Miles to go before we Walk

With seven weeks to go before the walk, a big focus in my life is training. With Ellie back from her three weeks in Wyoming backpacking and rock-climbing, our team is intact and we’re working on getting in shape. Walking twenty miles, as I have often opined, requires a lot of time. I walk at a steady pace of about two and a half miles per hour. I guess I should be walking faster, but that is where it averages out. Do the math and it is clear that walking twenty miles takes a lot of time.

Training to walk twenty miles also takes a lot of time. Each week on Friday the folks at Susan G. Komen send me an email with the week’s training and workout suggestions. I have been following these emails for the last six weeks pretty religiously. I am doing so both out of a sense of self-preservation and to give me some structure and potential assurance that I will truly be ready for the Walk when the time comes. This week’s training is pretty typical. On Monday we have a day of rest. Tuesday starts the week with an easy four mile walk. Wednesday and Friday are supposed to be aerobic workouts and on those days I typically do one of my workout dvds and focus on upper body since it gets short shrift when I am walking. Thursday is a six mile walk. That is all pretty do-able. I guess if I were in an office during the day, the four and six mile walks would be a bit tricky, but I don’t have that particular problem just now. The weekend kicks off the real time and resource commitments. This Saturday we are scheduled to walk 17 miles and on Sunday we will walk 13. That will pretty much be the weekend activity for both Ellie and me.

Walking sixty miles over three days is a lot different than simply walking twenty miles one day. I think pretty much anyone could make it through twenty miles (ask me again when I finish the 17 miles on Saturday). It is getting up and walking the twenty again on day two and on day three that requires the real conditioning. It is more a test of endurance than raw strength. Walking sixty miles over three days means your walking muscles need to be in good shape. Walking uses specific muscles and the only way to properly train for the Walk is to walk. Running and biking are great forms of exercise, but they won’t help develop the necessary endurance. The only way to do that is to walk. Walking sixty miles on pavement also means that the feet need to be conditioned and toughened. “Me dogs are barking” is a common refrain on our longer walks. There is a lot of concussion on foot soles and they need to be used to it.

In addition to being finicky about how to go about training, preparing for the walk requires some attention to equipment. There isn’t much excitement in walking for an equipment junky. There isn’t a lot of tools or gear involved, but what you need needs to be just right. Socks and shoes. That pretty much sums up the whole thing. Sure, you need a water bottle, rain gear, etc. but socks and shoes are essential. I was so proud when I did the walk in 2004 that I didn’t get a single blister. I am fixated on continuing that track record as I prepare and walk in 2010. Obviously, shoes need to fit properly and offer good support. I really like Merrells. They are actually more of a light hiking shoe, but I find they have good support and cushioning. They breathe nicely and are very durable. I like socks with double padding on the foot cushion and heel. Foot care is equally important. Feet get hot and tired after a few miles and they need to be aired. On long walks I take a second pair of socks and change out mid way. I also rub A&D on my feet to counteract friction. I never wear the same shoes two days running. That lets the shoes air and alternates any pressure points on my feet.

Ellie is 17 and in tremendous shape. She is also a natural athlete. She has had trouble jumping into training even after her three weeks of packing in the Rockies. She used different muscles and wasn’t pounding pavement and she has been troubled with blisters and heat rashes on her feet. I am concerned that we get her feet in shape and catch her up. It would be sadly ironic if she was plagued with physical issues on the Walk while her 54 year old mother just keeps on truckin’. I want her to enjoy the process and not suffer from physical pain–other than the normal fatigue. I don’t want her to be one of the hundreds of women sitting in the blister tent each morning of the Walk getting lanced and wrapped and hobbling through the miles.

Walking seems so simple and straightforward. We do it all the time. Could there be simpler exercise equipement than a pair of feet? With a little care and conditioning, these feet will serve me well.

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