I believe the song goes…”Flying through the air with the greatest of ease that daring young man on the flying trapeze.” Well that was me last week minus the greatest of ease bit. My dearest friend Vicky decided she would get me a trapeze lesson for my birthday in Regents Park at the very cool Gorilla Circus. The last time I was given a present like that I believe I was thrown out of a plane at 13,000 feet with some strange guy strapped to my back. Who really needs friends like this anyway…right?!
Never the less it was a stunning summers day so sadly I couldn’t blame the weather for me being somewhat petrified. Although never being scared of heights or throwing myself around, the mixture of the two seemed to be slightly daunting, so I made sure my harness was as tight as I could get it without loosing the ability to breathe. Both Vic and I unanimously felt John should go first and we both didn't care what he thought...power in numbers!
John seemed much more composed then Vicky and I, which I couldn’t quite understand as he was the one with height issues. But up he went just like a rat in a drain pipe….whoosh! He got to the little ledge with one of the helpers making sure he was clipped in, the bar was then brought to him, which I may add is really heavy!! It doesn’t look it but the thing weighs a ton! The first swing was about getting our legs over the bar so we could drop back, hands off.... GULP!! Of course he did it with absolutely no problem, typical, then it was my turn.
I like to think I was as cool and collect as he was but I wasn’t. The first swing was like being on a rollercoaster when your stomach bottoms out and you just want to get off. I was nursing a bit of a hamstring strain, and no it wasn't an excuse cause I was bricking it, consequently it took me a few swings to finally get my legs over the bar. Once you get momentum though you can do anything up there it really has nothing to do with strength!
We all had good swings and some not so good swings but in the end we all made our catch! The catch is a trapeze move where you swing then hook your legs over, drop back and catch another person by the hands who is swinging to you. You see it all the times at the circus and they make it look so effortless, which I can vouch for its not!!
After 2 hours of intense one to one attention from all the guys and girls at Gorilla Circus sadly our lesson was over. Do I recommend this type of present, most definitely! Do I think it was a scary challenge absoutley! Would I do it again, probably not. A very cool present and a very cool experience but I think I like my flips more on the ground then up in the air!
“When you are going through hell, keep going”
― Winston Churchill
Hell is exactly what John's last challenge was, well at least it was for me, swimming 20k off of 2 minutes = 7 hours total in the 50 meter pool at Surrey Sports Park. This challenge was to prove both physically and mentally tough on everyone. Mental discipline, in my opinion, is what ultimately got him through it. It is what makes good athletes great, and makes people achieve in life more then they are physically capable of...or its just stupidity....actually maybe its a bit of both!
This challenge was number 4 out of 7, once again all in aid of the charity Bloodwise. We started at 11 am on Saturday and finished at 6pm the same day. Dan, a fellow triathlete who is 19 and myself who is also a triathlete and a young 51 (I am pointing out ages because it becomes relevant later on) all started off together sadly feeling rubbish for the first 1500m. Sluggish and tired we tried to maintain focus and happy thoughts. John lead from the beginning to get himself into a pace which he felt comfy with then it was Dan and then it was me.
I had it in my head I would only swim 4 sets of 2k with a break each time. I certainly knew I couldn't do the whole 20k but I wanted to try and manage 8k, 1k more then last time. After the first set of laps a new group of people got in with John and I got out. It was now someones else's turn to swim with the fish.
Everyone took turns at the front as it broke up some of the boredom and gave John a bit of a break which at this point he was ready for. Swimming on someones feet is slightly easier then solo although it certainly didn't feel like it at the time.
I could tell after I got back in around 6k that both John and Dan were chatting less and starting to eat some of the melted chocolate that was poolside. Several of the RG Active coaches Phil, Emma and Krista had been doing time in the water with him but were happy to get out after 4k....normal people! Now it was just the 3 of us again and the mental toughness was beginning to come out.
Obviously I was fresher then the boys but still not being swim fit for over 750m I too was beginning to feel it in my shoulders and back. It was like a dull pain that with each arm revolution just got worse. I was even struggling to lift my arms up to my mouth to try and eat some of that chocolate. For all of us it was about swimming through the physical pain but mainly trying to cope with the mental side of this mammoth task. This is when all of our heads were telling us to stop because it was seriously hurting and we still had 4 hours left to swim!
We got to that dark place during the swim physically and mentally. John and I have competed in many endurance races before, we both know what it is to try and stay focused and we both know when it hurts to try and keep digging. At this point of this torcherous challenge our experience with mental toughness was helping us to get through the day and stay in the water...but for Dan it wasn't the same.
