Carrboro to Cocoa Cinnamon: Walk Across America Training Day #2
Folks often ask me how I will train to walk across America. I usually shrug and say something like, “Probably just walk a lot.”
Which is usually a sufficient answer.
But I know from my ultra days that repeatedly moving forward until you can do it for a long, long time doesn’t ensure a finish. Any sort of endurance event is at least as much mental as it is physical.
Today as I set out on a walk from home to my favorite café in Durham, Cocoa Cinnamon, I pretended I was already in the midst of my upcoming trek across the US. Mile one today was an imaginary thousand-mile mark. Somewhere in Texas, probably. I was barely out of Carrboro yet conjuring up a fantasy about having been walking for months.
This is mental training.
When I ran 100s, I used to write post-race reports months before the event itself. I’d write things like, “The weather’s perfect,” and, “I’m in the best shape of my life.” I’d comment on how strong I am, how happy I am, and how everything is falling into place. And come race day, it would all come true (well, usually).
Today marked the longest road hike I’ve done since crossing Oregon in 2014.
For four hours I was thinking about the amount of water I was downing and what it might translate to in the deserts of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. I was keeping tabs on how long it took my body to start feeling the effects of calorie-deficiency, then tuning in to what I craved as my body began to bonk. I shook my head at the road’s minuscule shoulders, barely wide enough to contain my average body.
I was also also noticing the preponderance of drivers zipping past with their eyes on their laps. Were they texting? I can’t be sure. But my guess is yes. This made me consider, then reconsider, then consider again using a baby jogger for those long stretches between service stations where I couldn’t lug enough water if I wanted to (again, mostly in the desert).
I freaked out. But was also elated by the crunch of each step.
Just past the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, a man shouted at me from across the street. “Hey there—you da man!”
I just laughed and said that no, he was the man.
He then told me I ought to consider getting some skis for my poles.
I told him if it were cold enough, I probably would. This 90 degrees by noon business was cooking my brain.
He cracked up and told me to have fun.
That guy was one of maybe a half-dozen people who waved at me as I walked by. I give my nordic walking poles most of the credit.
The poles act sort of like skinny ambassadors. If I was just marching through town wearing a backpack, wouldn’t I be just another sweaty old guy out wandering around wearing a dirty hat? Maybe assumed to be homeless, someone best to leave alone?
But somehow these poles hint to a destination. They are a clue to an adventure. Certainly my brisk walking pace (14-minutes/mile) is an indication, too.
On the final stretch towards the café, I imagined that I was about to wrap up another 30+ mile day. With the sun still high in the air, I’d grab a seat on the patio, smile at strangers, and sip my cool drink—an iced coffee or a spiced tea. Something refreshing, no doubt.
I’d sit there loving the fact that my body is strong. That I am healthy enough to embark on this epic undertaking. That all is shaking out perfectly, and that tomorrow will ask me to do it all over again. I’ll be game.
The next morning I’ll wake up in my tent pitched on the lawn of some Texas church. I’ll think of this very day—a measly 14 training miles completed before lunchtime.
And I’ll say out loud, “That dude was right. I am the man.”