Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review: Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail

When I decided that I want to through-hike The Wonderland Trail, I decided it would be good to learn as much as I could about it before attempting.  I know REI has many hiking and trail books, so I gave them a shot at locating such a book for my needs.  Oh, I know there are other books that cover The Wonderland Trail, but they only covered it in a few pages.  I wanted something more in depth.  I was looking for something that could excite my imagination and help me better prepare for this adventure.

I was able to find all that, and more in the book Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail: Encircling Mount Rainier, by Bette Filley.

The book itself covers many details from the history of the mountain to the first pioneers all the way to the present with detailed information about the hike, equipment you need, how to get there, how to obtain permits, etc.  Plus, there is a trail log, which takes you step by step through the trail from beginning to end.  The details are incredible.

One of the more useful pieces of information I found was on pages 38 and 39, where the author discusses trip planning.  Where you camp depends largely upon where you start and stop each day.  The author covers this well from an eight day trip all the way to two weeks.  Plus, there is information about wildlife, culture, unwritten rules of conduct, and a good section on first aid.

In my many adventures to Mount Rainier, I intend to hike portions of The Wonderland Trail to help me prepare and better familiarize myself with it.  This book will find its way into my hands many times, as it will not only serve as a guide, but also help me to keep the information fresh in my mind and up front, where it will need to be.

If you plan on through-hiking The Wonderland Trail, I would definitely suggest picking up this book.  I found it for $14.95 plus tax at REI in Tacoma, WA.

-James

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week 5

Welcome to Thanksgiving dinner.  I had to work pretty hard this week to keep myself from gaining anything.  Overall, I did pretty well, I think.  I reached my goal of breaking the 300 lb milestone and kept it off through Thanksgiving, which for many is nothing short of a small miracle.  Actually, self control isn't miraculous.  It's all about knowing what your goals are, and sticking to them.  But I must say that as far as weight loss goes, being able to eat mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, stuffing, dinner rolls, and olives beats the hell out of a fad diet any day!  Jeff and I made a plan and stuck to it!

On "Black Friday," while everyone else was cramming into the shopping centers, malls, and big box stores to buy shit they don't need with money they don't have, I went to the gym and pumped some iron for an hour.  It felt pretty good, and I am starting to notice some muscle definition in my arms, which is a good thing any day.

Today, it was moving day.  No, I'm not moving to a new house, but after painting the upstairs room in our house yesterday, I busted my butt to move furniture and boxes of books up and down the stairs because my wife decided to swap her office and the kid's bedroom.  I built up a decent sweat doing all that running up and down the stairs.  All in all, it was a busy weekend, and I'm hoping to wind down a little tomorrow and enjoy my last day off before a six day work week coming up.

The goal for next Saturday, weight-wise, is 297 lbs.  I won't be going to see Jeff this week because I'm going to work overtime all day Saturday.  After all, my kids need Christmas presents, and I don't believe in going into debt over such things.  But I digress...

So, instead of seeing Jeff next Saturday, I'll head over to his house either on the 10th or 11th of December.  From there, we will re-assess my progress.  I'm hoping that by the time I get to his house, I will be down to 295 lbs.

The next major milestone for me will be 289 lbs.  That is where I was at back in 2007 when I first realized that I needed to do something about my weight.  And nearly 4 years, and three epic fails later, it will feel good to vindicate myself by blowing that weight out of the water sometime in January and continuing the trend of losing more and more.



-James

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Hike To Rattlesnake Ridge

Jeff and I previously planned on a short hike up to Rattlesnake Ridge on Thanksgiving Day morning.  We had a few pretty good excuses to do so.  The gym was closed, we both had the day off, Jeff and his family were in town, and we felt like getting a late fall training hike in before snowshoe weather kicks in.

We came prepared for rain, but it seems that fortune smiled on us because we felt not a single drop the entire time, which was good.  Since my wife needed to get some things done around the house, I offered to take our daughter, which left her with just my son to wrangle in the morning, but as I predicted, he plugged himself into Thomas the Train and Angry Birds all morning.  

We got to the trail head just before 9am and found plenty of parking.  Only a couple cars were in the lot, so I found the spot closest to the trail head, and we prepped to go.  My 22 month old daughter got the best deal because I have a Kelty FC 3.0 Child Carrier backpack.  Since she wouldn't be walking on this trip, I bundled her up really well; she looked like a big pink [24lb] marshmallow.

The trail itself is rather short - just 1.9 miles up.  About 550 feet of elevation gain per mile is expected, but I think most of the elevation gain is accomplished in the last mile, so don't let the overall 1100 feet in 1.9 miles trick you.  Most of the trail is hiked in a beautifully gloomy forest interior with some fantastic views popping out here and there on the way up.  The trail is wide and very well maintained.  Kids in good shape would have no problem with this one.  The top offered the most splendid views of all.  We hiked to the first of three ledges.  Since the first ledge was the main one, that was the end of the hike.  

For me, carrying 24 lbs of exuberant toddler, plus her necessities, and of course the Ten Essentials, the packed felt a bit heavy (+-30lbs) on the way up.  My legs aren't what they used to be, but after the initial burn, I settled into the rest step and my respiration and walking got in tune with each other.  I'm glad I didn't hike in my snow parka; I opted for my lightweight rain jacket instead, which I shed about 1/4 the way up.  It wasn't raining, so why wear it?  Plus, the cool air was refreshing.

We met a few parties on the way up and on the way down.  This is a pretty popular hike, and even on Turkey Day, it was filling out, just like our bellies would later that evening.  Everyone was very friendly and appeared to be in really good spirits.  

At the top, we could barely see my truck at the trail head below.  It looked like a Micro Machine from our vantage point.  It's very rare that I get to see my vehicle parked at the beginning, so it was cool to see.  I didn't want to get too close to the edge with my daughter strapped to my back, and there was no place to set her down up on the rocky ledge.  Besides, my wife would kill me if we fell off, and my daughter would protest if I put her down.  I was more content to take in the view of the mountains around us and the view of Mt Si in the distance.  Maybe we'll hike that one some time in 2012.

