We did it

August 8th, 2013 | Posted by mh2yh in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

[Warning: you might want to grab a cup of tea and a biscuit before reading this!]

Finished it. Nailed it. Smashed it. Felt it.

And now we miss it.

It is a truly wonderful and humbling thing to see a group of people so focussed on achieving exactly the same goal, and going to extraordinary lengths to accomplish it.

Where to start trying to explain it all? Wow. Maybe if we break this down into sections, like a sort of post match report, if you like:

The leaving party in London was great fun. Sophie’s Steakhouse put on a great breakie for everyone the day before we left and England rugby legend Nick Easter, who’s father has Parkinson’s, came down to add his support and share a few words of wisdom with the team. The next morning we all met at Roger’s boat along with a raft of supporters (what a turn out for 8am on a Sunday!) and Steve Ford, Chief Exec of Parkinson’s UK, gave a moving speech to start us off. Thanks to everyone for coming down to see us off. The first day, a 145km cycle to Dover across some pretty undulating landscape was hard going with over 1050m climbed, but our special guests for the day Dave Semen and Tom Kelly took a lot of the grunt work up front and we were in Dover by late afternoon.

Team (minus Dan who was running late) and the waiting crew at Sophie’s with Nick Easter (centre) for the leaving breakfast. Then the next morning on Roger’s boat, or “My House” as it was known.

Fresh legs: Roger leads the team cycling through London and then the English countryside on day one

A frustrating day of waiting in Dover followed. The wind in the channel was blowing with gusts up to gale force seven with little change forecast for the next three days, and one of our two chartered pilot boats was only insured up to gale force five so it looked bad for our chances of getting out. We broke up the time by jumping into the water in Dover harbour for a practice mile swim, which at least gave us a taste for the local water. Yep, it was salty.  And cold.  In fact it was a lot colder then we had expected. Usually the swim season starts in late June with water temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius, but the cold and long winter meant it had only struggled its way up to 12.5 degrees for us. It might not sound like a big difference, but believe me, it’s massive, particularly as we had decided to do the swim without wetsuits.

Anyway, around 6pm that evening we got bored of constantly checking my phone for updates so we decided to talk to one of the boat pilots (Neil Streeter) in person down at the docks. As we looked at weather charts and forecasts with Neil on his boat “Suva”, it became clear that a narrow window was opening up. The only problem was that the window involved us leaving around midnight to start swimming at 1am. We checked with the other boat pilot who was not as convinced, saying that with gale force five scheduled for the morning it would be a very bumpy ride and he wasn’t comfortable with it. So we had a tough call to make. Unanimously, the group decided to continue with everyone on one boat and to tough out the choppy sea. By the time we got back to the hotel we had a couple of hours to prepare.  It was surreal trying to get ready for a massive endurance event at 10pm, even more so when none of us had trained in the dark. A farcical attempt to grab 90mins sleep before we left failed entirely and one by one everyone returned to the bar in the hotel, sat down and waited for the unknown.

Home for 17 hours (not a comfortable place) and James “The Swim Machine” Harrison gets ready
for the first plunge. Brave man.

I can’t work out if I have fond memories of the channel swim or gruesome ones… is it possible for a memory to be both?  It is difficult to convey how lonely and hard it is to swim at night in painfully cold water with no sleep.  You can’t tell which way the boat is going, you can’t see anything and every sense is telling you to get out. But then you hear the encouraging shouts of your team and somehow you carry on. 45 mins later, you see the greatest sight in the channel; your mate jumping in to take over. You climb out and are immediately grabbed by your friends. Then the cold takes over. You can’t control your movements, your legs cramp up because of the cycle the day before, your jaw locks and your whole body starts shaking violently. Others dry you, dress you, feed you and hug you to try and restore warmth. All whilst the boat continues to rock sickeningly from side to side in the rough water. After another 30 agonising minutes or so you feel the shakes starting to subside. You might even try a cup of tea, although you risk shaking it all over your face so best for someone else to hold the cup. You haven’t slept in 2 days, all you want to do is curl up and shut your eyes, so you try and find a comfortable spot in an impossibly uncomfortable place. Seemingly no sooner have you done it and the next person is out of the water, shivering uncontrollably next to you and the whole process starts again. Then an annoyingly persistent thought hits you and won’t leave you alone: I must go upstairs and support the others; I am just being lazy lying here. And so you find yourself dragging your achingly cold and tired body up the metal steps to the upper part of the boat and shouting the same words to the guy in the water that were shouted to you an hour before… and so life on the boat goes on. For almost 17 hours. I take my hat off to Jabs, our first swimmer in the water. He made the first leap of faith and set a tone and pace that inspired us all.

