Physical preparation

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Note – I am now operating via iPhone only. Bear with me folks.

A few people have asked me about physical conditioning. Some who have seen my daily itinerary have asked about my fitness to do an average of 25 miles a day over and over.

I feel good about my physical readiness for this trip. While I am a pretty active guy in general, I did some specific training to prepare for the PCT. I started in earnest in the spring of 2013. I began taking more and longer walks.

I live in a small town in Lancaster County, PA. This is farm country with nothing but rolling hills in every direction. We don’t have a ton of elevation change on any one hill. 300 feet is not a bad estimate of the average change. But there are generally at least 2 of these rolling hills in every mile. Several US cycling teams train in the area.

It did take me a while to get used to walking without having a canine companion, but I adjusted. I found a few circuits that I enjoy that do not require any driving. These are my favorite kind of hikes. Just walk out your door and go. I started doing a 13 mile loop with a 20 pound pack at least once a week and more often when I had the time. I would finish the circuit in about 4 hours including several short rest stops and usually a 15-30 minute stop to read and reflect in a beautiful gazebo.

I used these walks not just for conditioning but for gear tests. I tried out several pairs of pants, shirts, hats, and socks until I found the gear that really works for me.

I started running again after I quit smoking last November. Once December hit and the cold really set in, I joined a gym and kept running inside. From December 7th to early March, I only skipped three days. I ran (or hit the elliptical) for at least 1 mile every day. Most days it was 3-6 miles, and I kept an 8 minute mile pace on average.

In January, I started with a weight training program as well. Nothing too intense or extensive but the 30 minute machine circuit at my gym hits all/most major muscle groups and is a great place to start for anyone who has never done weights before. I did that every other day.

Despite the wicked cold and lots of snow, I still went hiking on some of my favorite woodsy trails at least twice a month through the winter. I hiked when it was 12 degrees, old snowpack in the woods, and fresh snow falling. I would take a 20 pound pack and hike 6-12 miles depending on the conditions.

The past few weeks I left the elliptical behind and went back to the treadmill to get my feet used to the pounding again and my body to walking instead of running or elliptical-ing. I set the incline for maximum, and the pace at 4 mph and rocked out for a solid hour. Sometimes I would do another 15 or 20 minutes but most days I would begin my cool down after the hour.

When I combine the past 12 months of physical conditioning and gear testing with my prior experience hiking big days in the Grand Canyon or Mt Humphreys in Flagstaff and completing the John Muir Trail through the Sierras – I feel confident.

None of this is to say that everything will be rosy. Some days will be hard. I just mean that I am really comfortable and confident with the capabilities of my body, my gear, and my mind.

I am ready. Let’s do this!

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The magical manzanita forest at Casa de Luna. It will be interesting to see how much greenery is here when I am back in a few weeks…

Interlude – keeping time

Today is one month smoke free for me, and it feels pretty good. It is nice not to be this guy anymore…

Smokey Fatty - Doha 12/18/04
Smokey Fatty – Doha 12/18/04

And it is nice to be about 40 pounds lighter than this guy…

El Capitan and a large hairy guy - 03/18/09
El Capitan and a large hairy guy – 03/18/09

I made it through two hurdles in this first month. I thought about it a lot while planning and on the drive up to Harper’s Ferry, but i did not stop anywhere to buy smokes before my recent hiking trip, not even a bag of Bugler for roll-your-owns. In the prep phases, thinking about having a smoke at the end of the day in the woods sounded super in my head. But i made it through just fine and had a great time in the woods without smoking. It was so cold that i did not even want to have my hands out of my sleeping bag far enough to hold a book – why on earth would i want to have to deal with the cold just to smoke? My folks went out of town for about week around Thanksgiving and i stayed home alone. This was not as great a challenge for me as it was with the drinking, but still, i survived a week alone without going back to the smokes.

