Saturday, August 4, 2012

Week 41

Week 41 brings with it some really good progress in my effort to jump start my weight loss program.  Since signing up for a new gym membership on the 24th of July, I have lost 5 lbs, going from 258 lbs down to 253. I'm just 5 lbs shy of my lowest recorded weight on this program.  I'm feeling good about the results.  Right now, I'm playing catch up, so I've been giving it hell on cardio workouts, trying to melt the fat away.  I'm happy about the results so far.

In just 6 days, I'll finally get to see my family again.  I'm excited to see my wife and babies, as well as my dog.  It has felt like a very long time.  While I'm working during the week, it's not so bad because I stay busy enough not to think about them.  It's the weekends that really kill me.  Without anything that needs to be done, I find myself with a lot of thoughts that go to them, and it tends to make me feel lonely, despite the fact that I can always FaceTime with them on my iPhone.  I've been doing my best to keep my mind occupied with other things, but even I run out of things to think about.  Yes, I just wrote that.  I know it's hard to believe.  Seems I can talk about anything.  But after this week, it'll all be over.  I've set up a four-day weekend for myself next week.  I'm going bring them down.  As of right now, I'm counting down the days.

As for any other meaningful updates, I don't really have any.  I'm just doing what I'm doing and feeling better about myself.  Until next week then.

-James

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Week 40


Before I begin this entry, I am going to make a format change.  I am not going to do weekly update videos anymore, as they take a very long time to produce, and I just don't have that kind of time anymore.  With my busy job, I find myself with only 48 precious hours on the weekend to take care of personal business.  When my family finally comes down to live with me, in a couple of weeks, I'll have even less time to do them,  I think I will do monthly update videos instead because although I'm busy I think I can find at least some hours once a month to put something together.

Okay, that being said, I want to start this update entry by saying that I miss my family.  I have been away from them for about 2 months now, and I'm counting down the days and hours until I can see them again, which will be August 9th.  I especially miss my wife.  This is the longest we've been apart in over eight years, and believe me when I say it royally sucks to be separated for this long.  I have a new found respect for our service men and women because they go for far longer without seeing their spouses, kids, and pets.

I just didn't know how integral my wife was to this weight loss program until I left for Utah a couple months back.  I thought that I'd have nothing but time, so I'd slam workouts until I sweat blood.  To be truthful, I wish I had.  But as it turns out, I found myself working a lot more at my job than I expected.  I was accustomed to working just 34 or so hours a week in Washington; it's one of the reasons I chose to change jobs.  In Utah, I find myself working 50+ hours a week.  That's 16 hours more than I am used to.  It's good because working less than forty hours a week for the last year and a half was really getting old.  The unintended consequence, however, was that my workouts suffered.

Being out in the field for 10-12 hours a day meant that I was eating out more than I was used to and with the shock to my body in regards to heat (it's been in the 90's every week here as opposed to 60's in Washington), I found my energy reserves drained at the end of the day.  I still do because my company is really working me over here.  It's not bad though.  I'm getting a lot more money here than I did in Washington.

Since I was fortunate to have in laws that really care about my family and me, they opened their home so I would have a place to stay while waiting for my wife and kids.  It's been a blessing and I'm truly grateful for their kindness and generosity.  Having their daughter come home to UT might have been an incentive too, but I think it's been good for both our families.  I really do like it here.

I didn't want to sign up for any gym until I knew where we were going to live.  It's not like these memberships are cheap, and if it's one thing I've learned from having a gym 8 miles from my house, it's that if it is not convenient, I'm less likely to go.  I needed something that was very convenient and works with my schedule.  The good news is that I was able to find such a place.  After searching for the perfect gym, I figured it out.

It actually came to me when I realized that my body is still used to getting up at 5-5:30 am.  My old job started at 7 am, so I was accustomed to getting up two hours early to get ready for work and get into Seattle's worst traffic on my 25 mile commute to work on I5.  My current employer starts at 8am most days, with the occasional early start.  My body still wants to get up around 5:30 am or so.

Now, here's something I never considered before, but have taken full advantage of now.  Vision Quest opened their doors at 7 am, so a morning workout was never an option.  But I signed up for 24 Hour Fitness here in the Salt Lake valley, and wouldn't you know it, the freeway off ramp leads right to the gym, literally.  I get off the freeway, and go straight through the stop light into the parking lot!  Now that's convenience.  The best part is that it is right on my way to work.  So, with that in mind, I just get up in the morning, put on my gym clothes, stuff my street clothes into my gym bag, head to the gym, knockout a good workout for 45 minutes to an hour, and take advantage of the fact that the gym has private showers.  Now I can work out most days and not affect the time I have with my family in the afternoons.

This is where Lindsay comes back into the picture.  She is the wind beneath my wings in this endeavor to become fit and healthy again.  If it weren't for her, I would have never gotten as far as I have.  It was Lindsay that would kick me in the butt to get to the gym when I felt lazy, and it was Lindsay would would prepare wonderful meals that are healthy and tasty.  It was Lindsay who made the real sacrifice because as I would go to the gym, I'd be gone an hour or more every night while she stayed home with the kids, making sure the house wasn't a disaster and that my nutritionally dense dinner was ready for me when I got home.  All I had to do was show up.  People look at me and tell me I'm an inspiration for them because they want to have the kind of success that I've enjoyed all this time.  I've heard comments on how hard it must be to sacrifice so much to lose weight and get into shape.  But truthfully, once it becomes habit, it's no longer a sacrifice; at least for me anyway.  I actually look forward to going to the gym and leaving all those Sausage McMuffins I used to eat on the gym floor in the form of sweat.  I have actually come to enjoy the time I have there because it's just me and my dedication to myself.  It's been said that in order to get into shape, you must put yourself first, and that's exactly what I did.  Of course, I'm doing this for the benefit of my family too, but in all honesty, what I'm doing is selfish and necessary to be a better me - not only for the benefit of my wife and kids, but most of all, I'm doing this for el numero uno, me.

