a call today to tell me that the idea is being considered by their "New Business Team" as a potential campaign that they would get behind - which is what I've wanted from the start, so it's good that they are considering it. The New Business Team are the people who look at these ideas - they did a similar exercise on "Run for Life" campaign, so if I can win them over, 365challenge will become a national event and Brenda's memory will be well and truly acknowledged!

Fantastic - everyone, cross your fingers for this NOW!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

that's been too long a break ...

I've just looked at my "Track My Progress" spreadsheet and see that I've been out of the loop for the 365challenge for about 12 DAYS thanks to that lousy cold - and the sore throat has been trying to creep back over the past 2 days - what's all that about?

Well I had to get back at it, so I went into the gym on Sunday and managed to cycle 16 Km, then last night I managed a 5 Km row and 20 Km cycle, so I'm, feeling a little better about it all again. Still not feeling totally right, but I'm active again, so I hope that will shake off the lurgy.

I also ran into Anouska in the gym last night, who is the last of the current batch of people planning on taking up the 365challenge and who I hadn't met up to now. I had my 365challenge t-shirt on, so she was brave enough to approach me and introduce herself as I stumbled off the bike dripping in sweat! She's working hard and planning to run a marathon a month, and then, for good measure, throw in the Land's End to John O'Groats cycle ride - FOR REAL - with a friend, and as if that's not enough, she hopes to get a place in the London marathon next year and do that for real too! Amazing people, this crew of lunatics who have been inspired by the 365challenge idea to do something for CRUK.

For the record, in case you missed what some of the others are doing - Fred(erika) is going to do a triathlon a month, Oliver is cycling across the US (I think), Mark is cycling, rowing and running across Australia, Peter is still deciding, but it's going to be good, I know, and Carl is getting back into his run across America after a pretty serious injury - take it slowly, buddy, take it slowly.

Carl is also organising a 90 minute fancy dress spin (I think the theme is Cowboys and Indians) on Otober 11th at the Chester Total Fitness for CRUK, so if you're in the area, come on down!

What a fantastic bunch. IF you want to join us, do please get in touch - you don't have to go quite so mad .. maybe try walking a mile a day, 26 days a month, then you'll have walked a marathon a month for CRUK. Come on, you can do it.

Friday, 26 September 2008

365challenge on the radio ...

Hi everyone
As I've mentioned below, there has been some great interest in the 365challenge from the local media here, and BBC Radio Merseyside interviewed me for their morning show earlier this month. Leanne, the reporter, has kindly sent me a CD with the interview, so I thought I'd upload it here for anyone interested to have a listen - but it turns out I can't seem to upload audio files to this blog! So if you'd like to have a listen, email me off-line and I'll send it through to you as an attachment. My email is all over the website, but for the blog, I think I have to write it in this format: colin at 365challenge dot co dot uk ...

All thoughts and comments on my performance welcome!

Monday, 22 September 2008

coughs and sneezes ... keep you out of the gym, but Guinness makes you feel better!

So there I was feeling very good about myself, having kept on with my challenge even while on holiday, when the dreaded lurgy had to go and stick it's oar in.

Last Wednesday, I went in to the Mighty Boosh gig in Dublin feeling fine, but came out a couple of hours later barely able to speak - and not because I'd been shouting and screaming (though i did laugh a lot). And the bug took hold then for the rest of my Irish visit, leaving me feeling very tired and run down. It's still lingering now, so I've put off getting back into the gym for a few days to see if it will settle and let me get on with my 365challenge again without keeling over.

Though the lurgy didn't ruin everything from the trip. I was able to catch up with some old friends and family members who I've not seen as much of as I'd like to, including my old buddy Jack. We used to share an apartment together a long time ago in Dublin, but I haven't seen him for a proper sit down chat and pint in over 14 years - much too long!

