Grand Union Canal Challenge

Grand Union Canal Challenge 2014This weekend saw the start of the inaugural Grand Union Challenge and it was time for me to stage another attempt at a 100km hike.

Vicky and I set off in glorious sunshine, from Paddington just before 10am. We were down on the canal in no time and began watching the looming storm clouds with interest. When it did eventually start raining it seemed to stay with us for hours. It wasn’t too troublesome though, we both had waterproofs and the constant drizzle prevented it from getting too darn hot.

Grand Union Canal Challenge 2014Despite the impressive nature of the Grand Union Canal, which cuts an entirely green and remarkably remote corridor from London to Birmingham, it is probably best not consumed in one continuous trog. There is a limit on how many ducklings you can coo at and how many locks you can admire and I certainly had complaints from back home as the instagram updates were getting a bit samey.

Grand Union Canal Challenge 2014Lynn joined us at 35k and I think we were still in high spirits, the pick n mix helped with a bit of a sugar rush and we’d caught up with the stand up paddle boarders who were joining us on their own crazy version of the 100k Grand Union Challenge.

On the approach to the 50k rest stop I was ravenous and picked up the pace while dreaming of fish, chips and Stella. The chicken noodles and cold diet coke actually on offer came a close second and filled a big hole. My calf had cramped up at this point so I got myself in the long queue for a massage. This added an hour to our rest stop and although it enabled me to continue in relative comfort, it did add to the pressure at each future stage as we were clearly bringing up the rear.

It was gone midnight now so the lights came out and we got to experience the canalside at its gloomiest. This is not a walk I would consider doing alone. It’s not a huge event like London2Brighton and you can spend hours walking alone. The canal feels completely isolated even when it is cutting swathes through cities and towns and it is probably home to more than its fair share of odd balls. Even with Vicky alongside me, there were times when I thought we might have to start running very soon.

This was a bad stretch for me, my legs felt like they were blowing up with water retention. Coming up to the next stop we were both disappointed to see it come early. The length of each stretch was a bit erratic and if one rest stop arrived early it meant the next would be painfully long and tagging an extra 1 or 2 kms on at this stage just felt punishing.

Sitting with my head in my hands at this stop, I just talked myself out of the walk. I hurt but mostly I felt sick and tired. I wanted to sleep more than I wanted to finish. I was also pretty convinced that I could not finish, that I did not have another 39 km in me, and accepting that, it seemed fairly pointless to add any extra miles to my tally.

Vicky on the other hand could not quit. We left the 61k rest stop after a brief break with the intention of walking into the daylight. When the sun rose Vicky would carry on alone and I would abandon the event.

The sun came up at about 4am and Vicky released me from my torment. At 68k I veered off the canal and waited for Lynn to drive by and rescue me. People had tried to persuade me, saying there would be no medal or t-shirt if I didn’t finish but at that point, those things that seemed so powerful at the start of the event meant nothing to me now.

6 hours later, after bed, bath and breakfast I felt more human, but I also felt like a complete heel for leaving a teammate out on the course. Lynn drove me back out to the canal and I walked back to meet up with Vicky to pace her through the final 7km to the finish line.

She’d had an emotional time and was suffering with her feet and knees and overwhelming tiredness. I felt incredibly proud of her and all the other walkers still out on the canal. It was slow going but she was going to get there.

Lynn dropped down on to the canal at various points bringing supplies and then nipping to the finish line to wait for us. She rang me at the 98k marker to tell me that the finish wasn’t actually at 100k, presumably for logistical reasons the finish gantry was sitting in a field at 101k. I didn’t feel this was the right time to tell Vicky. She practically counted every step from 99k and knew full well that the 100k had been swiped.

Lynn and one of the marshalls came out to join us, to see the final walkers cross the line and broke the news of the extra kilometre.

Grand Union Canal Challenge Finisher 2014I don’t think she was rewarded with a euphoric state of achievement at the end, more the sheer relief that all the suffering was over. As she said the next day

I am just so pleased not to be on that sodding towpath!!!

