Tuesday, December 29, 2009

4000 Miles

1000 Miles

Its actually only a 1000 miles, but this is my fourth year achieving the goal. The "rules", such as they are (I made them up) are to go 1000 miles under your own steam. No biking allowed, though paddling a canoe is ok. Most often for me its running or hiking. Here are some thoughts about what this means to me.

  • Every year this goal consistently challenges me and I wonder as I near the end of each year if I'll make it
  • The goal is not about the miles per se, for me its about :
    • a way to have a daily target in front of me : 2.74 miles
    • a way to motivate me to get outdoors and explore my surroundings, this is more about destination rather than distance and most often that destination is the mountains.
    • a way to get in better shape and yet after a 1000 miles for four consecutive years :
      • I haven't really lost that much weight and I still have a little pot belly. Granted I am a lot less chunky than I was four years ago and I am in much better shape, but I am not in fantastic superman shape. But I am in better shape than most folks I'd guess.
      • I still have double chin which irks me; I still eat too many calories
      • I am still not "fast"; its a matter of time and endurance not speed. The second to the last day I did 24 miles in 6 hours. I ran the first 16 and walked the last 8. Anyone can do a 1000 miles if they have enough time. Once in shape you can walk a mile in 15 minutes. By only walking 40 minutes each day you'll do a 1000 miles in a year.
      • I still usually carry a camera with me no matter where I am going, hiking or running. I am a runner that takes photos and a photographer that runs. Sometimes I'll see folks running down the trail carrying a water bottle, me I've got a camera in my hand. (I carry water on my back)
    • Granted often towards the end of the year if I am behind it is about the miles and not the destination. At this point it is about achieving the goal itself not matter if its a long long run on a very flat boring trail. I do find here that books on tapes help, I listened to two on the last week.
  • Things I've learned along the way :
    • Gear matters. Good shoes, the right warm stuff when its cold, like head bands vs. hats (you over heat in a hat but a head band keeps your ears warm while venting out the top of your head)
    • Pacing is important; over exerting or over doing it causes more hurt than benefit
    • Consistency is key, the goal is accomplished a day at a time; every great thing is made up of many many small intermediate steps
    • Having a large goal that can be measured on a daily basis is important to achieving that goal; its a great motivator to "just do it" on a daily basis, not that I always run or hike every day but for sure every week
    • Having companionship along the way makes the journey more enjoyable and much easier to achieve. Its much easier to motivate yourself to go when there are others to go with. (457 miles with others)
    • Having said that you will never be able to achieve your goal by soley relying on others, in the end it will come down to you alone, out there by yourself getting it done. (542 miles solo)
    • I can run! I used to hate running and swore (even after becoming active) that I'd never run. My neighbor convinced me to try trail running that it was "the same as hiking but just faster" and now I even run on the road a couple of times a week at work during lunch.
    • If you build up to it your body has an amazing capacity for endurance, you can do what seem like "amazing" things such as hiking through the Enchantments (19 miles) in a single day. My capacity for endurance and recovery over the years has increased and reduced. I can do 19 miles in a day and still walk the next and go for a 5 mile run the day after. Four years ago this would have put me out for almost a week. Your capacity for recovery grows over time.
    • Exercise really does make you feel better and you really do have more energy rather than less after exercising. I firmly believed for many years that exerting energy could only make you feel more tired and that "pain" could only make you hurt not feel better. Endorphins are a real and amazing thing, not to mention the overall feeling of healthiness
    • Exercise (at least for me) increases my immune system; I have only gotten sick a couple of times in the past four years and those have been very minor colds. (I have gotten quite sick twice but those were both self induced because I "drank the water", once in the mountains and once in Mexico)
    • I don't mind getting up early. In fact getting up early (stupid early) is one of the only ways for me to accomplish this goal, with job, family and church something has to give so for me its sleep. I'll sleep when I'm dead. I don't mind starting in the dark but I like ending when its light. Getting up early is often a barrier to others joining me as I have found very few people are willing to get up at O:Dawn Thirty.
    • When those expeditions (Rainier) or adventures (The Tooth) do come along I am in shape and ready

And so a new year is set to begin and I reset the counter and look forward to a new journey along another 1000 miles. May you find your own journey, your own cause, your own measure of consistency that requires discipline and pays dividends.


