When I see the album cover for Snow Patrol’s new album Wildness…
I immediately think of Jon Davis-Hunt’s art for Adrianna Tereshkova in his and Warren Ellis’s new Wild Storm series.
(I’m enjoying the comic more than the album.)
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.
In the week since Scott Hutchison’s death I’ve been listening to a lot of Frightened Rabbit, obviously. Less obviously, I’ve also gone back to the album Honestly, This World by The Moth & The Mirror, a short-lived Scottish band that featured (amongst others) Stacey Sievwright and Gordon Skene (who was also playing with Frightened Rabbit at the time). I love this album, in particular the tracks “Germany” and “Fire”.
What I hadn’t spotted until this week, probably because I’ve only ever seen it at tiny sizes, was the airplane on the album cover that all the birds are following. The phrase “Honestly, this world…” already yields a mental picture of someone shaking their damn head. Now I see it in the artwork as well, it’s a beautifully subtle verbal and visual facepalm.
This is actually similar to a tattoo idea I had been toying with: a band of bird silhouettes around my arm, with somewhere amongst them a sly Airbus 320 — to represent the amount of flying I have done over the last five years. I might still revisit this! If I do, this album cover will give it the extra weight of a wonderfully obscure musical in-joke.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.