Just Walk 2009: Sometimes I push too hard

Just Walk 2009: Sometimes I push too hard

Just Walk is a great ‘little event’ organised by Across the Divide. You give them some money and they let you walk around the Sussex countryside for either 20km, 40km or 60km – and they feed you! It is up to you to raise money for charity and there is no minimum fee to raise.

Donating and raising money for charity is something I think is important – I am lucky enough to live the life I live – but I do find the targets are sometimes a little on the demanding side. That’s why I think Just Walk is such a brilliant idea. The thing that makes me shy about hassling my friends and family for charity money is that I enjoy the challenge of walking 60km and would do it for my own personal rewards as readily as I would do it to raise money for a charity.

Just Walk 2009 saw Jules, Temo and me walk 60km in 11 hours 58 minutes. I was absolutely delighted with the result.

I use (and yes, it is usually me clutching it) Jules’ Garmin GPS for pacing as these sort of events have the routes well marked out and we did a brilliant job of staying on target for our 12 hours.

I was completely elated.

Then I fainted.

The medics ‘hussled’ but I just couldn’t sort myself out enough to get off the ground. I was freezing cold and, after about an hour I talked them into letting me crawl (literally) into my mother’s car, still wrapped in the space blanket and we drove back to Brighton with the heating on full. By the time we got to my mother’s flat I was pretty much recovered.

Whenever I do an event which pushes my limits a bit I do find that my body temperature drops really rapidly when I stop. For this reason I had my mother loaded up with lots of warm clothes to greet me with but, in the post-event analysis, we decided that I had drunk too much water without replacing electrolytes.

Still, 60km in 11 hours 58 minutes, what a great result.

Review: Brasher – My boots

Review: Brasher

As I write my Brasher boots have done 3 years:

  • Just Walk 2009
  • Mount Everest Basecamp
  • Just Walk 2010
  • Trailwalker 2010
  • All the related training
  • They are my ‘bike boots’
  • They have done two trips up the hill opposite my house in Hercegovina (more scramble than walk)

The only thing I have not tested them in is a total downpour but, for all else they have been very faithful friends. Snow, rain, sun and heat, altitude and cold and everything in between. I would estimate that they have done getting close to 1000km – I wonder if I need to start thinking about replacing them? They have started fraying ever so slightly on the right foot and in a place which would indicate that my right little toe is trying to make a bid for freedom.

They are very light, Gore-Tex and I bought them a size bigger than I would wear for a normal shoe. In retrospect I would probably go an extra half-size for those occasions when my feet decide they need to swell up.

I chose these boots mainly on the recommendation of my friendly neighborhood independent outdoor kit retailer Open Spaces, Brighton. I do my best to buy from them as often as possible; they have plenty of choice available and they know their stuff so you can always have a nice chat about blisters, swollen hands and kit in general. It is just a shame that they aren’t open on Sundays as, to be honest with you, that is the only day I ever seem to get into town!

Oh, and here is a picture of me sitting on that hill I mentioned; as you can see, it’s a bit rocky.

How Lucky am I?

How Lucky am I?

So Ivanka and I have been an item for almost a year and a half now and I have met somebody who loves adventure as much as I do. I met Ivanka through her brother Tommy one evening; months previously we were enjoying several late night/early morning pints and he said I should meet his sister. I thought to myself: would that be wise? He is a good mate and all that but do I want to go out with his sister? If it went wrong would he get pissed off? Is this the right thing to do?

Anyway, it all worked a treat. After attending a mates wedding in the August of 2009 I hooked up with Tommy and his sister Ivanka and we hit is off straight away. The intro was simple: “Action man, meet action woman – you two should talk.” And that was that. She never went home.

Back to the point. I have found a companion, a beautiful woman and she loves sitting on the back of the bike. Ivanka tells me she feels like a princess being ridden around; she just sits on the back and drifts off into her own world and watches the world go by. Whether it is heading off to the Dalmatian coast for a couple of weeks or returning to see the folks in Derbyshire she is an ideal pillion.

Ivanka is a very independent type who has had as much fun as I have had traveling-wise. Within weeks of meeting her I mentioned that I was going on a trip to Mount Everest Basecamp with friends in December that year. Ivanka joined us for the trip so our first holiday together was trip to the Himalayas.

Just Walk 2010: A training walk

Just Walk 2010: A training walk

This year, Pete, Jules and I are going to walk Trailwalker 2010 so we decided that we should do the Just Walk 60km event for training.

My main objective was to get to the end and not faint (like at the end of Just Walk 2009!), my second target was to try and avoid having horribly swollen hands (which seems to happen to me after about 20km) and thirdly, Jules and I really wanted to beat our time from last year. 60km in under 12 hours is excellent but we both secretly thought that without Temo (who is very new at this sort of thing) we would easily knock an hour off our time.

1) Avoiding fainting

Remembering that we had decided that the fainting was caused by too much water and not enough electrolytes I did some reading and some talking and some shopping and was armed with a whole variety of powders to put in my drinks and those sports jelly beans. I like sports beans – I used them on one (of the 3) Dunwich Dynamos I did and they are remarkably good at giving you a little kick and you only need to pop a couple at a time. Electrolytes? Check.

