Monday, 27 June 2011

The ITEX Walk 2011- in Sarah's Words

Firstly, a 1am wake up call for a 3am start was the earliest I have been up for anything and even with a week of ‘acclimatising’ to early nights and early mornings I still managed very little sleep the night before through nerves, excitement and the fear of sleeping through the alarm.

It’s worth to mention here that I had planned the ITEX walk similar to a military mission, everything had been packed 2 days in advance, sandwiches made the day before, bedtimes adjusted to make sure we got maximum sleep, so when we arrived at the car park that morning and realised we had left the sandwiches in the fridge, which involved a ten minute drive home, another back and a late arrival at the start line, meaning we set off at the back- panic set in and for the first 2 hours my sole concentration was not to be last into the check point- not the best start!

It was an amazing sight though in the dead of night, under the streetlights with a fine mist of rain, watching 1200 walkers set off around Elizabeth Harbour and I tried as much as possible to take it in and remember moments.

The first few hours were fairly unmemorable, a few people, crazy enough to be up at 4am, waved from their gateways then there was the 2 guys in deckchairs, who very obviously hadn’t been to bed yet giving out Alpen Bars and bottles of water at about the 7 mile mark- a little light relief after the initial adrenalin had worn off.

Breakfast was a bit of a nightmare and we wasted nearly half an hour strapping up my feet again and trying to work out which was the breakfast queue and which was the check out queue. Eventually we gave up on breakfast, deciding to have one of our sandwiches… that were still in the rucksack with my walking poles that were now well on the way to the next check point in the back of a truck- aaargh!!!

A bacon roll and coffee at St Catherines CafĂ©, made up for the missed stop at Jersey Potteries and we were onto the “North Coast”. This is one of the toughest sections of the walk- nearly 20 miles of cliff paths, lots of ups and downs and steps which are a killer on the joints! It’s also one of the most beautiful sections, although to be honest the most I saw was the tip of my boots plodding one foot in front of the other!

At the half way point of the walk, was a great stop supported by the Freedom Church. A cheer and Mexican wave welcomed us to the La Fontaines check point and we were soon in a marquee with cupcakes, tea and coffee in abundance. Feeling refreshed we were on our way again, 3 miles on at the next stop the treat was ice-lollies and seeing as I’d burned about 6000 calories at this point it was great to eat guilt free!

Unfortunately the eating soon came to a stop as I reached a personal mileage goal of 26 miles, my left hip and knee decided it wanted to go no further… however determination and fantastic support from my husband had other plans. Breaking my walking stick, by continually getting it stuck down rabbit holes at about the 28 mile point, didn’t help matters physically or physiologically, but I was determined to get to at least Grosnez at mile 30 and the end of the North Coast.

At Grosnez a quick sit down, banana and carton of orange juice gave me the fuel needed to get back up out of the chair and head to La Braye, 5.32 miles further along. We had been getting soaked with heavy rain showers, before boiled with hot sun all day, but now we faced our worse weather yet- wind, from the side and with gusts up to 50mph- literally strong enough to hold Ben up when he lent into it and to knock me sideways off my feet! 

Previous walkers had warned of the feeling of standing at the top of L’Etacq and seeing the 5 mile stretch of beach ahead- enough to make many walkers give up. I gave into the temptation of looking but when I could resist no longer and feeling of dread filled me so my head went down once more and I concentrated on my next stop- getting to the loo near Jersey Pearl- yep that was as bad as it got when ‘treats’ became toilet stops as I could no longer face eating anything other than raisins!!! The toilet stop, nearly became the last stop when I feel asleep sitting down, but thank fully revived myself and swallowed an energy shot to keep my eyes open.

Reaching La Braye the temptation to quit was strong, but I now knew that with only 13 miles to go and many of them flat, I couldn’t give in here, I’d got this far in pain with my hip and a whole load of painkillers to try and numb it, so another banana, some more juice and another top up on water and we were on our way with more of a tail wind now.

By this point, I had started a little routine which involved tears, tantrums and check points. As I hot a check point my mood would be buoyed, I’d feel ok and decide to carry on, as we left the check point I would suddenly feel tired and in pain and the tears would fall, as we settled into a rhythm I would feel blank, no feelings just one foot in front of the other, in the last miles or so before the check point the tears would pour, I would utter ‘I can’t do this, this is the last check point’ and Ben would assure me I could keep going and then I would be filled with determination that I had to reach the finish line, then reaching the check point it would start again. This routine occasionally changed with the middle 2 bits being repeated more than once if there was a hill (up or down) or other ‘obstacle’ in the section or if it was a particularly long one or during the last 2 sections when I was literally running on empty and blistered feet.

