Posts Tagged ‘challenge’

Walk on Fire… Tick.

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Good news, everybody! I have walked on fire! Twice. And my lack of blisters means that I am a Bulgarian virgin. Just goes to show what you learn when you do fire walking.

Last night was the Massive Manchester Firewalk which I had ridiculously signed up for during a lapse of concentration and a moment of “What am I doing with my life?” Walking on burning coals seemed like a great challenge and all I needed to do was raise £50 for the charity, Retrak. Not only would I be helping African children, I would also be doing something that not many people do, much like going to worm charming competitions and running marathons.

Raising the money proved far too easy. Thanks to the generous donations from Hazel, Les, Sir Pubert, Ross, Brett, Nat, Jonny, Andy and Penny, I raised over £80 and was suddenly morally obliged to walk across foot-burning coals. Brilliant.

Authorised to walk on fire.

Authorised to walk on fire.

My friend Pooja had decided to join me in these fire walking shenanigans as part of her requirements to have ‘extra curricula achievements’ on her CV when she next applies to be the UK’s best doctor. So on Sunday evening, Pooja and I prepared our senses with a pre-walk glass of wine and then headed to Albert’s Chop House for the training. We spent an hour with a man named Scott who has set two world records for walking the longest distance on burning surfaces. He also enjoys walking on glass.

Most of the hour involved learning about various types of fire walking that happen around the world and the differing views on the best way to go about it. Apparently mind over matter does nothing apart from make you forget that you’re walking on fire. Sir Pubert had been training me to think ‘cool wet grass’ while walking over the coals for the past few weeks but Scott didn’t believe in this idea. Not because it doesn’t help, but because you then reach the end of the coals thinking you’ve been walking over soggy turf. Anyone can do that – not everyone walks over fire.

Yep. That's fire alright.

Yep. That’s fire alright.

After an hour of chit-chat I was hungry and eager to walk on hot charcoal and we finally headed out to the fire. Over the hour, blocks of wood had been burnt down to cinders. The walk track was made up of a stretch of wet glass followed by approximately three metres of black charcoal and another few metres of wet grass. The charcoal was smoking and covered in balls of glowing red embers. It looked HOT. Not just warm, but “Touch me and you will melt into a big blob of molten puss” hot. I was a tad nervous.

After a brief introduction from Scott, he then proceeded to show us how it was done and he walked like the professional fire walker that he is over the burning coals. And then it was our turn. We all stood in a line, awaiting our fates, Pooja and I staying towards the back. But that line was one of the fasted moving lines I have ever seen. I wish the queue at Aldi would move that fast – everyone was apparently eager to burn their feet off and before I knew it, I was standing on the wet grass with a stretch of smoking hot coals waiting for my precious sensitive tootsies.

I didn’t have much time to think but what was whizzing through my head consisted mostly of the following: You idiot, Jessica Davies. Look what you have gotten yourself into now. Why didn’t you listen to your mother and father who said that this was a very bad idea? Fire + feet = ow.

But then I remembered that Scott had said I’d be fine and that all of these other brave fire walkers had done it before me. So I did the only thing that I could do – I took a deep breath, laughed at my own stupidity and started walking. And I made it to the other side without dissolving into the coals. YAY!

I then rejoined the line and waited for my turn to do it again. Pooja had also made it safely across, her dainty little feet hadn’t been singed either. GO US.

It turns out fire walking isn’t all that painful if you do it correctly. The pain scale was about similar to acupuncture – the only pain came from small lumps of burnt wood sticking to my skin but then immediately falling off. It was like being stuck with hot needles and it was only painful if they hit particularly soft and sensitive parts of my feet. And I wouldn’t say it felt ‘hot’ at all. Walking on beach sand at 3pm on a 40 degree day in Perth feels far, far hotter than this. I didn’t receive any burns and my feet didn’t feel any huge difference. In fact, my feet getting cold walking on the cobble stones of Albert Square was more painful.

It was a good feeling to make it to the other side but finishing a marathon is three hundred times better. Fire walking was a great challenge and I am very pleased with myself for doing it, but I am secretly a little disappointed that it was so easy. I did come away with an amazing certificate that I am going to frame and hang next to my jigsaw puzzle of the Queen. I wonder if Liz has walked on fire – she should give it a go.

