30 January, 2009

Hot Rocks

I've found a new winter fave - the sauna. Started taking a quick sauna after workout a few weeks back. And each week my time in there seems to creep up a bit.

It's the perfect complement to the workout. Time for muscles, mind, and breathing to relax. I find that five minutes of meditation in that heat really clears things out and puts me ready for the workday. As an added benefit, I haven't had many of the dry skin issues that seem to crop up in the winter thus far.

Seems to be a connection to childhood, too. As a kid we lived in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the summer and as the UP seems to be the sauna capital of America (as far as I can tell) there was often access to a hot Finnish sauna, followed by a VERY cold dip in the lake.

As an interesting aside, I've found a quirk of guy code. While you can't talk at the urinal, it is apparently perfectly acceptable to chat in the sauna. I don't get it, but got to follow the rules or risk getting my Man Card pulled!


26 January, 2009

New Approach on Fitness

Read a couple of articles recently - one in Outside (http://outside.away.com/outside/bodywork/200812/fitness-mistakes-1.html) and another in Bicycling (http://www.bicycling.com/article/0,6610,s1-4-41-18326-1,00.html) that changed my approach to workout. Both mentioned not just exercising to exercise, but if you're an athelete (and I apply that term to myself VERY loosely) to focus on adding in things that help in your sport.

After a full year of a 3-day-per-week regimen, I feel like I'm in good basic shape. So I wanted to start to target some specific things. And both the skiing and cycling magazines I read say core strength is beneficial. So I'm adding some of the things mentioned in these articles to my routine. Thus far most of my focus was really abs, but I'm now realizing that's way too simple. We'll see the results. Helps that I'm getting training tips from my friend, Keith -- his 425# bench press speaks to his credentials!


23 January, 2009

The Value of Value

Recently had another of those, "You get what you pay for..." experiences that was a good reminder of why sometimes you just need to spend the extra money.

First -- a disclaimer -- I love a deal. I'm always looking for one. Sometimes to my own detriment.

Decided that the Element needed ski racks. Just too much gear and a pain when hauling two pairs of skis, fly rod, and all associated gear. And, I already have a Yakima tower/bar system, it's really only one more step.

On first glance, the Yakima FatCats seem like the way to go. Very aerodynamic, good capacity, cool looking. But, the Big Powderhound is about 1/3 less. So, I talk myself into that.

Bad idea.

Turns out the Big Powderhounds are LOUD on the freeway and had a huge effect on my gas mileage - both with and without skis in them.

Fortunately, unlike many other things I've bought (and later re-bought) REI has a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Exchange was a piece of cake. And the FatCats rock. No noise, no impact on gas mileage. If you're looking at ski racks, I highly recommend!


21 January, 2009

Back to Work

Well, President Obama's hard at work today, and so is the Get Outside blog. After yesterday's attempt at motivation and feel-good, back to the outdoors.

Yesterday I mentioned Purl Wax and I've been meaning to say more about this stuff. In the past year I've been trying to find ways to lessen my environmental impact. One thing I stumbled onto unexpectedly was ski wax. There are about a gazillion bad things in ski wax (see http://purlracing.com/environment.php for more). At first, I thought, "Big deal - so what?" Then I did a little more reading. That wax rubs off your skis onto the snow. Then the snow melts, runs down the hill, into streams, then rivers, then the oceans. You get the idea.

Enter Scott Sparks, entrepreneur and ski wax guru. He figured out how to make entirely natural waxes. They're a little more expensive, but seems like it was worth it, so I ordered some. Turns out not only is it green, but it ROCKS! Super fast, long-wearing, and goes on super smooth. My only complaint is that it's pretty tough to scrape. But that's a small price to pay. I've found the purple all-around wax seems to fit most situations for me.

Back East most shops don't seem to carry it, so you've got to order online at http://www.purlwax.com/. I think it's basically all handmade and poured, so it might take a little time. But it's worth it!!!


20 January, 2009

Brand New Day

This blog isn't usually politicial, but on this significant day, I feel compelled to go in a different direction - but don't worry, there's some outdoor spin in here. It may be a long one, so hold on tight...

Today's inauguration of President Obama holds so much significance to me. I'm a believer in fresh starts, new beginnings, and finding ways to throw away what didn't work in the past and invent new ways to get things done.

And that's just what this country needs right now. After 8 years of political infighting, short-sightedness (and not just by the politicians), and weak leadership it's time for a new approach. My sincere hope is that President Obama's charisma will trickle down, even if only a little, to all of us. Our politicians need to make changes, but we do, too.

It's time to stop running scared. Want to know why the economy went into a tailspin in September/October? In my opinion, two simple reasons. First, it was time to pay up for years of unrealistic economic exuberance, financed by the future. But, more significantly, we all got scared. And we stopped doing the things we used to do. The things that fueled and drove our economy. For this, I blame the media. With 83 news channels who need to fill airwaves 24/7/365 they needed something to talk about. And the election was looking like a fait accompli, so they turned to the economy. I read an article yesterday about how Russians are handling the global economic downturn -- "Well, we've been through worse, now back to work..."

