Friday, 18 December 2009

I fear people are getting nostalgic about s2s!

Hello everyone! Long time no speak... I trust all is well with you?

After recent discussions with various Spa2summiteers, I had a horrible sinking feeling that a thin layer of nostalgia has started to build up surrounding our "small fundraising adventure", which we may have mentioned to you readers once or twice over the summer months.... (sorry, we all appreciate we must have started driving you all insane, but imagine how it was for us!.. it was every conversation!!)

I must admit, this glaze of wistfulness was rubbing off on me too, the journey, the story, the pride... the camaraderie of a band of brothers etc!! However hopefully with the kind permission of Jamie, whose photos these indeed are, I thought it would be good to post a few of her photos to fill in some gaps....

It was such an epic adventure granted.... but, as you can see from our faces, it was ruddy difficult... and at times painful!!

Signing off... but who knows what 2010 will bring......?

Tootle-pip!


Monday, 30 November 2009

ECHOOOOO.....EChoooo.....echoooo.....

Aren't these empty old blogs kinda *spooky*......

It's so quite in hear(sp) you could here a ducks quack echo! proof

Still, just poking around some old web haunts and thought I update the old girl, and it's probably a chaos theory thing where I do this little thing and it triggers loads of updates, emails, re-cacheing of pages and the like.... ohhhh I love chaos theory (gives me a legit excuse to be messy, or is that entropy...anyway)

Catch you soon walking fans!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Should it just fade, pass into the west?


Well it seemed ages since I read the blog's and look at what we all created, missed a few posts as well from the guys.

Not even sure if anyone is reading these any more, still it's nice to reminisce. ...

I guess this was triggered by my receiving an email from a Journalist who was looking to do a piece on our plod, and the concofiny of web based media we used to fuel and fire our trip. Chris did some great work pulling it all together, and it does show how the Internet can be used as a force for good and something actually beneficial to people, not just to let people know that Stephen Fry is currently enjoying a Latte in some coffee store, or whatever twitter is used for.... Why didn't we use twitter? Mmmmm, good question. Perhaps we aren't cool and nerdy enough, or perhaps we're so cool and nerdy we've already seen past it, to the utopian days of face to face interaction! ;)

But the real question is now, what happens to all this. The blogs, the website, the youtube channel, do we tear it down, archive it off for our own prosperity ("come on kids, look at what you're great granddad did before the ice caps melted"), or do we keep it going, use it and launch off it? - Comments please!

I get the feeling from some that perhaps another big project, challange - Kobayashi Maru even! is in the wind, a distant faint tickling at the ankles of the boys. Ken's got ideas, Chris and Pete have ideas, sure Ollie and Grant have them to (even if it is just changing they're numbers so they can't be dragged into another crazy scheme).

Will it be for charity? Perhaps, or perhaps the debt is now paid, if it ever can be. Or maybe it will just be a personal challange, another way of boring the grandkids, or another way of putting off the inevitable passing into the west that faces all of our Knees....

Keep wrangling...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Spa2Summit... Epilogue

So that's it. Cheltenham to Pen Y Fan has been done and Spa2Summit 2009 is over.

We raised far more money than we had ever expected. We thought £2500 was maybe a bit ambitious yet through the generosity and kindness of friends and strangers we've passed £4000! Thank you to everyone who contributed in some way, we all appreciated it hugely. The support and encouragement we received was incredibly touching and we're so grateful.

On a personal note I'd like to thank my friends, family and customers who contributed and took an interest in our peculiar challenge.

Mostly, though, I'd like to thank Abi. She has been so supportive and enthusiastic for the whole nine months we've been working on Spa2Summit. Not once did she become annoyed at all the time I spent on training walks, at shows or working on the website. She was devastated that she didn't make it up to the top of Pen Y Fan in time to welcome us up there (it wasn't her fault I might add!) but Abi, I was more grateful that you were there to carry me down and put up with my constant moaning about how far away everyone had parked. Then to have a quilt and a pillow waiting for me in the car was perhaps the best present I've ever had! Thanks Abi.

As for the boys, I have to mention Ken first. The Cheltenham to Pen Y Fan walk was his idea, his baby. For the rest of us to finish it without him felt like stealing something from him. It still does. After Abi he was the first person I wanted to see after reaching the summit and the warm greeting he gave me when we reached the car park had me welling up. Thank you Ken for all the work you put into this endeavour, it wouldn't have happened without you. Thanks also to Bev, who not only put up with Ken spending so much time on this but also drove our smelly bodies home after various training walks! A brave long-suffering woman.

Pete, your drive and determination really stood out, particularly in the latter stages of the walk and I can't emphasize enough how much that impressed me. Despite the problems you encountered on the training walks, I could tell there was no way you weren't going to reach the summit. You paced yourself excellently and finished strongly, all things you can be proud of!

As for Ollie and Grant, it was great to get to know you both better. Spa2Summit made us more like brothers and I look forward to many other painful and unusual challenges in your company. Every time we pass in the street we can give each other a knowing nod, safe in the knowledge we are a rare breed indeed!

Many thanks to those who walked with us - Abi, Esther, Kath, Jamie, Miriam etc - you guys kept things fresh and dynamic, we needed it!

That leaves Jonty, Marky, Luke, Becci and Mel. Although they were behind the scenes, Spa2Summit's success would not have been possible, no doubt at all. Simply lugging around the required water would have been impossible for us yet they did so much more. Rest stops were well organised and efficient, their energy and enthusiasm was infectious and having cups of tea and pasta handed to us was awesome. Plus their Plodcast entries were brilliant, lifting the spirits when ours were flagging.

As for me, it's now three weeks later and my body still hasn't recovered properly. I've lost a lot of pace when I run because my achilles aren't working as they should and this is affecting my performance at football and tennis - very frustrating! Both my big toes are still completely numb for some reason but the blister on my little toe has now gone so that's something. Any suggestions at how I can heal my afflictions would be most welcome!

I loved this challenge. For me it was just the right difficulty, it was all I could give and a bit more. Trying to tap into hidden reserves of strength and energy was something I've always thought I've been able to do (tennis is great training for this) but attempting it on this scale was something else. My ambition has been ignited and I'd like to take on bigger, more daring expeditions, ones that are new and untried. It even got me wondering if there was any way that some kind of career could emerge from it. We'll see.

So Ken, Pete, Grant and Ollie... what's next? :)

Chris

51.8972°N 2.0778°W to 51.88328°N 3.43684°W

This can't be it, I thought. This can't be all I've got.

With just three miles to go and the clock ticking down I had nothing more to give, the pace I was walking at was the most I could manage. With the other boys having had their times of struggle now it was my turn.

By 53 miles blisters had eaten up Ken's feet to such an extent that he had been forced to quit but not before a titanic multi-mile effort on his part, Ken even cutting up his trainers in an attempt to alleviate the friction on his blister menagerie.

At our penultimate rest stop Ollie, who had been suffering flu for the whole trip, experienced such a rapid decline that he was making plans to call it a day and meet us with the support crew at the ascent to Carn Pica.

Grant, who had been battling with violent sickness, had announced (and been told!) that he would do one more leg of the walk and then definitely stop at Talybont Reservoir.

As it was, this "final" leg saw Grant's strength and determination return while Ollie's pride lit a fuse inside him and he persevered to the end, not wanting two Cheltenham boys to succeed where the two Gloucester boys had failed.

After the most satisfying of breaks at Talybont Reservoir where our aching muscles were treated to a quick massage and our cooling bodies were fed piping hot pasta (thanks Mel!) the four of us - Pete, Ollie, Grant and me - began the ascent towards Carn Pica. Regarding this section of walk I had earlier written that "...this is the terrain I am most comfortable on," and so it proved to be as I kept a good pace onwards and upwards.

Throughout the whole walk I had set myself mini-challenges. One was to regulate my pace with the rest of the team and another was to catch any who built a significant lead, 'reeling them in.' This was an excellent strategy as it kept my mind off any pain I was feeling and would leave a warm feeling of satisfaction every time I succeeded. The pace that Pete was setting in the hills gave me a good opportunity to try this once more. It took a lot longer than previous efforts and was a shock at just how fast Pete was moving, much faster than our average walking speed. He had the bit between his teeth by now and, with the end so close and no doubt with memories of his dad swirling round his head, he found a strength and determination that impressed me no end. In my opinion Pete had been the most improved member of the team. Stepping up from the problems of a thirty-five mile training walk to an incident-free seventy-three was remarkable.

