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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - M

Locale: norcal
Tales of 20 miles days... or how to do 20 miles and make it effortless. on 08/12/2013 21:07:24 MDT Print View

My previous routing, when I had a 35 lb pack, was to hike in 5-8 miles, then setup camp and be done for the day.

I now have a 7 lb base weight and find myself wanting to do more and more mileage.

This was initially expanded to about 15 miles a day max because I'm a fisherman so this means less time on the trail.

I wanted to see if I could push this out to 20-25 miles a day while keeping my food weight at a reasonable level.

I drafted this schedule and posted it here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AkBAy3nnEh65dGtEY2dTdWVZRFhIZlFoWGo0VGtTaVE#gid=1

and you guys provided great feedback.

A few of the changes here were:

- hike during the morning and the evening. These are the coolest parts of the day. Use them to your advantage.

- take frequent breaks. I am thinking of doing something like 10 minutes every 1.5 hours. This can dramatically improve your ability to deal with long term punishment your feet and back take and allow your body brief periods to recover.

- carbs, carbs, carbs. Did I mention carbs?

I tested it this weekend and put in 45 miles over three days.

Here's how it went:

Day 1:

Went well! Put in 20 miles and bagged Red Peak Pass (11.5k feet).

I consumed about 3500-4000 calories. Mostly carbs but a bit of protein and fat too.

At one point I'm at the lake at the base of the pass... about 2k feet below,

There are two parties of backpackers with regular frames that are about half way up.

I managed to blast past the lower group and tie the higher group. Effectively doing it at 2x the speed.

I think this is attributed to the carbs plus the fact that I only had a 9 lb pack.

Day 2:

Did NOT meet my 25 mile goal for today ... Only 15 miles.

I think a number of things went against me today:

1. I think I was effectively burning MORE calories yesterday due to glycogen (which is kind of like the bodies emergency fuel supply) so this didn't help me today as I burned through it yesterday.

2. I only slept 5 hours and didn't wake feeling rested so I think this counted against me.

... I ended up wanting a LOT more food today and about half way through the day just flat out BONKED.

I felt very lethargic, very demoralized, and very tired. I actually DID feel like curling up and taking a nap.

However, my plan B was to get to Lake Merced where there is a camp and I was going to ask or help.

I actually bumped into some backpackers who I explained my situation too and they said they had EXTRA food... so SCORE.

This was my lowest point of the day.

The hooked me up with a whole bag of trail mix, a backpackers pantry fettucini dinner, and some mashed potatoes.

The trail mix had a bunch of fruit in it... I ate that and within 45 minutes felt like a totally new man!

It turns out that Camp Merced DOES have a camp store. So I went in and for $5 I got two brownies, a granola bar, and a hershey's bar.

I DOWNED the brownies and I was like a bat out of hell.

I hiked 3 more hours until about 6pm when I started to tire again.

This is where I think it gets interesting. I was dead again. My foot REALLY hurt.

So cook the fettucini over 30 minutes which allowed me time to rest.

I started feeling well and was looking at the map.

There was about an 800 foot climb right after this followed by some STEEP switchbacks.

I felt completely better after that break. Foot wasn't in pain anymore. I totally obliterated the climb and switchbacks!!!

I think this exercise REALLY helped solidify in my mind the value of carbs and rest for both performance, mental acuity and perseverance, as well as endurance.

Some more random thoughts:

- in my next experiment I'm going to pack food for 1 extra day to be on the safe side. Until I get a feel for how many carbs I need.

- camp merced could be a cool micro-resupply point. They also have dinner at 6:30 pm but you have to make a reservation.

- my shoes aren't going to cut it.. I am going to invest in a new pair of insoles

- I actually started getting blisters! up until this point I was somewhat immune to blisters. This could also be due to the fact that my socks were slightly damp now. I could resolve this by taking my shoes off more often or taking my socks off to allow my feet to dry.

- I've been timing my carbs for my climbs. I don't eat them on the flats. If I'm going to be doing 6 miles of flats I don't even bother. I then time them so I eat 20-30 minutes before I do a climb.

- I might look at getting glucose tablets for a faster sugar rush.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - M

Locale: norcal
ug on 08/12/2013 21:08:10 MDT Print View

hit post accidentally so sorry about the few typos.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Tales of 20 miles days... or how to do 20 miles and make it effortless. on 08/12/2013 23:02:33 MDT Print View

25 miles, even at a 2 mph average is 12 1/2 hours of hiking.
So you first need to designate that time for hiking with only those 10 minute breaks ever 1.5 hours.

