Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Step by Step 2014 ~ Best week yet

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, it's an honored to have you here. Today we continue our look at this week's training notes. If you've missed the previous notes from this year, you can see them all by clicking HERE.

Friday, April 25, 2014
Following on from Wednesday's lifetime best swim, today's workout was tough. My muscles were still a little achy, but I was determined to push on and complete the hour. I did so, making sure I stayed hydrated throughout the workout, drinking more than a liter of water during then immediately after, having skimped a bit on this at times.

By the end of the workout, I was really tired, but proud to have completed my most strenuous week yet and very much looking forward to the weekend rest period!

Saturday, April 26, 2014
Today's rest day was very relaxed. The weather was typically spring-like, at last, so the sun was out one minute and it rained heavily the next, so I couldn't do anything outside in the yard. Instead, I went through some things and found the album that holds the photos from the high school battlefield trip. I looked through them quickly and the memories, which haven't faded much at all over the years, came back. I plan on scanning and uploading them to Facebook tomorrow.

Sunday, April 27, 2014
After a relaxed morning spent with those closest to me, I headed up to my studio this afternoon and opened the album. Even as I began scanning the first of the battlefield trip photos and noting the content so I could caption them later, the years melted away. The photos are over twenty years old, so not exactly delicate, yet I handled them with as much care as I had my Grandmother's album a few months ago, out of respect for those who served. Some of the photos in Gram's album, those of her father in his military uniform, are almost 100 years old. Once I have her permission, I'll share some of those images with you too.

Throughout the hour or more it took to scan the photos of the trip, I was filled with the exact same emotions that I'd felt during it, fear, trepidation and distress. I was back there, walking over the fog enveloped battlefields, through the muddy trenches and bearing witness at the memorials and cemeteries. When the last image was scanned, I silently said a prayer for all who had served, all who had lost their lives.

I then returned to the living room and began the process of captioning the images, checking a few details online so the descriptions were as accurate as possible. I'm only sharing one of the photos with you today, I'll share the others as the weeks go by, but if you'd like to see them all before they appear here, you can take a look at the Facebook album High school battlefield trip.

Monday, April 28, 2014
I had thought about changing up today's workout to something more challenging than the "beginner" dance workout I've done since I began the cardio sessions, but because I'm planning to increase the distance of the swim on Wednesday, I kept to the hour. I did push it as hard as I could and very definitely felt tired afterward, but very happy to have completed another session.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Having achieved lifetime best swims during each of the first three pool sessions, today I aimed just as high, so to speak. When I did the math for the challenge itself last week, I knew that the maximum distance I'd swim during one session would be 1-3/4 miles, or 84 laps. I've not swum that far in over 20 years and if I do it without pausing, it would be another lifetime best.

In the minutes before getting into the pool, just before 2:00 pm today, I realized that I'd be crazy to do the total without pausing. I know that some of you might think I'm crazy anyway and at times I think I am too! I pushed off from the wall at the start of the first lap and was soon into my rhythm. I had been unsure when my first pause would be, but it came at the end of lap 6 or 1/8 of a mile, when I needed to adjust my swim cap, worn for the first time today. After only about 20 seconds I pushed off once more.

The next brief pause, for the same reason, came at the end of lap 12 or 1/4 mile, followed by others at 18 and 24 laps, the 1/2 mile point. From here I pushed on and did a longer stint, the next pause coming at the end of lap 32.

The pool was quieter this week and once again my thoughts turned to all those who are supporting, encouraging and inspiring me. A few times I did almost lose count of the laps, but only momentarily and I continued to push on through the water.

Making the turn into lap 46, my thoughts went back just four weeks. At this point then I'd been 2 laps away from the finish of the swim and as brief as it could be, I smiled at the achievement of then and now. At the end of lap 54, 30 from today's target, I briefly thought about beginning to count down, but instead decided to continue counting upwards.

At the end of lap 60, still with a 1/2 mile to go, I again smiled very briefly and then pushed on. By now I was feeling the burn in my shoulders and a very slight twinge in my left calf when I pushed off, but it didn't deter me, I continued in the same rhythm.

At the end of lap 72 or 1-1/2 miles, last week's end point, I kicked on, determined to give the remainder everything I had. From lap 78 I did decide to count down the last 6 laps and then changed stroke for the final 2, as I've done during each session.

Standing up at the end of lap 84, having reached my goal, I coughed and for a brief moment struggled to catch my breath. The moment I did, my back to the pool, I said a prayer of thanks to God for getting me through the swim. Climbing out of the pool, my legs were understandably heavy my muscles protesting, but I'd done it. I'd achieved a 20 year best and yes, I'm once again, proud and determined to give this my absolute all!

God bless

Monday, April 28, 2014

Step by Step 2009 ~ part 4

Hi everyone,

Please pause for a moment and pray with me for the families of the five British service members who lost their lives over the weekend in a crash in Afghanistan and also all those lost during the tornado outbreak across the US...

Heavenly Father, in blessed repose grant eternal rest to those who have passed away. Gracious Lord, we ask that you enfold their families and friends in your ever loving, comforting arms and grant them a sense of peace amid their grief and sorrow. In your Holy Name we pray ~ Amen

Today we continue our look back at the Step by Step journal from the 2009 challenge. If you've missed the previous posts in the series you can read them HERE, the link opens in a new tab.

December 12 - Walk minus 16 days! I completed another 12 mile training hike this morning. I can't believe there are, weather permitting, only another five 12 milers to do, as well as 4 shorter ones.

What a difference a day makes. The weather today was a total change from yesterday, the sun was out and it was even warm enough to not wear my coat.

I'm REALLY looking forward to tomorrow's rest day. It will be a day of COMPLETE rest. I've not been able to sleep in for two weeks, as although last Sunday was a rest day, I was up really early to meet a friend. So tomorrow...

I explained some of the "physical" aspects of my training route yesterday. Today I'll explain some of the "mental" aspects. What I think about while getting ready to go out and while I'm out there.