What does any of this have to do with keeping time? Early milestones in abstinence are tricky to track in a way. The first time i ever sought abstinence, i attended Narcotics Anonymous. I was a young dude (two years clean and sober before i turned 21) and the lessons i learned there stayed with me (well some of the lessons, some of the time). The recommended path for newcomers to NA or AA (and probably the rest of the As) is to do 90 in 90 – attend 90 meetings in 90 days – and i did. The early days can be so difficult there are more anniversaries celebrated early on the path to abstinence. Your first day, or first 24 hours clean, sober, whatever, is a milestone. Your next anniversary is 30 days, then 60, then 90. It varies from group to group, but after 90 days, there is usually only an acknowledgement of 6 months and then annual clean time.

I have that system hardwired into my brain when it comes to tracking clean time. I am also a tech guy and love the digital calendar. This presented a stumbling block when i went to set-up the frequency reminders for my sober date and my quit smoking date. At first, without other thought, i entered custom and 30 days on the recurrence. Only later, looking at the calendar and thinking about announcing some milestones did i recognize that the world at large might be confused by my timekeeping when i celebrate 1 month at 30 days instead of the calendar month. Probably folks would not notice or think about this stuff, but the thought still bugged me. I went back into the calendar event, canceled the custom setting and switched to monthly. After one year, i will switch it to annual.

No great insights for today. I just wanted to share the happy news that i am one month smoke free and share some thoughts about keeping time. While we are here i will also set the record straight. I have talked with a very small handful of my tiny readership about this, but on the topic of anniversaries, this is as good a place as any to do it.

I did drink some about two months ago. No crisis set things off. No terrible events occurred as a result. I have even found a way to view this in a positive light. After being sober for about 8 months, i thought i might enjoy the beverage again, and thought i might have better perspective and control. I re-learned several things. I did really hate it. From the first taste of the whiskey and beer, i hated it. I also re-learned that it is not about perspective or control for me. I repeat, i hated it, but i still drank for several days in a row on this mini binge before snapping out of it. I was not afraid to tell you guys, i just didn’t want to talk about it. I was disappointed with myself and it took a little while to even out again afterwards. The most positive thing about the experience is this – i don’t need to repeat that experiment anymore. I believe that the results are in – i am still an alcoholic and have a much better time not drinking than i do drinking.

I was thinking about time and anniversaries and the fact that without the stumble, January would have made it one year sober. I don’t expect or need any of you guys to be keeping track, but you never know. Anyway – one month smoke free, coming up on two months sober (again).

To end on a more positive note – i have started exercising again. I have not yet hit the groove and made it part of a regular schedule as in the past, but i am doing my stretches and floor exercises a few times a week. Two of my favorite real life and digital friends, Kelly and Karen, are both runners and their consistency and dedication is helping me to get back into the running as well. I went out for a one mile run last night about 10:45 and knocked out 2 miles instead. Not back to my desired pace of under 8 minute miles, but having not jogged in months, 9:20 is not a bad pace.

PA - 12/4/13
PA – 12/4/13

Anyway, i wish you luck and offer support in reaching your goals. Tyler Durden said that self improvement is masturbation. He said it like that’s a bad thing. He also got Bob killed and blew up buildings. A lesson i am learning far too late in life, you gotta pick your heroes carefully. I will end with one of my favorite quotes. Sadly, despite the warning, i have lived both sides of this one. If you can identify this one without using the googles you get digital props.

“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

PS: back to the hiking and gear stuff next.

PPS: I did buy a groovy domain name for myself and am still planning on moving this blog. There will be warnings and notice and such. WordPress just started showing me placeholders where they may have ads on my blog. I don’t want that. I also hope you are using Ad Blockers so that you would not see that stuff anyway.

Rock On!

Interlude – or where the Frack is Renfroe?

Howdy Folks! I am popping back up after an unexpected absence from blogging. For the most part, i just got busy – which is good. There were some more personal meltdown style events as well, but these were small and brief and navigated if not well, at least better than in the past.

Mother's Day near Holtwood Dam
Mother’s Day near Holtwood Dam

I am still developing my new project for India that i can’t talk much about yet, except to say that things are coming along nicely. I am nearing completion on the initial research and validation stage, working on briefing materials, and hope to begin shopping for seed funding in the next 4-6 weeks.

