BOOM! Here Comes The…

And… we’re off! Having gotten smashed into the ground thanks to my customary winter (non-covid related) respiratory illness – something I have avoided for the last two years by upping my vitamin D and taking shilajit and ashwagandha – I have deliberately hit the road early in order to get a good start this year. My head is bursting at the seams with adventures I plan to have throughout spring and summer especially so I have resolved to be as ready as I will ever likely be.

Gear

To achieve my goals this year I have taken several productive steps. Firstly I bought a selfie stick for better video capture as you will hopefully see in my next video on YouTube, uploading as I write. Secondly I have started to actually use Komoot in conjunction with my Garmin Quatix watch. For those interested the Quatix is the same guts as the Fenix but with marine features added and a much more pleasing – to my eye – navy strap with brushed chrome bezel. Me being me I am already looking to upgrade and I am eyeballing the Garmin Enduro and its ridiculous battery life but that will be a purchase for next Christmas at the earliest, unless I am the lucky recipient of a windfall.

I have also bought a Garmin eTrex Touch 25 handheld GPS receiver. This may seem pointless as my watch does the same thing, however I have bought this because my bulbs are not what they used to be. During my most recent adventures I have caught myself pressing the screen right up to my nose just to be able to see it. The extra inch of screen space is very helpful.

I have also bought a ton of outdoor kit from the much-underrated Aldi. Seriously folks, their fitness clothing and thermals are remarkably well-priced and effective. If you want to buy it you need to get their app. It tells you what special buys are coming and when, and thus it all sells out rapidly.

I can now partake in many more winter hikes and some wild camps. In regard to the latter I am also now kitted out and ready to go this year. Last summer I was looking to do it but the only chance I got was during my aborted attempt to climb Helvellyn. This year I hope to get a night at Red Tarn in the shadow of Cumbria’s angriest fell.

Getting Started

On Christmas Day I dragged my sprogs over Pendle Hill. It is hardly a tough one to do but I had done it the day before as well without them. Additionally I climbed the Old Man of Coniston last week and a couple of days ago ascended most of Grisedale Pike, only abandoning after my companion was actually being lifted off the ground by the high winds.

I have commenced running too. In between the two gruelling winter hikes above I have done a couple of short two milers. Small steps, and I am hoping that the cold weather exposure will give me an advantage with endurance this summer.

Then There’s Barkley!

Hopefully my new hound, Barkley, a border collie, will pester me to get out too!

Barkley!

So things are afoot and what a summer of adventures is coming. In the meantime whilst you wait, check out my photographs from The Old Man of Coniston, all below.

Looking down from the river that drains from Lever’s Water
The path to the summit
The base of the climb, looking towards Coniston village
The summit
Channeling my inner Ansel Adams

Hiking Catbells

Hiking Catbells, one of the smaller but steeper fells in the Lake District. Despite high winds and showers as well as getting pelted by a ten minute torrential downpour at the summit I managed, against all the odds, to get some pretty fantastic drone footage and time lapses. I am learning as I go along to make better videos and I think that this one stands up well.

I am dreaming of and working at building a YouTube presence and hopefully over the next few years I can start producing genuinely great content for people. I’ve got the gear and the eye, I just need to work at turning what I see in my head into real videos, which is harder than you think. Luckily I have a pretty creative mindset and I’m a decent photographer so it’s all about learning the techniques. I have always believed that it’s better to have a natural eye for things like this and develop as you go, but that is just me. As an autodidact that’s how I learn and figure it all out. Please like and subscribe on YouTube, and feedback is always welcome.

Data

I have my watch set not to auto pause when I stop walking because it is buggy when it does, so the time here includes all of my stops for eating and filming and so forth.

Topological Map and Heat Map

Heart Rate, Elevation and

Elevation, Pace and Heart Rate

A Year in the Life of a Runner

Okay, so for the sake of transparency and honesty I am talking about an academic year here. I am a teacher so I measure my life according to school terms and academic timescales.

Since the school year started in 2020 I have been running as consistently as I can. I have had – and been flattened by – coronavirus, and I have been running and meditating in the early morning hours, rising around 0530 to get out between 0600-0630. Here is what I have learned and accomplished.

