Sunday, February 15, 2009

Death March 2009

What did you get up to on Valentine's day? I thought of the best present I could give to Girlclumsy. I packed my bag while she still slumbered and headed out into the world to see how far away I could walk from her in eight hours.

So began what became to be known as Death-March 2009.

To be honest it had nothing to do with GC really. I had been waiting for the right weather (cloudy, raining and cool) to attempt the eight hour walk.

Why would I want to walk for eight hours? Well, I know many people who seem to be doing interesting things such as blogs, webcomics, giving birth and raising maggots. The internet gives a thin veneer of legitimacy for any cockamamie idea you might have.

The idea had been percolating through my skull for a few weeks. I like to walk. I walk quickly and with purpose. People who know me know that I hate aimless rambling. I don't really care in what direction I go in as long as it purposeful walking. I have always been fascinated with the stories about women having to walk 20 km a day to collect water for their families or armies having to march vast distances before squaring up with a less tired force. Most of us in Australia today live rather sedentary lives. I was intrigued whether I could walk for eight hours.

Why eight hours? It was a rather arbitrary choice, to be honest. I have slept for eight hours, I have worked for eight hours (no matter what my last employer tells you), I have played games (both computer and board) for eight hours.. so why not walk eight hours?

I wasn't after a distance. I merely wanted to walk for eight hours. I decided that if I ever stopped for any reason I would have to make that time up at the end. My route was semi planned. My parents live in Strathpine, so I would set out in that direction down South Pine Road (I live in the centre of the city), if I made it that far then I would continue towards Redcliffe and a house I used to live in over a decade ago. The final destination didn't matter it merely gave me something to aim for. I am not hugely fit but I do a fair bit of walking so I was confidant I wouldn't die.

I did some research and confirmed that the average human walking speed is 5 km an hour. Distance to Strathpine from my house is 26 km... I thought I would at least make it that far. My ex-house in Redcliffe is 47 km away from where I live... I doubted I would get that far in eight hours.

I had been watching the weather over the last few days and it seemed that Valentine's Day was going to be ideal for this little jaunt. When I woke up that morning it was over-cast and cool and I knew the time for the March was nigh.

I had a backpack ready to go. It had a 2L bottle of water and 2x 600ml of water (frozen), 4x 375ml pepsi max cans (for caffeine support), a bag of mixed lollies, a bag of pistachio nuts (I am crazy for pistachio nuts). In the backpack was also a SFX magazine, iPod, sunscreen, spare shirt, spare socks, many thick band-aids, mobile phone, some writing paper and pens. All up the pack weighed about 6kg. I was going to take a camera to document the journey but the battery charger had failed in the night and I decided to push on without it. I strapped my heels with band-aids and armoured myself in my beloved black boots.

With a jaunty wave and a "I am going out for a walk. I may be some time" to GirlClumsy I headed out into the world. That was at 10:20am.

Every hour I would take out my pen and paper and document where I was and how I was feeling at the time. I have reproduced what I wrote below.

11:21am - Cnr South Pine Rd and Farrington St, Alderley - Feel fine but wet (yay rain)

12:19pm - Cnr Old Northern Rd and Chinook St, suburb unknown (Rode Rd overpass) - Still fine. I have driven this road many times but I respect the distance now. Enjoying the change in houses as I head out of the city into the burbs.

1:22pm - Cnr South Pine Road (again! sneaky road) and Bunya Park Drive, Brendale. Have officially entered Pine Rivers. Bastard bastarding hills. Rolling hills you don't even notice in a car. Bastards. Right thigh starting to ache. Blister forming on left foot little toe.

2:21pm - Cnr Lavarack Rd and Samsonvale Rd, Bray Park. Blisters are now becoming painful. Need to stop and protect my feet. Feeling slightly heat distressed for the first time. I have decided to stop and sit under a tree and replaster my feet and change socks. I will have a short break and then push on. All this time will have to be made up later. Want to walk to my parent's house nearby and rest there but I doubt I would leave again.

