Favorite Training Experiences

What are some of your favorite training memories? Those special experiences you come back to in your mind are worthy of reflection.

Shorter, intense training has been the rage in the time management age.

Yet one of my favorite training experiences was taking a 15-mile Fall hike up a closed, paved summit road above timber line, with some jogging intervals thrown in both ways. The summit was harsh, with gale force winds. The road switchbacks were long and tedious. I took my pack, found a long, established snow field and glissaded down, bypassing about two miles of road. I remember hiking down in the dark under a clear star flush sky, the wind a memory. The moon was out, and it was reflecting on the face of an alpine lake deep in a gorge below me. Something was agitating the water in that lake, perhaps wind, and the reflection of the moon would disperse into what looked like white fireflies circling above the lake. It was surreal and beautiful.

By the time I was done, I had logged 18 miles of bliss, adrenaline, and appreciation for life.

Mountain Trail Run: Glory of Fall

barefoot shoes really stick to fixed boulders

interval hike and run up, up, up, run down…

Today called for an incline.

A rocky trail with nimble barefoot shoes is a fun place to move over in hike-run intervals.

Something to justify sitting down later on for writing and editing my book.

The training felt great, and I made it down before dark.

Yet another dimension. It could have been an asphalt hill.

It could have been a stadium of stairs.

Find your incline and you’ll be so inclined.

Have a wonderful start of your week.

Back Country Observation Skills Can Help In Other Areas of Life

On my way to the mountains last Saturday morning I saw the alerts on the overhead smart signs: CHILD ABDUCTION. STAY TUNED TO LOCAL MEDIA. I wondered what I could do, hence the last post.

This morning, I wondered what else I could do and thought about how back country observation skills can help us not only choose better routes, be safer, spot refuge, and stay oriented to where we are, they can also make us better observers in other contexts and settings.

Here are some observation factors we can all practice and exercise in the back country that could also be used to help us spot facts that could timely help find a missing person, remember possible sites of interest for later search, and many other signs and relationships. This 20 example list is just a start:

1. Noting names or numbers of reference points for location and orientation, as in numbers of features on a ridge between to obvious high points. Or, the number of creek passages across a trail we’re on. Keeping numbers on time. And so on.

2. Seeing and remembering cover, refuges or hiding places that may serve to protect us if weather turns dramatically worse. Or, that may contain animals. Or, that may contain a person or persons!

3. Noting tracks. Variances in tracks, sizes of tracks, type of tracks (human, animal or vehicle).

4. Noticing changes in flora or grasses. Tamped down flora, broken stalks or branches. Obvious new or old pathways through grass, game trails, and permissive approaches to hiding places in the forest. Thick or thin forest.

5. Noticing litter, gear, garments, jewelry, and other personal items dropped or discarded. Noting their positions with relation to land forms and features such as precipices, water or thick forest.

6. Noticing spent cartridges, evidence of ax or knife usage and the age of these.

7. Learning to use the sense of smell combined with awareness of wind direction and patterns, and combined with stillness and listening.

8. Learning to listen carefully and identify remote noises: engines, engine types or sizes; stress on engines (uphill travel?) etc., thunder, blasting, aircraft, and so on.

9. Learning to be still and notice movements out of the ordinary in a scene or from a vista.

10. Learning to note and remember vehicles seen in parking areas, license plate origins, stickers, decals and even LP numbers in case they may become useful.

11. Learning the signs of wildlife predators, such as those shown on this excellent piece on mountain lions.

12. Learning to spot foolish behaviors in other back country travelers, especially if they’re leading kids into the back country.

13. Learning to observe, notice and check into things that are out of place, rather than ignoring them.

14. Periodically silencing one’s own movement and noise to listen up to everything around us.

15. Noticing slopes, their degrees, and their loads. Soil around rocks and boulders routinely erodes or softens enough that rocks break loose. Being aware of what’s above and being prepared to get out of the way is key. Same with snow loads, and the avalanche conditions as one would learn in avalanche safety courses to avoid death or disability by avalanche.

16. Noting weather changes and the timing of these.

17. Watching for remote lights in the dark, or reflections in the day or night.

18. Noting smoke, cinders by smell or sight, or recent burning by smell or sight.

19. Noticing land features in which it would be easy to get lost or lose personal items.

20. Listening for and distinguishing human sounds and voices from animal sounds in the forest. Some animals make sounds that resemble human voices sometimes, which can be kind of unnerving. Here is a site for learning animal sounds. It’s fascinating even if you never go out.

That’s all I have for now. By our observation skills we may one day save a life or protect someone from harm, including our loved ones or ourselves.

listen see file remember

We never know what good our observations may do.

Things Are Looking Up: Taking Intervals Into the Mountain Zone

When a windfall time bloc opened up my Saturday morning, I was on the road for the mountains by 6AM. Snow fog and freezing drizzle cut visibility in the foothills and I nearly turned around. In another ten minutes, the clouds started breaking. It was a blue sky day above 10,000 feet, although it was below freezing with some winds, so I layered up.

You may have hills where you live. You may have only one hill where you live. Your only hill might even be your driveway. Or maybe a setting on a treadmill. It’s no matter. In my mind, any incline you can go up may be classified as your mountain zone. Bleachers, stairs, stadiums and grass hillocks can work well too. We can be resourceful.

Today I ran intervals on slight inclines, levels and downhills, and hiked the steeper, rockier or trickier terrain. There was more hiking than running, but like a good training entree, we season subtly. We don’t dump the whole canister of salt in the training soup that makes up our very interesting training lives.

Today I was able to interval hike-run 6 miles, gaining about 1500 feet, carrying a light 20 pound pack. I took 2 Gu Energy packs, 1 Tuna package, a hydration system with a few liters, and planned my time frame according to my supplies. It was a great time. I saw two quiet Ptarmigans, bubbling brooks, soaring cliffs and spires, and massifs all around.

When I am on flat land, I see mountains in the clouds, or depth and height in the skies. Inspirational perspectives are everywhere to be found.

SAFETY: Consider that training in high mountain elevations and backcountry carries with it serious risks and dangers to those who are prepared much less those who are underprepared or unknowledgeable. Get a check up with your doctor clearing you for exertion at altitude, and get training for movement in the mountains. Go out with certified mountain guides. If you can’t afford that, go with more experienced hikers and / or mountaineers. Meanwhile, most mountain clubs recommend “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills” as a classic introduction to mountaineering. See my Good Reads link.

Be extra observant, know where you are, where you’re going, tell a few people your planned route, sign trailhead registers, even tell rangers in the district you’re hiking in. START EARLY and PLAN AHEAD. Dress in layers of wicking fabrics, not cotton, or else sweat will build up in your clothes and freeze if you get into some cold weather. You’ll need extra water, enough appropriate food, a first aid kit and means of communication.

After all of that, I’m sure you’re happy with your driveway, treadmill or stairs. For me, it’s worth the tedious preparation, and that becomes more routine also. Hills and mountains are a great resource. I hope your weekend has been so good you can’t put it to words.

an underrated experience