Saturday 28 September 2019

Night Hike to Oxstones

Over the last week or so I'd planned that last night would be a #microadventure as I'd be home alone (my wife was to be outdoors herself on a fundraising event for Cathedral Archer Project). The weather forecast was for repeated heavy showers throughout the day and night and I gradually decided to stay in the dry. By early evening though the forecast and rain radar suggested that the worst had passed over and there was a probability of some dry hours. No excuses! I rapidly packed the bare essentials and got out of the house 10 minutes before sunset. It was pretty gloomy.

Quite minimal but feeling substantial
I set my sights on Oxstones as an area within a few hours walk but decidedly in the countryside. I also know the path very well which should have been reassuring. It was a new moon and with dark clouds passing over, the paths were quite quickly in blackness and I resorted to my head torch.

I didn't need the signs nor map
For 2 hours I ascended, mostly on paths but occasionally on short stretches of road. The wooded areas were spooky, trees groaning and various animals shuffling in the undergrowth. The small area of ground illuminated by the head torch was supplemented by a peripheral zone of heightened awareness. In this zone my eye was drawn to newly-emerged mushrooms. I think I recognised shaggy ink caps but there were other, unknown to me, white species. At Houndkirk Road a dog walker came out of the gloom, the dogs' eyes visible first. I couldn't face the tree cover in Lady Cannings Plantation so stayed on the byway. From Limb Valley I'd been aware that the wind was becoming more obvious and by the time I'd reached Oxstones I couldn't find shelter on any aspect of the stones. I thought about stopping to make a hot drink or warm-up food but decided I was getting too cold. At that point I chose to abandon the night, even though there'd been no more than drizzle, and head for home, perhaps stopping to eat on the way.

I detoured towards Porter Clough thinking I might eat there but saw many car lights in the parking area with the sound of voices drifting towards me. I wasn't sure it would be safe to arrive alone. That was it then, back to home, direct route.

Welcoming lights but still an hour from a arm bed
The Norfolk Arms was tempting for a moment but a paused would have only delayed sleep at this point so onwards! Alongside the road my peripheral vision was drawn to a movement, and just in time I turned to see a badger scurry away from me across the road, arriving safely at the other side.

So this was a night hike rather than overnight bivvy but still a break from normality and a small challenge. Especially marching beside the looming trees. I walked just under 18km at a good pace having become accustomed to a heavier rucsac than usual. I wonder how I managed camping trips with rugged tents as a teenager?

Importantly I'd also noted the insecurity of being outside and slightly fearful of groups, and of needing to keep moving to stay warm. I was unusually thankful of being in a warm bed when I awoke finding it had rained heavily in the early hours of the morning.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Review at end of August 2019

This spring was disappointing in terms of exercise as a niggling left achilles became an issue I felt needed rest (if nothing else) and my left arm (seeing pattern here?) was only barely coping with swimming.

By taking some months off running I think the heel is much improved. I'm now starting to bring back in running and I've managed 20 minutes in a single easy run and 17 or so as part of a 80 minute brisk walk. I'm aware of minor discomfort of this level of use but it seems to settle. I also moved to Altra zero drop, yet cushioned shoes, which feel less stressful than Vivobarefoot, whilst offering lots of toe space. I'm disappointed not to have been able to do multi-hour runs through the summer but I hope that I'll be ready for 2020.

In early summer I started with a new swimming teacher  who is very local which is a blessing. He's also a bit lower cost which means that I can have afford more frequent input. We're still consolidating many aspects of my stroke, I feel the most important is my head position when breathing but I'm not sure how to conquer that. I've only been to Hatfield a few times but have supplemented it with other lake, lido and sea swims and I'm getting more confident of my ability to manage a little cold and the vastness beyond indoor pools. I wonder if my notionally 'warm' Appkit wetsuit is a little large for me as I feel more flushing than I do with the rather tired HUUB, which therefore isn't as cold as I feared it might be.

The circuit sessions and recommended exercises from the physio are important adjuncts and even help when there is hedge trimming to be done.