Chocolate teapot – really quite a useful thing

These weeks are really fillers in the walking sense. Just keeping an element of fitness before the big push next spring – no doubt another Week of Pain at some time then.

I have had one or two aches and pains this week, not related to walking. In the light of a rain forecast last Sunday, I instead had a 90 minute session in the gym, though in the end the weather turned out just fine. But it was good to something different and tone those areas that don’t get much toning from walking. Trying to get yesterday’s cricket disappointment out of my system and rueful that today’s weather would have done just fine for yesterday. I think I have hit on how to get a bit more out of myself – a normal walk for a few miles, then a much quicker section that is better than 15 minute miles, and that helps to bring out a bit of sweat and a faster heart rate. Then the final section is a tough one, feeling almost as if I have walked far further than I really have. The quicker section was about four and a half miles in less than an hour today and I could feel the benefit.

18 miles in total today and I could have done even more but we had visitors due. The most bizarre thing was at my coffee stop (in Stubbington) where I picked a newspaper off the rack just as another person reached for the same paper. It was settled amicably and my paper protagonist was a pleasant chap, (though) with two young boys, probably aged about 6 and 4, in Saints shirts. I said to him that they had a decent chance of winning today, to which he replied that he didn’t really like football, but his boys loved it. He did mention that one of their players “was as much use as a chocolate teapot” and I commented that we’d had a few of those as well last year. The conversation then took a stranger turn as I did point out that a chocolate teapot is actually quite useful if you love chocolate. He laughed and said that “it’s just a saying and, yeah, it doesn’t make sense when you point that out”. It was nice to have an absolutely juvenile conversation. I would love to get a chocolate teapot as an Easter present, especially if some white chocolate was involved. Not that anyone will remember by Easter that I said that.

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Spend the night with me if you dare

Doubt if you will get a blog post from me on Sunday, which is my normal walking day during the summer. The forecast is for it to be belting down for most of the day and I have little or no desire to be walking in the rain for 6 or 7 hours. What might be better for me in that case is a spell in the gym. And I won’t be reporting on how I had an hour on the bike, 20 minutes on the rowing machine and lifted so many kg in whatever weights routines I could.

I finally received the help I needed from the London 2 Brighton Ultra Challenge helpline and I have officially registered for the event next year, starting on Saturday 28 May and finishing some time on Sunday 29 May. Walking through the night. I have requested a starting time between 9-10 am since I am not a good early morning person and would need a decent breakfast in any case. 100km is the total distance to walk, starting in Richmond upon Thames and ending in Brighton, next to the racecourse, passing through Falmer and the Amex Stadium close to the finish. Still, that is a long way in the future, and women will conceive and give birth between now and when I get to the start line.

I had mentioned before that I would fund myself and not expect anything in the way of sponsorship. But even with an early bird discount, it is costing me a cool £140 for the pleasure. Perhaps if I am feeling like giving up, I will remember that! Despite what you think I might think, I think that the cost is quite justified. There are seven stops, three main ones where hot food is served and four mid-stage stops. At all of these there are enormous amounts of snacks, drinks and support in the form of medics. The signposting on the Wight Challenge was brilliant, every kilometre clearly denoted (though I did miss a couple of those) and signs all along the route pointing the way. The organisation really is something to behold and massive amounts are made for loads of charities.

I would love a friend or two to walk with me since it could get very lonely. I am sure that I could find people to walk with and Kate and Emily were fantastic company earlier in the year on the Isle of Wight. It is cheaper, of course, if you commit to raising sponsorship for a charity of your choice. I can’t remember exactly how much but I think it is in the range of about £50-60, still a significant outlay, and a minimum of £395 has to be raised in sponsorship, but it is really a great experience, despite being very hard work. Spend the night with me if you dare. Think about it.

Blisters of mercy

There’s no need for me to get really fit yet, but there’s no harm in it at all. The weather was still warm but certainly not stifling today so I set myself a quite reasonable target of at least 20 miles. Before next year’s L2B do, I will need to be able to have walked a minimum of about 30 miles, so I was pretty pleased to get just over 23 under my belt today with a been-there-done-it-before-but-I-can-do-it-again walk to Cosham and back. This is the longest walk for some time, perhaps since the Wight Challenge in May. I don’t keep any records to hand and would have to trawl this blog to check – and I really can’t be bothered, and does it really matter anyway?

