My writing has really suffered this week.  I’m not sure whether it’s because this is a 3rd draft going over the same stuff, or there are hidden nerves because of problems with previous drafts or because I’ve actually suffered this week.
Last Sunday saw me take on my biggest geocaching challenge yet, and as far as big challenges go, this one was totally unprecedented.

If you think of running, then one of the big benchmarks for a runner is being able to complete a marathon.  Geocaching has such benchmarks with many cachers feeling that being able to find a hundred caches in a day is an accolade of similar prestige.  Joining the “100 club” is not impossible, especially if you choose the right circuit, but it’s tough both mentally and physically in the same way a marathon is.  It’s no mean feat and out of over half a million ranked UK geocachers there’s probably a few thousand who have done it.
But if you look at the stats of some of the top cachers in the UK, you’ll see the maximum they’ve found in a single day is around 130 to 140.  As your body tires from the walking and your mind starts repeating “why are we finding Tupperware?” louder and louder, it gets exponentially harder the more you find.  Finds 110 – 120 are infinitesimally harder than finds 10-20.  Hence at the top end there’s not a lot of spread with everyone on similar numbers.
It gets a little bit more complicated because different countries have different types of caches.  In America they like having long trails of caches along minor roads, and it is possible out there, armed with a car and a good team that you can do 700-800 in a day.  But in the UK, on foot, it looks like the limit is around 140.  Or it was.
The best I’ve ever done solo is 133 which I’m pretty proud of as most of the top cachers work in teams.  That means more pairs of eyes and that the administrative duties of signing logs can be shared.  Less bending down, less stretching, less scrambling into hawthorn bushes.
These big numbers really depend on the caches you choose.  The easier they are to find, the sooner you’ll be onto the next one, but also there’s an increased chance that a member of the public has found it and it’s gone missing.  It’s a bit of a lottery.
Back in September, my fellow cacher Westie and I found a way to link several circuits together to make a mega circuit.  We walked 30 miles and found 160 caches over the course of the day.  This was a big deal.  We’d pushed over the 150 mark and in doing so were pretty sure we’d set a new benchmark for number of caches found in the UK on foot in a single day.  It’s a bit of a mouthful, but remember, this is part of over half a million ranked UK cachers.
Now one thing Geocachers are ‘terrible’ for, is following one another.  All the top cachers watch were others go and plan accordingly.  It’s all good natured but it does mean we’re sometimes secretive where we are going the coming weekend.  Of course, once logged it’s public knowledge and the top cachers are usually pretty good at helping each other.  I even make sure I order and time stamp my logs so that if people want to do the same route as us they can work it out.
So it was no surprise when 2 weeks later, friends went out and beat our record, doing 180 caches in 12 hours.  It was a slightly different circuit but within a mile of where we had been in places.  We were pleased for them and waited to see who else would come along.
It seemed as if the “150 club” would be occupied by just four people.
Now I could have rested on my laurels but I had a secret goal – over 200 in a day.  Think about this, this is like a runner saying they want to do two marathons back to back; ultramarathons.
The real killer of big numbers is the time it takes to find, retrieve, log and replace the cache.  Even if on average that takes 3 minutes, a hundred caches is going to add 5 hours to your day on top of your walking time.  The secret, if there is any, is not only to walk fast for the entire duration but also to find caches quickly.  Drop that 100 down to 1 minute, you’re only adding little over 90 minutes.  It makes a HUGE difference.  Sounds simple but as you tire mentally and physically it becomes harder to search systematically and easier to make stupid mistakes.
Last week I got notice of a new circuit near Cambridge.  What was impressive was not only was it large and comprised of easy to find caches but it passed a lot of other caches along the way.  In total, I made it around 215.
Westie and I had been to North Wales a few weeks before where we’d not only managed 410 finds in 3 days but managed to find over 150 caches on two consecutive days.  If anyone could do this, we could.
We drove up and started caching at 6am.  It’s a joke in geocaching circles that I have one speed – slow – but I can do that speed forever.  But today I was pacing.  Despite some muddy bridlepaths we managed 50 finds in the first three hours.  The caches seemed to get a bit harder then and it took closer to four for the next 50.  This is what I’d expect but there was the threat of heavy rain at 3pm and this drove us on to continue pacing.
We were on fire.  I can usually judge my mental state by whether I am counting up from the start or counting down to the end.  Caches were found quickly and logged just as quick.  We didn’t experience any rain until closer to 6pm and then it felt more like a heavy drizzle whipped up by the wind rather than a downpour.
Day turned to night and still we went on.  We got tired and irritable.  We found both a fallen tree and a blown over stable blocking our path at some points.  We started not finding some but still we went on.
We arrived back at the car at 10pm utterly exhausted.  We’d walked a staggering 37 miles and found (I think) a mind-blowing 209 caches.  I was pretty sure our 160 finds was a UK record and so accepted my friends with their 180 finds took it from us.  Now we’ve taken it back and if anyone can beat that then they have my deepest, deepest respect.
But as a result I’ve been useless all week.  I’m tired, finding it hard to concentrate as the day job is sapping what little energy I have.  As a result writing this week has been slow, patchy and feels like wading through treacle.  However, as much as I am left with a feeling that what I wrote in the previous session was absolute trash, reading it back seems to indicate otherwise.
Just like geocaching, progress is made one step at a time.