"} Get a life, Get active! By Fit Lesley: Challenge 8 - Keswick 2 Barrow Walk- May 2012

Challenge 8 - Keswick 2 Barrow Walk- May 2012

K2B 2012 I DID IT!

Today Saturday 12th May 2012 I took part in the Keswick to Barrow walk for the second time. The Keswick to Barrow Walk is an annual event that was held for the 46th time this year. (It’s scary to think I was just one week old the first time people did it!!). 

It’s quite simple; you walk (or run, if you’re that way inclined) from Keswick to Barrow-in-Furness, with a set route which gives a distance of 40 miles, passing through a number of checkpoints along the way. The majority of the walk (bar a couple of sections) is along roads (so no need to sweat about the erosion that would occur with a couple of thousand walkers tramping along Cumbrian footpaths in a single day). 

You must enter the event in Teams of between 6 and 12 walkers. The teams are primarily for fundraising reasons and although each member of the team must support the same charity you do not have to walk or even start together. 

 Way back in January we (me and a few work colleagues!) decided that we would have another go at doing this mammoth challenge after completing it last year for the first time. We had a bit of a nervous wait (several days) while the team entries were processed – apparently the organisers were “absolutely inundated” this year – our team entry was eventually confirmed and we were officially members of Team 211 Vicarage Park – for the second time! My only defence for doing it again is the saying “Medals last longer than pain!” 

We downloaded the sponsorship forms etc, and were all set. Roughly three months to train and a decision to make of which charity to support. After lots of discussions and voting between team members, this year we opted to raise money for the primary school we work for - Vicarage Park. This is a mainstream school and a Strategic Facility for Children with Special Educational Needs. We wanted to raise funds to help create a new outdoor “classroom” in order to improve the current provision and help provide an inclusive learning friendly, outdoor area to enable all children to excel in their education. 

My main problem this year was I was also training for the Liverpool Half Marathon and therefore had to devise a plan to fit both walking and running into my schedule. I referred to my training plan I followed last year and decided that if I kept the “long walks” as walks but did the “short walks” as runs I should cover all bases! 

Following this system I successfully managed to get a PB at the Liverpool Half Marathon, and I also took part in the Langdale 10K run and achieved my goal time there too. However, I started worrying that I had neglected my walking training in favour of running and was very concerned that I hadn’t got enough training in to make a success of this year’s walk. To try and calm these worries I had to do a bit of re-jigging of my usual fitness programme to free up more time to walk, something had to give as there wasn’t enough hours in the week and unfortunately it was my steps class that got relegated! (Legs willing I’m looking forward to going back on Tuesday!). Even with this extra bit put in I had still done 118 miles less training this year than last year and that is including both walking and running! *GULP*

Last year I saw the frightening results of people thinking that they can go and walk 40 miles in a day without doing any prior preparation, there is no way that I would take part in this event without serious training but had I done enough this year to finish in my sub 9 hours goal time ... 

The last few days before an event, you are supposed to be feeling your best. In an ideal world, when you show up on the start line, you should be carbo-loaded, and ready to go feeling 100% both physically and mentally. Leading up to the Keswick to Barrow, I was feeling a little like a nervous creaky old woman. Exhausted with Stiff joints, creaky knees, a bad back and a hairy chin. Okay scrap the last one – I had yet to start growing fuzzy facial hair, but yeah, the body felt a bit old and the mind a bit feeble! I gave myself a stern talking to and told my inner self that I could do it! I completely laid off ANY exercise for 4 days prior to the event in the hope of resting and recuperating! I even stopped walking to work, although if I was totally honest the horrendous weather did help me with this decision! 

As the nominated team Captain, (how did I manage that 2 years in a row?!) I was supposed to go to Barrow the day before the walk to collect my team’s lanyard chips and information. However, I discovered I was on a course with work on this day and wouldn’t be able to get to the registration place on time before it closed so I had to assign this duty to one of my other team members! Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t as smooth sailing as last year when I literally walked in, confirmed our team, received tags and left. He experienced car parking issues and long queues! *Whoops!!* He delivered all the tags to my house and then I distributed these to the members of my team who weren’t travelling with us to the event so that we could all leave the following morning in our own time. 

The night before, I packed my waist bum-bag with goodies to keep my energy levels up (namely mars bars, jelly babies, Lucazade sweets, banana and nuts!) as well as a water bottle. I didn’t take as many provisions this year as I discovered last year that there was a plentiful supply of food and drink along the route! I also laid my clothes out (so I could just fall out of bed in the morning!) as well as making sure my Garmin watch and phone were fully charged. I felt organised and ready to go but still extremely nervous – I think knowing what lay ahead made it more daunting whereas last year we were blissfully ignorant! I stocked up with Carbohydrates by having a huge plateful of Spaghetti Bolognese for my evening meal, resisted any alcohol and had a fairly early night! 

