Posted by: intrepidjane | December 4, 2010

Tales Of The Unexpected

Climbing into adventure

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as the years have passed, it’s to expect the unexpected. 2 years ago I never dreamed I would be living the life I am right now : I feel like an adventurer! And with every adventure comes new perspective. What seemed big, now seems small.

Now, for my partner and me, both our lives are geared towards building the trike and riding it. It has brought us together in new ways. I have mastered the art of giving the illusion of understanding what he’s talking about when he enthuses about veneers, plywood (yes, you read it right… the chief engineer has been inspired by Frank Costin, a racing car designer who took his inspiration from the aeronautical industry’s use of plywood ), fibreglass, hubs, clearances and Da Vinci drives. He, on the other hand, has become brilliant at nodding his head in a this-is-really-interesting way (even though his mind is with his lathe and drill) when I reel off the numbers of long-distance cycle paths in various countries between here and Russia. I almost believed his excitement when I told him about my discovery of bog-shoeing in Estonia ;-)! (Although, come to think of it, he has got an unusual passion for bogs).

(If you happen to be keen on bogs, you can read all about bog-shoeing here )

And then the unexpected arrived.

It's changed our relationship : we're closer. We're tandem-close!

Due to unexpected serious illness in the family, we have decided that the right thing to do is to delay our pedal to St Petersburg (and the Mongolian 100km adventure race) until March 2012. At this time, we think it’s right to stay close to home, to help those who need both practical and emotional support.

The trike is still being built and we will continue fund-raising activities in an adventurous way in 2011 – only we will just be a little more geographically restricted (this means that we can get home quickly if  need be).

Iteration 1 : needs more curves!

Our revised 2011 adventure itinerary is reaching the final planning stages. We’d like to cycle the length of Ireland (from Mizen Head in the south to Malin Head in the north – c 400miles) unsupported on our homemade tandem trike. We will camp as we go. This will be a great test of the trike and will iron out any engineering problems!

We also want to cycle the length of the Outer Hebrides

Iteration 2 : trike tub mock-up

I plan to run the Great Glen Way (79 miles) and am currently checking out a range of ultras that I like the look of (I just found the Connemara 100- miler which takes place in August and the Glasgow-Edinburgh ulltra which is 56 miles long – April )

There will be other events – I just haven’t though of them yet! (I’ll keep you posted on timings for all the new events as soon as plans are finalised here).

On the upside – it gives another year to raise funds and some much-welcomed time to get visas sorted.

Home 😉

Whilst our adventures have taken an unexpected turn, I’m pretty sure that this year closer to home will teach us some very valuable lessons that will be useful for our big 2012 expedition. I’m certain that some of those lessons will be about the importance of  family and of home. What seemed small, now seems big. It’s all about perspective. (Tales of The Unexpected)

Gotta do the right thing,

JT 😉

Posted by: intrepidjane | October 13, 2010

Going All The (West Highland) Way!

1 mare v 6 men : who would win the 24-mile race from Kingshouse to Fortwilliam?

On Monday 4th October 2010, Tricia and I got onto the train at Dunblane with our very heavy rucksacks, clutching our single tickets to Bearsden (Glasgow). This was it : the start of another adventure! But this time it was going to be different ~ I was not going to be on my own .This time there would be a team; this time there would be people joining at different parts of the adventure, this time there would be a race that we had made up for ourselves – all in the pursuit of fund-raising for Help For Heroes.

Starting on Tuesday the 5th October from Milngavie, Tricia Stewart, Marina Ramsden and I would set out on the West Highland Way : a 94- ish (it depends on your guidebook how long it actually is !! 😉 mile stroll from Glasgow up to Fortwilliam. The aim was to cover the ground over 5 days with various people joining us en route. On the 5th day, I would run the Man V Mare race – the final stretch from Kingshouse to Fortwilliam.

You can read about team members and the Man V Mare race concept by clicking onto the relevant buttons on the menu. In all, 14 people participated in this event : 4 women completed the West Highland Way in its entirety, 7 of us took part in the Man Versus Mare race and 4 others joined the journey for part of the way. The women’s team (The Wild Women) and the men’s team (the Mad Men) between them raised a further  £2000 by undertaking this challenge (bringing the current donation total to Help For Heroes to £8259.50!)  You can still give here :

The Night Before

Tricia and I stayed the night at Madaline’s so we could get an early walk-off on Tuesday. Madaline and Caroline had walked the WHW in stages and would be completing the final two legs of the walk on Friday and Saturday – finishing in FW with me and the running men.

Madaline and Caroline shared every step of the way!

There was a hearty heap of pasta on offer (and much restraint practised in the red grape juice department.. ;-)) as we talked kit, weather, maps (you wouldn’t believe how many maps and guidebooks we took .. and you wouldn’t believe how seldom we had to use them.. you can see the WHW markers from space!) and waited for the arrival of Marina from the Lake District.

By 10.30 it was lights out. I was sharing with Tricia whom I have known for about 8 years. She was to be my walking buddy for the trek.. and I was surprised to find out something new about Tricia that very night. SHE SNORES. Fortunately, I’ve watched enough of Ray Mears to know how to deal with this common wilderness hazard (I had a 5- day supply of the finest wax ear plugs money can buy and had read up on Ray’s “How To Make A Poison Dart Out Of Socks, An Empty Mars Bar Wrapper And Rosehips”. You’ll be pleased to hear that I never had to make the dart – and that it turned out that I SNORE TOO and, thankfully, Tricia is not a Ray Mears fan, so I didn’t get the dart either 😉

Day 1 : Milngavie – Balmaha (c 20 miles)

Caroline arrived at about 7.30am to join us for breakfast. Scrambled eggs and baked beans eaten, Marina, Tricia and I were driven to Milngavie station to start the walk. It was an unusual feeling to be starting something AGAIN… the 203-miles of the Islay-Jura run were still carried in my body… my achilles tendons and calf muscles were still very painful, damaged by running with a heavy load.. Pamela had given me a sports massage (not exactly the most relaxing massage I’d ever had!) when I went to pick up my shoes at Run 4 It in Glasgowshe made it clear that my body needed looking after if I was going to ask more of  it. This time, carrying heavy weight – and even running the Man V Mare race – was not going to be an option. It weighed heavy on my mind. I’d have to walk all the way – even the race at the end. I had 4 days to make peace with myself.

Only 95 miles to go!

So – here I was at the start of something again, at the point of fruition of an idea I had in May when summer was beginning to blossom. Now it was October, the leaves falling off the trees,waiting for the blanket of winter to fall. We said good-bye to Caroline and Madaline who we would not see again until Saturday. We marched off…. 9am Tuesday 5th October.

The view from Conic Hill

Miles passed quickly. Before we knew it, we were out of the city and into peaceful countryside. Pit-stops were made here and there until we reached Conic Hill. One hill stood between us and Balmaha – with the wind in our faces we pushed on until the work was done. Balmaha for afternoon tea : 4pm. Job done 😉

Tricia and I repaired to our accommodation We were most impressed that our bags had arrived safely (AMS were BRILLIANT by the way ), that the water in the shower was HOT, that we had been supplied with ear-plugs (had they heard about Tricia’s snoring?…) and that they were totally geared up for walkers (with special drying areas for our boots and clothes). Marina pushed onto her campsite as Tricia and I eyed -up the menu : the meatballs were delicious!

Bellies full, ear-plugs in, lights out at 8.15pm!

Day 2 : Balmaha – Inversnaid (c 14 miles)

8am breakfast of beans on toast (with lashings of brown sauce – obviously) was wolfed down, our daysacks (crammed with peanut butter sandwiches) were hauled on and we were ready for the off at 8.45am. We would scoop up Marina and the new arrival, Eileen, on our way to Inversnaid.

Jane and Tricia pushing on to Rowardennan

Soon we were into our rhythm, a consistent 3.5 miles an hour : fast enough for the body to feel and slow enough to take in the sights. We reached Marina and Eileen and decided to press on and meet them at the bunkhouse at Inversnaid.

Coffee at the very friendly Rowardennan Hotel was taken in the garden in gleaming sunshine ..sunshine that, unfortunately, wasn’t set to last. The trek from Rowardennan to Inversnaid proved itself to be a very wet affair indeed – and the going became increasingly challenging as we began to negotiate tree roots and rocks and man-made steps (which Tricia did not like at all 😉 I should mention at this stage  that Tricia is an ex-RAF PTIand even she thought that Stannah stairlifts would have been far more sensible than the steps that had been created for leg-weary walkers!)

The friendly and atmospheric bunkhouse at Inversnaid

Fortunately, for Tricia, my own favourite saying is “when the going gets tough, SPEED UP!”  So we did 😉,cruising into the Inversnaid Hotel, drenched to the bone at 2.20pm. Coffees all round before we hiked up to the hill to the bunkhouse to wait for Marina and Eileen.

Warm showers were followed by comfy sofas upstairs. Eileen and Marina soon showed up and we tucked into very delicious chillis and curries ..oooh and a wee drop

At the Rowardennan end of Loch Lomond

of red grape juice (for the anti-oxidants). Lights out by 9pm (wild by name, wild by nature ;-))

Day 3 : Inversnaid – Tyndrum (c 20 miles)

Although the weather forecast had promised blue skies and sunshine, we were woken by the hammering of rain on the bunkhouse window. By 8 o’clock we were all crammed around the breakfast table awaiting the arrival of our fuel for the day. We all knew that today was going to be the toughie. The guidebooks talked about the tricky section between Inversnaid and Inverarnan (including smelly feral goats – although I’m the proud owner of  a very insensitive nose, so would have to rely on Tricia’s black-belt senses to alert us to the presence of these wild beats ;-)) – a 7-mile stretch characterised by slippy rocks and gnarly tree-roots. And it was going to be a long day too – about 20 miles. And it looked like rain would be our companion for the whole day . The deck was not exactly stacked in our favour!

