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Training for a speed hike.
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Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Training for a speed hike. on 01/27/2010 18:53:55 MST Print View

I'm looking at attempting something this June or July that will be pretty insane for me. I want to hike a 116 mile section of trail in three days, unassisted. I've never completed one thirty mile day, let alone a forty miler, so this will be a challenge.

I know there are a lot of people on this forum with high mileage experience, and I'd love it if you'd share some tips with me.

My gear list is both light and good, but could probably be better tailored to this. I'd especially like suggestions on footwear.

I'm in good shape right now, but could certainly improve. I hike and trail run at least forty miles per month, but am looking to take that up to sixty or more. The average hike I take is probably about three miles, but I'll take a few between six and eight every month and throw in a 10-12 miler for good measure.. What type of training/stretching/etc would you recommend? What can I do to improve my stamina?

One thing I'm thinking I should focus on is eating better. Despite all of the hiking I do, I maintain ten or so pounds I don't need due to a fondness for pizza and beer. What do you eat to encourage muscle building and stamina?

Any other tips for the hike itself would be appreciated as well. The trail is the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail in Massachusetts. It's relatively flat, although it's got two big rivers that create a bit of an issue. I'll probably have to barter passage across one of them via a boat.



Edited by Knaight on 01/27/2010 18:56:07 MST.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Training for a speed hike. on 01/27/2010 19:10:23 MST Print View

What is your mix of trail time versus eat/sleep time?

Andy Berner
(Berner9) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Training for a speed hike. on 01/27/2010 19:11:01 MST Print View

Sounds like your doing well. I'm interested in this myself.

I would guess your at the point where you should go out and do a 15 miler. Next time try 20. Then 25, 30, 35... see how it goes and that right there will show you.

I really wanna be able to do Isle Royal down and back doing 20-30 mpd.

Anyways good luck and keep training


Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Training for a speed hike. on 01/27/2010 21:03:21 MST Print View

you're talking about 38 miles a day for 3 days ?
I'd say your training routine is very inadequate.
There's a bit of a difference between 1 - 38 mile day and 3 of them back to back.

If the trail is mostly flat with little elevation gain and loss, and at fairly low altitude, you at least have that on your side.

If your planned pack is more than 12 lbs or so, I would switch to doing most of your workout with a pack on to train all those other muscles too.

10 miles a week is pretty minimal for what you are planning.
Just my opinion but 3 mile hikes are too short for what you're planning.
You should be doing at least one 20 miler a month (with pack) as soon as possible.
Do at least one 38 mile day (with pack) 4-6 weeks before you're trip just to see if you have a shot at this plan.
If you have trouble with that, then 3 days of 38 miles won't happen.

Stress longer mileage hikes with good rest days to recover.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Training for a speed hike." on 01/27/2010 21:35:57 MST Print View

Heed Arts' advice, he's pretty spot on. You definitely need an increase in your daily mileage and cumulative mileage weekly. 40+ miles per WEEK, not per month (as stated as your current avg. mileage), is probably more ideal and realistic for your goal, and a bit on the conservative side to say the least. Are you looking to accomplish this comfortably and enjoyably or just get through it sans health and sanity? Also, post your gear list up for some feedback from others here.

I personally would focus on the trail running for conditioning, in terms of achieving overall fitness and stamina that is your best bet for preparing your body for the long days of hiking. If your body is accustomed to running up and down variable terrain for extended periods of time it will likely be much more prepared for speed walking with a pack on. Diet is going to also be vital to figure out now, your food intake should be viewed as fuel for your runs/fast hikes; eating what is essential for maintaining your increased metabolism, muscle recovery and growth, and meeting your body's inevitable higher caloric demand on the trail and off.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
speed and time on the feet on 01/27/2010 21:40:26 MST Print View

I agree that your current training program is inadequate. However, depending on the depth of your hiking base, and on your will to suffer, you should be able to complete the project.

First thing, you will suffer. Your feet will hurt like crazy at moments. You can mitigate this a great deal, but you'd also do well to get used to the idea ASAP, and get practicing on doing so by excluding quitting as an option.