Anyway, we arranged to meet for lunch one day in a pub called Messrs Maguire, just beside O'Connell Bridge right in the heart of Dublin, and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours there. Apart from the good company, the outstanding memory of the afternoon was the quality of the pint. Now, I've been a Guinness drinker for a long, long time now, and I appreciate that I've been drinking what many consider to be an inferior version in England for a lot of years, but remember also that I'd just spent 5 days in Lahinch, in County Clare, where they know a thing or two about pouring a good pint, but ... the Messrs Maguire pint was one of the best I've ever tasted: so smooth, so good - I'm almost drooling as I recall it now. Highly recommended if you get the chance. My nephew commented that they charge more there for their pint than other pubs in the area, and also that the price increases over the evening, but believe me, it IS worth it!

And of course, everyone knows that Guinness has medicinal properties ... so once the effects finally kick in (come on, come one), I'll be fighting fit and back on my bike.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

a rainy weekend in Lahinch

Just catching up after having a short break away in the west of Ireland, in a little village called Lahinch in County Clare, which, as the song says, is a long, long way from (Clare) to here. Damp and grey for the first few days, unable to see the beautiful views, but there was nice food to be had and the Guinness was great.

And I didn't forget my commitment to the 365challenge ... I was first into the local pool four mornings in a row - I don't think they're used to early starters exactly, but the welcome was always warm and I got my 40 lengths in each day, so I'm still on track.

I'm writing this in Dublin now, having just arrived for tonight's Mighty Boosh gig, which Donna and I are looking forward to. My nephew, Peter, got the tickets, so he and Jenny are coming too. Should be a good night. Then a little more running around Ireland before back to Chester on Saturday, and back to the gym again on Sunday, probably.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

10 days in, and I need a holiday!

Things have been going great with the challenge, though I'd have liked to have covered a few more miles on the bike and river by now. But work has been busier again, and that's gotten in the way a little - what a pain! And now, I'm only going to bugger off and have a 10 day holiday in Ireland! What am I like?

Thing is, this will be my first break since I had my tumour removed a year ago, and believe me, I'm ready for one! I've been flat out at work since I returned on January 2nd, playing catch up a little, as I'd had 2.5 months off for the operation and follow-up radiotherapy - and when you work for yourself, having that amount of time off is not recommended. But the business is on track again, and as I said, I'm ready for a short break.

As for the challenge, I've got a good start on this, and I'll do some while I'm away too - I've found out that there is a health centre and pool near where we're staying for the middle part of the trip, so I'll get in the pool at least.

So keep checking n, I'll have updates from Ireland soon.

Monday, 8 September 2008

some tales of the 365'ers

I know I've been muttering that I want more people to take up the 365challenge to raise even more for Cancer Research UK, but I guess I should salute some of the people who have already started down the road to taking this on for themselves.

First to the starting line was Carl, the manager in the gym, who plans to run across America - just 3200 miles, he's taking the short route, I think! Anyway, he started off all gung-ho (he's ex-army), and by the end of the week, he'd only gone and given himself a hernia (not running, doing some of his weights work, I think). It looks like he'll be out for about a month - commiserations Carl, but I'm sure he'll come back stronger. Watch this space.

Then, tonight at the gym, Danielle told me that although she hates running, she is going to run 2.5 miles 5 days a week for 52 weeks -she reckons that'll be a marathon a month, but i reckon it's a little further actually, so we may need to work this out more clearly.

Anouska wants to run a marathon a month too, but is hoping to run the London marathon in reality also next April, bringing her goal to 13 marathons in 12 months. Fantastic.

Finally for tonight, Mark plans to run, cycle and row across Australia, from Perth to Sydney - just 2455 miles. He's on his way already, so wish him luck.

I'll have more stories of 365'ers as this blog goes along, so keep popping back to hear more ... and if you want to be included, just get in touch with thoughts on your own 365challenge.

How did it get to Monday ...?

Last week was a bit of a blur of activity on the 365challenge - well it was the launch week, I suppose. Two radio interviews and a press call for photos led to two radio interviews being broadcast, one newspaper putting the story on the front page, and another listing the story on their website. Not bad, if I say so myself! And though the interest arising out of this hasn't exactly been overwhelming, there have been messages of support and sponsorship coming through, so that's been great. I would still like to get more people taking up the challenge though, so there's more work to be done.

