#25at25 – A Look Back

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Last month I celebrated my 26th birthday with an uneasy feeling of disappointment in myself. I’d made a massive furore of trying to complete 25 challenges before I turned 26 and I had failed. There were more challenges on the list I hadn’t even touched than I would have liked. There were some I had started and not finished but there were many I had done and enjoyed.

And then, like with most things, a bit of time and a little bit of perspective made me realise that I was being characteristically hard on myself. I climbed three mountains this year! I trained my ass off so that I could swim an open water mile. I recorded a video of myself SINGING for everyone to hear. I did a burlesque class. I got on a surfboard! I auditioned for a TV game show! I made a massive cupcake. I raised over £1000 for charity! I may not have completed all 25 challenges but I took a damn good stab at the 18 I did try or complete.

On the days I’m being fair to myself, I know that I took on too much. I asked too much of myself for any regular year, let alone one in which I started a new job, bought a new home and in the process found myself homeless and watched my wonderful grandma fade away before we eventually lost her in August.

25at25 was never about failing. It was about having a really great year. It was about creating some unforgettable memories, being brave, being reckless, making the most of the moment and embracing a little bit of adventure. It wasn’t about forfeits or being disappointed in myself.

So I refuse to let myself call this a failure. And I refuse to let not finishing everything perfectly define my 25th year.

I am proud of 25at25. And I am proud of myself. I hope you don’t feel too disappointed with me if you’ve followed me on this journey or if I failed to complete your challenge.

Here’s to seizing the moment, grabbing life with both hands and doing the absolute best you can. Here’s to future surfing adventures, open water swimming with my dad. Here’s to wearing a leotard and a pair of stilettos in a room full of strangers. Here’s to a ridiculous bass face, cringing at my accent in a YouTube video. Here’s to carrying on the challenge even after a birthday has passed. Here’s to getting in a pool anyway even though the scheduled event was cancelled. Here’s to celebrating with good friends and loved ones, even if things didn’t work out as planned.

And here’s to you for coming along on this journey with me.

Thanks for everything. It was a lot of fun.

Challenge 12: La Boheme and Miss Saigon

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It doesn’t really matter what it is, sit me down in front of a stage and you can almost guarantee I’ll have a good time. From live music to musicals to the ballet and poetry readings – I love it all. but until #25at25, I’d never been to the opera. I think I was scared of the idea of it, worried I wouldn’t understand or I’d find the whole thing a bit overwhelming and not necessarily in a good way. 

When my paternal Grandparents challenged me to go to the opera, I had pretty much no idea what to go and see. I asked around and eventually settled on the widely respected and loved La Boheme at the Royal Opera House back in July. I knew little of the story, but was comforted by the fact that there were surtitles to give me a better understanding of the story.

Puccini’s most famous opera depicts the heartbreaking and dramatic story of MiMi and Rodolfo – a couple captivated by their doomed romance. I was blown away. Opera is powerful, bold and unapologetic in it’s magnitude. I found the musicality of it a little hard to get used to at first as musical theatre is my first love but after a little while, I was completely engrossed. The two main characters were incredible as separate performers, but when they sang together as a duet, my spine tingled. La Boheme was the perfect introduction to opera as it was funny in parts but phenomenally moving in others and the finale was superbly emotional. I was so, so glad to have been pushed to go to the opera and I can’t wait to go and see something else soon. The Opera House in itself is an experience and I loved dressing up for a lovely London evening. Those things never get old.

I’d really hoped that we could go and catch Madame Butterfly at the opera (one day, one day) so when we were offered the opportunity to go and see a show or concert of our choice from Seatwave, I opted to finally go along and see the highly commended musical adaptation Miss Saigon. Having been hoping to get my hands on tickets since its launch earlier this year, I’d heard such great things and I couldn’t wait to settle down to follow Kim and Chris through their tumultuous relationship (as if I hadn’t put myself through enough emotion for La Boheme). Miss Saigon shared a lot of comparisons with La Boheme and I reacted very similarly to both pieces despite their differing formats. I laughed and tingled and gasped all the way through Miss Saigon, as it constantly threw big, emotive musical numbers and spectacles (THERE WAS A HELICOPTER) at the audience, leaving me both emotionally drained and mesmerised by the wonder of the theatre.