The good news was that as when it got light the whole thing got a little bit more bearable and as we neared France even the sea calmed down for us. How people do this as a solo swim is beyond me – I guess body fat helps, which didn’t really work for us with the run and cycling training we’d all done.  I’ve never been so happy to see France, as was Dan Castro, our cameraman who’d volunteered to record the whole trip but who had to dig deep to overcome his sea sickness on the boat.

Swimming in the dark is bleak. Then it gets light… and is still bleak.

That’s me in the water (and a ferry for good measure). A few minutes after this was taken I found myself looking at a wall of jelly fish. I wasn’t happy.  Later, France appears (right).

Four of us leapt in the water to join Dan Frith (who’d just put in an almost hour long slog) for the final push to the beach on Cape Gris. We stood on French terra firma and jumped around like school children at playtime. Tommy G’s mum Lizzie and David somehow even managed to be on the beach on which we landed and welcomed us with waving flags (Union Jacks… vive la France!). By then it was raining but no one cared. We swam back to the boat and headed to Calais harbour. Steak et frites were ordered all round and devoured in moments before ten weary heads hit pillows and finally got some well deserved rest.

Paul helps Tommy G out after a big session, and then keeps
spirits high whilst Dan tries to find some warmth and rest.

A straight line would have been quicker! Our route across the Channel, thanks to our TNT tracker
(we lost signal in the middle).

Somehow our master of admin Stefania, who has been the driving force behind all of our planning and route organisation, had managed to shuffle all of our accommodation and plans to align with our revised schedule after our slightly odd channel swim timing, which was an absolutely blessing as I’m not sure how the team would have coped with another night of no sleep!

The next day we were back on the bikes. Overall, the cycling was probably the easiest discipline mentally but turned out to be the most dangerous physically. Day three saw a long and arduous cycle from Calais in France to Breskens in the Netherlands; about 170km in total which was longer than planned as we had landed on the swim further west than intended. It started raining in France and this led to a particularly nasty crash which buckled one wheel, put Tommy G over his handlebars and Paul in to a heap with a bit less ankle than he was used to. After hours on the bikes tiredness eventually took its toll and Phil momentarily lost his concentration whilst looking at his phone and smashed into the low barrier that separated the cycle lane and the road, barely 10kms from the end of the day. He removed a fair portion of the skin on his rump in doing so. Ouch. It was a long and hard day, and a welcome quick beer stop in Brugges led to lifted spirits and some terrible group singing.  It shames me to admit it, but we butchered Eternal Flame by the Bangles. By the time we limped into Breskens we were all pleased to get off the saddle and were greeted like heroes by the faithful crew of wives, girlfriends, children and friends – what a bunch of legends.

Brugges town square (where we stopped for liquid refreshments).  Coops talks technical on the route.

Day four was a mixture of rowing and cycling. Until a few weeks before we started the row wasn’t even on the radar, but Phil realised that we might have a problem with cycling through the big tunnels in SW Holland and called ahead to check.  His concerns were justified but thankfully the port authority guys at Het Loodswezen teamed up with the Vlissingen Zeevaart School (rowing club) and sorted out everything for us out of the kindness of their hearts. What a fantastic effort. The row itself was short (at just under an hour it barely registered as exercise compared to what we were used to!), but it was quite technical and great fun. Roger tried to record the rowing for our followers on Punkt but was berated by everyone for messing up the rhythm and almost had his phone thrown overboard as punishment. The sun came out and it was exciting to row waters that to all local knowledge had not been rowed before, and to greatly exceed the expectations of the rowing club (we beat the local TV film crew to the other side and had to go back out to sea for the benefit of the camera). Thank you for support and instruction from Marijke and her team for organising the whole thing, as well as everyone at Het Loodswezen who allowed this odd rowing request across the busy shipping lane. By the time it finished we felt like we were just getting going!

