Dedication, that’s what you need, and I haven’t got it at the moment

Walking for five or six hours at a time at least once a week takes some motivation. Unfortunately this weekend I didn’t have it. Over the last five and a half years I must have walked getting on for seven or eight thousand miles, I would guess, and it has helped me in so many ways, especially after achieving different challenges. But despite having another one coming up in the second weekend of September, I am really struggling to build up any enthusiasm for it.

Of course, I do have a reasonable level of fitness and I just need to maintain it and then turn up and walk it. Sounds simple but I know it isn’t. Often the fear of failure spurs me into action but not at the moment. It is sad for me to say that I was actually happy to use the weather as an excuse for not getting out and plodding for 15-20 miles. And it may be the same next weekend but I must force myself to do it, otherwise I can kiss goodbye to finishing the Thames Path Challenge. I know that I will be motivated and determined on 9-10 September but there is some work to do before then. The Travelodge is booked and leave arrangements made with work for a few days recovery.

I mused yesterday during one of the three episodes of the Columbo triple bill on 5USA that it would be far easier for me if I was a runner, since 7 or 8 miles in an hour and a bit, which was my staple many many years ago, would indeed take me only an hour and a bit and therefore the weather would not be an issue, simply finding the clear period during a gloomy day. It is a bit different to walk six hours in intermittently heavy rain. I have decided to take a break from long distance walking after the September challenge, do a bit of gym work now and again instead, and ponder what I really want to do.

Earlier in the week, I thought about the ambition I have had of becoming the oldest person ever to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats, or more likely the reverse this time. The last time I looked the record was held by a man aged 74 years and a few days but I see now that the record is held by an Anthony Allsop at 75 years 88 days. I imagine it might stretch further into the late 70s in the next few years as life expectancy and healthy life expectancy increase. I looked on the ONS website last week and saw that my own life expectancy is around 86 years – though that is an average for a 53-year old male, and doesn’t take into account lifestyle factors. I have something like an 80 per cent chance of reaching 75, incidentally, again an average blah blah blah. Dedication, that’s what you need, and what I need to get back.

However, it is hard to see beyond 10 September 2017 at the moment, let alone some dates in 2039. I did get a boost today of a very good £25 donation from two of my Fantasy Football compatriots who kindly donated prize money to my charity. So I have reached a milestone of £100 at least, though I must raise around £400 under the conditions of my entry, and around £200 by the end of July, else the charity may opt to withdraw support for my entry. I have a few people who have said that they will sponsor me but are likely to pay closer to the day so I have a good chance of reaching £400 anyway. I will speak to the charity organisers for the Rocky Appeal if any of this is in doubt, obviously.

If you wish to sponsor me to walk 100 km from Putney bridge to Henley, walking through the night until I finish, please do so either at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/keith-spicer3

or by texting SBOY80 followed by the amount to 70070, e.g. SBOY80 10 for £10.

All donations very much appreciated, and many many thanks to those of you who have sponsored me already.

All I need now is some dedication…….

 

Walking with the orange light on

It’s happened to us all. Driving serenely along the motorway when the orange light comes on. Running out of fuel – you realise you’d forgotten to fill up before you left home – and suddenly all energies are concentrated on getting to the next services – which is always about 20 miles away. The light indicates 25-30 miles of fuel left, but who knows, you’ve never pushed that to the limit and never want to. There’s no point stopping; you just have to keep going. Turn off the air conditioning and any other in-car function that might just drain the fuel just that little bit more. Drive as close as you can to the optimum 56 mph and avoid any sudden braking or change in direction, obviously driving in the highest gear possible. Once you reach the service station, breathe a huge sigh of relief, fill up as much as you might need, and move on, refreshed, all well with the world.

My walk today had some parallels. All has been well in my own little world and though I didn’t feel I needed the mental side of a walk, I needed to keep up some level of fitness given I’ve got this gig in September. I took in a bit of Holly Hill before returning to the road, Warsash, Titchfield village, Stubbington (coffee) and then up Peak Lane, turning right towards HMS Collingwood. Without feeling anything other than ok, it was an ok run out after a couple of weeks and looking like a run of the mill walk. But suddenly, figuratively speaking, my orange light came on and I felt absolutely bereft of energy, my legs were aching and even slightly light-headed. There’s no point stopping; you just have to keep going. The worst thing is to stop, since it’s much more difficult to restart and then keep going. It’s ok to slow down to a comfortable pace – my normal pace is around 3.5 mph, and about 3.2-3.3 mph is still fine (don’t ask how I know this, it must be an autistic thing), walk as economically as you can, no excessive energy, think good thoughts if you can. Eventually I reached Fareham and refuelled. Not normal for me to have a hot sausage roll and a bit of bread pudding but I felt that that 600 calories or so would make the last stage – just under six miles – somewhere near calorie neutral. Though my legs did feel the after-effects of walking with the light on, so to speak, I felt all the better for that and reached home after just about 16.5 miles.

