Wednesday, 24 December 2014

2014 in Review

Earlier this week I saw a cool blog post on Into Mind, entitled ‘Your Year in Review: 50 Questions To Help You Reflect, Appreciate and Get Excited For 2015’. The questions are thought-provoking and made me question what I really want out of next year, as well as what I could realistically achieve, but also what I’ve learnt from 2014.
Of the 7 goals I set for myself this year, I actually achieved most of them – although I didn’t beat my 2012 time, I did run Basingstoke half marathon again. I haven’t dyed my hair since November 2013. Maxx and I went to Berlin in June. My French is improving incrementally, but this is something to continuing working on next year. I did get a permanent career job in publishing in May, but finally realised I should be a teacher so left after 5 months. Ernest and I went to one showjumping event this year – I fell off in the warm up and did a very ‘interesting’ round of jumps after that. The one goal I didn’t achieve was getting to 18% body fat. I’m not going to dwell on that though, as I am so bored of the phrase ‘body fat’ by now that you must be too.
Anyway, the first 40 questions from Into Mind are as follows (the final 10 will come in another post):
1. What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about?
That I held a tarantula. This will come up in more detail in a later question.

2. If you had to describe your 2014 in 3 words, what would they be?
Busy, emotional, fun.

3. What new things did you discover about yourself?
I can do a lot more - physically - than I thought I could.

4. What single achievement are you most proud of?
Running the half marathon without walking (well, I did for 30 seconds but apparently that doesn’t count) and raising over £400 for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare.

5.What was the best news you received?
One of my oldest friends had a baby this year, whom I met on my birthday; that was really special. Another of my friends got engaged. My mum was told by her Master’s supervisor to enter her dissertation for a prize awarded by BALEAP (The British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes) – she doesn’t have the result yet, but to be good enough to enter was really exciting as this is a globally recognised association. I’m proud of you Mindy!

6. What was your favourite place that you visited in 2014?
Potsdam, Germany.

7. Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
Organisation. At one point I was teaching at the Uni, teaching in the evening, studying on two courses and, of course, riding as many times a week as I could.

8. Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?
Maxx. Poor man.

9. Which new skills did you learn?
I learnt so many new skills on my CELTA course, such as how to do a thorough needs analysis and how to plan lessons (properly, with stages and everything). I also mastered how to make a great frittata.

10. What, or who, are you most thankful for?
My family – this includes pets, of course – and friends. I have the best group of friends I’ve ever had.

11. If someone wrote a book about your life in 2014, what kind of genre would it be? A comedy, love story, drama, film noir or something else?
A dramatic comedy? Does that exist? There were some funny moments but also some less than pleasant ones.

12. What was the most important lesson you learnt in 2014?
Know when to get involved and when to keep out of someone’s business.

13. Which mental block(s) did you overcome?
I haven’t overcome my fear of spiders but holding a tarantula at Longleat Safari Park certainly helped. I was petrified – shaking and tearful etc, but it was revelatory in a strange way. I never thought I could do it, but just decided in that moment that I was going to.

14. What 5 people did you most enjoy spending time with?
I don’t think I can answer that. I’ve spent a lot of quality time with my family this year, and gotten closer to my cousins as a result.

15. What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?
Well, this can be in two parts. It was really exciting and somewhat relieving to finally get a job in publishing, but it also showed me that my passion actually lay in teaching. Becoming a self-employed language teacher was also rewarding and a little scary – self-employed at 23!

16. How did your relationship to your family evolve?
My brother and I became a lot closer this year. We text, Viber, Facebook and Snapchat all the time now and I’m so, so happy. He’s such a big goof.

17. What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?
Anna Karenina portrays mental illness in an enlightening way – her transformation from a mysterious, vibrant woman to bitter, rejected lover was alarming. She wasn’t entirely likeable by the end of the novel, but the depiction of how depression can alter someone was truthful.

18. What was your favourite compliment that you received this year?
“You’ll make a cracking teacher, you have the goth edge to warrant interest, strict when necessary and silly when appropriate. You’re like if Doctor Who, Professor McGonagall and Sherlock Holmes had a tri-parent baby.” 

19. What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?
Washing my hair was more enjoyable as I didn’t worry about the colour fading.

20. What cool things did you create this year?
I made my grandparents a calendar, mostly using pictures from when we went away as a family earlier this year. They love it.

