I've been meaning to blog for a couple of weeks ( I started writing this a week ago!) so many apologies as it's another dreadfully long one and pictures galore!
The week after the Thames Path 100k, I was really surprised that I had very little in the way of muscle soreness, just the usual levels of joint pain in back, neck, hips and knees but I was incredibly tired for a few days. The best sleep I had was the one on the floor of the marquee straight after we finished - three straight hours without even twitching! Despite the tiredness, my sleep pattern stayed the same as usual - an hour or less of sleep before having to get up and walk around and stretch for a bit to ease off the discomfort of having been still. A good night gets me about fours hours sleep in small chunks, the bad ones only two and for the last three weeks there have been far more twos than fours
Exactly a week after the TPC, I woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. The AS launched a full scale flare up. Usually if it's going to happen, it happens within a week of doing something major, so the timing was bang on. I knew that it would be a sensible plan to give my body a rest from long walks to recover properly from the TPC and especially to let the blisters heal completely. The fatigue during a flare up is lousy and basically if I sit down, I fall asleep (but can't stay asleep, oh the irony!) so the only way to deal with it is to stay upright. I haven't yet fallen asleep while standing up For the first three weeks, all walks were 3 miles or under, in other words, so short that I didn't even log them. I deal with flare ups the only way I know how - by being even more active. It's that time of year when the garden needs putting to bed for the winter plus there's a lot of work to do on the Open Space so there's no shortage of things to do. Both provide a good workout and usually keep me very busy until December.
By the end of thse three weeks, the flare up wasn't settling so there didn't seem much point in taking things steady. A new local wetland area had opened up in the summer. I'd already been there surveying a couple of weeks before with young Ben and knew they had a fab cafe that sold white magnums, so a short walk was planned. This counted as a short amble as we'd already planned a longer walk two days later so I didn't record the route while walking. I wasn't impressed when we arrived to find the 'open 7 days a week' cafe had a big sign outside saying 'closed today' - not a good start
It was a nice enough day though and quite warm with lots of waterfowl around, late dragonflies still buzzing about and buzzards overhead. The walking was easing the soreness so we decided to add a short loop around Fairoaks airport - after all, there was a cafe there too. We reached it at 16.10 only to find it had closed ten minutes beforehand. Feeling a bit miffed, we pushed on, now becoming aware that we had no idea what time the Wetland area car park closed and as it had a very meaningful metal barrier, we didn't want to be stuck the wrong side of it! That's when the pace really picked up and it felt really good to be striding out once more. I'm glad to say the car park was still open when we got back! I measured the route when we got back - no great shakes, about 8.5km but it was a start.
Two days later, the day of the 401 challenge, we planned a 15 mile walk in the New Forest. It felt good to be out there knowing that Ben's last marathon was still going on
It was a wonderful walk at first and quite warm at 17C. Although it was sunny, we didn't see much of it as we were walking through woodland for most of the time (funny that !). Lots of Fallow Deer spotted and a fair few New Forest ponies.
New Forest ponies Beautiful open woodland
I was delighted that quite early on, the walk took us through the Reptilarium - large outdoor netted 'pits' containing examples of local wildlife. No lizards to be seen but there were a handsome pair of adders (one of them melanic) basking in the sun
A stop to eat our sandwiches and soak up a bit of sunshine at the edge of a heath was very pleasant indeed. By the time we reached the village of Burley, I was very ready for a Magnum. If ever there was a tourist town, Burley is it - shop after shop of tourist tat and the only ice cream on sale was the local variety (not gluten free sadly). After walking a bit further we found a small supermarket and the coveted Magnums were bought and enjoyed
Even a Magnum couldn't disguise how tough I was starting to find this though - certainly tougher than I expected. The fatigue from the flare up was biting hard so it was a case of head down and keep pushing. Not too far from the end of the walk, looking down paid off when I spotted a Dor Beetle on its back - one of the scarab family. Who could fail to be cheered by its brilliant blue metallic hues? After setting it back on its feet we carried on then a few yards further on I spotted a Goat Moth caterpillar on the path.
