Monday, 22 December 2014

Poppyfields Annual Challenge Team

Life is a challenge. The luckiest of us get to choose our challenges and our lives are not on the line if we fail. Sadly, not everyone is as lucky. Many have challenges forced on them. Often the challenge of surviving a serious illness. Not too long ago a child diagnosed with a brain tumour had an impossible challenge to overcome but thanks to places like Birmingham Children's Hospital and the work of experts like Dr Peet the odds are turning. My niece Poppy was diagnosed with a huge brain tumour when she was 14 months old. She had her first operation within days of diagnosis and was given a 50/50 chance of surviving the operation. After a further three operations (the last in 2012) and radiotherapy and chemotherapy her tumour is a negligible 0.01% of what it once was. It has meant that Poppy is now in her first year of secondary school and thriving. Poppyfields was set up to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital and their research and treatment of child brain tumours.

In 2013 we tried to have a bit of fun and exercise everyday in January and raise a bit of money. That steamrolled into a year of exercise and about £2000 being raised. In 2014 we planned to log our exercise miles and exercise the equator. We managed that by mid February and so over the course of the rest of the year we have logged enough exercise miles to reach the moon! 217,000 miles, £3,200 raised and counting!

The 2015 challenge has a new FB home, a new Justgiving page, a new structure and a new logging system. The aim is still to get fit and raise money but with a set of personal challenges within the challenge.

The Challenge is to exercise everyday in 2015 and pay a charity fine of £1 for each day we miss up to a maximum of £5 per month.
You define your exercise so it can be a 50 mile run or a 1 mile shuffle. It can be 10 press ups or a 2 hour weights session in the gym. It can be a Zumba marathon or a 30 mins yoga class! Its your challenge and your exercise so don't fret that you've got to break yourself everyday. Rest days are important and its easy to exercise on a rest day too.
Each month we set ourselves an individual target. A public target! We set it for our circumstances that month. There are no restrictions and you are your judge as to whether you pass your challenge. It is entirely based on your honesty. Of course if you cheat then you're only cheating yourself. If at the end of the month you have passed your challenge then you get a daily exercise fine exemption for the following month. If you fail your challenge you pay a £5 charity fine.
The challenges are yours. They are limitless based on your imagination. Some examples could be
Run 100 miles
Ski 10 times
Cycle everyday at least 5 miles
Swim 5 miles
Do the 30 day plank challenge
Complete a level of insanity
Attend 10 Zumba classes
Race 4 official half marathons
Do 2 unofficial marathons in a month
Learn to swim
Walk a mile a day
Lose half a stone
Increase max lift in the Gym by 20%
Row 20 miles
Hit the cross trainer everyday
Go to the gym 4 times a week
Do every parkrun this month
Improve a PB by 10%
To not use the car to go to the local shop for a month
Run 3 times a week with a friend
Do Outlaw on a BMX
Commute by bike each day
Swim as a family every weekend
etc etc etc etc
Hopefully you can use your imagination to test yourself and have fun with it. The options for a challenge are endless and can be as easy or as hard as you want for that particular month.
You put your challenge up at the start of each month and at the end of the month either confirm you hit or missed your challenge and confirm the next months challenge. If you have failed a challenge you might want to have another go at it or you may have a different challenge each month in mind.
The aim is for us all to improve ourselves and raise money to help improve the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves.
If you want to register and do nothing but pay a tenner a month then that's fine with me. Anyone can join at anytime so spread the word.

It is this simple:-
1. Pay a £5 registration fee at or simply text PACT98 £5 to 70070.
2. Tell me you have paid and I will let you have the Poppyfields Challenge login details.
3. Sign in to the site and log your challenge for January 2015.
4. Exercise everyday in 2015 and pay a £1 charity fine for each day you miss. Pay on the above link in a monthly lump sum or text PACT98 £1 to 70070.
5. At the end of January confirm whether you have passed or failed your challenge and set your February challenge. Repeat throughout the year.NB: You have to confirm you completed your challenge by the 2nd of the following month otherwise the logging system will assume you didn't complete your challenge so don't be late also you can add as many challenges in a month as you wish but you have to have completed them all to 'pass' the month.
6. You pay £5 if you fail your monthly challenge. Use the link to pay or text PACT98 £5 to 70070 but you enjoy an exemption for daily fines for the following month if you passed your challenge.
7. Join in at the FB group Poppyfields Annual Challenge Team and tell us what you're up to and how your challenge is going. Spread the word on Twitter with #PACT2015

All donations go straight to Birmingham Children's Hospital via Justgiving. Justgiving take a nominal percentage of online donations for providing their services however if you donate by text the full amount goes to the charity. This challenge is based on your circumstances and is judged by your honesty. It is your challenge! We will do our best to support, cajole, encourage and assist but if we are going wrong anywhere or something isn't working right or needs a tweak just let me know either on the FB group, on twitter @sidowski or on the blog

Good luck in your challenges and thank you sincerely for helping kids fight brain tumours, We know the difference you make!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Walking on the Moon!

