Be Brave. Be Bold.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Let me let you in on a little secret.  I turn 40 next year.  I don't feel anywhere near this old, but I can't help to wonder if this milestone is influencing my need for extreme challenges lately.  It started with climbing Kilimanjaro, then skydiving, I signed up for a Ragnar Relay race in September, and who knows what else.  Long ago, I declared my 40th birthday party would be in Las Vegas but now I am thinkin Ibiza would be a bit closer.  Plus I have never been there.

Why am I starting to signup to things that scare me a little bit? Have I matured enough not to be afraid anymore?  Am I bold and brave, like my new vest top from Boudavida says?  What else do I want to accomplish in my life?



I thought now would be a good time to put together a list.  Not necessarily a bucket list but some things that I would like to do.  Once it is on paper, that is the first step of making it happen.  I put my wish out into the universe and hopefully it can begin to manifest.

There are two things that are definitely within my reach.  One is learning (sooner rather than later) to cycle in my cleats.  This keeps coming up again and again with me.  I don't feel like a proper cyclist, no matter how many places I have ridden to (Edinburgh, Paris, various 100 mile sportives).  I had some accidents while learning that shook me up though, and I don't know of I will ever excel at staying focused enough to clip and out when I should.  My mind tends to wander when I am on my bike.

Mountain biking is the other, and also seems pretty scary. I did one trail ride in the Adirondack Mountains once with my ex and all I kept thinking about was whether or not I would end up flying over the handle bars and hitting my sternum with a bike handle.  Gravel, rocks, trees, and sand are all dangerous obstacles to me when road cycling but make it fun for some when  mountain biking.  My husband has decided he wants to get into mountain biking, so now would be a good time for me to learn too.  Halfords recently released a beginner's guide to mountain biking which includes terminology, basic skills, and my favourite section, trail etiquette.  It also covers how to choose a bike, what gear you need, and suggests some trails in the UK to try.


I have found this post really helpful and now want to book in for a proper mountain biking lesson at the Velopark to develop my skills and gain confidence (Sunday mornings at 9am if you would like to join me).  These lessons could transfer across to my road cycling too and allow my to spend more time with my husband outdoors if we end up investing in mountain bikes (and another shed to store them in).  My Achilles don't like running on trails so much any more so I would love to find an activity to substitute it with.  Mountain biking just may be it.


What else do I want to do?  Some I have talked about before but as I was writing this post, a few more came to mind.
  • See Northern Lights
  • Cycle across Cuba
  • Go to Antarctica
  • Visit Galapagos Islands
  • Run Tokyo (2020) and Boston (2021) marathons
  • Run a race in very us state (5 down!?)
  • Ski in Japan (hopefully in 2020 after Tokyo Marathon)
  • Cycle London to Amsterdam
  • Hike in South America
  • Take my husband to Alaska
  • Apply for Space for Humanity (maybe)
  • Half Marathon du Sables  (this is also a maybe)
  • Attend a fitness retreat
  • Proper sky dive
  • Write my two e-books (weekend challenges and tips for Kili)



Don't forget that some of the above require hard work and discipline. You can't always sit back and wait for things to happen. You need to work toward your goals, whatever they might be.  I am sure there are many sports, tours, races, countries, etc I don't even know about that would appeal to me.  The key is to be open to new experiences when they come along. Being brave.  I have also found asking for opportunities can lead amazing memories, like Fitbit FiftyBeing bold.

This post was sponsored by Halfords.

Indoor skydiving makes my superhero dream come true

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Often times when I dream, I am able to fly or bounce really high.  I am taking this as a sign that flying should be my superhero power.  Teleporting would be a close second but I only think this when I am wide awake.  Other choices could be invincible, massive strength, running really fast, but for me flying would it.  I have never really considered sky diving as an activity because it is just too scary for me.  Jumping out of a plane, depending on parachutes, just seemed a bit risky, even if your first jump is tandem.

As you read last week, I recently made a trip out to Milton Keynes to ski at Snozone, an indoor snowsports facility.  While I was looking at a map how to get there, I noticed that next door was iFly, an indoor skydiving facility.  iFly is a worldwide company with three locations in the UK, who also operate wind tunnels all over the world.



