Controlled collapse

April 21, 2014

Maggie and I have walked about 130 miles since we started walking west at Currituck Sound, NC on April 6. We’ve taken it pretty slow so far, but are now finally starting to build up the muscles required to tackle longer mileage days.

In the months leading up to the walk we had lofty aspirations of doing daily training walks and getting ourselves into shape. The deadline for when we wanted to start training came and passed with the craziness of putting Life On Foot out into the world and a northern Idaho winter that just didn’t seem to want to end. When it’s 20 degrees outside it is hard to motivate yourself to go on a five or ten mile walk. So we kept procrastinating, then on a whim decided to go visit my family and friends in Maine. That ate up some more time. I think by the time we hit Maine and the walk was about two weeks away from starting, we had settled on the idea that we would not be training at all. We didn’t really talk about it, but both knew it.

So on the 6th of this month we took off slowly and things stayed that way for a while. Reeeal slow. Eight or ten mile days were all we could manage. Pretty sad in the grand scheme of things, as we’re looking to average something more like twenty-five miles every day sooner or later (probably later). We’d walk our little miles and hobble around our camp for the night like we’d just tackled a marathon — lots of limping and blister popping.

We noticed that the final miles of any day are not so much done through walking, but instead in a sort of controlled collapse. Your legs are done, like jelly, and your upper body is tired as well. Long-distance walking can be surprisingly taxing on arms and shoulders. So we struggle on legs that feel like bags of sand while swinging our heavy arms around, while also leaning back and forward to counteract whichever way our bodies happen to be collapsing toward the ground at any given moment. Add a little bit of makeup and we would make some excellent zombie extras on The Walking Dead. As all this began happening to me again, lots of memories rushed back from my first long walk. Not even good or bad memories really, just exhausting ones. But I have to admit that so far I’ve had a few moments when I’ve thought Why would I do this to myself again?

On the bright side, the amount of miles it takes for us to reach this zombie-like state of controlled collapse is steadily growing. Yesterday we did fifteen or sixteen miles and didn’t have too much trouble. Our blisters are beginning to callus over, making our feet tougher. Our muscles are gaining some strength. We’re not out of the water yet, but every day gets just a bit better. At the end of the day, no matter what, it feels good to accomplish something even with the struggle of long distances and the exhaustion and pain that follows them. It is a lot of fun and there’s no place I’d rather be.

That said, would somebody please remind me to actually do some training before the next time I take off to walk a few thousand miles? That would be very helpful. Thank you in advance.

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