Marina and Eileen couldn't have got any wetter!

Marina’s feet had become badly blistered and, although she was patched up with Kompede,  it just wasn’t looking good. She decided she would give it a go anyway : she had trained hard for the last couple of months and was determined to give it her best shot.

Tricia and I set off with military determination in our stride at 8.45. Marina and Eileen would follow shortly afterwards with the aim of  rendez-vousing in Tyndrum at supper time. This day was about getting it done.

The goats came and went (according to Tricia they smelled like goats cheese and had her nose not picked up the scent, I wouldn’t have noticed them at all!). We stormed by the back-door of Rob Roy’s cave

The famous goats

(we didn’t think Kirsty and Phil would have bothered paying a visit, so we didn’t either 😉 and then hugged the dank and dim banks of Loch Lomond for what seemed like an eternity.The rain continued to lash down ; we were walking hard but I was getting cold.

We were both pleased to leave Loch Lomond behind. There had been something very constricting about walking between the trees and the water with the heavens pressing down on us. Now the land opened out a little and we could breath.. on past Ardlui…and eventually into Inverarnan.

Hot drinks were gulped at the campsite bar and then we forged on, stopping for a brief cuppa at the wigwam place just outside Tyndrum. 4.45pm – home (and not exactly dry) at the airy Tigh Na Fraoch guesthouse

A team-meeting was called as we’d received a message from Marina and Eileen that they’d had to bail out due to the terrible state of Marina’s feet. They’d caught a ferry and a train to Tyndrum – Marina decided it was best for her to make a halt at Tyndrum. Her walk was over.

This was quite a blow for the team – we all knew how important it was for Marina to do the walk. But she had to make the right call for her.

Tricia and I toasted Marina with a glass of red wine in our room. Lights out by 9 – a big day was awaiting us.

Day 4 : Tyndrum – Kingshouse (c 19 miles)

We’d arranged for a 7.30 breakfast so we could ensure an early finish at Kingshouse (I’d need to get my feet up and ice my tendons in preparation for the Man Versus Mare race on day 5). The first stretch to Bridge of Orchy was an easy stride ; we met Eileen (who had caught the train from Tyndrum) in the Bridge of Orchy Hotel for coffee.

Eileen and Tricia would continue for the rest of the day together across the wild and beautiful Rannoch Moor. Meanwhile, I would push on ahead, letting my inner collie dog off the lease for a well-earned bit of wildness 😉

Wild and beautiful Rannoch Moor

The route out of Bridge of Orchy was a fairly steep climb through forest and then out onto open hillside. It was great to be sweating, to be working hard .. everything felt loose.. I  to overtook a  group of women.. they asked if I was in a hurry . To be honest, this wasn’t about hurrying at all, it was about letting the dog off the lead, letting it do its natural thing… before I knew it I was running.. even bounding.. the Autumn light hardly cutting through the black skies .. greens and golds of the moor swirled like wild winter sea currents. Whilst I’d actually packed a heavier-than-usual rucksack to stop me from running, once the collie dog was off the lead it was too late!

The sweat was dripping from me, I enjoyed having to pay attention to where I placed me feet (the ground was rough and cobbly), I enjoyed the wind rushing past my ears.. every now and then checking that my tendons were holding up. I gave the dog a 20 minute run and then put the lead back on. I began to wonder whether I could run the race on Saturday. Could I take the risk?

Tricia at the beginning of the cobbly section over Rannoch Moor

I pushed on over the Moor, my feet teased and prodded by the cobbles. The wind blew harder – so hard I needed to pull up my buff to protect my ears. I began singing to myself : that might sound very strange but I noticed that I did the same on my big 203-mile run over Islay and Jura. When I am in a rhythm, in a world of my own, eyes fixed on the horizon.. I just start to sing.. and if my feet slow..I sing faster and my feet follow the song.

As the path raised to herald my entry into Glencoe, I was singing full-out (Cara Dillon seems to hit the spot in such situations) but could hear nothing, so hard was the wind blowing. Head down, I forced my way down to the Kingshouse Hotel : 2.20pm

I unpacked my rucksack (the process of taking everything out to dry and hanging up my sweaty kit had been something I’d perfected on my Islay-Jura run – I had it down to a rapid and fine art now) and then made straight for the shower .. the collie dog still wagging its tail.. it’s lead in its mouth.. those puppy dog eyes yearning for a long run…

At about 5.30 I met up with Eileen and Tricia in the bar. Mike, Tricia’s husband, would be coming up to join Tricia for the Saturday walk to Kinlochleven. Oona and Steff would be arriving first thing on Saturday to head for Kinlochleven too. Whilst Eileen, Tricia and I had covered the ground from Tyndrum to Kingshouse today, Madaline and Caroline had completed the Kingshouse to Kinlochleven section, ready for the final push into FW on Saturday.

I sat with my venison casserole in front of me – a Drambuie aperitif had whetted my appetite for something robust. Tricia looked at me and said “you’re not goingto run it tomorrow.” It wasn’t a question. It was a command.  She sensed the dog at my feet. I couldn’t argue with her logic – and logically I had thought the same thing. My tendons were wrecked from running with a 35 litre rucksack for over 200 miles. If I ran tomorrow, I could injure myself and not be able to run for months – it could jeopardise the ultra in Mongolia.

And logically that was right. My inner collie dog bowed its head and gave me those eyes again. I’d just have to walk hard. I’d just have to race myself – push myself as safely as I could. To be on the safe side, I packed a really heavy rucksack for the next day – this way, it should reduce the temptation to run. well – that was the plan….

Day 5 : RACE DAY Kingshouse – Fortwilliam  (c 24 miles)

The breakfast room was packed with walkers by 8am. Chaos ensued as staff took and delivered orders. Most of the boys were already at the hotel and were tucking into hearty breakfasts. Their captain, Iain, was on his way up from Ayrshire.

Steff and Oona on teir way to Kinlochleven

Steff and Oona on their way to Kinlochleven

I felt pre-race nerves in my body. I liked it. The collie dog liked it. My sensible head was hoping that the heavy-rucksack plan would work ;-). Photo shoot complete, we were off!

I strode out bang on 9am. The guys took a little while to muster themselves but soon I was overtaken by the lead runner, Sean .. and then by Dean and John. Mikey, Ian and Chris caught up with me at the bottom of the Devil’s Staircase.. and I managed to keep on their tail all the way up..

It was glorious. Big blue skies, a nip in the air and wild beauty winking at me from every angle.

Eileen on her way to Kinlochleven

As we reached the top, ahead lay a beautiful descent into Kinlochleven. The boys widened their stride and I watched them disappear into the horizon.

The wind was blowing hard. I was getting cold. I found myself uttering the immortal line spoken by Maverick in Top Gun “I feel the need, the need for speed!” (and nobody was looking, so would it really hurt?…) So I decided to trot.. it seemed okay.. my tendons were shortened for the downhill section… I took it easy.. that rucksack was HEAVY!!!

As I prepared to put down my landing gear for the final stretch into Kinlochleven I met 2 runners coming up hill. They were from Lochaber Athletic Club and knew of my run. They stopped to shake hands and wish me luck – telling me the boys weren’t that far ahead. It spurred me on..

By 11am, I was in Kinlochleven .. 9 miles into the race.. I started to walk again, mindful of preserving my tendons. Mikey, Chris and Ian were in sight! I overtook them (Ian was having to stop to tend to blisters) and pushed on, the sun beginning to burn higher in the sky, the blustery autumn wind blowing hard.

Morning mists accompany Caroline's climb out of Kinlichleven

I zig-zagged up and out of Kinlochleven, soon faced with the majestic Pap of Glencoe and soon faced by the sight of Dean and John. They didn’t look good – they were tired and sore. I overtook them as politely as I could. 5 down – 1 to go. Would I be able to catch up Sean, even though I would have to walk most of the way? Would I be able to keep ahead of the others?

I decided to go for it. I ate on the hoof. I kept well hydrated. I marched. I sang. Soon I met Caroline (who had accidentally put on the wrong boots at breakfast and was walking in someone else.s size 11s!) and Madaline – the Ben was dead ahead.

The majestic Pap

“You’ll never catch Sean. He’s too far ahead,” they told me. I pushed on, welcoming the respite from the heat in the shadow of the trees. The ground was soft underfoot, the light dappled and mesmerising. And the voice came “run this bit. Go on – run it!”..So I did.

I started to smile. The ground felt springy underfoot. Soon the forest trail broke out onto an open track – Fortwilliam was in sight. The ground was hard : eventually I knew it was time to walk. Even the collie dog barked at me to stop.

Madaline and the Ben

On the outskirts of Fortwilliam I met Lee and Willy – the husbands of Caroline and Madaline. They told me I had a good mile and a half to go before the “new end” of the WHW. I really wanted to make it in before 3 and it was already past 1o to. I ran a little more but the road was hard and my tendons hurt.

Just past the old end of the WHW, I met Sean. He was on his way back from the finish line. He walked me in. He’d finished at 2.25. I finished at 3.12. We sat down and waited for the others : for the rest of the runners, for Madaline and Caroline. News came in from Kinlochleven that Tricia and Mike were going to go the whole hog and walk into FW that day too.

We did it!

Chris and Iain came in at 3.35; Mikey at 3.38; John at 3.50 amd Dean at 4.40pm. Caroline and Madaline crossed the line shortly before 6, with friends, family and fellow runners waiting to greet them.

We all went our separate ways : me to meet my bike for the long ride home on my own the next day. At 7pm I received a text from Tricia to say she’d made it.

It was a good feeling to know how many of us had crossed the line. Even though we had all undertaken the challenge in our own way – it felt like we’d done it as a team.

I pumped up my tires, checked my lights, made up my sandwiches and got ready for the 7.30 start the next day. 86 miles between me and home.

