Big data. If my tablet was tracked, my big data today would look like 11:35 17:30 17.9 miles. But when we talk big data or big achievements, Henry Worsley walked 931 miles in 71 days. Ok, I walked 1,026 miles in 73 days (10 rest days) and I did have some cold days, some wet days and some cold wet days, as well as one very foggy day, but Henry Worsley’s statistics are absolutely incredible – he can’t have had any rest days, and he never had any Travelodge breakfast boxes. I doff my hat to him, as I also do to Jo Brand. Someone who clearly does not have sport or exercise at the top of her resume and has crossed the width of England during what plainly has been one of the stormiest fortnights of recent years.

I feel very much in the shade so I’ll keep it brief. 18 miles without very much incident despite passing through Rowner and past The Green Dragon, surprisingly so in the latter case since my last walk along this road saw a fight between two women just outside said public house. Nothing to do with me as I scuttled quickly past, rubbernecking as necessary.

Spent a bit of time starting to plan, very far ahead in the future, perhaps 12-18 months ahead, the walk from South to North, the length of Wales, around 177 miles and Offa’s Dyke. Certainly won’t be a piece of cake from what I’ve seen and much of the accommodation and refreshments are found a mile or two away from the path. So it could be more like 200 miles. 12 or 13 days – could be fun, but very hard work at the same time. Need a bit of big data on this…..I read this week that one way of getting more hits, views etc is to use either #bigdata or #datascience because they are all the rage of the flavour of the fashion of the month. Hence the title of this post!?! But big data? Singular or plural? I think I have lost that battle to the philestines, nowcasters and projestimators.


No pyjamas

Time to step up and get some miles in my legs. Problem is that I have had an achy back in the last couple of days after a long return train trip to Cheltenham on Thursday. A possible factor too is that I have had less milk in the last few weeks while I have been having smoothies for breakfast. While this does give me the opportunity to have lots of lovely fruit and some other ingredients that I would normally shy away from (most vegetables and even a few nuts), the less milk might be not helping my bones. I have had very few issues with my previously troublesome kidney, which I have, in my mind at least, put down to too much milk and calcium in my diet, but I need to find a good balance.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about on a day that was dry until the final few minutes of my walk. From home straight to Bitterne, down to Woolston, over the Itchen Bridge, a coffee stop in Southampton, up to Portswood, and through the side streets to the University. This was where I studied for over four years in the late 1980s / early 1990s and so any trip there does bring back memories, though it has changed immensely over the intervening 24 years. The little house which we Social Statistics PhD students had in University Road is long gone and the whole campus is very much updated to the 21st century. I passed close to where there used to be a convenience shop in Burgess Road, and a regular for me and some of my fellow students to pick up a sandwich at lunchtime. It was run by two old bats (as we termed them) who frowned and tutted whenever one didn’t have the exact change to hand. They have long since left the scene and there is now a row of university buildings with a book store and a couple of banks.

After a brisk walk down Burgess Road and the first section of Stoneham Lane, I crossed the main road and through the Swaythling arch, taking the most direct route home from there. While yesterday I had considered around 15 miles the maximum likely distance, I managed almost bang on 19 miles without any adverse effects, at least yet. A work colleague asked me recently how I recovered from these walks and I have a reasonably routine routine:

Walk through the front door, remove boots, (often) rush for the toilet, get myself a water-based drink and sit down for 5 minutes, inspecting my feet for any damage. If I am feeling a bit weak or hungry I may have a slice or two of toast, normally with either jam or bovril. Then I go to Google Maps to confirm the distance that I think I’ve walked – I have an amazingly accurate feel for the distance and I am rarely more than 1 mile out, especially using my magic formula of D=3T+1, where D is the distance in miles, T is the number of hours (incorporating 30 minutes break). Today I had been out from around 11:15 to about 17:25, so I would calculate that as somewhere near 19.5 miles, but I had little in the way of speed walking and I appeared to spend more than the usual amount of time waiting to cross roads.