I imagine the pride of such an achievement is a slow burn affair. The sort of inner confidence that stays with you. You’ve done something pretty damn amazing, you’ve suffered, endured and finished what you’ve started.

I on the other hand, thought big, started something amazing, walked a long way and then quit. I’m not sure what I’ve learned but have confirmed that I am indeed a “Starter Leaver”

**Other Grand Union Challengers**

  • Stacey at StaceyLovesSUP, blogs about the 100km Stand Up Paddle Boarding challenge.

How to Tape Your Feet for Blister Prevention

Foot Taping for Long Distance WalksI’ve had some great results from pre-taping my feet prior to long hikes and can now walk around 40 miles, confident that I won’t get blisters. Even on this year’s London2Brighton challenge where the weather conditions were appalling and I ended up wearing two pairs of unfamiliar shoes, I managed 57km feeling physically broken but with my feet still intact – not a single blister.

My Blister Prevention Routine

  • Keep your feet in good nick – in the run up to your long walk you should keep your feet free of callouses and moisturise to prevent cracked skin.
  • Practice taping before your big event – there is a knack to applying tape so start practising early.
  • I apply tape to my own feet so I can flex while I’m applying it to make sure it is not too tight.
  • After taping, dust down with talcum powder to absorb any excess adhesive
  • Wear Bridgedale lining socks on top of the tape.
  • Put the hiking or running sock on next, being careful not to introduce creases.
  • During the event, change the lining socks regularly and check the the tape is still secure.

Zinc Oxide Tape for Blister Prevention

I’ve worked my way through a number of different brands of zinc oxide tape and have now settled on Leukotape P. I’ve found this to have excellent adhesive properties and a good degree of stretch. It somehow manages to avoid leaving adhesive on the non-sticky side of the tape, which is a big bonus and a problem I’ve noted with every other roll of tape I’ve tried.

Tape Adherent

A lot of guides suggest that you purchase an additional spray adhesive to apply to the foot before adding the tape. I’ve tried this technique but I’ve stopped using it because there is a fine balance between too little and too much stickiness. If you get a decent tape you shouldn’t need extra glue and you don’t want to have any extra adhesive on the outside of the tape as it will stick to your socks, increasing the chances of fabric folds under your feet. I apply a liberal sprinkling of talcum powder before I put on my socks as well.

Where to Apply the Anti Blister Tape

Ideally you will have slowly built up your long walks or runs and should now have a clear idea of where you tend to develop hot spots. When I first started training for 100km walks I would get blisters forming after only 10k when wearing hiking boots, and they would always be in the same place. Mine started under the heel and across the ball of my foot and for good measure, the back of my heel would regularly rub raw.

I chose the taping technique illustrated in the video below, as it covered all my weak points. If you develop hot spots in other places you may need to extend the covered regions.

Pre-Taping for Blister Prevention

  •  Start by applying anchor strips along the inner and outer sides of your foot.
  • Join the two anchor strips with a piece that goes across the heel.

Foot Taping for Blister Prevention

  • Start applying strips across the underside of your heel, with a slight overlap on each strip.
  • Be careful not to introduce creases and keep your foot flexed upward (dorsi-flexed) so that you don’t apply the tape too tightly.
  • Continue with more overlapped strips on the ball of your foot.
    Foot Taping for Blister Prevention
  • Finish by re-applying the anchor strips on either side of the foot.

Let me know how you get on……

London2Brighton Challenge 2014: The Second Coming

The Start of The London2Brighton Challenge

I’ve done quite few of my long training walks in my hiking boots but none of them were considered successful. I decided quite a long time ago that the London2Brighton 100k Challenge would be completed in my super cushioned Hokas’ with my Inov8s’ held back for the second half when my feet would likely have swelled.

I woke up on Saturday to an apparently relentless deluge and there followed a huge shoe dilemma. I bundled an assortment of shoe options into the boot of the car and developed a strategy that would hopefully give my feet a fighting chance.

London2Brighton Challenge

As Accuweather suggested a potential bright spot around lunchtime, I started in the trail shoes, hoping that Lynn would meet me at the 25k mark for a switch to the Hokas.

