Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Important Announcement ~ Postponement

Hi everyone,

I'm honored to have you here today, thanks for stopping by.

It's with a heavy heart that I announce that after much thought and indeed prayer on the matter, I've taken the very difficult decision to postpone the Battling Back challenge that had been scheduled for this coming October and November.

As regular readers will know, I've been nursing a niggling injury to my left bicep pretty much since I started training in late March for the challenge. As the weeks have gone by I've been determined to carry on and if need be bring the start date forward. I felt that that decision itself diminished the tough challenge that I'd set myself, but it was made for a few reasons, notably my stubbornness and determination not to quit.

However, with the intended start date now just over 11 weeks away, and the fact that in the last month I've only been able to train in the pool once each week because of the discomfort/ pain that even as I type this post I'm feeling, I know that this is the right decision, albeit a very difficult one to have made.

What happens now?
I will take the break from the pool that my friend and honorary coach Sarah has been trying to tell me to take for months, so that the muscle can repair. During the break I will be keeping up with the cardio sessions and will maintain the 3 times per week workout schedule for those.

Then, when the time is right, I'll begin rehab with gentle swims and work up from there towards the rescheduled Battling Back challenge.

Although posts may be infrequent for the time being, I WILL continue with the blog, so I hope you'll stick with me and perhaps consider subscribing to updates via email so you don't miss anything.

New date?
As of right now, I don't have a new date for the Battling Back challenge, but I promise that it WILL happen next year, quite possibly following the schedule I'd planned for this.

There ARE so many positives
Despite my obvious disappointment at having to postpone, there are SO many positives from having gotten to this point. Here are some of the highlights...

My first workout, on March 28 was only 15 minutes long and afterwards I was exhausted, but it was a first baby step back to physical fitness. I've come so far from that point, including...

Swimming a mile during my first pool session in more than 4 years on April 9.

Apart from the injury that's brought about the postponement, I'm a lot fitter than I was at the beginning and indeed I'm around 15 pounds lighter now.

I am determined to continue Battling Back, becoming even stronger physically and more prepared for the undoubtedly tough Battling Back Challenge.

The mile I did in the pool last week took the total to 26 1/4 miles/ 1260 laps ~ The marathon distance I'd aimed for during the challenge, so I DID achieve my goal, albeit in training. I'm so proud of what I've achieved!

Words cannot truly express my thanks and gratitude to each and every one of you for your support and encouragement. You have been and continue to be my inspiration, and without you and my Lord by my side, I wouldn't have gotten this far. I give you my word that I will continue Battling Back. THANK YOU!!!

God bless,

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th!

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, I'm honored to have you here. Just a quick post today to wish all of you who are celebrating a very happy, very safe Independence Day, especially to all of you on the east coast of the US as Hurricane Arthur roars by. Special thanks to all those who are serving in our Armed Forces and who serve and protect us, especially those who are away from home today.

God bless America! God bless all of us!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Step by Step 2014 ~ Halfway There

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by today, I'm truly honored to have you here. In today's post I'll be sharing my training notes from the last couple weeks and also giving some thoughts about where I'm at. If it's your first time here, and/or you'd like to catch up with everything about this year's challenge, you can find all the related posts HERE.

I can hardly believe that I've been training three times a week for almost 14 weeks, having started on Friday, March 28, 2014 and there are now 14 weeks until the start of the challenge. I'll say more about that a little later, but first here are the training notes...

Friday, June 20, 2014
1 mile/ 48 laps completed. I decided not to push myself too much today. I know, that's rare for me, but as the weeks are flying by and the challenge getting ever closer, I have to listen to my body. Especially because a friend of mine who has been both a national level swimmer and then a coach, warned me that if I were to get the troublesome left bicep checked (which I'm not going to do) and there is a tear, I'll need to rest up COMPLETELY for six weeks and then slowly rehab. That would mean that I can't do the challenge this year, but I'm determined that it WILL go ahead.

I KNOW it's a risk, but at this stage I'd rather bring the start date forward, if need be and turn the training miles into actual challenge miles, than to take a complete break and have to start over. Cumulative totals: 21-3/4 miles/ 1044 laps. I'm finally through the 1000 lap barrier! YAY!

Monday, June 23, 2014
I felt well rested after a really relaxed weekend and the niggly bicep seems to be behaving. Yay! The weather is finally warming up and so today's cardio was a bit harder than others, but I got through the 4 mile Walk At Home workout and still felt great afterwards.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
1 mile/ 48 lap swim. Not many people manage to fall UP the stairs, but it seems I'm one of them LOL. On my way to bed last night I missed the top step and fell pretty heavily into the bathroom doorway. I was carrying my laptop at the time so my first concern was for that! Only when I'd checked it was ok, did I see and indeed feel all the grazes and bruises, including one on the left bicep! Typical LOL!

I was understandably very sore when I woke this morning. As a result I didn't even know whether I'd be able to do much in the pool at all, so for the first time I got into the water with absolutely NO target distance. It was in effect a "free" swim and whatever I could do would be a bonus and would get me closer to the challenge itself. As I progressed I decided that I'd get to a mile and then stop, no matter how I was feeling. Yep, I truly am listing to my body!

The prayer I said while still in the water was even more thankful than others. I'd felt not only everyone who is supporting me, but also my Ultimate Lifeguard's presence by my side encouraging me. Cumulative totals: 22-3/4 miles/ 1092 laps.

Friday, June 27, 2014
Because I was still feeling the effects of the fall and also having an early meeting this morning I decided to swap today's usual pool session for a 4 mile Walk at Home cardio workout. It went well and I'm pleased to have gotten through what has been the roughest week yet since I started training.

Monday, June 30, 2014
After a well earned restful weekend, I was pumped for today's cardio workout and felt great afterwards.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Thankfully the soreness from my fall has eased and I'm feeling great, and even the sometimes niggly bicep feels good! The bruise on the bicep from the fall is still looking angry, but because of my underlying autoimmune condition I take a long time to heal, so I'm not concerned about that at all.

I still don't want to push myself TOO much, but having taken it easy for a few weeks and because I'm feeling so much better, today's aim was to complete 1-1/4 miles/ 60 laps in the pool. I'm very pleased to say I DID it and by the end I STILL felt great!!! Could I have done more? Perhaps I could have, but yep, I am still being careful!

Today's swim also rounded out the cumulative total to TWENTY FOUR MILES/ 1152 laps! Am I proud? YES! Am I determined to give this my all? HECK YES!

Taking a SHORT break!
Last weekend when I looked ahead to this short working week, I had thought that although it's a very special holiday for us Americans on Friday, July 4th, that I would still hit the pool early and do a session. After all I've worked out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the last 14 weeks, including on other holidays, so why should this be any different?

I mentioned it to a friend, Mike, and as we talked, he told me how well I'm DOING, how well I've DONE and how he and indeed everyone know how DETERMINED I am to give this my all. It was then that I decided that I WILL take Independence Day off! I deserve an extra rest day and the fact that it is America's birthday and I've reached the half way point in my training means it's a doubly good time to do so.

There will be a celebratory post made to the blog on Friday, but I'll write it and schedule it for publication tomorrow.

To end this rather long post, I once again want to thank all of YOU! Your encouragement and support truly does mean so much to me. Each of you is an inspiration! THANK YOU!!!

God bless,

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Step by Step 2009 ~ Part 8 Hike Highlights

Hi everyone,

Once again I apologize for the gap between my posts. Please be assured that all is well and training for this year's challenge is continuing on schedule. I'll be posting my training notes from the last couple weeks late tomorrow afternoon, after the latest session.

In today's look back at the 2009 challenge I'm sharing the highlights post that I wrote on my return from the hike on January 3, 2010, before typing up the handwritten entries I'd written during the hike itself...

Monday (12/28) - Day 1
We were up at 5:30 am GMT (CST +6 hours). An issue with the train from Preston to Carlisle meant we didn't get into Carlisle until around 9:30 am GMT. We then arrived at Bowness-on-Solway at 10:30 to begin the 84 mile hike. The weather was very cold and icy (3 inches deep in places). Conditions under foot were VERY dangerous. Although I wasn't the first to fall, I was the first to draw blood (my left palm); typical that one of the qualified first aiders was first to need attention! I fell again at least a half dozen times, which meant my confidence pretty much disappeared.

