As little as 5 weeks ago I was panicking, I was really quite worried that my level of fitness had deteriorated so much over the winter that I really wasn’t going to be ready for my long walk this year. Winter walking, for me at least, always tends to be more intermittent than summer walking; I don’t get out every weekend and those weekends when I do, I tend to walk a shorter route and don’t clock up the height gain that I do at other times of the year. This inevitably leads to a dramatic tail off in fitness.
My annual long distance path is becoming a common fixture for the first two weeks in May. This is a quiet time of year at work, it avoids the peak walking season and therefore the crowds and I can rely on at least one Bank Holiday to reduce the number of days leave I need to take. It also acts as an incentive to get out in the spring and build up the hill legs that have atrophied over the winter.
Unfortunately this year I have been struck down twice already with debilitating bouts of sickness and the other thing that’s really hard to spell but results in you not wanting to be any further from a toilet than you have to be. I’ve missed probably three or four weekends walking because of this and the hill legs really weren’t developing the way they should have been.
5 weeks ago I walked with Tex, up from Hartsop to the Knott and then over High Street to Thornthwaite Beacon. The intention had been to then ascend Caudale Moor and drop down to the Kirkstone Inn for a beer before returning down the valley to the car. However, I found myself gasping for breath, with severe cramps in my sides on the ascent to the Knott, completely out of shape (even for a fat knacker like me) and very worried. I insisted we cut the route short at Threshthwaite Mouth and I slunk back down Pasture Bottom, metaphoric tail between my legs to the car and a serious rethink about my training regime.
Back home the next day, I analysed my training for this year’s event, compared to previous years and I quickly realised where I was going wrong. My days out in the Lakes are inevitably short days in terms of mileage but with quite a lot of height gain – normally between 3500-4000 feet of ascent. My legs just weren’t up to this level of height gain and I needed to return to some lower, longer walks to build up some of the stamina I need for these sorts of days out.
I planned a series of three walks in 5 days, in the Peak District and east Cheshire, each walk slightly longer than the last and each one with around 2000-2500 feet of ascent. I finished the long easter weekend, fortunately we were given some great weather in the north, with three walks under my belt and a feeling of returning fitness.
Last week I returned to the Lakes with Tex and a serious test of fitness. Walking from the Walna Scar Road above Coniston, we did a round of the Coniston Fells; Wetherlan, Swirl How, Great Carrs, Grey Friar, Brim Fell and the Old Man. About 10 miles of walking, but more importantly just shy of 4000 feet of ascent. I managed it with energy to spare. I am back on form and feeling great. And not before time either – there was only just over a week to go before we left for St. Bees.
I write this now, with just three days to go; I will be packing tomorrow and working away for a couple of days before dashing back up the motorway from Slough on Tuesday afternoon to head north to Cumbria. I can’t wait.
I suppose the moral of the story is, start small and build up the training rather than continually trying (and in my case failing) to hit the heights from a standing start.
• High Street – Gasping for wind in the Lakes
• Wansfell Pike – Battered by wind in the Lakes
• Shutlingsloe – Finding my legs in Cheshire
• Dovestone Resvr – One of the best ridge walks in the Peaks
• Attermire Scar – Prime limestone country in the Dales
• Cloud & Croker Hill – The “hills” of Cheshire
• Coniston Fells – Fit again! 4000 feet in the Lakes
I know I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but that was several months ago and I don’t suppose anyone remembers that now (even those that read it), but this year’s C2C is going to be a little different to the usual St. Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay walk.
For one thing, I have a walking companion for the first time. Tex, who should have been with me in 2006, but had to drop out due to other commitments, is accompanying me this year. In fact I wouldn’t be doing the C2C again if it wasn’t for him. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the walk last time; indeed quite the opposite, but I just didn’t expect to be coming back to it again so soon – after all there are so many long distance paths in the UK that I want to complete.
Secondly, we both decided that just walking from one side of England to the other wasn’t enough of a challenge for us, we wanted to do something a little bit different. I remember feeling at the end of the walk last time, as I sat enjoying a beer in the Bay Hotel in Robin Hood’s Bay, that I wanted to turn round and walk all the way back to the beginning. Well obviously, as working people, neither of us could afford the holidays to do that, but we did the next best thing.
For a couple of years we’ve wanted to do the Lyke Wake Walk, a 40 mile challenge walk across the North Yorks Moors from Flyingdales to Osmotherly. As it happens, the start of this walk is only 3 miles from Robin Hood’s Bay. The decision was easy…. our extra challenge was to add the Lyke Wake Walk to the end of the C2C, thus allowing us to get to the end of the walk and then turn round and do at least some of it in the other direction.
Madness perhaps – but what better training could you ask for than walking 190 miles in 11 days, before setting out on a 40 mile challenge walk?
The itinerary had to be juggled a little bit, as we still only wanted to take 12 days doing the walk, due mainly to the number of days leave we would have to take from work. Here’s what we came up with:
• Day 0 – St. Bees – Stonehouse Farm
• Day 1 – Ennerdale Bridge – Shepherds Arms Hotel
• Day 2 – Stonethwaite – Langstrath Country Inn
• Day 3 – Patterdale – Glebe House
• Day 4 – Shap – Brookfield House
• Day 5 – Kirkby Stephen – Fletcher House
• Day 6 – Keld – Keld Lodge
• Day 7 – Richmond – Willance House
• Day 8 – Osmotherley – Vane House
• Day 9 – Blakey Ridge – Lion Inn
• Day 10 – Littlebeck – Intake Farm
• Day 11 – Robin Hood’s Bay – The Wayfarer
This is a fairly standard start to the walk, at least up to Keld. From there I chose to avoid Reeth, which I had not enjoyed last time round and save a day by pushing straight on to Richmond. From there I wanted to make a few miles up for a couple of days to leave a short last day into Robin Hood’s Bay – allowing us an afternoon off to rest up for the big walk the following day.
My brother has agreed to support us along the Lyke Wake route, he will meet us at selected points along the route and have the kettle boiling for a hot brew and cuppa soup – this is a big help as it allows us to keep our pack weights to an absolute minimum, as we won’t need to carry that much food and water – just enough to be safe.
I plan to do a walking blog this year on the Coast to Coast. For the first time I have the technology to do this and hopefully the gods of the airways will provide a decent enough signal to connect the iPhone each day and post the words I will write each evening.
iBlogger on the iPhone should also allow me to include at least one picture in the blog, which always adds a nice touch to a bunch of words I think. Please keep your fingers crossed for pictures of me and Tex in short sleeves and sunhats rather than gloves and waterproofs.
The first post should go up on Tuesday night as we set off from St. Bees on the Wednesday morning. I will hopefully be able to reply to comments as we progress across the country, but as yet that is untested and I think it will rely on a decent enough signal for a 3G Internet connection, rather than anything iBlogger can do.
Wish us luck – with the weather if with nothing else. Tex is walking for a good cause; Fibromyalgia and I’m just walking. I will try and get hold of his fundraising page before we leave and post it here, I’m sure he’d appreciate anything you wish to donate.