As part of this long lockdown I’ve been tracking my health through the app developed by the Covid Sympton Study I try and go in and record symptons (or lack of them) daily.
During the nearly 2 months I’ve been doing this (I think it’s 2 months, time gets a bit concatenated) I’ve had 2 sets of not quite right; the first in the middle of March with a heavy chest and breathing, the second this last week with itchy, weeping eyes and again a heavy chest. No other symptons apart from those – which could be a chest infection and then later hayfever. I’ve also not been out the house for 6 weeks – so if I am positive now, it’s been a long, slow burn or I’ve caught it off a delivery. (very unlikely)
On Friday, I received an email from the study, asking me to take a test, either because my symptoms have triggered something, or I’m in a control group.
“As you know, we are using data from millions of people to determine who may have COVID-19 based on their symptoms. You’ve recently reported feeling unwell with a particular combination of symptoms. We would like to test you to understand if you have the virus right now. This does not necessarily mean you have COVID-19 as we are also inviting some people we believe do not have the virus.”
Email came in during the evening. Clicked through to Government test site and saw I had options for booking a drive through or to order a test. Trying to find out WHERE the drive through test would be and if I could walk to it failed – there is no real information, so it meant I needed a home test. None available, as not bookable until the morning.
Logged on at 8am and home test available. Filled in form, following the instructions in the email to make sure categories were correct. Disconnect 1: Instructions and form fields to complete were not aligned between email and actual form
1230 am Sunday – so 16.5 hours after booking – got an email that test had been despatched and was due that day. It is delivered by Amazon
Sunday afternoon – test arrives. I wiped it down; by the time I opened it, it was too late to book a courier. The courier has to be booked BEFORE taking test and you can only book until 4pm
Monday, fully read the 12 page booklet, which covers the 5 steps. They have done their best to make something quite complicated simple to follow, but it is still complicated. I would guess there are going to be many wrongly done tests, or wrongly labelled tests. Booked courier. It is collected by eCourier (or Royal Mail)
Monday evening; registered test and then took test. You need to do it between 9pm and 7am before the courier. Red the instructions, laid everything out. Slowly followed the instructions and still got one step wrong! (missed a label, managed to get it sorted)
take swab and swirl it on tonsils (or where tonsils were in my case) for 15 seconds, not touching tongue, teeth or rest of mouth.
put same swab up nose about an inch. swirl it for 15 seconds. (get this the right way round throat before nose!)
Put swab in vial (and remember to loosen it first, as you can’t put swab down to open it
Label (or do this before), but in plastic bag one, put in plastic bag 2 and seal; label again, put it in the packaging box (not the easiest to build), security seal it, put address label on.
At this point, i think about the account of the drive through study who needed to do the testing in a car. HOW!! you need room, you need to be able to lay things out. A hard job there.
Wait. The courier is due between 8am and 4pm on Tuesday
4:15pm Tuesday. No courier. Follow instructions on email (and instruction booklet) and call the service centre (because there’s a time limit on test liability. Disconnect 2: Service Centre has time for collection until 6pm, unlike email, booklet and courier booking website. Disconnect 3: the service centre can’t do anything and gives me a number to call the courier.
Call courier. Wait. Disconnect 4: I shouldn’t call the courier, I need to email. He gives me an email address. A PERSONAL email address. I wonder how many emails poor Charlie is getting. Disconnect 5: You book the courier before the test as there is 48 hours from the swab before expiring (according to the booklet) – so it needs to be TESTED before 48 hours. If you delay the courier to the next day, then unlikely to be tested. Courier companyseems to think 48 hours for collecting.
4:45pm. Courier turns up
4:50 pm I get an email thanking me for ordering my Covid test. Wondering if this is a mistake, or if one of the calls I made just triggered a new order. (and I assume added the wrong order to the daily stats?)
Now I wait for results, which should come by test in the next 2-3 days. It’s a complex series of steps to get right; it’s not an easy test to self-adminster. Having a simpler blood antigen test can’t come soon enough!
Hah. blogging – what’s that? I see more daily notes happening in these time of lockdowns..so finally documenting what I did in the last quarter of 2019, when the future was rosy, seems a good idea. Remember those times!
Bournemouth Half Marathon: I’d originally signed up to the do the full, but with a summer training for a mountain, I decided that switching to the half would be better. A lovely event, although with a route that was a lot of back and forth – and going through the finish line multiple times was a bit weird (weirder for the full runners I think). I did a coastal walk on the Saturday to get my hill work in.
Pre-Trip weekend: As part of the prep for my trip to Aconcagua, there was a weekend up in Sheffield with Jagged Globe in preparation. Members of all 3 of their expeditions were there, to get an advice and information about the trip. We also did a couple of walks in the peaks to get some time in the hills. An excellent weekend, although unfortunately I picked up what appeared to be a stress facture that plagued me for the next few months. It didn’t finally clear up until Feb (so I didn’t do the remaining races of the year)
Company Meeting: we had a 2 day company meeting down on the Isle of Wight. All was looking good in our future plans (hah, no one expected a global pandemic). And then we went and walked alpacas
Hansard: An actual theatre trip, this time to the national, to see Hansard. This was a 2 parter with Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings. Set in the late 80s, a fascinating reminder of the political (and social) attitudes of the time, many (though not all) have moved forward. This kept me focused for the full (interval-less) 90 minutes of the play. Although left with the feeling that white, public school educated men are still in charge and still screwing things up
Mom and Dad Wedding anniversary: the big surprise!. We’d (my sisters and I) had been working on this for at least 6 months. I’d devised a reason to visit (as I wouldn’t be there for Christmas, I’d come up now for dinner) and the surprise was set. We had organised to have a meal out and wouldn’t give all the details, turns out Mom though we’d set up a small meal with rest of family. She hadn’t realised we’d set up an afternoon tea party with friends and family from the last 50+ years. There were tears of surprise and lots of fun
Trip Prep: most of the other ‘events’ in this quarter were about prepping for the Aconcagua trip. Doctors’ visits for vaccinations (Rabies is a very expensive set of injections! Well, expensive for the UK), buying the final bits of kit, getting prescription sunglasses for the mountain). Got all of these fitted in between regular visits to Germany.
Aconcagua: finally, the trip I’d been working for all year. There’ll be a write up at some point, but in general, an excellent trip
And that’s it for the year. The business travel has tended to mean my activities are reduced from years before, but the business gives me far more opportunities for expeditions and travel, even if the smaller weekly and weekend events are curtailed.
Summer is a memory, the leaves are falling and it’s time for
quarter notes number 3 of the year. So
what have I been up to?
First up in this quarter was Henley Regatta. I went on both the Friday and the Sunday this year, catching up with a friend from New Zealand and various army rowing connections. The weather was excellent, the rowing was great and a really good time was had.
An actual social event with friends! It was a supposed to be a follow up to the earlier walk around Richmond, but with a BBQ at Juliet’s house instead of a pub lunch. But this time, the others declined to do the walking bit, so I got my training in around Box Hill before joining them for wine and grilled stuff.
Quite a few training and running events this quarter. There was a 5k around the Olympic park, a couple of half marathons, an ultra, another 25 walk. There were 3 days along the North Downs Way and plenty of trips to Box Hill. It is all adding up. I also had another trip to Chamonix, for an ultra running and yoga retreat.
I had a follow-up MRI scan for the research group I’m part of. They’d not found any “sinister” issues in the first scan (and that is a terrible word to use in a report!). There will be second follow-up n 6 months time
Yes, another month with improved motivation. Not perfect, but getting there.
(+3, some great quality sessions)
37 hrs (- 11. back to more normal parameters in
events, no 12 hour walk in there, up 10 on Jul)
(-27, again not skewed by a 35m event, so therefore in line with plan,
up 30 from AUg)
This month was topped and tailed by events. At the start of the month I did a 25km walk,
called the Thames Bridges Trek.
Organised by the same team who organise the ultra’s I do, this was a
walk from Putney to Bermondsey, crossing over all the bridges. All on pavement, so not the best for the
feet, it was still an excellent event.
The month ended with Ealing Half Marathon. definitely not raced! Used this as part of a heavy training
weekend, with 10 miles done the day before.
As ever, amazing organisation for the closed road event and massive
local turnout of support. I really do love this race
I returned to Chamonix for a running and yoga weekend, organised by Adharanand Finn, Tom and Rachel Bonn Payn. I was concerned about this, as “beginners welcome” and “need to be able to complete a half marathon” are conflicting messages in the sales bumpf! I was both right and wrong with my concerns. I was, by far, the slowest. My fitness training has not been targeted at running up hills but at slowly slogging up them carrying weights! But the team were amazing and made it work. I had some great runs and walks in the mountains. The yoga was also enlightening, being specifically designed for runners. This meant I enjoyed it rather then spending the session not being able to do a lot, which is my usual state.
I have finally purchased my weight vest. Now I’m wondering
if I can get it on a plane so I can do weighted walks in Germany
August was better than July, definitely in motivation. Felt I was back on the plan and starting to
see results of training coming through.
20 activities (-2 but all quality, not just to
and from gym/work)
46 hours activity (+19 hours (although slightly exaggerated
due to one event)
128 miles (+57)
Not every session was completed but overall, I think a good
month of training. My strength training
went up a level, I’ve now started step ups/down with the mountain boots, whilst
carrying weights. I’m going to be getting a weight vest to add to this – and makes
it slightly more aligned with actual mountain work, as I’ll be carrying weight
in pack, not in hands. One of the most boring sessions was the hour I spent
running up and down the Chiswick Bridge steps, in the rain. My calves ached for 3 days! I am going to be adding calf raises to the
The month included a half marathon (which was my slowest
ever, as not doing any speed work obviously means you have no speed. I spent 3 days on the North Downs Way,
carrying kit but stopping in hotels.
