I don’t know if this really effects the ultra marathoners, the peak baggers or anyone under the age of 30 but for the rest of us there is a phenomenon out there I think needs a bit of talking about. I call it “The Block”.
The block occurs at different points along the hike for everyone. Some it is when their foot hits the ground after stepping from a warm car into a blistering wind. For others, it is hours after those fateful first steps. The block can be triggered at any time but there are triggers that can bring it on quicker.,
The block is that point in the hike when you think to yourself, “oh for @*%$ sake, how much farther.” Think of the moment you take your puppy on too long of a walk and they lay down and refuse to move. Now think of that in a human. The Block makes us refuse to move. Well, everything but our mouths. “My legs hurt. I’m tired. Why are we doing this again?” The reasons to stop are as big as the mountain we are climbing, the reasons to continue look as small as the trailhead at the bottom of the hill.
On The Block
While the block can happen at anytime the only sure fire way to trigger the block is to look at the map in your phone. No matter how close to the finish line you are, what the map says is left to do seems way too daunting. When we are enjoying ourselves there is no real need to check our progress. So when you dig deep into your pocket or pack to find that map the game is already over. You say it is reassuring yourself, even that it will motivate you. Lies! We all know the truth. The map glance will trigger the Block!
Once the block hits there are a couple of options. First is to tantrum. Flail your arms, scream like an angry Siberian Husky, lay on your back and kick in the air like an upside-down bug. You can do all of these things to the same effect, which of course is zero. One word of warning is that kicking rocks and trees during the tantrum is not going to help as much as you think it will. It may, in fact, cause something much worse than the Block, the Break…of a bone.
The next step you can take is to eat something. Many of the blocks are really just hunger induced. The energy spent getting to the stopping point was more than the energy available. A power bar, some trail mix, or a four course meal at a five star restaurant may be just what you need to break the paralysis of the Block.
Finally, you can just give up. Now I am not saying this is the best option. If everyone gave up when they felt the Block we would have no inspirational movies to watch on our couches. No Olympic athletes made it by giving up! But there are no Olympics for hiking on a Saturday in October because you don’t want to mow the lawn.
Sometimes (though not as often as the Block makes you think) the Block is there to help you. If you keep looking at the weather building and that has slowed your pace to a crawl, then maybe your body is telling you that it’s time to quit and head home. If you have been walking on that ankle you twisted on the first few steps of the hike, the pain causing the Block is legitimate and you should probably quit. The Block wants you to give up every time it comes around. It is up to you to decide when the Block is right.
Often times the Block comes on the biggest of hikes. When there is so much around that it is hard to comprehend. “I have already accomplished so much. Saw the lake, waterfall, creek, how is there more to go?” The vastness of it all can be overwhelming.
That is where the block can transition from the trail to the real world. The real world Block manifests differently. Instead of looking at a mapping app, it’s scrolling on Instagram or Tiktok. Usually this is in the middle of a busy day, when the to-do list is building up and the boss is angry. The clock taunts the size of the list, knowing there aren’t enough seconds on one hand to scratch off an item from the list with the other.
The Block holds your attention while the rest of the world spins. When done right it allows you to refocus through mundane tasks. Maybe you are a blogger with 70 blogs that need to be written who can’t get past a writers Block. The hope is that by embracing the block, or writing a blog about it, you can refocus. The vastness of the trail or tasks won’t seem as large when you change your focus for a few minutes. Sometimes the block isn’t enough even still. Tantrums are still in the tool box. But if you learn to use the block, or at least to not fear it, it can help you finish the journey and find your way. All the way to the peak. To the end. To the success you set out looking from the start.
More from The Fatman
If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Screw it, I’m Trying” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.