If you are not able to sustain either the pace or the time, you just need to work on improving your physical fitness.
Once you're in better shape, a 2.5 mph pace for up to 25 miles per day should be easy.
that's only 10 hours of hiking.

Edited by awsorensen on 08/12/2013 23:03:18 MDT.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - M

Locale: norcal
mileage... on 08/12/2013 23:10:44 MDT Print View

I really need to get a better estimate of my mileage. I seem to avg EXACTLY 2 MPH but this is over vastly varying terrain and including breaks.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Tales of 20 miles days... or how to do 20 miles and make it effortless. on 08/12/2013 23:15:33 MDT Print View

>- in my next experiment I'm going to pack food for 1 extra day to be on the safe side. Until I get a feel for how many carbs I need.

Extra cooked food won't help much, unless you want to stop and cook. Pack more snacks you can eat while hiking - I eat one Larabar every couple hours.

>- I actually started getting blisters!

Blisters usually mean you have hot damp feet. Try sitting down (butt at same level as feet) to lower blood pressure in your feet, changing socks, and letting your feet air dry for a few minutes at each rest stop. Try thinner socks which don't hold as much sweat, and shoes with mesh uppers, if you haven't already. All this might help with foot pain, too.

>- I might look at getting glucose tablets for a faster sugar rush.

And sugar crash a short while later. If you go for glucose or other simple carbs, eat complex carbs, fats, and/or protein at the same time to prevent crashing. Or find trail mix or an energy bar with all those things in one.

Also: 20+ mile days are about slow and steady. I average 2 mph all day long, including breaks and lunch. Others move a little faster, but not by much.

EDIT: We posted about the same time!

-- Rex

Edited by Rex on 08/12/2013 23:17:29 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Tales of 20 miles days... or how to do 20 miles and make it effortless. on 08/12/2013 23:41:07 MDT Print View

"And sugar crash a short while later. If you go for glucose or other simple carbs, eat complex carbs, fats, and/or protein at the same time to prevent crashing. Or find trail mix or an energy bar with all those things in one."

Reese's Pieces contain sugar, fat, and protein. I save the glucose tablets for emergency fuel.

--B.G.--

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F - M

Locale: SoCAL
How I do those long days. on 08/13/2013 00:09:20 MDT Print View

I get up between first light and dawn and get hiking quickly as I find I do my best miles in the morning. If the day will be really hot, I may get up while its still dark and hike some via flashlight to get my miles in during the cool of the day. I take breaks through the day and snack often. My lunch breaks are long; over an hour, sometimes over 2 hours, which gives me time to digest the large lunches I eat (often bigger then dinner) and nap due to getting up early.

I find that I hike strong after lunch as I'm full of energy. Only the heat will slow me down compared to my morning pace. I usually stop between 7 to 8pm though I will stop earlier if I hit my mileage goals early which often happens. If it was a hot day where I took long breaks to avoid the heat, I will hike into the night some.

I never run out of food on a trip nor do I experience strong hunger since I will eat before it gets that way since I have the food. Even when I thru-hiked the PCT, I only lost 10 lbs as I never run out of food early on a trip. Going with a sub-10 lbs baseweight means I can carry the necessary food.

Carbs are good and important, but so is protein and fat. I eat good quantities of all 3 though protein is more important on longer trips then a 2-3 day one. Fat gives you a good long burn during the day, while eating carbs shortly before a climb helps power up it. If I feel tired, I take a break and eat. If I'm bonking, I'm not eating properly or not taking long enough breaks or I'm pushing too fast a pace. Slow and steady does work and you can easily get your miles in if you hike enough hours. That's my experience anyway. One of my favorite trail snacks is a large snicker bar covered in spoonfuls of peanut butter. It really helps power up those big climbs.

I stopped getting blisters on backpacking trips when I started wearing larger shoes then what I normally wear at home or for day hikes and got rid of those thick hiking socks for thinner ones. And at breaks, I always take my socks off and try to rub the dirt off while they are still sweaty and then put on my other dry pair of socks hanging on my pack. Many long trail thru-hikers go 1.5 to 2 sizes large though some of it is to deal with the swelling and foot expansion that starts to happen after a few weeks of hiking.

Edited by Miner on 08/13/2013 00:13:02 MDT.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Thanks Kevin on 08/13/2013 02:13:17 MDT Print View

Kevin, thanks for the OP. I actually was planning on writing up a very similar OP and posting it for tips and feedback on this topic. For the past few years I have been working on getting/staying in better/good shape and putting on more miles. When I transitioned to UL a few years ago I would put in around 10-15km a day, as when I was a traditional or lightweight backpacker, that was my limit. I soon grew restless, but did notice and enjoy the added energy I would have after hiking for swimming, cooking, foraging for wild edibles, fishing, etc.

