“A woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it.”

I’ve been glued to the TV for what seems like, ooooh, forever, watching the Olympics and then the Paralympics and I’ve loved it. Every second. The Men’s Wheelchair Basketball match between GB and Turkey had me pacing the sitting room and bellowing at the tv. I’ve screamed to encourage, berate, celebrate and vent. I’ve cried tears of joy and admiration and sadness. I’ve watched athletes achieve success beyond their dreams or expectations and some who, on the day, simply didn’t. I’ve witnessed elation and heartbreak on these superhuman’s faces.

I’m in complete awe of the one legged high jump athletes ( by in awe – I mean I shout out loud ‘WTF?’ and cry)  and all of the other para athletes because they could so easily have given up; given in to their disabilities and lived a life wallowing in self pity, but all of them have chosen not to. Many of the athletes this year actually cite other athletes as their inspiration having only taken up sport since London 2012.

The road to Rio must have been long and tough and full of times when it would have been easier to refuse to go on, refuse to take a step further and simply sit by the roadside and watch others stumble along the path. There may well be those we shall never know of who may have done that, but our GB team did not.

By the way, I don’t mean to imply that if you are disabled and are not a Team GB Para Athlete that you live your life in self pity. Not at all. What I am saying is that actually, being honest with you, I spend MY life wallowing in self pity, decrying the lack of time and energy that I have and my perceived work life balance – imbalance as reasons for not going for a run or swim. I have all of my limbs and my faculties (well, may be not ALL of my marbles) and although I’m not going to be a GB athlete, I could be doing more to enjoy my life – even with yo yo-ing hormones and a fear of having to eat creepy crawlies. I recently accidentally drank my other half’s urine (which, let me tell you, was not the worst thing I’ve ever drunk – quite pleasant really), so I don’t think that I have any real excuses for not getting OUT THERE.

We don’t all have to be climbing mountains. Everyone’s OUT THERE is extremely personal – but we owe it to ourselves to do what makes us happy when we can. I don’t fancy Repentance that much. I think that feeling miserable because you haven’t achieved something for yourself is a form of repentance; and yet, its the city that I live in.

I have just read my first two posts…its like deja vu or groundhog day. The simple fact is that I don’t believe in myself. I don’t believe I’m capable of doing the things I want to do. I’m scared of failing and I’m scared that I look like a pale-ish sort of oompa loompa in lycra and my outdoorsy kit.

(link to my first post here:  https://ordinary2extreme.com/2013/11/24/starting-out/)

I think its about time I changed my post code. Repentance isn’t winning me the post code lottery of fulfilment thats for sure. After swimming the English Channel in 2014 I didn’t get back into the water properly until this year. Why not? Well, it wasn’t sharks. It was a simple realisation that I’m not Wonder Woman. It was HARD. REALLY HARD. I was scared of being too close to the boat as it pitched and rolled in a six foot swell. It was like being in a washing machine. All those pictures you see of calm seas as people swim in lovely flat water are gorgeous but aren’t always the reality. It certainly wasn’t for us. Instead of this adventure being a springboard to other adventures, it has limited me because I still feel like a failure. I feel like I failed even though we made it to France. I feel like a failure because it was hard and I had expected to feel confident. I admire amazing ladies like Anna McNuff and Lucinda Bayliss and my incredible friend Angel Paterson because despite being talented, they are human. Unlike me though, they’ve used their negatives and turned them into positives. (its my gorgeous friend Ang on my cover page with me, by the way, and here is a link to the video we made of the day)

English Channel Relay – Sivota Sharks July 2014 – YouTube

In Anna McNuff’s words, its time to get out my Pants of Perspective. I need to learn from the fear and use it to grow. Its time to pay those solicitors fees for moving out of a Town called Repentance….

