More immediately intent on making the crossing than Bill, I had him remove my trekking poles from my pack. The first sounding with my stick was encouraging: it was only inches deep. We rolled up our pants legs and ever so carefully ventured across, one at a time. Most of our steps were into deeper water than anticipated and the rushing water put a lot of pressure on our legs. The poles were a huge help in maintaining our balance with each blind step and we made the small crossing without a mishap.
We were of course even wetter than before but most importantly, neither of us was chilled. As we continued our descent on the muddy trail I challenged myself to recall the phrase in German and Italian for “Do you have a drying room?” Most places don’t and, as feared, our Suisi hostess was gone for the day when we arrived in town, but it was a good mental exercise. I also vowed to find a good Italian word for “drenched.” We weren’t actually ‘soaked to the bone’ but everything was wet from the rain, the wading, or our sweat. “Zuppo,” which sounds a bit like “soup," was an Italian word for “wet" that would be easy to remember after this day.
Not surprisingly, we didn’t see a soul during the hour and a half trek to close our loop but we arrived back still comfortable and in good cheer. It wasn’t a typical end to a day in the Alps but we were still pleased to have made the hike.Way To Go!
Amazingly, our 4 hiking days out of Suisi was one of our biggest weeks for 2016: we knocked out over 50 miles and 12,000’ of gain in 4 consecutive days during the first days after leaving the US. De-conditioned from our 5 week stay at home, still stupid from jet lag, and only having begun our altitude acclimation by sleeping at 3,300’, we were stunned by how well we’d done.
Back in December of 2015 when at Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon, we were repeatedly saying “something has changed” when we easily did 50 miles and 10,000’ of gain in 5 days. Both then and 7 months later in Suisi, we hadn’t set any training goal for the week but instead did what felt right given the weather opportunities. Indeed, something had changed and is continuing to get better. We had to assume it was our ketogenic diet but didn’t understand the physiological effects of it on our performance 2 years on.
I was especially stunned when Bill reported that on the last mile of our 20 mile hike on our 4th and last day in Suisi that our pace was just under 3 miles an hour even though we were going slightly uphill and our packs were unusually heavy. We were pooped and beyond being ready to be done but our bodies had no trouble keeping our legs moving briskly. I concurred with Bill’s comment “This gives me more confidence about doing Rim-2-Rim in October.”
Even more surprising than our rapidly improving athletic performance was that we were changing at about the same rate.
On To The Next Valley
Rifugio Bolzano’s bigger cargo system & transport tractor.
After 5 nights in Suisi, it would be on to Ortisei in Val Gardena, a place we’d been many times. We literally could have walked up the mountain from Suisi and down the other side to Ortisei in a day had it not been for our 100 pounds of luggage.
At 4,000’, Ortisei would further our altitude acclimation which would make our summer in the mountains more enjoyable. The always fickle weather would continue to lean towards cold and wet and finding that 1 good day in the week for a big hike could be even more challenging than it had been at Suisi. But we knew that the not-so-good weather is why mid-June is “pre-season” in the Dolomites and we were reconciled to taking what we could get.
While at Ortisei, we would repeatedly reflect upon the “This is where it all began…” part of our story in recently becoming novice endurance athletes. In July of 2013, I saw the sandwich board announcing the Val Gardena mountain run that would begin in Ortisei’s town center in 2 days. We weren’t currently runners, but I proposed to Bill that we train for the 2014 event as a motivational device for improving our hiking speed and endurance. He of course thought I was nuts but joined in the challenge by searching for hikes with 4,200’ of gain the rest of the year to match that of the course.
It was the horrid indigestion from charging uphill as fast as we could for two and a half hours—the maximal allowed time for completing the mountain run--that triggered our discovery of the ketogenic diet almost 1 year later. Curiously, the keto diet that could put Type 2 diabetics in remission happened to be perfect for endurance athletes too. And quite unexpectedly, the keto diet catapulted our athleticism to a new level, being the foundation for the amazing performance boost we were currently reveling in. “Yes, this is where it all began….” would be uttered with gratitude many times while in Ortisei, rain or no rain.