Last year with a 3.8kg (8.4lb) base weight I did a 5 day section hike and put in at least 20km a day, sometimes more--one day (and this is my current personal record) I hiked 36km (22.3 miles). I felt good doing it too, though I was quite sore and stiff in the morning at times. Over the past year I regularly have hiked 20-30km on my section hikes, and feel like in another year or two that my new "normal" days will be pushed up to 25-35km. On my last section hike a week ago I did 41km in a day and a half, and felt that if I would have had more days at my disposal, I could have kept up a similar pace.

Some things that have helped me:

Snacks, and snack often. I will eat a Snickers or granola bar 3-4 times a day in between meals. But as others have noted, don't just rely on carbs and sugar rushes. I eat a lot of nuts, beans, and olive oil on the trail in addition to pasta, rice, and oats.

Simplify food routines. Saves time and energy, and gets food into your system faster and easier. Most of my breakfasts are non-cook (Flapjack oat bar, dried fruit, and nuts are a combo I have been really into for the past year or so), and a lot of my lunches are non-cook or easy cook. I save the more complex meals for dinner when I can sit and relax and take my time to focus on cooking. I will often eat a late dinner, around 7-9pm, and before then have a big snack around my "at home" dinner time around 5-6pm to tie me over.

Figure out your body's optimum hike time. This is different for everyone, and a lot of variables are involved. I am a night owl, not an early bird, for example--on and off the trail. After I break camp and hit the trail, I am just not ready to rock and roll. I take it easy, hike a slow to moderate pace. After lunch my energy levels are up more, and I pick up the pace. My big energy bump comes between 4-8pm or so, and that's when I nearly always feel the best and can really tear up some trail if I want to.

Don't push too hard. I take a lot of breaks, stop and take a lot of pictures, jump into lakes on a whim, and stop and chat to any friendly people I meet. The more fun I have (and this goes for a lot of things in life), the more efficient and driven I am. I have canceled trips before if things go sour and suddenly my inner voice says, "Okay, this sucks." So what if an overnighter becomes a day trip? Last spring, for example, I hiked a new trail I didn't know much about. It was fine at first, but then at the end of the day I found myself hiking through residential suburbs and then on roads going by farms. Not wanting to pitch my tarp next to a big farming plain, I just hiked to a bus stop and went home. If I was on a section hike (or eventually when I go on a thru-hike), I would have called it a zero day and spent the night in the nearest town to hit the reset button and start again the next day.

As soon as you feel a warm spot on your foot, stop and take action before blisters set in. Loosen laces, change socks, put a band-aid on baby blisters before they turn into monsters, etc.



Not sure what my next goals are. I am very happy with my roughly 20-30km limit, and think that 25-35km might be as far as I am willing to push. I recently read a blog of a triple crown hiker that claimed (and I believe them, there was lots of documentation) that their daily average on the PCT was around 50km. I admit that I am impressed, but I can't say that I have any interest in getting to that level. It did humble me though, as that is just about double of what my hikes are. I was happy to know there is someone out there that is on that level. I can't help but inwardly giggle when I talk to people and they are surprised to know how far I can hike, when there are others that can blow me away.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: Tales of 20 miles days... or how to do 20 miles and make it effortless. on 08/13/2013 04:46:58 MDT Print View

Kevin,
Sounds like you are well on your way up the learning curve. What I found as I kept pushing is that I would hit a new breaking point and this would be the next issue to solve. Also, some of the things that work well at lower miles aren't as effective as you move up in effort or can actually be counterproductive. case in point for me is breaks. I used to have to take breaks to allow my body to catch up on energy production and due to overall fitness. As both of these items were resolved I found that breaks only allow my body to stiffen up so I do a lot less. Just one example. Couple of questions.
1) what did you eat at the end of day 1? It sounds like you started day 2 with yourbenergybtanks half full.
2) day 2 was a classic bonk with your body only allow you to expend energybatbthe rate it is being produced. This is incredibly frustrating and why it is far better to stay away from the Wall.
3) I believe as you continue doing these type of hikes that your body will be able to respond more efficiently on the energy front. Also, as your overall fitness improves then you wouldn't see as many issues like you saw at the end of day 2.
4) did you meter the calories in on day 1? If so at what rate.?

