hikeyourhike

Life. Running. Thoughts.

Drop it like its hot.

So my wife reminded me this past weekend that it had been sometime since I wrote a blog entry. I agreed. When she brought up that our mileage per week has gone down due to the tremendous heat we have had for the past month, she suggested that I write about how to run in the heat. I had thought about this topic before, but the problem is that I have not found a way to truly succeed at running in the heat. So here’s a guide about how to waddle along and not die in the heat.

First things first. Hydration. This is not a matter of you may get thirsty out there. Overheating with a means to cool yourself down and developing cramps due to dehydration are a serious matter. Carry water with you on your runs. I run about 4 miles for my longer runs and I use at least 16oz of water but carry 22oz. So if you are lacking a hydration system of some kind, use an empty water/soda bottle or Gatorade bottle. Depending on how sunny your route is, the water will heat up during your run. It will not get hot but if you like, drop am ice cube or two in the bottle at the start.

Second things second, you are going to be slow. Heat does not waver and it will make your run harder. Do not be surprised if you find yourself having the recover mid run with some walking or slow jogging. Without putting yourself in danger, try to run in the shade whenever possible. The main goal of my summer running has been to maintain. I am a month in to our really hot months in the southeast and I have about a month to go. I do not think I have gotten much faster, but with some biking and 20-25 mile weeks, I think I am maintaining my level of fitness to hit it strong this fall.

The main thing I have found about running in the heat of the summer is just to log those miserable runs and know that you are still moving towards your goal. Be smart now to avoid injury and heat related problems and ramp it up when the weather starts to chill.

I know not everyone is a sports fan but here is my best metaphor for running in the summer. This is running batting practice. Sometimes you are not trying to hit homeruns. Sometimes you just have to practice the motion and focus on the motions. So that when that time comes. You are ready.

Hike your hike.

Paris Mountain 12k : Beautiful Trail Running

Trail running. It seems so natural. The idea of it seems like it would come as second nature to us. Something written in our DNA. The same code that tells a newborn see turtle to make a run for the ocean. Everything has these codes written into our very being.

This would explain why my first long distance trail run gave me an unexplainable amount of joy. It does not explain why it was so unbelievably difficult. To be honest it was not the entire run that was difficult, but the nasty bits were incredible.

The event was the Paris Mountain 12k Trail Run. The event was scheduled as an 11k, but some new mountain bike trails had just been finished, so literally 30 seconds before the start, the race director tells of a 1km addition. This is strangely prophetic for the attitude that surrounds a trail run. The only thing you know for sure is that you are going to have to put one foot in front of the other many times. Some with the grace of a ballerina as you go barreling down a hill into a switchback. And some times it will be with the deliberate purpose that drives many of the actions that involve you finding a way to drag your body through.

The race started with a nice winding downhill on pavement that would serve as a way to get the runners divided into packs as we made our way to the mountain. Everytime I line up for the start of a race, I normally think about a start of a race I had when I was about 13 years old. I have a friend who is a great runner. We were very close at one point, and even though he won state titles, he never really gave me any running advice. He would give me some knowledge of courses and things to watch for, but never really any running advice. Then one day at a road race, I was running the 5k after he ran the 12k, I was lining up at the start. I heard him say my name and with a strange amount of force, that type of speech that is part of the last few lines of a coaches speech before the big game, he told me to get up to the front. I tell you this story to get one point across, do not let your own sense of politeness keep you from getting into the position you need to be in. I take the approach that I will get myself into what I consider to be a good position, and then stay aware of the fact that others may need to pass. No one minds passing, as long as you recognize the time when someone needs to pass you.

So as the pack was filling down and about to enter the hill, I made a quick estimation about the fitness of the runners in front of me. One guy looked to be winded already, as I did not want to get stacked up behind him, I made a move to get in front of him before we went single fill into the trail. The first part of the trail was rolling hills and they felt fantastic. This is why people trail run. This beats a road or track 10 times over. I felt great going into what would be “the ascent”. This is where trail running become amazingly real.

