How Did We Prepare Physically for the PCT?
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My family and long-time friends have known me as a person with chronic back pain, since my teens. In addition, in my forties, while standing on a table in my classroom, stapling something to the wall, I fell, and as the table went over I got skewered in my lower back by one of the table legs. I had to learn to walk again in a swimming pool, and was out of work for several months. Also in my forties, I had a serious dog bite on my hand that put me in the hospital for a week.
In my fifties I got a raccoon bite on the other hand that resulted in shots for rabies. I had surgeries on my foot, my hip, my shoulder and arm, and two hamstring repairs due to a mountain bike crash. In my late fifties, Sharky took me up six peaks in the Sierra Nevada area near Sonora Pass, all in the same summer. That I could do it shocked and awed me..and, I was hooked. That I was even considering the PCT itself shocked and awed me. Over time, my relationship with pain had shifted, as I learned to acknowledge it without owning it as who I was. I learned that I could truly heal and become strong. Yes, definitely, let's hike that Pacific Crest Trail, all of it! (By the way, my lower back held up well.)
We hiked as much as possible wherever we were several months prior to our start date. In addition to hiking those peaks, we backpacked in the Cerro Castillo area of Patagonia. By the age of sixty I had rccovered from those injuries, so strength and flexibility were important, as were trekking poles. I saw Ellora the P.T. right up until our departure, and continued my exercises during daily rest breaks on the trail. Just before departure she said, "Okay, you're ready to go. Remember to stretch. Yes, you've had two hamstring surgeries. You've got the strength now. Have fun!" It was possible to have aches and pains and still get strong and capable on this hike. How the mind was functioning was what made all the difference. Not denial of pain, rather focus on the positive. As it turns out, just about everyone on the trail had some kind of pain at some point.
photo of Golden Trout Wilderness near Farewell Gap by Jeremy Francis from San Jose, CA [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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