Tuesday, 20 April 2010

From Harvey Nic's to tents.....

where did it all go wrong? Until recently my idea of 'roughing it' when travelling was staying somewhere that was not en-suite and no room service was available now I am soon to be the proud owner of a Sprayway Gorge 4 tent
Many hours have been spent looking up tents and I was pretty much going for a sturdy, very stable expedition tent with only minimal storage space so you could carry it on your back (correction Mark could carry,) but then while Mark and I were visiting the tent shop I spotted a 'family' tent that you could stand up in, contained a separate bedroom and a large porch. Immediately, I was picturing drinks and nibbles in the porch and I was hooked.

My final decision was not made until Sunday night when I found the above tent as it has a higher water resistance that the tent that was viewed earlier plus a larger hosting area. I am hoping the tent will arrive in time for the Cateran race so Mark and I can test it out and I can host a tent warming party!!!!

Mark already has sleeping bags, we are the proud owners of a camping chef (two burners plus grill) and a powerbox that keeps food / drink warm or cold so now we need to purchase table and chairs. I am also thinking a bar unit so I can make up camping cocktails

oh la la camping here I come

PS I have never slept in a tent before, stayed on a campsite and I only stayed in a hostel for the first time last year and I took my dettol with me

PPSS Mark wants to make it clear that this tent business was nothing to do with him. Mark kept out of the decision as he said he doesn't want a tent pole shoved somewhere the light doesn't shine when I completely lose the plot trying to pitch it for the first time

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A runner with more running injuries than mileage under the belt...

Today I attended the physio. This appointment was scheduled with the student physio I have been seeing for a few weeks, for after the whw walk with time for any swelling to go down.

The student is now away to sit his final exams so I was seen by someone else.

After checking my history in my notes I was asked to lie on the bed so she could examine my knee. The usual bending and twisting ensued (I am fairly used to this due to extensive physio following a severe knee injury a couple of years ago) when she started to feel the right side of my thigh. Now my thighs were sore during the walk but I put that down to them complaining that the climbing did not result in a cocktail with a view of a city or a large selection of shoes for perusal but no it transpires that I have ITBS - Iliotibial band syndrome.

From wikipedia - Definition
ITBS is one of the leading causes of lateral knee pain in runners. The iliotibial band is a superficial thickening of tissue on the outside of the thigh, extending from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee, and inserting just below the knee. The band is crucial to stabilizing the knee during running, moving from behind the femur to the front while walking. The continual rubbing of the band over the lateral femoral epicondyle, combined with the repeated flexion and extension of the knee during running may cause the area to become inflamed.

So the physio taped my knee with Kinesology tape which per this paragraph I got from a athlete site about what Lance Armstrong has been seen wearing should do to help:

This exciting new discovery is kinesiology tape, the very thin, very lightweight, very stretchy, colored tape that has been seen on numerous athletes since coming to prominence in the Beijing Olympics. Applied over a fatigued muscle, kinesiology tape accelerates the recovery process by increasing blood flow and removal of waste products. Applied to an injured joint, it can prevent harmful movement while still allowing a safe range of motion. This is a huge benefit to professional athletes who prefer to continue training and/or competing through minor injuries.

So hey I might be a unknown wannabe runner from Scotland but now I can say I have something in common with one of the world's greatest athletes

In all seriousness do you think the world is trying to tell me to hang up the trainers? With only a 10k under my belt I have already shelled out for custom made insoles to help the shin splints, attend physio for knee problems and now I am taped up in an attempt to tackle ITBS. When I cross the finish line in Dingle it will not only be a brilliant feeling it will be a physical miracle!!!

Monday, 12 April 2010

From snow to sunshine

What a difference in just over a week.....

Mark in snow on 31 March on the West Highland Way outside Drymen to.....

