Guest Post by Neville Fenn:
Report on the charity endurance walk (Warning – long post. Feel free to skip to the end!).
My feet hurt. And my legs too. In fact, my whole body pretty much aches. Today is Monday and I have today and tomorrow off work. And boy do I need it.
So why do I need this period of rest? Well, two days ago I took part in a charity walk with some friends. You know, one of those “I’ll go for a stroll and you’ll feel obliged to give some money to charity” sort of things. What follows is an account, at least from my perspective, of what happened, why it happened, how it happened, and who it happened to.
And for those with a short attention span, here’s a brief summary – We went for a walk. It was long. Now I hurt.
You still with me? Okay, then I guess I’ll add some detail.
We met up at Graffham Campsite, in Sussex, on Friday. This was to become the base of our operations for the next 48 hours. I got a lift with Janine (@TheRamblingDuck), which is lucky really considering that I had no idea where we were going. Plus she had a satnav, called Esmeralda. Traffic was not great, but it could’ve been worse. The campsite is pretty good. As long as you don’t have a tent and it doesn’t rain… Other than that it seems reasonable. To be honest we weren’t really there long enough to give the place a fair crack of the whip so the only other thing I’ll say is, it seemed quite reasonable.
Friday wore on and the rest of Team Dogface turned up, i.e. Paul (@loop_pool). We also met up with a couple of chaps who Jay had got to know via Twitter: Phil (@DaylightGambler) and Tim (@ukjeeper). I must have spent almost the entire weekend calling Phil, Tim, and Tim, Phil, before learning what their names actually were. Sorry chaps! 😀
Anyway, enough of that. Friday night passed without a hitch. Except that none of us slept properly in our tents and there was a massive thunderstorm.
Kit review – Just a quick tip of the hat to the tent I was using – a Quechua 2″ pop-up tent. Amazing really does sum up this great piece of kit. Went up in about 30 seconds, including repositioning and pegging. And it was almost totally waterproof. Yeah, I know, tents are supposed to be completely waterproof, but show me a tent that’s totally waterproof and I’ll show you a gigantic price tag. The Quechua 2″ is sufficiently waterproof (i.e. it let in maybe a tablespoon or so of water) through the duration of a thunderstorm. Couple that with the price tag and ease of use and I would recommend this to anyone…except backpackers, cos it’s about 2.5 feet across when packed up!
Back to the blog. I would like to say we woke early, but sleep was fitful at best so it’s probably better to describe it as we stopped lying in our tents at around 5.30am. And we all did. Everyone was on time so we got going by 6.15am!
Goodwood racecourse was both the start and finish for the event. Facilities there were ace. Signing in was well organised, as was the breakfast (sausage in a bun won the day, and left those who had chosen bacon in a bun crying into their greasy baps). By now the rain had basically stopped, and would not return until after we got back to camp.
The only slightly unnerving thing was that I had neglected to apply any Lanocane* that morning which, for about 50% of people may not seem a big deal, but I can tell you right now, it is (I’ll explain later). Still, that aside, I was in good spirits, as was the rest of the team.
*Lanocane is a silicone based anti-chaffing gel.
Kick-off followed a quick warm-up routine, which had been set up by the organisers. The lady that had been hauled in to do the warm-up did her best with a bunch of people who probably aren’t used to aerobics. But it certainly did get the blood moving, and took our minds off the wait.
But finally 8am came. The countdown happened and we were off. Slowly. I guess this is my only gripe about the entire event. Letting everyone off at once created a concertina effect further along the route whenever we encountered a stile. That’s right, a stile. Can you imagine hundreds of people all trying to get over one stile? It was a bit chaotic, but we managed, and with pretty much good humour.
Gripe over, it’s all good from here on in.
Kit review – Osprey Talon 22. Best hiking rucksack, ever! I saw so many people sporting one of these great rucksacks that it was like being in a convention for Talon 22 owners. Great bit of kit. Pockets galore in all the right places, water resistant like you wouldn’t believe, comfortable. Awesome. If you like day hiking do yourself a favour and get one.
Where were we? Oh yes, the event. Stiles were climbed and everyone was good. And the first ‘Powerstation’ came up damn quick. There were six in total for us 40k’ers. Some had specific functions, like providing lunch, or hot soup, but all provided water, squash, biscuits, crisps etc, and all for free (well, as part of the entry free, I should say). However, the most important thing was the moral support. The staff at each one were the best. Giving everyone bursts of encouragement that really did wonders for the mental struggle that was to come.
