This week has seen a significant shift in my fitness. I am not sure why. After having my “wheels fall off” exactly 14 days ago I suddenly found myself not only able to walk over 14 odd miles exactly one week later, but wake up feeling fantastic the day after. Now that is a first! So fantastic in fact I was eager to find more walking time this week. So the diary came out and I put a big fat “WALK” across three days. Yes, three! And not content with that I decided to squeeze a wee fourth one in too.
So Wednesday arrives and today’s buddy is Elaine. Elaine is one of our trekkers and was feeling in need of getting some miles under her belt this week. Her long walk was planned for Saturday, but having read A Step Too Far was taking no chances. Elaine and I both love the sea, so the location wasn’t too hard a decision. Nairn to Whiteness Point and return is a route I did way back last year with Susan (another Tartan Trekker) and was keen to return. Estimated at around 11 miles it would include sand for most of the outbound walk and then a switch to the inland side as the tide rose. And what a day we were blessed with. Glorious sunshine from start to finish. We began on the beach.
First stop an opportunity to let the other Trekkers know we are thinking of them with a message in the sand! A clear day with beautiful views of the Black Isle and beyond. We made it almost all the way to Whiteness Point before the tide beat us.
A scramble up the pebble embankment (those bad boys really know how to test those Achilles and calves) and across to the opposite side. A less attractive vista overlooking the old McDermott Oil Rigg Fabrication Yard. The inlet is also the perfect “catch net” for a whole host of litter and debris. Eventually we came to a stop for lunch and hopped back over to the sunny side to perch on a well placed log. “How lucky are we to be able to do this in February?”
Our return took us back along land side, past the old Salmon Bothy where we came across a couple who’s dog was desperate for a drink. Nobody was expecting it to be this warm I guess. Sharing a little of our own water, we stayed and chatted a while about our trek. I just love the people you get to meet. The Bothy is now beautifully refurbished as a holiday home.
Then, stripped now down to our shirt sleeves, we headed back to the golf course. See how I rather cleverly omitted any detail there? No, we didn’t get lost. Well, not exactly. Though if you view the route on either of our mobile apps you would clearly wonder. Okay okay, we did take a couple of detours.
Via the golf club maintenance yard and we emerged from the bushes several times to find ourselves on the 10th hole, the 12th hole and the 14th. We would have risked crossing but that darned course is busy. Beware flying golf balls. But eventually, we did rejoin the correct path to a cry of “oh I remember now, the path goes up by that field. It was a corn field last time I was here”.
The final walk does emerge on the course via an official crossing point (see, I told you) and then back to the cars along the road beneath some large period properties. Last time this section seemed to take forever, but this time we were back at the park in plenty of time for the now obligatory “trekker sitting in a random place” photo. The legs got a good workout with another 23,540 steps and 11.5 miles clocked.
But I think we exercised the jaws even more. What topics didn’t we cover? Socks, boots, t-shirts. Physical injuries. Mental health. And Elaine’s demon purchase – “my privacy poncho”. Devising signals for those heading off behind a sand dune in the Sahara for some “time alone” and making sure we always keep a head count! I honestly don’t think we ever stopped talking except to dissolve into laughing – because there is a lot of that on our walks.
Walk complete and we are both delighted. Elaine is on a mission to get a 20 miler in at the weekend so that was her warm up done!
Next up it’s Jennifer. Jennifer is a fellow trekker and you may recall was my inspiration to try the Dava Way back in October last year. All 24 miles of it. Well this week, out of the blue she announces she is doing five days back to back and “nothing is getting in my way”. She will walk alone or in company – and she is great company. A lucky meeting cancellation now means I can walk the Thursday afternoon with her. Two morning meetings, then a quick change, soup and cheese and we’re off.
The route? Sneak through the hedge – now why did that immediately make me think I was part of a children’s novel? Like stepping into a different world. Well, Clovenside cemetery to be precise. Then via Mannachie and a bit of the Dava Way (again) to Dallas Dhu distillery. Then onwards to Mundole before following the south side of the River Findhorn to Mackenzie and Cruickshank for tea and a scone. I joined the back of the queue to collect my scone ahead of this lovely lady. We chatted about the scones and by the time we reached the front she knew all about our trek. It never ceases to amaze me how genuinely interested folk are in this challenge.
Sustained again, we rejoined the north side of the Findhorn to arrive back in Forres some 22978 boot steps later. Now one thing I have discovered about Jennifer is she only counts the mileage for any walk after it leaves Forres. I am sure of it! Because they are always about two miles longer than she thinks :D. Not that I am complaining mind you, because when the company is this good you kind of forget the distance. I confess I can’t recall all the things we talked about along the 11 and a bit miles but we must have talked lots as I have hardly any photos! Craft gins and the best tonics were in there somewhere. As was cycling and walking and retirement – or rather active retirement!
