Beyond the Bonk

Excited to share a guest post by one of my hiking besties, Cheryl aka Impossible Turtle …

We’ve all been there: You’re partway through your day on the trail and you find yourself checking your watch (or phone or AllTrails or Ken – aka Cairn) to see how many kilometres you have left. And it never seems like the “right” number. Then it slowly hits you, that realization that no one wants on a hike: You fell out of love with this sh*t five or six km back.

Dammit. This, my friends, is the wall. The bonk. The “why am I even out here” moment. And it sucks.

But let’s not mistake it for more than it is. It happens to everyone at some point. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love hiking or long distance walking, it just means you need a different game plan for this hike and this day of walking. That’s it. And believe me when I say you can spend five or six or ten kms trying to talk yourself out of it and find your trail joy again or you can embrace the suck, acknowledge where you are (in all the ways – literally, metaphorically, emotionally, physically), see it as temporary and get sh*t done.

Before I delve into the ways I battle the bonk, I should mention there are plenty of perfectly logical, sensible ways to prevent bonking.

Here are a few:

  • Get adequate sleep the night before your hike
  • Drink (and bring) plenty of water, some with added electrolytes if it’s hot or you’re a sweaty mess like me
  • Eat a good, but familiar breakfast. Think something filling that will hold you til elevenses but not something heavy or bothersome for your guts.
  • Bring plenty of snacks. (Protein like beef jerky or pepperoni is a go to for me. Salty is good. Candy is also good, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
  • Relax. This is the hardest one, I know. But if you can stay in the moment and keep your head on the trail (not at home with your daily stresses), you’ve got a better chance of feeling the pre-bonk feelings and saving yourself some grief.

Now, let’s say you (*cough*me*cough*) did all of these things to the best of your ability, given the circumstances and still, you’re feeling. It. All.

Muscle pain. Fatigue. Joint pain. Heat. Anxiety. Guilt.

It’s all beating down on you like the 28 degree sun but there’s no cream that blocks that junk out. You feel like you hit your limit.

(Side note: I’m willing to bet you’ve never actually hit this limit. I’ve let the negative part of my brain convince me I’ve been at that edge many times, on many trails. But it’s lied to me every time. There’s a way to finish. I promise.)

So what do you do? What did I do? I got angry with myself. That sounded a little like this: “You’re in the Cotswolds, for god’s sake! C’mon, Ashworth, you’re in England, in area of outstanding natural beauty, how dare you not love this? Do you know what your family had to do to make this work?” Uhm, that’s not exactly a motivational speech, friends. That kind of self talk doesn’t make the 10 or 15 kms left feel breezy. 😉 But I had to have that moment to hear the ridiculousness of it and then I had to say it out loud to mg trail buddies to hear it sound even more ludicrous. And then it was out of my system. I’ve admitted it. This afternoon, this moment in time on this small section of the Cotswold Way is not my friend. I admitted that, I owned it and I tried to let it be. I couldn’t change it. I loved the day before and would probably love the day to followed. Not loving this bit right here and right now doesn’t define my walk.

So now what?

Candy. I wish I was kidding. Moments like this are what Skittles were made for, my friends. A little glycogen for the muscles, a little sugar straight to the brain brings back some semblance of motivation. I discovered Skittles without the shell in the UK and they saved me several times. Despite condensing themselves into one giant candy clump in the heat, I could always rely on these for a sweet little kick in the butt.

My second saviour will seem like a real trail rule breaker to some and that’s fine! I get it. But music motivates me like nothing else. When you really, truly need something to push you forwards, I know you have a go to song. For Wales & Cots, mine was Free by Florence and the Machine. I don’t often have headphones in my pack, but I did throw them in for the last few days on the trail. (Persistent muscle troubles and some joint pain will have you reevaluating and carrying bits & bobs you otherwise might skip.) I always have my phone, for maps and for emergencies, so at least once, on my really down day, I pulled out my headphones and set Florence to repeat. I think Shar relied on some Motley Crüe one day – whatever floats your boat or moves your feet!

