Fan Fare

Brecon BeaconsRaising money for charity could be as easy as asking people to donate. But where’s the fun in that?

Brecon Beacons

the top of Corn Ddu

One of our gymnastics friends, Lloyd Bowen, works for Kidney Wales. They support families and people with kidney disease, raise money for research and help out with dialysis machines. Every year, they organise a Walk for Life. This year, our warrior trainer, Si Dwyer, would be leading it. So we knew he wouldn’t do something easy. We were right. It was a 12 mile hike around Pen Y Fan.

Naturally, we signed up. You’d think after falling for his ‘sign up to the Wolf Run’, we would’ve learned our lesson. Apparently, we still trust him when he says things will be fun.

Brecon BeaconsWe did it for one of our best mates, Andrew, who had a kidney transplant last year after suffering kidney failure four years ago. We knew nothing about kidney failure and poor Andrew was grilled about every aspect of it so we could understand what he was going through. So when the walk was suggested to us, we instantly accepted. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for him – we were even planning on harvesting some cheerleaders in the bid for the perfect kidney. But apparently that is ‘illegal’ and ‘morally wrong’. So we did the walk instead.

We had no idea how tough it was going to be.

Brecon BeaconsIt was originally scheduled for July but an electric storm cancelled it and it was moved to November 18th. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t moan about how cold it would be. A week before the walk, we had to buy walking boots, waterproof trousers, a base layer and a hat. Trousers caused an issue what with us being pixies. Apparently, 27″ is ‘short’. *Stares at our 24″ legs* We don’t think so. We insisted on buying Avengers hats in the kids section. No-one would out-hat us! We were all given a list of essential items to pack and suggested items. We packed everything on both lists and wore five layers plus our huge winter coats. We would not die of hypothermia on the Brecon Beacons. Not today.

Brecon Beacons

looking at the top of Pen Y Fan

We showed up with bulging rucksacks filled with all our kit, including first aid kit and ice/heat patches should anyone (ok, us) get injured. And also three skulls bags filled with snacks, ice blocks and drinks. They were heavier than our rucksacks! Brecon BeaconsThe Scouts would’ve been proud of us. As the wonderful philosopher, Fin Sheppard (from Sharknado) says “semper paratus.” Always be prepared. We were prepared for everything. Except bears. No-one expects bears. Especially in a country that doesn’t have them. Everyone else except Si and Bryn, travelled light, their tiny rucksacks looking like they only contained their lunch. It was a 9 a.m. start. We hate mornings. We hate people. There was about 17 in the group. We went and stood by ourselves.

Brecon Beacons

view from Pen y Fan

Then it began. Uphill, from the very start, all the way to Corn Ddu. Dear god that was tough. Thigh burning, breath stealing, chest tightening kind of tough. We regretted packing for the apocalypse. Part way up, our coats came off, but not for long. The higher we climbed, the windier it became. When you only weigh seven stone, being in high winds isn’t particularly safe. We kept getting blown over, even having to put our hands on the mountain to save ourselves. And we weren’t even at the top yet. Never mind dying of hypothermia, the winds threatened to throw us off the mountain to die in a broken heap and get eaten by sheep. That would be a low end for lives that haven’t seen many highs.

Brecon BeaconsWe reached the top and the views were spectacular. Si said this was the hardest part. Thank god. These are not mountain climbing thighs. They used to be – we climbed Pen Y Fan and Snowdon twice each before we were 12. Then we began the walk to Pen Y Fan. That was much easier! Still a bit of a climb to the top but nothing like what we’d just done. Half the group turned around at this point. We had no intention of turning around. Even if we had, Si had probably packed Scorpion’s (Mortal Kombat) Kunai, to drag our escaping arses back. People were having their photos taken by the sign at the top. Everyone crouched by it. We did one of our acro poses and other hikers were impressed. We would’ve done a more impressive one, but it was very cold and windy at the top and we didn’t want to risk being knocked down like a Jenga block. We stayed away from the edge.

Brecon Beacons10 miles left. We descended Jacob’s Ladder, which was very steep, so we took it carefully. Once we were down the bottom, the hike became incredibly easy and we strode along at a blistering pace, pausing only to take photos. We stopped at one bit to let everyone catch up and it was just as well because we were about to turn off. We had lunch at a beautiful reservoir, wishing we had paddleboards with us. It wasn’t windy in the valleys of the mountains and we relished the warmth and easy trekking.

It was about to come to a mountainous end.

Brecon BeaconsWe now had to climb back up. We were expecting the rest of the hike to be easy, like this part had been. We were at the bottom of the Beacons, so we just had to hike to the car park. We were in for a steep awakening. Rocky steps led up the next mountain. They were a bit too high for our tiny legs and we found this bit almost as tough as Corn Ddu. Brecon BeaconsAt the top, it was extremely windy and we had to walk along the ridge of the mountain. We are terrified of heights and the wind made it worse, though luckily, it was blowing us away from the edge. And onto the slight embankment. Si had Bryn stay behind us to look after us. This was definitely the most mentally challenging part for us. We really didn’t like it. But we eventually got to a flatter, grassy part, which was more pleasant to walk on. Though it was a slight incline that never seemed to end.