I like listening to sport and particularly football when I am walking. The distance passes much more quickly, it feels, and at this stage of the season there isn’t really much stress involved in the league positions with still so many games to go. Even more entertaining is listening to the phone-ins after the matches have finished and the passion with which some fans speak. I see this from two sides. One is that football is just a game, it’s entertainment and, though I love it when my team wins, if this really is the most important thing in a person’s life, they ought to get some perspective in it. On the other hand, I have been there and certainly Pompey was the most important event of the week for me in my 20s and virtually every Saturday for three or four seasons I was either at Fratton or travelling up and down the country, even as a poor student. Meeting Pammy and having a son in Matt changed the perspective massively, and I only go now and again just to remind me of how great some live sport can be. But, come on lads, wishing people out of jobs based on the first two games of the season is a bit much……

It’s not long after I get home that it starts getting dark, reminding me that summer is almost breathing its last. 23 miles was a fantastic distance today and I had three sprint-walks, where I turn on the after-burners for 20-30 minutes, walking about the speed that you might if you were about 10 minutes from home and just wanting a wee, though not absolutely desperate for one. I wasn’t that surprised that I found the final three miles or so a bit of a struggle but you can only get fit by pushing yourself just a bit further than what you are comfortable with, says he, finishing a convoluted sentence with a preposition. In the end it was a noun. A couple more tense Saturdays at cricket to come and Sundays are for walking. This sort of distance needs to be comfortable by February or so. Feet should be sufficiently resilient not to have blisters, like the couple of small ones I am bearing at the moment. A trifle painful indeed but that will pass soon enough. It’s tempting to burst them but if you can resist that for a couple of days, it doesn’t half help your feet long-term with this long distance walking lark.

Perth to Sydney? Two and a half LEJOGs…..

There are times when you have the maddest thoughts. There was I in ‘thinking about walking challenges’ mode, taking stock of the commitment to walk from London to Brighton next year, when I wondered whether I can carry on until 75 when I will break the record to become the oldest person to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats. And why not? I have done it before, I don’t have to prove to myself that I can do it, but you can bet your bottom dollar (I love that phrase, my maths teacher used it all the time) that when I am about 73, some smart arse aged 82 will beat the record. Aaah. More years to wait and I really don’t want to be wishing my life away just for that.

Anyway, yes, that mad thought. I don’t know what made me think of it – the brain is a strange thing for wandering – but I could walk across Australia. For a good hour, I really thought seriously about it. I even went to town on the internet to see how viable it would be. Yes, it’s been done before, it is possible. I could start in Fremantle, just west of Perth and walk to Sydney. If I was to keep very far south, there are plenty of roads, long-distance trails and, most crucially, towns. Around 4,000 kilometres – that’s about 2,500 miles – and that’s only just over twice the LEJOG distance, so six months and that would be it. Find the right time of year when the weather would be reasonable, yes, it could be done. I even Google Earthed and Street Viewed some of a prospective route.

Hah! Then reality kicked in. Yes, about 40 people have walked across Australia, and I hunted down some of the remarkable stories of people who had done it, starting from a very simple search on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_walked_across_Australia

But it is so sad when reality kicks in and that a dream has to die due to practicalities. Fly to Perth, stay about four or five days to get rid of the jet lag and then walk east, ending in Sydney. But it seems that many who have walked this have pushed a buggy with a massive amount of supplies and, worst of all, had to camp. It would be bad enough in this country to pitch a tent but I managed to avoid it due to there always being accommodation available and a roof over my head. In Oz, I saw a couple of spells where there were at least about 70 kilometres between towns and that is just unwalkable in a day, and tough even to do in two, when you’re walking pretty much every day, as opposed to a one off. I would also be in mortal fear of scorpions, snakes, spiders or dingoes invading my tent and delivering a sting or bite that would be the end of me, and quite possibly in a place with no phone or internet signal. That may or may not be the reality or just my prejudices but certainly my fears. Then getting at least six months off work unpaid and embarking on something that would take all or most of our life savings – we might even have to sell the house. I would be going without Pammy’s blessing too, apparently, so she told me in no uncertain terms, so that was the end of that.

But it’s nice to dream. I would be only the second Englishman to achieve a walk across Australia (and the first, William John Wills, did it north to south rather than west to east, and then died on the return journey). The legendary Scottish woman Ffyona Campbell, walked from Sydney to Fremantle in an amazing 95 days as part of an even more amazing 11 year walk around the world. She is no lower in my opinion even after failing to complete the entire circumnavigation and admitting to taking some transport in USA in order to fulfil obligations of her sponsors.

So I have to lower my sights a little. Could do North to South of France, Calais to Vignemale or something like that – bizarrely that’s 1,026 kilometres (whereas Land’s End to John O’Groats was 1,026 miles). No, let’s not run before I can walk, so to speak. Next May. London to Brighton in a day and a bit as part of an ultra challenge. That will do for now. Just keep fit and healthy until I’m 75…..