Above all, the biggest thing to remember is the cheesiest platitude I have for you: This too shall pass. It will. It does. And when it happens next time, you’ll know it won’t beat you. It never has. The bonk never wins.

As long as your feet are still in your boots, you can bust through any bonk.

Cheryl

Follow Nick … in Newfoundland

If you recall, last year I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Scotland and hike the Arran Coastal Way with my sister and our two besties for my 40th birthday. Well, this year I get to hike again in celebration of a 40th – but not mine this time. You can turn 29 a bunch of times but sadly when you get to 40 the clock keeps ticking, no mulligans or do-overs or re-dos or age fibs! The next number is 41 for me but not for Cheryl, she is the big ole 4-0 and we are hiking… Gros Morne Mountain National Park in Newfoundland – where she and her family hail from. Bucket list! Pinch me.

Gros Morne is the park featured on the Royal Bank app and in the Fly Over Canada experience (these references are likely lost on anyone who has never visited Canada or been to Vancouver, BC) and every time I see this park in pictures I long to book my flight and go .. well, now I get to go! A few pics compliments of the Government of Canada, Gros Morne Mountain National Park website …

I do not have much runway on this trip.  I depart in just 20 sleeps so I am in ‘hardcore training’  and ‘fit into my technical gear/clothes after a long winter’ mode .. all made easier (or at least more entertaining) by my new training partner, Bella Bean Pup Pup – our new Jack (insert Jerk) Russell puppy.

Bella is still leash training and a little too young to be hitting any major trails in the mountains that we are so lucky to have all around us here in Vancouver, BC so we have been sticking to hill and trail walking in our neighbourhood. We have an abundance of both just out our front door and they have served me well many times for previous trips.   So with my backpack on my shoulders,  my boots on my feet –  yes the ones I keep telling myself I will get rid of after just one more trip – and my Bella at my side we hit the hills daily.

This will be great practice for me. Before I go I get to follow Bella around and it sounds like when I get to Newfoundland I will follow Nick around.

Who is Nick you ask? The hubby of one of Chery’s sisters and it sounds like I do not need to do any trip pre-planning, route selection, etc – Nick is taking care of it all and I just have to show up with boots, water and follow Nick.

If you have ever read this blog before you know that planning is my superpower and anxiety / overthinking buster so this is going to be a whole new experience for me … a new province, a new bucket list item and a new map/trail guide (aka Nick). Nothing to worry about really, in the big scheme of things I should be more worried about getting ‘screeched in’ than following some guy I have never met in a place I have never been.

Brande 

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8 Weeks to Isle of Arran – Feet

Well with 8 weeks to go till departure I have a big decision to make – boots or no boots?

Seems crazy to even consider hiking 100+km in soggy Scotland without my beloved, make me happy, bring me joy as soon as I slip into them boots. But I have a love / hate relationship with my Asolo boots and that makes this a big decision.

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Weight: My boots are a mid-backpacking boot  – which means they are heavier than a hiking boot or shoe but lighter than a heavy backpacking boot. Together they weigh just under 3lbs and while that may seem like not much right now when you add that to the bottom of your feet for 25,000 steps or more every day it definitely adds to the workout. Not to mention my pack weight when they are not on my feet. I have strong enough legs, knees and ankles that I could most likely go with a light hiker or even a cross trainer like my also very loved purple running shoes from Nike. hmmm

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Waterproof: My boots are totally waterproof – lovely, amazing Gortex that has kept up its waterproof-ness now for over a decade. I can tell you that dry feet are happy feet. While some hikers may be all like “I don’t mind if my feet get wet”  – I am not one of those. I know from experience that wet feet become swollen, the skin becomes weak and soft and that means blisters, blisters, blisters. Also, I wear SmartWool socks and wet and wool means stretching, which means bunching, which means (yup you guess it) blisters, blisters, blisters. If there is one thing Scotland is famous for (maybe almost as famous as Ireland for) its rain. Hey they named that misty, hang in the air rain Scotch Mist for a reason! So if the weather is perfect every day of hiking, I wont need my boots but .. well it is Scotland.

