Posts Tagged With: training


The work is finished, except for maybe a half-day job that may or may not come.

The details are in progress, pesky as puppies. Waiting on 1099s so I can do last year’s taxes and pay my estimated payments for this year. Waiting for the roofer to call and tell me when he’s coming to fix my leak. Waiting for the end of the month to cancel some things and handle some nitty-gritty, like figuring out my Smokies permit and doing my final grocery shopping.

So for now, hiking is my full-time job. Set the alarm for 5:00, get up, make meals, pack the pack, commute to the trail (an hour), then hike. Hike hike hike. Then drive home, shower, sleep. (I’m not doing full afternoons yet, so I can check WhiteBlaze and Trail Journals in the afternoon.) Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m working into the rhythm. First, it lets my body get a taste of hiking on rocks and hills for multiple days without breaks. But really, I’m trying to minimize the Springer Mountain culture shock. I’m the kind of person who gets easily addicted to a schedule. With all the other changes and challenges of Springer to Neels, it seems smart to eliminate the ones I can.

No really big miles, no big weight. I’m just trying to do 10×12—ie, ten miles by noon. Haven’t managed it yet, although yesterday I did get my ten miles by 12:15, then hiked another mile or so. I’m increasing the distance slowly.

Weather, of course, is the limiting factor. Last night brought torrential rain and high winds, and there are winds again today. That trail can be treacherous at times. The ground is frozen with pooled water. Rain makes the ice wet (and the other day I had several near falls; thank the gods for inventing trekking poles). But the winds make branches fly like broomsticks, which is less predictable than watching one’s footing. Discretion being the better part of valor, I’m planning a cozy day working through gear.

My bum knee hurts a bit, but I think it’s OK. Nothing that feels like a new injury.

We’re good to go, one day at a time.






Categories: Appalachian Trail, Planning, training | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future

Well… I’m as nervous as the next guy, I imagine! But here it is, January 2, and my birthday! I’m not worried about training and eating right and hike prep today. Honestly, I’m trying not to worry about much of anything today—my birthday gift to myself. 🙂

There’s a lot to be done. This week, first and foremost, I have to get the taxes together. One of the issues for a self-employed thru-hiker is that not only do I have to pay my 2012 taxes before I hit the Trail, but I have to pay my 2013 taxes, too. That’s probably my biggest paperwork issue at the moment, and it’s time-consuming. A detail, though.

Everything that’s left is a detail.

The gear is dialed down. I’ll probably dump some stuff at Neel (or Neels—I can’t decide, and sources vary) Gap. Maybe not, though. My pack weight with a max load of winter gear, five days’ worth of food, and a liter of water is 29 or 30 pounds (I’m fussing around with a few ounces). I’m fine with that, for now. (It will go down after Mt. Rogers, when I can send the winter stuff home.)

The arrangements are made. There are details there, too: extra keys to be made, that sort of thing.

And of course, life goes on. This morning my keyboard broke. I have a backup that I’m using. I’d like to not buy anything before I get back, because who knows what I’ll be thinking then? My roof has developed a leak, so I need to get that sorted.

Details, details, details.

For hiking prep… well, hiking and working are butting heads. I can’t walk every day because I’ve got February deadlines. The best thing I can do for myself is take some days (even weeks) away from the trail, since it’s all snowy and treacherous anyway, and finish up the work as fast as I possibly can. That would give me some weeks in February to start amping up the training. I’d like to do more, but I don’t think I’ll be able to—and I’m OK with that. I’m in good physical shape, more or less. The twenty pounds I’d like to lose will just have to work themselves out on the Trail.

The big issue is this arthritic knee of mine. I feel like I’m starting the hike with a giant strike against me. On the other hand, it doesn’t limit my motion in any way, manner, means, or form. It just hurts. So: will the hiking change that? Will the pain increase to the point where I can’t use it? I’m worried about that—quite a lot, in fact. But it is what it is. It hurts at home, too. The only place it doesn’t hurt is when I’m actually walking. If it drives me off the Trail, well, I suppose I’ll be a section hiker. And in fact, I think I’ll probably be fine. But I’m a worrier.

So there it is. The state of the state on my 52nd birthday, and the year in which I tackle the last thing on my bucket list. (After this, I’m going to need a new list.)

Happy 2013! May the weather be mild and the ticks be few! 🙂 (That’s an old Rocksylvania saying that I just made up.)