What is indoor skydiving?
Indoor sky diving using a vertical wind tunnel to create the forces needed for you to be elevated off of the 'ground'.  The bottom of the tunnel wire mesh so the wind can travel through it yet provide a place to stand on.  It simulates what it would feel like should you be fall through the sky, but gives you peace of mind because you are never more than 2 stories up in the air.  The Milton Keynes tunnel is a wee bit smaller, but the other UK locations have the following stats:
  • Max air speed of 180 mph
  • Average flying height of 6 feet
  • Maximum flying height of 39 feet
  • Flight chamber diameter of 14 feet
My experience 
I booked in last minute as there was a cancellation. Of course, I was super excited. The facility often books up ahead of time so you need to do a bit of planning if you want to go.  iFly ask that you arrive an hour before your flight time to go through the safety process.  First, you need to read and sign a declaration saying you release iFly of liability and that you have never has a shoulder dislocation or injury. After I did this, I then checked in at the reception desk, where I was again asked if I had a previous shoulder injury or dislocation.  Thirty minutes before flight time, our instructor, Emma, gathered our small group of six flyers and took us into a separate room to watch a safety and instructional video.  The video showed us the three important hand signals we would be using in the wind tunnel (chin up, straighten your legs, and relax)) and stated that if you have had a shoulder injury or dis locational,you need to tell the instructor. (See the theme here?). Emma came back in and went through the hand signals again and asked if we had any questions. Half the group were young boys with their moms there to watch.  Then it was me and two men about my age.


Emma explained there would be an opportunity for two additional flight options while we are in the wind tunnel for additional cost. The first is spinning up to nearly the top of the tunnel with the instructor holding on to you.   This would be in your second fly if you successfully demonstrate control and listening skills in your first fly.  On a Saturday afternoon, this was £6.  The other option was an additional flight (one minute) in the tunnel for £12.  This is only available if there is time left at the end of the session and a pretty steep discount if instead you were to come.back for another visit.

After the video, we got suited up with goggles, helmet, and ear plugs.  We also got a jumpsuit.  Everything had to be locked up- rings, watches, earrings, so nothing could potentially fall off in the wind tunnel.  You are required to wear shoes that tie, like a trainer (sneaker).  I had my hiking boots on because of sledging next door which they said would be fine.  Guess they are worries that shoes might fall off during your experience.


Once we were suited and booted, we climbed a flight of stairs to the viewing platform.  There was a few benches and chairs for people who are with friends and family but not flying.  We saw the end of the session before us.  Before the group left, the instuctor had two minutes to literally fly all over the tunnel -spiralling down head first, swooping up at the last minute, hovering over the ground.  It looked like CGI- the moves he made and the quick changes.  It was amazing!

Finally, it was our turn.  As a beginner, you get 2 one minute flights.  The young boys went first and showed zero fear. At times, they struggled to understand that when Emma corrected one arm position, that meant they should do the same on the other side.  As they were small and light, Emma was able to easily move them around so mom could get a good photo and they could try staying afloat near to her.

Then it was my go.  I was able to float up well above Emma on my own.  I tried to listen as best I could to her feedback and smile for the official camera at the same time.  I did wish I had someone there to take photos of videos of me from the viewing platform but i knew i coukd buy the photos and videos that ifly take.  Each minute does seems like a long time, especially when your body is bent in a way it isn't used to and you are trying to stay relaxed as you go higher and higher.  I felt like Charlie after he drank the Fizzy Lifting Drink at the Wonka Chocolate Factory.



Of course, I opted to go the top for the bonus spin. It was really fast, which kinda made me dizzy.  We went up and down twice and I even drooled (hopefully just due to the force and not my old age).

The young boys each got an extra fly after mom's approved from across the viewing platform.  We were treated to Emma's flying performance at the end which was spectacular.  It really inspired me to develop this as an actual skill.  We were told before leaving the tunnel waiting area that we could purchase additional flight packages at a discount that day as a "returning flyer". I got a really good deal for my next visit which gives me six minutes of flight time.  It was emailed to me and expires in three months. I need to book in soon so I don't miss out!

We walked back down to the ground floor where we turned in our goggles, helmets and jumpsuits.  Emma quickly processed our personalalized certification.  You get rated on the essential manoeuvres to document how well you did in case you return.  Emma told me I was a natural when I started asking her about the physics of the flying- how to turn your hands to start spinning or using leg position to go up and down.  I observed her coaching the guy who was a returner, trying to figure some of these things out (the wind is way too loud to hear anything so  you mostly rely on hand signals and exaggerated movements).  I don't know if I am really a naturual or just able to follow instructions.  If I lived closer, I would consider making this a regular activity.  Milton Keynes is just a wee bit far from where I live in London though to train on a regular basis.



All of the iFly staff was super nice.  When booking in, I was on my phone on the train so I kept dropping in and out.  The team was incredibly patient.  Emma impressed me so much that I want to tell the manager.  The person at reception said to leave a review on Trip Advisor and mentioned her.  Of I did that, she would get a little treat at the end of the month.  So I did.

Be sure to tell the truth about previous injuries
The most important thing I would say is to disclose any shoulder injuries you have ever had to your instructor.  One of the guys in my group only told Emma about his shoulder dislocation at the age of 15 when we were turning in our equipment.  I am a health and safety nut, but I think the fact they ask 3-4 times would clue participants in that this is a big deal.