On the other hand, Lindsay has spent all that time I spent in the gym alone without me.  I know she missed me when I was away turning my fat into sweat and dropping lbs like they were going out of style.  If I'm at the gym, I'm not at home, and I'm not with my family.  She knows it's a necessary sacrifice on her part; she wants me to succeed.  She wants a healthy, fit, and trim husband.  She wants me to be around long enough to see my grandchildren.  She wants me to be free of preventable disease and live healthier.  She wants me to be upbeat and outgoing - not depressed and sedentary.  She wants all these things for me, and she is willing to take on the responsibility of being my conscience and my right hand in this effort.  She knows what's at stake here and she jumped in feet first like I did, without hesitation, without second thoughts, and without looking for something in return.  She did this because she loves me.

And how do I repay such devotion, such sacrifice, such love, and such kindness?  I work out.  I lose the weight.  I make the effort to eat right and not cheat my diet.  I bring results to the table - results she can see.  I do this because she loves me enough to sacrifice so much to let me do this successfully without failure.  I do it because I love her more than anything and want to see her sacrifices bear fruit.  You think it's easy for her?  I don't.

The irony is that I didn't realize just how important she is to this program until I put 900 miles between us.  It's the little things she'd do to keep me motivated.  She'd drop the hints, call me out on the carpet, tell me to hold back, say to me that I don't need that candy bar, or drink that soda.  She'd buy healthy groceries and bring home healthy foods, research nutritious meals and prepare them.  It took me a couple months to finally realize it, but I have, and I appreciate her so much more for it.

When I signed up for this new gym membership, I vowed to myself that I would make a big change in my thinking.  No longer is this about me.  I realize that now.  I'm no longer going through the motions or telling myself to take it easy at the gym today because of whatever.  Nope, every lb lost and every drop of sweat I leave behind is dedicated to the sacrifice and devotion that Lindsay has given to me selflessly and willingly so I could be a better man.

Yes, I faltered a little bit by focusing more on work than working out, and gained a few lbs.  But since signing back up and getting into the gym this last week, I've already dropped 3 lbs and am well on my way to making up for lost time.  Down to 255 lbs from the increase to 258, I'm recharged, ready to RAWK OUT, and I'm rolling like a juggernaut to drop more weight than ever before.  By the time Lindsay comes to be with me, I will be back into the full routine and making it happen.  My goal is to have most the weight left to lose gone by my birthday.  My goal is to be at final weight by Christmas!  But I'm not alone.  I truly understand that now.

My true inspiration is my wife Lindsay because I know that she is paying the real price for all this, and I am devoted to being successful, not just for myself anymore, but for her as well.

-James

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back At It

I can't believe it.  My last entry was May 6th!!!  Where does the time go?  Okay, so I haven't been updating my blog, as I should have, but a lot of things have changed since I last spoke here.  Okay, so I guess it's time for an update.

For starters, I changed jobs.  I didn't change careers, I just work for a different distributorship doing the same work I was doing before.  It's just that now, I'm living in another state in the SW somewhere.  You'll find out soon enough from hiking reports I am set to do soon. 

In the month of May, after I put my blog entry together, there was a ton of stuff that happened.  Between flights to and from my new state of residence, work, packing my stuff, organizing things, and making preparations to move, I found little time to hit the gym.  I did go a few times a week, but not as much as I was used to going.  Either way, what's done is done, and I can't change it.  The good news is I was able to get my crap together.

Then Lindsay and I took our kids on a vacation to see her parents the last week of May into June.  After the vacation, I had a week to get everything finalized and move.  I high-tailed it out of Washington the second weekend of June.  Started my new job on the 11th, and have been ass-on-fire busy ever since.  Been getting 50-55 hours consistently these last couple of months!  And the work doesn't seem to slow down.

I've spent my off hours time either recovering from working (the altitude here is much higher than WA, so it took some time to acclimate to it), looking for a house, driving around getting to know the area, or just taking care of day to day business.  I didn't want to get a gym membership right away because I didn't know where I was going to land. I have been staying with my in-law's this whole time.  Lindsay is still in WA with the kids.

Finally, we just got a rental lined up for move in on Sept 1, and I fly back to WA to meet my wife and kids, and dog and haul butt to where I'm at right now in a moving truck.  I finally decided that enough was enough.  I haven't been in a gym in almost two months now!  And it was starting to make itself apparent.  I gained a couple lbs in the meantime, which sucks, but I caught it soon and signed up for a gym membership here three days ago.  Been taking advantage of it too.  The nice thing is that my job starts an hour later than my old job did, and I was able to hit the gym this morning at 6:30 before heading to work, and this one is right on the way; a key reason I chose it.  With private showers, and a clean locker room, I was happy to use their water to take a shower. 