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Underfoot: I love the weightlessness of my running shoes for sure but a rocky or shale path is havoc on feet in running shoes. The bits of sand and grit gets kicked up and settles into your socks and shoes – making blisters, unless you annoyingly stop every 100 yards to clear em out. The rocks under the soft tread of sneakers feels like a few bumps at the start of a 25km day but those same rocks starts to feel like broken glass and upturned nails as the dogs bark louder and louder by the end of the day. My boots have a Vibram sole – hard equals heavy, but hard also means you do not feel rock edges or the bumps and clumps underfoot. In fact, the bottom of my boots are so good that I can balance on a pointed rock as if its flat (assuming I am doing spirit fingers for balance and posing for a photo of course).  Now I could find the perfect balance and get me some trail runners which feature a much harder sole than regular cross trainers, and I could where gaiters to keep the dust and rocks out of my shoes and socks. But hmm 9 weeks out I do not want to be breaking in anything new and gaiters assuming good weather make the feet sweat and we are back to the wet feet issue above.

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Change of pace: now I have to say one of my favourite things to do is to switch it up. If the path is rocky or scrambling is involved; my boots are fabulous for grip, kicking in a toe hold, keeping the grit out, and generally keeping the feet happy. But when the path is maybe on a flat surface or through the wee Scottish villages; then my sneakers are light and bouncy and I feel like I can really kick the pace up a notch with 1.5lbs less on each foot holding me to the earth. I also love switching to my sneakers from my boots when the sun starts shining, as a kind of celebration of Vitamin D. Not to mention throwing on my sneakers and compression socks (of a lovely lime green variety cause I am sure the bright the colour the better the compression) for an awesome pick me up – both in blood flow and in hiking attire appeal.

Hmmmm decisions, decisions -well, no not really. I have decided – I am taking both.

This will surprise very few people I suspect; its kinda my thing to have both. I just cant imagine how lonely my Asolo’s would feel being left out of the fun and I love a good mid-day change up! I also like that when I have my boots or my sneakers secure to Missy Morado (my Osprey backpack’s name) she sits upright and proud in her purple goodness.  Really its Missy confirming my choice to bring both really! Yup.

Brande

Guest Post – The ‘Be You’ Training Plan

Well Hello!

My name is Shar and I am Brande’s sister – here as a guest on the blog today! I am VERY honoured to be adding to the amazing posts that B (what we call her in our family) does throughout her adventures and her process of preparation!

We are gearing up to do a long distance walk in Scotland, the Arran Coastal Way. This will be long distance walking adventure number 2 for me! The Great Glen Way in 2013 with B was one of the most memorable adventures of my life time and I am sure this one will be that much better!

The reason I wanted to hop on the blog today was to address those whom are intimidated by the word “preparation”!

I respect so much the thought, care and dedication B puts into every day leading up to an adventure. But for me, I have a short attention span for most things! So the idea of getting through a long training routine in anticipation of wanting to just get going is SUPER unnerving for a person like me!

Best advice I can give is … do things that are gonna get you out there doing things! Don’t try to be or do something your NOT! Don’t over schedule and over complicate! You do you, and don’t apologize for it!

B made up this awesome training program (20 Week Training Plan) and sent it out to us for help and guidance on where to start and I took that program and twisted it a bit so it fit my family’ incredibly crazy schedule and my need for short and sweet commitments!

For me, I love love love Jillian Micheals‘ workouts – she is the bomb when it comes to short but effective work outs! The longest I have done is 28mins or less!! No going to the gym or finding time to hit an hour class; it’s my house and on my time! I don’t have to think, she tells me what to do and I am working every muscle I need to support the multiple kilometers we are going to cover on our next adventure! Start with the Beginner Shred if you want to give it a try – quick and effective! Oh and Yoga meltdown is an awesome one as well! Rock star!

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Alternating that with a 5km Running App- which gets me outdoors with out having to rearrange schedules and move mountains to get there! Just throw on the runners and go! Combine it all with a 15-20 min recovery yoga when and if I can fit it in!

Throwing in some fun 30 day squat or plank challenges here and there makes it a workable routine that fits within an already crazy schedule and it all does not have to be done at once! Trust me I know how important fitting it all into a crazy schedule is!

