Sunday, February 26, 2012

Week 18

As you may recall, I didn't do all that well last week due to an aggravated old back injury.  This week, I did alright.  Made it to the gym all but one day.  I lost two lbs this week, which puts me at 262.  I've lost a total of 54 lbs.

As far as diet and exercise go, nothing really exciting transpired during the week, but the outcome of all this hard work showed this weekend.  Instead of hiking, I worked 15 hours of overtime on Saturday.  Two coworkers and I worked a big generator load test, which involved a lot of heavy cables and generally hard work throughout the day.  We all worked equally hard and definitely earned our money.  I also noticed some changes in how my body took to it.  Now, I have a pretty good job, and my activity levels can vary drastically depending on what I'm doing and where.  Generally speaking, it's an active job when I'm not driving around from jobsite to jobsite.  Since the economic downturn a few years ago, big jobs, like Saturday, haven't been as abundant as they used to be.  Therefore, I haven't been involved in one of these big jobs in quite some time - since before I started my weight loss plan.

Before, I would have been sweating, breathing heavily, and drinking copious amounts of water because stringing out 50' sections of 0000 electrical cable, pulling them, rolling them, and throwing them into large totes can be strenuous.  Each cable weighs about 50 lbs, and we man-handle them.  It's honest hard work.  3-4 months ago, it would have been really hard.  Yesterday, it was pretty easy for me.  I'm not saying it was super easy because it's still hard work nonetheless.  It was definitely a workout.  Even my brother Jeff would be getting a good workout from it.  But what I'm saying is instead of all the heavy breathing, grunting, sweating bullets, and associated back pain, I worked through it without so much as a bead of sweat rolling off my forehead.  Before, I would have been swimming in my own sweat.  Not yesterday.  Of course, I still perspired while working, but the difference was that I didn't look like I normally do after an hour on the elliptical.  I call that progress.

My strength and endurance are really increasing, and as I keep on working hard, it will only get better.  It's not all about how many weights you can stack on the bar and lift, it's not about how long you can run on a treadmill, and it certainly isn't about how much sweat-soaked you can make your t-shirt.  What matters is how you handle yourself in the real world when you are working, and focused on the task at hand - not how many BPM your heart is at or how many calories per hour you are burning.  It's the job.  If it makes doing my job easier for me, thus allowing me to provide for my family, then it is all worth it.

That's pretty much the stuff that was going through my mind yesterday as I focused on getting the job done.  I felt great, and I woke up this morning with hardly a pain in my body.  I call that success!



-James

Friday, February 24, 2012

MSR Stowaway Pot

MSR Alpine Stowaway Pots
I'm getting ready to hit the gym today, but I'm waiting for my lunch to settle first.  In the meantime, I figured I'd post an entry regarding gear that will be useful for The Wonderland Trail.  These are Stowaway Pots, made by MSR.  I have been in the market for new pot or cook set for quite some time.  On my previous backpacking trips, I've used an army surplus mess kit, which is a great piece of gear.  It's rugged, simple and affordable.  For anyone needing a mess kit on the cheap, this is definitely the way to go.  I also dabbled in another high value cook set from Stansport, which I only paid $10 for.  Both these options are ideal for overnight trips or weekend getaways.

MSR Alpine Stowaway Pot, 1.6L
The issue I have with both the low cost, high value alternatives is that neither of those options has room to store anything of value inside.  When you are hiking, you are packing around a lot of air when using a cook pot or mess kit that won't allow you to store anything else, like a stove, silverware, knife, matches, flashlight, etc.  This means you have to find another place to stow these items, which also means more cases, nylon bags, totes, etc.  All this adds up to more wasted space and oddly enough, more weight for you to lug around.  It's okay to haul that much additional bulk and weight over a day trip, but if you go on a long trip, like a 93 mile trip, you won't have any use for the additional bulk.  Space is at a premium in your backpack, so you need to use it wisely.  Weight is also a concern when you are humping 35+ lbs of gear 9-12 miles each day.  It doesn't go away either.  For that, I came up with this solution, and so has MSR.