We reached Carn Pica in an hour and a quarter, a cracking pace even if you were hitting it fresh. Then came my slump. The winds on the hills had braided the grass into many trip-wires that seemed to catch me on every step. Small drops off grassy verges sent shooting pains up both legs. It wasn't long before any shock-absorbency my legs could provide had been eroded away. Every step, particularly downhill, was now agonizingly painful. My left knee was burning, my right calf had a knot that seemed the size of a golf-ball and both my achilles had seized up. Yet the pace, dictated by Pete (I use the term 'dictated' in its strongest possible sense!), remained fast.

There was no time to stop for a break, it was now a very real possibility that we wouldn't make the top in 36 hours. A long, very painful descent was approaching and we had just hit seventy miles. Gusty tailwinds carried us forward, relieving some of the pain for half a second at a time. The path took us out of the wind. That long descent was upon us.

Every step sent shockwaves up my legs and into my chest. It felt like my muscles, ligaments and tendons had been removed and bone was left to grind against bone, or worse - bone against nerve.

After an age the path eventually lead us onto the gentle ascent around Corn Du towards Pen Y Fan. By now I was at the rear of our silent line of Summiteers, Ollie was just in front, then a gap to Grant, then another to Pete.

This can't be it, I thought. This can't be all I've got.

For the first time I couldn't willingly switch into another gear and the idea of reeling in the leader again was being rejected by my brain. I needed adrenaline. I ran, telling my body to ignore what the brain was telling it. I felt like a gazelle. I passed Ollie, then Grant. I felt strong.

As I approached Pete he turned, bearing a peculiar look on his face. I yelled, "It hurts less like this!" and carried on past him, springing off each rock and stone as if they were boiling hot. I turned as I ran and felt a warm surge of pride and adrenaline as I saw all three of my new brothers running with me.

We slowed to a walk again as the final "wall" of Pen Y Fan faced us. Our friends were at the top and time, thanks to the pace we kept from Talybont Reservoir, was once again on our side.

We climbed together, stopping whenever one of us requested. We finished together. Strongly.

Seventy-three and a half miles of tarmac, grass and stone had passed under our feet reaching this point. We just wished Ken was with us.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Summities!!

Hello everyone, it's taken me a few days to recover from our adventure..... and since then, others have written their accounts and experiences much more eloquently than I'll be able to cobble together (if you haven't read Pete's or Ken's blog posting yet, I wholeheartedly recommend a read) Therefore, to save you readers getting bored, and having to hear about the "issues" I faced with Carbohydrates during Spa2summit, instead I have dragged up the idea of a one time only Spa2summit awards ceremony. THE SUMMITIES!! -They are a bit like the Oscars, with a much smaller budget and more importantly gives me a perfect segue into my thank yous for this epic walk. Hopefully this may give you a small incite into some of the stories others may not really have mentioned. Shall we begin?

The first award is the "Special Dedication Award". Whilst there were many nominations for this category, the moment Ken started cutting holes in his rather new looking trainers with his Leatherman, there was only going to be one winner. He seemed to have more blister plasters on than skin, and he still inched onward. I couldn't believe it, so hats off to you! Then instead of being down about things outside of his control, he then clicked into Mr Support Crew mode and helped us boys ever onward.

Next is the "Insanely Determined Award", and if Mr Bodington could come up and collect his award please? Sufficient to say we were all exhausted by the time we saw Talybont Reservoir, yet you would not believe the amount of focus Pete had as we drew close, of not only finishing this thing, but making it with time to spare. He encouraged, drove us on, and lead from the front despite the fact that he was just as tired as all the rest of us.

The 'How'd He Do That?!' Award is merited to Chris. 69 miles in and we are hitting the bottom of Pen-Y-fan. Chris' knees and hips are giving up the ghost, as he tells us everything seems to be jarring as he walks. I too had just started to give up hope of making it within 36 hours, and then I look up to see Chris break to fast walk, to a jog, into a proper run. He was the catalyst for the most insane half a mile of running I have ever done and so, from the bottom of my heart I have to ask, how on earth did you muster up that?!?!

Ah, next Award is for Ollie and this was an easy one to award him. The 'Mr Superman' Award. Please bear in mind that the other four Summiteers, had really put every effort to start on the best possible footing, early nights, foot prep etc. Ollie on the other hand, went down with a strong case of Man-flu on the day before, and yet didn't complain about feeling rough, he would sit down at a break, have some cold remedy along with his provisions and darn well carry on!! The other guys were creaking on Sunday at the post S2S BBQ, yet Ollie seemed as good as early Friday morning, and for that he can take this award home.

The 'Last Man Standing' Award is simple, that it should go to the person who remained the most vigilant through this. Jonty has been deemed the worthy winner, as he stayed alert and around for 44 hours straight before his head hit a well-earned pillow. You led the support crew from the front, and they all did an amazing job.

The next 'Summitie' has to be divided several ways. The 'Above and Beyond the Call of Duty' Award goes equally to our fantastic Support Crew. Luke and Marky at every stop ran round us, sorting drinks, tea, food provisions... everything! and at all times of the day! Becky and Mel also should be included as they helped no end with massages, common sense and determination, despite the fact that they arrived right after their secular work day ended! So thank you guys!

The 'Surprise of the Walk' Award too was a hotly contested one. Whether that be the stampeding bulls, the bottle of Champagne carried up by Gem Hollands to the summit, or indeed the 20 or so people who joined us at the summit. All were amazing, but for me it had to be the cheer from work colleagues as we passed by GCC. I know how much I had incessantly talked about S2S with some of them, but for 20 or so, and therefore a good proportion of the team to switch off the clock (which Lawyers very rarely do!), to take the time to come out and cheer us past was very much appreciated. Thank you Nigel, Sam etc for letting them do so and those who did.

The 'Almost Didn't Make it' Award is one that I need to pass out. Pete said something to me at the BBQ, saying "if it hadn't been for Esther B, (along with Cath and Jamie) I doubt you would have finished the walk." This was in no way meant harshly but was rather a true and telling statement, so I wanted to say cheers to them, this award is for you!

And finally...... the 'That's Typical!!' Award goes to my Mother!! I had dragged myself 70 miles, was absolutely flagging, only to be informed on the way down from the summit that my Mother, who suffers from vertigo whilst being only three steps up a ladder, had climbed the exceptionally steep assent to Corn Du (scrambled on hands and knees!), and Pen-Y-Fan to come and welcome us at the top. All I can say is whilst I was most proud, that's flippin' typical of my family!! Hahaha!!!!

Well done, and SERIOUSLY NOW - genuinely THANK YOU to everyone, both mentioned above and those who unfortunately I have omitted to mention, and to those who have kindly donated to Macmillan Cancer Support - for an amazing Spa2summit!

Cheers - Grant.


Please note:- that in the interest of Team harmony there was no winner declared of "The Yellow Car Game", as each of us are still determined that we respectively were the overall winner. Therefore may I suggest the game continues?...... !

More Sponsorship News!

As a regular follower of this blog, you're aware that Enterprise Rent-a-Van did us a very good deal on Jonty's Support Copter. A good deal is not a free deal however and this is where local company, Adey Solutions Limited came to our rescue! A very generous donation to Spa2Summit has enabled us to cover the cost of van hire, fuel and still have some money to go in to the Macmillan pot.

If you've not come across an Adey Solutions product then check out their website and say hello to a world of efficient and cost-effective central heating. Tell them Spa2Summit sent you!

Justgiving Problems

Of all the weekends for Justgiving to update their website, they had to choose the Spa2Summit weekend! Quite a number of you have told us that you have had trouble donating, and we in turn are having trouble accessing our account. It is very annoying! There is an article here that goes some to explaining the problem.

Please be patient. If you were going to donate please keep trying, or get in touch with one of the Spa2Summit team who will do their best to help.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

It's all about the guy next to you

Well, what more can I say that hasn't been said!

What an experience the guys have gone through, pushing themselves on and on. It's interesting to see how this seemed to be less a physical endurance event, more a mental one. The day after most were up and about, and apart from Ken's feet, pretty chipper! It's amazing how when the body seems happy to give up, the mind can drive it forward.

I enjoyed my little bit a well, staying up for nearly 44 hours straight through, interesting having to fight sleep - thanks to caffeine and cold air!

I think the best part for me was seeing the guys from the first time from the summit. They're were about 20 of us up there, waiting for them, and to watch they're approach and encourage them with some very very bad singing (sorry Pete) was great fun.

The worst part had to be using gaffer tape to attach the boys shoes and socks to the air vents on the van and then blasting red hot air through them. I'm sure (Hope!) they appreciated the warm dry footwear, but the smell, well....interesting... :)

Marky and Luke did a far better job than me running around after the boys and getting all they're gear together, learning what each of them was likely to need and then making sure they had it. And Becky and Mel added a much needed shot of sanity to the support team, well done you all!

