Friday, 1 July 2016

Why I do what I do ...

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that last year I completed my first triathlon to raise money for Pregnancy Sickness Support.

This year, I again wanted to do something to raise money for the charity and highlight the condition, hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) so I decided on my "Triple Challenge for Pregnancy Sickness Support". If I'm honest, when I embarked on my three challenges, I had doubts whether I should be doing it all. Was it too soon after asking for sponsorship after my triathlon? Would I end up annoying my friends and family who had been so generous in the past? Would people tire of hearing about my challenges? I still don't know the answers to those questions, but I sincerely hope not.

But then in May, I spoke at the Pregnancy Sickness Support Volunteer Conference and it gave me renewed confidence in what I'm doing and hoping to achieve.

I was privileged to meet some of the charity's fantastic volunteers who have all suffered from HG themselves. By far the hardest part of the conference was hearing the heartbreaking stories of women traumatised by their experience of pregnancy; of women desperate for another child but petrified of being pregnant again; of women told they must not have any more children because of HG; of women unable to continue with much wanted pregnancies because HG made it impossible for them to look after their older children. But how truly inspiring it was that all those brave women are now so motivated by their own terrible experiences that they want to do something to make a difference to other sufferers and their families!

And that is all that I'm trying to do - to make a difference so that other women do not have to suffer in the same way that I, and many others, have suffered in the past.

You only need to read some of the comments received in response to Pregnancy Sickness Support's joint study with BPAS into women's experiences of termination for severe pregnancy sickness, I could not survive another day, to realise the importance of the work being done by the charity to improve the treatment and care received by sufferers.

And then there is the feedback from sufferers who have been supported through their HG pregnancies by PSS and its volunteers:

"Thank you for everything you do - you have saved me and my baby’s life”
“I really honestly believe I would have died if it hadn't been for all support from PSS”
“I can't talk highly enough of the charity which acted as a lifeline for me.”

On 22 June, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) released the first National Guidelines for the Management of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This is a massive step forward and will make a huge difference to sufferers, giving GPs the confidence and the knowledge to treat the condition effectively. Three of my fellow trustees co-authored the guidelines and dozens of the charity's volunteers commented and reviewed the guidelines while in development.

This is just one example of how Pregnancy Sickness Support is helping to shape the way sufferers are cared for. But this is just one step and there is a lot more work still to be done.

In one week's time I will attempt to swim 1 kilometre in open water swim in Lake Bala. Until 2 years ago I couldn't even swim a stroke of front crawl, 1 year ago my 200m open water triathlon swim was a disaster - I panicked and ended up doing breaststroke (very slowly) most of the way and was exhausted at the end of it. I've been training hard for months in the pool and in open water to give myself the best chance of completing my second challenge. I really hope all my training pays off!

If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you.

Monday, 13 June 2016

My first Great Midlands Fun Run

This time last week I was feeling the after-effects of running my first Great Midlands Fun Run. Thankfully, my aching leg muscles have now returned to normal and going downstairs is no longer excruciatingly painful!
Boldmere Bullets friends 
The "Sutton Fun Run", as locals call it, is not officially one of my three challenges but I thought I'd throw in an extra event as a bit of a warm up for the Birmingham half marathon I'm planning to do in October. I was also excited about running alongside many of my friends from the Boldmere Bullets as part of a large team raising money for local cancer charity, Breast Friends.

Don't be deceived by the name though, the so-called "Fun" Run follows an 8.5 mile route up and down the hills of Sutton Park and includes the ominously named "Cardiac Hill". Even "proper" runners say it's a tough course. 

The finish line
I'd never run that distance before and, although we started in overcast conditions, the sun came out from behind the clouds shortly after the start and we were soon running in scorching heat. Not the cool, slightly drizzly weather I'd been hoping for! I found the conditions pretty tough, especially on Cardiac Hill, and I was extremely grateful to all those lovely people outside their front gates with hose pipes and water guns to cool down the runners.

The medal
The event was well organised with a great family atmosphere. Lots of families and groups of walkers were taking part for a wide range of charities and many were running in fancy dress. I was overtaken en route by three men pushing a bath and I finished just behind a Dalek! Olaf and Zippy were way ahead!
My fan club
I'm proud to say that I did it - I finished my first ever Great Midlands Fun Run. My time was not my fastest but I enjoyed it and that's what matters! I will definitely run it again next year and I wouldn't be surprised if I'm joined by my two cheerleaders!

I now know that I have some more work to do before I tackle the half marathon in October. Fortunately, there's plenty of time to train before then ... and at least it should be a bit cooler!!

I'm taking on three challenges in 2016 to help Pregnancy Sickness Support raise enough money to put its information leaflets in Bounty's Pregnancy Information Packs. This would enable it to reach every single mum-to-be in the UK with details of the vital support the charity can provide to sufferers and their families. You can read about my three challenges here.

If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Three challenges for Pregnancy Sickness Support - 1 down, 2 to go

It was my son who first inspired me to enter a triathlon after he took part in one to raise money for the RNLI when he was just 7. I'm constantly amazed at his eagerness to give anything a go and the fact that he always does it with enthusiasm and a big smile on his face.

