London to Brighton Walk 2018

June '18 ~ Did we complete the Ultra Challenge?

The countdown and klaxon horn marked the start of the Challenge. Everyone was in high spirits, laughing, high fiving & singing. An energetic buzz filled the air. Both Rose and I were ready, our training had prepared us for this….. or so we thought!

Despite our best intentions and efforts, it was impossible to keep a fast pace throughout the entire first day. Being amid so many people on constricted pathways, and the relentless heat, made it impossible. Training in freezing wet conditions certainly didn’t prepare us for the bank holiday heatwave. The changeable terrain (steep hills, ankle deep mud, dry uneven fields, concrete and woodland with ankle-breaking-tree-roots) proved difficult despite the carefully chosen footwear. The pace, refreshment stops, and waiting for a taxi that failed to show, meant we didn’t reach our hotel until after 11pm, much later than planned.

Tired & aching we reached lodgings but had to climb a flight of stairs, we had to laugh! As the door closed to my room, I gawped at the 4ft bathtub and got the giggles again. At 6ft, it wasn’t the luxurious Epsom Salt bath I eagerly anticipated & desperately needed. Removing my boots, I honestly didn’t think I would be able to put them back on again. After spending 20min with my feet up the wall to reduce the swelling and pain, I finally fell asleep sometime before 1am, waking at intervals, fearful of sleeping through the 4am alarm.

Day 2 had a 6am start, the Klaxon loudly pierced the subdued atmosphere, zombie like grunts and declarations of tiredness. It quickly dawned on me that it was going to be a physically and mentally tougher day! The intervals between km markers appeared extended, I found it difficult eating the energising food required, rehydration powders and pain killers became my friend, and I had to dig deep, very deep. I considered tapping out. When my strong mental attitude and dogged determination faltered, texts and calls from my supportive husband were a lifeline at my lowest, and the donations received motivated me to put one foot in front of the other. Most importantly being accompanied by my ardent team mate Rose facilitated the desire to keep going. We laughed together, we cried together, she respected my need to be alone when I had to give myself a good talking to! The strength, determination, inspiration and motivation of others is infectious.

The last 10km I fought back tears. By the time Rose and I walked hand in hand over the finishing line, in pain and exhausted, the dam I had built up suddenly burst. It was a very emotional reunion with loved ones. The medal, t-shirt and bubbles took a back seat, I rushed into the loving bearhugs from my husband. We had done it!

This Ultra Challenge was an amazing experience but in equal measures it was a horrendous one. I have four toenails that in the words of my Chiropodist are “gonners” and some muscle damage in the hip area. Rose got a couple of blisters and a knee issue on route, she thankfully recovered quickly. Others weren't as lucky as us. 25% of participants were unable to complete the Challenge, some leaving the soles of their feet back in London! This highlights our achievement. All the pain is certainly worth it, combined we have raised over £3k for MacMillan Cancer Support who provide support and advice for those with Cancer, including so many of our own family and friends.

My donation page
Never Again" ~ Tracey Bartlett

UPDATE 13-6-18
Thus far, I have lost the two little toenails, with at least one of the big toes ging the same way. Thankfully my hip, after a great sports massage has healed nicely.

May '18 ~ Not walking is no walk in the park!
Rose and I have finished our training schedule with an arduous back to back 18-mile walk over a single weekend. It was harder than anticipated, completing the same distance the second day highlighting the mammoth task we have ahead. We may have underestimated the exertion of endurance walking over two days! We didn’t smile as much as usual, but we were still talking at the end. A great sign of a good team!
Now it’s time to wait for the BIG WALK (100km Brighton to London)