The afternoon was better and I regained my confidence. We hiked into the night, arriving at the camp site just after 5:00 pm GMT. Having set up the tents and had supper, cooked by Seb's dad Terry, we were all in "bed" by 9:00 pm GMT. We did 12 miles on day one.

Tuesday (12/29) - Day 2
We were up at 7:00 am GMT. I helped Terry cook breakfast (bacon, eggs, sausages and baked beans) and then we packed up the campsite, what goes up must come down. The day dawned as the last had been, very cold and icy. We set off again around 10:30 am after taking this group pic (I'm second from left on front row)... 

Almost immediately we faced our first icy hazard, a stairway covered in ice. This also proved to be one of the highlights of the hike, as we all did some freestyle sledding, without sledges, down the slope. It was a complete adrenaline rush!

Around lunch time, the weather changed and it started to sleet, then rain heavily. Later that afternoon, still having little confidence on the ice, I did more freestyle sledding. The only problem was, the ice wasn't as thick this time, and that's where I aggravated my existing spinal injury.

As we arrived at camp, the rain was now torrential. After helping set up the tents, I sat in the support vehicle for 2 hours trying to warm up. Although we didn't see the Wall itself today, we did walk along a two meter wide ridge in a field that covered the Wall; the ground sloping away on either side of the ridge. We completed 17 miles.

Wednesday (12/30) - Day 3
Terry didn't wake us until gone 8:00 am as the rain had turned to snow further down the route. I had gotten less than half an hour's sleep overnight as the rain storm intensified. By morning, not only was my back agony, but I was very tired and verging on hypothermic. I knew as soon as I woke that I wouldn't be able to go out that day. This upset me greatly, as the charity means so much to me and I broke down in tears when telling Seb and Terry.

Instead, I helped one of the other girls, CJ, who also missed the day, get everyone's kit dry in the cottage Terry was staying in. I also got a longed for shower, the HOT water really helped my back, as did the pain medication.

That night, the guys came back around 8:00 pm. It was the first day they had seen the Wall and I was really disappointed I'd missed it. We stayed that night in a heated "camping barn" which was in fact a 12 bed dormitory, so no need for tents. I made up my mind to go out on day 4 tonight, not only for me and the HEROES, but also for my eldest son Matty; who's six years old tomorrow. The guys did around 14 miles.

Thursday (12/31) - Day 4
After an all too quick 7 hours sleep, which we all needed, Terry woke us with the news of a 5 inch snowfall overnight. I dosed up again on pain meds and made my way out with the others around 10:00 am. The snow showers would continue for the remaining days of the hike.

After missing a day, I was slightly stiff, but took my time and I was okay. The snow was thigh deep as we began. Terry joined us after a few miles, his only time on the route itself; as we climbed the sheer face of the wall. Still being a little unsure of my footing, I intended to send my rucksack down a sleep snow covered slope, before handing my camera to Terry....

Except it didn't happen that way. I lost my footing, slipped onto my backside, then proceeded to tumble downwards. I did two full head over heels somersaults and managed a half twist too. I landed head down the hill on my back. It was over in seconds and I'm thankful I've seen quite a few skiers fall, so I kept as small as possible.

Terry's immediate reaction after I indicated I was okay, was "I wish I'd filmed that". Seb, on the other hand, had seen exactly how close I'd come to disaster. Six inches to my left part way up was a huge boulder, which if I'd have landed differently, could well have had dire consequences for me. I was VERY lucky, as you'll see when I get the pics on here.

Lunch was eaten in the midst of a blizzard. That evening, we again stayed in the camping barn and had a New Years Eve party. I composed another verse, with the story of the day, and read all four just after midnight. We eventually got to bed at 1:00 am.

Friday (1/1) - Day 5
Terry woke us just after 7:00 am. I made breakfast for everyone while he had to go out again. Terry then drove us to the start point and we began around 11:00 am. Today was flatter than the last few days. Despite this, another old injury, to my left knee, flared due to the effort of hiking through thigh deep snow once again.

Having completed 16 miles, we waited for Terry in a bar, where the locals welcomed us with open arms. They couldn't believe that anyone was crazy enough to go out onto the wall in the midst of the worst period of continuous snow the area has seen in more than 20 years.

We got back to the camping barn, for our last night on the actual hike, at around 8:45 pm GMT. I was really tired and in bed asleep by 11:15 pm.

Saturday (1/2) - Day 6
Although we faced what we thought was 18 miles, we were in no rush to get out there. We were up by 7:30 am GMT and packed up everything after breakfast. Terry drove us to the start point for the day and we began around 11:00 am. We predicted a finish of around 9:30 pm.

The day itself was a lot harder, both mentally and physically, than I ever thought it would be. Each and every step took so much more effort than it had before. I suffered mentally as we passed close to Newcastle city center, knowing that we still had around half distance to go. Also because we would be returning to the city having completed in Wallsend.

My spirits lifted considerably when we saw the 6 miles to go marker. We completed earlier than expected, at just after 8:00 pm GMT. Though it wasn't clear we had finished and we carried on another quarter mile or so LOL.

Even though I missed a day, I still managed to complete 70 of the 84 miles. I'm really proud of what I've done, not only for the charity, but because I've proved to myself that even though I went through hell on more than one occasion, that I could do it. I DID do it.

Thanks again for all your support. You guys ROCK! ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

God bless,

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Step by step 2014 ~ Quick catch up

Hi everyone,

I'm sorry for the lack of posts for the last few weeks. I've been busy with other parts of life, but I'm pleased to say that I have been able to keep up with my training and all is going well. Because I'm pushed for time, today's training notes will be very brief, but I'll get back to detailed posts with the next installment, I promise!

To see the other 2014 posts, please click HERE.

Friday, June 6, 2014 ~ 1 mile/ 48 lap swim ~ It was tough because I was still sore from the Wednesday, but I felt I had to achieve a single mile as an absolute minimum. I did. Just. Ongoing total 16-3/4 miles/ 804 laps.

Monday, June 9, 2014 ~ 4 mile Walk at Home cardio workout.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 ~ 1-1/2mile/ 72 lap swim ~ Thankfully easier than the last pool session. Ongoing total 18-1/4 miles/ 876 laps.

Friday, June 13, 2014 ~ 1 mile/ 48 lap swim ~ I felt good and could perhaps have added another 1/4 mile, but didn't want to push the limit with being sore recently. Ongoing total 19-1/4 miles/ 924 laps.

Monday, June 16, 2014 ~ 4 mile Walk at Home cardio workout.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 ~ 1-1/2 mile/ 72 lap swim ~ I felt good and pushed as much as I could. Ongoing total 20-3/4 miles/ 996 laps.

Thanks again for all your support, encouragement and indeed inspiration everyone, it really does mean so much to me!

God bless,

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day 70 years on

Hi everyone,

Today's 70th anniversary of D-Day, the allied landings on the Normandy coast, is remembered personally by an ever decreasing number of veterans who served that day. Earlier today, at the Normandy memorial in town, I met with a few of them, briefly. With flags flying at half staff, only a few words were exchanged, it was all that was needed... "Thank you, Sir" I said to each one. I then stepped back and bowed to each, before turning towards the memorial and the flagstaffs and saluting.

I took this photo as I left them...

We WILL remember them...

God bless,

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Step by step 2014 ~ Catching up

Hi everyone,

I'm sorry I've not posted anything to this blog for over a week, it's been a really busy time for me, but I promise I'll not slip up again! I have been keeping to my training schedule, I promise! If you've missed any of my previous notes about this year's training, you can read them all HERE. Here are my notes from the last couple weeks...

Monday, May 26, 2014
It might be a really important holiday today as we honor all military who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but I didn't take one from my schedule. I'm really enjoying Leslie Sansone's Walk at Home workouts and I felt great after today's Four Fast Miles.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
I had hoped to complete a two mile/ 96 lap swim today, because it will be my only aquatic session of the week. However, when I got to the sports center the pool had unexpectedly had to close for a short time, so instead of starting the session at 2:00 pm, I didn't get into the water until 2:30 pm. During the delay I tried to keep my limbs loose and warm, and also stay focused mentally. I managed the former, but with the later start I knew that I may not keep my focus completely.

I'd completed the first mile, once again keeping count of the number of laps easily, when I made the decision to drop the total to 1-3/4 miles/ 84 laps. Physically I felt great, but the delay had affected my concentration a little. I completed the revised distance in just 90 minutes, so I was happy. Perhaps more importantly, for the first time since starting my training, I was ache free!

Total distance now covered... 14-1/4 miles/ 684 laps!

