There’s less than five weeks to go until the London to Brighton Challenge and, I have to admit, the nerves are starting to kick in. This isn’t helped by the fact that some of the facebook groups that I follow can, at times, turn into a bit of a pissing contest about how many miles everyone has done each week.
Fortunately, when this happens, there are plenty of other group members who offer reassurance to those of us who are doing this for the first time and haven’t covered quite so many miles! And, to be fair, it does encourage me to get out and tackle those long walks at the weekend.
With this weekend extending into a Bank Holiday Monday, I took full advantage of the extra day off and headed out for my longest walk so far. A 43 kilometre walk from Hove to Shoreham then along the River Adur and back again.
All in all, it took me between nine and a half to ten hours including rest breaks. I’m not sure of the exact time though as my Garmin battery only lasts for eight hours. But Monday’s walk wasn’t about time or pace. It was about testing things out and seeing how long I could go for.
One of my main concerns about taking on this challenge is making sure that I take in enough calories to keep me going. I heard somewhere that having a fatty breakfast before an endurance event like this can help as your body will use the fat in your bloodstream for energy, rather than relying on your carb stores. Of course, you are still going to be using up carbs and need to make sure you keep re-fuelling as you go, but a bit of fat will help you on your way too.
This doesn’t mean having a massive fried breakfast and there are plenty of healthy fatty foods that you can have, such as nuts, eggs and yoghurt. I opted for a bacon sandwich – not the healthiest option, I know, but I also know that my stomach can handle bacon sandwiches at 6:00 am so that was what I went for.
On the walk itself, I snacked on packets of crisps, some mini pork pies, a banana, a small packet of fruit and nuts and even packed some vegetarian sushi and a bottle of chocolate milk for lunch time. Basically, I had a mini banquet of carbs, fat and protein while walking along the river, but it really made a difference to my energy levels. And it may also be the reason that I made a few four legged friends along the way!
One of the best things about walking on this particular route was that everyone said hello as we passed each other, which was really nice. It’s funny how when we pass people in the street, even when we pass the same people every day in the town or city, we barely even make eye contact, yet out on a country walk we smile and greet complete strangers as if they were our next door neighbours.
The other interesting thing about this walk was the wildlife and farm animals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different varieties of butterfly in one day and was surprised at how low to the ground they seem to fly. This concerned me a little bit as I was worried that I might step on one, but they soon flew up and off into the longer grass as I approached them.
The same, however, cannot be said for the cows. As I approached one particular stile that I needed to cross, I found myself face to face with a group of six very large cows hanging out right next to it. So, rather than running the risk of being eaten by a cow, I decided to go round them by climbing over the fence instead.
I kind of liked the fact that the cows weren’t fenced in from the path, but up close they did look quite intimidating with their six sets of eyes following me the whole way as I climbed the fence and made my way back onto the path further along the field.
All in all though, it was a great way to spend the Bank Holiday and, by the end of the walk, I felt like I could have gone on for longer if it hadn’t been for the fact that my feet were throbbing like crazy. My shoes had served me well and I didn’t have any blisters, but my feet were starting to pay the price of nine hours or so of constant pressure.
Apparently the way to deal with this is to elevate them to stimulate the blood flow back into the legs so I went to bed that night with a couple of pillows under my feet and by the morning they felt fine – a little tired perhaps, but still pretty good all things considered.
So, with 43K done, I am feeling a bit more confident about the challenge. The next thing is to get some hill training in, but that will have to wait until next weekend.