My Night of Inspiration


“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Last Tuesday night I went to a series of lectures organised by adventurer and inspirationalist extraodinaire Alastair Humphries called the Night of Adventure. The evening was in aid of the charity Hope and Homes for Children, of which Alastair is a Patron. He had lined up a number of adventurers to come along to the evening and gave them the task of speaking about their adventures in 6 minutes ( or 400 seconds) whilst their 20 slides rolled along behind them. the speakers included Arctic Explorer Rosie Stancer, round the world solo rowing, cycle and kayak sensation Sarah Outen MBE, The Turner Twins, the sparkling Anna McNuff and the extraordinary Kenton Cool.

Each speaker rose to the challenge, captivating the audience in their own style, recounting the ups and downs of their journeys or adventures, and in the case of Kenton Cool we also heard a poo related story. These extraordinary people claim they are ordinary – or at least – human after all, subject to the same kind of issues, doubts  and voices in our heads that we all have. For example, Sarah Outen who has rowed across the Pacific and the Atlantic solo is frightened of deep water!! but despite their ‘ordinariness’ they just got on and did it anyway.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. You can’t NOT do something because you’re scared of failing
  2. Life is too short – if not now, when?
  3. Scare yourself sh*tless every once in a while – if possible do it regularly
  4. Never, ever give in
  5. Lie to yourself – its often best
  6. Complacency leads to mediocrity and sometimes death
  7. Always, always wear the most outrageous pants you can find
  8. Have a good poo story up your sleeve

Fit to Survive?

As part of sharing my journey, I want to share some books with you. I love reading and I’ve read some incredible books about the human body and human exploits that have informed me and more importantly have  inspired and moved me and have made me wish that my daily commute was two hours long. I have to read a lot for my work, so when I read for myself, I read to escape from the day. I read to escape to the places I want to be.  For those days when I can’t get out and do, I can read about it instead. I hope I can encourage you to dip into some of these amazing books too…

This is my first book review and its the book that, without a doubt, would come to a desert island with me. I bought it in 2011 and I’ve read it so many times the glue has broken on the spine and pages have come loose. The first time I read it I didn’t eat butter for a month after!

Survival of the Fittest (Understanding Health and Peak Physical Performance) by Dr Mike Stroud

This book is a real treasure. Dr Mike Stroud is the Polar explorer who has accompanied Sir Ranulph Fiennes on many of his Polar adventures and most lately his incredible Seven Marathons on Seven Continents in Seven Days challenge just after undergoing open heart surgery.

Dr Mike Stroud is an adventurer in his own right. Upon qualifying as a doctor, he decided he wanted to understand how the body works and so, not only was he a practicing hospital physician specialising in nutrition and metabolism, he undertook research into human performance and survival for the Ministry of Defence. Throughout his life he has taken part in some of the most epic journeys and challenges of our time including the iconic Marathon des Sables.

The reason I think this book is a real treasure is because not only does Mike Stroud start from the cradle of life explaining how and why the body was designed the way it is, moving though thousands of years of evolution, but because he breaks up the How and Why with real life stories recounting incidents where the human body has gone past the limits of its engineering. Stories include a runner who is lost in the Sahara and another telling how he and Sir Ranulf Fiennes survived their epic polar journey losing more body fat and muscle than should be possible and still live.

This book gave me a new level of respect and awe for the ingenious design of the human body and a realisation that nature doesn’t listen to the negative ramblings in your head. It never gives up. Its beautifully written and despite the amount of scientific ‘stuff’ its very easy to read and understand and the stories are written with great humour and feeling. Not only is this incredibly enjoyable to read, it is extremely informative if you want to know what goes on under your skin.

My much loved copy of the book


Survival of the Fittest is available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions.



January Challenged

Last December I discovered the concept of the Marcothon via some like minded ladies on a sports forum I’m a member of. It gave me the idea to do 31 consecutive days of exercise through January. My plan was that that I would either run 3 miles or exercise for 25 minutes every single day. The challenge culminated in a 10km run through the streets of the City of London, running past some of the most iconic buildings in our amazing capital from Trafalgar Square through to the Bank of England, back past St Paul’s Cathedral and home to Trafalgar Square and the race organisation clearly stated that polar bear hugs were freely available.

