May 5, 2012
It’s not really Day 1, as I’ve been increasing my workouts in anticipation of this trip for a couple of months now. I’m in Week 4 of “Couch to 5K” running, and I’ve done a few conditioning hikes at Palos Verdes. So things are moving forward.
Today is another relatively hot day – low to mid 70s – and I’m sort of dreading putting on my new, heavy, hiking boots with wool socks AND a liner. But I need to break them in, and even decide whether or not they are the right boots for me. Still having trouble with my left foot, which seems to be quite different from my right. Trying some new heel gel inserts – was going to get good ones, but saw some cheap Dr. Scholls while I was waiting in line at the pharmacy so I grabbed them. A bit hard to install, but we’ll see if they make a difference.
I’ve decided to head to Peters Canyon today to do some hill training. I haven’t done this trail since last year, and it can be quite tough. I’m wearing my BodyMedia FIT to see how many calories I burn and compare it to the PV trail, which is just one big hill – deceptively easy on the way down, steadily challenging on the way up.
I’m a bit worried about my allergies, which made the going rough on my last hike. It’s a bad time of the year. I just checked the pollen counts and both tree and grass pollens are at “high” and “very high” right now, respectively. I’ll be taking allergy meds before I head out and I hope I can breathe. That’s my biggest challenge, but luckily one I shouldn’t face above the tree line.
Also trying a new pack today – actually considering leaving my trusty CamelBak Trailblazer behind for this trek. The reason? My camera(s). I have a LowePro Photo Sport 200 that’s designed to better protect a camera, and that has a rain fly attached which my current pack does not have. That was a problem in Peru. I’m just not sure if this new pack will hold everything I need for the trail. It might be a challenge to pack my down jacket, rain gear, extra fleece, snacks, camera(s) and water. So…a’testing I will go!
Okay, time to hit the road. By the time I get there, the temperature should be past today’s peak and falling, which is one thing I do love about this time of year. Plenty of time for a late afternoon or evening hike before getting caught in the dark.
Got to Peters Canyon around 2:15pm and headed out. I’ve noticed that my body warms up slowly. The first half hour or so of a workout always feels really, really hard. Then something kicks in and I can suddenly haul ass! So the first few hills felt pretty tough, then I was good to go! By the time I was heading back, I was moving pretty quickly and feeling really good. It’s very strange, but I’m starting to understand that it’s just my body’s rhythm, for better or for worse. I do think that I might want to eat a bit more before hiking, as all I had was a little bit of leftover quinoa pasta. I may try having a bigger meal before the hike and eating an energy bar or some such thing just before starting out. I’ll see if it helps. The good news is that when I’m hiking, time always seems to fly. I was out there for 2 1/2 hours, but it didn’t feel like it at all.
When I got to the car, the first thing I did was drink my Vega Recovery drink. Before leaving home, I put a scoop in an extra water bottle and I brought extra water to mix it up. Like an idiot, I left it sitting in the sun on the seat of the car so it was boiling hot, but still drinkable.
When I got home, I was exhausted. I think the hike combined with the antihistamine that I had to take for all the flying pollen just knocked me out. I ate my Thrive lunch of quinoa and veggies and sat down on the couch to figure out what I wanted to do for Cinco de Mayo. My neighbors were having parties, my colleagues who were visiting were going out later, and my friends were celebrating in random bars and Mexican restaurants all over town. Me? I fell asleep on the couch at 8:00pm. Woke up at 10:30pm just long enough to move to my comfy bed. Slept until 9:30 the next morning. Wow. I didn’t feel like the hike was that hard, but my body sure reacted as if it was pure torture. Hopefully, it was the antihistamine and I won’t feel like that every time.
Okay, gear report:
Vasque Wasatch GTX Boots – Feeling much, much better! Not sure if they’re just breaking in better or if the gel heel inserts are actually helping. I was a bit worried when I arrived and realized that I forgot to put band-aids on the hot spots by my pinky toes, but I need not have worried – no blisters! Just one hot spot at the base of my right big toe this time. Didn’t quite blister, but it hurt later when I took off my boots. My left heel felt fine! The only thing I noticed is that my feet felt overall sore and bit more fatigued than usual after a 2 1/2 hour hike. I hope that eases up as they break in some more. Isn’t the point of a stiffer boot to prevent that kind of foot fatigue? I never had that issue with my old ones. So, we’ll see. Still, I’m seeing improvement, still love the traction – there are a lot of slick areas and loose rocks on this trail – and I’m becoming more optimistic that although they will never replace my trusty old pair, these boots might actually be capable of becoming my friends.
Black Diamond Women’s Trail Shock Trekking Poles – These are new to me, but required for the EBC trek. This is only my second time out with them and I’m just not coordinated enough to instinctively use them well. For a while, my feet always moved faster than my arms and I’d catch the poles and trip if I tried too hard to coordinate the movement. It takes more mental concentration as well, since you’re not only looking for a good place to put your foot but also a good place to plant your pole at the same time. For the first 60 minutes or so, they seemed to slow me way down. However, I adjusted the height and feel like 105cm is a good one for me, although just a bit shorter than the recommended 90 degree arm angle. Once I shortened them, I seemed to be better able to get in the swing of things.
