So what did 2014 ever do for me?

The year 2014 of walking was better than I could have ever imagined. Not only did I achieve the Land’s End to John O’Groats walk, but I was sufficiently enthused to carry on regular distance walks and to take on another walking challenge for 2015. In fact, two – the Wight Challenge on 2-3 May and the much more sedate walk to Ventnor (which I promised to do if Sarisbury Athletic Cricket Club won promotion) which will be in July, now the fixtures have come out.

I haven’t calculated it but I must have walked well over 2,000 miles this year, including those statistics I now know only too well: 1,026 miles between 16 February and 29 April. Plenty of highlights there – eight months later the most abiding memories are the really tough day on West Highland Way (‘Loch and Roll’) and the torrential walk to Bath. But there were very few bad days – and enjoyed the visits from people who walked some of the distance with me – Pammy, Lorna and Paul (days 1 and 2 – Cornwall), Neil (day 14 – Somerset), Colin and Linda (day 23 – just south of Birmingham), Sheila (day 26 – South Derbyshire, about one mile of it!), Pammy (day 50 into Glasgow), Mark (day 52 – the first on West Highland Way) and Pammy and Dangerous Brian (days 72 and 73 – the very very north of Scotland). I will always be very grateful to my four Kentish friends who almost carried me through two and a bit days to Fort William and it was great to see friends I hadn’t seen for a while – Mik (lunch on day 26) and Critch (evening meal on day 31). Grumpy Matt also visited a couple of times. Also to the people who put me up for free – Monty and Sarah, Sandy, Carolyn and Graham, Joy and Dave, Sheila and Alan, Russell and Vicky, all superb hosts. Very very grateful for all that support and the phone calls with the ONS COOF meetings. Certainly the whole thing was a fantastic experience and still people want to talk to me about it!

Even more importantly, over £11 thousand was raised for SANDS from that walk and the ball has started rolling for the Wight Challenge. Not expecting such a lavish collection but if I can raise a bit, all the better. https://www.justgiving.com/Keith-Spicer2

I have heard others say they have been inspired to do their own things, and that is great. I was just as humbled by two people in hospital who said that my blog really lifted their spirits. 561 views on 29 April, the final day of the walk. Wow!

So a New Year is almost upon us. Wishing all of the regular and irregular readers of my blog a very fine 2015. Long day walks to come from me as the days get longer and lighter…….

The spectrum of pace and the quantum of distance

Cold again today, but a decent walk. Not the most energetic in the first hour or so, normally the time it takes to reach the entrance to Sholing FC from my house. More like 65 minutes today, so a mere stroll, as opposed to a proper steady paced walk. A bit nearer workmanlike down and over Itchen Bridge and then steady up Above Bar Street (including a more leisurely than normal stop for refreshment) and the straighter than straight Avenue stretch. I was concerned at the time and the fact that I had a dark fleece with dark trousers and that I wasn’t really wanting to be walking for too long in the dark. I had a couple of alternatives to improve my own safety. I could strip off to just leave my luminous orange base layer (both torso and shorts) so that no-one would fail to see me in the gloom. However, the safety might be compromised by lady drivers swooning so I instead kept on a full complement of clothes on and I turned, bewoolly-hatted, bescarved, befleeced and betrousered all in grey/black, right down Highfield Lane. Past the still relatively new Sainsburys and a long trawl up towards Mousehole Lane, West End Road, up Bitterne Road East, along Kanes Hill and then (it’s dark at this point) across the various roads surrounding the Windhover (Tesco) roundabout and then the last 2.3 miles I know so well, not far short of power-walking the first half of those just to show the traffic jammed traffic that they’re not moving at far more than walking pace.

How far is all that? Well I do use Google Maps to get a more precise measure but an initial estimate is taken from Spice’s Formula: D=3t+1, where D is the total distance walked in miles and t is the number of hours spent on the road. This also accounts for around 25-30 minutes break. Today, t=6 so I would expect around (3*6) + 1 = 19, but I don’t consider I was walking so fast overall as usual and I did have a 30 minute break (ok, no adjustment on that score) and I also mooched around The Works in Above Bar Street for a few minutes. So I would reckon 18 miles. Bah! Google Maps says a smidgen over 17.5 miles, but I’ll take that.

Reading this and other blog posts back, I notice I use a number of words as descriptors for walking pace. Perhaps the descriptors need some qualification, if not quantification. The spectrum of walking pace ranges from ‘Still’ to ‘Power-Walk’. Yes, it is possible to have a negative distance by walking backwards, and it did David Bowie no harm up the hill, so it will be all right, oo oo-oo ooo. But that’s off the spectrum, from slowest to fastest……

Still: The tin. Read. What It Says.

Drag: Very slow, a bit like being dressed as a woman, in heels, negotiating cobbled streets. That’s about as fast as it is, I would imagine. Note that I did say, “I would imagine” there – I have no empirical evidence myself.

Trawl: Pace like a young child being forced to go the dentist. Filling in the miles between proper walking.