I started the challenge early on 27th December in order to get myself into the zone and also because the 10km training plan was a 5 week plan. Even though the plan had rest days included, I had committed to doing something every day and so I balanced out three runs each week with swim, yoga stretching and any gym class that took my fancy.

To tell the complete truth, I have never stuck to a training plan in my life. I always end up cheating or being too tired when I get home from work to do anything or being too busy, giving more time to work commitments than to my own and I’ve gone through training periods in the past missing great chunks of plans – often lying about the training I’ve done  – including to myself – and actually reaping the “rewards” of cheating myself by not achieving my goal and feeling really rubbish about it afterwards. I am hugely impressed with myself that I actually stuck to this plan faithfully and only missed a couple of days during the whole period. Running longer than 200m has always been an exercise in sucking it up and just doing it and since I had my legs operated on a couple of years ago I’ve been really scared of running in case I hurt myself again. Usually I have to be threatened with a blunt instrument to get my backside out of the front door in running kit so this was going to be a big test of my determination.

The Plan entailed three runs each week with a speed/interval session, one steady run and a long run. I planned runs on Tuesday – Interval of about 20-30 minutes, Thursday – a Steady Run of about 30 minutes and Sunday – Long Run which eventually went up to 70 minutes with a Yoga stretch on Monday, Swim on a Wednesday and Saturday and strength training on a Friday. I actually made sure I got out of work before 7pm during the week and home in time to do my training. I have to say that it was a huge effort to exercise every day on top of life. I was absolutely exhausted all the time. I found that I really had to be ruthless and leave the office on time to give myself a chance to do my training. I found the toughest week was week three. By then I was horribly tired and I looked it.  My alarm goes off at 5.20am and my whole body screamed at me to turn over every day and forget about life. It was also a huge effort to change into lycra and get out and do something after I’d spent an hour and a half getting home. It frankly doesn’t help when its winter either. The nights are dark and its chilly and its so much easier to flop on the sofa and whack up the central heating to 25 degrees and watch Midsomer Murders. Its not much fun to get back indoors and have aching teeth from breathing in the cold air.  Something really interesting happened though, and that was that I started to enjoy the runs and to look forwards to each session. My favourite sessions were the interval sessions – short, sharp torture and then home for a cuppa. I also had a real shopping success. I’d been looking at the glow in the dark jackets that Nike and such are selling for £300. I can’t justify that expense, so imagine my utter delight to find that good ol’ Marks and Sparks have made their own versions – jacket and gilet, and at the time I was looking  they were in the sale. I got a fantastic glowing gilet for £20!!

Eating to keep your energy levels high whilst trying to lose weight and also get to bed before midnight is a challenge as well. By the time I get home in the evening its quite late enough and I generally refuse to cook or we would be eating way too late, so my other half would cook his own food and I jiggled my eating about. In fact, I changed my diet quite a lot. During the week I ate avocado with a poached egg ( which I did in a plastic container in the microwave at work) and a slice of toast for breakfast. Lunch was a bowl of soup with salad and protein and dinner was a protein shake made with almond milk. The weekends meant more time to cook and a slightly different rhythm, so breakfast was the same, but lunch would be a shake and dinner would be something like salmon or chicken with veggies and maybe some rice. I even did some batch cooking so that I could take food into work for my lunches. That was boring! I honestly can’t say that I ever felt like I had loads of energy at any point throughout January and I am certain that I was grumpier than normal with creakier knees.

Talking of creaky knees, the other thing that I am particularly proud of, is that I actually spent 20 minutes after every run without fail using a foam roller and stretching. Usually, I think that stretching is for wimps and foam rollers should be saved for clubbing unwelcome household intruders but making the effort to keep my legs in reasonable conditions really made a difference to my usually tight calves and ITBs.

On the 31st January, I ran through the streets of London on a particularly miserable day along with 12, 000 others and I beat my expected time by 7 minutes!







