Riding the wave

I have found it very difficult to put pen to paper for a while now.  This is the longest time I haven’t written a blog since I started it nearly 2 years.  A combination of not knowing what to say and not having the time to really focus.  There are many reasons for that.

I sit here now feeling the impact of a stressful and long year and feeling, if I am honest, rather miserable about everything.  Exhaustion does funny things to you and this time of year does to.  It is a love hate relationship with a time of year so family centric with so many little people special to me to see but yet still something missing.

But I shouldn’t feel sad, or dwell on what could be when it can’t be right now.  What is important is that this year I have achieved an incredible amount, perhaps in some ways more than last year.  Last year was taking that plunge into the unknown of the world of personal challenges and blogging whilst this year so many things have changed not only did I up the ante with my challenges but I changed my job, became the trustee of a charity, presented at an MRKH Support group meeting and lead my first successful year as the first female Chairman in 28 years of a scientific interest group not discounting of course representing my company on a panel promoting innovation in the UK…and I got to meet the astronaut Tim Peake!

Oh and I may have walked 100km in 22 hours and 9 minutes and cycled (offroad) 132 miles in 13 hours and 48 minutes and in the process raised nearly £2,000 for MRKH Connect.

I guess what I am really feeling is a come down.  The come down from an incredibly challenging but incredible year.  Taking the leap from a job I loved to a new, exciting but time intense adventure at the forefront of my field to taking on two epic challenges, and getting injured in the process of training really making me question if this was really for me. I have however mastered the art of adding extra hours to the day to fit everything in including training and still finding time to have fun and enjoyed being a part of everything I have done.  Its when it stop that it hits you, the challenges, the stress, the hours spent.  Its amazing how much time is dedicated to these things, those things that I hold so dear but that have lead to other things naturally having to slip because there are only so many hours I can magically add before the time fairies get incredibly annoyed with me.

I have questioned myself this year more than ever in everything I do. Am I good enough, will it go right.  Its true to say that despite all the excitement I haven’t felt myself for a good portion of the year, a consequence in part of a number of changes that I have made to my life plus not being good at taking it easy on myself!

I write this blog off the back of the conference my team and I organised in Lisbon.    This year was my first as chairman and the feedback has been phenomenal, what a way to end the year yet the come down is like being hit repeatedly by a bus.  Despite that amazing achievement and the proudness I feel for what we achieved there are a number of things that fell by the wayside this year, more than I anticipated.

Friends are so important and this year I haven’t been the best one with a job change and job location change leading me further away from some of my nearest and dearest.  Whilst I know they understand its just not quite the same as it was and I do hate the feeling of letting people down, its just not in my nature.  For that I am sorry.


Next year I take a rest from the more ‘epic’ style challenges to take stock and find the big thing for 2019.  But I am not good at not having a physical goal so I will be concentrating more on a couple of smaller challenges just for me, not for charity.  This commences with a half marathon in March.  In itself this is a challenge for me – the most I have ever run continuously is half this distance but certainly on a much smaller scale than others but I am looking forward to getting stuck into training after the festive period.

Sometimes you have to ride the wave and push ourselves out of that comfort zone to really know where you are going, what your capabilities are and most important…what is best for YOU!  I have learnt a lot this year about myself, my capabilities and what wonderful people it is that I have in my life from friends, colleagues to of course family.

I guess my advice here is to take life by the horns, it may not always work out, every wave has peaks and troughs, but the rewards are incredible when you push yourself that little bit more and really focus on what you want.  Try not to worry about what other people think, we all do it yet in all honesty the only person we should never be disappointed in is ourselves.  Focus on you first and everything else will fall into place, even if it can seem like an uphill battle at first.

I want to thank all who have supported me, inspired me, motivated me, laughed and cried with me on my quest in 2017.

It hasn’t been easy, but easy is boring.

I look forward to some recuperation and reflection over the break before hitting 2018 and making it the best it can be.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Charlie x





It’s ok to be different

I had no idea what it would be like when I had one, only what the crappy sexual education type videos showed us at school – which were all rather clinical and largely uninformative.