Brecon BeaconsThis final part we found very tough. We were tired, our shoulders burned from our rucksacks and lunchbags, our feet were sore and it felt like we had been walking for hours. Well, we had. Then we finally began the descent down Pen Y Fan. And that wasn’t easy! Walking downhill is hard on your feet and knees and it seemed to take forever. Near the end, we decided to run, as Si said it was easier. It was. And it meant we got down quicker.

Brecon BeaconsWe finished at around 4 p.m. We had been hiking for 6 and a half hours. Everything hurt. Si gave us all medals and we trudged back to the car park, which was quite far away, stopping to pick up litter other people had dropped. We’d brought a bag with us for this purpose (we do this every dog walk) but the mountain trails were remarkably free of litter and Si kept reminding people to leave the area as we found it.

Brecon Beacons

with the phenomenal Si Dwyer

We got back to the car exhausted, aching but with a sense of achievement. That was one of the toughest physical challenges we’ve ever done (second only to the Wolf Run) and we raised money for a good cause, which you can donate to here. Thank you to Si, Bryn and Lloyd for organising it. We highly recommend hiking around the Brecon Beacons. It’s brutal, but beautiful. And the views are absolutely worth it.




Cat’s first run

First off, some good news. We’ve had two short stories accepted for publications this week. One we can’t talk about and the other one we can. The Eden Project, which won third prize in the British Fantasy Society award 2016 has just been accepted by the Best Indie Speculative Fiction anthology! And we’ll get paid, plus get a copy of the anthology. We’re not sure when it will be out yet, but we’ll keep you updated. And don’t forget, our Horsemen of the Apocalypse novel, Bleeding Empire, will be out this Saturday! Its official launch will take place in Wales Comic Con, but you can pre-order it. UK. USA. Although we’ll be too distracted embarrassing ourselves in front of Pink Power Ranger Amy Jo Johnson at the con to properly launch the book. If you hear news of people being banned from the event because of asking her to do balance tricks, that will be us.snowboarding


Lynx learning to front side slip

And on to more exciting stuff. On Sunday, we went snowboarding for the first time. One of our gymnastics friends, Becky, wanted to do something fun for her birthday and put it to a vote – trampolining, swimming or snowboarding. Snowboarding won. We were excited. We’ve always wanted to try it. We’ve never even been skiing before. Our parents couldn’t afford it when we were kids and we can’t afford it now we’re adults. Plus we hate the cold, so a skiing holiday has never appealed to us. We can stay at home and be cold and save ourselves a lot of money. But this would be a group lesson and was surprisingly affordable.


Lynx making it to the bottom

We showed up at Cardiff Ski and Snowboarding Centre in more layers than an onion. It’s a dry slope centre, so we were worried about getting hurt. Plus, Cat tore her ankle ligaments last week, falling off the gymnastics floor, so we wanted to limit further injury. Yes. She tore them falling off a floor. Last week, we did the Wolf Run and only got a few bruises. Two days later, we did two hours of gymnastics. No injuries. At the end of session, she helps to put a block away, falls off the floor and tears her ligaments. Fortunately, she managed to get the swelling down enough to get a boot on, and once the boot was on, it acted as a brace, allowing her to walk without crutches. The sensible thing to do would have been to not go snowboarding, but it’s something we’ve always wanted to do and we didn’t know when we’d next get the opportunity. Besides, her ankle was fine, proving it was the right decision. Plus, it couldn’t get any worse!


Lynx doing a side slip

The instructor handed out boards by sizing them against us. He put one against Cat then gave it to Sarah C (you may remember her from our last post about the Wolf Run.) He returned with shorter boards for us. Cat “are we getting children’s boards?” Yes, we did. 35 year old women on children’s boards. We all headed out to the slope and had to decide which leg would go forward. It wasn’t about being left or right handed, but which leg was dominant, like which one you jumped off, or which one was forward in a boxing stance. Our fighting stance is left leg forward so we went with that. Having the left foot forward is known as snowboardingregular, having the right foot forward is known as goofy. Sarah C was


Cat doing a front side slip

the only goofy one ūüėÄ No-one was surprised.

After that, we practised moving the boards in a circle, bending them and jumping. Except the bindings on Cat’s board were broken so she couldn’t join in as her board was being replaced. Then we headed up the small red slope at the bottom of the dry slope. You had to walk with one foot on the board, dragging it behind you. That was tiring work! Never mind Cat’s torn ligaments, this action caused immense pain to her bad knee (it’s had 3 operations), as it twisted it. Sarah C had the same problem with her bad knee too. We all lined up and the top…and refused to go. Nobody wanted to be the first down the slope. We were all terrified! Eventually, someone volunteered and we all reluctantly took our turns. Our hearts were pounding as our anxiety went into overdrive. Would we fall? Would we go too fast? Would we be able to control it? The only thing we weren’t worried about was making fools of ourselves. These guys see us make fools of ourselves in gymnastics every week.


