Thursday, 26 May 2016

Three challenges for Pregnancy Sickness Support - 1 down, 2 to go

It was my son who first inspired me to enter a triathlon after he took part in one to raise money for the RNLI when he was just 7. I'm constantly amazed at his eagerness to give anything a go and the fact that he always does it with enthusiasm and a big smile on his face.

So, a few days before the first of my three challenges, as the nerves really started to kick in, I decided that I could learn a lot from my son's attitude. I decided that it didn't matter how fast or slow I was, that my mountain bike would look a bit rubbish next to all the fancy road bikes or that I would probably be older than most of the competitors; the most important thing for me was to smile as much as possible and to enjoy it.

And that is exactly what I did.

The Lichfield Triathlon took place on 24 April and consisted of a 400 metre pool swim followed by a 20 kilometre cycle and then a 5 kilometre run.

It felt a long way and I found it tough but I'm proud to say that I did it!

And as I had promised myself I would, I kept smiling and enjoyed every single minute.

I certainly wasn't one of the fastest competitors - in fact my children's favourite shout of encouragement was "hurry up mum"! But it didn't matter to me that I finished way down the field. I was pleased with my time (just over 1 hour 45 minutes) because I know just how hard I have worked over the last year or so and how far I have come since my knee surgery.

The triathlon was the first of three challenges I'm taking on to raise funds and awareness for Pregnancy Sickness Support, a charity that supports women with severe pregnancy sickness and, particularly, hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition I suffered from in both my pregnancies.

My next challenge is the one I'm dreading the most - a 1 kilometre open water swim on 9 July. It will be a real test of my physical as well as mental endurance but, if I managed to endure nine months of hyperemesis (twice), then I figure it should be no problem. At least that's what I'm telling myself!
If I'm honest, I'm quite scared. One kilometre is a long way and will involve me swimming out a long way into the middle of the lake. I will also have to deal with cold water, weather conditions (potentially choppy water) and other swimmers around me. My biggest fear is panicking and so I'm planning to get in as much open water practice as I can over the next few weeks to help me overcome my fear.

I've made a start on open water training but it's early days yet. Watch this space for updates on my progress ... and wish me luck!

I'm taking on three challenges in 2016 to help Pregnancy Sickness Support raise enough money to put its information leaflets in Bounty's Pregnancy Information Packs. This would enable it to reach every single mum-to-be in the UK with details of the vital support the charity can provide to sufferers and their families. You can read about my three challenges here.

If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Crying into my cappuccino

You would think that, 5 years after having my youngest, I'd be over it by now. But sometimes something triggers memories and emotions that are buried deep inside. To be fair, it hasn't happened for a long time but a few days ago, completely out of the blue, it happened again. I'd taken the children to a local coffee shop for a babyccino. As I stood in the queue two women came over to say hello ... it was my community midwives from when I was pregnant with my children.

After we'd hugged and chatted briefly, they left. Then, as I sat down with our drinks, I started to shake and my eyes filled up. I tried to hold it in but found myself having to explain to my children why mummy was crying into her cappuccino.

Pregnancy was not a good time for me and seeing my midwives after all this time brought back memories I'd prefer to forget. My experience is relatively minor though compared to others and many sufferers of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) have much more severe, longer lasting symptoms than me. HG robs the woman of an important life event and sufferers experience misery, anxiety and feelings of loss. Pregnancy, which should be a special and happy time, is a physical and mental trauma. So it's not surprising that poor mental health and depression are common both before and after birth and some women go on to suffer symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

For more information on HG and mental health, including links to useful resources, please see the Pregnancy Sickness Support website.

I'm taking on three challenges in 2016 to help Pregnancy Sickness Support raise enough money to put its information leaflets in Bounty's Pregnancy Information Packs. This would enable it to reach every single mum-to-be in the UK with details of the support the charity can provide to sufferers and their families. My first challenge is a triathlon in less than 4 weeks! You can read about my three challenges here and can support the campaign by texting NOHG16 £5 to 70070. THANK YOU!!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Triple challenge for Pregnancy Sickness Support

In 2016, I am taking on three major challenges to raise awareness of Pregnancy Sickness Support and hyperemesis gravidarum.

Challenge 1

The first of my challenges is a triathlon on 24 April which involves a 400m swim, a 20km bike ride plus a 5km run.  It's just 8 weeks away and I haven't even been on my bike since last year ... HELP!!

Challenge 2

The second of my three challenges is the one that will definitely cause me the most sleepless nights. On 9 July I will be swimming (or at least attempting to swim) ONE KILOMETRE in open water in Lake Bala (an event organised by the British Long Distance Swimming Association)! Not only will the distance itself be a massive challenge for me, but I will also have to contend with the weather conditions, very cold water and other swimmers around me.

Challenge 3

My final challenge will be ... *drumroll* ... the Great Birmingham Run (Half Marathon) on Sunday 16 October. It's more than twice as far as I have ever run in my entire life!!

