“…On a bender with Lady V’s Blender” Vegan Month, Weeks 1 and 2

I have been vegan for a couple of weeks now and I have to admit, I sort of love it! I have been pleasantly surprised by how much you can actually still eat on a vegan diet. Before starting Vegan Month, I had visions of me being hungry all the time and desperately clinging to lettuce leaves like they were the holy grail, or walking past the butchers and having to have my fingers forcibly removed from their door frame. Happily, neither scenario has happened (at least not yet, but never say never I suppose). 

My mummy’s vegan chocolate cake

I began Vegan Month the day after climbing Everest. Sorry did I say Everest, I meant Nevis (on the day it certainly was my Everest!). I was very lucky that I was staying at my parent’s house that day and, as always, my mummy took excellent care of me. She whipped me up a vegan Sunday feast – I had not only a scrumptious vegan crumble after my vegan pecan pasta lunch, but she also baked me a wickedly rich vegan chocolate cake. I hadn’t appreciated how decadent vegan dining could be (thus the lettuce leaf vision). That day, in recovery mode from the ascent and decent of the previous day, I sat down with some vegan cookery books borrowed from the library and wrote myself a menu for the coming week. 

In the 17 days of being a vegan, I haven’t actually repeated a meal and many of them I will absolutely be cooking again, regardless of my dietary preferences. The Indian spiced chickpea tacos I made for one of our weekend dinners, complete with a cashew nut ‘sour cream’, was honestly one of the best dishes I’ve ever had.

Indian spiced tacos

Then there were the vegan Oreo brownies that I made for afternoon tea when we had guests. Oh. My. Goodness. They were some of the fudgiest and moreish treats known to come out of my oven. I’ve also become a bit of a smoothie and soup goddess, if I do say so myself. I could write a catalogue, as a follow up to “50 shades of Red”, called “On a bender with Lady V’s Blender”. For example, today for my breakfast I had a cacao, peanut butter, almond milk and banana milkshake, followed a few hours later with lightly spiced red lentil soup for lunch.

Breakfast milkshake

Liquid lunches are a lot more nutritious now than they were in my university days that’s for sure.

I haven’t felt any extreme deprivation in my diet but there are two definite gaps in my July… I do miss having cow’s milk in my tea – sadly I personally find the alternatives too insipid for a true cup of English Breakfast. I also miss bacon. Last weekend I was away camping with my family and on our last morning we decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at the beach diner. My kids and husband all had waffles for their breakfast (my husband’s waffle came with bacon) and it took a lot of will power not to reach across the table and snaffle a morsel from each plate. I did have a very tasty breakfast of mushrooms and beans on toast (no butter), but I will definitely be going back to sample those waffles once July is over. 

Campsite black bean stew

Despite these two ‘pangs’ in my new diet, I will say this, I feel so so healthy, both in mind and body. I have noticed a significant reduction in headaches and mid afternoon fatigue in the last couple of weeks, and on the days that I have accidentally forgotten to take my medication, the side effects have not been nearly as severe. In fact, I sometimes don’t even realise that I’ve missed a day until the following morning when I look at the pill packet. Usually I would suffer from a very harsh headache, nausea, stomach cramps and general weakness. I’m sure you can imagine it is rather pleasant not experiencing that. 

She carried a watermelon 🍉

“…50 Shades of Red” Feeling the Ben Nevis burn

Onwards!

I will start this post quite frankly. Ben Nevis was, by far and away, the hardest thing that I have done this year. I genuinely did not think that it would be quite as difficult as it was. I knew that it would be a challenge (which is why it was picked as one of my 30 things) but the physical and mental struggle that day was constant. With other challenges the nerves / fear / pain et cetera were all fairly swiftly displaced by excitement and even enjoyment. This was not the case for Nevis.

