Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Hold it all in to prevent chafing

I went for a walk at the weekend and tried out the cycling shorts in an attempt to minimise the chafing. The correct term for these Lycra skin tight beauties is compression shorts although for all intents and purposes they appear to me to be the same thing.

The logic behind this is that they keep everything in one place and prevent movement which in turn minimises friction and in turn prevents chafing.

The verdict is that it worked, wholeheartedly! 12.5 miles and not a murmur from that department. Not sure if this was because my entire focus was on my wrecking knee (which I'm now having looked at - it's never ending) but either way I wasn't uncomfortable on the way home. I am pleased to say that I have this chafing lark fully nailed.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Lubricate to prevent chafing

I identified that, whilst at a leisurely pace it prevents chafing, talc is no good at pace when there's more friction.

So the obvious answer is Vaseline. I tried this last night and I applied it liberally. It prevented chafing infinitely better than the talc but there was still movement and therefore a touch of friction. I could live with it at these levels though but no doubt over 100km it will be less bearable. Next stop cycling shorts to limit movement to prevent friction further.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Keen Targhee Mid Boots Review

So following my escapades with the Merrell Mid Moab boots I took a jaunt over to Pickering to see a chum of mine at Trailblazer Outdoors, which is where I got my Meindl Bernina Boots (review here).

As soon as I tried them on  the difference was overwhelming. I have got strangely wide feet, sufficiently so that a sixth toe probably wouldn't look out of place. These boots however accommodated my mutant feet amazingly well, even with the 2 pairs of socks I'm starting to wear in my quest in how to prevent blisters.

I tried the Keen Gypsum boots also but the ankles on these were far higher and they seemed a beefier boot, despite being really comfy they didn't fulfil the brief.

Needless to say the purchase was made. I took them on a run out on the Leeds Country Way hiking trail to see how they went. They've got some kind of weird laces that are kind of wavy. That sounds odd but there is no real way to describe it otherwise (so I've taken a photo, see below). I presume this is to aid in them not coming undone, fair play the only time I had to re-tie them was when I took my boot off to check for blisters (there weren't any at that point it was an issue from the Merrell Moab Mids).

The insole isn't as cushioned as the Merrell Mid Moab boots either but it is pretty comfortable, this can of course be substituted for another insole which could be purchased separately. I found also that there isn't as much support for the bridge of the foot. I have issues in this department and whilst the Keen Targhee Mids don't fail here by any means they aren't quite prefect for my feet.

On the outward leg of the hiking trail (about 7 miles) they performed amazingly well with the only discomfort being around the bridges of my feet (I'll look at insoles to combat this later). On the return leg (around 4.5 miles) I got blisters on the balls of my feet, which I kind of anticipated, I seem to be unable to avoid it when walking at around 4 mph.

All told the Merrell Mid Moab boots didn't fit my feet (although I thought with a narrower foot they would be the boot of choice) and the Keen Targhee Mid boot were the perfect substitute, not extortionate with a price tag of around £100. A must as a lightweight option for someone with feet as wide as they are long like myself.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A Circular Walk on the Leeds Country Way from Woodlesford

Still training for the Oxfam Trailtrekker, myself and my brother went and trudged part of the Leeds Country Way from the middle of Woodlesford.

We started off heading towards the canal where I'd walked previously on one of my worst Leeds Country Way experiences. We walked down the canal again passed the boat moorings and meandered down to Mickletown.

We left the canal here and where previously we'd taken a right, we went left and followed the road down to Methley.

Once into Methley we went straight over the first mini roundabout and right at the T Junction. Not long later we went under a railway bridge and turned left walking alongside the village cricket pitch which is all very English countryside and is picturesque.

Now heading again for the countryside we took a right after the cricket pitch and walked passed the pub on our left. Always tempting but 8am is not time for a pint. There's a path to the left here that takes the path across fields here.

The hiking trail was pretty obvious and comes out at a main road. After a few hundred yards there is a kind of skewed cross roads. We took the road that went straight on (ie not left or right). This weaves down a country road until a gate to the right took us alongside a woodland. We hugged this woodland for a while until it disappeared. Soon later there is a disguised (well not really that disguised just that we missed it) entrance to a path which is a coup,e of boulders representing a makeshift style.

Again this hiking trail is obvious and leads you towards the A642 which you have to cross and go down the road passing Royds language school. This roads kicks back to the right however it is the track to the left we took heading towards Swithens Farm and farm shop.

