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  1. #1
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    Default How many miles can I cover my first day from Springer?

    Hey everyone,
    I'm taking 10 days off work to hike 163 miles from Springer to Fontana Dam in April 2015. I downloaded AWOLs "fast" plan, which has you doing 15+ miles your first and second day on the trail from Springer. My question is: Can I handle it?

    I am go to the gym 4-5 days a week for about 1.5hrs each doing weights and cardio. I can run 5 miles in <45 min. (Did it in 42min yesterday.) Right now, I'm doing the 5mil run 1x/week, but I plan to incrementally increase that to 3x/week as I get closer starting.

    My pack will be between 15-17lbs total weight at the start, so in the ultralight neighborhood.

    What do you think? Is this too ambitious or aggressive?

    Thanks.
    Cheers,
    David

  2. #2

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    If you're in good shape you might be able to do it. But averaging 16 miles out of the gate is too much for many people. I'd have a backup plan of finishing at Winding Stair Gap, Wayah Bald or NOC, and reassess your progress every couple of days. If you have to push yourself to the point you're not having any fun, what's the point?

  3. #3
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    Maybe, maybe not, but I second what Bronk said. You have 10 days off to go for a hike - if you just hike for 10 days and finish where you finish, you may enjoy it more. All depends on you, but when I changed to that approach instead of having to get somewhere on time, it made a world of difference.

  4. #4
    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    As a fit individual in your mid-30's, I see no reason why you wouldn't be able to cover 15 miles each of your first two days. However (there's always a caveat!), you increase the potential for joint/ligament issues going out of the gate that fast, especially if you're trying to push the pace so as to not run out of daylight. In addition, if you are not experienced walking all day long with a pack on your back, then you may lose focus towards the end of the day as you tire, or "bonk" if you aren't disciplined in keeping yourself hydrated and fueled.

    I covered the Georgia section in early April 2004 as a fit 47-year old who played soccer 2-3x/week, starting from Amicalola however. I forced myself to do three consecutive 12-mile days into Neels Gap, but after that I cranked out three consecutive 18-milers and could have done more. A mid-thirties soccer teammate experienced with backpacking joined me that hike, but he wrenched his knee trying to go too fast on the second day and got off at Neels Gap (otherwise I would've gone further that hike but he was waiting at his parent's home in Atlanta to drive back north with me). I've done consecutive 20+ mile days out of the gate (vicinity of Damascus) several times, so it is certainly possible but you increase the risk of injury.

    If you were attempting a thru-hike then I'd strongly recommend that you start in the 8-12 mpd range and slowly ramp up, regardless of your age and level of fitness. However, if you're okay with perhaps having to bail early due to injury then go for it. I will tell you that running fast in a straight line only gets you so far from a fitness standpoint, in that it doesn't stress a lot of the muscles and ligaments you will use for backpacking. Soccer and other activities involving complex movements provide better all-around conditioning for backpacking in my opinion that straightline running. Perhaps you could incorporate in some trail running -- even at a much slower pace -- to add another dimension to your workouts. I characterized my last section hike through Maine as an all-day step aerobics course where the steps vary in height and you are constantly twisting to avoid roots and rocks. Georgia is not nearly as difficult, but the only way to get your body used to a full day of backpacking is to backpack.

    Another idea: See if you can't get out on a few dayhikes of 15-20 miles beforehand, even if the terrain is easier than Georgia, but I warn you that I've seen and heard of a lot of otherwise fit Florida flatlanders who just don't understand what it takes to walk uphill for an hour. That part is more mental than physical in my opinion, but it takes a different mindset from walking fast in a straight line for an hour.

    As Bronk notes, know where your potential bail-out points are and try to give yourself sufficient flexibility to adjust your schedule; don't be beholden to someone else's schedule as your physical condition and the weather may dictate what you can and cannot do without injuring yourself or hating the trip.

    Good luck!
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

  5. #5
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadeye View Post
    Maybe, maybe not, but I second what Bronk said. You have 10 days off to go for a hike - if you just hike for 10 days and finish where you finish, you may enjoy it more. All depends on you, but when I changed to that approach instead of having to get somewhere on time, it made a world of difference.
    I agree. Though 16+ miles a day right out of the blocks is easy for a lot of folks, there is no way to tell for yourself unless you hike a lot already. IMHO long distance hiking is much less about overall fitness than it is about foot/leg toughness, experience and having great gear.

    My advice if you want to really do this is to WALK, a lot, between now and next spring. Every early-spring we do 16+ mile walks (working up to 20) around the city trails after work to toughen up our feet and legs, getting ready for long distance hiking and some ultra events. It really is not much about cardio, assuming you're already in reasonable shape. I seriously doubt if my heart rate got above about 100 anywhere along the AT except a very few of the steeper uphills.

