Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Pure Gold ... Beverley Knight blows me away ...

If you visit here now and again, you'll know that I'm a bit of an advocate for Twitter - it's such a great way to connect with people and I've made lots of friends for the 365challenge through my tweets.

Well, one of the friends I've connected with is the soul singer,
Beverley Knight. Through tweets of friends of friends, over time, she'd heard about my 365challenge and been kind enough to pass my message on to others on Twitter through what we call Re-Tweets ... listen, if you're not into it, don't worry, it just is what it is, and as a communication tool, it is great fun ... so anyway, I'd tweet about something in response to a comment Beverley might make, or she'd respond to one of mine - one time, I think she was at a function and her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers were playing a crucial game, so I and a couple of others kept her in the loop over how the game was going (they won and got promoted), and she was quite happy about that! It's that kind of place!

When she started tweeting about her up-coming tour, I decided that as she was coming to Liverpool, which is about 30 miles away, I'd take Donna and I managed to get some tickets for last night, November 10th, at the Liverpool Philharmonic, a really lovely venue. So I tweeted BK, told her we were coming, and wished her well for the show.

As a little extra, I thought I'd also send a 365challenge t-shirt backstage as a "thank you" for her support and so when we got there (after a bit of hassle finding somewhere to park, I must say), I asked one of the venue staff if they could get the package backstage to Beverley, and they dutifully took it away, and we made our way to our seat (in a box, no less ... no really, it was a good price, and I thought it would be fun).

The support band were excellent - Mamas Gun - a really tight, funky outfit who are worth a listen, I promise. Then, it was show time, and little Beverley came on with both guns blazing. High energy, high powered show from the start, with the whole place on its feet, singing and dancing. Brilliant.

Then, after about 30 minutes, she slowed it down, the band left the stage, leaving just BK up front with her keyboard player as accompaniment. And she started talking to us ...

"... this next song is dedicated to a woman I've never met, who is no longer with us ... but through the power of Twitter, I know her brother" (Gulp, what's this, surely not ...) ... "Colin ... who is doing amazing things through his 365challenge to raise money for Cancer Research UK" (audience cheering, Colin going "Oh my God!!!") ... "I don't know where you are sitting Colin, but this is for Brenda" ... (Colin totally stunned, Donna staring at me, going "Did you know she was going to do that? Me: "No ...") ... and then the wonderfully generous and thoughtful Miss Beverley Knight launched into a beautiful version of her song "Gold", from her 2002 album, "Who I Am". Please click through and listen, it's a beautiful song, and in the context of last night, with a truly stunning live performance, I have to admit to sitting there with tears in my eyes ... Brenda would have loved it!

And it got a standing ovation!

The rest of the show was superb, she worked that audience, sang her heart out for an hour and a half, and I'm not sure she actually wanted to stop, but all good things must end, and the show closed with the equally great "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda".

Donna said it first, though i was thinking it "You have to go and say hello and thank her for that". I wanted to as well, because
what she had just done meant so much to me, so I went down to the side of the stage and tried to get word back to her that I was there. We ended up being shifted outside to the stage door, where there were a few autograph hunters waiting too, and I managed to tweet with Beverley to let her know that I was still around. However, we ended up waiting quite a long time, as she had some promotional things she had to do, but we both agreed that we should wait.

Eventually, she came out. I waited while she signed autographs and then introduced myself, to be greeted by a huge BK smile. Her manager was trying to get her away to her car, but she was saying, "No, this is Colin, the 365 guy, I sang a song for his sister tonight" ... we moved back to the window for some light and Donna snatched a couple of photos on her iPhone (it's a bit dark, I know ... of all the nights not to have her compact camera with her!), and then Beverley was being ushered away, calling over her shoulder that she'd tweet me!

Well, it certainly was a night to remember ... thanks to the lovely BK!

And today, true to her word, we've been tweeting away, and now even Donna has gotten into the picture, with BK now following her on twitter too, and commenting on her photo, which Donna put up earlier on her Blog (the title refers to the fact that she got her photo taken with Vincent Simone from Strictly Come Dancing on Sunday!).

Today has been quite special too, as I kept thinking about how generous BK was to do something like that ... I know it took no effort really on her part, but it's the fact that she DID it and wanted to do it, as she said in a tweet today, "to honour Brenda".

What a special person you are, BK. Thank you.

PS - BK tells me the SMALL t-shirt I sent through to her was HUGE on her ... well she is just Pixie-sized!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Recognition for the 365challenge ... slowly, slowly, moving forward

About a week ago, the 365challenge got itself a pretty nice chunk of recognition by the fund-raising community ... and I wasn't even there to be my usual pain in the arse to promote it to them!

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Jon Waddingham, a Charity Champion with Justgiving, and someone I'd linked up with through Twitter in the early days of promoting the 365challenge. He explained that he and someone for Cancer Research UK were giving a presentation somewhere on the potential for using social media in fund-raising, and he wanted to get some of my thoughts, as I've had some success with this. Ever happy to oblige (and plug the 365challenge), I knocked off an email to him with feedback on my experiences, and, as an afterthought, asked him to let me know if it was the sort of thing he was after, or of any help to him.

Turns out, he liked it, and last week, he tweeted me to let me know that the presentation had gone very well. Oh, by the way, the presentation was actually a workshop, at the 29th International Fund-raising Congress, in Holland, an event that attracts hundreds of charity professionals from around the world. And his co-presenter was Bryan Miller, Head of Strategy and Consumer Insight with Cancer Research UK!

The workshop was called "Understanding the new breed of digital donors and how to maximise your fund-raising through their networks". You can see the slides from the presentation here, but if you just want to get to the 365challenge/Colin bit, go to slide 68 and forward from there (the whole thing is worth a look though, so let me know what you think).

Anyway, Jon told me that they sent everyone away to "telling people to try & find their own Colin" and "I think your example has inspired fundraisers from around the world! :D" ... not getting big-headed of course ... I mean, me? GET IN!

Oh, and tomorrow I'm off to do some promotion of my own, presenting the 365challenge to the Cancer Research UK Liverpool Supporter's Conference (yes, in Liverpool ... doh!).

See, I'm sort of commited to this thing now, and I know it's an idea that WILL bring funds in for CRUK, and so maybe I am a little chuffed about the attention its getting, because I believe it IS worth it ... but I'll never be big-headed (grins)!

The Rhyl Run 10K for CRUK

So, my first race in 25 years finally happened. I took on the Rhyl RUN 10K for Cancer Research UK this morning. It was a beautiful day, but a little windy here in Chester as we set out (Donna came for moral support and photos). It was still beautiful and sunny at Rhyl, but the light Chester breeze ahd become a full-on Westerly gale! Well, it felt like it at times.

I met up with Fred, who is doing her own 365challenge, and two of her friends, George and Craig, so we planned to run together. While we were waiting for the start, I took the opportunity to go around the other runners promoting the 365challenge, handing out cards and directing people to check out the website later on ... hopefully I'll pick up a few new 365ers!

Start time came along, and we were off. The route was a fl
at, sea-front promenade, out and back, from Rhyl to Prestatyn. The boys took off at a fair pace, so Fred and I settled in to our own race together. The pace was comfortable, I thought, but maybe a little faster than Fred had planned, so as we came towards the halfway mark, we'd slowed a little.