I have not reactivated the running program, though both that and quitting smoking are on the agenda. I have managed to remain sober, hitting the four month mark at the end of May. There have been few difficult times, but more than i expected. I have not been greatly tempted, and it has been fairly easy to avoid drinking, but i hoped that it would be further from my mind by now than it is. Meaning, i do still think about it, and with more frequency and intensity during stressful times. I am enjoying sobriety. I have not slept this well in years. The biggest and most obvious benefit so far is all about mental health. As alluded to above, i have had one or two trying times, but i have not been depressed since January. With a sober head, it is so much easier to assess what is happening when i start to feel bad, and if not turn things around immediately, at least stop the process of declining into repetitive negative thought and behavior patterns.

A quick example. I had some exciting travel plans around memorial day. The plan fell apart for the first leg of the trip, and for reasons i am still not entirely aware of, that threw me off my game. I started to feel anxious and nervous and a bit agoraphobic. I did not manage to snap out of it and continue with the rest of my plans. I did stay at home, mostly inside. I did struggle with not wanting to see or talk with people when i did go outside, but – that is as bad as it got. I did manage to go grocery shopping and run some other errands. I did clean the house, tend the garden, and do other home based chores. I didn’t wallow too much – and i didn’t drink about it. In a few days, i felt better and jumped back into the swing of things.

Preparations are well underway for the presentation my friend and i are leading for LYP next week, and i am excited about the event. I have made good progress on securing a local paying consulting gig that is also exciting. That i will be able to tell you about, but i will wait until we finish negotiating the details and sign the contract.

I will finish the last few entries for the Apple tech series and get those posted – hopefully this weekend.

Next Up – i think i will probably write about addiction and mental health for a while. The whole picture has not taken shape yet, but i can see how i would like some of the pieces to go. Initially, i will do a bit of a recap of why i decided to get sober this time. I would also like to write about the three other times i have quit drinking. There will most likely be several historical look at various phases of substance abuse covering how and why i got there among other things.

Nick and Jake - JMT start
Nick and Jake – JMT start

Today is the One Year Anniversary of Jake and I starting our John Muir Trail Adventure! I should probably get on the stick and finish the JMT movie project, perhaps to coincide with the one year anniversary of completing that hike…

PreGame

I have been working on the tech post and am at a decision point. I either need to do an exercise in linguistic economy of which i am capable but do not prefer, or serialize the tech post into two or three episodes. I am leaning towards serializing at this point and will know in the next day or so. Either way, I will be mixing some insight with some whining about technology here quite soon.

General news – work is going well. I am not sure yet what form the current India project will take. The more I learn, the more the picture changes, but it is a very interesting project. Of course, working on one kind of new thing makes me have many other new project/product ideas and I am slow cooking development on a second idea to pursue in tandem or as a replacement should that become necessary.

I passed seven weeks off the booze and that is still going pretty well. The biggest adjustment issue remaining (at least so far) has to do with writing. I still have lots of ideas in my head, and I still think that many of them are decent ideas, but the process of writing does not have the same magic to it these days. I expect that this will pass/change with time and so I do still write despite not being filled with energy by the act. My suspicion is that this is tied to a larger and deeper issue related to my long term suppression of emotions and passions. Hopefully I can learn how to feel things and experience passion again without getting overloaded (in any sense).

The exercise front is a bit of a good news bad news deal. I run at night and it has been so cold this month that I have only three runs to my name. I will do more as the weather improves. On the plus side, I have been sticking to the stretching and floor exercise routine. I am doing that twice a day consistently now and have upped my reps this week to hit 360 ab exercises daily. While I am definitely still squishy, I am down to 185 and wearing 33s again. I plan to continue upping the reps weekly by 10 per activity and staying with two-a-day workouts so that I should be hitting around 700 reps of ab-tivity by the end of April!! I do have one day hike and one multi-day hike coming up in March and I could not be more excited about that unless it was back in California with my trail dogs! Whoooooop Whooop!!

Enjoy the rebirth of Spring and treat yourself to some outdoor time.