In short, I loved it so much I bought another jump.  If you are curious about skydiving and live in the UK, definitely check out iFly.  And ask for Emma.


Thank you to IFly for having me out to try their facility.  All opinions and stories of drooling are honest and my own.

The slopes are where my heart is

Friday, May 11, 2018

I'll admit I am pretty lucky to have spent many weekends at a local ski resort in Western New York with one chair lift.  My dad was on ski patrol which meant we were able to afford as much time on the slopes as homework and extracurricular activities would allow.  When I moved to Boston for university, it was so hard not being able to easily access good skiing.  I always had my skis with me just in case there was a bus trip to Maine, Vermont or New Hampshire.  The mountains of New England were nothing like the glacial hills of New York and much farther away.  Eventually, I made it out west to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and British Columbia.  As I travelled more, I soon came to realise that my skis and ability were better suited to icy slopes rather than knee deep powder.  I just haven't learned how to ski in fresh pow yet!  When we lived in Michigan, we got season tickets to Caberfae Peaks, which was nearly a two hour drive on snowy roads in my Subaru. But once we got there, I was overcome with general ennui.  Sure there were several chair lifts, but the runs were short compared to the Rocky Mountains.  I didn't care which slope we skied down as they were all nearly the same and over in a swift second.


Since moving to England, I have once again been jonesing for some snow. When we get a centimetre of snowfall in London, the city shuts down.  I have heard there is skiing up in Scotland but I haven't made it up there yet.  Our good friends have a chalet near Verbier, Switzerland which we have been lucky enough to visit three times over the years.  Many of the gang are school teachers or university lecturers which makes coordinating holiday dates tough.  In addition, many children have now joined our tribe which meant we had to rent an additional chalet this year.

Because we rarely go skiing and have a small flat, my skis ended up in the shed for a few years.  A week before we were due to go to Verbier this February, we pulled them out to find the skis were rusty and the bag covered in mould (God, how I loathe British weather!). My skis were a graduation gift for uni, so they are pretty old anyways but I was simply devastated to see them in that state.  Luckily, I knew Decathlon had a ski shop so I quickly booked them in for a wax, sharpen and tune up.  We also took my husband's snowboard in for a wax (although his board is stored under the bed and was in much better shape).


The process was pretty simple.  We called the Decathlon workshop, which also cares for bikes, and booked in our kit.  I think they have limited ski/snowboard staff or did that week because it was a few days before we needed to drop off our kit.  Due to our schedules, we asked if we could drop the kit off early and they said it wasn't a problem.  I picked the skis and board up a day before we were due to travel and they were transformed.  I felt such relief.  I also picked up a new ski bag while I was at the shop.  My old one was plain black canvas (also wet and gross) but the Decathlon one is a bright blue, has a light waterproof lining and wheels on one end.  It was so much easier to travel with.  I always stuff my ski gear around for skis for protection and will with this bag too as there isn't much padding.

Ready to board
I thought this trip to Verbier would be the end of my skiing days for 2018, but I was wrong.  Snozone is an indoor snowsport facility with three locations in the UK- Milton Keynes and Castleford both have artificial snow, while Skizone in Basingstoke and Castleford have a revolving astroturf carpet.  A few weekends ago, they had a big event for their SOS (Summer of Snow).  The day I went to Milton Keynes, it was over 20 degrees C outside.  After walking 30 minutes from the train station to the facility, being indoors was a nice treat.  Snozone Milton Keynes has equipment hire, a soft play zone for the kids, café and bar, large lounge with televisions, and of course, lots of real snow!


Cafe at Snozone Milton Keynes

My visit started off with 45 minutes of sledging (or sledding as we call it in America).  The group meets at the appointed time and are escorted to the bottom of the sledging slope by a member of the Snozone team.  All kids under 12 must wear helmets and are available to anyone else who wants to wear one.  I was the lone adult as it was families who had booked in.  The sledge is a one-seater with a stick you put between your legs, like a horn on a horseback riding saddle.  You have to walk up the hillw(hich is half of the indoor slope) and then use your hands to steer the sledge right or left.  To brake, you have to dig your heels into the snow.  I wasn't keen on this because snow kept going up my snow pants and I wanted to keep my socks dry for skiing later in the day.  I know for next time though to bring a change of leggings and socks.  I can't remember the last time I went sledging, so it was a lot of fun to let loose for a bit and enjoy the snow.