Cat landing on her arse

After we’d been down once and didn’t fall, we were slightly less scared the second time. That was until the instructor, Guto, said we had to stamp our back foot as we went down. Why? We’re not rabbits warning the warren of danger. Again, everyone was reluctant to go first. The third time, he wanted us to jump the board slightly. What? We were barely confident going down flat! Save the tricks for another day, sir! This time, Cat did fall, but not badly. She ended up sliding backwards down the slope like a starfish. Guto then said we were heading up the slope. Uh, no, we were just getting used to the little slope! We went up the slope and sat on the prickly white brush. We didn’t wear enough layers for that.


Lynx going backwards

We had to do what’s called Side Slip. Stand sideways on the board and go down the slope. This was it. This was where we would die. The younger instructor, Dom, told us all to show enthusiasm. It’s hard to be enthusiastic when you’re staring death in the face. Guto warned if we caught our toes, we’d somersault. We’re a group of gymnasts. Somersaulting would be the one thing we could do. Well, except us. We can’t land them. Again, no-one volunteered to go first. Luckily, Lynx had her phone with her and was able to capture all the falls. She was one of the few who didn’t fall.


Cat was better going backwards

Lynx went down really well, looking confident. At the bottom, Guto turned her and pushed her forwards. This was far less scary now we’d done the red slope. Then¬† it was Cat’s turn. She went too fast and nearly took Dom out, who was guiding her. Then she fell on her arse. She got back up, again nearly took him out and again fell on her arse. He eventually got her down the slope. We had another go. Lynx’s run went smoothly. Sam was really good at it. Sarah C fell over. Lloyd and Sean also kept falling over. Cat warned Guto she nearly ran Dom over. Then promptly ran into Guto, nearly sending him down the slope. He turned and pushed her at the bottom. She fell on her arse. As he helped her up, she assured him she was already injured and explained about the ligaments. Him “Should you be doing this?” Cat “Yes.”


how to get around

Then we did the side slip backwards. Lynx reckoned Cat would be better going backwards. We work weirdly that way. We had to roll over with the boards attached to our feet and shuffle into position. That was dignified! It was much less scary going backwards! Mostly because we couldn’t see the slope. Sarah C mysteriously managed to tumble over backwards. We each had two turns of this. And Lynx was right. Cat was much better going backwards and didn’t fall once.¬†Becky and Sam proved to the best at snowboarding and even managed the backwards side slip unaided.


how not to get around

We now want to go again. At first we were terrified and going forwards in the side slip was even scarier. But then we got used to being on the boards and the balance and we really enjoyed it. We want another lesson now before the fear returns! This is definitely a tick on our New Year’s resolution of ‘Try Something New’. So far, we’ve done an online Anatomy and Physiology course for aerial fitness, taken part in the Wolf Run, got cartilage piercings, tried a new gymnastics club (where Cat did her ligaments on our first night there) and have now gone snowboarding. And it’s only April!snowboarding

Wolf Run

The Wolf Run

l-r Lynx, Sarah C, Sarah F, Cat

We spent our Sunday cold, wet, muddy and smelling like a duck pond. No, we hadn’t been bog snorkelling. We completed our first ever 10k muddy obstacle course called The Wolf Run.

In November, we started warrior training with Si Dwyer, which is basically an hour of relentless exercise (weights usually) accompanied with colourful language and abuse. And that’s just from us. Si pushes us beyond where we feel we can go and he proves we can do it. So as his warriors, Si invited us to take part in The Wolf Run. As our new year’s resolution is always ‘do something different’, we agreed. Plus we’d seen the medals and Si said they were dressing as superheroes. We love challenges and obstacle courses, so this sounded like fun. There was one drawback – we hate running.

When we say we hate running, we mean that given the choice between running and being water-boarded, we would be offering our faces up for torture before a runner had finished tying their laces. But we agreed to do it so we forced ourselves to go out jogging two or three times a week. Our running friends said we would grow to love it. This isn’t like a marriage of convenience. The love didn’t grow. Our social media was filled with statuses about how much we hated it. We bitched, whinged and selfied our way through our torment. We mean training. We posted about how we were looking forward to completing the Wolf Run just so we could give up running. Si took us on a 3 mile run around Carleon to train us. We passed a cemetery as they were lowering a coffin into the grave and at that moment, wished we could change places with the corpse. Corpses don’t have to run. Si warned us about an oncoming car, but to be honest, getting hit would mean we’d have a rest if we were sprawled on the tarmac. We had to take a month off due to illness, so by the time the Wolf Run came around, we could only run for two miles without stopping. 10k is about 6 miles, so we were well off our target, but we’d run out of time.

