Monday, September 1, 2008

A record mileage dayhike

A personal best! A record-mileage dayhike!

Question and answer for the day: What's worse than hiking through swarms and swarms of relentless mosquitoes? Forgetting your mosquito repellent...

I put up a challenge for myself. I don't know if I'm crazy, or what the deal is, but every once in a while, I think I just like to test myself to see where I'm at physically. I completed the Frozen Otter, the 1/2 distance trek of 32 miles in 12 hours, in January 2008. This was the farthest I've "hiked" in one day, ever. It was a really cool moment when I finished. That race took a lot. I was actually talking to myself for the last few hours of that trek, just to make it to the finish. But I made it in about 11 hours and 57 minutes -- JUST under the 12 hours, so I made it as a "finisher." I was thrilled!

Since it was a holiday 3-day weekend, I figured it would be a perfect time to see if I could beat my "record" of 32 miles -- I'd have 2 whole days to recover! I had much better conditions this weekend than I did on the Frozen Otter... which is mostly at night, in the freezing cold winter weather. So I was feeling confident that I could do it. The Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine offers some brutal trails, too. They are very challenging. There are a lot of short, steep hills with a lot of rocks and roots to work around. In the back of my head, I wanted to make 50 miles, but I knew that would be pretty difficult...

I set my 3 goals, as I usually do.
Goal 1 was to complete 32 miles, from the northern trailhead (Hwy P) to the southern trailhead (Hwy H)
Goal 2 was to go farther than 32 -- anything over that would be a personal best.
Goal 3 was to make it back to Butler Lake, which would be 48 miles. I even thought about pushing for 50 if I made it 48... but I had to wait and see if I could make it THAT far.

Adam and I woke up at about 2AM Saturday morning, and he made me a great high-calorie breakfast. We got going at about 3AM, drove to the Butler Lake parking lot, where I hid a bag with some lunch goodies for when I got there. Then we drove to the southern end of the trail, the Hwy H trailhead, and I dropped a gallon of water. There was a blue truck in the parking lot at the Hwy H trailhead that looked a whole lot like Randall's truck (a fellow hiking buddy). I thought it would be pretty cool to run into him at some point... Adam and I took off from there and finally arrived at the top of the trail, the Hwy P trailhead, at about 5:50AM. Adam gave me a big "good-luck" hug, and I was off.

The first 16 miles went great. I was feeling amazing. I even did quite a bit of trail-running -- I wanted to try to add a little running into my day, anyway... but when the mosquitoes came out, I didn't have much of a choice but to run -- I FORGOT my stinkin' repellent. I quickly found that if I ran, most of them weren't able to bite as much as I ran, so whenever I reached a thick swarm (which was often), I started to jog down the trail. I wore my trail running shoes, and my backpack only had only about 15-20 pounds in it. I felt light on my feet, and nothing was hurting yet. I still tried to conserve some energy, as I knew it was going to be a long day. Starting at 6AM, I was planning on going until about dark, which would be about 8 or 8:30PM.

I reached Butler Lake, which is half-way to the Southern trailhead, in 4 hours and 20 minutes. That was 16 miles! I took a half-hour break there (in the hot sun because the skeets were unfortunately too thick in the shade), took my shoes off, washed my feet off using the water pump, changed my socks, ate some lunch, stretched out really well, and head out again.

I really started cramping up in the next 7 miles. My knees were starting to give me some trouble, and I feared suffering from the famous, "peg-leg." I decided to take it a little easy, and just truck ahead at a nice, steady hiking pace. I sort of zoned out, and started paying special attention to everything I was feeling. I knew I was getting enough water, but I was still feeling what seemed like "symptoms" of something. I just took a drink of water, and immediately had cotton-mouth. My stomach was feeling slightly nauseous, my legs were stiffening and cramping up, and then I realized I wasn't sweating at all. It's was 2:30 in the afternoon, one of the hottest points of the day, and it was probably in the 80's. I then looked down at the trail and up ahead of me and noticed that my eyes weren't refocusing as quickly as they should be, and I was starting to feel a little light-headed. I knew this was not good at all, so I stopped. I took my backpack off, and remembered packing some electrolyte tabs the night before. It was a last-minute thought that I think may have saved me. I took them out and read the packaging -- I'd never taken them before. All the symptoms I was having seemed to fit in with not having enough electrolyte replacement. I was drinking gatorade, but found out that it wasn't doing the trick. I took 3 of the tablets, drank some more water, and continued on. I couldn't believe the difference! About 15 minutes later, I was feeling good again. My legs didn't feel as stiff, and I felt more energetic. This was a great learning experience for me... the importance of electrolyte replacement. It worked better than popping pain-killers!!