Unlike last year, I'm not asking for sponsorship. Instead, I'm inviting you to support the charity's campaign to raise enough money to have its information leaflets included in Bounty's Pregnancy Packs. These are given out by midwives to pregnant women across the UK. 

The charity needs to raise enough money to cover the cost of printing 800,000 leaflets. Achieving this goal would enable the charity to reach every single mum-to-be in the UK with details of the support the charity can provide and ensure that more women struggling to cope with severe pregnancy sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum are able to access the vital support and treatment they need. How amazing would that be!!

You can help by texting NOHG16 £AMOUNT to 70070.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Fame at last ...

A few weeks ago, I was very honoured to be featured on the British Triathlon website talking about my experience of GO TRI events. Click here for the article.

GO TRI is an initiative run by Triathlon England aimed at getting more people involved in triathlons for the first time no matter what their age or ability. Events are low key and reasonably priced and I have completed several of them this year. If you have never done a triathlon before and feel a bit nervous about it, GO TRI is a great way of having a go in a low-key environment. Everyone is very supportive and it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are or what kit you wear.

I have also had an article published on Henpicked, a website and community which is all about "sharing the wisdom of women".  I wrote about why I decided to take on a triathlon and what I learned from the whole experience.You can read the article here.

The reason I wanted to share my story is firstly to raise awareness of the charity, Pregnancy Sickness Support and the fantastic work it does to support sufferers of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). This was one of my main motivations for deciding to do a triathlon in the first place; to raise money for the charity.

In 2016, I have decided to take on three separate challenges to raise awareness of the charity and hyperemesis gravidarum.  Keep an eye out on the blog for more details of my "triple challenge for PSS". More details will follow soon!

I also wanted to show that you don't have to be super fit or sporty to take on a new physical challenge. All it takes is a bit of determination and a willingness to put in the training.  If just one person reads my story and decides to have a go at something outside their comfort zone then that would make me very happy indeed!

Monday, 16 November 2015

My triathlon challenge - what I've learned

As the end of 2015 is fast approaching, whilst many of us will be busy with Christmas preparations, it's also a time to reflect on the past year and to look forward to what the year ahead might hold.  It was about this time last year when I decided that in 2015 I would take on a challenge that was way outside my comfort zone - my first triathlon. You can read about what inspired me to take on that challenge by clicking here and here.

Well I did it and I loved it! In fact, I've since done another triathlon, an aquathlon (swim plus run) and my first ever 10k race.  If you're toying with the idea of taking on a physical challenge in 2016, my advice would be to go for it!

I'm certainly no expert, but here are some of the lessons I learned from my own triathlon challenge.

Don't underestimate yourself

Don't sell yourself short. You would be surprised what you can achieve if you put your mind to it and work hard. Before I started training, I hadn't done any proper exercise for a long time after being plagued by a knee injury for over 20 years.  I couldn't run more than a couple of hundred metres without having to stop for a breather and I had just taught myself to do a bit of front crawl (at a push). The only race I had ever won in my entire life was a three legged pub crawl at uni when I was dragged round the course by the rugby player I was attached to! But I worked hard and, little by little, I ran further and my swimming got better. When I eventually crossed the triathlon finish line, I felt a huge sense of achievement - the hours of training and all the hard work had finally paid off.

Pick something challenging but achievable

Choose a challenge that's outside your comfort zone but also be realistic about how much training is involved. There's no point signing up to an Ironman triathlon if you just don't have the time to commit to the hours and hours of training needed each week as you will be setting yourself up for disappointment. Consider your own lifestyle and other commitments, decide what time you will have available to train and choose your challenge accordingly.

Sign up for an event

Having a particular goal to aim for is a great way to focus your mind and stay motivated.  There's nothing quite like the date of an event looming to keep you motivated, whether through excitement or shear panic!

Join a club

It's easy to find reasons not to train, especially if you're mainly training on your own. Maybe it's cold or wet outside, maybe you're feeling a bit tired that day, or maybe there's a bottle of wine with your name on it. Whatever the reason for not wanting to put your trainers on, joining a club can really keep you motivated. It's great sharing your experiences with others and the camaraderie and encouragement you get will spur you on particularly if you're feeling low. Not only that, but you'll probably make a great bunch of friends too!

Get some coaching

In January I signed up for some swimming lessons to improve my front crawl technique. At the time I thought I would probably only do a term of lessons.  Almost a year on and I'm still going! The coaching is hard but fun, I've been pushed far more than I could ever have pushed myself and I have improved enormously in both technique and endurance. I never used to like swimming much when I was younger but I have definitely been converted. 

Enjoy it!

On the day, don't worry about how fast you are or what position you come in. Try to relax, enjoy the event and cross the finish line with a big smile on your face. And don't forget to ask someone to take lots of photos!

Finally, make sure you have another goal in mind

After the initial high of completing the challenge you have worked so hard for and focussed on for so long, it's very likely that your mood will take a nosedive and you will start to feel flat shortly afterwards. This is quite common. The solution is easy - sign up for another event as soon as you can.  This happened to me and that's exactly what I did to banish the post-triathlon blues. Two weeks after my first triathlon I was doing it all over again. And you know what? It worked!

