So I am preparing for The Lakes Biggest and Longest Challenge on 5th – 6th August 2017 which is almost a complete crossing of the Lake District National Park from South to North. It involves canoeing, cycling and walking.  I am in a team of 14 who are all from the boot camp I go to.  After the Channel Swim Relay I swore I would never do another team event, but they all seem quite nice and there are some steep drops during this challenge so a quick nudge could sort out any issues I might have with team members.  Only joking.  No I’m not.  Yes I am.

Along the route we will canoe Windermere, England’s longest lake and summit the country’s highest peak, Scafell Pike.  We have to do all this in 24 hours with no rest.  I wanted a new challenge this year but even I think I might have lost my last remaining marbles getting mixed up in this.

Brief route plan

  • Canoe Windermere – Ambleside
  • Cycle Ambleside – Old Dungeon Gill, Langdale
  • Walking Langdale – Scafell Pike (overnight)
  • Cycle from Seathwaite – Derwent Water
  • Canoes Derwent Water – Bassenthwaite Lake

Distance Travelled

  • 33km canoeing
  • 21km cycling
  • 17km mountaineering

71km total travelled

I’m am feeling old and broken already and there are only three and a half months of training left to get fit for this challenge.  I thought I was already pretty fit but I was oh so very, very wrong.  In order to get fit to take part in this challenge, and to lose the rolling hills and vales of fat I put on two years ago to prevent hypothermia during my Channel Swim, my schedule has been as follows:

Monday nights: 2 hours kung fu training, involving lots of press ups, punching people and kicking things. Vital for physical fitness but also good for getting rid of a lifetime of anger and resentment about so many things it would need another blog.

2 Ibuprofen.

Tuesday nights:  2 hours in the gym, involving lots of leg work, watching my fat wobble in a mirror, looking at Running Man’s leg muscles and trying not to fart in public.

…or occasional freezing swim in the sea at Clevedon.

2 Ibuprofen and 2 Paracetamol.

Wednesday nights: 3km swim in 1 hour at the local pool, which is a bit like swimming in a toxic waste skip.

Thursday nights:  Boot Camp with some of the team, which involves a lot of high energy running and leaping about and usually leaves me with a bit of sick in my mouth.  At least it’s my sick.

2 Ibuprofen, 2 Paracetamol, 1 dark Rum.

Friday nights:  Beer.  Sometimes Cider.  Occasionally Gin and Tonic.  Thank God.

Saturdays and Sundays:  A very long and painful hike to somewhere very, very far away like The Land of Oz, or Norway, or that Galaxy in Star Wars.  I have to take a lot of painkillers after this as my old plantar fascia, achilles and hamstring injuries are so inflamed my legs practically spontaneously combust.

One of the hugely surprising outcomes of me training for this challenge is that I have just bought a bicycle (for the price of a thoroughbred horse), having complained mercilessly about cyclists my whole life, and having fallen off every bike I’ve ever ridden.  I’ve bought this bicycle because this challenge demands that I ride a bike, in the Lake District, for 21km.  This might not seem like much to you hardened cyclists who zoom to work 16 miles away in 15 minutes bent double over your upside-downy handle bars, but think about it like this – you last ventured into a swimming pool when you were 14 years old, which involved you ‘bombing’ the scared swimmers until the Lifeguards threatened to throw you out, doing handstands and impersonating The Man from Atlantis.  Now, 35 years later you have to swim a mile.  Ya see!?  Now me, I swim like a fish.  That wouldn’t be a problem for me.  A mile is my warm-up swim.  But you know what they say about fish needing bicycles.  Right.

So I’ve started out easy, just riding my bike to work.  My ride to work is 2 miles along a quiet country lane and my arse is already like chopped liver. My legs hurt too which is not fair, because all I seem to be doing these days is training all my leg muscles and I have strong legs, I really do.  It seems that the muscles you use for cycling are used for nothing else at all, not even standing up.  They are like secret muscles that just lie dormant until the day you unsuspectingly mount a bike and wobble off.  So I currently feel like someone has been kicking me in my lady parts and my legs feel like string.

I also find cycling quite terrifying.  I never had a bike as a child and have infrequently borrowed bicycles over the years to get from A to B, which has given me several hours worth of horror stories to regale in the pub, one of which includes an old lady laughing at me at Bristol Docks thinking the cycling accident she had just witnessed was a set-up for “You’ve Been Framed”.  It wasn’t.  And I am just grateful that I never wanted children.

Positive news though: I have lost a stone in weight since Christmas, which means I don’t have to lug that extra 14 pounds up Scafell Pike in August, but I still have to lose about six pounds so I can wear lycra cycling shorts without getting arrested.

Please sponsor me on my JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Kay-Dowling1

We are raising money for The Royal Marines Charity but to be honest you’ll be showing me you care about me and my last challenge event before my joints finally give up and I end up prematurely limping around a nursing home.

Subscribe to my blog and you could also share the pain of my training journey.


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