Last week I was reading a chain of emails on a women’s sports network that I am a member of. The buzz was all about a challenge called the Marcothon. I had never heard of this before and so I googled it. It turns out that this event was set up by Marco Consani in 2009 when he challenged himself to run every day for the month of November. His wife Debbie liked the idea and jumped onto the bandwagon for December and wrote about it on her blog. The concept has gathered real momentum and has become an annual event. The idea is now either to run 3 miles or to do 25 minutes of exercise for 31 consecutive days throughout December right through Christmas and finishing on New Year’s Eve. One of the women on the network I am part of said that she had started the challenge and had lost 1 stone in weight!

I am always looking for fun events and challenges and different ways to inspire and motivate myself to be active. Over 2015 the chosen method of inspiration has been to buy the brightest lycra possible, but as my attendance records at the gym and pool will prove, that idea hasn’t been a winner.

You may have read my previous blog post about New Years Resolutions. In the past I have used Resolutions  – usually ridiculously unachievable goals – to scare the bejesus out of me and into lycra. All that does is to demotivate me more when I fail miserably or history records a DNS.

The Marcothon got me thinking whilst the kettle was boiling in the kitchen at work. I was way too late for the Marcothon, but the concept seems so simple and actually quite do-able. A SMART goal in fact. So, I have decided that I’m going to do it in January  – the Janathon. And, because old habits die hard, I’ve entered a 10Km run race on 31 January just to seal the deal. I haven’t run further than 8km in 12 months or longer…

I’ve found an on line 5 week 10km training plan and I’ve printed it out and started plotting it in my diary. It looks sensible. It sets out three runs each week with a threshold run, a technique and speed run and a long run. In between the run sessions I will need to do one session of cross training, one session of strength training and a stretch/yoga session. in theory this gives me one day off each week, but as I can’t do that during January, I’ll add a swim or another yoga session. I’ve even got my lycra out and put it in my gym bag… and I’ve charged up my Garmin. Not only that, I’ve had buy in from a work colleague and we’re going to keep each other honest by going to the gym together every day. Blimey, I must mean business. I’m feeling SMART. I’ll post at the end of January to review the month.



New Year…New? or Same Old?

Its a little bit early, but I’ve been thinking and picking over my 2015.We’re just about to get into the circus of the end of another year. Once all the wrapping paper has been put in the bin along with the brussels sprouts we all start making promises to ourselves that next year we’re going to change, or change something about ourselves or our lives that we don’t like. I usually buy a lovely new notebook to record my Resolutions. Sometimes I write in it, other years the book stays in its clingfilm wrapping looking all shiny waiting to be used.

In 2007 a Bristol University Professor did an analysis – and I have no clue how, much less why – on whether we keep our New Year’s Resolutions. He found that 88% of all resolutions fail within six weeks.

The Resolution is a tradition that is most common in the Western Hemisphere but is an ancient practice. the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year to pay back debts. The Romans made promises to their god Janus – after whom the month of January is named – at the beginning of each year, and in the Middle Ages, knights would renew their vow to chivalry.

The top ten most common Resolutions – and also the ten that are most commonly failed at are (and you know them already):

  1. lose weight and get fit
  2. quit smoking
  3. learn something new
  4. eat healthier and diet
  5. get out of debt and save money
  6. spend more time with the family
  7. travel to new places
  8. be less stressed
  9. volunteer
  10. drink less

I have personally failed more than twice at seven of these. I do want to change – be a better person if you like, but life always gets in the way. I know the path to Hell is paved with good intentions and I remember that every six months or so. So I get my combat bra and gym kit out, put it in my gym bag and then bring it back home again after work, unused…

I just tripped over this quote which seems so appropriate:

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

So even if you do want to get fit, or learn a new language, just putting your gym kit in your posh new gym bag or buying a language book won’t help unless you actually use them.

According to another study, this time by a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, although people use resolutions as a way to motivate themselves, they aren’t actually ready to change their habits. It can also be considered a ‘false hopes’ syndrome. People make resolutions to say, lose weight in the hope that once they are slimmer then life will change for the better and when the hoped for result doesn’t materialise, they revert back to their old behaviours.

I’m feeling quite cross with myself at the moment, I’ve failed at my resolutions this year, so for next year, I’m going to live by this rule:

“Life has two rules: #1 Never quit #2 Always remember rule # 1.”

