Have you tried plastic fishing?

Friday, July 19, 2019

Caring for the environment is something I have always felt strongly about.  There wasn't any recycling on campus when I went to university so my first trip home (a six hour drive) I brought a laundry basket full of recycling (and another full of dirty clothes).  Living in London, I am amazed at how many people litter and how much rubbish ends up all over the place.  Some of it may be due to lack of public rubbish bins (there are reduced numbers available due to security), but I think it is primarily down to laziness and lack of respect.  When I used to go on dog walks, I would pick up crisp packets and empty bottles to help keep the local parks clean.

A brand I am quite fond of, Keen Europe, has started up their own initiative to keep our water ways clean.  Their new campaign, #bettertakesaction, had a boat tour all over Europe to encourage people to get outside, explore, and protect the planet (which is a big part of my own brand's ethos).  Did you know that 60% of the European population is not active enough and do not spend enough time outdoors to keep healthy?  Along with that 18 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean every year.  80% of this waste comes from land.  People- we can do better on both accounts.

Sadly the tour is over now, but Cal Majors, of Paddle Against Plastic, is continuing her own campaign.  She stand up paddle-boarded (SUPed) from Land's End to John O'Groats over two months.  Plastic Whale came over from The Netherlands to help us collect the plastic we found in the canal around Hackney Wick.  This company takes plastic bottles (like water and soft drink bottles) to make their boats as this type of plastic can be made into the correct material.  The other waste we collected was sorted into "other plastic" and "garbage" for various recycling efforts or the landfill.

Between the kayaks and the Keen boat, we found all sorts of stuff- shoes, noise makers, bottles, watering cans, a pregnancy test, candy wrappers and a ceramic vase.  You can see that some stuff gets blown in if the bins are full.  There were also a lot of small pieces of plastic that went right through the nets which we were unable to remove.  The bigger stuff eventually gets broken down, which makes it harder to remove and easier for animals in ingest.

Personally, I think there are two simple things you can do to greatly reduce your impact on the environment.  First, carry a reusable water bottle (I love my Hydroflasks) or just drink tap water.  If you can't find a water bottle that is convenient to carry, dust off your flask and simply fill it with water.  It will fit easily into your pocket or a small bag.  Second, don't buy takeaway coffee or if you must, use a reusable cup.  My husband has several of these collapsible silicone cups and leaves them around so he always has one handy.  There are lots of other things you can do to help too, but from what I see in London, these two would have a significant impact.  Keen was kind enough to give us a reusable water bottle, metal straws, and canvas bags to us to get started.

I am hoping to continue #bettertakesaction in the local London waterways on a SUP board ramping up to the London Regatta.  There are a few bits to put into place before I can announce anything formally. 

My Keen Ethos with the bottle cap boat floor
If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you may remember I reviewed the Keen Ethos last summer.  Their range of shoes are versatile for adventures on land and water.  While already a big name in the USA, they are steadily finding their way into the European adventurer's closets.  A lot of my outdoorsy friends have their kids kitted out in Keens as the sandals have reinforced toes and the soles are thick plastic and very durable.  For those who prefer hiking, you can also read my review of the Terradora boots.

As a consumer, it is important to me to support brands that align with my values.  Keen is one of those.  Since the company was founded in 2003, Keen has donated more than $17 million to chariites and non-profits that work for people, animals, and the environment.  I hope you spend some time getting to know them too.  If you enjoy being outdoors and active (whether in the mountains or on the water), you will also love their shoes.

Before you go, here is a minute-long time lapse of our group going through the lock on the canal.  I can't remember the last time I was in a lock.  It was so cool!

Thanks to Keen and Plastic Whale for inviting me along to this event.  All opinions are honest and my own.  This post contains affiliate links which cost the buyer nothing additional but help contribute to the costs for running this site.