The rain came and went, just long enough for me to take off my waterproof jacket and then started again. It was a bizarre weather day and walkers would emerge from woods into bright sunshine and visibly steam as the rain evaporated from their hot bodies.

London2Brighton Mud Challenge
@kabukisnyder

The rain and the 3000 runners & walkers played havoc with the trail. The off-road sections looked like segments of last months Wolf Run, as if the organisers had piped in extra mud to add to the challenge and my planned shoe change became a reluctant boot change.

I started the London2Brighton challenge an hour later than last year. It was my intention to spend an hour or so walking in the dark before reaching the main rest point at 57k. That way I would remove a potential hurdle to continuing – fear of the dark. Despite actively planning this stint in the darkness I made a huge packing faux pas. I put my main torch in the car to retrieve at the midpoint and popped the Petzl head torch in my rucksack. I knew the batteries would be low so put triple A’s on Lynn’s shopping list, again for the midpoint.

When I tripped over the first root in a dark, foreboding, wood and reached for my emergency Petzl, I was less than impressed to discover the most insignificant glow from the lamp. Completely useless and I was at least 4 hours away from batteries.

I had a glow stick but it wasn’t working and I ended up edging my way forward, gripping onto my poles for dear life and seeking out the breadcrumb trail of glow sticks that marked the route.

I wasn’t completely alone, other walkers came and went but I couldn’t hope to keep up with them. It was a pretty lonely place to be.

A generous chap took took pity on me stumbling over a stile in the dark and lit my way until we reached a road section where there were more walkers.

There was only another 10k before the major rest stop at Tully’s Farm but I was pretty despairing of my ability to get there. I was limping and silent sobbing. It was pretty darn pitiful but I felt like I was torturing myself.

With about 7k to go Lynn managed to find me on a quiet road and thrust batteries in to my hand before driving off again.

Finishing at Tully's Farm

My world looked ever so slightly brighter with a functioning Petzl on my head but it didn’t stop the weeping. I seemed to be stopping at every available tree stump in order loosen my boots and attempt to rub some life back into my swollen Achilles. It is hard to fathom quite how slow those last kilometres were. I sent Lynn a text saying that was it, I was bailing at the next stop. I didn’t actually think I could make the last 2k and when I finally crossed the line I fell into Lynn’s arms and started crying again.

I don’t feel as though I let myself down on the event. I gave it my all on that trail, leaving myself physically and emotionally broken. I can now say that I am finished with this challenge, London2Brighton has beaten me and unless I can commit to working on my body and my diet I will not consider this again.

I’m an extremist. If my exercise doesn’t have that extra edge I just can’t be bothered with it. For the next year I’d like to work on creating a body that has strength and resilience and that earns it’s place in such a challenge.

This is a great event and I have huge respect for everyone that started, and even more for those that managed to push themselves beyond Tully’s Farm and on towards Brighton.

The UnderRound Challenge – A Marathon of Selfies

In my quest to complete at least one 100km challenge this year, my weekends have been given over to long and usually dreary walks. In an attempt to stir things up I thought I’d try a home-brew challenge. Inspired by the last issue of Outdoor Fitness magazine which ran an article on DIY challenges, I resurrected my interest in The UnderRound initiated by Rory Coleman.

The UnderRound is a challenge requiring you to travel approximately 42km above and below ground by visiting the platforms of 42 different London Underground stations. The official route takes an anti-clockwise rotation starting and finishing at London Kings Cross. In case you are in doubt, you must use the stairs wherever they are available resulting in about 3000 feet of ascent on top of your marathon.

The UnderRound Challenge
I started the day in a fairly leisurely fashion, sneaking the first of many selfies at 10:30 am.

I was off, striding purposefully towards Euston ticking off 7 platforms in just over a mile stretch along the Euston Road. I’d guess it took me about an hour to clear that mile but the distance travelled underground could easily have added another two to the tally.

It was a glorious hot Sunday and my above ground stretches were positively mediterranean. It hurt me to walk past all the street cafes offering long, cool, glasses of lager and I think this torment may have added to the increasingly grumpy faces. I only managed one smile through the whole ordeal and that was only because I’d spotted “the best ice cream” shop at the entrance to Queensway. I deserved it after ascending 123 steps of the spiral staircase.