Jeff and I noticed that on my map, and the map at the trail head, there was an additional trail that extended 8.3 miles past Rattlesnake Ridge, and ends up a couple exits west on I-90.  I suggested that sometime next year, it would be a good idea to do this hike again, but have someone drop us off at the Rattlesnake Ridge trail head and pick us up 10.1 miles to the west, after we hike the distance of Rattlesnake Mountain.  It would be a good way to gauge how long it could take us to hike the distances needed to get around the Wonderland Trail in 10 days.

All in all, it was a good hike to start off with, considering I haven't been out in a while.  Good hike, good sweat, and great views.  My daughter did really well too.  She fell fast asleep on the way home, and I was rejuvenated and ready for some scrumptious dinner.

At the Trail Head. Ready to go. 

Halfway up the trail. 

Found this little waterfall 3/4 up. 

We made it! Mt Si in the background. 

View to the SE from the top. 

 Mt Si in the distance. Notice the snow line.

After getting back down, we looked up to see where we came from. 

My main motivation for losing weight: My family. Wife and daughter in this pic. 

Wife and son in this picture.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

-James

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Ten Essentials

It seems that today is an appropriate time to talk about The Ten Essentials.  What are The Ten Essentials?  To most every experienced backpacker or hiker, The Ten Essentials are pretty basic.  In fact, if this were a college lesson in Backpaconomics, The Ten Essentials would be Hiker's Gear 101.  The items contained are the basics that you should carry on EVERY hiking and backpacking trip - not just on long expeditions.  How extravagant your Ten Essentials will be depends on your ability, personal taste, finances, etc.  I'll go through the list one by one and give my thoughts on what you can settle for as far as cost goes, but I'll also point out items you should not cheap out on because they may save your life out in the back country.  Come to think of it, all of these items can save your life, and you'd be surprised at how much they do get used, especially on overnighters and longer excursions.  So, before going any further, I'd advise that you buy, acquire, beg, or ask Santa for the best gear that your personal economy can afford.

Here's the list of The Ten Essentials: (Note, I modified it because water is essential, but wasn't on the NPS list)

01. A Map of the area
02. A compass.
03. A flashlight with extra batteries/bulb
04. Extra food.
05. Extra clothing (this includes rain gear)
06. Sunglasses and sunscreen.
07. A good pocketknife.
08. Matches in a waterproof container/ fire starter
09. Water
10. A first-aid kit.

Map of the area
Don't settle for a tourist guide or a cheesy hand drawn map of the place you will be hiking in.  In the event that something does happen, like you make a wrong turn, or lose your bearings, you will need a good map that can help you orientate yourself and figure out the fastest way to get out, get to safety, or to signal for help.  I've found that the Green Trail Maps are normally sufficient in most cases.  They offer some detailed topographic information, as well as all trails in the area.  A good 15 minute series (1:69500 scale) map will show 1 mile as approximately 1 inch on paper.  Get a paper map.  Get a map that is either waterproof and tear resistant, or get a plastic holder.  I use the green trail maps with a waterproof sleeve that I purchased at REI.  Always have your map available, either in the top pocket of your pack, or in a pocket you can get to.  Don't rely on GPS or electronic topographic map apps on your smart phone.  If something happens, and your phone's battery dies or the phone gets wet and doesn't work anymore, you're mapless.  Paper maps are inexpensive, and worth their weight in gold.  If you have topographic map software and can print on resistant paper, you can scale them as you like and the long term cost savings may be worth the extra price of paying for expensive software up front.

A Compass
More important than having a compass is the knowledge of how to use it.  Depending on your location, your compass most definitely will not point to true north.  It points to magnetic north.  Cheap compasses have no way to compensate for this, but a good compass will.  This is declination.  Without getting too detailed, declination is the difference between true north and magnetic north.  A good map will show you, in degrees and direction, the magnetic north difference from true north.  You can either do the math and make these adjustments in your head, or on paper, or you can spend a few extra dollars and get a compass that you can set and forget.  Just remember that declination changes depending on where you are at, so you need to calibrate your compass whenever you switch maps.  The compass I purchased is the Silva Ranger.  It has some go fast features that I find useful out in the woods.  You need not spend upwards of $50 for a compass, but whatever you buy, make sure it has a flat base plate with a ruler, and declination adjustment.  A sighting mirror helps greatly for getting your bearings because you can point your compass at an object in the distance and read your dial at the same time.  I'd also suggest getting a book that will teach you to use your compass.  A good book I'd recommend is Compass & Map Navigator, by Michael Hodgson.  It's not terribly expensive, and it is a good short read.  160 pages of information and good illustrations with practical navigation tips, tricks, and best practices.  It is also light enough that you can bring it with you to reference when you are on the trail.  If nothing else, it gives you something to read if you do become lost.

Flashlight
This is one place you should not cheap out at all.  The flashlight you bring could save your life if you find yourself out after dark with no natural moonlight to guide you.  Don't buy a cheap plastic piece of crap with a crappy bulb and reflector.  Spend some decent cash and get something with a LED.  Make the flashlight an aluminum one that is weather proof, and water resistant.  I've got two flashlight reviews from my other blog here and here.  These are benchmark flashlights, and yours should be similar to them.  Carry extra batteries for whatever flashlight you choose.  Do not saddle yourself with a giant flashlight.  Leave that in your car.

Extra Food
Your body uses a lot of energy out on the trail.  It is best to carry some extra food with you.  What you choose is your choice, but don't carry a bunch of junk food.  Take things like granola bars, a Clif Bar or two, stuff with carbs, calories, etc.  Bring along some beef jerky because the protein in them helps repair the damage to your muscles.  Bring nuts because the natural fats are good for you out there.  Jeff posted an entry on food elsewhere in this blog.  Read it and pay attention!

