Monday 30 July 2012

Walking with the Strathern Ramblers 29 July 2012

Sunday 29th July saw us take on our first proper walk in the area, as part of Comrie Fortnight, the Strathern Ramblers were offering a 12 miles walk to the Standing Stones above the village of Comrie.

The weather forecast was changeable, sunshine, rain, windy... so we went prepared for wet weather, although no-one thought to take sunscreen which was the most needed!

The walk started from the village of Comrie, about 7 miles west from Crieff it is a small village that has a great community spirit and always seems to have something happening. Starting along well walked paths through woodland, we soon started to climb gently up the hills coming out at the Auchingarrich Wildlife park.

Just before getting to the park, we had the pleasure of meeting a colourful local character known as 'Dr Death'. As one of the ramblers climbed a gate, instead of using the kissing gate, a Landrover pulled up on a bend in the middle of the road a farmer leapt out shouting to get off the gate. Presuming it was someone her knew, doing it for a laugh I gave him a big smile and carried on walking... apparently it wasn't a laugh though and he is well known to always find fault with walkers, even previously having a dog trained to bite anyone following the public footpath across his land!

Anyway, near miss from Dr Death over and we stopped for coffee and cake at the Wildlife Park, enjoying stunning views over the valley and mountains from their café terrace. The park looks amazing, and even before you pay your entrance fee you get to see wallabies, mountain goats and camels. We will definitely be paying a visit to wander round the whole park.

Suitably refreshed, we walked though the back of the parks, seeing curly coo's, red deer, albino deer and yaks and through a forest of Christmas trees.

The next part of the walk is where going with a walking group really does pay as we were walking over hillsides, though farm land and onto the moorland, places you would not really go otherwise. We had several field crossing where the bull thankfully was more interested in laying in the sun, than charging, before reaching the standing stones. Set in straight lines, the stones are believed to be 3000 years old and so huge it's amazing to think they were placed there with no mechanical aid.

Lunch was taking in a little hollow out of the now blowing wind, and the sunshine meant we could sit, eat and enjoy the views over the Ochil Hills.

After slightly retracing our steps, we followed woodland paths round Cultybraggan- a former POW camps that is now a community centre- before joining the Ruchill River path back into the village for a well earned pint at the Royal Hotel.

A great day out, with good company and seeing places we probably wouldn't have otherwise... so looking forward to the day out!

Walks and Cycles Around Crieff and Comrie

One of many reasons for moving to the area we did was the opportunities for walking, cycling and outdoor pursuits in the area, so it was imperative that we got out and enjoyed while the relatively good weather lasted!

Last Tuesday (24th July) was a bonus day off for me in lieu of working 6 days the week prior and after waking up on the Monday to constant heavy rain, blue skies and sunshine gave me the boost needed to spring out of bed and pull on my walking boots. To encourage locals and visitors to make the most of the beautiful scenery around the town, there are several way marked walking rounds, either circular or linear with the option of catching a bus back.

Making the most of a clear morning, I headed along the Lady Mary path, which follows the banks of the River Turret, or through the river where it has burst it's banks with all the heavy rain, under a canopy of trees. There was a lovely smell of damp woodland as it dried out after several days of rain and the sun shone through the trees creating sun beams and dappled patches of light. At the way mark I turned off the Lady Mary walk to join the Laggan Hill walk. A steep, muddy path climbs out of the river side woodland before entering more woodland at the top of the hill and there are great views down to the town of Crieff below. The path winds it's way through more woodland until it comes to another cross roads of paths, where I opted to follow the Currochs Path as I had made good time and even though I'd lost the blue skies and sunshine, it was still dry and warm. Following a rough path down the edge of a farmers field, I created quite a lot of interest from the resident sheep. Deciding it was best not to scare them, I moved further off the path away from them, turning in my ankle in the process, only to find the sheep were actually walking towards me. A flock of sheep shouldn't cause too much alarm, but with visions of Wallace and Gromits and Close Shave, I beat a hasty retreat through the kissing gate at the bottom of the field, through a housing estate and across the busy A85!