Wolf Run

Lynx escaping the ash hole

We bought costumes – Lynx was Black Widow and Cat was Catwoman (the one from the comics). We decided to see if we could run in them before the big event and got some stares. The Catwoman hood with ears and goggles was a bit hard to hide. And the zip undid every time Cat ran. So a safety pin would needed for the event, or the poor runners would not only have to endure mud, but unimpressive boobs jiggling beside them like peaches in sack.

On Sunday, we got up at 6 a.m. and picked up our two friends from gymnastics – Sarah F and Sarah C. Sarah F was doing it with us, while Sarah C was there for support and to take pictures off us face planting in the mud. Sarah F was running as Supergirl, Cat was Catwoman and Lynx was Black Widow, which everyone at the run mistook for Catwoman. We got there at 9:40 and went to register. Our anxiety was now in overdrive. This was completely new and terrifying. And there were so many people! As one member of the team had dropped out, they allowed you to substitute a runner. Luckily, Sarah C happened to be wearing running gear and the next minute, she was signed up with an hour to go. Crazy woman.

wolf runThere was another team all dressed as superheroes, so we weren’t the only ones. Lots of people thought we were mad and that we’d get hot in our outfits. They were wrong. So very, very wrong. Everyone running at 11 had to do a warm up then we all crowded at the start line. And Lynx immediately had a panic attack. Thanks, anxiety, not being able to breathe right at the start of a 10k race is super helpful. Fortunately, having had panic attacks for 20 years, getting out of them is no longer a problem. We didn’t expect to hit the first obstacle so soon, but happily clambered over the hay bales. That’s where we lost the Sarahs, after helping them over. Then there was thigh deep water. That was it. We hadn’t had the chance to even build a sweat and we were already cold and wet. We stayed that way for the entire run. We didn’t warm up once and by the time we left the water, our fingers already hurt from the cold. It was not the start we’d hoped for.

Wolf run

Where we nearly drowned in the ash hole

We ran on, keeping to our pace, as Si had advised. He’d warned us that we may start running faster than normal, as we’d be all hyped up on adrenaline and excitement. We were feeling dread, not excitement, but we managed to stick to our slow jogging pace and for once, didn’t feel the need to race against alpha males. Thirteen minutes after we’d started, there was a muddy pond called the ash hole. We’d promised our sister that we’d stick together and twins don’t let twins drown alone, so we linked hands and waded in. It was a good job too, because the muddy ridge Lynx was on disappeared and she would’ve gone under, had Cat not been holding on. It was meant to be waist deep. Everyone else waded across, no problem. We quickly got out of our depth and had to swim. Si had warned us that when we got to the big lake, get in and when the cold hits, don’t panic and stay there for 15 seconds then swim. Because if the cold hits when you’re out of your depth, that’s when you get into trouble. But this wasn’t the big lake and we were already out of our depths. And the cold hit. Hard. We couldn’t breathe and couldn’t put our feet down. Honestly, we were scared. We’re very good swimmers but this wasn’t something we were used to. We had no choice but to swim as fast as we could for the shore, whilst feeling like we were suffocating. This was worse than panic attacks. Fortunately, there were ropes to pull ourselves up the other side. Then we ran across a field to get warm, but as the temperature was 10 degrees C, we couldn’t get warm.

There was a log wall which had a foot hold at the bottom and one near the top. When we stood on the bottom one, only our hands reached the top one, so we had to pull ourselves up and climb, which isn’t easy when it’s covered in wet mud. We hate heights. Our fear of heights is genuinely crippling. We can’t go above step 3 of a step ladder without going rigid. And this wall was high. Cat boosted Lynx and Wonder Woman from the other group of superheroes. We got to the top and a steward asked if we wanted help. Yes. This was fucking scary. He guided Lynx’s foot to the gap at the top then she climbed down and helped Cat and Wonder Woman. We then stayed to help another woman.

wolf run

water slide

We were so cold, wet and miserable that when we saw the 4k mark, we were disheartened. We thought we’d be at least over halfway. We were ready to quit. At 5K, there was another deep muddy lake called the mud sucker with a tree trunk in the middle to climb over. This water was up to our armpits. Then came more running, up a inclined field. We actually considered skipping the water slide because despite running for most of the way, by the time we reached it, we were shivering. You know that point of cold, where your teeth have chattered so much, your jaw locks. And we were only half an hour into the run. Cat’s broken finger was now in agony, due to the bandage being cold and wet. She couldn’t move it. By this point, we’d already decided we were skipping the lake, so we wanted to limit the amount of obstacles we missed. Wonder Woman advised us that as we were already frozen, it might be worth missing it, but if we’d regret that, then we should do it. She was actually concerned by how cold we were. We didn’t want to do it, but we didn’t want to feel any more like failures than we already did, so we went up. It was horribly high and you had to go down face first. We hate going down things face first, but there was no choice. Everyone else jumped on with glee. We stood there staring at it, wondering why the hell we were doing this. Suddenly, the medal and the free t-shirt didn’t seem worth it. We climbed up and slid down at terrifying speed. We crashed into the water at the bottom, totally blinded then ran like hell. Fuck pace, we had to get warm. We sprinted across the fields, overtaking all the other runners.

