I meant to write this blog days ago but as usual, time runs away with me. Just a quick account of the last couple of weeks training then in 48 hours, it's time to triple knot the laces (definitely have to triple knot my boot laces otherwise they come undone way too often!) and stare the Thames Path Challenge 100k in the eye.
I forgot to mention that by the end of the long walk of 3 weeks ago (42.75k), my hands were so swollen that I couldn't actually bend my fingers and they'd become really quite painful. I'm used to my hands swelling while walking, but not quite to that degree. Unusually, the swelling took over 24 hours to go down and the pain lasted almost a week. Lesson learned though, I bought some compression gloves and they've fixed the problem
A couple of weeks ago we repeated the 16k local night walk again on Thursday followed by just over 36k the day after. The Thursday night one was different that's for sure. We set out at 8.30pm - it was 21C and 88% humidity so a horribly sticky walk and the temperature and humidity were just the same by the time we finished just before 11.30pm! The next day didn't feel much better to be honest, 26C and although the humidity had dropped a lot, it didn't feel like it down by the river. We walked to our nearest railway station then caught the train to Windsor and walked back home again. Considering the high temperature, we did relatively well on pace although we were just taking easy trying to get time on the feet rather than beak any records. When it got to 5pm, we stopped beside the canal, played 'Conquest' at top volume and shouted "Go Bolty Go" at the top of our lungs. As you'll see from the picture, they guy on the bike behind us obviously thought that we were a pair of nutters
I must admit that after those two walks, my feet felt like they'd been continually hammered, almost like they were bruised and hopefully that's just down to the increased mileage on hard ground recently. Last week, our last longish walk before the challenge itself, we decided to cut the mileage so that hopefully the feet would settle. I don't know if was the right thing to do or not but I'm very happy to say that the plan worked and the feet are now feeling more normal again
We also decided that our last walk should not be along canals or rivers - we've both seen enough of them recently and are about to see a whole load more this weekend! We drove out to Nettlebed near Henley for a walk in the Chilterns, described as 'delightful with a surprise around every corner'. It was overcast but reasonably bright at first but it soon became heavily overcast with occasional drizzle and the humidity was really high again. The high humidity really doesn't help the creaky joints and they made sure that I knew they weren't happy, but that's life! We use a lot of walks from a site called 'Fancy Free Walks' and like many, it started well with lots to look at and some beautiful views but ended up being rather tedious. Those walks boast that they use many footpaths known only to locals and we're convinced that not even the locals use most of them! The first section was through a beautiful beech wood - I always think the architecture of beech woods is incredible, but it's surprising how quiet they are with seemingly little wildlife living within their cool green depths.
The next section took us through farmland and we we absolutely astonished at the number of Red Kites we saw hunting for earthworms in the freshly turned soil of a small field which was being ploughed. We counted 48 on the ground and more were still flying in! As we approached a section of Grim's Dyke the view over the Oxfordshire countryside cloaked in its combination of late summer and harvest colours was just stunning! Grim's Dyke is one of a series of bank and ditch earthworks found on chalk uplands in the south which date back to around 300BC. Their purpose remains unknown although it's assumed that they were territorial markers. One thing for sure, judging by the numbers of setts we saw over a short distance, the local badgers certainly appreciated it! This section sits on the Ridgeway footpath and that must have been a really trying section to run during RTTS with all the tree roots on the path!
More open fields followed and tractors were out baling the recently cut straw and hay. Gone are the days when a teenage girl could carry the bales around! Modern bales are HUGE, be they round or rectangular. Heaven only knows how much each one must weigh
Again, following every tractor were small groups of Red Kites. We assume that they were looking for small furries disturbed by the tractors.
Long stretches through beech woods followed, and as the cloud thickened even more, it really did start to get quite dark in there! The woods were connected by long stretches of narrow footpaths running between large country properties which were totally tedious. I also found myself getting increasingly irritated by seeing how many of these folk with large country houses dump their garden waste outside their property boundaries!
About 5k before the end of the walk, we entered the small village of Stoke Row. Aha! A shop! White Magnums possibly? No luck at all, the shop had a choice of 6 individual ice lollies, none of which I could eat
Still, seeing the Maharajah's Well a few yards on more than made up for it though
Bear with the waffle but it is an interesting tale. The well, an adjacent cottage and orchard were built from a charitable trust endowed by His Highness Ishtree, Maharajah of Benares as a mark of his attachment to England and his friendship with a local man, Edward Anderdon Reade, who lived and worked in India for 34 years, working with the Maharajah through the mutiny in 1857. One of Mr Reades good deeds was to sink a well for a local community in India. In later years, the Maharajah remembered Mr Reades tale of a child in Stoke Row who was beaten by his mother for stealing a drink of water. At the time, water was drawn only from the local clay pits and ponds, which frequently dried up. The Maharajah therefore decided to endow Stoke Row with its own free and public well. The well, with its wonderfully ornate superstructure was opened in 1864. It is 368 feet deep, 4 feet wide, yielding 600 to 700 gallons a day by way of a two 9 gallon bucket system which take ten minutes to wind each way. The well served the community until 1939 and is still in working order today.
The last few days have been spent in taper madness land, with multiple new small niggles to torment my confidence and now with a sore throat to boot! We've watched the forecast for Saturday change from pleasantly warm and not too humid to the now expected heavy rain. Some sources say that over an inch of rain is expected. All we can do is hope that the weather forecasters are giving the worst case scenario and that only a fraction of that will fall. The comfort is that whatever happens, we will all be out there together, wet shoulder to wet shoulder, pushing on through it as Buzzers do, relishing the even greater challenge. It seems appropriate that the challenge is greater as now our thoughts all turn to our Chief Coach Hollywood and his wonderful Mrs H, especially today. Mrs H is the reason we'll be out there bashing out the miles/cycling/challenging ourselves in any way we can, so whatever you're doing on Saturday, give it every single bit of your heart and soul and leave nothing on the track. Let's show our support for Team Hollywood in the best way we know how!
My race number for the TPC is 1950 and Mr K's is 1951. Hopefully every time we pass a CP there should be an automatic FB update posted on my behalf. If we can complete this challenge I'll be so happy, if we can do it in less than 24 hours, I'll be absolutely ecstatic