I’m not much of a cyclist but…

I’m not much of a cyclist but I just completed what has to have been one of my toughest challenges yet (although they all feel like that at the time).

My partner, Jamie, and I had agreed to cycle London 2 Paris in 24 hours as part of a group. But when my friend, the group leader, was unable to continue with his plans we decided to go for it as a solo couple.

Having spent most of the year training up for my ultra run in July, with just one bike ride a week thrown in, I really had to ramp up the cycling for the last two months before the ride. However I knew that I hadn’t really done enough training to be able to not worry about this challenge. Jamie tried to tell me that I could think about it as two rides with a six hour break in-between but this did not inspire great confidence in me. I knew that six hours was a good amount of time for leg muscles to cool off and seize off – not to mention that those hours would be spent trying to grab a small amount of uncomfortable sleep.

In the days leading up to the ride I was particularly tense and nervous. My back had been playing up all week, it took me weeks to find my passport and I was concerned about the logistics of getting us and the bikes to and from France.

I knew that this would be tough. I knew that this could be the challenge I did not manage to complete. I knew that I would try my hardest and that what would be would be.

We caught the train from Nottingham at lunch time on Friday. This meant getting to London in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to cycle across to our start point of Tower Bridge for 4pm. I thought that cycling in London would be terrifying but found it pretty similar to any other city but with the bonus of some pretty good cycle lanes built in. You certainly had to be on your guard but that is the same anywhere and I would say that London drivers were possibly more aware of cyclists than elsewhere – this didn’t mean they liked them or gave them a lot of space but they knew where you were and that it was best not to actually hit you.

We had borrowed the route that my friend had originally plotted and it took us through Southwark, Lewisham and Croydon before we headed out into the countryside. Some slightly rough off road options made it interesting on the road bikes but they always gave way to good roads once more. As the sun started to spectacularly set on Friday we still had many miles to cover to get down to Newhaven and the ferry. Our lights went on, first portions of flapjack were scoffed and the tyres rolled on. The journey got progressively tougher, not just because of the testing climbs, but mainly due to the increasingly inviting  country village pubs we had to pass! We both later recounted to each other our private horrors at having to pass the ‘CAMRA Village Pub of the Year’ without stopping.

At the time the ride to Newhaven seemed tough but looking back it was the easy part of the challenge. Arriving at Newhaven just before 9.30pm we checked in and joined many other cyclists waiting to board. There were two large, organised, groups and one cycle club from Brixton all hoping to complete the route to Paris. My trusty B Twin bike looked a little lost amongst the thoroughbred bikes surrounding her but I am always proud to ride her  We seemed to be the only couple that day. I think that most of them had been sensible enough to book cabins on board. The check in girl felt sorry for us and told us where to find the most comfortable seats on the ferry.

On board we took in in turns to buy some truly bad food from the ferry restaurant. The veggie option was to take them 15 minutes to cook/microwave so I went for a plate of chips. I believe the chips were very well travelled as they had clearly crossed the channel a few times and possibly been rejected by the sea gulls before being served to me. Jamie did not think too much more of his spag bol. But it was food in our stomachs and time to get our heads down. The ferry departed Newhaven at 11pm and was to arrive in Dieppe at 5am (4am GMT).

Jamie was, typically, out like a light with his light down jacket wrapped around him. I struggled to sleep in the seat so opted for the hard floor, with my rucksack for a pillow. It was a joy to discover which parts of my body went dead depending on which position I tried to sleep in. Eventually the cold drove me up from the floor and back to the seat. Another half hour of trying to get warm and comfortable eventually promoted me to dare to wake Jamie and ask for ‘a go with the down jacket’, only to discover that Jamie was ‘sweating buckets’ with it on and glad to get rid of it. Sigh.

We both managed a few hours of broken sleep before it was time to disembark into the fresh darkness of France. Dieppe marina looked pretty in the stillness of night and we made our way onto the Avenue Verte, the paved, off road cycle path from Newhaven to Paris. Our route was to keep us on the path for part of the way before taking us back out onto roads, For reference, if you plan to do this ride, I would recommend staying on the  Avenue Verte for the entire ride. It is not the shortest route but is very well maintained and signposted.

The sun did not rise until around 7.30am, the air was chilly and the route spooky but so enjoyable. It became quite a mission to dodge all the rabbits in the darkness; each one seemed intent on giving us multiple chances to mow them down. A little of the Lambert family animal adoption gene seems to have rubbed off on Jamie also as a young cat ran from the darkness, to his moving bike for a cuddle. Watching the sun rise and burn off the mist from the surrounding fields was a wonderful part of the ride for both of us.

By around 7.45am my energy levels were getting seriously low and I was grateful to see signs for Forges-les-Eaux; a place where I had read you could get food. Luckily we had just got ahead of the other groups of cyclists and so were first to the bakery in the town. A large order of pain au chocolat and crème café éclairs ensued. I believe it was the best éclair I have ever tasted but I my judgment may have been slightly skewed by the fact I was wobbling around on the bike à la Jonny Brownlee in the minutes leading up to breakfast.

From here we headed out on the roads, fully believing that our route, at thirty miles shorter than the Avenue Verte, must be the easy option. To start with it was a truly lovely ride. The French villages we passed through were very picturesque and the odd chateau would appear to the side. We stopped for pony hugging and more flapjack. I started to discover that the French part of the journey, however, was no where near as flat as I had been told it would be. There are a series of rolling hills, close to us in Nottinghamshire, which are referred to as the Southwell Rollers. This ride was like doing those…for seven hours! The journey was not flat but our tyres were. We both got punctures and Jamie managed to blow a third inner tube up with over enthusiastic use of a gas canister. We still felt on track for finishing between 3-3.30pm French time. Well inside the time we needed to finish in.

Then it all went a bit pear shaped. Our route tried to take us up a farm track and the following search for the correct route added a few miles, a few hills and a bit of frustration into the day. It was at this point, as we went up a particularly long hill, that I discovered I had lost a lot of my gears. I have had my bike a few years and it has never let me down before, but today was a step too far and the gears just wouldn’t work. This was the cause of much swearing over the remaining 50 miles.

We ploughed on and I still felt that we could achieve our aim. It would be hard but we would make it. A nasty head wind picked up. Then it got worse.

The route took us down a slightly rough looking road and into a traveler camp. The GPS said to go left down a track. The travelers disagreed. We had to turn back. Phones and GPS kept insisting we should go back but we felt that they hadn’t met the locals before and so ignored them. Having gone round in circles for some time we had to admit it – we knew Paris was close but we just couldn’t find it!

Eventually Jamie approached a lady who was washing her fence. It was a bloody good idea. She and her husband were wonderful; not only did they tell us a route and give us a map to take, they also offered to refill our, severely depleted, water bottles.

By now we had done over 155 miles  and we knew we had at least another 15 to go before Paris. I was flagging, badly. A few more miles and I tried to tell Jamie that I was going to collapse. All that came from my mouth was a jumble of babbled words, I started to shake and I knew I was in trouble. I also knew that there weren’t many options for getting to Paris but to keep cycling. But my body was telling me to stop and curl up by the side of the road.

Jamie was amazing. I didn’t realize it at the time, in fact I thought he was being quite cruel, but he truly was amazing. Having opened a gel and fed it to me (I was beyond being able to do these things myself) and then making me drink water, he then pushed me and the bike for the next few miles. Where the road narrowed and cars needed to get by he would give me a big push, to get me in front of him, and tell me “you pedal now”. My legs would automatically turn (albeit with very little power) until he could push me again.

We both knew what it meant if I could not continue. Not only failure of the challenge but also a nightmare of getting me and the bike into Paris somehow. Once I had revived slightly my stubbornness kicked back in. I had another gel, pulled myself together and tried to work out how long we had to make Paris.

It was going to be tight and we both dug deep. It seemed to take as long to get into the centre of Paris as it had to get out of London. I don’t think ether of us will forget the pain of unclipping and clipping in, with sore feet, at hundreds of sets of traffic lights for a long time! We also found that they aren’t that keen on a sign post in Paris.

The idea of cycling, in victory, down the Champs-Elysees had long since gone out of the window. Now we needed to go straight to the Gare du Nord and  get ourselves and the bikes on our train home. At traffic light after traffic light Jamie asked for directions and finally, finally we arrived!

Did we make it to Paris in 24 hours? Yes. Were we in the centre? No. But with 20 extra miles on our journey, taking the entire route to 180 miles, I am classing that as a win!

The fun was not over yet however. Jamie had booked the bikes on our train. But the ten minute jog (we were low on time) to the bike check in took us to a surly check in clerk. He told us it was not possible to get the bikes on the train as it was full. “But I have a reservation” Jamie pleaded. “I don’t understand much English he replied”. Another gentleman translated “réservé”. Seriously! I am still struggling to believe he couldn’t understand that one! After a few minutes he found our booking, smiled and cheerily told us it was no problem and the bikes could go on the train! 

We then ran back to human check in and could finally relax. Beer and a cheese baguette!!!
On the journey home we use up all our Euros on three more cans of beer before sleeping our way to St Pancras. Once there we had to honour Jamie’s promise of visiting the Betjemen Arms before wearily boarding our train back to Nottingham. We kicked off our restrictive cycling shoes, caring not for fellow passengers experiences of our scent, and we snoozed.

Many hours of travel, no fall outs (this was down to Jamie not me), more miles than we wanted in our legs and a fantastic adventure to go home with.

The adventure was everything I thought it would be. I can’t sit, stand or blink comfortably today. But I loved doing it.

What’s next?! 

Are you awake?

My mind roars. Like a never ending waterfall. An incessant noise, rushing and thundering.

It is 1am, 2am, 3am. I can feel sleep in my limbs but each time it drifts nearer the roar intensifies, my body tenses, it is gone.

I go to bed tired, perhaps I read for a while to ensure I really am exhausted. The light goes out and for ten minutes there is the optimistic hope of sleep. Then the roar starts. Negative thoughts add themselves, each one increasing the deluge.

Outside noises (and there are many where I live) are magnified and make their way past the best earplugs. Light pollution is turned, by my anxious brain, into glaring sunlight.

A knot of anxiety settles on my chest, much like the weight of a sleeping cat but with none of the comfort.

Night after night of this insomnia has crept up from nowhere and taken me by a weary surprise. One night I cry and tell my partner I want to feel normal again.

Something has knocked my mind out of kilter and I can’t make sense of it. I can only put it down to the ultra run. Since I ran that, less than three weeks ago, I have never settled back down.

The race was tough and drained my body for a week afterwards. Now I see it took a toll on my mind also. 37 miles of running, through rain and hail, in the hills of the Lake District.

My knee, an old injury weakened by a fall some weeks before, went on me at mile 8. A great support team, codeine and positive mental imagery of the finish line got me round. It hurt but I was so happy and proud to have completed it.

Why, then, is my mind so unhappy? Is it just the physical toll? Is it the loss of something I had aimed and trained for for 8 months of my life? Has it allowed previously buried worries and insecurities to creep past barriers I had carefully erected?

Was it my trip to my beloved Lymington days after the run which did this? Having not been back since Bob died I was concerned about my solo day trip. But I found it lovely; peaceful and filled with happiness.

I cannot let this beat me and take over my life. Friends have given advice and reading to help and I grasp each helping hand. 

I have learnt breathing exercises and am using a Yoga Nidra app which relaxes me but not to the point of sleep. A technique of bringing in negative thoughts and then controlling them through the concentration techniques of Yoga Nidra.

My partner tells me to write, that it will help. I tell him that people don’t want to hear. He reminds me why I started my blog; for me. That I write for me.

And so this morning, after another bad night, I write. 

I know that life is good. I am looking forward to walking in the sunshine today. I am saving hard for another big adventure next year and have two months to train for cycling London 2 Paris in 24 hrs this September.

Physically I am healthy but my mental health is not 100%. I must treat it like a cold. Look after myself, give myself recovery time. Be kind to myself.


Let’s Talk

How are you? Is there anything you would like to say? I will listen. So many people will listen. It doesn’t matter if it seems minor or silly. You can say it to me. You can say it to your friends, to your family or, if it helps, to a complete stranger.

I talked last week. I did something which terrified me. I stood up in front of a room full of people and talked about the toughest and most emotional part of my life so far. The reason I put myself there is because I want you to talk.

I was speaking at the ManMade conference. A conference which bought together people from many areas who all had one thing in common; they were passionate about mental health. They are passionate about survival and giving men a chance to survive times in their life when they feel suicidal.

If you have ever read any of my blog posts before you will know that I have lost someone I loved to suicide. However, I was still unsure whether I was qualified to speak at this conference. I had experienced suicide loss but could I really make a difference to other people?

I had known  would be speaking at ManMade for many months but managed to keep putting off writing my talk. It is how I have always been. If something stresses me e.g. studying for exams, I will ignore it until the last possible minute before finally panicking and getting my head down.

I knew that in order to write about all I had been through after February 4th 2014 I would have to re-visit a lot of pain. I would have to re-read things which I had written and then never read back. Each time I blogged for the first few months after Bob died I would blurt out all that was in my head and heart, publish and walk away. I would reply to comments on my blog and interact with those who reacted to it but I rarely went back to it myself. Those were my raw emotions in print – I had expelled them from me, why would I want to look back at them?

Eventually, two weeks before ManMade (yes, I’m sorry Terry, I left it that late), I started to read and write. Even then it was just two days before the conference when I actually wrote the bulk of my talk. One day before I re-wrote it and on the day I wrote it once more.

Re-reading the blog bought about all the anxiety I thought it would, as well as a massive cringe fest at some of the spelling mistakes which had gone unedited. My fear of loss and lack of control came to the fore. With Jamie working away all week he had to field tearful phone calls in which I expressed my fear of him dying. The idea of having to cope with such deep grief a second time felt totally overwhelming.

On the actual day of the conference, my stress levels dropped. I was still nervous but, as the day went on, I listened to so many amazing people telling their stories that I couldn’t help but start to feel enthused by what the day was achieving.

My fellow speakers all had their own tales to tell. They were people who had been on the brink of suicide, people who campaigned to change the way mental health is handled by the police and parliament, people who dedicated their lives, one way or another, to reducing suicide. But most of all they were people who talked. And finally I could see where I fitted in.

I stood up and told my story. A story of how suicide grief affects your life. A story of how I have used sport, social media and an absorption of others love and positivity. For twenty minutes  stood and did what I had always done in my blog; I blurted out all the pain, the progress and even the laughs I have had along my journey. My talk became a part of the journey. It was a whole new stage.

I am so glad I did it. I am so glad I met all the people I met that day. As soon as I sat down people started to come to me. One lady told me that she had gone through the same thing 25 years before and many others came to tell me fragments of their stories. People talked.

