S2 E3 Annie Brooks: Swimming, Triathlon and Races with Partial Seizures (FULL TRANSCRIPT)


ANNIE: Yeah, there’s so much you can do there. I mean, we did an amazing hike to the Hollywood sign. That was incredible. So we got up at sunrise, hiked up there, and got to see Hollywood and Los Angeles from the top, and it was just-- You know, people don't often think about that. And sometimes it is a case of doing a bit more research and looking a bit further into a place. And you can find there’s adventure everywhere.


FRAN: Hello adventurers. I’m Fran Turauskis and welcome to today’s episode of Seize Your Adventure. Before we begin, I would like to thank my Patrons for helping to support Seize Your Adventure through patreon.com. This month, I have my first patron at the Adventure Advocate level - so that’s $10 a month - and at that level you do get a shoutout on the podcast. So thank you very much to Mark T, aka my dad, and my Mum.

My parents are definitely my biggest fans. And it is fitting to give them a shoutout today because this special episode is coming out on my 31st birthday!


So those of you who are familiar with the podcast will know that today, my 31st birthday, was going to be the end of my 30 at 30 challenge. I was attempting to do 30 different sports and activities over the past year. And I have to admit that I have failed. I did not finish what I set out to do. In the end, as with many of the best laid plans, I ran out of time and money, and then the pandemic put an end to anything else. But I ended up ticking off about 16 of the sports I had planned. And I am really proud of what I have done over the past year. I will go into more detail in the future, but for today I wanted to acknowledge that I’m not brushing it completely under the carpet. But it is something which I-- I took on a bit too much, essentially.


Somebody else who has had an exciting 12 month plan and, is doing slightly better with it, is today’s guest. Annie Brooks is a blogger and Youtuber from an award-winning blog called Tales of Annie Bean. Annie’s writing and videos cover fitness, travel, lifestyle and (of course) adventure!

Annie was diagnosed with epilepsy back in 2012, and she has complex partial seizures. So a lot of her blog journey has been about learning to be active with the condition and learning to recognise these seizures. And back in September, she decided to take on 12 challenges in 12 months to raise awareness for epilepsy. And some of these were BIG challenges; we are talking about half-marathons, ultramarathons, and a couple of triathlons. And she also chose a few challenges that were more mental challenges, because they were connected in some way to previous problems she’s had with epilepsy.

Whilst her ‘12 in 12’ has been put on pause, for obvious reasons, Annie has definitely opened up the conversation about epilepsy with her challenges. So of course, I wanted to be part of that conversation. So here it is: my chat with Annie Brooks.

FRAN (to ANNIE): This is going to be a great conversation. I’ve been looking forward to this for ages. [LAUGHS]


ANNIE: Yeah, me too! Do you know what, I was thinking the other day, “We've been talking about this for ages. And we haven’t had a chance to”.


FRAN: Your blog was how I came across you, essentially. I think just typing in epilepsy and adventure doesn't bring up very much at the moment, so I think you came up fairly quickly on there. I'd like to head back to the start of your journey a little bit and just talk about how you started off with the travel and the lifestyle blog.


ANNIE: I started as a fashion blogger. Everyone laughs at this because I am so unfashionable, it's ridiculous. Started as a fashion blogger, and then realised that so wasn’t me, so started branching out into other areas. I’d just got into triathlon, so I started writing about my running, and started finding that more people were interested in it, and I thought, “Maybe I should kind of talk about this a little bit more”. I started talking about that and then realised, “Actually, I love travel as well”. So, added that into it and slowly phased out my terrible fashion blogging days. And, yeah. I just started talking about it a bit more and that kind of encouraged me to do more as well because I wanted to share that you can see all these amazing places and do all these amazing things, really.


FRAN: Yeah. And you say that you’re not into the fashion, you didn't do very well with that. But I have to say, looking at your blog and your website, I do always admire what you're wearing when you're out doing things. I am absolutely like-- just will chuck on all of my old stuff that's about five years old, and shoes that are falling apart and things. And you're always quite pristine and well put together. [LAUGHS]


ANNIE: I'm glad how that comes across. I don't think I've got out of gym wear for the last three weeks.


FRAN: But it’s very nice gym wear.