In The Wind Tunnel : Fortwilliam To Crieff on A Bike

The first cyclist to be visible from space 😉

The blush of dawn was only just starting when I left Fortwilliam on Sunday morning. It was good to feel my legs being lulled into relaxation by the rhythmic whir of my wheels.

Everything was looking good.

Everything WAS looking good until I got through Onich and then had to cycle over the big metal bridge that joins old and new Ballachulish. WOW… I could hardly stay on my bike, so wild was the wind. It pushed me from one side of the road to the other as I willed myself to stay upright.

Safely on the other side, I was met head-on by the monster’s roar again. Whirling past my ears, my head right down, hands on the drop-bars, I pushed and pushed.. making very little headway.

A car stopped and advised me to get off the road.

I inched onwards. Inch by inch I clawed my way into the glen. Exhaustion was burning my legs, my wrists aching from the tight grip on the bars. I let up for a second.. and whoosh… the tip came.

I was close to the turn for the Clachaig Inn, only 20 miles into the 86-mile ride. The wind was roaring down the glen like frozen fireball. I had to make a call.

I opened my rucksack. Dialled the number and waited for my voice to make the call. It did. It said “it’s unsafe to continue. The ride is over”.

I took shelter in the Clachaig Inn whilst awaiting rescue. I felt separate from everything going on around me. It was too quiet without the wind and my thoughts had stopped thinking. I sat with my buff in the Mother Theresa position and waited.

During the wait, I decided the only way I could complete the challenge was in safer conditions – and in chunks (I had to go back to work).

So far, I have completed 62 miles of the 86.. the wheels of this adventure are still turning ….. 😉

The Winner’s Race Report – Sean Ginnitty

1st place in the Man V Mare Mountain Marathon

“I’d just like to start by saying what a great run and a great achievement for everyone involved. At times it was very hard going but we all made it in the end and it could not be for a better cause! Congratulations and well done to everybody! I was amazed at coming in first as due to various problems I was unable to train as much as I would have liked. However on the day, I felt fit and was eager to go! I kept a constant pace throughout most of the race, pushing myself hard up the Devil’s Staircase and back down in to Kinlochleven then back up in to the mountain trail once again for the last 16 mile stretch. As I approached Glen Nevis both my legs cramped up badly but I continued to make my way in to Fort William under the shadow of Ben Nevis, the sight of which amazed me and helped me focus on finishing the race. After five hours and twenty five minutes I arrived at the end of the West Highland Way, exhausted and in pain but extremely happy that I had accomplished something great for an extremely great cause! Once again a big hands up to everyone involved! I’d like to add that I’ve certainly much more confidence now to go out there and try for great thngs : I know that with enough effort anything is possible! ;)” Sean Ginnitty

The Wild Women’s Team Captain’s Report – Caroline Johnstone

Caroline hosted a Wild West bbq to raise funds for H4H!

“Well, I completed the West Highland Way for Help for Heroes, one step at a time.  I was part of a group of women who declared an aim to complete this challenge, and we were helpfully called the Wild Women by Jane Talbot, who organised it all!

The original idea had been to do the walk over a set number of days, camping or staying in bed and breakfasts as we went, but like all plans, this changed.  I had wanted a challenge to help me get fit again after a number of sports injuries and after being diagnosed with arthritis in several joints and with fibromyalgia.  In fact, having the latter prompted a number of friends to tell me I was mad to even try it as the challenge would exacerbate everything, but I figured if these guys who came home with terrible injuries could complete challenges, then so could I.  I worked with an NHS physiotherapist every week, a personal trainer at the gym, a private sports physiotherapist and a chiropracter, faithfully following their advice.  And there is no doubt I’m much fitter now than I was then; but after completing a particularly hard part, where I honestly thought I would have to call for mountain rescue to come and get me as I couldn’t walk any further, I decided to pull out of the challenge. This was my lowest point in a long time –  I felt I was letting everyone down and went through a couple of difficult weeks berating myself.  And then along came another of the Wild Women, Madaline Alexander – who suggested alternative ways of doing the walk.  Instead of being a daunting challenge, it became an adventure in friendship, discovering Scotland and in fundraising as we organised a raffle and were delighted at some of the amazing prizes people were prepared to donate to us, one of the highlights being a Welcome Home Reception at Dumfries House in Auchinleck.
So we did it stage by stage, a week at a time, with very early starts and very late finishes, doing the last two stages in two days so we could finish the same day as the Mad Men completed their challenge of racing Jane for the last 27 miles! We met a lot of lovely people along the way, took a few interesting taxi rides, managed to do it in mostly great weather, learned a lot of lessons along the way, had a lot of laughs and really deepened our friendship through it all.  And yes, the last few miles of the last day were a struggle, so I was so glad to have Lee and Willie to help us walk in, and though I didn’t sleep well the night after with the pain, I woke up on Sunday morning knowing I had completed it and helped raise at least another £2000 for the Help For Heroes pot!” Caroline Johnstone
A Message To The WHW Adventure Challenge Team & All Its Supporters – Jane Talbot

Jane thanks you for going the extra mile with her 😉

To all of those who participated in this event, my heartfelt thanks and respect. I thank you for taking the time not only to take part but to train AND raise money. A special thankyou goes to Caroline who is a fund-raising DYNAMO (and who is one of the few women I know who can look alluring in a sqaw outfit and face paint ;-))

To those of you who drove up to Fortwillian to support the event (Willie, Lee, Emma, Claire and Mikey’s parents) thanks for being part of this too.

If you have been generous enough to give to the fundraising pot, the WHW adventure challenge team salutes you : you’re a hero 😉

Gotta be part of something!

JT 😉

Posted by: intrepidjane | August 9, 2010

A Very Moving Experience!

Day 6 : A wee jaunt up to Ardlussa (picture courtesy of Konrad Borkowski)

This post is a record of my very recent  9-day 203- mile running odyssey across the wild and beautiful Scottish islands of Islay and Jura. It was a human-powered journey undertaken as part of my challenge to raise £100k for Help For Heroes by November 2011. Feel free to make a donation here if this story inspires you to give 😉

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that my Islay-Jura trip was really a very last-minute idea. I had the notion of doing it on Thursday 22nd July and 3 days later, I found myself driving down to overnight at my friend Oona’s family summer house on the shores of Loch Fyne, ready to catch the ferry to Islay from Kennacraig at 7am the next morning.

Oona's summer house was soothing to the soul

The back of my Berlingo was as unkempt as Russell Brand’s hair when I arrived at Oona’s – I had just chucked everything in I thought I might need. I hadn’t even checked if it would all fit in my friend Tricia’s 35-litre rucksack, let alone ensured that I was capable of carrying the weight! The prospect of 200 miles hadn’t sunk in either.

As I hauled in my kit and laid it all out to pack, it suddenly dawned on me how far 200 miles actually is and how much kit I might actually have to carry. I slumped into a big brown chair facing a huge picture window, watched the birds catching the fish and sighed a “what were you thinking of?!” sigh. It was looking like it could be quite a long 200 miles….

I left Oona’s at 6am. I was very excited because I just didn’t know what was going to happen. What would the terrain be like (I hadn’t checked, of course)? Would my body hold out? Would my plan hold together?

Waiting for the boat to Islay

And there she was right in front of me – as huge as a Munro… the MV Arran, the boat that would take me to the start line in Port Ellen.

The 2 or so hour crossing passed quickly as I chatted to 2 French travellers Juliette (from Paris) and Vincent (from Nantes). Vincent picked up my rucksack to feel the weight and gave a confident nod to me.

Juliette et Vincent

“Not so bad”, he said . As bad as what? He was probably right – it couldn’t be as bad as man-hauling the kind of bulk that Fiennes and Stroud would pull across the Antartic. Or could it? My rucksack seemed to grow right in front of my eyes… bulging at the seams with my sleeping bag, bivvy bag, thermarest, wash bag,waterproofs, 1 set of dry clothes, 1 day of food rations and (of course) my lipstick (because you just never know ;-)). Actually, I thought I had been pretty ruthless ; I thought I was approaching the whole project like a commando (in fact, I didn’t take any underwear with me, so actually went commando for the full 9 days! Hard core, eh??!!)

And she's off!

MV Arran docked at Port Ellen. The foot passengers waited to be let off. The brooding slate skies sprayed rain at us. My (bloody heavy) rucksack was on my back. My heart was pounding : my whole body drenched in adrenaline (or was it the Calmac coffee?!). My legs started to twitch as my inner Collie dog strained to be let off the lease (I should mention at this point that my inner Collie dog is pretty “mature” and usually likes a long nap pretty much anywhere, which accounts for the record-breaking low speeds I managed to achieve over the 9 days of loping ;-))

So at 9.30am I got off the boat and started to run.

Day 1 : Port Ellen – Ardtalla- Port Ellen – Port Ellen Lighthouse (22 miles)

Within 5 minutes of starting to run I was speaking fluent French (in a swearing and very loud kind of way). How the f*%k was I going to manage this rucksack for more than 200 miles? I told myself to pull myself together, to get on with it, to enjoy it and to remember that my first distillery stop was only 17 miles away at Ardbeg (on my return journey to Port Ellen).

I thought about putting myself in the mindset of Ripley,the character Sigourney Weaver played in “Alien”. I was less than successful at this. Instead, in the swathes of land-hugging sea haar, I looked more like a Gorilla in the Mist (close though, right?).

My spirits raised (by about 48% ;-)) as I passed the Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg distilleries (I would be popping in for a wee dram on the way back) and soon, surprisingly enough, I had found my rhythm. Totally absorbed by the sight of the sea, dazzling pink fuschias and the soothing coolness of the rain on my bare legs, arms and face, I began my inevitable metamorphosis into Forrest Gump. 😉

A mile from the turning point at Ardtalla

And not a soul did I see until I reached the 10 mile turning point at Ardtalla. The friendly farmer gave me permission to run on his land to the very end of the track and then I was running (almost) swiftly back in the direction of locally- made refreshments!

