#ChallengeTim | Status Update

So on May the 30th, after some deliberations, I challenged myself some things before the end of August. Today is the 19th, let’s see what’s done, and what’s still to do.

  • Drop 1 stone in weight and keep below that weight for at least a month. If I slip above it, the month restarts.

Status: Ongoing, but very much on track.

I’ve been largely doing what I said I’d do, and have adopted a 4 hour body style low carb diet. I’m vegetarian, so that was mildly interesting, but it turns out that avocados, feta, halloumi, omelettes, olives, lettuce, salad dressing are even more awesome than previously imagined and I’ve made progress I’m very happy with.

I did learn that it’s important to take differences in physical activity into your diet. As I largely do limited exercise, my diet works quite well but when suddenly doing serious hiking, I’ve learnt that I need to take that into account and adapt it so that I have sufficient energy to bounce up up and down the hill.

I think I’ll make it to my target weight by the end of August, and I don’t think holding it for 30 days will be that difficult, but we’ll see!

  • Climb something high.

Status: Complete.

Read about Mount Toubkal.

  • Run 70km over 7 consecutive days.

Status: Incomplete, but to be attempted soon. Hopefully. Hmmm. Lack of serious commitment to training may prove and issue.

  • Swim over 100m across open, cold water without assistance

Status: Incomplete and unlikely to be attempted until September or October, until other swimming challenge is complete, or at least attempted. I don’t actually think it will be difficult, once I’m confident with the distance… Hopefully before November! ;)

  • Swim 30 consecutive lengths in a 50 metre pool

Status: Incomplete, and it doesn’t look like I’ll manage this before the end of August.

I’m hopeful that once I start seriously training though, it should be a piece of cake, but currently 30x50m or 1500m, in one go, is out of my reach (I can probably manage about 100m before my arms get tired). It’s simply about practice, with probably a few bits of technique tuning. :)

  • Do a 30 mile hill walk (try and include a good amount of up an down too)

Status: Incomplete.

It sucks a bit because I’ve been wanting to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks (with a ~4-7 mile extension), but lacked the opportunity to do it. I’ve also considered, several times, epic routes through the Lake District, but come to the conclusion that going for distance, in the Lake District, is a poor use of ones time there.

I suspect I’ll attempt Yorkshire Three Peaks in September, on a weekday, when everyone else is off the hills again and I can just focus on doing it.

  • Get driving lessons and pass my driving theory test.

Status: er fail. Despite getting so close, I still am faffing round getting my provisional licence sorted. :(

So yes, some really great stuff, but also some stuff still to do! Let’s do this! :D

#ChallengeTim: Climb Something High

At the summit of Mount Toubkal
At the summit of Mount Toubkal

A few weeks ago as part of my ongoing campaign to challenge myself, I walked to the Mount Toubkal. At 4,167 m, it’s the highest Mountain in Morocco, and, in fact, North Africa. At 4000 metres, it’s a good deal higher than the next highest thing I’ve climbed – Ben Nevis (1344 metres) – the highest mountain in the British Isles.

To be fair, whilst this all sounds very impressive, I have to now put this all in perspective and explain why I don’t think it’s such a big deal.

Ben Nevis isn’t a very difficult mountain to walk up (by its easiest route!). It’s physically tiring if you’re not used to walking up things and that can be tough, but the main path is well made, well marked, relatively gentle and so long as you go slowly, the weather is good and you’re well dressed and determined you’ll eventually summit. It’s really that simple.

Toubkal isn’t quite that simple, but it’s close. There is a walk in from Imlil (or Aremd [2000 metres] where we’d spent the previous night), to Nehtmer where there are mountain huts and where most groups camp via a well marked, well trafficed (I mean, people, mules, goats etc!) path. From Nehtmer (3207 metres), it’s only about 2km/960 metres) away.

Think about that, Ben Nevis is 1344 metres and you climb it in one day, almost from sea level. With Toubkal you only have to do 960 metres on summit day, and perhaps 1207 metres the day before. Maybe think of it as two Ben Nevis’s on consecutive days.

Toubkal does have some challenges that Ben Nevis doesn’t: Altitude and Sun. On a lucky day, you might have an issue with sun on Ben Nevis, but on Toubkal, once the temperature gets up, it gets unpleasant. The altitude also starts to become noticeable. At “lowish” high altitudes like this, if you can expect a few things: you find it more difficult to breathe or you notice yourself being out of breath faster than you’d expect, and you’ll start to notice gentle signs that you’re high up. You can also expect to experience “gentle” mountain sickness symptoms if you’ve not acclimatised enough – in my case, mild headaches.

