Thursday, 20 July 2017

LEJoG 2017 - Getting Back on The Horse!

This time next week I will be on a train up to Edinburgh to change to a train to Galashiels, then a bus to Innerleithen before getting on my feet to John o'Groats.

Yes! I'm finishing the job! The little line on this map will get all the way to the top corner of Scotland!

I'm going to be running straight through for 16 days in a row, but given the days are less demanding than in the first 3 weeks this is very approachable and achievable. There are only 2 days over 30 miles, 6 days under 25 miles of which 2 are 20 miles and 1 is 13.5 miles. The elevation is pretty gentle too. I'll camp 2 nights and the rest is in B&Bs/hotels.

16 days of greenery and scenery in your social media feed, in between the crazy of the world. 16 days of mundane, simple, lower levels Maslow's needs griping to distract you from Brexit and Trump!  It's back on! Get the message out there! Get people following and sponsoring! Let's smash my £5K target funds raising for Public Health Collaboration!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

LEJoG 2017 - looking back and forward

If you don't follow me somewhere else on the Internet, the latest is that I had to stop after 21 and a half days due to excruciating pain in my leg, most likely tibialis anterior tendinitis.

I tried to rest for a couple of days to let things heal, after a local GP had a look at it, but even staying off it for 2 days made zero difference to the amount of pain once I'd really got going for the day's distance.  I tried strapping it and bracing it, but it got so painful that I ended up howling with pain and unimaginable amounts of tears and snot streaming down my face for the well over an hour it took me to get down from Minch Moor to Traqair.  At that point I was in the most pain I've ever been in, including when I broke my collarbone towards the final 15km of the bike leg of Ironman 70.3 Galway in 2012. So I decided to get myself to the nearest A&E as I was worried that it was something broken.  Luckily for me there was a health centre in the village a couple of miles away and they helped me get a taxi to Borders General hospital. I left the hospital with a pair of crutches, a letter to my GP, and instructions to stuff my face with Ibuprofen and paracetamol for a couple of days and then just the Ibuprofen for the rest of the week. I'd been avoiding NSAIDs to that point, due to it being a super bad idea to take those while doing heavy exercise. After 2 days, however, the pain was hugely reduced to the point where I was OK walking a bit without crutches, but my leg/ankle still got creaky and sore after a while. So, I've been really doing nothing now for a few more days (it's 5 days now since I stopped) and there's a little swelling still and some restriction in flexing my ankle in either direction (I've been doing exercises to make sure it doesn't get stiff), but I've been tentatively looking at when I can get back and finish the route. Sure, I could have taken Ibuprofen for the remaining 15.5 days and carried on in the hope that it worked well enough and didn't cause my kidneys to give up, but I wasn't willing to do that to myself. I'm stubborn, but not totally stupid.

Thanks to @benunsworth for making this brilliant map!
I've done 630 miles. There's 405 left to do. I need to avoid (Scottish) school holidays and key work events and negotiate *another* 2 weeks unpaid time off, but it looks like later in October might work and I should be well recovered by then.

Looking back, it's slightly surreal to think of how far up the UK I got - well into Scotland, not far short of Edinburgh. I saw some beautiful and very varied scenery, pretty villages, brilliant cafes, pubs and B&Bs. I problem solved my way through many obstacles: ankle to shoulder height nettles, gorse, thistles, holly and hawthorn; electric fences; barbed wire; herds of cows; very anti-social land owners (hey, yeah, I'll just stick a head-height bank of soil and a ditch across the entire width of the field and an electric fence, a hawthorn hedge and some barbed wire!); broken stiles and bridges; broken/locked/wired shut gates; missing bridges; unrelenting sun for 2x days with no shade; cold; wet feet for 12+ hours; 45-50mph winds while up on the highest point of the moors... etc. I've met some really lovely people and been shown great kindness many times. I've spent days where the only talking I've done is saying hello to cows and rabbits. I've gotten a *lot* of vitamin D! And I've raised over £3,500 for Public Health Collaboration (so far)! My muscles and engine were fine throughout. I slept really well. I used every single piece of kit I'd packed except the two things I'd really only need in the more remote bits of Scotland - a fabric bucket for collecting water, and a water bottle with a filter in it.

It's been an amazing experience; sure, there were tough bits and I got frustrated and upset a good few times mainly due to people being unthinking/inconsiderate (e.g. car drivers who have no idea of the highway code and how to deal with pedestrians). But it took a biomechanical breakdown to put it on pause for now.

