All through February, I jogged/walked on a regular basis, usually putting in about 20 miles a week. I was amazed at how quickly my pace improved. By mid February, I’m already into the 12 minute/mile pace and even broke into the 11’s by end of February!
But, it was on a recent hike that I really had my perception of distance changed in a most profound way. Yes, I’ve been a hiker for years. When I was a teenager, we used to backpack as a family. This meant hoisting a 35-lb pack on your back and walking for what felt like all day, and always uphill, though it was probably only about 5 miles.
I was also a day hiker. In Mesquite, you can walk just about anywhere and not get lost. The desert is wide open, unlike the forests in Washington state. In either place, if my day hike was 5 miles round trip, it was a long way. My hikes were more about the destination and less about the journey.
In February, I went on a hike with friends into the Virgin mountains near Mesquite. The first about 1/3 was a pretty tough climb, gaining about 2800 feet in about 4 miles. It was a beautiful but cool day and we reached snow at the top. On the way down, we ran through the ankle-deep, crusted snow, punching through and having a ball.
Trail running. Who knew? Why had I never thought of that? It totally satisfies both my desire to hike and be outdoors, and my short-attention span. With trail running, you can cover nearly twice the distance in about the same amount of time. And, you get the added benefit of a higher calorie burn too. What’s not to like?
Something I remember from that day still makes me smile. We took a break for lunch and were about 11 miles from any road or signs of civilization, when a band of ATVs came driving by. They looked at us in amazement but also with concern. “Are you ok?” they said. They couldn’t believe we were way back in the wilderness with no vehicle. I’ll never forget the pride I felt in that moment–that I could be “one of those” who could even do something like that.
The day ended back at the car. We logged over 22 miles. I hadn’t traveled anywhere on foot even close to that distance since I did the March of Dimes Walk in 7th grade, where we walked 20 miles in the city to raise money. The sense of accomplishment far out-shadowed any soreness I felt over the next several days. I had gone farther than I ever thought I could and still hadn’t reached my limit.