When your friends then start and you don’t it is difficult, particularly as a self-conscious teenager in an all girls school, you feel embarrassed and all you desperately want is not to be the last and left to ridicule for being weird, or weirder, than you already felt.

Even worse is when people start asking you for sanitary towels or tampons which of course you don’t have, aside from the one or two supply your mum gave you just in case it happened at school.

I took to just telling people I had started when they asked because it seemed like a safer option than saying I hadn’t – in my head I feared my comp school chums would turn on me and take the piss mercilessly.  This way I hoped I could avoid it without really knowing what I was letting myself in for.  I had no idea how much girls talked about it!

It’s a defence mechanism and its stupid when you think about it. I didn’t know at that point I wouldn’t ever have them and even when I did know it was easier not to say that I never would.  However, I was starting to feel out of my depth if anyone asked me anything that wasn’t very easy to answer/lie about – my stock answers coming from snippets of things I had heard from my friends talking about it.  Thankfully I never got rumbled.

As far as many men, as well as a number of women, are concerned all women have periods until they hit a certain age which is of course untrue.  This one thing in a young girl’s life is considered to be such a life affirming moment and almost an acceptance into womanhood but there are so many other ways that make you a woman and why should starting your period be such a big deal?

Well in reality it shouldn’t be a big deal.  I think it just has been drilled into us as something that happens to every girl as we grow up that it puts such pressure on young girls until it has happened.  So why not also explain/teach us what happens if it doesn’t?  When it doesn’t happen you feel isolated, ashamed and well a freak which is a great thing to feel as a teenager because you have no idea that there are circumstances that this massive thing may never happen.

I was born female, with all the same hormones, lumps and bumps in all the right places and I haven’t become any less female because I never started mine but I know so many have felt like that and I understand why that is possible.

To then be told you will never have them and that to top that off you can’t carry your own children is not easy listening at 17 but its ok because ‘you’re so lucky you don’t have periods’ as people kept telling me when I told them about MRKH.

Yeah wonderful, genuinely delighted I don’t have to deal with that but the lack of periods is not really a consolation for not being able to carry my own child is it.

We now live in a high tech world with resources at our fingertips, more so than ever before yet a condition that is not that rare is still not well known and if it is it’s a taboo topic classed under ‘female stuff’.   Why can’t we ALL use some of that new world knowledge to improve awareness of the other reasons those ‘normal’ things don’t happen whether its MRKH or not these things don’t and shouldn’t be taboo they should be talked about and explained.  If they were less taboo then there would be more potential for those affected to speak up rather than hide away as we have all done from time to time, scared of saying something that will lead to embarrassment or fear or whatever.  I was scared of being ‘outed’ as a weirdo for not starting my period which is stupid when you think about it.

It’s ok to be different in fact in many ways its quite refreshing and exciting I also can’t think of anything more annoying than having to deal with that each month.  Despite what the consequence is in this case without having MRKH I don’t think my eyes and mind would be as open as they are now.

It’s changed my perspectives, my life and me to an extent.  How much, well that I will never know without a ‘Sliding Doors’ parallel universe type situation but if you only take two positive things away from having MRKH its 1) not having periods and 2) you are never alone.

There is so much left to do to improve 2)

Charlie xx







Is there such a word as ‘can’t’?

My mother has been telling me for years there is ‘no such word as can’t’ despite how much I protested such as when I said: I can’t play the twiddly bit in my flute grade 8 recital piece or say the word ‘patrol’ in a primary school reading book.  Both of which I could of course actually do.  Aside from my misgivings about the whole ‘your mother is always right’ it seems that there are many many times that she is.

Can’t is a word that does of course exist and is useful in lots of contexts such as the fact I can’t drink vodka following an unfortunate night with free pour shots, a golf buggy vs hedge situation and throwing up on the deputy head of year.  I also can’t watch Armageddon or PS I Love you or Marley & Me (or indeed lots of films) without crying.  Both are genuine uses of the word ‘can’t’.