  6. #6
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    Thank you for the responses! I hadn't considered the risks of injury due to the speed. And I agree that there is no substitute for the real thing. In FL, there just aren't the mountains. We used to live in GA, and we have done overnight trips on the AT. Those mountains are killer! I just don't know how to simulate it here. I've use the stairmaster at the gym and can do 22min. I feel the exertion, but I'm not winded. I also have a pretty strenuous leg workout I do once a week.

    I am out there for a physical challenge and the test of my endurance. I love nature and will enjoy the surroundings, but I want the challenge. At the same time, I want to have reasonable expectations, hence I am reaching out to the community for advice.

    Based on everyone's advice, I'll formulate a back-up plan and carry an extra day's worth of food/fuel just in case. And I'll add some trail running in there too.

  7. #7
    Registered User dudeijuststarted's Avatar
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    Hatsy, I'm an FL resident and prepared with yoga, weightlifting, and barefoot running on the beach (the sand/shell toughens your skin against blistering.) About a week into my hike from Springer I realized my shoes were too small and some minor knee pain required an early zero day. You're going to definitely hit some "***" climbs that will push your cardio, Cheoah Bald comes to mind...

    My advice to reach your speed goal is to continue your training (put lots of lunges in there,) learn how to really stretch your hips and back (that pack will seize them up,) and stay ultra light (that pack changes the whole game.) I'd also recommend yoga if you can afford it. In all sounds like you can do it.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by hatsy View Post
    Hey everyone,
    I'm taking 10 days off work to hike 163 miles from Springer to Fontana Dam in April 2015. I downloaded AWOLs "fast" plan, which has you doing 15+ miles your first and second day on the trail from Springer. My question is: Can I handle it?

    I am go to the gym 4-5 days a week for about 1.5hrs each doing weights and cardio. I can run 5 miles in <45 min. (Did it in 42min yesterday.) Right now, I'm doing the 5mil run 1x/week, but I plan to incrementally increase that to 3x/week as I get closer starting.

    My pack will be between 15-17lbs total weight at the start, so in the ultralight neighborhood.

    What do you think? Is this too ambitious or aggressive?

    Thanks.
    Cheers,
    David
    I had the exact same concern as you this year. I also planned on using the 15 mi/day plan. I am 69 years old and my pack was 20 lbs. total weight.

    I was surprised that the trail out of Springer was not difficult at all, and found it easy walking. I had planned on stopping at Hawk Mt , the 1st shelter at 8 miles, but I got there at 12:30, so I just continued the next 7 miles to Gooch Mountain. I think I arrived around 4:00 or so.

    You can decide what you want to do once you get to hawk mtn.

  9. #9
    CDT - 2013, PCT - 2009, AT - 1300 miles done burger's Avatar
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    If you want to do 15+ a day on that terrian, your training should focus on 2 things: 1) climbing hills and 2) endurance.

    For hills, I'm not convinced that the stairmaster is really training for climbing mountains on the AT--the muscles and the motions are different. If you're stuck in theflatlands, you're better off walking uphill on the treadmill at 15% (or higher if your treadmill allows it) at a comfortable but hard pace for up to an hour at a time. Start with just yourself but gradually add weight in your pack. You will get strange looks at the gym, but who cares. If anyone asks you, you can tell them your prepping for a 200 mile hike, and I promise they will think you're a badass.

    As for endurance, you should work on hiking the same distance you'll be doing on the AT with a full pack. I realize there aren't hills in Orlando, but you can still work up to 15 (or more) miles a day with a full pack. That will be great training for your feet and leg muscles.

    Good luck with it. And most importantly, don't be afraid to adjust your plan once your on the trail. Better to go a bit slower than you planned than to get hurt.

  10. #10
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    As far as running 5 miles it will get you in shape for running. However I'm a retired Ultra runner and in training I always thought I would have done been if I had done more walking in my training. After 50 to 60 miles it was a lot of walking to the finish and I never felt comfortable with my walking. Point is if your going for a long walk do in training what your going to do in your event whatever it is.

  11. #11

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    A stairmaster and hiking up mountains are totally different. On a stairmaster you are doing a repetitive motion. Hiking is more of a muscle confusion activity because every step is not the same. I was living in Florida when I decided to attempt a thru hike. After 3 weeks on the trail I was in shape and having a good time. Before that I alternated between 12 mile days and 5 mile days and spent a good bit of time miserable due to being out of shape. Now I do a few hiking trips a year and if I plan more than 10 mile days I don't have much fun...that's the difference between a long distance hike and a section hike...its an issue many people on this forum deal with.

  12. #12

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    As a runner who put in 700 miles per year for the past decade, I was surprised how poorly I was prepared for my shakedown hike 2 years ago. The hill descents left a burn in my ankles. After switching to walking, my hiking ability noticeably improved for the next 3 outings. Adding StairMaster to the program was helpful. For me, the mechanics of walking were night & day different than running.