Second thing, you'll need lots of time on the feet. Train with your trip weight in your trip pack, in the clothes and shoes and socks you'll use. Toughen up your feet, and get any gear issues well and sorted early.

Third, get fast. Train fast feet, and train hills. Train both to a substantially higher ability than you will need during the big trip, so that both will feel easy during.

For reference, this past summer I trained for a 50 mile race/hike, and some backpacks that covered 70+ miles in two days over mountainous terrain. I got to that point that a 20 mile hike with 4-5k of gain and a day pack could be done in around 6 hours with little stress or suffering.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: speed and time on the feet on 01/27/2010 22:27:31 MST Print View

Now that we may have freaked you out a bit let me say this:
While speed is preferrable it is not absolutely necessary to achieve your goal.
38 miles can be done in 17 hrs at a 2.25 mph pace.
This may sound slow, but keep in mind it includes ALL water, food, toilet, and misl. breaks during the day. So your moving pace could be 2.5 to 3.5 mph depending on your down time.

Efficiency and organization are key. No wasted down time, just keep moving.

David Wills
(willspower3) - F
Re: "Training for a speed hike." on 01/27/2010 23:00:35 MST Print View

The biggest problem i have ever had with consecutive big miles isn't conditioning, but joint health. Doing 30+ are always a huge pain on my feet and knees. I don't know how to strengthen those other than lots and lots of practice. good luck

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Wow, lots of replies! on 01/28/2010 02:38:18 MST Print View

Wow, can't believe I just woke up to this many replies. Thanks, everyone!


@ Greg -- Since I've never done something like this before, it's hard to say, but I'm guessing that it'll be about 16 to 17 hours hiking and the rest will be sleeping/eating in camp. If this turns out to be inadequate, I may decide to hike a bit longer on days two and three and get a couple hours less sleep that second night. I'm sure it'll make for a more than uncomfortable day three, but if it gets me to my goal it might be the way to go.

@ Andy -- This probably won't be the only post I make on this topic, so feel free to get involved and learn along with me. Maybe you'll think to ask important questions that I wouldn't have.

@ Art -- The trail's highest point of elevation is just over 1200 feet, and except for one 12 mile stretch, it's about as level as you could hope for. This is Massachusetts after all.

That said, I'm well aware that my training's inadequate. I do hike with my day pack weight, which is roughly 5 to 7 lbs depending on whether I take one or two liters of water. This includes my pack, emergency gear, a 100 wt fleece, and a windbreaker.

Throwing in a few more pounds and training with those sounds like a great idea, though. I imagine I'll have to carry a ton of food on this trip, so I might be close to 20 lbs when I start out.

I should be able to start doing a 20 miler per month right away. I might even be able to get two in. I'll start doing that.

@ Eugene -- 40 miles a That'll be tough to make happen with my full time job, but I bet I can get up to thirty if I'm creative and efficient with my time. Thanks for throwing out the big numbers, though. I guess it's time to start thinking in those terms.

As far as health and sanity on this trip go...I'm not planning to finish up in great mental or physical shape. I'd like to be free of permanent injuries and broken limbs, though. Since this is a big physical challenge for me, I'm aware that it'll take a lot. That's fine.

Also, as soon as the snow and ice are gone, I'll be doing a lot more running. Right now it's a bit tough. When the snow is deeper, it tends to pack down and I can run on it with my icespikes, but when it's the way it is right's pretty sketchy no matter what I do.

I'd love any tips on diet. I'm not sure what my protein/fat/sugars/carbs intake should be here.

@ David C. -- Yep, definitely planning on suffering here, but in some sick way, that's part of the fun. I like the idea of challenging myself this much.

Any tips on footwear? My current trailrunners are getting worn out, so as I'll be buying a new pair in the next month, I might as well buy what I'm planning on wearing for the big hike, even if it doesn't end up being the same pair. Should I consider special insoles?

@ Art again -- That's pretty much what I was planning for. With six months time, I don't see how I could train enough to average 4 MPH for ten consecutive hours each day, but I think 2.5 for 15 or 16 is possible.

