Walking in Amsterdam

Last weekend Julia and I met up for an Up & Running work-o-rama in Amsterdam. Just over an hour’s flight from both Edinburgh and Bologna, it was the perfect place for an in-person summit. We were only there for three days but we found ourselves falling into a routine…

First, we’d wake up early and go for a run (her) or power walk (me). Despite all the photo stops I got an excellent huff and puff going.

Goedemorgen

Goedemorgen!

Then we’d go to Our Favourite Café. It was quiet and cosy with a resident fluffy cat and beautifully presented breakfasts. When even a humble fruit salad looks like a bowl of jewels you can’t help but slow down and savour the heck out of it. I thought of my usual desk-bound oats-and-yogurt-scoffed-from-plastic-container and how easily I could make that meal more pleasant.

The next two mornings we’d pretend to ponder the menu as if we weren’t saddo café stalkers, then order the same thing as before.

Foxymobile

How sexy would you feel behind that wheel!?

After brekkie we’d walk a bit further, get some coffee then get to work. Julia would take out her ridiculously gigantic Up & Running rubber stamp and stamp our Up & Running wings on a fresh blank page and write the date. That was the official signal to switch the brain on!

Julia likes her Starbucks fix

Then we’d motor along right through the day, pausing only for another cuppa. I’d narrowed down our mega to do and ideas lists to an achievable agenda beforehand, so we knew exactly what we had to focus on. Zing, we were on fire!

Just before sunset we’d down tools as our stomachs were starting to grumble, then walk all the way back to the little apartment we’d rented. So much walking! I really regret washing that bloody FitBit… the stats would’ve been off the charts.

Have some more Amsterdam cliches

Have some more Amsterdam cliches

Then we’d have a nice early dinner, then back to the apartment for a final cuppa and a couple more hours work. Eating just two bigger meals would be impractical in everyday life (my soul would perish without lunch to look forward to :P ) but it worked like a champ for that work-a-thon situation.

Random Dutch ginger cat

Random Dutch ginger cat

Obviously when you’re away from home you don’t have partners, day jobs, laundry, family, housework etc etc to contend with. And you have to cook your own dinner. But the weekend was a great reminder of how I operate best. I relish routine and ritual. I lust over lists. I find freedom in planning and structure. Sometimes I rebel against that that because it sounds boring, but if I like it… why fight it?

Next time I feel wonky I’ll come back to this list and remember what feels good:

  1. Keeping meals simple and quite repetitive (less thinking required)…
  2. … but making a real meal of out of them (because the more I enjoy the meal at the time, the less brain-space food takes up later. So focus on the food; put it on a nice plate!)
  3. Moving my butt each day at roughly the same time (so it feels more auto-piloty)
  4. On both a weekly and daily basis, narrowing down the priorities and what really needs to be done (instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture and flapping around)
  5. Making time to write each day (clears out the brain)
  6. When feeling grumpy, step away from the desk and get some air (before my bum becomes perma-welded to the chair)
  7. If I decide to have a treaty food, making sure it’s worth it (like this amazing apple pie we saved right until the last day… hubba hubba!)
Amazing apple pie... we left this treat right to the end.

So worth the wait. Gotta love those little ice cream balls.

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Walking in Dublin

Two Mondays ago I was in Dublin for the Flora Mini Marathon 10K.

After nine years living here in the UK, I'm still not over the novelty of being able to "pop over" to a whole other country for the same price/time it used to take me to get from Canberra to my hometown! But it would be a sad, curmudgeonly day if I ever lost that sense of wonder. Even when wonder is really profound stuff like, "OMG Cadbury Tiffin! You don't get that in the UK or Oz!"

Unlike the Running Festival last month I walked this one solo. But I was in a crowd of 40,000 other women, the Mini Marathon being the biggest women's race in the world…

Approaching the start line... blue sky!
Approaching the start line… blue sky!

I also had company in spirit - Up & Runner Cels was over from Brussels to do her first 10K (and she kicked butt) and Coach Julia J was over from Modena, with some of her Italian runners. We hung out all weekend and I could say nowt but ciao. I need to work on my Italiano.

Italy
The atmosphere was brilliant. So many people were running for charities and had the names of lost loved ones on the back of their t-shirts. That wells me up every time; always a sober reminder of the fragility and randomness of life.

The race was divided into Runners, Joggers and thousands of wonderfully chatty Walkers. The pace was slow-going for ages – most seemed up for a fun stroll rather than to steam along as fast possible like a big ginger walking machine as per my own intention.

