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UPDATED DNF Epic January Challenge - walk the equivalent of the NC500 in 31 days

It seemed like a great idea at the time. 

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a fitness challenge / fundraiser on Facebook. There were a few options, but I signed up to walk the equivalent of the North Coast 500 route, during January. 

516 miles over 31 days averages out to about 16.5miles a day.  Now, I'm a keen and active walker, and walk the dog 5-10 miles most days, so this seemed like a great challenge. Not impossible, but definitely challenging. I'm something of a long distance walker, and regularly hike 20-25 miles a few times a month (32 miles being the longest in one day) - but I'm also a self employed business owner, who needs to work at least 8-10 hours a day. So, in all honestly, there are days I don't even have time to leave the house, and the dogs snooze all day on the couch, whilst I hole up at my desk.

In the last couple of years, I decided to put focus back on my fitness, having gained about 8 stone in the first few years of  Whilst the weight/size never bothered me, the fact I'd gone from super fit and active, to working 18 hours a day and barely moving, did bother me. So as we came out of lockdowns, I chose not to get back on the hamster wheel of doing 70-100 pop up events a year, all over the country, but, instead, to actually give myself some time back, to get walking and get back to the gym. Just under 2 years later, I'd shed 10 and a half stone (over half of my bodyweight), and am now maintaining that loss, whilst revelling in how FIT I am again. But I need a focus, now that the numbers on the scale don't matter. I need to always have some kind of fitness goal on the horizon, to work towards.  And this certainly has been looming on the wintery horizon haha

16.5 miles isn't 'far', but it does take around 4 hours out of the day.  And I wasn't thinking about just how short the hours of daylight are in January, or how wet/icy/snowy/stormy it may be. In lighter months, if I wake between 4/5am, I will often head out for a few miles before work. But in January, it'll be dark until 8am. yeah, I have hi viz gear and a decent headtorch, but, honestly, I'd rather not be walking for 4 hours before daylight...but the reality is, some days, that will be the only way I can fit in these challenge miles. 

I have a fall back or contingency plan, but I absolutely don't want to use it. I want to complete the actual miles, on foot, in active walking. If we're hit with insane weather, or illness comes up, or whatever, then my non-negotiable fall back is to hit the miles in my total movement for the day - for example, my watch tells me that I dance the equivalent of around 3 miles in each gym class I do. But I am NOT planning using that number, I ONLY want to count ACTUAL miles ACTUALLY walked. 

I also have a couple of days with fixed commitments that I can't move, so I'm actually needing to do 18/18.5miles every day, rather that 16.5. Urgh, the more I type, the more I'm asking myself what the fuck I'm doing! hahaha This is going to be a physical, mental and logistical challenge, and it is NOT going to be easy, in any which way. I'm determined to nail it, hence writing this NoBooksBlog. But I'm already thinking I may repeat it in June or July, when the days are long, and morning and evening walks are the order of the day!  Trying to squish these miles and hours in to the short hours of daylight, meaning I will be working in darkness, is gonna be a mindfuck.  It's also important to note that contrary to common assumption, January is NOT a quiet month for  January, February & March are usually REALLY busy - and then April hits, and I'm dead for a few weeks!  It's not what you'd expect, I know, but yeah, I'm not taking on this challenge in some magical month where I don't need to work....I'm hoping to stick to working around 50 hours a week, to enable me to fit in the walking....and 50 hours a week is practically part time, for me!

Hey.  I am nothing if not masochistic!

So. With all those wobbles being said, here goes my NoBooksBlog:

Oh!  Just realised January starts on a Monday. Love that!  Neat and tidy! 


Monday 1st January 2024

Here we go!  Let's do this thang!  New Year's Day was a Monday - I do like the neatness of a new year/new week/new month starting on a Monday! 