Learning to row in the safety of the harbour in Breskens before attempting to cross the estuary.
Later Toby went foraging for hedgehogs in a ditch. 

A couple of media interviews later and we were off on a cheeky 135km cycle to round off day four with special guests Shakes and Robby Mol in tow. This cycle was more fluid than before and the route across the dams and sluices of SW Holland was stunning. Only one crash (a rather lethal tyre blow on a corner saw Toby ousted into a ditch) and some road closures marred and otherwise smooth day on the bikes. Our peloton efforts got increasingly more slick and as a team we were able to munch up kilometres, although a slightly bizarre moment in Rotterdam led to us carrying out bikes down and through a tunnel on somewhat wobbly legs (we couldn’t take the escalator, that would’ve been cheating).  After three individual days on the bike it was weird to see Dave pack them into the back of the TNT van in Rotterdam – we wouldn’t be needing them anymore.

Cruising across the sluices and dams of SW Holland in peloton. Then the odd moment in Rotterdam which was tough on the legs after the long day on the bikes.

That night we put in the largest pizza take out order I’ve ever seen. By now our support crew had swollen, with regulars Tabs, Oscar, Poppy, Karen, Mia, Stefania, Simone, Dan and Dave now complimented by Robby, my wife Georgia, my son Alfie, Georgina, Ottie, Joline, Oliver, my father Phil, Robbie, Jenny, Jo and Elsie. We were a formidable group, and moral was high.  Dinner involved more stories, some moving speeches and then planning for the final day.

That left the run. Over ten hours of jogging after four days of extreme exertion. Running at your own pace for that long would be very hard. Running at a new pace is just bizarre. We were joined by three guests including my 62 year old father Phil Lemanski who surprised us by rocking out of the blue in Rotterdam and asked if we fancied a run, Robby Mol who’d cycled us the day before and Robbie Britton, Team GB ultra-athlete who was our running coach, nutritionist and mentor all rolled into one!  It was Robbie who had given the moving speeches the night before, using his own experience of outrageous endurance races to help us get our heads around breaking down the daunting task into sections and explaining how we should focus on just one thing; getting to Amsterdam as one group whatever happened.  And so 13 people set out to run for the first time together and to try to keep it going for over 67km. At least experimenting with new running styles took up an hour or so! The distance seemed infinite and the road stretched out relentlessly in front of us, seemingly without corners. The marathon mark came and went with a brief cheer from everyone, only for tired eyes to then return to the road in realisation that there was still around 25km to go and it was 30 degrees with little shade.  Phil Mott and Nick Tobin were in their element and were able to help encourage the group and provide some needed motivation and discipline.

Ice creams became the food of choice (thank you to the TNT crew who appeared on the side of the road to hand out some!), but our running guru Robbie was insistent that we all eat ham and cheese sandwiches to take on slow burning sugars. Ever tried to eat a ham and cheese sandwich after six hours of running? It’s not nice.  Our overall plan was to split the day into periods of 55 mins running then five minutes walking/refuelling and as the hours went by we became almost delirious in anticipation of when we would next see the orange colours of our TNT support van which came to symbolise all the glorious water, food, salt tabs and painkillers it held.  Our crew were incredible, and Dave, Stefania and Simone – if you are reading this then please do not underestimate just how reliant on you we were and how fantastically you responded! Thank you.

Personally, I hit a wall somewhere between 50 and 60km. Not so much a physical wall but a mental one I think; I really struggled to deal with anything, to stay focused and above all to stay social. I think it was triggered by seeing my wife and son at one food stop. For some reason the elation of seeing them just got a bit too much for me and I found my concentration cracking… I turned and carried on running which I found very painful. I felt very angry at myself and I didn’t know why.  I eventually resorted to staring at my feet at watching them plod on one after the other and listened to the conversations between better faring friends around me. As was the case throughout “My House to Your House”, it was my friends who gave me the energy to continue.

After what seemed like a lifetime, slowly but surely Amsterdam started to appear on the horizon. To start with it was a plane in the distance which we decided must be on its way to land at Schiphol airport. Then as the planes got nearer we started to recognise villages and towns… we were nearly there.

