Sunday, 14 December 2014

A wee thank you post

In the last post I mentioned briefly that there have been many wonderful people who have accompanied me on this bizarre and wonderful journey that I've gone on this year. Their input into this year deserves much more than a small paragraph shoe-horned in between my other ramblings so I have dedicated this entire post to them.

Firstly, there are a couple of fairly generic mentions which need to be made. The purpose of this year was to raise a sum of money for two charities. To that end, I am eternally grateful to every single person who made a donation to either of the causes. I appreciate how annoying it must have been to be bombarded by my fundraising requests but the money that you have donated will be going towards two really wonderful causes. For this I thank you lovely, kind people. May your karma be forever good.

Further thanks are due to those who retweeted my blog posts, who liked my Facebook posts, who commented on the blog and anyone who took the time to read the words that I've written over the past year. The blog is small and it doesn't fit into most of the usual niches but each and every visit makes my heart sing a little bit so cheers for that. I hope that you've enjoyed the random chat that tends to go on around these parts.

Right, that's the generalities done with so let's crack on with the good stuff. This year would not have been nearly as wonderful without those that joined in with me. Nor indeed would it have been possible at all without others. They all deserve a special mention.

Andrea 




I don't see you nearly often enough for my own good. Without your help this year I likely would have been completely underprepared for climbing Ben Nevis (who knew I'd need waterproofs, walking boots and comfy socks!?). Thanks are due for inviting me to your Mum's wonderful home in Aberfeldy and forcing me to climb at least one smaller mountain before attempting to reach the highest point in the UK. That really was quite a sensible idea. I'm glad that I bagged my first Munro with you at my side.

I suppose also that I should make a begrudging thanks for suggesting that our recuperative Sunday involve a 20km bike ride, albeit punctuated by a visit to the market to buy cakes.

Finally, I'm so lucky to have a climbed Ben Nevis alongside a friend with pockets full of blister plasters and energy bars which I raided throughout the climb.

Let's do it all again soon.

The Ben Nevis crew (Amy, Andrea, Livy and Ryan)


You all made one of the hardest challenges also one of the most enjoyable. Thank you for making the three hour trip up to Fort William and I'm sorry that you were forced to listen to my chat for nearly eight hours but please know that I enjoyed every second of it.

Thanks for looking vaguely concerned when I fell on my bum (Livy) and for ramming energy bars down my throat when I was close to collapse (Ryan and Andrea).

Three peaks challenge next year guys? No? Oh well.

Caitlin




My wee pal and the only person stupid brave enough to take on Tough Mudder with me. You put me to shame, beasting your way through all the obstacles and waiting patiently for me as I had a wobbly at the thought of jumping into the water. I'm forever grateful that you did just about as little training as I did in preparation for the day, so my feelings of guilt and panic were somewhat lessened.

Let's run the whole way next year?

Ian

My Edinburgh 'Dad' who helped me to overcome the mental block which was stopping me from swimming. Without your help I'd have never completed the Triathlon, had the nerve to jump off a twelve foot drop into muddy water, or even considered the possibility of getting myself into a kayak. What a loss that would have been.

So, thank you for not laughing too much when you discovered that I don't even put my face under the shower and for introducing me to the wonderful invention that is the nose clip.

Lorraine

My Edinburgh 'Mum' who has helped me discover some of the most wonderful parts of Edinburgh. I always enjoy coming along on your walks and I'm sorry that I haven't made it along to all of them this year. I'll try harder next year. That first twelve mile walk back in February made it clear that I was definitely underestimating the stamina required to climb a mountain.

The NFU Scotland girls.





Firstly, thanks go to Michelle and Ruth who roped me into Colour Me Rad which was a thirteenth challenge for the year. Perhaps they thought that I didn't have enough going on!? Regardless, it was great fun so thanks for the suggestion and for joining me around the course.

A special thanks are in order for Michelle who very kindly provided me with a fancy, shiny bike to take part in the Triathlon after my childhood bike died a painful death on the Duathlon course. I am very sorry that I stained the handlebars with my wet gloves. Further to the crucial loan of a bike, Michelle also provided me with wet shoes which perfectly co-ordinated my outfit for the kayak adventure. If anyone can help such a lost cause look vaguely co-ordinated, they must be a very stylish person indeed.

