Some may say we’re starting our training way too early but to hell with them. Besides, we’re always in training, trying to stay fit and keep those extra pounds off that accumulate during the summer drinking months (as hard as I try, I cannot help but have a couple cold beverages during these warm evenings).
We are gathering the things we need over the next few months so things like boots are broken in. I picked up a pair of Gore-Tex TrekSta last week for about 130 USD. As I’ve learned, the feet swell after a hike, so when we got back from today’s hike, I tried them on for the first time; they seem like a good fit. On the other hand, Nic’s boots are too narrow, so she’ll have to exchange them for something appropriate. A slow breaking-in process is key for maximum comfort for the long days on the trails; it also reduces the chances of the shoes being the cause of any foot injuries.
Today, as we took an hour and a half seaside hike in Igidae along a fairly easy path, we tried out our new trekking poles. Just as with everything else that we’ve purchased, Nic was diligent in her online research. Granted, we paid a little more than we probably should have, but features like extended grips make choking up when ascending much more comfortable and convenient. Also, we both got a style of Black Diamond poles that are not only light-weight (key for the weight-limits that airlines put on us these days) but also have a special clip feature. Most hiking poles have a twist mechanism that, in my experience, are difficult to adjust and often break down after moderate use. Beware, though. The clip mechanism is available only on Black Diamond models. Unfortunately, the kind we got do not have spring-shocks; these are good for taking even more pressure off of pre-existing ankle injuries.
All told, poles will be invaluable for a number of reasons. For example, I have knees that sometimes give out on me in both ACL and bursa regions (from four years of egg-beater water-treading in high school water polo and a couple drunken falls in my early 20s). I discovered today on the hike that the poles take a lot of pressure off of the knee joints as long as I am willing to use my poles properly. One thing to remember is that rhythm is important. You can achieve this if you put your right-handed pole forward when you step with your left foot, and vice versa. It was nice to hear the clicking of the poles with my steps; it actually helped me focus on taking good strides and getting the best footing for each step. With a little practice, this rhythm is easy to establish and will soon become as natural a motion as simply swinging your arms during regular walking. Another thing to remember is to adjust your poles properly. Hold the pole upside down, just below the “basket” and place the butt of the handle on the ground. Make adjustments until your arm is at a 90 degree angle. The numbers on both of the adjustable sections on each pole must be the same. For example, the two sections on each of my poles are adjusted to 130 cm. One final thing that I should make note of is a bit of “hiker’s elbow.” I think this happened because, as much as I wanted to work my arms too, I may have put too much weight on them, thus creating a bit of a twinge in my right elbow by hike’s end. This is a good argument for getting used to your equipment well before you head out for weeks on the trail; you certainly don’t want “hiker’s elbow” or a foot arch ailment to hinder you only a few hours in to your epic trek.
Due to a scheduling conflict (and the need for money to grow on trees), the Sokcho’s Sorak Mountain expedition in the northeast is on the shelf. I’m working on finding funding for that trip; writing for a local magazine may be the key.