Now for the many months of training...
I'm in a flat state right now (Wisconsin). I looked at a topographic map of the ENTIRE state the other day. Flat. The best there is for elevation is at Devil's Lake, a few hours from Madison. There's a very steep climb up a bluff that gets you some elevation gain, but I imagine that real training will involve going up and down it several times. After the snow melts and the mud dries, I'll go back to check it out.
By the way, Wisconsin isn't entirely without its perks:
Yes, I took that.
It's just flat.
My goal is to train gradually so I don't screw up my feet. Unfortunately, they are already screwed up so I'm starting from behind. Last summer I developed mild plantar fascitis and achilles tendinitis. The plantar fascitis resolved when I got new shoes (Ecco Biom hiking boots) and insoles (FootBalance). The tendinitis just lingered. Most recently, I've got a diagnosis of tendinosis, which is a chronic low grade inflammation of the achilles tendons. I'm trying to treat it with bodywork (myofascial release) and an anti-inflammatory gel (Voltaren gel). I was also doing a series of heel drop exercises called the Alfredson Protocol but then I saw online that apparently they don't work that well and the creator doesn't even favor doing them any more. I stopped doing the heel drops but I'll pick it up again now that it's warmer - you need a step or ledge to do them on so you can drop your feet down, and the only spot I've got is outdoors. It wasn't worth going out there when it was 9 degrees outside. Now that it's 50F, it's another story.
(Another perk of Wisconsin, by the way? I can try out ALL of my winter hiking gear in freezing temps and see if it works or not. Assessment: For 20F and below, my Marmot Quasar jacket works like a champ with an Icebreakers base layer and Smartwool sweater underneath - but my Icebreakers long underwear plus hiking pants aren't enough. My feet are fine in wool socks, but my tush froze. I recommend something like the Marmot down skirt to cover your rear end if you're spending a lot of time out in weather like that, like in a backpacking situation. It's fine to have a cold rear end if the issue is comfort; it's not OK if the issue is safety.)
Back to the story of my poor feet, I recently noticed that my right foot was pronating as I walked, and did some quick math. Oops, I've put probably 400 mi or so, if not more, on my hiking boots. I decided it was time for a new pair - and new insoles. That oughta help. When I first got them, the Ecco hiking boots solved my plantar fascitis problems almost immediately.
As for training, I hiked about 60 miles in the mountains and desert of San Diego over winter break. Since I got back to Wisconsin, I've been walking outdoors for exercise. I've read you should increase your exercise only by 10% per week to avoid injury. Ideally that's what I'd be doing. Unfortunately, the weather's been the boss of my workout schedule, not me.
Here's what I've done:
- Week of Jan 18: 18 mi (w/ my pack weighing ~ 12 lbs)
- Week of Jan 25: 14 mi
- Week of Feb 1: 12.5 mi plus some snowshoeing
- Week of Feb 8: 21.4 mi
- Week of Feb 15: 18 mi
- Week of Feb 23: 14 mi
- Week of Mar 1: 24 mi w/ 18 lb pack
This week, so far, I've done 7 mi with a 19.5 lb pack and it's just Monday. At this point, all logic and planning have gone out the window. I'm hooked on exercise and I crave it. It bums me out if I don't go for my walks, even if it's freezing out. I just add more layers and off I go. This week, the temps got up into the 40s and tomorrow it will be almost 60. You can bet I'll be out there, as much as possible.
A note on this exercise: It's boring. It's mostly flat, and all in the city. There's only 5 feet of elevation gain on one route I do, 20 feet in another, and maybe 120 feet max if I go up the biggest hill I can find in the area. I don't go anywhere special to walk, I just walk to where I need to go anyway: school, coffee shops, errands. A lot of places I go are ugly, especially when it's covered with dirty snow, and I pass smokers and cars and smell bus exhaust. Now the snow's melting and it's icy in the morning and muddy the rest of the day.
I decided to get an iPod to make it bearable, and that's done the trick. I never bring one on the trail with me, because the trail is never boring. But without the iPod, all this walking in the city would be unthinkable.
Now that it's nice out, I plan to up my game a bit. It's just over four mi to school, and it's easy to do five or six miles if I walk there and then walk between classes and walk to get the bus home. I'm going to start occasionally walking both ways, a total of 8.36 mi, to increase the mileage a bit each week.
Also, I've been gradually tossing more and more backpacking supplies in my pack, along with the school stuff I always carry. Now, if I ever get stranded in downtown Madison, I'll have all my 10 essentials, my tent, and even a trowel to dig cat holes if I have to go! Eventually, I'm putting my bear can in my pack. I'll probably keep the pack weight stable for the time being as I increase the mileage, however.
So far, I've been walking on sidewalks and streets. Once wildflowers start blooming, I'll hit the trails around here. And I'll soon spend 10 days back in San Diego hiking around the mountains there. I owe El Cajon mountain a visit :)
Once I get back from San Diego at the end of spring break, it's another month and four days until the end of the semester (but who's counting?). Then I am off to California for the summer, and I can train for real!
I've got all kinds of ideas for once I'm out there. I'm headed to Monterey first and then down to San Diego, so I can hit Big Sur on the way there. Then there's San Gorgonio, the Channel Islands, a trip back to Mt Baldy and San Jacinto for old time's sake, and much more. And July 5 will get here and I'll be on the JMT before I know it!