Officially certified – I have walked on fire.

Officially certified – I have walked on fire.

So I am Going to Walk on Fire

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

So cutting straight to the chase – I have decided to walk over hot coals. I saw an advertisement for the Massive Manchester Firewalk where if you raise £50 for the charity, Retrak, you are taught how to walk over coals and then you get to do it. As my legs are currently a bit sore and running another marathon just seems far too achievable, I decided that fire walking is my next challenge. So on 5 October I am going to walk over burning coals – but I need your help first. Please donate a pound (or more if you REALLY want to see me murder my tootsies) via my JustGiving page. If I reach the £50 target then I am allowed to walk! Obviously the charity aspect is great, but seeing me burst into tears of pure fear while standing in front of sizzling coals is surely good reason to donate.

DONATE NOW.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Some of you may remember my 108 Challenges in 108 Days attempt (I failed miserably but that wasn’t the point.) – one of the challenges was to go and fly a kite. I didn’t do it. But now I have! On Sunday I went to Liverpool with Sir Pubert Gladstone and after a picnic lunch by Otterspool promenade we recreated scenes from Mary Poppins and flew a Beginners Action Kite.

Sir Pubert makes a mean sandwich.

Sir Pubert makes a mean sandwich.

I haven’t flown a kite since I was a kid and even then I don’t think I was ever particularly skilled at it. I think I mostly watched. After a few failed attempts and much disappointed laughter from Pubert, I managed to get a handle on this kite-thing. While Pubert was all about how many times he could make the kite twist around itself, I preferred to let the wind do its thing and watch the kite glide and dive through the air with grace. 

Flying high.

Flying high.

I can see why Jane and Michael Banks were so keen to go and fly a kite – staring up at the clouds and watching the kite dash across the sky, feeling the strength of the wind down into your body is quite incredible. I wanted to attach myself to the sails and float off into the air. I now really want to go hang gliding. Did Mary Poppins do that?

Mad kite flying skillz.

Mad kite flying skillz.

M-Day Approaches

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Twelve weeks ago, I received an email asking me how my training for the Manchester marathon was going. It was a very handy email as I had pushed all thoughts of marathons to the back of my mind and was hoping that I would never need to remember my stupid decision. Alas, alak, and alay, twelve weeks have flown past thanks to moving apartments, losing jobs, attending weddings, and general ‘life’ and all of a sudden I am two days away from running 42 point something kilometres.

I am gently reminding myself that I volunteered to do this and at some point I actually wanted to run an extended distance. But despite this I am really quite nervous about the whole thing. I’m not entirely sure what I am nervous about; I know I can complete that distance and, even if I don’t finish the race, who really cares?

I do. Good old Jess and her high expectations. Thankfully there is currently rain forecast so I will at least have something to blame if I don’t make it over the finish line or my time is slower than when I ran the Paris marathon. Got to love excuses. But perhaps if everyone crosses their fingers and toes and sends me good vibes all will be ok.

Everyone living in or near Manchester should come down and cheer for the marathon runners. There is so much advertising and hype around the Bupa 10 kilometre run and yet no one seems to know about the marathon. Well done to the 10k-ers but I’m sorry, a marathon is WAY HARDER. And everyone who lives too far away from the action can follow my progress on this nifty little website. Just enter my number 2615 and you can stalk me.

COME ON, NUMBER 2615!

COME ON, NUMBER 2615!

A Potentially Stupid Idea

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

I am having a ‘stuck’ moment today where I am doubting my ridiculous insistence at trying to be a writer. I am thinking it would be best for me to give up, study accounting and get a real job. However, whenever I have these days I always concoct a stupid plan to distract myself from the reality of my life, such as setting myself 108 challenges to achieve in 108 days or running a marathon. Today’s idea – sign up for NaNoWriMo (again.)

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month – a month long period where people across the world set themselves the goal of writing 50,000 words. I successfully completed it while living in Paris in 2011, however have always felt that I cheated slightly by writing a memoir, rather than a fictional novel. Last year I contemplated trying it again but failed as fiction is just not my thing. However, maybe these additional 12 months have developed some sort of creative impulse in me and I will now be able to do it. I highly doubt it. But maybe.