Overall, it sounds like a very solid couple of days. I have hiked that route a couple of times and it is a cool place to play around with higher mile days.

Richard May
(richardmay)

Locale: Costa Rica
Nutrition Info on 08/13/2013 07:10:43 MDT Print View

Great post! I hope someday to be doing 25 mile days :)

I do agree with the above that you need to mix fats and protein in with the carbs. Carbs are processed really fast by the body, the simpler the faster. Too many simple carbs and the body spikes your insulin which in turn depletes the sugars from your body before you get a chance to use them for trekking. Fat and protein are processed really slow. By mixing them into your diet you slow the rate at which the carbs enter the body, so you create a steady stream of energy rather than starts and stops.

Diabetics are the ones who really have to keep tabs controlling sugars and glucose (it's a matter of life and death) so read nutritional information from those sources. It's pretty fascinating.

Cheers!

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
not that complicated on 08/13/2013 08:46:47 MDT Print View

Very much depending on trail quality and total elevation gain ... I don't think it's that complicated. Many (most?) long distance hikers pay little attention to nutrition; I certainly don't and I'm in my mid-50's.

If you're in reasonable shape, not (or no longer) prone to issues like blisters or chaffing, then it's just a matter of either being pretty strong (relatively fast average pace) or disciplined (not a lot of time spent in camp or at breaks) or both.

Bradley Attaway
(AttaboyBrad) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: not that complicated on 08/13/2013 10:25:13 MDT Print View

I'm with Brian.

Keep a steady trickle of reasonably balanced and easy to digest fuel into the tank and just keep on chugging. Very difficult to make up pace with even short periods where you flat out stop.

Add some complex sugars to what you're drinking via powder or gel to ensure baseline steady intake.

When you're walking around town without a pack, practice overspeed walking so you get accustomed to turning the feet over more quickly.

Take a few XC skiing classes to learn how to get proper 'drive' from your trekking poles. Learning proper technique there boosted my speed with poles by nearly 1kph. Drill by using only your trekking poles for forward drive, moving the feet only to catch yourself from falling.

You might want to test your pace with an overnighter near sea level. Weekends in the Sierras with insufficient acclimatization aren't a meaningful baseline.

Don't worry about a "sugar crash". Really not an issue during sustained aerobic exercise.

Look to ultrarunners (particularly multi-day record attempts) for advice. Extremely fit people managing their nutrition over prolonged Aerobic Threshold exertion is a much better analogue than sick people managing their blood-sugar on the couch.

Oh, and read Hammer Nutrition's booklet if you want to take it too seriously. Really good stuff. Here's the link: http://www.hammernutrition.com/downloads/fuelinghandbook.pdf

Edited by AttaboyBrad on 08/13/2013 10:28:15 MDT.

Kate Magill
(lapedestrienne) - F
re: 20 miles on 08/13/2013 11:19:08 MDT Print View

There are all kinds of ways to optimize your mileage. One thing to pay attention to is changes in terrain. Know your route beforehand (especially the elevation profile) and plan according to your body's likes and dislikes. I almost always camp somewhere near the start of a big climb, because my body tends to handle the uphills a lot better early in the morning, which makes for a more efficient day (and, sometimes, a nice sunrise breakfast when I hit the summit).

Hiking pre-dawn and post-dusk, however, isn't always a good way to bank miles. I often find the reduced visibility slows me down more than the mid-day sun/heat, especially on rough terrain, slick rocks, etc. Depends on where you are and the time of year. Again, know the terrain.

My stops during a typical hiking day are minimal. Maybe two fifteens (morning and afternoon) and a half-hour siesta sometime early afternoon. I don't bother cooking during the day, and never cook for breakfast in the woods except on laid-back "camping" trips with other people. Budgeting about an hour of breaks, give or take, a 20 mile day ends up being an 8-hour work day for me. That varies, of course, but then, some 8-hour work days are more exhausting than others in "real life" too... :)

I also find it's very important--for me at least--to budget a nice long "recovery" break each day. My rule of thumb is that if I spend more than 12 hours on trail and less than 12 hours in camp, I feel more tired, hike less efficiently, and have less fun. If I hike til 8 pm, whether due to foul weather, an extra-long break, or a hitch into town, I don't start walking the next day til 8 am. Those 12 hours work wonders for me. Sure, you can get up at 5am and slog along til 9pm in the summer months without even breaking out your headlamp, but unless you're the kind of person who can thrive on 6 hours of sleep per night it probably won't help you increase your mileage over the long term.