By 2pm I was breaking into a sprint (old runner’s trick : just look good when people are watching ;-)) as I reached the doors of the Ardbeg distillery, my nose following the (probably- hallucinated- by -this -stage!) intoxicating smell of whisky as eagerly as Dorothy had skipped down the yellow brick road towards Emerald City .

Clare at Ardbeg

Clare served me the first dram of the trip. I sat in the restaurant, soaked to the bone, clutching my delicate glass. I looked around at all the groups of people tucking into plates of hot food, surrounded by family and friends. I was on my own. And I liked it. I liked knowing that the experience I was having was going to be life-changing and that to get the most out of the experience, I’d have to put everything I had both mentally and physically into it. The adventure had started  ;-)!!

My first Islay malt!

As I pulled my rucksack back on, my shoulders smarted with the pain. My  spine and shoulders were bruised; sores at my bra line and the top of my shorts were beginning to bleed. I was going to have to toughen up!

Me and George at Laphroaig

Adopting the soon-to-be-trademark John Wayne gait, I moved “swiftly” on.. to the next distillery : Lagavulin (who were most welcoming but I couldn’t handle another dram and their miniatures were not exactly miniature so I couldn’t carry one with me ).. and onto the next : Laphroaig. Here I was met warmly by a fellow runner , Caroline Morris. She organised for me to have a miniature to take away with me so I could savour it after the first day. Vicky Stevens in the Visitor Centre cheerily pushed the bottle into my hands and the lovely George let me step behind the bar for a photo. I look remarkably fresh in the picture (which must have been the Ardbeg-afterglow!).

Port Ellen Lighthouse

Now, with only 5 miles to go, I was on the home stretch to the Port Ellen Lighthouse and the Carraig Fhada Farmhouse where Sally and Harry were letting me use their caravan for the first and last night of the trip. Sally was extremely kind to me : welcoming me into her kitchen for strong hot coffee and introducing me to her extended family who had come from  England to celebrate her birthday. I was even invited to share her celebratory meal (and Allan’s seafood pizza creation was delicious ;-)!)

Sally's extended family

Day 1 ended with the Laphroaig and a view out onto Port Ellen harbour. I was already looking forward to day 2 (such is the positive- and yet mind-altering- effect of a beautiful peaty Islay malt! It seems to bring on a mild yet wonderful insanity that can last up to 9 days…)

Day 2 : Port Ellen Lighthouse – Lower Killeyan – Kintra- Bowmore (25.3)

I slept like a log – an actual log. I couldn’t move, I was so stiff from the neck down. When I got up, I had to lift my legs out of bed – which wasn’t easy because I had to lift my right arm with my left before I could manoeuvre my legs (my arms had seized at the shoulder joint because of the weight of the rucksack). My inner Collie dog was not wagging its tail.

Hmmm..Eddie Izzard did it. That’s what I kept telling myself. If Eddie Izzard could do it – so could I. So I hobbled to the farmhouse and wolfed down my baked beans (I found that I could run on a plate of baked beans on toast almost instantly – no digestion time required…and I am pleased to report that the whole 9-day run took place with remarkably little “wind assistance”.)

The lovely Willie Currie

And so I was off. I had keft my sleeping bag at Sally’s but the rucksack was still incredibly heavy. Willy Currie passed me in his big blue and yellow lorry (I was to “run into” him again on Jura and on the Glen Road back down to Port Ellen later in the week) and stopped for a chat. I was glad of the rest.

After he had gone, I gasped out loud “I need to get rid of more weight” and what do you know? Louise from the RSPB Reserve at Loch Gruinart (where I would be staying on Thursday evening) pulled up in her blue van and offered to take the rest of my camping kit. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was JUBILANT!

Lunch-time at Kintra

And on I cracked – meeting April and Lawrence at Lower Killeyan (who later spurred me on just past Port Charlotte on Day 3), having a gloriously sunny lunch at Kintra beach and lurching into the Bowmore distillery at about 4.30pm.

Lindsay at Bowmore

Running 200 miles makes a girl thirsty!

Lindsay immediately served me my wee dram. The Malt Men’s – a limited edition (only 3000 bottles have been made of this). It was as exquisite as stroking a fine Persian cat 😉

I reached Kate’s (who is involved with the organisation of the increasingly popular Islay Half Marathon) at the Meadowside B&B a little weary. She immediately offered to transport my remaining overnight kit onto Octofad Farm the next day. That really was an incredible weight off my shoulders – it was a very kind thing of her to do for me.

Supper was succulently tender Islay lamb in the Bowmore Hotel, where I met Peter Maclellan (who runs 10 miles every day – and is a former Airdrie FC player) and his son, also Peter, (who told me the most interesting thing I learned on the whole trip : all first-borns on Islay are born in Paisley or Glasgow!).

Day 3 : Bowmore – Bruichladdich- Port Charlotte – Portnahaven- Kilchiaran – Port Charlotte (26.8 miles) DOOMSDAY 1

I slunk out of Bowmore at about 8.15am on Day 3. A sky full of the promise of rain above and the gruelling ,unforgiving hardness of grey tarmac below. Even though my rucksack now only contained my waterproofs, 1.5 litres of water, my camera, phone and my food – it still felt incredibly heavy. I jolted every time I felt it bump into my lower spine. I could feel a wee tearsy coming on. And then the water came from the sky. And then the water came from my eyes. There was water everywhere.

A warm Bruichladdich welcome!

Everything changed at 10.40am when I swerved (yes, I was going at some speed, spurred on by the site of the Bruichladdich distillery– by this stage  I had become a dab-hand at scanning the horizon for a distinctive pagoda that indicated the site of a distillery and I could have rented out my nose to the local constabulary if they needed the services of a sniffer dog who could pick up the scent of some of the finest malts on earth) into the gates of the Bruichladdich distillery.

Dripping with sweat, I blew into the distillery like a gust of Islay wind. “I know who you are,” chirped Mary. She had been expecting me and supplied me with a wee bottle of the finest 😉 Mary told me that the Bruichladdich distillery was already involved with another charity called “Spirit Aid” and that they had already raised over £1000 since May. I have to say that Mary and the other folk at Bruichladdich were as warm and as welcoming to me as the fist sip of “the Laddie” himself 😉 I felt spurred on by their kindness and trotted (in an older horse kind of way) back out into the hammering rain.

Another brief swerve into the Post Office at Port Charlotte (a purveyor of the finest and sweetest flapjacks I have ever tasted), was followed by another gust of my own tears. I was carrying more rations (I’d need these for my trip to the RSPB Reserve), I was cold, the rain was stinging my legs, blood was now trickling from the sores on my back, my collar-bones felt like they were about to snap….when, shimmering like a mirage in the desert (albeit a very wet desert indeed), I saw the bright and cheerful contours of the building of Octofad Farm I would be staying that evening. Kathy welcomed me in – I dropped off the heavy load of food, topped up my water bottles and drudged on.. and on.. and on…the sky like a creased black blanket and the wind like a howling, tormented demon (yes folks, you’ve probably worked out that I wasn’t having a very good day at all!).

As I tumbled into Portnahaven, looking for the “OK bend” that would let me know that I was on-track, I spied a wee tea room. I decided not to go in there but my legs decided otherwise and before I knew it, I was sat down, rucksack on the floor and ordering coffee.

Flora gave me coffee and sat down to chat. It was so kind of her to take the time to talk. I was exhausted..totally spent.. not knowing if I could make the remaining 10 miles. She told me that one of her sons is in the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, about to be sent to Afghanistan. Hearing that, and listening to her as a mother, was far more powerful than any caffeine. When my cup was empty, I got up and ran and ran and ran…the Collie dog was back!

Putting my feet up with a Lagavulin

Kilchiaran Bay was wild and brooding: I stopped to soak up its raw beauty. And then on I ran and ran and ran..until I pelted like Highland hailstones into Port Charlotte. It felt exhilarating. 26.8 miles done. I ran into the Post Office just after 5pm to get more supplies (thank you Sharon for your kindness. It really was very much appreciated) and then jogged into the Port Charlotte Hotel to put my feet up with a celebratory Lagavulin and GORGEOUS

The wild and beautiful Kilchiaran Bay

chicken curry (I think I must hold the local record for the speediest consumption of a curry!)

The Vancouver girls

In the hotel I met Sylvia Sorenson and Norma Barkhouse from North Vancouver. Originally from Edinburgh, they were friendly and chatty and very interested in what I was doing.It was great to share my adventure with them – 2 very adventurous women themselves! I was to see them and their family several times over the next couple of days : they would wind down the window of their car and offer their support in a way that really made me smile.

I slept like a log after this!

Kathy picked me up from the hotel and took me and my rucksack to he farm. I retired to bed with a bottle of Islay Black Rock Ale ..oooh ..a treacly elixir for the long-distance runner. I slept deeply. I didn’t move an inch all night.

Day 4 : Port Charlotte – Kilchoman-Sanaigmore-Ardnave- Loch Gruinart RSPB Reserve (27.5 miles) After my regular plate of beans on toast, taping up my toes and annointing my back with a range of Compede pads (which are brilliant ,by the way, and regular little limpets…their remains are still on my back!), I set off from Port Charlotte (Liz Hathaway from the Bird Reserve was ferrying my overnight kit to Loch Gruinart and dropped me to the start point).

