Training for Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour

How is the training going for the Grand Canyon Backpacking Tour, you ask? Well, there is both bad news and good news.

Let’s dispense with the bad news. Please note that I’m going to claim three excuses here all while knowing well that there are no excuses. But these are really good excuses, which of course, doesn’t count in the least. Whatever. Cue the violins, please.

For excuse number 1, I’m going to claim runner’s knee that I suffered from December through February. I maintained a high degree of fitness throughout 100 Milevember and my plan was to continue to run througout the winter because the weather during the past few winters has prevented much cycling. However, I lost 2-3 months trying to figure out how to get over the runner’s knee and the weather was indeed terrible for cycling. I lost a lot of fitness during that period.

For excuse number 2, I’m going to claim my schedule. My boss came to town twice recently, which disrupts my schedule terribly through marathon meetings and business dinners. If I’m not careful, the rich dinners can also disrupt my weight. I also had a business trip to the UK and India just as a I was dipping my toe back into the running pool. We can throw into this mix a week spent at an offsite meeting in Huntsville and a Spring Break vacation. I did make an effort to run through all of this and, while I did not gain significant ground, I did not lose ground.

For excuse number 3, I’m going to claim my failed, hiking challenge. On the back of the success of 100 Milevember challenge, I issued a challenge that required hiking seven, local trails. Unfortunately, this did not seem to inspire anyone, even me. I hiked Rainbow Mountain and one of the Monte Sano trails, but they are so easy that no one was challenged. Hence, fail.

Now that you’re weeping for my misfortune, let’s turn it all around with the good news.

I think I can officially declare that I’m over the runner’s knee. I fully believe that it was caused by severe supination of my left foot exascerbated by the new running shoes that I bought at the end of 100 Milevember in an attempt to get a little more cushion underneath my heels. While I suspected this as the cause, it took a good month of rest to reduce the inflamation in my ITB to prove it out.

In the last two weeks, I’ve been able to stabilize my schedule and get in a lot of work; especially last week, in which I spent two lunch periods in the gym focusing on exercises that target hiking including some sessions on the stairmaster. I spent another two lunch periods on out on the roads running. I took three, short, hard bike rides after work and a longer ride on Saturday morning. And I was able to run commute on Friday, which makes for an 8 mile day. (Good, 15 mile run commute on the previous Saturday.) For the first time this year, I felt like I really made some progress. (The cycling legs are pitiful, but I’m trying not to worry about that as my primary goal is to make sure I don’t bonk halfway up one of the rims of the Grand Canyon.)

Now, all that exercise is all well and good, but all I can really say is that my general fitness is improving. I still need some actual hiking. From the first discussions of the GCBT, we discussed the need for a decent climb that we can only get in the appalachians. The original plan discussed was a two-day hike that would start in Cades Cove, climb Thunderhead the first day, and onto Clingman’s Dome the second day. Unfortunately, we were not able to work this into our schedules so the plan is now down to a single day hike.

So, this coming Saturday, we will be doing a 14-mile, out-and-back hike to the summit of Thunderhead, which also includes the famous Rocky Top and another peak informally called Rocky Top Two. You can read about the route, the vistas, and the hike here at HikingInTheSmokys.com. Our route is as follows (I’m not sure I ended on the correct peak).

Thunderhead Route

Thunderhead Route

This hike is listed at 13.9 miles with 3665 feet of elevation gain. It has a difficulty rating (on HikingInTheSmokys.com) of 21.93, which puts it just shy of the three hikes up Mount LeConte.

I’ll post in detail once this hike is complete, hopefully with plenty of photos.

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