*In 4 hours I had walked approximately 26 km. I seemed to be making good time. It occured to me during the break that a marathon is 42.2km. I started wondering if I could make it that far. I also had a profound respect for people that run that distance in 2.5 hours!*

Set out again at 2:50pm

3:50pm - Cnr of Yebri St and Anzac Ave, Petrie (Ruth Whitfield Memorial Park). Right Hip starting to hurt. Feet not so bad. Lunch break did wonders. Had a sneaky pee behind a tree in Ms Whitfield's Park. Very yellow. Must drink more water. First time I have ever done that in my adult life... I am an anarchist.

4:50pm - Cnr Bray Rd and Anzac Ave, Kallangur. I hate Anzac Ave. Long long long looooooong road. Everything below the waist starting to complain. I officially name this trek Death March 2009.

5:52pm - Cnr Deception Bay Rd and Anzac Ave, REDCLIFFE!!! Officially have entered Redcliffe. Officially still on Anzac Ave. Officially f*cking angry at the non-ending bastard road Anzac Ave. Screw you Anzac Ave and your endless f*cking length. Was momentarily happy when I saw the Welcome to Redcliffe sign but then happiness was replaced with fear as I was swarmed by a billion hungry mosquitos that breed in the feted swamp that is Redcliffe. THIS IS WHY THE ORIGINAL COLONISTS LEFT THIS SHITE-HOLE FOR BRISBANE. I had to run from the swarm. hobble painfully... whatever. slight tunnel vision. thirsty.

16:50pm *I think I meant 6:50 or 18:50.. Mr Brain was not happy by this time* Klingner Rd across from Macfarlane Park, Redcliffe. Death March 2009 over. Limping heavily, right foot very sore inside the foot. tunnel vision worse, all water gone. GC is coming to pick me up and bringing water. Sore right arm for some reason. Yelled at by twice by passing cars on the final stretch. Huzzah for Redcliffe. You win the Bogan Prize.


When GirlClumsy arrived she told me that I looked like a injured dog as I limped to the car. She reset the travel odometer in the car and traced my route in reverse. In eight hours I had walked 40km exactly. For accuracy sake I am going to say that is 40 km (plus or minus 0.5 km). I was very annoyed that I had not gone the full marathon. GirlClumsy was very amused how annoyed I was at myself for not making it to 42.2km.

I had proved very nicely the 5km average walking speed. My speed for the first half of the walk was just under 6 km an hour and then it decreased to its lowest point of 4.5 km per hour at the end.

So, what have I learned from all this madness? 40km is a long way to walk. My heavy boots, though excellent, might have been a little too heavy for this. I get angry when I get tired. When I get angry I don't feel pain and I speed up. Unlike my trek through the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco in 2006 this didn't push me to the limits of my endurance. It was painful but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I also saw why population centres are where they are. They are all separated by the distance that a person could walk or ride in under a day. It seems pretty damn obvious when you walk the distance and not just fly by in a car.

Most importantly I learned that I am fitter than I thought I was but not as fit as I would like to be.

Am I glad I did Death March 2009? - Yes. I am happy I could plan it, implement and have the guts and testicular fortitude to finish what I started.

Will I be doing Death Mark 2010? - HELL, NO!

*Death March 2009 - Aftermath* Today I awoke and the limping has gone from bad to worse. My right foot is very sore inside. I suspect I have pulled a muscle in my foot. My right hip is extremely sore. When I try to stand straight it feels like my right leg is about 5 cm taller then my left. It must be from the swelling. Neurofen and my own mutant healing factor will fix it right up lickity-split. Muscles in the legs feel fine. Very deep blister on my right foot at the back. Right elbow is sore for no apparent reason. In fact, the right hand side of my body seems to have taken the brunt of the damage. So much for the left hand side being the sinister side. I have the oddest chaff marks right across my body from my clothes. They are numerous but not in the places you would think you would have them*


Girl Clumsy said...

He really did say:

"I'm going for a walk. I may be some time."

