Jubilee Way – Hiking, electrocution and blisters

I’m standing in between an electric fence and a barbed wire fence. The gap that is about 2 feet wide and I’m in knee-high stinging nettles shouting and waving my arms. Staring back at me, 6 feet away are 15 very large cows, all dribbling.
I’m wondering “do cows eat humans?”
Surely, it’s the other way round?

Before I tell you what I’m doing there, I can confirm the fence is definitely electric and switched on. This I know, because I tested it.
Ordnance survey map in hand, I tap the wire with the map. Nothing. ‘Oh, it’s not electric.’ I touch it with my hand. For a second, I still think it’s just a wire until my lower back muscles and glutes go into full spasm and I’m swearing, throwing my map on the floor. This brings even more attention to me from the oncoming herd of cows.

This weekend, I decided to hike the Jubilee Way, a beautiful 22-mile trail in Leicestershire. I’ve been inspired by my teammate, MT who is away in France doing a 50 hour endurance event, and also by my all inspirational friends on Facebook who have been doing something similar. As with most of my adventures, it’s all last minute and I only decide to go a few days before. There’s a name for that…. Parkinson’s Law I believe. It makes me sound more like I know what I’m doing when there’s an official ‘law.’  

The Jubilee Way is a straight hike from Burrough On The Hill to just beyond the picturesque Belvoir Castle. I’m hiking alone and have no plans to get picked up at the other end so the weekend has turned into a 44-mile adventure; to one end on Saturday, then back on Sunday.

After getting lost, I then see the gate I need to go through. The gate that is surrounded entirely by cows. Big ones! I decide to walk the perimeter of the field until I get there hoping they get bored and move on. They do not move, in fact, they come closer with more haste after me causing a ruckus at the fence. So I decide to walk on the other side of the electric fence. I was so scared that I failed to see the stinging nettles and got myself into a right pickle. The more I shouted at the cows to go away, the closer they got. My only saviour was the fact I knew the fence was turned on.

I wanted to take myself off on a 2-day adventure alone, in order to develop my ability to be myself. Admittedly, I am not great at being by myself, with my own thoughts. I’ve never done anything like this before but figure I’d throw myself in at the deep end and see what happens.
This weekend was a learning exercise because on the boat crossing the Atlantic, despite having someone else there, while I am rowing they will be sleeping and vice versa. So in a way, I will be alone and have to deal with situations and my thoughts by myself.

Another thing I did to build my character was wild camped on the Saturday night, something I have only ever done a couple of times in the company of others and that was in a tent. This time I was sleeping in a bivvy bag in the middle of a random woods. In fact, bivvy bag makes it sound posh. The shops I visited on Friday didn’t sell them so ended up with one of those bright orange survival bags, (think bin bag) leaving me looking like a corpse in the middle of the woods that night. No mattress or airbed, just a leafy muddy ground to cocoon my tired body with a few sticks and fallen branches thrown in for good measure. This was all intentional. I can’t imagine sleeping on an ocean rowing boat is going to be very comfortable, so wanted to test my body and see how I coped when I needed sleep after a very busy day in an uncomfortable environment. I’m pleased to say, I only got disturbed by a slug and a leaf.
I’m not going to be macho and pretend I wasn’t scared, I was. I’d never done anything like this before, but I knew there were no bears and the worst that would happen was a fox would wee on me?

Feet throbbing and blistered from the previous days hike, I then walked back to the start on the Sunday. At one point, I began to think that I’d bitten off more than I could chew and have to call someone to come and collect me as it felt like the entire sole of both feet were blistered. If only Compeed did socks! The heat from the day and my poor choice of winter socks in the height of summer caused the perspiration of my feet to start eroding themselves. I applied every single Compeed I had, had a little word with myself and decided it would be embarrassing to call my friends to come and collect me.

On Saturday I spent a total of 11 hours walking and on Sunday 10 hours. I’m surprised the time went so quickly and that I enjoyed the return journey. At mile 42, out of nowhere I did have a little cry as I was so surprised, and slightly embarrassed to say proud, how I had managed to be alone with just my thoughts (they can be very loud at times) for so long.
Suddenly I began to feel in control of the task ahead and that I was one step closer to tackling the ocean. This was one thing that did scare me a little when originally signing up to the challenge, and that’s the time alone, thinking about stuff and being in my own head for so long.

This hike isn’t rowing, but it was an important step in my training towards my Atlantic Rowing Challenge. I believe I am already physically strong enough to conquer the ocean but doing this adventure has helped strengthen the ‘muscle’ I need to work on most and that is my brain.

Plus, now I have no excuses to skip the electrocution obstacles at Tough Mudder again!