Up bright and early (no libations last night, I was fast asleep at the bells), and headed off about 90 mins before dawn, to get the first few miles of tarmac out of the way.  Mera and I were heading down the Speyside Way, to join the Moray Coast Trail, to walk along to Cullen Harbour, where Mr No Books would meet as at lunchtime, and we'd have pizza from the pop up truck that was there for the day. 

Not long after daylight, I could smell 'bog'.  I've walked this route dozens of times, and couldn't remember any sitting water at all.  The smell got stronger, and I got more confused. The North Sea is just a couple of hundred metres to the left, but this has never been a wet section to walk. I turned a corner on the trail, and was met with flooding.  Urgh.  OK, whatever. Wet feet killed no man. So we sploshed through for a 100 yards or so.  Then I turned the next corner, and for as far as the eye could see, was only DEEP flood water, and so many storm damaged, fallen trees, that I had no option but to wade through the middle of it.  For fucking ages.  My feet were already wet.  Doesn't bother me. Then my ankles were fully submerged.  Then the water was halfway up my calves.  Not pleasant. It was getting deeper and deeper, and was so cold, it felt like it should be frozen solid.  Another 20 yards or so of wading, and the water was OVER my knees, and heading for my crotch.  Mera was no longer walking, she was swimming.  I stood for a second and contemplated my options.  There weren't many, so I just had to crack on.  Luckily, my pants did indeed remain dry, as I eventually waded out the other end. This meant I was going to complete the next 10 or so miles, absolutely sodden.  Fun. 

Before too long, we reached Buckie, and I snapped a pic of Mera posing in front of a local boat. We also saw our first rainbow of the year, but it's so faint in the photo, that there's no point sharing it haha

Along over cliffs, golf courses, beaches and rockpools, on a surprisingly quiet walk.  I was expecting a million families on their new year walk, but we hardly saw anyone.  Just the way I like it to be honest :P

Finally reached Cullen Harbour (which was very busy), where Stewart was waiting, as I was about half an hour longer than I'd expected, due to almost having to swim the flooded section haha.  Pizza truck was there - and it had sold out of pizza hahahahahaha I'm not even fussed about pizza, but it had seemed very appealing, as I ticked off the miles towards it hahaha

Home at lunchtime, and wrapped the wee one up like a pupperitto, for a household sofa snooze!

Tuesday 2nd January 2024

Today I had Zumba at 10am. So I decided to walk to and from the gym, which is 8 miles away.  Takes me a couple of minutes over 2 hours each way (I'm a fast walker, even when I'm just strolling). Again, headtorch on and set off in the dark.  God, the mornings are so dark, for so long.  Even the daylight is dark. Just as I took my headtorch off, I was met with a wee flooded patch of road.  I really didn't want wet feet, when I was on my way to dance in the gym, so I teetered my way round the boggy verge. This puddle is going to be there for a while, I'd say, as it's a run off from the loch to the left, and the main A96, to the right.  This is the lowest point between them, with run ins from both sides.  I prefer to walk on the main road, if I'm walking in and out of Elgin, but wouldn't do it in this low light, as even with my hi viz on, the verge is narrow and on a bend, and it's not fair to drivers - even if I know I'm out of their way, they might not realise that until the last second. 

Had my zumba class, and headed home in the PISHING rain. Great start to this challenge, eh?  I did snap a pretty pic of Elgin Cathedral on my way past though. 

Wednesday 3rd January 2024

Now washed and fully dry, I discovered a hole in the trail shoes I wore on Monday. 

Just a local dog walk formed the bulk of today's miles.  Plus another couple of smaller local walks. 

Thursday 4th January 2024

Would you believe, this photo was taken at the start of today's walk, at 9.30am. I was up at 5am and worked for a couple of hours. I'd already done 3 miles on the village pavements, in the dark, but Mr No Books dropped us a few miles away before his work, and Mera and I walked back through forest trails. 


Miles of straight forest tracks. I like this kind of walking. Barely have to navigate, and can just switch my brain off for a few hours. I did have a bash at finding a geocache on this walk, but failed miserably haha Wasn't in the mood for heather bashing, so it can stay there until a drier day!

