Monday, 29 November 2010

Only 136 days to go!

Snow and a swim in the sea:
First onto the beach this morning (apart from the dogs)

Getting out was quicker than getting in

Then the sun came out - I wish we had the keys to the beach hut and had a fire lit.


Or if you are local, buy some kindling from our stall, only 50 a bundle!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The detail

This is a direct copy and paste from an email from Gaynor to explain how she ended up with a fractured knee:

Milos has been training 16 dogs for his race (La Grande Odyssee – in January and has had to be doing two sessions during the strength training stage which involves a lot of weight and brake pressure to make them pull for long periods.  He started out with a quad bike which was manageable as you have the mechanical power and weight of the bike to slow them down, however, since the snow came and winter temps have dropped to –20 and –30 he’s had to take the sled out with all 16 dogs. It’s pretty impossible as you can’t get enough weight on the sled to slow them down so although he’s now switched to speed training (intervals of gallop and brake induced trot) he needs help to train two teams at the same time.  I was supposed to be that help!!

First day was fine and although I hadn’t trained in a while, it wasn’t too bad.  The dogs are so strong though as they’ve been training for a month or so already so it was a bit of a baptism of fire.  The second day was going really well, felt great, the dogs were responding to commands and I felt confident, but as I was coming around a corner at quite a speed (normally not a problem as you can kinda ‘skid’ your way round) I saw someone through the trees around the corner and then heard a yelp!  I thought there had been a pile up on the trail where Milos had met someone coming the opposite direction, so like a rookie  my instinct was to brake... Well, I was going too fast, breaking on a corner, and with absolutely no weight in my sled which meant the tiniest imbalance tipped the sled sideways.  

Now you’ll know that that doesn’t necessarily mean you come off but I my left foot got ‘caught’ by ice on the ground which twisted it to the side and I found myself running for a few steps before the 6-dog team took off without me!  I went head first into the snow.  

When I got up I realised Milos had passed the girl coming in the opposite direction and she was ‘parked’ having to hold on to her lead dogs in order for anyone to pass (that’s badly trained dogs for you... I guess they’re not used to dogs coming the other way!).  She said nothing to me and I just looked at her as I passed noticing how she had practically zero control over her dogs just then.  But to be fair, the whole thing was my error, a rookie mistake as I was just getting into the swing of things again, and you have to remember these are race dogs, almost race ready, running about 24kmph so it’s easy to get flung off – there’s no room for error.

Luckily the dogs were fine and that was my first concern.  Losing your team is every mushers worst nightmare!  Luckily Milos saw them coming from behind but didn’t know how to stop them, bearing in mind he had the other 10 dogs on his sled!  But as a testament to how well trained his dogs are, and in slight desperation, he shouted at Falco in lead to “stop!!!”.  Falco looked around at him (they were now infront) and then came to a stop.  That is unbelievable really.  Bless Falco, he likes to play, but this season he’s really proving to be a strong runner and good part of the team! 

As for me, I was hobbling after them as fast as I could with what I thought was a twisted knee.  Getting back on the sled was a really painful experience, and slightly precarious as I was basically sledding on one leg with no use of the brake.  

That night my knee swelled to double it’s usual size and the next day I went to the hospital A&E (quite another story!).  After an MRI scan and some pretty cool xray photo mementos, I was plastered from ankle to thigh and sent home with crutches with a tibial plateau fracture (top of the shin bone fracture that has been plastered to stop it being displaced).  Ooo, and you must mention the crutches... With flip-down studs to stop me slipping in the snow and ice!  I’ll see if I can send you the picture we took on the camera... Most dangerous adventure I’ve ever had? Walking down a snow/ice covered street at minus 30, on crutches!!!!!  ;o)

I see the orthopedic surgeon next week to find out how long I’ll be off my feet.  :o(

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Words of wisdom on the subject of cold...

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." -- Sir Rannulph Fiennes
"And today the most appropriate clothing is a house. With an open fire. And tea" - my friend Steve..

Medical update

Gaynor has broken her knee... this is a disaster! She's one of the most active people I know and she and Milos had just started to prepare for the race season so it couldn't have come at a worse time. She's in plaster from ankle to the top of her leg and there is even a chance that they may need to operate on her knee. The thought of Gaynor sitting around, putting her leg up is one that just doesn't work for me (and I'm sure it doesn't for her either). Thinking of you Lovely...