The Currochs Path winds around the hillside at the opposite side of the road from the Glenturret Distillery. The start of the walk gives amazing views over towards Ben Chonzie and further afield into the Lomand and Trussochs National Park. Other than the rushing water of the River Turret, it was truly peaceful with rabbits happily bouncing around in the fields and Red Kites soaring above. Following the path across the small road, it follows behind the distillery, where there is a tempting detour to go sample some whiskey, but as I planned to cycle to Comrie in the afternoon I resisted and instead followed the path back through MacRosty Park and home to refuel before pedalling off.

The afternoon cycle was really a mission to get to Comrie Croft and try out their new Tea Garden for some cake. It had stayed a lovely afternoon, even though there was a slight headwind, I made it to Comrie Croft in good time and sat under the veranda in the sunshine enjoying some of the best Carrot Cake I have tasted and planning future walks and off road cycling with a map purchased from their shop. On the route home I continued up the A85 to Comrie before taking the 'back road' home to Crieff which is a lot quieter than the busy main road... although that didn't stop a huge 4x4/ pick-up type thing trying to run me over while I was stood off the road on a grass verge taking pictures of the cute curly coo's! Even with maniac drivers there was plenty of wildlife around, a pinemarten was so engrossed in running up the road it didn't seem to notice me peddling towards it, until I had to change gear and it suddenly looked up confused as to where I had come from! A dead crow hung on a post by it's legs near a duck pond baffled me... any suggestions as to why this might be here?

2 days later we both enjoyed a cycle, starting the same way as I had on the Tuesday on the back road to Comrie, but deciding to turn off onto one of the even smaller back roads that looked like it might be a nice ride. I learnt a lesson that evening... however bad I though hills were in Jersey, there are nothing compared to hills in Scotland! While the hill up towards Balloch was not particularly steep it went on and on and on, leaving me with no gears left and sweat dripping off my nose. I would say the views from the top made up for it, but by then we were in woodland and as soon as we stopped I started shivering, so I am ashamed to say I put my head down and steeled myself for the descent.

Single track road with mossy parts, gravelly bits in the middle and some sharp hairpin bends means I will probably need some new brake pads but the sound of a big shot gun not too far away and knowledge we are now in stag stalking season was a good incentive to keep riding, until we found a great road, straight, slightly downhill with a few little bumps for fun, before heading home.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Our 2012 Challenge- Goodbye Jersey, Hello Scotland!

So the news of our 2012 challenge has been broken- we are moving, not only house but country! While it is not a challenge in the sense of a marathon or climbing a mountain, metaphorically I think we have definitely climbed several mountains with some of the challenges we have faced so far and I certainly feel like I have run a marathon nearly everyday since the move started to be planned!
But we now both have jobs and we have just secured a massive and fabulous flat in Crieff, Perthshire.
The reaction we have got from most people when we have told them we are leaving Jersey is ‘Why’ and especially to Scotland “its always raining up there”. Well yes it may not be as warm on average as Jersey but the Island certainly get’s its fair share of rain! So here are the reasons for our move:
-          We want to buy a house.
As Jersey is not governed by the UK, it has some weird and wonderful laws, with one of them being housing. You have to live on the Island for 10 years (or be mega rich) before you can buy a property. Unless you buy a non qualified property- a 2 bed flat goes for around half a million pounds- to put that idea into perspective. Once you have your 10 years you are then looking at around £200k for a flat or £300- £400 for a small house. Even with the slightly higher salaries on the Island I don’t think we’d ever afford more than a 1 bed flat!

-          We want to be closer to family
Although only an hours flight away from the UK living here can sometimes feel like we are at the other side of the world! A family crisis means a good £400 on last minute flights and trying to get home a family birthday or event usually means several days off work and a good £200 in flights- with 6 months planning to get the cheapest airfare!

-          We like proper winters!
Some people may love the mild winters of the south, but as snow sports lovers we get really frustrated when Scotland is having loads of snow and we are having drizzle- or if we are lucky may a centimetre of wet, soggy snow. Being just an hour from the nearest ski slope is more than exciting and if the Scottish weather is it’s usual fickle self then at least we have Xscape in Glasgow.
-          We love Scotland
Whether it’s because Scotland is in our blood or just the love of the great outdoors we just love Scotland! When Ben did the Ride Across Britain 2 years ago, of all the places down the length of the country we visited, Scotland was the place that really stuck in our minds. When we did another house hunting/ interview trip earlier this month, driving up the A9 and towards Crieff it felt like going home… and that can only be a good thing.

