My husband and I are in training. No, not some radical fitness mania containing the letter X, nor is there an ex-drill sergeant involved in our new routine. We’re getting ready to hike an eleven-mile trail on the garden island Kauai. My marathoner friends snicker and scoff at such a measly distance. An eleven miler is what you bang out as a recovery run. It’s what happens before breakfast on Sunday. What’s all the fuss about hiking a roundtrip total of 22 miles in Hawaii, for crying out loud? Well, my crying quads are trying to convince me that there’s a deep chasm of difference between running eleven miles and hiking the same distance in undulant terrain.
In preparation for our tropical excursion in October, Glenn and I started small with Poo Poo Point. If you can see your hiking destination while shopping on Front Street, it shouldn’t be that hard, right? Two miles, ascending 1,700 feet. It’ll be a cake walk with a burger awaiting us at Sunset Alehouse.
With seven weeks until our Hawaiian Air flight, our initial training efforts began. We sweated and grunted our way to the paragliders’ launch pad, caught our breath while gazing at the breathtaking view, and then marched back down the trail. At the bottom we toasted our successful inaugural sojourn over a pint, proceeded to polish off more calories than we burned on the four-miler, and then tried to stand up. Let’s just say it wasn’t because of the beers that we looked like giraffes awkwardly hoisting ourselves up off the ground. As a qualified armchair exercise physiologist, I theorize that our soreness was due to a condition called YOOSLAH, a.k.a. You’re-Out-Of-Shape-Lactic-Acid-Hurts. (You’ll hear more about the various honorary doctorates I hold in physiology and other subjects later.)
Rising out of a pub booth and experiencing YOOSLAH paled in comparison to what happened the next morning when I tried to walk downstairs. I diagnosed my debilitating condition as SEMQURTWAM, a.k.a. Someone-Extracted-My-Quads-Unkindly-Replacing-Them-with-a-Meat-Grinder. My efforts to go to the kitchen for coffee resembled an AT-AT walker being taken down by Luke Skywalker. (Don’t deny your vivid memory of that tripwire victory on the planet Hoth!) This highly unpleasant state lasted at least three days, continuously deriding me for my Poo Poo underestimation. Evidently, running the Grand Ridge trails, Klahanie, and downtown Issaquah every other day count for squat when preparing to walk two miles downhill.
Recovery is a funny thing. Amateur physiologist Dr. Curtis here again to declare that five-to-six days of recovery is all that’s required after a traumatizing (and humiliating) hike. That thing called Muscle Memory works opposite the norm when introducing a new painful routine. Muscle Amnesia is actually what prevails within a week, causing you to dimwittedly decide to hike the Tiger Mountain Cable Line trail the next weekend as a follow-up training effort. The brain is a muscle, right? Well, mine actually experienced amnesia and forgot how painful the results were from a short hike just seven days ago.
At this point, my runner friends are saying, “Ahem, Dr. Curtis, you know that prolonged downhill hiking engages and challenges the kinesiology of the quadriceps, yielding divergent results from running, right?” I respond to them in my clinical voice, “Yes, I experienced an anatomic threshold breach when I tripped over a rock and couldn’t arrest my spectacular stumble.”
Tiger Mountain is the silent Issaquah giant that is neither a molehill nor an intimidating craggy peak. It hosts hundreds of visitors on sunny weekends, and can be accessed from various trailheads originating at the north, south, east, and west sides. Recreational hikers can spend hours at the Tradition Plateau base, enjoying foliage-lined, manicured trails. Inspired hikers and runners can mount a steady challenge up the forgiving West Tiger 3 route. But those who have experienced muscle amnesia will ignorantly opt for the 2,042 ft. wall of scree. The Cable Line trail has a reputation for turning able-bodied hikers into lumpy beetles trying to make their way out of a box.
I usually speak quite fondly of the trails around Issaquah, but I can’t say I remember much about the Cable Line trail other than sweating to find an optimal foot plant. One poorly placed step and I would start a mini August avalanche that was expertly dodged by Glenn.
Apart from their serenity and majesty, one of the reasons I speak fondly of Issaquah’s trails is that I don’t usually experience SEMQURTWAM after an outing. Tiger Mountain dominates its Poo Poo cousin by over 700 feet, but our training route was also at a steeper incline. To illustrate the point, just remove the Meat-Grinder portion of Someone-Extracted-My-Quads-Unkindly-Replacing-Them-with-a-Meat-Grinder and insert Serrano-Chili-Sauce in its place. What comes out 24 hours later is something that sounds like SEM-QURT-OWWWWW followed by a whimper.
Five weeks more of training for our tropical eleven-miler. At this point, I’m sending Glenn downstairs to prepare my Hawaiian coffee in the kitchen. If my legs can’t make it to Hawaii just yet, I can at least have a little of Hawaii brought to me…