Introducing the 'Super Sense'

We all know there are five traditionally recognised methods of perception – sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. They exist to help us to determine what is going on around us and enable us to judge situations more accurately.  Pretty amazing stuff when you think about it…

 

But imagine if you could introduce a new sense – a super sense – that way that refined all your current ones to help you understand the unique signature in everything around you from food and fabrics to cosmetics.

 

Let me explain…

 

Last week I attended an event in London organized by BASF and trinamiX.  Its team of scientists has been developing a state of the art infrared sensor that combines chemistry, physics and electronics to create a pocket-sized piece of innovation that provides an extra layer or precision (and certainty) across almost everything we consume.

 

I was curious (and also, admittedly, a little sceptical).

 

Four hours, three live demonstrations and two cocktails later my mind was well and truly blown.

 

I quickly realized from the prototype tested that this new technology could, quite literally, revolutionise the way we interact with everything. 

 

Take, for example, extra virgin olive oil. It’s no secret this is regarded as the single most counterfeit product on the planet.

 

With just a small dab of oil on the infrared device we can establish whether it’s extra virgin, rapeseed, avocado oil and anything in between – all in a matter of seconds. This isn’t just sales talk. I witnessed it first-hand during a live demo!

 

The science behind it scans the origin of organic molecules and matter to create a fingerprint that converts to a signal that is then shared on the device.

 

It can tell the difference between natural and synthetic fibres in clothing too. So if you’re ever confronted with the situation of being sold a ‘silk’ jacket in a ‘boutique store’ you can be 100% sure its authentic material, confirming (or refuting) your own intuition. A device that allows us to make truly ethical choices.

 

The sensor can also gauge moisture and fat in your own skin allowing you to compare this measurement in cosmetics before and after applying it… finally, the results we are promised in adverts can finally be substantiated! And, what’s more, the sensor can provide accurate information about what ingredients would be suited to your skin type too. I mean the potential is just never ending.

 

The scientists that evening explained that, at this early stage, the sensor could even determine if omega 3 was found in a piece of fish. Think about what this could mean for the future of our sustainability, health and safety around food consumption.

 

This excited me a lot. It felt like a true glimpse of what the future looks like. Exciting stuff, isn’t it?

 

If you want to find out more then you can here  www.basf.com/hertzstueck

 

@basf_global

#hertzstueck #reason4optimism

Let's Talk About Mental Health

I am extremely happy with my life. I do what I love every single day and I’m surrounded by a small but solid network of family and friends. I’m fit and healthy and, on the big scale of things, there is nothing in the world I want or need beyond what I already have.

So why does a constant knot of dread hover in the pit of my stomach and possess so much power me?

Honestly, I don’t know. Anxiety manifests differently in each of us. At its best, it exists as a quiet yet relentless whisper - dull but incessant and actually quite irritating because I can’t tune it out.

Sometimes (and for no apparent reason) it can quickly rise up into a giant roar and that’s when it knocks me for six. At its worst, the sense of blind panic is so fierce and urgent that my chest tightens, my body burns and I struggle to catch breath. My thinking becomes increasingly irrational and I’m scared by it all.

Anxiety is exhausting. It pushes me to forget the contentment I feel and leads me question and doubt everything about myself, my decisions and my life in general. My confidence takes a battering and this can sometimes feel paralysing.

I’ve openly shared my struggles with anxiety since my cancer diagnosis. At first it was hard because I genuinely felt alone - like I was the only one in the world going through it. I worried that people wouldn’t understand and i’d withdraw further. Actually, it has been the complete opposite.

By opening up I quickly realised a lot of people were going through the same silent torture. More recently, as I’ve shared more about my mental health journey the number of people who have got in touch has been staggering. Anxiety is a huge issue that affects so many of us and yet we’re still not comfortable talking about it. But that’s exactly what we need to do.

By sharing experiences we are breaking down the taboo whilst helping each other understand ourselves better. It’s #WorldMentalHealthDay and if you feel strong enough please share your own journey to help any other people quietly suffering to know they are not alone.

Limitless Imagination

LIMITLESS IMAGINATION

I never would have predicted that exactly three years to the day since quitting my job I’d be standing face to face with Lady Liberty having just completed an 8 day expedition on the Hudson River.

Some things in life seem so far beyond our resources, ability and self belief that we don’t dare allow ourselves to dream them - and back then that would have been one of those moments for me.

Fast forward to now and that decision to leave my job - as scary as it was - has led me to more happiness, fulfilment and opportunities than I ever imagined possible, and I have never looked back.

I scrolled through my old posts earlier to remind myself how I felt this time three years ago and I shared this quote:

“What if I fall?”

”But darling, what if you fly?”

Whilst it meant a lot to me then it is so much more meaningful now and reminds me just how far I’ve come.

Believe in the power of your dreams.

Update on The Hudson Project

THE HUDSON PROJECT - DAY ONE: Started out with a humid and dry 33 degrees, pounding sunshine, zero cloud cover and paddling against an incoming tide. I was working hard for every single stroke but it was beautiful and I was soaking it all in.

After about two hours I settled into a comfortable rhythm and then, suddenly, conditions changed. Dark clouds descended followed quickly by heavy rain and the first crackle of thunder. Then lightening struck and I went into panic mode. I knew storms were forecast but not for at least another two hours. I needed to get off the water immediately but the shoreline was thick with brambles and vegetation - there was nowhere to land.

My only option was to paddle hard to a huge road bridge about 10 minutes ahead and take refuge under there. The thunderstorm was in full swing by this point and I could see lightening striking in the horizon all around the water. It was getting worse, I was soaked through and getting cold and I needed to get off the water.

I made a decision to push on past the bridge and paddled harder than I knew I could to reach the camera crew who had located a landing pontoon another half mile ahead where they were waiting for me.

I kept my head down - literally and metaphorically - as I cursed my way through it, my arms burning as I raced to reach them. The relief of hitting the pontoon and throwing the carbon paddle out my hand was palpable.

The Hudson is known for its quickly changing weather and I experienced that first hand yesterday. It was over before it had really got started and means making up some serious distance today. Im set for the rain but there’s no sign of a thunderstorm - yet!

Hudson River, New York

Day TwO: I paddled 37km (23 miles) yesterday so have managed to claw back some of the distance I lost on day one.

The water was much calmer, I had a gentle tail wind for most of the day and lots of cloud cover so I pushed on until the sun set - at which point I made it to beautiful Catskills.

I got my first proper taste of cargo ships on the Hudson too. They are as big, if not bigger, than what I encountered on the English Channel and they leave huge wake in their trail.

Unlike the Channel, were I weaved in and out of them to cross the 10 mile shipping zone, on the Hudson I’m paddling alongside them (until they they overtake me). That means always having to keep an eye out in case they creep up behind me and make sure I’m out not in line with anything oncoming.

All commercial vessels have right of way because they are so big there’s no way they can swerve to avoid or stop if you’re in the way - and I’m very aware of that!

I generally try and stay out of the shipping lanes but it’s not hugely busy with boat traffic on the river yet, and it’s where the water flows fastest so means I can Cover more ground. It’s a tricky one to balance but i find I’m being more cautious as I’m quite unfamiliar with these waters.

Starting the feel the fatigue now, especially after such a long paddle yesterday - but covering that ground has also really motivated me!

Saugerties, New York, Hudson River

The last couple of days have been tough but the strong winds, although challenging, have been on my tail so I’ve covered good ground.

Today the weather is taking another turn for the worse. It’s heavy rainfall all day and crosswinds of up to 31mph followed by thunderstorms for the next couple of days.

Hurricane Florence is due to hit the East Coast next week which has caused fierce rip currents and surging waves across New York’s shorelines and the backlash will worsen as I continue making my way towards the city.

It does feel a bit like everything is against me at the moment but I’m trying to stay positive and motivated.

