Saturday, September 3, 2011

feet, Stephen King and a broken rule

Last week I walked 13 miles in new shoes.  As a result of them either being new or not correctly fitted, the end result was blisters on a good percentage of my feet and awkward and painful walking until Thursday.  Mom, my biggest cheerleader, thought they would certainly be broken in for this weekend's walk.

I headed out really early this morning.  The sun didn't even begin to peek its sleepy self up over the horizon until 5 miles in.  I was so proud to be on schedule, wanting to be done and headed home just as the heat of the day was picking up.  My feet were really struggling though.

I stopped at 5 miles, put moleskin on my feet, slathered them in petroleum jelly then started again.  At 6 miles I put more moleskin on.  At 7 miles I changed socks and debated continuing around the lake for 2.5 miles or taking the long route back.  If I continued, I could be at my car in only a half hour.  If I turned around I would have to walk the 7 before any relief.  I turned around.

My feet seemed worse when I stopped.  If I kept going and didn't allow myself any rest - at all - - the pain would be constant.  So I told myself to just keep going.  Don't stop.  Don't rest.  If I did stop, I would kick at the ground a bit to keep the pain going.  I know it sounds crazy but it was easier than resting them and then starting on them again.  Those fresh starts were really tough.

At 8 miles I wrapped my feet up in ace bandage and called my dad.  I really wasn't sure if I could do this or not - but what choice did I have?  I knew my feet weren't going to fall off under these socks - they were just hurting.  So I told myself to deal with it - keep walking - and get to the car.

At 9 miles I passed a police officer and resisted the overwhelming urge to ask for a ride back.  This was all in my head.  My body felt good.  I wasn't tired or too hot, hungry or thirsty.  My feet just hurt.  I could do this.

What didn't make any of this any easier was my audio book choice. 

The last two books I have listened to have contained a lot of talk about Italian and French food.  Instead of feeling tired, I would dream of food, coming up with some new recipe with mushrooms or trying to think of something that does not go well with Champagne.  For the record, I'm not sure there is anything that does not go well with Champagne.

I am not a huge fan of fiction, but one of the few fiction authors I do like is Stephen King.  So when someone recommended The Long Walk and I read the synopsis I thought this could be a great book to take along.  To describe the story on a very basic level, the 100 walkers are participating in a sport - a long walk.  They must keep their speed a 4mph, never stop, as well as follow an assortment of other rules.  Should they break the rules they receive a warning.  If they receive 3 warnings, their next slip-up will buy them their ticket.  What is the ticket?  They are shot dead.  I love King.

So I think to myself, this will be a great story to listen to.  I'll get myself involved in the story, walking along with them and not want to stop.  It is a great story.  What I heard of it, that is.  A lot of the text however, is centered on the psychological game the walk participants are in.  They imagined lying down and never getting up.  They described in detail the pain in their feet.  They talked about one participant who crawls for miles at 4mph because his feet gave out on him.  In other words, King's words were my own miserable thoughts being played aloud via my iPod.   So much for distraction.

But I pushed through, not even hearing the words anymore and staring off into the horizon.  I could see the parking lot from where I was - only about 2 miles away at Louie's restaurant on the lake- but I kept staring at that horizon almost begging my mind to go into some sort of altered state of consciousness.

I felt great.  I was not tired.  I could have gone for miles more if it had not been for my feet.


Finally I made it to the picnic area about 1/2 from my car - the same picnic area I stopped at last week.  I sat down, looked at the ground and my feet resting on it and considered lying down.  I looked up and saw two cyclists talking as they mounted their bikes onto their cars and I looked back at the ground.  A thought flashed through my mind and I wrestled with it for what seemed like an hour.  I thought some more about lying down, looked up and still seeing the cyclists chatting, I debated getting up or crying.  A little whimper did escape as I considered how I would feel walking the 1/2 mile back to my car.  It's only 1/2 mile!!!!  I can do this!  I stood up, took a few painful initial steps, walked over to the cyclists and said  "I'm sorry.  Would one of you consider giving me a ride to Louie's?"

The female in the group immediately says yes and asks me if I need some water.  I say no - my feet are just hurting so bad I don't think I can make it back to my car.  I get into this stranger's vehicle without much hesitation at all, hope that she is not a crazy psycho killer but being willing to take my chances if it means I don't have to walk that 1/2 mile to my car.  This is something I said I would never do - but here I was.  Here I am.


Her name is Tracy and she was my savior today.  She cycles with a guy named Dennis and she works in sales.  That is about all I know of her.  I hope I get the opportunity to thank her again someday.

I have spent the better part of this day in a sort of sad frustration.  I don't think the physical aspect of walking 60 miles is as big of a deal to me as it once was.  But I must get this shoe thing worked out very soon.  I cannot do this and be unkind to my feet.  Right now my feet despise me. 

I never thought the shoes would be the thing that could prevent me from getting where I am going.

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