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Day 13 - A real bruiser
March 15, 2010                             Toulouse-nord to Montech                                  25 miles
Cansl lat bridge over river
Montech street
Grisolles, just 14 miles north of last night's Toulouse-nord stopping point, was nicely positioned  for tonight's stop. Unfortunately, the one hotel was full, and the one chambres d'hôtes wasn't open.

I discovered this situation last night, and could find no other suitably-located accommodation. At home, Jennifer used her much faster Internet connection to do some look-up for me (while we were talking on Skype). She somehow turned a query to a hotel in Montech into a reservation. Montech was on the route, but beyond Grisolles by 11 miles, which would make for a 25-mile day.

As I slept with this problem, my crack support teams in Illinois and California worked on the problem too. Steve B in Champaign reckoned I could take a train from Grisolles to accommodation elsewhere, perhaps in nearby Montauban. Ken K in Fresno  pointed out that  I was good at hopping on buses. Both scenarios would have had me stop hiking in Grisolles after 14 miles, returning there tomorrow morning. I liked both ideas. Before I left the hotel, I checked that there were such trains (there were). In Grisolles later, I found there was a bus to Montech, where I was already booked.

These excellent alternatives were in my mind as I set out this morning. But they were in my mind alongside the worst-case scenario of walking the 25 miles to Montech.

My experience with very long day's hikes is that they aren't really productive. What you may gain in extra distance one day, you tend to lose next day by stopping early. You also vastly increase your chance of injury. Plus the trauma of the extra miles wears at your psychological reserves. These longdistance hikes are, in my opinion, never only fun. The fun comes from successfully challenging yourself. The fun quickly evaporates when you drive yourself beyond your limits.

But I've also exercised my mind into the best way to do an excessive distance if you must. And, because I hadn't decided quite what to do when I set out, I started as if I were heading for Montech which, at 25 miles, is an excessively long hike for Hobson.

I set out at 7 am (daybreak) after breakfasting well. That, by the way, is an easier thing to do in the U.S. and Britain than it is in France. But I did what I could with plain yoghurt, whole wheat breads with lots of butter, cereal with milk, and lots of liquids and specifically juices. If they'd offered ham and eggs, and cheese, I'd have chosen them first, but they didn't. I also carried a supply of raisins. Then, I cranked up my speed and curtailed my rests. The plan was to get to Grisolles as early as reasonably possible, and without arriving there as if it were the end of the day, but rather the middle. So I covered the 14 miles in a fast-for-me 5.5 hours getting there at 12.30 pm.

So now what to do? Well, the bus to Montech would have solved the accom problem, but I'd have had to wait four hours for it. I doubt I'd have had to wait as long for a train. But I also tried to trade off the logistical-planning energy dissipated by figuring out  where the station was, what train to catch, where I'd find accom when I got there - and  returning next day -  with just plain hoofing it to Montech. The extra 11 miles would take me five hours, and I'd have walked to Montech today, and not tomorrow, gaining a day.

Since I felt in pretty good shape at Grisolles, and had no worries about night falling while I walked, and the weather was positively perfect . . . I walked. That was after fueling the body with a couple of quiche poirées, and a top-up of my water bottle which I think the store owner actually charged me for.

Well, you can fool the mind, but it's not easy while your body is groaning. It only took five miles beyond Grisolles for my feet to really, really ache. I twisted an ankle - fortunately the stronger left one - which I recognize as a sign of fatigue. I slowed up. I wished and wished for the milestones to pass, which they did excrutiatingly slowly. The fun was siphoned out of the day. I limped into Montech at 5.30 pm with my tail between my legs. A later start or a slower walk, and it would now be after dark. If I hadn't lucked out by finding the hotel room had a bath, I'd have really, really regretted the decision to hoof it.

Dinner was a disappointment, too. There was a choice between a take-out kebab place or a pizza off a roach-coach. I chose the latter. I was good at bad decisions today.

Fortunately, Hobson rescued me with his sense of humor. "Heck, we can just take a boat ride tomorrow," he said, "and forget about this hiking stuff. I've already picked out a boat."

I knew just the boat he meant.
Casa Rabassa
Nice boat
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