Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sink the Pink

Last night, we went out to celebrate my turning 28. So many of my wonderful friends made the trip out to Old Street to drink and party with me...and buy me several drinks! The plan was cocktails at b@1 and then Sink the Pink!

28th Sink the Pink
28th Sink the Pink
28th Sink the Pink

28th Sink the Pink

28th Sink the Pink
28th Sink the Pink
 My amazing friend Chris made me a cake....

28th Sink the Pink
Whyyy would he do it? But the cake (carrot, if you're curious) was delicious. As was my face, naturally.

28th Sink the Pink
We had tickets for Sink the Pink and headed that way at eleven.

28th Sink the Pink

28th Sink the Pink
Sink the Pink is an amazing night if you enjoy some proper pop music to dance to. Lady Gaga, Britney, there was Spice Girls as well, but I missed it. Everyone is super friendly and extravagantly dressed, I'm still covered in glitter.

28th Sink the Pink
Amazing birthday, though I paid for my drinking this morning... THANKS EVERYONE that came out to celebrate, honestly, my friends are such amazing lovely people, I am one lucky son of a bitch.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Birthday Treat

On Tuesday I turned 28. A pretty scary age. I am most definitely now into my late twenties and the next birthday will be the last one that starts with a '2'...unless I live to be very very old indeed! Anyway, Ben and I had the day off, and, more or less fully recovered from Tough Muddering, Ben decided to treat me to the most extravagant birthday outing of all time!

28th Birthday Sept 2013
Up bright and early Ben took me to the Shard so we could appreciate the view from London's newest skyscraper. It was a very foggy day so we got to see London covered in a very eery mist...

28th Birthday Sept 2013
It also meant that people weren't going up yet, so we pretty much had the viewing deck to ourselves! BONUS!

28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013
A gorgeous picture of Canary Wharf!

28th Birthday Sept 2013

28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013

28th Birthday Sept 2013
It's a pretty impressive piece of architecture and the view is really gorgeous, misty or not. I have to admit I did expect there to be a little café or similar at the top but it is just viewing. I loved it just the same and had fun with the telescope type things that give you the option for a live screen feed. Pretty awesome, though you do feel like you're targeting London with a ray gun...

28th Birthday Sept 2013
Back down on Earth with the normal people (and feeling very smug as we passed the queues now waiting to get to the top of the Shard) Ben and I wandered to Borough Market in search of lunch.

28th Birthday Sept 2013
A-yum!

28th Birthday Sept 2013
After finishing our lunch and having a little sit-down, we headed to Leicester Square where we would need to be for the next event. I dragged Ben into M&M world as I've been dying to have a look around since it opened, just to see how they've managed to make a world of M&Ms, but it's always so busy I haven't had the chance. Happily, on a Tuesday afternoon it was quiet, so we wandered in.

28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013
The smell of chocolate is pretty overpowering...after nabbing ourselves a little pick and mix each, we grabbed a seat in the new little park area in Leicester Square.

28th Birthday Sept 2013
They've opened it finally with a statue/fountain of Shakespeare. There were some actors wandering around in Shakespearean costume who twice approached us with speeches from his well-known plays, including, upon my request, A Midsummer Night's Dream. A very nice bonus to our day, as was the weather we enjoyed.

28th Birthday Sept 2013
And then to W lounge for afternoon tea...

28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013
Sat on squashy seats with cushions next to some funky photo-plates, Ben and I picked our tea and waited for our cakes...

28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013
Ben wanted to do something a bit more original than a standard Afternoon Tea, he picked W lounge because they offer a Rock Tea - you can see from the names of the cakes that they are themed after well known songs of popular artists.

28th Birthday Sept 2013
And they're served on 'vinyl'!

28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013

28th Birthday Sept 2013
We drank plenty of tea but didn't even nearly finish all the food. It was just far too much! With some time to spare, Ben and I nipped into Trocadero arcade and then found a pub to chill in for a couple of hours. Not too hungry for dinner we decided to swap Byron for Ping Pong and had some dim sum.

28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013
28th Birthday Sept 2013

28th Birthday Sept 2013
After nibbling we headed to Paddington to see 'The Drowned Man'. There are, regrettably, no pictures, but to be honest, no pictures could do it justice. It is an absolutely unique experience. I loved it. I found it very odd during, and afterwards it felt very surreal, but the more I think about it, the more I realise how much I loved it.  I'd actually be very tempted to go back because it would be completely different.