21. What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?
There were lots of different things to be stressed about, such as starting and leaving a career, studying, becoming self-employed etc. But there was a lot of contentedness too - passing my CELTA, competing again, spending time with family.

22. Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?
Holding a tarantula, going on a rollercoaster – Air at Alton Towers, and going bouldering. All of those involved fear!

23. What was your favourite moment spent with your friends?
Going to Longleat with the other members of the Fantastic Four (Maxx, Becky, Andy). It was a brilliant day out and really fun being squashed in my car, driving round the safari.

24. What major goal did you lay the foundations for?
Training to be a teacher. I had a TEFL, but now I’ve got a CELTA and a lot more experience with different nationalities and programmes of study. I’m also doing a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PGCLTHE), which will be helpful when applying for University lecturer roles (although I need a Masters as well).

25. Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
It sounds stupid, but when I gained body fat I thought I'd never lose it and I'd be unhappy with my appearance forever. I've since lost bf again and am just being more balanced with my diet.

26. What experience would you love to do all over again?
The whole Longleat day out and the Berlin holiday.

27. What was the best gift you received?
Having all my family with me. I’m extremely lucky to still have 4 grandparents.

28. How did your overall outlook on life evolve?
I don't think my outlook has completely evolved, but I'm learning that it's OK to not do 500 things in a day and to not beat myself up when I'm too tired to finish everything. I'm starting to be more realistic about what I can, and should, achieve.

29. What was the biggest problem you solved?
Deciding which career I really should be doing. I wanted to work in publishing for so long, it was hard to admit that perhaps it wasn't the right thing for me after all.

30. What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?
When the camels surrounded us at Longleat and stole the plastic bee off my car aerial, or watching Becky dismount Ernest. I think it was the accompanying noise as she fell.

31. What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?
Although I reeeeally like my new blouse from M&S, I think I’ll have to go with my CELTA and PGCLTHE courses.

32. What one thing would you do differently and why?
I don't think I could react any differently to my Aunt and Uncle splitting up, but I would have tried to accept it sooner.

33. What do you deserve a pat on the back for?
Running the half marathon.

34. What activities made you lose track of time?
Riding and hanging out with the Fantastic Four.

35. What did you think about more than anything else?
My Aunt and Uncle, Ernest, losing weight/body fat. Personally I find the latter a bit sad…

36. What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
I've learnt more about the Plantagenet dynasty this year through reading for pleasure (yep, I’m a nerd); that was interesting.

37. What new habits did you cultivate?
After a ridiculously busy November, I've tried to fit less into my day / week. This is definitely something to work on in 2015.

38. What advice would you give your early-2014 self if you could?
Hmmm...  don't take on too much and accept that you can't control everything.

39. Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?
Yes - my Aunt and Uncle split up. I used to stay at theirs every week, all through school and college, and I went on holiday with them. I was a bridesmaid at their wedding. It’s been utterly crap, not only because of the emotional fallout, but losing someone I was really close to and who was a really important part of my life both as a child and adult. Sometimes I still can’t believe it.

40. What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?
Hmmmm… training to be a teacher or becoming self-employed.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Countdown to Christmas II

In my first Countdown to Christmas post, I mentioned I was doing Lee Labrada's 12-week Lean Body regime. I was enjoying this programme, however I've been ill the last 2 weeks with a stomach bug then a cough and cold so haven't worked out much.

This is frustrating as I've had more time to exercise since finishing teaching and finishing my CELTA. That said, I haven't wasted the time - Ernest and I have been on some long, relaxing hacks which have really helped me feel less fuggy and gross. Yesterday was so bright I thought I was going blind! 

As I've said before, when I don't have time or don't have a lot of energy, I'll always choose to ride over other forms of exercise. I've really enjoyed spending time with Ernest, on the ground and riding, and the long rides have genuinely made me feel fresher.

So, as a result of the last couple of weeks, I probably won't reach my January goal of 19%. I'm still hoping for a loss though, even if it's just 20.5% down from 21.39%. I said I didn't want to stuff myself, which I haven't, but I have struggled to eat healthily. Perhaps that's from feeling crappy, perhaps that's just an excuse! Either way, I'm bringing some workout clothes and my trainers to France so I can do some exercise while we're away for Christmas.

I've also been tidying this past month. Now, anyone who knows me knows I'm messy and find tidying very boring. But things were starting to get out of hand - my stuff was everywhere, all over the house. In piles, in bags, on chairs etc - and if I didn't feel up to lifting heavy things, I could at least sort my stuff out.