ANNIE: I am quite lucky with that, so yeah.


[BOTH LAUGH]


FRAN: So talking about going into the travel side of things there. You've written about quite a lot of places on the blog now. Is there anywhere in particular that you would say is your favourite place? The one that you would say to people to go and visit if you have the opportunity.


ANNIE: Okay. So, if I'm looking on a sort of global scale-- I think If you read my blog or you know anything about me, you'll know - well, you’ll know this - I absolutely love California. I'm a huge fan of the area. Sad to say, I was actually meant to be flying out there in two days, but because of, obviously, the current lockdown situation, that's not happened. But I would definitely say California’s one of my favourite places, because there's so much to do in that state. You can do three board sports in one day, if you wanted. You could go to Big Bear to go snowboarding, you could go to Venice for skateboarding, or you could go surfing in Huntington Beach. And, it's the active, outdoor lifestyle - there's hikes available, you can go horse riding. There's just so much. I could talk about California for hours so I won't bore you. But I would definitely say California - if you're going to go anywhere, that is the place to go. And then, UK-wise. That's really tricky because there's a lot of places I really like in the UK. Now I’ve been put on the spot, I can’t think of which one’s my favourite! I mean, I guess I really like hikes and stuff, so... The Lake District, I’m always a big fan of, and it’s sort of a go-to for camping. I mean, we did a wild camp in Angletarn on my birthday, which was fantastic. I think we did that two years ago now. So I'd say it's around there is one of my favourite places to go to kind of get off the map a little bit and just go and enjoy a bit of outdoors.


FRAN: But hearing about that side of California is quite nice, actually, because it's not a state that I'm familiar with. I've never been there and I don't really know as many people out there. And you quite often think of California as that-- it's just the beach side. You get surfing and that's kind of it. So to hear about the other side of things...


ANNIE: Yeah, there’s so much you can do there. I mean, we did an amazing hike to the Hollywood sign. That was incredible. So we got up at sunrise, hiked up there, and got to see Hollywood and Los Angeles from the top, and it was just-- You know, people don't often think about that. And sometimes it is a case of doing a bit more research and looking a bit further into a place. And you can find there’s adventure everywhere.


FRAN: So now that you've mentioned that... Obviously I always ask people so I think this is a good place to do it.


[ANNIE LAUGHS]


FRAN: What does adventure mean to you? What do you think of when you hear that word, ‘adventure’?


ANNIE: Adventure is a personal, personal thing, obviously, To me, it's about getting out and having a go. I mean, really, it is about fresh air and freedom. That's more of what I call adventure. It’s being outdoors. You know, whether that’s on your bike, up a mountain, in the sea. It's something outdoors and appreciating nature at its best. That’s adventure to me.


FRAN: Well, you started off with this really lovely travel blog. It's always gonna be a draw for me, anything that's travel related. But you decided to start using that blog as well to talk about your epilepsy. You did a very personal story about your epilepsy diagnosis, which was just lovely to read, the full process of it. And I'm sure that a lot of people would-- it would resonate with them. What made you decide to do that post? What made you decide to kind of veer away from what people were reading to something that was different but needed in a different way?


ANNIE: I actually started in 2015. I did a YouTube video on complex partial seizures. So that's when it started, but I didn't really do anything on my blog. And then I decided I needed to be brave and talk about it. I don't know what it was. I'm not sure what kind of triggered me to think, “Let's do this!”. But, I did and I felt like this massive weight - it sounds really bizarre - was off my shoulders. Everyone now knew that I have epilepsy, and that's fine. I just really wanted to tell people because I couldn't find this information, when I was going through diagnosis, on this kind of epilepsy that I was experiencing, I felt like, “I've got this platform here. People are reading my blog for other reasons. Let's branch out and tell people this journey and my story so then they don't feel as isolated as I did when I was going through it myself”, if that makes sense? And so I felt like it was my job. I needed to do this.


