I want to make one thing clear from the start - I STILL have no idea what I am doing.
Over the week I've gone through all 9 maps; studied the 267 miles topography of prime British natural beauty and even with a significant advantage of a birds-eye view - I got lost 4 times.
(Pause for comedic effect...)
I really wish I was joking.
It's been a week since I started the whole planning thing and FINALLY it's complete...for me at least. I still need the "support crew map reading specialist" (Dad for short) to check over my grid references and to make sure that where I'm planning on camping is actually a good place to stop for the night. The good thing is, there is only really one wild camp in the entire journey, the rest of them should be at camp sites along the way and one stop at a Hostel in a small hamlet called "Mankinholes."
"So where is this almighty itinerary" I hear you cry!?
Every day I tried my best to measure the distance so I can pace the days out accordingly and plan the meeting points with the mates who want to join me for a day or two - Also REALLY handy given we're shooting a documentary on this!
Day one is the longest day, and there is a reason behind this - psyche, mental health and motivation.
When I took on the London marathon in 2019, I adopted a trick I use when I suffer with my anxiety attacks - I broke it up into manageable chunks. So for example, If I'm stuck at work and my anxiety starts to get on top of me, I break the rest of my working shift down into hours (sometimes, if it's really bad, half-hours) and then rationally think about what is achievable in that time, temporarily forgetting the rest. I still do this and it works a treat!
In London, when I hit the 5km/3.1 mile mark I used this exact same technique - 23.2 miles were remaining so therefore i just need to do what I just did seven more times and I'm there! Then I did the same again at the 10km/6.2 Mile mark, "I just need to do this four more times." See where I am going with this?
So, the first day is 28 Miles. Now I've seen that written down, I've just realised that this is actually a REALLY big day (*Gulp*...) but like i said it's for a reason. On the entire journey, this first day is the flattest on average compared to the rest. There are still some steep inclines but they're manageable compared to the rest of the 15 days to follow - PLUS this is where the mind games come into it.
Once this day is out of the way - There are no more which are that long! I would have proven I can do the 28 miles which will be great psychological ammo for when I'm tired on the other days and need that little "pick-me-up". Other than the first day, the rest of the starting and stopping points are just strategic camping spots based at places that I would just like to visit; if I'm doing this challenge, I'm 100% going to make the most of it!
(I am not endorsed by any of these products and respective companies - I seriously suggest doing your own research for what suits your needs)
Growing on my experience from my Outward Bound course back in 2011, I had a bit of knowledge around what I needed but ideally I needed a bit more guidance. Dad to the rescue!
So, we started off with a backpack. Ideally his recommendation was that it should have 60L as a minimum capacity; so I hit the internet. I remember when we used to go walking as a family and all of our kit was by the brand "Regatta" so I felt naturally drawn towards that brand. Looking on their website I found a Survivor III 85L pack for £37.50, survival whistle for £1.29 and a collapse-able walking pole for £7.50 - All together these came to around £46.29 with free shipping.
*Add to basket.*
The rest of the kit was bought from Millets online - A store I used to frequently visit when it was on the Lincoln high street with my mum and dad. Below is the equipment I'll be taking:
Trangia 27 - 1 cooking camping stove (£45.00)
Trangia safe 1L meths fuel bottle (£12.00)
Heavy duty cutlery set (£4.00)
Huntsman Swiss Army knife (£26.60)
Berghaus Transition 200 XL sleeping bag (£46.00)
Eurohike Camper single self-inflating mat (£16.00)
TurboJet lighter (£9.50)
Trek first aid kit (£12.00)
Space blanket (£2.49)
9 Ordinance survey maps (£134.91)
Regatta Survivor III 85L Rucksack (£37.50)
Walking poles [pair] (£15.00)
Jungle formula insect repellent (£9.99)
Petzl head lamp (Gift)
X2 MOLESKIN journals (Already bought)
SILVA compass (already bought)
(Spare clothes + food + water to be added closer to the time)
Total Spend = (£370.99)
There are a few things in this list I could have "skimped" on; for example the Trangia fuel bottle. I'm fairly positive I could have done without this but given the length of the expedition, I wanted to make sure there is nothing that can possibly go wrong with my kit. Words would not express how gutted I would be if I had to cancel the entire thing short because of all my kit got soaked in mentholated spirits.
One hard lesson I learnt during outward bound was that at 6ft 3" (at the time) I didn't fit in the sleeping bags. Something I didn't find out until I was on the first night of three of my expedition. I had to become some kind of contortionist to get in the damn thing!
It took what felt like hours (probably more like 20 minutes in reality) to sandwich myself into it, and once I was in, I wasn't to come out. I was like a pretzel in shrink wrap! Not an experience I fancy repeating on a 16 day expedition...
As well as being extremely uncomfortable, this experience highlights one of the main anxieties I have about this trip. Lack of sleep is a well documented trigger for poor mental health, and also deprives the body of much needed rest to repair and re-energise - two things which I need to be able to guarantee if this trip is going to be a success. So, in the interests of making sure I have the best possible chances of sleeping well; this was arguably one of the most important bits of kit for me to invest in.
So, naturally when this all important bit of kit arrived, what was the first thing I did?
(Not so) fun fact - lack of sleep can lead to psychosis. A possibility which as someone with a past history of psychotic episodes is naturally a driving force of the HGV that is anxiety.
Training this week has been a mixture of both map reading again, and also adding some more distance into my running. Took on steep hill (16 degrees incline) in the centre of Lincoln a few times this week and starting to feel some improvement in natural form and also cardio - I think the fact that I'm smiling after running up the infamous incline is a glowing testament to my PT Mark Larwood, and also the improvements in my own fitness.
Going forwards, starting next Monday, I think I'll utilise the old London Marathon training plan for increasing my distance and then on top of this, I'll add some trails so that my body can get "acclimatised" to the terrain which is to come whilst traversing the hardest trail run in the UK. But like I said, I've no idea what I'm doing, so I'll see what Mark says!
I'm loving the trail running at the moment. It's the change of scenery from the mundane grey of concrete pavement and boring black tarmac that I love the most. The enchantress that is mother nature luring me in like a siren luring sailors onto the on-coming doom of the ship-shattering rocks. (Although that's maybe not the most reassuring analogy, and hopefully my expedition will end slightly better than that...)
...Also whilst on my trails, I made a friend. He's called Terry; Terry Nutkins the 2nd.
So, that's all for week two! 50 weeks / 348 days to go!
Overall it's been an interesting week of getting kit, finishing my planning and starting to focus on the long term plan now of training. Next week we'll be looking more at my experience of outward bound in 2011, and my progress so far in training. If there is anything you feel would be helpful/ interesting for me to include in this blog; anything you would like to know, or indeed, any tips/tricks for this journey, please do let me know! Love to you all! Stay strong, stay safe! Mental Health Runner xxx