Archive for Challenges

New Year; New Challenges

And no, this isn’t about setting a (be it a belated) Resolution.  This is about the realisation that after just over a month into 2018 I have faced and fought, fought and (sometimes) lost and lost and re-found my own sense of strength.

If you are a regular reader you will know that this year started with the sad loss of my first guide dog Vicky.

But with the sadness of loosing her; along with the adjustment of ‘just having Fizz’ I found a passion.

A passion that has always been in me, but for one reason….. Or rather one EXCUSE or another I had forgotten it.

It is so easy to forget those simple passions that can bring such pleasure when ‘life’ keeps getting in the way.

Anyway, I digress……

When we said goodbye to Vicky I suddenly realised how much I loathed being at home.  How I couldn’t bare the ‘silence’, the little things about her like hearing her dream.

It also took me several weeks to ‘forget’ to say hello to her when we came in.

One of the strangest things was coming home to a silent house! Because for the past 3 years I have always left on the tv or the radio to keep her company, so she didn’t feel alone.

So, as painful and upsetting as returning to a quiet house was, sitting in one was even worse!

And this is where my passion reignited.

When the children weren’t home (because of school or being with their dads) I disappeared off for a walk.

The beauty of a walk is that Fizz could always come too.  The beauty of a walk is that I could just ‘stomp’ out my upset.

The other beauty of walking is that I could track it all on my Apple Watch, to judge the distance, to track my pace and after several weeks to gauge how my fitness had improved, because the very same walk from my house to town isn’t taking as long!

The other bonus of my walking is that I could feel free.  I don’t need to rely on another person to walk, I don’t need to rely on any equipment or memberships.

I just ‘harness up’ Fizz and head out.

Sometimes we get the bus to the beach, sometimes we take a different route into town.  And other times we enjoy a stomp through the muddy bridal ways en route to the pub with friends!

Your probably wondering why I am telling you all this in this post?  Well, you see I have decided to make this walking count.

I haven’t finalised the details yet, but with a group of friends I am looking to complete The Three Peak Challenge in late Summer.  Its just over 26 miles and with a tour guide is a walk that is set to take between 9 and 12 hours to complete.  And for obvious reasons (such as exhaustion, concentration and distractions) it is one walk that Fizz won’t be completing with me!

But that doesn’t mean that she can’t help with my training !!

And why I hear you ask……..

Well, you see ReSound have just made a massive development with their hearing aids, having raised just over £1,000 for them, I want to ‘earn’ the remaining £2,500 towards enabling me to purchase the new and improved LinX 3D (an improvement on the LinX 2 that I had previously tried.

So, one the challenge is set up you can show your support with words of encouragement, pennies to help reach the target OR by joining in on the walk yourself.

Domation can be made via the Just Giving Page Help TINK Hear


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Silvers nice ….. Yet Bronze is prettier

This weekend saw the 3rd round of the BMC Paraclimbing series.

Manchester Climbing Centre was the venue – A beautiful former church, which has kept many of its original features, not to mention the lack of heating!! (Which was clearly felt this weekend ‘tup-north)

The routes were set, the atmosphere was buzzing and the turn out was phenomenal.

Selfie of me with Guide Dog Fizz with the Climbing Centre behind us and showing a large round stain glass window at the top Centre of the photograph

 

There were six competitors in female VI (according to the entry list anyway)  and Abi a fellow vi Climber who often ‘flashed’ all her routes and boulders was here.  So barring a natural disaster I set myself up for the best I could achieve would be a silver.

….. So what is a FLASH I hear you ask …..

To ‘Flash’ all routes and boulders is to get to the top hold on the first attempt.  With the top rope climbing routes you only had one go to get the best score or to ‘flash’ the route, but with the boulder problems you are given 3 opportunities.  Scoring a bonus 2 points if you succeed on the first go.

Anyway, I set myself the personal challenge to beat my scores from the same competition last year.  Knowing that the climbs had been set harder, this was my way of judging how I had improved in the past year.

This is the same challenge I have set myself for each of the rounds.  However one that, despite topping more routes and reaching higher in the routes I didn’t top, I didn’t actually achieve this in Edinburgh.  But as we don’t climb the EXACT same routes each year this isn’t always a clear sign of improvement, they may have changed the scoring against how everyone performed last year.