I took 5 bags to charity, found 8 old mobile phones, put all my teaching books on the shelf and finally found Ernest's passport (in my room all along - major stress over). It's therapeutic, and now I feel organised and ready for next year's teaching and studying!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Leibster Blog Award Nomination

My wonderful BFF Becky nominated me for a blog award! The Leibster Award is for up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.

The rules are:
- Link back to the blog who nominated you.
- Answer all of their questions.
- Write 11 facts about yourself.
- Link 11 blogs with less than 200 followers and tell them you've nominated them.
- Ask 11 facts for the blogs you nominate to answer.

Becky’s questions:
If you could live in any book universe, where would you choose?
Hmm. I read a lot of historical fiction, when women weren’t exactly highly thought of. I love gothic novels but am a wuss. I think I’ll have to go with Harry P or Discworld.

What is the oddest term of endearment you have used for someone, or someone has used for you?
Maxx and I call each other ‘baby goose’. Or papoose (that weird wrap thing you carry a newborn baby in).

Snap Question: Zombie apocalypse! First weapon that comes to mind?
Aaaah! Sod the weapon, I’m running away from that freaky non-dead sh*t.

If you were a vegetable, what would you be and why?
Carrot. Orange, easy to peel, favourited by Ernest, delicious raw or cooked.

Do you have any tips / tricks to posting regularly?
The easiest thing was when I started having regular or semi-regular posts, such as ‘Pony Tales’ and ‘New PT Workout’. And not worrying too much about what you’re writing - you’re blog might not follow a theme or category, but it’s your blog, so you can write whatever you want!

What is your family's most important Christmas tradition? (Or holiday tradition if you don't celebrate Christmas)
Dinner being at ‘1’ – read, 2 or 2.30. The Yorkshire puddings always come last, not on purpose, they’re just never done on time.

Do you have an outfit/item of clothing that you have owned for a long time, but never/rarely wear? if yes, what is it?
I have a £295 crimson and cream silk corset in a bag in my wardrobe; I’ve worn it 3 times since 2006. I never found a skirt that would go with it, which is a shame as it’s absolutely beautiful – especially now I have a chest which fills out the top!

State a favourite character. Now explain what underwear you think they would wear?
I read Ken Follet’s World Without End earlier this year (utterly brilliant) and thought Caris, one of the main female characters, was a forward-thinking, brave, intelligent woman. As the book is set in the 13th century, I imagine she wouldn’t wear pants. Did they wear pants in the 13th century? Maybe hose or something like that.

If you could add 1 hour to your day, what would you do with it?
I would have the most glorious and guilt free nap.

10. What do you want to achieve by the end of 2014?
Well, earlier this year I set myself some targets. Some I reached, some I didn’t, some I reached then changed (publishing job). So really I’d just like to enjoy this restful period, get some lesson planning done for January, do some more of my portfolio for my PGCLTHE, ride a lot, go to the gym a lot, see my family.

11. If you could be any Harry Potter character, who would you be?
McGonagall is clearly a badass. She’s strong, intelligent, powerful, brave, played by Dame Maggie Smith, and just the coolest. So her.

My 11 facts:
  1. I have a strawberry roan pony named Ernest – hence the blog name
  2. I have Ernest’s portrait tattooed on my left thigh
  3. My boyfriend is French
  4. Greyhounds are my favourite breed of dog
  5. But giraffes are my favourite animal
  6. I am scared of spiders
  7. I have IBS and lactose intolerance – but cheese and chocolate are 2 great joys in my life
  8. My favourite colour is royal purple or black or dark blue or dark green
  9. My favourite food is pancakes
  10. By the age of 18, I had 33 piercings – I once got 4 in a week (second holes in lobes, septum, belly button)
  11. I’ve wanted to be an author since I could say the word
My nominations:
Giraffes Can Bake

My 11 questions:
  1. If you could change any event in world history, what would it be?
  2. What's your favourite exotic animal?
  3. What would you choose: the ability to fly or the ability to stop time?
  4. If you could be invisible for the day, what would you do?
  5. What's your favourite Harry Potter book?
  6. If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?
  7. What do you like most about blogging?
  8. If you could bring any animal back from extinction, which animal would you choose?
  9. If you could be world champion at any sport, which sport would you choose?
  10. What is the main thing you would like to achieve in 2015?
  11. What is your proudest moment of 2014 (so far)?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

I went Bouldering!

