Last in the series we have Founder of AFA and Team Leader of the LAFA’s Nakita. Don’t forget to follow her on social media, check out the links below;
“I think the word for the last few weeks has been ‘organisation’”. For Nakita being organised when off duty with everything she is doing so she does not become bored and snack on everything as entertainment! Being accountable for her actions and a better visual of what she wants to achieve to make sure she is still putting in the training to maintain her strength and cardio.
“Slowly I feel like I am now too busy! I am trying once again to fit too much into my days. Maybe I am one of those people that work better under pressure? I just want to make the most of my time, even though I am incredibly guilty of an hour or two disappearing watching god knows what on TV! I have actually banned myself from watching boxsets during lockdown as it was far too easy to binge; before you realise, I’ve spent the whole day sat on the sofa! Not good.”
When Nakita went back to work about 4 days off it was always a bit overwhelming for the first few hours. Seeing people, talking to them face to face. Isolation can do funny things to you mentally; but it was something she got used to over time. She’s even back to enjoying my time on her own again like she used to.
“It’s always lovely if I get the chance to see any of the London team, I regularly have Nikki come over to drive the appliance I am in charge of. One day she was over and we had grand plans of doing a great gym circuit together. We had just managed to do some bench press and then the bells went down. We had been mobilised to a specialist incident which required urban search and rescue. After assessing the scene, I devised a plan. As a non-USAR operative, Nikki was brilliant, helping with everything she could! We didn’t get back to the station until around midnight. Was lovely to spend that time together.”
Nikki seems to be the route of all things fitness as she also nominated the whole team to run 5km for the NHS. Nakita had been really getting into her running, and had only recently run done her first 10km in years. So she was excited to get out, see how well she would do. She enjoyed it so much that she started running more and more. One day she even ended up running just over 10 miles which made her extremely proud and happy. As ever there was something to put a stopper in the improvement and Nakita rolled her ankle, breaking scar tissue on ligaments she had previously torn over 8 years ago.
This was the worst time to get an injury for, not only does she live on her own, but it meant she was also unable to go to work. To see any form of human contact was going to be extremely difficult. In addition to that, keeping fit was a big part of helping maintain her mental fitness too. Although she felt overwhelmed she knew she had to deal with it head-on. Firstly she had to give herself a chance to heal. Secondly staying happy and motivated was going to be key. Setting up a routine, not lying in bed, eating at regular times and actually not spending all day in my pj’s. Even better she could use this time to work on her press-ups! Silver linings and all that.
The team as always helped out and reminded her not to push herself and take her time. It paid off. After a week of rehabilitation Nakita was back to work.
Taking it easy to get back into training and being extremely cautious doing any long rungs but as far was she was concerned she was back out there and that was great.
“I don’t think I have trained so much, so i am grateful for lockdown. It has made me make the most of my time and stop thinking of tomorrow and start making the most of the present.”
Beci is next up, she has been balancing, being a mum and exercise over the last few months and none of us envy the home schooling…!
Lockdown has been really heavily focused on ensuring the children keep on top of their schoolwork and that the whole family get exercise. Often Beci would tyre pull while Matt runs and the kids were on their bikes. She also found she needed to ensure she stayed on top of the housework more so than ever; that meant sharing the space much more than usual. For Beci a messy house has a really negatively impact on her mental health.
“We’ve managed some socially distanced bike rides and walks with friends and family which has been amazing for us all. I also LOVED the cake ultra and getting to see the other WAFAs.
I treated myself to aNordic track trainer that I know will make training at home so much easier… I can even homeschool from it. Multitasking is a MUST!”
AFA training has been a huge motivator to get out and be busy even on the days Beci could happily have stayed in bed. Routine has been key, planning days and prioritising “Beci time” exercising.
“I’m in awe of the other AFAs and I don’t want to fall behind. Norway in January is getting so close and feels much more real now lockdown is easing.”
Alison is next up and her social media is one to watch;
Since lockdown started life has changed quite a lot for Alison. From suddenly being in work every day to remote working from home in the first few weeks. The first challenges she had to overcome were internet problems and the use of video conferencing for meetings. The internet and phone reception in her house has always been rubbish, and with all meetings being video conference meant it just kept dropping out or no one could hear her and sometimes not even see her! We’ve all been there right? It became very frustrating and stressful which led to arguments with her husband as Alison insisted in turning all wi-fi gadgets off when she was on VC, but that was no help. She was eventually assisted by another member of our executive leadership team who is very knowledgeable on ‘tech’ and ended up upgrading her internet and broadband service which has been a godsend.