I think it’s official – I just love seeing a show, no matter what’s on in front of me. And I think the next time I go, I’ll go and see something with fewer starcrossed, doomed lovers.

*Seatwave offered me tickets to go and review a show but this didn’t change my opinion of Miss Saigon. You should go and see it too. It’s killer.

Challenge 25 – Learn to Surf. Complete! Kind of…

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If there was one challenge I knew I was going to love, it was trying surfing. If I love swimming in a pool (which you now know I do) I like swimming in the sea even more. If I go away and don’t get in the sea, even for ten minutes, I don’t feel like it’s been a real holiday. As a result, surfing is something I have wanted to try for quite a long time, but one of those things I’ve always thought “I’ll do it one day”. As a result of #25at25, on the 17th August that “one day” arrived and Boom (sorry pet – it’s all over now, no more traipsing round after me doing silly things) took the train to Bournemouth for our first ever surfing lesson.

I knew a bit about the reef they’d built into Bournemouth coast and I knew that as a result, it was supposed to be a good place for beginners. After a bit of research, I found Surf Steps and booked us both in for a two hour beginners class (£35 each) on an initially rainy Sunday afternoon. As the rain passed, the sun came out and we started with a few safety basics. Within ten minutes, we were in the water, wading out to waist height, practicing reading the waves, launching ourselves onto the board and riding the surf along to the shore. I, inevitably fell in an awful lot, but I was determined and no matter how many times I found myself under the water with a noseful, I was up and trying again in a few minutes.

Riding that first wave back to the beach was ridiculously exhilarating for such a small achievement.

Gradually, I found myself getting better at judging the waves, riding more and as a result spent more time running back into the water to try again. And again. And again. And again.

After about 30 minutes, the instructors (who were excellent and a LOT of fun) called us back onto the beach for 15 minutes trying out the techniques to get from the board to your feet. Unable to balance on firm ground most days, I was sceptical that this would be a success, but I was having such a brilliant time, I gave it my very best shot. I definitely did not make it to my feet but I somehow scrambled to my knees a few times before promptly nose diving or falling off.

Every time I succeeded and found myself at the shore, I would run through the water as quickly as I could to get back for the next wave, but watching the amazing opportunities I was missing because my legs wouldn’t move quick enough gave me the strangest kind of fomo. I was suffering with wave envy left, right and centre. I just wanted to catch every one. I swear if you could bottle up the feeling I had that day and sell it, you’d make a small fortune.

By the time the two hours wrapped up I was exhausted, euphoric and dizzy with just how much I had enjoyed the two hour session. I was gutted it was over and only wished I’d booked us a morning and an afternoon session, rather than just the afternoon.

I won’t claim to have learned to surf in that two hour session, but I gave it my best shot.

I knew that I would like surfing. I imagined I would probably love it. But I didn’t realise I would love it this much.

When can I go again?

Challenge 14 – Complete

Here’s to not taking a blooming selfie every day! What a chore (and an upleasant one at that) that was.

I hope you don’t think this is too vain a challenge (there are some truly awful photos in there) but I just wanted a way to track the year, and this seemed to be as good a way as any.

So here it is. Almost 365 photos of my ugly mug melted into 34 seconds. My personal favourites include the day after the Christmas party, windswept hair in Austin, my first “proper” run, the awkward Leaning Tower of Pisa and the roof of the carousel when I was too tiddly to photograph my own face. Also – how do I have so much hair now? Cannot believe how much it has grown in the last year. This is a nice thing to have, even if it is a bit weird.

Challenge 5: The Great London Swim

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So. My birthday has been and gone, along with my 25th year. I’ve got so many posts to write up, and I want to do that before I reflect on the year that was, so I hope you’ll bear with me over the next couple of days/weeks while I catch up with myself.

As you all know if you’ve talked to me at any point over the last 12 months, one of the biggest challenges of my #25at25 in terms of physicality was swimming the Great London Swim. I’ve always been a massive fan of the water and have often felt more at home in a pool than anywhere else (I mean, you can’t fall over if you’re floating can you?), so swimming the Great London Swim seemed like an obvious choice. It was one of the earliest challenges I chose for myself. I’d never even considered open water swimming, let alone tried it before but I couldn’t remember not being able to swim, so it felt as though this sort of challenge encompassed everything I wanted #25at25 to be about – pushing me out of my comfort zone – but with the added safety net of it being something I’d done all of my life.

