Monday, 13 July 2009

Should it just fade, pass into the west?

Well it seemed ages since I read the blog's and look at what we all created, missed a few posts as well from the guys.

Not even sure if anyone is reading these any more, still it's nice to reminisce. ...

I guess this was triggered by my receiving an email from a Journalist who was looking to do a piece on our plod, and the concofiny of web based media we used to fuel and fire our trip. Chris did some great work pulling it all together, and it does show how the Internet can be used as a force for good and something actually beneficial to people, not just to let people know that Stephen Fry is currently enjoying a Latte in some coffee store, or whatever twitter is used for.... Why didn't we use twitter? Mmmmm, good question. Perhaps we aren't cool and nerdy enough, or perhaps we're so cool and nerdy we've already seen past it, to the utopian days of face to face interaction! ;)

But the real question is now, what happens to all this. The blogs, the website, the youtube channel, do we tear it down, archive it off for our own prosperity ("come on kids, look at what you're great granddad did before the ice caps melted"), or do we keep it going, use it and launch off it? - Comments please!

I get the feeling from some that perhaps another big project, challange - Kobayashi Maru even! is in the wind, a distant faint tickling at the ankles of the boys. Ken's got ideas, Chris and Pete have ideas, sure Ollie and Grant have them to (even if it is just changing they're numbers so they can't be dragged into another crazy scheme).

Will it be for charity? Perhaps, or perhaps the debt is now paid, if it ever can be. Or maybe it will just be a personal challange, another way of boring the grandkids, or another way of putting off the inevitable passing into the west that faces all of our Knees....

Keep wrangling...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Spa2Summit... Epilogue

So that's it. Cheltenham to Pen Y Fan has been done and Spa2Summit 2009 is over.

We raised far more money than we had ever expected. We thought £2500 was maybe a bit ambitious yet through the generosity and kindness of friends and strangers we've passed £4000! Thank you to everyone who contributed in some way, we all appreciated it hugely. The support and encouragement we received was incredibly touching and we're so grateful.

On a personal note I'd like to thank my friends, family and customers who contributed and took an interest in our peculiar challenge.

Mostly, though, I'd like to thank Abi. She has been so supportive and enthusiastic for the whole nine months we've been working on Spa2Summit. Not once did she become annoyed at all the time I spent on training walks, at shows or working on the website. She was devastated that she didn't make it up to the top of Pen Y Fan in time to welcome us up there (it wasn't her fault I might add!) but Abi, I was more grateful that you were there to carry me down and put up with my constant moaning about how far away everyone had parked. Then to have a quilt and a pillow waiting for me in the car was perhaps the best present I've ever had! Thanks Abi.

As for the boys, I have to mention Ken first. The Cheltenham to Pen Y Fan walk was his idea, his baby. For the rest of us to finish it without him felt like stealing something from him. It still does. After Abi he was the first person I wanted to see after reaching the summit and the warm greeting he gave me when we reached the car park had me welling up. Thank you Ken for all the work you put into this endeavour, it wouldn't have happened without you. Thanks also to Bev, who not only put up with Ken spending so much time on this but also drove our smelly bodies home after various training walks! A brave long-suffering woman.

Pete, your drive and determination really stood out, particularly in the latter stages of the walk and I can't emphasize enough how much that impressed me. Despite the problems you encountered on the training walks, I could tell there was no way you weren't going to reach the summit. You paced yourself excellently and finished strongly, all things you can be proud of!

As for Ollie and Grant, it was great to get to know you both better. Spa2Summit made us more like brothers and I look forward to many other painful and unusual challenges in your company. Every time we pass in the street we can give each other a knowing nod, safe in the knowledge we are a rare breed indeed!

Many thanks to those who walked with us - Abi, Esther, Kath, Jamie, Miriam etc - you guys kept things fresh and dynamic, we needed it!

That leaves Jonty, Marky, Luke, Becci and Mel. Although they were behind the scenes, Spa2Summit's success would not have been possible, no doubt at all. Simply lugging around the required water would have been impossible for us yet they did so much more. Rest stops were well organised and efficient, their energy and enthusiasm was infectious and having cups of tea and pasta handed to us was awesome. Plus their Plodcast entries were brilliant, lifting the spirits when ours were flagging.

As for me, it's now three weeks later and my body still hasn't recovered properly. I've lost a lot of pace when I run because my achilles aren't working as they should and this is affecting my performance at football and tennis - very frustrating! Both my big toes are still completely numb for some reason but the blister on my little toe has now gone so that's something. Any suggestions at how I can heal my afflictions would be most welcome!