“Another pressure was trying to keep my Mum’s spirits up as she is a widow and lives alone and also lives with cancer. Luckily with the kind weather her large gardens kept her pretty much occupied but she missed seeing all of us, her friend’s and going out which she does every day. So organising a rota of grandkids phoning and me in touch every day was a priority. We took her over a Sunday lunch each week and left it on the doorstep and it has been much easier now that we can meet in gardens in Wales.”
Quizing over Zoom became a weekly occurrence with her friends and a few late nights and sore heads the next morning! It has been great for Alison to catch up with the other Fire Angels on Zoom and keeping in touch with the world via social media too.
Like the rest of us, being in the house so much gave her a bit of time to sort through cupboards, clothes and catch up on a few things we always say ‘that can wait until next weekend’. Staying home has also made Alison think differently about the amount of clothes she owns and buys normally and the fact that some of it doesn’t come out of the wardrobe on a regular basis.
“I have bought some more training gear as some days I have been doing 3 short sessions to mix it up a bit. I seem to spend most of my day in this sort of gear.”
Alison also treated herself to a second hand track ski machine on Ebay to help with her training. On warm days she moves it out to the garden. She even skied for 2hrs 30 mins recently! To help improve her flexibility Alison has been doing three sessions of yoga a week, and as she couldn’t go to my normal gym she has been doing online sessions of high intensity training and following Nikki’s plans that she’s pulled together for the team. It seems that the whole country is getting fit as trying to find any kettlebells has been impossible online, however she did strike lucky with some dumbbells.
“Over the last month I have been in work a bit more and we have been taking it in turns to go in and we are still able to use the headquarters gym which has been great. We have to clean every item of kit we use as soon as we finish it and maintain social distance in there and everyone has complied with that.”
There has of course been tyre dragging when lockdown eased slightly in Wales but the highlight of training was Team WAFA doing the 32miles of Cake Ultra. It’s the first time Alison had trained with anyone in over three months. Lots of lessons learned from taking too much cake in her rucksack, too much water, too many clothes and wearing new trainers along with realising how important it is to fuel correctly as you go. She can’t wait to go again.
“I have found the last few months really life changing and I have liked spending more time at home with my husband. I can’t wait to see the children and the grandkids and have a barbeque in the garden with friends. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best.”
I hope you’re enjoying these little insights of the guys in lockdown because next up is Bex from Team LAFA. As always, social media links below;
Lockdown has been pretty busy for Bex!
She has spent a lot of it training, and been lucky enough to continue her weights training at the gym at work. At home she trained in the garden with Kirsty, her partner, which was great fun for both of them as they don’t often get to train together. They did a lot of circuits using all kinds of things from the garden shed!
And where would we be without some tyre dragging? Bex has been doing the tyre dragging regularly and made it to 10km. The Epsom Downs near where she was living were perfect for it with the different terrains and of course the view really helped!
Having a dog has been great company for them and also meant they got out walking. Poor George has never been walked so much! Take a look at him being carried by Bex in this picture.
“Work was quite strange over lockdown, driving around central London seemed like something from a zombie apocalypse film, it was eerily quiet. I also got put through an emergency driving course at work, which I passed, so I am now a qualified driver at work!” We are super proud of Bex for that achievement, I bet there are a lot of us reading this who would want to drive a fire engine?!
And as if all of that wasn’t enough Bex and Kirsty, and of course George, also moved house. The whole process was a slightly different feeling to normal during lockdown due to social distancing, but it still went pretty smoothly for them all.
Add in Bex and Kirsty doing a food bank collection at the start of lockdown in their village, VE day celebrations and a birthday it’s been a busy time. Check out the picture of Kirsty in their trusty van with the food ready to go.
The birthday I mentioned was Bex; “I had my birthday during lockdown which was actually lovely, I had a nice walk and then takeaway and Prosecco in the garden!” What more could you want from a lockdown birthday?
And of course, Bex joined in with the rest of us in celebrating VE Day “which was a great and fun day; socially distancing on the drive with the neighbours drinking Pimms and eating afternoon tea.” I don’t know about you but I think Bex has had a busy time in lockdown but also managed to have some lovely moments, given the crazy circumstances we find ourselves in.