This was a good training event, although hills could have been more.
I wrapped the month up with an ultra – 35 miles walked along
the South Coast, from Eastbourne, out along the Seven Sisters, cutting inland
up to the South Downs and then down to Brighton and Hove. 14 hours total, 12 walking, I cut 2 hours off
my last 55km from last year, so a good result.
More importantly, it’s 2 days after and I’m feeling pretty good, so the training
is definitely working.
14 weeks left for training and it intensifies again in September.
July was basically a disaster when it came to training. And
I think that is obvious as I’m only now just writing about it. Travel, illness,
trainer being on holiday, all conspired to drive away any mojo and determination
I had.. And that’s just not good enough. Thankfully August is turning out
better, but that’s for the next report
22 Activities (-8)
27 hours of activity (-)
71 miles (+8)
But you look at the number and it does not appear too
bad. Fewer activities, but I was
recording less of the short walks/runs to office or trainer. Slightly more
miles and the same time spent in training.
But it should have been higher, I missed a lot of planned sessions and the
tracking I do on fitness markers did not show much progress. So I held steady,
but did not improve.
During the month I did 3 trips to Box Hill, trying out
different routes each time, but practicing steady uphill walking and then running
flats and the safe downhills.
I took part in a free women’s 5k race around the Olympic
Stadium,, run jointly by BBC Get Inspired and UK Athletics. The lovely thing
about that was the start and finish were in the stadium and it was great to run
around the track.
The last week of the month involved a trip to Chamonix,
where the plan was to do a mix of working and walking. Unfortunately, a stomach bug put paid to that
and I only managed 1 walk, but it was excellent. 5.5 hours of walking, 1500m
elevation and then 8 minutes down in the cable. I’ll be going back as it’s an
excellent place for walking.
Isn’t this year going quickly? That’s what it feels like – I quite like the
theory that years go quicker as you grow older, because they become a smaller
fraction of your life. So, what have I
been up to? Honestly, not a lot. training, working. But not much else.
Still doing half my time (not quite, but that’s what it feels like) in Germany, so mid-week activities are quite reduced. Although this quarter, I had a couple of trip to Amsterdam instead, which was a nice change. A couple of meals with friends in the quarter, but not that many.
I tried something a bit different in May, spending a week in the Lake District on a “work from home” week.
Moving into June, I started to up my weekend walking as part of the training plan. My first outing was with a friend to Box Hill, just to get into the groove. it was definitely a light walk, with me walking ahead on the hills and then back to her, but it was fun to have someone to chat with rather than my usual head down and push approach.
I did a couple of sessions volunteering at #parkrun – but did not manage to actually run a parkrun this quarter except for 1 session at Easter, when I visited family for Easter.
I went to a social evening at the London Mountaineering Club, where there was a talk about Aconcagua. Planning on joining this group, to get some walking partners, hopefully.
Finally, at the end of the Month, I head to Yestival.
And that was it. Now I feel like I’m missing out!!!
The month started well, with a local run and then a trip
down to Box Hill, with a friend, to get to know the place and do some initial
walks. This was kept slow as my friend
was not that fit, but it game me a chance to check out some hills for later use
The next week was a Germany week. I tested out my ability to
do routines in hotel rooms – so yes to that, but only managed one small run.
Back to Box Hill the end of the week, to find some more hills. I’m happy now with the options I have, if
this is going to be my usual place.
The following week was also Germany, and this was far better
for getting out for sessions. I had a good
session with Trainer, then a hotel strength session, instead of going to the beer
festival! I also went for a run with colleagues there, something I’m going to
try and do everytime I visit. A run home from park run then a longer run round
Richmond Park finished off the week.
The next 2 weeks were where it all went wrong. I had some days in a clients office in London – and I’d forgotten how tiring the commute is! Then I sent the week in Amsterdam and had meetings and meals out, so did not manage to put in the time I needed for sessions. This is all a mental battle, I do have the time available, but my brain plays tricks with me and I end up not doing anything – even though I have kit with me. This is what I need to focus on for this month – hitting all the planned sessions. I did manage to get out to the Chilterns for a different walk route. Nice to go, but Box Hill wins for closeness.
The last weekend in June, I went to Yestival, so again, no longer walks done. However, I was inspired by lots of great talks, including one by Jo Bradshaw, about her challenge to do the 7 Summits. I chatted with her about Aconcagua and it reinforced the need to get the training done…unlike Kili or EBC, you can’t get by with just general fitness.
Trainer sessions seem to be going well, the weights are
slowly going up and then I’m taking some of exercises and adding them to my
sessions at home.
So mixed month, with some things to think about. My official 6 months plan started on 24th
June, so I am slightly ahead of that, but this month has shown that it can easily
slip away if I don’t keep on top of it.
My first report on OFR. I started off calling this Operation Fit Rachel…until it was pointed out as I’d just ran a marathon I wasn’t exactly unfit, so Fitter it is. But it’s all relative. I may have had the stamina and the mental stubbornness to plod around 26.2 miles, but I was still getting out of breath running up a flight of stairs and I had absolutely no strength or toning in most of the muscles, especially the core. That’s not good enough for my end of year target, so I need to make a massive step change in what I do.
Why am I doing this? Because
I have booked a trip to “climb” a seriously large mountain in December and I
need to be fitter than I have ever been to give me the best chance to do this.
There’s no actual climbing involved, as it rock faces or ice walls, it can be “walked”
up but it is a serious undertaking at altitude that I need to have the right
The first month therefore was all about setting things up
the right way to give me a chance to succeed, which meant 3 things:
sorting out a training plan
finding a personal trainer
getting the right equipment at home
The first part was relatively straightforward. The expedition company recommends a book
called Training for the New Alpinism as a starting point. This is an excellent read about how to go
about training for mountains. Having read that, I could have attempted crafting
my own plan, but I went the easy way and purchased a plan. So I now have a daily plan for the rest of
the year, which suits how I work – it’s in the spreadsheet, I need to do
it. This usually works, especially when
I keep the goal in mind. We’ll see how it goes.
To help focus, I’ve also booked a number of events during
Aug: Half Marathon
Aug: 55km ultra along a hilly coast
Sept: Half Marathon
I made the decision to find a local personal trainer, mainly
to keep me accountable. I’ve tried remote
training before, which has worked, but this time I felt I needed the requirement
for regular face to face meetings. A fair
bit of research into local trainers and I found a couple of possibilities. One intro meeting later, where we discussed
requirements and I’ve signed up with a local guy with access to a private gym a
mile or so away. The focus of these sessions will be building
up the strength in the body, so one session week with him and one at home.
Finally, I’ve added a couple more pieces of equipment for
home training. I already have weights, kettle bell and resistance bands. I’ve now
added a pull up bar and, most important of all, a step. It took me a while to find the right step, as
I needed one that could be set quite high and most of the ones available only
go up to 15cm. I needed one that I could raise to 30cm, or 1ft in height. A lot
of my training requires uphills and steps and living in London, there’s not a
lot of that around so it’s hard to do any hills in the midweek. But a step will help that, especially as I
slowly start to add equipment and weights to the workout. At some point I will
be doing sessions in the mountaineering boots and a weighted pack.
In general, I have had a good start to the month, hitting all
of the planned sessions over the last few weeks, even if not completed fully to
Looking at my records I have recorded:
29 activities – 15 runs (which includes short
runs to and from the gym), 7 walks, 7 strength sessions, 3 of those with the
I spent 1 week in the Lake district, getting in a few walks
and still working. This did not go quite
to plan, due to a cold (the first one in over a year) and bad weather, but I did
manage to walk up Scafell Pike).
The challenge is definitely going to be getting in enough
hills; I see myself taking a lot of weekend trips to various places, although probably
a lot of Box Hill and the downs.
After a few years failing at the public ballot and instead marshalling
on the course, this year I got into the London Marathon through the marshalls
ballot – a number of places are offered to the groups that volunteer. As the decisions were not known until
January, it’s not for everyone, but as I was training for Manchester, I thought
it would be great to do another race 3 weeks later.
As I was in the last pen at my start, there was no need to
get their too early; the 7:47 train meant I got there just after 9, plenty of
time until my planned start of 10:48. I started
from the Green start, which is the middle one – so you definitely needed to be
there in time to cross the course before the running started. This start was where all the Guinness World
Record attempts were starting from, so there were some impressive costumes on
display. Looking at these, along with watching the
screens meant that time ticked along nicely. I was cosy in my trial cape – something
the marathon was doing in an attempt to cut down on plastic waste. Before I
knew it, it was time for a last minute loo visit (nobody queuing at that point)
and time to get into the pen.
We were a few minutes later starting than scheduled, but it
was not too bad. It was a very smalls
tart, so little pushing or moving around to get some space. I had no ambitions for this race, in fact, I planned
to be slower than last time! As my first London was such a blur, this one I
intended to slow down, enjoy the sites and the crowd and take lots of photos. As I slowly went past the 6 hour pacer, I had
a chat, he was running on his own, planning to pick up a few people on the way
as they slowed down. I intended to do my
best to stay in front of him, but not too hard!
The first few miles were pretty quiet, heading east, not too
many runners and not too many spectators.
