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Gear Expert: Stephen Regenold

July 2007

Foot Doctor

Posted by Stephen Regenold Jul 26, 2007

The pain in Mike Levad’s heel first pricked up after the Twin Cities Marathon last fall. “It felt like someone had whacked my heel with a hammer,” he said, describing a pain that shot through his foot and up the leg when he got out of bed in the morning.

 

In April, Levad ran the Boston Marathon.

 

“I finished in 3 hours, 5 minutes and 46 seconds,” he said. “But then the pain in my heel got worse.”

 

Levad is victim of an injury caused not by a one-time traumatic incident, but by the repetitive strain of feet pounding pavement.

 

 

Indeed, during peak training times, runners such as Levad tick off 30, 40 or more miles in running shoes each week, striking foot to road tens of thousands of times. The abuse can affect the physiology of the foot, creating conditions unique to the running world that -- as in Levad’s case -- are difficult for some doctors to diagnose or treat.

 

In a story I wrote last month -- "Meet Dr. Feet" -- I look into Levad's case through the lens of Dr. Paul Langer, a podiatrist, a clinical faculty member at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and a veteran of two dozen marathons, several triathlons and the Ironman.

 

Levad was diagnosed with a heel malady called plantar fasciitis.

 

Dr. Langer's prescription for healing may surprise you.

 

Go here for the full article: http://thegearjunkie.com/meet-dr-feet

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Luxury is a Doublewide

Posted by Stephen Regenold Jul 23, 2007

This ain't roughin' it.

 

 

[http://www.bigagnes.com/str_bags.php?id=di]

 

Anyone who has had the chance to snooze in a Big Agnes

Doublewide Series sleeping bag -- as my wife and I did this past weekend while

car camping near Lake Superior -- can attest to the fact that sleeping on the

cold, hard ground can be quite luxurious.

 

Indeed, the bag we employed -- the Dream Island from Big

Agnes ($239, www.bigagnes.com) -- is a simulacrum of a queen-size bed on the

floor of your tent. It measures about 50 inches wide by 80 inches long. There

are built in no-draft collars for each snoozing person, and Big Agnes rates the

bag to be adequate to temps down to 15 degrees F.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The company uses an unheard of 4 pounds, 8 ounces of fill in

this bag, making it quite the cozy, quilted experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On each side of the bag is a zipper to allow easy access for

both sleepers; built-in pockets up high hold your fleece jacket or other

clothes to create an ad hoc pillow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dream Island -- like all Big Agnes bags -- mates with a

sleeping pad via an integrated sleeve underneath, letting you slip the pad

inside to create a solid, stationary platform. You physically cannot roll off

this pad, as it's pinned in a sleeve, unmovable.

 

 

We went with the Hinman Pad, a 50 x 78 x 2.5-inch air

mattress that has a high-density solid foam core. It goes for $139.95.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To inflate the Hinman, you open two valves, roll it out, and

let the air suck in. I had to huff and puff a few breathes in to get it firm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only one real bummer with this setup: Its size. Together,

the Dream Island and Hinman Pad weigh nearly 20 pounds, and rolled up they're

each the size of a large tent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Big Agnes didn't design this setup for anything other

than car camping. And for that circumstance, as we discovered last weekend, this

bag is about as good as it gets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this comfort you do pay a premium: Together, the large

Hinman pad and the Dream Island will run nearly $400 after taxes. Ask yourself:

What's a good night's rest on the cold ground really worth?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability: Dream Island bag, July 25; Hinman pad, Aug. 20.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact: Big Agnes Inc., www.bigagnes.com

 

 

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Yesterday in this blog I reminisced about a trip I took

through hell one year back, the 110-mile mountain bike epic that is North

Dakota's Maah Daah Hey Trail. This is where we ran out of water and were forced

to pour brown-algae slug through T-shirts to filter sediment before dropping in

a half-dozen iodine pills. We rode the trail in 30 hours, nearly straight

through, in 110-degree heat. Only three of the six from my group made the whole

length, the others' bleached bones still out there crackling somewhere in the

Badlands sun. (O.k., that last part I made up.)

 

 

 

But the days before this bike trip, at the start of the long

weekend we spent in North Dakota last July, I experienced a wholly different

type of adventure: Sailing on Lake Sakakawea.

 

 

 

Indeed, if the Maah Daah Hey that weekend was a bit of hell,

then Sakakawea -- a  368,000-acre reservoir

of the Missouri River -- was a big dose of heaven.

 

 

I sailed with guide Mike Quinn on the 34-foot Sovereign, a

white and gleaming craft with teakwood decks and a cabin to sleep five.

 

 

 

By numbers alone, Lake Sakakawea is an impressive body of

water, with more than 1,200 miles of shoreline, most of it uninhabited and

wild. At about 170 miles long, the winding lake heads westward through North

Dakota in a massive S-curve to the Montana border.