We stuck on this track until we reached Swithens Farm and we walked straight through the farm, still on the Leeds Country Way. Whilst we didn't go into the shop it was more like a farm supermarket than a farm shop - it was huge.

Just through the farm itself you come to the farm car park. You head through the car park and on the left hand side the LCW path is signed away down the hill. After hugging the hedgerow down the hill you cross a style to your right which leads you through a horse paddock and into the village of Carlton.

Emerging on the main road we went left and passed the Unicorn pub on our right and followed the road round to Shayfield Lane on the right.

At the end of Shayfield Lane the road turns into a field but the path across the field is fairly well trodden and is easy to follow. This takes you all the way to Robin Hood and an obvious disused railway track.

The hiking trail took us along this railway track which was fairly pleasant and it took us all the way to Rothwell. Here we emerged at a church and went along the left hand side of the church and carried straight on to the T Junction where we went left.

At Haigh Road, which is the main road we went right then immediately left which took us straight through Mannheim car auctions. We emerged on Leeds Road. Crossing Leeds Road we went slightly left and took the path that ran along the back of the houses. This comes out on the road that runs down to Rothwell Country Park and the canal.

A mile and a halves meander down the canal and we arrived back at the bridge. From here it was a few hundred yards back to the starting point in Woodlesford.

This was partly the same route that I found unpleasant previously however this day was great and we managed to find a circular route which is even better, the route took us just over 4 hours and was 13.44 miles long - there's a map of the route below.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Prevent chafing...

I think I've now nailed how to prevent blisters, or as much as I can anyway, now I'm looking to prevent chafing. I think over 100km it will be impossible to avoid blisters altogether but so long as I can minimise them to a large extent I'll be delighted. The next issue though, outside of fitness is looking to prevent chafing. This is exceptionally uncomfortable at the end of a long meander and any success in preventing it will make any long walk more pleasurable and towards the end bearable.

I remember when I did the Shira Route on Kilimanjaro which was pretty much 8 days constant trekking and that I suffered then and when I did I attempted to combat it with talcum powder. This seemed to be pretty effective at the time. I tried this here though and the difference was that when we climbed Kilimanjaro we were probably averaging a leisurely pace of less than 2mph, training for the Oxfam Trailtrekker though we're yomping on at around 4mph. Obviously this creates a huge amount more friction. Over 8 miles or so this probably wouldn't be an issue but over 20 miles never mind 62 this will be a serious problem. The talc sadly didn't cut the mustard and I still wound up with chafing, so whilst I think I've pretty much found how to prevent blisters I'm now on a quest to prevent chafing, so far unsuccessfully.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The secret weapon in how to prevent blisters

Always on the quest a chap I'm doing the Oxfam Trailtrekker was in Cotswold Outdoor the other day and they mentioned Stride Out. This is some formula of oils that you rub into your feet before you put your socks on and it is "supposed" to prevent blisters. Seemingly all it takes is to rub 5ml (a teaspoon) worth of Stride Out into each foot and hey presto.

They didn't have any in the shop so this same guy went into another outdoor shop and described this magic stuff without giving the name and straight off the bat they said it was Stride Out and the guy in the shop said that he'd gone to Scandinavia with a brand new pair of boots (something he'd recommend everyone against doing) and a bottle of Stride Out, he didn't get any blisters all the time he was out there. Not sure how much truth/exaggeration there is in that tail but it does sound like the business. The SAS use it and I reckon they trudge some miles. We'll see.

Other "How to Prevent Blisters" posts
Intro on how to prevent blisters
Correct footwear to prevent blisters

Look after your feet to prevent blisters
How to prevent blisters on the day you walk

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Proved right and right again

So I went out for a swift 9 mile walk yesterday evening and due to me having run out of combinations of socks I tried just wearing one pair of thick socks so see how they faired with the whole blister situation.

Only over 9 miles I didn't think I'd have an issue, especially considering my recent yomping.

What I did do though was to tape up the areas I had been getting repeated blisters with micropore to see how that worked.

So firstly the one pair of socks... Bad bad bad idea, epic fail! Two new blisters in places I'd not had them before since I started on this quest or in fact since I can remember so point proven two pairs of socks, one wafer thin coolmax type socks and one thicker cushioned sock, is a big factor in preventing blisters.

Did the micropore work? Absolutely! This has given me an immense amount of confidence. No blisters where the micropore had been.

So more pairs of the same socks are required. We're getting there.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

How to prevent blisters? By looking after your feet of course!