This was certainly the case for the 2nd round this year; after 3 of the 4 Male VI climbers scored maximum points, the route setters upped the challange for London.  Given that the 3rd top rope in Manchester was graded as a 7a (2a grades above my comfort zone) the Competition was seen to be set for a much higher status.

Usually as the routes go, boulder 1 and top rope 1 are lower grades, I flashed boulder 1, yet took a silly slip on top rope 1, costing me 26 points.

Photo shows me on toprope 1, just before I slipped. This is about 2/3rds up the route.

I got further on top rope 2 and just under the first ledge on top rope 3 (where I hadn’t expected to get too far from the ground!)

Photograph of me on top rope 3, my right hand is up on an underhand hold, my right leg is bent and the move I need to make is to stand up on my right to reach over the red ledge with my left hand.... I didn’t reach it!

The second boulder was a challange and one I had hoped to return to after a break (but time ran away from me) while boulder 3 was set as a challange to most.  I was happy to get the minimum points of 47 on this as it was such a hard set.  47 Out of 60 meant I got both my feet off of the ground, which given there was only one foot hold and the hand holds had an interesting placement was quite an achievement and similar to many of my fellow competitors.

This photograph is of boulder 2, I managed to get one hand hold higher having moved my right foot to a higher hold.    

Had time allowed I think a 3rd attempt on this route would have seen me complete it.

But time didn’t allow.

The sheer volume of competitors and lack of volunteers who could belay meant that the competition ran over by 35 minutes as it was.  In which time I competed in the 3rd top rope, where I found myself scoring much higher than I expected.

Once the competition was over it was time to calm down, take off my climbing shoes (hello feet) and harness and await the results.

There were no podium blocks, but an innovative use of the stone steps that led upto the bouldering area and my catagory was read out.

As expected, 1st place went to Abi (which I congratulated her on) then 2nd place …….. Me!

I took my podium; accepted my medal and had my picture taken.

There had been no 3rd place on the podium which I had felt was odd, but had honestly thought the person named as 3rd had left.

It was only after all the podiums were announced that the organiser explained that the medals that hadn’t been handed out in London were ready for collection.  It was at this point I discovered that a fellow female VI had been mis-catagoried and was in fact 2nd.  So back went my shiny silver medal and out came the beautiful bronze!

Sadly it was too late to re-take the podium photographs. So the only one I have is of me with my silver.  So here is my ‘incorrect’ Podium photo showing me beside the beautiful Abi.

Photograph of me stood on the left hand side of stone steps with a silver medal and certificate with Fizz stood beside me and fellow climber and gold medal winner Abi on the right


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You climb with your mind

…… Your arms and legs are only a tool to enable you to achieve any height. (Or something similar)

This was in one of the many climbing books I have read, it is one that has (loosely) stuck with me.  My CPiC often says think positively and you can achieve anything.

Well, on Tuesday I attended the 2nd round of the BMC 2017 Paraclimbing competition at The Castle Climbing Centre in London.  And I am beginning to think I shouldn’t have gone.

I have lots of things going on in my personal life at this time that I am trying to work my way through, the funny weather and darker evenings are beginning to take effect too.

So to say I wasn’t on top form on Tuesday would be an understatement!

I was exhausted, I was emotionally tired before the climbing even started and it was only a very last minute decision that actually saw me attend.

Because up until 10pm Monday night I wasn’t going to go.  I didn’t want to go and perform badly.  But some smooth words of encouragement from my CPiC and I changed my mind, because going and performing badly would still put me above where I would be if I didn’t show up.  So I was already beating my worst possible scoring just by showing up and getting my hands and feet on those first holds.

I set myself a personal challenge to get through the day.

Remembering back to last years competition at The Castle where I didn’t reach for the next hold for fear of failing, I told myself

you have to climb until you fall… Because there is a 50:50 chance you COULD make it

But if you dont reach for it, you won’t know if you could have made it.

My footwork was clunky and I was ill spending energy because of it, but I made it to the top of my first climb and a sense of pride kicked in.

I. may actually know how to do this!

But I was already physically tired and cold.  Never a good mix when you have problems to solve and climbs to overcome.

I was also starting to struggle with the venue.  There was an AMAZING turn out for the competition, with people coming far and wide.  The Centre was only open for the competition. So everyone there was there for just one thing.

The noise was unbearable and distracting at times.  There were different languages, accents and pitches of voices in addition to well deserved cheers and applauses to those climber who had pulled of a good move or topped a route.

