Good test on Day 3

Day 3 of the Week of Pain and a good test it was too. The original intention was to park at Fareham Station, take a train to Cosham and then walk around Portsea Island. Inevitably, the car park was full and instead I drove into Pompey and down to the Campbell Road area, one of the few places south of Fratton Bridge (and probably north of there, as well) that has no parking restriction. So many “Max 3 hours” everywhere else, and so typical of all major cities now, even a non-moving car attracts finance.

A pretty decent wind in my face as I walked westward to the Historic Dockyard, through Gunwharf and then at least started to have a tailwind as I passed the Cathedral, the reason why Portsmouth is a city, rather than the certificate other new cities have had to beg for. Pretty bracing on the sea front, all the way to Eastney, with a nice but rather pricy fish and chip dinner about halfway along.

I took the dead end road to Southsea Marina and back before tackling Locksway Road, passing the Old House at Home and the Oyster House, both pubs that I visited a few times years ago. The OHAH, as it was always abbreviated, along with Avenue Hotel, Museum Gardens, Lord Chichester and Oakwood, were places where I always played well (darts) and won far more often than not. But darts are not the focus this week and I continued past the end of Locksway Road to take the path that hugs the east of Portsea Island right up to the top where it joins the very last section of Eastern Road.

I wasn’t aware of it previously, but there is a People’s Memorial along the coastal walk. There are also a number of benches with names of ex-servicemen, and 23 and 25, the first two ages I saw, are just terribly too young to die.

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There was even more off-road action as I carefully crossed the main road onto Hilsea Lines, the nature trail, followed by the military trail. Not that I saw too much nature and, thankfully, not much in the way of military manoeuvres. It was a pleasant and generally unknown path to the A3 and thereafter it was a duller traipse down south to the car.

Not directly south, but a route through the lattice of side roads in Copnor and Fratton. Quite pleased with 17 miles on a testing day, plenty of wind gusting about, especially on the sea front and the eastern edge, along with some uneven stony and gravelly ground that pulled at the calves and poked at the feet with every step. But don’t feel too bad at all. Ready for Day 4.

Is this Rant #59……?

First thing today, as if I needed it, there was a Facebook reminder that it was one year ago that I reached Scotland. Happy memories indeed though, as I mused yesterday, it signalled the start of a couple of down days. Strange that sometimes people (i.e. in this case I) lose perspective at random moments.

To Week of Pain Day 2 and, with rain forecast for some time mid-afternoon, it felt quite in order for a pre-9am start. Went in completely the opposite direction to yesterday, to Fareham then up to Wickham. A lovely sunny morning and I even slipped over to the shady side of the street for a while.

Now I don’t mind Wickham, but it is a magnet for just loads of people who want to pretend to be posh. The road from Fareham up to Wickham is well served by a good pavement, nice and flat with no slope toward or away from the road itself, especially up to the Knowle Village turning and is a nice walk despite some traffic. It is the A32 after all. But quite why every house post-Knowle has to be given a name is rather pretentious. Nice houses no doubt, but Oakdene, Hazel Dene, Tree Tops, Green Trees, yes I can see there is a bit of greenery and shrubbery about. But Solent View? Why not Pacific View? If you can see the Solent from there, well done indeed. The Sheiling? (The house says Shieling but the bin has Sheiling) Sounds too much like The Shining for my liking. Wonder if the owner is called Johnny? Throw in Inglenook and Lorelei and – perhaps I am being a bit harsh but pretentiousness is perhaps the thing I hate most in others. Anyway, having used up my daily allowance in irritant energy, I have arrived in Wickham, finding middle aged (yes you are – it’s just make up, missus) women effect a slight sidewards sneer at my not having shaved for 8 days look. Well, book, cover, etc. You just go and have your afternoon tea and be done with it. Is that your car – yeah thought so. Have another go and see if you can get it all in one space.

It’s not all bad. Wickham Water Meadows are lovely after all. I think it is just the people who visit there as if it is the height of sophistication. But I have to say that on my long walk it was an unusual day when I didn’t see at least one village nicer than this. Yes it might have been Hampshire Village of the Year 2007. Katie Price was voted Woman of the Year in 2007. So that’s lost a good proportion of the readership of this blog!

