Tough Mudder Review

Hi guys, just wanted to check in with you as a wrote about Tough Mudder as one of my goals for 2017.

This is what I wrote in February when publishing that post:

I have possibly bitten off more than I can chew here but I signed up to run this 10-12 mile obstacle assault course with Ben. The website says “You can expect undulating hills, thick mud and a range of mind-bending challenges to test your mental grit.” Yikes! We started (sort of) training in New Zealand and now that we’re back in London we have committed to this in earnest. There is a lot of ab crunches and pull ups (when I can do them) in my future.

Well now it’s done! It’s been a couple of weeks since we ran it and my muscles have recovered but I am still sporting bruises and scratches all over my limbs. Although the bruises have started changing from deep purples to yellow-brown so it’s about the right time to gather my thoughts about the experience. My experience is as a first time mudder-er with reasonable fitness and very little strength.wp-image-775792269Firstly, the “undulating hills” mentioned in the website blurb was, of course, an understatement. The West London course out in Henley-on-Thames was beautiful, and on any other day a casual observer may describe the landscape as undulating. But for a runner, caked in mud, dunked in ice and still on the first mile, they were more like Everest.  All my muscles screamed at me whenever I attempted to run uphill. More than any obstacle, the uphill sections of the course were the biggest challenge for me.IMG-20170506-WA0006IMG-20170507-WA0002Tough Mudder was much more about team work than I realised. Happily for me, someone who can’t lift their own body weight, the majority of obstacles were about coming together as a team to climb a wall, wade through mud pits and scale slippery slopes. I am so grateful to the team for helping make the day so enjoyable. I can’t deny that I was the weakest link on the team but the rest of the guys were patient with me and Ben was a trooper and stuck with me while I battled up the hills to meet the others at the next obstacle. Secretly, I think he was grateful to take it easier with me.

We both did train for the three months leading up to the event but with both of us having a lot going on with work and suffering quite bad colds in the lead up, the training wasn’t what it could have been. I had to take tissues with me around the course! But sickness aside, I do think I was in a much better place than I could have been and mentally I was unapologetic. I knew I had done my best in training and did my best on the day. I fronted up to every hurdle and moved the whole time so I had little stress about being the slowest in the team, something I know I would have stressed about if I hadn’t trained. For me too, going from zero, as in having very little upper body strength, to the kind of condition you would need to be in to complete some of the tasks was unrealistic in three months. But I will keep trying, one day I will be able to complete a press-up.

The other thing that helped me a lot was having great kit, something that I was moaning about beforehand. The event is expensive enough as it is, I really didn’t want to sink any more money into kit for something that I may not even enjoy. But I must say, I had to take back all my moaning.

One of the most important things running in mud and water are your shoes. I’m no expert but I think if you really want to give this a proper go, you need some form of trail running shoe. Simply, a shoe with big ‘lugs’. Lugs are the spiky bits on the bottom of football boots for example. They allow you to run in mud without slipping over and, if they are spread far enough apart, allow the mud fall out rather than cake to the bottom of your shoe. We passed many people on the way shaking grit from their shoes, suffering blisters and slipping around on the running tracks. Of course we were all slipping in the mud pits, but I was grateful to not be slipping around while my team mates ran off ahead.

I got these Asics Gel-Fuji Runnegade for £60 and now far from resenting the cost, I am in awe of them. Firstly, how cool do they look?? Secondly, they did exactly what they needed to re: mud. They made me feel a hell of a lot more secure running downhill. They kept all grit and mud out and managed to keep me comfortable the whole time. Despite being wet in the first mile I never got a blister or even an inkling of one. All this in their first outing as I never managed to take them out of the box to train in them beforehand due to the cold. So I was impressed to say the least. I also wore ‘no blister’ socks that Ben loaned me which could have helped, but really, I like to think it was all the shoes.FB_IMG_1495387682026So there you have it, my review of Tough Mudder. Which really boils down to – get some trail running shoes and try your best to get as fit as possible to make it easier on the day, but whatever your ability it is a team race and in the end is all about having fun.

Have I convinced you to give it a go?

Photo credits to the Tough Mudder professionals and the team. The selfie was all me though.