Without the right footwear you are inevitably going to get blisters where your feet rub against your shoes or boots. But conditioning your feet is crucial apparently when looking at how to prevent blisters. There are a number of ways of doing this apparently from what I glean from other folk (primarily those who've already completed the Oxfam Trailtrekker) and from reading whatever I can on that there Internet.

It's all about hardening the feet (to a point). Firstly go barefoot at every opportunity and walk as much as you can barefoot (not suggesting you go do your shopping resembling Jesus but I'm sure you get my drift) this dries out the feet and hardens them naturally making helping prevent blisters from forming when walking.

I'm not sure how much of an urban myth this one is as it wasn't tried and tested but came from a reliable source. Dab Friars Balsam onto a cotton wool ball and rub this onto your feet and let it dry, this again helps dry out your feet and helps prevent blisters forming.

As much as it might appear a good idea and a pleasant experience at the time a pedicure before any long distance walk is a bad idea and is not how to prevent blisters. It softens the skin of the feet and makes the pressure points far more susceptible to blistering.

After reading the above it would appear that I'm out for drying my feet to a crisp and hardening the skin on them until you could use them as the foundations of your next building project. Yeah this isn't the plan and there is a limit. If you go too far calluses end up being below the surface of the skin and can cause irritation when walking so the idea is to attempt to dry out your feet but by being sensible. Hopefully by looking after your feet in this regard may be a further way in how to prevent blisters, I'm hoping.

Other "How to Prevent Blisters" posts
 Intro on how to prevent blisters
Correct footwear to prevent blisters
The secret weapon in how to prevent blisters
How to prevent blisters on the day you walk

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

How to prevent blisters on the big day

These posts on how to prevent blisters are in preparation of me walking the 62 miles (or 100km) in order to complete the Oxfam Trailtrekker in June. All preparation will be futile if, on the day, I don't take the necessary steps to prevent blisters.

I've already touched on the socks and that wearing 2 pairs (one this wicking pair and one cushioned pair) reduces the friction on your feet as helps massively when looking at how to prevent blisters. There are 2 things to consider with socks though when undertaking long distance walking though. One is the cushioning of the socks - this dissipates over time leaving you with next to no cushion, until you wash them again. The other is that they get sweaty, moisture inevitably creates friction in your boots which, yep you guessed it will result in blisters. So the easy way to attempt to reduce to impact of blisters on the day, being realistic I don't think I'll avoid them completely but I will try to minimise their impact, is to change my socks (both pairs) at every stop (there are two stops, so will mean three pairs of socks).

Over time feet and legs will swell when walking long distance which will mean that the foot is bigger in the boot and therefore won't fit as well as it did again increasing the risk of blisters. In an attempt to reduce the swelling try to take off boots and put your feet up. If you can take off your boots too it will help to dry them (and your socks out).

At any given moment should you feel the slightest hint of a blister appearing then take your boots off, there and then and tape them up with zinc oxide tape, not in a mile, or around done next corner or even in 100 yards, once it forms its there. Do it before its got chance to get hold. Tape straight on the skin will prevent the rubbing and will hopefully prevent the blister.

So even on the day there are ways as to how to prevent blisters to consider.

Other "How to Prevent Blisters" posts
Intro on how to prevent blisters
The secret weapon in how to prevent blisters
Look after your feet to prevent blisters
Correct footwear to prevent blisters

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Hike from Glen Etive up Bidean Nam Bian

View down Glen Etive
Glen Etive
We did this awesome walk out of Glen Etive up Bidean Nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach when we were staying in Glen Etive a year or so ago (at the same time as we did this walk) but I never had the chance to log the hike so here it is.

We started off from the car park in Glen Etive (158508) and walked northerly up the road until we reached the stream (164509). We left the road heading along a hiking trail straight towards Stob Coire Sgreamhach with the stream on our right hand side.

The ascent of Stob Coire Sgreamhach from Glen Etive
The ascent of Stob Coire Sgreamhach
We went for a full frontal assault of Stob Coire Sgreamhach which was heavy going as it was pretty steep but the views down Glen Etive were spectacular giving views of the whole Glen through to Loch Etive (see the above photo). We were pretty lucky with the weather too, some of the guys had been up a couple of years earlier to try the same ascent but had low cloud so had rubbish visibility and gave up through safety reasons with much frustration.

