No. 18 Stay Up Late

Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far,

been up too long,

worked too hard,

and you’re separated

from the rest of the world.

BRUCE MAU

Almost four years ago, in the first week of my new life in Glasgow, one of the course leaders presented us with Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto For Growth. It’s a 43 point list that basically makes you think hard.

I like lists, and I like thinking hard and questioning things, so I love this one in particular.

I think back to many of the points regularly, but no. 18 is a favourite as I often push myself beyond the point of what might generally conceived to be sensible (I guess that depends on the company you keep).

Sometimes it’s a conscious decision, when I’m doing something new, or something risky, or something difficult.

Sometimes it’s an unconscious realisation that I have been trying to pack too much in, in desperate fear of not making the most of every second of my life. I know it’s a total cliché, but life really is such a gift, and the death and serious illness of loved ones has made me determined not to waste it.

As I get older, and as I spread my wings north of the border, I love life more and more. Sometimes this can bite me quite hard as I continue to attempt to pack more in. I’d love to be able to balance things better.

But beyond watching my beloved greyhounds sleep, with their paws in the air and their whip-like tails flicking as they dream, I just don’t know what calm looks like. Every time it looks like I’m approaching any sense of pause for an extended period, something happens to shake things up.

I’m over a great big hurdle. I completed the monumental training weekend that had been looming in the diary for weeks. The sun was unbelievably strong, the terrain difficult in places but I managed pretty well considering, and I was amazed by the results. I ran 60 miles over two days, and apart from a couple of annoying blisters and epic levels of hunger, there are no lasting after effects.


As expected, I’m really, really tired. The last few weeks have been pretty tough going, balancing the increase in training and two demanding jobs, but it has all been leading up to this point. I’ve felt my emotions start to unfurl a bit, and a lot has come to the surface. Partly as a result of the abusive relationship storyline on the Archers, partly due to managing a long term injury without compromising on what I want my body to do in less than four weeks’ time, and partly due to my friends completing their final degree recitals at the RCS while I just listen rather than performing my own.

And yet, despite this exhausted, emotionally and physically ragged phase, the creative part of my brain almost feels like it’s on fire. This seems to come from long runs. While I’m running, my body is totally engaged in keeping itself going and my mind is away, free to explore and think and process and digest. Add to this the surroundings I am able to run in, beautiful, empty, truly wild in some places, and it’s no surprise that often when my run is over, I have often found a solution to a problem, written a song or a tune, shaped a musical phrase differently or figured out some tricky pedalling despite being miles away from my harp.

There are projects and ideas popping up left right and centre. This can lead to a different kind of exhaustion and so needs managing in a different way, but I love this extra unexpected dimension that running has given me as I’ve continued to push my distances up. I desperately want to write, to compose and I desperately want and need to sit down with the harp and get my fingers and arms good and strong again so I can really, really play again.

But the next few weeks will see some enforced attempts to calm things down and rest up ahead of the next big challenge. I find it easier to rest properly when I’m not at home. I adore where I live but there’s always something that needs doing and I find it hard to ignore it.

I’m taking a trip to sunny Suffolk to see my parents for a weekend, where I will have to sit for a while in an airport departure lounge, then sit on a plane. With nothing to do but read and wait.

When I arrive at their house I will be jumped on by four whippets. I will sit with at least one of said whippets on my lap, drink tea, catch up with my mum and dad, eat, drink wine and sleep. I will tease my dad about the latest acquisitions in the garage and maybe pass a few spanners as we swap news and exploits. We will probably relive the Ventoux adventure yet again, and nod sagely as we agree (again) that life hasn’t been the same since.

After that, I’m off down to visit my gran for a weekend. I will drive for three and a half hours, watching the weather over the Lake District, feeling the compression effect as the M6 traffic begins to build south of Lancaster, and I’ll listen to the radio. I gave up music in the car years ago, as a result of a fortnight spent almost solidly on the motorways and A roads between Colchester, Leeds and Manchester just after my granddad died. I’d exhausted all the CDs I had in the car and just wanted to hear people talking.

