We met back in 2006 as horse riding instructors in Central London. A close friendship was built instantly over our mutual love of tea and cake. We were reasonably fit then in terms of horse riding (sometimes up to eight horses per day) and walking lots which also incorporated dog walking in our lunch breaks. Those days we could eat ten chocolate bars per day and remain fairly slim without a prescribed exercise plan due to such a physically demanding job, but then it all changed, we got “proper” jobs!
The sedentary nature of office work meant we bit the bullet and joined a Central London gym, which was a significant proportion of our modest salary’s. We, therefore, committed to meet 2-3 times per week after work to attend. Unfortunately, we were clueless and found the gym a very tedious way of burning calories compared to riding around on horses. We frequently would use the time to chat, so obviously we were not exerting ourselves. If we did make it into the gym it normally consisted of 30 mins going through the motions on one of the dull cardio machines before hitting the sauna but sadly most times we met outside the gym and decided coffee and cake would be a better idea and would head off down the street to add to our daily calorie intake.
The purpose of the story is to demonstrate the fact that we are not athletic by nature at all. Our bodies couldn’t be further from that of a marathon runner or mountaineer. We are normal people with normal jobs. We enjoy cake (perhaps too frequently) and find all of the disciplines we have set goals to conquer very difficult indeed. We hope to inspire (although that’s probably too strong a word) women who think they can’t do things to just try. I literally couldn’t run down the road 12 months ago and to my surprise managed the London Marathon in March. It may sound cringe worthy but anyone can do anything they set their mind to. Set a goal, figure out how to get there and just do it. It’s not about what you look like or how good you are at a certain discipline, just give it your best shot. That’s literally all we are trying to do. Our friends and family think we are crazy and to look at us you probably wouldn’t think us capable of any sporty activity but you really can do anything!
So for a few weeks Jenni has abandoned the UK and is busy enjoying the delights of Thailand. I’m not bitter at all… Well, maybe just a bit, I could do with some warm beaches to run on and sea to swim in, instead I have hot pavements in central London smog and a local lake, not quite as idyllic.
So we haven’t really introduced ourselves as yet, whilst Jenni is away she promises me she will write some posts but we will forgive her if her time gets overtaken by diving and other nice things. Well, I might forgive her, eventually!
Anyway, I’m Helen, not much to know about me really, I’m 30yrs old, living in Hornchurch, working in London, training and participating in events pretty much everywhere. I have a horse (see above image – I often pull strange faces whilst jumping) and a dog which makes for a fun but hectic lifestyle with early morning rides and evening walks included as standard. Jenni and I live a substantial distance apart as she is in Southport so whilst we are embarking on this crazy adventure together we are very much training apart which makes it harder. We have a number of events entered together such as Rat Race Coast to Coast and Chicago Marathon but we are also doing separate events, my main focus at the moment is training for a 24hr cycle from Newcastle to London. Well I say main focus, I am trying to keep up with a little bit of everything at the moment.
Currently I am working on my swimming, with a number of Ironman events in our plan I need to ensure all disciplines are up to scratch. I used to be a reasonable swimmer when I was younger but kind of fell out of it and now rarely swim. So this weekend I headed to a local triathlon training facility – the tri farm to practise some open water swimming. I was nervous to start with, started too fast, panicked, couldn’t catch my breathing very well but settled down after an 800mtr lap and managed another lap after that a little more successfully. I went back again on Monday when the weather was gorgeous, the water was warm and I had a much better swim, 2 full laps without panicking or messing up my breathing and its a beautiful place to train so no complaints from me!
