A Litany of Failures!

Regular readers will know I had a pretty shocking time last year when it came to long distance paths in particular and walking in general. I started out on five different long distance walks, and only one of them ended in the way I had planned. Over Easter I walked 4 of the 5 days I’d planned on the Herriot Way – I put that failure down to the unexpected warm weather and my feet feeling a bit battered. In May I walked 3 of the 8 days I’d planned along the Cape Wrath Trail – that failure was down to a serious lack of fitness and a complete falling out of love with long distance backpacking. In July I sacked my walk along the Ravenber Way after just 2 days – I was so unfit that every hill felt like I was punishing myself and I just couldn’t continue. Finally, in October I completed a walk as intended, along the Yoredale Way – my lack of fitness wasn’t exposed by this mostly low level walk beside the River Ure and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This encouraged me to book a final walk in the first week in December, along the Derwent Valley Heritage Way – I crashed out after the first day after I injured my foot and physically couldn’t continue – my heart was in it, but my body let me down.

Scenery on the Ravenber Way

The DVHW failure turned out to be down to a fractured fifth metatarsal in my right foot. The hospital recommended 4-6 weeks rest and even small walks to and from the car were painful for the first couple of weeks of December. By January, although I was still limping and the foot was obviously still not right, the pain was subsiding. By early February the limp was more of a habit than a necessity and I tried a couple of very short walks – 200-300 yards to and from the post box – and the foot responded well. It’s now close to the end of February and it’s almost completely healed as best as I can tell – I’ve done up to three miles on the treadmill in the gym (walking) and had no adverse effects.

Despite doing absolutely no exercise since early December, I’ve been very disciplined since New Year when it comes to eating and my diet and as a result I’ve already lost 10kg! I feel better in so many ways. I’m feeling motivated in a way I haven’t felt for a good few years. I’m ready to work at losing the weight I’ve gained and getting back down to a level I know I can live with. I’m back in the gym (albeit sporadically at the moment) and although it’s a bloody awful place and I fuckin hate it, it serves a purpose. The weather so far this year has been atrocious and getting out in the evenings hasn’t even been an option – the gym has allowed me to test the foot and I will continue to use it to begin to regain my fitness. Carrying less weight will help the return to fitness and reduce the chance of injury.

A More Positive Outlook

Since I completed my first multi-day walk, back in 2005, I’ve always had a walk planned for the coming year, until this year that is. At the back end of last year I had no confidence that I would be able to, or even want to walk another long path. So I planned nothing. The new motivation I’ve found has inspired me though and it’s produced something of a planning flurry – I now have two walks in the pipeline, one for April and one for May.

For the past 2 or 3 years I’ve used the long Easter bank holiday to complete a long walk and a week or two ago I started looking at the same thing for this year, but obviously I’ve left it too late and B&B places are limited, or ridiculously expensive and so I’ve moved my plans out by a week. I’ll now be walking the Cross Border Drove Road, over 5 days, starting the weekend after Easter. The CBDR is one of the lesser known Scottish Great Trails and runs from just south east of Edinburgh, across the Pentland Hills, through the Traquair and Ettrick Forests to Hawick. I will be modifying it slightly to use part of the Southern Upland Way, so I can cut a long day in two and stay in Selkirk.

Scenery from my 2015 walk along the Southern Upland Way

In May I will be re-walking the Swale Way, with a view to updating my guide book for the walk, which is now 3 years old and due a refresh. Rather than using B&Bs and walking it linearly, I have booked a small cottage in Richmond and I will use my car and public transport to walk each day’s stage, returning to my base at the cottage each evening. It’s been fun planning the logistics for that and my success lies in the reliability of public transport, which is always a concern.

Longer term, along with my brother and a mutual friend, I’m looking at a long weekend walking in mid-September. This is on the back of the great time we had in Assynt last September, visiting Sandwood Bay and climbing Suilven. We’re probably going somewhere in Northumberland along the Scottish Borders where we have loads of options for walking and drinking alike.

My outlook for 2020 is so much more positive than I could ever have expected back in the dark days of December. I’m looking forward to walking again! I will update this blog with new plans as they come along and hopefully fewer #Failure posts this year!

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10 thoughts on “New Year, New Me!”

  1. Well done Stuart- thank you for sharing your ‘failures’ and struggles- it’s a reality that most of us go through in our own ways so it resonates ! Great to hear your new found motivation and improved/improving fitness- may it make your roads ahead more enjoyable and successful !

  2. Hi Stuart – good to have an update from you; and well done indeed for taking that weight off! Re the Cross Borders Drove Road – I’d heard of it but knew very little about it. Having now checked it out, it looks like I’ve already done some short stretches without realising it. From what I saw, it’s a lovely walk and well worth doing. The only slight downside is that, depending on your chosen direction, it starts or ends in the middle of nowhere, with little in the way of public transport. Still, I know you’re a planner, and you’ll have something arranged to deal with that.

    Me? Like you I’ve joined a gym to try and take this weight off – and it bores me to death, quite frankly. Sure, it gets the heart and lungs going, but there’s nothing like being outdoors for exercise!

    1. The planning has been fun. Got a lift to the tiny car park in the middle of nowhere at the north end and I will walk south – which is contrary to what I would normally do, but as a start point I can make it work, as an end point it’s almost impossible. I can get a bus from Hawick to Carlisle at the southern end and then a train home from there – easy peasy (famous last words!).

  3. That’s great to hear a more positive focus on the year ahead. Looking forward to following your progress! I’m doing the Hebridean Way in September so I too am focusing on building fitness

    1. Good luck Janet, hope it’s as good as it looks! The Hebridean was in my sights a while ago, but the uncertainty of the ferry crossings (the fact that they may not run for a day or more in bad weather) put me off. It’s probably somewhere I’ll explore when the schedule isn’t quite as fixed as when I’m on a long distance walk.

  4. Great to hear about your 2020 plans Stuart. I’ve been curious about the CBDR and look forward to hearing your on-the-ground report of the walk. And you’ll be on some of the best bits of the SUW! All the best for this year’s adventures. Tim

  5. I’m glad to hear you’ve got your walking head back together, Stuart. That’s an amazing weight loss, well done! I’ve not heard of the Cross Border Drove Road; it looks good for a week away. Enjoy your 2020 walking.

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