When I say uphill. I mean uphill. As if that was not enough, the type of hiking uphill that involves grabbing trees to pull yourself up, hands on knees, watch your step or fall to a tremendous amount of pain uphill. First three mile splits, 9:05 / 8:57 / 18:57. Okay so the damage to my time was obvious, but I found that the biggest amount of damage it did was mental. From that point on, uphill becomes SOOO tempting to walk. I found that getting running again was really hard. Not because I was tired, I was though, but for some other reason. I did not know if this uphill was the last. Should I run and power through this hill only to have the next one defeat me. This is a hard thing to shake. I believe now, after running the trail, I could take 4 or 5 minutes off of my time by knowing purely when to power through and when to conserve. As a side note to anyone running this race in the future, after the crazy mile three uphill, run the other hills. Plenty of downhill to recover. Moving on.

Now after the amazingly tough third mile, came the most enriching and most fun experience I have ever had running. The descent that came after the third mile felt amazing. One item to put in the pro column was that I was with a group of about three other runners that were great to run with. We would get into a good pace and stay close and then separate and then linked back up. As I runner, I really love the moments of peace that running alone brings, but I also liked the shared misery of running together through all of the horrible bits.

Most of the downhill consisted of new mountain bike friendly switchbacks. This meant nice sure footing and high walled sides on the switchback. The high walled switchbacks worked great to ease up to slow yourself down a bit and regain control and then start the next descent. Did I mention this run was FANTASTIC!

The end of the trail had us rejoin the rolling hills of the first miles and take that to the finish. It was a fantastic way to finish. In a weird way, it kind of brought you back to reality. We had just spent four or so miles running mostly downhill on some of the best trails you could have for controlled yet fast running. You almost forgot what it was like to not have nature so in your corner helping you through what could have been a miserable trudge to the finish. As it hit the openness and flatness of the final 1000 meters or so, I remember being really bummed out. I could see 75 yards ahead of me. Where is the fun in that? Who wants to have it all so cut and dry. So ahead of you with no time to enjoy each and every step of the present.

To me. That is what trail running shows us. Enjoy each and every step. Some require grace. Some require more determination than you could have ever trained for. But enjoy. Enjoy each and every step you take. Because when the trail opens and you are back in the clear. Make sure that you have it in you to turn around and head right back up the mountain and into the unknown.

Hike Your Hike.

5k. Pass or Fail.

So this past weekend my wife and I ran our first 5k together. This was not my first 5k, but it was my wife’s first and it was certainly my first since being a pile of what I used to be. First let me explain my wife’s preparation.

Wife: She has been running 5k-8.5k or so multiple times a week. My wife wakes up before work and heads off to the gym. So running 3.1 miles was not going to be a problem for her, as far as knowing that she could complete the distance without having to stop. What my wife did not factor in was the heat of a spring 5k. She did a FANTASTIC job and broke the 30 min mark which, by all accounts, was fantastic and the fastest she had run the distance. So besides the heat and the calf pain that comes with a course with slow, almost to slow, inclines, she set a new personal record.

The one lesson my wife almost learned the hard way was to not start off too fast. One skill I have always had while running was the ability to set an even pace and come very close to hitting that pace without having to slow down or speed up much. It comes from having a very overprotective father that knows that 43mins is exactly the amount of time it takes to get to town. So in 43 mins you have better called to tell him you are there or he is calling you. Long story short, I have a pretty acute sense of time.

So as the race starts, I immediately settle in to what is approximately a 8:15-8:35 pace. Everyone else, including my wife, instantly starts to pull away from me. Now my wife was, by her own estimates, going to be happy to break 40 mins in this race. I “forced” her to accept the challenge of breaking 30 mins. I say “forced” because after I told her she should shoot for 30mins, she said, with all the “I don’t mean it” that wives can muster, okay. I knew that this meant okay, whatever, I don’t care. For you see, my wife has almost taken a vow against competition and I know this. Still, goals can be important.
So as my wife began to pull ahead of my 8:30 pace, I knew she would regret going out to fast. But after about 400 meters, she then fell into her pace and got into her own rhythm. My wife would later say that she did feel the nerves and adrenaline of the race as well as feeling as though she needed to run faster to not slow anyone down. Two very valid points. I do find that the “pack” that starts a 5k is often a cordial bunch and people generally understand that with no qualifying, paces at the start are going to be mixed. If you are looking to break or set a PR, do yourself some justice and find a spot near the front that holds its position into the first turn, but one that will not get boxed in. Everyone deserves their space. Find yours and if someone needs to go around you let them. Just be realistic about where you feel you will finish and try to start relative to that. You can always look up last years results and see what type of runners will be at the race. Generally, competitive races are always that way and more casual races stay that way as well. Also know your mentality. Will you be able to immediately hold your pace among countless others that bolt from the starting line, only to pick them off one by one between miles 1.5-3? Or do you need to be in a pack at the beginning to feel as though you are “winning” from the start.