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To keep me going – I keep an pretty elementary schedule of what I need to do each day and cross off with a happy face when I complete it! Writing it down helps cement the commitment and crossing it off cements the accomplishment!

Does it make a difference? Why can’t you just stick to walking for your training?

Well what I noticed after just a wee few weeks is the recovery. Yesterday, after a 17km moderate hike with one of my besties – my recovery was nothing.

guestshar_training_hike_may2018.JPGI felt the workout which we all want but I did not FEEL the workout! If you know what I mean. My endurance was awesome, the steep climbs and equally as important the steep descents weren’t painful!

This is what makes hiking for an average everyday Joe (or Shar) like me that much more amazing!This helps keep me motivated, it is such a great feeling when I do get the chance to get out and enjoy the mountains with out my body bitching me out when I’m done!

So start simple! I started the first week with just the Beginner Shred workout and added in the run on alternating days a couple weeks later – so it’s not overwhelming and I wasn’t struggling to keep up with life!

Take that step… even if you don’t have a long distance walk ahead! Feels great and keeps us young!

Happy Trails!
Shar

Bye Bye Burgos, Hello Leon

Well sadly all good things must come to an end … and our time in beautiful Burgos did just that yesterday afternoon.

We had a 15:25 train from Burgos to our next sight seeing / break from walking day in Leon this time. We were primed to make the best of our amazing treat hotel and city though for the morning before departing.

To kick things off, we enjoyed quite thoroughly a breakfast for kings! The breaky buffet at the hotel was 7euros and check out our feast below. Crazy to think this is what we can get for 7euros in one place, but only get a piece of toast with jam and coffee or juice in another place for 5euros. We will be keeping our eyes open for deals like this from here on! Big breaky means skip lunch means save money!

After we stuffed ourselves quite completely. We put our packs in the left luggage room and ventured the old city again.

We headed in the direction of the massive chapel and came upon some stone stairs heading up to a hill above the city with a sign marked Castillo (castle) – ok! Slowly, being mindful this was a tourist day not a hump it up hills day, we made it up and up to a birds eye view of the city streets we had walked the night before. Here are a few of the pics up to and from the castle heights:

From up here for the first time we heard the Sunday bells from the massive chapel – wow is about all I can say to describe them. They are rung for 15mins every hour on Sundays and are just amazing. Like give you goose bumps amazing. From up high they sounded so smooth and combined but then from close to the cathedral you could pick out each individual bell. Depending where you stood in the plaza they sounded different again. The echo of the bells off the high buildings and stone was making a few dogs in town a little crazy. One poor pouch was going in circles barking trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. Hilarious. I posted a video recording of the bells on my Instagram @brandedavison if you want to hear them.

We could not resist a few more pics of the cathedral and plaza in the morning light as we walked around the area enjoying the bells:

Finally we enjoyed our last Burgos cafe con leche (coffee with milk) outside of our amazing hotel:

We made our way by bus #25 from Plaza de Espana over to the train station and then by train for 2 hours over to Leon. We had a bit of a wait so got some sunshine naps in first!

Before departing we had our final Burgos entertainment … a guy who was a bit sketch and carrying 2 backpacks was told by security to exit the train station as he did not have a ticket. Well wouldn’t you know it as soon as our train pulled in, the sketch guy dropped one bag and went barreling for the nearest open train door – knocking the poor ole security guard down and almost between the train and the platform in the process. Sketch guy hid somewhere in the train and they could not find him. So he did end up getting the free ride to Leon he was looking for in the first place. Gong show!

Any who, the train trip itself was a really nice way to see the landscape change from green Burgos to dry Leon. We left the chilly wind, humidity, high of 21C in Burgos and stepped of the train into the dry heat of 34C of Leon. We were happy to leave that oppressive, soggy humidity behind.

We are super excited to explore Leon today. Will it stand up to Burgos? The bar is set pretty high!! Stay tuned to find out …

Brande

Tired Tourists in Paris

After a 9hr flight, departing Vancouver at 1:30pm and arriving in Paris at 8:50am with only 30mins (maybe) sleep in flight – we were tired, wobbly really, but of course super excited about our 24hrs in Paris!