When I arrive at my gran’s house, we will have an endless bear hug. In fact we’ll have about three as this is the time it takes for me to calm down all the emotions I feel when I see her. I know how lonely she is without my granddad, and I am desperately sad I can’t spend more time with her.

I’ll drink tea and eat more cake than I should. Food at my gran’s is a guerrilla-like battle where it’s not a question of “are you hungry/do you want to eat”, it’s how much food she can get down you before you realise how much you’ve eaten or you go home. I prepare in advance now, accepting that it’s just her enjoying having someone to fuss over after years of dealing with four children and my high maintenance granddad, and then the emptiness of that ending.

I always warn her when my dogs are stood behind her in the kitchen, as I worry she will trip. She will kindly but firmly remind me that she managed four kids and numerous Alsatians and so she still has eyes in the back of her head thank you very much.

In between feeding me up, we’ll watch several repeats of Midsomer Murders/Morse/Cadfael/whichever one is on, and at least one of us will fall asleep in the chair. At night I’ll bunk into the single bed in the spare room and attempt to keep the dogs from sharing it with me. There’s not much space on a single bed even when you’re five foot tall, but factor in two great big skinny dogs who want to rest their weary old bones on something soft and … well.

After that, there’ll be a last few short runs, some packing and assembling of kit and food, and then off to the race.

After the race, there will be a holiday and a long awaited chance to rest, recover, reset and consider the next move.

And pause… south of the border

Sunday morning. Rain tapping against the window. I roll over. The bed is empty and I remember why. He left an hour or so ago, and is now battling up the hills in the weather I am seeing from under the duvet.

I get up, put my running kit on and head down for breakfast. My bacon sandwich is delicious, the bacon perfectly cooked, and I hear the B&B owner discussing the provenance of the sausages he is proud to serve. I suspect the bacon comes from the same place. I rarely eat meat these days, but bacon butties and smoked fish are something I would find hard to give up.

I’ve had a good look at the map that is drying out from yesterday’s amble round the Fairfield Horseshoe. I’d hesitate to call it a run – it was steep on the way up and very technical on the way down. We got snowed on, more than once. For one moment I thought I was going to have to lower myself down what appeared to be a rock climb but we found another way. But I ran where I could and enjoyed myself immensely. D could have gone a lot quicker, but didn’t. When I asked hesitantly, tentatively, very nervously, if he was getting frustrated with me, he said no, gave me a big hug and off we went again.

He offered to carry the pack on the first climb, and bravely, fighting every independent feisty obstinate cell in my body, I let him. A pale blue girly XS Salomon pack didn’t really fit him but he managed.

Now back to the map. A friend has suggested the Kentmere horseshoe. There’s a fab looking route round Helvellyn but the road nearby is closed. Decisions.

The rain continues. My tea is a little too weak but you can’t have everything.

I pack everything up from the weekend, and everything I need for a few hours running in the mountains. I am tired. I should be looking forward to getting out in the hills but, honestly, I’m not.

I settle the bill with the B&B owner. He asks what my plans are for the day. I look at the floor. A voice comes from nowhere.

If you were going to sit. Just sit. And look, and read, and sit. For the day. Where would you go?

It’s my voice.

He ushers me over to the huge map on the wall. He offers Grasmere as a first suggestion and recommends a cafe there. Inside or out. Either is good, he says.

The next suggestion is Rydal. We ran past on our way up to Fairfield yesterday. It looked lovely.

The cafe is excellent, he says. And the gardens of Rydal Hall are beautiful, he says.

I recall a day spent with one of my dearest friends, sitting, pondering, and wandering round the gardens of Brodick Castle on Arran on the single day of summer we had in Scotland last year.

Rydal it is.

I cross the road into the garden centre. It’s huge, but there in the plant house is the Cotswold concession. I desperately need a decent pair of gloves as the last link in my collection of kit for next weekend. We’ve been in every outdoor shop in Ambleside and there has been precious little choice of decent waterproof not too bulky gloves for teeny female paws. And there they are.