Dor Beetle Goat Moth caterpillar
I'd only found out about this species a couple of weeks before while out surveying with young Ben. We came across a silver birch tree that was leaking a large amount fluid from around 5 feet up that was attracting large numbers of Red Admirals and hornets. After a bit of a search later, we discovered that we'd found a Goat Moth Tree. The caterpillars live under the bark, which then leaks an acrid smelling mixture of sap and caterpillar poo which some insects find irresistible. The caterpillars take up to 5 years to mature and when fully grown are about 10cm long. The moth itself had a 10cm wingspan! They're protected as they're what's known as a priority species. Anyway, there on the path in front of me was a fully grown Goat Moth caterpillar trundling off in search of a hibernation place. I know I'm odd, but that did really did give me a bit of a lift just when I needed it. I must say I was pretty glad to finish this one though - 24.29km with 286m of ascent walked in 4:26:42 (plus 1:04 stopped time) giving an average pace of 5.47/km, so not too shabby. I was also pleased to see a couple of sub 10 minute kms in there as well as a single sub 9 http://runmeter.com/779f9b43a3ee0a1c/Walk-20161005-1227
I can't say the walk left me feeling too smart for the following few days, so it was back to to short daily walks. It was ten days before we ventured out again. Our eldest, Rhys, was coming home for the weekend and since he loves hiking, we thought we'd show him what the 'old folk' could do. He'll be 30 very soon and he was absolutely stunned that we'd done the 100k a few weeks before - nice to know we can still surprise them sometimes
It was another lovely sunny day and at 16C, perfect walking weather, although rain was expected by 5pm. We originally planned a walk in the Chilterns, but at the last minute decided a heathland walk would be better given the forecast so opted for an old favourite, the Elstead and a Frensham Ponds route. We didn't see much wildlife, but it looks like it will be a bumper season for fungi down there and I'm certain one species will raise a few eyebrows
Fly Agaric (left) and Shaggy Parasol (right) - lovely object for scale eh?
Sulphur Tuft (left) and a Stinkhorn on the right (the aptly named Phallus impudicus)
Despite the recent heavy rain, the sand underfoot on many paths was very dry and loose and so quite hard work. Happy to say though that my new Dirty Girl gaiters meant I didn't get a single grain of it in my boots (thanks for the top tip Sir Bolty
). The air was crystal clear and the view from the ridge between the Great and Little Ponds was lovely.
I was really looking forward to a fresh cuppa and a gluten free brownie at the wonderful little cafe next to Frensham Little Pond. I was sorely disappointed though - benches full of people drinking and eating but the cafe had closed five minutes before we arrived even though it wasn't supposed to close for another hour. I'm beginning to seriously suspect that someone's trying to tell me something! Through the whole walk I found myself getting a bit frustrated at times as Rhys and Mr K kept slowing up as they were chatting so I spent a fair amount of time waiting for them to catch up. I didn't realise until later that the slowing up was because Rhys was developing a very sore hip (he also has a lot of joint pain but prefers to live in denial rather than find out about AS). You wouldn't have really known though - he's a pretty tough cookie. As we walked on we went past an enclosure of pretty huge pigs - it would have been rude not to stop and give them a good scratch
By now we'd lost the sun and the skies were darkening and it looked like the rain would arrive sooner than predicted. Sure enough, the first raindrops fell an hour earlier than forecast. Fortunately most of the last few km were under trees, so we stayed pretty dry until we were 200m from the car, then the heavens opened! A nice hot coffee from our flasks and some home made fiery ginger cake went a long way to warming us up quickly. 24.97km walked with 242m of ascent in 4:45 (plus 1:13 stopped time) giving an average pace of 5.25/km ascent. A bit slower than normal but at least it felt a little easier than the New Forest walk - http://runmeter.com/779f9b43a3ee0a1c/Walk-20161015-1117
. Rhys said he couldn't imagine walking that again another 3 times and said it gave him a new respect for what we'd achieved. Made me smile. I think I may have persuaded him to consider walking a 50k with me next year though once he's done some distance training
The bones reacted badly to that walk too, and the huge amounts of hefty gardening I've been doing for the last two weeks probably haven't done me any favours. Funny thing is, while I'm doing it, I cope better, it's stopping thats the problem! I was going to post this on Saturday night, but as usual, life got in the way and now there's another walk to add! Yesterday we decided to stay local and drop the distance a bit as I'm still pretty sore, so we drove to Virginia Water and managed to fit in a cheeky 9.5 miles with 129m of ascent in 2:42 (plus 33 minutes drinking coffee/watching deer/taking photos). Just because we dropped the distance didn't mean less speed though. If I'd have been on my own I would have pushed harder but was still reasonably happy to see a couple of sub 10 minute kms in there and the fastest overall pace for awhile (5.75kph) -(http://runmeter.com/779f9b43a3ee0a1c/Walk-20161023-1407
The autumn colours are just starting to come through so a return visit may have to be made in a few weeks to see them in all their glory. We started out in brilliant sunshine, but within an hour, it clouded over and a chilly breeze picked up - all the more reason to move a bit quicker! The sound of the rut going on in the deer park was very impressive indeed. A few pictures sum it better than a load of words - I've written far too many already!