I'm slowly getting back into it.  With a house finally approved, and my wife and kids coming to be with me in a couple short weeks, I'm starting to feel a sense of normalcy that I haven't felt in a long time. 

I'll be back to make update videos and track my progress from here out.  We are still a couple months away from my birthday, and I plan on losing as much weight as I can until then.  I'm hoping to be near goal weight by the end of this year so I can start 2013 off right!

-James

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Week 27 & 28

I was getting ready to make week 28's update video when I realized I missed last week!  DOH!  With all that's been happening, it doesn't surprise me at all.  Things have been insanely busy around the house.

Two major pieces of news are that I sold my Ramcharger and then bought a 2001 Jeep Cherokee.  It's a bit more practical than the Ramcharger and it is a nice ride.  Being 11 years newer, it's in much better shape overall.  The other benefit is that Lindsay can drive it too, which makes her feel better.  I had gone over to Jeff's house to help him move and took the car.  Lindsay couldn't go anywhere because it dang near takes two people to load kids in the Ramcharger and then there's this whole thing about her not being able to see over the dash board.  So I'm happy with the Jeep, but more importantly, Lindsay is happy too.  Besides, I think this Jeep fits my smaller, lighter, faster, stronger lifestyle change anyway.

Yesterday, Lindsay and I were able to get out of the house without our kids.  Our normal sitter was able to come over and watch them on Saturday.  I am grateful.  I so needed to get away from everything for a few ours.  Lindsay and my buddy Kevin came with me to blow up some beer cans and shoot little holes in paper.  Prior to that, we met our good friends Amy and Darren at Shari's and had a nice adults only breakfast.  It was sort of odd because we didn't have kids with us.  We almost didn't know how to act.  Needless to say, it was a nice time to reconnect with friends and talk about adult stuff.

To date, I've lost 68 lbs.  I would have lost more, but I actually think I gained weight in the last couple of weeks.  Like I said, I've been stressed to the max.  Apparently, one of my ways of dealing with stress is to eat.  It's not fast food or too much food; it's candy.  It's been especially bad since Easter because there has just been a ton of it around lately.  Me + Stress + candy = you know what.  So I still need to work on that a bit.  On the flip side, I made sure to get back into good habits and pack my lunch everyday this week.  I'm sure that helped out considerably because I only ate the contents of my lunch box each day, which typically includes a couple bananas, a couple turkey sandwiches, some lite yougurt, sugar-free pudding, and crispy apple chips.  I also mix in some Crystal Light packets for my bottled water, which takes the edge off my sweet tooth.

All in all, I'm glad I broke the 250 lb barrier.  I can now say I weigh less than 250 lbs.  I'm going to do my best to get to 240 by the end of May.  It's going to be difficult, but right now I'm sort of in a holding pattern until some other people can get ahold of me.  I plan on relieving some of my stress at the gym.



-James

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week 26

We are in the middle of our life readjustment.  Things are happening at a dizzying pace, and it's hard to keep up with everything that's going on.  I have been busy sorting stuff, getting things ready to sell, getting my Ramcharger up to snuff, and haven't seen the gym as a result.  I was also on call part of the week, which didn't help matters.

I still have lots to do, but I need to make an effort to refocus on weight loss and strength training.  My short term goal is to lose 10 lbs before the end of May.  I am going on vacation and want to be 240 lbs.  As it stands right now, I'm at 250 lbs.  It was hard to get to this point, especially with all that is going on, so I'm going to make an effort to get under 250 and hopefully keep going.  We are almost to goal weight, which is in the neighborhood of 215 lbs.  I just need to stay the course a little while longer and I can achieve this tremendous goal!

Since I'm not on call this week, it should be easier to hit the gym, provided work doesn't get insane.  I actually have some good solid work coming up this next week and the week after and I don't want to miss out on the money that we need so badly right now.  So if I have to stay late, and forego the gym a couple of days, then that's the brakes.  Refocusing our lives, and downsizing is actually an expensive proposition.  I wouldn't have believed it myself.

As for everything else insane in my life right now, I'm going to try to bring some normalcy this week.  We shall see how that goes.



-James

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week 25

I can sum up last week in one word: stressful.  We have some big changes in the works and with change comes uncertainty.  With all that comes stress.  To add to it, I have been on call since last Wednesday, worked on Saturday, and some douche bag tried to break into my garage on Friday night!

I feel like I'm playing catch up.  I mean, I'm a day late on my update video and blog entry.  I haven't even started enhancing the pictures from my last mini hike, and I certainly haven't hit the gym since last Tuesday.  Well, if I may step into the excuse box for a moment: I don't like getting too involved with anything when I'm on call because the pager likes to start beeping at the most inopportune times.  Okay, out of the excuse box now.

It's gotten to the point where I must be clinching my jaw at night because my gums have been aching ever since I got home from Jeff's place on Easter.

I'm not going to get into the stress-inducing things in my life since it would not be appropriate at this point, but needless to say, change is in the air, and things are (or are about to start) happening.

Weight loss this week wasn't stellar.  I lost a lb for the week.  Considering I didn't gain anything, I'll take that small victory.  It's better than nothing.

Next week will be my 26 week update.  That will officially be the six month mark for my plan.  I'm on my way!  Hoping to be within striking distance of my goal by my birthday in September.