At 4km I had to ditch the number obsession after I accidentally switched off Walkmeter so I didn't know how fast I was going. My brain about exploded trying to add up the splits with my watch, so the rest of the race was just me and my feet and all those ladies.

I've fiddling with this post for almost three weeks now, flitting between feeling proud and emotional then feeling stupid for feeling emotional, because all I did was walk ten piddling kilometres. It seems so silly when my friends routinely run for miles, Julia just did another Half Iron Man; Gareth is about to cycle up some Alps. It also seems extra lame when I used to be able to run and haul up mountains and kick arse at kickboxing.

I got stuck on that whiny groove around 6km (why does this always happen in the middle of races? I guess the brain wanders): You're so slow. Why'd you get so lardy again? You did 14 minute miles in Moonwalk training, why didn't you appreciate it? My feet hurt. This sucks. I suck. I bet Julia is in the pub with a Guinness by now!

But emotions come and go like the tide. The trick is to let 'em wash over and keep walking anyway. As I got closer to the finish line the bleak thoughts were replaced by peacefulness at being in a foreign land on a sunny day in a happy crowd; bewilderment at the lady smoking as she walked along in a cancer charity t-shirt, and the fun of eavesdropping on some breathless on-the-go wedding planning:

So I've got my shoes I've got my dress I've done the invites too my hair? I'm not sure about the hair depends if Kelly is coming if Kelly is coming I'll get her to do my hair for free she's a hairdresser see but if she's not coming I'll have to find someone else to do it oh no I've not done the flowers yet…:

Here are some photies I snapped along the way:

Amazing cheer squad outside the Irish Cancer Society
Amazing cheer squad outside the Irish Cancer Society

You cannae beat a pompom!
You cannae beat a pompom!

Around halfway, methinks
Still chockers at the halfway point, with gorgeous streaky blue sky

I wanted to hug this woman at the 7KM mark
I wanted to hug this woman at 7KM

I finally crossed the finish line in 01:45:49, an average of 10.35 minutes per kilometre, which I was okay with considering the first three km's were a very snailish 15, 12 and 12 minutes as it was so crowded. I must've sped up towards the end there.

I felt fitter than I did in Bologna last month, with no knee or sciatic pain. That's the comparison I choose to make now, rather than dwelling on where I used to be years ago. Being part of that race, with so many women of all shapes and sizes and stories, reiterated the importance of celebrating and making the most of where you are, right now.

Walking can be boring but it's working and it's taking me some interesting places!

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Walking in Bologna

Walking is boring. "There, I said it", as the kids say these days. I fancied it up my training sessions with nice scenery, hilarious podcasts, Julia's fabulous schedule, and the post-it note reward scheme… but still I grumbled every time, a bike would be so much faster, dammit. As would a Ferrari.

I'm glad I kept plodding along though, because on Race Day in Bologna the rewards became clear…

1. Races RULE!
I felt like a donut signing up to walk the race when the Up & Runners were running it, but Julia insisted that races were best thing to keep my motivation blazin'. She was right. WHY is that woman always bloody right?

I loved the whole shebang. Laying out my gear the night before. The jangle of nerves at breakfast time. Walking to the race with all the Up & Runners, down a cobbled cliche of an Italian street. I gracelessly jumped in the air and yelled, "WOOHOO!".

At the start line, bouncing up and down in a sea of hot pink, I finally got it. THIS IS WHY YOU DO THE TRAINING. To get the other side. The race! The fun part! The people! The new places, new sights, new smells.

Race gear, ready to rock!

2. It's okay to fake it
It didn't matter that I'd not loved the training – the important thing was that I did the training. My legs didn't know that my mind wasn't entirely into it, they got fitter and stronger regardless. So often when things are boring/uncomfortable/scary/unfamiliar that voice pipes up, "maybe this isn't meant to be" and/or "let's run away!". I'm glad I went through the motions anyway, week after week. This can be applied to so many things in life, right?

3. There's an BEAST lurking within!
As soon as the starting siren went off my brain flipped from "let's go for a nice Sunday stroll" to "let's walk this f*cker as fast as possible GO GO GO!". The halfhearted stroll became an all-out charge! Out of my way, Italians with umbrellas!

(Did I mention it was raining on race day? It wouldn't pass for rain in the UK – twas "like being misted with Evian" as Paula called it – but many locals were ducking for cover!)

I think I've been trying to convince myself ever since I first hurt my knee that I didn't really care about running or races. Oh I'm just happy doing my workout DVDs! I'm happy to hold the bags while everyone else races. Don't mind me! But as much as I love my solitary DVDs and my classes, I also love getting competitive with myself. So I'll keep indulging that side with more events. In time, hopefully my body will be able to keep up with my brain's ambitions.

