What I Learned on My Personal-Best Mt. Hiei Climb #6 (just how stupid I am)
Big Stupid Dummy me, after a personal-best fastest hike to the top of Mt. Hiei 馬鹿 の私 、比叡山 の 山頂 で。早く 出来 ましたけれども 、途中 で 右足首 をねんざしました。 -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic DMC-TS3 at an effective 29mm — 1/160 sec, f/10, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Big Stupid Dummy
me, after a personal-best fastest hike to the top of Mt. Hiei
馬鹿の私、比叡山山頂で。早く出来ましたけれども、途中右足首をねんざしました。

I made my sixth hike to the top of Kyoto's Mt. Hiei yesterday, with the goal being simply: fast I could get to the top? I really enjoyed last week's hike with Damien, because he's fun to chat with and it's enjoyable to hike with friends, but it left me wondering how fast I could do on my own, if I concentrated only on getting to the top quickly. No stopping for photography, no stopping for rests, no stopping for energy snacks, no stopping to chat with other hikers. No stopping to enjoy nature. Just go. Fast.

To recap my history here, my first hike 2½ years ago was a glorious failure, recounted in the appropriately-titled The Agony Where Bravado Yields, In Spectacular Fashion, To Painful Reality. I hadn't realized just how out of shape I had been, so it's that hike that spurred me to get in shape. I think I've done pretty well, and now, at 48, I'm in the best shape of my life.

On that first hike 2½ years ago, pushed by the unrelenting pace of my in-shape hiking partner, the trip from the small shrine near the trailhead to the small clearing about half way up took 48 minutes. Yesterday it took 41.

Seven minutes faster is nice, but it's an underwhelming improvement for 2½ years of work. However, I was in much better shape for the rest of the hike to come, and forewent the 10-minute rest stop here (and other rest stops I'd needed that first time), and continued past without pause to the meaty part of the hike.

I made good time to the scenic end of the hike proper. (I consider the hike proper to be from the shrine near the trailhead to this scenic rest spot.)

The hike proper took 127 minutes (2h 7m) the first time, but only 82 minutes (1h 22m) yesterday, an improvement of 45 minutes.

二年前第一回比叡山ハイキングは2時間分間かかった。今回(第5回目)には1時間22分間かかりました。

That's a great improvement, but the real achievement is in the surrounding context. That first time it had taken 181 minutes (3h 1m) to reach this point by foot after leaving my house, and by the time I got here I was almost comatose with thorough fatigue. This time that same trip took only 111 minutes (1h 51m), and yet I felt great. In fact, I didn't even break stride as I passed the end of the hike proper to continue the short distance to the bus stop at the summit.

From front door to summit: 116 minutes (1h 56m). That's a lot better than the first time I hiked to the summit (my second Mt. Hiei hike), where with ample stops it took more than five hours.)

One key in going fast was not stopping. During yesterday's hike, between my front door and the summit, I stopped moving only three times. One was for a red light early on at an intersection in the city on the way to the trailhead. One was at the 90-minute mark where I stopped for a few minutes for a drink, in hopes that it would rejuvenate the tiredness that had sunk in. (Answer: it didn't, so it was just a wasted three minutes.)

And at 21 minutes into the hike proper, I twisted my ankle while running on a down-slope portion of the trail. One moment I was running with the grace of a gazelle floating on the wind, and the next I was hitting the ground like a sack of rocks unceremoniously shoved off the back of the Stupid Truck. At that moment, withering in pain, I decided it was time to take a short rest.

Forced Rest taking a survey for broken bones (the photo was to mark my location, but my stupid Garmin GPS unit failed to keep the track) ねんざをした時に。痛かった。その後のハイキングは1 時間以上 かかりました。 -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic DMC-TS3 at an effective 29mm — 1/60 sec, f/3.3, ISO 320 — image data
Forced Rest
taking a survey for broken bones
(the photo was to mark my location, but my stupid Garmin GPS unit failed to keep the track)
ねんざをした時に。痛かった。その後のハイキングは1時間以上かかりました。

To offer a bit of background, recall that on my 3rd Mt. Hiei hike four months ago, I'd actually hiked back down the mountain instead of taking the train or bus I'd taken other times. Hiking downhill has always been really hard on my knees, but it turned out that the biggest danger was that I kept twisting my ankle. After half a dozen small twists (each resulting in a painful crash to the ground, and much swearing and worrying about broken bones), you'd think I'd figure out how to walk properly, but no matter how careful I was, it would still happen over and over.

So yesterday, on the way up, when I encountered a section of the trail with a downhill slope, I'd pick up the pace to a fast jog, but was extremely mindful of my propensity to twist my ankle. I was very careful.

In particular, when I approached a particularly rough area, my active thought was be extra careful here, and with that thought forefront in mind, I suddenly, inexplicably, found myself crashing to the ground with great force. I peppered the palm of my left hand with holes from rocks or roots or whatnot, and did the same to my left knee (and my new Under Armour compression leggings).

The only two reasons I can imagine for twisting my ankle despite such attention is that either I'm blind or stupid.

I'm not blind.

Peppering my body with painful holes is one thing, but it's my right ankle that got most attention. Oh, and as a data point for health-care researchers: cursing loudly in English in a Japanese forest does not seem to mitigate the damage from a sprain.