-James

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Week 24

Finally, after nearly two weeks of feeling like I had caught the Contagion virus, I'm feeling better and I'm back in action.  The good news is that I lost 3 lbs this week and made it back to the gym.  There really isn't any bad news to speak of.  I'm just happy that I don't feel like Death.

This week wasn't terribly busy, but the weekend was.  I had the opportunity to try out Jeff's new gym in Ellensburg, so I took full advantage of it.  It was fun working out with Jeff.  He introduced me to a couple of new things to incorporate into my normal routine.  Jeff also shot some video clips that he will use as an advertisement for his business.  I can't wait to see what he can put out.

I really don't have much to report on per se.  I'm kind of scatter-brained right now because I'm preoccupied with some impending things that are very important to my family and me.  I just hope the increased stress level doesn't adversely affect my workout and weight loss.  I'd hate for that to happen.  That said, I'm going to be very busy in the upcoming months, so I'm not sure how that will affect my "52 Hikes in 52" weeks program, but I'm going to do my best to keep up with everything.  I'm just going to go with it.  In the meantime, I'm just going to roll with the punches.


-James

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ten Essentials Series - Navigation

In the first installment of my Ten Essentials Series of entries, I addressed emergency fire starting.  For this second installment, I'm going to address navigation.  This entry will actually cover two of the Ten Essentials, as I listed in my original entry on the subject.  These two items are a map of the area you will be traveling in, and a compass of some kind.  Originally, I had thought to put these two items on the same line, but separated them out because I felt it was important to show that these items, while they work in conjunction with one another, stand alone as necessary tools in your hiking load out.

I will start with maps.  I've used any number of different maps of trails I've hiked on.  From topo maps (Topo is short for topographic), city maps, simple tourist maps, to maps included in guide books, it's always a good idea to have some sort of reference so you know where the heck you are.  They come in handy for identifying landmarks and showing you what your progress is and where you are in relation to your destination.  I'm not going to get into all the different map styles there are out there because there are so many.  If you want to delve deeper into the different kinds of maps, I suggest you check out Wikipedia.  I will, however, focus on the type of map that is most relevant to the hiker or backpacker - the topographic map.

A "topo map," as it is referred to in the industry, is a map that not only shows landmarks, road, rivers, streams, etc, but also shows elevation and terrain profiles by the use of contour lines.  This is also known as relief.  Many modern topo maps also have shaded relief built in to assist the hiker in identifying different kinds of elevation profiles and mountain ranges.  The contour lines are spaced out according to vertical intervals in feet, like 20 feet for instance.  So, for every contour line you see, the altitude is 20 feet higher or lower in relation to the line next to it.  With a topo map, you can see, not only your location, but your altitude and relative position on a ridge line or valley.  You can also see how much elevation you will gain or lose over the course of a section of trail you are on.  By using the data, you can actually draw out and plan your hike based on the elevation profile you read directly from the map.  If you look at your path, and see that the area you are going to be hiking is very steep, you can plan to hike less miles that day.  On the other hand, if you see that the area you will be in is relatively flat and rolling, you can plan on more miles hiked that day.  Of course, how far you travel in a given day is completely up to your competence on the trail, level of physical conditioning, and backpack load out.  The map simply gives you the necessary data so you can plan your next leg based on your personal needs.  The map can also be used to help you find your way should you find yourself off course.

When it comes to measuring distance, maps are generally shown in a scale.  This is simply a ratio.  For instance, a map could have a 1 inch scale that represents 2,000 feet on the ground.  This would be a 1:24000 scale map.  Coincidentally, this is the scale I prefer because it provides enough detail close enough to work with, but the map area is large enough to get an idea of the bigger picture.  This is also known as a 7.5 minute quadrangle map because it covers 7.5 minutes latitude by 7.5 minutes longitude  For backpacking, this is the ideal scale for me.  For more information, check out the USGS map scales fact sheet.

My map of choice is made by a company called Green Trail Maps.  The maps are up to date and highly detailed.  They are also very large, but come in uniform sizes.  They also sell a see-through sleeve that you can place the larger maps in to protect them against the elements.  The large map above is in such a sleeve.  Green Trail Maps has a map for most major recreational areas as well as some urban places.  They just came out with a waterproof, tear resistant line of maps, which I bought in a 1:24000 scale for my Wonderland Trail hike.  I have yet to test the waterproof qualities of the paper, but considering that a map isn't exactly a dollar anymore, I'm going to keep mine in a waterproof sleeve.  Green Trail Maps are inexpensive, and they cover a large enough area that one map can serve many different hikes in the same area.  I think I paid $14 for my Wonderland Trail map, but it covers the entire Mt Rainier National Park, so it was a worthwhile investment.  Most of their non-waterproof maps can be had for less than 6 bucks.  I buy one before every hike in unfamiliar territory.  In most cases, it's a one-time investment because you can use your map for years, unless a major change takes place, like Mt Rainier blows up.  That'll render all current maps obsolete in a micro-second!  You can buy Green Trail Maps at REI.

This is where your compass comes into play.  To the right, I have two compasses shown, both made by Silva - my favorite compass manufacturer.  The compass on the right is a basic, stripped down baseplate Polaris model.  It is a budget priced compass that will help you with the most basic navigation needs out there.  It's nothing that will impress your friends, but in a pinch, it will work.  The compass next to it is the daddy.  This is the Silva Ranger CL, and it is packed full of way cool features guaranteed to impress even the most hard core weekend warriors.   Your needs may vary, but for the money, this compass is the one to buy.  If your finances can justify spending $50 on a compass, then do it.  Heck, even if they can't.  Don't drink coffee for a week, and you'll save enough cash to get this one.  It's worth it.  Now, instead of bragging about the one I own, I'll just go down some things you should look for in a compass.