Everything felt different. My legs were loose and relaxed. My rucksack felt like part of me – and it felt very odd without it. I had learned to love the sound of the rhythmic thud of my own feet; I had learned to welcome and smile at the rain; I had learned to be part of the environment in which I was running and to give myself to the wind, the rain and the sea… and I was beginning to learn some important things that I will remind myself of whenever the going gets tough – whatever I am doing :

  1. When life is simple it can be joyful. (My days were gruelling and yet fulfilling. All I had to do put one foot in front of the other for hours on end. But those days of hard labour were always rewarding.)
  2. There is nothing better for the soul than food in an empty belly, washing the grime of the day away and the warmth of human kindness.
  3. One of the greatest gifts that people can give is time for another person (all those who stopped to talk to me made such a difference).
  4. Being outdoors all day makes you feel alive.

Kilchoman distillery

I glided (yes, I actually did) into the Kilchoman distillery, enjoyed a rest and a hot coffee, packed my wee dram into the top of my rucksack and pushed on round Loch Gorm and up to Sanaigmore. I stopped  at the art gallery/café there and spoke to Sarah, a talented jewellery maker (see her stuff here ) who was mulling over the notion of adventure and when it was best to have one.. now or later?

The adventurous Sarah Brown

My words came before I could consciously mediate them.”I think you should have one now. And have one later. In fact, if your whole life isn’t the adventure you’d dreamed it could be, you’re not living your life as fully as you might”.

I listened to my own words. I had just given myself some good advice. I thought about the next few days to come and the rest of my Help For Heroes challenges. I decided to make every second count. To live it all adventurously. Go the whole hog.

So I got up and ran and ran and ran..popping into see Liz at the Reserve on my way up to Ardnave point .. singing Cara Dillon songs out loud to the rhythm of my feet… shouting to everyone I saw at Ardnave about how far I’d run (this was the longest day so far). I felt great. Full of “it”. And I think I was beginning to see what “it” actually was. And I was beginning to see that all of us have “it”. And it can make a body sing. It can actually make a body run. For miles. And miles. And miles.

A slap-up meal for 1!

I swooped into the bothy at the Bird Reserve like a young velociraptor (very common in Perthshire but not so common here..more likely to find a chough…and corncrakes at other times of

Freshly flown in!

year). I was STARVING and elated…but the birders were all out doing I had a quiet celebration with the Kilchoman, oatcakes and some Nutella ( a classic combination for the well-developed palate).

Beth at the Bird Reserve

I spent my evening talking to Beth and Linda while devouring (in a very Jurassic Park kind of way) a plate of rice, tuna and vegetables – and working myself up to laying out my bivvy bag in the back garden. It was going to be a first. An adventure.

My bivvy bag from Cotswolds in Glasgow

If Rosie Swale-Pope could manage 5 years in a small tent..I could manage a night in a bivvy bag. And out I strode into the wilds of a well-mown back garden. I lay down. I got into the bag. I zipped it up and the heavens opened (as they often do in this part of the world 😉

Hmmm…would it keep me dry? More importantly, would my running shoes keep dry? I made an emergency call to my adventure consultant in County Antrim from deep inside my bivvy bag. He told me to relax and enjoy the experience and that the bag would hold but I was so hot I could hardly breathe and the bag kept enveloping my face in a Burke and Hare body-snatching kind of way. So I decided to sleep with my head out of the bag…well, I didn’t expect that much sleep as the dragon flies were busy out on night-time bombing raids but I thought I’d give it a go.

I opened the bag. I stuck my head out to enjoy the stars and whoooooooshhhh …a plague of midges covered me in a way only Indiana Jones would understand…feasting on my uncovered flesh (and they said there were no velociraptors in these parts!!). That was the end of my bivvy bag experience. I got up. I went in. I slept on the sofa.

Day 5 : Loch Gruinart Reserve – Bridgend- Ballygrant- Port Askaig – Ballygrant (18 miles) DOOMSDAY 2 I didn’t get that much sleep on the sofa but I wasn’t too concerned. It was only going to be an 18-miler, after all!

Well..just how wrong can a girl be? The run to Bridgend went smoothly. I stopped at the shop there to get provisions for my 3-day Jura run. Now my bag felt like a tonne – the tins of mackeral (my omega 3 intake rocketed during this 9-day trip!) cutting into my weary back – and I still didn’t have everything I needed. I trotted on further, popping into the “Square” to say hello to Liz Hathaway’s husband who runs the Islay Ale brewery and then going into the Islay Community Garden to pick up some vegetables.

And the rain just kept falling. And my backpack just got heavier and heavier. My spirits were falling a damn sight faster than I was running. I began to slow right down – the road to Ballygrant seemed endless and I couldn’t see the sea. I had lost my only companion and I felt totally alone.

Cars and lorries splashed by as I crept through the miles, finally reaching the milestone that indicated that Ballygrant (where I could drop off my food before continuing to Port Askaig) was only 1 mile away…but what an interminable mile that was.

On the verge of ending it all by throwing myself into a hedge (it’s a little- known fact that the preferred way of leaving the planet for most ultra-runners is by diving into a convenient hedge ;-)) I found myself being stared at by a man in a white van.

Islay McEachern : the man who stopped me from diving into a hedge 😉

His eyebrows were raised, humour creasing the corners of his mouth, as he observed my stagger. ” Are you mad?” he enquired. I replied that I had just realised that I was way back on the road from Bridgend (I kept the hedge-diving thoughts to myself though).

We talked for a while about my fund-raising challenge. He was very supportive (he actually transported my overnight kit from the Ballygrant Inn to the Port Ellen lighthouse on the final day of my trip- very kind of him indeed).

Day 5 : blisters, sweat rash and bruised toenails

Again, my spirits raised by human contact, I upped the pace and stormed in to the Ballygrant Inn David Graham welcomed me in and I dropped off my Jura supplies, running on to Port Askaig and back to Ballygrant to finish the 18-mile day. Louise from the RSPB Reserve dropped in my overnight kit – I bathed, tended my bruised toe-nails and then went to eat.

Ewen Graham at the Ballygrant Inn

My malt of the day was to be a Caol Ila – the distillery being very close to Port Askaig (so it was local to my stopping point for the night).  I spent the evening in the good company of  William (who had seen active service in  the military himself) and Catriona from Falkirk.

William and Catriona

The venison steak, cooked by David, was the tenderest piece of meat I have ever eaten; the red wine sauce a perfect foil to the earthiness of the venison and the vegetables “al dente”. I ate it all. I slept deeply that night.

Day 6 : Port Askaig – Feolin – Craighouse – Ardlussa (25 miles) David served a plate of perfect baked beans on toast (I don’t think he could actually believe that’s what I would run 25 miles on up to Ardlussa on Jura that day) and then drove me to Port Askaig where I waited for the 9.30 boat to Jura.

Waiting for the wee ferry to Jura

It was raining (actually David Graham told me how to forecast the weather on Islay in a very reliable way. He said, if you can’t see the Paps then it’s raining. If you can see the Paps, then it’s about to rain ;-)) and I was really excited about the next 3 days.

I had the feeling that it was going to get a bit wilder and a bit more remote. Konrad Borkowski (check out his photographic genius here ) who drives the bus on Jura had kindly offered to pick up my bags from the waiting room at Feolin and drive them up to the Ardlussa Estate where I would be staying for 2 nights (Andrew and Claire Fletcher were so generous in offering me the use of a cottage for the duration of my Jura run).

Only 25 miles to go to Ardlussa!

Again, my heart beat hard with excitement as I told the ferry man what I was doing. The 5-minute crossing was over in a flash. I dropped my bulging rucksack liner into the waiting room and set off towards Craighouse, keeping an eye out for Konrad and his white bus.

I ran cautiously through a herd of long-horn cattle (I was getting used to this – and had even taken up cow whispering by this stage) and then relaxed into my pace. It was misty and atmospheric – again I was alone with the thud of my own feet.

As promised, Konrad and his bus appeared on the horizon a little after 10am. I waved him down for a chat – it was so good to meet him.

The distillery on Jura

On I pounded to Craighouse where I popped into the Jura distillery and then on up north.. the traffic thinned and again I was on my own. For miles and miles and miles…on past the Paps of Jura, down into shore-hugging Lagg, then onto Tarbert with beautiful views of the Loch.

A while later, a car stopped and wound down its windows. It was Claire Fletcher. She said I still had a few miles to go (the hedge-diving thought entered my mind again) and it was getting late.

Konrad and the Jura bus

On I went, totally taken up by my own thoughts of hedges (and other ways to abandon ship) when the roar of the Jura bus glided into my consciousness. The ever-cheerful Konrad offered me hot tea and told me I only had a few

A rare surge (picture by Konrad)

miles to go. About 3 or so… only 3 or so… I could feel a surge coming on!

So surge I did.. and my left quadricep screamed with agony ..and I shouted out the immortal words “get me a hedge”!

DISASTER.This could be a disaster. I’d need ice as soon as possible. I’d need to get my leg up and get some anti-inflammatories. I hobbled across the cattle grid that marks the entrance to the Ardlussa Estate. It was beautiful: a sparkling white house shimmering in the evening sun – the sea at its majestic feet. I felt grim. My feet were far from majestic. I wondered if I’d manage this feat now.

The ultimate leg-icing experience!

Andrew showed me to the cottage which had everything I needed for my 2-night stay : very hot water, a firm bed and bags of peace and quiet. I dug out my 2 Ibrufrofen tablets I had brought with me (I had been very optimistic ;-)) and opened the fridge door to check if the freezer compartment had ice in it. It had the perfect thing in it : a bottle of Jameson’s Irish whisky shaped perfectly to match my quadricep. I lay down and took my daily dram : this time externally ;-). I took a hot bath, shovelled in a plateful of rice and then went to bed – a little anxious about how my quadricep would be for the

Gamekeepers Cottage, Ardlussa Estate

next day. I decided an early start would esure that I made it up to Kinuachdrachd and back – whatever state my leg was in.

