This week has felt a bit like cramming at the last minute for an exam. Although you know you’ve handed in your coursework, memorised the pretty colour-coded post-it notes all over your bedroom wall and drawn extensive spider diagrams, you still know that it all comes down to those hideous three hours behind the little desk in the hall, with just a biro and some nervous glances at your best friend to help you. You can’t help but feel on the night before the exam that you must spend every minute until you fall asleep trying to read, memorise and forcibly shove facts and figures into your brain, just in case… because you don’t want to regret not using this last minute opportunity. This week I have felt very similar to this, suddenly panicking every other second that I should be doing some exercise, grabbing two tins of kidney beans and doing some bicep curls while running up the stairs, just in case I’m losing fitness while I’m do the washing up. In the last week I have also started getting those nervy, anxious, night-before-exam dreams. In fact last night I was naked at work, watching in dismay as my teeth fell out one by one. I’m such a cliché.
After last Sunday’s 22 miler, my legs and the balls of my feet were not going to let me do any serious exercise until Wednesday. I twitched for Monday and Tuesday as the need to cram was quite strong but physically I couldn’t do it. I had remembered that I wanted to do a night walk to practise walking in the dark (suddenly, when reading this back to myself, it sounds a bit odd. What did I think would be different? That my feet would forget what to do or that my legs would refuse to bend at the knees due to the lack of sunlight?) On Wednesday evening The Lovely Joe and I set off at about 8.30 around the village. Annoyingly it didn’t get really dark until about 9.30, which made the whole thing all the more farcical. We wandered about around the roads, fields and hills, and I had the opportunity to legitimately use my head torch, something I have waited my whole life to do. At first I was a bit worried that it wasn’t bright enough… but then I realised that the sun hadn’t completely set and it wasn’t actually dark enough for it to be noticeable.
As it got properly dark, though, I remembered that I really am quite scared of being outside at night. Watching the Blair Witch Project at Reading Odeon 15 years ago is to blame. All I can think about is that snivelling girl in the beanie hat sobbing “It’s my fault, because this is my project…”, and imagining turning a corner and seeing bundles of twigs tied to tree branches. I just have to hope that my fellow trekkers aren’t the sorts who think it’s funny in the dead of night and in the pitch black of Skiddaw to jump out from behind bushes, tell me ghost stories, or suddenly all run away from me and hide. I will cry, I’m warning you. The most ridiculous part of it is that I don’t even believe in ghosts or indeed anything of a supernatural nature. I’m not scared of a realistic dangers like serial killers or slipping down a scree slope. No, no… I’m scared of something I don’t even believe in.
So, with a night walk under my belt, I did a couple of days of light, panicked cramming before setting off on my final training walk with my Dad on Saturday. It was a walk we have done before – 14 miles from Winchcombe, the town where he lives, up to Cleeve Hill and back again. It took us about 5 hours, but within the first 30 minutes we had been given a soaking by a very large black cloud. I learnt for the first time the real reason why it’s important to tuck your waterproof trousers into your walking socks. If they are not tucked in, then the rain pours down the waterproof trouser leg and directly onto the walking boot like a tap. Hence even waterproof boots get wet. Lesson learnt. I am a converted trouser-tucker-in-er and never again shall I be sceptical about the benefits of tucking in. This last walk allowed me to finalise once and for all my list of items to take, not in the way of kit, but in the way of plasters / paracetamol / lip balm / tissues and other comforts. When I got home I made an extensive list and have started packing my essentials. It reminds me of when I packed my hospital bag, six weeks before the due date of my first baby. I tried to think of every possible scenario and every possible comfort I might need for a situation I had never been in before and could not imagine or really pre-empt. Packing for the trek is much the same. In fact, the similarities to labour do not end there. The trek will be long, tiring, undoubtedly painful and will involve needing to change into tracksuit bottoms when it is over. I have thought about it over and over and tried to imagine how tired I will be, how much pain I will be in, how hard I will need to grit my teeth and how deep I’ll need to dig. But, much like waiting for the birth of my first child, I have no direct point of reference so it’s all a bit of a mystery. Still, I got through labour twice and actually quite enjoyed it. I’m hoping nervously that the trek will be the same.
So… what does the next week hold? It involves a racing heart, some light but not excessive exercise, as much sleep as I can get and trying to visualise the tops of the mountains. I am terrified but excited and I can already feel the adrenaline building. I am £13 away from my revised target of £3000, which is so amazing I can barely believe it. On Thursday night I am going to go to my local and open the collection tin on the bar and hope that this might have taken me over the target. And then on Friday, Joe and I will set out for the Lakes in the morning to begin the climax of this amazing journey I have been on for the last four months. Wish me luck, and I’ll see you on the other side.
Till next week,
Head torch chic