 

Home for Christmas

20161220_102744We hadn’t been home for two years and 10 months when we touched down in Wellington on a gorgeous sunny Friday afternoon. One week before Christmas and the start of a four-week holiday. I felt so many things getting off the plane and hugging my mum, dad younger sister and best friend who had all come to the airport to meet us. Tired being the number one thing after a gruelling 26 hours in the air and 6 hours waiting at airports in Dubai and then Sydney. I also felt relieved, happy, nervous, excited, sadness and so, so, so much love.

It was all going on at once and I probably came across as quite shell-shocked, it was overwhelming. But as we got in our old family car, drove the familiar roads to my mum’s place, the conversations picked up where we left off from our last Skype calls and I felt comforted and home.20170107_114343Home was a funny word while I was at home. People were careful about how they used it around me. I was careful about how I used it, too. When I was discussing London I would say “going back to London” not the more natural, “going home to London”. I felt that I was home in Wellington, but I was also going home to London.

After living in London for almost five years, it would be weird if I didn’t think of it as home. It’s where my life is now, my friends, my things, my routines all my habits are formed from living in the crazy, busy, vibrant and beautiful city. London is my normal now.

I’m so proud of how Ben and I have made our lives in London, the experiences we’re having are so different from what we would have had, had we spent our twenties in New Zealand. I never thought big city life would suit me, I was actually very scared moving to London as I was worried I would hate it. Now I worry that I will never be able to leave this big city, how will I ever manage waiting longer than three minutes for public transport? Where will I get my Pret A Manger sandwich fix?

But then I spend time in New Zealand and see photos like these and realise I won’t care. I  loved the lifestyle in NZ. Being invited in to people’s houses, the ease of getting around and the ability to just roll up anywhere without encountering queues or missing out entirely. I know that eventually NZ will be my forever home. Not quite yet, but when the time is right.20161228_161231Also, how could we forego these views!?!

Here are a few things we got up to while home…

A quick mission up to the Belmont trig for views over Wellington harbour.

Hiking Karangahake Gorge near Waihi and spotting fantails in the trees.

Many days on the beach in Waihi. Exploring, swimming, sunbathing and Ben even learned to surf!

So many cuddles with this beauty. She wasn’t that into my selfie taking though!

I had better mention the food, too. Pavlova on Christmas day, ice creams as we road-tripped around the country and so much caramel slice. For Christmas I was given a recipe book called Treats from Little & Friday with what looks like a cracking caramel slice recipe, I can’t wait to try it out.

There was cards on New Years Eve in Auckland and Scrabble at Dad’s. I even managed to win a few 😉20170107_104645So many hours chatting in cars…20161228_150623And so many beautiful views. This is Maraetai Beach on the outskirts of Auckland City.

I love being able to feel like a tourist in a country that is also so familiar. There is always so much to discover. 20161228_150357I hope you enjoyed my photo round-up of our New Zealand trip. I have a few more photos to come of two really special days out. A day out at the zoo with my dad which was my Christmas present and as my birthday present, day out at Zealandia, a bird sanctuary, with my mum and sisters. I was really spoilt, so blogs on those days to follow.

I am enjoying going through these photos so much. The weather was pretty patchy when we were home and we got lots of spring rain, but when the sun shone we definitely got out and made the most of it.

What do you get up to while visiting friends and family at home? I love having lots of chilled days, but also recognise that this is my holiday time so make an effort to explore as well.

2017 Resolutions

20170110_175912.jpgThere is nothing like the start of a new year to make you re-evaluate your situation and inevitably, set some lofty goals. Ben and I have been having some big adult discussions lately about what we’re aiming for in life. It’s exciting. 2017 is also the year that we both turn 30 and we will have our 10 year anniversary so there will be lots to celebrate over the summer.

My resolutions are pretty simple this year and I’m thinking they will stick. I’m optimistic mostly because I’m so excited about them. So here goes…20170204_resolutions_blog_0065My 2017 Resolutions

  • Read!

With the change to my commute this year my reading has slowed down dramatically. I miss churning through the books on my long commute, it was the perfect, distraction free reading time. Now that my commute involves more exercise (and sometimes photography) I need to carve out some reading time while at home. So that’s what this goal is about. I have set up a Goodreads account to track my reading this year and set a goal of 25 books.

