Where it started

A list going round on Facebook, February 2016: "which of these items have you experienced" etc. Some yes, some no, some didn't interest me. However, it put some ideas into my head, and I figured it was time I followed some of my friends in committing them to (virtual) paper. And then trying some of them out. The first challenge was undertaken on 1 March 2016, and I have no intention of ever completing the list: the more I tick off, the more I'll add.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Running again

It's a very long time since I did any running. I got into it, in a very modest way, back in 2007/2008 (I used to blog about it here), and loved it: adrenalin rush, economy of time, great cardio - what's not to like?

What wasn't to like was injury. I had a couple of painful calf muscle episodes, but they were sorted with the help of a lovely sports masseur. However, after attempting a 10K run (rather than my usual 5K maximum) without enough training, I ended up with a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis, which started in the autumn of 2008 and continued for a full two years. Anyone who's suffered it will know why I'm terrified of its return: even a walk round the shops was painful, and simple sightseeing was agony, never mind running.

Additionally, a really serious sprain on a walk in 2013 left me with a right ankle that will probably never again be quite right - and the nerves about ever doing it again.

I went to walking, and once I'd cracked my weight problems and fitness routine in 2014/2015, this became my staple exercise. Now I achieve a regular 80 miles each month and it keeps me sane and fit.

However, in expanding my routines and aiming to build up the cardio, I have decided to try again. I probably won't ever want to go for the long-distance, high-impact stuff again. But I feel it's important to get just a bit of speed in; to be ready for my Nuclear Rush (muddy run) challenge, with my Mother Nature's Diet buddies, in May, and to be able to run comfortably between obstacles; to bring in another level.

I've just completed the first week of Couch to 5K, and so far so good. Gently does it. I should reach the 5K distance exactly in time for Nuclear Rush, and all being well I'd love to run the Wroxham 5K (last time was in August 2008... oh, my).

Watch this space.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

A walk in the snow with an inspiration

I don't write about many of my walks these days; it's become such an integral part of my life that it would get pretty boring for the reader (especially those which are regularly around the same local routes). However, there are some special times that are worth recording - such as my marathon walk, or the different sections of the Norfolk Coastal Path - that mean something special to me.

I'm writing this on a fairly warm, drizzly day in early March. It's hard to realise that just a week ago we were facing several inches of snow coupled with 50 mph winds: the media called it 'The Beast from the East'.

It so happened that two days before it hit severely, I'd spotted on social media a posting about a young lass called Frances Mills, who was walking the whole coast of these islands. Having started in October 2017 at Bristol, she was at this point making her way up from Suffolk. Check out her website here.

The lady making the posting mentioned that Frances was happy to meet and walk with people, and although she was camping most of the time, was always happy to be offered a bed for the night. Living just half-a-mile from the beach, and happily having a couple of days free, I got in touch. She replied with enthusiasm, and I arranged to pick her up from our coastline on Tuesday evening, to give her a meal and a bed for the night, and to walk with her the following day to her next planned stop, just beyond Happisburgh - about 15 miles north of here.

In the event, I was lucky to get home. I'd been working with a client in Thetford that day, and mercifully got back before the snow became too deep. My husband picked Frances up from near Hemsby, and I arrived back shortly afterwards. We shared a meal and chat, and planned the following day. We realised that the snow (by now falling thickly) and (more importantly) the increasing winds meant that camping on Wednesday night, as she'd planned to do, would be more than 'wild camping' - so we insisted that she spend that night with us, too. Selwyn would pick us up from Happisburgh and bring us back.

We set off in reasonable conditions from the Rectory the following morning:

- but within a very short time it turned into a blizzard along the beach as we headed north towards Hemsby...

The wind was behind us, which helped! And as we continued, the weather did improve, with even some sun coming through. After a couple of hours we paused for a snack, sheltering in the dunes from the still strong wind.

However, at this point my husband sent me a text explaining that he'd tried to get out of the village in the car, only to find roads blocked in all directions; so we had no option but to make the route a circular one. We walked the 7.5 miles to Sea Palling, mostly along the beach, and stopped for a very agreeable lunch in the pub next to the lifeboat station. We then retraced our steps on the other side of the dunes to minimise the windchill (now in our faces). We met drifts of snow of impressive depth:

We arrived back after 15.5 miles of walking in a bit over 5.5 hours. We'd had a brilliant day, chatting most of the way, seeing the seals at Horsey, pointing out birdlife, and getting to know each other.

Click here to see our route.