Let's start with an accurate dial.  The dial allows you to figure out what your heading is in relation to magnetic north.  The dial, when used in conjunction with the map, allows you to plot a course and then make sure you are staying on course.  This is especially handy in wide open areas, where the risk of walking in circles is very real.  The Ranger above has a 2 degree dial, which makes for every accurate navigational work.  Being able to identify a mountain top with 2 degrees of accuracy is pretty impressive, especially when you are 5 miles away.  Think of that.  From 26,400 feet, you can dial in within 2 degrees of error.  That's pretty good.

Next, let's talk about gun sights.  No, this isn't a weapon.  I get it.  A good compass will have a set of "sights" that allow you to aim it at an object and then read the bearing on the dial.  Instead of just holding the compass down at your hip and looking down and then looking up, you can quickly sight in your target, rotate the dial to line up the needle, and you can take an accurate reading quickly.  Then you can take a back reading just as quickly.

How about a sighting mirror?  On my compass above, you can see a sighting mirror under the hood.  When used in conjunction with the sights, it allows you to line up the dial quickly without ever taking your sights off target.  The mirror on the Silva Ranger has a thin vertical line running down the middle, from the rear sight to the base of the compass.  This allows you to accurately find the exact coordinates within degree markers.

Declination adjustment.  Whoa!  What the heck is declination?  Declination is the angle between magnetic north and true north.  Depending on where you are in the world, your compass will not point to true north (IE, Santa's headquarters).  Instead, it will point to magnetic north.  Magnetic north changes all the time.  The earth is nothing more than a huge ball of liquid metal.  As the earth rotates, all that metal swirls around under the earth's crust, and this changes the direction of magnetic north in relation to your position on the planet.  The graphic to the left shows how the angles of magnetic north have changed from the 1600's up to just recently.  In my part of North America, my declination is 16 degrees, give or take.  It changes about 10 feet per year, which isn't much.  If you do not have declination adjustment capability (My ranger does, my Polaris does not), you need to make these adjustments either in your head, by drawing magnetic lines on your map, or writing them down and doing the math as you go.  Compasses that have declination adjustment have a little tool that allows you to screw in or out your adjustment gears, and will make your needle point to true north, which makes your map and compass work together with no extra steps required.  Neat huh?

Base Plate with a Ruler.  You wouldn't immediately think so, but having a ruler in the same scale of your map is important.  Having a base plate provides a straight edge that you can use to scribe lines into your map with.  So, if you were standing at a junction, and wanted to head in the direction of a mountain you cannot see, and had two trails to follow, you would simply orientate your map, and figure out what heading the mountain is in relation to you.  Then pick your trail accordingly.

That's it for the major needs.  Any other is just an extra goody for you to use.  As for map and compass work, you should get a book to read on the subject.  My favorite is the Land Navigation Handbook.  The official Boy Scout Handbook also is a valuable resource.  You might just pick the BSA handbook up because it's chalked full of good stuff - not just land navigation.  At $10 or so, it's the best deal on outdoor guide books you can get.  I love mine.

Now what about GPS?  I have one.  I love it.  It is great for instantly identifying your coordinates, tracking telemetry, pointing you toward your destination, and a whole lot of other way cool features that I won't get into detail here.  Most modern GPS devices even have topo maps built into them so you can effectively navigate using nothing more than this handy device.  Just don't forget extra batteries.  And don't drop it in the water.  Oh, and don't drop it, period.  Regardless of how cool my (no longer in production) Garmin Etrex Vista Cx is, I would never leave home with just this device.  If I'm out in the back country, I'm taking my map and compass with me.  99% of my GPS use is to track telemetry for my hikes.  I can see how many miles I've gone, elevation gain or loss, walking speed, moving time, ascent/decent speeds, and a whole lot of other stuff that makes reviewing my hikes easy for me.  Just turn the GPS on, clip it to your backpack shoulder strap, and walk.  Let it keep track of everything.  A word of caution: GPS isn't the end all be all of navigation.  Something as simple as a thick tree canopy can render the device utterly useless.  If I know I'm going into a heavily forested area, like when I did my Dry Creek hike, I might just leave the GPS home because it will be very expensive weight for me to carry around and not use.

I hope this little entry helps point you in the right direction (pun very much intended).  Just so you know, these entries aren't written to teach you all you need to know; there are plenty of books and classes out there.  What I do is provide enough information to get you started in such a way that when you go to the websites I link, you are not overwhelmed by all the jargon you see there.  I try to explain all this in the most basic language that any lay person can understand.  Hope you enjoyed it.

-James

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Week 23

The last week of March sucked!  In my last entry, I commented on how the entire family was sick.  Well, I was only in the beginning of my sickness when I put that entry together.  The big part of this cold hit me in the beginning of the week, and it really hasn't relented yet.  While I was at work, I would start coughing uncontrollably whenever I started to breathe deeply and heavily.  It sucks when you feel like you're hacking up your left lung every time you exert yourself.   For the most part, I took it easy.  I made sure I watched what I was eating, took my gummy vitamins, tried not to cough up my entrails too much.

