One of my biggest questions preparing for this adventure
run is, ďHow do I train to run more miles in four months than I
usually do in a whole year?Ē
Despite having a strong ďbaseĒ of over 40,000 running miles
(plus a lot more walking miles) during the last 25 years, my average annual
mileage is 1,601.
My highest mileage year was eons ago, 2,403 miles in 1985.
Last year was my fourth LOWEST mileage year with only 1,069.5 miles.
The Appalachian Trail is 2,175 miles long, and I expect to
run it in four MONTHS???
Um, yes. Here's my rationale.
Because of the extreme cumulative elevation gain and
notorious rocks much of the way, there will be a lot of walking, too Ė I
estimate Iíll be walking 60-70% of the time.
I can cover a lot of ground in 6-12 hours a day, even with
a lot of walking.
But Iíve got to avoid any serious injuries. Last yearís
mileage was low because it included only five months of decent training. In May,
I got an obscure tendon rupture in my Mortonís toe (2nd toe longer
than the big toe, causing extra stress on it when I run). I didnít get it
properly diagnosed until September. Surgery to correct it wasnít until October.
After two months of recovery, I was able to resume walking
in late November, and running in mid-December. While it wasnít quite as bad as
starting from scratch, I really had to be careful not to ramp up my mileage too
quickly and risk re-injury to my foot.
This is what my mileage has been since surgery (almost all
November: 29.5 miles, all walking
December: 92.5 miles, still a lot of walking
January: 154.5 miles, mostly running
February: 162.0 miles, mostly running; longest run 4
March: 225.0 miles, projected; longest run 6-8
April: 250.0 miles, projected; longest run
Iím in trouble again:
Total AT mileage (2,175) divided by 122 days (May through
August) is averaging just under 18 miles a day or 125 miles a week (17 weeks).
The only times Iíve done 100 miles in a week were when I finished 100-mile
Worse, Iíve never done more than three long consecutive
runs. I ran 70 miles in three days during the Western States training runs in
2001 and about the same distance at the three-day Leadville training weekend in
1999. I survived those.
THE LONG-HIKE CONCEPT OF "TRAIN AS YOU GO"
If I were a horse, I donít think there would be a lot of
people putting their bets on me!
But donít count me out yet. With a light pack, I can walk a
lot of miles in a day, supplemented by as much running as the terrain allows. If
hikers can manage some 20-25 mile days once theyíre conditioned to the Trail, I
should be able to do that or more when I get my ďAT legs.Ē
This is not the ideal training schedule before such a long
run. Obviously, I wish I had a stronger base last year. I wish I could run more
miles this year before I start my trek Ė but Iím not willing to risk injury to
do that so soon after surgery.
I strongly believe that I can accomplish my goal if I am
healthy when I begin the run, start with sensible mileage, walk 60-70% of the
time, and proceed with more caution than wild abandon.
That doesnít mean I have to forfeit any of the fun. This
will be a lot more fun if I donít tear another tendon or get another stress
So Rule #1 for Runtrailsí AT Adventure Run is ďDonít get
Rule #2 is ďHave fun!Ē
Like most of the back-packers that thru-hike the AT, I will
be doing a lot of my training as I go up the Trail. Iíll start off gradually from Day
One and increase my mileage in proportion to the increases in my stamina and
endurance along the way, just like a smart thru-hiker does.
Train as I go.
David Horton and others estimate it takes
about a month to start feeling really fit on the Trail, and possibly longer.
Then the miles start feeling easier, and daily distances can increase.
This works well on the AT because in a month I should be in
Virginia, where the Trail is generally less strenuous than in North Carolina and
Tennessee. And I'm familiar with some of the Trail in Virginia, where I train
now. So it'll be fun to do some higher-mileage days there.
TIME ON MY FEET
Before I start, I want to get my longest training run up to
at least 30 miles or eight hours on my feet. Iím not doing any ultras until
Vermont 100 in July, during the trek. I think a race would just result in lost
training time because Iíd want to taper before the race and recover afterwards.
I started training with my pack in February. I describe
the gear Iím using in
I intend to employ the same hard-easy concept to this run
as I do in my training: alternating hard and easy days, hard and easy weeks. The
terrain and weather will dictate much of this, as well as my conditioning. Some
segments msy be up to forty miles long, some may be as short as eight. In
training, I do well with two back-to-back runs, like 20-20s, usually
feeling better on the second run. So I will probably do some B2B runs like that
along the way.
I will be flexible, rest when needed, and take longer than
four months if necessary.
And if everything is going just great, wouldnít it be a
kick if I finished it even FASTER than I anticipate??
CROSS-TRAINING, MASSAGE, & CHIROPRACTIC
During my 25 years of running Iíve also been cross-training
a lot. This is what my current weekly schedule looks like, in addition to the
Walking: up long or steep hills during training
runs, sometimes just walking on an easy day to get in more time on my feet.
Sometimes I do fast uphill walking on a treadmill as it forces me to walk faster
than I would outside.
Weight machines: three times a week for 20-30
minutes each time; approximately 2/3 of the time on upper body muscles, 1/3
back, abs, and legs.
Pool running: about one hour/week; no impact, some
upper body resistance; boring but effective.
Cycling: upright or recumbent bike, only
occasionally. I havenít ridden my road bike since last summer.
Yoga, Pilates, stretching, balancing exercises:
about three hours/week.
I also get
massage and a chiropractic adjustment every four-five weeks. I plan
to continue those appointments during the AT run. We need to return home briefly
several times during the trip, so Iíll schedule appointments with my own
massage therapist and chiropractor instead of choosing folks blindly while weíre
on the Trail.