Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hiking on Dangerous Trails

  When you hike out of the woods and there are no longer rooted trees and plants, it is because you are on ground that can not support life - either sand or rock. And, since sand is just rock that has been pulverized, its all rock and hiking on it safely requires special concerns to keep in mind.

Sand Hiking

If you've ever walked on the beach, you've felt the sand give way with every step you take. When you walk on wet sand that is packed, the going is much easier than on dry, soft sand. When the sand is piled and you are hiking up or across it, every step sinks or slips back making the going slow and more dangerous. Risks of stumbling, twisting your ankle, or causing a sandslide increase as the slope gets steeper and you get more tired. So, go slow, carefully place each step, and look for more stable ground.

Scree Hiking


  Scree is bits of broken rock piled up at the base of a cliff. In the mountains, daily heating and freezing of moisture on the solid rock causes it to slowly break the rock apart and tumble down. A scree slope will pile up to its steepest possible angle. Depending on the size and shape of the rock chunks, that angle may be shallow or steep. Any additional rock that falls on the slope will roll down until it finds a resting place or hits the bottom. The same is true for your foot! When you step onto a slope of loose rock, just like sand, it will give way under the weight until the material under it settles with the new weight. This may be 1/32 of an inch or it may be a few inches. In some cases, you may be sliding down the slope along with a couple tons of rock, all looking for stable places to rest.
Established trails across scree tend to be packed indentations where many people have helped push the rock down a bit until there is a slightly wider path across the face of the slope. Scree trails can't have very steep inclines so they typically run straight across or a slight rise. It is very important to remain on the trail and watch your step. I'm not kidding when I say that you can find yourself 100 yards downhill with 1 to 5 pound rocks bouncing all around you from just one mis-step.

Screeing is a fun, very dangerous tactic of quickly descending a scree slope. If the scree is small enough and deep enough, you can kind of ski down it in your boots. You are actually creating a mini-rockslide and riding it down. Make sure there are no larger rocks to trip you up and no one below you. And, there's a good chance you will take a tumble, so doing it only on grape or orange sized scree rather than cantaloupe and watermelon sized scree is a good idea.

Talus Hiking

Talus is really what scree is. People just tend to call smaller bits of rock Scree and bigger stuff Talus. Really big Talus is called Boulders. It's all the stuff that has broken off of mountains and piled up. Depending on the composition of the original rock, the pieces of talus will be tiny, huge, or somewhere in between. Don't tell anyone, but this is really my very favorite kind of hiking. It can be very dangerous and takes a lot of effort, but when things are just right, you feel just like a wild mountain goat scampering wherever you want to go. Boulder hopping is when you step or hop from one boulder to the next in a large field of talus. In good hiking boots with grippy rubber soles, on dry rocks this is fun. Instead of working your way between big rocks, you are stepping on the tops of them. Besides, I get scared when I'm standing between two big rocks - I feel like an ant between the finger and thumb of my son. :-()
After practice and you are sure of your strength, balance, and ability, you can practically dance down a boulder field. Know where you are landing and have the next couple of steps already planned ahead. I usually hop back and forth when descending a steeper field because the change in direction helps slow me down - its kind of like turning on skis to slow down.

Cautions on Rock of All Sizes

  • It's easy to miss a step. Twisted ankles, scraped shins, broken bones are all things to consider. If you are going to boulder hop, think ahead about how you will get out with a broken leg. If you don't think you can, then you should find a different trail or go slowly and carefully.
  • Don't even try rock hopping if it is raining, or your boots are wet, or its cold enough for ice. Any slippery surface will be disastrous.
  • It will take a long, long time to cover a mile. Reduce your distance expectations if part of your trail is on loose scree or talus.
  • Chances of slips and failing rock are greater on the descent than the ascent. You are hitting with much more force coming downhill.
  • Don't hike up a slope at a steep angle. Go across in a switchback style. This gives the rock a better chance to accept your extra weight and keeps the person behind you out of your 'rock shadow' - that danger area where you will kick loose rocks.
  • If you kick loose some rocks, yell "Rock!". If you hear someone above you yell "Rock!", crouch down and cover your head. It's not cool to yell "Rock!" as a joke - kind of like yelling "Fire!" in a theater.
  • Stay completely focused on where you are putting your feet. Checking out the scenery should only be done when you stop to rest.
  • Use hiking poles for more support on loose rock. If yours have metal tips, they may be more dangerous if you are stepping from rock to rock.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How to choose a road bike – A procrastinator’s guide

