Friday, 31 January 2014

The Reckoning

The January Reckoning - kung hei fat choy!

Interestingly enough, both my parents were born in another year of the horse...I won't tell you which one, but another good omen I reckon.

I've raised £450 so far... Just shy of my £500 fundraising target for New Year.  Thank you so much to everyone who helped me get that far.  My next push will be a Valentines target so watch this space.  

And donate here to the fight against avoidable blindness.

I've been riding every weekend, except over New Year when I was in Austria.  I definitely feel more comfortable in the saddle and very happy on Cheyenne, the horse I've been riding.

Cheyenne (left) in a rare moment of friendliness (she's not overly fond of other horses)

Thank you so much Maggie Pattinson for the lend of Cheyenne and all your help and support so far.  Maggie is a fantastic endurance riding coach - I've been amazed by how far people travel to see her and it's really lovely seeing the improvements she makes and how happy her clients are.  I should also say that her horses are a delight and an education to ride.

You can find out more about Maggie on her website - she offers a kind and intelligent approach to training for both horse and rider.

Cross training
I wish I'd taken a photo of me push pressing (?!) the bar + 2kgs last night...  I think this getting stronger lark is going to be a long road.

It's not all doom and gloom, though.  I'm feeling reasonably fit and a 24hr bout of food poisoning earlier this week didn't really phase me which feels like a good sign.  As an older and wiser person I'm trying to build up gradually and Crossfit has been really helpful, or rather the coaches at Crossfit Central London have been really helpful - particularly Naama Chezar (@NaamaChezar) and Matt Rodwell (@mattrodwell).

After three sessions a week for three weeks, I can see I've lost fat and gained muscle ...but you can't because apparently it's not acceptable to post selfies of me in my underwear.

I weighed a massive 72 kgs on return from Austrian fat camp...

I now weigh 69.7 - hopefully I've put on muscle, but either way some of the chub has gone.

I've had a lot of interest in the last couple of weeks and I'm in email back and forth with a couple of companies...

Thanks to my employer, Standard Chartered Bank, for the first bit of sponsorship, for letting me work flexibly and for doubling all donations made to Seeing is Believing.  You rock!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

A year in the life of Mongolian horses

This is too good just to tweet so here's a blog post.  

Amazing photos of Mongolian horses: the Year of the Horse begins.

Ahoy me hearties!

Thar be treasure...

I always check the in tray at work and I never get anything - not even work letters.  Very exciting to get a call from the post room to let me know a parcel had arrived!

The parcel

Trying not to utter squeals of delight, I ripped it open...


And couldn't rifle through the exciting contents immediately...

Work meant I missed last night's crossfit, but I ran home to inspect the contents of the treasure box... 

The red square is an Adventurist's buff, an adaptable neckerchief-cum-balaclava-cum-scarf.

The black bag is my saddlebag.  There's also:
- the Derby handbook (looks great - really well designed);
- my race shirt, ready for loading with sponsors' logos;
- Torq bottle, gel, bar and energy drink powder;
- a light race backpack/hydration system;
- aquapac waterproof stuff sacks; and
- beech wool knickers.

A brilliant haul.  I'm particularly looking forward to trying the knickers on Saturday.  No more walking like John Wayne.

I'm also looking forward to trying the Torq products - Torq are a riders' fitness consultancy who produce energy/ recovery nutrition products.  Maggie kindly offered me some Torq recovery powder last weekend, which I'm going to try this week and next.  

I'm currently finding that by the third crossfit session each week, my muscles are sufficiently fatigued that I am very slow and struggle to complete the workout.  I don't think it's fitness, just strength and I'm sure the problem will reduce as I get stronger, but I'm optimistic that the Torq recovery powder will help in the meanwhile.  Watch this space.

By the way, tomorrow will be the first monthly progress update - fundraising, weight (groan) and training.  

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Super tolt!

Another lovely day in Surrey at the weekend.