Update-a-riffic!

I finished all the house painting about 10 days ago. Since then there have been a few small chores on the punch list – finishing with de-clutter, rearranging and reorganizing stuff, usual things. But these tasks have not occupied me daylight to dark the way the painting did.

I have applied for three jobs. A small feat for some of you out there that are job seeking juggernauts, but a pretty good rate for me. I even had one interview already. I did not get that job, but it was awesome to seek a job and get an interview. That has actually never happened to me ever in my life. So – progress. These have all been local prospects, which is not what I really want, but only one is a full-time gig and ya gotta start somewhere.

As always, there are some things stirring with RAI, and as always, i ain’t gonna talk to y’all about deals that have not been signed, but there is some potential in that direction.

With the manual labor completed and having a nicer and much quieter place to work, i am now situated to dedicate much more of my time to the job hunt process. Many things i am interested in will be a bit uncertain until at least Nov 7, if not until 2013, but there are loads of things i can do to be ready when opportunities become viable/reliable. Revamping my online files with the US gov and private sector Aid sites i use for job hunting as well as a few of the companies that work in areas that interest me, and research, and apply apply apply.

That is what’s on the table for me now. It is liberating and daunting this go round, the Job Hunt, doing this without having to consider my canine dependents. I can go anywhere! There are a few international opportunities i am looking into, but i really want to move to California. Whenever i tell someone that they always ask, “Where?” The answer for me is easy – anywhere that allows me to easily spend time in the Sierras. I am not generally a fan of clothing as a gift, but i got a fantastic shirt from my folks that expresses what i mean to the letter.

"The Mountains are Calling and I must Go." John Muir
“The Mountains are Calling and I must Go.” John Muir

If you are curious, my resume is available online to read and/or download. And if you are hiring, i have done and can do almost everything. Thus ends shameless self-promotion.

In the meantime, i got out to golf 6 times this Fall: twice with random folks at my local course, once with Vance and a neighbor at the local, twice with Vance at my favorite course in the area, and once with Vance at the annual NGEF tournament on the MINDS team. These were my first six outings in a year and i/we broke 100 four of those times – one 98 at the local with my dad, a 98 and a 95 at my favorite (and more difficult) course with my dad. We were 1 under par at the tournament. Not great for the format, but the first time any team i have played on broke par. I think it is too late in the season to do much more work this year, but i was on a good track putting my game back together, my swing is doing awesome, and i am adding a few utility shots that are helping me bring the scores down. If i have time and money to play, i expect to be shooting in the 80s next season.

It has been a long time since i stopped running, but i have restarted with my stretching and floor exercise routine. So far, i have only been doing it once a day, in the mornings, but i hope to add an evening session in soon. I am holding off entropy and maintaining 185 or less. With the second session, i should be able to get even less jiggly.

Oh, i joined LYP last December and was very active for about a month, before moving back to AZ to help Jake with some personal stuff. I am reengaging with them, attended another mixer, and volunteered at a fundraising event to support housing for moms and kids Nov 2nd. I like the LYP folks i have met so far, but i have not met too many as i am less interested in the social events. Some of these are called networking mixers, but the potential to meet with employers or decision makers has been nil. However, the group has grown and things could be different now. I will have to try out a few more social events. I do like volunteering and appreciate the outlet for doing good locally.

There is another tech related update in the works and still the JMT!

Be well.

Vita-Run!

Veggie Vitamins – 45 Days.  Feel good. Don’t notice a change i can attribute to the difference in veggie vitamins versus the “standard” vitamins i used to take, but i do think the glucosamine is helping – in addition to the core exercises. I have not had any knee or leg pain like pre-winter running.

The glucosamine i ordered for Lucas arrived today. I hope that it will help that champion as well. As with me, time will tell. And similar to my scenario, i don’t expect him to necessarily notice and jump and run differently – i am not expecting him to be able to do more. I just hope that what he does will feel better and that he will be able to do it longer.

