Checking My Bearing To Be Sure Of Taking The Right Path in The Mist
Checking My Bearing To Be Sure Of Taking The Right Path In The Mist

Due to the increasing busyness of each day, coupled with the inability to focus for any longer than 45 minutes of time at my computer without becoming overwhelmed and losing my sight, speech, hearing, balance and motor function, coupled with the frequent need for rest breaks for a tired brain, opportunity for brain training by navigating around the hills has been scarce. This Wednesday I decided to make time for a walk and invited on old friend Philip, a retired GP and keen walker, to come and join me. The plan was set and I was really looking forward to the walk after so long away from the hills. The good news was that I was not going to need too early a start as I did not need to meet Phillip at the Flotterstone Ranger Centre until 0945hrs to complete the 7.1 mile walk, ascending 1756.61 feet over Carnethy and Turnhouse Hill, in the Pentland Hills, before nightfall.

The morning dawned and with the maps marked up, the phone charged, the rucksack packed and the bike serviced I was able to take a more leisurely start to the day than normal. So life was good until, as I was brushing my teeth I noticed the tell tale signs of the start of some form of episode. I was well rested and was under no pressure, nor had I eaten anything unusual. I could see no trigger for a funny turn but as I tried to fathom what was happening and brush my teeth, the army of red ants went viral over my left hand and up my left arm, rendering my hand, then arm, numb and with little to no motor function, certainly no form of coordinated function. This was most unusual as I still had my sight and speech but then I noticed, as I tried to concentrate on the news on the radio, that my hearing was a little like listening to the radio through bubbly water, while I was also subconsciously making odd jaw movements as if to clear blocked ears, like I was in the descent on a plane. There was nothing to do but continue to brush my teeth as usual with my working right hand, willing and praying that the ants would go away, that I would be fine before I went back to our bedroom to change. Sadly however, the ants had other ideas and started to tug at the nerves that control my face. My lips and tongue started to feel like they were swelling and swallowing became harder and harder, then the larger muscles in my face started to tug and pull so momentarily distorting my face in twitching pulls and tugs. It looked and felt to me like the left side of my face was dropping. This was why they called it SMART. Stroke like Migraine attacks Attributable to Radiation Therapy. Certainly, I was pretty sure that I couldn’t speak, and as it got a little worse I became breathless with the ants constricting my chest. I started to fret a little and had to get out of the bathroom. I needed air. I tried to do it in such a way that Allie wouldn’t notice so that my mind would flush the ants away, but Allie is always on high alert for my wellbeing so spotted it immediately, just from the way that I entered the bedroom and as soon as I tried to speak in answer to her questions on my welfare, it was clear that the ants were winning, that my mind was stuck with this twobble for some time. I couldn’t eat breakfast because I wouldn’t be able to coordinate my hands to shovel food into my mouth, and if I could, I couldn’t swallow it. I knew that exercise was what I needed. I rarely twobbled while partaking in physical exercise and certainly hadn’t done so for some time. But I couldn’t walk down the corridor without bouncing off the walls so decided to try and pack the final bits of my kit, my water bladder and packed lunch, into my rucksack. I really struggled even to fill the water bladder and even more so to do it up, or to shimmy it down its pouch into place in the rucksack. I really struggled to undo the buckles of the lid of my rucksack to put in the packed lunch and toppled over a couple of times in the effort but with slow, focused, determined, pig-headed effort, I eventually got the jobs done. By this time my hands seemed to be working much better, though I still struggled to swallow, so turned to the keyboard for some brain training practice. After torturing poor Allie for 15 minutes at the keyboard I could swallow again, the ants had passed, and I was ready for breakfast. The task now was convincing Allie that I was safe to be allowed to cycle the 11.74 miles from Newhaven to the Flotterstone Ranger Centre on the edge of the Pentland Hills, ascending 1,171 feet, to meet up with Philip for the walk. It took a while, but Allie used a very fair meter for my fit to cycle assessment. My speech and walking. Often I will walk more on tip toe if struggling, and on odd lines of approach when going from A to B and not notice that I am doing it. My speech is often the last thing to get back to normal but slowly it came back and in good time for the off, and Allie, seeing that I was nearly back to normal and knowing that I was going to be walking on the hills with a GP, cleared me as fit to cycle and sent me on my way with a hug and a prayer for my safety before she headed out the door for her meeting she was now late for.