We first of all joined up with the Blue start runners and then later the
Red start, when it got really busy – and the crowds picked up. The main joining point tends to be full of
runners waiting for friends and family so they can join up with them. The main
joining point is also when you turn the corner and start to run west, heading
into town for the first time. Slowly the
crowds pick up, but there are still sections when there are just a few outside
their houses. The first big spectator
session is in Greenwich, especially around the Cutty Sark. Loud and raucous,
they definitely give you a boost and speed you up!
The miles tick by, Deptford and Lewisham and Rotherhithe,
all with their own local ambience. Sometimes there’s a church congregration
out, sometimes a set of pubgoers, dancing along to the music. I’d run
consistently up to this point, now was the time to switch to run walk…generally
a 5:2 run walk patter, with extra time for sites, slopes (not too many of those)
and water stations.
Bermondsey Tube station comes into view and I know it can’t
be far until the turn across the river. You follow the main road, the crowds
getting heavier and louder and you take the right turn and there it is, Tower
Bridge. The first time I ran London, I shed
a few tears..I’d made it this far, the famous crossing but I kept going. This time, I walked and just soaked up the
Over the Bridge and another right turn, away from town
again, heading out to the Isle of Dogs and Caray Wharf. It’s a dual carriage way here and you can see
the runners, 8 miles ahead of you, heading back into town on the final stretch.
I’d run pretty much
In Limehouse, another right turn and into narrow
streets. The crowds press in, all good
natured, but you need to take care. A
big ushaped loop and back through into dockloads. This is where your gps system
goes haywire, with all the buildings, the trace zigzagging to either side of
the road, with all the tall buildings.
Your final mileage will always read higher because of this stretch (mine
read 26.83 at the end, with a lot of extra feet recorded in this section)
Finally you turn and head back, back to the highway. I saw no-one on it when running back. The sweeper bus had passed by and people had
joined or given up. The pack up lorries and crew were there.. Sweeping up the rubbish,
taking down the mile markers, cleaning the paint off the road. It’s a huge job to set up and take down the
event, but they always seem to manage it, although I’m guessing there will be
bottles and gel packets still out there.
22 miles, 23 miles. A few people I know were marshalling along
this section, so a bit of chat was had. The crowds were still strong even now,
so high fives and jelly babies taken on board. I still (mainly had a grin on my
face) but it was hurting now. The mind was still having fun, the body less so.
Every other walk break I was chatting with family on whatsapp and sending the
occasional photos, looking at social and just letting them know what was going
on. Here’s the Tower, not long now
The Blackfriars underpass – not as long or as steep as I
remembered. But still as sticky from the Lucozade on the floor. Mile 24 and the
embankment. The final stretch! So many people,
I just couldn’t help but grin and keep looking around. As I said to one of the
water station helpers, it was absolutely amazing.
The embankment is packed, with lots of charity cheering
stations. I spotted my favourite sign
again – Go Rachel – not for me, but I’d seen it at least 4 times and it definitely
applied. Round the river bend and there’s
Elizabeth Tower, in scaffolding but the clock face visible.
A turn next to Parliament and police rather than marshalls
watching the crowd. A deep crowd but surprisingly quiet, the reason becoming
obvious as I passed a guy in hand cuffs next to a bike. Had he made a wrong
turn or just decided to do something stupid.
Westminster Square, a glance over to the Churchill. Less
than a mile to go, lets keep pushing on, run walk still in action. 800m sign, 600m, I see people from my local
park run with a big sign, they were waiting for me (excellent photo!). 400m and the last but one turn. There’s the
sign for 385yards…so that means 26miles is done! Buckingham Palace ticked off
my photo list and then onto the red pavement of the mall to the finish line. Quieter
than I expected here, the grandstands fairly empty and not replaced by the
general crowds, but all eyes were on the finish. One final push and there I was. A marathon
Medal handed out, new cape obtained, photos got, then the
goody bag – why wasn’t there chocolate?
Even better, chocolate covered slated peanuts would have been heaven! No stopping to be done, had to keep moving.
The brain had switched off and I felt every step, no running possible now, just
foot in front of foot, heading out, time to get to the train station. Why are all
these people in medals looking fresh and walking so fast (yep, fitter people
who finished a while ago!)
Station, train, one final effort. A shower, washing off the
salt crystals and finding the painful chafed bits. A glass of wine, some
takeaway Indian and the day was done.
Last May, when it was getting close to my London to Brighton ultra, I was planning my 2019 run and decided to put a marathon in the programme. I’d failed to start Birmingham the year before – too much going on, not enough headspace for training – so needed to have another in the plan. Having read a lot of good things about Manchester (after they’d sorted out a couple of years with difficulties) I decided that this would be my target. (I had entered the London ballot, but never expected to get in again – and I was right, at least through that method).
I booked the marathon, I booked the hotel near to the start
and then put it to the back of my mind. I
had a half booked in for October, so the plan was to train for that, and then
switch to a marathon programme. The brain decided otherwise, not having
anything to do with running or walking for 2 months after London-Brighton and
even after that, playing games with me and making it really hard to get stuck
in to some serious miles. The travel also made things more difficult, especially
as it got into the darker nights, as I didn’t know the routes in the same way.
Then I also booked the Kili trip for Februaryand was on holiday for most of November.
All of this meant that in the 6 months before the marathon,
I had run a total of 173 miles (and walked another 164 miles). In contrast, for
my first marathon I had run 568 miles in the 6 months training. So I was undertrained, to put it mildly! Never mind…I’m generally stubborn, I know the
effort it will need, I decided to go for it.
I travelled up to Manchester on the Saturday and made my way
to the hotel. The first thing to check
was the distance to my start pen, so back out I went and timed the walk as 8
minutes. Lovely, plenty of time to sort
myself out in the morning. The a meal of
pasta before an early night.
Breakfast was from 6 – usually, it only started at 7:30 at
the weekends, but given the number of runners staying, they’d made
provision. Coffee and food sorted, it
was back to the room to rest for a couple of hours before I needed to move.
One short walk later, I joined the crowds. This was probably the worst organised start I’d
experiences. Although the information
sent out beforehand had clear maps and the pens were clearly marked at the
front, there was other structure to the pen apart from a lead barrier to separate
then for the different start times. There were no barriers around the groups
and no checking you were in the right groups, although the instructions had implied
there would be and the pens would close 20 mins before the start time. I could have stayed in the hotel an extra 30
mins and just wandered up for the start!
Eventually, the horn went, the elites started off and the
pens slowly made their way to the front I was in pen G, so by the time we started
moving, the first group where heading back towards us to start their mile 3.
I’d finally decided on my race plan. My initial plans were
to do a run-walk race, but I knew I could do a half marathon steadily without
stopping, and I knew there were plenty of water stations I’d want to walk
through to make sure I got gels and water onboard. So I decided on a mixed strategy of running
at least the 1st half and then switch to run walk after that; I
though this would be the best strategy. The 5:30 pacer later passed me, having
obviously done run walk from the start, however I think the run pace would have
been just over what I was comfortable with, having done almost no speed
training. The target was 5:45, which
meant I had to average 13:10 per mile – giving a pretty good buffer for the
massive slowdown I knew I would get in the latter stages.
Off I went, slow and steady at my “usual” pace, which is
just under 12 minute miles. We first
head north east into the city along a dual carriageway before swinging round a
loop back to the start area in mile 3. The weather was perfect, overcast, cool,
with a breeze, and the course was flat. it was easy to get into a rhythm. Now
heading out of the city, I passed by the first water station – nothing needed
yet, but took the first gel at 4 miles. By this point, the relay racers were starting
to catch us up. In teams of 2 or 4, they were a lot faster than many,
especially later in the race, but luckily all had Relay notices on their back so
you didn’t feel too bad when they passed you!
My pace was being maintained, even with a very quick walk
break at mile 6. We were now in Sale, continuing to head out into to the
suburbs and then onto the country. Every
“centre” had a good crowd, often with music. Timperley, at mile 10 was particularly
memorable, a lot of people, a commentator outside a pub and music. Everytime you passed these groupings, you
definitely sped up! I carried on, reaching Altrincham, the turn round
point. Mile 12 was my first slower one,
with a water break and the only real hill on the course in the town centre.
The turn round point and we headed back into town, first the
way we came and then swinging west to head further out. So far, I was keeping a
steady pace, miles 13, 14 and 15 were all at the quicker pace – I’d managed
more than the target 13 miles at my “race” pace, now it started to hurt, dropping
into 13+ minute miles. My legs felt not too bad, just tired, except for hips,
which had been giving a lot of trouble in the weeks before the race, feeling
tight. They started to give me a little
pain, but not enough to interrupt the slide.
Miles 18 to 23 definitely felt they were out in the country.
There was support, but not consistent, often large stretches without any one
(it was also late in the race, so there are never as many). I’d now settled into a new run-walk
routine. From each mile marker, walk 0.1
of a mile, run half a mile, walk 0.1 of a mile, run to the next mile marker. If
the signs to the water station were showing it was close to my next walk break,
(they were signposted 400m out) then just keep running until then and walk
through the water station to take on the drink.
This routine kept me going, and gave my mind something to do.
Finally, there was just a parkrun to do (I looked for a
sign, there is often one, but did not see anything). Everything was slowing
down further and my hips were getting worse, mainly the right side (the usual
bad one). More and more people were stopping to stretch out, but luckily, I was
not hit by cramp and could keep moving forward, it was just uncomfortable. There was no speed in the legs now and I wasn’t
even tempted to try and keep up with the 5:30 pacer. I knew I could finish, and it was just a
matter of keeping going – which means the brain slightly switched off and I
spent a little longer walking, especially up any slight rise!
