Tag Archives: Gear

Get the book!

Everything you want to know about running across the USA, twice! If you want to do something amazing like this yourself, or if you are just curious and want to know all about it, this book is for you!

Hi, I´m Milton Miller and in December of 2010 I started my first run across the USA, from Miami to Los Angeles. Then, on January 1st of 2014, I started a second run, this time from Los Angeles to Miami. In this book I write about all the surprising, often amazing stories about what happened during these two great journeys.

The book everyone is asking about!

I get asked about it a lot! Yes, I wrote a book about this run and the first, done in 2011. It is available now! Click here to open the FREE eBook

You can also save it in your computer. Share with your friends! It’s free!

What this book is about:

  • What makes a couch potato any previous running experience suddenly get up and decide to run across the USA?
  • How do I pay for these adventures. What are the possibilities for someone who wants to do something similar.
  • How a drinking club (with a running problem) became my main support group.
  • Mistakes, miscalculations, and many things that didn’t go as planned.
  • What gear I used and solutions I found for many problems without having to fulfill any contract with a sponsor. I can write about what really works and what doesn’t.
  • How I chose my routes and how I planned for each part of the adventure.
  • All about camping in the wild, gear, techniques, and experiences.
  • How I can find peace and tranquility along the journey. How to keep my mind occupied.
  • The overall compassion of people I never met before and how, while hearing my story and about my journey they opened their homes and businesses to me.
  • The battles that happen inside one’s mind during such a long struggle: the doubts, disappointments, and what gave me strength to persevere.
  • How these runs changed me, the way I think, how I treat people, and how people treat me. What I used to believe before, and what I believe now.
  • Interesting statistics about performance, weight loss, and much more!

But there is more!

The free online book is PG-13, and only the printed book has an extra chapter called “Sex, drugs and violence”, so it is R-rated! imageGet ready for some crazy stuff!

  • Transcontinental runners don’t have groupies and yet a lot can happen over thousands of miles. I will tell it all! Out of respect for the privacy of people I interacted with, I may have to change some names, times or locations.
  • Guns, guns everywhere! You will be amazed about the gun talk, the cultural significance, the dangerous situations and the times when violence became very real during my journeys.
  • An honest conversation about drugs. From alcohol to weed and prescriptions. The runners that run high and the runners that get high after running. The near pitfalls and the astounding great stories.
  • The funny and the scary tales about encounters with apparently insane people or with homeless, white supremacists, indians, fugitives and other kind of people that you don’t see so much “in society”.
  • And finally, you may understand why I call it “madness”.

Thank you!

Autograph

House Wrap

imageWho would ever tell, that the most versatile and one of the most important pieces of gear that I ever carried is a piece of house wrap!

About 8×4 feet, it is the same kind of wrapping material used to wrap houses for insulation purposes. It is called Tyvek and can be purchased at hardware stores at very low prices.

It is hard to list all the uses for it, but I will try here:

I use Tyvek to cover the ground before setting up camp. It protects the tent from dirt and protects the air mattress from thorns and sharp rocks. It also helps keep everything clearn and organized, and for a guy with moderate OCD like me, keeping the camp clean is a must.

imageI also use the same Tyvek, folded three or four times, to cover the ground when I want to lay down my backpack and gear, to rest, for nature call, or any other reason. That helps keep every piece of gear and clothing clean.

When I want to sit down on a rock, cold bench, or on the rocky ground, the Tyvek makes a good clean surface to sit on.

Tyvek is not very soft, and it feels a little brittle. At first I though that would be a downside but instead it is a great advantage because once you fold it, it “remember” the creases and you can fold it again in the same patterns effortlessly, even in strong winds. Try folding anyting in the wind, it is a frustrating experience, except Tyvek. It nearly folds itself!

It is very easy to clean and can be machine washed. I prefer to clean it with a rag because machine washing would make it soft, and then it wouldn’t fold as easy as it does now.

It doesn’t fray, and it doesn’t rip easily. It is also waterproof, and it helps isolate from the cold.

If the weater turns insane I can use the Tyvek to line the inside of the tent to isolate from the cold winds or rain.

Jumping fences can be a pain in the ass. Literally. Dangerous operation. But if you fold the Tyvek 3 times and lay it on the ground you can lay down and simply slide under the fence, and then pull the Tyvek with the gear to the other side. It is so easy it is a joke!

I keep it folded tight and hold it on the under side of my backpack with elastic cords. I can take it out and put it back without needing to take the backpack out. This way it also protects the bottom of the backpack if I put it own the ground for a moment. So even when I don’t even take it out and unfold, the pieve of Tyvek is there helping out.

Best camping gear ever created!

