Last year I entered the water on Hampstead Heath on a December dawn. I could not stand the 4-degree coldness, the pool spat me out. So, in September I decided to take to the water each weekend in attempt to soften my body to it. To open my arms, heart, stomach, liver – exposing my organs and my mind. To learn to accept the cold-water shock with complete calmness.
Every van dweller is different, we converted our van on a budget so skimped on certain things (no toilet, shower, fridge or built in heater) and we also work full time in London. We get asked the same questions about the practicalities of living in a van. I can tell you the answers are the obvious ones! But just incase you are still wondering here are some frequent questions we get asked and our answers!
Written in the back of a ‘colour away stress’ book is a wish list. Words across a page of black and white waves written in the winter after our first West Highland Way in 2016. Written in a cold, damp and dark rental property in Cambridge, on that list is a van.
I came back to running about two weeks after the West Highland Way Race, racing for a sub 24min at the Cambridge parkrun and then the next day took part in a 2.5km river swim. Looking back on Strava, I came back to training far too quickly, despite 2 weeks off running I had been road cycling over 100km just 1 week post race. Open water swimming 2 weeks out from such a large ultramarthon was a huge mistake. My immune system would have taken an absolute beating from the race. Both Max and I caught a bug from the river and were subsequently ill for 2 weeks, all training stopped and I was wiped out.
From our own gardens to the remote highland mountains, from city parks and forest schools to the coasts, and beyond to the islands, Scotland’s nature is that of a national pride and international wonder. The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) aims to further conserve, facilitate enjoyment and advise on sustainable management of Scotland’s nature and land. The SNH vision is to establish Scotland as a recognised world leader for looking after and improving nature by 2030.
I have never written on here about this, but in 2011 I had glandular fever, which in itself was not much of a big deal. Unfortunately, I was unaware at the time how close to burnout I was, which meant I never recovered from the post viral fatigue and developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E). I look back at this time in three parts, the acute post viral phase, the chronic M.E phase and the recovery phase. Recovery took me years, I would say I am recovered now, but the fear that should I forget myself, is ever present. I want to discuss a method I leant from my recovery that I still apply to daily life now as a healthy person. In particular, how to mitigate the risk of overtraining and injury through a holistic approach to viewing how we spend energy, pace ourselves and what stress is.
Running on the Way this weekend another runner came up to me and told me she reads my blog. I replied that it cannot be my blog as no-one really reads it. But she insisted, it was my blog! She said she liked that I put all my milage up and it was not huge milage weeks which reassured her. So, just for Nicky, here is my weekly milage (in Strava weeks) since my last podcast in mid Feb. Also, here is the food I ate and estimated calorie content from my longest run so far (34miles/~9hours) on the course and the kit I use.
So here it is, my training plan for the 96 mile West Highland Way Race on 23-24th June! On the WHWrace podcast I mentioned how prior to this race I had never created an excel spreadsheet for my training. I am not good at schedules, fixed plans or fixed times to do things. With this in mind, and to take into account that my day-to-day and week-to-week life has little to no routine, I came up with a plan!
I went on my first Long Distance Walking Association walk a few weeks ago (for more info). The walk was 20 miles from Radlett to St. Albans Abbey, but by a very indirect route following, what I assume was, the Hertfordshire Way. The walk was great, I met some amazing people. One was a lady in her 70s and had represented GB in ultra walking! She has walked over 50 100mile races, several 200-300 mile races and a couple handfuls of other events, including winning the womens’ category of the Grand Union Canal race, despite it being a running race. She gave me some excellent advice on eating and reassured me that having walking as a large component of my 100mile training was not ridiculous, but essential. Nearly everyone in the group had walked 100miles at least once, and many do this distance every year. When you consider walking 100miles can take up to 48 hours, it is incredible and shifted my perspective of this distance from extraordinary to a sort of, sub-ordinary. It also gave me an insight into how much individual experiences vary, some people did not find sleep deprivation an issue at all, whereas others said this was the greatest challenge. I will not know know what will be hard for me, until I try myself, and I can only mentally prepare for the worst. My planned 96mile attempt was not seen as a drop in ocean amongst the seasoned ultra-distancers, or an impossible and pointless dream. Everyone was so excited about my goal and training and celebrated it. I appreciated this so much.
So I put out a poll on what to write about next, a grand total of 4 people voted. Thank you 4 😉
As Max sailed off into the never-ending sunset on his Antarctic adventure, I began to think that maybe, to pass the time, I should try some new things, things that pushed my comfort zone a little bit. So here is what I did!
Challenge 1 – Ladies’ Pond, Hampstead Heath.
I am a member of the ‘Adventure Queens‘ Facebook group, which is an excellent resource for women out there looking for inspiration, ideas, women specific kit recommendations (I hate pink, all my kit is pink, vendors please stop doing this!! I look ridiculous and clash a lot!!) and female company to go adventuring with. On this group I had seen a thread about open water swimming. In London. In winter.
Turns out there are several locations open in London in winter for open swimming, including…