59 lessons

By Thomas Macauley on

[January 2013]
Sunday was my 59th ‘hike’.

The first was June 14, 2012: a 3 mile vigorous walk on Edgewood Road in street clothes while waiting out Palo Alto traffic.

My ideal weekly outing now is a hike from Los Gatos to Mt. El Sombroso and back, weather and work permitting. I have done it a handful of times: 105 minutes up and 75 minutes back, 11½ miles round trip with a 3000′ elevation change. No mountain lion sightings so far. I take more than a half-gallon of water in cold weather. The trail is not muddy in the wet.

I have not had the hip pain that kept me out of High School Cross Country 30 years ago. No shin splints. No ankle or foot issues. Managing technique, I have worked out downhill knee issues.

Re-learning how to walk has made hiking and trail running possible. I have applied experience with physical therapy for computer-hands and some insight from the Pose running technique.:

  • Relax toes and feet and everything below the knee. Floppy feet! Uphill or down. Treat your leg extremities like your arm extremities: use large muscle groups and avoid repetitive stress injury. Go ahead and look ridiculous. Walk like The Duke. Use hiking ankle-supporting boots to help learn to relax. When you feel any tension, STOP and relax and retry flopping down the trail. Shoes must not be loose or you tighten your toes and ankles for stability – like walking on ice.
  • Wear mi- thigh fitness underwear to end chaffing between legs and from inseams of shorts and pants (Don’t wear them after the hike or all day). Stride with legs close together.
  • No more cotton garments. They soak up perspiration and stay wet and useless and uncomfortable.
  • Short strides and no toe-heel. Lift your knees and not your toes! Don’t lift the toes even uphill.
  • Back straight and short fast uphill steps. Do not lean into the hill as if this will give strength. Do NOT use your thighs to lift. The gluteus-maxumus is the better muscle group. With short steps, the gluts can do all the work. Feel the climbing steps pull the back of the leg and lower back. It feels slow at first and I missed taking long tall strides but short strides will use large muscle groups – you can last all day. Make no pretense at being taller than you are.
  • Hills are not like stairs – step according to your strength, stride, and size.
  • Be heedless to pounding of joints. Let feet land slightly in front of you – just enough so that you are not stiff-legging the ground. The trailing foot will keep progress and balance with short stride work.
  • Enjoy light hiking boots as essential to reduce toe, ankle, calf and shin effort on steep and rocky terrain… Hiking boots will help hold up your toes so you do not have to lift them except on the most steep trails. Use hikers to learn even if planning to jog a bit or run with trail running shoes later.
  • Carry water and gear on shoulders, not hips, so you are not held back by the bounce. Let shoulder straps assist posture: shoulders down and back old-school
  • Use bungee strands to shrink the pack.
  • Thumbs pointing out to sides to help remember to keep shoulders down and relaxed and should blades together. No faux-body-builder slouch! Think of Paul Mantee, not a Twilight character trying to look like Schwarzenegger.
  • Little gear: sunscreen, whistle, cell, bandages, flashlight for after dusk, eggs&carrots, handkerchief
  • Low-carb diet, little booze: 15-20 lb less body mass will help.
  • Wool blend socks, even with running shoes. Kirkland hiking socks have been good for their softness though they are not as durable as more expensive brands.
  • iPhone 3GS or any PDA with GPS to support free tracker and topo map app. I cancelled my data plan long ago. The battery on the 3GS will drain but it lasts a long day. AllTrails App has been good despite its bugs-out now and then. It has been encouraging to have the trail tracks… and the camera for landmarks, snakes, coyotes, vistas. Having proof of location is good for family.
  • Podcasts and AM Radio: John Batchelor and Yourwebsiteengineer
  • Apple ear buds, old-style: they are tough, stay in, have cord tension-er to tighten around chin. No mic or foam to be ruined by perspiration
  • To go faster, lean farther forward and quicken the cadence keep balance.
    Do the same thing if or when you transition to running! All the same rule apply for distance running. Only a few adjustments are needed for fast running.
  • What I do *not* do:

  • Stretch. I have not the patience. I seem to be doing alright with long warm-up (sometimes my knees wait miles to feel loose)
  • Sleep diligently
  • Walk streets where people can watch my gait or where I will feel pressure to wear matching clothes and gear, to go fast, or to stride elegantly.
  • Go with company except of very casual walk like with the family or as consequence for the boy (he made 5.5 miles in a few hours)
  • Get new shoes often.
  • Next:

  • New running shoes with stiff soles to protect feet on rough terrain. As I have improved my method, I can go farther without boots. Some New-Balance at Big-5 look good for $30 or less. Others were too soft – maybe if I really can relax in a squishy soled shoes, they could work…
  • New boots with all their eyelets intact. My $25 pair still hold the foot snug even with tearing lace hooks.
  • Advice:

  • Don’t fall down
  • Bring a flashlight
  • Deal with hot spots on feed ASAP – no blisters or tears allowed.
  • It’s “hikers legs” not poison oak, so don’t worry.
  • (see the Comments, below!)


    1. 99th hike was Jan 18. 8-9 miles of a round trip up Kennedy Trail and back. 67 minutes to the turnaround, where the iPhone GPS with AllTrails tells me it is 4 miles (the two big ups after the vista). 50 minutes down. AllTrails after I get home did its normal re-calculation to say it was 8.8 miles altogether.

      The method may be hard on my feet… or it is the new $40 Sketchers trail runners that maybe need a little more arch support?

    2. causes of achilles tendonitis: older people, vigorous transit, weekly or less, on hills, with little stretching. bingo. my technique still holds up, but I need to stretch and/or go back to boots with ankle support for the fire trails.

    3. More rules after 119:
      – cool your head by breathing in through your nose
      – be careful going downhill, particularly when there are no shadows visible (night or backlighting
      – never synchronize breathing to step cadence. Breath as much or as little as needed.
      – test your recovery with four-count in, four-count out breath
      – more altitude = fewer flies (temperature and dogs)
      – arch support is important – more important than a soft heel
      – set a pain goal. If pain not gone after 2nd mile, then turn around
      – expect less performance in the heat. drink more.

    4. Notes to self

      At 285:
      – Guadalupe Dam start/stop through Providencia is ideal Summer afternoon/evening hike/run for getting heat and light. 28th start from the dam. (20x El Sombroso peak, 71x Kennedy Trail, 12x end of Umunhum Rd, 21x Barlow Rd transit, 3x lion, 2x fox, 4+ rattler)
      – Diag pending for possible osteoid osteoma… maybe residual from high school. CT scan on Monday.
      – July 4 (278) 2nd annual max-trek day was 16.8 miles from New Almaden through Barlow Road to end of Umunhum in heat

    5. Now at 300
      Had issue in April with sudden shin and hip problem after rushed, short, low-overhang, run with new shoes. XRay, MRI and CT showed no tumors or breaks or tears in hip so returning to the trails without much regard for hip pain.

      I think this is going to work and running distances will resume.

    6. With less time to transit and more need to be online, the urban trails are light gravel, sand, or paved. The shoes can be more urban also.

      New Balance Hierro V1 ($55) have been the best shoes yet even on pavement. The 775v2 ($30) have a lot of promise for on-road but the achilles area or my pair has a curl in it that started a blister.

      Running on flat areas means my pace is increasing but my distances shortening. Maybe it is time to return to hills to get the distance-form back.

      At run/hike 354 yesterday. 207KM running for the year so far, which is a bit short of the needed trend to reach 1017KM

      Don’t use kinetic tape over new blisters. The adhesive will pull up the loose skin when removed. It was great for the run time, though.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *