Just Walk It
Lengthen your life by four years with 30 minutes of exercise daily. Appears to be true !
In preparing for a physical, I took a blood test this past week. I was also curious about my levels after spending 5 months backpacking.
I received a call from my doctor that indicated positive results in all bio markers with the exception of Vitamin D. The blood test for D was the 25(OH)D blood test.
The Vitamin D Council suggests that a level of 50 ng/ml is the ideal level to aim for. Mine is 23 !
The doctor’s office recommended that I immediately supplement 2,000 IU/ day. Cursory internet research suggests I need more. The Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D supplementation in order to reach and stay at this level.
The two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight and by taking vitamin D supplements. Apparently you can’t get the right amount of vitamin D your body needs from food.
I should have been able to metabolize adequate D from my daily exposure to intense sunlight for 5 months (ultraviolet B rays). This should have happened very quickly, particularly in the summer.
The Vitamin D council suggests that you don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D. You only need to expose your skin for around half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink and begin to burn.
I hiked through the summer when the light was lengthy, and it was my habit to hike in short sleeve shirt and shorts.
It appears that I will need to get vitamin D by taking supplements. Vitamin D3 is the best kind of supplement to take. It comes in a number of different forms, such as tablets and capsules, but it doesn’t matter what form you take, or what time of the day you take it.
This same problem surfaced after my 2010 Pacific Crest Trail hike, another 5 months stint where I bathed in sunlight 95 % of those 150 days. My doctor even had me take 50,000 unit doses once a week for a month. Only a meager increase was gained, I didn’t ever reach 30.
I do have some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency ( tiredness and general aches and pains), but those are also consistent with the extreme demands of averaging 20 miles a day over 5 months. People who are deficient also have infections. I experienced a infected tooth on the Trail.
Cause for concern? Anyone out there with some wisdom in this area to impart ?
Take a look at this elevation profile. We’re not out west any more. Here in New England it’s steep going, up or down. I rode my Santa Cruz Tallboy today with a bunch of Bubbas, with my knees and thighs feeling damn sore, as I bite my nails on the couch, hoping the Patriots can pull out another win tonight.
My fitness in the area of backpacking definitely did not transfer to mountain biking today. I was last in completing the grinding climb up Mount Pleasant. It did not help that I was not aware that both my front and rear suspension were locked out. I only noticed it about 100 feet below the summit. I also smacked my knees on the bars a few times, when leaping off before the bike tumbled onto the ledges.
I was talking to my son, Lincoln, who bikes and hikes. He feels that mountain biking often puts significantly more demands on the cardiovascular system that results in a shift into anerobic functioning. That was my experience today. I was pushing into a level of hurt that I didn’t reach backpacking the CDT.
The good news is that while descending, I found traveling through the autumn forest intoxicating. It was so much fun ripping along the trail, watching the colorful leaves and deep green mosses pass through my visual field.
Big shout out to Rigger, who cleared his way through all the tricky, sketchy, and slippery traps that often stop forward progress pon the way up. It’s quite remarkable- his steady, precise, manner. He makes it look easy, but it is not easy, at all.
In Maine’s Sunday Telegram.
Surprised my self on the third week anniversary of my surgery. I walked with Frank again today to the summit of Battie and back.
Our conversation was absorbing. I shared with Frank some if the stories that moved me recently. Like the story of the Ojibuay, and their migration from the Eastern North American seaside to the Great Lakes via the St. Laurence River. Lake Superior is significant to the tribe because the Ojibway believe their ancestors migrated there from the east coast of No. America and it was their final stopping place after 500 years of migration following the dream of the prophet of a shaman to move or be destroyed.
Teachings about Ojibway history are passed down orally. Birch bark scrolls were used to write down things using pictographic writing (a mneumonic or memory device using pictures and symbols rather than a phonetic writing system). They were initially guided by an otter.
I’ve recently spoken to two of my friends who have bemoaned the fact that they can’t exercise every day like they used to, and that they feel the need for a rest day in between sessions. I agree.
Here’s encouraging news that suggests we might be doing the right thing in backing off.
It’s happening again.
I am headed into an unplanned surgery this coming Friday to repair a hernia. Bummer. I will be on a much reduced program of healing for as long as 6 weeks. I have a plane ticket already purchased for a flight from Maine to El Paso on April 16, when I cobble together rides to reach the Mexico border at Chihuahua , then turn around and start a 3,000 backpacking walk to Canada, over the Continental Divide Trail.
How did I get into this situation? I even had a physical at the beginning of December when I asked to be checked for a hernia on my left side. My physician did the deed, I coughed, and she told me that I did not have a hernia.
I’m sort of an expert in this questionable skills area, as I have already experienced three hernias on my right side. I told her that I had been feeling fatigue in my lower abdomen for some time- not pain, but an awareness that that part of my body begins to ache when I hike all day.
Thankfully, she was not defensive, and suggested that I contact a surgeon to get a second opinion. Enter Dr. Paine. He was booked solid for many weeks, so I requested to be put on the wait list for a call. This past week, I was home working at my desk when that call came in at 10:20 AM for an 11:00 opening. It took Dr. Paine all of 1 second to tell me I had a hernia. When I explained about my hiking plans, he assisted the secretaries in bumping people around to fit me in for the surgery this week. Good man.