Tiredness has been an issue some days and was somewhat this morning. Do I really want to get up, before 6:00 am and get out there; wouldn't I rather stay in bed, in the warmth? The instant answer that comes to mind is YES, I would rather stay in bed. That thought only stays with me momentarily though, I then think of the main reason why I'm doing this; to show my support for all those in the military, those men and women who give their all for peace.

As I leave the house, the thought of the 12 miles ahead of me can be quite daunting, even in the better weather, such as today. As I set out, I think back to the Battlefield trip I did during my 10th grade. I'm back on those battlefields, striding out, with the boy soldiers. They faced total uncertainty; I'm only facing 12 miles. I say to myself, "come on Em, they did it, you can too."

This is also the time that I think about all of those who are supporting me. It means so much to me knowing that you're all with me. This is why you may well see me saying "we", as opposed to "I" occasionally ; as to me, I'm not alone when I'm out there.

As I turn the corner of one road into another, after around a mile, the road stretches ahead of us. At this point, I'm concentrating on the surroundings as there are a few streets to cross. Safety is always uppermost in my mind. To make the journey more manageable, mentally as well as physically, I split it down into smaller sections; this is usually to the next visible bend in the road.

As I approach the three mile point, and safety isn't so high a priority, I'm thinking about everything that still needs doing. These where today's thoughts:
* Emails and phone calls to possible sponsors.
* Start getting kit together (I'll give a detailed kit list in another post).
* Further training, how many days are left.
* What I'll include in today's "blog" post, which is how I think of these posts.
* The date I'll switch back to UK time, and how I'll make that as easy as possible for myself.
* I also listen to what's around, the noise of the traffic, but also the birdsong coming from the trees.

Nearing the midpoint, I usually check the time. I can do each six mile half in exactly an hour. Am I on schedule? If not, I speed up a little. I'm lifted, mentally, as the midpoint approaches too. Here now, safety again becomes a priority, as the road no longer has a sidewalk.

With around a mile and a half to go, I'm back my neighborhood. I know that in around 20 minutes, the day's training will be over. I'm lifted mentally by this. Physically, we're feeling a little tired. Getting home, I'm filled with a sense of achievement. Another training session completed safely.

So far during the first two weeks of training, I've not yet felt creative in a composition sense. As I've concentrated on the physical and mental side of everything that needs doing. To be able to compose any sort of verse, whether it be for a client, or a friend, I need to be totally relaxed.

Today, for the first time, while out training, I began to put a few lines together in my mind. I'm intending to use tomorrow's rest day to see if those few lines become any more than that; to see if I can compose the first of what I hope will be a number of verses to commemorate this very special event.

December 13 - Walk minus 15 days! Rest day today and I'm determined to totally relax and enjoy it, as there aren't many left!
I've today completed the composition of the first verse for the hike, "HELPing my HEROES", after getting the first few lines while training yesterday…
As I stride out
to begin this epic journey
I know I'm not alone;
for I'm surrounded
by memories, by HEROES.
Memories of battlefields
long since visited
but with me, forever.
The cold of that February
took me back then
as it does now.
I'm walking with those boys,
HEROES one and all.
I feel what they felt;
fear, anxiety and dread,
but camaraderie and
comradeship too.
For I'm doing
what I believe in,
© Em L. Fairley
Composed today, Sunday, December 13, 2009
The capitalization in the verse is representative of the way the charity, “HELP for HEROES”, uses it on their wristbands.

December 14 - Walk minus 14 days! I can't believe how quick it's going.... Yesterday's rest day was just that. I was able to totally relax for the first time in a long time.

December 15 - Walk minus 13 days! Today was by far the worst I've felt during the last two and a bit weeks. Waking up this morning I felt as if I'd not gotten any sleep at all. I was physically, as well as emotionally drained. So much so that part of me didn't even feel like going out. That is SO unlike me.

As time went on, and I'd gotten through all the phone calls I had to make, I decided that it's better to get out there, even if I only do a few miles. At this stage, with only 13 days to go, it's the consistency, rather than the distance that matters. I decided on 6, as I knew that would make me feel better mentally.

Having said that, almost as soon as I got out there, my mind went back to this last Sunday, and to Major Phil Packer. He won the Helen Rollason award at BBC Sports Personality of The Year, after completing the London Marathon, in 13 days. This is despite the fact that Major Packer lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan with the British Army.

If Major Packer can do that, I can do 10 miles today; I don't have an any sort of excuse! For more on Major Packer, take a look here: ... 409139.stm
As for me, as I approached the halfway point today, I began relaxing. With that, the theme for a second composition came to me. Shortly after, the first lines did too, as well as the ending. It was only the middle lines I couldn't quite "see" without writing them down.

As soon as I got back, I completed the composition
"With Pride and Honor"Since time began
wars have been fought.
Battles have been won,
battles have been lost.
But through it all
since time began;
whether soldier, sailor,
airman or Marine.
Each has served,
many have died.
For their country,
for their flag.
They have given their all.
With Pride and Honor
© Em L. Fairley
Composed today, Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 16 - Walk minus 12 days! After completing today's 10 miles there is only another 3 similar and 3 shorter sessions left! WOW I can't believe how quick it's going!

I'm feeling really comfortable and relaxed now, so much so I was able to compose another verse this morning; it's about those of us doing the hike.

"Band of brothers and sisters" As we all signed up for
the H4H Christmas Hike 2009
we were strangers.
Right now, many still are;
much like when signing up
for military service itself.
Soon, all that will change,
Em, Seb, Bea and Zach,
Cj, Alex, Jake and Pip,
Dani, Graham, Emily and Terry.
All united, in service for
a cause we all believe in.
We will become
in such a short time,
like any military unit;
a close and strong
band of brothers and sisters.

© Em L. Fairley
Composed today, Wednesday, December 16, 2009.
As promised in a much earlier post, I've also now added the verses to the Verses page on the blog.

In Wednesday's post I'll be sharing the latest training notes from this year's challenge and also some of the battlefield trip photos from the high school vacation to the Somme, so I really hope you'll join me then.

God bless,

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ultimate lifeguard

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, I'm honored to have you here.

