#notrainnogain

It all gets very real when the guide book for the C2C arrives and you decide it would be a great idea to buy all the Ordnance Survey maps that cover that route (that’s six 1:25,000 scale maps if you were interested).   Once those arrive you decide to highlight your preferred route so you know what you are in for.

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I have learnt a lot about the C2C in the last month or so, good times to do it, how many days people do it in and how quick people have done it.  As a big Mountain Bike fan I was pleased to see that the route has been ridden on all sorts of bikes from road, hybrid, mountain, tandems and even a folding bike.  I am going to use my GT Aggressor mountain bike albeit with some more hybrid tyres than my chunky knobbly MTB ones.

The C2C is almost always done from West to East (better for the prevailing wind) with two options of start and two of end point and a number of alternative routes in between.  The route I have planned starts from Workington in the Lake District and ends in Sunderland its ~140 miles.  Whilst I was intending for more of an off road route the actual NCN (National Cycle Network) route is largely on very minor roads, disused railway tracks etc.

Most people take 3 / 4 days so they can take in the sights and the beautiful scenery of Northern England.  I decided whilst I know I can’t compete for the quickest time (~7 hours 53 mins – and I thought I was bonkers!) to make it a proper challenge I would go for

As a marked cycle route its open all year (albeit I wouldn’t fancy it in the snow!) and there isn’t a specific event as such so after mulling over various logistics I have chosen to do it in one of the last 2 weeks of August giving me a little bit of flexibility on date but at least I know when it will be now!

Whilst I keep fit with running, aerobics, circuits, walking etc at least 5 days a week, today was the longest cycle ride I have ever done.  I’ll stress now, I hate hills, they make me feel like I’m going to die.  However I appreciate that this route, given the part of the country that it is in, is not going to be flat. Bugger.

Today’s cycle was 26.4miles (42.5km) and this is what I learnt:

  • Whilst I didn’t get a puncture, I need to learn how to fix them
  • I need a little pump in case of above puncture
  • Other road users are t***s and largely disrespectful of a cyclist on the road: driving too close, cutting in too tight, or just being rude by tooting at you when you have every right to be in the middle of the road to turn right
  • Tissues!!! A snotty sniffy nose is a pain in the arse
  • I have gears for a reason
  • My bum has never hurt so much…ever

But….it was fun, I got covered in mud (thanks to the tow path) and I was home in ~2hours 15minutes which I thought wasn’t too bad particularly when it felt like I was cycling in treacle on the tow path.

Only a small step I realize, this gave me so much positivity that I can do this and in fact I can do anything I put my mind to even if it now does hurt to sit down.

So on this positive note the training will continue and I am genuinely excited by the prospect.  I have a turbo trainer I will be using  to supplement training and then continuing my usual running, aerobics, circuits, cylcing and of course walking (with adequate rest periods as well of course) and the focus initially of course will be training for the ‘warm up’ which is the 100km London to Brighton challegne on 27/28th May, also aiming for a sub

So that is it for this year, two solo

I’ll again be raising money for MRKH Connect, a charity very close to my heart as I continue my quest to increase awareness of MRKH whilst also promoting the value and benefit that a support network provides whether face to face or online.  I can’t stress enough how much this support has helped me and making people more aware of what is available is vital.

You are stronger than you think

#focusonyou

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#timetotalk

It may have passed you by but 2nd February 2017 was Time to Talk day an initiative lead by the charity Mind as part of Time to Change which aims to reduce the stigma around mental health.  Its something I have talked a lot about in my blogs, particularly given that a lot of what I deal with with MRKH comes down to significant psychological impact regardless of any additional physical impacts that some also suffer.

Mental health awareness is important, it doesn’t mean you are ‘mental’ or a ‘freak’ or ‘worthless’ because everyone at some stage in their life will have something that will impact them and will affect their overall mental health which could have a very short term effect to a long term effect depending on what it is.

Lots of people don’t like to admit they have an issue, or if they do accept they are struggling they don’t know what to do to get out of it.  This is an initiative designed to try and get people talking and to highlight the importance of doing so.

