Paling in comparison

Quite worried after last Sunday’s longer than usual walk with a niggling pain around the inside of my right knee, or just slightly lower. Fortunately, Matt was home from university for Easter and had a look and a prod, doing quite a thorough assessment, asking me what all seemed sensible questions, and thought it was the point where the hamstring ends. The fact that I had done a fair amount of downhill sections (and the half hour on the shingle on the beach can’t have helped) appears to have caused the discomfort. What a thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive and sensible son we have – I can’t understand which of those attributess he gets from which of his parents…….

The original plan was not to go for a walk this weekend. Yesterday we had a number of members from Pam’s side of the family visit for a family do but a planned visit today to a friend was cancelled due to them being too unwell for visitors. That certainly wasn’t great news and it was with a heavy heart that I decided to go walking this afternoon.

Today was the day of both the London Marathon and the Southampton Marathon, the latter also encompassing half marathon and 10K races (I believe). I very rarely watch the London Marathon on television, not because I don’t marvel at people’s achievements and the personal stories behind those, but because I always wonder what I could have achieved in that sphere if not for a couple of serious injuries after I had already run three half marathons when I was about 25. Despite my walking exploits more recently, I fear that it would be impossible for me to take up serious (or even frivolous) running again without endangering my physical health. So as well as being impressed, I am also slightly envious – so it is best for me just to read the stories of my friends and it doesn’t make me any less proud of what they have done.

So for me to talk today about the somewhat easier task of walking – and 16.5 miles. No, I won’t say too much more, because it pales in comparison. The route took in a direct-ish route to Fareham and then up to and around Knowle village before returning on a path just to the east of Knowle back down to Funtley. I walked along the edge of the proposed Welbourne village site and I’m not going to get in the rights and wrongs of this development, though I can see both sides of the argument. If I was that bothered about the number of views and comments on my blog, at this point I would espouse one side or the other and let the nature of social media take its course. But one thing I would say, that that part of the walk was beautifully quiet with the M27 traffic in the distance barely registering a sound.

No issues with hamstrings or knees today. I heeded the implied advice to not push myself up or down too many inclines and felt well within myself today. I’ll see how I am during the week and plan accordingly.


Change of plan

Two changes of plan, actually. Or maybe changes in two plans. I mentioned a few weeks ago about a new challenge that needed planning for feasibility, and I’m afraid that it is just not feasible. As I said at the time, the death of a stalwart of the cricket club had been a shock, though he had been diagnosed with cancer about five years ago. He had worked tirelessly to raise money for the Rocky Appeal and my plan was to use my next challenge to raise for that charity.

Obviously, it would be hard to beat Land’s End to John O’Groats but I felt that walking between all the mainland first team grounds in the Hampshire Cricket League would have been a great and suitable way for remembering the life of our friend. However, the Hampshire League clubs stretch from Verwood and beyond Bournemouth to the south west, Shrewton in Wiltshire to the west, Hungerford in Berkshire in the north and the Rowledge area on the Surrey border in the north east. Even a fair amount of work optimising the route couldn’t reduce the mileage much below 600 miles. That would mean an absolute minimum of 5 weeks off work, working on 120 miles per week, which is pushing it since 100 is a reasonable limit for me if it included one rest day per week (which is really necessary). I don’t think it reasonable to have more than four weeks off at this time, and so I’m not even going to bother to ask the powers that be. You have to understand that this sort of thing is quite expensive too, what with extra food and accommodation along the way. I can’t expect loads of people to put me up – though I did have one or two offers when I confided in friends – and to be quite frank I am not great company when I am pounding the roads day after day; I become absolutely self-absorbed, not to say neurotic, and can never be quite as gracious as I ought to be.

But I still want to do something for the Rocky Appeal. I just don’t know what. I did think about doing all the grounds by driving to a particular spot each day and doing a circular route that might take in 6-8 grounds, then driving home. There are over 150 grounds but it feels like a watered down version of what would be a proper challenge. I still might look into that, though time is getting on and I need to sort this out soon if it is going to be that.