I was so, so pleased when my Dad (that’s Poppa Purk to you) decided that he wanted to join me on this challenge. Throughout the year, we both trained really hard, me tackling lidos and pools in London, while my Dad began hitting Ellerton Lake near my hometown for his open water swims. And I can tell you this – we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Over what’s been a tricky few months for the family for various reasons, we both found solace and solitude in swimming, while also finding a new area of common ground. A week before we were due to swim, I still hadn’t done an “open water” mile – I’d been swimming more than that on a regular basis, but I still had a bit of wetsuit fear, so when I was at home, we headed out for my first open water mile. I loved it. It was weirdly liberating, swimming in the sunshine in a lake was better than I ever could have imagined and afterwards, I was at one with my wetsuit and actually excited about taking on the swim in Millwall Dock the following week.

So you can only imagine how gutted I, we, were to find out that the Great London Swim had been cancelled due to poor water quality. We’d both worked so hard and were massively looking forward to doing something together. We’d received our hats and timing chips, we had supporters who were going to come and cheer us on and we both felt really ready. Nervous, yes. But ready. It was really, really disappointing. It couldn’t be helped though. I’d far rather have not swum than ended up sick from ingesting goodness knows what in Millwall Dock.

So we decided to have our own, unofficial Great Swim. We took to Tooting Bec Lido in our wetsuits and Great Swim caps and swam our mile anyway. It might not have been in Millwall Dock. It might not have been an official event, but we swam a steady mile (in 38 minutes I think) and it was pretty great. Here’s a couple of snaps from our training and from the day.

Thanks for taking this one on with me Dad. Looking forward to lots more open water swimming together in the future! After all, there’s always next year.

PicMonkey CollageDad raised an amazing £303 for Harrisons Fund, who are raising money to find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. You can sponsor him for all his training and our Unofficial Great Swim here

Challenge 6 – An Update

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Something really great happened today. Actually – something really great happened last week to start off with and what happened today was catalysted by that. But I’ll get there in a couple of minutes. If you’ve been on Facebook today, you might already have this figured out.

First of all though, I wanted to finally sit down and chat to you about the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge that Chris and I completed on 14th June. It’s taken me a little while to really figure out how I felt about the whole thing and it was a long day, so this isn’t going to be the shortest post I’ve ever written but I hope you’ll stay with me.

I originally signed up for the 3 Peaks because I felt like I needed something more to help me reach my £500 fundraising target. Signing up was an insanely spontaneous decision. Within 15 minutes of receiving an email recommending it as a method of fundraising, we were signed up. I knew that it was going to be hard work but I my feelings beforehand fluctuated between completely terrified and quietly confident. When the walk started a little before 8am on the Saturday morning, I was somewhere between the two.

Guided by Kuta Outdoors, we were led over the three mountains in a little over 12 hours. The first, Pen y Ghent was a really pleasant walk, despite the high volume of traffic on the hill that day (there were also 250 walkers for Macmillan on the hill!). There was a touch of scrambling but generally, this was a really nice start to the day. Amazing panoramic views of the Great British Countryside (specifically God’s own country, my very own Yorkshire) made getting up at the crack of dawn totally worth it. The sun kept on poking it’s head out too which was completely welcome, and reaching our first trig point made it feel like the whole thing was completely doable. The walk down Pen y Ghent was gorgeously picturesque and not too much of a strain.

In between the first and second climbs, there was a 10 mile walk. I chatted to a couple of the other people who were walking with us (they were all walking to fundraise for Haven, a breast cancer care charity) and found that the hours seemed to pass pretty quickly.

The ascent up Whernside was long but steady. It was phenomenal to see just how far we’d walked and a little bit unnerving to see how far we had to go. I think somewhere along the rise of Whernside we hit half way. We’d been walking for 6 hours quite happily and I’d found myself really enjoying it. My body was feeling a bit on the weary side but my spirits were still pretty high but walking (read: pretty much falling) down the second mountain was easily one of the toughest parts of the day. It went on forever and the instability underfoot meant it took an incredible amount of concentration for someone as clumsy as I. Going downhill was tough on the feet, ankles, knees and thighs. It was so, so hard and pretty unpleasant.