30 Days To Happy summer edition

Sunday, July 14, 2019

After the success of my pilot, I am happy to be offering my online program, '30 Days To Happy' this summer.  Held over email and Facebook, we will touch upon attributes of fitness, food, fun and fortitude, learning healthy ways to incorporate each into our daily lives.  You'll get a introductory webinar to learn more about the program and meet others in the group; a weekly challenge video and worksheet to complete via email; personalized coaching via the Nudge app on your Smartphone, and community support in a private Facebook group.  It only takes a few minutes a day to complete a weekly task fro where ever you are in the world.

Everyone deserves to be happy.  As a personal trainer and health coach, I have the tools to guide you through small changes that can add up to make a big difference.  I will be there to hold your hand, cheer you on, and guide you through some of your roadblocks.

Testimonials from my pilot session:

"I really enjoyed working with Mollie on the 30 days to happy programme, I learned a lot about my habits and had fun trying new things."    -Julie

"Mollie's 30 Days to Happy is like a gentle nudge from a friend. She provides really great prompts to dig a bit deeper and really think about your day-to-day mood. It challenges you to find happiness is all aspects of life and see how it all relates. I liked meeting new people through the program too and hope to continue using her tips throughout the year!"    -Eileen

Are you in?  

The program runs 26 July - 25 August 2019 and costs just £59.  The strategies you will learn will last a lifetime, so invest in yourself and sign up today. Registration closes 24 July 2019.  Sign up via the button below. I am once again limiting the session to 30 people to ensure you get the attention you deserve, so don't wait. :)

What to pack for a desert ultra

Friday, July 12, 2019

Summer race season is here.  Many committed runners have ultras booked in (any race longer than a marathon) and some even are looking forward to an ultra in an extreme location, such as high mountains, hot jungles, arctic snow, or in the desert.  I only have experience with a desert ultra so far so I thought I would share the things I am glad I packed.  Of course, this list is not exhaustive nor specific to your event.  Be sure you read all of the race info when packing as some races, like Marathon des Sables, you have to carry everything you pack while you run.  But others, like Ultra X Co's events, will transport your luggage for you.  These are important details you don't want to overlook.

In no particular order, here is a short packing list.  Items marked with a ✓ are for if you do not have a weight restriction. I will say that a local Jordan man joined us last minute with a regular rucksack, plain old trainers, and a baseball hat and was able to finish the race.  No sunglasses or fancy equipment.  Mind over matter, eh?

Salt/hydration- In the desert, you are going to sweat more in order for your body to deal with the heat.  Plus you will be running, which is another reason to sweat.  Staying hydrated is very important.  Drinking plain water on its own will affect your body as osmosis in your cells won't work properly.  You need to add salt in some shape or form to your drinks and food.  I used Aptonia Salt capsules* during my race, along with nuun tablets and salted pretzels.  I kind of made up my own dose and luckily didn't have any problems.  Please speak to a professional when determining how much salt you should take and when.

Poles- I used my Leki Micro Trail poles (similar to these Micro Trail Pros) every day except the first when out in the desert. I didn't strength train enough, nor practice enough in sand, to move efficently.  With the poles, I could use my upper body to pull myself along, as well as keep steady in the shifting sand.  My poles have a minimalist 'glove' which protected my hands and secured the poles.  They easily unclipped from the poles for ease (rather than having to remove the entire glove).  The poles were super-light and folded up if I needed to attached then to my rucksack instead of using them.  Poles tend to be a personal preference.  If you are new to desert running, I would say give them a try.  The majority of the competitors used them.

Sunscreen- This is a no brainer.  Adding a sun burn on top of fatigue would really put a damper on the race.  My Race Kit recommended Tingerlaat SPF50 because the sand won't stick to it. It was expensive but I used it and can report that the sand didn't stick to me at all.

Cap or scarf- You need to have something to cover your head from the sun.  I picked up the RaidLight Sahara cap and loved it as the cloth attaches with velcro.

My snazzy cap and Salomon Agile 6 with Camelbak
Bag to carry stuff- If you don't have to carry everything with you, but just what you need for the day, a small rucksack could do the trick.  Of course, you should try running in the bag before your race.  Figure out how/were a hydration pack will go too.  The Salomon Agile 6 worked for me.  I had two water pouches (one for plain water and one for nuun tablets) plus it fit my 2L hydration pack.  I would have preferred zippered pockets on my waist for easy access to snacks but I guess that is why the bag was so light!

