Welcome to 2012. There are some minor changes on the fiasco front. This is of course dependant if my blogging mojo is working. If so, I’ll try and do more posts. Unlike my usual method, which is to wait until my previous entry has run out of steam before uploading another. This is all theory though and it’ll probably even out in the end. I’ve no doubt during the year I’m going to feel like hurling the computer out of the window at some stage.
How’s the post title? I thought I would start off with something nice and dramatic seeing how 2012 is the year of the apocalypse. When is it again? December? Oh well, that’s pretty good timing when you think about, as we’ll all save some money on Christmas presents.
Sure, the post says ‘welcome to purgatory’, but I’ve never really understood what ‘purgatory’ meant. Hoping to expand my knowledge, I asked a bloke at work. His reply, I kid you not, was, “Oh yeah, that’s the sort of in-between place when you’re dead, but as far as I know the Pope got rid of it”.
It’s not the reply I was expecting, so I came back with, “Can the Pope do that? Just bin purgatory? Is it that simple?” He replied, “Yeah sure, he got rid of it”. Well, there you go, I didn’t realise the Pope was such a boss. Mind you, I’m a little suspicious of what this bloke at work tells me, as he did say once, “Gallipoli? Was that World War One or Two?”
Seeing how it’s the start of the New Year I thought I’d go for the, “new month, new year, get training hard routine” so I headed off on a hike which I hadn’t been to before in the Steiglitz Historic Park. It was only 13 km in total, so I thought it’d be a pushover.
Well, that was the idea, but it’s amazing how dumb I can be at times. I thought one gets wiser as they get older? This ‘hike’ descended into a complete joke due to the minor fact it was way too hot for my liking. I looked at the forecast, which was telling me it would be 31 °C and all I did was shrug my shoulders. In fact, the whole walk is so farcical, I barely even got to take any pictures, so it’s scraping the bottom of the photographic barrel time.
I’ve tackled Steiglitz Historic Park on a few occasions in the past, but for anyone who’s missed my previous posts, the park is an old gold mining area, which has long been abandoned. Is that the quickest history lesson you’ve ever had?
I did learn a few lessons from the moment I started the walk and I’ll list them at the end. The first one is fairly obvious and that’s to carry a map. Quite an amazing insight into walking in the bush? Well, I do have a beautiful map of the Steiglitz Historic Park, but it was sitting at home relaxing in the drawer. Instead I had Gee Tee’s book, Daywalks Around Melbourne which has a map in it. Well, sort of, as it’s a bit light on detail. I did have a GPS though, so don’t panic.
The area is pretty straightforward, but I started off leaving the Crossing Picnic Area and ended up walking on a creek bed without realising a new trail had been created nearby.
Oops. Not really lost, as I was fully aware I was in Victoria, plus I worked out the error quite quickly, as I made a quick bush bash to get back on track. The result? A cut to my leg from some sort of Satan’s grass. As a bonus, during this ‘lost’ moment I did see a piece of rusting tin on the ground, as the whole area is full of this stuff.
Well, back on track and the walk for the first few kilometres is all uphill. It was hot, but I was feeling okay at this point. I chipped away at the elevation which was steady, but not ball busting. I even managed to spot the odd feather on the way.
One great thing about the area is the amount of grass trees. They’re all good for a photo opportunity and if you notice closely there’s a new fiasco first. I’m actually at ground level taking the photo, instead of standing bolt upright. I think I need to get lower to the action from now on.
This is all smooth sailing so far isn’t it? I guess it was and the feathers kept on coming.
During all of this ‘lying on the ground’ picture taking method a leaf landed on my leg. While I’m sitting down, I might as well take a photo. Right?
This all seems peaceful enough doesn’t it? I bet you’re on the edge of your IKEA couch, just waiting for my walking flame-out to occur. Don’t worry, it’s coming up at any moment now. I continued to climb until I met the road which contains the old remains of the Kinglock Mine. The last time I was here I caught sight of a little known resident of the area and that’s the ‘Kinglock Cock’, but on this occasion it was tackle free.
Something more disturbing than a pecker on the loose was going on though. I became aware I was struggling and feeling really fatigued. I’d only travelled about 5 km at this point and figured it was the hill climbing that had sucked a bit of life out of me. There was some descending to do now, so I continued.
