Sunday, 28 February 2016

Sunset coast walk – Not a race

I’ve decided to share this walk here as it was a really nice change of pace. There are so many trail runs you could do one every weekend and often two, and with the rise of mud an obstacle runs you could do one a month. There are even some private farms which run their own (very good) obstacle course/mud runs, but this was different.

Once a year the farm is opened to the public through the local Rotary club to walk tracks of 5, 7, 9 or 11km around the farm with views of the Manuaku Heads and the length of the beach. The walk is somewhat rough, rolling farm land but compared to the bush it’s a walk in the park. It would make for an interesting trail run, but it was a nice change of pace to start when you wanted, walk the track and not be racing (others or yourself). I generally like to go on shorter hikes on my own to get away from the sound of other people (music, cars, just generally noise) but it was great to see so many people out enjoying the country side.

I walked the 11km in 2 hours 15 minutes at quite a reasonably pace but felt no need to move any faster. I sure if you kept an eye out there would be a similar kind of farm walk in other parts of the country (or overseas if you’re not in New Zealand).

Just thought I would share this interesting event, its not an extreme adventure mud challenge, just a walk you don't often get to do.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

What do I put on my feet?

I’ve been wearing vibram five fingers for about 6 years now and they are my preferred choice for everyday wear (where I can) and for hiking. But along the way I have tried several different brands and styles of minimalist type shoes so here’s my experience:

Back in 2004 I broke my ankle quite badly and my arch on that foot sunk significantly (not that the other is much better). It took a long time to recover and to this day I’m still missing some range of motion. Once I was back walking normally I found I would get a lot of pain in my plantar fascia, like a ripping feeling, but far less when I was bare foot on the beach.

I first found five fingers through Marks daily apple probably in 2010 and hunted down an online store that sold them cheap. Little did I know they were fakes, but they felt good enough that I could justify the $200NZ it would take to get a real pair. The real deal were amazingly better than the fakes and I was sold. From then on the KSO’s were my go to shoe. I wore them daily at University, practiced parkour, and ran in them (see here from my half marathon training). I like the KSO’s because they are thin but fully covered and feel amazing on my feet. I still wear these often; however I had a labour job, did some high school teaching, now I’m in an office so I needed to find something more like a traditional shoe.
Not the same as I had but close

I tired vivo bare foot shoes. They have a minimalist, soft sole, wide toe box but look like regular shoes. The issue I found with these was that I had to tie them very loose as anything as tight as snug would give me a lot of foot pain. I think the laces pull the shoe tight around the mid foot and bind it up which lead to the same plantar fascia ripping feeling. It might be different for others but this is what I found for me.

After these I tried New Balance minimus. They were also a minimalist, soft sole, wide toe box but look like regular shoes. But again if found the same issue with them binding up the mid foot.

Now my daily shoe in the office
 Late last year I was training for an obstacle run with a team and wanted a shoe that I could push harder than the vibram KSO’s. If found a brand called Altra sold locally, they are a more traditional off road running shoe but with a wide toe box and zero drop. I got a clearance pair and started training in them. These are now my daily wear shoes. Since they have a traditional stiffer sole they don’t bind my mid foot like softer soled shoes do, but they are still a good option for healthy feet and ankles since they are zero drop.

Zem shoes
So in my search for good shoes to wear a wide toe box and zero drop are a must, but I personally need a stiff sole as the soft sole shoes bind my mid foot far too much. I’d still like to try some Zem shoes as I think these could be ok since they don’t lace up.

As for hiking I switched from KSO’s to the KSO trek, they are just a little big thicker which is great on rocks and have much more grip which is great in to mud while still having a super minimal feeling on my feet.
There are KSO treks under all that mud

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Hiking Mt Pirongia

Mount Pirongia is the highest mountain in the Waikato region, and I’ve hiked to the summit once before and wanted to do it again. The first time I walked up, there was an old DoC (Department of conservation) hut and some really nice camp sites but they had since built a new 20 bed hut at the summit so I wanted to check that out. I had previously walked up the Tirohanga Track which is possibly the easiest way to the summit, then back down the Mahaukaura Track (a difficult track across a ridgeline). Links the the tracks here. It was about 20km and took the better part of 10 hours, it was a lot harder than I had expected. Being the way that I am I wanted to hike up via the longest track to stay the night on the summit so I planned to take the bell track.

The bell track is approximately 18km with a sign posted time of 8-12 hours for serious trampers. I set off with my bag weighing 16kg (4 kg of that was water) and the first half of the track was quite enjoyable. The first side track was a small set of limestone caves to walk through which was something quite cool to do. The next little side track was about 3 hours in, the tallest tree in the forest at 66m tall which again was a nice sight to check out. After another hour I got to the half way point, a small clearing/campsite where I took a breather for half an hour.