Today, I went bouldering with my cousin. I thought we were going rock climbing, with ropes and hats and people watching to ensure all was safe - but I was wrong. Bouldering is similar to rock climbing but without the hats and ropes - it's curiously primitive, scaling walls and jumping back down, and is one of the hardest activities for your forearms!

At first, I was a complete wuss. I was scared! More scared than I thought I'd be. I'd start to climb, with plenty of direction and encouragement from Cousin P and his friend, but then freak out about being 'high up' (suffice to say I wasn't high up) and have to come back down. A couple of times I ended up dangling and just couldn't let go, so Cousin P and friend lowered me back down. 

Cousin P taking on the wall
The thought of falling really frightened me, possibly more than the height, but after about 30 minutes I was trying harder and taking the boys' advice on how to move up the wall. I'd started to enjoy it by this point and didn't feel silly as the boys were really patient - my cousin is a good teacher! He made me feel good about going a little bit higher each time, so it made me want to get all the way up the next time.

This is unlike any other sport I've done before. I was out of my comfort zone, but exhilarated when I managed to complete a climb - or 'problem', as they're known in the bouldering world, although the level I did was more solution than problem. In terms of a workout, this certainly tested my ability to pull myself up and grip with my fingers, and I can already feel the ache in my arms.

I'm excited to go again! 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Countdown to Christmas

So, the world and his wife have been talking about how it's only a month to Christmas. Two things: I KNOW. And, it's my mum's birthday first! I'm not thinking about Christmas until after that! Sheesh. Everybody just calm it with the Christmas business already...

That said, I've nearly finished my shopping as I've been doing it gradually (I feel smug). Also, I've got the month of December off from teaching (aside from my private students), and I finish my CELTA on Thursday, so I have plenty of time to ride and gym and look fabulous for all the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

I searched on for a 3-day split programme and found Lee Labrada's 12-week Lean Body regime. I have plenty of ideas and programmes from The Smiling Assassin, but I've never done a 3-day split before so needed an imprint. I also think doing 3 days a week is more realistic, as I want to ride a lot this month, and also need to prep for the 4-week seasonal school I'm teaching on in January.

Today I did chest, shoulders and triceps at home. Day 1 is supposed to be back and biceps, but I want to add more back exercises for this workout, and for those I'll need to go to the gym to use the machines. As I've had a cracking headache all day, I decided I'd rather work out at home so I could stop straightaway if I felt worse (I get migraines)

I really wanted to work out but probably only gave 75% today. I still felt like I pushed myself and benefitted from exercising, though - after focusing for so long on the half marathon, I'm building my strength back up, so using 5kg for shoulder press felt heavy! I know it's not. Shut up. I also use 2kg for lat raises... I FIND THIS EXERCISE REALLY HARD OK?!?!

Here's the breakdown of what I did:

weight lifting, lee labrada
Chest, shoulders, triceps
Christmas is often a time when people let themselves go, but I have a January goal of 19% body fat to reach so can't afford/don't want to stuff myself. I think setting a goal for after Christmas and New Year helps you stay focused on what you're aiming for. I know many people will inevitably start diets and life changes in January, but why wait? I'm not going to abstain from treats and the occasional glass of Prosecco over the holidays, but I know that a month's worth of this diet isn't going to help me achieve my goals either.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Why I Clip Ernest in Winter

Ernest was clipped last Friday and since then, understandably, I've had lots of questions as to why I've had his luxuriously fluffy coat shaved off mid-November. 

Firstly, Ernest gets hairy. And I mean, sheep / mammoth hairy. Within 15 or 20 minutes of exercise he is uncomfortably sweaty, so I'm not able to hack or school for very long. I love riding in Winter, and unlike a lot of other sports there are plenty of competitions throughout this season to practice for, so it's not very helpful to only be able to ride for such a short time. Being clipped means we can work or amble for as long as we please, without Ernest needing to be bathed afterwards (which then risks him getting a chill as his hair takes so long to dry when it’s that long).

Ernest having the bot scratch of his life

Secondly, it's hard to keep him clean when he's 'full fur'. Maxx and I groomed Ernest for 90 minutes on Thursday, and I'd groomed him for an hour on Wednesday. Even after that he wasn't sparkling, and he wears a turnout rug so most of his body was clean, but it still takes forever to get thick, dried mud out of a thick coat. Not keeping him clean means he gets very itchy.