However there are some ‘I can’t..’ statements that I believe to be untrue.  For example when people say they can’t run, a statement I have also said many times yet I now firmly believe every able bodied human can run.  There is a difference between not being able to run and not actually liking it.  Too often we compare ourselves to others who are more practised at it and think we ‘can’t’ do that.  You absolutely can do it if you want to.   A runner doesn’t have to be a competitive time measuring, PB clocking nutter who runs 10km every lunchtime, it could be someone who runs to the end of the road or round the park for the sheer thrill of being outside and feeling that air in your lungs.

Nothing in this world is easy.  Running is not easy.  Running takes practice and you have to go through a lot of ‘this is shit’ before you feel that you make any progress.  A  lot of going for lunchtime runs and feeling the shame when your co-workers pass you or worse leave you and you are running alone….again.  Then I realised it doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is if I enjoy it which for a VERY long time I really didn’t.

So what is my point? Well I am getting there.

One thing I have noticed is a lot of negativity and sadness on the support groups recently in relation to not being able to have children.  This may seem a ridiculous thing to raise given the condition we have, and I am not absolutely not belittling the worse than shit feeling it brings, but I wanted to place a different spin on it for consideration.

I can’t have children in the natural way, yes its shit and I hate it but it’s the way it goes and I can’t (I really can’t) do anything about that side of it.  But this phrase is a misconception, I can have children it is just the way that happens is going to be different.  Yet it is important to remember that these are also the same options that so many others have to or choose to consider, we are not alone.  Just because you decide through desire or necessity (such as perhaps religious or cultural reasons) that you are not able or don’t want to follow that process of physically having children in your family through IVF or adoption etc doesn’t mean that you don’t have the chance to have children be a big part of your life whether that be nieces, nephews, godchildren, friend’s children and not to forget all those ‘fur babies’ out there as well. Your house, your life, your family and of course your heart does not have to feel empty.

I’m a realist (that’s a lie I am actually a very stubborn pessimist) I am getting old and the IVF boat for me has sailed for a number of reasons and that’s fine, one less option to consider to be honest.  I have come to realise recently that when you are helpfully reminded of timeframes for various milestones in your life you also start to wonder if the whole having a child in your family, regardless of how much you want one, will even be possible.  It makes me sad to think that but then again, I didn’t expect at the age of 33 ¾ to be where I am and quite frankly did any of us?

Life happens, that’s the crux of it.  Relationships, work, family etc all usually end up different to what we plan and certainly what I planned in my head skipping in a playground at school without a care in the world.

What we need to remember sometimes, and I know many of us do this already, is that life is short.  The more we worry about the what might have beens, or what could be, the less we are living, the less we are taking the time for adventuring, loving, finding ourselves.  That is not to say that those things aren’t important or of course possible with children I just personally think that we have a habit of putting pressure on ourselves because ‘it’s the norm’ or because we are being pressured by those around us.  Well those standard life affirming milestones can quite frankly go **** themselves because in reality its all bullshit there is no ‘normal’ and life would be far less fun and eye opening if that was the case.

Don’t ever think as an MRKH woman that you can’t have children if you want them.  It will be different, it is likely to be harder than maybe most of your friends and family around you, but it is by no means impossible.  It still may not end up as you planned and really that is ok too it doesn’t stop you from finding love and filling that heart that feels empty.  There will always be a part of me that will feel different because of it but never incomplete.

I realise these musings share some strong feelings on a sensitive topic.  The intention is not to offend at all but to share my thoughts.  I just don’t want people to fall into the trap that I found myself in where I felt so consumed by the future, the fact I couldn’t carry my own child, that I forgot the present.



You don’t always need to know you can do something, you just need to believe you can do it.  That belief will drive your motivation, your determination and your willingness to do everything you can to succeed.  (Or just bone idled stubbornness which I have in abundance.)

I didn’t know for sure I could cycle 132 miles but I believed I probably could.  I also believed (and confirmed this to myself frequently during the cycle) that this was an utterly ridiculous idea.