Kerry and Ruth deserve a special thanks for calming my nerves ahead of the kayak challenge and for being much braver than I am and venturing out onto the Loch before me.

All of the NFU Scotland girls have been wonderful in sharing my adventure with others and supporting me in any way possible. You are wonderful. I miss you all.

My parents.


I can't even begin to thank you sufficiently for your support this year. You have been my biggest supporters, commenting on everything I've posted on social media, giving FAR more than your fair share of donations to the fundraising page, reading my blog religiously and transporting me around the country to enable me to embark on these ridiculous endeavours.

I'm forever grateful that you didn't attempt to talk me out of anything, even when I know you'd rather I didn't do it. You didn't even get TOO annoyed when I told you via a Facebook post that I'd be kayaking down a Loch the next morning.

You stood outside in miserable, Scottish weather on more than one occasion to watch me crossing the finish line. My nerves often got the better of me and I was snappy and short with you but you both knew that it was just nervous anticipation and you let it slide. Sorry and thanks for that.

Finally, just a huge thank you for being brilliant, funny and for supporting me no matter what hare-brained idea I come up with - this year and beyond.

Ryan.



Thanks for spending your precious free time designing the blog and for not getting (too) annoyed when I changed my mind and said that I wanted something different from what you'd been doing for the the past 89, 475, 656 hours.

On the subject of blog design, it was nice of you to pretend to be impressed when I managed to make all my pictures and text align. I know that it was most definitely not as exciting for you as it was for me so cheers for letting my joys be yours too.

When not giving up your time to make the blog look pretty, you've also given up more of your Sundays than you should have to act as my personal videographer/photographer/coat holder/general lackey. I am forever demanding the centre of attention and you are forever accommodating of that.

Outside of your work behind the scenes you've also accompanied me on a couple of the challenges. I'm glad that you agreed to join in the Ben Nevis climb even though your poor knee probably didn't benefit from a seven hour hike up a huge hill. It wouldn't have been the same without you at my side.

You also joined in the challenge at Go Ape. There is nobody I'd rather be fannying about the tree tops with. I think there's a rhyme about something like that....

Finally, thank you for being around for all of my adventures and here's to many more.




Challenge 12: The Santa Dash and some musings on a fairly spectacular year.













Today I completed the final of twelve challenges this year. As you can see from the photos above, this challenge involved dressing up as Santa Clause and running around Princes Street Gardens. A perfectly fitting end to a bizarre year, I think. There isn't too much to write about this particular challenge as I just ran around the gardens five times - not that exciting - so the photographs should suffice and instead now I'll just waffle a little about this whole year instead.

The idea for this year of challenges wasn't entirely born on the 1st of January 2014, rather it had been buzzing around in my brain for quite a while in some form or another. I wanted 2014 to be a year of achievement, of getting out there and doing things I'd never done before and of trying to push beyond my self imposed limits. I like to collect experiences and this year was primarily a way to force myself into doing that, whilst also raising money for two charities which were very close to my heart.

It was a difficult task starting this blog. Each post I published made me cringe a little. I re-read posts later and chided myself for small mistakes, for prose which sounded cheesy or melodramatic or for jokes which in hindsight, weren't that funny. There were many occasions that I considered just calling it a day but then I would remind myself that the whole point of this year was to push myself to continue at something even when I felt like I might not be good enough.

So I continued to write. I also kept on running, cycling and swimming when I felt like I'd rather throw in the towel. I made my way down from heights even when my brain was screaming at me not to take the step off of the comfortable, firm ground. I swallowed my pride and begged, with varying degrees of success, for raffle items. I dragged myself up, not one but two, mountains. I withstood multiple electric shocks to my arse. I half-arsed it a lot of the time and over-compensated on the carbs (what's new?) but I had a bloody brilliant time and I would do it all over again in a heart beat.

Throughout all of this, I've learned a couple of things along the way which I'm going to take it upon myself to share with you. You can thank me later.

1) I am a failure and am not even that bothered about it.

I might have completed a Triathlon, Tough Mudder and a climb up the UK's highest mountain but I'm no athlete, that much is abundantly clear.