Good news is that I’ve captured lots of great data on my SmartFin, I’ve caught up on the distance I lost on day one and my first @plastic_patrol beach clean yesterday supported by REN Clean Skincare went brilliantly - we logged and collected around 11 bags of rubbish - so there’s lots to smile about too.

In the true sprit of adventure I’m taking this challenge each day as it comes - and I will adapt to whatever the weather decides to throw at me next.

THE HUDSON PROJECT

Next week I'm heading off to take on my next big paddle challenge. It's been months in the making to bring it all together but as the days creep up it's all getting much more real - and I'm so I'm so frikking excited to share it with you. 

...WHERE?
I'm taking Plastic Patrol to New York - the land of opportunity.  My plan is to paddle board the tidal length of the Hudson River launching from Albany in New York State on 6th September and finish the foot of the Statue of Liberty 275km (170 miles) later in the heart of New York City as the river meets the Atlantic Ocean 9 days later on 15th September. But there's a lot more to it than this... 

... WHY?

So many reasons!

It's always been my mission to rid the world of single use plastics and use my voice to campaign and draw attention to the issue of plastic pollution, ocean health and, ultimately, climate change through adventure.

I launched Plastic Patrol in the UK two years ago and so far more than 800 people have joined me on the waterways to remove plastic. We've intercepted more than 100 ton bags of waste this summer alone and it's making a difference - every piece removed before it reaches the oceans is a victory!

I also developed the Plastic Patrol App to crowdsource and map important data (take a look here, its amazing!) about the types of plastic we are finding/ collecting to make sure the big brands responsible are held accountable. So far we've recorded more than 50,000 examples of plastic waste from 15 countries globally - and counting... 

Plastic Patrol - Rochdale (65 of 126).jpg

Essentially, in the UK we've seen progress in the last couple of years and the huge groundswell of public support for change has driven legislative amendments. Our collective voice has forced government and companies re-think their approach to plastic use and we're not finished yet. 

In America it's a slightly different story.  It's one of the world’s biggest consumers of single use plastic with 80% discarded after just one use and, on top of that, climate change scepticism is encouraged by the current government. The movement towards change is gaining momentum and passionate individuals and organisations are pushing for change. I want to bring my platforms and voice to generate further awareness and support for this cause because, let's face it, that's what it takes - more pressure from more people and time isn't on our side anymore! 

I started my campaigning against single use plastics three years ago when I read that 80 percent of marine debris starts from inland sources, yet all I saw was focus on the beaches and oceans. We need to tackle the issue from its source - our rivers, canals and inland - before it reaches the oceans where most of it sinks and is irretrievable.

The Hudson is one of the most well-known and iconic rivers in the world with a huge population living along its shores. I will be there for the APP World Tour (Plastic Patrol is the charity partner) and want to use my time there as effectively as possible... so I am calling on American's to join the fight and take action to make a real difference in efforts to resolve the global problem of plastics choking our seas. 

... HOW?

This is a paddle boarding adventure with purpose. I will combine environmental  research, community beach cleans and legacy partnerships to bring the Plastic Patrol ethos to America. 

I'm working closely with Hudson River Park Trust to identify plastic hotspots on the river to collect water samples for micro plastic analysis. We will compare findings against an existing archive gathered by the Trust and share results with you. 

I'll also be BETA testing some incredible fin technology on my board. It will be microchipped to allow me to measure multiple water based factors including temperature and motion characteristics. It's the first time this technology has been used on the Hudson River and the data gathered will not only become a baseline for future research but also be shared with scientists looking to understanding trends and ocean warming indicators on inland waterways and how it correlates with ocean data.

The Plastic Patrol app will enable me photograph, geo-tag and log every single piece of plastic I encounter along the route, much like I did when I paddled the length of England two years ago captured more than 3000 examples of the problem. It gives undeniable, visual evidence of the scale along every body of water and helps locate pressure points for clean up action. Everything I find will appear on this map.

Plastic Patrol Map

 

Finally, Plastic Patrol clean ups will come to America - something I said I've wanted to introduce out there as a concept for a long time. I am inviting people to join me on a beach and paddle clean up of the Hudson River in three locations:

  • Sunday, September 9th, 3:30-5:30, Kaal Rock Park in Poughkeepsie
  • Wednesday, September 12th, 5:30-7:00, Croton Point Park in Croton-on-the-Hudson
  • Friday, September 14th, 5:30-6:30, Pier 26 Hudson River Park, NY

Anyone who wants to come along can RSVP here. And if you can't make it but want to show support it would be appreciated if you could share this page with your friends too. 

Everyone who attends the clean ups will be encouraged to log everything they collect in the Plastic Patrol app (but anyone can contribute, you don't have to be at clean ups!)  - so we can see exactly what has been identified along the river and where. 

It's an incredible milestone in the journey for Plastic Patrol and whilst I'm obviously nervous, I can't wait to get paddling. 

 

Lizzie Carr on Plastic Patrol

I want to take this opportunity to also thank some incredible people who have worked so hard to help make this mission happen. Firstly, Jana, an amazing volunteer from the US who read about my campaigning in United Airlines magazine and got in touch. She's am amazing human being and has dedicated hours helping make everything come together because of her passion for the important cause and she deserves a massive shout out!! 

I would also like the thank REN Skincare for believing in the The Hudson Project sponsoring it to bring this big idea to life. 

Finally, thank you to the APP World Tour for supporting the Plastic Patrol mission as charity partner for the Tour and bringing the environmental message to elite paddle sports. And to Riverkeeper - the custodians of the Hudson River - who have helped the beach clean ups come to life by imparting their knowledge and resource of this waterway. 

You can follow my journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and if any one has any more questions I'd be more than happy to answer - just drop me a message on social media. 

The Truth About Surviving Cancer

I won't sleep tonight and I haven't slept much for the last few nights either. My appetite has gone over the last couple of days and a constant feeling of dread has sat behind the things I've distracted myself with.

I've never shared the downsides of surviving cancer before - it's always felt wrong to admit feeling a bit shitty about it, like it's some kind of dirty secret. There's an ongoing mental conflict between being endlessly grateful and constantly fearful - much like an emotional tug of war.

As I prepare for my annual results tomorrow I fluctuate between thick anxiety and teariness as I ponder the 'what ifs', and serious repenting of my sins for overindulging in chocolate, avoiding the gym and telling rude jokes - aware that chastising myself won't really impact the outcome!

Sometimes being a cancer survivor is a bit shit - but we’re not really supposed to say that. The fear of recurrence is always in the back of my mind but I never talk about it. Instead I fake it and pretend everything is OK. By pretending I almost start to believe it too, for a while, but going back to hospital brings the emotions flooding back - and it scares me.

Being 'cured' of cancer doesn't mean it's the end of the journey, it stays a bit like a scar. And whilst I'm unbelievably thankful for my outcome, it's hard to stay upbeat and uplifting all the time.

This has not been an easy post to write or share but I want to be honest - there's already too much smoke and mirrors on social media - so that's the truth!I won't sleep tonight and I haven't slept much for the last few nights either. My appetite has gone over the last couple of days and a constant feeling of dread has sat behind the things I've distracted myself with.

A SURREAL DAY

Today I put my graduation garb back on and revisited Nottingham Trent University to receive the Outstanding Alumna of the Year award in recognition for my environmental campaigning and Plastic Patrol.

I cannot even begin to explain how much this means. I’m so honoured and priveledged to have been invited back to share my story and collect this rather grand looking award!

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself back in that graduation hall, and certainly not to receive an award for being “outstanding” in any way.

After my cancer diagnosis I made a decision to follow a life that was meaningful and authentic, and throw myself into whatever I care about with my whole heart. This recognition today reaffirms the choices I made and spurs me on to keep going and fighting for the changes I want to see and make in this world.

What do you stand for?

