[at-l] hike prep

Michael Henderson MichaelH at ospreypacks.com
Wed Dec 9 19:03:31 CST 2009

Hey Cody,

It's good to get all those training hikes in, but remember (and it's been said here before), nothing will prepare you for walking day after day with a backpack except walking day after day with a backpack.  You'll know exactly what we mean sometime between March 25 and April 15.  Increased fitness will always help, but there is no way to simulate what you'll be doing.  You can get an idea by re-creating lots of the individual elements of a thruhike separately, but the really effective training would be doing them all together - and that's a thruhike.

That segues nicely to the mental aspect.  Because somewhere you might be saying to yourself "but I'm fit, I did all this training, why does it hurt or why can't I go faster?"  If you either know that this is coming, or are flexible enough to accept that "well, this is different than I thought" then you'll find a way to adapt physically, or, not adapt and be happy.  I guess that's mental adapting.

Can you really prep your brain for that moment when you're on the edge?  Logically, probably; emotionally, I'm less confident.  We've all read many journals, and think to ourselves "I'll be ready when that hits."  But there's nothing like the moment to really screw up your confidence.  Just don't let those "I wasn't prepared for this" moments kick you off the trail.  'Cos they will be there.  And if you've got the right attitude and are flexible (ooh, there's that word again), they won't.  Felix touched on it - be as prepared as you can for all the things you can control, then be ready for the times you're not prepared, and adjust.

My first of those moments was in Blue Mtn Shelter.  Temp was in the teens when we woke up, so despite the great sunrise, it was uncomfortable.  I was sore from our longest day yet, 16 miles (which in retrospect was not wise).  Then I nearly sliced the end of my thumb off trying to cut a bagel in half - still have the scar.  And then I discovered that all 4 bagels, which we had just bought the day before at Neel's Gap, were moldy.  It all added up and I snapped.  I left a lot of choice words uttered at maximum volume, a lot of blood, and a lot of bagels in the vicinity of Blue Mtn Shelter.  I thought about quitting.  But the trail went on, the bagels were a luxury, the thumb would heal, the day would warm up, and I could deal with a little stiffness.

Other moments like that occurred, but the feeling of quitting never rose to the surface.  It was just a bad day that would be replaced by a good day, just like it would if I were not on a thruhike.  So why not go through bad days and good days, and thruhike at the same time?  Much better.

And if you run into Felix on the trail and you have bamboo hiking poles, be prepared for swordplay, or accept the smackdown.  Either will be part of a good day.

Ke Kaahawe
AT92 TYT94 LT01

From: at-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:at-l-bounces at backcountry.net] On Behalf Of Cody Girl
Sent: Wednesday, December 09, 2009 8:06 AM
To: at-l
Subject: [at-l] hike prep

Hey everyone!  As you know slowly but surely I'm going through gear decisions and trying to figure out what I can use and what I need to replace.  The process is moving forward and I appreciate all your insights.  Hey!  Has anyone used a GoLite Quest backpack?  It's an '09 closeout at REI, not sure if this has a men's version or is women's only.

I also started my conditioning last week.  For now I'm trying to get out on 8+ mile hikes 3 days a week, and a couple of days a week on the treadmill as well.  My plan is to up the mileage and the time out of the house after New Years.

Anyway, I was hiking Monday and I was thinking about conditioning and the times that people have pointed out to me that, once in physical shape, an AT thru hike is a head game.

I believe that good gear can HELP me get to Katahdin but I fully understand that no gear in the world is going to do it for me.
I believe even more strongly that being in the best condition I can possibly be in before I start will have a HUGE impact on me getting to Katahdin.

So my question.  When people talk about the mental aspect, what exactly are they saying?  Stick to it ness?  Refusal to quit?  Optimistic attitude? And so on.  I'd love to hear all of your thoughts on what mental skills it takes to get to Katahdin.   And this may be a silly thought, but if you have any ideas on how to DEVELOP those pertinent mental skills I'd like to hear that too.  Conditioning for the brain?  Yep.

I set the date.  3/15/10.  I'm walking to Maine. I appreciate your help.

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