Friday, 20 September 2013

Walk this way....

Attention - sore delusional people ahead

I've been extremely busy lately doing all the things someone in the midst of a severe midlife crisis should be doing - trawling the internet for good boob job surgeons, going to see inappropriate rappers in Paris, walking over the roof of a major London icon (this was an accompanied and supervised excursion, not me just getting adventurous and ebullient after a few beers in the smoke). Oh, and tramping over the hills in training for a long sponsored walk.

After my lovely sympathetic and handsome but chinless doctor suggested I didn't train again for a half marathon whilst seeing a cardiologist, I decided to do a big walk instead. A bit like Forrest Gump but slower and without his athletic prowess. I walk a lot. I've walked from London to Brighton, walked a marathon and regularly walk from the Waitrose car park to the chocolate aisle. This had somehow lulled me into a false sense of security. Signing up for the Thames Path Challenge 50km walk I wondered just how hard a long walk can be? I actually know the answer to that and it's not that tough. Or it wasn't until this one. I had originally signed up for the 100km but had changed my mind about that one when I wondered what walking along a deserted riverpath in the middle of the night would be like. So I downgraded and changed to the 50km so I could do it with my sister who is busy training for a climb up Kilimanjaro.

 It got off to a good start. She had done a power plate class two days before and so couldn't move her legs. I had run up four escalators at Waterloo, still missed the train and couldn't move my buttocks. I also already had a blister from wearing inappropriate heels when gallivanting around London the week before. Still, for the first 44km, it was a breeze. All day with my sister to myself, we caught up on the important things in life - when our next alcohol free day might be, which of my children will turn out to be the least annoying, which is the best gin, how she can get 30 volley balls onto a plane to Peru next month. And then the conversation changed.

Me "So, what are your current pain points?"

Stick "front of right thigh, balls of both feet, all my toes, fat fingers - what are yours?"

Me "Both buttocks, backs of both thighs, hips, front of both thighs, right calf and balls of both feet"

Stick "Right. How many kilometers are we on? 46?

Me "No that last one was 43"

Both "What the f***??"

I started to hallucinate. This might have been triggered by the heady fumes of Deep Heat which wafted alongside us for the whole 50km - I could tell when Stick had been spraying it on her legs in the portaloos because the 10 toilets on either side of her would rock with coughing. I began to see Mars Bars hanging from the trees, the bollards by the side of the path were actually champagne bottles. I could smell dope. Actually, I could smell dope. A courting couple had decided to park up at the end of the riverside track and have a quiet Saturday afternoon snog and splif  - their peace and fuzziness shattered by 3000 walkers marching past. Stick began to talk about the Orkney Islands in a strange cockney accent. It all got very weird.

I was going to put a glamorous spin on this and claim that I loved every minute and that it was a walk in the park because I'm superfit. But that's pointless because you wouldn't be able to learn from my misfortunes and I would at least like to think that I could impart some post-event wisdom. By 47km I had almost lost the will to carry on. I wondered how on earth I had even considered doing the 100km. Stick had perked up considerably because she thought I was about to die and felt she needed to look after me. She said she started to get really worried when I went quiet  - and the words I did manage to get out were incoherent.I got colder and colder and my coordination became more and more random. Eventually we reached the finish line. Stick, the girl with the immovable legs, skipped across it and grabbed the proffered glass of Cava with both hands. I crawled over and dragged myself to the medics tent where I muttered something incomprehensible which could have been loosely translated as "two double gin and tonics and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps please". And so I spent a happy hour in the medics tent, wrapped up in foil blankets, drinking hot tea and mumbling incoherently while the doctors waited for my core temperature to rise. Luckily for my ego there was someone else in there in an equally bad state and he was younger and fitter looking than me.

And so there ended my brush with mild hypothermia and delirium. It's not often a doctor suggests you go home and enjoy a few glasses of wine so I seized the opportunity with both swollen hands and dragged my sorry ass to the car. The next day I felt surprisingly fine. Mild aches, no blisters and the one that I had started with had miraculously disappeared. I also discovered that endurance walking is a bit like giving birth to your first child - 24 hours later the pain and trauma is forgotten and you want to do it again but take it to the next level  - Common sense kicks in after giving birth to twins and you realise that enough is enough, you'd rather dig a tunnel to Australia with your tongue than do that again.  But now I want to do the great Wall of China. All of it.

The official results from the challenge came through last night. We took 10 hours and 4 minutes (including 75 minutes for stops) and came in 320th out of around 1000 walkers which I think isn't bad. 25% of people dropped out. Like all experiences you must look at the learnings that emerge:

1.   Don't let your good pre-challenge intentions cave in at the last minute and drink two bottles of wine with your lasagna the night before. If anything, drink beer - it has more carbs.

2.  Do eat en route. If the gingercake at afternoon tea stop is too dry and not up to your exacting standards, eat it anyway.

3. Let your sister carry your bag when she offers

4.  Listen to your sister when she tells you to put your coat on

5.  Make sure that your husband's aunt and uncle are going to be at their house which is on the route, and that they're not 120 miles away near your house. The large brandy and piece of cake that we knocked on the door for at 39km could have made all the difference.

6.  Stop doing these events. Take up knitting instead.

And so, having already been to bootcamp this week, I can feel another long walk coming on this weekend.
As that famous perambulator Charles Dickens said “If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”