Shoes and Socks, By Request

A few weeks ago, at Relay for Life, a couple of my adult students asked me about blisters.  One of them had been walking all night, and had blisters on her feet.  She wanted to know how to get rid of them.  I told her that I couldn’t help once she had blisters, but that I could help her prevent them the next time.image2

In my first few years of trail racing, I suffered from many blisters, especially after running in the wet, and from a few lost toenails.  The solution to both of these problems is shoes and socks.  I could go on forever about the need for the least amount of shoe possible, and the need to stay away from the evil marshmallow shoes, but that’s a topic for another day. You can read here  how to find the best fit.  Most people are surprised to find that their shoes are really too small. The easiest way to fit shoes, is to know that you need to be able  to fit the width of your thumb between the end your your big toe and the front tip of your shoe. image4

And socks.  Forget everything you were taught about white cotton athletic socks.  Cotton is about the worst material for socks, as it holds water, from sweat, rain, or puddles, and then all that wet fabric rubs against your skin and makes blisters.  And white socks just look silly, especially tall ones. Socks should be either black to hide the trail dirt, or the brightest colors you can find (personal preference :D).  And they should never be made of cotton.  Wicking polyester is good, along with nylon, spandex, and a bit of acrylic.  I like thin socks, thick ones ruin ground feel. Here are some examples of good socks.  img_3326

Please try not to buy your socks in 12 packs at a big box store.  The price seems good, but they will wear out quickly, give you blisters, and slide down into your shoes (I hate that!!!). Better to spend a bit more money and buy good socks.  There are a few nice Coolmax socks to be had at the local big box, but this is my favorite place to buy socks.  Sign up for the mailing list, they send coupons. These black socks are my favorites for running, and the blue ones for biking.  They are both made by Wigwam (in the USA).  My favorite socks for karate, and just walking around, are the Smartwools pictured at the top of this post.


So, find yourself some great socks, and some well fitting shoes.  Then go outside and play!  The weather is still pretty nice.



We Have Obviously Angered the Weather Gods

I keep asking God to make it summer, but He seems to have more important things to do than worry about the weather  ;-).  So I decided to find some gods whose whole existence is about the weather to see what the problem might be.



As you can see from this picture, we must have done something to anger Boreas, the Greek god of of the north wind, who is also called the cold breath of winter.  Or maybe the problem is that we insulted Skadi, the Norse goddess of winter and hunting. It might even be as simple as the fact that we have disregarded the power of Jack Frost.  But whoever we insulted, they are dumping snow all over us.

So right now, we need to start doing whatever we can to appease the summer gods, and beg their presence.



We have many choices!  There is Aten, an Egyptian sun god.  There is also an African sun god named Ra (I always thought he was Egyptian.  See what you can learn from Google).



Sekhmet is an Egyptian sun goddess,  Theia is an Greek Titan goddess in charge of the shining light of the clear blue sky (hopefully that is a sky without snow).  There is also Utu, a Sumerian sun god. The Celts had a sun god named Lugh, and the Greeks had a god named Zephyrus who was in charge of the wind and known as the god of spring breezes.  

It doesn’t matter which of these gods we do sun dances for (they’re all myths anyway, right),  soon the winter gods will be vanquished and the summer ones will reign again!

The Change Can Be Amazing

One of the best things about running year-round on the same trails is watching how the trails and the river change with the seasons.  Sometimes there are huge changes just over a few days.



This was the beaver dam just last week during the dreaded Polar Vortex.  There was a bit of water going over the dam, but the river was mostly frozen. The water drops a couple of feet as it comes over the dam.  



This is the same view this week.  The temperature is in the low forties, there has been a lot of rain, and the snow has melted. Now the water only drops a few inches as it comes over the dam.



And this is a summertime picture of the same place.  The rising and falling of the water can completely change the landscape.  When the river is really high, the trails disappear.  The difference can be quite disorienting, as many of my usual landmarks are buried.  The snow changes the landscape, too, but not usually as much.

I’m lucky to live so close to the trails, but you can even see this difference in your neighborhood.  Look at people’s yards, flowers, and trees, in the summer, the wet, and the snow.  The change can be amazing…go check it out!

Throw Your Classmates in the Lake


One of the things we karate instructors often talk with the students about, is what everyone likes to do.  The kids always assume that my favorite pastime is martial arts, and are surprised to find that it’s actually  running in the woods. (Karate comes a close 2nd and biking is right up there, too).

I dislike grown-up clothes, and big-kid shoes, so I’m lucky to work in a place where workout clothes and comfy shoes are the norm.  And since everyone is sweaty by the end of class, nobody cares if I bike to work and start out  sweaty.

Occasionally, though, I get to combine karate and playing in the woods…those are the best days.  Every year at the karate picnic, I lead the teens and adults in a martial arts triathlon.  We run in the woods, do karate drills in the woods, and then go for a swim. It’s my favorite event of the year.

There are athletic fields right behind our dojang, and behind that is a bit of woods, with a lake, and a couple of miles of trails.  We run on the trails for boot camps, black belt tests, and demo team tryouts.  This current black belt test involves a lot of time running and doing drills in the woods, which is much nicer than sitting inside in a uniform.

