I can’t fix the world. If you want to make a difference in life, you have to direct your energies in a focused way. — Bill Bryson
It’s now been 4 1/2 weeks since my knee surgery. The good news is that my knee seems to be nearly fully functional. I continue to do physical therapy exercises and icing after workouts, and I have to treat it gingerly during downhill walks, but in every other way, I seem to have full function.
I am now riding my bicycle at the same level as before the surgery (about 40 mi/wk) and will be ramping up to higher mileage over the next couple months. I’ve added roughly 10 mile day hikes with a small pack to the workout as it doesn’t seem to hurt my knee. I have taken days off when my knee gets sore. After all, if the knee is damaged again, the hike is over. I’ll be very careful to protect the knee from too much stress. How I ramp up, I’m playing by ear, assuming that the ramp will become steeper as the start date gets closer. Unfortunately, the start of the hike will present some of the most difficult parts of the trail with the snow covered, northern Cascades. The ramp up must happen prior to starting the hike.
I plan, at some point soon, to start carrying a heavier pack. There are two ways to ramp up the pack weight. 1. Carry the full pack weight (35-40 lbs) and ramp up the miles/elevation, or: 2. Go the full distance (~20 mi/day) and ramp up the weight. I’m planning on the latter. Part of the reason is, over time, my body weight is decreasing due to fat loss. Currently, it’s a discouraging 1 lb/week, but I hope to increase this rate as my activity ramps up. As the body weight is reduced, I can naturally increase my pack weight. The change is not really 1 to 1, as it is more difficult to carry weight in a pack, away from your body center of gravity, but my feet, knees and legs won’t know the difference. There is some natural increase in pack weight as I increase the hiking miles/elevation, as it’s getting warmer out and I need to carry more water and food, but most of the weight will be in the water. I carried a little over a liter of water for an 8.5 mile hike and it was not enough. I was pretty thirsty by the end. I could have used at least two liters. When I ramp up to 20 miles, I will need 4-5 liters which translates into 8-10 lbs of water. If it gets warmer out, and I start carrying a heavier pack, I could see the water requirement going up accordingly.
The other reason to ramp pack weight rather than miles is my legs need to get used to walking 20-30 miles a day with large elevation changes. Increasing the hike distance, I believe, is difficult to ramp up with or without a pack. It seems that if I get used to walking the distance, I won’t have trouble with gradually increasing the pack weight, especially since I’ll be losing body weight. But, more important, walking 20 miles with low pack weight is a much longer workout (8-10 hrs) than carrying a full pack for 10 miles (4-5 hrs), burning more calories and adding much more aerobic fitness exercise which should leave me more fit by the start of the hike.
I can’t express how elated I am with the performance of my knee . The surgery, so far, is proving to be a massive success and my enthusiasm for the rest of my hike preparations have gone up accordingly. These other preparations will be the subject of some of the next few blog posts.