I was feeling somewhat better today, so I went out and hiked an easy hike, just to get my blood circulating.  Man, I get all kinds of stir crazy when I'm not doing something physical nowadays.  I'm still not 100%, but I think I'm ready to give the gym a try again tomorrow.  Hopefully, Mr. Cold bug will get the hint and vacate the premises pronto.

Jeff is putting the finishing touches on his gym, and I'm hoping I get to test drive it next Saturday and Sunday.  He's got a nice Life Fitness elliptical machine as well as some really nice weights, a bench, hex bar, various resistance bands, yoga balls, dumbbells, and other stuff that would make anyone with a home gym jealous.  I believe his grand opening is tomorrow.  Good job getting the gym ready Jeff, and good luck!  If nothing else, I hope to put some miles on his equipment when I visit him next time.  For more information on Jeff's business, check him out at Health Fitness Complete.

I believe we are doing another fitness  evaluation next week as well.  It will be interesting to see how far I've come in this journey, and see how much further I have to go.  These days, I weigh less than I did six years ago.  The picture to the right was taken in April 2006 while my wife and I were in Leavenworth, WA celebrating our second wedding anniversary.  I can tell you now that I'm not that big anymore.  As for how much I weigh at this time, there was no measurable weight loss this week, due to the fact that I didn't get out much to do anything.  I was at home nursing the "man flu."  The good news is that I didn't gain any weight, so my diet changes are proving very beneficial to my well-being.  My current weight is 255 lbs.

I went over to my mom and dad's house last night to take care of some business and we started talking about weight loss and health issues.  Dad told me, "Don't keep a bunch of weight around the mid section.  Otherwise, when you get to be as old as I am, you will have diabetes."  Yeah, thanks Dad.  No really.  Thanks.  It's good advice.  But I didn't need to be 50 years old to feel the ill-effects of being 100 lbs overweight.

As I was preparing dinner, my wife and I were talking about my health issues related to being the fat ass I was.  We recalled that when I'd eat starchy foods, like french fries, I would basically be done for the night.  Oh, those things used to knock me right out.  I recall if we ever went to Red Robin for dinner, it would have to be the last stop of the evening because I would get groggy and tired after eating their wonderful steak fries.  They used to "slay me," as Lindsay recalled.  Nowadays, I can eat starchy foods and not feel a thing.  That's not to say that I go around eating deep fried potatoes all the time, but back in the day, it didn't matter if they were baked, fried, deep fried, or boiled.  Potatoes had the diabetic coma effect on my body and I'd just be so tired afterward.

There were a host of other issues that went along with the weight too, and most of them have completely subsided.  I sleep less these days, probably because I actually sleep when I'm sleeping.  Jeez, before I would snore so loudly that I'd wake myself up.  I'm sure Lindsay appreciates me not snoring anymore.  What I had was Sleep Apnea.  Though I hated to admit it then, I'm not afraid to say it now.  Maybe it's because I don't suffer the symptoms of it anymore.  I sleep deeply now and wake up easier.  Oh sure, I pound the snooze bar once or twice in the morning once in a while, but I think even the most healthy people are guilty of that from time to time.

Other little things that used to bother me are gone too.  My hands don't get clammy and weird anymore.  Before, if I walked any sort of distance, my hands would swell up and it felt like I was wearing thick gloves.  I hated it.  My eye lids used to twitch all the time and it was extremely aggravating.  They don't twitch anymore.  I used to sweat a lot.  Boy would I sweat.  It seemed that all I had to do was bend over to pick something up, and I'd start sweating bullets.  These days, I only sweat when I'm really working hard or working out.  In fact, one thing I've really noticed is that I feel cold more often.  I can be sitting in my house with the thermostat set at 72 degrees and suddenly feel the urge to crank the temperature up to 74 degrees.  The irony is that last summer, I'd be crying if the temperature got above 73 degrees.  I'm hoping that this summer will not feel as frigging hot to me now that I'm missing 60 lbs of insulating blubber around my body.

All in all, I'm hoping for good things.  Short term goals for me are to be under 250 lbs by the time I head to Utah for vacation.  That's two months from now, so it will be a slam dunk.  I could set the goal lower, and it is subject to change, especially if I find myself 5 lbs lighter by the end of next week.  By mid summer, I hope to be under 230 lbs.  That will put me in striking distance of my 100 lb goal by the time my 32nd birthday hits.  Of all the birthdays I said to myself, "This year, I'll lose weight and give myself a birthday present to remember," this year will be the one I make good on that promise and give myself a brand new body (well, at least a thinner one) and quit screwing around and wasting my life away.

Here's to goals and here's to achieving them!      


-James

Soundview Urban Trail

Okay, well today I wasn't feeling the best, so I went over to Chamber's Creek Properties and took a nice stroll on the Soundview and Grandview trails.  My buddy turned me on to this little urban trail last night.  I decided to go over and see it for myself.  I'm glad I did.  I enjoyed this one.  It is ideal for kids and pets.

At the north parking lot.  This is the start.

From the start, the view of the Sound is pretty amazing.

I thought I smelled remnants of the brown trout.  This is a waste treatment center.

Heading down on the south side of the Grandview Trail.  This is the beginning of the Soundview Trail.

Down at the bottom, about 15 feet above sea level.  This wide open space  is ideal for power kiting due to the wind out here.

Some old pieces of structure left.

