Late last year I decided to enter Fotrally, a non-stop walking race that some of my friends had been telling me about. They seemed to think that it would suit me, considering the amount of walking I have done!
I realized from the beginning that it was nothing like the walking that I have been doing, but the concept intrigued me. I decided to use the race as a motivational tool and enter, forcing me to get fitter and do a lot of walking. That was the idea, anyway. Reality proved to be very different.
Due to my bunion operation taking forever to stop hurting, several colds and flues that flared up every time I tried to exercise and an unexpected amount of stress at work, the planned preparations never happened. None of them…
Right up until the last moment I was very uncertain that I would even start the race, during the last couple of weeks a really bad toothache almost proved to be the straw that broke the camels back. But..
I mean, I had already entered and paid the fee and it was just the sort of wild, wacky event that appeals to me. I even had the best support in the world lined up in the form of my sister Denise and her husband Tomas. So I decided to at least be a small part of the event, I just had to adjust my expectations. Originally, I had hoped to be able to walk for 48 hours. Even though that is a very long time, it is far from a winning time and I thought it would just about be possible for me with the right sort of preparations. With no preparation and me being in possibly the worst shape I have been in during my life, I had to adjust my expectations radically.
6 hours. That would do it. I would be able to be a part of the experience and at least see what it was all about.
Friday evening saw a strange collection of participants gathering at Sjöhistoriska Museet getting ready to start. The event felt very friendly and open and the dress code was ultra-running sporty. I had, in view of my low expectations, chosen to turn up in long pants, a dress shirt and, naturally, flip-flops. After all, I was just heading out for a nice little walk.
At 9 pm the starting count-down ended and we were off. Off on a nice summer evening walk through a beautiful Stockholm.
A great start to the race and I walked along, taking it easy and talking to few of the others. There were a lot of different goals amongst the walkers, from just participating, like me, to beating earlier results or even trying to be amongst the top 20 and getting seeded for next year.
It was a nice night and the only problem I experienced during the first 6 hours was that my dress shirt was just a little bit too cold. So I decided to continue, just changing to a long-sleeved, thin hoodie and getting some wonderful tasting sandwiches from Denise at the service point.
The next 6 hours also passed without any major concerns and I decided to continue even further, just changing into shorts, t-shirt, sun hat, and sunglasses. At this point, I should really have changed shoes as well as I was starting to feel some blistering on the soles of my feet. That’s what happens when you don’t get enough training miles done..
Physically and mentally, I was doing really well, not feeling tired and enjoying the whole experience, but my feet were beginning to complain. A blister had formed on my right heel, and just as it was starting to get really painful, it burst and I felt sticky liquid running all over my right flip-flop. At least it stopped hurting!
Then I could feel the blisters start under both of the balls of my feet. Only a couple of hours into the 6-hour section. Still felt way better than I had any right to expect and I prepared Denise and Tomas for a change of shoes at the next service point.
With less than 2km left of section 3, as we were rounding Gripsholms Castle for the third time, I felt the big blister under my left foot burst and flood my flip-flop with sticky goo. That was it, what little common sense I had made me realize that I would have to quit at the 18-hour mark. I could definitely continue both physically and mentally but the cost to my feet would be greater and greater for every continued kilometer, and as I am heading off for a 2-week hike in Iceland in a week, I decided to be prudent and not jeopardize my ability to have recuperated in time for that.
Disappointing, sure as I still felt surprisingly fresh, but I had still managed to complete a lot more than I ever expected and I was more than pleased with the result.
Next year? Who knows, I am tempted to give the 48-hours limit another attempt, but that is going to be very dependent on my other travel plans.
Time will tell.
Just remeber to keep walking!