I am a 35 year old mother of two, who works part time in the event industry and has recently decided to take on a challenge. I would say I'm a fairly lazy person so this has come as a surprise (especially to me) that I'm taking this on...
Last week was a chance to have a bit of a rest which turned out to be just what I needed. Early on in the week I made the grave mistake of wearing my new boots to walk to work and half way there I had a blister. OUCH. I then decided that I couldn’t possibly do the walk in June, I’d never be able to find footwear that were comfortable by then, that’s it, cancelled! It was quite an overwhelming feeling of despair and a total overreaction I know but things suddenly felt very hard and out of reach. Luckily I had my mechanical analysis with the lovely Emma from Supafoot Cheltenham on the Friday (a week ago today) and by the time I met with her I’d rested and my blister was beginning to heal and sme positivity had returned.
Emma was fantastic! She really knew her stuff and gave me loads of tips, advice, more physio and footwear suggestions. As I’d suspected a change of footwear overnight was recommended (and what I’d had in mind) but it does mean getting myself yet another pair of shoes and wearing them in. She thought my boots were a good fit (on paper), showed me how to lace them up properly (I’m 35, you’d think I would know how to do this for myself by now) and to persevere a little with them to see if I could make them work. If I still keep getting blisters in a few weeks I’ll have to throw in the towel and act fast getting another pair but if everyone can keep their fingers crossed I’d be most grateful. I’m hoping to get my trail shoes (my day pair) this weekend as I need to get them walked in but ideally I need to have walked a long way first so that my feet are in their sweaty swollen state (luckily shop staff). Emma condemned my old walking boots (but I’ve not yet thrown them away – I just can’t!!!) along with one pair of trainers and my converse. As a result of my visit I’ve bought myself some magic blister prevention pads as well as some compeed plasters and the aim is to prevent the blister in the first place so we shall see how this weekend goes!
As well as my podiatry appointment I also visited Susie again for some more InterX treatment for my niggles and tight muscles. I did a lot of swearing during the treatment but left feeling looser and much more comfortable so it was definitely worth it. I’m trying to keep on top of every ache and pain before it turns into anything major and so far so good especially as from now things start getting harder. Tomorrow I’m doing a long walk (possibly longest so far as long as I don’t run out of time!) with my lovely friend Izzy who is joining me for a section, followed by another on Sunday and that’s pretty much the pattern my weekends will take from hereon in. I’m trying to bear in mind that this is temporary and normal (?!) life can resume in July but fitting everything in is going to be a struggle. As well as walking (ideally 3 training walks a week plus usual commuting, school runs and dog walks!) I’m increasing to 2 gym sessions a week where possible alongside being a mum and wife. The trick is to take one week at a time and to allow priorities to shift on a temporary (sometime even weekly) basis. Izzy and I are going to do the section of the Cotswold way that I wont get to do during the Challenge (The whole route is 100 miles) and we’ll do it as part of my training a bit at a time starting at Chipping Camden. I’m looking forward to it!
Wish me luck for the weekend; I’ll update instagram to keep you posted with the ups and downs! Fingers crossed the rest has done me good and the boots aren’t too painful…
Technically I’ve walked 500 km this year so far but let’s not get bogged down in the detail! I was very pleased to have hit the 500km mark on the last day of February, it made it nice and tidy!! Given that my mileage is now steadily increasing I wonder if I’ll make it to 1000 before the end of April?! We do have the Easter holidays during that time though so it is possible my weekday walking might decrease for a couple of weeks but we’ll see.
On the whole the training is going pretty well. I am keeping to my schedule, sometimes exceeding the distance, managing a gym session most weeks and still feeling pretty motivated HOWEVER it is starting to get tougher. The longer the walk the tougher mentally it is, physically I’m doing ok but walking alone for hours is hard. Today I left home at just before 11 and got home about 4pm; I was out for 4 hours 53 minutes and moving for 4 hours 12 minutes of that time (thanks Strava). I did 13 miles which isn’t even a quarter of the final distance, so the challenge still seems pretty massive. I met a few dog walkers along the way to chat to occasionally and then when I was feeling pretty low I came across some people I knew and that really helped to boost me. I stopped to change my socks and chat, giving me a much needed break and after walking with them a little way I was ready to face the rest alone again. The last few walks have really demonstrated to me how much company lifts me and so I need to enlist some walkers to join me occasionally, even if it’s only for a small section as it helps so much!