4. Lipstick adds a sense of occasion
At the start line I met the lovely Erica, an American living in Italy whose blog I've read for years. She'd come to run the 6k and is doing the 10K Course in June, so she got a sneak peak at the lady who'll be bossing her around for 8 weeks! Anyway, Erica was wearing RED LIPSTICK. With her hot pink race t-shirt she looked so foxy and ready to rock. My new years resolution was to wear lipstick more often, you may recall, so I've added a sub-clause: wear red lipstick in a race. My foxy pal LBTEPA does that all time too. I have lips, I have sticks, so why the hell not?

5. My granny knee is thankful
The more I walk the better it feels. I pine for Zumba and kickboxing but taking the sensible route is paying off. It doesn't lock up so much and the "burning" sensation happens less frequently. Same goes for the sciatic pain. The race topped up my resolve to keep moving and eating well. 

Race-start

6. Everything's more fun with friends
I walked the race with Honor, Clare and Julia who are recovering from injuries. Their company really made me savour every Holy Crap We're Walking In Italy moment. Races are a great excuse to hang out with awesome people. We need to do this stuff more often!

Walking-wounded
7. BLING!
Cop a load of this race medal! Sure it says Run when I Walked but that's faster than snoring in bed on a Sunday morning. I'll take it.

Medal

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Jealousy is useful…

…it's like a big green arrow pointing you to what's missing, or what's not quite right, or what you desire.

Recently I was spewing with envy at Gareth and his fancypants Etape du Tour training schedule. I've no desire to pedal over an Alp or four; I just liked the idea of having a schedule in an important looking PDF file!

Then I was jealous of his new Garmin bike computer thingo. He's never been a Gadget Man – he's always mocked my Wankerphone obsession – but he is quite taken with the Garmin. The graphs, the numbers, the maps. He plugged it in to his computer after a 40 mile ride and looked at the route map, and by pure accident he'd ridden in the shape of a Golden Retriever!

Dog
Arf! You need to use your imagination a wee bit… it's sitting in the grass, having a rest!

Then I had a truly sad case of Post-It envy. At the start of the Up & Running 5K course we suggest our runners put 24 Post-it notes on the wall, so they can riiiip one off after completing each workout. It's a great visual way to see your progress. People get really creative and colourful with their countdowns and it's one of my favourite parts of the Course. This time? Aww man. I want Post-Its.

Digging a little deeper, what was really going on there? Beyond the surface gadget and stationery envy, I was jealous of everyone's sense of purpose. I was feeling kinda lardy, left out, left behind.

So… action was required to bust out of this green fog! I talked to Julia and asked her if she'd mind sorting me out with a Proper Training Plan for the Bologna 6km race. She already coaches ten trillon people but she had room at the inn to boss around one more! So now I have a plan, a spreadsheet, and  very my own Post-It countdown:

Countdown

I am LOVING tearing off those little suckers! There's a teeny tiny little thhhffft sound which is very satisfying. I've also rediscovered the Walkmeter app for my map fix… much cheaper than a Garmin. My routes look more like a little dog turds than big Golden Retrievers, but hey ho!

I admit, sometimes I find it freaking hard to keep my eyes on my own work. Comparing; contrasting. Especially when surrounded by so many people performing great feats of sportiness every day. Sometimes it's also hard to drown out that voice saying wow you used to be so much fitter, why'd you screw that up? But this new training plan is helping me focus on the here and now. Combined with the yoga, Pilates and TRX, I'm full of endorphins right now… much better for the soul than envy!

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Walking in Barcelona

Last weekend I went to Barcelona to hang out with my pal Coach Julia Jones. We had a great time eating tapas and working on our new Up & Running half marathon e-course, which we're launching next week (squeak!). 

After our Brussels work-a-thon last summer, I was awed by how she packed her running shoes and exercised and ate mindfully… rather than seeing a few days away as time for sloth and scoff-o-rama. Six months on I reckon I'm getting there too! I enjoyed my tapas and some incredibly decadent chocolate pastry thingos but whoa baby, I savoured the whole shebang. Half the fun is hunting down the perfect thing to eat – following your nose through the narrow streets, oggling fancy treats in the windows, taking a photo or ten before finally tucking in. That's how I did it til I lost my way… be selective, then savour. It feels good to get back to what works.