FRAN: Yeah. Thank you for doing it as well, because I think you're absolutely right. You hit the nail on the head with talking about the different kinds of epilepsy. That's certainly something that I found with, well, learning from other people because my epilepsy is a bit more stereotypical as it were. It’s what people think about when you hear the word ‘epilepsy’. So learning from other people like yourself where there are different types of epilepsy, there are different types of seizure, and how you have to kind of manage those or live with those in a different way. You kind of say it felt like you needed to do it - it felt like something that was needed in the world. You also, around about the same time, started doing the triathlons. And was that for an epilepsy charity in the first place?


ANNIE: Yes, my husband--it's completely my husband’s fault [LAUGHS]. He's the triathlete. He started it off and he did an Ironman, which is crazy. So he did an Ironman and he was like, “Why don't we get into triathlon? Why don’t you give it a go?” And I signed up for, which obviously everyone knows this one, it’s the Blenheim Palace Triathlon. And I signed up in 2014. And I felt like-- I was just starting to feel more confident about having epilepsy.. And I thought, “Right, okay. I'm going to do this for a charity”. And I did it for Epilepsy Research because I felt like there needed to be more research into it. And I thought, “Well, these are the people to help give money to”. I don't normally do any charity sort of stuff. But I just wanted to do one race that I could give back to a charity. So I trained and I did Blenheim Palace Triathlon, which is a sprint distance. Yeah, I did that for charity and it was amazing. And then I found that I loved open water swimming from it.


FRAN: You say it’s one everyone knows. I have to say, I didn't know it until I read about you doing it.


[BOTH LAUGH]


FRAN: I'm not a triathlete. I think I said that to you before. It's something that is very out of my depth, literally.


ANNIE: You say that [but] I'm going to get you into one! You’ll do one with me at some point.


FRAN: I will. I will do one. And I have started-- I was gonna be doing one in May. I did decide before it kind of got cancelled to pull out of it because I wasn't-- surprisingly the swimming side of it, I would have been okay with, I think. But I wasn't confident with the cycling aspect of it because they weren't going to close the roads down.


ANNIE: Blenheim would be a good one. I think they cancelled it this year, and it's been postponed. But that one’s a great one because it's closed. It's all within the palace.


FRAN: Swimming is obviously something that, “You have epilepsy. You shouldn't be swimming”. How did you approach that in terms of-- did you speak to a neurologist about it? Did you know anybody else that was a swimmer, or were you just a confident swimmer anyway?


ANNIE: This actually stems back to that triathlon. I used to be in the water all the time when I was younger. And I think it's just one of those things that, as you get older, you either keep swimming or you kind of stop, and I sort of just stopped. And I couldn't do front crawl at all. I barely did breaststroke. My husband spent time with me in the pool, teaching me how to do front crawl. I did that triathlon and literally was hooked ever since, and I realised I didn't ever want to do a pool swim triathlon. I don't know why. I was just like, “I'm not doing it. I love the open water”. So I spent a lot of time dedicated to getting into open water and feeling confident in the water. It sounds a bit big headed, but I do actually feel really confident in open water. Obviously, where epilepsy’s concerned, because people do get a bit like, “You shouldn't be swimming. You've got epilepsy. What if you have a seizure?” Granted, that's always a risk. But everyone's different, and I get feelings if I know I'm not in a good place, or if I'm having a wobble. I know if it's gonna happen, so I wouldn't swim. You know, or I swim with somebody else. Well, I would always swim with somebody else anyway. But it's just about being a bit--erring on the side of caution.


FRAN: I think that confidence is so important because that's one thing I've certainly found. There are aspects that I'll go, “I'm really confident doing that, so I'm not all worried”. And there are others where it's brand new to me, so suddenly anything that could be a risk is suddenly 10 times riskier in my head than it needs to be [LAUGHS].


ANNIE: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I must admit, this race that I was supposed to be doing - the Ironman Oceanside - was gonna be my first sea swim. Now I must admit, I was slightly nervous about this. But I’d just travelled to Costa Rica over Christmas - sorry, over New Year - and during that time, I did some sea entry and exit training just to get past that confidence issue. I knew I just needed to get on and do it, but-- there was no other way of me doing it. So I had to try and get out there and make sure I ticked it off.

Otherwise, I would have built up in my head to be worse than it was - if that makes sense - which I do think a lot of people do anyway.


