Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Eyeing the Bar

A while ago, I was at the gym, getting ready to do a few pull ups before ending my workout and heading out. My favorite pull up bar was occupied. Well, not really occupied, but the space around it was occupied. My favorite bar is at a cable cross machine, between two lifting set ups that people often use in such a way that the bar can't be used.

And that's fine. There are other bars. They're thicker, which make it harder for me to grasp them, but I can handle them. So I walked on and came to the other bars - also around cable cross set ups, but there were a lot more bars to choose from. Since people were using some of the cable cross set ups, I chose the one closest to the mirror. I put down my gym bag and started to move a few free weights that someone had left lying around when a man walked up to me.

This was an older guy who I often see around the gym. He lifted, mostly, but also had a pair of metal ankle thingies that he used to hang upside down from the pull up bars. I had been at a point of friendly nodding with him until this very day.

"I'm eyeing the bar," he said. Then he proceeded to edge me out of the space and blatantly steal the bar I had been intending to use. He acted so benignly, as if he had every right to take the bar I had arrived at and claimed first.

There was another bar available, between two people using cable cross stations. I did my pull ups and went on my way, but I didn't forget that strange assumption of primacy. Since that encounter, I stopped smiling or nodding at this guy at the gym. I might not have had the ability in the moment to respond appropriately and tell him I had already "eyed" the bar, but I wasn't going to reward that kind of behavior.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

100 Mile Failure; 92 Mile Success

The desert caught me by surprise.

Flatness, I expected. An arid landscape, lacking drinking water. Wind, tearing at my face, pushing against my body with every step. The terrain was miles of sameness appearing in every direction, hiding draws and canyons in its rolling.

But I was fast. In spite of the wind, in spite of the lack of water. I moved with a speed that I didn't even believe when I camped on the first night, more than 25 miles from the border with Nevada. Tomorrow, I told myself, I'll see whether I really hiked that far. Because if I could reach my husband, waiting with the car at the 50 mile point of my hike, on the second night instead of halfway through the third day as planned, then I would have proven I could hike over 25 miles in a day.

And, to my surprise, I did.

I slept in a tent with my husband the second night, a tent that I did not have to pitch, with plentiful water and food, and a friend to bring me one or the other if I asked very nicely. It would have been so easy to call it then. To declare that 50 miles in 2 days was plenty.

But I didn't.

I pushed on the next day through another 24 miles. I met up with Ambrose twice more that day, at the Bruneau scenic overlook and again on the road. Then I hiked off for my third night, knowing I would have about 26 miles to go to finish up my planned route. Not knowing whether Ambrose would be able to drive the car to pick me up at the designated spot.

Between that uncertainty and the intense pain that developed on my right foot when my pinky toe decided to try to bore a hole into its neighbor, I ended the hike at Hammett, ID. With the out and back on Sunday, that made for a total of 92 miles in about 3.5 days.

I've learned to be more careful in trimming down my toenails before a long fast hike. Next time, they'll be close trimmed and filed. I'll do more route scouting beforehand to make sure my car can handle the pickup where I want it to, though for next year, I know it can meet me at either end to link the sections from this year and last year.

I believe that I can do a 100 mile hiking trip. I'll have to, for some of the sections of the ICT that go through remote areas. I know I can handle the weight and the distance. Next time I will have to pace myself a little better, and it sure would help if those sections weren't through desert.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Pre-Trip Jitters

This post was written Saturday night (4/29). 

I'm not as nervous as I feel I should be. I don't have burgeoning confidence, but I'm also not scared. Today I did a practice pitch of my tent to be sure that I still remember how to do it. It was amazingly easy, even with a bit of wind blowing and my husband playing the part of the peanut gallery. Every step followed naturally and I made a pretty pitch even though the sidewalk prevented me from pulling one of my lines taut. 

I got everything packed today. It was already mostly gathered, but I went over it all again and gathered the bits and pieces that I had left strewn about the apartment. Including 5 liters of water and all of the food for the first segment, the full pack weighed in at 35 pounds even. But it didn't have some of my outer wear in it because I anticipate wearing that when I set out on Monday. So gear-wise it's probably a little heavier. 

I'm not sure if the temperatures and wind will warrant keeping my rain jacket on at all times, but it might. And I invested in a down vest today because lows are going to be in the low 30s and highs might reach the low 60s if I'm lucky. I've got the layers I'll need I think, but I don't know how much I'm going to have to be taking them on and off. 

I also finally purchased a replacement of sorts for good old alti-baro. After the buttons fell off last year, I knew it was on its last legs, but I couldn't bring myself to buy a replacement. Ambrose really wanted me to get a GPS watch or something else super fancy, but I wanted simple. I really only used the alarm and countdown timer functions with altibaro, so the replacement I got has those functions. It's a watch, and I don't like to have things on my wrists, so it will hang from my chest strap on my pack. 