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After a near hour wait in the customs line up, we were ready for a little excitement to wake us up. Well we got it. Just after getting our backpacks from the luggage carousel a police office started yelling to get out of the airport, leave your bags and exit there is a suspicious package. Me and Lana with our packs already on (thank goodness) joined the crowd exiting quickly from the area. People didn’t hesitate to leave – just started rushing out. You can tell the city is on alert. Lots of police around, army dudes with machine guns patrolling the airport, bags are checked anytime you enter any big store or tourist attraction (sometimes even metal detectors). Should that scare me? Maybe a little. If anything, it makes me even more aware for sure but at the same time gives me confidence that they are alert!

So with that jolt of excitement under belt we were wide awake again and read to metro in Paris proper. On route we discovered the weather was looking up! We had landed into basically thick pea soup. So much so we thought we were still in the air in thick clouds when we actually landed! You could barely see the tip of the wing. But the fog was lifting and we were hopeful the 31 degrees the ole weather app had predicted would work out.

Once into Paris proper we found our hotel and yahoo our room was ready for us although it was only noon. We dropped our bags and headed out for lunch. We found the best cafe ever – salads to die for and delicious French wine! Now this is Paris!

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Ok bellies fully and wine enjoyed, we were ready to power though our sleepy states and see what Paris had to offer. We walked from across to the Grand Palais and Petite Palais with a stroll through the Jardins to Tuileries, to the Louvre and wrapped up at Notre Dame – checking out all the amazing buildings and bridges between! Lana enjoyed the Louvre, it really is a must do for Paris. I had been before so instead spent the couple hours hunting down a SIM card and holiday data plan so we would have a phone in case of emergencies. The day was fabulous – the temp got to a very humid, melting 31!

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We wrapped up the evening with a picnic of cheese, bread, olives and white wine (drinking out of our very classy Canada tin cups) while we watched for the Eiffel Tower to light up! This is something everyone should have a chance to see. It really is pretty spectacular. Eiffel is currently sporting white light with sparkling lights going off all over every hour for 5mins. Very pretty!

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Exhausted at this point we headed back to the hotel and basically passed out! I fell asleep texting my hubby goodnight and Lana fell asleep mid sentence downloading an app on her iPad. Tired or what! We slept like the dead. No rolling over or getting comfy – both flat on our backs for the count.

Lana slept so well she was up before me and getting ready for the day while my lazy bones laid in bed – it was only a bit after 6 in the morning and our train wasn’t till 10 so I was in no rush. Love that. Well turns out we were really, really, really in no rush. Lana’s watch was messed up and it was actually only a bit after 4am. What!? And here Lana was already ready for the day. Well a quick selfie and back to sleep for 3 more hours. Geeks!

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We are now on day two, after getting up at the right time the second time, and on our all day train down to Saint Jean Pied de Port where we start our Camino tomorrow eeeeek!

Brande

Yup Nope Maybe Whatever

With just 2 training weekends left before we depart for Mount Kilimanjaro, us Vancouver based trekkers headed out last weekend on what will be our longest training hike before we go. The kick your butt  Sandero Diez Vistas in Coquitlam.

Making the decision to do this particular hike was based on a) is it less than an hour’s drive, b) is it long enough like over 10km, and c) is it free of any technical scrambling (we don’t have any technical bits on Kili so why practice it). I made the decision and posted it to our closed Climbing Kilimanjaro  Facebook group with an open invitation for company. as has been my practice all spring and summer.

My hubby Lance) and the Carmen brothers (Matty and Scott) were all on board. Seems getting serious about your training two weeks before departure is perfect timing when climbing a mountain … said no one ever!

Funny enough while they were all keen to hike, not all of them fully read the information about the trail. When just 10mins away from the trail I got the question “how long is this hike?” I answered all happy and excited “I think 13kms” (its actually 15km). There was a barely audible “oh” from the back seat. Oops!

