So what do you do when you’ve done the impossible? Well you raise the bar up and challenge yourself again.
Following my 133 solo cache find day last month I’ve been feeling pretty proud of myself. I realise that personal challenges are just that and may mean absolutely nothing to anyone else, but for me to come back from the leg injury and set a new solo best felt like a major victory.
But I’m still getting stronger and felt like it was time to take on another challenge. I’m happy to let my solo record stand for some time. I can think of only a handful of people who could do that number on their own in a day, and none of them have bad legs.
Instead, this time I wanted to beat my all time daily record which stood at 135 (only 2 less than my new solo record). I’d identified a route near Peterborough to be able to beat this and enlisted my friend Westie to come help me.
I was glad I did as there were a number over ditches or in hawthorn bushes and whilst I would have found a way to do them, it would have been very slow progress. Normally I’m lazy enough to let him do the hard work, but this time I actually felt guilty because I couldn’t.
Westie is fast and, most importantly, has endurance. That’s the most important quality for a hardcore cacher – to be able to pace yourself to keep on going. He can keep going for mile on mile and is probably one of the fittest people I know.
Pretty much all the hardcore cachers I know have daily records of between 130 and 145 caches in a day (Westie’s was 142) and usually comprise of a walk followed by some easier drive-bys at the end of the day. I wanted to not only beat my personal best but smash it, and the circuit I’d identified for it was perfect.
We used a leapfrog technique which means that when a cache is found, one person stays to sign it whilst the other moves onto the next to begin the search. You lose so much time finding and signing caches that any way you can speed it up helps. The downside of this method is that it requires equal pace, both in walking and finding, otherwise, one person races off ahead and leaves the other behind. Westie is fast and subject to many jokes about his caching speed. So I was quite pleased when he said he’d noticed that I was now caching faster than I had been before the leg incident.
“Am I caching at your pace now, then?” I ask.
“No,” he replied.
Oh well, something to work on! But Westie and I have cached many times before and so we worked hard all day. We started caching at 6am, with only a 5 minute break back at the car around 11am and a 10 minute pint at a pub at 2pm. By that time we’d found 94.
The more you find, the further you walk, the more difficult it becomes, exponentially difficult in fact. We pushed on. I think it was the most difficult around the 115th find. It was around 4pm. We’d been going for 10 hours now and because of the route I’d devised to minimise the distance we walked we were now walking away from the car. Every new cache made me wonder when we’d make a turn East and make the final journey back.
My feet were starting to ache now and I could feel myself slowing down. This is when it becomes a battle of the wills with yourself. I pushed on… because I might be fat and slow but I have the endurance of an Olympic athlete.
We took at picture of ourselves at our 150th find of the day because it was a psychological milestone, a sign that we were not just beating personal records but stepping out ahead of the pack. I was pleased as I had promised Westie “at least 150 caches” and we went on to do 10 more, finishing at dusk back at the car.
We were shattered. I measured 29 miles walked and 160 caches found, all on foot. How hard we worked is evident in how few pictures I took of the day. I just didn’t have time to stop as we pushed to maintain pace the entire 14 hours.
I am pleased to have set a new daily record but I’m already planning something to beat it. That, however, will probably be closer to 40 miles and require maximum daylight, so I’ve got some time to get training.
Records aside, it was a great day out and some fantastic countryside. Some caches were a little tricky which slowed us down but we managed to complete the circuit, even if we did have to use a headtorch for the last few.