On that last stage, I thought hard about what happened and it felt quite analogous in turn to my well-being, and no doubt that of some others. Sometimes life can be fine but knocked sometimes by one or two events that might seem quite harmless on the outside, but that have the potential to disturb an individual. It’s as if life becomes life with the orange light on, until you can find something that helps you refuel. Lately, I had been troubled somewhat by a number of things that threatened to make me very bitter with the world but I have been very well refuelled and have plenty of happiness in the tank. However, I can’t always rely on having friends available for decent chats, a son and girlfriend getting first class degrees, a son’s and girlfriend’s graduations, Bryan Adams singing live (just for us) and my cricket team winning three matches in a row (after a first half season of relative struggle).

Looking at that list, you might be surprised to see cricket in the list but it is hard for anyone who doesn’t play sport, participate in sport or support a sporting team or individual to understand what a boost it can be to see them succeed. It is wonderful to chat with your friends over a drink having tasted success at whatever level and cricket did play a massive, yes massive, part in helping me to recover from a long period of difficulty in 2010 and 2011, not that very many at our club knew about it at the time. It was one of my occasional confidants, Paul Tosdevin, who passed away earlier this year and my Thames Path Trail Challenge is in aid of his charity – the Rocky Appeal. Still a few weeks to go but please think about donating:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Keith-Spicer3

or text SBOY80 10 to 70070 to donate £10.

You might think that I’ve done this sort of thing before so it should be easy. Take it from me, it isn’t and it won’t be. Even any small donation will be very gratefully received.

 

Ticking over with interest

I remember one conversation with our son Matt when he was about 9 or 10 that started with a question from him: “Why do I have to go to training, Dad? Why can’t I just go when we have a match?” I explained that it was about keeping fit, building team spirit and getting to know the way each other play, so that one can fit in to the style and predict what might happen next in a match. For some reason I thought about that conversation today, and why it was important to go out and get yet more miles under my belt, and it certainly is about keeping fit, but still about how my body copes, the relationship with my feet and just keeping a positive mental attitude. The intention was mostly just to tick over with 15 miles or thereabouts.

It was warm and a bit sticky today and it was just about that temperature which says “the shady side of the street” to me. And I was able to do that pretty well, and that is normally most important between about 1:30 and 4. But even at 5 and after, it was still hot enough to be minded to find some shade now and again and, of course, to ensure that I was taking in sufficient fluid.

I have found a couple of colleagues who have helped me resolve some of the irritation and mind games that my mind appears to be playing with me. Sometimes just talking and rationalising things hits the spot. So I wasn’t so troubled that I needed a walk for that reason but it was a case of ticking over. It had helped too that my cricket team had secured a much-needed win but it was such a tense final hour or two that I had a bit of backache, neckache and a slight headache, the last named returning this morning. The game was much on my mind for quite a bit of today, trying to relive the good points and those moments that always make me laugh (like the 16 year old saying he was going to offer one of the opposition out for a fight after the game – I don’t think he actually did, as it turns out).

The walk itself was one of those where I had no set route and often turned this way or that on a whim, eventually reaching Millbrook Station having taken a previously unknown shrubbery-lined path parallel to the railway line in Southampton. Millbrook is not an area I know well at all, and I turned up Foundry Lane, which was pretty quiet until I heard the voice of a woman bawling, “get your f****** arse in here now”, so I guess it’s not a much sought after neighbourhood for first-time buyers! I took some fairly random turns, knowing that I would end up in Shirley (ok, ok) and take a walk in the general direction of home. Having coffeed (is that actually a verb?) after an hour, the one-stop strategy meant five hours afterwards, with only a brief break to get sustenance about halfway through that. Note that my 100km walk in September has seven stops, not including the finish!

So, ticking over, no not quite 15, but 20.5 miles. It so often happens that I walk far more than I originally planned. I must just love it, but I won’t be walking more than the requisite 100km in September, that’s for sure.

Beat The Clock

Often walking is a panacea for negativity, providing the chance to just be alone and rationalise, while burning off a few calories and releasing endorphins. I did need a walk today, having skipped last Sunday, but on balance there are many more good things than bad to think about for me at the moment. Matt’s and Yaya’s degree results were fantastic news, work is the positive sort of challenging, and even a cricket defeat couldn’t trouble me too much today, with a more positive feel to events than is often the case.

I enjoy the freedom to walk at my own pace but just occasionally there are other commitments and an appointment late on Sunday afternoon did mean that I had a definite finishing time. I had to aim to be back home by 3:45pm, or at the very latest 4pm. Now I am not an early bird, and it is one of the more remarkable things about my long walk that I was able to cram 238 miles into the first two weeks, in mid- to late-February, when the sunset is still before 6pm. There were a number of days with 20+ miles (including the longest of 26 miles: Carhampton to Bridgwater on 28 February) when it was a struggle to finish in the light, and early starts are hard enough for me, even without considering the tiredness from previous days’ walking.

