For many, the holidays are a time to feel pressured to spend time with family, overeat, and worry about weight gain. But not Jeff. Last year he used his Thanksgiving holiday to run from the Salton Sea to the Pacific Ocean. It took him three days. This year, he wanted to repeat that run and we planned to join him.
Shacky and I wanted to use the trip to practice fastpacking. We would run with our backpacks, carry our own food and gear, and try some minimalist camping. The preparations for this trip could be a blog post in itself. We weighed our food, counted the calories, and packed everything away as tightly as possible.
Instead of looking for healthy, low-calorie foods, we wanted to maximize calories so that we would have to carry less food, but still get the calories we needed. Essentially, high-calorie foods like sugary pop tarts and salty crackers. You truly learn the value of your food when you have to carry the weight of it on your back.
Packing was such a learning experience. I managed to get all the clothes I needed for three days into two large zip-lock bags. It’s amazing how small things get when you take the air out of them.
We started at the Salton Sea with Jeff and a handful of other friends. Then we started to run.
Running with trekking poles was a little strange and hard to get used to, especially since the first stretch was flat and we didn’t really need them. And the weight of the packs themselves was a challenge. My pack weighed 25lbs. It contained all the clothes, food, and gear that I would need for three days of running and camping in the desert.
Although I was proud of how little I had packed, 25lbs is still a significant weight to run with, and I felt it. The pack was a great fit and very comfortable. But I felt as though I had gained a lot of weight and I wasn’t used to carrying it.
Running was tough, but not impossible. Still, Shacky and I fell behind and started to walk when his calves tightened. Whenever we tried to run again, his calves got worse. After about 4 miles, it hurt him to even walk. Something was obviously wrong.
At this point, we were in the middle of the desert and the rest of the group was far ahead. We could see them as specks in the distance. I made Shacky stop and sit down. He wasn’t moving anymore and we had no idea where we were.
I threw off my pack and started to sprint. I had to reach the group to tell them what had happened. We needed a pickup, but I had no contact information for the vans. I was able to wave down Matt and explain the situation. Matt went ahead to tell the others.
It turned out that we had to walk about two miles back to a gas station for a pick up. So we hobbled along. Shacky was limping, and as soon as we hit the road he had to sit down.
We sat in front a house and before long, a dog came out and started barking viciously. When we tried to get back up, we found that Shacky could no longer move without intense pain.
I started taking off my pack to run to the gas station by myself and bring back help, when the lady of the house came out to see what her dog was barking at. We apologized and explained our situation. She kindly offered to drive us to the gas station.
Terry rescued us at the gas station and before long we had Shacky sitting down with his leg elevated and some ice on him. Our adventure was over.
I wasn’t too disappointed since:
a) I had already learned a lot in preparation for this.
b) We could still hang out and help crew the group.
c) We drowned our sorrows with Mexican food.
At the end of the day, we decided to drive home instead of camp. We spent Saturday recuperating, then by Sunday Shacky could walk again.
We met Jeff who was running his final leg, and I ran it in with him. It was so inspiring to be a part of this and I’m very much looking forward to it next year.
Here is a video I made of the experience:
And here’s what I put together for Active.com:
Great job, Jeff!