Original Mountain Marathon 2017 Langdale

“There are only 60 places left and you have just a few days to find a partner and register” said one of my ‘Project Awesome‘ friends. The ‘OMM’ has been on my wish-list for years but due to injury or other commitments i’d never done it. This was my chance if only I could find a partner!

Some would pick an OMM race partner on fitness or maybe navigation skills. My priority was to find someone who would keep their sense of humour when cold, wet and lost – conditions that seem inevitable in the race. My good friend Michael was open to some persistent persuasion and joined me!

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

What is the OMM?
The Original Mountain Marathon is a 2 day self-supported orienteering race hosted somewhere in the rugged areas of the UK. This year the setting was beautiful Langdale in Cumbria. There are many different categories, including the ‘Elite’ 85km linear race. I signed up for the ‘easy’ Short Score which is a timed event that turns out to be quite tactical. Five hours on day one and 4 hours on day two – score as many points as you can from various checkpoints scattered around the hills but incur penalties for running over your time!

Kit
Considerable thought, effort and expense can go into acquiring and packing the gear. There is a long(ish) list of mandatory items that you need to bring including a proper tent and stove and emergency rations. The goal for many competitors is to pack the lightest (and smallest) possible items even if this means they might be cold and uncomfortable. I saw a lot of bubble wrap that supposedly replaces a proper sleeping mat?!

OMM kit

My aim was to not buy any new kit. My bag was one of the biggest that I saw!

The Start
After a little bit of an epic drive with the wonderful Rebecca, Charlotte and Leanne we arrived late on the Friday night, pitched our tent and then enjoyed the ‘Pasta party’ and a beer. This was everyone’s first OMM and there were a few worried looking faces (mine included). Had a decent night’s sleep myself though despite it being fairly blowy.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

My partner Michael and I had a relatively late start (10.30) so we mainly watched all our friends and most other competitors head off before us. The weather looked pretty grim as we hit the start line, a bit of light rain and menacing cloud on the hilltops. The rainbow was very welcome.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

Race – day one
At the start line we ‘dibbed’ our timing chip, got given our map (one each) and we were off! Well, to be exact we knelt down by a rock and tried to plan what the hell we were doing for 5 minutes. A sketchy plan made we headed off and quickly hit a lung-bursting ascent and the further we climbed the more inclement the weather became.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

We quickly learnt that the organisers were not going to give us an easy time finding the individual checkpoints. They were generally in a dip or crevice and because the maps were 1:40000 we could only really identify a general area. The thick (very atmospheric) mist only added to the challenge. What was a help was seeing a gaggle of fellow racers heading for areas off the path!

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

At the top of the hills the wind and rain was ferocious and we were soaked through before midday. A few hours in Michael started to develop some cramps that only seemed to get worse as the day went on. It was also becoming clear that we were unlikely to get to the finish within 5 hours.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

It is notable that the ground conditions were incredibly boggy and that wet feet was a feature of the entire day. I wore trail running shoes (a good decision) and was lucky that I didn’t suffer any blisters. I did wonder a bit how long it takes to get trench foot?

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

We eventually crawled into the overnight camp over an hour late to find that we had gained 150 points but been deducted 128. A bit of a blow!

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

The Overnight Camp
In what seems like an act of minor cruelty the designated overnight camp was basically a bog with most of the dry bits being on a major slope. Michael and I managed to find some slim crevices to put our little one-man tents and try and sort ourselves out. A priority was to get some hot food down our neck which led me to panic slightly when Michael told me that he’d brought the wrong fire-starter for the stove! Luckily a friendly competitor lent us a lighter.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

I made the controversial decision to just keep on my damp clothes and hope they dried out on me (fine as it turned out) while Michael laboriously took off his wet stuff and put on his dry stuff. This included some hilarious (to me) grunts, groans and yelps coming from his tent. By the time we’d eaten and warmed up it was about 1800, we were so tired though that we just got in our sleeping bags and snoozed or went to sleep. I have to say that my tent was snug and I was perfectly warm over night. It was a tad steamy for a bit as my clothes dried out. In the morning I did, however, still have to put on soaking wet and cold socks. Yuk. Michael, on the other hand, had to put on cold wet everything! Yikes.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

In contrast to day one, the morning was beautiful and clear, though cold. We had another late start time which meant that we had quite a bit of hanging around. In the end it meant that we were possibly the last competitors to cross the start line.