The following day (Thursday) proved to be so awful, with such high winds, ice and snow, that Frances decided to take the day off and to chill out with us. We went out for a very short two-mile walk up to the beach and back, but otherwise stayed in the warm.

As she'd lost a couple of days' progress, and was aiming to reach Hunstanton (the end of this phase of her walk) on Sunday, we knew she had to reach Sheringham by the end of Friday. We were planning which roads would be best to get her there, when she calmly announced that she'd leave Winterton at 6am on Friday and walk it. That's thirty miles. And, of course, she made it with no trouble.

This young lass is a true inspiration and a delight. She's cheerful, delightful company, intelligent, determined and undaunted. I am completely awed by her and honoured to have shared that couple of days with her. I'll be watching her progress over the next two winters, as she works towards completing the whole 4,500 mile circuit (this bit was 1,300 miles or thereabouts).

Dream the dream and make it happen.

Friday, 2 February 2018

On the nursery slopes

One of the main purposes of this lifelist exercise is to try things that I'm no good at, and probably never will be - but have a lot of fun doing it, and push the boundaries of what I think I can do. This activity definitely came into that category.

Lovely friend Kim booked this 'taster session' on the Norwich dry ski slope for me as a birthday gift. I knew I was nervous, but until I saw the slopes I didn't realise quite how nervous. Watching people coming down the 'real' pistes (as opposed to the 'nursery' version that we were using) was alarming and exciting.

Once again, my inner control freak looked at the speed of descent and panicked... much to Kim's amusement, as she's used to me normally being pretty confident in most circumstances.

However, we had an excellent tutor (Toby) for our little group, and once I'd tried one (very brief) descent without mishap, I realised just how much fun it could be. We had several goes down the slope - mainly using the slowing 'snow plough' position. I couldn't manage the 'bunny hops' - testing the balance - at all, but Kim did them beautifully. I only fell over once, which in something like 8 descents or so wasn't too bad.

I still find it pretty difficult to imagine being swift and confident on real slopes... but I can completely understand the appeal, and especially that of skiing on real snow among glorious scenery. I might just give it a try some day - and if I do, I'll be back to visit the lovely guys at the Norfolk Snowsports Club for training. Watch this space.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Getting my skates on

I had somehow managed to get through my entire childhood (and life so far) without trying either form of skating - ice or roller. I suspect that my 'control-freak' tendencies have a lot to do with this; any kind of skating involves a lot of trust and not a little 'gung-ho' attitude.

However, when I saw that the regular 'pop-up' rink was visiting Norwich again across the Christmas-New Year period, I reckoned it was time to try it out. I put a call out on Facebook, and as a result was joined by my lovely friends Kim (regular buddy for most of my fitness activites, especially walking, for the last decade); Christine (a happy meeting through the Mother Nature's Diet group), and Andree (lovely colleague from local small business networks). Andree being the most experienced, she showed us the basics and helped us out beautifully. We were watched and photographed by two husbands (mine and Christine's).

Kim had skated before too - many years ago, but it didn't stop her showing loads of confidence and as a result doing a great job. She's definitely got the gung-ho attitude. (It also meant she fell over more often!)

Christine managed to strike out on her own very competently after a few circuits. I kept hanging on to the side for a lot longer...

Although I left the side eventually, I didn't manage to strike out on my own at all on this occasion - the thing I couldn't get the hang of was the movement to push off and hence travel under my own steam,  rather than using the side of the rink to pull along, or using the propulsion of my friends holding my hands. I think if (when) I give it another go, I'll probably get over that mental block and manage a bit better. I think, however, I did display a style all of my own... :D

(Click here for the ten-second video of the above moment...)

It was a wonderful moment when we (briefly) moved out together - although as it was a small rink, we were quickly told not to keep a row of four, as we took up too much space! Made a great photo, though, and sums up a wonderful occasion.

Meantime, however, this was an enormously enjoyable evening, spent with some fabulous and patient friends (and ending with an excellent Thai meal as a day-late birthday celebration for me).

I'm so glad I gave it a try, and we've promised a return visit when the rink returns to the Castle Gardens next winter. Watch this space.

Full album of photographs here.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Walk 1000 miles: my medal

As my monthly mileage targets have increased (60 miles from March 2015, 70 from March 2016 and 80 from March 2017) so, of course, has my twelve-month total. I was especially pleased recently to realise that this meant that in the twelve months starting on 1 December 2016, I'd finally exceeded 1,000 miles in 12 months.