I particularly enjoyed talking to others who use sport and exercise to help others deal with various issues in their life. Having heard me speak about the ultra run which I am running soon (in just 11 days time to be precise, eek!), one lady, Lisa Thompson, came to tell me about her 100 mile ultra and also about the running group which she started up for women who had been victims of abuse or sexual violence. She explained that it helps the women to build up their confidence both physically and mentally.

I was also interested to meet a gentleman who has very recently started a charity which seeks to help people living with depression by teaching a triangle of healthy living through sleep, exercise and healthy eating/drinking. The Mindset Triangle is born from its founder, Stu’s, own experiences of living with depression. Having spoken to Stu I am hoping to spend more time learning about this new charity.

ManMade has bought about many great connections for my self and others. It does not stop there. People are still dying of suicide at an alarming rate in the UK. We need to talk about it.

Talk to me. Talk to anyone. Let’s talk.

If  you want to discover more about the other people who stood up and told their stories at the conference please do follow these links (believe me, they are fascinating people!): Terry Rigby, Jonny Benjamin, Chief Inspector Sean Russell, Jamie Harrington, Pete Trainor, Rohan Kallicharan and Hector’s House Charity.




You Are Rich When You Are Happy With What You Have.

A year ago I chose to leave my job. It was a good job and I earned enough to pay the rent, go out a little, buy a little and have a little left over at the end of the month. I was aware that I was lucky to be in this position. Many people had lost their jobs during the recession and struggled to find new ones.

I could have stayed. Convention and society tells us that we should work, full time (barring time taken off to raise children) for our entire adult lives. It is a big part of the reason that so many young adults take a gap year nowadays. That last chunk of freedom before committing to the responsibilities of adulthood.

Perhaps I should have stayed. But I was no longer happy. Bob’s suicide the year before had changed my perspective. I have written before about my reasons for leaving but the easiest way to explain it is that I needed to redecorate my life. The rooms needed to look different so that the same old memories did not keep coming back.

And now? It is working. I have regained balance. By that I don’t mean that life is always easy and peachy but it is so much happier. I work three days a week. I earn a lot less than I used to. This means I have to watch my money very carefully. I can’t do everything I want to do or buy everything I want to buy but how many people can truly say they can? In my experience the more I have the more I realise I ‘need’ to buy.

The great outdoors is my gym and it is free! I joined a gym briefly after Bob died, just to fill the empty hours. But it just didn’t hold my interest. I would happily go along to a gym once or twice a month but the membership deals don’t really suit that sort of frequency. So I stick with being a fair weather cyclist and an all weather runner.

Running is a fairly cheap sport. You don’t have to spend money to get to the start – although day trips to the Peak District are getting more common now the ultra run training has ramped up – and you don’t really need masses of gear. My trail shoes are bought on eBay; you can always rely on someone to have bought the wrong size for them-self and be selling them on. My running backpack was a Christmas gift and my, fairly basic, Garmin watch is perfectly adequate at recording my runs.

Having those two extra days off work gives me the luxury of a flexible lifestyle. I can run whenever I want to. Although I tend to spend those two days getting all the household chores and cooking out of the way, so that I can enjoy spending time with family and friends at the weekend. Just before writing this I was cleaning bathrooms with a super attractive face-pack on!

At the beginning of the year I had feared that I wouldn’t be able to run the ultra. A niggling hip problem that just would not go away had stopped me in my tracks. I genuinely was starting to believe that my body could not take more than 10km runs and that age and wear and tear were closing in on me. So it was a huge relief when I went to see a physio and had my way of thinking completely changed around. My hip damage was not structural but the pain had taken control of my mind and I needed to strengthen both the hip and my thinking to get running again. So a big thank you to Matt Buckley at Radcliffe Physiotherapy (Twitter: @RPCROT) for his help with that!

And it worked! The last four weekends my minimum long run has been 14 miles, usually with a couple of thousand feet of ascent. My average weekly running distance has shot up to 29 miles. I have just plotted an 18 miler for next Saturday with 4000ft of ascent…gulp! If anyone wants to join me they are more than welcome, but they must run slowly! 

I am loving it. Loving where my feet take me. Loving hours in the Peaks with my sister in law; trying to work out where we are and where we need to be going. Loving the lung bursting ascents and the amazing views when you finally get to the top (I mean how many false summits can one hill have?!). Loving the feeling of getting fitter and stronger. And loving the support from my partner; who in turn is loving me disappearing for hours on foot so he can get out on his bike!

I can beat myself up about pretty much anything; whether I am loud and annoying, whether I have upset someone, the way I look etc. So I regularly question whether I am doing the right thing when almost everyone else seems to be doing differently? Am I being selfish to give myself this life. But I think the answer comes from my quality of life. I cannot lie for hours in bed or sit watching TV all day. I know that I am privileged to have extra life hours and I love using them!

I am careful, of course, to earn enough that I can save for more adventures! My savings have always gone on travel and adventure instead of saving for deposits on houses or buying nice expensive cars. We are all different and have different priorities in life. Mine is to enjoy now. Always enjoy now.

Time is precious.


Anniversaries – For February 4th

And here we are. Almost two years on. And life has changed immeasurably for me. I hate that I am two years away from you but I also am happy with where my life is now.

My wish, as my wish has always been, is that you were still here and we could both be happy with the lives we are leading.

It’s not just me who misses you. Your friends and family wanted so many more laughs and adventures too.

Two years since I saw you. Two years since you took your life. I grasp at ghostly memories of your jolly laughter; of your distinctive walk and of your (seemingly) boundless enthusiasm. 

You taking your life has scarred me. It has probably scarred many people. 

I am terrified of someone depending on me. What if I fail them again? I am scared that I cannot make someone truly happy. 

I am most frightened of life and death itself. I struggle to cope sometimes with the bad news which is constantly presented to us throughout the day. My over active imagination has burglars/murderers breaking into our house every night, car crashes and terrorist attacks at each turn. 

I scare myself but never ever let fears stop me from doing something. I am sure these over blown fears come from losing you in such a violent way. Suddenly all the bad things that can happen become a reality.

But you taking your life has put my life where it is. Strangely, although I am more scared in many ways, I know I am tougher too. If I can hear the news I heard two years ago and survive the aftermath then surely I can survive anything.

You know how I have always struggled with confidence. Well Bob, I still struggle but I hide it better than I used to. And my partner now carries on your good work in telling me that I am a good person. You would like him. He has been amazing.

Losing you has made me realise the value in everyone’s lives. I want to hear about people. I want to listen and hear their sorrows and happiness.

I am speaking at a conference Bob! Me! Later this year. To tell people about the impact that suicide has on those left behind. It will be hard to sum up but I will do it. For you. For me. For everyone who suffers.

I still go out on adventures. Every week! Cycling, walking, running, everything; I am always out there. Your legacy will not stop.

I miss you. You made me a better person. Thank you.  


Running Into A New Challenge!

Some of you who read my blog regularly will know that last year I took on quite a big challenge. I cycled the Coast 2 Coast route in one day in memory of my partner Bob, who took his life in February 2014. The Coast 2 Coast challenge was Bob’s idea. He was going to do it himself but never got the chance. I had been ready to support him in his challenge but had told him I had no desire to take it on myself as I didn’t think I could achieve it.

It is amazing what you can achieve when you set your mind to it. 130 miles and 11,000ft of climbing in one day was a tough call but, with the massive support of friends, family and fellow riders, we did it.

I was about to say that there have been no big challenges for me this year but this would not be true. Perhaps the challenge of dealing with my grief has been greater because, without training to focus on, I have had to allow ‘normal life’ to resume. I have certainly challenged myself by leaving a secure job for the unknown. This is still a daily challenge but my quality of life has improved immensely now that I am not doing the 9-5 every day of the week.

Physically my greatest challenge was getting to the top of Mount Kailash in Tibet at 5666m. This is the highest altitude I have ever been to and was such hard work. However, again, this was Bob’s challenge. He should have been on that trip and done that climb.

Physically I have felt that I have been ticking over this year. I took on a half marathon at the beginning of March and have completed a 10k or two. I have been out on the bike as little as I can get away with (luckily my new partner is a cyclist and gently persuades me to get out and pedal with him often enough to not lose my bike fitness entirely) and did make it up Holme Moss not long ago. But I don’t feel like I have loved it this year and I certainly haven’t pushed myself.

I follow and am followed by some awesome people on Twitter who eat physical challenges for breakfast! I love seeing the wide variety of feats they take on – from those training for their first 10k to those cycling crazy endurance distances, yes you Jason Smith (@ChallengerWSM)! I am so proud of my best friend, who used to stubbornly tell me “I can’t run.” whenever I suggested a jog together. She has now run far more 10k’s than I have this year and is loving it. My Dad, who has been nicknamed ‘The Terminator’ by my partner, for his tenacity at both running and cycling And my sister, well my sister now cycles audax’s – just the 422km in  a little over 24 hours then! Seeing these constant achievements meant that something inside me was definitely starting to stir!

So, when I saw that my sister-in-law, Em, had signed up for her first ultra-run a little spark ignited in me. True, I have been suffering with a hamstring injury for a couple of months, which makes running uncomfortable to say the least. And I swore earlier in the year that I would never even enter another half marathon. But this is different. This is a big challenge. 55kms (34miles) of trail running, in the Lake District, with around 6000ft of ascent.

I just couldn’t help myself. It was clearly exactly what I had been waiting for. Something which I am not sure if I can achieve. Something that scares me. Something which will feel awesome if I can complete it. I got great encouragement from Em (excited to have found someone as crazy as her) and my partner (he has greater belief in my ability than I do) and that was it, I signed.

Oh it felt so good when I put that entry in! I was on such a high for the rest of the day. Then I had one of those cartoon moments where you go to bed and the next morning your eyes pop open, cold reality hits in and you realise it was not a dream. Don’t get me wrong I am still super excited, but now I’m nervous too. I can’t wait to get my body fit and start to love sport again. I just hope that my body allows me to put it through this. Niggling little injuries could become show stoppers. It’s time to get to the physio and get straightened out!

This is my challenge. I certainly won’t say that it isn’t influenced by Bob, he is the person who found the sporty person hiding in me. But this time I can only train for myself and achieve for myself. This time I will have my partner by my side as I train (I have suggested he cycles alongside me with a microphone!) and I am so happy about that.

This coming Sunday I am taking part in the Stilton Stumble, a 10k race in Cropwell Bishop (you get a free chunk of Stilton at the end!) and after that it is time to gently ramp it up. I have until July 2nd next year to get myself physically and mentally ready for my first ultra so I think it is time to resurrect last years catchphrase..

Be More Relentless!


The Shifting Sands of Grief

I don’t blog as often as I used to anymore. It’s not because I don’t want to, more that I have felt a sort of blog writer’s block. Often when I am running, cycling or walking I will think of things I would like to write but then, when I am sitting down, I don’t know how to start.

The last few months I have learnt much more about the twists and turns of grief. How, just when you think you are feeling a bit more stable, grief can pull the rug away violently and leave you back down on the floor.

I’m not suggesting that I feel anywhere near as bad as I did when Bob first died. That rawness has certainly faded. Although I know that I am lucky in this, for some grief remains raw for years. It is now a dull ache which is felt everyday and some days pushes itself harder into my mind. One thing which is hard to deal with is that I miss Bob now more than ever. In the months leading up to Bob’s death the man I knew slowly slipped away from me. It has taken a long time for me to remember him as he was before. A combination of my being happy in a new relationship and an email from an old flame of Bob’s has really bought back to me the vivacious, fun and adventurous person Bob really was. We had said that we would always be close friends and I miss my friend terribly now. I want to tell him about my new adventures and want to hear of his – he always had a new mountain to climb, country to visit or sport to try.

Being in a new relationship has also brought some damage to the fore. In the past I have always wanted commitment and stability and, in theory, I still do now. But when confronted with the chance for this I now find myself panicking and being unsure if I can cope with ‘long term’. It is a fear which is easy to analyse, easy to explain away, but not so easy to get around. I also found that moving house seemed to unsettle my mind. I became tearful for, seemingly, no reason. I guess that many objects have tiny threads of memories attached to them; touching and moving them stirs the threads and takes me deep into thought.

Another issue which has caused many wrangles in my mind has been one which I have been unsure whether to write about. The one thing which has eased my grief has been the kindness of others. I have mentioned it many times; my family, friends and strangers have provided such immense support. When someone close to you takes their own life you are thrust into a whole new world. And I feel that a big part of that world is understanding other people. I have never known much about mental health, other than what we all read and see in the press. But the last year and a half has been a voyage of discovery. I have heard from many people on Twitter and through other channels who suffer from mental health problems and the most important thing I have learned is how complex and subtle mental health issues can be. I hope that I, at least, have a far greater understanding of tolerance and care towards everyone I come across.

So it has been difficult to come to terms with someone who has decided to play on my grief. Someone I have never met nor spoken to but who has decided to take my pain and twist it for their own means. The wrangle has been whether to bother to give them the air time and attention they desire. But their actions have caused me great thought on how we should all treat others.

This person knows neither me nor knew Bob and therefore knows nothing of our lives but chooses to spend time sifting through my Twitter, Instagram, blog and Facebook to peel information and photographs and use them for their own ends. They accuse me of killing Bob and tell me I should feel guilt. Anyone who has read my blog will know that I do feel guilt but not in the way this person wants me to feel. Death threats towards me were frightening but the ones towards our family dog were simply repulsive (these made me far more upset than the threats to myself).

I soon learnt not to look at this person’s social media and therefore not give them the audience they crave. But there is no denying that it is difficult to forget the intention behind their actions.

At first I was hurt, then angry. I learnt to turn to my closest friends to feel anger on my behalf. Their reactions of disbelief and fury gave me the space to allow my mind to settle. They took blows on my behalf and I am, yet again, indebted to them.

Now I try to feel pity, for a mind so twisted and unsettled that it needs to probe at my scars and dig them open for its own ends. But I am unsure that I can manage to feel pity. I want to see the good in everyone. This does not mean that I like everyone or want to be friends with each person I meet. I simply have a genuine desire to believe in looking out for each other. So when someone displays such vile hatred and cruelty towards me I do not know where to look for the good.

I suppose the question I have been debating in my own mind, for a while now is, at what point can, or should, we feel sympathy for others, feel pity for others or worry for the future of others. And at which point should we throw our hands in the air and say ‘I feel nothing for this person. This person is showing only bad’?

Mental health issues have such indistinct beginnings and ends. At what point does something tip into that realm?

It is beyond my understanding and experience but something I would certainly like to learn more about.

