Tuesday 1 December 2015

Commute by Space Hopper

I was originally planning this month to be a Guinness world record attempt for the longest distance traveled by space hopper in 24 hours. But with no access to a measured running track and days of the month running out, I decided to adapt the challenge slightly and try and commute to work on my space hopper instead. 

So, on a cold, damp Monday morning, I pumped up the space hopper and set off with my charity box. By the end of my road the muscles in my bum were on fire, and I was already regretting my bowl of porridge... But as I crossed the zebra crossing and Kate caught up with me, I realised I would actually be able to do it! 

Any sort of an uphill incline was tough, and we did have to stop a few times for me to catch my breath, and also recover from a few bouts of uncontrollable giggles. A few people stopped and put some money in my collection pot, but it was surprising to both of us how few people even did a double take! 

After 2 kilometres, and almost an hour, I made it to "Old Joe" - the clock tower in the centre of the university. Kate took some photos and then I proudly stood up. And sat straight back down again! My legs were like jelly and I was slightly concerned space hopper might have to become my permanent mode of transport, as walking didn't seem to be happening...  
So I hopped to the Chemistry department and uploaded all the photos and video (watch it here) - and caught the eye of the Birmingham Mail, who called me up to do an interview, and sent a photographer along to get some more photos. You can see the article here.

I have one challenge left (I'm playing carols on my trumpet at the School of Chemistry's christmas event next week!) and then will round the year off as I started, by swimming in the sea off Scotland on New Years Day. 


Sunday 1 November 2015

October - learning to ride a unicycle

I knew I would be spending the whole of October in Cambridge, so I sat down in the pub with some friends after I had moved here and floated some ideas for challenges. 
After some impractical suggestions, someone mentioned a unicycle. Darn it! I thought - that sounds perfect....

The next challenge was to find someone to help me. A quick search sent me to the Cambridge community circus club, who I then popped in to see the last week in September. They were very helpful and I started going every Wednesday. 

I thought I was making progress in week 3, but only because I'd managed to create a corridor or chairs for me to unicycle down. A bit more confidence and I let go, only to fall and get pretty bruised (see bruise development below).

With one week to go, I took the unicycle home. With no luck on my own, I resorted to my faithful sidekick - and, with the sun setting on October, here is the final result...

Thursday 22 October 2015

September - Man vs Mountain

This is a long overdue post due to finishing the race and heading straight off to Rio for a conference, coming back and starting a placement in Cambridge straight away. 
But here it is.... 

On September the 5th, I was up before the crack of dawn at the base of Snowdon in Llanberis ready to catch a bus to Canaerfon castle. I was about to embark on a 23 mile "race" up and down Snowdon, before emerging at the start of an obstacle course. 

I did have people to blame for this, who had signed up with me - but only one had made it to the start line! So Dom and I distracted ourselves from the cold and crowds of rucksack laden runners to get some awesome views from the top of the castle. An hour or so later and it was time to start. 

I was in the 3rd wave, and soon realised that I was the fastest woman in this wave. I began to catch those in the previous two waves pretty quickly, and was running really well. Having never run this far in my entire life, I was cautious of starting off too quickly. 

But I felt comfortable and I kept going. 13 miles in and the climb up Snowdon began. My speed walking up hill is well practised and I overtook a few guys who I had been running at the same pace as on the flat. 
The top was cloudy, but just beneath it the views were phenomenal. Maybe I got distracted as I took a tumble close to the top on the way down. Just some cuts and bruises and so I was quickly back on my feet, trying to relax as I ran down. 

After dropping my rucksack, sunglasses and anything else I didn't want ending up in the water-based obstacles, we were sent up the "vertical kilometre". I knew the women's record was achievable and according to my watch I had almost made it! 

I was then expecting to turn the corner and find the next challenge: the abseil, but it was another TWO MILES of running away. This was when we ran further than the advertised 20 miles race distance. 

Arriving at the queue for the abseil, the timing chips were stopped and everyone was relaxed and chatting. Most were amazed that they'd made it that far, but lots of smiles. 

After getting kitted up into the harness and helmet, it was my turn to lean back off the bridge. I was surprised as I felt OK lowering myself down. 

We then had to run with our kit uphill to give it back, and then it was time for the water obstacles. The first one was a disaster. It involved walking the plank over a lake. This is when my fear of heights took over. I got up to the scaffolding, but then stopped and started shaking. And then crying. Despite a lot of encouragement, I just couldn't do it. I climbed down a level and pushed myself into the water off the base of the scaffold. 
Once in the water I was fine! The rest of the obstacles were OK, until we came up against the 7 foot walls at the end. My lack of both height and upper body strength left me stuck on the non-finish side of the walls... 

Luckily some very helpful spectator gave me a leg up and I was able to finish! 

I found my dry clothes, changed and sheltered next to a heater with some soup. I late discovered that Dom had damaged his knee at the top, having to get the train down :-(

I also discovered that I finished in 3rd place! 


