As mentioned in a previous post, I’m preparing to hike Mt. Whitney in late August. I’m really excited about this adventure, and am spending a lot of time thinking about how to best prepare myself for the hike. To recap, we have a 24 hour permit, so we need to hike the 22-mile, 6,000 foot elevation change round trip in one day. I have two big concerns on this trip: 1) the length of time on our feet (we anticipate it will take us 14-ish hours total), and 2) length of time hiking on an uneven surface and strain to my pelvis.
Earlier this summer, the New Mexico forests were closed to due to fire risk. This meant that I was limited to walking/hiking in the Albuquerque area foothills, or trekking to Colorado to find some mountains to climb. Given the busy status of our lives, I stayed in the city and opted to up my running. I did this so enthusiastically that I irritated my calf and both Achilles tendons. So….I switched to swimming.
I am banking hard on general fitness to carry the majority of my aerobic load on this endeavor. But, reality check: when it’s hitting 100+ degrees, I truly find lap swimming preferable to running. Bonus is that one of my sisters who lives in town is a brilliant swimmer and I swim more energetically with her than I ever would alone. I also have been riding my bicycle to take my son to daycare and being intentional and consistent with my strength training.
Up Hill We Go
While the largest fire in NM history is still burning in northern New Mexico, most of the nearby mountains are open once again. While I might be banking on general fitness, I am doing hiking-specific training. This will help me to to grow my trail strength and stability, accustom me to the gear I’ll be taking, and (most importantly) grow my confidence as I approach the Mt. Whitney challenge.
I have 5 hikes mapped out: 10ish, 10-12ish, 12-14ish, 15-16ish, and 16-18ish miles every 1-2 weeks. These hikes are deliberately vague in the mileage and are scheduled somewhat randomly, pushed around by family camping trips, dropping off kids at sleep-away camp, and my work days off. In the meantime, I will continue my very conservative return to running, and will maintain my cross and strength training. All these small pieces add up: I am active 6 days of each week in one or more discipline, reserving one day each week to total rest.
While I do take this preparation seriously, my approach is intentionally relaxed. A hiking trip is FUN. Preparing for it should be fun. Our group has members coming from sea level; they are, however, much more consistent hikers than I am. I am less concerned about the elevation than I am my pelvis fatiguing and resulting in back spasms or similar symptoms I’ve experienced in the past.
To Boot or Not to Boot
I also have to embrace the reality of life: while on my scheduled 10 mile hike, I was practically skipping down the hill with joy when I landed hard on my right ankle and rolled it. I didn’t fall down, but I did hop around on my left leg while muttering some choice words to the trail.
A week of icing, no running or aggressive walking (lots of swimming!), and I feel prepared to do some light jogging the rest of the week and tackle my scheduled 12-14 miler this coming weekend.
The rolled ankle did add data to a mental debate I have been having: trail running shoe or hiking boot. I generally do most of my hiking in running shoes, unless I have a baby carrier or backpack over about 25 pounds. After the rolled ankle, I *think* am going to opt for an ankle-supporting boot. Despite the added weight of the boot, I know I’ll be fatigued for the long descent, and I know my form will suffer, increasingly the likelihood of injury simply due to tiredness. With that in mind, I’m going to try out my longer hike in boots this weekend. Wish me luck!
Do you have a shoe preference for long hikes? How do you prepare for a longer hike?