Geoff and I have found the last few days quite tough. The paddling has been challenging but ok. The wild camping has been amazing too. But we were starting to feel a little different about the expedition. It was a bit difficult to put our fingers on it but talking it through we think we now understand.
Yes the paddling is hard and the living rough out of the kayaks can get a bit draining but by far the toughest challenge is what goes in in your head. We have developed many strategies for breaking down the 100 days and 2,500 miles into manageable chunks. We’ve aimed for milestones like getting across the Bristol Channel and into Wales, back into England and in particular getting to Scotland. We have always told ourselves the West Coast of Scotland will be the best bit of paddling and that we’ll not notice the miles.
We have strategies for each day too. If its a long crossing we’ll paddle 2 or 3 miles, stop for a drink and a snack and repeat (up to 10 or 12 times often). If we’re hugging the coast more, we’ll try and paddle 10 by 10. That’s 10 miles by 10am. Then stop for a second breakfast and do a second 10. Stop for lunch and then push on for the final stint (aiming for at least 25 miles wind permitting). Then of course talking about all the food we’ll eat when we stop for the evening usually helps too.
The psychology has pretty much worked. Except now that we have nearly finished the west coast and still not quite half way, the enormity of the distance left hit us both quite hard for a few days. Up until this point we always took one day at a time and were pleasantly surprised each week to see the progress we made. Geoff likens it to the middle part of a long distance race, the hard miles still to do before the sprint starts. Our sprint starts at Dover.
So the last couple of days we have been chatting about the milestones that will get us through the second half. Cape Wrath (no more north) John O’ Groats (heading south again), back into England, seeing my brother Mike and his daughter Hannah, seeing Roger and Salome (and new baby!) and hopefully Tanya in Newcastle and so on…..
There are five other very good coping strategies to help us for the next 8 weeks. And that’s the charities that we are supporting along the way.
Over the next week or so we’ll say a little more about each charity and the work they do. First up is a lovely note from Liz about her experiences of the West of England Therapy Centre.
“My name is Liz and I am a member of The West of England MS Therapy Centre. I want to say a huge thank you to the Midlifekayakers for raising money for the Centre.
The West of England MS Therapy Centre has been an essential lifeline for me and countless others over the years. I come here to use the treatments – oxygen therapy and acupuncture – as well as for friendship and understanding.
I was diagnosed when I was 29. My MS came on after having my son who is now 3 years old and very active! I find, like many others, that my symptoms and relapses can flare up without warning. This affects my ability to live a normal life. I am a Mum as well as an MS survivor and the Centre helps me to be the best I can be. The oxygen in particular helps me to deal with deadening fatigue and my toddler!
Our Centre needs in excess of £400,000 each year to keep providing this vital service to people who have Multiple Sclerosis. We do not receive any statutory or government funding, raising all the money needed ourselves. There is little help available for individuals through the NHS to help manage day to day symptoms so the oxygen therapy, physiotherapy, exercise classes, reflexology, acupuncture, aromatherapy, reiki and counselling is absolutely essential for the growing MS population in and around greater Bristol & South Gloucestershire.
To date I believe Andy & Geoff have raised £4,000 for the Centre, just part of the £9000 in total they have raised for good causes with their brave expedition. I am currently sitting in the oxygen tank writing this as I wanted to wish you good luck and many thanks as it makes a huge difference.“