1. If you want to run seriously then do it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Doing middling to long runs on a full stomach would be a nightmare. I have no idea who these people are that eat before a run but I cannot imagine doing this stuff with food sloshing around my digestive tract. Also, running first thing is extremely meditative, reflective and sets up the day. In the evening I am just exhausted so smashing the day into the stratosphere means running first, then sitting down to meditate. No food, but always chug a coffee first.

2. Measure and record every metric.

If you do not know where you have been you will never get to where you think you are going. It may seem laborious, but graphs are cool, and thanks to the miracle of Garmin I have been able to track and plot progress using my Quatix 6 and their Connect back end. I do not use the social side of exercise apps so you will not find me on Strava or any of that nonsense, but I do value the fact that Garmin lets me track my progress. At the risk of being repetitive, you have to see where you have been in order to get where you are going.

3. Whatever you do, just keep running.

Some days I can barely get moving and it feels like even running a mile is going to be impossible. Five miles later I realise the obvious truth. Just keep moving and the miles will take care of themselves.

It is so cliched but so important to remember that you just have to keep going and do the hard miles when your warm bed is calling and you would rather laze around. Once the muscles loosen and the feel good sensation hits I suddenly find the miles in my legs again, and nothing has ever felt better on the trail.

4. Dump the phone.

I know that it is almost blasphemy to not carry a phone everywhere but you really do need to unplug. There are times when I feel as though I am a cyborg, however the terror of not being connected to the world is an illusion. You will survive, as we humans have done for almost all of our – mobile device free – history. The right to unplug is a luxury and also a necessity and we ought to all indulge in it. I have long since binned social media, the most pointless use of time on Earth, and the improvement in my mental health has been immeasurable.

So, leave your phone at home. It will not kill you to be alone for a while.

5. Decide what you will be and then do what you have to do.

Enough said.

Battling and Recovering

Coronavirus got me, and by god did it get me. In addition to two weeks in bed I have taken a long time to get over it. It was as bad as when I have had flu, and I mean real flu and not a cold. Of course, one by one it was transmitted to my family and they all had the sniffles. This is a thing. Whenever there is a respiratory ailment doing the rounds everyone else gets the sniffles and I get absolutely smashed by it. Man flu jokes aside I must just be susceptible. This of course makes personal fitness even more important so I have religiously adhered to my intermittent fasting regimen, and now I am back on the road. The weather has permitted me to run twice recently, and today I just did a mile in the snowy, freezing cold winter. Garmin very kindly gave me a badge as a result:

I chuckled when it said below that I ought to try for the toasty badge by exercising in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Clearly those guys have never visited the north of England.

I Never Learn

I have indulged myself in another watch upgrade. I just cannot cope with Apple Watch and I think I finally know why. As an introvert it is common to switch off and zone out when completely overloaded with sensory input, and Apple Watch is all about data, nagging and constant contact with technology. I have owned three and each time I have lasted a few months before I had to get rid of it. Introverts are at their best when functioning independently and left alone. Apple Watch is the antithesis of this. I have, hence, bought a Garmin Fenix 6S. It does not support media playback so, to avoid taking my phone on runs I have broken out my ancient iPod Nano. One day I will upgrade to a Garmin watch that supports media playback but right now I am just glad I can use it for sports, then take it off and put a proper watch on. I know I could do the same with Apple Watch but it is not designed for people like me or that sort of usage. It is a very needy device and designed for constant interaction. I just cannot assimilate all of this data from Apple. It is too much. I prefer to take what I need and then be left alone.

Sadly it took me three iterations of the damn thing before I figured this out. In my defence, introverts are so often placed in such positions. Ask any introvert and they will tell you that this is common and that we are often treated as though we are malfunctioning. Thankfully a solution was readily available, and thank god for Garmin.

Looking Forward

I want to get the drop on spring by working hard in winter. Coronavirus and the five weeks of self-isolation I have had to endure have each, obviously, been difficult. I am still fitter than previous years when I have been in this position so I will get up to speed quickly. Despite doing just a mile today it is progress. I could have gone further but it was -2C. You can knock that even lower if you include windchill, and breathing air that is so cold can be very painful. Thankfully the nights are getting lighter so I can easily be up to double figure distances by the time warmer weather arrives. I think that, even without factoring in lockdown, this has been a bitter and long, dark winter. The biggest challenge has been mental health and at my age I manage it scrupulously and without slacking off.

After a horrible year in 2020 it’s time to get moving.