Please help.

I am training to do a one-day 28.3 mile hike in support of children's cancer research -- and I plan to do the entire hike BAREFOOT! Please SPONSOR ME in the Ultimate Hike and help support this great cause. Thanks!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Long Hike: 10 miles at Umstead State Park

A friendly hiker stopped to take this picture for me.
As part of my training for the Ultimate Hike I will be doing one long hike each week with increasing mileage week to week.  I'll try to share pictures and details from each long hike so you can tell how things are going with my training.  And since this will be a once a week post I'll also share a summary of all my training activities since the previous long hike, like a weekly training log that you can follow.

Last weekend's long hike was 9 miles in Umstead State Park.  This week I hiked those same trails with an added mile.  I started today's hike just after 9am.  Rain was forecast for after lunch time and I wanted to enjoy the dry weather as long as possible.  It was around 50°F when I started, cool and pleasant with partial sun.  I was warm and comfortable in my thermal jacket.  The ground was cool on my feet but it did not chill me.

The temperature warmed throughout the morning and peeked just below 60°F.  I stuffed the thermal in the backpack and continued along the path enjoying the beautiful scenery in the park.  With only about 2 miles to go in my hike the weather front moved through, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  I pulled out the rain gear and ended up hiking the last mile in the rain.  By the time I was done with the hike the temperature had dropped to the high 40s and the ground was wet and cold.  

Here are a few pictures from the hike.

Starting out from the trail head.
The morning sun on Crabtree Creek.
I love how the sun dances on the moving water.

The day is starting to warm up.

Large smooth stones like these are actually comfortable to walk on in bare feet.

No problem.

But small gravel like this will slow me down.

Tree roots - nature's foot massage!  Seriously, tree roots are my favorite part of the trail.

Walking barefoot on a blanket of well worn pine needles is like walking on a pillow.

The fine screened gravel on this section of bridle trail feels gritty but not uncomfortable.

One more picture as the trail follows along the creek.

Wet muddy feet in the rain, sitting in the parking lot at the end of the 10 mile hike.

I know someone reading this is wondering, "What do the bottom of her feet look like after a 10 mile hike?"  The answer is really dirty.  That's just debris from the wet parking lot along the edge of my foot.  I probably should have brushed it off before taking the picture.

The soles of my feet all clean from my shower after the hike.  Just normal feet.
Here's my training log for the last week:

Saturday 3/ 15: 9 mile hike
Sunday 3/16: REST
Monday 3/17: 2 mile walk
Tuesday 3/18: Upper body strength workout
Wednesday 3/19: 2 mile walk
Thursday 3/20: workout with my personal trainer
Friday 3/21: 8 mile bike ride with my daughter
Saturday 3/22: kayak/play at the lake
Sunday 3/23: 10 mile hike


Saturday, March 22, 2014

"You can't play! You're an adult!"

That's what my daughter told me today on the playground when I joined in on a game of tag.

How often as adults do we forget to just play?  Or perhaps we think it's not allowed?  You can't play.  You're an adult. --  But adults can and should play.  Often!  Play is one of the best ways to stay active and enjoy life.

I shared with you a couple of days ago that my own training plan for the Ultimate Hike so far has been: one long hike per week, two strength training days per week and then just try to stay reasonably active the remaining days of the week, taking a rest day when I need it.

So what do I do to stay reasonably active most days of the week?  Usually, I play.

Yesterday it was a fun 8 mile bike ride with my daughter.  Today it was a family outing to a local park with a lake.  My son recently purchased a remote control boat and he couldn't wait to try it out.  Concerned that his new boat might run into trouble away from the shore he asked me if I'd bring my kayak to the lake so I could rescue his boat if needed.

I happily complied with that request and enjoyed paddling around the lake.  My son zoomed his toy boat in circles around me.  I chased the toy, it chased me.  We raced and, predictably, I lost.  The toy boat performed beautifully and was never in need of rescue.

I just lost the race.  (See the little RC boat just ahead of me?)
It took my son about 45 minutes to run out the toy boat's battery.  My husband and children played on the shore while I paddled a little while longer, then we put away the boats and the entire family walked from the lake to the playground.

This is when it feels more like work than play.  Hoisting that 16' kayak onto the roof rack takes some effort (and some help).
I climbed and ran with the kids on the playground.  We laughed and played and all was well -- right up until that game of tag.  I joined in the game and just as I was about to tag my daughter she suddenly decided, "You can't play!  You're an adult!"


Friday, March 21, 2014

Why Barefoot?

The short answer is because it's fun and it's easier on my knees and hips.

Really, it's that simple.

Barefoot hiking is nothing new.  Walking barefoot in the woods has been done since the beginning of human history.  It just isn't done often in our culture.  That makes what I'm doing a bit of a curiosity and I'm happy to use that to bring greater awareness to CureSearch and children's cancer research.  If you want to be truly impressed or amazed, meet some of the families dealing with children's cancers and learn about the research being done to help those families. 

For those of you who'd like to learn more about how I started barefoot hiking and what it's like I'll share the details in two posts.  Today I'll give you a bit of my own story and tell what motivated me to start down this barefoot trail.  In a future post I'll answer some of the common questions I get about barefooting (such as, "Doesn't it hurt?").   You can leave a comment below if you have questions for me.

My barefoot journey starts with my family history of osteoarthritis.  I'm currently 45 years old.  In my mid-30s I was already starting to notice occasional knee and hip twinges that caused me concern.  Did I inherit bad knees?  Am I destined for joint replacement surgery?  What can I do to prevent or postpone osteoarthritis?

