"I'll hae nae hauf-way hoose but aye be whaur extremes meet..." Hugh McDiarmid

Friday, 29 March 2013

ellen macarthur. and other ramblings...

six weeks today I will be sitting in the portsmouth guildhall listening to ellen macarthur giving the clipper 13-14 race crew a talk about her own incredible round the world adventures, and latterly setting up the ellen macarthur cancer trust. this is the official charity of the clipper race.

I'm very excited about this. I've read the book of her solo circumnavigation and it was absolutely brilliant. it'll also be great to be with some of the crew the night before we get allocated. I'll still be doing the 5x50 challenge then, so will be reasonably sensible... luckily I'd booked the travelodge for two nights to make a weekend of it, so I don't need to find somewhere to stay. one of my friends from level 1 is staying as well so I'm looking forward to catching up with her too :)

got my yellow fever vaccination the other day as well, and the very important certificate that goes with it. I think that's me now for paperwork - american and australian visas are done too. china we can't do until a certain time before, so that'll get done while we're in australia. and I am only two payments away from my berth fee! I'll be so relieved when that's paid off, although it means I'll be skint until I get back and start working again... but that's the decision I made when I ticked 'RTW' on the contract and I'm happy with it. folk are talking about how expensive stopovers could be, but I'm planning to stay on board as much as possible so insha'allah it won't get ridiculous :)

I need to start making lists of what I need to get done before I leave beautiful oman on the 1st of june. I have two boxes to get, pack and ship back to my parents. I'm trying to get that done this month, but I need to get accurate dimensions and weights to the courier before I can get a price and delivery estimate. this is so I can go back on my flight with only my hold case and my small hand luggage case. I'll need to sell my car and any of my furniture as well, although that will probably end up being may.

I also have to get a list of stuff I still need for the race, then try to pick it off bit by bit. I think I'm nearly there but we'll see. my sister is down at the parents this weekend and was very interested in my HL midlayers. she reckons she might need to borrow them as there is so much snow and it's so cold... as long as I get them back for the race I don't mind!

big purchases like boots and my sleeping bag are done. they were made last year for my level 1. living in oman there is no need for wellies so it made sense to get my race boots then. I also don't have a sleeping bag here, so that got delivered to the clipper office - they are very understanding :)

I can't explain how excited I am now. it's getting really close. this time last year it seemed so far away, but we leave in 4-5 months time! and 2 of these will be spent here, working! hopefully that will keep me focussed on not being too excited... I've been watching lots of youtube videos of last year's race. the more I watch them at work, the more folk there think I'm mental. every time one of the yachts is filmed crashing into a massive wave or the folk on board getting a soaking, they look at me pityingly and go 'rather you than me. we'll just be here, in the sun, putting on shows' and I think 'rather you than me'...

so the brilliant article about the open water championships went into Y magazine this week. there is a little bit about my experience at the bottom of the piece :)

training wise, I have a week off crossfit as ben is away all week. obviously if ben is reading this I'll be at the gym every other day...honest guv. I start the 5x50 challenge on the 31st of march and I'm frankly a bit terrified. I don't have a bike any more and walking anywhere in this heat may actually kill me, so my choice is run 5km every day for 50 days. oh god. one of my friends here offered me the use of his mountain bike so I may take him up on that! then at least I can bike into and out of work a couple of days a week and rest my old knees. I just hope that it's a 5km round trip...

anyway, back to work tomorrow. off to the gym first, then a muscat road runners committee meeting in the evening. busy busy. is it may yet?

Saturday, 23 March 2013

the three Muscat-eers!

so the muscat daily article went in last week. first I heard about it was a text from a mate saying I was the whole back page of the paper! I went to work and didn't get a chance to pick one up from the shop til dinner time. it was so strange reading about myself in a paper in the middle east, and it was interesting to see the the finished piece after Mohammad had let me proof read it.

they made a lot of my CDH and the car crash - I'll admit that I had a few rough nights sleep as the nightmares came back reading about it - but it was pretty good. they linked to my blog and hopefully I'll get some more donations through my virgin money page :)

I was also blogged about for the first time! Cat didn't just target newspapers it turns out, but also the most popular bloggers in Oman. so the lovely Heather added a post about me and clipper :)

also, Kate from Y magazine got back in touch to ask if I was planning on doing the 5km open water swim on thursday morning. I wasn't - as I'd been told it was just for boys - but the oman swimming association corrected us and I signed up. previous to this, I'd swam 4km for fahal last may and I figured it would be good training for this year.

it turned out to be the open water swimming championships... the international men were doing 10km, the juniors were doing 3km and the 5km was an open event. the course was really well laid out and there were loads of safety boats with OSA officials on each one, and police on jet skis!

the first 3km was pretty flat but then the wind got up and it got kind of hilly. I've never been slammed onto my face while swimming before, and Lea got hit by a wave so big that it nearly flipped her over! Lea finished in around 1'48 and I was less than 400m from the finish when the officials stopped me for being out of time. gutted.