Day 7 : Ardlussa- Kinuachdrachd- Ardlussa (16.5) TOUCHING THE VOID A driech day beckoned me out of the door at 8am. My left leg was rigid and painful but as I pulled on my rucksack, I could feel it loosening. I felt hopeful.. and so I hobbled…and hobbled and

The harbour at Kinuachdrachd

hobbled…herded a few cows at Lealt… went by Barnhill (where George Orwell wrote 1984) and before I knew it I was at Kinuachdrachd ,”the end of the road”, and my turning point for the day.

I went to the harbour and sat down. A searing pain shot from my left knee to my groin. I squealed. I had an urge to vomit. My leg went rigid. I imagined that this is what it must have been like for Joe Simpson (the author of the very popular true climbing story “Touching The Void”) when he realised that his climbing partner had cut the rope on him. I dialled the hot-line to my adventure consultant in County Antrim . “Who has cut the

My leg injury might well have meant the end of the road....

f!*king rope?” I screeched down the phone. He knew what I meant straight away. “I am drawing out a big circle at the harbour here with an H in it for the helicopter. How long will you be?”

It was good to get the frustration out and laugh. No-one was there to witness my predicament. I put the phone down, stared at the sea and comforted myself with yet another tinned mackeral sandwich.

By this stage I was used to talking out loud to myself. “Just get up Jane and get on with it.” The voice was particularly strict that day – so I did just that.

As soon as I realised that there seemed to be a distinct lack of hedges of a suitable quality in which to dive, my mood changed. The Jura sun grew warm and cast splinters of glitter into the super-blue sea. I was almost enjoying the hobbling now!

A victorious re-entry into the Gamekeeper’s  Cottage at Ardlussa took place at 2.30pm. I slept. I iced my leg. I bathed. I ate. I slept. Ready for a 6am start in the morning.

Day 8 : Ardlussa- Feolin-Port Askaig (25miles) HOW TO BE A PIRATE I woke at 5.15am and carried out an initial leg check. It wasn’t looking that great : it was swollen and very stiff but it would have to do its job. Today’s mileage would be done by brute force – I braced myself for what was ahead (25 miles and a cheese and marmalade sandwich… I didn’t know which to be the most concerned about ;-))

I opened the door to the cottage and morning crept in like a stray cat. The sky was splashed with swathes of fuschia-pink; the shrinking canopy of night still holding the hush so that sleep could drowse on for the other islanders. I tip-toed (in only the way that Long John Silver might) down the lane and left my green rucksack liner at the cattlegrid for Konrad to pick up on his morning run.

The effect of keeping to Jack Sparrow's beauty regime 😉

The image of a pirate seemed very fitting. It was  just a question of finding the right pirate to be that day. I was looking like a bit of a ocean-scoured wreck : my all-black  salt-marked running kit had already seen 7 days of hard action; my face looked bitten by the wind ; my hair had become as wild as the winter seas ; my rucksack the trusty parrot on my shoulders. As I am writing this, a big smile is creeping across my heavily-moisturised face. Day 8 was Captain Jack Sparrow’s day (Pirates of the Carribean) – a most resilient pirate, equipped with a sense of humour that always sees him through. In the words of the great Jack Sparrow : “When you marooned me on that spit of land, you forgot one very important thing, mate: I’m Captain Jack Sparrow.”

We're all alot stronger than we think we are

So there I was at one end of the spit of land that is the wildy beautiful Jura (with one good leg) and I just had to remember that very important thing. I was going to make it to the ferry because today I would mostly be being Captain Jack Sparrow, mate!

The Paps (taken from the rise before Tarbert)

I hobbled and hobbled and hobbled, enjoying the isolation, enjoying having the vast panorama of the morning all to myself. The Paps were breath-taking, their peaks dipped in raspberry-coulis light (you can probably tell that I was already starving at this stage!).

Everything looked perfect. I felt very emotional : I was moving through perfection. Not just a glimpse of perfection either. No. I moved through perfection for hours and hours, mesmerised by the changing colours in the sky, the warmth of the sun like a supportive arm around my sore shoulders, the sparkling water weaving magic in the early light.

The hours came and went. A brief interlude at Lagg when Konrad and his bus passed, furnishing me with much-needed Ibruprofen. Before I knew it I was in Craighouse ordering a scone in the bistro there : it was only 11.15am!

So used to being outdoors had I become that the prospect of sitting indoors to eat my scone never crossed my mind. It felt so warm inside ; I couldn’t breath properly. Instinctively, I found myself a place outside.

By 2pm I was at Feolin. Willie Currie and his lorry turned up. Konrad and Dorota turned up in their green car. I sat with my final cheese and marmelade sandwich (which was delicious, by the way!) and waited for the ferry. In spite of my leg, 25 miles had been a joyful experience.

The Bunnahabhain - marking my crossing back to Islay

Konrad and Dorota dropped me at the Ballygrant Inn. I celebrated with an 18-year old dram of Bunnahabhain(thanks to Lillian at Bunnahabhain for offering a dram at the distillery – unfortunately, it would have added 8 miles to the day and I just couldn’t manage another step!) and re-plotted my final route for Day 9. David had suggested taking the Glen Road to the High Road rather than the previously planned Bridgend route. It was perfect – my miles would be done by the end of the following day.

Another luxurious plateful of venison replenished my energy stores. As I waited for my food, I looked out onto the Paps of Jura. An intense wave of emotion, rippled through my body – I can only compare it to the power of some of the final contractions I experienced when my son was born. I had no control over the feeling but I knew it meant something significant. Tears came to my eyes. I was surprised at how emotional I was feeling.

This had become a way of life – and I was really going to miss it. I was going to miss this place too.

I sat with a cyclist and talked about life on the move. It was good to bring the last 8 days back to life. It was good to talk about adventure.

Again, I slept deeply.

Day 9 : Ballygrant – Glen Road – High Road – Port Ellen – Port Ellen Lighthouse (17 miles) BORN TO RUN By 8am I was at the breakfast table. Beans on toast were delivered by David as I watched the rain falling outside. I smiled at the rain. A perfect day for the last leg.

This man knows how to cook!

After managing to get David to reveal his red wine sauce recipe (go to the end of this post to read it!), I left my green rucksack liner for Islay M to pick up later and secured my rucksack on my back.

Today was about savouring every last moment of this experience. Today I would keep my eyes wide open to everything. Today I would welcome the rain on my face. Today I would hope for cattle in the road. I wanted “today” to last. I knew with every step I took, I was creating a memory that would keep me going for far longer than 2o3 miles.

I opened the door of the Ballygrant Inn and started to run. My leg felt good. My heart welcomed the increasing demand on it. The beads of sweat formed eagerly. My rucksack felt like it was part of my body. I felt like I was born to run. I ran quickly. I ran joyfully. For this moment, I felt like part of everything.I had my place .I was content.

Whilst my body felt fully alive, my mind was becoming increasingly fatigued. I lost track of where I was : I had to call David for instructions. A friendly man from Ballygrant stopped in his van to chat on the Glen Road. I could hardly string a sentence together but I was very glad of his company for a few short moments. He had seen me all over the island over the past 9 days : I knew practically every inch of that island now. It was beginning to feel like home.

And then..just as everything was going so well…suddenly it wasn’t! Just as I hit the High Road, it felt like my left quadricep was ripped out of my groin. I yelped.I’d just have to hobble into Port Ellen.

Willie Currie passed me in his lorry. He stopped for a chat and offered me a lift.He made me giggle and it felt good to be distracted from the pain. My leg begged to climb inside the cab. I must have looked in a bit of a state. But I had to hobble on. I had to do it on my own 2 legs. There was no other way.

I've just finished!

And hobble I did..into Port Ellen and then onto the lighthouse, back to Sally’s. I had done it. I sat on the beach with a hot coffee to allow the experience to settle. All done by mid-afternoon.

A wee dram of my local brew, the Famous Grouse, marked the end of the adventure. Islay delivered my kit to me .”You’ll be back, won’t you?” he asked. “Oh, I definitely will!”

I ate alone in the caravan, savouring my memories more than the rice and tuna. I watched the sun set. I watched the lights in Port Ellen harbour. I didn’t want the day to end. I set my alarm early so I could have the start of the next morning to myself. Just me and the sea.

Day 10 : Homeward Bound Shortly after 7am I found myself perched on the steps to the lighthouse, a plate of peanut butter on toast on my knees. I

Breakfast time at the lighthouse

listened to the lapping lullaby of the waves. My body was still asleep – it knew I had stopped. The collie dog was in its basket.

I said my good-byes to Sally and to the caravan (which I had really enjoyed).

Sally's caravan is behind me

The taxi took me to the harbour – the MV Arran already docked. I got on her. I slept deeply. And I dreamed of running.

The collie dog was wagging its tail and had its lead in its mouth. It was ready to go again.



Me and my faithful collie dog say goodbye to Islay

1. Number of pairs of socks for the 203 mile run : 3.

2. Number of sets of running kit run in : 1.

3. Number of tins of mackeral eaten : enough to lengthen my life by 300 years (at least).

4.Favourite places : Ardtalla, Kilchiaran and Kinuachdrachd (for the sense of isolation and peace).

Oh….and I must give you David Graham’s recipe for venison steak in a red wine sauce :

1.Flash fry the venison for 2-3 minutes on each side.

2.Once that’s done, deglaze the pan with a glass of red wine. Add in a tbsp of red currant or branble jelly, a little beefstock (2-3 tbsp – this is optional but does add a little depth).

3.Stir in a couple of knobs of cold butter to make the sauce glossy.

My mouth is watering at the thought of it!

How could a girl resist those hills?

MY THANKS GO TO : the people of Islay and Jura who showed me nothing but kindness and generosity. To the folk who fed and watered me, to the folk who gave me somewhere to sleep, to the folk who transported my overnight kit, to the folk at the distilleries, to the folk who made donations to the H4H pot : my heartfelt thanks. To all of those who took the time to talk to me : thankyou (you kept me going!)

