I walked out of the Woods the other day, drenched, cold and exhilarated.
I spend the better part of this past four-day weekend in the Cohutta Wilderness. It was my second trip to the Cohutta. My earlier visit was with the two Princes, and we overnighted on the Chestnut Lead trail, and then hiked a portion of the Conasauga River trail, before breaking camp and heading back.
This time I got to the Mountain rather late in the afternoon, and found the road leading from the intersection of FS 64 and 68 was closed in either direction leading to the trailheads. So I parked at the gate, and made the two-mile hike to the Tearbritches Trailhead. My plan was to hike Bald Mountain, overnight, hike to Cowpen Mountain, overnight, and then hike out the third day. Primary trails would have been Tearbritches and Panther Creek.
The weather forecast for the weekend was not good. I had considered bringing my dog, who is warrior and always down to go, but thought better of it. Good choice. The weatherman essentially called for continuous rain Saturday night, Sunday, and Sunday night. I packed some medium cold weather gear, my lightweight gortex, my hammock set up with rain-fly, typical extra socks, and trail feed.
I was well into sunset by the time I got to the North side of Bald Mountain. I found a spot on the North-East side of the ridge and set up. The rain was to come from the South-West, and I wanted a good wind break on the opposite face. Another good choice. That night it did rain, and I could hear the wind howling through the upper canopy coming from the opposite face. However, there was virtually no wind in my spot.
By the way, I love hammock camping for many reasons. Among which are: a) I can set up on virtually any level terrain, without having to clear any ground, b) and I can camp leaving no trace, no compacted ground, no tent clearing.
It did rain all night. It let up just after sunrise, though the fog and mist made for an undramatic sunrise. Then it started raining again.
I decided to start hiking. In the rain you’ve a few choices, my option is to load up the heater (my backpack), and stay warm by keeping moving. Plus I figured the rain would let up at some point, and if it didn’t I could probably make my total distance, pack it in and hike out.
It literally rained all day.
Tearbritches Trail is aptly named. I thought at first maybe because there were a lot of briars and brambles. No. It is because of the phenomenon when you take a big step up or down, and tear out the crotch of your pants. I didn’t tear out my crotch, but the trail basically descends the entire 4000 feet or so from the top of Bald Mountain to the Conasauga River. And what trail goes down, must come up . . .
Towards the bottom of Tearbritches, the river crossings begin. When hiking in the Cohutta, be prepared to get your feet wet. They’re gonna get wet and cold, so accept it, suck it up, and keep moving.
A right turn along Conasauga River trail brings you to Panther Creek, and a wide river, somewhat treacherous river crossing. Panther Creek trail leads off Southwest.
Panther Creek trail leads off at a fairly tolerable elevation, but soon becomes a literal rock scramble. Treacherous for the inexperience hiker. Panther Creek tumbles down several very nice falls, and eventually to a dramatic cascade down a sheer rock face.
I lost the trail in the rain, and found myself (almost) lost. I used my map and terrain navigation skills to climb several ridges and eventually linked back up with the East Cowpens trail. At this point it was late, I was cold and freezing. East Cowpens lead back to FS 64 where I made the four mile return hike to my truck. I started sleeting. I don’t think I was ever as glad to see my truck, through the mist, in the sleet, in the fading light.
There is a fish that swims in the shallow crystal clear waters of Flamenco Beach.
In loose, slow schools you can only see it when under water.
With virtually clear colored bodies, and only the faintest of black on it’s fin tips, it hides in plain sight.
Unmolested by predators from above.
Technically, I don’t have a training diet. Since I’m training nearly all the time in one fashion or another, and since my obsessive mind becomes utterly bogged down by complicated logging methods, etcetera, I’ve developed a few basic rules which work for me quite well.
1. Focus on Fiber. First and foremost, I focus on fiber. I’ve found that by focusing on fiber, most of the other healthy and wholesome foods fall in line. Since most processed, sugary and “bad” food is virtually devoid of fiber, consuming anything approaching the FDA daily requirement necessarily entails things like whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
However, I take it a step further, my target daily fiber intake is 33g from natural sources (i.e., no fiber supplements). Studies have shown that the FDA 25g of fiber is too low. Based on my weight & activity level, my number looks more like 33-36g. Though, I do take a psyllium husk supplement during certain cleanse periods, but outside of that, no.
2. Stick to foods I know work. Second, I stick to foods that work. I don’t constantly go out and try to find new, exotic foods with miracle micro-nutrients. I know what foods fulfill my dietary balance, and I stick to those generally. This takes a little work up front, but once you learn them, it makes things very easy. I’ve developed my list from following the “Abs Diet” by David Zinczenko (get the book at the library). It is very simple to get a hang of it.
I’m not afraid of exotic foods. I love eating good, new foods. I love to cook, and to cook new foods. The same goes for restaurants and traveling overseas. But from a practical everyday, block-and-tackle standpoint, I stick to what I know works, and I don’t need to put a whole lot of thought into.
3. Don’t Get Hungry. The easiest way to sabotage your diet is to hit the wall at 1pm, be on the road, and stop off for a taquito and a cinnamon bun. The easiest way to avoid this scenario is to first Eat Breakfast. Eat a good, fiber-rich breakfast. There is all sorts of science behind the value of eating an early breakfast. But from a daily perspective, it is the best way to avoid the midday hungries. Secondly, plan for lunch. Yes, actually think about it, and prepare a lunch ahead of time. No excuses about you don’t have time. It’ll take 5 minutes. Just do it.
4. Stay Away Froms. What I avoid: Corn syrup, High fructose corn syrup, any level of hydrogenated oils, added animal fats, bleached or processed flours (“enriched” flour), diglycerides and triglycierides. I don’t eat pork. I don’t do tobacco. I don’t drink cheap alcohol.
When it comes to training nutrition, I follow a few simple rules.
5. During Actual Training or Competition. Before a training session or competition, I’ll drink a protein shake. Low carbs. I want the protein available in my blood stream exactly when my muscles call for it, either to rebuild or to fuel. No HGH, creatine, etc.
Immediately following a training session, I’ll drink a sports drink (Generally my own homemade recipe). I want the carbs available to my muscles when they’re able to absorb the most.
Prior to competition I’ll try to carb up. I’m not completely convinced this has a tremendous impact on the top-end. It does seem to prevent seriously “bonking”. There must be a dozen different approaches to carbo-loading. More importantly, beginning several days prior I focus on hydration.
During extended endurance competition, I’ll try to drink a protein/carb mix, again homemade recipe. However, this isn’t always practical in a race, so I don’t stress over it. Being hydrated in competition is the most important item. In competition I’m not interested in training my muscles–I’m interested in giving them ideal circumstances.
6. Drink Water. Water makes everything work better. Your digestion, your performance, lowers your heart rate. Dehydration can give me debilitating headaches. I generally stay hydrated, but don’t obsess over it. I’ve found that in certain endurance and survival situations, it’s good to train your body to use water efficiently (i.e., function at below complete hydration. Again, this could technically be a completely separate topic.
That’s about it in a nutshell from a day-to-day standpoint. I also take vitamins, supplements–Again, not obsessively. I don’t overindulge on sweets and alcohol.
Disclaimer: I am neither nutrition, nor health expert. I am expert in many things, none of which are covered in this post, not even in what actually works for me. I am an expert, however, in my opinion of what works for me. And that is all that I have covered here, my opinion of what works for me, in the hopes that you may glimpse a glimmer of something useful.
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