I did however get a fantastic amount of chafe on the left hand side of my neck from my rash vest (which I'll now NOT be wearing for fahal...) and not enough vaseline.

and yes, it is as sore as it looks. I'm currently moisturising about four times a day. everyone at work is asking what I've done - even the guard!

apart from the chafe and a sore right shoulder, I've had no other problems from the swim. I just need to train more open water before may :)

what else is happening this week...hmm...it was the first meeting of the three Muscat-eers! I met Usama, who is an Omani doing leg 3 of clipper, for the first time. me, him and Chris all met up at the wave for coffee and to talk about the training we've done so far. Usama is away doing his level 1 this week and Chris has done levels 1, 2 and his coxswain training.

seven weeks today, we'll all be in portsmouth for crew allocation. this time in seven weeks, we'll know who is on our teams, who our skippers are and which yachts we'll all be calling home for almost a year.

Friday, 15 March 2013

home alone

so my housemates are away on holiday for a week or two, and I've got the place to myself. what am I doing, I hear you ask?


yes, you heard me. I'm desperately trying to master baking bread in a loaf tin. after some time with the bread maker, I got pretty good at it. sadly yesterday, I blew it up. it exploded while it was trying to make me a wholemeal loaf for breakfast. it soldiered on through the whole program, but the end result is now in the bin. rip bread maker :( also, we don't have a bread maker like that on board.

so, today I tried to make dough and then turn that into bread. it's clearly magic. black magic. I've watched videos online, I've read bread making for dummies...I just need to get a job lot of cheap flour to master the dough first I think...

however, I have made veggie bolognese and homemade apple crumble. I am about to make a dairy-free banana and walnut loaf, and some almond milk. it's like domestic bliss over here in the middle east today. and tomorrow I am making the lovely clĂ­ona (one of my pr team from work) a veggie thai red curry with tofu. and there is still some crumble left :)

soya custard by the way, needs sugar. that is all I am saying...

on the pr front by the way, last week I was interviewed for the muscat daily and Y magazine. I will post links when the articles go out :) kate from Y magazine couldn't quite believe that I hadn't really publicised myself or the race - she spent a lot of the interview (almost two hours!) with her head in her hands - and is passing on her information to a mate of hers who works on a paper in glasgow.

training wise, I am doing 3 crossfit sessions in a row this week. ben reckons this is good for conditioning. I reckon it's good for not getting a lie-in... I am also back to swimfit at the intercon on a sunday night. I used to go to this every week if there wasn't a show on, then sarah left and I stopped. ben doesn't think swimming is training - presumably because I don't have to swim with a concrete ball - but I am going anyway. the al-fahal island swim is in two months and I've not trained for it. again.

and I need to get back to running. it's the last winter series next week and I'd really like to not be last!

two and a half months to go, then I'm home!!! then I need to start thinking about the last bits'n'bobs of stuff I need to organise to be able to sail round the world for a year :D

is it may yet..?

Friday, 8 March 2013

PR? me?

my parents made it safely home at the start of the week. sad to see them go, but it'll be less than 3 months until they're asking me when the race starts ;)

I got the fright of my life that day as well. I came home from work and was checking my news feed when I saw my name. in the context of an article. about me. by the lovely clipper folk. panic! I read it, then viber'd my sister and a mate in london saying 'check out the clipper website!!'

I shared it onto my timeline and from there it got busy. a few of my friends shared it too, and tagged me in it. at one point on monday my entire timeline was just the rectangle with the photo and text of the article. mum and dad had got back to scotland by this time and leigh had showed it to them too.

one of my friends here in sunny muscat then decided to up the game a little bit. when someone pops up on chat with the line 'don't freak out' there is always a but... lovely and over-excitable catherine had decided that as I wasn't going to publicise myself, she would do it for me. and emailed the papers and radio stations telling them what I was up to and put the link to the article in there too.

I may have had a tiny panic.

anyone who really knows me would agree that I don't seek the limelight, shall we say. however, this is for a good cause so by the time cat phoned me I was almost speaking to her again... which was just as well it turned out, as one of the papers had got back to her and wanted to know if I would do an article. cat gave them my email address and they got in touch.

so on tuesday I am having coffee with a lady from Y magazine who is going to write an article about my participation in the race and the charities and why I'm doing it.

wish me luck.

in other news, today we went and watched the last day of extreme series racing at the wave. I'd not seen them this close up before and it was brilliant racing. the course is so close to the beach here! the temperature at the moment is just perfect, around 30C with a nice breeze. it'll start working its way up to summer over the next month then we'll be back to the 40C range and the humidity will rise. my flight home is on the 1st of june so I will miss the worst of it!