@ David W. -- For the smaller mileage I've done, I've definitely found this is true, so I was banking on the fact that it would work for higher mileage as well. When I first started trail running, even two miles would be painful. After a few weeks, though, my muscles seemed to build up enough to do the trick.

Thanks again, everyone


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
shooz on 01/28/2010 19:50:04 MST Print View

"Any tips on footwear? My current trailrunners are getting worn out, so as I'll be buying a new pair in the next month, I might as well buy what I'm planning on wearing for the big hike, even if it doesn't end up being the same pair. Should I consider special insoles?"

Man, shoes are tough. So personal, and thus I hesitate to give advice.

Get ones that fit (duh), have plenty of toe room (for swelling feet), and are as light as is prudent. This year I've become a huge fan of light, low, flexible shoes like the LaSportiva Fireblade. It took a little while to adapt to such little "hard" cushion, but once I did I was more comfortable, including more comfort w/r/t the pounding of long days on hard trails.

I use blue Superfeet insoles in all my hiking shoes and my ski boots. I like the support, and the additional hard cushion the plastic bases provide, but more than anything I like that they help keep my super-skinny heel from moving around in my shoes. I find it hard to buy shoes big enough (see toe room, above) and still keep my heel locked in. The superfeet really help with this.

So, start buying now! You'll need time to test, sort out your preferences, and possibly try something new before the big trip.

And enjoy the process! Planning, training, and executing something like that is just great fun.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
La Sportiva on 01/28/2010 20:14:09 MST Print View

I'll look into the Fireblade. I've got the La Sportiva Rajas right now. They're great as far as comfort and traction go, but the durability seems a little low. After about 80 miles, part of my left sole came part-way off.

I've superglued it down four or five times now to keep it going, but I'm not sure how much longer it'll last. Right now it has an Ice Spike in it, so that'll probably help it along a little longer. I want to say these shoes have 200-250 miles on them now. I'd have liked to see them make it to 500 but it's probably not going to happen.

As far as comfort goes, I've never had a problem with the soles of my feet hurting, but after 12 miles or so my toes tend to get a bit sore from jamming into the front of the shoe. Maybe I bought them just barely too small...

Still, having never done a 30 or 40 mile day, Superfeet are more than worth looking into.

Joe L
(heyyou) - MLife

Locale: Cutting brush off of the Arizona Tr
Training on 01/28/2010 21:05:57 MST Print View

Random thoughts:
My opinion is there is no substitute for practicing on real trail but get rid of your extra ten pounds soon at the gym using an indoor treadmill for hours, split between before and after work to help your body recover. Working off that weight will also help you build up your joints which needs to start soon. After training for a while, you might start to notice which foods tend to give you more energy.

Find a headlamp that you like to use.

At age 60, an MSM chondroitin pill with each meal helped my joints stop crackling and popping, but now I smell like seafood (the pills are made from shellfish). "They say" that noise is also a sign of light dehydration that affects joints first. For training and the event, drink and eat lightly throughout the day, not just heavy at morning and evening. Look for better nutrition in your food and drinks--less junk food and caffeinated pop (a diuretic). You will burn all the calories, but you may need extra nutrition to rebuild what the exercise is using up.

"The best way to get good at carrying a heavy pack in high mountains is to carry a heavy pack in high mountains." That is a magazine quote from an American working as a porter in Nepal in the 1970s.

Fitness and familiarity: Train for your speed hike by speed hiking on all of the trail you will use. A final training goal could be hiking the first 2/3 of the trail in a weekend, then the overlapping 2/3 on the next weekend so each training day covers the same trail as the event. That builds familiarity if you are starting and finishing each daily section in the dark.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Shoes and Distance on 01/28/2010 23:27:24 MST Print View

There are lots of great models out there, you need to test them out very thoroughly and find what's best for you.

Get your shoes "Larger" than you think you should for those high mileage days. Big toe box and plenty of toe room at the end. On high mileage days my toes usually start hurting first.

If your toes hurt after only 12 miles your shoes are tooo small. Even tender feet should last longer than that.