Sagrada Familia
Pigeons near the Sagrada Familia

The exercise went well too. On Sunday Julia suggested we each head out for 40 minutes – a run for her and a brisk walk for Granny Knees me. It's been years since she coached me but OBEY JULIA remains a mantra… I cranked up the GPS and Walkmeter on my phone so I'd be able to show her proof that I'd walked and not just sat under a tree eating cake. Again, it is very useful to know what really motivates you – in this case, a need to please and a love of gadgets! ;)

Walk
In my eagerness to "make good time" some how I got a bit lost on the way back!

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Half deer

Bambi "You've got lovely long eyelashes," I said to Dr G last night, in an attempt at being nice instead of our usual juvenile banter.

"That's because I'm half-deer," he replied.

Last Saturday we went for a walk up East Lomond. It's only half an hour to the top so there was no need for me to whinge! We flopped on the grass and listened to the skylarks chatter and the tourists huff and puff. The hill has a great view of Falkland, one of my favourite Fife villages. The only thing I like about hills, aside from eating sandwiches at the top of them, is how they make you feel like an insignificant speck of dust. Instant perspective!

Two years ago we stashed some boxes in our friend's loft as we were fixing up our flat to sell. We finally picked them up on Sunday then I spent all arvo unpacking boxes and rediscovering old books and notepads and my boarding pass collection that I thought was lost forever. It made me remember for the 757th time lately that I'm passionate about a lot of different things. For a very long time, I've been so lost in writing about the size of my arse and desperately pimping a book about the size of my arse and answering questions about the size of my arse and other people's arses that I'd almost convinced myself I didn't know anything else. Or wanted to do anything else.

Those boarding passes made me remember that wild hunger for adventure that got me on the plane from Australia. The urgent craving for new experiences. That glow in my stomach I felt when I first tottered along Edinburgh's cobbled streets. For all sorts of reasons I'd let my hunger grow dull. I'd stopped thinking about why I came here and what I wanted and got bogged down with what I thought was right and/or would make others happy.

You know how some people stick a photo on the fridge of when they were skinny and aspire to that? Instead of a previous body I'm going after an old feeling. I know a time when I felt like my whole body was quietly buzzing with joy just to be alive and I am working to get back there. Heal the mind and the arse will follow!

What else has been happening? I've been destroying my fingernails in the garden, watching the resident Eating Disorder Pigeons with Dr G, sprouting mung beans and snow peas in a groovy sprouter thingy, reading like a mofo, writing on paper, seeking professional help and stuffing the diary with as many fun things as possible for the summer to come. I also bought a tacky lounge chair for the garden so you can bet it will now pish down with rain for the next twenty weekends :)

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Elie Chain Walk

"What are you doing on the weekend?" asked my lovely boss.

"We're going to do the Elie Chain Walk."

"Is that the one with the chains and cliffs along the coast?"

"Yep!"

"Did you know a man died doing that last year?"

Hmm, thanks boss.

Elie is a charming village on the Fife coast. We've passed through it many times on our way to Anstruther's famous fish and chips but had no idea the Chain Walk existed until someone posted about it on Gareth's favourite hillwalking forum.

Named one of the Best Walks In Britain by the Daily Telegraph, we were hooked by this description:

"The Chain Walk forms a side-loop to the tranquil, 90-mile Fife Coastal Path… The fun chained section – a kind of British via ferrata – hugs the sea from Elie village, careering round the cliffs of Kincraig Point to Shell Bay…

Together with footholds, a series of eight fixed chains 10 to 50 feet long provide something to cling to as you slither up, down, along and over alarming rocks while waves crash in from the Firth of Forth. Children aged nine and over can tackle this breathtaking route, which defies being termed a mere "walk". This is adventure. Stay away near high tide."

It turns out the poor man was walking along the tops of the cliff when he fell, not doing the Chain Walk itself. Still, it was unnerving on Saturday to be greeted by a sign featuring stick figures in peril:

Elie Chain Walk warning sign

It was very windy but the tide was low and it was miraculously bright and sunny. There's no way in hell I'd have done it if there'd been the slightest hint of moisture on those rocks!

Chain chain chaaaiiin

Nobody seems to know exactly when or why the chain walk created but most seem to think it was during the 1920s. I'd like to think they made it just for fun. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking and the whole time I wanted to yell HURRAH in a jolly Famous Five manner. I haven't climbed anything since the monkey bars in primary school. I loved hauling myself up the rocks, grasping the chains with shaky hands, heart pounding as the waves smacked the cliffs.

