Camino de Santiago, Triacastela to Sarria (via Molino de Marzan Albergue)

I couldn’t spend a week staying on “the Camino” without walking some of it.  So, last week, I set off to walk from Arthur’s gallery, which is just beyond Triacastela (if you turn right there, rather than left to Samos) and about 130km from the finish in Santiago de Compostela.  My goal was to get to Sarria, where I would be picked up late in the afternoon, but I reached there at 11:30am.  So I carried on…

One of the big attractions of the Camino is that there are signposts at least every 500m (I’m told) and usually at any junction, so you don’t need to carry a map or be very good at navigation.  Also, I realised afterwards, there are no gates to open, or stiles to climb over, (on my section anyway), which makes for a slightly smoother journey.  Many people don’t even book their accommodation ahead, so that they are free to stop, or carry on, as the fancy takes them.  Though this does mean that there is a tendency for quite a few people to set off at the crack of dawn (which must be delightful for other guests or walkers staying in the same albergue or hostel – not to mention people trying to sleep below a gallery on the Camino).

Clearly there are other advantages too, like it’s a good walk with some nice scenery and you will get to meet, or pass, looooaaaads of people.  But that, for me, even though I consider myself a very sociable person, puts me off doing the whole thing.  (I also get quite competitive, as nobody walks passed me!)   There’s quite a lot of road, or next to road, sections too, though they are often fairly quiet back roads.

For info also, I noticed quite a lot of cyclists taking on the route and I saw some specific signs in the road, so there must be a cyclist’s variation.  This must get you from A to B somewhat quicker but, then, you may miss a lot (of the point) of the journey.   In addition there are a few alternative routes to Santiago de Compostela, like one along the north coast of Spain and another up through Portugal, which you might like to consider to be a little ‘different’.

Anyway, I managed another 8km (5 miles) beyond Sarria before I turned back, covering the same ground, which made my walk about 30km (18 miles) in total.  Though I have to say, just in case you have a mind to do it in reverse, it’s not as easy to navigate as you might think – given that the signs are geared towards pilgrims on the normal route.  (And I think you will be fed up of saying “Ola” or “Buen Camino” to thousands of people).

Grand Raid BCVS Mountain Bike Race, 2018

I mentioned in my previous post that I’d put my name forward to help out during the Grand Raid, which runs both from and through our village.  However, the organisers never got back to me on where they’d like me to be, so I presumed they had enough volunteers and I decided to do my own thing…

An ex-colleague and good friend of mine, Kevin, had successfully completed the ‘short course’ three years ago and he’d recently been in touch to say that this year he was doing the full distance, from Verbier.  I thought he and the event deserved my support, so at 7:15am yesterday morning, I duly set off along 2 different sections of the route, taking pictures as a I went.  Now, sporting events have never really been my forte when it comes to capturing the action, but I hope the pictures below convey both the beauty of the scenery as well as the agony and the ecstasy of some competitors.

While I was waiting for Kevin at La Vieille, I also bumped into another ex-colleague and friend, Jan, who was doing the 3/4 route from Nendaz.  He, I’m sure, will have revelled in the challenge and pain of the ascent over the Pas de Lona.   Kevin, however, missed the cut off time by just 2 minutes and wasn’t allowed to continue.   Unfortunately he broke his derailleur during the descent into Evolène and had to wait 15 minutes while it was being repaired.

If there are any mountain bikers out there reading this, then I can only say that you will not find many more demanding or rewarding events than the Grand Raid.  Apart from a variety of distances, (choose your own personal challenge), they now even allow for Electric bike competitors on the two shorter routes.  Though I certainly wouldn’t want to push, carry or simply lug one of those heavy things over the Pas de Lona!

Walk to the Pas de Lona, Val d’Hérens

I am very fortunate to be able to do quite a number of walks, some quite challenging,  from my front door.  One of those is to the Pas de Lona at 2,787m or 9,144ft.  It starts easy enough, along a track and then takes a path up to Volovron, before turning up through the woods to the alpage across to La Vieille.  It’s still a good walk to get there (and back of course).  But the real challenge starts when you set off to climb up to the col, where the path just seems to get steeper and steeper and your legs start to burn.  Once there you can go even higher to the Cabane Becs de Bosson (which many do, to rest for the night, as part of the Tour of the Val d’Hérens) but, since I’d set off quite late and we had some visitors coming, I simply headed back home again.

Now, just imagine how the cyclists must feel having to do that climb pushing or carrying their bikes as part of the Grand Raid, which takes place on Saturday…  There are 4 distances to choose from, either starting in Verbier, Nendaz, Hérémence or my village of Evolène, but they all have to do that climb before descending (and climbing again briefly) to the finish in Grimentz.  I’ve put my name down to support the riders by handing out drinks and/or maybe giving directions, but I’m not sure where I’ll be stationed yet.  It could be in the village or on the mountain side somewhere, but wherever it is, I hope to bring you some pictures next week.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this walk…

Hadrian’s Wall Path (Day 3 of 4)

My mate Pete is a Master when it comes to organising our trips.  Everything was booked and in place by October last year, but then, in January, not one, but two of our B&Bs  cancelled (due to refurbishment of their bedrooms)!  There are not many places to stay on or near the route but, of course, Pete was up to the challenge and he promptly rearranged for us to stay at two different places.

The first was to stay in Greenhead rather than Haltwhistle.  This helped in a way, as we would have had to walk off the route to get to Haltwhistle, BUT it did mean that it would add another 2 or 3 miles to our, already long, third day, making it at least 20 miles long.  A quick look at the contours on the map told me that this was going to be a very up and down day and, with a 7kg (15.5 lb) pack on your back, it would easily be equivalent to doing a marathon (for which I was certainly not prepared!)

