Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pilgrim in Training

My pal, Eileen, is really intent on being physically fit enough to walk to Chimayo... she readily admits that it won't be an easy task, but her commitment is admirable. She's well along the way on the virtual pilgrimage starting from Denver.

Since her training program began when I returned on April 12th, she's already logged a respectable 77 miles (124 km) of walking mostly around the urban neighborhood. While she walks, about 3 miles a day, 5 days a week, she tries to keep at an aerobic pace - one where she can still hold a conversation, often with retired neighbor, Ellen - and stays pretty close to an average of 2.5 miles per hour. She finds enjoyment walking a different route every day and reports for me to tally the number of blocks east/west and the number of blocks north/south. (Denver blocks aren't square - there're 16 blocks to a mile east/west and 10 north/south.) There are endless opportunities for her to gaze at the houses and apartment buildings in a 1.5-mile radius and gather ideas for gardening, landscaping, window treatments, etc. [This would bore me to tears! I need to have a destination to head towards in order to get enjoyment out of a walk.]

By the distance she has accumulated so far, she'd be past Monument, CO by now, via Littleton, Sedalia, and Larkspur southward along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. But there's an important lesson learned in her training: her pace in the mountains is very different than around the urban environment.

We took a day hike at Mt Falcon Open Space earlier this week for performance testing. She walked for 3 miles (5 km) up a long, steep mountain path with an elevation change of +1,600 feet (490 meters) and then down a slightly longer trail to the starting point. Big difference! While around town, her level-ground pace is a pretty consistent 2.5 mph, yet in the mountains, her ascending pace is barely 1 mph and her descending pace is 1.7 mph. The climate was a significant factor for her - the east-facing mountain slope gave us a lot of exposure... 74ºF (25ºC) and very arid. She had to stop for several short rests, especially when there was a bit of shade. I took longer trails than she and reconnoitered at agreed-upon landmarks. I also brought along a book.

For whatever series of reasons, the climate and steepness factors don't impact my pace much... I'm at 3 mph up 3.5 mph on the flats and 3.8 mph down. Clearly, this underscores that people with different paces shouldn't even try to walk together. I'm younger (she 58; I 46) and in better condition, yet I'm somewhat shorter. These factors don't cancel each other out. More significantly, I'm more comfortable taking risks - more confident to have both feet leave the earth as I jump from one rock to another or over a gulch, more experienced in shifting my direction with the walking sticks, less inclined to take even a slight pause seeing the rattlesnakes on the path. I do my gawking on the go, she stops to gawk. Different people, different paces. Walking to Chimayo together, we'll be using her pace to determine the length of a day's stage and won't walk together between stopping points (except when prudent).

Eileen's training continues. It will be interesting to see if her pace will improve as her fitness level does. My planning continues... determining the stages and appropriate routes, and supply points.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You go, Eileen! Who knows where you will be headed next year! If you need Spanish help, let me know...
I loved your spirit about the whole thing! It was really fun seeing you and having lunch at the mafiosi restaurant after Ukrainian Church talk. Have a great summer! Nadja