Thursday, January 27, 2011

Miles and meal planning on a long trail

I'm a 40+ woman. I went pretty light hiking the PCT. I took a lot of zeros and often I would exceed my daily goals so that I could bank miles for my last day coming into town. If I got that last day down to only a few miles, I could get BREAKFAST!!!!

These are my miles not averaging in zero days.
  • So Cal to Wrightwood - Daily goal 15 miles. Easily met and sometimes exceeded.
  • So Cal between Wrightwood and Kennedy Meadows - Daily goal 20+ (22-23 miles). Usually met.
  • High Sierras to Sonora Pass - Goal 15 miles (one big pass per day.) When the passes got smaller my daily miles went back up to close to 20.
  • Sonora Pass to Oregon - Daily goal 20+ miles. Usually exceeded it by 5-15 miles.
  • Oregon - Daily goal 25. Usually exceeded it, sometimes by up to 10 miles.
  • Washington - Daily goal 25+. (Here's where I fully committed to a 25 mpd pace, carrying no more than enough food for that pace.) Always met, sometimes exceeded by no more than 5 or 6 miles.
Here's how I thought about planning and miles.
  • Your daily goal is X miles. Let's say 20.
  • To meet that goal, you must hike no LESS than 20 miles per day.
  • If you hike less than 20 miles, you must add those miles to the following day or else you will end up with an extra day. So you hike 19 miles today, tomorrow you have to do 21. Hike only 15 and tomorrow you have to do 25. It can get daunting really fast, so dipping below your goal is extremely undesirable.
  • Adding miles is better. You don't have to add a whole 20 miles to subtract a day. Here's why: Hike 25 miles and your last day is only 15 miles long. Hike another 25 miles and now your last day is only 10 miles long. Hike another 25 mile day and now your last day is only 5 miles long. You can do 5 miles before breakfast, so this day has pretty much evaporated!
What this means for planning purposes is that X miles a day is not the maximum you can do it's the minimum you will settle for.

It also means that if you haven't put in exactly the right amount of food, you'll be fine! Short a day of food? (sometimes that would happen to me--moldy tortillas, miscalculated the mileage, whatever) No problem. Start tacking on the extra miles and that last day of starvation will vanish. You'll roll into town in time for a big pancake sandwich breakfast and all will be right in the universe.

When I finally realized how easy it was to control my miles, the need for detailed planning completely evaporated.

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