Changes changes changes

As Baby Girl OC has moved into the second 6 months of her first year I cannot believe how quickly she is growing and changing before our eyes. All of sudden I feel I can’t quite keep up! Not just because she’s my little baby that’s turning into a big baby and will soon enough be a toddler, but also because I realise that time has snuck up on me and my postnatal progress too.

There was something that changed on me before I expecting it and that was for bubby to stop breastfeeding. When I had her I had no major expectations around being able to breastfeed her. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and that it was my preference, but I had prepared myself in case the situation should arise where I couldn’t do so. Luckily I got my wish and we settled into breastfeeding just fine.

I had always said if we successfully breastfed that I would do so until she was a year old. At 6 months she had to start daycare and I returned to work a couple of weeks later. My supply had actually dropped a fair amount and so it seemed totally feasible to drop down to morning and possibly evening feeds and the rest of the day she would get formula supplied by her daycare. However, 2 weeks later, not long after her first two teeth came through, she was messing around more than usual on the boob. She didn’t even really feed. A couple of days later I gave up the fight. She hasn’t looked back, she was clearly ready to move on… she’s never once indicated she wanted or needed it since. For a day or so, I felt strange… but I really tried very hard not to let it get to me. I was proud of the 6 months we’d done and happy that she was happy. That was all that mattered.

I didn’t realise quite how deflated my boobs would become once my milk went away though. At first I just figured I was just used to having my pregnant and milk heavy boobs. But no, the continues to deflate like a balloon a week after the party finished. It’s quite sad. I tried on a push up bra and my boobs just kind of wobbled uselessly around in them like some soggy old dishclothes in a washing machine. Ahhh boobs. I miss you.

Yes. Sadly, one of the other things I knew would change was my body, but I wasn’t aware to what extent.

In the third trimester of pregnancy I realised I was getting BIG… and I also had to stop training. I was finding that with long days of work and commuting I was too exhausted to also fit in training. I don’t regret that decision. By the time I was about 35 weeks I was struggling to walk up my driveway (it is really steep) or down the road to the bus stop. But that decision undoubtedly affected my fitness or lack thereof. What also didn’t help was my ‘no food is off limits’  – I guess I felt that after years of watching what I eat, this was my chance to not give a monkeys for a few weeks.

And also, I was like… REALLY hungry.

Although, another reason my body changed is because I chose not to do any running from the minute I found out I was pregnant. I know some people run in pregnancy but I am in my mid-thirties and I had wanted to be pregnant for some time – we weren’t actively trying for more than about three months, but we hadn’t ‘not tried’ for ages prior. I didn’t want to jeopardise anything in those delicate early weeks, and by the time I reached the second trimester I was having huge pain in my hips and pelvis. This passed by the later end of the second trimester but by then I felt too big and it had been many months since my last run. Prior to that I would run 4-5 times a week.

I continued to get a lot of pain from one hip in particular and by the time I had baby girl I knew my body was pretty buggered. I had a good pregnancy, but it definitely took its toll on my body. My legs, which had been like tree trunks for 3-4 months (with massive fluid retention), returned to normal, but I had to get to the physio for my hip and abs (just two fingers of separation which isn’t too bad).

And a big wobbly spare tyre around my waist.

Soooo….

I knew when I returned to training it was not going to be an easy journey.

Moreover, trying to work out when to do things for myself is difficult enough. I run a bookclub and just about manage to read the book each month. I go to bed really early because my days are FULL ON.

You see, I think by the time you reach my age you know who you are and what works for you from a motivational perspective. Or you know what WON’T work anyways. For example, I know that I don’t (ok… rarely ever) turn up to any training that happens in the evening. I HAVE to train in the morning, the minute I get up, before I have the chance to make excuses or get weighed down by all the other things I have to do. What’s more, it totally sets me up for the day. Ok, it also usually means I find it hard to get up and down out of my seat, and/or run for the bus, but MENTALLY speaking… it sorts me the heck out.

So that’s all well and good but I am with my baby girl in the mornings so how do I train? Mr OC goes to work for 6am so I am with her in the morning and he collects her from daycare in the evening. Then once a week I am off work with her, and once a week he is off work with her. So that leaves the weekends and the day he is off spare for me to train. As such… I eventually gave myself a kick up the bum and said to myself – it IS do-able, you CAN fit it in, there ARE options and ways to do these things. You’ve simply got to just bloody do it.

Start. Somewhere.

And this followed weeks of agonising over whether I went to the gym at lunch (tried a weeks’ free trial – hated it. Prefer being outdoors). You see the gym never worked for me on its own as a training mechanisms before so I figured that trying to start something new or that hadn’t worked in the past was possibly the worst way to get back into my fitness regime. I realised I’d have to go back to the thing that worked best, the familiar and successful methods I’d used in the past.

So I contacted my old trainer and she slotted me in and by the end of the week I was doing 2 days a week. This is a great place to start!

And don’t get me wrong. I was nervous heading back. I knew I was out of shape. What I hadn’t anticipated was how uncoordinated I’d be. And how it would take me a few weeks to just remember how some simple moves and postures. Or to understand and follow instructions that previously were like second nature. I felt like a complete fool in the first boxing session I did. It didn’t help that I had to bring Little Miss OC with me to that session as Mr OC works some Saturdays. I kept stuffing up the routines and asking my partner what we were supposed to be doing. And then I would have to break off to get to bubby as she was upset or trying to eat mud or something….

Yep… it hasn’t been easy on my body or my mind but I’m sticking at it. Because every time I see an old pic of myself I don’t see what I looked like as much as someone who was less anxious, more positive – exercise really helps my mind go to a good place. And regular, routine training keeps me in a healthy place physically and mentally.
Before I got quite fit I was often sick with colds. These colds nearly always turned to sinusitis. These bouts all but disappeared for the 3 years prior to having Baby girl. And a decent run of killer sinus trouble – the kind where your head feels like it might pop and your eyes hurt behind the socket… for days on end – really cemented the need to be strong and fit again.

But it’s a journey. It’s not going to be an easy one, and I will stumble my way through it, most likely. What’s more, it’s weird and emotional adjusting to a different body and a different mind with which to achieve the things I want. But I have goals and I am lining up to kick them and it all feels pretty darn nice.

Now follows some motivational pictures of me when I used to run a lot. Haha!

What changes did you find hard as you approached the end of your first year after pregnancy?