Stroll: Comfortable pace, as if you could go faster if you really wanted, but you don’t want. Pace typical of schoolboys walking after P.E. to their ‘Double French’ class.

Amble: About the same pace as Stroll, I guess. But with a bit more gay abandon.

Steady: A bit of effort required – just about normal walking pace.

Workmanlike: A bit of a false claim here. Workmen don’t tend to walk very fast at all, they have low slung trousers and wolf whistle, traditionally, watching the ladies pass while one of their mates feigns work. But ‘workmanlike’ is just a bit quicker than normal, trying hard, as if you are a workman on a break, going to the cake shop to get cakes for yourself (and the rest of the lads).

Decent Pace: Pace as if you are attempting to get away unnoticed from the scene of an indecent crime.

Purposeful: As if you know the bus is about to come, but you are still some way from the bus stop. Walking with a purpose to catch the bus, then.

Sprint: About as fast as you can walk, without looking stupid.

Power-Walk: Undertaken mainly by women in lycra or tight-fitting track suits. A style in which buttocks move laterally and arms move longitudinally, and looks just stupid. All for show, no power-walk lasts for more than about 20 minutes. No serious distance walker ever power-walks.

So that’s it. Next time I say I kept up a decent pace, just have that in mind.

Two walks in three days…….Gus Poyet wouldn’t approve…….

11am – and people who know me will know that is early. It is apparently the coldest morning of the year, but this was not going to stop me going for a decent walk today. I find that, for me, feeling the cold is all in the mind when I go walking, and that after 10 minutes I will be quite warm, fingers aside. It is, moreover, the first outing for many months for my scarf. I really don’t mind the cold, I don’t mind the rain and I don’t mind the wind, as long as there is only one of those in play! It is just cold, thankfully, and there is plenty of frost and ice on the paths as I wander around in various odd patterns before reaching Fareham. After receiving some glares from a cyclist who swerved past me on the pavement, yes the pavement, I turned toward Stubbington. Cyclists, yes, should be on the road, but I don’t mind them on the pavement, as long as they appreciate that it is mainly for walking on and to give due respect to others. The fact that I had my earphones in listening to football on the radio didn’t help but his rather threatening looks were uncalled for. Looked only about 14 and I’m sure I could have him in a fight or, if not, in a contest of words, sarcasm and pedantry, not that the latter would do me that much good with a broken nose. He’s young, he will learn, possibly, but if the wind changes (as my old gran would have said), he will be a very ugly catch when he grows up.

Back home and through Titchfield and Locks Heath. Total walking distance today 17 miles and home not long after 4pm. Good stuff. Two walks in three days now. No whinnying from me like certain Premier League managers about any scandalous schedule. Try for at least a couple more walks this week to round off the year as the late afternoons start getting lighter.

Unexpected item in the bagging area?

Just over four months until the Wight Challenge and already some encouragement through early sponsorship: https://www.justgiving.com/Keith-Spicer2. Relatively speaking, it is not a large target since that is the minimum I have to raise in order to be eligible (the organisers can actually remove my entry if I don’t raise half that by six weeks before the event). As I have said before, and to several people, it is not easy for me to ask for sponsorship less than a year after I received a more than magnificent response from friends and family, with over 11 thousand pounds raised for SANDS, and I am not going to hammer this as often as I did at that time. If you do have just a few quid spare, that would be fantastic. The Wight Challenge is an interesting event, apparently just one of a number of “ultra-marathons” that take place over the year – and some people do actually run the whole 66 mile distance! I won’t be. http://www.isleofwightchallenge.com/

A Christmas Day of over-indulgence in the over-eating department and a Boxing Day walk was absolutely necessary. I often wear skin-tight base layers in order to soak up sweat and generally they work extremely well (I wore them on every walking day of the Long Walk) and now I have similar base layer trunks with thigh coverage, a bit like this (by the way, that picture is not of me!)

base layer.

I have to say that my first thought when putting them on was that inhuman voice, yet somehow always female voice you sometimes hear at the supermarket self service tills: “unexpected item in the bagging area”. Anyway, moving on swiftly and with the incentive of the need for a bit of fat loss, Boxing Day brings a gloomy, grey but mild late morning, surely not the weather I will be facing at 9am on 2 May. Rain doesn’t look at all likely; it just looks like the sort of day that will be continually grey but dry. A career as the weatherman for BBC TV and frivoling with Sophie Raworth, Natasha Kaplinsky or even Kate Silverton now seems out of the question as an hour of dryness was followed by four and a bit hours of rain, gradually increasing in heaviness as the afternoon wore on. By the time I dragged my limbs up Sarisbury Hill, it was pretty steady. Having set off without waterproofs, at least my fleece did keep me dry, even if the fleece was twice its weight when I took it off as it had been when I put it on. Getting up to about 16.5 miles and not really feeling too tired was at least some progress over the previous “15 miles and I’m knackered” walk that I had earlier in the week. That looks like the minimum distance I should be setting myself each time I go out now.