The chap behind the till clocks what I’m wearing and asks me where I’m off to. To the cafe, I reply. He laughs.

I wander through Ambleside. There’s a bookshop. A proper bookshop. I hesitate to say old-fashioned. It shouldn’t be.

I wander in. A girl/lady/woman, I’ve no idea which, she’s a similar age to me and I’m not sure what I count as, asks me if I need any help.

Something local and quirky please. I’m off to sit in a cafe for the day.

She offers a couple of suggestions, and then directs me outside to look in the window where their customers’ Top 10 of the week selection is displayed. I see a book by the author of a crazy Swedish language film I enjoyed last year. I didn’t know it was a book before it was a film. The film involved a very old man and a significant body count. It was hilarious.

I buy two books and stroll towards the cafe.

There are sheep, and cows, and people heading out to the hills.

I get to the cafe. There is an enormous piece of chocolate and Guinness cake staring up at me while I order my coffee.

We sit, outside, over a waterfall. Me, the chocolate and Guinness cake, my new books.

Oh, and Flora.

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Flora is part of the Go Herdwick trail, and some kind person has given her a wee hat to keep her ears warm.

I’ve run a lot lately, up a lot of hills. In the last month, the Mell trail in the Trossachs, the Arrochar Alps, the Pentlands and now Fairfield. I’m shattered. I love being in the hills but I’m so, so tired. I’ve run/walked/staggered up the equivalent of half of Everest in three weeks.

I sit and read another book about farming. The cake is lighter than it looks, and it slips down quickly. I slurp my way through another coffee, and then head back to Ambleside. Via another couple of shops. Ewegene and Ewegenie follow me back to the car.

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We head off to Great Langdale. I loiter on the finish line, hoping D hasn’t come in already.

I chat to a girl/woman/lady also waiting on the line. Her husband, an ex England rugby international, died a few years ago. She had travelled all over the world with him, and in later years they had moved to the Caribbean to set up a rugby program there. He died very young, very suddenly, from a heart attack. She met someone new who is into cycling. She’s a former runner who is carrying a knee injury and is starting to discover cycling for herself. We share frustrations at life ending too soon, and at those who get to take it for granted.

D isn’t expecting me and hardly recognises me as he crosses the finishing line. He has had a tough day but is smiling, elated, pleased with his efforts. I hand him an enormous Bath bun from a new favourite cafe in Ambleside.

I had a brilliant day.

I’ll be back in the Lakes in a couple of days, and I have no doubt I’ll have a better, safer time as a result of a proper rest day on Sunday.

Long weekend

At last. Thanks to a dog with a poorly eye, I have a long weekend. 3 days to catch up with myself.

Things have been a little bleak the last few weeks. A little while ago I needed to take a day job. The ins and outs aren’t for sharing here, but for now, needs must, and there are plenty of positives.

This job was chosen for various reasons, but the main one was that it allowed me to save my energy for other more creative uses of my time. And then a few things changed.

I have a few days off to use up, and I’d hoped to get away north for a few days. Said dog with poorly eye plus a rapidly approaching harp insurance bill mean that this isn’t an option now, but to be honest I am really looking forward to having some time at home. That, and the luxury of not having to be anywhere at any particular time, and not having anyone waiting on me for something I haven’t been able to do yet.

And so. I get to breathe a little.

Tiree (the image at the top, taken while running the ultra marathon the day before my birthday in September) feels like a long time ago, but unbelievably it has only been ten weeks. Three months ago I was in A&E in Austria getting my leg sewn up. This year, the time has truly flown by.

Sometimes the pace of life feels overwhelming. Sometimes there is nothing to do but to run with it and try your best to keep up. But this isn’t sustainable in the long term, and it’s important to know how to take even the smallest break in the midst of all the craziness. This becomes more crucial when you find yourself brushing your teeth and realising you can’t remember what day it is.