Sunglasses and Sunscreen
Cloudy? Overcast? No sun in sight?  You still need sunglasses and sunscreen.  If you've ever climbed a glacier before, you'll be happy you brought these two items with you.  I've had to deal with sunburned nostrils, ears, and even eyeballs because I've forgotten these items in the past.  Being burned by the sun's reflection off snow is worse than being burned by the sun itself!  Some SPF 30 should do the trick.  I'd opt for good sunglasses with polarized lenses to keep your eyeballs happy.  Remember to apply sunscreen to, among other places, the bottom of your nose and even inside your ears.  If you ever have to cross a snowfield or spend some time on a glacier, you will thank me.

A Good Pocketknife
Notice how I used the word "good" in that description.  Don't use a cheap knife that you can get for $5.00 at the gas station.  Invest in a really good pocket knife.  You don't need a do all, everything but the kitchen sink, type of Swiss army knife, but something with a few functions is nice.  Also, if you are going on a long trip, leave the 8 ounce Leatherman at home.  Instead, bring a 2.5 ounce Swiss army knife.  The Victorinox Fieldmaster is a great option, for under $40.  Don't buy a pocket knife with a cork screw tool.  Unless you plan on uncorking a bottle of champagne when you get to your destination, it is not needed.

Matches in a waterproof cases/fire starter
If you were paying attention to the NPS list, you'll see that I've consolidated these items together.  I don't feel that matches and a fire starter need to be separate line items.  Your fire making kit should contain these items. Get a good case that will keep your matches dry.  Better yet, dip the heads of your matches in wax so they they stay good, even in a driving rain.  Even better still, buy waterproof matches.  A good container will have a sealing o-ring or rubber gasket to keep the elements out.  It need not be expensive.  Mine even has a whistle.  For fire starters, use your imagination.  Some sawdust in melted paraffin wax, a candle, dryer lint, tinder you can buy, will all work.  I've even used steel wool and a 9volt battery to start a fire.

Water
The body needs water to survive.  Once your heart starts to really pump the blood, and your legs feel the burn, you'll soon want water.  Don't drink water once you become thirsty.  You are already dehydrated at that point.  Take sips often.  I use a camelback hydration bladder in my pack.  It has a straw that goes up the backpack strap with a bite valve so I can sip water without stopping to take a drink.  Remember that on longer hikes, a 15 minute break every few miles is a good idea to help flush toxins out of your muscles and rejuvenate yourself.  Don't wait too long though.  Your muscles will tighten up and be useless if you wait around a long time.  Don't forget electrolytes!  You cannot rehydrate fast enough without them!  Bring powdered energy drinks like Crystal Lite or Gatorade, if you can find it in powder form.  Keep a 1/2 liter water bottle handy because one packet of Crystal Lite will treat 1/2 liter, or 16.9 ounces.  Make sure it is electrolyte stuff - not just flavoring.  Also, read my other blog regarding water.

First Aid Kit
Last but certainly not least is a first aid kit.  Rendering first aid effectively can save a life.  I'm not going to write too much because I've said it before here: First aid

Below is a list of the things I have in my light and fast first aid kit. Note, this kit is my personal kit for backpacking. It's not a kit designed for anyone else to use because I have tailor-made this kit to my specifications. Yours may be different, but this will get you pointed in the right direction:

10 adhesive bandages (regular band-aids)
2 adhesive pads, 3"x3"
3 sterile gauze pads, 3"x3"
4 butterfly bandages
1 roll of adhesive medical tape
1 roll of cohesive bandage wrap (better than elastic)
1 moleskin pad, 3"x6"
1 small bar of soap or small pack of cleansing (alcohol) pads
1 tube of antiseptic (I used Neosporin w/ pain reliever)
3 small packets of basic first aid creme
3 small packets of burn gel
1 pair of Scissors
2 pairs of non-latex gloves
1 mouth/protection barrier for CPR
1 pencil and paper
1 small baggy of medications I take
Iodine and neutralizer tablets (for treating questionable water)


To conclude, The Ten Essentials really are essential to your wilderness survival.  Don't become complacent just because you know the area, or the hike isn't too long, or it's popular, etc.  These items should be in your pack, ready to go on your next adventure, and you should give it not a seconds thought as if you should take them.  If you are heading out to the back country for a week, or a day, or even a few hours, it is sound practice to carry these items.  As has been said by others, when it comes to backpacking and hiking, there is good weight and bad weight.  No one will ever fault you for carrying the items above.  It is good weight.

-James

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

300!

When I made my video update, I was sitting happily at about 302 lbs, but that was on Sunday.  This morning, I awoke and did my usual morning routine of dumping all my waste and hiking back up the stairs to my scale.  What I found this morning blew my mind away.  Somehow, between Sunday and today, I left 300 lbs in the dust.

I have been working out like a mad man all week... well on Monday at least.  I didn't even work out on Sunday; it's my rest day.  But on Monday, I was pulling, rolling, and moving big 50 foot rolls of 0000 cable (which weighs +-50 lbs) at work.  That's probably where the extra calories were burned off on top of my usual Monday night workout, which I switched up this week anyhow.  Normally, I'm supposed to walk on the treadmill at about 3.8 mph, but I spent 30 minutes - or 3 miles - on the elliptical machine and then 25 minutes on the treadmill.  Between the two, I ran and walked about 4 1/2 miles, burning off well over 850 calories.

