PCT: Southern California: Weight loss, diet and average daily miles

Weight and Miles on the PCT

With a bit of time on our hands as we wait for the van’s transmission to be repaired, I’ve been able to address a few outstanding issues.

Back flushing my water filter. Yes, it’s very high drama.

Cleaning the water bladder to (hopefully) remove the funky taste.

Weight and Miles on the PCT

Cleaning the CNOC

…and data analysis which is way more interesting than cleaning water bladders and filters.

As we move into the next section of the hike we need to set realistic time and financial expectations. Looking at the first section of the trail should give us some helpful information.

With an early start date of March 26th at the Southern PCT Terminus we knew that we didn’t need, or want, to come shooting out of the starting gate like our pants were on fire. The goal was:

1) Minimize injuries

2) Show improvement from week to week on the average daily mileage

3) Have the ability to hike 20 mile days by the time we reached Kennedy Meadows.

Weight and Miles on the PCT

Weekly distance summary

We achieved our goals. Our averages are based on the number of days hiked in each week.

Weight and Miles on the PCT

Zero days

Our zero days peaked in week 8 with the purchase of the camper van and again in week 10 with snail mail and van issues. During week 12 I took no zero days.

If we look at the last week hiked, week 12, the average distance was around 19 miles per day when Nero’s are removed.

Using 19 miles as a baseline:

2652(PCT length) – 702(distance already travelled) = 1950 miles remaining

1950/19=102.6 days

Our goal to complete the trail is September 15th. As I write this, there are 85 days between today and September 15th. If I want to stick to the target completion date I need to goose my daily miles up to 23…but that leaves no room for zero’s! If I want to take a zero every week or so I need to bump up the daily miles to 26. Looking at the upcoming terrain, I believe this is certainly possible.

We selected September 15 as an end date based on an educated guess of when we want to be finished with northern Washington. The rain/snow generally starts falling by the mid/end of September as you approach Canada. I was tracking late season (mid-end of Sept) hikers last year and saw some of them leave the trail due to weather. I saw others hole up in bad weather (rain/snow) and wait out the storms to finish their hike. Anyway, mid-September seemed like a reasonable target. I don’t mind cold but I don’t want to hike in the rain for days/weeks on end.

Flipping the order of the hike (returning to the Sierra in August) buys us more scheduling wiggle room. A reasonable expectation of snow in the higher Sierra elevations may be October or November.

So, we should have room to maneuver, but how much room do we want? Just because we could stretch this out until November doesn’t mean that we want to! I think I’ve been able to avoid some of the wear and tear on my body due to the number of zeros we took. Moving towards higher miles per day and fewer zeros will equate to more wear and tear. Speaking of which…

Weight and Miles on the PCT

Weight loss

I’ve lost about 33lbs/15kg in body weight so far. I expected to loose a fair amount of weight, so this number isn’t shocking to me. In peak running/pre-marathon condition I hit the scales around 175lbs/79kg, so that weight is my final weight expectation.

Weight and Miles on the PCT

marathon days

(Here’s Noelle and I from the one marathon we ran together. I’m thinking it was 1997 or 1998.)

To have shed this much weight so early in the hike is a tiny bit concerning.

Weight and Miles on the PCT

Eliptical training

In preparation for the thru-hike I modified my daily workout at home. Typically I was on the treadmill for 20-25 min at a fast walk, elliptical for 20-25 min at a faster pace and on the rowing machine for 20 min.

In January I modified my workouts; 10 min treadmill, 10 min elliptical, 30 min weight machines (reps taking priority over weight) and three reps of ankle balance and or planking. The change up in my workout allowed me to drop about 6lbs before starting the hike.

I do find that my enjoyment of early morning hiking matches my enjoyment of early morning workouts. My typical gym time was 5AM to 6AM.

As much as I didn’t want to, I’m now hitting Fritos hard to increase my caloric intake when I’m in town. Noelle told me that one of the hikers told her that they eat containers of cake frosting for easy calories. I’m not quite there, yet. Fritos pack a caloric punch and I really like them. I’m starting to understand why some hikers struggled with their weight when they completed the trail.

I have one prescription medication that I injest daily. I spoke with my GP about dose versus weight before I started this hike and touched bases again after I’d lost a bit of weight during this hike. If/when I drop another 20lbs/9kg I’ll likely have some blood work done to verify the correct dose. I still take a plethora of vitamins every day, but stopped the EmergenC. Way too big a pain in the butt and seriously sticky if/when I spilled it on my hands.

I was just checking my phone for a picture of my vitamin collection, but didn’t find it. I did find this though:

Weight and Miles on the PCT

Buddy at Pizzicata

Buddy was sitting at the table with us at Pizzacata in Portland last January. Judging by the head swivel I’m guessing that there was food on the table!

Anyway! The camper van generally allows me to have higher caloric food readily available anytime that I see Noelle. When we’re in town I’m stuffing food into my face . I’m not ravenous, but I am somewhat hungry most of the time. I’m eating bigger portions and with an increased frequency when we’re in town. On the trail, not so much. I’m guessing that my daily trail caloric intake is roughy 2000-3000 calories set against a backdrop of burning 5 to 8k calories per day on the trail.


  1. Chainsaw Manlove

    Where’s the data analysis on bowel movements? Do they spike on zero days and is there a matching or reverse trend to the weight loss? What is the R squared?

    • mcgarveysan

      These are great questions! I may need to start keeping a poo calendar!


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