This post is delayed because I was struck down by an evil 24 hr bug.  Or was poisoned.  As you like it.

Maggie optimistically gave me a map (I can't read maps) and to be polite I tried to look at it.  And noticed that the Devil's Highway is, of course, in Surrey.

And off Maggie's cousin and I went for a lovely ride.

Sorry for the view, Monita!

Meanwhile, Maggie was coaching and look at who she was helping!

Pony in pyjamas

I PROMISE I don't go ga ga over animals very often but I have never seen a pony like this: the pyjamas!  The tolt!  The afro!  The noise he made as tolted along! 


This is what the tolt looks like, for those who've never heard of it:

It's a completely different gait - very comfortable, apparently.  You learn something new every day...

Monday, 27 January 2014

Competition #2

I've recently finished Walking home from Mongolia - an account of a very odd and idiosyncratic adventure.

The best response to the question below will win a copy of this book:

What's the oddest challenge you've ever undertaken?

Answers below, please!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Year of the horse

It is year of the horse!  Well, nearly.

As we approach Chinese New Year and those of us working with Chinese businesses begin a mad scramble to get everything done before our Chinese friends disappear, I thought I'd post something I've wanted to write about for ages.

Image borrowed from Wikipedia

It seems that the year of the horse is the best possible year anyone could choose to ride across Mongolia...

The Horse (馬 午) is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac.   Apparently the coming "Wood Horse" year will be "a time of fast victories, unexpected adventure and surprising romance. It is an excellent year for travel and the more far away and off the beaten path the better."  

For more detail or if you think I made the above up, look here.  

Is it true though?!  Do you believe in astrology?

Competition #1: hey girl

Met an old friend for lunch and turns out he's about to do something rather exciting.

Hey girl, can you keep a secret?

Robin (above) will buy you a drink if you can guess what it is!  Entries below please.

A clue

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

What have you got to look forward to?

To let you know what's coming up on the blog over the next six months, this is what you've got to look forward to:

Monthly training updates
I'll let you know how my training is going on the last day of each month.  I'll post my weight (no, really), any significant improvements and any miserable setbacks.


Guest posts
You will start to see guest posts appear! A number of twitter friends and real life friends should be sending in their posts

Come on, Lindsey! Get your post in!

Oh, and the usual daily updates, of course...

 If you'd like to contribute a post, or have anything you'd like the blog to cover, let me know by leaving a comment here or by email:

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Magick Monita

I felt v.honoured yesterday to ride Maggie's own horse, Monita:

Monita (what a pose!) and me (Lynne and Cheyenne in the background)

What a lovely lady.  I joked to Maggie that her horses are ruining me, but she pointed out that it's important to know how it should feel.  And how did it feel?  Like I was riding a mind-reading horse - Maggie said it was weight distribution, but I'm not sure it wasn't black magic.

An air of mystery surrounds Maggie: she told me a secret that has stopped the Vile Beast from laying waste to my demesne.  By this I mean that my cat likes to empty his bowels inside my house.  On one memorable occasion he did so having eaten something disagreeable and been caught short whilst sleeping between my pillows.  I cannot repeat what I said when I discovered that at 2am.  

I previously tried everything.  And I mean everything.  Chemical sprays which smelt vile, food bowls in his favourite laying waste spots, restricting his access to anywhere containing soft furnishings (he loves a soft landing) and, in my darker moments, shouting:


All this has stopped since Maggie told me the secret.  I'll tell you in return for hard cash.  Apply at

One day Maggie is going to find I've spun my own spell and magicked her lovely Basil...

Will dance for dinner.

Into the Vile Beast.  Who does fetch, after all so perhaps it wouldn't be too rubbish a swap?


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Changing gear

I spoke to Maggie about how much training I should be doing last week and got a bit of a fright.  I think of myself as reasonably fit - I cycle to work, or run (5miles each way) and would happily run a bit further.  But in the context of a two-week endurance race, the ability to jog slowly every now and then won't cut the mustard.  