I packed my bags last Thursday night ready for my early start on Friday.  I was anxious and worried particularly given that the longest ride I had ever done was 44 miles.  I was about to do 3 times that non stop….by myself.

I started at 5.38am on Friday morning from my house in Surrey.  By the time I had got to my starting point in Peasmarsh I had cycled 9.5miles and already lost 2 bananas (they must be somewhere on a towpath near Guildford) and I had managed to also snot all over my face by attempting to clear my nose (sorry, and something I really dislike but is sometimes necessary) and failing. IMG-20170825-WA0000

The downslink route is a flat (mainly) almost completely off-road route along the line of two disused railways the first from Guildford to Horsham and then Horsham to Shoreham – then I tagged on the bit to Brighton pier for good measure.   It didn’t operate for very long in comparison to others closing in 1965 just a few months before its centenary.  Old stations across the route include Bramley, Baynards and West Grinstead with, the now private dwelling of, Baynards being a beautifully well kept heritage site the garden housing the two well maintained station platforms that used to operate here.  The steepest part of this route follows this station as the route avoids the Baynards tunnel (long since closed although the opening still obvious from the south side) – which makes you curse the fact you had to just go up an incline that felt like 90 degrees to get over it.

When I say steep, I mean ridiculously steep both up and down the other side.  I had to do that 3 times on this challenge.  I cycled up it the first.  That was the only time I could.

The rest of the inclines on the route were less severe although to be honest by the time I had done so many  miles anything steeper than a kerb seemed insurmountable.IMG_20170825_105337_497

I got to Brighton (the first time) about 10.30ish, 50 miles down and actually feeling good but I knew the worst was yet to come.  As I had essentially formulated this route for myself I then I had to also plan in rest stops, somewhere where I could check in with my other half and also switch round food, etc or things I didn’t want to have to carry.  At Southwater (for the second time) I was starting to flag desperate to get onto that last leg back to Brighton but that was still 20 miles away.  In my head at the time I really thought that maybe if I got back to Peasmarsh that would be it, did I really have to go back to Brighton again? How disappointed would people be?  But of course it didnt come down to that it came down to how disappointed I would be…I had to do it.


Then, at Rudgwick, under a railway bridge I was joined by my other half’s brother, Graham, he couldn’t have joined at a better time, I was flagging and grumpy and was desperate to get those last 10 miles back to Peasmarsh done.  As we went through Cranleigh for a water / banana stop I knew we weren’t far yet it seemed to take forever along the endless trail.  Not helped that it being an old railway it is also pretty straight so you can always see so far in front of you that it just adds to the thought that the trail will never end….ever.  Soon after Cranleigh though we heard the unmistakable ‘Pssst’ noise.  Puncture…on my back tyre.  A huge thorn had got lodged and instantly deflated it, we did as quick a change as possible and got back on our way but it felt like a set back.IMG-20170825-WA0009

As we got back to Peasmarsh I knew I still had 41 miles to go but at least it was all in the same direction, the direction of the finish.  Graham stayed with me for another 6/7 miles – thus avoiding the third time of going over Baynards tunnel (I don’t blame him) but I was grateful for the company on that stretch which I always knew would be the hardest.  I got to Southwater for the final time and I knew I could do it but I was tired, my shoulder hurt (I think I trapped a nerve) and everything on my bike was rattling.  Pepped up by some motivational words from Ali suffixed with ‘do you want another Snickers’ or ‘do you have enough water’ he told me he would see me at the end.  The end.  It was only 2 hours away.  2 hours.

