- May 13, 2013
- Reaction score
Here are my somewhat disjointed thoughts:
1. I rarely plan rest stops at set intervals. But there are two exceptions: a) Bigger mountains (Rainier, for example), where the altitude or the excitement of the moment might cause me to be less in tune with what my body would otherwise be telling me; and b) harsh conditions (winter Presi-traverse, for example) where even a moderate loss of energy, body heat or focus could have severe consequences. In these situations, I plan a 5 min (pack still on) rest every hour. But on normal trips, even very long days, I eat when I'm hungry and I drink when I'm thirsty. These generally amount to short stops every couple of hours, and longer stops every ~6 hrs (mostly for the purpose of mentally recharging). On long days, I'll take off my pack once, maybe twice, max.
2. Pacing. There's a pace I can keep up indefinitely, and there's everything faster than that. On longer itineraries, I keep a pace I can stay at indefinitely. I don't really have to think about it much, I just know what that pace is. I rarely, if ever, stop for a break because I'm winded. I adjust my pace well before that happens, even on steep uphills. I feel like I actually hike at an overall faster pace using this strategy. Plus, for me personally, the sprint-stop-sprint-stop cycle is mentally and physically draining; I just don't enjoy it, and it makes me sweat a lot.
3. Hiking is more fun if the uphills don't actually tax you that much. Conditioning is key to achieving this state of nirvana. It's useful to remember that in the northeast, you'll rarely have more than 4k' elevation gain at a time, and this usually translates to a 2-4 hour interval. For me, getting my conditioning to a state where I can perform 1 hour of hard aerobic training or, alternatively, 2 hours of moderate aerobic training, makes a 2-4 hour 'sustainable pace' uphill interval feel pretty easy.
[I don't know if this adds any value to the post, but for me, some example workouts that are worth trying to get to: a) 1 hr on step mill w/ 25 lb weight in your pack right at the pace you can barely keep up for the whole time (or small intervals just above and below that pace); b) 2 hr run at any pace; c) 1.5 hr challenging trail run (think big ups and downs, insecure footing, etc); d) 1 full hr of challenging spin? (I have very little experience with this one). If I can do any of those 4 and still walk afterwards, I know my conditioning is in a very good place, and any issues I have are likely due to something else.]
My "off field" conditioning program needs to improve for sure but it has gotten better. I am notoriously lazy mid week and just cannot get myself into a gym setting, crank away on some monotonous machine, etc. I could take a 4 hr hike every day if it were possible but 5 minutes on a treadmill is a loathsome thought. I've been alternating between days with a 4 mile loop around my house and going up and down my cellar stairs for a 100 flights (both with a 19lb pack -similar to my Summer pack). My pre-hike hydration and eating played a big role in my gains this year. I take advantage of the 3-4 drive to the trail head to be primed and ready so I really don't feel the need to eat or drink for quite some time (usually 2.5-3.5 hours unless I'm doing something truly difficult and even then I find I eat and drink a lot less without the adverse effects I used to get like cramping on the ride home). Being able to hike more last year also was huge. Even from one week to the next you can feel the difference. So this year I'm turning to my on-trail technique and time management for additional gains.
I love taking big breaks when the weather is comfortable to take in the views. That's really the main reason I'm out there so I hate to rush it. What I want to do now is absolutely minimize the time and effort it takes to get me up to those views. While I feel like I've progressed a lot it seems more and more I get passed by hikers. I still marvel at the general fitness level of the typical hiker out there now. I did Flume a few weeks back via Osseo route and although I was about 45 minutes ahead of book time literally everyone I saw on trail passed me on the way up. I know I carry a heavier pack than most people but damn. Last year on the Webster-Jackson loop I actually had a trail runner LAP ME on the trail. The thought of leaving the trail head and arriving at the summit of a respectable peak without stopping once seems impossible to me now. Thus my post. Clearly there is room for improvement. Thanks for the detailed reply.