I am often asked about how I went from working full-time to living the way I do now and it's really not a simple answer. So I have decided to create a series of weekly blogs that unpick my journey and hope this may provide inspiration in some way for you too. 

I used to dread going back to work after the weekend or a holiday. I felt deeply unfulfilled with a constant nagging feeling that gnawed away and brought up the same questions,  "Is this it? Is this what you survived cancer do with with your life? Is this really all you've got to offer the world?"

I'd spend my commutes dreaming about a new life and toying with possibilities of what I might do instead. I wanted feel better about myself, my future and the contribution I was making to the world. 

It was the risk of failure that stopped me from making change. The good intention that came from being strong and ignoring my heart meant I was becoming more out of touch with my needs. I was spiralling further into unfulfilment yet I was desperately seeking   more meaningful connections and personal growth - I just couldn't access it.

And now? I wake up feeling excited about the day ahead. I'm passionate about the mission I'm on and don't really consider it work - I'm just investing time in something I love and issues I care deeply about. 

The journey has been far from easy but after finally quit my job in 2016 - the year after I was diagnosed with cancer - without any plan for the future I can say I have found a rhythm I'm at peace with. Back then, by all accounts, I had already failed. I walked away from a well paid job and couldn't tell anyone why or what was I was planning next. I'm sure my family thought I was having a breakdown from the fallout of my diagnosis and, in some ways, maybe I was.

My work leaving drinks at work - a few tears goodbye that night

By the time I came to quitting work I had developed a quiet confidence in knowing that I'd got through the worst, most draining experience of my life with cancer so felt I could deal with anything thrown at me down the line. The future was uncertain but there was one thing I was convinced about -  I couldn't ignore that anxious itch inside anymore. 

What cancer hadn't already stripped of my identity, quitting my job finished it off.  I struggled to recognise who I was initially and it took time to construct a new version of myself and understand what I stood for and valued - a journey I'm still on today.

How did I work through it? I considered aspects of life where fear held the balance of power, working out if the perceived security it provided was worth giving up. Ultimately I had to allow myself to believe that the unknown life outside the existing narrative I was living in would be better.

We’re all hardwired to avoid change. We don't want to deliberately expose ourselves to anything that might threaten our routine, identity or security but it's by doing exactly this that we eventually come to a place of fulfilment.  

In the time I had after quitting work I did a lot of paddle boarding - the one thing I knew I enjoyed - whilst I mulled over and questioned what I wanted to do... and so began the unwitting start of my 'second career'. Funny how things work out! 

Our lives are as big as we dare to make them.

How can you start that journey yourself?


Firstly, and very simply decide what you stand for. Whatever lights you up - follow it. Whatever makes your shine sparkle - grab it. Release yourself from expectations of others and live by your own design. Locate that little voice within, let it rise up and listen to whatever it's telling you.

Paddling in dense fog on Windermere

Your head and heart will always be in a push-pull. We all want to feel accepted, safe and secure, it's basic human condition. It's only when desire for growth and self-expression outweigh the former that will feel empowered and strong enough to make a change. We all have a threshold for the mundane and we all, at some stage, reach a breaking point before taking action. It's not about turning our lives upside down - I realise mine was a drastic measure - but we do all need to give ourselves the time to listen to what we want and then act on it. We owe ourselves that much.

Only when you committed to stand up for a purpose greater than yourself will the bravest part of you rise up.

Think about how you define success. Does that align with who you are? Most of the time we've bought into a measure that revolves around superficial accomplishments and material possesions. These are external markers that place us firmly on a never ending treadmill of slogging away but never arriving! 

Success that emanates from a deeper place driven by a desire to find true fulfillment and clarity over what authentic living means is the starting point for something more meaningful. 

Views across the Atlantic Ocean

Of course, a comfortable life is easy but it's not always right. We only get one shot - as cliche as it sounds, it's so true. 

Live the best and most authentic way you can in the context of something bigger and more profound than your own ego and sense of pride - you'll reap the benefits,  I promise. .  

Next blog: How to redefine your success… 

Reason for Optimism

Have you ever thought about the difference it would make if the air we breathed was cleaner? Just because you can't see air pollution it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. In fact, we're seeing some of the highest recorded levels in major cities all over the world.

Did you know that 92% of the world’s population lives in a place where air pollution exceeds WHO guideline limits?

 

Neither did I until recently and it's a horrifying thought. 

But it's not all doom and gloom and that's not the picture I want to paint. I am an optimist and with some of the game-changing technology and world class innovators out there starting to address this issue we have the opportunity to make a real, tangible difference to the quality of the air we breath. 

I've been working with scientists at BASF who are continuing to push the boundaries of innovation in electric car battery materials to double the average driving range of electric vehicles and dramatically reduce charge times to 15 minutes. I believe that advancements like this will continue to drive the innovations we need to encourage more people to make the switch to electric powered vehicles, making a future that looks a little brighter. 

Watch this thought provoking film to find out more...

 

 

 

 

 

Look up. Get up. Don't ever give up.

Sometimes life has a way of knocking us sideways when we least expect it, and when it does it takes all the strength we can muster to pick ourselves back up, piece together the broken bits and carry on.

Testing limits isn't always about pushing yourself physically through endurance challenges and big feats. In fact, my most challenging experiences, the kind that have shaken me to my very core, have been related to my mental wellbeing.

It's true that everyone one of us is fighting a battle. I’ve always been very honest about my struggles with anxiety, knowing that talking is helping to break down barriers and normalise a sensitive subject for the greater good. 

In a positive state of mind, I am madly and deeply in love with my life and the opportunities I've been given. I don't take any of it for granted and it means a lot to be able to share my journey with you.  But social media, for all its goodness, can easily disguise the truth and it's important to me to readdress the balance. 

Late last year my anxiety had triggered and I had reached a real low. I didn't talk about it at the time for fear of exacerbating it but my confidence had taken a battering and I struggled with a constant feeling of thick dread that I couldn't shake off. Everything made me anxious and although outwardly I held it together, inside felt like I was falling apart. 

Despite this, I found a way to haul myself out the other side - eventually - and now, looking back, I can see that even in those moments of real weakness and self-doubt I was able to find the strength to believe in myself enough to move forward again. Often, my own resilience when I think I have nothing left to give has surprised me. 

Now, out the other side, and given this week 'Blue Monday', the most depressing day of the year, came and went I wanted to share the strategies that I have implemented to help me through. 

1) Exercise. It's such an obvious one but I cannot stress enough the power of exercise when you need to clear your head and make sure you're thinking straight. It will be the last thing you want to do, but it's the thing to need to do. I spend Blue-Monday eve (is that a thing? It is now) hiking with my family as part of a challenge Berghaus set me to beat the blues, and I felt great for it. It cleared my mind after a long flight the night before and helped me set myself up for the week ahead. 

IMG_3452.jpg

2) Get outside. Nature has an overwhelming power to bring calm and clarity. Something as simple as going for a walk is a good way to quiet the mind and re-channel thoughts.  

3) Breathe.  Take long, deep breathes and you'll notice an immediate difference. If you can, then meditate. I sometimes do this on train journeys - it doesn't have to be something you set aside time for, it can form part of your day. 

4) Stretch it out. It's no secret that yoga, like paddle boarding, has been transformational to my life. Just 15 minutes a day (there's loads of free or cheap apps you can follow to make it super convenient) and you'll feel the positive benefits. Try it! 

5) Socialise. No matter how much you want to be alone, don't. I don't mean all the time - it's important to be alone to think, process and understand too, but surrounding yourself with family and friends, laughing and enjoying just being in that moment is key to maintaining happiness. There's too much focus on the past and the future, and we're left in a constant state of wishing for more. We need to be happy with what we have, and realise how lucky we are to have special people in our lives. 

Berghaus Silver Lining Sunday

6) Share your story. Talk to people to work out why you feel the way you do. When you keep feelings to yourself the magnitude often increases and tackling them seems almost impossible. Open up to people you trust and listen to them. 