Friday, May 30, 2014
I gave today's cardio session, another Four Fast Miles, my all, upping the pace as much as I could. I'm really enjoying the workout.

Saturday, May 31, 2014
The weather has been somewhat mixed here, most days have seen showers of rain, so having had to drop to just a single swim session this week, I was really pleased, when I checked the forecast earlier in the week to see it was due to be a DRY day. I thought I'd make the most of it and head to the coast. It meant an early start, a 5:00 am alarm, but I knew it would be worth it.

The day was very relaxed and I was a little surprised on the way back when I realized that I'd walked around EIGHT MILES! It really didn't feel that far, and despite some minor sunburn it was a great day! Here are a couple of my favorite pix...

The Marine Lake at Southport...

Red pine trees line the edge of the dune on the approach to the beach at Formby. Feeling the warm sand on my bare feet was also a highlight! :)

Monday, June 2, 2014
Wow, another month gone by already! Perhaps unsurprisingly my legs felt heavy yesterday after such a long walk, and to a degree that was still true today, but I was determined to get through the Four Fast Miles and then rest up. I did just that! By the end I felt tired, but very happy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
I'm back to two swim sessions this week and hope to complete 1-3/4 miles/84 laps this afternoon, although I am a little achy still.

Arriving at the sports center I was happy to see the pool was open, unlike last week! I got into the water just before 2:00 pm and got into my rhythm quickly, perhaps too quickly, because around lap 30 I again began to feel the slight niggle in my left bicep. As usual I tried to ignore it, push on through the discomfort, but it was tough.

When I paused for a drink break after completing the mile/ 48 laps, I admitted to myself that I'd be unable to reach today's target, instead aiming for 1-1/2 miles/ 72 laps. I've said from the beginning of my training that I have to listen to my body, because every session is critical to being ready on October 10 to start the challenge. I perhaps should have stopped at the mile, but I'm also stubborn and I would NOT have been happy with that at all.

The last half mile was very tough and by the end of it I admit that I was in pain, but I'd gotten through it and while still in the water I dropped to my knees and prayed, thanking God for getting me through another session.

As soon as I got back to the house I dosed up on anti-inflammatories and rested my arm as much as possible.

As soon as I woke this morning (Thursday), I strapped it and have rested as much as possible. As I write this, late in the afternoon, I've taken the strapping off and it just feels a little niggly again. Did I push myself too far yesterday? Perhaps I did, but I'll not really know until I get back into the pool tomorrow morning. I am still aiming to complete another 1-1/2 miles/ 72 laps tomorrow and I'm determined to do so.

Thanks again everyone, your support really does mean SO much to me!

God bless,

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Hi everyone,

As an adopted American, today's holiday in honor of our fallen means as much to me, as it does to all citizens of our great nation. On days such as this, I struggle to put into words how I truly feel, therefore I will let some others speak for me and for all of us...

Apart from our national anthem, Lee Greenwood's "God bless the USA" is one of my favorite patriotic songs. I'll include the official video at the end of this post, but here are the lyrics...
"If tomorrow all the things were gone I'd worked for all my life
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife
I'd thank my lucky stars to be livin' here today
'Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can't take that away
And I'm proud to be an American where as least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land God bless the USA
From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee
Across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea
From Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA
Well, there's pride in every American heart
And it's time to stand and say that
I'm proud to be an American where as least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land God bless the USA"
We turn now to the words of three former Presidents of the USA, Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President...

John F. Kennedy, the 35th President...

Lastly, Ronald Reagan, the 40th President...

I am so, so proud to be an American...

God bless the USA and God bless all of us.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Step by step 2014 ~ Doubling up

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, I'm honored to have you here. Today we continue looking at my training notes as I continue to prepare for the Battling Back challenge in October/ November 2014. If you'd like to catch up with all my other training notes from this year, you can do so HERE.

Friday, May 16, 2014
The slight niggle I felt in my left bicep after Wednesday's 1-3/4 mile swim had eased a bit by this morning, so I knew today would be a very important day. It would be the first time during my training that I've had 2 pool sessions in the same week. I say pool sessions, rather than swims, because today won't be swimming. Instead, it will be an "Aqua run" session, that has been gifted to me by the sports center where I'm training. If you're wondering how you can run in the pool, you're not alone! I did too until it was explained to me, but the process, in theory, is easy. In reality it is anything but, as I was to find out...

Before getting into the pool I was given a belt with a large foam pad on the back, which acts as a float once you're in the water. The belt also has hooks on it which will attach to the lane markers in the deep end, thus keeping you pretty much in one place.

I climbed down into the pool and slowly made my way to my space on the line, then attached the hooks to the marker. Moments later the session began with some instruction of the moves we'd be using. I'll admit that they took some getting used to, but even then at slow pace, I felt the resistance of the water and knew this would be quite a workout!

The 45 minute session was interval based, a few minutes at standard pace, followed by a 30 second sprint, with 5 reps of each. YES, this is definitely a hard workout! The instructor then changed things up a bit, told us to put more power into the work as opposed to speed. The central part of the session involved foam dumbbells. They might be light out of water, but they definitely aren't when being pushed deep into it! The last 20 minutes involved a power/ sprint interval set.

At the end of the session I was tired, but very happy to have tried it and while Aqua running might not form part of my weekly training regimen, it might feature occasionally.

Monday, May 19, 2014
Today's cardio session was another Leslie Sansone "Walk at Home", this time a fast four miler, which is completed in around 50 minutes, including the warm down and stretches afterward. It was the first time I've done this particular session, which is interval based, bringing some "boosted walking" in, which in truth is jogging.

My hydration levels weren't as good as they could or maybe should have been, but I had a drink on hand and found I could continue the walk while drinking if need be. It's another great workout and I felt tired, yet very happy at the end.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The weather here the last few days has been great, warm and sunny, if humid at times and so I've been making sure to keep my fluid intake up. Today's target in the pool was another 1-3/4 miles, or 84 laps, ahead of what will be a second swim session of the week on Friday, when I'll be aiming for 1-1/2 or 1-3/4 miles.

I quite surprised when I got down into the pool how warm it was, but it was a nice surprise. I stopped after 1/2 a mile/ 12 laps, for my first brief drink break, having once again taken it poolside. Yep, I've learned that lesson now. Within a half lap of starting again I felt a slight cramp in my left foot, but wasn't concerned about it, because I've experienced it a few times before. Today however it stayed with me for a little longer than previously, so I delayed the next drink break until 30 laps in.

Thankfully the cramp didn't return and I was able to push on. At around 50 laps, just over the mile, I felt the now familiar niggle in my left bicep, but once again it was manageable and I paced myself for a little while before kicking on, with the end in sight.

As has become my routine, I switched things up for the last 2 laps and really gave it my all. Touching in at the end of lap 84, I knelt in the water and said a prayer of thanks, before standing and once again reaching for my drink. Climbing out of the pool, my legs felt ok and I was very happy to have achieved another target.

While I ate and relaxed later in the evening, when I'd usually be writing up this week's training notes, I realized I should by now have broken through the ten mile total distance barrier. Calculating it, I happily discovered I'd not just done that, but today's swim had taken the total distance to ELEVEN miles! Yep, I'm proud!

Friday, May 23, 2014
Knowing I'd be out early this morning, I repacked my backpack last night, then had a relatively early night, trying to get as much rest as I could. When my alarm sounded this morning, at 5:00 am, I felt as if I'd only slept for a few minutes, but I felt good, or as good as you can at that hour, LOL. I hit snooze a couple times, then got up at 5:20 am.

I was out the door around 20 minutes later and on my way to the sports center, aiming to get into the water just after 6:00 am. I knew today's swim would be tough, it's the first time I can ever remember swimming twice within a few days, except for a few gentle ones on vacation and so it proved.

Having been warm on Wednesday, the pool was cooler than I thought it would be today and perhaps that affected my rhythm, but it was more likely because it was so early and I'd not eaten anything since last night. I know I should have, but at the same time I've gotta be careful of cramping more than I'm able to cope with.

Every lap was slower today, every stroke tougher than they have been, but never once did my determination waver. When I felt the niggle in my bicep less than half way through the swim, I used it to keep me going. I KNEW it would be tough, it has to be or I'll not make progress. I've not missed a target in the pool yet and I wasn't going to today. I WAS going to do 1-1/2 miles/ 72 laps. I had to.