So, if you're thinking of taking on a challenge in 2016, go for it! You won't regret it! Good luck!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Charity triathlon - a big THANK YOU!

A whole week has gone by since my charity triathlon and I still can't quite believe I'm officially a triathlete!

The moment I crossed the finish line is something I will never forget. I heard my name being called out and my finisher's medal was hung around my neck. Then I saw my two children running towards me, grinning from ear to ear, to present me with my "Mummy's First Triathlon" trophy. I think that was what tipped me over the edge and I got a bit emotional at that point. I suppose that's not surprising given the amount of effort I had invested in the challenge and the relief I felt that I had actually completed it.

My first triathlon was the culmination of lots of hard work and training but I couldn't have done it on my own. There are lots of people who helped me along the way and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who supported me or encouraged me in my training. I couldn't have done it without you!

I was overwhelmed by the lovely, positive comments I received over the last few months which really helped spur me on, particularly when my training wasn't quite going to plan. So thank you! I am very lucky to have such amazing family and friends!

I also want to thank everyone who sponsored me. I have tried to thank everyone personally (and if I haven't then I apologise) but I don't even know some people who have donated and some people have donated anonymously. So thank you! With your help I have raised over £840 including Gift Aid which is a massive amount for a small charity such as Pregnancy Sickness Support and so much more than I ever imagined I would raise.

You can read about my motivation for taking on this challenge to raise money for Pregnancy Sickness Support in my guest post on Spewing Mummy's blog here. And if you would still like to sponsor me, it's not too late. My fundraising page is here. Thank you.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Triathlon countdown - Getting my kit off

Now, as well as the obvious challenge of swimming, then cycling, then running one after the other, there is another aspect of my imminent triathlon that has been preying on my mind - the transitions.

The transitions are the bits in between the swim, the cycle and the run when you "transition" from one discipline to the next. Proper triathletes refer to them as the fourth discipline as speed in transition can make all the difference between first and second place.

In my case though, as a complete novice, the sole purpose of the transitions seems to be to add to my worries about what could go wrong on the day. The one that has been causing me the most concern is Transition 1, between the swim and the bike. At this point, I will need to drag myself out of the lake (feeling exhausted and possibly dizzy), run to my bike (remembering where I left it), remove my wetsuit (easier said than done) before putting on my socks, trainers, cycle helmet and finally unracking my bike.

In case you're wondering (and a few people have asked me this) I will be wearing something under my wetsuit! I have a trisuit which is a fetching all-in-one lycra suit a bit like a swimsuit with shorts, a vest-style top and a bit of padding for the bike. It's far too figure-hugging in my opinion and is definitely not the kind of thing I would normally be seen wearing in public but after already posting some fairly unflattering triathlon-related pictures of myself on this blog, I'm beginning to lose my inhibitions ... as well as my dignity!

If you've ever watched the Brownlees in action, you will have seen them emerge from the lake and run to their bikes whilst effortlessly stripping off their wetsuits to their waist. When they reach their bikes, they just slide their legs out of the wetsuit, grab their bikes and off they go. They make it look so easy. In actual fact, triathlon wetsuits are extremely clingy when dry and even worse when wet. Mine is very tight around the wrists and this has been causing me to have cold sweats about getting my arms stuck half in and half out of my wetsuit.

After doing a bit of research, I was pleased to discover that you can buy special lubrication for triathletes to help with wetsuit removal ("suit lube"). So, on Saturday afternoon, with two weeks to go before the big day, the time had come to practise my transitions in our back garden and to put my new suit lube to the test. My children were particularly excited as they had an important role to play in this aspect of my training.

Here's what I did.

1. Got kitted out in full triathlon gear - sports bra, trisuit, wetsuit, swimming hat and goggles, spraying myself with a liberal amount of suit lube on my lower arms and legs. This is not one of my normal Saturday afternoon activities, I hasten to add!

2. Roped in my children to throw water over me and make sure I was completely soaked. They took their challenge very seriously (obviously) and I was indeed soaked. I'm not sure what the neighbours thought about all the shrieks of laughter coming from the other side of the hedge as I endured my own ice bucket challenge!
3. Ran around the garden whilst unzipping the back of my wetsuit with the children shouting encouragement and ... the moment of truth ... pulling the sleeves over my hands. Pop! Left hand out. Pop! Right hand out. To my huge relief the suit lube worked a treat!

4. Ran to my towel, slipped my legs out of my wetsuit, again without any problems (phew!), dried my feet, put on my socks, trainers, sunglasses and helmet and ran down the path to the front of the house to cheers of "Go on Mum!" from the children.

5. Grabbed my bike and cycled off into the distance.

All in all, I was relieved that my first transition practice went to plan and this has helped put my mind at rest. At least I now know that on the day of my triathlon I should have no problem getting my kit off.

I'm raising money for Pregnancy Sickness Support. If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you.