Race day two
Michael and I were fairly exhausted before we even set off and having learnt our lessons on the penalties of being late we decided to keep the plan simple today. Just get to the finish on time and don’t worry about racking up a basket of points. The race map told us that we could pick up 2-3 checkpoints without going out of our way too much.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

After a very short walk along the road between Hardknott and Wrynose passes we forded a stream and headed up the stiff climb of Cold Pike. With our tired legs, this was a bit of a tester and seemed to go on forever. The blue skies and clear views were gorgeous though and this was easily one of the clearest days I’ve ever had in the Lake District.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

We spent what seemed like ages trying to find our first checkpoint and eventually gave up. This seemed particularly galling as the weather was clear and there seemed like few excuses. Damn sneaky organisers! To my utter surprise but complete delight what I did find was my wonderful work colleague Nicola who was out walking with her husband! A fantastic coincidence.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

In the end we only completed two checkpoints on this day and came in nearly an hour early. We did manage to jog in the last half kilometre and ran triumphantly through the finish line. We did our last ‘dib’ with the timing chip and picked up the finishers badge.

You do get a cup of tea, ribena and a bangers and mash dinner for getting to the end! What was even better was meeting up with our friends and swapping horror stories about the horrific weather or how few points we may have scored.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

Going into this, I did think that finishing at all would be good and not being last would be fantastic but i’ll be honest, I didn’t hold out much hope for the second goal. We had walked, rather than ran more or less the whole thing. On day one we had lost most of the points we had accrued and on day two hardly scored any at all. We ended on a grand total of 62 points. What I hadn’t reckoned on was that loads of folk on the ‘short course’ were late on day one, some even had negative points. We finished an almost respectable 114th out of 138 finishers in our class. I heard over 150 teams had simply pulled out the first day. Sometimes, just persevering can do it.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

Would I do it again? Of course I bloody would. I really hope to be back next year, fitter and more experienced!

Massive thanks to Michael for being an awesome buddy. Thanks to all my other friends from Project Awesome that were there, you are inspirational!

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Injury update (March 2017) – I’m back

Blimey, this has been a much longer saga than I ever could have imagined.

First run in over a year!

Way (way) back in December 2015 I was doing sprints with the lovely folk from Project Awesome and on one of the turns (nothing special) something clicked. Of course I just carried on because that’s what I always do. Later that day in a meeting at work my leg collapsed under me and I couldn’t walk at all.

I went to a physio and eventually my doctor who in turn referred me to a joint specialist. I was (officially) diagnosed with a meniscus tear (a bit of cartilage inside the knee). The consultant even delighted in saying that I had ‘fat knees’ which was tough to take from a basically pretty corpulent man.

For over a year I have been (mostly) doing my physio (a LOT of squats), switching my exercise to cycling and generally being ultra careful not to twist my knee. The pattern then followed that I would feel a bit better, push things on the exercise front and re-injure myself. At the beginning a re-injury would have me limping for a week but over time the recovery time reduced and the gaps between injury increased.

I’ll be honest, there were times when I thought that I was going to have a permanent (albeit minor) disability and never run again. I love running which meant this thought was pretty depressing. As much as I know how minor this is and how lucky I’ve been physically in my life it has gotten me down.

Since the turn of the year though, things have improved a lot. I’ve not had a relapse and whilst I can definitely still ‘feel’ the knee throb a bit after exercise it seems more or less ok. The big news was last weekend when i did an actual bonafide real proper run. It was very slow (by my old standards) but a solid 4.5km round the park.

I felt quite emotional afterwards. Doing a proper run again felt HUGE. Oh yes, i’m back baby! [cough]

Project awesome 'happiness day'

Photo by www.annarachelphotography.com/

 

A Walk across London – North to South

Having ‘conquered’ a walk across London from east to west (Part 1, part 2, part 3) it was time to tackle North to South. London is a lot shorter than it is wide and I reckoned that this route could be done in just two days of walking. I was also really fortunate that my friends Nickos and David were keen to join me on the challenge.

Part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

It turns out that the most northerly part of Greater London is a lonely country road just inside the M25 near Crews Hill station in Enfield. This required walking along an unpaved verge for a kilometer or so. The completest in me meant that we had to make the border. My companions were less fussed. At least there was a sign to mark the start. It was exciting that almost from the start we could see the half-way point of the Shard in central London.

