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.