Buying a new road bike. It begins as a vague idea, quickly turns into excitement and then snowballs into a major headache before becoming a lesson in the art of procrastination. We turn what should be a pleasurable activity into pure torture. Why?
The paradox of choice. We’re overwhelmed. Marginal differences between groupsets, between color schemes. Is this the lightest bike I can afford, are these the best wheels, is it aero enough, should I get electric gears, will it fit me? A series of questions which we will over analyze, doubts that will preoccupy our minds more than life itself.

Which bike should I buy? A simple question to which there is no easy answer. I recently went through this torturous ordeal. It began like this. OK, so my budget is this. I like this color. I want this type of bike. I want this groupset. I need this size bike. Job done, right?
Easy enough to apply a few filters on your chosen websites and bingo, you have a shortlist of bikes. In theory you should just buy a bike now, the one you like the look of or that feels the best on a test ride. But oh no, now is the time to dig into the detail of those questions. Do I really like this color? Is it the right shade of black? What about this groupset? Ooh, look for an extra £xxx I can get this. And so begins your ordeal.

What to consider when buying a road bike

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself when buying a new road bike. This is in my original priority order. Try to stick to your chosen priorities to avoid more deliberation. Which you will almost certainly do!
In theory there are only five considerations – budget, type of bike, frame size, gear choice and color. Answer these and you’ll be ready to click buy now or go for a test ride.

1) Set your budget

Decide on your budget and stick to it. What is the maximum amount of money you can afford to invest in a new bike. Do not stray from this number. Don’t even look at bikes a few hundred quid above this price point. This is the theory.
The reality goes a little more like this. Set your budget. See other bikes just above your budget. Increase budget. Decide you definitely do need to save 100g on the more expensive groupset. Increase budget. Justify to yourself that if you are investing this much in a decent bike you owe it to the bike to get good wheels. Increase budget.
Don’t forget pedals. And bottle cages. And the saddle with matching colour scheme. And extra padding on the handlebar wrap. Electric gears would be great. Oh look, your budget has doubled. And it’s still not enough for that dream bike. Don’t worry you don’t need to eat this month. Losing weight will be good for the new bike.

2) What type of road bike do you need (not want)

What type of riding will you be doing on the bike? Cafe rides? Races? Long endurance rides? Hill climbs? A few time trials here and there? A bit of adventure on some gravel? Specialists can go full on time trial bike or cross-bike, but even within the road bike category there’s a broad choice of bikes to choose from, each with different geometries, brakes, gearing, handling and frames.
The biggest choice for most is probably between an endurance frame versus a race frame. Which is for you? The answer is very easy if you consider your style of riding. Comfort versus a few seconds here and there? Easy right?

3) What size road bike frame do I need?

OK, I’ll be honest with you, this is not an easy question to answer. Why? Much depends on the style or type of bike frame you are choosing and the manufacturer. There’s also a handful of different ways to measure a bike, all of which seem to differ and each manufacturer will have different sizes for different frame tubes. So how to decide?
The most important measurements to consider when deciding which size bike to get are inseam length and reach. Not your height. The latter is an approximate guide and probably fine if you are not in between bike sizes as I am, in which case your inseam as measured here and not by your jeans, together with your reach are more important.
If your old bike fit well, measure it and compare geometries. The easy answer to finding the right size bike frame is to choose a bike and then take it for a test ride. Done. Not so easy when ordering online. But even a test ride is no guarantee as much will depend on how the bike has been set up. Sure you can get the seat height about right, but what about the spacers? The stem length? Position of the saddle?
The difference in sizing between two frame sizes is often not huge and if you are between sizes you can get the basic frame size right and then adjust the height and reach with seats and stems so don’t worry too much once you know you’re in the right zone.
Many pro’s actually choose the smaller frame and add a longer stem but much depends on your choice between speed and comfort.

4) What colour bike do I like?

