Thursday, 7 February 2013

Round The Wrekin

I'm overweight.

That's official, by the way. If you go by the BMI Calculator (which has its critics but for simplicity's sake let's run with it) I have a BMI of 27.4, as I'm exactly 6ft and I currently weigh between 14-15 stone (I'm 202 pounds, to be precise).

The BMI Categories are as such:

  • Normal weight = 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight = 25 to 29.9
  • Obese = 30 or more
So a calculation of 27.4 means I'm smack bang in the middle between "normal" weight and obesity.

I don't feel obese. I've seen obese people - they waddle down the street, stuffing their faces with pasties they've bought from Greggs, their disgusting bellies protruding out underneath their tops - and I don't think I'm one of them. I do know that I'm overweight, however. I could really do with shedding a few pounds. Christmas has been a big factor in this regard, as it always is. Pre-Xmas I was down to 14 stone exactly, the leanest I've been for a long time. I stopped drinking Coke at home, I stopped drinking alcohol entirely, I was cutting down on stupid foods quite successfully, I was doing a lot of walking. Then Christmas arrived, then the snow arrived, then the comfort eating arrived, and now I'm back up to 14 stone 6.

So what do I do about this? A quick glance at Twitter and Facebook alerted me to a thing called "Insanity". I pondered it, for roughly 0.7 seconds, then firmly said "no". What does it entail? I've no idea, but it's called "Insanity" for fuck sake. I can't run for more than a minute and I can do about 3 press-ups, so even the notion of doing an exercise regime called "Insanity" is well and truly off the menu. The longest journey starts with a single step. If I was to do this, I had to do this carefully. Giving myself a heart attack and dropping dead wasn't really what I had in mind. Then I thought about a gym, but again, no. Gyms scare me, quite frankly, and besides, I don't have the money. I can't see myself ever getting a gym membership and "pumping iron" or whatever it is the meatheads do in there, so that idea was out. What could I do, then, for exercise? I sat at my desk and looked out of my window, pondering this dilemma. "Where could I go" I wondered, whilst I sat in my chair looking at the woodland at the back of my house and The Wrekin off to the right. If only there was a place......hey! Wait a minute! What about The Wrekin?! It isn't the biggest hill in Shropshire - The Stiperstones is definitely more elevated - but I'd wager that The Wrekin is the most famous. It towers over Telford and Wrekin, and inspires local phrases such as "Going round The Wrekin" to describe someone rambling on almost as much as I am right now. I've walked up The Wrekin a few times - I've lost count, roughly about 7 - a record which is better than others, but still not great when you consider that I've lived here now almost 14 years. With this in mind, a plan came to mind.

To walk up The Wrekin, at least once a month. But that was boring. I needed an edge to it, a target. Something that would make me interested in doing it. I pondered a bit more, then I picked up my phone. Because I have an app on my phone, Endomondo, which is like an exercise companion. You can start the timer, then when you complete your walk/run/bike ride you press "stop" and it tells you your time, calories burnt, average speed, top speed etc. I'm sure I had used it before, when I walked up The Wrekin last year....aha! All the logs are stored in the "History" screen. I had used it before - last Spring, I had walked up The Wrekin in a time, according to Endomondo, of 32 minutes. A slight shame that it hadn't been 2 minutes quicker, and so sub-30 mins, but never mind....hang on. That was it - there was my target. The foot of The Wrekin, to the top. 30 minutes or less. I could attempt it as many times as I liked, but I had to do it at least once every month. The cold of January, the heat of July, the possible snow of December. Every month.

A terrific idea, in principle, but there was no way I was going to do it. I'm overweight, and I'm asking myself to shave 2 whole minutes of the time I clocked up the last time I went up there? Nah, not going to happen. But it was worth a go, right? So last week, at the end of January and after the snow had finally gone away, I was standing at the bottom of The Wrekin, phone in hand. I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere near 30 minutes - roughly 35 was my aim - but I was going to give it my best shot. Off I trundled, putting my phone in my pocket for safety. I decided I was only going to look at my time once - half way up the hill, when I passed Halfway House (I've no idea why it's called that) - so that I could just set my mind on walking, and not worrying about the clock.

Up I went. Having walked up The Wrekin a few times I know the climb by now, which does help. A long drag up to Halfway House, then a kick up as you walk over three false summits, the trees giving way about 2/3 of the way up, the path leading to the peak of the climb now exposed to the conditions. At the top, it is always windy and cold. My brother's friend lives at Halfway House, and I've walked up there before. I know it takes roughly 15 minutes. Last week, as I walked past, I slipped my phone out of the pocket of my fleece. 11:30. 

11:30? Eleven minutes, 30 seconds? 

How the fuck? I panicked. Walking up The Wrekin has caused me to break down in the past, after I thought "Wow, this is easy!" during the first half of the climb, racing up it, before being made to really suffer on the second (and much tougher) section. It was 15 minutes to Halfway House, I was sure of it, but here I was over 3 minutes quicker than that. It made no sense. I slowed down a little, but I felt good. I kept on going. I scaled the three false summits, wincing as I almost went over on my ankle scrambling up the last upslope where the rocks are interspersed with loose stones. I kept on going however, and soon I was within touching  distance of the top of the hill, the trig point and toposcope so agonisingly close. I could almost touch them, I was 30 seconds away....

....and then came the wind. It had been blustery at ground level, but now, 1330ft up, the wind was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I gasped as the wind - literally - took my breath away. I couldn't look forward, I had to turn my head to the side and try breathing in snatches. I tried putting my hood up on my fleece, the wind just knocked it straight back down with contempt. I was about 10 metres away from the summit, but the wind was so intense I couldn't actually walk straight. I was blown sideways, off the path, and had to compose myself before even attempting to walk forward again. It felt like I was in a wind tunnel, yet I ploughed on. After an epic struggle with the wind, I touched the trig point. I was at the top.

I took my phone out, stopped the timer without even looking at my time, then quickly shoved my phone back into the safety of the pocket. I was terrified it was going to blow away. I couldn't stay here, at the summit, so I immediately turned round and began walking back downhill to a clump of trees about 100 metres away. With the wind now behind me, I was convinced that I was about to take off, to be airbone and go whirling through the air. I shoved my hands in my pockets and made it to the trees, where I sat down at the base of the tree right in the middle of the miniature woodland. Here I had a shelter. After sitting for a moment and getting my breath back to anything approaching normality, I remembered my phone, in my pocket. I was a little annoyed. I thought I had walked really well, yet my chances of getting anywhere remotely near 30:00 had been compounded by the ferocious winds towards the summit. This was only January, though. It was my first attempt at this mark, I had at least 11 more to go. It was fantastic to get a time logged regardless of what it was - I knew I could beat it in more favourable conditions. I got out my phone and glanced down at the screen.