When Walking Speed Matters

On 07/11/2018 I blogged:  I’m tired of Taking Crap from People for Walking Fast.   Myt post concluded that,  “In the end, it is important to recognize the value of walking at any intensity and pace, but if you are able and willing to pick up the pace, even for short bursts of faster walking or hill work, it will result in increased bang for the walking buck.”

Here are two more recent references related to why you might consider increasing your walking speed:

The first was from the (July 25, 2018) NY Times:

Exercise Makes the Aging Heart More Youthful

This particular health article notes specific benefits to the left ventricle and  coronary arteries found in Master’s athletes and individuals who have been regular and frequent exercisers for decades.

“For lifelong heart health, start exercising early in life and keep exercising often. But even if you have neglected to exercise and are now middle-aged, it is not too late.”

Similar benefits were replicated in a two year study that arrears to be solidly supported. Randomized groups were subjected to varying levels of frequency and intensity of exercise. They found that a sedentary group showed the usual effects of time, with heart muscles, particularly their left ventricles or chambers, shrunken and less powerful than in younger people.  The same changes were evident in casual exercisers. However, men and women who had exercised at least four times a week for years, or in those who were masters’ athletes had left ventricles that looked and functioned much like those of people decades younger.

I just finished reading Daniel G. Amen’s ” Memory Rescue: Supercharge Your Brain, Reverse Memory Loss, and Remember what matters Most

Amen is a bestselling neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and founder of the Amen Clinics.  He’s particularly interested in preserving and even increasing blood flow, which turns out to be advantageous for folks experiencing memory decline as well as  for individuals who re concerned about aging and fitness.

“The faster we walk as we age, the longer we live and the sharper we think.  An 80 year old person who walks 1 mile per hour has only a 10% chance of living until 90. But if that same 80 year old moves faster, say at 3.5 miles an hour, her or she has an 84% chance of reaching 90. (1)   As walking speed goes down, so do executive function and decision-making skills. If you haven’t walked at a faster pace for a long time, start slowly and work your way up safely.”

  1. Stephanie Studenski et al, “Gait Speed and Survival in Older Adults”, ” Journal of the American Medical Association 305, no.1, (Jan. 2011): 50-58

It should be noted that Amen’s  exercise recommendations for increasing blood flow include burst training ( intervals) , strength training, coordination activities, and mindful exercise.

 

 

Backpacking the Fundy Footpath, Day 5 of 5

Start: Seely Beach campsite
End: Fundy Trail Interpretive center
Mileage:  6.7 miles         Elevation gain :1,279ft

Today’s map:

Elevation profile:We were up by 6 am, when we packed up all of our gear, which was heavy to carry. The campsite here was well protected but rather close and dank this sodden morning.  I had a brief midnight battle with a racoon who was pushing his nose into my tent’s screening.  I won.  Next time I will be more careful about eating in my tent.  There are excellent bear lockers at each of the official FF tent sites that are apparently there for a reason.

Seely Beach campsite

We had a noon deadline to meet our shuttle ride back to the Fundy National Park.  Although this section was reported to be the easiest of the Footpath, there was still a path relentless ups and downs,  although of a much more moderate nature.

Luckily it was low tide when we set off at 7 am, so we were able to walk on big rocks above the back flow of tidal water into the Bay.

Seely Beach, looking west

Here’s a feature of this section:  a formation known as the Dragon’s Tooth.  Too bad it also had one of those garish promotional signs right close to the rock itself.  I decided to keep this photo real.  The thick moss and lichen cover here by the shore is soothing to experience just by itself.

Funy Footpath meets the Dragon’s Tooth

The closer we got to the Western end of the Fundy Footpath the worse the footing became.

Rotten and missing foot bridges

That surprised me.  In my experience, the mile or so of trail that leads for trail parking lots is often the best kept aspect of a longer trail, as that seems to be about the extent of most people’s comfort with leaving their safe shell of a vehicle and entering the wild stuff.  Not here.  It was very apparent that the focus of the work down on this part of the Footpath is going into the development of an access road that will parallel the shoreline and lean toward the Fundy National Park, a mere 30 miles of line of sight up the coast.

We had a difficult time rediscovering the Trail when it passed through the new Long Beach parking lot, visitor’s center, picnic tables and privys.  Everything was locked up and the lot was vacant even though it was 9:00 in the morning.  Eventually we had to push through some very thick brush to return the last section of trail.  The intersection here might be more clearly marked and the access opened up a bit.  It would probably be easier to pass through here if one were heading east on the FF.

