Working toward a treadmill Chimney Top

Ben hiking Chimney Tops trail last spring. He was furious I wouldn't let him scale the uppermost rock.

Ben hiking Chimney Tops trail last spring. He was furious I wouldn’t let him scale the uppermost rock.

My sister and I sketched out an experimental front half of Chimney Top trail on Dad’s new treadmill on Tuesday. In researching the climb, we suddenly came up with even more incentive to complete our treadmill trail:

The real deal at Smoky Mountain National Park is going to be closed through at least October, due to an apparent landslide and some erosion issues. When we finally do get to hike that trail again, it’s likely to look a little different.

According to the website, the current version of the trail starts at 3,505 feet and ends at 4,840 feet, for a climb of 1,335 feet over approximately 2 miles.

In Tuesday’s test, I came up with a 2-mile climb of 1,064 feet by starting out with a 2 percent grade for half a mile (to mimic what we remember as the gentle rise early on), followed by a 15 percent steep section for one-tenth of a mile, then a 6 percent grade from there to the 1-mile mark. Since the second mile of the uphill segment is considerably steeper than the first, I then did a 15 percent grade for ¼ mile, a 12 percent grade for ¼ mile, and the last half mile at a 15 percent incline.

I “hiked” most of it at 3.5 mph, which took 35:16.

It shouldn’t be too hard to bring the 2-mile total climb in line with the real trail by adding a bit more to the grade on the front half. (We could also do the last mile at the 15 percent max, but it seems more interesting to have a little variation.)

Obviously it’s impossible to mimic the 2-mile downhill return trip on a treadmill. The only option there is to just leave it at a 0% grade. So once we get this “trail” to match the climb, we’ll start timing ourselves, both on the uphill segment (for a shorter workout) and on the “round trip.”

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