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

The morning was quite cold but very sunny and it was a pretty lovely walk alongside fields and trees. It wasn’t too long before we found suburbia though in the form of Enfield town. There some very nice parks though and my old friend Google maps took us through as many as possible.

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

I did take us slightly away from the most direct route firstly by insisting on walking by a street near Bounds Green that I used to live in and second by climbing up to Alexandra palace. The views from here are magnificent and the ‘palace’ itself is still pretty great.

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

By this point, however, the beautiful sunshine gave way to threatening clouds. It wouldn’t be long before it turned into drizzle and finally a proper downpour. Good old British weather.

The revelation of the walk was quite how nice Crouch end is, a place that none of us had been to (at least in many years). This is one of the best things about walking round your home town. Discovering or re-discovering places that life hasn’t taken you to.

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

It’s fair to say that once the rain got heavy the walk was a little bit of a trial and we didn’t dawdle. Also the central London Sunday shoppers were out and making fast walking a bit tricky too. When will there be a ‘locals lane’ on London pavements?

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

We ended our day on Waterloo Bridge, the northern part of our walk completed. Damp but undefeated we celebrated with a beer and a burger. Yay!

Part 2

The weather couldn’t have been better for the second part of this walk (about three weeks later) – a crisp cold blue sky day. It may have been cold but it was glorious. We started off from Waterloo bridge and made our way down the river to Vauxhall.

A Walk across London - north to south

Leaving the river we passed through Stockwell and made it to Tooting Bec Common where we stopped for some excellent brownie (thanks David).

A Walk across London - north to south

A Walk across London - north to south

From here our journey took us through the unremarkable suburbs of Mitcham and then Carshalton and Wallingford. It included passing the aromatic Beddington sewage works.

A Walk across London - north to south

A Walk across London - north to south

With daylight starting to go we finally arrived in Coulsden, the last bit of town before our destination. Farthing down would have been a superb end to the trip. It is a pretty bit of heath with lovely views into happy Valley and beyond. We even got a majestic sunset.

A Walk across London - north to south

A Walk across London - north to south

Sadly, however, the edge of Greater London was a further 1.5 km down a small unpaved lane. I was checking our position on my Ordnance Survey app on my phone which eventually told us we were there. We had made it. We had a nip of whiskey and a celebratory photo.

A Walk across London - north to south

All that remained was to walk several miles back up the lane and across farthing down to Coulsdon where we could have a drink and a curry.

A huge thanks to my companions David and Nickos who were brilliant company. Even when it rained or I made them walk to the middle of nowhere ‘because that’s what the map says’.

This was a really nice project that I’d recommend.

Expedition: The Tour de Turret

If you read my plan for this trip you’ll know that I was excited but also completely terrified. I have friends who have done much bigger things than a few days of cycling but i’m a believer of finding one’s own level of adventure. For me this is a huge thing (for now) but I hope that it will be another step towards bigger and more ambitious things in the future.

The Tour de Turret would (hopefully) take me 200(ish) miles from Nottingham, via twelve castles, to London. I reckoned on this taking four days with about 50 miles a day and bivvying out the nights in between. I had no exact plan on where I was going to stay, it was going to be ad-hoc microadventure/stealth camp style.

Things started with a bit more excitement than I’d wanted with realising a bit late that I wouldn’t be able to get the tube to St.Pancras (or even into central London) as it was still rush hour. I wanted to conserve my legs but ended up hammering it into town – let’s not start by missing my train!

Day 1 – Nottingham to Tamworth
Despite doing quite a bit of public speaking for my job, I feel very uncomfortable filming myself. Feel lucky that i’ve posted this!

Tour de Turret

Nottingham Castle didn’t actually have much ‘castle’ left after it was razed during the civil war and a previous house was burnt down. The gateway looked alright though! I really felt that if I was going to have any chance of completing this adventure then I needed to get my quota in today and that meant reaching at least Tamworth, 43 miles (70km) away which is on top of the 17km that I cycled to St. Pancras this morning. It was a tall order (but i’m taller).

Tour de Turret

The first leg of my journey took me through Nottingham and soon out into a bit of countryside. A feature of this trip is going to be canals and like many things in life, sometimes they are my friend and sometimes my enemy. Today though, canals were mostly my friend and Google maps (cycle) took me across or down a few so as to avoid roads.

Tour de Turret

Before long I’d arrived at Castle No.2 – Elvaston Castle. ‘But its a house’ I hear you cry! Yes it is, BUT it has castle in its name and look at the crenelations! Plus if you’re going to be picky about this one, there is worse to come I assure you. I, at least, was very happy to have stopped by here.