The Wolf RunOne of the obstacles we’d been looking forward to, was a rope up a slatted wall. We can climb poles easily, so figured it wouldn’t be a problem. It would’ve been fine, but rope burn on freezing hands was torture and we almost couldn’t do it. Not being able to bend a broken finger also added to Cat’s challenge. We forced ourselves to climb and we scaled the other side, our hands on fire. There were more muddy ponds and ditches filled with water to go through. There was probably about 1k woodland that we walked through. Not because we didn’t want to run (we were so cold that running became our favourite part), but because we couldn’t physically run in the mud without slipping. Everyone who was with us also walked, so we didn’t feel so bad. We saved a few people from falling over. When we got to the halfway point, people were standing around drinking and chatting. We ran on. If we stood still, we would’ve frozen to death. We had fun on a giant cargo net. The man beside us said “you really are Catwoman.” No, sir. Catwoman isn’t scared of heights.

We ran around the big lake. We couldn’t bear the thought of more cold water. We were gutted because we love swimming and thought this would be one of the easier aspects of the run. It would be a break from running.

wolf run

Cat escaping the ash hole

There were a set of tunnels under a log entrance, some of which had water in them. One didn’t. We queued for the one that didn’t. We love water, but we were sick at the sight of it.¬†By those tunnels, a woman was sat to the side in a foil blanket. We weren’t the only ones struggling with the cold. One of the tunnels was full of water. A runner said someone had gone through that one. Cat “bet it was Si.” Fortunately, we were small enough to waddle through the tunnel, saving our knees from the stones that lined it.

Cat discarded her bandage, her finger now slightly blue. Wonder Woman had given us tips on how to warm our hands. We reached the monkey bars and Cat stood on a crate to reach them. And still couldn’t reach them. After trying, we gave up and ran on. When we envisioned issues we might have with the monkey bars – we’ve done them once in our lives – being too short to get on them, wasn’t one of them. There was a slatted wall that had no footholds. You had to jump, grab the top and go over. We watched people do it with ease. Cat ran, jumped, grabbed the top and slithered down. The wall was about five foot five. We’re five one. The steward took pity, came over and told us to stand on his thigh. Next was giant tyres you had to run over. We loved those. We also jumped a tyre wall. Then we were faced with hills and more

wolf run

final lake

muddy ditches and hills. Those we could do no problem and helped pull others up.

With 1k to go, we reached another lake. To say we were disheartened was an understatement. We couldn’t run around this one, and if someone had offered to take one of our kidneys without anesthetic, instead of going in the lake, we would’ve asked which kidney they wanted. “It’s only waist deep,” the steward assured people. Yes, it was. For men. It was shoulder deep on us. Boob deep when we stood on our toes. Again, the cold took our breaths. And the lake just didn’t bloody end. Then we came to a climbing wall. It was very high but we found this easy. It was our favourite obstacle. Steward at the top: “careful when you climb over, cos of where the bar might end up.” Cat climbs over. “Yep. Right in the vag.” We jumped down hay bales the other side and slithered over more muddy slides and ditches. We ducked or climbed under tree trunks and went through more slippery woodlands. We could see the start line but the finish line was getting further away.¬† We swear they were moving it.

Crawling through another set of tunnels was fine. We even picked the smallest ones, to leave the bigger ones for normal sized people. We had to crawl under a metal cage near the end. A steward offered us a hug or a high five. Desperate for body heat, we willingly hugged a stranger. He said we were his favourites. Spectators started cheering us on. Finally, we were faced with the nutcracker. We had to pull ourselves up with ropes, climb a cargo net, crawl across the top and climb down the other side. Dear god it was high. We then had to climb down giant logs. One problem – they were too far apart for our tiny legs. One steward said it was further than it looked and we just had to stretch. Lynx stretched her leg as far as it would go and was still¬† too far away. Luckily a woman on the ground offered to help and held Lynx’s leg, guiding her foot to the log as she pulled herself closer.

wolf run

Lynx’s face says it all

Wonder Woman met us on the final part. She said she’d been keeping an eye out for us throughout to make sure we were ok. We thanked her for all her help and pep talks. She really was a hero. She even invited us to join their group for the final photo as we’d lost our group. We slithered into the final stretch of muddy water. Everyone else waded through. We had to swim for the finish line. But we did it.