So yeah, quite an experience. What did I learn? Well when you're in the middle of it, it's not about the charity, the money or the good thing you're doing. It's about you're mates, not letting them down, being strong for them and helping each other finish.... I just hope Pete doesn't phone me again with another crazy crazy idea :)

Keep an eye on our media sites, more stuff to come....

Support Wrangler

Monday, 22 June 2009

Ken's Radio Interview

Hello everybody!
Thanks for continuing to check our blog even though Spa2Summit is over. My report on the last few days is on its way but in the meantime you may want to listen to Ken's radio interview with Radio Gloucestershire on our YouTube channel here.
Thanks and keep checking back!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Post Spa2Summit revelries

Just a quick blog post about our post Spa2Summit bbq at Wal's.
What a thing we did! 70+ miles in 36 hours, an awesome team, alpha and beta! I'm humbled to have been part of it, rock on!

I tend to underestimate a lot...

Ken has given a fantastic account of the S2S experience in his blog below so this really comes as an addendum to that.

I've noticed through this whole experience that I underestimate a lot of things.

I underestimated how long this would take and how hard it would be. When Ken suggested the Spa2summit route, I said that we should bang it out in 24 hours as this would attract more attention. Fortunately Ken was (as always) the voice of reason and we compromised on 36 hours. Thank goodness for Ken. Getting to that final cairn on the summit after 35 hours and 23 minutes was the hardest thing I've ever done and I've done a lot of stupid things in my life, believe me.

I underestimated the draining effects of walking at night in the rain. That section was absolutely soul destroying and I'm so proud that we carried on despite the rain, dark and cold.

I underestimated the joy of seeing it get light. After that harsh night section, it was so wonderful when it started to get light, I felt like I was being re-energised just by the fact that it was getting lighter.

I underestimated the feeling of seeing Chris run past me. We were so near the end and could see Pen-Y-Fan looming towards us but the time was running short. I was panicking (I do this well) and tried pushing the lads to move faster but I knew that we were already giving everything they had and couldn't do anymore. I was at the front with my head down, genuinely thinking that we would miss our 36 hour deadline by just a few minutes and felt awful about it.

Then Chris ran past me.

I looked behind me and Grant and Ollie were running too. I was so filled with pride, ready to burst, and started to run too. We ran about half a mile and then realised that we'd make it. This will always be one of the defining moments of my life and I owe Chris, Ollie and Grant for that. Thank you boys.

I underestimated how great my friends really are. There is absolutely no way we could have done what we did without Jonty, Luke, Marky, Becky, Mel, Esther, Kath, Jamie and all the others who supported us. It was so wonderful to walk up to a rest stop, be directed to a chair, have my backpack taken from me and refilled, be given a cup of tea and some food, have my legs stretched and get some fantastic encouragement. Bear in mind that our support team didn't get any sleep either as they were serving us through the night but they were still as encouraging and efficient on the last stop as they had been on the first.

So many of our friends raised money for us too. Lavina, Grant's mum, very early on took flyers and collection tubs to get money out of her workmates. It seems that Chris's parents, Pat and Mike, strong armed everyone they came into contact with to donate to us. Esther and Jamie got their workmates to sponsor them to walk a stint with us. I don't know what Mat Hollands has been doing (something's are better left unsaid) but he's raised a fortune from his friends and colleagues. I know that many others have been doing the same for us and I'm sure that there are many that I don't know about.

And as for Ken, Chris, Grant and Ollie, I don't know what to say. Those guys are amazing. We did something ridiculously hard to support a charity who I had a personal reason to support, but hadn't had an effect on their lives. But Ken accepted me hijacking his good idea and making it really tough. Grant, Ollie and Chris asked us if they could join, not the other way round. And with their help, we've raised thousands for people who really need it.

I underestimated how much I'd miss of my dad. I've always enjoyed challenges, half marathons, adventure races, rock climbing, canoeing in the Amazon etc. I like that sort of thing, keeps you on your toes. But when I did some challenge, particularly an outdoor thing, the first person I'd call would be my dad. He would always be so excited for me, even if it was something he wasn't that interested in. I was gutted that I couldn't call him when I got to the top.

I did Spa2summit for him.

I will never be able to fully express my gratitude to everyone who was involved with Spa2summit, so please imagine that the following words are 1000 feet high.

Thank you all.

I'm Alive

I'M Alive and still have two feet in working order..I must say that has to be the hardest thing i have ever done and will ever do ( maybe )....Big thankyou to everyone who has supported us given of there money and time, which includes are support team Jonty Luke Marky Becky Melissa Esther Cath Jamie, sorry if i have missed anyone out my brain is still not in working order..I think the only reason the team got through this was the team spirit we helped each other on through blood sweat and tears and even the odd mention of quitting.So glad we did it thanks once again to everyone.. love Ollie..

An Incredible Feat of Feet.

So that was Spa2Summit. It was a test of endurance the like of which none of us had ever experienced, and I suspect never want to experience again. But it was more than that. There were tough times, dark days, but there was also kindness, generosity, friendship and laughter.

I won't go over the route as we've talked about that in previous blogs but I thought I might just mention a few things/highlights that struck me as S2S unfolded. This is not a definitive list!

I'll start at the Start. When I got round to the Town Hall at 7:30 on Friday, Grant and Ollie were waiting, this was unusual in itself but then as the clock inched/rushed round towards 8, more and more people turned up to see us off. It's hard to describe how cool that was, it took our minds off what lay ahead and buoyed our spirits. Esther B was darting all over the place, leafleting innocent passers-by like there was no tomorrow. After a final few photos, 8 o'clock arrived and we set off to Pen-y-Fan. Esther, Kath and Abi joined us, toting Macmillan Cancer Support contribution buckets and chatting to anyone we passed.

Too soon they had to leave us and we marched on towards Gloucester. After our first break, Marky and Luke took over the collecting bucket duties, and somehow it just wasn't the same! Grant had rung ahead to his office and as we came round the corner by Shire Hall we were greeted by the cheers of his GCC colleagues. A real boost, many thanks!

It was after this that the game of "Yellow Car" took a turn for the competitive. "Yellow Car" has very simple rules, a point is scored by the person who spots a yellow car first. Some debate about the points value of vans, coaches and lorries developed as we proceeded down the A40!

Sometime later, we approached our second refuelling point, and we were delighted to see that our noble support team had been augmented by Wal, Elaine, and Harley amongst others. After a brief pause we set off again, with our extended support team watching. Watching not out of any wistfulness at seeing us heading west, but rather because we had to cross a field, the gate of which bore the sign "Bull in Field". Sadly for the watching mob, no bull appeared!

Not content with this, a short while later, Chris tried out his cow herding skills, which as it turns out are excellent. He herded about 20 of them right in to the gateway we needed to use. When I say cow, I really mean bullocks. They were pretty solid-looking things, and it was particularly interesting when Pete and Ollie proceeded to startle them in to a stampede about 10 feet to my right. We were through the now approachable gate with some speed.

The next stand-out moment was stopping for bacon and egg sarnies at Seth and Amy's. Rather wonderfully, they live about halfway along one of the first particularly tough sections of the route. What a delight to be greeted with top quality banter, sandwiches and drinks here. Awesome! Too soon we headed on.

Earlier in the day, as we passed through Gloucester, Pete had popped some S2S leaflets in to Radio Glos. Checking my answerphone, I note a call saying that they would like to feature us on Drive Time. I pass these details to Support Gruppenfuhrer Jonty who makes the necessary arrangements. So, a little after 6 0'clock, a few miles west of Mitcheldean, I get interviewed live on air about Spa2Summit. I hope you were listening!

At our next stop, west of Goodrich, we were joined by a throng of wellwishers, family and friends which was a real tonic. Lots of noise and banter helps to take your minds off your weariness and the fact we'd been going for 12 hours and twenty minutes. Joined for the next few miles by friends we once again headed west, in to the setting sun. The support team had now grown too, with Becky and Mel joining at Goodrich and staying to the very end.

This was one of the longest stages between support that we would do, and as the sun set the lift that you get from being in beautiful countryside waned, because we couldn't see it! However we did get a little adrenaline hit as we approached Skenfrith. There is a part of our route where we had to take a little detour through the woods, the legality of which we unsure of. As stealthily as we could, with minimum lights showing, we snuck/sneaked along until we could dart on to the footpath once again.

The next leg from Skenfrith was really hard. Just minutes after leaving the support team, it started to drizzle and then properly rain. Chris won outfit of the walk, with his white plastic poncho with flashing red lights beneath. He looked like a rave ghost! To be honest, I was not a happy camper at this point and I went a bit anti-social. Ipod in, hood up, head down and one foot in front of the other. Eventually the sky began to lighten, and we finally made our next rendezvous at Llangattock Lingoed where a really friendly cat adopted the team.