Here's Dr G in action…

Dr G

And here's me inching along not realising Dr G was snapping away on his phone. The resolution is shoddy but you can just see how the seat of my trousers almost wore away from sliding down rocks on my arse. Not good with descents as you know, so an arse makes a handy fifth limb!

Bumcam!

Just have to note that for once I was not the clutz of the day! Gareth slipped on a slimy rock in a flat, non-perilous part of the journey. He even did the comedy flapping hands as he tumbled onto his butt. He was not injured which left me free to cackle, which is totally acceptable since he has mocked my misadventures many times before.

Dr G is most triumphant

My photos don't really do the Walk justice as I was too busy trying not to fall into the sea to take proper ones. I tried to make a video of Gareth darting across the rocks but forgot to switch off the time-lapse mode. So hope the words convey that this was a ripsnorter of a way to spend a Saturday morning! If you ever find yourself in Scotland in decent weather I'd highly recommend it!

Here's some good photos elsewhere:

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Greetings from the Lake District

Catbells

Dr G and I have escaped to the Lake District this week. Hooray for holidays!

Grumpy I was planning on a week of tea and scones and reading books but of course with Gareth around it's always slightly more strenuous than that. So we stomped up a wee hill and I must confess I did a bit of bitching and grumbling because it was raining and it was windy and it was slippery and there were loose rocks and I forgot to bring my sticks.

My main issue was that it was steep, because who would have thought a hill could be anything but flat and gentle? Honestly it was such a pathetic display that I cracked up laughing at my own ridiculousness. I really do try to like hillwalking for the sake of our marriage, but some days you just can't even fake it! :)

Gareth-golf On Monday we played Pitch n Putt golf. I'd not played golf before but both my grandmothers were ace golfers so surely it would be in the genes? Not quite. I came this close to manslaughter charges. On my very first shot, somehow I whacked the ball into the safety barrier net thing, which I still do not understand as I was clearly aiming for the green. It freakishly whizzed through a tiny gap between the net and its metal frame, ricocheting off the frame then smacking hard into the wall of the golf shop… missing the head of a little old lady by an inch!

She had been quietly sitting on the veranda of the wee shop well behind what she rightly thought was the safety of a GIANT SAFETY NET. I rushed over to make sure she was okay and apologised profusely and she really was far too gracious about it. She was laughing! Maybe a brush with death makes you laugh? I would have demanded I buy her a KitKat at the very least.

Meanwhile Gareth had dropped to his knees – I thought he was shaking from laughter but he said it was sheer relief because he saw it all in slow motion and thought I was off to jail, for sure. Holy crap what a terrible moment. Very Nice Lady, if you ever find this website somehow (perhaps by googling "pitch and putt ginger menace") once again, I am so sorry!

Incidentally Gareth kicked my arse, 2 holes to 7.

So I'm keeping things low key for the rest of the week. Thank you everyone who listened to the podcast! We have no idea what we're doing but we're having a lot of fun doing it. Once I'm done with hols and a work trip next week, we'll get cracking on a podcast website and a new episode. Thanks again for giving us a go!

Pub-dog

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Moonwalk Report – Part II

Alternative Title: The Flaming Calves of DOOM!

After the Crotch Whacking Cones, Miles 9 through 12 were a blur. It was so dark as we trudged along Queensferry Road, plastic ponchos whooshing like a lullaby. I drifted in and out of conversations, trying to ignore the ache in the ball of my left foot. At Mile 10 the people doing the Half Moon turned left and headed back towards the city centre. They only had another 3.1 miles to go, lucky bastards.

Now we headed away from the big roads and down towards the sea…

Mile 12 – Did I tell you we had support vehicles? Just like the Tour de France! It consisted of Dave (Claire's fella) and Bruce (Lorraine's fella) on bicycles. They'd decided to go for a few pints then pedal around the course throughout the night. They popped up at random intervals like a ray of sunshine to shout words of encouragement and/or offer snacks.

At Mile 12 they were joined by our colleague Tara. She'd Moonwalked last year with Claire, so she knew from experience we'd need a small chocolate ration at that precise moment. Just when my calves had started to twinge and my morale nosedived, she appeared like a confectionery goddess. With one bite of a wee ASDA chocolate caramelly can't-remember-the-name I was REBORN!

3.30AM, Mile 13 – HALFWAY!

I remember thinking, now would a good time to become a Glass Half Full Person. Only thirteen miles to go, it's all downhill from here! As opposed to, Bloody hellfire thirteen stinking evil miles to go and I want to dieeeeeee.

We were down by the water now. To our left, the Firth of Forth. To our right, a discreet wall of leafy trees and many Moonwalkers darting behind them. Already the sun was starting to rise.