At the time of writing this article… We’re now resting in preparation for the challenge ahead and I’m getting serious withdrawal. Going from multiple walks a week then decreasing to nothing has messed with my head! I found it hard to compute why we would train like mad, walk the miles we have and then taper to nothing. Surely, we’re undoing all our tough work? Won’t our bodies suffer during the challenge without sustained walking?
Whilst pulling muscles apart to increase the blood flow, my sports massage therapist explained (though my squeals) that even Marathon runners taper, to allow themselves to heal, build strength and reserves. He proceeded to explain that my leg muscles were harder than some triathletes he treats, and most definitely needed to rest. I had better listen, I can’t risk pulling a muscle this close to the challenge. To help recovery I am eating even healthier than usual and my minimised alcohol intake has stopped altogether, to ensure I give my body the best chance I can. All sounds very boring doesn’t it? But it’s not that bad. My sleep has improved, and I am waking more alert.
Whilst my body is enjoying the break, my mind isn’t!
O.M.G it’s mentally hard not walking. I miss the one thing that I KNOW helps me to unwind and contemplate. I find strolls fantastic for reducing my daily stress and anxiety, it helps declutter my mind and think clearer. This past week I have found myself more overwhelmed than usual with a run of bad luck and bad judgement. Whilst walking I can switch off from everything other than what my eyes see, and my ears hear, it grounds me and keeps me sane in this technology driven world. Not having the outlet of walking resulted in a mini meltdown this week. Without the usual channel to destress, my body is rebelling, so, roll on the 26th and 27th when I can resume walking… with a vengeance! Bring it on!
If you have any walking tips please feel free to leave them in the comments area on this page
“Whilst walking I can switch off from everything other than what my eyes see, and my ears hear" ~ Tracey Bartlett

Apr '18 ~ In every walk with nature

The clocks jumped forward and whilst many snuggled and continued to hibernate in bed, trying to grab back that lost hour, I was heading out on a 12-mile walk, wishing I was one of them! However, I was rewarded. I walked miles in total peace, there wasn’t a soul about, and rather than the usual howling wind and pelting rain piercing my ears, the only sounds that accompanied me that morning were the birds singing and arms rubbing against my waterproof jacket, in a rather hypnotic way.
When I hike, my eyes are always drawn to the nature and beauty surrounding me. Strolling along Bexhill seafront that morning I was mesmerised by the calm sea, only touched by a flock of seagulls skimming the surface during their rather impressive flyby. I continued walking until I reached Pebsham, where I left the well-trodden paths used by joggers and dog-walkers and ventured into to the countryside to locate the old railway; where I sat for refreshments on one of the picnic benches. Whilst sipping a warming ginger tea I listened to the woodpecker in the distance and couldn’t help thinking how lucky I was. I grew up in Croydon and moved to East Sussex in my early teens; so each day I feel blessed that I have the sea on one side, and a wealth of public footpaths that pass through our gorgeous countryside on the other.
That was a gentle paced morning walk, alone with my thoughts.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and we have finally reached the weekend where Rose and I planned a fast paced marathon length training session. Last year I completed a charity walk of 26.5 miles across the South Downs and over the Seven Sisters (Brighton to Eastbourne), so we were off to recreate that day, without the backup of the organisation behind it. This was going to be a true test of our training to date and would give us the opportunity to check our equipment, and our mental strength. And what a test it was! We had thick mist, head on winds, torrential rain, and only a small patch of sunshine at the very end. I struggled up the longer arduous steep hills, I just couldn’t get my breathing right. Poor Rose experienced some blisters quite early on.
But with the training comes experience and we knew exactly what to do to help each other out. That’s why training for events such as the London to Brighton 100k Charity Walk is very important.

Although slightly achy, we were in decent shape the next day for work. However, the idea of being behind a desk definitely was more appealing than walking the same distance again. Which made us realise the task ahead of us. For our Challenge, we will be walking over a marathon a day for two days straight. Not long now!
The London to Brighton Charity Walk is on May 26th and 27th. Please, no rain dances!

In addition to our mini strolls we have one more weekend of long training walks coming up. 18miles on a Saturday followed by 18 miles on the Sunday of the same weekend. That will give us some great experience of walking two days back-to-back. Fingers crossed we will finally experience a training walk with some decent weather, to prepare us for what we hope would be better weather for the end of May.