Now you’ve all caught up with George and her lockdown life, next up is Nikki from the LAFA’s. I’ve put her social media links below so be sure you’re following her;
For Nikki her biggest worry at the beginning of lockdown (aside from not being able to go to the gym) was how bored she was going to get. “I can’t bear being bored; it turns me into a different person, like the less I do the less I want to do and I hate it. Its a horrible restlessness and I just stare at the walls not knowing what to do with myself!”. To prevent this Nikki puts measures in place early on, she was armed with puzzles, paint by numbers and colouring books and of course good old Harry Potter on her kindle. The irony is that actually the Antarctic training and admin has kept her so busy enough that her paint by numbers is lying only half finished in my spare room! Check it out below, I think that is pretty good progress so far.
Since lockdown has eased slightly Nikki has been visiting (all 4 of) her parents and sister to have BBQs in the garden. She of course takes her own crockery and everything to limit contact; it has been super lovely for her to see them even if she can’t have a hug just yet!
Nikki feels she has really thrived at work and genuinely cherished being able to go to the fire station. Not only does it mean that she only has to spend a maximum of 3.5 days in her flat in a row but it also means she gets to interact with human beings again whilst still feeling like she is contributing to society during the most uncertain of times. A very small victory for Nikki is that her flat is so sunny she can actually sunbathe in the lounge without going outside!
She also recently went to visit her colleague’s family farm, Nikki’s favourite part were the baby pigmy goats and in her own words “this was literally so so good for the soul”. A big thank you to Emily for letting Nikki visit, and yes, all social distancing rules were met, although not with the goats as you can see by the picture!
“Surprisingly my motivation for training hasn’t really wavered (aside from a couple of days here or there). I’ve realised just how much I use exercise for my mental health – when I train in the morning it shapes my day; makes me feel great and gives me more motivation to get productive and smash through my to-do list. It’s because of this I’ve probably been over-training and not giving my body sufficient rest, but I see it as looking after my head!”
For Nikki it’s all about having a plan to follow so she has been planning her week out and sticking to it, even working out in her lounge which she would never usually do but it seems to be working out for her!
Over the coming weeks each blog post will be a little update from each Antarctic Fire Angel all about what they have been up to over the last few months in lockdown. I don’t just mean the relentless training hours that these guys are putting in but also a little insight in to what else they’ve been up to.
First up is co-founder of the team and leader of the WAFA’s George. Don’t forget to follow her on social media, links below…click, click!
“Initially during the first stages of lockdown, the main concern was staying as safe as possible in work which in turn meant keeping my partner safe, who thankfully works from home the majority of the time anyway. It was a very uncertain time in work, no one has ever had to deal with anything like this before so decision making was dynamic to say the least. As long as I did everything I could before coming home after each shift I was happy (ish!).”
Once home, lockdown looked very different for George. She is lucky enough to live in the country and have fields and footpaths at the bottom of her garden, this meant that she was one of the few people able to keep doing normal activities during these uncertain times. Whilst adhering to the social distancing rules she managed to walk the dogs, pull her tyres, go for runs and also have room to exercise in the garden. Even though we were only allowed out once a day George made the most of it; walking the dogs and pulling the tyres became the norm and when people saw her without them they often asked where the tyres were! If you see her around don’t forget to say hello, from the correct social distance of course.
Although George has a very close family they are also very independent from each other so not seeing or speaking to them for a while is completely normal, meaning this hasn’t been such a huge change for her on top of the very bizarre world we find ourselves in at the moment.
As we know, because we all follow the team on social media right?, they are training harder than ever at the moment and taking advantage of extra time when they have it. George also managed to sell her bikes which has allowed her to buy a Garmin Fenix 5x watch, according to George this watch is a “game changer!” so she is super happy with that purchase. Training has gone very well during lockdown, lots of energy is now focused on keeping fit and less around going to meetings and schools for presentations etc. Naturally with more Zoom meetings and not so much travel time involved it means that the days have naturally become more efficient for George, as she says; “That’s me though, if I had children, that would obviously be a very different story.”
But as lockdown slowly eases there are big questions about going back to some sort of normality and how this will change up the routine each and every one of us has become used to. “One fear I have now is less focus on training and diverting that energy to other things as before, I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve had to totally focus on me, rather selfishly really but, we must divert some of that now to fundraising otherwise, what’s the point right?!”
This video from Caryn L Cox, an NHS consultant, was super early on in this journey and every now and then George watches it and reminds herself that even during the early stages the team were reaching people far and wide.
This is an adventure of a lifetime and it the teams message will reach far and wide.
As a bit of a shake up myself and the team went out on social media to see if anyone had any questions for us. A few we have answered directly but some needed a bit more detail and focus; having had a good think about their answers I’ve put some of it together for you to have a read as a mini blog. There will be more to come over the coming weeks and months but here are a few to keep you going…
Q1.In the toughest moments; what will each of you focus upon and draw upon to keep going?
