Monday, July 20, 2015

All. The. Fears. - First Fastpacking Trip this Weekend

I have my first "fastpacking" trip this weekend, which now that I've tried out the pack and knowing the route is an average of 300' of gain and 300' of loss PER MILE, may be more a "slowpacking" trip. I'll be doing the 27 mile Four Pass Loop of the Maroon Bells area outside Aspen in Colorado.

My anxiety has been growing and growing. I feel completely unprepared (which isn't true) and low on confidence. I'm a high-anxiety worrier anyway, so here's all the awful things, and me having to deal with each fear.


  • I didn't pack the right gear. I've never been backpacking and don't feel like I know what I'm doing. Deal with it: I have researched a lot, asked a friend for her gear list from a recent trip, relied on another friend for recommendations like knife and good military style compass, and I'm keeping it simple yet comfortable where I could since it's only one overnight (no camp stove or fire. Just bars, GUs, jerky, and trail mix!).
  • I have no business backcountry camping many miles from a trailhead all by myself. I've camped TWICE ever. Deal with it: I'm really happy with the tent I selected, I've practiced setting it up, and one of my skills in ultras is my ability to be okay being completely alone for hours on end!
  • I like to plan, but backcountry camping means finding a campsite on the fly and what if I can't find one. There are lots of rules about where you can camp, and it's high tourist season of lots of people camping everywhere. Deal with it: This is one of those gloriously irrational fears of every serious planner. Uh, there's thousands of acres of space. I know not to be within 100 ft of trail or water. I know not to be in marked restoration areas. There have to be unoccupied flat areas with wind break that will be suitable, and I will find it when I need to!
  • This pack is heavy. How will I haul this up and down for 27 miles? Deal with it: I picked a great pack. My test run showed me I could run a little with it, and it sits well on me. I fitted it correctly and packed well (tent up and down along my spine, bear canister at the top with the food, sleeping bag attached at the bottom underneath the pack). The ultimate deal-with-it: I just will suck it up even if it's heavy because I'm an ultrarunner and that's what we do.
  • I've never been above 10,800 feet altitude while running. This has 4 mountain passes in the 12,000 to 12,500 feet elevation range! I won't be able to breathe. I'll have to go like a mile an hour. Let me say again - I won't be able to breathe, my lungs will explode, I'll be woozy and fall off a mountain, my head will explode from the headache. Deal with it: I'm not going to die if I just take my time. If there's anything I've finally learned from races at altitude, it's that. I used my altitude tent to acclimate decently to about 9,000 feet. It has shown me at races that it takes the "edge" off higher altitude. And while I am still susceptible to altitude problems, a low-dose aspirin beforehand helps the headache, and I'm okay if I go slow. 
  • I'll get lost. Deal with it: I have turn by turn directions from the forest service, I have a basic map. And now a friend of mine sat me down and taught me how to use my compass to actually figure out where I am on a map and then how to use it to sight out where to go next. I also met someone from Denver at the Beaverhead Endurance Runs race a week ago who had done the loop and said the signage was fine.
That covers most of the freakouts that have landed in my brain recently. And as you can see, I'll be okay. I just have to keep telling myself that if a problem comes up, I'll just DEAL WITH IT!

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to hear about this adventure. Libby, you're a badass mountain goat and you got this! :)