Tips to Care For Your Feet

Whether you are a runner, walker, hiker or even a triathlete, your feet probably need some love! They do a lot for us, including absorbing most of the impact created when they hit the ground. What are some ways you can care for your poor runner (walker/hiker) feet?

Hal Higdon, championship runner and a writer for Runner’s World, offers some ideas in “Care for Your Feet” on RunnersWorld.com:

Make sure you have shoes that fit well: “Bad shoe fit can cause a multitude of problems for your feet, everything from numbness and burning to blisters and painful calluses,” says Rick Braver, D.P.M., a podiatrist in Englewood, N.J., in the article.

Wear quality socks: Bad, wet or cotton socks can cause blisters. (Click here to read more about how to find the best socks for running and to prevent blisters in the 2Toms Knowledge section.) Dave Zimmer, owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Chicago, says in the Runner’s World article that he always points his running customers toward socks made with acrylic materials. “Fit is as important in socks as it is in shoes,” says Zimmer. Get socks with moisture-wicking technology.

Moisturize your feet: Lots of runners, walkers and hikers get dry, cracked feet. “The solution,” Higdon writes, is to “use a moisturizer such as Neutrogena foot cream every day. Rub it into the skin until your feet feel soft and smooth.” Stephanie Marlatt Droege, D.P.M., a podiatrist from La Porte, Ind., says in the article that the best time to apply moisturizer to your feet is immediately after a bath or shower: “Applying moisturizer at that time will help retain some of the water from your shower,” she says.

Keep feet dry: Some athletes suffer from feet that are too sweaty, resulting in athlete’s foot or fungal problems. This is when good, quality moisture-wicking socks becomes extra important. If you run through the water a lot, invest in a good pair of waterproof trail-running shoes.  Or use 2Toms BlisterShield to help keep your feet dry when running/walking/hiking!  It creates that waterproof barrier for you!

Massage: Love your feet! Higdon writes, “A weekly massage will do wonders for your feet (not to mention your outlook), and it will be most effective if you guide the therapist to the problem spots.” But you can also massage your feet yourself. Or you can use a wooden foot roller. Higdon says, “Rolling two or three golf balls or even a rolling pin under your feet also works well.” Reflexology is also a good option. Find a reflexologist near you at www.reflexology.org/.

Strength train your feet: “Many injuries are directly related to weak feet,” says John Pagliano, D.P.M., in the article. The Long Beach, California-based podiatrist and author of several books on running injuries says, “If the muscles are weak, they will not move the foot into its proper running position. The foot flops around instead of pointing straight ahead. Also, the stronger your foot and leg muscles are, the faster they can propel you forward.” Higdon lists these foot exercises: toe rises, heel drops, towel pulls, toe grabs and alphabet practice. Click here to go to the article and see how to do each exercise. Try to do them 2-3 times per week.


Perfect Gifts for Hikers

As promised, the 2Toms 2012 Holiday Guide for Gifts for Hikers.  In New Hampshire, we sure do know how to hike.  Hopefully our experience and your knowledge will work great together to give you some tips for your hiker this holiday season..

 

It’s nice to have extras…Give the gift of Plenty then with Exped Trekking pole Winter Snow Baskets!  Cheap, easy to snap on and great to turn their trek poles into winter trek poles.  They may have them but we know baskets do break!  They’ll be happy for an extra pair!

 

Does your hiker complain of blisters and sore feet after a hike?  Give them the gift of Comfort with 2Toms BlisterShield.  The new shaker will fit perfectly in a stocking and will help your hiker for the whole year through. Blisters are no longer an issue!

 

 

 

How about a whistle?  Yes!  Ascent Fox 40 is the whistle.  Hikers need to be prepared as the scouts say.  Having a whistle allows the chance to be heard in case of an emergency.  By giving them a whistle, you are helping to keep them safe!

 

 

 

Satisfy your hikers thirst with a new waterbottle.  The CambelBak Eddy meets the needs of any hiker and the price of any shopper.  They may have bottles already but you know they need to be replaced!  Help your hiker this year with a new water bottle.  They will thank you!

 

Hikers clothes STINK!  Make your hiker more confident with  2Toms Stink Free Sports Detergent! Our odor eliminator is guaranteed to remove the smell left by sweat in those stinky, smelly hiking clothes!  They will feel confident and their hiking partner will thank you even more!

 

 

 

Once again we hope this helps make your shopping experience that much easier.  And, as always, if you have gift ideas to help out, please don’t hesitate to tell us!

 

Happy Holidays!


