Moments of impact

So there we have it. Official confirmation has finally arrived in my inbox confirming the inevitable. They have offered a couple of alternatives for this year or an automatic transfer to 2021. We could play the guessing game as to what will happen next or play it safe, so I’m going to play safe and opt to transfer to next year.

I’ll have to confess I would be ecstatic never to see a bloody turbo trainer again but with the government guidelines being what they G and I will persist a little longer. The last thing I want is for one of us to have an accident and cause even more stress to a stretched NHS. In any event a break from the relentless Ironman training is due and has been effected immediately. Although we’ve not quite swapped it for cake and pizza yet.

In the meantime, and I feel embarrassed to say this since so many are struggling, but this change of routine is genuinely a gift. It’s like divine intervention has pressed pause on the treadmill of life, that recently has been getting faster and faster (which seems to result in more fatigue than fitness). Now we’re able to jump to the side rails and rest for a while. Stretch maybe and even when we get going again, alter the setting to something less strenuous and more rewarding.

I realise this is not everyone’s reality right now and being in this position is a luxury that in allowing the onset of panic could be easy to ignore.

A couple of days ago I had to go into hospital for an investigative procedure. The ward was incredibly quiet, one nurse explained that most of the staff had already been seconded to other departments already in need of help. He also said that any further referrals to the ward would likely be postponed or only open to the most urgent cases, as the ward was likely to be converted to an ITU soon. I could hear one nurse on the phone to procurement trying to locate some protective equipment for the staff but it appears there is none to be found anywhere.

And even in testing circumstances the staff were nothing but kind. As I went in for the procedure, the staff apologise to me for having to wear face masks. It’s unbelievable that people can work in such circumstances and still be so lovely. So please don’t take the piss with the freedoms we have at the moment. The restrictions are there for a very valid reason, these people need protecting as much as we can.

G and I have been enjoying setting new habits since the restrictions of movement came into force. With the earlier sunrises and recent nice weather we’ve been waking before the alarm. So instead of staying in bed we’ve been getting up and out for our permitted exercise. For much of it we see no one, accompanied mostly by the rising mists from the bodies of water that surround where we live. It feels like the landscape has been evacuated in a post apocalyptic world and it is only the glimpse of an early morning dog walker that brings us back to the modern world.

Apart from those brief interludes (and in the interest of making the most of the current opportunity) I’ve been enjoying more exploration online where so many opportunities are being presented. I’ve already joined a Zoom discussion group for creatives and business owners – I am neither at present but have plans in the pipeline – and blimey, who had even heard of Zoom two weeks ago? I’ve set aside a set of lessons to learn (revise) how to sew and most deliciously of all, have saved a series of You Tube videos of Jennifer Ehle reading ‘Price and Prejudice’.

While trying to process to speed to change this week, I was reminded of a quote by Australian poet Cindy Cherie.

This moment of impact will not be limited to defining our lives, it will define a new world in which we live. We have a marvellous opportunity to redefine humanity.

Socialising in isolation

This has been a really difficult blog to write. Usually, I hate those words as they normally lead on to something hideous. Not that what is happening in the world at the moment is not hideous, just that I haven’t been able to find the words to express all the thoughts in my head at the moment.

One thing I am certain of is that the focus if the last 30 odd weeks is over… for the moment. I’m still awaiting the official announcement from Ironman Lanzarote and confirmation from our accommodation in Puerto del Carmen, but after the last week it’s blatantly obvious it’s not happening.

Jon and I have been working together for just under eight months and we’ve achieved a hell of a lot in that time. I’m now back running regularly, and although it’s not easy, it’s definitely getting faster. I’ve swum more than I’ve ever done and can comfortably cycle for a few hours now. But most importantly, I’m back to exercising regularly and enjoying it. And if I can’t get to the start line (which is the original goal) then this is a very good second best.

So now what?

Well, the most important thing is not to lose the fitness gained over the last few months. The road bike is still hooked up to the turbo, G has planned some fifteen minute conditioning sessions which combines body weight and light weights to inject a bit of movement after sitting at the desk so long, and I have reloaded the 5×5 weight lifting app for more serious conditioning training.

I just wanted to thank Coach Jon from 4Performance for his hard work and support. If you’re looking for coaching help, definitely check him out.

Away from training, I’ve had lots of questions that I’ve been struggling to find answers for. Now may well be the perfect time to actually take the time to work out some solutions and then put them into action.

The world is filled with wonder but we’ve all been so busy, we sometimes forget to stop and look. This will be our opportunity now.

