The name of the post refers to the unofficial Wilderness Classic motto “We all should know better than to do this race” which I quoted several times towards the end of “Kaksnelonen” a 24-hour walking challenge that I did during the last Thursday and Friday. Here are some thoughts along the 105 kilometers I walked.
.. For years I have traveled in coldness,
But my heart is warm as the darkened sun above me…
Nothing can ever take away
What I’ve seen with these tired eyes
Face of the weeping night
And the shade of the fading light
The dawn will never rise again for my eyes
And I will never sleep again
– Beyond the Dark Sun (Wintersun/Jari Mäenpää, 2004)
The 105 kilometer quartet: J, T, K and me. Tired & happy.
Incredibly psyched! Huge amounts of energy. Went to gym and did a personal pench press record. Sauna and swim in the lake helped and I managed to sleep after packing up the kit.
Tired in the morning. The energy of the evening is only a memory. But the mind is determined. Breakfast and time to go.
News on the radio tell that Thursday is a national failure day. That doesn’t apply for us. We are about to walk.
The supply point at Suomu information centre. Ready to go. Start at 11:15 am. Walking very fast without poles. Maybe too fast? Me and Big T ease up the pace a bit and let J, T and K go ahead. Good going. 2 hour and 45 minute lap. 15 minute break. No hash or coffee yet at the supply point. No need so no problem.
Walking with poles. The poles help a lot. Walking the lap to the other direction to get some variation. Good walking with reasonable pace. Another 2 hour and 45 minute lap followed with 15 minute break.
Chatting and walking. Wind driven rain showers. It’s getting dark and Big T didn’t have his headlamp with him so we finish the lap in dark with only one head lamp. beautiful full moon and stars above the lake. Legs are getting tired after walking 45km in less than 9 hours. Longer break needed. We agree to have 30 minute break and end up spending a 50 minutes with legs leaning to the wall. Shit! Time to walk some more.
It’s dark but we have headlamps and the trail is already familiar. Careless step and I got my left shoe wet. Big T is listening to music and I try to keep my thoughts together while not having anyone to chat with. Hard. Should I also start listening mp3s? An old knee injury strikes and that’s it! Shit! No more walking for Big T. I walk alone the last 4km of the lap. Huge energy boost from walking alone but feeling tired at the supply point. I ask J, T and K to wait for a while and have a bit longer break. I eat and do some stretching in the warm tent before joining them. This is now the longest distance I’ve ever walked in one day.
J, T and K have a lot faster pace. We run the duckboards and walk on the trail. It’s Hard to keep up but it’s the only chance to make enough kilometers. Dark. Mentally pushing myself to keep up the pace. It’s snowing. My legs feel like they are made of wood. We decide to have a longer break. 40 minutes break. K is missing when we are leaving and we decide to go without her as the seven hours left is not too much. This is now the longest distance I’ve ever covered under my own steam in one day.
K soon catches up with us. After the first 4km of the lap we have some six hours left. A short motivation speak. Incredible speed. J leads the way, probably way over 6km/h. We have such strenght within if we just dig deep enough. Dawn. Time to turn of the head lamps. Really tired towards the end. I ask for a one minute break to sleep on the trail side. And then we continue over the last bridge. We made a 2 hours 47 minutes lap! Only time for a short break: some food, some stretching and it’s time to go.
The final lap. Tired and hurting but determined. Another 60 seconds of sleep on the trail side. J is leading the way until a blister in his feet bursts and it’s time to stop for a while. Sleep! Several minutes of sleep! J is patched up and it’s time to continue. Sun is rising and there are people fishing on the lake. We must be a comical sight limping on the trail. I’m leading the way. Everything feels really slow and hard but according the watch we are making decent time. The last three kilometers are very long. My feet hurt. So does everyone else’s feet. A lot of time to think “What the hell?” and “Why?” No answers. We wobble forwards and reach the goal around 10:40 am. A never-ending three hours lap has ended. No need to go further. This is enough.
Packing up. Feeling beaten but good. A beer in the car and falling asleep. That was it.
A shover at school. An hour of sleep and then packing up in torpor. Sitting in car. A hamburger meal. I don’t have to stay awake so I fall asleep.
The 24 hours were pretty close to what I anticipated. The first 45 km were easy and good going. When it got dark and the body started to get tired it became more challenging. We planned to walk an average of 3 hour laps and have 15 minutes breaks in between but laps ended up being a bit faster and breaks being a lot longer. I knew it would hurt and that I’d get tired but I was also quite sure that I would make it. In the beginning I gave myself an 80% chance of walking the 105km. The 20% was the possibility for injury that would stop me or slow me down. Luckily there were no injuries and I was able to pull it through. The most surprising thing was that we were able to walk the two last laps so fast despite being so tired. It was also surprising how slowly the time passed towards t he end despite the kilometeres passing by. And it was suprising that the last three kilometers felt so terrible. I thought it would have been a “victory march” to the finish line knowing that it all would end, but it wasn’t.
But what the hell did I do and why? As I wrote above, there were no answers. I didn’t get enlightened. Now few days after the walk I’m still not sure. Of coure there was the aspect of shoving of to others and myself, the aspect of learning things about my body and mind and so on. But I’m not still sure what I actually accomplished and why I did it. Maybe it just needs mroe time or there is no need for the answers. Isn’t a walk always worth it?
