Expedition recovery and overtraining

  • Creator
  • #41973

    This last fall, I got back from a successful but exhausting expedition on October 26, and my ski patrol season began November 16. I got home and basically did nothing for those few weeks. A couple chill mountain biking sessions, and low intensity recovery climbing days and workouts, but mostly my feet were shredded and destroyed and they needed rest before going into 150 days of ski boots, and I was super low energy, and I was just in recovery mode. Going into my expedition I was at the peak fitness I’d been for years, and I felt like I performed super well on expedition. I did an Uphill Athletes training program leading up to it.

    But my entire ski patrol season this last winter I felt like I lead weights attached to my feet. I work at a resort with a lot of hiking access terrain so about 2+ combined hours of our day is going uphill with our gear. Mornings often spent hiking with an additional 20lbs of explosives.

    Clearly my timeline of 3 weeks recovery into a new big daily load was poorly timed, so I’m just wondering what would have been a better timeline. As in X number weeks recovery + Y weeks fitness ramp up to ski patrol load. In the past, ski patrolling felt super easy and only required my base level fitness, so I honestly didn’t think I was going into a large load. I was shocked how hard it felt compared to past seasons even though I should have been in amazing fitness coming off of an expedition. I’d like to be able to do fall expeditions in the future, so I’m trying to analyze a better timeline, so I can have more consistency in the winter. At the end of my ski patrol season this March, I felt like I was at a level of deep fatigue and probably overtrained. I recognized this in December, but it was my job, and I couldn’t scale back. Post season I felt like I needed to take a large break and recalibrate and essentially start from scratch now in May.

    I’m currently starting the transition period for a well thought out periodized training plan over the next 25 weeks to have a strong ski patrol + ice climbing winter season 20-21 and lead into a Denali via Cassin expedition in next June. My hope is to then have a really strong alpine climbing season in 2021 and potentially head back to Patagonia in the 2021 fall. I want to better understand the mistakes after my 2019 fall expedition ,so I can have a good “cut off” time for fall expeditions (late September? Early October?) to have recovery + build up to a new ski patrolling season if that’s what I need to do. Thanks!!

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #42007

    Have you read some of our musing about Capacity vs Utilization?? This might help you understand how I am going frame my answer.

    Before the trip, you were building up your work capacity bank account. Making deposits daily with your training plan. By the end you had what you thought was quite a big cash cushion in the bank so you could go on a spending spree (utilization) while on your expedition. Unless you specifically designed this trip to include 7-10 capacity building training blocks your fitness was dropping the whole time you were on that trip. This scenario is high unlikely. Each hard day withdrew enough more from that bank account such that you were mainly resting between hard efforts rather than Jonesing to go training on your ‘off’ days. If some of the efforts were huge then you came home with massive debt that needed to be repaid. You needed first to get rested, during which time you would be losing additional fitness and then you needed many weeks to rebuild some of lost fitness.

    After his Nanga Parbat climb in 2005 Steve was pretty exhausted for most of a year.

    How do you avoid this? Have your capacity so massive compared to the demands of the trip that you can come home fresher and resume training with out weeks of rest. There is no formula because this balance between your capacity and how much of it you utilize is something only you can decide.


    Anonymous on #42090

    Also! Because your job is physically demanding, you need to include it in your total volume calculations. Similar to guiding, even though your work sessions may not be targeted training, they take a toll.

    emilieskadi on #45619

    I just wanted to pop in here and say hello more than anything but this topic jumped out at me because I recently had a total none dive with a 100 mile effort! I came to Uphill Athlete way of thinking a little late in the process and I am quite sure I over-trained the heck out of myself which was a large part of why I failed at my effort. But there were tons of lessons learned through the whole process so I’m pretty good with it!

    I did have a HELLUVA time recovering after tanking quite so hard though and it really surprised me since I have never actually noticed this issue before (likely because I wasn’t tuned into my system, not because it wasn’t happening!)

    It took just about 3 weeks for me to be able to actually cover ground again running without having my heart rate do some really strange things. It really helps me to pay attention to all the ‘how do you feel’ types of things but in the end I’m an engineer and I really struggle to not have some facts to go off of! I know I need to pull all of them together to get a full picture but just paying attention to my HR really helped me clue in on the other items too. If I hadn’t been tracking my HR I wouldn’t really have noticed that I was struggling. My effort didn’t feel that bad but my heart rate would continue to rise through my run and even when I was going downhill at what would have been a slow to recovery-slow pace prior!

    I believe it was a bit of a perfect storm for me to get so severely drained on this effort. First day of my cycle so my abs were completely off duty and not even remotely doing their job -seriously, I would look down at my belly and I couldn’t even get it to expand when trying to do diaphragm breathing for a sideache! Then it was super hot that day and really dry and dusty, that evening the smoke rolled in. I was 5 hours behind my 50 mile pace that I had done a month before at the tail end of a training block. Like I said, I believe I was over trained and I was very much over-stressed from work! I was drinking the suggested amounts of water but since I had never been out that long (and struggled with my pace so much) I didn’t realize that I’m just one of those people that needs GOBS of water so I got super dehydrated and a UTI was solidly setting in. Needless to say when I really realized this was the case I set a goal of getting to my crew at mile 58 and saving my health to fight another day – ego be damned!

    I sure am glad I did because the recovery period set me way back!! Anyway, I just wanted to share the story if anyone has any questions about some of the things I ran into that sidelined me I’d be happy to share! (Oh yeah, also learned I need to pack extra socks for a SUPER dry/dusty trail. From someone who never gets blisters to now having blisters on the soles of my feet I was really bummed I didn’t think to pack extra socks long before mile 50!)

    Super stoked about this site and forum. I will try to be more active on here and certainly will be looking for information! I am waiting until I’m fully recovered to set up my thresholds. I didn’t want to do it right before the race (nor right after obviously!) I’m SOOO curious (and nervous) to see how deficient I am!

    mirella30 on #46492

    thank you for telling us about your experience, i am a newcomer!

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