4.23.2014

Tokyo Taster

It's tricky trying to get the stars to align with posts, wifi, a computer and my photos so until I come up with a solution here is a taster of Tokyo...










4.20.2014

Saying Goodbye


True to form, my goodbye couldn't be without a truck full of sugar. Some made by me and Mollie and some made by my wonderful friends. There was a LOT of talking, a LOT of hugs and today especially (as I sit in the airport) a LOT of tears. 


Everyone forgets to tell you how bitter sweet the goodbyes are. A lot of people travel because they have nothing to lose - maybe they've lost their job, their love or their passion for life. I have experienced none of these. I've left a good job, an incredible family, a gaggle of fantastic friends, a lovely boyfriend, just completed a marathon and my health is amongst the best it will ever be. So why go? 



Opportunities are never guarunteed. Life is short. The world is my oyster. And WHY NOT? Life isn't selective and I don't know when this opportunity may fade immediately, forever.



So for now, I will be hours from home with 11kg of luggage and a whole lot of nerves, but I know those people are still there routing for me and this blog will be a piece of home. I hope you'll keep up with my adventure and share your own summers with me too!




4.15.2014

Finisher of the #LondonMarathon speaking...

The Morning of the #LondonMarathon

Early starts always heighten excitement - just think about getting up at 5am for a holiday - and the marathon was no different. I put on my gear with bleary eyes and got mum to take a picture so friends could track me. Me and Dad were getting the coach up to London with the rest of the Sandhurst Joggers and of COURSE... We were the last to the car park. 

By the time we had got there I had heard Mo Farah's advice from John (who's company I enjoyed on the coach) who was lucky enough to train with him last year... Some people get all the luck. I had eaten my oxidised smoothie which was now a grey-brown. And a Nature Valley bar. And a banana. I was so full by the start line but it didn't seem much to get me round - I just had to put faith in the trusty carbo loading.

Once we got off the coach the SJs (Sandhurst Joggers) sat in a circle and compared times, plans and they graciously lent me Vaseline and sun cream, two things that I didn't have in my heaving bag. I remember Becca's (a half marathon runner and friend) words "Vaseline everything". I tentatively wiped my upper arms to stop the tank piping from my charity vest from rubbing. 

We went to the portaloos a few times and the whole thing reminded me of morning spent at Redfest or Reading festival. Except this was much much more...

TO BE CONTINUED...

Things I didn't expect...

  • Salt from your sweat can chafe all sorts of areas. Let your imagination run wild...
  • Bottles can be a serious tripping hazard.
  • You cry without tears. There just isn't any spare water to cry out.
  • The drastic change in architecture.
  • You can be doubting yourself even with 800 yards to go.
  • You can need the loo when running - this has NEVER happened to me.
  • To get a tan (read: sunburn)
  • To finish.

'Thank-You's

You do not complete a marathon alone. This may sound like an Oscar speech, but there are certain people that I wouldn't have completed the marathon without.

My Mum...

...Who pushed her own limits to get me through my training runs. Mum's are unbelievably selfless.



My Dad...

...Who entered me to start with and was always ready with 'running talk'. Most of all he showed me how important it is to be passionate about your hobbies, because when the going gets tough it's a focus and the boost you often need. "Ian doesn't walk, Ian doesn't walk..."

My Framily and Friends who supported...

...My Mum, Brother and Uncle (who came all the way from Dallas). My Aunty Kirsty and cousins Susie and Adem who made my a sign and took time out of their revising schedule. My godmother Alison and god sister Hayley. My baby buddy Ruth and Kate who endured a looooong day despite needing a hip replacement. My best friends Josh (allow yourself a day off soon!) and my wife Lucy. I CAN'T BELIEVE SHE CAME TO SURPRISE MEEEEE!!! She was the first person I noticed when I came up to my supporters at 11 and a half miles and thought I was hallucinating. Matt who was screaming like there was no tomorrow when he saw me. Sammy who come out (but I unfortunately missed - I appreciate it all the same!!). All the Sandhurst joggers at the KM markers who endured sweaty hugs.

My supporters...

... To everyone who wished me luck, text me, tweeted me, congratulated me and read this blog. To all the encouraging messages that kept me smiling when all I wanted to do was mope around and curse the day I got my place. Friends from all walks of life have sent me messages and it's such a boost.




To all those who donated...

I didn't have to fundraise, but boy I'm glad I did. It's been a tricky couple of years. First I got ill, but more importantly my Dad's epilepsy came to test us all. It's been tough, but people know this and know how much I've struggled through the training and have donated extremely generously. I'm so chuffed at the donations I've received. Especially from the people who I haven't seen in a few years or rarely speak to - you're amazing and £2 donations mean every bit as much.

See my progress here. Currently the total stands at over £888 including gift aid!!!

To Sandhurst Joggers and to the regular runners...

To have a group of running nerds there to answer my every query has helped enormously. They make me laugh and cry with their encouragements, jokes and inspirational stories. (Please read Vicky's - I cry every time.) There's no commitment to run every week - and after my injury I certainly didn't - but they're there on Facebook still believing in me.

To Julie Melotte...

...Who got me through the first half of my longest training run, without tears, with massages. She came over and screamed my name across the crowd when I got in my pen at the start and as a result got the first tears of the day. The chirpiest person I've ever met!!

To Vicky Horne...

... Who ran with me every step of the way. Who showed a love for 'the marathon'. Who dragged me through my darkest mile(ssss). Who gave me her Cliff Bloks. Who had BIG news en route and STILL showed the patience of a saint. It's very rare to find someone who is so ballsy and so brave to push people (yes, she does this for anyone who needs it) to achieve their goals, even when it means her own time is sacrificed. We had the same time to the SECOND. What a diamond!!!!