Oh and I've got a brain, look, proof:

It may not look like much but I'm relieved there is evidence. I've finally been discharged and haven't had to take painkillers for 6 hours, so I'm feeling a bit more positive.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Training set backs

I had such good intentions, having had a week of little physical exertion I'd got a chart ready for this week with distance objectives on the running, new trainers planned for the end of the week when I get paid, and dips in the sea everyday. On Friday we had a wonderful evening at the British Larder, on Saturday Anna took me to see Akram Khan's Vertical Road and then on Sunday I woke up with double vision. I tried to ignore it, thinking it may just have been a result of the strobe lights on Saturday night, but even after pint at lunchtime it didn't get any better and by the evening it was pretty clear that something was wrong with my eye.

Having had some bones taken out of my head a couple of years ago I need to be a bit careful about infections, so on Monday morning I introduced myself to my GP (we'd never met) and he sent me to hospital. No running then... The hospital people were brilliant, and having sent me for CT scans and poked about at my head for a bit they established that the infection wasn't causing a bleed on my brain - which was what they were looking for. 

The specialist was determined to get blood tests to check the infection and when he realised that the blood test people had gone home he rolled up his sleeves and set about me with a needle, it was only when he started tying the elastic strap into a knot (it has a fastener) that I realised he wasn't joking when he said he hadn't taken blood since medical school. He got a real ticking off from the nurse who walked in and found him gloveless and wandering about with a couple of tubes full of my blood with no labels. Still this meant I was allowed home as apparently I was 'far too well to put into a bed'. Poor old Mertz had to drive around for hours as he can't bear hospitals and I didn't get out till about 6.30. 

The swelling continued to get worse even after I'd started on the antibiotics and at about 5am this morning the infection peaked, sending me a bit delirious but at least it was the beginning of the upward journey. Still, no running and I missed Marks' classes as I had to get straight back to the clinic today to make sure it was all subsiding. I'm going to be sensible and rest for another day, I have to go back to the hospital on Thursday for the all clear, then I can start again with my plan: 

Friday: Run 45mins
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: swim in the sea and yoga practice
Monday: Run 45 minutes
Tuesday: Step and Circuits
Wednesday: yoga
Thursday: Run 45 minutes and cycle to Dunwich

Then just as I was leaving hospital this afternoon I got an email from Gaynor, who had also just left hospital! She's been in Sweden for 3 days with Milos, getting ready for race season and she's taken a tumble, rather a nasty one. She came off a sled and she's not absolutely sure what the full extent of the damage is but she's torn a ligament and damaged the cartilage in her knee. She's on crutches so not on a sled... What a nightmare - poooor Gaynor. Thinking of you Lovely, get better soon.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Thanks for getting us over the £1000 (including Gift Aid)

Only another £19,000 to go! It's wonderful to know that we have support in our 'totally mad' adventure (according to some neighbours who I just met on my evening dog walk). It can be hard to imagine that we can raise so much, but I remember being so daunted last time I started and look where that ended up. I know we can do it and it's much more fun trying with a group of friends rather than on my own.

I'm waiting to hear if our applications for corporate sponsorship so far have come off and the one I'm most positive about is as even if they decide we are not right for them, I hope they'll at least send us some of their delicious products as I am an addict, and they will be great for the trip.

But so far - HUGE thanks go to:

18.11.10 What an amazing challenge Laura - I really admire (and envy you) for it

15.11.10 From Wendy Longman

15.11.10 Mark's collecting tin

15.11.10 Good luck guys - and don't forget the thermals! Ax


14.09.10 You're going to have to be very creative with the fund-raising ideas. Another fab adventure! Much love from me and Spikey

14.09.10 Personally I'd go to the North Pole and back again to get away from Mertz so it looks like remarkably good value.

11.09.10 Amazing stuff, but isn't it an extreme way of getting away from Mr Merttens??? Good luck and warm hugs!

10.09.10 Sounds like a great adventure! Good luck and have fun! Andrew

10.09.10 Best of luck, sounds good fun

10.09.10 Deep respect to you, the "huts" were a lifeline for me last year, so the thought of being so far off the beaten track is not for me :) Wishing you every success!

24.08.10 First online donation, makes up for me forgetting my £1.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Back to the blog

The last couple of weeks have had a sense of 'one step forward, two steps back' and as a result the East Anglian division of the team has begun to bond. The first week of fundraising and training didn't start well, with Andy having to cancel the activity days as a result of no firm bookings. This was a real disappointment to us all, but particularly to Andy, who had put in so much work - along with Mark's support. They were gutted and we are at a bit of a loss to understand why there was no interest. Perhaps people had already organised their half term activities, or maybe the idea of filling out forms was too much, but they would have been really good, fun days, and not just for the children!