I started the day counting every step but I got completely fagged off with that idea by about station 4 and then just relied on the excessively cautious warning messages at the top of each staircase “WARNING – 83 STEPS. USE ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES”

My Selfish View of the UnderRound

My least favourite stretch was Knightsbridge to Gloucester Road which was long and littered with hordes of shambling sightseers. At this stage I was not interested in adding any extra steps by weaving in and out of bodies so I was probably at my all time arsi-est here.

From Sloane Square to Cannon Street, a stretch of 9 stations, 7 of them were closed for planned engineering works. This of course had the huge benefit of preventing me from descending to platform level but it began to feel like cheating and did result in a fairly deserted final quarter of the event.

If I were to do the event again I think I’d try the clockwise route, so that I hit The City sections earlier in the day. At 8pm on a bank holiday Sunday the place was deserted. I walked miles in desperate need of the loo and every pub was shut. I eventually reached a tiny oasis by Farringdon station where a solitary pub provided blessed relief and the second smile of the day.

Russell SquareI reached the final station, Russell Square at about 9:30pm and you can probably imagine my joy to see the sign at the top of the stairs.

All in all it was a noble challenge, but as with all DIY challenges it is sadly lacking in post-event bling, I’ve had to make do with one slightly battered travelcard, now stuck on the fridge door, to remind me of the ordeal.

Crawling along the Vanguard Way

The Vanguard Way is a bloody wonder.

Who would have thought that in this day and age you could walk from the coast to London city passing through an entirely rural corridor.

The_Vanguard_Way_in_the_mist.jpg

I was dropped off near Forest Row, quite a way up from the coast and set the challenge of making it home before the kids had eaten all the Easter eggs.

I wasn’t too concerned. I had money in my daysack and thought I could pop into a village shop for a sustaining creme egg if the need arose. I hadn’t factored in quite how isolated this route is. After 7 hours of walking I had passed not a single shop, pub or local convenience. I survived on a bag of sherbet pips and a bottle of coconut water but by the end even the snails were looking tasty.

The Vanguard Way was soggy this morning but I had a waterproof jacket and a plastic bag to keep my sweets dry.

lambs.jpg

The damp air didn’t deter me or the animals. Easter bunnies were frolicking, grouse and pheasant were screeching at me from the hedgerows and lambs were being born as I squelched across the fields.

Today’s pace was painfully slow, I felt fairly fresh and healthy but the hilly terrain and the littering of stiles had the effect of stopping me in my tracks, repeatedly.

I cannot abide stiles. I reckon land owners design the most evil, wobbly contraptions to deter invading walkers. One field I passed through had passed an electric cable across the handrails and it was only the occasional buzz that warned me to attempt a handsfree ascent to avoid a shocking experience.

stiles_on_the_vanguard_way.jpg

Roman_Snails.jpg

As I approached Croydon across the North Downs I thought I’d stumbled upon the escape route from a local escargot farm but it seems the Romans brought monster snails to the Southern counties as well as Burgundy and these were free range Roman Snails enjoying the chalky environs of the North Downs.

I couldn’t bring any home for tea as they are an endangered species in the UK and it is now illegal to harvest them. I don’t think anyone was too disappointed.

The Vanguard Way

  • 66 miles from Croydon to Newhaven
  • There is a fantastic resource for the route available at http://www.vanguardway.org.uk/
  • Colin Saunders has produced extremely detailed route descriptions that you can download in sections and the GPS for each section is available to download. I downloaded the GPS and followed the breadcrumb trail as my printed booklets soon disintegrated in the rain.

Olympic Grade DOMs

I have a passable Snatch, a fairly confident Jerk but I am afraid my Clean is just an embarrassment.

Before my blog gets to sound too smutty I must tell you that I am in week 2 of a 4-week Olympic weightlifting course and the snatch, clean and jerk are of course, powerful weightlifting moves.

The finish point of the Snatch looks like this:

The Snatch

I think I look a lot like this, only my bar has next to no weights on it and my squat is decidedly more vertical. I’m only in week 2 though, I should be giving this chap a run for his money in April.

