The Trail to Philmont, January 2020 Recap

The Trail to Philmont started in January with three-times-a-week workouts at our local college. We exercised in a variety of temperatures, from a low in the 20s (maybe high teens) to a high in the low 40s. We ran the quad, we ran the track around the football field, and we ran the utility loop around the football stadium.

That last one is the hardest; it’s running on concrete and pavement with a set of stairs at one end and short/steep slope at the other. My Achilles tendon didn’t love it, but for we’re going, it’s probably the best workout of the three.

We started the week of January 12, and since then I’ve run about 9 miles a week, at an average pace of 9.5-to-11.5 minutes per mile (unsurprisingly, I’m faster on level ground). The handy Health app on my phone (with help from my smartwatch) says I averaged 7.9 miles a day (an improvement over the 5.3 miles in December 2019, and about the norm for Fall 2019). I averaged 29 floors worth of flights climbed, which was also higher than December (and most of the fall, though not by much).

I began a diet, which basically amounts to eating less and exercising more (translation: if tempted by tater tots, I’ll eat 8 of them instead of say, 30). This is paying off – I went from 222.2 lbs at the beginning of January (many thanks to our delicious Christmas and New Year’s!) to 212.6 lbs at the end of the month.

That was, in many ways, the easy month, diet-wise. In my experience, the first 10 lbs. comes off quickly (or relatively so). The next 10 will be harder. To help with that -and with getting in better shape overall – my wife and I are restarting our weekly sessions with a personal trainer. This is is something we had been doing up until about a year ago when the college where we work suspended the training program. In our first experience with a personal trainer, my wife and I chose to work out at the same time, turning our weekly training sessions into a date of sorts. It was a great experience, and working with the trainer pushed us out of comfort zones (which is cardio for me, and strength training for my wife).

My focus then was on building up strength and endurance for running. This time around, it will be building up strength and endurance for Philmont … and helping me lose a few more pounds.

Hiking-wise, we didn’t get out in January. Our first big trip of the season is scheduled for the end of March in the Pine Barrens, which should be an easy (and flat) two-day hike. I’d love to get in a short backpacking trip in February, but given the weather, I don’t know how realistic that is. If nothing else I plan to re-start my morning walks and throw on my backpack as part of the training. My new 85-liter Osprey pack looks and feels good … but I haven’t had many opportunities to wear it aside from a 10-mile hike back in November.

Skills-wise, our troop just purchased a number of regional maps of eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey and I’m looking forward to recharging my map-reading/compass-navigating skills. I picked up Hiking Pennsylvania (Amazon) by John Young which includes maps, descriptions, and photos for dozens of trails in PA. And finally, one of the adult crew members found the excellent blog post “How to Cure and Prevent Butt Chafing on Backpacking Trips”, which is advice I plan to start following ASAP. Chaffing’s been a big issue on our previous hikes, and as I wrote in my introductory Trail to Philmont post, it’s something I need to solve before we go west.

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The passage underneath the stands at the football stadium. Credit: Ken Newquist.

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