I did some research and discovered that musculoskeletal alignment is a significant factor for osteoarthritis. There's more being written about it all the time.  Do a google search of "osteoarthritis and posture" today and you'll get about 1,500,000 results.

OK, got it, I need good posture.  Except I didn't have it nor did I know how to get it.  In fact, after many years working as an engineer sitting hunched over my computer at work, my posture was so far out of whack that I didn't have a clue what good posture looked like or felt like.  I just knew mine wasn't it.  That started my decade-long (so far) quest for healthy body alignment.

Each year has brought more learning and greater improvement.  At the bottom of this post I've included links to some of the wonderful sources of information that have helped me on this quest.  I started reading more and more about the negative effect heeled shoes have on joint health.  Obviously women's fashionable high-heeled shoes are a bad choice, but it turns out even the slightly elevated heels in a typical running shoe can cause problems.

About 4 years ago I decided to act on what I was reading about heeled shoes and bought a pair of Vibram Fivefingers.  Wow!  What a difference!  Within a week, encouraged by a group of barefoot runners, I took off the Fivefingers and started going completely barefoot.  Over the last 10 years I have done many things to improve my body alignment but nothing has had a greater postive impact than taking off my shoes!  The knee and hip twinges went away.  I walk lighter.  I can even run without pain in my knees and shins.

The more time I spent not wearing shoes the more I preferred being barefoot.  I started going barefoot everywhere all the time.  I found that running barefoot, unlike running in shoes, is actually fun for  me. Initially my runs were on pavement and then I started running on trails.  The first time I stepped barefoot on a trail I literally laughed out loud!  There was something so primal about connecting barefoot with the earth that it caused me to spontaneously giggle in delight like a child!  It still makes me smile every time I step on the trail.

I ran on and off for about 2 years, all barefoot.  Perhaps I'll share more info about my barefoot running experiences in a future post.  During those years I also started visiting the trails for short hikes on non-running days.  The barefoot hikes were my favorite.  I could spend longer on the trail and I enjoyed the experience more.  Eventually the running gave way to a preference for hiking.

When I walked (barefoot) into the Ultimate Hike info session earlier this week the coordinater, Joe Miller, asked if I planned to do the entire 28.3 mile hike barefoot.  I told him that if I did the 28.3 miles it would have to be barefoot.  If there was something about the hike (the terrain, the rules, etc) that would prevent me from hiking barefoot, I simply wouldn't do the hike.  My knees and hips might not forgive me.

Here are some the excellent guides I've had on my quest for improved alignment and joint health.
Katy Bowman
Esther Gokhale
Kelly Starrett
Mark Sisson
Daniel Liberman
The Barefoot Runners Society
Pete Egoscue


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Step Two - Start Training

Or is "start training" step one? I've been thinking about signing up for the Ultimate Hike for several weeks now so I started training back in February with this goal in mind. So perhaps "start training" was step one and "register for the ultimate hike" was step two. Oh, and there's the Ultimate Hike Info Session that is required before registering. I did that last night. So I guess that really was step two.... I'll come in again...

NOBODY expect the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our steps are...


The Ultimate Hike offers both on-line training support as well as a local training group. My local group officially starts up in April and I'm looking forward to the group hikes. Until then I'm continuing with my own training plan which is: one long hike per week, two strength training days per week and then just try to stay reasonably active the remaining days of the week, taking a rest day when I need it. It turns out, that's basically the same plan suggested in the Ultimate Hike training materials on-line. Good to know I'm already on the right track.

Today was strength training with my personal trainer, Tra (pronounced tray). Yes, that makes him Tra the Trainer -- but he's a really big dude who can deadlift 700 lbs, so you need to say that with respect. Today he had me do several sets of barbell squats, stiff-legged deadlifts and hamstring curls. Then we went outside on this beautiful first day of spring to enjoy the sunshine... and so I could pull a 115 lb sled several times around the parking lot. We finished the workout by pushing a 600 lb tire back and forth to each other, rocking it on it's side. I figured I was safe. If I ended up crushed under the 600 lb tire I was sure that Tra could lift it off of me.

If you're thinking of joining me on the Ultimate Hike this year (and I hope you do!), don't worry. Working out with Tra is not a requirement (though it's certainly not a bad idea). Heck, working out in a gym isn't a requirement. When you sign up for the Ultimate Hike you get access to a "training portal" on their web site with lots of information, including a handout on strength training. They offer a simple, effective routine of 7 body weight exercises that you can do anywhere. The exercises can be adjusted for anyone of any fitness level and you can make the routine harder as you progress.

Or you can go push a tire with Tra.


Step One - Register For The Ultimate Hike!

I just registered to do the Ultimate Hike, a one-day 28.3 mile hike on the Foothills Trail in SC and NC.  I intend to do the entire hike barefoot.  This blog will follow my progress during training and share the details of the big event on June 28, 2014. 

I've been a barefoot hiker for nearly 4 years now.  My longest hikes have been around 9-10 miles.  A 28.3 mile day-hike in the mountains is going to be a challenge for me.  I look forward to the next few months of training.

The goal of this event is to raise awareness and funds for CureSearch, a highly rated charity organiziation.  CureSearch for Children's Cancer funds and supports targeted and innovative children's cancer research with measurable results, and is the authoritative source of information and resources for all those affected by children's cancer.

Help me reach my fundraising goal for CureSearch by donating here:
Thanks for your help!

More info about me, barefoot hiking and CureSearch will be added here over the next few months.  Check back regularly for my progress and pictures from the trails.