I was very tired today and not properly fuelled and that too is something I’m going to have to turn my attention to. Early nights as well as good meals and snacks are a must moving forward especially before the weekend. I’m hoping to start fitting in 2 gym (weight training) sessions a week soon but I have to say, it is getting difficult finding enough hours in the day and days in the week!!! I am very much looking forward to longer days though as heading out for an evening walk will be much more appealing.
Things I’ve learnt so far: Sock changes are needed every 5-7 miles to prevent the onset of trench foot, I couldn’t do this without the support of my family, weeing outdoors is liberating, sweets are my best friend, I’m overly attached to my old walking boots, I find it hard to drink enough water, baths are amazing (technically always knew this), I need an 8 day week, maybe 9. My body can do more than I think it can and I have some INCREDIBLE friends xxx
So, it turns out you can wear the wrong knickers for a walk. Who knew! Over the past few weeks I have gotten very picky about what socks I’m wearing and now my choice of pants is becoming a ‘thing’ too. The more I walk and the further the distance, the more I’ve discovered how different materials affect how comfortable I am. I’ve gotten particularly specific about my choice of socks if I’m walking anything over a few miles. To an outsider it might look like I’m wearing the scraggiest old socks ever seen but they will have been picked with care and purpose. I’m still wearing two pairs every walk (in fact I always wear two at home), it’s a habit that began last year and I just haven’t managed to break it but as it seems to be working for me, I’m reluctant to change! My theory is that the outside pair rubs against the inside pair instead of against my skin. I’ve not suffered with any blisters at all yet so as I say, it’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. I do need to do some sock shopping and have been recommended a few types to try so will get on to that soon given that it’s March next week already!!!!
Underwear is a newer consideration. Comfort is absolute king and anything even slightly on the small side can get really uncomfortable after 6 or 7 miles. I had to do an emergency knicker change this week which if I’d not would have resulted in serious injury!! Equally anything baggy can feel annoying too so there is a careful selection process on big walk days. I also experienced my first bit of heat/sweat rash today after my longest walk to date which was pretty unpleasant and something new. The bath was even more welcomed after my 12.5 miles and sudocrem was my friend.
In other news my boots have suffered catastrophic injury this week. Possibly after a run in with some cows and thick mud which found me scaling gates and metal cattle pens to keep safe and from being caked in more mud (check out my instagram for a comedy video). The right has got a significant tear and although I haven’t given closer inspection yet (they are still layered in mud and cow poo), I suspect it’s not the only hole. I was intending to get some new boots as well as trail shoes for the event as I thought mine might not be in great shape by June but I hoped I’d be able to slowly break another couple of pairs in and didn’t want to say such a sudden goodbye to my trusty pair that have served me so well over many hundred miles. I will have a little memorial for them (date to be confirmed) and any donations can be made to Sue Ryder 😉
Hypermobility sucks. For anyone that doesn’t know what it is, it’s essentially pronounced flexibility caused by lax ligaments. My ligaments are a bit ‘looser’ than the average person and this means that all my joints are less stable and I’m more prone to injury. My muscles have to work harder to keep my joints from moving more than they ought to and dislocation is common. Luckily for me, I’m not too bad on the hypermobility scale and it has thankfully never knowingly happened to me although there are times where my fingers, thumbs and hips feel sort of like they’ve ‘popped’ in and out which is pretty unpleasant and is possibly where they’ve moved beyond the range of motion they’re meant to!
After a little trip to the Osteopath this morning I’m all taped up and with a new physio programme to boot. The very knowledgeable Dan at Body Dynamics Health gave me lots of exercises and advice to take away, as well as taping up my ankles and knees in order to give my joints a bit of help over the weekend. I’m not very good at doing my homework if I’m honest, unless I’m constantly reminded. But luckily I’ve just discovered that the app he provided me with sends me reminders and I’m one of those people who like to tick boxes and do not have any numbers against any of my apps on my phone so it should definitely help!