Then the weekend was busier than I expected, so, though I got to the gym, I didn't manage to cover quite as many miles as I'd have liked to - oh well, only 51 more weeks to go, how on earth will I fit it all in ... ?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

the madness continues

The madness continues with the 365challenge! I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve been told that I made the front page of the Midweek Chester Chronicle! If I can access the paper online, I’ll add a link to the website. I wonder what the main paper on Friday is going to do!

Then, on Tuesday (was that really just two days ago?), BBC Radio Merseyside called and requested an interview, which I did on Wednesday. I think it went well, good interviewer, she drew out the answers that helped me get my message across. I’m told that it will go out on Friday Sept 5th, in the Breakfast Show, between 8.15 and 8.30 am BST, if anyone wants to tune in. You can listen on line, but you need RealPlayer installed, which I haven’t, so I’ll be at the radiogram! The station link is: bbc_radio_merseyside, then click on Listen Live, if you’re interested.

But the great thing about all of this is that the 365challenge is getting noticed, the sponsorship is rolling in (over £1000 past my original target already), and Brenda is getting acknowledged for the great person that she was – I know her children are following events and are really pleased at the response – so thank you all from them. I really hope that the publicity helps bring some more people on board too, so we can boost the amount that we raise for this great charity even further. Please, if you are in any way moved to take this on, do get in touch. Together we can create a challenge that is doable AND impressive that will bring the support in. Come on, it’ll be fun.

And things continue apace with the challenge itself – I’ve been into the gym Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and have started to make a (small) dent in those miles. Aching a little, but feeling good to continue. I have taken today off, as I had a heavy day at work - early start and didn't finish until 6.30 - ran a workshop, so on my feet, talking for 4 hours. I think having a day off from all that physical effort is allowed, isn't it?

But I'll be there again tomorrow, I promise ...

Monday, 1 September 2008

365challenge is GO!

Day 1, and the 365challenge is up and running.

The press release did its job. The radio interview was broadcast on Dee 106.3 in each of the news bulletins (!) yesterday morning. Then, this morning, at the 'launch', two photographers from local papers showed up (they cover 4 papers between them), along with Jane, the Press Officer from Cancer Research UK (CRUK), and we had a bit of fun getting me posing on various bikes and rowing machines. Carl, the gym manager, got in on it too,as he's started his Run Across America today for his 365challenge too. Hopefully they'll get into this weeks various local weeklys.

Donna was along to take some photos as well, but we've had some PC problems today, so you'll have to wait for those. But Jane sent me a couple she took, hence the mug shot at the top of this posting.

Once the 'media' were happy, everyone left me to it, and I got on with my challenges. I managed a 32 Km (20 mile) cycle, rowed 5 Km (about 3.1 miles) and, oops, completed the 3 Peaks climb of 3.6 Km. I thought this last one would go quite quickly, but now I've done it, I feel a little guilty. I't's just one part of the overall challenge but maybe I'll have to add something else to ease my guilt. I didn't swim today - partly 'cos I was a little knackered, but also, there was a swimming lesson in the pool, and I just didn't fancy trying to work my way around them for half an hour. I'll swim tomorrow.

If you want to keep tabs on my progress, check out my track my progress page on the 365challenge website.

I also spent time in the gym talking to a few other members, telling them about the 365challenge and trying to encourage them to take it on too. A few took details away, so hopefully they will come on board. The more the merrier, I say.

And the support keeps pouring in. I very nearly made it to £3650 ahead of today, which I'd have loved to have done, but as I've hit £3500-odd, I'll not complain. I know there is more to be raised, and I'll probably have to set a new money target.

But as more people come on board to take the challenge too, I think that'll be where my focus goes - supporting them and finding more 365challengers. I've now got it in my head to bring 365 people along with me over the year, and, especially if CRUK get behind me on a national basis, I believe that is possible. If they raised just £1000 each, that could be £365000 for CRUK, and Brenda's name will be well and truly commemorated - but I don't think this will stop there. 365challenge has got legs, and I'm going to do all I can to make it as successful as possible for CRUK.