At the 3 mile mark, encouragement from colleagues gave the final push and when I realised we had slowed to less than 2 mph along the sea front and the finish line we could see was not getting any closer, the thought of being able to stop walking the quicker I got there gave me the push to step it up and get on with it.

We finished at 9.45pm, in the dark, as we had left. On seeing the finish line I could not control the tears any more and I literally sobbed my way across the line. I’d love to say there was an amazing feeling of elation, of achievement and I suddenly got a second wind to make it back to the car, but I can’t. I creid to the tea stall, sat down, cried on the phone to my mum, nearly passed out while Ben went a picked up the car, cried when I took my boots off and saw blood on my toe nail, then shivered my way home to a hot bath.

3 days on, the aches and pains are subsiding, the toe nails are still (for now) hanging on and that feeling I expected at the finish line has finally been felt.

Of the 1200 walkers that started that miserable rainy morning, only 677 completed it and I’m pleased to say that me and Ben were 2 of them. Some people run it in 8 hours, others do it as a ‘fun’ day out, but I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I have done in my life so far.

As we were walking around one of the things that got me to the finish line was that I never wanted to do the walk again, on Sunday I pleaded with Ben to remind me of the pain I was in should I ever think about doing it again, but now as I’m slowly starting to walk properly again and my blisters are healing I’m already excited about taking on the challenge next year of beating the thing in 15 hours!

So here are my stats as of the Monday after the walk:

48.1 miles
18 hours 45 minutes
Average heart rate: 147
Max heart rate: 179
Calories burned: 11302
Blisters: 2 (they just cover the entire feet)
Cut fingers: 1 (from a staple on a packet of sweets from Finland- it was the most I bled on the whole walk!)
Knees working properly: 0
Toenails I’m about to lose: at least 1 big one and maybe a few more

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

ITEX tips from a good friend and a funny read!!!

With only a few days to go until the ITEX walk Jersey we thought we’d share some walking and training guidance from one of our good friends Keith Ponter. Even if you’re not planning on doing the ITEX or any long distance walking, it’s still a great read and one we often read through just for a good giggle… Just note, while we tried to stick roughly to the training we never did hit 16 miles in 4 hours so I think it might be taking us a little bit longer than Keith managed it in 1999 and 2000!

The Itex Walk

Annual charity event been running about 15 (?) years and raises some £ 100k plus for charity every year.

Average number of walkers is now 1,500 and statistics show about 1/3 complete the whole thing.

Its not a timed event or a competition. You can bin it when you want to, just tell the head shed between check points by mobile you have withdrawn. No shame, its tough.

You can use it as a personal challenge if you want or a fun day out.

My track record (see 45 page disclaimer below).

1997 – 29 miles binned it at Grosnez with chronic lactic acid legs & blisters despite being ‘fit’ and doing triathlon training at the time (does not involve walking !)

1998 – 36 miles – binned it at La Pulente after being tempted by a ’99 with 2 flakes (calorie deficit) and heatwave  35 degrees. Not mentally strong enough and was too slow to avoid the harsh mid-day heat at that point ( was 10 hours in ). That was a bad day, there was this (mirage) woman in an ice cream van, middle of the beach, saying ‘ wud ya like flake in that luv ?  

Seriously, I helped a guy in who had lost it on the bay with first to second stage de-hydration. He was in shit state, mumbling and weaving like a drunk. They sat him in the shade, poured warm water and boiled sweets down him. After 15 he was o.k. By then I had taken up the offer of a free 99 from a six foot white rabbit called Harvey and binned it. Nothing like looking good in the Oakleys with an ice-cream and personal pouka.!

1999 – finished in 13 hours – hard going but had only just actually trained in year 3 by walking rather than relying on running & cycling achievements. Had a good partner, a former DS in the job here. We trained it out by walking and nailed it together. He got in before me because he ‘had’ to run the last five miles – he simply could not walk any further because of muscle pain and I could not run because of bad calf cramps– forgot to chuck down the dioralyte like a man possessed until Grosnez. How stupid was I.