7) Book a flight. Sometimes what we all need is a healthy dose of perspective - a new location, new people and new experiences - to re-calibrate and remind ourselves how fortunate we are and how big and beautiful the world is. 

Finally, I want to leave you with a line from a poem my Dad taught me as a child, that has always resonated and is something I always go back to when I'm feeling low:

Stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit, it’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Finding mental toughness and bouncing back

Injuries can happen to anyone at anytime, and when they do, it can be tough to bounce back.


I’ve had friends who have been hurt in the pursuit of an adventurous life. Climbing accidents, mountain bike spills, skydiving landings and skiing falls. All unfortunate but to an extent it’s an inevitable consequence of living a life away from the sofa. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with when it happens.
 

Personally, I find it difficult to be injured. Not the event itself; that is usually frighteningly easy. The aftermath; once the dust has settled, the treatment is done and the long stretch to recovery begins. Patience is key in this phase and I struggle with that. 


My biggest injury – both in terms of it being physically debilitating and mentally draining - came after the operation to remove the tumour in my thyroid. Not discounting the obvious downtime required to recover from the operation and wait for the general anaesthetic to wear off, I had anticipated being back on my feet within a few weeks.

 

But, like all plans, they rarely work out. Unexpected complications during surgery meant that five years on, I’m still walking the slow road to recovery. The main issue meant that high impact exercise, specifically running, was out of the question. Several attempts to make a comeback prematurely have (inevitably) led to both a slower recovery and recurrence of injury making it all the more frustrating.


MAKING BREAKTHROUGHS

Until recently I wasn’t able to run more than 5km without several days of quite severe pain afterwards. I was doing a lot of strength exercises and earlier this year I set my sights a little bigger and started training for a 10km run. The sense of achievement that came with completing it was immense. Knowing that I could reach that distance gave me a lot of inner confidence and I believed I was finally on the path to a full recovery.

Excitement kicked in as a pondered the endless adventures that lay before me and I found myself applying for a spot on the London Marathon 2018. That would be my next goal to work towards. I had nine months to prepare and my new-found self-confidence convinced me that I had plenty of time to build up the miles and work towards completing it.  

 

DRAFTING IN SUPPORT 

I wasn’t making much headway in my running time and distance in the first few months so I drafted in some professional support. Part of me wanted reassurance and part of me wanted guidance. My biggest concern was sustaining an injury that would take me out again and I wanted to make sure I had taken all the necessary precautions to avoid it.

 

I went to see a physiotherapist in one of Bupa’s health centres for an initial consultation.  You don’t need to have private health insurance to use these centres – all services can be paid for as you go. Since there are centres across the country it was easy to find one near home too - a really convenient service.

 

We discussed my existing health issues, current fitness regime and marathon running aspirations in detail before moving on to a practical assessment. The physiotherapist assessed my range of motion and filmed my running technique for motion analysis purposes too.

 

GETTING THE BAD NEWS

At the end of the second session with my Bupa physiotherapist, we reviewed the results together and she highlighted some flaws in my running style that were contributing to the overarching problems I’ve been having. The detail of these sessions meant she was able to create and share a very specific exercise plan that would allow me to address my weak spots – but it also meant she was able to draw a very clear conclusion about my condition…

 

…I wouldn’t be ready to race in the London Marathon 2018.

 

Attempting it would likely do more damage long term and I needed to re-build my strength more slowly to make it sustainable. Whilst this was a massive blow I knew it was the right thing to do.

 

BOUNCING BACK… AGAIN

It’s hard having to adapt your plans when you have your heart set on achieving a goal. Over the last five years I’ve learned a lot about overcoming setbacks and in lots of little ways it’s taught me so much about myself.

 

1)     Get perspective

One of the best ways to cope with the itch to get back out there is to mentally take a step back and reflect on what you’re missing most. Use that emotion to plan your comeback in a smarter way.

 

2)     Set goals - but be realistic

You might be tempted to focus on smashing your personal best but getting back to that level of fitness takes time, and you’ll only be disappointed if you can’t reach that goal in the time you’d like rather than the sensible timeframe around it.  

Come back better, stronger and smarter but don’t try and do it all too quickly.

 

3)     Adapt your mindset

Forget about the big comeback and focus energy and attention on rest and recovery. It’s hard to feel like you are starting from scratch again, but that’s the reality, so make a plan to tackle it in the most positive and productive way to get you fighting fit again.

 

View the enforced pause as a gift of the time you need to re-focus and work out your next steps. Once you are ready to begin the return to action, remember how you felt stuck on the couch and use that memory as fuel. Wait until you’re ready. Adapt and overcome.

 

4)     Surround yourself with positivity

Surround yourself with a supportive environment – where you can receive encouragement and have people on your journey with you, celebrating the small milestones and achievements as you recover. It’s important to appreciate what the body is doing to heal and acknowledge the progress being made. If your injury means you have to give up on one sport for a bit, look at others that might help as part of rehabilitation.

 

5)     Celebrate every milestone

Even the smallest signs of progress are to be celebrated – all are signifying that you are moving a step closer to full recovery. Celebrate every milestone, no matter how insignificant it might seem at face value.

 

We all have to rebuild. I’m not as strong or as fast as I was, but I will be.

 

It’s easy to book a physiotherapy appointment, health assessment or GP appointment at a Bupa health centre. Click here for full details of locations and services available.

 

Disclosure: I was very kindly offered two free physiotherapy appointments for the purposes of this review. My opinions on this blog are honest and my own. This review forms part of a wider campaign, sponsored by Bupa. 

BUPA running motion analysis
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Life lessons from India

 

During my time in India I'd come to realise that there was one single thread that bound everyone I met together. None landed there by chance, it was always deliberate and there was always a bigger purpose. People were on more than just a physical journey. 

India is country full of – and a place for – seekers. Each person in search of enlightenment and using India, the soul of ancient culture and philosophy, as the backdrop to better understand the world and their place within it.

My own reason for visiting India weren't dissimilar. Whilst I intended to recce the River Ganges as part of plans for Plastic Patrol, I was on a soul-searching journey of my own. 

There are moments that put a knot in your stomach - a twinge of doubt accompanied by the urge to leap.

In the months before leaving for India I had started to burn out. I'd made a series of poorly judged decisions that triggered my anxiety and I struggled to recognise myself. I needed to find a way to put my keyed-up energy to good use and regain my balance. 

Travelling is, and always has been, the greatest love of my life. Intentionally removing myself from routine and familiarity has a way of clarifying priorities. It challenges my understanding of the world, and injects me with new ideas, connections and experiences.  I don't think there's anywhere in the world that can disorientate or challenge you like India.  

If there is one place on earth where all dreams of living men have found a home, it is in India.

The pace  - especially the major cities - is relentless. Initially I found myself drawn to the noise, the colour and the speed of life which matched the chaos of my own back home. It took some time to for me to understand that the comfort I found in the craziness was burning me out more. 

As I started to settle the buzz of the cities became overwhelming and I made my way to the north of India, where the foothills of the Himalayas meet the River Ganges.  The peace and solitude of the mountains and water gave me the space to breath for the first time. 

IMG_8695.JPG

I spent time exploring and it was on long hikes in the mountains that I started to become more fascinated by the people I met and the stories of what brought them to India, and also into my path.

Every experience shared bought new perspective, understanding and clarification in areas of my own life that needed addressing. I believe everyone I encountered has served a greater purpose in my self-development. Whilst the impact of some has been mild, others have been more profound.

Throughout this journey of life we meet many people along the way. Each one has a purpose in our life. No one we meet is ever a coincidence.

As for India itself, I learnt very quickly that this country provokes a fight or flight response – you either embrace it or you run from it. Just arriving into the madness is the first test in your strength of character. You sink, or you swim. 

