Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

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oleander
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Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by oleander » Tue Nov 03, 2015 7:15 pm

Very well-written article in the NYT, speculating why women hold so many of the FKTs on long-distance trails:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/sport ... -news&_r=1

The article doesn't mention this, but the gender gap over extreme distances is also narrowed in other sports - such as multi-day adventure racing, and ultra (longer-than-Ironman distance) triathlon. Sometimes, a woman in one of these races will place first overall.

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Re: Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by Hobbes » Tue Nov 03, 2015 8:02 pm

I wonder if the DoD has any of these athletes under contract for DNA analysis. I mean, what does one make of Anish (Heather), and how would an R&D operation fail to at least approach her? And if you were her (or others), how would you turn down the money? Heck, professional athletes make multi-millions throwing a silly ball, but what the MIC wants is the secret to designing super-human endurance ground troops. And the only way to figure that out is to discover/unlock the genetic advantage.

Seriously, what unique capabilities allows someone to perform at such extreme levels? It's crazy if you actually think about it. Try and hike a marathon for 3 months with +- elevation day after day without a break - practically impossible. Yet Heather did it at 40+ miles each day.

As a PCT fanboi, seeing how much weight dudes lose is shocking. I ran into one hiker at TM this past summer, and while he was biking south to Mex after reaching Canada, we met for lunch at the beach by my home. Yes, he was fit & trim, but he admitted he had lost over 30 lbs. Meanwhile, most of the girls who finished had maintained their weight (or just got in great shape) & energy all the way through.

It's hard to imagine the exposure to these facts isn't being researched & investigated.

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Re: Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by Jimr » Tue Nov 03, 2015 8:22 pm

I think my wife holds the endurance record for longest time spent in labor = 26 hours. It was a difficult thing to watch.
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Re: Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Nov 04, 2015 9:27 am

Jim- childbirth is a short event- it is the next many years of up at night and self-sacrifice that is required to raise that kid that builds character!

It would be interesting to research if there is an optimum "body type" for long distance super-hiking. Perhaps it is that, not gender per se, that is the key. It does seem counter-intuitive that women do so well. I wonder what the guy who beat the woman's record weighed? Were they both similar body types? Have similar strength-to-weight ratios?

Hiking is similar to rock climbing, in that it is not strength alone- but the strength-to-weight ration that gives women an advantage. That is why 80 pound 10-year olds do so well! But, given the millions of steps you must take in long distance hiking, you would think a 6-foot tall guy with a long gait has an advantage over a 5-foot woman with a shorter gait.

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Re: Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by AlmostThere » Wed Nov 04, 2015 9:36 am

26 hours is not the worst... try three days (not me - someone I know). I suspect that these days a C section goes into play well before the two day mark....

It doesn't surprise me that some of us are suited to long distance hiking. It would be interesting to find the men who are also good at it, and see if there are body types (as WD suggests) that excel rather than making it gender based.

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Re: Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by Jimr » Wed Nov 04, 2015 9:58 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:Jim- childbirth is a short event- it is the next many years of up at night and self-sacrifice that is required to raise that kid that builds character!
I know it took us two years just to catch-up on sleep, then we did it again. She almost had the second one in the car. The second one added another 5 years of sleepless nights to the mix.

AT, wow, 3 days. I thought 26 hours in a hospital bed being constantly kicked in the gut was a long time.

I think when it comes to strength, men obviously have the advantage, but when it comes to endurance, the playing field is no longer tilted. Or, perhaps, tilted a bit in the other direction. Yeah, I know, why state the ridiculously obvious when the merely obvious will do.
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Re: Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by freestone » Wed Nov 04, 2015 10:22 am

I am guessing there must be a very strong mental component to complement the genetically perfect long distance hiker body.

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Re: Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by Hobbes » Wed Nov 04, 2015 1:28 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:Perhaps it is that, not gender per se, that is the key. It does seem counter-intuitive that women do so well.
I think it's related to why some/many women are colder then men, or why they also have more difficulty losing weight: they just don't burn as many calories for a given task or activity. Or, to put it another way, women's bodies use energy (calories) more efficiently. Why that is is the question for the geneticists to figure out.

Among PCTers, the gender gap is very well known. If you want a real eye-opener, check out some blogs where couples hiked together. The dudes look like concentration camp victims - they literally eat themselves away:

http://thetravelingmandolin.blogspot.co ... y-off.html

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Re: Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by maverick » Wed Nov 04, 2015 2:47 pm

The dudes look like concentration camp victims - they literally eat themselves away:
Nice comparison Hobbes. :(
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Re: Why women rock at very-long-distance hiking

Post by maverick » Wed Nov 04, 2015 3:05 pm

Hiking is similar to rock climbing, in that it is not strength alone- but the strength-to-weight ration that gives women an advantage. That is why 80 pound 10-year olds do so well!
My understanding is that some women do better at rock climbing because they have smaller muscles in their forearms, which allows them to last longer on the walls, as opposed to men, who have larger forearm muscles, which when swollen, cut off the blood supple and oxygen, which can cause them to get "pumped", a term in rock climbing when the forearm muscles are filled with lactic acid and lose their ability to maintain their grips.
You see this with guys who try to muscle up a wall, using all arms and lats, instead of gracefully going up the wall using their much stronger legs.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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

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