Oh, and by the way… good luck to Rifle and anybody else who started on January 1. I’m reading your journals while you blaze the Trail. Smooth sailing to you all!

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The shape of things to come

Well, here it is. Four months from today, I’ll be boarding an Amtrak train and migrating south to Georgia. Springer fever.

I’ve been leery of posting too often in the lead-up, for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost: yawn. Really, who’s interested in the fact that I might take Crocs or I might take water shoes, that I might go with the Thermasilk longjohns or I might go with the Capilene, that toothpaste stored this way weighs 0.55 ounces versus that way at 0.45 ounces? Assuming that the only people who might read this are fellow hopefuls… well, not exactly riveting information, is it. We’re all on the same calendar page.

But also, there’s the… call it my jinx issue. Every year, we hopefuls start our preparation journals. Most of us assume we’ll be among the magical 200 who reach Katahdin. And every year, the majority of those journalists eventually post that one final post:

“Stress fracture. Had to get off the trail.”
“Torn achilles.”
“Hernia. I’m done for the year.”
“Bad news at home. I’m out.”
“Ran out of money.”
“This just isn’t fun anymore.”
“I’ll try again when it’s warmer cooler better when I’m in better shape when my kids are older when I don’t have this great job offer on the table when when”

I respect any and all of those possibilities and decisions, and I hope to gods I don’t have a hike-ending disaster.

I just don’t want to be writing that journal. I’m almost afraid that if I put too much excitement down on (virtual) paper, the universe will smite me. (“Here!” laughs the universe. “Have scabies!“)

Besides, the preparation is just taking up space until we hit Springer. Right? Spinning wheels in an actual direction, instead of spinning them with no direction at all. Gotta do, gotta move, gotta make it be March! For me, anyway. Tapping fingers, since I can’t march feet.

As far as training goes, I’m just walking the way I usually walk, with a few extra miles thrown in, maybe to shed a pound or two (I’ve got twenty I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the back of—pun intended). Nine miles three times a week, maybe four, on gently sloping terrain with a daypack. I know I can work up to my max pack weight. I know I can go 20 miles with a 30-pound pack with no lingering stiffness or pain, at least around here. I can’t really test the strain on the knees (my weak point) because there aren’t any steep sustained hills locally, but I’m planning to go slowly in March. I can’t train for the heat, because hello winter! Also, I had to concede that walking 20 miles a couple-three times a week is pretty much wasted effort, especially this far in advance. Not to mention that it takes five hours, which is hard to manage while holding down a job. When walking is my full-time job, I’ll train up to the longer distances.

Now, mental preparation is another story. I’m testing my gear piecemeal under cold and rainy conditions. Every day, every hour, I ask myself, “Now how will this be when it’s in the teens and you can’t get warm? How will this be when it’s 97 degrees with a heat index of 108? What if you were doing this with a painful chafing rash and poison ivy? What if you had bee stings? What if those shoes were frozen solid? What if you were trying to do this with a massive dehydration headache? How can you prevent that? How will you manage emotionally when mice chew your food and you have to walk a day on nothing but a granola bar? What tools can you practice?” I’m doing a lot of mental work for the stressful times. I can’t train for all the physical contingencies, but I can maybe get prepared their psychological impact.

The one thing I’ve got going for me (aside from the fact that I’m a walker) is that I have a full (and somewhat terrifying) understanding that every day on the trail is hard. Every single day. Rewarding, I hope… but hard. I know that from hiking the AT here in rocky Pennsylvania. I’ve bonked in them thar hills. I’m ready for miserable. Miserable and I? We’re like this.

The trick, for me at least, is to acknowledge the misery, then find a way to shout, “Bring on a little more of it, motherf—–s! Bring on that misery!” Fist-shaking at the storm… sending ki, we used to call it, back in my old martial arts days. Not drowning in the hopeless enormity of it all, but deflecting the hardness back on itself. Harsh language is enormously helpful.

If it were easy, everybody would have a summit photo on their mantel.

Well… almost everybody. Me, I’m generally happier just a bit outside the mainstream. ;D

Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Training march–20 miles

I did it! I did it! Twenty miles with thirty pounds.