Now, I need to breathe a little.  Jeff called me up to congratulate me on the weight loss so far; 17 lbs today!  However, Jeff also expressed concern that if I drop weight too fast, I might burn off lean muscle, and we don't want that.  Luckily, Jeff told me that on days were I work my butt off at my job, come home, go to the gym and workout, to have a snack.  He also advised that a bigger dinner one night a week will help keep the weight loss to 2 lb per week.  This should help infuse my body with the fuel needed to burn off the excess fat I'm carrying around and not the precious lean body mass that I have, which is considerable.  Think of it as a relief valve.  When the pressure in a vessel gets too great, the relief valve opens to "relieve" the pressure to keep the vessel at safe limits.  Taking on a few extra calories to give me something, besides lean body mass, to burn will help keep me strong and dropping the weight at a controlled and healthy rate.  However, I'm sure I'll start to lose weight more slowly as my overall weight decreases.  But in the meantime, I'm going to keep the calorie intake up a little, just to stay on track.  I have no problem with that anyway.

Jeff and I agreed that one night a week to have small dessert is okay too.  Well, this week's dessert night will definitely be Thanksgiving.  But before that, I have one more workout and a training hike to get through.  And then it is on to turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, greens, and good ole pumpkin pie!

Here's to keeping the momentum up!

-James

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Week 4

This last week, I made a concerted effort to hit the gym hard and [literally] work my ass off.  Well, actually my gut is the part that seems to be disappearing.  My goal for this week was to break 304 lbs, but with a lot of extra effort, not to mention disciplining my eating habits, I was able to shave another full pound off my body and get to 303 lbs.  The scale doesn't lie!

I'm very pleased with myself for this.  Not only am I one extra pound ahead of schedule, but it is a testament to the fact that the lifestyle change I have made for myself is working.  I'm also pleased that Jeff's prescribed workout routine has worked well for me so far.  Dropping weight like this is pretty difficult.  Don't let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.  So to see my efforts, and Jeff's persistence, paying off really makes me happy.

I went over to Jeff's house yesterday.  We spent a couple hours doing some strength testing, which was really hard.  Jeff pushed me to the max, and it was fun to work out in his company.  We talked about various types of workouts and so forth, and I really like Jeff's approach to physical fitness.  He focuses on core strengthening as well as good cardio and healthy weight loss.  He also places a great deal of emphasis on safety.  He takes safety very personally, and I'm glad because I have had a back injury before.  Work out the wrong way, and I could really screw something up.  But Jeff makes a considerable effort to minimize stressing my old injury out.  This is not something your average run-of-the-mill personal trainer at Bally's would even really consider.  I would know because I used a PT a couple years ago, and she did not seem to either understand, nor empathize with my personal needs.  She just wanted to see results, seemingly, no matter what the cost.  Jeff is not like that at all.  He truly cares.

After some strength training, and a good cardio exercise, we sat down to a very well-prepared dinner of chicken fried rice, which Jeff made.  By the way Jeff, I really want that recipe.  Wink wink!  After letting all that goodness settle in our stomachs, we headed to the CWU university pool for some fun.  This pool has two diving boards.  One is a normal board, and the other is a 3 meter high dive.  The latter of the two was the main attraction for us.  We used to come to this pool when we were little kids with my dad many years ago.  We loved the high dive as children, and it turns out that we both love it as fully grown adults, not much younger than Dad was when he attended The University.  We had fun playing various games of trying to hit the bottom of the pool, making giant cannon-ball splashes, flips, dives, and a few errant belly flops.  We raced from one end of the pool to the other, and tried as hard as we could to get the bends by swimming to the bottom of the pool and racing back to the top.  All in all, it was two hours of healthy bonding by us brothers.

As dieting and exercise go, this week will feature more of the same, but with an added twist.  Thanksgiving is on Thursday.  While I have many things to be thankful for, the potential for blowing my diet to hell is not one of them.  I am going to be extremely careful not to indulge myself too much this year.  Traditionally, it has always been a gorge-fest to see how much food I can cram down my throat to ensure that I can't walk for the next few hours.  This year will be much different.  Instead of going whole hog, I'm going to moderate and keep my intake to reasonable levels.  To be completely honest, I don't think my body would want to overindulge at this point because I'm becoming accustomed to keeping my intake low.

Jeff and I hatched a plan to help this process out.  We will be refereeing each other to make sure nobody eats too much.  In addition, we are going on our very first training hike to Rattlesnake Ridge, in North Bend.  Jeff says it is pretty demanding but worth it.  Besides, with all the extra calories burned, we might just come out of Thanksgiving dinner ahead.

My personal goal is to break into the 300 lb range this week.  It will be tough to do, especially with the awesome food that awaits me on Thursday, but I think it is a goal worth the extra effort to shoot for.  I have noticed that setting small, quickly achievable goals (not necessarily easy ones) throughout the program makes it easy to keep taking all those small steps to a better me.  With the end goal in mind, I like to set smaller goals along the way to help me stay the course, if you will.  Hopefully, I'll come out of this week weighing 300 lbs or less, and I will have a milestone update if I do.

So, for now, I leave you with another video update.  It's not much.  Just four minutes of me saying some stuff about this week and the upcoming one.  But I'm starting to notice that my face is thinning out a bit.  Can't complain about that!



-James

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nutrition: What We Will Need to Carry With Us and Why

You may have recently read a post written by James regarding the gear we will need for the hike.  I'm writing today regarding probably the most important piece of equipment we will need to carry with us each day on the hike:  ENERGY.

Let's break it down into its simplest components.  Carbohydrates (e.g. glucose) provide an immediate source of fuel for any physical activity.  Your muscle metabolism cannot begin without it.  From there, after a sustained period of time (5 minutes or so), the body begins to utilize fat stores for energy.  However, like a gas engine that needs an electric spark to turn fuel into energy, fat needs carbohydrates in order to be utilized.  Hence the adage, "Fat burns in the flames of carbohydrates."  

When you run out of carbohydrates for fuel (and you can), you're basically done, exactly like a marathon runner who "hits the wall."  This is a very bad thing to have happen when you're in the wilderness, which is why it is important to have a nutritional plan specifically designed for the hike.  Now, keep in mind, what I am covering in this entry is not the food that we have once we reach our drop off sites, but the available nutrition en route.  I will touch a bit on the food necessary to have at our drop off sites.

The food we need to carry must be light weight.  This means that we need to choose energy (particularly carbohydrate) dense foods.  It needs to have an adequate source of calories, mostly from carbohydrates, while also being a) light weight, b) easy to eat while hiking, and c) easy to digest while hiking.  Digestion is important because while hiking, much of our blood flow will be shunted away from our GI tracts and instead sent to the working muscles, namely those in the legs and core.  It's not going to be particularly easy to digest complex carbs or fats and proteins; simple carbs are a lot easier to digest.  The physical characteristics of the food is also important.  Next to Gatorade, carbohydrate gels are probably the easiest form of energy to digest.  Simple to eat foods like power bars, granola bars, cliff bars, etc. will be more difficult for the body to absorb with reduced blood flow to the digestive organs, but they will also be suitable forms of mid-hike nutrition as they are comprised of mostly simple carbohydrates.

Hydration is also very important.  Gatorade would be the ideal form of liquid to be consumed while hiking.  Not only do you get the hydration from the liquid content, but you also get carbohydrates or energy and you get electrolytes, which will help neural activity, muscle contraction, and various other parts of the internal physiological environment.  It is important to replace electrolytes because they will be present in our sweat and the nervous system needs continuous replenishment of these things, especially with the demanding activity ahead of us.

When we get to our drop of sites we need to make sure we have plenty of water to more than replace all that was lost from the day's hike, and we need to have food that is a good source of protein (VERY IMPORTANT) and moderate amounts of fat.  The protein is necessary so that while we sleep, the amino acids we get from the protein we eat will help to repair the body and carryout various biological functions in order to recover from the previous day and to prepare for the next.  We need to eat some fat to help replenish the fat stores used during the hike.  Not to get too specific, this does not mean eating lots of saturated fat; rather, heart healthy fats, mono-and poly-triglycerides found in nuts and various plant and fish oils.

As the time gets closer, I will devise a specific nutrition plan based on our bodily needs at that time.  That will include the weight we are at as the hike gets near.  We will have to train our bodies to use the same type of fuel we will have on the hike, so over the summer we will have to practice hiking with the same energy sources we will use, and modify the nutritional plan as necessary to suit our preferences and tastes.  Until then and otherwise stated, this entry serves as the basis for our nutritional needs for the hike.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Paring Down

Last night, I was upstairs reading my book, Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail, by Bette Filley, by flashlight no less.  I had just gotten to the part where the author was writing about the good ole 10 essentials and all the other gear needed for the journey.  I then realized that even though I've been accumulating gear all my life, and have been using it in the field on many back country excursions, I've never hiked 93 miles in 10 days.  It then occurred to me that as long as I'm on a diet, I need to put my gear on a strict diet as well.  You'd be amazed at just how heavy things tend to feel when you have miles and miles of back country trail under your feet.  Everything, from pack size and weight to the size and weight of your headlamp, become important as the miles and elevation drag on.

I remember a couple years ago, I hiked into the South Mowich River camp from the trail head on route 165, a dirt road leading to Mowich Lake.  Arriving late in the day, as we always seemed to do back then, we hiked into the night with nothing but the light provided by our headlamps to guide us (I love hiking at night).  The trail was full of switch backs and we stitched our way down the south facing side of Paul Peak.  Since I had the most accurate map of the area, a compass, and the best sense of direction in this convoluted confusing mess of a trail that changed direction every 50 feet, I took the lead.  Of our group of 10-12 hikers, I was out in front, well after dark.  The temperature was fast dropping, and the only guiding light I had to go by was the fierce illumination provided by my headlamp, piercing into the darkness.  At least it was dry.  Occasionally, I'd look back and up to see our Boy Scout Troop, their headlamps bobbing along as they made their way down the trail after me.  As I walked down, I counted each switch back, so I would know how many I'd face on the return trip.  It took us a couple hours, but we all made it safely to the South Mowich River camp, not too far from the base of Paul Peak.  Nobody had suffered any injuries and everyone was in high spirits that night.

It wasn't until the next morning that the reality of the situation struck everyone in the party.  I awoke, in my tent, to the sound of rain.  The distinct sound the rain droplets make as they splash against the rainfly is unmistakable.  As I dressed myself, I could not think about anything except the fact that my rain soaked gear was going to be very heavy, and we had a long day of hoofing it back up Paul Peak, an elevation gain of about 750 feet in just under a half mile.  Fortunately, I was able to shake most of the water off my tent before rolling it back into its stuff-sack and stowing it away in my backpack, which I had [thankfully] taken the precaution of covering with a contractor's garbage bag before calling it a night.  However, not all of the campers in my crew did the same.  Most of them waited until they had eaten breakfast before breaking camp.  Unfortunately, for them, it was raining a lot harder, and their unprotected packs lay out getting soaking wet (and very heavy).  Well, you can explain and demonstrate how to protect your gear all you want to a bunch of intrepid teenage youth, but you can't understand it for them.  They needed to learn their lesson the hard way, I suppose.

But the lesson wasn't to be learned by just them.  Apparently, in all my experience in the backwoods, nature, it seems, had a lesson in mind for me as well.  I was about 1 mile into the hike, and was really starting to feel the effects of misery, as I sweltered in my rain jacket.  I hadn't even started my ascent up the mountain yet, and I was hotter than hell inside my humid shell.  Damned poly rain jackets anyway.  "Next time, I'm going to wear something made of Gore Tex", I told myself.  Did I mention this was in the month of October?  It was colder than a witch's tit, but somehow I found a way to dramatically overheat my body.  Go figure.  On top of that, my feet were wet and cold.  The irony is so glaring because my boots were waterproof, but neither my pants or my socks were.  The wicking action of my wool socks pulled moisture from my waterlogged pants and sent it, like a sponge, right to my feet.  So much for waterproof boots!  "Next time, I'll wear rain pants and gaiters," I thought to myself.  But the rain wasn't the main thing on my mind as I trudged my way up the mountain, counting backwards as I reached every switchback.

