Here we goJust a short one the day before the big event. Arrived, unpacked, and am sat staring at the hills. A huge thank you to everyone who's sponsored me, put up with my endless talking about it and supported me thus far. Tomorrow we go!
1 Week OutWell, in one week's time I'll be in Scotland on the eve of the Yomp. My ankle isn't 100% and honestly I don't know if it'll be managable on the day. My gut says it's probably knackered, but my heart says I need to suck it up. Training has been curtailed, I've done everything I can and the rest is in the lap of the gods. Tomorrow I do a kit check, pack the car up, and start a long week at work. The plan is to get as much sleep as possible, drink water like a fish, suck down multi vits and cross my fingers. Two years training in mud, snow, rain and through Covid have built up to this - I ain't going down without one hell of a fight
BumSome days, the old saying goes, you are the statue and some days you are the pigeon. I was feeling pretty damned smug about how training was going up to last Saturday. I was feeling fit, bouncy and ready to go - albeit in a slightly terrified way. However I had also been ignoring an ankle injury that has been developing for sometime. It first happened on the 37km walk I did with Jimmy about a month ago, and the front and rear of my ankle area began to hurt like a bastard. It'd never happened before, at least not like that, and it worried me but sometimes these things happen and then go away, so being an idiot I ignored it, and indeed, I did 47km two weeks ago and although it was semi uncomfortable, I put that down to distance more than anything else. However, this Saturday I did a fairly short (ha! 22km) 5hr walk and it was utter agony, slowing me down a lot and generally being a right pain in the..well ankle. So. Much strapping has subsequently occurred thanks to David Long, my amazing Crossfit Cirencester coach who actually came over to my house to administer the tape, and I have an appointment with the Dyer Street Clinic in Cirencester on Wednesday. Frustratingly there's basically no pain at all 99% of the time, it's just when my foot moves into a specific position (toes down or toes up) that it seems to play up, and the occasional mild ache in my calf muscle 3-4 time a day. I feel like a total fraud but having offered to let people sponsor me to do gym stuff I'm having to be really careful until I can at least get the view of the physio to see if there's anything fundamentally wrong and/or if I can do anything to manage the issue before and during the Yomp. I suspect there's not a lot that can be done other than to avoid tight boots and hills until the 11th. Bugger.
Some Ideas Are Just So Dumb
My problem, and it really is a problem, is that occasionally someone will say something seriously stupid to me and instead of laughing for a moment before carrying on, I go “sure, let’s do that” For example when someone said to me, at the end of the 100km Frontline Walk in 2017, "hey have you heard about this thing called the Cateran Yomp, you walk for 24 hours and try to cover 54 miles over the rolling highlands", the answer, logically, should have been "fuck off I’ve just walked for three days across broken bricks*” Instead I said "sure that sounds like a great idea, let's do it". Worse still, after getting to Silver in 2018, and feeling like actually I should have kicked on for another 9 hours, I'd give it another whirl and go for Gold.
This spirit of adventure, or streak of insanity depending on your perspective, has lead me to my latest and dumbest fund raising idea. Since we have just 22 days till the Yomp, it’s time to cut back a bit on the walked mileage and go up scale a bit on the gym time. I’ve been doing a mix of running and Crossfit, often twice in one day, for the last three weeks but I need to stop distance running as it’s slightly buggering my ankles – a sub optimal outcome as you can imagine – and do more Ski Erg / Assault Bike / Rowing Ergo stuff with plenty of weights, squats etc etc etc etc
Annnyyyhhoooo my plan has been to offer my friends a variety of workout movements with a “tariff” against each of either 50p, £1 or £2 depending on how much I hate a given activity**. And they have responded. Oh. My. God. Have they responded. Thus far I have 100 calories on the Assault Bike to do tomorrow for £50 – for anyone unfamiliar with the Ass Bike imagine cycling across water you can’t sink into whilst doing a front crawl as fast as you can and trying not to hyperventilate so much you puke/pass out. It’s great. You really should try it. Or at least watch someone else try it and enjoy some uncut type 3 fun. Meanwhile several Crossfit mates are looking up the classic CF workouts – Cindy, Acid Bath, Level 1 coaches course workouts and working out what they’d cost…..I do not love them / they’re amazing for doing so.
