Why I felt the need to walk the 42 kilometres (26 miles) from Uxbridge to Wendover via the South Bucks Way again, I will never know! It's not even a particularly enthralling or beautiful route in the Chilterns, yet, there I was, at 7:20am, shutting my front door and venturing out into the miserable damp twilight just before sunrise.
Off I went, keeping a pace, which, looking back, was too ambitious. After three hours, I realised I was in danger of reaching Amersham an hour ahead of my schedule, designed to make the day a pleasurable one. I had based my timings on last year, when I did it with Jim and Diane, but then I had a lighter pack, then it seemed a walk in the park.
By about eleven, my lower limbs were telling me I had obviously gone off too fast in relation to my fitness, and the feet were beginning to feel the consequences! My pace slowed dramatically.
I took a lunch break a couple of kilometres out of Amersham, a tasty 800kcal Expedition Foods freeze dried meal of Spaghetti Bolognese. I also took the opportunity to inspect my feet at the same time; Feeling the tell tale signs of hot spots on both heels, but no visible blisters, I strapped up with zinc oxide the best I could for someone with all the suppleness of a plank of wood!
In Amersham, I met up with Karen and Dominique, who were joining me for the second half. I was ten minutes late, but still, I might add, there before Karen who proudly called to say she was early when she was actually waiting outside the wrong Tesco's!
I've now decided it's probably not a great idea to walk twenty-one kilometres to join people for a walk of a further twenty-one. My pace had slowed, my muscles were stiffening, and I was feeling every step, while they were fresh and ready to crack on.
Fourteen kilometres later, I noticed on the map that there was an unexpected, but nonetheless welcome, escape route. We stopped just outside Great Missenden, and I took another look at my feet. The blisters on my heels had formed and were quite impressive, if i do say so myself! If they were popped and dressed, I could have continued, but I didn't really want to subject Karen or Dom to the task of helping out. Also, quite honestly, what was the point of doing further damage to my feet when there was a bigger goal in mind and a train station five minutes into town?
All in all, a timely remnder that I need to pace myself more efficiently, take regular breaks, and use my walking poles more often on long distances. Despite a good couple of years without any serious blisters, the day was a notice that I'm not immune to them, and that I hadn't cracked the secret to never experiencing them. As I'm writing this, I realise that my last really painful encounter to stop me in my tracks was on the Devon Coast to Coast back in August 2008, and the reasons they surfaced were exactly the same!
Finally, there is also the fact that I am not as fit as I should be, and a lot of work is still to be done.