In the majority of my posts, I've focused mainly on the physical aspects of my battle back to fitness and the challenge ahead. Today though, I want to say some more about both the mental and spiritual side of it, which is equally, if not more important, than the physicality.

In the Challenge announcement and training post, I spoke about how I'm now both mentally and spiritually stronger than for a very long time, if ever. I couldn't have set out on this journey if I wasn't ready in that way. Indeed that's the main reason why this year's challenge is taking place almost five years after the last, because if I wasn't where I am now in those respects, I'd risk failing to reach my goal and that is not a risk I would ever take.

In the majority of posts to the blog, I've mentioned all those who are inspiring, supporting and encouraging me. I know I'm never alone, each of you are with me. Jesus is too. Despite my mental/ spiritual strength, determination and yes, stubbornness, I couldn't do it without any of you, or Him.

Before each and every training session, I spend a few minutes in prayer, asking Him to strengthen and support me, to protect me from injury. Then, soon after I'm done, or in this Wednesday's case immediately I'd completed the last lap and was still stood in the pool, I say a prayer of thanks for getting me through the workout, and for everyone who is inspiring, supporting and encouraging me.

After I'd shared Wednesday's post and story of my latest achievements in the pool, one of my friends, Larry, posted the photo below on my Facebook wall, saying he thought is was appropriate for me, given the challenge. Thank you Larry!

It is appropriate for me, but it's SO true for all of us. Jesus Christ, IS our ultimate lifeguard.

God bless,

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Step by Step 2014 ~ Progress and plans

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, I'm honored to have you here! In today's post I'm sharing the latest notes from my last three training sessions for this year's challenge. Before we get to those, if you've missed the previous notes you can catch up on those by clicking the Challenge announcementHERE and HERE. Each link opens in a new tab, or alternatively you can access them either from the Blog archive on the homepage or via the 2014 label, which will be the easiest option as the number of posts increases.

Friday, April 18, 2014
Following on from my lifetime best in the pool on Wednesday, Good Friday didn't mean a holiday for me from my workout schedule. I'd planned to complete a 45 minute cardio session, or perhaps even push myself further and do an hour. Due to a combination of sore, aching muscles and slight dehydration, I only completed 30 minutes.

Was I disappointed? YES, but at the same time I'm also listening to my body and I'm very aware, even at this early stage of the training, that rest is equally as important as the training itself. It's also only a minor disappointment, when I look back at how much I HAVE achieved in the past month. Now, where the heck did that time go???

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Today wasn't a training session, but I want to add a brief note. When I started out with the blog, I mentioned how much weight I want to lose. When I weighed myself this morning, I got some good news. I'm down another 3 pounds, for a total loss so far of 6, with a lot more to lose.

I'm feeling so much better already and I'm noticing the difference in muscle tone, particularly in my arms and abs. After yesterday's minor disappointment, it's great to know that I am also making progress towards that part of my target too.

Monday, April 21, 2014
Since the dehydration on Friday, I've been making sure I drink a LOT of water, to make sure it doesn't happen again. Today I was determined to push the cardio session and I DID complete the full hour! I made sure I paced myself throughout and kept drinking. I was exhausted and a little sore by the end, but proud and a little relieved that I'd made it!

Just before today's workout, I saw a post on a friend's Facebook timeline (thanks Debbie!) about the effect of exercise on the brain, What happens to our brain when we exercise. The post includes this image and again it's great to see the difference being made...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 ~ Tentative plans
In the last few days my thoughts have slowly begun to turn towards the challenge itself and the total distance I'll be swimming. In the Challenge announcement post, linked above, I mentioned that the total would be a MINIMUM of 23 miles. I've now decided, though the decision is NOT final at this point, to increase the total distance to 26 miles, 385 yards. Yep, I'm now aiming to swim a marathon, over approximately fifteen sessions in the pool.

This morning, before hitting the pool, I sat down and did the math and worked out a tentative schedule for the sessions. The numbers involved are pretty scary, so yep, if you're thinking I'm mad, you're not alone, I'm thinking the same LOL! Here's why...

Marathon distance   = 1,260 laps of the pool!!!

1,260 / 15 sessions = 84 laps per session

84 laps                  = 1-3/4 miles per session

The task will be a huge one, it ALREADY was with 23 miles to complete. The tentative start date is, for now, Tuesday, October 14, 2014, swimming every other day. Depending on how training goes, I might yet bring the start date forward and add in a few more sessions, therefore allowing for some below average swims, which will be welcome, I'm sure!!!

Splash by Splash
With my head spinning from all the figures above, I hit the pool. Even before I did the math this morning, I was thinking of increasing today's distance to 1 and 1/2 miles. After doing the math, I knew I had to aim for that, at least!

I got into the pool a few minutes before 2:00 pm and set off on the first of the 72 target laps. The first thing I noticed was that it was so much busier than either of the first two sessions, especially last week when I had the pool virtually to myself. It meant the water was pretty choppy and more of a challenge.

I was determined once again to go as far as I could without pausing, so having gotten to 22 laps, just 2 from the half mile point, I was glad of quieter water for a bit. It didn't last long, just 10 laps later it got busier again, but I'd not needed to pause and didn't now either.

I definitely felt the effort in my shoulders but paced myself as best I could and kept pushing on. Keeping count of the laps was surprisingly easy today, thankfully. As usual my mind was also filled with thoughts of all those who are supporting me and I was spurred on. 36, 48 laps passed as did 60, last week's lifetime best mark, just 12 more to go and I kicked on as best I could amid the "traffic". Time today wasn't as important, I was just a few minutes down on last week at this point, so I was pleased.

Just as last week, I didn't count down, but instead kept counting up. Touching the wall at the end of lap 70, I turned and changed the stroke, as I did last week for the final two laps, now thankful for some space! Beginning the final lap, I pushed hard off of the wall and around 40 seconds later, I touched in.

I'd done it! Another lifetime best! Yes, I'm proud! I stood now, took my goggles off, looked up and immediately said a brief prayer of thanks. I never feel alone when I'm in the pool, all those supporting and inspiring me, including our Lord and Savior, are with me and for that I'm SO thankful!