I made almond milk for the first time today as well. it's really easy to make (it turns out) and just requires a little organisation as the almonds need to be soaked for over 6 hours. anyway, 2 minutes in the blender and the milk problem is solved. hurrah! it is pretty amazing in hot chocolate as well :D

I'm on office hours all this week at work - concentrating on finishing off the manual and doing some firmware updates. off to bed now though, crossfit in the morning....

Saturday, 2 March 2013

me and STEPS

OK. I know it's not friday. not in oman anyway....

so with my parents being here for almost two weeks - they go on monday morning - I've had an opportunity to ask questions about my childhood hip condition. I've always wondered about the details. it is something which seems completely unreal to me, even though I lived through it and have the scar to prove it, because I don't remember anything about it. apart from the scar I'm left only with a near pathological fear of the medical profession.

there is only one photo taken in the whole time I was being 'fixed' and I'm totally bundled up in trousers and a bright red jacket, being held by my big brother who must have been around 11 at the time. he's doing a good job of making it look like I weigh a ton and I must have, with plaster from ankle to hip on my left leg which then joined onto a body cast going up to my chest! it's not clear from the photo that I'm even in plaster, but my parents are sure I am. the only clue (apart from david struggling with the weight) is that my left leg is hanging a bit strangely.

anyway, hopefully this post is going to explain a bit more why I chose STEPS as one of my charities for the race. aside from a brief mention of being a bit wonky in the 'about me' section of the blog I've never really gone in to detail - mainly because I haven't had the answers til now :)

my mum will tell anyone who'll listen that she carried me through the hottest summer on record (1976 for those who can't be bothered googling) and then did my sister's 6th birthday party only 3 weeks before I appeared. apparently I just opened my eyes, looked around and went to sleep when I was born - prompting the midwife to claim I'd been here before and was just checking to make sure it suited me!

everything was fine until I went to my 9-month check where the doctor simply told my mum that there was something wrong with me. when she stood me up and held my hands, I refused to put weight on my left leg. mum couldn't believe it, to her I was just perfect, and hugely upset she picked me up and drove home. shortly after she got us home, the phone rang. it was the doctors practice asking if she was ok and asking her to bring me in to the surgery. the doctor we saw checked me over, reassured mum it was not terribly serious and told her that we'd never see the first doctor again. I had an appointment at the hospital for a day or so afterwards, and a few days after that I was in hospital.

it turned out I had congenital dislocation of the hip (CDH) which for me meant that my left hip socket had never grown. this had been caused by my femur being turned so the socket never got to grow around the ball. the surgeon who looked after me decided surgery was the best option. 9 months was quite old to be diagnosed with CDH. there was some time in traction to dislocate my right hip and pull both my legs down. the first operation followed, where my left femur was returned to the correct position and held there with a plate and 4 screws. my first plaster followed, which held my left leg out behind me - mum says I looked like I was getting ready to kick a ball - and the top of that plaster joined onto a body cast to absolutely hold me in that position.

mum claims during the time all this was being done I was a total angel in the hospital, just really nosey. whenever someone came into the children's ward I would haul myself up from my traction to see what was going on :) when I got home I had to be strapped onto a frame while in my cot to support the weight of the plaster and to stop me moving. me and leigh were sharing a room and by this time she was 7 and I was 1. she tells a different story about how I cried and whinged loads in my cot...

I was in the plaster for ages. one time I had an appointment and my surgeon was away on holiday. the relief guy decided to put me into a frog's leg plaster instead, so I had that until my surgeon came back. then the frog's leg came off and the normal 'kicking a ball' plaster was reinstated.

mum always says she knew it was time for the plaster to come off when she found me on the stairs... I was apparently quite mobile even in all that plaster - most of the furniture in the house had a white mark at a certain height off the floor so you could tell I'd been there! so eventually it came off but I still had the plate and screws. by this time I must have been around 18 months old.

dad reckons I was walking reasonably quickly after being freed from the massive stookie, although leigh says I was still really grumbly and whingey. mum reckons I was probably in some pain and just felt weird not having the plaster and being mobile. she worried about the plate and screws being left in there, so I went back into the hospital around my 2nd birthday to get them out.

during this whole time, nobody had any idea what the future held for me. would I even walk properly? I don't think they ever thought I'd be doing triathlon, or have a physical job. they certainly didn't think I'd be about to sail around the world! in the late 70s when we were going through all this, STEPS didn't exist. read about it here

these conditions may not be life-threatening, they're certainly not glamorous, but they affect a huge number of people. knowing that you can pick up the phone, or post on the forum and get support really helps. I wish my parents had had that option, I think it would have made it more bearable. we got through it and I am now a fully-functioning adult (no jokes please...) with only very minor repercussions.

like I say in the brief 'about me' section, CDH has never stopped me doing anything. it's just something that happened to us. we've come through it and if I can raise money for this marvellous wee charity by racing around the world for a year then even better. please donate by clicking on the virgin money logo on the top right of my blog. bear in mind that the money you donate does NOT go to my berth fee, and is split equally four ways between all four charities.

thanks very much :)