It was with this in mind that we took our first major non-path walk on Friday, when we made the short trip over the border into Clackmannanshire with a view to walking from Dollar to Glendevon. It was a day full of portent, as if there was a cosmic overlord looking down on me saying "yeah, I'm going to beast you". When I left home to go and pick up my comrades in arms (or should that be comrades in feet?) the sun shone, the birds sang, all was well with the world. When I picked them up, it had clouded over, but still looked ok. Even when we parked up in Dollar, it looked like it was going to be a decent day.
Then the walk started, and I was plunged into a special circle of Hell, reserved for salad-dodgers. It's been a recurring theme from my coastal walks that they always seem to finish uphill. Clackmannanshire must be the opposite, because this started with a climb that I thought was going to kill me. The first mile or so was up a hill which was bordering on the Olympian. Halfway up I found myself looking round for some bottled oxygen or at least a sherpa, my face by that point having taken on any number of shades of red, purple, probably a hint of blue here and there. For the first time in a long time, I was as close as I had ever been to flat out quitting. I didn't see there being any way I was going to make it to the summit, yet somehow, I did. The elation at cresting the mount was tempered by my inability to breathe and speak at the same time, and was soon to be further curtailed once the rest of the walk got under way.
The rest of the walk was over hilly terrain, and took the form of something closer to track than path. It had a very fieldy sheen to it, and given that it had by that point started raining (as it had off an on for the previous few days apparently) the going was, to use a horseracing term, soft. And by soft I mean marshy. And by marshy I mean littered by hidden ankle deep puddles. Within 2 miles, my feet had absorbed enough water to make them twice the weight they were when I started. One of the drawbacks of thick and wooly hiking socks is their ability to be as absorbent as anything which boats that it 'now has wings'.
It's a shame the walk was spoiled to a degree by the rain, which got heavier and heavier the longer we walked, and the underfoot conditions, for, once I had recovered from the start, which took a while, but fortunately Lesley-Ann saw a dog, so we were able to stop for a little which gave me a chance to recover, I took a bit more notice of the surroundings, and I have to say, it would have been a really nice walk. We went between hills, past a reservoir, before winding up in Glendevon itself.
Glendevon is tiny, to the point of not even having a Wikipedia page, which is going to seriously curtail the amount of time I can spend talking about it! All I can say for certain, is that there is a hotel there, which does a nice line in sandwiches. It's where we decided to call a halt to proceedings, and have a spot of lunch. I had a ham and mustard sandwich, which was on lovely thick bread, with proper mustard and some parsnip crisps, which were also lovely! There had been talk at one point of lunching in Glendevon and then walking back to Dollar, but that idea was quickly discarded once we found out it was only going to be £11 for the 3 of us to get a taxi back to the car!
I did keep some facts and figures for this little walk, and I know that some of you are stats minded, so, for the sake of completeness, we travelled 5.27 miles in 2 hours 13 minutes and 29 seconds. It's a long, long time for 5 miles, but the first mile and a half took us the best part of an hour, which I must admit was all down to me. For the first time in a long time I actually had to stop at various points up the ascent, which really didn't please me. Now that I'm at the stage where I can complete a 'regular' walk from point to point without stopping, I was annoyed at my weakness at having to stop a couple of times as I went up the hill. It felt like a huge step backwards and was, truth be told, immensely discouraging. However, it was the steepest and longest incline I have attempted for many a moon, so I'm taking some kind of solace in the fact that I was able to get up there at all!
If any good came out of the struggles I had to start with, it was a stark reminder that I still have a proverbial mountain to climb, and that I can't afford to get complacent and think that just because I can walk for extended periods now, it's going to be easy from here on in. The whole point of the exercise I'm undertaking is that it's not meant to be easy - losing weight never is. It was with that in mind that on my day off yesterday, I went for my walk, but started including some jogging. I've not jogged for much longer than I would care to remember and I have to be honest and say it was an absolute hell on earth. Again, it made me realise that I am still embarrassingly unfit, and this was just with intermittent jogs (interval training is the way to go according to, well, pretty much everyone, so that's what I'm trying). The hope is that I can slowly start to extend the jogged parts until such a time as they start to exceed the walked parts! That's not going to happen on it's own though, and it's not going to happen any time soon, so I just have to grit my teeth, gird my loins (there's an image you could have done without, huh!) and get on with it!
It better be damn well worth it in the end!