The cure to being out of breath is to walk R-E-A-L-L-Y slowly. The cure to mountain sickness symptoms is, well, in the short term, drinking lots of water. It’s a complex subject, but drinking lots of water makes a big difference. That was I think the only time I managed to completely drain my 3 Litre Platypus – everytime I noticed I had a headache, I drank. One of the other guys and I had quite a lot of fun singing acapella kareoke of popular songs on the way up this hill and noticed that, for me at least, the singing was keeping the headache at bay. I dread to think how much everyone else must have wanted to strangle us given they must have had rubbishy headaches and then had to suffer our rubbish singing.

To be honest, I don’t think “climb something high” was a very good challenge to set myself. Height in itself, is not necessarily very challenging, or very enjoyable.

I had a great time in Morocco, I greatly enjoyed walking through the mountains, I’m glad I reached that summit, but I don’t think the fact it was 4,000 metres high was what made it.

I’m going to consider this challenge done, but with a note to make sure that challenging things I do in the future are actually difficult, and don’t just sound difficult. :)


A few weeks ago, I asked for help working out some challenging things to do over the summer.

Approaching the summit of Cairn Gorm in Winter, Cairngorms, Scotland
Do something challenging!

Here are the 7 things I’m going to do by the end of August:

  • Drop 1 stone in weight and keep below that weight for at least a month. If I slip above it, the month restarts..
  • Climb something high.
  • Run 70km over 7 consecutive days.
  • Swim over 100m across open, cold water without assistance
  • Swim 30 consecutive lengths in a 50 metre pool
  • Do a 30 mile hill walk (try and include a good amount of up an down too)
  • Get driving lessons and pass my driving theory test.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That 7 things is rather unambitious for 90 days?

We’ll see how it goes, amendments may be made, suggestions are still very much welcome! ;)

I need your help: challenge me something!

Find a horizon
Find a horizon

In three months, I want to have completed 7 personal challenges.

I’m not too bothered about where the achievements weigh in on a global scale – I’m not trying to set a world record – just a “Tim record”.

I need your help to help me work out what to do. I’ve had a few ideas, some of them are ok, some of them aren’t so great. What do you think I’d find challenging?

A note: challenges have to be vaguely appealing to me – it doesn’t matter whether playing golf or BASE jumping are challenging, I don’t want to do either.


Other suggestions welcome

  • Complete a street marathon
  • Swim over 100m across open, cold water without assistance
  • Swim 30 consecutive lengths in a 50 metre pool
  • Drop a stone in weight and maintain it for at least 30 days.
  • Be able to do 50 sit ups in 5 minutes
  • Be able to do 10 consecutive pull ups
  • Run 70km over 7 consecutive days
  • Run 10km in under an hour
  • Climb up and down x000 metres in xxhours (how many?!)
  • Do a 20 mile hill walk
  • Do a 30 mile hill walk


Other suggestions welcome

  • Get baseline climbing qualifications
  • Get baseline kayaking qualifications
  • Get baseline windsurfing qualifications
  • Get surfing lessons
  • Go paragliding
  • Bake something new
  • Make a short film (must not be a documentary, music video or advert)


Other suggestions welcome

  • Throw two, 3 course, dinner parties
  • Perform two open mic nights
  • Prepare an entertaining 30 minute talk on notechnical subject and give it at two barcamps
  • Learn theĀ Melbourne Shuffle
  • Write a song for Youtube


If anyone can suggest technical challenges that are actual challenges, that’d be good.

  • Be able to deploy a 4 machine Magento cluster from a script (or systems provisioning system) with mysql master-master replication, Varnish ESI, local CDN, SSL, sane firewalls and low impact scheduled backups.


I’d quite like to have a travel section here, but I can’t think of anything that sounds appealing that’s a challenge. (I’m not a fan of “x countries in x hours” because it seems rather shortsighted, and liable to make sure you only see a bunch of airport lounges, in addition most “visitĀ this country” challenges seem to essentially be “spend some money”, which isn’t really a challenge – the challenge was getting the money or being a creative routefinder.)

  • Travel by as many different modes of transport as possible from A to B

So yeah, which 7 of these should I do? What should I do that’s not on this list?

You tell me.