Back to Fareham and at 2:30 the majority of vehicles had their lights on. By 3:30 the majority didn’t and, against the forecasts, I reached home just after 4 without a drop of rain. Take that, scary weather girl. Another 20 miles and I wouldn’t say I was tired but all my legs and feet knew they’d been for a walk today (and yesterday). I’ve got news for you, guys, you’re going again tomorrow.

20 miles but scary weather girl brings bad news for Week of Pain

Yes, it’s here. It’s the Week of Pain. A desperate attempt to get sufficiently fit for the Wight Challenge. Sometime last week, the forecast was for this week to be pretty dry, but somewhere along the line they acquired some new data and now there’s going to be some level of moisture every day. I must have missed that change of tack, perhaps it was a forecast read by that BBC weather girl that I always find really scary and I looked away for fear of being instantly struck dead.

Nina Ridge

But today, really? Anyone who calls this rain has been a bit too cosseted in their life, no doubt driven to school by their parent in their Range Rover as soon as any cloud is in the sky. Drizzle, certainly, with no need for the hood to go up at any time at all, but what was not in doubt was that there was a wicked wind from the west, gusting in at up to 50mph so the scary weather girl had said, and I’m sure I heard “mwahahaha” later in that sentence. In reality, it was a pretty good day for walking. Took the customary two hours to reach Southampton City Centre and the only time the wind felt really strong was on the Itchen Bridge, but at least it was blowing into my face rather than across me. A detour past Ocean Village and the wind felt a lot calmer.

After a longer than usual break for a coffee and sandwich and a decent read of the sports sections of a couple of Sunday newspapers, I moved swiftly through the City Centre, which was as quiet as I’ve ever seen on a Sunday lunchtime, up through Bedford Place (which I’ve always liked as it reminds me of some parts of Pompey) and on to The Avenue. In my 20s, I became a decent runner and only felt really fit when I could run the length of that road which is constantly a little uphill. Now in my 50s it’s hard enough to walk it – the wind never seems to be with you. But I was feeling good in myself despite knowing that any problems today would be with my feet. I am hoping to walk around 120 miles in these six days and I’m comfortable that my legs will be fine and feel stronger, it is just the soles of my feet that need these miles. Anyway, back to today and it’s a right turn at the Chilworth Roundabout, down Bassett Green Road and then through Swaything, Mansbridge, Townhill and Bitterne. From there I decided to take the more undulating route down and up Bitterne Road East and down and up Kanes Hill. Across the Windhover Roundabout and the final 40 minutes to home, with the daunting Sarisbury hill always a test at the end of a decent walk.

Interesting how difficult it was for me to get started this morning, and I’m sure it’s down to losing that hour overnight. This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve gone for a walk on the Sunday after BST started and each time it has been hard to get going. Last year, it was the day I reached Scotland (the actual anniversary is tomorrow) and it was only the fact that I was but four miles from the border that persuaded me to get my feet moving. That day, and the next, were the lowest in terms of my mood in the whole of the walk, even lower than when I had my bad fall on the West Highland Way – at least then I knew I was only about 250 miles from the end, still a decent distance but it didn’t sound that much at the time, if I said it quickly.

Just over 20 miles today, a couple of sore feet but everything else in order and the pain part of this week has not kicked in as yet. Ready to go again tomorrow, the scary weather girl gloating that it will be light rain in the afternoon, becoming heavier around 3pm. My word, her look is the definition of the word ‘glower’. Tomorrow is another day. The longer I am out of the house, the more miles I can walk, and the longer I can avoid the gaze of Nina Ridge.

Walk of Rain?

Apparently not. Six days, maybe seven, of walking next week. Sunday is the only day, at present, when rain is forecast in this area. Even then, it is an early shower and heavier rain from around 7pm. Should be fine to fit in a casual 20 miles somewhere or other. Happy happy happy.