2000 –  Decided to really beat the thing. Did over 150 miles walking training over the ground (cliff paths) from February, load carrying between 35lbs and 80lbs ( 2 walks 120 lbs before tapering off). No blisters, no pain, came in joint 7th.  The only people in front of us were those who had run it (Jo Blackistone, Johnny Searson who started with us but got bored because we were too slow for him ! so what was new….)

2005 – got to Wolfs’ Caves with Sophie P. (21 miles). Retired because we were creamed and it was very hot.

2006 – Got to Fliquet  (11 miles) retired because of serious pain from back injury 2005.

2007 – Sophie P. got to Grosnez (29.4 miles like me in year 1 ten years ago) with her friends. Me popping up here and there shouting fatherly encouragement from the sidelines !


Walk, walk and walk, if you can with a weighted pack. Do miles over the hardest terrain on the north coast for fitness but you have to beat the boring flats bits as well.

You have to cover the whole course during training and beat it mentally. Most people worry about feet and blisters, that’s the least of it. Best way is to do a section backwards and forwards i.e. a 16 miler is from Elizabeth Terminal to Longbeach and back. Flat and boring but you will beat it mentally. Timing 4 hours return. On the day you only have to do it one way ! Half as easy.

Here’s the training schedule I used in 2000 – aim to average 4 mph even over the hills so that’s quicker (run/walk) on the flat and downs and slower up the hills. The whole walk is 48 miles so if you aim for 12 hours completion in training you will be in the ballpark. If you go too slow it kills you mentally and physically and, if it gets hot, you want to be at La Pulente (36 miles) by 12  or Latest. The heat can be a killer.

Week 1 – Walk from Elizabeth Terminal to Longbeach and back (16 miles/ 4 hrs)

Week 2 – Walk from Longbeach to Bouley Bay and Back (16 miles but tougher / 4.25hrs)

Week 3 – Walk from Bouley Bay to Devils Hole and back – Weep and ask yourselves why ! (Only 16 miles but harder – 4.25hrs)

Week 4 – Walk from the Devils Hole to Grosnez and Back – not so bad – there’s a pint at the end of it !. (Only 16 miles -4hrs)

Week 5 – Consolidation – walk from St. Catherines to Wolfs Caves and Back (18 miles- 4.5hrs ) weep again.

Week 6 –  The ‘fan dance’ benchmark. Walk from Greve De Lecq to White Rock and back (26 miles – try and do it in 6 hours – push it hard – tab the hills and run the down sections). Sleep for a week.

Week 7 – Walk from Grosnez to Beauport and back. Attack this one hard and try and beat it. Walk in the park by now, only 16 miles- 4hrs !

Week 8 – Walk from Beauport to Elizabeth Terminal and back (about 14miles) but a good combination of flat and hills - 3.5hrs max.

Then you have done it all the hard way.

After that do the following - you need 2 cars now so rope in some friends, drop off at one point and drive to start so you can be driven back at the end- one way trips in the direction you will be going on the day covering the ground.

Week 9 Elizabeth Terminal to White Rock (13 miles)
Week 10 White Rock to Greve de Lecq  (13 Miles)
Week 11 Greve De Lecq to Beauport (14 miles)
Week 12 Beauport to Elizabeth Terminal ( 8 miles)

Total 48 miles.

You just need to give up Sunday mornings and get up early starting training in Feburary
If you start walking at  07.00 the latest you should be finished even on the long drags is by 13.00.


Good walking boots, worn in ( not trainers or flip flops and a denim pencil skirt – yes I have seen that….he was ugly too)
Thin inner sock.
Thick outer sock.

If you want to harden your feet, cover with surgical sprirt every morning and evening.
When doing a training walk put sand in your inner socks.
Never take your boots off during a long walk – your feet will swell, blisters enlarge and you are in a world of un-necessary pain. Sweat does not cause blisters – soft skin and bad or fresh footware does.

On the day of the walk cover your feet with Friars Balsam , let it dry and strap your feet up with zinc oxide tape on vulnerable areas, toes, heels and balls of feet. Test this out on a later training walk – see if it works for you.

Hydration & diet are PARAMOUNT but hydration is VITAL otherwise you will go down.

During training – loads of pasta and high carb stuff.
Eat loads of fresh food in the week before the walk- fruit, raw veg & tons of bananas (potassium build) as well as your usual carb loading.
Carry water, dioralite sachets, ibuprofen, ‘Progold” or equivalent glycogen replacement fluid in quantity.