Geraldine in the sunshine walking up Arthur's
seat in Edinburgh yesterday...
The weather is not the only difference. I am feeling a lot better about the FT (failed trip) and this has a lot to do with the unbelievable love and support that everyone has shown me. Comments on my blog, texts and words of comfort from work colleagues have really helped me. Today, I was blown away by the generosity and kindness of George Reid. George and Karen made up charity boxes that were at registration at the D33 ultra race(http://deesidewayultra.webnode.com/) plus the proceeds of the race were donated. This donation of over £200 means that Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland are going to receive over £1,000 in sponsorship in memory of Dario.
I am so touched but I am not surprised as George is an amazing, wonderful person who I am honoured to call a close friend. When I get down about not getting to Fort William and beat myself up over it, I think about what a waste of time and energy that is and instead I should spend my time thinking about how lucky I am to have people like George in my life.
That is the one lasting legacy of Dario and the thing I am very thankful for, is the kind and loving band of people he introduced me to. Ultrarunning has made me lucky enough to meet people like George and Karen, Ian and Ally, Tim and Muriel, Dave and Lee, Jez, Lucy, Ritchie, Keith, Norm, Ellen and Murdo, Stan the man, the list goes on and on of wonderful, lovely people whose path it would have been very unlikely I would have passed as we all live in different parts of the country, varying ages, work in a range of areas and mix in an assortment of social groups. That is what I love about ultra running is that your background does not matter, where you go to work on a Monday does not come into it, what counts is whether you can run over 26.2 miles, make the soup not too hot or cold and bang on schedule or know how to man a checkpoint....
Since my thighs were one of my major problems on the FT, I joined Bannatynes gym. My membership allows me to use any Bannatynes gym in Scotland so I have no excuse not to go when I am at Mark's. However, my signing up has met with signs of frustration from Mr H himself. Mark seems to be distressed that I was at Aqua aerobics on Thursday night, and he is concerned about how I will get to the finish line of the Dingle marathon in September splashing about at what he thinks should not even be called an exercise class. He does have a point but I am intending to only use Aqua as a low impact fun way to loosen up the limbs on a Thursday night.
Talking of the marathon Mark has been suggesting weekly mileages that I should be reaching between now and the 4th September - the big day. Now what I am debating about is using this blog in a JK style (http://www.johnkynaston.com/), that is record what I intend to run and write up a post run report. I will not be producing graphs as that is far too technical for me but JK is a successful runner so maybe his public training diary is the way forward. I am wondering whether the miles being published will motivate me to run as I do not want to have publish a post full of excuses. I do find it hard to go out running. This is partly because it hurts but also because I hate the fact that I am not running hard and long. Any motivational tips are very welcome plus any suggestions on how to use this blog to get over the finish line in Dingle before Mark drinks all the Guinness

Friday, 2 April 2010

Video Evidence

Before Conic Hill

On Conic Hill

After Conic Hill

Broken by the WHW

I was hoping to update this blog about my walk on the West Highland way but instead this post is going to be about how just 27 miles of the route broke me. I am writing this in Prestwick after having to be rescued from Rowardennan by my parents. I have let myself, all the kind people who have donated funds but worst of all I have let Dario down.

The physical pain is bad and I am a in a bit of a mess but it is nothing to how awful I feel for not getting to Fort William. I still can't quite believe that I only survived 27 miles of a route that thousands of people walk every year and that many of my close friends run in under a day.

The weather warnings on Tuesday were for severe weather but our route for the Wednesday from Milngavie to Balmaha seemed to be not affected by the worst weather forecast. Layers and waterproofs were in the rucksacks so off we went on the Wednesday. We got the 6am train from Prestwick and arrived at Milngavie to start at 8am. I was in a good mood and off we went. The walk to Drymen went well, we talked as we walked and I was even doing a little dance as we past the Beech Tree as I was listening to my Glee soundtrack. We walked through the car park at Drymen and up along the road, as we turned left up the path I felt and heard a squelch from my left foot heel. Mark sat me down and removed my walking boots. A huge blister had popped on my heel. Mark applied a dressing while I had my first blub of the day. I was concerned that only 12 miles in, my feet were already looking a bit of a mess, unaware that blisters were soon to be the least of my problems. So, after my blister had been sorted and a cuddle from Mark we set off up the incline.