And I’m going to try these easy steps:
1) I’m not going to make too many Resolutions – just two or three

2) I’m going to make them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

3) I’m going to celebrate my achievements; no matter how small.

4) I’m going to remember those two life rules

Oh, and I’m going to buy another, nice, shiny notepad and this time I’m going to take it out of its wrapper and write in it….

I wish you every success with your goals for the New Year.






Can You Juggle?


Yup…. that’s me… I can’t juggle to save my life. Well, to be honest, I can juggle work tasks – sort of – and making sure I have clean undies to wear for said work, but what kills me is trying to make the time for myself to be able to go to the pool or the gym or even get half an hour to do some stretching ( I also need a big stick of dynamite to encourage me to do that one). This year has been a new low since I started to write this blog. I’ve really distinguished myself by doing very little. I’m definitely stuck in the ‘Ordinary’ bit of the blog title. Hurrumph.. For me the guilt factor of not getting in to work and getting loads of stuff done and my fear of failure professionally pushes me to donate generous amounts of my time and energy and wave “See Ya” to many dreams of climbing and walking and swimming. So, I have to learn to juggle. Or, if you like, re-balance my priorities so that I can move the needle from Ordinary to Extreme  – or at least to a bit less Ordinary.

If you can juggle, I’d love to hear from you.


My 15 seconds of Fame

I am a member of an email forum for long distance swimmers. I’ve learned loads from reading the various emails on this forum. I don’t tend to comment much – I don’t feel qualified to add much as my swimming ‘career’ is pretty new. On this occasion, someone asked about trekking to Everest Base Camp. Now, that was something I could add a few words on. I was really thrilled to be able to give someone some guidance for a change. It had unintended consequences, because I was interviewed on the subject of mountaineering and swimming and their relative differences and similarities. The article is here. I hope you enjoy it.


Whenever I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until it goes away


I finally got back into the water last week after Christmas. Why is it always such a bun fight in swimming pools? I had to wind myself up to get to the pool to start with. I have used the Christmas holiday period to have a go at writing my own training plans using the Swim Smooth book as a guide. I’m building up for a marathon swim later in the year. I’m both scared stupid and excited at the same time.

I’ve been struggling to focus on my swim training. It all feels so daunting. I am not a life time swimmer. I only started swimming ‘properly’ in May 2012 after leg surgery and needing to do something whilst all my friends were donning their lycra and enjoying lots of active fun whilst I struggled to put my feet on the floor. I learned to swim as a child. It was a case of sink or swim quite literally. My swim teacher, bored with me being the last in the group to give up arm bands, pushed me into the pool when I wasn’t ready and I suddenly had to doggy paddle. Not the most auspicious start to an aquatic career. So, here I am in the pool with all of my toys and my home made plans and today I had an inexplicably leaky drink bottle that spat half of my Kona Cola Nuun water over my trackie bottoms.

I’m currently swimming three times a week supplemented with a couple of runs and a couple of strength sessions One is a technique set, one is either speed  (I wish) or threshold and Sundays are my endurance set. Today I did a set that included 100m intervals. I simply cannot break 2 mins per 100m. I might do the odd 25m at 1.45 but I can’t hold it. Admittedly, I’ve not been training for some months, so I’m not sure why I’m expecting miracles at this stage, but I’d like to see some evidence that I’m not wasting my time. I have a lesson with my fantastic swim coach at the end of February and if I can’t show some improvement by then I may indeed have to go and have a lie down.



The Anderson Challenge

I had surgery on both legs in April 2013 and haven’t run since. I’ve been swimming, even though running was always technically possible, I had committed to some big water based challenges. Post my July swim event, my mojo disappeared and with some big family commitments that took me away from being as active as I wanted to be, I lost all interest in all sports.