Nikki – In tough moments I usually draw upon the mantra of ‘this too shall pass’. I think to myself ‘time will pass, this will end and at some point I’ll look back at this moment with pride’. It really does help!
Bex – Just knowing that I would have these moments and that I had trained 3 years for this would help me cope in those tough times. But also I would need a few moments of ‘me time’ to pull myself together, listen to a few good tunes and think about my family and how I wouldn’t want to let them down.
George – In my toughest moments, I bury myself in thoughts like; What I want today, to stop and go home, is different to what I want to achieve in the future; success and Antarctica resilience. Or I draw upon my favourite poem;
Self Pity by DH Lawrence I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.
Alison – In my toughest moments I will think of how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing and think of all the people less fortunate, or physically unable to take part in a challenge like ours. I often think of my father who passed just over 2 years ago and how proud he would have been to see me do this. He was always my biggest fan and encouraged me to try different things.
Beci – For me it will be the knowledge that every step forward is a step towards home. A step towards the person I want to become and the goal I want to complete. “So far you’ve survived 100% of your toughest days… you’re doing great”.
Nakita – I have been through some tough moments throughout my life. Each time I was determined not to let these negative and painful moments defeat me. I would beat this, I would come out stronger and wiser, with the knowledge to help those I saw going through similar situations.
When my brother was serving in Afghanistan it was an extremely difficult time for my family. Fear is a dangerous monster that if allowed, will consume you whole. We had given my brother a small card with a poem on to carry, to read when he needed it. I now have the exact card in a frame as I walk in the door. So what would you do if you had no fear? Me? I’m off to the Antarctic!
Don’t Quit by John Greenleaf Whittier When things go wrong as they sometimes will, When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill, When the funds are low and the debts are high And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit, Rest if you must, but don’t you quit. Life is strange with its twists and turns As every one of us sometimes learns And many a failure comes about When he might have won had he stuck it out; Don’t give up though the pace seems slow— You may succeed with another blow. Success is failure turned inside out— The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, And you never can tell just how close you are, It may be near when it seems so far; So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit— It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Q2. What is your favourite book?
George – Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Nikki – Harry Potter (all of them!)
Nakita – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Alison – The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Beci – I don’t have a favourite book. It’s impossible to choose just one but I am currently reading Motherhood by Tetyana Denford.
Bex – I don’t read books so don’t have one.
Q3. If you could have a superpower what would it be?
Bex – To be invisible.
George – If I told you I’d have to kill you. But probably something to do with the mind.
Alison – Being able to run at supersonic speed.
Nakita – Hmmm such a hard one! I’d like to be like Captain Marvel!
Nikki – Being able to fly.
Beci – Being able to fly but also to be totally badass with it like Captain Marvel.
Q4. What is your favourite film?
Alison – Pulp Fiction.
Nakita – The Fifth Element.
Bex – The Beach.
George – So many to chose from! Probably any Bond film or any Emily Blunt film.
Nikki – Home Alone.
Bex – It is really hard to choose just one. Can we split it into Genres? If I had to pick it would be Star Wars.
Q5. What is your guilty pleasure?
Nakita – Binge watching the Walking Dead.
Bex – Watching a place in the sun.
Alison – Watching First Dates. I love it! And my other one is Elvis.
George – Eating Turkish delight, in a oner.
Nikki – Twiglets…and most snacks!
Beci – Watching Call The Midwife. I love it; watching it feels like a hug.
Q6. How will you celebrate achieving your goal and who do you want there with you when you do and why?
Nakita – There is going to be a welcome home party which we will be having limited tickets for! Of course I want my immediate family (if possible my dogs!), my watch and close friends there and I guess Jay Morton from SAS Who Dares Wins seeing as he is trying so hard to find me on tinder…! I think eating all the foods we’ve missed and just being in something that isn’t expedition kit will be a real treat! It could possibly be the last time for a while we are all together as a team so I’d want to make the most of it, as I know after what we will have been through I will really miss them.
Alison – It would involve a day of pampering first; hair, nails and full body massage. Putting on a fabulous dress and a pair of high shoes (if my feet can take it). A party with curry and Indian food which I love. Dancing and drinking with my husband, family and friends and all those who’ve supported us. And if I could get an Elvis impersonator to sing that would be the icing on the cake….And then go and lie on a beach for two weeks.
