The trail from Del Valle park to Rose Peak, the one we took, is about 21 miles round trip. 10 mikes up, 10 back, easy peasy right?
I went with Jenny (and Velimir) and the hiking group she goes with, the Society of Outdoor Cardinals, lead by “V”. I went with Jenny and “V” in January on a 14 mile hike up Mount Diablo. That trip was a good deal of fun, and I didn’t die so I naturally assumed that a 21 mile hike would be difficult, but not impossible…
The weather could have been better, it was supposed to be around 102, so I brought plenty of water (6L) and the first half of the trip was good. I was powering up the steep incline without a problem, and it wasn’t until right before lunch that I started to feel the convulsion of my leg muscles. I’ve had cramps here and there, usually after a strenuous class at Wushu West, but I can deal with it. However, while we sat down for lunch, I noticed (and even joked about it) my calf muscles were twitching. It was like they were dancing to some unknown rhythm. “V” said it was because I was low on salt ( and then he told me that every muscle contraction required both Potassium and Salt), and the simple evidence of my salt encrusted backpack was proof enough that I needed to do something. So, I had what I felt to be a salty lunch, and then got back on the trail for the last 3 miles to Rose Peak.
That last stretch of the trail was very intense for me, and soon lead up to a series of the most painful moments in my life.
Jenny, Velimir and I were sticking together, and maybe a mile in I wasn’t feeling so hot. I had to rest on a log because my right foot was twisted outwards to the far right, because my shin muscle was completely contracted from a cramp. This was uncomfortable, but still tolerable. I really hated holding them up, so I did my best to flex it out and get back on my feet. I always feel like I can tolerate my own pain pretty well, and I’d rather do that than feel like I’m being a nuisance to everyone else by resting so much. Resting is for sissies!
I don’t know how much further I had lasted, maybe another mile or so. My shins, calves, quads, and ham strings decided they would all get in on the cramping game, and they seized up all at once. I think I pointed out to Jenny that my quads were hard as a rock. I said this between my teeth though, as the pain was like nothing I have every felt before, and as much as I try to keep my cool, I did make some awful hissing and breathing sounds. I felt that standing was easier, for all but a second, and then I sort of plopped down, hopped up again because that didn’t feel any better, then sat down again. The thing was, when I had my legs straight, my quads would cramp up. If I bent my knees at all, my calves would join in, if I tried really anything, both legs would take turns locking up.
While I rested yet again, Jenny and Velimir offered my food, water, and it was unfortunate that I could hardly think or talk clearly due to the pain. What was cool, is two horses and three cows came around the corner and came right up to us. I’ve grown up around horses, so while they are not new to me, its very unnerving to have them roaming free without an owner.I also though, if anything happened, like they got spooked, I was in no shape to get out of the way. I tried to envision what it would be like to get trampled to death in my current state, and I actually thought that would be better :)
After some more time had passed, and I ate some salty jerky, I decided it was time to make rose peak my bitch and get back on my feet. I had come this far, and I did NOT want to give up for anything. So, Jenny and I hiked a bit further, and we came across Magda. She said we were almost there, about 15 more minutes… shortly after that, I had another cramp attack, and this was way more intense than the previous ones. After this, I started to get the suspicion that this was it, my hike was done for. Jenny ran off to the peak to see if anyone else was there (check that out, I’m freaking dying, and shes JOGGING up the trail and back :) ). When she got back, she helped me get comfortable, filled me up with more salty food, a banana, and handed me water. Jenny has terrific bedside manners, and I felt terrible for putting her through the trauma of my pain.
Once I was laid out on the trail, and Jenny was off to get someone else, I let out a nice howl, and dare I say a F-Bomb. I also managed to shove some water bottles under my knees. This help my legs stay in a neutral state, where my quads or calves were not working at all (even in this position, they were still 100% camped up). “V” came around, and then at that point I know it would have been REALLY stupid to tell “V” and Jenny that I still wanted to reach the peak. I knew that would have been pretty insulting, especially since my injury forced him to say behind with us. He was very nice, and both him and Jenny waited with my while my legs at least stopped locking up. Seriously, I felt completely betrayed by my own body, it was incredible what was going on. This is what I get for pushing my legs around all these years, making them run, kick and jump all the time :)
The only problem with that hike is I was only 1⁄2 way done. I had another 9 or so miles to go, and it was all up and down terrain. “V” had told me that once my cramping had subsided, and I got the right nutrients in me, I would be sore, but I would eventually get the blood flowing again and be okay.