For those struggling with their mental health it can feel terribly lonely and sometimes the simple act of a mundane conversation that someone feels engaged in can make the world of difference even if they don’t want to, or don’t feel they can, share exactly how they feel it perhaps is the start to them knowing that they are not alone.

My office participated in Time to Talk day with my friend and colleague Rachel suggesting we do something. I admit I, and I am sure others, did not know this day existed.  Doing this was important for a number of reasons but particularly as the company I work for does take mental health seriously and is attempting to make significant inroads to improve awareness of mental health and all its various guises within the workplace.  I say ‘attempting’ only because this process is very much ongoing.

The Time to Talk website provided some thoughts and ideas of what to do like encouraging conversation over tea and cake with some prompters of different things that you might like to say or ask to start that discussion such as offering to make someone a cup of tea, thanking someone for something they did or asking how someone is.

So that’s what we did.   Aside from the tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cake our ‘Ideas board’ in our kitchen was also a focal point.  This board, which usually ends up with many non-work ideas/comments/rants about the continued statimg_20170202_102128_508e of the potholes on our business park (or drones),   was set up with a question – ‘What can we do to improve mental health awareness’ – to provoke ideas from staff.  A very open question of course with lots of different suggestions made.  Some focused very internally on what the company is doing and the free services it offers whilst some offering other suggestions around blogs, free online resources, trying something like the lunchtime sports we do to meet and chat with people you might not usually talk to.

How many people actually seriously talked I don’t know but the thought was there and the engagement or interest in it (and not just due to the cake).

For some people talking, at least face to face, is not something that works for them.  That’s ok and this campaign, as I understand it, is not looking to change the way people like to deal with their problems but what it is trying to do it to make it clearer that ‘talking’ about mental health should not be considered the negative that it is often perceived.  Life is life, it throws a whole heap of shit at us to varying degrees in various ways and at various times.  It is completely unpredictable.

The one thing we can be certain of, or at least this campaign is trying to address, is that we know this happens and will happen.  Those who want to talk directly about an issue can but often people don’t and therefore even just recognizing someone doesn’t seem to be themselves and inviting them to do something can make a big difference to how they are feeling.  Whether that’s a Friday evening pub trip with a colleague who seems a bit low to mull over the week or a lunchtime coffee with a friend. You don’t have to talk about what the issue is at all, it can be enough just to have a friendly chat and if they want to talk you are there to listen.

Sharing of mental health issues should never be forced, it doesn’t work if it is and can do more harm than good but being aware of changes in the people you work with and those you care about gives you a chance to talk to them and not feel embarrassed to do so.

Just by talking you aren’t expected to solve the issue that’s probably why some people feel awkward in talking to people who might be struggling.  It can make such a difference to that person just to know there is someone there.

I like writing things down, I always have, albeit now I realize what I write is now public it has a certain cathartic nature to it that I get much more from than just talking to people about how I feel.  It’s a way for me to make sense of different situations and process my often muddled mind.  Others talk, or share their ideas at support groups (face to face or probably more online now) a safe haven to discuss with those who truly understand you but no one should sit in silence about their own mental health for fear of ‘outing’ themselves as ‘unstable’ or whatever stereotype they may fear.  It is not something to ever be ashamed of.

My best friend Shelley bought me a birthday gift which included a Gratitude Journal, I had never heard of that concept before but she knows how much I like to put my thoughts down and this is one interesting way to do it.  Every day the idea is to write 3 things down that you are grateful for.  A way to reflect.  On those quiet days or when you feel the most sad it may feel like you have nothing to be grateful for but chances are there is still something you will find to be grateful for whether that’s the friends that never let you down, the fact you have a good job, a house etc.

I see it as a good way for me at least to put things in perspective, the pen that she also bought is emblazoned with ‘Life is for Living’.  This is so true, because it really is and whilst as hard as it is sometimes to feel like there is a way out when we feel low we do only get one of them.

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#focusonyou