It’s a long and straight road from Rotterdam to Amsterdam… then a beacon of hope as the
first sign to Amsterdam appears.

Coming around that final corner in Amsterdam was an incredible moment. The team were singing, friends, family, wives and children were cheering, confetti guns exploded, flags waved and suddenly we were there; over the line. Knees buckled and emotions surged. Beers were passed around, although most people lay on the floor or draped in the arms of loved ones. Then the realisation: we’d made it from London to Amsterdam under our own steam in five days (plus one waiting in Dover) and we’d done it as a group. And in doing so we’d raised over 66k GBP (76k EUR) for Parkinson’s UK. How fitting, therefore, that the Cooper Mitchell family, who were the reason we choose Parkinson’s UK as a charity, were there in force at the end. Fantastic stuff, and a moment I will not forget for the rest of my days.

The moment we finished in Amsterdam. What a moment.

Perhaps everyone did it for different reasons. For some, it might have been getting fit, for others maybe it was the adventure, for one it was because he wanted to do something to help his dad. I can’t speak for the others, but for me I did it to be a part of something extraordinary with friends, for the journey, which started almost a year before we crossed the finishing line in Amsterdam.

What was achieved between 9am on Sunday 30th June and 7pm on Friday 5th July 2013 will not go down in the Guinness Book of Records. It won’t register in any sporting almanac or be mentioned in any history book.  However, for the people that were a part of it, the achievement was priceless.

From the bottom of my heart I thank each and every person who was involved in this. The list is too long for this blog, so perhaps we will do a “credits” section or something separately. But for what it is worth; to everyone who donated, to the corporate sponsors, to the people who organised events / fundraising / PR / websites, to the people who helped us along the way, to everyone who supported us in person and those that followed online, to those who planned routes, to Oscar and the other family members who helped us to smile in the evenings, to the guests that joined us for part of the journey, to those who organised events at (and before) the start and finish, and to those who put in the gruelling months of training to make it all possible… thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

I’m spent, tired and in many ways utterly empty. But above all I am immensely proud of what we’ve done and I hope that others pick up the gauntlet and make this their own. We will leave the Facebook page and this website up so if anyone would like to get involved for future events or if you have any great ideas please let us know.

It breaks my heart that the team is no longer together and we are all living our own lives again. Tobin is back in Singapore, Dan is moving to Vancouver, Tommy G is back in Somerset and the rest are split between London and the Netherlands. Arranging nights in the pub for the four of us that live in Amsterdam seems like a feeble substitute for what we could be doing and what I now know we are capable of.

But then I remind myself that all of this came around from friends talking in a pub and inspiring one another. Just imagine what is possible… just imagine if…

OLL. July 2013.

These are the people that made it all possible, and every one of them should be
very proud of what we achieved together.

“When you have a group who all individually but voluntarily say ‘yes’ to something big, the positive and supportive atmosphere means that nothing is unattainable.” Phil Mott.

Why oh why oh why…

June 29th, 2013 | Posted by mh2yh in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

Having just spent the last 6 months of my life training in freezing water, running cycling and generally spending any free time doing something that for the large part was not particularly enjoyable there have been a couple of questions that have run through my mind.  The first is; what would I rather have as a pet? A silver unicorn that farts rainbows or a dragon that burps skittles and has butterflies for scales…. Now thinking this question made me sad….as, after much deliberation I could I not choose between either the farting unicorn or the burping dragon and to weigh heavier on my already saddened heart I started to realise it would be highly unlikely I would ever enjoy the company of either of these magnificent creatures.  The second question cheered me up somewhat; why am I actually doing this My House to Your House challenge, was it the epic nature of it, the camaraderie among friends, a chance to force myself into some sort of healthy living or to put something back into society.  For me personally it has been to do something that does genuinely make a difference, a real sense of achievement.  If I wanted camaraderie, adventure I would be at Glastonbury…. Oh why oh why am I not at Glastonbury, ahem, did I just say that out loud, its raining any way I prefer it here… ok, so I’m gutted I’m not there but ultimately something that genuinely makes a difference is what has motivated me with the MH2YH challenge.  Meeting others that are really making a difference and are working hard to cure Parkinson’s also spurs me on to achieve, surpass our fundraising goal and actually find a way of scrabbling my way over the finish line.