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Hello third trimester!

I was thinking that because today is the 22nd I am 6 months pregnant today because I have precisely 3 more months til my due date. But of course, gestationally speaking I hit that mark a week or so ago.

 

I’ve known that I am pregnant for 23 weeks today.

I have precisely 3 months until my due date.

I am 27 weeks pregnant today.

It’s officially 5 months plus since I had a drop of alcohol… or any camembert… or sushi. Sigh.

(I still love you red wine.)

Today, I hit my final trimester – 2 down, 1 to go.

IMG_1705 (1)
A couple of weeks back when I would have been around 6 months, on our wedding anniversary.

Today I had my best ever training session since becoming pregnant and it felt good! I am a bit tired physically, but my mind is in a really great place, and I feel stronger from the inside out. This is why I train.

I am very motivated to try and keep up what I can, as long as I can, without risk to myself or the baby, because I know it’s better for my mind and my body – both now, in labour, and afterwards.

And it sure beats walking around feeling like a heffalump with early onset athritis.

I also enjoyed an awesome boogie around my bathroom this week. Thanks to Buddy Holly.

YAY!

Third trimester – I’m coming for you. We got this Jellybean.

 

6 months. 6 things that happened!

Well, I haven’t been around much these past 12 months have I? And even less so in the last six where I have managed one blog… and that’ll be six months ago in a couple of weeks!

So, here’s what I’ve been up to and why I’ve been a bit preoccupied. I’m summarising in six  – one for each month!

1. I’m a Tough Mudder!! 
OK so technically this was more than six months ago but it was one of the major things that has happened in my life since my blog-posting has been slack. I’ve been trying to do Mudder for a couple of years and in 2014 I made it there, made it round the 19km course (in a tutu, I might add) and back home in one (albeit dishevelled) piece.

mudder mudder2

For those who are thinking of doing it my words of advice are – this event is totally about teammateship and camaraderie. Your focus shouldn’t really be about individual achievement although you will achieve a great deal just by making it around the course.
Secondly, work on your abs and your arms. I am not naturally strong in my upper body – my legs can go for days but ask me to jump over water and grab a rope net is a near impossibility for me. And climbing high walls and fences? HARD. Many I couldn’t have done without my teammates pushing and pulling  my body (and probably cursing me) until I damn well made it over that fence/wall/log/slippery mud hill.
Also, keep moving. Especially, if like me, you get cold quickly. You are in and out of water a lot and if you don’t keep moving you cool down FAST! This is most true when you jump into a skip of iced water. Your body literally starts to freeze. Move your butt before it can.
And finally, enjoy it – have fun, get muddy, wear clothes you’re going to throw away and just immerse yourself in the pure craziness the best you can. It’s an amazing experience. I was really bruised and battered by the end as I chose to wear shorts because I hate getting too hot (ha! and ended up cold!), plus I pulled my abs REALLY badly trying to get over a huge fence, but I healed and I was fine.

2. Planning, plotting, crafting and creating. 
There is so much to tell you all about the invitations, order of services, readings, table names, itineraries, accommodation guide, flowers, decorations and so much more. Without sounding like I’m blowing my own trumpet I worked my butt off for this wedding and had some amazing help from some very good friends and my family to pull it off. When people say it could be a full time job planning your wedding they’re not kidding. And it was my desire to create a wedding unique to us and with lots of personal touches that hinted towards who we are as a couple. I hope to blog about some of the DIY wedding planning I did as hopefully they’ll be useful to other people too- or maybe even inspirational. I have many hints and tips and even some templates that could be put to use!

medley medley-decor

3. New home bliss!
Just before Christmas we finalised on our new home and moved in. To follow we had our first “just us” Christmas – cooked a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and didn’t have to go anywhere except just lazing around looking around at this new apartment that was all ours. It was great. We were going to head down to the beach in the afternoon but being that it was the first Christmas dinner we’ve cooked together we overshot the timing a little and by the time we had cleared up a storm had blown in! Typical. But it was my favourite Christmas in many years – minimal expectations  and just good old-fashioned quality time at home.

house christmas

4. My first ever broken bone!
OK, so if we’re being picky it was actually just fractured, but still… It was just nine weeks out from the wedding when I decided to smash my little pinky toe… and the one next to it. I was training a lot (obviously – for OWD – Operation Wedding Dress) and all of a sudden I couldn’t run, barely walk (for week or two), couldn’t lunge or jump, couldn’t do sand sprints, couldn’t do burpees… argh! But I kept going to training and did a lot of push-ups, squats, wall sits and boxing! At the end of the day at least I knew I was increasing my upper-body strength finally.

It wasn’t even like I had a good story of how I came to break it. I just stubbed my toe on the dining table. FML. Still it healed, and I felt special having my first broken bone… and it still twinges when it’s cold just to remind me my toe is there, and that it definitely happened. Check out the bruising…

broken toe

5. Lots of family time
Two major things have happened in Mr OC’s family in this time period. One very happy and one extremely sad. The sad event was that just six weeks before the wedding Mr OC’s dad passed away very suddenly. Mr OC is still reeling from this as one might imagine, and so are his mum, siblings, and the rest of the whanau. It’s been a very emotional time and nothing can alter the fact that he wasn’t able to be with us on his son’s wedding day. But on the day we certainly felt his spirit. Mr OC Senior was a family man above all – every thing he did was for family. He worked crazy hours and put his family first at all times. He loved his multitude of grandchildren and he lived for his children. In many things (my) Mr OC does in his life he tries to be like his dad and while we remembered Mr OC Senior thoughout the whole special day, it was a joyous day, and it was all about that thing that he loved so much…. family. All we wanted for our day was to feel the love bouncing around the room, and between us and our wedding guests there was a buzz that is indescribable. Such love, such unity, such happiness. He was indeed with us that day… in our hearts.

Then, the happy event occurred after the wedding, when Mr OC’s daughter (who was one of my beautiful bridesmaids) decided to stay on with us and not return to NZ after the wedding. So we now have a little family! And whilst I think there might be some blogs coming on the challenges of teens and trying to understand the mindset of a 15 year old, we are so overjoyed that she is with us… of course. And what a brave thing to do – all credit to her for leaving a place and friends she has known all her life, let alone parting from her mum and other siblings. Not easy. Very brave. I hope we all do our best and make it 100% worth it.