The stewards all loved our costumes. One even yelled “go fight crime!” after us. Even the runners complimented them. We ran it in two hours. We thought we’d finish feeling elated, proud of ourselves and in a fit of euphoria, sign up for the summer run. We didn’t. We felt deflated and vowed never to do it again. We expected it to be a challenge but that we’d enjoy it. We wanted to enjoy it. We were so cold, our hands were extremely painful and this made the obstacles difficult. We couldn’t warm up. We shivered, shook, and some of our muscles were rigid from the cold. Especially in our faces. Our facial muscles seized and we could barely talk. Towards the end, the cold was so bad, our feet felt like we were running on ropes. That was when we could feel them. We spent most of the run forgetting what they felt like. We’ve never been that cold and we went camping in Whitby in three degrees! We didn’t expect to run much but we ran for most of it. We had no choice. The running was actually easy for us, which we never thought it would be. And while we should’ve felt proud for doing high obstacles despite our crippling fear of heights, we didn’t. All we felt was scared. We hated them. But no-one else had a problem with them, which made us feel worse. And we were hugely disappointed with ourselves -and still are- for not attempting the lake. We’d really wanted to do it. But after experiencing the suffocating cold of the first swim, we’d decided for our own safety, it wasn’t worth it. And we haven’t forgiven ourselves for it. Especially cos our friends did it. So we felt weak and pathetic after that.

Wolf run

Swimming for the finish line

We dried and dressed in our car, forgoing the cold hose pipes outside. We’d had enough of cold water. We texted our mum and rang our sister to reassure them we hadn’t died. Dear god there was mud everywhere – even in places mud had no business being. Our new car now stank of stagnant water and was covered in mud. As soon as we were decent, we went to wait for the Sarahs. We took big towels to wrap them up in for when they finished.

The Wolf Run

The rest of our pack. L-r Si, Plum, Lynx, Cat, Alex

Part of us is tempted to sign up for the summer one, either this year or next year. Not because we enjoyed it – we didn’t – but because we feel the need for redemption. We were disappointed in ourselves by how scared we were of some of the obstacles. And we feel we let ourselves down by missing out the lake. We trained hard for this. We took up a sport we detested just to do this. We hated running so much that during training, we would have panic attacks while we ran. We try to tell ourselves that we had to break through some serious mental and physical barriers to finish – hell, going to an event with that many people would’ve been impossible a few years ago – but all we can think of is where we failed. That’s how our darkshines work. Battling our fear of heights and keeping going despite how cold, wet and miserable we were didn’t feel like an achievement at all. It felt like a failure because no-one else had a problem with it. Everyone else finished smiling, laughing and looking like they genuinely had fun. We’ve had more fun during tooth extractions. And it turns out, the medals are only for Alpha wolves – those who do four Wolf Runs in a year.

wolf run


We are now considering going for the Alpha Wolf. We want those medals. But there’s one issue with doing it – we have to keep running.

wolf run

At the finish line

The road so far

Every year, our New Year’s Resolution never changes: Do Something Different. This year, we smashed it.

VeniceWe went away for our birthday in February for the first time, visiting somewhere we’ve never been: Venice. We rode Vaporettos, tried Gelato (yum) and pizza for the first and probably last time (ych a fi, that taste still haunts us) and went to an insane Asylum museum on a separate island. We deliberately got lost so we could explore every part of Venice. We went to Murano and visited the glass museum. Sadly we didn’t get to go to Poveglia, the plague island. Maybe next time…It was an amazing experience and we still miss it, even though the dogs wouldn’t come and say hello. Venice is an incredible place. The architecture, the canals, the museums (we visited 11) and due to going in February, there were hardly any tourists.Venice

SpainIn May, we went to Spain for the first time to visit our friend, Cinta. It was an unexpected holiday, but we’re glad we said yes. We also went to Gibraltar. It would’ve been rude not to, as we were so close. Fortunately, we didn’t get mugged by monkeys. That would’ve been a low point. We also learned to drive a left-hand drive car on the other side of the road. That was a terrifying experience! But we loved every minute of it. Particularly the vegan ice cream. We also visited the historic town of Ronda, which we meant we got to drive through the Spanish mountains.

We also did something this year that absolutely terrified us –¬† we started gymnastics. Our coach came up to us in Comic Con (Cat knew him from physio class four years ago) and said the magic words: “You know what will help you with polefit? Joining my gymnastics class.” So we did. A month later, because it took us that long to pluck up the courage to go. We’ve never done a forward roll, cartwheel or handstand in 34 years of living. Mostly, the fear of breaking our necks always stopped us from trying them. Most kids don’t have that fear, but we did. Now we can do them. Sort of. We can also do somersaults. Can’t land them though. We’re learning handsprings, backflicks, roundoffs, front walkovers, handstands on the beam, Aerials. Haven’t yet mastered a single one of them though but we’re persistent. We’re also doing Acro Yoga poses for funsies. Mostly we fail and face plant and ruin our coach’s prep work. We prove nothing is fool-proof. Starting gymnastics at an age where most people have retired, isn’t easy. Especially when we’ve never done it before and everyone else is much younger and better than us. But we’re conquering our fear and doing things we never thought we could do.It’s a very frustrating, soul-destroying sport that inflames our darkshines to the point we want to quit. But we’ve made some awesome new friends, in particular, two women, both called Sarah. We would’ve quit if it wasn’t for them.acro balance

paddleboardingPaddleboarding with fellow poledancers was certainly a new thing. We thought we’d be shit and end up in the water. We were actually pretty good! And we instantly fell in love with it, imagining ourselves as Olympic champions. Turns out it’s not a competitive sport. Oh well. Though a woman has paddleboarded across the Channel, so it could be a cheap way for us to get to France.

