Saturday, February 13, 2021

today's Yangpyeong-to-Yeoju walk

My buddy JW has now popped his 30-kilometer cherry.  We met—surprisingly early (JW took a KTX express train to be able to meet me on time; he arrived ten minutes earlier than expected)—at Yangpyeong Station and immediately marched out to the riverside trail, a segment of the famous Four Rivers bike trail that connects Incheon to Busan.

We kept up an excellent pace and ended up finishing the day ahead of my projected arrival time of 5 p.m.  We did 30 kilometers in about 7.5 hours, arriving in Yeoju City around 4:30 p.m.  That's a rate of 4 km/h, and that also includes a few rest breaks.  Take those breaks out (they totaled about an hour), and our actual speed was closer to 4.6 km/h.

The one nasty hill on the way to Yeoju proved to be quite nasty even without a backpack on my back.  But neither JW nor I stopped while walking it; we actually kept up with a trio of high-school-aged bikers who saw the hill, cried out in humorous dismay, dismounted their bikes, and elected to hoof it up the incline, pushing their bikes along with them.  I was puffing and wheezing by the time we reached the top; my heart was pounding hard enough to burst out of my chest, but while the kids elected to pause and take a break at the top of the hill, JW and I simply kept going, grateful to be walking downhill after nearly a kilometer of steepness.

Late in the walk, JW confessed he was getting tired, losing energy, and even becoming a bit dizzy.  He said he hadn't eaten anything all day (we took two convenience-store stops during which I fueled up on Coke and candy), which startled me because I was sure he'd said that he'd brought snacks for himself and me.  (In fact, JW gave me some Japanese cookies to eat during one of our rest breaks... but now that I think about it, I don't recall seeing him eat anything.)  Anyway, the idea that JW might be feeling even a little faint was somewhat alarming to me, so I remained watchful for the rest of our walk.  JW ended up doing just fine, but he now knows better than to ever do that again.  I suggested that he bring along some beef jerky and some gorp next time.

One thing we talked about (and I think I've written on this topic in my walk blogs) is the physical and psychological difference between walking 25 kilometers and walking 30 kilometers.  In my mind, 25 kilometers is a pleasant and not-very-tiring hike from Seoul to Hanam City, but when the distance is pushed to 30 kilometers, the pleasant stroll becomes something of a long slog.  My hypothesis is that my energy levels remain steady for the first few hours of a given walk, but during the final few hours, there's an ever steeper falloff as fatigue sets in.  This is why the addition of a mere five kilometers can make a world of difference in a distance-walker's experience of the path.

Anyway, I did end up taking a few pics, and JW did as well.  Below, the first four photos are mine, and the final two are JW's.

JW didn't want to say anything, but I could see that his feet were killing him.  Here he is during one of our several breaks, resting his feet and using his phone to figure out bus schedules in Yeoju City:

Next up:  yours truly, doing my best terrorist impression:

At this point, the day is over, and we're both utterly pooped.  I treated us both to dinner at the first restaurant we stumbled upon once we got into town, and JW treated us to bus tickets back to Seoul.  So here's JW, exhausted after his 30K trek, staring blankly at a TV monitor that was showing a news broadcast:

And here I am, masked up because we're indoors, waiting for our bus:

This is a shot that JW took of me at the Yeoju Dam:

Another shot by JW as I lumbered along, surveying my domain:

I don't think JW enjoyed this walk as much as I'd hoped he might.  I find it to be a gorgeous segment of the Four Rivers path, but JW talked about how he liked the Hanam-to-Yangpyeong segment more.  He's been hard to please ever since he came back from his life-changing trip to Jeju Island.  According to him, Jeju's trails blow away anything he and I have ever done locally.  I think he's been hypnotized by over-romanticized postcard imagery.  Then again, I might find myself in Jeju someday, agreeing with his assessment.  We'll see.

So that's a little glimpse of today's walk.  I found it gorgeous but tiring; JW found it exhausting, but that was mainly because he'd chosen not to consume anything other than two tiny cartons of soy milk.  He did say that he'd learned a lot (about himself, presumably) during today's walk, so I guess that's something.


John Mac said...

Good job and congrats to JW on losing his 30K cherry. I'm not half the walking man you guys are!

Kevin Kim said...

Well, you're more of a mountain hiker than I'll ever be. You'd have enjoyed that one nasty hill, I think.

Daniel said...

Impressive feat and congrats to JW (and to you of course!). I'll have to attempt 30km one of these days. Pretty sure I'm up to it physically, it's the mental side of things I'm worried about!

Kevin Kim said...


Given how out of shape I am, I'm betting you're much more athletic, so I think that, if you've been doing your own distance walking all this time, then 30K is easily within your reach.

As for the mental component, well... if you live in a pretty part of Korea (Uijongbu, right?), the scenery itself can be a balm. Take along enough water and snacks to keep your energy up, and you'll be fine.

Oh, and take frequent rest breaks. You're not in a competition, so don't feel guilty if you take a rest every two or three hours. My own schedule, during a cross-country walk, is to rest a half-hour every 15,000 steps. I choke down some ibuprofen to stop my feet from screaming, then I lie back and nap for thirty minutes. When it's time to get up, the meds have begun coursing through my veins, and I'm good to go. You might be light enough not to need any meds (lucky you!).

Let me know when you do finally tackle 30K. I'll be interested to read about your experience.

Daniel said...

Many thanks for the awesome advice. I'm definitely not in shape anymore, but the prospect of two or three breaks along the way makes the journey sound doable. 15k is definitely achievable, particularly if I have a sugar snack to look forward to at the end. I'm guessing the trail along the 중랑천 to the 한강 would constitute a good 15km or so, give or take. A roundtrip outta make it thirty.

Kevin Kim said...

I heard it's going to snow tomorrow, but by the weekend, things are going to be fairly warm and sunny, so this might just be your weekend to do the Big Thirty! (No pressure, of course... no pressure.)

If this is your first time doing 30K, you can expect to finish with achy feet and general fatigue. I don't know how large you are, but the larger you are, the more likely it is that you'll still be achy the following day. If you hike on a Saturday, take a well-deserved rest on Sunday, preferably off your feet and in a La-Z-Boy. But once your body has been exposed to that sort of punishment, the next time will be easier, and the next time after that.

Just took a look at the Joongnang-cheon on Naver Map, and it's pretty impressive. Saw some pics of the creek as well; it looks to be a good, mind-clearing walk. Have fun! I hope there are restrooms at regular intervals along the creek, just as there are along the Tan-cheon on the way to Bundang.

Oh, yeah—coming back to the "mental" factor: you may find yourself thinking about food and drink during your final few kilometers. This is natural; the body follows the mind, and vice versa, in a feedback loop. Don't fight the cravings, and don't feel too guilty if you carb up after your walk: your blood-sugar levels will be significantly lower after 30K of walking. If you have naturally low blood sugar, you might even risk hypoglycemia if you don't consume something carby once you're done. I'm not saying you should gobble a kilogram-size Gummi bear, but downing a soda or some fruit juice, and maybe noshing on some bread or fruit, isn't a bad idea. A second helping at dinner is also fine. You'll have burned in the neighborhood of 3000 calories over the course of 30 km; for most normal-sized folks, 3000 calories is more than a whole day's worth of eating.