Finally, it’s very hard to tell if Ernest has any cuts or bumps which need attention with long fetlocks (the hair on his lower legs). For breeds with even longer fetlocks, I’m sure their owners are adept at doing this, but I find it difficult to keep this area really clean. When Nadine was clipping she noticed he had little scabs around his feet. They weren't anything serious, but I'd still prefer to know if he has any scratches or cuts.

I have plenty of rugs to keep him warm when riding, in his field or in his stable, and I always check his temperature (behind the ears and under the 'arm' pit). I hope that's answered any questions you had as to why Ernest is clipped!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Body Fat Update: joy at last!

Just a quick post to say...

I've finally lost some body fat! Hurrah!

I really wasn't sure if I had and was feeling conflicted whether I should get it measured or wait until I felt sure I had lost some, but decided the curiosity would kill me.

So, I went from 23% to 21.39%. That's the same as I was a year ago.

Although I'm still aiming for 18%, I want to start focusing on enjoying exercise, rather than always doing it to reach this or that goal. I hack out on Ernest to keep him fit, but we also go for an amble just to enjoy the countryside - I want to pass this attitude over to working out. I'm still going to push myself, but focus on why I like weightlifting instead of only thinking about what I'm aiming for.

My next body fat check will probably be in January now. 19% would be brilliant, as would continuing to tone and get stronger. I'm really seeing some good definition in my triceps, shoulders and back, which is heartening!

Fear. Pure fear.
In other completely unrelated news, I went on my first rollercoaster on Sunday. It was terrifying and exciting and nerve-wracking and... actually not too bad. Maxx, blogger friend Becky, her bf Andy and I went to Alton Towers for Maxx's birthday (which is actually tomorrow) - it was nice to go on a big boy's ride with them, instead of just watching fearfully as they queue up for increasingly scary rollercoasters!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Cadbury World!

Last Saturday my cousin (from now on referred to as C-Bear) and I went to Cadbury World in Birmingham. It was magical in so many ways – we had a blast driving up, which took 2 ½ hours from where we live. C-Bear kindly drove so I actually managed to get loads of work done, too (which paid off as on Monday I taught my ‘best lesson yet’ on the CELTA course).

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with the most wonderful, rich smell of chocolate. I don’t know what I was more excited about, getting free chocolate on our walk around, seeing how the magic happens or going to the shop afterwards. C-Bear had definitely sold the tour to me; she told me that, just before the end, you’re given a pot of melted chocolate with a choice of toppings. C-Bear accurately described it as ‘a pot of joy’, which it so was!

Pot of joy time

The first part of the tour documents the arrival of Cortez and the fall of the Aztecs, how chocolate came to England, and, of course, the conception of Cadbury’s. Did you know, in the time of the Aztecs, 10 cocoa beans could buy you a rabbit? The second part is focused on how the factory works, so you see the staff creating and packaging the different products. I admire them for being so focused with hundreds of people staring at them while they're working!

That's right, Cadbury's was originally a tea shop which also sold cocoa

We didn't have time to explore the 4-D experience, but we did wander round the museum on the town of Bournville. It was heart-warming to read about Mr Cadbury's concern for the people of Birmingham and how he improved welfare. I found it particularly interesting reading about how the staff contributed to the war effort, either by caring for injured soldiers, sending chocolate to the front, or actually fighting in France.

Visiting Cadbury World was probably one of my favourite days out this year. I'd recommend it for all ages because the tour is interactive, fun and informative. There's plenty to see but you can explore at your own pace.

Ticket prices and booking details can be found here. It is recommended that you book in advance to guarantee entry!

Cadbury World

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dressage Competition: 11.10.14

I'm sorry I've been so absent little bloggy... I've been super busy on the work and study front. By the end of November things will be much less busy as I'll have finished my CELTA. 

Last Saturday, Ernest and I went to a dressage competition at the same venue as the 20th September - thankfully, it didn't rain, even though it poured on the Friday night. 

Due to a complete mess up of sending me my times, I had to do Novice 30 first. My mistake was not looking at the tests until Friday, when I realised how many canter moves I had to do: change leg across the diagonal, medium, walk to canter. Not in that order. While our schooling session was good, I should have practiced these moves more, and earlier, than the evening before.

It was frustrating because Ernest and I had a successful warm-up, and he was going beautifully, but in the test he just seemed to lose all energy. I then began to ride like a flappy child, losing my composure as I tried to push him on and keep him in a contact at the same time. Overall, I came out feeling irritated and baffled. 