So it sounds a bit pathetic for me to say how pleased I was to start out today at 10:20am. Even glancing at my Facebook page made me see other friends who had already run 5km or 10km or further before that time. One had even risen at 4am to do a 5km run on Southampton Airport runway! I should add that that was an organised event and not just an invasion past airport security. So, for me, 10:20 to 3:45. Basically, five hours walking plus 25 minutes break.

The sea air always seems to do me good and the weather was sufficiently breezy to be near perfect conditions. With only the Sun on Sunday available as reading material, my coffee break at least wasn’t going to strain my brain too much, and 25 minutes was probably about right. I stretched my legs into a speed walk along the sea front and racked up the miles in Lee on Solent and towards Gosport. Though I was very much in the zone today, I always felt that I had to keep one eye on the clock, mentally working out how long I had left and what was reasonable. I turned back towards home and was happy to go away from the road for a mile or two with some quiet surroundings before I reached Stubbington.

I did need some fluid and sustenance now and have found drinking fair amounts of milk can really help. I mooched around the shop’s shelves and found the milk and flavoured milk. Strawberry is my preferred flavour but a ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ one caught my eye. I thought I’d try that and was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was, despite considerable trouble opening the carton. I gulped it all down but I did wonder whether a 550 calorie intake in about a minute and a half was wise. No problem in burning that off but it did give me a rather heady feel for the first 15 or 20 minutes after that. I would have to kick on to make 3:45 but 4 o’clock was more realistic.

Now I’m sure that everyone here has had the experience of travelling somewhere, whether driving, running, cycling or walking, of mentally working out whether they are on time or going to make a deadline. There could well have been quicker cut-throughs for me but I knew the simple route is often best. My drop-deadline was 4 o’clock and I walked briskly up from Stubbington to the Titchfield Gyratory. At various stages I checked the time:

3:07 Titchfield Mill

3:18 Holiday Inn roundabout

3:28 Argos

3:32 Halfords

Yes, I was going to make 4 o’clock, and at the point at which I know is one mile from my house, the time was 3:40. You might be thinking that the rest was easy but though I was rattling along at about 15 minute mile pace, there were four roads to cross, all busy junctions, two on roundabouts, and another with traffic lights. And though 4 miles an hour is often cited as ‘walking pace’ you should try it for an extended period, or after you’ve already clocked up 15+ miles! The junctions served to delay and break rhythm but the last mile was done in dusted in a rapid 16 minutes. 3:56, quick shower, two big glasses of squash, and off….

It’s gonna hurt in the morning, but 18.5 miles. Very good indeed.

Of course, speed walking is not really my thing, it’s distance, and sustained over a long period. I really am in serious training now for the 100km (62 miles) September event. Thank you for all those who have sponsored so far. My target is to raise £1,000 for the Rocky Appeal. Details of the charity are within the link, and you can donate either through Just Giving: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Keith-Spicer3 or by text SBOY80 followed by the amount, e.g. SBOY80 £10 to 70070.

 

It’s not that I’m lazy but

It’s not that I’m lazy – though I have traces of that trait – but today didn’t feel like a walking day. Temperatures were peaking today at around 27 degrees in SO31 and surrounding areas and possibly higher further from the coast. After six hours in the sun yesterday at cricket, I did feel the first signs of dehydration, and that despite drinking a fair amount of watery drink and also that I was only scoring and not even playing. Doing any sort of distance on a Sunday that, if anything, was even hotter, might have been satisfying in a rather smug look-how-tough-I-am sort of way, but might have been counter-productive later in the week.

Anyway, I am feeling reasonably fit and have a good base from which to kick on in the middle and second half of the summer. Yeah, I have seen and heard that others are on their bikes or on the road or even up mountains this weekend but, given recent events, it wouldn’t do any harm to have a quietish day at home with my Pammy. I certainly don’t need to make myself unwell by overexertion on the walking front when energies are better conserved for just keeping healthy and being useful. 

Thank you to those who sponsored me so far for the Thames Path Trail challenge, including those who donated anonymously (so I can’t thank you personally). With so many deaths and terrible events occurring, charity fundraising efforts are plentiful and it is not possible to donate to every one that chimes. Moreover, I am so proud of so many of my friends who have taken on fundraising and many who have taken on challenges that they must have felt nigh on impossible at some time! The world is not such a bad place if there is such caring for others and, as a spin-off, the will to help via something outside one’s comfort zone. Some of these challenges are pretty impressive and I might have to up my game next year!

