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Out with the old, in with the new

Written by on August 31, 2009 at 1:47 pm

I apologize in advance if this topic is crass, but even the most basic advice can prove invaluable. And if there are only two tips I can give you for your walk, they are these:

Hydrate. Joan already gave some excellent advice about keeping plenty of fluids handy, and page 23 of the MS Challenge Walk Fundraising & Training Guide goes into further detail. In short, what works for me is to drink at least six ounces between rest stops (which tend to be 2-3 miles apart). I alternate between water and Gatorade, so whatever I got at the last rest stop, I'll next top off my bottle with the other one. You don't need to know what electrolytes are to know that your body needs them. Your kidneys will thank you.

Evacuate. You're going to be drinking much more than you do in your day-to-day life, and you may not immediately realize that this requires an additional change to your routine. But trust me: use every rest stop you can find, even if you don't think you need to. There's nothing worse than hearing the call of nature when you're two miles from an appropriate opportunity.

Heather already made some of these points, but I felt them important enough to repeat. Keeping mind of these simple tasks will make your walk a much safer and more pleasant experience.

Ken joined the MS Challenge Walk in 2005, more than a decade after his mother was diagnosed. After walking for three years and 150 miles, he switched to the support crew and now rides his bicycle along the trail, providing whatever encouragement (and snacks!) he can to the 600 walkers. He is also an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

How DO you walk 50 miles?

Written by on July 8, 2009 at 12:41 pm

The first time I walked in the Challenge Walk was in 2003. I thought it was going to be easy, as in my head, I compared 50 miles in three days to my profession as a physical therapist. I'm on my feet all day every day: walking, lifting, climbing, walking moving, walking, turning, walking, and walking. I did attempt to train, but those efforts fell quite short. I'm almost ashamed to say, that even after five years, and 250 miles, I still need to work on my training.

Even though I'm not consistent or compliant with the training, I do strongly advocate it. As a PT, I know that it is important to train in the manner in which you will be performing, as training will help build up the tolerance of pounding the pavement in my feet and leg muscles. I've also learned that training will give me valuable information about my body, such as where my "hot spots" are on my feet, how my shoes are, how my socks are, how my MS is in with each passing mile and in a variety of conditions.  My MS, however, is unpredictable. And as you've read on other blogs, so is the weather, and the temperature. There are a few things, in addition to training though, that can make you successful with however many miles you walk.

  1. Correct-fitting, well broken-in, comfortable shoes. This is so important! DO NOT wait until a few weeks before the walk to get new shoes! New shoes + many miles = lots of blisters and discomfort. In New Hampshire, we have a store called Runner's Alley, and they are very knowledgeable about feet and shoes and will help you to find an accurate fit, as any good shoe store should. They also will educate you on considering that your feet WILL SWELL on such a long walk, and how to plan for room for swelling. Bring a back up pair of sneakers, and they also should fit well and be well broken in.
  2. Good socks. I prefer the thick, wicking socks that help to pull the moisture away from my skin. You can also buy them with added heel and arch comfort/support. Others prefer the bi-layered socks which are designed to take the friction themselves, rather than your feet . Bring at least enough for 3 pairs per day.
  3. Change your socks and shoes at least at lunch time. Some walkers don't change their footwear at all, while others change their socks even more often than once a day. This is where training comes into play as well, and knowing your body.
  4. EAT! It is so important to eat little snacks that are provided along the way to keep refueling your body. Eating things like the oranges and bananas can help prevent muscle cramps. Granola bars and carbohydrates are good as well to keep your sugar and energy up. Proteins are good for longer lasting energy. Don't skip meals in the dining hall. Listen to your body; at meal times, it will tell you what it needs. My body cries out loud for milk for whatever reason. I'm not sure if it's from my feet pounding the pavement so hard, or from Sarge giving me a swift kick in the butt multiple times throughout the day.
  5. DRINK! You have to drink! The volunteers don't tell you to drink water and gatorade to add to their already raspy and horse voices! If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated. Drink water at the starting line, carry two water bottles with you, and for every 2-3 bottles of water you drink, drink a bottle of gatorade. Your body needs the sodium and electrolytes that are in things like Gatorade and Powerade. It can actually cause harm, such as a seizure, if your body doesn't have enough sodium. So mix it up, and DRINK! DRINK! DRINK! Regardless of the weather and the temperature, drink!
  6. Pee. Sounds funny, right? But if you're drinking enough, and you're hydrated well, you should be peeing at every rest stop to every other rest stop. And don't hold it even if the lines are long. If you're not peeing, or your pee is really dark, then you're not well hydrated. Drink more!
  7. Stretch. Whenever you stop to grab a snack, refill your water or gatorade, or pee, stretch. Your muscles can get tight or cramp from being used the same way for so long. Stretch the fronts and backs of your lower legs, the fronts and backs of your thighs, stretch your butt muscles, stretch your back, raise your arms and hands in the air so your fat sausage like fingers can drain. Stretch in the morning and stretch at night. Trust me, you'll feel better.

Along the 2007 route at a rest stop themed "Med-Rock", there was a sign that read something like "Eat. Drink. Stretch. Pee. Repeat". My oh my, how true it is. If you do these things, your journey will not only be more successful, but also more comfortable. In my opinion, by doing these things, that is how you walk 50 miles and get to the end and SIGN UP TO DO IT AGAIN!

Heather lives in Hampton, NH, and completed her first 50 miles in 2003 in honor of her great-grandmother who had MS. Ironically, she began having symptoms in 2004, and was finally diagnosed with MS in 2006. This will be her 6th walk, and her first as team captain of "All Smiles for 50 Miles". Heather recruited 7 friends to walk, and her mom to volunteer on the Crew. Heather is a pediatric physical therapist in NH.