What was weird though, is I wasn’t recovering at all and continued to puff and pant heavily. It was only a couple of weeks ago I’d walked 22 km with 1300 metres of elevation climbed in a day, so I was a little perturbed at the level of fatigue I was feeling. Oh well, keep walking was the theme. Another lesson? Maybe.
There was a road section that started to climb and I began to stop every 50 metres or so. Mm… it was a little weird, but you know what? I kept walking and my one real highlight of the day was noticing a piece of pottery lying half buried and broken in the middle of the road. Not just any pottery, but the standard style I’ve found on two other occasions in the area. It has a distinctive blue motif and while I’m at it, let’s reminisce about the pieces from the past.
Sooner or later I’ll be able to make a complete bowl. I assume it was a generic style of plate or bowl used by the early settlers in the area? I tried Googling for the answer, but it led me nowhere. I’m sure there’s some plate buff out there who knows what the story is.
I had a slow descent down a road before heading off onto a track which began a slight rise. The trouble is, as I hit the rise it felt like I’d face-planted a wall. My legs were sore and without any sort of strength and for a first I began to feel a little light headed, so I stopped straight away and sat down.
The lessons kept coming though, which is ‘watch where you sit when dying’ as I found I’d sat in a weed infested burr factory. I was completely shattered and no amount of drinking water would help. Whilst sitting on my burrs I did notice this nice flower nearby though.
Okay, let’s get a little technical in the fiasco world. I’ve thought about this a bit in the past and it’s as if my maximum temperature to perform well during exercise is 25 °C. Anything above it and I start to suffer badly and there’s a weird thing that can happen if I exceed my comfortable pace.
I like to keep my pulse under 150 – 160 per minute during exercise, but if I go above it I begin to drop off the pace. Sure, I can slow down and let my pulse recover, but only a moderate effort afterwards will suddenly push it high again rapidly, no matter how much I’d slowed down. Following this, I never recover and there’s a perfect term for it used in cycling and that’s ‘bonking’. Yeah, okay, the word has been purloined for other activities, but I’m sticking to the topic! I had well and truly ‘bonked’ and there was no going back.
Whilst on cycling, I can unfortunately remember one of the most memorable ‘bonks’ to have occurred and that was to Cadel Evans in the 2002 Giro d’Italia, He was leading the race when he completely cracked on the ascent of the Folgaria Passo Coé and lost an astonishing 15 minutes to the leader in 9 km. Nasty!
Well, I can sympathise, as the minuscule hill I was on had become my Folgaria Passo Coé and I was going nowhere. I was still intending on continuing, but finally my brain overruled my machismo that wouldn’t contemplate a ‘did not finish’. It was time to find an exit strategy and just get out of there. “Head home”, was the order from the smallish section of my brain which deals with logic.
I looked at my half-baked map and found a shorter route back by sticking to the dirt roads that criss-cross the area. An unfortunate aspect of this was I had to climb back up a road I’d just spent the last few kilometres descending.
I set off back and I was even too fatigued to capture on film the three million weedy burrs stuck to my pants. I slogged back up the hill stopping at shady points every 5 meters or so. The sun was beating down and it felt hotter than the Devils underpants and you can just imagine how hot that is.
I think at this point I reached the zone of hiking purgatory. Light-headed and shuffling with my pulse red lining was not the ideal method of walking and worst of all the pictures descended into extremely average. I was dreaming a dozen semi-naked women would appear and carry me back to my car on a bed of feathers, but the reality was I felt as if I was surrounded by multiple Tony Abbott’s in mankini’s wielding pitchforks and yelling “no” at me. Yep, that’s hell alright.
I finally reached the top of a hill that was ridiculously small, but it was my Steiglitz Everest and now it was time to slowly shuffle downhill. There was the odd undulation, but with the GPS in hand I could see the car park getting closer.
When I finally made it back to the car I’ve never ever felt the joy of air conditioning and leather seats as much as that moment. I put the seat back and lay down with cold air blasting my face until it felt like hypothermia was about to set in . I think of all the pictures I took on the walk and my favourite by far is the following one.
I drove back to Melbourne in a hypothermic condition brought on by the hurricane force air conditioner. I was so stuffed I couldn’t even react when I got well and truly cut off by a car carrying three blokes who all had baseball caps on backwards. This look alone triggered the ‘tool alert meter’, but to top it off a little more the driver had a polo shirt on, complete with collar upturned. Has there ever been any worthy achievements in the history of mankind by a bloke with his polo collar turned up? How much more can one man take in a day? Anyway, I groaned in their general direction and continued home.