It really was a very moving experience. I hope my story moves you enough to give to the Help For Heroes charity here :

Posted by: intrepidjane | July 23, 2010

Islay & Jura : The Heart Of Scotland

If you're going to have a sponsor, you might as well have a big one!


Yesterday I wrote a post about my upcoming (and very last-minute – I only decided to do it YESTERDAY!!) 10-day 200+ mile run across Islay and Jura which I am starting on Monday 26th July. This is a very late addition to my Help For Heroes fundraising “portfolio” ( you can track my progress here ) but I think it’s showing all the signs of becoming one of the most significant elements of my quest. I’m not sure what its significance is yet : but I am sure I will learn its meaning whilst I am actually running on Islay and Jura.

I didn’t know which picture to use for the post but as I was scrolling through my album, one made me smile – so I posted it (and I’ve used it again today because there seems to be some magic in it 😉 It was taken last summer in Donegal after rock-climbing at Malin Beg and swimming in the Atlantic. I was blissfully happy. I had just met the man with whom I was about to fall in love.

There's nothing like a good stretch...a 200 mile stretch!

You could say that the picture is a little irreverent – and having my picture taken next to the Blessed Virgin Mary is not something I’ve made a habit of (although, talking of habits, I was mistaken – despite my swearing- for a nun once. REALLY ;-). As I posted it, the caption immediately came to mind – even though I am not of a religious persuasion .. my thinking being that if you are going to have a sponsor, you might as well go for the biggest sponsorship deal you can!

And so last night I set about emailing places to stay – a little worried that a peak season adventure (organised at the very last minute) may cause me to run into a few difficulties where accommodation is concerned. The strangest and most wonderful things have happened since 8pm last night….

I picked the figure of 200 miles in 10 days out of the air. To be honest, I even picked Islay and Jura out of the air .. I’ve lived in Scotland for 11 years and never felt a pull in that direction at all. So I sat down with a road atlas and the AA Route Planner site in front of me and set about planning a route .. basically attempting to cover every road on both the islands. And what do you know – covering all the roads adds up to 196.2 miles.. add in the extra mileage to reach 2 of the places where I am overnighting .. and I’ll be covering 2oo miles on the nose 😉 (in 9 days with the 10th left for a leisurely sail back to Kennacraig!). So, I had a tailor-made running route.

The next thing would be the task of finding places to stay. And I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity, helpfulness and kindness shown to me by the islanders.

Sally Underwood at Carraig Fhada House (near Port Ellen’s lighthouse) had no room at all but she has MADE room for me and is making no charge for my stay on the first and last nights of my run. You can find Sally’s place here

In Bowmore, I am staying with Kate who runs the Meadowside B&B. She has offered me a room at a fraction of the full price. You can call Kate here 01496 810479 and find details of her B&B here

In Port Charlotte, I am staying at Octofad Farm with Cathy who put me in touch with Liz Hathaway at the RSPB reserve near Ardnave. You can find Cathy’s place here

Liz at the RSPB Reserve has organised a tent for me outside the reserve’s bothy near Ardnave – with use of the cooking facilities. This is, literally, a Godsend, as finding places to stay in that area would have proven tough. Liz has also given me a contact who may be able to help me on Jura. You can read more about the reserve here

At Ballygrant (near Port Askaig), David Graham has made me a very generous offer for 2 nights (one on the way out to Jura and one on the way back) at the Ballygrant Inn. You can find David and Ewen’s place here

On Jura, Andy and Claire have offered me the use of  one of their cottages on the Ardlussa Estate – it’s in the EXACT location I need it to be in for my running itinerary (A big thanks to Andy at the Jura Hotel too -;-) He pointed me in exactly the right direction!)

My friend Ruth from Lochgilphead is helping with the organisation of potential evening meals and fall-back plans too. Thanks also to the MacFarlane clan for the use of their holiday house in Tarbert on Sunday evening which will help me catch an early ferry on Monday to Islay.

Craig at Cotswolds in Glasgow is BRILLIANT!

Also a GREAT BIG THANKS to Craig at Cotswolds at the West End Retail Park, Glasgow, who helped me with organising my kit for this 😉

It would seem that I am having an extraordinary run of luck and running into the kindest of people. And all organised within about 12 hours! Islay certainly has a very warm heart indeed.For those of you who know me well, you’ll know exactly why my heart really is in this run – and I think it’ll do my heart the world of good.

My Route :

Day 1 : Port Ellen to Kintour and back (15.6 miles)

Day 2 : Port Ellen, Lower Killeyan, Kintra, Bowmore (26.3 miles)

Day 3 : Bowmore, Portnahaven, Kilchiaran, Port Charlotte (26.8 miles)

Day 4 : Port Charlotte, Kilchoman, Ballinaby, Sanaigmore, Ardnave (24.5 miles)

Day 5: Ardnave, Bridgend, Port Askaig (18miles)

Day 6: (Jura) Feolin Ferry, Lussagiven (23.5 miles)

Day 7: (Jura) Lussagiven, Kinuachdrachd, Lussagiven (19.4 miles)

Day 8: Lussagiven, Port Feolin, Port Askaig (23.5 miles)

Day 9: Port Askaig, Bridgend, Leonin, Port Ellen (18.6 miles)

Average daily mileage : 21.5 miles

Tapering : zero (I am just turning up and running – as simple as that 😉

To give me something to look forward to, I intend to do the “cultural thing” and visit as many of Islay and Jura’s distilleries as I can. Already I have had lovely offers from the following distilleries (although Iam not sure how well ultra running and whisky mix….) :

Cheers! A toast to all those who have helped me!

My heartfelt thanks to all those who have helped me with this adventure! I have the sense that there is nothing random about these acts of kindness. It’s the strangest and yet most comforting of feelings.

If you’re feeling as generous as an Islay/Jura islander, feel free to make a donation here (I’ve raised over £6k so far).

Gotta run!

JT (Probably sponsored by God; definitely helped by the kind folk of Islay and Jura ;-))

Posted by: intrepidjane | July 22, 2010

Running it into the ground…

If God were my main sponsor......

Today I thought I had lost one of the most precious things in my life. In the grief of this moment, I want to run in the way that only Forrest Gump himself would. It will be grief that fuels this run – and I am sure it is one of the most powerful fuels there is. And I want to use this fuel in the most positive way I can : to raise more money for H4H. So the plan is to run over 200 miles in 10 days on Islay and Jura and a little on the Kintyre Peninsula. I will start running on Monday July 26th … it is now already Thursday 22nd…I am looking for campsites, B&Bs and hosts..I am calling Cotswolds in Glasgow about bivvy bags. This is going to be wild. This is going to be desperate. I am on my my emotional edge. I am going to my physical edge. And I am going to the edge of this beautiful country. I am going to be hanging off the edge for 10 days. It will be good for my soul/my soles and some “bloody feet” if I can pull it off!

Gotta run!

JT 😉

At the beginning of my training journey : athletic and toned in a very curvy way 😉

On the 8th September 2009 I started training for a summer 2010 ultramarathon – heaving me and my then size 16 body a full 3 miles. (Actually my partner doesn’t realise that I was so “curvy” then – due to me describing myself as “athletic and toned” before we met on a blind date and also because he is ,fortunately, as blind as a bat – even with his glasses on!)

I was running from a standing start after a 6-year lay-off (a crisp and pizza holiday that went a little out of control), motivated by a programme I had seen on television about soldiers who left the military and who needed support to resolve post-traumatic stress but just weren’t getting it.

As a mother myself, I found it hard to watch these children of other women suffer. As a professional working in the field of emotional well-being, I found it ludicrous that these men who had served their country were not being served in return. In that moment, I decided to run to raise money for Help For Heroes : if that were my son, I’d want him cared for properly.

5:45 am race day!

Fast-forward 9 months and I find myself standing at the start line of the Mourne Way Ultramarathon in Northern Ireland, ready to heave myself a full 52 miles. Since September, I had trained 6 days a week (with a brief stay in hospital for a pair of tonsils that grew out of control), lost 3 stone in weight, reduced the size of my chest by 4 cup sizes and had become a willowy size 8 (okay – I’m 44, so perhaps willowy in a Bag Puss kind of way might be a better description: a bit loose at the seams here and there but nothing Gok Wan’s advice on structured underwear couldn’t rectify).

They are now dead and in shoe heaven

By 5:45am, my partner (who had generously decided to run the race with me – and carry extra peanut butter sandwiches in case of emergency along with a copy of my will should I, at any point, lose the will to live) and I had arrived in Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor on the edge of a glorious summer’s day. There were about 50 of us participating in the ultramarathon : all shapes and sizes, all ages and all very friendly. Our boxes for the half-way point had been delivered for onward transport : a stash of peanut butter sandwiches, sports drink and clean socks. I think I must have been quite nervous because I went to the loo about 4 times before we started – the enormity of the undertaking was just sinking in!

By 6:15am we were off, with a full day’s running along the full distance of the Mourne Way (and back) ahead. We had taken a team decision to run slowly and eat regularly – and I had also organised a little help for us in the form of a bit of Uri-Geller style mind-bending. (Go to the comments at the bottom of this page to read about all the mind-bending activity ) At 9.30am, midday, 3pm and 5.30pm, my friends in Scotland, England and the US had planned to send us various mind-gifts of a “cosmic” nature. Gifts ranged from surges of energy to soothing leg balm and we were both looking forward to arrivals from the sky at these key times.

All I can say is that I’m not so sure that I am a fan of this mind-bending lark. At 9.30am I sunk my right foot into a bog (just before the road section by the Spelga Dam). My partner laughed, I called him a bastard and the runner behind us overtook with a gazelle- like surge that, technically speaking, was obviously meant for me 😉

The Fofanny Dam section was very quiet indeed – actually a stoney silence reigned in that part of County Down for a good wee while, broken only by my occasional Mutley-like growls as my team-mate Dick Dastardly floated effortlessly along behind me and by the squelch of my sodden Mizunos. (Oh and someone whistling to us because we had taken a wrong turn : thank you Stuart, runner 35 😉 By the Tollymore Forest section, we were back on speaking terms, refreshed by a friendly welcome at the mile 18 feed station and by ground that was much easier going under foot.

