So our team ‘Skin n Blisters’ is formed, we are officially registered with Trailwalker UK 2013 and we have even recruited our support crew for the main event (I will introduce you to them later on), so there really is no turning back!
Laura wasted no time at all in getting us geared up for some serious training. Three of us all live in Farnham, so in theory it should be easy to get together for a walk, but Becky lives in Plymouth, so may not be that straightforward! The reality is it’s very tricky indeed to juggle the busy lives of all of these ladies, as children, work, husbands, dogs, hobbies and social engagements all seem to get in the way of our walking! Anyway, after much to’ing and fro’ing of dates and with the wonderful help of an online scheduling tool, we had managed to diarise monthly training walks leading up to the main event in July.
Apart from Laura, we were all novices in endurance walking events, so our first and probably most important job was to source footwear. I spent an interesting hour in my local running shop, being assessed and tested for the right pair of trail running shoes. I’m sure the young sales assistant found me to be a totally unlikely candidate for such an event. He said that many of the Gurkhas come in for their shoes and that they are capable of completing the event in just 9 ½ hours!!!! I should probably point out that Trailwalker is organised by Oxfam and the logistics of the event are run by the Gurkhas themselves. I should think the South Downs is a doddle after the mountain ranges of Nepal!
So on Friday 22nd March, the team assembled at Laura’s little cottage for a spot of dinner, a few glasses of wine and lots and lots of giggles! Surely this was the right kind of preparation for an 18-mile walk across the South Downs? The alarm was bleeping by 5:30am and by 6:30am we were leaving Farnham; feet oiled up (special ant-blister oil the SAS use apparently), Vaseline applied (will let you guess where!), hydration packs filled and the emergency rations of M&Ms divided and packed! We drove to the location of Check Point 2, close to South Harting and it would be an understatement to say getting out from the warmth of the car was not a pleasant sensation! With horizontal rain, snow and hail, this team of merry ladies and their walking poles headed off.
The mood was good, but the conditions terrible! Within minutes our new sparkly clean shoes were covered in mud and we quite literally slipped our way along. It really was very hard going, as extraordinarily muddy, cold and wet! Thank goodness for our poles to keep us steady and we were also all wearing rubberised socks, so thankfully we all avoided trench foot that day! People had said that apparently the views from where we were walking were amazing. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of us, we would have to take their word for it!
The poor weather didn’t deter us and mile after mile passed quite effortlessly. It’s amazing how 4 women can talk their way through such horrendous conditions! The conversation flowed with a multitude of topics being covered and all in all we felt upbeat and excited about the journey ahead leading up to the 27th July!
Our most memorable stop was by a huge bonfire that we discovered on the boundary of a farm. We munched our egg rolls and the steam rose from our wet clothes as the fire warmed us up. Bear Grylls you are right, heat / fire really can make the difference to ones morale!
We made it to Check Point 4 that day and apart from a few aches and pains, we all felt pretty good and amazingly blister free! It was hugely satisfying to have completed our first training session together, we knew we would all get on very well indeed and I think we surprised ourselves on just what our bodies could achieve.
I don’t know if we can make it to the finish line in Brighton, but more importantly I want to prove to myself that we can ‘have a go’ at things that I think might be beyond my capabilities. I want to get fitter, enjoy some much needed ‘me’ time, enjoy the outdoors and I would love more than anything to inspire my two children to believe in themselves and to not fear failure – you just don’t know what you can achieve until you ‘have a go’!
Follow our progress by ‘liking’ our Face Book page, ‘Team Skin n Blisters’