So, a few days before the first of my three challenges, as the nerves really started to kick in, I decided that I could learn a lot from my son's attitude. I decided that it didn't matter how fast or slow I was, that my mountain bike would look a bit rubbish next to all the fancy road bikes or that I would probably be older than most of the competitors; the most important thing for me was to smile as much as possible and to enjoy it.

And that is exactly what I did.

The Lichfield Triathlon took place on 24 April and consisted of a 400 metre pool swim followed by a 20 kilometre cycle and then a 5 kilometre run.

It felt a long way and I found it tough but I'm very proud to say that I did it!

And as I had promised myself I would, I kept smiling and enjoyed every single minute.

I certainly wasn't one of the fastest competitors - in fact my children's favourite shout of encouragement was "hurry up mum"! But it didn't matter to me that I finished way down the field. I was pleased with my time (just over 1 hour 45 minutes) because I know just how hard I have worked over the last year or so and how far I have come since my knee surgery.

The triathlon was the first of three challenges I'm taking on to raise funds and awareness for Pregnancy Sickness Support, a charity that supports women with severe pregnancy sickness and, particularly, hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition I suffered from in both my pregnancies.

My next challenge is the one I'm dreading the most - a 1 kilometre open water swim on 9 July. It will be a real test of my physical as well as mental endurance but, if I managed to endure nine months of hyperemesis (twice), then I figure it should be no problem. At least that's what I'm telling myself!
If I'm honest, I'm quite scared. The distance itself is daunting and will involve me swimming out a long way into the middle of the lake. I will also have to deal with cold and potentially choppy water, weather conditions and other swimmers around me. My biggest fear is panicking and so I'm planning to get in as much open water practice as I can over the next few weeks to help me overcome my fear.

I've made a start on open water training but it's early days yet. Watch this space for updates on my progress ... and wish me luck!

I'm taking on three challenges in 2016 to help Pregnancy Sickness Support raise enough money to put its information leaflets in Bounty's Pregnancy Information Packs. This would enable it to reach every single mum-to-be in the UK with details of the vital support the charity can provide to sufferers and their families. You can read about my three challenges here.

If you would like to sponsor me, my fundraising page is here. Thank you.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Crying into my cappuccino

You would think that, 5 years after having my youngest, I'd be over it by now. But sometimes something triggers memories and emotions that are buried deep inside. To be fair, it hasn't happened for a long time but a few days ago, completely out of the blue, it happened again. I'd taken the children to a local coffee shop for a babyccino. As I stood in the queue two women came over to say hello ... it was my community midwives from when I was pregnant with my children.

After we'd hugged and chatted briefly, they left. Then, as I sat down with our drinks, I started to shake and my eyes filled up. I tried to hold it in but found myself having to explain to my children why mummy was crying into her cappuccino.

Pregnancy was not a good time for me and seeing my midwives after all this time brought back memories I'd prefer to forget. My experience is relatively minor though compared to others and many sufferers of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) have much more severe, longer lasting symptoms than me. HG robs the woman of an important life event and sufferers experience misery, anxiety and feelings of loss. Pregnancy, which should be a special and happy time, is a physical and mental trauma. So it's not surprising that poor mental health and depression are common both before and after birth and some women go on to suffer symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

For more information on HG and mental health, including links to useful resources, please see the Pregnancy Sickness Support website.

I'm taking on three challenges in 2016 to help Pregnancy Sickness Support raise enough money to put its information leaflets in Bounty's Pregnancy Information Packs. This would enable it to reach every single mum-to-be in the UK with details of the support the charity can provide to sufferers and their families. My first challenge is a triathlon in less than 4 weeks! You can read about my three challenges here and can support the campaign by texting NOHG16 £5 to 70070. THANK YOU!!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Triple challenge for Pregnancy Sickness Support

In 2016, I am taking on three major challenges to raise awareness of Pregnancy Sickness Support and hyperemesis gravidarum.

Challenge 1

The first of my challenges is a triathlon on 24 April which involves a 400m swim, a 20km bike ride plus a 5km run.  It's just 8 weeks away and I haven't even been on my bike since last year ... HELP!!

Challenge 2

The second of my three challenges is the one that will definitely cause me the most sleepless nights. On 9 July I will be swimming (or at least attempting to swim) ONE KILOMETRE in open water in Lake Bala (an event organised by the British Long Distance Swimming Association)! Not only will the distance itself be a massive challenge for me, but I will also have to contend with the weather conditions, very cold water and other swimmers around me.

Challenge 3

My final challenge will be ... *drumroll* ... the Great Birmingham Run (Half Marathon) on Sunday 16 October. It's more than twice as far as I have ever run in my entire life!!

Unlike last year, I'm not asking for sponsorship. Instead, I'm inviting you to support the charity's campaign to raise enough money to have its information leaflets included in Bounty's Pregnancy Packs. These are given out by midwives to pregnant women across the UK. 