After a few minutes, I stood up to gingerly give it a try. I still had more than an hour of hiking to the top, so if my ankle was too bad to continue, I could hobble back to the trailhead which, conveniently, is off the parking lot of one of Kyoto's best hospitals, so I'd be able to get immediate treatment. But it wasn't that bad, and I continued on. It didn't exactly hurt, but it remained noticeable longer than before. For a half hour it felt hinky (for lack of a better word), but it seemed to have worked itself out by the time I reached the summit.

Until I stood up after a few minutes' rest. It was bothering me again. An hour's bus ride back down and a short walk home, and I took off my socks to reveal that I'd done some real damage.

Justice Served if you are stupid in how you hike, you get troubles like this -- Park House Kyoto Okazaki Yuurakusou -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Panasonic DMC-TS3 at an effective 29mm — 1/40 sec, f/3.3, ISO 400 — image data
Justice Served
if you are stupid in how you hike, you get troubles like this

I'd been planning to do a couple of fairly active classes at the gym, but I bailed on those and just did some upper-body weight training. In the evening, I treated the swelling with copious amounts of jasmine plum wine and baked chicken at Uroko, with Damien.

Today it's starting to turn pretty colors, and is very stiff. If I hobble carefully, I can get around without pain, so the sprain is mild by most standards.

So a few days after trumpeting being back in the saddle health wise, I'm back to limited activity. I went swimming for a while this evening with Anthony, and that went fine, so I hope that bodes well for a quick recovery.

My next goal for a Mt. Hiei hike is to do it quickly and not stupidly.


All 7 comments so far, oldest first...

What kind of shoes are you wearing? If you’re having trouble with sprains, perhaps you should consider a stability-focused running shoe.

e.g. http://www.amazon.com/New-Balance-Silver-Limelight-Running/dp/B00D8QOBO4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1412174867&sr=8-2&keywords=new+balance+M860

Sure, but that’s like telling a drunk who keeps crashing his car to wear his seatbelt. It’ll help, but it’s better to stop driving drunk. I have some high-top hiking shoes I’ll try next time… —Jeffrey

— comment by David K. on October 1st, 2014 at 11:49pm JST (2 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Tincture of arnica will draw out the bruising.

— comment by Bill on October 2nd, 2014 at 12:30am JST (2 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Funny to see I’ve not been the only one who made that mistake:

*Thinking* to pay attention to the road is not paying attention to the road: It is paying attention to my thoughts :/

And when I’m paying attention to *thinking* I’m not paying attention to *walking*.

When I notice I’m thinking about paying attention I usually try to stop thinking so I can really pay attention. Otherwise it usually hurts 😉

— comment by Sam on October 2nd, 2014 at 3:15am JST (2 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

When hiking I wear Meindl boots with a high shaft that covers and supports the ankle. And after hours of walking I just don’t give in to the temptation of running downhill.

— comment by Daniel on October 2nd, 2014 at 5:07pm JST (2 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

If you wear high boots and stumble your ankles will be protected – instead your knees will take the hit.
Additionally if you always wear high boots your ankles will get soft of disuse and be very prone to accidents when not wearing high boots.
It is always recommended to wear high boots, but I don’t really understand the thinking behind it. Apart from protecting your lower legs from cuts and bruises you just trade one kind of injury (ankle) with another (knee).

I haven’t thought deeply about it, but at first glance, I’d rather have superficial knee scrapes than internal ankle damage. Again, it’s probably best for me to just stop tripping like a 13-month old. 🙂 —Jeffrey

— comment by Sam on October 2nd, 2014 at 6:15pm JST (2 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

I’m in Hawaii. I am going to Japan to hike areas of Kyoto including Mt Hiei, the end of October. Thank you for the picture tour as well as comments. Your pictures are lovely and informative, even the ones you didn’t particularly like. We plan only the down hike not up and down but it is nice to see what to expect. I have been hiking up in the Forest preserve of Haleakala and am happy to see that the trails I hike are similar. I also walk up and down hills around my house to get in better shape. Knees are a problem at times. I take MSM and fish oil which has eliminated my pain for several years now.
I notice that your clothing has changed can you explain? You seem to wear a rash guard type of shirt, now shorts instead of pants, and a type of legging. Tell me about your choices, please.

I like Under Armour stuff… the long sleeves and legs feel better (no dripping sweat) and protect against bugs and sunburn. I wrote a bit about it here. —Jeffrey

— comment by Karen on September 9th, 2015 at 7:17am JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey, I went up Hieizan two days ago, but I started from Shugaku-in and ascended via Kirara-zaka. I’m so glad I read your earliest blog about supplies to take, even though they added 3.5kgs to my back. I too had the whole mountain to myself. It was glorious. However, at one point, I took one of the dotted line routes that you see on the trail markers, and the path simply disappeared. It was really unnerving, as I was teetering on a slope that was wet and soggy. The tree roots were my saviour as I clung on and turned around back to safety. It has rained vey heavily the night before, so I guess the path got a clean out. It was a really tough 3 hours of straight up climbing, with lots of scrambling. Needless to say, I took the Sakamoto car down the hill:) Thanks for a great blog. I used your words to keep me smiling when I really just wanted to turn around.

— comment by Belinda on May 19th, 2016 at 12:02am JST (1 year, 2 months ago) comment permalink
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