So in 3 weeks time we will be leaving Jersey and becoming residents of Perthshire and we cannot wait, it’s been several years in the making and it is finally happening. We will of course be blogging about our new life and experiences. We are planning on throwing ourselves full tilt into local events and getting up into the mountains and I’m sure Ben will enjoy sharing his Whiskey tasting notes J

Saturday 19 May 2012

Leeds Half 2012, done!

It's been almost a week since the Half Marathon, the blister has healed and steps can be tackled properly, not walking down them side ways. The Leeds Half was a real challenge, we are both he first to admit we're not runners and don't particularly enjoy running but like a challenge! After days of rain and wind we woke on Sunday 13th to sunshine, blue skies and low wind. Amazingly we were both calm and managed to eat plenty of porridge and cereal bars before pinning on numbers and tying up our trainers and heading to Millennium Square. When we got there the atmosphere was amazing, Capital FM DJ's were on stage, lots of photographers around and all sorts of runners from the elite to those dressed as bananas warming up. Before we knew it we were called to the start line and the nerves suddenly kicked in... And then we waited and waited for what felt like forever for the starting horn to go and suddenly we were off! The first few hundred yards were uphill, fast and hectic and within 500 metres my dad had printed off, Ben was going off into the distance, even my mum was leaving me standing and I knew at that point I was out of my depth. Running down Meanwood Road I felt as though all 6000 runners were passing me and by the time I hit mile 2 and saw our family supporters I was shaking my head feeling unable to carry on. At mile 3 the road climbed and I walked. I had no feeling in my right foot and my legs felt like lead. Just past mile 4 I pulled up at the side of the road thinking it was the end of my run sure I had fractured my right ankle as I had no feeling in my toes... then like an angel a guy at the side of the road came up to me, loosened my shoe laces and my pain went. That last minute tightening of my shoe lace on the start line- big mistake, lesson learnt! From then on it was a different run for me, the next mile or so was still tough but after a quick pit stop (loo stop, I'm not quite hardcore enough to do a Paula) at mile 8 I had a ball, waving to supporters, chatting and cheering on other runners and high fiving the kids supporting and giving out jelly babies... Yes I did take candy from a baby but hey I needed it more! Meanwhile... Bens run was taking a different shape. After a strong start where he covered the first 2 miles in 15 minutes and the next 6 miles at a comfortable pace of 10 minute miles his running came to an abrupt halt at 8 miles with cramp in both calves. The next 5 miles were a combination of jogging, walking and pain. At one point we both thought about quitting but the fact we had raised £400 and were running for injured service men and women meant that it really wasn't an option, at the end of the day our pain was temporary those we were running for wasn't. The final mile for me was the longest in my life (possibly as the GPS read 13.5 in total at the finish line!) and the final kick uphill was nearly enough to break me. I kept waiting for my usual strong sprint finish to kick in but instead when I saw the crowds lining the finishing straight and heard them cheering I just cried, amazed I had managed to complete the distance. As I rounded the corner I saw the clock and desperately tried to run or a sub 2hour 35, but even with my mum (who finished in 2h20) and my dad (an unbelievable 1hr47) cheering me on the finishing time was 2hour 35.07.  Meeting Ben at the finishing line I found out he'd come in exactly 1 minute before and his last 2 miles had flown , he'd not seen any mile marks until the finish line. We ran for a great cause and it was a fantastically organised event. The finishing goody bag included a proudly worn medal an a proper wicking material t-shirt. So now we are looking for our next challenge... We have entered the ballot for the 2013 London Marathon and in the meantime will be having a bit of an adventure with our big move to Perthshire, Scotland in the first week of July, but there's still going to be another challenge this year- suggestions welcome please! 

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Leeds Half Marathon- 3 weeks to go!

Well it’s been a long time since we posted a blog, not because we have lost interest but we are in the middle of big plans that can’t go out to the world just yet!

In the meantime we have been training hard for the Leeds Half Marathon, which is now less than 3 weeks away! As 2 non runners I won’t pretend we have enjoyed our training, or that we will be breaking any records (other than our own for furthest distance we have ever run!) but there is a real sense of achievement when I think back to how our first 3 and 4 mile runs made me feel like I’d run a marathon and now, on the same route, it’s an easy mid week run.