Tour de Turret

Feeling the pressure of time and the limited daylight hours I pressed on to my next target, the brilliantly named ‘Ashby de-la-Zouche Castle‘ (No.3). Another feature of this trip and another ‘sometimes my friend and sometimes my enemy’ is Google maps (cycle). On the whole it seems to be my friend on the open road but it gives me the right old run-around in any built up area. In Ashby it led me around three sides of the castle including a back alley instead of the short, direct route. I’ll leave further ranting about google maps for later!

Tour de Turret

After Ashby, I started to get a bit tired but promised myself a good meal in Tamworth. This section was mostly an internal argument about whether I wanted a curry or fish and chips or maybe a pizza. Plus where was I going to leave my bike where it wasn’t going to get nicked (I only brought a light flimsy lock).

Tour de Turret

Tour de Turret

I made it to Tamworth (and its castle) just after five’o’clock and in the end I had a superb curry and a beer and it went a long way towards re-energizing my batteries! By the time I was finished it was dark and I had the small matter of finding somewhere to bed down for the night. No formal campsites for me, I was out to stealth camp!

I had ear-marked some lakes south of Tamworth as having good potential for a bivvy out but getting to them was harder than it seemed. Firstly it was now dark and secondly good’ol google maps sent me down the canal which was narrow and muddy. I ended up walking my bike for at least 2-3 km. Finding a campout spot in the dark is always tricky but even more so when you need to hide a bike as well. Especially when the bike is covered in reflective stickers especially made to be seen in the dark.

After a bit of anguished searching I found what I thought was the perfect spot – a fisherman’s seat/place/hide [not sure what you call them] that was not obvious from the path and would give me a great view of the sunrise in the morning. I unpacked and bedded down for the night only to be woken about an hour later by a couple of guys (fishing wardens I think) who were apparently looking for poachers. Despite not having any means to catch fish (plus I WAS ASLEEP) they insisted that I move on to be on the safe side. For the record this is the first time I’ve ever been moved on! Apparently they caught the reflections of my bike from across the lake.

No one likes being woken up and I had the hassle of packing my gear and then finding somewhere else. About a mile away I found a place set in from the path and hidden by trees that looked ok. It was a lot damper here and as a wildlife bonus I was pooped on by (i think) a bird above me. It was pretty sizable and the thud on my bivvy bag actually woke me up.

Tour de Turret

Day 2 – Tamworth (kind of) to Broughton Castle

At least the night hadn’t been all that cold. That is about as positive as I can make it. The morning was all foggy and dark (no ace sunrise) and after brewing up some coffee and a small bowl of porridge I was actually grateful to be getting on my way.

Tour de Turret

Tour de Turret

My first castle of the day (No.5 overall) was the privately owned fortified mansion of Maxstoke. With the scary signs in the drive plus some actual people in the gatehouse lodge I didn’t go in. You can (just about) make out a tiny bit of the castle from at the end of the drive.

Tour de Turret

It was a grey, cold cycle and I was more than a bit grateful when I reached Meriden (it claims to be the centre of England) and more specifically a cafe where I was able to get a fry-up and a coffee. On this trip I always ensured that I had enough to eat in my panniers but also took every opportunity to get a proper meal (and get my waterbottles refilled). At the table next to mine was a fabulous couple of old guys having a chat. They seemed so happy and cheerful, even on such a grey morning. Cheered me up a bit too!

Tour de Turret

Back on the road, it wasn’t long before I got to castle no.6 the fabulous looking Kenilworth Castle. Unlike yesterday I actually had a lot more time today to actually look around if I wanted, however, when it came to it I preferred to get some miles clocked while I was still feeling good.

Tour de Turret

A short eight miles further down the road I was in the lovely town of Warwick with what might be one of the best castles on my trip (No. 7 Warwick Castle). I was slightly pre-prepared for the fact that the castle is now more of a theme park than an historical building and I can’t say I was very tempted to go in (not least because of the ‘premium’ cost). I settled instead for an old world looking teashop and a lovely cream tea.

Tour de Turret

Refreshed by coffee and clotted cream I was on my way again. Not far from Warwick I found myself in a suburb of Leamington Spa called Heathcote, which also happens to be my mum’s family name. Is this where my ancestors are from?