Despite the grief and the trolling I am enjoying my life at the moment. I love the two jobs I have and the friends I get to spend time with. I love the new adventures with my wonderful partner and family. I have loved the sunshine of summer – although this seems to be departed now! I laugh, I run, I cycle and I love. I grieve too and there will always be a gap in my life. I am so grateful that the happy memories are starting to return now and I will always try to fill the gap with good things, there are so many out there!


Nothing You Truly Desire Is Ever Easy To Achieve

Nothing you truly desire is ever easy to achieve BUT if you want it badly enough you will fight for it.

This applies to so many situations in life. I am writing this whilst watching todays highlights of the Tour De France. Looking at the pain in those riders faces and how the raw desire to do their best allows them to push their bodies to the limit illustrates this perfectly. It also illustrates the fact that however hard you fight you may still not get what you desire.

At least if you fight you can say that you tried.

When I left my job a few months ago I knew that I was going to have a fight on my hands if I was to get to where I wanted to be. I’m still fighting but I am getting closer! Having signed up as an Independent Stylist with Stella and Dot I am able to fully indulge in my love of social media. I have started a new Twitter account and Facebook page specifically to promote the lovely jewellery I sell, my website  and the opportunities for me to bring a pop-up jewellery boutique to your home or business. The social media bit comes easily to me but selling (however much I love my product) does not. I am nervous of being pushy and alienating people, even though deep down I know I am being over sensitive. I am hoping that my selling point of being honest and genuine will help me in the long run.

As well as my new Stella and Dot career I now also have a fab part time job at British Canoeing. Working for the Go Canoeing team I get to indulge in my other love; writing! I am loving getting my teeth into writing copy for news articles and their website. Plus being back in an office a couple of days a week means I get to meet new people.

There is no denying that not going to work each day can feel good in the short term. But as the weeks go on it is difficult to retain a feeling of self worth. I have not had a lazy day since leaving my job and always get up at ‘work time’ but I am so programmed to think that a person is not a person without a job that I often feel the need to justify. This is the very feeling which causes so many problems when people unexpectedly lose their job or reach retirement.

My desire is to get to the point where I can make enough money from Stella and Dot that I feel comfortable in telling people that I may not do 9-5 but I work hard to give myself the freedom. It’s not going to be easy but I will keep fighting for it.

My new relationship has not been easy in places too. It was never going to be though was it? I don’t think you can go through the trauma of a partner taking their own life with out carrying some scars over into subsequent relationships. Since Bob died I have prided myself on being there for others, for having the ability to listen where before I may not have had the time or patience. However the first time my partner really needed to rely on me for emotional support I panicked. What if I got it wrong and worse, what if I wasn’t strong enough? The last time someone had relied on me so deeply I felt I failed him.

So I almost pushed my new partner away. I briefly was cold and distant and had to spend some time working things through in my head. It is testament to him that, although this scared him, he was patient. He has known deep grief himself and understands the need for processing time. And so we made it through.

We have faced other adversity in our short time together but we know that this one is worth fighting for. It has to be worth fighting for when you meet someone who is willing to put up with your grumpiness when out on the hills on the bike! Luckily he has learnt to ignore my muttered profanities directed at his back as he allows me to draft behind him. He is also not complaining too much that, now I have discovered he is also faster than me at running, we are now starting to go swimming…the one sport at which I am faster than him. He’s got to be a keeper, right?!

Even though my life seems to be full of battles at the moment I am happy. I wish I could tell Bob out loud because I know it is what he would want but I still tell him in my head.

Let’s keep fighting on guys!



New Beginnings

It’s a few weeks now since I returned home from Tibet and it feels a world away already. It was wonderful to land back into the lush green of late spring in England and took me no time at all to adjust to sit-down, flushing toilets and a decent cup of tea. However, as with all who love a bit of adventure travel, there was also a slight feeling of regret at coming back to all the convenience and ease of day to day life.

This time coming back was a little different too. Instead of having to endure the back to work blues I have had to adjust to not going back to work. That may sound like heaven to most people but it’s an odd position to be in. When I wake up each morning my first thought is ‘I’m not earning any money today’. A disconcerting place to be. But this is a position in which I put myself and I am not regretting it. When I decided to leave my job without another to go to I did it to force myself to work out what I really wanted to do next. I applied for quite a few sports related positions and got nowhere; I love sport but have no experience working in the industry and, no matter what you write in your cover letter, most employers have set tick boxes they need to see on your CV.

As the weeks have gone on it has become harder to explain myself to explain myself to people when they ask if I have a job yet or what am I looking for. Both [perfectly reasonable questions but not easy when the answers are ‘no’ and ‘I’m not sure’.

All the time I have been looking for my new role I have also had time on my hands to check my social media more. One Facebook friends posts kept catching my eye. Pictures of beautiful jewellery and accessories coupled with, what looked like, a very happy lifestyle. This lady is also very sporty and clearly getting out for runs and rides when others were at work. One day I realised  that the answer to my work dilemma might just be staring me in the face! The lady in questions sells Stella and Dot for a living an sometimes mentioned wanting people to join her team. It took me a little while to decide but eventually I contacted her for more information. I wasn’t sure if it would be for me but she immediately invited me along to a stylists meet up the following week

I wasn’t sure what to expect and was nervous that I may walk into a room full of ultra glamorous women who talked amongst themselves. But I was so pleasantly surprised. They was certainly a good sprinkling of glamour in the room, not least because all the ladies were proudly wearing the items they sell, but all of them were so welcoming and friendly. I chatted to quite a few other stylists and they were all just so passionate and happy about what they do. One lady in particular gave me lots of tips and the offer of future help.

I came out of the meeting buzzing and bent my partners ear all the way home about what a wonderful opportunity this could be for me. Many of the ladies work part or full time and sell Stella and Dot as a side line but some have it as a full time career. I realised that if I signed up I could indulge in all sides of my personality. I love to put on the glam, dress up and go out, I love helping other people find items which suit them and they want to buy and I love having time and freedom to run and cycle whenever I want. Perfect.

So my new career is starting. I have signed up and am waiting for my first jewellery samples to come through. I will be having a launch party on 29th June in Nottinghamshire (if anyone wants further details and would like to come please do get in touch)  and now need to start booking trunk parties into the diary. The idea of the trunk party is that the host invites lots of her friends round to her house for a fun, girls night and I come along with all the fabulous bling. The host gets Stella and Dot rewards and discounts as well as a chance to catch up with friends!

It feels so much better to have made a decision and be able to get my teeth into something again. And the role will still test me. I will be pushed out of my comfort zone in going into peoples homes to showcase the jewellery. In the past all of my selling has been done from the comfort of a shop, so it will be a new experience. I will also have to work hard at it. The sky is the limit with this venture but it won’t come easily. I am lucky to have the support of my partner and family and am so excited with the place I am at now.

Once I get off the ground I can really start to think about new cycling and running challenges too! There will be no excuses about not having time to train and once I am earning again entry fees won’t seem so scary!

Wish me luck for the future guys, I couldn’t have had the confidence to go for this without the encouragement of friends (both virtual and present) and family. Thank you all.

I have my own website already so do feel free to browse the lovely items online or drop me a line if you fancy the rewards of hosting a trunk party in your own home! http://www.stelladot.co.uk/cadilambert


The Mount Kailash Kora

Saturday 9th – Monday 11th May, 2015

We set off on the kora in high spirits. This is what we came for. Three years ago Colin had a group of us organised to come out and complete this trek but visa restrictions saw us splitting into two groups with me heading off on the Nepalese Everest Base Camp trek instead. The EBC trek consisted of myself, my then partner Bob, Ralph (who is also on this trip with his wife, Carole) and Ralph’s brother in law, David. EBC was an amazing and eye opening experience for me and caused me to fall in love with Nepal.

Not long after Bob took his own life in February 2014 Colin told me that he was planning on trying for the Tibet trip again and kindly invited me along. I knew that Bob would have gone on the trip had he still been with us. This was my chance to see Tibet for him and take his adventurous spirit somewhere he never got to go.

During this trip we have all talked about Bob and laughed at shared memories of a man with a bombastic sense of humour and a desire to constantly push his own boundaries. I have also been able to talk, with joy, about the man I am in love with now. Someone who understands why I needed to do this trip. My past experience of living and losing Bob has shaped the person I am today. The future is with my new partner and I am excited to get back and share my life again.

It certainly felt like Bob was tracking us from somewhere as we started our trek.

Day one was a steady rise, past prayer flags, Om Mani Padme Hum stones and yak skulls (I also found a random yak foot and lower leg!). The skulls are often placed in amongst the prayer stones and inscribed with prayer themselves.

We made our way along a deep valley and through the site of the Saga Dawa festival. This is a yearly event, the highlight of which is the raising of a flagpole. If the flagpole stands upright once raised it will be a good year for the Tibetans. Rather reminiscent of Groundhog Day in America!

The wildlife in the mountains tend to be fairly unafraid due to the lack of hunting by humans. The journey to Darchen had bought us close ups of a wolf and some wild ass. Now we were able to get good pictures of the birds a large, marmot-like creatures named as mountain rats by our guide.

There was a long slog at the end of the day into our guesthouse accommodation. Colin and I pushed slightly ahead of Carole and Ralph and ended up exchanging pleasantries and energy sweets with a group of elderly Tibetan pilgrims.

Our guesthouse left a little to be desired, mainly due to the shouty young lady running it. During the night toilet options were; brave the semi-wild dogs by going out to the loo, cross your legs or use a pee bottle. We all made our own choices on that one!

The dawn view of Mount Kailash made up for the uncomfortable night. We had to set off fairly early as our guide was concerned about the snow softening in the afternoon.

Our guesthouse was at 4950m and we immediately headed uphill on snow and ice. The crux of the day was going up and over the Drolma La (La means Pass) at almost 5670m. The highest I had ever been before was EBC at approx 5385m so I knew this would be a tough test. 

The path turned a corner to reveal the pass ahead. The slope was steep and long. I started  out with Colin but he was stronger than I and steadily moved ahead. Carole and Ralph were behind with our guide. The porters and our driver (who was also pottering) skipped ahead or behind us with ease. Our driver told us that he had done the entire kora in one day before – quite a feat. However he had forgotten to bring sunglasses, a mistake which would probably have caused him snow blindness had Carole not had a spare to lend him.

I don’t know how long it took me to get up the pass, it certainly felt like hours. At points I had to fight the urge to sit down in the snow and rest. Nearer the top it was a case of ten small steps then stop to gasp for air, before pushing on. Most of the time I could see Colin, way up ahead and the others down below but several false summits saw me lose sight briefly.

Reaching the top bought about in me a mixture of relief and pride. Colin had arrived fourteen minutes before me and it was about fourteen minutes more before the rest of the party arrived.

We sat beneath flapping prayer flags, eating hard boiled eggs and apples, congratulating each there on making it. All the while Tibetan teenagers bounced around us, erecting new lines of prayer flags and singing. Our guide allowed us a short rest and photo shoot before reminding us about melting snow and the dangers of staying at high altitude too long.

The descent proved to be almost as difficult and strenuous as the ascent. We all ended up up to our knees or waists in snow on multiple occasions. We strung back out into our ascent pattern. Our porters helped me to cross a portion of frozen lake and then I was alone again. It was a peaceful and reflective part of the walk for me – surrounded by snow and mountains. I saw Colin ahead, stopping occasionally to check on my progress but eventually I moved atop a rocky slope with no one in sight ahead or behind. A sign to my right urged caution on danger of death so I followed footprints to my left. I soon realised this had been a mistake – ‘danger of death’ was the safe route!

I found I was on a steep and melting snow slope with no desire to attempt a climb back up. I followed the, now meagre, footprints off the snow and onto an, equally steep, rock and shale slope. It was time for a pep talk. ‘Right Cadi’ I told myself ‘you got yourself here and there is no point being scared. You’re on your own, get yourself down safely’. And I did. Zig-zagging, so as not to pick up speed, I spotted Colin sitting on a rock below. As I picked my way over the last patch of snow towards him relief and pride flashed up again. 

We regrouped before heading off on another valley trek to our accommodation. Colin was still strong and broke ahead whilst I enjoyed a more relaxed pace with Carole and Ralph. Slightly delirious hilarity ensued when all three of us and our guide got stuck up to our waists in snow after eight hours of trekking.

That night Carole and I shared one bedroom whilst Ralph and Colin took another. Having lain awake for over an hour, trying to pretend I didn’t need the toilet, I was relieved to hear Carole get up at around 2.30 am. I asked if I we could go out to the toilet together. I think we were both glad of the company when one of the dogs sleeping in a skip awoke as we walked back. By the morning we had expended the ‘rustle in the darkness’ story to us having been attacked by a pack of wild dogs!

The final day of the kora started with us all breakfasting in the tea house tent. This tent was not only the social and eating area for the family who ran the guest accommodation, but also their sleeping quarters. As we ate, the granddaughter of the family – a charming girl, of around three years, who had delighted in greeting us with many ‘Tashi Deley’s’ the day before – was snuggling into bed with her granddad.

It was around a four hour trek back to Darchen, mostly downhill. The path was, at first, unremarkable but soon narrowed with slopes above and a small ravine below. I worried a little when a herd of yak appeared, over a brow, coming towards us. Yaks are big, tough beasts with long horns and a grumpy disposition. We moved up onto some rocks above the trail to let them pass. A young man, who had been picking his way along on his motorbike, had to switch off his engine and wait for them to flow around him.

A little further along we watched a shepherdess control her flock with an accurate use of a sling shot. Any stray sheep would hear a stone crack hard above, sending them jogging back to join the flock.

We arrived back to Darchen at lunchtime and celebrated with a delicious meal of noodles, fried aubergine, smoky black fungi and, of course, Lhasa beer!

All four of us were excited to have finally achieved the kora but none more so than Colin, who had dreamed the dream for many years. I felt I had pushed myself to honour Bob and believe I did him proud. Future adventures will be my own; shared with someone incredibly special, but I am glad to have achieved this one. The future is bright.

As we travel through the uniquely barren and yet beautiful scenery of Tibet I sometimes zone out and listen to my music. Occasionally a song comes on which sums up the moment. Here is one which I feel suits our trek: http://youtu.be/tn95pPlq6So 


Tibet Unfolds

Monday 4th to Saturday 9th May, 2015

The earthquake has changed our itinerary considerably and plans have had to be fluid, but we have packed so much in that the start of the trip seems like a life time away.

Following our two nights at Terdom Hot Springs we head back to Lhasa for a night.

In the time we spend back there we meet other tourists who have been told not to head West as roads (and sometimes entire areas) were closed due to earthquake relief.