Now heading down to Llanvihangel Crucorney, I was properly unhappy. My feet were blistering like mad and I couldn't get comfortable no matter what I did. As we approached Stanton I took my leatherman to my trainers to cut out little pressure relief windows for my little toes. This helped a little, and I pressed on. Everyone was really feeling it now I think.

Sadly, about 3 miles out from Crickhowell, I had to call a halt to my attempt on Spa2Summit. Time was slipping away from us and at the pace my blisters would let me maintain, there was no way we would reach the summit by 8pm. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, the disappointment of putting in nine months of planning and not seeing it through was gutting. We've had tons of support and it felt a little like I was letting the team and our helpers down. But then on the other hand, being dispassionate about it, I could see that it was the best decision to take for the team, that they could push on faster. Later Bev pointed out the link to my profile on the Spa2Summit website. I didn't want to be like Joe Simpson (crawling along with dodgy legs.) but I did want to be like Rick from Casablanca (who gave up his own happiness for the greater good!). It was a sign.

So now part of the support crew I could still do as much as possible to help Pete, Chris, Ollie and Grant to hit the summit. At the Crickhowell refuelling point we were joined by Esther, Kath and Jamie who walked with the guys all the way to the Talybont reservoir. A massive boost, as none of the guy's egos would allow them to appear weak in front of girls. A clever tactical move!

Before too long it was time for the final push in to the Brecons. I'm not sure that anyone can appreciate just what it took the guys to set off up the hill to Carn Pica. They had cramps and muscle knots, blisters and fatigue. Pete couldn't get his boots on over his blisters and yet they knew there was another 7 miles of steep and rough terrain before they would hit the summit, and another two miles til they reached the car park at Storey Arms.

I watched them head off up the path towards Carn Pica and they looked tiny, but they were moving at a good pace and were sticking together.

We drove round to Storey Arms where various people had already left to meet them on the summit. Luke and Marky left as we arrived, then Matty and Gem turned up, and a little later Clover and Abi, who took Jamie with them. All we could do was wait. There was no phone signal so I had no idea what progress Pete and the boys were making. We then met Diane Raynor who had come along to represent Macmillan Cancer Support. As we were chatting, a couple who had just come down off the hills asked if were part of the Macmillan people, and then told us they had heard a big cheer from the summit. What a boost to hear that. Not long after that Tim and Ruth turned up. They'd been on the summit when the boys arrived to a rapturous welcome. Then we could see a couple of knots of people coming down the path, it was our people!

It was an awesome moment as they came through the gate at the bottom of the path, clearly at their limit but delighted by what they had achieved. Incredibly they had started running the last section to the summit! Brilliant!

After a few photos and celebratory chats, the plainly hanging team disbursed to their various means home for some well earned rest and recuperation. See you at Wal's BBQ tonight. Shall we walk there?

THANKS

Almost too many to list here but I'll have a go. (Again this is not a definitive list!)

Bev. Put up with my S2S preoccupation for the last nine months, including days missing whilst out training. And then coming out to pick up disheveled walkers from the back of beyond at very odd hours. Love you!
Jonty, Marky and Luke. A primo service from the best support team a charity challenge could ask for!
Becky, Mel, Esther, Kath and Jamie. Our unexpected support team, offering money collecting, massage, feeding and walk support. Wouldn't have been the same with out you!
Many many other friends. Texts, phonecalls, physical appearances. Kept spirits high throughout.
Seth, Amy and India. Quality catering!
Claire, Catherine and Jon at Macmillan. Support, encouragement and advice.
Nicki and Cotswold Outdoor - Brecon. Clothing, kit and food supplied to the team. Advice and help above and beyond the call of duty. Go buy stuff from them!
All who have donated and sponsored S2S. The boost that the team has had from seeing the donations climb can't be overstated. Thank you for making the blood, sweat and tears pay off.
Pete, Chris, Ollie and Grant. The very best team! It was a privilege to serve with you.

Sorry if I have left anyone out. I'm still a bit tired, blistered and sunburnt.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Spa2Summit is done!

Exciting news just in from the summit of Pen-y-Fan! The four walking wounded/remaining Spa2summiters achieved their goal by completing the route with 37 minutes to spare!

The final push.

A day of mixed emotions today. The rain which dogged the team overnight cleared to give sunny spells throughout the day. Physically the team were contending with various issues, blisters, tiredness and assorted aches and pains. Tragically blisters put an end to my Spa2Summit this year after about 53 miles. The remainder of the team cracked on, realising that the target finish time of 8 hung in the balance. They've just left the Talybont reservoir for the last leg, looking proud, weary and tiny against the bulk of the Brecons. Stay posted.

Friday, 19 June 2009

29.97 miles done, some more to go

Just reached Goodrich after a very pleasant evening stroll from Mitcheldean. Got interviewed by BBC Radio Glos on the way and managed to plug the website so that was cool. Time to stretch and replaster my poor tootsies, then gear up for the start of the night stages. Bev's on the way so that will make everything alright! Further updates from Wales will follow...

Going strong.

Ok, we're out past Mitcheldean and doing well. We have had superb support, including bacon and egg sandwiches at Seth and Amy's. Onward, ever onward! Oh yeah, and listen to BBC Radio Gloucester at about 6:05-10, we'll be on.
Byeee!

Not dead yet!

Made it to our first break, running about 25 mins ahead of schedule. Spirits high, got a stack of donations from passers-by, collected by Cath and Esther. Keep watching!

Eeeek!

The day has arrived. It's sunny. Let's do it!
(Keep checking back for more updates)

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Let's sum it all up...!!

Hello everyone!

The time is 9.50pm and I have finished packing and sent all of my clothing and food supplies off to Pete's for the night. I am just turning in and going to bed, and yet we are still receiving donations and messages of support... all I can say is thanks!

So, tomorrow, bright and early, nine months of planning, preparation and extensive conversations kick in and we finally get to walk it! May I just say that it's not a moment too soon... if I have to think or talk about doing this anymore, I may well burst!! But like Pete and the other's I'm sure, it is all malined with a hefty dollop of trepidation. This is beyond anything I've ever done physically, but I can only hope for the absence of any notable weather, and no blisters!!

Last point before I swing off to bed. If you send messages of support to any of the five of us walking the event tomorrow, you may well not receive any reply. Please do not take any offence!! We may be just focused on getting to the next checkpoint or simply trying hard to put one foot in front of the other. All messages are really appreciated, we just may not be in a position to reply... or you can send it to Jonty!

Goodnight all! Lets see what tomorrow brings... "Gulp!"

More Generosity!

Donations continue to flood in to Spa2Summit HQ as we approach D-Hour!

£100 received today from top-flight Quantity Surveyor-types, The Walker Pritchard Partnership. If you're in the Construction Industry, and you need bespoke Cost Management Solutions, WPP have to be the number one choice!

On a slightly different tack, a big Thank You to Enterprise Van Hire. Enterprise are supporting Macmillan Cancer Support this year, and in light of that have done us a very good deal on our support vehicle. A VERY good deal! This has been funded through the kind donation from another local business, more info on that to follow shortly!

Many thanks to all our supporters and sponsors, we won't let you down (hopefully)!

Nearly ready!

It started as a small list, and has now grown in to a big pile.
Ken's kit for Spa2Summit:
Just got some bacon rolls to add tomorrow morning, and I think that's my lot. I'm glad Jonty's got the van, I wouldn't want to carry this 70 feet, let alone 70 miles!

Oh my goodness, I've got to walk 70 miles!

We are nearly there. I remember well when June 19th and 20th was way off in the future, lots to plan but no need to worry yet. In fact we've been planning this for, I believe, about 9 months. I remember talking to my dad about it a number of times and he was so proud of what we were planning to do.
Well, now we've got to do it.
I can't be the only one who is incredibly nervous. Can we really do this? More to the point can I really do this? We've had so much support, so many kind words and more importantly donations, the weight of expectation is getting to me.
This is when we will need your support. Please help us keep going with your messages and more so your donations!
Thanks everyone, we're nearly there.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

We've reached our target, now let's smash it!

It's fantastic that we've reached our target of £2500 and we've been overwhelmed by the support we've received. But it would be so great if we could smash that target. Thank you so much for what you've done up to now, but please keep supporting us, keep telling people about what we're doing and twisting there arms (in a nice way) to sponsor us.
This is all going to such a great cause, let's keep building that total.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Great Suits, Good Value and Generous too!

What more could you ask for?!