India is remarkably like an intense relationship – exciting, passionate and powerful - but the constant ‘push and pull’ it provokes is ultimately unsustainable. Sometimes I was cast so deep under the spell of its charm I felt I could stay forever, and other times I felt completely disillusioned by things I saw that I struggled to find even the remotest affection for it. 

Whether that was a cow brazenly walking into restaurants searching for food, homeless children pooing in the middle of live railway lines, rickshaw drivers dodging high speed traffic as it fled towards oncoming cars on the wrong side of a motorway, or youngsters using exposed sewage pipes as water fountains to keep entertained.

No matter the day there was always something utterly incomprehensible happening right in front of my eyes. And whilst some sights were funny, others were heart breaking, distressing and downright disgusting.

But if you open your arms to India and squeeze tight the utter chaos that surrounds you, you’ll be rewarded with experiences so enriching you can’t help but feel touched by it. It's a good metaphor for life - open yourself to the world and embrace everything with love - you’ll reap the rewards. 

Kerala backwaters

 

India taught me more about myself in a month that I thought possible. It gave me the freedom to explore my physical surroundings and the confidence to look deeper into myself. Words can barely explain the profound impact the people I met and the experiences we shared will go on to shape my future. I’m endlessly grateful to have been part of this remarkable culture and the kindness of its people, even for a short time. 

I leave India with treasured memories, special friendships and a new found understanding of myself. How lucky I am to have experienced such a place that saying goodbye is so difficult. 

Thank you India – you beautiful mess - for opening my eyes, my heart and my soul.

This is farewell, but not goodbye. 

Exploring the Lake District

I’ve always championed Britain as a world-class adventure destination. Our rugged landscapes and challenging terrain can rival almost anywhere in the world and the unpredictable weather conditions that come as part of this only add to the adventures.

We don’t need to travel to far-flung destinations across the world to get a taste of the wild. It’s not all about world first ascents or crossing remote jungles, it’s about reconnecting with nature, which ultimately, pushes us to reconnect with ourselves.

One of my favourite places to visit in the UK is the Lake District. The adventure mecca for almost all outdoor lovers – both on land and by water – and no matter how often I return the views and landscapes presents themselves to me in an entirely new way.

On my most recent visit to the Lake District I opted to explore mostly by water – either on my paddleboard or by sea kayak (my first time in one!) I’ve paddle boarded on Derwent and Windermere but this time I dedicated my three-day visit exclusively getting under the skin Ullswater. It did not disappoint.

The spectacular views across Ullswater – both on the shore and from the water itself – provided, with clarifying force, a healthy dose of perspective as the magnitude of the mountains towered all around me.

The hotel I stayed in, Another Place - The Lake, is situated near the north tip of Ullswater where the views consist of wide, open countryside. As you look southwards the landscape transforms, by contrast, into craggy mountaintops. In the distance, on a clear day, there are views of Helvellyn on the east too.

Ullswater itself, unlike other popular lakeland spots near by, has very little boat traffic especially once peak season is over. The historic steamer (which I took a trip on during my visit) runs daily and takes an 8 mile tour of the Lake stopping at some key landmarks on the way, but when there’s so little movement on the water and no winds it’s a shame not to paddle it.

At almost the halfway point of Ullswater between north and south lies a small island about 600 metres from the shoreline. It’s completely uninhabited and just the sort of gem that’s too tempting to paddle past. I reached the island, moored my board, and climbed to the highest point – a secluded spot in the middle of Ullswater from which to look out and marvel at the panoramic views that enveloped me. There wasn't a single person or boat in sight and the road was too far in the distance to even see a car. I was completely isolated and it was incredible. When, in this day and age, do we get to experience remoteness like that? 

The autumn colours along the waterline changed with altitude and were stunning.  I saw shades of yellow, red and orange that you can only find on autumn leaves and is a big part of the reason this is my favourite time of year to both paddle and visit the Lakes. I could see why Wordsworth used this place as inspiration to pen his most famous poem, Daffodils, even if that was in spring. 

I could write for hours about the beauty of everything I saw but I don't think I could do it justice... so here are some of the highlights from my visit to the Lake District in pictures. 

 Hiking down to Ullswater with my paddle board (can you see the little island in the distance?) 

Hiking down to Ullswater with my paddle board (can you see the little island in the distance?) 

 SUP's ready for a spin

SUP's ready for a spin

 That view of the mountains that envelope Ullswater - priceless. 

That view of the mountains that envelope Ullswater - priceless. 

 Exploring Ullswater at sunset by Sea Kayak

Exploring Ullswater at sunset by Sea Kayak

 Views over Ullswater, Lake District. 

Views over Ullswater, Lake District. 

 

 

The little moments aren't that little

My sudden reminder of my own mortality came five years ago in my mid-twenties when I was diagnosed with cancer. Until then my life was largely unremarkable. I was stuck in the rat race and defined success by job titles and paychecks. Outwardly I was successful, but I felt deeply unfulfilled.

Cancer, for all its downfalls, has been the greatest blessing of my life. The clarifying force that came with the prospect of death gave me confidence to re-evaluate and reconstruct a new way of living. It gave me the courage to live with real passion, unrestrained by expectations. It showed me the importance of throwing myself into everything that makes me feel alive with my whole heart, and without regret. It taught me love hard and go full throttle at what I want from life. 

Lizzie Outside

Cancer gave me the opportunity to remove myself from fear, from ambitions, from attachment to material things and the concept of status. It also reminded me to appreciate the everyday moments that I once took for granted. It strengthened bonds with family and friends in a way words can't describe. It brought me close to nature in a way I couldn’t have imagined possible and what I learnt from that life-affirming experience continues to shape and strengthen me. 

Ultimately, cancer taught me to cherish the simplest moments that make up my life and take pleasure in the smallest of joys. Opening my senses to the world and deeply connecting with the moment I’m experiencing makes me feel alive. Those fleeting, unexplainable seconds that appear as nothing, yet mean everything, and leave an imprint on your heart once they’ve passed are what make up our memories. 

I've been given a new lens through which to view the world, now seeing things that I had never paid attention to before with striking vibrancy and vividness. I feel incredibly lucky to experience the beauty that surrounds me every day and to still have a place within it. 

I choose to live deliberately and purposefully, knowing that there is a deep connection between my good health and the ability to enjoy every aspect of my daily life. A recent study by Bupa Health Clinics  found that almost 70% of adults overlook the role that feeling well plays in enjoying our everyday lives. I can believe this – I was one of those people – and until I fell ill I believed I was as invincible as anyone. 

Society is plagued by a perception gap driven by a ‘grass is greener’ culture where we consistently live for the future rather than the here and now. The ‘I’ll be happy once I’ve xyz’ mind set is skewing our sense of reality and the sad fact is that all these special (yet seemingly insignificant) everyday moments we are gifted with are lost in the noise of life. 

After my diagnosis I made a promise to myself that I would fully embrace the second chance I’d been given and build a life that I’m both deeply in love with and truly proud of. The journey to living as my most honest and authentic self is still work in progress, and I’m still learning every day. Sometimes I lose sight of what it means, sometimes I'm plagued with fears around my biggest insecurities to the point I hardly recognise myself and my decisions, but I know that every challenge and obstacle I confront is a stepping stone closer to where I want to get to. 

The prospect of death has a transformational power that is accessible to every one of us, provided we’re courageous enough to embrace it. We can use it to make conscious choices that create meaning in our lives, providing liberating and awakening experience to help us take better control of decisions around both our health and lives. 

By maintaining consciousness of our own mortality it will encourage us to live authentically and fully - for the very first time. Try it.

You can never predict the future but you can make sure you’re giving yourself the best possible chance by looking after yourself now.  

paddle boarding Barbados

 

Chat to your GP about any concerns you have about your lifestyle, or you could consider booking a private assessment such as Bupa’s Health Assessment which will give you a picture of your health, and provide coaching on the improvements you could be making.  And you don’t need insurance!