Friday, 29 August 2008

5 minutes of fame ...

The other day, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) asked me if I'd mind if they put out a press release to the local media, telling them about my 365challenge - they reckoned I had a "story to tell" that would interest people. I'm not overly crazy about getting my picture in the paper, but I am now pretty passionate about 365challenge and I want more people to get involved, so I said yes. They sent through the copy, and after a little editing, we agreed the content, and they sent it out. The goal is to get the local press along to the 'launch' on Monday (Sept 1st), so we can get coverage in the local papers.

Today, the interest went up a notch: the local radio station - Dee 106.3 - called to interview me about the 365challenge and my plans for fund-raising for CRUK. I'm not sure how I'll come across ... I think it went smoothly enough, but only hearing it back will tell. They're planning to put it out on Sunday morning, August 31st, between 8 and 12 in the morning, around the news bulletins on the hour. So ... tune your internet to and click on the 'Listen' link to hear how I got on. IF it goes well, I'll try to get a copy of the audio to put on the website. Nothing like a little promotional material to keep the interest going.

They've also asked me to keep them informed of my progress over the 365 year, so hopefully I'll be able to keep the 365challeng in the public eye (or ear) for longer, and generate even funds more for CRUK.

Donna's started calling me the Jimmy Saville of Chester ... a bit unnecessary, if you ask me!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

D-Day minus 5 ...

It's getting closer now ...just 5 days until I have to actually start this 365challenge. One of the therapists at my consulting rooms summed it up quite nicely, I thought ..."mental, mental, mental". Well, that might be a little strong, but I guess it is going to be a real challenge for me, and that's the whole point - I want to earn my sponsorship, and this is the best way I can think to do that.

What's really motivating though is that tonight I crossed the £3000 mark for sponsorship, and that's just phenomenal - in less than 3 weeks! Thank you to EVERYONE who has supported me so far, and the rest of you who are thinking about it, come on, you know it makes sense! I'd really love to reach my target before I kick this 365challenge off on Monday, but obviously that's out of my hands - it's over to you lot out there, so if you can, come on, make my day, week, month and year.

And be assured, I'll not simply stop when I hit that target, I plan to keep going over the year, and doing all I can to raise as much as I can. A lot of the extra effort will go into promoting the 365challenge idea far and wide, and getting others involved in taking their own challenges. Obviously, the more people I can encourage to raise money for CRUK, the greater the overall pot, and that can only be a "good thing". There is some interest, and I know that this will grow.

One person I spoke to today, Claire, is frightened of water. But she is planning to learn to swim as part of her challenge, and then, once she has, she's going to swim at least a mile a week for the rest of her 365challenge year. She reckoned that she'll take up to six months to learn to swim - I reckon she'll manage it sooner than that - but we've re-framed her 365challenge so that now she's planning to learn to swim and then swim the English Channel (22 miles) in her 365challenge year. How good does that sound - well worth supporting, eh? She told me that her grandmother died recently from cancer, and so did another relative, last year, I think, so when she saw my poster in the gym, she was inspired to take this on and now she's excited to be doing something in her grandmother's memory.

That's the kind of story that will make 365fchallenge the fund-raising success that I believe it can be.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Sand traps for CRUK

A friend I'd emailed about my 365challenge got in touch the other day. She loved the idea, but couldn't see herself taking it on - though she did become one of my 1%ers club!

Thing is, Sue's a golfer, and she was trying to think of a golfing angle for this fund-raising of mine, because she wants to support Cancer Research UK (CRUK) too. She mentioned how she'd recently been playing golf somewhere in Yorkshire and came across a bunker with a sign that informed people that if they landed in this particular bunker, they had to pay a forfeit when they returned to the clubhouse, and all monies collected would go to the Lady Captain's charity. I loved it! What a simple idea ... sure, some people will ignore the forfeit, but I know golfers - they are very charitable folk, and I'm sure that over the course of a year, those forfeits added up to a substantial amount.