FRAN: Yeah, definitely. And it's certainly something that, like I say, with the swimming-- I think I was a very nervous swimmer when I was younger, way before I got diagnosed with epilepsy, so swimming has always been a little bit of a thing with me. I do not like putting my head under the water.


ANNIE: [LAUGHS] Sorry, the only reason that I'm laughing is because my mum is like that. My mum just will not put her head under the water. She's just never done it since I was-- sorry!


FRAN: No!


[BOTH LAUGH]


ANNIE: That's just-- I've never seen my mum put her head underwater while swimming. Whereas I'm like my dad, and we’re underwater all the time. If it's not right for you, it's not right for you. It’s totally understandable. It is quite scary.


FRAN: But I would say there's ways to adapt to quite a lot of things, even if you are feeling a bit unconfident about it. Like you said, with the sea swimming going and doing it somewhere where you could practise getting in and out. Just building up that confidence in a slightly different way is so important, I think,


ANNIE: Yeah, definitely. I would say, from an open water swimming perspective - okay, so a lot of people, they'll start off in the pool. Especially with a triathlon, they’ll start off in the pool, they’ll do the smaller triathlons, and then they'll be sort of looking to go, “Okay, what can I do next?” So some of the bigger races are open water. And it is intimidating to start with because you like, “I'm getting in here. I can't hold on to the sides. What do I do?” Well, first of all, your wetsuit is quite buoyant, so you're floating anyway, pretty much. There are other ways of doing it. You can get a tow float, so it's essentially like a float that clips round you. So you've got that. It’s there if you start to feel like you're struggling and you’re kind like, “Oh, I need a break. This is hard”, you've got that to hold onto. So you’ve got that as an option. I'd always suggest-- some other tips would be… You’d obviously go to a specific place where you can do open water swimming, but you can join on with a beginner group. There's so many more people getting into open water swimming, which is fantastic. Most places are putting on beginner sessions, and so you'll go out together, so there's more people together. That's a big, big, big thing for confidence with open water.


FRAN: Yeah, I can imagine. I can imagine.


ANNIE: So they're the things - I know you’ve not asked for that [LAUGHS]. But I’m telling you: these are my tips for confidence!


FRAN: Yeah, hearing you speak about it, I'm there going, “Oh well I-- No, I mean, that sounds good”. You make it sound good and easy, so let's go and [LAUGHS]


ANNIE: No, exactly! It is about-- I mean don’t get me wrong, when I first started I was nervous. I didn’t just leap in there because 1) it’s freezing [LAUGHS]. It’s not always freezing - I won’t put you off.


[FRAN LAUGHS]


ANNIE: I was nervous to start with, completely. You know, and it is just about, “Oh, swin to that first buoy and back. Okay, let’s go to the next one”. It is daunting not having the sides, and that's what freaks people out. But there are things you can do and it’s just slowly building it up.


FRAN: Yeah, thank you. Beautiful. Let's give people a little bit of context to your story and you doing these triathlons and things. I think we mentioned briefly that the type of seizures you have, they’re mostly simple partial seizures.


ANNIE: Yep.


FRAN: Can you just give us a little bit of background in terms of your diagnosis, how your seizures were presenting and how you found out and were told that you had epilepsy?


ANNIE: I was diagnosed in 2012. I must have been having what we call as “episodes” for maybe four years and they started to get progressively worse. But I had no idea what they were because if you experience it... because you're still awake, you just think it's part of, “Oh, I just feel a bit of an odd”. Do you know what I mean? But they started to get progressively worse. And what I was finding was I was swallowing a lot, my hand would just suddenly like, motor off - so it’d be just one hand and it’d get really fidgety - and I'd have a sort of a deja vu feeling, and then it would be extreme fear. I feel like - it sounds so dramatic - but I just feel like I wanted to die because it was so scary. And this was going on for ages. I went to the doctor's quite a few times and they just kept saying, “You’re just having panic attacks”, or “It's anxiety”, or “You're depressed”. There was all these things.