Made from stainless steel, the MSR Stowaway pot isn't as lightweight as the titanium option (incidentally, it's not nearly as expensive either).  With only 10 more ounces than the Titan cook set, this high value alternative will actually save me more bulk and weight than it will cost me.  This pot will also be a bit of armor for my smaller and more expensive items, like my camp stove, multi-tool, utensil set, etc.  There is plenty of room for a multitude of small items that you will need for cooking or for general "around the campsite" chores.  Need to stuff your headlamp or flashlight in there?  It has you covered.  You can store extra batteries, spare parts, tools, and other things that could be damaged.  Additionally, the pot size comes in handy because instead of everyone in the group boiling their own water, consuming far more fuel, one stove can be utilized to boil a large amount of water at once, thus saving precious fuel for other times.    

Another benefit to this simple design is just that - simplicity.  There are a lot of mess kits on the market these days.  They range anywhere in price, technicality, durability, and value.  When I'm out in the woods, I like my gear to be simple.  I don't need fancy sporks that fold in on themselves or odd looking spatulas that swivel around into their own handles.  It's far too complex for my taste.  You may think it is simple enough, but the more moving parts and small pieces you have, the more opportunities there are for failure.  What's more simple than a pot?  It's a pot.  It has no moving parts: just a pot and a lid.  Okay, there's a handle that also serves to lock the lid down onto the pot.  If it breaks, who cares?  It's still a pot with a lid.  There are some systems out there that use high tech polymers, funny synthetic materials and little koozies that keep you from burning your fingers.  That's all fine and well if that is what you want, but I prefer the K.I.S.S. method over overpriced, high tech anything any day.

This picture, shown right, is a before and after.  My old system is on the left.  It features my Stansport mess kit with it's blue stuff bag, a Leatherman sheath for my mult-tool, another small bag for my stove, and another mess bag for other pieces of kit that I use for cooking and stowing gear for around the campfire.  All that, and more now fits in a simple, relatively compact, and easy to access container.  This pot is sure to get banged around a bit on the trail.  Keeping it tucked away between a couple of clothing articles will help keep it safe.  Instead of risking the possibility of tools banging around each other inside, I plan on either stuffing a pair of clean socks or small oven mitt inside to keep things from rattling around.  I don't take things with me on the trail that can break easily, but a small measure of caution will probably save my butt when I'm in the middle of nowhere with no access to a phone or a quick way out, and certainly no convenience stores.

When you think about the items that get used the most in your pack, a cooking pot probably ranks up there as the most commonly used item besides your boots.  If you are heating water, cooking some Top Ramen, making water safe to drink, or for cleaning, you are going to be getting into your pot all the time.  Now, you can continue to put the pot to good use by storing as many small things in it as possible.  Stop lugging around air and dead space.  Use what space you have and make it work for you!

-James

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week 17

I don't have much to report on for this week.  Early in the week, I must have aggravated my old back injury because I could feel it everyday until yesterday.  I had taken some Aleve to help with the weird painful sensations I was feeling.  I know from experience that the best thing to help this is to rest and not move around more than is needed.  Otherwise, it just gets worse and worse until I can't take it anymore.  So, I made it to the gym a couple of times, but my back didn't like that one bit.  I took it easy at work and didn't do anything intense at home.  I just needed some recovery time.

Yesterday, I woke up feeling great, so I went to work and got in 9 hours of overtime.  Not too bad, considering I get paid pretty well at time and a half.  Learned a couple of new things as well, so it was a worthwhile day of work.  It's not everyday I get to adjust a fan belt pulley and replace an automatic belt tensioner on an Onan 2000DQKC generator with a Cummins QSK-60 engine.  Did I mention the money's good?  Of course, I missed my hike as a result, but I will make it up in the upcoming weeks, hopefully.  I have some good hikes in mind, but I need some better weather to make them really worthwhile.  Some of these are supposed to have spectacular views.  On the same note, I'm working again next weekend, so I probably won't hike next week.

