Monday, 6 April 2015

The Striders - How far can we go?

Easter break. Sunday morning. Blue sky. Freezing cold. Sparta, Nyx and I are ready for a long training session. What I'd like to test today is the distance we can easily walk/run, fully loaded, without excessive fatigue. To see how realistic my Nordkalottleden project is!
In August, I plan to hike about 40k a day on hilly terrain with a backpack of some 13-14kg. Even when travelling light, I still have to pack food for 6-7 days for me and the dogs. They will carry 2kg each but no more - that would put too much strain on them, the repeated distance will be tough enough.
My pack for this Sunday hike is of 15kg. I loaded it with my tent, sleeping bag, dehydrated food, water and many other useless stuff to get to the desired weight. It's been a long time since I last carried so much on my back. During the last months I was more on pulling and dragging..! So let's see how it goes. Well, anyone sensible would have started with a somehow lighter pack...but I want to give it a try.
The plan is to walk from my place to... wherever I can get in one day. At least 40k. And Marc will meet me where I end up. I will walk in direction of Yverdon/Ste-Croix taking the "middle" route - not the usual high one as the mountains are still covered with snow and I want to test the distance today, not the time spent on my legs. Montricher, L'Isle, Romainmôtier, Les Clées, Baulmes... the trail goes through many lovely villages and renown places. A promising day out!

9.30 am. Not an early start... The dogs are overexcited, yapping, yipping, jumping. Off we go.
I feel really good, so happy and excited to be back on the trail for a whole day. If I know a good part of the route, some stretches are completely new to me. I explore small paths that I never walked before, discover beautiful sites, lovely countryside, charming villages.
The dogs behave surprisingly well on the leash. I don't often keep them all along on the lead so I was wondering how they would react. But they don't seem to care much. Nyx is going full throttle, extremely focused. Sparta seems to have understand that it is going to be a looong day, so she's trotting next to me, not caring much about her speedy sister.
I am surprised how easy I carry the pack. It must be all theses hours pulling my tyre. Or the heavy works on the house? I feel much stronger than I used to. Shortly after we left, walking seems to slow and I start running downhill and some flat portions.
By 1 pm, we reach Romainmôtier. 22.5k from home. Not bad. The medieval village is busy on this sunny Easter Sunday. Many visitors come for the famous abbaye and on such a beautiful day it is really worth it. We make a nice 20-minute break on a sunny bench. I have a bar and an apple, the dogs have their snacks - we've received so much, they must test them now! - and seem to love them.

We're now heading to Bretonnières, Les Clées, Lignerolles,.. This stretch is a bit more hilly now and I cannot walk as fast. On steep hills I can really feel the load! The wind also gets stronger, sometimes I can hardly walk... Shortly before L'Abergement, I reach a beautiful forest track and can start running again. We all three really enjoy that bit! I can't believe we're so fast: by 4pm we reach Baulmes (38km)
and make another short break at 40km. I start feeling the weight on my back and shoulders. My gait is not as light as before. The dogs however don't seem to be the least tired: as soon as we stop, they start playing together and digging holes. No comment. I have another Natural bar, the dogs a few snacks and we set off again, the spot where we are being too windy. But the view on Yverdon lake is stunning!
By 4.30 I call Marc and we decide to meet in Orbe by 6pm. It gives me time for another 10k, even if I slow down a bit. I find a lovely track in the middle of the vineyards leading me through the charming  villages of Rances and Valeyres-sous-Rance. I had never walked there before and it is amazing how things look different on foot. Then we take a nice and forest path that finally leads us just above Orbe. 2 more kilometers and we reach the old town and its castle.

50k done in less than 8 hours with a 15kg backpack. The test is a success: the dogs are more than fine: after their evening meal, they set off in the garden, playing and barking! Even though I feel a bit rusty - need to do some improvements on my pack and some more training - I know that my project is absolutely realistic. Even going more slowly, we will have more than enough time to cover our daily 40k. Good news.
It's been a great day, indeed. Time for a delicious pizza now :-)

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