On preparation and risk. / by Wookie Kim

A full week separates the day I finished my last job and my departure date this Friday. I thought I'd have time to relax, but this week has been busy with final preparations.

I've already completed a lot of the prep. I've finalized my overall route. I've mapped out a detailed plan for the first 10 days of the trip (each day's plan includes a clear understanding of how far and how long I'll drive, where I'm driving to, what trail(s) I plan to run, how long I'll run, where I'm setting up camp, and other considerations to keep in mind). I've gone to REI twice to gather all the gear I'll need (e.g., tent, sleeping pad, stove, safety kit). I've been double-checking my list of gear. And I've (mostly) finished packing up my apartment.

But there's so much more that I still have to do before I leave. I need to track down some final gear items (read: I need to go to REI again). I need to finish packing up my apartment. For my parents' sake, I need to finalize a safety plan. I need to stock up on food and water. I need to say goodbye to my friends in Baltimore.

Another thing I need to do--and am doing at this very moment--is tune up my car. I'm currently sitting in the waiting room of my car dealership, waiting for a mechanic to fix up a variety of things with my car. As a general matter, my car has been in very good shape. I probably didn't need to come in today. But I'm glad I did. It turns out that these issues could've create unexpected problems while on the road (most importantly, my brake pads were in bad shape and needed replacement).

 The underside of my car.

The underside of my car.

That brings me to an important topic: risk. This trip is filled with risks. I might fall on the trail. I might run out of gas in an area with no cell service. I might bonk in the backcountry. I might encounter a bear. In short, a lot of things can--and will--go wrong. (Unsurprisingly, my parents have pleaded with me not to go--my mother even suggested she'd come with me!)

But that's okay. Kilian Jornet, one of the world's best ultrarunners (and my running idol), once said:

Life isn't something to be preserved or protected. It's to be explored and lived to the fullest. And to make the most of it, we need to be in the mountains. We need to be here, and if we pay such a high price at times, it's because we're really making the most of life.

Running America will be risky, but by doing it, I'm exploring--and making the most of--life.

At the same time, what's not okay is bearing unnecessary risk. I'm passively accepting the things I can't control (e.g., the weather), but I'm doing a lot to reduce the risks I can feasibly control.

By way of example, here's how I'm dealing with my single-biggest fear: twisting my ankle on the trail. With all the miles I'll be running, I'm bound to take a wrong step at some point. But I've taken multiple steps to reduce the chance that I take that wrong step. First, I got trail shoes with impeccable traction (the Hoka One One Speedgoat--they're amazing!). I'll be sure to use these on especially technical trails. Second, I bought lightweight trekking poles (the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z--also amazing!). I've used poles on hikes before, but never while running. Following the lead of Sage Canaday, I'm going to use these poles to maintain balance, and give me extra support while climbing. Finally, if these two prophylactics fail, I have a ResQLink personal locator beacon (generously borrowed from Lucas M-B!), which I can deploy in an ultimate crisis situation. Of course, I hope absolutely nothing happens to my ankle (except get stronger). But I can't count on that happening, and need to be prepared for every scenario.

I'm going to continue getting ready (i.e., continue waiting in the waiting room), but if you have other risk-reduction tips, please share them here!