In October my hikes become an Edible Adventure as I struggle to keep my legs sufficiently juiced to complete a challenging, but well-loved, four hour hike.
Partnered with super-fit Dan nearly every October, for my birthday, he and I visit the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where my father took me as a girl, for biking and hiking adventures. October is our favorite month in the Eastern Sierras because the mosquitos have gone into abeyance. At this time of year the high altitude mountains are just on the edge of winter. Before the first winter storms arrive the air is incredibly clear and the sun is warm.
The hike is a challenge and is a way for me to measure my stamina, endurance and fitness. We drive directly from sea level and hit the trail. The trailhead begins at about 8,000 feet elevation and we climb steadily to a lake that is situated at nearly 12,000 feet elevation.
I have been disappointed with my performance the past couple of years. I have no problem getting to the lake and enjoying lunch there with Dan - but I find I have been challenged to get myself back in what I consider good condition.
What happens on the way back is my legs start to feel heavy, I am less inclined to talk, and I stop enthusing over the scenery. In other words I stop having a good time.
The first time this happened in October 2011 I had no idea what was the matter with me. I don't remember what I ate that day - but I do know I was eating fairly low-carb. Though I never felt actual and unmistakable hunger, in retrospect, I have begun to suspect that my lack of leg performance was food related. In retrospect I suspect I experienced what athletic sorts of people refer to as "bonking" which means that I depleted my glycogen stores and then neglected to re-fuel with the right food.
Fast-forward a few years to an older and wiser hiker?
This time I planned ahead, was willing to make a tentative "hand-shake" with higher carb foods, and was determined to dial in just the right amount to keep me feeling frisky for the duration.
On Friday last we drove to the Sierra's arriving at around 1 pm. On the way up I had eaten brown rice sushi rolls, veggies and avocado. We took a nice moderate 2-hour hike to stretch out our car-legs. I had two bananas and almond butter with me and that kept me going strong.
That night at the condo we had a stir-fry with plenty of veggies, and a baked yam.
My sleep was a little off - but that is not uncommon at high elevation.
The next morning I ate more stir-fry for first breakfast. Yes, I sound like a Hobbit. We delayed our departure so that the sun could warm things up a bit and Dan could catch a few more zzz's. For second breakfast I spread a gluten-free sourdough buckwheat pancake with banana and almond butter. I felt I had things well in hand.
We hit the trailhead around 11am. The hike up was spectacular. Really beautiful. I remembered to drink plenty of water, definitely the heaviest item in my day-pack, and thank you Dan for carrying it btw, and I munched an apple when we stopped to enjoy the scenery.
When we reached the lake a couple of hours later we nestled ourselves into lake-side rocks and trees for a picnic. I had two baked yams with almond butter (sort of a gluten-free sandwich?), along with juicy cucumber and red bell pepper strips. That seemed fairly high-carb and I was feeling pretty good about my food choices.
When we started back I must have been in denial. Though I felt better than I did in 2011- at about 15 minutes into the hike my legs started to feel tired and walking became a drudgery.
Was my head foggy again? Perhaps it was. Dan is VERY strong and I do try to keep up with him. I didn't tell Dan I needed to stop until we were about 1 1/2 hours into the hike. Again I wasn't aware of feeling hungry - but it occurred to me that since my legs were not recovering that I may need to eat more. While Dan lounged in the sun on a rock I dug into the backpack. When I got the instant oats out of my backpack and began to eat I literally wolfed them down. Then I wolfed down an apple. Then I polished off the organic baby carrots. I still didn't feel stellar but I finished the hike.
Back at the car Dan had a bag of dried bananas. Now mind you I have been a bit carb-phobic these past few years, or at least what you would call carb-cautious - and dried bananas can be the equivalent of contraband. So I started with just one - which lead to another and another - and the more banana chips I ate the better I felt. To be honest the banana chips completely restored me in no-time.
We ate a normal dinner that night. About the same stir-fry and yams along with a green salad and avocado. We don't usually eat out as we are both VERY health conscious and are trying to economize.
Next morning I felt hungry. Dan went out on a bike ride while I packed and tidied the condo. While he was gone I ate three times before he got back! I ate stir-fry, 6 buckwheat pancakes with almond butter and 2 bananas before noon. Then spend the rest of the day sightseeing with light snacking on trail-mix, apples, carrots, and baked yams.
We drove back late that night. I slept like a baby when I got back to my sea-level bed.
Though I am still trying to process all of this - it seems to me that I was becoming calorie and carb-deficient even while I thought I was keeping up on things. Even though I don't feel hungry on the trail - perhaps I need to eat more?
At home at sea-level I go for an hour walk/hike nearly everyday and am completely comfortable with that. The Sierra hike essentially quadrupled my energy out-put without even taking elevation into consideration.
Dan, who is a fairly competent cyclist, is more familiar with his calorie and protein/carb ratio needs during bouts of intense exercise. I am just beginning to explore what mine might be.
I don't particularly enjoy being foiled on the mountain a second time. This is just the sort of Edible Adventure that challenges me. Dan is not too excited about the idea, but, weather permitting, I would like to try it again this year, without necessarily having to wait until next October.
I will try to post some pics later.