Day #151 30.05.16

Another sunny weekend spent outside means the blond gets blonder…

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Day #150 29.05.16

The weather was like this ALL day today. Much relaxing and sitting/laying around drinking sloe gin and elderflower (tremaze, new fave summer drink) and beer listening to music.

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Day #80 20.03.16

Still felt shit today. Not sure if it’s just a two day hangover or I’m ill. Either way, I still could have slept all day and I wasn’t about to waste another day of the weekend so I dragged myself out and went for a walk around/over Cleeve Hill on a thing arranged by BMF. The first mile or so was spent thinking I’d throw up any minute but eventually that stopped and I think it helped to get a bit of fresh air.

While walking around, trying not to throw up and enjoying the view, I thought about the boots on my feet. They’re still my very first pair of walking boots, bought back in 2011 when I went to walk Hellvellyn in the Lake District with the guys from work. I remember the excitement of buying some proper boots, although I felt like a fraud and I had no idea of what I was doing or what I really needed. Admittedly, they’re a completely different colour to when I bought them and have been waterlogged in stinky water too many times than I’d like (I wouldn’t get too close to them), but they’re still going strong and there’s nothing really wrong with them.

They’ve got me up Ben Nevis (still my favourite hike even though it was constant rain and wind and no visibility, but think that was mainly down it being a wonderfully slightly-illicit weekend with a certain person). They finished the hat trick by summitting Scafell Pike and Snowdon (not in the same day, I hasten to add. I wasn’t fucking superfeet.). They’ve trekked the Inca Trail in Peru and a 60km hike in South Africa. They took me to the Peak District where I walked with cows and ate Bakewell Pudding. They trekked miles in Lincolnshire on head-clearing walks and walks that decided my future and shattered someone else’s.

They were a metaphorical first step to a new life, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. And so now, I’m much more attached to them than if they were just a stinky pair of old walking boots. I’ll get new ones at some point, I know I will, and these will get thrown out. But I’ll always remember these, just like I’ll always remember my first pair of proper running trainers, my first day at school or a new job or a first boyfriend, and that first person post-separation on that illicit weekend. Gone, but never forgotten, held as a cherished memory.

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Day #68 08.03.16

It’s my brother’s birthday today so I’ve decided today will be an old photo too, this one from when we were kids (and then one from 3 years ago when we were in Lapland for his wedding). Back then life was simple, we’d just head outside to ride our bikes or climb trees. I’d want to be one of the boys and anything he could do, I could do too. Not a lot has changed.

Happy Birthday Matt.

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Day #65 05.03.16

Most of today was spent outside freezing cold, wet and covered in mud. Yes, this was also deliberate. Madness, yes I know!

Today a load of us from BMF went to do the Devil Mud Run, an 8km mud run in the HILLY fields somewhere near Winchcombe just outside Cheltenham.

I’ve done a few of these before (Wolf Run has been my favourite, that freezing cold lake swim is awesome) so I kind of knew what to expect, but jesus I hadn’t expected quite so many hills, or for it to be just SO cold.  It took bloody ages to warm up afterwards and get rid of the violent shivers I ended up with.

When I’ve done some of these events before I’ve sometimes done them by myself (mainly when I first starting running I didn’t really know anyone else who ran too) which was great fun, but it’s a million times better running with a bunch of mates. So much fun, so many laughs and there’s always someone to help you out when you get stuck in quicksand-type mud (thank you Inga!!)

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Day #38 07.02.16

Back home in Cheltenham today and this afternoon I got myself up to Leckhampton Hill for a run around. It was a beaut of a day (SUNSHINE!) and after spending most of this week cooped up inside feeling like shit I needed to get outside.

It’s amazing what a run around with a view and green stuff does for the soul. This picture shows a happy face to be up there and outside. I’d spend the majority of my time outside up a hill if I could. One day.

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2015. What a year eh?

Right so let’s just say this; I’m not going to go through everything that has happened in 2015 because: 1) it would take too long, 2) I can’t remember everything without looking at my diary, 3) I can’t be arsed and need to get to sleep soon as I have a 5.30am alarm call and 4) I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine (I’m currently staying in South Africa in the WINE region, COME ON…) and it’s taking all my energy to type properly.

BUT.

What I can say is that 2015 has been pretty fucking awesome. A bit of a rollercoaster at times, but hey, isn’t that just life?