My aim is to do more and build a good base of fitness and strength, but in a sustainable, flexible and non-psychotic way.  The Derby is still six months away, after all and I do have a job and a social life!  Plus, I'm not going on a diet because despite being a fatty I can't be bothered.  That may be why I'm a fatty.  I still can't be bothered.  I'll worry about that later.

The Plan
- crossfit to build strength and fitness
- riding with the London Club London and whoever else will have me (!!) to build riding-specific muscles and endurance
- riding lessons to work on my seat
- commuting and running with the Lewisham Running Club to build endurance

After my first week of this sustainable, flexible and non-psychotic approach I feel on the verge of death.

After being treated to a glass of wine on Chancery Lane last night ...

Thanks, Adam!

And a kir royale with some old friends...

Zen Coates

Chinese tourist Miranda

I hit the sack and slept like a corpse for ten and a half hours, woken by the doorbell as the Lewisham Running Club started to arrive.

I managed the run but I did not enjoy it.  And now I feel like a senior citizen.  What to do?  Straight to the cinema to sleep.  I mean, watch a film.

The good time guys!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

O the wild charge they made!

Last night I went to the Household Cavalry Barracks to watch a Riding Club London lesson.

For those of you who don't know, the Household Cavalry are the Queen's personal bodyguard with ceremonial duties which include trooping the colour.  They have barracks on Knightsbridge Road, opposite Hyde Park, where no less than 250 horses are kept!  Members of the Riding Club London may join lessons on these horses.  I went along to watch one...

Mounting of the Guard (me on the right) (joke)

Mounted bands: trooping of the colour

The entrance to the barracks is a curious little gate set in a wall on Knightsbridge Road.  Having signed in, I suddenly felt too shy to ask for directions so ran off with no idea where anything was.  Turns out the barracks are Quite Big and what I think is my "excellent innate sense of direction" is actually "no sense of direction at all".

Strange neighbours for Harvey Nicks!

Anyway, I followed my nose to the stables and was immediately struck - these horses are not just Quite Big but Very Huge.  Presumably because they have to carry mounted soldiers in full ceremonial dress?  It was funny to see some of the smaller riders next to their mounts!

Victoria and the aptly named Colossus

The horses were all very interested in the goings on...  

Who, me?

This pretty mousey bay was so excited at the prospect of a ride he did a little dance in his stable!


Once in the school, the horses seemed to feel the light weight of their riders and, well, frolicked!  I thought of what someone once said: it's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.  And felt a bit vicariously nervous.  

The school

I couldn't hear an awful lot of what the teacher (Steve) was saying from behind the glass of the balcony but I liked his manner and all the riders I spoke to thought he was excellent.  Perhaps his magic touch was inspired by the (large) coffee Katharine delivered to him before the lesson began!  ;)

Tim, Katharine (who runs the Riding Club) and Lizzie keeping me company on the balcony

After the lesson, everyone trooped back to the stables.

Happy Aqaba and Ada

Yes, I have my own guard to wash me

Out of nowhere, some soldiers appeared and although they were very self-contained and kept out of our way, they obviously loved and knew the horses.  Colossus seemed to be a particular favourite with all these tough guys...  I could see why - no word of a lie, he offered me his hoof just like a dog!

Well hello, Mister!

I can't wait to come back and ride!  Thanks Katharine! 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Broken of Brockley

I am broken.  I ran yesterday morning with Ali, who is preparing for a 10k, cycled to work and then cycled to Crossfit this evening.  

I have never done 50 burpees before.  I have also never carried a strange man on my back through Central London.  

The upshot of all of this bonkers activity left me resigned to cycling shamefacedly along the Old Kent Road looking like a hipster i.e. with no hands.

Not because I'm cool.

Because my arms had completely blown.  It's been a while since I felt so clear headed and wobbly...

