On the Trail: An Ode to Old Shoes

Fare thee well, old running and hiking shoes,

companion for oh, about 15 moons.

Time has run out on thee, though I am fond of you,

like the day I first spied thee in thine box.

 

Do not be angry upon me my Italian Wildcats

You have served me well, o’er hill and dale

La Sportiva Wildcat

La Sportiva Wildcat

and along the Escarpment Trail.

And through puddles and snow, and in day and in night.

 

But you show your wear, though thee be but one year and some months old.

Your midsole is full of lines, creases, that cannot be ignored.

It is beaten down, and you feel hard beneath my soft feet.

Though, to be kind,  overall you still look so youthful.

 

But oh thy tread, thy tread, it is too worn, flattened smooth in areas

And gives me great fear on slick wet rock or damp tree roots

lest I go glissading, skittering into the air,

only to land and break a vital bone or tear a sinew.

 

We have indeed had joyous times,

running here, walking there

or sitting in quiet contemplation. But time moves on

And moreover, my fickle self also seeks a lighter model with a lower heel.

 

Lest you think me cruel, I will not totally abandon you.

Nay, I shall not drop you in the Salvation Army donation box

Or, send you to Soles 4 Souls, though that be wise and kind and useful

No, I will keep you in my closet, to don once a fortnight or so to run an errant errand.

(Until such time as I will decide to donate you at last.)

 

And no Wildcats, I will not make you meet your heir to my feet.

La Sportiva Helios

La Sportiva Helios

But know they too hail from your same Italian villa, and, probably are a close cousin,

But a full year younger, and lighter, and, oh, their tread, it is just fine.

No, Wildcats, you need not meet Helios now.

 

Rather, you will meet them in the closet, in, oh, about a year or so.

 

 

H.F.

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On the trail: the fast keep getting faster

Much has been written recently about the widening income disparity in the United States. The rich continue to get richer while the poor stay poor and the income of the middle class slowly erodes.

This phenomenon is not limited to the economy alone. The fast get faster, too, while the slow, well, let’s just say they don’t get too much faster.

AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles, from http://espn.go.com/sports/endurance/index

AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles, from http://espn.go.com/sports/endurance/index

This past week in the 2014 Berlin Marathon, Kenyan Dennis Kimetto set a new world record for the 26.2 mile road race, completing the run in less than two hours and three minutes, beating the previous record by over 20 seconds, which is a significant improvement. Even the second place winner, Emmanuel Muthai, also broke the previous world record. Both runners are still a long way from crashing through the psychological and likely physical barrier of running a sub-two-hour marathon, though.

Kimetto, Muthai and the two top female finishers all had one thing in common. They wore the same type of shoes, the adidas Boost series “made up of thousands of energy capsules that store and return energy in every step”. I would be interested in running in these shoes to experience the sensation addidas promises.

adidas Adizero Boost

adidas Adizero Boost

I was initially excited about Mr. Kimetto’s finish, foolishly thinking somehow that it augured well for me personally, raising the bar of the possible, dangling a new aspiration. I am similarly excited to read about lightening fast speed records set hiking the entire Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails. Maybe I should buy the same shoes those record setters wore. Or, eat the same pre race meal.

But I have no illusion that Kimetto’s shoes will make me run appreciably faster, just as I have no illusion that driving the “luxury sedan” I see advertised on TV or wearing the very expensive watch mountaineer Ed Viesturs wore on Mt. Everest will appreciably enhance my life.

Most likely, or, shall I say, most definitely, mimicry of the elite is just mimicry, and will not result in significant change. So each year the Kenyans get faster while the middle of the pack runners continue to own the middle. And, the five-plus hour marathon finishers, well, they are happy just to finish.

One reason we humans focus on time and speed is because the discrete numbers are easy to measure and easy to understand.  But we should appreciate that, for the non-elite among us, watching those elite athletes push themselves to run and hike faster and faster, breaking record after record, is really, just entertainment. What happened in Berlin last week says lots about Dennis Kimetto and Emmanuel Muthai as runners, their training regimens and their ability to endure pain, and yes, perhaps something about their lung and heart capacities too. Their accomplishments do reveal something about the potential of the most fit members of our species. But, the new world marathon record, most regrettably, says practically nothing about me as an individual.

But hey, that’s entertainment.

Howard E. Friedman

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On the trail: defining “trail”

What is “the trail”?