God bless,

Monday, April 21, 2014

Step by Step 2009 ~ part 3

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by, it's so good to have you here. Today we continue our retrospective look back at the Step by Step journal I wrote while training for the first charity challenge in late 2009. If you missed the first couple of posts about it, you can catch up with Part 1 and Part 2. Both links open in a new tab to make it easier for you.

We begin part 3 with December 8, 2009...

December 8, 2009 - Walk minus 20 days!
WOW this really is going quick now! I was in a business meeting all morning, so did just 4 miles today; back to 12 tomorrow.
It's with a very heavy heart that I have today learned of the passing of the 100th British soldier to lose his life in Afghanistan this year. It's HEROES such as L/Cpl Adam Drane who inspire me to give all *I* have on the hike.

Rest In Peace soldier, I salute you! Another heroic angel.

December 9, 2009 - Walk minus 19 days! Wow it's gonna be here before we know it! I'll be doing 12 miles this morning. Thanks to Seb for sending my t-shirt I really look the part now.

I've now set up the ""HELP for HEROES" Hadrian's Wall Christmas Hike" album on Facebook and added the first 3 photos. More will be added before the hike and of course, many, many, afterwards.

December 10, 2009 - Walk minus 18 days! Training today was good, another 12 miles complete. Thanks to everyone for your support. It really does keep me going when it's hard out there.
It's about time I mentioned some of the other brave, albeit younger, people who will be doing the hike with me. They are:
Seb F.- It's all Seb's fault. He's the organizer of this feat of endurance.
Terry F.- Seb's Dad. He will be our support driver.
Bea S.
Emily B.
Danielle C.
Zach S., Bea’s younger brother.
Jacob S.
Claudia M., the youngest of the group, CJ is just fourteen years old!
Pip W.
Alex M.
Graham F. 
December 11 - Walk minus 17 days! Did a shorter than intended 6 mile training hike, due to fog. I had hoped to do another 12 but the fog meant visibility wasn't good. I'm feeling great. Thanks again to everyone for all your support. It really means so much to me. Wow! I've just counted the miles completed in training so far. 85 miles completed in training already. That's the full distance of the hike! I intend to at least do the same again before the hike begins.
The 12 mile route I have been taking during my training is really in two parts. The first half of which is along a well lit road, with a sidewalk. The second part of the route takes me down an unlit road, with no sidewalk. Hence why in bad weather, such as today with the fog, or if I'm out later than usual, when it's dark, the route changes for safety reasons.

The route is in no way flat, there are two or three steep gradients so the thigh muscles and lungs get a workout!

The mid-range 10 mile route, follows the 12, except it cuts off a couple of miles at the midway point. The second part of it is still unlit, so I'll do this one if the light is beginning to fade.

As for wildlife, I do pass by fields with horses in, on both routes.

The shorter four and six mile routes are along fully lit roads, with sidewalks. They are both completely safe. I do the six mile route if I go out in the dark and it's a loop around the neighborhood. The four mile route is the one I do if I have to go to any business meetings, as it's the venue for the meetings is two miles across town.

Everyone I've encountered, so far at least, has been really friendly. Everyone acknowledges me, at least with a nod or a wave, including the drivers along the more rural part of the longer routes.

It's my intention to take the camera out with me on one of the remaining 12 mile training hikes, so you will be able to see what I can see along the route. This will include at least some of the eight bars I encounter! Yes, there has been occasions when I've been tempted to stop for a drink LOL.

I'll add the pics to the album ""HELP for HEROES" Christmas Hike 2009" on Facebook, which I've already started and mentioned a few days ago.

I'm doing all bar the four mile routes in one go, without needing to stop for a meal break. As I'm doing all routes, I ensure I keep well hydrated by drinking an isotonic sports drink, that I make up from powder before going out.

During the hike itself, we'll be doing an average of 14 miles a day. This won't, of course, be all in one go, we'll stop for lunch on the route. All meals; breakfast, lunch and supper; are being provided for us, by a corporate sponsor.

The main bulk of our kit; tents, sleeping bags, camping equipment; is being transported in a support vehicle. We'll only be carrying our daysacks with us, with waterproofs and anything needed during the day, drinks bottles and lunch, for example.
I hope you're enjoying looking back at the entries as much as I am. In my next post, on Wednesday afternoon/ evening, I'll be sharing my latest training notes from this year, as well as some more of my thoughts, so I hope you'll join me again then. 

God bless,

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ultimate Sacrifice

Hi everyone,

Today, Good Friday, we remember the ultimate sacrifice that our savior, Jesus Christ, made for each of us on the cross at Calvary more than 2000 years ago...

When thinking of the term "Ultimate sacrifice", my thoughts also turn to those who have fought for our freedom and lost their lives doing so. They too have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Please, if you will, join me in prayer...

Heavenly Father, today, as we remember the ultimate sacrifice of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, we give thanks and praise for the blessings you've bestowed on each and every one of us. Gracious Lord, we also give thanks to everyone who has served in the military, and remember those who themselves paid the ultimate sacrifice. Ever loving Lord, we ask for your protection for all who continue to serve in the military. In your Holy Name we pray ~ Amen

God bless,

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Step by Step 2014 ~ Proud, amazed, determined part 2

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by today, I'm honored to have you here. If you missed last Wednesday's post, Step by Step 2014 ~ Proud, amazed, determined, you can click on the title and it will open in a new tab for you. Alternatively the blog archive, listing all previous posts, can be accessed from the home page.

In today's post we'll review my last three training sessions, last Friday, this Monday and today's. However, before we do, I feel I must again thank you all for your support and encouragement, it really does mean so much to me! THANK YOU!

Friday, April 11, 2014
So far this year spring seems to have been in hiding, so when I checked the forecast earlier in the week and saw that today was going to be dry, but perhaps not so warm, I knew that I wanted to try and get out for awhile and for the first time this year, with the exception of my vacation, take some photos.

I'm at my most relaxed when I'm outside, no matter where it is, but to be on a beach is even more so, especially when it's warm enough to be barefoot and given my current training regime it's a great workout too! I was really looking forward to it, but after Wednesday's exertions in the pool and still being a little sore, even late last night I was debating whether or not I'd get out today.