I was wondering about the twenty miles, given that it took me five hours, or a few minutes under. But then I remembered that my regular walks are four miles and they take roughly an hour and a half, including stopping at traffic lights and a trip into the grocery store. Plus the one thing I’ve never been accused of is walking slowly. Once I get steaming, I roll along. And this is an easy walk, too. Paved roads and footpaths. Not much in the way of uphills, but it is what it is. And I’m OK with that. I remember back in my martial arts days: one of the greatest teachers I had the privilege of learning from said something along the lines of “The dojo is where you practice under bright lights on a soft floor with friends.” The Farm Park is bright lights on a soft floor with friends. At the very least, my back and shoulders know what it feels like to carry thirty pounds. My feet know what it feels like to march twenty miles.

I feel pretty good! A little stiff, for sure. I wish I could sit on something high and swing my feet, because those dogs are barking! The only thing that’s worrisome is the same old left knee issue. It really started to hurt at the end, and it hurts now. I didn’t have the brace with me, but I’ll wear it tomorrow.

Wait. Did I say tomorrow? Yes. Yes, I did! I think the only thing I can do right now is prepare my body to do long days in a row. Three times a week is fine, but for me, I want two of them to be back to back. I want to have a little soft-floor, bright-light training with complete lack of motivation—or worse, really not wanting to go out, and going out anyway. Going out without having had a full day of rest to recover.

As far as the walk itself went, it was pleasant. Saw some dead snakes, some dead caterpillars, and some smooshed mice. On the other hand, I had a long stare-down with a deer. I love the way deer stand in the woods and peer at you. They seem wise, somehow, and serene. In the moment. They’re gauging which way the wind is blowing from one instant to the next, prepared to move in whatever direction is called for. It’s very zen. Thank you, deer.

I saw a lot of people, mostly retirees getting in their miles, and a lot of people walking dogs. A lot of dogs. And some poop. But I digress. I saw one guy who was very chatty—a World War II vet who asked about my backpack and gave me a long rundown of most of the strategy for most of the battles in most of the theaters of the War. It was interesting, but the man himself was more so—more interesting, I mean. Here he is, clearly without people to talk to, clearly deeply interested in this massive experience that shaped his life.

Will that be me, someday? An old woman meandering through a park, pinning down a stranger and talking relentlessly about bear sightings and running out of water near Pearisburg? I hope so. Because when push comes to shove, the guy had to be 80. But there he was, still fit and strong, and wandering, and having those crisp bright memories (and opinions) to share.

When he stopped for a breather, I thanked him for his service, then I slipped away.




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Training walk

Did about 15 miles in the Farm Park today, with a 25-pound pack and no appreciable physical effects. Some slight pounding in the feet, just enough to let me know I did some walking. My back got a little tired toward the end, when I started to slouch.

It gives me hope! Maybe I can really do this thing!

Note: I decided to start taking supplements because of my old crackly painful knees. Yesterday I started on glucosamine-chondroitin and a multivitamin with vitamin D. I kind of poo-pooed the whole idea, but I’m at a point where I’m willing to give anything a try if it might increase my odds of finishing. And I have to tell you, after a single day the crackling in my knees is enormously reduced.

Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s how I slept or something. Who knows? The pain seems reduced, too, but that’s hard not to ascribe to a psychological effect.

Anyway, there it is. I don’t know if I’ll take them on the hike. That would cut into my food weight (these horse pills are HEAVY; also, they taste like ass). I’ll definitely give them a few months anyway. If they seem really effective, it’s a price I’m probably willing to pay, given that I was all set to carry about six-hundred pounds of knee pad.

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The how of training

I’m not sure what to do about the whole training issue. Honestly, the best I can do would be a long walk on a paved road, under weight. The park has some gentle slopes, but nothing in the way of actual elevation. On the other hand, I’m slowly increasing my pack weight. Even gentle slopes help my body get used to the idea of walking uphill and downhill while carrying 30 pounds. Or do they?

I don’t want to wear out my body and my shoes and my knees—you know, use up what’s in the gas tank on side trips before the big journey. On the other hand, it seems like any training is better than sitting on my ass. Oh, and speaking of ass, a few miles now might trim that weight down a little, too, which is always good. (I say ‘might’ because, well, I can’t seem to marshal the willpower to both walk a lot of miles and control what I’m eating—not to mention also getting in the requisite number of hours of work.)

Which brings me to the third point: time. Yes, I can walk 12, 15, 18 miles. It takes 4, 5, 6 hours. That’s 6 hours I should be spending on the job. And after I walk 12 miles, I’m exhausted. My concentration is shot. My work pace is sluggish, and I’m not confident in the quality of the work I’m doing. Even getting up at 4 AM, it’s still hard for me to get more than 4 or 5 hours of work on a good training day. And I’m supposed to be in this huge money-saving mode, what with the being out of work for 6 months next year (assuming I’ll be on the Trail that long). Plus, the park doesn’t open until daylight. Now that the days are getting short, that means I’m doing this walk-training during actual business hours. It’s a part-time job.