Today, I dropped Kobun off at the vet to get some booster shots and start rabies vaccination, so I didn't go hiking.  I don't know when the vet is going to call me back.  After dropping him off, I came home and put together a short update video and messed around with photoshop a bit.  Here's my latest catastrophe:

If you don't know, this is a glass of Crystal Lite with Sonic the Hedgehog printed on it.   
As for weight loss, I was certain I wouldn't have produced any measurable results.  I was wrong.  This morning, I put myself on the scale and came in at 264 lbs, which is a 2 lb loss from last week.  I'm now 52 lbs lighter than I was when I started.  That proves just how important my dietary choices are.  Even though I didn't get to the gym much this week, I still made good food choices and reaped the benefits of those choices.  I'm happy with that.  Still, I'm feeling the need to hit the gym again and continue the strength training and cardio.

I have a short video this week.  This is probably the shortest I've made.  It should offset from last week's feature-length video.  Enjoy!



-James

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week 16 - Milestone Achievement!

This is the blog entry I've been anticipating all week long.  I've lost 50 lbs!  I am now officially halfway finished with my weight loss goals!  My current weight is 266 lbs.  I'm down from 316 lbs just 16 weeks ago.

This week, I recorded a two-part video.  It runs somewhat long, but I decided that for this update, I wanted to throw the "secrets" to my success out there.  Anyone who feels that weight loss is too hard should really give them a view.  I've provided a lot of personal insight into how the plan really works and just how simple it really is.

I have a short story that I want to share with you regarding a revelation I had this week (It's also in my video, Part 1).  I was doing some work on a generator when I realized I needed to grab one of my tool boxes from my work van.  After grabbing the tool box, I walked it 100 feet back to the place I was working and set it down on the generator skid.  I had been thinking about my 50 lbs weight loss all morning long.  I also know that my tool box weighs +-50 lbs.  I put the two together and realized, after I said, "That box is heavy," I had been carrying that much extra weight around for the past couple of years!  To my amazement, the extra weight of the tool box was put into perspective.  I have been carrying around 50 lbs of fat and it was as heavy as this box, which sucked to carry 100 feet.  How did I ever carry around all that extra weight for so long?  No wonder I was tired and cranky all the time!  My knees, back, ankles, and heart must be thanking me now!

Everything is thinning out on my body.  My legs aren't as big around, my butt is smaller, my waistline is shrinking, and I'm missing a few chins around my neck and throat.  Can you believe this?  When I started this program, the pants I wore were size 46" in the waist (that's a size 44 for you average women).  I'm now down to a 40" waist for wear, and actually tried on, and fit, into a pair of 38" pants last week!  Of course, they were still a bit tight, but the fact of the matter is that I was able to button them up.  I wouldn't have dreamed of doing that 3 months ago!

I'm stronger too.  I hiked a total distance of 9 miles yesterday and rested only when I got to my "We Made It" photo op.  I also noticed that when I got home, I had only consumed 1/2 liter of water for the entire trip.  Of course, the air was cold, but 9 miles without drinking a trough full of water is much better than I did before.  On my first hike, I could barely make it 4 miles without feeling like I was going to die.

My food choices have become second nature as well.  I still have to think about what I eat, but I don't need to think very hard.  My ability to abstain from foods that are detrimental to my plan has increased to a level where I can easily overcome temptations and not give in.  This has been a very important part of the program.

I also encourage anyone reading this to watch the videos because I outline the 4 parts to my plan, which are:

  1. What foods to avoid
  2. What foods to enjoy
  3. Exercise
  4. Activity

You'd be amazed at how simple it really is.  I know I have friends who are struggling with weight loss and I hope that you find these videos inspiring.  Also, look for some of the beauty of the trail, as I walked along a gorgeous rain forest.