If all goes well, I'll be doing the first 2 miles of the ICT tomorrow as a short out and back with Ambrose. I've read that one can't actually drive to the start and I think it will be nice to spend that extra bit of time with him before I set out. He's planning on trying to meet me on the trail at various points, which I don't mind at all, though I kind of doubt that he'll be able to find me like that. 

We've gone over the maps together and talked about what he will do if I don't show up as expected. He knows exactly where I'm planning to hike and approximately where I'm expecting to camp. It should be easier to camp this time, because I won't be looking for a water source - I'm expecting to dry camp each night in the desert.  

I'm excited. But also a little numb. 100 miles is such a huge number. 100.7, technically as Ambrose keeps reminding me. Can I really do it? In 5 days? Or even 6? Though I'm not sure how 6 would work out since the last 20 miles or so will take me through a town where camping might not be appreciated... 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Almost Go Time

I'm vacillating between being nervous, excited and scared about my upcoming trip. My back is feeling pretty good, but my legs are absurdly sore this week. I've got most everything that I want to pack out and weighed and ready to go, if not packed. Fresh batteries in the headlamp, charging batteries for the camera - I even contacted the Idaho BLM to see if they had anything to tell me about current trail conditions.

I checked out the Idaho Centennial Trail guidebook from the library, but it was a bit disappointing. For one thing, it was published in 1998. I know the guidebook my husband and I used for the Chamberlain Basin hike last year was out of date and it was only 10 years old. So I didn't hold out high hopes for accurate information, but the format of the book itself was also disappointing. I didn't find the descriptions of the trail sections to be clear and the author keeps inserting side trips, saying that hikers and horseback riders should take this shortcut to cut off miles and the trail goes this way, unless you want to take that way. So I'm glad I checked it out rather than buying it.

There's one last food item that should be reaching my doorstep some time tomorrow - coffee. My initial plan was to go without coffee, but then I'd have to wean myself off of it before I headed out and I'm just not ready to do that right now. I'm one of those people who get awful caffeine withdrawal headaches, so I can't just quit cold turkey. And even though the powerbar chews that I'll be bringing have "1xcaffeine" that is just not enough to make up for a cup a day habit. So I'm going to try Stok Cold Brew Coffee Shots. I was going to buy some at a local grocery store that the Stok website insisted they were stocked at, but that was a no go. I scoured the coffee aisle and finally went to customer service, where they proceeded to tell me to go back to the coffee aisle and wait for someone to come and "help" me look for it. I waited more than 6 minutes before giving up on this mythical help person and giving my business to Amazon instead. I was actually kind of shocked that a large chain grocery store couldn't even look up an inventory on a computer to determine whether they carried an item - I can understand not being able to say for sure that the item was in stock on the shelf based on a computer, but surely they could tell me whether it was carried.


So, I hope that coffee works as a backpacking coffee. There are cold brew coffees that you can buy in large bottles and I found those in a (different) grocery store, but they are supposed to be refrigerated after opening, so they aren't ideal for backpacking where the temperature is variable. For this trip, maybe the temp will stay cold enough for such an endeavor, but I can't guarantee that. So single shots I want and single shots I shall try.

I also need to print off my topo maps. I'm going to take the ICT maps, which are a little less detailed, and pair them with printable quad corners from National Geographic's website. I'll also have a GPS, though I won't be able to keep it on all the time. I'm overall feeling confident that I'll be able to navigate the trail. My main worry is whether my legs will be able to take doing 20 miles a day for 5 days. With the back issue, I did not get as much of a chance to practice long haul days as I planned.

So I'm going out with a goal and determination and no guarantee of success. I'm going to take it one day at a time and do my best. I'll make it as far as I make it. Anything I don't complete this year can be attempted at a later date. Hiking the whole of the ICT in segments will take time.

But I hope I make it 100.7 miles this year.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Training Resumed!

Mini version:
Physical therapy good.

Short version:
I got in to see a physical therapist last week and, in return for some bruising on my low back and upper buttocks areas, I got sweet relief from the sticky, sour, stiff pain that had been plaguing me when I tried to perform normal range of motion activities like tying my shoes.

Long version:
I feel I must at this point recommend Therapeutic Associates for any issues that one comes across that limits physical mobility. I have had an excellent experience there so far and I am confident that I'm not going to start my backpacking trip and stop halfway through unable to walk farther because of back pain. I am still nervous about the trip because I've never done anything like 20 mile days back to back to back to back to back before, but whether I can or cannot complete my goal will not be contingent on the back pain I'd been having.