Anyway it looks like I will be very tired for the next few weeks :)
*No really – for some reason the French authorities have used old railway aggregate to line various paths with across northern France pretty much from Ypres to Arras and it was *so* much fun to walk on that I’ve never had the slightest desire to go back
** Facebook post here - https://www.facebook.com/wcarver
A Bit of a Serious OneIn late 2004, I went to a posh Christmas dance in a big marquee in the grounds of a stately home - I'd been married for about a month and life was pretty sweet - a beautiful woman had agreed to spend the rest of her life with me, my job was going well, I'd just bought a tiny flat in London, the music was jumping and drink was flowing. All in all it was pretty awesome. It being a pricey affair, we were on tables of 10 and before things got totally out of hand, the organisers had arranged to give us all some protein and carbs to soak up the alcohol and give every energy for dancing until the small wee hours, which gave me a chance to speak to the guests on my table. It slowly became apparent that one of the guys had just got back from Iraq and another was about to deploy to Afghan. We got chatting a bit - this is always hard as a civvie - I'm keenly aware I have no clue whatsoever what combat is like or really any aspect of military life, and honestly I was a bit intimidated. These were guys my age, with a similar education who'd made very different life choices from mine and now they were going to be shot at for a living. I felt, and ineed feel, more than a bit shallow when faced with that. We had a few drinks and they were good enough to engage in discussion about what those deployments were about. I said something like "if we're not there in 25 years, Afghanistan will fail, and this government seem to think they can use fighting as a way to win an election" - one of the guys, Tom, turned to me and said "how many officers are here do you reckon?" I was a bit taken aback, I'd sort of vaguely though these two were the exception. Over the next few hours I met about 30 blokes, all my age +/- 5years, all either about to deploy, or having deployed. I suddenly became aware that my generation was, very quietly, but very actively, fighting a war that no one gave a second thought to - and doing so without any fanfare and without any real clue as to why. It was a profound moment. Tom and his mate are both fine today, and have done multiple deployments since. I don't know what happened to all the guys I met that night. I do know that the UK lost more than 200 dead in Afghan, and over 4,000 wounded, 2,500 of which were wounded in combat. What those folks must be feeling today as the scenes from Kabul are streamed on social media I cannot possibly fathom. I guess what I'd say is those individual troops did not fail, they did what was asked of them, but the political leadership failed utterly. The UK, and the US, failed. Completely failed. And I hope against hope that before we send troops into some place far away in the name of freedom, we remember that sort of commitment costs. It costs the lives of local civilians. It costs the lives and well being of our service personnel. It will cost so much more than the financial commitment. If we aren't prepared to get into state-building we shouldn't be in the business of state invasions.
Anyway - there are a lot of soldiers today who'll be wondering what the fuck it was all for. Many of them will need the ABF's help. Please give a few quid.
Motivational Forces and the Bovine FactorIt is said there are basically two motivational forces in life and in business- the desire to better oneself, what might broadly be thought of as positive force, and the desire not to fail, what might be described as negative forces. For most of us, most of the time, these two interact with one another on a daily basis e.g. I really want to make this presentation go well so I get promoted, oh fuck what if I cock it up....