Turning the last corner, you could see the finish – about half
a mile ahead. A bit more at a walk and
then time to gather everything together and head for the line. The crowd was still massive around this
section and there were plenty of cheers and encouragement, especially helpful
as the finish took a long time to get to!
And I was done! With
a time of 5:36, my 2nd fastest time out of the 4 I have done, which was
really pleasing. Overall, I felt not too bad, far better than the previous two.
Although I had no speed, the walk training and the mountain training had
definitely helped my overall stamina, so I knew that the distance was doable. Time to pick up the medal, the maltloaf and
the beer! Well, Erdinger Alkoholfrei,
which appears to be marketed as an isotonic drink therefore should be perfect
for after a marathon!!! It was fine for
sipping as I wandered back to the hotel.
25 minutes after finishing, I was in the shower, stretching, before food
and a welcome glass of wine. Definitely
good having a hotel so close.
Manchester marathon is a great marathon. Well supported, a
good course, great marshalls and well organised (except for the start pens). I full recommend having a go – especially if
you’re a fast one as it’s actually pretty flat.
They’d upped the numbers this year to 20k, so it’s one of the largest in
Europe and I think they’re going to keep seeing how they can grow it.
I don’t have to look far ahead for my next marathon – after 2
years without one, I now have 2 in 2 months. I got a marshall’s ballot place
this year and so Manchester, at 3 weeks before London this year, has acted as
the perfect last long run before London – so I’m now in taper! See you there 😊
Weeknotes, monthnotes, annual reviews. I’ve tried them all, depending on how bloggy I feel. With its restoration, it’s time to try another favour of diary, so it’s time for QuarterNotes!
But! But! What have I actually done this quarter? Not as much as I could have, I think. As has
been my usual, I spent what felt like about half my time at clients in Germany,
being in the UK every other week.
I finally got to go see Hamilton. I’d being keeping an eye on the tickets for a while, tried the last minute lottery on occasion and was prepared to buy one of the expensive tickets if I could get one in my preferred row (the one with the extra legroom). In the end, another opportunity came up, a not so expensive ticket in the very front row. So £75 only, plenty of leg room and really good views of most of the action. You could see the stage and all the action, just not the footwork. Excellent show, and much of the music still sticks in my head – especially as it is actually all available on YouTube. My only disappointment was that it was a downbeat ending, which left you a little flat on leaving
Another Michelin restaurant, my first for a while, I took in The Goring after my Hamilton visit. I had to try the traditional Eggs Drumkilbo, (reportedly the Queen Mother’s favourite)
Back to Sheffield the second trip in 4 weeks after my New Year walking trip. this time it was the pre-trip weekend for my Kili trip. Information about kit, the trip, a walk up in the Peaks and most importantly, a chance to meet all but 3 of my fellow adventurers.
Another trip round London for the Winter Run 10k. Definitely my favourite race, this was my 5th time running it.
A quick pop over to Barcelona for the F1 testing. I missed last year, due to uncertainty about jobs, but took the chance this year to go over for a day, spending it in Red Bull hospitality. A most excellent day, I love just being able to watch cars all day, without it being a race. The following day was spent in the city, having lunch down in the harbour.
The first trip to Kew this year was also accomplished. Taking advantage of a work from home day, with a quiet sunny afternoon available, I walked along the river to spend a couple of hours in the gardens. I love having membership, it allows you to take advantage of spare hours like this.
An that’s it really for the first 3months of the year. One theatre trip, one restaurant. A couple
of trips abroad that weren’t work. And a few miles spent running and walking,
In February 2019, I took the trip to Tanzania to attempt to trek up Kilimanjaro. One of the largest freestanding volcanoes in the world (as it says on the sign) and definitely the highest mountain in the continent of Africa, at 5895m, the trip would take me higher than my Everest Base Camp trek.
Choose the longest route you can
afford/find. None of the routes are great
for acclimatisation options, as not that many opportunities to climb high,
sleep low. The routes all seem to have a very large final day climb, with the
most popular route from Barafu climbing 1200m for the last climb. That’s a lot and
a reason why so many turn back. So look
for opportunities to spend time as high as possible.
Check the reputation of the local company. Kilmanjaro
trips are big business and not every local company spends the money needed to
kit out and pay the local team enough.
Read the kit list. Follow the kit list. It’s
there for a reason! And if your company
does not provide a kit list, consider somewhere else! For most, Kili is a one
off, it’s a challenge for charity, or a tick on a bucket list, and many will
never need the kit again so will either skimp on it or decide not to take
it. If you can’t afford to buy, then
look to hire or to borrow. I’d suggest
these are the key things you need to focus on:
Sleeping bag. It gets cold, really cold, so make
sure you will be warm at night. You’re unlikely to sleep brilliantly with the
altitude, but don’t make being cold a factor too. Use a liner as well, and warm
night clothes to stay warm
Down jacket. You spend a lot of time not
walking, hanging around camp. The jacket keeps you warm. You could always add
extra layers but that is also extra weight.
Gloves – mittens are definitely best for the
summit night. I had 2 pairs of gloves
but it was not enough, I borrowed mittens and put them over my base gloves and
I was fine.
It rains and they will stop the wind too. Essential.
Nail brush. There’s so much dirt and dust, your
hands get filthy so extremely useful
Hand gel. Buy your usual amount and buy another
bottle. It’s essential for all stops and
eating opportunities. Also take moisturiser for hands, as it dries them out
Painkillers and general travel medicine. I was surprised that some had not brought these
(or had not brought enough) and they had to ask others. Take headache tablets!
Your guides should be making sure you are doing this. If they’re too
fast for you, then raise your voice and ask.
There’s always going to be someone faster than you, but that does not
mean you need to keep up with them. Another reason to pick a longer schedule,
it gives more time and hopefully you’ll never need to rush too much. There’s nothing wrong with splitting up
groups if needed to allow pace to suit all the team.
Take your preferred snacks for summit night. Your
appetite will be low (it’s high, it’s dark, your body clock is all over the
place) and you’ll find it difficult to eat, so have something with you that you
know you like – both sweet and savoury.
uphill, lots of uphill. If you have no uphills near you, then find stairs. Go for long walks, to build up your stamina.
This is about having legs to go for long periods of times and legs than can go uphill
for ever. So think about body strength as well. Lunges and squats are your
Practice with walking poles; don’t turn up
having never used them. There’s videos around, but just getting our there with
them, trying them on flat and up and down hills will give you a confidence with
using them. They do help with saving energy when used correctly and with maintaining
stability on the up and down hills.
Most of all enjoy yourself. I can guarantee that at some
point you’ll wander why you did this. You’ll be tired and hungry and grumpy. You
may be hurting and miserable. You may be cold and feeling terrible. But think
about what you are doing and what you have done to get there – it’s an achievement
and you should be proud. Even if you don’t make the summit on the last push,
you’ve still got our there and tried.
In February 2019, I took the trip to Tanzania to attempt to trek up Kilimanjaro. One of the largest freestanding volcanoes in the world (as it says on the sign) and definitely the highest mountain in the continent of Africa, at 5895m, the trip would take me higher than my Everest Base Camp trek.
Slowly, slowly we got into line and headed out through camp.
It was all uphill and we were completely reliant on the guides to keep us on
the right track through the campsite.
You caught glimpses of other groups, of other tents, but in general you
had no idea where you are. Paths wound
different ways between the various clusters of tents and I can imagine it would
be easy to get confused – in fact, we apparently did later, a halt was called
and the guides gathered to discuss, eventually deciding on the right way.
We’d been put into various groups, based on predicted speed,
with each group an assigned guide. If we
had gotten separated, we would at least have the group. For most of the climb, this was not needed,
we managed to stick together. The groups
meant that for most of the time you stayed in the same order, with your vision filled
only with the backpack or heels of the person in front. You just plod on,
following in their footsteps, a long conga line heading up the hill.
The plan was to stop about every 2 hours, although the times
varied as we tended to stop at specific areas.
Short stops, just time for a quick drink, a bite to eat, even if few of
us had much appetite at this time of night, at this altitude. We’d all been issued with a snack collection,
gels and bars, some cake, some sweets. I
brought most of mine back down – but if you have your favourites, take them
As we started out, about 1am, the clouds were gathering and
it soon started to snow. Just lightly,
with a light wind, but it did not stay like that for long. More and more snow came down, the wind got
harder. Often all you could see in the
torchlight was reflected snowflakes, staying close to the person in front was
important. Trudge, trudge, trudge, up
the zigzags of the path. The wind appeared
to be coming from the East, directly into your face for one zig, then into your
back for the next zag.
I remember looking at my watch no long after 4am. The first
glimmers of dawn were still at least 90mins away. The now was coming down hard
and sticking, my hands were freezing and my breathing was heavy. This was the lowest point, but I kept focusing
on just one step and the next– I knew if I could make it to dawn, then my
chances were good.
In my memories, it was dark and then it was light. I know I looked up as the sky was slowly
lighting up, but did not take much in of surroundings. I just started feeling more confident that
this was doable. We started to hear
voices. People were above us and had made
the crater rim, or had walked around from the other routes up. But it was still snowing. At this point, as the sun was rising, our UK
guide spoke up and let us know we may not get everything we wanted. The snow was sticking and the paths were
getting slippy. He was concerned that if it didn’t stop, then we would have difficulty
getting back down, he needed to raise the risk and let us know that he may end
up turning us back. Risk management
here, let us know, let us take in the reality.