A million miles from 66 miles

Well, a bit of a while since a walk and what better time to rectify this than the shortest day of the year. It never felt like the middle of winter today, extremely mild and just quite grey, the sort of weather that is manna from heaven for swing bowlers or, more accurately, those cricketers that like nothing better than slobbing around playing cards while the umpires hold up their light meters shaking their heads. Occasionally, there was the lightest of drizzle, promising only to become only very slightly heavier or to stop altogether.

The time since the last walk certainly showed. The walk today was one where I had sought out a route towards Southampton University, taking in a number of decent uphills and corresponding downhills. I guess I must have felt as tired and as achy, and perhaps more so, after many of those days in February, March and April, but it is hard to compare over time, and the level of pain is not easy to recall, only that I remember that it did hurt. At least today it is nicer to finish the walk at my own home, with home comforts and the familiarity of all the home facilities. When I was away, there were a number of occasions when I finished a decent distance in a little bit of pain and I didn’t really want the small talk with a well-meaning stranger at a B&B. Actually, that is an unfair point. Many a time I was very comforted and the positivity rebooted by a chat with the proprietor or a fellow guest at a B&B. Yes, I was very much helping the owners earn a living, but I remember half a dozen real down days and there was one thing in common – the absence of nice touches from the people running their establishment. Being pleasant and helpful costs nothing but meant a lot at specific times. That, and a decent shower and a comfy bed.

15 miles today. Blimey, I have a lot to do before I can think of that Wight Challenge. That is 106 kilometres or 66 miles over two days. I am a million miles from that.

Takes a lot to bring tears to my eyes

A very good day at work that tested a few of my emotions. Certainly very happy when I learnt that an irritating issue had been resolved and, actually had never been a problem at all. Sold a few more calendars and there has been really good support again. Over half have now been sold, earmarked or reserved.

What really got me today was what started out as a routine conversation. I bumped into someone in the corridor, someone I hadn’t seen for some time. Firstly I apologised for not thanking her earlier for sponsoring me on my walk and thanked her now for her support. We got into a short chat about it and I glibly said that it had been the highlight of my year. She responded that, yes, “your walk was the highlight of many people’s year”. I was already taken aback even before she then talked to me at length about her sister who had lost her baby some years ago, how SANDS had supported her, and then that they had both followed my progress intently each day on my blog. I was welling up. I got the impression that she has talked to very few, if any, people at work about this and so I am not about to reveal her identity now.

More certain than ever that I will do the Wight Challenge in May or some other long distance event. Haven’t absolutely committed formally and I have to commit to raise at least £475 for one of the listed charities in the Wight event. I haven’t looked through the list yet. There are other challenges where there is no such obligation but all these 100km+ events do also carry a decent entry fee to cover support along the route, you know, refreshments, massages, things like that. I am not fishing for comments at all here but I am reticent to ask for more sponsorship just a year after so many people were so generous. But anyway, time very soon to get some serious distances in.

Anyway, an odd and emotional day, in parts.

Green light for Wight challenge

Challenge

Very enthused today over becoming aware of an event in May – http://www.isleofwightchallenge.com/ – around 66 miles in two days. True, I have previously done about 50 in two consecutive days, but I was very fit at that time. If anyone would like to do that event with me, which would including spending a night with me……., er, walking, ……. then please let me know. I don’t think this is one I really want to do on my own. But I will do it, in any case, I think.

So even on the coldest morning for a while, I was eager to get out and walk. And so I did. I had also just received in the post some skin tight undershorts that draw the sweat away from the body. I have a matching skin tight base layer and I must admit to be reminded of Little Britain as I put on both, in bright orange. Fortunately, I have a few more layers to put on so I don’t have to go out of the house looking like a slightly slimmer Matt Lucas and set out up to Eastleigh and back. Certainly a gloves and woolly hat walk for the first four and it was appearing a fairly routine walk at a pace somewhere between workmanlike and purposeful. Eastleigh was busy in a Christmas tat sort of way and I stopped briefly for refuelling. On the way back I was most impressed by the verbal dexterity of a chap on the other side of the road (who was adjusting his belt and trousers in a somewhat suspicious manner, though probably quite innocuous) in managing to use five separate swear words within a sentence of eight, a hit rate of 62.5%. I won’t embarrass you or myself by mentioning the specific words, but the initial letters, in order of occurrence, were f, c, s, f and w. I didn’t realise they were directed at me until I turned my head and saw him staring at me, at which point I opted not to inform him of his poor grammar and merely shrugged my shoulders in a rather camp Gallic manner and continued on my way. I could hear that he was still grumbling, but I’ve no idea what his problem was. I did make sure he wasn’t following me.

18.5 miles in under six hours. I really need to step up this mileage and it would help if I could start earlier in the day, but in turn it would help if I didn’t stay up on Friday night catching up on all the Late Night Poker programmes recorded from the week. A bit of discipline is needed to get back to that decent level of fitness, especially as these are short days at the moment.