Minute 1: How do athletes prepare for a long thru-hike?
In most parts of the United States, fall sports are synonymous with college football. That’s true in Oregon, Oklahoma and Oxford, Mississippi, but not so much in Orono, Maine, where the Black Bears just fell to 1-3 with a 41-14 loss. That’s really not a big deal, however, as the most recognized athletic activity in October in the land of lobsters is thru-hikers completing the Appalachian Trail on the summit of Mt. Katahdin. A new feature on the AT was just published this week: “The history of the Appalachian Trail: a national treasure for adventurers.” We have long wondered how a hiker should prepare for this 2,200 mile journey. We knew that Bill Bryson, author of “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail,” was woefully, but hilariously unprepared for his journey. A better plan may be found in the guide from REI: “How to Train for Thru-Hiking.” Clearly you need a good aerobic base, but carrying a 50-pound backpack over uneven terrain calls for stability and core training moves like side plank raises, push-ups with a single arm row and step back lunges. As with most difficult sports endeavors, mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation. “Training Your Brain for the Appalachian Trail” offers excellent advice that unless you “find your why,” it is unlikely you will succeed on the AT. As for gear prep, runners may find it interesting that for the past several years, the most popular footwear on the AT has been the Altra Lone Peak trail running shoe. Reviews and details on the iconic shoe may be found here. #TrailMagic
Minute 2: Infamous runner from the ‘80s tackles London
Sunday’s London Marathon has attracted more than its fair share of retired Olympians. Of course the field includes running Olympians, but it also features hockey players, cyclists, rugby players and rowers. Among the runners, we are particularly intrigued by the story line of Zola Budd. At age 55, the former 5,000M world record holder continues to compete in masters events worldwide. Budd lives a quieter life these days, but back in the ‘80s she was one of the most controversial athletes in the world. During the terrible era of apartheid, South African athletes were banned from international competition. To compete in the Olympics, barefoot runner Budd gained British citizenship in time for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, receiving preferential treatment and jumping ahead of other South Africans who had been waiting years to gain UK citizenship. During that tragic and confusing time for South Africans, we suppose it is hard to blame an 18-year-old for wanting desperately to compete in the Olympics. Unfortunately for Budd, the controversy didn’t end when she stepped onto the track to face American phenom Mary Decker in the 5,000M final. The pair exchanged bumps, jostles and even a spike to the ankle of barefoot Budd that drew blood. Eventually, Decker went down in a heap, injuring her hip and ending her best shot at Olympic gold. Clearly shaken by the incident, Budd faded to 7th and also missed her chance at the podium. The whole episode was turned into a documentary film called “The Fall” (trailer here). Race officials initially disqualified Budd, but upon video review her finish was reinstated. Nonetheless, the U.S. press criticized the teenager and lined up behind Decker while the U.K. media supported Budd. You can judge for yourself in this video review of the incident. #BuddingStar
Minute 3: Preparing for the worst
While hiking with our teenage daughter in the Green Mountains of Vermont recently, we rounded a switchback on the trail and found a fit man in his 30s in obvious physical distress. We come from a long line of men who were blessed with strong hearts, but weak shoulders, so we immediately recognized that the man sitting on the side of the trail had dislocated his shoulder. It’s a common and painful injury on the trails when someone slips on a wet rock or root and reaches out to break their fall. The weight of a backpack crashing on the shoulders complicates the scenario. We tried to reassure the man that his injury was likely not severe, but encouraged him to get down the hill as quickly as possible. He was lucky that his tumble had occurred close to the trailhead and luckier still that 5 minutes after we began to help him, a certified Wilderness First Responder happened to be descending the trail. The WFR took charge, commandeered our long sleeved shirt, and fashioned a sling that relieved pressure on the hiker's injured shoulder. His proficiency and confidence impressed us, but also made us feel guilty that for as much time as we spend with athletes outdoors, we hold only a badly outdated CPR card and have procrastinated getting our WFR badge. As these things happen, only a few days after this incident, we came across this new article from Gear Junkie: “Wilderness First Responder: Why You Should Take an Outdoor Survival Course.” Even if you’re not planning a multi-day expedition off the grid, the skills attained in this course could save a friend or family member in many common scenarios. If you’re not quite ready for the WFR, we should all be prepared to use one of the automated external defibrillators (AED) that have thankfully become commonplace at many athletic venues. The Red Cross offers helpful instruction on how to use an AED. #Clear
Minute 4: Is ibuprofen dangerous?
Rest, ibuprofen and water have long been our cures for hangovers and running ailments. According to the Cleveland Clinic, that's not a bad strategy for Sunday mornings: “Separating fact from fiction when it comes to recovering from a night out.” But experts are starting to turn against the use of ibuprofen and other painkillers for endurance athletes who have not over-indulged. That view made worldwide headlines last week when the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc made this announcement: “UTMB bans painkillers at all events.” UTMB is arguably the most respected trail running organization in the world, so their announcement carries a lot of weight. The rationale is that endurance athletes should not be “self-medicating” in the middle of a stressful event without the advice of a medical professional. Taken in excess, NSAIDs like ibuprofen can harm the kidneys, cause rhabdomyolysis and lead to renal insufficiency. Even though many endurance athletes will pop an Advil or 2 before heading out, that is probably a bad practice according to Men’s Health: “Why You Should Never Take Painkillers Before Working Out.” #JustSwell
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
If you’re looking for last minute nutritional advantages for a fall race, there are plenty of guides out there telling you what to eat before, during and after a run. But we also enjoy “Are These Foods Making You Run Slower?” Most of these make sense, but we were still sad to see that spicy foods made the list of no-no’s. Capsaicin, the active ingredient that makes food hot, stimulates your metabolism, but it can also irritate your stomach and intestines which is a bad idea on the eve of a race.
Amazon may have arrived late to the fitness tracking game, but with infinite resources, don’t bet against them passing rivals in the category. The ecommerce giant unveiled the Halo fitness tracker in August 2020, which was mostly a Fitbit knock-off at the time. (Since January of this year, Fitbit has been owned by arch rival Google.) This week, a dramatically expanded program was announced: “Amazon reveals Halo Fitness and Halo Nutrition programs for Halo subscribers.” Halo now offers online workout classes along with customized nutrition advice.
We typically don’t bite on the goofier marathon antics of running in wacky costumes or juggling tennis balls while covering 26.2 miles. We do admire the chutzpah and skinned knees, however, of 3 Brits seeking fame and altruism this Sunday: ”Charity running trio aim to set four-legged world record at London Marathon.” The team has never run more than 10K strapped together, but they are gunning for the world record in the category of 4:44. They covered the 10K in 56 minutes, so we’re saying they have a chance.
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
Abebe Bikila was the first runner to ever win back-to-back Olympic marathon titles. (Eliud Kipchoge, of course, is the most recent runner to successfully defend his Olympic title this summer.) The legendary Ethiopian runner shared a common trait with Zola Budd -- they both preferred to run barefoot. Bikila won his first gold in Rome in the 1960 Olympics without shoes, but in Tokyo 4 years later, he was persuaded to wear Pumas for his title defense. Sadly, he was badly injured in a car accident and passed away at age 41. The video of the barefoot Bikila entering the stadium to a roaring crowd in Rome will live forever in the annals of Olympic history.