But my greatest issue with the legacy administration is the shift in environmental priorities. After all the good done in the Clinton era, it is truly astounding how much the Texas Oil Conglomerate managed to undo. Once again, mortgaging the present for the future. I have great hope President Obama, along with a more balanced Capital Hill will navigate these waters to a saner path.

Don't get me wrong - I think the bulk of responsibility starts with "we the people". Look around you. It's not hard to reduce your environmental impact. I'm not saying we all need to start biking to work (I wish that were possible for me), living in yurts made of eco-sustainable fabrics, and eating stuff we grew organically. But I'd bet with a little effort you could reduce your footprint. Swap traditional bulbs for CFLs. If those are too costly, just do it in the lights you use often. Dump that big-a$$ SUV for a smaller one. And don't use the "kid hauler" argument. My sister and I grew up riding in a PINTO in the early years. Worked out just fine. Get more aggressive about recycling - it only takes a second to sort. Ditch aerosols for squeeze and pump packaging. For outdoorspeople the opportunities are easy. If you're a fisherman, don't just drop line trimmings -- pack them out. For skiers, check out Purl Wax, the only earth-friendly ski wax available (and there's some BAD stuff in traditional waxes that melts and runs off into streams). It took me about 38 seconds to generate that list. Bet it would be easy for you to think of one.

Then, get involved. Find a cause that needs you. Whether it's environmental, human services, through your church, or whatever. A lot of people are suffering, and so is the environment. Take the time you were going to waste watching a movie and go help cook dinner at a shelter. Most important, do something that's meaningful to you and that you enjoy. It will keep you commited and going back to help. Another example - many chapters of Trout Unlimited do river clean-ups and improvement projects. What a cool way to spend a day! On the river, making it better!

For me, I will miss the inauguration speech today. I'll be doing my regular volunteer shift with a local food bank making deliveries and picking up donations. And on this most historic of days, there's nowhere I'd rather be. It's a proud day to be an American.


19 January, 2009

Slidin' Grooves

Funny, I love music and have it in my life a lot, but for most of the outdoor stuff I don't usually. On a bike it's distracting (and dangerous). Hunting, well, duh. Fishing - I'm really out there to hear the sounds of nature. Ditto kayaking.

But skiing is different.

Having my iPod is the difference between a good day and a great day. And since moving to a helmet (Giro G10 with Skull Candy TuneUps) it's like my own little audio oasis. I have an older 1Gb Shuffle that's loaded up and just randomizes. Yesterday on the slopes I was thinking about what tunes work and what don't. Some surprises - really fast-paced stuff just doesn't cut it. And too ethereal is just - well -- too ethereal. A nice groove with some soul behind it seems to do it. So, with that, my playlist of faves:

James McMurtry - "Red Dress"
Silversun Pickups - "Comeback Kid"
Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Snow" (predictable, I know, but it works...)
Flogging Molly - "Swagger" or "Drunken Lullabies"
Lindsey Buckingham - "Don't Look Down"
Most any Charlie Hunter
Weakerthans - "Reconstruction Site"
Sarah MacLachlan - "Ice Cream"
Ryan Adams - "Gonna Make You Love Me"
Clash - "One More Time" (in fact, most of Sandinista works)
Beck - "Devils Haircut"

Late addition -- "Right Place to Fade" from Lindsey Buckingham's latest. Need to drag that onto the iPod!

A little glimpse into my personal ski playlist. Enjoy the outdoors!


15 January, 2009

Positively Polar

Well, the high for the day tomorrow is supposed to be 6. That's degrees, as in Fahrenheit.

Even I have cold weather limits (really, I do). That's enough to minimize my outdoor hijinks. But even if I'm limiting my time outside, I love the crispness. The snow has that cold "crunch" to it. I love that sound on some elemental level.

But that triggers a pet peeve -- and peeves make terrible pets. The cold weather complainers. It's Michigan. That's in the Upper Midwest. It gets cold here. Every winter. Dress for it -- it's really not that hard. I'm amazed how many of these complainers aren't wearing a hat. Duh. Single greatest source of heat loss. And footwear. My Sorel's aren't pretty, but they keep my feet TOASTY! Sure, I have tons of cold weather gear, but that's so I can stay outside -- where I'd rather be -- and remain comfortable.
People are shocked when I tell them I've been out flyfishing lately. It's funny, on my last trip to PM, I actually took a couple of layers off as I was too warm. This was on an 18 degree day with a little breeze and lots of snow. Nice to be able to stay outside. My best tip? Invest in a GOOD modern baselayer. I love my Simms lightweight base.

14 January, 2009

Another Combo?

So, been having fun this winter when I figured out that skiing combined well with steelhead fly fishing after I figured out that Caberfae (ski) and the Pere Marquette river (duh) are fairly close geographically.

After cross country skiing on Sunday and enjoying it, I got to thinking...

Always thought that the Olympic biathalon was really cool. And, I've gotten into shooting .22 target rifles. And biatheletes use .22 target rifles...


13 January, 2009

Winter Fun

Couple of brief things...

First, I dug out my cross-country skis on Sunday. After a nice 10" of fresh snow that was so much fun! I skied XC all the time as a kid and until I started downhill skiing. Then it kind of faded. Was so pretty out that morning and it was great exercise. Glad I dusted them off!