Luckily when I got up this morning it was sunny and warm and the stiffness in my back had eased. I knew then that yes, I'd get out! I'd be walking around three miles, half of that on the beach, so even when I headed out I was wondering if it would take the place of my usual workout, but there was plenty of time to make the decision. The moment I got to the beach, having already taken some photos on the way there, I took my sandals off. The sand was a little cool, but it felt so good! I took well over 100 photos in just over four hours, nothing unusual in that for me though lol. I'm only sharing a couple here, because this will be a long post, but the rest can be seen on my personal Facebook page and I'll also post others in later blog posts.

The breeze was so light, but with patience I was able to get a number of pics of Old Glory fluttering and it was well worth it.

As the day drew on, I decided that I would indeed be doing a full regular workout when I got back. I did just that, 45 minutes cardio and by the end of it I was tired, but pleased with what I'd achieved, combined with the walk on the beach, it had been my biggest day yet. I was again making progress.

Monday, April 14, 2014
I started the new week by doing another 45 minute cardio session today and really pushed myself during the third fifteen minute rep. I might up it to an hour on Friday, but will see how I feel after the pool session on Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 ~ Splash by splash?
During the past week, whenever I've thought back to the first swim session, I'm still as proud, amazed and yes, determined as I was afterwards. Completing a mile after being away from the pool for over four years was some achievement!

You might think that my goal for today's session would be to match that? Yes and no. Yes, I know that I can't push myself too much, so doing the same as last week would also be great. On the other hand, I'm not only determined, but stubborn too and yes, those who know me will confirm that fact! This morning I did tell my brother Aaron that I'd perhaps aim to do an extra quarter mile, promising I'd be careful!

I got into the pool just around 1:10 pm this afternoon, fixed my new optical prescription goggles in place and sank down into the water. The moment I pushed back on the wall, gliding underwater, I was amazed I could see right to the other end of the pool! My first pause last week had been at the quarter mile point, 12 laps, but this week I didn't stop there, I pushed on and thought I'd perhaps take a quick break at one third of a mile, 16 laps. Nope!

If I was to do the extra quarter mile, 60 laps, perhaps I'd stop at 20, a third of the total distance? Nope! But what did happen around this point, or perhaps it was at the end of the 18th lap, was that I lost count. Oops! I couldn't remember if I'd done 18 or 20, so I started counting again from 18, then made sure I kept count! I looked up to the clock high above the pool, something that I couldn't see last week and noticed that I'd only been in the pool 20 minutes, so time-wise I was on a par with last week.

Perhaps I'd pause at the half mile point, 24 laps? Nah, not then either! Maybe 30? I did think about it, but no. I'd had the pool to myself since around lap 12 and was determined to kick on. By the time I got to 36 laps, the three quarter mile point, I gotten so far, why stop now? So I didn't! It was the same at 40 and at 48, the completion of the mile and where I'd stopped last week. I looked up at the clock again and saw I'd gotten this far in just under 50 minutes, the same as I'd achieved last week.

Something else that I did differently today was deciding not to count down the last laps. Having lost count earlier, I didn't want the same to happen again! Instead, I kicked on and upped the pace. Yes, I'd been feeling the effort in my shoulders for a bit, but I'd paced myself pretty well to this point and yes, I was happy.

Kicking off the wall at the start of lap 54, I changed stroke to freestyle, aiming to do the last six laps this way, but gliding in at the end of the next, I changed back down to breaststroke for lap 56. Yep, I admit it, it was my first, very minor disappointment, but it didn't last long! I changed back up for the start of lap 58, my penultimate lap of the day and my quickest so far. Coming in at the end of lap 60, I looked at the wall for a split second too long. I missed a breath and a beat, but didn't panic. I kicked on and pushed for the wall. I'd made it!

Not only had I increased the total distance to one and one quarter miles, an achievement to be proud of in itself, but for the first time EVER, I'd swam more than a quarter mile without a pause, a full MILE further! Wow, wow, wow! Yes, I am as PROUD, AMAZED and DETERMINED as ever to give this my ABSOLUTE ALL!

I'm not sure at this point what will be included in my next post, but it will be posted at some point on Friday, so please do check back then. Thanks again everyone for your support and encouragement. It really does me so much to me!

God bless,

Monday, April 14, 2014

Step by Step 2009 ~ part 2

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by today, it's great to have you here. Today we continue our look back at journal entries I wrote when I truly and quite literally got into my stride in training for the 2009 challenge. If you missed part 1, you can read it HERE.

December 1, 2009 -Walk minus 27 days! Hello December!
Did a 10 miler today. Worst weather faced so far, but nothing compared to what it *could* be like on hike itself. I'm feeling great physically and truly motivated to give this everything I've got.
The guys and girls risking their lives, just doing their job, is what motivates and inspires me; as do the memories of the trip I took in high school. 
December 2, 2009 - Walk minus 26 days!
Rest day from training. I'm not resting though, I'm concentrating on the fundraising today. If you'd like to sponsor me, please send me a private message. Thanks to everyone for all your support. 
December 3, 2009 - Walk minus 25 days! Did a gentle 3 miler this morning, due to having a lot of work to do today. Feeling well rested after yesterday's rest day  
December 4, 2009 - Walk minus 24 days!
Another slack training day, only 6 miles completed today. I'm as determined as ever to give this my all. Now work has quietened down the training can really intensify, starting with a 12 miler tomorrow! 
December 5, 2009 - Walk minus 23 days!
Did my first 12 mile training hike since Tuesday. I'm feeling great. Thanks again for your support and encouragement, it means so much to me  
December 6, 2009 - Walk minus 22 days!
Rest day! I'm determined to enjoy it, as it may be my last for a while
I spoke to someone yesterday who has corporate connections. They may well have some news for me, by the end of the week, regarding some corporate sponsorship. I'm also hoping to have some news about others by then too.

Next week's schedule has changed a little from that I mentioned earlier in the week.