After a brief respite (and a pint of the best orange squash I’ve ever had), we began climbing the final peak. I was a bit revitalised after the rest and spurred on by Phil of Kuta, we pushed on through the scramble up Inglebrough – the last peak. Whether it was or not, it felt like an almost vertical climb. It was tough but knowing that we were nearly there made it easier, and after climbing down Whernside, everything felt like a walk in the park. When we hit the top and mile 20, I was struck by a wave of euphoria. We stopped at the trig point for less than a minute and begin our final decline.

If I could have ridden that wave of euphoria all the way back down to Horton, I would have been peachy. But the last 4.5 miles of the walk were the longest and most difficult four miles of my life. I wanted nothing more than to be able to put one foot in front of the other but it was such a challenge. Every mile felt like about five but 12 hours and 20 minutes and 24.5 miles after we started, we crossed the finish line.

For a good week or so after the climb, I felt a bit numb about the whole experience. I didn’t feel the massive sense of achievement I had hoped to – I just didn’t really feel anything. And then I started talking to people about it. It started to dawn on me what we did. I might not have climbed Kilimanjaro, but we did something pretty impressive. Then something wonderful happened. With a flurry of donations, I crossed the £500 boundary (massive thanks to the last donor who pinged me over the edge, who I maybe tormented about it – you know who you are) and that little bit of euphoria returned.

Then today, something else wonderful happened. Work doubled my fundraising efforts. So I now stand at the incredible total of £1010, which is more than I ever could have imagined. It makes every single step worth it and may have made me have a little weep at my desk when I got the email.

So I also want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who donated. I don’t think I could have done it without you (and your dollar) behind me. I’d probably have stopped in the first pub I got to then turned around and walked back to the car from there. So thank you, a million times thank you and know that your donations are going to an incredible cause! And that’s it for Challenge 6!

Challange 7: A Little Ghyll Scrambling Adventure

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It’s taken me such a long time to write this challenge up but it’s been one of my absolute favourite so far. I’m incredibly lucky that I have friends from a massive variety of walks of life and I have 100% been taking advantage of this wherever I can for #25at25. When I set the challenge to go on an adventure – I was foolishly hoping I’d use it as an excuse to finally go on our road trip to California. Budget and time constraints meant this wasn’t going to happen, but when my best friend’s fiancee said he’d take me out on an adventure, I absolutely couldn’t say no.

Andy is a rock climbing, gorge walking, kayaking, adventure specialist and on 1st May, he took Chris and I out for a full day of action at Ash Ghyll and Low Force in the glorious North of England. It was incredible. We hung out behind waterfalls, waded through the river, slid down waterfalls, learned some defensive swimming and jumped off bridges. If you’d told me beforehand the things I’d have done that day, I would have laughed in your face, but a combination of adrenaline and Andy’s careful and competent tuition made me throw caution (safely) into the wind and get on with it.

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We started out by getting used to the temperature of the water (which I actually thought was quite pleasant – I love a chilly swim), figuring out moving around in the water (buoyancy aids are just the best) and learning how to keep warm. We started with a few little slides, then gradually moved onto smaller jumps and progressed onto some badman leaps into the unknown. I think really, I’m going to let the photos do the talking here…

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collage*note the 20 foot bridge in the second photo, and then me having just jumped off it in the third photo…

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I’m not sure that the photos really show the height of the jumps we did or can really show how awesome a day we had. This might not have been the adventure I had in mind (it was completely unrealistic though) but Andy made sure it was everything I wanted and more. I’m so proud to talk about my achievements that day – and whenever anyone asks, I immediately tell them how much fun it was. I got a bit of an injury, but I’ve never felt more like it was a wound that I carried with pride! At least I didn’t get it falling down the stairs after tripping over a shoe I foolishly left there in the middle of the night (could genuinely happen).

So if there’s one thing I’m really proud of this year, it’s this. I got out of my comfort zone, into a buoyancy aid and gave #25at25 what for. And it was bloody brilliant.