Long range weather forecast may or may not be reliable, but the Saturday 2 May is supposed to be sunny, around 14 degrees. I had better get most of the mileage out of the way before the Sunday, which is forecast to be 12 degrees, overcast with thunderstorms! Plenty of time for this to change, thankfully.

30 miles: So won’t you say you love me, I’ll make you so proud of me.

I feel for Pammy sometimes. A lovely Saturday and we could be out doing something together and yet I go out myself for a nice long walk, just to serve the purpose of getting fit. Still, the cricket season is fast approaching so she can come with me to watch cricket, while I do the scoring. Er, perhaps that wasn’t what she might have in mind.

Decided today to give a trial to the inner socks bought from Cotswolds last Sunday, just to see if they would help with blisters. Successful to a point today, though I had some issues in the final three or four miles. Legs – calves, thighs, knees and ankles – both all right, perhaps a bit stiff now, but maybe all of this is to be expected. Because, today, I broke through the 30 mile barrier. It might seem like a really sad way to spend a nice Saturday, but that’s the way it is. After all, I am going to have to walk double that in six weeks time.

30

My aim was to try to do that magic distance of 30 miles, and I thought that would be roughly 10 hours minus a half hour break. Hence a start just after 10am would mean a finish at around 8pm, a good hour after dusk. I thought that I would walk towards and into Pompey and would turn for home wherever I happened to be at 3pm. I reckoned that a good target would be to reach Fratton Park, since I know that is about 15 miles walk. By noon, I was through Fareham and past the Delme roundabout, 12:30 in Portchester precinct and at the head of Cosham High Street by 1:30. Really good progress, having stepped on the gas every now and again, and I needed a 20 minute break for a coffee, Panini and shortbread. I really felt good now and full of energy, hitting the top of Portsea Island by 2pm and really striding down past places I remembered from my early twenties when I played an immense amount of darts and reached a pretty good standard before I started taking it too seriously for my own sanity and everyone else’s patience. Coach & Horses, Star and Garter, Harvest Home. Then past St Mary’s Hospital and through the industrial estate to pass Fratton Park bang on 3 o’clock. Strange that it was all an artificial deadline but I think that is part of my psyche, to set imaginary and meaningless targets before doing everything in my power to achieve them.

Head music was something that got me through a number of difficult days a year ago, and today was another day needing that. Eiffel 65, I’m blue da ba dee da ba die, over and over again and Ronettes, be my baby, the night we met I knew I needed you so, and if I had the chance I’d never let you go. So won’t you say you love me, I’ll make you so proud of me. We’ll make ’em turn their heads every place we go. Both of these are featured in adverts at the moment, and I admit I sing along to both of them every time I hear them. Certainly much better than others that have come into my head in the past. B****y Shania Twain, I’ll never forgive her. Turning west and then north now, and hearing Pompey concede an own goal, the long haul home felt longer than ever. But a couple of watery drinks picked up in Fratton helped a bit with the weather turning just slightly sunnier and warmer as the clouds lifted briefly.

I fully expected to feel pretty tired in the last hour as the distance approached unchartered territory and with a decent hill near Titchfield. I had previously taken a diversion to add a mile or so as the expected time of arrival appeared to be around 7:30, so I must have been still fairly fresh. I did actually still feel full of energy and, with a decent snack, might have been able to walk a few miles further, except that my feet, particularly my right one, were not feeling quite so chipper. Removal of the socks did reveal a decent blister and a very tender right sole, yet nothing of note on the left foot, and that was quite probably due to the blister plaster I had placed as a precaution over the remnants of last week’s beauty. So maybe that is the trick – plaster my vulnerable bits of my feet with plasters, petroleum jelly elsewhere to protect against chafing (a process that is a normal pre-walk routine) and just keep placing one foot in front of the other. It does feel that 12-15 miles is the right distance for a break rather an earlier one that has become more usual for me.

So 30 miles. Feeling pretty proud of myself tonight. I might sleep very well tonight, at least until I have to turn!