 

 

 

Clear water up to 180 feet deep is measured at the Garrison

Dam near the lake's eastern end.

 

 

 

In fact, Sakakawea is among the world's largest artificial

lakes, ranking at No. 3 in size in the United States after Lake Mead and Lake

Powell, the reservoirs of the Colorado River in the Desert Southwest.

 

 

 

Our trip -- which I wrote about in New York Times here, http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/09/22/travel/escapes/22sail.html

-- included two days of doing nothing much more than pulling sheets, tying off

ropes, and working the boat at Quinn's command in an exhilarating participatory

trip.

 

 

 

We zigzagged and tacked for the day and into the evening

toward the slowly sinking summer sun. We anchored in a bay near the start of

the state's Badlands region, where Sakakawea casts its long arms into dry hills

and desert canyons. We dove off the boat and swam, and we hiked into the wild

hills during short breaks on land.

 

 

 

Finally, we slept out under the stars, grilling dinner on

the deck of the Sovereign before laying back to be lulled under a deep vaulted

velour of unadulterated silence, of absolute North Dakota nothingness.

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It was about one year ago this week that I biked the Maah

Daah Hey Trail, an epic 105-mile singletrack through the remote Badlands of

western North Dakota that ranked among my most harrowing adventures during all

of 2006. That's right, big adventure in North Dakota of all places. I pictured

wheat fields and cows. Instead we got temps up to 112 degrees and endless,

desolate track. We saw no other riders during a crazy 30-hour push straight

through the entire trail, which ended with three of the six from my group

abandoning effort, surrendering to a camp at mile 85 then waiting several hours

'til me and the two other finishers drove back after completing the ride.

 

 

We'd run out of water, and things were turning a bit Lord

of the Flies out there, with one unnamed friend hoarding a last reserve stock

of canned peaches, literally slinking off into the bushes to hide from us and

eat them. I had a half-mouthful of slimy, hot water left in my Camelbak, and I

kept sucking it in my mouth, swishing it around, then spitting it back in the

hose. "Just a taste, just a taste. . .". Crazy times. Another buddy

began projectile vomiting after me finally found a water pump, as he drank

nearly until his stomach burst.

 

 

The Maah Daah Hey is in surprisingly harsh and desolate

country. It's true Badlands desert, and there is NO ONE around for so many

miles you don't want to think. Cell phones don't work. Cow trails intermix with

the bike route, causing you to loose the route. We even were stalked by a large

charging bull who I guess felt threatened by our presence on the free range.

 

 

 

 

In the end, it was, as I said, an adventure of the year.

I wrote about the story for New York Times, (though this iteration --

http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/08/18/travel/escapes/18bike.html -- glossed over

a few of the gnarliest details due to the venue.)

 

The Maah Daah Hey also made my Top 10 Adventures of the

Year story on http://thegearjunkie.com/

 

 

 

 

See the full dope here:

http://thegearjunkie.com/the-gear-junkies-top-10-adventures-of-2006

 

 

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In endurance sports like adventure racing and ultra

running, keeping my feet happy and healthy for hours or days on the go has

always been difficult. Lord knows I've learned the hard way: During Primal

Quest, a 10-day adventure race in Utah last year, the freak combination of

shoe-invading desert silt, 110-degree heat, and 40+ miles of trekking set off a

reaction that dug deep 50-cent-piece-size blisters into the back of my heels.

This took place on the first day of the race. I was then forced to trek,

paddle, climb and bike for 9 days with raw, electrifyingly-painful feet,

utilizing medical tents for aid when available, pain relieving drugs, duct

tape, super glue, and sheer will to keep on.

 

 

(See my story on the race here: http://thegearjunkie.com/adventure-primal-quest-adventure-race)

 

 

 

 

Since that race, I take foot care -- and foot/shoe/sock

preparation -- quite seriously for any event. A case in point was this past

weekend, when I competed on a two-person team in an 8-hour adventure race in

central Minnesota, the annual MNOC Adventure Race. The race course would be

venturing through deep woods and swamps. We'd wade and swim through rivers.

We'd trail run and paddle a kayak. Bushwhacking was to be a large part of the

ordeal as well.

 

 

 

 

As such, my footwear situation needed to be unique.

Regular trail runners and synthetic socks would not cut it.

 

 

 

To prepare my feet, I started at home, trimming my

toenails back. This is important to lessen the chance of contact with a nail pounding

on the front of your shoe. Toenails may also rub neighboring toes, which can

cause blisters.

 

 

 

 

Next, at the race, I applied Hydropel, a gooey salve made

by Genesis Pharmaceutical Inc. that does a good job eliminating friction both

between your foot and the sock as well as the skin-on-skin rub between toes. It

repels water, an important trait for events like this. The product comes in

small, 2-ounce squeeze bottles, which cost about $13 each. It's not cheap, but

used somewhat conservatively the bottle should last you for five to 10

lube-ups.