In the weeks surrounding the wedding we had all our immediate family as well as very best friends with us. My maid of honour is my virtual sister, my soul mate, my twin, my polar opposite, my friend of 20+ years  and she flew from the UK to be with us. It can only be described as amazing, Truly amazing. For the first time since I moved to Australia, everyone I hold dear was by my side, just round the corner, coming over for a cuppa, meeting up for picnics and breakfast…  or just in the same time zone to have a chat with. It was incredible and so, so brilliant. And to top it off, my beloved 19-year-old nephew was so taken with Oz that he has already booked his flights back out here for later this year! I couldn’t be more excited to have family here. We’ve gone from just us, to us three, and now we’ll have more additional family around too.

Steve gathering
NZ whanau together celebrating Mr OC’s dad’s life.
Rehearsal dinner

Rehearsal dinner - other
Rehearsal dinner – all those we hold dear
 

6.  Gettin’ hitched!
And yes, of course, if you hadn’t gathered by now, two plus years in the planning and Mr OC and I finally tied the knot in what can only be described as the most wondrous, most amazing, most love-filled and happy day of my existence. And I hope his. So, yes, I am no officially MRS OC – how funny!

Kiss at altar Walking the aisle

So I’ll be back very soon with some wedding diy hints and tips and insights, and also with some other interesting delving into the depths of my mind! Catch you back here then.

Dedicating this post to the wonderful memory of Steve O'Callaghan. 10 4. xxx
Dedicating this post to the wonderful memory of Steve O’Callaghan. 10 4. xxx

Running Again – For a Charity Close to My Heart

I indulged over Christmas there is no doubt. Lose your routine, undergo stress and temptation all around and that’s what happens. With the move before Christmas, a week in NZ over Christmas I was not watching what I ate like I would normally do and I was enjoying sweet treats and drinks galore. So my first run post-Christmas was not great. I went out for few runs – inspired by having my new Polar FT7 watch  – and gradually I’ve stepped it up again.

I was totally surprised that at fitness tests this week at boot camp I managed to shave another second off my sprint. So I can’t be doing too bad. And to get myself motivated I’ve signed up for a little fun run that I did a few years back when I really didn’t run at all  – like really. So no excuses.

This run also gives me a chance to potentially raise some dollars for a charity I donate to regularly and am proud to be running for – the Animal Welfare League

We adopted our little monkey Beau as a kitten from AWL and he is the light of our life. He is not my first rescue cat but since then I have got more involved in animal rescue and truly now see how many terrible things happen to the pets people are supposed to love. And it’s happening every hour of every day. Even when they just give up on them and want a new toy and send their family member off to the pound where in 7-14 days that animal will likely be euthanised.

Many people run animal rescue in their own backyard and from their own money and kind heart. Animal Welfare League is a more developed rescue and a great charity and certainly no less deserving. Money raised feeds animals and gives them vet care where they would otherwise stay their last short days in a pound before being put to sleep. It also gets animals away from being unknowingly sold as live bait and keeps our fur babies neutered in the hope we reduce the number left to be neglected.

You can donate if you would like to. Thank you so much.

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My baby boy Jasper RIP - he has green on his nose in this pic!
My baby boy Jasper RIP – he has green on his nose in this pic!

100km Walk Diary Entry 3: Finally the full story

mind over matter

mind over matter

I’ve been trying to write this blog since two weeks ago on Monday (and I eventually started it last Tuesday). I originally failed on two accounts – one that I was stupid busy the first week after the walk (and also tired!) and the second reason being that I don’t quite know where to start. I don’t know how to pen all the emotions before, during and after the 100km Walk for Hunger and give it due credit.

But I shall try. Here goes.

My plan had been to blog along the route as much as possible but I found that when I got to each pit stop I was limited on time even when we had a decent stop. It was essential I had a good stretch, topped up sunscreen, peed, filled up my camelback and ate. Thank goodness for pit crew I managed to get this done before we headed off again! But more on all that in a bit. The long and short of it is, it didn’t happen. So here is the story.

Trying to get some rest beforehand

This was before the walk of course but it is so relevant because it did affect how some of the walk unfolded. So, here in Sydney we’ve had a relatively mild winter and an even milder start to spring. So mild that by mid September bushfires were starting to burn in high winds and dried out conditions. And then the week before our walk it really kicked off with a huge bushfire out of control and (still burning earlier this week) in the Blue Mountains and out west in Penrith. This is my first experience of epic bushfires.

When my friend from work and I left at lunchtime to get some sleep before heading to the starting line for 11.30pm, we headed to the mall for lunch and to get some last minute bits and pieces. It was scorching. Especially for said friend as she was up from Melbourne. We headed back to mine where she was staying in our spare room, got our kit bags ready and headed off to our beds about 3pm hoping to get some much needed rest. As I drew the curtains to shut out the light I realised I could smell a bonfire smell. I lay to go to sleep but the smell kept getting stronger. I must’ve dozed off but about 5ish I woke up as the smell was very strong and there was a strange light leaking into the room.  I looked out the window and there was the eeriest orange haze all around. I then picked up my phone, as one does now to find out what’s going on in the outside world, right? Sure enough everyone was posting pictures on Twitter and Facebook, of Sydney in a smog of smoke so dense that Bureau of Meteorology weather radar was showing it as rain on the satellite images. CRAZY! It occurred to me that I had the windows and balcony door open for air and the smoke though not bad might affect our cat so I got fully up (having previously just been stumbling around my room) and went to observe the scene a little better from the balcony and then to close the door. By this time, I was awake so I put on the Sky News and watched that. The end result was that when I tried to get back to sleep a little later it just wouldn’t happen. I had missed my window (an extended siesta) and now I was tired… already.

The other significance of the bushfires, other than the smoke travelling for absolute miles (at least 70km to get to us) was that if the weather didn’t do as it said it was going to, and bring a southerly and cool change, then we’d be facing the prospect of part of our walk being cut off, at least from a safety perspective even if there was no actual blaze.

At the start line

In the car on the way over I tried to get myself psyched up, get excited but I just felt… tired. And when I’m tired I’m grumpy about being tired and worrying about when I’m going to next get sleep. I had a sharp word with myself. Get over it – you’ve had plenty of sleep in recent days and you’re doing a once a lifetime thing. So you’re tired? So are the malnourished kids and their mothers in Uganda.