If I was trying to do a sales pitch for Slaters, I would tell you that I buy all my suits there.... but in all honesty I usually really do!!! When this challenge first kicked off, Sven, the Assistant Manager of the Cheltenham Branch took a real interest in what we as a team were planning to embark on, always taking time to ask how the training walks were going, whenever I bumped into him. Well imagine my surprise when I received a telephone call from him informing me that Slaters HQ had approved a kind donation of £100.00 towards Macmillan.

Here's a photo of a pleased Ken and Sven.......


In short we'd like to thank Slaters, who not only do a bang up job 'in the suit department', but have also supported us in our challenge, by going way above and beyond the call of duty!! If you would like to check out their website go here, which also shows the location of their stores nationwide!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Does no one have a bad word? Or the kindness of strangers.

I've just spent the last hour calling round on all the houses in my street. It seemed that everyone I spoke had come into contact with Macmillan and there were many sad stories of lost loved ones, but the unifying factor was the gratitude that everyone felt to wonderful help given by Macmillan. This sort of thing really helps me to put what we're doing in perspective and raising money for such a worthy cause makes me proud of what we're doing.
Some people wanted to give money straight away and many others have promised to look at the website, to donate, and to tell their friends and family about what we're doing.
I really hope that we'll smash our fund raising target.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Training Walk #3 - The Video Highlights

Video highlights of our third training walk are now ready to watch on our Youtube channel!
www.youtube.com/user/spa2summit

"On a hot Saturday afternoon in May the Spa2Summit team (minus Ollie and Jonty) walked the final seventeen miles or so of the route they'll be attempting for real on 19/20th June 2009.
Pete and Ken share a special moment, Grant discusses movie composers and Chris decides to name a section of the route after being hit by an unfortunate bowel movement."

Monday, 25 May 2009

What do you mean that was only training?!

Afternoon all!

Whilst I appreciate that my last blog was dramatically short, it did sum up all I wanted to say at 2am. But now on reflection I feel I must fill in a few of the gaps of my personal experience of the final training walk.

Whilst the other guys seemed more and more vitalised during this walk as the terrain got tougher, I on the other hand was constantly reminded that however tough this walk got, next time I would be approaching it after already being completely drained having walked 65+ miles. This was not funny anymore! I was hoping for a smooth and steady assent having only ever tackled Pen-y-Fan from the Storey Arms approach, but to save an extra 10 miles by needing to walk around the Brecons, our approach, twice was more than eyeopeningly steep, and in all seriousness looked quite like the "Challenges" picture thumb which Ken posted before our walk. I was not impressed!! That coupled with the fact that I was the least experienced fell walker amongst the team that day, as I had never climbed at night, gave me an uneasy feeling about the final push. Please don't get me wrong the easy bits were lovely, i.e. the canal and section over the top. But the climb to the cairn was for me, the toughest part of the walk. This section of the walk is large contrasts, spectacular reviving views, and a few heavy climbs! But it is nobody's fault, no-one said this was easy!!

It doesn't mean however that I am at all prepared to give in, I'm just bracing myself for what I know will be a hard slog. This is where your help will be appreciated, we are gonna need all the moral support we can get in the final walk, so I must ask, if you have volunteered and said you would like to walk a stretch will us, that would be awesome, but please make sure you contact Jonty, and he will organise the details with you.

On an alternative tact, now that the training walk is done, we need to focus on why we are doing this.... raising money for Macmillan. Therefore can we impose on you? If you are a regular reader of this blog, are you able to help the Spa2summit team and have a small fundraiser in your work place or office, i.e. an impromptu coffee morning or simply distribute fliers or take a sponsorship form or simply tell others about the challenge? I'll leave you ponder this matter, but any extra assistance would be hugely appreciated by the whole team and Macmillan as we build up to the walk with less than four weeks to go.

Finally, as Ken mentioned earlier, we have had a team member who has not received much of a mention. Wilson. Wilson, the bold and noble. Wilson, the spherical and golfy! He was unavailable to come with us on Saturday, but so far he has walked (or should that be rolled?!) with us for roughly 55 miles. He is a strong asset to the team and seems to be a better conversationalist than me on these walks. I feel he has taken a back seat in this challenge for too long.... so people, I have the tremendous privilege in introducing.... WILLLLSOOONNN!!!..........




Thanks for your support!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

What a day!

The Brecon Beacons is one of those areas that can really capture your imagination. I speak as one who has had his imagination captured. There is something about the sheer northern faces, the incredible sense of space and peace, and the seriousness of their ascent that keeps me coming back for more. They didn't disappoint yesterday!

From the beautiful approach along the Brecon and Monmouth canal, the view across the Talybont Reservoir, the stunning vista of the northern ridges illuminated by a neon sunset and the crystal clear view of all the stars you can imagine, we could very easily have suffered from Awesome Overload. However, the crack Spa2Summit team does not get overloaded easily. We girded our loins (particularly Chris) and got on with it!

Like some of the other guys, I was feeling a little apprehensive after the last walk. My chronically blistered feet really made me concerned about my ability to go the distance. Well, yesterday, I switched back to my Scarpa ZG10s and voila, no blisters. As a team, I think yesterday had a big impact on our morale; things that we had doubts about have been cleared up. Hydration (or Drinking, to the lay person), footcare, food, navigation and pace have all been fine tuned. We're ready to go. Ish.

- - - - -

I would just like to add one thing before I go. The climbs up into the hills from the Talybont reservoir, and the final push up on to the summit of PyF are steep and unremitting. We'll be doing them after 65+ miles. They will hurt us, they will hurt us very much indeed. In fact probably everything from mile 15 will hurt us in way or another. We know this, and yet we're still doing it. Why? For Macmillan Cancer Support. Please donate so that our effort is well rewarded!

- - - - -

OK, two more things! Yesterday, as has been mentioned, we were two men down. Self-supporting even this small part of the route was a real faff and made us truly appreciate the benefit of having a Gadget Wrangler of Jonty's quality on board. Also, Olly was away somewhere in North Africa (yeah, I bet) and we missed him for two reasons. Firstly, the extensive and bizarre selection of noises he can generate provide much amusement, and secondly, he is the transporter of the official Spa2Summit mascot, Wilson. Succesful as our walk may have seemed yesterday, without Wilson it just seemed a little empty... A further post on Wilson, and maybe even his own section on Spa2Summit.org must surely follow.

"Come On Wrighty!"

Doing Summit

There's not a lot that can be added to what Grant has already said, he is indeed the first to blog and I believe him when he said he was pooped.

Saturday 23rd May saw the final Spa2Summit team training walk, covering the final 17 miles or so of the route. It began at Crickhowell where our last walk ended and headed up Pen Y Fan to the summit. There were only four of us this time - myself, Ken, Pete and Grant - Ollie was away (he bottled it!) and we had no Jonty.

After a long and drawn out journey positioning cars at specific points along the route (realising at this point how much we missed Jont!) we finally started, much later than we had planned to. Yet again we had been lucky with the weather, after a week of constant heavy showers we walked in brilliant warm sunshine. Trees were every shade of green, lakes had the kind of sparkle that make you want to jump in and the hills and mountains had the kind of majesty that leave you in awe. A perfect day that we hope to have during the real thing.

The first quarter of the route yesterday passed alongside a canal under a thin tree canopy. There were people walking dogs and others moored up in canal boats. Grant had brought some leaflets so we handed them out to those we passed. There was one couple that Pete and I chatted to and they very kindly made a donation on the spot but I'll leave Pete to tell you about them.

Not long after the canal we made our way upwards and across fields, minute by minute the views would get better and better. Then I began to worry, my stomach had begun to cause me a lot of pain. After crossing a couple of fields the pain didn't subside and suddenly got worse. I turned to the lads and said, "Boys, I think I'm going to have diarrhoea!" This verbal acknowledgement seemed to trigger a green light inside me and I realised I had to find a nice quiet spot immediately. The other guys kindly walked on into the next field (I think more for self-preservation than for my sake) and I found a convenient spot where I removed pack, poles and anything else attached to me in record quick time.

After a forage for dock leaves and a hasty, er, burial I caught up with the others and left this now 'special' place behind, having given the sheep in the adjacent field a horror story to tell their grand-lambs.

I'm not sure what caused this "outburst" as it was still relatively early into the walk. Dehydration was out as I had been drinking plenty all day so I assumed it must have been something I'd eaten - maybe last night's pasta & potatoes that I'd had for lunch and planned to eat before ascending Pen Y Fan or it could have been the smoked kabanos sausages I'd been eating as we walked. Whichever it was I avoided both for the rest of the walk and faced no more problems.

We arrived at the car we had positioned at the foot of Pen Y Fan and its surrounding peaks. After filling up Camelbaks and changing socks and footwear (my trail shoes were replaced with the boots that caused me so many problems on the first training walk) and we headed upwards past a beautifully enticing reservoir.