We made the turn at 5 Km in 27 minutes, on course for around a 55 minute finish, which I felt was a good target, but then BAM! We were hit head-on by that wind! It had probably helped a little on the outward leg, but wow, running into it was a different matter all together. I suggested Fred run behind me for some relief from the wind, but that didn't help her too much, and somewhere before the 6Km marker, I lost sight of her (she's only little, she was no match for that wind!).

So, I decided to push on as best I could in the wind, and finished in 59 minutes. I was a bit disappointed with that time, given that I've run 56 minutes in training, but I can understand why with those conditions ... I'll do better next time, eh?

Oh, and Fred didn't lose too much ground, by the way, she finished in 64 minutes.

I made some more 365challenge connections on the way around, so here's hoping some of them feel inspired to take it on now too. Overall, it was a very enjoyable day, if you consider running in a gale while being sand-blasted, to be enjoyable (it takes all sorts)!

A great return to running after all that time away, and no problems with my hip, which was the icing on the cake. Onwards and upwards, as they say ... planning to start training for a half-marathon next!

Friday, 23 October 2009

it was 25 years ago today ...

October 23rd 1984 ... 25 years ago today ... I was three days away from the biggest physical undertaking of my life. Over two years of preparation was coming to a head finally, injuries had been endured, physio had been applied, I'd suffered through a four week running embargo while a hip injury had time to recover (just weeks before the off), I'd been through registration, and now ... I was just counting down the days and hours to the moment I would cross the start line at the Dublin City Marathon.

In the eighties, marathon running had come of age. It was the distance to aspire to for anyone who loved distance running. I had discovered running a few years earlier as a way of keeping fit for my weekend hiking adventures in the Dublin mountains, and within a relatively short time, I was running 3, 4, 5 nights a week with like-minded eejits who met on dark evenings at Belgrave Square, between Rathmines and Ranelagh in Dublin, to venture off for 5, 10, 15 mile runs around the city.

The Dublin marathon had started in 1980, and had quickly caught the imagination. I was tempted to go for it in 1983, but it didn't happen, so, when I gained my place in the 1984 line-up, nothing was going to stop me. Training runs happened most nights by this stage, with 2 hour jaunts being nothing special ... I was loving it. I remember at the time crying off from a run so I could go out for a drink with some friends one night ... and sitting there feeling miserable, knowing that I should have been running instead ... that's when I began to wonder if maybe I had a problem ... but that's another story!

The build-up was intense, exciting ... I was going to run 26.2 miles, for heaven's sake ... so when I began to have pain in my hip, I ignored it: I had a marathon to train for. But it wouldn't go away, and eventually I had to give in and go and see a sports physio (thin on the ground back then) about it. Her diagnosis ... severe pronation of the left foot, rolling outwards as I placed it, due to running in shoes past their best (what did I know about these things back then?), resulting in a referred problem to the hip. Treatable, yes, but lengthy rest from running absolutely required, and no, it didn't matter that my first marathon was only a month away ... NO RUNNING!

Even now, as I write this, I can still hear the song of the moment that always seemed to be on the radio as I lay on the treatment table ... John Waite's Missing You ... wow, it's amazing how it all comes back ...

Anyway, I'd come through the treatment and enforced rest (most of it, anyway), and in 3 days time, I was going to run a marathon!

And I did ... and I enjoyed most of it, but my lack of running in that last month took its toll, as did the injury, and at around 22 miles, it was all hurting again ... but I finished ... not in the 3.5 hours I'd hope for, but in just over 4 hours (4.04) ... I'd done it!

But afterwards, my hip just wasn't the same. I got back out running soon after the marathon, but after a few miles, my hip was hurting and I'd then have to limp home. Eventually, I had to make a decision ... and it was to give up running. Not being able to run more than three miles was incredibly frustrating after being able to run for 15 miles or more regularly, and the prolonged injury was getting in the way of my hill walking, so running had to go.

Over the years, I occasionally dipped my toe back into the running world ... starting out again, building up to three mile runs, and then after a few weeks of this ... ping! Something seemed to go in my hip and I'd be hobbling again. I had to accept that I couldn't run, so I put my energies into other activities ... cycling, gym, korfball ... various efforts over the years to get and stay fit ... but I always missed and longed for running.

Then, after my brush with cancer, I created the 365challenge for Cancer Research UK. You may have noticed that none of the challenges involved running initially, but when I had completed my Lands End to John O'Groats ride, my channel swim, the three peaks (twice) and rowed the Thames, I found I still had 2 months of my 365challange year left ...

So I thought I'd try to run again. But before I got too far, I consulted a specialist about my hip. And to my great relief, he diagnosed a different problem, one that was manageable with a little physio and a lot of regular stretching ... so ... I got to run again!

I took on a new final challenge, to run the length of Hadrian's Wall, and over those two months, with all that stretching, I discovered I COULD run again ... and it felt just great!

Since I finished the 365challenge, I've continued running, and this Sunday, almost 25 years later TO THE DAY, I'm tackling my first race since that Dublin marathon in 1984, the Rhyl 10K, part of the CRUK Run 10K series.

Can't wait! Come along if you can - Sunday October 25th at 11.30.

Let's hope it's not hip, hip, oh heck!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Thanks everyone who supported the 300mile guys ...

Remember EdTwestival and my plea in September for support for the 300mile guys, as they sought to raise funds for CLIC Sargent?

Well, I meant to tell you that they won the nomination to be the charity to benefit from the event, and as a result gained a £3400 donation to their fund. Brilliant, well done Lee and Garry, and thanks to everyone who responded.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Where does the time go ...?

I really don't know the answer to that poser. I last blogged on August 31st, so it's over a month since I finished my 365challenge for CRUK and, while I know I wanted to have a little rest when I finished, I hadn't meant to disappear so completely! And it's not as if there hasn't been anything to blog about, that's for sure!

Where to start? Okay, you all know that I finished my 365challenge on August 31st, and as of today, my personal fund-raising pot has grown to £7980.75 - which is very healthy, but I still want to see if I can grow it to £10K over the coming weeks/months. As a group, the 365ers have raised just short of £24K to date, and with more 365ers coming on board soon, and several of the existing group still collecting sponsorship, that figure can only continue to grow, which is very exciting.

After I finished my 365challenge year, I did actually do NOTHING for about 10 days. I hadn't intended to stop so completely, but circumstances got in the way, and it was suddenly getting towards the middle of September. So, to motivate myself back into action, I only went and signed up to run the Rhyl Run10K for CRUK at the end of October! I'd been enjoying my newly re-found ability to run, so this seemed like a good idea at the time. But training hasn't been as fluid and consistent as I'd like it to have been, as I'm also just coming to the end of two weeks holiday from work which has involved time in London and the Lake District, and while I've attempted to get some runs in (including a lovely early morning run in Hyde Park), it's not been quite as structured an approach to preparation as I'd have liked. So I now have about 3 weeks until my 10K and quite a lot of running to fit in before it happens ... wish me luck.

I've also been enjoying being back in the mountains, an interest re-ignited by the 3 Peaks part of my 365challenge (that thing has a lot to answer for).