As we made our way towards Conic hill and our destination for the night - Balmaha, the snow started to become an issue. My thighs were feeling very tight and very sore and I was struggling to lift my feet up more than an inch. As the incline increased and the snow deepened this was becoming a real problem. We went through the forest but with the up and downs and my feet sliding all over the terrain I was starting to feel a bit down about everything. We passed a man walking from the direction of Conic Hill who explained that there was a gale force wind at the top of Conic but if we just kept plodding we should be okay. Well, that was it for me. I was sore, tired and physically struggling and that news bulletin just brought on the second blub of the day. Mark tried to help but I said just let me have a little cry and I should be okay. Mark asked if I wanted to turn back but that was not an option I wanted to even consider. After the blub I did feel a little better if not a bit of a twat for blubbing in the first place. So I dug in and continued through the snow and onwards to Conic hill.

After what seemed a very long time and a feeling that the route took you a very long winding way to the hill that seemed just over the corner we entered a field. This is when it went wrong for me. Mark fell almost as soon as he got into the field as the snow was knee deep. I was immediately concerned as we were in the middle of nowhere with no-one around for miles and all we could see was snow. Mark made his way up the hill, every so often his legs disappearing and shouts of watch out. I could barely lift my legs so wading through the deep snow uncertain of every step was making me begin to panic. It felt for every step I took it was taking the energy of five. By the time I fell for the third time I just lost it and yes, you guessed it, I blubbed. The realisation that I was in the middle of a snow covered field in the middle of nowhere with no-one knowing where we were and neither of us with snow survival skills was almost too much. I felt claustrophobic which seems a strange given that I was so isolated, but it was that feeling of no control, that feeling that I was physically weak and that sense of fear of how am I going to make it.

Mark said that we needed to move as we were risking getting cold. I got up and thought there is no way we are going to make it. If this is what it is like in a field what is Conic hill going to be like at how many feet above sea level. As I struggled to move my legs and every so often feeling the pain in my injured knee for twisting trying not to fall in the snow, I started to think that maybe this is it. I wanted to call my parents to say goodbye but I could not get to my phone. In hindsight that was a good thing as my Mum would have had a breakdown and called every rescue team in the country.

I started to think about the impact I have made with my life. If this was my last day, what difference have I made? I started to think about what would be said about me at my funeral. I was expecting to be challenged on the route, not to be reflecting on my life. As I sit here writing this, it is making me think about what the experience has thought me. Currently, I am in a very negative place and feel the attempt to walk the route has highlighted that I am a physically and emotionally weak person who does not deserve the love and support that I have be shown by my parents and Mark and all my close friends such as Sean, Adrian, Ian, Karen, Lee and Dave, George, Keith, Ken and Tim who were texting throughout the day with messages of good luck.

When I decided to call it a day at Rowardennan, I texted Sean to tell him and he immediately called me. Sean was greeted with a hello and then me blubbing. Sean told me that I was not to beat myself up; that Dario would have said well done just for getting as far as I did in the conditions. I am still struggling to accept that. I feel that I have really let Dario down. I wanted to finish the route in his honour but instead I was a physical mess having to be call it a day after only 27 miles. The snow just beat me. I am not a fit person. The toughest physical test I have done in years is the Strathaven 10K race last November. As race control since 2002, I have seen hundreds of runners undertake the route in one go so I am more than aware of the severity of the route but I never predicted its sheer brutality when the weather turns. I was unprepared and physically inadequate for the route and that is how I feel I have really let Dario down.

So, as I sit here with blisters all over my feet, about to lose two toenails, my ankle swollen, my injured knee sore and legs that ache even when I am lying down and barely able to move, I know it was the right decision as it would have been dangerous to continue and there was no way I would have made it to Fort William by Sunday but I know it is going to take a long time to get over the disappointment. Mark has already offered to walk with me again whenever I want to but right now I just want to try to come to terms with what I failed to do in memory of a dear friend.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Bag is packed.....