It was actually one of these fellow fashion bloggers, funnily enough! You know what it's like when girls all chat in the toilets [LAUGHS]. And I got chatting to this sort of fellow fashion blogger. I met her that one night and opened up to her. She said to me,, “Do you know what? I experienced exactly the same things, but it turned out to be epilepsy”. And she said, “You need to go and see your doctor and tell him to send you to a neurologist”. I'm really speeding through this. But, I went to the doctor and I said, “Look, if you send me to a neurologist, if I'm totally going out on a tangent here, then we can look at the antidepressant route. Because they were really trying to push me onto that, and I'm sort of a firm believer in, “Don't take something unless you get confirmation that that's what it is”, if that makes sense. And then I went to a neurologist. I even played down my symptoms, and he immediately said, “You're experiencing partial seizures”. And he was like, “You can't drive anymore. I need you to stop driving”, which was-- and I just cried. And even now I see the neurologist and he's so funny. He's always like, “Oh, you're the girl I made cry”. And I’m like, “This isn’t---this shouldn’t be entertaining to you. Yes you did make me cry. I’m fine now!”.


[BOTH LAUGH]


ANNIE: I think I cried because it was like relief but not, at the same time. I wanted it not to be something I'd imagined. But then, at the same time, it was so much emotion built up for so many years. It was my EEG that showed up epileptic brain waves, and that was kind of the confirmation that I’ve got epilepsy.


But, I mean, it had been going on for years. I’m just flashing back now. I mean, me and my husband worked a ski season and I remember I had to do one of the talks, like the intro talks. I was really nervous about doing it. And, do you know what? I’d had a seizure - which now I know what it was - midway through. I’ve got no idea what happened - I think I repeated the same word over and over again, you know like a record had stuck [LAUGHS] because I couldn’t-- my head couldn’t catch up with my mouth. There was all sorts of different situations I can look back and go, “Oh, my God. That was epilepsy. How did I not know that?”. You know, it’s so hazy. That’s the problem. Even now, I second guess if I've experienced something because I'm like, “Hang on, did that happen?”, because everything is such a blur. I think because you - with partial seizures - because you don’t pass out and you’re still there, that's half the problem, I think. And I think a lot of people actually struggle with that. It's like there's a short circuit in your brain for however many seconds, and then it reconnects and it's like, “Oh, hang on. What happened?”.


FRAN: Yeah. And I think what your story goes-- well, your story shows so many things. It's very, very telling that the importance of speaking about it, like you said when you started talking about it on YouTube and blogging about it and doing it not just for yourself, but for other people to have a bit of a touchstone to it. And your entire diagnosis stems to you having a conversation about epilepsy in the bathroom at an award’s ceremony!


[BOTH LAUGH]


ANNIE: I know! Isn’t that hilarious? You can’t make that up really. I’m like, “How did that happen?”. I feel like it sounds really - again, another dramatic statement - but I feel like I met her for a reason. It was like I’d got to the brink of - you know, people are talking about this more and more - but I'd actually got more depressed because I felt like I was stuck. But it was the epilepsy that was making me depressed because some people do get down after a seizure and I was having them all one after the other because I'd be so stressed and so worried about it. But the fact that I met this girl who was telling me about it made me realise that, eventually, I need to have more conversations about this. I don't want anyone to have to go through what I have. And I think, had I have known more about epilepsy, I perhaps wouldn't have had to wait so long to get diagnosed.


FRAN: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. How does it physically affect you? Do you feel drained after a seizure? Is that something that you’ve kind of noticed the physicality of it?


ANNIE: As many other epileptics experience, your seizures sometimes change over the years. I have a complete combination now, depending on how intense they are. So if it's a really hard one and not a nice one - if it ever is nice - but it’s a more intense seizure, then I will need to rest for a lot longer. I get migraines after a seizure normally, so I do tend to have to rest. I feel very drained and I can feel not really myself for a good few hours, sometimes it can take days. It really does depend on what kind of a seizure I have. And I mean, this is self diagnosis here, but I must admit, I feel like I have a combination of the simple partial, complex partial, and absences. And obviously more recently I've started having more nocturnal seizures, which is slightly frustrating. But I do feel very much like I have to sleep afterwards.


A lot of the time people look at you and they think, “Oh, you're fine. Nothing's wrong with you”. And, whilst I'd say 80% of the time I’m absolutely fine. we constantly have to adjust our lives to cater to it. Like if I know I'm gonna have to be up late or up early, I've got to make sure that I have plenty of downtime. Exercise is potentially off the table because I'll burn out. And burnout and getting tired then causes me to be more susceptible to having a seizure. Or putting myself in too stressful situations... There's all these things that you have to, sort of, constantly deal with.


