(First posted at outlandercast July 2017)
Remember a couple months ago when I shared that my new Outlander pals and I were planning on doing the Great Glencoe Challenge? That verra long walk—as in, a 26.2 mile one-day hike through some of Scotland’s most beautiful and challenging countryside—to pass the days of Droughtlander and raise money for a good cause? Spoiler alert: we actually did it and survived to tell the tale! Here’s how the months of preparation led to one triumphant day for the New Glasgow Girls, a group who met in Scotland, bonded over Outlanderand have remained friends ever since. The good news is you will stay dry and warm as you trek virtually along with us!
I arrived in Scotland in late May with sights set on my first task—to continue getting ready for the longest walk of my life. In the background, I also had to do a few minor things like find a job, a place to live, and to contend with the overwhelming bureaucracy associated with moving to a new country. You know, little things. But step one in my trek preparation was to follow my ‘peaker’ instincts and get connected with the Every Day Athlete Gym in Glasgow, and one Mr. John Valbonesi.
I had previously emailed John about my circumstances and my challenge. By the time I made my way to the gym, I had already fallen over and fractured my wrist, climbing (or more correctly, falling down) Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh (what a galoot!). I ended up having to wear a splint for a month, seriously impeding my gym participation and enduring quite a bit of pain to boot. Anyhow, undaunted I walked the half hour there and half hour back a few times a week (good walking prep I reasoned. When I joined the gym, I had no idea where I would be living, or that it would be impossible for me to own a car—but that is another long story!). I joined in High Intensity Interval Training classes and yoga classes for a good exercise balance. John and his colleague, Patrick, were accommodating and patient with me, which was much appreciated. The yoga teacher, Phillipa, was also an inspiration in strength and balance.
As well as the gym, I needed to walk, walk, and walk some more. Our very supportive ‘ground crew,’ Morag and her husband Sandy, took me on walks around their beautiful locality. I also joined the Glasgow Ramblers for a day of torrential rain, where I learned that my Aussie hiking gear was NOT up to Scottish weather conditions. Needed a rethink… and yep, I had to buy more stuff! I also did solo walks in the Trossachs National Park, and all very different to walks I had done in Australia! I got a wee bit of sympathy from one of our Peaker coaches (wink).
|A solo walk on a beautiful day in the Trossachs – looking down on Balmaha.|
|Naomi connects with us and cheers us on while at work (sob!)|
Meanwhile, our New Glasgow Girls Glencoe team captain, Ren, went with her sister to Disneyland in Paris the weekend before the event. Ren says it was good practice in staying on your feet for 12 hours (!) and they had a wonderful time there in the warmth and sunshine. Half their luck.
Sabrina arrived to Scotland from Germany two weeks ahead of Glencoe. She started in Edinburgh and, fan girl that she is, went straight to the red carpet of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Look who she met there—Niall Fulton aka the redoubtable M. Forez, the king’s executioner! Remember the ‘dead man’s grease’? Ewwwwww. Sabrina also tracked down the location for the print shop in Season 3, that scene we are all waiting to see.
Also, the night before we set off north, Outlander premiered on free-to-air UK TV for the first time, so we thought we’d gather for an NGG girls night in…. even though we know the story, ye’ ken. It turned out that only Sabrina and I were there, but we had all the right props and were ready to join in the Twitter party.
On the eve of the Glencoe event, we set off for Fort William by car and train, about a three-to-four hour trip from Glasgow. Along the way, Sandy regaled us with horror stories of ‘the Devils Staircase,’ a notorious section of the West Highland Way that would be part of our Glencoe trek. It’s always best to hear the worst of it to prepare yourself, right? As it transpired, we were so much more fortunate than Sandy, because when he walked the West Highland Way it was raining and foggy and he saw none of the spectacular scenery that we saw.
It was fun at our accommodation and we were all buzzing like kids at a holiday camp. We registered for the event and got a feel for our starting point in the morning, and went for a high-carb dinner. Now I have to stop using ‘carb-loading’ as an excuse for just eating too much! We came to grips with our multiple identities and tried on our various T-shirts for ‘before’ photos—as Peakers, fundraisers for World Child Cancer/CaitsCaraids, and as Glencoe Trekkers.
It was brekky in the tent at 6 a.m.—hot coffee and vegetarian haggis in a bun for me… yes, that really was a thing. Then we were loaded on to buses for a half hour ride to the start of the walk. A piper played as we alighted the bus and we were pumped … tense … hyped … or as the director put it in his pep talk, you’ve probably all got twitchy bums and can’t decide whether you want to go to the toilet or not. He told us to eat before we were hungry, drink before we were thirsty and that there is no such thing as a bog in Scotland. We found that last thing to be a big fat lie!
Next we were led to the start and off we went to the sound of a claxon horn. That was the exact starting point for people who were really taking the time thing seriously, as we found that many people have done the event for the last few years and compare their time. And, horror upon horrors, some people RUN all the way! We were monitored for time at all the check points by electronic tags attached to our shoes.
|Pep talk from the Glencoe Challenge Director – he said there was no such thing as a bog in Scotland, yeah, right!|
As we passed through the starting gate a piper sent us on our way…
We were off! All in a single line on a narrow pathway walking at a brisk pace and I remember thinking, I don’t think I can keep this pace up all day! It wasn’t until we hit ‘the bog’ that we started to fan out and disperse into smaller groups and individuals. No kidding, we had to walk for well over an hour through country that looked like clumpy grass, but you could sink up to your ankles in water or mud at any moment. It soon became evident that trying to avoid the water and mud was impossible. Luckily, my fellow blog writer Anne Gavinhad given me the heads-up on which boots to get, based on her recent Scottish adventures, and after that hour or so, my feet were still reasonably dry–ish!
When I made it to the top of the Devils Staircase I had a little mini-celebration, went into ‘Peaker’ mode and got my photo taken. Perhaps it was a little early for celebrations, since I was less than a third done. Runners from the ‘wave’ behind me started to catch me up, and they had started an hour and a half behind me!
|Based on the stories we’d been told we felt a great sense of achievement at the top of the Devils Staircase|
After seeing that, it did seem an eternity to actually make the descent to the finish line, but when I got there my fabulous teammates cheered me across the line. They had waited three hours in their wet, cold clothes so I think they really deserved an extra medal for team spirit!
|Ren and Sabrina finishing their 9 hour trek|