Recently I responded to trail shoe company Vasque’s request for product testers for a new model of trail running shoes. I had to itemize how many miles a week I run and on what surface. The choices were single-track trail, dirt, grass or pavement. I ticked off checks in the first three boxes. I don’t run on pavement.

I started wondering, am I a trail runner if I run on grass and dirt in urban environs more than I run on single track paths in the forest?

For a trail runner or hiker, must the ‘trail’ be surrounded by forest or rolling hills? Must it have rocks and roots? What about running on the grass and uneven dirt to the side of an asphalt path in a dimly lit urban park, at night? Does that constitute ‘trail running’.  What about if you run  on a wood chip path in a tree filled park but you see buildings beyond its sylvan perimeter? Is that a ‘trail’ run’? How about starting a run in a park but leaving the graded path to run through high grass, emerging with burrs and maybe a tick or two? Does that count?

Or does “the trail” really limit you to a path in the woods, or wilderness, somewhere far away, a car drive away? Perhaps running on a graded trail, maintained by trail volunteers who trim away brambles, fix the blazes, remove fallen trees, is not even real trail running. Maybe you need to bushwack your own trail through the forest to really make it count.

I never heard back from the folks at Vasque. My mileage was probably too low. My age probably too high. Maybe they don’t count running on grass as real trail running. Fair enough. They should find the hardest charging trail runners out there to test their shoes. Admittedly, that’s not me.

But I am left with my question. Am I a trail runner? On most days, honestly, probably not. But neither am I a road runner. I would accept the moniker “off-road” runner, however. But even when trying to harvest a trail run out of a city park, I aspire to return to the trail, for all the reasons more and more people are running on single track paths in the woods: the inherent challenge, the beauty of the scenery, the need for rapt attention to every foot fall. And I will return. Maybe this weekend, or next. In the meantime, I will continue to nurture my aspirations with the resources I have available. And that is the best training there is.

Howard E. Friedman

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On the Trail: Really Smart Socks

published in Trail Walker Spring 2014, official publication of New York/New Jersey Trail Conference, nynjtc.org

By Howard E. Friedman DPM  Image

High tech companies keep trying to push their products onto the trail either in your backpack or on your wrist. Mapping apps for smart phones and ipads. Solar powered recharging stations so you can recharge your ipad and smart phone. But many hikers, backpackers and trail runners continue to eschew the idea of letting technology get between them and the trail. But this spring the newest high tech product for hikers will actually come between you and the trail – as long as you are wearing socks. Really smart socks.

 This spring a new high-tech sock will be available to runners and hikers that will record and project an image of exactly how your feet are striking the ground. Are you a heel striker, forefoot striker or mid-foot striker? Do you put all your pressure under your great toe but no pressure under your smallest toe? Understanding how the foot strikes the ground can be an important distinction especially for runners since many researchers suggest that mid-foot and forefoot strikers are less prone to injuries than heel strikers. (Walkers and hikers are normally heel strikers). The socks can also detect if the wearer’s gait has changed during a hike or run.

ImageCalled Sensoria, these socks will also record distance traveled, cadence (number of foot strikes per minute), number of steps taken, calories burned, as well as other metrics. A number of existing products can also tell you similar information, such as the Nike+Sportswatch. But no other device on the market geared for the athletic consumer can generate data and images of the pressure generated under your feet.

The Sensoria sock made of a washable, synthetic wicking fabric will be available this spring from Heapsylon LLC, a  Redmond, WA based technology company, Ceo Davide Vigiano said in a telephone interview. The company also manufactures a shirt and sports bra that use a sensor to record heart rate.

The sock incorporates three sensors, one each under the heel, near the big toe and near the small toe, which are less than 1 mm thick. To activate the sensors, the hiker or runner attaches an anklet to the sock via snaps. The  battery powered anklet contains an accelerometer and other technology which allow it to capture data from the sensors in the sock. The user can then see the data as it is being collected on his or her smart  phone or even Google glasses, with pressure reflected as either green, the lowest reading, or yellow or red, a high reading. Or the user could download the data from the anklet via Blue Tooth technology  or using a USB connection, after the hike to see a video strip of their foot strike history and other data, like distance traveled. Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman Ph.D, who has authored many studies on barefoot running and is the author of The Story of the Human Body (2013 Pantheon) is collaborating on the mobile application, according to Mr. Vigiano. The sock sensors do not have a GPS but can be paired with existing GPS units, Vigiano said.