The weather has been glorious today and I’m already looking forward to my weekend walks. I’ve got a long one planned tomorrow although I’ve not actually thought about where to go yet and then I’m heading to the local hills on Sunday with Jas (who is doing the challenge with me) and my lovely friends Izzy and Karen. Bring it on! (Hopefully my legs will stay attached)
One of the biggest struggles I can already foresee is something that other people I’ve spoken to don’t seem to find an issue. Going home. Now please don’t get me wrong, I love my home! I love being in it, especially in my pj’s on the sofa, I love spending time there with my family and making it a lovely, comfortable place that other people are to happy spend time in too. I would much rather be at home than pretty much anywhere else, I never tire of my family nights in, tv remote in hand. However, when I go walking I love exploring new routes, seeing new things and essentially heading off on an adventure with no clue of where I might end up. This is one of the more appealing things about the long distance walks I’ll be doing in a couple of months time; heading out for the whole day with a backpack full of snacks, finding new footpaths and hopefully meeting family or friends along the way or at the end for some pub grub or a hot drink. What I don’t like the idea of, is having to loop back either retracing my steps or just coming back home on one of the many paths I walk most days of the week. I don’t know why this seems so hard to me but I just don’t enjoy treading the way I use all the time, it’s dull. I don’t even want to walk any of the Cotswold Way to find out what’s coming, I’d rather it be fresh and exciting (my teammates disagree with me on this).
I listen to music and various podcasts when I walk which does help to keep me motivated and helps the time to pass quite quickly (I must get a battery pack to prevent my phone dying on me!) but even with this, I still don’t like the journeys homeward. Walking with other people will probably help, but I think it’s a mental battle I will just have to work on myself and a mindset I will need to change with a bit of work and practice! Hopefully some of my longer walks will take me places where I will meet the family for some fun somewhere or a friend for a catch up (then a lift home!) but the shorter ones I’ll have to learn to ignore the negativity making the last leg harder than it ought to be.
This week has been a bit of a struggle anyway. I came down with a cold on Tuesday, not a particularly terrible one but enough to zap my energy and make motivating myself hard. I think the realisation of the time commitment to this challenge is also sinking in and despite doing really well with my training so far, the thoughts that this is just the beginning and the walking is going to take longer and longer every week seems quite daunting too. A couple of events got me through the week though and I’m still going to have completed over 40 miles over the past 7 days. I hit my 200km (walked in 2019) mark earlier in the week and due to wanting to celebrate this with a particular friend, I needed to hit it at exactly the right time in exactly the right spot to be where she would be. It meant a lot more miles Monday and Tuesday than a ‘standard day’ but I did it and it felt good. We also had snow this week and so Friday which would normally be my ‘long walk of the week’ day was a rest day (having said that after the school run x2 and walking up the hill to go sledging I still ended up doing over 5.5 miles!!). I decided though, that as the snow was due to fall all night Thursday and into Friday I would rest, allow my body to fight the remainder of the cold virus and cuddle up with Pepper, catching up on recorded tv in front of the fire. It was bliss. Sometimes you just have to listen to your body and give it a break. Having not walked yesterday, I did my scheduled 7 miles today instead, it was hard to get my head ready for it and it took a few miles for me to find my mojo but I completed it and am glad to have ticked it off for the week. Now I’m ready to cuddle up with my dog, children and husband for the rest of the weekend. There’s no place like home.
So, I’ve racked up a very reasonable 42 miles this week and there are bits of my body that are starting to say ‘hey, what’s all this about?’.
I’m currently sitting on my sofa assessing the things that are beginning to niggle/ache/not feel 100% and there is more than one. I have a long term shoulder injury which if I’m not regularly going to the gym aches all the time; day and night. It’s very frustrating and although I didn’t think it would be an issue for walking, I can confirm that it is. Luckily I restarted my weekly gym (weights) session this week and so I am hoping that in a few weeks my shoulder will start to feel the benefit and stop being such an annoyance. I noticed a couple of small blisters this week after my long walk on Friday but they aren’t sore and don’t seem to be causing any discomfort yet so hopefully they’ll bugger off quickly. P.S. the vaseline is going well; I’ve remembered EVERY day so far!!!
I’ve had the odd niggle in my knees and hips too, but nothing I’m really concerned about; just a sign of increased usage I think and nothing I wasn’t prepared for. I’m hoping that in a week or two my joints will get used to being used so much and they’ll toughen up! Aside from feeling a bit delicate physically, mentally I’m on top of the world. Walking honestly does absolute wonders for your mental health; I haven’t any specific mental health issues as such but boy do I feel amazing from just walking more. I feel more capable of positivity for a start, it’s just easier to be happy and cope with problems. Also I think I’m sleeping better as I’m physically tired which I’m sure in turn is more restorative. In short I would urge anyone struggling emotionally, to get out and just walk, enjoy lungfuls of fresh air and the nature all around us; you won’t believe how much better you’ll feel from such a simple pursuit. Do it!