I'm having blood tests taken in the morning (Mon 12/7), so I won't be doing a 12 mile training session afterwards. Not a great idea! I will, instead, be doing a gentler 4 miler afterwards.

Tuesday (12/8) remains as planned at 4 miles.
I won't now be having a rest day on Wednesday (12/9), instead, I will be doing a 12 miler.
Thursday (12/10) remains as planned at 12 miles.
Friday (12/11) will be either 6 or 10 miles.
Saturday (12/12) will be 12 miles.
Sunday (12/13) WILL be a REST DAY. 
December 7, 2009 - Walk minus 21 days!
I did a short 4 miler this morning. I can't believe that this time in just 3 weeks we'll have completed Day 1 of the hike! WOW!
I may be the one physically doing the hike, but knowing that everyone is with me on this means so much. It keeps me strong. I've been quite tired today, mentally as well as physically.

There are times when just thinking about the schedule for the next four weeks tires me out! I know resting is just as important as the training, if not more so. My last 12 mile training session will happen two weeks from now. That really brings it home how close we're getting to this!
In my next post, I'll be sharing more of this year's Step by Step journal entries, including some photos. Thanks again for your support everyone, it really does mean so much to me.

God bless,

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Step by step 2014 ~ Proud, amazed, determined

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by today, it's an honor to have you here! In the Challenge announcement and training post I mentioned how the first four training sessions for this year's challenge had gone. Given that I've had a cough pretty much right the way through, I was really pleased to have gotten to the point I had, averaging thirty minutes per training session over the three for the week. I also mentioned briefly what I was hoping to do this week. I'm proud very proud to say that I've exceeded my own expectations. Read on to find out how...

Monday, April 7, 2014
Yesterday was my first day without taking medication for the cough in well over a week. It's still hanging on, but I figure if I can push myself a bit harder, it should aid my recovery, or least I'm hoping. Having started the third repetition of my cardio routine during last Friday's workout, I was determined to complete the rep.

I started slowly, determined to get to the end of the 45 minute session and towards the end of the first 15 minute rep, I pushed a little, then did the same approaching the thirty minute mark. When the last rep started I was beginning to feel the burn in my shoulders, but I still gave it my all. No pain, no gain.

I completed the full 45 minutes and reached a new milestone. Yes, I was proud!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Having initially thought I'd hit the pool on Friday, at the weekend I checked the sports center timetable and realized that Wednesday would be better. Not only would it be quieter then, but it would also fit the training better, between two cardio sessions. At this point I was aiming to be in the pool around an hour, with a target distance of a half mile, after more than four years away from the pool, I thought that both were fair targets.

I woke this morning still feeling a slight discomfort in my shoulders from Monday's workout, but it was nowhere near as bad as it had previously been. I was hoping to be in the pool by 2:00 pm, but realizing I needed to renew my membership, I got there just before 1:30 pm and was poolside by 1:45 pm, one of the staff having just told me that 24 laps equals a half mile.

Stepping down into the water, the coolness surprised me, but it wasn't unpleasant. I stepped away from the ladder, sunk down into the water and filled my goggles, which were already around my neck, then brought them up and adjusted them. I took a deep breath, pushed back against the wall and glided out at the start of my first lap in so long. I surfaced and within the first few strokes found my rhythm.

Reaching the wall at the end of my first lap, I already felt proud. Previously, even at my fittest, I'd stop a moment now, but not today. I turned, pushed off the wall once more and headed back to where I'd started. I didn't stop at the end of that lap either, or the next, I was determined to push on. After turning into lap ten, I upped the pace a bit and felt it, but still I kicked on.

Half way through lap twelve, with my goggles a little uncomfortable, I knew I'd need to stop a moment at the end of it, whether or not I needed to otherwise. I upped the pace, then glided into the wall. I'd made it to the quarter mile point! Yes, I was proud!

I paused only long enough to adjust the eyewear and take a quick breath, before kicking off again. I've always done better with smaller targets, so the next I aimed for was 16 laps, one third of a mile. They passed surprisingly quickly and I pushed on toward the half, 24 laps. My pace dropped a little around the 20 mark when I started to feel the effect in my shoulders, but still I pushed on and I knew by now that I was going to continue to a mile!

I upped the pace again and pushed toward the wall at the end of the 24th lap. Having not swam for so long, I'd made my original target. I paused now for only the second time, an equally short break as the first, but this time I stood up, then sunk back into the water, to refresh myself.

As the second half mile began, keeping count became a little difficult. The pool was busier by now, my thoughts drifting a little to those supporting me and indeed who I'll be doing the challenge for, but still I kept count, lap after lap being checked off in my mind with the next interim target being 32 laps, or two thirds of a mile. The pool was really busy now and the wake from other swimmers meant I needed more effort, but from here it was just another four to the three quarter mile point, 36 laps.

I paused for just the third time and as I pushed off of the wall, instead of counting up, I began counting down, 11, ten, nine,... With just six laps to go and by now really feeling the burn, I upped the pace once more and decided that having done everything so far in one stroke, I'd change it up for the last two.

Two laps further on, with just three to go, I was directed to another, busier part of the pool, and lap 46 was probably my slowest to that point. I was just two laps away from the mile. Turning, I glanced ahead, then pushed off the wall. I gave those last laps everything I had, absolutely everything!

Gliding into the wall at the end of lap 48, I was smiling, even under the water, I was smiling. I reached the wall, turned around and lifted my goggles. There were a few others stood up, but I stayed low in the water, marvelling that having not been near it for so long, I'd just SWAM A MILE! Was I proud? YES!

Climbing out of the water, my legs, perhaps understandably, felt heavy. I returned to the locker room and retrieved my towel. Only after my shower, while I took the rest of my stuff from the locker, did I ask the member of staff what time it was. I was already proud, but now I was amazed too. I'd completed the swim in LESS THAN AN HOUR! WOW!

As I type now, it's almost three hours since I left the sports center. Am I sore? Yes, my shoulders are, a little, but it's bearable. Today's events have made me proud, they have amazed me, but they've also shown me just how determined I am to give this, both my fitness and the challenge ahead, my absolute all!