Eventually we reached the long suspension foot bridge that leads to the main parking lot and the Visitor’s Center, which unfortunately sold no maps for me to purchase and enjoy viewing at home.

Footbridge over Big Salmon River

Apparently the maps are out of stock everywhere and are awaiting a fresh print run.

In summary, this is a grueling hike, given the heat of the summer, the humidity, our tow days of rain, and depending on which valleys you include,  at least a dozen times when you go down and up or up and then down as much as 750 feet in elevation above sea level.

A search of the Internet in preparation for hiking the the Fundy Footpath suggests that having the Fundy Footpath-Hiker’s Guide Book is essential for hiking the 30+mile trail.

Out of Print ( as of 8/6/18)

The problem is that the book is sold out and out of stock at visitor’s centers on either end of the path as well as at the office of Red Rock Adventure, the guiding service that best  serve the FF hiker.   If you have unlimited time,  and the ability to carry as much as 5 day’s worth of food (ten extra pounds in my estimate), then take it as it comes, but a four night experience I advise taking along tide charts of the region, or you may find your self crossing Goose Creek at the 2 AM low tide, like I did on my 2008 thu-hike of this highly interesting hike.

 

 

 

 

Backpacking the Fundy Footpath, Day 4 of 5

Start: Little Salmon River campsite
End: Seely Beach campsite
Mileage:  7.0 mi

Today’s map:

Hiking direction = from earplug right to left

Mark Shaw, AKA Bad Influence,  posted this 2 minute drone footage that takes off from  Goose Creek and then continues along the coast. Mark is a professional sound engineer who also owns and operates Trail Head Shuttle, a Vermont AT and Long Trail hiker shuttle service, and now is available for commercial drone work in real estate, 3-D mapping, via  Skyview VT.   It’s very informative about the breadth of some of these tidal crossings.

Goose River/Low Tide Bay of Fundy

Mark and I joked about forgetting how challenging  this trail really is, especially given the fact that we hiked it 10 years go.  While he swears this is the last time on the FF for us, I started thinking how we might streamline a future walk along the coast, via engaging the drone to view any possible passage along the cliffed shoreline during low tides.   Mark successfully put the drone up to get us out of a huge marsh that confounded us on the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland last summer.  It’s like having s SUPER tall guide who can really view an obscure trail.

Another tool that worked well for me was my Delorme InReach Explorer+.

Satellite GPS unit

The unit is able to serve as an emergency locator and communication device.  I entered in a few pre-set messages, essentially confirming that I was OK.  I sent evening messages to both my wife and the shuttle operator with a map pinpointing the location of our campsites, along with GPS coordinates.  I have added the unit to my day hikes. When I find myself injured and need of assistance, I should be able to get help.  I believe it is an essential part of my kit, particularly when I am guiding clients in the wilderness.  There was very spotty cell service available on this hike.  I pay $12 a month for the service, which can be turned off for any months where travel might not occur.

It rained yesterday and rained today as well.  With the very high humidity the first two days, we were forced with the very unwelcome situation of donning cold wet socks, footwear, and clothing each morning.  I’m in the habit of leaving any spare clothes home these days, in an effort to reduce my pack weight.  I do carry a dry set of sleep wear  on all my hikes, that allows me to be very comfortable when it’s time to sleep.

One tip that I  can offer the wet hiker is to put on a wind shirt or light synthetic jacket over your wet shirt when you reach camp.  If you are fortunate enough to have found clothing that is truly breathable, your body heat dries out the wet clothing in an hour or two.  I have had great success with Patagonia’s Houdini windshirt and their 10 oz.  Nano-Air Light Hoody.  The Hoody was developed to pass copious amounts to perspiration while at the same time providing adequate insulation for winter use.  I have been amazed at the width of the range of temperatures that I wear the Hoody, from winter biking in freezing conditions to summer evenings.  I like the blaze orange version for visibility.

If your clothing is not totally sopping wet, it can also be dried by wringing it out and putting in on top of your sleeping pad and under your sleeping bag where your body heat drys it out overnight.

 

Backpacking the Fundy Footpath, Day 3 of 5

Start: Brandy Brook campsite
End : Little Salmon River campsite
Mileage: 9.15 mi
Elevation Gain: 2,641 ft

Today’s Strava map:

Hiking west- Brandy Brook to Little Salmon

We say signs today that the Fundy Footpath was an official segment of the Trans-Canada Trail.
From Wikipedia: “The Great Trail, formerly known as Trans-Canada Trail, is a cross-Canada system of green ways, waterways and roadways that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic oceans. The roadway sections often have significant levels of vehicular traffic and some lack segregated pedestrian shoulders or walkways. The Trail extends over 15,000 miles. It is now the longest recreational, multi-use trail network in the world”.