The check points have as much water as you can drink, juices and crisps. I advise against eating in the early stages (beware of the satanic bacon rolls – they will tempt you !) because digestion pulls blood from your body, slows you  down and you can get cramps. Treat yourself with a mars bar when you reach Beauport. The sugar will kick you the last few miles home !

You do not want see-sawing blood sugar levels when you  are walking – the glycogen replacement powder you choose should control that and give you even input.

Travel light-  bum bag , sunglasses, sun hat, body waterproof, emergency thermal body wrap and mobile. Don’t take bags, it’s a pain and sorting that shit out at check points  kills your timings. Hit a check point, book in, book out and move on .Go out there and finish it. Rubbing your feet at check points will get you nowhere apart from sorry city and add a couple of hours to your timings. Your choice. I had kitkat and sit down at Big Vern’s in year 3 and suffered for it!

Above all else enjoy it!

The ‘advice’ is unsolicited and not to be relied on. The author accepts no responsibility for his own or the sanity of those that take any notice of it. Anyone who does the walk has to be barking anyway woof woof ! The basis is my own experiences of re-learning the hard way what I was taught 25 years ago by people who could eat 48 miles for breakfast carrying their own body weight. Temps well passĂ© !

The hardest part for me has always been, and will always be, getting up before the rest is easy (yar !)

They will give you a certificate (sorefeeticate) for your efforts.

Rgds K

Monday, 13 June 2011

Instead of sitting at my desk I’d rather be… Cycling from John O’Groats to Land’s end

Last year this time I was on the biggest journey of life to date!  I had entered, trained and started cycling the infamous JOGLE as part of the inaugural Deloitte RideAcross Britain.

I remember all the highs – and lows – of training, firstly with Sarah, then on my own and sometimes with a training partner from Jersey doing the same ride.

Then the big day came!  I remember standing at the JOG sign at the most North Easterly tip of Britain in the wind and rain, assembling my bike, signing in to the campsite, listening to my first talk by the organisers and James Cracknell.

Cycling down through the Scottish Highlands, past the Lochs, through the boarders, the Lake District, Wales, and finally through the South West to Land’s End, I will never forget the beautiful sites and scenery I witnessed.  People ask where in the world they should go to experience such beauty and I think most times I surprise them by saying: “Right here in Britain!”  Also the lows of the ride… some days 12 hours in the saddle, saddle sores, heatstroke forcing me to stop halfway through a stage missing out on about 60 miles, and getting back up the next morning to face Kirkstone pass in the lake district 2 miles into the next stage.

Then finally the feeling of seeing the last finish line at Land’s End with hundreds of people cheering, you finally realise your achievement of cycling the whole length of the country.

I would not swop the experience for anything in the world and I would give anything to do it again!

Yes, instead of sitting at my desk I’d rather be cycling John O’Groats to Land’s End…

Read more about my Ride Across Britain at

Monday, 6 June 2011

Instead of Sitting at my Desk I'd Rather Be... Climbing Kilimanjaro.

Since watching the celebrities moan, whinge and ponce their way up Kilimanjaro it’s been a dream to follow in their footsteps (with notably less whinging and poncing!) and summit the highest free standing mountain in the World and in Africa. We had booked for this summer, but circumstances meant a change of plan, maybe for the best it will give us more time to train and improve our chances of standing on the Roof of Africa. 

I have watched every You Tube clip I can find, read as many accounts of the climb I can find on the internet and imagined what it would be like to climb from the sub-tropical foot hills to the arctic summit.

I have researched which route to take, the affects of altitude sickness and the importance of porter welfare. I have downloaded kit lists and studied articles discussing the best hiking boots, the best jackets and the best companies to travel with. (Exodus is our number 1 choice with the Rongai route!)

As I sit here at my desk, I type a raffle prize for a lucky person going to trek the mountain this year and I feel a longing to go. I would love to feel the humidity of the ‘jungle’ on day one, to see the barren moor land of the saddle, spend a night at Mawenzi Tarn. What would it be like on summit night at Kibo camp, knowing that with only a few hours sleep there’s 18 hours of hard walking, the first hours of which are in the dark by headlamp, or by the light of a full moon?