I got back to training last weekend with some sessions on an inclined treadmill with boots and a 25 pound-ish pack. I put 20 pounds of sandbags plus some gear and a pillow to fill it out a bit. I got all my meals packed and inflated my sleeping pad, which is new for this trip. Last year I used Ambrose's sleeping pad because the ultra light one that I purchased just wasn't that warm. The new one that I got is still very light, but also a bit wider in the shoulder area which I've now learned I find more comfortable.

This week I will continue to weigh out my gear and analyze what it is I want to take with me on the trip. What do I really need? How much am I willing to carry? The trip itself isn't that far away and I'm nervous. But also excited. And nervous. It will probably be fairly cold, which means more clothing. It may or may not be wet enough for intermittent streams to flow, but I'll carry water anyway because it's better to take the extra weight and not need it than need water and not have it.

I've got two more appointments with the physical therapist before the trip, and I can feel how my body is responding to the treatment. I'm icing and stretching and doing exercises every day. It's going to happen. 100 miles, baby!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Training Interrupted

Since December, I've had some on and off back pain. Back in December, I noticed it as a muscular soreness. It would go away after a nighttime treatment of Vicks VapoRub - stinky, but effective. I joked with one of my fellow crossfitters that it was probably because I was developing muscles in my lower back for the first time in my life. Maybe I was upsetting the fascia in my back by making muscles. Ha ha (I don't know nearly enough about anatomy for that guess to be any good).

In December, the pain went away. Then came back. Then went away again. Through January, February and March, it would perform the same kind of disappearing, reappearing act. One day I'm limited to 45 pound deadlifts at crossfit, three days later I'm busting through 55 deadlifts at 95 pounds. Nothing I did seemed to make a long term difference.

Last week, the pain was starting to get worse. Even when it didn't actively hurt, I didn't have full mobility. I couldn't bend over. Reaching down to pick up a bar created little bursts of pain at my upper buttocks. Reaching down to tie my shoes created the same problem. And showering was the worst - my husband and I squeegee the walls of the shower after showering and bending over to do that was incredibly painful.

So I seriously considered going to see a chiropractor, despite the fact that both my husband and I think that they are quacks.

Luckily, my husband convinced me that I should see our regular doc first and go from there. She referred me to a physical therapist and is confident that I should be able to do my hike as planned at the beginning of May - as long as I follow the PT's instructions and do the homework they recommend.

But I haven't gone to crossfit for over a week now, and that feels so strange at this point. I also "took it easy" over the weekend and limited my physical activity/training to a few hours on a treadmill in my boots. No pack. Not even an incline on the treadmill. I'm starting to get to the point where it's hard to fall asleep because I'm not getting enough exercise!

So I'll go in to see a physical therapist on Friday, but I'm going to try and do some "light and easy" days at crossfit. Light weights, not pushing too hard, but getting some exercise before I go completely crazy.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Evolution of Breakfast

When I started backpacking, breakfast was an affair. My husband and I would settle for nothing less than a hot and fully cooked breakfast, hearty and heavy with grains and meat. Often, I would wake up with the sun filtering through the tent wall to the smell of oatmeal or eggs (sometimes both), which nearly made up for the fact that I woke up alone - after all, if Ambrose was going to be cooking breakfast, then he had to abandon me in the tent.

But as the years went by, our breakfasts shifted - as did my wake up time. With more miles to hike in our days, I was forced to adapt to getting up first with the sun, and then before it. We discovered that eating a freeze dried dessert instead of grits and eggs was a lot more appealing in a cold, dark morning.

The problem was that it still took a good amount of time. Gathering water, boiling water, letting the freeze dried dessert absorb the water - and don't get me started on the cold desserts. Sure, less time boiling water, but I find eating something cold and wet, no matter how sweet, in the morning when I'm cold and just want to get moving and warm, to be unappetizing.

So on our Chamberlain trip last year, I suggested making a switch. Instead of having our bars for lunch and our desserts for breakfast, let's have our bars for breakfast and our dessert for lunch. My reasoning was that we could get moving faster in the morning and have a sweet treat midday. For me, it's much better to just start hiking in the cold morning, because that's the only thing that will really warm me up. Any delay, even for a hot breakfast, just slows me down mentally.

I had just come off my no-cook solo trip at that point, and I knew that my body would be able to handle just going on a few bites of a bar. I thought Ambrose would be able to handle it, too. And I was right.

We could still stand to shave some time off of our morning routine, maybe get up a little earlier so as to have more hiking light, but cutting out the ritual of a hot breakfast certainly helps. Instead of waking up to have an entire activity centered around food before we strike camp, we can get directly to striking camp. Instead of having me sit and moan in the cold while I wait to eat, I can hike and moan on the trail that I'm too cold going at Ambrose's pace. Or something like that.