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.