Second Chances

As I’m sitting down to write this post I’m coming to the conclusion that my blog has become somewhat hike-centric – yet again the topic of this post is hiking – and more precisely why I haven’t yet taken to hiking, even though I’ve had plenty of opportunity to join in. If hike blogging is to continue I might have to change the tag-line in the description of the blog 😉 

The truth of the matter is that I am a whimp when it comes to physical exertion. I tire quickly and then become a whiner with an occasional outburst of “drunken giggles” – It had to be said to give you a true picture of me. I can lift weights all day, but when it comes down to endurance I falter very quickly. Having said that, I should also say that unbeknownst to anybody I’ve been on a quiet mission to change this state of affairs for some time. I’ve been secretly hopping on a bike first thing in the morning before I do my weight training. It’s not much but I have gradually been increasing the duration of my cardio sessions and I have been building up endurance. Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize that 60 minutes on a stationary bike in the gym does not compare to hiking in the woods with weight on your back and the force of nature. I understand that. However, I do believe my bike sessions are helping me to work on my endurance level more-so than not doing any cardiovascular exercise at all.

Why all of a sudden all this interest in hiking? Well, I do like a challenge and I’ve also come to realize how unfit I have become by sticking to weight training only. Training with weights shapes the body, develops muscle that look appealing to the eye, but it does not equal fit, unless one is engaging in another form of exercise… Weights are for the looks, which I don’t think is wrong –  but to be fit you need to do more. I want more, plus hiking will definitely help me to lean out (with proper nutrition that is) and what better way to make my hard earned muscles pop.

If you’ve been reading my blog or social media posts you might have noticed that I have tried to engage in hiking a while back and have failed miserably, so miserably that I have lost my hiking partner who tried to get me on board in the first place! As a result he has had to resort to hiking solo, because after trying the overnight hammock-hike I waved the white flag and finally said “You’re on your own, buddy.” And here I am starting over. So why am I hoping for a different outcome this time? For starters I won’t repeat the same mistakes, but let me tell you why I think I failed the first time…

There were 2 main reasons why I believe it didn’t work out for me the first time around :
1. Comfort level and,
2. Food

1. As I said earlier, I am a whimp and feeling uncomfortable makes for an even bigger whimp. When hiking in the past my biggest mistake was to go into it with a typical hiking pair of shoes. I know now that it was the wrong choice. A typical hiker shoe is bulky, heavy and tight on your foot. Your feet are doing most of the work when walking, so you should take care of them first and foremost. I don’t want to sound like I am an expert, because I am not, but I’ve been observing the shoe choice of a thru hiker at home and I can safely conclude that the less shoe you’re wearing, the better! It needs to be fast drying, so no waterproof material and it needs to be as light as possible. Of course, I’m assuming the grippness of the sole of your hiker is a no brainer. So after some research I’ve been gifted yet another pair, hopefully a successful one.

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The pictures don’t really give justice to the uniqueness of this trail-runner. At first sight the shape of this shoe is somewhat uneven – the big toe is protruding way to the side of the shoe. You can read more about the design on the manufacturer’s website. I picked them solely on the basis of comfort.

 

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Gaiter support that unfortunately won’t work so well with the gaiter I’ll be wearing, but it’s nice to see little details that the manufacturer has included.

 

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They came with regular laces, but of course me being a gadget girl I had to swap the laces for these fancy pully things. I fully realize I’m being taken, but the fit and the colour just screamed at me 😉

This weekend is a test for these before I set out on a crazy Outport 50k hike. They had better past the test is all I can say. So far I have worn them at home and they fit perfectly with plenty of room for swelling. They run very low so the mobility of my ankle shouldn’t be an issue. They do have a bit of a lip on the heel which I’m told might be an issue with hooking over branches or tree roots, but I am yet to experience it. The material the shoe is made out of feels very breathable and fast drying. Other than that I wish the colour was darker all around as I know they will not look as pretty as they do in the pictures for very long. Will report once tested. 

2. The second reason why hiking has not stuck with me in the past is the food related. Let me elaborate for those of you who might be confused. If one is to enjoy long distance hiking it is crucial that everything you take is as light as possible. Believe me, I’ve witnessed the joy  in the eyes of a hiker who was able to shave off a couple of ounces from the base weight – it’s unmistakable. And even though most times I roll my eyes when I see the scale coming out of the cupboard, I do realize it’s necessary to put in the effort to make your load light. So, now my shoes are 33% lighter than the pair I was wearing before, but food is not that easy to master. It’s fairly easy if you don’t care what you eat on the trail, but you know that this is not the case with me. I do care what I eat and I see no good in hiking if I am to put junk in my trunk.