On 2nd January 2015 I moved myself and my meagre belongings in a van (first time driving a big van, and 9 hours driving in one day, the same 3 hour route 3 FUCKING times, ouch) to a place called Cheltenham. I didn’t really know the place, and only knew one person there. I figured it would be an adventure and it seemed like a place I’d like to live, and it wasn’t Lincoln. I actually didn’t think much further that than. It had hills and outdoor stuff, that seemed like generally enough to pique my interest.

And it has lived up to it’s expectations. To be fair, I didn’t have many. I was just pleased to be living by myself again and having my own place. After 2 years of travelling around and staying with people, it became pretty damn important to have a front door I could shut on the world. And I did when I first moved, I didn’t want to talk to anyone new for a couple of months. I was actually quite happy to not be doing this but it got to about March and I figured I really should. And I did, and I’m glad I did. I finish this year thinking about all the people I have met along the way, and there’s a lot, and it’s been, well, interesting. And special. I made more friends than I maybe thought, and I’ve met some pretty amazing people.

Because people are what make the world go round. Before I went travelling I used to read travel blogs that would always say “it’s the people you meet”. And I wondered what they meant. But now I know. When I was travelling, I DID meet some incredible people, and they’re some of my best memories of my year away. And this year, it’s been the same. I’ve done some cool stuff, but I’ve also met some cool people. Them, and their stories, is what life is all about.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my alone time (not to be confused with quiet time Donna, that’s different, although I obviously enjoy that too) and in fact, I really, really, really needed this bit of time right now where I’m travelling by myself and spending the majority of time alone. Yep, I love it and need it, and if I’ve been too busy and sociable I have to make sure I get some. 22 hours travelling to another country? YES – BLISS because I sit on a plane by myself and don’t have to speak to anyone. Yay.

But also I love people, I love being sociable. I love the more the merrier nights and bringing people together. I love a good chat, laugh and a beer. Standard.

So I guess I want to end 2015 saying a massive THANK YOU to everyone I know that touches my life in one way or another. And I think there’s a lot of people that maybe don’t realise they do. And I should tell them. Maybe not publicly here, or on Faceache or similar, but if there’s someone in your life that makes a difference, then tell them. I will be doing. You’ve made my 2015 special and brilliant.

I was looking to see what I posted last December but I didn’t write anything, I was having a blogging break if I remember. I did post in early February though. I even made some kind of plans and stuff to do in 2015. Ha, I’d totally forgotten those, and never looked back over them. Hmm, I didn’t get round to doing them all but I gave it a good crack. Some were a bit of pipe dream, and maybe stay on the list for next year. There’s some new stuff too. Should I write it down? Nah, I’ll leave it for later.

I end 2015 in South Africa; not somewhere I thought I’d be for a while (although I knew I’d be back, I kept the plug adaptor in the divorce settlement, haha) and spent New Years Eve taking a drive down to the coast and to the southernmost tip of Africa. Keeping my travelling itchy feet at bay for a little bit I hope, and getting some Africa sunsets. Not sure where I will end up in 2016 or what will happen but that’s all part of the adventure, and keeps my life interesting. I’ve got a few ideas but a year is a long time and a lot can change. So we’ll see.

I’m a change-anything-you’re-not-happy-with-any-time-you like person, but I do like the start of a new year to start some shit. Not resolutions as such, but just as good a time as any to punch the shit out of some stuff. This year, I start with the first few months dedicated to being healthier and getting fitter. I need to do some actual training for a bike ride I’m planning at Easter and if I don’t, then I’m going to suffer. So I better get my shizzle sorted. Anything else after that will be a bonus.

This is a bit of a rambly but short post, not quite with mega meaning or structure but I’m running out of time as I need to go to sleep as my alarm is going off tomorrow at 5.30am as I’m off on a big hike early to beat the fierce sun. This is probably the only year I’m starting as I mean to go on – healthy and not hungover!

But a couple of messages before I finish. Firstly, THANK YOU for reading. I write this blog mainly for myself as I just enjoy writing about whatever is in my head but if you like to read it then thanks, it means a lot. Two, the photo a day project is returning! Starting from tomorrow, I’ll post a picture a day. Might be a bit late over the next few days because of Africa wifi #TIA issues but they will be there. I did my last one in 2012 which for some reason a lot of people enjoyed. I suspect it’s because it was my first single year and so I did a lot of stuff and it was a bit all over the place. In a way I suspect this year might be a bit more settled/rounded although I actually probably do a lot more crazy/interesting stuff now.

Three, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Whether 2015 was amazing or shit for you, I wish you all the best in 2016. May you make it a year to remember. May it be filled with love, laughter and happiness. May you weather the storms with a smile and a laugh, and a determination that life will not beat you. Grab life by the balls and if you’re not sure about something, then maybe using my mantra will help:

Fuck it, do it.

