Saturday 31 December 2011

2011- The year of achievement!

Wow, what a year this has been. At the start of the year my goal was to make sure turning 30 wasn’t the end of the world, and I think I succeeded by achieving more this year than most years. 

The year started off well on the 1st January with a good walk, followed by hot chocolate at a little country pub then home to have Champagne in front of the fire… 3 days later we hit the Pyrenean ski slopes in Cauterets for a snowboarding weekend. Ok the snow wasn’t great, in fact it rained, the slopes were reached by a long and rather windy gondola ride and the entire trip lasted 3 nights- 2 of which were on a sleeper coach, so tiredness was ever present- but the chance to snowboard with only 1 day off work definitely made it worth while. Thank you Geoff and Jersey Ski Weekends!

Following our ski trip it was on with the walking boots and hitting the cliff paths to start our training for the ITEX walk. Another of my New Year resolutions was to attempt this 48.1 miles walk around the coast of Jersey. Many people fail in their first attempt and I had never done anything like it before. Ben was fairly confident, he has taken part in cycle races and of course the 2010 Deloitte Ride Across Britain so knew how the body is so more capable than the mind.

Our training went well ( for a very funny training plan readour friend Keith’s experience of attempting and training for the walk) until my knees, which I have suffered with for a while finally decided it was time for a trip back to the doctors. Bad news, I needed an operation, but the good news was I couldn’t do too much more damage in the short term so it was back on with the training- and lots of physio and painkillers!

The highlight of the year though for both of us had to be our trip to Finland with Exodus. For 2 people who love snow and outdoor adventure, Finland – and in Particular Basecamp Oulanka – was just perfect. I could write reams here about our trip, but having already done that read our blog pages here. The husky sledding though is something that will stay with me forever. 

Back from Finland, it was on with the training again for the big day in June. Nerves didn’t even begin to explain how I felt the morning of the walk. I was so determined to finish yet I knew the chance of me finishing was low on my first attempt. I also had the fear that Ben was going to leave me on my own. We had agreed that if we hadn’t reached Grosnez by 2pm Ben was heading off alone as he knew he had it in him to finish. Suffice to say that sheer determination and a lot of encouragement from Ben dragged me round in a hideously long 18 hours and 46 minutes. Here’s the full, painful account

A quick recovery was needed after the ITEX before it was time for me to turn 30 and for us to hit Scotland and the West Highland Way. Yet another achievement on that holiday, we summited our first mountain together- Ben Nevis in a very respectable 6 hours 40 up and down. We were extremely lucky with the weather and our waterproofs and woolly gloves thankfully stayed in the rucksack while we plastered on the factor 20! 

Back from Scotland and it was time for me to spend several weeks on the sofa and hobbling around after knee surgery. A frustrating time, but I did find lots of exciting challenges for the future and read lots of inspirational stories to keep me motivated and soon I was back on my feet and at Hot Yoga. This is something else that 2011 has given me: Hot Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga, both a great work out for the body and for the mind. 

Our final challenges of the year have been the ChristmasTrio Challenge, the walk and run were not really putting us too much out of our comfort zone, but were extremely good fun. The Christmas Day swim however was yet another great achievement, for me anyway, for Ben getting in the water in the freezing cold was just another walk in the park!

So that’s our 2011 round up. We may not have scaled the highest mountain or trekked the most remote path, but I personally have realised one big important thing- the human body is tougher and more capable than the human mind thinks. We trained hard for the ITEX and I knew physically I was in the best shape I had been in for while yet the mind kept telling me it was impossible.

So with that lesson learned it’s onto 2012. We have a big project in the planning, but that will have to stay under wraps for a while longer. In the meantime Ben is heading off to South Africa for a family visit in January, whilst I spend a few days with my parents taking them climbing and to yoga. In March we hope to spend another week up in Scotland, hopefully with some time on the snow. 

In terms of challenges, we have the Run for All Leeds half marathon to train for in May, the ITEX will be attempted again I’m sure, we are aiming for 15 hours or less this time round and I have my eye on the Scotland Coast to Coast in September… I just need to learn to mountain bike- or at least stay on which is more than can be said for my last attempt in Italy!

We hope everyone has had a great year, and all the best to our readers for 2012!

The steeper the mountain, the harder the climb, the better the view from the finishing line!

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Christmas Trio Challenge Round Up

Our three challenges are now complete and we succeeded in them all!
Following the Mid Winter walk (see our last blog here) the week after was our Santa Dash. This was the first year there were to be a whole gaggle of Santas dashing through the streets of St Helier at lunch time, and we obviously took a lot of people by surprise- we over heard many comments of ‘what on earth is happening’ and the such like, very amusing! Anyway, it was a short sprint, probably about a mile and seeing as half of the group were kids I thought it would be easy. Unfortunately, wearing running gear with a felt Santa costume over the top, including beard, made running (or sprinting) a bit harder than the kids that only wore reindeer antlers and I ended up puffing and panting around, although Ben seemed to managed it ok and dragged me round the last bit.
As a reward we had mulled wine and minced pies and got to walk into the office dressed as Santa. We also ended up on the front page of the local newspaper!

