As I was walking last week I started to think about all of the challenges that have to be overcome in order to complete my walk around Salton Sea. Some of these challenges are obvious, but some you don’t really think about until they hit you.
Physical & Cardiovascular Challenges
Obviously, to walk 20 miles a day for 6 or 7 days in a row you have to be in good shape. This is probably the first thing most people think about. But there’s more to a 100+ mile walk than just having sexy legs.
Acclimation: It’s going to be hot when I embark on my journey. I expect temperatures in excess of 110°F, and potentially as high as 120°F. Add the humidity and the heat-index or “it freakin feels like temp” can exceed 140°F. Combating heat stroke and dehydration will be job #1, and it’s not an easy one. I do my regular ‘heat training’ in the desert of the Inland Empire and plan to do several 10-20 mile walks in 105°F-110°F temperatures, but the humidity will be much lower than at Salton Sea. I will have to start doing more walks at Salton Sea (part of the planning) to get my body used to the humidity and high heat-index. This is made even more difficult due to the fact the Salton Sea is a 2 hour drive from my home.
Sun protection: The sun will be on me like a blast-furnace, 8 or 9 hours each day. Not only when I do the big event, but during practice walks and mapping missions as well. Any spot of my skin not covered in cloth will have to be slathered in SPF 25-50. If I take a dip in the water to cool down, or if I’m sweating a lot, I’ll probably have to reapply at least once a day. I’m also going to have to invest in some better eye protection.
My feet: This one most people may not think about. Walking along the “barnacle beach” of Salton Sea will require some semi-heavy duty hiking boots that rise high on the ankle to keep the barnacles and sharp-bones out of my socks. One glass-like barnacle shell or one needle-like bone in my sock will require immediate attention. The other risk is blisters on the toes or feet. If my shoes, socks, and feet don’t get along well, my whole journey could come to a fast, bloody, oozy, painful end. I’m going to have to make sure my hiking-boots are perfectly fitted and well broken-in and have spare changes of socks in my backpack each day. Currently I’m using “WrightSocks” which I have been using since I started walking long(ish) distance a few years ago. So far, they have not let me down.
Mental & Emotional Challenges
I could just pack up the car, point it to Salton Sea one random morning, show up and start walking, but that would likely end up in heatstroke, dehydration, and death in a few hours.
An adventure like this will take some planning. It will take commitment – not just from me, but from the people supporting me. I am in talks with a filmmaker that wants to make a documentary about my walk and I am already in talks for possible sponsorship by at least one company. Now I have to coordinate with them, make commitments to them, and make sure they hold up their commitments.
I have to map a route, create a daily itinerary, plan for water-drops or refills every day, know where the motor home will be staying each night, know how far I need to walk each day, plan for what and how I will eat each night, day, and morning, how much water I need to carry, plan for how to wipe my ass if I need to make a pit-stop in the middle of nowhere, make sure I’m carrying redundant emergency equipment (phone, batteries, water carriers, shoes, socks) and probably at least a dozen other things that I haven’t even thought about yet. This will be as much of a project as it is an adventure.
Then I have to deal with whatever goes on in my head. “can I do this?”, “Can I afford to do this?”, “WTF am I thinking?!”. It’s tough to push aside all doubts. I remember when I first started walking a few years ago. For months I was preparing for “my big walk” to the top of the Etiwanda Preserve in Rancho Cucamonga – 8 miles up and back. I wasn’t sure I could do it. It was a huge challenge to me. I finally did it and then suddenly it wasn’t a big deal anymore once I knew I could do it. Now I do that 8 mile (mostly uphill) walk as my “warmups” at the start of each season – it’s almost easy now.
I know that covering these distances (20 miles/day) is as much mental/emotional as it is physical. Once I complete a 20-mile day, it will seem like a piece of cake (well.. almost). Once I do a few 110°F or 115°F walks and a few 20-mile walks in the high-humidity at Salton Sea, all of these doubts will start to fade.. I hope..
This isn’t going to be easy, that’s probably why nobody has ever done it. But with some drive, dedication, and encouragement, I’m going to give it one heck of a shot.