I did! The prayer at the end of the last lap was perhaps more thankful than any that I've said so far. I was SO grateful and yes, proud of myself for having gotten through it.

As soon as I got back to the house, even while coffee was still brewing, I strapped the troublesome muscle up and it remains so now. I'll rest and relax over the weekend and be ready for Monday's workout.

Thanks again for your support everyone, it truly does mean so much to me. Monday's blog post will be a special one, marking Memorial Day, so I hope you'll join me then. In the meantime enjoy your weekend, whatever you're doing.

God bless,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Step by step 2009 ~ part 7

Hi everyone,

We continue our look back to the 2009 challenge today, focusing on just a single day, December 27, the day before the hike began.

December 27 - Walk minus 1 day!
After spending last night in my own bed, the last time for more than a week, I was up and about around 8:00 am GMT this morning. After showering and getting dressed I did a final check of the packing. If there's something that I've forgotten now, it may well remain forgotten! Seriously though, I've got everything that I'll need.

I'm now sitting here, having written the last email that I had to reply to, listening to some music and drinking coffee. Sunday morning wouldn't be Sunday morning without coffee and music and today is no different.

I learned last night that Grace has had to withdraw from the hike, I'm unsure at this time why she has withdrawn, but I do know she's still fundraising for us. This means there are now 11 of us doing it. We will be meeting at Dani's house in a matter of hours. These are the train times for the journey to the start location, both for today and tomorrow morning.

Sunday morning (12/27)
Overpool: Leave at 9:22 am CST
Liverpool Lime Street: Arrive at 9:58 am CST
Liverpool Lime Street: Leave at 10:31 am CST
Preston: Arrive at 10:37 am CST
Monday morning (12/28)Preston: Leave at 1:14 am CST
Carlisle: Arrive at 2:25 am CST
We're then getting a taxi from Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway, where we're starting. The hike itself should start no later than 2:00 am CST, I think.

As for the return journey, I'll be coming back from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I've not booked any travel though as although the hike is scheduled for 6 days, we may be delayed.
THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH for your love and support, it really does mean so much to me. Have a great New Year. See you in 2010!

The second entry of the day was written that evening and posted to the site the day after returning from the hike...

December 27, 2009 - Hike minus 1 day (cont)
After waking at 8:00 am GMT and making final preparations I relaxed for a few hours. As noon approached, I called and spoke to my son who told me all about Christmas.

As everyone in the US woke up, I called and spoke to a friend for a few minutes. Then, just before 2:00 pm, another sent me a text saying that he and his wife were awake and asking me to call them. I planned to leave around or just after 2:30 pm. As he and I chatted, I took a deep breath, the time was almost upon me. Before passing the phone to his wife, my friend wished me luck.

Nervous excitement was really kicking in as the conversation continued. Just before the call ended, she said "It's time you were going, lady. We are all with you, we love you." Her last words to me were "we're so proud of you, Em!"
Having put the phone down, I put my coat on and swung my rucksack onto my back. I picked up the holdall and second bag then left the house for the 10 minute walk to Overpool railway station. As I waited for the train, I struck up a conversation with a stranger about the adventure that lay ahead of me. During the conversation, he gave me a donation for the charity and we continued talking until he got off the train.

Arriving at Liverpool Lime Street station, I discovered I'd need to change trains at Wigan North Western, instead of being able to get straight through to Preston. The transition wasn't long, and in fact I arrived at Dani's house just before 6:00 pm as planned.

I was the first to arrive and as we started getting to know each other we both checked our bags. I swapped a few things into the rucksack that I'd need for Monday, as Seb's Dad, Terry, would be arriving soon to take the rest of the kit.

Emily arrived at the house next, just before Terry. Having chatted for a short time and loaded the car, Terry left and we went to fetch Grace. Even though she's not coming with us, she was coming to meet us all tonight. We also dropped Dani off, as she was meeting the others at the bus station and walking back with them.
Grace, Emily and I got back to the house shortly before Dani, Seb, Bea, Zach, Graham, Pip, CJ, Alex and Jake. It was wonderful to finally meet everyone. Having ordered out for a late supper of fried chicken, we began settling for the night around midnight. It was late, VERY late, well after 2:00 am GMT before many of us got any sleep at all...
In the next retrospective entry, I'll share with you some of the highlights from each day of the hike. That post was written the day I got back and gave me some time to type up all the other entries. I'll be back later this week with another post with my training notes from this year, so I hope you'll join me then.

God bless,

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Step by step 2014 ~ I feel great

Hi everyone,

Before we take a look at my training notes from this week, I want to remind you about an invite that I first posted in last Friday's post Invitation, review and plans...

Over to you ~ an invitationWe've all got a story to tell and I'd love to help you share yours, or those of your loved ones with the readers of this blog.
~ Have you, or do you know anyone who has served in the military, however long ago it was?
~ Perhaps, with the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One approaching, you'd like to share something of that time, or of another conflict, of which we know there have been many
~ Have you overcome adversity in any way?
If you'd like to share anything, you can contact me either via my Facebook page, or by email to emlouisef {at} gmail {dot} com. The address is written in this way here so it's not picked up spam bots, so remember to remove the spaces and replace @ and .
If you'd like to catch up with my previous training notes from this year, you'll find them all HERE.

Friday, May 9, 2014
I again changed things up today, warming up with a single 15 minute rep of the dance workout that I've been doing this far. I then switched up to a "Walk at home", led by Leslie Sansone. I was understandably a little tired after Wednesday's two mile swim, so only did two of the three miles, but I feel great! 

Saturday, May 10, 2014
Stepping on the scales this morning, I saw that I'd not lost any more weight, although I wasn't particularly expecting to, because the loss seems to have settled into an every other week pattern. Today's rest day was a very relaxed one.

Monday, May 12, 2014
Having completed a couple of miles of Leslie's workout last Friday, I did the full three miles today. I found the workout to be a great one and I wish I'd found it when I first started! You can take a look at the one I did here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Having completed two miles in the pool last week, I eased back to 1-3/4 miles or 84 laps today, the main reason being that I'll be hitting the pool again on Friday. Now I'm more aware of what the distance can take out of me, I took a sports drink to the poolside, leaving it within easy reach as I dropped into the water. 

Unusually, it took me a few laps to find my rhythm and my arms felt a little heavy, but as soon as I settled, I pushed on. I paused for a quick drink after the first 10 laps and then every 20 or so from that point. 

I was able to keep count quite easily today and having reached 50 laps I pushed on. As has become my routine, I switched up the stroke for the last two laps. Gliding in at the end of the final lap I was breathing hard, and stayed low in the water, indeed I dropped to my knees and as soon as I caught my breath I said a prayer of thanks. 

Rising to my feet, I reached for my drink and sipped it before putting it back on the side. I took my goggles off as I walked to the side of the pool and this is when I really felt the benefit of keeping hydrated; climbing out of the pool, my legs weren't heavy, for the very first time. 

Writing this post now, it's a few hours since I got out of the pool. I'm relatively pain free, although I can feel a slight niggle in my left bicep, which I have previously felt. I'll monitor it ahead of the next workout and will, if needed, stay out of the pool until next week. Having said that, I do feel great! 

Thank you!
Thanks again everyone for all your support, encouragement and indeed inspiration. It truly does mean so so much to me! 

I'll leave you with another pic from the high school battlefield trip...

God bless,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Step by step 2009 ~ part 6

Hi everyone,

Today we continue our look back at the Step by Step journal from the 2009 challenge, starting on December 21. If you've missed the previous posts in the series you can read them HERE, the link opens in a new tab.

December 21 - Walk minus 7 days! I completed my LAST 12 mile training hike this morning. I'm doing 6 miles on Christmas day, but other than that, my training is complete!

WOW it really is getting close now! I didn't get my packing started at the weekend, but here's the list of things I'll be taking. We're not having to carry everything with us, only things needed for that day. The rest of the gear will be transported by our support vehicle, which Seb's Dad will be driving.

Thermal base layer
Hiking trousers
Fleece sweaters
Waterproof jacket
Waterproof trousers
Hiking boots
Prescription meds
Pain meds
Band aids
Blister band aids
Antiseptic wipes
Hand sanitizer
Glucose tabs
Head torch
Cell phone
Spare batteries for everything
Foam mat
Sleeping bag
Plastic plate
Plastic bowl
Plastic cup
2 ltr water bottle
Day-sack (small rucksack)
Notebook and pen

I can't believe that it's so close now. To have finished my training really brings it home. This time next week, we'll have completed day one of the hike! That said, I still have a lot to get done.

