Thursday, July 26, 2018

A few miscellaneous note on walking

I really wanted to write a blog post where I could say something like:

Fifteen miles a day is a reasonable expectation for a moderately fit, middle-aged man who is forty pounds overweight.

The problem is in the adjectives.  They are all subjective.

Moderately fit...
If you swung a butterfly net and collected 100, random, middle-aged men, 95 of us would describe ourselves as "moderately fit".  The other two of us ran a marathon in the last year and three of us have severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Same deal.  Is twenty-five middle-age?  How about thirty-five?  Sixty-five?  I am fifty-nine...will I slip over the divide and become "old" next year?

Forty pounds overweight...
Eighty percent of those same 100 random men would admit to being between twenty-and-forty pounds overweight.  I dare say that if you took 100 men who are 5'-9" tall you would have men who weigh 170 pounds describing themselves that way as well as 260 pound men.  How can that be?

Technology is a multiplier.  What people tend to forget is that zero times anything is still zero.  Or, a very small number times any number smaller than infinity is still a very small number.

You can have all of the gee-whiz technology but if you cannot walk to the john without panting and breaking into a sweat you are not going to be able to walk miles and miles.

Some of the technology that allowed me to walk fifteen-to-twenty-five miles in a day were trail-running shoes, two pairs of socks, compression shorts, synthetic cargo shorts, a hat, high-viz shirt, sunblock with a high SPF rating, electrolyte, a pre-planned route and a backpack.

In the order listed:
  • Trail-running shoes are stout running shoes with fairly aggressive tread.  My feet like New Balance.  Many other people speak highly of Brooks.  Many people who hike the Appalachian trail chose trail-running shoes over hiking boots.
  • Feet are where the rubber hits the road.  I wore a pair of calf-height, women's nylons beneath over-calf height, polyester tube socks.  That provides a slip-plane that does not involve my skin.  Hence, many blisters can be avoided.
  • Compression shorts help with chafing.  They help a lot!
  • Synthetic cargo shorts have beau coupe pockets, are light weight, dry quickly and are less likely to promote chafing than cotton.
  • The best hats for sun protection make you a target in high risk areas.  The kind of people thugs don't want to mess with, construction workers for instance, wear baseball hats.
  • Construction workers and truck drivers almost always wear high-visibility shirts.  I think that insurance companies may have forced that.  Wearing high-viz makes you part of the brotherhood.  In a couple of cases I was waved through "Road Closed: Construction" areas simply based on my shirt.  Ironically, high-viz makes you invisible because residents assume you are a transient, unimportant worker.
  • I was wearing SPF 70 because that is what Mrs ERJ had on the shelf.  Sunburn sucks.
  • Walking consumes about 300 calories an hour.  "Old style" electrolyte (Gatorade, Powerade) has about 200 calories per 20 ounces.  Second Generation electrolyte has about 50 because "sport enhancing electrolyte" is a prop or a styling accessory rather than a tool for athletes.  I mix my own, 1 cup sucrose, 5 grams un-iodized table salt, 128 ounces of water + flavoring to suit.  Make mine lemonade, thank-you very much.  You will still be back-sliding 100 calories an hour if you drain one, twenty ounce bottle every hour.
  • As a general rule, the first road paralleling a major state highway is ideal for walking.  Counties skimp on maintaining these roads knowing that most residents will never drive more than a half-mile on them before hopping over to the state highway.  They tend to have very low traffic.  They also tend to "nick" towns rather than plow through the center of them.
  • The backpack allows me to carry my support with me.  On my trial walks carrying my support saved me an hour of drive time spent pre-positioning supplies. My backpack weighed twenty pounds, all in, when carrying 200 ounces of electrolyte and my other gear.

In closing
Lacking any other data, I will go out on a limb and speculate that if you are physically fit enough to briskly walk for an hour and find that it does not stress you, then you can probably walk fifteen miles with support if you pace yourself.

You might be able to walk twenty-five miles but increasingly small hiccups will knock you off the track.  Wrong shoes?  Bam, you are done.  Toenail on your big toe 1/8" too long?  Crap, you pulled up lame due to an hither-to-fore undetected hitch in your giddy-up.  Too little sugar in your electrolyte?  You hit the wall early.

One intangible is your pain tolerance.  Some people see pain as the absolute no-go zone.  Others see pain as nothing more than information.  Consider dogs:  Some hounds will run until the bottoms of all four paws are raw meat.  Other dogs become completely neurotic and non-functional at the slightest tickle of pain.  Look into your soul.  You can go much, much farther if you choose to be a hound than if you choose to stay a yappy ankle-biter.

Conventional wisdom holds that a bug-out bag (aka, 72 hour bag) will get you home but that may be overly optimistic if "home" is more than 45 miles away from your starting point.


  1. Makes good sense. And I agree on New Balance. Here in Texas, with temps well over 100, I'd be guessing a double up on the replacement fluids.

  2. The pain comment is a good one. I'd go farther and say there is "pain" and there is "discomfort". Many people can't take any discomfort at all. I learned through years of army rucking that I can take hours and hours of discomfort even bordering pain without any injury. I see actual pain as a sign of injury that might need to be heeded if you don't think you can complete the journey that day as the next morning you might be laid up for a few once the bill of pushing through the pain arrives.

  3. I wear boots. I prefer Rocky brand, SV2. Ankle support is critical for those times when you are not on the road. Also, you can put plenty of miles on them before they wear out.
    I carry one of those multi tools for turning on the water at public buildings, just in case as well as a purification system.

  4. Four times I have gone on a hike that was 62 miles over that time period of three days. I can assure you it was not easy. I am in my 60s. The main issues I had was blisters on my feet and difficulty sleeping at night. I Drank probably 3 gallons in those three days. My last hike is my best as I learned to keep well hydrated and wear two pairs of socks.

  5. I started using wool socks for hiking, running, daily wear and everything a few months ago and really like them. (e.g. "Darn Tough" brand from Amazon or wherever)
    Whatever is different about wool I don't know, but even when wet the rubbing against skin is different and hasn't yet caused blisters. I got into those on the advice of a crusty old retired soldier and so far it's worked. His words were something like "do NOT use the cheapo tube athletic socks, get some wool socks"
    The cheap tube socks worked ok for me, if used with the slick silk style liners, but the wool socks are much more comfortable all-round. Wool sounds like it be suffocatingly hot, but in my experience that's not at all a problem- they are comfortable.
    The gray ones are neutral enough in appearance that I wear them at work in office attire, hiking, running, everything. They are more expensive than the bulk athletic sox but my feet have felt much better since getting them.


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