Thankfully things are calming down. All the little things that help me take a step back – animals, running, reading, a bath, a mug of my favourite tea – have been deployed to the maximum and have done their job. Apart from being incredibly tired, drained even, and some lingering pain in my forearms (long story), I think I have survived.

A longish run tomorrow, a concert, a film with a friend and a whole lot of practice will take me through the weekend, and then Monday will be about nothing beyond taking care of my poor wee dog once she has come round from her minor procedure at the vets. I fully intend to make like a greyhound and laze/snooze on the sofa until the phone call comes to go and collect her.

Daydreaming

The last few weeks have been rather more jam-packed than even I’m used to, and not with good things. Each night I’ve been arriving home utterly drained, with a to-do list longer than I can possibly keep up with.

The way forward has been a bit clouded so I’ve had my head down trying my best to get through it.

Daydreaming has been a really good way of keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Warm evenings in Alpine villages with cold beer and live music

A beautiful 1980s Mercedes SL

Deserted west coast of Scotland beaches

Flights on a teeny plane

Summit cake shared with friends

Sofa days with wet noses, tails like whips and skinny ribs

The moment on a run when the rasp from my lungs disappears

Racing the sunset home through the lavender fields of Provence

The secret whisky drinking club

Warm tarmac and tipping into Paddock Hill followed by the bounce at the bottom

Pizza, pizza, pizza

Freezing my bum off in a football stand sipping hot chocolate with my Dad

A wee restaurant that takes an epic journey to get to

An open house in the hills with huge windows and a long drive lined with Lombardy poplars, and filled with friends, food, drink, music, pets

Cycling up short sharp climbs round the Applecross peninsula while remaining completely relaxed

Freshly smoked fish eaten on the shore of a turquoise Bavarian lake

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Bites, tape, yet another scar, still smiling

It feels like the midges have been particularly vicious this year. I certainly hadn’t expected to still be scratching the odd bite into November, but as I’ve learned, every Scottish ‘summer’ (haha) is very different, and the midgie level is just one indicator, and perhaps a more meaningful one than the level of rainfall or hours of sunshine. I think I was a bit spoiled my first year, as the number of bites has increased exponentially year on year since then.

As the bites fade, and the scar on the side of my leg heals, maybe it’s time to reflect on the running year I’ve had.

So far (touch wood big time), it’s early November and I’ve not had a cold yet.  I’ve not had to resort to steroid treatment for my asthma, my peak flow has remained strong, my iron levels are healthy and I haven’t bonked out of any races this year. Straight away that puts me in a considerably better position than this time last year.

I’ve run more miles, but in less races.

I had some tremendously inspirational help with my running at the start of the year, which set me up brilliantly despite me being unable to see it through. There was just too much else happening at the time, and I hope to pick up where I left off at some point.

I ran both my longest ever and shortest ever race this year. I pulled out of a race for the first time (as in didn’t even start, let alone finish). I put late entries in twice on a waiting list and managed to get in to both races. I ran an ultra for my birthday. I had a long overdue trip to A&E, this time in another country which was a first.

I did my first hill race (to say I ran it would be a bit of a fib). It was awful but I survived, met some great people, didn’t get lost and didn’t fall over. Someone on Twitter asked me to be in their relay team, I said yes and it was fab. There have been a lot of positives, and a whole lot of negatives/learning points too. However, I’ve only been out cycling once, and that is definitely not so good.

After last year, I’d got myself into a bit of a pattern of never feeling good enough just being me, and trying to fix that by always trying to do something bigger and better than last time.

Looking back at this time last winter, I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to do the Fling, but having to make a decision/sign up six months ahead meant I wanted to have my options covered. It would be a big challenge, but I was fairly sure I could do it if I had a reasonable winter. I wanted to do Loch Katrine again having loved it the year before, and I knew it would be a good long run before the Fling. Beyond that, I didn’t really know.

I helped out by crewing for a friend who was running the West Highland Way race for the first time. This was a long, tough weekend but a really brilliant thing to have done.