Lighting the Way: Headlamps for Adventure Racing

Every adventure race I’ve ever done requires you to carry a source of light.  For longer races where you’ll be racing in the dark, this seems like a no-brainer.  But it doesn’t matter if it’s “only” an 8-hour race that begins and ends before dark, nearly all adventure races force you to carry a light because you never know what will happen out there.  An 8-hour race can easily turn into a 10 or 12-hour struggle in the dark.  But there are thousands of choices out there.  What should you take?  With nearly limitless options, I’ll share what we at Team Virtus use most of the time.

First, let’s rule out flash lights.  A handheld flashlight isn’t going to do you much good in an AR.  Yes, you could probably hike or run well enough holding a flashlight, but picture yourself paddling down a river at night trying to hold your paddle and your flashlight.  Or imagine riding down some singletrack in the dark with one hand on the handlebars and the other holding the flashlight.  That’s a recipe for disaster.  A headlamp is the smarter choice for adventure racing.

Crashing on a bike

Pretend the umbrella is a flashlight, and you’d get the same result.  (Photo Source: http://www.who-sucks.com/vehicles/22-bicycle-crash-photos-that-will-make-you-cringe)

The choices I’m about to share with you meet our three requirements for most of our gear: 1) Affordable, 2) Durable, and 3) Lightweight.  I’m sure you could find lighter and brighter headlamps, but they usually cost anywhere from 3 to 10 times as much.  And there may be cheaper or lighter models out there, but they usually don’t hold up to the rigors of adventure racing.  So we try to find gear that is the best mix of price, durability, and weight.

 

Petzl e+LITE Headlamp

Petzl e+LITE Headlamp (Photo Source: http://www.petzl.com/us/outdoor/headlamp/super-compact/elite)

For shorter races where I’m over 90% sure I’m going to finish before it gets dark, I take the Petzl e+LITE. This thing is tiny! It is roughly the same size as a few quarters stacked up.  Seriously.  It weighs a scant 27 grams (just under an ounce!!!), has two white light outputs (high and low), a red light for night vision, and a white-flashing and red-flashing mode for signaling. It lasts for 40+ hours on steady mode and up to 300 hours on flashing mode, and it’s even waterproof down to 1 meter.  It can be worn around your head, clipped to the bill of a cap or to your pack, or even worn on your wrist.  The e+LITE is a great choice to satisfy the mandatory gear requirement for shorter races, and if you do end up in the dark, it will be there when you need it.  And even if you decide to carry more light for technical night nav or mt. biking, at less than an ounce you can carry this baby as a backup.  And at around 30 bucks, you can’t really go wrong.

The headlamp in our arsenal which gets the most use, though, is the Princton Tec Apex.  Yes, weighing in at 279g or just under 10 ounces (still pretty lightweight), it’s bigger than the Petzl e+Lite, but it is MUCH brighter.  If it’s a longer race, or if it’s a race where I know I’ll be in the dark (like a dusk to dawn race), then I always take the Apex.

The Apex offers a 3-watt Maxbright Spot light (at 200 Lumens!) which is great for spotting the Checkpoints at a distance and for mountain biking in the dark, and 4 Ultrabright LEDs for map checks and hiking/biking/paddling in less technical sections where less light is needed.  The super-bright spotlight and the ultra-bright task light both have a high, low, and flash mode.  The Apex is also waterproof down to 1 meter.  At price range between 70 -90 dollars, this headlamp is one of my top choices.

Princeton Tec Apex Headlamps for Adventure Racing

Two Brothers and Two Apexes.

I prefer the model that uses 4 AA (Alkaline, Lithium, or NiMH Rechargeable) batteries since every gas station and grocery store in America carries them which makes finding replacement batteries super easy.  Although with incredibly long burn times, it’s rare to need extra batteries.  There is a Pro model that runs on CR123 Lithium batteries to save some weight and bulk.  However, the burn times are lower, and it can be a pain trying to find replacement batteries on the fly.  There is also a new Extreme model that uses 8 AA batteries for longer burn times, but it comes at a price of added bulk.

 

For an “in-between” headlamp (one which is bigger/brighter/more expensive than the e+LITE but smaller/less bright/less expensive than the Apex), I’d recommend the Princton Tec Remix.  I’ve done several races with the Remix with no problems, but again, if I know there will be technical sections at night, I prefer the 200 lumens of the Apex over the 100  lumens of the Remix, but it is a very solid choice at $25-$40.

Princeton Tec Remix headlamp for adventure racing

Working the maps with the Remix.

Princeton Tec also offers a lifetime warranty on all of their products.  I had one of my headlamps break after several years of heavy use, and they happily replaced it with a new one. That’s just incredible customer service.  And on top of all that, they are made in the USA (with the exception being they use some LEDs made outside of the US).