During the summer, we run theme weeks (water week, funky uniform week, hat week, etc.) and the kids really enjoy them.  I have a hard time though, throwing water balloons at adults, and struggle to find a balance with my teen/adult classes this week. Had a great idea for this year’s water week.  Monday morning, I took my teen/adult class out in the woods to the lake, and we had class IN the water.

The students who came to class were pretty enthusiastic, but a little wary at first, and one wanted to know if there were leeches in the lake (no idea). They asked about fish too, but I think we were noisy enough to scare away any fish in the area.

We did our whole class in the water, punching and kicking drills, forms, and self defense.  Getting thrown in the water makes for a much softer landing than on the mat!  By the end of class, everyone was trying to make each technique they did splash around as much water as possible. The response was pretty positive, and some who couldn’t make it have already asked when we can do it again…soon, I hope.

And then to top it off, I biked home, and my shoes were almost dry by the time I got there.  Whether you hit the lake, the trails, or the road, do something.  Go play outside!


The trails where I most often run are part of a US Army Corps of Engineers flood control project, so occasionally the trails are under water.  Usually that happens in the spring, though, and at this time of year the water is low, and the trails are dry and dusty.  I think that the ducks are conspiring against us this year, and are somehow manipulating the water level to give themselves more territory (as good as any other theory I can think of 🙂 ).

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This is the normal view from the parking lot, heading down toward the bailey bridge.


This is what it looks like now.

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This is the bailey bridge, as seen from the dam looking upstream on a normal day.


Standing on the dam today and looking upstream all you can see is water.  I’m guessing the bridge is under there somewhere.


When you stand on the dam, and look down, there are markings showing how much water is flowing through. Normal for this time of year is 2 to 4 feet.

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Last fall the Corps of Engineers built a nice little bridge on a low section of trail.


This is what the bridge looked like after Superstorm Sandy.


You can’t get anywhere near the bridge now.

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This is the railbed, looking north from the dam last summer.


This is the same spot now.

IMG_0671 This is a trail leading back toward my house.  The yellow poles are the ends of a gate.

I don’t mind sharing with the ducks, but this is ridiculous!

Dragonflies: Some Cool Bugs


I hate bugs!  I hate ants crawling in my house, and flies buzzing around my head.  I hate mosquitoes, and beetles, and just about any kind of bug that gets into my house. I hate spiders that lay webs across the trail to ambush runners.  I hate bees and other stinging things (Fat, fuzzy bumblebees are okay, though).  Junebugs and gypsy moths are gross.   Ladybugs aren’t bad, but they are a nuisance when they get into the house in the fall. But dragonflies:  they are cool!!

First, they eat mosquitoes, and anything that gets rid of mosquitoes (like bats!) has to be a good thing.  They  are predators and will eat anything that is available, like gnats, mayflies, ants, or termites.  Their main food is flies. They are not interested in biting people, and I’ve often had one land on my kayak and ride along for a while.  Dragonflies are also prey, being food for frogs, fish, birds, and even for bigger dragonflies.

Baby dragonflies are called nymphs, and live in the water for anywhere from 1 to 6 years.  Once they mature, their lifespan is only a few months. They have 6 legs, huge eyes, and two sets of wings.  There is some interesting info here.  One of the most common color of dragonflies I’ve seen lately look like this, with variegated wings.


While dragonflies don’t bother people, they don’t seem bothered by us either.  When running down a single track trail through high grass, the dragonflies just bump along in front of you.  They never completely fly away, just bounce far enough ahead to not get stepped on.

Dragonflies come in many colors.  I have seen blue, red, green, yellow, pink, purple,  and multicolor.  I think the ones that stand out most against the outdoors are the red ones.


The next time you are out in the woods, look for the dragonflies.  You will see them around the edges of the water, in open, grassy fields.  What do you mean, you never get out in the woods??!!  Go outside and play!

DIY Shoes!

I have always liked sandals, but since I started wearing more minimalist shoes, my Birkenstocks have felt too heavy, with too much arch.  So I tried different sorts of flip-flops, but I really like my shoes to fit tightly to my feet, and the sloppy fit drove me nuts.  I may have found the solution:  DIY sandals from Xero Shoes.

Xero Shoes makes very DIY kits that require you to cut your own footbed, and a less crafty kit that comes with pre-cut soles.  That’s the option I went with.


The kit came by mail in just two days.  It includes pre-cut soles, laces, a leather punch, and a little brochure.


The first step is to figure out where you need the laces to come thru from the bottom.


Then you punch the holes with a hammer and the included punch.  The directions suggested putting a magazine under the soles before punching.  That was a good idea since the holes the punch made in the magazine would have been much worse in the floor!

The next step is to pull the lace thru the toe hole.  The kit had a bobby pin in it to help with this.


There are directions on the website for basic lacing that can start many different lacing methods.


I first tried the lacing style that Xero Shoes uses for their custom kits (you can send them a tracing of your foot, and have your sandals delivered pre-made). But that still seemed like a sloppy fit.


So I spent some time on You Tube, and found some gladiator-style lacing that I like.


This seems comfortable, and they stay put on my feet when I walk around.  Anna thinks that it will be a pain to tie them every time I put them on, but that’s no different than what I have to do with sneakers or boots. I’ll keep you posted.  Now, put something on your feet (or not if you prefer) and go play outside!