I thought I might go to France to do some cycling again with my Dad, but I’d learnt from the year before that switching to bike training was not compatible with ultra training and so I was wary of signing up to anything later in the year. A wedding booking meant I couldn’t do the Devil, and Glenmore didn’t appeal. I had wanted to do Tiree, but was down to be supporting at Glenmore that weekend.

A change in circumstances meant I was suddenly free to do whatever I wanted for my birthday/Glenmore weekend, so I put my name on the waiting list for Tiree, booked flights and hoped. A few days later, I had an entry.

A few weeks before Tiree, I went to the Austrian Alps for a week to stay with a friend. It should have been a few days spent recovering from a break up and exploring everything the mountains had to offer, but that all ended rather abruptly when I found myself sliding down the side of a hill and coming to a halt with a bit of tree branch stuck in my leg. I was a fair distance from my friend’s house, and took the shorter but steeper route back, covered in blood and rather worried as to the state of my leg. That was a very hard earned summit and while it was beautiful briefly at the top, the effort to get there wasn’t particularly enjoyable and proved to be another hard learned lesson. (Gory photos available on request – I had hoped for a small neat bat-shaped scar but it was not to be)

What it did do was to stop me in my tracks, and I spent the rest of the week very sore from the stitches, reading, chatting to a parrot, drinking beer, eating ice cream, eating freshly caught freshly smoked fish, being pointed it at and talked about by some German tourists and generally enjoying some of the staggering Bavarian scenery. I promised myself I would return.

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sun going down on the Konigssee in the Berchtesgaden Alps. Slightly creepy being in the shadow of the Eagle’s Nest, but truly a beautiful place and a lot of thinking was done on the shores of this lake.

Six stitches, an infected wound from a bit of tree left in my leg and an enforced break from running rather threatened the Tiree trip, but in the end all came good.

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a bit raggedy round the edges, I couldn’t even begin to tell you which beach this was on other than it’s somewhere on Tiree and it must have been windy because I have an extra layer on.

I celebrated my 37th birthday recovering by trying out Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) for the first time the day after the race. I can strongly recommend it – gentle but focused, meditative, flowing, rhythmic and stretching every single muscle in the body. I also had my first trip on a really tiny plane.

I decided to defer my Saltmarsh 75 place. I hadn’t done enough big back-to-back miles, and after last year’s disaster on day 2 (which I still haven’t blogged about), I really wanted to do a good job when I went back. Once it became clear this wasn’t going to happen, I moved my place into next year instead.

I wanted to do something that weekend though, and there was a hill race on, a hill I hadn’t done but one that was on my list and in one of my favourite areas of Scotland where I have had some great times with some great people.

only one way to go... straight up
only one way to go… straight up

Ben Venue proved to be some of the toughest few hours I’ve ever had, there were lots of choked back tears on the way off the hill, and I came very close to a serious asthma attack. It was something that should have been well within my capabilities, but all the bad things that happened this summer suddenly hit at once and everything was completely out of control.

There was a photographer waiting as I crossed the line so I had to at least try to smile. I felt worse after these 9 miles than I’d felt after the Fling, but some really nice people made me feel better after I finished the race. They brought me cake, and made me tea, and generally scraped me up off the floor and helped me feel better. I’d always been a bit wary of road runners, having only encountered the really serious/miserable variety, but here was the exact opposite.

The after effects lasted longer than those from the Fling, and are largely responsible for the tape covering my right lower leg. I literally bashed up against the limits of my already very badly damaged right ankle for the first time in many years, and it really, really hurt to the extent that I thought I had done some serious damage.

And then a few days after, I received a message on Twitter.

Would I like to fill in for a relay team?

Hmmm…Would I be too slow?

No of course not. Just come and join us.

As a result, I had a wonderful day enjoying all the autumn colours around Jedburgh.

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I found myself in a part of Scotland I’d never been to and would never otherwise have come to, I met some new people, caught up with old friends and generally made my peace with the dubious joys of social media.