We attempted to make use of the planned time well though, as Rob had come up from Oxford, and so we contacted the Fire service to see if they'd let us have a go at pulling a fire engine, as you do... The idea being that if we could manage it then we could set up a fundraising and PR event, where we attempt to pull an engine through Southwold. I'm so pleased we had a trail run. It is not as easy as I had expected, although I'm not really sure why I expected it to be easy, they weigh about 15 tonnes. The Fire Service were amazing, helping us to find the best way to use harnesses and ropes, but making sure we pulled the machine uphill, not sure that was so helpful!

Mark decided we should let him try to pull it on his own first, just incase he could but it soon became apparent that it wasn't budging. Andy joined him, then Rob and they did get it to move. once we had all of us attached it was just about possible to keep it moving, but certainly not a walk in the park.

Later that day we met up with the Lovely Gaynor (yes, Lovely is her first name) and she talked us through the kit needed and showed us a number of photos from her recce trip with Milos. I was surprised to see how sunny it was and she assured us that the temperatures would probably not be as low as our last trip (-40). There again she had warned us to expect - 25 last time...

Press release issued by EACH

News Release      
Group to endure subzero temperatures for children’s hospice

An intrepid group of fundraisers are hoping an arctic pursuit will raise thousands of pounds to support a local children’s hospice.

Claire Whittenbury, of Walberswick, has organised an arctic challenge which will see her and a group of friends completing a 225 km husky drive across Northern Scandinavia in subzero temperatures which could reach -40 degrees.

Claire, who is a teaching mentor and felt maker, will undertake her challenge with team mates Mark Nussey, of Avondale road, Lowestoft, who is a self- employed Physical Activity Consultant and Andy Deacon, also of Deacon Road, Lowestoft, who is Assistant Partnership Manager for the Lowestoft and Beccles Schools' Sport Partnership.

They will also be joined by Laura Neale from Mill Lane in Great Leighs, Chelmsford, who works at Pets at Home, and Rob Bevan from Didcot.

Claire took part in an Arctic challenge last year with Laura, Rob is one of Claire’s oldest friends, Mark helped Claire train for last year’s adventure and Andy is a friend of Mark. The group hope to raise more than £20,000 for EACH with their efforts.

Claire said: “We wanted to do this challenge for EACH. We feel it's important to challenge ourselves to raise a minimum of £20,000 to help EACH to continue the amazing work they do. Some of us work in schools and children's clubs and our motivation is to do the best we can for children and families who need the kind of care EACH provides.”

The group will travel to Northern Scandinavia in April 2011- where they will each drive a team of six Alaskan huskies across the frozen wastes for a week.

They will camp in tents and ice holes, and hope to reach their northernmost point in fours days, covering around 60 km a day.

Similar challenges are currently being undertaken by celebrities on the ITV programme 71 Degrees North which began airing since September this year.

Viewers will have seen the celebs undertaking tough challenges including dog sledging, ice swimming, ice climbs, snow cave digging and rope holding and will understand the extreme limits the team will endure.

If you would like to know more please contact Claire Whittenbury, or visit the team’s fundraising webpage:

If you have been inspired by this challenge; EACH has a number of fundraising challenges you can take part in including: a London to Paris cycle ride, a Kilimanjaro Trek, a Channel Islands sail and a Peru trek to Machu Picchu. For more information call: 01223 205180.


Notes to Editors
EACH needs to raise £4 million in donations to deliver our services this year. This amounts to £11,000 a day, every day of the year.

We support families and care for children and young people with life-threatening conditions across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.

We deliver a range of services that includes: short break care, specialist play activities, music therapy, hydrotherapy, parent groups, sibling groups, care at end of life and bereavement support for all family members.

We provide care and support wherever the family wishes– in the families’ own home, in hospital or at one of our hospices in Ipswich, Milton or Quidenham.

We continue to develop the quality and range of our services to support children and their families. Last year we helped 464 families by delivering 75,000 hours of care and support - an increase of more than 15 per cent on the previous year.

For more information about EACH, including forthcoming events and how you can help raise funds, visit or call 01223 205180/ 01953 715559. Registered charity number 1069284.

For further information about this release please contact:
Lindsey Newton
Press and Media Officer
01223 205183; 07501 432788