So. I can work, or I can train. I can diet, or I can train. And the training isn’t on 45-degree Georgia slopes, so I’m not sure what effect it has on the cardio anyway. (Note: I can do 12 miles with no physical after effects. No foot pain anymore. No shoulder or back pain. That’s with a 20-pound pack. Since that’s my approximate base weight only, I’m going to try to inch that up to 30, my anticipated max weight. But I don’t want to use up my pack miles, either! I thought about doing the 30-pound walks with the old, heavier Gregory pack, but I want to practice with the rubbing in the right places and with the getting stuff in and taking it out.

What do you think? Any training is better than no training? Or work is better than ‘soft’ training, and let the Trail work out the rest? (Note that everything else suffers, too: all social activities, including online, are on moratorium while I’m working a full-time job and walking three days a week. On the other hand, I’m used to this. I remember going through this back in my martial arts days, when I was training up for my black belt tests.)

In my ideal world, I’d do 18 miles three times a week, under 30 pounds of weight.

We’ll see.

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Phone versus camera: cagematch!

So, I did a 9-miler over at the Farm Park with both the iPhone and my Canon Powershot. I wanted to use the iPhone as my only camera (which would save me roughly 10 ounces). My early impression was that the iPhone camera was great within certain limits, but I wanted to do a quasi-scientific study (by which I mean pretty much a half-assed comparison).

Here you go.

That’s some bushes. The iPhone image is the winner there, I’d say. It picked up the lower-light shadows.

And the iPhone was the winner in a few other situations, too.

But—and it’s a big but—the phone is a clear loser when it comes to the zoom.

And this one is questionable:

So what’s the verdict? Hard to say. The Canon tends to wash out the photos. The phone, though, tends to make them too dark, even with the flash on. The iPhone takes better pictures of the sky. The zoom on the iPhone is pretty much made of fail.

I think the upshot is that no matter what I end up doing on the actual trail, I need to have access to both pieces of equipment. I’ll probably end up taking everything twice! That’s fine, though. It’s only pixels. And the iPhone will be terrific for the day-to-day stuff that I might upload here. The camera will be for the photo album.

And, of course, I’m no photographer. I have about as much skill with both pieces of equipment as that dalmation in that one picture. (Cute doggie, by the way.)

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Training hike: Horseshoe Trail

Well, I took another training hike yesterday. This time I tried the Horseshoe Trail, starting at the Valley Forge trailhead. It was a rainy, chill fall day—a great time to test a few pieces of gear in conditions that at least approximate what I might run into in spring.

The Good
The height of the Black Diamond trekking poles is about perfect. I’m not going with the Z-poles for the thru attempt, just because they feel a little… flimsy. I mean, they’ve been doing great. They’ve held me up when I needed them to, and they’ve proven themselves sturdier than the Loca Rotura (or whatever that brand is that used to be TiGoat), which had issues within the first couple of hikes, and the locks of which broke within 25 miles. My hardcore poles will be Lekis, because I’ve read that they’re the easiest poles for gear replacement on the trail. But I digress.

The shoes were good. I did have to change out the insoles a couple of times because of foot pain, but it was manageable. I don’t know how many miles the hike was, but driving from point A to point B, according to Google, it worked out to 14 or so. I hope that’s the case. I’ll verify when my Horseshoe Trail guidebook gets here.

The Bad
I had high hopes that the Horseshoe Trail might work for a training ground for me for the next five months. Alas, it won’t.

The first part—the part through Valley Forge—was actually excellent. A little uphill, a few rocks, and woods. (There was even an old house that reminded me of Blair Witch. Spooky!) I saw some deer, which is always outstanding. But… after Valley Forge, the trail basically turned into a track that wove through rich people’s backyards. I felt… intrusive, just being on it. And after that, the rich houses turned into actual mansions. Mansions with so many “DO NOT TRESPASS” signs that I kept waiting for the long arm of the law to jump out and put me in handcuffs. That, or the local old-money millionaires would slip out from behind the trees and shoot me with very expensive guns.

Not fun.

And the track itself wasn’t much to speak of: a lot of road walking, mud, places that smelled enough like shit that I knew I was walking through rich people’s sewers. And speaking of shit… horseshit aplenty. Which made me realize that even though the trail was made for ‘horses’ and ‘shoes,’ it has the feel of a place that was basically made for rich people to ride their horses.