Live life, don’t just exist. Don’t be scared to do anything, it’s never as bad as you think, and there are ALWAYS people looking out for you.

Go smash the shit out of life!!

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Bob the Bike.

Let me introduce you to Bob, my new road bike. He’s going to get me from London to Paris in a couple of months. I luuurve him. ❤

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I do a fair bit of running and exercise generally but if I’m going to ride that distance in that time I need to do some training and get the miles in my legs before May, I can’t just rely on sheer determination and stupidity this time (as much as I’d like to, and just spend my weekends sitting eating ice cream). I did a lot of riding last summer after I got back on my MTB but I’ve not done any for a while and I’ve never had a road bike so I need to get ON it. So, yesterday was the first opportunity I’ve had to get out on Bob since picking him up a couple of weeks ago. It was a beaut of a sunny day and I had a free afternoon so I had no excuse (and I wasn’t about to throw myself down my building stairs to create one).

I’ll start with reporting on the end result: BLOODY marvellous, it felt soooo good to be back out there on a bike and it was pretty frickin awesome to see Mr Sunshine for a day. I also finished with bruises, grazes and my legs felt like they were made from strawberry jelly. Oh and of course, the mildly bruised derrière (Bob is a mean lean cycling machine; not a lot of padding).

Two main reasons for this: 1) I forget I live in a hilly place now and 2) Bob has clippy pedals. I’ll expand….

Didn’t really have a route in mind – I just biked out of Cheltenham along Shurdington Road and thought I’d head out that way for a couple of hours. Didn’t realise until I looked at a map after I’d got back that I headed straight out to into the Cotswolds and ALL THE HILLS. 1716 feet (523m) of elevation to be precise. I’d planned for a nice gentle flat couple of hours out to get me back into it. Not 3 fuck off hills. However, as we know hills also equal amazing views and a sense of achievement so I felt pretty rad when I got to the top of each one. Probably a bit like how Rocky felt when he made it to the top of the steps. Yeah, just like that. Apart from I didn’t run up and jump around, I wobbled around on Bob while trying slow down and upclip my feet (more on the clippy pedals later) at the same time, silently cheering each time I managed to not end up in a mangled heap on the floor (which, incidentally, I managed a higher ratio of – again, another silent cheer).

Riding up the hills through woods in the sunshine with beautiful, green, hilly countryside views reminded me so much of riding around in Tasmania last year. I had such an amazing adventure doing that (read about it here if you want), it really made me smile so much to be reminded of it. The pain of the hills but the rewards at the top, the sense of freedom and time; like there is no where else to be, and nothing to do or think about apart from what you’re doing right there and then. I still don’t quite understand the gears on Bob, so the hills were pretty hard work, but I think that was also just my legs not being used to them, rather than that I couldn’t find a lower (higher?) gear. I’ve got no idea whether there are any hills on the London to Paris route, but I guess that riding up hills during a bit of training will all help. Can’t hurt anyhow. Well, actually, it will – THIGH BURN – but you know what I mean.   Of course, what goes up must come down. I cycled UP three hills on my made up route, but only DOWN one. This felt quite unfair, until I realised the way down was a 1:6 (translation: fucking steep – put it this way, I wouldn’t want to bike UP it). So, MUCH fun, MUCH speed and a few hairy moments. Got to try Bob’s brakes out. Conclusion: could be better (hence the few hair raising moments).

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And that leads me onto the clippy pedals. I bought Bob from a nice chap in Bromsgrove who had decided he preferred MTB to road bikes and so couldn’t get on with Bob. Poor Bob, discarded after just a few miles, unwanted. Lucky I came along and managed rescue Bob and his clippy pedals and nice chap’s shoes; shoes that are too big for me (I haven’t got man feet). I haven’t managed to get any of my own yet so decided they would do for the first couple of rides out. So, imagine this; first time on a bike for a while, first time on a bike with clippy pedals in shoes that are too big, and first time on a bike with weird gears that are also the brakes. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Ha.

I spent a fair while trying to figure out how the clippy pedals worked. Leant Bob up against the wall, wiggling my feet around. Managed to clip in but could I clip out? Big fat NO. Even leaving the shoe clipped in and me sat on the ground wiggling it around with my hands I couldn’t do it. Neighbour Jill found it quite amusing, but was no help. Of course, I resorted to doing what I should have done in the first place: consulted the internet. “OK Google, unclipping cleats”. (Aside: bloody love OK Google. Talk to me.) Thank you, cheery American man on YouTube who shows how to unclip from pedals in one easy step. Tried it while leant against the wall. Just about got it, OK, I nearly fell into the flower bed, but panic meant my foot came unclipped like magic before I toppled over. Hurrah! I just figured I’d get used to it. One day.

