Saturday, August 14, 2021

An Extended Fast (& finally a hike!)

I wish it wasn’t so hot, and it’s not even that hot! But it is for me. So heat sensitive I am in my older years (though I’m still in my fifties), I’ve been off the trails much of August. Just ten years ago I was exploring trails in 105 F degree weather. Right now it’s in the low 80s at most on the Southern California coast. Just a few miles inland the temperatures climb double digits. I walk here and there around town, and it’s lovely, but it’s also the middle of summer which means this seaside town is crowded with tourists. I’d rather stay more to myself these days. We are after all, still in a pandemic.

Last week I felt that the time was right for an extended fast. It had been a while, and so I was excited leading up to it. My eagerness was similar to anticipating an ultramarathon or a long difficult hike. I felt excited because I knew that I was going to come out of it a little more grounded and a little more focused on what’s really important. But at the same time, just like with ultramarathons, or long difficult hikes, I felt some anxiety – anxiety because I knew that the feat takes some suffering – it’s kind of a joyful suffering really (just like with ultras or crazy difficult terrain). But suffering is suffering, whether or not it’s joyful, it’s hard.

IMG_8878The first 24 hours of the fast was relatively easy, as it is usually (because I’ve practiced). The first day is a day of excitement, a day I begin a journey. It’s like a fresh start. It’s also like a day of reckoning, a day where I focus on prayer, reading, listening to music, working (because I have a job Smile) and some chores. One of the first things you will notice if you fast is how much time you have on your hands. There’s no meal prep, there’s no sitting down to eat, ever. That adds hours to the day. And then, I have even more time because fasting for some reason causes me to rise from bed one to two hours earlier than normal.

The second 24 hours was the most difficult mentally as it always is for me during a 72 hour fast. Day two is like walking past the scaredy-cat gate while in line for a roller coaster. It would be so easy to go ahead and satisfy my hunger and just do this some other time. During this second day, mornings aren’t a problem as I never eat in the morning. By the time afternoon comes around my stomach grumbles here and there. The stomach grumblings are surprisingly short lived. It’s evening that is most difficult on this second day. I feel physically strong but mentally weak. I try to wear myself out with my focuses. Day two is actually  ideal for a hike. But I didn’t that this time. Instead I added a good deal more focus to my work, as I’m coming to the end of Summer semester.   

pexels-felix-mittermeier-355915The third day is no longer mentally challenging because it’s the last day of the fast. It feels somewhat akin to running that last third of a race, barring anything disastrous, I’ll be finishing this race. I can look ahead with relief.

The hours really drag on in day three. And while I feel mentally strong, I begin to grow physically weak in the final fasting hours. The third day is not a good day to go for a hike or even grocery shopping (because of the heavy lifting), though I’ve done both. This time I took it easy and eased on into the finish line. I completed in the evening, with 72 hours ending around 7pm Friday evening, August 6. I broke the fast with chicken bone broth (with ginger and tumeric). A little later I consumed scrambled eggs and some cucumber pasta salad my husband made. I should have probably ate a banana or some electrolyte pills because as usual, my legs and feet cramped while I slept that night. Ouch. That needs to be avoided. During this fast I drank lots of Propel water which has electrolytes but obviously not enough. Aside from the slight electrolyte thing (I’ve placed an order for SaltStick), I didn’t have any adverse affects. The next day, I felt renewed and a little more grounded by the fasting experience. I was primed for a hike – what a perfect day to hike!  And it was (except for the heat).


IMG_8915Originally I planned to hike Black Star Canyon. Imagine me thinking that I could handle Black Star in the August heat. But then something came up and I wanted to stay where I had cell service. I drove up the coast and continued on up a windy road to Top of the Word in Laguna Beach. It was late morning when I parked my truck at the park up there. The weather was chilly. We were socked in even on the ridge overlooking Laguna Beach. Yes, I’ve been complaining about the heat, but sometimes our mornings are pretty chilly, even in August (we’re lucky that way.)

I hiked down to the bottom of the canyon from Top of the World. And then I made a small climb up to a great little secret place. The clouds had dispersed by then and boy did it warm up, especially during those rocky uphill sessions with no shade. I hung out at my spot in the nice cool shade, enjoying the views for a good 90 minutes before heading back out. The climb back up to the ridge and then to my truck was hell but well worth the excruciating trouble. (A little bit of that joyful suffering)

IMG_8876IMG_8879IMG_8889IMG_8906In all, I hiked a little over five miles in these hot coastal hills. Upon returning home I noticed that for the first time in a long time, my skin was crusted with salt. I told my husband, “If you hear me say I’m going to Black Star Canyon, and it’s still summertime, don’t let me go!” (As if!)

Looking forward to summer moving on!