Today was my first ‘official’ training walk; as in one I had actually planned on doing, and one that didn’t involve stopping for a chat. Or a cuppa. Or a massage. It was an easy (ish) 6 miles with the toughest section being the scramble up a bridle way from Prestbury to reach the top of Cleeve Hill. The usual thoughts of ‘I’m tired already how am I going to manage 100 km’ came pretty early on but once I’d reached the top I was buzzing and excited (exaggeration?) to just keep walking. We didn’t meet a soul on the majority of our walk so I enjoyed a sing song (provided by a playlist my sister had made of childhood music we listened to; Peter Gabriel, Crash Test Dummies, Queen, Yes and so on). And I appreciated the views and dramatic sky. Oh and tried not to think of all the crime programmes I watch where there’s always a body in the woods.
I remembered my bag this time AND wore a more appropriate amount of clothing so although I’d stripped down to a t-shirt at the top of the hill, I had something to carry everything in! I explored a new footpath or two; one of which had been diverted and, with my basic navigational experience, didn’t manage to find the diversion and had to fight my way through a small wood and clamber over a wall to reach the lane again.
At the top of the common I was saddened to find a lot of rubbish and am considering taking bags (and extra people) up there at some point to try to clean it up a bit (anyone game?). Every time I walk, I curse myself for not bringing a bag to collect rubbish, I may try to start as every little would help I guess and you never know I may inspire others. I can’t really believe people still just dump their litter, it’s mind blowing!
My back is on the mend although not 100% yet but I’ve no major walks planned this weekend so it’ll get a bit of rest. I did have a couple of niggles in my right leg today for a bit. I tackled that by lunging along for a while (looking like a serious weirdo) and stopping to complete a bit of stretching; which seemed to ease it and by the time I was down the hill it was feeling normal; Something to watch but I know a bit of weight training will probably help me out!
Once home a large cup of tea and a large piece of gingerbread was on the menu followed by some sitting down and a hot bath, any excuse!
Intrigued? Good, hoped you would be. Whilst I’ve got your attention, if you haven’t spotted it, there is a link to my fundraising page on the right hand side of this page —————————————————————————————–>
Even 50p will be gratefully received and get me to my goal but of course I do realise it is January (aka the poorest of the months) PLUS you CAN help without parting with cash by simply sharing my blog, commenting on here or instagram and generally offering support during this crazy stunt I’m attempting. I’m grateful already to everyone who has gotten behind me so thank you and apologies for the cheeky introduction.
Today after some advice from a seasoned ultramarathon-er and a chiropodist I got myself the biggest tub of vaseline I could find to start softening up my feet. Softening my feet is the polar opposite of what I was imagining I’d need to do. I had a plan of practically being barefoot at every opportunity especially outside, around the house, nipping down to the shops etc… to get them nice and tough ready to face the miles but apparently you can get blisters UNDER the hard skin. O M G. Can you even imagine?! These can be slow to heal and incredibly painful and prone to infection (bleugh) so not something I’m aiming for. I have zero skincare routine; those of you that know me will be aware I do not use moisturiser, face wash, make up… and so getting used to routinely slathering my feet in vaseline every day will take a while. Luckily I’ve come up with the genius plan of putting the tub into my sock drawer so that I see it every time I put socks on and do it then. I’m not just a hat rack my friends!
Training begins properly this week, as have my walks home from work so I’m feeling re-energised and ready to get going. So much so that today I managed to accidentally walk 9 miles. Wasn’t part of my plan, it just happened – the benefit of being a one car family and me not having it during the day! So that combined with an osteopath appointment means that this evening I’ve had to treat myself to a hot bath and am now sitting with a hot water bottle on my lower back as it’s *slightly* tender. I suspect that over the next few months there will be a fair few aches and pains to share with you but it’s all part of the experience I think and finding out how far I can push my body and where its weaknesses lie is sort of interesting. Hopefully I’ll make it out of bed tomorrow, if not I’ll send smoke signals for supplies!
