Monday, August 25, 2014

Hiking a 14er With Food Poisoning...Check That Off My Bucket List

So... I decided Pikes Peak will always remember Steph Kinzer, as the girl who left her mark (via bodily fluids) all over the mountain side. Our hike started at 5am, with headlamps and that glorious-Christmas morning anticipation. We finished at 6:30pm (a whopping 13.5 hrs) And it was marvelous, exhausting, and a complete thrill ride. The most favorable way to describe what happened to me on Pikes Peak would be to say I enjoyed a refreshing mountain enema. Talk about putting it lightly. WEW. I adopted a "The Show Must Still Go On" mentality and despite my gastrointestinal upset, we were still able to summit, snap a picture at the top and scramble back to the car. 

I was honored to be hiking with a true mountaineering woman from my gym, Robin, who is known to hike for weeks at a time. A 26-mile hike was like climbing out of bed for her. Seriously, Robin is badass; a natural-born beast. In fact, she had run a marathon just 6 days prior to our hike, this is true. During our entire hike my thoughts were given the customized-Robin-treatment; a constant dose of dang-good conversation, and a casual "hiking 26 miles is no big deal" (with a shoulder shrug) demeanor. Robin kept my mind positively distracted enough that my negative mind knew whining and begging would not be coming to this hiking party. Anyone else might not of pulled this hike out of me.

My food poisoning started around mile 9, when the terrain began to get harder. The miles became amplified because we were above treeline where big boulders and more elevation came out to play It was more work at that point, no doubt. Part of the difficulty was the trail changing and the rest was my body preparing for the forceful withdraw of all my food, bodily water, and minerals, blah. This is what I like to call a double Eff. Where at first we thought I had a mild case of altitude sickness but it definitely it went on too long (like the rest of the 17miles) and didn't show any other symptoms of such. I was nauseated, had stomach cramps and made a lot of bathroom stops. Good times. Party on. 

It took us 7 hours to reach the top of Pikes Peak, climbing 7,500 feet in elevation. When we reached the top, a train had just let passengers out, and there was a long line for the restrooms. Robin and I waited in the restroom line with my intense-food-poisoning-urgency. Then a plain-clothed woman  holding her purse (picture this!) says, "Oh this line is long, I hope I won't miss the train ride back." All I wanted to do was punch her in the face and tell her, "I'm standing here hoping not to ShIT my pants lady!" But that was just me letting the fire out. 

The way back I was excited for downhill hiking and giving my uphill muscles a rest. The first few miles were awesome, great energy from all the other hikers and a positive mood from mother nature, maybe also a hikers-high after reaching the summit?  We even got a bit of snow hiking down from the top which I found refreshing and slightly menacing from mother nature.

My trail etiquette looked like this, going from HAPPY HIKER GONE FEISTY:
  • Where I was yielding the right of way to every uphill climbers at first, it turned into "If you're lucky I'll scoot over and share the trail with you. If that doesn't work, I might just vomit all over you, deal with it."
  • Picking up random pieces of trash we found on the trail, which turned into "Yep, that was a piece of trash - those littering bastards"
  • Eager "Hello, how are you" conversations with fellow hikers, turned into almost whispered hellos while offering fleeting eye contact

The most disheartening experience was when I expected to be about 30 minutes away from the car (oh expectations, how you toy with my emotions). Until we got a dose of real when we saw a sign which told a different story, 5.5 miles. (dum, of death playing). That meant we still had almost two hours of hiking left. Eff. This came at a time when my legs ached, water/food were shooting out of me, and I had zero energy. All I wanted was a blanket, some 7-up and my Mom; and I would have paid good money to make that happen. But you can't bargain with the forest. There are things in life that can't be bought, ha, take that dose of reality Capitalist America. 

What's amazing is once you distract your mind, you will see that one foot WILL keep stepping in front of the other. No matter how much your legs are screaming to stop, when the only option you have is to keep going; you learn that the desire to quit won't do you any good. You learn that your movement is the only thing that can free you. And that helps open your eyes to see that quitting comes far too easily in other life situations. If you could dedicate that level of necessity to all areas of your life you might just become Jesus. That's powerful. (and hallalula.)

So...I learned that my body is a warrior. Uber proud of myself (mental toughness Robin called it) for being able to keep going through that level of physical stress; 4 hours of sleep before hours of hiking/climbing, dehydration, probable mineral imbalance AND finishing a 14er - yes- the human body is astonishing when we don't put limits on it! Definitely, when you don't give your body a chance to get out of a situation, you can see what it's made of. After that hike, I would insist the human body might just be made of steel and iron.