In September, I've managed a hike up Y Garn in Snowdonia, with Susie, our Golden Labrador (her first excursion into the hills, and one that will be repeated, but maybe not every time, as she kept trying to pull me over sharp edges!), and, while in the Lake District, I did a 12 mile hike around the Fairfield Horseshoe above Ambleside, where we stayed, while I tested the water on a newly emerging challenge ... I'm thinking of tackling the Wainwrights, all 214 peaks in the Lake District above 1000ft. My first thoughts on this was that it would be a good, on-going project to focus on over a period of maybe 5 - 10 years (the Lake District is about 110 miles from my home, so it's not a totally straightforward day trip if I want to climb a bunch of hills and get back for supper!). However, after meeting a guy on the hills last week who was 40 peaks into his 5th round ... THIS YEAR ... my plan seems a little feeble. I'll have to rethink.

September also saw not one but two reunions: the first the 30 year reunion of my final year at school back home in Monaghan; the second the 15 year reunion of the group I did my clinical psychology training with in Bangor, North Wales. Both went off really well, but as I've kept in regular touch with most of my clinical colleagues over the years, it was meeting up with my old school mates, most of whom I hadn't seen for those 30 years in between, that was the most surprising. It really is strange to walk into a bar and see so many faces that you recognise after so many years away. Really good to catch up with them and hopefully it won't be so long again til the next time.

Of course, the 365challenge and Cancer Research UK haven't been forgotten either. I attended a training session with CRUK in Manchester in September to become a volunteer speaker for the charity and I hope to take on a series of talks for them over the coming year, starting off with a couple of presentations at up-coming volunteer conferences this month and next, where I can plug the 365challenge further.

At the training, I met Mark Bristow, another volunteer speaker, and he contacted me just the other day to kick around some ideas about how he and his business can help promote the 365challenge too ... hopefully I'll have some more news on this soon.

As well as Mark, I've been contacted by three or four other potential 365ers in September, and I hope that as they get their plans sorted out, I can let everyone on here know what they'll be getting up to. It is so good to hear from total strangers who have been grabbed by the concept and want to commit their time and effort to this important cause under the 365challenge banner.

So you see ... I've not been idle! There is lots too that I've not mentioned, like cruising on the Thames and Lake Windermere, visiting one of Brenda's daughters, Emma, in London, or getting along to support 365er Fred at her first full triathalon, but hey, there is only so much time in the day, isn't there?

Oh, maybe that's where the month has gone ...

Saturday, 29 August 2009

*** Blog Post 100 *** 365challenge: DONE!

Well readers, welcome to my 100th blog post - this could be a long one!

I started this blog in August 2008, as I was starting out on my 365challenge for Cancer Research UK, and over the year, I've done my best to keep you informed of all the developments in my own 365challenge, as well as what's been happening as I try to develop the 365challenge concept beyond myself and bring more and more 365ers on board to help raise even more money for this vital cause.

It has been a truly wonderful year, with lots of "ups" and no "downs" that I can recall, which is great. Indeed, as I look back over it, I'd have to say that it has gone better than I could have possibly expected, and the icing on the cake for this particular posting is that I can very happily announce that this morning, August 29th 2009, 363 days into my 365challenge, I have completed my final 5 Km run to achieve my final challenge target of running the 135 Km distance that marks the length of Hadrian's Wall, my 6th and final challenge. Whoop Whoop!! (okay, I'll keep it down now, sorry).

It is hard to believe that it was only a little over a year ago, and just after we lost my sister, Brenda, to cancer, in July 2008, that I began to develop an idea to raise some money to help in the fight against cancer. The 365challenge started from my desire to do something that would capture the attention of potential sponsors - I felt that it had to be BIGGER than a one-off sponsored walk or run. It had to be something that showed just how seriously I was taking this cause and that I was going to give my all to earn the support of my sponsors.

When I put out the word that I was going to climb the 3 peaks, cycle the length of the UK, row the length of the Thames and swim the Channel to raise money for Cancer Research UK, well, it was always going to get people's attention, wasn't it? (I've since added a second round of the 3 peaks, and running the width of the country, along Hadrian's wall). That everyone then didn't drift off mildly annoyed with me, calling me a chancer and conman when I explained that I was going to complete these challenges over the course of my 365challenge year, accumulating mileage over my regular gym visits, is something for which I am truly grateful to you all. But that so many of you thought this was a flash of true inspiration and then queued up to sponsor me has been so rewarding and inspiring for me: I have felt truly humbled by the response.

That some of you then asked if you could play too has been further evidence to me that there are a lot of wonderful and committed people out there who were just looking for the right idea to come along to allow them to be part of the battle against cancer too. You are all heroes in my book, thank you for letting me know you.

And that has been a feature of this last year: I have encountered many wonderful, selfless people, who have given of themselves to support me and the 365challenge: from Nick and Paul with my website and logo, to all of the current and pending 365ers, to the CRUK staff who have encouraged and brainstormed with me on how we can make the 365challenge even bigger, and on to my family and friends who have been behind me from Day 1. There are a number of these people I have never met - we exchange emails now and again and I try to encourage them in their efforts - and this has been fantastic that they want to do keep doing their bit: they have gotten on with doing what they can to make a difference, and together we ARE making a difference!

So far, with just 8 x 365ers running active Justgiving pages, we have raised over £23000 for CRUK. With around another 10 x 365ers still putting their challenges and fund-raising pages together, there is absolutely no reason why this figure won't grow substantially. But of course, I WANT MORE! And with my own 365challenge ending, I now have some more time to devote to supporting the 365ers and working to find more and more people to take their own 365challenges for CRUK. The charity themselves continue to work with me and behind the scenes on ways that the 365challenge can fit into their grand plans too, so together, over time, I am positive that the 365challenge WILL play an important role in the fund-raising that is undertaken to support CRUK.

The end of my personal 365challenge will not see the end of my work for the 365challenge and CRUK. I'm already booked on a training afternoon to learn about being an ambassador for CRUK, speaking on their behalf to various groups, and I will be presenting the 365challenge to several conferences for CRUK later in the year. This thing has legs, so bear with me and keep popping back here to see what else I get up to for the cause.

The title of this blog contains a subtitle: "tracking my charity fund-raising efforts over 365 days" ... I will now alter this to add the words "and beyond" ... watch this space!

Friday, 21 August 2009

And while I'm playing catch-up ... Anouska's LEJOG success

As I am making some time to get my blogging up-to-date, I realise that I have been extremely remiss about telling you about the wonderful effort that one of the 365ers, Anouska, has been putting in for her 365challenge, CRUK, and most especially, the memory of her very good friend, Debbie, who lost her battle with cancer at just 27 years old.

From when she first heard of the 365challenge, Anouska was IN! She was looking for something that would do justice to Debbie's memory and support cancer research, so when she saw my poster in the gym, she was one of the first people to call me, asking to take part too. She launched within weeks of me starting my 365challenge, and she set herself some impressive challenges: run a marathon a month for a year, then add on the Edinburgh marathon for real too, swim the length of the River Dee (110 Km), and for good measure, cycle the Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) route FOR REAL ... all 1600 Km of it!

Well, she's blown the marathons out of the water ... having already completed the equivalent of 16 marathons (she got a little carried away, I think), including the Edinburgh race in May (read more here). Her focus for the final phase of her 365challenge is her swim, which she is about a third of the way through, but the point of this blog posting is to let you know that this wonderful lady has just spent her summer holidays on the road, completing the ride from Lands End to John O'Groats (along with 5 friends, and a valiant support team - GO ROB!), all 1600 Km/1000 miles, in just 13 days.