Wish Rose and I luck!
If you have any walking tips please feel free to leave them in the comments area on this page
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks” ~ John Muir

Mar '18 ~ These boots are made for walking

During training walks my sturdy walking boots provide the support my feet need whilst I’m rambling across the diverse landscapes along our beautiful coastline and countryside. However, what’s just as important during training is the emotional and tangible support of those around me. Their backing spurs me on through the snow blizzards, the physical setbacks and the constant temptation to jump on a passing bus when I hit my wall.

Aren’t weekends precious!

For me they’re a spell away from my desk and a period in the week where I spend quality time with my husband doing all the things we love doing…. usually!! Stuck to the back of our bathroom door is a training calendar that now eats into this valuable time, time that progressively decreases as the training walks get longer. It won’t be long now until the weekend where I have two 18-mile walks to complete, or the weekend with 24-miles to finish at a consistent 4mph. Now, despite his claim of being allergic to walking, my husband has accompanied me on some smaller walks, tempted no doubt by the country pub on offer! His acceptance of the time I must dedicate to this challenge says as much as the words of praise he offers on a regular basis. Simple acts like coming to find me when he knows I have started a walk without my headphones, means more than any bouquet of flowers would! Without his support this challenge would be a non-starter.

A little healthy competition never hurt anyone!

My walking buddy Rose is a friend through work. With experience of the London midnight walk (twice) she was a major source of encouragement and advice when I was participating in last year’s Brighton to Eastbourne 26.5mile walk across the South Downs. I am thrilled that she agreed to join me in this latest challenge. Rose has proved to be as dedicated as myself with the training, and despite an unforeseen circumstance where we haven’t been able to walk together as much as we planned, we’re separately putting in the steps and motivating each other through FitBit. Of course, this can be a little competitive, the FitBit challenges are a great motivational tool! I couldn’t ask for a better walking partner, she’s marvellous, and I’m excited about walking over the finish line with her by my side.

Put one foot in front of the other, and keep going!

Recently I started to experience pain in my left foot whilst walking. It progressively got worse to the point that my toes felt wet. I sent a worried text to a friend who’s a local chiropodist and asked her advice. We met the next day and she immediately diagnosed a nerve issue and suggested some alterations to my arch supports. She also educated me against wearing a thin pair of socks with thicker walking socks, but recommended wearing two thin pairs to give my feet room to breathe. Thankfully, I haven’t had the same problem since. Well, that’s until the other day. In my haste to leave for the planned 16-mile walk along the seafront, I had forgetting her advice until half way, where I had to purchase more thin socks! My monthly podiatry appointments have been invaluable. With the goal to walk from London to Brighton, it’s essential that I look after my feet, and they’re certainly in good hands with Naomi!

Donating isn’t just about giving, it’s about making a difference.

Then there’s the wonderful support of the friends, family, clients (and their clients) who have supported us with their generous sponsorship. The money raised and pledged will make a difference to Macmillan Cancer Support, who help people get back some control during a challenging and emotional time. If Rose and I can raise awareness and money through our passion of ambling along through our wonderful countryside, then any blisters or sore muscles will be more than worth it.

If you have any walking tips please feel free to leave them in the comments area on this page
You can do anything if you have the passion, the drive, the focus, and the support ~ Sabrina Bryan

Feb '18 ~ There's no such thing as bad weather

Have you heard that fable about the wind and the sun in competition with each other to get the traveller to take off his cloak? I think these past few weeks Windand his best mate Rainmust have a very large bet on with Sun. They’ve tried their hardest to win, all they’ve done is help me walk that little bit faster, one way at least!

Walking in harsh weather after a taxing day at work isn’t ideal, but no reason not to go out. I haven’t spent a fortune on my walking kit not to wear it, my barrier against the elements worn like a shield in battle. But there’s been a chink in my armour taken advantage of a lot this last month. My face has been vulnerable to the freezing wind hitting my eyes, obscuring my vision. My tears flowing freely, fraternising with the horizontal driving rain that’s piercing my skin like scorching pins. Both trying to force me to retreat somewhere with central heating and a hot drink. During training, when conditions are that angry you give into them only by continuing walking, with your head down, in a submissive like posture.