With that, I'm going to make the written portion of the entry short because many of the details are in the videos themselves, and there's no need to repeat what I said there.  All in all, I'm happy with the results I've seen so far.  Here's to the next 50 lbs!





-James

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dry Creek Trail

On the left, you see a picture of the trail map I took today.  This is Dry Creek, located on the NW side of Lake Cushman in Hoodsport, WA.  I left my house around 6am to get there by 7:30am.  Driving in the predawn hours was relaxing, as there was minimal traffic in my way.  The last part of the drive was on a gravel road, dodging pot holes that my truck would have been better suited to handling instead of my wife's Saturn Ion.  However, once at the parking area, I got ready and headed out.  On the map, you can see a causeway with a gate on the right side of the northern tip of the lake.  The road itself was closed to vehicle traffic, so I hoofed it to the trailhead, which added an additional .6 miles overall to my hike.  The trail itself is 4.2 miles to Dry Creek.  Total hiking distance was 9 miles start to finish.

The trail itself was beautiful.  It is a mildly rugged trail, which much of it is actually an abandoned logging road.  It meanders along the shore of the lake for a good mile, then ascends quite rapidly up the mountainside for the last couple of miles.  The elevation increase is all at once too: 800 feet of elevation gain in just a mile.  It's quite steep in places.  After that, it levels out pretty well and continues on in the wet and gloomy undergrowth of this Northwest rain forest.

Dry Creek certainly wasn't dry today.  It was very wet.  It wasn't any spectacular, as I suspected, but it did provide an end goal for my hike, and that's all that counts.  I was alone in cougar country today, as I did see a cat track and plenty of evidence that deer have frequented this area recently.

I'd like to come out to this trail again this summer when the lake it at its full capacity, and when the temperatures are higher.  It was a beautiful, albeit very wet hike today.  I enjoyed every bit of it.

At the beginning.  This is the road the intersects with the causeway.

Road closed to motorized traffic.

I imagine this will be a sight to see this summer.

The official beginning of the trail.

Densely packed trees, which the trail meanders through.

Here's another view of the lake from the NW side.  You can see the water in the distance on the upper right of this photograph.

Awesome waterfall you had to see in person to truly appreciate.

Yes, that's rain droplets on my camera lens.  I just wanted to show that this trail is an abandoned logging road.

There it is: Dry Creek.  It's nothing special.

We made it!  Err, I should say "I" made it because I was going solo today.

Another picture of this beautiful forest.

Where I stashed the car.
  
-James

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Penrose Point State Park Hike

This week, I found a 2 mile loop trail hike at Penrose Point State Park in Lakebay.  It's about 32 miles from my house and almost an hour drive to get there.  The park was clean and the trail was well maintained and decently marked.  I would like to revisit this place sometime in the spring or summer on a clear day.  There is a chance of getting a spectacular view of Mt Rainier along with flowers and all other things springtime.

This hike wasn't difficult.  With minimal elevation gain and only two miles traveled, it almost left me longing for more.  Thankfully, my wife echoed my feelings, and we are going to seek some longer trips in the future.  For today, however, it was nice.

The only detractor to going to state parks is the Discover Pass.  At $30 a year, it seems like a good deal, much like the forest access passes of before, but apparently, the Discover Pass works for only one vehicle and it isn't allowed to be moved from car to car.  What a rip off!  So, in order to use my truck at certain parks, I need to spend another $30 to get an additional Discover Pass... just so I can drive that vehicle to the park instead of the car.  The park service department will hear from me about that!  I know they need money, but damn!  

At the park.  We decided to have a picnic and gear up before the hike.  Beautiful day.

Lindsay and Rory at the point.

A view of the water from the beach.

Lindsay and Rory again, after switching out her camera lens.

Runnin' and gunnin' with her DSLR camera.

On the trail.

Brief pause for a poser shot.

Sitting around on the perfect beach log with the puppy and my son.

Total Kobun!

Smiling for the camera.

My wife and daughter.