Image

These smart socks are ideal for trail or road runners who not only want to know how far and fast they have traveled but also want to modify their gait, be notified if they have started suddenly pronating or supinating and want to try and minimize injury. Moreover, the sock could give a before and after look at exactly how an arch support or foot orthotic changes the pressure under the foot.

Howard E. Friedman

Tenacity on the Trail

Catskill Waterfall, John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872), at Yale Museum of Art

Catskill Waterfall, John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872), at Yale Museum of Art

Humans aim to thrive.  Yet nature is oft satisfied with merely surviving. And at times, merely surviving is good enough. For example, some trees survive rooted only in a thin crevice of rock. And hikers and trail runners pushing through their day should take inspiration.

Gardeners strive to plant seeds and plants in the most fertile soil, and may even enrich the earth with compost or other fertilizer. And maple trees drop their seeds on the forest floor, rich with years of accumulated soil and decomposed leaf litter. Both gardener and maple tree aim to plant in a nutrient dense environment. Soil is the accumulation of lichens, mosses, fungi, animal and insect waste, decomposed leaves, twigs and fallen branches, a rich mix of nutrients ready to nourish the next seed that settles in its midst.

So it is shocking then to see that some trees are able to sprout from a rock without the benefit of a rich bed of soil. As the seed degrades and germinates, it must leach any and all available nourishment trapped alongside it in its rocky lair. And it must soak up precious drops of rainwater that find their way down the sides of the cold rock walls. Furthermore it must sprout with only the minimal amount of sunlight that makes its way deep into the dark crevasse.

Surprisingly, the sight of a tree emerging from a rock entombment is not so unusual in the forest. ‘Catskill Waterfall’, by Hudson River landscape painter John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872), seen above hanging in the Yale Art Museum, depicts a white birch seemingly emanating from a granite block, at the far right of his painting. And even today when driving through rocky terrain, one can often see saplings and trees growing almost magically right out of the crags that line our highways.

treeinrockTo a hiker or trail runner struggling on a hike or run, seeing a sapling or even a full grown tree swaying above its rocky foundation should give encouragement: to see life that has grown and persevered in adverse conditions. True, the tree growing out from a crack in a granite boulder may not be the tallest tree in the forest, but the tree has survived, and can help propagate its species. The tree can be a home to birds’ nests and provide refuge to insects galore which can burrow under its bark. But the tallest or the biggest tree it likely will never be.

The act of survival in the outdoors plays itself out again and again. Witness any of the birds resident through the winter. On a recent winter walk I was surprised to find myself within feet of a golden crowned kinglet, feeding among fir branches. This species, weighing less than a third of an ounce, is known to be able to survive even at temperatures of -40 F. The kinglet need not thrive on the coldest winter days, merely survive, to live so it can breed again in the spring. And so it is with the song sparrows, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, cardinals, bluejays and downy woodpeckers one sees foraging, relentlessly, for their day’s nourishment throughout the winter.

Survive another day.

Such a lesson, while extreme for a recreational hiker or trail runner, is nevertheless a good one. The next mile which might seem to be insurmountable need not be covered in style. Breathlessness is okay. Sore muscles are okay. Walking and stopping are okay. Even thirst, at least for a short while, is okay. Know your limits, but persevere if possible.

The life force to survive is tenacious.

Thriving, however, may have to wait for another day.

Howard E. Friedman

Winter Ghosts on the Trail

Beech tree in January

Beech tree in January

Wisps of last year linger even at the end of January. Almost all leaves dropped off  their branches months ago but the beech tree clings to last season. Even as it stands in a carpet of snow, its leaves rustle in a wind, one of the few sounds in the forest now. Though the leaves have lost their green color and are now only a ghost of their former selves, they summon up the images of the new leaves that will replace them and the millions of leaves that will appear on the trees that now stand bare in the dry winter air.

Needle bearing trees, pines, spruces, firs, hemlocks are covered in green year around, though even they lose needles from time to time. But they do not lose them all at once. And maples and birch trees lose their leaves in a continuous rain of colorful but dead and dying leaves in late autumn. Yet some beech trees hold on to their leaves throughout the winter in a process botanists call ‘marcescence’, a trait shared with oak trees. The tan wispy leaves that last throughout the winter  no longer participate in photosynthesis. Yet some scientists have postulated that these marcescent leaves serve to protect the new yet-to-bud leaves. And some have suggested that oaks and beeches are an intermediate type of tree on the evolutionary spectrum; occupying a space between the coniferous trees and the maples and birches. (Losing leaves in the fall can be a help to trees by limiting water loss and limit damage from severe cold, while holding on to needles year round may maximize photosynthesis).

