Trail Running Challenge Blog (Ethan Banks)

July 2023 Training Wrap Up

By most metrics Garmin will show me, I logged the most physical activity I've ever logged in a single month. More active calories (27,443). More miles run (147.13). More feet ascended (43,260). The biggest win is that I'm not injured. I don't even have any niggles aside from my right IT band getting a little tight, and that's a familiar issue I resolve with aggressive rolling out.

The biggest single-day effort of July was 22.9 miles in the Sandwich Wilderness with 9K' vert, bagging a bunch of trails from the AMC guidebook plus Passaconaway & Whiteface for my NH 48x12 grid. In fact, I finished my July grid this month. I bagged...

  1. 07/01/23 Tecumseh.
  2. 07/07/23 Garfield/Twins. Galehead for G2.
  3. 07/08/23 Zealand/West Bond/Bond/Bondcliff.
  4. 07/11/23 Cannon for G2.
  5. 07/15/23 Passaconaway/Whiteface.
  6. 07/22/23 Moriah.
  7. 07/28/23 Hancock/South Hancock/East Osceola/Osceola.

"G2" means grid 2, because I had already bagged that peak in a previous July.

These trail runs were either longer than necessary--for example, Tecumseh was a double summit from the ski area to Tripoli Road and back--or done as fast as possible. I set PBs on Cannon and Moriah.

I spent several days after the Sandwich route with a strained left calf where I mostly rested, but then executed the Moriah run with no calf complaints.

The Hancocks/Osceolas was a mixed bag, where I did a conservative run on the Hancocks, but still felt pretty gassed on the way up East Osceola's steep climb. I've also been having trouble sleeping, so I think the month is catching up to me. I did a strength workout yesterday, and today I'm just resting. Tomorrow I'll go for a zone 2 run and see how I'm feeling.

In summary, July 2023 was my best collection of athletic performances ever. I am happy about that, because I can see how much room I still have to grow. I can get stronger and leaner. I can improve my cardio efficiency. I can gain new skills both uphill and downhill.

For example, after talking through the calf injury with my coach, she diagnosed that I'm spending too much time on the balls of my feet when climbing. She recommended I focus on getting my heels down, because that engages the glutes and hamstrings. Heels up engages the calves more, and although I have stupidly large calves, I'm giving up the power I have in the much larger glutes & hamstrings.

Looking Ahead To August 2023

August 2023 is too tough to grid out. I have a friend who wants to hike, and he's not a gridiot. He's just someone who wants to get above treeline and have a nice day in the woods. My granddaughter has a birthday this month, and while perhaps she goes hiking with Granddad in a decade or so, for right now she's too young for the trails. My work schedule is what it is. And finally, the New Hampshire weather has been unusually wet in 2023. Rain and thunderstorms have limited how often I can safely get up high, especially later in the afternoons when I'm more typically free to get out the door. With only 14/48 August peaks checked off, I don't see how I can bag 34 peaks unless I have a lot of things go my way I'm not expecting to.

Related to that are two upcoming big efforts I'm training for. The Kilkenny Ridge Race is coming up in late September, and I'm doing the 50 miler. I also want to attempt the 24 hour hut-to-hut traverse. I'm thinking of August as some grid peaks to be sure, but more focused on distance and route reconnaissance. I'd like to push into the upper 20s and 30 mile range to see if I can get hydration and nutrition dialed in. Mostly, I need to do more of both when I'm in the middle of a long route. It's just that simple.

Hydration. I sweat a lot. I can't carry enough water, and don't want to because of the weight. I've gotten more aggressive about supplementing with streams, and that's been helping. In the Whites, many (not all!) routes have plenty of water, and this season has been so wet that water is flowing well just about everywhere. The water is also cool and tastes good. So...I need to do more of this. Drink more water.

Nutrition. I think that I don't ingest enough calories when on a longer route, which for me equates to over 10-12 "White Mountains" miles. By that, I mean I'm pushing hard over rough, steep terrain that is demanding on all body systems--cardiovascular, musculature, skeletal, and mental. EVERYTHING gets pounded in the Whites when you are pushing the pace.

Cardio gets hammered going uphill, especially if you have good flow up the hill. Muscles are called upon both uphill and downhill in different ways. Bones & joints get pounded over the endless rocks, ledges, and roots of the Whites--shoes can help with this, but I've found that high-stack shoes make me prone to ankle rolling. The mind is also taxed in the Whites, because you have to stare at your feet and the upcoming terrain vigilantly especially when pushing the pace--stare off at a distant view while moving, and you'll take a digger.

All of that means that my body is blowing through calories, especially at my current weight of ~195 pounds. When I get into 10-12 miles, I seem to consistently feel fatigued. That's about 3-4 hours into a route for me, where I'm guessing I've exhausted both the carbs I've been putting in the tank and whatever glycogen my body had stored. That's a guess on my part, but that guess is informed by the fact that eating after bonking usually perks me up. The only thing for it is to try ingesting more calories and see if I can stay ahead of the fatigue.

This problem I just outlined is, I think, the biggest remaining puzzle to solve for my longer goal routes of 50+ miles. There are more puzzles to solve around sleep deprivation, what happens to my feet if they are wet for longer than 12 hours, and other unknowns. But nutrition is the one I need to get my head around next.