Time on Your Feet

My supportive family practices the "time on your feet" philosophy with me.

My supportive family practices the “time on your feet” philosophy with me.

Once upon a time I used to run marathons. Like, the whole thing, the 26.2 mile enchilada. And I loved it! Loved training for them, the camaraderie of waking up basically in the middle of the night on a Saturday morning to run long mileage of twelve, fourteen, seventeen miles or more in 36 degree weather. Who was that crazy woman I used to be??

I don’t recognize her now. The woman who inhabits my body today sounds like Rice Krispies breakfast cereal. She has achy feet and snap crackle knees, and she would much rather wake up mid-morning on a Saturday, and go for a leisurely paced hike with her family and the dog.

However, as I train for this amazing Newfoundland backpacking trip with my Writing Walking Women I am reminded of a couple of things from my marathon training days.

  1. Mimic the conditions. In marathon training, that meant studying the route. If the route was hilly, I ran lots of hills. How would I fuel myself? Would I need to wear a belt with electrolyte drinks and GU? (For my non-runner audience, GU is an unappetizing flavored paste runners often squeeze into their mouths to fuel a long run). Depending on the marathon city’s local climate, I ran early in the day when it was colder or later for hotter desert weather, or indoors at the gym where it was stale and humid. Training depended on where the race would be held.

Even though Newfoundland is still a few months away, I’m already practicing by wearing a daypack full of water. This is to get me used to carrying the extra weight and also to get used to wearing the pack. I can tell you I already have chafe marks on my chest from an errant strap. It’s important to practice things like this. I would much rather find out now where I’m prone to chafing, and make adjustments. I don’t want to find out on the trail where I’m not prepared to take care of it.

As far as the climate is concerned, I live in the desert, and I hear Newfoundland is a damp, wet place. What to do? So far, I’m really just looking at how to dress for that. Although, my daughter and I did one long hike in the rain where I found out the dirt turned to clay, and clung to my shoes. Hopefully, this won’t be the case in Newfoundland.

  1. Second tip? Time on your feet. I once had a wonderful running coach. He had us run long, but only up to 3 or 3 ½ hours at a time. For the really long runs, 16 or 17 or 20 miles, he pushed us right up to the 3 1/2 hour time limit. He said anything over that and our muscles would be breaking down. But it was important to run that long, however slow we did it, just to get our bodies used to the “time on our feet.”

This tip, more than any other has resonated with me. It is absolutely true. This is the tip I think will transfer over beautifully in training for the Newfoundland backpacking trip. It doesn’t matter what kind of great shape I’m in if my body isn’t accustomed to the time just being on my feet.

For the last five or six weeks, I’ve been doing one long hike of 3-3 ½ hours while wearing the dreaded daypack with water. It’s usually around 11 miles. The first few weeks my body was sore and achy the next morning. Think snap, crackle, pop! But I can tell you the last two hikes I bounced right back, and even had enough energy to run the next day.

Time on your feet. Believe in it!

Here we go hiking!

Here we go hiking!

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Staying the Course

It was January 5th and my daughter and I had planned to go for a 3-mile run. She was upstairs getting dressed. I was in the kitchen putting food away when she came up behind me.

“Mom? You ready to go on that run?”

“Just a minute.” I stuffed the last bite in my mouth. “I…just…need to swallow…this brownie.”

So much for that “No Sugar” New Year’s Resolution. Agh! Sometimes I irritate myself.

In case you thought my lack of writing and diet conscientiousness meant I was going to flake and NOT go on a 100-mile backpack trip with 40 fabulous women writers, I’m here to tell you I AM GOING. I am going. I am going. I am going…

I keep telling myself that because some days, I wonder what the heck I’m doing. Let’s be clear. While I’ve always called myself adventurous, I am no Cheryl Strayed, as in Wild. You might’ve read her book or seen the movie starring Reese Witherspoon. Yes, I’m adventurous, but my version is tamer. I’m also a lot older than Cheryl was when she embarked on her Pacific Crest Trail hike. So give me a break.

Still, one hundred miles of hiking with a house on my back, sleeping in the dirt in another country in potentially cold, wet weather with forty strangers is huuuge adventure in my book (which I haven’t written yet).

Sometimes I just don’t feel very confident. It’s embarrassing, but even at my age, I begin to feel like the night before my first day of middle school. Will the cool kids like me? I indulge my anxieties, and imagine problems like: What if I can’t keep up with the other women? What if I’m too slow? Everyone else seems like they’ve done a lot more than I have, seen many more countries, hiked distant lands. What if I’m not worldly enough? Also, they write an awful lot and publish a lot. They have articles all over the place. All I have is this little neglected blog and a few short stories published in some literary magazines.