Running through the snow-covered trails at Flat Rock Brook park in New Jersey, the leaves on the beech tree seemed incongruous viewed against a snow-filled backdrop. A leaf, after all, represents growth and fertility and hope and springtime. Yet the snow cover bespeaks a winter dormancy, a time of inactivity for forests and gardens. But seeing the ground covered with snow does not mean we cannot see what it hides.

My route took me over a brook crossing, one I had done many times before, rock hopping my way across. I knew the rocks were there but they were under a pile of snow and some hidden in thin ice. I looked down, but saw only mounds of snow and despite the snow cover, intuited my path.

Beech leaves have finally fallen.

Beech leaves have finally fallen.

Yet staring at the translucent leaves both on the trees and the ones that finally succumbed to their fate, I saw re-birth. Springtime. Looking at the snow covered trail and the snow on the ground to my right and left I saw, or at least wanted to see, spring wildflowers and grasses, buds on trees and nesting birds. I did see those things I think.

What can we see when we can’t see the real thing?

Educators, psychologists and others have written about the effects of watching television on developing minds.  What happens when everything is revealed? Do we dull our imagination? The advertising industry has certainly settled on ‘selling the sizzle and not the steak’. Leave something to the imagination.

And many researchers have written about our ability to imagine and fill in the visual gaps when we read. I did not find a study comparing our brain function while watching versus our brain activity when reading. But in ‘Your Brain on Fiction‘, a 2012 article in the New York Times, writer Anne Murphy Paul cites findings of neuroscientists who used MRIs to evaluate brain activity in people while they were  reading.The research shows that the written word on the page stimulates even non verbal areas of our brain. A word like “cinnamon” stimulates the olfactory portion of our brains. Fiction, it turns out, is good for our brains.

And last Sunday, running through the snow seeing ghost leaves dangling on the tree and no Joe Pye weed where it is supposed to grow, I would add: experiencing the naked forest in winter has the power to stimulate the springtime portion of our brains even while we enjoy the winter landscape.

0126141223

Winter light. What does your shadow say?

By by simonwakefield [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By by simonwakefield [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Overland foot travel in winter requires extra care, like warm clothing. But there is one element even more critical,  that, unlike clothing, can not be added or subtracted easily at will.

Sunlight.

By liz west (Sundial) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By liz west (Sundial) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

True enough that hiking in the dark could be augmented with a bright headlamp. But there is no substitute for pervasive sunlight, the way it illuminates earth and sky. Regrettably, in the Winter, natural light is in short supply. Even on sunny Winter days, the radiance of the sun seems dim and insufficient. The sun can not bathe us in an intense bright  light from its low wintry perch no matter how much we strain to see.

Sundials have been in use for thousands of years, marking the sun’s transit across the sky. Once ancient people realized that our shadows shorten from morning until noon and than lengthen again toward evening, they could use that information to build reliable sun clocks, using a shadow to mark time. Sundials date back to ancient Egypt about 3,500 years ago and a reference to a sundial exists in the Book of Isaiah (38:8): “Behold, I will cause the shadow of the dial, which is gone down on the sun-dial of Ahaz, to return backward ten degrees.’ So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.”

Even Stonehenge is thought to be an ancient sun dial of sorts, not marking the hours of the day but marking rather the annual interconnected cycle of the sun and the earth, identifying both the shortest and longest days. And Stonehenge scholars believe that the midwinter solstice was more important to its worshippers than the summer solstice. Perhaps the reaffirmation of the sun’s travel across the sky was most appreciated in the depths of the dark winter days.

Sundials mark the passing of daylight, not by the sun’s light but by its shadow when the light hits the dial’s ‘gnomon’, the element that obstructs the light and casts the shadow.  Winter hikers are quite familiar with their shadow since the leaf cover that often shades the trail is absent, allowing light to filter its way down through the naked branches. Walk east in the early parts of the day and your shadow follows you, urging you along the way. Walk west and your shadow leads the way, pulling you along the trail,  the absence of light your personal guide.

You are your gnomon.

Photo source: Wikipedia, by Willy Leenders

Photo source: Wikipedia, by Willy Leenders

We know shadows from our early childhood. Shadow plays on the wall in nursery school. Picture books about frightened children cowering from their giant shadow. We know about shadows from language and literature. To Cast a Giant Shadow comes to mind. “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” is a more somber example from the book of Psalms.

