At the beginning of this year I committed to doing a five-day hike in the Western Cape in December 2017. My brother lives in Cape Town and his family and friends do an annual hike somewhere in the region during December. I'd been in the doldrums and this was just the goal I needed to re-invigorate my training and nutrition.
Darren and Aimee created a year's training plan for me - the first six months of which was fairly constant with the same exercises but varied weights and duration significantly - which has caused me to swear, sweat and sigh with boredom. But it worked and I'm much stronger now than I was in January.
The second element was to put in a hike in the middle of summer which has the same elevation as one I'll face in December. It was to be a practice run, in the heat and with a full daypack. Darren found us a mountain - many of you may know it - it's called Kinder Scout and is the first major elevation on the Pennine Way.
We decided to make the most of it, and booked ourselves into two beautiful cottages in the Peak District and invite friends and family to participate. As the date grew nearer, I could sense Darren's anxiety that I might not be doing enough walks, or hills, to prepare.
Fellow coach Sue Sharp signed up for the ride and she and I sweated up and down Broadway Hill during May and June on numerous occasions. I always managed to pick a day when it was sweltering and arrived at the top of the hill sweating profusely and radiating a dangerously pink hue.
I was feeling confident, and also very nervous, when our weekend hike arrived. It was raining (so much for a test in the heat...). Everyone was faster than me, although I was re-assured that Darren was prevented from skipping to the summit as he was carrying his daughter Indigo in a backpack.
Sue and I were toiling towards the summit of Jacobs Ladder, probably about 2hrs into the walk, when suddenly we met a group who'd recently overtaken us. The man smiled at us and said 'you're nearly there'. No way! I was gobsmacked. I realised we'd been walking steadily up hill, but hadn't appreciated how far we'd come. It had been relatively easy. Sure enough, within 10 minutes we'd reached the top. I was so elated I wanted to carry on after lunch to reach the very summit.
I spent so much time worrying about how competent everyone else would be that I completely underestimated my own strength and resilience. By building them up, I'd somehow shrunk myself. A lesson to myself, and I shan't be doing that again.