I have been really lazy about keeping this blog up to date. You have probably noticed that the last entry was four months ago, on 1 June. At that time I said that the medical picture was clear. It turns out not to have been the full story. Over the summer the medical folks wanted a couple more tests, including a nuclear perfusion test of the heart.
This is a test that provides the same data as the stress test on a walking machine, but without the physical effort. A small amount of a radioactive substance was injected into a vein. The radioactive substance distributed itself throughout my heart muscle in proportion to the blood flow received by that muscle. If there were problems with any coronary arteries, there would be little radioactivity at that point.
I was very concerned about the test, since I thought that it would be a repeat of the high heart rate, shortness of breath and other symptoms that I experienced in France on the Massif Central. It turned out to be a non-event; no high heart rate, no shortness of breath. When I saw the cardiologists late in the summer, they reported no indication of any kind of coronary artery problems and they encouraged me to keep on doing whatever it was I was doing to keep fit.
About a week later – about a month ago, Carroll suggested that I might want to go back and complete the walk that was aborted back in April. It took me only a few minutes to realize that this was exactly what I wanted to do. To make it easier, I went and purchased two keys pieces of gear: a new pair of Lowa light hikers, one size larger than the pair of Lowas that I have, and a new pack, an Osprey Aether 70. This particular pack has a heat-moldable belt, so that when tightened, it conforms exactly to my hip bones. It makes carrying the load exceptionally easy, since the weight – all of it – is carried by the pelvis.
The boots are a size 13, which I find ridiculous, except that they are very comfortable and do not cramp my toes at all, even going down hill. I used to wear size 9.5 or 10 boots. I am only 5’10”, so I feel that I am slowly turning under. No wonder old people get shorter.
The other thing that I am doing is losing enough weight so that my weight with my loaded pack when I leave for France will be no more than my weight without the pack as of a month ago. I have already lost ten pounds and have 15 more to go. I feel better, too.
I have just returned from an hour’s walk with my boots and with my loaded pack. Boots are fine, pack seems very light and easy to carry. Oh yes, I got a 3-litre internal water bladder for the pack, so dehydration will be much less of an issue next time. Marina told me how to care for these bladders, since contamination can be a problem. Buy the tablets that you use to drop in the glass in which you keep your dentures overnight (I don’t have dentures, but that doesn’t matter). Once a week, use the tablets as directed in your water bladder overnight. Presto, no water problems, provided that the water is good when you put it in the bladder.
I am older and a little wiser – I hope – for my next go at this next April. I will travel from Ottawa via Paris then by train and bus to Aumont-Aubrac and on to Saint Chely d’Aubrac. That was where I ended my attempt this year, and where I will start next year. Altitude should not be an issue, since the last day at the end of April, I walked down 600 metres. The first day next April, I will descend another 600 metres to start across the enormous plain that ends at the Pyrenees. That should take about five weeks. By the time I reach Saint Jean Pied-de-Port, I should be fit enough to tackle the climb over the mountain pass to Roncevalles, then on to Pamplona.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and next April. So we will see how the future unfolds.