In the meantime, please get involved in the #EverydayMoments campaign by sharing what you’re grateful for and using the hashtag.

If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.
— Bruce Lee

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Bupa Health Clinics. As always, my opinions are honest and my own. 

 

A beginner's guide to Surfing

Last weekend I enrolled on a two day Surf School at Watergate Bay Hotel. It was an intensive couple of days and, of all the things I learnt, this was the most valuable:

Surfing is one of the most frustrating sports I've ever tried.

I don't tell you this to put you off - the opposite - it's because preparing your attitude and expectations before you start is important. In surfing nothing is consistent or predictable. The wind, tides and swells are always changing and that affects every wave you try to catch. There are no shortcuts to it – you get out what you put in – and whilst for some that might seem too much like hard work, that’s part of its beauty. It takes real effort and commitment to improve but the satisfaction that comes with even the smallest progress is all the more rewarding. 

watergate bay surf school

Our group was intimate - just three of us all with pretty limited experience. Pete, our instructor for the weekend, spent the first morning taking us through the theory of surfing before kitting us out in wetsuits and putting it all into practise. He had drilled in the basic technique of arching our backs and 'popping' up in one fluid motion whilst continuing to look ahead at the horizon. Easy peasy. I attempted it a few times on the stability of land to get familiar before trying it out on the water. 

Surfing lesson Newquay
Two dat surf School watergate bay

Despite being mid-September we had been blessed with perfect conditions. A light offshore wind, blue skies and just enough punch in the waves. 

I was apprehensive about remembering everything I'd learnt, but as soon as Pete pushed me into my first wave I found that I stopped thinking altogether as my body took control and responded naturally to the motion of the water. Before I knew it I was standing up and riding along the ripple of a wave. My body relaxed into the ride and I paddled back with a huge smile on my face. 

White water surfing

The second wave was also successful and, convinced that I was a natural, my mind raced with the infinite possibilities of riding inside barrels and turning on the big waves.

That was, until, I face planted my way back to reality on the third, fourth and fifth set of waves. My confidence starting chipping away, compounded by fact I was starting to tire both mentally and physically. 

As the day progressed the conditions dropped and I felt my enthusiasm slipping. We stopped for an afternoon caffeine fix and some carbs before heading out for a final time to catch some sunset waves. Instead of the hazy red skies I'd imagined I was greeted with low clouds, rain showers and an eery darkness that loomed over the water. 

My respect for the water deepened as I sat on my board under dark skies. I paused to watch people on beach, to see how the sunset was trying to pierce through the clouds, to kick my feet in the water around me and feel the force of the swells push me forward as I waited for a break. 

In that moment I began to think about my goal with surfing and what I really wanted from the experience. The realisation that that I'm never going to be a great surfer had set in but, ultimately, that didn't really matter to me. It was about finding another way to enjoy the ocean, continuing to challenge my limits, connect with nature and feel the magnitude of the elements. The ocean is the one place I feel humbled, inspired and tiny all at once - a magical combination when you need some perspective on the world. 

Shifting my mindset to accept that the ups and downs of surfing are all part of the learning process and viewing them as part of the journey rather than the outcome was important. I realised that, despite my frustrations, there was one thing that could never be questioned - my effort.

Fistral beach long boarding

I had eased the pressure on myself and, in doing so, went into day two with a new found confidence. The ocean can teach us so many things about ourselves if we listen. It tells me to slow down, take a moment and breathe. It tells me to feel my body and trust in my connection to the water. It tells me to be confident and believe in my judgement. Sometimes I forget to listen, and when I do, that's when the ocean reminds me of its power. It pulls me under and shakes the nonsense out of me - delivering me back to the surface just in time for the next set of waves. 

I'd say I'm OK at surfing and it's OK to be OK. 

WGB Two Day Surf Course
Body boarding on Watergate Bay
Surfing in Newquay

 

Thank you to Watergate Bay for a wonderful visit to Surf School- find out more: https://www.watergatebay.co.uk/swim-club/active-breaks/surf-course/

Plastic Patrol: Where it all started

 

Cast your mind back to May 18th this year...  I doubt you'll have any memory of its significance so let me tell you. It was the day I successfully completed my attempt to become the first solo female in history to paddle board across the English Channel.

I refused all kind offers of financial or charitable donations for the cause I was supporting and, instead, asked for something else, redeemable later in the year. Your time. 

And now that moment has arrived.

Don’t worry, I know its precious commodity and something we all guard closely - and rightly so.  It's one of the few things in life that money will never be able to buy us. I understand the importance of valuing it and using it wisely, so believe me when I say I wouldn't have asked for this trade off if I didn't feel it was necessary. 

All I am asking is for you to spare one hour of your schedule this summer. One hour. And join me on a #PlasticPatrol clean up somewhere around the country (all locations can be found here: www.plasticpatrol.co.uk).  

I’m aware that asking you spend the time you're giving up litter pick other people’s rubbish is always going to be a tough. It's dirty work, I agree, but the problem really is so big, and there is so much that I just can't do this on my own. 

Hopefully what I'm proposing will sweeten the deal a little for you so please hear me out... 

If you sign up for a space on the #PlasticPatrol clean ups you'll be allocated a paddleboard for a one hour taster session - completely free.  I’ll be at every session and on hand to show you the basics of paddling if you need it. Once you’ve got the hang of it (trust me, you will) you can crack on yourself,  have some fun and do a little plastic picking. 

You don’t need to worry about brining anything with you (apart from a change of clothes, maybe!). The wonderful guys at Canal and River Trust are supplying litter pickers AND helping to facilitate the removal of any waste when we're done, so all you need to do is book a place, turn up and get stuck in.

It really is that simple. No catch whatsoever. 

And if you have your own paddle board / canoe / kayak or form of water craft then feel free to bring it along and get involved too. Anyone who wants to join us on the water or from the towpaths is absolutely welcome - the more the merrier. 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

I have taken the decision to give up every weekend of my summer to run these sessions because it means a lot to me. Although it's been entirely my choice it has meant sacrificing some pretty important events including my brother’s engagement party (sorry David) and my lovely friend’s wedding (sorry Charlotte).  Luckily I am surrounded by love and support for what I'm doing and they understand why taking this #PlasticPatrol series around England is important to me, and the determination I have to give something back to the places so close to my heart. 

When I reflect on my own journey it all started by picking up a paddle and having a go on a trip to the Isles of Scilly three years ago. I was two weeks out of radiotherapy treatment- weak, tired and unstable in every sense of the word - but having seen someone on the water paddle boarding I really wanted to try it. As soon as my paddle hit the water something just clicked for me and I was hooked.

It was only when I returned to London and found myself paddling down Regent’s Canal that I started to see another, less addictive, side to it. I was so utterly horrified and appalled by the sheer volume of plastic I was witnessing and the impact it was having on wildlife that I made a promise to do anything I could to help highlight the issue and take action against it.

I had no idea what that action looked like but I was tired of the moaning and complaining and reached a point where I had to think about tangible actions that I could do personally to improve things. Just because it’s not my rubbish it doesn’t mean I’m not going to pick it up. The world is my playground, nature is my happy place and the waterways have become my restoration – ignoring the situation wasn’t an option in my mind. 

Over this summer if I can encourage you lovely people to come and join me for some paddling fun (all levels and abilities welcome – that’s the beauty of SUP) I'll consider that a success. If anyone then decides to take up SUP and falls in love with our beautiful waterways the way I have, feeling that same protective sense that I do then it'll be another step in the right direction to saving our planet from the catastrophic impact of plastics. 

