Monday, March 8, 2010

Practice Hike #2

Well, I survived the night hike, my second long training hike for the upcoming charity event at the end of April. The first hike that I did was from Start to Checkpoint 4, and this time we decided on an overnight hike starting at Checkpoint 4 and ending at Checkpoint 7. We'll be doing a lot of this part of the course in the dark, so we thought it would be beneficial to also hike it overnight as it will be more realistic to the full experience. The hike was a total of around 38 km, or 23.5 miles.

As the hike was in the dark, I didn't take a lot of photos like on the first hike, but I thought I would share a short blurb about our progress between checkpoints.

Checkpoint 4 to 5

This part of the course is about 18 kilometers, with the first 6 of them being on a road, fairly flat. The bus stop that we went to actually cut out that first flat 6 km, so we started the hike right where it starts to go uphill in the graph above, making it only 12 km for us starting at 7:45pm. It was a little tough with the uphills, but as our legs were fresh and it really wasn't too much of a problem. Our spirits were high for most of this section. We took a smaller break at what we thought was the second highest point. We had a great view over the a bunch of surrounding cities in the shadow of the mountains. It was quite cloudy and a little foggy in places, but still a good view with the mist and the mountain shadows. It really a moment when I felt like what we were doing was really cool. It was peaceful in the night and my mind felt equally at peace and happy to complete the task ahead.

We started off again after maybe 20 minutes and realized that were we were wasn't actually the second highest part, but was the high peak and from there on out we would be going downhill. So we stopped again and decided we needed to eat our first snack/meal to keep us going. I don't remember this downhill so much...I just remember from the whole hike that the downhill was so much worse than the uphill. I fell a few times as it was muddy from recent rains and I haven't invested in hiking boots yet, so I was hiking in running shoes besides the fact that I'm naturally clumsy. We ended this section about midnight, so it took us about 4 hours and 15 minutes, a lot longer than anticipated. Adding to that, we ended up taking a pretty long break at the checkpoint, which set us back on our overall time.

We did a really good job in this first section at alternating leaders. You have to hike single file on the trails, so we changed the leader every once in awhile to mix up the pace. Also, it's easier to follow than to lead, especially in the dark. Kory and my headlights weren't as bright as Linton's, but they were still pretty good when loaded with good batteries.

Checkpoint 5 to 6

From Checkpoint 6-7 is 9.5 kilometers, a bit shorter than the 12km that we did in the first leg. It's also a bit flatter as you can see from the graph above. In addition to being flatter, it's also mostly on the road, so we didn't have to worry about slipping in the mud, tripping over roots and big rocks, and didn't have to stare so intently to be sure we were staying on the trail. It was smooth sailing. We also knew we had taken much too long of a break as we heard from the group who started 2 hours behind us and they had reached the checkpoint about 30 minutes faster than us, so that kicked us into gear! We also knew that sooner or later it was going to rain. Different forecasts predicted different times for the start of the rain, but there was no doubt that it was going to come before we finished hiking. So that also kept us moving swiftly as we knew the last leg was going to be the most difficult. We wanted to do as much of the course as possible before the rain started coming down. We ended up finishing this section of the course in exactly 2 hours. Again, our spirits were high and competitive as we didn't want the groups that started later than us to catch up. We could see the moon and some of the stars, which also helped. We spent only 20 minutes at Checkpoint 6, taking a break to eat some more food, stock up on some more drinks and take a bathroom break. We were on our way at 3:05am to begin the final leg of our journey for the night. I might add, we didn't see a soul during this hike. Not a bike, a car, or person walking. It was like we were touring an uninhabited island :)