We heard and we agreed to abide by the instructions. And all eyes kept looking out for breaks in
the clouds, hoping it would stop snowing.
And as we kept going, the clouds started to part. Blue sky was seen, small patches at first, then larger ones. The sun was shining on the snow – everyone got their sunglasses out. (although I forgot to apply suncream, so red faces later). The snow stopped and we made our way to the crater rim and the first summit sign at Stella Point. There were still plenty of clouds, drifting around
Time for photos at last, I’d taken none on the way up – we’d done the steeper uphill parts, all that was left was ¾ mile around the crater edge, a gentle stroll at lower levels. It was now we started to separate out. Energy running low, breathing hard, there was nothing to do but plod further and keep looking ahead. I ended up on my own for the last part, with just a guide behind me, who eventually took my pack for the last bit. gain memory plays tricks, it can’t have been that slow! But it was – my watch shows it took 75 mins to go that distance, an interrupted walk of steps and rests. The group spread out, as they rested, as they took photos, as they plodded on.
As you approach the last bit, you watch the successful
trekkers get their photos, in groups, on their own and then head on down. Talking to the others, there was a lot of
similarity in feelings. Relief, pride,
satisfaction and tears. We’d done
it. And so had the rest of the group, we’d
done it together.
No group photos for us, but we took turns to grab photos for
those who were there. I was in the first batch to get there, and watched the
rest make their way up the final stretch.
Our photos done, it was too cold
to wait around, so about half of us headed back down to Stella point, ready to
head downhill. A little more time on the
way down to take more photos, but there was an urgency to leave, to get back to
a little more air, a little more warmth.
My chest and throat were starting to feel really tight and I
started coughing a lot, with wheezing on every breath. When I got to Stella Point, the main thought
in my mind was to head down quickly, and this was agreed with the head local
guide, who sent me on down ahead of the others instead of waiting around for longer. Which means I missed the drama behind me.
A couple of the team were feeling nauseous, and there was
some vomiting. Worse, and far more dangerous, was one of them started to get
disorientated, staggering on their feet and not talking sense. They’d been fine on the summit, they’d taken
my photos, but by the time they’d started the walk down, altitude sickness had
them in its grip.
The medical kit was split across the guides, but not all the
boxes had all the drugs. Yells and waves
from above and my guide and I sat and waited – one of the team came running
down and got some additional drugs…before running back up and administering
them. They checked me out, but my symptoms were stable and we were doing the
right thing, so we carried on down as fast as possible – which wasn’t that fast. It took us just under 3 hours to get back to
camp, with my downhill speed. You take a
slightly different route back down; with the sun on the slope, a lot of the
snow had gone and the ground has softened.
It was sand and scree so there was a lot of controlled sliding on the
way back, the quickest way to get down.
You keep going, on and on. At this point you’ve been going
for 10 hours or so; the sight of tents ahead raises the spirits. Yes, you’ll soon be able to rest and have
tea! Those hopes are soon dashed though,
the tents you glimpsed were Kosovo Camp, not Barufa and there’s far more path
Eventually, gratefully, I was there.
My breathing was still wheezy, I had no voice, but nothing was getting
worse. Time for liquids and a rest, time to lie in sleeping bag in the sun and wait
for the rest – who proceeded to trickle down in 3 groups.
Our illest member was already there. They’d been “carried”
down, supported and moved down by guides and then more help from porters who’d
made their way up following a call. Drugs had been administered at the top and
more were provided now. Thankfully,
everything was working in the right way.
1200m lower and all symptoms were receding. A few hours later and there was no trace of
them, except a small headache.
Not so mine, I was still wheezy and coughing. Drugs were provided for a number of options,
the general agreement was it was altitude induced bronchitis, the lungs had
been triggered by the cold and reacted. That definitely appeared to be the
case, I had my voice back the following morning and over the next week it slowly
The day was not yet finished though, we still had to make
our way down to the next camp, this time Mweke Camp. This is a further 1500m of
descent, heading directly out of the park instead of back around the
mountain. The 3 of us who were not fully
fit headed out first, along with another team member, this time with porters to
carry our bags.
Barafu to Mweke Camp
Elevation Loss: 1500m downhill (approx.)
We all had the memory of the pre-trip report saying this
walk was pretty straight forward and fairly level. We all think that the speaker was referring
to the final bits of the track we’d do the next day, as this was by far the worst
section of the mountain. Most of it was
rocky, slippy, lots of steps down and extremely eroded, especially from Millenium
Camp downwards. Extremely hard to
negotiate and no one had fun. It took
our group 4 hours; we were overtaken by another bunch of the team at one point –
and our member who’d been the illest was feeling well enough to join them, whilst
we carried on at my slow, not breathing very well pace. If I went too fast and got
out of breath I ended up coughing, so we
went at a pace that kept the breathing easy.
At some point, about 30mins out I think, it started to rain.
And rain even harder. The rocks got
slippier and visibility was getting worse as it got darker. Finally we made it
to the camp, heading down the path another 10minutes to find our space. Mweke was very similar to the first campsite,
in that we had little space and the tents were all very, very close. The
majority of us were now here, but one group of 5 were still on the track. By radio, we established they were only about
30mins away, but that was in normal conditions, not in the dark and rain.
Porters were sent back up to help – with extra torches, and they were soon making
their way to the tents. There’d been a
few slips and slides, but everyone was in one piece.
A quick meal and time for bed. It had been a LONG day, awake
at 2330 and it was now about 2030. 11 miles covered, 14.5 hours walking, 1200m
up, 2700m downhill. That’s a LOT of effort in the team. We had one final effort the following day, but
our time on the mountain was nearly over
Sun 17 Feb
Mweke Camp to Mweke Gate
Elevation Loss: 1400m downhill (approx.)
Time to finish this and get to the hotel. The last stretch was fairly straightforward,
some rocky sections but much of it had been worked on. The guides had a cunning plan – the lead
local guide and the UK guide would run ahead and sort out the signing out – in the
same way the first day was busy, this would be also. So they headed out,
jogging, and the rest of us plodded after them.
e were back in the jungle now, trees all around us, but occasionally there
was a break and we could see the mountain, now snow covered, shining in the
The group definitely spread out now, I think it was about
45mins between the first and the last, but there was no rushing to be had. Legs
were tired, brains were tired and it was better to take it slowly then risk a
fall. This time my downhill appeared to
be OK and I kept up with the first group, so settled down to wait with a beer.
Once all there, the bags and kit all loaded, it was time for
the farewell ceremony. Some groups had
obviously done this at the previous camp, this company does it at the
gate. The team all gathered, the local
crew sang the goodbye song and the tips were handed out by category. And it was
done. We’d finished our walking. All that was left was to head home.
First port of call was the hotel. Excellent service here, we all got a room for
the afternoon, to shower, to rest, to sort out the bags. Then food, a little shopping for some in town
and we were finally, finally done. We piled back into the van and headed to the
airport for our evening flight back to the UK via Amsterdam.
In February 2019, I took the trip to Tanzania to attempt to trek up Kilimanjaro. One of the largest freestanding volcanoes in the world (as it says on the sign) and definitely the highest mountain in the continent of Africa, at 5895m, the trip would take me higher than my Everest Base Camp trek.
I’d booked with Jagged Globe last summer, once some of the
job stuff had settled out and had been training for the climb for a few months. As ever not quite enough, but more than I had
my Nepal trip.
JG do a pre-trip meeting, so I’d travelled up to their offices
in Sheffield a couple of weeks before the trip. All but 3 of the group also
made the trip; we sat through some talks about the trip, about altitude
sickness and about kit, before doing a couple of walks, one in Sheffield, one
out in the Peaks. An excellent idea,
allowing the team to meet before the trip and get to know each other in a low stress
Sat 9 Feb
An early start to the day, with a 0630 flight from Heathrow.
I’d gone out the night before, to avoid having an early taxi – and I’d taken
the opportunity to get an upgrade to the flight, as a treat for myself. Not all the group were at Heathrow – many were
starting from their local airports and we met up in Amsterdam, where we also
met Jamie, our guide, for the first time.
I say we met up – bad weather in Amsterdam meant that there
were flight delays and one of the groups did not arrive in time. They got to Amsterdam too late and had to
stay 24 hours. There was some discussion
whether or not they would join us, but they ended up taking a slightly shorter
day one trip and met us at a second camp.
They’d have one less day to acclimatise, but luckily it did not matter.
A reasonable flight to Kilimanjaro Airport, with KLM.
Getting through immigration took a long time though. Not all the team had got
visas in advance – nor had they got cash to pay for them so there was quite a wait
to get things sorted. I was first
through and started to gather all the bags, but total wait from start to finish
was about 2 hours. I’d definitely advise
you to get a visa in advance if you can, otherwise have the right amount of
cash (dollars) available.
A hour’s journey by road to the hotel, some food and drink
and we were finally in bed for about 1am – once I’d sorted out the mosquito
(all my time, distances and elevations were through my Garmin. Time and distance usually relatively
accurate, elevation less so)
Sun 10 Feb
Lemosho Gate to Big Tree Camp
Elevation Gain: 402m
Max elevation: 2785m
A planned early start, with breakfast for 0730. The intent was to leave for 9, but we were
about 40mins late once all the admin had been done. The road trip this time was about 3 hours, as
we drove to the other side of the mountain for the sign in point at Londorosi Gate
(2250m). Once there, lots of waiting. We
had to sign in, then wait for the porters to organise themselves, split the gear
and get weighed in.
