Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Almost Go Time

I'm vacillating between being nervous, excited and scared about my upcoming trip. My back is feeling pretty good, but my legs are absurdly sore this week. I've got most everything that I want to pack out and weighed and ready to go, if not packed. Fresh batteries in the headlamp, charging batteries for the camera - I even contacted the Idaho BLM to see if they had anything to tell me about current trail conditions.

I checked out the Idaho Centennial Trail guidebook from the library, but it was a bit disappointing. For one thing, it was published in 1998. I know the guidebook my husband and I used for the Chamberlain Basin hike last year was out of date and it was only 10 years old. So I didn't hold out high hopes for accurate information, but the format of the book itself was also disappointing. I didn't find the descriptions of the trail sections to be clear and the author keeps inserting side trips, saying that hikers and horseback riders should take this shortcut to cut off miles and the trail goes this way, unless you want to take that way. So I'm glad I checked it out rather than buying it.

There's one last food item that should be reaching my doorstep some time tomorrow - coffee. My initial plan was to go without coffee, but then I'd have to wean myself off of it before I headed out and I'm just not ready to do that right now. I'm one of those people who get awful caffeine withdrawal headaches, so I can't just quit cold turkey. And even though the powerbar chews that I'll be bringing have "1xcaffeine" that is just not enough to make up for a cup a day habit. So I'm going to try Stok Cold Brew Coffee Shots. I was going to buy some at a local grocery store that the Stok website insisted they were stocked at, but that was a no go. I scoured the coffee aisle and finally went to customer service, where they proceeded to tell me to go back to the coffee aisle and wait for someone to come and "help" me look for it. I waited more than 6 minutes before giving up on this mythical help person and giving my business to Amazon instead. I was actually kind of shocked that a large chain grocery store couldn't even look up an inventory on a computer to determine whether they carried an item - I can understand not being able to say for sure that the item was in stock on the shelf based on a computer, but surely they could tell me whether it was carried.


So, I hope that coffee works as a backpacking coffee. There are cold brew coffees that you can buy in large bottles and I found those in a (different) grocery store, but they are supposed to be refrigerated after opening, so they aren't ideal for backpacking where the temperature is variable. For this trip, maybe the temp will stay cold enough for such an endeavor, but I can't guarantee that. So single shots I want and single shots I shall try.

I also need to print off my topo maps. I'm going to take the ICT maps, which are a little less detailed, and pair them with printable quad corners from National Geographic's website. I'll also have a GPS, though I won't be able to keep it on all the time. I'm overall feeling confident that I'll be able to navigate the trail. My main worry is whether my legs will be able to take doing 20 miles a day for 5 days. With the back issue, I did not get as much of a chance to practice long haul days as I planned.

So I'm going out with a goal and determination and no guarantee of success. I'm going to take it one day at a time and do my best. I'll make it as far as I make it. Anything I don't complete this year can be attempted at a later date. Hiking the whole of the ICT in segments will take time.

But I hope I make it 100.7 miles this year.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Training Resumed!

Mini version:
Physical therapy good.

Short version:
I got in to see a physical therapist last week and, in return for some bruising on my low back and upper buttocks areas, I got sweet relief from the sticky, sour, stiff pain that had been plaguing me when I tried to perform normal range of motion activities like tying my shoes.

Long version:
I feel I must at this point recommend Therapeutic Associates for any issues that one comes across that limits physical mobility. I have had an excellent experience there so far and I am confident that I'm not going to start my backpacking trip and stop halfway through unable to walk farther because of back pain. I am still nervous about the trip because I've never done anything like 20 mile days back to back to back to back to back before, but whether I can or cannot complete my goal will not be contingent on the back pain I'd been having.

I got back to training last weekend with some sessions on an inclined treadmill with boots and a 25 pound-ish pack. I put 20 pounds of sandbags plus some gear and a pillow to fill it out a bit. I got all my meals packed and inflated my sleeping pad, which is new for this trip. Last year I used Ambrose's sleeping pad because the ultra light one that I purchased just wasn't that warm. The new one that I got is still very light, but also a bit wider in the shoulder area which I've now learned I find more comfortable.

This week I will continue to weigh out my gear and analyze what it is I want to take with me on the trip. What do I really need? How much am I willing to carry? The trip itself isn't that far away and I'm nervous. But also excited. And nervous. It will probably be fairly cold, which means more clothing. It may or may not be wet enough for intermittent streams to flow, but I'll carry water anyway because it's better to take the extra weight and not need it than need water and not have it.

I've got two more appointments with the physical therapist before the trip, and I can feel how my body is responding to the treatment. I'm icing and stretching and doing exercises every day. It's going to happen. 100 miles, baby!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Training Interrupted

Since December, I've had some on and off back pain. Back in December, I noticed it as a muscular soreness. It would go away after a nighttime treatment of Vicks VapoRub - stinky, but effective. I joked with one of my fellow crossfitters that it was probably because I was developing muscles in my lower back for the first time in my life. Maybe I was upsetting the fascia in my back by making muscles. Ha ha (I don't know nearly enough about anatomy for that guess to be any good).