I may try a few pool swims this week to build my training up a bit. A good pool to swim in is the London Aquatics Centre in Stratford, I really enjoy it there, good facility, good value and I try to swim there whenever I can. After my open water swim on Monday I met up with my local cycling club Romford CC (if you are looking for a cycling club near Hornchurch look no further) to join their club ride. Its nice to train with people and luckily my friend Lisa is a member of this club but also often cycles with me and will be joining me and our other friends Laura and Kat on the 24hr cycle in August so its good practice to train together as well as being social. Laura, Lisa and I also rode the London to Southend cyle event on Sunday – Lisa has done a fab write up of this on her own blog (fatgirlfit2015), complete with pictures – check it out! I am lacking in the running a bit this week, I’m loosely blaming the heat so may try a gentle run this evening when it has cooled down a bit. Does anyone have some spare hours in the day they could lend me please? I’m fast running out!
Perhaps our vision might seem slightly odd to some people, maybe even a little far fetched? Truth is we feel we are already on our way to achieving our goals. By setting out smaller more manageable goals the main ones slowly move closer. The seven summits for example sounds like a mountainous challenge (literally), however when you break it down into 7 individual mountains, assign an amount of time to them, train, travel, conquer them one by one all of a sudden the big challenge seems achievable as individually each one is possible, so why not all of them?
The first of our summits for this challenge was Kilimanjaro. Perhaps it would have been logical to try the mountains in height order, or in the order they would be easiest to train for… But our way is not always the most logical, but it sure is fun!
May 2015 a few people we know (Helen included) completed a 100km walk to Brighton, in the finishers bag there was a leaflet advertising a trek to Kilimanjaro with the same company (Action Challenge). Robbie (one of the walkers) sent a photo to Helen, Helen sent it on to a few friends and before we knew it 5 of us (Jenni, Helen, Janet, Matt and Rachel) had signed up to climb to the ‘roof of Africa’. With a night time trek up Snowdon as our only really notable practise we were perhaps not the best prepared for the trip. Less so as Helen had major hip surgery in November meaning she was unable to exercise and was restricted to very limited walking in the months leading up to the climb.
On the 3rd March 2016 we were off! We had planned this trip to coincide with Helen’s 30th birthday, so all being well, we would climb the mountain and be down in time to travel to Zanzibar to celebrate. Well, it didn’t start that easily! Jenni’s suitcase decided it did not want to travel to Africa and on the train journey down from Southport it shed its wheels! A 26kg suitcase with no wheels is quite a tragedy, especially when trying to carry it up the stairs at tube stations in London. A few phone calls and Helen headed off to Euston with a suitable suitcase to decant Jenni’s kit into… Panic over!!!
We met up with the rest of the people on the trip at the airport, including a trek leader and a doctor provided by Action Challenge. Long flight attempting to sleep, then a quick connecting flight to Kilimanjaro airport and we were ready to start. We spent a night in a hotel at the base of the mountain before starting the climb the next day. The lower levels of the mountain are warm, filled with vegetation, monkeys and other delights, but make no mistake the first few days are still a tough climb.
Possibly harder than the trekking is the camping, we are not used to camping, small spaces, hard floors, no showers and rain certainly added to the experience! The company Action Challenge partner with in Tanzania were amazing they were Big Expeditions, if you ever want to trek up Kilimanjaro we can highly recommend them. They took down the camp each night, and then trekked ahead to set up camp at the end of each day, in this manner we were so spoilt! But we are truly grateful as without them we have no doubt the experience would have been a lot harder.
We took the Lemosho route which allows for some extra acclimatisation than other routes available of which we were grateful, climbing high in the day, sleeping lower, then climbing back up the next day. The views from the camps were stunning, with the mountain looming in the distance we were constantly reminded of the challenging days ahead.
There came a point where we seemed to be so close. The final camp! We rose at midnight to start the final ascent, and this is tough. Big Expeditions provide plenty of staff for the summit night, supporting and watching the trekkers, helping to ensure everyone makes it to the top. The terrain is difficult, uneven underfoot, thin paths, some scrambling, lots of concentration required. The air is thin, breathing and walking together feels like a struggle, stop and you can breathe, move and you cant… This carried on for 5 hours until we reached Stella Point, Stella Point is like a false summit… You’ve done a trudge of a climb to get there, you are freezing, cold, tired, oxygen deprived, but its still dark, and its not the top… Then there is the walk around the ridge to the true summit, as we walked round the sun started to rise, the view took your breath away and with it some of the bad memories of the hours before…
And then we made it! The top of Africa, although at this moment it felt like the top of the world (we are well aware that challenge is still to come). Exhausted but elated, we had made it! It was a fantastic feeling and one we are sure will be difficult to replicate anytime soon, but we will be sure to try to on our next summit. 1 down, 6 to go!
