Tag Archives: Great North Walk training

Taking stock for the second half of 2013

Old faithful by Andrew Gills
Old faithful, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

I’ve had a fantastic five months of racing since January, both as an individual and as part of team Whoops Witch Way. I’ve achieved all the goals I set for myself and many more. Now, with winter setting in, it’s time for me to get back to take stock and refocus on some new goals for the second half of 2013.

I took a total rest day yesterday to recharge my batteries. I didn’t do any training, work, university study or social commitments. Rather, I slept, watched television and surfed the internet.. It was just grand.

So, what are the bones on which the second half of 2013 will be built?

  • On 2 July I leave for a 12 day solo hike along the 250km Great North Walk from Sydney to Newcastle
  • On 3 August, I will be running the Brisbane Marathon with the goal of taking lots of photos and enjoying about 5 hours out on the course
  • On 15-16 November, team Whoops Witch Way hope to tackle the Dark Side 18 hour adventure race (if we can find a third team member)
  • In December (I have to fix a date this week before the cheap airfares get booked out), I will be flying to Launceston (Tasmania) to bike pack the 480km Tasmanian Trail.

So the next 5-6 months promise a little less racing but a lot more camping, hiking and bike packing adventures (my partner is buying me a bike packing kit from a local supplier).

To kick start it this morning, I loaded 11.5kg of gear into my hiking pack and went on a 5km walk with my partner. I think I might try to keep doing these pack walks leading up to the Great North Walk so I am fit and strong to carry all my gear for the 12 days.

Total: 5km walk with 11.5kg pack

Morning walk and pack review

I went out for a 6km pack walk this morning with my partner. It’s been over a week since we last went walking together, so this morning’s wander was just lovely. My pack weight is now 11.8kg and I’m finding that the slow increments are working well to help me adjust to the weight. By the time I tackle the 250km Great North Walk, I’ll be fit enough to carry everything I’ll need for the 13 day experience.

This morning I thought I’d review my hiking pack. It’s a Blackwolf Glacier Bay 75. I bought the pack in either 2005 or 2006 (I am leaning towards 2005). Blackwolf no longer make this model but no doubt the review will give those looking for an entry-level pack some idea of the general quality of Blackwolf’s packs.

To help visualise my pack in all its glory, I made a short video. Please forgive the ‘Amateur Hour’ presentation: I’m not really a video guy.

As you can see, after 7-8 years in service, my pack is still in good condition. This is through no special care or attention on my part. The bag has been dragged through mud, dropped in the ocean, smashed against rocks, covered in sand and left neglected in a cupboard when not in use. I’ve never washed or cleaned the pack, other than a quick hose off when it’s been too muddy to store in the cupboard at home. The pack’s been strapped to the back of a motorbike that traveled down highways at 100kph and along gravel roads at speeds up to 80kph. It’s been thrown in airplane luggage compartments, and has survived the hustled and bustle of being worn on busy commuter trains.

The pack sits in the budget / entry level market. At the time I bought it, the price of a reasonable quality hiking pack at outdoors stores was about $AU300-500. This pack only set me back $AU120 from an Army disposal store.

The pros of this pack:

  • it’s obviously robust
  • it’s narrow so great for bushwalking along single track
  • it’s easy to adjust and has plenty of adjustments for different body shapes and sizes
  • the optional separator in the lower section of the pack means you can keep wet clothes or shoes separate from your other gear but you can also just use the pack as a single compartment unit.

The cons of this pack:

  • it’s not as lightweight as some of the more expensive options on the market
  • it doesn’t have a fancy higher-end brand blazoned on it (no offense intended to Blackwolf) so you might not get taken as seriously on face value as others who spent more on their packs.

At the end of the day, I have looked at newer more expensive packs over the past few years with the thought of upgrading. But I’ve never found anything that I can justify spending money on when this old faithful is still functional, comfortable and in good condition despite the abuse I’ve hurled at it.

Total: 6km walk with 11.8kg pack.

Things I see when I’m out walking

Disgusting worm by Andrew Gills
Disgusting worm, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Mum and I went bushwalking near home this morning. The birds were singing in the trees and the creeks were running clear.

But the bush was also alive with creepy crawlies like spiders, mosquitoes and this giant worm.

I upped the weight in my pack to 13kg this morning by throwing some of my motorbike gear into it. I found the weight quite manageable.

Total: 6.1km bushwalk with 13kg pack

Enjoying the flowers

Bottle brush glory by Andrew Gills
Bottle brush glory, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

We see the rain coming as we leave our house. It sweeps across the landscape and follows us like Linus’s security blanket sweeps along the floor behind him. “Do you want to go home?” I ask my partner. “No, let’s just get it done” she responds.

I admire my partner’s commitment to her training program. She’s now been exercising consistently for about 8 months and the daily walks are paying off for her. Where a year ago she wouldn’t go out in the rain, now it is normal to find her saturated walking shoes drying in the front room.

I have maintained the 10.5kg pack weight for this morning’s walk. I am sure I’ll be grateful for it when I set off on the Great North Walk in July.

The rain has made everything grow. Flowers offer nectar for the lorikeets. Native trees are tinged with the pink and red colours of their new leaves. Seed pods are exploding all over the tops of native grasses. It’s a pretty sight.

Tonight I will go trail running but for now, I enjoy the sights the slower pace allows.

Total: 6km walk with 10.5kg pack.

Pre-work hike

Pre-work hike by Andrew Gills
Pre-work hike, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Today I added my hiking stove, toilet paper, first aid kit, towel and 2L water to my pack. It now weighs 10.2kg.

I head off through the grass field listening to the birds chirping in the trees. The puddles of water are large and deep, forcing me to get my feet wet. I cross the gravel road into the bush and the worries of my world drift away.

The fire trail takes me uphill; it’s a good challenge with the pack. I stay on the fire trail as it follows the ridge line before dropping steeply downhill to a narrow valley. Everything is lush and green, such a contrast to the harsh dryness we had just a few months ago.

From the valley I walk back to the road along single tracks. The first switches back and forth up the hill through the grass trees. From the top I turn left down a spur until I reach the single track that contours on the north western side of the ridge I walked on the way out.

It’s peaceful and I have space to let my mind wander. I daydream about the Great North Walk that I’m training for and about the camping trip my parents and I are taking at Easter (destination to be confirmed). I think about the fun I will have as a Scout leader, helping 11-14 year olds become confident in the outdoors. And about where my studies might take me. It’s all part of the pleasure I derive from training.

Total: 7.62km hike with 10.2kg pack