100?

My walk the other week took me through the village of Zuidschermer near Alkmaar, where I walked past a sign for the “100 van Leeghwater”, a 100km walk being put on for the second time this year:

Sign for the 100 van Leeghwater 100km walk

I was four and a half hours/25km into my walk at that point, feeling a bit tired and sore because my right heel had developed a blister very early. My first reaction to the sign was, “LOL no.” Walking a marathon was enough. I accidentally did a 50km walk last year, and the longest walk I ever did was a 57km walk when I was still at school. A 100km walk would be double what I’ve done recently, it would require training and preparation, and a ton more podcasts than I usually accumulate in the course of a week.

But the sign stuck with me. I looked at the website when I got back home, talked about it with Abi, with my parents when I was over with them last weekend, and with some friends in Edinburgh last week… and I’ve registered for it.

Now I just need to figure out what my training regime will look like. There are plenty of resources online that tell you how to prepare for a marathon run; there seems to be far less information on how to get ready for a 100km walk.

John runs marathons, and one of his tips was to practice running (walking) on tired legs by doing intermediate distances on two consecutive days. With that in mind I plotted out a 20km loop around Zaandam. I did it clockwise yesterday, and then anti-clockwise this morning, in just over 3 hours. My recent long-distance walks have all been one-way trips, and I’ve taken public transport or been driven back home at the end of them. That’s fine for one-offs, but for training purposes loops will be a more efficient use of my time. I figure that if I increase my loop distance by 5km each week, I can build myself up to a 50km back-to-back weekend before the walk.

That’s still only half of a standard 4-day march at Nijmegen, at which 47,000 people are taking part this year. In terms of long-distance walking challenges, there are still plenty of frontiers left for me…if I make it through this one.

Marathon walk to Schoorl, Sunday 20 May 2018

I got up early and left the house a few minutes after 06:00. The weather forecast was fine and sunny, with the temperature expected to hit 22°C in the afternoon, but at 06:00 it was misty and cool. The roads were dead quiet that time in the morning anyway, but the mist made the first few hours of the walk extra still. It wasn’t a pea-souper; just dense enough for towers and pylons to drift in and out of sight, and for wisps to gather and swirl lazily over the glass-flat canals.

Prins Bernhardbrug, Zaandam
Prins Bernhardbrug, Zaandam
View of Cargill Gerkens Cacao factory from the Willem Alexanderbrug in Zaandam
View of Cargill Gerkens Cacao factory from the Willem Alexanderbrug in Zaandam
Ship moored at the Lagedijk, Zaandam
Ship moored at the Lagedijk, Zaandam
Zaan view at Wormerveer
Zaan view at Wormerveer

I walked north-west through Zaandam, Koog aan de Zaan, Wormerveer, along the edge of Markenbinnen, then over the polder to Alkmaar, then finally out to Schoorldam and Schoorl. I hit marathon distance in Schoorldam in 7h 31m, which is a personal best. Apart from wanting to try out my new shoes today, I also wanted to do the walk at a fast pace, just to see what kind of time I could put down. That didn’t quite work out, because I couldn’t stop myself from stopping to take a bunch of pictures along the way. I also spent the first hour stopping a lot to adjust my laces, because I just couldn’t get comfortable with the racer’s loop.

My right foot is slightly smaller than my left. Although my left foot was mostly snug with standard lacing, I could feel my right heel slipping. But when I did tie the right up more tightly, it was painful across the bridge of my foot. I could feel a blister forming on my heel by the end of the first hour, and I regretted taking a new pair of shoes out for a long walk without breaking them in first. I’ll know better next time.

Time-wise, I think I could easily cut off 10 minutes with broken-in shoes and better discipline. With more training, I could probably get my average pace up, too, and take the time down to 7 hours (about 6 km/hour). But that’s not what I’m about. I do big walks to prove to myself that I can do a slow marathon with no preparation beyond bringing enough drinks to stay hydrated; and I really enjoy taking pictures of interesting things along the way. I’m not going to force myself on joyless marches.

