Day after day after day, I strap on my pack and trek through the varying terrain of the backcountry. Often traversing entire landscapes, reeling in the horizon, and then going beyond. I have appropriately termed days that exceed 26 miles, “marathon days.” But these are no ordinary marathons… dawned with a forty-pound pack, extreme elevation gain and loss, rough trails, route finding and overall walking the line of previously set physical limits.
So what is it that keeps me going mile after mile? Being curious of this myself I began to take notes on my own trail habits. Firstly, I noticed, as true with most anything, except maybe a tonsillectomy, a good breakfast is key. That’s a given as fuel is a must, but beyond that I found that I employ many different methods of motivation. One primary method is the reason I go backpacking… to simply see what’s out there. With every turn and with every climb a new scene comes into view.
There is also a physical component, pushing myself to the limits and seeing just how far I can go. The physical strength gained in heart, lungs and legs is immense and it is certainly sagacious to comply with ones physical limitations. But yet these are fundamental drives. Once my body becomes tired and my will becomes weary I have notice two habits I’ve developed to keep moving. Once the appeal of the scenery fades and I feel my limits reached I go into what I like to call “trail trance,” an in-the-zone feeling that tends to block out the physical hardships of moving forward. I do this by keeping my gaze focused on the trail in front and just marching along.
When the trail trance fades, usually in the last few grueling miles, an eagerness to reach camp kicks in; a deep yearning to take off my pack and get the weight off my back, to remove my boots and let the blood return to my cramped feet unabated. This stage is what I call my “stubborn perseverance” phase. And I will not stop until campsite is reached, even when a nice seat or perch comes along I give it one glance and say “nope, not this time, I'm soooo close.”
Is there a method to my madness? I like to think so. So far I’ve completed three marathon days and many days of over twenty miles traversed. It’s the simple devices I exert that makes all the difference and keeps me a-chug-chug-chugin’ along.