I've taken my time to have a good think about this post. I think we can safely say, my Challenge this year didn't go to plan.
I didn't have any major changes of gear this year, except I carried my RAB Xenair gilet and the lighter of my two Montane primaloft jackets, the Prism, in the hope of a little more flexibility with my insulated layers. I also had my Montane Primino zip top instead of my Montane Allez Micro. The combination seemed to work, but I was still cold at night at times, so I might have a re-think.
My food plan works, so long as I can find suitable items to resupply. Kinlochleven was tricky, but I managed. Perhaps more imagination needed.
The route plan itself wasn't the best, I think I lost sight of my goal of a simple route across Scotland and took the easy option of cycle paths in the first few days which meant I had long days. Coupled with the added pressure of a ferry crossing on the first day, and missing the most convenient one back to the main land, the first three days proved to be quite taxing. The blisters that developed on Day Four were my own fault, I felt the hot spots but couldn't be bothered to deal with them, I was so close to camp. At the end of Day Five I really aggravated them after taking some heavy duty painkillers for my shoulder and didn't realise the damage I was doing until they exploded.
In the first few days after returning home, I was convinced I was not going to Challenge again. I have now failed four times out of twelve to get across Scotland, perhaps I'm not really cut out for this? There was some doubt in my mind that the Challenge itself might continue after 2024, meaning maybe I couldn't now get my 10th Challenge, so what was the point?
After a while, I decided that if I didn't get my 9th next year, and the Challenge did continue, it would take me longer to get my 10th.
Then I had news from my dear friend Alan that change my thinking completely. Alan had been hugely influential on my having entered the Challenge in the first place, back in 2009. Ever since, he had been the most wonderful support, always encouraging and interested. Not just to me, but to dozens of other Challengers and First Timers.
So now, I *have* to get my 10th. Because Alan had faith in me. So I must have faith in me too.
Thanks Alan xx
Alan and his pal, Phil, in the Mason's Arms, Tarfside