With every step upward, and no hope of flat ground in sight, my pack, my clothes, and my water really started to weigh on me.  Being as I didn't have the money to afford a water filter back then, I opted to carry all the water I'd need.  Being an overnighter, that was about a gallon and a half of water.  I also started thinking about other things like my cook pots, utensils, knife, flashlight, extra batteries, first aid kit, and even the bug spray.  Heck, it was the middle of October, in a driving rain, and I brought bug spray (Insert rolling eyes here)!  I began to wonder about the wisdom of bringing so many socks with me, extra gloves (I didn't need them), and extra food (just in case one of the Boy Scouts came up short - they always seemed to).  I had no choice but to bring my car key, but did I need all the other keys to my house with them?  My ID and trail permit could have just as easily been stowed in a plastic 1/2 oz carrier; why did I bring my entire wallet with all my credit and debit cards?  Furthermore, why did I need to bring a handheld flashlight when I had my headlamp?  And why in the hell did I think I needed an additional 8 CR123 batteries for an overnight trip when I didn't even use the damned flashlight to begin with?  Ironically, I brought only 3 extra AAA batteries to power my headlamp, and it was used all night without failure.  It occurred to me that I was carrying a lot of extra weight that need not be there.  On an overnighter into the back country, my pack was in excess of 40 lbs!  No wonder I was so damned hot inside my rain jacket!

So why talk about all this now?  The journey isn't for another 2 years!  Because it takes time to save, accumulate, buy, and beg Santa Claus for the appropriate gear for an adventure like this!  Good preparation now will pay dividends on the hike, and will help make the journey a wonderful experience.  Plus, with all the training hikes Jeff and I plan on doing in 2012, it's a good idea to buy that gear in time to use it, abuse, it and either take it with us or throw it away.

A few years back, I was able to save, and buy a great little backpacking tent, the Kelty Grand Mesa 2.  I love this little tent.  It is extremely easy to set up, has a very narrow footprint, and sleeps me and my gear comfortably and dry.

The only problem with a tent this size, and at this price point, is that it is somewhat on the heavy side.  After buying a tent footprint, the packed weight of this little guy was over 5 lbs.  After many trips with this tent, I had ditched the stakes the came with it in favor of lighter ones and less of them.

Consequently, I have reduced the weight of this tent back to the original specs, but haven't regretted it.  I've seen some of those fancy technical tents in use, that require trekking poles to set up, or that use one long aluminum pole, and they are great, but don't seem as durable as my shelter.  I think I've pretty much grown out of the whole tarp shelter thing too.  My tent keeps the elements off me, the bugs out, and the warmth inside.  Seriously, I've awakened on a many a freezing cold morning and the temperature inside my tent was just bearable.  There are some trade offs, and weight is one of them, but being as this is my home away from home, I'll take the hit and lose the weight somewhere else.

My pack is another thing altogether.  It is the Osprey Aether 70.  It is ideally suited to long trips in the back country due to its large carrying capacity.  It is rated to carry 60 or so lbs, but I'd never load it to that extreme.  Even during a snow caving trip, I'd only get it to 40 lbs, and that's simply because you need a lot more clothing to withstand  extremely cold environments.

Just because my pack can carry all that extra weight does not mean that I want to carry it.  The pack itself is about 5 lbs, 2 oz.  There's really nothing I can do about that.  These packs are expensive in this configuration.  I can only imagine how expensive a super light pack would be.  Besides, if I was doing a thru-hike of the Wonderland Trail in 3 days, I'd have a lot less food than I will need for 10 days.  3 meals a day over 10 days is 30 meals.  If you have a smaller, lighter pack, where are you going to put your food?  A food cache at Sunrise will be a necessity, but even with that, you still need 10-15 meals on board.

No, these two items are things I already have, and they are so important that I can't compromise weight and integrity here.  Where I need to really reduce weight is in all the ancillary gear that I will be carrying or wearing.  I think this is where the real difference will be made.  Granted, I will be in good shape, but just because you can carry a butt-load of heavy gear doesn't mean you should.

What about water?  Well, fortunately, Mt Rainier has tons of it.  It just has to be filtered.  So, instead of carrying a gallon of water around, I'm going to invest in a good water filter.  That way, I save weight and bulk from not carrying a bunch of water around.  They don't make lighter water, and it certainly doesn't compress, so the ability to pull it safely out of a mountain stream will save a ton of weight right off the bat.

As for lighting, I still believe that more than 1 light source is essential.  The logic is simple.  If one light fails, I'll need a reserve.  My Princeton Tech EOS headlamp is durable, but 10 days in the woods, rucking that thing around, could damage it.  It could be damaged by anything.  I'm not making the mistake of bringing out a big handheld again, so this time I have a 4Sevens Quark Mini123, which weighs just over an ounce with its battery, and is a hair over 2 inches long!  Wow!  It will be tested on the many training hikes I intend to get myself into.

Now, rather than going down the list of uber light and uber small things I intend to buy or remove, I want to use the previous things as examples of the logic behind all this.  Size and weight limitations are going to be vital to an enjoyable journey through some of the most beautiful country in the world.  As well as limiting my intake, I need to limit the amount of gear that will be stuffed into my backpack.  As for paring everything down, the focus will first be on the 10-essentials.  Then the accumulation, and [ruthless] elimination of certain pieces of gear will be the focus.  Through all this, I will use the gear and determine what I need, what I can live without, what is quality, and what is junk.

This is a very fun part of the backpacking experience.  Finding what works and what doesn't is just as fun as the adventure itself.  But I won't forget that the main goal is still weight loss and physical fitness.  Without it, all of this gear will be useless.