By this point I could picture so much of this route in my head that I knew the bits that were straight forward and those that were going to be more challenging.  The stretch from Henfield to Bramber was quite frankly….a bitch.  Unconsolidated track with lots of loose stones that goes up and around the farmers’ fields before you get into Bramber.  This part of the route, not a dissimilar surface to a lot of the route, just particularly rocky, was like a slendertone workout for your arms – my fingers, arms, shoulders aching so much from the continued vibrations as I bumped along the track.20170825_162517

I passed two older guys taking a breather at one of the bridges before the farm track and about 5 minutes later the older one caught up with me.  ‘you slowed down?’ he questioned.  His mate had bet him that he couldn’t catch up with me.  I responded that I had done a lot of miles today, regaled my story to which he replied ‘wow, go on girl!’.  When his mate caught up the older guy said ‘do you know what she’s doing?’ as he then shared my endeavours to which he responded ‘you’re kidding’. Oh how I wished I was at that point, although the retort did make me feel like i was in some kind of bad sitcom. Delirium had indeed set in by this point.  They wished me luck and I sped on.

As I crossed the A283 at Bramber to get onto the nice gravelly track down to Shoreham which weaves its way down the banks of the River Adur I was reminded of the chap I had met earlier in the day off to get his morning paper who as he and I passed the ‘Shoreham 3 miles’ sign he turned to me and said ‘Funny thing, that sign says Shoreham 3 miles, so does the next one, and the one after that, its actually 4 miles from this point’.  He was right. Those next 2 signs did indeed also say 3 miles to Shoreham – clearly there was a discount if they didn’t change the wording on the sign.  I knew I was so close now to the end, I weaved my way from Shoreham high street down to the docks (NCN Route 2 in case anyone is interested) which takes you over the pedestrian lock.  This same lock which I was stuck at for 10 minutes in the morning coming back from leg 1 because of a massive cargo ship.  But I took my chances this time of a safer, albeit smellier and definitely not pretty route to the ‘front’.

British Airways have their 360o viewing tower a few 100m from Brighton pier, the problem is that you can see it for bloody miles.  I knew I wasn’t far but it was deceptive and by this point any energy I had was in trying to dodge the idiots that walk in the very clearly marked cycle lanes and concentrate on not blubbing like an idiot before I got to the end.

As I reached Brighton pier I saw my other half smiling and knew I had done it and I burst into tears. I had just cycled 132 miles…apparently for my own enjoyment (I think my body may have disagreed at this point) in 13 hours and 48 minutes including stops.

It was a very odd day, I felt like much of it was very surreal, meeting random (mostly very friendly) country folk, alone with my thoughts (turns out I am quite boring) and avoiding small dogs (and a few children) who in their attempt to get out the way do their very best to actually get in my way.

I had become a big fan of MapMyRide during  my training however at some point 1 hour 40 mins in I managed to pause it, not realising for some time and then getting grumpy that I had I just turned it off.   To mellow out my rage with this occurring I was delighted to see so many messages of support on all forms of media – the family WhatsApp group for example had so many messages it was difficult to catch up with them all. My particular favourite was a picture of my dad on his bike cycling the 2 miles to the local town ‘2 miles, no support vehicle – and back again’.  Thanks Dad…that definitely made me feel better.IMG-20170825-WA0004

It was a long old slog I am not going to lie there were many times I cursed at myself, the bike, the hill, the nettles, the lost bananas but that last leg knowing I was so close was the best feeling, that feeling of knowing I was going to complete this challenge made me want to get it over sooner…my legs just couldn’t pedal any faster than I did.  Dodging the Friday night crowds in Brighton was almost as perilous as trying to cross the A283 although I think most people could tell by looking at my hot sweating and dusty face that if they got out the way then things would be a lot better for them – including the girl wearing the ridiculous fluffy flip flops.

Even being told at the end that we needed to walk a  little way to the car…I didn’t care as long as I didn’t need to get back on the bike.

I am extremely grateful for all the support from everyone, those who put up with me delaying social occasions due to training, leaving early due to training or just for being the lovely friends (and family) that you are.  I would especially like to thank Ali for being my support vehicle, motivation booster, peanut bringer, snickers provider and generally lovely human being.   You stayed up all night (as did my parents) when I did the walk (and picked me up at 5am) and you took a day off to support me during this second challenge and spent most of it driving around the South of England – I know you are as relieved as I am its over but thank you I really couldn’t have done it without you! 😊

I have never been a sporty or fit individual, as I have said before, and it’s true.  PE was the only subject at school my parents didn’t care what grade I got.  But a challenge isn’t a challenge unless it pushes you so that’s what I did last year and pushed myself more this year.  I have trained hard, been focused and ever conscious I am not a quitter (although it has felt like I may as well be at times).  Its made a massive change to my focus and my direction and motivation towards what I do for MRKH Connect but also in life in general.