Making pig tracks – how to get to your destination by the shortest path

Box Hill pig track

Heading up the west face of Box Hill in Surrey, running in between the zig zag road and the Burford slope is a track, half made and half mud called the ‘pig track’. Not being a native to Surrey, I had heard the track referred to as such, and as is the way of fitting in, I adopted the name and never asked why it was so called. Privately I wondered about the history of the name. I assumed it was an old farm track for herding animals – there are a number of ancient paths that criss-cross Box Hill. It was not an unreasonable assumption, although the escarpment these days is more usually home to fluffy black and white belted Galloway cattle with ne’er a pig in sight.

Then, very recently, I have been researching a phenomenon called ‘Psychogeography’ for another project and learned the following. A pig track is a common name for a ‘desire line’, and a desire line is a path created as a consequence of use caused by animal or human footfall. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between origin and destination. Desire paths are often a rebellion agains the will of the planner, as creators deviate from the path designed for them.

So it turned out that this was not the first time I had heard of pig tracks – although in my defence I had never heard them referred to as such. My old geography tutor used to say that a sensible urban planner would delay setting official paths until the end users had time to explore the space. As people would naturally take the most advantageous routes, plotting paths that planners could then formalise in the more permanent way. When it comes to travel, the path of least resistance appears to be the most favourable.

But then I wondered if the concept of ‘least resistance’ is applicable elsewhere in life, so I had a scout round all the usual media channels. And well, it’s every where. We lay our own pig tracks everywhere we go, both physically and metaphorically. They’re called habits.

In a recent blog post I talked about the problem of waiting for inspiration to drive you out the door. The problem with inspiration, is that the couch is mighty comfortable, and it’s dark and cold outside and there’s an important television program you want to catch up on and there’s always another reason not to do what you would like to do. The trick is to remove enough barriers to get your shoes on.

#thedoorstepmile

You don’t need to do any of this on your own. There is a lot of help out there for people who want to realise dreams – no matter what they are. But in my opinion, the best two to start with are:

James Clear has written a wonderful book on how to break destructive habits and build constructive ones. Start here to get the basics.

Adventurer Alastair Humphreys has devoted an entire website to help you remove the barriers to allow you to take the first step.

Building habits is repetitive but not difficult. You just need to be consistent and improve by 1% each time. Take the path, see how it feels, it takes a couple of weeks to trample the grass down, if it works then great, keep ploughing. If it doesn’t then identify the barrier and either move it or go round it. Make your own personal pig track.

Going wild

When I was a girl we lived in a house. It was a compact terraced house situated on the fringes of Station Town in County Durham. The station – actually located in the adjoining village of Wingate – was no longer there (although my father could remember it) and was built to serve the local mining villages surrounding it. The line was no longer there either, ultimately a victim of Beeching in the 1960’s although declining before then, but evidence of its existence was all around us. Not only in the place names, but also in the miles of reclaimed railway lines now bridleways that cross cross their way through the villages to the coast.

When I lived there, Station Town was in the middle of the countryside in the middle of the 1970’s. Woodchip paper adorned the walls of our little house. The window frames were rotten enough to remove and climb through if you had forgotten your keys (true story) and the lino on the passageway floors was bumpy and cold to a bare foot. Heating and hot water were provided courtesy of a coal fire, chilblains were a real threat and if the wind was blowing the right way (thanks to a broken vent) it would snow on you in the bath. Life up North could be grim.

Nevertheless, there is a certain kind of being ‘alive’ when you have to embrace the seasons without the buffer of mod cons. And it wasn’t all bad. Being in the countryside as a child was a blessing. It provided places to explore and fish and hills perfect for sledging. A glorious freedom where we could stay out all night and watch the stars with an innocence not yet coloured by life.

My childhood experiences left me with a preference for cooler temperatures, a desire for exploration and a constant love of nature in all its forms. Living an adventurous life becomes much harder when you become an adult. Burdens such as responsibility, lack of time and lack of money hang around the neck of freedom. And the biggest burden of all, fear.

As a child, although cautious and risk averse, I was also reasonable fearless when it came to adventure. Not afraid of making difficult decisions, my life has taken many twists and turns over the years. But the older I get (and the increased comfort that comes with financial security) the more I seem to have to fear.

And I don’t like it.

There are many roads in life I would love to travel down. One of those is reducing the cocoon of modern life in order to experience the elemental wonders this planet has to offer. I’m talking about being in the weather, in wilderness, travelling without mod cons and allowing my body to feel, to be without the five star support. Well, realistically it’s more like three star, tea but no biscuits kind of support but you get my drift.

I want to feel alive rather than comfortably numb.

Our first micro adventures have already been completed. We loved throwing ourselves in Bude sea pool in November and the Atlantic on New Years Day. They have given us a little taste of the possibilities. So G and I have reviewed the things that are currently stopping us from seeking adventure and we’ve started to dismantle those barriers. Our next slightly bigger challenge is to wild camp. It’s been a hearts desire for a long time and now we live close enough to Dartmoor – where it’s legally permitted – its eminently doable. As soon as these bloody storms stop, we’re out there.