Why is color so important? You have to enjoy riding your new bike otherwise what’s the point? You must lust after it, love it as if it were one of your own children (the favorite one of course). The bike color and aesthetics should not be underestimated. Don’t get buying that lurid chartreuse yellow bike just because it is in the sale. Don’t buy the multi-colored abomination just because it comes with electric gears. If you don’t like the color or style of your bike you will ride it less. That my friends is a fact.
Matt black is all the rage nowadays. I blame Batman. Bastard. Stealth bikes as far as the eye can see, perhaps with a bright accent color to show that yes actually, I do have bit of personality. Look at my yellow stripe, I’ve got flair goddaman it, they painted the inside of my forks lime green so you just know I have panache.
I jest, I do actually like matte black bikes although matte looks a bugger to maintain as I do quite like polishing my current frame with Pledge wood polish. What? It looks great and smells even better. Mmmm, pine.
Also watch out for the finish of frames specified as UD matte black. It’s not actually a finish, it’s just the raw carbon layering. This can leave your frame looking unfinished or blemished.

5) What gears do I need?

Compact (50/34), standard (traditional) (53/39) or mid compact (semi-compact) (52/36). Again, your choice should be driven by what type of riding you do and your own performance. New to cycling, a heavier or older rider who struggles with hills? Knee pain? Get a compact and ignore anyone who says otherwise.
Race competitively or a strong rider? Look to the semi-compact or standard gearing. Semi-compact is relatively new to the market and gives you a nice small cog on the front for the hills combined with a big cog for powering away on the flats. Remember you can also vary your gear selection a lot by choosing a bigger cassette on the rear. For me a semi-compact with a 11-28 cassette on the back is perfect. Need a compact but worried about spinning out downhill? Don’t. You’ll go faster downhill by jumping in an aerotuck and besides, what percentage of your riding is down hill at full speed?

Ok, so that’s it, be on your way and buy your new dream bike. I expect you’ll be done in about an hour right? Don’t read on, there’s nothing more you need to do because all of the points below do not matter. They will change nothing, except the length of time you spend looking for the perfect new bike.

Things you shouldn’t consider but will consider way too much

Groupset

You will spend far too much time asking questions like: electric or mechanical? Shimano 105 versus Ultegra. What about Campagnolo and SRAM? You will read dozens of reviews and hundreds of forum posts and you will still be none the wiser even though the differences between all of these things boils down to pretty much three things:
  1. Price
  2. Very marginal weight differences
  3. Shifting preferences
With the advent of electric gears like Di2, you do have a genuine choice. Do you want crisper shifting that is always spot on? For me it feels like more faff, something else to remember in an already busy life. Shit, I forgot to charge my gears you realize 50 miles from home. This is probably an exaggeration since you only need to charge once every few months. I did actually test some Di2 and the difference was big, I really enjoyed electric shifting but sadly, it’s beyond my budget.
For all other decisions, look at the shifting differences between the three major groupset suppliers – doubletap from SRAM versus the two lever gear shift Shimano versus the click and lever shift on Campagnolo. Don’t get caught up in the differences between each supplier’s groupset range, there really is very little difference between Shimano 105 and Ultegra but for a bit of weight and the judgement of your club mates.

Frame material

Depending on your budget, you’ll probably be dithering between a carbon frame with lesser components and an aluminum frame with better components. Don’t always assume the carbon bike will be the better choice. Not all carbon is equal. Some are lighter, stiffer and constructed using more advanced techniques.
Carbon bikes should on the whole be more comfortable, but less likely to survive a bad crash. Me? I’ve been riding a beautiful aluminum frame with carbon rear and front forks for many a year. It looks and rides beautifully. Be careful with most aluminum frames now though, the welds at the joints look terrible and the frame looks like a Frankenstein bike. My next bike will be carbon to avoid this (aluminum and carbon bike weights are pretty close).

Bike weight

A confession, I’ve become obsessed with the weight of my potential new bike. Obsessing over silly weights like 100 grams (a few sips of your water bottle!). Ok, so I have a slightly more valid reason for looking at bike weight – my favourite thing about cycling is hill climb racing, plus I’m already at a low healthy body weight. My current bike is giving away 3-5 kg to most folk but even then, this only equates to about 10 seconds in a hill climb race (depending on the hill).
If you are obsessed about bike weight, do the following. Can you, the rider, lose any weight? You make up 80% of the total weight so your belly is the cheapest way to lose weight. Next, look at this tool which calculates how much quicker you will ride if you save some weight on your bike. Short answer, not a lot.

