An African Adventure

This time last year I had just gotten back from taking twenty Year 11 school kids to Malawi, in Africa for a month.


sunriseIt was an amazing experience and one I am so glad I put my name forward for, although I probably should have thought twice before selecting this as my first school trip I was in charge of!  Not only did I have to worry about the regular trip-issues, like travel arrangements and when and where we were going to eat.  The travel issues were plane flights, I had to think about or at least to learn more when and where we were eating for a whole month and there was the added issue of worrying about kids stepping on snakes or getting chased by hippo!


This was my favourite shot from the whole trip.  I took so many photos it was ridiculous!  Despite taking so many photos there are only about four or five with me actually in them!  That’s what happens when you are in charge of kids!


This is me with my ‘Malawian friend’.  The local kids latched on to us each day when we walked into the town.  A couple of the local kids changed ‘English friends’ but Mavuto stuck to me throughout.  He was eight years old and could only speak odd words of English.  We had no real conversations, but communicated through signals instead.


He liked wearing my sunglasses and loved taking pictures with my camera.

The purpose of our visit was to complete some voluntary work with a charity known as MEL – Malawi Education Link – helping to maintain local schools and hospitals.  Our students helped limewash, paint and decorate classrooms as well as repair steps and walls of the schools.


Our students then had the chance to teach the locals some English.  The local kids were very excited and the classrooms filled up very quickly!


We put our kids into groups of 2/3 and they were told by the local headteacher that they would be teaching classes of about 20 the following day.  Word spread that we were going to be teaching though and it ended up being classes more like 120!schools

We also got to go on some fantastic trips…



And organised some fun nights at base camp as well…


This is me with the other four leaders on a dress-up night.  Each student had £2 to spend at the local market to dress another member of the team up.  We chose names from a big pot the day before.  All 20 students, all five leaders and the owner of the house, Caroline.  Then on the afternoon of the dress-up, each person put the clothes in a plastic bag with the person they were intended for written on the front of the bag.

I was the only teacher in the leaders, although Caroline used to be Head of English at my school before moving to Malawi several years ago.  Here’s the leaders looking a little more normal in our own clothes!  There’s me, third from the right.


It was a fantastic experience and one I will definitely never forget, but I was very glad to spend my Summer at home this year!  Being alert and in charge of so many students for 24 hours a day, 28 days running with no ‘time off’ was incredibly draining!

Has anybody else done any volunteer work abroad? 


What is the best school trip you ever went on?

A bank holiday catchup

With the weather being so nice on Monday and Dan being off due to the Bank holiday we decided to pack up a picnic and head to the lakes for a bike ride.  We rented bikes for £6 for the hour and ended up biking about 10 miles.  (I only know this from running the route previously!)


Unfortunately (or fortunately!) I never got a picture of me out on the bike.  About 40 minutes in we stopped on a bridge to grab a quick drink from our packed up picnic.


And I took some pictures of the views whilst Dan packed up the cups.


Once we’d returned the bikes we found a spot with the perfect amount of sun and shade and sat down to enjoy our picnic.  We’d gotten a little over-ambitious with the amount we’d packed and couldn’t finish it all, so the rest then became our tea later that evening.


Dan dropped me off at the stables on the way home and I took Fella out for an hours walk, although he was a pain as there were lots of bikers out in the nice weather and he did a few spins on the road at one point so we turned around and went home again.  I would have continued had he been my horse, but being someone elses it always makes me edgy.

I got Dan to come and pick me up from the stables (a couple of miles away) as my leg was aching by this point and I had long since completed my 30-45min recovery run equivalent for the day.  I didn’t want to aggravate my leg further.  Dan suggested we finish the day over in the beer garden at our local, which we did.  It was so nice to get out together and have no laptops or phones to distract us.  Sometimes I think these can ruin a relationship.  We always try to fit in at least one ‘date night’ a week where phones and laptops are not invited!wpid-IMG_20130826_183011.jpg

Yesterday I woke up early to head into work with Dan.  It worked out about £25 cheaper to travel to London from Cambridge than it did my local station and I had an appointment for an MRI scan at 12pm at Vista Diagnostics in Waterloo.