The charity needs to raise enough money to cover the cost of printing 800,000 leaflets. Achieving this goal would enable the charity to reach every single mum-to-be in the UK with details of the support the charity can provide and ensure that more women struggling to cope with severe pregnancy sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum are able to access the vital support and treatment they need. How amazing would that be!!

You can help by texting NOHG16 £AMOUNT to 70070.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Fame at last ...

A few weeks ago, I was very honoured to be featured on the British Triathlon website talking about my experience of GO TRI events. Click here for the article.

GO TRI is an initiative run by Triathlon England aimed at getting more people involved in triathlons for the first time no matter what their age or ability. Events are low key and reasonably priced and I have completed several of them this year. If you have never done a triathlon before and feel a bit nervous about it, GO TRI is a great way of having a go in a low-key environment. Everyone is very supportive and it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are or what kit you wear.

I have also had an article published on Henpicked, a website and community which is all about "sharing the wisdom of women".  I wrote about why I decided to take on a triathlon and what I learned from the whole experience.You can read the article here.

The reason I wanted to share my story is firstly to raise awareness of the charity, Pregnancy Sickness Support and the fantastic work it does to support sufferers of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). This was one of my main motivations for deciding to do a triathlon in the first place; to raise money for the charity.

In 2016, I have decided to take on three separate challenges to raise awareness of the charity and hyperemesis gravidarum.  Keep an eye out on the blog for more details of my "triple challenge for PSS". More details will follow soon!

I also wanted to show that you don't have to be super fit or sporty to take on a new physical challenge. All it takes is a bit of determination and a willingness to put in the training.  If just one person reads my story and decides to have a go at something outside their comfort zone then that would make me very happy indeed!

Monday, 16 November 2015

My triathlon challenge - what I've learned

As the end of 2015 is fast approaching, whilst many of us will be busy with Christmas preparations, it's also a time to reflect on the past year and to look forward to what the year ahead might hold.  It was about this time last year when I decided that in 2015 I would take on a challenge that was way outside my comfort zone - my first triathlon. You can read about what inspired me to take on that challenge by clicking here and here.

Well I did it and I loved it! In fact, I've since done another triathlon, an aquathlon (swim plus run) and my first ever 10k race.  If you're toying with the idea of taking on a physical challenge in 2016, my advice would be to go for it!

I'm certainly no expert, but here are some of the lessons I learned from my own triathlon challenge.

Don't underestimate yourself

Don't sell yourself short. You would be surprised what you can achieve if you put your mind to it and work hard. Before I started training, I hadn't done any proper exercise for a long time after being plagued by a knee injury for over 20 years.  I couldn't run more than a couple of hundred metres without having to stop for a breather and I had just taught myself to do a bit of front crawl (at a push). The only race I had ever won in my entire life was a three legged pub crawl at uni when I was dragged round the course by the rugby player I was attached to! But I worked hard and, little by little, I ran further and my swimming got better. When I eventually crossed the triathlon finish line, I felt a huge sense of achievement - the hours of training and all the hard work had finally paid off.

Pick something challenging but achievable

Choose a challenge that's outside your comfort zone but also be realistic about how much training is involved. There's no point signing up to an Ironman triathlon if you just don't have the time to commit to the hours and hours of training needed each week as you will be setting yourself up for disappointment. Consider your own lifestyle and other commitments, decide what time you will have available to train and choose your challenge accordingly.

Sign up for an event

Having a particular goal to aim for is a great way to focus your mind and stay motivated.  There's nothing quite like the date of an event looming to keep you motivated, whether through excitement or shear panic!

Join a club

It's easy to find reasons not to train, especially if you're mainly training on your own. Maybe it's cold or wet outside, maybe you're feeling a bit tired that day, or maybe there's a bottle of wine with your name on it. Whatever the reason for not wanting to put your trainers on, joining a club can really keep you motivated. It's great sharing your experiences with others and the camaraderie and encouragement you get will spur you on particularly if you're feeling low. Not only that, but you'll probably make a great bunch of friends too!

Get some coaching

In January I signed up for some swimming lessons to improve my front crawl technique. At the time I thought I would probably only do a term of lessons.  Almost a year on and I'm still going! The coaching is hard but fun, I've been pushed far more than I could ever have pushed myself and I have improved enormously in both technique and endurance. I never used to like swimming much when I was younger but I have definitely been converted. 

Enjoy it!

On the day, don't worry about how fast you are or what position you come in. Try to relax, enjoy the event and cross the finish line with a big smile on your face. And don't forget to ask someone to take lots of photos!

Finally, make sure you have another goal in mind

After the initial high of completing the challenge you have worked so hard for and focussed on for so long, it's very likely that your mood will take a nosedive and you will start to feel flat shortly afterwards. This is quite common. The solution is easy - sign up for another event as soon as you can.  This happened to me and that's exactly what I did to banish the post-triathlon blues. Two weeks after my first triathlon I was doing it all over again. And you know what? It worked!

So, if you're thinking of taking on a challenge in 2016, go for it! You won't regret it! Good luck!