It was around this point that my toe started hurting. I had injured it the weekend before walking 20km along a beach, and this toe had previously been injured training parkour. The big toe joint was starting to hurt from overuse, but I just had to push on, keeping my mechanics as good as I could.


Sidenote: If you injure a big toe joint don’t turn your foot out to save the big toe joint, you will mess up your knee and hip mechanics, I’ve made this mistake before.


7 hours in and I still have to climb this

The track also got much rougher and less well sign posted at this point as well as progressively muddier. With about an hour to go to the cone I thought I would be walking mostly low gradient, then I caught a glimpse of the cone through the trees, I had a lot of uphill left to go. It was a very rough climb over rocks and through mud to the cone, and then the same to the hut, with very little board walk before reaching the hut.


I had originally planned to set up a tarpaulin and sleep under that but I was so worn out from 8 hours of hard tramping and with no one else in the hut I decided to take the easy indoor option. When I woke up the next morning my toe was still stiff and swollen and the track I was taking down to my car was 3-5 hours but I had to stuck it up and just do it. Again the track was quite rough and muddy but easier that the hike up, and reasonably enjoyable despite my toe.


Once I go back to my car I could barely walk, my big toe was swollen almost solid. It took several days to come right so I really need to address this problem joint in the future.


I really enjoy doing overnight hikes, I like getting out for a solid 8 hours of low level moving around and being out in nature. This hike was really hard, I enjoyed it but it wasn’t enjoyable at the time (if they makes sense). It’s another element to my fitness, and a lot of fun to ‘train’ because it’s really not training at all. I think the fitter I get doing these kinds of hikes the more enjoyable they will become as the weight of the pack, and the gradient of the track matter less as I get stronger.


Note: I try to keep my posts around 500-1000 words (closer to 500) but if you want to read some longer content post in the comments or on facebook because I could easily write around the 1500 work mark for some of these posts. 

Some berries at the start

The very first campsite at the bottom of the track

Hook grass everywhere
Lots of mud

Looking weary

Finally board walk


Looking back to the cone

From the Summit

From the summit

The walk down

It was so close I could have touched it

Entoloma Hochstetteri.

Back down at the start

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Book Review – Move your DNA by Katy Bowman

I think I first heard Katy Bowman speak on one of the Paleo Solution podcasts and really liked the topic she was talking about and the message she had. I then heard her again on the Joe Rogan Experience and the longer interview was great to hear the different nuances of her message. So I decided to buy the book and give it a read to see what extra pieces of information I could glean.

(I don’t much like to write bios about the Authors when I review a book, I’d rather just get into it, I’m sure you can look this sort of thing up, or you already have but want to know what other people think of the book before spending time and possibly money reading it)

I found the book well written, funny, simply written and laid out, but with technical detail added in a way that made it easy to integrate into your thinking. From the beginning I found the book to be written in a piece meal way that was easy to consume little bits of data that could be taken on their own, but also built up a very informative picture. This included the technical details which were kept concise but gave the reader enough detail while making it clear how technical things really can get.

The book is split into two part, kind of the why and the how titles ‘think’ and ‘move’. For my personality and my position into health and fitness I got so much more out of the think section and little out of the move section. That is not to say that one is better written than the other, they are both very well written. It’s just that I enjoyed the concepts behind the why, and am already on my way to tackling the how in a lot of cases. I’ll expand on that in a little bit.

In situations where I’m getting a huge amount of data, if I can get just one useful piece then I’m happy. I got several pieces like this from this book, all from the think section. One is that we are when we most often do. So one hour of exercise cannot undo 8+ hours of sitting. Obviously this is laid out in the book, but for me this has been a good piece of information to integrate into my daily activity. If I want to make some changes, I have to be those changes most often. The other big concept for me was thinking of loads. A back squat is a load, so is a front squat, or carrying a back pack, or the way we sit. This is an infinite number of possibly loads, but our tissues are shaped by the ones we put on it. This is another piece I have tried to integrate and make changes.

The move section was like movement prescriptions, with instructions of working your way up, and moving on to more movement. They were really detailed and well written but just didn’t suit my personality. I will integrate some if it, but will likely come at it from a different angle. That said this section was still very helpful in reinforcing different aspects of what I am already working on with a little more detail in areas I hadn’t thought of.

In summery ‘Move your DNA’ was a very worthwhile book. I suggest reading it, and integrating some of the concepts and positions (sit on the floor once and a while, or more) into your every day.