At 19 Dan is a regular on the podium and an amazing athlete all round. However he doesn't have the years of learning how to deal with the hurt mentally. It is life experiences just like this one that develops mental toughness for an athlete and can guide them through how to conquer the quitting barrier. After swimming as much as he physically could Dan got out at 15k took a break, ate something and re-grouped. He got back in at the end to finish off his swim with an amazing 16k in total. As I have always said failure is the best way to success! (that is another blog)
I decided to stay in and try to get a photo of my Garmin showing 10k for Twitter, but once that happened Carole, who had been manually counting laps, said I had swum at least 12k. Bloody technology I swam more then I needed to!! UGH!!! I probably would have got out at 10k but when I realised the challenge was almost over, just an hour and a half more, I dug mentally a bit more (dark place) and stayed in to see if I could finish it...and I did! Ouch!!!
Our next challenge was how to get out of the pool?? I honestly didn't think I could even pull myself up on the ladder forget about jumping on the side. Anything at that point which involved my arms was going to be difficult.
But he did it...and we did some of it!! Challenge number 4 down with 3 more left!
Thank you to everyone who came to support and graciously gave up your Sunday to see us all suffer. We may not have seemed it at the time but having you all there really motivated and helped to keep us going!
Write soon... when I get more strength back in my arms!
Raising money for charity is always a good thing to do especially when you put your heart and soul into however you choose to do it. My other half John has set small challenges, kinda not small, ahead of his big challenge which is a world record attempt at how many sprint triathlons he can do in 12 hours in aid of the charity Bloodwise.
This latest challenge was a swim set of 100x100s off a set turn around time, now... for most swimmers and non-swimmers this would be a big ask. In layman terms he was swimming for 3hours continuously but as he booked his lane for 5 hours, I think he thought he would be slower then he was, he continued swimming for the last 2hrs to get his moneys worth...nutter! So instead of swimming 10k(6miles) he wound up swimming nearly 15k(8.6miles) all in 1 lane of a 50m pool.
Some of RGActive's fabulous TeamGreen were on hand to jump in and swim with him. This I am sure he was most appreciative of as you can imagine the boredom!? All of this training is preparing him not only physically but mentally for his big day when he repeats as many sprint triathlons in 12 hours as he can. This will be held at Blenheim Palace on June 4th-5th.
SO if anyone would like to take the time and sponsor John for his incredible effort, determination and lack of common sense then it would be amazing.
There is a lot I can say about my partner John, he is kind, generous, athletic, funny, slightly grumpy, bad memory, worse at handstands then me, OCD (oops back to the positive) helpful, encouraging and very cute in lycra. This said he is also a complete nutter in his latest adventure which he will be trying to set a world record for in aid of the charity Bloodwise. This world record attempt will have him continuously racing as many sprint triathlons (750k swim, 20k bike, 5k run) as he can do in 12 and possibly 24 hours. Told you nutter!
As an ex-professional cyclist and triathlete everybody assumes he can do this world record attempt with his eyes shut. He has some inner Felix Baumgartner strength most normal people don't have and not even a world record attempt will be difficult for him. This is, unsurprisingly, completely wrong!! I see a side to John not many people do, it is an in-exhasutable drive to help break down the intimidation label triathlon has created over the years. It should be a sport for EVERYONE, a sport that helps and encourages an active and healthy lifestyle and is inclusive not elitist.
During the past few years he has over come a life threatening illness, started up and continues to run the successful multi-sport coaching company RG Active, created a new and exciting sportswear brand QSW, bought a manufacturing business in the midlands AND still balances his training hours in with his family life (and his demanding dog Oakley). This, I am sure we can all agree, is no easy task.
Many times I wish he would never have gotten this far with it all, as it does take patience and understanding from everyone around him during those long training days, early mornings and manic work schedule. But I am sure I can speak for the people that know him the best, he is truly an inspiration and I am sure we all wish we could have some of his dedication, perseverance and mindless fortitude. Please if you have ever wanted to sponsor a complete nutter for a very good cause this would be the one!
So I keep having people ask me the same question...why am I doing all these crazy handstands and backbends? My answer is pretty simple..because they are fun!
Growing up in a small town in Ohio I did gymnastics, like all the young girls did, and absolutely loved it! I practiced everyday, I went to my local gymnastic class as often as my Dad would take me, I even ate my cereal before school on the living room floor in the splits position...a bit OTT I know.
There wasn't anything I wouldn't try, flip-wise that is, in gymnastics. I even wore out a large patch of grass on our front lawn as I was bound and determined to conquer a tricky gymnastics move called the aerial (a no handed cartwheel.) It took me longer then I thought, consequently a lot of dead grass was a result, but I eventually got it!!
So fast forward 40 years... in my Pilates class I tried doing a simple back bend, the position I once spent a lot of my waking hours in, and couldn't! This was such a shock to me and a massive realisation that my once malleable body was loosing its flexibility and I hadn't even noticed! Not on and something needed to be done!!
So...not giving up I have now made it my mission, more embarrassment to my kids I know, to regain as much of my once taken for granted flexibility as I can. It has given me a new fun focus in my life or as the french say a "joie de vivre". Remember age is only ever an excuse if you let it be! Happy Hand-standing!!