Last week I went to Oxford University with the Robbie Mol and Peter Tromp from TROI Studios to film the MH2YH legacy video and meet Dr Matthew Woods team with the wonderful people of Parkinson’s UK to really see where our funds are going and what it was all about.  So it turns out we are the single largest donor to Dr Woods and from interviewing the head of events at Parkinson’s UK (Clare Chater) it became apparent we have changed their way of thinking how they can fund raise, never (from Clare’s memory from 7.5 years at Parkinson’s) has anyone or group of friends got together and raised so much money for Parkinson’s!

Going around Oxford university labs with no expectations was always going to be an eye opener.  Two years ago I was kindly invited to visit the SBS headquarters in Poole (SAS with boats), I was expecting high-tech James Bondeske affair, not a bunch of camping equipment and a few rubber dinghies.  Oxford Uni was much the same, it wasn’t that much different from varying films in some sense, I anticipated an alien jumping out of a glass cabinet a couple of rogue explosions but sadly Parkinson’s research doesn’t have much requirement for alien sample tissue or explosives. For the vast majority it was a rather standard room with some big fridges in it that didn’t look much different from a school chemistry lab.  It became more apparent than ever that it is the people behind the scenes at both the SBS and Oxford University Parkinson’s funded lab, the people like Dr Woods and his team, including Martina Hellegger who kindly showed us round, are the real reason things happen not a sci-fi lab with lasers, mutated sea bass, a flux capacitor.  Incidently I know Michael J Fox has done a lot for Parkinson’s but Dr Woods if you can create a flux capacitor I call shotgun first.

The more I learn about Parkinson’s the more I feel confident there will be a cure, someone just needs to find a couple of missing links to the puzzle.  Drs Woods project (that we are the largest single donor too!) will look at trying to reduce the production of a protein (Alpha-Synuclein) with a specific technique named RNA interference (RNAi).  Changes in the gene that makes alpha-synuclein have been linked to rare inherited form of Parkinson’s and researchers think that reducing the amount of alpha-synuclein in the brain could stop dopamine producing nerve cells getting sick and dying, it is these sick and dying dopamine-producing cells that cause Parkinson’s.  Getting RNAi to the brain isn’t easy though, the blood brain barrier blocks harmful things like bacteria from getting into the brain from the blood and will also block potential treatments.  Exosomes can cross the blood brain barrier and Dr Woods’s team will look to use exosomes (which normally are used to transport molecules around the body) to deliver RNAi for alpha-synuclein to a mouse brain and investigate these affects to see if RNAi will protect the dopamine-producing nerve cells.  Using exosomes to deliver RNAi to the brain has exciting potential as a treatment that could slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s – something that no current treatment can do.

Although most of this technical jargon was a little tricky to decipher with GCSE biology the over-riding feeling I came away with was with hard-work dedication and funding at some stage a superior treatment will be found.  Having now hit our initial target it is hoped we will considerably surpass this, one key aspect we can help with and continue to make a difference is raising funds to speed the process of delivering results and paying for researchers like Dr Woods to complete his studies at the cutting edge research lab at Oxford University.


Leading from the middle…

June 27th, 2013 | Posted by mh2yh in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

I’ve never been particularly good at any sport. Indeed, “mediocre” is a word which pretty much nails my athletic prowess in all divisions of energetic entertainment, from ball games to ballroom dancing, from tennis to triathlon.  Search my name on the results pages of the various triathlons and runs I have entered in my time and you’ll invariably find me almost exactly half way up (or down, depending on how you look at life) the list. “First teams” were never my thing. Nor were “second teams” either, come to think of it, but look further adrift in the more remote echelons of the team registers and there you will encounter the proudly median name of Oliver Lemanski. I have been the captain of not one but two different “fourth eleven” hockey teams; surely that speaks for itself.

So, it would be fair to say that if you were to throw a proverbial sporting party, I would not be the one you would look to invite to bring the talent or, in fact, any form of physical coordination whatsoever.

However, I do seem to possess two seemingly useful attributes that have thus far proven useful in the wonderfully competitive gladiator pit that is sport. One is stubbornness, or a tendency to utterly refuse to stop trying regardless of how ridiculously poor at something I may be. The other is the willingness to devote a great deal of time and energy towards a sport or new idea once I get a taste of it.  Perhaps the cocktail of these personality traits mixed with the infectious nature of some good friends helped to catalyse the initial fruition of “My House to Your House”… an absolutely absurd challenge based on nothing but a want to do something different and a desire to do it for a good cause.