Many of you will know that this years Poppyfield's Challenge began with the idea of a few of us exercising everyday, paying a charity fine when we didn't exercise and logging our miles to see if we could clock up enough miles to go around the world. We smashed that by mid February so we turned our attention to the moon. The moon varies in distance from the earth. At its closest it is 217,000 miles away. We landed on the moon on Tuesday afternoon with 15 days to spare. We also topped £3000 raised for Birmingham Children's Hospital and their research and treatment into Child Brain Tumours.

I am truly in awe of the people that came together to make this possible. They began as strangers and became an inspirational bunch of Poppyfielder's and friends. They are from all walks of life, a complete range of athletic ability and from all over the UK and the World. Miles being clocked as far afield as Europe, Dubai, Australia and USA!

A particular thank you goes out to Mark Dodgson as without his tech know how in setting up the mileometer and logging system we would probably have crashed and burned by the end of January!

So, a big pat on the back to Marie Neve, Pat Hipkiss, Dunsrunner, Tracy Mott, Lisa Guilder, Anthony Clarke, Christina Sandberg, John Thompson, John Young, Drew Clark, Christine Sims, Neil Hipkiss, Poppy the Dog, Jarvey Selfe, Toni McMillan, Nadine Prouse, Jamie Ross, Di Latham, Sarah Manning, Bunny Two, Brian Drought, Iron Pugsley, Fairy Fluffkins, Gillian Hirst, Mark Hirst, Andy Pye, Michelle Blackmore, Darren Gibbons, Liz Roberts, Ben Wild, Horse Nellany, Ian Dickens, Lena Conlin, Billy Conlin, Michael Evans, Adam Cain, Zoe McBeth, Jemma Phillips, Kirsten Bailey, Stephen Chapman, Colin Thomson, Mike Wells, Helen Gibbs, Michy D, Steve Knight, Stuart Lawrence, Lydia Barrow, Andy Birks, Kelly Williamson, Sarah Timbers, Trixie the Dog, Pat John, Laura Steward, Hollie Cradduck, Adam Hookway, Poppy, Kelly Denton, Sue McCarthy, Martin Collins, Graham Prouse, Jay McNeil, Paul Hodgkinson, Claire Webb, Mellie MelC, Anna Waugh, Pete Buckley, Fiona Collins, Liz Williams, Melanie McVean, Neil Wilkinson, Dave Harrison, Chris Jones, Fathead, Jane Taylor, Richard White, Georgina Dann, Keith Charlton, Chris Weddell, Vicky Weddell, Maisy Weddell, Lee Kennedy, Brian Guilder, Lily the Dog, Lisa Kelly, Simon Hassett, Alex Holloway, Nick Dann, Chris McBeth, Sharon Duggan, Tony Jeffreys, Jim Page, Chris Cash, Sarah Atkins, Sean Slowley, Tracy Elsdon, George Weddell, Sarah Booker, Darren Brady, James Farren, Kelly Ince, Lucy Tonnero, Steven Ketteridge, Tracy Roughley, Joanne Betteridge, Dawn Sanza, Julian Rawlings, S Woodfield, Giacomo Squintani, Valerie Bloomfield, Frank Biederman, Maxine Johnston, Scott Johnston, Ashley Stretch, Stuart Johnson, Gavin Restall, Stuart Hatton, Sally Hatton, Din Whitehead, Ken Holder, Mark Chapman, Pip the Dog, Mark Smith, Michael Barnett, Ian Day, Martin Cunningham, Dave Wunderle, Claire Loughton, Julie Twydell, Veronica Leith, Sam Hirst, Emily Hirst, Anne Devenney, Richard Miller, Chantel Spence, Anthony Pounder, Ines Carr, David Leighton, Carley O'Brien, Martin Murtagh, Mags Doyle, Leigh Holloway and Mathew Peleszok!

Thank you all sincerely for the push, determination, inspiration, the fundraising, the effort, the awareness and for getting us to the Moon!

A few of us are running/walking/cycling along the canal from Birmingham Children's Hospital to Tamworth on Sunday 28th at about 10am if you want to join us? It is about 13/14 miles. We will be passing the The Boat Inn in Minworth with 6 miles to go (11am ish) and The Dog & Doublet in Bodymoor Heath with 3 miles to go (11.30am ish) if you fancy a shorter distance. We should be back to Fazeley by 12 - 1pm ish and you will find us in the Three Tuns if you fancy sharing a celebratory Moon Pint from about 1pm! (Details may change so keep an eye out).