On a mission to find water

I felt physically sick with the effort. It was a scorching day (at the end of the day I was sporting a rather impressive Ben Nevis Burn, despite applying and reapplying factor 50) and I drank my own body weight in water. I was not alone in struggling in the heat. I could create a catalogue of faces from that day and name it “50 Shades of Red”. Even my husband, a keen hill walker and Nevis veteran, found this particular climb arduous. At times I honestly thought that this would be a challenge that I would not complete. The temptation to turn back and go home was incredibly strong. Had my husband not been ahead of me carrying the water perhaps I would have done, but my thirst kept driving me forward towards him 😄

Smile or squint

This is not to say however that I had a bad day (I am fully aware that I sound like I am contradicting myself now). I really loved that I was up in the hills with my husband. Spending time, just the two of us, together while doing something fun doesn’t happen often. Two small children and a full time job do take up a considerable chunk of our lives as I’m sure many of you can emphasise with. I loved sitting at the side of the path with him during our breaks (we took a lot!) and looking at the ever expanding views.

Thumbs up for lunch

I did burn my bottom on one rest stop though, as the rock I chose as my perch had been heated up quite drastically by the sun, but otherwise the stops were very pleasant. I also, completely by chance, bumped into a chap that I used to go to school with.

He was coming down from the summit as I was, still, on my way up to the top. This encounter was not only lovely and funny, it also provided another chance for me to catch my breath. Win, win! I found it incredible too the amount of charity t.shirts being sported on Ben Nevis.

Oh hey there!

So so many good causes being represented give me hope for humanity. Also (as mentioned in previous blog posts, I am rather competitive), all of the various groups and individuals I set my sights on during the climb, I managed to beat to the top – Even the tall, tanned, hot blonde whose legs alone were the same length as I am tall. The views from the top, and the elation of getting there, were splendid. That moment when we reached the summit was absolutely amazing. Even with the nausea, jelly limbs, dry throat and ever increasing body temperature, I couldn’t help but smile as though I had got a coat hanger stuck. And, it is quite a cool thought that, for a brief period of time on Saturday, David and I were the highest people in Great Britain.

That view though…

 

Ben Nevis, I’m coming for ya!

Tomorrow I am taking on one of my biggest mental and physical challenges for ‘30 things’, climbing Ben Nevis. I am both nervous and excited by this. I just hope that tomorrow I can believe in myself enough that my excitement overcomes my nervousness…

“… It was wet, muddy and such a giggle“ becoming a human sponge target

I have a couple of things to write about for this blog post. I will start with the good…

I completed another one of my challenges for 30 things this weekend 😊 I was a human sponge target, to the joy and hilarity of my kids.

My son checking the stocks

It was fun to be doing something that both my family and the community could join in with. It was wet, muddy and such a giggle (These three things seem to be a theme of my year so far). I am very grateful that on the day that I was pelted with dripping wet sponges it was a warm, calm day and the water was a refreshing splash rather than an icy torture. I did however make the rookie mistake of talking at the same time as someone was taking aim and throwing a sponge at me, resulting a mouthful of muddy, barky, water. After that, having learnt my lesson, I kept my mouth and eyes firmly shut. I don’t know if I should be flattered or concerned at the eagerness everyone had for flinging sponges at me. The smiles that I could see before scrunching up my face in its defensive position were full of excitement and pleasure. This morning as I write though, I am feeling optimistic, so I am going to settle upon flattered. I had been in the stocks for about 45 minutes and I was just about to be released, happy that I had truly embodied the sponge target role to its full potential.

Set for a bullseye

Oh how wrong I was…! Enter stage left, my good friends and their entourage of children. Before I knew it multiple sponges were flying at me from left, right and centre culminating in the entire bucket of sponge water being enthusiastically upturned over my head. Like I said, I am glad that it was a warm and calm day 😆

The other point that I would like to write about today is an emotional realisation. Over the last five months I have been so lucky to meet many wonderful, kind and inspiring people. It has been a pleasure to invest not just my time but also my heart and soul into my activities with them. Had I not been doing my ‘30 things’ challenges the likelihood of ever crossing paths with these groups and characters would have been slim to none. I have been pushing myself out of my comfort zone, resulting in some wonderful bonds and connections, completely unique in my life up to this point. But, here is the question, where do I draw the line? I am naturally a caring person, and I don’t like seeing others distressed and upset. I can care so much, that their turmoil can become my turmoil. I can’t help but put myself in their position in a desperate attempt to remove the weight from their shoulders and put it on mine. This is not healthy. So, what can I do? I need to find a way to support and empower those that I care for, but in a way that I can still keep my emotional sanity in tact. I need to ensure that at the end of each day I can introspectively disengage from external stimuli. I need to allow myself a clear conscience. Easy, right…? Sadly it doesn’t always seem to be.