Aerodynamics

Probably a more important decision than weight, but only marginally. Choosing an aerodynamic bike (one that works rather than just ‘looks aero’) will save you between 7-20 watts when traveling at 40 kph. Buying some clip-on bars for your road bike will save you 30 watts! Think about your riding and position too. Do you really ride in an aero tuck? Would changing your own position on the bike be better than buying an aero frame? Probably, but then the idea of buying ‘free speed’ is hard to refuse.

Wheels

Most bikes, even bikes up to £2,500 will come with fairly heavy wheels. The wheels are where most bike brands skimp in order to boost their profit margins. Most people say wheels are one of the best investments and upgrades on a bike so it makes sense to make sure you get the best wheels possible with your new bike. Is this true though? Saving a few grams on your wheels will save you a few seconds up a short hill at best, assuming all wheels are equally stiff. Not much in the grand scheme of things.
What about areo wheels? These could save you up to 10w in an hour, about 30 seconds. Less if the course is hilly. Probably as much as tucking your elbows in! So weight and aero wheels can save you a few seconds here and there, but in the grand scheme of things represent about 1% of the total weight or drag of you and your bike.

Discount

You’re tight (human). You’re looking for a deal, a real steal. There’s a bike that’s slightly too large for you in a horrible color with the wrong chainset that is an absolute bargain. Do not push that button. Step away from the computer. Go for a ride. Don’t buy a new bike just because it’s cheap. Your bike should be like your girlfriend or boyfriend. It must be love, not because they’re cheap.

What else?

Within much of the above are the niggling micro questions you will ask. Like what? How noisy is the hub on this new wheel set? Yes, I have watched videos of wheels spinning to listen to the hub noise! Will these wheels last? Will the hubs wear out? Do I really want to spend more money to replace the supplied tires because they are rubbish? Do I want a long or short wheelbase bike, does it matter? Hmm, these press fit bottom brackets have a bad reputation. And on it goes. Oh god, kill me now.

Don’t forget customer service

One overlooked area is customer service and frame warranties. Most brands offer frame replacement services of some kind but some are better than others at fulfilling them. Also consider delivery times if you are ordering online.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Running 101: How Often Should You Run?

How often should you run is one of the most important questions to consider before you start any training.
Frequency—or how often you run—is one of three fundamental variables of training. The other two are duration (how far you run) and intensity (how fast you run). Research shows a person needs to run at least a couple of times a week to get any progressive benefit from it. Many elite runners run as often as 14 times per week. How often should you run?
There is no single right answer to this question. While considerations such as your goals, life schedule, and running experience can and should be used to establish boundaries of too much and too little running frequency for you, within these boundaries you can choose any of a number of different running frequencies based on personal preferences and needs and get the results you seek.

The Minimum

Let’s first consider the boundary on the bottom end. The most important piece of advice I can give you in this regard is that it is necessary to do some form of exercise almost every day to optimize your general health. Every man, woman, and child on earth, whether a competitive or recreational runner, whether a runner at all or a non-runner, should aim to exercise every day. The research is very clear on this score. If you exercise daily you will have lower risk of chronic disease, be leaner, and live longer than if you exercise just a few times a week.
This doesn’t mean you have to run every day, however. If you care about running enough to seek some form of progress, you need to run at least three times per week. On the other days you can swim, do yoga, lift weights, whatever. However, if you choose to run only three times per week—and if, again, you care enough about your running to want to improve—you need to make those runs really count. Most weeks those runs should be a tempo run to develop intensive endurance, a speed workout to build speed, and a long run to increase raw endurance. The popular FIRST marathon training program developed at Furman University prescribes a weekly training schedule comprising the three types of runs just mentioned plus two cross-training workouts. In my opinion this system defines the minimum effective training protocol for runners.

The primary reason to run only three times per week is to minimize injury risk. As we all know, running has a high injury rate, and the rate of injury increases with running volume. Many runners cannot run every day without getting injured. If you are such a runner, or if you simply fear getting injured if you run daily, then stick to a schedule of three to four purposeful runs plus a few cross-training workouts per week and feel confident that you are not sacrificing any of the performance you would get from running daily (presuming you actually could run daily without injury).
The most common running frequency for non-elite competitive runners is six to seven times per week (that is, daily with one scheduled day off or daily with rest days taken only as needed). I don’t know of any research addressing the matter, but my experience-based belief is that some runners are better off running daily and not cross-training, others are better off running three or four times a week and cross-training on non-running days, and many runners are able to fare equally well on either schedule. Use factors such as your durability (can you handle daily running?) and your personal preferences (would you rather chew glass than do any form of exercise besides running?) to set your personal routine.

