Wednesday, 28 April 2010

On fitness, or lack thereof

I joined a gym almost a month ago, in part to help me train for the Two Moors Way hike from 19th to 25th July and in part because my skirts were too tight.  I've been a bit half-hearted about going, and I know from the experience of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh's expedition (55 miles in 4 days, with full kit weighing approx 35-40lbs) that hiking is No Fun if you're not physically prepared.  I also know that at the moment, I'm subconsciously dividing life into Before Finals (last exam is 10th June) and After Finals, so the 19th July is not only firmly After Finals, but is a whole month afterwards, so feels too distant to motivate myself to go the gym this week, or next, or probably the week after that.

So, I signed up for the Cotswold Way Challenge, hiking 13 miles on 19th June.  I'm doing it with a full pack, because I could hike the route tomorrow if I weren't carrying any weight.  I could even, probably, hike the route with a full pack through sheer bloodymindedness, but I wouldn't be able to do anything for a day or two afterwards!  To stave off the temptation to resort to determination, I'm hiking the Malverns the following day, covering approximately 10 miles along the spine, also with a full pack.  And then I'm going to go the gym the day afterwards: on past long distances hikes I've discovered that day 1 isn't too bad, day 2 is horrendous and day 3 is the beginning of the currve for my body into "Ah, right, you want me build muscles?  Ok, I can do that." and it starts to become fun again.

Just to remind my body what it's supposed to be doing, three weeks after that I'd going to hit the gym on Friday, go to the Peak District, the Lake District or the Breacon Beacons that evening, do two full day hikes with kit aiming for 12-15 miles a day, then come home and go back to the gym on the Monday.  Two weeks after that, I start the Two Moors Way for real.  These two training days, and three or four of the Two Moors Way ones will count towards the 20 Quality Mountain Days needed to attend the Mountain Leader (Summer) course.  I'm determined to rack up at least 10 this year, so between these & the 5 or so from previous years, I'm well on the way to meeting that target.

Meandering back to the point - my hiking navigation is better than this, I swear! - I discovered a new machine in the gym today.  I'd been toddling along on the rowing machine and the elliptical (cross) trainer, burning around 350 calories in half an hour but not really feeling like I'd done anything.  Today, I noticed a Summit Climber, much like one of these.  And boy, was it hard work!  The calorie counter reckoned I burned approximately half what the elliptical trainer claims, but I'm sure it was much, much harder work.  And, it targets all the muscles groups that you use when,well, climbing summits really.  I've booked a fitness test & training programme creation session for 9am Friday morning (Yuck.  What was I thinking?!) so hopefully I'll persuade the trainer that the Summit Climber should feature heavily in my programme.

On a final note, I realised that if I'm hiking up a hill as steep as that machine was simulating, I stop every 10 mins or so to catch my breath.  The programme didn't allow me to do that, and forced me to keep going.  I guess if I get used to 30min programmes, actually climbing a hill with breaks will seem like a doddle.  That's the theory at least...

Monday, 26 April 2010

The obligatory introduction

I've been hiking, on and off, for about a decade.  For me, hiking is about getting away from everything: there is simply nothing to beat sitting on the top of a mountain or tor or rock, looking around  in the sunlight and seeing no signs of human habitation in any direction.  This makes me fairly hopeless at the traditional English Country Walk After a Pub Lunch, because by definition you're near roads and a pub, and after a proper pub lunch, there's no way I can manage the sorts of ascents leading to the glorious solitude I crave, or at least not without feeling sick, which takes all the fun out of it.

In a fit of "Just Do It" a couple of weeks ago I bit the bullet and signed up for the Mountain Leader award.  I've done more than enough days over the years to meet the pre-requisites (20 Mountain days to attend an initial course, a further 20 before attending Assessment) but haven't logged them.  I've listed 5 from the last 7 years which I hope to use as part credit, then gain a further 5-7 in 2010, along with the required first aid qualification.  in 2011 I'll try to rack up a further 10 and the initial course, and depending on how that goes will attempt to complete the qualification in 2012.

Some of my past hikes which stand out in memory are training for the Ten Tors event on Dartmoor, although a sprained groin 4 weeks before the event put me out of the running for taking part.  I've done my Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award including a week in the Picos De Europa for the 4-day expedition.  I've hiked the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand, crossing a plateau which found fame as Mordor in the film of the Lord of the Rings. I've climbed Pen-y-fan in Wales and walked around Loch Maree and the Cairngorms in Scotland and walked up a Swiss valley - whose names escapes me - towards the Italian border (and back again).  All of these were either unsupported or centre-based, although in 2008 I went to the High Atlas mountains in Morocco for a 2-day trek supported by a mule and muleteer, and in October this year I'm off to Dana Nature Reserve in Jordan as part of a KE Adventure holiday supported by 4WD.  Before then, I'm hiking the Two Moors Way to raise money for World Vision UK and hiking part of the Cotswold Way as part of the Cotswold Way Challenge.  On my long-term wishlist is to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, but that's an enormous undertaking and it's likely to be 5 years or so before the rest of my life is amenable to a winter of crazy amounts of training and 6 months of unsupported hiking up the East coast of the USA.

It's going to be a busy year!