Soggy charity buckets

“… I could be part of the ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ skit” My debut to canyoning

I did it! Last weekend I conquered a fear and I went canyoning for the first time at the Falls of Bruar. This activity was one of the things on my ‘Big 30’ list that I have been feeling true anxiety about, even more so than the shark dive that I completed earlier in the year. I am not good with heights and have a real fear of falling and the subsequent impact, so I had been putting off making any sort of booking that would commit me to a date and time. So, how did I suddenly come to complete this challenge that I had made no effort to put in my diary… well, it was not exactly by choice but by more of a twist of fate.

With the beautiful bride to be

I was spending the weekend near Aviemore to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of one of my dearest friends. Her Chief bridesmaid had arranged activities for us all to do, from whiskey tasting in suits to white water rafting. No mention of canyoning. But, as I wrote before, there was a twist of fate, and due to a lack of rainfall, we were told on our arrival at the outdoor centre that white water rafting was not an option.

Suited up

Fast forward an hour and I found myself standing on the edge of a rocky overhang, suited in a very fetching and very sticky (we had walked from the car park at the foot of the falls up to our starting point fully kitted out in 23c heat) wetsuit, preparing to launch myself into the cool waters of the Falls. I was quite literally being thrown in at the deep end.

I think that that initial leap of faith into the water was the scariest of all of the slopes, slips and slides down the falls. I honestly thought that my heart was about to break free from my body as it was pounding so powerfully. My legs, at the same time, decided to no longer willingly support my weight and I felt like I could be part of the ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ skit as I made my way to the edge.

Taking the plunge

But make it to the edge I did, and, after some gentle persuasion from the instructor and enthusiastic cheers from the other girls in my group, I took the plunge. It was scary but oh so exhilarating.

Weeeee

The cool water was definitely a welcome refresher from the sweaty heat of the sun and I got a real kick from completing a jump that moments before I had been tempted to step back from (in my head I kept telling myself how annoyed I would be for me and my charities if I didn’t do it). So now I was in, all I had to do was make my way down, down, down and down again. This descent came in the form of sliding down rocks, lateral traversing of the cliff faces and, finally, an abseil down a waterfall into a blue lagoon. It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad that I chose to dive in rather than step away.

The final abseil

Duck, duck, goose!!

Have you ever wanted to throw lots of water over me? Well,  now is your chance! On Sunday I will be being a human sponge / water pistol target at the Ballater Duck Festival. It’s a great day out for all ages with guaranteed fun. All I ask of you for the pleasure of giving me a soaking is a small donation to my charities. How can you miss this chance?!

“… I am fitter than I thought, but not as lithe as a pensioner” Further adventures for 30 things

Hello all! I am still here. I know that I have been so quiet on the blogging front of late. Over the last few weeks I have been existing in a state of busy, beautiful chaos. However I have found some time (thanks to a suspected mini chest infection) to get back to doing something that I thoroughly enjoy – this blog.

I didn’t realise when I originally set up this page and my charity challenges how much I personally would get out of writing. I find it very pleasurable and relaxing to sit down with my iPad, a cup of tea and some music, just letting my thoughts materialise in front of me. I feel that I understand myself more, only after nearly destroying myself. The process of fixing and healing has helped me discover who I am now, and who I want to be. This blog for me has become not only a way to document my progress in raising money and awareness for three wonderful charities, but a haven for me to write my truths, tales, anecdotes, hopes and fears. Today I feel more at peace and settled in my own skin than I can remember, and as a result have found that my compassion and connection with others has grown. I truly feel happiness and joy from the depths of my being, and it is nothing to do with anything materialistic, it is knowing that I can be me, with all of my quirks and flaws, and openly share them with no shame.