I wanted to take my hearing aids out. But instead I took myself out.

Actually I took myself and Fizz out.  Outside to stand amongst the relative quiet (by comparison) busy part of London.

Fizz got to sniff the grass and investigate the lavender bushes while I got to breathe.

Breathing; all be it a fundemental to surviving is often something I forget to do when I am concentrating on a problem or a climb.

I found myself crying as I breathed in; I found myself sitting on the sandy, stony path burying my head into Fizz’s neck as she offered me reassurance.  I found myself feeling rediculous.

So I stood up, dusted myself off went back inside to finish what I started.  To climb !!

Thankfullly my brief departure went unnotice (or at least unmentioned) and I was able to warm myself up with a hot drink and face the climbs ahead.

It wasn’t my best performance.

And by being the only female VI I gained a gold medal (purely by default)

But although I wasn’t at my best, I did complete all of my climbs and my boulder problems.  And by the end of the day I felt much better for showing up and not going up.

The troubles I have are still there and still need to be deal with, but for this competition I did go.  And for that I am thankful.

 


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Why do I climb?

I watched a climbing film this morning about a climber with progressive cerebral palsy.  He took up climbing as it looked more fun than physiotherapy.  When asked what he enjoyed most about climbing he answered:

I am equal to everybody else.

This comment has had a profound effect on me.  A friend asked me a few months ago; how do you feel when your climbing?

I couldn’t answer. I told her it was something I would have to think about and come back to her on.

It is a simple enough question isn’t it?

How do I feel when I am climbing?

I feel free.

No-one is looking at me when I am climbing, they are all too busy concentrating on their own climbs or climbing partners.

I have no idea what it looks like to climb (not first hand, without zooming in on pictures) therefore I do not feel conscious of how I look.  Don’t get me wrong there is the odd occasion I come down off a wall and I can feel the sweat stinging my eyes and I have a fair idea of how red and sweaty I look, but that is no different to any other Climber that has just given their all.

Climbing is not something I have known with much better sight.  It is not like the sight I had 15 years ago, which although pretty poor was much clearer than the sight I have now; the sort of sight that wearing glasses made a real difference; where as now they only really help with REALLY close up things.

An example, as a child I rode a bike, as an adult I rode a bike and even up until last year I felt comfortable riding a bike.  Since my hearing loss I have found it a real struggle to feel safe on a bike.  Not the physical movement of actually turning the peddles and making the wheels move, but the ability to even judge how far my foot is from the ground.

I refuse to give up on ever riding again, but my days of riding alone or just taking the kids out are gone.

[I have digressed slightly….Fogive me]

With climbing there isn’t this feeling. Because the routes on walls are very rarely the same after 3 months, there is no ‘marker’ to judge my changes in sight.

The only way I can judge my climbing is the same as anyone with any type of sport…… How I feel the next day !!

I am working on stretching and movement, on endurance and core strength, which in turn is improving my climbing.

When I am on a wall, only the thought of reaching the next hold and getting further than I did before is on my mind.

My sight loss and hearing loss don’t come into it.  They make up such a small part of me as a person, and yes they clearly do have an affect on the way I climb.

But for me I JUST CLIMB.

And just as Nik Royale (BMC Article linked here) commented how he felt about climbing over 5 years ago; I find myself absorbing his comment and believing in it, regardless of if you take part in Paraclimbing or other forms of competition.

Climbing is about equality.  A climbing wall doesn’t care about the colour of your skin, how your body looks or even how your body works.  It enables you to find a way, to reach personal challenges and milestones.

It is simply there for you to climb it.

 

 


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It’s not the reading that’s the issue…..

In a way to improve myself I am undertaking many different forms of learning.  Some is personal development, some is an education and some of it is to support my family.

One such learning is a 10 week parenting puzzle.

It isn’t a course that holds a secret instruction manual to raising children, rather it looks at ways in which as adults we have to dispel our own learnings as a child, to move past it and to understand ourselves better to support our children.

As the weeks have added up, the inner-termole of the course content has began to take an effect.  This teamed with counselling I have been undertaking to support me and help me with my anxieties and depression…… Has been giving me plenty to think about.

It has been commented (not as a critisism, more an observation) that I have become quieter as the weeks have rolled on.  The group I am in are very understanding and supportive towards everyone.