At the top of the slope
My next activity was skiing.  I was given a one hour timeslot with my slope pass, which included equipment hire, for just £30.  The slope pass prices vary depending on day of the week, school holidays, and how long a session you want.  Currently, an eight hour weekend adult pass is £37.49.   For £10 more, you can hire ski clothes such as a ski jacket or snow pants.  I was amazed at how affordable this is compared to ski resorts in Switzerland or USA.  There are memberships available too if you live nearby and think you'd like to get practice in over the summer.  My husband has been threatening to learn to ski for years and I am tempted to learn to snowboard.  Taking lessons at Snozone seems much more economical that hiring kit, paying for lessons, and also purchasing a lift ticket in Switzerland.  Plus, if we didn't like it as much as we thought we would, we could just go home.  Or sledging.


Always wear a helmet
The memberships offer additional discounts too slope off of slope sessions, café and shop purchases, children's parties, private lessons, and tune ups in their ski shop.  Crystal Ski has a desk in the Milton Keynes location where you can book a ski holiday and receive additional benefits as a member too.  I could see Snozone as an alternative stag, or hen-do for people who want something fun but doesn't break the bank.  The other thing that I think is pretty cool about Snozone is that they offer Disability Snowsports training.  Anyone with a sensory, cognitive, or physical impairment can come learn to ski or snowboard.  Their aim is to make snowsports inclusive and accessible for all.  That is something I can 100% get behind.

If you are used to the Rocky Mountains or Alps, Snozone will probably seem a bit small to you.  There is really only one run, but there are jumps and slide rails on which you can gain confidence for your tricks.  Or, as I suggested above, you can learn a new snowsport for your next holiday.  Everything you need, including lockers and showers, are available to you at the Milton Keynes location.  If you have a free day, I recommend checking it out.  I think I am going to organize a fitness blogger meet up there this summer because that group is always up to try something new.  Snowsports are a great fitness activity, burning lots of calories and working your core and cardiovascular system too.

Do you know how to ski or snowboard? Did you take lessons when you were little or are you a natural in the snow?

Thanks to Decathlon for coming to my rescue by offering complimentary ski shop service and providing my new ski bag with such short notice.  All views and opinions are own.  Even though I am a member of the Decathlon Blogger's Community, I can honestly say I love their affordable kit and ethos of #sportforall.

Thanks for Snozone for the complimentary visit to their Milton Keynes slope.  All opinions and wipe outs are honest and my own.

Buy, Borrow, and Skip- What you need to pack for Kilimanjaro

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Packing for Kilimanjaro was a process that took months.  I did tons of research, checking packing lists by various trekking company's suggestions, reading books, and talking to other people who have experienced Kilimanjaro.  Of course, there was about one million things I needed to back into a 90L duffle bag so I thought I would let you know the things that I found useful to have.  The girls on my trip also had a few tips on what they found useful.

If you think you will only use an item for this trip, your tour operator should be able to arrange hiring (renting) certain things.  Be sure to ask the price before you get the item and keep in mind that what you hire may not be to your Western standard.  It will probably be something that a toursit left or sold after their trip.

Essentials to pack
I used Osprey Eja 38*, a lightweight rucksack designed for a woman's body.  It was a little big for day-to-day climbing but perfect as a carry on as I needed to have all my essentials in case my bags got lost on the plane (two of the six in my group had luggage problems).  The essential features were water pouch compatible, pockets on lid flap for storing things, hip  and chest straps, and it only weight 1.13kg.  It also had straps on outside to hold my walking sticks while climbing Baronco Wall.  I also got an Osprey rain cover* kept my stuff dry.  The only pockets were in the lid, which meant that I needed Osprey Ultralight Packing Cubes* to keep organised.  I had one for my electronics, one for snacks, and another for toiletries.  I t would have been helpful if each cube was a different color to make it easier to pull out of the Eja in a hurry.  As an alternative, I tied a piece of colored ribbon on the zipper, which helped a bit.


My Camelpack pouch was essential.  Having the tube and mouthpiece made it so much easier to drink on the go.  I would say the thermal control kit is important too (although my tube froze on summit night anyways), along with a cap that keeps dirt out of the bite valve.

Hiking boots were a big concern for me.  With Achilles tendinitis, I am very picky about what I wear on my feet.  Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX hiking boots* were something I knew I would need to keep my feet warm and dry.  With heel lifts and loose laces, I was able to manage minimal Achilles pain.  I only wore the Quest boots on summit day.  The rest of the time, I wore my Salomon Womens Escambia GTX trail shoes which are a few seasons old.  At times they were a little slippery but they kept my feet dry.  Before I left, I treated them with Nikwax waterproofing to ensure my feet would stay dry.


Water purifying tablets were something I didn't bring, but luckily someone else did.  Although Eco-Climbing Africa's team boil the water, my stomach was still funny.  I have a pretty sensitive stomach no matter where in the world I am and some people experience problems at altitude too.  Purifying tablets are light and inexpensive, so I say have them on hand just in case you or someone else needs them.