....for the Epic journey!!!! The weather on the WHW does not look good. Snow and high windchill forecast but hey ho I have packed thermal long johns and enough Nutri grain bars to last three weeks!!

Today, Mark and I have been relaxing, watching some tv and finishing off the packing. I have also spent today loading up my new Sony walkman that I got from sony with my sony credit card points - who said that shopping does not bring rewards.

I have downloaded or uploaded or whatever the tech term is a selection of audio books, radio shows and music. The music selection is quite random. I put on the Glee soundtrack, my running folder but I have also raided Mark's music selection so I will get to sample the delights of everything from ACDC to classical. I am hoping that when it is cold and wet and the next stop seems a lifetime away that the music will help. However, I think the biggest incentive to keep moving will be the £655 that I have raised for Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland. Coupled with the gift aid that amounts to over £800 to the charity in honour of Dario. Thank you so much to everyone for the kind donations.

Anyway, I am away to feast on the sticky pork ribs that I have prepared as my last supper before that pain of blisters results in me being too sore to make to the pub to eat for the next five nights........


Thursday, 25 March 2010

it has been a while.....

.....to say the least

I am a bit rubbish at the blogging thing

However, I have decided I better get with the programme so I can hopefully update my blog as I stumble, curse and pray my way along the WHW next week.

Yes, the Easter bunny is getting his glad rags on so that means that my walk in memory of Dario is just a few days away. Now I would like to say that I am fully prepared and the training has gone well, but well, that would be basically lies.

Prep commenced last night along with a trip to Tiso tonight for those little plastic bottles in a pathetic attempt to smuggle more toiletries into the rucksack that Mark is going to be carrying. he decided he should take most of the weight so we might be able to complete our miles for the day in the daylight!

Training has been well, it hasn't been. Yes, I am going to tackle 95 miles in 5 days with the only walking experience being around about 2 hours walk when I bought the boots last year. Still I am nothing but consistent at leaving everything to the last minute. It was the same approach to school exams, uni exams, work exams and now any sporting event I sign up for it. So far I have passed and finished everything so hopefully my determination not to let Dario down will get me through.

I have been thinking a lot about Dario this last week or so. Driving back from Prestwick the other week tears streamed down my face as I kept thinking I should be walking the route with him, not for him. I know it is nearly a year but I still want to scream at the unfairness of it. They say time heals but while I think it does help you cope better, the actual hurt at the loss never goes away.

However, Dario would not want me to get down about him but to enjoy myself. Just last weekend I thought he would appreciate yet another typical Geraldine escapade. As some of you may be aware I very badly injured my knee a couple of years ago, as in off work for months and help to go to the bathroom type injury. Since then there has been a few relapses, one just before Xmas so you would think this would have made me step away from the high heels, cava and dancing while spending the weekend in Madrid. No, once a few glasses of the bubbles hit and the music played I was straight onto the dancefloor, quite literally on the dancefloor!!!! Despite the naughty grape juice I still had the presence of mind to fall directly onto my knee rather than risk twisting it by trying to save it. Once I was up, I was straight back to the hotel for ice, rest and elevation.

It is very sore but the physio has looked at it and it appears no structural or ligament damage so I am still on the walk. I will be enjoying the view while taking over the counter drugs and trying to ignore Mark telling me that a sore knee is nothing (if you do not know what this refers to please view http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OZbmGcft4M )

During the walk I will attempt the power of technology and try and provide updates and photos via this blog but I suspect it will probably be Mark providing the updates as I will be crying too much from the blisters to even speak. Although, and this is for you Debs MC, I will be listening to the Glee soundtrack so may find myself singing and dancing up the route!!!!

Donations are still welcome at http://www.justgiving.com/whwr-princess


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