Now, in regards to me and the 5k. Up to this point, I had not successfully run 5k without stopping due to cramps, side stitches, or knee problems. So I was bound to be peaking at the right time right? I had no choice, but to have a smooth 5k. I also had not run much on pavement. I had been babying my knee by running on any soft surface I could find. So yea, I was nervous. About 700 meters into the race, I felt a slight pain in the outside of my left knee. This was the exact spot that I had experience a substantial amount of pain the last time I tried to start running again. I did however, try to just keep calm and sure enough the pain went away and it was smooth sailing until about 1.5 miles in. Side. Cramp. Lung. Cramp. The moment had come. Walk. Stephen you have nothing to prove.
So I took about 10 seconds to walk and stretch my side. To my surprise, it had helped. Maybe just knowing that I had walked and nothing had happened help. No one booed me. No one was disappointed in me. One thing did happen though. A 18ish year old girl who had basically been near me the whole race went by me and without saying a word and without looking at all not tired, gave me a thumbs up. This is when I felt a bit of a mental lift. Everyone here is doing this for the right reasons. Everyone around me is running their own race and we are all running it together to encourage each other. Everyone can win today.

So I trudged to the finish line with about two more walk breaks and one horrible experience with fresh asphalt that smelled pretty bad and felt like the sun, if the sun was a horny teenager and was in a full on make out sesh without another sun, but I finished. I finished with a sub 9 minute mile pace. Which was a little higher than my prerace goal, but let’s face it, that was my goal now and it felt great.

Hike Your Hike

First Miserable Run: Rain. Mud. Run.

“Could you imagine, a year ago, we would be right here?  Doing this?  Running like this?”

This was the question posed by my wife after 3 miles of running in what most would call, a solid rain.  It was the kind of rain that makes you commit to staying inside.  The kind of rain that makes you say, “Well, at this point, even if it stops raining, there is no way I am going out in the aftermath of this.”

We ended up in the rain because of restlessness, basically.  We had been flirting with rain all day.  It would drizzle and stop.  Get dark and cloudy, then the sun would break through.  It had been constantly cool with a nice breeze all day, which in the south means rain.  As early afternoon became mid afternoon, my wife and I had to make our move.  We geared up and off we ran.  With our valiant steed beside us, Ellie the dog, we marched forward.  Probably 100 steps into the run, it happened.  The rain began to fall, and then pour.  Now running in the rain can be VERY refreshing, but my wife and I both knew that we had roughly 3 miles of dirt road on this route.  Neither one of us mentioned it.  The silence seem to suggest that it was going to be our bitch today.

At mile 2 we were in the early phases of the dirt and nativity seem to suggest that it was not going to be so bad.  No massive amounts of caked on clay yet.  No slips.  All was right with the world.

At mile 3 hills, clay, and mud began to become us.  The major problem with running in the rain on dirt/sand/clay is not that any one element is the problem, the problem is that it creates a perfect storm.  The clay becomes a little slick and pasty.  This coats the bottom of your shoes.  Now, your tread becomes all but useless.  The clay that attaches to the side of your shoes seems to be a magnet for more mud and clay. Slick bottoms; heavy sides.  The heavy sides can make the uphill runs seem REALLY unforgiving and the downhills can be outright dangerous.  Slick terrain and even slicker shoes make twisting a knee or ankle even more of a problem than they normally are.  As a side note, my wife was having a bit of a knee issue and actually did tweak her knee on the way down a hill with a very steep grade.  Running fast down the hill is asking for disaster, but the mechanics of slowing down (heavy planting of your foot) can just as easier result in you sliding and falling or tweaking a joint.  My advice, maybe switchback down a hill, or better yet, walk.