We had another decent spot of weather this afternoon and i took in another run. This one is probably the best i have felt so far. In part, i think i am getting into shape and getting used to running, but i also think that the iPod is helping. In particular, i pulled off the music and put on the audio book series i am listening to. I was not sure how running while listing to stories would work out, and i am here to tell you that it was super.

I am re-listening to Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series, and just started Wolves of Calla this afternoon. I reverted to the old run and had no troubles at all. The dreaded hill around 1.4 miles was no problem. The next hill into the neighborhood was easy-peasy.

2.11 miles – 8’38” Pace

I set three new goals today as well.  In the next four weeks:

14 runs

30 miles

10 runs at or under 8’45”

If i stick with it and run at least every other day (on average), this should be easy. Last time i set similar (though easier) goals, but fell off track on all but the pace goal. Now it is time to meet new goals…

I still owe some (probably goofy) pictures of running and hiking gear, and a wrap up of the hiking info i found about good local PA hiking as well as reports and pictures of the latest hikes. I hope to get to that in the next two days. For now –

Lucas on the Mason Dixon Trail - March 29, 2011
Lucas on the Mason Dixon Trail - March 29, 2011
Mason Dixon Trail - March 29, 2011
Mason Dixon Trail - March 29, 2011

Time for a Quickie

Ran 1.83 – Pace 8’41”

Not too bad after such a long break. My back has been killing me the past three days, but it felt a little better this morning and it is too gorgeous outside today to not take advantage!

I had one or two bad back moments in the run, but was able to find a decent posture and stride.

I ditched the old course today and started out towards the prettier areas. I did not get to the ridge lines and vistas with a 1.1 out and .7 back, but it was nice to go somewhere different.

It makes sense, but it is nice to experience how maintaining my floor ‘core’ exercises is paying off. I have kept to the twice a day inside exercise schedule and my legs and body (aside from back) felt great. My breath was good until about 1.7. That is an area where sticking to the schedule is going to be the only thing for improvement i believe.

I am going to have a little fashion show with my camera and the mirror soon to showcase the new hiking/running gear and you will see how i owed it to the clothes alone to get out there and rock !m/!

In the meantime, here’s Lucas on Saturday, killing a groundhog …

Lucas 876,945 - Groundhogs 0
Lucas 876,945 - Groundhogs 0
Lucas 876,945 - Groundhogs 0
Lucas 876,945 - Groundhogs 0
He is a silent killer, until the breaking of bones...
He is a silent killer, until the breaking of bones...

Take your pants to the woods!

Let me hit the promised issues before we get to the title…

1. I have not had a run since the 19th. This makes me feel less than awesome, and i hope to get back on the stick. If you read here regularly, you will know that i have had some difficulty running in the cold weather. I also have generally felt pretty good when i do suck it up and run through the cold, but it is difficult to get out there. We had an actual nice and spring-like week that turned back into cold. In PA we are back to highs near 40 and single digit lows.

I did make one of my three goals that i set through the online nike+ system. Due to taking a week off i did not make my frequency or distance goals for March, but i did meet the ‘pace’ goal. I had 5 runs under a 9’/mile pace. While i do want to work on frequency and distance also, this was a great hurdle to overcome. It seems that my body now knows how to get out there and maintain 8’30”-8’45”. Once i am easily breaking two miles and ready for more, i can begin to do some much more beautiful runs. The route i am using now is pretty boring, but it is a combination of the safest and flatest route under 3 miles i can use without driving somewhere to run. Once you are comfy with even 3.5, there are some really beautiful runs through the farmland, along the ridges of Lancaster’s rolling hills, and beside some nice creeks and rivers.

Guthrey and Vance near Slackwater bridge - 1996(ish)
Guthrey and Vance near Slackwater bridge - 1996(ish)

I have kept up with my indoor activities. I am doing the full stretching routine twice a day, as well as my floor exercises. I am still increasing my reps as i get stronger and build endurance. The morning session is 18 push-ups, 60 twisty crunches, 60 regular crunches, and 60 leg lifts. The evening is 15, 50, 50, 50. Lucas and i are still walking 4-8 miles in the neighborhood everyday, and on the 26th we did 7 or 8 miles in the woods.  More on that at the end of this post – or the beginning of the next one.