Upshot? I won’t go back. I might try it from the other side—the Appalachian Trail side—once I have the guide book.

Valley Forge park itself still might be useful for those long training days under weight.

The Ugly
The leaves are problematic, what with the Pennsylvania rocks. I took one nasty fall after I rolled my ankle. Nothing injured and no ill effects this morning, but I have to take these trails as they are, and what they are is pretty much dangerous during leaf season. And it’ll be hunting season in a few days anyway. I don’t like to hear the gunshots in the woods. It makes me feel sad for the deer.

I’ll probably stick to the Farm Park for the rest of October. I might use the wider paths of Valley Forge for the long walks. But mostly, why bother? Unless I can work out a 20-mile loop.

No pain, no Maine. Hell, no pain, no Neels.

Oh! Which reminds me! My left knee continues to hurt on the downhills. I tried out the Cho-Pat braces and they didn’t seem to help much, but they did do a ‘gate control’ number on the pain, so it was less noticeable. And they provided a certain degree of stiffness that helped with favoring the knee. Note: This just feels like the old arthritic-type pain, not anything related to an injury. I know what this sort of discomfort feels like after fifteen years of martial arts training. I don’t want to take the Cho-Pats because they weigh about 75 pounds each, but I think I’m going to take them anyway. I’ll want to have them when I’m most vulnerable to injury, at the beginning of the hike. If I don’t use them, that’s great.

I’ll put photos of the hike on the flickr site, when I have time to upload them.

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Training walk. Nine fat miles, with one backtrack.

Good morning! Good afternoon, more like.

I tackled a training “walk” (not enough elevation or terrain issues to call it a “hike”), with nothing to report. The weather was beautiful: about 50 starting out at 6:30 AM, which gave me a chance to experiment with my sun-sleeves, in lieu of a long-sleeved shirt. I’m trying to cut back on the weight of my winter clothes, but alas, I’m a cold person. I think I need the layers. The sun-sleeves were outstanding, though. I needed the wind shirt early, but after the temperature rose a couple of degrees, I peeled that off. I could roll the sleeves up or down as I got warmer and colder, with much less effort than taking off my daypack and doing the jacket on-off dance.

I’m cross-posting here and to Trail Journals. I’m not sure yet about the best way to journal. Luckily that’s one of the many details that I’ll be able to fill my time with as I chew my nails and wait for March.

Hike on!

~~Karma ’13~~

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Momentary panics

At least once every day or two, I have a minute of near panic—the “what the HELL am I doing” moment.

Today it was food. I went to the grocery store and had a careful look around, and did a test shopping: basically four days or so of food. I need to check the general weight of food, I need to figure out the bear bag situation… and basically, it’s all adding up to getting an actual load into the new pack to check the fit and feel. Yes, I could throw five pounds of birdseed in there and pretend it’s food, but before I do that, I’d like to get a sense of the actual weight, in the actual pack, with the actual gear.

And panic. Grocery panic! It’s overwhelming. Who knew that buying four days’ worth of food could be downright terrifying? But it was. Now the dining room is littered with starch and receipts.

Takeaway: On the Trail, don’t go into the grocery store without a list. Not necessarily a specific list, but I have to retrain myself not to overbuy. I’ll be super hungry, too, which is just a nightmare. I don’t want to drop $200 on food that my stomach is shouting for, when I can only really carry about $50 worth.

Lists. Which means general baseline. Which means I need to do what I did today.

It’s still scary, though.

Also, I’m starting to work on quads for the 640 steps of the Approach Trail. I loaded up my old Gregory pack with 30 pounds of books (or actually, the total pack weight including the books is 30 pounds). I’m going to just go up and down my single staircase with the pack on. I did it eight times today. I’ll work up to 50. I was thinking I’d go train at the local parking garage (five stories), but I think they’d look at me funny, what with the pack and all. And honestly, just using my staircase is probably fine. I’m likely to stop and take a few breaths after every flight anyway.

I’ll do this fake stairmaster on Fridays. Saturday will be my zero. Sunday, Monday, and Thursday I’ll do nine miles in the park. Wednesday, I’ll go to Valley Forge and actually do a full day of walking, six hours and gradually increasing to eight. I’m targeting the Horseshoe Trail, but we’ll see how that goes. I don’t want to have to dodge horseshit for eight hours. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

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