Mile 4 is the start/stop point for this run, yea it just kind of works out all even like that.  By this point we were soaking wet and both felt pretty good.  My wife’s knee was a bit of an issue, she is very tough and even more stubborn so I do not know exactly how bad it was, but we both soaking wet and smiling.  Ellie was orange from the belly down and we had to spray her off with the hose before even thinking about bringing her inside.  At the end of the day though, we had done it.  We had run when we did not need to too.  We had run when we had plenty of reason not to.  This lead me to believe one crazy thing.  I love running.  I would say I loved it again, but I never in my youth had I felt about running the way I feel right now.  The way I feel completely at peace with it.  The way I do not look for excuses, but better yet, I look for fixes to the excuses that have not happened yet.  Just so I can continue running without fail.

I asked my wife about 2.5 miles into the run, “So.  How is your first miserable run?”

“This isn’t miserable,” she said smiling.

Miserable is finding yourself in a slump.  Coming home everyday to sit on the couch or in a chair at the computer and waste your days.  Getting up and doing something is never miserable.  So far, in the past 12 months I have slept in 20 degree weather after hiking all day through 6-8” of snow, been face to face with a stalking bobcat, and run 4 miles in the pouring rain.  All three events were nowhere close to what was planned.  None of them were miserable.

Hike Your Hike.

Getting Your Ass Kicked. Come At Me Bro!

Without fail you are going to get your ass kicked. It may come from a competitive runner. These are the best kinds of ass kickings. They are so easy to dismiss. He/she does this all of the time. How could I NOT expect for this to happen. These are so easy to overlook that they almost become a joke. He ran a 17:01 5k. I almost had him; I say sarcastically.

No these ass kickings are not the problematic kind. Those are the ones that are going to come from friends, spouses, enemies, frenemies, and frouses. These are the ones that sting. How could they beat me like that? I train so much more. I have come so far. Fuck them for not working as hard as me. Fuck them for not having to come as far. Fuck them for making it look so easy.

I have no idea how to make it not hard or how to make it make you feel like less of a frustrated piece of shit. What I can suggest is that you identify your asskicker and make them out to be hiking their own hike.

For me the asskicker is my amazing, asskicking wife. She has lost 20+ lbs and transformed herself into a fitness machine. She would have not considered herself a “fitness” person for a good 23 years of her life. Then the 180 happened. She decided to suck it up and work her ass off. There is not a person who knows her, really knows her, that is not SUPER impressed with what she has done and what she is doing. But when we are biking, all she is to me is an asskicker.

I can beat my wife in a distance race or competitive jog, but when we ride bikes, she makes hills look so fucking easy it makes me sick. She keeps her bike geared up and handles the hills of punishment with a “thank you sir, can I have another” attitude like none other. So this frustrates me to no end. So how can I fix this? Stay geared up and race her? Not a chance.

The key to not feeling like you got your ass kicked is not to out run the kick, but to dodge it. Why does my wife beat me? That actually is not even the question. The question is why am I riding my bike? I am riding it for low impact fitness. Why am I choosing to ride it a certain way? I choose to ride in a low gear, often 1-1 or 1-2, up hills? The reason I am is because I am trying to keep my foot/leg speed constant, you can’t coast while running. I am keeping my pace steady, a key to distance running. YOU HEAR THAT SELF. I am not even racing. I AM PRACTICING SOME RUNNING TECHNIQUES! YOU CANT KICK MY ASS BECAUSE I AM NOT PUTTING IT OUT THERE! I do not mean that in a cowardly way. Its not that I am not trying, its that I am trying very much in my own way. Find out why you are doing what you are doing. Make sure you still feel that you are headed towards your goal. Make sure you still firmly believe in all that you are and all that you have done and will do.

Hike Your Hike

Who To Compare Yourself To.

This can be a difficult question to answer. One answer could be to compare yourself to your running partner. If you are lucky enough to have one, comparing yourself to them can help you if you need that type of motivation, but here is the catch. You and that person can have very different days which can result in very different runs. The best example I have is my wife and I. I work at a job that has me on my feet about 50% of the time, doing work that is not exactly manual labor, but alas I spend some time on my feet. I work this job from 7am-6pm Monday-Thursday and then 8am-5pm on Fridays. I do not have a lot of time for exercise other than in the evenings or short “burst’” during the day. My wife has a bit of a different schedule. She works from 8:30-4:30 Monday – Friday. She goes to the gym before work and burns about 400-600 calories during her work out. She is also a calorie counter. This does not work for me, but she has hiked her hike to 20lbs worth of weight loss. Exercise AND DIET changes are to credit, and she is aiming for another 20lbs or so. Because she has more time in the mornings and evenings, it is her job to work the dogs in the afternoon when she gets home. She walks our dachshund three times a week and our new shepherd mix five days a week. This burns another 100-200 calories given the speed and the hilly path she walks. So by the time I get home to run with my wife, she has burned anywhere from 500-800 calories and exercised for about two hours. So the possibility of my wife not have a strong evening run is tremendously higher than my own. One evening, on my third night of running and after about a week of doing calf raises, lunges, and pushups at work, my wife stated, “You have gotten so much faster in just three days.” She used the treadmill reference, “You were a 4.0 on Monday and you were a good 6.0 tonight (Wednesday).”