Yet light is what we crave in the winter and even though sun beams reach the forest floor those rays of golden light still seem without their full luster. And it is our shadow that reminds us of both the presence of the sun and the absence of its light.

Now slowly approaching winter’s mid point the sun rises earlier and sets later and later if only by a few minutes at a time, increasing daylight by an additional two minutes each day by the end of January. While the sunlight has not yet fully awoken buds and bulbs from their sleep, we can see our way on wintry walks in the woods for longer and longer each passing day.  Just follow you shadow toward the light.

Springtime in the Winter, But No Promises

springshootsonwinterdayI passed right by them while crossing through a lightly wooded park on New Year’s day. The ground was frozen, the average temperature 28 F. Last spring’s fallen leaves still covered much of the hard earth, a threadbare blanket at best. And so it took me a moment to realize what I had just seen on this day early in Winter: Hundreds of green shoots jutting just above the cold dirt and thin layer of brittle dry leaves. They spread over an area almost a dozen feet in length

What were these nascent early risers?  Too early for me to tell, but this patch presaged a patch of robust wild plants. I doubled back when the incongruity of springtime growth on the first of January  dawned upon me. Bent over to get a closer look I thought about how nice this area would look in a few months time covered with dense vegetation.shootsandleaves

Earlier in the day I had visited a patient in a nursing home, a woman confined to bed, unable to walk due to advanced multiple sclerosis. Her room was nice enough with pictures of her family, holiday cards hanging and she was cheerful, happy to greet a new visitor. She had walked, like me, but not for more than two decades, yet she still smiled and offered warmth to a stranger.

Her ability to warmly embrace the moment regardless of her own physical limitations reminded me of another person I once visited in the hospital, a father who became a paraplegic after a car accident. Without the use of his arm or legs he cherished any function he could still perform on his own, such as breathing. A devout and learned man, he quoted to me, actually admonished me, with an interpretation of a sentence from the Book of Psalms: For every breath, I praise God.

Cherish what you perceive as inconsequential.

As I looked at the shoots I started to question my own assumptions, that saplings always grow into strapping trees, that young shoots always grow into verdant plants, that life follows an upward trajectory. Perhaps these unlucky shoots poked out too early and well, that’s it for them.  Their moment in the sunlight was their first and last stand. Indeed within four days they were once again covered by snow. Will they survive until Springtime?0105141541

Breathing hard, feeling sore in my legs, I had been running past the new shoots when I first spied them and I admit, I was happy for an excuse to stop running and rest. Yet I keep wondering, when will I finally be able to run this route effortlessly, without even wanting to stop, with nary a hint of tiredness in my body? Am I not destined to improve?

My answer was in front of me.

No guarantees. No promises.

Perhaps each footstep today is its own triumph to be celebrated while on the journey toward ‘better’.  I do not preach defeatism. Indeed, “better” is the currency of mankind: farther for a hiker, faster for a runner, higher for a climber.

Rather I offer that one should learn to revel even in the seemingly mundane moments along the way. One’s ultimate goal may or may not be reached.  But either way, at least the journey itself will bring joy.

Achilles Tendon Treatment Review

Protect Your Achilles Tendon

published in Trail Walker (NY/NJ Trail Conference) Winter 2014

Achilles, wounded. Depicted by Ernst Herter

Achilles, wounded. Depicted by Ernst Herter

By Howard E. Friedman DPM

Problems of the achilles tendon are often associated with runners but hikers are at risk for problems with this tendon too.  Hiking uphill for long periods of time is one risk factor for developing this condition.  And Achilles tendon disorders is one hikers should try hard to avoid. A painful achilles often requires three or more months of rehabilitation to heal enough to allow a hiker to resume hiking free of pain.

The achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body. A tendon connects a muscle to bone and the achilles tendon connects the powerful gastrocnemius muscle and smaller soleus muscle located in the calf behind the knee joint  to the back of the calcaneus, or heel bone. The tendon is several inches in length and is critical in lifting the heel   off of the ground when walking or running.

Achilles tendon problems are common among runners and  estimated to occur in 10-30% of male runners and even  5-8% in even well trained elite runners. No statistics exist for how many hikers develop this condition. Nonetheless, problems of the achilles often ail non athletes and often occur in people with one of many risk factors including having very flat feet or very high arch feet, or a diagnosis of obesity, diabetes or hypertension. In addition, a course of antibiotics in the Quinolone family, including Ciprofloxacin and Levaquin, can also cause tendon disorders. Overall achilles tendon issues occur in men more frequently than in women.

