Friday, 31 August 2012

Adventures of a Flatlander Pt. 1

We love mountains. We love to hike in them, camp in them, sit and watch sunsets from them. AND, we live in one of the lowest, flattest areas in North America. Sometimes you just don't have a choice. (Seriously - the local paper has stated that our local marathon is supposed to be the flattest marathon in the world, or at least in Canada, with only 38 feet of elevation!) Preparing for our travels in high altitudes while living at 600 ft. is always a challenge as we often don't have the luxury of arriving several days before to acclimatize. I started to research ways of preparing one's body and came across Acli-Mate , a sports drink that supposedly helped one to acclimatize to altitude.


The ingredients, according to the website, included;

  • Balanced electrolytes to help prevent muscle cramping, fatigue and dehydration.
  • Energy promoting B-vitamins (at 50% of the RDA per serving) PLUS CoQ10.
  • Calcium/Magnesium to help reduce muscle fatigue and cramping while promoting bone health and recovery.
  • Rhodiola rosea herbal (root) extract to promote acclimatization and optimal adaptation to the stressors of altitude and exercise. Excellent for aiding in the management of stress not related to altitude and for enhanced recovery after exercise at any elevation.
  • Ginkgo Biloba (leaf) extract for enhanced acclimatization via promoting red blood cell integrity, cellular oxygenation and circulation.
  • Schizandra Berry Extract for support of acclimatization and recovery.

  • It seemed worth a try. I found a 2-for-1 coupon online and ordered two tubs of different flavours. Mike and I both started three days before arrival, 3 times a day. He was driving out and I was going to fly. I've never liked the taste of sports drinks (way too sweet and in-your-face for me), so I really didn't like the taste, but it was certainly no worse than other sports drinks I've had. Mike didn't mind it. Once we arrived in Colorado enroute to New Mexico, we were ready to test it out; but would it work?

    This trip would have the most elevation gain of any trip we had done before, so a good test. Starting elevations were high, too: here are the stats on elevation of a couple of our hikes:
    -10,300 - 12,000 ft.
    -10,400 - 11,800 ft. (with a 25-lb. pack!!!!!)
    -7,200 - 8,300 ft.
    (there were more similar)

    I have to say I felt better than I ever have on one of these trips. I am quite positive that the Acli-mate was a major contributing factor. I had none of the usual symptoms of altitude sickness and was able to climb relatively easily (except with the heavy pack, but that will never be easy, LOL!). I definitely recommend this as part of your preparation for activities at high altitude.

    Back to 600 ft.; sigh.....

    Wednesday, 29 August 2012

    Vegan Camping Food Review

    We've just returned from our annual New Mexico hiking/camping trip. It was a truly incredible experience, and I'll be blogging about the hikes soon (as well as about a wonderful product that aids us flatlanders at altitude!). One thing at a time, though. I had promised in a previous blog (Vegan Camping Food) to try out some of the vegan products available and then report back - so here it is!
    We tried three different brands of meals needing only boiling water to cook (this means we only needed our small backpacking stove and a small kettle - all of the meals were cook-in-bag and eat-out-of-bag).  Remember, we only tried a few flavours - more in the future! Here we go:

    Mary Jane's Farm: (available online: MJF)
    I really wanted to try some of these due to their burnable cook-in bags (if you order the "outpost" option), so ordered a bunch. They came quickly. Here's what we tried:

           Organic Outrageous Outback Oatmeal:

    (minus the berries, folks!)
    This was really delicious, and the addition of powdered soy milk made it really creamy. Yummy!
          Organic Ginger Sesame Pasta:
     All of my favourite flavours, but this was the only bummer of the batch. Bad texture, bad aftertaste....oh,well. We tossed it! (Unhappy Camper).
            Organic Lebanese Peanut Bulghar:
    After the pasta fiasco, I was leery, but this was lovely. Very delicious: minty, lemony but not overly so. See note below ****
               Organic Wild Forest Mushroom Couscous:
    Not as mushroomy as you'd expect, but quite good! See note below ****
    I'd buy these again, but try out new flavours before you go backpacking!

    Backpacker's Pantry: (available at Mountain Equipment Coop in Canada, but I'm sure at various other venues in the US; also here Backpacker's Pantry). These were hands-down the winners, with a notable exception. They have a lot of vegan options, but only a couple were available at MEC.  I would definitely try the others in a heartbeat. The packaging is foil with a ziplock, so although not burnable, you can pack out sealed garbage in it, especially if you have bear bags.