Unfortunately, that was not the case at all. I’ve got some freaky body chemistry or sumthin’ cause there was no recovering from this. I was only slightly uncomfortable if we were on flat even ground, anything outside of that was either exerting force on my quads and shins (which would cramp up), or my calves and hamstrings (which would cramp up). So for the next few miles it was a slow process of hiking for a bit, then stopping to either nurse a new series of cramps away or try and prevent another wave.
It was also getting late, and thankfully both “V” and Jenny brought head lamps, so our nice day hike turned into a nice night hike :) “V” lead the four of us with his lamp, Magda and Velimir trailed him while I used Jenny’s headlamp and Jenny trailed behind me. We did catch a cool view of the sun going down, and there was some relief to hiking back in a cooler climate. I was also now using “V”s hiking poles and training myself to use my arms and the poles as much as my legs to move along. I was getting a pretty good workout, now I had to use my entire body to move myself forward as well as fighting my own muscles from cramping.
Let me relate this to the Wushu folks; You know when your doing a form and you are tense? I’ve heard it a lot, Mark or Patti will say “relax! your shoulders are too tight, loosen up.”, because it saps all your energy to try and move around with those muscles activated. That is was this was like, every step required twice the amount of effort.
The rest of the trip was pretty monotonous, I still had to take a break from time to time. There was one part where I had to take a large step UP, and it really sucked because by this time I had a very good idea as to what actions would incur the wrath of my legs. Basically, anytime I had to flex my muscles in a quick and major way, I would completely cramp up. So, I looked at the large step up, took a deep breath and did it, hobbled out of harms way (like, away from the ledge so I wouldn’t fall back) and stop immediately to rest and wait for it to pass.
Around 9:15pm, a pair of park rangers found us and asked if we were the droids they were looking for :) Velimir, who has a strange sense of humor said “Hey, we should hide from them !!” and then laughed. By this time, I was completely out of it, my body was shot, my brain was fried, and I was still dehydrated. Seeing these rangers was the best thing that could have happened. Sure, I felt a little robbed that I didn’t get to make it to the peak, OR finish off the last 2 miles of the hike, but really, it was for the best. We had also exceeded the park hours, so there wasn’t a choice, we were escorted out :)
We said out goodbyes, Jenny Drove those two back to Stanford, and I made my way home. I stopped by the gas station to pick up a few necessities:
Gatorade, to continue and replenish my ph balance
more water, as I had ran out
New Castle… hey, “V” said it would help :)
The commute home was an adventure in itself, because Vasco Road is reduced to one lane in the evenings now. Cal Trans has decided the two year old asphalt needs replacing, and since that entire organization hates me, they feel the need to close down almost all of Vasco to one lane while they perform the same work they did two years ago. Normally this just results in a lot of my time waisted, sitting there in traffic. Tonight though, that was extra special. Driving in stop and go traffic with both legs cramping up is an interesting situation to be in. I spent most of my commute in tears.
When I finally go home, I had two more steps to face, those leading to my front door. That kicked off one of the last cramping sessions of the day, and it was quit the grand finally. I recounted the entire day to Michele as I winced in pain, and maybe 30 minutes later I got up and took a hot shower. That felt GREAT, I was already on the road to a good recovery after that. The only thing left was to have a salty dinner, a beer, and ice my legs down. I ended going to bed around 1:30am, and as exhausted as I was, I hardly slept a wink. The pain was still bad enough to keep me awake all night, but at least I didn’t cramp up any more. The next day was pretty rough as well, I felt woozy and sick all day, be resting has become easier since then.
So, that was my hike. It is now Tuesday, and my legs are still very very sore. I still did weights Monday though :) Ha, I’m back bitches!