Blogger Stuart Green said...

Great post, Mark. Twelve months ago you inspired me to try this out, but I only made it thru mid-Jan before hobbling out of the game with foot problems. 1000 miles is a very real achievement, and doing it for years in a row is incredible.

I'm inspired to try it again, but with a baby on the way that might not be possible.

Congrats again on the achievement, and if you're ever in the area and looking for someone to hike with, look me up. Oh, and we're planning a moonlight hike of Half Dome in August if you're interested.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Traveling Hipster said...

I enjoyed this allot, as your younger "bigger" brother, I will say your endurance is amazing. As you pointed out its developed over time and consistency is the key. This same consistency applies to your diet and calorie intake, you get those in line and say goodbye to your pot belly and double chin! Congratulations on achieving your goal :)

11:51 AM  
Blogger thom said...

This is an awesome and admirable goal, Mark - cheers to you for having done it the last three years and best of luck in 2010.

The only way I could probably do it would be to fudge your rules and allow biking to count (it's muscle-powered activity after all). But you've inspired me to perhaps give it a go - thanks much.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Stuart I started off this year thinking I could run to work once a week (17 miles) and go my knees into trouble pretty quick and had to back off. I have 3 kids so a baby is no excuse ;)

Josh I love to eat! But I am gonna work on this this year

Thom the reason I banned biking was that I would drastically need to up the mileage and it put the hiking miles off balance but everyone makes up their own rules. :)

1:11 PM  
Blogger Wheat said...

Four years in a row. Congratulations!

I don't have the predisposition to track all my miles, but I've noticed the same progression in myself in terms of fitness and health by being more dedicated to hiking/running/biking on a more frequent basis.

I also had the same problem with a small double chin and some stubborn belly fat. No matter how hard I hit hte trails, there was still a decent amount of stubborn fat. I used to think that at some point I should try and eat less, but all that exercise just makes you really hungry! However, I happened to read "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes a couple months back, which is a fascinating look at the science behind human diets. Taubes explains that it is insulin which drives storage of the fat tissues, and it's carbohydrates which cause the pancreas to release insulin. The book covers a lot of other ground on human health and diets and the history, science and politics behind it - but it did in the end leave me convinced that weight regulation is not a simple, "calories in, calories out" equation but is instead primarily a hormonal regulation problem. And an over-consumption of carbohydrates in general is the problem, and especially any consumption of sugar found outside of whole fruits, is the primary driver of this hormonal imbalance.

Since "Good Calories, Bad Calories" is a science book and not a diet book though, I looked for some other books to help formulate a better diet plan. The Atkins diet is the most popular low-carb diet, but it doesn't have as much focus on nutrient density and purity as the paleolithic diet. The Primal Blueprint book is approximately the diet that I'm following right now: grass-fed animals, leafy greens, fruit, nuts and eggs are the main dietary focus. Avoiding any sugars or processed food, but even grains in general are avoided. I've only been on the diet 6 weeks, but it's already doing wonders for me! As big a step for my health as adding in regular exercise was, switching to a paleo-style diet has had an even bigger marked improvement in mood, energy levels and overall health. Weight loss happens without ever feeling hungry, or needing to count calories - you just need to be strict about the types of calories you eat. The book, "The Paleolithic Diet for Atheletes", also has some good recommendations on when and how you can tweak your diet to use more carbs so you can still maintain a higher level of energy output (necessary for peak bagging!).

Mixing up excersice sessions between cardio and weight training is also something that I am a recent convert of. The weight training component of the exercise has a lot of beneficial effects hormonally - increased levels of testosterone and HGF. Doing the weight training with kettlebells also helps with the fat burning, as a kettlebell workout packs the maximum amount of muscle effort possible into the shortest amount of time.

3:21 PM  
Blogger slhoopes said...

great post, keeps me inspired to get outdoors!
+1 for bikes, you've got to change your rules if want to keep your knees :)

4:27 PM  

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