Wednesday 2 September 2015

August - Bog Snorkeling Triathlon World Championships!

As part of this series of challenges, I have been aspiring to do things that are a bit odd, a bit different and maybe a bit mad... This month's challenge definitely ticked those boxes!! The World Bog Snorkelling Championships have been held in Llanwrtyd Wells to promote the smallest town in Britain to tourists for many years. Recently they have added a triathlon to their list of alternative sports. This involves an 8 mile trail run, a 120 yard bog snorkel and then a 12 mile mountain bike. 

Running: sorted. Bog snorkelling: odd, but manageable. Mountain bike: terrifying. 

I borrowed my sister's mountain bike a week before the event, and proudly posted a photo on facebook 3 days before the race, only to be told by my cycling friends that I had, in fact, put it together wrong. Oops. Not the best start, but I fixed the problem and thought that meant I was ready to go!

Arriving at the race field, it was obvious that this race was going to be pretty small! All 17 competitors set off in one go, after leaving our bikes in the smallest transition area I've ever seen.

The run was right up my street, and I raced well, coming in 1st lady and 3rd overall, finishing the 8 miles in less than an hour. Off with the t-shirt (drenched in the rain) and on with flippers, mask and snorkel.

The bog was cold, murky and my mask quickly steamed up. We had to doggy paddle through one bog, get out, and come back in the other direction. On the way back, I had fixed the steaming up, but managed to get some water in my snorkel. Not good. A lot of spluttering but I made it to the end!

Now time for the final event - the mountain bike. Ben had managed to persuade the organisers not only to let him join in the mountain bike part of the race, but actually to lend him a bike to do it on!! 
Also, parallel to the triathlon was a competition for "Best dressed helmet". I made my creation in the car on the way to Wales, and found on arrival that I was actually the only person to enter this particular competition. However, this did mean that I won! I reckon it would have taken a lot to beat my Shaun anyway....

Right, back to the bike! It began with a steep grassy uphill, where we had to push the bikes up. I was not impressed, starting to get tired and hungry. At the top of the hill, we had a small escape by getting some road to cycle on but then into the forest we went. We were met with steep downhill slippy rocks and waist deep muddy puddles. I did have a bit of a strop (or two) rescued by Ben's persuasion and the marshal with jelly babies: LIFESAVER! 

Then back down the hill we went to the finish. Despite being overtaken by many a biker, I had survived in my position as first lady, earning the title: Ladies World Bog Snorkelling Triathlon Champion! 
I'm only doing all this stupid stuff to raise lots of money for such a good charity. A recent report showed that the number of babies dying from sudden infant death has grown since 2012, so this research is crucial. Any money you can give will help. To donate go to www.justgiving.com/RADCC2015

Monday 27 July 2015

July - running 90 km in 24 hrs

July brought what has been my most physically gruelling challenge so far. There is an event called the adidas Thunder Run: an off road relay where you have to get as many laps of 10 km run in 24 hours as you can. The past 2 years I have entered in teams of 6 and 7 people, and we've managed to do 24 and 22 laps respectively. 

This year, however, was different. 

Initially, I decided I would effectively become 2 members of a team of 5, but due to injury, we started with only 3 runners: myself, my boyfriend Ben and his friend Sam. This si what we looked like at the start:

We began strongly, smashing our schedule and finishing 7 laps in the first 6 hours. Maybe this was our downfall, as both of my team members were struck by knee problems, meaning that after their 3rd laps, they were reduced to walking. 

We had a fantastic support team, of Sam's family and girlfriend who provided massage, encouragement and snacks throughout the 24 hour effort. Without them it would have been a different story.... As it was, we powered through and before sunset I'd done 5 laps, with Sam and Ben contributing another 5. After a 3 lap stint from Ben, and a very speedy walking lap from Sam, I set off at 2:45 on my hardest session: aiming to finish laps 6, 7 and 8 before handing over to Ben at 6:30. 

Thanks to borrowed headtorches, it was barely dark at all! This meant I survived without falling over, and managed to (mainly) run all 3 laps in a slither under 4 hours. This brought up to 17 laps in total, and we decided we should all drag ourselves round the course once more to bring us to the end. I'm extremely proud to say we did it! Unlike previous years, the rain held off for 23 hours, so it was only my final lap when I had to whip out the waterproofs...

Although we didn't finish looking like the speedy gazelles we imagine we looked like at the start, we made it! 200 kilometres run in 24 hours! I would never have imagined I could run 90km in less than a week, let alone one day! 

Thank-you so much to all those who supported, lent kit and donated - we definitely couldn't have done it without you!! 
And just in case you wondered what we felt like afterwards - here is me trying to get up the stairs...

Monday 8 June 2015

June: SKYDIVE! aka the worst 30 seconds of my life...

On Saturday, I joined some others raising money for the Lullaby Trust for their "Jump in June": a skydive from Salisbury airfield. As someone that is super-terrified of heights and having my feet off the ground, I was dreading this challenge. I had also had to tactically not tell my Mum about this one...

