Sssssh! 19 miles. No-one must Knowle!

I was looking at this blog this morning, realising that this would be only the 4th post of 2015. Glad to get most of this bug out of me, though still a slightly tickly throat and the odd sniff, I was actually more eager than usual to get out there. I was up early enough to make a 10am start until I couldn’t find my woolly hat. I looked everywhere, almost everywhere at least, and by around 10:40 had given up and taken up the offer from Pammy of a bright yellow woolly hat. Certainly I wouldn’t be found wanting for visibility, except that I would always be found in that colour. But……… as I walked self-consciously past the car I realised, all of a sudden, that I had taken the hat to Cardiff last weekend, since we were driving a long distance in cold weather and we both had “so what if we break down, we need loads of warm clothes….” and, lo and behold, I opened the car and there it was, bold as brass, on the back seat. A very very cold woolly hat – but black and not bright yellow. Yes, it was all falling into place.

The plan was to nip up toward Fareham but turn left into Highlands Road and then take the Deviation Line wooded walk up to Knowle Village. Wooded like this:

a woody bit

Quite nice – and a blue sky and temperatures hovering at a quite all right 4 or 5 Celsius (that’s about 40 degrees Fahrenheit for some of our older readers). This was the 4th time I had walked to Knowle Village, by different routes, and I knew I was approaching Knowle when the railway line came close to the path. Knowle Village is one of those places that even many people living just a few miles away have barely any knowledge. Today was a bit weird. It was so quiet as to be spooky. There was barely a soul on the streets and those that were were giving me the odd stare. There isn’t a great amount of thoroughfare and it was just that sort of day when I felt that entering the shop or pub would have had someone lower their heads, open their eyes widely and drawl slowly, “Ye not be from round here, are ye?” I checked my face in case I had grown a third eye or third ear and that I still had just the five digits on each hand. No, I was ok. Perhaps that was the problem. The village felt like the antithesis of activity. It appeared to be the home of second homes when everyone had gone home to their first home, if you know what I mean, with a GDP of about 47 quid. I wasn’t about to add to that by risking a shop purchase and feared for the economic future of such a haunting place (and it didn’t feel like the centre of drugs and prostitution to raise the GDP either). However, contrast this with 2010 and my first Knowle visit, where the angel did see (think about it!) a cricket match between Sarisbury’s 5th team and Knowle Village played on the Green, even if the pitch was more coffee brown than green – hardly a grassy Knowle (ok, I do have a day job). If there is such a thing as the Knowle Carnival, it would hardly have been treated as a bigger event than this one. Everyone but everyone had come out to see this match. Everyone playing for Knowle was from the village, it appeared. Anyway, today, I passed by the scene of that match (which Sarisbury won comfortably, incidentally) and up the secluded main road across to the A32.

It was a shock to the ears to suddenly come across traffic and noise once again. I was beginning to regret not risking the shop as I was a bit peckish but glad to feel that the miles being clocked up were telling on my waist belt feeling a trifle looser, my calves feeling a trifle tighter and my thighs a trifle firmer. While these might have had desperate housewives swooning for miles around, I was pining for a few secs in the city and some food outlets. The A32 toward Fareham always feels more downhill than up, whether walking or driving, and I was soon past the motorway turnoff and past what used to be known as Edwins (where I once had two Christmas lunches in two days, when I was shared between two jobs in ONS, and both sections coincidentally were feasting there). A few more calories than normal but I had deserved them. Skinny vanilla latte, cheese and ham Panini, and an apple Danish. Yes, not exactly Jamie Oliver, but the apple might just count as one of my 5 a day. I was happy to take a winding walk home, taking the longer route through Warsash to build up to 19 miles.

Knowle Village? Can you hear me? No? Anybody there yet? Look, I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean to be nasty. But you were very very very quiet.