We also saw the hoards of climbers and their gear who had been evacuated from the Mount Everest region (on the Tibetan side). Everest, we were told, was shut for the season. This put paid to our Base Camp visit as well as a planned three day trek to Shishipangma base camp.

Colin was working on hard on contingency plans, should we find we were blocked from going West entirely.

Eventually we got word that we would be able to head West, through Gyantse, at least as far as Shigatse. Most tourists were informed that Shigatse was the farthest they could go but we had whisper that, as we already had permits secured for our Mount Kailash trek, we may be able to proceed further.

The six of us loaded up and headed to Gyantse, with a stop at the dazzlingly turquoise Yandrok Lake. Yandrok, at 72km long, is one of Tibets four sacred lakes and, judging by the numbers of Chinese tourists, a popular place to visit. We all had the obligatory ‘here we are, with a yak, in front of a lake’ photographs and headed on.

The Lhasa to Shigatse route is popular with Western tourists – although Western tourism is incredibly small scale in Tibet – and so our paths crossed with others a few times in the following couple of days. There was the group of German bikers, some American ladies in their sixties, two Dutch ladies and, of course, the Australian lady who warned us away from the poor toilets at the nunnery days before.

In Gyantse we visited the Dzong – a fort built in the 13th/14th century to guard approaches to Lhasa and the surrounding area. The fort was attacked in 1904 in a British attack led by Younghusband. Looking at the magnificent Dzong I could see early inspiration for the design of the daleks!

A stroll through Old Gyantse town revealed attractive homes looking out to the mountains, each with their own cow tied up outside. It also led us to the discovery of a rather mysterious 1970’s disco boot, discarded at the back of the houses.

We moved on to Shigatse and to the first (and only) hotel of the trip to combine comfortable beds, hot running water (which ran in the right direction and didn’t shoot straight out of the tap onto the opposite wall), heating and wifi. 

We also found a lovely restaurant, where Ralph and Dad were able to sample the local Chang – barley wine – a taste which Ralph took to and Dad did not. 

We we’re glad of a good meal together as tonight signalled the end of the holiday as a group of six. From Shigatse Dad and Eileen were to travel back to Lhasa for two nights and then fly home. I couldn’t let Dad leave without one last attempt to beat him at cards. So, armed with a bottle of the local red wine, we headed back to the hotel. Inevitably Dad went home the victor at two games to one and a fair amount of the interesting wine was poured down the sink.

It had been wonderful to spend two weeks travelling with Dad and getting to know Eileen but now we were a band of four.

And a very lucky band we were too. For we were granted passage on to Mount Kailash. One of only two groups to have gained permission so far this year!

Mount Kailash is a mountain sacred to Hindus, Bon and Buddhists. Most Tibetans try to travel to do the kora at least once in their lifetime. It usually takes three to four days to complete but some hardy souls do it in one and others, even hardier, prostrate themselves all the way round. The mountain has never been climbed, due to it’s religious significance. Very few Westerners ever travel to do the kora.


From Shigatse accommodation goes downhill fast and we know we are getting into serious adventure travel territory. Don’t get me wrong, the standards of living and accommodation for us are high compared to that of the locals, but they provide a stark contrast to our expectations back in England. I am now used to using long drops (never long enough) and storm drains as toilets, having no running water (a bucket of cold and a flask of hot are usually provided) and layering thermals with multiple duvets to keep warm on freezing nights, with no heating.

Two long days of travelling at least reassure us that we will reach the village of Darchen, at the foot of Kailash. Many checkpoints of both the police and the PSB (Public Security Bereau) have to be passed through. Each time our papers are checked and we are allowed to move on we breathe a collective sigh of relief. Our final potential stumbling block was the check point into Darchen. Our guide was out of the van for a long time before coming back; “The police want to see you all” he announced. We dutifully filed out of the vehicle for closer inspection, only to discovery that the main reason our presence was required was to sign a disclaimer. There had been a lot of snow on the high pass of the trail and the authorities did not want any broken legs on their conscience.

Darchen was far from inviting, a rather depressing row of modern but tatty shops and restaurants concealed most of the old town. The regulation dogs roamed the streets, waiting for their midnight chorus.

Despite this there was beauty surrounding us. Mount Kailash, with its distinctive domed peak, loomed high and the flat plains of Tibet gave way to the Indian Himalayas in the distance.

We were planning on a rest day in Darchen before starting the three day kora but the weather looked good for the following day, so the decision was made to take advantage and get it done.

We were debating whether to hire yaks or porters when our guide explained that yaks were prone to leg it off up the mountain, losing your baggage in the process. We chose porters.

We were working on a minimum of everything – the only clothes changes for the next three days would be underwear (sleep in whatever you walk in). However we also needed to carry sleeping bags and food for three days, hence the presence of our two lady porters.

Guides and porters always have the ability to put you to shame with their strength and lack of ‘gear’ but their big advantage is being used to the altitude. We have been at altitude for around nine days now. Starting from a low point in Lhasa, of around 3650m and moving up and down as we crossed the country. Darchen is approx. 4575m above sea level. Although we have acclimatised well it is still a breathless experience if walking fast or going uphill. The other main side effect of altitude is a lack of sleep. We all check in with each other in the morning; “How did you sleep?”, “I got two full hours, then was awake for three and went into deep sleep an hour before the alarm.” is the standard conversation. Plus most of us have suffered with a Cheyne-Stokes reaction (I will let you look it up) at some point, which wakes you gasping for air.

Altitude or no, we have walking poles extended, factor 50 on our faces and fully charged cameras. We are off on the kora! 

As we travel through the uniquely barren and yet beautiful scenery of Tibet I sometimes zone out and listen to my music. Occasionally a song comes on which sums up the moment. Here is one which I feel suits our journey: https://youtu.be/H7Gr6HBMDu0




Privileged Sights of Tibet

Fri 1st – Sun 3rd May, 2015

It is wonderful to get up into the mountains! On Friday we drive 8km north of Lhasa to Pha Bong Kha Hermitage, a 7th century meditation site. Our walk is to start upwards from here.

To the left of Pha Bong Kha is a sky burial site. Sky burial is the most common way of dispatching a body for Tibetans – the body is released to the air. The method is to reduce the body into very small pieces before signalling to the flocks of waiting vultures to come down and consume the remains.

This is clearly very different to anything I have experienced before and at first I found it a fairly shocking thought. However it makes perfect sense to that the circle of life continues. Sky burial is also very practical as the ground in Tibet is very hard and often frozen all winter.

As we begin our walk up the mountain and away from Pha Bong Kha we notice tens of vultures start to swirl around. From a distance we can see and hear a body being prepared for sky burial. It is a rare occurrence to have a glimpse of this ritual.

Our walk continues up into stunning scenery , much of it draped with colourful prayer flags. High in the hills we spot remote hermitage huts, used by monks for anything from 3 to 9 years of solo meditation.

Eileen has not joined the trek but Colin, Ralph, Carole, Dad and myself seem to cope well with the altitude; all moving at our own pace to keep our breath.

On arrival back to Lhasa we decide to congratulate ourselves with a Lhasa beer or two in a charming heritage bar, Yiu Sik Ping Hong Hotel, Carole and myself had spotted previously. Spirits are high!

The next morning I choose to skip the spinach and chilli breakfast and give myself a lie in before we pack up and head 130km northeast to Tidrom. Our plan is to stay at a nunnery there but on arrival we are greeted by a departing Australian lady who tells us the toilets and showers are the worst she has seen. “If you like faeces stay there” are her words. We are all fairly hardened travellers ourselves but a quick straw poll reveals that none of us ‘like faeces’. 

Luckily we find rooms down the road at Terdom Tower Hotspring Shambhala Source Hotel (rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?!). The rooms are painted in vibrant, traditional colours and my bed even has yak hair dreadlocks surrounding it!

As we are now at 4300m we spend the rest of the day relaxing and acclimatising. Carole, Eileen and Colin all attempt to immerse themselves in the hot springs but none go higher than their knees. The heat is too intense – much to the amusement of the tough locals.

There are separate hot spring baths for men and women and most of the locals bathe naked. From our balcony view we notice that one of the male hotel workers is being very diligent at keeping an eye on the ladies bathing area through a gap in the divide. He must have been concerned for their safety!

For the first time on the trip I am totally out of touch on mobile phone and Internet. It is relaxing but hard when you are missing someone.

Today, Sunday, we took a trip to Drigung Monastery. Startlingly set on a cliff face this is a highly important monastery in Tibet.

As we arrive vultures soar low above our heads – Drigung is also a busy sky burial site. We spend a couple of hours strolling around the vast site, watching Monks praying and playing. Eventually a snowstorm descends upon us and the many sleeping dogs (there are vast numbers of dogs everywhere in Tibet).

As we are nearing the end of the walk I mention to our guide that I need to use the facilities (you need a strong stomach!). He takes me down to them and then – as we have to wait for the others – into the site tea house. This is a magical experience for me! 

We enter a large dark room, crammed with benches and tables. Cooking fires with giant kettles and pans run down the centre of the smoky room. I sit down with our guide and drivers and am offered a paper cup of hot sweet tea, poured from a giant thermos. I look around the room – there are nuns and monks in their red robes, Tibetan nomads in traditional dress and some visiting Chinese. I am the only Western person in the room – it is an overwhelmingly lovely moment.

When the rest of the group arrive the Tibetan ladies I am sitting with share their barley cake with us all. The atmosphere is perfect.

As we leave the tea house we are quietly shown an open square where monks are performing a puja around a shrouded body before it is taken for sky burial.

Our astounding experience is topped off by chatting with friendly children in the villages on the way back.

On arrival back at the hotel Eileen and I decide to take it in turns to use the hot springs bath which Ralph and Carole have in their room. We would have used the stunning, rock covered wet room in our own room but someone seems to have forgotten to plumb a shower into it. I take full advantage of the steaming bath and take my clothes washing in with me – needs must when travelling!

Now we look forward to another relaxing evening watching the mountains as river before heading back to Lhasa tomorrow.

An Aftershock And An Overshoot

Kathmandu and Lhasa – Mon 27th to Thur 30th April 2015
Just as we are about to retire to bed on the 27th I notice the mirror start to rattle slightly and shouting outside. Time to get out. I am sharing a room with Eileen and we each grab belongings and make our way down to the gardens. In hindsight we realised that we should probably have alerted our travel companions – I guess they know who they can rely on now!

On reaching the garden we found most of the hotel staff and some guests assembled but really the small aftershock was over before we got down there. The experience shook us slightly though and sleep eluded us for some time.

Tuesday 28th dawned and we were up fairly early for the airport. We are to fly out to Lhasa in Tibet today and our flight is scheduled for 11.40am. The airport is chaotic and packed with people of all nationalities trying to get flights home following Saturday’s disaster.
And so we wait.

We sit in the stuffy airport for eight hours but there is not chance we will be complaining. Flights are delayed or cancelled due to the aid planes, from around the world, flying in. We spot teams from India, Pakistan, China, Israel, France, Turkey and the U.S. Their arrival into the country is far more important than us leaving it.

Eventually we spot our flight is being called. It has been a long day but we work out that we should arrive in Lhasa by 9.30pm.

Or maybe not! Soon after our flight takes off I overhear an unsettling announcement telling us it is two and a half hours flight time to our destination in Chengdu. Others reassure me that it is just a mistake in the announcement but as the flight goes on our suspicions continue to rise. Eventually, when asked, a stewardess explains “No, we are going to Chengdu. You will stay in a hotel overnight and be picked up at 5am to fly to Lhasa.”.

Can you imagine our delight at this unexpected diversion?!?!

Many tired, angry and confused passengers disembarked at Chengdu – my first visit to China – and we were farmed out to a plush hotel for four hours sleep.

And so a bonus, extra flight for she who hates flying finally delivered us to Lhasa on the morning of April 29th. It had taken around 50 hours of travel and transit time to get here.

The scenery is stark and stunning with snow capped mountains rising all around. The breathlessness which comes with walking at normal speed reminds us that we are now at an altitude of around 3650m.

It will take us all a few days to acclimatise and with our bodies exhausted from lack of sleep it’s not long before some of start to feel the effects. All the flying has taken its toll on my ears and I frequently feel as though I am walking around a rolling ship. I join the others for a visit to Barkhor Square and then get some rest.

I know just how important it is to allow the body to acclimatise. I almost did not make it to Everest Base Camp in Nepal in 2012 when I walked too fast one day of the hike and ended up with the blinding headache which is a sign of oncoming cerebral oedema. Luckily a rest day and some diamox saw me through. I’m not prepared to take that risk again.

The trick is to walk so boringly slow that you sometimes think you have stopped, drink lots of water and (I know you won’t believe this one folks) have a couple of days off alcohol whilst acclimatising.

The advantage is that when I get back to the UK I will have a raised red blood cell count for up to two weeks so hopefully will be able to smash it up running and cycling!

Tibet is fascinating me already. The traditions, buildings, smells (mainly yak butter and incense) and friendly people are a joy to absorb. Today we have visited the Potala Palace and Norbulingka; these were the winter and summer residences of the Dalai Lamas. The Potala Palace is a stunning and vast thirteen storey castle which was built in the 7th century AD. 

We haven’t forgotten the terrible devastation which we left behind in Nepal though. It is at the forefront of all of our minds and we hope that we are all spreading the word that more help is needed.

I am hoping to get more than the 3 hours of sleep I managed last night (a recipe of jet lag, altitude and cough) because I am starting to feel human again. Excellent news as we have a 5 hour hike tomorrow – bring it on!

Coming Down With A Bump

Monday 27th April 2015

And so finally we land. It was with a bump but that is not unusual in Kathmandu. This didn’t mean I took it well. I admit to becoming deeply religious during the last few minutes of the flight and then possibly ruining it with swear words as we touched down!

Landing did not mean the end of the journey however. It was possibly an hour and a half after we landed that we finally received our luggage on the stop/start carousel.
The plan was then to meet our driver and head to the hotel. If only! As we moved through the airport the first evidence of the earthquake became apparent – cracked and raised floors plus large queues of people waiting for relatives, news or transport.

As we came out of arrivals the area was dark and crowded and it soon became apparent that our driver was not there. This bought about many more attempts at phone calls from Colin followed by a resignation that we would be bedding down for the night at the airport.

Just as I tried to get comfy – using my large bag as a bed and hand luggage as a pillow – Colin managed to excel himself. Three hotel rooms booked plus two tiny taxis procured to get us there (we were told to move fast as Ralph was ferociously guarding the taxis from other travellers). With very little room in the taxis my luggage was slung on to the roof rack unsecured. There followed a Benny Hill style, two taxi, chase through the dark streets of Kathmandu’s with me attempting to cling onto my bag with my hand out of the window.