Tour de Turret

The countryside for the rest of the day was distinctly more undulating than i’d been used to so far and the hills started to take their toll a bit. At one point near the village of Avon Dassett I saw what looked like an iron age hill-top fort. Bonus ‘castle’ here I reckoned.

Tour de Turret

Although not a fort it did turn out to be excavations from mine workings and they are now a nice looking country park. From this point onwards I was looking out for potential campout sites. I felt that unlike the previous night I wanted to be settled before dark this time.

Tour de Turret

It was a gorgeous late afternoon and castle no. 8 – Broughton Castle (another fortified manor house) looked good in this light. After this my radar was set exclusively to ‘bivvy site’ and I spent an anxious 45 minutes looking for somewhere that was a) near my route, b) hidden from the road and any houses and c) would give me a good view of the sunrise.

Tour de Turret

I still enjoyed the sunset of course! I found a good place in a field, behind a hedgerow. Once dark I unpacked and got in my sleeping bag, even though it was only 1830. It got cold quite quickly but it didn’t matter as I was snug and reading my kindle. I think I was asleep by eight-thirty!

Day 3 – Broughton Castle to The Tower of London

Tour de Turret

Tour de Turret

After carefully ensuring that I would wake up facing east I was a tad disappointed to find it was grey and cold again. No sunrise for Jason [sad face emoticon].

Sunrise disappointment aside, I’d slept a lot better last night (I did have almost eleven hours). Usual coffee and porridge and I was away. With bivvying there is at least not a lot of faff in the mornings. After a short few miles I was in the twee village of Deddington where I was lucky to see a sign for ‘cafe’ and ‘coffee and breakfast inside’. I wandered into what turned out to be a posh Inn. The staff may have spotted something of the fact that I’d been wearing the same clothes for two days and nights and that i’d literally slept in a hedge. They put me well away from the other normal, I assume sweet smelling, guests. I didn’t care too much and just enjoyed my belgian waffle and bacon.

Tour de Turret

There was not a lot of suffering on the food front on this trip I can assure you! My time filling up on coffee and brekkie also gave the day time to perk up a bit and by the time I got to (Castle no.9) Deddington Castle there was even a bit of sun.

Tour de Turret

From the picture i imagine you’re thinking ‘sure, nice field but where is the castle?’. Well, it got knocked down ok and we only have the earth wall and ditch left. I did warn you earlier that it would get worse. I promise they get better from here on!

Tour de Turret

From here I had a pleasant morning cycling in the chill sunshine, the highlight being to briefly overtake a group of cyclists in lycra (and definitely no panniers). To be fair I think they were going slow waiting for someone to catch up. Or am I just really fast? It is the first one. I caught up on some provisions outside Bicester at a military base before reaching Castle no.10 Boarstall Tower.

Tour de Turret

I knew the tower was closed to visitors and in any case I wasn’t that worried about going in. I was just eating a snack outside, however, when a car comes up the drive and an incredibly posh woman winds down her window to tell me the place is closed. She sounded quite annoyed as folk apparently don’t read the sign and just knock on the door. It turns out that she lived there and its a house when it isn’t an English Heritage tourist trap. I told her about my trip and interest in castles and she softened considerably and said I was welcome to look round the gardens. I think she was on the cusp of inviting me in for tea when I said I had to leave.

Tour de Turret

Tour de Turret

Following a caffeine top-up in Thame I joined the wonderful Phoenix Trail (and old railway line) where I saw a deer (a mountjac), one of several I saw during the day. The end of this trail brought me to Princes Risborough and the Chilterns.

The thing is I’d vaguely planned to camp somewhere in the chilterns and end my day here. The problem was that it was only 3 o’clock and I was feeling pretty fresh. Well, whilst not quite ‘fresh’ I felt that I could carry on ok. Once past the hills I knew it would be tougher to find somewhere to bivvy so I felt I had to either stop or really go for broke.

Every now and again I want to see if I can really push it and this seemed a good time. Time to put the hammer down and just keep going.

I came unstuck almost immediately by a killer of a hill outside of High Wycombe. It defeated me in that I had to push my bike up most of it. Slough was tough in a different way in that google maps directed me down the major roads which were a nightmare. I never thought I’d be glad to see Eton.

Tour de Turret

Tour de Turret

It felt really amazing to get to Windsor Castle (a real proper castle!). I was a bit tired now but determined to finish. My initial thought was to get something to eat in Windsor but the place was rammed with tourists and it occurred to me that I should carry on while it was still light.