FRAN: Have you found at any point that doing a lot of exercise, or this kind of fairly intense training that you're doing for things like your triathlons and your 12 at 12 - which will go into in a little bit - have you noticed any difference in terms of the the types or the amount of seizures you have, either to the positive or negative?


ANNIE: With regards to exercise, I think I'm just actually really aware of how much I can and can’t do. Like your body would anyway. You know, if you do, I don't know, three training sessions in one day and they're all intense training sessions, your body anyway, regardless of whether you’ve got epilepsy or not, is gonna feel it. So it's kind of just the same way, just perhaps making sure I get, you know, an hour extra sleep, because I've done more [and] managing it that way. I'll be honest, I haven't necessarily felt any difference because I'm very much aware that that could happen. Things that I do find are out of my control are stressful situations because I can't control them. It's those that seem to trigger my epilepsy more so than the exercise, which is great because I like the exercise. That’s fine! [LAUGHS]


FRAN: Would you say the exercise helps with the stress?


ANNIE: Yeah. I think it's because your mind is elsewhere. I don't know if that's what everyone else feels or not - I'm only talking about my situation. But I do find that if I'm focused on something else, I'm not worrying about feelings, or worried a seizure might happen or, you know, thinking about anything else. I’m focused on what I'm doing. And I do a lot of-- so it might come across like I do a lot of just swimming, biking and running for triathlon, but I actually have made plenty of space in my workout timetable for stuff like yoga and mindfulness, and those things as well to try and balance it out a bit. So, not just constant cardiovascular, “let's go for it!” sort of exercise, trying to mix it up a bit.

Exercise isn't a one size fits all. So if you don't like running, that's okay. There's plenty of things that you can have a go at or try. You know, sometimes people don't like the fast-paced exercise. You can still get a good workout from a variety of options. Cycling: you don't even have to go fast or have an intense workout. You can just go for a nice bike ride. So there's a lot of things you can do, but I do find that - as long as you’re safe, obviously (you know, ideally cycle with somebody, make sure people know where you are) - you can do all sorts of exercises safely and enjoy them. I think you’re kind of taking yourself away from overthinking, and I think having something to divert your attention elsewhere, I definitely think really helps.


FRAN: We're in lockdown so - we’ll come on a little bit in terms of how that’s affected your bigger plans - but how are you keeping yourself a little bit active at the moment whilst you’re essentially stuck indoors most of the time?


ANNIE: I am very lucky. I have got a dog and the dog needs walking. Some days, we'll just go for a nice long walk. Other days, we've gone for what I call the “dog jog”, which is a combination of running and walking the dog, so we’ve done a few of those. And then [I’ve] gone back old school and done some aerobics classes [LAUGHS]. Not your Jane Fonda style ones - kind of like your body attack and body combat, those sorts of ones. And then [I’ve] done yoga classes. And then... I've actually got a turbo trainer. Your own bike that you cycle on is clipped into this turbo trainer and this programme called Zwift is an online, virtual ride. So I could essentially get some of my friends to meet up with me for a virtual ride [LAUGHS] so we all can ride together. I’m decorating as well, so that's keeping me active as well. I'm trying to just do as much as possible to, you know, keep my fitness levels up. I'm just kind of adapting, shall we say.


FRAN: Let's talk about your 12.at 12. Can you just explain to me where the idea of 12 at 12 came from? And can you run down the-- what you've done so far essentially? What ones you’ve completed?


ANNIE: 12 at 12 came and again another-- you know what? Actually saying this. I'm realising my husband has a lot to answer to, because this was his idea! He got me into triathlon and now he’s actually got me into doing 12 in 12.


So the 12 in 12 challenges came from-- I’d actually been at the Keswick Mountain Festival last year. I did the Adidas TERREX 10km race there. So I started, did that at the festival, and my husband said to me, “Why don't you do something bigger about epilepsy? You know, you've got a conversation going, you get emails globally”. He said, “Why don't you go bigger and talk about it more to show that people with your condition can still live a happy, active life?” “Sure! I don’t know exactly what I can do”. So the next month, I sort of started the ball rolling.