I feel that I will need some sort of plan for the story – otherwise I will start writing and become instantly bored and annoyed with my characters and story line. So what will I write about? If I can come up with a decent story idea, or at least an interesting main character and location, I will agree to participate in NaNoWriMo. Of course, I only have 8 days to come up with this as it starts on 1 November. So… any ideas?

Thank Goodness That’s Over

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

On the 14 April of this year, I set myself 108 challenges. I never really completed all of them – in fact, I didn’t even think of enough challenges to reach the 108. However, one of the challenges that I did set myself was to read Anna Karenina. Over recent years I have been trying to read some of the ‘classics’ that get thrown into intellectual conversations and that I feel I should know about. Anna Karenina was one of those and the sheer size of the tome just added another impressive aspect to the challenge.  So one day in April, I started reading it.

THE BOOK.

THE BOOK.

At 1am this morning as I tried to read myself to sleep, I finished it. The sheer happiness of having finally read the last words of Tolstoy’s book almost made me jump out of bed and head out into Manchester to celebrate. I wish I could say that I was profoundly moved by the ending and that I feel like I have learnt from the literary expertise of the great Russian writer. But I would be lying. I thoroughly enjoyed the first third of the book – it was like a soap opera with characters having affairs, falling in and out of love and bitching about each other. But then it turned into a long story about Russian farming practices and aristocracy. New characters randomly appeared (or perhaps they had been mentioned before but their very similar names made them hard to distinguish) and the general flow of the book changed from being a little bit racy to just plain dull. I’m probably not supposed to say that about this book. I am supposed to say that it was profound and skilful and I wish I could write like that. But the one thing that I did learn from reading it was: Less is more.

I have a strangely vivid memory of watching an episode of Oprah during my university years and Anna Karenina was the book for that month’s Oprah’s BookClub. Oprah openly admitted that she hadn’t been able to finish it. Hence my determination to at least read the book to the last page. Oprah may be richer and more popular than me, but I read Anna Karenina to the end and she didn’t. WIN.

Marathon Completed!

Monday, April 8th, 2013

I, Jessica Davies, writer of words, traveller of countries, blonde of hair, am now officially a runner of marathons. I DID IT! I am currently experiencing a sense of complete personal pride. In my mind, I am the fittest, most talented, most generally genius person in the world. It’ll pass, but for a few hours I am going to feel really bloody good about myself. And I think that’s fair enough – I just ran 42.195 kilometres in 4 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds.

The experience was extremely rewarding – as my group (we were separated into groups by expected completion times) set off from the starting line, I felt a huge surge of excitement and general “wow, this is happening!” as I joined thousands of feet hitting the pavements of Paris. The weather was PERFECT. Sunshine, clear skies and no wind. It was the wind I was concerned about – there was none of that today! It was cold at the start but by the time we got moving it got quite warm. We headed down the Champs Elysées, past the Louvre and through the centre of Paris before hitting the Bois de Vincennes, returning back through Paris, past the Eiffel Tower, through the Bois de Bologne and back to the Arc de Triomphe. Not a bad place to run. Thankfully, Paris is nice and flat so there were no major hills to climb.

While the weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful, the toilet situation wasn’t – there were portaloos set up at various points along the course, but by the time my slower group reached them they were all disgusting. Really not pleasant. I quickly ducked into a café along the route and smiled a “I’m running a marathon which is a really long way and you should DEFINITELY let me use your loo” smile and it worked. In and out like a flash, I was. Now I shall move on from discussing my ablutions.

I felt reasonably strong for most of the course and have potentially become addicted to sports-energy-goo-things. They’re DELICIOUS! I was eating chocolate flavoured goop whilst running through Paris in the sunshine! How great is that! The last five kilometres were a little bit extremely tough as my thighs were screaming at me, my feet were questioning my motives and my original plan on telling myself that five kilometres is the shortest distance I will ever let myself run in the mornings on my everyday jogs didn’t really work. Five kilometres became REALLY LONG and as I watched other runners dropping off, getting cramp and walking I doubted whether or not I would make it. This is starting to sound like a soap opera. Anyway, I didn’t stop, I popped another energy goo and as I hit the final kilometre the adrenaline kicked in as I realised that I was about to finish running a marathon. LET’S RUN FASTER! Without any consultation with my brain, my legs started working harder and I crossed the finish line in an impressive non-jogging pace. Hardly a sprint, but still. I was impressed.

