With just under 6 months before I take that first step on the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, it’s time to start some pre-conditioning as a preventive strike in tackling the 14-state journey. Many people have asked me, how does one prepare for a 6 month, 2,190-mile hike? Easy I say, slow and steady, as thru-hiking the A.T. in one season is not a race or a competition. However, as a north bounder (Nobo), I will be in a race against mother nature to summit Mt. Katahdin before winter conditions close the trail, all while taking the time to fully live in the moment of the journey.
As a previous Marathoner and Triathlete, I just didn’t roll up to the starting line and take off when the gun fired. It took me several months, up to 8 months at times, to build up the strength, both mentally and psychically, before I ever thought of crossing the starting line. Quite frankly, it took me a few years to build up my endurance to get to the point where running Ultra’s was in my sight. With that said, I just won’t hit the ground hiking, I will need to develop a solid physical foundation over the next 5 months to build my endurance safely, and to lessen the chance of a serious injury. One should never just strap on a backpack loaded with your life essentials and set out to climb mountains day in and day out. While, yes, you can ease yourself in during the first miles on the AT, most people don’t. They rush into it, only to suffer dearly. In the case of long-distance hiking, this is one case where the tortoise will likely outlast the hare.
Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis has challenged me to keep in shape. At the age of 50, I am admittedly a little heavier than I want to be. However, my condition has been a good reminder for me to stay active, as I truly feel better when I’m on the move and taking care of myself. In January of 2017, I joined a virtual race called the Amerithon. It is an online forum, in which you track your daily distances. You walk, hike, run, swim, bike, or crawl your way in the virtual United States, from coast to coast, at your own personal pace. I set a goal to finish this trek before my 50th birthday, in September of this year. I did just that, one day early. Over the span of this virtual journey, I’m proud to say that I averaged just over 5 miles per day of walking, hiking, and some cycling. It was an amazingly fun and rewarding journey.
Now that my 3,521-mile journey across America is over, I took a few weeks off to rest up and to let my body recover. Unfortunately, exercising my fork to my mouth didn’t take that same time off, but now I’m ready to start my conditioning in preparation for the trail. A thru-hiker will experience the elevation of climbing Mount Everest 16 times in under 100 miles and it will take approximately 5,000,000 steps to get to the end. So trying to figure out a good training plan for such a quest is not an easy task. It was pretty easy to find training plans for marathons and triathlons, but what I haven’t found is plans for a long distance hiking that involves carrying everything that you’ll need on your back. So, while you don’t need to be in tip-top shape when you start the A.T., It will probably be better if that shape isn’t round.
Be_amazing and Be_again!