acro balanceIn November, another gymnast, Si, messaged us with the words “Warrior Training will help you with polefit.” Next thing we know, we’re in a gym in Caerleon running on a treadmill, lifting weights and pushing a monstrosity called a Prowler while Si graciously takes being sworn at as he increases our treadmill speed and adds more weights. Usually, people take offence when you flip them off, but Si just responds with “I love your fighting spirit.” This is going to be a brilliant relationship. During our first session, pushing the prowler up and down the gym nearly killed us. By our fourth session, doing it with 30 kg weights didn’t seem as hard. Then we went up to 40kg. In just four sessions our strength has dramatically improved. Now we’re going to enter something called the WOLF run. We HATE running! 6 miles of Woods, Obstacles, Lakes and Fields. But you get a cool medal and t-shirt at the end. They’re our motivations for doing it.Warrior Training

warrior trainingWhile poledancing is not a new thing for this year, conquering our fear is. Considering we used to be scared of being upside down, we’re now doing pole flips and drops and even spinning upside down! We’re loving the progress we’re making and we’re finally starting to look a little graceful! We did a routine to Marilyn Manson’s Killing Strangers that our teacher, Amy, devised and thanks to Hannah, we finally beat our nemesis move – The Superman – by flipping in to it. We don’t do things the easy way!

We also did something else¬† scary – starting our own radio show! It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but never had the guts or opportunity. Then our friends, Jack and Laura, started volunteering at Vitalize Radio in Torfaen. They suggested we get our own show, then Jack spoke to our boss, Dan, who loved our idea of a horror show. We now host The Graveyard Shift every Friday 7-9 p.m. We love it and talk all things horror. We even get to play our own choice of music, which means we have to upload it to the system, because whilst there’s a load of Beyonce and Little Mix, Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson are sadly underrepresented. Until now.Vitalize Radio


with one of our sets at Frightmare

In September we got a job helping to build a Halloween attraction on a farm in Gloucester, thanks to our best mate, Neen. We love Frightmare and visit it every year. This year we got to help build it! We spent our breaks patting the animals and threatening to ride the ostriches. And of course the three of us went along, dressed up, to enjoy the fruits of our labour. We loved every minute of it and even offered to pole dance at next year’s show. Halloween itself was spent watching a Burlesque performance for the first time with our other best mate, Andrew.


working hard at Frightmare

Getting a new tattoo counts as doing something different, right? We commemorated our love of poledancing by getting a poledancing fairy tattoo. The wings match the butterfly wings we each designed for our mum’s tattoo. While our broken raven tattoos represent starting to heal from twenty years of mental illness, the poledancing fairies represent the next stage of finally becoming comfortable with ourselves, with our bodies, and celebrating the enormous fear we’ve overcome since starting polefit. We would never have started gymnastics or warrior training if it wasn’t for polefit. We would still be refusing to expose any part of our bodies that isn’t our arms.

poledancing tattoo, gothic fairy tattoo,

Cat’s tattoo

We got our lips and ear lobes pierced. Now, we love getting tattoos. We get so excited about it. Piercings, we hate. We get so scared we nearly hyperventilate. It doesn’t make sense. So we decided to get it all over with in one go and get three piercings done at once. That was a load of agony we could’ve done without! But we don’t regret it and will hopefully get some new piercings next year.

poledancing tattoo, gothic fairy tattoo

Lynx’s tattoo


with our boss, Matt, and best mate, Neen, at Frightmare

And we’ve actually had a pretty good writing year. Well, the end of the year anyway. The start was shit, as always. We were asked to participate in a Dead Authors Death Match at Bristol Horror Con. We picked Poe, of course. And we did a reading of The Malignant Dead. Our horror story, Some Strings Attached was published by Burdizzo Books in the Reverend Burdizzo’s Hymn Book. Our travel article, Culture Shock, about our disastrous trip to Paris won second prize with Writing Magazine. A horror comedy, Pretty Vacant was shortlisted in the To Hull and Back competition and is out now. Another story, Hell’s Bells, has just been published in Australia in a Christmas horror anthology. Our first Australian publication! The Art of Dying was shortlisted by Crystal Lake and very nearly published. Deadhead has made it through to the second round of voting with Dark Moon Digest in America.

dressing up for Halloween gymnastics

ClownfaceWe also got work on an indie horror film, Clownface. We were hired as Costume and Set Dressers and also did the role of Second Assistant Camera, Sound, Runners, Props and Makeup. We get so nervous working with people because we’re used to working alone and we had to live with them. This was a major stressor for us but we coped. Even if we did end up Hulking out and screaming at people for constantly refusing to do the washing up. But from that, we were asked to write our own film. So we’ve adapted The Black Kiss from Romance is Dead trilogy and next year, we will become directors as we shoot it. We’ve also helped on our mate Dave’s film. Lynx got to die and Cat got to be a newborn demon and we helped crew it.