First problem of the day: my train was cancelled!  Luckily I had arrived at the station early enough to catch an earlier train.

Next problem of the day: when I arrived at VD they told me that they currently had no power and had not been able to complete any scans all morning.  I could wait if I liked.  Glad I did, as the engineer they had out to fix the problem solved it within minutes and my appointment was only 20 minutes late.  I was taken through to a cubicle to change into a hospital gown.

wpid-IMAG1163.jpgOnce in the scanner room I climbed onto the bed, was positioned in place, had a pad placed across my hip, was handed a ball to squeeze in case I needed to talk to anyone on the outside and told not to move to prevent blurring on the scans.

They also put a set of headphones on me and told me that they would block out the loud noises of the machine.  They played some rubbish music and I was trying hard not to resist throwing them off my head when the machine started up with the noise and I was glad of the headphones to partially cover up the sound!

When someone tells you not to move you are left feeling like you MUST stretch or fidget or at least brush your hair from your face.  I tried to concentrate on the scratches in the ceiling of the machine.  Wondering if people had tried to claw their way out in the past!

Within minutes I think I must have fallen asleep and I vaguely remember coming in and out of consciousness over the next 30 minutes before I was pulled out of the machine and asked to change back into my clothes and head back to reception where I was handed my images on a CD and told that I would be receiving a full report of my scan findings within the next 48 hours.

It ended up being so quick and efficient that I even managed to catch an earlier train back and finish off my book ‘Mockingjay’ by Suzanne Collins.  The third in the Hunger Games collection.  I loved the first Hunger Games film and had been desperate to see it at the cinema after watching the very first trailer last year.  Whilst I was on a school trip to Africa last Summer I got through the first book in less than 24 hours!  The second one taking me not too much longer once I arrived back in England at the end of August.  I hadn’t managed to find the time to read the third one until just recently though and I was not happy with the ending.  :(  About a chapter before the end I knew there would be no ending I would be happy with any more but knew I had to finish the book.  Has anyone else read the Hunger Games books?  What did you think of the ending?…

I fell asleep on the drive back from Cambridge.  (Sorry Dan!)  And after a quick gym session I checked out the photos on the CD at the same time as checking out the new issue of Women’s Running mag with more pictures of us Operation Ultra runners inside…


Now I just need to wait to hear the result of my scan!

A little confession…

After grumpily declaring my dislike of the gym the other day it is now actually beginning to grow on me!

wpid-IMAG1147.jpgwpid-IMAG1149.jpg wpid-IMAG1148.jpg  wpid-IMAG1146.jpg

Above are all but one of the workouts I did as part of my training plan yesterday.

The original training plan for running said 2h 15m easy Sunday AM and 30-45m easy Sunday PM.  Trainer Phoebe said I should go for 1h 30m cross-training Sun AM, 30m Sun PM with core and stretches and to make sure that I mixed the machines up.  After a quick decision I went with…
* 30min cross-trainer
* 30min stationary bike
* 15min rowing machine
* 15min cross-trainer

Then later in the afternoon I fitted in 30min core and stretching, and another 30min on the cross-trainer.

And I also took my first shot of my shoes from up high.  I’m told this is the ‘done thing’ as a healthy living blogger!


I used to go on and off to the gym whilst I was at University in Stafford several years ago.  Always going down with friends that weren’t really into working out but who felt that it was the ‘done thing’ and who didn’t want to feel guilty about watching the latest episode of ‘My Super Sweet 16′ so made sure to be on the bike whilst it was on!  I never really had a purpose to my gym sessions and would move aimlessly from one machine to another until my friends were ready to leave, never really pushing myself hard on any of the machines I got on and counting calories rather than thinking about the benefit of different machines for my body.