          Katmandu Curry:

    Katmandu Curry
    Absolutely delicious - 2 servings per package, so encourages sharing! Well spiced, good texture. Didn't taste like "camping food" at all. If you add a bit more water, it makes a great soup.
         Organic Peanut Butter and Raisin Oatmeal:
    Organic Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal
    Again, delicious! Interior pack of Justin's peanut butter melts into the oatmeal just right for a high-protein meal; the aromatic PB may not be a great idea in bear country, however. Be warned: although this is sold as one serving, it packs a wopping 530 calories!!!! We often split a pack and had a couple of Wasa bread with it, except when we were doing a really heavy uphill hike that day. Then it was one pack each.
    Organic Yakisoba Noodles:
    Organic Yakisoba Noodles 
    I was so dying to try these as I am a soba nut. Nowhere on the front of the package does it indicate that you also need a skillet to make these. Yeah, like I'm going to add a skillet to my 25-pound pack -not! They need to make the fact a little clearer on the packaging.
    So, I am definitely going to try these again! There are a lot of vegan, organic options, but you have to read ingredients carefully. I want to try Louisiana Red Beans and Rice, Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce Rice, Chana Masala and Pad Thai (but watch out for the TVP).
    I found this at MEC, but will likely try more of their products as this was really good! Try them here: AlpineAire
         Vegetable Mix:
    ****We "cooked" and added these to the two MJ Farms meals. A very satisfying, "fresh veggie" texture and flavour. Oh, yeah!
    Can't wait until our next backpacking adventure to try out some more!!!!!

    Sunday, 5 August 2012

    Of heels, software and Olympic drama.

    I've been using my Schwinn 810 GPS for a while now (see the original post, New Cheap GPS Watch ) and thought I should update my comments on it. First off, I still love this watch. For what I'm using it for (everyday training) it's perfect. The heartrate monitor seems to work well, too. The software which came with it is, as I said before, basic, but useful, and it works fine on my Acer withWindows 7: however, it often tallies weekly totals incorrectly.  Since I save the files as .tcx and upload the info to Map My Run, this isn't really an issue as MMR totals things nicely. I have run into a bit of a problem, though. I've found that any laps more than 9 will upload out of order on MMR (usually right after the first lap). As long as you are aware of this problem, you can still use the info easily, and the laps are organised correctly on the included software. So, as long as you use the software and MMR in tandem and realise the shortfalls of each, you can get all the pertinent info you need.
    Now here's an important tip for when you are downloading info to the computer from the watch (making very sure that you have the contact pins completely engaged on the USB clamp; this can be tricky for us with less than perfect eyesight!): after the info has been stored in the program and it prompts you to delete the info on the watch, DO SO!!!! Otherwise, your downloads will take really long. I believe it downloads everything on the watch every time. Cleaned out, the download is very quick.


    On to other topics. All of you racewalkers out there know how hard you are on the heels of your favourite racing shoes, and shoes ain't cheap. When mine wore right down, I took them to a shoe repair place which happened to also be a shoe and bootmaker. They put new heels on my shoes and volia! I've had them do this a couple of times already as the uppers are still good. Costs about $15...a LOT cheaper than new shoes.

    He is also an "authorized Vibram certified shoemaker" and assured me that he can replace the entire sole when needed (which will be next time as you can see the toe wear). As long as my uppers last, this is what I'm going to do. I wear quite hefty prescription orthotics in my shoes which, oddly enough, keep the interiors from wearing down quickly.


    I watched the men's 20K Olympic walk yesterday, streamed to my laptop (check out the CTV site - they stream everything!) and was glued to the monitor! It's amazing watching these guys in action. Of course, my pet peeve (lifting) was very evident in the slo-mo replays, but what can ya do? Not sure if you saw it, but Valeriy Borchin, the reigning world champion, collapsed with less than a km to go. He was taken away by ambulance and it did not look good. I've been trying to find out how he is to no avail. If anyone has info, please email me!
    The results were:

    1. Chen Ding, China (1:18:46 - Olympic Record)
    2. Erick Barronda, Guatemala (1:18:57)
    3.Wang Jhen, China (1:19:25)

    Near the end, Chen Ding just took off and was obviously enjoying himself, slapping five with the spectators as he approached the final leg of the race. Quite an athlete, that fellow.
    Barrondo seemed to come up out of nowhere at one point. He had great style, reminiscent of Perez. Also reminiscent of Perez was the fact that this was the first ever medal for his country! He had a great message to the youth of his country about choosing training shoes over weapons.

    Canadian Inaki Gomez came 13th and American Trevor Barron came 26th.