I've got pretty bad blues - I wanted to do it in one, and I'm really missing being out in the countryside whatever the weather. Need some time and care before anything hard - physical or mental.

Monday, 8 May 2017

LEJoG 2017: 2 weeks to go, final tests & checks

2 weeks to go and this is the last weekend that any training will make a difference to fitness levels on the day that I start this thing.  Having had 5 days with no training due to a combination of a cold that hit me hard and fast and transatlantic travel for work, I'm a bit nervous of my overall training consistency and trying hard to put my trust in what coach James has to say about it all rather than looking at my Training Peaks historical log and freaking out.  45 miles of back to back run (including a sneaky parkrun) done and it wasn't too bad!  Slightly niggly knee, but that's how things go in the last few days into a big event - all the psychological demons crawl out in "fake symptoms" to freak you out. They're almost always not real.

This weekend I also needed to do final kit tests and checks to make sure everything I already tested still works and any replacements are good.  With 25 miles on Saturday, an overnight camp at Saddlescombe Farm, and 15 miles on Sunday, most problems should shake out with kit.

Since I last did a big back to back weekend with a camp in the middle, I've replaced all of this:-
  • Waterproof top: new Montane Minimus - better waterproofing for the same weight as the old jacket. (CHECK! Works nicely under my pack and is super light.)
  • Shorts: new Icebreaker Comet Skort - slightly lighter and way cuter for the same coverage/comfort. (CHECK! Comfy, doesn't move around too much, looks great!)
  • T-shirt: new Icebreaker Comet Cap Sleeve - slightly lighter and less shoulder coverage. (CHECK! Comfy, doesn't move around too much, looks good, allows better air-flow!)
  • 3/4 tights: new Icebreaker Impulse - less see-through and comfier for the same weight. (CHECK! Comfy, kept me warm overnight!)
  • Water purification: new Travel Tap - built into bottle, no batteries needed, less stuff to carry (slightly lighter in combination).
  • Sleeping mat: Thermarest Neo Air X-Lite (Womens) - longer, more insulating, more comfortable (but heavier). (CHECK! Comfy, kept me very warm overnight, moves about a bit but I'll figure that out.)
I've also now booked somewhere to sleep the couple of nights before I start.  MrTOTKat and I will head South West on Friday and stay around Penzance so we can parkrun together on Saturday - I would really love to see lots of parkrun friends at Penrose on Saturday before I go!

Friday, 21 April 2017

LEJoG 2017 - the final month preparation...

 Donate to Public Health Collaboration UK

One month to go!

Route plotting is done.  Kit is mostly locked in, with a couple of changes to test before completely finalising.  Training mostly done - in so far as you can train for this sort of thing.  And now it's a great time to talk about the charity I'm intending to raise awareness of and funds for...

Public Health Collaboration (PHC) is a a charity dedicated to focusing on improving public health in the UK, through research, providing resources and information about issues relating to lifestyle and health in this age of avoidable and reversible obesity, diabetes, dementia and other metabolic syndrome related problems that increasing number of people are suffering from.  The advisory board is made up of consultant cardiologists (Dr Aseem Malhotra), psychologists, (including Dr Tamsin Lewis @sportiedoc) GPs and a Professor of Obesity research (Prof. John (Iain) Broom).

I was pretty overweight myself in the past (only *just* technically obese by the BMI ratio measure), and when the shock(s) came and I started to take control, I eventually came across lots of information relating not just to weight loss and healthy weight maintenance but also the impact of diet on other factors than weight, including brain and heart health.  Thanks to an initial curiosity and refusal to believe that counting calories for the rest of my life was the only answer to maintaining a healthy weight, I crossed paths with Dr Tamsin Lewis, who set me down the path of learning and research into what goes on with what you eat and how it affects your body in the short and the long term. And taking control of these things for myself (11 years on after losing 30kg, I'm still a healthy weight and started sport 6 years ago, finally really able to enjoy it!). Yes, there are ranges of behaviour and response, but there are limits and at some point things start to break in the short and, more horribly, the long term becomes a lot less long even when once of your symptoms is not becoming overweight.

So... take a look at what PHC are about and then head on over to my fund-raising page on TotalGiving (all donations go directly to the charity) and consider giving a little to help turn the tide of poor health in the UK for now and for the future!