19 January 2016

On the March- Wisdom from the Road 003

Just got back from my coldest ruck so far.  It is 20 degrees but feels like 6 degrees with the windchill.  I knew that as usual it was going to be my hands and head that I had to keep warm for me to be warm. I have discussed before that other pro when it comes to the head and hands is that it is an easy way to vent and adjust your thermostat on the move.  Today I broke out snivel gear that before today I only really used when riding my Harley in the winter.  It came as no surprise that two items that keep me toasty on the bike did the same for me while rucking.  Lets take a look at these to inexpensive options for cold weather hand and head protection-

Schampa Pharaoh Balaclava - this provides the ultimate coverage for your head, face and neck.  The tuckable bib means that the neck, one of the major sources of heat is kept protected.  If you begin to overheat you can vent by simply pulling it out of whatever you have it tucked into.  The Pharaoh fits nice and snug with no slop so it stays put.  You can wear it as shown, pull it under your nose, or under you mouth.  Even with wind gust up to 26 MPH my head, face, and neck were nice and cozy today.  By the end the ruck the moisture was drawn to the outside but dried out pretty fast once I got home.

USGI Trigger Finger Mittens-  these things are the cats ass when it comes to keeping your hands warm when it is freezing.  Only the trigger finger and thumb are articulated, and your other three fingers are together in the mitten.   Like I
said, I first got these for the motorcycle because nothing else kept my hands warm.  Riding 60 MPH in 20 degrees made me a believer.  The trigger finger and thumb was all I needed to use my clutch and break.  Part of the reason they are so warm is because of piping that we have talked about before.  As you can see the long cuff goes up and over your sleeves so that is the way the wind goes.  Gloves, even very warm winter gloves have that nasty chill inducing gap between the glove and your sleeve.  Pulling your sleeve over it means that unless they are cinched the wind will blow right up it.  At the top of the mittens is elastic.  These are a two part system, the over mitten is a cotton/nylon blend and has a leather palm and fingers.  The liners are 100% wool, which as we know retains heat
even when wet.  Today by the end of my first mile which was right around 15 minutes my hands were already sweaty.  By the end of the third mile they were almost drippy.  If the weather is same on the next ruck I will wear just the outer gloves.  When using these of course you loose dexterity, but certainly no more than with insulted gloves, but you gain so much more.  For even the most passive cold weather activity these will keep your hands warm.  Seldom does the miltary get it right with a piece of gear.  But these, along with the Woobie poncho liner, and M65 field jacket are my favorites.  Besides online you will likely be able to find these at any Army Navy store or gun shows.

Shaving seconds & protecting your back

When rucking just as with plain old hiking you have three basic types of terrain; uphill, downhill, flats.  As I continue my quest to get to achieving 3 miles in 45 min  ( I am at 47:18 now) with a 35 lb pack, I have found that the little things count the most.  The littlest thing is the biggest thing.  How you walk, or more importantly how your foot strikes the ground and how long it is there.  Here are my tactics for protecting my back and shaving time on each of the three types of terrain.

Downhill-  I put downhill first because it has been my concentration for saving time and is where a misstep will likely cause injury.  The first thing I need to say is YOUR HEEL SHOULD NEVER EVER HIT THE GROUND FIRST.  Your bones have zero flexion in them, thats how they provide structure.  Most of us have had the unpleasant pain of stepping off a curb and having our heal absorb all the force of the misstep.  This sends a shooting pain straight up your legs into your back.  You need to avoid having your heel being the first part of your foot to strike the ground at all costs.  When it does, it concentrates all of your weight, including the pack up past the knee that is probably locked and right into your back.  You may get away with this clod hopping for a while, but this accompanied with an ill fitting or ill adjusted heavy pack can cause a life altering injury in one step.  If the weight of your pack shift to the side as your heel strikes the ground going down a steep hill it will tweak your back.  Another issue that
can cause issues, usually sprained ankles is the practice of moving down a steep hill leading with your weak side foot.  This puts a lot of force on the side of your foot and creates a tipping point.  Once your body and pack moves just past that point you are very likely to roll your ankle.  I realized about a month ago that I could speed up my decents doing the following.   By making contact with the ball of my foot, where I am pointing to in the picture I am using my foot, ankle, and knees as they were designed to absorb shock through their flexion.  The second part takes some practice.  My foot does not rest on the ground, it is only there long enough to allow my other foot to move forward.  In other words I am never posting on it.  Soon this becomes second nature, and doing so makes it impossible to lock your knee all the way out which is required for a heel strike.  I hope this make sense.  To the casual observer it still looks like your whole foot is hitting the ground at the same point.

Flats- my two tips for picking up speed on flats are as follows.

Swing your arms faster, the faster they swing the faster your legs move.

Pick your feet up only high enough to clear the ground, extra hang time means that your are not moving forward.

As with the downhill, your foot should only be on the ground long enough to support your other foot as it moves forward.

Uphill-  this is where I feel myself getting stronger and more powerful every ruck.  Not only with how fast I take them but with how fast I am able to reset my breathing after climb.  By absolute best advice here it to constantly look up, pick out something in the distance to focus on instead of looking down.  You will be surprised how much this helps.

Replacing Hiking  Boots

A general rule of thumb with most athletic shoes is to replace them every 500 miles.  You might think it takes a long time to chalk up that mileage, but that is not the case.  Right now I average 10 miles a week, and often it is 17/18.  Even at 10 a week that is 40 per month equaling 480 per year.  This does not take into account casual wear and the weight of your gear.  Keep that in mind.

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