It worked.

After a few speeches, hugs and photos… a last minute dash to the toilet (having consumed litres upon litres of water in the last 24 hours in preparation, I’d spent much of my time on the toilet in the last day!!)… we were finally off, waving goodbye to our friends and family as we greeted the 18th October and the first metres of our 100km walk.

The first 23.5

This was the longest stretch and a part I was least looking forward to as a lot of it was road/pavement – walking through Sydney airport and quite urban. However, it kind of flew by – it was a five hour stretch and we were early to the pit stop. The only downside was that when we’d set off it had still been quite warm, yet by the time I stopped walking I realised I was cold. And I’d got to the pit stop before Mr OC had made it there with spare clothes and we’d all got there before the egg and bacon sarnies were cooked by our wonderful pit crew. I just hovered around the bbq and waited for my spare clothes to arrive when I promptly put on some track pants over my tights and vest over my coat and jumper! The southerly that had come in was creating a bit of a chill.

How was everyone faring?

Some, sadly, were already complaining of blisters and sore feet from shoes that for whatever reason were just not agreeing with their feet. Never had I been so glad of my excellent find for my feet – my Salomon trail shoes and also my On Cloud runners which I used for this first part as it was all pavement. It seemed such a shame that some were already experiencing problems. Even my walking buddy who ALWAYS suffers from blisters  was so far going well, although she did try the toe separating silicon tubes but they got abandoned in a later section. However, another of the girls on the walk was finding the silicon toe tube things to be her saving grace. For me, it was the addition of another pair of socks over my toe socks that created the magic. The toe socks themselves were fantastic – allowing my toes space and no rubbing. But the extra pair of normal socks on the top just gave me excellent cushioning as everything started to hurt!

Making our way to the ferry

The next section required us making it to a ferry that only ran every hour, and having over run on time at the pit stop a little we were just heading for a later one than planned. The extra time although it set us back a little on schedule actually meant that we had some lovely time on the peaceful ferry dock at Cronulla to stretch out, rest our feet and then on the ferry it was the same – in fact I think I may have even dozed off for a minute! It was, by this time, heading towards 9am and we’d soon be heading into the Royal National Park. So by the time we docked in Bundeena, a sleepy little town in the middle of the National Park, I was feeling in great spirits.

Getting into the swing of things

It was interesting that by this second stop our pit crew were definitely getting into the swing of things. Our personal helpers – Mr OC and a friend from work – were grabbing our camelbaks, filling them up and making us food as we arrived. Also, Mr OC was getting asked to help out with bandaging those whose feet (at roughly 35km) were already really sore. And I can vouch for him. He’s bandaged me up before and even if he wasn’t a first aider (which he is) he’s a dab hand with a plaster (band-aid), some dressings and a role of strapping! Bless.

At each stop you’d see foam rollers being lain on, everyone was making the most of recuperating and getting big hugs and smiles as loved ones were greeted. I think everyone, even those in pain would leave feeling replenished. Pit stops work!! Well, at this stage anyway!

Time to go wild

As I said, I was looking forward to being in the park. Having done this walk already I a) knew what to expect and how to prepare myself and b) I loved the scenery and the energy of the ocean. The sun had been up for a few hours and life was good! However, it was in this stretch we began to really split up as a group. We were 15 in number when we started and as a small group we were not going to divide into teams. We had a rule that no one should be on their own in the National Park if they do not know the route, and that we should try to stick together. The faster of us kept stopping at first but then it became clear that there was a group who seemed to enjoy a slightly slower pace and were happy to walk with those who were having trouble and that there was a group who had a need/desire to stride on together. I think too, in my opinion, if there is a group pushing ahead it keeps the momentum. The main thing is that no one is left behind.

So we were in two groups. The scenery did not disappoint, and my friend who had yet to have seen the park was enjoying it, which was great to see. We had fun taking some photos and moaned about steps downward (these seemed to cause a lot of pain for the vast majority – they weren’t comfortable for me but they weren’t terrible either. I was just lucky I guess?). We pulled up at the halfway mark in the heat of the midday sun and then things started to change a little.

Pit stop replenishment

It would be safe to say as the first person to walk into this pit stop that I was feeling good. I had three things I wanted to get done in this break – sunscreen total coverage (felt like I was beginning to burn), eat big (was super hungry and I could feel I was going to need to build up my sustenance for the second half), and cool down. There is nothing better than having someone (who you don’t mind touching you) make sure every inch of every limb, and all exposed areas of your skin are covered in sun lotion. I am not very flexible and left to do it myself I’ll always miss a patch and get burnt! Mr OC does this job excellently too! Bless him – so useful. Plus he scored more brownie points for making me the most excellent chicken wrap, which I scoffed down! Next up, having got changed into my shorts, I went and put my feet in the beautifully cold trickling waterfall that goes down to the secluded beach at Wattamolla. I can highly recommend this to anyone doing this kind of event as it just reduces swelling which causes discomfort of course, but it also just stops your feet feeling like they’re burning too.

Some fond farewells

Unfortunately, it was also at this halfway point that we lost a few of team – almost all of them to blisters/sore feet they couldn’t go on on. I think we lost three or four people. Most people, even with a few aches were still feeling good, and after another good stop (again longer than planned) we were ready to battle on for the second of three parts of the national park. However, if I could say there was a pit stop at which I remember being the last fully ‘happy’ one – it would be this one. Looking back, it was clear that like so many people who’ve done 100km walk before had warned us, that you feel pretty good up to 50km as most people have practised walking to around this distance in training. And that’s certainly true. After that, time starts ticking on… and things start to get, well, interesting…

Feeling icky

The thing I remember most about this section is that it isn’t one I love and there are two reasons for that – the first is that there are large sections that require walking over grating – you might know what I mean by this, but if you don’t then it’s the kind of thing they put down at a raised level so that you are not walking through dense bush, or in boggy sections. It is like walking on a giant cooling rack. For some reason, and having asked around, no one else suffered from this so it was a bit weird, every time I’ve walked on it in these longer walks it sends small shocks up my shins, what I imagine shin splints must feel a little like. It is ok if there are small sections but in the places where we’d be walking on the grating for more than, say, ten minutes then I would notice it start up. And then the other bad thing about this section is there is a massive amount of steps down to get down to Garie Beach – tired legs and those who find downhill and down stairs painful suffer on this section, so a fair bit of moaning starts up. It can be hard not succumb to the negativity yourself.