If I can do it, honestly anyone can.

I have raised over £1,300 in total so far (with donations still coming in).  Thank you so much to the bottom of my heart I really didn’t expect to raise so much after we raised such a large amount last year.   It means such a lot to me and will make a difference to a lot of what MRKH Connect has planned so thank you.

The challenges may be over for this year but the blog continues…

Lots of love

Charlie xx


Monday Motivation

Dragging my bum out of bed at often very early hours at weekends, before work, at work, after work and even on holiday to train has been a challenge in itself but the end is within sight as I will be doing the challenge on Friday…this Friday (weather permitting).

I’ve motivated myself with the thought that I am making a difference not just to me but also doing my bit to raise awareness and also perhaps more selfishly motivated myself with the thought of a hot bath at the end of each long ride.

I’ve been humbled by the comments from friends and family who have not only been supportive of my crazy endeavours this year but who have also been inspired with their own exercise goals.  I hadn’t anticipated that particular outcome at all but it’s an unexpected pleasure to think I may have had a small part to play in helping them make changes to their life or perhaps rediscover a lost love for a particular sport.

I am reminded often why I am doing this through the ongoing conversations on the always very active support groups, to those through MRKH Connect or to reading shockingly poorly understood comments to a to be honest overly sensational article (apparently written by a woman, shocking in itself), about the struggles of an MRKH woman raising money for surgery.  Comments written by men who don’t understand the female form.  I don’t feel the need to rehash this when my friends at Global MRKH have written an open letter that so beautifully does that already (which can be read here) suffice to say that what it highlights is the need to continue to raise awareness for and of MRKH (and for biology of female genitalia and its formation to be better taught in schools).

As more of us are open semi-publicly or otherwise with the reality of MRKH there are still plenty who discover they have this condition and just don’t know where to turn, those that perhaps will never be comfortable with talking about it and of course on the flip side those who are perhaps not open but yet comfortable with it to the point they don’t feel the need to reach out for support in the same way as others.

There is still a long way to go here and a lot that is being done to improve that situation not just for us MRKH women but also for general public and more importantly the medical profession.  The same medical profession that can misdiagnose, not be aware of, or if they are, have absolutely no idea who would be a specialist for that girl/woman to speak to.  An already heart-breaking time can become scarier and more isolating than ever before.   Clearly something needs to change here – and of course MRKH is not the only condition that can be affected in this way and I am by no means saying it is special or a priority but it is one of the reasons to highlight the need for improved understanding particularly of a condition that isn’t really that rare.

I’ve said the word ‘vagina’ probably more times in the last couple of years than I ever did before that point.  I’ve said it in pub, over email, in blogs and even conferences (not MRKH related!) and on the London to Brighton 100km walk to my walking buddy Angela.

The more things are talked about, whatever they are the less taboo they become.  ‘Lady parts’ and their function are often in that ‘delicate’ category and of course the upshot is the effect of a condition in that delicate category does have a very real effect on the person who has it and therefore often talking openly is something very difficult and upsetting.

But there will always be some who are willing to put themselves out there and try and make a stand which is what a number of us have done in our own little way whether its through setting up charities, blogs, global organisations or crazy challenges to raise money and awareness.  It doesn’t take much when you think of it like that but it does take courage to get to that point.   That courage is inside all of us if we want to grasp it.

I am always happy to speak to others about it (those with MRKH or not). Everyone is different and deals with things differently but I am happy to share how I have handled certain situations (good or bad) or whatever is required to help support someone or continue to improve people’s understanding of the condition whoever they might be.