2. The Spam bin has been fairly boring since the last report. Mostly it has been huge comments filled with online gambling and casino links – nothing suspicious about that… There were two oddly accurate spams though. It took me a minute to be sure that these were spam. Luckily there were two, and they were identical, and the commenters’ email addresses were almost identical, but that aside – oddly on point. It was two or three grammatically correct sentences about the virtues of Dome tents and how they maximum available interior space with a minimum of added weight.

3. The informal poll on discussing hiking equipment – i was going to ask you folks if you were remotely interested in my search for “the right” hiking gear, because if you are not, that could be pretty boring. Then i realized that i don’t really care, and you can skip it if you don’t want to read it. In part, writing about it here helps me organize my thoughts and remember specific products which is extremely helpful when i am face-to-face with a sales person. And i am a process guy. To my way of doing it, there are lots of processes in hiking. The more processes i employ and the more efficient i can make these processes while at home the more relaxing and enjoyable the adventures when i do make it out into the woods. I know that there is at least one other backpacker and several hikers who read this, so i will probably continue to share about the hiking gear process. Hopefully, you guys will continue to chime in with your experience and advice from time to time as well.

I have to go back to job research now but, the title comes from Saturday’s adventure (Mar 26). I went to the REI in Maryland, bought some new hiking pants, and then had a great hike on some new trails. Lucas loved it, and was even peppy around the neighborhood the next day.

Next Up – more on the hiking pants, learning about trails in Southern PA, the most awesome resource for hiking trails in VA…

Pending – job update, vegan vitamin update (i feel good), probably a short piece on race relations in Friday Night Lights in celebration of the final season launch on regular TV (iTunes Store for me) – no spoilers please, and i will warn you of the spoilers in my FNL essay – it will probably be confined to two episodes in season one.

Big Ball o’ Random (or small pile of unassociated items)

1. Kelly made me realize that i did not put out the word on Lucas. After writing about it here, i never closed the loop. He is doing great. His stomach was pretty much settled by the time i got back on Monday. The vet visit on Tuesday was super and he passed all his various blood work and other tests. It was just a simple upset stomach with no larger issues related. That is what i suspected, but it always nice to get more definitive analysis.

2. Last weekend’s trip to NOVA was fantastic.  It was better than i could have imagined it would be.  I am not finished processing and feeling and remembering – but it was a great time.  The music was awesome, and seeing old friends was hard to describe – in a good way.  There are many people who showed up that i did not get to spend much time with, and there were definitely folks missing, and other friends that i did not get to see – but that is kind of the nature of trying to fit twenty plus years of catch-up into one weekend.

JS, TS, NR - photo KAB
NR, KAB, LT, KM(R) - photo some guy we got to snap a shot

Aside from seeing old high school buddies, i got to re-connect with some “newer” friends as well. When i lived in Annandale in 2006/7, Lucas and i made many friends through the Mason District dogpark, but there was one family we bonded with deeply and almost instantly. The whole circumstance is strange in that two less-than-social dudes met, bonded, and have stayed great friends. Like many situations, the dogs had a lot to do with it. Lucas will get along with just about anyone, but he has had few great dog friends. There were a few other street dogs or dogs that got loose regularly that he played with as a puppy before he joined my team. Of course he loved Guthrey. But Fox is the first dog since Guthrey that Lucas really seemed to love. And, Fox was the same way. He also liked to see other dogs, and could get along fine, but had really only had one other dog friend before Lucas. Who knows what the factors involved really are.  Did the dogs know that Mehdi and I had few friends and though we liked being alone, we were also lonely? Did the dogs simply like each other regardless of how the bipeds felt? Is it something deeper but ephemeral – that because these dogs chose us individually, that we were predisposed to like the same kind of people? Is it a combination? I don’t know, but i am glad it happened. I met Mehdi’s wife and we all became close.