Nikki – Obviously it’s got to be a massive party with everyone there, but I also think I’d like to follow that up with smaller dinners with just me and my loved ones, and I think my own personal celebration will be when all the hype has died down – a night all cosy in my flat with a glass of Prosecco in one hand and a tub of twiglets in the other, reflecting on what a mad journey it’s been.
George – I would want my partner there for sure in Punta Arenas and then to get back home asap to see the dogs and smother them in hugs! Party wise, yes exclusive invites from back home and of course sponsors, but considering I’m not someone who has a long list of pals, my invite list would be quite short!
Beci – I’ll want to see my husband and the kids on our return first and foremost. I think I’ll need quiet time to come back around to “normality” and do some reflection.When it comes to a celebration I’d want the other fire angels and all the wonderful people who have supported us to achieve that goal in whatever capacity at the party. And of course for there to be LOADS of food!
Rebecca – I would want a shower then to see my partner and have a beer, follow by seeing my dog! Then a party to see all my family and friends and eat the food I want and drink what I want.
We hope you enjoyed a little insight into the minds of our Antarctic Fire Angels with the above questions and a big thank you to those who asked then. There will be lots more to come so make sure you keep coming back!
To finish off, here is a little video treat from Nakita all about lockdown and what she is doing to help herself through it. Click on the picture to view.
Remember; stay in, protect the NHS and save lives.
Team WAFA This week has sadly been a bit of a write off training wise for the WAFA’s as it was all about their day jobs. It all started this week with the horrific weather I am sure we have all encountered and with Wales experiencing the worst flooding it has had in decades; this meant that Beci spent Sunday trying to help people locally in the immediate aftermath and the following days getting aid to those who needed it most. Alison was also involved with helping those effected by the floods and has also been fighting off a chest infection which unfortunately seems to be winning at the moment; she is off on a two week holiday so hoping to rest and recuperate. Although the holiday is playing on her mind because it means that her training will potentially suffer and being the oldest of the group she doesn’t want to slip behind. We are with you all the way Alison!
On Friday George, Beci and Alison had a meeting with Donna and Jenna discussing how the team can give some development opportunities to Fire Cadets and Volunteers in South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and how they could help with some fundraising. It was hugely productive and both Donna and Jenna were blown away with what the team have already put in place and the plans for the challenge ahead. For Alison it’s an interesting situation when she tells someone all about their expedition because in her head it doesn’t seem such a big challenge, that is until she sees the reaction from someone else! I guess that is what brings it home to them, it reminds them all that what they are working up to is truly phenomenal.
Alison also managed to sort out some old fire kit that couldn’t be reused and along with George collected it from stores to be used to make the bears for the schools talks. Do you guys remember Elizabeth Sews? She uses old clothing to make memorable and special bears; she will be using the old kit along with some uniform from each school to get a bespoke bear made for each school talk.
Aside from all the flooding, George did manage to get some training in and actually went on a 4 hour tyre drag…yes, 4 hours! Check out the picture to the left; that’s George on her tyre drag at Merthyr Mawr. Don’t forget all of this is to simulate the feeling of pulling the sled that the team will have to pull whilst in the Antarctic.
On this epic trek, George just so happened to have a little mishap which she wrote a poem about and we love it; ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud Dragging my tyres, oh so proud. Then there came a terrible smell Yes I thought, I know that wiff well. I’d dragged my tyres through some poo But oddly thankful it wasn’t on my shoe.’
It has also been a hard week for all of us, well all of us who understand that this world needs to change; I am of course talking about the heartbreaking and tragic news of Caroline Flack. There is so much that could be said and yet I feel it is all too little too late, especially for Caroline. The journey most of us are on in this world is long and hard, you have to keep going and keep your head up when faced with tragedy and sorrow. You have to remember that not every day is easy, not every day reminds you that it is worth it but it is SO important to talk to people. Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling, don’t hide behind the fake smiles and chat; we all have demons that sit waiting in our darkest thoughts, waiting for you to fall back into the sea of black that pulls you under. To think that taking her own life is the only choice Caroline had is truly horrific and so so tragic, my heart goes out to her, her friends and family. And for this amazing group of women it has hit home that raising awareness of all mental health issues is something that needs to happen.
Team LAFA Nikki went for a walk around Devil’s Punchbowl this week for a bit of training with her friend and her twins (who also happen to be Nikki’s goddaughters) in rucksacks on our backs (see picture). They are over 10kg each so this was a great way to train until she can acquire some weighted vests!
