Hello Superstars 😊
I’ve been trying to find the time to write this blog for several weeks and finally, I’ve got there! From January 22nd to February 2nd, I was on an inpatient course at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Disease in Bath, which is where I get my care for the old Anky Spond (our local rheumatology services are so incredibly poor that it’s well worth the 220 mile round trip to Bath). My current excellent care and medication is all down to making that switch and I’m forever grateful that our wonderful NHS allows us choose where we receive our care. Anyway, I thought that while on the course, it would be the perfect opportunity to catch up but it wasn’t to be. I was so tired at the end of each day I could barely think 😂😂 It was absolutely fantastic to meet up with Liz for an evening while I was down there and huge thanks to you for coming down and helping to save my sanity 😁
Since getting back life has been so incredibly busy and I’ve been so far behind that I’m surprised that I haven’t met myself coming the other way yet! I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible - yeah right, this is me!! Sorry, you may as well grab the tea and sandwiches now 😂😂
So, my last blog was on the eve of our first event of the year, The London Winter Walk - a nice little 20k warm up. I may have told Richard the night before that I wouldn’t push the pace (but I wasn’t foolish enough to promise!). We have quite a large deficit in our walking paces which becomes very pronounced on these shorter distances and especially on tarmac. I find that when walking on tarmac, I feel the impact through the joints far more than out on the trail, so tend to walk more quickly, probably because I just want to get it done! We’d been given an 8.30 start and since it was a Sunday, there weren’t any trains early enough to get us there in time. No alternative but to drive but at least early on Sunday the traffic wasn’t too bad. We’d somewhat nervously pre-booked parking around a quarter of a mile from the start using a parking service called ‘Parkbee’ (hadn’t heard of it until I was Googling parking in Southwark a couple of days before and found that there wasn’t much available that didn’t cost an arm and leg) and scored a secure private parking place for less than a tenner. Clever system - you drive up to the gated parking area, use an app on your phone to enter the security code to open the the gates and in you go. We’ll definitely be using that service again, it’s extremely efficient and reasonably priced as well 😊
The start area wasn’t too busy when we got there at 7.30. Fast smooth registration then straight on to the complimentary tea and coffee while catching up with a few people we’d last seen in Morocco in October. At 8.15 we went into the starting pen and I think Richard got an inkling of what was coming when I insisted on standing right by the start line. Well, you don’t want to get behind a load of people ambling along on some of those narrow footpaths do you? The usual 5 minute Zumba style warm up then we were off! Now I don’t why l let this get to me, but I get a bit wound up every time this happens. As soon as we were out of Southwark Park, quite a lot of people started jogging, despite it being made very clear that this was a walking event only. Even Richard got a little irritated at various points seeing people take sizeable short cuts just to get in front and he’s not competitive! Bottom line I guess is that they’re only fooling themselves about their ‘walking pace’ and final placement. It shouldn’t matter to me, but it does, I just don’t like cheats although I didn’t let it spoil my enjoyment of competing against myself 😊
It was pretty chilly but dry this year (unlike last years chilly drenching) so it was much more enjoyable. There was just one checkpoint at 11k where there was a quick dive into the loo and a very short stop to grab a cup of tea and a handful of treats then onwards we went. I know that Richard was struggling a bit with the pace (he still refuses to eat or drink anything much during an event) and I had to keep stopping while he caught up. Then with only about 6k to go, a major frustration - as we got to Blackfriars Bridge, a big burly security chap stopped all pedestrian and vehicular traffic from going over it but wouldn’t say why, only that it would be for just a couple of minutes. We’d noticed a helicopter buzzing around the river most of the morning but only found out later that Tom Cruise was filming a sequence for the next Mission Impossible movie (running across the roof of the adjacent railway bridge) and the chopper was flying up and down the river filming him. It turned into a 6 minute wait - plenty long enough to chill off and start stiffening up. All I’ll say is I hope that Tom Cruise’s ears were burning! It wasn’t pleasant getting going again in quite a large crowd of people. By the time the finish line came into sight, Richard was a fair way behind me so I stopped a few metres from the finish line and waited for him so we could cross the line hand in hand. A quick check of the watch raised a smile from me - last years overall time was be beaten by around six minutes and actual walking time by 11 minutes, finishing in 3:01:21 walking time plus 13:18 stopped time 😊 I’m pretty proud that I came 83rd out of 1656 (51st female) - Richard came 82nd (his chip was scanned before mine - oh the irony 😂😂). Average walking pace was 14.59 minute miles over the 20k so I was happy with that. I still really want to know how hard I can push and my chance will come at the end of March when I tackle a 25 miler on my own.
