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Practicing to walk across the Grand Canyon

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 5:21 pm | Updated: 3:34 pm, Fri Nov 22, 2013.

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Countdown to the Canyon is getting down to the wire...pun intended. This Sunday, Sarasota’s own Nik Wallenda will do the unthinkable and wire walk across the Grand Canyon. But Nik's craft doesn't come without a lot of preparation, and that preparation involves a little bit of everything.

So how does one practice for a wire walk 1,500 feet over the Grand Canyon -- a height taller than the Empire State Building? Under any conditions possible...even in a tropical storm.

As parts of Tropical Storm Andrea made its way through the Suncoast earlier this month, Nik stayed in contact with ABC 7’s meteorologists about when he can get on the wire to resume his practices at Nathan Benderson Park.

Not even the heavy rains, fast wind gusts, or blistering heat can keep a determined Nik Wallenda from preparing for his dream walk over the Little Colorado River.

"That was actually, awesome,” says Nik of practicing in the tropical storm. “It was perfect, because we had wind gusts. Actually my anenometer was reading up to 52 miles an hour and a lot of rain; torrential downpour. Of course people ask you, how does that prepare you for the Grand Canyon? We don’t expect rain, but it's all about mental preparation."

Yes, it's physical too; which is why he spent weeks in Sarasota practicing six days a week, usually twice a day, working on his strength while carrying his 40-pound balancing pole back a forth across a 1,200 foot wire. But he argues it's nothing like the mental challenge.

Nik's walk over the Grand Canyon is a world-wide event. The Discovery Channel is airing his skywire walk live in 219 countries Sunday night, putting his circus life into a media circus. "I did interviews until 11:oo the other night with Singapore, Japan, Korea…all around the world. So I’ve probably done 250 (interviews) during the last 2-3 weeks. And as I’m doing those interviews, everyone wants to talk about the negative – they want to talk about the winds, they want to talk about how you could fall and you could lose your life, what about your family. And here I am trying to build a wall against all that negativity. It becomes very challenging."

But Nik knows a thing or two about difficult. So he's using everything and anything to prepare -- even airboats. “I'm trying to focus on that wire and really trying to visualize myself over the Grand Canyon while I’m walking. My goal is to visualize myself over the Grand Canyon here, and when I get out there, to visualize myself over the asphalt here in Sarasota."

Nik Wallenda leaves Sarasota for the Grand Canyon Thursday, and so does ABC 7’s Lauren Dorsett. We'll hear from her live starting Friday, leading up to the big event Sunday night on the Discovery Channel.

MORE PHOTOS: Nic Wallenda practice photos and more

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