The other change of plan was to walk today rather than Easter Monday. And despite a latish start and not feeling that enthusiastic, it turned out to be the longest walk of the year so far. With the longer summer hours, it is more feasible to break into the 20+ mile numbers without having to walk in the dark. A not very direct route to Stubbington (7 miles) and then my favourite sea front speed walk through Lee on Solent, except that this time I carried on the coastal route, past Stokes Bay Angling Club before turning toward the inners of Gosport. A good spell of that had been on the pebbles and beach shingle, so this was no cake walk. The end of Lent encouraged me to have my first chocolate for 47 days, but surely I haven’t sacrificed this for so long that the price of a Feast from an ice cream van should be £1.80! Ok, I could wait a bit longer for what I deserved.

Plenty of cricket and football for me to listen to on the radio, which did help the miles go by and rack up more easily than they ought to. I can’t say that I know the Gosport area that well and I often had a gut feeling as to the direction I should be taking rather than a planned route. There are plenty of footpaths with signs toward Fareham so that does help. My feet, and especially the little toes, are a trifle tender and I wouldn’t be wanting to knock out another long one tomorrow. 24.5 miles and that is more than enough. Feet up now.


Early-burly pre-footie foot race

The Easter holiday weekend gives a chance for a couple of walks – with Saturday earmarked for cricket and other arrangements for Sunday, it is to be Friday and Monday. Of course, this was complicated by the big Pompey v Plymouth clash this afternoon, live on Sky – or, in my case, an internet feed. So I was quite motivated to make an early start, and was out of the house by 8:30am. Quite a feat given that I am often not on my way to work by that time on a normal work day.

The parameters of the day were to find some interesting new routes and be back home by around 2pm. My mind wandered to the afternoon’s football on a number of occasions while walking, but I enjoyed turning up towards Bursledon station and finding some side roads and footpaths with which I wasn’t that familiar. For a time it was like a bizarre speeded-up version of Rich House, Poor House, with some very well-to-do properties and a roughish feeling estate disappearing as quickly as they had appeared. Signposts for ‘Public Footpaths’ were everywhere and eventually they ground me down and I took one, then another and then another. I was never worried that I was lost, even though I was quite disorientated. At the end of the day I was bound to come across somewhere I knew.

Plenty of steep slopes, both up and down, in that spell of the walk and once I negotiated my way into more familiar territory, I was on the way as planned to the Netley – Hamble – Weston Shore area where I hadn’t been for some months. The sea was so calm on a clear morning that wasn’t as warm as perhaps anticipated, but it was very comfortable walking weather. After carrying on to the shore path to Woolston, I took the Itchen Bridge with ease and broke for coffee.

With a bit of time to spare, I took a long cut, as opposed to a short cut, through St Marys, and felt a bit uneasy in a rough looking estate. I have lived in both Portsmouth and Southampton and the cities are quite different. Both have good and bad about them and certainly – and like any other cities – there are rough areas where I wouldn’t want to go walking at night. Of course, as I hustled through to the main road, the old joke that goes along the lines of seeing the best part of Southampton – the road out of the city – came into my mind, though it is worth pointing out that it is also the road in to it. I have some really good friends from Southampton and I love the friendly banter with their footie fans, of whom I know many, both at work and our cricket club in particular. Although I can’t say that I ever want them to win, I don’t absolutely hate the football club as much as some other Pompey fans.

Talking of football, it was now a matter of getting home for about 2pm but it was ok to take Athelstan Road, which has an incline that gets steeper nearer the top, always tough on the legs and lungs, and then a more direct route home. I wandered to the cricket ground, which looked absolutely fantastic for our first pre-season friendly tomorrow. A quick shower at home and then a tense but still enjoyable match to watch, and a big step towards ultimate promotion, despite it only being a draw (we can at least claim that we won the clash on away goals, drawing 2-2 away and now 1-1 at home).

Despite the earlier than comfortable start time, the walk distance was a very good 17.5 miles. I have to be happy with that. Hope to top that on Monday – and celebrate Pompey’s promotion. We’re on our way back.

Why 80?

Why 80 indeed? A question I have been asked twice recently, and it is strange that it has taken three and a half years of blogging for this one to come up. Why “spiceboy80” is the question – well the address with just spiceboy was already taken. I then used the year of my birth, but spiceboy63 was taken. I then looked for another significant number and 80, standing for 1980, was available.