Gaitors and hiking poles were the two things that were on every list.  The ones I used were Decathlon's Forclaz 50*.  I worn them every day and never got snow or rocks in my low top shoes.  You can wear with shorts or long pants.  And they were really helpful at keeping my long pants clean for inside tent too.

Wearing my gaitors to keep the snow out of my shoes.  I am also trying not to fall too. The snow was very slippery.
As I just mentioned, adjustable hiking poles were the other key item to pack.  A friend lent me their old Leki poles, similar to the Sherpa XL V.  The adjustable heights are key as many days there is a gradient to manage, both up and down.  By adjusting the height of the sticks, it makes ascending and descending much easier.  Our guides were really good at setting the poles to the correct height.

Head torch is probably number three on my list.  When we got back to camp, my head torch went straight into my pocket. Climbing in March meant early nights.  After dinner, it would be pitch black.out and therefore hard to get back to our tents.  The camp sites are uneven, full of rocks, and have tent poles and ropes everywhere. It would be a shame to get injured walking from one tent to another rather than make it to the top.  Unilite sent me a Sport H1 head torch* to try.  It offers 175 lumens, with 70m beam distance, red light, and various flashing patterns.  We put fresh batteries in all of our head toches just before we started climbing to the summit and it lasted the rest of the trip.


I went to Kilimanjaro in March, which is close to the start of rainy season.  My 25 liter dry bag was a bit of an overkill but a 5-10 liter bag for electronics and socks is a good idea.  My duffel bag was a 90 liter dry bag too but the porters put it in another bag when they carried it.  Their exterior bag was a bit worn through but this may depend on the company you travel with. Wet clean clothes and damp sleeping bags would really damper the trip, so try to find something that can resist some rain.

Hand sanitizer is a no brainer.  There isn't any water to wash your hands 95% of the time.  Be prepared.

In addition to your Camelback, bring a water bottle that doesn't leak to act as a hot water bottle.  I mistakenly brought my Hydroflask, which is so well insulated that it didn't keep me or my sleeping bag warm overnight. My tentmate was a godsend and lent me a plastic bottle to use at night.  I owe her big time.

Every day, no matter how cloudy it was outside my tent, I put on sunscreen as we were very close to the equator. Don't forget to apply it to your ears (I burned mine).

Pack several pairs of gloves in several different thicknesses.  They will get wet so it is good to have a few alternatives.  Although porters may not have gloves, I would suggest keeping your's until the end of the trip.  At the end of the trip, you can give any unwanted kit to the Kilimanjaro Porter's Assistance Project.  I picked up a few inexpensive pairs of gloves at Decathlon in the snow sports section that were great.

No matter what time of year, I would say a raincoat is an absolute must.  Climbing to the top of Kili takes you through several exosystems.  The weather on the mountain changes rapidly and you would hate to be caught out in a storm.  I found a raincoat more helpful than the poncho  got off Amazon because my poncho was long and I kept tripping on it while I was climbing.  Look for a jacket with pit zips to help regulate your body temperature.  I have needed a new raincoat for a while, so bought a Forclaz 400 from Decathlon.  I bought a size bigger to allow for layering on the mountain.


Wet wipes are handy for a quick "shower" in the tent.  Just be sure to get biodegradable ones and remember to pack some spare bags for your rubbish.  Everything you carry into the parks, you have to carry out..  I didn't use wipes much (other than armpits every morning) but my camp mates said they are a must.

Quick dry towel is really handy washing your face and hands at camp.  You don't have much time to leave it out to dry so a small size is the way to go.  I packed my Life Adventure towel, which is also treated with Polygiene to reduce the smell between washes.


Your phone won't be able to charge as there isn't any electricity on the mountain, nor can it capture the beauty of the surrounding landscape.  I brought my G-Eye900* active camera from Decathlon and meant to pack a small point and shoot but forgot it in the rush to get to the airport.  You will need to consider the size and weight of the camera you pack. If you have a choice, invest in a camera that is drop proof and water proof.  Or if you borrow one, learn how to use it before the trip.

I wore a scarf around my neck the while trip to help wipe sweat and snot away.  Alice, from Alice's Adventures on Earth, made us all of us some really cool ones with the trip logo on them.  I also slept in my lighter Buff polar balaclava because I was so cold.  My friend, Victoria, borrowed one of my balaclavas on summit day to stay warm. I started off with the Cross Tech buff but quickly took it off because I got warm.



This wasn't on my essentials list, but everyone else in my group said handwarmers!  I packed small ones that you can use while skiing while the girls brought body warmers.  Mine didn't keep me very warm but the others stuck them to their shirts during the day.

Optional
It rained so much that I couldn't wear my Nabaiji pool clogs* at camp for fear of my feet getting wet.  In addition, because I didn't wear proper hiking boots on a daily basis, my feet weren't too sore, tired, or heavy.  The others in my group had camp shoes they wore in the evenings so you might want to pack a pair.