I set 2 alarm clocks for 3.50am (just in case!) and I slept surprisingly well! I got up as soon as the alarms went, got dressed and enjoyed a breakfast of porridge and a banana. I set off from home at the unearthly hour of 4.20am, as I was meeting my lift at Kendal College at 4.30am. I couldn’t believe it when I got to my car and it was iced up! Who would believe in May you would have to deice the car? We were aiming to be at the start as close to the official start time of 5.30 am as possible (I’m sure they start at silly o’clock just to make it that little bit more challenging!). There were 6 of us who all travelled together – luckily for us one of our team has a 7 seated vehicle and her partner was willing to drive us there! Earlier in the week we had agreed that we would walk as individuals this year rather than staying together so we could each do our own pace and hopefully get individual PB’s! During the journey we were all fairy quiet and subdued! 

The event has a staggered start and walkers/runners can go through the start checkpoint as and when they are ready so you do not get the same mass build-up and excitement experienced in other running events whilst waiting for the claxon to go! There was a long queue to get to the start and I was amazed to discover another member of our team who had made her own way was right behind us!! What’s the chance of that with thousands of others milling around? I eventually got to the start line at 5.40am, registered my ID tag at the checkpoint, went through the gate, said my goodbyes to the others and I was on my way albeit slowly! There were too many walkers to get a good pace going initially but it soon thinned out making it easier. I had my tiny personal dab radio and i-pod for company, as well as my Garmin watch to keep me on track. I had worked out that to complete the walk in my target sub 9 hours I would have to go some and keep an average speed of 4.44 MPH (or faster obviously). Therefore I didn’t have a lot of time for idle chit-chat or sightseeing but since I had seen it all before this was low on my list of priorities! My main priority today was to finish in as fast as time as possible! 

With prior knowledge of the whereabouts of each checkpoint I was even anal enough to calculate what time I needed to be at each checkpoint to stay on track to achieve my goal! (I found this extremely useful and VERY motivational and would recommend this to anyone wanting to get a PB!) 

The route takes in some of the finest Cumbrian landscapes from the peaceful banks of Thirlmere at the foot of Helvellyn, winding up and over Dunmail Raise and down through the beautiful villages of Grasmere and Elterwater. From there the walk passes Yew Tree Tarn before reaching the head of Coniston Water, where the quiet east bank of the lake is followed. There are fine views of Coniston Old Man as the route passes Brantwood, the former home of the Lakeland poet John Ruskin, then continues through the tranquil village of Nibthwaite before arriving in Lowick. The most challenging part of the walk is the progressive ascent up Kirkby Moor to the highest point of the route from where breathtaking views of the Furness Peninsula can be gained, out across Morecambe Bay and the Irish Sea. The route then descends through the village of Marton into the historical town of Dalton before reaching the finish on the outskirts of Barrow-in-Furness. I had erased from my memory quite how hilly this route was, and although we were fortunate to have a beautifully sunny day it was also extremely windy - especially at the top! Not only was it windy BUT it was also blowing against us – why couldn’t it have been helpful and pushed us along!! The last 3 miles felt like 30, and my legs felt extremely heavy. However, I did manage one final push and ran the final mile to the finish! On entering the grounds of the social club there were people clapping us in and I soon spotted my husband in the crowds on top of a hill shouting encouragement at me! 

One final bleep of the chip signalled I’d MADE it, and I was given my medal (YEAH!!!) and my timing card. At this point I wasn’t sure of my time as my Garmin ran out of power with 2 miles to go! Obviously not up to the big jobs!! However, I quickly set my Runkeeper on my I-phone to record the final push! 

Despite doubting my fitness, I managed to finish the entire course 2 hours 9 minutes faster than last year AND smashed the target I had set by 36 minutes! I am really chuffed with myself, and still can’t believe I did it! 

I headed for the bar wearing a big smile for a well earned seat and a pint!

Walking the K2B is a truly fabulous experience but what makes it so good? 

-It is free to enter! 
-You get free support...at the various checkpoints the food and drink is free. At the 20 mile checkpoint they even have a burger van giving out free burgers! 
-The views are spectacular. 
You get free beer and food vouchers as you cross the finish line!
-There is an all day party and band / disco at the finishing line which continues into the late evening (at the sports and social club in Barrow) 
-The people, both organisers and competitors are fabulous 

AND you get a medal and certificate to prove you were there! 

GIVE IT A GO! You'll want to go back and do it again and again! 

My final Time is: 08 hours 24 minutes 21 seconds!
Average Pace - 13.18 minutes a mile
Average Speed - 4.51 MPH

To view my walk/run details click here and here for last section!

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