Hetty Key is an all-round adventurer and outdoor sports fanatic who has recently been selected as the first official ViewRanger Ambassador. Hetty engages in a vast range of outdoor activities from hill walking, cycling, running and climbing. Hetty Key will represent ViewRanger, competing in some of the toughest adventure races staged in the UK including Lakes Sky Ultra, the first ultra fell-running event to be held in the Lake District National Park. We caught up with Hetty to find out what inspires her to get outdoors and her preparations for the gruelling Lakes Sky Ultra race.
CO: Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself?
As far back as I can remember I have always loved the outdoors. Constantly muddy with scratched knees from climbing trees, I am not overly sure much has changed! Growing up sports has always been a big part of my life, combine this with my love of the outdoors and you can see how I got into Adventure Racing. This started on a small-scale running/cycling a local race every now and again, and has escalated from here, turning into a full time hobby recently being announced as ViewRanger’s first Adventure Racing Ambassador.
If you asked my friends to describe me I think the words ‘outgoing’, ‘energetic’ and ‘a bit mad’ would crop up the most. When I’m not out and about adventuring I am most commonly found eating cake and working on my blog Mud, Chalk and Gears ! I also work full time for a web and graphic design company called Warm & Fuzzy as their Account Executive. Although I love my job, the dream one day is become a full time professional athlete!
CO: You have always had a love of sport but what draws you to sporting endeavours in the often cold, wet outdoors?
Lack of sense?!
Joking aside for me there is nothing better and more inspiring than the outdoors – it’s all about the scenery and taking in where you are, more often than not it is a great distraction from how hard you are pushing yourself. I love running or cycling the same routes throughout the year and seeing how the surroundings change with the seasons. You won’t ever catch me pounding miles on a treadmill facing the wall even if it’s horrendous weather; there is just something about being out there in the elements that inspires me. And yes, sometimes that can mean getting soaking wet, muddy and cold, but when you are back home, clean and dry it’s all worth it!
CO: You engage in an impressive list of outdoor activities from climbing all the way through to surfing, is there one stands out as a favourite?
Such a hard question! For me it changes all the time as it depends what I am training for, the season, my mood etc. If I had to pick one right now it would be mountain biking. I love heading out exploring – one moment you can be bounding down rocky tracks, before finding yourself weaving in and out of the woods. Full of energy there is nothing better than hitting the trails as hard as you can and seeing how far you can get, but then on other occasions, when you are more tired, mountain biking allows you to slow the pace, sit back and just enjoy what you are doing.
CO: Is it difficult to maintain a constant skill level on all activities?
Yes – however I have always had the outlook I would prefer to be a ‘Jack of all trades’ than a master of one! I find all the sports I do are linked in someway. For example practicing running the more technical trails helps me read the terrain faster when I am on my mountain bike, in the same way climbing increases my core strength and balance which really helps me on my horse. Also having a range of sports keeps you pretty fit, which makes things a little easier generally!
Something I would recommend, if you are like me and love a lot of sports but still want to do well in each, is to pick one or two to compete in each season. For me this summer has been all about running with Lakes Sky Ultra being my main goal – so I have trained to compete in that whilst just doing the other sports for enjoyment. Then come October I will start aiming towards the adventure races (mountain biking and fell running) and also start to push my climbing.
CO: How do you maintain your motivation?
My motivation comes from two sources. The first is from being a very competitive person (mainly with myself) – if you asked my friends I think they might use the word stubborn! I really enjoy testing my limits, and get a great sense of satisfaction from bettering a previous performance or pushing myself to go that extra mile/higher grade etc, this then drives me forward the next time I am out.
The second place I get my motivation from is my family. My dad was a keen mountaineer and climber, so growing up I heard endless stories about his explorations. Unfortunately he is not well enough to join me in these adventures now, but the thought of being able to tell him all about what I am doing and visit places he has talked about really motivates me. Without sounding too cliché you have to get out there and enjoy it while you can!
CO: How do you maintain your level of fitness when away from the hills?
This is a tricky one, as I like to leave the hills a little as possible! However when I do I use it as an opportunity to try new things. There are so many alternative activities that will help keep your fitness up or improve an area of weakness. For example, hot yoga – a lot harder work than you would think, I totally underestimated this, but after a few days I couldn’t believe how much looser and more flexible I was!
Aside from this 90% of the time you can still find a way to train – it might just be slightly different. Take improving your map reading skills for an adventure race – you might not be naving round hills on your run but setting yourself a series of checkpoints to find in a city can be just as hard!