Rob, her fiancé, blogged about the trip as it was happening, so I'll happily refer you to the LEJOGGLER blog for all the gory details (the tale of Anouska's eye on Day 9, with accompanying gruesome photos on Flickr, is one that will haunt you .... ;-P), but I have to acknowledge Anouska's wonderful achievement within these pages too.

You see, before she decided to take on this 365challenge thingy, Anouska had never ridden a "proper" road bike before, and she'd certainly never undertaken any distance cycle rides. When she heard that one of her friends was planning the LEJOG ride this year, it just fitted in with her extreme challenges plan for her 365challenge, so she signed up for that from the off. And then had to get some kit and training in pretty quickly, which she obviously managed well, because when they all set out on July 25th for the real thing, she was as ready for it as any of them!

Together, they put in some serious mileage every day for the two weeks, through terrible rain in the early days, over energy-sapping hills throughout (but most notably in the South West, it seems, which was a bit of a surprise), and despite the aforementioned injury, she and the rest of the LEJOGGLERS completed the distance successfully and in good spirits (and indulged in even better spirits later on, I suspect, as it took Rob several days to add his final blog update!!!).

By the way, Anouska is the most successful of the 365eers to date on the fund-raising front, having brought in a staggering £9931 in sponsorship already (by August 21st 2009) ... and I am totally confident in her ability to break the £10K mark by the end of her 365challenge too. If you want to help her chip away at the final £69 needed to hit that target, you can sponsor her on her JustGiving page here ... go on, she is most definitely earning all of your support ... and in the process, doing something incredible in the memory of her friend, Debbie ... GO ANOUSKA!

em ... I forgot to mention ...

You know how it is ... you all have busy lives, so I'm sure you'll understand how, sometimes, something you meant to do just slips your mind ...

Well, I suppose I should have mentioned this around the time it happened, but it just got by-passed, what with building up the kms for my 365challenge, work and sorting out the day to day challenges of life in general ... thing is, I had my (nearly) 2 year post-op review with my oncologist on August 6th (yes, that long ago), and the sooo good news is that the X-rays were all clear, my arm looks and feels good, and he doesn't want to see me now for SIX months! I was on a 4 monthly check-up cycle, but as it's all looking so well, he's happy to bump me onto the twice yearly cycle, which will last for three years, and then, all going to plan, which I am sure it will, it'll just be annual reviews from then on ...

Kinda pleased ... so forgive my tardiness in sharing ...!
Feel free to comment!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

the finish line is in sight ...

It's hard to believe, but the end of my 365challenge is getting closer and closer ... just 12 days to go! And I'm well on course to finish my additional challenge, running the length of Hadrian's Wall, with just 14 Km left of the 135 Km total.

I really wasn't sure that I'd be able to run at all, given my old injury history, but thanks to physiotherapy and extensive stretching exercises before and after my runs. I have been running pain-free again, and I am now really hopeful that running can be a part of my life again. It may sound strange to those of you who don't run, but as running used to be such a part of my life many years ago, the feeling of being able to get out there and run free is wonderful!

And tonight, less than two months after starting back into running, and just because it felt soooo good to be jogging along at a comfortable pace (quite a gentle 9 Km/hr), I just kept going ... I was aiming for 6 Km, but then thought I'd go for 8 Km, as I felt good ... and then thought I'd try to go for 60 minutes, just to see if I could! And then I thought, hey, I've managed 9 Km, so may as well go for 10 Km ... so I DID! 10 Km in 66 minutes ... not spectacular, but wow, it felt good!

And, as I said, it left me with just 14 Km to go ... which should be doable in 2 more visits. Brilliant!

And once it's all done ...? There will be a lot more to come from the 365challenge ... maybe not too much on the physical activity front (though a 10K or two may be beckinong now), but I plan to dedicate more time now to developing the 365challenge and bringing more people on board ... so watch this space!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

brief meeting with a comedy hero ...

Today, as I was just getting to the end of my day in the office, I happened to check in on Twitter to see what people were tweeting about, only to find that one of my comedy heroes was just a couple of miles away, continuing his epic trek for Sport Relief ...

What am I on about, eh? Well, you see, a little while ago,
Sport Relief asked the wonderful Eddie Izzard if he fancied taking on some sort of challenge for their charity. Not only did he say "yes", but he decided that he wanted to run from London to Cardiff to Belfast to Edinburgh to London again, taking in all four capitals in the UK, running around 30 miles a day, 6 days a week, for 7 weeks! Instead of carting him away to have his head read, Sport Relief said "Okay", so that's what he's currently doing! And remember, he's a comedian, not a runner, so this is a MAJOR undertaking!

He started at the end of July, I believe, and this is his 14th marathon in 16 days of his trek,(!!!) and though I was aware of what he was doing (through Twitter - he's
@eddieizzard), I hadn't really registered where he might be on his run until this afternoon. So when he tweeted that he was on the A41, heading out of Chester, and he'd tagged on a map showing he was just a couple of miles away, I figured I had to go along and cheer him on his way.

I caught up with him at a place called Mostyn, on the edge of Chester, and pulled over so I could cheer him along. Eddie was running all on his own, with just a St George's Cross flag for company (he's going to carry each country's flag while he is in that country during his run). I jumped out of the car and waved to him as he approached on the other side of the road. It was a hot afternoon, so I asked him if he needed any water. He ran over to me to see what was on offer, and I produced a 1L bottle of water. Sadly, he felt this was too large for him to carry on his way, but he figured he'd be linking up with his support car shortly, so he'd just keep going. However, he was more than happy to pose for a quick photo and a chat about how he's been finding it all - read his blog to learn more, but as I said, it's a major undertaking. He seemed in great spirits and, once we'd shook hands and I'd wished him luck and safe running, he went on his merry way!

He's a total star, as well as being totally down to earth. I'm full of admiration for what he's attempting ... I went from waving him off to the gym to run just 5 miles as part of my
365challenge for Cancer Research UK today, and found THAT pretty hard going, so how he is keeping going, I have no idea. I'd love to have Eddie on board as a 365er, but I guess he's kind of committed to other things ...

But ... his is an amazing effort and worthy of any support that you can put his way ... you can sponsor Eddie by clicking through on this link ... believe me, he IS earning your support! Eddie, if you ever read this, may I wish you a traditional saying from the Emerald Isle to ease you on your way ... may the road rise up to meet you!

Oh, and Eddie, get that support team of yours to buy you a camelbak so you can have some water with you while you're out there on your own!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

stretch that iliotibial band ...

You may remember a couple of posts ago, I explained why I don't run these days ... you can read the story here, but essentially it linked back to an injury from 25 years ago when I hurt my hip running the Dublin marathon in worn shoes ... or that was the problem at the time, and I thought that it was a recurrence of this injury that has thwarted (I like that word ... thWARTed) my infrequent efforts to get back running over the years.

Well, it turns out that, while that injury didn't help, it seems that the real problem is just that I've probably got Trochanteric Bursitis! Oohhh, that explains it!

Okay, I hadn't a clue what it meant either ... but when I decided to take on a running element to my challenge, and had quickly got my running up to 5 Km about four times a week, I was acutely aware that in the past, running that sort of distance would lead to problems, and already I could feel a niggly ache in my left hip again. So I decided to go and see someone about it.

My GP referred me to an orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Andrew Phillipson at a local sports injury clinic, and within a few short minutes of history-taking and hip-poking, he was confidently telling me what he reckoned was wrong ... and, more importantly, how to fix it.