N, L, G - Chimbo RVA 2002(ish)

As things do, we drifted apart a bit once i left for India and i had not really gotten back together with them since i came back to the states. In the interim, Fox passed and they have two new friends now. Not being able to bring Lucas to see Mehdi and Maria was the big downside of leaving him home last week, but i still think it was the right call. It was excellent to see my old friends and to meet the new dogs and go on some of our old walks. It did not take us long to discuss and then move past “the missing years”. The stuff i wrote above is of course “the good parts” version of the story. Not that there were problems between us, but that was not a very good time in my life – which is a different story – or a part of much longer story.

FOX - Mason District Dogpark - 06/07

3. La Traviata arrived and i have really enjoyed listening to it this week. I was planning on continuing to refine my Spanish skills (and vocab!) this year, but i may have to hit an educational detour to learn more about the lyrics to this opera. I only know a handful of Italian and have not used it since 1992. But that is quite a decision to make. I love this music and wouldn’t it suck to discover that the lyrics are trite! It is hard to imagine in this case, but let’s face it, most musicals are trite… My mom asked me recently if i wanted to go see a high school musical with her.  She has one private student that she has been teaching for about 8 years, and this girl was making her singing and dancing debut. I asked my mom, “what show is it?” She said, “The Music Man!” I told her, “No. Mom, that is a terrible show.” Which is true. I was in it. Like most musicals, it was fun to be in – and i believe we performed it well – but, like Tim Kelly adaptations, that does not make it a good show. Anyway – i am trying to decide whether or not to learn more about what is happening in La Traviata.

4. One of my very smart friends misused ‘comprised’ in a recent online self-published venture. I spent a few days trying to figure out how to deal with this. I am not a grammar or punctuation or even spelling Nazi like some of my smart friends. But the proper use of words themselves is one of the areas of language that i do care about. Comprise is one of my pet peeves. I do notice and get bugged by the common faults – their, there, they’re and such. But they generally make me less fussed than a misuse of ‘comprise’. People who mess up with something like ‘there’ and ‘their’ may have never learned the difference, or may be lazy, or may have difficulty proofreading. But comprise ain’t one of your common everyday words. It is one of those book learnin’ fancy words. I do not assume that my friend was attempting to put on airs by using the word, but i see this error all the time and generally, it is someone trying to sound smarter than they are, or trying to make their argument sound fancier, or more authoritative.

So here is a good rule of thumb, a fast and loose usage guideline for you folks. ‘Comprise’ means ‘made up of’, ‘consists of’, or ‘composed of’. There are many specific cases we could go through, and i will be happy to address any if you send in your questions, but the most common mistake is people saying ‘comprised of’. As you can see from having just read the definition, saying ‘comprised of’ is like saying ‘composed of of’ which sounds a lot less fancy and authoritative than the user is probably going for. “The US is composed of 50 states.” “The US comprises 50 states.” Those two sentences mean the same thing. That is probably enough said.

Wrapping up now as i want to finish some research and preparation then head down to Maryland for a quick look at REI (i got my 2010 dividend in the mail), and then some hiking.

– – In the next episode –

Exercise update

Spam Bin update

an informal poll on the issue of discussing hiking equipment

What’s Happening Now? Update Part III

Interlude – Got in a run yesterday – 2 miles, pace 8’39”

I had to run through two walls of discomfort, but all-in-all it felt good and I felt super after the run. Some Wolfmother and RPG were right there to pick me back up when I needed it. I am still anti-shuffle in normal life, but I am digging it for running. I do still have the same thing that happens every time I am not listening to an album – I start to hear/sing the next track – but for running, those mental jolts can be good.

Hiking Part II –
Bag –

I have had the same bag since about 1996. It has been great, but there are issues – which are my fault. In the category of “you don’t know stuff until people tell you” – I have always kept my bag stored in it’s stuff sack inside my pack. Sure, it wasn’t a compression sack, and the bag is synthetic – but 14 years of storage in a small sack will take it out of any bag. The bag still works, in fact it has been an integral part of my nightly bedding since at least October 2010. But it is rated 20 degrees and it no longer performs anywhere near that level. I can’t sleep in it just in shorts even inside the house.

