The GOOD(news), the SORE(bod) & the GNARLY(details) of THRU-HIKE TRAINING

Ever since we, my daughter Alexa and I, decided to SOBO thru-hike beginning in June, strength training has been THE hot topic: charts, schedules, fully loaded hikes, gym workouts, me screaming “Uncle!” Aleve, Oi!


 I kid you NOT! I know where every Porto-Potty, JiffyJohn, Gotügo, A Flush Away, Don’s Johns is located within a ten mile radius. And you thought there were no advantages to thru-hike pooping in the woods! Well, from my current point of view, being able to scoot off the trail, dig, drop’n’plop when “nature calls” versus holding it for a couple of miles while carrying a 35 pound pack, counts as a check mark in the PLUS column. Okay so maybe it is one of the few “practical” benefits to being on the trail versus suburban training, but every wittle checkmark counts!


 God bless my 22 year old daughter. She’s 22 and seriously F.I.T. Did I mention that she’s 22?! There’s just no way I can E.V.E.R. be as physically fit as her. I do have tenacity and endurance and those dubious qualities will have to be my “go to” pillars. Anyway, so Alexa created my “training workout” schedule. My favorite: Abs/Butt/Back and Legs/Butt … I fondly recall barely surviving my first workout. The next day as I bounced out of bed and headed for the stairs, I did one of those “Miss Congeniality” face plants as my leg muscles seized up; lesson learned. I am considerably more advanced now ;-} … I mastered leaning on the stair hand railing. Thank God, Buddha, Vishnu, Universe, that I started this process fairly early which allows for some downtime, procrastination, and life’s inevitable intrusions as I work aka train my way steadily to being “strong like bull” … okay more like moo cow but s t i l l strong.


 I know you’ve heard this adage before. I prefer a wide toe box and one of The Trek posts listed PEARL IZUMI trail runners. They have a stiff sole, roomy toe box and have worked beautifully in training. For Maine & NH, however, I wanted mid height waterproof hikers and tried the Altra Lone Peak 3 waterproof mid boot. OMG, they’re like wearing marshmallows – Alexa calls them elf boots because they have zero drop!!! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, them. So much so, that I am wearing them pretty much everywhere which is kinda funny since they do not “go” with clothes appropriate for “lunching at the club” but, hey … kiss my feet! In fact, on our last trip to REI in DC (their latest gorgeous store), I bought the Lone Peak 3 low cut trail shoe and will probably use those in the middle 1000 miles. But hey, how amazing is it to have 2 solid possibilities? After getting blisters during a short break-in hike, Alexa swapped her original choice for Cascadias. So, the jury is still out on her selection. This is where REI rocks: service, returns, assistance – they make you feel that they are on your team – totally amazing!


 Okay, so having had carpal tunnel surgery, trekking pole selection was critical. Even though they are heavier than the Distance Carbon ones Alexa chose, I opted for the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock poles with carbide tips. I like the shock absorbing technology and the telescoping feature versus the elasticized breakdown of her poles. A note about carbide tips, whenever I hike steep inclines on paved surfaces, stabbing the ground as it were, I sound like a 250 pound woman pounding a city sidewalk in stilettos … clip clip clip clip … and announce my impending arrival 100 feet before pedestrians actually get a visual. So yeah, I invested in rubber tips and I am now a stealth hiker and I can sneak up on unsuspecting strollers; silence is golden.


I couldn’t wait to try out my rain and cool weather gear. In December we had solid cold spells and driving rainy weather and those were great opportunities to try them out. All I can say is get out and brave the weather because you will learn how to tweak stuff now! Funny thing is that we’ve had a very mild winter in the mid-Atlantic states and for the most part, weather for outdoor training has been awesome. Anyway, early on I invested, yup at $240 on sale “invested” is the right term, in a Patagonia ultra light windbreaker/rain jacket. It is phenomenal and so worthwhile that Alexa made that her choice as well ($280 – not on sale). When combined with the Arc’Teryx Jacket, both of which have minimal weight or bulk, I feel as though I can take on the elements the trail will throw our way.


So NOBOs, most of you are already 3 months ahead of our SOBO schedule i.e. you are there or making your way to Springer Mountain. Good Luck, happy trails, be safe and hope our paths cross in New England states as we make our way south!


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Comments 1

  • Bruce Stillwell : Mar 3rd

    I am so very proud of both my wife, Kate and our daughter, Alexa as they plan and prepare for this incredible adventure. As I will be their “home front” logistics and forwarding person, I am paying attention and am truly impressed with the research, REI visits and detailed preparation they are doing…not to mention the training!
    You GO ladies!!!!


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