Finally, when you walk almost the length of the big, barren beach you turn into the next stop and relief takes over. But then you also realise it’s getting cold and time has once again skipped on – it was at this point that I felt like we were racing the clock. Not like we had to be anywhere by a certain time, but the plan had been to be out of the park by dark (for safety reasons)  but now we would be racing the darkness. But also, the longer we were walking, the longer it is since we last slept.

However, as much as I was keen to hurry on, I was also so keen to cling to the things I could do at those pit stops – on this particular one out of nowhere, our lovely friend in our pit crew gave us toothbrushes and flannels and soap! WOW – what a legend she is! Such luxuries… I kid you not, we hurried off to the beach toilets and whilst there was no time shower, it was so nice to have a clean face and mouth and spray some deodorant. At this stop, I noticed too that I sat down a lot more – in fact I barely got up out of my folding chair for the duration, thanks to our excellent two pit crew. I also put my leggings back on at this point because it was getting decidedly nippy! I think we may have lost another walker at this stop, but I’m not sure as I’m a little fuzzy.

Getting a little crazy

The next stretch was fairly long but I was able to put out of my head that which I felt was sneaking up behind me, which was ‘I’m over this and it’s getting too much’. This was the last section of the park and has a couple of big climbs in it. With the climbs behind us, it was just a case of slogging out the remaining distance and… well, turning to silliness to get us through! And so it was that we seemed to all start getting a bit giggly – once something started us off we’d be giggling for five or ten minutes. One such point stands out when myself and two other of my chums decided we needed to pee.

Now, I’ve never been one for giving a monkeys about peeing out in the open and if you walk a walk like this you can’t be too bothered. You’re keeping very well hydrated, and although the peeing slows down (due to liquid replacement kicking in) it still occurs at random, frequent moments and so you just look out for a semi-private place to drop your undies and hope you don’t get caught in a cross-wind. So, we’re walking down a wide, rugged trail and on either side is dense thick bush and tall trees. We’re completely under cover but there is no just running into the brush and undergrowth as it’s untouched and no doubt there are heaps of snakes, spiders and jumping jacks or bull ants. Trust me. The thought of you getting your privates out in front of your walking buddies is far superior to the idea of getting bitten by a red back.

So the three of us just laugh and say ‘no peeking’, and squat on the side of the trail as everyone else heads off around the bend (having been told not to look back under any circumstances) as we are all there squatting we look up and laugh at us in a little triangle (two on one side of the trail and one on the other) all having a giant wee! And, although absolutely hilarious and a once in a lifetime moment of silliness, it was somehow bonding! You may laugh… but maybe you should not until you’ve walked in our shoes! Laugh with us though – we were in absolute stitches strolling on for the next kilometre… so it definitely cheered us along our way for a while longer.

Darkness sets in

As we arrived at our next pit stop a few hours behind schedule now, all the walkers were pretty quiet – the delirium had slipped from sugar high to an ebb of very low energy. The pit crew in their awesomeness applauded us as we’ll exited the National Park at Otford Lookout and stopped to rest our weary bones. It was pretty much on darkness and the moon had been up for a little while. I was exhausted and unable to form sentences. I slumped in my seat and my honey made me an awesome cup of hot, hot, hot tea. It was fantastic.  I rugged up in my vest and gloves, donned my ear warmer band and tried to psyche myself up for what was ahead – a night of darkness, and a lot of road. There was some banana bread handed around and we all filled up our packs with some sugar snacks for the last 30km. We had just one more pit stop to go and we were about to head back onto the road that would get us there.

The longest walk of my life

When we started out on this section we had to form a single file, bunched together group of walkers because we were walking along a main road that wound down hill, on a narrow road and with no foot path. We were being guarded by a truck at the front and a Ute at the back of our line of walkers, until we got back to a section with pathway. I remember we were all cold too and we set out at a really fast pace. All of a sudden having slogged it out we were at the pathway and someone said we’d hammered out 5km! Wow. I couldn’t quite believe it. So we were all in high spirits and after most had had another pee (!) we were off again. Not far to go til the next pit stop.

So we thought.

If I could describe this section in one word it would only JUST be an exaggeration to say ‘torture’. Did you know that a form of torture used (and apparently one of the best) is forcing people to stay awake? Well, it is. And it works. By this point we knew we had all been walking for what would likely be around 24 hours by the time we reached the next pit stop, and besides a nanna nap before the walk or not, this meant we’d all been awake for a good day and a half. Thus, your coping mechanisms you usually rely on are beginning to slip – tolerance is going out the window and your body is beginning to manage your physical needs over and above your mind’s trickery.

When I’m at boot camp and my arms or legs start to burn and I think I’m going to drop my mind says ‘no you’re not, you’re fine, you’ve done this before and you can do it again’ or ‘no you’re not dropping, you don’t need to drop, you can do this’. And it’s great. Isn’t the mind wonderful?! If there is one major thing this 100km walk taught me it is that your mind really can go to places it’s not been before or it can seem to disappear on you altogether so you’re just a kind of meandering, bundle of bones with some kind of vague purpose you know you set out for.

And this wasn’t the weirdest it got.

So, at this point, the problem really was that we just weren’t striking through the distance like we had been. It was taking us so much longer to reach our destination and we just couldn’t seem to get our head around it. We were walking around a giant, beautiful bridge that has been built into the cliffs and holds the road as it winds around the coastline.  And it was stunning even in the dark – looking out to the water with the moonlight glimmering softly and serenely, trying to grant us some peace, while the grandeur of the majestic cliffs gave a beautiful and ominous backdrop to the scene.

But the road just seemed to keep going, and going, and going. It wasn’t a boring route – pretty townships, glimpses of the ocean… and then we’d come to a beach and because were heading for Thirroul Beach we would be thinking ‘Oh are we finally here?’ and this happened twice, three, four maybe even five times… it just felt like it was never coming. This stretch was 18km, which was quite a long stretch and at that stage of the walk with how tired we were it was a mental game just tell yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. No one in the group I had fallen in with was talking by the last few kms. Even when the police pulled up beside us and asked us what we were doing I just felt like ‘meh, go away, I need to just get to the next pit stop’ – normally the police pulling up would make me feel alert and slightly on edge.