Picture that my wife took.
We Made It!  For lack of a better group photo, I've decided to use this picture of Mt Rainier that my wife took until further notice.

-James

Week 15

This week, I did pretty decent.  Not only was I able to make up a training hike, but I lost over 2 lbs.  I'm now down to 268 lbs!  I'm only two away from 50 lbs lost, and nearly halfway to my 100 lb goal.  Amazing!  These last 15 weeks have just blown by.  If you told me that I would have lost nearly 50 lbs in just over 3 months, I wouldn't have believed you.  I honestly did not believe that this kind of weight loss was possible without some crazy diet or by getting on "The Biggest Loser."

Earlier in the week, Lindsay showed me the video that I posted a couple days ago regarding getting out for 30 minutes a day and doing something active.  I got to thinking more and more about that as the week went on, and then came across the picture that I have to the left of these words.  If this kid can get out and do it, what's your excuse?  Don't have the time?  This kid doesn't have the legs!  Don't think you can practice self control and eat right?  This kid can run without legs!  Think a gym membership costs too much?  How much do you think those awesome springy prosthetic limbs cost?  Indeed, your excuse for not changing your life is invalid.  You have the time, and you have the reasons to change your life.

I know that for me, my weight was getting to the point where I realized that things were getting way too out of control.  It was starting to seriously affect my quality of life, and I determined that I needed to do something about what I became.  That is the reason for all of this.

By now, if you have followed this blog, you know that I don't hold back, and I have no magic pill to make me stronger, lighter, and faster.  I've detailed it in other entries, but the three main parts of my lifestyle change are: eat right, eat less, and be active.  With this trifecta, you will be able to change your life for the better.  If I can do it... hell, if that double-amputee kid can do it, so can you!

One thing about 52 Hikes in 52 Weeks that I really like is that my family can come out with me.  My family is important to me and nothing makes me happier than being with them doing something fun like hiking or being outdoors.  I have the ability and wherewithal to provide my children with many memorable experiences to take with them into adulthood.  Among other things, I want them to take the outdoor lifestyle with them.  Getting them used to this lifestyle at such a young age will give them a good foundation.  Getting them to eat right, exercise and get out of the house will help them to avoid some of the mistakes I made in my mid to late twenties.  I also care about the health of my family as well and encourage my wife and kids to come out with me as much as possible.  If for nothing else, Lindsay can take pictures for her 365 project.

Next week, I look forward to 50 lbs lost, and half of my weight loss journey completed.  Stay tuned and wish me luck!



-James

Thursday, February 2, 2012

23 1/2 Hours - What's the Best Single Thing We Can Do For Our Health?

This video is worth watching, and reinforces what I'm doing as far as weight loss goes.  It's no secret.  It's very simple.



-James

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Week 13 Makeup Hike

Today, instead of hitting the gym, I decided to take full advantage of that blue sky and bright yellow sun.  I packed my daughter into the car and headed to Point Defiance Park to walk a counter-clockwise path around the Blue Square trail.  Total trail loop was 4.6 miles.  Total distance from car back to car was 5 miles.  I wasn't lollygagging today though.  I hauled butt around the park, stopping only long enough to snap some pictures.  As it took me just over an hour to complete this hike, I figure I was moving at an average of 4mph.  At some points, I nearly broke out into a jog, but I didn't want to wake my daughter, who fell asleep about 1/2 mile into it.

Toward the beginning of the hike.  Rory was excited to ride in her "pack pack."

Vashon Island viewpoint.

After about a mile or so, Rory decided to call it quits.  She slept like this from the Vashon Island viewpoint to Fort Nisqually.

A tall tree at the Gig Harbor picnic area.

Ah, the sun to my back.  Narrows Bridges in the background.

No rest for the weary.  Despite Rory's sleepiness, we press on.

At the Narrows Viewpoint.

I'll call this the "we made it" picture since Rory finally woke up to enjoy the last mile or so of the journey.

One happy toddler.