The daily short walks resumed the next day with no after effects from the 20k. Now though, it was time to start training for the next big one - the inaugural Shropshire Way Ultra (80k) next month. (We’re so looking forward to that one as we’ll be staying with Sir and Lady Bolty and Sir Bolty is running it while we’re walking it 😀). So, a few days later we went out onto the North Downs - we just had time to fit in a hilly 12 miler before I had to head off to Bath for two weeks. Sections of that walk we’re so ridiculously muddy and unpleasant - something we’d better get used to I guess as Sir Bolty reports conditions in Shropshire as very muddy underfoot indeed 😂😂
Whilst in Bath I tried to fit in as many short walks as possible around the hospital day and managed almost 45 miles across the two weeks. The course comprised very tiring daily physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions but the upside was good improvements in joint range so it was well worth it 😊 The downside - I’m being referred back to the neurosurgeon to have the neck checked again as neurological symptoms and pain have been on the up again in the last few months and a little more fusion has occurred in the two years since the last x-ray. I’ve also been referred to have my repeatedly problematic left hip looked at as well as the right ankle that sustained the stress fracture last year. The ankle was fine and seemed fully recovered until I restarted training in January, then it kicked off again. In the meantime I was told ‘no running’ 😢 I think my rheumy knows no there’s no way I’d curb the walking and thankfully he didn’t ask me to 😂😂 I finished January having covered 146.92 miles 😊
It was soooo good to go home again at the end of the course, especially as our 28th wedding anniversary was my first full day back at home. The years have gone by so quickly it’s hard to believe! It may seem just a bit weird, but we celebrated with a takeaway followed by a steady 5k local night walk, getting soaked in the rain, happily reminiscing 😊 It was back to a very hectic reality though. Sunday was spent catching up on all things domestic then on Monday, work started on the local Open Space that I’ve been an Honorary Warden of for the last 20 years. The Council had finally found the money for the improvements to the pond and wetland area that we established a few years ago. Within a year of it’s existence, we had six nationally notifiable species in and around the pond - nature is truly incredible! The chap employed to make the improvements had impeccable credentials having done much of the work on the wetland areas on RSPB reserves. Although there’ll still be lots of drainage ditches to continually keep clear, I’m so happy to say that I won’t have to fix that leaky old dam any more😁 It was full on week, on site every day bar one, with a fair bit of physical work thrown in and trying to throw in a daily short walk as well.
The Pond - we named it 'Soggy Bottom' and the name has stuck!
This was also the week to do our first back to back in preparation for Shropshire. After a full day on site digging ditches on the Thursday, we had dinner then set out on a local night walk. 10.5 miles in 2:52 - not bad since we were just taking it steady. Next morning I had a very unhappy back and hips (no surprise there then!) so it took me a while to get going. We had planned to go to the Chilterns for some decent Hill work but given how wet it had been and the state of my bones, we opted for a drier heathland route so we made a last minute decision to revisit one of our favourite routes - the Elstead-Frensham route, taking in Royal and Bagmoor, Ockley, Thursley, Hankley, Rushmore and Frensham Commons then back again over different parts of the same commons. We are blessed here in Surrey to have access to so much beautiful heathland 😊 It was a refreshingly cold and beautifully sunny day and a hugely enjoyable walk. The softer drier ground made things much easier on the bones. We had a White Magnum at Frensham Pond, then managed to reach the Cafe at Frensham Little Pond five minutes before closing time. It would have been rude not to indulge in one of their epic gluten free chocolate brownies and a large cup of tea.
A real highlight was the sunset from the boardwalk of Thursley National Nature Reserve.
