Friday, June 24, 2011

My turn for cramps

My second day out in the field was much more difficult than the first day.  There were three of us compared to four the first day of this project.  Again we hiked about four miles.  This really isn’t a long way if you are on flat land.  The first day we had some brush to deal with but most was foot tall grass.  Even with the 100 degree day it was an easy day.  The second day was hiking on a bit of a slope.  I’ve hiked up and down mountains with one or two thousand foot elevation changes.  Those aren’t fun.  This day wasn’t like that.  It was up and down but only about a 200’ rise and fall. 

After the hike we were discussing the day at the trucks.  As I was sitting on the tailgate I noticed the strangest cramp.  It went up one arm across my shoulder and then down to my waist.  It came and went in about 10 minutes.  We watched the muscles tighten up as it worked its way up my arm.  We pulled out the medical bag to give me a quick check.  All was normal and we determined that it was situational.  I haven’t been carrying a heavy pack in a while.  I was making movements and using muscles that haven’t been taxed recently.  At the end of the hike I took off the pack and sat down.  

You may be thinking it was only four miles and not much of an elevation change.  What was the problem?  Why would I have such difficulty?  I wanted to chalk it up to being the oldest one out there.  That wasn’t the reason.  It wasn’t the weather.  It was only about 85 out and there was a breeze. 

The walking was much more difficult.  We were not walking on any kind of trail.  Not a human trail and not a deer trail.  We were busting brush.  If you haven’t done that it’s not easy.  About two of the four miles was in brush that was knee high or taller.  Some brush was about 10 feet high and so close together that their branches intertwined.  This meant that not only were half of my steps knee high steps but I was also using my arms to move the brush out of the way.  I would often bend at the waist as I pushed my way through.  This is hard work and I was using different muscles than the day before where we just walked.

I also had to keep my eyes open for unfriendly wildlife.  We found two shedded rattlesnake skins.  Didn’t find any live rattlesnakes but with each step I also needed to look at the ground just in case.  I had to be on the lookout for mountain lion and badgers.  What kind of protection did I carry other than the normal self defense items?  I had a whistle attached to the strap of my backpack.  One of my coworkers wore leg coverings to protect against snakes.  The boots that I wore yesterday were 9 inches high but I think if I was wearing the leg coverings I may have not had to concentrate on the ground as much as I did.  The cell phones didn’t work in that area.  We all carried radios to be able to communicate with each other and also to call for emergency help. 

I drank water on the hour drive out to the project.  There's no drinking alcohol while working (haven't had anything in over a week) and my sister doesn't drink coffee so I haven't had any caffeine since I've been in San Diego.  I drank a Gatorade prior to leaving the truck and starting the hike.  I carried half water and half Gatorade and drank all of it -160 ounces, the same as the day before.  When I got back to the trucks I was starting to get overheated and drank three more Gatorades and also put a cold water bottle on my neck and poured some water down my back.  In all, I probably drank twice as much as the day before but still ended up with the cramp.  As I was driving back I also got cramps in both my feet and had to take my boots off.  Those cramps didn't last long.   

I didn't eat as well yesterday morning or during the hiking.  Normally I eat constantly when I'm working.  I didn't yesterday.  I ate breakfast, then only had a couple of granola type bars and an orange.  This is only 1/3 to 1/2 of what I would usually eat.  So between the more difficult terrain and not eating as well I'm sure this was the reason for the cramps.

Walking is good and being able to walk for miles and miles may be needed in a SHTF situation.  I know my physical training is seasonal and at the beginning of the summer I’m not in as good of shape as at the end of summer although I'm in much better shape than most people I know.  This was a real eye opener though. Walking through brush is not at all the same as walking through grass or on a trail.  If you have the opportunity to get off the trail and beat some brush, try it.  You won’t like it.

1 comment:

  1. One particularly gruelling day I had to run a jack hammer for most of the day. They weigh about 80 lbs or so. If the concrete is particularly strong or thick the chisel end penatrates but does not break the concrete. It takes two or three or more holes before the concrete breaks off and you move to another section. Pulling an 80 lb massive piece of iron out of a hole it is stuck in is rough on your arms. So as usual after I got home I took a shower. Just putting my hands on my head to wash my hair or face caused my forearm and bicips to lock up (cramp) painfully so bad that I had to pull my arms down I could not bring them down anyother way. I got out of the shower and on my knees and held onto the sink and stood up. So I got my wife to wash my hair and dry it and sat in my easy chair with hot pads on my arms. I can attest that muscle effort you are not accustomed to can cause cramps.