This has not been the case this week, and I have stuck strictly to the plan that Phoebe has worked out for me.  If there is any chance of me returning to running soon I would like to think that working to this plan will keep me in the best shape possible for a quick return!  I’ve worked hard at everything I’ve been on and my t-shirt was completely soaked through with sweat from my hard work yesterday!  I like that I can push myself that little bit harder without worrying if ‘I have enough energy to get home’ or ‘if I will run out of drink’.

As a reward for my hard work, after a quick shower I set about making us a Sunday roast which we haven’t had in quite a while.


Sundays used to be all about the early wake-up, long run and then the roast dinner!

I also baked us up some cookies as Dan insisted I’ve never made him any the whole time we were together.  (I know this is a lie!)


Two of these disappeared post-workout.

The gym was rather light both Saturday and Sunday on my visits.  Everybody that was working out at the gym had clearly been doing so for a long time, and I found it hard to spot an inch of fat or a person pausing their workout the whole time I was there.  I think this provided even more motivation for my session at the time!  I could not be the weakest link!

The importance of nutrition

I was clearly not in the most jolly frame of mind on Friday when I last posted.  And whenever there’s something up I always end up struggling with my eating and don’t feel very hungry.  People tend to go one way or the other don’t they?  They either overeat or ‘forget’ to eat.


When I had tried a short run on Thursday evening after returning from my parents I had felt much more discomfort than on my previous runs and from the very first running step, so after emailing Paul the physio he suggested I book in for an MRI scan, which required lots of ringing round and organising and stressing!  Resulting in me not eating properly on Friday, and not getting to bed very early either.  Yesterday I hung around for ages in the morning before heading down to the gym around midday to get in the 5x5min hill reps with 2min recovery on my plan which translated into 5x5min hard sessions on the cross-trainer with 2min recovery sessions between each rep.  I had promised Dan I would grab some food before leaving as even though I had been up for five hours I hadn’t fancied anything up until then.  Purely because I promised I would I grabbed a MaxiFuel Viperboost bar.  (Love these bars!)  So here is a pic as evidence that I ate!  (When I showed Dan later in the day he told me it was the second worst picture he had ever seen of me!  Clearly he hadn’t yet seen the picture of my big hair further in the post!)

It was quite similar to the workout I completed on Tuesday but from the very first set I felt like I had limited energy and although I knew I would be able to continue the workout I also knew it would be at a much less effort than I was capable of.  By the end of the workout I was fully covered in sweat and I had travelled about 0.7km less on the machine than when I completed the workout on Tuesday.  That’ll teach me not to skimp on my nutrition just because I’m in a bad mood!  I vowed not to forget about food again!

The gym I’ve been using this week is currently being revamped, and right next to the cross-trainer I used on Tuesday they have since installed two Power Plates.  There is a big chart behind them showing lots of different moves you can complete on them and the benefits of using the Plate, but I still watched with hawk eyes anytime anybody approached them with the aim of picking up tips.  Not many people did though, despite paying lots of interest to them.  I guess they were hoping to do what I was doing as well!


THIS is how big my hair gets if I bung it up in a ponytail for training without doing anything to it first.  MASSIVE!

wpid-IMAG1144.jpgDan had had some birthday money last week which he wanted to buy some new clothes with this week, so after a quick shower we headed out in the car through the rain to Cambridge for a mosey.  I didn’t NEED anything as such, although did pick up some new school shoes from New Look which will be handy in a fortnight’s time.  I also had a hunt out for an aqua jogging belt but with no luck.  I wonder how many shop owners went home last night and googled what an aqua jogging belt is because they gave me some pretty confused looks!

On the way back to the car we passed a jewellers and I suggested to Dan that we stop in to see what size ring he would need for when we purchase our wedding rings later in the year.  He is an R.  I am an O.  We both tried on several.  With the shape of my engagement ring we both felt that I should have a wishbone ring to fit around my engagement ring and this one was the favourite for both of us.


Should have taken a picture of the two rings together!  We both also agreed that Dan looked best with a 5mm gold ring.  Again, should have taken a picture!


I booked the hairdresser for our wedding the other day and our Save the Date cards have arrived which we designed ourselves so we now need to finalise just who we would like to come to join us on the day!