Thanks again to everyone for sharing this journey with me, I appreciate each one of you so much!

God bless,

Monday, April 7, 2014

Step by Step 2009 ~ Favorite photos

Hi everyone,

I hope you all had a great weekend! Mine was spent relaxing and yesterday was the first day in over a week that I've managed without any medication for my cough, YAY! It is still hanging on, but I'm feeling far better than I did this time last week and soon after writing this post I'll be doing today's workout.

I  know that I've so far only posted one retrospective entry about the 2009 challenge Part 1, and that by posting pics from the actual hike we're jumping ahead somewhat, but at the same time all you've seen from me are my words and no images, so I really hope you don't mind.

The first of the pics was taken as night began to fall on the first day and at this point we still had around two hours before we'd reach camp for the night...

All the following pics were taken on day five, the first just as we set out for the day...

This last one is my absolute favorite from the entire hike, although it was taken in color, it looks almost totally black and white and I LOVE it!

I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at some of my highlights from the 2009 challenge. I'd love to know your thoughts about the pics. In my next post I'll share Part 2 of the 2009 training.

God bless,

Friday, April 4, 2014

Challenge announcement and training

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by today and if this is your first visit, WELCOME, it's great to have you here! This post is likely to be another long one, but as with everything else, it's very important, so please do stay with me to the end. Thank you!

In the first post of note to the blog, Why "Battling Back"? and in most posts since, I've hinted at the nature of this year's charity challenge, which follows on from one I did in late 2009, but I've not revealed the nature of the challenge. Well folks, the wait is very nearly over, at least for the announcement!

You've waited nearly a WEEK for it, but I've waited over FOUR YEARS to make it, having decided on the nature of the challenge even as I traveled back from the last one! So, without further delay I can FINALLY announce...

"The "Battling Back Military Charity Challenge" will be a multi-session endurance swim, undertaken by myself, Rev. Em L. Fairley, with a total distance at this point to be determined, but I can confirm that it will be NOT LESS than TWENTY THREE MILES. The total distance to be covered will be split into individual swim sessions of around TWO MILES. While the exact start date is still to be determined, it will be around MID OCTOBER 2014, the exact date will be announced nearer the time. The exact end date IS known and because this is a challenge in aid of two military charities, a fitting end date can be announced at this time; November 11, 2014, Veteran's/ Armistice Day. This end date is all the more poignant this year, the one hundredth anniversary of the start of First World War, being as a trip to the Battlefields of the Somme when I was a teenager helped shape who I am and my love and support for the military."

Before I go into detail about my initial training, I want to go into a little more detail about why this challenge has been titled "Battling Back". In the Why "Battling Back"? post I mentioned that I'm now mentally and indeed spiritually stronger than I've ever been and you can find more details about that in a previously written, but ever evolving article, that I've written for our Ministry page on Facebook. Please do take a look at that.

Each of us faces our own battles, and I've never been one to make the exact nature of my own known, not even to some of my closest friends. Instead I've always put others first and will continue to do so. But having said that, and having titled both the blog and the challenge itself Battling Back, it is right and proper that I say what I'm about to...

I've always battled depression, for years without the need for medication. At times of extreme stress, I'd hit the pool and swimming became my therapy as I swam more than a mile at a time. In the months before the 2009 challenge, I added the gym to my routine and so when the offer came up, I was able to go out on twelve mile training sessions, having done nowhere near that previously.

I vowed at the end of the challenge to maintain my fitness level and as I've stated numerous times now, work towards the new challenge. However, in the year that followed, my mental health took a nosedive and for the first time in my life I knew that I now needed medication to help me, which I began immediately and so did the long route to recovery.

I have been off the medication now for eight months or so, having needed them for over three years. At my lowest, I became severely agoraphobic, only leaving the house when I absolutely had to and returning as soon as I could.

As a result, having been at my slimmest before starting the meds, I'd gained over forty pounds by late spring last year. In the time since then, I've dropped around twenty, but if I'm to have any chance of completing the Battling Back challenge, I need to lose the rest, though with the needed strength and stamina for the challenge and with muscle weighing more than fat, I'll be happy with around another fifteen off.

I've not done any sort of training for years, other than prescribed exercises to overcome a shoulder injury that I briefly mentioned in the post A few notes of thanks. So, I really am starting over, right from the beginning and as such, I'm starting slowly, but with a long term plan which will get me to the start date ready and able to complete it. I'll be training three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

I started training last Friday, March 28, the day before the blog was started. My first priority is to work on some cardio and I found a relatively short, 16 minute long dance workout on YouTube. It might be short, but I gave it my all and by the end of it, I felt it.

By this Monday's session, 3/31/14, the niggly cough I'd started with over the weekend was getting worse, but having only just started, I was determined to keep going. For this reason, I did a double session, repeating the video. At the end I felt I'd gotten somewhere and rewarded myself with a long soak to help both my breathing and aching muscles.

On Wednesday, 4/2/14, I wasn't so fortunate. Still battling the cough, I only managed 20 minutes, but I paced myself and was so glad to have done more than the basic.

Today, Friday, 4/4/14, I'm finally feeling better, though the cough is still persisting a little. I knew that I wanted to push myself and I did so. Today I started the third rep and did my longest workout yet, getting to forty minutes before stopping.

Looking to next week, I'll continue with the home cardio workouts on Monday and Wednesday, but hope to hit the pool for the first time next Friday. From there I'll be aiming to do one pool session between two cardio.

I'm still having to be careful with my shoulder, though as of now, it's holding up great. In about a month, I'll take my cardio sessions into the gym and add in some strength training and weights, perhaps switching up to two pool sessions when I make the change.

I've got more than six months before the start of the challenge and I know that given my determination, as well as the support and inspiration I'm getting from everyone, that I will succeed in Battling Back to physical fitness personally and that the challenge will also succeed.

Thank YOU for being a part of my journey, it truly does mean so much!

God bless,

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Step by Step 2009 ~ part 1

Hi everyone,

Before we look back at the first set of entries in my journal from 2009, please pause for a moment and pray with me for everyone at Fort Hood, Texas, following yesterday afternoon's events...