And so it came to that last heave up the hill back to Jennifer’s home. I have done this a few times now, from different directions, and it doesn’t get any shorter. She confides at this point that she is having a little trouble with her knee so her plan to walk tomorrow may have to be revised. Fingers crossed she is fine for the weekend.
So after a break on Friday (well I need to work at some point this week) Saturday dawns! And today is the day I face my nemesis. Ben Rinnes is my neighbour! If it weren’t for the woods directly beside us I would wake to find him almost on my pillow each morning.
I first climbed him back in 2009. That was a charity walk too. Seven humans and a dog collectively amassed “feet” ascent to achieve Mount Everest between them. I didn’t train and had it not been for my Dad, and the team who saved his life, I might well have stopped. Because it was tough. But you can read about that here on the Friends of Ben Rinnes website when you get a minute. Suffice it to say I declared Ben Rinnes “done” and vowed never to return.
But recently he has been beckoning me on. I swear if he had a finger he would crook it and say “come hither, you know you want to”. And I confess his charms have been working. Enough so that when Ben Rinnes was suggested, my original plan to spend Saturday on the coast was discarded in a heartbeat. Am I fickle? Or was I ready to square up to this Ben fella again and show him I am not the person he once knew.
Five of the trekkers set off to reach his summit. Elle is a self confessed Corbett virgin – or it might have been hill virgin even. Another meanwhile loves a hill. Susan and I would always choose sea over mountains. Pauline thought it would be fine until she told James – who gave that look men give when you say you are going to do something and they think you have gone a little bit mad. So between us this was going to be interesting. It was a dull day too but not cold. The thing with Ben Rinnes is he makes it hard from the very start. It really is up all the way. So you have to really want to!
Ok there is that wee flatter bit before the “real” ascent comes. Scant compensation for what is to come really. Elle, our hill virgin, was determined, focussed and declared she wasn’t stopping as she had to walk off chips and coleslaw from the night before. She led the field all the way. At least I think so as I couldn’t quite see that far by this time. Susan was putting her poles to good use in the midfield while Pauline and I were bringing up the rear. Well it’s important to always have an observant back marker isn’t it? In case someone gets left behind?
By this time Ben had decided to put his moody hat on. Shrouded in mist the temperatures dropped and the wind got up. We reached his summit in stages…we could hear the “whoops” from the front runners. By the time we reached there the selfies were already in the phone. I hooped an arm through Pauline’s meanwhile and we joined a waiting Susan to make at least our final steps (roughly) together. Even though he did try to blow us away!
Noses drooling (that’s a story you don’t want to hear), eyes running and fingers blue we tucked into butteries and coffee before heading back down. The total distance was just five real miles but for some of us it could have been twenty. Muscles we hadn’t really worked this hard would hurt more tomorrow but today was more about testing the stamina as steps. Still, I am claiming those 8179 with bells on.
Oh, there’s more…
But were we content with that? Well it was only lunchtime. At this point I should maybe explain where our other trekkers were? Kirsty and Rosie were away with family and holiday commitments. Jennifer was still nursing her knee back to health. Elaine and Claire on the other hand were attempting a “long walk”. The very general route being “Elgin to Buckie along the coast route or until we stop and Richard picks us up”. They had stopped for lunch with Claire declared “out” also due to a recurring knee problem.
So what do you do when a trekker is determined to get her distance in and is a buddy down? Well, you go and join her of course. There followed some very complex if not hilarious car manoeuvres. Not just vehicle movements but passengers too. Almost resulting in a set of (very important for that final car) keys left in the wrong car.
Elaine finally clocked around 18 miles and would have gone on had we not parked in the wrong place 😀 . But there there is something a bit special about being there to share those final few miles, with more laughter. I left home at 8:45am expecting to be home about 1:00pm. I finally arrived home at 5:45pm having clocked up 16400 ish boot steps today, But more importantly I had gained an extra pair of walking boots! Somewhere in among all the comedy car changeovers someone had left their boots in my car.
So a brief update on the running total then. 943747 steps completed. Way back in September Jennifer said “you will smash it”. I wasn’t so sure. A couple of weeks ago I was seriously worried even the Sahara wouldn’t quite get me over the line. But here I am with another 63000 steps added to the barometer and now I am in danger of crossing the million before my feet hit that hot sand.
So what do these lot say? “Just walk with your boots off for the next two weeks”. You just got to love them 😀