I made it to the entrance to Mauthe Lake campground and took another long rest. I ate some salty treats (pretzels and almond mix), took my shoes off and stretched a bunch. The next 9 miles to the southern end of the trail went by faster than I'd expected. And guess who I ran into? As I stopped to talk to a another backpacker as she was heading north, I looked down the trail, and over a hill came a guy in a red, yellow and black kilt. Sure enough... there was Randall!! It was SO cool to run into him. It really gave me a boost. We chatted for a few minutes, then we all continued on our way.

I reached the end, and my first goal of 32 miles -- and I did it in 10-1/2 hours. It was about 4:30PM. I called Adam and asked him to meet me 8 miles later at 8:30PM. I was going for 40. In an earlier phone call, Adam said something like, "I sure hope you can make 40 miles, but if you can't it's okay..." So when I hit the 32, I wasn't feeling too awful, and I knew my body could take a little more. I had already stopped doing any trail running after the 24-mile mark, so my pace was slowing, but I was still feeling strong enough to push on. I took a half-hour break and got moving again about 5:00. I knew I had plenty of time, so I took it easy on the last stretch.

I reached Hwy S, the 40-mile mark early, so I called Adam and found out he was about 1/2 hour away. I told him to pick me up at the entrance to Mauthe Lake Campground instead. It was 1 mile away, and was a better place for me to rest. Beside that, the mosquitoes were mentally defeating me (seriously bad, too), and I couldn't stand to stay in one place for any amount of time, so going on seemed a better option, no matter how much I hurt.

When I say the mosquitoes were defeating me, I'm not exaggerating. They got so bad, I actually had tears in my eyes from frustration. I would wipe off 10 from my forearm, and as my hand was finishing brushing my arm, there'd be 10 more in the same area. I don't know that I've ever dealt with skeeters as relentless and crazy as these. At one point, I seriously wanted to stop, whip my hiking poles around in the air, and cuss every cuss word I knew at them, but I knew that wouldn't stop them, and would only sap some precious energy. So I just sadly pushed on. When I finally broke, I threw my backpack off, and in the heat, zipped on my pant legs, put on my mosquito head-net, and put on my jacket -- it's all I had with me that had long sleeves. I immediately started sweating, but it was holding off some of the bites. It wasn't long before they realized the only exposed skin they could get at was my hands. They were biting so bad that my hands were swelling. Then they started biting the tops of my shoulders through my jacket, and parts of my ears where they touched the netting of my head net. I felt like I was in some horror movie! This ended up being the most challenging part of the day!! And here I thought it would be sore feet...

I finally reached 41 miles, Mauthe Lake campground, at 8:00PM. As I came to the trailhead, I saw Randall! He walked from Shelter #2, where he and some friends were staying for the night, to the campground to get some water. He and his friend congratulated me on my 41 miles (they must think I'm a nutjob...), and we said our "see-ya-laters." Adam pulled up shortly later and picked me up. He brought along a warm container of Spaghettio's (yum!), peanut butter cups, vitamin/electrolyte water, cookies and some other goodies. He even got me a cute card to congratulate me... it was really sweet of him. I was seriously thinking of quitting at 32 miles at one point, and he really helped push me on. And so I beat my personal best... I hiked 41 miles in one hiking day... 14 hours. Maybe next year I can make 50... :)

I weighed myself before and after, purely out of curiosity... I wasn't sure what this would do to my weight. I actually was hoping for no loss in weight, because I think that would mean I kept hydrated well, and my calorie intake was fairly even with my calories out... I started that morning at 154.2 pounds, and when I got home I weighed 155.0. So I gained .8 pounds. I'll have to do a little research and see what that means, exactly. I hope I did this in the healthiest way possible... there's always so much more to learn, and so many ways to improve.

So I came out of this with pride, being able to beat my record... I didn't accomplish goal #3, but that's okay... gotta save something for next time, right!? And... I came out of this with the ability to eat a Snickers bar guilt-free. What can be better than that?? :)

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