I'm a member of the Facebook group that exists to celebrate and encourage exactly this goal. I have to say, when I started, I couldn't imagine myself managing 1,000 miles in a year!

So when I published this achievement to the group, it was lovely to have this posted to the comments...

Thank you to Walk 1000 Miles and Country Walking Magazine for such a fabulous initiative. Changing the world, and our health and well-being, one step at a time.

Ambulo ergo sum, indeed.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Climbing mountains

Two mountains in two days. An extraordinarily kind period of weather in late October. A group of eight of us (plus the adorable Max-the-dog) climbed Blencathra and Skiddaw, near Keswick in the Lake District. An experience I never dreamed of, and views that literally made me weep at times.

I was invited by my good friend James, a fellow member of the local theatrical fraternity and in particular the Sewell Barn Theatre, and we were joined by several of his friends across two days. The first day involved six of us (two of whom split from the main group to climb a more challenging route!) climbing Blencathra; and a further two people joined us for Skiddaw on day two.

I was the oldest (by a couple of years) and one of the least experienced. The members of the group were wonderful, keeping an eye out for everybody, taking it at a pace that we could all manage, sharing resources and encouragement. Oh, and of course, Max the dog (a beautifully behaved, nine-month-old, JRTxStaffie), who belongs to Ed but soon decided that it was his job to supervise the whole team.

Both days were blessed with wonderful weather. In both cases, the summit was shrouded in cloud, but we didn't miss much in the way of views, as we had clear and beautiful views within a very short time in both directions.

Click on the links below to view photographs and route for each of the two days.

Blencathra - Thursday 26 October
868 metres / 2847 feet

Skiddaw - Friday 27 October
931 metres / 3054 feet

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Upside-down in a hamster wheel

This was quite a special and unusual experience. It didn't figure on my original list, for the simple reason I'd never heard of it. Through my connections with the world of circus aerial hooping, I came across this extraordinary activity, and was fascinated to know more: German Wheel.

The basic kit is a construction of two parallel wheels, linked with metal handles and foot straps in various places. The trick is to control the wheel in various ways, from a simple cartwheel to vaulting over the wheel to two-person activities to sitting on the crossbars to one-handed spins... and so on. This video gives you a general flavour.

As far as I can work out, there's only the one group in the UK that offers training in this exciting activity; so I was fortunate that it was at least in East Anglia, at the Kesgrave Sports Centre in Ipswich (albeit almost 2 hours away from me). I'm told that people travel to the weekly sessions from all over the country - one lass was known to drive from Barnsley to Ipswich for a two-hour session and then drive back again...

I was excited to attend a half-day introduction to the activity. The tutors - Anna, James, John and Konrad - were friendly, professional and passionate: a winning combination. They take great care and lots of time with each member of the group, whether total beginner or seasoned acrobat.

It requires a fair level of fitness, and there's an intensive warm up to start with. It's challenging and sometimes painful - the weight on the feet in the straps as one turns upside-down, tightly attached (obviously), results in some bruising; and the use of the arms throughout tests the biceps and triceps to the max. The control of the wheel when you're constantly changing direction takes a lot of concentration - and the potential speed of movement can be scary to the point of nausea.

However, on getting accustomed to all this unusual use of the body, the sense of achievement when one manages a solo cartwheel for the first time - two revolutions down the hall - is pretty extraordinary.

I met some other fabulous people on the day, too - a couple of familiar faces from my 'budgie-hooping' sessions, and others who ranged from beginners like myself to experienced and intrepid wheelers. I made friends with Daniele,whose yoga background made her a natural, and we tried out some joint moves...

This was one of the greatest challenges I've taken on so far.  There have been moments during my Life List where a real stomach-churning fear has floored me initially - but I've usually managed to overcome it. There was the first time I tried breathing through the tube of a snorkel, and through the scuba rig; there was the first leap off a high tree-mounted platform into a cargo net or along a zip wire. The first time I turned upside-down in the German Wheel was one of those - but it was amazing how quickly I got accustomed to it. With practice and experience, I might bring at least a tiny bit more poise and confidence to the activity - although I doubt I'd ever reach the extraordinary heights achieved by experts like the four tutors. (Look up Konrad on YouTube to see what I mean.)

It's a long way for me to travel, but I don't eliminate the possibility of doing it again. The charges for the regular classes are exceptionally reasonable, the people friendly and professional, and the feeling of achievement amazing. Meantime, this was a fabulous and memorable experience that I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Click here for a few photographs of the day

Click here for the full playlist of my short videos