To Epilepsy Action...

It mad such a difference fundraising with a charity. The extra support was fabulous. It's the small things - the name for my top, the handwritten note, the tweets, the press release, the massage at the finish, the warm welcome, the cheer over Tower Bridge... They were brilliant.

4.12.2014

Final Preparations for the #LondonMarathon

In 24 hours it will all be over. The months of training, the hundreds of pounds of donations, the tears and the biofreeze.

So here's how the last preparations went.

Final Run

After my final osteopathic appointment I went for a 3 mile run round the lake to try out some insoles. I'm still in two minds if they help things. On one hand my foot feels more supported, but I haven't done any of my training with them in - if the osteopath thinks it could be worth it, then surely it could be? It was a beautiful run and reminded me why I enjoy running - just the boost I needed.




Expo

In the week running up to the marathon you have to go collect your number from the Excel Centre in London, a MAHUSIVE exhibition space big enough for the grand London Marathon Expo. You arrive and everything is in bright red. 







The well oiled machine gives you your number, kit bag and chip. From here you can leave and be on your way... or go in and enjoy the hundreds of stalls. There are charities welcoming their runners, sponsors showing off their gear, installations for runners to make their mark on and lots of shops to buy last minute bits. 


It's a bit ironic to be buying things last minute as this is exactly what people advise against doing - wearing or using anything you haven't already tried out. Well as they say "the best made plans always run awry" and I will be using both a new bum bag and a new sports bra.




Getting Final Sponsors

As I got my place through the ballot, there was no need to raise a certain amount. Actually I didn't need to raise even a penny, but as a lot of people do I wanted to. It's been a tough year for my Dad after his epilepsy came and shook life up a bit. Epilepsy Action where there for advice and support - so I chose them.

I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the generosity for virtual strangers as well as my family, framily, friends and colleagues. It's always the ones you don't expect and these messages of encouragement and faith mean soOOOoooOOOOooooo much. 

If you're reading this Facebook friend... THANK-YOU for allowing me (kinda) to fill up your Facebook feed.

Organising your team

I know I'll cry when I see them tomorrow, but that's OK - marathons are goddamn emotional. My team will be accompanied by this handsome fella, so I shouldn't miss them!!



Nutrition

IF I were to do a marathon again I would up the anti on this one, but... I have been carbo loading like an absolute pro. If there is one thing I can do and do well it is MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH. Given my surprise cold this week (surprise!!) I've been loading up on the vitamins and lots of broccoli (for the vitamin C).

Laying out the kit

It's going to be an early start getting up at 5.45am (latest... after snoozes) so I wanted absolutely everything ready to go. At the Expo you get a kit bag which you label with your number. It's large enough for lots of layers of clothing, snacks and all the bits and bobs you need.


That bum bag contains a jelly baby a mile and two gels (so I can pretend I'm a pro) which I already tried out on my longer runs. It also contains a few sachets of biofreeze which I will attempt to administer without taking my running bottoms off (yeah right).

One of my favourite things from the Expo are these bands which help to give you an idea of how long it should take you to get to each mile. I'm not even sure what to expect, so I picked up a nice selection.

4.11.2014

A Tale of Two Cities



















This story pans across two great cities - London and Amsterdam. A lot of people go to Amsterdam to learn more about the work and life of Van Gough at the dedicated museum on Museumplein. I knew I definitely wanted the chance to go to this museum when I made Trip 5 to Amsterdam. A couple of weeks before my trip, I had a warm up at The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, London.

London

For a short period of time you can see two of Van Gough's sunflower paintings side-by-side. (Didn't know he did multiple versions?... I'll confess I may have an A in A-Level art, but neither did I until recently.) It's free (hurrah...) but after you get your little ticket you have to stand in the queue, which took us around 30 mins on a Saturday.


I originally fancied doing this on my own. Going to art galleries on your own is great. You see what you want for how long you want, you sit down, you people watch, you sigh and then you carry on with your day. Instead my parents quite fancied a trip to London too, but as you can see they weren't too much hassle...



You can't take photos in The National Gallery (didn't know this), but here's a lovely shot of my chosen souvenir...

Amsterdam

Now this is "le grand"... a WHOLE MUSEUM dedicated to Van Gough. Well actually there are temporary exhibitions on one of the floors and you also get a chance to see some of the people who inspired his work, so it's not completely exclusive.


I love this museum and it makes it to my top 5 ever. And the reason why I love it, is because you learn about Van Gough's life. He's portrayed as a real person. Sounds mad, but I have used similar methods in my own artwork. For example, he bought a pair of boots at a market and then muddied them before painting them. He painted some Japanese postcards, but made up a background so they weren't boring - how much of this sounds familiar to art students out there?? It's not stuffy and pretentious. It tells you what inspired him, the people that affected his artwork and not forgetting his rocky mental health.

I have a few tips for you though...


1. Buy your tickets from the Museum Shop. There was not one person in the queue when we went. We got given a timed slot and walked straight through. It's not any more expensive and saved us at least a 30 minute wait (AT LEAST!). It is located right by the IAMSTERDAM installation. See the photos below...



 2. Get an audio guide - I recommend the kids. Lucy and I both really enjoyed the kids audio guide. The recordings will take you on an hour-ish long trip round the museum and the information is simple but still informative... And if you listen right to the end you get a free postcard. All for 2,50 euros. An adults audio guide is 5 euros. Children's audio guides are aimed at children 12 years and below.


3. Allow time to look at the floor covering the way he painted and what he used. I haven't found this sort of information at other museums and galleries, so it's a unique touch. Plus there are some interactive areas, which Lucy lurvs.


For more information...

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/vincent-van-gogh-sunflowers
http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp?page=101&lang=en