Mars Bar break at 19 miles

Just after 11am we stopped for a Mars Bar break and were amazed minutes later to see the first male runner on his way back from Donnard Park. He looked completely relaxed – and to be frank with you, so were we because we were, by this stage, looking forward to our next mind-bending treat around midday.

The midday treats were to be loaded with sky-rockets of energy. All I can say is that I didn’t realise that skyrockets could be so lethargic and slow as we cruised into Donnard Park at the 26 mile mark and promptly assumed a totally horizontal position. They obviously don’t make skyrockets the way they used to.

At the 26-mile point!

We had a lovely welcome into Donnard Park by the marathon runners who were waiting to start their race at 12.30. After they left – and after a malt-loaf stop and a change of socks – we hauled ourselves back into the vertical position and set off on the way back. And do you know what? We still were travelling in hope at this stage. Do you know why? Well, at 3.30pm God himself was supposed to intervene (thanks to a Theta healing group in Loch Lomond who were praying for us at this time) and a huge flock of transcendental jackdaws from Glastonbury Tor were being sent to us to spirit us along. What more could a weary ultra-runner hope for: divine intervention and wings!

Well, you are probably getting the hang of this by now. Needless to say, God didn’t turn up and, to be honest, I wouldn’t know what a transcendental jackdaw would actually look like anyway (but there weren’t flocks of anything at all and our feet did not sprout the wings we expected). Instead, something very strange happened : the laws of physics warped themselves somewhere between mile 34 and mile 44. Whilst, to the naked eye, we appeared to be moving forwards, we could have both sworn that we were actually moving backwards!

Savaged by a plague of midges

As 5.30pm approached we were positively nervous about what kind of gifts would arrive next (and we were nowhere near the finish line, might I add!) and I was up to my hips in deep spiritual crisis (I could tell how severe the crisis was because I appeared to be running like John Wayne. Well, not actually running as such…) All I can remember is heat and then endless forest and then instead of cosmic healing leg balm…a plague of midges. Yes, a plague so large you could have probably seen it from space. I donned my buff and gloves (I was starting to bear an uncanny resemblance to Mother Theresa – when she wasn’t in her prime- at this stage.)

We've just done a whole 52 miles!

The last stage of the race in the forest was all a bit of a blur – as was the runner who hared past us at about 8pm (he probably got the wings and the skyrocket). As he sped by us he shouted that he could smell the finishing line (actually I think it was either my socks or my partner’s “wind-assistance” techniques )Just before 9pm we crossed the finish line back in Rostrevor. In spite of the fact that we were nearly last to finish, we received a very warm welcome from remaining fellow runners, race organisers and a second tsunami of midges.

Would we do it again?

It was a really well organised, scenic and friendly race : of course we would 😉

Key Insight Gained During The Race

Darts is a worthy sport.

Top Pre-Race Training Runs

Torridon in the snow (January 2010) – most scenic.

Drymen along the West Highland Way (February 14 2010) – most romantic

Out to the Antrim coast and back (April 2010) – longest (34.5 miles)

Celebrated Completion of The Mourne Way Ultra By

Refuelling in style!

Eating steak, potatoes, asparagus, corn on the cob and cauliflower nicoise.

Drinking Irish coffee and a wee dram of Talisker.

Watching an inspirational film about the Eiger where everybody died (thus inspiring us to run another ultramarathon in Mongolia 2011 – obviously).

Race Injuries


1 blister and sore metatarsals!

Help For Heroes Fundraising

So far, I’ve managed to raise over £1000 for Help For Heroes via my Just Giving page . Over the next year I am undertaking a range of challenges, supported by my tireless partner (sometimes I wish he would actually get tired – especially during ultramatrathons!) to raise a further £99 000. The challenges will culminate in an unsupported cycle ride -on a home-made tandem tricycle- to St Petersburg and participation in the 2011 running of the Sunris To Sunset 100k ultra race in Mongolia.  You can keep track of what I am doing here on my blog

You can read more about the Mourne Way series of races here :

Gotta run!  JT 😉 Last Lady Finisher in her first ultra marathon 14:45:32 😉

Posted by: intrepidjane | June 4, 2010

How To Re-Mind Yourself Of What Is Possible!

"Life is too short for soft options" Andy Kirkpatrick (Psychovertical)

NEWSFLASH : I did it! On Saturday 12th June I completed my first ever ultra-marathon. 52 miles. All of it done! For those of you who have supported me so far : thankyou! I appreciate the fact that you’ve gone the extra mile for me 😉 Gotta run (Irish coffee beckoning!) J 😉

It’s Friday 4th June 2010. This time next week, I”ll be in the back of a VW Transporter van in Northern Ireland eating like it’s my last meal on earth (as I am writing this, I am actually thinking it could be my last meal on earth!) and preparing to get very little sleep on a thin bouldering mat before getting up at the crack of dawn to get myself to the race line for a 6.30am start. A race that will transport me 52 miles by my own human power. By my own human legs. I’ll be taking the very first step of the very first adventure to raise £100k for Help For Heroes.

Of course, I’ve trained for this – almost 9 months to the day from (literally) a standing start. 6 days a week of my life for the last 9 months dedicated to training for this event (with a brief stay in hospital in April due to a set of comedy tonsils ;-). My long runs have seen me out running for as long as 7 and a half hours at a time: it’s been a full-time job! And when I’ve been working, to cover the miles , I’ve often had to run before breakfast, in my lunchbreak and after work : 3 runs in a day! I should be feeling prepared – but something unusual is happening…. and it’s not just happening to me.

Last night I was talking to my partner on Skype (he lives in a different country – so we’re good at the “very long distance” thing ;- You could even say I’ve been doing an “ultra” since I met him!) . We started to talk about the Mourne Way ultra. First we talked about the amount of food we would need to carry..we started to giggle when we realised we might need our own husky dog team to haul our sandwich bags (jars of peanut butter are VERY heavy, you know). I have a one-track mind right now : FOOD.. 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, a big supper and 4 light grazings in-between.. and I’m still bearing an uncanny resemblance to something you might see hanging from a hook in an osteopath’s consulting room! (And I’m tapering…I can’t believe the roaring hunger that’s in me).

But that wasn’t the thing. The unusual thing that we have both done. The weird thing is…for both of us…life exists up until the 11th and after the 12th but the 12th itself is just a black hole. Already my partner has his mind on climbing in Yosemite in September. Already I have my mind on the West Highland Way and cycling 100 miles in a day in October. I am shifting my identity : I’m a cyclist. My partner is reverting to his identity as a climber. We have leap-frogged the event itself.

We wondered why. Are 52 miles of running too big to compute? How could we tackle the 12th so it exists in a way that we will not only survive but actually enjoy the event? Neither of us knew the answer.

So we both went away to our beds. I woke at 4am – that is happening alot recently because my body has so much energy in it now due to the lightening of the training load. With a few hours to go before I needed to get up for work, I decided to read. I’m reading Andy Kirkpatrick’s  Psychovertical just now – a story of how a man discovers who he can be by pitting himself against some of the most challenging climbs on earth. He describes how one climber climbed the Muir Wall in Yosemite by just concentrating on the sky hook he was placing…by focusing on the move he was actually making and nothing else. Would this be a way to run the 52? By just concentrating on the step we are taking?

Satisfying my hunger with chocolate digestives and an adventurous ride over the highest mountain pass in Britain.

The thing is though, I think it’s more than this. Andy talks about having a fire inside him later in the book. Something in him that drives him on. Something he sees in others too.I wonder if it’s in me. I have no doubt that it ‘s in my partner. I’ve seen it in him. I’ve heard it in his voice when he talks about soloing big walls in Yosemite.

And now I am smiling to myself. I have suddenly got the message as I sit here with my peanut butter and banana  sandwich supper in my hand. There is something in me – and I am standing in wonder of its total raw humanness (if that word exists). Yes – my belly is not just hungry : I am. I am hungry to help the children of others. I am hungry for the adventure and my appetite is growing ;-).

Today I was working in Drymen by Loch Lomond at the lovely Tir Na Nog. In the coffee break I saw a card which quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson : “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us”. I hope he’s right : may 52 miles be a small matter and may the hunger I have for this and the adventures to come keep me going! And if all else fails, I’ll remind myself of the words of Churchill : “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”.

Keep going with what lies within you,reader! (It’s your own natural fuel ;-))

JT (you can help our heroes by donating here:

Posted by: intrepidjane | May 27, 2010

On The Edge Of An Adventure

It’s only 17 days until I take the first step onto the path of adventure – a year of physical fund-raising adventures starting on the 12th June 2010 (the Mourne ultra marathon – 52 miles off-road in Northern Ireland) and culminating in a journey on a home-made tandem tricycle (with my partner  – who’s actually making it!) to St Petersburg before a final 100k race in Mongolia.

And the aim of this all? Well, the aim is to raise £100k for the Help For Heroes charity because, as a mother, I would want my son to be cared for no matter what his age. I am raising this money so our military sons and daughters get the support that their mothers would want for them.

I took my first training step on September the 8th 2009 with an ultramarathon in mind. Now, 4 dress-sizes smaller, the more I have shrunk, the more my ambitions have expanded. Now I have a full-blown adventure series ahead of me.

I am standing on the edge of one of the most amazing adventures of my life.

On the edge!

I’ll keep you posted!

Gotta run! J 😉

If you would like to make a donation to Help For Heroes, you can do it here :

Your generosity is much appreciated – it helps me take the next step!


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