I still have to decide for the next bag – down vs synthetic.  I think I will stay in the same temp zone since I don’t do snow camping on purpose, but do encounter near and below freezing temps. Hopefully I can get a lighter and better performing new bag and
maintain the current bag for a loaner.

Tent –

Frontal - the one stage right

I have a great two-man tent. My only issue with it is that it too is from 1996. It works great, is fairly light, and it has as much no-see-um netting on the walls as a tent could back then. The newer tents can have almost all no see-um netting so that you have an unobstructed view (and airflow) in all directions until you put up the rainfly. That issue alone would not get me to replace my tent. But I am looking into one-man options.

Side View - the green one

I have done and probably will continue to do a lot of solo hiking. Also, most of the folks that I know have their own gear. While I will keep and maintain the two-man for the right time, I think I can lose weight and volume and gain some features in a one-man set-up.

I am definitely going to see if I can be happy in a biv sac. I have been researching them and the next step is to try them out in the store and then on the trail. I am not worried about feeling confined as I have slept in mummy bags since I can remember. Some models require many extra steps to secure from the rain, and some require you to rig up lines to hold the netting off your face. More importantly, some take a little while to get in and out of. The simple fact is, I pee a lot – especially at night. If I can’t easily get in and out of whatever it is, it ain’t going to work.

I do like the freestanding tents and there are several good one-man options out now also. I am very excited about the designs that have the door in the side instead of at the end!

Pack –

I have not done much on the pack research yet, but I may have to step that up. I remember really hating my pack the last two times I went out. I have researched enough to know that the GoLite packs will not work for me. I believe I need more support and padding than they offer. Other than that, I don’t know yet. While I will still be researching packs, I do need to get a few more things nailed down before I can make a great decision there.

My hope is that new job comes through and I can replace/supplement all my equipment at one time. We shall see…  Don’t scramble your eggs before you get chickens and all that…

– –
I have been to the local shop (EMS) for some hands-on gear time and talks with the clerks since I started writing this, as well as having spent loads of time reading reviews.

The stove is settled.  I am going to get a pocket rocket. I probably will still build and play with denatured alcohol stoves, but that is more to satisfy my curiosity and internal tinkerer.

A better shot of the DragonFly in action

Bag – Part II
I still need more intel and some product testing (part of which is on my docket for this weekend in NOVA being near to REI!).

That said, I am really interested in GoLite’s 3-Season UltraLite. It looks like a good fit. The specs are good.  The weight is intense at less than 2 pounds! And it gets great reviews. But I am concerned.  I would prefer to find one in-stock somewhere so I could actually get in it and see how it feels. If that proves difficult to impossible, I am not sure what I will do. Similar bags by other manufacturers are generally at least 1 pound heavier. This is why I need to go talk to the experts.

Tent – Part II

Tent talk is another reason for the research trip to REI. I want to get inside a few Biv Sacks like this one and I want to check out and talk about these:

Big Agnes Copper SpurGoLite EdenMSR HubbaBig Agnes SeedhouseBig Agnes Fly Creek
Just looking and reading specs – the Seedhouse and the Fly Creek seemed most appealing. But after loads of reviews, it seems that these two are more cramped inside in practice for those over 5’10”. Reviews for the Copper Spur and of course The GoLite indicate that these actually perform as advertised. But, can I find a GoLite to test out? And the door design on the Copper Spur does look appallingly stupid for such an otherwise well designed tent. There is no zipper across the bottom so the door must fold on the ground inside or on the ground outside for you to get in/out. This does appear to be the only drawback to the tent however.

I am also surprised by the number of outstanding reviews of the MSR Hubba. I have heard that they are good tents, but by the specs they are both heavier and have less floorspace than all the others listed above. But it seems that in use, they are less cramped than some other models because of better design. Also, they have a nice vestibule and the door is designed better than the door on the Copper Spur.

Again – I need testing and experts!

Next Up in Update IV:

The Weekend trip to NOVA

Hiking part III – the tent of Lucas

Tent of Lucas
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