Here's a map of the area.  I went off trail and headed over to the adjoining trail at the SW most end where the pedestrian overpass is located.  I wanted to get in every 10th of a mile I could.

Another interesting concrete structure in the distance.

Close up.

WE MADE IT! This picture is of me about 1.55 miles into the walk.  GPS verified.

Pet friendly too.

My son would love it out here.  He's all about trains.  I'm bringing him out to train watch.  I saw three different trains on my walk out here.

Ah, the dangers of urban hiking trails.  Normally, I'm on the lookout for cougars and bears, but I've never encountered such a force as this before.

Another gratuitous picture of me near the Sound.

Narrows Bridge peaking out in the distance.

Finally, some uphill travel!  It was just enough to get me breathing a little more than normal and put a little sweat on my back.  It was enough to prove to me that even though I'm still feeling under the weather, at least I'm not hacking and coughing uncontrollably when I exert myself.  This week sucked!

At the top of the hill.  This entire area is the Chambers Creek Properties.  The trail loops around a big golf course.

GPS telemetry provided by the most excellent Garmin Etrex Vista Cx.  Relevant trail data:  Distance hiked: 3.19 miles.  Moving average: 3.2 mph. Moving time 59.04 minutes.
-James

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ten Essentials Series - Fire Starter

This entry is the start of a series I'm going to call the "Ten Essentials Series."  In this series of blog entries, which will probably span a few weeks or so, I will talk specifically to the items in your "Ten Essentials" kit that you should never hit the trail without.  If you recall, I posted a blog entry some time ago, where I briefly described each of the Ten Essentials.  Now, I'm ready to get into the nitty gritty and post up some details as well as a few pictures to help get you started.  In this first entry, I'm going address fire making.  What I'm going to specifically talk about is my personal setup because it's easier this way.  Be aware that there are as many fire starting kits as there are opinions about how fire should be made.  This is simply one way of doing it.  You may tailor yours to suit your needs and your climate, but these basic tips should help point you in the right direction.

First off, we need to incorporate some kind of matches.  I use these matches I found on Amazon.com.  This is the UCO Stormproof match kit.  If you don't want to use Amazon, you can find them at REI.  This match kit features a waterproof container with a rubber seal, a replaceable striking surface, and 25 storm-proof matches that relight even when submerged in water.  They are highly wind-resistant and they are extra long to help keep your fingers from being burnt.

In the lid, mine came with a piece of cotton, which is probably used to keep them from rattling around inside, but could also be used as an improvised piece of tinder to get kindling going.

Now, you might ask, "Why do I need matches?  Fires aren't allowed at Mt Rainier Natl Park."  Well, you don't always hike at Mt Rainier do you?  Besides, unless you have a camp stove with autostart, you need to light it somehow, right?  Additionally, just because the rules say "no fires" doesn't mean you shouldn't make one in the event that you, or a member of your party needs to get warm in a hurry or dry out critical gear.  I'm not saying to disregard the rules, but in an emergency, you have to do what you have to do to survive.  In the decision of risking a fine for prohibited fire in the park, or a head stone, I'll take the fine any day.

Another item you should always have in your kit, which is not pictured, is a simple bic lighter.  You don't need anything fancy.  You just need a disposable lighter.  They come in handy so often.  If using your cheap convenience store lighter for mundane tasks saves you from using your life saving matches unnecessarily, then it's money well spent.  Why waste a perfectly good stormproof match to light a stove when it is 65 degrees outside, sunny, with no wind?

Another item to have in the kit is a fire starter.  I like this little one from Ultimate Survival Tehnologies.  It is called The SPARKIE.  It weighs less than an ounce, yet it delivers high intensity sparks right where you want them.  In the photo above, you see the flint rod deployed.  The photo on the left shows the flint rod stowed.  The nice thing about this fire starter is that operation of it is completely one-handed.  The body is shaped so that the fire starter is held by your index finger and thumb.  It's kind of hard to describe the operation in words and pictures, but I will include a video below to show how it is done.  It is very easy.

You should also carry tinder in some form or another.  UST sends you a wrapped piece of tinder with your fire starter, but I prefer to use dryer lint as my medium for getting a flame going.  The dryer lint is virtually moisture free, and if kept in a waterproof bag, it will stay that way.  One tiny spark, and it goes up instantly, burns hot, but goes out quickly.  You should always gather your fuel, process firewood and kindling, and get dry tinder before you attempt to light a fire.  Once you have gathered some natural tinder, process your kindling, and have your fuel logs all prepped and ready, you place the lint down on your tinder and press the fire starter into it.  Instant flame.  Now, if you do your part to get your fire going, using good fire craft skills, then you will have a sustainable fire.  Later this year, I might shoot a series of videos on some survival tasks, but for now, I'll stick to gear and philosophy.

As far as portability goes, what are we sacrificing in weight to carry these items?  Well, many fire starters, by themselves, weigh in at over 2 ounces.  This setup, with just the fire starter and the match kit, weighs in at 2 1/2 ounces.  That's not bad when you consider the positive benefits of having fire starting capabilities.  Now, I didn't weight it with tinder or other supplies because whatever you choose will vary, and what you want to saddle yourself down with is completely up to you.  I've seen people use parafin wax and sawdust melted into ice cube trays as their initial fuel to get the tinder going.  I've also used fire paste, which is my favorite for car camping.  It is essentially Napalm in a tube.  It lights up, burns for a good amount of time, and gets anything around it going with a healthy little flame.  The weight of the tube and the paste is 3.75 ounces, so if your situation can bear the weight, go with it.  For me, I'll skip the paste when I'm trying to travel 1,000 feet of vertical elevation in 1 mile.  I like the drier lint and whatever materials I can scavenge while in the woods.