Somewhat pathetically, I almost cried as I crossed the line, I was that glad it was over and that proud of my achievement. No tears were physically shed but they were in there somewhere. I collected my horribly green tshirt and my ridiculously hideous medal before walking very, very slowly to the metro. Walking down stairs in currently a challenge. Yes, the medal is awful – it is a huge rectangular thing with very poorly shaped text and images and some terrible colour choices. Whoever designed it needs to go back to design school. But still. I have a medal! WOO! It’s like winning the Olympics.

So I am now looking for another marathon to run! But if I do it I will have to take my amazing friends who met me before the marathon and positioned themselves at multiple points along the route waving flags and cheering for me as I passed. Knowing that they were waiting for me spurred me on and I feel so grateful for having such wonderful, supportive friends. Merci, mes amies! Vous êtes les BOMBS! A super huge thank you to Becky for your artistic sign-making skills and for being heavily pregnant yet willing to stand outside in the cold for hours waiting for me to run past. You’re either crazy or amazing.

And just to make this sound even more like an Oscar acceptance speech, I also would like to thank my friend Brett for making an unexpected, unrequested but ultimately generous and life changing gesture of sponsoring me so that I could afford to run in the marathon. Without him, I probably would have said “Bah, too expensive!” and never gone ahead with it. Then there were my fantastic parents who also helped me out and my friend Sonia who insisted on donating to the “Make Jess Run a Marathon” fund. And finally to my cousin, Sam for his kind shoe donation. I would like to recommend that everyone buys Mizuno shoes. They’ll get you across the line!

So my brain isn’t functioning properly, my legs are so, so, so stiff and I’m not sure I can stand up from this chair. But that was one of the best days of my life. Can I do it again?

Pie.

Monday, April 30th, 2012

As I mentioned in my last entry, one of the main reasons why I am uncertain about my ability to complete the 40-in-40 challenge is that I need to eat. However, I will claim baking and the invention of desserts as a creative challenge. Therefore my strawberry and rhubarb pie that I baked to take to my friends’ house for dinner counts.

Strawberry and rhubarb pie

Pie.

It was a bit of a flop. It tasted ok but the pastry didn’t turn out how I hoped and it exploded in the oven, so as far as baking successes go, this wasn’t really one of them. However, we learn from our mistakes, don’t we kids? Next time I know to be less lazy and make my own pastry rather than blindly buying pre-made pastry from the supermarket and choosing the wrong one. Oops.

Exercise Challenge is Fun!

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

As I have frequently mentioned, every morning I go running with my friend Becky, our running courses usually involving 6 to 8 kilometre circuits of the canal and local parks. Becky has signed up for the Paris half marathon AND the full marathon later in the year. I would have attempted the half marathon with her, however it is on the day that I return from Perth so I will be asleep and/or on a plane. Very annoying. Anyway, in order to help Becky train for the upcoming half-marathon and to burn off a few of those excess Christmas-calories, I suggested Becky and I attempt a longer run on the weekend in order to see how hard running longer distances really is. This was my Fun Times Count Down item #6.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning, Becky and I met at 10am and caught the metro to the Bois de Bologne – a wooded area just north of the Eiffel Tower that is notorious for being the place to find prostitutes at night time and if you want to be murdered and buried in a shallow grave, go here when it is dark. Fear not, it is perfectly safe and full of people exercising on Saturday mornings.

Becky had planned a route that would be approximately 20km long, winding through the woods, circling a hippodrome and doing a figure-eight around Lake Superior and Lake Inferior. Interesting fact – Lake Superior is SMALLER than Lake Inferior. How French. We set off well – the first 3km passing easily and then everything seemed to slow down. It took forever to reach 5km, and then 7km was even slower. It wasn’t physically straining, it was just taking forever. We played eye spy in French for a little while but it became far too easy as we both have a limited vocabulary and there wasn’t very much to spy in the woods anyway.

We eventually made it over the half way mark and up to 12km but then our team was struck by injuries – poor Becky was hit with a terrible cramp in her lower calf that just wouldn’t go away. We called for our medical staff but no one came – no good looks physiotherapists to massage away the pain. Becky struggled on for a few more kilometres but it soon became clear that running was not a good plan. We decided to stop and walk back to the metro, having run 15km. Not bad for a first effort. The walk back to the metro was another 3km so in total we did 18km. I was pleased with our efforts and we are planning for a second attempt at the 20km challenge next Saturday.