    Increasing daily millage isn't just about physical preparation. With each shakedown hike, my ability to not waste time breaking camp improved. Dialing in on water stops also improved my millage. Learning how much water I need and having a plan is still work in progress. Time was wasted looking for a camp site. These time issues will be a big factor in determining daily millage. At least for me, physical preparation is only part of the deal.

  13. #13
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    I was just dealing with this question myself today. I have 2 weeks to hike and I'm debating on starting at Springer and heading north or at the north end of the Smokies and head south. I hike 25+ miles a day here in Michigan and have done some 20+ mile days on the Foot Hills Trail. My goal is to make it as far as possible in the two weeks but would love to make it the full planned section. Another big question is how often to resupply and how to do it. I"m an ultralight hiker 3 season with a base weight in the low teens for winter camping to help with making long distances easier. Great advice here guys.

  14. #14
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    There is no way to know if you can do this or not. some can do double this but they also have enough experience to know they can do it. Since you have to ask then I suspect you are not in as good of hiking shape as you think. start early, pace yourself and see how it goes. there are plenty of options of cutting it short. NOC would be a logical place.

  15. #15
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    When I sectioned this area years ago I was out of shape starting out and did 8.1 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter the first day. Your results may vary.

  16. #16

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    A few years ago in mid-April I made it from Amicalola Falls SP to just past Hightower Gap in the first day. If you are starting from Springer, I can see no problem getting to Gooch Gap shelter the first day. The climbs and descents into the gaps in that section can dog the newbie, especially if their pack is heavy. I started around 11 AM from AFSP and ended up night hiking a bit to a tenting spot ( Hawk Mountain shelter area was a zoo with tents all around the place and boy scout groups, so I pushed on). Figure about 13 hours of daylight for mid-April timetable, you need to average a little over a mile an hour to get to camp by dark if you leave at sunrise. It is doable. Key is keep pack weight on the light side. I would not load up on food the first days. You can get resupplied at Neels Gap on your second or third day. Hitch into Helen,Hiawassee, Franklin after that and get a final food pick up at NOC.

  17. #17

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    Try wearing the backpack. Try the inclined treadmill.

    I don't think stairstepper is a help, for hiking in hills and mountains.

    I was told NO! deep knee bends, only shallow knee bends, and, do not overdo.

    I did run-walk one quarter of a cinder track, one or two times around, then, cross-country run-walk or walk-run to each end of Bellingham, WA well, "Old Town" south of town to north of town near the airport and along the railway easement.

    I had to rescue a famous athelete, once. He wanted to run. I suggested he run up ahead to the next junction in the trail and wait for me there. He was wrong about the choice of trail, so I am glad he listened to me. It helped him to run. He was reciting his army survival training. He was really a mess. But this "strategy" got him through, and, he wasn't too much of a burden on me. I had to keep him from panic.

    I told you this, because you may like running, if you are a runner. But "run" the "easy" cross-country, if you like. But learn the "rest step" for high miles. It is for endurance: it works.

    The "rest step" is no plodding along. It is "fully" shifting weight, from/to each side.
    Last edited by Connie; 12-14-2014 at 20:12.

  18. #18

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    10 days to get from Springer to Fontana dam is pretty optimistic. Especially in April when you can have more then a few (really) bad weather days. How are you with dealing with 24 or 36 hours of on and off 40 degree rain and drizzle?

    If this is your first backpacking trip and first experience hiking in the mountains, I'd guess "probably not". It's not rocket science, but there is a definite learning curve. If your TOTAL load is 15-17 pounds including food and water, that's not a lot of gear. If you plan early April, that probably isn't enough gear. Starting late April is a better bet to survive using UL gear.

    There are some stretches in GA where 15 MPD is pretty easy. There are many more where it would be pretty hard. Then once you cross into NC, they really beat you up, first with the "Stair way to heaven" climb out of Bly Gap and then Mt Albert, which really gets most peoples attention. There are more then a few good climbs and descents in that 163 miles. You really have to be careful with the descents, as that's where you can develop shin splints.

    But there is only one way to find out if you can or can't and that's by trying. But if this is your first trip, it is advisable to scale back your goals and take it easy to learn what you are capable of first.
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  19. #19
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    An option - start really early every day, hike a lot of total hours, take two long breaks, break the day up into 3rds..........ie 6 miles, break, repeat.

  20. #20

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    Joey Camps made it to NOC starting at Springer in 3 days.

    Just start walking and see how far YOUcan go. I too wanted to bust out a ton of miles on a 9 day hike. Did a couple of over nighters and discovered I was most comfortable around 12-15 mpd. Tired but able to hike the next day.

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