Also ... I swear by Injinji Toe Socks. They are weird putting on, but feel totally natural very quickly. They definitely help prevent toe blisters.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Best of luck to you on 01/29/2010 00:51:24 MST Print View

I have done 30+ miles several times, and it takes it out of you. I never did it back-to-back days. I think the advice here is excellent, especially about getting larger shoes. Your feet will most certainly swell.

About the best advice I can give is to get up early and start walking. If you can average 3.0 miles per hour - a pretty good hiking pace - that's still nearly 13 hours a day of hiking, excluding breaks. Waking up late isn't an option in such circumstances.

Getting plenty of rest certainly helps, and if you are on trail for 14 hours a day (considering a break for lunch, getting water, short gbreaks) that leaves only 10 hours to sleep, eat, setup/breakdown sleeping area. Your body will want and need the rest.

Train yourself! Trying to do this with minimum training would be very difficult. Good luck! Let us know how it works out.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Training, Nutrition, Footwear on 01/29/2010 05:07:29 MST Print View

Okay, so right now it seems to be all about getting more training, better nutrition, and bigger footwear.

I'm thinking right off the bat that I can probably get my weekly mileage up to 25 miles. That's only two six or seven mile days and four three mile days, leaving room for an off day. When the ice melts and I can go faster, I should be able to get that number higher and start aiming for 120 to 150 miles per month.

Nutrition shouldn't be too hard to come by, I'll just need to do a bit of research and be disciplined. I'm thinking more protein, vegetables, and fatty acids is a good place to start.

Other than getting bigger shoes, I'm still at a loss in this department. The Fireblade's look like they may not work for me. I'm 6'2", 195 lbs, and it seems like bigger guys experience sore feet on high mileage days. I'm thinking I'll need a balance between lightweight, cushioning, and a large toe box, but that may be tough to find. I'll definitely try out a pair of those toe socks, though.

Thanks for your insights, everyone. Feel free to share more if you have them. I'm sure I'll have more questions along the way.


Brian Doble
(brian79) - MLife

Locale: New England
Find the "right pace" on 01/29/2010 06:16:06 MST Print View

Quote from Scott Williamson (Michelle is his wife):

I have found out that hiking someone else’s pace, which is significantly different from my normal pace, actually tires me out more than if I were doing my normal pace. Recently, when Michelle sat out for a few days to rest her feet, I opened up to 40-mile days and was shocked to find myself feeling much better than I did hiking 25 miles in the same 12-14 hour period. This makes me think that the amount of time spent on the feet plays almost as much of a role in fatigue as does the number of miles done.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Fast hike prep on 01/29/2010 08:16:31 MST Print View

Im looking to do the TRT (165mi) in 5 days in July and then the PCT in 2011 at a pretty good clip. I started doing 30mi day hikes with full pack once or twice a month starting in November. I am increasing them by 2-3 miles a month until attempting a 45mi hike in late June. Also since I do most of my real hiking is in the sierras at high elevation I target my day hike through some pretty rough terrain on the AT, typically 8-11k elevation gain over the 30-32mi.

I have been targeting 3mi/hr total speed and have maintained that through 32. As the days increase in length so will my mileage but I will continue to target the 3mi/hr not an increase in speed.

As far as footware, I love my Solomon XA Pro 3d Ultras. I use these with liners and midweight hiker w/powder and have had no issues with blisters. (I am 6'2", 190lb.)

I also play around with caloric intake and have been much better at avoiding the 18-20mi bonk that often occurs due to caloric deficiency during these hikes.

Overall, I am doing less frequent, longer hikes with healthy workouts on an elliptical in between. I also do weekend snowshoe trips up in the sierra about once a month to add a different form of workout.

Good luck

Edited by gg-man on 01/29/2010 08:20:04 MST.