Second, went to Ann Arbor Trout Unlimited meeting last night. Speaker was Mike Schultz, fly shop manager from Colton Bay Outfitters, and river guide. Presentation was on steelhead fishing using indicator rigs. Mike's knowledge is just amazing, especially for such a young guy. I learned a lot more about the theory and strategy that my steelhead attempts have lacked. Stop in and see Mike -- good guy and very willing to teach. Plus, that TU chapter just has some really nice and enjoyable folks. I always enjoy the meetings.

Cold weather coming. And more snow. Good for winter fun!


09 January, 2009

Mind, Body, Spirit

As you can see, a New Year always seems to fire me up. Some years I'm rich with New Year's Resolutions, others, less so.

Last year's New Year's Resolution was to really start an aggressive fitness program, including a fair bit of weightlifting to balance out cardio activities. And, I've done it. Since last January I'm in the gym three mornings a week fairly religiously. This summer I was averaging 100 miles per week cycling.

And it's truly been worth it. I'm in the best shape in well over a decade, maybe two. My physique is more balanced (always had much stronger legs from cycling and skiing), I have more energy, and I sleep better. The whole mind-body-spirit connection really seems to ring true for me.

But the biggest benefit has been for strength and endurance in my outdoor pursuits. Went pheasant hunting with some friends last month in pretty deep snow. Had TONS of energy, even at day's end. Skied a VERY long hard day last Saturday with very few breaks. Felt great at the end. Hiked in through deep snow to fly fish the day before and just powered through it. I can truly feel the difference.

It only takes three weeks to form a habit. Many have told me this. And you can sure benefit.


08 January, 2009

Good Wiii Hunting

In this post-holiday season I keep hearing Wiiiiiiiii and XBox buzz. And at the same time I've been reading of declines in participation in outdoor pursuits - especially fishing and hunting. These two things seem oddly correlated.

With all this online interaction, including things like Facebook that allow you to have hundreds of "friends" with whom you never DO anything, we've become a society that has all these virtual experiences, but doesn't DO much. Instead of messaging with your so-called friend, maybe you should be having dinner with them? Or better still go cross-country skiing.

Have you seen the Wiiiiiiiii commercial where the two female friends have an online session and go to the park and go shopping together over the idiot box? For real. Can't make this stuff up.

And we wonder why obesity is rampant in both children and adults. Do you burn more calories on Wiiiiiiiii Skiing, or ripping down Milk Chute at Solitude at 9,000 feet? And don't even get me started on Wiiiiiii Fit. Really? Try a gym. A real one.

With all these virtual experiences you lose the vibrancy of real life. The things that the outdoors does to you that make you know you're truly alive. Whether that's standing in a river (like the Pere Marquette above) in the snow, walking an upland field looking for birds, whistling down a steep ski slope, or whatever you like to do.

Get outside. Now. And take someone with you. My new suggested application? Wiii Trashcan.


07 January, 2009

My Review of Yakima FatCat Ski Mount - 4 Pair

Originally submitted at REI

A new design, this Yakima® FatCat mount takes ski and board mounts to a whole new level! Holds four pairs of skis or two snowboards.

Very Happy!

By Seanahee from Ann Arbor, MI on 1/7/2009


5out of 5

Gift: No

Pros: Quiet, Good Looking, Easy to Use, Easy to Install

Cheaped out and bought Big Powederhound to save a few bucks -- whistled badly on the car, and KILLED my mileage.

Thanks to REI's satisfaction policy, was able to exchange for FatCat 4. One drive on the expressway was all I needed -- SUPER quiet and SO much better.

Installation was quick and simple, thought it's easier if you buy a T-handle allen wrench instead of using the supplied one.

Spend the extra money for the FatCat. Looks cooler, too!!!


05 January, 2009

You Meet the Nicest Folks

Great day at Caberfae skiing on Saturday. Bluebird skis. Cold, but no wind. Snow on South Peak area was very nice.

When you ski by yourself, you get to meet some nice folks during the day. Chatting with people on the lift ride is one of the things I truly enjoy about skiing, actually. The social animal in me just loves it. But a few times a year I make a really good connection. Last year it was a local who turned me on to a great restaurant and bar in town, and another who showed me some AMAZING powder stashes. Foot of fresh even a week after a storm (what's a few trees to ski through?)!

Saturday was no exception. Toward the end of the day ended up skiing with Shannon and Shereen (with apologies to the latter -- I think I botched your name). Both were skiing solo and had connected and invited me to join them. Nice folks, super-interesting and they could both RIP down the slopes! It was fun to share a chair and a hill with both of them. Was cool to ski with some folks who could push me a bit, too. Most of my friends who ski are more intermediates. I had to kick it up a notch to keep up with these two. Plus riding up together meant avoiding the usual introductory ride -- "Where are you from? Do you ski here much? Shoulda' been here LAST weekend..." -- and have some very interesting discussions.

Ended the day with a beautiful sunset. Of course, the camera batteries had died by then, so no pix! Nice day steelehad fishing prior -- but that's for another post this week.