Feeling the pressure… or, how not to train for the PCT!

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Since deciding I was going to hike the PCT this year and then being accepted as one of the 5 mYAMAdventure hikers, my training program hasn’t quite gone as smoothly as I would have hoped.

Firstly, back in January, I decided it was time to strengthen my core through yoga, as I would be carrying a considerably heavier pack than usual. I started with basic yoga and should have just kept with the basic! Instead, I thought I had somewhat mastered the basic, so I moved up to a more advanced style and after the first session I strained my back which I put down to simply over-stretching. I gave it a few days with no yoga or strenuous exercise and when it only seemed to be getting worse, I booked into my physio. After 2 weeks of physio, the pain steadily moved from my lower back down my left leg, my walking became lopsided and I started getting very nervous/anxious/worried about walking 2,650 miles in a matter of months. I was referred to a specialist, had an MRI scan and was diagnosed with a disc bulge and sciatica; thus the pain down my leg.

I had two options: wait and see if it would get better by itself (usually 6-8 weeks) or have a cortisone injection into the disc to help speed up the recovery. I didn’t have time to wait so I promptly booked in for the injection, guided by CT scan. It hurt, I cried like a baby, then I couldn’t sit, stand or lie for a couple of days.

I went back to my physio 1 week after the injection with a big grin on my face exclaiming that the pain in my leg had gone away and all I could feel now was a dull ache in my lower back. This was good news and this was the beginning of February.

I left the physio on a grey and rainy day in London, walked back to the tube, and before I knew what had happened, I had slipped on the shiny and wet top step and was falling down the stairs only to come crashing down on my back. Let it be known, I’m not a clumsy person! A few passersby helped me to stand up and in my shock, I hobbled to the train, got on, and only looked at my injuries once I got home. My arm was grazed and bleeding and my elbow felt shattered, but even worse, my back was throbbing and the pain down my leg had returned. I spent the rest of the afternoon with ice on my back, leg and arm, and generally feeling very sorry for myself. This is the point where some people would say the universe was trying to tell me something…

After constant physio, no improvement and a deadline approaching fast, it was decided that I should have more injections, this time into the facets and disc. I was dreading the injections the second time around after knowing the pain of the first one, but surprisingly they didn’t hurt and I was able to walk, sit and lie down the same day. I made a pact to myself to be very very careful on all steps, slippery surfaces and just generally walking down the street, but I also had commitments that had been booked like a wilderness first aid course (2 days after the injections) and then a trip to Scotland to do a winter skills course and learn how to use an ice axe (one week after the injections).

After a pretty rough weekend hiking in the snow in Scotland I’m feeling ok, the only worry I have now is that carrying an 8kg pack for an hour or so did start to aggravate my back.

I start my hike in 4 weeks.

I’m nervous because I’m not as fit as I should be.

I’m worried about letting myself and others down.

I’m anxious of failure.

But I’m not a quitter.

I’m coming for you PCT.


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11 responses to “Feeling the pressure… or, how not to train for the PCT!

  1. Kat, With your duff back and my sore knee we are not holding up our end. We need some upper lip stiffening. I am training constantly between now and Apr 15th when I fly. My trail shoes for the trip will arrive this weekend so I can get then bedded in. No slippy steps or other stunts Ok, or the only following will be on twitter!

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  2. Sorry to hear of you injuries! There is an old saying that goes “If you eat a toad for breakfast, nothing worse can happen to you that day.” I think you have eaten your toad, and all will be smooth sailing for the upcoming trek. Hang in there – you will be laughing about this the day you finish the PCT.

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  3. Oh heavens, but you’ve had a time of it! I know the feeling though. When training for the Camino I ended up spraining my ankle (in a silly slip and fall) 6 weeks before leaving, and then sprained my foot two weeks before I flew into France! It meant I had a really hard time of it most of the walk, but I managed it in the end. There were times I thought about just calling the whole thing off, but I’m glad I didn’t. You are going to rock this walk! Keep that optimism I know you have and rest as much as you can.

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  4. Hi Kat – Gosh you have been through the Wars! Stay strong young lady, you with start find your pace and finish. Positive thinking from now on.

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  5. Hi Kat

    Im very sorry to hear about your back – ow ow ow!!! Ha with a previous girlfriend I learned to massage facet joints !! Maybe you need a “phisio” to accompany you ☺☺☺

    Your training looks awwwwwsome!! And I know it will be tough but you will enjoy it.

    I was in Indonesia for three weeks after Christmas – and since then I ve been sick on and off – finally landing up in hospital with a kidney infection. I had 4 courses of antibiotics before the hospital, intravenous antibiotics at the hospital and now am on a two week course just to make sure everything is resolved!! Ive never seen so many pills. Anyway I hope I will be walking around the middle of the year.

    Have a super day and strength with your training


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  6. So sorry to read about your recent injuries. Wishing you a speedy recovery so that you can proceed with your plans!!!! I have faith that your body will heal and you’ll have another great adventure.

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  7. Life is full of twists and turns….it’s how you deal with them.
    You are inspiring even through the ups and downs …with the downs I feel so much compassion for you…when the ups come …i’ll feel very happy for you. Hope the ups come soon for you.

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  8. Thank you everyone for your kind comments. Over the past week I’ve been loading up my pack and wearing it all day, walking to every physio appointment, to and from the camping shops in Covent Garden and even doing shopping in Sainsbury’s daily with it on my back! I still have the pain which moves around from my lower back to my hip and leg but it’s manageable. I’ll be starting out nice and easy on the trail and continuing at a snail’s pace until I feel strong enough to up the pace… I leave London in 1 week, aarrrghhh!!


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