If you happened to be anywhere near Prestbury and the hills beyond today, you may have heard me warbling as I walked. I am part of a lovely choir called the Everyvoice choir in Cheltenham and in less than two weeks we have a show (two actually) at the Cheltenham Town Hall to raise money for Sue Ryder as it happens. As I was seemingly all alone hiking up the hill I decided to take the opportunity to practise and try and get the words under my belt; I probably scared some wildlife away but it did feel good to be starring in my own sound of music.
I did however learn a few things on this particular walk. 1. Layering up is tricky in the winter. The temperature was about 1 whole degree so whilst it was pretty nordic, once I was striding uphill trudging through the copious amounts of mud I did not need the two pairs of trousers, thermal vest, two jumpers, ‘sleeping bag coat’, scarf, gloves and hat. And carrying most of it over my arm was also not ideal. Usually I take a rucksack out with me but for some reason opted not to so 2. Always, always take a bag. 3. Thick mud is VERY hard to walk through and as it sticks to your boots it adds to the weight on your feet, not a lot I can do about this really but a handy stick came in useful for trying to scrape the worst off and as the weather improves (eventually) mud will hopefully be less of an issue! 4. When you carry stuff over your arm you tend to drop some of it regularly and have to retrace your steps several times. It’s annoying. 5. There are so many lovely walks around Cheltenham and I’m excited about exploring them.
From enjoying the odd hilly dog walk somehow I’ve got myself signed up for an 100 km walk. How?! The company I work for (First Choice Conference & Events) takes part in a charity challenge every year, it’s good for team morale, fitness and all whilst doing our bit for charity which is really nice. The majority of the challenges tend to be running based, something I don’t do. I have zero interest in running, never have and I doubt I ever will and I would struggle to get excited about or motivated for a run. I have so far managed to dodge most of the running challenges (I’ve always had a really good reason mind!) but I did complete the zombie challenge a few year ago – basically me dragging myself around a 5 km course mostly screaming and focussing on not peeing myself whilst zombies chased us. The other team challenge I’ve taken part in is the Everest challenge; colleagues and I climbed to the height of Everest as a team on the Malvern hills. This meant going up and down the same path repeatedly until we reached the equivalent height. It was pretty tough and mentally challenging; as climbing the same bit of path roughly 12 times was gruelling but I discovered that in such circumstances I was able to conjure ‘grit’ from somewhere and just ‘get it done!’
Next year (2019) I knew it would be my turn to once again take part and so I got searching for an event. I searched for walking challenge and ping – I found the Ultramarathon Cotswold Way Challenge. 100 km from Bath to Cheltenham across the hills without stopping. Non stop people. No sleep. Just one foot in front of another for 100 km. Now THAT’S a challenge!
Now of course there were other options; walking a shorter distance for a start, but we’re fundraising for charity and I figured it would be easier to raise serious money doing a crazy distance. So many people run a marathon so walking that distance just didn’t seem enough of a challenge (never mind that I personally have never even attempted a half marathon or done even more than a few hours walking. Minor detail…) There was also the option of camping in between but doing around 50 km, attempting to sleep in a tent and then do it all again the following day did not seem appealing. I am imagining there is a whole world of pain awaiting us after 50 km of walking and to stop and have our bodies seize up only to have to get it moving again seems a horrible idea. Best just to walk through the pain and sleep deprivation I thought! So the whole 100 km straight through is what we’ve opted for; I’m excited and motivated for the challenge if not a little terrified (I did not sleep well the night after officially signing up!).
Over the past few months I have increased my walking and averaging around 30 miles a week with the exception of Christmas week and the weeks either side – I was ill the week leading up to Christmas so barely did anything and next week I still have the children off school and may not get in my normal mileage. However I am using this time to get my head in the zone and plan my training. So far I’ve set up my fundraising page and have raised a good amount, and begun this blog. Next is to write out a training plan which will include gym sessions and detailed walks (where I’m going and when and how far). I don’t want to have to think and plan my walks every week so thought it best to get it all down on paper so that I can just get on with training. Most of my weekends will be taken up with me walking so I need to plan around the girls activities and plan walks where my family can either join me for a bit or meet me at the end for lunch etc. I’ll probably put a shout out every week in case anyone fancies meeting me for a cuppa along the way or to join me walking for a bit; I would like this to turn into a social opportunity too as well as perhaps inspiring some more future walkers! So, I had better stop procrastinating and get on with this plan, I’ll post again once I have something to update you with. Thanks for reading 🙂