When I hear the word adventure I can’t help but smile. I lived overseas for almost 8 years and when I left Zambia, where I had been living for over 6 of them, my biggest fear was the adventure might finally be over. After a difficult 15 months in Finland though it was time to return home. To me this initially seemed like the adventure was over, by that point though I didn’t actually care. The long dark winters had really knocked the wind out of my sails and home was where I wanted to be. It’s taken some time but I have now realised that moving back home wasn’t the end of the adventure it was just time for a change and with that would come different opportunities, if I was willing to put the time into creating them.
Fast forward a few months and Barny, Sarah and I were planning our first ProHuman micro-adventure.
With some Spartan obstacle course races coming up we wanted to use it as an opportunity to get some endurance training in as well as exploring somewhere we hadn’t been and experiencing something new. We made a list of activities, chose some locations close to home and decided to do it all within 24 hours. The last bank holiday of the summer seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it, with an extra day to the weekend why not spend it doing challenging ourselves and doing something a bit different.
In the morning we challenged ourselves to do a triathlon using local events that take place each week. The Worcester Tri Club swim session at Upton Warren starts at 0700 so was the perfect option for our swim leg and parkrun at Arrow Valley Country Park starts at 0900. Add a cycle between and we had our triathlon. The intention was to leave at 0600 so we would have plenty of time to cycle to the lake, get our wetsuits on and into the lake as close to 0700 as possible. The reality is we both suck at transitions, as evidenced in our transition times at the 70.3 distance triathlon we completed in June. Not surprisingly we have not improved! With a little less time at the lake than planned I swam 2 laps and Barny 3 and after another prolonged transition got back on our bikes and made it back just in time for a change of clothes and jog down to the park for the start of parkrun. Barny’s sister Holly and her friend Daniela joined us for parkrun. Having both not run for a while it was the perfect chance for them to start their weekend with some fresh air and fitness and gave them the chance to experience what a great, free weekly event parkrun is.
My calves were killing me the whole way round after the bike and all I wanted to do was finish, actually all I wanted to do was stop but that wasn’t going to make it end any quicker so keeping going was the only option. I was overtaken by a little girl on the last lap who told me I was doing a great job and to keep going, the 28 minute pacer was encouraging me to stay with him to the finish line. I had to fight the urge to protect my ego and tell them it was OK I had already cycled 24 miles and swum a 1km so I was just taking it easy, there was nothing easy about it. I was way off my own 5km PB but at that point it was hurting me more than the day I ran my fastest time. Parkrun is known for is friendly atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the marshals encouraging everyone round the course and boy did I appreciate it! It’s a great event and gives people of all different abilities with all different goals the opportunity to get out and give running it a go in a non-judgemental, supportive atmosphere. Of course you do get your super speedy runners, one of which was Barny, the 3rd person to finish in sub 18 minutes. The awesome thing is everyone can get out and challenge themselves no matter what their level and everyone celebrates each others achievement and progress.
We had a few hours to kill before we needed to be on the road to the Malverns. We refuelled, added some extra km to our bike ride on a lap around the lake with Barny’s son Finley, completed an obstacle course simulation challenge and took some time out for yoga and stretching to prevent our muscles seizing up before we needed to run again. For once we were going to get a sunny bank holiday weekend and with the temperatures rising we packed up our kit and got the van ready for our micro-adventure in the Malvern Hills.
In the Malvern Hill’s our plan was to start at British Camp and run a loop taking in some of the southern hills before heading all the way up to North Hill arriving back at Worcestershire Beacon for sunset. For me, being better at distance than speed, the length of the run worried me less than the thought of running a ‘fast’ 5km at parkrun and I was really excited to see more of the hills and take in the specular scenery. We were joined by two friends, Matt and Dave. Matt was training for the 12 hour Spartan Hurricane Heat the following weekend and Dave was training for the Brutal Triathlon, it was perfect opportunity for them to get some good mileage in as well.
The run was awesome, the weather was perfect and the views were incredible. We didn’t go flat out the whole time, we took breaks when we needed, took in the scenery, pushed ourselves when we could, I walked some of the ups, Barny ran extra loops and Matt and Dave were somewhere in between. There were times when I was running on my own, and times when we were all as a group, the hours flew by. We made it to Worcestershire Beacon as the sun started to set and took in the view a while before heading back south to our start point at British Camp. With the hills running north to south we were able to see the sunset the whole time and stopped again just after the Herefordshire border to watch the sun finally disappear for the day. I covered 24km total, finishing off with a few laps of the car park at the end. With switch backs Barny managed to cover 29km.
Dave left us after the run and while we had brought food with us we decided we had earned a hot meal and set off to find some pub food before we headed back up the hills. With the warmth of the sun gone and the wind picking up we were all very grateful for the refuel, chill and a proper toilet. With very full tummies we headed back to the vehicles and went to park up at the bottom of Worcester Beacon, had a quick change of clothes, grabbed our camping gear and with head torches on started, at a somewhat slower pace, to hike up the hills again to find a place to camp. We had hoped to be able to camp out under the stars but it was now really windy and rather chilly and we were all feeling the exertions of the day so were very grateful for Barny’s new three man tent.
Despite a night of snoring, sleep talking and not very much sleep the sunrise made it all worth it! When we first woke up we thought it was going to be misty morning but once we were out of the tent and back up on the ridge the sun started to rise and we all felt immediately rejuvenated. After sitting a while taking in the view we did a few rounds of sun salutations, Wim Hoff breathing and stretching, we were ready for the new day.
Amazingly for once the good weather continued and we spent Sunday afternoon with friends and family eating delicious food, relaxing and avoiding kids’ water fights, I even started to learn how to play chess. It’s probably one of my most productive and enjoyable bank holidays to date.
Between the two of us in 24 hours we cycled 76km, swam 2.9km, ran 63km, did some OCR training, yoga and Wim hoff breathing. We took in some amazing scenery at the Malvern’s, took part in the great free event that is parkrun, spent time with friends and family, challenged ourselves and went on a micro-adventure. It cost us very little; £5 each to swim at the lake, some supplies, fuel to get to the Malvern’s, parking and dinner at the pub. We did what we set out to; had a break from the norm, spent 24 hours doing the things we love with like-minded people and explored somewhere close to home.
I have been lucky enough to travel a lot overseas and for a long time didn’t think I would get the same feeling exploring so close to home so this was a first for me. Micro-adventures are definitely the way forwards, we are all agreed this will be the first of many. It was so simple to organise, we just had to commit to a weekend and know roughly what we wanted to do. So now to plan our next adventure, maybe a little further afield and hopefully we will encourage a few more family and friends to join us. Watch this space!