I should make it extremely clear that MH2YH (as it has become known by those involved) was not my idea alone, nor is it in any way my project to own now. It was the illegitimate child of some very ambitious and overly macho conversations and a rather impressively inspiring summer Olympic Games in London last year (well done London, btw).  No, the idea was very much a shared one. But the refusal to let the idea become just another idol daydream and pursue it like a dog chases it’s tail, well, that was right up my alley.

And so here we are, a few days away from a five day calorie holocaust.  The journey has been interesting, to say the least.  Co-ordinating ten people living in Bristol, London, New York (briefly), Amsterdam and Singapore, many of whom had not met each other before, and all of whom harboured (or are harbouring) some serious concerns about at least one aspect of the trip has been a challenge, to put it mildly.  During the last eight or so months there have been injuries, accidents, pregnancies, moves abroad, immovable work commitments, promotions, demotions, redundancies, new pets, cancelled holidays, re-planned holidays, sponsors commitments, sponsors pulling out of commitments, new participants, a swamp (long story), a generous milk man (even longer story) and some very, very high phone bills. Somewhere during all this, the NASA space shuttle programme was halted, Margaret Thatcher died, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated, and One Direction became bigger than the Beatles (or so I’m told by my wife). Not that any of the MH2YH participants would probably have had time to notice these public news articles due to their training commitments, hence me pointing them out now.  Hang on a sec, just who the hell are One Direction?

I digress.

Regardless of how we have got here, here we are. I’m so proud of the work and effort that everyone has churned into all of this. Putting the ten now-rather-gaunt individuals who are actually attempting this challenge aside for a moment, let’s spend a moment to consider the incredible WAGS, friends and family supporting us.  They have not just stood by the participants by adjusting their lifestyles to cope with the training time drain, but have also actively got involved with everything from website building, fund raising event throwing, idea pulling, PR rustling, donation pleading and social media managing.  What MH2YH has become is equally the result of these amazing people as it is from the efforts of those on the turbo trainers, running paths and icy swimming lakes.

It’s not just WAGS though. Thanks to the astonishing generosity shown by so many who have donated – either directly, offline or via giving prizes for one of our fund raising evenings –  we have already hit our initial target of 53k GBP which will help to fund Parkinsons research projects to try and find a cure. Thank you. In case you haven’t donated yet but you would like to, please do so here. Let’s smash that target!

Add to this already inspiring melting pot some innovative and charitable corporate sponsors like TNT Express, Iris, Sophie’s Steakhouse, Oho Group and Troi Studios, and suddenly the whole affair starts to move by itself like an intense growing ball of enthusiasm, sweat and tears hurtling directly towards Dover harbour!

I will save the personal “thank you”s until we know the outcome of next week’s little endeavour. Those who have made My House to Your House possible know who they are and how much the efforts they have put in are appreciated.  They will not go un-thanked.

For now, I turn to my fellow 9 almost-as-equally-average-but-in-the-main-slightly-more-sporty comrades and wonder just how on earth we got to this point. I know these people well. I believe in these people entirely. These people turn my fear into excitement. If I have learnt one thing from leading from the middle it is this: trust in those around you, the sum of many far exceeds the ability of one.

Now, enough chat. Bring on the English bloody Channel.

OLL, June 2012

England rugby legend Will Greenwood shows his support

June 6th, 2013 | Posted by mh2yh in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

With three weeks to go and nearly £47,000 in the fundraising pot, Will Greenwood, England world cup winning rugby legend shows his support to the My House To Your House team. Amazing. Thanks Will.

Running in the cold is fine. Cycling in the cold is not, but at least you can put on clothes to warm up. Swimming in cold water with nothing to keep you warm scares me to wits end.

