I Fought The Law

I’ve got that old Queen song stuck in my head, I want to break free. I’ve got a dozen diet books in a bag all ready to be chucked into the charity shop bin. I want to breaaakkkk freeee!

Our bookshelves are oe’rflowing, you see; so I was seeing if anything could go. The diet books were an easy target. I just don’t need ’em around anymore. Some were just those free extracts that came with Slimming magazine, but some I bought in moments of gloom and despair. Whenever I had some sort of crisis I’d go and buy a diet book, because crises made me lose all faith in myself and my ability to know what’s best for the ol body. Depression relapses, job worries, moving overseas, pre-wedding freakout – there’s a diet book to commemorate every lard busting hurdle.

None of them were really sensational titles, and they’ve taught me stuff – recipes, exercises, etc etc. But every time I’d read them I get annoyed with myself for wasting money, because they weren’t really telling me anything new. Or I’d get annoyed because I knew there was no way I could fit my life around that particular diet… which meant the real answer was to stick with what I was already doing, and just be patient. Which is even more frustrating, because sometimes you’re just busting for someone to come along with a miraculous solution.

But now I’m finally happy and confident doing my own thing. I trust that I know what works and what will bend and stretch to accommodate life’s ups and downs. There’s no diet or rules, no wagon to fall off. It’s a messy amalgam of different ideas and advice and years of trial and error that basically boils down to — do the healthy thing more often than I don’t.

Sometimes I still go off the rails completely, but I’m more in tune with my body now. There’s this mental threshold and I know when it’s time to stop and take an honest look at myself. I know how to get back on track without panicking and without racing to the bookshelf. It’s taken a long time to get to this point but the wait has been worth it. Woohoo!

. . .

I’m trying to decide if I love or hate this hillwalking caper. It’s so different from every other kind of exercise I’ve ever done.

The first thing that annoys me – there is no escape.

The other day we set out for Ben Cleuch. It’s in the Ochils, which aren’t considered very sexy to hardcore walking types, but they’re close by and good for total beginners like me. Ben Cleuch isn’t particularly high (721m) but en route is a nasty hill called The Law. It is one steep bastard. Most people do Ben Cleuch the other way so you finishing coming down The Law, but Gareth likes to be different and go up.

It usually takes him about 45 minutes on his own, but we’d been walking for an hour and had only made it 3/4 of the way up. I had to keep stopping to gasp for breath, freak out or just plain whinge. There were rocky bits and slippery bits and other bits where I thought my calves would explode from the steepness. And I kept stabbing my walking poles into fresh, giant sheep turds by mistake.

I told myself sternly, shut up and enjoy the views and think about the tea and sandwiches and thank bloody goodness we didn’t do this in reverse. The only thing worse than going up The Law would be going down. Well, if you’re a total wimpypants like me.

But I spoke to soon, because all of a sudden we were surrounded by surly black clouds. And then the rain came in. Good old horizontal, icy Scottish rain that instantly soaks you to the bone. We had no choice but forget about Ben Cleuch and turn back.

"Well that’s f*cking LOVELY!" I screamed to Gareth. "I can’t believe we have to go back down there! You know I hate descents!"

(Because, of course, it was totally his fault that the weather had turned. Hey, at least I didn’t punch him!)

So that is what I hate about the hillwalking. You can’t just give up. You can’t walk out of the class or get off the treadmill or turn off the DVD player and put the dumbells away. You can go up or you can go down, but you have to keep going. Arrgh!

I picked my way back down The Law like an arthritic goat, testing every loose stone with my boot, slowly slowly slowly. My legs shook the entire time, just waiting to slip and plunge to a grisly death. But anger and annoyance spurred me on. By the time we got to the rocky bits at the bottom, I was almost enjoying it and laughing at myself for being so pathetic. It was quite fun scooting across the rock on my hands and knees. When we got to the car park my legs and butt were covered in mud and that was rather satisfying.

OH! But there’s something else about hillwalking that I hate even more than descents and the inability to abort your mission.

You’re walking up big a hill, right? And you’re tired and sweaty, but you can finally see the top. You’re thinking about your tea and sandwich and it’s going to be okay, as illustrated below…


But then you get to the top and find out THERE ARE MORE HILLS! Bigger, nastier hills that were stealthily hiding behind the first one!


Every time that happens I just want to STAB somebody. You don’t see a treadmill suddenly leaping to an incline for no good reason. Mother Nature is so annoying with all her devious variations and unpredictability. She is so, so cruel. But she is growing on me.

21 thoughts on “I Fought The Law

  1. ah, i know exactly what you mean! i hate that about hills too! particularly if it’s foggy and you swear you can see the top till you realise that the REAL top is just hiding miles away πŸ™

    i am vowing to hoof it up arthur’s seat now that i’m back in edinburgh – especially as i just registered with a new gp and i have to go to the nurse on monday and i just KNOW she is going to weigh me and i am going to come out with a load of excuses and it will be pathetic πŸ™ bring on the hills!