I didn't want to just do one run after another run after another run. I thought, “If I do a few that are kind of testing me”...sort of some mental barriers, I guess? I thought, “Actually, this is important for people who’ve got epilepsy because these are things that will test us”. So I added some of those in. We've put it on pause because of this lockdown that we've spoken about, but I started with the Lakeland Trail run - that was a 14km. I've done the Henley open water, mile swim. Challenge three was the Wirral Sprint Triathlon. That was a beautiful triathlon, by the way. That was amazing. Challenge four was a swimathon. Challenge five was the Skeleton Run at Beacon Hill, which was completely in the dark. That was one of the funniest things I’ve ever done; we had to run around with head torches on. It was probably quite a good thing because Beacon Hill-- I'm based in Leicestershire and Beacon Hill is a massive hill. You do not want to run up it because it's brutal. But, because you're in the dark, you don't actually realise how steep it is but coming down is the best feeling in the world. So that was fun. I then did an indoor skydive, followed by the Whitby Boxing Day sea swim, which was ridiculously cold.


[FRAN LAUGHS]


ANNIE: Then did a snowboarding lesson. Now, this was a mental challenge because that was referencing back to when I did that ski season which I told you about. And I didn't realise that I was having seizures whilst I had a snowboarding lesson and so it kind of tainted it for me. So I thought, “Right, let's do a beginner snowboard lesson.”. And by the end of it, I was turning and I loved it. So that was one of the challenges. And then my ninth challenge was the Brighton Half Marathon, which - if anyone heard about that - it was that very windy weekend. Yeah, so I did the half marathon, that was with-- I ran with Charlie from The Runner Beans. So she joined me there. And that was amazing, and I loved it. And then lockdown happened, and the others have been on pause [LAUGHS].


FRAN:Do you have a favourite challenge that you've done of those ones?


ANNIE: I'd probably actually say the Brighton Half was one of my favourites. That was really hard. So I’m not-- I am quite competitive. I was gonna lie and say I wasn’t. No, I am competitive.


[FRAN LAUGHS]


ANNIE: I can’t deny it. Anyone will tell you I am. So I had previously done, I think, two half marathons before it. We're talking years ago. I did the Cambridge Half Marathon, and I think I did the Nike Run to the Beat. And, if you’ve ever read any of my blog posts, the Nike Run to the Beat half marathon was the one I had a seizure in without knowing. It took me two hours 40 [minutes] to finish that one. So I said to myself, I was like, “I need to get a sub two hour”. So I’d got that goal in place and Charlie was running with me. And then the wind happened.


[BOTH LAUGH]


ANNIE: Oh, my goodness. And she said to me, she was like, “This is gonna be hard. I hope you do realise this. I don't know how we're going to get to the sub two”. I was like, “I need to get this sub two. It will drive me nuts if I don't get it”. In the end I did two hours and 31 seconds and I have never pushed so hard in my life. But she said to me, she goes, “You know what, you lost time because of how much wind there was against us. You would have totally got that”. And I was like, “In my mind, it’s kind of a sub two”.


I feel like that was a massive achievement because I I worked so hard. I joined a running club which was a big step for me because I get a bit nervous about - I perhaps don't come across like it - but I do get a bit nervous joining new things like that.I joined a running club and was training so hard for it. So I felt like that was a big achievement because I could see how much progression I’d done and that was really rewarding. And also because, like I mentioned, I’d previously had seizures running, and it’s only running that has triggered seizures with exercise. Touch wood, it’s never been anything else. So I was a little bit worried about running a certain distance, because it was the same distance as when I’d had a seizure in 2010, and I was like, “I hope I'm gonna be okay”. I was absolutely fine. So I'd got over a mental barrier, as well as a physical one. So that's why that one means the most to me, I’d say.