The wind was well and truly taken out of my sails when I rocked up for a Duathlon in February only to fail drastically and have to be chummed round the course by the sweeper. Just for the avoidance of doubt, the sweeper is the person who is supposed to make sure that the course is clear before everyone goes home. For the first half an hour I thought she was just some pathetic case who was even worse at mountain biking than me. I was mistaken. Actually, she was looking after me and making sure that I got home before the darkness descended. I didn't even manage to finish the 10km run which was the second part of the challenge, so all considered, it was a pretty spectacular failure.

You know what though? It was one of the most popular blog posts, proving conclusively that failure is more endearing. This is quite a good result for me considering that I came 21st out of 22 people in a kayaking challenge and only narrowly managed to beat a 73 year old woman in the Triathlon. I'm not a failure, I'm endearing.

What's more, failing miserably at the Duathlon didn't deter me from turning up to take my chances at a Triathlon in May, which was even more daunting for me because of the swimming aspect. The point I'm trying to make is, don't let a little failure get in your way. Dust yourself off (or in my case shower aggressively for two weeks to get rid of the mud), get back at it again and learn from your mistakes. Which leads me quite neatly on to my second lesson.

2) Failing to prepare is preparing to fail (but I don't worry too much about it anyway)

Preparation is not my strong suit but I learned my lesson the hard way in the Duathlon and so I made at least a small, half-arsed attempt to train for the other challenges. For example, I had swam at least four times before I turned up to complete a Triathlon and I even cycled the route in advance. Fair enough this was at the prompting of a friend but at least I did it.

So, having told you that preparation is key, I'm now going to completely contradict my advice and tell you that it isn't all THAT important. I basically half-arsed the training for everything this year. I really, really meant to train hard but, well, life just got in the way and also I got really invested in Gossip Girl and the Vampire Diaries so exercise just wasn't at the top of my list of priorities.

Guess what? It was all fine. I didn't run the full twelve miles for Tough Mudder but I still completed it. I didn't crack the 2 hour barrier for the Triathlon (those damn transitions!!) and I most certainly didn't gain the six pack that I expected from such an activity filled year (damn those carbohydrates!!) but I had a wonderful experience at every challenge. My, admittedly rather long-winded, point is this:

If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won or lasting happiness achieved. - Maurice Chevalier

If you have a half minded inclination to do something then stop making excuses and just do it. The number of tomorrows we have are not infinite and our yesterdays rack up pretty quickly. I want my yesterdays to be full of stories, fond memories and experiences and this year I went out there and made that happen.

3) The journey is much improved when friends come along for the ride.

Apparently, I'm not the only person around here who has lost their marbles. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to rope a few friends in for the ride. This post is already very long and rambling so I'll save the personal thank you's for a separate post but just quickly - a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in this year. The challenges in which you were involved were my favourite by a mile and I'm so glad to call you all my friends.

4) Talking to strangers on the internet totally isn't as weird as I thought it would be.

I had a bit of a nervous relationship with the 'Internet' pre blogging. This was mainly thanks to snarky commenters on The Libertines fan page back in the day who totally shot me down in flames for a random comment I made. Since then I avoided all sort of social media where I would encounter people that I had never met in real life. I was totally missing out.

This year I've discovered a whole world of smart, funny people on the internet through whom I experience parts of the world I've never been to, drool over food I'll never be arsed to make myself, laugh at a humour which is similar to mine, chat for hours about books and generally just share stories with like-minded people. To those of you whom I've spoken to on Twitter or who comment on my blog - thank you! You have made an internet-phobe a little less daunted.

5) My body does not deserve to be berated.

I've not always been particularly kind to myself but as the days draw in towards the next new year, I feel differently about that. I've spent a year looking at and sharing photographs of myself with little make up on, with my hair scraped back (which is my pet hate) and wearing exercise gear which doesn't flatter or leave much to the imagination. I even ran about outside in a swimming costume with built in shorts for f**k's sake! In not one of those videos or photographs did I think that I looked terrible, or fat, or any multitude of the usual negative thoughts.

Watching myself completing challenges I never thought possible was like watching a completely different person. In disassociating from myself in that way, my thoughts about the person in the photograph or video mirrored the way that I tend to think of other people, which is to say, that those thoughts were much kinder than the ones I normally give to myself.

I feel bad for ever berating my poor legs, the same ones which carried me faithfully up mountains, kicked, pedalled and ran their way through a Triathlon and which trembled only slightly when looking down at the drops below them. I felt impressed by arms which pulled me over obstacles and pushed me up from the ground after I'd crawled my way through mud and electric wires.