I have possibly bitten off more than I can chew here but I signed up to run this 10-12 mile obstacle assault course with Ben. The website says “You can expect undulating hills, thick mud and a range of mind-bending challenges to test your mental grit.” Yikes! We started (sort of) training in New Zealand and now that we’re back in London we have committed to this in earnest. There is a lot of ab crunches and pull ups (when I can do them) in my future.

  • Use what we have + only buy essentials
  • Save to buy a house

These two resolutions go together. This year is the year of saving for Ben and I, we really want to put in a big effort to save on the little things, like takeaways, buying coffees, and make the most of the stuff we have. We’re not going completely frugal but just trying to get smarter, I would much rather my money went on holidays and our futures than Uber rides.

  • Learn to code in Visual Basic

This will be a huge step for my Excel skills and will help me streamline the work I do so much. I wish I had thought of it sooner. I have a few projects at work that I’m going to attempt this year.

  • Refresh my blog

It’s nearly two and a half years since I started this blog on my 27th birthday and it still looks pretty much exactly the same. I think it’s about time to refresh, I love writing this little online diary so I want it to keep growing with me. 20170204_resolutions_blog_0055What are your resolutions for this year? Did you make any? Oh and does anyone want to train for Tough Mudder with me? I’m going to need so much support to get through that. .

2016 Resolutions: How did I do?

20170204_resolutions_blog_0066I feel a bit different coming into this year, so much of my focus in 2016 had been on our month long New Zealand holiday over Christmas that I really hadn’t thought much about afterwards. But we’re just into February now and already so much has happened and changed. I’m really excited about what this year has in store.

I have a post coming really soon on resolutions I am adding for 2017 but for now I want to look at my 2016.

2016 Resolutions

  • No More Snoozing! I want to wake up and get up in 2016.

I’m starting off with a bit of a failure, I definitely haven’t shaken my snoozing habit. I used this progress checker by Elise Joy to help me stay on track, you can get a 2017 one here. It was stuck to the wall beside my bed in our Tottenham flat, and then by my mirror in our current flat. It’s a really good way of seeing how far you have come and tracking that daily effort. But as you can see, I started strong then I completely drop off over the period where we were looking for and then moving flats. There were a couple more flurried of activity during the year when I thought, yes! I’m getting back on track, but ultimately I’m still not jumping out of bed. 20170204_resolutions_blog_0043

  • Complete 10 full press-ups.

A bit like my snoozing, I had periods of really good effort during the year, but ultimately they didn’t stick. I still can’t do one press-up, let alone 10!

  • Make cards and use a bit more of the paper scraps that I am always collecting (hoarding).

Yes! I’m pretty proud of this resolution, I think 90% of the cards I gave this year were home-made or cards that I’ve collected over the years. I used home-made gift tags at Christmas time and used home made birthday cards. This is something that I’m sure I’ll probably continue doing forever. It’s creative, personal, eco-friendly (I really only recycle or re-purpose), cheap and I love doing it. I do sometimes worry that it’s a bit childish to be making cards but I remind myself that a card is really about the message and as long as it’s thoughtful it doesn’t really matter how professional it looks.

  • Say Yes! more and be an available and willing friend in 2016.

I’ve had so many good times with friends in 2016. I made some new friends through netball, I got to know my new flat-mates and we mesh really well and I got to catch up with family and friends back home, some who I don’t keep in regular contact with while over here.

I also had it on my mind to see more gigs in 2016. Here are some of my ticket stubs from events I’ve seen in the year. There is comedy, theatre, travel and sport in the mix but most excitingly is all the cool music acts I managed to see Mumford and Sons at British Summertime festival; a solo show from Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls; Birdy who was a new find for me in 2016 and a bit of NZ sound with Fat Freddies Drop. The stubs aren’t in my pile but I saw Newton Faulkner in the Union Chapel which is an amazing venue in a church and at the Hoxton Hall I saw The Head and The Heart.