Please pledge your support and get involved. If you'd like to volunteer to help run any of the days instead that would also be a huge help - I'd love an extra pair of hands :-) 

Plastic Patrol Lizzie Carr

Crossing the English Channel by SUP

As the paddleboard rides the water and the blue sky meets blue sea, an expanse of nothingness lies ahead. For the first time, suddenly, I realise I can see no land at all. I felt isolated, alone and devoid of direction. It's 10am and I’m five miles off the English coast. But I’ve got 19 miles still to go, so I dip my paddle into the water and push ahead.

This is what happened last month when I became the first woman to stand up paddleboard solo across the English Channel, monitoring plastic pollution and taking samples for plastic analysis en route. 

 

This journey felt like a natural next step to my 400 mile SUP expedition in 2016  that took me across the length of England and was the starting point of my nationwide #PlasticPatrol campaign. 

“YOU CAN NEVER CROSS THE OCEAN UNLESS YOU HAVE COURAGE TO LOSE SIGHT OF THE SHORE.”

I took up paddle boarding recreationally – on a bit of a whim after illness – three years ago. It was, at first, a low impact way of restoring my strength but I was quickly hooked and spent most of my free time out on the water. 

Fast forward three years to now, having quit my job, got over my illness and completed two world first paddle boarding challenges, it all feels very surreal. 

THE JOURNEY

I left Rye Harbour on the morning of 18th May. The support boat skipper gave the final nod for the crossing just 18 hours earlier and although conditions didn't look perfect - there was a window good enough for a crossing. I'd already waited almost three weeks for the weather patterns to change and apart from this day there didn't look to be another slot in the foreseeable - so we chanced it. 

This fast turnaround meant a frantic, last-minute dash to get myself organised and I drove down to the South Coast late the night before feeling flustered and anxious. 

It was a 4am start (I woke up early - the alarm was set for 5am), and by the time I reached the harbour the sun had risen and I was looking out to flat, calm and glassy ocean and clear blue skies. The gentle northerly wind would propel me through the waters towards France.

The conditions were far from my nightmares I'd had of crashing waves, huge swells and gusty winds. I’d prepared myself mentally and physically for the absolute worst so the stillness I was looking out to helped ease the nerves before I set off.

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For the first five miles I could look back and see the British coastline. I enjoyed watching landmarks get smaller, knowing I was making distance. But after an hour or so, when land hadn't disappeared - it got demoralising.

By the time I reached the start of the shipping lane the coastline had completely disappeared. Paddling in an expanse of blue and away from land goes against everything you're advised with paddle boarding. Stay near the shore, they say, and if you can't see the ocean floor you've gone too far out. If you can't see land - you're in real trouble.  I had absolutely no markers - land or sea - to pinpoint myself and measure distance. It was me and a couple of gigantic cargo ships for company. On the one hand I was acutely aware of the magic in that moment and I wanted to soak up the experience, but that didn't mean I wasn't scared. 

"Lizzie, can you paddle a little faster for a while. There's a cargo ship about 6 miles off and it's on course for you," the skipper shouted at me from the distance. 

I picked up the pace for a good ten minutes, edging myself out of its path. The visibility was fairly low and whilst the skipper had a radar on-board to track ships, they were only coming into my view from 3-4 miles away which, by this point, they were like giants towering above me.  

GETTING PREPARED

I'd equipped myself in every practical sense – hydration packs to keep fuelled, carbohydrate gels to prevent cramping, neoprene boots to avoid hypothermia. And I had trained hard to deal with the physical challenges but, despite my efforts, there was one crucial point that I completely over looked.

I hadn’t considered, let alone planned for, the fact I might get seasick!

By mile six - as I'd entered the shipping lanes - I was feeling queasy. Initially I put it down to the release of tension leading up to the day, but by mile eight I was feeling pretty awful.

That was the first moment I questioned my ability to complete the challenge. Mindset is as important as physical strength and stamina and my confidence was falling – fast. I tried not to think about the nausea, but the monotony of paddling lends itself to doing just that!

I hit mile ten – in the depths of the British shipping lanes - and waved down the support boat. The advice was to eat something, but I couldn’t. Even so much as the thought of food made me want to throw up. I lay back on my board contemplating the rest of the journey – all 14 miles of it – and whilst doing so loosened my buoyancy aid. I felt almost immediately better before sitting up, taking in a deep breath, and ploughing on. I had to finish this. 

WATER SAMPLING FOR PLASTICS

By mile 14, as the sickness started to subside, I’d collected three water samples and counted several pieces of plastic I’d seen floating in the ocean – a few bottles, a couple of bags and a huge piece of polystyrene almost as big as me!

The water sampling involved dropping a net into the water and trawling it along just under the surface of the water for around 2km (20 minutes) each time. I’d then siphon the debris from the net into a small glass jar – which has now gone off to University of Plymouth for analysis.

We’re looking for evidence of micro plastics and microbeads – the small (often unseen to the naked eye) fragments of plastic that are most harmful to marine species and, it turns out, are now filtering through into the human food chain causing all sorts of health implications!

“Every piece of plastic we intercept before it reaches our ocean is a victory.”

THE CHALLENGES

Like everyone, I can sometimes pile pressure on myself and hold high-expectations of what I “should” be achieving. Having the courage to dream big and follow my dreams without letting fear dictate or control decisions has been my outlook - and in a sense my mantra - since quitting my job two years ago.

Before I left for the Channel crossing my brother gently reminded me, that despite my ambition, I’m neither an endurance athlete nor a professional SUP racer. I haven’t build up to this challenge with a team of nutritionists, trainers and physiotherapists. It’s just me – an eager yet determined novice – lacking in refined technique and experience but bursting with commitment and passion for the cause that I’m fighting for.

His words carried me through some of the hardest parts of the challenge.

“You can do this. And when you start doubting yourself, tell yourself this:

“I can, I will, I must."

By the time I reached the French shipping lanes I'd been paddling for over five hours. I had found my rhythm, controlled my seasickness and allowed myself to visualise and look forward to completing the challenge. 

Two years ago the French authorities put a ban on any human powered crafts travelling across the English Channel - excluding swimmers. This meant I had to jump on the support boast as we hit the French waters and speed through the shipping lane until I was out the other side.

The route I was travelling would take me to Bolougne, further down the French coast than Calais,  allowing me to to make up the distance I lost in the shipping lane. Although being on the boat gave me some time to refuel, we were travelling fast and being whipped by the ever increasing wind was making me really cold. By the time we'd reached the end of the shipping lane my muscles had started to seize up and the I was shivering uncontrollably. 

I had wrapped up warm and kept piling on the layers which helped and I took my neoprene socks off in favour of going barefoot for a bit.  but I was keen to get back on the water as quickly as possible. Paddling would warm me back up.

It was quite soon after getting back on the water that I saw my first glimpse of land. Visibility was dropping and the weather was taking a turn for the worse. By mile 20 conditions making it really tough. I was starting to feel cramp in my calves and the change in wind speed and direction meant I was fatiguing quickly.  

At mile 22 I could make out two big towers in the distance.  "That’s Boulonge Harbour!" the skipper shouter over to me. I needed to get in between those two points to formally reach french shores.  Seeing those towers gave me a new lease of life and I found energy I didn't know I had. I dug a little bit deeper and pushed on towards the shoreline.

Reaching the finishing point was a surreal moment. Firstly getting my head around that fact that I had taken my paddle board from one country to another was hard enough, but that coupled with the fact I'd completed a world first in the process was almost too much. 

The weather was getting worse as I finished - dark clouds, strong winds and big swells - so I jumped quickly on the boat, deflated by board, and sped back to England. Not even the chance for some cheese and biscuits on French soil! 

And now? It’s mixed emotions. When a challenge finishes there is a sense of emptiness. You’ve dedicated weeks and months to training for it and making sacrifices in life that, in just one day, it’s all over.