This week we were given an extra book.  “The huge bag of Worries” by Virginia Ironside.  It is a beautifully illustrated children’s book, yet one that is also written for adults too.

As part of our group, those leading us asked if one of us would read the book to the group.

A quick flick through the pages and I heard my voice before my thought had caught up

I’ll read it.

The intakes of breath were audible and noticed by others.  You see, I am an educated woman, I have a passion for reading, it is just my sight that doesn’t always play along!

Being a book to be read to and read by children; the type was larger, clearer and only briefly obscured by the illustrations behind.

I took a deep breathe and began to read.

I enjoyed the book.  I felt myself giving the characters tone and passion as the punctuation implied.

I felt saddened momentarily when it ended.  I closed the book and placed it on my lap.

I felt touched by the story; I felt that the story was so much more than a ‘children’s book’ it meant something.

I had also done something that I hadn’t done for many, many, MANY years.

I had read aloud to people other than my children.

You see, this is not just a little thing.  This is a MASSIVE thing.  I feel anxious reading, not because I dislike it, (far from it) more because I fear that I will miss words, not see them; especially in a children’s book, where the words can wrap around and over the pictures.

For someone who loves to read, yet faces my own worries over the act of reading.  It felt like it was a truly enlightening moment.  One that will hopefully stay with me for many years to come.

I have since ordered my own copy of the book, shared it with friends on Facebook and am looking forward to reading it to my own children.

You see, it isn’t the reading that’s the issue.  It’s the seeing the words.

 


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This is a WHOLE other challenge (Pretty awesome though)

So, in recent months I have conquered a Cheese-grater, climber my arse off and began to face many of my demons.  But none of these, or even all the climbing competitions I took part in last year compared to this mornings events.

Having told you all about my change of volunteer role in Scouting I did what anyone would do; in preparation for an upcoming weekend.

I bought a tent!

I had previously gone to a large outdoors shop with a friend and had a good look at all they had on show, I fell in love with a canvas Tippee.  However at just under £800 it wasn’t going to be for me at the moment.  I was able to walk among various sizes and layouts.  But as with everything, budget was my biggest factor.

I had a check list:

  1.  To have a separate bedroom area.
  2.  To be able to stand up in (although a little crouched was ok)
  3.  Have windows.
  4.  Have a black out bedroom area.

And with all this, and the wise words of a good friend who had bought many a tent.  I bought one I felt fit the bill.

I bought a Vango Beta 450 XL in blue.

It arrived yesterday, sat in its box and making me itch with excitement.  The rational in me thought I should wait until I had a friend over to help me, however the ‘kid in a candy store’ won out.

And I set about putting it up!

After all, it had an assembly guide of 15 minutes.  How difficult could it REALLY be?

Well………..

For a start, it took AN HOUR.

Oh and it was a tad bigger than my garden.

Also, with my garden being totally laid in patio, I wasn’t able to fully ‘pitch’ it.  Although with a helping hand of my garden furniture and a few plant pots, I got pretty close!

I had watchful eyes in both Vicky and Fizz who seemed quite amused at times by my antics.  They both had a thorough explore of it; both in its flat form and in its ‘pitched’ form.

I photographed my progress just for you.

Image shows ground sheet laid out on garden patio

In the beginning there was just a ground sheet and a flat tent.

Image of the outer tent laid out flat on the patio ready to assemble

And the instruction…..

3 poles, colour coded for ease with 1 pole longer than the other 2.

3 poles …. Check

colohr coded ….. check; if you count 2 being totally black and 1 having a grey section amongst the black colour?

1 longer than the other 2 …. Ummmm. Nope! 1 shorter (grey section) than the other 2 (totally black)

Maybe I should have stopped at that point.  But given it was all out of the bag, no harm in carrying on.

So following the colour coding; or rather tiny little black or gray tabs of material on the end of the pole sleeve that I hoped was what the instructions were referring too, I carried on.

It wasn’t a easy as it should have been, not having the space to walk around the outside of the tent, it involves climbing over my garden wall (pictured about, it’s about 3f)

I also had to negotiate the poles with the shed and fence as fully extended they where pretty long (even the short one!)

And then came my garden furniture. With the help of a garden chair, a bench and some plant pots I was able to semi-secure the tent in place.

Image shows front quarter angle of erect tent with flower pots holding it in place with the side door open

Image shows side view of tent with door panel open, against the low garden wall and with Guide Dog Fizz looking inside

It was perfect!

