On April 14, 2010, I joined a walk with Academic and Economist, Steve Keen from Canberra to Mount Mt.Koscuiszko. On April 23 I made my way to the summit. This story starts with a Professor, an Analyst and a lost bet at Parliament House, Canberra.
Ending nine days and approximately 240 kilometers away at the top of Mt.Koscuiszko.
This is the first of several posts. I took a lot of pictures along the way and will try to show what kind of country we marched across. This first post will concentrate on training and how I made sure I could make the distance without injury, comfortably.
Where I explain why doing 240Km in nine days is "do-able"by gradually ramping up my daily schedule.
Last year I was exploring some ideas on failure and why people fail. So I decided to test the idea and pick a seemingly impossible goal, then try achieve it or break. The idea I came up with: “travel on foot in one year 1000 Kilometers”. Sound easy right? I picked the hardest, fixed 10 kilometer route I could find. Then proceeded to walk. Sometimes I’d run and later I added a 10 kilogram pack never exceeding a one percent effort increase. Every couple of days I would clock up 10 kilometers. Sun, rain, day or night until I broke.
At first it was pretty hard. I don’t care what anybody says, 10 kilometers every second to third day is difficult. But you do toughen up. By about 400 kilometers, I found things started to get pretty easy. Then with 42 days to go to the end of the year, I completed 1000 kilometers. What next? Why not try 1000 miles? 1000 miles is even crazier, right?
For me, 2009 went out with rain, thunderclaps and sore feet.
So for the next 42 days in the growing heat of summer, I raced to complete the last 540 kilometers to take the total up to 1600 kilometers. It was tough, but once again do-able. Instead of the easy 10 kilometers per day, I now had to push up to 20 kilometers per day. Ten in the morning, ten in the afternoon. While most watched television in the evening, I’d be grabbing my water bottles, hat and clocking up the kilometers. On the last day of 2009 I headed out, finishing my last ten kilometers in a surprise flash rain storm. For me, 2009 went out with rain, thunderclaps and sore feet.
So what did I learn from this crazy idea?
Well a lot actually. The first and most important: If you break your big tasks into smaller achievable chunks and concentrate on finishing the small tasks, you can complete seemingly big tasks. But there was a twist. I found that the point of failure can happen at any time and the most likely point at the start or finish. You can push yourself a lot harder physically than you think. The mind is much stronger than body and with sufficient will-power, you can overcome quite a bit of pain and overcome exhaustion.
But there are limits. One thing I found out a few times is susceptibility to the elements. The weather always dictates how you should prepare. The weather can be as much as 50 percent of hardship. Also there is the problem of hydration.
Hydration is important because if you don’t drink enough, not only do you loose up to 20 percent power, but you can also cause stomach problems. You can get into a shite situation simply by not drinking enough.
There is a simple solution: As a rule of thumb I consume about 1 litre of water per 10 kilometers when it’s hot. When the heat is bad I supplement my water with some isotonic additives to address the potassium loss through sweat and eat. Muscle fatige and tiredness is bought about by a combination of Calcium exhaustion, glucose depletion and lactic acid buildup. Understanding hydration and muscle fatigue allowed me to better prepare for longer distances in all kinds of weather.
So after I’ve completed a thousand miles in one year, what’s next? By this stage I’ve got a bit sick of doing just the same 10 kilometer track. So I was consciously looking for longer distances. That’s when I found the Keen Walk.
How I found the Keen Walk
"... He _is_ taking 8 days to do it, so he's only got to walk ~30km (just under 20 miles) a day. ..."Hmm 20 miles a day for 8 days in hilly terrain in April is not to be underestimated.
In two words, “by accident”.
I was pouring over my morning news items on HackerNews and came across this article, Australian Economist who lost bet will walk from Parliament to Mount Kosciousko. I’m interested in any Australian references, so I read the article, absorbed the challenge and contacted Steve that day and signed up. What now? I’ve got plenty of experience below 1000 meters and virtually none above. Going to the highest place in Australia isn’t a thing to be taken lightly. Some specialist help is required.