Running shoes, the epic novel…

If I knew that running shoes would be such an issue I would have prepared better for this. But hey, for a rookie I didn’t make so many mistakes, let this one slip by, would ya? So here is the center of the drama: I am having trouble choosing, buying, and using running shoes. But first let’s get to what I thought would be the solution from the time I was training in Miami:

Early during the training phase I bought these Vibram Five Fingers and I love them! Sometimes I use them even when not running, just to have the feeling of bare-footing without getting my feet all dirty. I would use them any day in the city. I would use them in parks and bike paths. But I would not use them on the road. There is so much trash, thorns, nails, and glass on the side of the road and on the breakdown lane that the VFFs wouldn’t have survived Florida, nor would my feet. I need some protection from all that trash, so I used these:

These were my old Adidas. By old I mean about 15 (yes, fifteen) years old pair of Adidas that I got while still in Brazil, sometime during the last century. These shoes were so worn out that they were totally flexible, comfortable, and with about 10mm of soles in them there was plenty of protection from debree. They were so light that I could run well on them, and did plenty of running, all the way to Houston. A little over 1100 miles I put on them until they started falling apart and the soles were so worn out that you could see through them. Job well done!

Then in Houston my friend Alain Ducante gave me a pair of brand new Asics racer shoes. I loved them! The feeling was exactly the same of the very old very beat up Adidas, but even a bit lighter! Perfect shoes! Lightweight, cool, and great traction. No heel padding, no bullshit, just great shoes. But the folks at the store told me they would last about 200 miles. They were about right. At 300 miles or so those shoes were done.

That is when I made a mistake. I was in Austin when the Asics were showing signs of serious wear and tear. I decided to keep going and I thought I would just buy other shoes in the next city or so. Bad mistake. When I got to Mason (TX) those shoes were totally spent and I needed something new. Badly! There were no shoe stores, actually no stores of any kind better than a Dollar General. There I found something I thought I would like:

At first I liked them: Very light, very cheap, flat, and I had a good feeling about them. I was very happy and feeling very smart after spending $8, instead of the hundreds of dollars other people spend in shoes. Well… not quite that smart: Those shoes lasted about 60 miles and they were also falling apart.

At this point I was in another little town in the middle of Texas called Eldorado, and of course, there were no stores there better than the Dollar General. So I searched their inventory and found something that looked promising:

These shoes were 50% more expensive than the previous ones ($12) and looked sturdier. They were Female models (I didn’t even know feet have gender) number 10 and felt good enough so I put them to work. The soles started falling apart the very next day. At some point they were so bad that around Iraan (TX) I decided to try again something I only tried in the past after reading Born To Run, more like a funny experiment, but never took seriously:

Huaraches are some kind of sandals popular in Mexico, but what they refer to in Born To Run are the Huaraches made by the Tarahumara indians, basically a piece of car tire with some leather straps. That is how they run hundreds of miles! I was looking at my old Brazilian Havaianas the other day and thought “If I just at some straps to the back they would be just the same thing…” and I was right! I used the old shoe laces from the Asics and when I put them to work I was surprised at how light and easy it feels. I can walk, or run, and they are perfect. The only part I don’t like is that going through the desert my feet get really dirty, and in a part of the country known for snakes and scorpions having my feet out in the open is not appealing. So I like the Brazilian Huaraches but will keep that as a “Plan B” while I test the new possible solution:

These shoes are made by Starter and I found them at Wal-Mart in Pecos, TX. Not great, not expensive ($25), but also not too bad. The structure seems to be better than the previous ones so I am guessing they will last at least until I reach El Paso, where I hope I will find a good running store to buy some high quality minimalistic shoes, or some other racers like the Asics I liked so much.

So here I am longing for my incredibly old Adidas, appreciating the high-tech comfort of a new Asics that won’t last long, and experimenting with some crap I can find in country stores in dusty little towns in West Texas, while the only solution that has been working well and lasting the trip has been some Brazilian sandals with additional straps from old shoes…

Then in Phoenix AZ the store Sole Sports Running Zone gave me a pair of trainers made by New Balance. So far I like them, they are very lightweight and are minimalistic, so I will be running on them all the way to Venice Beach.

Guerrilla Camping

Disclaimer: If you use any information from this article to do guerrilla camping, and you end up lost, hurt, robbed, raped, run over, fined or imprisoned, it’s your own damn fault! This info is here for entertainment purposes only and is not intended as recommendations on how to choose a camp site. Always obey all laws and regulations, and respect private property.

Having said that… Here is how to camp anywhere you please:

Safety basics

Your safety depends on nobody knowing where you are. Don’t post your exact precise updated location on the Internet in the open. Don’t ask permission to anyone. Make sure your location is not nearby houses or businesses. Listen carefully for dogs in the area while scouting a location. Don’t turn any lights on your camp. Cover yourself with the sleeping bag while using your phone or computer.

Mountain lions, coyotes, bears, wild pigs, poisonous snakes, spiders, scorpions, and drunk rednecks. All these are creatures you don’t want any contact with. Have some protection. No, I am not talking about condoms!

Practice Invisibility

You want to be visible while on the road, but the moment you step out you want to be invisible. Stealthy Ninja! Take off reflecting vests, put on black or dark green clothes.

No tents in bright colors! No reflective devices on the tent or on the stroller. Buy dark colors or spray paint it.

Look for a location that is hidden from the road and from houses. Trees, bushes, rocks, even just an inclination on the terrain may be enough. I used spray paint to make a camouflage pattern on the outer layer of my tent.