We continued along the hiking trail to the top of Stob Coire Sgreamhach and took a breather whilst we took in the scenery, the beauty of this Munro was the fact that this was a touch off the beaten track and so was pretty quiet.

Bidean Nam Bian from Stob Coire Sgreamhach
View of Bidean Nam Bian from Stob Coire Sgreamhach
Once we'd caught our breath we set off for Bidean Nam Bian which wasn't to be too far. We headed up the ridge with what was apparently the hidden valley to the right, I don't think this is its actual name more a name give to it by the chaps I was with from an earlier visit, no matter it was awesome.

From Stob Coire Sgreamhach to Bidean Nam Bian
The Hidden Valley?
It snowed, which seemed to bring the temperature down further, but it didn't last long and we were kitted for it.

We hit the top of Bidean Nam Bian not long later and met a throng of other hikers at the top who must have taken a different route of ascent as we'd barely seen anyone to this point. Fair play though I can see why it's so popular, the views were breathtakingly staggering.

Bidean Nam Bian descent
Looking for a way down
With the photos taken we commenced our descent and rather than heading back the way we came we headed over the top of Bidean Nam Bian and descended to the saddle at the top of Glean Fhaolain. This was fairly unstable underfoot meaning we all headed down one at a time for fear of falling debris.

Unscathed we all met at the top of Glean Fhaolain (136537) for the last leg of the walk into Glen Etive.

The final leg from Bidean Nam Bian to Glel Etive
Glean Fhaolain
My dodgy knees were giving me a touch of gip at this point but they'd had a fair hammering so couldn't really moan. In the absence of a hiking trail we followed the stream down Glean Fhaolain and into Glen Etive to the finish point, spotting a few deer on the way, which was a great way to finish the day.

Back where we'd started at the car park in Glen Etive we'd done 7.7 miles and bagged two glorious Munros - an incredible day.

Friday, 3 May 2013

How to prevent blisters - footwear

This probably seems like the glaringly obvious and most important way in how to prevent blisters and in many ways it is. Firstly ill look at socks as after all they are footwear. As blisters are caused by friction and rubbing on the skin a way to prevent blisters in to use an extra pair of socks. You can buy socks that are ultra thin which can be worn under your hiking socks and make little difference to the volume of sock around your foot, the ones I bought are the Bridgedale Coolmax Liner. This means the two layers of sock rub against each other rather than against your boot, so that's the first and easiest way as to how to prevent blisters when it comes to footwear. As an outer sock I went with the Bridgedale Wool Fusion Trekker. There is also the option of 1000 mile socks which in effect are a sock with a liner sewed into them with an aim to having the same end effect as having two pairs of socks.

The second is to get boots/trainers that fit. This sounds glaringly obvious. And it is. Your boots must not be tight but at the same time when they're tied not leave you sliding around inside them, as mentioned above this movement leads to friction which will inevitably lead to blisters.

More to follow shortly on how to prepare your feet themselves when looking at how to prevent blisters.

There's a good section on The Walking Site regarding footwear and socks in helping to prevent blisters.

Other "How to Prevent Blisters" posts
Intro on how to prevent blisters
The secret weapon in how to prevent blisters
Look after your feet to prevent blisters
How to prevent blisters on the day you walk

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Following the Leeds Country Way from Golden Acre Park

Having walked part of the Leeds Country way through Harewood Estate previously and the parts to the northern parts of Leeds being the nicest so far I decided to go out and try do around 25 miles from Golden Acre Park. The intention was to literally walk out of the park for 12 or so miles then about heel and walk back the way I came, whilst its the same route I suppose its a bit of a different perspective as you're looking the other way. This was also the first walk of me ditching the Merrell Mid Moab boots and I was going to give my new Keen Targhee Mid boots (review soon) a run for their money and try to break them in.

On the day this ended up being something completely different to the plan, we'd had friends over for dinner the night before resulting in somewhat of a stinking hangover - 8 miles was looking unlikely at the outset.

Anyway with the best if intentions I left the car park at Golden Acre Park and headed for the underpass to the park, there is a bridge here which goes straight on and doesn't in fact go under the road, this is signed with the Owl and L.C.W. for the Leeds Country Way. The hiking trail takes you into some woodland and to a T-Junction where you head to the right continuing through the woodland. This hadn't disappointed, already it was pretty scenic. The hiking trail takes you over another bridge over a stream and you continue to the right for a few hundred yards to a mad made pond. This is all very well signed and before long you're out of the wood and onto bridleways across fields. There are a few houses about half way along the path.