If he saw me after last weekends session I doubt he would be worried.

The sessions last for 1.5hours and involve alternating sets with a partner. Almost every Olympic weightlifting move incorporates a full squat so I estimate that I was doing deep, weighted, squats for at least 30 minutes last Saturday.

For someone who was scared to curtsy less than 3 months ago I think that is a huge progression.

My quads certainly thought it was a huge progression.

My thighs humoured me while I insisted on walking home – 12 miles across London, but for the next four days they laughed in my face.

I suffered with quad DOMs almost as severe as my first running attempts when I found myself a prisoner in my third floor flat. This time I could make it into work and up the stairs to my desk, but from then on in I was trapped, desk bound. My legs would not function for descents.

It wasn’t so bad, the desk binding DOMs coincided with a work week from hell, where I was tied to my computer for 14 hour days and my colleagues took enough pity on me to fetch my daily supplies of black coffee.

After day 4, when my legs started to consider bending again, I started practising the squat manoevre. I dragged out the kettlebell and commenced an urgent practice before the next Olympic session. This fantastic tutorial from Nerd Fitness tells you everything you need to know to perfect the squat.

As this week’s session started I was relieved to find I could squat down to my haunches again but I soon discovered a new flaw in my Olympic weightlifting armoury – elbows.

My elbows let me down for the Clean, which is an odd unbalanced move, requiring you to flick the bar up on to your collarbones, elbows up, before dropping into a front squat.

My elbows absolutely refuse to move up. My wrists double back on themselves but still my elbows won’t budge. This means when I attempt even the teeniest hint of squat, I pitch myself forwards and lose the move completely.

I now need to spend the rest of the week adding elbow stretches to my squat routine.

Battersea Power Station

The London2Brighton training still needs to be fitted into my weekend, so I’ve added a cross London commute into the mix. I trog across the classy suburbs of London: Maida Vale, Little Venice, Paddington, South Kensington, Chelsea, Battersea, Balham, peering into the gardens and front rooms of the well to-do.

Although I’m fascinated by the Lambourghini’s littering the streets in front of the Victoria and Albert, my favourite point of the walk is the river crossing.

Sunset

I get to choose between the two most impressive structures in the whole of London: the Battersea Power Station and Albert Bridge.

I couldn’t decide which was my favourite this weekend, so spent at least an hour circling between the two, enjoying the setting sun over Hammersmith and waiting for the majestic lights on Albert Bridge to impress the dusk.

Albert Bridge

What a Drag

I can’t tell you what a drag it is to start “walking” training again. I don’t know why it bothers me so much but walking and running are at polar opposites in my life.

I walk 10k and my mind is full of moans and groans. I run 10k and I’m tired but I feel great, I feel superior, and fit, and deserving. Deserving of a pint of Stella, and maybe a Sunday roast and at least an afternoon in front of the TV. A 10k walk leaves me decidedly maudlin, and achey and quite frankly old!

I walked just over 10 miles on Sunday. Across London. I intended to photograph all points of quirky interest but I was so obsessed with the whole misery of the ordeal that I managed only 3 uninspiring snaps.

20140204-201658.jpgI will spare you 2 of them and leave you with the Harvey Nic’s window display. I was shocked by the half-mast trousers that seemed to overtake Sloan Street but didn’t have the energy to retrieve the camera.

I’ve just signed up for another 100k attempt – The Grand Union Canal challenge, and have almost recruited a walking partner.

If she reads this I imagine I will have just lost my walking partner. There have got to be more joyful pursuits than walking 24hours with a hiking depressive.

Not a Lot of Fun on The Royal Military Canal

Both fitflo and jogblog have noticed my absence and have been kind enough to send out a search party.

I’m still here, quietly dabbling with Janathon, which of course is not the point – Janathon is supposed to be shouted about on a daily basis.

20140119-232041.jpgThere has been some daily form of exercise happening. This weekend for example, was given over to hiking as the London2Brighton training has started in earnest again. From now until May I will have to gradually increase my weekend walks until I can happily skip my way across 100km of the South Downs. Given that neither Lynn or I actually enjoy walking, that should make for a few grumpy weekends.