I have several physical concerns that are a part of my life. Granted, I’m healthy, with no known diseases that require prescription medication. I do have a chronic Vitamin D deficiency that has not improved after three years of various D3 treatments, including 50,000 unit capsules. Other than that, I’m the picture of vigor.
However, not all is rosy. I’m wearing out!
Here’s a graphic representation of what’s going on (as of today):
1- Repair chronic shoulder impingement syndrome, including trim of collarbone- date @ 1986
2-Surgery to remove arthritis and repair suspected torn rotator cuff ( 2006)- cuff was fine, “You have the shoulder of a man in his 80’s” Complete shoulder replacement predicted to be necessary between 2011- 2014.
3-Three right side hernias ( same location)- 1966, 1972, 1982. OK now.
4-Hernia repair scheduled for 2/15/13 ( Friday!).
5-Bone on bone situation in wrist, w/ chronic pain in 2001. Surgery recommended to cut and remove section of my forearm bone, and install metal plate with screws holding it in to alter wrist function, trim arthritis from wrist. Declined.
6-Right knee- traditional surgery to remove torn meniscus- 2 large open incisions. No further issues. 1980’s?
7-Left knee- arthroscopic surgery to remove torn meniscus – good repair- 1994
8- Chronic inflammation of 2nd metatarsal in foot-> nerve damage- surgery suggested going in through the top of the foot- Declined. Orthotics prescribed and used. The damage was due to a biomechanical gait problem which I have worked to correct after two years.
So I plan to ask my doctor to give me highly specific directions of how far I can walk, when I can increase mileage, and what I can lift in the 6 weeks it will take me to heal. I have agreed to have my wife, Marcia, come in with me and hear what he tells me. I have NO interest in blowing this recovery. Even if I require the full 6 weeks to heal, I will have three weeks to fully train for the hike. In the past I have healed much sooner than expected, but I’m older now. Dr. Paine told me that I should be able to start backpacking in mid- April, and I plan to be a good patient and be in flight on April 16, and in decent shape. I’ve looked at the elevation profiles for the first week and it’s fairly flat, which should help.
Single digit temperatures, a bare porch, and a blizzard on the way? Better get active.
I moved a half cord of firewood yesterday afternoon before the next “possible snow storm of the century” hit coastal Maine. Big hype?
My tractor’s trailer failed me after the trailer’s tire slipped off the rim as I was driving a full load of wood up the hill to my enclosed porch. I had a couple of hours before dark, so I went to plan B, which was push, lift, turn, and restack with the help of the trusty wheelbarrow. I managed to move 18 barrow loads of dry hardwood until there was no more wood to reclaim before it would have been buried under lots of white crystalline water.
Was it worth it? YUP!
#1- We may lose power here, with the possibility of very strong winds during the storm. The heat from our wood stoves are not dependent on electricity. There is also NO COMPARISON to the comfort of a stoked and glowing a wood stove to the meager blasts from the duct work of a hot air furnace.
#2- I did a quick bit of research this morning. Our furnace is fueled by propane. One half cord of dry hardwood is the equivalent of 80 gallons of propane. Since my last charge for a gallon was $3.00, that half cord on my porch is worth $240. Much of that load was free, as I harvested the trees here on on our property. But even if I paid the current cost of $200 a cord for split and delivered hardwood, which I do some years, I still would have saved $140.
#3- Core workout accomplished.
Since posting the my first Continental Divide Trail entry last week, the outdoor conditions here in midcoast Maine have dramatically, but not unexpectedly, ramped up. In the past week, we’ve experienced unseasonably low temperatures and 18 “ of snowfall.
It’s made for challenging training conditions.
There are hikers who believe that the only preparation for hiking is- well, to hike. On the other hand, some folks actually “plan” to show up for a thru-hike out of shape. They start really slow, generally grunting through less than 10 miles a day, and allow themselves to shed weight and build up mileage so that they’re in decent shape by week 4 to 6. I don’t want to be in pain and suffering when I’m just starting out, so I train. I don’t escape the discomfort and strife, but spread it out over a longer period of weeks, rather than add additional stressors at the of start of a long hike.
This week, I’ve re-read Andrew Skurka’s recommendations on training for a long hike. <—Recommended reading.
I’ve also revisited Ray Jardine’s Trail Life, specifically Ray’s excellent chapter on physical conditioning.
My ultimate goal is to follow Ray’s recommendation to work up to walking on rugged terrain for 12 or more miles with thirty-five pounds on my back. I have a setup with a 50 pound barbell plate that I strap to an old Trailwise pack from the 60’s that I’ve put into rotation before. The Camden Hill State Park is a superb terrain to do backpack. I can see the top of those Hills from my kitchen window.
At his point of my life I train every other day. I find I need to rest in between, – ok, maybe I do walk two or three miles in between.
This week the training has been snowshoeing and mountain biking on the snow. Both are difficult. For a glimpse of my most training episode on Thursday night- check out this blog entry.
One aspect of training that is not often spoken about is training for mental toughness. My wife believes I have a “Polish suffering gene”, and the following article from 2008 National Geographic Magazine gives strong evidence that she might be correct.
On my next entry I plan to introduce companies and individuals that have agreed to help me out with gear and supplies.