In December, the pain went away. Then came back. Then went away again. Through January, February and March, it would perform the same kind of disappearing, reappearing act. One day I'm limited to 45 pound deadlifts at crossfit, three days later I'm busting through 55 deadlifts at 95 pounds. Nothing I did seemed to make a long term difference.

Last week, the pain was starting to get worse. Even when it didn't actively hurt, I didn't have full mobility. I couldn't bend over. Reaching down to pick up a bar created little bursts of pain at my upper buttocks. Reaching down to tie my shoes created the same problem. And showering was the worst - my husband and I squeegee the walls of the shower after showering and bending over to do that was incredibly painful.

So I seriously considered going to see a chiropractor, despite the fact that both my husband and I think that they are quacks.

Luckily, my husband convinced me that I should see our regular doc first and go from there. She referred me to a physical therapist and is confident that I should be able to do my hike as planned at the beginning of May - as long as I follow the PT's instructions and do the homework they recommend.

But I haven't gone to crossfit for over a week now, and that feels so strange at this point. I also "took it easy" over the weekend and limited my physical activity/training to a few hours on a treadmill in my boots. No pack. Not even an incline on the treadmill. I'm starting to get to the point where it's hard to fall asleep because I'm not getting enough exercise!

So I'll go in to see a physical therapist on Friday, but I'm going to try and do some "light and easy" days at crossfit. Light weights, not pushing too hard, but getting some exercise before I go completely crazy.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Evolution of Breakfast

When I started backpacking, breakfast was an affair. My husband and I would settle for nothing less than a hot and fully cooked breakfast, hearty and heavy with grains and meat. Often, I would wake up with the sun filtering through the tent wall to the smell of oatmeal or eggs (sometimes both), which nearly made up for the fact that I woke up alone - after all, if Ambrose was going to be cooking breakfast, then he had to abandon me in the tent.

But as the years went by, our breakfasts shifted - as did my wake up time. With more miles to hike in our days, I was forced to adapt to getting up first with the sun, and then before it. We discovered that eating a freeze dried dessert instead of grits and eggs was a lot more appealing in a cold, dark morning.

The problem was that it still took a good amount of time. Gathering water, boiling water, letting the freeze dried dessert absorb the water - and don't get me started on the cold desserts. Sure, less time boiling water, but I find eating something cold and wet, no matter how sweet, in the morning when I'm cold and just want to get moving and warm, to be unappetizing.

So on our Chamberlain trip last year, I suggested making a switch. Instead of having our bars for lunch and our desserts for breakfast, let's have our bars for breakfast and our dessert for lunch. My reasoning was that we could get moving faster in the morning and have a sweet treat midday. For me, it's much better to just start hiking in the cold morning, because that's the only thing that will really warm me up. Any delay, even for a hot breakfast, just slows me down mentally.

I had just come off my no-cook solo trip at that point, and I knew that my body would be able to handle just going on a few bites of a bar. I thought Ambrose would be able to handle it, too. And I was right.

We could still stand to shave some time off of our morning routine, maybe get up a little earlier so as to have more hiking light, but cutting out the ritual of a hot breakfast certainly helps. Instead of waking up to have an entire activity centered around food before we strike camp, we can get directly to striking camp. Instead of having me sit and moan in the cold while I wait to eat, I can hike and moan on the trail that I'm too cold going at Ambrose's pace. Or something like that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Open Growth

This year is the third year that I've participated in the Crossfit Open. I'm not anywhere near a Regional or Games qualifier; I do it for fun. I like to challenge myself with the workouts and participate in the community event. Also, when there are repeat workouts, it's fun to see how much I have improved over the last year. 

17.4 was 16.4, and I improved significantly from doing 178 reps on the scaled workout to 207. 

And it's a good thing that worked out the way it did, because if I just look at my worldwide rankings then I get depressed. One is supposed to improve every year, but my rank keeps sliding because fitter people keep joining in the Open. At least, that's my theory, because I am improving. After all, last year at this time, I couldn't do a strict pull up. 

But the biggest thing that happened in the Open for me this year was 17.5. 

10 rounds of 9 thrusters and 35 double unders, 95# for men, 65# for women. 

Of course, that's the Rx (as prescribed) version. And I have always done scaled, which was the same rep scheme with lighter weights (65# for men, 45# for women) and single unders instead of doubles. 

There was a part of me that thought, maybe, just maybe, I could do it Rx this time. I can do thrusters at 85 pounds - though not many of them. And I can do double unders - just not with great consistency. 

On Friday morning, I went ahead and did the scaled version as a test. And I passed with flying colors, going unbroken on all my thrusters and finishing in just over 10 minutes. That's when I knew I had to make a go at the Rx - after all, with a 40 minute time cap, there's no way I couldn't finish. 

And even if I didn't finish, there's no penalty. No one's going to come to my house and beat me up because I couldn't finish under the time cap. The important thing was to try. 

So on Saturday, I tried. I went in with a game plan - split the thrusters 3-2-2-2 and split the double unders 10-10-10-5. Keep breathing. 