On Sunday 3rd July we ran the Southport Half Marathon! This was intentional on Jenni’s part and quite accidental on mine (Helen) I had innocently driven up to see Jenni on the Saturday when she happened to mention she was running on the Sunday and entries were still open… Being easily led as I am I agreed to run with her!
We got up on Sunday, had breakfast and headed to the start, it was busier than we had expected with 2000 runners taking part in either the half marathon or the 10km. At this point we did start to wonder why we had entered the half? 10km is a nicer distance? Half the time, half the effort? But as you have probably realised by now we don’t generally take the easy option!!
They called the runners to the start in order of expected finish times, 1hr 20min runners went first. How on earth people manage to run that fast we don’t know! Incredible!! We aren’t fast… But we are persistent… That’s all that matters right?
We lined up with the masses which was anyone expected to run in 2hrs or over. Quick race briefing and we were off. For the first 3km or so the half marathon took the same route as the 10km so all the runners were together, then the races split courses, again reminding us we had entered the longer race!
The route was pleasant, it ran through some parks, and then down to the sea front, then it got tough, from around 6miles there was a very strong headwind as we ran along parallel to the sea, this made running even tougher than it normally is, but at approximately 8miles the route doubled back and for a few minutes there was a brief respite as the wind was behind us so this made it slightly easier… Only slightly though as after 8miles running is tough! This picture is taken at about 9 miles, I don’t know why we were smiling? We weren’t feeling too smiley at this point I promise!
The route then looped round a little coming back onto the sea front briefly before heading slightly inland and back towards the first park we started in, as we ran round the outside of the park we passed the 12mile sign, it was nearly over! Through the park, and then we could see the finish, there was a steel band playing just before the finish line, final bit of motivation, then it was over! We had made it! 13.1miles done, not bad for an unplanned, untrained for run! All in all it was a good race, we would do it again, but the headwind along the seafront definitely made it tough! Race done! Big thumbs up, medal earned! Best keep up the training from here on in, we have plenty of events to train towards!
Repeating our ‘About us’ page but this really does sum up our plans really nicely…
1,2,3,4,5,6… Lets go! Our page is quite simple… We have 1 vision, we are 2 girls, planning 3 peaks, 4 Ironman Events, 5 cycle sportives, 6 marathon majors and finally the 7 summits… (Yes, including Mount Everest!!!)
Well, we started by using birthdays as an excuse to climb mountains (in the Lake District initially) moved on to Kilimanjaro, planned a few running and obstacle events and then boom… Our vision expanded, our purses shrunk, our ambition grew and our families despaired (they still do).
We intend to keep a blog of our adventures from here on in. For a number of reasons really, to document memories, to keep us motivated, to encourage other people (everyone should be encouraged to try any challenge that appeals to them), find ourselves some accountability buddies – If we have told you we are doing it then we will have to stick to it, and just generally keep track of all our fun, fear and plans as they occur!
The next few months of this year include some tough challenges, as we are both doing the Rat Race Coast to Coast and then the Chicago Marathon… We also have a number of other events either individually or together, but we’ll tell you about them in due course. That means all other days are taken up by training, eating, sleeping and remembering that we are still human, everyone has good days and bad days (yesterday was a bad day – very sore legs after the Southport Half Marathon on Sunday), today is a better day, sun is shining, gym session and run done – life’s not so bad.
Please do follow us, laugh with us, or at us, encourage us, let us encourage you and let us know your thoughts, tips, feelings etc. We would love to hear from you!! Keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (@1Vision2Girls) or by email 1Vision2Girls@gmail.com.