Welcome to the second post on the series!
On the previous post, I have covered the hike plan, and some considerations the Autumn hike.
On this post, I will cover the preparation for the adventure.
The hike preparation
DISCLAIMER: This is not, by any chance, a recipe or prescription for your hike preparation. I’m simply sharing how I did it. Before you embrace a long hike, or any sport activity for that mater, you should consult with your doctor and get clearance for sport practice.
Preparation is a broad topic, as many activities and concerns fit within this topic. For the purpose of this thread, I will cover:
- Logistics prep
- Physical prep
- Mental prep
Regarding logistics, there are a few topics I would like to highlight:
- The first 3 days of the hike won’t be on dedication. They will happen at the end of the work day. They will be shorter and will work as a warm-up for the longer days to come. During these days I’ll be using the train to commute home and back on the next day. So it simplifies the process, allows me to have nice restful evenings and the family to grasp the reality that this is actually happening.
- Days 4 and 5, I will be sleeping at the family farm. I will leverage the good will of my parents to pick me up at the end of the day and drop me off early the next.
- From days 6 onwards I will start the full experience, staying in hostels and other supporting structures like fire departments, churches, small hotels or bed & breakfast
- I will sleep the last night at Santiago and begin the return on the next day
- Return from Santiago will occur by train, through Vigo, Porto and finally Lisbon.
- On day 5 I will be able to repack, so I only need to add “clothes washing pitstops” from day 8 onwards and every 3 days from then on.
- Foodwise, the hike will have a few wilderness parts, but everyday I will be in “civilization”. That simplifies things a lot. I will be carrying a few snacks for the day and replenish every day. No need to carry a lot of food.
To support the multiple dimensions of the adventure, and mainly because I’m geek that way, I have created an excel sheet where I capture start and end locations, day hike duration, daylight details, sleeping arrangements, etc.
That really helped to visualize the details for each day, and identify some options to the challenges that can be clearly identified.
Preparation has been mostly focused in building up Kms/week and then adding load to my backpack. Closer to departure, training weeks are now in the range of 3 to 5 hiking hours per day and the backpack loaded with 25 Kg of sand and water filled bottles (they are resistant, cheap and manageable).
The final load will be around 15 Kg, so building up resistance with double the load will hopefully provide an added comfort during the hike.
Water consumption is an important aspect which makes water the most important element on long hikes. You can have low energy if you don’t have enough calories left to burn, but dehydration is way more dangerous. You will loose a lot of fluids through sweat and even more if weather is mild to hot and high humidity. As a result you need to consume a lot of water or you will face cramps, general fatigue, headaches and you can collapse. As a thumb rule, count with 1/2 liter per hiking hour. So on a 12 hour hike, that will bring you 6 liters which is a load just by itself. Just to clarify in advance, I will not walk around with 6L of water every day! I will have 2 L with me and refill along the way.
Regarding calories left to burn… well let’s just say that I have a good reserve of those built up for decades.
So preparation ends up being quite simple:
- Walk, walk and then walk some more. Walk on consecutive days with load, and using the gear to be used for the hike. I did make some of these while fasting, just to observe how my body behaves.
- Climb all the stairs you can and if you have the time, go back and climb them again.
- If you can stand, just do it.
How about running? Well, any exercise will be good to get you prepared, but for me, it’s more about the number of hours I can stand on my feet and legs, than speed. Running will not happen with the backpack on and will certainly be a more exhausting and shorter exercise. It can be a good compliment, though!
Not many people will understand, and most of them will try to put you down, for trying something like this. The motivations can be diverse (from just being stubborn enough, to religious or personal goals), and the details are not relevant to discuss, but be sure to have them in place for yourself before you embrace on such a challenge. Walking from sunrise to sunset, multiple days (24 actually) in a row can be fun, but can be hell as well.
Start by asking yourself Why? Why would you put yourself through such a long probation, with little comfort, log days and harsh conditions? Do you have a convincing story for to tell yourself? If so, you are good to go. If not, maybe this is not the right challenge for you, or, simply you need to continue looking for that story 😉
When you have the why in place, you should take care of the How. How are you going to walk that long every day. How are you going to pull yourself on to your feet the next morning, while still pitch black outside. How are you going to avoid the temptation to quit? Well to get you started, having a clear Why, will get you a long way. Test yourself before you leave. Hike consecutive days for as long as you can. If you can start the second day, that will be a good clue you are on the right track with your How.
The Who is straight forward: YOU and you alone. My advise is to be prepared for doing this alone and avoid any dependencies. In the end if you can pair up or join a group that is great, but you have your mindset in place to continue even if the group does not. Also remember that going alone, means you will be at your own pace, which is the single most impactful fact for endurance.
The What? Well, that is clear – walk, walk and continue walking.
For me, hiking is a form of meditation, I can use the time to think, meditate, read (although I can read and walk at the same time, I don’t recommend as it can be dangerous. For this trip I will consume several audio books though), develop the stories for future books, specially develop the characters, interactions or phantasy worlds. This will be my mid-life
crisis challenge, where I expect to balance past/present/future, as well as to fulfill a commitment.
Again, there are certainly best ways of preparing for such a challenge, this is just the way I did it. Hope it inspires you to find your own.
Next post will be all about the checklists.