At the end you should turn left - I didn't and wasted a mile but no matter it was all very pleasant. The mile removed and back on track the track led you past a farm and past a golf course.

At the main road the Leeds Country Way head to the right for a few hundred yards until you start to leave suburbia at which point you immediately take a left which leads down a path running along the back of the houses.

This eventually leads to an unsealed road running alongside a cricket pitch. I skirted around the cricket pitch taking a left at the first opportunity.

I followed this road for some time, well until it finished actually. I meandered past various houses and stables until the road descended towards a pedestrian railway bridge, constructed many many moons ago. Over the bridge the hiking trail went through some buildings which were also built many mnpan moons ago and had seen better days. The houses however were still lived in.

Just past the houses and there was a style to the left which took you along a hedgerow to another style. I was questioning my navigation skills at this point but I kept firing straight on and it turned out I was right. I arrived at another set of stables with some people riding horses, it was all very horsey out here.

Heading around the riding ground (or whatever you call them) to the left, the path brings you out among the houses where you head up the hill and you arrive at the main road.

Crossing directly over the road you go over a style and along a private road. I got pretty baffled around here as the map didn't seem to correlate to reality. I firstly followed the road until it went no further and signs suggested police patrolled this area - go no further. Pretty serious stuff. The eerie masts I'd never seen before suggested this was the airport, the map confirmed this. The Leeds Country Way keeps surprising and this appeared like something out of a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, all very interesting.

Leeds Bradord Airport Masts on the Leeds Country Way
Leeds Bradford Airport Masts
I backtracked and crossed a style now to my right (I passed it on my left heading up the hill). I wasn't much better off now. I kind of moseyed round a touch aimlessly. Until I went with my initial conviction and headed alongside the road until it ended and I carried on through a couple of electric fence gates in the field. This opened up into fields with more horses in, boy they love their horse around here...

The path was a bit hazy round here and I did more miles then necessary. The path actually follows the far side of a hedge that appears in the middle of the field and heads into woodland by the hedge.

I stopped here to examine my feet as I was feeling the pinch in the ball of my feet on my left foot. It was a recurring issue from the last time I wore my Merrell Moam Mid boots but seemed ok.

This was heavy going and parts were boggy at best more like marshy in places and slowed things considerably. Again it was pleasant though. The hiking trail emerged out of the wood opposite Leeds Trinity University.

Woodland on Leeds Country Way
The path continues between two hedges between Leeds Trinity sports fields and the campus. When they emerge you should go straight up the hill with the all weather pitches on your left, I didn't I went round them but rejoined the path which heads off to the left.

Leeds Country Way through Leeds Trinity University
Path through Leeds Trinity University
Not 100 yards later there is a turn to the right through a snicket which is the route to take. This then leads into a woodland. The path through here is well marked. Before long you emerge to some fairly impressive views with a bench to soak it in, I had no time to soak anything in due to all the lost miles meandering aimlessly. The path on the wood descends to a bridge which appeared to be by a school.

View from the Leeds Country Way
View from the Leeds Country Way
It was here that, at 4:00 I decided it was time to head home due to time constraints. With the iPod now firing me home and with no wasted miles I did the exact same route albeit without the wasted distance and was back at the car for 5:30, not sure what my average time would have been but the blisters suggested it must have been pretty quick. This part of the Leeds Country Way didn't disappoint - it was superb.

Golden Acre Park on the Leeds Country Way
Walk home through Golden Acre Park

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

How to prevent blisters?

This Oxfam Trailtrekker challenge has really led me to seek ways as to how to prevent blisters. The last few long distance walks I've been on for training I've ended up with loads of blisters (more like growths than blisters actually), well I call them long distance walks they were only really 20 some miles so they probably don't fall into the long distance walk bracket but for all intents and purposes I'll refer to anything over 20 miles as long distance (no doubt something the LDWA would dispute).

The blisters I've had have been the most agonising part of the walk and where I've felt my legs can do more the blisters definately can't thus I am embarking on a quest of research to find out how to prevent blisters to ease the pain particularly for this gargantuan yomp we're having a shot at. Any techniques or ideas as to how to prevent blisters must be a bonus on the day.

I've started my quest with a rough search and already came up with what seems to be a good broadbrush start here.

Other "How to Prevent Blisters" posts
Correct footwear to prevent blisters
The secret weapon in how to prevent blisters
Look after your feet to prevent blisters
How to prevent blisters on the day you walk
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