Friday 5th January 2024

Right. Today was tough. This seemingly perpetual morning darkness is really getting to me. On top of the 'nice' walks I've been doing, I've been topping up the mileage with maybe 4/5 miles of pavement pounding, round the village, morning and night. In lighter months, I often wake at, like 5am, and head out 8/10 miles with the dog before work. On trails. Soft underfoot, gentle on the joints, trails.  I can't do that just now.  And hours of looping round the same streets is already becoming mentally tough.  And today, it's maybe telling on my body, too.  I headed out to do 90 mins in the dark, in the pissing rain. I only walked for 20 mins before heading home. 

I'll copy the long post I made on my personal FB page, as it probably explains today best:

"OK. I’m moving the goal posts on my challenge!
I’ve wrestled with this all day.
Feeling a bit bleurgh today. Headed out to pound the street lit pavements first thing. It was pouring rain, so on with the waterproofs. Only went round the block and just wondered wtf I was doing. Headed to the gym for my usual Friday classes. Slightly niggly knee, so kept it very low key.
Came home, and headed out with the dog. Phone showed heavy rain, so I again donned the waterproofs (which I really don’t like wearing), and headed on an 8 mile circuit. Figured I’d do that, come home, have a cuppa, and then repeat it. Well. No rain, lovely winter sun, and I was both roasting and damp with sweat. Did 6 miles and came home. At which point I kind of lost the will, cos I still have work to do, too. I put a walking workout on YouTube, put my crocs in sports mode, and spent half an hour stepping it out in the living room, whilst contemplating the rest of the day.
I dunno man. These dark mornings are making this really tough. In lighter months, I often wake stupidly early, grab the dog and head out at 5am. I’m getting up at my usual 6/6:30am just now, and really frustrated that I can’t really put any significant miles in. This is a wee village, and am already finding looping the same twenty streets rather mind numbing - and this niggle in my knee today, makes me think all these tarmac miles aren’t great on my joints either.
I’m very conflicted right now. I didn’t want to take my Total Movement for the days into account for the challenge, but I’m thinking I might have to. If I was going to include a boring indoor walking workout, then surely I should be ok with including the distance I dance in my intense and fun gym classes? I dunno. I know I’m working my own rules here - the actual challenge says you can walk/run/row/cycle/swim/whatever. In fairness, I work sitting down, at home, so all movement actually is intentional walking or working out, my non-workout steps are 1500 a day haha But I need to decide this afternoon, otherwise I’m slipping too far behind to catch up on walking miles. Meh. Not sure.
I’m swaying towards hitting a total movement of 20 miles a day, for the rest of the month (to make up for the couple of days that I won’t be able to walk or workout at all). I know this is totally within the parameters of the challenge, I’m just wrestling my own mind, because I was determined to do it all with outdoor walking miles 🫤 But if I change the rules, it means I can do indoor workouts before dawn, and add extra gym classes to hit the even higher mile target…and maybe free up some time to, y’know, work, too 😜"

Saturday 6th January 2024

I woke up feeling a bit better about my decision to include all intentional movement. Today, I decided to go easy on myself. I had a fair bit of work to do (thank you!), and so the day was punctuated with blocks of work, shortish dog walks and 30 minute dance workouts. I didn't hit my miles today, first time, but I'm OK with it.  Now I know I'm allowing myself to count all cardio, I CAN make that up with extra gym classes, as well as keeping to long walks when conditions allow.  I walk Mera 5-10 miles most days, even without a challenge, so I know I can still do this.  But I have decided I will repeat this challenge, just for myself, later in the year, and ONLY count walking, as I'd really hoped to do this month. I have a lot of work to do today and tomorrow, so I'll enjoy a couple of less pressured days, and will hit the ground running on Monday. Not running. I don't run. 