15.9 miles done in 4:42 walking time and we both felt pretty good by the end of it. A nice slab of home made cake and a flask of coffee sitting on the tailgate of the car (our usual post-walk routine) made a perfect end to the walk 😊 Next morning was Parkrun day and in the spirit of trying to behave myself, I’d volunteered as Tail Walker. I felt good though, so I walked there and back as well, so a total of 34.5 miles between Thursday and Saturday gave me a bit of confidence - maybe all these daily shorter faster walks between the longer ones were paying off 😊
More site work last week but at a slightly easier pace I’m relieved to say. About 18 miles of short walks between Sunday and Wednesday then our next back to back on a Thursday and Friday last week. I thought we only had three weeks to go to the Shropshire 80k so was starting to panic a bit about getting in some long hours on the feet. On Thursday night we went for the same local 10.5 miler, managing to knock 7 minutes of the previous weeks time which was pleasing. Up early on Friday (it takes me at least two hours in a morning to actually get going so I had to get up at 6am for this one!) and we managed to get out of the door by 9.30 for a planned local 26 miles. A bit of a stretch on the 10% rule but needs must! Wall to wall sunshine and a warmer day made for very pleasant walking indeed. It’s not far from our house to the local canal, which then joins the Wey Navigation which links up with the Thames Path. Very short on hills but plenty of time on the feet 😊
A necessary White Magnum around mile 8, then a big mug of tea at mile 13 went down a treat and we were both feeling really good. Around mile 18 I thought I might be starting to feel a little niggle under my right heel (I’m never entirely sure as the sensation in my feet isn’t great), so off with the boot just to make sure there wasn’t a stray bit of grot in there (nope!) - it wouldn’t be the first time I’d got a blister that way! There was definitely a little paler patch on the heel, although it didn’t look like a blister so back on with the kit and off we went again. Another mile and that sensation was still there so another sit down and this time a thorough search of the sock to see if there was anything there that shouldn’t be - a small grass seed came out of the sock in about the right place so hopefully that would be the end of it. There was still no blister but the paler patch was still there, but it still didn’t look like a developing blister. Off we went again but that tiny little sensation was irritatingly persistent. I knew there was nothing in my boots and socks now so I (in retrospect, stupidly) ignored it. We got home without needing the head torches (loving how fast the nights are drawing out)- 26.3 miles done in 7:34 without really pushing the pace 😊 Boot off and ow! As soon as my foot hit the floor I knew that I now definitely had a blister under that heel - nooooooooo not now - I was horrified to see what was quite a deep blister 😫😫 The surface sensation in my feet might not be too crash hot but the deeper tissues are certainly more sensitive 😂😂
It was too painful to stand on within a couple of hours so I slapped a Compeed on it then carried on as best I could. Saturday morning, back on with the same boots (you’ll realise the significance in a minute) and gladly accepted a lift to Parkrun and back. Richard ran it and I was Tail Walker again (still being good and not running - wonders never cease 😂😂). Time to clean off the boots when we got back and that’s when I found a largeish pointy stone wedged under my boot (point upwards of course!) right under where the blister had developed. Well, that’s a first, but I’ve no doubt at all that it was the cause and in future I’ll check under my boots as well.
The rest of Saturday was spent pegging around on the toes only, to the extent I had to foam roller the calf as it started cramping. By Sunday morning I couldn’t feel anything again so I happily carried on as normal. A busy day on the feet all day on Monday and Tuesday topped off with the weekly gym session on Tuesday evening. Just a short walk each day as time was a bit short. I must admit I did a short run/walk Tuesday lunchtime - it wasn’t planned naughtiness, I just felt good! Last thing Tuesday, the Compeed dropped off and the heel was still pretty sore. The blister was still intact and was ever so slightly larger. Trying to be kind to the darned thing (there was still a lot of fluid in it) I didn’t go out for a walk yesterday (and felt rubbish as a result!). By this morning, it had started to flatten off so hopefully, it won’t be too much trouble now. I just hope it won’t become a recurrent problem this year as the little toe blister was last year. I’ve just got back from a cheeky 7k in the lovely sunshine and will likely go out again for another short night one tonight. Status of tomorrow’s training unknown as yet but hopefully we’ll get some hills in.
How do you all deal with blisters when you have to carry on training? Note, bursting them is not an option for me as I’m on meds that lower my immunity so anything that’s an infection risk is off the cards. I cut a hole out of a self-adhesive foam pad to try and take the pressure off it and it seems to be working OK. My new boots arrived today too - same brand and model but a size larger as my feet seem to have grown yet again! What’s wrong with my darned feet? I was a size five and half in my 20’s and now I need an 8!! If my body is preparing for an environmental crisis I reckon it’s going to involve a lot of water as I think I’m growing flippers 😂😂
Happy training everyone 😊
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