Friday, September 7, 2012

Route: Dizzy Nickel

Location: Whiting Road Nature Preserve (WRNP)
Distance: 3.1 mi/5k
Route Name: Dizzy Nickel
Difficulty: Medium Hard
Trails Used: Blue, Orange, Red, Yellow

This is my new favorite route in WRNP. It really displays the beauty of what WRNP has to offer in its different types of scenery. Ever since I've started running at WRNP I've always wanted to find a good 5k route, more or less as a litmus test to how my running is. Well the great news is that I've finally found one. The bad news is that I don't really feel as though it's a good litmus test due to the number of relatively steep grades on the route. I've listed this route as being Medium Hard, but the fact of the matter is that it is probably the hardest route that I will be able to make in WRNP in terms of technicality and grade. Nonetheless, the route is a 5k which is something I've been attempting to achieve for a while within the one preserve and it's dizzy either because it leads you in a bunch of circles or because you will be dizzy after you're done running it. You decide. One last thing I will say about the route is that it is probably the best cross section of all of the trails available in the preserve.

The route starts by heading W out of the parking lot on the blue trail. This is a relatively flat stretch and continues to be flat until you encounter the orange trail. Continue W (strait) on the orange trail, you will quickly head down a grade and over a boardwalk. You will eventually curve to the left (S) and go over a few rollers, back into the woods and then you enter the field. Once in the field you will curve again to the left and around until you are heading generally N. Continue on the orange trail until you encounter the red trail. The red trail will continue N while the orange trail turns sharply right to the E. Follow the red trail. You will run the length of the red trail, going over many steep grades, roots and a few boardwalks eventually going through the corner of a field and ending at the junction of the blue, red and yellow trails. At this point you will want to take a sharp right W on the yellow trail. After about 100 ft the trail takes a steep dip down and then continues down into the valley. After a quick trip through the valley the trail goes up a very steep grade (probably the steepest grade on the run) and on out to the blue trail. The only catch here is that there is a junction where the yellow trail goes to the left and there is an unmarked trail that goes off to the right that ends up joining up with the orange trail (do not take this!). Upon reaching the blue trail make a left heading N until you arrive back at the junction with the red, yellow and blue trails, make a right heading E to continue on the blue trail and run the final 0.3 mi out.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dietary Concerns and Backpacking Meals

Backpacking food is great, well for backpacking anyway. But one of my big concerns is the amount of sodium that is in the food. I have found that my body is extremely sodium sensitive. For me, this means that even if I've lost a ton of sodium through perspiration and have lost tons of weight, my body is still going to react to me eating too much sodium. Which is apparently around 1400 to 1600 mg per day.

For my daily diet this is no problem. Occasionally I will go over my limits, but for the most part it is easy to keep my sodium levels down. The challenge comes when trying to plan out a backpacking menu. If you look at the nutrition information from some of the freeze dried packages you can buy, such as the Jamaican BBQ Chicken from Backpacker's Pantry you will see that the sodium level for one serving is basically what I would eat in a day. If you happen to be really hungry (which you probably are after a 10 mile hike) you may even eat both servings, building up nearly 2900 mg for that one meal! This is not meant to be a knock on freeze dried backpacking food, and is especially not a knock on Backpacker's Pantry (I happen to like them a lot). It just shows my current dilemma with my meal situation.

There are many big advantages to using the freeze dried food:

  1. You can carry a Jetboil/MSR Reactor type of stove with the specialized pot to store it in. This not only cuts down on cooking time (active prep time = 2 minutes), but it also cuts down on weight and space in the pack.

  2. You "cook" the food right in the bag, and usually eat right out of the bag too. This means that when you're done you lick then wash your spoon and put it and the bag in your bear canister and are done with dishes.

  3. The food packs well. It's vacuum sealed and it's easy to just drop into the bear canister when you're packing your pack.

So when I sat down to plan my approach to making meals for backpacking I decided that I wanted to take the advantages of freeze dried food into account while trying to plan my own strategy. The other thing that I want to take into account is to be able to make food that meets other specialized needs. For example:

  1. There is someone with a pumpkin allergy in my family. Believe it or not but I have actually been finding pumpkin in freeze dried meals.