She has also been working on the website design, how it should look, what needs to be on there, what it needs to say so that when they sit down with the designer they are ready to go full steam ahead.
All this has helped take Nikki’s mind off her ‘shark bite’. Having had a medical at work this week she was told she was not allowed back due to her significant injury and that her body needs time to heal. The next medical is 2nd March and she is hoping for the green light! As frustrating as it is for Nikki to want to get back at it, she knows that she must make sure her body is fully recovered.
Nakita has been training hard with the guys at work who have been an amazing support and inspiration; after registering at a new gym she is ready to go full throttle. You may have already seen that Team LAFA released the news that they are going to take part in the London Half Marathon on 29th March 2020 and if you manage to get their GoFundMe Page above £2,000 they will do it in full fire gear! So what are you waiting for? Click the link to donate; https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels
This week I will leave you with the words that have been all over social media and are so apt; ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Always.’
It’s been a busy week for the team with the main focus being on their weekend away in Scotland learning how to Nordic Ski. It was also the first time that the team had “lived” together. Which was something they were really looking forward to, with busy lives and work schedules it is hard to find time out to do these events together. They all found the time away a great bonding session, given that they had only ever met once before as a team it was a real step forward in cementing the AFA family. Beci has taken the role as team chef making sure the team were fed and watered and Rebecca was bin lady and furniture mover extraordinaire!
Team LAFA all stayed together in preparation for a 4am drive to Heathrow, ouch! They got there in great time and were slightly nervous that they hadn’t heard from the WAFAs but they knew they were staying local to the airport and were sure they were all safe and sound. Hopefully they got an extra hour in bed or maybe they were helping Alison fit everything in to her suitcase?! The full AFA team reunited at gate 5 ready for the flight. Nakita had the new team jackets with their logo ready and George had gilets from Mountain equipment ready too. They all looked very professional and felt like they were part of a proper team.
Once in Scotland their first trip was to Tesco to fill 2 trolley’s up with all the essentials they needed for the long weekend before heading to their beautiful cottage; no wi-fi and slightly off grid which certainly helped them all focus on the days ahead.
The skiing was full on and although the team were up to the physical challenge they certainly all felt it mentally as it took such concentration. It has helped them look at, amend and tweak their training plans to ensure they are ready for the longer skis ahead. Over all the weather was pretty kind to them with only a bit of rain and some high winds. For the Fire Angels, day one was all about learning the basics; getting moving and staying up right, which is pretty key in all of this! They were moving up and down a 25 metre track initially and then going around a track before hitting a ski slope in the afternoon. Alison had a big fall which bruised not only her ego but her bottom! She had previously expressed her concern at not being able to keep up with the team but the instructors were really lovely and showed a lot of patience. It was a mixed ability group of 16 people it was great to support each other on what ended up being a more physically and mentally challenging course than they all imagined.
Day two was all about working on the technique, to try and glide better and use the poles correctly. Alison was a bit sore from the fall the day before so sat it out with Nikki, who you might remember couldn’t really take part due to her ‘shark bite’. The guys really felt like the Sunday consolidated everything they had learnt and that they had made huge improvements from the day before. It has also made them realise what a monumental task they have ahead of them over the coming years; they are already putting the time and effort in ten fold and now they know they’ve just got to keep going.
Also you might recall that Beci had to deal with the guilt of leaving her family for the weekend, especially as it was her daughter’s birthday on the Sunday. She managed to hold it all together, that was, until she saw a rainbow. Her daughter is a rainbow baby and owns a lot of rainbow clothes which triggered the guilt and emotion all over again and she ended up crying on all the girls. As always they were a great support to each other and really helped Beci through the day and as a team they all went for a lovely walk in the forestry together. Baring in mind that this was the most amount of time they had all spent together it really was an ideal 4 days for them to get to know more about individual personalities and learnt a lot about each other.
I am sure we can all remember the horrific weather and storm Ciara that weekend; well with a delayed flight it meant the team had a very late finish. However they put the delay time to good use and did some planning and task assignments for the next few weeks as a team.
Monday was tyre pulling day with the Times 2 magazine which rounded off a busy weekend for the team. They all got to drag the tyres on Merthyr Mawr sand dunes, remember those tyres, the ones that George managed to rescue? The interview and the photoshoot was great fun and the article will be out soon so keep an eye out! Although it all went really well it was a huge eye opener for the team. It is going to be hard, really hard, probably harder than they ever imagined; but they are going to keep pushing and training and getting stronger. As George says, it is better to find it hard now and be more attuned to it when they finally get out to the Antarctic!