Oh--and it never ends. Once you start doing 20s you'll start thinking marathons, then 30s, and on and on.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: re: 20 miles on 08/13/2013 11:41:45 MDT Print View

Simplest thing is to hike more or simulate the effort somehow. As a road cyclist my legs and cardio are in shape all the time, it only takes a few hikes each year to get into gear. the more I do the better it gets.

last year i did 150mi of "training" hikes for my Long trail thru hike. including a 25mi Presi traverse in a day. ended up doing 4 20mi days and more in the 18-19mi range. 5am til 5p-6m 2mph average for the day no problem. The more experience you get, the more you know what you need and are capable of

"it's just walking" -whiteblaze?

yesterday i did 31.5mi, 10k elevation gain at a bit over 2mph. a few breaks.. 5:20-8:20. I wouldn't do that on an overnight because i can't back it up today..unless it was a short easy day.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Tales of 20 miles days... or how to do 20 miles and make it effortless. on 08/13/2013 12:07:38 MDT Print View

" Too many simple carbs and the body spikes your insulin which in turn depletes the sugars from your body before you get a chance to use them for trekking."

This is true if you are on the couch, but not so much if you hiking. What Insulin Response? (2nd to the last paragraph.)

But, regarding simple sucrose, glucose, etc. sugars, be careful with how much you take in. Sucrose leaves the gut Only when a certain "dilution factor" (osmolality) is met. To much sugar and your gut will pull in water to dilute things. Taken to far this is known by the highly technical term as "the squirts". You don't want to go to there. (More info in the above link.)

Also, the above link has a LOT of good information for endurance endeavors. It's worth the time to poke around a bit. You might not be running, but you are putting out a lot of effort over long periods of time.

Edited by greg23 on 08/13/2013 12:38:57 MDT.

Steve Meier
(smeier) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
hammock for breaks... on 08/13/2013 12:49:06 MDT Print View

Like the original poster, I wanted to string together some 20 mile days last year for the first time. So I did a 57 mile loop in the Smokies. Lots of great food advice so I won't touch on that but the one thing that has got me hiking much further miles each day is my GT Nano 7 hammock. I put it up for about 20 min's every couple of hours and it is stunning the difference I feel when hiking again. I use the time to carb up, take the strain off my back, and get my feet in the air. I have less feet swelling as a result, my back feels much better by the end of the day, and I can hike much longer than I used to. I do the same thing for lunch, taking an hour instead. My single biggest improvement over the years in backpacking for me, bar none. Every (9) oz is worth it.

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F - M

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 08/13/2013 13:06:01 MDT Print View

deleted

Edited by rOg_w on 09/08/2013 18:03:02 MDT.

Richard May
(richardmay)

Locale: Costa Rica
Re: Re: Tales of 20 miles days... or how to do 20 miles and make it effortless. on 08/13/2013 13:45:58 MDT Print View

"This is true if you are on the couch, but not so much if you hiking. What Insulin Response? (2nd to the last paragraph.)"

Well, you learn something new every day. Thanks Greg.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - M

Locale: norcal
Re: Re: Tales of 20 miles days... or how to do 20 miles and make it effortless. on 08/13/2013 14:17:06 MDT Print View

Hey gg-man.

I had dehydrated lasagna for dinner (800 cals) and a coconut + sugar drink I make (which was 300-400).

I hear what you are saying about breaks. I think if I can get better shoes that I could take less breaks.

For me the issue is that my feet start to hurt and breaks allow them to recover. But ten minutes * 15x a day is 150 minute or 2.5 hours.. That's another 5 miles or so. It's an area for optimization but for now it's the best I can do.

It's not completely counterproductive. It's nice to stop and smell the roses.

I've also found that putting my feet in cold water REALLY is nice and then my feet are nice and cold and crisp for the next hour.

Re #4... yes.. I metered them. It was about 200 cals every 2 hours. I'm going to experiment with calorie regulation and see what happens.

For now though, experimenting with carb timing means I should probably pack in a lot of extra snacks and see what happens.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - M

Locale: norcal
Re: Re: re: 20 miles on 08/13/2013 14:49:48 MDT Print View

> Simplest thing is to hike more or simulate the effort somehow. As a road cyclist my legs and cardio are in shape all the time, it only takes a few hikes each year to get into gear. the more I do the better it gets.

I'm a cyclist too, especially during winter, and I find that even hill climbs don't really help.

I will cycle to the top of mount tam 1-2x a week and find it doesn't help much.

I think what I"m going to do is just do hill running or with a weighted pack and see if that works.