By the time I was halfway through, my body felt like it was made of lead. I was dripping sweat and breathing like a bellows. I wanted nothing more than to collapse and forget I'd ever had this crazy idea. But somehow my muscles kept working. I was able to drive that weight overhead, again and again. I tripped up on a few doubles, but kept going, kept getting sets close to my 10s. 

I was the last to finish in my heat. The whole gym was cheering for me by the end. At the last round, I pushed hard and went 3-3-3 on the thrusters and tried to go unbroken on the doubles. I made it to 29 before tripping myself up, but it still felt epic. 

My time on that is not at all competitive at just under 27 minutes. But I did it Rx. And I took that chance because of the generous 40 minute time cap. Even a 30 minute time cap might have deterred me from going for it. I think they wanted people like me, on the edge of being able to push just a little harder, to make that try and see how much they (I) could do. 

I really hope we repeat that one next year, because if we repeat any of the others, I'd have to do scaled to compare myself and I'll probably be going Rx. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Running Is Hard Work

Last week I managed to meet my mileage goal of 10 miles with 12 miles. This week so far, I'm up to 5.8 miles of a 12 mile goal. I'll be running 3 miles tonight and half a mile Thursday, leaving a mere 2.7 miles to get to this week's goal of 12. Which I'll probably exceed, depending on what I do on Saturday and when.

My body is feeling the exhaustion of adding all of this physical activity into my routine. My mind is tired and fuzzy by the end of the work day. I really want to institute nap time.

But I know that this will pass. My body will adjust. I just need to get through these first few weeks of change.

I had been hoping to take the Lucky Peak trail for training starting in April. It's a nice 11 mile round trip with nearly 3000 feet of gain. Perfect for spring training, except for the fact that the Boise River Wildlife Management Area remains closed to protect the deer and elk still wintering in the foothills.

Okay, okay, I support keeping the deer and elk safe and unstressed by the presence of humans. But it does mean that I'll have to figure out a different training route. I'll probably head over to 8th street and make a route out of the foothills trails up there. I've hiked there before, and as long as the trails aren't too muddy, they'll do. They just lack the simplicity and challenge of the Lucky Peak trail.

Worst case scenario I'll be at the gym wearing a full pack and walking on the incline treadmill. Possibly alternating with the stair climber - not the step machine, but the one that's like an escalator. Heck, I might even try the Jacob's Ladder with a pack, just to see how it feels. That's not actually a bad worst case scenario.

This is going to be the first time that I'm starting out my hiking season with a solo hike, and a long challenging one to boot. Sure, the elevation profile isn't too bad; I'll start around 6000 feet and descend for most of the journey. But I'm going to be pushing my pace each day and the water situation is not guaranteed to be reliable. I'll have about 14 hours of daylight each day, so a pace of 2 miles per hour should be fine, even with breaks and time to break and make camp.

I'm working on researching the route and Ambrose is preparing the gps with the route (fingers crossed that works). I haven't started on food prep yet, though I'll be going no-cook again. I can handle not having hot food. Though now that I write that, I'm reconsidering because instead of traveling in late summer I'll be traveling in early May when the temperatures will tend towards the chilly side. Maybe I will want to have a stove and some drink mix for warmth and comfort.

There's still a lot of work to do, preparation physical, mental and logistical. I'm excited.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ramping Up

This year's backpacking season is going to start much earlier for me than usual. With a planned hike from the Nevada border about 100 miles north on the Idaho Centennial trail taking place in the first week of May, I need to have my legs and my mind prepared.

March is going to be all about running and planning. I actually hadn't run at all from mid-December until the beginning of February. It used to be that if I didn't run once a week, my right hip would get all gimpy. But one week and then two and three passed and it didn't get bad. So I just let the running slide - partly because of the weather, and, I'll admit, partly out of laziness.

With the return of relatively temperate weather, someone at my crossfit box started up Saturday running, and I did a nice little 2 mile run in 40 degree weather in the rain to kick off my running training on 3/4. Maybe I should place some of the blame for my subsequent cold on that run, but I'm glad I did it. I wanted to get 8 miles that week, but I only managed 4.7, all of which happened last Saturday (3/11), but in two chunks. I would have run more, but my old ITB/hip issues reared up.

I've learned by now though that the best way to get past that pain is to make sure my running form is good and run through the pain. I ran another 3 miles the next day, which was painful, but do-able. I even wore my hydration backpack with 5 pounds of weight in it, just for that little extra something. And yesterday, I ran half a mile, just a little warm up before doing my pull up workout. That didn't impact the hip at all.

Based on my previous solo trips, where I tend to go much faster/harder than when I'm with my husband on backpacking trips, I know that the hip pain can hide. I might not have any issues hauling a 30 pound pack at an easy 1 mile an hour pace, but try 35 pounds at 3 miles per hour and I discover the hip pain.

My plan as I ramp up my activity for the May hike is to delve and discover that hidden hip pain and work it out before I start the trip. I will push myself to run fast in this month of March. I will do back to back, long distance, weighted hikes on weekends in April. I will research and prepare as much as I can for this journey, because 100 miles in 5 days through a desert isn't going to be a walk in the park.