Philip And Archie After A Job Well Done Two Hills Conquered
Philip And Archie After A Job Well Done Two Hills Conquered

Wearing my helmet and high vis and with the lights flashing fore and aft and with a prayer for my safety from both Allie and myself, I felt good to go. I set the phone up with the route on its mount and set off just 5 minutes later than the planned 0830hrs. The phone predicted 75 minutes to get there. That would make me 5 minutes later than I had promised Philip but I always rode a little faster than Google maps predicted, so left confident that I would get there on time. But as I hit the first ascent, the short but vicious Dublin Street which I ascend frequently, it became clear that my SMART attack had sucked quite a bit of energy from me. I had filled myself at breakfast with a great energy food in oats so knew that I had the energy within me, I was just struggling to get it to my legs. I got to the top without stopping, but much slower than normal and goodness knows what I looked like. The rest of the uphill slog to the Flotterstone was pretty much along the same lines. Hard climbs rewarded with short downhills and gentle flat bits on which to catch one’s breath, but my progress was slow and where I would normally be beating the phone’s predicted time, the phone was beating me. When it told me that I was 30 minutes away I stopped to text Philip that I was going to be 15 minutes late. I had lost 10 minutes so far on this ride. This was a real battle. I cracked on and in the final couple of miles I was meandering around a business park with great roads which then spat me out in good order just above the Flotterstone. I had done it and Philip was waiting for me in his car. He flashed his lights and we linked up. I was dripping with sweat but having been drinking from my water bladder the whole way knew that my need was not for water, but green tea and a flapjack, salts, macro and micronutrients to replace those flushed by the sweating and more energy from the oats of course. As I ate and drank, I stripped off my high vis, helmet and cycling mitts and switched to a shirt over my two other thin layers to protect from the cold and sharp wind on the hills, a cap and some walking gloves. As Philip went to the loo, I took out my compass and orientated my map to the ground. I identified the small road we were to follow and happy I was functioning properly I gave thanks for keeping me safe on the ride, I gave thanks for life.

Posing on the mist covered Pentland hills
Posing on the mist covered Pentland hills

When Philip returned, I showed him the map and it turned out he knew this route and area well from his childhood, was a little rusty but good to go. We set off and had a wonderful 7.1 mile walk ascending 1,934.06 feet in tackling both the Carnethy and the Turnhouse Hills. Philip was 20 years my senior almost to the day and still fit as an ox but hadn’t been in the hills for quite some time so was a little unsure of his hill fitness and was using today as a measure of his fitness before heading out onto the hills with some keen hill walking, hill fit friends. We took it steady and we managed both the hills well. Sadly the cloud cover never lifted so we ate lunch on the top of Carnethy hill, in the lee of the wind, warm having dressed for lunch with our fleeces and woolly hats, but with no view at all as we got quietly damper from the mist of the clouds. We delighted in catching up with each other and in the rest before setting off to conquer Turnhouse hill. With two false crests, both of which immediately after steep ascents, it is more challenging than it looked from Carnethy, but we made it up to be rewarded with no view at all. However we made it and on the descent were rewarded with fleeting glimpses, through gaps in the cloud as it swirled around us, of the Pentlands Park area, Traprain Law and the Lammermuir Hills bathed in the golden sunshine that we never saw.

Back at the car we offloaded our kit, I grabbed my phone charger and into the Flotterstone we went for a well-earned Mocha and, with no flapjacks, a piece of millionaire shortbread was a welcome treat which I then supplemented with my own reserve flapjack. My phone recharged, my body recharged and looking forward to the mostly downhill ride back home, I turned down Philip’s very kind offer of a lift home and after saying my farewells and redressing myself for the bike I set off for the glorious 11.74 miles home ascending only 585.61 feet but descending in thrilling downhill sections totalling 1,171 feet.

This wonderful day saw me:

Cycling 23.49 miles ascending 1,756.61 feet bringing my total cycled so far on the challenge to 3795.65 miles ascending 159,921.36 feet.
Walking 7.1 miles ascending 1,934.06 feet bringing my total walked so far on the challenge to 3,569.57 miles ascending 165,990.17 feet
And even better saw me squeak past £8,000 to £8,001.16 raised for the Disasters Emergency Committee.

Thank you to all those that sponsor me to keep fighting. For those that don’t yet sponsor me: Every single day is a battle, please encourage me to keep fighting with your sponsorship of just £1 per month. Every single penny raised goes to the Disasters Emergency Committee to save lives. That is my own personal guarantee. Thank you.

If you would like to follow my progress please:

  • 1. Like my Facebook page if you have not already done so for regular updates,

  • 2. Follow my Instagram account on which I chart my daily battles to beat the beast:

(I know that it is missing the nge but that was how the account configured itself. Need to sort it out one day).

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Yours aye