We tried to make the most of the first training hike by booking into our favourite sea-front hotel in Hastings, and spent the first evening plotting what appeared to be, an exciting 11 mile route along the Royal Military Canal. The walk sounded exciting and a touch romantic.

20140120-083231.jpgWe managed a little enthusiasm at the first WWII pill box but very soon descended into a downward facing trudge. The canal was monotonous and it was a cold day, which never helps. The ground was so slippery that it was constant battle to keep your feet from sliding back and losing ground.

I won’t go on with the moaning or you will soon find yourself joining the funk.

20140119-232051.jpgI woke the next day with thighs that carried the pains of at least twice the distance walked. My daily commute has clearly not been preparing me well for sliding across grassy trails with 20kg of excess mud attached to my cleats.

Today was a much brighter day and we celebrated with a more leisurely stroll along the sea front.

Operation Surgical Spirit

Grantham Canal at CotgraveThis weekend was going to be epic.

Mileage to the max plus a curry with Rach.

We ticked the curry off no bother, which just left the miles to deal with themselves. The plan was for Lynn to drop me close to the start of the Grantham canal which happens to be in Nottingham, she’d then drive off, spend an extremely long day with her mother and wait for me to pop out 33 miles later at the Grantham end.

I set off in fairly good spirits, a little hungover and a bit intimidated by the wiggly, windy road ahead but mostly #upforit.

I might have mentioned previously (here or here for example) that I haven’t been much taken with the concept of walking but the long distance trail really does appeal to me. Cutting swathes across the countryside leaving a breadcrumb or GPS trail that would actually show up an aerial shot of the UK is rather satisfying.

Grantham Canal - with actual waterThe Grantham canal seems to be a lesser spotted variety of long distance trail. There was a tiny stretch where I was assailed by manic dogs and a couple of joggers but mostly I was alone, admiring the birds and longing, longingly for a bench to appear. It deserves to be more popular and I recommend it to anyone in search of a peaceful walk/bike/run through the lush lincolnshire countryside.

The pubs are a little sparse though and I missed the planned stop at Hose where I was supposed to meet my folks for a burger and Stella shandy. Hose has the greatest concentration of Grantham canal ale houses but it has an inconsequential bridge (n0 39) that is easy to pass, make a note of it if you want to complete the route in style as you’ll need to exit the towpath and head right in search of the Rose and Crown.

This map from the Grantham Canal Society is worth reviewing.

Grantham Canal

I did meet my mum and dad and they ferried me off for a cup a tea, a bacon butty and supplied me with emergency plasters for a pair of evil blisters starting to burn on both of my heels. They then joined me for a short stroll, timed to perfection with a peculiar hailstorm.

The blisters started at mile 8 so the moment I found a bench I whipped off my socks and changed them for my spare pair which unfortunately felt like a sisal door mat. I was limping by lunchtime, then the plasters offered some relief for a few miles.

Collapsed by Grantham CanalFrom mile 18 onwards I was completely taken over by the pain from my blisters. It is amazing how crippling an inch long bubble of tissue fluid can be. I tried everything available to me – switching socks again, having another fruit sherbert, re-applying plasters, walking barefoot and then I laid down. That was marvellously effective. It was so warm and peaceful and I could have stayed there all afternoon. I very nearly had to as well, it was a complete bugger to get back up again and my poles are no use under 16 stone (+) pressure – they just concertina back to packed size.

I did make it back to vertical without pitching myself into the canal and the hobbling continued, one bench to the next.

Despite all the support from the facebook sidelines I decided at 22 miles that I ought to save the crippling heroics for the big London2Brighton day and so called for my carriage home.

It had felt quite important to get this 30-miler under my belt. I’ve been incredibly concerned about my ability to complete the 100k route and this half distance trek would have given me a psychological boost. I still feel fairly positive though. My feet let me down but I was mentally strong and the rest of the body is willing.

