Thursday 6 March 2014

The Great Outdoors Challenge 2014: Training

Great Calva in the Northern Lakes on a recent training walk
The blogosphere and the TGO Challenge Message Board are both remarkably silent on how people train for the TGO Challenge, although Robin has put his head above the parapet and outlined his regime.

Hyperdog training at the Back o' Skiddaw

Bleak Skiddaw House on a recent wet training walk

From what I have gleaned, though, fitness preparations for the Challenge fall in to several categories, real or claimed by various Challengers:
  • Some walk so regularly in the hills that they retain their fitness and do not need to worry about it.
  • Some profess that their training amounts to no more than frequent trips to the pub followed by a stroll around the local park on the first Sunday in May.
  • Others seem to go on two or three longer trips come March and April.
  • And (the majority?) fit in what day walks they can around all their other commitments, often with a rucksack loaded with a few bricks or several tins of baked beans to add a bit of weight.

And I guess there are a number of variations and combinations on the above.

I fall into the latter category, although I will also soon be participating for the first time in the infamous April “daunder”, organised this year by veteran challenger and all round good egg Alan Sloman which will be in the North Lakes.  I have a suspicion that this will be arranged in such a way that it will involve practicing all aspects of the Challenge ie it will involve bog, rain, scenery, hip flasks, cheese and the pub.

To digress slightly, readers of this blog with good memories may recall that I suffer from a condition my wife refers to as “Skod”.  For those of you without medical or psychiatric training I should explain that Skod is an acronym for  “Some Kind of Disorder”.  Symptoms are many, but  include rotating plates and crockery in the kitchen so it all gets used the same amount, and thus wears out evenly, along with ensuring mug handles point west and jug handles east when they are put away in the cupboard, and making lists. I have lists of everything.  So I have records of all the training walks I did for the 2013 Challenge which, I should say, were not very extensive.  Thus, I can tell you that between the end of November 2012 and the end of April 2013 I did 18 training walks, 9 of which were in April, averaging 15.67 km each in distance, and with an average height gained of 408.44 m.  Pack weights carried varied from 6kg to 13.7kg.  Look, I know this is tedious stuff, but please make allowances. I do have Skod you know.

For one reason or another I have done far less walking over the last 8 or 9 months than I would have liked. Thus, my fitness levels are lower than they have been for a long time, and before Christmas I decided that I should start to train for the 2014 TGO Challenge this May and that I needed to do more than last year.  However, the best made plans are paved with good intentions, as they say.  Or some such. There is nothing like a mixed metaphor.  Anyway, my training so far has been half hearted and I need to move it up a gear if the first few days of the Challenge are not to be a pain in the proverbials.  Proverbials, in my case, being my calf and thigh muscles which have been fecked, as Father Ted might say, since two major back operations played havoc with my sciatic nerve, and a more recent DVT did for the blood circulation in my thigh.

The old Greenside mine, now outdoor centres, above Glenridding

So recent weeks have seen me out and about. Not a lot, but I will be trying to do more.  I walk hyperdog two or three times a day but I don’t count that as training.  For me a walk becomes training once I put a pack on.

Catstycam on my walk up Red Tarn Beck: Hyperdog's first encounter with snow. He wasn't certain at first, then ate it like it might never fall again

I have had three 15km strolls along the lanes near the house, and covered shorter distances, but with more height and roughness involved, on a couple of 3 hour hikes on the Long Mynd in Shropshire, a very wet 3 hours Back o’ Skiddaw, another 3 hours by Red Tarn Beck on Helvellyn, and yesterday I was on the Berwyns in mid-Wales, when it was far colder and claggier than expected.  Hyperdog has been my companion on these walks, as the photographs testify. I haven’t yet had the heart to explain to him that his training is in vain and he will not be on the train to Scotland come May.

So apart from the weight on my back, neither distances or height climbed have yet been close to replicating those involved in a day on the Challenge.

Heading up Moel Sych in the Berwyns.

Llyn Lluncaws in the Berwyns

Neither of us were impressed with the boggy ground coming off Moel Sych

Heading down to Tan y Pistyll

Tan y Pistyll in the Berwyns

But the met men say that air pressure is rising and I hope to be up in the Lakes next week…..


  1. Oh dear! Not sure where my kind of training fits in to your list! I go for a 3.14 mile walk with a whole 26 feet of ascent most days. And I count it! I've had three longer walks since Christmas of between 7 and 12 miles and 1000 - 1500 ft of ascent. I hope to do a few more before May, but I never carry more than my day pack and not even that on my short regular walk. Now, even I don't think that sounds much like training, but my theory is it's all about muscle memory. My legs know what they are expected to do, and they do it. I haven't yet suffered any soreness in my legs when I've been Challenging. Maybe that's just luck, and I don't tend to climb huge mountains, but it works for me. Like everything else Challenge related, each to their own!
    So long as you're enjoying yourself whilst you train, that's all that matters :-)

    1. Good Lord. Louise does a pie walk almost every day! She should have a bottom the size of a house!
      As for "I have a suspicion that this will be arranged in such a way that it will involve practicing all aspects of the Challenge ie it will involve bog, rain, scenery, hip flasks, cheese and the pub.", you're just about spot on, except the bit about "the" pub. There are definitely two, with the possibility of a third if the second day's weather is shite.
      It's all about planning. Perhaps I have a little skod about me as well?

      I agree about the rotation of the plates. When there's just a couple in the house and you have two dozen plates, dishwashers can destroy the frequented plates all too quickly.

      Sound, Sir.

      This training thing; Really? I do a couple of 8 milers each week in March (to the pub) carrying a hat in case it rains, and in April I do ten milers once a week (to the pub) carrying a light pack. The two weeks before the Chally, it's the PreWalkDaunder (to give it its proper title).

      But then again, this year I'm also doing a three day Pre-PreWalkDaunder around Aviemore, to try and get the frame back in shape now I have 'Our Kid.'

      Russ Manion takes a stroll around his local park to get his artificial hips working properly before packing in the evening for the Challenge the next day.


      Good post, Sir! See you in Hesket Newmarket.

    2. ...I heard that, Sloman.

    3. When I said "pie" I meant, of course, 22/7...
      All that exercise increases the mass of your Gluteal Muscles
      I'd stop doing that right this minute.

    4. You didn't, you know. You meant pie. And you Know I prefer cake...

    5. Hi Louise, You are very lucky that your leg muscles remember what is expected of them - mine seem to have dev eloped Alzheimers...

    6. Hi Alan

      That sounds like a first rate training regime. I hope that hat you have to carry isn't too heavy. And thank you for validating my belief in the ancient art of crockery rotation. It's good to know I'm not going bonkers.

  2. Training?
    I do no specialist training at all other than having some single malt at home.
    I do own two Labradors, so I go out every day rain or shine (mainly rain then).
    I bike to most places within 20 miles rather than drive.
    I run a bit, buggered knee and calf muscle willing.
    I do weight training in the garage (it has free weights and bench in it), because upper body strength is important.

    I live in the Fens...
    It is zillions of miles to anything that looks like a hill, so Hill training is non existent.

    Main training for Two takes place on days 1 to 3 of the event.

    And this month I have even been abstaining from Alcohol, which is almost anti TGOC training.

  3. As an additional comment....

    All my injuries have occurred whilst doing training. Maybe not TGOC specific, but training all the same.......

    Maybe one should not train at all. :-)

    1. Andy

      You are known for being well hard when it comes to walking long distances with a heavy pack. Hope that knee will be sorted in June.