Duvet day

Quite a decent cold at the moment so no walking today. Might probably be able to manage 10 miles but, in my experience, that might be counter productive. In my 20s I was a very keen runner, going out pretty much every day. For a couple of years I barely had any colds or coughs so I imagine my immune system was being boosted by all the exercise. But I found that when I did catch anything, it was normally a bad one, strong enough to fight the boosted immunity I had developed. Having been used to running anything between 5 and 9 miles without too much distress, suddenly a 2 or 3 mile jog was sufficient to knock me out for most of the rest of the day. Even after recovering from the cold, it took another couple of weeks before I was back up to speed.

The effect is not so severe for walking, as you might expect. I do need that 15 mile fix once a week just to keep up a pretence of fitness in my own mind, but it is just not going to happen this weekend. The last time I can remember not walking due to a bug was about this time last year, three weeks before the off. Two weeks without walking was not the ideal preparation but in the end it did me no harm. I sort of built back my fitness in the first couple of days on the walk itself where naive adrenaline kicked in, in any case.

Looking forward to May and the Wight Challenge, as you might have gathered from reading recent posts. Could do with no colds, coughs, stomach bugs or the like in April. For today, the supermarket and the weekly shop this morning should be sufficient to restrict me to the sofa in the afternoon and perhaps a snooze.

Trying to find a whole week in March or early April that I can take off work to go walking every day. It was in 2013 that I put in over a hundred miles in six days for the first time (certainly not the last time!), including my longest, 28 miles from Brockenhurst, around parts of the New Forest and then home from there. Being able to walk a mere 6 the next day was an achievement in itself, and that week gave me great confidence in developing powers of recovery. One feature of the long walk last year was the ability I nurtured of setting aside a difficult day to go again the next and there weren’t that many days when I didn’t have the wherewithal to reboot my mind and forget the pain of the previous one. Christchurch to Sarisbury – yes that is the goal for that week and, importantly, to do a decent distance the day after. Looking forward to it, sort of………..

Hilly, chilly and windy

Weather forecasters couldn’t quite work out the speed or direction of whatever clouds they might have been able to see and, with the mind set that I didn’t really fancy walking in the rain today, a potential 11am start moved to just before 12:30. The sky was grey but it never felt like rain was on its way while I was walking, but the wicked wind of the west was cackling at me and trying everything to blow me away. At least I knew I would have that wind behind me later but I can’t recall a more difficult trek over the Itchen Bridge, even from the time when I was new to long distance walking, with both hands used to hold the earphones in my ears as I fought against what felt like a gale, with walkers coming from the opposite direction struggling to prevent themselves running down the Bridge towards me. Even after I reached the summit, the downhill stretch toward Southampton was still tough.

As predicted, the journey back was easier, even if I took a route that included a few more ups and downs – Athelstan Road is never easy, for instance – and a total distance of 15.5 miles or thereabouts was sufficient for a 5:30 finish. I never felt too bothered by what turned into a chilly afternoon and maintained a steady to workmanlike pace most of the time. The blister I developed last week near the big toe on the right foot had healed but remains a bit tender if not particularly burdensome.

Starting to look a bit more earnestly toward early May and the 106 km / 66 miles walking around the Isle of Wight, more than four times the distance walked today). It is a walk over 2nd and 3rd May but I expect to do it in about 20-28 hours. A start at around 10am on the Saturday is fine and so a finish on Sunday morning should give plenty of recovery time over the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend. I will have to sort out Friday night accommodation soon before it all gets booked up (there is a camp site but I don’t really fancy that on a night before the longest distance I will probably ever cover in a day). If any of my friends would like to do this event with me, I would absolutely love it but, if not, then there are about 1,500 people likely to be participating (some walking, some running) and these sorts of times see a real spirit among and between entrants, friendships made for life – if that doesn’t sound too cheesy. http://www.isleofwightchallenge.com/

I have, however, seen a social media backlash (perhaps too strong a word) against some of these events in that entrants are forced to raise a minimum sponsorship, and in this specific case it is £475. Half of that has to be raised by six weeks prior to the event, otherwise the organisers can revoke your entry. Many feel awkward at having to ask repeatedly for donations, having previously asked for and received them for events before. Certainly it was a more than magnificent response last year for my last walk – and I won’t be doing another event with mandatory sponsorship in the foreseeable future after this one. But if you just have a few pounds to spare, I would be really grateful. SANDS would be even more grateful. https://www.justgiving.com/Keith-Spicer2 – and for details about the fantastic work that SANDS do please see https://www.uk-sands.org/. Profits from the sales of my calendars will all go into the pot – and there are still a few available.