Yes, I’m afraid the walk statistics are quite brutal. Do you like some comedy? Well, it took me over four hours to cover only ten kilometres.
In completing this round of statistics how about the Steiglitz weather observations for the walk? I guess I overrated the heat slightly, as most of the time when I was walking it was only 29 °C instead of 30 °C.
A special ‘Lessons learned’ segment:
1. If you’re prone to putting on weight, I suggest not to eat more than your yearly calorie requirements over three days at Christmas like I did. There will be a pay off to this gluttony in which you’ll feel like an extra from a Reuben’s painting. Prepare for puddin’ packin’ payback.
2. If you’re going hiking you should carry a map. Why? It gives you all the secret escape routes back to the car.
3. If you’re heading into long grass then gaiters are handy. I’ve still got burr warfare socks to prove the free and easy approach was problematic.
4. If you don’t do heat well during exercise then I have the perfect solution for you and it draws upon my extensive experience of growing up without air conditioning. Stay at home and place a wet towel on your chest, whilst a ceiling fan is switched on to the tornado setting. The cooling experience is made all the better by having a gin and tonic at the same time, but not too many because if you doze off you’ll wake up in intensive care with pneumonia.
Well, that’s it, but let me leave you with one more photo. I’ll remember this Steiglitz walk for a few weeks to come just by looking in the mirror. Nothing quite like a sexy subconjunctival haemorrhage is there?
On the bright side, not many people get to have their physical limits delineated so precisely! I don't enjoy hiking in extreme heat either, which made the California desert last year a trial at times. If your hiking career burns out, I think you'd make a splendid history teacher.
Thanks, this was the technical post! I really wish I was doing this hiking stuff 20 years ago when I was able to run 10 kms at sub 40 min pace! Now, it's real slogging stuff and I've fought it, but I've decided I can only do so much when it's hot!
Oh yeah, I can imagine the California desert will be slightly more arduous than my Steiglitz hike! I really do like the shade of trees, which I'm guessing is in short supply in the desert!
I do like my history, but I think you're taking the piss!
My last hike was in October and since then been eating like it going out of fashion, specially over Chrissy.
Climbing Mt Feathertop,on the weekend, taking two hiking hiking noobies with me.. Hopefully I don't end up in the same predicament as you. Well they could always carry me out.
Thanks for the comment DM! Mt Feathertop? I've just come back from there! Hope you had a good time. We might have passed each other at some time 🙂
Thanks for your blog – I stumbled upon it randomly when looking up 'Mt Towrong' and had quite a chuckle reading your description of the drop-toilet incident at Mt Macedon.
Anyway, I'm just curious to know how much you are eating and drinking during your hikes. I'm an endurance athlete (adventure racing/multisport), and have learned the hard way about what happens to the body when you don't consistently eat and drink during sustained physical activity. In a race, I now force myself eat and drink every 20 minutes – whether I feel like it or not – to avoid the bonking you have described.
Even though you are working at a lower intensity during your hikes, it is still important to keep the carbs and electrolytes up (and protein too, on longer hikes) by snacking and sipping on a sports-type drink regularly, especially in hot weather. Water alone wont cut it. It sounds to me like you did indeed bonk due to electrolyte and glycogen depletion.
Sorry if I'm telling you how to suck eggs, but it seems like your purgatory could have been avoided with the correct nutrition.
Keep up the writing.
Hi Emma! Thanks for the comment! You do realise that this is a fiasco blog and if I do everything as I should, it would be a complete bore?!
Seriously though, you are totally correct. The mistake I made was that due to the short distance I didn't really put any thought into what I might need. As a result I took exactly nothing! Oh, I did have an apple, but I left it in the car by accident 🙂
So, for this walk all that powered me was my morning porridge which I had eaten about four hours before starting. Oops! Yes, you're right in that something like a Gatorade would have helped a lot. It seems on a hot day no matter how much water I drink I just don't get the energy back, so a sports drink is definitely on the agenda. I've bought a big tub of powder that I'm planning on mixing up into a bottle to see what the result is on the next hot walk.
The trouble is how can I have purgatory in a post title if I'm feeling okay?!
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. It's much appreciated!