This last weekend saw us both top the furthest we have ever run at 10.45 miles. Now, by Tuesday all I seem to remember is the fuzzy glow of achievement and I have forgotten the pain, blisters and the hallucination from not getting my rehydration quite spot on (apparently there weren’t really snakes crawling out of the undergrowth at the side of the path…) The week before I had a horrible 7.5 mile run in rain, hail and thunder and coming to the last mile I really hit the wall, so completing a further 3 miles this week was an achievement in itself and all I have to do on the day is another 2.5 miles to get to the finish line.

Having run a For All Events Leeds 10k a few years ago, we know that the support on the course is incredible (and the hose pipe on that day at the half way point on Meanwood Road was a very welcome relief- take note and please repeat if and it’s a hot day and you happen to be reading this whoever you were!). As it’s also in ‘my backyard’ of my home town, I also know that there are 2 nasty, nasty hills which I’m really not looking forward to, but at least there are good downhill rewards too. 

As well as support along the way we are running to fundraise for an amazing charity- Walking With the Wounded. I watched the ski to the North Pole last year and I was so humbled by those guys achievement. I wrote on Facebook something like ‘Wow, it just goes to show that anyone is capable of anything!’ This year a team are climbing Everest, an amazing feat for anyone who attempts it, but surely even more so for these ex-service men.

Our reasons for running for this charity are both personal (my sister’s partner is in the armed forces and we both know people who have been out to Iraq and Afghanistan) and also as a great motivation. I suffer from blisters, whatever I do my feet blister, but at least I still have my feet to blister and in the big scheme of things what are a few little blisters anyway? I know as I am running and my feet are hurting and I’m wondering ‘can I really go on?’ I have a great motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Unfortunately we have left our fundraising quite late, because of other secret squirrel projects going on, we weren’t sure if we were going to make it to Leeds to do the run. But we hope that you will support us and support Walking With the Wounded with a donation- how ever small. 

Please sponsor us by following this link to our Just Giving page.

Saturday 31 December 2011

2011- The year of achievement!

Wow, what a year this has been. At the start of the year my goal was to make sure turning 30 wasn’t the end of the world, and I think I succeeded by achieving more this year than most years. 

The year started off well on the 1st January with a good walk, followed by hot chocolate at a little country pub then home to have Champagne in front of the fire… 3 days later we hit the Pyrenean ski slopes in Cauterets for a snowboarding weekend. Ok the snow wasn’t great, in fact it rained, the slopes were reached by a long and rather windy gondola ride and the entire trip lasted 3 nights- 2 of which were on a sleeper coach, so tiredness was ever present- but the chance to snowboard with only 1 day off work definitely made it worth while. Thank you Geoff and Jersey Ski Weekends!

Following our ski trip it was on with the walking boots and hitting the cliff paths to start our training for the ITEX walk. Another of my New Year resolutions was to attempt this 48.1 miles walk around the coast of Jersey. Many people fail in their first attempt and I had never done anything like it before. Ben was fairly confident, he has taken part in cycle races and of course the 2010 Deloitte Ride Across Britain so knew how the body is so more capable than the mind.

Our training went well ( for a very funny training plan readour friend Keith’s experience of attempting and training for the walk) until my knees, which I have suffered with for a while finally decided it was time for a trip back to the doctors. Bad news, I needed an operation, but the good news was I couldn’t do too much more damage in the short term so it was back on with the training- and lots of physio and painkillers!

The highlight of the year though for both of us had to be our trip to Finland with Exodus. For 2 people who love snow and outdoor adventure, Finland – and in Particular Basecamp Oulanka – was just perfect. I could write reams here about our trip, but having already done that read our blog pages here. The husky sledding though is something that will stay with me forever. 

Back from Finland, it was on with the training again for the big day in June. Nerves didn’t even begin to explain how I felt the morning of the walk. I was so determined to finish yet I knew the chance of me finishing was low on my first attempt. I also had the fear that Ben was going to leave me on my own. We had agreed that if we hadn’t reached Grosnez by 2pm Ben was heading off alone as he knew he had it in him to finish. Suffice to say that sheer determination and a lot of encouragement from Ben dragged me round in a hideously long 18 hours and 46 minutes. Here’s the full, painful account

A quick recovery was needed after the ITEX before it was time for me to turn 30 and for us to hit Scotland and the West Highland Way. Yet another achievement on that holiday, we summited our first mountain together- Ben Nevis in a very respectable 6 hours 40 up and down. We were extremely lucky with the weather and our waterproofs and woolly gloves thankfully stayed in the rucksack while we plastered on the factor 20! 