But enough of the deep sentimental stuff (for now, I am sure before this blog comes to a close there will be plenty more!). I really want to share with you all that I have been doing up until this pesky virus took hold…

If you have been following along with my journey thus far, you will know that I successfully completed my Run Balmoral challenge a few weeks ago. You will also know that, despite my efforts, I was never converted fully to the joys of running. I liked how I felt afterwards, there is no denying that, but the actual ‘getting psyched up to go on a run followed by actually having to run’ never really took hold. Needless to say, I’ve not been running since my Balmoral debut. Buuuuut please don’t get the idea that I have been idle, no no no. Since May began, have taken up one of my swimming challenges to fill the void of running.

Charity Swag 👌

I have pledged to swim the distance of the Channel (22 miles) within 12 weeks from the start of May. Luckily for me, my swimming is far superior to my running and I have quite literally taken to this challenge like a duck to water. Just call me Donald. In fact, please don’t. As I wrote that I suddenly pictured myself as the President. Ok, call me Daffy! In the first couple of weeks I have managed to whittle my miles down to 17.5 left to go. The running I did do has undoubtedly improved my strength and stamina overall. Unfortunately for 2.5 of those miles completed though I was a tad unorganised and hadn’t actually purchased swimming goggles (I only say a ‘tad’ unorganised as I did acquire a swimming costume you’ll all be pleased to know). This meant for about a week I was walking around Deeside partially blind and sporadically reacting to everyday things, you know, like daylight, by crying.

Combine that with my crazy post swim hair and blotchy skin it probably wasn’t my best look (my husband is a lucky guy). During one of my partiality blind swimming sessions, I also suddenly noticed that it was only me left swimming in the pool, and two lifeguards on duty doing an excellent job of ensuring my safety. This was quite fun for a few lengths, as I imagined I was in my own private pool, however when it came to me getting out of the pool I began to question, just what is normal etiquette for this situation? I almost felt like I should invite them to join me for a coffee and lunch. Instead, you’ll be relieved to know, I decided against that route and instead I went with a shy ‘thank you’ followed a slippery, slow, hard to see where I was going walk back to the changing room. Smoothly done.

Other than swimming I have also had my first volunteering stint at Praesmohr House. I had such fun joining in with the residents at their weekly fitness class. We were all seated in chairs, with those elastic training bands that I’m sure have a more technical name than I know, while Danielle from the Fitness and Wellbeing Centre took us through some general stretching and mobility exercises (all to a playlist of classics like “Moon River” and “Rhinestone Cowboy”). When I added “Volunteering at a Care Home” to my list of things to achieve before my 30th I had envisioned drinking lots of tea and eating ginger snaps, however in reality I was being shown up by some of the most limber and fun octogenarians that I have had the pleasure of meeting. I had better keep practicing for next time.

With Danielle at Praesmohr

Finally, to round off this post, I’m so chuffed to say that last weekend I climbed my first ever Munro!

He made the climb look easy

My Ben Nevis challenge is looming ever closer, so my husband finally convinced me that, before tackling the highest peak in Britain, I should probably try actually walking on an incline. During the ascent of Mayar I’m pretty sure that I self diagnosed hay fever, asthma, a pulmonary edema and malaria. When we got to the summit though all of my ailments were quickly dispersed and replaced by one word – “Wow!”. The climb suddenly didn’t seem so arduous, as the view was simply incredible and worth every ache. The chocolate my husband presented to me at the top was also a nice touch.

So, to conclude:

1. I am fitter than I thought, but not as lithe as a pensioner.
2. I have purchased goggles, but still struggling with ‘pool head’ (bed head’s less popular cousin).
3. I can be a slight hypochondriac, but good views and chocolate are excellent medicinal remedies.
4. I’m really genuinely happy

At the summit of Mayar

Praesmohr House

Way back in February, and in the snow, I met with Sam Fraser from Praesmohr House. I am thrilled to say that I will be staring my ‘Volunteering at a care home’ challenge there next week. I wonder what they will have in store for me…

“…chants, cheers and encouraging high fives” Run Balmoral 2018

I am so absolutely thrilled to report that I, Victoria Kennedy of the Rolls Royce body (see previous blog post, “I’m built for comfort, not speed”), have successfully completed the first of my physical challenges for 30 things for 30 years – the Balmoral 5km!