I had an egg on my face, as I acted, quite frankly, like a bit of a twat. I was really annoyed because I felt the test was rubbish and I rode badly and I didn't understand why Ernest wasn't going anywhere. Then, after watching the video, it really wasn't that bad - although I was right about the flappyflapflap. We got 59.62%, which I was happy with as there was plenty to work on. And, after my terrible attitude, I didn't really deserve higher, although Ernest did. I feel a bit ashamed even now. 

So, I got back on for Prelim 19 - the most popular Prelim of all time, according to every time I've entered it and there's been 5000 other people in the class - with a better attitude after apologising for being an idiot. We had another lovely warm-up, and rode a pleasing test. For this, we got 65.45%.

No rosettes this time, but a healthy reminder to not behave like a spoilt butthead when things don't go to plan. Ernest will be getting clipped before our next dressage outing at the end of November, which will make things more comfortable for him as he gets so hot in his excessively fluffy winter coat.

We're hoping to go showjumping tomorrow with some friends from the yard - it's not a competition, just a chance to practice jumping a course. Ernest has a busier social life than me! Since 20th September, he's done two dressage competitions, a sponsored ride, and, if tomorrow goes ahead, a showjumping event!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

D-Day - after

We did it! We did it! 
2 hours 9 minutes...

... and we ran all of it!

So I know earlier I said I wanted to finish in less than 2 hours 7 minutes, but I actually cannot believe we ran all of it (well, I had a 30-second walk up the steepest hill but apparently that doesn't count). By mile 6 I was having some serious issues with my left ankle, by mile 10 Maxx was in agony with his knee, but we just kept pushing on.

I'm pleased that I felt pretty good from the start to about mile 8, but after that my ankle did start to really hurt. The last 3 miles were gruelling for both of us and we are very sore now - I have the biggest blister on one of my toes. I wanted to post a photo of it, but I also like having people read my blog, so thought better of it. 

The highlight for me (aside from running the whole damn thing!) was running up the longest hill - about 2 miles - without walking. I've never done this before, in training and during the half in 2012. It's a real achievement for me, but because I kept a slow but steady pace it didn't feel horrible, surprisingly! Maxx encouraged me when I was tired and I couldn't have done it without him - I'm so proud of him for pushing through the pain and completing his first half in such a good time. He's been a real source of support for me during training and during the race, and I'm truly grateful. Thanks Hen!

I love this half marathon. There were people lining the streets cheering, clapping, offering sweets and high fives and support for all the runners, and it really created a great atmosphere. Everyone who came out today - to support or to help at the water stations - deserves a medal too. It really makes a difference when you reach mile 9, your body is aching but someone shouts 'Well done 966 and 965, you're doing great!'. Four runners actually went back to help carry someone who couldn't weight-bear on one leg across the finish line, and one of the guys shouted 'Come on, give him a round of applause!', which everyone duly did. Now that's sportsmanship. You can see them behind us in the picture below.

We've now raised £425 for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare, but if you'd like to sponsor us after hearing about our HUGE SUCCESS please go to:

half marathon
Look at those nostrils, sucking in all the air

D-Day - before

Jimmy, our first hound
It's D-Day and I'm nervous! I had a dream about running last night - but not even the running part, just getting ready to go to the race and picking up my number and going to the toilet.

I had a run on Tuesday, which went well (6 miles in 52 minutes), and I do feel confident I'll finish the race, but I'm starting to have stupid doubts, like: what if I can't do it? what if I'm really slow? what if AAAHHH all of the 'what ifs'. I really just want to get going now!

We've smashed our fundraising target, so thank you to everyone who's sponsored us! We were aiming for £300 but have actually raised £400. It's a definite motivator, knowing how many people are supporting us. I'll also be thinking about all the rescue hounds at Hersham today, imagining them waiting for us with wagging tails at the finish line. And, of course, my hounds past and present.

Ultimately, no matter how hard the race is, nothing beats that euphoric feeling when you cross the finish line. Running long-distance is such an emotional journey - you battle pain and exhaustion, and if you can keep going, it's a real achievement. 

We're hoping for under 2 hours, but anything less than my 2012 time of 2 hours 7 minutes would be good. 