In the past I found it exceedingly difficult to stick to my clean diet while hiking. I wanted to eat my regular yummy food while hiking only to realize that it weighs a tonne. When your shoes are heavy and uncomfortable and your pack is too heavy you are bound to be an unhappy hiker and the activity will not stick. You need to enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing. So, I know I can’t bring my regular food on the trail because of the weight – that is not going to change. And I am still not willing to eat whatever is most calorifically dense (read: sugar) regardless of the quality of its ingredients because it might fit the weight criteria – it simply makes no sense to me. A Snickers bar on the trail to me equals a bottle of vodka at an AA meeting – just simply wrong (I can hear all the hikers gasping at my criticism of the Holly Snickers Bar).

On top of that I’ve been told we’ll only be cooking 2 meals on the trail and the rest of the calories will have to come from snacks eaten while walking or on quick stops without pulling out all the cooking gear. So, I will resort to some bars that I deem least processed and containing the least number of ingredients (Lara Bars, Quest Bars and Yup Bars). But one can’t possibly just eat bars all day, so I set out on a quest to make some crackers. They are a work in progress, but my first batch came out rather well. I made the mistake of leaving them out on the counter and they did absorb some moisture and became chewy. Note to self: put next batch in a plastic resealable bag!

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These are Spicy Chickpea Flour Crackers that are literally made with chickpea flour, water and spices (anything you might have in your pantry). I mix the batter in a food processor to a very watery consistency and pour it out in batches onto a greased non-stick frying pan, form a thin pancake, flip and then cut into square pieces and lay out on a baking sheet. Pop in the oven at 350F for as long as it takes for them to become crisp. You have to make sure your initial pancake is very thin or else they will not be crispy.

 

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I enjoyed them nonetheless. They did become a little bit bready, so hopefully thinning out the batter on the frying pan and storing them in an air tight bag will prevent them from absorbing moisture.

 

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I am not a picky snacker and I believe that anybody who exerts themselves on a trail would welcome these even past their crispy state 😉

 

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These are another type of cracker I made. I can’t quite take the credit for the recipe, though. I had some almond flour kicking around so I simply googled “almond flour crackers” and right off the bat different versions of these started popping up right, left and centre. I started with the most basic version that can be traced to Elana’s Pantry. It’s a simple enough recipe but the making is somewhat time consuming.

 

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These are the opposite of what most hikers would reach for because it’s predominantly made out of fat (almonds and egg). Most hikers are most interested in having access to carbohydrates, so they would not be interested in a cracker that was mostly fat. However, carbs make me sluggish, so I like to derive my energy from fat. Yes, not everybody realizes that we can run on carbs or fat (never on protein). If you are keto adapted you can quite successfully get energy from fat. I digress of course.

 

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Here is an interesting bit about these: my lovely tester did not take to these right away. He found them bland (look who’s talking 😉 ) and he preferred the Spicy Chickpea Flour Crackers better at first. He said those had a little kick and he enjoyed that. However, once the former became soggy, he changed his tune and said the Almond Flour Crackers were way better. They were crispy and you could actually crack them in half quite easily. They were mild but that’s because I opted for the basic recipe with salt and pepper only, but you could play with different flavours for sure – I found one recipe that called for raisins.

 

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I made the same mistake with those as I did with the Spicy Chickpea Flour Crackers, which was to leave them out on the counter, so they also absorbed some moisture and are no longer snappable 🙁 Lesson learned. I do like them a lot, but I think I might have to modify the recipe because when I run the macro calculator it turned out that because of the high level of fat 10g of these crackers (about 3-4 crackers) were 63 calories and that’s a lot for not much volume to eat.

And there you have it, this is how I am dealing with the food issue – I’m making it as trail friendly (light) and diet friendly (clean) as possible. It’s a work in progress, but I am most positive the second time around hiking will stick. I have a better appreciation of this activity than I did in the past and a different kind of motivation to make it succeed. 

Please stay tuned for the next episode of trail food entry in which I will show you my cooked meals. I have already figured out complete, nutritious meals that are light – therefore suitable for hiking – and I didn’t resort to questionable ingredients.