Snacks you crave- As I mentioned, I had pretzels for the salt, but also Haribos, protein cookies, Lucho Dillitos, and more to keep me sane.  The one thing I didn't pack but wish I had was Diet Coke (hello- no weight limit!).

Warm clothes for evening- Depending on the time of year and where you are sleeping, the desert can get a bit chilly in the evening.  The nights we were in tents, I was fine.  We did have one windy evening outside on a rock, for which I wore my beanie cap and everything I had that was dry.

Biodegradable loo roll-  Lessen your environmental impact but using biodegradable loo roll.  I found it basically disintegrated when it got wet but it was better than nothing when in the middle of a 50km run.

Sunglasses- You need to protect your eyes from the sun's rays, as well as have a slight barrier for blowing sand.  My SMITH Attack Max with Chromo Pop were amazing.  They wrapped around my eyes and had a maximum view of the landscape ahead of me due to the single lens design.  The other cool thing, is that the lenses are interchangeable so I could choose a lens to suit the weather (but never had to swap as the sun was bright every day).  This option is perfect for like in the UK.

Music for the long days ✓- I bought a £10 MP3 player off of Amazon and only used it on my longest day.  I went for something cheap as I wasn't sure how the heat and sand would affect the technology.  To be honest, I don't usually run with music, so for not having music the majority of the race wasn't a problem.

Solar powered battery pack ✓- This should be the first extra thing you pack when you discover you can. I used it to charge my fitness tracker and activity camera (or faux pro as I like to call it).  Of course, I was not running to win the race which meant I had plenty of time to take photos and enjoy the scenery.

Blister kit- This is a no brainer.  Do your research to figure out exactly what you need.  Practice taping your feet up beforehand too.

Getting blisters fixed by the pros
Hand sanitizer- For the wild wees and camping without running water.  Nobody wants to get sick in the middle of the desert.  Along the same lines, don't high five anyone until after the race.

Camera ✓- As mentioned above, I had a faux pro for snapping the scenery and taking some videos (which will some day be a vlog).  The serious competitors did no bother with this or used their mobile phones.  It depends on how you want to remember and commemorate the experience.

Diary and pen to write memories ✓- This would be the thing I pack after the battery pack.  I have a terrible memory so I needed to take a few minutes each evening to record what happened that day.  After a while, everything becomes a blur!  If weight is precious, you can download an app, such as Evernote, to type in your memories each evening.  It works without internet.

Head torch- Because it gets dark.  Make sure it had red light so you don't wake up your tent mates and is strong enough to light the path ahead of you when running before sunrise.

Container and spork for eating food- Depending on what you pack, you will probably need a bowl of some sort (although I think for MDS you can use water bottle) and a spork.  You will be hungry.

Comfy shoes with insoles- In Jordan, I wore the Salomon S Lab Sense 6* (similar to these Sense 7s) with SOLE active medium insoles*, plus sand gaiters.  Because of my history of Achilles tendinopathy, I am very particular about what trainers I run in. I need something stable and cushioned.  The Senses were super comfortable during my training before I had the velcro for the gaiters sewn on.  Unfortunately, that is a risk with any pair of shoes when you have to add on velcro.  I was so bummed I couldn't wear them any more!  I have worn SOLE in the past and went with the medium thickness to allow for sandy conditions where my foot would be flexing over uneven terrain. I then transferred them to one of my other pairs of running shoes and am very happy with the fit.

If you have ever run a desert ultra, let me know if there is anything I have missed off of this list by leaving a comment below.  If you want a packing list for a regular race, click here to have a read of my head-to-toe packing list.

Interested in the Ultra X Jordan race (read my review of the 2018 event here)?  Entries close 21 July 2019.  You had better register asap if you want to join the team this year.

Items marked with an * were given to me pro gratis to review.  As always, all opinions are honest and my own.  This post also includes affiliate links which cost the buyer nothing extra, but help contribute to running this website.