Running Twice Per Day

Only the most serious runners habitually run more than seven times per week, which necessarily entails a certain amount of doubling, or running twice a day. Personally, I think more runners should consider it, as some magical things can happen when you push your running volume beyond the amount you can practically squeeze into one run a day.
There’s a simple rule that runners can use to decide whether or not they should double: If you plan to consistently run more than 70 miles per week, double at least once or twice a week. The rationale behind this rule is that every runner’s training schedule must include some easy runs, and if you try to pack more than 70 miles into just six or seven runs each week, none of those runs can be very easy. You can double if you want to on a schedule of fewer than 70 miles per week, but it only really becomes necessary when you run more.
As you continue to add mileage to your weekly schedule, continue to add doubles as necessary to keep your average run distance from creeping above 10 miles. So, for example, if you run 100 miles a week you should run at least 10 times.


Ease into doubling by inserting one or two very short, easy runs into your schedule. Gradually increase the distance of these runs and add more doubles until you reach your weekly mileage target, but keep the pace easy in all of these extra runs. Never try to perform two hard runs in a single day.
Some runners do an easy run in the morning and a longer and/or faster run in the evening. Others do the opposite. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Cross-Training

Just as a casually competitive runner can exercise more than three or four times a week without running more than three or four times a week, a serious competitive runner can exercise twice a day without always running twice a day. The question is, should he or she? While there are many examples of very successful runners who run 14 times a week and never cross-train, I believe that in most cases, runners who train nine or more times a week are better off running seven times and lifting weights and doing plyometrics two or three times than they are making every workout a run.

In fact, there’s research proving this. In a famous Norwegian study, elite runners improved their 3K race times by replacing 30 percent of their running with plyometrics—not adding plyometrics to the running they were already doing, but replacing a chunk of their running with plyos. Based on such evidence, I advise runners who train nine to 10 times per week to perform two or three strength/plyo workouts and run the rest of the time. There’s no need to do strength and plyometrics training more than two or three times per week, so if you add any workouts beyond 10 per week, the rest can and should be runs or non-impact cardio alternatives to running such as cycling.
What’s the absolute maximum amount of training any runner should consider doing? Many elite runners thrive on a schedule of two runs per day every day plus three strength/plyo workouts per week. If you can handle all that, more power to you!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Should I use a bicycle bell?

Ding ding, excuse me and my two wheeled contraption. Ding ding, look away from your phone and focus on the road you’re crossing. Ding ding ding ding, is this annoying? Ding ding ding ding ding, why are you angry I have alerted you to my presence? Ding! What the hell is bicycle bell etiquette?
I’ve fitted a bell to my commuter bike. My oh my. Who’d have thought such a simple act would be so fraught with existential questions?!

The first week was confusing. I’ve commuted by bike in London for well over ten years. Mostly without incident. Mostly. Cycling in London is relatively safe and nowhere near as dangerous as most people believe. OK, caveat done.
Until now I’ve relied on voice to alert others to my presence. It’s been effective and has the major advantage that you don’t need to re-position your hands to ring a bell. So why change?
I no longer want to bark at people. True, I shouldn’t have to but the reality is we’re still some way short of a cycling nirvana so until then I still need to alert others to my presence.