As long as your head is covered to protect you from the sun, you should be ok a proper hat. I didn't wear my baseball hat too often while others wore a scarf, visor or brimmed hat.

My memory for details isn't the best so I wanted to make sure I wrote down what we did each day, aside from walk, in a journal before going to bed.  Proof is in the pudding as I went to bed rather than journal the night before summit day and I couldn't remember anything about what we did.  Carrying a small pad of weatherproof paper might be a good way to remember the crazy phrases you come up with on the trail.


My tentmate brought a small spiky ball.  When she showed it to me, I wish I has thought of that.  It is such a good idea to foam roll sore or achy muscles.  We didn't have much room to use it though as the tent was the only dry place we had to lay down.


If you have a camera or will be listening to music along the way, definitely bring one a solar charger.  There are not any plugs on the mountain.  Get one with a power bank if you can in chase it is cloudy for a few days.

Massai women with the solar charger I donated to them.
This will probably be controversial, but a pillow is something I would say is optional.  My tentmate had an inflatable one while I brought a £1 travel neck pillow which wasn't the best for actual sleeping.  Sleep is key so if you are a light sleeper, think about what you will sleep on.  Another option would be a pillowcase filled with clothes.

I spent £20 at my local Poundshop for various toiletries and supplies pictured below.  Most were things my tour company recomended that I never would have though off (baby powder which I never used, dry shampoo (never used), throat losanges (never used), antiseptic creme (never used), ultra lite pads (as an option for not changing underwear on a daily basis), and ear plugs (never used)).


Skip
We made a quick stop at a convenience store before we started the drive to the gate.  I was in the back corner of the van so didn't go in.  In the lead up to the climb, I had been mentally preparing myself not to have any Diet Coke for seven days.  But when the other came back with Red Bull, I changed my mind.  The lead guide was pretty upset when he found out we had Red Bull as caffiene can increase your heartrate which you don't want to happen at altitude.  We didn't drink it on summit day but we did have it on the way down the mountain.  I felt bad making the porters carry it the entire way and not drink it so we split it amongst the ladies.

If you have something to add to this list for buying, borrowing or leaving at home, please leave a comment below.  Knowledge is power.

Before you go
I am fundraising for a Moshi local primary school and a Maasai tribe.  Scroll to the bottom of my Kili summary post for more info on how to donate.

Items marked with a * were gifted to me to review.  All opinions are honest and my own.  Thanks to Osprey, Buff, Salomon, Decathlon, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports, and Unilite for their generous support of my crazy adventure.

Wearble tech to help you perfect your running form

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A few weeks ago, dorsaVi got in touch and offered me a chance to have my running form analysed.  Having had a gait analysis done before, I was keen to see what this process would offer me in terms of information (and of course, if I am any better at running now after having started corrective exercise training).


The only place in London to offer this service is the Bowskill Clinic near Baker Street/Oxford Street tube station. The team there welcomed me warmly, even though I was a sweaty mess and 10 minutes late (I seriously need a proper compass).  I met Rachel and Jon, who kindly brought me up to one of the posh exam rooms and explained the technology to me. In simplest terms, the ViMove2 are two little sensors that are taped to your tibia on each leg. 

Rachel taking measurements to ensure the sensors were positioned properly.
This wearable technology monitors your motion and muscle activity in real time.  Originally, the clinic used dorsaVi sensors for patients with back injuries.  Clients would be sent home with the sensors attached for 24 hours and then return for the data upload and report.  The ViMove2, however, is for analyzing knee movements.  These can also be worn home for a long period of time but with a short assessment you can still obtain a lot of information.

After my online profile was created and the sensors attached, the testing phase of my appointment lasted about 15 minutes.  First, I had to perform squats.  Each movement I did three or four times to provide an average score.  Next, I had to squat on just my left leg, then just the right.  Finally, I had to hop on each foot.  We then headed outside for a three minute jog in a nearby park.  It was really sunny and warm on the day of my appointment so I got a bit sweaty.

I am taking this test very seriously.
I am happy to say the sensors stayed in place with the adhesive tape used.  I could barely notice they were there so I don't think my running form was comprised at all.  By running for at least three minutes, the data collected can look at my running rhythm and stride patterns over time. 

Just before my run.  I had shorts on, I swear!
After all the info is downloaded to the software, a large report is generated.  By taking measurements of the angle off of the centre (your neutral position), it can let you know how symmetrical your legs are, if your legs rotate in or out when you move (which could lead to pain or injury).   The tibial inclination (TI) is the maximum angle that the tibia tilt forward while your foot is on the ground.  A TI of less than 20 can indicate poor ankle movement and/or reduced leg strength. I am not yet at 20, but pretty close.  My right Achilles was bothering me this day, to the point that even Jon noticed the difference in my left and right leg jumps just by observing how high I jumped.