Sorta like the AT- white blaze and all

The hike today was composed of challenging ascents and descents in traversing 6 ravines. We hiked 400’ up to the table land from the Quiddy River, down and up another ravine east of Martin Head, then down and up another 400’ through Telegraph Creek.

Ascending one of the switchbacks today

It got more challenging as we hiked 570’ of down and then up over Wolfe Creek, and capping of the days slog with a descent of close to 700 feet to the Little Salmon.

Another rocky isolated beach crossing

I felt that trekking poles were essential to my survival on some of the descents due to the steepness of the grade, crumbling soil conditions, and humidity-saturated roots.

I  upped my food intake today, due to the rigors of ascending this path. After my typical breakfast of granola, Nido (powdered whole milk), Carnation Instant Breakfast, and added Starbucks Via freeze dried coffee I had a couple Cliff bars before lunch, which consisted of 1/4 box of Triscuits and several tablespoons of peanut butter. Normally one snack gets me through the afternoon, but today I ate a half a Cliff bar every hour. It really helped keep my energy and attitude on track.
I felt strong today, but was definitely ready to call it a day after 10 miles of staircasing this challenging terrain.

Here’s my sawtooth Strava elevation profile, read left to right:


I’ve been listening to The Trail Show where I heard about Disco’s hygiene kit. I assembled the 0.5 ounce kit, composed of a small sponge, tiny dropper bottle with Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, and a microfiber towel. Each evening, I’ve enjoyed washing the grit and sweat off my body with this setup. I plan to add the ziplock baggie containing these items to my permanent packing list. Thanks, Disco!

I continued to be pleased with my progress on this hike, particularly when I compare my experience to the last time I hiked the FF, ten full years ago. What’s it like to hike it at 68 vs. 58 years old ? Truthfully it’s easier, probably due to the fact that I’d fifteen pounds lighter than I was way back then. One thing that made it easier was that we didn’t have to get up in the night to cross Little Salmon at low tide this time.

The tides here are dramatically evident.

BI checking out Bay of Fundy

When it is low tide the shoreline is Waayyyy Out! At peak surge, the water can rise ( or fall) a foot every 15 minutes !

We saw our first thru-hikers today- 2 young women who seemed to be doing fairly well. They have been the only other hikers we have seen so far on the FF, period!

Our campsite for the night:

Little Salmon River camp site

Backpacking the Fundy Footpath, Day 2 of 5

Start: Goose River Trail Campsite at western border of FNP
End : Brandy Brook campsite
Mileage: 9.5        Elevation: 2,700′

Today’s Strava map

Euphoric recall is a wonderful thing, for the most part.  It is a term that I associate with hiking, but has usefulness in other aspects in life as well.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:  “Euphoric recall is a psychological term for the tendency of people to remember past experiences in a positive light, while overlooking negative experiences associated with that event(s). Euphoric recall has been cited as a factor in substance dependence, as well as anger problems. Individuals may become obsessed with recreating the remembered pleasures of the past”.
    Ten years ago, Bad Influence and I did this same backpacking trip, but in the opposite direction.  Our own euphoric recall was strong enough that we are back here trying to thu-hike this bitch of a trail once again. Staggering into our campsite, drenched in sweat from the excessive humidity and over 2,700 feet of elevation gain (and losses),  we began to experience the difficulties that would lie ahead of us over the next several days.
Canadian Geographic ( Jan/Feb 2018 issue) notes that, “This narrow, rock-strewn track along New Brunswick’s Fundy coast is recommended for only the most prepared hikers — but those who brave it are amply rewarded.”  Here is one of their stunning photos:
View of Fuller Falls along the Fundy Footpath.

Here’s my own photo of Bad Influence trekking along the soft, springy forest floor:

BI heading to Brandy Brook

There are shorter segments of stream bed and beach walking encountered on a daily basis.

Transition zone

Occasionally, it is necessary to cross tidal streams and even rivers, which are best accessed at low tide.  Tide charts are necessary in order to to time your traverses . Some of the tidal walks are up to a half kilometer across.

Low tide is good here!