I imagine watching the sunrise over Africa from Gilman’s Point and the final few hours around the crater, surrounded by ever dwindling icecap on the Equator, to the true summit, Uhuru. Imagine seeing that famous sign on the summit, the feeling of joy and elation of making it, the view above the clouds and the porters singing the ‘Kilimanjaro’ song.

Of wearily heading back down, ‘skiing’ the scree slopes and looking forward to a cold Tusker beer or ice cold Coke on the descent and of returning to the hotel for the first shower in 6 days and a dip in the hotel pool.

So as I sit here at my desk, I wish I could be there on the slopes of Kilimanjaro and who knows, maybe one day I will…

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Our Next Adventure...Scotland!

After Finland we said we had a few things planned for this year. Next up is the ITEX Walk challenge, but this is a challenge not particularly an adventure!

In July I (Sarah) turns 30 and while I’m looking forward to a party I wanted to do something different as well. Our initial plans were Kilimanjaro, but a few issues mean that is no longer happening (just yet anyway… but watch this space!) So, still keen to get out walking we’re heading north to Scotland for a few days on West Highland Trail, a trek up Ben Nevis and some Ice Climbing (plus whatever else we can squeeze into our time there!)

The trip will start with 2 days indoor climbing at The Leeds Wall. Having done a taster session here last year we were really hooked on climbing and have been looking forward to doing more since (it’s just really expensive in Jersey!) so we’ll learn so more techniques and get a step closer to being able to climb by ourselves!

After a party on the Saturday afternoon, it’s going to be an early-ish start on the Sunday to catch the coach from Manchester to Glasgow. We got a great deal through Megabus- £6.60 one way (compared to £80+ with other coach and train operators!) and a night in a Premier Inn.

Monday morning is another early start- the 7am coach to the Bridge of Orchy, where we have chosen to start our walk from. We would have loved to do the entire West Highland Way, but with limited holiday time we decided that we’d do the last section and have a few days in Fort William. We both saw the trail last year when Ben was doing the Ride Across Britain (Ben from his bike and me from the car) I instantly decided it was something I wanted to do, and with more time permitting another time, I’m sure we’ll go back to complete the entire Way.

So day one is Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse, where we are going to spend the night at the Kingshouse Hotel. We’re looking forward to hopefully seeing the deer early the next morning that come for breakfast at the hotel. It seems to be a fairly flat part of the walk and should be easy going, although we are crossing the wild and remote Rannoch Moor, so we’re hoping for some ok weather for the first day!

Day two, will start with a (hopefully!) good breakfast at the hotel, then we will be out of the door as early as possible for the next part to Kinlochleven. Again, it looks fairly easy going apart from the Devils Staircase at Glencoe. The scenery around Glencoe left us absolutely speechless last year when we visited and we can’t wait to get among the mountains again!

Beautiful Loch Linnhe

We’re spending the night in the cabins at the Macdonald Hotel. They are basically garden sheds or adult sized play houses with bunks to sleep 4, a heater and a veranda ideal for cooking dinner! Set in the valley at the end of Loch Leven, it is a fabulous setting but with stagnant water also a haven for the famous Scottish Midges- this time we’re going to be prepared!!!

Day three of the walk is a steep ascent out of the valley and along the forest paths to the end of the walk and Glen Nevis where we are staying at the Achintee Farm Hostel and looking forward to a pint across the road at the Ben Nevis Inn!

We’ve elected a rest day (although we may be tempted by rock climbing or possibly a train trip to the beautiful West Coast) before tackling Ben Nevis. We’ve opted for a guide, even though we are taking the tourist route, as although we have spent plenty of time snowboarding in the mountains, we have been warned the summit can be fairly dangerous in bad weather. Also, it will be great to hear local knowledge and information, so hopefully we will confirm details of our guide soon.

Our last day in Fort William we have booked an ice climbing session in the morning at the Ice Factor. We both loved the experience in Finland and are hoping to refine our climbing skills with a private session!

The last two days are going to be camping just north of Stirling at Comrie Croft with my parents. The place looks beautiful and I’m looking forward to heading out on mountain bikes along the trails.

Our flight home has been made fantastically easier (and cheaper) by a new route from Glasgow to Jersey with Easyjet. We’ll even be back in time to do half a day at work, giving more time for the next holiday!

We will be blogging as much as possible, every evening time and Wi-fi/ 3G permitting as well as Tweeting as we go. We’re also hoping to have a GPS tracker so you can