Our hotel is lovely and not very damaged. Many people were choosing to sleep in the gardens due to the violent aftershocks which had been occurring. After 29 hours of travel we decided that the comfort of hotel rooms was worth the risk – making sure to have essentials handy to grab in case of a nighttime evacuation.

This morning we woke to bright sunshine and the familiar shouting and car horns of Kathmandu’s. Surprisingly bright eyed we all had a good breakfast before heading out to the few tourist attractions still safe and in tact enough to visit. We took in Boudanath Stupa and Swayambunath temple (the monkey temple) although we could only access parts of the latter due to damage.

There was a notable lack of tourists around and 80-90% of all shops and businesses were closed. It really started to hit home; the hardship that some locals were living in – large open areas are covered in makeshifts tents. Many people have lost their homes and many more are to afraid of aftershocks to sleep indoors. 

Kathmandu is an odd place at the moment with rescue teams and television crews from all over the world constantly evident. Sitting in the hotel lobby I hear conversations about where to debrief traumatised climbers and the logistics of repatriating bodies. We are here as tourists and move on to Tibet tomorrow. We are lucky and cosseted from the worst. All I can do before we leave is tell you all how much the Nepalese need help and funds right now and ask that you reach out if you can.

The Nepal Earthquake Sets Our Adventure Off On A Sombre Note

Sunday 26th April 2015  

 As day one merges into day two and we tip over the 24hrs of travel marker, we are still in a holding pattern above Kathmandu. 

As much as it is stunning to watch the sun set across the Himalayas from the height of the plane, I want to be on the ground.

The terrible earthquake which hit Kathmandu yesterday, just as we were starting to travel, has caused inevitable delays. It is really only down to the tenacity of our group leader that we have got this far.

Now we must wait again as capacity is greatly reduced at Kathmandu airport. We really do not know what we will be arriving to when we do land. We know that the earthquake has caused huge destruction and loss of life but it is but it is still difficult to imagine what the city will present us with.

I mainly want to to be on the ground because I hate flying. It terrifies me. Take off and landing send my stress levels soaring and turbulence makes my adrenaline spike. So circling around in thick cloud and a thunder storm, next to a huge mountain range does not leave me with much room for relaxation.

I fly for necessity, because I love to travel. I have always insisted that my fear of flying will not stop me going anywhere. I have even braved the notorious Lukla airport in the past, en route to Everest base camp. 

I am looking forward to all of our group catching up on sleep so that we can relax together and really start to believe we are on holiday. There are six of us on the trip (including my Dad). Four are staying for the entire month and two depart after two weeks.

I am also in a situation I did not think I would be in when I decided to join this trip. I am in love again – something I doubted could happen after Bob died. So I find myself not only excited to be travelling on this wonderful adventure to Nepal and Tibet but also excited to return home to someone special.

I hope to keep my blog updated whenever wi-fi allows and to share this wonderful adventure! 

All Change!!!

However many times we dread Mondays or revel in the anticipation of a weekend we can never slow down or speed up their arrival. Mondays to Sundays will come and go at their own speed. All we can do is not wish our time away. It is impossible not to look forward to events in the future but we must never forget to make the most of the time we are in. Simple really.

I think this mentality is why my life is about to change. I have made a conscious decision to stop wishing it away. When Bob died last year everything about the way I lived my life shifted. The priority became to get through every day. Wake up, set the auto-pilot and go. Gradually that moved to me learning to get up and look for some joy in my day. Something good to hold on to so that I knew it was worth getting out of bed.

I found those pieces of joy so much more easily than I thought I would. I found them in my wonderful family and friends. I found them in sport, in nature and in the strength and kindness of strangers.

But I was struggling with one thing. I knew that I needed to make a break. I have come so far with my healing and now it is time to push my boundaries. So I did something which people have variously called brave, bold, great and exciting (no one has dared say crazy yet!)…I handed in my notice with no other job to go to. It sounds like a rash decision to make but I can promise it was a measured choice.

When Bob died I could not have hoped for more supportive colleagues or a more understanding employer. They treated me so well and I will forever be grateful for that. If it wasn’t for their kindness and the lack of pressure put on me I genuinely don’t know how I would have coped with returning to work.

The people I work alongside everyday make me laugh. We are a true team and I know that I have made some friends for life. However it did not take away the growing knowledge that I needed to move. I was in our offices when I learnt of Bob’s death and the ghost of my shock and distress at that moment was hard to shake off.

So back to the joy! I want to find something new for my life. Hopefully a job where I can give out all those little bits of joy I so needed when times were tough. Having to pull positivity from negatives has changed my out look and I want to change other peoples too. I was travelling home from a night out last weekend and sat next to a lady on the bus. after a few minutes she said to me “I hate bus journeys. They are so boring and you just want to be home!”. I told her “Noooo! Theyre great because you can people watch. It can be especially amusing at this time of night.’ We chatted a little more and then sat silently. As I left the bus she looked at me and said ‘I’ve really enjoyed that! I’ve been watching those people at the front and trying to work out their stories. I might travel by bus more often now.’ It made me so happy to hear that.

I love meeting and helping people, love my sport and travel, love social media and I love working for charities. I want to meet new people and find ways to inspire them. And so now I am on the lookout for the perfect job for Cadi.

I am scared, terrified even. What if this doesn’t work out ? What if I have made a very poor decision? But I am also excited! I am the only one who can make this work. I am the one who has to get out there and sell myself. To convince people I am the right person for the job I want. No more auto-pilot, no more wishing it away.

I finish work at the end of March and fly out to Tibet on 25th of April. Tibet, I just know, will be amazing. A whole month experiencing new sights, new people and a whole different culture. Plus I get to travel with some of the friends and family who have given me those little pieces of joy over the past year and a bit. I am hoping that before I leave I will find something to come back to work wise. I want to bounce back into a new role with full on Cadi vigour and enthusiasm.

My weeks off will also give me a chance to up my fitness levels again. Being a total fair-weather cyclist has seen me running all winter whilst ignoring the (imagined) baleful glares from my bikes.

My one attempt at a winter bike ride bought about a nasty crash on the ice and a sore head for days after. Not to mention the guilt at having ‘hurt’ my bike. But I have been getting out a bit lately and plan on upping the bike fitness again over the next few weeks. In part this is to give my poor toes a rest having slightly annihilated them running a half marathon the other week – new trainers required!

As well as the challenge of finding a new job I also need to find some sporting challenges for July/August time. Any ideas on jobs or challenges will be gratefully accepted.

Finally I want to say thank you to all the people who gave me the courage to make the move. For all of you who believe in me and know why I needed to do this.

Life is changing and it feels so good!!!

Unhappy Anniversary

Tomorrow is one year. One year since an earthquake happened in my life and shook everything out of place. One year since my partner took his life.

I have tried to approach the anniversary calmly. People have been asking for weeks what I was going to do and I have just glibly said that it doesn’t really matter. And it doesn’t. Other than the fact that I want to be with my parents, whatever I do the day will pass and then another day will come. But the calm seems to have only lasted until about 48 hours ago. Then my mind started to dance. The enormity of a year having passed without seeing him, without being able to repair, without being able to make things better, was impossible to ignore any more.

For the rest of my life the 4th February will be a date I remember; a day which feels different. I’m sure that anyone who has lost someone close to them will know that feeling. But what has played on my mind the most is that the date and the day don’t match. Of course I know that dates fall on different days every year but it has messed up my mental countdown.

On Sunday I remembered that on the Sunday this time last year was the last bike ride I went on with Bob. I had bought a new bike for touring and winter road riding (a Specialized Tricross for those who are interested) and was trying it out for the first time. We went for a fairly short ride but I recall stopping to take a phone call, I think from my Dad, and then noticing that Bob was shaking his head as we rode along. I remember asking why he was shaking his head and him saying he couldn’t stop thinking about things. I joked with him that he would be in trouble with me if he didn’t stop. I remember the cheerful greeting he gave to another villager as we arrived home and know now how hard that cheery front must have been for him.

Monday was the last running club. I persuaded him to go in the hope that a run would make him feel better. That evening we sat and talked for a long time, the same way as we had many times in the preceding weeks. As I watched a hazy sun set behind the clouds yesterday the phrase ‘a weakened sun’ came into my mind. That is how Bob seemed to me those last few weeks – a weakened sun. Because anyone who knew him would tell you he shine bright and bought great light into rooms and people’s lives. He tried to shine right until the end but the clouds weakened him.

And then on Tuesday I lost him. So today actually feels like a year because by the Wednesday last year he was already gone. I’m not sure why this bothers me so much but I imagine it is because of a lack of control. I cannot control what happened last year and now I cannot control the grief I feel now. I feel frustrated and out of synch.

Grief has certainly changed me in many ways. I am more aware of others and how they may be feeling. More aware of the way the background of your life can affect you. But I am also less tolerant of the smaller gripes I hear. I admit to sometimes listening to people and thinking ‘does that really matter?’ Or ‘Is life really that bad?’. But, that said, I am still essentially the same Cadi I always was; still growing (although sadly not in stature!) and still learning. Still taking on new challenges. Still running. Still cycling. Still fighting.

I do not and will never avoid talking about Bob. I am not afraid to look at photos. I know he is not coming back but under my bed is the last box of teabags he ever bought. In the box there is one teabag left (yes I drank the rest; they were Vanilla Redbush, who wouldn’t?!). One left, just in case he ever needs it.

Tomorrow will come and tomorrow will go. A weakened sun may set but it always rises again – the light still shines in all of our lives. New days will continue to dawn.

And there is always a song to help you through: http://youtu.be/oCtIFQV5Cn8

It’s Been A While

Dear Bob

It’s been a while. Too long. But it always will be won’t it? Today I looked at your number in my phone and thought about calling you. I do sometimes consider it, just in case you hear it ring. I suppose I could send you a text, you never replied to them anyway – You: ‘I didn’t think it needed an answer’ Me: ‘But it was a question!’. But I have only sent you one text since you died and I have never tried to call for fear of hearing your voice on the answerphone. I’m pretty sure that would make me crumble.

I would really like a chat though. A little bit of practical Bob advice perhaps. But mainly just a good talk about adventures and challenges! You introduced me to this life; you showed me there was far more out there than television and holidays to Magaluf (although the holidays in Magaluf were fun!). I can’t thank you enough for this life I have now. I am so lucky to have done fantastic things and met wonderful people. And Bob I have so many more plans too! Next year I have agreed to cycle London to Paris in 24 hours…do you remember the girl who would have said she couldn’t do that?! Now I just seem to agree to challenges without question. I want you to know that I learnt that from you.

Knowing you gave me the strength to get through losing you. If I had never met you I wouldn’t be the Cadi I am today. But I wouldn’t bear the scars either. The scars are hampering me a little at the moment Bob. I’m struggling with some things. I know it is bad when I sit in front of my open wardrobe and my mind goes so completely blank that I cannot even start to consider what clothes to put on. But I do want you to know that I would never ever give up those scars if it meant not having met you and not living this life.

I’d like you to meet some of the new people in my life too Bob. You would have got on so well with some of them. And you would be proud of me…I find it so much easier to get along with new people now. You know how I could be shy and too self conscious to connect? Well I have been really working on it and I’m getting there. Mainly because I have finally realised how many bloody good people there are out there and how much I can learn from them.

You will get this next bit though Bob. It seems that the more people I know the more adventures I learn about. The more I sign up to and the more I want to do! It’s great I just need a few more days in the year to fit it all in. You couldn’t throw me a little extra time down from up there could you?

I hope you hear me Bob because I so want to thank you for all of this. I hope there are challenges and adventures where you are. I really could do with a proper chat sometime. Call me.

Love Cadi x

Scotland Evokes

Last night I dreamt that I got a second chance. He was back, alive and I was being given another opportunity to keep it that way. It wasn’t that he hadn’t died just that he was back. But the situation was still the same, all the things he had worried about and which had drawn him low were still there. He was still tired of it all. He was still trying to find joy in life but struggling.
My job was to keep him going until the joy shone through again. In my dream I was tired too, I had been here before and knew what this would take out of me. But I was ready this time, I would not slip up, would not show that I was tired, would not fail.
I don’t know what the outcome of the dream was. But he was still alive when I woke up. It was good to have him back, if only briefly. But these dreams do make me feel a little wonky for the rest of the day. Usually when I dream of Bob now the dreams are more like old memories. This time I felt he was really there; like he was close again. As if it really was him in the dream. I hope it was.
Perhaps I have just been reflecting more as I cycled across the country he loved: Scotland. Bob was a man of the mountains and the sea and so Scotland was the perfect place to him. He went to university there and loved to return to mountain bike, kayak, ice climb and hike.
A few years ago Bob and I walked the West Highland Way with my Dad, my best friend and her Dad. This time it was just my Dad and myself visiting. We were cycling the John Muir Way; a coast to coast ride from Helensburgh to Dunbar. I will write more about the ride and the fascinating life of the man who inspired it at a later date.
The John Muir Way links onto the West Highland way for a time and we were treated to stunning Autumnal colours to accompany our memories of the walk from years before. I believe that Bob’s spirit lives on in many places but a large part soars above the mountains and coastlines of Scotland. And truly Bob’s spirit is why Dad and I were there. He unlocked in both of us the sense of adventure and desire to explore which squeaked but never roared before.
My Dad and I both had falls from our bikes (I am still indignant at the gust of wind which knocked me from mine!) and had seven punctures between us. I fell a little in love with my Specialized Tricross which I had never really tested before. A bike which acts a lot tougher than it looks! Together we experienced the extraordinary kindness of strangers – the godsend of a gentleman who cycle guided us through the centre of Edinburgh to our guest house having discovered us fixing our sixth puncture of the day – and the many quirks of certain Scottish B&B owners. Each day that we cycled the sun shone down on us and on day three (the final day) the wind kindly blew at our backs into Dunbar.
Our hearts, our minds and our spirit got us there but I think someone else may have been there beside us too.
I would love to have that second chance; a chance to learn from my mistakes. To notice the obvious signs I so vitally missed. But in the absence of that adventures must continue. I look forward to meeting more people with adventure in their hearts and one day I hope that my spirit will leave an imprint on others lives in the way that Bob has on ours.



What Was Lost (or Running Very Badly!)

If you don’t have bad runs you can’t have good ones. I have been telling myself this a lot this week! I certainly set myself up for a bad one last weekend.