Mile 14 – Pee pressure: when you're dacks down in the bushes with your team and desperate not to be the last one squatting. C'MON LIL BLADDER!

By now my left foot hurt every time I put weight on it. Which is quite bloody often when one is walking. My calves also had the same "tennis balls trapped under the skin" sensation that I'd experienced on the first 16 mile training walk. I stopped for a proper stretch.

4.21AM, Mile 15 – The quietness of the seafront was replaced by the shiteness of an industrial estate. But there was a water station with giant buckets of chopped up bananas and oranges! I'd never been so glad to see a slightly shriveled piece of fruit in my life. This is where I took the Orange In Gob photo Moonwalk0421.

Brain boosted by the power of Vitamin C, I calculated that we'd been walking for 4.5 hours, an average of 18 minutes per mile. So if we kept that up, we only had 3-ish hours to go!

HA!

Ha ha.

Aye, right.

4.29AM – The sky grew pink over Leith.

Sunrise

Mile 16 – Calf pain levels upgraded to Flaming Tennis Balls With Metal Spikes. Described my symptoms to my team and they said, "That sounds like cramp". Nooo! Too many miles to go for cramp. So more stretching. A bite of Snickers bar.

Mile 17 - Ocean Terminal shopping centre. My legs refused to straighten properly so I walked in a semi-squat, cossack-esque position.

During that mile we reached the five hour mark. My longest training walk had been five hours, so it was all virgin territory now. That's when I overheard Sarah say something along the lines of, "I've just accepted that every step is going to be painful from now until the end, and there's nothing I can do but keep on walking".

I thought that was a very classy attitude and felt determined to adopt the same. Although I quite fancied throwing myself to the pavement and wailing like a big baby.

5.17AM, Mile 18 – Our amazing support crew were waiting for us with a silver platter full of goodies. Now that's service! Once again, oranges had never tasted so good.

Silverservice_2

I felt completely rubbish at this point. The last three miles had taken almost an hour. My calves were totally seized up, same with the left foot. No amount of stretching helped. The general consensus was cramp and I needed salt. I also switched back to an energy drink (I'd been sipping one for the first few miles but had changed to water). The saltiest food I had was a wee bag of Hula Hoops but I was just so sick of food – I know, can you believe it – that it was difficult to get any down.

Miles 19 – We played Eye Spy. I tried to remember my Classy Attitude vow but when someone said, "I spy something something start with… S", I immediately whined, "Shauna's Flaming Calves of DOOM!"

I fell into step with Sarah. Our other teammates were still chatty and bright but she said, "I don't think I should waste energy talking" and that suited me perfectly. We plodded along the Portobello promenade in silence.

You can communicate a lot with eyebrows. Like when you're stuck behind someone who's wearing alarmingly transparent tights and a thong, and their buttocks are wrestling like socks in a washing machine. Mutual eyebrows raised in alarm is a signal to do some rapid overtaking.

Mile 20, 21, 22 – This is when things got really really really dodgy. How can I put it delicately? I was crook in the guts. Experiencing intestinal turmoil. That overwhelming about-to-explode feeling is bad enough in the comfort of your own home, but when you're out on the town, having been awake for almost 24 hours and walking for six of them… it's no exaggeration to say it was hell on earth.

Three miles was plenty of time to analyse my predicament. Was it something I ate? Was it last Tuesday's  IKEA hot dog? Was it the Official Moonwalk Flapjack? Most likely it was the energy drink. I'd never drunk one before and the sickly sweetness was overpowering. In hindsight it was a very stupid time to introduced my stomach to something so foreign.

The more my stomach rumbled like Vesuvius the more my mental state declined. It was quite fascinating to witness the brain rotate through such a negative array of emotions. Fierce jealousy of my faster team members, half a block ahead. Annoyance at my stupid flaming calves. Bitterness at myself for being the unathletic owner of said stupid flaming calves. Resentment at Edinburgh City Council for having pavements instead of moving walkways.

But soon that was replaced by sheer bloody panic. What if I couldn't find a loo? How much longer could I hold out? Should I just hammer on a random door and beg them to let me in? Oh Lordy I really cannot hold out much longer. Don't cry don't cry don't cry BE CLASSY!

Behind me a girl was talking about food. "I just want to get a big fuck-off chicken leg," she moaned, "and gnaw on it like a caveman."

Mile 23 - Miracle on London Road! A block of flats covered in scaffolding. A dusty port-a-loo, sitting sweetly beside the footpath.

"That looks like a loo," said Sarah.