MLB London Series 2019

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Spending four years in Boston, MA for university, I rapidly became a Red Sox fan.  My campus and the dance clubs we went to were within walking distance of Fenway Park.  My junior and senior year, I could hear fans cheering from my dorm room when my windows were open.  I was lucky enough to attend a view games when I lived in Boston, and then in Detroit and Toronto.

I would rather play any sport than watch it, but attending a baseball game is an American pastime.  There is a social aspect too, of course, and lots of eating.  These are the points I enjoy more than waiting for some action on the field.  As a kid, I played softball for many years and then played again in grad school.  Unlike rugby, cricket, or tennis, I know the rules and understand the strategy.  Therefore, I can shout things that make sense and are relevant such as "two out- run on anything!"

This year was the first time baseball teams from the US came to play in London.  The MLB London Series took place last weekend at the London Stadium in Stratford.  As soon as I heard the teams were the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, I knew I had to be there.  The Red Sox and Yankees have one of the oldest rivalries in baseball.  Living in New England and having many friends from there too, there is often a divide in the group as to which team they support.

Getting tickets for a Red Sox/Yankees game in the US is nearly impossible so I wasn't sure I would have success here in London.  I had four people trying to tickets for me and luckily I did!

James came to the game with me (wearing his Detroit Tigers gear).  I had scoped out the stadium and gift shop the day before.  Unfortunately, I wasn't keen on the section of womens' clothes available.  I ended up with a magnet and koozie.  At the game, I enjoyed Pimm's then Jack Daniels and two feet of nachos.

There was an area to try your baseball skills out called Playball Park.  You could hit balls in the batting cages or try virtual reality batting.  There were also speed cams to see how fast you could pitch and a pit to make a diving catch.  For people who have never played baseball, it was such a great way to let them experience the game.

The day didn't end on a happy note because the Red Sox ended up loosing to the Yankees.  Both of the London Series games were higher scoring than a usual game.  Hopefully, it made the game more exciting for new baseball fans.  The London Series is back in 2020 with the Cubs and Cardinals.  James is just going to have to wait a bit longer for the Tigers to come for a visit.

lululemon Sweatlife Festival

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

For the third year in a row, I made my way down to Tobacco Docks early on a Saturday morning. It usually takes some sort of workout for me to get up early and Sweatlife Festival is no exception.  For about £30, you have a multitude of 45 minute classes to choose from, featuring many of the London boutique studios, such as Frame, KoBox, Un1t London, Third Space, and Triyoga.  Big name yogis come in to teach hundreds of students.  Then there are other perks, such as healthy food options (prosecco too), a marketplace, hair braiding in the Mermaid Cave and a stretch out space with foam rollers.

After registering, we all received a water bottle to ensure we reduced our plastic use over the course of the day.  I got in at 8:30am for my first session at 9am, which gave me time to explore the layout and see where my registered sessions were.  I knew I would have to refill a few times due to the warm weather and all the classes I was going to take, so I also noted where the water refilling stations were.

Why this and not the others?

Your ticket includes one red class and one yellow plus unlimited talks and yoga classes.  You get at least  three classes for £35 for a single day pass.  Last year, I tried KoBox and Un1t to see what they were about.  This year, I tried Olympic lifting and a barre class.  I tend to skip Frame classes because I worked there ages ago so totally get what the brand is about (plus their classes are intense so I need to conserve my energy for a marathon day). The day is a fantastic opportunity to try out different boutique studios with a minor financial investment.

My first session was Introduction to Olympic Weightlifting with CrossFit London (based in Bethnal Green).  My partner was Amanda, who was from Australia and very friendly and experienced in lifting (thank goodness, she had great tips).  Unfortunately, we had very loud neighbors which made it hard to hear the instructors.  The class was split so we could work on two different movements but still hear our instructors.