Our final Christmas challenge was the one I dreaded the most, and by Christmas Eve when the wind was blowing icy cold, I almost backed out but Ben insisted he was still going ahead with the swim so I felt compelled to give it a go. Thankfully Christmas Day morning was dry, but there was a strong, cold wind blowing directly into the bay… that was once we got into the bay! We actually missed the official swim, as it took nearly 40 minutes to drive down the hill. The swim, it turns out, is more popular than we thought and the car park ended up with one car out one in, so as we pulled round into the car park everyone was just getting out of the sea.
Queue a massive sulk from me and an annoyed phone call home, before being told by everyone sat in the warm living room back in Leeds to ‘Man Up’ and go jump in anyway. Ben had said this too, but having 4 people shouting down the phone seemed more encouraging, so we jumped out of the car, whipped off the clothes and made a cold run down the beach.
The water was freezing- well actually 11oC- but it was cold enough to be painful, lose feeling and I was unable to catch my breath. Ben ran in, dived in head first and was fine. I stood waist deep whimpering- not proud of my pathetic-ness, but I lasted longer than the girl next to me J I finally got my shoulders wet and after posing for more photos made the dash up the beach to warm clothes and mulled wine.
Photos of both events will follow!
We need to total up together but I believe we have raised about £150 for the 3 charities- Headway Jersey, Jersey Hospice Care and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. 
So that’s it for our 2011 challenges and adventures. We’ve had such a great year that before the Year’s out I will be writing a review of things done and things learned.

Friday 16 December 2011

Christmas Trio Update- 1 day down, 2 to go!

Saturday was the first of our Christmas Trio Challenge, with The Jersey Christmas Walk - an 18 mile walk along the cliff paths and beaches of Jersey.
The morning started lovely and dry with a spectacular sunrise, although we should have heeded the warning ‘red sky in the morning, shepherds warning!’ A coffee at the La Fontaine pub nearly scuppered our plans as it was far more tempting to stay in front of the roaring fire than head out for 18 miles of walking, but we were soon gathered for our pre-walk meeting and at 8.30am on the dot we were off.
Over the first few miles of cliff paths our pace was determined by the walkers in front of us and at times it was pretty slow, but once we squeezed past a few groups we were off and made good pace to check point one at Greve de Lecq, 4.5 miles in a respectable 1 hour 20 minutes. The weather stayed dry to this check point and was warm enough to be in just a long sleeved top. Feeling good we put our heads down and trekked on to check point two, 4 miles away.
It was in between these two check points the rain decided to make an appearance, just a slow, steady drizzle but enough to put the rain coats on, then the sun came out and it was nice and warm so the coats came off again, then the rain came back… that’s how the rest of this part of the walk went!
Anyway- check point two at the picturesque site at L’Etacq appeared just 2 hours 55 into the walk, then came the part most people dread on the ITEX Walk - St Ouen’s Bay. A long stretch of nothing but sand for almost 5 miles down the west coast of Jersey. The walking is easy, nice and flat but that’s where the problem lies - there’s nothing interesting and the fact you can see the end makes it even harder to keep going (especially with lots of nice eating places along the way tempting you to stop!)
The next point was at the farthest end of the bay another 5 (rather boring) miles along, but we were there in 1 hour 10 minutes, so had managed to skip along at almost 5 miles an hour! I think this may have something to do with the fact Ben wanted to get the flat bit out of the way as boredom prompted me into several renditions of the 12 days of Christmas, if we had trainers on I’m sure he’d have run…
It was just after this point the rain started again so the jackets went on, then a beautiful rainbow (the 3rd of the day) led us to believe it was going to dry up again so off they came just in time for a heavy downpour that lasted all the way from Corbiere to the start of St Brelade’s beach. By this point we were wet, a bit chilly and really looking forward to our free drink in front of the fire at the Smugglers Inn at the end, a great motivation to get into gear and crank the pace up again.
By the time we hit the half way point of St Brelade’s Bay a little jog to ease pain on knees, toes and hips meant we were aiming for a sub 5 hour 15 time, a great personal achievement seeing as since the ITEX Walk and my knee op we have done little in the way of proper training walks and we were aiming for 6 hours best!
Finally we were welcomed at the Smugglers Inn with a round of applause, a photo and our free drink token. As in Scotland all I craved was an ice cold diet coke - a bit of a waste of a free drink voucher but it went well with the steak and onion baguette we managed to devour in record time!
Total time 5 hours 12 minutes, only a few small blisters (probably because of the rain) and very pleased we beat our estimated time by 45 minutes!

Next up this lunch time- the Jersey Hospice Santa Dash, in about 45 mph winds, hail and thunder. We are going to be rather soggy, wind blown Santa’s, here’s hoping it’s at least a tail wind…. Report will follow in the next few days.