We’ve had some losses this year – our guinea pig, Reggie, and two of our cats – adopted stray Moussy and our beloved Warlock. And the year has ended pretty shittily for us in terms of finances, which has meant that our plans to spend our next birthday in Rome have gone the way of the Roman Empire. However, we’ve achieved a lot and next year we’re going to do even more. Or die trying. Either way.


All Aboard!

paddleboardingWe’re always up for new challenges so when our polefit studio owner KT invited people to a paddleboarding session, we signed up. And then googled what it was. Basically, it’s a cross between kayaking and surfing, where you stand on a board and use a paddle. Our first thought was ‘this will be so much fun.’ Our second thought was ‘we’re going to faceplant in the water.’ Our third thought was ‘we’re going to faceplant, smack our faces on the boards and the rapids will carry our unconscious bodies through the kayaking course’. (For non-anxiety sufferers, this is known as catastrophizing – always imaging the worse case scenario for every activity.) Despite us being utterly convinced this would end badly, we paid up. Though when the health and safety forms mentioned the possibility of death, images of our unconscious bodies floating downstream seemed suddenly plausible.

paddleboardingWe were excited. And then nervous. We met KT, her hubby and three other polefit ladies in the Cardiff International White Water Centre, ready for our session. We were a little concerned that the women’s wetsuits didn’t go small enough and hoped they wouldn’t put us in kids’ ones. Fortunately, they didn’t. But the wetsuits were too big for us. Cat had to roll up her sleeves into cuffs so they wouldn’t cover her hands. The good thing about the wetsuits was that they were plain black. The worst thing about the wetsuits was that they were wet. And the boots were wet. The suits we could cope with. The soggy boots was not pleasant.

paddleboardingWe squelched our way outside to retrieve our lifejackets then headed down to the cage. Sadly it wasn’t a cage for seeing sharks, but was where the boards and paddles are kept. Our guide, Dan, lined everyone up on the deck, shortest first. That’ll be us then. We practised paddling on our left side (straight stroke to go forward, semi circle to turn, forwards to reverse) then side stepped to the right and practised paddling on our right. It was really tough and we doubted our ability to move the boards. We were then taken to our inflatable boards. Dan said the guys needed the bigger boards and the smaller women needed the smaller boards. Unfortunately, some other women from another group who were bigger than us took the smaller boards, so we had to have regular ones.

We pushed the boards into the water and carefully climbed on. At first, you start off kneeling then once your confidence builds, you stand up. Dear god, your thighs get a good workout! We paddled around the small area, crashing into the sides, boats and other people. But we didn’t fall in. Though Cat inadvertently made someone else fall in. They were heading for a collision and she managed to turn at the last moment. He crashed into kayaks and fell in. LOL.


the swan is watching us

Then it came to standing. This is it, we thought. This is the moment we get dunked like apples at Halloween. We placed our hands on the boards, got to our feet and slowly stood. We wobbled, but didn’t fall in. The trick was to drop to your knees if you lost your balance or were heading for a collision. Again, we paddled around the small area, crashing into boats and other people. But we didn’t fall in. Our mate, Bryn, who was our photographer, was very disappointed.

paddleboardingThen Dan asked if we wanted to go out on the river. Why the hell not? So we left the training area and picked up our boards. This is where having the smaller boards would’ve been nice. We have short arms and legs. Having to carry the board under our arms meant they were almost trailing on the ground. And they were heavy. We lugged them to another area, carefully climbed on then paddled our way down the River Taff. It was really relaxing. We’d completely got the hang of it and felt totally safe and confident. Until a boat came and the wake unbalanced us. But we didn’t fall in. Lynx was almost knocked off by some floating plant, but swiftly dropped to her knees and avoided a dunking. If there’s one place you don’t want to swim, it’s the Taff. Rats frequent it then have showers so they feel clean.


future olympic paddleboard champions

We then started dreaming of doing this regularly. Or even buying our own boards and paddles and cruising down any water way we can find. They inflate so we could take them travelling. Hell, we could even form an Olympic team! We could be the first Olympic paddleboard champions. Turns out the boards are expensive and paddleboarding doesn’t seem to be a competitive sport. Yet…

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