So with darkness falling slightly earlier as each day passes, the distances will need to rack up. A train to Christchurch and a 32 mile walk back home is very much in my plans, but not at least until late February. I must be bonkers.

Not hot and not bothered

Some days, you just can’t be bothered. Some days you can’t be bothered but you force yourself – yes, that was today. It reminded me a lot of the first couple of days in the south of Scotland – I wouldn’t have minded just staying in bed all day, if only I could have, but relatively short distances then did at least allow for later starts. Today, I was under no time pressure to get out of the house, no checking out by 10am sort of stuff, but eventually I did get out of bed and then go walking. Weather grey and not very warm. About one mile on and I bumped into a friend who accused me (correctly) of meandering and that reminded me, ‘meander’ was not included in the spectrum of pace – specifically it is the normal pace when going walking with Pammy – ‘me’ and ‘er’ so to speak. Even that old favourite, head music, bizarrely it was Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavigne this time, failed to really help.

It really was a struggle to build up either momentum or enthusiasm but after a while I got into daydream mode – daydreaming about the forthcoming cricket season with Sarisbury now up in the Premier Division. Promoted teams normally look to the primary target being survival and that probably for us means 5 wins, though I suspect that the skipper and the powers-that-be at the club are looking more than that in the ‘Gold’ League. After all, the club won the ‘Silver’ League in their first season up from ‘Bronze’ three years ago. We will see, in time, but there is no doubt that Sarisbury is a very progressive club and with plenty of ambition.

Well that daydream helped and took me almost to Fareham and, after a coffee stop and a browse through one of the Sunday papers, I was looking for roads and paths different to normal. So, further East through the town centre and up the almost “back-street-like” section of the A32, not as far as the dual carriageway bit (that leads to the Knowle Village turn-off) but instead doubling back up the hill and a few miles parallel to the distant M27 and down Highlands Road. I had previously seen on internet a path through Ranvilles Lane and so, to alleviate the boredom, approached that and then down what is clearly a favourite for joggers and dog walkers […..which reminds me, I had many a discussion twenty and more years ago as to the distinction between a jogger and a runner. I found some reference then that any pace better than 8 minute miles was ‘running’, anything slower was ‘jogging’. This just about supported my indignation and insistence at the time that I was a runner and not a jogger]. As I got further down the path, it became creepily quiet and felt like the sort of place perfect for muggers and murderers to dispose of a body – it might not be discovered for days – but enough of those rather unhealthy thoughts and back to the main roads.

Through Titchfield and back towards Warsash, entertained by the FA Cup on my radio, cutting through yet more secluded paths on the way back to home in Sarisbury. More than a few car horn beeps during the walk today – whether that was friends and acquaintances greeting me, I don’t know, but probably so. My left foot had felt slightly odd at times due to what I thought was the boot being a tad too tight but it was the right foot that showed off a decent blister when I removed my socks, even though I hadn’t felt it at all before discovering it at home. Nothing to get too worked up about, really a recurrent theme of the walk today. Perhaps it was a subconscious feeling of going back to work tomorrow, and looking forward to five mornings getting up early, even though I had gone in on Friday for a few hours (which at least means I know the place hasn’t fallen apart and that I haven’t received panicky emails over those two weeks). Can’t say I ever like going back after Christmas and I often pick up an illness or something – a horrible ear infection about 11 years ago comes to mind – but at least I can say I am reasonably physically fit at the moment. 16 miles – a good old trek despite my moody mood.