Sunday 7th January 2024

This morning I had a long lie.  Up at 8am. Yes, that's a very long lie for me haha I did a dance workout in the living room, and then headed to walk to the next village over for a few bits from the shop. Didn't get very far before slipping on black ice. Not badly, I'm not hurt, but I'm pissed off. Despite it being a lovely, sunny, dry day, it's still against me for getting the miles in. Frustratingly, I ordered super duper non slip trail shoes before Christmas, and they've still not arrived. The most I've ever spent on a pair of shoes, or any other wearable item, actually!  But my pal swears by them for running in all weathers.  I do have metal cleats, which are great in thick ice and snow, but no use for this invisible ice. So I just walked round the block for Mera, and home for another dance video. I'm now in the office, packing orders for tomorrow's courier collection - yes, I'm still working throughout this challenge haha I know I wont hit today's miles, but I do have the gym later, and will dance about 3.5 miles (I think - I've never properly charted this before now, so will be an interesting experiment!).  I've booked all my gym classes for the coming week, and have added in some extra ones (22 in total), to be sure I hit the mileage - this IS a challenge after all! 

That's me setting this NoBooksBlog to live now.  I won't be updating daily (I don't have time...can't imagine why haha), but do check back in a few days, when I'll do a bulk update for the coming days :) 

TOTAL SO FAR: 99.73miles
STILL TO GO: 416.27miles


Monday 8th January 2024
A handful of short, 1 mile dog walks today, and 4 cardio gym classes, and I just about hit my miles.

My super, duper, all terrain, winter trekking shoes finally arrived. Should make getting out in this ice a little easier...

Tuesday 9th January 2024
Today I will be driving almost 200 miles for a hospital appointment.
Today is a good example of why, although I do walk a lot, and love the gym, there are days where I barely move. Today's steps were a whopping 6156 and mileage totalled 2.66 haha Great day though, despite it being a trip for a hospital appointment with Dad, we had lunch out and a pootle about charity shops on the way home. It was minus 7 this morning, so part of me was glad I wasn't pounding the pavements!

Wednesday 10th January 2024
Had a meeting first thing, which I planned to walk to.  Frustratingly, a decades old shoulder injury is having a flare up :( I go months without so much as a twinge, but yesterday it was very much 'there', and last night I barely slept for pain spasms, and when I got up, I realised I'm holding myself in a weird, slightly contorted manner, to try to minimise the pain.  I had a a body combat (no contact martial arts moves) class this morning, as Wednesday is meant to be my day off work, but instead, I've jumped in to the office to schedule a few emails. Meh. Just fecking meh.  I do have two dance classes later.  Mera will be walked at some point, but safe to say there wont be much dent made on my challenge miles today :'( This is getting really fucking frustrating now. I was determined to nail this challenge, and spent weeks looking forward to getting going. Now I'm just like URGH. 

Thursday 11th January 2024
It's my birthday. No celebrations, cos, January! 
Today I awoke to a flurry of orders, including a couple of trade orders from new stockists. What a lovely birthday gift!  But, looking at my diary, there was no way I was going to meet my 7 day dispatch promise, if I didn't get folding straight away. I had 5 gym classes booked today...and as the day went on, I cancelled each one of them :-( I mean, I'm never happier than when I'm sat at my desk, drinking tea and folding orders, it truly is my happy place!  But I'm thinking today may have seen my last glimmer of 'maybe I can do this', trickle away...

Friday 12th January 2024
A bit of gym, a bit of walking, a lot of folding.

Saturday 13th January 2024
Up bright and early, to get some work under my belt, before heading to the gym. These miles aint racking up like I'd hoped. 

Sunday 14th January 2024
Another full day of work. I did nip out for a zumba class, but Mera only got walked round the block. 