Valgus and varus details for each test


Overall, my angles (varus and valgus) are a bit more extreme that the average person.  Anything grater than +10 or -10 indicates a higher risk of injury. I am symmetrical however, so both legs move in similar patterns.


Information is also shown in 2D.  This is for two repetitions of a squat.

The data collected during the run also tells you your ground contact time, initial peak acceleration, and ground force reaction. Using this info, along with other baseline tests, sports therapists and trainers can develop a training program to correct any issues.  At a later date, you can then re-test and see if there have been improvements.  Here is some of my data:
  • Ground contact time was high, indicating low cadence and possible fatigue.
  • Initial peak acceleration was average.
  • Ground force reaction was very low, which may indicate run efficiency.
  • My cadence was 173/min at a 12 km/hour pace.
Data from my three minute run

As a biologist-by-training, I much prefer data-driven evidence.  It makes more sense to me and can be confidently monitored over time.  Even having something as simple as photographs or videos of your form can be a powerful tool.  I look forward to seeing how wearable technology makes it easier for athletes, either professionals or amateurs, to improve their performance.  The ViMove2 was a very simple physical performance-based test, non-invasive, and provided a lot of information.  If you are looking to improve your run form, see how your body moves in different kit (such as shoes), or want to learn more about how your body moves, I highly recommend finding a local provider who offers ViMove2 sessions.


Thanks to the Bowskill Clinic and dorsiVi for the complimentary experience in trying out this movement monitoring system.  All opinions are honest and my own.  The crappy running form too.

The London Sport Show - new brands to love

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Last Friday, I had time to stop by The London Sports Show at the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch.  I didn't know much about it before I arrived, other than new brands would be featured, as well as free fitness classes and panel discussions.  There were about 10 brands on display (all new names to me), each with a small collection of items available for purchase.  The thing I found most interesting was that most of the brands had the founders there, meaning I could talk to them directly about their passion projects and what inspired them to take the leap into entrepreneurship.   Many still worked full-time while trying to build their brand in their free time.  I told them I could totally relate!

Here are a few of the brands that I was able to learn more about.  For a list of all of the brands that took part, click here.  I should add that I am by no means a fashion person. I will always go for function over fashion when it comes to clothes.  But if I look good in it too, it is an added bonus!


First off, it was fabulous to run into former London blogger, Babs, at the event.  Turns out, she has been creating a new fashion brand since I saw her ages ago.  Adinkra Yoga offers comfy cotton shorts and pants in beautiful West African prints.  With an elastic waistband, this kit is versatile enough to be worn at yoga and summer festivals.


Form yoga mats really caught my eye.  Heidi and Toby co-founded this carbon-neutral brand.  The yoga mats have gorgeous designs with geometric patterns to ensure you are in the proper position. The mats are made of 100% recycled rubber and come in a rectangle or circular shape. You can also throw the mats in the washing machine, which I think is the best thing ever.


One piece of kit that caught my eye was the Be Brave Be Bold tank from Boudavida.  This brand offers a range of sizes from 8-18, with a design ethos of flattering cuts for all body shapes giving women the confidence they need to be active.  Using technical fabric, there is something for just about everyone in their collection.  They also donate 5% of sales to projects that support womens sport or individual female athletes.

One of the free classes

MYSPORTLONDON had bold primary colours in smooth technical fabrics for men and women.  Lots of thought went into each design.  For example, the leggings don't have a seam over the IT Band, which helps prevent irritation.  The high waist can be worn up or folded down, depending on what activity you are doing.  The technical leggings have a gusset, reflective detail on the front and back, as well as a zippered pocket to store your essentials.

Italian fabrics help create the Yummy Yoga Girl's legging collection.  Her tops have unique shapes, with cut out shoulders and backs. All pieces are really affordably priced too. Her website has several free yoga videos, so you should definitely take a look if you want to work on your practice in your own time.

Last, but not least is Refill.  Vlad was the first brand owner I met and was very passionate about his product (it was his first time at a show).  Refill is a double-insulated steel water bottle with a copper lining to help preserve the temperature (hot or cold) of your beverage. It comes with a regular cap, as well as a sports lid with straw, so that you can keep your bottle in hand no mater what activity you are taking part in. Refill advocates a 'refill' lifestyle, where you take time to rest and recharge.  Cutting down on plastic use is a big thing right now, so we have one bottle in 'pure black' for you to win!  Details below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Did you make it to the pop up?  Which brands did you love?