 

 

 

 

(See my full Hydropel review from The Gear Junkie here:

http://thegearjunkie.com/hydropel-sports-ointment)

 

 

 

 

Step No. 2 was socks, and for this I employed Inov-8's

(http://www.inov-8.com) new Debrisoc, which are essentially merino wool sport

socks with a built-in flap that folds over the shoe's opening to create a

gaiter. These all-in-one innovations, which cost about $22, seal off your foot

from sticks, rocks and mud. A small hook in front stretches the flap over the

laces. Elastic bands loop underneath to keep it on tight.

 

 

 

The Debrisoc is a cool invention. It fits nice and solid,

and the all-purpose miracle material of merino wool is hard to beat in any

season, as it breathes, insulates, cool, wicks, and then dries somewhat

quickly.

 

 

 

 

As promised, the Debrisoc kept all debris at bay during

the race. I never once had to dump out my shoes, despite wading in mud,

swimming, running through swamps, and bushwhacking a couple miles through thick

woods, jumping logs, tangling in raspberry vines, and sometimes practically

swimming through bush as thick as it comes.

 

 

 

 

(See my full Debrisoc review from The Gear Junkie here:

http://thegearjunkie.com/gear-review-inov-8-debrisoc)

 

 

 

 

For shoes, I also went with Inov-8, employing the

company's RocLite 285s. These aren't trail runners. They aren't shoes you'd

wear for a jog on the street, either. U.K.-based Inov-8 Ltd. makes shoes for

the oddball sport of mountain running. I love their minimalist design for

orienteering and shorter races like this 8-hour event in central Minnesota.

 

 

 

The RocLite 285s have a low-profile midsole, which

essentially means there is very little cushioning underfoot, and its upper is a

thin synthetic mesh. They drain water well once submerged, they fit my feet

perfectly, and they are fast and light little buggers.

 

 

 

 

Final note: For ultra events I recommend sizing up at

least a 1/2-size increment from your normal shoe. During long events, when

you're on the go for hours and hours, your feet will swell. The extra area

inside the shoe is mandatory for keeping things happy and healthy down there in

the land of blisters and chafe.

 

 

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Sometimes the simplest solutions are among the best. Take Guyot Designs' Splashguard Universal, a $3.25 cap designed to fit all wide-mouth water bottles from Nalgene, GSI, and the like.

 

As the name portends, the SplashGuard's purpose is to prevent that splashing, sloshing effect that comes when trying to drink while on the move.

 

There's a small opening on one end from which you sip; a larger opening on the other side lets you add water without removing the cap.

Made of food-grade silicone, the little cap slips in flexible and easy.

 

The silicone rubber won't absorb or retain odors and tastes, and it can be sterilized by boiling.

 

Weight: 0.5 ounces

 

Price: $3.25

 

Company: Guyot Designs, www.guyotdesigns.com

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I write a syndicated newspaper column on gear -- "The Gear Junkie" -- as well as run an ancillary web site, http://www.thegearjunkie.com, and now I'm a blogger on Active.com, too.

 

A little about me. . .

 

I have been active in outdoors journalism (and all the corresponding sports and adventures that go with the gig) for several years. I was the founding editor of Vertical Jones magazine, a climbing publication (1997 - 2001). In addition to the weekly Gear Junkie newspaper column, I write on the outdoors and adventure-travel for New York Times, Forbes Traveler, and other national media.

 

The Gear Junkie column runs in 10 newspapers weekly, from Seattle to St. Paul, to Greensboro, N.C. The web site -- which launched Sept. 18, 2006 -- includes the Daily Dose blog; video gear reviews; interactive slideshow features; The Gear Junkie column archive; and feature stories ("Gear Junkie Adventures").

 

 

 

 

What makes The Gear Junkie different? I test gear to death, training daily for outdoors adventures, competing in national events, and running marathons, climbing mountains, rafting rivers, racing on a mountain bike, killing myself (nearly) on multi-day adventure races. . . you get the picture. I'm always on the go. This is my passion. This is my life.

 

This blog, I hope, will provide a bit of a peek into what I do.

 

Stephen Regenold -- http://www.thegearjunkie.com

 

THE GEAR JUNKIE  Syndicate newspapers: Seattle Post-Intelligencer,

Albuquerque Journal, Casper Star-Tribune, Spokane Spokesman-Review,

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Greensboro News-Record, Cape Cod Times,

Jackson Hole Star Tribune, Redding Record Searchlight, and Billings Gazette

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

stephen@thegearjunkie.com

http://www.thegearjunkie.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

member, OWAA (Outdoor Writers Association of America)

member, ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors)

 

 

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