Gracious Lord, in blessed repose, grant eternal rest to your faithful servants who lost their lives, and lay your strengthening, healing hands on those injured. Father, we pray for your guidance and strength for those treating the injured on site and at Scott and White hospital and all those investigating what happened. Enfold everyone involved, their families, friends and the wider community in your ever loving, comforting arms and amid the shock and distress, may there be some peace and restfulness. In your Holy Name we pray ~ Amen

The original "Step by Step" journal was posted to a discussion board on Facebook in one of the groups that I was admin of at the time.
November 27, 2009 - 31 days to go!
I have today been asked to walk Hadrian's Wall, England, in just 31 days time. A distance of 85 miles in 6 days, in the depth of the British winter (we're camping). The offer came via email from a complete stranger, Seb, and I must be mad, but I've accepted the challenge!

The charity I'm fundraising for is the UK based "HELP for HEROES", which helps injured military personnel. It's a cause close to my heart. As you will all know, I'm a proud supporter of the military.

We will begin the walk on December 28, 2009 and finish on January 2, 2010. What a way to see in the new year!
November 28, 2009 - Walk minus 30 days!
I thought long and hard yesterday before accepting Seb's offer (which came from nowhere) of a place on the walk. Things I had to consider where:
* Am I mentally, as well as physically strong enough to do this?
* The walk starts in just 31 days (then) and I'm not currently training.
* 84 miles over 6 days, at an average of 14 miles a day.
* CAMPING in the depths of a UK winter, with temps below 30° looking at the long term forecast.
* The oldest on the team by some 9 years.
* Though I'm based in the UK, I live by US central time, so would have to readjust to UK time. No good hiking with jet lag!
* I'll be away from all those I love for 6 days over New Years. This will be really tough.

There are so many reasons why I SHOULD do it:
* This will give me the chance to get out there, and do something I love doing.
* I was really upset at having to postpone in August.
* I had planned to do this very walk in May next year.
* This offer has come completely as a surprise. I didn't even know Seb until I got the email from him.
* I'm a proud supporter of the military.
* I've been a supporter of the charity, "HELP for HEROES", since it was formed. I didn't even take my wristband off when my daughter was born.
* I know I'll always regret it if I don't do it.
* Even though I'll be away physically from those I love, I'll be with them, as they will be with me.

I did my first training session today, a 12 mile hike that I finished in just 2 hours! When I woke at 5:00 am, I felt exhausted. Thankfully, I went back to sleep. I was woken just after 6:00 by a text message from Seb. I was out the door by 6:30 am. Fully determined to give this EVERYTHING I've got.
I CAN do this! I WILL do this!

Thanks to everyone for your support!
November 29, 2009 - Walk minus 29 days! Rest day.
Slept in this morning, I'd finished the 12 miler yesterday by the time I even woke up this morning!

Yesterday afternoon, I started sending messages to friends, informing them of the hike.

I also started looking into travel arrangements yesterday, and I'll only change back to UK time in the days before Christmas, when I'll be resting anyway.

Thanks again for your support everyone!
November 30, 2009 - Walk minus 28 days!
Yep, this time in just 4 weeks we'll be well into, and maybe almost finished day 1!

I've this morning done the same 12 mile training hike as I did on Saturday (- 30 days). Did it in just UNDER 2 hours this time, too.

I've now worked out a rough schedule for my training, right up until the hike starts:
Mon 11/30: 12 miles (today)
Tue 12/1: At least 10, maybe 12 miles
Wed 12/2: REST DAY
Thur 12/3: 10/12 miles
Fri 12/4: 12 miles
Sat 12/5: 12 miles
Sun 12/6: REST DAY
Mon 12/7: 12 miles
Tue 12/8: 4 miles
Wed 12/9: REST DAY
Thur 12/10: 12 miles
Fri 12/11: 12 miles
Sat 12/12: 12 miles
Sun 12/13: REST DAY
Mon 12/14: 12 miles
Tue 12/15: 12 miles
Wed 12/16: 6 miles MINIMUM
Thur 12/17: 12 miles
Fri 12/18: 12 miles
Sat 12/19: 12 miles
Sun 12/20: REST DAY
Mon 12/21: 12 miles
Tue 12/22: 6 miles MINIMUM
Wed 12/23: REST DAY - back to UK time
Thur 12/24: REST DAY
Sat 12/26: REST DAY
Sun 12/27: Travel up north
Mon 12/28: HIKE DAY 1
Tue 12/29: HIKE DAY 2
Wed 12/30: HIKE DAY 3
Thur 12/31: HIKE DAY 4
Sat 1/2: HIKE DAY 6 - FINISH
Sun 1/3: Travel home - SLEEP
Mon 1/4: Back to US Central time
Even looking at it like that, I'm tired! But, I'm also immensely proud to see what I will have achieved.

If you'd like to take a look at where we'll be hiking, take a look here:'s_Wall
Thanks again for your support everyone. It really gives me even more strength and determination, knowing you're all with me.
In my next post, I will be revealing the nature of this year's challenge, AT LAST! Thanks for your patience in awaiting the reveal! I'll also be sharing what my training at this point involves and how I see it developing over the coming months.

God bless,

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Step by Step

Hi everyone,

The title of this post is taken from the journal that I wrote in the 31 days prior to, during and indeed added a few entries to after the first charity challenge in 2009. I will, as promised, share those entries with you so that you too get to experience that challenge as well. I'll title those retrospective posts "Step by Step 2009" and also add an entry number.

I'll also use Step by Step as the title of this years journal entry posts, adding 2014 and an entry number to the posts.

As well as journal entries, it is my aim to share everything about my journey, the previous challenge, the charities and indeed stories of others with you as time goes on. As well as using labels or key words to help you navigate the site (a list of these can be found at the foot of each post and in the right side menu on the homepage), I'll be adding more pages with the relevant information, which can be accessed via the tabs at the top of the homepage. The first such page, Verses, will be added ahead of my next post, which will feature the first of the Step by Step 2009 entries.

Thank you all for being with me on this journey. I'm so very honored to share it with each of you!

God bless,