Essentially, Trochanteric Bursitis is characterized by painful inflammation of the bursa that is located just superficial to the greater trochanter of the femur ... okay, put more simply, there's something rubbing that sits across my hip bone (not entirely medically accurate, but it'll do), and this has become inflamed from the repetitive movement of running - very common in that breed, apparently. And the simplest and first stage of treatment is physiotherapy, to help stretch the iliotibial band (but you already knew that, didn't you), so that it isn't as tight and is less likely to rub the bursa - simples! If that works, then regular stretching should be enough to ensure that my old aching hip (and long-term excuse for not running) will be sorted!

If that doesn't work, Mr Phillipson can give me an injection to reduce the inflammation, but hopefully that'll not be needed if I'm a good boy and do my stretching! I've an appointment with his physio on Monday (forgive me Phil, if you see this, but it was just easy keeping it all in-house). I've already found some rehabilitation exercises on-line that I've begun anyway, so fingers crossed!

I'm taking a few days off running just to get the stretching started and let the hip settle, but as I've only got 35 days of my 365challenge year to go (yikes!), and still 86 Km of Hadrian's Wall to run, I promise I'll be back at it again by the end of the week.

Wish me luck ...

Friday, 24 July 2009

Anouska tackles the LEJOG

Anouska, one of the early adopters of the 365challenge for Cancer Research UK, is at it again!

Anouska took on the 365challenge, starting last October, to commemorate her best friend, Debbie, who died aged just 27. Since then, she's already run the equivalent of 16(!) marathons, including actually completing the Edinburgh marathon on one of the hottest days of the year so far - read that story here - and check out Anouska's 365 website here.

But is that enough for a 365er ... Hell no! You can't keep this girl down!

Tomorrow (July 25th), she's only starting off on the 1600 Km cycle ride that is the Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) ride, from the southern-most part of England to Scotland's most northern-most point - and she's not pratting about like me, doing it over time on a stationery bike ... oh no, she's doing the real thing, with a bunch of friends, taking to the road and planning to complete the trip in 12 days!

Wonderful! And if I tell you that she's pretty much a novice cyclist, I hope you can appreciate just how big an undertaking this is for her - she only really got her bike and started training for this earlier this year, and already, she's tackling the BIG ONE.

You can read updates on her progress on the blog that's been set up to support this adventure - LeJoggler - which is being maintained by her fiancé, Rob, who, Tweeters amongst you, can follow on Twitter as @robyouds

And if you want to support Anouska's immense efforts for CRUK, please do visit her Justgiving page and make a donation ... she's already the most successful 365er on the sponsorship front, and has set herself a target of £10000, which she is not far off hitting ... I truly believe that she will blow this figure out of the water, but do feel free to give her a hand along the way!

Go Anouska, I'm totally over the moon at all the effort you've put into this - body and soul - and I KNOW that Debbie would be so proud of you ... have a great LEJOG, and I'll look forward to meeting up when you get back to salute you!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Now what have I gone and done ...?

I probably should have left it at that: all four of my original 365challenges completed, with even an extra one thrown in for good measure (climbing the 3 Peaks in the flesh, remember ... keep up!), within 10 months of starting. That's not half bad, now, is it? I should have just left it there, really, don't you think ... I'd done enough to earn all of your sponsorship, hadn't I?

But over the 10 months, clearly I've gotten fitter (and stupider), and, me being me, I couldn't just stop with still 2 months of my 365challenge year to go. So I've only gone a settled on a final challenge - to run the width of the island!

It's not complete lunacy - I've chosen Hadrian's Wall as my route: it's probably the narrowest part of the island (I'm not a complete numpty), but, the thing is, I've not been able to run much for years because of an injury I picked up - running! The Dublin marathon! (and I can hardly believe this next bit ...) 25 YEARS AGO!!!

It left me able only to run about 3 miles/5 KM at a time (I was used to regular long distance runs of 10+ miles for several years up to that) before my hip would sort of "twang" and that would be me floored for days or weeks before I could run again. As you might imagine, that got old (and painful) very quickly. So ... I gave up running! You see, at that time, 3 miles was just a warm-up and having to stop at that point just was so very, very frustrating, I couldn't face it any more, so pretty much stopped running at that point. I made a few efforts again over the years, but then my hip would go again, and, well, it just wasn't worth it.

So ... although I've been back in the gym for the past year, I've not been running - look at my original 365challenges: no running for me, no sir! I'm certainly fitter with all that cardiovascular exercise I've been doing over the past 10 months on the bike, step machine, rower and in the pool or on the mountains, but running? Nah, nothing.

It makes sense then, clearly, that I chose a final 365challenge that means I have to run 84 miles/135 KM! WHAT WAS I THINKING? And ... with the 59-odd days I had left to complete my 365challenge year when I chose it, that meant I had a lot of running to pack in! I'd tested the water (or should I say, hip) with a few 1 KM jogs, followed by a 3 KM run last week, which seemed to go okay. I guess with all that leg-work on the other challenges, I've got a certain level of fitness in my legs and lungs to be fit enough for this part of my 365challenge, but ... damn it, it's running 84 miles/135 KM, YOU IDIOT!

This morning, after a few days away with family in Ireland to celebrate Brenda's life, a year after she lost her battle with cancer, I had to get back out there and get going with this challenge. So it was off to the gym at 8 am, and after some stretching (which does help my hip a lot), I managed to run 5 KM (3.1 miles) in just over 32 minutes! My first run over that distance in probably 10 years! And, apart from a little tightness in the legs, my hip seemed fine (touch wood), which was great.

So now, with 50 days (or so) left of my 365challenge year, and 124 KM of the distance left, basically, I have to run at a rate of 5 KM every other day til the end of my 365challenge year on August 31st!

Well, it wouldn't be a challenge otherwise, would it? Wish me luck ...

And if my hip goes, I can always drive the rest of the way, can't I?

Monday, 6 July 2009

Ben Nevis ... completing the 3 peaks in the sunshine!

**Long Post Alert **
Saturday, July 4th, Independence Day in the US, maybe, but for me and a committed bunch of friends, supporters and other 365ers, it now marks the date that we completed our very own 3 Peaks Challenge for the 365challenge (oh .... and Danielle's birthday!). View the photos here first, if you're not ready to read this epic blog yet ...

Ben Nevis
Well, it was quite a day, and I suspect that we're all still feeling it a bit (well, maybe not Garry and Lee - not the climb part, anyway!), but I can honestly say that it was well and truly worth all the effort that has gone into making this part of the 365challenge a success. But let's not leave it at that ... I think the Ben Nevis story needs a little more detail ...

On Friday, Dave (who had driven up to us in Chester on Thursday from Reading) and I set off for Fort William, our base for this walk, 350 miles away. The latter half of the journey was spent driving through torrential downpours and flooded A-roads at a snail's pace, as all the traffic seemed to want to go the same way and the conditions just did not allow for any heroics. Seven hours later, after driving through the Western Highlands (but only knowing we had done so because the map said we had, we certainly didn't see it in the horrible rain), we arrived at our destination, Ashburn House B&B, in Fort William, run by the wonderfully helpful and very welcoming Christine.

To tell you the truth, after the weather we'd had for the Snowdon and Scafell Pike walks, the prospect of facing Ben Nevis in that horrendous rain did not appeal too much, but
Christine informed us that it had only just begun raining in Fort William before we got there, after it having been a lovery day up to that point, so we felt a twinge more hopeful for the next day's walk. In fact, the evening cleared very nicely, so we wandered into Fort Wiliam for some food and a few pints of Brewhouse Special at the Grog and Gruel Pub on the High Street, making for a very pleasant end to a long day.

