Preparation…it’s not just physical

I suspect that many people would consider the preparation for an endurance event is purely about getting physically fit enough to complete it unscathed (or at least reasonably so), but it is more than that; it’s about acquiring the skills needed, for example map reading and navigation, it’s about making sure that you are mentally up for the challenge, so ironing out any confidence issues and weaknesses, and also testing the kit that you need to make the event as comfortable as possible.

Although I’m an ex-cartographer and photogrammetric surveyor, who can interpret maps, and has a pretty good sense of direction, I haven’t yet learned to triangulate my position or plan a route using a map and compass. OK, I suspect that following coastal paths isn’t going to be particularly challenging navigation-wise, but if I had to deviate off course for any reason I don’t want to end up walking miles further than I need to because I have no idea where I am. Also it would be extremely embarrassing if I got lost and had to be rescued by the charities I’m raising money for. Could you imagine! I’d never live it down. I may even have to leave the country out of embarrassment. So over the summer, one way or another, I shall learn to map read.

Mentally I think I’ll be OK. I like being on my own a lot of the time, I don’t get lonely, so I don’t think walking miles without seeing anybody will faze me. Plus, historically, once I’ve set my mind to something I do it and I figure if I have managed not to quit uni despite the many times that I’ve wanted to I can stick with a long walk…oh my, I may well write a blog post all about the “joys” of formal higher education. To give you some idea of how I felt at one stage, I had said during an offload that I’d rather hit myself repeatedly in the face with the brick than try and get my head around statistics because it would be marginally less painful! I had a love-hate relationship with uni.

And finally, it’s so important to get your kit sorted before you go. Nothing worse than blisters because your footwear or socks rub your feet raw for example…oh hang on, there are worse things, such as learning statistics. Still, only another 3 1/2 weeks until I have officially finished university and I no longer have to give Wilcox’s Chi squared thingime wotsits (or whatever the hell they’re called) another thought. I must admit though [whispers] getting a significant result to a test is quite buzz…oh my god look at that p-value, it’s 0.006! Oh my…rubs thighs…

 

Good news…no “bring out your dead” after all

Hurrah, it turns out that I hadn’t caught the pox after all and the lumps were most likely from mozzies! Consequently I didn’t wake up dead, or with a big red cross painted on my front door. Or found a group of dodgy looking men in hazmat suits loitering outside. This is good news because it meant my training could continue, and a few days ago I walked a lovely 9 mile circuit of Kinver in Staffordshire, a walk I had done with the South Birmingham Ramblers a few days previously (thanks to the leader that day, Peter Rookes, who gave me his notes so I could follow the route alone as part of my training). So, on the 4th June I, slightly nervously, went off to walk the route alone. This was an important test because I had never walked so far in the countryside alone before and needed to know how I felt about it, whether I could follow a planned route without going off piste (or at least not too much off piste), and whether I could hold my nerve walking through the field of young cattle I’d encountered previously…incidentally, did you know that cows have rough tongues?! Anyway, thankfully it felt great and I loved every minute of the walk, which galvanised in my mind that I will be happy walking miles alone.

My plan was to show you the route and elevation but unfortunately my Garmin ran out of battery half way round…makes note to self that half full does not last 9 miles!…but this will be my regular training ground due to the quad-burning steep bits so I will definitely post it here soon.

The training plan AKA how not to wreck my body whilst getting fit

<sensible head> Although I am very enthusiastic to walk miles in preparation for this adventure, I have learnt from bitter experience the dangers of doing “too much too soon” and keen not to repeat these mistakes. This is especially important because although I used to be fit, having spent the last 3 years hunched over my laptop whilst studying for my degree I’ve become physically weaker</sensible head>. I also cultivated quite a cake and wine habit in my 2nd year just to numb the pain of university life (twitch twitch) and essay writing (a massive arse-ache at the best of times but especially if, like me, you have dyslexia and dyspraxia). Ironically, studying Human Nutrition BSc of all things! So, this part of the blog will outline my training plan, some nifty little diagrams from Strava (sorry), and maybe even some sciencey stuff on nutrition (although don’t expect too much of that for a while because my brain is frazzled!)

I appear to have caught the pox!

