When I heard about the Itex Walk last year I decided to give it a try. It is basically a walk around the coastline of Guernsey, up and down all the cliffs, all 40 miles/64 kilometres of it. My friend Clair agreed to come with me, thank goodness.
We picked up Clair at 4.30am and after we checked in at the White Heart pub in town we hit the road by 4.55am. I did take my camera but for the first two hours of the walk I couldn't stop to take a photo as the cliff path is only one person wide and there was a long winding snake of walkers in front and behind me and I couldn't hold up the traffic.
By our second check point at Petit Bot I left my bag with the bag van which transported walkers bags from checkpoint to checkpoint for them as I realised I needed to carry as little as possible. As a result the only photo I took was of the contents of my bag at 4.05am before we left.
This walk was THE hardest thing I have ever done in my life; it was harder than child birth (and I do not say that easily as I have had three children) as there was not any hard drugs on hand that could take away the pain. The largest flight of stairs during the walk was at Saint's Bay. Clair counted the steps, 293 in a row. She said she may have lost count somewhere in the middle but that only meant there were actually more steps that this! During the walk the flights of stairs vary, some are only a handful, some are a few hundred, all of them were extremely difficult as none of the stairs are even. Within the same flight of stairs some were a normal step apart while others were three or four steps apart, some were normal height whilst others required you to lift you knee up and push on the top of your leg with your hand to hoist yourself up them; so you never really got into a rhythm.
There were all types of walkers. The youngest I saw looked about twelve and Clair had been told of a friend's 73 year old Grandfather who has walked it every year. There were groups of teenagers with sweat bands and coloured zinc striped across their cheeks (I called them the 'Sweat Band Gang', hey it passed the time). There was some crazy person in a business suit and a truly massive black Afro wig. There was a group of guys with a backpack with speakers hanging off the sides who regaled us with the Star Wars theme as they passed; although one of the other walkers did request Chariots of Fire from them at one point. Then there were the super serious walkers with their Camelback water carriers, those springy walking sticks and a determined look in their eye. Some people were obviously using it as a training exercise for other things as there were quite a few walkers who sported enormous back packs which towered over their heads and reached down past their bottom cheeks; trekking in the Himalayas perhaps? It was a mixed bag but the people watching helped me forget about the pain in my legs for a while.
I had sprained my ankle quite badly two weeks before the walk and it was still a swollen around my ankle bone so I found myself favouring that leg during the walk as I was worried that it may make me trip down or up the stairs as it was still weak. As a result of my favouring that leg I did something very, very bad to the tendon in my opposite groin and knee. By the time we reached our third checkpoint at Portelet Slip in Pleinmont I couldn't swing my leg forward to take a step properly so I had to call it a day. I felt so dreadful as I was the one who had talked Clair into doing the walk in the first place and then I abandoned her half way through. Her brother was ahead of us and he waited for her and they finished the walk together, so I am relieved that at least she had a friendly face to walk the rest of the way with.
My amazing friend, Clair, managed to keep going to another six hours and finished the walk. WELL DONE CLAIR! She walk 40 miles in 13 hours and five minutes. Just Fabulous; of course I am very jealous ;)
I finished all the cliff section of the walk, 17.8 miles/28.4 kilometres, in 7 hours and 5 minutes. I feel very disappointed that I didn't finish and over the rest of the weekend I told Mr Bee that I would do the walk again next year but start at the Pleinmont checkpoint and walk the remaining 22.2 miles but now it's a bright and somewhat sunny Monday morning I am feeling far more optimistic and I think I'll give it another go from the start. I have recovered fairly speedily and my magic double skinned walking socks and the miraculous Compeed antiblister band aids have meant that my feet are in reasonably good condition. You only live once and I would really like to have achieved the challenge for myself during my life. I have twelve months to work on my flexibility, thighs and calves at the gym and I will certainly walk the cliffs a few more times during the year in training. Look out Itex 2010 here I come!