My decision to take part in the Robin Hood Half Marathon was based upon a bad 8 mile run. I spent the whole summer cycling to train for the Coast 2 Coast in 1 Day and only doing a minimum amount of running. Once the C2C and a sprint triathlon were over new challenges were needed. I popped out to try running 8 miles one morning, and found it a real struggle. My feet, which had never been problematic before were painful and my body felt reluctant to keep moving. Some people may have decided to proceed with caution at this stage but I took it as a sign that I should sign up for a half marathon!
I thought the aches and pains were just coming from a lack of practice. Surely if I ran more things would get better, right? Wrong! As the few weeks I had to prepare ticked by my feet hurt more and my body screamed at me to stop each time I pushed it. I eventually decided that new trainers were in order (and some new ‘go faster’ clothes) but this meant breaking rule one of running: Never run a race in new trainers.

I managed three runs in the new trainers before half marathon day and my feet certainly felt better for them. I also tried to give my body a fighting chance by having a week of no alcohol. This is no mean feat for me and was not made easier by a certain running club temptress (you know who you are if you’re reading this!) offering me regular glasses of wine. And come race day I thought that I felt good, I decided that I may yet beat my previous half time of 1hr 47mins and set my Garmin to update me on my progress.

I’m not sure that the stress of the portaloo queue really helped my pre-race nerves. Whilst thousands of people were taking part in the pre-race warm up a few hundred of us were warming up by jiggling on the spot with crossed legs. I sprinted to the start point just as my section set off and for the first two miles I felt great. Then it all started to fall apart. By mile four I was getting behind pace and my mind started telling me to stop running. The realisation dawned that I would be slower than my previous time and I found that hard to deal with. As the pace runner for the 1hr 50mins racers drew level with me through the Boots site I was at least treated to a moment of humour. The Boots site is notorious on the Robin Hood half and full marathon for being a fairly uninspiring part of the race. The pacer announced to his group that ‘this is the most demoralising part of the race’ to be answered with ‘I think you need to work on your motivational speaking mate’; it did bring a little smile to my grimace.

On I plodded and it really felt like I was slowing down. I kept looking at my watch only to see that I hadn’t reached mile six yet. My spirits were sinking fast, it forever since the five mile marker…and then I saw the seven! My watch had stopped working and my miserable little mind just hadn’t registered this. I was over half way but only one thing was stopping me from stopping now…the long walk home! If I stopped running, if I dropped out, I would have to walk and that did not seem like a good option. I would have to walk on the course and endure the sympathy of the wonderful people of Nottingham who had turned out to cheer us on. Or I would have to leave the course and walk back through quieter streets whilst trying to style it out in my running gear ‘Me, in the half marathon?! No I always go for a walk through Notts on a Sunday morning dressed in luminous clothing with a number attached to me, honest’.

At this point I would like to say well done to the students of Notts, some of whom had made fab posters. When I spotted the two young ladies holding their piece of cardboard emblazoned with ‘For power hit here…’ followed by a big star I just had to hit it. I would take anything I could get at that stage!

It was wonderful to run through the streets of my home town, down roads which you would generally be hard pushed to even cross. And at mile ten I heard someone call my name, that always gives you a boost. I couldn’t think who it was but later found out it was one of the lovely Twitter folk I communicate with. He was there to watch his son run but kindly gave me a couple of words of encouragement too (still would have liked that gin though!).

Now I knew I could finish, if I could run ten miles I could run three and a bit more. But the Notts half has a final sting in the tail. You have to run past the finish and then keep going away for it for almost a mile before you turn for home. Luckily one of my awesome friends had turned out to cheer me on and blimey she has a good pair of lungs on her! I finished, collected my pretty medal and foil blanket and then took a moment to sit and pull myself together. it had taken me 1hr 55mins, ten minutes slower than I had hoped for. My toes were covered in blisters and two toenails are now turning black ( I refer back to the breaking of rule number one).

It has taken me a while to turn this around in my mind. Since Bob died I have been fighting to achieve things, whether it be getting through the funeral, cycling the Coast 2 Coast in a Day or driving without crying. This half did not feel like an achievement, it felt like a failure. I was slow and it was not fun. But despite that I did finish. I was injured and mentally tired out but I finished. And, if I was slow, I can be quicker next year! I’m sure I am on track for a personal course record in 2015. I made mistakes and went in unprepared but I will learn from this…mainly I will learn to look a little more closely at my watch and notice when it is stuck for nearly two miles.

There are only so many battles you can fight at any one time. Eight months on from Bob taking his own life I am still battling each day with complex feelings and emotions. Battling with the unanswered questions, battling with what was lost. ‘What was lost’ is a phrase which circles in my mind often. So much was lost on that day for so many people. We are all still scrabbling around on the ground trying to regain the pieces. And so each time one of the people Bob loved and who loved Bob back stands up and achieves something we put a piece back. We start to rebuild a map and see our courses on it once again. My course is bound to have wrong turns but eventually enough pieces will be regained and I will know where I am going again.

If the half marathon was a little battle lost then so be it. It was one I could afford to lose.

Be More Relntless.


Dreams and Memories

This weekend I achieved a little ambition of mine…a dream you might say. I have long wanted to complete a triathlon but niggling little fears had put me off. The idea of transitions conjured images of me as a dripping, flailing mess knocking down an entire rack of bikes. But the main fear was of being seen cycling and running in a very small, very tight outfit. I am very self conscious person. All sports outfits are usually carefully chosen to show as few lumps and bumps as possible. But triathlon is not for the self conscious. Triathlon is a ‘get on and get it done’ sport. So finally, on Sunday, I got on and got it done. And I loved it! Not while I was doing it of course – I distinctly remember disliking the swim, loathing the bike ride and despising the run – but at the end I felt elated and immediately started to think of doing another. In fact I felt so proud that I started to well up in the last 500m of the run. This is far from ideal as when you well up your throat starts to close and breathing becomes tricky! I had to have a little word with myself!
I took part in the Archway House Harborough Triathlon in Market Harborough. It was a sprint distance and therefore relatively short (400m swim, 23km cycle, 5km run), I think a couple more of these may be in order before a full length next year. I am proud to have overcome my silly fears and achieved a little dream.
What is your dream? What do you want most from life/tomorrow/the next six months? We all have our conscious, waking dreams; our desires and ambitions for the future. The great thing about these dreams is that we have control over them. The way we live our lives can bring us closer to achieving them or at least being able to say we have tried.
But what about our unconscious dreams, the ones which come to us as we sleep. These are the ones that I am struggling with at the moment. Each night, once I win my battle to force my brain into sleep, it takes it’s revenge with it’s dreams. They are not nightmares, I could not call them that. They are bad dreams though because each night for the last couple of weeks I have been looking for Bob. And I am unable to find him. Some nights the dream might just be me deciding to send him a text to see how he is and what he has been up to. I can feel the excitement as I write the text. The anticipation of a reply from my long lost friend. And then I usually wake before the text is sent with the dawning realisation that he is beyond the reach of a text.
The other night I was cycling to visit him in a new home. I had a map but couldn’t read it. Road signs were missing. The GPS wouldn’t work on my phone. I cycled for hours, round in circles, knowing I was close but never finding him.
Each night is a variation on the same theme and each morning I wake feeling exhausted. The mental strain is hard and my body feels as if I genuinely have been out searching the streets all night.
I’m sure you all know how vivid dreams can be. As I sit here typing Lulu the boxer dog lies beside me dreaming. Judging by the leg movements and wagging of tail she is running in her dream. How about when you wake up next to your partner furious…they have cheated on you in your dream (probably with the most bizarrely incongruous person ever)…you know it’s not real…but you are fuming with them anyway! That can seem funny later in the day but I am failing to find any humour in mine.
The dreams are a coping mechanism. I need them. If my brain could not process my disbelief at the loss of the person I was closest to at night then it would have to do it in the daytime. I don’t often allow that anymore because I need to hold it together during the day. I can’t allow meltdown each time a memory is triggered. I mustn’t dwell too long on the tiny details which flit into my mind. I know I must walk past people in the street every day fighting the same battle. Deep grief is something we will all experience one day and most of us learn to deal with it. I do look at people differently now; even when someone is smiling and laughing I wonder ‘Are you hurting? Are you ok?’.
I hold the dreams at bay all day by going to work, by looking at my phone too much when sitting still and by exercising. I realise that these are defence mechanisms against my thoughts. I know that when I drive a car alone I will suffer. I cannot distract myself by talking to someone or communicating on my phone. It is just me and that damned brain. I can almost see the thoughts rubbing their hands in glee as I open the car door ‘Just you and I is it?’ they ask ‘Well we have plenty to go over with you!’.
Tomorrow I am going to allow them in for a little while. I am going to give all the dreams, thoughts and memories a free run. Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day (for more info follow this link: http://www.iasp.info/wspd/ ) and I am going to join a few other people for a Candle Lit Stroll. We shall remember those we have lost to suicide and hopefully share the strength we have gathered in their absence. I will light a candle for the light which was lost.
Perhaps if I allow some of my thoughts to see that light tomorrow they will be less willing to come back to haunt me after dark?
But either way I am going to keep chasing my conscious dreams. There are more challenges and adventures revealing themselves to me everyday. I want to keep conquering my fears and keep achieving more goals, however big or small. But most of all I want to get a more flattering tri-suit!

Be More Relentless.

It’s Ok Not To Be Ok.

Since the big ride I have not been on my bike much. I guess that is natural. For months I have had to ride the bike. In order to know that I would complete the Coast 2 Coast in 1 Day challenge I needed to get out on it many times a week.
Now I don’t have to ride. I certainly still will because I love it. But the bike and I have had a little time apart.
That’s mainly because I have been running instead. I have always loved to run. It is generally my first choice of sport. A dodgy knee restricts the distances I can run but it doesn’t stop me getting out there entirely. I don’t dream of marathons but the idea of a long distance off road greatly appeals. I once walked 47 miles in one day to complete the Pendle Way in a Day Challenge with my sister – it should have been 45 miles but we got a little lost in a dark field at the end. By the end my feet and knees (and my sisters hips) were ruined. And yet we both talk fondly of that day. Happy memories and a real sense if achievement prevail over the recollections of throwing painkillers down out throats. I will never forget one of the guys we had formed a group with turning to me near the end (when all my blisters had burst and my knee had seized completely) and saying “Dig deep gal”. I did and dream of doing so again but this time running instead of walking. Maybe one day.
In the meantime I run to escape my demons. They have chased me hard this week. They have chased me from my bed each day, chased me in my car and at work, chased me through the evening and then to my bed. And when I run I finally feel I am beating them. They can’t catch me if I keep my body strong.
I thought I had got those demons under control. I had reasoned with some and banished others. Some I had just learned to live alongside.
But the inquest into Bob’s death did send them back out of control. I felt them stirring before the inquest and once it had happened they spent 24 hours gathering their strength before emerging to play.
I shan’t go into the fine details of the inquest. I was not the only one there and I would hate to upset others by being insensitive. On the day that Bob died I gave a lengthy statement to the police. My story of how life had been in the lead up to the final event. This was hard at the time. Sitting in a sense of complete shock whilst calmly trying to relay a personal story to a stranger. Then having them write your words up into ‘police speak’, a formula which suits their purposes better. You cannot really dispute that those are your words but something is changed in the writing up, something is lost. I knew it at the time as the policeman read the words back to me. But I was too exhausted, too numb to do anything about it. And so at the inquest my words were read back to me and to all others present. Other peoples statements were read too. Parts of the postmortem, doctors statements and the statement of the policewoman in charge of the case. As I mentioned, what was said is personal to those present. But it was also distressing for all. We all heard things we didn’t already know and had to listen to a life and death summed up in two draining hours. There was great comfort in the kindness and compassion of the coroner and the court assistant though. What an amazing difference the care of others can make on a day like that.
Some people may wonder why I write about this at all. Why don’t I just keep it to myself? Why do I share with strangers? Well partly because I have shared every step of the journey so far and partly because it may help others to understand if they have to go through it one day. It helps me to get things down in print because then I can get on with living and loving life and banishing those demons back where they belong.
The verdict was, as we knew it would be, suicide. That frightening word. A word we hope we never have to deal with. A word which many avoid or speak around. And yet suicide is more common than I had ever realised before. So why don’t we speak about it more? Why aren’t we talking more about how to prevent it? It is terrible to think of someone we love reaching the point where they can no longer see light in their life. A point where they slip beyond our reach. But at least we could do more to stop that point being reached and to help people like me to spot the signs.
When someone has cancer we speak about fighting it but we do not define that person by the illness they have. We should treat depression in the same way. Depression is an illness we ought to try to cure. Ignoring it will not make it go away.
If you take one thing away from this blog post please let it be this; it’s ok not to be ok. I tweeted this earlier in the week and truly believe it. The only thing that’s not ok is silence. Please talk about depression, talk about suicide. Ever read Harry Potter?! Harry was the strongest character in the books and one of the only ones willing to say the name of his fears out loud.
Perhaps this way we can stop more demons being created.
I have entered my first Triathlon for the 7th September. It is only a sprint triathlon but I hope it will lead to full length next year. The demons are helping me train. I am turning their negative energy into positive and forcing them to help me achieve something. But on the days when I cannot turn them to my advantage I am happy to say; “I’m not ok, but I know I will be again soon”.

Be More Relentless


The Ride…This One Is For You

Cycling from one side of the country to the other. In one day. For you Bob. Because you wanted to do it. Because you left us before you could achieve it. And we made it Bob. We smashed that challenge for you. I hope you know. I hope you’re proud.