Mistakes Were Made
As I have mentioned in previous updates, we are firmly into the “Oh Shit” phase of Yomp preparation where I realise I haven’t trained enough and attempt to compensate in a too-short period of time, resulting in horror and pain every weekend with a smattering of extreme discomfort most week days. 37 days to be precise. Which explains Monday, wherein I decided to take a day off work and do a 35km walk with fellow Beast member, Jimmy. Now I should explain, I am a sedentary IT worker who’s spent most of my adult life sat either at a desk or behind the wheel of a rep-mobile. Jimmy, by contrast, is a farmer who’s spent most of his days on his feet, often in hot pursuit of livestock* who are not where they are supposed to be. So basically, he’s irritatingly fit and walks very, very fast. This became quite apparent when we managed to do 38km in 9hrs moving at an average speed of 4.5km/hr whereas I had assumed that we’d do it at about 4kph. This was also the culmination of about 10 days of continuous exercise and I really felt it – got round OK but was in more pain than I had hoped and had longer after-effects than I’d hoped. As I say, we’re in the Oh Shit phase and I’ll be heading out next weekend for a shorter, sharper, walk and then the following weekend for a 45km jaunt that’ll probably be as far as I go, distance wise, before the event itself. Meanwhile my running app is telling me that I need to do an 11km run today and I am *dying* of laughter
On a more positive note I have absolutely smashed my fundraising targets and am now close to the £2k mark which is incredible, and highly motivational – so thank you to everyone who’s supported me, and thus the ABF.
*A note on sheep – according to another farmer friend of mine they have two aims in life. Firstly, to escape from wherever you’ve put them and the second is to die suddenly and without warning.
I Had A Cunning Plan
A Gentleman Should Not RunIt has been said, quite correctly in my opinion, that a gentleman should only run if a) the building is on fire or b) someone's life is on the line, and in either case he should run toward, not away from, the danger. Personally I have detested running about as long as I have been able to draw breath. At school I doctored the school computer (note, computer, not computers) to remove myself from all the cross country lists and substituted my sworn enemy onto multiple games classes thereby ensuring he was in detention for most of the autumn term.....any way, I digress....
Types of FunSo there's a term used by my ever-imaginative, ever-sadistic Crossfit coach David; Type 1 or Type A Fun is the kind of fun you have in the moment, something enjoyed then and there. Type 2 or B Fun is the fun you have in retrospect, when it's all over and you look back on it. Pretty much my whole educational experience would, according to David, fit into this box. I have decided, having just done a fairly insane Hyrox workout that took over an hour, that there is a third Type of Fun - Type 3 or C Fun which can be summarised by the wonderful German term 'schadenfreude' or the fun you have whilst observing the suffering of someone else. And so I hope to provide, over the next 9.5 weeks as the run into the Yomp begins, as much Type 3 fun as one could wish for. Marvel as I, a fat man, try to lose weight. Giggle as I sweat up hills. And sip a nice glass of your preferred beverage as you remember I have had to give up drinking in order to get my weight down for this walk. Do all of these things, but don't be totally heartless, drop a few quid into my collection plate too?
Well That Was Worth It...My legs are pretty shot today - I managed to get out and have a wander around the hills above Cheltenham and Winchcombe yesterday - it's one of the hilliest places around here, making it ideal for Yomp practice. Unfortunately it was also doing a reasonable impression of Passchendaele - mud, mud, more mud *and* plenty of fog to really help with the navigation. I did manage to get up into the SSSI on Cleeve Hill which should've been very picturesque but was, in fact, so foggy that I couldn't actually see more than about 10 meters in any direction. All told it was 23.5k, nearly 800m of climb, about 5hrs 50 and done with a 9kg pack. I really must work out what's in there at some point and get the load down a bit....
It's a TrapSo having decided to get myself moving and motivated for the Cateran Yomp, and with the support of the wonderful folks at Crossfit Cirencester, I have a training schedule from now to Y-Day on the 5th June. Not that I'm counting but it's 123 days away...assuming it happens at all. So obviously this weekend I made a spreadsheet, with pretty colours and a set of workouts and walks builtr in, with Rest days nicley shaded in grey, and everything. I was so proud. Unfortunatley that meant this morning I actually had to start doing it, following my 25k yesterday.
Now Crossfit Cirencester has been a Crossfit "box", to use the parlance, since forever but Head Coach David is a man who loves a new idea when he comes across one and has managed to make us the 2nd gym in the UK to become a HYDROX affiliate. Now, for those who don't know, HYDROX is some messed up love child of Crossfit and endurance running. Good job I'm not doing an endurance event so I can ignore all...oh...bugger.