That’s not ideally how I like to walk. I like to stride with my head up, facing mother nature head on. I want to see the rain beads rolling off leaves, to witness the moon in the sky watching over the first buds of spring and birds flying back to their young. And I must confess, I enjoy watching people puddle dodging, when the next vehicle has the potential to soak them if not timed right… In Rory Grahams words, I’m only human!

Thankfully walking isn’t all wind, rain, mud and challenges. Every journey is different, even if you’re hiking along a familiar route.

The UK National Obesity Forum states we should walk between 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day to qualify as "moderately active" therefore I try to walk a minimum of 8,000 in and around Bexhill each day as part of my basic training for the London to Brighton walk. Sound easy? Not so easy when you’re leading a sedentary working life that eats up 50+ hours of the week, so I am often forced to make up my steps in the evening. When all I want to do is sit on the sofa with a glass of Pinotage or Malbec, watching re-runs, with my fluffy winter blankie on stand-by (we all have one, don’t we ladies?!)

Since I last wrote, I’ve made a special friend who will join me on the occasional walk. She should motivate me when I am not with my fabulous human walking buddy, Rose. When I asked the universe for a dog, it thought, we better check she is up to the challenge first and along came Nellie a ‘borrowed’ pooch via a website called borrowmydoggy.com. She is a 5-year-old working Cocker Spaniel described as ‘mad as a box of frogs’. A fun canine with lots of character, who may feature in my future updates. If you need a doggie fix like me (empty nest syndrome anyone?) or need someone to walk their dog for them, this is a site worth checking out.
Until next month

If you have any walking tips please feel free to leave them in the comments area on this page
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. ~ Alfred Wainwright


Jan '18 ~ You are walking how many miles?

As I sat on my folded waterproof trousers to protect myself from the cold muddy ground, I looked up and watched natures wind-chimes, as the top branches hit each other in the wind. I smiled. Not quite the same as sun light streaming through the leaves in the Summer but equally enjoyable, my soul was being fed. I felt my smile return. The last 10 miles of muddy terrain and detours (flooded fields) had left me feeling exhausted… with another 8 miles to go!
Giving up and going home wasn’t an option, I was in the middle of nowhere. My walking buddy Rose and I were struggling through treacherous muddy fields, our feet slipping and sliding in opposite directions and pulling at muscles that were normally only activated in Pilates classes! Initially funny, the continuous ‘one-step-forward-and-sliding back-two’ on the inclines were beginning to attack my mojo. Sitting under the tree, I wolfed down my much-needed banana sandwiches, sipped hot spicy tea, and slowly started to feel some energy returning. Without the movement of walking and with the biting wind whipping around us we soon packed up and started the homeward stretch to warm up.

Lifting my rucksack onto my back, and putting Kendal Mint Cake in my pocket for later, I asked myself, just why am I putting myself through this? I couldn’t wait to finish this walk and soak in an Epsom Salt bath. The answer was what drove me to carry on. Whilst many people were sitting in their warm homes or down their local by an open fire, we were walking through ankle deep mud, fearing that one of us would end up with a facial mud pack… because we had the daft idea to walk from London to Brighton to raise vital funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. This distance is the length of 2½ marathons!!

Training has started to get ourselves physically and mentally prepared for the tough 62 mile walk over just 2 days… “You’re doing what!” has been cried many times since the New Year and the enormity of what we have decided to do is starting to dawn on us. This is going to be a demanding challenge. Even before starting this Charity Walk, the training is going to be tough and will take up much of our free time; thankfully I have a very supportive husband!
With so many of our friends and relatives touched by Cancer, we have seen their struggle and fighting spirit. I am going to use my own determination and find the strength to complete this walk, to raise funds and awareness of this wonderful charity and to honour those who have lost their fight.
If you have any walking tips please feel free to leave them in the comments area on this page
Walking is man’s best medicine – Hippocrates


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