Success At Last!
On June 21, 2021 I finally accomplished my goal of climbing Rainier via the Emmons Glacier. I first attempted the route back in 2013, but turned around when one of the team members got altitude sickness. In 2019, we turned around when team members weren’t comfortable with conditions. On both of those climbs, I was in GREAT shape.
This time, I was in probably the minimal shape necessary, and wheezed my entire way up the mountain. (I have exercise-induced asthma). But, the team got along very well, had a good approach to overcoming obstacles together, and I got to lead the route and even place a couple of ice screws. The best part was knowing I never have to hike down the White River trail with a 40 pound pack again.
But that brings me to the point of this post: recovery.
Recovery Starts When the Pack Comes Off
I’ve already talked about my warm-up/cool down routines after hiking. These days, my cool down routine mostly consists of some light stretching and the downward dog pedals. Then I put on compression socks.
I’ve started driving my automatic Subaru to trailheads so I don’t have to operate the clutch with my left foot after a hike. Not only does that stress my achilles less, but it means I can put my left foot in a night splint while driving home from the climb. After Rainier, we were only driving a short distance before our next stop, so I didn’t bother to put on my splint. Big mistake. I could feel my calf tighten up just during the 5 minutes of driving. When we stopped at the ranger station to check out, I had to do some leg kicks and downward dog pedals to get it to loosen up again, and then put on the splint for the rest of the drive.
Slowly Easing Back In
In the days after Rainier, my Achilles did not hurt, surprisingly. But it is often sore for up to a week after other hikes and climbs. While it’s sore, I try to stay active, but not load the tendon too much. This usually means yoga and biking. As it feels better, I’ll start walking hills again, with a lighter weight (under 20 pounds), and then increase the weight as it feels better. I have a rule that I will not run unless my Achilles feels 100%. Even though my running is a run/walk, it’s too much if my Achilles hurts.
Things to Poke Yourself With
I also purchased a foam roller, again. I got rid of my previous one after switching to the Yoga Tune Up Alpha ball to roll my quads. I found the ball to be a lot more effective for my upper legs than a roller because I could get on the edges of the individual muscles. But it didn’t work so well for my calves. The Trigger Point grid roller seems to work reasonably well, and has options for more pressure points or less. The way I use the roller is to put the calf needing the attention (usually my left) on the roller, cross my ankle over it, and then lift up my butt so all my weight is on the roller and on my hands. It’s the only way I can get enough pressure on the calf to make a difference.
I recently purchased the Sidekick Swerve, a muscle scraper. Scraping seemed to be one of the most effective things my PT did for immediate pain relief, so I’ll see what I can do on my own. Jury is still out though, so I’ll review in a later post after I’ve had some time to use it.