On March 27, 2021, I walked 50km in support of the Breast Cancer Society of Canada. In short, it was pretty brutal. Below you’ll find my description of numerous elements that made up my walk.
I had been checking the long term weather forecast as early as I could, and when the day first appeared in the 14 day forecast, it was calling for 12 degrees, with 6km/h winds, and sunny. No chance of precipitation. Every day thereafter, the temperature dropped, POP went up, and winds increased. On the Wednesday before the walk, it was calling for 80 POP with light flurries, 23km/h winds, 1 hour of sun and a high of 4 degrees. Things were not looking good. Then, magically, the forecast on Thursday was better, and as of Friday evening, it was calling for 11 degrees, 20 POP, 6km/h winds, and mainly sunny with 8 hours of sun. Things were looking up.
It appears none of the predictions were right. The temperature never got to 11, only got about 2 hours of sun (from 2:30-4:30pm), and the wind was pretty well non existent, except for random gusts around 3:30pm. Overall, I was pretty happy. Due to the lack of sun, the temperature throughout the day really didn’t change so I did not have to add/remove layers. The lack of wind was very desirable, and the temperature was cool enough to prevent my body from overheating, while not making me frozen. Overall, the weather conditions proved to be favourable for everything except filming as the day looked a little grey and gloomy.
I was lucky to have some great company. Chris Snow, my second boss at Accenture, joined me for the complete duration and helped push me to walk faster. He is a veteran of long walks as a while ago he completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 4 months, effectively walking from Mexico to Canada.
I also had a good friend as well as my partner start with me, and both ended up walking beyond the half way mark. About a quarter of the way through, another friend joined, and at the one third mark, 3 others joined.
Therefore, I was pretty fortunate to have people join to not only motivate me, but to keep me entertained. Ultimately, the company I had made this a much better journey than it could have been
This is where things were not ideal. Most of the paved paths were snow free, but the unpaved paths were either incredibly muddy, covered in water, or had a nasty company of snow/ice. As a result, I had to rely more heavily on the paved paths than I wanted, which put additional stress on the body. It’s silly to think that walking on pavement would make that much of a difference, but over 60,000 steps on pavement versus softer ground does make a big difference.
In some cases, *cough cough Mud Lake*, the terrain was completely washed out, requiring us to walk through nasty ankle deep cold water and mud. Luckily, I was mostly prepared with waterproof socks and rubber covers for my shoes. It was really important to ensure my feet stayed dry, and fortunately I was able to do that, even though it took longer than expected in some areas.
Where it got really unfortunate was the last 10km or so. Not only was I getting very sore at the 40km mark, but even the paved paths were covered with snow and ice. Walking on this is not only slower, it is also more physically demanding, consequently putting more strain on my already tired body.
I’ll be honest – I was feeling pretty good up until we got onto the the Sir John A MacDonald Parkway. There, it was basically the same view for 8km, on pavement. I was started to feel some pain. However, once I hit the half way mark and passed the Chateau Laurier, I was once again feeling pretty good and got my second wind. For the next 15km, I was in good shape with very minimal pain or boredom.
Then I hit the 40km mark. At first thought, this seemed like an awesome thing. I was 80% of the way done! However, then I thought to myself, “Yikes. That’s going to take about 2 hours.”
The idea that I was 80% done but still had about 2 hours left to go was pretty tough mentally. At this point, Chris and I were still talking, but not nearly as much as I think we were trying to save our energy and focus on walking. This mental challenge, along with the distance, made my body start to really hurt. I could feel the numerous blisters on my feet getting worse. My nipples were getting sore from rubbing up against my shirt for 7.5 hours, and pretty well every muscle in my legs was stiffening up. Given my previous groin injuries and my ongoing shinsplints, then mix in the snow and ice, the last 10km were pretty grueling.
At the end, we decided to finish off strong and ran at the end for the last 1km. Finally, I was able to rest, although, I knew I couldn’t just rest or else I’d be worse off tomorrow. I stretched, walked around, walked up 4 flights of stairs when I got home, and made sure I took the dog out to get in as much low intensity exercise as possible.
In summary, this was tough. I was really not looking forward to this as I recognize walking isn’t as easy as people think. Since most people walk everyday, they assume all walking is the same. Or they think they previously sightseed and walked all day. Realistically, that isn’t even close to 50km but I think people generally have a hard time relating the 50km distance. I implore people to try to do a longer than 10km walk at once and see how they feel. The thing with this walk too though is that the pain isn’t consistent, it’s exponential. The pain you feel up to 30km isn’t going to continue to be that painful for the remainder – it’s going to get worse.
Compared to other endurance related events I’ve done, this walk was very much different. For the Olympic Triathlon, which is a 1.5km swim, 40km bike, and 10km run, I was very physically exhausted and clearly just had a super high cardio workout. It was effectively a high intensitiy interval training (HIIT) workout, except, no intervals. Just high intensity for 3 hours. My muslces actually felt fine, but I was incredibly exhausted.
For the Marathon, which is 42.2km, I was physically tired, and exhausted, but not particularly out of breath. It was a good cardio workout, but not as much as the triathlon. However, my body hurt quite a bit, and a lot more than from the triathlon.
And then for this walk, I actually wasn’t that exhausted physically, my energy levels were decently high, and cardio wise it was pretty well nothing. However, my body hurt more than the marathon. I felt broken. Luckily, I was feeling decently well the next day and after 2 days, I was feeling pretty close to myself.
Overall though, even though it was a long 9 hour journey of pain, I still consider myself fortunate that my health is overall pretty good. I can only imagine how people undergoing chemo for long periods of time must feel. Despite my painful journey, my eyes remain open to additional physical, mental, and emotional pain people fighting cancer must feel every single day. Therefore, any donations you can make towards this months charity, the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, would be greatly appreciated.