The second change was that the owner of our expected accommodation in the village of Wall offered to pick us up from there and drive us to (and back from) one of his other pubs in Newbrough, which was 5 miles away.  (Clearly we were not planning on walking that far off the route!)  Again this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the Red Lion was very comfortable, also had our, by now, favourite beer, called “Ale Caesar” and they served up the best food we tasted all week. 🙂  Not only that but, Liam was suffering from a chest infection, so after reaching Housesteads (about 10 miles or half way in) he made the strategic decision to take the ‘short cut’ directly to Newbrough.  However, this still involved going to the top of what turned out to be the last hill at Sewingshields Crags and then walking 4 to 5 miles along the road to Newbrough.

Meanwhile, Pete and I soldiered on (I hope you got the pun there) a further 10 miles along what was thankfully a fairly flat path running alongside the B6318 to Walwick and Collerford, before the path turned south to Wall.  The only thing that kept me going was Pete’s promise of a beer in the appropriately name Hadrian Hotel in Wall.  Cheers Pete!  🍻 😀

Long distance running (part 2)… The JOGLE, 1983

The sun has been shining brightly in the Val d’Hérens, but the temperatures have been double digit negative (degrees C, single figures F) and the ski runs are not completely pisted, so it’s time for a blast from the past…

I mentioned in April last year that I’d run my first marathon (London) in 1982.   The following year, I took part in a long distance relay race, from John O’Groats to Land’s End, or The JOGLE for short.
(For non-UK residents, these two locations represent the furthest, NE and SW, tips of mainland Britain).

The event was the brainchild of a guy called Gordon Cairns who, for 5 or 6 years, had organised an annual event called Computastars.  This competition pitted teams of IT staff in a series of quasi-athletic ‘events’, which varied from bouncing tennis balls into a bucket on your head, to an 800 metre steeplechase, complete with water jump.  But I digress…

The pre-set JOGLE route was around 860 miles (or 1,385 km) long and the only rules were that you had up to 15 people in a team and each runner had to spend a minimum of 15 minutes on the road.  Otherwise it was a straightforward, non-stop relay.

Six teams took up the challenge, all running for the two charities of the Arthritic and Rheumatism Council and the British Heart Foundation.   We added a 3rd, a local Children’s Hospice, and we spent 9 months planning, organising back-up crews and raising sponsorship.  In total, I think we raised about £3,500 for the charities.

In terms of organisation, we decided to have 3 groups of 5 runners and each group would cover a prescribed distance (usually around 60 miles) before handing over to the next group.  CB radios were used to keep in touch with each other and we had three stop-over points pre-arranged en route for a bit of rest.

Incredibly, after 50 miles, there were 3 runners side by side on the road.   Gradually though the Barclays team pulled ahead of the Computastars team with our Rowntree team about 30 minutes behind them.  I should reiterate that this was a non-stop relay and so the runners continued into, and indeed through the night, with (in our case) cyclists or the minibus ferrying the runners, lighting the way ahead.  In essence, each group was ‘on the road’ for just over 6 hours, before getting 12 hours rest, though in this time they also had to travel 120 miles or so to their next changeover point.

By pure chance (or was it just brilliant planning?) we had arranged for all 15 of our team to be together for the last 50 miles, just in case we had any injuries.  It turned out that 5 had problems, so we had 10 ‘fit’ runners available to complete this last section.  It was also around this point that the organisers decided to scrap the 15 minute rule – just to make the finish a little more interesting.  So we set about catching the Computastars team who, unfortunately for them, only had 4 people available for this part of the route.   So, instead of the usual 2.5 to 4 miles, we began to run 1 mile at a time and we were prepared to drop people off ‘parachute style’ if necessary to catch them.  The buzz of excitement in the minibus as we closed in on them was incredible.

In the event, the Barclays team won the race, in a time of just over 3 days and 18 hours.   We managed to catch the Computastars team in the last few miles to finish 2nd, but only by a mere 46 seconds!   Our times were 3 days and a little over 22 hours.
For the runners amongst you, (to save you doing the maths), this works out at a little over 9 miles per hour, or 6.5 minutes per mile.  (If only I could do that now!!)  Each runner covered an average of 57 miles (or 92km).

Unfortunately I have no pictures of the event myself, so I’m very grateful to Cliff Baughen, of the Computastars team, for the pictures below.  He published a similar post here some years ago.  You’ll see Cliff stonking along in the last picture. 🙂

Just a little run around Britain

Here’s a little story which you runners and charitable people might like… (and believe me, this is not a joke !)

Yesterday evening, Jude and I were sitting quietly in the Waterside Café in Lochcarron, NW Scotland, when a guy walked in looking a bit tired and he asks Geoff, the owner, if he could have a glass of warm water.  He says he’s a little de-hydrated after running over from Applecross on the west coast. (That’s at least 17 miles by road according to Google, not to mention going over the steep pass called the Bealach).  We strike up a conversation and it turns out his name is Simon Clark and he’s running around Britain for the Ecologia Youth Trust charity.  (The Trust works with children and young people around the world who have been abandoned, orphaned, made vulnerable by poverty and disease).

Now, I like a challenge, but that’s a cool 5,000 miles, which will take him about a year to complete.  His target is 100 miles per week for 50 weeks.  Not only that but he’s carrying all his own gear in a small rucksack and sleeping wherever he can, only using B&Bs or the like when he feels the need to freshen up a bit.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology you can follow his progress around the UK ‘live’ here.  Of course I’m also sure that Simon won’t mind if you would like to support this very worthwhile cause – see above website or quick link here.

It makes a marathon seem like look like a sprint !