So on we went. Thankfully, after the first Powerstation the crowds began to break up and we were able to find our own pace. The miles began to drift away beneath our feet and we knuckled down to the task at hand. The second Powerstation provided lunch, and a chance to sort out my right sock, which had become twisted and was rubbing on my little toe. There was a smattering of minor physical complaints from the others too, but these were dealt with pretty easily. We hooked up with a couple of ladies who seemed very happy to share their jelly babies with us, so that kept the spirits up too.
The third Powerstation came and we stopped to eat the lunch we picked up earlier. We were about halfway along, and let’s just say I was pleased we had stopped. That toe on my right foot was beginning to bother me, despite me having got it sorted. I knew it was going to become an issue but it was difficult to find anything the right shape to put on it. I decided to let it go. I’d look after it and reassess as we went along.
The rest of the team seemed good, although an earlier ascent had triggered the beginning of a minor injury in one of Paul’s knees. Even the jelly baby ladies were happy! All was right with the world so on we went.
Throughout the course of the walk we swapped groups a bit. Sometimes I would walk with Paul and Phil, sometimes Jay would accompany the jelly baby ladies, but usually Tim was in front. Can that man walk fast. Really fast. I’m not sure what ‘Props’ are, but I believe the common parlance with people who use slang is to give them to people who do something impressive. Thus, Tim get’s them for walking so quickly.
Aside – I was surprised at the number of people doing this event in jeans. I pass no judgement – they are free to do what they like. But, wow, very brave.
More Powerstations came and went, and with them more miles. But of course, the pain increased. Minor niggles began to burn. The burning sensations turned to fire, and this gave way to pain. Real pain. The kind of pain which requires facial recognition in front of complete strangers. By the end of the walk my right foot had turned to fire whenever I placed it on the ground. Paul’s knee was not a happy place for him, and I know that several others had similar issues, including blisters, and collections of unpleasant insect bites, which had been garnered the previous night. But for me, the worst was the chaffing. Well, some people call it chaffing. I call it nightmarish torture. At the top of this post I mentioned that I was still in pain. Do you think I’m in pain from the blisters? Nope. In fact, as it turns out, I don’t have any. It seems any pain I felt in my foot was simply from the repeated pounding it was taking. No, the pain wI feel now is from the rubbing. Oh my gosh, the rubbing. Ouch. It turns out that I managed to wear my shorts completely away in the crotch. Totally. There’s nothing left. I also managed to wear away the skin at the top of my right thigh. Sound bad? Well, it is.
But we finished. The final stretch, accompanied by Paul, was difficult. It was painful. It was tiring. But as we approached the finish line all the pain melted away. All the suffering dissipated and the only thing left was joy. Joy at finishing. Joy at being able to finish. Simple, happy, joy. Happy, happy, joy, joy!
What a day. What a walk. What a world. ;-D
So, was it worth it? You bet. Did I have a good time? Totally. Did we raise more money than we hoped? Oh yes. Would I do it again? Ummm, probably…
Kit review – Cargo pant shorts from Next and cotton boxers do not make good endurance walking gear. They wet out real fast (from the sweat, I hasten to add). They stay wet. And then they rub. And rub. And rub. If you suffer from chaffing even a little, do yourself a favour and invest in a) Lanocane and b) good quality underwear/outerwear. Your lower half will appreciate it.
So, stats, for those that are stats types (recorded using my ultra awesome Satmap Active 10 Plus GPS device – best GPS ever!):
Total distance – 41.0km
Total time – 10hr 13mins
Time spent moving – 7hrs 11mins
Avg. moving speed – 5.7kph
Total average speed – 4.0kph
On a final note I feel I should mention the event staff. They were such a great bunch of people. They were supportive, kind, friendly, and always on hand. Throughout the entire day they had smiles on their faces, and that is something that cannot be undervalued when you’ve just trekked 40km on painful limbs.
And of course a final thank you to everyone who has supported us. Whether you donated money or not. Even if it was only a smile of encouragement on the day, thank you. Your kindness, your support, your donations do make a difference. And they are appreciated, even if you don’t realise it.
P.S. You can see more photos from the day by simply clicking on any of the images in this post.