Now I did feel like a little stronger on Wednesday, so I enjoyed the compliment. I did however worry that it may have been a bit discouraging to my lovely wife. She works her ass off, looks incredible and in a few runs, she was not the pacesetter for the entire run. This is the danger with comparing yourself to someone.

Now, the reason my “pace” seemed faster is for a few reasons. Having no medical training I say, by the third night my legs seemed a little more comfortable under me. I was also beginning to find a bit of my natural gait back. Most people have a pretty close stride to height ratio. Tall people take long strides. Short people take short strides. I am a little taller than my wife so my natural stride is a little bit longer. So even though my pace seem faster, I had not really gained very much in the way of fitness. It was an illusion. It was not a trick though. Whores turn tricks. #casualarresteddevelopmentreference. When it comes to fitness, you do not gain it in a week and you can not lose it in a week.

So comparing yourself to someone else can be good, but it can be very detrimental too. I have however found one person that you can without a doubt compare yourself to; yourself if you did not get up when you did. Imagine how much faster and stronger of a runner, cyclist, or even walker you are when you get up and move. Imagine that you had not stood up, put on some running clothes, grabbed your running shoes, and hit the road. Imagine all of the things that you are working towards that you would not be able to accomplish if you stayed on the couch or in the bed or in front of the computer, but stay in front of the computer for this. This is helping. Trust me.

You are a stronger person, every bit of you, for just getting up and challenging yourself to do more than you can do. If you can run 100 miles, run 101 miles. You are stronger. If you can run four laps, 4.25 laps. You are stronger. If you can only run half a lap and need to walk half a lap, you are stronger than the previous you with each step.

Hike Your Hike

Next Post:
On Thursday, getting your ass kicked and not feeling like a loser.

Creative Running: Finger painting with your feet.

People get bored.  It’s what we do.  I am pretty sure it is what seperates us from the monkeys.  Want to make sure that your species survives?  Give them about a 30 second attention span and make getting attention the most important thing there is to about 85%, low ball figure, of the species.  So how then do we keep running exciting?  How do we keep it popping fresh and out of sight and dope stupid?  Here are a couple of rules I have found that help me stay interested in running.

 

1) Why are you running?  

    This is not going to keep you interested in running very long.  If you think that losing weight will make you interested in something, chances are you are wrong.  We are vain yes.  But vain enough to spend hours doing something that we hate?  If you run 10-12 minute miles and you run 15 miles a week, that is 150-180 minutes or 2.5-3 hours doing something that you find WHOLLY uninteresting, just to be given a few compliments.  This may be able to motivate you, but here is the problem with this,  THE COMPLIMENTS COME AFTER MONTHS OF WORKING OUT.  So better to use being more healthy and more in shape, aka hot shit, to only get you to get up off of the couch and out the door.  The first step should contain all of your hopes and dreams for your new body and new healthy way of living.  That’s it.  One step.

 

2) Where am I running?

    This is what I find to be one of the most entertaining aspects of running.  It is able to be done anywhere.  Seriously.  Where can you not run?  If you can put your feet there,  you can run there.  I am fortunate to live on a dirt road that gives me the chance to treat the road as a very safe running path.  So when I start a run I have a few choices.  I can run only on the dirt road.  This consist of a down and back sort of run with a turn around point.  I also have several large circuits I can run as well as several additional down and back sort of runs.  Now, for those of you who have to deal with cars and traveled roads, do not fear.  You still have several options when it comes to running.  If you have a loop that you can do, most neighborhoods were laid out by people and consist of blocks (pretty freaking handy for runners), you can just reverse the loop that you normally do.  Pretty simple right?  This is the first way that I try to jazz up a run.  In the words of Missy Elliot, “yerp hap something and reverse it.”