My next session was reiki with Re:Mind studio.  Based near Victoria station, it is a meditation center that offers reiki, crystal bowl sessions, meditation classes and more.  I hadn't heard of them before so it was very cool to experience their class.  Reiki channels energy and vibration to help with healing. I have hard it before in a 1-2-1 setting but never in a large group.  It was a lovely way to recoup after an early start and lifting session.

The first talk I went to was all about meditation and mindfulness from Danielle of lululemon corporate office.  She gave us a 21 day meditation challenge were we only need to spend a minute a day meditating.  The mantra she gave us was 'I am.'  My meditation reminders are in my diary and I am determined to finish this challenge.

The only yoga class I went to was lead by Sanchia Legister.  Funny fact- we sat next to each other on the plane to NYC marathon!  Her music selection was amazing, both in mood and lyrical choice.  She also doesn't take yoga too seriously, which made the class of 400 yogis a lot of fun.  The energy in the room was amazing.  Me being me, I re-introduced myself to her at the end of the class.

The next talk I went to was about doing less but better.  Another leader from lululemon's leadership team talked about how if we cut out 80% of the things we spend energy on to focus on the most important 20%, the resulting outcome would be significantly greater.  Inspired by her talk, I already cut out a few one-offs things I volunteered for but weren't going to help me reach my end goals in life.  This has made me feel more relaxed in some ways and focused in others.

My last class of the day was with Xtend Barre London.  I thought it would be a traditional barre class, but instead it was a little bit of everything (minus the bar).  We did first and second positions, plies, and a bit of rhythmic movement.  I definitely felt the burn in my arms and legs.  Great music and moves made it a lovely way to end my day.

The last session I tried to attend was a crystal bowl session with Re:Mind but sadly it filled up.  I have been meaning to try it but wasn't sure how it worked.  It is still on my list of things to do.  My friend, Kate, offers this regularly and I need to make it prioritize it.

Less than a mile from Tobacco Docks is Rinkoff Bakery. So I walked about 15 minutes to enjoy my crodough in the sunshine.  It was the best way to end the day. I rarely get over to Whitechapel so this was something I was thinking about all day.

Have you been to Sweatlife before?  What did you think?  I am signing up again for next year!

Ready to "tri" again

Friday, June 21, 2019

On Thursday afternoon, I was back at Function360 for my check up.  I am only going every three weeks now which is great because it means I am nearly done with my recovery.  It is also sad though because I love seeing the team (especially Hugo, the office dog).  My osteopath, Emma, is pleased with my progress, even though I still have some tenderness to the touch on the medial side of my left Achilles.  The swelling has gone done quite a bit and I no longer have any pain in my right Achilles (while my right posterior tibial tendon is a different story).  Twice I week, I complete my rehab regime and I am religious about stretching and foam rolling after exercise. 

Emma, from Function360, working her magic
At these visits, Emma will examine my lower legs, looking for symmetry, swelling, tenderness, strength, and tight muscles.  Depending on what she finds, she might massage my calves, stretch my hips, dry needle my tendons or all of the above.  This week was just stretching and massage.  She also assigned two new exercises to me which will help with my posterior tibial tendon (in fact, I am doing them as I type this).

To infinity and beyond!
My dedication to the rehab program seems to be paying off as I am now able to run for 10 minutes with a 1 minute walking break three times per session which gets me up to a 5K.  I hope to be up to steady state running in the next few weeks.  It is a bit nerve-racking to start up again.  What if the Achilles pain comes back?  What if four months of rehab hasn't made me any stronger or faster?  Will I ever run another marathon.  When I told her about my concerns, Emma said I shouldn't be comparing myself to anyone else.  She believes things are looking good so far and that I should keep the faith.

Cap from 2011 London Triathlon. New cycling shoes #gifted from Decathlon.
As my prognosis is looking good and I do better with a deadline in my diary, I have signed up for the London Triathlon super sprint distance (400m swim, 10K bike, 2.5K run. (#gifted entry).  London Triathlon might have been my first UK back in 2011.  I did the sprint course (700m swim, 20K bike, 5K run) and for a brief moment was tempted to do it again to try for a PB.  But then I remembered I am supposed to be sensible in my recovery and stuck with the super sprint.  It will still be a PB and the cross-training will help my cardiovascular fitness levels improve before I start training for the 20km trail runs in Malawi with Orbis Challenge.  I have a lot of work to do this summer.

