The heat is on. One of the signature tunes of my young adulthood. And Glenn Frey is one of the forgotten ones of the seemingly extraordinary number of celebrity deaths in 2016. His song was in my head a lot today as I ploughed the streets, avenues and a bit off road to the tune of 15.5 miles. It was a gorgeous day but a little too hot to be that comfortable, I reckon around 23 or 24 degrees at its peak. Having started at around 12:30, I was walking during the hottest parts of the day and soon looking for the shady side of the street where I could. I don’t normally walk with water or a drink, instead waiting until shops appear, but today it was really only common sense to have a bottle with me and swig every now and again. Dehydration is not fun.
Looking forward three weeks, I only hope it’s not as hot as this, but I will deal with it as it comes. At that time of year, you can only expect it to be warm, unless it is windy and rainy, and I know which I would prefer. Being warm and dry in the night can only help on one of these ultra challenges. This is about the time when it is tempting to look at weather forecasts – three weeks is about the first time when you get something that might be a trifle reliable. Except if it is anything to do with the Daily Express, who flit between forecasting a scorcher and a nuclear winter almost by the hour. Accuweather.com is normally pretty good and that is forecasting maxima of 17 degrees (overcast) on the Saturday in London and 14 degrees (overcast with a couple of showers) on the Sunday in Brighton. None of the competitors will complain if that transpires. The later part of May will also mean a shorter night than I saw at the Wight Challenge – sunset at 21:02 and sunrise at 4:54, so it will be dark from just after half nine to just before half four, less than seven hours. The night is a big psychological part of the challenge, especially off road where is little or no light from street lamps or similar. That is the time when it is really important to have some good people around you. Mind you, I did have that last year and still……..
So thankfully, though it is very early to say, conditions might be better than when I failed the Wight Challenge. One or two have said to me that I didn’t fail it, but the fact is that I didn’t complete it and I won’t have righted that unless I complete this one. It doesn’t help to make me feel better or sorry for myself by telling me that I did really well. Turning to this year, there is a Facebook page for this event and some of the discussions are around why we do this, why we are willing to endure considerable pain. Comments have resonated with me, especially the challenge, the desire to push oneself to near the limit and to feel great pride in an achievement. I have heard many challenge finishers talk about that pride and it is not a sin to be proud of an achievement, whether it be physical, mental or academic or whatever. This is particularly the case if the achievement is outside one’s normal comfort zone, and I feel that one is often remembered for those achievements rather than ones that might otherwise be taken for granted. I am not always the easiest to engage in interesting conversation nor am I good at small talk, so people know now they can get a conversation out of me if they raise the topic of walking (rather than previously, football or cricket, subjects which many might well dread to raise).
So back to weather and daylight. Depending on these, I might well plan a strategy beyond taking a step, repeating 2,000 times for one mile, then repeating 62 times. If it is a hot day, it might be a decent strategy to target the period between my start time, 9:20, and around 1:30 to get a few miles in, taking only shortish breaks, then taking it fairly easy between 1:30 until around 5:30, making the most of what breaks there are, and then picking up again thereafter. But, for me, I think it is important to get halfway or thereabouts by the time it gets dark so I can start counting down the distance rather than counting up. That is just me and others will have their own strategy or no strategy at all beyond the 125,000 steps. Sounds a lot when I say that……..
Finally, one person last week enquired as to my next challenge after I’ve done this one. Blimey, I appreciate the thought and interest, I really really do, but let me do this one first and then I’ll think harder about it. Doubt it will be another ultra challenge like this, more likely a multi-day long distance challenge, but we’ll cross that bridge in a few weeks.