Can’t go on

As I walked into the pit stop at Thirroul Beach I was looking at the pit crew and thinking to myself – I hope my body language and face convey how we’re feeling because I don’t have the words and I certainly don’t have the energy to pretend I’m feeling good right now. For the last hour of walking one of the main things that had been going round my head was how on earth was I going to get through the final 12km when I felt like I’d given everything I had to get through this one. As I sat down, my team pit crew handed me a hot soup, covered me in blankets, gave me a hand warmer and brought me more levels of comfort than I thought was possible and I tried to just focus on the moment and the feeling better, and not the task ahead.

As more people started to arrive at the pit stop I was beginning to liven up. Mr OC rubbed a bit of cramp out of my foot. Somehow the soup he’d given me had worked – it felt like I was superhero (ha!) in a video game who was running low on energy and had found a magic booster that had filled me up – I felt like I could physically feel the soup topping up my energy levels.

But while I was beginning to perk up there were other people who were not. A couple more dropped out simply from just being mentally done with it. I felt really bad for them – and tried to speak words of encouragement, but my words felt useless. I knew that the bad side of the mental game had won out as it had so nearly done with me and that if they said they were done, it wasn’t a lightly made decision so that was that.

The silent assassin

As we headed out on our last 12km I felt slightly heavyhearted that we’d lost two more of our team. But I knew I had to push on and push on as quickly as I could manage. However, the other part of me wanted to be part of the few of us who were left – we were now down to eight of us, and we’d all been through this together. We all said we were going to try and walk together and one of the girls who organised the walk, her dad was walking the last stretch with us. It was really touching and meant a lot for him to do that.

For the first 5kms I walked with everyone and then I started struggling when our first aider/safety guy pulled up and said we had 7km to go. It was meant to be a positive tip but it wasn’t. It was too far. I tried to keep stopping and holding back, but my brain was saying to me ‘you can’t do this’ and the only way it stopped saying that was when I was just pounding the ground as fast as my feet could manage. It’s a bit like when I’m running and my mind says I can’t do it, the best way for me keep going is by having people running in front of me – if there are always people to pass I will keep trying to pass them. If I stop, if I look back I don’t have the same incentive. I need to just know I’m ticking off the people, and this case I needed to know I was just scrubbing out the miles, as quickly as I could.

One of the other guys broke out and started striding off. I watched him go and after a few minutes I made the decision to go too –we were all spanning out again. If I didn’t just get it done, I didn’t honestly think I would make it. I felt broken and overwhelmed with it all. I couldn’t have a moral battle with myself on top of everything else.

So I walked, and walked and walked and walked. At the 7km to go mark we had hit a road that was a straight run all the way to the finish line: one road, fairly straight and getting more and more urbanised. It was a wide road with tree set back from the carriageway and nothing much else to look at – just road, and more road… and even more road. It was relentless, it was dark and it was quiet – it was about 2 or 3 in the morning.

I remember walking along and realising I was completely alone and that all I wanted was to be at the finish line with my baby… that all I wanted was a cuddle. I didn’t feel anything ABOUT anything if that makes sense. I just felt despair.

When I tried to explain this feeling to my colleague at work, he compared the mental drain to a silent assassin – that it sneaks up on you out of nowhere and grabs you and there is nothing you can do about it, you cannot even try to plan for it. This is such a great description and what is more, that sleep deprivation we were talking about earlier? That form of torture? Well that is at its strongest. I was walking along feeling nauseous and trying to keep my head up because if I looked down I would start falling asleep. No word of a lie, even with my head up sometimes I just lost focus and my head started to roll. So then I would jog for a minute. Then stop and walk again, afraid I would knacker myself out before I got there.

All this, and then out of nowhere I felt buckets of emotion welling up in me. Somehow I was walking along down this main road, in the early hours of this Saturday morning crying my eyes out. And I didn’t care. I felt drunk. And then I’d shake it off. And then I’d go round in a circle with it again.

One thing I had been doing on and off, every few hours, was just switching the data onto my phone and looking at Facebook, or checking my text messages. I had deliberately saved my battery for if I needed music or in an emergency, but in the end I needed neither of these and it was the words of encouragement of friends and family both on the same land as me, and in far off places, who were able to provide me what I needed through that oh-so-important little electronic device. And I was so grateful to each and every person who said something, or posted something for me, or sent me a message. It kept me going in ways they might never understand.

It got so strange, I even started seeing things a bit – just people I thought were in front of me way off that weren’t but my long sightedness is not great anyway, and when I’m tired it’s hard to focus. Eventually however, I realised I could see someone and a path coming off the footpath to the left about 200 metres away. Did I dare to think it might be there – the finish line? I did, but I tried to shove the thought out my head, I didn’t think I’d have the capacity to deal with it if it turned out not to be, or if I turned the corner and had another kilometre to walk.

What it was like to finish

But as I neared this guy, one of our lovely pit crew, he put his arms out and we turned off the road and into a park. He walked me through some trees, all the way supporting me, side by side. I couldn’t really see now because ahead at the finish line, where they’d set up a big camp there was a blinding light and my eyes weren’t managing to make anything out.

And then all of a sudden Mr OC was there! But it felt all wrong. The guy who’d gone ahead of me, I suddenly realised, was on a bench, waiting for his other half and the rest of the group to cross the finish line. So I sat down on the bench and also started waiting… and waiting. I didn’t want to cross the finish line alone but I was freezing and all I wanted to do was KNOW that I’d finished so I could just switch off. So I could just hug Mr OC and let it all wash over me.

My cousin arrived then, and one or two others. My cousin too was cold, and in need of blankets and just to finish, so we decided to go over the finish line the two of us together and then come back those last few steps and walk over with the guys when they all arrived – news had been brought that they were battling on but still about ten minutes away. At that point, ten minutes was a very long time. So she and I walked over the finish line together. I don’t remember feeling happy or elated. I remember just needing comfort so badly. I grabbed my man and felt warmth at the same time as volcano of emotion erupted from the pit of my stomach into my throat and just left me sobbing my heart out. It was the strangest kind of emotion I’ve ever experienced. I don’t know what I’d have done if I didn’t have a loved one there.

And then the coldness kicked in. We sat down, and, I think in all four blankets were wrapped around me by kind and lovely people before I stopped shivering. I had a tea and a snag (sausage sandwich) and that warmed me up a bit. But all the while I just kept weeping. I looked over at my cousin. She was the same.