My mojo came back from limbo in November but I wanted to do activities that would be fun and get me back to enjoying being active. So, I bought some of the lariest workout clothing and exercise bras I could find and signed up for classes in the gym. I never do classes in the gym. I’ve lost muscle and gained blubber over the last few years and all of my muscle strength seems to have evaporated. I have read that once you get to 35 you start losing 1% muscle mass every year, simply due to age. Well, that means I’ve lost a few percent and I can certainly feel it. Even after a 30 minute class I end up walking like a Thunderbirds puppet for two days after and its anybody’s guess if I can get my arms up high enough to put on my mascara, so I’ve learned to bend over to finish my make up.

The classes started to put a spring in my step, but I wanted to try a bit more. In fact, I really wanted to try a Park Run. Running 5km scared me though. After my leg injuries and surgery, I had become scared of running. so, here’s where the Anderson from the title comes in – in the form of Paul Anderson an extremely good runner and qualified running coach. He set me the challenge to run each week on the treadmill at the gym increasing my run distance by 1km each week until I reached 8km and then to run the local Park Run. I tentatively said I’d have a go. I started gingerly on the treadmill running 3km on 23rd November 2014. I kept waiting for my legs to start hurting and for the electric shock pains to start but they didn’t. I came home, elated. I’d just run 3km in 22.29 mins. The next Sunday I ran 3km in 21.30 and 4km in 28.10. I did 5km the next weekend – 7th December. My stats were 3km – 20.45; 4km – 27.36 and 5km – 34.17.No pains, no swelling, no hobbling and a bit of weight loss. Result! Last Sunday I ran the ‘magic’ 8km in 59.45. Each week I’ve been getting to the gym and onto the treadmill feeling worried and sick and doubting I can run as far as scheduled or worried that my legs will go pop and I’ll fail. For any of you seasoned distance runners out there I know this is nothing, but for me its been huge. I am so thrilled that I’ve managed to get to 8km. and now, at last its Park Run time.

The alarm went off bright and early yesterday morning at 7am and it was absolutely tipping down with rain. Brilliant. I ate my breakfast of champions – a crumpet ( I have a nasty Warburtons crumpet habit that has proved impossible to break over the last two years. Ian has tried and failed) – had a cuppa and got dressed and packed a bag that included four different running jackets/tops because I couldn’t decide which would be best and we set off.

It was a truly miserable morning, it was cold and drizzly but as people arrived they were smiling and chatty. They kept arriving – over 300 of us humans and several dogs turned out all ready to run. There were ‘pacers’ with tabards on and I noted gloomily that none of them were slow enough for me. I’d got my sights set on 37 minutes as a goal to complete my first Park Run and the pacers stopped at 34 minutes. Ah well, I turned up the volume on my iPod and pressed the start button on my watch and stepped across the start line. Oh my gosh! I was running – in public – with other folks. the run was partially on footpath and partially on slimy grass but it was great fun. I watched the paced groups go off and saw the back of 34. I resolved to keep him in my sights for as long as I could whilst still running my own race. 1km gone, felt good. 2km gone – still good, woo.. 3km oh, a hill – I knew how to run that  – Pop, Pop, Pop All the way to the top.. (thanks to Ryan Bowd) and I passed a few people who had decided to walk. That felt really good. I kept going and passed a few more people and then I caught sight of him – there was 34! He was about 300 metres away, but I saw him. I thought that if I could finish with him in my sights that would be a great achievement. I kept up with my pace, remembering to breathe and RUN not SHUFFLE. I felt really good, my breathing was okay and I seemed to be catching 34. by 4km I’d passed a few more people and was in a sort of battle with a big bloke dressed in red and black who didn’t want me to come past, but not only did I pass him, but with half a kilometre to go I overtook 34! I pushed myself to run as fast as I could for the last half, but I couldn’t keep 34 away and we ran to the finish together. I was absolutely thrilled. I had slept badly on Friday night because I was scared I’d come last, or not finish, but I didn’t and I finished a full three minutes quicker than I had hoped. My finish time was 34.04. No, its not fast, and no, I won’t be winning any medals anytime soon, but its my benchmark to move forwards. Most of all its a massive boost to my confidence and a huge relief that I have finally managed to conquer my run demons. Extreme for me.

From this:



To this: