Friday, March 29, 2019

Footwear Choices

Time is flying past and the preparation continues.  Last week, looking at the list decisions to be made and tasks to be done, it seemed grim. But, rapidly it has improved.

Foot wear has been continual problem. What to wear?  I have a home made pair of sandals, that continually needs repair. A pair of Merrell sandals that aren't great. I've modified to improve the fit. They are almost worn out, but I can't bring myself to throw out yet. And a pair of Vibram Five Finger (VFF) Trek Ascent that are worn, but not completely worn out: the pair I walked the Bibbulmun Track in 2017 in. Starting a 2000km+ walk, none of those are going to last the distance. I need new shoes. But what?

My feet are large and broad.
Insoles on tracing of my feet

Modern shoes are weird. Really weird. High heels for everyone. Something that started with  calvary riders to keep help their feet on the stirrups when standing and shooting arrows, became a way to show you were rich enough to afford expensive heeled boots.  Then there are pointy toes.  Peasants had broad wide feet, so the aristocracy showed they were better by wearing pointy shoes.  Because the heel is raised, the sole is hard, so to make stepping easier, the toe area is raised to help the 'step off' part of walking.  And then, the edges of the shoe are raised as well.  I'm not sure if this is a "feature" or just the effect of injection moulding when attaching the top of the shoe to the sole. The edges get more material, to hold the top on, but the center gets less, so the foot bed becomes boat shaped.  The insole goes on top of the foot bed and attempts (unsuccessfully) to fix this.

I've tried the conventional shoes. I really wanted to be able to use them, just because of the ease of finding them. But on the practice walks, I just couldn't keep them on. My feet started to hurt. Worse, the changes wasn't just the feet; the knees, hips and back too.  Months of join pain, toes jammed up, and pushing the cart in heels wasn't want I wanted to do.

(There are problems with wearing heels. The higher the heel, the worse the problems. Researchers use women's high heels for their studies as they are so extreme, but most shoes have heels. Unless you are wearing 'zero drop' shoes).

I really wanted sandals, but haven't been able to find any that tick all the points I want: a flat foot bed, zero drop, no toe raise, no squashing the toes together and no toe post.  Such a sandal surely exists somewhere.  But for now, every time my feet hurt, my go to fix-it shoe is the VFF. I walked the 1000km Biblumun track in VFF's. They work for me. Why was I spending so much time on footwear when I could just wear them again. Decision done. Decided.

Now, where to get a new pair.

Sadly the Trek Ascent model I have is no longer made.  I only had that model through a series of chance events, so this time I wanted to try on different models.  Luckily Sydney has Barefoot Inc.  It's conveniently located near Green Square Station, Alexandria.  Three times I went to look and try on different shoes before I decided.  Besides VFF, I was also looking at Lems, Vivobarefoot and Xero shoes. The staff wear the shoes they are selling. So are able to give real feedback on the different models and their best use. They couldn't have been more helpful.

I left with not one, but two pairs of new VVF.  It was a great deal that was too good to pass up. My feet are thanking me already.  The two pairs are old stock.  Models no longer made.  I'll definitely be back to Barefoot Inc in the future.

Interest point: For anyone thinking that you can't wear barefoot shoes on the road for long distances: Raw Running. In 2013 this couple ran 15,782km around Australia, running 366 marathons (43 km) each in 366 days, no days off in barefoot shoes.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Cart improvements, and Training

Day 2 of training and cart adjustments.  I changed how the mesh sits. It is now a single deeper compartment, rather than several segmented sections. I had tried newer handles, but discarded them before starting today. Still more work needed on the handles.

Google maps tells me the walk is 11.4 km on footpaths and fire trails. I had thought the trip was 8 km and hadn't considered the elevation change. I was worried about how slow and out of condition I'm feeling. Knowing it is actually 11.4 km makes me feel better. It's a good mix of hard, rough, sandy and hills. The outbound 5.7 km trip is very easy and fast. The return is another matter: it is up hill all the way except for the last kilometer. Much slower, with more rest stops.  I'm walking with test load of 30 kg of water, plus some tools in case of running repairs. No way pulling it up hill is ever going to be easy. The more I train now, the better I'll feel later. 

From the first walk I have been very happy with the way the cart is working. The cart is light weight, handles well, rolls over obstacles easily, and the shade cloth has been excellent for holding gear in and keeping the center of gravity low. It has surprised me how rough and how uneven the ground I can travel on, and not tip the cart or tip gear out. All this is without a cover over the top, that I'll have later.  I originally wanted a fishing net, but now I think that shade cloth is much better. Small things just stay in the bottom and nothing falls through the holes. The depth of the net sling matters. On the first walk I had it quite high. This gave less load room and meant the handle ends hit the ground first when putting the cart down. This wasn't great for resting as the handles ended up in the dirt all the time. On any slope, stopping the cart moving needed wheel chocks as the handles slide on the ground very easily.  With the changes for today, the load sits on the ground when resting. Downside is that pulling the cart my heels sometimes hit the load even though the distance from the handles to the load start increased. Also, resting, the load sits in the dirt, which is okay when the resting spot is clean and dry, but is going to be a problem when wet and muddy.  I'll have to find a happy medium between the two.  I'm still thinking how to have light weight feet for the handle end that would keep the handles and load out of the dirt, and could let me sit on a low seat for resting too.

There are still other changes to make to the cart. The basic design of the cart will stay the same. It works well pushing or pulling it. I will add a hip belt as that makes pulling it uphills easier, helps with resisting on the downhills. It feels like it saves energy, else I have to grip the handles hard enough to transmit the push/pull force. On the flats a hip belt gives my hands a rest. But the pull handles need to be far enough apart to not bang on my hips when walking.

Brakes would be nice to add some drag for the downhills. I can walk in front and push back to slow or stop the cart, but walking behind and resisting is safer. On my first walk, my foot slipped on one of the downhills and while I didn't fall, I did realise that if I had, the cart would have run me over.  With changes for today, this is less likely, as the load hits the ground if the handles lower too far. But on a steep hill, the cart could still run me over before the load dragging stops the cart moving. 

Mudguards are an essential addition. Even on dry ground, sand, dirt and leaves stick to the tyres and fall off into the cart.  Mud and muddy water will also end up inside without mudguards.

Something to sort urgently is footwear. I've had a lot of trouble with my feet over the past few years and worry that without the right footwear, the trip will be very short.  Modern footwear fashions are crazy:  heels with narrow and pointy toes.  I'm still wearing Vibram Five Fingers, which are excellent for being flat, having amble width, and not compressing the toes. But they are wearing out. Now in training time is the best time if I'm going to replace them with something else. But what?

Thanks to Terri who provided the photo of me on the fire trail with the test load.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Sydney: Cart number x

Not sure where I'm up to in the cart count. Too many have been conceived, half or fully built and then torn apart to start again. But this feels closer to final. A test walk soon will help decide if this is the case or not. 

I originally wanted a bed base structure so that I could take the wheels off it and sleep a couple of centimeters off the ground. But as construction progressed, the weight increased, until that started to become a problem.  Back to ground sleeping without the platform. And the build is lighter.  

If the trial goes well, I'll add eye holes to shade cloth to help tie down the load. A tarp will go over the top for weather protection.