Hikers are at particular risk since walking up a steep incline especially with the extra weight of a back pack can cause excessive strain on the tendon. The tendon consists of millions of fibrils of the biochemical molecule collagen in addition to millions of tenocytes, or, tendon producing cells. Unlike other tissues in the human body which react to injury by producing inflammation, an influx of tissue repairing cells,  a damaged tendon degenerates with injury. No robust repair mechanism is programmed into the cells. Thus an injury to a tendon can be devastating.

For years doctors referred to achilles tendon injuries as “tendonitis”, meaning an inflammation. Now however, health professionals treating this injury call it a “tendinopathy” meaning a damaged tendon. This distinction is not very important because it has guided new and more effective treatments. The treatment used for an inflammation, “rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE)”, can augment the treatment for a damaged achilles tendon but is not sufficient to repair the tendon.

Achilles tendinopathy can include damage to the lining of the tendon, called the paratenon, damage to the tendon itself via stretching or tearing of the tendon fibers, or in the worst case, result in a complete tear, or rupture, of the tendon. A complete rupture is usually the result of a hard landing on one foot, say, jumping down from a rocky ledge and landing on one foot. The injury creates immediate pain, often creates a popping or snapping sound and will result in significant difficulty walking. A complete tear is usually considered a surgical emergency.

But the less serious injuries are the more common types. Repetitive uphill walking and over stretching of the achilles tendon will stretch the fibers and result in a swollen section of tendon which is painful if squeezed in addition to painful when walking uphill or running. This type of injury which has a slow onset can result in a partial tear of the tendon. A partial tear has similar symptoms to a simple over stretching but the degree of swelling and pain are increased. A diagnostic ultrasound or more commonly an MRI can discern the extent of the injury.

May different treatments have been advocated over the years ranging from cortisone injections to general physical therapy to ankle braces and arch supports. But the past few years have validated one treatment as most effective: a program of eccentric stretching. This type of stretching can be done while standing on a step with the heels dangling off the step’s edge and slowly dropping the heels to stretch the tendon, holding that position and repeating. The exercise however is part of a multi week program which includes gradually increasing the force of the stretching. If done incorrectly the can condition can be exacerbated and therefore is best supervised by a health professional knowledgeable in the technique. In addition, using a lift in the heel portion of the shoe is often helpful as well.

What can the hiker or trail runner do to avoid this condition? When traveling uphill, reduce stride length to reduce the strain on the achilles tendon. Take smaller more frequent steps. And, use hiking poles for any sustained climb. And respond to any discomfort in the achilles tendon promptly. Icing the area can help reduce some of the accompanying soft tissue inflammation and local massage may help reduce the pain as well. Most important, however, is to correctly diagnose the extent of the injury and than, if appropriate, begin a program of eccentric stretching.

Running in the snow with Ozymandias

English: Footsteps on a bridleway My footsteps...

English: Footsteps on a bridleway My footsteps in the snow on a bridleway from Kinnersley to Earl’s Croome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I ran this morning in 3-5 inches of snow, some fresh powder, some crusted hard pack. Stretches of my route are through a wooded section parallel to a road, crosses a soccer field and baseball diamond, continues along a grassy strip bordering some railroad tracks, and heads straight through undulating terrain amongst oaks and maples on a slope ten feet above the flat asphalt track of our town park. And so, I immediately noticed my own footprints from several days earlier when I ran this same route, in the first snow of the season. There were no other footprints anywhere nearby and I rarely see anyone run along these grassy paths.

I was pleased to become reacquainted with my run of a few days before, to see an actual trace of my earlier endeavor, to know that I had indeed left a mark. But than I saw the inevitable – my yesterdays footprints were fading fast. Covered in by new snow, filling up, the sharp edges of my trail shoe tread footprint crumbling. My own footprints were going the way of the statue of Ozymandias. His statue, memorializing his life, crumbled into the sand. My footprint was also vanishing into the surrounding snow, after only a few days.

So what, really? Ozymandias lived his life. His dissolving statue was merely a testament to the folly of his hubris. My footprints on the other hand were an unintended consequence of a run through the snow. Yet seeing that my path was now marked for all to see, filled me with hubris for my effort of slogging through miles of snow; “Look on my works…”  all ye passersby.

But the disappearing footprints were a quick reminder. The mark, if any, I leave from today’s run is indeed ephemeral. The run, the hike, the long walk lives on. No memorial is needed since the feeling of well-being and sense of accomplishment last long, long after even if I am the only one who knows.