Why is it so hard to look cool in a wet suit? #gifted from Decathlon
My training strategy is primarily to add swimming in twice a week (once in a pool and once in open water).  For the passed few years, I teach indoor cycling once or twice a week, riding about 10-12 miles per class.  I might do a few short outdoor bike sessions on my own to learn about my threshold and where I can ride to just below it for about 20 minutes.  I will use parkrun to develop my running strategy. Our local course is two laps which means I can use the first lap to tire myself out (simulating excursion on swim and bike) then push myself on second lap.

This week's playlist
Because I am a competitive person, I am going to study previous London Triathlon results in case there is a chance I can place in my age group.  That would be a Christmas miracle but really give my confidence a boost.  I am dying to get back out there and continue to develop my speed with track sessions but fear getting thrown back to square one. 

Have you ever come back from injury by completing a triathlon?  Or taking up one of the disciplines as a substitute for running?  Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks to London Triathlon for the gifted entry.  Full review of my race experience will be up in August.

Surf, stretch and stay with Freewave Surf

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

After the dance floor, being on the water is my favorite place to be.  It is hard living in London, though, to find bodies of water that are not crowded, polluted and/or freezing cold.  A few weekends ago, we headed to a wedding in Cornwall during which time we spent a lot of time on coastal trails (and dancing on the dance floor).  Even though it was slightly overcast, and stormy seas meant we couldn't SUP or go on a boat tour, we still manged to get sand in our shoes and take in amazing views.

Photo by Amanda White
Two weeks later, I found myself back in Cornwall.  Freewave Surf Academy invited me to their site in Bude for their three day surf and yoga retreat (#gifted).  The weekend was jam packed but I will try to fill you in on the key bits of info.  If you have any questions though, leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer. The weekend kicked off at 4pm on a Friday night with welcome drinks, a yoga lesson and an introduction to surfing lesson on the beach. To finish the evening, a two course vegetarian dinner was served at the house.   Unfortunately, I was unable to arrive until 10pm as I was on a course in London until 5pm.  I had to take a train to Exeter and was collected my another attendee (who had a car) from Exeter Central Station for the two hour drive to Bude.  They did put some food aside for us to enjoy when we arrived.  Everyone waited up but quickly went to bed as they already had a yoga class and surf lesson that evening.

The accommodation was a beautiful five bedroom house with large garden, decks, outdoor BBQ, air hockey table, games, and two sitting rooms.  We spent most of our time around the kitchen table for breakfast and snacks for lunch.  There were two double bedrooms (one with en suite), three bedrooms with two single beds (one with en suite) and then another full bathroom and a half under the stairs.  Elle from Keep it Simpelle and I shared a twin room.  Loads of windows and sliding glass doors meant the sunlight (when available) illuminated the rooms.  There was parking for about five cars and an outdoor shower to rinse out wet suits and feet of sand.  We had to move some furniture for yoga when it was raining outside which made all of the spaces very versatile.  Plus the beach was close enough to walk to.

Saturday and Sunday are structured differently, depending on the tides.  A typical schedule may look like this (although we had 6:00am start on Saturday).  The key points are one surf lesson each morning and two yoga classes per day.

7am yoga
8:30am surf lesson
10:30am brunch and video feedback
free time until...
1pm cake and tea
3pm yoga
5pm surf film and chill time on Saturday
7pm dinner on your own on Saturday (we went to a great restaurant, The Beach House, down the road) / BBQ at the house on Sunday

Photo by Amanda White
The surf lessons started with basics of how to line up on your board, how to keep it stable as you push up and several options on how to stand up.  I was fairly confident that I would not be able to stand up as I cannot do a squat thrust or burpee well.  Although I didn't manager to stand up at my first lesson, I did on my second and third.  Robin (Freewave Surf Academy owner) and Charlie (instructor) were there to keep an eye on the six of us, offering tips, providing real-time feedback and keeping our boards stable when a big wave was approaching.  In addition to watching us in the water,  Robin and Charlie took turns videotaping us from the beach and with a GoPro in the water.  After our lessons (which lasted about an hour), we had time to shower and get dressed before Robin put together the clips and reviewed points each of us needed to work on.  The primary observation for me was that I needed to keep my head up (looking at where I wanted to go rather than the board) when I tried to stand up.

