New year, new challenges

Several months ago, Caralyn and I agreed to enter two 100k events in 2017: London to Brighton in May and the Cotswold Challenge (Bath to Cheltenham) in July. As we both work full-time and live far apart, we have to plan our training schedule a long way in advance, so we planned a number of training weekends for the next few months. What we hadn’t prepared for was Caralyn getting a diagnosis of breast cancer in December. Fortunately it was caught early and operated on successfully. Feeling good and facing several weeks of radiotherapy next month, she wanted to make the most of her current energy levels, and so we met in Crewe for a long-overdue weekend of walking and talking.

Recognising that we need to train on rough ground and hills as well as pavements, Caralyn had planned two very different training walks: one rural and one urban. Readers who think we are somewhat masochistic will be relieved to know that each walk included at least two cafe stops. This was vital given the freezing temperatures.

Saturday’s walk was 23 miles, incorporating the first two sections of the Sandstone Trail. We have walked the entire trail twice before but this time planned to drive to Manley Common (the end of section 1) and use the car as a centrepoint from which we could do each section twice. We were up before 6am and parked at New Pale Road just before sunrise, with a temperature of -1 C . It was a magical start, walking beneath rapidly changing skies.

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The ground was still frozen for the first few hours, giving a nice, satisfying crunch underfoot.

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Before long, we reached Overton Hill, with panoramic views of the Mersey Estuary.

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Descending to Frodsham, we refuelled and reheated ourselves at a nearby Costa, before retracing our steps back to Manley Common. From there, we continued to Delamere Forest, where we walked on increasingly muddy paths to Gresty’s Waste and back.

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As the day wore on, the forest paths became much busier, especially near the visitor centre where we stopped for more coffee, along with half the population of Cheshire (or so it seemed). We were particularly struck by the number of dogs we saw wearing pyjamas. Perhaps we are not very observant but we had not come across this phenomenon before. Some were electric blue, some were a more tasteful beige or sage green. while others were decidedly festive, decorated with Christmas puddings. There were doggy pyjamas everywhere. Here are a few restrained examples we saw the next day, but check out this link for some bolder designs!

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As we hadn’t done any serious walking for months and months, it was quite a relief to arrive back at the car and to head home for hot showers, food, wine and company in the form of Paul and Michael, who patiently listened to our stories of the day. Then, after not- enough-hours-sleep, we were up before 6am all over again, ready for another day’s walking.

Sunday involved a pavement-pounding 24 mile circuit in and around Crewe and Nantwich, with sights ranging from retail parks and busy roads to the Shropshire Union Canal. It was a cold, grey day with flurries of snow so we had to walk fast to keep warm.

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When weary bodies are pushed to the limit, everything begins to blur together as one footstep follows another ad infinitum. In such conditions, simple things lift the spirits:

  • A mouse sticking his/her head out of a hole and giving us a quizzical look.
  • A smiley man who must have seen us walking before, who said “It’s good to see you two out again!”.
  • A warm cafe.
  • Cups of coffee
  • Packets of Co-op “sea salt and chardonnay wine vinegar crisps” (the best salt and vinegar crisps EVER!)
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Sorry about the angle – can’t seem to turn this around!

We arrived back home feeling tired and cold but relieved that we had been able to walk 47 miles in a weekend with no real preparation. If you’re wondering how Caralyn managed this so soon after surgery, I really have no idea except to say that she is one of the strongest and most determined people I have ever met!

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2 thoughts on “New year, new challenges

  1. I don’t know where to start; as I read this post so many thoughts flooded my mind. Most of all I am stunned, amazed and impressed. Stunned that any right thinking person would go outside in -1 degrees (but the photos were stunningly beautiful), amazed that you are thinking of doing the London to Brighton walk again (I feel sure you did it a couple of years ago – I thought that distance was madness then but now you are older … well) and amazed that this post-operative experience was possible, and I am enormously impressed that you make your goals, stick at them and then can look back at brilliant achievements. Well done!

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