This is the terrain I am most comfortable on and I quickly got into a rhythm, eating into the ascent and unfortunately disappearing into my own world, becoming oblivious to the pace of the team as a whole. But then that's what the training walks are about and I think that on the day at this point, after 65 miles or so, there won't be much difference in pace.

After some absolutely stunning views and being able to see much of our route from above (we could roughly trace the route back as far as The Skirrid, as well as seeing landmark towns beyond) we ploughed onwards and upwards until we emerged with a 360˚ view, welcomed by an impressive sunset which cast our shadows onto a nearby cairn. The hardest part was over.

As the sun went down so did the temperature so fleeces and windproofs got a run-out. A mild descent along stone-slabbed paths (and a dad out camping with his son) saw us pass around Cribyn and face the now cloud-topped Pen Y Fan. A steep but clearly marked path led us to the summit and, despite it being around 10 o'clock at night, there was still enough visibility to see without headtorches.

Finally, at around 10:45pm we reached the summit, the seventy miles covered. At one point the cloud at the top parted in a Moses & Red Sea kind of way and we could see an abundance of stars, yet another reward for our effort. As we made the shorter descent down the other side of Pen Y Fan to the final car spot we were kept company by a beautifully clear night, with more stars than I have seen for many years, this was a perfect end to a day of perfect conditions!*

*I won't mention how after descending we then had a struggle finding a 24 hour petrol station to fill up my truck which by this point was scarily low on fuel! This was not fun. Thanks to all the boys for sticking with me while I free-wheeled and drove painfully slowly when they were desperate to get home!

---------------

I enjoyed this section of the walk. I mean I really enjoyed this section. I have to admit that after the second training walk I was dubious of our chances of success. Now, having done the whole route, my goal is to successfully reach Crickhowell unscathed. The next 17 miles are the reward for the first 54. Psychologically that is how I plan to treat things. The flat and beautiful canal section will more than make up for the monotonous 5 miles leading to Crickhowell.

The adjustments I made to my Raichle boots since the problems of the first walk paid off although the right boot was still cutting into my heel and causing me pain but nowhere near as bad as before. A few more modifications should get them perfect for the final section.

Fitness wise, there were no problems at all and, if anything, I found myself getting stronger as the walk went on. Obviously this won't be the case in June and that is something I will have to take into account. And hopefully diarrhoea won't be an issue, although I now plan to pack some toilet roll!

Thanks for all your continued support and keep the donations coming!

Oh, and if you're planning on joining us for some of the walk in June, please contact Jonty (jonty@spa2summit.org) and coordinate with him. That should keep him busy!

Bloggin' to go to bed!

Yay! First to blog..... I'm pooped!... Good Night!!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Final Training Walk

It's time for the final training walk so expect more blog entries with titles like 'the horror, the horror...' over the next few days.
I'm a little nervous after my passing out episodes last time but this time I'm better prepared, it's only a 17 miles (we must be doing well, I never thought I'd be able to say it's ONLY 17 miles) and the other spa2summiteers will be constantly hassling me about drinking plenty I'm sure.
Today's walk is the last section of spa2summit going from Crickhowell to the summit of Pen-Y-Fan. The first section is alongside the canal so will be nice and flat, but the last section will be anything but. We climb up the eastern end of the Brecon Beacons and follow the ridge until we come to Pen-Y-Fan.
We'll see how we get on and update you in the next day or two.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Challenges


Struck me as worringly appropriate!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Only A Penitent Ken May Pass...

Some of you may be old enough to remember the last "Good" Indiana Jones film, from way back in 1989. In the climactic scenes of that film, our hero Dr. Jones, had to pass three strange and deadly tests before he could nab the Holy Grail. The grail for the Spa2Summit boys is, strangely, the summit of Pen-y-Fan. But before we reach it, we must undergo three strange and deadly tests, or training walks as we also call them. If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll know that I had blister problems on our last walk which meant I was unable to finish the final stretch with the team, and had to sit in the pub nursing a whisky...

This has caused me a few problems (the blisters, not the whisky). Hurty blisters took a week to calm down. What footwear am I going to wear? Will my feet last the distance in June? Etc., etc... To put some of these worries to bed I thought it best if I undertake the 9 miles I missed, which is what I was intending to do today. Unfortunately, for various reasons, that wasn't what happened but I still went out and did 15k, out of Cheltenham towards Leckhampton Hill, across Daisybank and Sandy Lane to Seven Springs then out toward Kilkenny, turning off toward Wistley Hill and then down through Charlton Kings to home. And guess what? No blisters! No pain of any sort in fact. I feel a little bit more in tune with the whole S2S thing again, having had my confidence knocked a few weeks ago.

I also wanted to try a couple of things out on the walk today. Firstly, the GPS unit which has very kindly been loaned to us by Garmin through Nicki at Cotswold - Brecon. I have been using Mapmyrun.com to plot our route on. I thoroughly recommend it, it's a really good tool. You can plot your route on a Google Earth style map, with the roads overlaid, but also there is a terrain map option which is really handy for plotting your way around steep ups or downs. Another excellent feature is the option of exporting your route data as a Garmin friendly GPX file. I struggled at first to get this data on to the Etrex unit, but thanks to the magic of Google found easygps which is a free program which made it, you guessed, easy. Once the route is on the unit it was very easy to follow it, and get an accurate of time, distance, speed and so forth. Very nice!

Related to that is the other thing I wanted to try out and that is averaging 4kmh. As a team, we have maintained a pretty high average speed on our previous walks. By slowing down and averaging 4kmh, we can preserve our energies but still have time for refueling stops and have a few hours as a contingency. So using the gps I tried to monitor my speed and bring it down to 4kmh. How hard is that? I'd watch the Average Speed section on the display, it would hover round about 4-5kmh, I'd put the unit away and then... I averaged 5.7. It's hard to walk slowly, I think you get a destination in mind and you just put your head down and go for it. It's something I think we really need to get dialled for the big one, tortoise and hare springs to mind!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A Special Mention

Very quickly I'd like to add a quick post thanking my dad for his spontaneous and, well, shameless promotion of Spa2Summit. Without being asked he's been distributing leaflets and telling anyone he meets of our cause. This includes an unplanned presentation to members of his local 41 Club. I don't know what he said but it resulted in a very generous donation which we are grateful for.

Thanks dad and thanks to 41 Club! Their website is here. My dad doesn't yet have a website.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Time for a confession...

I've been told that I need to come clean and explain what happened after the last walk, if only just to make people realise how hard this is (basically so you'll give more money!).
It seems that I didn't drink enough during the last training walk and having only had 5 litres during the 13.5 hours we were walking for, got badly dehydrated. I still finished the walk but started feeling sick on the drive back. I had to get Jonty to stop so i could be sick, and at that point I passed out.
Grant and Jont brought me round and forced me to drink something but I really didn't know what was going on. We got going again but 20 minutes later the same thing happened again. At least one of these times I landed face first on the road (my face doesn't need any help to look bad) and with my tongue between my teeth which cut my tongue quite badly.
The boys got me home and after a good night's kip I didn't feel too bad in the morning but this episode really highlighted to me the level of this undertaking.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Top Billing for Spa 2 Summit!

Cotswold Outdoor have a website called We Get Outdoors, where they feature stories about activities they are sponsoring, stuff their stores are up to and so on. Well, guess who's got top billing at the moment? No, guess again. No again, third time lucky? That's right, it's us!
Go here to see more.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Shiny Things

This week, some goodies came through the post. Firstly, my S2S Summit-Cotswold Brecon fleece, which I'm really chuffed with for two reasons. One, it's a really nice piece of kit and two, I had to get a size smaller than I thought I needed!


The next day, this showed up. It's a Garmin Etrex Vista HCX GPS unit, and has been loaned to Team S2S through Cotswold Outdoor - Brecon by the very nice people at Garmin. This will be a really useful tool, as not only will it tell us where we are and where we are going but it will also enable us to have a very accurate idea of our speed and average speed on the walk. That is going to be vital to our successful completion of the challenge, tortoise and hare stylee! More updates once I've had time to play...


Big thanks again to Cotswold Brecon and Garmin, your fantastic support is appreciated by all the Spa2Summiteers!

Sole Train #2

It's been almost a week since Spa2Summit's second training walk and the confidence that we'll complete 70 miles is flooding back. I have to admit that after this 35 mile training walk I was doubting whether we'd be able to do another 35 straight after.

As with the first training walk reaching the end was not necessarily the main goal. Familiarizing ourselves with the route, becoming accustomed with our gear, finding a suitable pace and noting any potential blister areas were of more importance. In these areas the day was a success.