We woke on Saturday morning to blue skies and sunshine, completely the opposite of all the forecasts, but we weren't complaining. After breakfast, we grabbed our gear and headed off for the meeting point at Achintee House Car Park to find ... no-one waiting for us. Not a soul. At which point, my phone went: it was Karen asking where we were, as she and Alan were at the car park? Then came the next message, and the next ... all essentially saying the same thing, but clearly something wasn't quite right here! It turned out that they were all (and I mean ALL of them) down the hill from us, at the Glen Nevis Information Centre car park. I told them to wait there and Dave and I booted up and walked down to them ... now, here's the philosphical question this creates for me ... if you're the only one who makes it to the right car park, while four other car-loads of people arrive at the wrong car park, does that mean you are in the wrong? Four car-loads of people seemed to think it did, but hey, I can take it, because I KNOW I was right!

Once we'd all collected together it was time for the introductions, as we had some new bodies along for this final leg of our 365challenge 3 Peaks walk. "Old hands" (and completing their 3rd Peak) Karen, Fred, Oli, Dave and I were joined by Al, Lewis, Danielle, Mitch, Paul, and, making up the numbers (;-D), the 300miles guys, Lee and Garry, who had driven over from Edinburgh that morning, setting off at 5 am. Also there was Paul's wife, Audrey, who is another of the 365ers, and their two boys, Gareth and Elliott - Audrey and the boys joined us for the first bit of the walk, but were then going off to find other exciting things to do. So off we went, and in no time at all, the growing heat of the day was making itself felt, with everyone doing variations on the theme of impressions of Andy Roddick after 5 sets against Federer (all right then ... if I have to, I'll explain: sweating so much it was dripping off us - nice!).

The main path up Ben Nevis is well marked and laid out, but it's a steady slog, and very busy. The group split occa
sionally, with Lee taking the lead like an excitable puppy (he's far too fit for his own good), having to be hauled back occasionally by Garry, or, more creatively, by Lewis, who craftily engineered it so that he let his rucksack tumble down a steep slope at one point just so that Lee could have something new to occupy himself with while the rest of us caught up!

Al was feeling a little under the weather, which was a little worrying, but he was determined to keep going, and paced himself carefully all the way up and down. Fred was also soon suffering, with her hips once again causing her a great deal of pain, but I've met few people as determined as she is, and however long it was going to take, she was going to bag "The Ben" (which we can now offically call it, having climbed it, I believe).

I think we were all helped along the way immensely by the wonderful views that opened up to us across every ridge, especially as we had seen so little of Scafell Pike or Snowdon, and over the next 3.5 hours, we all made it to the summit of this great mountain, all 4409 ft/1344 m of it. The summit was quite busy, but that didn't take away from the spectacular 360 degree views that greeted us. It's only when you get the chance to see the cliffs along the north of the summit that you can appreciate just how dangerous this mountain must be in poor conditions, so we felt incredibly lucky to be able to take all of this in safely as we sat having lunch and grabbing what photos we could.

Then it was the long slog down, with the afternoon sun making itself well and truly felt as we plodded down the rocky south-westerly-facing path. Interestingly, towards the bottom, I noticed no-one was complaining too loudly when we reached the Achintee Car Park (the correct car park) and I directed them into the Ben Nevis Inn that was conveniently waiting for us, to slake our thirsts and catch up with Audrey and the boys. When Audrey then produced a bottle of champagne and cups to celebrate the completion of the 365challenge 3 Peaks adventure, it marked the occasion perfectly.

Afterwards, it was off to our various accommodations to rest and clean up before meeting again at the Grog and Gruel for a pint, followed by dinner together at a local Indian restaurant, whose name I've forgotten, but where much chat was to be had, ending with a surprise candle-festooned (okay, single-candle-decorated) dessert for Danielle to celebrate her 27th birthday.

From there, it was across the road to another
Ben Nevis bar (hey, that makes 3 Ben Nevis' in one day, is that a record? Probably not up in Fort William!), where we spent the rest of the evening, enjoying the company and watching Mitch and some eastern european guy take turns to claim ownership of the pool table. Quote of the night may belong to this mystery man who, when Mitch asked him where he got his jeans, replied simply "In a shop!"

Our numbers gradually faded away over the course of the night, with me finally taking my leave of Lee and Garry at around 12.15, after a final drop of malt to toast the day. Garry later posted on facebook that he and Lee closed the town down at around 2 am, so I guess us 365ers haven't quite got the stamina of those young 300milers, eh!
Next morning saw me feeling incredibly well, if a little tired.

Following another lovely breakfast from Christine, Dave and I packed the car and headed south, and discovered that there ARE actually mountains in the Highlands, as the drive through this time was beautifully clear. Despite the lack of torrential rain (apart from a real beauty of a downpour somewhere on the M6, where it was almost impossible to see the road markings), it still took almost 7 hours to get back to Chester, where we were able to take in the epic 5th set from the Wimbledon Final.

Dave headed off then to face another 3 hour drive back to Reading.
Monday dawned, and I woke feeling as tired and achey as Roddick must have felt, but more than content to know that I have completed another milestone along the way to finishing my 365challenge year. The problem is that I've finished all that I'd originally set out to do (and more!), with still 2 months of my 365challenge year left, so now I have to fill the remaining time with a final challenge. I've decided to cover the width of the country at Hadrian's Wall, some 84 miles/135 Km in distance ... and then I will be done ... or will I?

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Row the Thames for the 365challenge - DONE!

This morning, June 28th 2009 - and TWO MONTHS ahead of schedule - I completed the fourth of the four original challenges that I set out to tackle for my 365challenge to raise money for Cancer Research UK!

I "rowed" the final 12 Km of my "Row the (346 KM-long) Thames", having already "climbed" the height of the 3 Peaks (3407 metres), "swum"" the Channel (35.4 Km), and "cycled" the distance from Lands End to John O'Groats (1600 KM) - completing each distance virtually in my gym, cumulatively building up the distances over the past 10 months.

It's been incredibly rewarding personally, but even more importantly, the 365challenge has generated interest from others who are undertaking their own 365challenges now for this very important cause, and our fund-raising so far is sitting at around the £20,000-mark, a wonderful amount to have raised, but one that I know will grow as others take on this challenge for themselves - if you want to be one of them, then please do feel free to contact me on Or if you'd prefer to make a donation in recognition of the effort I've put into this, then please click on the "Donate" button on the Justgiving panel to the right of this blog.

But I am not done yet, of course ... on top of the original four challenges, I decided to take on the 3 Peaks "in the flesh" and so far have climbed both Snowdon and Scafell Pike (in atrocious conditions - read about those efforts by clicking on each mountain), and I will complete this additional challenge this coming Saturday, July 4th, when I and a group of about 8 or 9 other 365ers and supporters tackle Ben Nevis ... and believe me when I say I am desperate for some decent mountain weather ... please ... just this last time!

But with all the challenges done, and time to spare in my 365challenge year, I need to come up with something to fill the final 2 months of my 365challenge. I've had some suggestions and one or two ideas are taking my fancy, so ... I'll announce which one I plan to take on as my final 365challenge very soon ... watch this space.