I was told several weeks ago, on a routine mammogram that something wasn’t right. Completely unprepared for this, as I am a healthy, non smoker who exercises daily, doesn’t drink… much… and goes to bed early, I could only hope they must be wrong…but they weren’t and I was diagnosed with the early stages of breast cancer.
I had never felt a lump or change in any way I just went for a normal checkup. This was prompted when I had bumped into a girlfriend who I hadn’t seen in years and when I asked how she was she told me she was currently undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer. Clearly, she was equally shocked at her diagnosis as like myself, she is fit and healthy. This got me straight on the phone the next day and I booked my appointment with The London Breast Clinic for a mammogram.
After hearing the bad news I really didn’t know what to do or think. Everything seemed to have a bit more urgency attached to it, like climbing Everest… really should do it this year or… there is that expensive handbag I have always wanted, better buy it now. It was very strange the things you think of doing when you are faced with your own mortality.
Sharing this horrendous news with my family was going to be no fun either. So I did the brave thing and let one of my older brothers tell everyone. All of my family was very supportive and caring which highlighted to me how much I have missed them living over here now for 25 years. (That will be another blog) Having a good support network of friends and family really means a lot when you are going through a tough time.
After my initial biopsy the results came back sadly not ideal, so I had to get a second one to hopefully avoid having the bigger operation… a lumpectomy. Fortunately my next set of results were much better. The doctor had gone in a bit deeper and was able to remove all the cancerous cells. WAHOO what a relief!! So now I will be going annually for a mammogram to make sure it doesn’t come back!
If there is any message in all of this for me to pass on it would be please make sure not to skip your routine checkups no matter how fit and healthy you are. Thankfully, because I caught it early, I will be fine but that may not have been the case if I hadn’t made that checkup. Don’t postpone…PHONE!
ITU Triathlon World Championships 2015 - Chicago, USA
RG Active Pre-Winter Triathlon Training Camp 2015 - Majorca
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As a coach all I can ever hope for is to guide my athletes to attain their own personal success at whatever level that may be. I work developing my athletes both physically as well as mentally, because it is here in our minds, one of the strongest muscles we have in our bodies, that will make us not just good but great!
This was proven by two of my athletes over this past weekend. My first athlete Laura 50yrs came to RGActive several years ago as just a swimmer, she wasn't very interested in triathlon or running but enjoyed being in the water. Since then she has gone on to complete in long distance swims, long distance cycle events, triathlons, 5 & 10ks and half marathons. But always swore she hated running.....yeah whatever!
So when she came to me an asked if I would train her for London Marathon, as she was one of the lucky few who received a spot in the lottery, I was a bit surprised. It would be a tough challenge for her as well as for me, but I said yes and our training began last October 2014.
She had a few obstacles along the way, as most athletes will have in their training, but we didn't let these stop her. She eventually got to the start line uninjured with a mentally and physically prepared body which was ready to run/walk 26.2 miles. Anyone who has done a marathon before knows that getting to the start line uninjured is one of the hardest bits about the marathon not to mention all the cold and dark early morning and late evening runs.
Laura successfully crossed the line at London Marathon 2015 in just over 6hours. Her race went to plan , she listened to her coach...me... and she mentally dug deep when it got difficult. No race is ever perfect but this one came pretty close, as well as taking a few cheeky selfies in front of Tower Bridge, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, Laura had an amazing race!
My next inspiring athlete is Christine who also at 50yrs came to RGActive wanting to train for London Marathon as a personal challenge. But due to an unforeseen stress fracture several months into her training that was never possible. I suggested she turn her attention to swimming as a way of keeping some of her fitness which she had gained from all the marathon miles of running she had done.
This lead into a curiosity about triathlon and multi sport races. Christine started to enjoy looking and feeling better with her new found sports of swimming and cycling while she waited for her injury to heal. She then decided to try her hand at a Human Race triathlon relay, swimming part of course, and just fell in love with it.
Once she had recovered from her injury she started training with me more seriously. Taking herself out of her comfort zone regularly was something new to Christine but she started to find out how much she could push herself AND enjoy it at the same time!
After 4 years of coaching Christine she has gone on to qualify at The Age Group World Duathlon Championships in Adelaide, Austraila representing her country Great Britain. All through hard work and a coach who has been able to structure her training and carefully choose her races.
As a coach I am SO proud of both my athletes! Two very different ladies with 2 completely different goals but with one thing in common, determination! They are inspirations to everyone who embraces an active and healthy lifestyle at any age and puts hard work and focus to a goal.
Congratulations ladies ...WE DID IT!
This blog is a place for me to share what I do with you. It is about my love for racing, family and fashion. It is also about being an older athlete and how I manage to keep my training balanced and, most of the time, injury free. I hope to inspire other ladies, regardless of age, to get up and get healthy...just try it!
All of the blog entries are my own opinions and thoughts and are not in any way the thoughts, feelings and opinions of the companies I work for and the brands I represent.
Please enjoy the read!