So, I actually did alright. To start with. I’m near the edge of town so not many junctions until I got out on the open road, and the traffic light gods were smiling on me that day. In fact, although a bit wobbly, I managed to unclip each time I stopped the few times I stopped to take some pictures, admire the view or silently cheer the fact I got to the top of a hill without dying. OK, some of them were using the new panic-unclipping technique, but I didn’t end up on the floor. Until a junction about 2 miles away from home on the way back. Ironically, I’d already unclipped one side (I was a pro by now) but I ended up toppling the other way as I over balanced. As any fall as an adult, it hurt (unless drunk, those falls never hurt). And it’s also surprising. Ever notice that, falling over as an adult? One minute you’re upright, one minute you’re on the floor wondering what the hell happened in a mild state of shock. I landed on my elbow and it’s all grazed. Bob landed on top of me, giving me a massive bruise and lump on the side of my knee. Very giving. Obviously, I jumped back up, congratulating myself for getting a fall over and done with (it was bound to happen, I daresay there will be more to come too) as well as entertaining the stream of motorists driving by (I would have laughed). I like to think I fell and splattered on the ground in style.

Decided to call it a day after nearly 19 miles (I’d done a nice round trip) as I’d been out for just under a couple of hours which is what I planned for a nice gentle intro ride. Now, I know I had hills in that ride, but that’s not that fast. OK, I wasn’t really pushing myself but still. It’s making me realise just how far and how fast I will have to bike in May. If I didn’t go any faster that I did yesterday, I’d have to bike continuously for about 20 hours to cover the distance. So, the 4 hours on the ferry takes that to 24 hours. I’d just do it. But no time to stop, no time to eat, no time to go for a piss. Not realistic.

Eeeep.

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Keep smiling. It’ll be alreet.

Challenge number 1.

London to Paris in 24 hours. On a bike. Yep, that’s what I’ve signed up for in May. What’s that all about then, I hear you cry. Erm, well, I’m not actually too sure myself. It sounded like fun so I signed up. I’ll deal with the details later. And yes, this is actually true, I don’t know too much right now. I know it’s about 320km, I will get about 4 hours sleep if I’m lucky and I have to have a road bike, but that’s about it. My ex-husband always used to say I was a bit of an idealist and a bit of a dreamer, I guess he was kind of right. But, I know it will all be OK. I know I’ll be able to do it, because I’ll give it my bloody best shot. I figure I managed to cycle 600km around Tasmania without any training, minimal preparation and a heavy backpack and tent; so this should be a bit of a doddle (ha!). I didn’t have a road bike until last weekend, and haven’t had chance to get out and about on it yet but I will be starting a bit of training soon. I’ve still got a few months until May, right? It might take me that long to get used to the weird shoe-pedal clip things that came with my bike.

It’s the first thing I’ve signed up for this year so far. There’s other stuff, but that’s all probably a bit later. This just sounded like fun. Loads of fun. Something a bit different, a bit of a challenge and a way to see a bit of France. Not seen much of it yet so cycling through some of it should mean I get a good look. Anyone who’s done any cycle touring will know that it’s one of the absolute best ways to travel and see a country. There’s 200 places in the sportive so I’ll also get to meet some new people and hopefully have a laugh while doing it. Plus it’s May, it should be decent weather. Might get a tan. Also will get outside; which, as I hate sitting inside on the sofa for too long, will be wonderful. I get fidgety, as people who have ever tried to watch a film with me can testify.

And now I’ve got a road bike, I could possibly look at doing some triathalons later in the year. Just need to have a go at open water swimming first to see how I feel about it. Not really done much of that, barring the lake swim in The Wolf Run, but not sure that counts. We’ll see.

This year, now I’m back in the UK and in one place for a bit, is all about seeing what I can do. Trying a few challenges and carrying on saying yes to stuff. Getting back to being fit and seeing just how far I can push myself. Why? Why not? Life is for living, and it’s how I want to live it. This kind of stuff, this kind of mini adventure, is what puts a smile on my face and makes my heart happy. I don’t want to stand on the sideline of life.

If anyone fancies it, join in here: http://www.londontoparissportive.com/.

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