The biggest gigs I saw this year were Beyoncé and Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium. Two very very different gigs but both so memorable. 20170204_resolutions_blog_0059

I have finally sorted myself out with a SongKick account too. I can’t beleive I missed this for so long. For those that don’t know it’s an app that tracks bands and lets you know when they’re touring and reminds you when the tickets go onsale. So essential if you’re going to try and beat all the touts before they sell out.

I also managed to keep at my 2015 resolutions which were to

  • continue working through my 27 Lista couple more were completed in 2016 but there is still 9 to go
  • save for a house – still going strong and will be ramping it up for 2017.
  • print photos – Yes, lots went on in 2016.

I hope you’re all looking forward to 2017. Thanks for reading xx

My London: My Perfect Day in London

What would I do to create a perfect day in London? What would be my dream day if I was well prepared with money to burn….?

I’ve put some thought into it, so come and join me for a day to remember.

20151025_Kew_Gardens_0015Well firstly, the weather gods would need to co-operate. I don’t want any pea soup fog. My favourite days in London are early autumn. When the mornings are just starting to get cooler and the nights are drawing in, but the days are still warm and the skies are the clearest blue with white fluffy clouds. We did have a few of these this year and I relished every second on my walk to work.

So, now that the weather is sorted get ready for a full day. I said it would be perfect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean realistic. We’re going to have to teleport everywhere if we want to keep up with my itinerary, I’m also moving Wimbledon to autumn to fit my schedule. Oh and bringing someone back from the dead…

First let’s wake up and wander down to the new Granary Square development in Kings Cross and park our bums at my favourite cafe, Caravan, for some avocado on toast. Yum! You need all that fuel for your next stop, St Pauls Cathedral.

20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_0222We’re up with the larks so we’ve bet all the tourists. You can marvel at the splendour to your hearts content before heading up the spiral staircase to the Whispering Gallery and higher to see the views of London from what was the highest point in London until 1967.

If you’re in need of more views from a higher vantage point, we can squeeze in a sky high view of the Thames from the Sky Garden. 20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_012120150705_WalkieTalkie_Lookout_London_0208.jpgWhile we’re in the east, a trip to Old Spitafields Market for a cupcake from Flavourtown Bakery is a must. Seriously they cannot be beaten!flavourtown-bakery-london-marketNext we need to hop, skip (or fly?) over to Richmond Park. We’ll rent a bike for the day (these guys are great) and pack a picnic lunch. We’re cycling around the park to the lake in the middle. It’s so secluded you will forget you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world for a moment. Be sure to make friends with the deer on your way.

Next up? Some world class sport. Yes! For once I won the ballot. Tickets to centre court in our hot little hands we’re off to one of the most quintessentially British events I know of. Be quiet as you go in, you don’t want to put Serena off.

You can’t spend a perfect day in London without catching some of the world class West End theatre. We have tickets to a matinee screening of my favourite musical Wicked. Enjoy!466516_10150800601007118_126440377_oPhew! You must be hungry. Time for a fancy dinner? My cuisine of choice is Japanese of course. I have always wanted to try out Roka, so guess where reservations are sorted..? We’ll be dining on sushi, prawn tempura and the Roka dessert platter tonight.p9040128-1024x745We’re finishing the day on my ultimate London high, a gig at Wembley! Because this is my perfect day, let’s see Bowie play Wembley. The gig of a lifetime, you must have sorted tickets out over a year ago for this…. You’re welcome.

It was lots of fun dreaming up ideas for this post. It’s a compilation of all the best things I have done in London, from the everyday to the fantastical, to those things that are still on my wish list. What would you do? What do you think I have missed?

The idea to talk about a perfect something came from the Travel Linkup bloggers. I’m too late to add my post to the link, but check out other bloggers ‘A perfect…’ interpretations through one of my favourite blogs Silverspoon London. Just scroll to the bottom of the post.

All pictures are my own aside from the below listed. Photo credits with thanks:

My London: My Commute

20160909_andiescommute_0015I said in an earlier post, that my lifestyle had changed heaps since moving from Tottenham to Tufnell Park, and one of the most awesome changes has been my commute.

I no longer battle the rush hour squeeze on the Victoria Line at 8am. Instead I leave the house and wander (or power walk if I’m late) for about 4k to get to Finchley Road station then catch a tube one stop north to Wembley Park.