Go Rocky

Gradually things are getting better, and things got gradually better during today’s walk. People have been ever so kind and thoughtful this week and that has made so much of a difference. Thank you all.

I wasn’t thinking of a long walk today since I was always going to watch England win the World Cup, the Under 20 World cup that is, and we duly beat Venezuela this morning. It’s now past 9pm so here goes, “Three lions on the shirt,……….eight hours of hurt……”. Disappointed already to read negative comments – absolutely nothing will please some on social media. But let’s get past that, only positive things surely can come from winning the World Cup.

Setting out after 1pm would restrict me to a good, rather than a very good distance. Perhaps that feeling pervaded my thinking – it often doesn’t take much to instil negativity at the moment – and I felt I was walking for the sake of it and that it would be better than not walking at all. I stopped early and it was only to be a brief stop since there were no newspapers and I don’t generally take my tablet with me, just a radio that was broadcasting various sport, predominantly the tennis. The restart had me puzzling to decide the route and I opted just to go down a few roads and back roads that I was less familiar with.

It is not the first time, and probably not the last, that after about 8 miles I suddenly got a mildly fuzzy feeling that what was happening was good. Yes, it was worthwhile having a walk today, and that I could do a bit more. I even stopped at a roadside van and bought a cheeseburger and really relished it, despite there being no relish. I know that is not the healthiest thing I could do but, what the hell, I was going to burn off all the calories anyway and I just felt like it. Without having a real spring in my step but certainly feeling much more positive, I took a few more unfamiliar roads before making my way home on a more normal route for the last hour and a bit. Around 18 miles.

The Thames Path Challenge is signed and sealed. My fitness is decent but still a bit below where I have been in the past, but I have almost three months to build that up. It is hard to do that with cricket on Saturdays, when a really long walk (25+ miles) would at least give me a lot of Sunday to recover. I like to be able to do 30 miles in the month prior to one of these ultra challenges and as the time gets closer I do have days of immense motivation. I think that’s what I need now. I won’t have a Week of Pain this year but perhaps a three-dayer with 60 miles or so. Need to find somewhere nice for that, but not necessarily so tough as to be counter-productive.

Ah yes, the Thames Path Challenge. 100 kilometres from Putney Bridge to Henley on Saturday 9 September, continuing through the night into the Sunday. It is going to be fairly flat and likely to be hard on the feet. But this is what I am aiming for, and I have already entered and booked accommodation. This is for the Rocky Appeal in memory of a fine cricketing colleague who recently passed away – please see http://www.porthosp.nhs.uk/get-involved/fundraising/rocky-appeal.htm for details of the charity. I am aiming for a minimum £1,000 but anything you can offer will be very gratefully received. I am sure you got bored of me jabbering on about Fantasy Football in the spring – I did ultimately win the league (yay!) and the £20 prize money was always earmarked for this. Many many thanks.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Keith-Spicer3

Rocky

 

One week at a time

It has been a tough time over the last few weeks with plenty of issues and at these points the bad things are accentuated and the good things played down to be less important. It is at these times when walking has helped me, since I started decent distances at around the start of 2012.

Today I never felt as if it was going to be sufficient to play off everything in my mind and it has appeared that even the most trivial thing is hard to brush off. Enthusiasm wasn’t forthcoming despite the fact that I knew a walk would be good for me, and I barely seemed better after 17 miles – it might have needed 170 miles, though that would have taken a while and completely done me in for an even longer while. In the morning, I tried my best to lift the mood and remember what I have achieved before by wearing my London2Brighton hoodie. I can’t think it did that much harm, and certainly protected me from some strong breezes on a chillier-than-it-looked afternoon, despite a fair amount of sunshine.

The hoodie also led to the one interesting and amusing incident of the walk. As I was queuing for my coffee, a chap asked me what it was about – and I responded that I had walked from London to Brighton last year. He asked how far that was, and I said 100 kilometres, about 62 miles. But he cut my mood to the quick and took all wind out of any of my sails by saying, “that must have taken you 15 or 16 hours”. When I responded that it was around 27, he looked slightly less impressed but he did say, “well, it was still a good effort”. A good effort – you have no idea…..

So not a lot to talk about today. It was one of the least enjoyable walks for some time but not entirely worthless. Exercise has to be good, even if one doesn’t feel it at the time. I’m sure that I’ll feel the benefit later in the week and there is no significant pain. But it is tough at the moment and I’m taking one week at a time. It’s not so bad yet to be at the ‘one day at a time’ level. Anything less than a day and it really is time to worry. I’m just at ‘one week at a time’ which only equates to ‘I need a hug now and again’, as well as dragging that annoying Lena Martell song into my head. Blimey, did my Mum love that song at the time (1979).

So to the week ahead. The fact that I have written all this means it can’t be that bad, so don’t worry, I’m not losing it just yet!