-James

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Week 3

This last week, I spent more than 9 total hours at the gym.  That's more gym time than all of 2010 combined!  Not a bad start for me.  Monday, I hit the gym with the intention of walking 3 miles on the treadmill a shade under 4mph.  I have to tell you, for someone who is as out of shape as I am, the first 3 minutes of that walk were probably the hardest of the entire week.  My legs just were not used to walking that fast that far without a break.  However, after about 15 minutes of it, the intense burning seemed to go away and I was able to finish the walk.

Each day afterward has had its challenges and rewards, as I begin my journey to get into the best shape of my life.  I'm on a mission to succeed.  I have to be in the best shape of my life to make the trek around Mt Rainier in 10 days.

So far, I've followed Jeff's exercise prescription pretty closely.  the only deviations I have made were trading some treadmill time for the elliptical for Friday's workout.  No big deal, however.  Jeff knew I wanted to run in the hamster wheel a bit, so he provided instructions for heart rate and stuff.  I have to say that it feels good to get my body moving again.

This whole experience is giving me the vigor to do other things as well.  Some projects that have fallen flat are starting to be worked on again.  I'm finding that I'm spending less time with a TV remote in my hand and more time with a wrench or hammer.  I'm going to bed earlier and waking up earlier.  These workouts really do wear me out, but seem to energize me in so many ways.  Even sex seems easier!

My wife commented that she has noticed I'm controlling my food intake better, than I'm practicing better portion control and keeping track of what I'm eating as well as how much of it.  Well, you would too if you didn't want your daily encounter with the gym to go to waste!  My wife seems happy with the progress I'm starting to make.  To be honest, I'm happy as well.  I noticed, today, that my gut is no longer hanging out below my belt.  I've still got my gut (of course), but it seems to have receded enough that it is level with the top of my belt, and I can see the buckle when I look in the mirror; just two weeks ago, I would have had to lift my fat up to see it.

I made a concerted effort to not eat out at work at all this week.  Each morning, I got up early enough to put together a healthy lunch and a good breakfast.  I have found that eating light and simply grazing on my lunch throughout the morning into the afternoon has helped me immensely.  My wife has also enjoyed the fact that I've been putting dinner together this last week as well.  The best way to know how many calories your dinner has is to make it yourself and read the labels on everything.  You'd be amazed at how many calories are in some foods and just how few are in others.  Armed with this information, I can figure out exactly how much food to put on my plate and stick to it.  It's also nice to not eat so much that you can barely move.

This week, I drove my weight down another 2 lbs to 306.  That's 2 lbs less than last week and and overall loss of 10 lbs.  Next week, I plan to be around 304 lbs, continuing on my 2 lb per week weight loss goals.  The scale has been my best friend, and worst enemy all week.  Monitoring fluctuations with such a small amount of weight to lose each week can get really old, but seeing that overall loss is rewarding.

Tomorrow, I get to rest from all the exercise and then start it back up again on Monday.  I intend to keep the momentum going.



-James

Friday, November 11, 2011

After the first week of exercise...

I'd like to congratulate James on a successful first week of the exercise program!  From last week's assessment he is down 2 pounds, which is where we wanted to be at this time.  He has another 2 pounds to go until next Friday when we go to the pool.

Keep up the good work, James!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week 2

Last week, I posted the introductory portion of my video updates.  Today is week 2, and an update.  This week starts the first in a 22 month program of exercise that will help me reach my goal to lose weight, get into good shape, and to make the trek around Mt Rainier.

This weekend, I drove over to meet Jeff and take an exercise test to determine, among other things, my aerobic fitness.  The test is straight forward.  Basically, it involves a series of blood pressure checks while at rest and while exercising.  Coupled with reading my heart rate and increasing levels of difficulty on the treadmill, Jeff was essentially able to determine how efficiently my body was working.  Since I'm a lay man, I'll put it lay man's terms; I'm out of shape.  Duh!  I knew that.  But the important thing is that Jeff got all the numbers he needed custom tailor my exercise program to my unique needs.  I'm digging that.

Jeff worked out an exercise routine that he wants me to follow with the utmost strictness.  The first few weeks are pretty straight forward and are rather easy to do.  Importantly so, they seem designed to get my into the routine and work on my form rather than focusing on how much I can "max out."  Further along, the difficulty, duration, and amount of days to work out increase steadily.  Jeff's goal is to have me losing 2 lbs per week until my next assessment in late January, by which time I should be down to 287 lbs.  Today, I'm at 308.  I have some work to do!  For more about the technical aspect of it, check out Jeff's entry, titled "The How and Why."  He explains all of this more eloquently than I can.

Most importantly, for me, is that Jeff's program provides a rigid structure.  I'm very structurally oriented, and if I don't have a plan, or structure, to follow, I tend to fall short.  Providing a schedule for me to follow allows me to stay on track.  It also keeps me accountable for my actions.  Don't do too little, and don't do too much.  Stay on track!

Last week, I stopped eating fast food, drinking soda and sugar-laden drinks.  I switched over to more water and flavored water by using Crystal Lite.  It tastes a little funny at first, but I assure you, you get used to it and it actually starts to taste sweeter the more you drink it, and the more you lay off other sweet things like candy and pop.  It's amazing just how much more flavorful good food actually tastes when you stop eating crap.

I also inadvertently kicked caffeine in just 2 days!  Whoa!  Last time I tried to kick caffeine, it took me two weeks!  I guess I had not been consuming as much caffeine since the last time I tried.  However, it was nice to kick that habit in a short period of time because I think that was the number one reason I was drinking soda... since I hate coffee.

I've dropped my caloric intake naturally as well.  Since I'm not loading up on 1200 calories for breakfast (don't miss those McMuffins at all) everyday, the amount of food I've been able to eat has actually increased while decreasing the amount of fat and calories that are entering my body.  If you look at how many calories and fat are in a couple of Sausage McMuffins with egg, and a deep fried hash brown, you'd be amazed at just how so little food can make you so fat!  It's also amazing at how unsatisfying a meal (if you can call it that) really is.  Eat a breakfast meal at McDonald's and feel hungry an hour later; that's truly amazing!  On the other hand, all I had for breakfast today was an English Muffin and some strawberry jam, worth about 360 calories.  While I'm thinking about lunch, I had that meal over 4 hours ago, and am thinking about eating in an hour just for the sake of eating lunch; and my kids still need to get fed.  This week, along with exercise, I plan to brown bag it everyday for work.  I've found a nice turkey cold cut from Costco that I really like, and it makes a good sandwich.  Of course, who can argue with turkey?  I can't!