Despite a year of physical challenges, my body is no different to how it was at the start of the year but I like it infinitely more anyway. It is strong. It has surprised me with it's strength and I am grateful for everything that it is.

6) Life is all about the adventures.

If I will take anything away from this year it is this final point. The adventurous attitude that was sparked with signing myself up to complete twelve challenges has changed something in me. I found myself saying yes to more adventures outside of that including agreeing to climb an additional mountain, taking part in the colour me rad race and going along to blogger events where I didn't know anyone.

This year of challenges is over, but the adventures are not coming to an end. I'll be out there looking for them always.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

On Energy and Value





Image - Milky Way by Mihoko Ogaki found here

I don't think I could ever be described as 'relaxed'. I'm a knotty mess of frantic energy.

It shows itself in different ways. For example, I've always been an early riser. The concept of a long - lie was alien to me until I met Ryan who would sleep in until lunchtime (and sometimes beyond). In our early days of dating he would wake in the morning to find the space beside him empty and the house devoid of my presence as I'd been unable to laze around in bed or mooch around the house. Places to be, things to do and all that. He must have felt so used.

I've always exercised, although I'm not particularly sporty. If I don't do so at least fairly regularly, that energy which would be expended is trapped in my body, causing my heart to race at times and a horrible anxious feeling for no particular reason at all.

The energy bursts forth from me in emotion. I can be over-excited easily. Plans will come to me and I'll feel my heart burst with excitement at the prospect of putting them into place. Oftentimes I'll need to be talked down from them because my blind excitement fails to see that they're not really all that feasible.

I cry easily, at the smallest slight or worry, or for other people's pain. There is not a sad film, television programme or advert that I won't shed tears for.  I'm quick to anger too, the energy exploding out of me. Always, once I've angered, the feelings of guilt overwhelm me and unable to hold on to that energy either, I'm quick to beg for forgiveness.

The thoughts running through my brain are fast, as are the words that come out of my mouth. They are so fast sometimes that I trip myself up, stutter or say the wrong thing. Often I'll say things without an appropriate filter because there is no moment's pause between the thought flashing in my brain and the words forming on my lips. I write like that too. There are very few posts on here that I haven't written in one sitting. I don't have the patience to wait, edit and then wait some more before I edit a final draft. Once the idea is in my head, I must get it out there and mistakes be damned.

Overall, energy is good and I'd rather have too much than too little. Sometimes though, it manifests itself in my body in negative ways. The excessive worrying and the racing heart are one example, and another is the tension in my muscles, particularly my neck and shoulders. Running my hands down my neck and across my shoulders I feel like a bag of knotted ropes. I've spoken to massage therapists before who have chided me to 'relax my shoulders' and I try, I really do but I just don't know what 'relaxed shoulders' should feel like. My default position is not relaxed.

Yesterday was a particularly bad day for the old neck and shoulder region. There was one knot in there which I imagined could probably be seen protruding from my skin. When pressed, or even when I moved slightly, it lit a fire through my whole back, up through my neck and to my head, resulting in a dull throbbing headache. I had a thought that it might be worthwhile to start seeing someone regularly who would be able to work these knots out for me, rather than Ryan and I amateurishly pressing on the knots while I yelp in pain.

And this is the crux of what this blog post is about - I realised that I had no inclination to pay for such a thing. I earn enough (well not right at this moment but let's glide past that) that this would be a reasonably affordable luxury but I'd rather not spend my money on this and yet, I've quite happily, without too much second thought, spent £75.00 on a dress for a Christmas night out.

I'm conflicted about this because I don't identify as a materialistic person. I tell myself that being happy and healthy are more important than collecting things. Still here I am, contradicting myself and choosing to spend my money on things rather than on something which might do my body good.

I wonder if it's because having something tangible to hold and look at makes the money spent seem more worthwhile? Perhaps it's the length of time that I'll keep that dress, so I can wear it time and again, getting more 'value' for money whereas I know that within a week or two the knots will have returned? Maybe it all comes down to value in the end but that is troubling because I wonder now if I value that which others can see more than I value my own self? I'm not quite sure. There's not really a nice, neat conclusion to this post but feel free to chip in with any thoughts.