Needless to say this morning saw me dusting of my extremely ancient rowing machine (it has a computer display, but a 1980s Casio watch would make it look obsolete, and probably did back in the day) to complete 35 minutes of "fun". In this case rowing 1km then resting 3 minutes, then 800 and resting 2 mins, then 600-1, 400-1, 600-1, 800-2 then 1k to polish things off. All done in 31mins 58 seconds. After having done the normal online class. So all in all I'm feeling a tad sore this evening. Only 122 days more until the real thing.
Apparently most HYRDOX workouts use lighter weights, or so David breezily informed me this morning. Now I know that sounds good but the astute among you will realise that means you have to do more reps in the time caps...of which there are few indeed. Apparently their competition workouts are like 90 minutes long....oh goody!
Dead Legs and SnowLast weekend was beautiful, crisp snow whereas today it was sleet, mostly going 90 degrees to the ground or, for an exciting variation, straight up. Naturally, because The Gods have a sense of humour, I had decided to do my first Yomp-leg simulation - a total of 26km with a pause at 12.6 and 21km, roughly the same as the first water stop and first checkpoint of the Cateran Yomp. As General Melchett once observed in Blackadder Goes Forth "If nothing else works, a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through" and so I set off at about 7.30am for what turned out to be almost exactly 6 hours of walking. This included finding one of my map-marked footpaths took me through an irate landholder's back garden (fortunately no dogs were released), some of the flatest and least exciting countryside north Wiltshire has to offer, and the icing on tbe cake - a totally flooded footpath deeper than my boots. Que me having to cross the Cheltenham to London railway line using one of those crossings that get in the headlines with banners like 'Idiot Walker Killed Whilst Lost'
Well here we go againSo it's been a weird old year, with all of us having to adjust to Covid, lock down, and a lot of time away from friends, family, and often work too
The Soldier's Charity think that they may be able to hold the Yomp on the 6th June, and having spoken to the rest of the team, we're getting ourselves back into training. And so it was, in the middle of the snow last weekend that I put boot to path once more and began to walk. The plan is to slowly up duration and distance over the next few months, after a much more sedentary year than normal. Thanks to the fantastic support of Crossfit Cirencester, who after 7 years of training my fat ass still haven't given up, I've also got a training programme for my wee set of weights and limited space at home. No excuses.
I'll be aiming to do 3 days on 1 day off during Feb, then 4 on 1 off in March, then 5 on 1 off in April, 6 on 1 off in May....by which time I really need to be at peak fitness to tackle the rigours of the Yomp for the 2nd time. Last time out I was breaking down but not broken by the time I stopped at the 30 miles mark around 11pm. This time I want to get round, and I really do need your help to stay motivated both in training and on the day itself.
Plan BSo the Yomp may have been cancelled for this year, due to what is rather wonderfully being referred to as "one thing and another"
Well this is awkward
So having basically got ready for three months of pretty hard work to actually hit the Yomp with some chance of getting around, the event has been cancelled due to Covid-19. Totally understandable. Bit awkward. Having asked everyone for money, I'll be doing exactly the same thing between now and next year. I suspect that, with the national lock down in place, and many folks about to lose their jobs, their homes and possibly their lives, the work the ABF does is more important than ever. I need to look after me too, as I simply don't know what the next 14 months holds but assuming I can, I want to help, and will push to raise money for them
No Pain, No Gain
Having trainined intensively from about February last year till the Yomp in June, I've only done a few short and flatish walks since, but things need to step up whilst the light is still good, so today I hit the Malverns
With England vs Australia on the radio and 24km of hills I set off. The problem with the Malverns is you take a peak, and having slogged up it as you crest the hill the next, inevitably larger, hill then presents itself.
I walked up the whole length of the chain working South to North and hit every peak in between. Not going to lie, 1,000m ascent in less than 12km tickles having not been out and about for a while.
All in, got it done in 7hrs 39mins which really isn't too bad.
Lot of work still to do
Thank you to my Sponsors
Daisy May Defined
Andy & Chris
David & Charlotte
Dave And Claire Ingham
Bruce & Helen
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All The Pyms
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Simon David Hill