In the meantime ... paraphrasing the great Sir Steve Redgrave ... if you see me go near a rowing machine again, you have permission to shoot me ... God, am I glad that's over!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

stroke, stroke ...shake ... stroke, stroke ...

Bloody hell, this rowing lark is tough going.

I've been digging deep and knocking off more Kms on my "row the Thames" element of the 365challenge, and I've got a goal that I'm working towards now: complete the rowing by the end of the month (June) so that, effectively, I can complete the final part of my 365challenge on July 4th by climbing, in the flesh, the wonderful mountain that is Ben Nevis - the highest mountain in all of the UK and Ireland!

Only 64 Km left on"the river", and recently, I've been targeting 10Km per visit (mostly), so the end of the month is an achievable target. But it is taking its toll, and not because it's causing me to feel particularly tired by it all - no really, I actually find it quite doable: stroke, stroke, stroke ... get up a good rhythm, keep it steady, listen to good music on my iPod and the Kms flow by (sorry!). But its the old numb hands business that is causing me the greatest difficulty.

Regular readers will know that my tumour was on my left arm, and when they removed it, they took out a strand of muscle. All seems well on the arm now, which is great, but it seems that the intrusive surgery and radiotherapy has meant that sometimes the flow of fluid through the arm isn't as smooth as it could be, and the resulting build-up puts pressure on the nerves, which effectively results in my losing feeling in my fingers and hand if I put a lot of pressure on the arm - for example, by rowing a lot!

So ... rowing 10Km has been complicated by this. Some days I can manage 5 or 6 Km before I have to stop and shake out my hand and massage the fingers to get the circulation going again, and can then get back to rowing. Some days, like today, it seemed to be every 2.5Km, which was a real pain in the a*se (or lack of pain in the hand!), and that meant that the whole distance took considerably longer than it should have. But, hey, there are worse things in the world! I'll keep plugging away, stroking and shaking: I'll get my Kms done and complete my Thames row well ahead of target.

And that is the next issue ... I know I said at the start of this post that I'll have finished all of my 365challenges by July 4th - and I believe that I will have - but that is way ahead of schedule, as I'm not due to complete my 365challenge year until August 31st 2009.

So how can I fill the remaining nearly-2 months ...?
All suggestions gratefully received!

Friday, 12 June 2009

365challenge at the Edinburgh Marathon ...

I know it was nearly two weeks ago, but I've only just had details through on this "breaking news" story!

So ... let's hear it for Anouska Watkins, one of the first of my 365ers, who, on Sunday May 31st, one of the hottest days of the year so far, completed the Edinburgh Marathon. You can read about Anouska's 365challenge on her website here: Anouska's 365challenge.

The Edinburgh marathon was really tough in the blistering heat, especially when they ran out of water after mile 15 until mile 23 - 5000 people didn't finish! (read the BBC website story here). Anouska tells stories of having to pick empty water bottles up off the ground and then queue with other runners at public conveniences to try to fill them around the mile 20 mark.The organisers need to take a very serious look at themselves after that fiasco.

UPDATE: Anouska has just emailed me to tell me that the organisers of the marathon emailed her to tell her that the water shortage was due ... to THEFT! And that it wasn't that 5000 dropped out, but that 5000 (of the 13000 expected) didn't start!

Anouska tells me that she was kept going though by the thought of her family waiting at the 24 mile marker to cheer her on, and given the conditions and an ankle injury that threatened to put her off the road altogether, her finish time for her first marathon of 4 hrs 53mins wasn't too shabby at all, especially when, as Anouska said "there were so many people passed out on the side of the road with heat exhaustion, it was scary".

Truly, I am impressed Anouska, that was some feat. And even more impressed that you had the wherewithal to make sure that you had a photo taken with your medal in the 365challenge t-shirt ... a true star, cheers!

That was, as I say, Anouska's first full marathon, but since she started her 365challenge year on November 2nd 2008, she has completed the marathon distance 16 times (she was only aiming for 12 over the year!). Wonderful effort.

But she's not finished there, folks, as the next part of her 365challenge is to take on the Lands End to John O'Groats cycle ride - in the flesh - later this summer, joining a friend who was planning to do it, so she just thought she might join in too! She's off over the coming couple of weekends for training rides around Leeds and Abergavenny (lots of hills!).

Add to that the fact that she's a quarter of the way down the River Dee on the other part of her 365challenge, and you'll begin to understand that Anouska is truly dedicated to this cause, which she took on in memory of her friend Debbie, who lost her battle with cancer at the too young age of 27, in 2006, and who would have celebrated her 30th birthday this year, alongside Anouska.

Anouska's dedication has also lead her to be the star in the 365challenge fund-raising crown too, with her total so far sitting at a whopping £8782, even better than me!! She's always happy to have more support, of course, so if you can, drop along to her Just Giving page and give her another boost!

Fantastic effort, Anouska. I hope to catch up with you soon to say well done as well as a big thank you too. Cheers!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Scafell Pike - 2nd peak of the 365challenge: done!

The actual 3 Peaks challenge phase of the 365challenge - as opposed to the virtual version, which I completed on the first day of my 365challenge year - was an add-on element, because I felt that I really needed to do even more to earn my sponsors support. I figured I'd do a peak a month from May to July, in the hope that by timing my climbs to occur at this time of year, conditions would be relatively good and my rusty navigation skills wouldn't need to be tested too far.

If you've read my Snowdon report, then you'll know that things didn't quite go that way for the first climb, with dreadful conditions throughout the day.

So, in the weeks running up to the Scafell Pike climb, with temperatures hitting records for the year, it's fair to say that I was hoping for a better day, one where we - myself and my 365er colleagues and other supporters - might actually enjoy the views from the top of one of the most spectacular mountains in the UK. How could we not?

Well it seems that it was not to be ... and given that Ben Nevis has only 1 day in 10 clear, it's not looking good for the final leg either!

Seriously though, the rest of the group may never trust me again to arrange a hike because yesterday (June 6th) the conditions on Scafell Pike were truly awful: sleet and horizontal rain on top, with snow on the ground. What's going on?

We gathered at Seathwaite at around 9.00 am, with drizzle. Liz came along with her daughter Esme and her friend Cara, but sadly, they found the going quite hard and we agreed after 1 Km of climbing that they would take a shorter route while the other eight of us - Al, Karen, Dave, Lesley, Oli, Fred, Pete and myself - moved on. A

s it turned out, however, Liz proved to have wonderful leadership and motivation skills and she's just emailed me to tell me that all three of them completed the FULL WALK, making it to the top of
Scafell Pike, singing songs and counting steps to keep going ... though, as the conditions worsened towards the top, I think Liz did wonder what on earth she had gotten in to!

But hats off to you Liz, Esme and Cara
, for completing a really tough walk in truly horrible conditions. I really hope we can walk a mountain together another time.

Our route headed up the Corridor Route from Styhead Tarn. The path is well-marked so even as the weather turned, my map-reading wasn't tested too heavily, but I was really pleased to have Al along too when I learned that he examines mountain leadership candidates. We stopped for lunch on the col below Scafell Pike, all climbing into Al's survival tent, which for some proved almost too comfortable, as the climb immediately afterwards up onto the summit of Scafell Pike felt a little tougher.