Finally, enough sun to actually cast a shadow.  How do you baby wear?

Well, here's a welcomed sign.  How long has it been since we've seen a blue sky?

Found an old fire hydrant to set the camera on and get a full body shot.  My boots are muddy, I'm a little sweaty, but my spirits are high and Rory has a most confused look on her face.

-James

I'm Not Trying to Be Something That I'm Not

Every time I look at Facebook, it seems I find some status update where someone says, "I'm not trying to be someting that I'm not," or "I won't change just to make you happy," or something along those lines.  They usually include some tid bit about how they aren't skinny or they have "more to love" in the form of fat hanging from their bodies.  Then, it usually leads into something how they don't care if you don't like them because they aren't "perfect," which is code for being fat.  It always ends with something about loving who they are.

Respectfully, I must disagree.

First off, being fat wasn't what I wanted to be in the first place.  If I had done my part to take better care of my body, I wouldn't have had a giant gut sticking out over my belt.  That's not what I was... well it was, but it isn't what I wanted for myself.  But by admitting you are overweight, and then stating that you won't change who you are, aren't you lying to yourself?  If people exercised more, ate a little less, and lived an active lifestyle, would they not be thinner?  Who you are, as a fat person, is not who you should want to be.  If you have some weight to lose, then lose it!  I know it's hard.  I've lost more weight than the average person needs to, but I've done it.  Now, more and more, I'm starting to see the person I want to be rather than the disgusting fat body that I was.  If you really love yourself for who you are, then wouldn't it make sense to treat your body more like a temple than a McDonald's deep fat frier?  I'm just saying...

What about this so-called "perfect" body that they don't have?  Well, I hate to break it to you, but after you put down Cosmo, and Vanity Fair, you come to learn that perfection isn't necessarily in how skanky or hot you can make yourself up to look like, but how inviting your appear to others around you.  I'm here to tell you that as a fat man, I didn't feel inviting to anyone.  I felt fat.  I always felt like people were judging me based on the fact that it looked like I spent too much time in the Hostess Twinkie factory than I did doing anything else.  And they would be right to judge.  There is absolutely no reason to be so obese as I got.  In this day in age, even amongst processed foods, there are healthy options and so many opportunities to get out and do something active, even if it just means throwing a frisbee with your dog.  Fat = boring.  All the cool kids are reasonably thin.  Do you know why?  Because they get out and do stuff!  They get off the couch, forsake the remote control, and do something fun and exciting.  You don't have to be a gym rat to be healthy.  You just have get out there and work it!  And genetics has nothing to do with it.  If you burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight.  Simple math.  Every single fat person who has used the "genetics" excuse with me typically spends more time eating, sitting, and being boring more than anything else.

Getting back to appearing inviting to others...

When I look at my wife, I see a woman who doesn't dress in the latest fashions or try to slut herself up by trying to look "hot."  I see a woman who dresses modestly, but sexy.  Her attitude is light-hearted and fun.  She smiles and puts some effort into looking cute.  She doesn't need makeup, but on occasion, she'll wear some.  She's not fat by any means.  In fact, she's very thin and attractive.  Her style, fashion, and looks would never get her on the cover of Vanity Fair, but that doesn't matter.  She's inviting.  An inviting looking woman wins over society's screwed up view of "perfection" every time.

I would hope that as I get thinner, healthier, mentally centered, and more active, I become more inviting to be around than I did when I was fat, lazy, depressed, and bored.  These people who say that they don't care if they aren't perfect, and are happy being fat, are severely misguided.  Being fat doesn't make you appealing at all... period.  It certainly didn't make me feel appealing at all.  Being fat is unhealthy and unhealthy isn't pretty.  It isn't inviting, and it certainly isn't perfection.  It is sloth.

I would hope that these people wake up soon and realize that they really are fooling themselves into thinking that this is really what they are.  Being healthy is the best way to love yourself for who you are rather than just sitting around trying to convince yourself otherwise.

-James