Since the first walk I had acquired new footwear, socks, walking poles and pack (among a few other things).
  1. Footwear: The new shoes (The North Face Hedgehog GTX XCR) were a revelation! On the first walk with chunky walking boots I had blisters within a mere six miles; on this second walk I had mild hotspots just forming by the time we reached 35 miles! It can't be ignored that their success is also due to some fantastic socks and lashings of Compeed plasters applied to my feet before and throughout the walk.
  2. Walking Poles: I've never been a fan of walking poles but thought I'd give them a go and, once you get used to them, they make a difference. I went without them for most of the walk but introduced them with about fifteen miles to go when I began feeling my energy levels dropping.
  3. Pack: One fault I have while walking is that I tend to ration my water intake. This is a big mistake so I bought a Camelbak Mule, a backpack that holds a resevoir of water that runs through a tube to your front so that you can hydrate yourself at any time without having to hunt around for your bottle or flask. At the points where we met up with Jonty I had a big bottle of Lucozade Sport waiting to provide me with the needed salt and its isotonic goodness. Hydration on this walk was not a problem. I did get some back pain in the final stages but this can probably be sorted by tweaking the position and tightness of the pack on my back.
  4. Food: With a constant supply of Science In Sport bars and gels, Mars Bars, bananas, Wine Gums and Dextro Energy tablets, as well as sandwiches for lunch, food was not a problem either, although towards the end of the walk the effort of actually eating something saw me cut down my intake - something I'll have to keep an eye on.
All in all, problems encountered from the first walk were eliminated in this one. There is still a great deal of fine-tuning to be done between now and 19th June, most of it being psychological. In the last six days I feel confident that most of that has been done and the enthusiasm to take on the full seventy is fast returning!
. . . . . .

In this age of efficient and quick travel the Earth has become smaller. This is great because, generally, one is never more than a few days from anywhere. As with all progress, though, something has to be lost. With the advances of modern travel, western man has forgotten distance in relation to walking. For example, when telling people that we plan to walk 70 miles non-stop we encounter either one of two responses: awe on one hand and polite indifference on the other. Those who display a sort of awe (this is my ego's favourite type of response!) are ones who you can tell are, or have been, walkers; those who display indifference are arguably ones who have embraced modern transport options and think of 70 miles as an hour's journey on a clear motorway. Before Spa2Summit came into existence I suppose I too struggled with understanding just how far 70 miles is on foot, even though I've always lived an active life and done regular large walks and hikes. This is the first time, however, that I've had a specific distance to aim for rather than say, a ridge, peak, hostel, pub or whatever. What I'm trying to say is this task is difficult. It will take its toll on the five of us taking part. So please continue to donate, not just to help the nurses and hard-working staff of Macmillan but also to give us a boost when we struggle, knowing that we have your enthusiastic support!

Thursday, 30 April 2009

New Video Uploaded

Hello everyone! Spa2Summit has uploaded some footage from the training walk of Saturday 25th April. Take a look at www.youtube.com/spa2summit. Thanks!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Into The Even Wester!

I'll take over from Ken's last post now as I, Chris, Ollie and Grant continued on from the Skirrad Inn. It was already late in the day with the light failing from the cloud cover building overhead and the sun close to hitting the horizon and we were feeling the demoralization that comes from losing a team member (although fair play to Ken, he put his shoes back on over his burst blisters which must have been agony and he was gutted to not finish with us). The enormity of our task was really hitting us.

But that having been said we now dug into mental reserves when physical ones were lacking and plowed on, keeping the good pace that we'd been hitting all day, comfortably over 3 mph. We walked round the north of the Sugar Loaf, skirted past Llanbedr and south of Pen Cerrig-Calch, then started the long, long descent to Crickhowell. Having seen nothing more built up than a farm for a while, it was strange to be walking through a town and got a few strange looks coming into town with head torches and walking poles. Arriving at the Bridge End pub was a wonderful feeling, especially to find Ken fortifying himself in the bar.

I guess that more lessons were learned, the need for good preparation and training hammered home and we're safe in the knowledge that we've done half the distance. I'm aching today as I'm sure we all are, but fired up that we can do this.

Please keep supporting us and please keep donating.

Into The West...

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you'll know that yesterday the Spa2Summit team set out on their second training walk. Following on from our walk in February, this would start in Mitcheldean and finish 35 miles and ?? hours later in Crickhowell. This would be a real test of our training, kit, nutrition, hydration and mental stamina. "How did it go, how did it go?" I hear you cry! Read on!

After a week of glorious weather it was fantastic to wake up to thick grey clouds and rain. Fortunately, after convening at Pete's and driving out to Mitcheldean, the rain gradually eased off to very light drizzle. We set off, after no small amount of faffing about, to climb out of town. As we turned off the road and in to the woods we could see the sky brightening and within minutes were walking in sunshine. Awesome. Once we climbed to the high point here, we were treated to stunning views north which gave us a real lift. A slight navigational faux-pas lost us a few minutes in the woods above Hope Mansell but we were soon back on track. Before long we were descending to the Wye Valley, which looked particularly lovely, and then striding towards Kerne Bridge, Goodrich and our first meeting with Jonty, who was piloting our support vehicle. A brief stop and scoff, and we were back on our way.
Our second leg took us out through Marstow, Llangrove and towards Welsh Newton before swinging north to cross the River Monnow at Skenfrith. Again we were treated to quiet lanes and stunning views. In fact just after what will be kilometre 55 in June we could look west and see, between Skirrid and Sugarloaf, our ultimate destination, Pen Y Fan. It was a long way away! Just after this we descended to the Monnow, having had to make a rapid dash across someone's drive to pick up the footpath (sorry!). What a beautiful little river the Monnow is. A few steps further on and we catch sight of Jonty, relaxing in the sun by Skenfrith Castle. We decided to join him!
At this point, about 26km in, we were all starting to feel it, but nowhere near as bad as our February 20 miler. More scoff, change of socks, blister plastering of feet, topping up of Camelbaks and we were off again.
This next leg was the longest of the day, getting on for 10 miles, and unfortunately the weather took a little turn for the worse. The wind picked up and ridiculously dark clouds loomed ahead of us. At this point the banter stopped, ipods went in, heads went down and we just got on with it. Out past Bont we picked up the Offa's Dyke Path, which did see a brief spurt of running up a very steep hill (what is it with us and running up hills..?) More stunning views followed as we descended towards Llanvihangel Crucorney. Seriously, walking down seems to be way worse than walking up...
Jonty had set up base in the carpark of the Skirrid Inn where our final stop took place. Just 9 miles seperated the team from it's goal. Deep breath and onwards.

At this point I would like to make observations about the kit we were using. Having the right gear makes such a massive difference. Thanks to Nicki at Cotswold Brecon and her contacts at SIS we were well stocked with energy gels, go bars and PSP22 drink, and this had a really big effect. Keeping properly hydrated, and replacing lost electrolytes, has an immeasurable impact! No shakiness or cramps, brilliant. Our S2S Berghaus base layers were excellent and I thoroughly recommend Helly Hansen boxers, comfy, oh yeah! Following discussion with one of Nicki's colleagues I used a Lowe Alpine bumbag as an auxillary carrying device, filled with flapjacks, Jamaica Ginger Cake, wine gums, jelly babies, dried fruit and mini Cheddars. It's so easy to keep eating when everything is so conveniently to hand. However, here comes the less good bit. After our walk in February we all decided that lighter footwear would be a wise purchase. We needed something that could handle off-road walking but that wouldn't weigh us down on the road. Most of us then bought TNF Hedgehogs. Whilst I felt really comfortable in these in the shop and on shorter walks, they have wrought terrible things on my poor feet. Having put on a couple of pre-emptive blister pads on the back of my heels, I had to put a couple on the balls of my feet at Skenfrith. Even then I could feel all was not well. When I peeled my socks off at the Skirrid Inn I was greeted with the sight of a burst blister on the outside of my left heel and what appeared to be an orange wine gum stuck to the outside of my right big toe. And blisters under my blister pads... I hasten to add that this in no way is meant to detract from these shoes, as I say most of the team were using them and getting on very well with them. They're obviously just not for me! I sat feeling very despondent, just trying to slip my shoes back on caused me much pain, and I could see no way that I would make the last 9 miles. So, sadly, I had to drop out at this point. Gutted...
So I'll have to leave one of the other guys to describe the final leg. Jonty and I went and sat in the pub for an hour then set out to overtake them. Fair play, hanging as they may have been, the guys had really put some distance on. With a quick enquiry as to any requirements they had, we pressed on to Crickhowell. Another killer descent in to the town, but maybe an hour and half after we'd left them, they arrived. 35 miles in 13.5 hours! Brilliant! That pace would see us on the top on PyF in 27 hours which means we can wind the speed back and have some longer rests.