  2. There is someone in my family with a peanut allergy.

  3. There are a number of people in my family that are gluten intolerant.

  4. Last but not need for extremely low sodium meals.

So the result of this is that I started digging for resources on how to fulfill these requirements. The best resource to date that I've found is There is lots of great ideas, not only for meals there, but also as a foundation for planning your own.

At this point I don't have any meals worked out, but I do have some ideas. As I go through this process I will publish the meals that I come up with here so that I have a list of my experiments and I will know what works and what doesn't. If I come up with some good recipes I'll move them away from the blog post format and store them as a recipe page so that they're easily referenced.

Like I said, thus far I have nothing, but my next backpacking trip is coming up soon. I've picked up my parent's dehydrator, dusted off my meat grinder, fired up my smoker and I'm getting ready to make some food!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Route: Infinity + 2.1

Location: Whiting Road Nature Preserve
Distance: 2.1 miles
Route Name: Infinity + 2.1
Terrain: All trail. Mostly flat, some rollers getting more difficult at the end.
Difficulty: Easy
Trails Used: Blue, Orange

Description: This is a relatively open 2.1 mile route with a few rollers but nothing major. The arial view of the route roughly forms an infinity symbol.

The route starts by heading north on the blue trail out of the parking lot. This is a false flat down curving to the left (west) that also aides as a good warmup. At 0.3 mi turn sharp left (south) and continue on the blue trail. After 0.25 mi you will encounter a junction with the orange trail. The orange trail will be to your right and straight with the blue trail going off to the left. At this point you want to continue straight to follow the orange trail. You will encounter a few small rollers while skirting a field. After you come into a junction with the red trail continue on the orange trail, fully entering the field for a good distance. For the next 0.7 mi you will mostly be in the field, popping in and out of the woods once or twice and going over a few medium sized rollers, but nothing too big. This portion of the trail loops around from going fully south to west to north and eventually east again. Not long after the trail turns east (right) you will encounter the red trail and will be fully back in the forested part of the preserve. Continue on the orange trail, passing the red trail junction, going up and down some more good sized rollers until you reach the junction with the blue trail. Continue running straight, onto what becomes the blue trail. This portion of the trail flattens out and after a short 0.15 mi you will have completed the route and will be back in the parking lot.

Route Names

The town I live in has a number of nature preserves that a local trails organization does a wonderful job maintaining. Because of this effort it makes it more feasible for me to run trails, since I only have to drive a short distance to do so. I also use an app called Running Ahead to track my runs. The issue with this being that I don't have a GPS and trails are not as well marked the mapping tool that they use as the roads are (no surprise there). As a result most of my course names end up being "blue-red-orange-blue" or similarly cryptic. The other day when I was recording a run I decided that it was time to have fun names for my routes. However in order for the names to make sense I'll document them here so that I have a point of reference.

My main motivation for doing this is so that I have a definitive set of routes that I know are interesting and that I also know the distances and trail conditions for before I head out. Keep in mind that these are not trail names, they are combinations of trails that I've put together to make for interesting routes.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Report: "French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France" by Tim Moore

This is a review of the book French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France by Tim Moore.

I checked this book out of the library with very low expectations. It looked like a joke and quite honestly that's what it was.

I read about 5 chapters of it and decided to research what other people had to say about it. A lot of people made reference to being stylistic similar to Bill Bryson's writing style. This helped me understand the intentions of the author a lot better.

I'll start with the positive aspects of the book. I really admired Moore's goal to conquer the route of the Tour de France. Even if it's only part of the route or even something similar to the route. That is an extremely large goal to undertake, quite honestly much more thank hiking the Appalachian Trail, as Bryson did.

The text seems to reflect that he prepped for this trip much in the same way that Bryson prepared for his trip down the Appalachian Trail. He did a little bit of research, bought a mid-range bike, took a spinning class and rode down the street once on the bike. Even with these minimal preparations, I will give him credit for seeking advice from people that know, at least moderately, what they're talking about. Even if he only listened to about half of the advice.

The journey started off on the wrong foot. He had trouble getting his bike into the country, he had trouble getting his bike onto the train, he had trouble getting the tour route even after the route had been released.