So ... I called my brother, who is involved with a fairly large club in Ireland, and he's going to look into this as an idea that they could implement - and he immediately saw the sign working best on the bunkers (yes - plural) on the ninth green, RIGHT UNDER THE CLUBHOUSE TERRACE! Not an easy forfeit to avoid, eh?

And now I'm putting the idea out there to you, dear reader. Are you a golfer, or do you know someone in a club who could take the idea forward for you ... and help raise even more money for Cancer Research UK.

If you think it's something you could get involved with, please get in touch - leave a comment on this posting, with some contact details, and I'll give you some ideas about what you need to do next. Come on, it'll take a little effort, but could have a BIG outcome.

promoting 365challenge in the gym

I dropped into my gym the other day to speak to Carl, the gym manager. He's been excited about the idea since I first mentioned it to him a week ago, but now, as I had some small posters to give him to put up in the gym, and some business cards I'd had printed promoting 365challenge, he was totally sold. He started talking about getting the gym staff involved and running events in the club, and I was really fired up too.

When I saw him today, I'd had a t-shirt made up with the 365challenge logo and he was even more excited! He's been speaking to a lot of members, and says there are a lot of them who are thinking of doing the 365challenge too, so I should expect some emails soon. He's planning on taking it up himself - and is going to run across America with one of the other instructors - about 3000 miles! So, hopefully, this is going to work and people will be getting in touch soon so I'll get some 365challengers on board formally.

This idea might just take off ... watch this space.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

That's better!

Is it really a week since I last posted? I guess I've been busy, sorry.

The really good news is that the sponsorship has been moving ahead really well, and I'm already two thirds of the way to my total - and I haven't even started the challenge yet! I've had amazing support, and I know that there is more to come, so thank you to everyone who has dug deep so far, and to those of you meaning to get round to it, there's really no need to put it off, just log onto my Just Giving page and Bob's your uncle - LOL ;-).

The Cancer Research UK (CRUK) support person in this area, Liz, seems pretty pleased with how I've put things together, and is now looking to get me talking to their press officer to see if we can generate some interest in the 365challenge locally. She reckons that the papers will be interested in the human interest side of my story - what with me being a cancer sufferer in remission and the loss of my sister - but, while I'd like to promote 365challenge and CRUK, I'm a little wary of getting my mug into the papers. But ... it's a good cause, so maybe I could do it. Let's wait and see what the press people have to say.

The other aspect of this challenge is the challenge itself, of course. Last week, after my pathetic 20 length swim, I admit that I was a little concerned at my fitness. But since then, I've been into the gym several times and performed better. I've done a couple of my own version of the 1%ers when it comes to the cycling and the rowing - basically, I thought that if I try to make a point of knocking off at least 1% of the total distances whenever I use the bike or the rowing machine, that would be a good minimum for each visit and make the target very achievable. There will be some days I'll feel like doing more, so over time, I should see these challenges fall into place nicely.

And that's what I've been doing in training, and I'm very pleased with my efforts. I've been covering 16 KM (10 miles) on the bike in about 28 minutes, and 3.5 KM on the rowing machine 15 - 16 minutes, which I'm happy with at this point, but I really hope to see these times come down over the year. As for the swimming, I felt very good today doing a 40 length swim, with my arms only getting tired in the last 100 metres. I think I was inspired by watching the women's 10 KM open water swimming at the Olympics this morning - they were fantastic, arms stroking like metronomes. And what a finish! How hard must it be to lose by 2 seconds after 2 hours of flat-out swimming. Wonderful event ... but don't worry, I'll not be looking to take that on just yet!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Genie is out of the bottle ...

The Genie is well and truly out of the bottle now. I sent out a mass email today to quite a lot of people in my email address book, so there's no hiding any more ... I've got a hell of a busy year ahead, or I'll have some explaining to do!