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Outlaw BMX Bandit

The idea was born during last years Outlaw. It was very hot, the Morphsuit was annoying the hell out of me and I was about 70 miles in on the 112 mile bike section. Many thoughts pass through my limited brain capacity and one was how to ramp this up from the Morphsuit to help raise sponsorship again by doing the Outlaw Iron distance triathlon.
I certainly didn't want to do it in a Morphsuit again (at this point I was boiling in a bag!) but its hard to ask for sponsorship if I am making it too easy ie. doing it in standard kit. So with the 112 mile bike section being the longest part of the day in miles and time (for me) I decided it would be a fair challenge to do it on a BMX!

Now, I have been backwards and forwards on the specifics. The initial idea was a 24" Cruiser BMX with drop handlebars, stick some gears on, thin race wheels and tyres......effectively turn a BMX into a road bike with a BMX frame. Unfortunately whilst this would make my life much easier it detracts greatly from the challenge. It's a challenge because, as a 16 hour 45 min two time Outlaw on a road bike, to finish within the 17 hr cut off on a standard, fixed gear BMX will be very very difficult. Some have said that it is not possible. Also I couldn't blag a free 24" BMX.

Instead I was given this by good friends Max and Scott Johnston. A standard 20" BMX.
This will be my race bike. I have made a few tweaks to it. I have put my road bike clip in pedals on and Chris Hancock has extended the seat post. Griff Woolley has trimmed 23.5cm off the handlebars so they comply with BTF rules for next year and Jason Clarke very kindly sent me a 32t front cog and chain to replace the 29t that was on the bike. Daz Brady fitted it for me.

I will keep the rest of it as standard. If a challenge is worth doing its worth doing properly isn't it? Of course it is. So I have had the bike approved by the BTF and Outlaw thanks to Stefan Pearce and the OutlawBMX challenge is on!
This side of Christmas I am just keeping my eye in on the bike. Rides so far are mainly during my lunch hour up to 10 miles and I have sneaked over 16 mph ave. My longest ride so far was with GB representative at next years World Championships Marvin O'Brien which was 15 miles at 14.9 mph ave. I will need to hit at least 13.16 mph ave at Outlaw over 112 miles to have a chance of making the cut off. I am going to aim for 15 mph ave to allow some breathing space should things go pear shaped at any stage!

Some people have questioned if this is possible. Many have said that it isn't! Its all about context I guess. The smiliest cyclist I have seen at Outlaw is Lucy Gossage and she is rapid! For her, or any other top triathlete, they could do it on a BMX no problem. For me it is a test. I have needed the full 17 hrs to complete Outlaw on my two previous attempts. The first time was an 8.5hr bike (13.17mph ave) bringing me in at 4.28pm and just two minutes before cut off. The second time, in the Morphsuit, was 7hrs 38mins I think. My aim is to cycle Outlaw on a BMX better and faster than I managed on the two previous occasions on my 18 geared road bike!

Of course its not just about the bike. My swim needs to improve from 1hr 35mins to 1hr 20mins and Big Dave Ackers and Neil O'Brien have both offered to help coach me with my swim. If I can achieve this improvement and spend 10 minutes in T1 rather than 22 minutes it will give me a great platform to hit the bike from!

My running is alright at the moment but it has died at previous Outlaws. Team Bear (@TeamBearHQ on twitter) have already stepped in and funded my trainers. My previous ones had become slicks and if I need to get anything right for the run its the trainers. This is a great boost to my run training and a great kick start to get to a point where I can run and run well off of 112 miles on the BMX. I would recommend you look up Team Bear. We're new, slightly different, inclusive and down to earth! Our motto is Suffer but NEVER Surrender! I envisage a great deal of suffering along the way!

Many have questioned why? It's purely to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital and their research and treatment of child brain tumours. My niece Poppy was diagnosed at 14 months old. The fact she started secondary school this year is testament to the work and skill of the staff at BCH. Read her story here

I don't want your money yet. I just want your support, encouragement, abuse and ridicule along the way. I want to get as many people involved and aware as possible. This is a massive team effort, effectively I just brave the whirlpool, spin the pedals and trot out a few miles. Its the team around me that will make the difference. Best place to follow my progress is here

In other news many of you have been donating your exercise miles to the Poppyfields Equator Challenge this year. The aim was to exercise everyday and between us do enough miles to go around the world. We blitzed that in a couple of months so we set off to reach the moon. 217,000 miles! We are very very close now and we will finish it off with a 15 mile run/walk/cycle from Birmingham Children's Hospital to Tamworth canal jaunt on either 21st or 28th December. If you want to join us let me know.

Finally, plans are in motion for next years Poppyfields Exercise challenge. Details will be announced on here in the next couple of weeks.

Thank you for all your help. Always.