See you on the other side!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Dressage Competition: 20.9.14

Last Saturday was our first competition since October 2013. By the middle of the week I was getting really excited - it had been a busy and somewhat stressful week with starting 2 new teaching courses, so training was therapeutic as I was thinking about something completely different!

Ernest had been going extremely well in our practices, so I knew it was just down to me. I ride very strongly with my left hand, which you can see in the videos (I tried to upload them but they're bigger than 100MB, so follow this link to watch online), which results in him 'wagging' or 'nodding' his head, especially in walk.

My legs were shaking when we were warming up, but Ernest was a true gentleman - he was unfazed by everything else happening around him, focusing only on what I was asking. Cool as a pony-shaped cucumber!

Overall, we got 70.00% for Prelim 17 - our highest score for a long time! - and came 6th. We got 66.88% for Novice 28, and came 3rd. Novice is the next level up from Prelim and basically requires you to do more stuff, including different types of trot and canter. I was delighted! It was such a positive way to start competing again, but even if we hadn't placed I would have been delighted with our tests. 
I thought I was going to cry when I read the judge's comment for Novice: "A very honest pony who tries his heart out for you. Very pleasing trot work. Needs to be more supple on left rein especially in canter. Well ridden test." That's my Biff! Judges do tend to like Ernest, obviously with good reason, but it's always lovely to read compliments about my baby boy.
We've qualified for the Championships in the Prelim class, which will be held next year. Our next dressage outing is October 11th - less than a week after the half marathon! - so in the meantime I'll be working on my contact and hand position.
Thank you to my friends and family who came and supported us!

Remember to look here if you want to see the videos! Check out the rest of Simon's website, too - he's very talented. My favourite, and best, pictures of Ernest were taken by him.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Guest Post: Basingstoke Half Marathon Training Run (4.9.14), by Maxx Le Hen

With the half marathon coming sooner and sooner, I felt really strange on Thursday. Firstly I went to badminton on Tuesday (I joined a badminton club last April) from 19.40 to 22.40, so I was really tired and my legs ached (it’s for this reason I couldn’t go with Pip on Wednesday). In the other hand I didn’t run for a week and a half, and the half marathon is coming with the speed of a Formula 1 car - it’s what I feel - and Pip had run the day before, so when we run again together I’m worried I will have lost my running stamina. So on my way back from work I found some motivation to go and run a big loop, to carry on the good training we have. When I was home I climbed the stairs and changed my clothes to go running while I had the motivation. 
I did an 8-mile loop around the house. I start running in what I felt the same rhythm that I run with Pip – to keep having the same rhythm all the time – I reached the next village (2.8 miles) in 26 minutes, which gave me the reason why I was feeling so bad. Everything was hurting me - like if it was 6/7 miles I was running - because I ran faster than I thought. I decided to walk a bit, when I say a bit it was a bit, I walked for 20/30 seconds then  I restarted running on the same rhythm that I started – I don’t like changing my rhythm. I did another 2.6 miles, I ran this 2.6 miles in 26 minutes as well. 
But from this point I started paying for the silly mistake I did: before running I always drink a big glass of water to hydrate my body during the run (and Pip often brings some water) but because I was so motivated to run this loop I forgot to drink my water.  Anyway, from this moment I started to feel my mouth and my throat becoming dry, and it was more difficult to run like this so I decided to walk another 20/30 seconds only and then carry on running. 
After another 1.5 miles (in 13 minutes) I felt really low, my mouth and throat were dryer and dryer and it became really difficult to run like this. At this point I was in the park and it left me only 1.3 miles to finish. But my body was too tired to carry on running, my legs were aching a lot, my ankle starting to hurt as well, my mouth and throat were dryer than the water in the middle of the Sahara… So I decided to walk home. 
When I was in the park after a 20-second walk, it was downhill, so it was faster to run down the hill than walk. I restarted running without forcing anything, I just let my body go down the hill. Then, when I reach the end of it I felt that I did rest my legs a bit so I carried on running until home. 
I did the 8 miles in 77 minutes in total, which is not too bad. I’m happy with myself, I know I did not too bad. But to be honest today my legs are killing me! Each step I’m taking is really hard (but I like it).

Please don’t forget to sponsor Pip and I for the half marathon, we are running for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare. Every donation is important; every little penny will help them to carry on doing a great job for all the greyhounds. Please don’t forget, WE COUNT ON YOU!
Princess' Voice: YEAH give some money for Pickle and the Big Wuss! (that's right, we have voices for our greyhounds).