  2. that’s so funny – whenever I get a bit fed up I go and buy another running/triathlon book.
    Seriosuly, how good does it feel to no longer doubt your ability to manage your own health? You are a LEGNEND dg πŸ™‚
    You are SO brave to go up those hills in that awful rain (says she in her pjs by the heater)
    but then tea and sandwiches are a good incentive.

  3. Ha, bloody mountains! I remember how quickly the weather used to turn out there.. but just think, you made it!

    Last time we were in Scotland, up near the Isle of Skye somewhere, our guide told us he was taking us on a small scenic walk. There were old folks in our group too, and were told no, it wasn’t too strenuous. It ended up being a full-on hike up a mountain, complete with bits of rock climbing at the peak. And then, scooting down on our arses in the snow/slush down the other side. I wish I knew the name of it, because it’s the most strenuous thing I have EVER done.

    (And I did it without even wearing runners – wearing bloody COlorado school shoes!)

  4. Hmm, but that is the point. No-one, I swear, NO-ONE LIKES the climbing up the sodding hill bit. You always hate it. Then you MIGHT sit at the top and you MIGHT be there on a day when you can see beyond your hand – then you think ‘Ok, this is ok.’ Then you go down again, and you hate that too. You absolutely despise it. You especially hate it if you didn’t get to the top. Then you are wet and in the car or whatever on the way home, and you hate that too because you are wet. And then you get home and you have all this wet clothing, so you hate that. AND THEN, someone asks you what you did and suddenly you love it. IIIIIII was up a sodding hill, so I was. ‘oooo! Were you?’ Oh yes. ‘Were the views good?’ VIEWS?? Are you mad, we were lucky not to have to be rescued! Rain! Chaos! Sheep! Steep Inclines!

    And that’s when you love it. It is as something you have done as opposed to something you are actually doing. You then go up the next hill when you have sort of forgotten how much you hated that last one.

    It is virtually Zen, Grasshopper. Did you ever see the Miriam Grey’s ‘Munro-bagging Without a Beard’ series on TV? Genius.

  5. What I like best about this post is that you’ve figured out what works best for you, and you’re following your own plan. There will always be hills – it’s how we approach and finally accept and conquer them that makes this journey the great one that it is. Thanks!

  6. just think about how hot your arse will look after all that hill climbing! you will be so confident in your butt in jean hotness that you will do booty popping dances every where you go πŸ˜‰
    so did you end up throwing out all your diet books? i went on an angry rampage a couple months ago “damn you diet books looks what youve done too mmmeeeeee” kind of thing and chucked out every single calorie counted point counted fat gram counted butter replacing ugly photo cookbook i owned. drove to the recycling place and with all the glee i could possibly muster, watched the big machines pummel them into dust.
    Then i promptly replaced them all with hardcover gorgeous cookbooks with hugely colourful glossy food porn photos.

    ps. happy sunday πŸ™‚

  7. Oooh, as we speak about books, Muriel also did a book called ‘the first fifty: munro-bagging without a beard’ which I daresay can be got from a local library. She understands the hate and loves it all anyway.

  8. Ahh cheers everyone. You sure know how to brighten up YET ANOTHER BLOODY RAINY DAY in Scotland πŸ™‚

    Donalda, you are so sooo right. Especially about the bit in the car afterwards. Because even as you’re finally out of the rain drinking a cup of tea, a cloud of midgies has followed you and have started to eat you alive. Hehe.

    Would you believe we watched a DVD of that Munro show last week? We rented it off Amazon. That Muriel woman is hilarious and wonderful. And brave! Holy crap, there are some scary mountains in this country πŸ™‚

  9. I LOATHE the multiple summit!
    Climbed Mt Bimberi (Namadgi National Park) some months ago, and my boy, much like your Dr, decided to take it from the far side. The cruelest thing is that you see blue sky and begin to hope that maybe, just maybe, you might be nearing the summit, and then you turn another bloody corner and there’s nothing but trees, steepness and glowing red faces before you.
    AND that’s just to get to Murray’s Gap, before you even get to climb the mountain you thought you were there to climb!! Argh!

    And yet somehow, we’re going hiking/camping again this July. I must have begun to forget how much I hated it already πŸ™‚

  10. I have very , very fond memories of sliding down hills on my butt as a kid! Pity I wouldn’t do it now – too mucky and I might hurt myself – but it was great fun. And I remember very well the “une colline peut en cacher une autre” syndrome. Isn’t it satisfying to reach the top and be able to see how far you’ve walked and enjoy the view? Bliss.

  11. I am laughing so hard at the image of you with a sheep dootie stuck on the end of your walking stick! You are brave and resourceful!

  12. This post was very interesting for me. I think I’m having one of those moments where I don’t trust myself, so I’m turning to a book. But I had read this post too late and one is already on its way to me, so I might as well read it until I start trusting myself again.

    I love your diagrams!

  13. Ha ha. It’s so funny how masochistic hill climbing (or any crazy outdoor sport) is! I always want to cry when I see another hill/challenge – but when I’m all finished, it’s the most amazing feeling in the world. Way to go!

  14. Hee, I love the illustrations!

    And I STILL will run off to the bookstore and buy a new eating and/or exercise book sometimes when I’m feeling horribly wayward. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one.

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