Any who, off we went and wow the trail was A LOT of work! You were heading up switch back after switch back for what seemed like a very long time in order to get to the the first of the boasted 10  views (Diez Vistas).

Heading up on Sandero Diez Vistas Trail, Coquitlam British Columbia

Wish I would have enjoyed this part of the trail a little more, it was so gentle compared to the rest of the harsh incline and decline we came across. (Scott, Matt and Lance)

More up on Sandero Diez Vistas Trail, Coquitlam British Columbia

The incline is getting really fun now. Shortly after this section we were in full blown switch backs with scrambling sections. (Brande)

I was pleased to finally get to the top (or the ridge). The way up was hard work but also really daunting for me. There was some scrambling on the switchbacks in a couple of spots – which in my scared-of-heights-opinion were slick rock faces directly over a chasm drop to the depths of hell! They almost had the power to mess with my mind enough to send me back to the car. However, a little inner voice saying “B if you cant make this little path, you cant climb Kili so get your Nike wearing butt across this thing NOW” helped me push past the fear. How did you like that insight into my brain?

The view is amazing from the top for sure. You are treated to the first look out and its pretty spectacular, then a second and a third .. and that’s where it stops. There are actually only 3 really awesome views to take in. I guess there used to be 10 (Diez Vistas) but the forest has grown so much that the others are now blocked in by the trees. Perhaps a name change to Sandero Tres Vistas is in order?

View from Sandero Diez Vistas Trail, Coquitlam British Columbia

The view from the second view point ( I think ). We took a 10 min break and had some snacks before pushing on. (Lance and his PB/J sammy)

We followed the ridge line where the path undulated up and down for about an hour and then came even more fun – getting back down. This was knee screaming, find me the gondola, why am I doing this kind  of decline and it never seemed to end. Little roots and rocks all over that lovingly catch on the toes of your boots or slip a little when you use them for purchase. We were working hard and our knees felt it. Now this is great training for the 40km we hike over 2 days to get down from the Kili Summit!

It didn’t look like too many people came down the back side (most went up the front, saw the views and went back down the front again) so I kicked off some please-do-not-eat-me-bear calls which the boys quickly picked up and added their own flare to. The teddy bears at the picnic could hear us call out:  “Yuuup” (Brande) “Nope” (Lance) “Maybe” (Scotty) and “Whatever” (Matty). Strangely enough each of our words sorta match our personalities. hmmm

All in all we were entertained throughout by either each other (heckling your closest friends is always entertaining) or the path itself which had lots of fun, different stuff to offer to keep your interest on the trail and not your knees or blisters.

Sandero Diez Vistas Trail, Coquitlam British Columbia

A fun log bridge over a mushy creek on the back side of the trail.

Wood path on Sandero Diez Vistas Trail, Coquitlam British Columbia

Sections of the trail were or had the potential to be really muddy, the Parks board did a great job of putting in these rough wooden walk ways to persevere the ground and keep people on the path.

Trail Markers on Sandero Diez Vistas Trail, Coquitlam British Columbia

I had heard that some hikers found it hard to find the trail in spots and with these itty bitty markers I can see why!

We managed to make it from start to finish with no mishaps. Don’t get me wrong though there were some screaming knees, a phone call from one Carmen brother to another asking where the path is, one of us out of water, a wrong turn that added 1 km to the trek, and some moments where we lost but recovered the trail.

Oddly, the funniest moment to me was coming across this sign (the first of a few):

Warning Sign on Sandero Diez Vistas Trail, Coquitlam British Columbia

Damage from a recent big storm was obvious in a few spots. Looking up you could see a tree broken in the middle but balancing still on its base.

Yes, if you are wondering, we did keep walking on the trail and while we didn’t stop per se we did slow down enough to find out where and what this “hazardous tree” was all about. I was secretly hoping it was Groot from Guardian’s of the Galaxy all grumpy and wrecking stuff and his friend Chris Pratt was trying to calm him down meanwhile Rocket the Raccoon was chilling waiting out the drama to end. But it wasn’t. Boo!

Brande

PS: 8 sleeps (freaking out!)