Carrying on, I then go and have a shower – I have never found it comfortable to do this straight after getting home, partly because it is better to warm up slowly first. I will put on clean clothes (or sometimes even pyjamas and a dressing gown) and sit at the PC to write something on my blog. The blog has become almost obsessional; I am often wondering what to write while I am out walking. By this time, I am ready to eat though I will not tend to eat a meal for at least an hour and a half after getting in. I now almost never eat anything after 8pm in any case.

So I guess I am now at the “ready to eat” stage of recovery…….in fresh clothes and not pyjamas in case you are wondering…….


More miles from the Missionary man

Snow had missed us overnight and drifted just to the east of our area and so a walk was in the question. It was a dismal late morning, cold enough for a woolly hat and gloves and very soon there was a drizzle increasing to light but steady rain. So the first six miles were not among my most favourite ever before I stopped for a coffee break. I was quite cold but warmed up nicely for half an hour while being entertained by a girl getting her foot stuck in the entrance door as she tried to manoeuvre her 9-inch heels through. At least she could laugh at herself, as could her mate, who was not helping in the slightest.

Noting the distance I had walked, I observed that I had taken about 3 or 4 per cent longer than on my usual pace to reach my stop. Now that might not seem like much, but it’s the difference between Usain Bolt running 9.7 seconds or 10.0 seconds (or thereabouts). It’s the difference between a runner at today’s Stubbington 10K running 50 minutes or 51.5 minutes. For the record, I ran that very race in January 1990 in 44 minutes 7 seconds, but that’s enough on my aborted running career (achy calves and back troubles, before you ask) though I did receive a Stubbington 10K souvenir mug for finishing (which I dropped on the concrete path a few seconds after – and, yes, they did give me a replacement! which I still have somewhere here at home). So I decided for a real speed walk, uphill from Fareham up to Kiln Road and along to Highlands Road.

The first two miles were completed in just over 28 minutes, so I was kicking on like a kicking-on thing. I was helped by some upbeat Eurythmics head music, which included Thorn in my Side, Love is a Stranger, Sweet Dreams and Missionary Man. The latter song was sort of apt and made me chuckle, since a little while back I was speed walking near Fareham and was spotted by a friend from work, who said I looked like “a man on a mission”. This afternoon, the weather was now perfect, grey with low cloud, dry and not that cold at all. I took a diversion from the most direct route home and skipped in, metaphorically if not literally, through the front door after a total of a smidgen over 14 miles.

Pretty happy with that and with listening to two pretty dull football matches on the radio. Only those who understand fantasy football will understand this, that I was wishing for three clean sheets for four of the teams playing, and not for the other. Bingo. You don’t know how hard it is to listen to a match willing it to be nil-nil. Do you care? Er, probably not, it’s only football.


Not bothered…….inordinately

It’s only rain – it’s only water – but why on earth would anyone want to go out walking for hours in the rain? Well, it doesn’t bother me inordinately on these relatively short walks. It is humorous to me that many people react to even light rain as if Earth has been invaded by killer alien insects whose weapon of choice is to make you wet (even at work, with a 20 second walk from the car to the door I see panic of ‘Snakes on a Plane’ proportions at the sight of drizzle). Look, it’s not like parts of Scotland, Cumbria and the other parts of Northern England where four times the average rain has fallen and flooding has affected the base foundations of people’s lives. Now that is a different kettle of fish.

If I had the choice I would take a dry 10-12 degrees as ideal walking conditions but I know it can’t always be like that. So rain it is. I also had to drop in to pick up some Christmas gifts – yes, I know it is 10th January but….. – and have an enforced brief stop after about 4 or 5 miles. That leg was completely dry but the first of two short but heavy showers arrived pretty much as soon as I restarted. The second arrived as I started over the Itchen Bridge and found hailstones the size of garden peas driving into my face. I’m not saying it was pleasant and, obviously, I had the waterproofs on but it was a trifle difficult walking at any meaningful pace for a few minutes. I saw some scurrying as I reached the Southampton side, desperate to find cover before the supposed Armageddon arrived. Of course, it never did arrive and I dried off on the walk within a few minutes before a shorter than usual coffee break.