To give you an idea, you are given a mask to wear and you are wondering silently through a darkened 'film studio'. Occasionally you will see people without masks, these are the actors, you can follow them to see what their story is or you can move on and look elsewhere. They often break into contemporary dance pieces, it's completely different to anything I've seen before. Also, the bar was amazing, you can go at any time, and sit at the red cloth-covered tables and enjoy a drink in front of the band. Amazing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tough Mudder South West 2013

It'll be a couple of days til I post this but I want to write now while it's all still fresh in my mind. I completed Tough Mudder yesterday. For those of you who don't know it, you can find information here. In summary, it is 12 miles of dirt, hills and obstacles. I don't mind admitting that I grossly underestimated this challenge. Having only two weeks ago completed my fourth half marathon, I fully expected this to be relatively easy - it's less distance with pauses for obstacles. HA! How ridiculous. It was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I've ever attempted to do.

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Ridiculously, I've already entered the London West one in April next year...I remember trying to convince my friend Sarah to join me and she said she didn't know if she could do it. I responded with a flippant 'Of course you can do it, you can already cover the distance and you're stronger than me!!' She responded with, 'yeah, I'm just not sure I could do it mentally.' I had given absolutely no thought to the mental aspect, and I have to admit I found a few of the obstacles a little traumatic.

Here is a complete breakdown of the obstacles we encountered, hopefully it might prepare future mudders:

Kiss of Mud

Our first obstacle - crawling on your belly through mud under barbed wire. I wasn't too worried about this one beforehand, but it turned out the mud floor was full of stones and brick...most of us drew first blood here. Plenty of little cuts on the elbows and knees. You can't crawl, you have to go all the way down onto your stomach. Somehow I managed to keep most of my front clean, I think I kept most weight on my elbows, so being little will help you maybe, though our spectators said we went to the wrong side as the other side of the obstacle was full of mud...apparently the lucky bastards were sliding through...grrrr.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Glory Blades

Walls slanted towards us, not too tall! The guys boosted me over, slide down the slanted side. If you're tall or strong you'd be able to do this alone.

Arctic Enema

There's a reason they make a big deal about this one, and a reason why everyone claims it as the worst obstacle in Tough Mudder. A pool of water, thick with ice. You jump in...it's fricking cold. The kind of cold that takes your breath away and two of our team promptly jumped back out, but Arctic Enema requires you to pass under a partition. It's about an arms length wide. Ben and I jumped in together, we came up and I tried to find my breath, the cold is a hell of a shock, clinging to the edge I tried to breathe properly as Ben disappeared under. I heard one of the TM guys telling me I could feel the other end of the partition underneath the water, I reached under and grabbed the edge, took some deep breaths then went under and used my arm to pull me through. My head met a lot of ice coming up the other side and I arose gasping for air and freezing. I could hardly swim to the edge to get out for ice and Ben and another Mudder pulled me out...my face was a picture and I was not talking. Just trying to breathe again. We bounced around getting warm and waiting for the rest of our team.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Trench Warfare

These are little mud tunnels (trenches) that you crawl through, it's dark but it's not too bad. Again, some stones and brick to avoid, but I crawled through without much trouble.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Funky Monkey

These monkey bars ascend and then descend. I already knew I didn't have the upper body strength to make it, I got to one bar and fell, into water. And it was cold, again! Not arctic enema cold, but cold enough. Everyone told me to get gripped gloves for this but I don't think they helped, Ben's failed him and caused him to slip, the two of our team who made it across weren't wearing any.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Hold your wood

I haven't mentioned yet but this course was excessively muddy, the kind of mud that could suck a badly tied trainer off without any bother. It was also majorly uphill. In fact, there was so much up hill that I'm convinced we didn't do enough down hill to compensate (although some very steep downhill almost-climbs did come into it), regardless, this meant that hold your wood wasn't carrying a piece of log and running with it, as I'd anticipated. I took a nice small one from a girl who had just finished carrying hers, and proceeded to climb up a mud laden hill then down through more mud in a 300 yard circle. It wasn't too difficult...I've been told by others to not share if you have a similar course - you have the option to carry a longer log between two, but if you're going up hill, one of you takes the hard job.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Mud mile

For us, this was very much like the rest of the course, it was just all mud, very slippery, murder on the ankles. It was almost impossible to run as you'd have almost definitely fallen. There was also some mini mud hills near here, they were so steep that I went on my bum to get down for fear of falling, but the guys took it at speed and got it done fairly quickly.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Hero Carry

This part you have to carry someone. Tom piggy-backed me to the switch point, after which I took six foot three inch Tom on my back, but the numpty feared falling and nearly crushed me with his thighs so I put him down after a few steps (I probably couldn't have gone much further anyway).