I just want to keep throwing words at the page to attempt to describe how great this day was, but I don’t know if I realistically can – so if you ever get the chance, just say YES and try something awesome like ghyll scrambling. Just remember to tuck your arse in when you hit the water…

Thanks SO much to the amazing Andy (Shandy – who is incidentally a man I am most proud to call my friend and incredibly pleased he is soon to be marrying my homegirl) for taking us out and showing us the very best of what the British countryside has to offer. He works for Outdoor Ambition based in Darlington and I’m sure he’ll take you out for a fun day too if you’re keen. Holler if you want me to hook you up.

Thanks also to Carly for taking the photos and for finding such a useful man to spend the rest of her life with.

NB! I’m doing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge next week as part of Challenge 6. It’s climbing three hills of 26 miles over 12 hours. It’s going to be a BIG deal. If you’ve already donated, I owe you 1x cuddle. If you haven’t and you’d like to, you can do it HERE

 

Challenge 15 – Colour Me Happy

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www.facebook.com/TheColorRunUk

Today marks the day another challenge got crossed of the list. I’ve had a bit of downtime lately (I’ve still got a blog post all about Ghyll Scrambling to write up for you – I promise it’s a good one! But you’ll have to wait a little longer), which meant it was actually really nice to get out and actually do something today. This was a challenge I’d been really looking forward to.

Today, I ran in my first organised run. It was just a 5k, completely untimed and concentrating mostly on fun rather than run, it was the “Happiest 5k on the planet” – The Color Run.

Inspired by the likes of India’s Holi Festival celebrating all things colourful, runners start dressed entirely in white. At every kilometre on the course, Colour Throwers chuck a paint powder over you – first pink, then blue, followed by yellow and topped off with orange. By the time the race is done, runners are covered from head to toe in a rainbow of painty, powdery goodness.

Now as you all know, I’m not much of a runner, but I absolutely loved The Color Run today. There’s no way I would have signed up for a run, or even discovered that I actually kind of enjoy it, had it not been for #25at25 and this Challenge (thanks Alison!). And had I not taken part in The Color Run today, I wouldn’t have spent the afternoon jogging round Wembley Stadium and I wouldn’t have these awesome pictures to prove that I was there. I also wouldn’t have had purple shower water this afternoon either.

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And I managed to snap a super quick video blog before washing away the day’s work!

I had such a great day today! Thanks so much to Chris, Sophie and AB for coming along to share the fun!

 

Challenge 13 and Challenge 14

This week, I’m combining Challenge 13 and Challenge 14 in a bit of a cheat. As mentioned a couple of months ago, I’ve decided to share the video of all of my Everyday’s so far every now and again – so that if something goes terribly wrong, I’ve got the majority of the pictures saved somewhere safe! I do worry that this challenge is a bit indulgent, but believe me, taking a photo of yourself can be a bit of a bore. Hope it’s not too much of a bore for you.

And if you want it in double time, check this one out:

Just to keep you in the loop, I’ve also managed to reschedule the 3 Peaks challenge, so I won’t be hitting up the glorious hills of Horton in Ribblesdale until 14th May. Happy days. No running a 5k the day after walking a marathon up and down hills.

It’s Easter this week and I’ve just purchased a keyboard for my iPad, so I’m hoping to sit down and get some serious blogging done while I’m taking a bit of a rest from househunting, work and 25at25.

Challenge 13 & Challenge 6: Yorkshire 3 Peaks

Just a quick update again this week, but I’m hoping to get sit down and write something proper for you soon. I actually have a lot of ideas for none #25at25 blog content at the minute but it’s time I’m short on.

Anyway, I wanted to share a little update on Challenge 6. Though I’m swimming the Great London Swim in August (and training for that is well underway!), I felt like I needed to do something else. I’m still hoping to get a 10k run in before I turn 26, or shortly after if not, but I wanted to make a really conscious effort to get the ball rolling on the fundraising, as I felt like the swim alone wasn’t enough.

So, I’ve signed up for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. On 31st May (all being well, we’re having some logistical issues so this date may be subject to change) Chris and I will be climbing Pen Y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales over 12 hours. Look forward to lots of Instagramming and a half decent video at a later date. Until now, here’s me talking a bit about Butterwick and the 3 Peaks Challenge. You can read more about Butterwick here, and you can donate here.