Another training issue with the poles is mental. People give you funny looks – and even make snide remarks – when you’re training with boots, a pack, and poles on the local trails. Three people on the trail commented – one guy who had one pole and told me two poles were for old people “but I guess your pack must be really heavy, so you need the help.” Another guy on a bike who told me I was “cheating” because now I had four legs. (Although he did give me a great tip on another hill training trail nearby.) Both of these encounters left me feeling like I had to explain and justify myself, although they were good conversation starters.
The final encounter, however, made me feel much better. As I was going down a hill, I met a man coming up it, also with hiking boots, a big pack, and two trekking poles. He never slowed down as he passed me, smiled, laughed and said, “Training for something too, huh? It’s pay now or pay later, right?” I laughed back, agreed, and kept plugging away. Okay. Someone gets it. I am not alone. I need to get over feeling like an idiot, because if I let that affect my training, I WILL pay later! No thank you.
By the end of the hike, I had the rhythm down. I also noticed that despite the 80 degree heat and my notorious lack of drinking enough water, my hands did not swell like they often do when I hike in the heat. This is a good thing. I might get to like these things after all.
Pressurized Hydration Pack – Jury is still out. The bite valve leaks, even when off – all over my couch at home and the car seat on the way. It initially takes up a LOT of space in my pack, although the air doesn’t add any weight. Still, when I started out it was digging into my left shoulder blade with no way to adjust it. Didn’t like that. However, as I drink the water it deflates and by the end of the hike it felt normal. I guess it’s a good incentive for me to actually drink enough, but I’m still not entirely sold. I’m considering going back to my ancient CamelBak bladder, since the new design gets bad reviews for massive leakage. I’ll be carrying expensive cameras in my bag and can’t risk that. Yet again, the trusty old-school version might win out.
LowePro PhotoSport 200 Backpack: Yes, I’m considering leaving the trusty old-school CamelBak Trailblazer behind. Although I have mixed feelings on this since the LowePro pack is comfortable and perfect in so many ways, accessing my video camera was a problem in Peru, as I had to stop and take off my backpack in order to get to it. This led to several days where I was so exhausted from the altitude that I didn’t even bother. This time, I want to document the trip better, since I want to use the footage as a demo on my website. I also want to protect my camera better, as the one I took to Peru took a serious beating along the way. Lots of war wounds, although it still worked just fine at the end.
Today, I tested out this new LowePro pack. It has a dedicated compartment for the camera in the bottom, which I like. Instead of taking the pack all the way off, you just slide it off one shoulder and the camera is easily accessible. This works well for me.
However, there are two things that did not work well for me. First, I’m not sure it’ll be big enough. Although there is space on top of the camera compartment for extra gear, I packed it with my super light down jacket, a light rain shell, a bathroom kit, sunglasses, my cell phone, my wallet, and keys, and strapped the poles to the side, and it was jam-packed full. Part of the issue might be the pressurized hydration bladder, which is in a separate compartment but takes up a lot of airspace. I won’t really know if this will work or not until I get the new down jacket and rain shell that are coming this week. Then, we’ll see. I do like all the outside pockets for granola bars and such, and plenty of straps to hang an extra water bottle or some such thing. But being able to carry my big down jacket, a rain shell, and an extra fleece is critical. If I can’t do that, I’ll need to look at other options.
The second problem is that the back of the pack is NOT made of any type of wicking fabric, and it’s flat against your back. With a thin tank top in 80 degree heat, I was soaked with cold sweat. I’m not sure how relevant this will be in cold weather, as I’ll be hiking with it on top of several layers so it won’t really be right against my skin. Might work. Might not. Again, something that’s really hard to test in SoCal.
BodyMedia FIT: Although I love this thing, I’m not sure how accurate it is. It said that I burned 638 calories on this hike. Which sounds great, except that it also said I burned almost that many calories on a nice, easy, breezy, walk on the flat bike path on the beach without all the heavy gear last week. I just don’t believe that I burn as many calories without breaking a sweat as I do backpacking up and down hills in the burning heat.
Still, one interesting thing that I found is that I can click on the calorie burn chart in the activity monitor when I get home, and get a nice approximation of the terrain, since I burn more calories on uphills than I do on downhills. I could actually see how many hills, and how intense each hill really was. The FIT did not, however, register any “vigorous activity” on this hike that totally wiped me out. It rated it all as “moderate” which is the same rating as most of the beach walk. In fact, the beach walk did register some vigorous activity. It just doesn’t pass the “reality check” test for me, so I wouldn’t take it as gospel. If you realize the numbers may be more of a trend than they are strictly accurate, it is nice feedback to have.