Sleek. People will probably see you coming before they hear you
Why a bell? Nothing says “bicycle coming through” more than a bell. It is a universally known noise. I no longer want to be shouty man on a bike but a cyclist with a bell. Cyclists are not liked by some, for some reasons I understand (not obeying road laws) and others I struggle to fathom (sharing the road), and so yelling is not good for our collective perception. Even polite yelling is still yelling.
Ding ding. Better yes? What do you mean, no? It seems even the humble bicycle bell is not liked by some. I asked around. Seems bike bells annoy pedestrians, especially if they deem the bell ringing excessive.
Others consider bike bells rude. We’re a touchy lot aren’t we? Seems people take offense at being notified of the presence of another. I wonder if they feel the same about the car driver who beeps the horn when the pedestrian obliviously step into the road?
Ringing a bike bell. To some there’s connotations of a lord or lady beckoning aside the commoners, others just don’t like being ‘dinged’ no matter what the reason, a little like drivers who don’t like being on the receiving end of another driver’s, er, horn, or people who don’t like being asked to follow rules when they are breaking them. Don’t you tell me what to do…
Should this stop cyclists using bells? No. In fact, it’s a reason to use them more. More riders using bells will do two things. One, it will normalise the sound by making the ding of a bell more commonplace and thus, more acceptable. Two, and more importantly, it will make pedestrians more aware of cyclists. Most pedestrians fail to look for cyclists when crossing the road, they simply don’t expect them to be there.

Bicycle bell etiquette

Etiquette. A polite way of saying rules. Unspoken of course. For nobody must ever actually know these rules, oh no, that would be far too logical. Imagine a world short of etiquette. Eating would be quite the experience. Dating even more so.
So it is a bicycle bell has etiquette. What do you mean I’m over thinking this? Moi? Surely we just ring the damn thing and people react? Well it’s not quite so simple my friend, it never is, is it? First world problems and all that.

How any times should I ring my bell?

A tricky one this. Ring it once and you risk not being heard. Twice is a safe bet when approaching from behind. Thrice is good as a second warning. Four times from a distance is best in a loud city during rush hour. Continuous is great when filtering down the inside of traffic where you know pedestrians are crossing the road in between stationary motor traffic and straight into your path.

When should I ring my bell?

I’ve found ringing the bell well in advance is best, so as not to pounce on people and surprise or scare them. Ring the bell too late and you confuse people.
Be sure to give yourself enough time to ding when turning left or right too, as depending upon the position of your bell, trying to indicate using your arm and ringing your bell can be tricky. Perhaps we need two bike bells.

When shouldn’t I ring my bell?

Usually not when stationary, or alone on a road. Or when happy or in celebratory mood. Don’t ring in the hour using your bell, you are not Big Ben. Neither does having a bell give you a right to ride on the pavement.
How about overtaking another cyclist? Not usually. Use your judgement, perhaps when on a single track path, but not when there’s plenty of room to overtake. Overtaking other cyclists, it should be simple, but this is probably another entire blog!

Would I recommend fitting a bike bell?

To your commuter or city bike, definitely. We need the sound of the bicycle bell to become an accepted currency of our shared spaces. No more shouting, no more not being heard. Some may believe I should politely ask or say ‘Excuse me’? Maybe on a quiet towpath but not in the cacophony of London’s rush hour traffic? I might as well whisper my approach from 2 miles away!
What about buying one of those loud bike horns? Stick with the humble bell, my friend. Loud horns are as bad shouting. They’re excessive, startling and unnecessary.
How about fitting a bell to your road bike? Sure, go ahead if you’re commuting. Less so for the weekend club run perhaps. Interestingly my bell arrived with my new road bike, a machine made for speed.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Navigating a Hike

  Seriously, if you don't know how to read a topographic trail map and use a compass, then don't go hiking. Seriously. Having someone in your group that knows how to use them is not good enough. You'll get separated from him and then you'll be in big trouble.

Stay On Course

On many frontcountry hiking routes, such as state parks and nature centers, all you need is a simple trail map of the area. It's only a few miles on a well-traveled route so your chances of getting lost or injured are pretty slim. But, even there, a thunder storm, accident, or recent trail damage may force you to take a detour and lose the trail. On backcountry treks, understanding a topo map will help you plan where the more difficult steep ascents are and where you will have nice views from high ridgelines or be stuck in a gully with no view but the trail ahead. By reading a topo map at home, you can visualize what the terrain looks like even before you ever see it. You'll know the name of a high mountain in the distance and more importantly know it is East from where you are hiking in case you become disoriented.
Your compass is the other half of the navigating toolset that you need to bring. In some areas with enough visual landmarks, you can do just fine with a map alone. A compass alone can keep you heading in a certain direction, but you don't know what you are heading towards. For all areas, a map and compass together can get you home along the safest of routes. Using your compass to orient yourself and your map and then identifying objects on the map in your real world will keep you going the right direction.
Global Positioning Systems are very common now. Unfortunately, some people think they are magical devices that keep people from getting lost - Nope! They are useful tools, but you still need to know how to use your specific model and you need a trail map. And, if they run out of batteries, get wet, or break, then it would be a good idea to have a compass as a back-up.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Water for Hiking