I’ve already found a way to fill that void. This summer I’m staging a series of #plasticpatrol clean ups in 14 locations across the UK. People can register here: www.plasticpatrol.co.uk and either join me on their own boards or register for one of the boards I’ll be bringing with me. I’ll be supplying litter pickers too. It's all about getting outside, enjoying our beautiful waterways and paddling to picking up plastics: getting active for a good cause! 

I’ve also just launched the Plastic Patrol app (available for IoS in the app store now) so anyone unable to attend the clean-ups can still contribute. The app can be used anywhere in the world and the idea is that people photograph the plastic they find/collect in our waterways/beaches or even mountains so we can start to build what is essentially a heat map of the issue. 

Anyone that posts their finds on social media using the hashtag will find it pulls into the global map too. Crowdsourcing this data globally is a united and powerful way to campaign and lobby for change. We live in an age where people can rally together for a common cause through technology  and really instigate change, so by harnessing this and channeling it into a single campaign we have a strong voice to drive action!  

 

What a difference a year makes

 

On 11 May last year my Mum drove me to Godalming in Surrey – the starting point for my 400-mile paddle boarding expedition – and waved me goodbye as I drifted down the River Wey embarking on what would become, unbeknownst to me, the greatest adventure of my life.

I had announced my intention to her and a handful of close friends just a few weeks earlier and their reaction, as I suspected, was mainly concern. Me, a solo female, paddle boarding the length of England’s waterways and wild camping every night, was almost impossible for them to grasp. But, despite their reservations, I received nothing but support and encouragement for my little mission from the outset. 

Paddle boarding in England

At the time, I could have neither planned nor anticipated starting that journey would lead me to where I am now. Within a few days it had been picked up by TV, radio and print newspapers both in the UK and internationally. What started as a personal crusade against plastic pollution with a few curious friends tracking my route became a journey that thousands of readers all over the world followed on my blog.

I had no idea that my overwhelming desire to do something - (anything!) - other than simply sit back and ignore the issue of plastic pollution as I paddled on the waterways everyday, would change my life so dramatically in the space of a single year. 

Both starting my blog and preparing for that paddle boarding challenge gave me a renewed sense of purpose after my cancer diagnosis. It sparked something inside me that had been lost and, for the first time in what felt like forever, I could see my life coming back into focus again.

Lizzie Carr Outside Climbing

My blog - and everything that it stands for - has become my greatest joy and most profound source of personal growth. It’s given me a platform to express myself and share what I’m passionate about. It’s given me confidence, happiness and freedom to be wholeheartedly me and has evolved into a huge part of my life. It provides me with the sense of meaning I longed for, but struggled to find, before its inception.

SUP adventures in England

The countless emails and messages I have received from people who have joined me on this journey so far chokes me with gratitude.  From the man who shared photos of his family SUP adventure through England last summer, to the lady who, after being diagnosed with cancer a few months ago,  told me that my blog gave her hope, through to the recovering alcoholic who emailed me this morning to share his own paddle boarding journey and how it also changed his life. 

 

I struggle to express the overwhelming gratitude I have for the privilege I have been granted, and I’m so unbelievably appreciative for every single person who has been part of this surreal but incredible adventure so far.  

I am deeply in love with my life and feel, after a few years of living in black and white, that the colour has come back. I’m hugely excited to see where this journey leads and remain so grateful to have you all alongside me and as part of this adventure.

Thank you! x 

 

My most ambitious challenge yet

Next week I'm taking on my most ambitious challenge yet: to solo paddle board across the English Channel - from Dungeness in England to Boulonge in France. Sky has been following my journey so you can watch more about my plans here

It's 24 miles of unpredictable open ocean - strong currents, choppy waters, and relentless winds, and will involve navigating the busiest shipping lane in the world.

 

Lizzie Outside Channel Crossing

To say I'm not nervous would be a lie. And whilst I've spent the last few months preparing for the challenging conditions I'll be facing, it's hard to shake off the feeling that this is beyond my ability.  

As the challenge draws closer I've been getting more advice from people trying to prepare me for the difficulties I might encounter. Whilst I appreciate the input, it's also  been chipping away at my confidence and the moments of self-doubt and fear are becoming increasingly frequent. 

Being brave isn’t about not feeling scared. Real courage is all about overcoming your fears.

People tell us to be scared of daring or dreaming greatly, because of the chance of failure and level of risk. I'm aware that I'm not an endurance athlete, in fact, I only started paddle boarding about two years ago. I don't have a team of coaches, sport psychologists or physios working with me, and my technique could probably do with some improvements. But I don't want to be dissuaded from achieving what's important to me.  And sometimes it's the doggedly determined rather than the brilliant who succeed.  

Lizzie Carr Paddle Boarding
I took the one less travelled by. And that made all the difference.
— Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

But despite the physical and mental demands, this challenge is ambitious for an altogether different reason. I want this journey to make a difference. Its purpose is bigger than a world first endurance challenge; there's a major environmental mission at play too.

I will be building on the #PlasticPatrol map I plotted last year by logging every piece of plastic I encounter (and apparently there's a lot!).  I'll also be gathering water samples with a trawler net skimming the water surface at every fourth mile, and these will be analysed for microplastics on my return. 

80% of marine debris comes from inland sources

I've spent the last year championing our inland waterways, starting a nationwide campaign to rid them of plastic pollution that, inevitably, will end up in our oceans. Building a connection between where the problem starts - on our canals and rivers, with where it ends up, and the vast quantity out there is fundamental to awareness and driving change.

We all read these overwhelmingly large statistics about plastic pollution in our oceans, but scaling this back to a single journey will create a picture of the plastic problem in a real, human way - supported by undeniable evidence from the data I'm gathering.  

Lizzie Carr English Channel

Getting involved with #PlasticPatrol

This year I'd love for you to get involved in the #PlasticPatrol campaign. I'm organising a series of clean ups across the UK this summer - armed with paddle boards and litter picks. It's all completely free, you just need to come along and get stuck in. Find out all the details here.

I'm also developing a #PLASTICPATROL APP that will be out this month. This has enormous potential to drive change, and the data we collect will help identify trends and hotspots so we can lobby for resource in specific areas and target clean up initiatives properly. We can use this to make real and immediate change. 

In the UK alone we spend more than 1 billion pounds a year combatting litter and plastic pollution - think how that money could be better spent if tackling pollution was more educated! 

How to get involved in #PlasticPatrol

Last year I paddle boarded 400 miles across England, launching a nationwide campaign to rid our waterways of plastic pollution. 

Next week I'm attempting a world first challenge - to be the first female to solo paddle boarding across the English Channel - and I'll be gathering samples for micro plastic analysis along my route.  

I'd love you to get involved too - and join the fight against plastic pollution. This summer I'm staging a series of #PlasticPatrol clean ups in 14 locations across the UK. I'll bring the paddle boards and litter picks, all you need to do is come along and roll up your sleeves - it's all completely FREE. 

You can see the locations here. And if you want to have a go at paddle boarding make sure you book a spot as spaces are limited. 

It's fun for all the family too. As well as paddle boards we'll also have a team of 'Plastic Fighters' armed with everything needed to teach little ones about the environment and plastic pollution in a fun, engaging way. 

This month I'm also launching a #PLASTICPATROL APP that will help us – and you – to record your plastics finds easily and quickly. The app will track and measure plastic on our waterways and coastal areas all over the world - pulling into our big interactive map - so you can share findings wherever you are. 

You can post directly to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using #PlasticPatrol too - just make sure you tag the location so it can be included on the map too. 

Logging data is hugely important in the fight against plastic pollution. It provides clear evidence of problem areas and hotspots so we can lobby for change and resource. If we can all come together to get involved and share our finds there is enormous potential.

There's lots of little things we can do in our day to day lives to reduce plastic consumption. My blog, 8 ways to use less plastic, is a good starting point. 

#PlasticPatrol is a huge passion project of mine, and it would mean the world for people to get behind it and show support by joining me at these clean-ups or downloading the app and using it on your own adventures.