To begin with, the psychological trauma of persuading and making yourself get into cold water is a scarring experience. Once in, for the first couple of minutes your body tries to get used to the conditions and your breathing is shallow and fast, you are in a near state of panic. Things do settle down, for a short while.  But then the extremities start to go numb – ankles and fingers, then this slowly creeps up your legs and arms. That nice ‘paddle’ of a palm and tightly held together fingers starts flapping around, impossible to keep it together. Coordination of the entire arm reduces, no longer able to get the reach ahead as it just slaps the water for each imperfect new stroke. Your mind is still working as you become aware of these handicaps creeping in. And then the cold hits the core. You’re not quite sure if you are shivering or not as you are working as hard as you can, but you just feel uncomfortably cold. Turning your head to catch breaths of air, you become dizzy. Your straight-line swimming becomes more of a zig-zag. You want to work harder to keep warm, but no matter how hard you try, you just get colder. And on it goes… fortunately and hopefully none of us will know how much worse it really gets beyond this as we are on the border of hypothermia, a road we don’t want to go down.

Once out, it probably looks worse. Teeth chattering away but with a face completely numb speaking is a challenge. Your entire body in apparent convulsions, desperately trying to warm up. Even the cold tap feels warm, and your body can’t quite tell the difference between hot and cold – it all has a strange tingling sensation under the shower. And for the time being, at least we have a shower to try and warm up, as come Swim Day, we’ll have nothing but a small boat, cup of tea, as many layers as we can throw on in our mal-coordinated state and team mate to rub and hug you. Life’s simple pleasures….not!

All the above horrifies me. Whilst growing up in the tropics and swimming in the bath-tub warm sea there, I used to have Jaws at the back of my mind. That speedboat could not come round fast enough to haul you out of the water again on skis. But now I know there is a much greater threat and where we are going, it’s all around us, all over us, inescapable. HELP!

I don’t think I am alone writing these words. So we need all the support and encouragement we can get. Thank you all who have donated so far, and if you haven’t yet, please know that every penny raised really does help us battle through a few more seconds of our (at least my) greatest fears!

MH2YH training with a GB Ultra Runner…

May 16th, 2013 | Posted by mh2yh in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

Training for this challenge is tough. Really tough. So we thought we’d give you a brief insight into our brutal but brilliant training day at Box Hill, Surrey, with GB Ultra Runner Robbie Britton and our very own personal trainer Coxy. Just in case you thought we just went for the odd jog and ate breakfasts at Sophie’s every weekend (though we do do that too)…

Masterfully filmed and produced by Mr Castro with music by My Bubba & Mi – Nothing Much

The role of a MH2YH wife

April 17th, 2013 | Posted by Olly in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

This blog is a little underused. The poor thing. With facebook getting so much love and so many awesome video uploads from the MH2YH team I don’t think any of the guys have had any spare seconds between training (and filming themselves) to give a thought to any blog posts. So I thought I’d pay a little visit from the point of view of a MH2YH wife.

Of the team of 10 guys doing this crazy challenge there are 7 wags behind the scenes wondering constantly on the whereabouts of their husbands. “Training” would be the perfect cover to having an affair of course (now it’s dawned on me, just) – leaving the house for hours on end at odd times and coming back sweaty. Actually now I think about it…

No, of course (hopefully) the hours of lost contact are all part of the challenge’s bigger goal – to get in one piece from London to Amsterdam. All of the guys are – so I hear – putting in hours of their time to hone their bodies into the lean mean fighting machines that they will so need to be come July when they kick off from Rog’s houseboat in London.

In the case of my husband, Olly, I really couldn’t be more proud. He has got this whole thing off the ground while holding down a full on, stressful and time consuming job, travelling a lot and putting up with me as we just found out that I’m pregnant. Oh, and we also just bought a flat. Why do things half-hearted we ask ourselves, nothing like biting off more than you can chew eh?

As we recently we found out that baby number 2 is on the way (and that’s not just me, 2 other of the wags are also currently expecting) I am being a horrendous wife, falling asleep standing up, throwing up, throwing tantrums and generally not being at my most fun. It’s times like this he must wonder why he married me in the first place (incidentally, due to all the training his wedding ring “no longer fits”…paranoia is actually now setting in while I write this).

Breezing over this realisation…as Olly is swimming at lunch time, running in the evenings of at the weekends and cycling on his swanky machine while watching the Walking Dead I am sinking further into my perfectly formed dip in the sofa and weighing it down more every day. He is loading up on carbs and I am sympathy eating for him. I do believe it’s supposed to be the other way around and he is supposed to be comfort eating and sporting a pregnancy beer belly to make me feel better but alas, he is getting more toned and I am losing any tone I once had.

