Goal setting

Today I did a short walk along the lanes, with two of our older dogs.  It wasn’t a complete amble, but I wasn’t really pushing myself for a mins/mile pace either.  I hadn’t really done much for the past four days, for various reasons.  I wasn’t home for three of them, and then yesterday, doing something really simple, I felt a sudden spasm in my back.  I could barely stand up straight, and taking a full breath was agony.  The spasm was in my upper back, level with my chest.  With painkillers, duvet and a hot water bottle pressed against the sore part of my back, I spent the afternoon on the sofa, watching crappy films, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t out there walking, or on the computer working.  My back felt better this morning, not back to normal, but more available movement and less pain.  I hesitated whether to walk at all this afternoon, but I felt a hundred times better afterwards, and my back felt more supple, so I guess it was the right decision. Sometimes I despair that I’m wasting my efforts, that I’m never going to get really fit, that I’m never going to do the ascents & distances I aspire to.  Then I just have to look back at how immobile I was when I started, how gasping along a mile on good ground in 40 minutes felt like a major achievement, and then I can appreciate how far I’ve come.  I do feel on the whole I am making some progress and feeling more confident about trying longer distances each time we head out.

Up until now I’ve just been working on getting out walking, both on the lanes locally during the week, and also out exploring the all the local walking havens that have been almost on my doorstep all these years.  However, the idea of tackling a proper long-distance route keeps popping up, and subconsciously I keep finding myself travelling over to the ‘waymarked trails’ sections of various Irish walking websites, instead of keeping myself firmly on the loop walks pages…on a recent trip to the Ridge of Capard, I was delighted to stray on to the Slieve Bloom Way for a while.  Turning back and heading home, given our time restraints that evening, was the sensible thing to do, but I dearly wanted to just keep going, to carry on from finger-post to finger-post, and just not stop.  A new and refreshing outlook on my walking, and a notion I am happy to welcome into my head space!

National_Waymarked_Trail_Waymarker_(Ireland)

Waymarking sign, comprising an image of a walking man and a directional arrow in yellow, used in Ireland to denote a National Waymarked Trail.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I primarily talked to myself about doing a decent day walk, confidently planning a full days walking for some mythical future date, and initially looked at the Offaly Way, even though it is 38km in length and more importantly graded ‘easy’ – the perfect introduction to the world of long-distance hiking.  Its local enough that I figured we could split it into 2 days, and drive home each night, or throw everything into the camper van and make a weekend away out of it.  However, I then found a review somewhere hinted that at least half of it was road work, and I faltered a little there, as I think I would find 17km or so on roads fairly boring?  I should add, that the roads are local roads, and I’d know them well from driving them fairly regularly – so it’s not as if the road routes are showing me new sights etc – does that make sense?  I’d probably be happy to do all that road work in an area I’d not visited before. (But I do find I struggle on roads at the best of times, with shin pain and sore ankles after a mile or two, regardless of my footwear).  I should also add that the Slieve Bloom website has stated that no dogs are allowed on the Offaly Way, which is an additional black mark against it in my book.

With all that in mind, I moved on from the ambitious day hike goal.  I incorporated the camper van firmly into the planning process and I’m now tentatively looking at a good 3/4-day hike, or just a few days walking in another part of the country.  Next Spring or Summer looks like a great target to aim for.  I’m not generally a weather wimp, but the thoughts of dealing with wet, mucky gear & equipment, along with wet, cold us, in a small VW camper, over several days, in the winter, is not something I could honestly or easily look forward to.

Potential places and routes on the list so far include the Kerry Camino, the Great western Greenway and the Beara Way

I feel the Slieve Bloom Way itself is more than worthy of a mention in this planning phase too!  It feels less adventurous, mainly because it’s on my doorstep, and an ‘adventure’ is something you do or have somewhere else isn’t it?  But that is a silly way to look at it.  It is a well-respected 60km waymarked circuit over, across and around the Slieve Bloom Mountains, typically done over 4 days, and is a perfectly acceptable long-distance trail to add to the list of potential goals.  The fact that it is local is totally irrelevant.

Obviously 3/4 consecutive days of long walks are a far cry from what I’m doing at the moment – so this is a goal.  But if I don’t set myself a goal, and a date to work towards, then I fear I will just find a rut I’m comfortable with and stay in it. For example, I’m quite happy with 5-10km ‘moderate’ trails at the moment.  They are hard enough that I’m finding them a challenge.  It is satisfying to return to the car park, in one piece and I feel that I’ve achieved something.  It would be all too easy to just stay there, and not consider longer, harder trails when planning our outings.

Galtymore from the Black Road ascending Galtybeg

Galtymore from the Black Road ascending Galtybeg
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are hoping/planning to do the Slieve Bloom way over 4/5 weekends this autumn, doing a section in a day, each weekend, and I think this will be great for me to see how I cope mentally and physically with the longer distances on a one-day hike.  I also drove past the Galtees on the M8 the other day, and caught an enticing glimpse of Galtymore amongst the low clouds – which has inspired me to try at least one silly ascent this coming winter, and take myself completely out of my ‘Moderate trail’ comfort zone.

Do you have any specific walking/hiking plans or goals for this coming winter or next summer?

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4 thoughts on “Goal setting

  1. I have only done a few sections of the Dingle Way -http://www.dingleway.com/ – but of the bits that I have done, I would have thought that the non-Kerry Camino sections are more pleasureable than the Kerry-Camino-sections.
    I read Castles Follies and Four Leafed Clover last year and so St Declan’s way would be on a bucket list – probably after finishing the Dingle way. Also Tochar Padraig – http://www.ballintubberabbey.ie/vg_tocP.htm – more for the paganrather than Christian aspect will hopefully be done at some point but not Saturday week.

    I’ve written them down now. Progress.

    • Hi and thanks for your comments! 🙂
      I’ve had a few people mention St Delcan’s Way to me over the past couple of months, so I’m definitely going to look further into that. And Tochar Padraig looks very interesting! I’ll be keeping an eye out for their December dates, or failing that, waiting for their 2014 dates – thanks for making my list longer 😉

  2. It sounds like you can be proud of how far you’ve come! I think we all do the same – it’s easy to get dissatisfied with where you are now. But it’s only when you compare it to where you started, that you realise how much you’ve come on.

    • Thank you for your comment, you have absolutely hit the nail on the head. 🙂
      When I started out I was happy enough just to be out doing stuff, just moving, and doing it regularly, building the habit. Then came the frustration of eagerness as I started to enjoy it more, of not being able to do more, quicker, further…so many wals, hills, etc available that I didn’t know where to start, followed by the realisation that I couldn’t do many of them at that level of fitness!
      Now I’m skirting on the edge of being able to call myself a variation of fit, and find I’m yearning to challenge myself that bit more each time. The frustration is the same, but different, and as you say, its good to take stock and see how far you’ve come sometimes!

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