Masseurs and medics at the ready

Feeling physically very good. Blisters resolved themselves pretty quickly and raring to go for a Saturday walk. Not sure quite where or how far I want to go, but it is noticeable how the sunset is gradually getting later and so that helps if I do want to go a little further. Of course, the dark of the night will have to be no barrier in May.

Preparations getting on a bit now. Desperately hoping for decent weather on that day, dry but not too hot, bound to be a bit windy at times. Have bought a new thin waterproof jacket for not that much, one of those that fits neatly into a little plastic pouch packet. Keeping stuff that I need to carry to a minimum, including a warm fleece (might not be needed but better safe than sorry), spare socks and base layer, Vaseline and first aid kit. Have also bought new socks and am wondering about taking my running shoes as a backup if my boots become uncomfortable.

Quite surprised how my positivity varies from day to day. Ask me tomorrow and I might well say that it is impossible. But, whatever, as I’ve said before here, I’ll give it a go and only give up if I really can’t go on. Masseurs, medics on hand halfway round. Mmm, might be needed. I do really need that Week of Pain, not that I am sadistic or masochistic, whichever it is, I can never remember which is which.

Walk to Wycombe

Earlier this week, when I spoke to someone fairly new to our workplace and new to the area, who had asked me where I was walking this weekend, his response was a shocked one. “Wycombe? That’s miles away!” Not realising what he had meant, I responded that it was a distance I needed to do and the conversation became more and more fraught until we both cottoned on to the misunderstanding. Wickham. And back. Still a decent distance, nevertheless. The route would take me a bit off-road through Knowle, and then on the return from Wickham take a more circuitous turn past Fareham and some bits to take me past last week’s distance.

With little rain in the recent days, the off-road paths were easily negotiable without any real stress and strain. Quite a few dog-walkers out in the late morning and two of them galloped up to me as if starving with their tongues lolling about and in need of a nice sausage for lunch. Thankfully, the owner called them off and apologised before they could test their desire for meat on me and I reached the euthanased-as-ever Knowle Village. The place was so sleepy that even the village’s main clock was 15 minutes slow. I wasn’t absolutely certain that the additional mile and a half up the A32 to Wickham was entirely pavemented, but thankfully it was. No worries reaching the village square and, despite a decent queue, managed to order a cream tea with fruit scone, clotted cream and jam. It was just what I needed – it may even have been my first cream tea since last April. I can’t say I enjoyed the atmosphere that much – it was crowded and I had to share a table with three women who I doubt could have looked much more down their noses at me if they had tried. I don’t feel that comfortable around posh people, but even less around people pretending to be posh.

Anyway, back down the A32 all the way into Fareham town centre. During this time, I was apparently spotted by my Pammy, who was driving with a friend, and I apparently looked “very strong”. It might have been just about the time when Matt Tubbs scored for Pompey, so no wonder I had a spring in my step. But I did feel strong, having no need for more than a toilet stop in Fareham and did a right turn northwards back uphill to reach Kiln Road. This was one of a number of adjuncts (is that a right word) in order to build up the distance. After reaching the A27 I turned almost down to Stubbington before taking a more direct route home. Nice to see a couple of friendly faces from cricket on the route too, a reminder that Sarisbury’s Indoor Cricket side have fought through to the National Finals at Lords (for the third time in recent years), playing tomorrow. Best of luck guys.

Looking to better last week’s distance of 24 miles, today I did 24 miles. If you look at these a little more precisely, last week’s was rounded up from 23.8, and this week’s rounded down from 24.1. So it was a little further. However, the major difference would appear to be the reaction. That felt a long walk last week and even as late as Wednesday afterwards I was feeling the effects, the thighs and calves both aching at times. Time will tell from today’s walk, but I felt a lot stronger and could have done a few more miles if I had had to. Unusually for me, I should add, however, I have a couple of interesting looking blisters, one on the sole of each foot. I’m not bothered about those – they are rites of passage and they should help over the weeks in building up a bit of hard skin and resistance in my feet, but they are a bit tender at this moment.

But today was good to build up a bit of confidence. Yes, I am getting there. Need to get some better newer socks to fight off the blisters but if that is the worst of my problems, I’ll take that.