Well…heavy snow in the mountains with moderate winds equals zero peaks over the Memorial Day weekend. I actually did drive up to the access road to Mount Melissa, but was turned back by blizzard conditions and a snow covered road, I can’t wait till summer! So, with the high country out of reach I decided I needed a training day in which I pushed myself to see where my conditioning was at and I decided to make a hike up the Walla Walla River trail.
This year I’m paying close attention to my nutrition especially while out hiking to see if I can increase my physical output and decrease my recovery time post climb. I decided that I would make an effort to stop on the hour and try to replace at least half the calories burned and drink at least 20 ounces of water. I also wanted to stretch my legs a little and try to hike at least 20 miles, yes I said 20 miles (yeah I know I’m crazy).
One nice thing about the trail is that it slowly gains in elevation and over the ten plus miles I hiked out I only gained a thousand feet in elevation. I passed a couple people on the way out and after a few miles I had the trail to myself, so I settled into a nice pace and and before long it was time for my first “on the hour” break. One thing that I clearly noticed last year was that during my approach to the peaks I would find myself hiking for hours without stopping to replace any of the calories burned. The result of the calorie deficit was poor performance when I finally reached the peak. Self motivation is key when climbing solo and when you’re working off a calorie deficit it’s extremely difficult to stay motivated. With 51 peaks remaining for this year I need every little edge I can possibly find.
The second hour passed by with my second food/water break and I began to realize that at my pace I would hit the ten mile mark in three hours. After six miles on the trail I still felt fresh so I pushed on to the three hour mark. The three hour mark passed by without a stop and I felt my mind pushing my body further trying to ignore the fact that it was an “out and back” trip and that every mile covered heading up the river I would have to repeat on my way out. Let’s see…if I continued on up the trail another ten miles I would end up at the headwaters of the Walla Walla River which is also the end of the trail along an access road. I’ve always wanted to walk the entire trail and the way I felt I knew I could physically do it in a day. Unfortunately in order to get back to my car I would have to turn around and follow my tracks back down the trail I had just covered.
After making the decision to turn around my focus turned to filling my water bottles for the hike out. I found a wildlife trail which led down to the river where I sat and filtered a couple bottles of water and enjoyed the cool afternoon. For the hike out I decided to push my time-line out a little and planned a food/water break every hour and a half.
With full water bottles in the pack and my headphones in for the first time for the day I started my way back to the car. Not in the mood for music, I listened to Car Talk podcasts on the way out which made the time pass by (oh, and yes I found myself laughing at Tom and Ray).
Wow, over twenty miles in a day with only a few small blisters, in fact, when I arrived home I jumped out and mowed the lawn before I walked inside. As far as recovery time is concerned I woke up the next day and decided to head to the Y to swim a mile (well the hot tub and steam-room were quite nice as well). I’m becoming totally convinced that I’ve found the missing piece to the puzzle. 49 peaks down and 51 to go.