The unsung heroes of monster trek legs are the feet. In adventure racing we say, “A team can only go as fast as it can get its slowest member to go.” On a team of 4, if one member neglects their feet, it can lead to a complete fail. Yes, you can carry someone else’s pack, give them a tow and even push them up a hill. But, if the blisters get bad enough or trench foot sets in, even those tricks won’t work. You need them on all legs of a race other than the paddle. But… on the paddle, it is difficult to get them to dry out.
For those of you who watched ECO Challenge Fiji, there was a very short clip of the Japanese team (East Wind) dropping out and one member was holding the ankles of another while he used his arms to walk to the chopper for extraction. This is what can happen if every member is not militant about foot care both in training leading up to and during the race.
When it comes to foot care, there are just as many strategies as there are toes. What they all have in common are proper shoe selection, socks, lubrication and some type of ongoing maintenance. The key is to identify problems quickly and address them. After a 20+ hour trek like leg one in this year’s race, I guarantee you there are some people really suffering in regard to their feet. The telltale sign is a gait that appears like they are walking across shards of glass.
Undoubtedly, we will see some photos of feet at transition that are destroyed. Many will look like huge, pasty white dried raisins. Many will try taping them up so they can continue on. The suffering is real, but to succeed in a 5+ day race, teams must have a solid strategy for foot maintenance.
As you follow your favorite teams over the next few days, don’t forget to appreciate the unsung ten-toed heroes of our sport.
Chip Dodd Sleepmonsters.com ARWC 2021 Guest Commentator Team thisABILITY Adventure Racing