When I first told people that I was taking on this challenge I don’t think I really believed that so many people would be there with me. Now I realise that I could not have done it without them. Ten of us descended on Whitehaven in the end. Five riders and five support. Eleven bikes (we had a spare in case of emergency), one van and two cars. People flew in from Denmark, got trains from Manchester and drove from Nottingham and Leeds. Those who arrived in time carb loaded at a local Italian restaurant and then we all retired to our B&B to map out our rest stops for the next day. The decision was made (through tense negotiations between my sister and I) to have three planned breaks on the ride. The first would be at 40 miles in a village called Greystoke. The second would be a lunch break in Nenthead at 80 miles and the third would be at the top of the last big climb of the day; Stanhope, 99 miles in. The van would stay close by and leapfrog us throughout the day so it was never far away if needed. The two cars would go ahead to the planned stops and only mobilise if needed.
The van contained enough food to keep most of Cumbria away from tummy rumblings for a week. Not least because the lovely landlady at out B&B (The Glenard if you’re interested) had made us two rounds of sandwiches each to top up the grocery raid my Mum had done at Tesco the day before. At this point I should apologise to the people of Carlton, Notts who all had to go without sandwiches, wraps, sausage rolls and quorn sausages last Friday as my Mum had exported a whole shops worth up to Cumbria – thanks Mum.
Also on board the van were multiple water carriers, purchased from the Pound Shop, which meant we could top up our bottles easily, as well as many bike tools and spare parts.
We headed down to the sea in Whitehaven at 5am, headed gingerly down the slip way to dip our wheels in the water and switched on the Garmins. Which is when I found that the route had disappeared from my Garmin! How or why I will never know but I know I put it on there, even switching it on to check after the download. Now it was gone. Luckily two of the other riders had been more successful than I (as well as my sister managing to borrow a Garmin from a friend for the van to follow our route) so we were able to set off.
Of course the first bit of the ride was a climb. And as we came away into Cleator Moor we passed a road sign; Robert Owen Avenue. His first two names. I don’t need to say more on that one.
We were just getting going on the country lanes when one rider, clearly already hungry at the sight of the sandwich mountain, decided to eat a wasp! A little tip for cyclists: wasp eating is not a good plan when out riding. Poor Nat pedalled on with a seriously swollen face as we advised her to make croaking/gasping noises if her throat closed completely and not just collapse at the side of the road without telling us.
The ‘mean Gods’ weren’t done with us yet though, they decided to throw a poor blackbird out of a hedge and into my wheel at mile 14. I don’t expect anyone would enjoy killing a bird but for a massive animal lover like me it was a pretty rough incident. My sisters partner came to console me and explain that it had died instantly as it’s head had come off…a disturbing statement as I could see my sister in the back ground cradling said bird in her hands whilst making slightly dramatic noises! It’s head had not come off but sadly it’s neck was broken and it did die. Sorry blackbird.
Five miles down the road and the cry of ‘Stop!’ went up once again. A puncture and also a chance for Nat to take a selfie of said swollen face.
Onwards again and, although going was slow, we were approaching the first break stop when Nat decided to be all adventurous and throw herself into a pot hole and off her bike. Despite feeling a bit queasy and generally bleeding a lot Nat insisted that she would get back on and complete the day. At this point she earned herself the nickname ‘Hard As Nails Nat’ and boy does that girl deserve it!
I should also mention that we managed to climb Whinlatter Pass without realising it until we were at the top! We thought we were still on an approach climb. The downhill was the first of many awesome descents with Em showing us how it was done by being fearless on the sweeping bends.
We finally rolled into Greystoke after four hours to find the car and van teams cheering us in. They had spent a pleasant morning at a fantastic cyclists café in Greystoke and continued to rave about this café for the next twenty-four hours. Such a shame that we cyclists didn’t actually get to see it!
At this point two of the riders chose to let Nat, Sian (my sister) and I go on alone to try to make up time. My Uncle decided to carry on alone behind us and Em, who had always said she would only do part of the ride, jumped in the van to re-join us at the end.
We got into a good rhythm and managed to catch up on time a little before the start of the big climbs. Hartside at 1904ft; a long winding climb with a large café at the top. When you start the climb and look up at the café you can’t believe you have to reel it in but it does creep closer and eventually we all arrived at the car park to the welcome sight of the van. A quick grab of water and cold sausages (as well as the donning of windproof jackets) preceded a wonderful descent of around five miles.
I won’t take you through every climb (they all started to merge after a while) but I will tell you that we were ready for lunch at 80 miles. We made a small dent in the food stash. An earlier conversation about the childhood love of crisp sandwiches led to packets being emptied into sandwiches now…don’t tell me you all haven’t tried it in the past (if you haven’t go try one now – my favourite is salt and vinegar crisps with ketchup and butter on white bread)!
Off again and I knew, from doing the C2C over three days last year, the climbs we had to face in the next section. Rookhope and Stanhope had made me tearful and sulky last year. Then I had been on a mountain bike with panniers and had had to push. This year they still hurt but there was no way I would be pushing! I was still tearful though. The long climbs gave me time to think, to reflect on why I was doing this. Emotion is not good when climbing on a bike. When tears start to well up your throat closes a little and your breathing goes haywire. I had to keep refocusing and telling myself I could be emotional after but not now.
Aside from a quick grab of Ibuprofen from the ever welcome presence of the van (everything hurt by this stage) we carried on to the last rest stop. I did feel the need to protest at the sight od every dead animal (and there were many) that they had nothing to do with me and my lethal wheels.
And so, at the top of Stanhope we joined back up with Em and Alun to complete the last 30 miles. And boy did those 30 miles drag on. And on. And on. And on.
A couple of examples of conversation from the last thirty; Me (to Nat): ‘Are you alright?’ Nat: ‘Uurrghhalburghle (pause), that wasn’t yes or no by the way.’ Me: ‘I know’.
Em (to me): ‘Do you want to get on my wheel?’ Me: (feeble) ‘I don’t think I can get on’ Em: ‘I’ll slow down’ Me: ‘Ok’ – I then proceeded to get on her wheel for about ten metres before dropping behind with the resigned thought that really it was easier not to try.
I think that Em would still feel this conversation was a huge improvement on the epic ‘Red squirrels driving furraris (sic)’ conversation between Sian and myself earlier in the day. Lets just say that no one in my family could possibly get past a ‘Red Squirrels Slow Down’ sign without starting a bizarre and pun filled chat regarding the real reason that red squirrels are dying out (their bad driving) and whether grey squirrels can drive too (they can’t).
Despite the crossing of the Tyne nearly stumping us in Newcastle we got through and then out into the outskirts before finally arriving to our wonderful welcoming committee in Tynemouth, thirteen hours after we set out.
My emotions didn’t consume me completely as I feared they would but tears were shed. We had done it. Ten of us had made Bob’s ambition come true. He wanted to cycle the Coast 2 Coast in one day, we have ticked it off for him. It was time to celebrate. I shall thank all those who took part individually in more detail but for now may I list for you the best team I could have wished for:
Nat: Hard As Nails, need I say more.
Alex: The best Power Flapjack maker in the world!www.rockrun.com/wp/power-flapjack-recipe
Jo: My rock.
Sheelagh: A delight and chief photographer.
Alun: Just thank you, thank you so much. It meant a lot to have you there.
Sian: You were amazing. Incredibly strong in many ways.
Em: Unfailing smile, support and understanding. You were a star.
Mum: She of the amazing snack basket! Chief of logistics.
Dad: I know it was tough for you. Your support vehicle skills were fantastic.
An epic day of cycling. An epic weekend really; what with all the preparation, the early start, the long day, the celebration and the goodbyes. I know we were all drained and shattered but also elated.
I shall choose a new challenge, keep pushing myself in order to not let the grief take over my life. But I will be kind to myself too, perhaps a little more time relaxing.
But now I find that the inquest is next week. Time to gather my strength once more.

Be More Relentless.

Link to the Strava profile of our ride: http://www.strava.com/activities/178770992

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!





In Memory Of…

Ok I admit it, I am getting very nervous. One week today I will be around five hours into the biggest ride of my life. The ride I am doing on behalf of someone else. The ride I swore I’d never do. The ride I have to complete now because I do not want to fail Bob.
Not only am I nervous but I am also struggling to keep my emotions under control. This last week I have felt constantly on edge, restless and tearful. Anyone who knows me will know how well I have been doing with staying tough but this is getting to me. Tears spring readily to my eyes. Conversations I could previously have had regarding Bob or the ride are now punctuated by my pauses for a rapid blinking session and to get my voice back under control.
My dreams are also affected. The last few weeks I have had frequent dreams with Bob featuring. They are sometimes normal and sometimes nightmares but always mean I awake feeling totally rotten. It is like I’m getting so close to getting to spend time with him again and then having it snatched away as wakefulness creeps in. Can’t I just stay in that never never world, in a false reality without ever having to face the truth of loss again?
But no, none of us can stay in the past. Life is too short to linger in our memories for too long. If I do that I will not be creating any new memories. And in all honesty I wouldn’t for a second want to miss getting to see my best friends baby growing up. Or any other events and achievements in my loved ones lives. I wouldn’t want to miss the joy of future laughter. And I would especially hate to miss the chance to return the support and love which has been shown to me by so many.
This weekend I am buying a few final items for the big cycle. Mainly lots of flapjack to be honest! But also water carriers to go on the van to enable cyclists to refill each time they stop. I shall also order my spare tyre, having had a failure of a long ride due to a tear. This ride concluded in a call to my long-suffering parents which went a little like this; Me: “Can you come and get me? I have a big hole in my tyre and can’t cycle home.” Parents: “Of course we will. Where are you?” Me: “In Leicestershire.” Parents: “Where in Leicestershire?” Me: “In a gateway.” Parents: *sigh*. Kindly Stranger: “Do you need any help?” Me: “That’s very kind thank you but someone is coming to get me.” Parents: “Ask him where you are!!!” Me: “He’s gone, sorry. But that would have been a jolly good idea! How long will you be?”
A friend has also very kindly posted me a Park Tools Tyre Boot; I am hoping I need neither this, the tyre or another gateway rescue.
And so I am nearly ready for our ride in memory of Bob.
Have you noticed how many things done and achieved nowadays are ‘in memory of’? How much money is raised for charities under the same phrase. And some charities base whole fundraising events on that principle. If you take part in a Cancer Research Race For Life or BHF Event you are encouraged to write the name of a loved one on your bib number.
We all set ourselves challenges. Some are physical like mine to cycle the Coast 2 Coast in a Day. Some play to other strengths, such as the quizzes my Mum writes and hosts once a year in memory of friends. They all give us the opportunity to remember and to celebrate a life lost and usually also the chance to raise money for charity too. But let’s be honest, we don’t really want to have them.
I rail against the phrase because it brings reality closer. If we are doing something ‘in memory of’ it is because that person is now in the past. My mind struggles with this. Which probably explains the dreams I am having. Last October and November we spent six weeks travelling around Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and India. We cycled, walked and flew, travelled by bus and train. We met amazing people and saw wonderful sights. I ate curry for breakfast (and lunch and dinner) every day for two weeks in India; learnt how to use chopsticks to perfection in Vietnam; discovered the serious business of karaoke in rural Laos villages and learnt much of the terrible times the people of Cambodia had to endure.
Each day that passes makes me appreciate this and all my other amazing trips more and more. But they are tinged with deep sadness because I remember them alone. I will keep these recollections safe and close to my heart ‘in memory of’ the sights we saw together.

Next year; Tibet! New memories which I will not let sadness touch!

Next week; the ride!!! I will so appreciate any messages of encouragement from loved ones and strangers alike. Hope to hear from you all soon.

Be more relentless.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Sometimes Weak But Always Strong.

Yesterday I cycled from Nottingham to Skegness with a wonderful group of people including my Dad. All rides are part of my training but this one was a little different. The group I rode with are not your typical over-lycraed cycling club (not that there is anything wrong with these!) but a local group of friends who enjoy pedalling together. They ride mountain bikes, hybrids and roadies and wear whatever the hell they want. There is no judgment on others possessions or style and the idea of each ride is to chat and laugh whilst enjoying the countryside. No one gets dropped and great concern is shown if anyone is out of sight for too long.
Bob, my Dad and myself used to cycle with them on a Tuesday night and last year Bob and Dad went with them on their yearly cycle to Skegness. They do this outing during the week and so last year I was working and couldn’t go. This year however I took a holiday day and went with them.
As we made out way out through the country villages from Notts into Lincs; as we stopped in Cranwell for snacks; as we paused at a pub for refreshments; as we battled wind along long; flat and open roads towards the sea and as we sat outside the bar in Skegness with pints in hand I couldn’t help but imagine Bob on this journey last year. I could picture him laughing and joking, regaling others with his tales of derring-do and bad jokes. I missed him, of course I did. He was always the one to jolly others along when they were finding things tough. But I also wondered what the others were thinking. Did the other riders miss him? Were they also recalling his presence the previous year? I’m sure my Dad was, I’m sure he found it tough as well.
Bob’s are big shoes to fill and I do often feel that I am trying to fill them. His friends who have taken me under their wing invite me on meals and cycle rides he would have been on. The Coast 2 Coast in a Day Challenge was his challenge. And someone needs to keep telling his tales and terrible jokes for him! But I can’t be him, I can’t replace him; none of us can. We can all step in and do a little bit of what he would have done and be mindful of the way he would acted in given situations but even if you put all his loved ones efforts together we cannot recreate him, we cannot bring him back.
However my mind still struggles to deal with this fact. As I peddle along my mind reasons that it wouldn’t be too hard for him to walk back into his life yet. Yes, it’s been six months and lots of things have changed. News has happened, songs have been released, sporting games have been won and lost but we could catch him up with all of that. I tell him it would be fine, that he could just fit back in. That we would make everything alright for him. We would take care of him, all he has to do is come bloody back!
It’s not going to happen though is it? I will just have to keep on living a life for the both of us and for now the biggest part of that is the challenge. In just over two weeks I hope to achieve Bob’s ambition of cycling from Whitehaven to Tynemouth in one day. Approximately 130 miles and 10,000ft of climbing. It is a ride I swore I wouldn’t and couldn’t do. Now I swear I will and I can, along with my amazing fellow riders and supporters.
I am nervous though. Partly because I don’t want to fail him, partly because I know what a very emotional day it will be and partly because I don’t know what I will focus on after. The challenge has taken up a huge amount of my thoughts and time. I know I will need a new focus once it is over. It may not be another sporting challenge (although the sport will always be a huge part of my life), perhaps I will find a focus elsewhere…any ideas welcomed!
When I do miss him and worry about the future I always also remember that from the darkness of his passing I have searched for and found some light. I never knew how loved I was until this happened (not that I didn’t feel loved, I just did not see the strength and breadth of it). I never knew how many good people there are in the world. People who have been willing to reach out time and time again. And I never realised that I was strong. The two Cadi’s from this previous post:https://cadi2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/pink-floyd-in-iceland/ are still present but they are working well together.
I am sometimes weak but always strong. Long may it remain.

Be more relentless
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!