Crossing back over to Eton I did have a wee in the school sport grounds (out of sight I may add). It’s about as subversive a thing as I can imagine. From here I suffered a number of miles on the bumpy towpath of the Grand Union canal (curse you google maps). I did stop in Chiswick for a sourdough pizza and [cough] a small glass of wine.

Tour de Turret

The last miles were pretty tough as I had to have my ‘city cycling’ wits about me and I was pretty pooped. I was pretty damn chuffed with myself when the Tower of London finally rolled into view.

Tour de Turret

Tour de Turret

I think I might have clocked up 90-95 miles. Bloody hell that’s a lot! A decent four day cycle in three days! I treated myself to the train home from central London.

This definitely ranks as one of my proudest moments in a while. Beforehand I was incredibly nervous about doing the distance. I also did find it a bit stressful bivvying with the bike, something that I don’t think would have worried me if i’d been walking.

After my epic third day of cycling I was a total zombie and good for nothing the day after. It has made me think though, that if I’d stuck to the 50 miles a day I feel I could have carried that on for some time. Something similar or longer now feels quite doable and I’m already eyeing up ‘Tour de Turret 2’ amongst other projects.

It’s been emotional.

 

Walking across Greater London – Part 3

Nearly 5 years ago (in 2011) I started a project to walk across the whole of Greater London, east to west. Even I am not quite sure why I didn’t finish this before now?? Here we go…

The Project

Very simply, this is an attempt to walk across the whole of Greater London, east to west, at it’s widest points. I reckoned that this would take 3 days with each leg being approximately 13-20 miles. In Part 1 I walked from the farmlands of the eastern edge of the London Borough of Havering to Barking. In Part 2 I went from Barking to Queensway (at the  west end of Hyde Park).

This is the third, and final, part where I walk all the way to the furthest reaches of the London Borough of Hillingdon.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Notting Hill and Kensington
So here I was, five years after i’d ended the last section of the walk. I’d got here early and immediately worried that I’d made a mistake. I hadn’t even thought about it but this was the day of the Notting Hill Carnival. Barriers were up and the police were already in force. I moved to exit the area asap!

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

I headed through Holland park to Kensington High Street and passed the magnificent Bristol cars showroom. I love these old cars and I was surprised to learn that they still make hand-built cars.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

From here I joined the Old Brompton Road and came to my first point of personal interest – The place of my birth! I was born in the Princess Beatrice Hospital during a short time it had maternity wards. Fun fact – it was the hospital used as a location for the film ‘An American Werewolf in London‘. Luckily a film I adore!pbh_2

I passed through Hammersmith and made my way as quickly as possible to the Thames. I knew there would be a few dreary streets today so I fancied a nice river walk.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Not wanting to go too far out of my way I cut off a big loop of the river and headed across Chiswick. I’m fairly sure this is a bit of London I’ve never been to before. Nice.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

I joined the river again but it was at this point that I encountered some light rain. Did I mention that I’d not brought any waterproofs? I dived into a nice coffee place hoping it was just a short shower.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Braving the misty rain I carried on and before long I arrived in Brentford. I never actually lived here but I did work here briefly and for some reason even I cannot fathom Brentford F.C. have been the club that I’ve supported.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Getting over the minor nostalgia, I trudged up the couple of miles of Boston Manor Road. It was still raining and I was pretty wet by now.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

I got into Hanwell in time for a late lunch. I lived here for four years in the early 90s, the first place after I left home. Back then it seemed pretty run-down and awful. The upside was that it was incredibly cheap (£165.00 per month). Now the place has gone two or three rungs more upmarket with some independent coffee shops.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

After a superb (hipster) lunch of avocado on toast I was on my way again. My route now was very direct – straight up the Uxbridge Road all the way to Uxbridge. I drove or took the bus on this route hundreds of times but this would be my first walking it. It isn’t pretty.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Past the monolithic Ealing Hospital (not in Ealing?) it was a long line of suburban housing before entering Southall.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

It was here that the light rain showers turned in to a torrential downpour and when I got properly wet. I put on a brave face. Not long after Southall, the rain stopped and I made it over the boarder into my final London Borough – Hillingdon.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

I would love to tell you about the amazing views and beautiful things that I saw on my way into Uxbridge but I’m afraid that there wasn’t any.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

When I used to work here RAF Uxbridge was a busy military base that now rather sadly seems to have made way for uniform suburban housing. Uxbridge itself seemed pretty much the same.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

One thing certainly had changed since ‘my day’ which was the court house that I had spent my first seven years of employment had moved and the building had been demolished to make way for flats. It is interesting to note that this spot was once the turning point for trams that ran the whole length of the Uxbridge Road.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

From here it was just a few hundred meters to the border of Buckinghamshire (and the village of Denham). I had done it – a walk across the whole of London in 3 days. I’ll gloss over the five year gap between the first two and this one.