These are some places I camped on during my travels:

  • Casino parking lot, Biloxi MS
  • Edge of airport runway, Smithfield TX
  • Cemetery, Pensacola FL
  • Golf club, Llano TX
  • Orange grove, Lake Placid FL
  • Oil field, Braveland TX
  • Abandoned building, McCamey TX
  • Under a city’s welcome sign
  • Salt lake near El Paso
  • Mohave Wildlife Preserve

Remember the real meaning of signs:

Private property = Welcome!
No trespassing = Welcome!
Keep out = Welcome!
Beware of dog = Keep out!

Comfort

I bring two tarps. In good weather they stay on the ground folded in half to provide cushioning against little rocks and thorns that could puncture the air mattress.

I use an ultra compact air mattress and I don’t inflate it too much. Feels better that way.

Timing

Better find camp during the last half hour before sunset. After sunset you still have about 30 minutes of good light to set up camp. In desolate areas leave any time but if there is any question about safety I would prefer to lift camp and leave while still dark.

So I set up camp, take a towel bath, eat, and get inside my sleeping bag in less than an hour.

Stroller

Sometimes you can’t bring the stroller all the way to the camp site. Usually when there is a fence to jump. I just leave the stroller folded on a ditch, behind bushes, anywhere I can hide it.

I have a backpack on the stroller with all I need so I just have to take the backpack out. Very simple.

Finally…

Draw a circle of piss around your camp to tell all other animals that this is your territory for the moment. 🙂

Alain Ducante and Luke’s Locker

This is our friend Alain Ducante. He coaches new runners and I had the privilege of attending one of his training sessions. Not just he loves running but he is also a very generous guy and he donated brand new running shoes to yours truly.

The entire staff at Luke’s Locker was very helpful and the store manager, Sarah Balboa, had her patience tested as I tried many different shoes until I found something that was just perfect. Thank you guys for the friendly and attentive service!

Barefoot running

Athletic gear design, if anything, has gone in a completely opposite direction. Over the next 50 years several major brands infused technology and clothing together to create high performance athletic gear. Shoes have been the largest focus.

Interestingly though the prevalence of lower body injury has increased since the introduction of performance footwear from brands like Nike. This increase doesn’t seem to be correlated with more runners running more miles though. As some researchers would suggest, the energy costs of running are less when running barefoot and the prevalence of injury is less frequent as well. The basic argument being that the human foot is perfectly designed for running (without the aid of shoes).

Such research has created a somewhat underground group of runners that run unshod. They ditch the shoes and hit the road with liberated toes gripping at the surface to feel every detail of the road beneath them. Runner’s like Barefoot Ted have sold the barefoot method really well and his experiment has branched out into a new wave of barefoot runners.

My personal experience is that if wasn’t for running barefoot I wouldn’t be running today. With shoes it was just too painful and felt awful. The moment I took the shoes off and started training I felt amazing and my progress was dramatic!

See also:

Sports Science on Barefoot Running
Run Bare
Study: Humans Were Born To Run Barefoot
Running Shorts. Singlet. Shoes?

Vibram Five Fingers

Before you take off in your brand new Vibram Five Fingers, seriously consider going barefoot first. Build stronger feet and diminish your risk of injury. I trained barefoot for two weeks before buying my VFFs, and still run barefoot every once in a while, to make sure I am being able to “read” the environment correctly and maintaining proper form.

I like the VFFs very much and as of the time of writing this I have been doing most of my running on the VFFs but none of the walking. I feel that my heels take too much stress while walking.

That means: I run in VFFs, but to walk I prefer running shoes. Yes, it is funny!

See also:

How to transition into Vibram Five Fingers
Vibram Five Fingers

Benefits of running barefoot

In terms of pure physics you can measure the barefoot benefit by less weight and drag. Typical running shoe can weigh anywhere between 10 and 16 ounces. Take off the weight and you remove a bit of resistance. Assuming that you take 1,800 steps per mile (that’s roughly 3 feet covered in each stride length), you can expect to move a 10 to 16 ounce shoe about 47,000 times during a full marathon. Granted this can fluctuate depending on the runner, however you can expect well over 30,000 strides for just about anyone who runs a marathon. With a bit of simple math it’s easy to see how taking off 10 to 16 ounces of weight can add up.

For most runners though it seems that the primary motivation for trying barefoot running stems from a history of chronic running related injury. In a quest to run injury free runners are willing to try just about anything. Some turn to yoga. Others see sports therapists and/or chiropractors on a frequent basis. The majority of runners with injury turn to top of the line running equipment that’s coined as being the cure-all for maintaining a healthy running lifestyle. Our options include Custom orthotics, stability control shoes with massive heel and arch support, and the list goes on.

It’s not an entirely one-sided story though. I have noticed that my feet and calves get very sore. After my first 2 mile run barefoot my calves felt like they typically would do after a 10 mile run in shoes. I also occasionally felt a burning sensation in my left heel. Those problems disappeared after a few weeks of training.

Despite the unique soreness in my feet and calves I viewed it as a positive experience. The soreness told me that I was making them stronger and building them back to a natural state of incredible strength and dexterity.

See also:

Barefoot running
Are running shoes a waste of money?