I broke the #1 rule of thru-hiking: Don’t run.
We had our longest road-walk recently: 26 miles of endless pavement, cow pastures, and orange groves.
All of the hikers were dreading this section. To our surprise, we arrived to the road to find a trail-angel waiting for us. He had driven 2 hours from Tampa to help us on this stretch.
Trail magic always arrives when you least expect it.
He offered us Egg McMuffins, Poweraid, cookies, and the best gift of all, he offered to take our packs. He would meet us every 5 miles.
We would get to float through this road-walk. I left my pack in the backseat, grabbed a cookie, and then started to run. The breeze felt good on my face, I was weightless, and the pavement of the quiet country road was easy.
It was one of the biggest mistakes of my hike.
On flat and even surfaces, my feet hit the exact same way. I was used to walking long miles, but not on pavement. And my body wasn’t used to moving so fast.. I always had a 20 pound anchor strapped to my back!
It was too much.
The pain in my ankle started the next day. It didn’t help that the next section of trail included 2 days of bike paths around Orlando.
Smash. Smash. Smash.
The ankle got worse.
Since then, I have taken days off, soaked in epsom salts, taken Advil daily, used an Ace bandage, and rubbed icy hot on it. A week later, my ankle is still tight. It loosens up as I walk, but the first mile of each day is painfully stiff.
Hikers are very stubborn people.
When it comes down to it, the emotional pain of not finishing a thru-hike hurts worse than the physical pain of a stiff ankle.
Anyway, I’m not ready to go home, yet. It’s still snowing at home.
(Update: I’m at 500 miles. The left ankle is healing, but the pain has flipped over to the right ankle. Who knew the flat Florida Trail would be so hard?)