Sunday, November 17, 2013

PCT training: Bartram in the rain

Cold and wet but still smiling at Rabun Bald.
The first thing on my to-do list to prepare of the PCT is to get in the best shape of my life.  Building strength and endurance slowly prevents injury.  Plus, exercise relaxes me so I don’t get overwhelmed by all the things I want to do to make the leap from weekend-backpacker to long-distance backpacker.  

Starting with my physical preparation reminds me how far I’ve come these last four years since I started backpacking.  Which also helps me feel more confident in my abilities.  I’ve doubled my previous maximum daily mileage of only 14 miles, and am comfortable with over 20 mile days with a full pack.  This progress was in part due to training, but much of it was due to nutrition and technique.  After I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia, I completely changed my diet, and after much work (i.e. using a glucometer to measure my blood sugars while backpacking), I credit much of my ability to hike longer distances to a diet that keeps me properly fueled.  Likewise, I have worked hard on my form after I had an over-use injury to my knee, ended up going to a physical therapist who taught me about body mechanics and the importance of alignment for avoiding injury.  These experiences showed me that learning to hike smarter is just as important as putting in the physical work.  I'll continue to look for ways to improve my technique.

This weekend’s solo training backpacking trip
I went to Warwoman Dell for a solo backpacking overnight on the Bartram Trail out and back to Rabun Bald, 2nd highest peak in Georgia.  28 miles round trip, averaging a steady 2.8 miles per hour even including all my stopping to look at tree foam, make adjustments to my umbrella, and learning how to use my iPhone as a GPS.  The weather cooperated with non-stop rain and cold, perfect for testing my not-dying-of-hypothermia skills.  To make it more challenging, I got a late start to get in some morning trapeze practice, and also loaded up my pack with 10 more pounds of extra food and water, and could tell I’ve been getting soft with my lightweight pack.  Guess that’s the end of my lightweight pack days- from now on, I’m going to keep adding that extra 10 lbs to my base weight so carrying 5-7 days of food doesn’t come as a shock!  Hopefully this, in addition to my morning daily runs and trapeze/silks "cross-training", will help me get into shape for the PCT.  

Training plan for the next 5 months
In addition to the weekly backpacking trips, I'm also arranging some trips to work on particular skills (i.e. carrying a bear canister for a week on the BMT, snow skills course in Colorado, backpacking in arid conditions in Arizona).  My other goal is not getting injured, so I’m building in rest and being careful to listening to my body.  I started to keep a training log spreadsheet to keep me motivated- especially on these cold dark rainy mornings when it’s not quite as tempting to get out of bed.
Camped in the coldest, windiest spot I could find.  And still cozy warm.


  1. When are you going to Arizona? I am feverishly trying to find someplace to backpack in January that is a) not too snowy (I can do that here) and b) where it is safe for a woman to backpack alone (not sure about just outside PHX). If you have ideas please let me know!

  2. Not going to Arizona until late Feb. Have you checked out the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama, the Foothills Trail in South Carolina, or the Chattooga River Trail of GA/SC? The last two are my January go-to favorites. I've done them solo.