It was a particularly enjoyable activity to be doing on a cold Saturday morning – the temperatures have dropped over the last few days so it was really very cold and I should have worn my gloves. It was about three degrees as we were running and there was frost on the ground – the closest I have seen to snow this winter. While it was cold, the sun was shining and the sky was crystal clear – a crisp and sparkly morning. The cold weather made my room temperature tap water in my water bottle turn refreshingly cold. Instant refrigeration.

So a great start to the weekend – I hope next Saturday the weather is just as nice and we can make the full 20kms. It was a lot of fun and I am really enjoying the fact that I am physically able to make these longer distances. Having run 15kms I know I could have easily continued on to complete the full 20. Maybe the marathon isn’t such a crazy idea after all…

Living Your Paris Dream Challenge

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

I have received a few requests for Parisian dreams lived vicariously through me which is very pleasing! Please keep them coming. The more specific they are the better. Pretend I have no creative thought and need to be told exactly what to do. It’s your dream, not mine! I can’t read your mind.

So, Tom’s mum has given me a broad, though butt-kicking, challenge to do one fun thing everyday just because it is fun. No thought processes allowed. For those of you who really know me, you would be aware of my tendency to over-think things and to weigh-up pros and cons, consider what other people would think, etc etc. No more – now I am to be free and easy and jumping at any opportunity that entices me. Sounds like a plan.

So today was day one of “Jess’s Fun Times in Paris” and what fun was had! MY GOSH. I woke this morning to the delightful sound of falling rain. I thought at first it was Tom’s computer having a heart attack, but I went downstairs to investigate whether or not I had to go for a run (my morning ritual involves my alarm going off at 7.15am so that I can get up and prepare my calorie count for potential french pastries) and discovered it was raining quite hard. No run possible with that water creating slippery French pavements! That was fun thing number one: sleeping in.

Then, after breakfast, I wrote on my blog before Tom suggested a run. Dang. But I managed to run a decent length at a good speed and it started to sprinkle which added that element of “I’m running in the rain next to a canal in Paris!”

By this stage it was lunch time so a fresh baguette with cheese, rocket, tomato and nutella (not necessarily all together) was consumed and greatly enjoyed before Tom and I hoped on our Velib bikes and headed to the movie cinema to watch Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Ahhh… Johnny. How can a girl not have a good day when Johnny Depp is part of it? Yes, I am one of those girls but I also went to watch the movie because I think the Pirates series is particularly good. I found this episode to be quite well done with a good plot but a terrible casting with what’s-her-name-who-can’t-act-but-can-pout. I’m not sure how Penelope Cruz has reached the stardom that she has. Sure, she’s hot, but surely you need some sort of skill? She’s good when she’s speaking Spanish because then I can’t understand her. Good to see Geoffrey Rush again and the religious guy who falls in love with a mermaid was pretty.

On our way home, we stopped in at the bakery to buy our second baguette for the day to go with my sweet potato, carrot and chickpea soup. It was still warm, fresh from the oven and released delicious, enticing smells. This is where my official “Do something fun because it is fun” moment occurred. Normally I resist the temptation of breaking off the end of the baguette. Usually I wait until I sit down and eat my lunch and can devour the crusty tip with a dollop of nutella. But not today. I turned to Tom and said “This is my moment of fun for the day” and I ripped off the rounded baguette end with my bare hands and tore into it with my teeth. Worlds collided. Taste buds danced and I’m certain Bambi pranced down the street. The simple things in life can bring the greatest joys and a fresh baguette end eaten on a street corner outside a pharmacy is one of those simple things. Wonderful. I love France.

P.S. Not so dream like news is that I didn’t get that job. Luckily I didn’t reallllyyy want it anyway because who wants to work full time?

P.P.S. Tomorrow is Fête de la Musique in Paris where apparently the streets will be filled with free music performances. The sister of a friend (who I will immediately adopt as a friend) is visiting for the day so she timed it well. Lots to see, I suspect. A guy I went to primary and high school with is in town too so I may actually be able to show him something exciting in Paris.