It is bliss!

I listen to podcasts, random playlists from my Apple music subscription or go sans sound and get in touch with nature or what not. Nature? Who am I kidding? Cars, trucks, buses and trains are the soundtrack to my commute

When it’s raining or I’m late/lazy I swap the walk for a 10 minute over ground train ride. Easy as, except the train is really unreliable, which is what lead me to walking in the first place. Talk about turning a negative into a positive.

Anyway, enough of my smug commute loving, today I want to share my journey with you. Ben was doing lots of research on his next camera lens purchase and decided to do some experimenting with our 50mm lens by taking photos on his commute. I might share his effort with you next post. I thought it was a really good idea, so the next day I slung the camera around my neck and decided to get creative.

I need a lot more practice with the 50mm, but it was fun and taught me a lot about moving for the shot. I got so engrossed my 35minute walk doubled and I was quite late for work that morning, ooops!

So this is what my journey looked like in September 2016.

This was a bit of a moody morning, but we had been having really warm sunny days. I think it was said to be the warmest September on record? Or maybe it was that we hit a few of the highest temperatures for September? A quick google search hasn’t really helped me come up with any facts for you, so actually just know that we had a good summer. It was hot.

20160909_andiescommute_0050_1^^^ The most excited empty shop I’ve seen.

^^^ This is my favourite pair of pictures; walking past this pink flat makes me smile every time.

^^^ Empty train. This is such a rare sight in London. The other guy and I basically had the whole train to ourselves.

My commute ends at the iconic Wembley Stadium. As with all things you encounter daily it has become part of the furniture for me, but every once in a while an event will be on or it will be lit up on dark winter nights and I’ll get swept up in awe of it. It is always one of those moments I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I’m actually living in London.

 

My London: My Netball Team

dani-backWhen I first arrived in London, I knew no-one. Well that’s how I tell the story at least, I did know a few people. I have extended family here, an uncle and cousins that live in and around London. There were also a few acquaintances from high school, and an Aussie couple we met while travelling in Japan. That couple turned out to be a big part of our London life, but we weren’t to know that at the time. So for all intents and purposes we had no-one but each other so I knew I had to get out there and make some friends fast. I love Ben, he’s really good company but my London life was definitely going to need some girlfriends to get me through it.

How do you make friends in a big city? How do you make friends as an adult? I had no idea really, so I just thought, let me try and fill my days. We joined expat groups, and tapped into all the contacts we had for weekend meetups. But what I now count as my best idea, was to join a netball team.

I hunted for social teams in my area and much to my luck, got placed in a cobbled together team of awesome ladies from all around the country and the world. The team was called The Venus Fly Traps and they had already played a season or two together when I joined. Little did I know that five years on these girls would form the biggest constant in my shambolic London life and we would still be sporting the bewildering name of a carnivorous plant.

The name, assigned to us by a rogue club manager, has never sat well with us, but every Tuesday rain or shine, in stifling humidity or biting cold, we turn up to the courts. We shimmy into our Lycra and pull our hair into ponytails as the sun goes down on another day at the office. We get out into the, usually brisk, air, chatting about life lately and sizing up the competition. We have been winners, losers, injured and angered on the courts, but more important to me is the memories we have made off court.

So here’s to the memories girls! Looking forward to many, many more..

Tournament days with One Netball club…

 ^^ Pink Ladies

We have travelled together, danced together, seen beautiful marriages and supported each other through painful breakups. We have celebrated so many milestones; birthdays, new jobs and study and must have collectively moved flats over 20 times. Which is great, because that means flat warmings.

My favourite times are always those drunken, messy, gossipy girls nights though!

roadie^^ Roadie

Eat your heart out Michael

So much gin ^^^

We have changed and grown so much in our five plus years together as a team. People have moved back home, or to Bermuda and others have arrived in London for new challenges and jobs and joined for new friendships fitness and fun.  I’ve been lucky to get to know such an awesome group of ladies..

Yay for The Venus Fly Traps, past present and future…!

Check out my other posts about London Life, getting a visa and where I’m living. More to follow soon.