For a group of 14 trekkers, we had 1 UK guide, 6 local
guides and 46 porters. Yes, a LOT. Unlike
Nepal, there is no infrastructure of tea houses and everything has to be
carried with the team. So that’s tents for everyone; gear; mess, cook and toilet
tents; cooking equipment; food (although we did have a re-supply of this); and
all the safety gear. There is a weight
limit which is enforced and checked as you go up the mountain, hence the need for
so many people.
Due to the late start, we were one of the last teams to
leave the check-in area – back into the van for
drive to the actual start, at Lemosho Gates (2100m) , another 30 mins.
Here, the porters’ loads had to be weighed again before being let onto the mountain.
We slowly followed them, a 2 hour or so trek through
rainforest. The last uphill led us out
onto Mti Mkubwa, or Big Tree Camp (2650m), where the team had not yet got
themselves sorted, with the final tents being put up in the dark. It was a very cramped camp, in amongst trees,
with tents overlapping at times. You could tell that not everything was working
well, as the vegetarians had not been catered for either, but first day
complications soon got sorted out and the rest of the camp sets ups and cooking
went well. A meal of cucumber soup and spaghetti bolognaise set the tone for
the meals – soup, starch/sauce, followed by fruit usually.
As usual on trips like this, not the best of nights, especially
as my airbed developed a leak that we could not fix in the trip, but enough
sleep was eventually obtained.
Mon 11 Feb
Big Tree Camp to Shira 1
Elevation Gain: 814m
Max Elevation: 3534m (camp sign said 3610m)
Today was a little longer, starting off in montaine forest
and heading up through scrub to “moorland” as the sign at the next camp said.
We’d still not seen the mountain (it was behind clouds on our first day) but by
the end of the day had still only had tiny glimpses.
We started to hit some proper uphill in this stretch, and
the introduction of “pole pole” ie slowly slowly. Although it wasn’t as slow as
some liked, the group starting to break up into smaller groups. With the number of guides available, this was
not a problem. In general, we managed to
stick together over the days, but some days were harder than others. For some it was the uphills. For me, the
downhills were when I got split off, especially with lack of depth perception
and the need to check steps down for distance.
We had our first documentable incident today, a near
miss. Not far out of camp we caught our
first glimpse of local wildlife, a bunch of monkeys. As we stopped to watch,
another, either accidentally or on purpose, decided we were under there tree
and suddenly a large chunk of branch came crashing down. luckily it missed us
all, but could have done quite a bit of damage if we’d been under it.
Out of the forest, into more scrubland, the growth getting
shorter and shorter. We got to the
campsite at Shira 1 (3610m) at around 2, in time for tea and lunch, before resting
for the rest of the afternoon, mainly indoors.
It had started raining around noon and carried on for most of the rest
of the day. A pattern was set for the
weather, clear in the morning, clouding over in the afternoon, which carried on
for the next few days.
Today our remaining 3 team members had arrived. They’d been driven up a different way to a
trail head which meant they had less than an hour to walk. They had still had their adventures though –
the Land Rover they were in finally bit the dust, and they ended up hitching a
lift on top of a lorry for the last stretch!
Another pattern emerged as well, the early nights. The routine tended to be dinner around 1930,
then in the tent for abut 2030, read for a bit and then sleep. Although then the sleeping pattern tended to
be sleep through to 1 and then doze for rest of the night. Not the best, but it was generally OK.
Tues 12 Feb
Shira 1 to Shira 2
Elevation Gain: 473m
Max Elevation: 3890m
Awake at 0645 and suddenly, the mountain was actually there.
The skies were clear (we had a frost)
and the peak now loomed in the distance.
We could now see what we were facing.
It was still in the distance, we had a plain to cross before we got to
the real foot of the hill, but it was definitely there.
Everything gets packed up before breakfast – the porters
want to start taking things down, so day pack and carried luggage needs to be ready
to go. Breakfast throughout the trip
always started with “porridge” – not sure it was oats, but definitely some kind
of grain and probably water. Then eggs, or fruit, or pancakes. Always tea, lots of tea, usually taken with
Today we started to see a few health issues. Definitely headaches, and some stomach issues. One thing that is drummed into everyone was
always, always use sterilising hand gel before hands go anywhere near the
mouth. We had no serious issues with
stomach illness, but it was more about the change of diet and routine than an
infection. We were also provided with sterilised water throughout the trip – although
I was carrying tablets, I did not need to use my own, as they made up large
batches for every stop. The water is
collected from the mountain – sometimes from miles away in some camps, so we
often came across porter groups coming and going from collecting water.
Today was another “easy” day, 4.5 hours walking but less
climbing as most of it was across the plains.
We were heading to Shira 2 camp, with a posted altitude of 3850m, only
200m or so higher than previous camp. But it’s a key 200m increase, as the vegetation
gets a lot, lot less.
Unlike Nepal, it was not as easy to climb high and sleep low
on this trip, due to the nature of the terrain; we did make a detour to climb
Cathedral peak, at 3872m – so not actually that much higher, but it was a “peak”. We were in mists and clouds at this point, so
the views were not that good. This
involved some scrambling and a little walk along a ridge line
Wed 13 Feb
Shira 2 to Baranco, via Lava Tower
Elevation Gain: 738m
Max Elevation: 4634m
Woke up today to one of the best views; the tent looked out
over the plain, with Meru peaking out of the clouds in the sun, and behind me,
Kibo covered in ice. After breakfast, there was a little bit of reorganising needed. Jamie decided to take a look at the bags and
see what we had – and move quite a bit out of the backpacks into the luggage
bags. Some because they weren’t needed,
others because they thought they could not fit in the bags (if you take a down
jacket out of its stuff bags, it’s a lot easier to squeeze in!)
There was definitely a little bit of guilt brought out at
this moment in some of the team, as things were put into the bags carried by
the porters. Having 46 people carrying
stuff for you is a lot to take in (in Nepal, we had only 4, as no camping kit
needed). From what we had seen, the guiding
company we were using locally (Keyes Hotel) do pay well for the job and Jagged Globe
do provide kit. There’s a promotion
route for porters. Not sure of the usual
path, but each level had a specific tip requirement – the carriers, the serving
team, the kitchen team, the different guide levels. I hope the toilet man was paid well! Groups all had portable toilets, put up at each
stop in its own little tent. The toilet
man carried this and managed it, emptying it our regularly into the camp drop
toilets (which were NOT a nice environment). Our guy was excellent – and mainly
invisible – keeping the facilities faultlessly clean and tidy.
Today we definitely had an up and down ahead of us. We would leave the Shira Plain and head up to
Lava Tower (4600m) before heading back down to Baranco Camp (at 3900). So
again, little altitude gained in our overall walk, but at least the chance to
get some acclimatisation in. And now we
were moving less towards the mountain and more around the main cone, moving
anti-clockwise around to the path to the summit.
The paths were slowly getting busier as various routes
combined, so groups were passing up and we were passing some groups, depending
on pace and on stopping routines. Today
was a packed lunch day, which we took on the way up to Lava Tower. When we got to the Tower, we saw that quite a
few groups had had lunch there, with mess and toilet tents all brought up to
that location. We saw this on a few
days, with lunch breaks all catered, but our team either had shorter day or
carried lunch with them.
Going down the 700m to the next camp took quite a while.
There were some quite steep bits, along with a lot of gravel and it was quite
busy. The group did split up into
smaller groups, although not too far, with about 5mins between the front and
back. Baranco is a very large camp site
and as usual, we appeared to be quite a way from the sign in point!
The usual evening routine, this time with a chat about the
challenge of the next day – the Baranco wall, which appears to get quite a lot
of bad publicity and cause some concern
Thurs 14 Feb
Baranco to Karanga
Elevation Gain: 380m
Max Elevation: 4205m
Looking at the numbers it does not look like it should take
as long as it did. Just over 5k not that much elevation gain across the walk to
Karanga Camp – at 3995m not really that much higher. We’re again travelling around the mountain,
not up it.
Bit we did have the Baranco wall to cope with. How the team
approaches this seems to depend on where you are spending the evening – not everyone
stops at Karanga camp, instead carrying on an extra 4k (or 4hrs or so) to Barafu
Camp (at 4673m). Those teams started the climb early. Others were like us, less
to do that day and so could start later.
If you have the time, I’d definitely recommend taking as
long as possible to do the trek. Although the profile is not brilliant and
causes issues because you don’t do a lot of high/low days, the longer you can spend
on the mountain is better.
We started as late as possible…we sat and watched the
trekkers tackling the wall, a snake of people. There were 2 main bottle necks
we could see that cause lots of jams, it appears there was a lot of slow
progress and waiting around for this part of the day. Once the lower choke point had cleared, we
headed across camp to the climb, which means we had a steady walk up with no waiting
The Baranco wall definitely has the most challenging terrain,
a path that makes its way up a cliff space. But there’s no real climbing and
only a couple of difficult scrambling points that you need to concentrate on.
And the guides are excellent at making sure there are no issues at all. We all
made it up with little difficulty, taking just under 2 hours for just over a
mile of distance. The rest of the day
was a steady down, a steady up and down and then one last steep scramble up to
In general, I was coping with the altitude, but the days
climbing had caused by back to get tight and that niggled me through the rest
of the trip.