* Tuesday (12/22) - Last minute shopping (for the hike, not Christmas). I'm also collecting my train tickets. I'll be up and out early.
* Wednesday (12/23) - Officially switch back to UK time. Get packing done. Finish work for the holidays.
* Thursday (12/24) - Rest day. I've got some personal emails to write and some phone calls to make.
* Friday (12/25) - I'm doing 6 mile hike that I'd planned before I knew about the hike.
* Saturday (12/26) - FINAL rest day. I intend to totally relax and check that everything is packed.
* Sunday (12/27) - After a quiet morning I'll be travelling by train to Preston, arriving around 6:00 pm GMT. All those of us doing the hike are staying at Dani's house that night. It will be the very first time I've met the other hikers.
* Monday (12/28) - HIKE DAY 1! We'll be up VERY early to get the 7:14 am train from Preston to Carlisle. From there, we'll get a taxi to Bowness-on-Solway. The hike itself should begin around 9:00 am GMT.

I intend to keep this "blog" going while I'm away, though you won't see it until I get back afterwards. 
December 23 - Walk minus 5 days!I'm switching back to UK time today, the packing isn't yet done, but it WILL be started later.
December 24 - Walk minus 4 days! I've *finally* got the packing done! I'm totally ready for Christmas too.

December 25 - Walk minus 3 days! Merry Christmas everyone! I did my last leisurely 6 miles this morning, something that was already planned before I knew about the hike. Though the hike itself starts in 3 days, I will be travelling on Sunday, so there's now just 48 hours to go! WOW! 
December 26 - Walk minus 2 days! This is it. I travel up north tomorrow ready to start the hike on Monday. In the last 30 days I've walked more than 140 miles in training.

I'm doing nothing except relaxing today, conserving energy for the next 9 days. I'll post again tomorrow, then keep writing this blog while I'm away, so you will see more of it when I get back.

THANK YOU ALL for your support, it really does mean do much to me.
I'm loving sharing these memories with you and from this point in our look back, we'll be focusing on a single entry each week, because there was so much to write about each evening.

To close this entry, I leave you with a couple more images from the high school battlefield trip...

 Please join me on Wednesday when we'll look at my continuing preparations for this year's challenge.

God bless,

Friday, May 9, 2014

Invitation, review and plans

Hi everyone,

Whereas we've focused on either retrospectively looking back at the 2009 challenge, or at my training notes for the 2014 challenge in recent posts, in today's we'll review my journey so far and look forward to this year's challenge. But first, it's...

Over to you ~ an invitation
We've all got a story to tell and I'd love to help you share yours, or those of your loved ones with the readers of this blog.

~ Have you, or do you know anyone who has served in the military, however long ago it was?

~ Perhaps, with the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One approaching, you'd like to share something of that time, or of another conflict, of which we know there have been many

~ Have you overcome adversity in any way?

If you'd like to share anything, you can contact me either via my Facebook page, or by email to emlouisef {at} gmail {dot} com. The address is written in this way here so it's not picked up spam bots, so remember to remove the spaces and replace @ and .

Battling Back 2014 ~ Review and planning
It's now six weeks to the day since my first very tentative, 15 minute workout that left me exhausted. Those six weeks have seemingly flown by, at least they have for me. Here are a few questions that we'll use periodically to review and plan, a kind of interview with myself...

Did I truly realize then the enormity of the task at hand? Yes, I really was starting from the beginning, physically, so I knew it would be VERY tough, but as I've said before, if I'd not been mentally and spiritually ready, I couldn't have gotten even to this point.

Did I think I'd have progressed to the point I'm at now? No! Although I had a rough idea of how the training would progress, I really was taking baby steps and especially with not feeling well for the first few weeks, I've surprised myself so much.

Did I have any idea that in just five pool sessions, I'd have already swum seven and a half miles? NO WAY! See above answer.

What was my expected weight loss at this point? I honestly didn't have a target for this point. All I knew was that I'd have around 15 to 20 pounds to lose over the course of the journey. I'm very pleasantly surprised to have lost 9 pounds already.

How am I feeling? I'm feeling GREAT! I'm so much stronger, so much fitter, my posture has improved and I'm a lot more toned. I'm enjoying seeing and feeling the physical changes. I'm happier within myself too and can HONESTLY say I'm loving every aspect of my journey, be it the workouts/ training or the planning and organizational aspects of the challenge, of which there are many.

Are there any changes to the already announced challenge plans? YES! If you missed the amended distance in a previous post, this has gone up from the original 23+ miles to 26 miles 385 yards, or marathon distance. Because of this, I can now confirm the start date WILL be Friday, October 10, 2014 and there will be 17 individual swim sessions, every other day, until the already announced end date of Tuesday, November 11, 2014.

The individual sessions will be of varying length, with the absolute maximum distance to be 2 miles/ 96 laps of the pool.

As of today, there are 22 weeks until the start date!

What are the next steps? This last week I've changed my workout/ training routine up from what it was. Next week it will change again, exchanging one of the cardio sessions for another pool based session. Because of this, I now need to take more notice of my nutritional needs. I've been watching what I eat since I began, adding more protein and carbs and have, for example, stopped drinking soda in favor of a lot of water. From this point I'm also introducing protein and sports drinks pre and post workout, to ensure I'm at my best and can recover quickly. I will continue to give my all during each and every training session.

I've registered the event with the UK based charity, Help for Heroes, but I still need to confirm the US based charity that will benefit from the challenge and once that happens I'll truly begin my fundraising push. If in the meantime anyone would like to sponsor me, please contact me by the details above.

Anything else to add? Once again, I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone for all your support, encouragement and inspiration. Words cannot describe what it means to me. I thank God for each of you and for keeping me free of injury and safe during each session.

God bless,

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Step by Step 2014 ~ Changing things up

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, I'm honored to have you here. Thank you all for your support, encouragement and inspiration. Today we continue our look at this week's training notes. If you've missed the previous notes from this year, you can see them all by clicking HERE.

We'll start with another pic from the high school battlefield trip...

Friday, May 2, 2014
Similarly to last Friday, today's cardio session was a shorter than usual one, at only 45 minutes. My limbs felt really heavy and I was conscious of the few niggles I'd felt in the pool on Wednesday. I really need to listen to my body even at this stage of the training, because of the risks involved, pushing too hard could be disastrous and that's not a risk I'm willing to take.

Saturday, May 3, 2014
Before stepping on the scales this morning, I wasn't sure if I'd lost any more weight this week, partly because of the increase in muscle definition and tone that I'm seeing and feeling. So, I was very happy to see that I have indeed lost another 3 pounds, for a total loss so far of nine pounds. The loss seems to have settled into a pattern of nothing one week, with 3 off the next. I'm still some way off my target, but I'm feeling so much better even now.

Monday, May 5, 2014
I was determined to change my cardio session up today, so switched to a different 30 minute routine, at a higher pace. Instead of repeating it a second time, I did a 15 minute session of various parts of the workout I have been doing from the beginning, keeping the pace high and being sure to stretch out and protect all muscle groups.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 ~ Splash by Splash
From the moment I completed last weeks 84 laps/ 1-3/4 miles, I'd planned to complete the same distance today, because it is the distance that I'd worked out to be that which will be done during the challenge. All that changed while I was on the way to the pool this afternoon. Any distance athlete will tell you that it's better to exceed your target or race distance during training. So, the same would be true for me today. Having only ever swam 2 miles once before in my life, that was today's target!

I got into the pool just before 2:00 pm and was soon into my rhythm, although the first couple laps were perhaps a little slower than some I've done because I was focusing on my technique and position in the water. For the first half mile, or 24 laps, I paused briefly to adjust my goggles every 6 laps, but only for maybe 20 seconds, if that.

I was able to keep count of the laps today easier than at other times, I think because the target of 96 laps is enough and I don't want to do any more! This might seem strange to some, but the first mile, or 48 laps, was relatively easy for me. Say what? Yep, even for me, that sounds strange, but I passed the mile with barely a thought and pushed on.

At around 56 laps I started to feel some tension in the left side of my neck and shoulder, but it wasn't niggly or painful, instead telling me that the muscles were doing what I was telling them to do! It was also around this point that I started tiring and losing form in the water, so I focused on pulling my abs in and lifting into a better position for a little, then upped the pace again

The last 15 laps were understandably tough, but just as with every lap over the past five weeks, I gave it my all and pushed on with everything I had, once again changing up my stroke for the last 2, laps 95 and 96 today.