Back from Scotland and it was time for me to spend several weeks on the sofa and hobbling around after knee surgery. A frustrating time, but I did find lots of exciting challenges for the future and read lots of inspirational stories to keep me motivated and soon I was back on my feet and at Hot Yoga. This is something else that 2011 has given me: Hot Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga, both a great work out for the body and for the mind. 

Our final challenges of the year have been the ChristmasTrio Challenge, the walk and run were not really putting us too much out of our comfort zone, but were extremely good fun. The Christmas Day swim however was yet another great achievement, for me anyway, for Ben getting in the water in the freezing cold was just another walk in the park!

So that’s our 2011 round up. We may not have scaled the highest mountain or trekked the most remote path, but I personally have realised one big important thing- the human body is tougher and more capable than the human mind thinks. We trained hard for the ITEX and I knew physically I was in the best shape I had been in for while yet the mind kept telling me it was impossible.

So with that lesson learned it’s onto 2012. We have a big project in the planning, but that will have to stay under wraps for a while longer. In the meantime Ben is heading off to South Africa for a family visit in January, whilst I spend a few days with my parents taking them climbing and to yoga. In March we hope to spend another week up in Scotland, hopefully with some time on the snow. 

In terms of challenges, we have the Run for All Leeds half marathon to train for in May, the ITEX will be attempted again I’m sure, we are aiming for 15 hours or less this time round and I have my eye on the Scotland Coast to Coast in September… I just need to learn to mountain bike- or at least stay on which is more than can be said for my last attempt in Italy!

We hope everyone has had a great year, and all the best to our readers for 2012!

The steeper the mountain, the harder the climb, the better the view from the finishing line!

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Christmas Trio Challenge Round Up

Our three challenges are now complete and we succeeded in them all!
Following the Mid Winter walk (see our last blog here) the week after was our Santa Dash. This was the first year there were to be a whole gaggle of Santas dashing through the streets of St Helier at lunch time, and we obviously took a lot of people by surprise- we over heard many comments of ‘what on earth is happening’ and the such like, very amusing! Anyway, it was a short sprint, probably about a mile and seeing as half of the group were kids I thought it would be easy. Unfortunately, wearing running gear with a felt Santa costume over the top, including beard, made running (or sprinting) a bit harder than the kids that only wore reindeer antlers and I ended up puffing and panting around, although Ben seemed to managed it ok and dragged me round the last bit.
As a reward we had mulled wine and minced pies and got to walk into the office dressed as Santa. We also ended up on the front page of the local newspaper!

Our final Christmas challenge was the one I dreaded the most, and by Christmas Eve when the wind was blowing icy cold, I almost backed out but Ben insisted he was still going ahead with the swim so I felt compelled to give it a go. Thankfully Christmas Day morning was dry, but there was a strong, cold wind blowing directly into the bay… that was once we got into the bay! We actually missed the official swim, as it took nearly 40 minutes to drive down the hill. The swim, it turns out, is more popular than we thought and the car park ended up with one car out one in, so as we pulled round into the car park everyone was just getting out of the sea.
Queue a massive sulk from me and an annoyed phone call home, before being told by everyone sat in the warm living room back in Leeds to ‘Man Up’ and go jump in anyway. Ben had said this too, but having 4 people shouting down the phone seemed more encouraging, so we jumped out of the car, whipped off the clothes and made a cold run down the beach.
The water was freezing- well actually 11oC- but it was cold enough to be painful, lose feeling and I was unable to catch my breath. Ben ran in, dived in head first and was fine. I stood waist deep whimpering- not proud of my pathetic-ness, but I lasted longer than the girl next to me J I finally got my shoulders wet and after posing for more photos made the dash up the beach to warm clothes and mulled wine.
Photos of both events will follow!
We need to total up together but I believe we have raised about £150 for the 3 charities- Headway Jersey, Jersey Hospice Care and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. 
So that’s it for our 2011 challenges and adventures. We’ve had such a great year that before the Year’s out I will be writing a review of things done and things learned.