I mean, the others are just, you know-- when I was just reading that list out, I can't believe I've done all those things [LAUGHS]. I’m just like, “Oh my goodness!”. I mean - I’m trying to think of another one. The other one I’d say was really quite a big ‘wow’ was when I did the Wirral Sprint Triathlon which was the third challenge. That was a bit of a wake-up call. Oh, I hope I don't put everyone off from open water swimming! But basically people were swimming over top of each other at the start [LAUGHS]. I was like, “This is a bit crazy”. But I got on really fine. I was like, “I think this is just the norm. Everyone seems okay with this. Let's just go with it”. And I did a really good swim. And I was like, “Wow. I didn’t panic!”. There’s so many things I’m so happy about that I've done in all these challenges. The Brighton one is the one that I feel, at the moment, the most proud of.


FRAN: So at the moment, everything has been put on pause. You were saying though, there’s three challenges left. If you want to just say, first off, what what you had planned and what you think you're gonna do now?


ANNIE: So I had planned for March to do-- it was actually with Sian from The Girl Outdoors. I was trying to get people to join me on a few bits if they wanted to towards the end, and Sian said that she would do this challenge with me. I was going to be kayaking Windermere end-to-end. A little bit of something different, I like kayaking, let’s give this a go. It's not under the running race or anything like that. So that was gonna be that challenge. And the next challenge was going to be Ironman Oceanside 70.3. That got cancelled and then we couldn't fly to California. So that happened. And then I was going to be finishing with an ultra marathon, and that was at the Keswick Mountain Festival. But then, unfortunately, that got cancelled too. So that happened. Another thing out of my control - couldn’t do anything about it.


I've now decided my final race is gonna be in September. I've got August, which is the London Triathlon, and that’s--I'm doing the Olympic distance. So it's up from a sprint. And then, to finish, I've just switched my Ironman Oceanside place. I'm gonna do Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3 in September. And it lands on my birthday! So that should be great. I don't know if many people would call that a great birthday present or not - I'm not sure. But that'll be how I’ll end and will be in California.


FRAN: That’s a memorable birthday, to say the least.


ANNIE: Yeah, definitely!


FRAN: A lot of the stuff you're doing are organised races. Do you tell the organisers that you have epilepsy? And how do they react to that if you do tell them?


ANNIE: Actually, I did contact the Ironman Oceanside about this because I’d read somewhere that somebody told them that they got epilepsy and they had a kayak go out with them.


FRAN: Oh, really?


ANNIE: She got partial seizures, but she let them know and they let a kayak go with them. So I will always try, where possible, to let them know. I think I've got to a point now where I'm not embarrassed by it. If it happens, it happens. But I will say that I'm pretty much controlled, and I'm aware of when it's happening. But I always let people know.


[MUSIC]

FRAN (in studio): As you could probably tell, speaking to Annie was so lovely, and I’m so happy that you get to hear our conversation. There is something very reassuring about having another woman with epilepsy using sport and travel to share awareness for the condition. And I’m glad that I managed to get this one out this week because it is National Epilepsy Week and, of course, it is my birthday.


If you do want to make my birthday really awesome - if you are in a position to support me financially, and you do find value in the work that I do with Seize Your Adventure, please consider becoming a patron on Patreon. So, head to patreon.com/seizeyouradventure and it explains that in more detail. You can become an Adventure Ally for as little as $3 a month and there are various levels of support all the way up to Producer level which is $250, which is about how much it costs me to make an episode.


And if you can’t support me financially, don’t worry, I still see you and appreciate you. Please do keep sharing the episodes around, let me know what you think, and let me know where you share so I can thank you personally.


Now before the end of our conversation, I did ask Annie what she would say to someone if they had just been diagnosed with epilepsy. So I will leave you with those words and, until next time, Safe Adventurers everyone!


ANNIE: Just know that - it sounds cheesy - but you are not alone. There are people out there that are experiencing exactly what you're experiencing. You're not going crazy. It passes with help of medication and fantastic neurologists. These things can get more controlled. I mean, I was experiencing up to five a day. I really struggled. And now I'm able to do so much, even with this condition. So it does get better. It really does. You know, I am doing all these adventures and stuff that...I'm still being careful and you can live a full, adventurous life. Hopefully, we're both promoting that, between us! [LAUGHS] You can still have a lot of fun with life. It's scary to start with. This is just the first step and you will get to where we both are now. And that’s probably what I would say to myself, if I could, back then.


END