Wildflower meadows lined some of the shores:

Fireweed

A half hour later we were up toward the tableland again, which sometimes reached 800′  in elevation.  Here a long view looking west to Martin Head,  jutting out into the Bay of Fundy.

Looking west

Eventually we made it to put up our tent ( me) and hammock (Bad Influence).   This fire was the only one we were able to enjoy for the rest of the trip, due to rain.

Brandy Brook campsite

These falls were upstream and in view of the campsite.   I don’t like these flashy signs promoting the organization involved with supporting the FF.

Despite our efforts to dry out our clothes, the humidity persisted throughout the night.  We slithered into wet, cold, sweat-saturated socks, shirts, and pants each morning for the rest of the trip.

On the positive side, it never dropped below 60 degrees not did it get excessively warm for the whole walk.  Mosquitoes were not an issue either!

Backpacking New Brunswick’s Fundy Footpath, Revisited

Day 1 of 5

Start: lower parking lot, Point Wolfe Campground, Fundy National Park, NB, CAN
End : Goose River Trail Campsite at western border of FNP
Mileage: 5 miles

First, here’s some skinny on the Fundy Footpath (plus more info from the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve website):
Total Length: 41.4 km ( 25 miles)
Trail Rating: Challenging
Add the Approach: 8 km approach trail from Point Wolf parking area in Fundy National Park to Goose River, the eastern terminus of the footpath.

Full map
Western Half
Eastern Half

Background Information: Established in 1994, this 41.4 km coastal hiking trail stretches from Goose River, the Western boundary of Fundy National Park, to Big Salmon River, a popular tourist destination East of the community of Saint Martins. The area is considered by many to be the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline between Florida and Labrador.
The Fundy Footpath offers hikers an opportunity to observe some of the last remaining stands of old-growth coastal Acadian Forest in the world as well as spectacular vistas, pristine beaches, unique estuaries, interesting geology and lots of wildlife. The FFP is a remote and challenging hiking trail and should only be attempted by those with suitable physical abilities and wilderness equipment. There are also several side trails to bay viewpoints and waterfalls like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum falls. In other cases the Fundy Footpath crosses numerous gorges and ravines which can be explored like Walton Glenn Brook, Eye of the Needle, Little Salmon River and Goose Creek. There are dozens of spectacular waterfalls along the many streams, brooks and rivers the Fundy Footpath crosses. Hikers with a keen eye can also spot remnants of logging operations from many years ago.”

Both Bad Influence and I had completed his hike going East in 2008, accompanied by Xenon and Rangoon. This time we ended up walking it in the opposite direction. You can review the  four days’ of 2008 blog posts here.

Two of us made this hike: me and my trusty hiking, biking, motorcycling, and backpacking buddy Bad Influence, in real life as Mark Shaw, hailing from Vermont. We each tried to find another person to come with us to cut costs and make it more interesting, but had no luck.

Our shuttle was provided by Red Rock Adventure and cost us $250 total, for 1-4 people. Remember that the US dollar is enriched right now to the tune of 30% Canadian. The roughly 160 mile round trip for the driver took at least four hours. Straight line distance from end to end is just 30 miles, but as they say in Maine, “You can’t get there from here.”

Each of us coughed up $100 each for the long ride, which was made sweeter by free lattes at Red Rock’s base of operations. Two more folks with us could have cut the fee in half.

We didn’t need to do much walking to get to our first campsite. After leaving our car at the Point Wolfe Parking lot it was a relatively easy 5 miles of meandering along an access road through the shady woods to reach our chosen site.

Improvements!

We were on the edge of the Bay Of Fundy, at a grassy site with piped spring water and a clean outhouse (with toilet paper) nearby.

Starting Off Well

Later just one young couple passed us on their way to their campsite along the Point Wolfe River. It was a clear but warm evening. The temps stayed warm but not hot for the whole journey. Our issue on this adventure was the discomfort of constantly wet clothes, first due to excessive humidity, and the two days and nights of rain. At least it was sunny and drier walking out on the last morning.

I’m tired of Taking Crap from People for Walking Fast.

Another brisk, steady mile. (photo by Auntie Mame)

I’m a hiker and a backpacker and I’m peeved when people react negatively to my speedy walking on trails.
Here’s what this is about: I’m descending a trail, trekking poles in hand and moving quickly. I am a heavy guy, around 200 pounds, and this much weight isn’t often the ticket to quick uphill climbs, but put me on a descent and I usually do better than most. Momentum helps! I also believe that my decades of off-road biking have trained me to discern sight lines that are the best for foot placement. It doesn’t happen often, but I have had folks tell me to slow down, or they might mutter a disparaging word or two as I hop my way past them. “Excuse me, but I can”.