I also acquired possibly the brightest piece of clothing in my wardrobe in the form of a bright DynoRod orange race t-shirt, which will be extremely useful while clocking up the miles through the long dark Scottish winter.

I’ve just put my race entries in for next year.

Many times this year, I contemplated giving up completely. Speyside last year was a real turning point, and the Fling this year was another.

Now, when I enter a race, it is truly because it’s something I want to do for myself, rather than because I don’t feel like I’m good enough in other areas of my life and I think finishing a big hard race will make up for that.

That’s not to say I only want to do easy things, far far from it.

I’ll finish with another quote, this time from Jake Humphrey:

Never sit in the comfy chair

Thanks to Fiona Keating for this picture. I had been on my feet for 14 hours 40 minutes and had just finished running the 2015 Highland Fling, still smiling though!
Thanks to Fiona Keating for this picture. I had been on my feet for 14 hours 40 minutes and had just finished running the 2015 Highland Fling, still smiling though!

On (not) giving up

I had a tough day today. I was a bit wobbly and a bit hungry when I toddled off down the hill at lunchtime, to see my osteopath about a sore bit on the long-ago-injured foot.

Unfortunately for him, he asked politely how I was doing and just at that moment I couldn’t quite keep the tears in. Up until that point, no matter how much he has hurt me in the course of treatment, I have managed not to cry. It was almost a matter of pride that I never cried no matter how painful it was. He knows to keep talking if he is working particularly hard on an area, and I know not to try and reply but just to keep breathing.

The afternoon got even worse.

At the end of the day I left, and sniffled all the way to the bus station, having repeated “I don’t know” and “I haven’t finished that yet” like a broken record for the best part of half an hour.

All the bad things came, the chimpiest of chimps put on his really nasty hat, shrieked some really nasty things at me, and I wondered how on earth I was going to shake all this off and get some decent practice done tonight.

But just now I popped over to one of my favourite websites and found this – What If You Didn’t Give Up? – as though it was meant just for me to find, right now.

And then I remembered a quote a friend had shared with me a few years ago.

Courage doesn’t always roar.

sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says,

“i will try again tomorrow”

mary-anne radmacher

Dreams

Recently, spurred on by the rapid approach of winter, a few changes on the domestic front, and just the plain old desire to do something different, I decided to make a big push and try out some new things.

A work night out at The Stand a couple of weeks back led me to look for some more gigs to go to there, and something about the flyer on the table for Scott Gibson’s debut solo show really appealed.

Social circles are difficult to establish as an adult in a new city. Having left college a while ago, changed job again and now needing to step away from the running scene for a while, I realised that didn’t leave me with many people. And so, with another potentially long dark cold Scottish winter coming up, I decided I’d better press on and take some action.

I booked two tickets, not knowing who I’d take with me.

A Facebook post led to a dear friend agreeing to come along, he’d always wanted to go to The Stand and as we sat there fizzing away with excitement, I realised I couldn’t have come with a better person as we were both looking forward to it as much as the other. The club was packed, we were sat in a sell-out crowd and the atmosphere and anticipation was building by the minute.

The club is in a basement, bar in one corner, no frills, furniture tightly packed. The tables and chairs go right up to the edge of the stage, which is only slightly raised above the floor. I’m not sure whether it’s more intimidating for the comedian or the audience who happen to end up in the front row. Intimate is not quite the word.

The show was absolutely excellent. It’s hard to go into much detail without giving away massive spoilers, but as promised, it was dark in places, incredibly funny and brilliantly delivered. We were spellbound for each half of the two hour set.

What has stayed with me (unsurprisingly for those who know a bit about me) is the brief statement made at the close of the show, about life being short, almost being taken away from you before you’d begun, and subsequently going after your dreams.

I moved to Scotland three years ago this month, having needed to make a huge change in my life before I ended up in a box, and not really knowing what my dreams were or what kind of a life lay ahead of me.

One of the best bits of the show was realising on our way home that we had just sat through two hours of somebody literally living their dream and appreciating and savouring every second of it. It was incredibly powerful and deeply moving, and both of us will remember it for many years to come.