Checkpoint 6 to 7

The final leg was the most difficult. It was the most difficult climb, steeper and longer than the other checkpoints that we did. In addition we had already hiked around 22 kilometers and had stayed up all day at work and hiked halfway through the night. And the rain started coming down about an hour in with heavy fog so that we could only see about a meter or two in front of us for quite some time. This was the real trying point of the night. The first little bit of this is on the road, but soon changes to trail - a trail that seems straight up and never ending! I was starting to feel winded and fall behind a bit even on the uphill road, so I asked the guys if I could lead since I would fall too far behind if I wasn't in the front. So, I started climbing, one foot in front of the other, but had to stop several times and even though Kory and Linton were at a more conversation pace for them, my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest, I felt nauseous and was having a hard time catching my breath. They hung in with me and we got to an open patch with benches just as it was starting to rain. We stopped long enough to get on our rain gear and be sure that all of the stuff inside our packs was sealed in plastic bags to protect it from the rain. Then we were off again. I felt a little better, but definitely not ready to keep climbing that mountain!! One of the guys took the lead and I was in the middle. For awhile I felt like I was seriously sleep walking - I was wondering if it was possible to fall asleep while walking! This was the time of the thick fog and I could only see a bit in front of me. I was playing the ABC game (you know...I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing an Apple, banana, cat...) inside my head all by myself just to try to keep my mind awake, but it didn't work so well since I was the one coming up with all of them, it was easy to remember.

While I was in a walking daze, it was difficult for the guys as well as we had to stop every few feet to make sure we were still on the trail. It was a bit dangerous since we couldn't see very far ahead. We were unsure if we were still on the right trail (there are many trails in the area that go to different places) and thought for sure that we should have reached the next landmark on our map. A few times we stopped and had serious discussions about whether we should go back or continue on the course that we were on. Ultimately we decided we must be on the right trail and kept going. Thankfully, we were correct and we found the next landmark long after we thought we should have already reached it!! After that, I got a second wind from somewhere and no longer felt nauseous. Of course I was still tired and the rain was coming down, but at least inside I was awake and again ready to take on the task at hand after fighting through a tough hour and a half where I wasn't sure I was going to make it.

Soon after, the sun started to come up, which lifted my spirits for the rest of the way. It was still foggy and rainy, but since it wasn't dark too, we were able to pick up our pace a little. After the sun came up we still had some uphill to go, and a big long downhill as well. If I am remembering correctly, this downhill wasn't near as bad as the downhill in the first section. We were able to go much faster in the light and there wasn't as much to trip over. It was more slippery however as it had been raining for awhile. I fell again (possible more than once...I can't remember!), but the first half of the downhill was speedy on the trail. The second part of the downhill was on road, partly paved and partly rock/gravel. This was honestly a bit of a tease, as it seemed we were getting close to the finish and coming into the town where we could catch the train, but it was a long haul before we actually got into town. At this point was the time when we just knew that the end was coming and we were just waiting for it. Though this part was tough for me, I think it might have been tougher on Linton and Kory. I was lagging behind, but running up to catch them in spurts. It seemed easier and used different muscles to jog than to keep walking at the same pace. I felt like I had already gone through my tough part and knew I was gonna make it to the end.

We came into the train station at 8:15am, completing the full hike in 12 hours and 30 minutes, 2 mountains and 38 km later. The group behind us finished in 12 hours, finishing only the first section 30 minutes faster than us, so we know we need to cut our breaks shorter in that section for sure. The other group also had a few hikers more familiar with the course, so they didn't have to stop as often as us I'm sure to check the maps. We wasted a lot of time trying to decide if we were on course or not, especially after the rain and fog started. Thankfully, that's part of the purpose of doing these practice hikes on the actual trail of the race, so we should be a bit more familiar in the real thing.

Our team chemistry is really coming together I think, even though this was only my second hike. Kory and Linton have done a few more I think, possibly four. Unfortunately John missed out on this one, but he'll be there for the next one. You really have to read each other's highs and lows, as you all have them at different points. So far we're doing well together and are doing well at helping each other through those highs and lows. We know that 100 km together is not only an individual challenge and trying on ourselves, but also on how we'll fit together as a group both mentally and physically. We are only as fast as our slowest member and as positive as our most negative person. It's our job to help each other out of those lows, know when to just let the others be and when to push them. So far, so good. I'm glad I've found such a good team to complete this challenge with!! Awesome work Fuji Crew!

On a quick final note, I'm also thankful today for the many people who have donated to our cause. We haven't been fundraising for long, only since I sent out that last blog and email less than two weeks ago. As you can see on the side of my blog, we're over 80% of the way to our goal already. We did put our goal low, as we have never done this before. Our minimum is about 1000 pounds, which we put as our goal, but we hoped to make far more than that. Looks like our friends and family have come to our aid and will push us far beyond the minimum required. We're so lucky to have such great support in our lives and the numerous people that will receive the benefit from that money are as well. Thanks for your support! If you'd still like to donate, or just see the progress we've made, click here.

Next Hike: March 27

No comments: