So, my last hike didn’t go as well as I hoped. One reason was the weather, another was that I didn’t get to see my friends, but one thing that really vexed me was the fact my feet really didn’t behave like they should have.
On the hike before that one, which was WAY back in May, I didn’t have any feet problems. Same shoes, same pack, same stuff in the bag for the most part. In May, I walked 11 miles one day, then 14 the next, and like 8 the last day. My feet were sore, but not really bad off.
When I hiked the AT in September, I went a MUCH shorter distance, over similar landscapes, and the bottoms of my feet were really messed up. I didn’t get blisters, but it felt like they were trying to form along what I can only describe as the “balls” of my second, third and forth toes on both feet. The ball of my big toe was fine, it was just that middle section of toes that were giving me problems.
I can only guess that since I haven’t hiked much at all, I have become rather tender footed over the summer, that a life behind a desk and on the couch have left my feet a little wimpy, along with the rest of me.
So – facing a hike of nearly forty miles in less than two months, It’s back on the Dreadmill for me. I think I’ve come up with a way to whip my feet into shape, if not the rest of me.
First, I don’t run. If I’m running, and you see me running, start following. Keep up, because if I’m running, there’s a bad situation behind me, which I am trying to get away from. Either that, or I have to poop, so if I run into a bathroom, you can stop following me. Unless of course, you have to poop too, in that case, pick your own stall.
Running and hiking are two very different beasts (unless you are trail running, then you’re really confused). They say you use different muscle groups and such, so if you normally road run, you’re not really preparing for a hiking trip. Running is more efficient or something, and you step differently or something, I don’t know. Hiking is walking, not running. You see pictures taken of runners, and sometimes you get them with both feet in the air, because they push off with one foot before they hit the ground with the next foot. The only time hikers have both feet in the air is when they trip and are lying on their back.
So, after a long hiatus, me and the Dreadmill are spending quality time together again. First, the thing is broken, and is stuck in full “up” mode, so I can only walk uphill, which is good for me, since I seem to take trips where there is more up than down. Second, I try and keep the speed between 3 and 4mph. Its a good fast walk, which pushes me a bit more than my hiking pace, but makes up for the fact that I’m not carrying 28 pounds on my back. I try to keep up a heart rate similar to what I experience on the trail, which is just shy of a major Myocardial Infarction. I vary my walking style, and slightly crouching into it seems to put an extra burden into the whole experience, versus walking straight up.
Here’s the kicker though: Since I’m trying to toughen the feet, I walk the first 1.5 miles in socks, which rubs a little bit, but not too bad. Then I strip off the socks and walk the last mile with bare feet on the rubber mat. It hurts just a little when I finish, enough to let me know the bottoms of my feet aren’t that happy with me, but no blisters or anything. I’m hoping to build up some tough spots before long.
I don’t run outside. Heat, for one thing. I like walking in the air conditioning. I also like being able to flop off the Dreadmill any time I want to, and roll onto the carpet staring at the ceiling. If you do that on the side of the road, there might be fire ants, and the neighbors tend to call an ambulance. I hate bugs, for another thing. I can’t escape them when I’m hiking, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to voluntarily expose myself to them just so I can walk around the block. The Dreadmill is also pretty predictable. Nice, flat surface with no loose rocks, gravel, holes, weeds, etc. Lastly, there are no “surprises” on the Dreadmill.
The one time I walked around the neighborhood, every third house there were loose dogs running around. I like to run unmolested, and punting your neighbor’s wiener dog back into their yard because it’s trying to bite your ankles generally doesn’t make your neighbors very friendly towards you. Then there’s the trouble with having to remember all the addresses so you can call animal control, later, just so you can walk along the road without getting attacked. Totally not worth all the trouble. You still have to worry about the moron drivers more concerned with the number of likes on their latest Facebook post, who probably wouldn’t even look up from texting when they ran you down.
So, I walk at home, where I can relax and be at peace with my sweat. The only downside: Farting. When you’re outside, you leave that stuff behind. When you’re running on the Dreadmill, that stuff stays right there with you. There needs to be a fan or something for that…