Electric Eel

Ooh the electric shocks...something I was very, very, nervous about. You crawl through dangling wires that, at the end of them, deliver an electric shock. The guys went through and I stood staring at them until one of the TM monitors shouted 'girl in green, just go!' I shook my head and did a little bounce about until I decided to go for it, I attempted to avoid the ends of the wires when I heard them counting down from 10. As we'd heard before, this meant they'd shut off the power, I jumped up to my knees and crawled through fast as anything. No electric shocks for me! My knees haven't thanked me, but they're not too bad.

Dirty Ballerina

From what I'd seen previously, these were four foot wide and not too deep. The version we encountered seemed not as wide but hella deep. So much so that on approach I turned back. Ben and Alex, already across, kept telling me to take it at speed but the ditches were so deep I kept stopping to take a little run up. I made it across ok in the end but I'm only five foot five, so I don't feel like I could've just bounded across in one go.

Human Gecko

I was looking forward to this one, essentially horizontal wall climbs across water. Unfortunately for me the grips were very far apart, I tried three times, falling once back onto the platform but I was too little to reach across to the next ones once I was on the wall. I had to walk round. I was pretty gutted.

Hero Walls

These two walls were huge. About 10 foot. Credit to the guys, they managed to run up, grab the top and pull themselves over. I was very much lifted, boosted and pulled over. Once you're up it looks a bitch of a drop down. I landed twice, unceremoniously, onto my arse.




Cage Crawl

Definitely the one I found the most traumatic. Cage crawl is water filled trenches, with cages over the top, so you lie on your back in water, with limited space above before there's a cage. I was terrified. So terrified. And very much thought about going round. Ben got in and showed me there's room for your head so I got in between him and Alex in hopes it would keep me calm. I got into the very cold water and very slowly put my head under the wooden partition. I took very deep breaths the whole time I pulled myself along, and clunked my head on the wooden parts that were slightly lower than the fence. The actual cage crawl isn't difficult except mentally. It took me a few minutes to recover from it, personally. But the boys were fine.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Boa Constrictor

Tunnels that descend and ascend with water in the middle. I slid down the descending one, then happily crawled up the other. Alex, being built quite a big bigger than me, hated this one as he couldn't move a whole hell of a lot. I had plenty of room, one of the few points during this course that being small was a bonus.


Walk the Plank

Tom is the one with a fear of heights. I was the one who stood up on this platform for a good five minutes of false starts. You climb up and stare down into a pool of water. You only have to jump. It's only 15 foot high I think. I gave myself a last try and then decided I wouldn't go. As I went to turn around and climb back down, the nicest girl and guy stopped me. She was so lovely as she told me it wasn't that high, that I'd come this far and couldn't turn back now. I don't remember how I did it to be honest. I only know that after she said that, I managed to get off that platform and into the water. Ungraciously, my underwear went straight up my arse, but I rose to the surface to a hell of a lot of applause. I was glad I did it...if annoyed I took so long!

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Everest

The half pipe you have to run up...second attempt I made it to the arms that grabbed me, then dragged me up. Another obstacle I had very little to do with the success of.



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Electroshock Therapy

Mere meters from the end point, dangling wires hang over little muddy speed bumps. I didn't realise my group were going on the next count and watched them as they disappeared through the field of wires. Not really knowing what to do I started wandering through it with some other stragglers. Unlike everyone else, I didn't sprint through I went in dodging the wires, scared of the shocks. I was almost there when I felt one wire shock me on the arse. A loud 'FUCK' caused the spectating audience to crack up and I met my team the other side and we crossed the finish line together.



I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I nearly cried from relief of finishing it. The course took us about 3 hours and 40 minutes we think. Outside the obstacles there was plenty of running but so much hill climbing, so much mud. We did so much climbing, slipping and sliding and also crossed a river with a pretty strong current, only up to the knees but still!


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Today I am battered and bruised, though not aching as much as I expected (though I anticipate worse tomorrow) and the whole thing seems so surreal to me. When I came across the obstacles during the race I did sometimes just stare at them uncomprehendingly. I have no idea how I threw myself into some of them. If you're thinking of participating, don't underestimate what you're letting yourself in for.


Having said all that, it is fun... I think I'll approach London West in April with a lot more trepidation now I know what to expect...but I will participate, and I think with most of the same team!