2) Swollen hands

I may have mentioned this elsewhere but I have a bit of a dodgy back so, when I went to Mount Everest Basecamp in December 2009 I decided to take walking sticks with me. My plan was that if my back had gone into spasm or my sciatica had started playing up I would have been able to haul myself around with two walking sticks. (As it happens, Nick and I used one each on that trek but that is a different story.) Using walking poles does stop my hands swelling up and it balances the weight better so my lower back seems to stay pain free for longer. Result.

3) Target time

We did the walk in 11 hours 25 minutes (or near enough). Jules and I had hoped for a better result so were disappointed which was a little annoying as the time is nothing to be ashamed of.

How did it go?

Nick came to pick me up this time (my mother actually refused: “Do it, but I am not coming to watch you collapse again!”) and I bundled myself into the car as quickly as possible – no dawdling, no fainting.

I had really bad blisters, particularly on my little toes; by some unpleasant chance I had blisters that went all round my little toes in a sort of cylindrical cushion. Not nice. A couple of weeks later my toe nails fell off, for the first time in my life, which rather inhibited my sandal wearing for the summer!

My boots have done some pretty impressive distances with me so I am very loathe to blame them for the blisters. My feet had swollen up quite badly and I think that was the main cause of the trouble. I realise that this might sound a little amateur but I blame the amount of sugar in all those electrolyte powders. For Trailwalker I am going to try and find some sugar free ones or use basic dioralyte – I think I can separate nutrition and salts. We shall see.

Heli Skiing From Panorama Mountain Resort

Heli Skiing From Panorama Mountain Resort

This day, without question has to be in my top 5 ever – I love Heli Skiing!

If you love skiing as much as I do and you can’t get enough of bashing through endless powder fields then this is the best experience you could wish for. Sitting in a helicopter with a group of skiiers and boarders, heading through the National Park and then landing on a mountain peak in the distance is unbelievable.  The adrenaline, the anticipation and the the protocol of diving out of a helicopter – grabbing your ski’s and then heading down an un-tracked mountain side is something else. We are talking waist deep powder every run, a minimum of 5 runs in total and each run must have taken about 45 minutes to get to the pick up point before we were swept away by our very own helicopter.

Organised by my pal Rupert at Ski Safari, we used the very experienced RK Heli Ski centre which is based out of Invermere in British Colombia. Panorama was a mountain resort we spent 2/3 days at as we continued our trek throuhg BC and the Canadian Rockies on this 3 week trip. Just to let you know Ski Safari are a quality mid to high end ski tour operator that specialise in organising multicentre ski trips in North America. It’s the sort of operator where you pick up the car, all the accommodation is arranged for you and then you travel between different resorts and properties depending on what you have booked. In my opinion (and having worked in the industry) this type of company works for me, it is minimal fuss, assistance is there if you need it and the type of holiday gives you complete flexibility to do what you want.  I think on this trip we also went to Ferne, Kicking Horse, Banf, Lake Louise and 3 or 4 other smaller resorts.

This particular day started at about 6am I seem to remember.

We arrived at the Heli-Centre early, Rupert had organised some great rates as he worked in the industry, we checked all of our gear, signed away the papers and then we sat around waiting for the rest of our group to arrive.  Fiddling with our avalanche transceivers, I remember the thoughts passing through my head as I think about how good the other skiers could be and whether my off piste skiing was good enough?

Navigating and soaring through the valleys the helicopters noise and ability to maneouvre was so impressive. Then the helicopter eventually lands as it positions itself literally on a overhang on a mountain peak with steep drops either side – all we have to do is dive out under the propellers, grab our gear and then get ourselves ready for the first descent. This took about 10 – 15 minutes.

Our mountain guide informed us about how the group was going to work and he gave us a strong briefing about the type of terrain. I remember it was a north facing slope (less sunlight and safer), we were going down 1 at a time and we were thinking about the lines we were all taking just so we all had the best and safest descent down possible.

So here we were, ready to do one of the runs of our lives and the heart was racing. I think I went second or third down and it was everything I hoped it would be. The first 10 metres or so were steep so it was a matter of adjusting my skiing position, getting a feel for the snow and anticipating what sort of approach I would take for my first heli ski run ever.

It was simple, I settled in with my rhythym, I soon started gasping for air as the snow continually covered my face and I remember looking around at the fellow skiiers as I anticipated hitting a forest in about half a mile.

It is hard to put into words exactly what this experience is all about.

It’s like one of those perfect powder days going on and on and on.

It was about pushing the legs as hard as possible and making sure that you get the best experience  possible as we eventually arrive safely back with the rest of the group with an ear to ear grin representing sheer satisfaction.

If you are a virgin ‘Heli Skier’ like I was then I think that this set up has got to be one of the best out there! My reasons for saying such a thing is purely down to the ski conditions in British Colmbia and my experience on the day.

Thanks Rupert!