"Could it really be?"

It was. And it was unlocked!

Oh people! The joy. The relief. I still cannot find the words to express it.

Now back to the silent, slo-mo action. I was still doing my painful cossack walk but mile 23 was bliss.

Mile 24 - Called Gareth. Jenny answered; they were in the car on their way to the finish line. "Could you ask him to park as close to The Meadows as humanly possible? Just look for the big pink tent. Drive on the grass if you have to."

Mile 25, 7.32AM – Down in the Cowgate. A weary snap of the Mile 25 marker.

Mile25

The last 1.2 miles took eighteen minutes but it felt like an eternity, all numb and fuzzy like sleepwalking. The Castle came into view again as we shuffled through the Grassmarket.

Grassmarket

Along Lauriston Place there were people walking in the opposite direction with medals round their necks and silver blankets round their shoulders. They were finished and I wanted to stab them.

Mile 26 – The mile marker was at the top of The Meadows. 0.2 miles to go.

Mile 26.2, 7.50AM – Crossed the Finish Line with the lovely Sarah. WE ARE DONE BABY DONE! Eight hours neat. We had walked for an entire working day!

I'd thought I'd get all emotional like my 5k race but I was too knackered to feel anything but relief that it finally, finally over. My legs pinged and twinged like harp strings. Managed to collect the goody bags and find the rest of the team before flopping on the grass.

8.02AM – I was looking through our group photos the other day and found these two, taken a few seconds apart.

Whinge1
Frame #1 – The whiny face of reality

Whinge2
Frame #2 – FAKE! FAKE! FAKE!

This is where I attempted to stand up for the Triumphant Medal Pose but my legs failed halfway up.

Tumble

Take #2 with port-a-loos in the background providing a poignant reminder of the ordeal. Too tired to open eyes properly. The effort to arrange mouth in an upturned manner was a marathon in itself.

Finish
FYI, those lines across my boobs are from my bra decorations,
just in case you thought I had long, squiggly nipples.

Aftermath

Gareth had parked at Haymarket train station, one mile away. I tried to walk there, I really did. But after moving twenty metres in twenty minutes we gave up and jumped into a taxi. Or Gareth and Jenny jumped, I collapsed into. Half an hour later were home, another half an hour later I maneuvered myself out of the car and into the flat. You think I exaggerate, but my legs had just decided ENOUGH! We are not going to work anymore! They completely seized up; stretching was impossible. I'd never known such pain and fatigue and it was bloody hilarious. I had to wheel myself around the flat in an office chair!

Then my whole body started shaking and shivering so I wheeled myself into a hot bath. Then I slept for four hours. Then I felt quite triumphant. Then I ate the tastiest bacon sandwich of my life.

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Moonwalk Report

Aside from the toaster, the greatest invention ever must be the Time and Date thingy on digital cameras and mobile phones. Two weeks after the Moonwalk I can barely remember it; my brain seems determined to suppress the finer details of all the pain and glory. But thankfully I can look at photo data or my Sent text messages and let the memories spew forth… "OH YEAH, that's that precise moment I wanted to fling myself under a double decker bus rather than take another step."

So here we go…

Saturday 14 June, 10AM – On the morning of the Moonwalk there was nothing left to do but carb it up. The training was done. The bra was decorated. The socks had been nestled inside the shoes in readiness. Bring on the rice and porridge.

I lazed around between bowls. We picked up Jenny from the airport, and some most excellent bacon from the farmer's market ready for my post marathon sarnie.

6PM - Tried to take a nap but Lionel Richie's All Night Long was stuck on an endless loop in my head.  How can one sleep with those saucy beats? I got dressed and paced impatiently. In the end I wore a tank top underneath my decorated bra. I was okay to bare arms but the belly was a bridge too far!

7PM – Had a last minute brainwave to live blog the walk on Twitter so I linked my phone to my account. Didn't realise until the next day that I'd put in the wrong number and had been rambling sending texts to some poor sleepless bastard all! night! looooong!    

8PM – Hitched a ride to Edinburgh with my Moonwalking comrades. On the way over we compared carbo notes and the joys of coating your feet in Vaseline. Try it, I tell you. Lube up your feet then slide into a pair of cotton socks; it feels like you're walking on air. Or a field of pillows. Or across the plump buttocks of many cherubs. For the first two miles, at least.

8.45PM – Arrived at MoonwalkCity, aka a gigantic pink tent in the middle of The Meadows.

