Head Games-Part 3

Td green 
This is a series of guest posts by Lori, the Head Dame of the Delaware Valley Trail Dames.  Thank you for sharing, Lori!!

Each step was now a wince-inducing stab. I tried to alleviate the pain by turning my foot outward, taking sideways steps on my left foot to keep my toes and heel level, thus preventing the pull on my heel. I leaned forward, putting more weight on my trek poles. I cursed the extra food I had in my pack which added to my weight burden. All but one of my companions was ahead of me on the trail. I couldn’t enlist another player to help out. I was in this alone.

That is, until Toothless and I ended up together. We had both slowed down to deal with the ever-sharpening incline, and so we ended up together. We talked briefly, but I didn’t want him to think I was some sort of frou-frou wimpy girl hiker. Inside my head, I wanted to sit down and stop. But, I couldn’t just quit. I felt embarrassed at even the thought of quitting. I tried to keep going, to stay just a short distance in front of Toothless. Oh, yeah. I’m strong. I can do this. Zing! Another step. Another lob inside my head from the opposing team. “No, you can’t.”

Toothless and I stopped for lunch at an overlook. I hoped the break would help, but I knew it wouldn’t. There were still another 1000 feet of elevation to go, and my 12:00 noon goal for reaching the shelter had come and gone. As we headed up the mountain, I struggled more and more. I tried to stay ahead of Toothless so that he wouldn’t see me wiping the occasional tear from my eye. I was exhausted. Since the game had ramped up, I had turned my thoughts inward in a you-can-do-it-no-you-can’t battle that added to the energy drain. I was stopping more frequently, huffing and puffing, feeling as though I were nearing an embarrassing breaking point where I’d collapse into a total sobbing mess sitting in the middle of the trail. I had to say something to Toothless.

In my calmest voice, I told him that I just could not hike another 65 or so miles. As soon as I heard the words spoken, I wanted to die. I felt defeated. We talked about options. The first imperative was that I reach the Priest shelter, which was not that far away. Once there, I could rest, heal a little, proceed back along the trail northbound for the rest of the week until the our northbound group met up with me. It was a good plan.

I was still walking at a pace just a fraction faster than a crawl, so I told Toothless, several times, to go on ahead; that I would be fine. To my surprise he said, “I won’t leave you.” Here was a guy I had met just the day before. I was sure he was thinking I was dead weight on this trip, and that he would be happy to move on ahead. Yet, the tone of his voice was completely reassuring. I was surprised at how relieved I felt to know that someone was looking out for me. My hard-played head game with myself just made a call to the bullpen. An all-star relief pitcher came into the game to help me finish.

We made it up to the shelter. I took off my boot and looked at my heel. The blister was angry and deep. There was blood on my sock, and I was reminded of Curt Schilling. With so many miles and lots of climbs still ahead on the hike itinerary, I knew it was a good decision to stop. Toothless and I went over the game plan for the rest of the hike. He asked me about my supplies. We were both satisfied that I had all that I needed to be on my own for 5 days, and I told him I’d be fine. “I wouldn’t leave you if I thought you couldn’t do this,” he said. His reply was another shot of reassurance for me. I knew I’d be okay on my own. I had done solo hikes before. But it was nice to hear that validation from someone else.

And then he left, and a new head game began.

No sooner was I alone, then one of the most damaging offensive moves came into play. Self-doubt. My now un-booted foot felt so much better as I sat on the edge of the shelter floor. Why not keep going? Why not just wear my Crocs? I took out my map and checked the topography of the trail ahead of me. I walked up to the trail again and looked at the scattered rocks. Not too bad. I could travel in my Crocs along that. Why not try it? At least I could get to the next shelter, even if I arrived after dark. But then what? Surely I couldn’t continue the hike from there. If I had to turn around, I’d just have further to go. The opponent in my head game kept pushing forth the doubt, making me second guess my decision, playing to my pride. Quitter! Don’t be a quitter!

Finally, my cooler, defensive player won out. Toothless and I had made a decision. A plan was laid. It was time to work the plan. I was now out of communication with my companions. If I changed my plan and began hiking in Crocs at night, no one would know I had done that. If anything happened to me on the trail, it wouldn’t be fair to the others. So, stick with the plan I did.


To be continued…..

To view the entire series click here.

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