Over the holidays I did a lot of thinking, and decided to stop the self-sabotage. This trip, this adventure…It’s for me. Who cares what the cool kids think. And if I end up alone? So be it. (But I don’t really think I’ll end up alone). Travelling has always been empowering to me. I suspect the same is true for my new hiking buddies. My mind is a fresh slate when I’m in a brand new place. I’ll bet we have more in common than differences. For instance, I’m sure we all have some trepidation about the toilet facilities or lack thereof. I really can’t wait. For the hike, that is. And the bonding over hardships that is sure to ensue.

Besides cleaning out all that negative thinking in my brain, I am refocusing on training. I have to walk a long way, right? House on my back, etc. The hardest part for me is my sugar, wine and bread addictions. (Are there self-help groups for this?) So in addition to my attitude adjustment, I’m also still meeting with Max, the Trainer twice weekly, and I’ve begun running or walking every day. Although I haven’t given up my nasty sugar habit, the sheer amount of time spent on my feet should help me get through a hundred miles.

Staying the course. Sometimes Often, I veer off. Way off. Like when I eat a massive chocolate brownie right before a 3-mile run. Sometimes I veer only a little. Like when I indulge in my pity parties. The important thing is that I always come back. The goal is there. I know the way.

Please tell me you understand.

Getting Started

I am about to embark on the craziest journey ever.  Oh, but not just one!  I’ve committed to two journeys in the next year.  The first is an epic backpack trip of 100 miles in Newfoundland.  The second is another epic backpack trip along the Lost Coast of California.  They are epic and crazy because I don’t like backpacking.  I’m a nervous woman, and my feet…are finicky.  They bruise and blister.  They don’t like shoes.  I absolutely hate the pack!  I hate the sweat, the tears.  Hills.  I hate hills.  Walking with 30 lbs. on my back.  Hate that.  And the food.  Dehydrated powdered meals.  Baggies of nuts.  Bleh.  Sleeping in the dirt?  Not a fan.  There are so many, many reasons.  But the main issue is the bathroom.  There are no toilets on a backpack trip.  Just let that one sit with you for a moment.  I’m not complaining about lack of flush toilets.  I’m talking about no toilets. Once you fully digest the lack of toilet, then not having a shower will seem like a breeze.

Collapsed after an 8-mile backpack trip on Catalina Island. 100-Mile backpack trip? Easy-peasy. Not!

Collapsed after an 8-mile day backpacking on Catalina Island. 100 miles should be easy-peasy.

So why go at all?  If I’m going to whine about everything and hate everything.  Why go?

Because.  Backpacking is also exhilarating in a way that can’t be expressed until I’ve finished a trip.  I get to see places beautiful beyond words.  Backpacking is about making goals and reaching them. There is no choice.  Once I’m out there, I gotta get back to the car!  I’m always amazed at what I am able to accomplish when it’s all over.  I may be tired and stinky, but as I walk back to my ride, I’m celebrating, cheering on the inside.  And, did you know?  Weight loss and fitness are natural byproducts of backpacking.  Bonus!  Overcoming the minor discomforts of backpacking allows me to put everyday life into perspective.  It’s an emotional cleanse.  I feel like I can do anything.  That’s the thing about backpacking.  It teaches me how to go through difficult times and come out of the woods with grace and dignity.

And that’s why I love backpacking.

Follow me as I chronicle the training and preparation for these journeys, and a few others I take along the way.  You can laugh with me as I attempt to appreciate the beauty of being in nature while wearing a backpack.  And laugh with me some more as I attempt to push harder, go longer in a training session.  Maybe you’ll see me as goofy.  Maybe you’ll see the courage it takes to get up and go try something new, something difficult I’d never imagined doing before.  Either way, let’s laugh.  The Universe is a jokester.  Let’s see what She has in store for me.  Because the truth is I am a slightly overweight, moderately unfit, forty-something year old woman who enjoys clean sheets and hot showers, loves red wine and chocolate cake, and quietly reading in a comfy chair, a stream of sunshine lighting the page, with modern-day bathroom facilities nearby.  This whole 100-mile journey thing ought to be good.

The hardest part of anything is getting started.  Here we go!

After hiking all the way up here, you know I’m going to drink some wine later!