Gracious my blogs are becoming less frequent but more full!
I literally hit September running, at one point straight into an inflatable wall, and completed the Gung-Ho 5km on the 1st. Despite still not being a runner (but, oh, how I still so want to be) I was pleasantly surprised by how undaunted I was about taking on another 5km.
A distance that felt Herculean in April now felt obtainable. I won’t put you under any illusions, there was still a good smattering of walking interspersed between runs, but my pre race anxiety had been replaced with pre race excitement. True, this could be due to the fact that the Gung-Ho 5km is the ‘Inflatable Fun’ 5km – Scattered around the race route were giant obstacles that would have been more at home a child’s birthday party than at a National Trust property. Yet here they were, in the shadow of one Aberdeenshire’s many historic castles, and I was ready to take them on! After all, I have spent my fair share of Saturday afternoons clambering over bouncy castles trying to persuade my sugar crazed children that it’s time to come home. It would be a piece of cake! And so it was, except for… The Wall. I would like to speak to whoever thought it was a good idea to put an 10ft (I’m guessing the height) bouncy wall towards the end of a 5km. Sweaty hands + a smooth, low resistance, vertical edge to scale = really hard work!
In fact, I couldn’t do it alone. After being spatchcocked on the side of the wall three times, I decided to ask for assistance from the race marshal. He very gallantly grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and the waistband of my leggings and, like a sack of potatoes, he heaved me over the top. No small job I’m sure 😄
A few days prior to this, I went to a local farm and I was tutored in the skill of sheep shearing. I have a new found respect and awe for farmers.
I sheared one sheep to their hundreds, and the contorted postures that I had to maintain whilst holding down said sheep and using a shearing tool in a uniform manner was exhausting. My right arm and wrist were genuinely limp by the end. I’m just ever so grateful that the sheep Ian selected for me was a relatively docile one, and I was only bucked off three times.
This month I also started volunteering with “Street Friends Aberdeen”. This group was set up by Justin Ritchie. They meet 4 times a week in Aberdeen City centre and provide food, hot drinks and warm clothing to vulnerable and homeless people. I had such a humbling evening with them. Before this year I used to turn a blind eye to those on the streets – I was anxious about engaging with them for fear of attack or theft. But hearing their stories and sharing jokes together really brought home to me how short sighted I had been.
I have since decided that all items that I collect during my ‘reverse advent calendar’ this December will go to Street Friends Aberdeen, as the work the Justin and his fellow volunteers do is simply inspiring and truly incredible.
Now we come to Saturday 15th September 2018. This was the day that Natalie Pinnell and I Deeside-d (see what I did there?) to cycle our bikes from Aberdeen to Ballater, following the old railway line along the Deeside Way.
Yes, a lovely day out and a chance for two busy mothers of two to catch up and get a change of scene, but this ride was more than just that for us. This ride was in honour of Natalie’s daughter, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, and also part of my ‘30 things for 30 years’ challenges. If you have read previous blog posts you will know my choice to support the National Autistic Society this year is my way of saying “Thank you” to Natalie, as she supported me through one of the most difficult times in my life. She in turn wanted to thank me back, and volunteered to join me cycling the 44 mile route through villages, forests, roadworks (with unexpected dead ends) and the most stunning scenery around the River Dee.
We set off early from Duthie Park hoping to ease ourself into a steady pace before the cycle path became too busy. We actually had to set off twice, as I somehow managed to derail my chain before I had even completed one full rotation of the peddles. The second time around though we set off strong, and despite the coolness of the morning, were soon powering along the beautifully smooth tarmac path. That was until… the bypass. My OS maps did not account for this, and neither did google. We met an abrupt stop in the form of a large fence and steep drop towards the new roads. Luckily for us, after a quick token photo for our records, another couple joined us at the dead end, and as a four we ventured out onto the road (well, the pavement if I’m honest) and found our way over the roadworks and back to the safety of the cycle path. Natalie and I reached Banchory in good time (via a visit to the steam engine at Crathes) and, of course, rewarded ourselves with an elevenses stop. Refuelled with good baking and swelled egos at the ease and beauty of our first leg, we set off to Scolty Woods… Oh. My. Goodness!
With each churn of our bike tyres up the hills our egos dropped lower and lower. There is no putting it lightly, this stretch was hard going! The undulating track was forever lulling us into a false sense of relief, but each glorious downhill section was followed by an uphill section, each one just that little bit longer than the one before. Our average speed plummeted to a mediocre 4 miles an hour. I am pleased to say though that even with legs of lead we kept our spirits high, revelling in the unrivalled beauty of where we were. Royal Deeside truly is a sight to behold. With every stop to catch our breath we couldn’t help but stand in awe at the views before us. They were spectacular. When we finally reached our final peak, we whizzed down from Slewdrum Forrest and into Potarch with the speed and delight of two small children – We may well have startled other walkers and cyclists as we suddenly appeared in the car park whooping with joy and proudly announcing to anyone we passed that we had come from Aberdeen. After a quick luncheon in Kincardine O’ Neil we continued on our way. The next destination, our hometown, Aboyne. It was a rather surreal experience cycling past our houses and family members (thank you for the KitKat pit stop Steve and Sue!) knowing that we still had another 10 miles to go before actually getting to return to the comfort of home. But continue on we did and finally we pulled up to the Old Station in Ballater after 9 hours of pedalling, and a fair smattering of walking. Greeted by our families who were armed with water, chocolate bars and prosecco, Natalie and I made our final dismount of the day. Our legs were tired, our buttocks ached and standing up was a lot more difficult than it had been that morning, but we were smiling and absolutely thrilled with our achievements. We had cycled the Deeside Way (and I only fell off once!).