Impressively when he was able to get moving on a route that was somewhat like the Tour route he actually rode pretty well. I found the way that he described his amateurish mistakes and mishaps entertaining. Additionally I liked the way that he went into some interesting history about the Tour, telling stories that I never heard and going into details I had not heard for stories that I did know.

On the negative side the guy is a complete narcissist. Even though the book is about him, he still is obsessively absorbed in himself. Second only to himself, he seems to have a strong sense of pride in his country and really dislikes how things are done in rural France. He cuts down a majority of the places that he stays. In a lot of situations he is downright rude to the staff at the restaurants that he eats at and the hotels that he stays at.

Finally he possesses a strong need for recognition. Don't get me wrong, what he did was no small feat, but the way that the novel reads suggests that he was just short of screaming at people, "Look at me! I'm riding the Tour de France route, aren't I the bomb?!"

The worst part of the whole experience is that, in the end, the experience is not in the least bit life changing. He goes back to his old life style, watches the tour but doesn't ride his bike anymore. He doesn't even seem to have any interest in it nor in fitness in general.

To me it seems as though the negative aspects of this book far outweigh the positive aspects. However the strangest part of this books is that I couldn't put it down. Even though there were a lot of things that I really disliked I read the it through cover to cover. I give him a lot of credit, he is a really good writer. It takes a lot to write a book that I read through even if I don't like the content.

In summary I generally liked this book. I'm not sorry that I read it and I definitely don't think that I wasted my time. With that said, I'm not certain that I would recommend buying it. It is definitely worth a read if you don't have to lay down any money for it, but I'm only going to read it once and feel no need to make it a permanent part of my personal library.

Run Along!

I recently started running. Yes running. This is surprising to me because I have hated running for as long as I can remember.

I started running because I wanted to lose enough weight to feel comfortable enough to get back on my bike. Last year I severely indexed my headset on my beater bike putting me in a situation where I would have to undergo a costly repair or stop riding the bike. It was ok with me since I was feeling light enough to be on my good bike. When winter came around I entered a really bad migraine cycle and gained a bunch of weight.

I decided that I needed to lose some weight, but I always need exercise in addition to improving my eating habits in order to drop the pounds. I knew that cycling, for the short term was out, I didn't want to strain the carbon fiber parts of my good bike with the amount that I weigh. I couldn't use my elliptical because it was in need of repairs, plus I didn't want to be stuck in the basement half the summer.

Being that I was cornered I had a crazy thought. Maybe I should start running. I had that same thought last year, attempted the couch to 5k program and after two days I had serious joint pain in my knees and stopped before it could escalate further. However this year I decided to try a lower impact form of running, I decided to start trail running.

Thus far the outcome has been phenomenal. I've been running for just over a month I feel great and I've lost 11 lbs. I've had absolutely no joint pain whatsoever. All in all it has been a huge success. Additionally I'm excited because in another 11 lbs I will be at the weight I was at when I started gaining weight last fall and will feel comfortable being on my bike.

Like I had said, I initially started running just to get back on my bike. A strange thing happened after about two and a half week, I discovered that I actually like trail running. I like it so much so that I will continue to mix it into my workout schedule when I'm light enough to be on my bike.

Phases of Fandom

Have I matured as a cycling fan? When I was a kid I was only interested in Olympic cycling. It's understandable because that's all was exposed to. Late in my college life I became a lot more interested in cycling in general, both as a sport and as entertainment. I was interested in things that were popular in the US, mainly le Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, Davis Phinney, Andy Hampsten, and Bobke.

I have slowly become interested in more races. Most of which were in late June or early July. Ok basically this meant the Tour and the Dauphine, not much progress. I definitely knew that there were other races but I didn't follow them. In fact the only one that I was really certain of was the Giro d'Italia, and all that I knew about that was that it was in May.

This year I have found myself being more interested in other races. I actually knew what weekend some of the classics were going on and on top of this I have actually been following the Giro. I'm getting interested in it to the point where I will watch an Italian only video feed since there is little to no live coverage in the US.

I will admit that I'm still not quite to the point where I go crazy catching all of the spring classics, nor am I drinking gin and playing trombones in the fall (cyclocross) but I'm getting there.

So to answer the question: Have I matured? The answer is definitely no, but I'm getting there.