You could do so much better than that prat

Just a short post today – London 2 Brighton is on and I feel a trifle more enthused given the commitment for the end of next May. The website and actually registering for the event are another matter. It’s easy if you want to raise for a charity but self-funding, though advertised as an option, appears a mystery as to how to actually register. You always have to select a charity and commit to the minimum sponsorship, which is a minimum £395 (down from £485 last year). There are just so many people raising money for so many very worthy charities that I think I have had my share – everyone was just so generous last year and I can’t keep asking. So I have decided to self-fund, which I believe entails an entry fee of £129 or thereabouts, as opposed to £51. I may have those figures wrong – I haven’t checked them…… I have requested help from the organisers (as they offer) but still keep getting the same link that just doesn’t help. I’ll have to phone them, that will be fun. Talking to people I don’t know, never my strong point.

But it’s given me an incentive to build up a little – and today – a fairly routine route across the Itchen Bridge, past Ocean Village, into Southampton, up the length of The Avenue and then down through Swaythling and Bitterne back to Sarisbury. What I like about going west is that I can really test myself in the last mile up Sarisbury Hill. Over 20 miles in total and I have to be pretty happy with that on a warm afternoon and even in the evening it was only a gentle breeze that cooled me down. Very sweaty for the first 10 miles, that’s for sure. I had to put my radio earphones back in while having a coffee after listening to a bloke madly over-selling himself on what was clearly a first date. I suppose going for a coffee is a very 2015 style first date but he sounded like a saint – and even worse than the Southampton version – he was an atheist, a green campaigner, loves his dog, the perfect everything and had a verbal tic “Now that’s great” on repeat mode whenever he occasionally allowed the poor girl to get a word in edgeways. When he went to the toilet, and by that I mean he visited the facilities rather than just, er, going there and then, I really felt like going up to the girl and saying, “quick, leave now, you could do so much better than that prat” but it would have sounded pervy from a 51 year old to a mildly pretty little thing, someone certainly not yet classified as mid-twenties, I would guess.

So I just kept my counsel, life is so much easier that way.

Morphine and me

Insecurity is not a great trait to have. I have felt it much more in recent days and there appears to be little pattern to it. I have grown to care much less about how people think of me, but I know it is better to be thought a good person than a bad one. You never know when you will need that one friend who is in the position to help you. I don’t feel so bad today but I have had a bit more negativity going on than normal. I could do with shifting a few pounds and there is something about exercise that releases good endorphins, that I understand have similar properties to morphine.

With football starting again, it is a good time to be walking. Listening to radio commentaries passes the time – one live match covers about seven miles or so and in the coming weeks Sunday will normally be decent fare with a couple of games on Talksport and 5 Live during the afternoon. So hopefully I will soon be again on the 20+ mile treadmill. Cooler weather will help me with that, without question. Today it is the Community Shield and the earlier attraction of some cricket on Radio Solent. It is a very warm afternoon and I can’t recall being quite as sweaty by the time I get home in the early evening. It was lovely to walk on the beach again briefly, and without my feet having any meaningful conversation with me this time. Lee on Solent is an attractive sea front and is a reasonable distance from my home, through Titchfield and Stubbington. Past “Cyril’s”, where I had my first really short haircut after living with unreasonably long hair from the age of about 9 until 23, and a longer route home, straight up to Fareham and a no frills main road jaunt back to Sarisbury. 17 miles is the final score.

Quite happy with that, thank you very much, given my relative lack of fitness and the temperature. I would love to get back to that level of about 16-17 months ago, when I felt almost invincible in walking terms. No distance or terrain could beat me, though there were a couple of decent efforts from the Trossachs region. What I lack at present is the goal of a challenge and I intend to put that right in the next week or two. I keep on talking about it but I need to commit to something. Not expecting any sponsorship since I cannot keep asking and I was blown away by the amount donated last year. Entry fees are around £150 for the ultra challenges that I am targeting but there is usually an Early Bird price that can give 20-30% reduction. Yes, it is expensive but you do get a lot of support during what would be 24-36 hours for a 100+ km walk. So, some time next year, no doubt in the summer so it will either be too warm or wet to be perfect. Warmth may be better since it might be cool through the night rather than downright unpleasant as it was on the Wight Challenge.

Ah, that feels better. Feet are a bit sore but there are no blisters that I can see. Legs ache but that is a bit of tiredness and nothing else. But it helps to talk, and to write. Thank you for listening, and reading.