After we’d all crossed the finish line a few people had a beer. This had been my original plan. But now I was done. I wanted to get to bed before the sun showed its head again. The thought of greeting the sun for a third time with no sleep in between was a bad one. It was too much.

Letting it all soak in

Normally when you accomplish something amazing or life-changing you feel the elation immediately. Well, at least that’s the case in my previous experiences. This time it took a while, it crept up on my and then burst into life unstoppably. When we got back to the hotel and went to bed that night, I felt that nice sense of contentment – I was going to rest, I had my baby by my side. I’d done it. I had phoned my mum back in England as we drove to the hotel room and her voice was full of emotion. I just felt drunk… talking to her incoherently, but her emotion still got through my exhaustion and struck a note that rings out even now. Her pride, across the oceans and many miles, started to bring it home.

In the morning (well, later in the morning) when I woke up, I wasn’t too sore, I was a little jaded and I knew later I was going to be exhausted again. But I felt great. The sun was shining – the world was fabulous and I had DONE it.

But it was still a modest sense of ‘I’d done it’ – I’d always meant to do it, and not just, that but seven other people had done it. 20 or so other people had helped us get there – without the pit crew and walkers who didn’t get the walk done supporting us we’d have never made it. Not in a million years. It would have been impossible. Or so I believe.

But as we all said see ya to everyone later that day, after lazy brunches, some of us getting amazing massages (best plan ever) and tearful goodbyes, we limped our way out of there and drove home where I couldn’t wait to see my cat! And then from, the safety of the couch with a nice celebratory glass of fizz and a chinese, the outpouring of emotion began… in all places, on Facebook. Everyone was saying how amazing they felt, how awesome the pit crew were, how incredible it was to go through such a gut-wrenching journey with 14 other companions and how fantastic the support had been from everywhere. And that was when it all started to sink in.

Mr OC told me he was proud of me when we got back to our apartment. And that meant so, so much. He doesn’t say things like that often but that makes them mean so much when he does. I felt it in his support throughout and in his comfort at the finish line, but I won’t lie, I needed to hear it. And I allowed myself briefly to think I deserved it.

Making a difference

Over the coming days I told people bits of the story and everyone congratulated me. Some were in wonder at how we’d finished. But I don’t think it’s THAT amazing. It’s amazing and it was lifetime achievement. But, in the back of my mind there is the knowledge that other people do harder things all the time, some of them every day. I’m not a hero. But two people who are, are my cousin and her best friend who will be taking that money to Uganda at the end of this week, and once there, giving it to the people in need. These are the people who struggle not just two days in their lives, to reach a 100km finish line of a walk they chose to do. These people struggle to just stay alive and keep their children alive… Every. Single. Day. They walk to get water, not because they choose to, but because they HAVE to or they will die.

All in all, nearly $55,000 has been raised by the Sth Syd 2 Sth Coast Walk for Hunger 2013, proudly supported by The Hunger Project Australia. To everyone, every single person who has supported us in some way – thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

A selection of the pictures – click on image to see it BIG!

100km Walk for Hunger Diary Entry 1: Final Prep Day

So, the day is here. Tonight we head over to the start line to begin the challenge of a lifetime at 12.01am and walk 100km to help end world hunger.

swisse_chlorophyll_500ml2

Felt good and well rested when I woke up this morning. I went to bed tired after a day’s work, an osteo appointment that worked some magic, and then a meeting over pub dinner with my team!

This morning I got up and reached for my magic potion – Clorophyll. If you don’t take this stuff or know the benefits – get into it. It’s a great body cleanser. I personally choose Swisse and I currently have the spearmint flavour but I like the Berry flavoured one too. Some people don’t. You can put it in your drinking water, or you can drink a tablespoon straight. I do the latter. But you should always have it before you eat anything else first thing in the morning.

clorophyll

Then I had a really good stretch. Ever since I had trouble with my hips I have a) sworn by seeing a good Osteopath and b) made sure I am stretching heaps even on the days I’m not training. This morning I did some Sun Salutations, a bit of work with my foam roller and this great sequence of hip stretches.

hipstretchCurrently at my desk getting some work done, but soon I’ll be heading home for sleep. Think of us, give us shout outs along the way and if you want to donate… please do. Thank you!!

It’s Nearly Time! We’ll be heading to the start line TOMORROW!

readytowalkWell, tonight is the last night of full sleep. After work, my teammate (a friend from work), and our two pit crew (Mr OC and another friend from work) are getting together for dinner to check we have all our ducks in a row.

My kit bag is packed, my overnight bag for when we get to the other end (Wollongong) is mostly packed. We’ve booked in Mr OC’s bro to feed the animals in our absence.

All that’s left to do is do a food shop for what we need, plus the all important beers for the finish line and then load the car up.

Then… sleep!

The weather is looking relatively cool (considering it’s 28 the high today and 31 tomorrow – and last week it reached mid 30s)!
weather-walk

And we’ve smashed our donation target – this is just for online donations. I have to go to the bank with the hundreds we’ve raised offline too! It makes it all worthwhile.

donations

Stay tuned… if I have enough opportunities to charge my phone battery at pit stops I am going to try to blog along the way.

100km here I come!

Easy Peasy One Day Juice Detox

My eating habits are by no means perfect and sometimes I get myself into a chocolate fixation mode – where I buy or eat chocolate and then crave more and keep buying it for a week or two. Trouble is, once I’ve got it in my possession I cannot stop thinking about it – usually those Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations. And then that’s it. I could eat healthy all day and after dinner I head straight to chocolate and break off several squares… and sometimes, depending on how ‘hungry’ a day it is, I’ll be back for more.

These phases drive me mad – sugar is addictive and never was there more evidence of that than in those moments. If you can just surpass that craving then you’d never get into the sticky… gooey, milky, chocolatey mess in the first place. But, I’m also a firm believer that in general, especially if you are around or near your goal weight, that those times of treating yourself should happen. Never make yourself miserable. Overall eating heathily will always make you feel way better than not, so there is no point upsetting that balance and making yourself sad because you NEVER have a moment of indulgence. Give in, on the odd occasion, you deserve it.

However, the fixation mode I mentioned above is not moderation and it’s not going to help me get or maintain toned abs! Following a heap of training for the 100km walk, and carb loading, plus a minor chocolate fixation mode I realised in panic I was attending a wedding in a few days. I had a dress I’d been really hoping to fit into and I wasn’t convinced with recent behaviour this would happen. I had a back up choice I liked as much but for a goal it was nice to stick to attempting for the other dress.