All of these items go into a common ditty bag with my other ten essentials and small gear.  I used to have different bags with compartments and stuff, but in the end, all the gear ended up in one bag by the end of the trip anyway, so I said to hell with it and now I just use one common bag.  It saves a tremendous (well in ounce speak) of weight because there is less material with just one bag vs a lot of different ones.  Besides, when you go to get your piece of gear, you simply need only grab one bag and all your crap is in it.  Get a heavy mesh bag so you can see your stuff inside without rifling through it with your hand.  Just keep sharp things either sheathed or separate.  One last thing about the bag: make sure it is highly visible so you can see it at night.

Alright, it's movie time.


See, that wasn't so hard, was it?  It is very easy to use and they are cheap.  You can buy the SPARKIE at REI for about $10 or choose Amazon.com.  Sometimes, you can get them for half of what REI is charging.  All in all, for about $15 to $20, you have amazing fire starting capabilities at your fingertips that your grandfather... heck, your father could have only dreamed about.

-James

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gold Creek Trail Hike at Green Mountain

I'm a couple of days late on my trail report because I was waiting for my wife to process all the photographs she took from our hike.  On Sunday, we headed out to Belfair, Green Mountain specifically.  We hiked the Gold Creek Trail, which meets up with the Vista trail near the top of the mountain.  Mileage for this hike was 5 miles round trip.  We took the Plummer trail on the return because of the promise of some Olympic Mt views, and we were not disappointed.  Elevation gain was 1000 feet one way.  This is a good hike.  I really enjoyed the elevation profile and the view was amazing at 1639 feet.

The trail head.  Yep, the whole family was present for this one.

For this hike, I wanted to get my son used to walking the trails, so we had him trucking right behind me for the first half mile or so.  Notice I'm wearing his Kelty FC 3.0 child carrier backpack; always ready.

My son really enjoyed his independence along the easy part of the trail.

Lindsay and our baby girl.

At the Vista Trail junction. Daddy now baby-wearing his son. 

In a rare moment, Lindsay finally got a shot of all of us looking at the camera: My son, Kobun the dog, and me.

These friendly little birds were at the top.

A little haze in the air, and the lighting was the greatest, but Lindsay was able to make this photograph pretty nice in black and white.

On the return, only 1/3 a mile to go.

Just truckin' along the trail.  Nothing to see here. :)

This is a nice photo of my son on the Gold Creek Bridge.

We Made it!  Okay, this one's a little out of sequence, but this is the top.  You can see for miles!
-James

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Week 22

Week 22 brings with it no complaints and no issues to report.  I did alright this week.  To start, let's get the numbers out of the way.  Upon weighing in this morning, I found myself at 255 and some change.  That's better than goal weight for this week, and I'm now down 61 lbs overall for the program; just 39 lbs to go!

We are all getting sick!  Lindsay got the worst of it Thursday to Friday, but she is still feeling very run down.  She was a trooper today, however.  She came out and hiked up to Green Mountain with me even though she had a hard time.  Kudos!

I started Jeff's extra program.  A couple of days this week, I hit it really hard.  We are working on building my aerobic fitness up now that a good portion of the weight has been shed.  It helped out today because even with my 40+ lbs load-out, I didn't have a difficult time breathing and my legs didn't want to crap out on me as they have in previous hikes.  That's a plus.  I've been walking on the tread climber at the gym.  Holy crap!  You want a good leg workout?  Walk on that for 5 minutes!  Jeez!  After 30 minutes of hitting the elliptical really hard, finishing up on the tread climber is brutal!  I love the burn I get in my legs though.  I'm going to continue using that machine a couple days a week because it simulates a steep hill ascent so effectively.

While talking to Lindsay about how much weight I've lost, she made the comment, "Now imagine if you had to put all that in a backpack and hike with it."  Um, no!  I told her that I'd rather not, and mused to myself about what it would be like to go trucking up that trail with all that extra weight on me.  I'd be tired as hell by the time I got to the top.  No wonder fat people are always out of breath and sweaty.  The irony is that they'd feel much better about themselves if they'd just build up the constitution to lose the weight.  I encourage any of my overweight friends to seriously get into a program, and go on a diet.  Trust me when I say, the benefits are so worth it!  You cannot begin to imagine how good I feel, how young I feel and how vital I've become.  It's fantastic!

Even a little nature walk around a pond used to be difficult for me.  My hands would get all clammy, my legs would want a rest, and I felt like crap in general.  Not anymore.  These days, I'm ready to get moving and want to walk long distances because it feels good to get that burn on.  I know my wife would disagree with me, and that's okay.  You start working out, feeling that endorphin rush, and when it is all over, you start wanting it more.  If this is an addiction, I'll take it over drugs, alcohol, and food any day.  Doing this stuff literally gives me a high that I can't explain.

I have a nice video update here.  Included with the typical update stuff, the metrics, and so forth, I have a short clip at the beginning of the hike we all went on today.  It was just perfect, all colds aside.  The family was together, the sun was out, and we enjoyed a nice simple picnic at the top of Green Mountain.  This is what it's all about folks.


-James