Thunderhead Training Hike – Training Retrospective

As a warmup to our upcoming Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim hike, we hiked from Cades Cove, TN to the summit of Thunderhead totaling 13.9 mi round-trip and 3665 feet of ascent. This post is a retrospective on my fitness following that hike and looking ahead to the GC.

Training Retrospective
Since the main goal of this hike was training (i.e. fitness), I felt like we pushed it more than we had to. However, at no time did I feel like I was redlining. At times, my heart rate was elevated and I began to sweat, but I really didn’t feel like I was pushing over 75-80%. Aerobically, I feel pretty good about where I am. However, there are two areas where I don’t feel perfectly comfortable.

The first area is simply the pounding that my feet took. As I described it to Daryl near the end of the hike, I felt as if someone had used a meat tenderizer on my feet for 7.5 hours. I’ll be consulting wiht Dr. Scholl’s later, but asking about this on a hiking forum, people told me that feet get tougher and it is quite common for beginners to have pain such as this. The good news is that the foot pain was mostly gone by the next day.

The second area was my quadriceps, which really surprised me. Cycling is all about quads and calves so I really thought my quads would be in shape. In fact, I was worried much more about hamstrings and I didn’t feel a thing in this area. Obviously, hiking/backpacking makes use of quads in a very different way than cycling. I began to feel sore about 24 hours after the hike and it has continued for about four days. It doesn’t worry me as I’m used to being sore because I’m always pushing myself when the weather is good. The soreness is easing now and I’m back to training, but I guess the lesson is that I don’t really have a training exercise that will substitute for actually hiking. And that leads into thoughts that I’m probably better off hiking around Rainbow “Mountain” or Monte Sano than spending more hours on the stairclimber.

I’m going to continue the running as I believe that helps more than cycling. And, I’ll probably continue to exercise in the company gym a couple of days per week because I really don’t have time to go out to trails every day. However, I think I really need to get it some real hiking in the next two weekends. 18 days to go!

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