Just a couple of days in, and I've already raised about a third of the target total - I've been completely overwhelmed by people's generosity, some of whom hardly know me, really. In fact, seeing as my nephew forwarded my email on to a group of his friends too, with a covering note explaining who I am (and quite how unfit I am - thanks, Peter), several of my sponsors DON'T know me at all, and live in a different country (my homeland, Ireland), but still want to support both me and this charity. It's very humbling.

And, just for info, it's quite interesting doing a mass emailing, especially when you've not been on top of your address book for a while. The number of "undeliverable email" and "address unknown" messages that I've had back would be enough for a good crowd at a local football match, but I guess at least it allows me to clear out the deadwood, so to speak. Some of them were addresses - and even names - that I didn't recognise, so now I have a streamlined list for the update emails that will inevitably follow over the coming months. You have been warned.

And you'd never believe how many people are on holidays! "Out of office" replies were fairly popular today too, but hey, I suppose it is August.

But the overall response continues to be very positive, so it was off to the gym again on the way home from work to continue my "preparation training" - it's actually a little bit worrying.

I was a bit knackered after 20 lengths in the pool today. As my goal will be at least 40 lengths per pool visit (that way I should knock off the channel swim in around 35 swims), I think I'll need a few more visits to get this swimming business down. I'm fairly confident that once I'm going regularly, I'll be able to increase the distances, because (time to let you in on a little secret), a couple of years ago, I did the channel swim for another charity, and by the end of about three months, I was doing 80 lengths quite comfortably. Now, considering that I was pretty much a non-swimmer prior to that, I was kind of pleased with myself about that. I had a couple of lessons before that challenge started and it really helped.

But since my six weeks of radiotherapy stopped at the turn of the year, the fact is I've been, shall we say, remiss when it came to exercising. I blame the consultant. All through my radiotherapy, I was going to the gym nearly every day, because I was feeling fine, but on the last treatment visit when I saw the consultant for a review, he commented that I was likely to feel tired for a little while, and suggested that maybe I should take it easy for a couple of weeks to allow myself to recover. That was January 2008 - and I took his advice so to heart that I didn't find my way back to the gym with any sort of frequency until about June, and even then it was only a couple of times a week. So the build up to the 365challenge is noticeable! But, I'm committed (some of my sponsors seem to think that I SHOULD be committed), and I am really up for this now.

I hope I can do all you supporters justice.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

starting to let people know ....

Today was the first day that I've 'properly' made my plans public on a wider scale. I've spoken to some friends about the challenge, and the feedback's been good, but today I sent out my first email to friends and family looking for their support.

It was a small group email, to try to get some early sponsorship onto my
Just Giving site, so that when I do a larger emailing later this week, when people visit the site, they're not put off by having to be the first to sponsor me and they get some idea of what is an average amount to donate.

I think this is always a bit of a problem for people, so I decided to help out by suggesting that people might like to donate 1% of my total goal - £36.50 - I explained that that equates to 70 pence a week for the year of the challenge. And that if they felt that they could support me to this extent, then I'd give them a name check on my
website - and today I created a page to do just that - ever the optimist!

Well ... it's certainly caught the imagination and the early support has been fantastic. Less than 12 hours in, and I've got 12 members of my new 1%ers club - everyone who has donated today, donated at least the 1%, so I've already hit over £450. I've been totally blown away by the response and lovely messages of support I've had so far. And I know now that it can only get better! I hope others aren't put off from may donating smaller amounts - 'cos every donation counts - but it's been a great start.

So the sponsorship is off the blocks good and proper - and I've still got 18 days to go before I start properly. Still got a lot of work to do both in the gym, to get fitter in time for the challenge, and elsewhere, to promote this idea more widely. There's still interest from the gym - and while the meeting with Cancer Research UK has been put off until next Monday, they are still keen to support me.

And I've heard thru the grapevine that a new friend is very keen on taking up the challenge too ... so Mark (or Becca, if you read this first), get in touch and let's get planning. The more the merrier, I say. I'd love to get at least 10 people taking the 365challenge for Cancer Research - I'll be over the moon, and together, we could blow my target of £3650 happily out of the water!

Come on, people, you know that you want to!