CO: You have just been named as the first ViewRanger Adventure Racing Ambassador. You must have been elated at this news, can you tell us how this came about and what it means to your racing?
Yes I am so happy! I was fortunate enough that Will Herman from Pelican Communications found my website and put me in touch with the guys at ViewRanger as they were looking for a potential brand ambassador. From the start I loved the app and the ethos of ViewRanger.
More than anything I set up my blog to encourage people to give things a go and get outdoors, so I felt I had a lot of common values with the brand – something that is so important to me. Being given the opportunity to be their first Adventure Racing Ambassador is incredible, I am still pinching myself.
In terms of my racing it has certainly has spurred me on to take things even further with my events and push even harder. Aside from the fantastic features the app offers, to be given a platform to further encourage people to get involved in these things is something I am so excited about.
CO: How do you use the software, do you use it more in planning routes or logging our journey? Is there one stand out feature you love?
At the moment with Lakes Sky Ultra coming up I have been mainly using ViewRanger to plan and track my routes. It means I can keep really tabs on where I am at with my training, from 5km recovery runs to the longer 20mile plus routes. Rather with sticking to what I know, the night before it is really easy to sit down with the my iPad and plan a new trail incorporating exactly what I need for that session, be that more hills, a longer run or even a cake stop! I also regularly track my favorites routes, which are handy to gauge how my pace is coming along.
A stand out feature for me would have to be the ability to download other people’s routes. This has been so useful, for example when I headed up to the Yorkshire Dales for the weekend a few months ago we were meant to be climbing but the weather turned, luckily I had my mountain bike in the car – but no guidebook… Rather buy a guide for one weekend or guess what may or may not be a good route, a quick search on ViewRanger setting my main criteria as 20km plus, hard technical mountain biking trail, ideally a loop, gave me a range of options. All I had to do was pick my favorite, download it and hit start!
CO: What advice would you give someone interested in taking up fell running for the first time?
Give it a go! Start small; plan a little route along friendly paths and trails so you can appreciate the surrounding. It can be harder work than you think and you want to enjoy it so begin with a really achievable distance – it’s easy to build up from here adding in more hills and harder terrain. Plus it is 100% okay to walk – a lot of the races I do I still walk up the hills!
If you don’t know where to run or don’t like the idea of heading out on your own, get on Google and look for a fell running group or club. Fell runners are a friendly bunch and contrary to what I thought before I started running they accommodate for all distances and abilities even totally newbies. If in doubt drop them a message before you turn up. Or as an alternative find a friend that wants to join you!
Finally, once you have been out a few times and decided this is something you could really get into – get the right shoes! Having the wrong trainers can cause a whole host of problems from shin splints to slipping over all the time, go and check out a good running shop and they will guide you the perfect pair in no time.
CO: What one product do you always take with you out on the mountains?
My little daypack! Filled with all the key essentials including food, water, phone, waterproof and a map and compass, I would be lost without it (literally and figuratively). It’s important to remember in the mountains conditions can change really quickly, not only is it no fun getting absolutely soaked, cold and hungry – it can also be quite dangerous. If you are heading out it’s always better to be over prepared than underprepared.
CO: As well as been a keen sportsperson you also love mixing creativity with the outdoors, can you tell a little about your creative endeavours?
For me the blog is a creative outlet as it allows me to combine my love of design and photography with my writing. I find it really gives me the opportunity to stop and appreciate what I am doing. I also love sketching however I have not had as much time to do that lately.
CO: Do you have any encouragement or motivation for those not attracted by competitive pursuits to get outside and explore?
You certainly don’t have to be a fan of competitive sports to appreciate the outdoors! There are an endless amount of things to enjoy and I really think there is something for everyone. With so many options, if you try something and don’t like it don’t be afraid to get out there and give something else a go – so a day out mountain biking not might be your idea of fun, but you might find kayaking is much more your thing.
Enjoying sports and the outdoors can be linked but it certainly doesn’t have to be. There are so many aspects to it! Use it to get creative through drawing or to meet new people by joining a walking group. It’s also really easy to bring the hobbies you already love doing to the outdoors. Take photography for example, a day out hiking might not be your bag, but planning a walk that will give you the chance to photograph the sunset over a rocky crag may be your ideal way of enjoying the outdoors.
More than anything remember you have nothing to loose giving it a go!
A massive thanks to Hetty for taking the time out to answer our questions. We wish Hetty all the best in Lakes Sky Ultra and will tweet how she got on after the race. We are big fans of the ViewRanger App for day walks and hikes, better still it is completely free, check out their website here.