To the races!

If you have been reading this blog for the duration of my journey so far you will know that, despite my efforts, I am no Jessica Ennis-Hill. Running and me do not go hand and hand like lovers are supposed to (good song, look it up). Baring this in mind, my experiences at Run Balmoral are a real victory and a high point of my year thus far. I was nervous on the days before the race, picturing myself as a pink, wobbly blancmange stumbling over my feet and taking out other racers like Junior Bevil in Cool Runnings (good film, look it up), but the atmosphere on the day itself was so incredible and buoyant that I couldn’t help but get swept up in the energy.

Shona and me, pre race

The group warm up, where I bumped into my friend and fellow Run Balmoral novice Shona, was one of the singular most cheesy and laughable moments that I can remember (and, trust me, I can remember a few). It incorporated some fairly standard stretches to upbeat pop music with what I can only describe as highland dancing after a few too many drinks. It did the job though and got my blood pumping before I took my place at the starting line. Well, a good bit back from the starting line actually, as there was somewhere in the region of 700 participants for the 5km alone!! It took a few minutes between the race officially starting and me crossing the line. When I did though, I ran and ran well. I don’t know if it was having found a running companion in Shona or the highland fling warm up, but my stamina seemed to increase vastly compared to on my previous runs. I still had to walk for periods of time during the race, there is no denying that, but I went further and faster between the walking spells and the walking spells themselves were also shorter than any of those during my training runs. The supporters that scattered the 5km course were amazing too, with some really great chants, cheers and encouraging high fives being offered up as we passed by. It was a really special moment for me when I heard the unmistakable voices of my husband and children rooting for me as I passed them near the end of the course (doing the ‘crab’ move that they requested I did if I saw them).

With my shirt and medal

When I crossed the finishing line and was presented with my medal, event t-shirt and complimentary bottle of water (the best drink ever… I hadn’t fully appreciated how hot it was until about 2km into the race) I felt a wonderful sense of pride and achievement. I wish that I could have bottled that feeling. This non-runner had competed in and completed a Run Balmoral course, and, as I found out later, I did it in a respectable 35 minutes 47 seconds – a personal best!

The cherry on top of this cake… my husband bought me a Sheridan’s pulled pork burger at the finishing line (good butcher, look them up).

That burger 👌

Running certainly does not come naturally to me, but helping to raise money and awareness for my three incredible charities means so much to me. If I can make a difference for them by putting myself out of my comfort zone then I will absolutely keep on doing it. Next on my list for 30 things for 30 years is volunteering at a care home and swimming the distance of the Channel over 12 weeks. The trainers may be being traded in for a swimming costume for now but, who knows, maybe I will squeeze in the odd run too.

With my family post race

 

Big bottom problems 🍑

It’s sports kit laundry time! Not long now until my first race. I am nervous excited about it all. Before then though, I have some questions for other runners out there…

1) Can anyone recommend a good brand of running tights? I have a very large booty but a very small waist and, having had two C-Sections, I have the infamous C-Section shelf (also know affectionately as Joey the Kangaroo Pouch in this house). As a result I am struggling to find leggings that stay up when I am running. I have a pair of Karrimor Run leggings that are great as they have a drawstring but they are rather see through when I do my stretches. The world does not need or want to see my pants! My Under Armour leggings are the best in terms of not showing off anything other than the leggings themselves, but alas no drawstring.

2) When I run, even though I don’t necessarily go far or fast, I get an exceptionally dry throat. I don’t really fancy carrying a water bottle for a run that is, on average, only 40 minutes. Is there anything I can do before or during a run to help ease this?

3) my final question is this, what and how far prior to a run do you eat? I made the mistake of running soon after a peanut butter and jelly traybake yesterday and I felt it in every stride – whoops!