I will be doing the Downs Link cycle route on Friday which runs from Guildford to Shoreham and then tagging on a bit to reach Brighton Pier (plus of course getting to Guildford in the first place).  Then back to Guildford then back again finishing on Brighton pier sometime Friday evening – totalling ~130 miles  – it’s a route I’ve wanted to do for a while having lived in the area for some time.  A disused railway track converted into a truly picturesque, multipurpose and almost completely flat trail with quaint old stations.  I’m excited scared and looking forward to starting but also very much looking forward to it being over.

I will be trackable on the route most likely via Instagram / facebook – keep those messages of support coming in they really do help!

Nothing of what I have done has intended to inspire but it’s wonderful that has been the case.  Sometimes you just need to believe in yourself, make that change you have been dying to do, do that challenge and just find something that motivates you.  Never give up.  That amazing feeling, that drive and passion may be a slow burner but its there and it will make a difference.

This girl will

Charlie x


If you would like to donate you can do so here


Challenging Challenges

Its fair to say that these challenges have been challenging both physically, mentally and emotionally.  The first challenge I knew what I was in for but it still didn’t make it any easier. The second was something I had never done before, never contemplated and I had never ridden more than 20 miles – and certain people will tell you what a grumpy human I used to be in doing that.

I am not going to lie the last little while has been difficult.  The long work days at my new job (which I do incidentally love) coupled with fitting in training and then the set back of the accident hasn’t helped.  It knocked my confidence more than I could really appreciate it would to be honest and I questioned whether I was really cut out for this and if I should give up.

But as I explained this in tears after the first ride since the accident, the chain having probably come off again, and every minor descent feeling like Mount Everest I was told ‘you’ll never give up, you’re too stubborn’.  Bugger, I thought, you’re right!

It is a truly horrible feeling and whilst not wanting it to get to me it did and it has and it has made training more challenging than before but has also made me more determined to try.  I force myself out at every opportunity possible (which has been very difficult at times) whilst also trying to allow myself time to rest, sleep, eat and maybe even have a social life.

I wanted to do these challenges for me and I have but I admit I will be glad when they are over and I can relax knowing what I have achieved on a personal level if nothing else.  I am looking forward to the feeling of knowing I don’t need to train so intensely and not panicking when for many reasons that is not always possible to do.  I may even take a few days off in celebration.

I have been truly blown away again by the support of everyone to me but also to MRKH Connect. If you were still interested in donating the page is still open (https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/makingmymark) and will remain so until after the challenge which is now only 2-3 weeks away – weather will determine the exact date!

I am fitter than I have ever been (and yes I know I said that last year) and the main reason for doing this has always been to raise awareness of MRKH.  Perhaps this year it’s more been about me and my own courage which hasn’t been intentional but I hope what it shows is never to give up.  Dreams and aspirations come in many different forms and we often have more than one.  Find out what yours is and work towards it.  You are always capable of more than you think if you let yourself believe you can do it but also give yourself a chance to try.

Love and hugs


Road Tattoo

Two weeks ago I got up prepared for the longest most challenging training ride that I had done to date.  45 miles across the North Downs in a loop.  The cycle started slowly it was taking a while to get into the groove of it this time, I am not sure why but it was probably the upcoming trepidation of having to go over the downs for the first time.   I knew the uphill was steep and I was really looking forward to getting to the top and coming down the other side.

As I started the climb, and sequentially changing gears, my chain came off,  This is not a new thing but its tedious and irritating particularly when you are trying to keep moving going uphill.  I stopped, sorted it and then got back on feeling like I was making some good progress.

At the top, Newlands Corner, I was relieved that the next bit was downhill and started heading down genuinely smiling and happy to not be going uphill anymore I began to realise I was going way too fast and I basically got scared.  I know this road well and I know its steep but as it got steeper I got faster and even short grips of the brake were not helping so I panicked and squeezed too hard with the bike now out of control.