Wormerveer panorama
Wormerveer panorama
Starnmeerpolder
Periodic reminder that Noord-Holland is really flat…
View of the Alkmaardermeer
…and wet
Alkmaar
Alkmaar
Crow weathervane Schoorl
Large crow silhouette weathervane in Schoorl, near the N9

I messaged Abi near the end of the walk, and she drove out to Schoorl to meet me for a mid-afternoon coffee. (It was another 2.4km past Schoorldam, giving me a total distance of 44.6km for the day.) I’ve never been to Schoorl before, but maps showed several cafés in the centre. It’s right next to the coastal dunes, and they have the Netherlands’ tallest sand dune (the Klimduin) that runs right down to the village centre, which is pretty cool. A slice of apple pie was a welcome treat to finish the walk.

Martin just after finishing in Schoorl
Obligatory finish line selfie. Look at that puffy face!
Klimduin in Schoorl
Klimduin in Schoorl
apple pie and drinks
Apple pie reward

Wear patterns

Because most of my long-distance walks are over tarmac and concrete, I bought a pair of Asics Patriot 8 running shoes to replace the more rugged and waterproof hiking shoes I had been using. They’re great, but even after a few months I noticed that the inside padding was starting to wear through at the edge where the heel counter meets the collar. Beneath the padding of these shoes, the heel counter is made of firm but flexible plastic, and the the wear happens right at the top. Even though it doesn’t feel like my heel is slipping, the wear pattern doesn’t lie:

Heel slip wear pattern
Heel slip wear pattern
Heel slip wear pattern
Heel slip wear pattern

According to running forums and sites, the answer seems to be that I should tie my laces with a “racer’s loop” (“heel lock lacing”), a technique that takes advantage of the “extra” lacing holes behind the standard ones.

The soles of the Asics Patriot 8 shoes are made of a softer material than my old hiking shoes, so it’s natural that they’d wear down a bit faster. Here’s what the soles look like compared to a brand new pair:

Asics Patriot 8 soles, old vs new (about 7 months)
And the heels

As I’m walking rather then running, I can live with less grip from the soles, but I’d prefer it if the heel padding lasted a bit longer. But I like these shoes a lot, and so I bought a fresh new pair to replace them. Asics has a new model for this year (the Patriot 9), but apart from new colourways and an “Amplifoam” logo on the side of the sole, I can’t see much of a difference. The 8s are still readily available online, and being last year’s model, they’re cheaper too. I’m going to take them out for a spin tomorrow.

New Asics Patriot 8

Marathon walk from Oostzaan to Woerden

A couple of weeks ago I set out to do another marathon walk. I had spotted a nice-looking stretch of countryside on the map one day, and thought it would make a nice long walk. The Amsteldijk extends from the heart of Amsterdam along the Amstel river, and winds through the countryside sandwiched between Amstelveen to the west, and Amsterdam Zuidoost to the east.

From Oostzaan to Uithoorn would be in the 25-30km range. But it had been two years since my last marathon walk (Oostzaan to Maarssen), and I wanted to push myself. I found myself a Saturday with a nice weather forecast, and walked all the way to Woerden. When I plotted the route beforehand I thought it came in at around 45km. But I think I deviated from the plan a bit, and when I checked the tracking data on my phone and correlated with Google Maps, it was more like 51km. (The figure on the picture below includes the 2.5km ferry from NDSM to Centraal.)

Walking route from Oostzaan to Woerden. (The 53.7km distance includes a 2.5km ferry.)

That’s the second-longest single-day walk I’ve ever done. It was also the first long walk with my new walking shoes, which are actually running shoes. (Asics Patriot 8) Back in August I did a 20km-ish walk to Muiden in the hiking shoes I have been using for the last couple of years. As has been far too common with these shoes, I ended up with lots of blisters. I also thoroughly bruised my big toe. For far too long I’ve been using rugged all-terrain hiking boots and shoes when most of what I do is urban walking over smooth paved surfaces. I don’t need rigid soles and toe protection against falling rocks. I need a soft breathable upper and good shock absorption.

Asics Patriot 8

So: running shoes. When I first tried them, they felt quite strange. I can stretch my toes sideways and the shoe stretches with them! If there’s a breeze, I can feel the wind reach in and actually cool the top of my feet! I had broken them in with a couple of weeks of daily use, but this was their first serious outing. They worked great! When I stopped for a break in Uithoorn and took off the shoes to air my toes out, my feet were still fine. I did develop blisters right towards the end of the walk. I can’t blame the shoes for that, though. The stretch of road from Uithoorn along Kromme Mijdrecht via De Hoef to Woerdense Verlaat is a windy single-track road for cars. There isn’t a separate bike or walking path, so I had to step off the road onto the uneven verge quite a bit. Along with increasing tiredness, I think this messed with my gait. When I start to walk unevenly, I get blisters. The last 5-6km stretch from Zegveld to Woerden Station was a bit painful, but I made it anyway.