It is hard to understand the time, effort and dedication the 6 firefighters are putting in. It just proves that the reasons they want to do this; to raise awareness of mental health, to push stereotypical boundaries and to show every girl and woman that they can be whoever they want to be and do what ever they want to do are deeply embedded into who they are as people. This comes from the heart and to remind people we are always stronger together. For example, for Beci the weekend meant 3am bedtime on the Sunday after the delayed flight before getting up for 6am for the school run followed by a full day at Merthyr Mawr sand dunes dragging tyres and then straight onto a nightshift…! Needless to say on Wednesday night she went to bed at 7.30pm! Dedication, resilience and stamina.
I just had to share this; the picture to the left is fantastic, remember that Beci left her walking boots in the car in Wales…so Nakita, as founder of the AFA, was there to help out whenever she needed a ‘lift’ in more ways than one. Never leave anyone behind.
There are many more exciting projects on the horizon which means much more work for the team. However they will keep their end goal in sight to help with the extra pressure, and keep striving for greatness.
Overall this was a brilliant weekend for the team, and a huge thank you to the Huntly Nordic and Outdoor Centre. Yes they had ups and downs and yes it made them realise how steep the road ahead is; but Rebecca’s knee survived the weekend, Nikki’s ‘shark bite’ is intact even though she found the weekend hard, she is not used to sitting it out and being physically at the ‘back of the pack’ and last but not least, all the guys have improved on their skiing. Not bad for a long weekend, delayed flights and no wi-fi!
This really is ordinary women doing extraordinary things!
We need to start this post off with a massive thank you to everyone who has donated so far; the total hit £1,000 and beyond! Thank you, genuinely, it means so much to the whole team. For those who haven’t yet donated, here’s the link if you feel like helping the team and charities out; https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels
Team WAFA George has had a heavy week of training this week. We all know what the weather has been like so as you can imagine the trail running has been hard work. There was so much mud and water around that it was hard to keep some sort of sanity whilst she was slipping all over the place! But, for George, this is also her commute to work and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Combining these runs with an hour’s warm up on the cross trainer (with the bungee attached) has made a big impact on her mental strength and resilience. The runs home from work are still in the dark and last week George was followed by, presumably, some sort of wild animal. They normally run away and she is more than used to seeing eyes in the hedgerows and trees however this one followed her all the way through the woods! Needless to say she hasn’t taken that route home since…
There is a big challenge ahead for the team, a weekend away in Scotland to learn Nordic skiing. They will spend two days learning basics and then going out in to a forested area to practise. A combination of nerves and excitement is filtering through the team and Alison has had all her gear out on the spare bed for two weeks, not just out of excitement but her biggest concern is how she is going to fit it all in her suitcase?! An even bigger part of the weekend ahead is, for Alison, hoping she can keep up with the rest of the team. She has only ever been skiing once in her life and that was when she was 11, a long time ago! It’s also the first time she has been away and not taken any makeup with her, it’s all about being outside of your comfort zone and breaking new boundaries…!
Alison isn’t the only one who is hoping she can keep up with the rest of the team; Beci is nervous and excited about the weekend ahead although it wasn’t off to the best of starts as she has left her walking boots in her car in Wales and didn’t notice until she was nearly at the airport…! It is difficult for all the team to leave family, friends and pets when they go on these sort of training events but it is just a reminder of the dedication and sacrifices the team are making for this expedition. Beci has made sure the house was clean and tidy as she is leaving her poor husband in charge but an added extra that is weighing heavy on her mind is that she is going to miss her daughters 6th birthday. She is heartbroken to be away but she is hoping that they can get away with celebrating her birthday later in the week and her daughter will never know the difference?! We will keep our fingers crossed for you Beci!
Above the physical and mental battles of this challenge is the emotional battle. Beci feels an overwhelming guilt as a Mum to ensure her children always come first whilst trying to steal time away to achieve this goal. But she knows this will make her children so proud and remind them that they can do anything they want to in life. It means that Sunday will be a combination of holding back the tears not being with her daughter on her special day but also aching in places she didn’t even know she had…!
Team LAFA If you recall, Nikki had taken a huge step back last week after cutting her left leg open, which has now been affectionately named as her ‘shark bite’. After many doctors & nurses appointments it was agreed that she could go to Scotland and at least give skiing a try. She booked on light duties at work to permit her to do this but she is extremely nervous about the injury and does not want to stop the healing process. So instead she started working on sponsorship packages ready for the new website and after spending 90 minutes in Decathlon getting everything she needed her excitement reached top levels!