Me in my walking gear after the 105km. Gear performed well.
As I hadn’t done anything similar before, I decided to play it safe and had a huge pack of clothes and another huge sack full of shoes (six pairs from rubber boots to Crocs) for the Kaksnelonen but I didn’t use most of it. I ended up using mostly the kit in the picture above. The temperature was around 0C, there was occasionally moderate wind and rain showers during the first day and even some snow during the night.
I walked all the way in My La Sportiva Wildcat trail runners with Inov8 Debris gaiters. The combination was again superb! I used two pairs of socks (Inov8 Prosocks and Bridgendale Endurance Trekkers) chancing them after the first 45km. It might have been a good idea to chance the socks a bit more often but I don’t think it would have made any difference. I even got my left feet wet once stepping into a bog but this didn’t cause any problems. I had Icebreaker merino briefs, Haglöfs Intense series thighs and shirt, Montane Featherlight pants, a cheapo windshirt and fleece gloves. The cheapo windshirt isn’t too breathable because of some kind of coating so I think I’ll need to buy a proper windshirt. For headwear I had a Haglöfs box cap and two Buffs that I used in the beginning of each lap before warming up. And because of past injuries I was wearing neoprene knee braces on both legs. I wore this kit all the time except for the first 15km lap while I was wearing powerstretch fleece instead of windshirt but it was way too warm. On breaks I wore a thick flurry fleece jacket on top of everything. Any down or puffy jacket would have done the same trick. Also a warm trousers (easy to put on and take off with shoes) might have been good addition for breaks.
I carried an Osprey Talon 33 pack all the time loaded with water bottle or two (0,7L sports style bottles), two chocolate bars, few energy gels, small first aid kit, mp3 player, phone, watch and some spare clothing (first a shell jacket and later on the powerstretch fleece). The pack was a total overkill for the load but it was the best one I had. I have a Terra Nova Laser 20 in order but it didn’t make it in time. And after the first lap I started to use walking poles which made a huge difference. I think that without the pole I wouldn’t have made the 105km.
I had a lot of food (15000+kcal) for the walk but naturally I ate only small part of it.
I had also huge amount of food with me. The basic idea was that I can have whatever I’ll be craving for during the walk. The plan was to consume two chocolate bars, 0,7 liters of sports drink and maybe a flapjack on every lap while walking. This worked quite well for the first five laps. On the two first laps I ate the chocolate bars and flapjacks with sports drink, then only the chocolate bars with sports drink and on the last two laps I was quite sick of the “processed” stuff and ate only one chocolate bar but several slices of rye bread and drank water instead of the sports drink. On breaks I ate a banana and drank 0,5 liters of chocolate milk, just as planned. In addition I ate few apples, some bread and small portion of hash provided by the school. This all went quite according to the plan which was to eat a lot on the first half to keep energy levels up and then towards the end eat only as much as felt good.
To keep myself awake I had some caffeined energy drink and “Rooster boosters” that contain caffeine and probably every legal additive and stimulant that can be sold in grocery stores in Finland. The stuff tasted terrible but gave a significant energy boost for 90 minutes or so after drinking it. The package advises using only one sachet per day. I used five during the latter half of the walk and didn’t notice any problems expect that the last one didn’t help too much.
One of the damages. A typical blister for me, caused by the partially missing toe nail.
Walking over 100 km in 24 hours without training inevitably causes some damage to the body. I think that I got away with relatively little damage:
– A painful blister in my pinky toe. It is quite typical problem for me because of the partially missing toe nail. The blister developed around 45km and kept slowly growing towards the end.
– Blisters in both heels. These are not typical for me and I think they were caused by the edge of insoles because of the feet swelling a lot towards the end of the walk. Removing insoles around the 45km might have helped. Also pre-emptive taping might have been a good idea.
– Varying degrees of pain on the soles of feet. I think this is inevitable if you don’t have very well conditioned feet. Just suck it up and enjoy the walk. The pain eased out about two days after the walk.
– Some pain in the knees but not too much.
– Some pain in lower back starting after the first 30km but it soothened away with 600 mg of ibuprofen taken after 75km.
– Some chafing in groin, buttocks and armpits but this I noticed only after the walk so it didn’t bother me while walking.
Now about two days after finishing the Kaknelonen I’m feeling good enough to enjoy a short walk. I’m still quite tired despite sleeping a lot. The blisters are still a bit sore and muscles in the legs feel stiff but it seems that I got away with minimal damage taking into account that I really didn’t do any training or conditioning for this. I’ve done occasional long day-walk every year and of course several longer hikes every year but the daily mileage has always been very modest in comparison. I didn’t even do any long training runs or walks during this autumn, only short 20 minute morning runs, some orienteering and some weight training at the gym.
I mention this because I believe that anyone who is relatively fit, doesn’t have any bad chronic injuries and has the mental edge required can walk over 100km in one day. And I highly recommend you trying! I’m not sure why one should do things like this but maybe you find your reason on the way if you give it a chance.
The Kaksnelonen is open also for graduated guide students of the school but I think I’ve had enough at for a few years… Or how the hell should I know as “we all should know better…”