As I stated, there are brighter lights out there, and more light is usually a good thing.  However, more light comes at a cost – usually the price and/or weight and bulk increase as the lumens go up.  So you have to decide for yourself what will work for you with your budget.  For us, the three headlamps mentioned above all meet our expectations and then some.


Why You Should Train with Weights

I’ve always been a cardio person. I believed if I wasn’t pushing myself to exhaustion, then I wasn’t doing anything good (or worthwhile) for my body. But, recently, I have discovered the joys of weight training.

There are all sorts of healthy reasons why people should train with weights. You might’ve read about them in fitness magazines. They are, but not limited, to:

  • Increased bone density
  • Improves muscle mass
  • Burns calories longer
  • Helps balance and coordination

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever! Those are great, but here’s what I – a working mother, runner, triathlete-wannabe – love about weight training:

I can do it at home.

At 5 a.m., I don’t have to worry about going outside in the dark for a run or to drive to the gym I don’t belong to. I have a pair of 5-pound dumbbells and I can rock a 30-minute strength routine with them and my exercise ball in my living room.

I can find weight training routines online.

A simple Internet search on strength training will turn up lots of workouts. Many of them have YouTube videos to show proper form. Personally, I like Jamie Eason’s home strength training workouts on Bodybuilding.com. All of her moves have accompanying descriptions and videos so you know exactly how to do each specific lift. And Jess at BlondePonytail.com has some great cardio-infused strength routines.

I can catch up on my shows.

This is the best part about strength training for me. I don’t have time to sit and watch TV, but I can justify it if I’m lifting! My DVR would be out of control if I didn’t do my weight training. I have the Jillian Michaels Hot Bod in a Box cards, and I can just mix those up for a custom strength workout while I catch up on Project Runway.

I notice weight training results quickly.

I can usually see more defined muscles, and a slimmed down tummy after only a few days doing strength training. It doesn’t always show on the scale, but it does in the mirror! And that is motivating!

What are your favorite strength training workouts? Do you have a go-to weight training routine to share?


Adventure racing: Building your Personal Adventure Network

When I fell for adventure racing, I knew nothing about it beyond what I’d seen on Checkpoint Tracker’s live race coverage, but that soon changed. Over the next year, I embarked on my own personal course in adventure racing, and though my first official race was hardly a resounding success (we were disqualified for missing the time cut-off), it was an absolute blast. I attribute my ability to have fun even while lost in the woods after 13 hours of racing to the mental preparation my personal adventure network afforded me.

In education, the concept of the Personal Learning Network (PLN) is currently popular. Basically, your PLN is a network of resources — blogs, websites, and individuals — that inform and inspire you in your career. Similarly, I think aspiring (or active) adventure racers can benefit from building a personal adventure network. You just can’t overestimate the benefits of knowing what to expect, learning answers to questions you haven’t even thought of, or just seeing a familiar face out on the course.

Here are some tips for building your own personal adventure network:

1. Explore race websites: These include basic details about the races and required gear lists. Some have suggested links to organizations where you can learn more about facets of adventure racing (orienteering clubs, for example). Many will list the teams who are already registered, along with links to their websites/blogs.

2. Blogs are your friend. I read every word of my friend Patrick’s post about his first adventure race and then looked up his ROCK Racing friends who had also competed. If you don’t have a personal AR connection, start with the teams listed on your target race’s website or google “adventure race”, “adventure race reports”, or the name of any race or team that has caught your eye.  Blog posts are filled with helpful information and can give a clear picture of the ups and downs of a long adventure race.

3. Be a Facebook stalker: Many teams also have Facebook pages. “Like” these pages and you can read about their training and upcoming races, view race pictures, and see links to adventure racing articles you might never have come across.

4. Join the conversation: Comment on the blogs and Facebook pages you’re following. Cheer them on. Ask questions. Most adventure racers love to talk about their sport and many of us are surrounded by family members who are sick of the topic. Interested ears are a refreshing change! 🙂

5. Don’t overlook the little guys: While I logged a lot of time following perennial front-runner Tecnu‘s progress at the AR World Championships and always benefit from Emily Korsch‘s race lessons, seeing top teams in action is like watching Olympic gymnasts: the things they make look easy are well beyond my abilities at this point. You can also learn a lot from middle-of-the-pack teams, who often come by their lessons the hard way. With careful reading, maybe you’ll avoid those particular mistakes.

6. Volunteer: Once the race reports failed to scare me away from adventure racing, my next step was volunteering at a race. It can be surprisingly fun (even in 20-degree weather), and volunteering offers you an up-close view of adventure racing.