Touching the wall at the end of lap 96, having completed my target distance, even lifting myself to standing was difficult. I truly had given everything I have. With my back to the pool, I said a very, very brief prayer of thanks, looking up as I did so. Turning once more, I lifted my goggles, then slowly walked to the edge of the pool, took hold of the ladder and pulled myself up out of the water, pausing to make sure I could stand, before walking around the pool, grabbing my towel and heading back to the locker room.

As I write this now, I've been out of the pool for a couple of hours and have refueled. The only ache I feel right now is a slight one in each bicep, but I'm not uncomfortable. I am understandably tired, but very happy, very proud to have achieved another target. Five weeks, five targets achieved and I've gone from a mile to two.

In my next post, on Friday, I'll be sharing some more of the planning aspects of the challenge. Once again, HUGE THANKS to all of you for supporting, encouraging and inspiring me as I continue Battling Back.

God bless,

Monday, May 5, 2014

Step by Step 2009 ~ part 5

Hi everyone,

Today we continue our look back at the Step by Step journal from the 2009 challenge, starting on December 17. If you've missed the previous posts in the series you can read them HERE, the link opens in a new tab.

December 17 - Walk minus 11 days!
Today turned into an unscheduled rest day. Now I'm getting this close to the start of the hike, resting is as equally important as getting out and training. I was able to totally relax and catch up with some other things that I've been neglecting recently.

December 18 - Walk minus 10 days! I can't believe how close I'm getting now. The final countdown has really begun. I did just four miles training today, but it was great to get out there. I also got downtown and picked up the items for the first aid kit.

The weather will be colder than initially expected during the hike, so I'll be making sure I pack PLENTY of extra layers. I'll begin packing over the weekend and will, as promised in an earlier posting, give a detailed kit list.

December 19 - Walk minus 9 days! Another unscheduled rest day, as I spent time with family this morning. As it is, I'm VERY tired today. Rest is my first priority right now. I'll rest tomorrow too, then get out and do a 12 miler on Monday, it will be my last big session.

December 20 - Walk minus 8 days!Today is my last REAL rest day, as it all gets a little hectic from here. Final 12 mile training session tomorrow; last minute shopping on Tuesday with a 4 miler; back to UK time on Wednesday; short session Thursday; 6 miles on Christmas day; check packing Saturday; travel up north this time next week...

Before closing this relatively short post, I want to share another of the battlefield trip photos with you. The quality of the image is relatively poor for a number of reasons, it's been scanned and also because the light on the day was poor and I have purposefully not edited the file in any way because I want to convey as much of the atmosphere of the trip as possible.

In my next post I'll share my latest training notes and another couple of pix too, so I hope you'll join me on Wednesday. 

God bless,

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Step by Step 2014 ~ Best week yet

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, it's an honored to have you here. Today we continue our look at this week's training notes. If you've missed the previous notes from this year, you can see them all by clicking HERE.

Friday, April 25, 2014
Following on from Wednesday's lifetime best swim, today's workout was tough. My muscles were still a little achy, but I was determined to push on and complete the hour. I did so, making sure I stayed hydrated throughout the workout, drinking more than a liter of water during then immediately after, having skimped a bit on this at times.

By the end of the workout, I was really tired, but proud to have completed my most strenuous week yet and very much looking forward to the weekend rest period!

Saturday, April 26, 2014
Today's rest day was very relaxed. The weather was typically spring-like, at last, so the sun was out one minute and it rained heavily the next, so I couldn't do anything outside in the yard. Instead, I went through some things and found the album that holds the photos from the high school battlefield trip. I looked through them quickly and the memories, which haven't faded much at all over the years, came back. I plan on scanning and uploading them to Facebook tomorrow.

Sunday, April 27, 2014
After a relaxed morning spent with those closest to me, I headed up to my studio this afternoon and opened the album. Even as I began scanning the first of the battlefield trip photos and noting the content so I could caption them later, the years melted away. The photos are over twenty years old, so not exactly delicate, yet I handled them with as much care as I had my Grandmother's album a few months ago, out of respect for those who served. Some of the photos in Gram's album, those of her father in his military uniform, are almost 100 years old. Once I have her permission, I'll share some of those images with you too.

Throughout the hour or more it took to scan the photos of the trip, I was filled with the exact same emotions that I'd felt during it, fear, trepidation and distress. I was back there, walking over the fog enveloped battlefields, through the muddy trenches and bearing witness at the memorials and cemeteries. When the last image was scanned, I silently said a prayer for all who had served, all who had lost their lives.

I then returned to the living room and began the process of captioning the images, checking a few details online so the descriptions were as accurate as possible. I'm only sharing one of the photos with you today, I'll share the others as the weeks go by, but if you'd like to see them all before they appear here, you can take a look at the Facebook album High school battlefield trip.

Monday, April 28, 2014
I had thought about changing up today's workout to something more challenging than the "beginner" dance workout I've done since I began the cardio sessions, but because I'm planning to increase the distance of the swim on Wednesday, I kept to the hour. I did push it as hard as I could and very definitely felt tired afterward, but very happy to have completed another session.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Having achieved lifetime best swims during each of the first three pool sessions, today I aimed just as high, so to speak. When I did the math for the challenge itself last week, I knew that the maximum distance I'd swim during one session would be 1-3/4 miles, or 84 laps. I've not swum that far in over 20 years and if I do it without pausing, it would be another lifetime best.

In the minutes before getting into the pool, just before 2:00 pm today, I realized that I'd be crazy to do the total without pausing. I know that some of you might think I'm crazy anyway and at times I think I am too! I pushed off from the wall at the start of the first lap and was soon into my rhythm. I had been unsure when my first pause would be, but it came at the end of lap 6 or 1/8 of a mile, when I needed to adjust my swim cap, worn for the first time today. After only about 20 seconds I pushed off once more.

The next brief pause, for the same reason, came at the end of lap 12 or 1/4 mile, followed by others at 18 and 24 laps, the 1/2 mile point. From here I pushed on and did a longer stint, the next pause coming at the end of lap 32.

The pool was quieter this week and once again my thoughts turned to all those who are supporting, encouraging and inspiring me. A few times I did almost lose count of the laps, but only momentarily and I continued to push on through the water.

Making the turn into lap 46, my thoughts went back just four weeks. At this point then I'd been 2 laps away from the finish of the swim and as brief as it could be, I smiled at the achievement of then and now. At the end of lap 54, 30 from today's target, I briefly thought about beginning to count down, but instead decided to continue counting upwards.

At the end of lap 60, still with a 1/2 mile to go, I again smiled very briefly and then pushed on. By now I was feeling the burn in my shoulders and a very slight twinge in my left calf when I pushed off, but it didn't deter me, I continued in the same rhythm.

At the end of lap 72 or 1-1/2 miles, last week's end point, I kicked on, determined to give the remainder everything I had. From lap 78 I did decide to count down the last 6 laps and then changed stroke for the final 2, as I've done during each session.

Standing up at the end of lap 84, having reached my goal, I coughed and for a brief moment struggled to catch my breath. The moment I did, my back to the pool, I said a prayer of thanks to God for getting me through the swim. Climbing out of the pool, my legs were understandably heavy my muscles protesting, but I'd done it. I'd achieved a 20 year best and yes, I'm once again, proud and determined to give this my absolute all!

God bless

Monday, April 28, 2014

Step by Step 2009 ~ part 4

Hi everyone,

Please pause for a moment and pray with me for the families of the five British service members who lost their lives over the weekend in a crash in Afghanistan and also all those lost during the tornado outbreak across the US...

Heavenly Father, in blessed repose grant eternal rest to those who have passed away. Gracious Lord, we ask that you enfold their families and friends in your ever loving, comforting arms and grant them a sense of peace amid their grief and sorrow. In your Holy Name we pray ~ Amen

Today we continue our look back at the Step by Step journal from the 2009 challenge. If you've missed the previous posts in the series you can read them HERE, the link opens in a new tab.

December 12 - Walk minus 16 days! I completed another 12 mile training hike this morning. I can't believe there are, weather permitting, only another five 12 milers to do, as well as 4 shorter ones.

What a difference a day makes. The weather today was a total change from yesterday, the sun was out and it was even warm enough to not wear my coat.