    The next trick is to just take off.  Sometimes I just run until I feel as though I am half way, or three fourths of the way, tired so then I turn around or find some serpentine path back to home.  This “free running” is cool because no matter how far you run you will not feel like you failed.  If you are tired and do not run that far, eh, you were not feeling that great and rest, after all, is important; and you did run some right?  Yes you did.  #boom.  It can also work for the better.  You can run further than you thought because you did not feel the pressure of completing a course.  You had no pressure going in so whatever you did was going to be good.  You felt good so you just keep running.  Some of my fastest and best feeling runs, are ones where I just take off and run hard until I get tired, turn around, and try to hang on until the end.

 

3) How am I running?

    I find this to be the most difficult of my running entertainment.  Sometimes you run fast and sometimes you run slow and mixing the two together can make for a mentally pleasing run.  I believe the term is Fartlek, running a varied tempo run, but I think of it as training the yourself for the mental part of running.  So I generally start this run at a normal pace.  Not a fast pace, but not a slow pace.  Right now, it is somewhere around 9:00 per mile pace.  I run that for at least a 1/2 mile to sort of be a little warmed up before starting to vary the tempo.  Now the hard part, pick two points.  Any thing will do.  You do not necessarily need a starting point, just take off, but the ending point is very important.  When you start, pick up your pace to what I call my “attacking pace”.  It is certainly not a sprint, but it is a little bit of an offense pace to anyone you may have been running with.  Namely my wife for me.  It should be a pace that makes you look like an absolute douche trying to impress a group of girls with a collective IQ of about 60.  As a side point, I do not condone making fun of people, no matter how stupid or douchy, but stupid people do not read so I don’t really thing of this as making fun of them.  Anyway.  It should be a daring pace to say the least.  Now once you find that pace, do everything in your power to hold that pace until you reach the end.  The first couple times you will miss the mark, but make sure you are tired at the end, but that you can finish it.  After you cross the finish, you can walk briefly, but try to settle into a slow jog.  Now the hardest part happens.  After jogging what what is not going to seem like long enough, 3-5 mins or maybe somewhere just short of a 1/2 mile, pick a new end point and take off.  It is unbelievably difficult to find yourself tired and still finding the the will to make your self speed up.  This will help you tremendously when you find yourself in a road race and you need to dig deep to keep pace and you my friend, will be able to find it.

    This also helps what seems like something that should come natural, it helps you notice your foot speed.  As a runner, you need to be able to tell, without a clock, if you are slowing down or speeding up.  The more you actively vary your running pace, the more you will be in tune with your leg and foot speed.  This will help you notice quickly if you are falling off of your goal pace.  It can also help you to speed up your pace in a very controlled way, that can help you shave a 10 or so seconds off of your final time, without having to speed up so much that you fall flat.  Being able to notice those small changes in foot speed can really help you become a runner that is able to hit their marks with a high degree of accuracy.  

 4) Who are you running with?

    Find people to run with.  People are fun.  People are mostly good.  Be good people.  Most people who run are doing it for all the right reasons.  Most are only competing with the clock.  Here is a test I borrowed from comedian Pete Holmes.  After through a race, sing the opening lyrics to “Mama Said” (Mama said there be days like this).  Make sure it makes you smile.  This will keep you in the right state of mind I promise.

Back to the people though. You do not always have to run with people, but they can make it a hell of a lot more fun.  Simple tip, but possibly the hardest.  To help find people, most running stores have some kind of program or club and most major cities have a running club as well.  Seek it out.  Google + running + your town = finding people.

 

Hike Your Hike. 

 

Running With Patience. A Lesson Learned The Hard Way.

Typical running is based on setting distance and time goals.  I want to be able to run X distance without stopping.  I want to run X distance in Y amount of time.  This helps to quantify what the runner is doing.  Helps you know that you are getting better.  This was the way that I initially approached getting back into shape.  I was getting into shape because my wife and I were invited on a 3 day backpacking trip on the AT with two friends.  My wife, being the realist, knew that she would need to start a fitness program.  She joined a gym and would go before work, due to a new work schedule she would be starting work later.  My wife hates.  HATES.  To drive so much that since the gym was close to work, so she could still miss all of the morning traffic by going to the gym.  Example one of how you just need to find your reason to get into shape.  So she began her fitness regiment and I rested easy in the fact that I was in shape and would do fine.  I was the fit one.  Nothing to worry about.