I’ll finish with a quote that opened the show last night…

A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

Mark Twain

On reading

I am what could be politely described as a voracious reader. I have loved books from a very young age, thanks to my gran and my mum both being primary school teachers. The most treasured possessions I kept when my granny died were some of the rare children’s books and embroidery books that she had collected over her lifetime.

Hours can pass by, until the only thing that stops me reading is a sore neck or a dead leg.

There are several books in various stages of completion next to my bed, as I love having real books around me. (Looking at them, I’m also reminded some of them are not mine and I need to get on and read them then give them back!)

I made the transition to a Kindle last year, or rather the Kindle app on an ipad mini. I had a 50 minute bus commute twice a day, got hopelessly travel sick when reading an actual physical book, but seemed to manage OK on the screen. The bus was meant to save me money on transport, but before long my monthly book expenditure was swallowing all the savings I was supposed to be making.

It has really changed how I read. I can have several books on the go at once, never losing my page. Best of all, my holiday suitcase is now much lighter. One holiday I took Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, which is a huge book, and several others. I read three, but had been stricken by indecision when packing so I took everything I fancied.

As well as books, these days I love reading blogs. I have many favourites, but one I return to regularly is that of Alastair Humphreys, an adventurer, writer and speaker known for many things including his #microadventure concept.

His site is truly inspirational, with several main themes – finding adventure in small ways, not spending a lot of money, documenting the journey, making the most of life, and calling out excuses. His 20 questions post is probably the one I read the most.

A couple of days ago, he tweeted a link to a piece he had written on Medium:

I read the link, I loved what he had written and it resonated very deeply. I was also on the hunt for a new book after finishing one recently, so I decided to buy his book There Are No Rivers.

Yesterday morning, I happened to read a chapter titled Flabbiness, which he has also published on his blog as part of the serialisation of the book.

It’s about going from being a bit lazy to finding your life has slipped away before your eyes. It was a particularly powerful piece for me, and it reassured  me that a painful decision made recently was ultimately the right one. There have been a couple of big adventures since, there are more to come and I can’t wait to see how they pan out.

(this post is part of the DIY Creative Club September challenge, which I’m a bit behind on (!) but am using to get my writing unstuck and out of my head)

On Hope

It’s a funny old word, one that is actually quite hard to define. I guess it’s a state of mind that’s somewhere between the present and your dreams.

Obviously there’s the short term hope, that a bus arrives, for a sunny day, that there’s no traffic, that you get up and down a mountain with no mishaps, that you finish a race without injury or missing a cutoff.

And then a deeper hope, that everything will work out in the long run, that we won’t make the same mistakes yet again, that despite getting it wrong quite a lot, we’ll somehow find the right way.

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Hoping to go back to St Bartholema on the Konigsee to have a crack at the Watzmann, just out of shot on the right
Hoping we'll make it up the mountain the next day (hidden by cloud behind my dad)
Hoping we’ll make it up the mountain the next day (hidden by cloud behind my dad)
Hoping the path gets better soon (it didn't)
Hoping the path down gets better soon (it didn’t!)
Hoping your leg heals soon and you can come swimming next time! (thanks Cheri for the photo)
Hoping your leg heals soon and you can come swimming next time! (thanks Cheri for the photo)

Mont Ventoux – the aftermath

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At last it’s July. This means two things. Firstly, the Tour is coming.

Secondly, I’m thinking about what I did this time last year.

The Ventoux trip changed everything, for me at least. I think it changed a few things for my Dad too.

Nothing was the same afterwards. The hills weren’t as big, the sky wasn’t as blue and it certainly wasn’t as hot (although I was awfully glad about that). And if ever you want to send me into a wee dolly daydream, ask me about the evening ride back through the lavender fields and the setting sun.

More positively, I got up the mountain, twice. I stopped numerous times on the way, but not once did I contemplate giving up.

This video is about the way down, when it was all done and over with.