I'm REALLY looking forward to tomorrow's rest day. It will be a day of COMPLETE rest. I've not been able to sleep in for two weeks, as although last Sunday was a rest day, I was up really early to meet a friend. So tomorrow...

I explained some of the "physical" aspects of my training route yesterday. Today I'll explain some of the "mental" aspects. What I think about while getting ready to go out and while I'm out there.

Tiredness has been an issue some days and was somewhat this morning. Do I really want to get up, before 6:00 am and get out there; wouldn't I rather stay in bed, in the warmth? The instant answer that comes to mind is YES, I would rather stay in bed. That thought only stays with me momentarily though, I then think of the main reason why I'm doing this; to show my support for all those in the military, those men and women who give their all for peace.

As I leave the house, the thought of the 12 miles ahead of me can be quite daunting, even in the better weather, such as today. As I set out, I think back to the Battlefield trip I did during my 10th grade. I'm back on those battlefields, striding out, with the boy soldiers. They faced total uncertainty; I'm only facing 12 miles. I say to myself, "come on Em, they did it, you can too."

This is also the time that I think about all of those who are supporting me. It means so much to me knowing that you're all with me. This is why you may well see me saying "we", as opposed to "I" occasionally ; as to me, I'm not alone when I'm out there.

As I turn the corner of one road into another, after around a mile, the road stretches ahead of us. At this point, I'm concentrating on the surroundings as there are a few streets to cross. Safety is always uppermost in my mind. To make the journey more manageable, mentally as well as physically, I split it down into smaller sections; this is usually to the next visible bend in the road.

As I approach the three mile point, and safety isn't so high a priority, I'm thinking about everything that still needs doing. These where today's thoughts:
* Emails and phone calls to possible sponsors.
* Start getting kit together (I'll give a detailed kit list in another post).
* Further training, how many days are left.
* What I'll include in today's "blog" post, which is how I think of these posts.
* The date I'll switch back to UK time, and how I'll make that as easy as possible for myself.
* I also listen to what's around, the noise of the traffic, but also the birdsong coming from the trees.

Nearing the midpoint, I usually check the time. I can do each six mile half in exactly an hour. Am I on schedule? If not, I speed up a little. I'm lifted, mentally, as the midpoint approaches too. Here now, safety again becomes a priority, as the road no longer has a sidewalk.

With around a mile and a half to go, I'm back my neighborhood. I know that in around 20 minutes, the day's training will be over. I'm lifted mentally by this. Physically, we're feeling a little tired. Getting home, I'm filled with a sense of achievement. Another training session completed safely.

So far during the first two weeks of training, I've not yet felt creative in a composition sense. As I've concentrated on the physical and mental side of everything that needs doing. To be able to compose any sort of verse, whether it be for a client, or a friend, I need to be totally relaxed.

Today, for the first time, while out training, I began to put a few lines together in my mind. I'm intending to use tomorrow's rest day to see if those few lines become any more than that; to see if I can compose the first of what I hope will be a number of verses to commemorate this very special event.

December 13 - Walk minus 15 days! Rest day today and I'm determined to totally relax and enjoy it, as there aren't many left!
I've today completed the composition of the first verse for the hike, "HELPing my HEROES", after getting the first few lines while training yesterday…
As I stride out
to begin this epic journey
I know I'm not alone;
for I'm surrounded
by memories, by HEROES.
Memories of battlefields
long since visited
but with me, forever.
The cold of that February
took me back then
as it does now.
I'm walking with those boys,
HEROES one and all.
I feel what they felt;
fear, anxiety and dread,
but camaraderie and
comradeship too.
For I'm doing
what I believe in,
© Em L. Fairley
Composed today, Sunday, December 13, 2009
The capitalization in the verse is representative of the way the charity, “HELP for HEROES”, uses it on their wristbands.

December 14 - Walk minus 14 days! I can't believe how quick it's going.... Yesterday's rest day was just that. I was able to totally relax for the first time in a long time.

December 15 - Walk minus 13 days! Today was by far the worst I've felt during the last two and a bit weeks. Waking up this morning I felt as if I'd not gotten any sleep at all. I was physically, as well as emotionally drained. So much so that part of me didn't even feel like going out. That is SO unlike me.

As time went on, and I'd gotten through all the phone calls I had to make, I decided that it's better to get out there, even if I only do a few miles. At this stage, with only 13 days to go, it's the consistency, rather than the distance that matters. I decided on 6, as I knew that would make me feel better mentally.

Having said that, almost as soon as I got out there, my mind went back to this last Sunday, and to Major Phil Packer. He won the Helen Rollason award at BBC Sports Personality of The Year, after completing the London Marathon, in 13 days. This is despite the fact that Major Packer lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan with the British Army.

If Major Packer can do that, I can do 10 miles today; I don't have an any sort of excuse! For more on Major Packer, take a look here: ... 409139.stm
As for me, as I approached the halfway point today, I began relaxing. With that, the theme for a second composition came to me. Shortly after, the first lines did too, as well as the ending. It was only the middle lines I couldn't quite "see" without writing them down.

As soon as I got back, I completed the composition
"With Pride and Honor"Since time began
wars have been fought.
Battles have been won,
battles have been lost.
But through it all
since time began;
whether soldier, sailor,
airman or Marine.
Each has served,
many have died.
For their country,
for their flag.
They have given their all.
With Pride and Honor
© Em L. Fairley
Composed today, Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 16 - Walk minus 12 days! After completing today's 10 miles there is only another 3 similar and 3 shorter sessions left! WOW I can't believe how quick it's going!

I'm feeling really comfortable and relaxed now, so much so I was able to compose another verse this morning; it's about those of us doing the hike.

"Band of brothers and sisters" As we all signed up for
the H4H Christmas Hike 2009
we were strangers.
Right now, many still are;
much like when signing up
for military service itself.
Soon, all that will change,
Em, Seb, Bea and Zach,
Cj, Alex, Jake and Pip,
Dani, Graham, Emily and Terry.
All united, in service for
a cause we all believe in.
We will become
in such a short time,
like any military unit;
a close and strong
band of brothers and sisters.

© Em L. Fairley
Composed today, Wednesday, December 16, 2009.
As promised in a much earlier post, I've also now added the verses to the Verses page on the blog.

In Wednesday's post I'll be sharing the latest training notes from this year's challenge and also some of the battlefield trip photos from the high school vacation to the Somme, so I really hope you'll join me then.

God bless,

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ultimate lifeguard

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, I'm honored to have you here.

In the majority of my posts, I've focused mainly on the physical aspects of my battle back to fitness and the challenge ahead. Today though, I want to say some more about both the mental and spiritual side of it, which is equally, if not more important, than the physicality.

In the Challenge announcement and training post, I spoke about how I'm now both mentally and spiritually stronger than for a very long time, if ever. I couldn't have set out on this journey if I wasn't ready in that way. Indeed that's the main reason why this year's challenge is taking place almost five years after the last, because if I wasn't where I am now in those respects, I'd risk failing to reach my goal and that is not a risk I would ever take.

In the majority of posts to the blog, I've mentioned all those who are inspiring, supporting and encouraging me. I know I'm never alone, each of you are with me. Jesus is too. Despite my mental/ spiritual strength, determination and yes, stubbornness, I couldn't do it without any of you, or Him.

Before each and every training session, I spend a few minutes in prayer, asking Him to strengthen and support me, to protect me from injury. Then, soon after I'm done, or in this Wednesday's case immediately I'd completed the last lap and was still stood in the pool, I say a prayer of thanks for getting me through the workout, and for everyone who is inspiring, supporting and encouraging me.

After I'd shared Wednesday's post and story of my latest achievements in the pool, one of my friends, Larry, posted the photo below on my Facebook wall, saying he thought is was appropriate for me, given the challenge. Thank you Larry!

It is appropriate for me, but it's SO true for all of us. Jesus Christ, IS our ultimate lifeguard.

God bless,

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Step by Step 2014 ~ Progress and plans

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, I'm honored to have you here! In today's post I'm sharing the latest notes from my last three training sessions for this year's challenge. Before we get to those, if you've missed the previous notes you can catch up on those by clicking the Challenge announcementHERE and HERE. Each link opens in a new tab, or alternatively you can access them either from the Blog archive on the homepage or via the 2014 label, which will be the easiest option as the number of posts increases.

Friday, April 18, 2014
Following on from my lifetime best in the pool on Wednesday, Good Friday didn't mean a holiday for me from my workout schedule. I'd planned to complete a 45 minute cardio session, or perhaps even push myself further and do an hour. Due to a combination of sore, aching muscles and slight dehydration, I only completed 30 minutes.