1980 was the season when I first saw Pompey promoted, and quite probably the most enjoyable one. Only when I pondered this further after the question arose, I realised that Pompey promotions and success followed educational achievements. 1980 was the year of my O Levels (note for youngsters: these were like GCSEs but almost entirely exam based and no easy coursework), 1983 was when I gained my 4th A Level (no coursework again) – I had 3 from the previous year and, yeah, it is a long story why I took the 4th. Then in 1987 I got my degree. 1980, 83 and 87 all saw Pompey promotions. Surely a PhD in 1992 would ensure another promotion? No, but a dalliance with the play offs scuppered by fixture congestion after a glorious run to the FA Cup semi final.

By the time 2003 and the Paul Merson inspired Championship winning season came, I was well past educational institutions. However it was the year that I succeeded in the two day Grade 7 board at the Home Office. Yes, a series of interviews and tests that lasted two days. And they say life is tougher these days…….

Not a promotion but a move to a better post in 2008 must have sewn up the FA Cup for Pompey. I really should have considered going for a new post or for promotion this year. That really would have been the clincher, though it now looks as if it will not be needed.

Ok so on to the present day and I decided not to go walking this weekend. The hot weather today would not normally have prevented a decent 15-20 mile walk but I had not felt at my best all week and particularly on Friday morning. So it would have been unwise to push it today. I will have a few chances next Easter weekend, when cricket starts as well! I am looking forward to the Sunday when the end of Lent allows me to partake of chocolate once again, but I won’t go too mad. A good excuse is that I will need some energy. What will be first – Galaxy or Maltesers are the ante-post favourites, with some sort of white chocolate a decent outsider. I can walk it all off. 

22 for Scrawny

Felt full of the joys of spring this morning, despite a number of nights now without good sleep. Trying to rationalise this, I could only think that the first cricket friendly match (as opposed to the unfriendly ones) is only a fortnight away, Pompey have transitioned from possible to likely to probable to “surely they can’t mess it up now” promotion in a matter of a month, and the weather today was gorgeous. I don’t think I have ever suffered from seasonal affective disorder but the winter and short days can be hard to get through, though my lowest time during my illness was pretty much the whole of quite a decent summer weather-wise.

A long distance was always going to be a challenge but I felt very capable of it, for some reason. I took a route with a few new paths and roads, one of which took in some very nice properties indeed. It felt like as if I had strayed into one of those gated communities that appear to be so much more evident these days and perhaps I had, since I ended up in what appeared to be a massive front garden, thankfully owned by someone apparently without large and aggressive dogs but at least a large open gate between two majestic pillars. I didn’t look back as I hurried through.

I was wearing one fewer layer than usual, just a base layer and a thin Pompey hoodie and there is a route near Stubbington that I take where I always appear to bump into an old chap, always on his bike and wearing a grey woolly hat. That was the case again this afternoon (I think the fifth time!), and he asked me the time – as he always does – and commented that, “Pompey – they’re in the 4th division now aren’t they? The manager’s got to go”. I humoured him and wished him well, not daring to question the leap of logic between his two sentences. He has struck me as someone who might be lonely and needs these conversations (no doubt with anyone on his route) to keep contact with the world and sanity, though I cannot pretend that I think that the world is especially sane in the last year or so.

For the most part, it was a very warm day, I would guess the warmest of the year to date, and that presents difficulties in addition to just heat, getting tired quicker and losing fluid slightly quicker. As one’s feet get warmer they expand and this is one of the commonest reasons for blisters and other niggles. In the heat it takes less time and less distance for this to start kicking in – and I could feel a tightness in both boots by about 12 miles. I adjusted them but it was an uncomfortable slightly limpy walk for half an hour or so, until the weather clouded over to a cooler climate and the issue drifted from my mind. It is a reason why, while I normally wear shoes or trainers that are 9 or 912, my walking boots are usually size 10 or 1012, and this is ok as long as the laces are tied properly and tightly. That is not to say that I never suffer from blisters, but I certainly don’t get as many as other long distance walkers.

I was trying to walk in the shade as much as I could – and remember that it was only around 20 Celsius at most – and that helped me to stretch the distance to 22 miles. The last two miles were hard, but I would expect that and it is those extra pushes you have to make that raise the fitness. But I felt really good today, both physically and mentally, and that can only auger well. If only I could feel as positive as this every day, the world would be my oyster. I do need to build a bit more upper body strength, having been called “scrawny” last week – but she only saw my arms, she never saw my thighs…..