So I decided it was time to step up the detox and squeeze it into a one dayer that went as follows.

One Day Juice Cleanse

Happy Fruit

The rule was – no solids, liquids only. The key was balancing out fruit and veg (fruit has heaps of sugar so needs to be had in moderation… for me with my sweet tooth it’s always a fave) and also keeping very well hydrated – literally fill up on good old h20! You can adjust the timings to suit your day.

Start of the day, 7am – before you eat anything 

Half a lemon, squeezed with warm water. Tablespoon of Clorophyll (either alone or in your drinking water).  I tend to have these two detox goodies every few days, especially after a weekend where you’ve been indulging.)

Breakfast 7.30am

In a smoothie – Oatmeal (quick oats), almond milk, teaspoon of honey, 1/4 cup of LSA meal and a fruit of choice (I have strawberries (3 or 4) or banana usually, but sometimes blueberries – plus sprinkle of cinnamon) and if you like, sprinkle of protein powder of choice (in particular if you are training hard – for muscle recovery).

Green tea of choice.

9am

Make sure you’ve had at least 500mls of water on top of what you’ve already drunk.

soup10am

1 litre of water by now.

10.30am

Veggie juice – I had beetroot, apple, carrot, and cucumber. You can either buy freshly made from a juice bar or if you have a juice maker do it yourself.

11.30am

Green tea

Noon

2 litres of water by now.

Lunchtime

Soup – I didn’t have any time that week to make my own, which I actually prefer to do. I usually boil down a roast chicken carcass to make stock and then use the stock with lots of root veggies (swede/turnip/sweet potato/parsnip/carrot etc) some celery, onion and seasoning – boil then simmer for an hour or so, then blend.

On this occasion I bought a vegetable and quinoa organic, fresh soup (not tinned). [Pictured]

smoothie2pm

2.5 litres of water minimum – hopefully, you’ll have actually drunk 3

3pm

Time for an afternoon snack – another veggie juice. Spinach, kale, apple and ginger.

4pm 

Green tea of choice

5pm 

3 litres of water minimum.

6.30pm

Finish up your soup

7pm

If you’re one for dessert cravings, now is a great time to have a fruit smoothie. I had watermelon, strawberries, bananas and kiwi fruit.

8pm

3.5 litres

9pm

Camomile tea and at least 4 litres of water by bedtime.

This should leave you feeling so energised, refreshed and get rid of any bloating. It’ll also make your insides sing from the rafters! All that goodness and no stodge getting in the way. It’s not something you’d want to do every day but it certainly is a way to quickly cleanse and relieve your body. What do you guys do when you need/want to cleanse? Any other tips or pointers – things you find do or don’t work?

And yes, I got into my dress – yippee! Plus  I felt energised all weekend.

How to Walk 100km… by the experts

Varying terrain all the time

So, there are only a certain number of ways you can really prep for doing 100km it seems. One of them is obvious – get walking, and getting walking for good long distances so your body is used to the endurance. Some other tips I’ve read are

  • Get used to a bit of sleep deprivation (obviously not in the weeks immediately prior to the walk though!) – but try to have a couple of nights where you forced yourself to stay awake. I have to confess I love my sleep and I’ve not dared to do this. But I can totally understand the logic.
  • Make sure you get your shoes in plenty of time to try them out and know they’re the ones. It’s like all ‘event’ lead up advice – you don’t wear or try something new on the day.
  • Same applies for food, supplements, and anything you put in your mouth basically – try it out first, or stick to foods you know work for you. This last training walk I trialed electrolyte replacement stuff having heard it was good of hydration. It was good. I also trialed eating wraps with chicken which I know some are avoiding as they find bread too heavy and sickly. But for me it worked well.
  • Keep working on your recovery in your everyday normal exercise routine AND after your walk training sessions. In other words – stretch, get a massage, have a bath with epsom salts, drink magnesium, roll out. Whatever it is make sure you’re nursing your body, giving it the attention it needs to help you stay well, an injury free.

On top of this I also took some time to interview three guys who are basically the experts on this 100km walk stuff.  Why? Because they’ve done it! Some of them more than once. These blogs are written by me, and posted on the Sth Syd 2 Sth Coast website.

It’s all about the ‘Whinge Cards’! Read John’s interview – he walked the 2007 Oxfam 100km

What it’s like when the going get’s tough and you have a rough time.

Make sure you train train train! And then train some more!  Expert advice from a two time 100km-er!

100km Training – The Royal National Park, NSW

The weekend before last I walked with some of the group who I’ll be walking with for the actual Sth Syd 2 Sth Coast walk. Here are the pictures of the entire national park. The first half were taken when I did the first half of the walk a few weeks earlier. This time we did the whole thing which was 30km. Starting in the quaint little township of Bundeena and going all the way to Otford Lookout.
Royal National Park

Big Marley Beach where we saw dolphins jumping around
Big Marley Beach where we saw dolphins jumping around

Royal National Park Royal National Park Royal National Park Royal National Park Royal National Park

A great place to cool tired feet
A great place to cool tired feet

Royal National ParkFirst pit stop in the park at Wattamolla

First pit stop in the park at Wattamolla
Royal National Park
Some of the gang

There was such varying terrain through the park. Sometimes it was sand pathways surrounded by prickly bushes, sometimes rocky cliff expanses, sometimes metal grids laid across marshland, sometimes green pastures that reminded me of NZ or the UK and made me slightly homesick. Then we’d transfer into chest high grass with trench paths. Then we’d cross beaches, And at one point we were in dense jungle growth – palms so densely growing that they block out the light! It was absolutely spectacular scenery and made the walk so interesting.

Royal National Park
Simply stunning
Royal National Park
Varying terrain all the time

Royal National Park

Camping grounds
Camping grounds
Royal National Park
Some of the landscape reminded me of England
Royal National Park
A wallaby munching on some grass

Royal National Park Looking back

Royal National Park
Tall shadows at the tail end of the afternoon

Royal National Park

Royal National Park
Shakey pic because I was laughing “Unclad Bathing”!
Royal National Park
Looking to he next phase! Next time I see that will be on the 100km!
Royal National Park
End point and car pick up!