My wife and I did start to run with two of our friends.  Long story short is that I did what I assume most “use to be runners do” and started out by trying to run 8:00 min miles for 3 miles.  Running three days a week, I started at running 800 meters on pace one day to running 1600 meters on pace the next day of running.  After three weeks I was in incredible knee pain.  The reason now is obvious.  I have had knee trouble in the past and it became a problem during my running.  With zero medical training, except for being a worrier that uses google a lot, I believe the fitness of my knee was at a much lower level than my overall fitness level.  So this side tracked me three weeks prior to our hiking trip.

Seeing as this is not a blog centered on hiking, I will briefly describe my hiking trip in the AT.  6-8 inches of snow.  40 degree day and 20 degree night.  EXTREME KNEE PAIN.  Also, I feel in LOVE with the AT and the outdoors.

After the trip my wife continued her fitness routine and I was unable to do anything toward fitness because of two months of lingering knee pain and two months of fear of it returning.  This leads us into March of 2012.  At this point I am waking up happy everyday because of the warm weather that is coming; that night on the AT scared any love of cold weather right out of me,but the warm weather gives me hope of fair weather camping.  It was about a week into my REI web surfing and trail planning that I remember, Stephen you idiot.  You are a soft, out of shape piece of shit.  Sometimes you have to get real with yourself.  I look like I did back when I was in shape, but I am far from it.  So how am I going to get into shape.  I had tried this before and it failed so badly.

I have met one AT thru hiker in my life and his name was Leaf.  Trail name of course (trail names are names that you give yourself or names that are given to you so people can remember who they met on the trail.  I have no trail name, but my wife was given the name Little Toe since she was going to go WEE WEE WEE all the way home.  Awesome.  I know.  Wish I had a cool trail name.)

Leaf was asked by a fellow hiker, “what do you think of people who are slack packing the AT and saying they thru hiked it?”  Slack packing is hiking the AT with a daypack and having arrangements to take you off the trail every night to a warm bed and nice food and then getting returned the next morning.  The undertone of the question was “Hey Leaf.  What you are doing is awesome.  Are those other people bastards for cheapening what you are doing?”  With a tone that is used to calm a rabid dog or to talk someone off of a ledge, Leaf replied, “There is saying about the AT.  Hike your hike.”  The tone was what exploded in my brain along with the words.  It is not about what other people are doing.  If it is you are rarely going to be happy or satisfied.  So I decided to to hike my hike.

This struck me on a whim one day during my lunch at work.  I had started reading the book A Walk In The Woods and was loving every minute of it.  The weather was unseasonably warm and I had a new routine at work.  Start lunch at 12:00.  Eat alone, all of my co workers eat at 11:00, but due to new job duties I had to eat at 12:00.  So eat at twelve and hope to be done eating by 12:20 or so I could get outside.  If the food was conducive to eating in my truck while reading I did.  If it did not I tried to eat with little distraction.  Not hurried, but I focused on eating.  So by 12:30 I would be reading outside in my truck windows down with the seat reclined.  It was amazing.  By 12:40 I would generally be considering a nap and also would have talked with my wife during her lunch.  So by 12:40 I was in a great place.  This is very important to hiking my hike.

I had learned to find the time of the day that I was the most level headed to make decision about what I was going to that evening.  Do not decide first thing in the morning if you are exercising that day.  Unless you are an extreme morning person, you are not going to want to do much more in the morning besides sleep more.  Do not make exercise have to be sexier than it can be.  Spoiler alert!  It is not very sexy.  So for me, I do not decide in the morning if I am going to exercise because I would chose no 98% of the time.  It is important to stay as positive as possible about running and exercise.  Again, do not handicap running’s sex appeal.  You also do not want to feel trapped into exercise.  That can just add to stress that may occur during the course of the day.  I assume that if I do not feel excited about exercising during the best part of the day, I probably will not feel like doing it when I get home from a long day of work.

So the road to fitness has begun.  It will contain mistakes, triumphs ,and bobcats.  Full disclosure.  This last part was added weeks after the rest.  So yea.  Bobcats.  Foreshadowing 🙂

Hike Your Hike.