Finally I am sitting down and writing again! It’s been over two weeks since I managed to find the time and mental space to do this. And I really need it. When I first started writing this blog it was really just for me. It was my therapy and I loved getting all the thoughts out of my head and emotions off my chest.
Every week it felt like a relief when I pressed the ‘publish’ button.
But the last couple of weeks life has run away with me. Whenever I have managed to stop and sit down I haven’t had the energy to write and I’ve just wanted to watch mindless television.
My head has gradually got noticeably less relaxed and I can feel myself starting to snap at people. So it is time to step back slightly, time to start saying no, time to put the phone aside occasionally and just give myself peace. Time to start writing again.
I need my head clear so that I can focus on the cycling because the big day really is drawing near! The Coast 2 Coast in a Day Challenge takes place on the 9th August and the date seems to be rushing upon us. We have sadly lost two of the riders now, due to injuries, but that still leaves a fair few of us on the starting line in Whitehaven at 5am on the 9th.
Tomorrow I am hoping to conquer 120 miles with one of the other riders. Instead of taking part in the Leicestershire sportive as we had planned we are doing a ride alone. I’ve plotted a route which will take us out of Nottinghamshire and into Leicestershire and Lincolnshire before (hopefully) delivering us back home; exhausted but happy.
It will be a challenge in itself. With just two of us riding the route tomorrow we will have to look after each other; taking our turns leading, encouraging each other to eat and drink enough and keeping the chat going to while away the miles.
Last weekends sportive saw us riding in a group. It was a slightly different ride in that it was done in laps of 25 miles. Psychologically this was great. You rode with the knowledge that there was a get out at 25/50/75 miles. A get out we clearly were never going to take! And so at 75 miles Nat and I set off for round four. The rest of the group had peeled off at 50 and 75 miles but it had been wonderful riding with them and shown me, yet again, how much you gain from riding in a group. The loop which would take us to the magic 100 mile mark. It was tough to hit the same hills for the fourth time that day but we each downed an energy gel and went for it.
The 100 was broken and now I just have to ramp the training up for a couple more weeks before I can rest a little (and try to blend my cyclists tan!).
This will stay as a short post. I am so glad to have managed to write again and my head feels clearer already. Next week I hope to get a better post down but in the meantime I want to say a few thank yous:
Thank you all for your support. Thank you to everyone who has ridden with me. Thank you to all of Bob’s friends who have supported and continue to support me (it means the world). Thank you to my non-sporting friends who are willing to listen to my endless cycling talk. Thank you to my parents who are helping me to mix it up by running and swimming with me. Thank you to my virtual friends (from the Twitterverse) who send lovely messages. And thank you to my colleagues and housemate who make me laugh in the hours I may spend silent.
Here’s to a clearer head and a better blog next time!

Be More Relentless

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Strava – The Marmite Of The Cycling World

I looked up at a large inanimate object and swore at it. It wasn’t even a mild swear word. The object was a hill and I was sick of the sight of them. “I f’ing hate f’ing hills” I growled hoping that this was not the moment another cyclist decided to overtake me. I was in Wales and had plotted a couple of routes without paying any attention to the gridlines. In hindsight I am glad but at the time I was deeply unimpressed. And despite barely seeing another cyclist on my rides there must be some lurking in them there hills because I hardly bagged any QOM’s (Queen Of the Mountains) on Strava – not too much of a surprise as I believe a snail called Stan overtook me at one point!

Did you spot my confession there (no not about Stan!)? I have given in to Strava, the marmite of the cycling world! I have actually been a secret member for some time now and never recorded rides but the more I rode with others and heard their conversations and comparisons the more I was drawn towards it. And I’m sorry haters but I love it! I am fascinated by the detail you can get and the fact that you can take a nosey at other people too. I was slightly less fascinated by one of the ladies I was cycling with last week announcing she wanted to add another ten miles onto our ride because of a Strava challenge. You know who you are! At the time I refused but I did like the fact that it was inspiring people to pedal more.

I was told by my sister – who has declared war after receiving a message to tell her I had stolen one of her QOM’s by one second – that Lance Armstrong caused something of a stir himself on Strava. And upon doing a quick Google search I found all sorts of interesting articles. That man certainly knows how to cause a stir. People called for him to be banned after he took over 150 KOM’s (King Of the Mountains) in his local area. Luckily Michael Horvath, chief executive of Strava, refused to ban him. What is the point? There must be all sort of cheats and tweaks happening all over Strava, it’s not a championship and can’t really be taken too seriously. I personally like to ride a series of fleet footed racehorses around my courses in order to beat others records – not too seriously see!

I did think I was training hard in Wales until I went to watch the Llandudno Sea Triathlon on Sunday morning. I am so impressed by triathletes, to be able to get fit and skilled in three sports at once is a great achievement. And the girl who had tried so hard that she crossed the line throwing up made me realise that I have never pushed myself to my absolute limit in that way.

I was pushed back into a tough place this weekend though. It would have been Bob’s 60th birthday on June 29th and there is no escaping the emotion that comes with that sort of event. He had hoped to do the Coast 2 Coast in a Day challenge before he turned 60 but when I took it on on his behalf I knew I needed longer than that to prepare. So I apologise to him for not doing it before his 60th and I apologise even more for not keeping my friend around to do it himself. I know I’m not supposed to think I could have done more but, as I have mentioned before, suicide leaves swathes of guilt behind it. I generally find a balance, a way to accept the guilt and keep moving but this weekend it ran at me again. It swelled and broke over me and I had to be soothed and smoothed back to positivity by my Mum.

I am through the weekend. Head back above the waves. I raised a glass to Bob and was so grateful to all the other people who I know did the same. We are all confused by the lack of his laughter and bonhomie at this time. All we can do is try to carry on the laughs and fun on his behalf.

It is now six weeks to go until the big day and my Strava profile will be expanding greatly in those weeks. Three great looking rides have appeared on my calendar; The Trent Valley Sportive on Sunday 13th July (100 miles from Bleasby) http://www.saysportsmedia.co.uk/cycling-events/trent-valley-sportive-2014-day-2, The Leicestershire SuperTour on July 20th http://www.itpevents.co.uk/event/the-hope-against-cancer-leicestershire-supertour and a pedal out to Skegness on July 23rd. These three seem to fall perfectly in the build up to the big day. I am sure I will feel super confident if I can smash all of them!

P.S. Luckily as Stan the Snail is a boy he didn’t manage to steal my QOM!

Be More Relentless

Honestly I….

Honestly I struggle sometimes with writing this blog. Not because I have nothing to write but more because I am not sure which bits to write about. How open should I be?

From the beginning I made it clear that this blog would be a raw, emotional description of my journey. However I was mainly writing for me; to let friends and family know how I was doing after the suicide of my partner. I was surprised when strangers not only started to read it but also told me that it helped them and could help others.

But this is a personal blog and it can be hard to be fully honest when you are posting your words to the world. There will always be things I don’t talk about. I have to take other peoples feelings into account as I write and I am not the only one grieving for Bob. However this is my story and so I will keep trying to be as honest as possible and that brings me onto all I have being doing the past week.

Cycling! Of course cycling has been a big part of my week. My bike and I feel almost bonded together now. If I’m not out cycling I will be thinking of all the bike related items I need to spend money on…cycle clothing, cleaning kit, chain oil (who would have thought there were so many choices of oil?!), Zero tabs, energy gels…the list goes on and on!

I spent the last weekend in the rolling hills of Herefordshire with two of the other Coast 2 Coast in a Day riders. My parents kindly lent me bike rack and car so that we could all travel down together. However I don’t feel it was too much of a sacrifice for Dad as he got to pose in my convertible all weekend in exchange.  I expect the greenery and sunshine helped but I was deeply impressed by the county. It felt like a slightly different pace of life than Notts. Roads were narrower and quieter and I’m always impressed by a “bless you” from a friendly stranger as your hay fever takes over in the centre of town.

Saturday found us steadily climbing Hay Bluff, a 2221ft hill which sits on the border of Wales and England. The heat of the day soon had me running out of water but I was able to gratefully replenish from a stream (no electrolyte tabs in the water but it was cold enough to give me a good brain freeze!). Awesome views from the top meant compulsory group photos before a fast descent down to a lazy lunch in Hay on Wye. In total we racked up 70 miles with almost 4000ft of ascent and although it was clear that the other two ladies were stronger cyclists than me, I was pleased with the ride. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to recognise that others are stronger and that you need to work harder just so long as you don’t let it intimidate you or get you down.

Our hosts for the weekend were one of the riders parents and they refuelled us with a delicious barbeque on Saturday night. It was certainly the sign of a good day in the saddle that I was in bed by 9.30pm.

Sunday was a shorter ride but we really worked together as a group. It had only taken a day and we had learnt so much about each others riding styles. We were all taking our turns at the front which meant zipping along at 18-20mph on the straights. Calls back of ‘hole’, ‘crater’, pizza box’ and ‘sheep’ meant that none of us came a cropper at the obstacles Herefordshire’s roads had to offer.

Arriving back in Nottinghamshire I was feeling so much more confident about the big ride, particularly as reports came in of other C2C riders weekend cycling exploits.

But I also felt lonely. Sunday afternoons are always the worst for this, the time when I miss Bob the most. I miss him every day; thousands of tiny things bring memories back. Thousands of words which will never be spoken now and memories which cannot be shared. I know this will never go away, I will never forget. Bob will always be in my mind, there won’t be a day truly without him.

But he is not coming back and I am not used to being alone. I have been in long term relationships for the last 11-12 years and I want to be in one again. I cannot replace Bob and there is no point in trying to replicate him. Somewhere out there is someone different; someone with some similar traits to Bob but also with their own distinct personality. Some one who can take me on and understand that I have a past which I won’t deny. Some one who will move with me into the future.

Here comes the honesty…I have joined a dating website. I am looking because I want to share my life. I want to honour Bob by continuing to have adventures and by keeping on enjoying every day. But I can’t wait for him to come back. I don’t know if people will judge me and say it is too soon (if you are undecided it has been almost five months) but I think (hope) that those who love and know me will be behind me. I probably won’t meet someone quickly and even when I do it would be a miracle to find my perfect partner straight away.

Why a dating website? Why not just let it happen organically? Well, I’ve seen it work for others and with all the exercise I don’t get out to the local pubs and bars very often. I have gone for a sports related dating site in the hope that I can meet someone with similar interests…if I’m going to be out on the bike all the time they are just going to have to join me or I will never get to see them! As to my profile, well I haven’t mentioned how my last relationship ended, no one mentions that in their bio. I have just done what everyone else does and written about my own personality.  Time will tell whether I meet someone who I want to share my past and future with.

In the meantime I will enjoy the company of my awesome friends and family and, of course, my bike!

Be More Relentless.


Waiting Impatiently

I’m baffled, I just can’t understand. All my years of non-medical training; not reading textbooks, not going to university and not being a qualified Doctor and I still can’t keep myself fit and healthy! It seems that my patented ‘Denial Method’ of getting over illness may have some flaws. Those being that it does not work. I know, I can’t believe it either!

Having posted last weeks blog entry I took myself off to bed feeling a little under the weather. But during the night an old childhood weakness came back to haunt me.


It started with a slight feeling of pressure behind my right ear and gradually built to agonising pain. An ear infection. I used to get them regularly and knew the score; I knew the pain wouldn’t go away until the ear drum gave way and let some of the infection out and I knew that if I could get some heat against it it may ease a little. So I went in search of a hot water bottle, knowing deep down that I hadn’t owned one since I was about seven. It was time to improvise, please remember I was desperate at this point, it felt like the side of my head was about to explode! I eventually found a small plastic food pot with a screw on lid, filled it with boiling water and wrapped it in a towel and wearily headed to bed with it. I was fairly sure it would not be leak proof but that it would be uncomfortable so I wedged it down between my pillows and gingerly rested the side of my head upon it. It did leak but was still reasonably effective however it was 3.15am before I felt the eardrum pop and the pressure ease in my head.
I’m not usually a Doctor botherer but did need to see him this time and I have to say he was excellent. He was sympathetic to my ‘I feel like my body is falling apart’ statement and responded well when I told him I needed to be better soon to get back on the training. And so I left clutching my antibiotics and determined that they would make me feel much better by the next day.
I hope that I never lose my optimism about how quickly I will get well from illness but I know that it is usually misguided.
It was Friday before I was up to doing any kind of exercise and by then I was climbing the walls. Not least because sitting around resting gave me too much time to think and the little demons which flit around above my head were able to keep up with me for once.
But this weekend I was back on the bike and it felt so good. Perhaps the enforced break has actually done me some good. It certainly refreshed my appreciation of exercise; both the physical and mental advantages. I know that I am lucky to have exercise to get me through grief and realise what a difference it has made. All those juicy endorphins flowing around plus the ability to focus purely on the act of pushing ones body provide great relief from the whirring cogs of the mind.
The little bike felt good too. My enforced break gave her (Yes she has been professionally sexed and is definitely a girl!) time to go to the bike Doctor and have a new cassette and her peddles fitted, bottom bracket tightened, plus a general welfare check. It was like riding her from new again, wonderful smooth gear changes and no annoying little noises. Chris from Pukka Pedals in Southwell (www.pukkapedals.co.uk) had done her proud. I don’t have an expensive or fancy bike but I am comfortable on it and enjoy riding it, I’m pretty sure that counts for a lot.
Saturday saw a 35 mile ride with my sister (another of the C2C riders) to ease me back into things. We managed not to fall out, in fact I noticed that we had reached a good level of diplomacy with one another – it can be tough not to argue when you are jealous of your sisters bike (a very attractive black and pink Planet X) and her awesome leg muscles! It was so good to ride with company again and get into the finer points of the personality traits of Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins.
I was blessed with good company again on my Sunday ride. Two charming gentlemen who were travel companions of Bob and I when we visited Nepal. It felt like a smooth and pleasant pedal filled with chatting, learning, laughter and memories. This put another 60 miles under my belt and has boosted my confidence in my distance ability and riding in a group.
In between the two rides a problem was solved for me. I had the chance to meet up with my best friend, Jo, on the Saturday night for a memorial quiz dedicated to Bob. My wonderful Mum had arranged the quiz and I think I will write about it in a separate post. For sometime now I have been trying to decide where to be at the and of June. It would have been Bobs 60th birthday and there was to be a big party. Ever since he died I have known it would be a tough weekend. He dreaded turning 60 and yet I know he would have celebrated with great gusto. The fun and laughter would have gone on until the early hours and Bob and his friends would have got up to all kinds of mischief. The hangovers would have been terrible.
But now these are all ‘would have beens’ and there is nothing to celebrate, it will be a weekend of reflection. I could not work out where to be; should I get out of the country (too lonely), go to somewhere special for me and Bob (too soon), stay at home (I just couldn’t)? And then Jo tells me she is going to Wales, to visit family with her partner, son and Dad and she invites me to join them. As soon as she said it I felt relieved, like a weight was lifted. This feels right. I will be with people who care about me and who I can laugh and joke with but I can take my bike and head out into the hills alone too. I can have as much or as little company as I want. I will be ok and I will get through the weekend (Jo has told me she will be glad to able to keep an eye on me). I only hope that all of Bob’s friends and family, who will also be suffering, can find their peace that weekend too.
Sometimes, if you wait, things just fall into place.

Be More Relentless.20140617-174305-63785672.jpg

%d bloggers like this: