I completed the 26.3 mile hike for the Alabama Make-A-Wish Foundation this past Saturday, May 5th, 2018. I started at approximately 5:15 am and crossed the finish line at 4:13 pm. There were aid stations/resupply points at miles 8.49, 13.44, and 22.21.
Shoes/socks: I had great luck with my new shoes and socks. I hike in the Altra Lonepeak 3.5 and Darn Tough Crew Hike socks. I ended up with one small blister on the bottom of one toe that I didn’t even realize I had until I got back to the hotel. This included multiple water crossings (wet shoes/socks) for several miles, tough terrain, and lots of miles. That is a win to me. I may try sock liners in the future. Find the socks and shoes that work for you and put lots of miles on them. You can’t hike if you can’t walk.
Liquids: I carried a 2 liter water bladder to make drinking easier/faster. It performed quite well, but the one issue I have with a bladder is it’s difficult to tell how much water you are consuming. Too much? Enough? This is especially important when resupply points are far apart and it’s warm outside. I actually ran out of water at one point but luckily I was about half a mile from the next aid station. I also carried a quart of Gatorade in my side pouch. This proved to be a smart move. Sometimes I was just tired of warm water and wanted something different – plus the Gatorade provided things water didn’t.
Food: I didn’t eat enough on the trail and that’s my fault. I had snacks/food with me and I did eat at the aid stations, but I found myself running out of energy between resupply points. I didn’t have time/didn’t want to take the time to stop, take off my backpack, get food out, and eat, but planned on snacking as I went. I should have packaged/carried easy to eat things in my pockets so I could grab and go. Although there was a time limit that I was well below to complete the hike, I had a personal goal and was trying to make it. I just barely did. I also should have included some type of electrolyte/energy gel because I was sweating so much. I’ll plan/pack differently for my next long distance hike. Most importantly, I will force myself to snack more because I know I’ll feel better/have more energy if I do.
Misc. gear: I was happy with the performance of my hiking pants, T-Shirt, hiking poles, and all of the other gear I took. I probably won’t change too much if anything. I’ll post a full list of what I took in another post. I am glad I wore thin hiking pants as the trail was overgrown in parts (including poison ivy) and I was glad I had the leg protection.
Prep: Because of my work schedule, I didn’t train enough. The distance didn’t bother me as much as the elevation. I needed more elevation in my training hikes. Toward the end of the hike I REALLY dreaded any hills and there were a bunch of them. I could hike flat for miles, but the elevation REALLY put a strain on my already tired body – specifically my hamstrings.
Things I would include/change next time: I’ve already addressed the nutrition issue, but I should have included a way to distract myself when the going got tough. Music (or the right music) would have done the trick. I will have a way to rock out on the rocks next time. I may consider hiking with others also. I was alone most of the hike and having others around (even if their pace is a bit slower) would have helped. I would have included some wet wipes to at least clean the funk off a bit or even a dry T-Shirt. Although I did change socks three times, I was drenched in sweat the whole time and a dry shirt/underwear would have been a huge mental boost. At one point I got almost TOO hot late in the afternoon (the highs were in the low 80s). I should have slowed down but pushed through to the next aid station where I had to spend 30 minutes cooling down in the creek. It almost cost me completing the hike. Next time I will slow down and cool down. I may even take a “cooling towel” to help.
These are the major points, but there may be others. What changes have you made/lessons learned on long hikes?