I knew I was going to crash, there was no avoiding it, it was just how bad it was going to be.  I was on the A25 a fast, and at this point, narrow, steep and busy road I knew if I fell into the road at this speed (27 mph) I would be in trouble so my only option was to hope by hitting the high sided hedge it would take some of the speed out beforehand.

It all went a bit blurry, not because I hit my head (because I didn’t) but because it went so fast.  That split second decision was probably the best decision I could have chosen (aside from not having panicked so much in the first place).  I did end up in the road having gone via the hedge, fallen off the bike landing on my elbow and skidding down the road on my elbow and my thigh now looking up at oncoming traffic which had now stopped (on both sides).

I picked myself up, shaken and realised my arm was bleeding pretty badly.  The passenger from the car on my side of the road running towards me; was I ok, did I need her to call anyone, did I want some tissues (for the arm).  All very nice I politely said yes to the tissues and told her I was fine (I lied at this point but I just wanted to get off the road) told the other lady who also stopped I was fine and the road started to clear.  A few cars back was a big truck and he put his hazards on and stopped, worried that I would get squished as I was stuck on the side of the road that didn’t have a pavement he carried my bike (which aside from the sodding chain coming off again and the handle bars getting twisted around was of course fine) and ushered me onto the other side of the road checking if I needed him to call anyone to which I said no.

I then sat on the verge / pavement holding my now aching arm for a while.  I had some water, I ate the double decker that I had squished when I had fallen on it and I cried.  All I wanted to do was get home but it just so happened I picked a weekend for this ride when no one was closeby.  After a while I pulled myself together and manged with 1 arm to put my chain back on and I walked slowly up the footpath back to the top.

I knew the bike was fine and I didn’t really want to cycle but I also wanted to get home and so I thought I needed to try.  The problem was I was still on a hill and now the thought of any descent was filling me with fear.

Needless to say, adrenaline, pain or whatever, did get me home at a pace most tortoises would have been able to beat.  I couldn’t see the damage to my elbow very easily so I took a picture of it when I got home – my first road tattoo.


After cleaning myself up the rest of the day I lay feeling sorry for myself as I watched an entire boxset of Red Oaks on Amazon with my whole body aching, particularly my arm. for the next day or so everyone I saw told me I should go and get it checked out, it was very swollen and could be fractured.  Reluctantly, convinced it wasn’t broken but after a day of hand shaking at a conference on the  Monday which was literally killing me, I went to the Minor Injuries clinic and they checked it over and gave it the all clear, no break just badly bruised.

I got back on the bike 5 days after the accident.  I wanted to do my nice 10mile route after work just to try and build myself back into it.  I did however omit the larger of the two hills at the start in the hope that a) it would be easier and b) the quieter more tucked away smaller one would mean that if I did panic / fall then hardly anyone would see.

I came back from that ride having panicked at every single downhill and hating every second of it.  10 days later I am still panicking going downhill and relishing the uphills and as such it has become clear that for that and for a few other reasons I need to change my challenge slightly.  Well actually quite a lot.

The C2C is a national cycle route, there was no event I was joining and to do that in 3 weeks time (and for many logistical reasons it has to be then) is I think too much of a challenge even for me right now.  I admit to perhaps biting off more than I can chew with that one.  I will do it but it will need to be at a later date.

I will instead be taking a flatter route closer to home but again ending up where Challenge 1 did, Brighton but this time twice. No its not London to Brighton this time but from where I live in Surrey to Brighton taking in the Downslink cycle route which runs along the old Guildford to Horsham disused railway.  A purpose built and flat cycle route which doesn’t go over the downs but through a cutting near Shoreham before turning left along the seafront to Brighton pier.

However I have also decided that there and back isn’t long enough, it needed to be equivalent or longer to the C2C so I have decided to go There and Back Again, Again. In total this will then be ~170 miles, solo, in under 24 hours.

I hope those who have been so supportive in kindness, words, donations are not disappointed with this decision but I am excited to still get out on the bike and do a challenge on it (although I will be pleased not to get on the bike for a while after).

The challenge will take place 16th, 17th or 18th August depending on the weather.

let’s do this