Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Living Like a Clock

Photo: Joel Wolpert
With only 12-weeks to go until I start the AT, training is starting to hit high gear.  I contemplated posting my training each week, as many do, but have ultimately decided against it.  You see it would be highly motivating for me to know that my week's training mileage would be out there for the world to see - this was why I considered it - but my fear is that the transparency would lead me to fatal bravado. 

The question several friends have asked is, "Can you really train for something like this?"  Of course you can.  Starting a 2,181 mile trail ('11 updated distance) thru-run on limited training would be foolish.  In the same breath, burning yourself out with excessive mileage would be equally irrational.  Where is the balance and how does a personal adequately train for something of this magnitude?  The answer to that question is something I'm afraid I don't know - I'll have to figure it out the hard way.  I know slogging through 150 miles/week on roads in the February snow and cold is NOT the answer for me . . . hopefully spending much time on the trails soaking in the warmth, beauty, and smells of an early spring will be.

I'm planning on averaging around 210 miles/week on the Trail.  I have no plan to approach any more than maybe 150 miles/week during training - and only once or twice.  I personally have never been one of these ultrarunners that could sustain 100+ mile weeks, week after week.  I stay in the 65-90 mile range year round and usually toss in a few bigger weeks here and there; which is hard enough to maintain while balancing all that is life.  It's worked out fairly well thus far, but then again, I've never done something like this before.  In my opinion, the worst thing I could do at this point is to push too hard and find myself injured.

I have several key points that I think will be critical to my success:

  1. Doing as many back-to-back long runs as I can handle in the upcoming months
  2. Keep mileage consistent, but try not to be too anal about exact numbers.  More is not always better and I want to make sure I make it to May 5th healthy.
  3. Becoming more proficient with trekking poles over the coming months.  These are the ones I decided on.
  4. Dial in gear and figure out which pack/s, shoes, etc. will be the "go to" stuff.
On the Trail:
  1. Going as slow as possible in the beginning and using the first two weeks as "training".
  2. Using trekking poles; probably not all the time, but at least some each day.  I've messed with them a few times and they certainly help a lot on the climbs.  I think they will help when I'm inevitably nursing some issues on the trail or simply fatigued toward the end of the day.
  3. Icing - not the cake variety - and lots of it (maybe some of the cake kind too!).  I've had issues in the past with instep/tibailis anterior tendinitis with multiday running.  I plan on icing on Day 1 and every day after that.  Staying on top of injuries will be key.
  4. Nutrition: Consuming around 5-6,000 calories/day will certainly be a chore.  This will be very hard for me as I am usually a very clean eater and probably go many days on 2,500 or less.  I just don't feel like I need to eat as much as others on daily basis.  Regardless, I'm sure I'll go through tons of peanut butter, ensure, ice cream, and whatever fast food specials Kadra can find. 
  5. Compression:  I've got a pair of calf compression sleeves, but don't believe they do squat for me since they slip down half-way through a run.  In theory, I think this could help with my tendinitis issues so I may try to find some that fit tighter.  
  6. Meds:  I'd like to not rely on meds to keep pain and inflammation at bay, but I know that the reality of the matter is that I will have to at some point.  I plan on having some antibiotics (in case of ticks and/or illness), flagyl (giardia), ibuprofen, tylenol, and maybe even something a little stronger (lortab or percocet) for when the going gets really tough or I can't sleep.
  7. Be flexible.  The journey as a whole is worth more than mindlessly sticking to the predetermined itinerary.  Listening to my body will be essential to success.
My thoughts have been fixated on this adventure for a long time.  As it approaches there is some apprehension, but mainly excitement.  All I can do it prepare the best I know how.  With 12 weeks to go, it's time to just keep living like a clock and do the same thing I always do - run.  Putting one step in front of the other has gotten me through many other trials and I know that the same resolve will carry me to the top of Mt. Katahdin.


  1. I think you've got a good plan together.Especially with restraining yourself early.

  2. You have done your homework. Your planning will get you through each day knowing logistically you are ready. Your training will take care of the running part and Kadra will take care of the unexpected. What a team you two will make on this adventure.

  3. Rick - I'm hoping I have you on my team for some miles in TN!

  4. You will have me. Right now I only two conflicts for when you are coming through, TN, NC & VA. Tammy and I are working the Boogie on Satuday night June 11th and I have some race that I am expected to attend up in some state called West Virginia. I think that race has something like Highlands in its name and it is on June 18th. I am hoping that we can discuss some details at Catawba next month.

  5. Rick - I'm just hoping you can share some miles with me a few days. That would certainly be a highlight!

  6. The best training you can do is the first two weeks of the hike. That's an awesome picture!

  7. Hey man I didn't know you were gunning for the AT? Though my attempt at the Kokopelli Trail record in May falls way shy of the AT about 2039 miles to be exact. I also had to wrestle with the same dilema. How much to train. Too much and you burnout. To little and you find yourself at the mercy of not having done enough. I have been keeping track though but keeping it under 100 per week until after my race in March. Then all th emiles will be around a 10 minute pace with one run per week completely focused on "Time on my Feet".
    Good luck in your attempt brother and keep me posted. By the way. How did you like the Superior Trail? Looked like you had a great run there on a tough course...

  8. Dave,

    Good luck on the Kokopelli Tr.; sounds like quite the adventure. You will definitely suffer more than me over the 140-miles, but it will at least hopefully be over in less than 32 hours.

    I liked Superior Sawtooth a lot!. . . the weather was just horrible this year though. It's a great race and I can't believe more folks don't venture up to MN for that one.

    Good luck with the training,


  9. Adam - I am a late addition to following your AT experience - very psyched for you. I am not sure of the dates - when are you coming through PA? Do you have anyone meeting you along the way. I am not far away from a section or two and would love to join you if the schedule allows.

    As for the training needed to take on such an endeavor, what a topic. I guess as long as you have gotten strong and are fighting no nagging injuries, have your mileage up, have your nutrition and gear down (which judging by one of your recent posts you have been working on), and a good support crew (which I also am sure you have) you are good to go. The exercise itself will be all the conditioning you need as long as your immune system hangs tough and you stay well fed, hydrated, and strong mentally (which no doubt you will). Excited to hear how it goes!