Lucky the Snout had made dinner and the entertainment had arrived when I got home! Chz, Lloyd!

Lloyd "sexy face" Clark

Sugar: the enemy

I'm going to have to lose weight.  There are obvious things I can do, like not eat entire tubes of Pringles before bed (woe is me!) but I might also have to make a start on reducing the amount of sugar I eat.

This article really made me think:

Monday, 13 January 2014

Walking like John Wayne

I'm walking a little delicately this morning.  I think I started the rub on Saturday (riding) but noticed it and rubbed raw on Sunday.  I was very surprised to see a patch about half the size of my palm getting ready for CrossFit this morning...!

I should have time to work out anti-chafing solutions though because I just heard that my Derby saddle will be shipped to me in due course.  I am much more excited than I feel I can let on to anyone.  So, you know, totally cool.  It's just a saddle (!!!).

On a separate note, it's a beautiful day here in London.  I work in the City of London (the financial district) and on days like this you get to see the juxtaposition of old and new in the best light.

Guildhall (ceremonial & administrative centre of the City of London - in part medieval)

St Alban's was a church in Wood Street, in the City of London.  Of medieval origin, it was rebuilt in 1634, destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and rebuilt once again, this time to a Gothic design by Sir Christopher Wren.  It was severely damaged by bombing during the Second World War, and the ruins cleared, leaving only the tower.

It's just a shame that my iPhone struggles with light levels.  Hopefully I'll have a new camera soon!

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Saturday was a surprising day...

Maggie and I loaded the horses and met Katy at the gallops to give Sadhira could have a real workout.  For non-horsey people, here's a picture (thanks New Forest Equestrian Services):

Basically an equestrian running track - a good surface and no need to stop.

I wasn't supposed to be joining them but Cheyenne was so cross at being left behind when Sadhira trotted off that she made a fuss - jumping around and making a lot of noise.  I never know whether to humour or ignore her so was valiantly ignoring her display when Maggie suggested it might be easier if I got on and followed Katy.  So, I did! 

We trotted neatly round and then kicked into canter and she was off!  She leapt forwards and really raced - what a pleasure to ride and easily the best fun I've had in ages.  Being completely honest, I can't say there was a great deal of control but I was having such a great time I couldn't care less. 

After a few rounds of the gallops, we hacked out through this beautiful countryside...

With these pretty ladies...

Had a quick feed...

Cheyenne and Sadhira

A cuddle with my favourite dog...

Sighed at the gorgeous weather...

And then drove to Hook tandoori feeling knackered, filthy (why do I never remember to bring clean clothes?!) and ready for bed.


Hook tandoori comes very recommended, by the way.  If you're ever in Hampshire!


You know when you wake up and you're tired and you have a slight headache and you think...


How do you motivate yourself to train day to day?

Sometimes the race you're training for seems a long way away and the day-to-day motivation to train is hard.  Sometimes I just want to laze in bed with these guys...

organise things with other people, so I don't have a choice (like today - I'm running with friends).  And I get up, put my kit on and leave the house, no matter how I feel. If I still feel deathly after that, I don't train, but that rarely happens.  By that point I've remembered that training solves most problems..

Anyway, the doorbell just went - I'm off!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Want to join the ride?!

I think I'm about to get some personal news coverage!  This means that I can start to approach potential sponsors who would like to join the ride and be part of my Mongol Derby challenge.  

If you'd like to sponsor me, or if you know a company that might benefit from sponsoring me, please get in touch at

As regular readers will know by now, the Derby will require careful preparation, the right resources and a lot of hard work but the end result should be a brilliant demonstration of what anyone can achieve if they set their mind to it.  And a mad cap gallop across some of the most beautiful scenery in the world!  I can't guarantee the outcome, but I can promise I'll do everything in my power to cross the finish line and, if I make it, that I'll cross with a smile on my face!