I took pictures along the way, and dropped them into the non-social network account I sometimes use for this. Here are some good ones!

I love getting out just at sunrise
On the NDSM ferry, looking south to new construction
Amsterdam, obvs
Gate
The rowing coaches cycle along the dyke, keeping pace with the rowers, and shouting instructions at them through megaphones
See what I have to put up with?
Startled I made it this far. Still sucking at selfies.

Aberdeen walk, Sunday 2 December 2016

When I met up with Dave last Saturday evening, we spent some time thinking about the last time we had met up. We weren’t able to put a date or even a year on it, but we reckoned it must have been 2006 or 2007. I had been up in Aberdeen with Alex, probably visiting Grandma McLean, and Dave came to meet us at the Inversnecky Cafe on the Esplanade. Remembering the Inversnecky planed an idea in my head. Instead of having a lazy morning with maybe a bit of shopping the following morning, I got up in reasonable time and went out for a walk instead.

My first stop was a beautiful piece of graffiti I had spotted from my hotel window. It covers the maintenance door of the multi-storey car park on Denburn Road.

Good graffiti
Less good graffiti

I didn’t go down into the harbour, but walked along the A956 and up Beach Boulevard to the Esplanade, where I had a lovely full Scottish breakfast at the Inversnecky and read my book. I noticed the joke on the chalkboard outside (“I bought my wife a new fridge for Christmas. I can’t wait to see her face light up when she opens it”), but I hadn’t realized that the café has become a social media phenomenon as a result.

Seagulls.
Don’t mess with the tide.

I walked along the Esplanade for a bit, then cut down past Pittodrie and along Golf Road to the flat where my grandparents Sutherland used to live.

Tunnel near Pittodrie
The beach erosion defenses look like colossal whale tails

Along School Road, and back to Union Street via King Street. Not a super long walk, but enough to give me a blast of Aberdeen memories. There is something about the granite buildings with their occasional towers and crenellations that make the old town feel slightly out of time. The granite is so solid and constant that old and new buildings look like they are of the same age. This might be what a city would look like if a middle-age fortress mentality had persisted into the twentieth century.

The perenially uneven white-on-black Aberdeen street name signs charm me
Aberdeen Central Fire Brigade Station. Now student housing.
Castlegate

Walk from Oostzaan to Maarssen

On Sunday 26th April I did another marathon walk, this time from Oostzaan to Maarssen. I set out from our house at about 06:20, and finished at Maarssen Station at about 14:50. The walk tracking app I use on my phone said I’d done about 43.5km. I had taken a few short breaks to rest along the way, and had also been stopping occasionally to take some photos. Even so, that works out at an average of about 5.1 km/h, which I’m happy with for a long distance like that.

My soundtrack for the walk was a selection of my favourite songs from RWBY volumes 1 and 2 (high tempo, to get me moving), followed by the dozen most recent episodes of the 99% Invisible podcast, which has totally become my new favourite thing. That wasn’t quite enought to get me all of the way, so I finished with a couple of episodes of Answer Me This. (Roman Mars was plugging Helen Zaltzman’s new podcast The Allusionist during the promotional segments of 99% Invisible, and I think I’ll have to dive into that soon.)

Some photos from along the way:

Noordhollandschkanaaldijk
Under the Nesciobrug on the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal
Wevboews
So much canal

Seriously, most of the walk was along the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal, and it was straight on for mile after mile. Good for keeping your head down and making the distance, not so great for variety of scenery. Many of the tall trees didn’t have their leaves yet, and it looked almost autumnal. Still, it was peaceful, and a nice long stretch.

My feet got sore during the last 5-10km, and I started to shift my balance around, which led to blisters. I think I can do 20-25km walks easily with no effects the next day, but a 40km walk is over a certain limit. Maybe if I’d taken a longer break around lunchtime and re-tied my shoes, or had a change of socks, it would have been easier at the end. I’ll experiment next time.