Walking across Greater London - Part 3

I feel this was a pretty cool thing to do and I’m really glad that I did it. Walking a city is definitely a brilliant thing to do if you have the time and ability.

I might have to do London – North to South. I reckon that is a two day adventure!

All the photos from the day are on Flickr.

Injury update (Feb 16)

So I busted my knee on December 7th (a date that will live in infamy) doing something as innocuous as turning round. As an aside I always think of some injuries being ‘noble’ if you were doing something especially cool or adventurous. Busting my knee base jumping from the top of The Shard or climbing the north face of the Eiger are the type of thing i’d rather say what did it.

Anyway, after a month or so of carrying a limp and another month of modest levels of discomfort I finally got an appointment with a knee specialist at the Hospital. He was not able to be very specific, it still seems to be a toss-up between a meniscal tear and a anterior ligament injury. The following week I had an MRI (that i fell asleep in) but i’ll have to wait till my next appointment in mid-March to find out the results. It goes without saying that this is quite frustrating!

On the plus side, I walk almost entirely without pain now and only get the odd twinge. Over the last few weeks i’ve been introducing the lightest of mini-runs into my fitness sessions. I’m not quite sure how much to push things and i’ll be honest, i’m terrified of having a relapse. Despite this i’m starting to feel that light is at the end of the tunnel and all this will be over at some point.

Being surrounded, as I am often these days, by fantastically adventurous souls doing amazing things, it does get me down a bit not being able to join in.

Looking to get properly stuck in soon!

Injury Strikes!

When I phoned the physio to book an appointment, they told me that my last visit was in 2009. This at least means that my injury ends a pretty decent run of bodily health. I could add ‘for someone my age’ but I won’t. I’m nearly 43.

On my monday project awesome session I was throwing myself into some sprints with my usual 100% effort. On one turn, something snagged in my right knee as I turned. I thought nothing of it and carried on (of course). It was only later that day after standing up after a meeting that my leg actually collapsed beneath me and I could hardly walk at all. In denial, knowing that ‘running it off’ usually works I soldiered on like an idiot.

I carried on, completely in denial (not a river in Egypt apparently), for the rest of the week just hoping things would suddenly improve. This is despite walking with a heavy limp and being in decently large amounts of pain.

Eventually reality broke in and I made an appointment with the physio and tried to actually rest things a bit. The prognosis was not good.

Apparently I have a meniscus tear (knee cartilage) that heals slowly as it doesn’t get much blood supply. Sounds like months rather than weeks and sometimes requires surgery. Running and other impact activities are out (no bmf) which also means no Tough Guy. A lot of the plans I have revolve around running so this is quite a bad blow. I feel that regular exercise has been keeping me in good mental as well as physical shape, so not doing stuff is troubling.

How to turn a negative into a positive?
Now that running is out of the question (and I presume hill walking too?) I’m determined not to let my fitness go. In fact this is an opportunity to explore hitherto less trodden paths.

First up is the famously non-impact activity of swimming. I like swimming and would love to get good at it, the only issue being that the one stroke I use a lot, breast stroke, is the one i’m supposed to avoid. I had all but given up ever mastering the front crawl or even sustaining it for more than 50m but that was when breast stroke was an option. Now i’m more-or-less forced to do it! I guess i’ll also throw in some back-stroke, but I’ve not done that for years and years.

Second up is cycling. Apparently this is ok as long as I don’t do too much standing on the pedals, which might not encourage off-road too much. At the very least I’ve been thinking of commuting to work a bit more which is a 24km round trip plus a few hills. I used to do this in the past but never more than a few times a week. I like the idea of doing some longer cycle trips, praps with a bit of bivvying thrown in too?

My only worry is that by not doing running/impact type things, i’ll be cutting myself off from the Project Awesome/BMF folk that it is great to see and talk to. This shouldn’t be forever though and i feel that my recovery is a challenge in itself. Here goes.