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My volunteering partner looking official(ly cold).

Since many volunteers are also adventure racers, you’ll add to your AR contacts. Of course, you’ll also see plenty of race staff and participants. They may to be too busy for introductions, but just by being there you’re becoming a more familiar face and helping support a sport you love.

7. Join the club: Orienteering is vital in an adventure race, and mountain biking and paddling are generally featured as well. Some races may include rock climbing or kayaking. Your skill level in any race discipline will definitely impact your success on race day. Look for clubs or groups targeting these sports and join in some of their activities. You’ll have fun and develop your skills while meeting like-minded people (and potential teammates).

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Practicing my navigating skills at an orienteering meet.

8. Say yes: If a team you’re following online hosts an open event and you can go, do it. You’ll meet cool people and gain experience. My first taste of adventure racing was at a “non-race” hosted by a team based 2 hours away from me. While it was no picnic convincing my husband it was a good idea for me to spend the day in the woods with a group of strange men, that 9 hours cemented my love for adventure racing.

9.  Jump in: Preparation and contacts are good, but in the end, the best way to learn about adventure racing is to do it.  Find a teammate, pick a race, and enter.

10. Complete the circle: After all you’ve learned from others, wouldn’t it be nice to give back? If you’re so inclined, start your own blog. Share your training, funny stories, race reports, triumphs, and failures. Blogs afford the ability to connect with others, obsess in print about favorite topics, and collect great memories and pictures in one place. Platforms such a Blogger, WordPress, and Weebly offer free blog hosting and are pretty simple to negotiate.

Use these ten tips and before long your calendar will be full of fun training opportunities and your adventure races will be full of familiar faces.


Finding Your Way: Orienteering is the Key to Adventure Racing

Have you ever found yourself panicking as you realize you’re completely lost and about to miss that appointment or job interview?  Not a great feeling, is it?  Well, being lost in the middle of nowhere out in the wilderness in the black of night is even worse.  Take my word for it.  That’s why Orienteering is the key to a successful Adventure Race.  At least one person (preferable more than one) on your team needs to become proficient with a map and compass.  It’s imperative.

And don’t just assume that you can follow other teams.  Lesson number 1 in Adventure Racing is: Don’t ever follow anyone else…  EVER!  Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn this lesson over and over and over again.  Even for an experienced racer who knows better, it’s sometimes just too tempting to follow a “good team” when you’re not sure which way to go.  The problem is, sometimes even the “good teams” don’t always know where they’re going or maybe they’re too fast for you to keep up with.  So don’t rely on anyone else.  You must know where to go.  But how do you do that?

First you should go to Orienteering USA.  Here you’ll find all kinds of info on Orienteering, or “O” for short.  For raw beginners, there is a “New to O” section that is invaluable.  On this site, you can also find a local O-club near you.  Even if you don’t join the club, which you really should, you should attend their O-meets and any navigation clinics they may offer.

Orienteering Control at an Adventure Race

The orange and white control marker commonly used at Adventure Races and Orienteering Meets.

There are also Adventure Racing clinics and camps.  Pura Vida offers courses on Navigation ranging from 6 hours up to 2 days.  They offer other courses as well, and they even offer 3 and 5 day camps specifically for Adventure Racing.  I’ve never been to any of their courses, but I’ve heard good things.

One camp I can vouch for, however, is the High Profile Adventure Camp.  I’ve been to the camp twice, and I can’t recommend it highly enough – especially for beginners, but more experienced racers will benefit greatly as well.  At the 3-day camp, you get top-notch instruction on not only Orienteering, but on rappelling, climbing, paddling, race nutrition, and more.  At the end of the camp, you’ll have a chance to test your newly-acquired skills in either a 4-hour or 8-hour adventure race.  For roughly 200 bucks (which includes most meals and lodging), there isn’t a better bargain out there.

Rappelling at Adventure Racing Camp

High Profile Adventures can “show you the ropes.”

One final way to learn orienteering is to ask for help.  Find an adventure racing team near you, and simply ask if someone would be willing to help you with the basics (A good list of teams can be found at Checkpoint Tracker).  Most adventure racers are more than willing to share their knowledge with Newbies.  We here at Team Virtus have helped many of our fellow racers learn the basics of orienteering.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help.

Once you get the basics of orienteering down, then it’s just practice, practice, practice.  Will you be perfect?  No, of course not.  Even the best teams make navigational blunders.  It’s what makes Adventure Racing so unique.  You never know what’s going to happen out there.  But being adept with the map and compass will shift the odds in your favor.