This summer I am going to be attempting to break the unsupported Appalachian Trail record. I have been asked a lot of questions about my trip and wanted to clear up exactly what I am doing by addressing some of those common questions here.
What exactly are you doing?
Self-supported Appalachian Trail record thru hike attempt. It is done backpacker style without a support crew. I will resupply in towns and pick up packages I mailed to myself but cannot have prearranged support from friends or family nor will I be able to accept rides into towns.
I’ve begun the process of packaging up resupplies to for my Appalachian Trail mail drops. Made a mess of my apartment in the process and logistically kind of a nightmare but hopefully it pays off and saves time off the trail. Throwing in some Ensure shakes, pudding cups, and fruit cups for a little snack at the mail drop. If you can think of other happy food I should put in there, let me know!
I realized after my recent post on backpacking diet that I did a great job outlining some of my diet choices for my fastpacking trips and a poor job of explaining why I chose the foods I do. I wanted to do a write-up explaining the backpacker’s diet so people could better understand what purpose it serves and how a diet loaded with empty calories is not unhealthy granted the context.
My backpacking diet serves a very specific purpose and addresses the most immediate concern: starvation. It focuses on macronutrient intake and finds the densest foods to obtain the most calories. Anything beyond that is fluff. Continue reading Explaining the backpacker’s diet→
Overall my recent training hikes have been very uneventful hiking. But I do need to evaluate what slowed me down and each individual ache and pain. Back when I was racing triathlons I was extremely resistant to making excuses. I blew off every reason that could have slowed me down or made perform less than my best. But while in a two-hour race my stubbornness probably helped, with such long distance hiking, denying any ache or pain can turn into a brutal lesson.
On my spring break trip I had developed achilles tendonitis in my left heel. By the end of the trip it was creaking and severely inflamed. Because of the grueling punishment I had put my body through, I couldn’t be certain of exactly what had caused it. I suspected going from the flatness of Norfolk out to the high mountains of Smoky Mountain National Park had put additional strain on my tendon on the uphills and that stretching may alleviate it. I had also wondered if it had to do with my ridiculously small climbing shoes I had been using for several months at the climbing gym in Virginia Beach. And of course there was the distressing possibility that my body simply didn’t want to tolerate 40+ mile hiking days. Continue reading Evaluating setbacks→
There have been a lot of questions about my diet on my 40 mile/day fastpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail. I choose to not cook, saving me the weight of cooking supplies, the headache of a less versatile food bag, and the time spent cooking. But there’s a huge misconception that the food I carry is somehow heavier than dehydrated meals. So I want to share my method of creating a food list for a trip, address some common misconceptions, and list some methods that can be used at quick resupplies along the way. The list is tailored to a fastpacking trip on the AT with ample opportunities for healthy meals but the method of analysis can be applied to any backpacking diet.
I am in the process of compiling a google doc listing most potential foods for any given trip. I list cal/gram, then protein, fat, carbs, and sodium by fraction. Unfortunately this list does not include harder to calculate homemade items and dried fruits because of inaccurate nutrition data. What mostly creates a high caloric density food is fat content. With fat dishing out 9 cal/g and protein and carbs lagging behind at 4 cal/g, a high fat snack is going to be higher than a sugary one. With that said, surviving on swigs of oil simply isn’t practical or healthy so we need carbs and protein in our diet. The primary benefit of this spreadsheet then is to tease out the foods that have significant amounts of water or undigestible nutrients hidden in them. Anything that sits below 4 cal/g has something in it that isn’t providing energy and probably has a denser alternative.
Since I was a kid, my dad would inform me of the recent dietary trend, from entire dietary restrictions to minor single food alterations. He would read about it in Men’s Journal and then tell me, “Oh, avocados are very good for you,” or “bread is very bad for you,” with no explanation further than that. It could have been attributed to the most recent journal article on the subject, some undergraduate run correlation study, or it could have just been the musings of a physician who overstepped their authority. I used to think that the reason these adjectives, good and bad, bugged me so much when applied to nutrition because they oversimplified things, but recently I realized that it’s because it massively overcomplicates nutrition. Continue reading The hallmark of a healthy diet→
I have always been extremely harsh on people. I have high standards for humanity and myself. However, one thing I have always been able to empathize with is unintended weight gain and the difficulty of losing it. Three years ago I topped out the scales at 160 pounds. That might not seem like a drastic change but currently weighing in at 130 pounds, that weight put me into the portion of the population of overweight that I never thought I would be. I know what it feels like and I know how hard it is to lose weight.