Fri 15 Feb
Karanga to Barafu
Elevation Gain: 610m
Max Elevation: 4640m
This was an extremely short day, under 3 hours, as we made
our way to the highest camp of the trip.
We started out at nine and made camp before noon. Today was all about
resting and sleeping, for tonight we were heading to the summit. Over lunch, and again over dinner, we discussed
the organisation for the final climb, the kit needed and the timings. The plan was to have dinner around 1830 and
then “breakfast” for 2330, with the intent to start the climb before 0100 on
Barafu camp definitely felt the largest, the tents are
spread out over a large area. There’s a higher camp (Kosovo) but most people
appear to stop here. All you could do
today was pack your things and then rest. There was a lot of repacking!!
I managed to get some sleep in both sessions, which felt good. A wake up call at 11:30, breakfast at midnight and then we were ready to go.
I’ve not blogged for nearly a year..how many noticed? Very few I say, but this is still for me
rather than others. I did eventually fix
both my sites, no idea why things worked this time instead of when I have
previously tried things…but work it did.
So what did I do in 2018?
Change and challenges is the best overview I think.
We’ll start with the stats!
Swarm checkins: 944 (+101)
Countries visited: 5 (-) (Germany, Spain, Bhutan, Nepal, Austria (just for lunch))
Michelin Meals: 2 (-4)
Miles run: 62 (- 28)
Races completed: 2 (-)
Miles walked: 570 (+391)
Cathedrals visited: 2 (+1) (Bamberg, Vienna)
Movies seen at cinema: 6 (-)
Theatre visits: 0 (-2)
There appeared to be a lack of cultural activities. With training for a long distance walk and
then much of my time took up travelling to work abroad, there was less time to
get out and do things around town. Something to do more of in 2019.
The first event of note was my first Escape Room, with my German
colleagues. I ended up on the winning
team, even if we finished it with only a couple of minutes to spare.
The only other highlight was a weekend camping out with Adventure Queens. This is a Facebook group, with the aim of connecting and encouraging women who want to get out and do things. From doing their first night in a tent to walking around the world, it is a very supportive group, ready to offer support, encouragement, ideas and congratulations to all who post.
The month started off with one of my regular runs – The
Winter Run. This is my 4th time
taking part. With my overall lack of
running miles, wasn’t expecting much, but I did have a great run/walk race. About a mile in I complemented a fellow runner
on her leggings and ended up going round the course with her and getting her to
the finish (she’d been about to give up)
I went to The Story conference in the middle of the month –
see the previous blog posts for my write up of that day.
This year’s challenge was another attempt at a 100km ultra
walk. After pulling out last year before
the event, due to injury, I decided to have another go, so I seriously started
my training this month. These walks were usually on my own, but I did get out
for a few miles with Wine Club. As the
years go by, we have turned to more than just drinking wine 😊
This month I made the biggest change. I stopped working for a company and started
my own with a former colleague. In the same area (digital and marketing
strategy), but smaller and more targeted.
This took me a long time to make the step (it’s quite scary) but looking
back, it was a good thing to do. Year 1 has been great, we’ll see how we go in
Th first Michelin meal of the year was at Celeste at the Lanesborough. An amazing room and fantastic meal
More walking this month, with an outing onto the South
Downs. From Arundel, myself and 2 other women
from Adventrue Queens headed west to the Gumbar Bothy for a nights camping,
before carrying on to Chichester.
The main reason for this was to try out my new rucksack and
tent – which I’d bought in preparation for my “holiday” at the end of the month. It was holiday only in being away from home –
I spent a week walking around the Isle of Wight. In the end, only 2 days camping due to the rain
and mud, but a successful perambulation of the island. A total of 73 miles covered
across the week.
At the end of my week of walking, it was time to start the
new “job”. So instead of going into the
office every day, I started to work from home. Initially difficult, I have
slowly worked out how to do this, even without a study to work from (the ironing
board acts as my desk).
Walk training carried on, along with volunteering at 2
races. A small one to start with, my running
club’s race and then the London Marathon again. Fewer photos this time, but I quite
like my Mo Farah picture
Lots of walking done this month. Final weeks of training before the main event in the last weekend – walking 100km from London to Brighton. This was done with Action Challenge, who had great organisation across the event
I’d decided to split this across the 2 days, with camping
overnight. Just over 36 miles on day 1
and 29 on day 2. Waking up and getting
day done was not too bad, it was however far worse on the day after, very hard
to walk and feet in agony! But I did it,
in a final walking time of 30 hours, with an elapsed time of about 36 hours.
When training for this, you only really go up to about 30
miles max – or at least the plan I followed did. The rest of it is all mental struggle, to
just keep pushing onwards. (although the
ability to NOT get blisters is an essential skill)
I managed to remember to get tickets for Trooping the Colour
this year. Not the main event, but the one of the 2 rehearsals. An excellent
event, definitely something you should go to
Another Wine Club event…this time we headed to Manchester
for an attempt at Go Ape. We generally
managed it, except for one obstacle which caused a fair bit of trouble. A very
silly afternoon – and at least the rain waited until we had finished.
One final mini outing was to Kew – I don’t use my membership
nearly enough, but I enjoy it when I can
A little busier this month.
My ‘regular’ trip to the British Grand Prix for a day in hospitality was
made slightly even more sporty by staying to watch England in the football
World Cup on telly. I did a second GP
this month, with a trip to the German event.
As I was in Germany for that week, I drove to Hockenheim and camped.
An old school friend was visiting London, so we met up and then
joined in with the anti-Trump march for a few hours. The Trump baby balloon that
could be found in Westminster Square was something special!
But a sad end to the month as my remaining granddad died. He’d
had a fall and had been in hospital; he’d recovered from that but it was too
much for his body.
A fun day at the Running Club sports day. Some serious races
and some fun ones, especially the fancy dress.
Plus my first geekcon, a trip to Nine Worlds. For some reason, I took no photos here, even of the excellent cos play that was evident
And another weekend sent me back to Garmisch and Zugspitze. This time I took the cable car up and then
walked all the way down. A total of 15.6 miles, all downhill, a few scrambles but
basically walking. A good day, but my legs suffered the next one!
I took the opportunity of having a day with no meetings to
fly back from Germany the long way round, via Vienna. I booked flights with a long lay over and
nipped into the city to see the cathedral and to have lunch
This was a month of seconds. My second Michelin meal of the year was at Bibendum Another superb room and great meal. And the following weekend I ran my second race, the Royal Parks half, on a day that started wet but eventually dried out.
The next weekend was spent at Yestival, a festival dedicated
to adventures and challenges. Lots of
ideas shared about adventures as well as lots of practical advice about
planning, fund raising and executing them
At the end of the month, Charlotte, my cousin, had finally
decided to get married. A vey different experience,
as it was a Greek Orthodox service and party, but it was good fun
A month of holidays – which I’ll write up separately. But
first a visit to Bhutan (via a day in Nepal) with the parents. And then a week in Tenerife on my own, with
time spent walking the mountains
I finished the year in the same way I finished last year, with
a few days away walking. This time I went to the Peak District for a couple of
days walking up hills, along with a day on a navigation course. Dome good learnings, even if the weather was
wet and windy.
Artists are storytellers, they tell us different versions of the story about what it means to be a human being. Lots of people want to be an artist, but everyone of you is an artist, but perhaps you have not realised it yet maybe you have been looking for information on how to be an artist in the wrong place.
You are trying to be unique, like everyone else. But you unique and maybe you are overlooking at in your quest to be unique.
I’m going to teach you how to be an artist. And teach you how to fly. I will tell you how I learnt. Where do people learn how to do things – at school. School did not teach me how to be a popstar – which is what I wanted to do. So I formed a band. It was the standard line up, drums, bass guitar and plastic tortoise. Decided wanted to play concert at schools – tickets 20p for live Pulp…but if were going to offer 30mins of live songs, you need to have the songs.
Where do we look for inspiration?
In Pulp’s case, it began with Shakespeare, inspired by an English lit lesson [he played an extract of Shakespeare rock]. It was a bad song that illustrates what starts to happen when you start writing songs; and as a singer, it is often your job to write words. So, to get round fear, so you may write a funny song or the sixth form poetry route (a song that sums up the total of human existence in 3 minutes). Between the 2 pols, you have to try and find the way for something to say.
So a definition of an artist could be someone who has a unique and convincing way of saying something.
If you look that part can you be that part. At 15-16, i knew I wanted to be in a group, but did not know how to do it. My look reflected this. Hair – from Ian McCulloch. I loved Echo and the Bunnymen – perfect for hair that tended towards bushiness. A ‘beard’ from Stranglers Hugh cornel singer. Glasses – from Elvis Costello. That was good – it turned NHS glasses into cool rockstar glasses. Thought if I looked like the stars, then maybe I would develop their talent…
I learnt that I should be looking at closer and more mundane. There anything more mundane than a bus journey (reads lyrics from Inside Susan, about a bus journey) recorded in 1992, based around events of the school picture – so 11 year lag. It took 11 years to recognise the inspiration that was all around him at school
The next chapter, was St Martins School of Art, when it was at Long Acre. The name gave me hope, school of art. surely you learn how to be artist there. We got lectures about artists, etc, but I never got to write a song about the artists. But i got into raving. I wasn’t supposed to, obviously not, but it was an education [he read the original poem song that became “sorted for es and whizz”]. So this was on album in 1995, about events in 88, so down to a 7 year gap ( I’m not going to talk about the other song about st martins college)
He had escaped from Sheffield, felt I had to keep escaping by writing songs. (quotes lyrics of Wicker Man, on the last album – as story about a river in Sheffield). In the end inspiration I’d been looking for had been under my nose all the time, it took a change of scenery. that’s what makes it easy to miss, if you are always gazing towards the horizon it is too easy to discount the underlying reality. the scenery the mundane, the everyday life. but no, that is you , that is the important things.