Photo by Tommy Hatwell
As I mentioned earlier, we had yoga indoors on the first two days.  On Sunday, there was enough sunshine to have one practice in the garden and the second on a clifftop overlooking the sea.  There are too many amazing photos (taken by Tommy Hatwell, Plymouth-based commercial and portrait photographer) of both sessions to share here but I have included a few of my favorites.  Yoga was taught by the talented Anna Young who is also one of the Freewave Surf Academy instructors.  She has a real calming presence and fantastic choice of music.  She also helped with breakfast in the mornings and tidied up after us (thank you Anna!).

Photo by Tommy Hatwell
A fun surprise was taking part in a beach clean up with Ado, who works for the local task force.  He explained how much plastic washed up on the beach but also how much the local community works to keep the beach tidy.  There were litter pickers and bags at the beach entrance for a #2minutebeachclean movement.  We were out there for an hour and filled up one bucket worth of items.  Another group had been through earlier, and they collected a lot more than we did. Her told me about how Legos from an old sunken container are washing up on the shore (ironically a sea-themed design) and how his Jack Russel can sniff out stranded seals in the dark.

Most of the guests left Sunday afternoon and evening to get home before work on Monday.   With only three people left on Monday, we had an early yoga class and a quick surf session before brunch at 10:00am. There weren't many waves but I did catch a few small ones before heading back to the house.  Robin was kind enough to cook up eggs and bacon at our request.  It was a family meal as Charlie and Anna joined us before Elle gave me a lift back to London and Amanda headed back to Staffordshire.

Similar to my ski weekend in Italy with No Boundaries, it was a jam-packed weekend with little time for sleep.  My goal for the weekend was to be outside as much as possible.  I packed my snorkel, running shoes and trail shoes for hiking.  I also had my iPad for reading e-books, and my laptop for doing work (which I only used on the train).  The stormy seas were too cloudy for snorkeling and I was too exhausted to run (aside from a few shots with Tommy in the dunes on Sunday night). The weather wasn't great either so I was happy to stay inside and chat to the other ladies staying that weekend.

Photo by Tommy Hatwell
The biggest challenge of the weekend was transportation to Bude.  It isn't easy to get to if you don't have a driving licence or car.  The house we stayed at is about 15 minute drive from town, but a short walk from the beach where there is a small snack hut.  The fridge and cupboards were stocked with a variety of foods (including dietary requests such as vegan and dairy-free) and drinks (including wine, beer, and gin) but you might want to bring your favorite snacks. For example, I should have packed Diet Coke. The seven of us went to town on Saturday afternoon for grocery shopping (as a few people choose to cook their own meal on Saturday night) and the chemist. We also discovered Temple, a very Instagramable coffee shop and bar that Charlie also works at.

Photo by Amanda White
Would I do it again?  Heck, yes!  I suggested before we left that we schedule a reunion retreat and I hope we do in the autumn before it gets too cold.  Robin was open to feedback from us as it was the very first time he held the retreat and he had another group coming in right after us. He was a fantastic host with lots of laughter from everyone over the weekend.  I think it would be an active alternative to a birthday party or hen do.  You could also make it a couples weekend or travel on your own to meet new people who are interested in the same sports as you.  Freewave Surf Academy is happy to arrange any extras that you need (within reason, of course).

Is surfing something you have been meaning to try but haven't yet?  Don't be shy but instead book in to this intensive weekend and let me know how you get on.

Photo by Amanda White
Thanks to Freewave Surf Academy for this complimentary weekend experience.  All views and opinions are honest and my own.