Take heed…before undertaking a 13 miler along the canal, make sure you have all your jabs up to date because, disaster, I appear to have caught the pox! My friend thinks it’s mosquito bites but I fear it’s worse than that and I may not have long of this world. When the time comes I wish for my body to be dumped in the nearest field and eaten by scavenging animals. In the event there are a shortage of vultures, I’m more than happy to go through the digestive system of a variety of corvids. My epic walk plans were short lived but it’s been fun. Farewell….

…is the pox  supposed to itch this much?!

Who are you and what on earth are you up to?!

I’m Beth (short for Elizabeth) and I dislike housework so much –  well come on, I mean you put the hoover round and do the washing up and it looks lovely but 6 months later it needs doing again doesn’t it – I’ve decided to give up my house later in the year and go on a very long walk. The plan is to walk the coast of Britain, from RNLI lifeboat station to lifeboat station, raising awareness and money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue.

At the moment this is very much in the planning stage, and the next few months will be spent fine tuning the details with these 2 organisations, researching how not to need rescuing whilst raising money for rescue charities (can you imagine that! I think I’d be so embarrassed I’d have to emigrate), and getting fit enough so that I don’t come a cropper only a few weeks in.

I think it’s important to have clear expectations, so you know what to expect of me and my journey and I know what to expect myself, so there will be a few guidelines and rules I shall follow. It may sound daft but the main one is “what exactly is the coastline?” as this can vary by thousands of miles depending on whether I follow estuaries and rivers or not. So, as the planning evolves it will become clear what, when, and how I shall be undertaking this mammoth task. In the meantime I shall update on my planning and training, so at least if I take a wrong turn during the walk, end up on Bodmin Moor and get eaten by feral goats, there may be some useful information for anyone who may want to have a go themselves.

 

About my 2 chosen charities

The Association of Lowland Search & Rescue

The Association of Lowland Search & Rescue is the UK’s governing body for the 35 UK Lowland Rescue teams. ALSAR set the training standards that they have to reach, and the code of practice that they use. They are members of UKSAR, alongside Mountains Rescue and the RNLI, providing official Search and Rescue coverage “From Hill to High Water”, whenever requested.

They work with Police to locate people who are deemed to be in any danger from bad weather, ill-health, age or their location, for example missing children or dementia patients. Many teams also work alongside the Fire Service for flooding, wildfire SAR and drone support at major incidents.

These teams are highly trained and equipped to search across any terrain, administer medical assistance and recover the missing person to safety. They form the backbone of the unpaid Search & Rescue services in the UK with Lowland Rescue covering 33 police authorities, Mountain Rescue covering many mountainous and moorland areas, and Coastguard Rescue covering the coastline.

Key points (from the LR Association Incident Report for 2017) include:
• There were over 1350 operational members and 580 non-operational members;
• Resources included 52 dogs, 75 vehicles, 45 boats, 18 drones, 79 bikes and 41 canoes and kayaks;
• In total there was over 60,000 person-hours of incident activity (22 person-years);
• In 2017 there were 1,234 incident callouts including assists and 1,147 of these associated with searches for missing people;
• Based on the full economic costs of a police officer (National Policing Guidelines 2015) the total value of the Lowland Rescue Services provided for incidents alone would be £3.6 million. This excludes all costs associated with training and equipment.

Currently, funding is used for training of the local teams, bringing them to a recognized national standard, and provision of materials to support online learning. However, they are about to undertake a large dog training program with an aim to deliver 100 ground scenting search dogs nationally. They are also invested in future research for finding missing people, be this the pioneering use of Drone technology or the creation of unique scent bottle kits for trailing dogs. They are a registered charity, run entirely on a voluntary basis, on a par with Mountain Rescue and the RNLI.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution

RNLI logo

The RNLI is the largest charity that saves lives at sea, through lifeboat search and rescue, lifeguards, water safety education and flood rescue. It operates around the coasts of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man as well as on some inland waterways.

The RNLI has 237 lifeboat stations and operates 444 lifeboats, plus lifeguards operating on more than 200 beaches. Although the lifeguards are paid by local authorities the RNLI provides equipment and training. The Institution also operates Flood Rescue Teams (FRT) nationally and internationally (iFRT), the latter prepared to travel to emergencies overseas at short notice.

Giving these lifesavers (most of whom are unpaid volunteers) everything they need and deserve – from boots to boats – is costly. It cost £176.5M to run their lifesaving service in 2017, mostly funded by legacies and donations.