Some of you know that I have my eye on a trip to the Havasu Falls area in about a year. It is a big 10 mile hike to the bottom of a canyon carrying all of my camping gear on my back. I will flit around in azure waterfalls, set up my hammock and then hike back UP the next day or so. This is the most physically challenging thing I could think of for my Red Shoe Life physical adventure, and as I recommend to my clients, I made a timeline and a list of what it will take to get ready for this trip.
The biggest obstacle for me to overcome is that I am not in good enough shape to do 10 death defying miles even if I were on the escalator at the Mall, let alone on the edge of a crumbly cliff. Why did I pick this challenge? It is far beyond my abilities at the moment, and will take a lot for me to get to that level of fitness. Blame it on my friend Lisa Knight, and she better get ready, cause we’re going together!
So to start my training, I went to the gym and walked many mind numbing minutes on the treadmill. I only do 30 minutes because after that I would be sound asleep and just fling off the rubber gerbil wheel like George Jetson! It is horribly boring, but I can do a little more than a mile in 25 minutes. Walking.
For my next feat, I needed to up my distance to 3.5 miles and I promised a few of my friends who run, that I would do a 5K in June. As the months progress closer and closer to the trip, the length of my walks will increase until I could do 10 miles at one time. I thought this was a great plan, but with all the other fun stuff going on this month, I couldn’t find a 5K that would fit in with my schedule. I finally decided to just go somewhere for a brisk 3.5 mile walk.
Next thing I know, I am at Shelby Forest attempting a 3 mile loop hike. This sounds a little like cheating, after all I did promise I would do 3.5, but in my mind I would do a few laps around the port-a-potty to make up for the lack of .5 and I would be forgiven.
I was ready. I had my bug spray, sun screen, water bottle and my new Zumba sneakers. I thought I looked cute in my “I Believe I Can” T-shirt too! Hell, I even put on make up. I knew that it had been a long time since I walked that far, but it was great weather today and I thought I could see it through.
Still smarting from last weekend’s river dragging, my shins started burning within 5 minutes of dipping under the canopy of trees. The air was humid, I was pouring sweat and my sports bra started to melt. No one told me that I had to jump over fallen trees and pick my way through roots, rocks and riverbeds! The damn ravines were so steep I felt like a flying Wallendas. I teetered over wire bridges, balanced across moss covered river stones and pulled my way up the endless steps built into the side of the ravines like the stairway to heaven. There were many upended trees that had fallen across the trail during the storm that I had to ungracefully hike my butt up and over to continue my trek. Each roll over a tree left me more and more covered with mud and tree yuck. I thought it would never end.
A couple times another person would pass by coming in the opposite direction. They would be perkily bopping along with headphones or even jogging! This baffled me. Weren’t they on the same trail as me? How could they be so damn peppy! They must have been thinking I looked like I needed an ambulance. “Poor old lady must be lost in the woods…”
This 3 mile hike seemed endless. I stopped so many times you would think that I was trying to break a record. I was not having a great time and I was starting to doubt if I could make it all the way to the end.
I spent a good deal of this hike being mad. I was sooo angry that two weekends in a row I ended up gleefully following other people into situations that were beyond my physical ability (for now). Why didn’t I know that this simple hike would be so vertical? Worse, I was starting to think that Havasu Falls might be beyond me too. All I wanted to do was click my ruby slippers together and wish my way home!
I kept moving (in between stopping) and literally did think of it as “one step at a time”. I thought about the gallons of sweat pouring off my hair and the weight I would lose from mosquitoes taking chunks out of my hide. I thought about how stupid I felt LAST weekend when I didn’t finish my canoe trip and I thought about how humiliated I would be if I went back to work with yet another whiny story of my weekend warrior woes. I just HAD to finish… really, short of someone carrying me on their back… I really did HAVE to finish. I should have started on an easier hike, but it was a little late for that! This was truly one of the hardest physical things I have ever done!
I know you are thinking I’m going to say that I had a sudden burst of energy and pranced across the finish line blowing kisses to other nearby hikers…. but no. I just kept walking… and sweating.. and swatting bugs… up and up and up.. and down… and up…wth??? and I finally DID make it to the end.
Suddenly I emerged into the sunshine and walked, for the first time in 2 hours, on flat terrain. I stood at the forest’s edge, wheezing and red faced, triumphant over my accomplishment. Every muscle in my body was screaming to just get in the car and sit down! I am sad to say that I did NOT do laps around the port-a-potty, or even a victory strut. The loop, though torturous, was still only 3 miles, so unfortunately, Adrienne and Laura, you’ll just have to spot me the .5!
I sit here tonight with my Aleve and Magnesium. My thighs feel like lead and I know that tomorrow will remind me painfully of my adventures of today, but what a great feeling to have done something that was a true physical challenge…. and win!