I promised to unlock your creativity. [picture of a traffic cone]. If you think about an everyday object, you become aware of associations eg town planning, cars, traffic. If you were at uni, the ones on tops of statures or buildings. If you download video, you may think of VLC. Or the album of kraftwerk. Or works of art.
The point is that we see the same world everyday but the way we reconstruct that world inside our heads is to be the complex web of associations of upbringing and culture etc. A human eye is also a projector, we see the same world, but we reconstruct it in different ways, may be slightly different, but everyone is doing that. All you have to do is write that down, express that in some way. it will be a unique and creative work of art. accept uniqueness and capture the associations and you will be artist
You have to tune in to the wonder that is all around you, it is all there
She wants to talk about the “never meet your heroes” statement…because she’s never met hers. It’s about expectations. When you meet people that are larger than your life, you don’t want to meet any who may show something that does not meet that, that shows their imperfections.
She wants to talk about artists as people. She can’t assume that anyone has seen the exhibition she curated, so how does she talk about the exhibition if you have not seen it. So, she’s going to talk about the artists.
On Monday the Obama portraits were unveiled. Her Instagram feed was 100s of pictures of Michelle; every other black curator was so excited about it. She was shocked that ‘regular ‘ people weren’t too happy about them. There were big stories in the press. She challenged friends perceptions, eg how the flowers in barrack’s portrait represented things. She talked about how the artist used colour in particular ways. But those are not the types of things that interest everyone. A starting point – what does it mean to curate for ‘regular’ people (ie not art appreciators). For Michelle, this was a painting that would exist in an intuition that little black girls could visit.
In working on soul of the nation, what it would mean for people who looked like her, what would they think. How do you communicate ideas about who gets to be an artist, the different types.
She started to study art history at 14. She had gone to an elite high school, in which she could do studio art as history. By 15, she could name and recognise modern artists, people who would put LA on the map – male, white etc. However, there were other influences – Guerrilla Girls; a group of visual artists, who talked about representation. She talked to her teacher about this – who did not get defensive but gave her a book about African American artists…so she could learn about the relevant artists.
Thinking about soul of the nation, about physical objects that people would pay to see, to make it a subject matter that was relevant to the lives of young people, to get people through doors in London. They commissioned a series of films that exist on line – you did not have to come to museum to be introduced to the artists.
An artist needs mirrors to see themselves. The young white artist can cobble themselves together from many artists, the young black artist can’t. That is changing. It’s why there is such excitement about Black Panther. It is not everyday that people like her see themselves as nuanced characters in popular culture.
For Soul of the Nation, the lead image was by Barclay Hendricks, a self portrait, in a superman t-shirt, but naked below waits. He created it as it as an icon – with metal leaf. It is focusing on what it means about seeing yourself (about being mirrored).
One artist was Betty Shae, born 1926. She always knew she was going to be an artist, she has one image from when she was be 5, it opened some of her recent shows where there was a lifetime body of work, started with the early crayon drawing. At what age do we become artists – or get messages from society and family that we should not be that, that we need to follow a career path. Picasso said all children were born artists…and the challenge is to remain that.
It was really important that they kept the artists foremost, instead of the work, because of the struggles that had to do the work
You think you know what the story of our time…but often what you see is what one paper wants you see, or an advertiser wants, or a couple of people made up. So what we see becomes narrow. Popbitch can be broader. Founded over 20 years ago, every week they send out about 500k emails, covering the news of the week. In 1998, (the time of Britney Spears, One More Time) pop culture was not the daily currency it is now. Pop for 1998 was just for kids, the coverage of music was boring; they thought there was room for pop coverage for adults.
There was little shared culture. They looked to set up a magazine, but the costs were enormous. it was hard. just getting WH Smith to stock was impossible. A year later, with the initial growth of the net, newsletters were starting. This is something they could do. They were working in news industry, so they know there were more stories than were being told.
They decided to write up the stories and send out to friends. They had one night with weed and whisky to try and come up with something. The following morning, woke up with the name on a piece of paper. Popular and populist is important. They wanted to cover it and cover it properly. They really started with a text email, sending out to friends. Started off talking about Notorious BIG. The first issue ended with Boy George having an ironic death (nearly), being hit by a glitter bomb. They sent lots of trivial facts out. eg Robbie Williams new dog, Mel b Xmas present. Over the next few weeks they tweaked. after a few weeks we realised that people were trying to subscribe to it, people they did not know. It was all handrolled then.
The media started to cover it…people asked to subscribe and they started to share their stories (back with them) they did not pay (fees), people just wanted to share. eg Madonna wanting to name her baby, Geri Halliwell writing cheque to the dentist. A lot of it was trivial gossip, but occasionally was more.
In 2002, they almost blew the story of the phone hacking. In one of their stories, they mentioned d how they could dial into messages. It was 4 more years before the rogue reporter arrested and 2009 before it was pushed out by The Guardian.
They recognised that it is in popular culture that real shifts can take place. They told stories that turned out were important – but the most important was the one they could not tell. One story that got linked to them – Beckham having an affair. It was never published in the newsletter but discussed with a few people on the message board. But that was enough, the lawyers all came down on them. They did write an article about the hassle and there being no smoke without fire…but added nothing about the affair. They were on the 10 o’clock news, the front of the newspapers – all about how they were gossiping and scurrilous. The press punished them (even though everyone was after the story). The press chased them; Popbitch was still a hobby, they were stalked on way to walk. 1000’s signed up; they couldn’t cope. if they were antagonising the lawyers, they were doing something right. The PR world was worried about them, they tried to close it down. the old world was getting worried.
They were telling the stories that people in the know were talking about anyway, but not telling their readers. They just decided to open it up, the democratisation of gossip. You don’t want there to be one approved line, you want there to be many stories, the truth is likely to be somewhere in the middle….doesn’t mean everything is right, nor that they are always right.
Saville: when alive was eulogised for charity. In Popbitch, he was more likely to be a creepy gangster that too close to the girls. When he died, Popbitch said that they had the most bad stories about Saville; when alive everyone loved him, he was now a monster when dead.
But the very nature of this type of gossip mean they get things wrong. Or right.
James Corden, most newspaper coverage would suggest he is the most popular star, but there is no one recently we have had more negative stories about. The story about Ant McPartlin is not the story behind the scenes. Gordon Ramsay’s father in law ( Chris Hutcheson – ran his restaurants) They got a story about him, a second family. They wrote a blind story; his lawyers got in touch and took out a super injunction to stop the press talking about this. So could not talk about it (until recently, when Sun applied for it to be over turned. And Hutcheson is a story that keeps on giving.
They do push the bitch with the pop, but try not to be mean. They try to be sharp. but have got this wrong sometimes, They want people to feel love and warmth, not just bitching. They want people to share, you may want something sharp to take off the saccharine of the celebrity culture.
Elijah (and on twitter) talked about his history with Grime music and culture from London pirate radio in early 2000s.
Jamaican parents, born in Hackney, lived there all life. Got involved in music in late teens, eg in Notting hill carnival 1994. The sound developed, reggae, jungle, garage through to grime
He listened to pirate radio, and did not realise that not everyone had the same experience; he thought the radio was the radio, music is music, grew up listening too all types of local music. It was something he wanted to do that..but was at school and was being pushed toward an education – get exams, get a job, make money, make family proud. The push was not to be the guy that left behind…but he still loved music.
He got his a-levels, then studied business (to be employable). Lots of people he was listening too were selling own records..making music in house, sell locally, plough money back into the making. He was not ready to go to his mom and say he was going to be a grime dj..so off he went to Uni in Hertfordshire. It was a shock, he was not used to it being that quiet! There, he met a music partner and started to work with him. A year into degree, started on Rinse FM, a pirate station, hidden away. The first time he went, there was no one there..got to play for ages. Asked for feedback, he was just asked to come back (nothing else!)
He graduated in 2009, but the crash happened. He interviewed a lot and no one had anything; he was being told he was not fit for anything. So in end 2010, decided to take the music seriously, to be independent on his creativity. So he moved from asking for things and asking for permission to just doing things. And then people started to ask things from him. the moment he decided he was not going to look for a job and he stated he was going to make music and he had a label…so people started asking him stuff. His first album was 200 quid cheaper to do in 2 colours, that’s why black and yellow in his label colours.
He has never been in the charts, or ‘blown up’ (something he could tell his grandmas, for them to understand what he does) but has had freedom of creation, and chances to travel etc. Far better than what he expected, entering a the office job treadmill
Even though he does something niche, he wants to show it is good, he wants to get niche ideas in front as many possible..so he put his label logo up in shopping malls etc, he just put his stuff out there. Don’t have staff, interns etc, just learning things as they go. It was comfortable, doing things he wanted. Grime particularly gave them a blank canvas, there were no rules..they were forming them as they went.
Does not take for granted his living in london…he may not have lots of privileges, but still many than most places, the freedom of speech should not be take for granted.
You hear the phrase ‘bring people though’ a lot in grime..getting people into the scene, giving back to the community, share info, share with other people. help people make deals etc. He’s now doing a lot of that.