The guide ropes and zip toggles are all light blue, there are tension bands on the inside and it has a ‘lip’ to save the weather getting in, should it be wet.

And the added bonus is that I only have to duck my head ever so slightly to move around.

It was hot, it was tricky; but oh wow it was fun!  And I did it all by myself. I was bursting with pride, I sent the photos to a friend with the simple of caption

Look what I just did, not bad considering, am knackered now.

Woth the guide time of 15 minutes, with the advisory that first pitch may take slightly longer, I was happy when I discovered it took me and hour.  Some people may not feel that is something to be proud of, but for someone who has never pitched a tenth before, who has considerably limited vision and who has no help either with reading the instructions or pointing out where the pole sleeves were…… I am totally amazed and proud with my achievement.

…… Now to take it down!

In comparison that took 30 minutes, it was a simple reverse of the pitch.  I folded and rolled my tent, then the ground sheet and even managed to get it all back in the bag!  It wasn’t quite as pretty as when I took it out, but with a quick sitting on to help remove the air.  It was done and ready to put away for camping later next month.

Image shows tent bag with tent inside sat out in the garden on patio.

Now to see how long it takes to pitch in a field !!


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10 days ago I climbed a Cheese-Grater !!

Ten days ago I CLIMBED A CHEESE-GRATER:  All 225m plus a little extra for good measure.

It seems so much longer than 10 days.  Part of this is because my hands are shredded like they were after The Gherkin Climb, which although it was a much shorter climb that this one, it was at a time when I firstly hadn’t been climbing very long and secondly I wasn’t as physically fit as I am now.

I won’t lie, it was hard.

It was emotionally exhausting.

It was uncomfortable.

And almost a hard slap in the face to how differently I could see and hear inside the climbing centre.  So much so that at one point mid-climb that found me 2/3rds of the way up a wall I strategically removed and dropped my hearing aids into the awaiting hands of my climbing partner.

During the climb we had the additional media of not one but two GoPro (like) pieces of recording equipment.  We took lots of footage, we shared ‘live’ videos on Facebook during the challenge.  We do however have a fair amount of editing to do before we can share the ‘helmet’ footage or even the footage I didn’t realise was recorded.

This editing is only to remove some of the ‘colourful language’ used, we also have to mindful of copyright on music that was being broadcasted in the background!

It is coming together though, there is some fantastic footage of both myself and Simon my climbing partner accessing and defending the wall.  Simon even talked through descriptively on his final climb!

The support, emotionally, encouragingly and financially have been higher than I ever expected.

At the time of writing this post, HelpTeeHear had raised £900 online and a further £100 off-line.  That is One-Fifth of the total hoped for.

So for now, I say thank you; THANK YOU; thank you.


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Taking my time to come down !

Continue Reading Taking my time to come down !


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Envious of the mundane

Sat waiting for a friend to arrive and watching (as best I can) the people coming and going with their shopping.

And a very mundane task struck me.  People were walking with shopping bags in both hands.  Sounds rediculous, but in that small insignificant moment I became upset.

And the reason for it?  The realisation that from now and forever I will always walk with one hand full; as I will either be holding a long cane,  a guide dog harness or onto another person’s arm.

It sounds silly, but having to consider what you are buying when you go out, to either contain it in a back pack or worst case over my shoulder.  It is very difficult with Fizz to have a bag in my right hand, she works off of tap que’s and a gentle reminder from having her lead in my right hand at times.

I guess for now I shall just add it to the list of ‘no longer possible’ and carry on by focussing on the ‘can do’ list.


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A little over SIXTEEN climbs isn’t THAT much!

… In one day, with each of those climbs topping out at 14m, doesn’t make a 225m climb sound TOO difficult, does it?

Or is it wishful thinking on my part?

Either way, there is no backing out now.  The posters have been printed, the wall booked and my climbing partner (in crime) has agreed.

So, on May 3rd I shall be climbing the equivalent height of The Cheesegrater; otherwise known as The Leadenhall Building, the 225m office building that towers over its closest neighbour (and another building who’s height I have climbed) The Gherkin, 30 St Mary’s Axe.

Time to ‘earn’ my hearing aids.

Poster reading "Climbing a cheesgrater, having conquered a Gherkin."

If you would like to show your support, you can donate HERE


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