Monday, May 31, 2010

PIT & Biometrics

Eileen's made a milestone! She's walked over a century - 100 miles - since her training began in April. She's still a committed PIT (pilgrim-in-training)and we're tracking her miles around town and on the biweekly mountain hikes - as of today, 102 miles in these 7 weeks. This is with a weight loss of 10 of the 70 pounds she wants to loose, and a significantly improved diet. Her kitchen is now free of artificial foods, which interfere with proper metabolism, unnecessary additives like high fructose corn syrup, and aspartame, and processed foods no matter what claims are printed on their eye-catching packaging. Fruits, veggies, yogurt, grains... wholesome, real food now fills the fridge to fulfill daily nutritional requirements. Very simple.

If she were really walking from Denver to Chimayo, by now, she's made it as far as Cripple Creek, a former mining town up in the mountains. The plan remains: walk a cumulative distance of 383 miles around town and she'll be ready to walk the 383 miles (or so) to Chimayo. She only whined in protest once on today's mountain hike, but close to the summit and short lived.

Our first interim destination toward Chimayo will be San Luis, Colorado's oldest town and the location of a remarkable public art exhibit installed a few years ago - bronze life-sized Statues of the Cross. Neither of us has seen it yet, though it's gotten quite a bit of publicity here in Denver. For Eileen, the challenge lies in the fact that the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies must be crossed in order to get into the broad San Luis Valley. I'm not exactly sure of our route yet, but right now, it seems that we'll take a route up through Cripple Creek in the direction of Cañon City and then to Westcliffe and down into San Luis. No matter how we'll do it, there will be mountains to cross. Mountain training is therefore important for her.

Getting a sense of a comfortable pace on steep ups, level ground, and steep downs is important for a long-distance pilgrim. These are examples of the biometrics I use everyday on my treks. Eileen's pace on the uphill part was markedly faster today than it was two weeks ago. Other than fitness level, heat, breeze, shade, time of day, mood, etc, affect pace. One's pace (one example of a personal biometric) will vary, but hopefully will fall into a predictable range useful for planning a route. The PIT effort over the coming months will include gathering biometric information for Eileen - mine are well established by now:

Pace - kilometers(or miles)/hour
Stride - the distance in meters(or feet) of each step, right foot to right foot (or left to left)
Step Rate - number of steps per 100 meters (or tenth of a mile), to be extended to kilometer(mile)

Pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino Frances or trekkers using other well-established paths might not concern themselves with these measurements and do just fine. Others who blaze their own trail using a map and compass or who combine paths and tracks in unusual ways to get where they're going will need to know how their bodies perform in order to predict their progress reliably. It just makes sense - the map shows a village is x miles away... wouldn't anyone want to have a sense of how long it would take to get there?

Conversely, you spy a village on a hillside some distance away - wouldn't you like to know how far away it is and how long it will take you to get there? This would require perceptual biometrics. I've learned that if I - nearsighted as I am - can just make out that there are buildings, but not necessarily individual ones, the village can be up to 10 kilometers distant. If it's a sprawling city, it could be much further. If I can see individual buildings, and maybe some characteristics about them, like watchtowers or steeples, then it's somewhere just beyond 5 kilometers. If I can see individual buildings and their doorways and windows, maybe individual farm animals, big ones, that is, then it's maybe 3 kilometers. And if I can see individual people, smaller animals, smoke from the chimneys, more details like this, then the village is likely 1 to 2 kilometers away, in other words, for me, 10 to 20 minutes by foot.

I know my biometrics and use them every pilgrim day without thinking. So many people, men and women alike, who comment on the 'courage' I must have to go walking on my own. I think it's rather more confidence that comes with knowledge than it is courage. Courage implies overcoming a fear. I'm not afraid to walk on my own in land unknown to me, so it takes no courage to do it. I'm confident that I know how far I can walk in an hour or a day, how far I can walk in a morning, how long it will take me to get from one village to the next. This part is empirical data. Easy-peasy.


ksam said...

Thank you...that was an amazing practical as well as inspirational piece of info! I know exactly what you mean about the confidence that comes from knowing your own bodies ability and how to pace yourself. I do that on the bike but honestly never, ever thought of the pacing etc in terms of walking/pilgrimage! Actually makes explaining ones ideas/dreams/plans easier makes it comprehensible to those who've never done anything like this.

Ukifriend said...

Leave it to Anna--she'll tell you how to get it done! Can't wait to hear about her next "easy" pilgrimage. Keep inspiring...