Active travel: Cycling in Cambodia

Thursday, April 19, 2018

One of the new features of this website is offering ideas on how to stay active while travelling. Too many times, people will overindulge on food and drink while away from home, only to return to reality feeling sluggish and bloated, in addition to being back at work.  Any fitness or exercise regime you keep to at home will often do out the window when you travel because you don't know where is safe to run, if your yoga class will be in English, or the weather is just too hot.

Enjoying the temples in Siem Reap.
Personally, I find I have more time to exercise while I am on holiday and aim to make the most of it.  It really can depend on where you are and what you have planned though.  For example, we recently went to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for three days/three nights (due to travel to and from Bangkok) while visiting Thailand for a family wedding.  We booked one full day with a tour guide in Siem Reap to see lots of temples and left the other free in case we wanted to see more temples, spend time at the pool, or find something else to do.  With the help of Tripadvisor (seriously, what did people do before the Internet?), we discovered Grasshopper Adventures.  They offer cycling trips in various cities in Asia but all tours are designed to have a positive impact on the local community.  My husband, James, is more into cycling than me, but I was keen to get outside of the city and see another side to Cambodia that wasn't touristy.  Grasshopper Adventures charge 'reasonable' rates for their trips but the bikes are all name brands (we had GT mountain bikes) and well-kept.  You also get a reusable water bottle to take home which was a nice surprise.

Ready to go!
The weather in Siem Reap was 30+ degrees C and super humid so we opted for a half day tour of the Siem Reap Countryside.  It was $35 each (American money is preferred in Siem Reap) which is definitely expensive compared to how much other things cost in Cambodia but I will say it was worth it.  The bikes were all new, as were the helmets.  We had two guides for our group, which had a family of five (kids 5, 4 and 2), me and James, and a women from Taiwan.  We met at the shop quite early in order to get out on the road before it got too hot.  We had sent our heights ahead of time which meant our bikes had been set up for us.  James' bike was fine, but mine needed the seat raised a bit.  We left the shop as a group and hit the city roads.  Did you know Siem Reap only has seven stop lights? Traffic just seemed to sort itself out at all the roundabouts (rotaries) and junctions (intersections) but it made me very nervous.  I am by no means an agressive cyclist and was more than happy to have the guides stop traffic so that we could make our way across busy roads.  Once we were out in the country, the road were much quieter and I relaxed a bit.

Village roads were much less crowded for riding.
Along the way, we made several stops to allow for a break from the sun and learn about the local culture.  We first stopped at a family home that had a farm.  We learned about the typical Cambodian house design which is on stilts and how people farm land.

Stilts help protect from flooding and add additional shaded areas when it is hot out.
Our next stop was a small wet market where were were able to tried raw lotus, fried bananas and local coffee (I opted for full fat Coke).  We walked around too and saw the variety of things for sale, like live fish in bowls, whole plucked chickens, fresh eggs, and decorations for the upcoming New Year celebration.  The women selling at the stalls loved the little kids on our tour.  I think because they were all blonde.

The fried bananas were delish!
Our next stop was a hut on a pond with hammock, fresh fruit our guides bought at the market, and 50 cent beer.  In the cool shade, we ate our fill of fruit and chatted with the family. Within a short walk, there was a field of lotus and a flower farm which were lovely to photograph.

Huts and hammocks
Our last stop was a monastery for Buddhist monks which had a large five-toed pig (the genetic anomoly is treated as holy), a temple, and a family cemetery for ashes.  Unfortunately, I don't remember the official name, but the shrines are quite striking.

Unfortunately, we couldn't enter the monestary but the artwork on the outside was impressive.
We then headed back, cycling along a highway and then a dirt path on the river to avoid the busy roads. The children with us were on the verge of a breakdown since the monastery as it was super hot by now and their attention span was waning. We were back by 11:30am for fresh in-the-shell coconut water, cool washcloth, and of course photos.  It was a lot of fun and we even tried to book in another tour with them in Phuket.  Unfortunately, they don't have any tours there yet.  On my next trip to Asia, I will definitely keep me eye out for this company and you should too.  I really admire that they try to educate their customers about the local culure.  For example, another tour you can take in Siem Reap includes a stop at a training centre for rats used to detect land mines, then you stop at a shop to learn how to recycle plastic bags into jewelry, and then finally stop at a brewery how to make wine out of rice.  Grasshopper Adventures have an app so you can go self-guided if  you are more independent or you can take a multiday trip to see things at a different pace as you travel between major cities.

Stopping at a lotus farm
Overall, we were veyr impressed with the level of service, quality of the kit, and what we saw during our tour.  I can say, hands down, we recomend the shop in Siem Reap.  I cannot wait to try another tour the next time we are in Asia.  Perhaps when we go to Japan in 2020 for the Tokyo Marathon?

Have you ever books an activity last minute while on holiday?  Tell me about it in the comment below.