The top was, in a word, miserable. Horizontal rain and sleet, with snow on the ground in places, and as for the view ... well, there was a brief moment when the cloud cleared enough to allow us to see down to Wast Water, which was spectacular. But it wasn't a place to loiter, so off we headed down to the col below Broad Crag. The plan had been to head over that, but as conditions were poor, and Fred was suffering with hip pain, I decided to cut down to the Corridor Route again. The inital descent here was a little steep, but we managed it quite well, and from there really the rest of the walk was fairly straightforward ... long and cold and wet, but just a case of putting one foot in front of another until we finally came through the welcoming gates at Seathwaite Farm.

It's always good to get down from a mountain after you've been wet, cold and tired, but the sense of achievement on this walk was great for everyone, as we'd all had to cope with tough conditions. We all faced a long drive home, but we headed off, knowing that whatever Ben Nevis chooses to throw at us on July 4th, we're up for it and will conquer our third and highest of the British 3 peaks on the day. And of course, despite its reputation, there is always an outside chance that we could get some nice weather for a change - surely we deserve it by now!

See more photos of the walk by clicking on the photo, below, of me holding my 365challenge t-shirt up to the elements at the summit:

Scafell Pike

Thanks everyone who's been along for this 365challenge with me, it's been great so far, and I'm looking forward to the next one ... see you in Fort William.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Lands End to John O'Groats ... DONE!

Hooray!! This morning, a beautiful, sunny, UK Bank Holiday morning, after taking Susie, our Golden Labrador, out for her early morning walk, I decided that it was time to wrap up another part of my 365challenge for Cancer research UK ... the Lands End to John O'Groats bit ... a distance of 1600 Km that I have been steadily chipping away over the past months.

So, rather than go to the gym and rattle away on one of the stationary bikes in there, I climbed on my mountain bike and took to the cycleways and backroads around Chester. It was a really great ride: warm sunshine, even at that early hour of the morning, and lovely countryside, friendly greetings from fellow cyclists and dog walkers, and overall, a sense that all is good with the world. And with judicious management of my route, taking my lead from my on-board tracker/computer-thingy, I comfortably completed the final 25 Km required to be able to tick off the LEJOG part of my 365challenge with still 3 months and 1 week to go of my 365challenge year! What a great feeling as I came along the final kilometre, knowing that I'd achieved another of my 365challenge goals.

What's left to do?

Oh yeah, 150 Km Thames rowing still to go and 2 of the 3 Peaks (one each in June and July), but you know what, I think I may still have to add a further element to my 365challenge as, at this rate, I'll have this wrapped up well ahead of my target closing date of August 31st 2009 ... or will I? The rowing is going to be hard because of my arm, so maybe that'll mean I take it down to the wire, but I guess that's what keeps this interesting for me - setting and hitting goals as I go along. Let's see how things pan out over the next month or so - that'll give me a clear idea of just what is achieveable ... watch this space!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

75 Km to go to complete my LEJOG

I had intended posting after my last visit to the gym, cos that's when I got to the 100 Km left on the cycling leg of my 365challenge - when I'd covered 1500 Km of the 1600 km that makes up the Lands End to John O'Groats route - but I forgot!

So ... only 75 Km left after todays effort! And I think, after all this time, I can claim that I'm getting fitter! I felt really good on the bike in the gym today, so "went for it", and managed to complete the 25 Km (that's my visit tartget each time) in a personal best time of 41 minutes 56 seconds! Now I know it's on a bike in a gym and I'd never achieve that kind of speed on a road bike, but hey, I reckon that was pretty good. I think I knocked about three minutes off my usual average time. Got my heart rate up to 175, so I promise you, I was pedalling hard!

Now three more visits to the gym should mean that I've completed another part of my challenge, leaving "just" 150 Km on the rowing machine and the two mountains - Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis - to be climbed, and still 3 months of my 365challenge year to go.

What do you reckon, should I stick a marathon on at the end, just to make sure I have something to do?!!!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

No honestly, this is the top of Snowdon ...

After 8 months of gym-based endeavours with my 365challenge, I decided it was time to take the show on the road, and tackle a couple of challenges in the flesh, so to speak. I've already "climbed" the height of the 3 peaks on the Stairmaster in the gym, but that felt like a bit of a cheat, so I decided to climb the 3 peaks for real, one a month, starting yesterday, with Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, at 1085m/3560 ft.

Once I announced that, several people got in touch, saying they'd like to climb some hills too, so the plan started coming together, and yesterday, there were 8 of us, including 3 other 365ers - Fred, Peter and Karen, along with Dave, Lesley, Lewis, Oliver, and of course, ME!

I know Snowdon quite well, so I knew that the car park at Pen-y-Pass, where we were starting from, got full very early, so I made myself extremely popular by telling everyone they had to be there for 7.30 am - as several of us had a 1.45 hour drive to the start, that went down well ... but seeing as we got a couple of the last parking places there, I think I was vindicated! Anyway, the forecast for better(!) weather in the morning, and it's always good to get an early start on the hills.

We headed up the Pyg Track and made really good time as we climbed above Lyn Llydaw, making sure not to turn up onto the Crib Goch - a challenging route at the best of times, but in yesterday's low cloud and high winds, it would have been suicidal (though some folk were heading up that way!). The rain was intermittent, but okay, but as we climbed higher, the wind got a lot stronger and the going got a little toughter! We climbed into cloud as we got to the junction of the Pyg and Miner's tracks, and then the real climbing started as we hit the Zig Zags that lead up to the ridge that takes you to the summit.

The group worked well together, supporting each other over the harder parts and spirits were good as we crested the final ridge, where we got hit by really powerful gusts of wind that left some of us reeling! The rain was still on and off, but it seemed to be horizontal in that wind, as we were hit by sharp pinpoints of rain that meant much of the walking was done with heads down, watching feet and leaning into the wind just so we could stay on our feet. Not that there was much of a view up there ... visibility was around 20 - 30 metres at times.

Once we made it to the top and touched that marker that proved we'd made it, it was down to the relative shelter of the station wall for some provisions. But people were getting cold, so we didn't really hang around too long, and soon we were heading back down ... and it as a relief to head back down the Zig Zags out of the worst of the wind ... though it was still heavy going, and we frequently had to brace ourselves against the rocks to let the gust die away.

We headed down the Miner's Track (after a brief diversion down a stream!), and left the cloud behind as we got down to Glaslyn. From there it's a long, relatively easy, trail back to the car park, which we reached after about 5 hours walking in total, a pretty good time for that route in those terrible conditions, I reckon!

There was a steady stream of people on the mountain despite the conditions, but I have to say, some people do not dress for the conditions. We saw some people in trainers and jeans, and even, as we got back to the car park we met two girls who asked us to point them towards the Pyg Track ... one was dressed in tracksuit bottoms and light trainers, while the other, though she had boots on, was in jeans ... and full make-up! Now, there's nothing wrong with wearing makeup on the hills, but jeans and trainers in those conditions is asking for trouble: once you're wet, you stay wet, and cold, and miserable! I hope they got sense and made their way home to try another day!

As for us ... well, you can't climb Snowdon without winding down at Pete's Eats cafe in Llanberis, over a pint of tea and a humongous plate of chips ... and so that's what we did too ... a great way to finish off what had been a challenging day on the mountain. You can see more photos of the trip by clicking through on the photo link here:

Thanks to everyone who came along and made it such a great day. It's Scafell Pike next - on June 6th - and we're looking forward to that, but let's hope for slightly better conditions next time!