Monday, July 18, 2011

What, Me Worry?

Death Valley is never boring. 

A friend of mine is taking on a Death Valley crossing in a unique way. She will be going from Badwater to the summit of Mt. Whitney unassisted, without aid of any kind – no crew, no delivery of fluids and food, nada. She will be pushing and pulling a carefully designed lightweight cart the vast majority of the distance. In that cart, she will carry all that she needs, including nearly 300 pounds of water at the start, and what she needs to take up the mountain with her. If she gets a flat tire, she must fix it herself. Going up Townes Pass, she will still be pushing/pulling more than twice her bodyweight in that cart up that arduous climb.

This thing she is attempting is hard. When successful, she will be the first woman to have achieved this type of crossing. Is she worried? Of course – some worry about what is coming is justified and good. It will keep her on her toes and make things go better.

We are not talking about an average adventure here. This is Death Valley. It is called that for a reason. Let me say it again, what Lisa is doing is hard. It is also certain that this woman has all the tools to succeed, and I am very confident that she will. Yet, things happen, and not everything is within her control.

During an email exchange the other day, I told Lisa I was not yet at the worry stage. That would come later. That night I did not sleep. What kept me awake, running again and again through my mind, was what I would tell her should Lisa not make her goal. What was that about? This is not information Lisa needs – she knows it already. Too much can happen to make any attempt at a Death Valley crossing a sure thing – far from it. Everything has to go nearly perfectly, and if not, you likely will have to suffer a lot. Suffering will carry you only so far, however. Dehydration, sickness, falls, infections, sleep deprivation, and many other things can wear you down beyond the ability to keep going. Crossing Death Valley to Mt. Whitney is truly testing the limits of human endurance, mentally and physically, and sometimes we find them.

But, of course it was not really Lisa I was worried for the other night. I do care about her pure solo attempt and have reasonable concern. But, by morning I realized I was staying awake because it was happening – I was getting worried about me. It is time. I have to be worried. It goes with the game. At times there can be real fear. I was very sick last year. I will not let that happen again. But, can I really make that happen? Could I end up in a hospital? Yes. That is possible. Not likely, but it is a real possibility. I was stuck in the desert last year for what seemed like a long time. I got really scared during that time. I was within sight of my crew. I would have been OK. But, what if that had happened out of sight?

My preparation this year has not been what I would have wanted. A flare up of my bad back put me well behind schedule. Am I ready – really ready? I know that I am, but I worry none-the-less. Things did not go smoothly.  Because this challenge is so big for me, I needed things to go better to settle my mind.

Do I have all the preparations and gear in order? Mostly, but there is still a lot to do.

Have I found the right shoes, socks, and lubricants to keep me from blistering severely? I don’t know. I will not know until I get out there and try it.

So much else creeps into my thoughts. Will my head be screwed on? Will I be mentally ready to push beyond and keep going? Will my crew remember to take care of themselves and not just me? More. There is so much more. Are my signs for the vehicles ready? Last minute orders – what if there is a backorder on something key? It never stops until the start.

I would be remiss if I did not say what is really bothering me. Lately I have been suffering significant heel pain during long workouts. Sometimes it is rather unpleasent. That is OK. I can deal with that. But, what worries me is that the most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. I have had plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of the plantar fascia, the tissue that forms the arch of the foot) in the same foot. It is in some cases career ending. It also can be very painful. I do not need this now. It could also be a heel spur, a forming of a hook of bone on the heel, and is often associated with plantar fasciitis. There are treatments and I am doing them – ice, stretches, Advil, the usual drill. But, as with any injury, the one true cure (if there is one) is rest. Rest! Not now. So, what am I worried about if I am simply going to continue? Well, if this does not resolve there is one inevitable. To quote Clubber Lang from Rocky III, when asked his prediction for the coming fight with Rocky, he said, “Pain!” (Picture Mr. T staring directly into your eyes, emphasis on the P.) But, beyond “Pain!” I worry that I might do long term harm. I do not want to face a choice out there.

I will be at Badwater for the start of Lisa’s adventure. After that, she will be on her own. On her own, but not out of our thoughts. I, for one, will be with her each step of the way, if only in my mind. I cannot wait!

One day, I will have her courage. I hope. Body willing.

“Badwater” Bill
Tujunga, CA