Rebecca spent the weekend with her Mum which was really lovely for her but she found it tough to see her feeling so lonely. If you remember, as mentioned in a previous blog, Rebecca sadly lost her step-dad in December. Her brother, sister in law and nephew came over from Singapore which was really great for her and her mum; she doesn’t get to see them that often with them living so far away and she misses them a lot. It’s always important to have family and friends that you can talk to and rely on in dark and difficult times; never be afraid to ask for help or support.
After a good long walk on Monday, 15km to be precise, in lots of mud and a few very busy days at work it’s finally time for Rebecca to get excited about the Scotland weekend ahead. Rebecca is also not a skier and since her serious injury to her knee back when she played rugby she has stayed away from any risky activity. As you can imagine skiing is pretty risky for her and the nerves are setting in for the training ahead; given that she ruptured 3 ligaments and no longer has a ACL she is unsure how her body will hold up. But as ever Rebecca has a strong determination to give it a go and see how far she can push herself, mentally and physically.
It’s been a slightly different week for Nakita; she is still in a bit of a whirlwind, having reached a point where she knows her relationship ending was the best thing but the way it ended is still painful and hard for her to take. The biggest issue is that it takes her away from what she loves, her energy levels are low and she is finding it hard to focus. As team leader and founder of the AFA she finds it hard to let go of the helm but she has been trusting the team to deal with organising events and meetings and they are of course more than capable of this. It just means that Nakita feels guilty for not being able to put 100% in, she likes to pull her weight and when she doesn’t it plays on her mind.
For Nakita being back at the station with her watch has helped her more than you can imagine, they are all incredibly supportive and it reminds her that they really aren’t just her work colleagues, they are her other family. Unless you are or have ever been a firefighter it is hard to understand the bonds that are built within the watch and this week when out for a drink they started talking about Grenfell, an evening they will never forget.
Red watch were in attendance on the night of the fire and what they endured was truly incomprehensible. Nakita was on blue watch at the time and attended the night after, recovering those that sadly didn’t make it.
Ricky, a firefighter on her watch had written a poem at the time of Grenfell which really touched Nakita. Little did they know she had also written her own but never shared it. It is only now that she feels she can share the poem she had written back then, all about the experience and emotions from that fateful night. I have pasted a copy of the poem to the left for you to read.
For me writing this, it is hard to imagine what this must have been like, it is best coming straight from Nakita on this; “Climbing those stairs again and again, where the outcome would not be any different, trying to imagine what our firefighters, and all those involved went through. But we would never know and all our experiences would be different, still traumatic, but different.”
After showing their support her watch encouraged her to share the poem with others, so that night that is what Nakita did on social media. She wanted to highlight part of the ‘why’ behind the AFA team and the expedition but she was also nervous of any negative response to this going out. Perhaps people would not understand what or why she had written the poem, however the response has been hugely positive. This is an expression of feelings and emotions from someone who was there and as Nakita says, each and everyone involved in that night will have different experiences and different feelings. It is only from sharing, talking and expressing our inner thoughts and feelings that we can start to try and process something like this. It is a hard subject to write and talk about, it conjures a lot of emotion even for those not directly related to it. Thank you for understanding and reading the poem.
One thing that the team are conscious of is spreading the word and inspiring women to be anything they want to be. Some of the team went on a school visit about mental fitness with ‘Harlequin Foundation‘, it was a real eye opener on how to approach mental fitness with children who had a hugely positive response which was great to see. Although interestingly, when the children were asked what job they thought the AFA team did, not one of them guessed firefighter and when they were told, there was a combination of disbelieve and awe. It really reinforced for the team that an element of what they were doing would help get the word out there that women can be firefighters too, and with these guys as hugely positive role models it makes me think we will see lots more female firefighters in the future.
Some of you might remember the other week when Nikki ended up liaising with ‘We Are The City’ and this week Nakita found out that the AFA team have nominated her as a ‘Rising Star’. She is truly humbled and moved by this nomination; take a look at their website for previous winners and learn all about the 2020 process; https://risingstars.wearethecity.com/
This was also the week I was announced as Official Blogger for the AFA Team! Genuinely so excited and absolutely love hearing and writing all about what these guys get up to. I am in total awe of their determination and dedication to the cause and I can’t wait to see where the next few years take us. The drive to show and inspire women that we are strong together and that we can be anything we want to be makes me feel so proud to be a part of this team.
Tune in next week to find out how the Scotland trip went; I mean skiing, walking and a beer or two, what’s not to love?!