THANK YOUs
Big thanks to Jonty for ferrying all our gear around for the day, it makes such a difference being able to go light but still know that you have plenty of food, drink and gear available.
Bev for driving to Crickhowell at 10pm to pick up weary walkers.
Nicki at Cotswold for sorting us out with quality kit and feed.
All our supporters and sponsors.
Thank You!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Love Blog update 2!

Well, we've just had a late lunch in the shadow of the Skenfrith Castle, the everyone is in good spirits. Olly is suffering slightly with a injury that he picked up at football last night, but is pushing on, only the tough survive this one!

I've just driven ahead about 3 miles to get a signal, and upload this blog. Sorry about the continued lack of photo's, but struggling to get a signal long enough to upload them.

Keep thinking of us, and that sponsorship money rolling in! ;)

Support Team

Blogging LIVE!

Hi there Spa2Summit fans! Sponsored yet? - just checking! ;)

So here I am live, 11:47am on a Sunny Saturday Morning, 25th April, sat in my car by the side of the A40, just south of Ross. I've just met the team for the first stop. Unfortunately I was a wee bit late, getting lost and driving down single tract roads with foot-high grass growing down the middle didn't help!

Anyway the team are in fine shape, all looking sprightly and dapper in they're Spa2summit base layers and fleece's which Cotswold Brecon so kindly supplied for us all.

I have now about 3 hours to kill before our next rendezvous (what is the french for rendezvous?) so going to do a bit more driving around, try to get to our next stop before the guys, get some video taken and some pictures and try to include them on the next blog!

See you all in a few hours! We'll be blogging live from Wales!

Spa2summit - Support Crew / Gadget Wrangler

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Spa2Summit 'Plodcast'

As you should know by now, the Spa2Summit team are heading out into the world this weekend for our second training walk. Since our first walk we have all got new kit, whether it's stuff we've bought or had kindly donated. That's the main point of the training walk, to experiment with kit and learn our personal limitations, success is less important.

At this moment, however, I feel very excited and confident. I'm extremely happy about my health and fitness with training having gone exceptionally well. As the weather has been steadily improving the amount of time at the gym has decreased and the time spent out in the open air has increased. Also, I'm saving money on petrol as I choose to now run to a lot of my destinations. All this, along with a much-improved diet, result in an enormous sense of well-being. My only worry now is whether I'll stick to this routine when the June 19th walk is over, I certainly hope so. We may need a second project!

What I really wanted to talk about today was The Spa2Summit Plodcast. How many episodes we make we don't know but we thought we'd attempt our first tomorrow on our training walk. This is where we need your help. If you have any questions about Spa2Summit or anything(!) please email them to chris@spa2summit.org along with the name of who you wish to attempt to answer them. Also, any messages of encouragement are most welcome and we'll try to include them on the plodcast. Thank you so much! Keep donating!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Nervous Tingle!

This Saturday sees the second Team S2S training walk and I'm getting a bit tingly in anticipation. If you're a keen follower of this blog, you'll remember that we did 20 miles back in February. Well, we're upping the ante this week with a 34 miler between Mitcheldean and Crickhowell. This is pretty much half the distance of the challenge proper so will be a really good test for us. We've been training hard and we're superbly kitted out, thanks to Cotswold Brecon. Will it be enough? When push comes to shove, will we have enough in the tank, physically and mentally, to nail this walk? Tune in on Sunday to find out!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Spa2Summit Facebook News

Social networking sites are like online Marmite, you either love them or hate them. At the time of writing the current 'site du jour' is Twitter. The members of Spa2Summit, however, have selected Facebook as our chosen social presence. The benefit of having a Facebook profile is that you, our fantastic supporters and sponsors, can have a voice and tell us what's on your mind!

Not only can you use our page to post comments and words of encouragement but also to join in with discussions and debates. Already there are discussions underway on topics as diverse as:
  • "The Best Way Of Getting Down Pen-Y-Fan When All Our Muscles Have Seized Up"
  • "Music For Walking To..."
  • "Spa2Summit Top Trumps."
I'm sure you'd agree there are some important matters that need to be discussed!

We'd love to hear what you have to say so please pay a visit to http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spa2Summit/74013792848?ref=ts or search for Spa2Summit in Facebook's search box.

Let's get chatting!


Science In Sport Goodies

As the reality of what we are attempting starts to hit home, we are endeavouring to get every bit of advantage we can. Some of us have started rubbing our feet with surgical spirit to harden the skin to slow/stop blisters forming. We are scrutinising our kit to ensure it is as light and useful as possible. One area that will make a big difference to our performance on the day is proper nutrition and hydration. When we did our 20 miler back in February, a number of us tried Science in Sports products and got on with them really well. They make a range of energy gels, bars and electrolyte drinks that, in combination, help to keep your body supplied with energy during exercise.

So in light of this we thought it would be good to get more! When we went over to Cotswold Outdoor in Brecon for our shopping spree, we had a chat with Nicki about getting hold of some. She said "Leave it with me" and two weeks later, voila:
Awesome job! We really appreciate this donation to our challenge and once again a big thank you goes to Nicki and Cotswold Brecon, but especially in this instance to Science in Sport. Thank you!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

What a difference some training makes!

It can sometimes be hard to notice the increase in fitness that comes from regular training. The progress you make comes in incremental stages, and you just end up not realising what you have achieved. This was brought home to me on Saturday. I went mountain biking with Chris A up on Leckhampton Hill. We cycled up from town, up Bath Road and then Leckhampton Road toward the Dasiybank car park. If you know Cheltenham you know that this road gets steeper and steeper. When you get up to the junction with Old Bath Road it can very often become a grind in the lowest gear you've got, particularly if your bike is geared for descent and not ascent, as mine is.

However, on Saturday not only did I stay in the middle ring, I put the hammer down and positively whizzed (relatively) up to Daisybank. On arrival I felt fine and then proceeded to spend a very pleasant couple of hours blasting round the hill. Next day, no pain! I think this training gubbins is bearing fruit!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

A Momentous Day!

We've just broken £1000!
£857.75 plus the £142.44 in reclaimed Gift Aid gives us £1000.19 raised so far!
To all our supporters a massive THANK YOU from Team Spa2Summit.

They say that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day...

... and that is especially true if it's a Charity Breakfast hosted by the Legal Department of Gloucestershire County Council! Spa2Summiteer Grant works in this department, and after he spoke to his colleagues about what we were planning for June, we were invited to a Charity Breakfast. Pete and I would have the opportunity to talk about Macmillan and about the S2S Challenge whilst enjoying coffee and croissants. It seemed like a win-win situation!

The day rolled round and we arrived at Quayside House with banners, posters, leaflets, badges, pens, collection boxes, Cotswold Outdoor catalogues, cameras, Jonty and 10 minutes worth of blurb to pitch to our willing audience. Grant ushered us up to Nigel Roberts' office where we were to set up. Once we were set, it was nice to have a chat with Nigel, Sue his PA and their enthusiastic assistants. Within short order people began arriving until both offices were pretty full and Grant introduced us, and Pete took the floor. A brief discussion about Macmillan and what they do was followed by more personal comments about the specific help received by Pete's family last year. I followed up with a quick overview of S2S, what we've done and what we want to do. Hopefully(?) Jonty will be posting the vid of these momentous speeches on YouTube. When that happens we'll let you know.

Once we were out of the way, the serious business of eating breakfast could be undertaken, and while that was going on we took the opportunity to spread the S2S message! Then we had a particularly nice finale; through various means (including a donation for a Spa2Summit leaflet signed by Mr. J. Hewlett!), the breakfast had raised, and get this, £232.75! We were absolutely blown away! Thank you, thank you, thank you, you generous GCC People!

A special "Thank you" has to go out to Nigel Roberts, Sue Jones and all those who very kindly donated food and prizes for the breakfast, and also to Catherine North of Macmillan who came to give us moral support! And let's not forget Mr G. Adlard!

Not wanting to steal others thunder....

Looks like I'm the first to get to my computer after a great Morning. I feel a little guilty doing this as I really didn't do alot towards this morning, apart from turning up. The real stars of this morning were Grant for organising the event, Pete and Ken for speaking, Catherine from Macmillan, and the team at where we were invited for breakfast.

As to who they were, where we went, and why we went (oh and how much we raised) well I'll leave that to one of the other guys to say, but we had a fantastic morning, left feeling a foot higher, and were genuinely moved by the donations and interested people showed in our little project.

Now just off to find out about uploading some videos to youtube, hiring a big people carrier (anyone?), getting 1/3 tonne of water for the walk, and seeing if we can embed this blog on our site, one less URL might be easier to navigate! ;) Click here to feel better for the day, http://www.justgiving.com/spa2summit, promise!