Puncture Repair KitI need to go away, reassess footwear, buy lining socks, compeed, heavy duty zinc tape and embark on a twice daily application of surgical spirit. I might even consider some Nightgear Military Magnum boots to go with my military twin layer socks.

It’s easily going to be the hardest challenge I’ve ever set myself. Driving back to London last night after a warm bath and a roast chicken dinner I was aware that if I were doing the 100k I would still be walking – barely half way to Brighton, easing my painful feet into bed at midnight I would still be walking and when the darn cat woke me at 7 am, I’d still be walking/crawling into Brighton.

If any of you would like to donate to the Samaritans on the back of my painful London2Brighton attempt I’d be very grateful – here’s the link.

GPX of the full canal available here.

Long Walks and Gadget Melt Down

I’m still struggling with the temporary transition from running to walking and yesterdays outing with multiple gadget failure just hammered another nail in the coffin. Today’s gadget doesn’t support the long drawn out monotony of a distance walk and if I can’t play with technology I’m just not that bothered.

Walking is too pure for my liking, it’s designed for the rugged “at one with nature” types who aren’t scared by the hours of silence and EMF solitude.

Yesterday’s program started with a slow yet painful parkrun at Bushy Park, followed by a planned hike along the Thames Path from Hampton Court to the Embankment. I was gadget free for the parkrun due to a late arrival at an extremely packed venue which meant I was bundled out of the car without the usual accoutrements of hydration packs, Garmin, jelly babies and iPhone.

I survived.

Leaving the park after a short interlude for champagne and the collection of gadgetry, I realised I had become disorientated and needed to engage the google maps app. The iPhone was at 97% and all was well. I spun in circles trying to orientate myself before following a bus heading in the direction of Kingston. I engaged the Runmeter app to record my GPS and submit my whereabouts and pace to my standby rescue vehicle (Lynn) and pressed play on the latest Audio book (The Art of Fielding).

Thames Path ice cream2 hours later I paused for an ice-cream and noticed that the battery life had shrunk to 27%. That’s pretty drastic when you are miles from home and feeling weary. At that rate I’d have barely managed 10 miles before being cast into a telecommunication black hole.

I sent out a single text with my last known location (Richmond) and my intended direction (East along the Thames), then switched the phone off.

That’s it, radio silence.

Just me and the rowers and the occasional kamikaze cyclist. It wasn’t long before I started my own entertainment, humming along to the pulsing in my throbbing toenails. My spirits were flagging as fast as the crappy iPhone battery.

I made it as far as Hammersmith before joining the prostrate sun seekers in a riverside park. I’d completed a total of 17 miles including the preliminary parkrun. I’d learnt a lot, not least that this 100k London2Brighton walk is going to be a killer. As we currently stand, I think I’ll be ready to quit at 50k and ready to be airlifted out at 75k. I need an endurance boost over the next 5 weeks and I also need to find a solution to the technical blackouts.

I have a kit bag that PC World would be proud of, including iPhone 5, iPod Nano (2nd Gen from the bottom of a very old drawer), an ancient Nokia N82, assorted car chargers and a plan to switch my iPhone with Lynns every 25k. The fact that the phone died before 15k is a bit of shock. I’m terrified of hitting the wooded areas of the South Downs sometime post midnight and losing all contact with my hope of escape.

Power Monkey ExtremeTwitter has been extremely useful on the subject of expedition style battery sources. The ideal power replacement for the hike would be these impact driven piezoelectric boots which would give my iPhone a boost with every step but unfortunately they don’t seem to have hit the manufacturing stage yet and besides I have just bought a new pair of boots for the occasion.

I am now coveting this expedition ready solar charger from powertraveller. The power monkey extreme holds enough juice to charge an iPhone 6 times over which ought to do the trick. At £120 its probably a bit too much gadget for one single day and I may have to sign up for another crazy challenge just to get my money’s worth.

www.rvops.co.uk has become my latest go to website for gadget ideas to help me cross the downs. It is a military themed site but has stacks of top notch kit that I might be able to find a little more space in my kit bag for. They have everything I need including lighting, map cases, solar iphone chargers, protein snacks, rain gear and a Bergen to squeeze it all in to.