A wonderful write-up too, if I may say so. My reaction on seeing him limp towards the car on Klinger Road at Redcliffe was to yelp, put my hand over my mouth and say "Oh no!".

But he is The Wah; he shall recover.

To the next crazy scheme!

Anonymous said...

this is a truly great trek, and a wonderful write up! congratulations! I very much like the minutiae: that you list the paper, with a pencil, and also that you detail the Pee Behind a Tree.

I like your hypothesis, too.
The distance from my Ma's ancestral lair to "town", Rockhampton, is an almost perfect half-marathon. Perhaps the horrific humidity caused them to halve the distance. It would certainly minimise chafing!

Nautilus said...

Fantastic effort, especially considering it was for no particular reason and with no-one else to help motivate you.

As someone who has travelled that kind of distance on foot a couple of times, here are some tips (because I reckon you will do it again):

1. Always wear runners you have worn in unless the terrain absolutely demands you wear boots.

2. Travel light, fluids and high energy food only. As light and comfortable clothing as the weather allows.

3. Start slow and build up pace.

Congrats, 40km is always going to seem shorter now.

vivaoisin said...

I recently missed the last train home and didn't know where to find the bus. But it was only a 20 minute train ride, I knew the direction, and at 1am I set off home without any supplies. 20 minutes later it started raining. An hour later it started pissing down. I walked through death traps and junk yards and past 40 industrial-site prostitutes, climbed muddy banks and ran across 3 highways. It took 5 and a half hours to get home (just in time for the first train, btw). I would do it again.

I liked your story.

Ben said...

This makes my drunken stumblings home from the Valley alllllll the way to Lutwyche on a Friday night seem small and insignificant. And of course they are.

You should have headed south... it's down hill.

Casey said...

much respect

Toroid Star said...

Not withstanding injury, no doubt in my mind you were going to finish the journey.
Hope the mutant healing factors have kicked in.
Ya done good Wah.

The Wah said...

Don't praise this foolishness!

It will lead to more foolishness.

I am still trying to convince GC that crossing the Nullabor is a good idea. Not by foot, by car.

My family did it when I was about 3 but I don't remember.

It would be interesting to start the journey at the Pacific Ocean and end it at the Indian Ocean.

Anonymous said...

*blinks* Wow.

I once walked 3 hours home, but that is just epic. Well done!

Sleepydumpling said...

I know what sound you made at the end of your journey...


I too like to walk. I am an ambler though, rather than a strider. I pop the ipod on, and amble all around the neighbourhood, either mesmerised by the music, or off in my own thoughts. It's nice.

But not when it's hot. Or wet. And no striding, I have short legs.

Sleepydumpling said...

However, I did walk from the Normanby to Bracken Ridge once. I was drunk when I started.

In the same state, I also walked from Kedron pub to Brighton.

Actually both times I was hitchhiking with a large Canadian, but no-one would pick us up.

The Ancient Man said...

And as we all know an army marches on it's stomach which must make it very difficult for them...
Have you ever considered...
maybe rolling from a point A to a point B ???? or walking backwards
The Goons did it, or, at least, they sang about it
The possibilities are endless
Well Done indeed
but next time you want to get somewhere just ring

Anonymous said...

voltaren. Strongest OTC anti-inflammatory.

uamada said...

Fantastic trek - 40km - i too am a random walker - my last big one was 5+ hours. Red hill up to past brisbane forest park and back. I was just going to take DVD's back. I tend to do my walks as circuits, so i can make it home on my own. You cheated by getting help at the end :-) What naut said about the shoes is right light shoes for road work.
40km thats fantastic

Crazy Cat Lady said...

Well done... tis a pity you didn't quite make it to the big green house, which is still green by the way. I drove past it. :)

I too am more of the ambler, I love "discovering" what I don't see when I drive, the best way to learn about a place in my opinion.

Jenny Wynter said...

Wow, epic indeed. And sober! And VOLUNTARY!!!

I am inspired, actually.