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!