Was I disappointed? YES, but at the same time I'm also listening to my body and I'm very aware, even at this early stage of the training, that rest is equally as important as the training itself. It's also only a minor disappointment, when I look back at how much I HAVE achieved in the past month. Now, where the heck did that time go???

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Today wasn't a training session, but I want to add a brief note. When I started out with the blog, I mentioned how much weight I want to lose. When I weighed myself this morning, I got some good news. I'm down another 3 pounds, for a total loss so far of 6, with a lot more to lose.

I'm feeling so much better already and I'm noticing the difference in muscle tone, particularly in my arms and abs. After yesterday's minor disappointment, it's great to know that I am also making progress towards that part of my target too.

Monday, April 21, 2014
Since the dehydration on Friday, I've been making sure I drink a LOT of water, to make sure it doesn't happen again. Today I was determined to push the cardio session and I DID complete the full hour! I made sure I paced myself throughout and kept drinking. I was exhausted and a little sore by the end, but proud and a little relieved that I'd made it!

Just before today's workout, I saw a post on a friend's Facebook timeline (thanks Debbie!) about the effect of exercise on the brain, What happens to our brain when we exercise. The post includes this image and again it's great to see the difference being made...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 ~ Tentative plans
In the last few days my thoughts have slowly begun to turn towards the challenge itself and the total distance I'll be swimming. In the Challenge announcement post, linked above, I mentioned that the total would be a MINIMUM of 23 miles. I've now decided, though the decision is NOT final at this point, to increase the total distance to 26 miles, 385 yards. Yep, I'm now aiming to swim a marathon, over approximately fifteen sessions in the pool.

This morning, before hitting the pool, I sat down and did the math and worked out a tentative schedule for the sessions. The numbers involved are pretty scary, so yep, if you're thinking I'm mad, you're not alone, I'm thinking the same LOL! Here's why...

Marathon distance   = 1,260 laps of the pool!!!

1,260 / 15 sessions = 84 laps per session

84 laps                  = 1-3/4 miles per session

The task will be a huge one, it ALREADY was with 23 miles to complete. The tentative start date is, for now, Tuesday, October 14, 2014, swimming every other day. Depending on how training goes, I might yet bring the start date forward and add in a few more sessions, therefore allowing for some below average swims, which will be welcome, I'm sure!!!

Splash by Splash
With my head spinning from all the figures above, I hit the pool. Even before I did the math this morning, I was thinking of increasing today's distance to 1 and 1/2 miles. After doing the math, I knew I had to aim for that, at least!

I got into the pool a few minutes before 2:00 pm and set off on the first of the 72 target laps. The first thing I noticed was that it was so much busier than either of the first two sessions, especially last week when I had the pool virtually to myself. It meant the water was pretty choppy and more of a challenge.

I was determined once again to go as far as I could without pausing, so having gotten to 22 laps, just 2 from the half mile point, I was glad of quieter water for a bit. It didn't last long, just 10 laps later it got busier again, but I'd not needed to pause and didn't now either.

I definitely felt the effort in my shoulders but paced myself as best I could and kept pushing on. Keeping count of the laps was surprisingly easy today, thankfully. As usual my mind was also filled with thoughts of all those who are supporting me and I was spurred on. 36, 48 laps passed as did 60, last week's lifetime best mark, just 12 more to go and I kicked on as best I could amid the "traffic". Time today wasn't as important, I was just a few minutes down on last week at this point, so I was pleased.

Just as last week, I didn't count down, but instead kept counting up. Touching the wall at the end of lap 70, I turned and changed the stroke, as I did last week for the final two laps, now thankful for some space! Beginning the final lap, I pushed hard off of the wall and around 40 seconds later, I touched in.

I'd done it! Another lifetime best! Yes, I'm proud! I stood now, took my goggles off, looked up and immediately said a brief prayer of thanks. I never feel alone when I'm in the pool, all those supporting and inspiring me, including our Lord and Savior, are with me and for that I'm SO thankful!

God bless,

Monday, April 21, 2014

Step by Step 2009 ~ part 3

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, it's so good to have you here. Today we continue our retrospective look back at the Step by Step journal I wrote while training for the first charity challenge in late 2009. If you missed the first couple of posts about it, you can catch up with Part 1 and Part 2. Both links open in a new tab to make it easier for you.

We begin part 3 with December 8, 2009...

December 8, 2009 - Walk minus 20 days!
WOW this really is going quick now! I was in a business meeting all morning, so did just 4 miles today; back to 12 tomorrow.
It's with a very heavy heart that I have today learned of the passing of the 100th British soldier to lose his life in Afghanistan this year. It's HEROES such as L/Cpl Adam Drane who inspire me to give all *I* have on the hike.

Rest In Peace soldier, I salute you! Another heroic angel.

December 9, 2009 - Walk minus 19 days! Wow it's gonna be here before we know it! I'll be doing 12 miles this morning. Thanks to Seb for sending my t-shirt I really look the part now.

I've now set up the ""HELP for HEROES" Hadrian's Wall Christmas Hike" album on Facebook and added the first 3 photos. More will be added before the hike and of course, many, many, afterwards.

December 10, 2009 - Walk minus 18 days! Training today was good, another 12 miles complete. Thanks to everyone for your support. It really does keep me going when it's hard out there.
It's about time I mentioned some of the other brave, albeit younger, people who will be doing the hike with me. They are:
Seb F.- It's all Seb's fault. He's the organizer of this feat of endurance.
Terry F.- Seb's Dad. He will be our support driver.
Bea S.
Emily B.
Danielle C.
Zach S., Bea’s younger brother.
Jacob S.
Claudia M., the youngest of the group, CJ is just fourteen years old!
Pip W.
Alex M.
Graham F. 
December 11 - Walk minus 17 days! Did a shorter than intended 6 mile training hike, due to fog. I had hoped to do another 12 but the fog meant visibility wasn't good. I'm feeling great. Thanks again to everyone for all your support. It really means so much to me. Wow! I've just counted the miles completed in training so far. 85 miles completed in training already. That's the full distance of the hike! I intend to at least do the same again before the hike begins.
The 12 mile route I have been taking during my training is really in two parts. The first half of which is along a well lit road, with a sidewalk. The second part of the route takes me down an unlit road, with no sidewalk. Hence why in bad weather, such as today with the fog, or if I'm out later than usual, when it's dark, the route changes for safety reasons.

The route is in no way flat, there are two or three steep gradients so the thigh muscles and lungs get a workout!

The mid-range 10 mile route, follows the 12, except it cuts off a couple of miles at the midway point. The second part of it is still unlit, so I'll do this one if the light is beginning to fade.

As for wildlife, I do pass by fields with horses in, on both routes.

The shorter four and six mile routes are along fully lit roads, with sidewalks. They are both completely safe. I do the six mile route if I go out in the dark and it's a loop around the neighborhood. The four mile route is the one I do if I have to go to any business meetings, as it's the venue for the meetings is two miles across town.

Everyone I've encountered, so far at least, has been really friendly. Everyone acknowledges me, at least with a nod or a wave, including the drivers along the more rural part of the longer routes.

It's my intention to take the camera out with me on one of the remaining 12 mile training hikes, so you will be able to see what I can see along the route. This will include at least some of the eight bars I encounter! Yes, there has been occasions when I've been tempted to stop for a drink LOL.

I'll add the pics to the album ""HELP for HEROES" Christmas Hike 2009" on Facebook, which I've already started and mentioned a few days ago.

I'm doing all bar the four mile routes in one go, without needing to stop for a meal break. As I'm doing all routes, I ensure I keep well hydrated by drinking an isotonic sports drink, that I make up from powder before going out.

During the hike itself, we'll be doing an average of 14 miles a day. This won't, of course, be all in one go, we'll stop for lunch on the route. All meals; breakfast, lunch and supper; are being provided for us, by a corporate sponsor.

The main bulk of our kit; tents, sleeping bags, camping equipment; is being transported in a support vehicle. We'll only be carrying our daysacks with us, with waterproofs and anything needed during the day, drinks bottles and lunch, for example.
I hope you're enjoying looking back at the entries as much as I am. In my next post, on Wednesday afternoon/ evening, I'll be sharing my latest training notes from this year, as well as some more of my thoughts, so I hope you'll join me again then. 

God bless,