I loved this challenge. For me it was just the right difficulty, it was all I could give and a bit more. Trying to tap into hidden reserves of strength and energy was something I've always thought I've been able to do (tennis is great training for this) but attempting it on this scale was something else. My ambition has been ignited and I'd like to take on bigger, more daring expeditions, ones that are new and untried. It even got me wondering if there was any way that some kind of career could emerge from it. We'll see.

So Ken, Pete, Grant and Ollie... what's next? :)


51.8972°N 2.0778°W to 51.88328°N 3.43684°W

This can't be it, I thought. This can't be all I've got.

With just three miles to go and the clock ticking down I had nothing more to give, the pace I was walking at was the most I could manage. With the other boys having had their times of struggle now it was my turn.

By 53 miles blisters had eaten up Ken's feet to such an extent that he had been forced to quit but not before a titanic multi-mile effort on his part, Ken even cutting up his trainers in an attempt to alleviate the friction on his blister menagerie.

At our penultimate rest stop Ollie, who had been suffering flu for the whole trip, experienced such a rapid decline that he was making plans to call it a day and meet us with the support crew at the ascent to Carn Pica.

Grant, who had been battling with violent sickness, had announced (and been told!) that he would do one more leg of the walk and then definitely stop at Talybont Reservoir.

As it was, this "final" leg saw Grant's strength and determination return while Ollie's pride lit a fuse inside him and he persevered to the end, not wanting two Cheltenham boys to succeed where the two Gloucester boys had failed.

After the most satisfying of breaks at Talybont Reservoir where our aching muscles were treated to a quick massage and our cooling bodies were fed piping hot pasta (thanks Mel!) the four of us - Pete, Ollie, Grant and me - began the ascent towards Carn Pica. Regarding this section of walk I had earlier written that "...this is the terrain I am most comfortable on," and so it proved to be as I kept a good pace onwards and upwards.

Throughout the whole walk I had set myself mini-challenges. One was to regulate my pace with the rest of the team and another was to catch any who built a significant lead, 'reeling them in.' This was an excellent strategy as it kept my mind off any pain I was feeling and would leave a warm feeling of satisfaction every time I succeeded. The pace that Pete was setting in the hills gave me a good opportunity to try this once more. It took a lot longer than previous efforts and was a shock at just how fast Pete was moving, much faster than our average walking speed. He had the bit between his teeth by now and, with the end so close and no doubt with memories of his dad swirling round his head, he found a strength and determination that impressed me no end. In my opinion Pete had been the most improved member of the team. Stepping up from the problems of a thirty-five mile training walk to an incident-free seventy-three was remarkable.

We reached Carn Pica in an hour and a quarter, a cracking pace even if you were hitting it fresh. Then came my slump. The winds on the hills had braided the grass into many trip-wires that seemed to catch me on every step. Small drops off grassy verges sent shooting pains up both legs. It wasn't long before any shock-absorbency my legs could provide had been eroded away. Every step, particularly downhill, was now agonizingly painful. My left knee was burning, my right calf had a knot that seemed the size of a golf-ball and both my achilles had seized up. Yet the pace, dictated by Pete (I use the term 'dictated' in its strongest possible sense!), remained fast.

There was no time to stop for a break, it was now a very real possibility that we wouldn't make the top in 36 hours. A long, very painful descent was approaching and we had just hit seventy miles. Gusty tailwinds carried us forward, relieving some of the pain for half a second at a time. The path took us out of the wind. That long descent was upon us.

Every step sent shockwaves up my legs and into my chest. It felt like my muscles, ligaments and tendons had been removed and bone was left to grind against bone, or worse - bone against nerve.

After an age the path eventually lead us onto the gentle ascent around Corn Du towards Pen Y Fan. By now I was at the rear of our silent line of Summiteers, Ollie was just in front, then a gap to Grant, then another to Pete.

This can't be it, I thought. This can't be all I've got.

For the first time I couldn't willingly switch into another gear and the idea of reeling in the leader again was being rejected by my brain. I needed adrenaline. I ran, telling my body to ignore what the brain was telling it. I felt like a gazelle. I passed Ollie, then Grant. I felt strong.

As I approached Pete he turned, bearing a peculiar look on his face. I yelled, "It hurts less like this!" and carried on past him, springing off each rock and stone as if they were boiling hot. I turned as I ran and felt a warm surge of pride and adrenaline as I saw all three of my new brothers running with me.

We slowed to a walk again as the final "wall" of Pen Y Fan faced us. Our friends were at the top and time, thanks to the pace we kept from Talybont Reservoir, was once again on our side.

We climbed together, stopping whenever one of us requested. We finished together. Strongly.

Seventy-three and a half miles of tarmac, grass and stone had passed under our feet reaching this point. We just wished Ken was with us.