I sought advice in two places. One at some specialist stores, the other mates I know who have Alpine hours. Seeking such advice is important. Firstly there are so many small things to absorb in a short period of time. That’s where Moose came into the picture. I’ve known Moose for a long time and I knew he had some Alpine hours so it was a logical choice to bounce my planning details off his experience. The second bit of advice is to know which pieces of kit to bring and what to ignore. Every piece of kit you source costs and it should also be as multi-purpose as possible. Then there is the problem of planning.
If you have no idea of what planning is about, here’s a quick summary. You plan not to have a guide that you follow by the book. You plan to explore your requirements to concentrate on contingency. All planning goes to hell when you execute. Careful planning allows you to adapt quickly and create a new plan as conditions change. Planning is a process to take stock, allow you to adapt when things go “pear shaped”. I’ll write some more about this concept at another time but for the moment consider planning necessary, but not used as you might think.
You start with footwear. In my case boots. I’ve got some ancient heavy black Paratrooper boots I have used for years. But I decided to get some new ones. The ones I chose are standard Issue Desert pattern number 4’s. For extreme weather I had a loaner pair of Goretex all weather boots. I tested the Goretex boots over ten kilometers with very thin socks. They are without doubt, “the bee’s knee’s” of boots. But they are way to hot. The Goretex are for very cold, wet conditions only. The Desert issue are much better suited for general walking.
Next I started to “break-in” the Desert issue boots. I also started playing with lace up configuration. The left boot with left to right lace up, the right boot with right lace centrally up the middle with the left lace criss-crossing the central lace. The difference in lace up style is because the later allows you to cut the boot off faster in case of a foot or leg break. Turns out the criss-cross method works better. So I chose the left hand style.
Next I decided to make sure the Desert issue boots had at least 200 kilometers clocked up to ensure no problems on the march. The first time I wore them with thick socks, I got blisters and sore front toes as they bashed against the front of the boot going down hills. Taping and thin socks alleviated this problem.
Taking and wearing “nothing new” is an idea that allows you to test everything before you go. New boots can mean blisters. New packs, sores or back sprain. Nothing new!
What did I take
Above and below you can see the core of my kit. A dive bag to carry most of it in. Some webbing to carry extra water and kit on the road. A light day pack with internal water bladder for extra 3 litres of water. Thermal tops, wool thermal underwear, gloves. I also picked up some wick inner gloves.
Other pieces of kit include:
1:50,000 map coverage of Mt.Koscuiszko & surrounding area
1:25,000 topographic map coverage of Mt.Koscuiszko area
spare water bottle
Outer shell jacket
In the end I didn’t need or use all of the listed items. The idea here is to match your requirements to need at the same time don’t overstock. There are also some other considerations especially with air travel.
Air travel with dangerous goods
I didn’t bring along my solid magnesium block for emergency fire lighting. Nor did I ship the webbing via air. I don’t think it would go down to well when I went through security trying to explain the residues left over in the webbing magazine pouches.
Committed, I booked as many places on the route along the away as I could. Now came the hard part, trying out 34 kilometers in one day. My usual starting low of 10 kilometers was not going to cut it. My usual high of 20 kilometers a day was not going to be enough. Now was the time to increase my daily total to 34 kilometers with minimal rest between each session.
The morning session would be 15 kilometers and the afternoon 17. Enough for the walk? I didn’t know. So I started doing this first once every three or four days. Then I tried three days in a row. 100 kilometers in three days with pack, with water in my broken-in boots.
Trouble! … I couldn’t walk.
The amount of walking I had tried simply caused my calves to cease up. So I had to adjust by stretching more. Calf, followed by hamstring then quads. I repeated this after every hill or when I became sore. This simple adjustment allowed me to easily ramp up to the distances required. It was still hard work.
Last minute prep
For the last push I spent about four or five days marching in heat up the hills of Mt.Dandenong and alongside the 1000 steps track. I really smashed myself in these sessions of long uphill sections in preparation for the hard days ahead.
Wednesday, 28th April 2010. This is the fist part of my recollections of the Keenwalk. You can see the photos at my Keenwalk collection on my flickr account. The posts will also be mirrored at keenwalker.com.au. Be sure to read the posts by other participants.
Continued ==> Day 1