Lucas Boyer
(jhawkwx) - MLife

Locale: 38.97˚N, 95.26˚W
re: nate on 01/29/2010 08:31:23 MST Print View

Lots of good advice here Nate, that I won't repeat. I did what you are planning on my Katy hike. Instead of 3 days, I went for 7. To give you some idea of what to expect: I came off of marathon training, which had me running close to 175 miles per month. In the weeks before the hike, my long runs were 17-22 mi. with 5 other runs in the 4-8 mi. range. If you want to make this happen, up your mileage now! Don't go more than 20% per week on the increases, or you're going to injure yourself. Think of your training as a roller coaster w/ high weeks followed by lower weeks that give you recovery time. Under recovery is Overtraining! Overtraining is an injury waiting to happen. If you're honest on the training regimen, the 10lbs will go away. Instead of 3-4 beers w/ pizza cut back to 1 or 2, ease up on the junk calories(ie. sugar, fat) Get your calories from whole grains, lean meats, fresh fruit and veggies. Calories in, Calories out is the name of the game. High fiber foods will satisfy your hunger before the junk calories do. Try to avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before bed. Eat a balanced breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day, seriously. Eat your calories over 5 or 6 feedings per day, instead of 2 giant meals. Train 6 days, rest on the 7th. Physical fitness is only part of the equation. The time on your feet is going to be harder on you than the actual physical load. When you stop, get off your feet and take your shoes off to let your feet cool and reduce swelling. Watch the clock, an extra 5 min. per break adds up to an hour of hiking in the dark! You want to see your hike, try to get all your hiking in during the daylight. Feel free to PM me, if you have other questions.

Michael Cockrell

Locale: Central Valley, Lodi-Stockton, CA
leg weights, poles, Hammer Nutrition on 01/29/2010 09:55:38 MST Print View

I do 2-3, 20-25 mile hikes.

I work full time, so my training is 0220-0400 Hrs. each morning. I do Mon-Wed-Fri, lower leg weight efforts (i.e. squats, leg lifts, step ups, forward thrusts) with 30 lb. weights.

On Tue-Thur-Sat, I run 3-5 miles, mixing in intervals (3-mi) and sustained stride (4-5 mi). runs. Sometimes on trail, or on a paved river path.

On my hikes, it's light pack, Soloman XT Pro trailrunning shoes (very good for light-weight hiking), French Foreign Leg. stile North Face sun hat.

For fuel, it's Hammer Nutrition HEED & Sustained Energy. I start with the HEED on first two bottles, then after 8-10 miles, switch to Sustained Energy. I
time 5-mi per bottle.

I start with a simple meal, not to be bloated or having to stop too soon for a potty break, and fuel as I go.

And my pace is "scorching", like a race. Keep moving, keep breaks VERY SHORT!, "make time on the climb", never stop while climbing, eat/refuel at the top/before hitting base of climb.

Pick small targets on the climb rather than focusing on the top "that tree, that boulder, that notch", so that you don't become dismayed. Fun to look back on the climb and reward yourself!

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Training for a speed hike. on 01/29/2010 10:24:43 MST Print View

at your current self described level of fitness, I would only train 3-4 days a week but make the training hikes/runs longer. As you get in better shape you can fill in with 1 or 2 shorter days.

On your planned hike, you won't be doing a sprint, you will be spending time on your feet. So spending time on your feet is what your training needs now. This will also help you understand the shoe issue better. 3 mile hikes do not help you understand shoes, skip them.

Don't rush to buy a pair of shoes until you understand time on your feet a little better.

Think of your training mileage in 1 week blocks not in 1 month blocks, easier to modify and monitor. Plan a 4 week cycle with 1 heavy mileage week and 1 light mileage week.

Base your training around your weekend LONG hike, whatever distance that is. Start ASAP and make this hike as long as you feel you can handle without injury.

Sample Plan Only
week 1 plan: 27-31 miles
6-8 miles
rest-cross train
6-8 miles
rest-cross train
15 miles
rest-cross train (2-3 mile hike optional, helps recovery)
rest cross train

week 2 plan : repeat, but up long hike to 20 if possible
week 3 plan : repeat, drop back to 15 for long hike
week 4 plan : repeat, 20 mile long hike

Reevaluate after every 4 week cycle to see if you can/should increase mileage.
Do not over train (others have said this).
Staying injury free is important.

Edited by asandh on 01/29/2010 10:49:28 MST.