So I was due to arrive at the airfield on Saturday at 4pm. Where we were in Bournemouth, it was gloriously sunny, with a small amount of wind. I received a text from GoSkydive at 2 ish, telling me that they had stopped sending people up to jump because of the wind, and that their was a chance that I was not going to be able to jump: did I want to reschedule? No!! I had built myself up so much to do the jump that day that I couldn't deal with delaying. So I headed to the airfield with my fingers crossed. 

On arrival I saw that they had started sending people up, as the wind had died down. However, when I had my training, they told me that there was not going to be enough time to jump, and that we should book another time: as we would have already done our training, we would be able to get a priority jump at 8am on another day. So we finished our training, I re booked for next weekend and headed back to the car. After a small breakdown, I realised I hadn't asked if they would be able to the next morning! I gave them a call from the car park and booked in for the next morning. 

Looking forward to my newly gained afternoon in the sun, and dreading my early morning alarm, I was driving out of the airfield when I received another call - letting me know they had one space on the last flight of the day! What a rollercoaster! I said yes immediately, and did a quick turnaround. 

After an hour or so sat in the sun, I went to get my jumpsuit on (I managed to squeeze my Lullaby trust t-shirt on over the top!) and got ready to get in the plane. 

I say plane, but it was a tiny little thing! I was unsure that I was even going to make it high enough to jump out of... 

The flight up was nerve-racking: at 6000ft our harnesses were tightened and there was no option but to lean back against the instructor. 4000 more feet up and then there was the noise of the engine changing pitch as it got ready to throw us out! I was near the back of the queue to leave the plane so saw a few others go first: the cameramen hung themselves out of the plane, while the instructor and jumper sat on the edge ready to fall. Then it was my turn. It all went pretty quickly, but the immediate freefall was just terrifying. To be honest, it was probably was the worst 30 seconds of my life...

When the parachute took hold, I just felt an overwhelming sense of relief and started shaking. Which kept going until about 30 minutes after I landed! The cruising down to the ground was weird - like looking out of a plane window, but with nothing in between you and the ground! The weather was great though, so the views were fantastic. 

After a practice getting into the landing position at 3000ft, my instructor gave me a great tour of the countryside - pointing out all of the sights in view. Then came the landing, which was quick and simple. I was definitely in shock afterwards, and was very grateful to my boyfriend for being there to drive me home! 

It was an epic day, but I survived!! 


Friday 29 May 2015

OMM Iceland - we survived!!

After deciding to enter OMM Iceland to raise money for The Lullaby Trust, Kat and I arrived at the start carrying all the borrowed kit we had been able to find, and with an injury preventing us from running. Not the ideal start to our first orienteering event! However, the sun was shining (unusual for Iceland) and so everything would be OK...

On arrival, the OMM team were incredibly welcoming, even letting us into their farmhouse and supplying tea. Camping on the first night was an experience, with icelandic weather showing us just what it can do: just waking up on Saturday with our tent still on the ground felt like an achievement!

Once we had packed our race bags and been taught how to use a camping stove, we were given our maps and 30 minutes to plan a route. The checkpoint locations were pretty novel: "volcano crater" and "side of hot spring" to name a few! As we knew our chances of doing well at the short score were pretty non existent, we decided we would make the most of being in Iceland and head straight for the volcano crater. On the other side of the map.

We soon discovered that lava fields and hills of ash are not the ingredients for speed, and also that locating checkpoints was not our strong point! It became clear once we had located the volcano that we would be really quite late for the short score first day finish. We messaged ahead to explain we were fine, but just having too much fun, and headed on our way. Again, the landscape changed dramatically into a river valley with blue-ish sandy slopes on either side.

Once through "the mud pits of doom" we made it back to the campsite a mere 45 minutes late - enough to take us into negative points for the day! However, the organisers took pity on us and moved us up to the medium score class where we sat firmly at the bottom of the rankings. Despite some plumbing problems leading to "a loo with a view", the campsite was nice: well sheltered with a lot of comraderie between the teams. A night of slightly less crazy weather was abruptly ended by the sound of "Jerusalem" blaring out of the OMM truck first thing in the morning! That was a particularly surreal experience...

For the second day, we were much more conservative with our route planning, and although disappointed to admit we weren't going to make it to the hot spring region, we headed out determined to at least do some orienteering. We found all the checkpoints we were aiming for that day (even if we did overshoot one!) and arrived back at the farmhouse way before we were expected. This came with the benefit of sheltering inside and welcoming the other teams across the line as they came in.

We were then all treated to some fantastic home-made chilli and flapjacks before the prizegiving. We were astounded at how many points some of the other teams had managed to get! To top of a great weekend, we all headed for the blue lagoon for some soaking in the natural hot waters. 
Doing the OMM Iceland was a fantastic experience, even for first timers, with the only downside being that we weren't fast enough to reach all the exciting checkpoints!