And here’s a sample of citizen hiking-speed-police attitude that was only one of many reader comments from a recent national newspaper column on the added benefits of brisk walking: “What about the pleasures of feeling the breeze, watching the toddlers earnestly examining a leaf, marveling at the astonishing variety of canine life at the end of every leash? For heaven’s sake, enjoy your walks! It’s not a job, not a race to be run, it’s a walk. It feeds the human spirit. Chill out, people.” (Eleanor, CA) in reaction to Walk Briskly for Your Health. About 100 Steps a Minute. The New York Times by Gretchen Reynolds, June 27, 2018.

Auntie Mame hiking to Katahdin Lake

What do I mean by fast walking ?
A steady walk is 3 miles per hour. A brisk walk approaches 4 miles per hour.
A recent study looked at not just the total number of steps people took per day but also how quickly they took them. “Those who had a faster stepping rate had similar health outcomes—lower BMI and lower waist circumference—as those who took the most steps per day,” says John Shuna, Ph.D.,  one of the study authors. He recommends trying for a minimum of 100 steps per minute (roughly 2.5 to 3 miles per hour) or as brisk a pace as you can (135 steps per minute will get you up to about a 4 mph pace). Keeping up a conversation tops out for most folks at a speed over 3 miles per hour.   Brisk walking ramps up the pace and results in a noticeable increase in breathing and starts for me anytime I walk over 3.5 miles per hour. Some very fit folks hit this level at 4 miles per hour on a flat terrain. The very fastest walkers are race walkers who are able to reach 5 to 6 miles per hour or even faster.

Morning visitors atop Katahdin

Research is showing that a faster walking practice results in prolonging your life. Walking at an average pace was linked to a 20% reduction in the risk of mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24%, according to a new study. The benefits of walking are far more dramatic for older walkers. Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53% risk reduction, the study found. These findings appear in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine dedicated to walking and health, edited by Emmanuel Stamatakis, at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health.

80+ year old hiker on Appalachian Trail in Maine

Even Consumer Reports recommends brisk walking.
“Another way to get more out of even a shorter walk is to do it faster. A recent study looked at not just the total number of steps people took per day but also how quickly they took them. “Those who had a faster stepping rate had similar health outcomes—lower BMI and lower waist circumference—as those who took the most steps per day,” says Schuna, one of the study authors. He recommends trying for as brisk a pace as you can (135 steps per minute will get you up to about a 4 mph pace).- Sally Wadyka, April 04, 2018.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh recently revealed that overweight people who walked briskly for 30 to 60 minutes a day lost weight even if they didn’t change any other lifestyle habits.  Because walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it can also help prevent the bone disease osteoporosis.

“Walking is a refreshing alternative to complicated aerobic routines and overpriced gym memberships,” says personal trainer Lucy Knight, author of Walking for Weight Loss.    “Bones are like muscles in the way that they get stronger and denser the more demands you place on them,” Knight says. “The pull of a muscle against a bone, together with the force of gravity when you walk, will stress the bone — which responds by stimulating tissue growth and renewal.”
To burn fat quickly and effectively, you should master power-walking. Adding hills to your route will speed up calorie burning.
“On really steep inclines, it’s not unusual for even a fit person’s heart rate to increase by about 20 per cent,” writes Knight. Going downhill, you have to contract your leg muscles to work against gravity and slow your descent.
Walking on softer surfaces, such as mud, sand or grass, also uses more energy than walking on concrete. Every time your foot hits the ground, it creates a small depression so that the leg muscles must work harder to push upwards and forwards for the next step.

Walking on uneven ground may have even more benefits. Physiologists at the Oregon Research Institute have found that cobblestone walking lowers blood pressure and improves balance. Uneven surfaces may stimulate acupressure points on the soles of the feet, regulating blood pressure.

“We can still create a plan that has a fair amount of lower level aerobic movement, such as walking briskly, hiking, cycling at a moderate pace, etc. a few times a week and keep it at under an hour. Then, we can add a few intense “interval” sessions, where we literally sprint for 20, 30 or 40 seconds at a time all out, and do this once or twice a week”.-Mark’s Daily Apple (Mark Sisson) June 20, 2007.

In the end, it is important to recognize the value of walking of any intensity and pace, but if you are able and wiling picking up the pace, even for short bursts of faster walking or hill work, will result in increased bang for the walking buck.