Water

Don't even think of starting on a hike that takes you more than a mile from home without a bottle of water along. You should have at least two quarts of water with you and drink 1/2 to 1 cup every 30 to 45 minutes. Keep the water coming into your body even if you don't really feel very thirsty. If you are hiking, you are losing moisture and you need to replenish it.
By the end of a 4-hour hike, you should have drunk both quarts of water and you should be able to use the toilet. If you don't need to, then all that water came out as perspiration and you still need to drink more water to stay hydrated. After a hike, you should drink additional water until you need to use the toilet. I don't mean chug it down, I mean drink a 1/2 cup or so every 5 minutes or so.
Water is THE most critical survival item - whether in the wild or at home.

Rule of 3:
  • You can live 3 minutes without air.
  • You can live 3 days without water.
  • You can live 3 weeks without food.
You'll have air to breathe unless you're under water or in a cave-in.  If you run out of food, you can struggle on for 150 miles if needed.  But, if you run out of water, you have only a day or so to figure out a solution.

Water Needs
How much water do you really need? Does it matter where you are, the time of year, or the elevation?
Water Treatment
Once you locate water, you're not home free. There're lots of critters living in that water and they'll make life miserable for you. It's a good idea to treat all water you find and here's how to do that.
Carrying Water
Now that you have all the water you need, your stomach will only hold so much. You need to carry the rest down the trail until you find more water. Secure, comfortable, inexpensive transportation of water is the key.

Monday, May 15, 2017

7 Injuries That Could Be Causing Your Hip Pain

Of the joints in the leg that are commonly injured in runners, hip pain often poses the most difficult diagnosis. There are a couple of reasons for this: First, there are simply too many possible causes of hip pain, and a second, less obvious reason, relates to the frequency of these injuries.
The bony anatomy of the hip is actually quite straightforward. The head of the femur ends in a ball that articulates with a pocket in the pelvic bone, the acetabulum. This forms the classic ball-in-socket joint. Yet, because of the extreme forces that this joint is subjected to, especially when running, and because of the very complicated supporting structures that help make it among one of the strongest and most stable joints in the body, many potential sources of hip pain are possible. Because the hip plays such an important role in weight bearing and locomotion, it is of the utmost importance to identify these injuries as early as possible, and treat them before they result in joint damage.
We’ll review the more commonly encountered causes of hip pain in runners: muscular strains and pulls in the groin, hamstring or piriformis, hip flexor tightness, bursitis, stress fractures and labral tears. Iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS) may also cause hip pain, but has been widely covered, and therefore will not be discussed in this article.

Groin Pulls or Tears

A pulled groin is caused by a strain in the hip adductors, muscles that pull the legs together. These muscles attach to the thighbones at the level of the hip and run down the inside of the thigh, stabilizing the joint. When overstretched or overused, small tears can develop resulting in hip pain, swelling, and a dull ache in the groin area. Severe tears occur more suddenly and are associated with very sharp pain and bruising down the leg.
Unfortunately, many hip injuries can cause groin pain as well, so distinguishing a true groin pull from other possibilities may not always be that straightforward. Usually a focused history and physical exam suffice to confirm the diagnosis.
The treatment of a groin pull is similar for other pulled muscles. Rest, ice, compression and elevation can all help to alleviate symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications or acetaminophen can be used to treat pain and once the injury has healed sufficiently, a gradual return to activity can then follow.

Hamstring Injuries

The hamstrings are made up of three distinct muscles that run down the back of the thigh, which then operate together as powerful knee flexors. Like all muscular injuries, hamstring injuries occur when fibers within the muscles tear. The severity of the injury is determined by the amount of damage and how completely the fibers are torn—the least severe form being a strain, while the most severe consists of a complete tear.
Hamstring injuries are almost always associated with pain in the back of the leg that gets worse with flexing the knee. However, if the injury is higher up in the muscle body, then the symptoms can be experienced in the hip itself.