I can offer sponsors:

- a mention in any news coverage of me personally (the Derby attracts lots of national and international news coverage);
photographs and content for your company website;
- space on my training and race kit, so your logo will feature in any photograph of me (before, during and after the race);

- dedicated space here on my blog (average of 2,000 views per month so far);
- grateful tweets (@rmmongolderby); 
- a talk with accompanying slideshow for your company after the Derby;
- anything else you can think of and would like (subject to discussion and within reason!).

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

An even bigger Why

Why am I raising money for Seeing is Believing?

As I edge closer to my New Year target of £500 (£55 to go – help here!), I thought this might be a good time to say that I chose Seeing is Believing because I want your donations to have the greatest possible impact.

Local eye care in Mumbai

1.   Your donation will be doubled.  Standard Chartered will pay Just Giving’s charges and double every pound you donate.  Beat that!

2.     Your donation will be used to provide affordable eye care where it is needed most.  Seeing is Believing partners with leading eye-care expert non-governmental organisations and targets areas of high need.  Through years of experience, it has developed robust systems for project selection, development, and monitoring and evaluation.

3.  Your donation will have a far-reaching effect.  The issue of sight loss goes beyond health - it affects the livelihoods of individuals and the economic well-being of communities.  For many, going blind can mean the end of education, employment, and independence.  

Where will your money go?

The first of five major Seeing is Believing projects to enhance children’s eye health is underway.  The four-year project will strengthen children’s eye care across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, reaching four million children.  The project will:
  •          Help 4 million children directly benefit through screening and treatment;
  •          Fund eye related surgeries for over 5,000 children
  •          Educate 7 million children on the importance of eye-health
  •          Enhance and establish 82 eye-care clinics in hospitals across the region
  •          Train 8,840 people in child eye-care.

PLEASE NOTE: Obviously, the Mongol Derby is a total jolly.  I’m funding all the costs of the trip either personally or through corporate sponsorship – no money from any donation will contribute to the costs of my trip.  I don’t see why anyone should pay for me to have a good (or terrible!) time. 

The Adventurists do ask all entrants to raise at least £1,000 for charity, but I am raising money independently through JustGiving, as you will see from my pages (here and here).  The money doesn’t go through the Adventurists and both Seeing is Believing and Cool Earth are independent of the Adventurists.

There is one caveat: charities pay a 5% fee on donations to JustGiving (which JustGiving takes from reclaimed GiftAid).  If you donate to Seeing is Believing, Standard Chartered will pay this 5%.  

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The big Why

I can't help it.  I love wild and open places.  

I only went to Australia because I couldn't get a job in the UK and someone offered me a job coaching rowing and fixing boats in rural Victoria.  I doubt I would ever have gone if they hadn't (imagining a sort of sunny Blackpool full of red-faced expats fleeing multicultural Britain) (I wasn't entirely wrong).

Me, in a previous life.  Great water!

This appalling snobbery meant that when the time came to take a holiday, I avoided the gold coast and went looking for Australian rock art. There is more of a story behind what I was up to, but it's slightly beside the point here so I won't bore you.

This is what I found:

From the great central peaks...the land radiates on all sides to the sea in sloping green ridges.  Between these are broad and shadowy valleys - in aspect, each a Tempe - watered with fine streams and thickly wooded...  Seen from the sea, the prospect is magnificent.   It is one mass of shaded tints of green, from beach to mountain top; endlessly diversified with valleys, ridges, glens and cascades.  Over the ridges, here and there, the loftier peaks fling their shadows, and far down the valleys.  At the head of these, the water-falls flash out into the sunlight as if pouring through vertical bowers of verdure...  It is no exaggeration to say, that to a European of any sensibility, who, for the first time, wanders back into these valleys - the ineffable repose and beauty of the landscape is such, that every object strikes him like something seen in a dream.
- Herman Melville, Omoo

The Grampians (yes, that's me again)

Six years later, I'm off to another great wilderness.  Thank you Australia - you lonely, wonderful, beautiful, strange country.