Tent

Suddenly it was all rather exciting. I knew there would be 12,000 Moonwalkers but I didn't fathom the scale until I saw the sprawling sea of feathers, flowers and sequins. And pink pink pink. Mostly women but a few blokes gleefully showing off their brassieres.

We all plonked down in the tent. And so began the waiting.

9.30PM – Pinned race number to my trouser leg. Felt smug since I had proper safety pins instead of staples this time.

9.40PM – Ate my allocated vegie pasta ration. Surprisingly tasty!

9.50PM – Smugness came to abrupt halt when I noticed that I'd somehow managed to KNEEL IN MY PASTA, leaving a greasy red stain on my race number.

Pasta

Then there was a wilderness hour where our only real purpose was to pee as many times as possible…

Looqueue

… and take photos while queuing for the loos (10.28PM)

Looqueue2

Honestly, all that waiting around was a real energy killer. If I had my time again I would have slept all day then rocked up to the pink tent just before midnight!

10.58PM – The Moonwalk Boss Lady took the mic from the salsa band and instructed us approximately eleven million times to PLEASE wear our plastic poncho thingies because it was an extremely cold evening out there. She had the exact same tone of voice as an ineffectual primary school teacher pleading with a wayward eight year old to PLEASE come down off the canteen roof and stop throwing those rocks. But since she is an amazing woman to have dreamed up such a wildly successful fundraising event, we all chanted obediently like members of a very pink cult, YES MISS, We Will Wear Our Stupid Ponchos.

Cult

11.02PM – Attention span fading. I thought I'd be nervous but I was just plain grumpy, anxious to get out there and get the bastard over with. Also riddled with bra envy upon seeing a herd of ladies in zebra costumes. They had TAILS!

Zebra

Serious interlude – At something o'clock we had a minute of silence to think about the purpose of the Moonwalk. Why or who or what you were there for. It was a very moving, misty-eyed moment. I don't think there'd be anyone in the room whose lives had not been touched by cancer in some way.

11.40PMFinally it was time. Since there were 12,000 walkers we started in three different waves.

11.50PM – We cross the line and I hit the start button on my stopwatch.

Start

As everyone warned me, the pace was sloooow. And the Moonwalk Lady was not kidding about the cold.

The first part of the route was around the bottom of Arthur's Seat, the same route as my Race for Life 5k in 2005. My legs felt good and strong as we strolled up the hill that had left me cranky and wheezing back then. It was rather eerie, pitch black except for scraps of moonlight bouncing off our reflective caps; silent but for the rustle of thousands of plastic ponchos.

At the top I looked back across the city – Edinburgh Castle was lit up in pink. I got that little shiver just like the first time I saw it back in 2003; a groovy feeling of being where I'm meant to be.

Sunday 15 June, 1.10AM. Mile 4 – Walking up the Royal Mile was brilliant. Sozzled blokes were stumbling out of the pubs, rubbing their eyes at the sight of the bra-wearing swarm. People were hanging out the windows of their flats to cheer us on.

Milecrowd

I wanted to take more photos but to pause is to get left behind! So lots of blurry pictures ahead, I'm afraid. It was at this stage my arms went numb from cold so I had to put my jacket on underneath the plastic number. After all that time I'd spent psyching myself up to flaunt the Moonwalk costume, it was too bloody Baltic to do it. Grrr.

We headed past Castle Terrace at 1.20AM and I snapped this truly shitty pic of the pink castle. That was the last one I took until 4.21AM.

Edinburghcastle

So what happened in the hours in between? More walking at a glacial pace. A handful of yogurt-covered apricots. Some peeing in bushes. Yes, you're not supposed to do it but if we'd queued politely at the official stops I'd still be walking now. I tell you, once you've dropped trou in front of your work colleagues there's a whole new level of comradeship.

2.15AM - Received a text from jetlagged Jenny asking how I was getting on. I texted back with great enthusiasm: Nae bad Jen, almost at mile 8 and-

SMACK. I slammed groin first into a big traffic cone. Both me and phone went flying. I landed on the road hands first and there was a gasp from the crowd. I tried to leap up as casually as possible and announced, "I'm good! I'm good!". Everyone cheered.

DUDES. Mortifying.

Cone
Sample only.
Not actual crotch-whacking cone.

2.20AM - Was composing a message to what I thought was Twitter to inform you of my ordeal when… SMACK. I did the same thing again.

I was fine, really. Fine! Just embarrassed. And possibly now barren.

Let this be a lesson to you folks. DON'T TEXT AND WALK. Especially when it's dark outside.

[Sorry this report is taking so long; things have been a wee bit chaotic. Second and final installment later in the week!]

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