Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mud and Micro Adventures

Two events worthy of note this month. I was taking the month of November easy. After running100miles in a week late last month, and a niggling groin, my main aim was just to go to the Hellrun Turbo X and enjoy the day but after a friend had hinted at a chance to go wild camping the week after I just had to go and complete a mini micro adventure, which after thoughtful planning would include running home.

First the mud
The Turbo X is a 10 mile cross country run. It gentle eases you into the woods and then you are hit with an array of large puddles, rivers and swamps to fight your way through. Words hardly do it justice so hopefully the pictures will.

Micro Adventure
Having wanted to bivi outdoors all summer I thought my chance of wild camping this year was over with the winter months drawing in but there are madder folk than me and a quick chat later Rob had invited me to go wild camping somewhere in late November. Even I thought that this could be just a little late in the year but there was no deferring from the other guys so I was good to go as well.
There are few issues with going wild camping, which is the appeal, it's simple and you get off the beaten track. Wear some clothes, take a sleeping bag and bivi sack, food, stove and plenty of wine and you've bagged it. My main sticking point was getting to the start line,
 in Alton. It was near on 3hrs on a train to take me 20 odd miles. Railways! Luckily for me a friend was able to drop me off in Alton. Unlucky for me this was 3 hours before the arrival of the others and so after investigating the high street in 5 minutes I dropped into a local tavern for 2, maybe 3, cheeky brews. All part of getting into the spirit of the event! The guys soon arrived at the station and introductions were made. Rob, Steve, Neil and Greg forging the Southern Micro Adventure gang. A short detour via the Off License to stock up on more wine supplies and we were heading into the wilderness via the A31. Once off the roads and free of traffic we got into a steady rhythm on The St Swithuns Way. After 7miles of hiking we entered Old Down Wood, our destination for the night. The bivi spot took a little finding due to the isolated location but once settled and made comfy an enjoyable evening was had with good food (apart from the courgettes), plentiful wine and, after foraging the surrounding area, plenty of dry(ish) wood for a splendid fire. All topped off with a dodgy selection of loud music with the last 5 decades or so being played out. Bedding down around the fire I was warm, comfy and looking forward to a night under the stars in the tranquility of the surroundings. Although I couldn't see the stars I could feel the rain as it gently sprinkled my face. No one else moved so I decided to also hold my ground and soon enough the rain dissipated.
Sleep came with the continued noise of nameless persons 'letting em rip'. I was also to be awoken, thankfully not by these noises, but by at least 3 of the camp mates blissfully snoring me into consciousness. After the 3rd time I was woken up by the 'land whales' conversing I decided the best course of action was to move outta there and got a great sleep for the remainder of the night.
Waking up, the boys were already on the case of cooking brekkie and brewing up. Bliss. This was scoffed down and we were all packed and ready to move off in no time at all. The guys were heading back to Alton but I had decided to run home, turning this micro adventure into a macro one. After fond farewells I jogged off and it didn't take me long to get somewhat lost, a combination of a bleary wine head, identical farmers fields and no signs. Back on the right track I made good progress through Ropley and after more non existent signs in Bramdean Common I ploughed on, helped on my way by a group of horse riders. Back on track and zoning out, this run felt harder by carrying a full size rucksack, I neared Bramdean and realised yet again I was going the wrong way. No problem, I could just do a horseshoe back onto the track home, only frustrated by having to run on some roads for a short distance. From here, through Cheriton and to Cheesefoot Head was slow going. It was a constant string of ups and downs and my legs could in no way run the ups and so I had to resort to walking (which did give me time to eat and drink and enjoy the countryside). From Cheesefoot it was an never ending series of trails to Winchester and Twyford and finally down to the Itchen river. Good and flat here all the way to Otterbourne with uplifting, stunning scenery. One last hill to saunter over and then a quick home run to the finish line.
I covered 22miles in a little over 4 hours. This was a hard slog, although the terrain was no different to what I normally travel. So the lack of pace could be attributed to a fair bit of booze the previous day and I definitely underestimated how carrying a large (not heavy) rucksack would tire my legs quite considerably.

Still, my first foray into wild camping was hugely enjoyable (cheers Rob, Steve, Neil and Greg) and I am already excited about what the next micro adventure has in store. Bring it on and I'll bring the wine.

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