As promised, along with this entry, I have included a much shorter video (sorry if the first one ran long).  This video is only a few minutes.  Enjoy!



-James

The How and Why

Disclaimer:  You may find that I am revealing some personal information regarding his weight loss and other things that affect his exercise program.  This is not normally what I would do as a trainer, being as this information is both private and confidential.  However, James wishes that I post his progress to this blog as a measure of accountability and I have been authorized to reveal this information.


Hello, I am James' brother Jeff Wood, and I am going to be making periodic updates to this blog as well.  A little background, I am an exercise physiologist and personal trainer, graduating with a degree in Clinical Physiology from Central Washington University.  I currently hold three certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine, which are the Certified Health Fitness Specialist, Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer, and Certified Personal Trainer.  I am uniquely qualified to write on the subject of weight loss, especially in amounts greater than 100lbs, because I have done it myself.  I have personally lost 125lbs and I understand intimately the challenges and the great work involved with such a feat.

James is certainly off to a good start now.  After kicking soda pop and fast food this week, he has seen a dramatic loss from 316lbs to 308.7lbs.  It is typical in the beginning of a weight loss program for someone with a lot of excess weight to drop the first several pounds rather quickly.  However, after the first couple weeks we are going to stabilize into a loss of 2 pounds per week.  His current body fat percentage is 34.7%.  By January 21, 2011, which is in 11 weeks, we expect to seem him down to 287lbs and 29.7% body fat.  This is a loss of about 22 pounds.  For now, two weeks from this date when I reassess him I want to see him down to 304lbs.  In the long term, I want to see him get down to 12% body fat which, if he maintains his lean body mass through the resistance training program I have given him, he will come in at about 229 pounds.  Not bad for a man who is 6'2" with a lean body mass of about 202lbs.

Why are we sticking with a 2 pound per week weight loss?  Why not more?  There can be serious consequences to rapid weight loss.  The first thing, which is the most common, is that out of everyone who loses weight rapidly, 98-99% will regain the weight and then some. If a person goes on a "crash diet" and they lose a bunch of weight, but they never take the time (yes, it requires time, practice, and hard work) to change the behaviors that lead them to their obesity in the first place, then it does them no good to lose the weight because they're going to put it back on anyways.  Other consequences to rapid weight loss include electrolyte imbalances that lead to cardiac dysrhythmias, a greater loss of lean muscle mass leading to an overall decline in resting metabolic rate (how many calories you burn in a day at rest) which will make any future weight loss terribly difficult, and they may even suffer from gall stones.

Inappropriate weight loss methods include fad diets, the use of weight loss supplements, using diets that restrict certain food groups (such as low carb diet, which is dumb, or low fat diet, etc), using exercise programs that only require 5 minutes of exercise per day, "sweating off the pounds," starvation diets, liquid diets not under medical supervision, or diets that require megadosing of vitamin and mineral supplements.  Rapid weight loss, as I said earlier, most often leads to a reduction in lean muscle mass and significant dehydration.

Now, aside from the "why" about the rate of weight loss, I am going to focus now on his fitness results.  On Friday, November 4, 2011 I performed an exercise test on James on a treadmill.  The test was to determine his aerobic fitness which would then allow me to design an appropriate exercise program for him.  His maximal aerobic fitness, which is the maximum volume of oxygen per kilogram of body weight consumed per minute, which I will refer to as VO2 Max, the units being mL/kg/min, I have found to be 30.97 mL/kg/min.  This is quite low.  In one year, with reassessments every 4 months, I will test his VO2 Max again and I hope to see results past 42 mL/kg/min.  Soon before the hike, in August 2013, I will test his VO2 Max yet again.

Having a higher VO2 Max is important for the hike.  Being able to consume more oxygen and generate more energy is going to be absolutely essential for his ability to even perform the hike.  There is no way I plan to go on this 93 mile hike with him having to drag his sorry butt around Mt. Rainier because he is out of breath and unable to move forward on the task we have set for ourselves.  I take rest stops for my wife when she and I go hiking because she is not as fit as I am; however, James is not my wife and I expect him to have the stamina and the fitness to keep up with me.  Improving his aerobic fitness and increasing his VO2 Max will do just that.

I've set a goal of hiking the wonderland trail in no more than 10 whole days.  This equates to 9.3 miles per day.  With the rigors of the terrain, it is going to be a tough hike for anyone.  To motivate him, I promised him that if he is at his goal weight and body composition and he is able to perform the hike in no more than 10 days, I will give him $1000.  Perhaps I should change that; I'll give him a nice little home gym complete with a bench, all the dumbbells he could need, and some other toys.  If he fails in any respect, I get to keep the money.

He is not going to fail though, not if I have anything to say about it.  I have started him off on a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise program, and when I assess his muscular strength and endurance soon, he will have a resistance training program to gain 10 pounds of lean muscle and then maintain it.  So far, I have given him an 8 week periodized program to increase his general fitness.  It is just the first part of a 22 month periodized exercise program which will bring him to peak performance by the time we have set for the hike.  A lot of science is going into his exercise prescription; no copy and paste I found it in Muscle Magazine programs here.  No, his program is individualized for him, based on assessments I perform on him, which is why he will see results.

James, in 2 weeks when we go swimming and jumping off that high dive, I expect you to be at 304lbs.  if you weigh more than that we are trading the swimming pool for the outdoor track in subfreezing temperatures.  Good luck broski.