Piriformis Syndrome

The piriformis is a small muscle that runs from the sacrum to the outside of the hip. For a small muscle it can cause big problems when inflamed or overused. Because it runs over the sciatic nerve, the piriformis has a nasty habit of putting pressure on this nerve and causing exquisite pain in the glute and posterior hip area when it swells or spasms.
Aside from addressing any mechanical issues that might be exacerbating the problem the main way to treat piriformis syndrome is by stretching the muscle out as much as possible. To stretch the piriformis: lay on your back, bend your knees and cross your right leg over your left so your right ankle rests on your left knee in a figure four position. Bring your left leg toward your chest by bending at the hip. Reach through and grab your left thigh to help pull everything toward your chest.

Iliopsoas Syndrome

The iliopsoas muscle is a powerful hip flexor that runs across the top of the hip joint and works to pull the knee up and off the ground when it contracts. Movement of the tendon is facilitated by the iliopsoas bursa. If the tendon or the bursa becomes inflamed, flexion may become very painful and the pain is felt in front of the hip with an associated snapping or clicking sensation during movement. Iliopsoas syndrome often arises as a result of increasing volume or intensity too quickly, and hence this problem may be easily avoided. Once it has set in though, the only effective treatment is rest with liberal use of anti-inflammatory medications.

Hip Bursitis

Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that assist in lubricating the movement of structures around joints. The hip bursa allows for the smooth movements of various tendons over each other as the hip ranges in different directions. In some instances this sac can become inflamed after repetitive micro-trauma common in long-distance running. The inflammation can be very painful with symptoms predominantly over the outer aspect of the hip radiating down into the thigh.
Once inflamed, the treatment for hip bursitis is similar to many of the other injuries described here: rest, the application of ice and the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Although it is rare, in some cases the bursitis may become severe or chronic and require surgery.

Stress Fracture

Although much more common in the foot and lower leg, stress fractures of the hip may also occur. Stress fractures result from a combination of overuse in the setting of muscle fatigue, and in some cases, predisposed anatomical issues. Under normal circumstances the muscles and tendons absorb the vast majority of the forces transmitted during repeated ground striking in running. However, with progressive fatigue, more and more of the force is transmitted to the underlying bone, and with time the bone may fracture.
Unlike a traumatic injury, in which there is a sudden tremendous force applied that results in an obvious disruption of the bone, stress fractures are insidious and take time to manifest symptoms. Stress fractures of the hip will cause a dull ache either felt in the groin or lower back, and this can delay the diagnosis allowing more time for the fracture to worsen. Once suspected, confirming the diagnosis can also be difficult as the bone may appear normal on plain X-rays. Only more advanced imaging will show the problem definitively.
Once diagnosed, a complete cessation of weight bearing exercise is mandated. This is critical in order to prevent the stress fracture from progressing to a much more serious and complete fracture. The duration of recovery will depend on the severity of the injury and, in rare cases, surgical intervention may be required.

Hip Pain Due to Labral Tear

The labrum of the hip is a cartilage ring that forms a kind of lubricating O-ring around the ball of the femur holding it in place in the acetabulum. In some people, bony abnormalities either of the neck of the femur or of the lip of the acetabulum can cause the labrum to become repetitively impinged with normal ranging of the hip joint. Over time, this impingement causes the labrum to fray and eventually tear.
Until recently, the long-term importance of labral tears wasn’t completely appreciated. Now, these tears are seen as a potential contributor to the early development of arthritis of the hip.
Because the labrum is made of cartilage and therefore completely insensate, the symptoms of a labral tear arise only long after the damage has been done. Patients with this problem frequently complain of pain in the groin that gets worse when crossing the affected leg over the other. Hence, the diagnosis is difficult to confirm and requires an MRI with contrast injected into the joint. Once confirmed, the only treatment options for symptomatic patients are the complete cessation of weight bearing activities or surgery. It is important to note that not all patients with labral tears require surgical repair. This should be discussed with an orthopedic surgeon familiar with the diagnosis and the procedure to address it.
The hip joint is less prone to injury than the lower leg but can still be afflicted by a number of issues both big and small. Quickly arriving at the correct diagnosis is an important part of getting effective treatment and returning to activity. Knowing the common causes of hip and groin pain is also an important part of that equation. See your physician whenever you have vague, non-specific pains that are difficult to ascribe to a specific area. This can often end up being something more important than you might initially think and catching it early is key.