Anyway, the point of this little entry is that I can definitely vouch from my end how much time and effort he is putting in to this challenge. I have also seen Toby and Phil in Amsterdam doing the same and I have seen video evidence of the other guys around the world too.

We recently went to Paris for 5 of them to do the marathon there as a “training run” which they all totally nailed (despite drinking wine, well, 2 nights before) and although I think they enjoyed it, it really brought home just how huge the challenge of MH2YH is.

If you are reading this and have watched the videos and haven’t yet donated please do. It doesn’t matter if its a tenner or what you spend on your daily coffee it all helps and there is a huge goal to reach! They are taking on this huge challenge all to raise money for Parkinsons UK which is a very worthy cause.

Send them messages of support on the facebook page and tell them to keep going and then hopefully our marriages will all make it out unscathed by mid-July.



MH2YH takes on the Paris Marathon

April 9th, 2013 | Posted by mh2yh in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

Last weekend five of the MH2YH team took on 50,000 other runners in what was a training run of epic proportions – the incredible Paris Marathon.

Tom, Olly, Dan, Jabba and Toby all made it through in cracking time… great job boys. Three months now to build it up to those 40 miles!!

Picking up race packs and numbers at the awesome expo…

Paris expo

Pre-race at the apartment as the nerves and adrenalin kick in…

Pre race

Post-race elation… and exhaustion!

Post race

Boris Johnson comes to play

March 24th, 2013 | Posted by mh2yh in Training - (Comments Off)

Toby gets a new training partner in none other than Mayor of London Boris Johnson! Thanks Boris, fantastic to have your support.

And so it begins…

January 22nd, 2013 | Posted by mh2yh in Training - (Comments Off)

Well, we’re 20 odd days in to 2013 and mh2yh has seriously kicked on and the reality of the task ahead is slowly dawning. Thanks to a load of hard graft by Tabs, Georgia and Jo we are now live (with a website) and social!

Alongside this the training dial has been turned up a notch or three. We’ve been sharing training schedules; in the first instance this caused a mild attack of nausea and panic but once the realisation of the size of challenge had been dealt with, it feels like everyone is just getting down to it! Olly, Tom and Toby have certainly put it out there with some serious running; Olly seems to have completed his very own mini marathon de sable!

After a few set backs my training has started to take shape. I’ve certainly learnt a few things along the way;

  1. Adopting a new stroke is like learning to swim again…from scratch – I have always been a breaststroker (easy!) in the pool so I have had to ween myself off it and move across to freestyle. It’s hard work.
  2. Because of the hirsute nature of my face I find that water likes to cling on just long enough for me to breath it in every other stroke only to choke about twice a length. I also had to stop every 2-4 lengths to burp the pool water out of my system. Luckily a few tweaks to my technique do mean that I can keep the beard…phew!
  3. I go backwards when I do kicking execrcises on one of those brightly coloured floaty things in the pool.
  4. 18 month old daughters are incubators of bugs and should be handled with care – testimony to this, 6 weeks of illness before Christmas which included a bought of hand, foot and mouth! Yep, you heard it right. Not usually seen in adults but because I had probably overdone the training at the time it hit me like a juggernaut and took me down. Happy days!
  5. We have a long way to go! This weekend I went for a mile swim followed by a 7 mile run and I’m happy to say it felt good. It’s pretty humble beginnings considering what lies ahead of us but it felt like it was a start to  together how to approach this challenge.
  6. I need to leave home for long periods of time – for training, no other reason as yet! Recent chats with a personal trainer  say that I need to pack a bag leave at 6am and not come back until 6pm; its all about training for endurance and keeping the body moving continuously. That conversation was a little scary I have to admit.
  7. Feeding time at the Greenep house has never been so frenzied (Elsie growing & me training) – eating habits need to be considered carefully, I need to get some advice on this because at the moment I’m just eating everything I see.

Looking forward to a few good swims and cycles this week. I haven’t done much cycling yet but I’m hoping, sooner rather than later, to conquer my commute to work (~40 miles). I’ll keep you posted.