But it didn’t bother me…….inordinately. The walk back was undramatic and just a few odd large puddles. Despite the weather, it is already clear that the sunset is becoming later and that is giving an extra few minutes walking time in daylight. Over 15 miles in total and a very satisfactory outcome. Survived and within 20 minutes of getting home, I was undressed, back under water in the shower, dried and then redressed in fresh clothes. No damage done.


The loneliness of the long distance walker

New Year’s resolutions are at the forefront of many minds and many will already have been broken. I remember well two years ago, in the height of training, going out on 1st January and walking a decent distance in patchy rain and seeing two runners. On the 2nd, a dry day, I must have seen one hundred. I suspect that, if those two I saw on New Year’s Day were acting out New Year resolutions, they were the ones more determined and were much more likely to see them through, and not for them to be put off by a bit of rain.

I have no resolutions really, except an achievable one of being lighter at the end of 2016 than at the start, and to complete the London 2 Brighton ultra challenge. What I have noticed this year is a greater number of resolutions and support groups relating to well-being. For instance, there is a new meditation group at work, to which I have been invited. I also saw an excellent and very moving programme on the BBC on loneliness and its (somewhat circular) links with depression, and made one wonder if there is really more that one could do to help others in obvious need.

I am not going to attend the meditation classes – it is undoubtedly an excellent idea but it is not really my thing. I am not going to go into my mental condition as it was five or so years back, since I have done so previously on this blog https://spiceboy80.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/how-did-this-all-start/ but I do find walking long distances act like meditation. I can drift off for many minutes into my own world and I have occasionally arrived home struggling to remember the precise route I have taken. On the BBC programme, I know that loneliness is a dreadful thing, not that I can claim to have suffered much ever – only during parts of my long walk did I feel lonely, but walking was my therapy. However, I still am not sure I could have completed it without my daily phone call to Pammy and writing the blog was a tremendous source of help, with the resultant comments and likes. It sounded a cliché at the time, and perhaps still does, that “your comments are keeping me going”, and a 20 minute call to a work meeting once a week (where we did anything but talk about work) gave a real sense of people getting interested and involved in my challenge, and I hope they felt that they were helping me achieve my goal, because they certainly were. I felt I wasn’t alone, in spirit at least.

So after LEJOG, I am keeping going, almost two years on from that really exciting part of my life. It gives me a sense of worth and fitness, with one challenge per year feeling like the right amount of challenge! I have once or twice reflected that maybe my future is behind me, due to starting off with a challenge that I will almost certainly never exceed. It can thus be harder to get motivated for the day-night challenges. So it is more with a sense of panic and forboding that I get to a decent level of fitness near to the time. Before I can think about being able to conquer L2B, as those in the know are apt to call it, I need to have done a 30-mile day, which will be some time in April, perhaps coinciding with another “week of pain” when I go walking 6 or 7 times in a week.

I have started making plans in any case for L2B and have a very rough idea of the route. I am already looking at accommodation on the Friday night (27 May) in Richmond before it all gets booked up by other participants. Anyway, there are three rest stops where meals are available, with other intervening points (termed “midpoints”) where there are snacks and drinks available.

Start at Richmond, Old Deer Park by the River Thames

12.5km midpoint

24km Rest stop at Sutton, Oaks Park

40.5km midpoint

56km Rest stop at Tully’s Farm, Turners Hill

67.5km midpoint

80km Rest stop at Wivelsfield, near Haywards Heath

88km and 94 midpoints

100km Finish at Brighton Racecourse, Brighton.

Sounds easy if you say it quickly but this will be tough. I cannot think it will be worse than last year’s Wight Challenge, with the predominantly coastal route battered by wind and rain from the middle of the evening. I would imagine that, once again, it will be possible to track progress over the event’s website, but details will be clearer nearer the time.

So a training walk tomorrow, Sunday. Forecast is mainly dry but some showers so the waterproof jacket will get another runout. Looking forward to it.