TOTAL SO FAR: 144.63 miles (very disappointing)
STILL TO GO: 371.37 miles (think I've reached the point of impossibility to complete)


Monday 15th January 2024
Snow day. So much snow. Just a wee walk for Mera, and a quick boogie in front of youtube for me. I reluctantly cancelled my gym classes.  I am very, very lucky that I don't have to commute to work in these conditions (20 years of 40 miles a day, throughout winters, makes me unbelievably grateful for this), and so I feel it would be irresponsible of me to be driving out and about for unnecessary reasons, when so many on the road are really struggling getting from essential A-B places. Meh. 

Tuesday 16th January 2024
Still lots of snow, but 'lost' most of the day to waiting for the car to be MOTd. Racked up 7 snowy miles, wandering around Elgin. Can confirm that my super spikey shoes are fucking awesome!  Not even a hint of a slip or slide. Well, apart from nearly wiping out when I walked in to the garage's tiled floor, and skiting the length of myself hahahaha

Wednesday 17th January 2024
Right. I'm declaring defeat. I had a meeting first thing, which I'd usually walk to and from.  It's only the next village over, about 1.5miles each way. Nice way to start the day. But this morning just felt ridiculously cold. So I drove. The roads are a total mess of hardpacked snow and ice, and I, again, felt I shouldn't be travelling back and forth from Elgin for the gym. Wednesday is usually my day off, and I had 5 classes booked for today. Between skipping my 3 miles first thing, and around 15 miles of workout classes, I checked my paltry miles so far this month...and am holding my hands up.  There's no WAY I'm completing 516 miles this January. So do I spend the rest of the month beating myself up, chasing miles that I honestly don't feel are possible, or do I call it quits?  I'm calling it quits. Here be my uniform for the rest of the day/week/month!

I'm really disappointed with this. Well, frustrated, more than disappointed, actually. I had seriously underestimated the effect of the long, dark mornings, and super short window of daylight, on my ability to get out there properly.  Add in the never ending rain early in the month, and snow and ice now...yeah, I guess it adds up to excuses, but I know they're not really excuses, they're valid reasons. Most of my walks start and end walking on the edges of roads with no pavements. Yeah, I wear high viz and reflective gear, but even in the 'day' time, this winter sun makes it so tricky for drivers to see the road properly, that even in the short hours of daylight, many/most days, it's completely unsafe to be using those routes.  But the heavy rain makes farmland unpleasant to trudge through, and the snow and ice makes everything tougher in general haha And, as I discovered very early in this endeavour, neither my mind nor my knees, want to be walking in circles on pavements, for 4+ hours a day. 

I feel my miles, so far, this month, have actually averaged out to be less than normal! Which maybe isn't a surprise, for January, but it's certainly not conducive to hitting your furthest miles walked in a month challenge.  

I'm going to stick a pin in this, and come back to it once the days are longer. I'd quite like to do it in March, which is the next 31 day month, but April makes more sense, after the clocks change. I do NOT want to attempt and FAIL this again, because I know how hard I would be on myself. 16.5 miles a day is perfectly do-able for me, especially once the sun allows me to be up and out and get 10 of them under my feet before the working day begins. I am looking forward to NAILING this thing, outside of the official challenge. Mera and I will both enjoy it, and I do like having a goal to work towards! 

For the first time in my life, I can't help but whimsically whisper "hurry up sunshine"...

TOTAL SO FAR: 155.04 miles (9.69miles a day. Urgh)
STILL TO GO: 360.96 miles  (25.75miles a day - yeah, not this month!)

See this>>>___________________?
That's the line I've drawn under this! hahaha

Thursday 18th January 2024

Friday 19th January 2024
Mid morning hair cut

Saturday 20th January 2024
Night out - lots of dancing!

Sunday 21st January 2024


Monday 22nd January 2024

Tuesday 23rd January 2024
Today I will be driving almost 200 miles for a hospital appointment.

Wednesday 24th January 2024
Airport run

Thursday 25th January 2024
Mera has groomer first thing

Friday 26th January 2024

Saturday 27th January 2024

Sunday 28th January 2024


Monday 29th January 2024

Tuesday 30th January 2024

Wednesday 31st January 2024


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