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Age and Bonking

How do you prepare for the rigorous physical requirements of high elevation adventure? Strength and endurance are key, but are only part of a more complex equation. How do you prepare for changes in altitude, exposure, diet, etc.? How do you mentally prepare? Learn from others and share what you know about training in advance for outdoor adventures.
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Age and Bonking

Postby tlsharb » Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:48 am

So I leave two weeks from tomorrow for another trip into the Sierra (Blackcap and ???). I started pondering what it would take to pop over Valor Pass and climb Goddard. Decided I should test out my abilities by going up the Great Gulf trail to the top of Mt. Washington (here in NH). Well, it didn't go so well. The first 6.5 miles and 3,000' climb were fine. But when we started up the headwall (1,800' in .8 miles) I bonked. It was like a switch went off-- first half of the wall felt fine and then "boom", my body said "done". The last half mile was awful. For years I biked, so I kind of know the feeling, but this has never happened to me before hiking. So I guess I'm now left pondering the question-- at 62 is this just the way it is (so probably best to forget Goddard), or if I had done a better job giving my body fuel along the way, this wouldn't have happened. Just not sure. I think I'll try the same trail one more the same trail one more time with a different approach to hydration and eating-- but I may end up with the same results. I'd love to hear from some other "seasoned" hikers what they think.
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby dave54 » Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:38 am

I also am 62. I have begrudgingly forced myself to accept the inevitable and have layover days. Even if I still feel good I force myself to stand down for a day, hangout in camp, and chillax.
The next few days just go better if I do.

Fueling yourself is also important. There are plenty of books and websites on nutrition timing and sports nutrition. Unfortunately they all are geared towards 20 something competitive athletes. A paucity of information on keeping older bodies in an active lifestyle.
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby Jimr » Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:49 am

Bonk happens. I think you have a good plan. Feed and water the machine and see how it goes. The biggest thing is to keep the head out of "this is just the way it is 'cause I'm getting old". If you set your mind to that, then that is what you will experience. A lot depends on how much exercise you do regularly at this time. When was the last time you hiked up a significant slope? You may just need to put some miles under your feet for two weeks straight. Put some weight on your back and start walking locally every evening after work. You may be pleasantly surprised come hike time.
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby tlsharb » Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:26 am

Jim, unfortunately I do hike up significant slopes often (2-3 times a month), which caused me to think this wasn't going to be that hard. This was a little nastier climb than most. And the one thing that truly surprised me was that one of the guys with us is 73, and he climbed like a mtn. goat. The one difference this year from others is that I had a bout of sciatica this winter that knocked me down for 3 months. I've had to run and bike a lot just to get back into "medium" shaped after that. But I'm going to hit it again next week-- maybe Katahdin (that's a nasty one too :).
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby rayfound » Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:31 am

1800ft in .8 miles is really damn hard, I don't care who you are. After a 3,000ft climb? Yeah, don't get too down on yourself.
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby Jimr » Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:43 am

tlsharb wrote:Jim, unfortunately I do hike up significant slopes often (2-3 times a month)


I see that as fortunate ;-) Maybe you just caught a case of the bonk. I've experienced it within the last year. Went for a hike with significant elevation gain on an empty stomach. ](*,) Face first into the wall.
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby Tom_H » Mon Aug 01, 2016 6:30 pm

I have hit the wall too. Probably nothing more than day hiking from now on. The part I can no longer handle is sleeping on the ground. No matter what kind of pad or air mattress I use, I wind up with excruciating back pain. Time to get another 4WD off-road motorhome and drive into places I can day hike.
Last edited by Tom_H on Tue Aug 02, 2016 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby paul » Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:44 pm

I think if it happens that suddenly it is the classic "bonk", where your body did not have the needed fuel. Sure you can't do what you could 10 years ago - but if you have the fuel going right you'll wear out gradually, not all of a sudden.
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby Jimr » Mon Aug 01, 2016 11:02 pm

Ya know, the Hetch Hetchy thread that jgaffney started got me thinking. Try adding some emergen C to you water and see how electrolyte replacement makes you feel. I started using the generic CVS brand of emergen C last year and use it on occasion. It does seem to help.
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby tlsharb » Tue Aug 02, 2016 6:40 am

JImr, never heard of the stuff, but I'll give it a try. Deed down, I would love to get on top of Goddard in a couple weeks.
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby maverick » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:22 am

TS,

Read this article: http://www.hammernutrition.com/hnt/1273/
See if any of these issues can be applied to your case, most folks violate several of these because they have never researched the sience on the effects of long endurance sports activities on their bodies, they just do it, and sooner or later they hit a wall, either by bonking or worse, by injury. Backpacking needs to be taken as a serious endurance sport, not as some leisurely activity, carrying 20-50 lbs on your back for numerous hours, extreme elevation gains/losses, grueling heat/cold, and diverse/challenging terrains all tax our bodies to their limits.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Age and Bonking

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:14 am

I had a year of bonks (I'm not old, but I'm getting there) and came back from it. It took a lot of blood work and some exploring to figure out I needed a little bit of help. I'd do a trip I had done before without issues and crash/burn. It wasn't consistent -- a short trip would have me hitting a wall, a longer harder one would be fine. I'm working my way back up to speed now that things have stabilized.

And now, my unhusband is bonking. He just saw his 62nd birthday. We're working on it. Probably a combination of slowing down due to a job change, stress, and some unknown thing we'll figure out.

I saw a bunch of older retired folks head out to Goddard as we were returning to the trailhead -- they were taking it nice and slow, cutting daily mileages to manageable. I've seen 70+ folks who do 3-4 miles per day. Slowing down sucks, but sometimes, you just do it, because you don't like the idea of stopping....

Keep at it. Throw in some GU packets or some extra granola bars. I take Emergen-C packets and have them hot at some point in the day, because I don't like them cold.
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