The Weekly Stoke: Blackwater rafting, half marathon tragedy, exploring the North Pole and what it (now) means to be a man

Frozen wilderness at the North Pole. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Frozen wilderness at the North Pole. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

It’s the second day of spring! More daylight, better temps, and fewer excuses to not get outside. It will be an abbreviated list today, but a good one on the Weekly Stoke. Let’s get to it.

You’ve heard of whitewater rafting. But what about blackwater rafting? There is such a thing, and it’s not for the casual outdoorsy-type.

A Virginia teen died after completing her first half marathon recently.

Here is a Q&A with Eric Larsen, who is attempting a North Pole speed record.

And here’s a humorous take on what it (now) means to be a man.

Identifying and chastising the four types of people who slam their weights to the ground

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Every now and then, I need to release a rant. Today is one of those days.

Last week, I was doing what I usually do, heading to the gym to get a lift in before going out for a run.

Then, from the corner of the gym, the thunderous “Boom! Boom!” The unmistakable sound of large dumbbells being dropped on the floor.

Not long after, right next to me, a dude is working some sort of exercise on the cables. When he’s done, he just drops the bar that the cable was attached to, leading the plates on the other end to crash down loudly.

I cannot begin to tell you how much this irritates me. Of all the bad habits in the gym, this one is the worst. If I, with my modest 175-pound frame, can lift and then haul 80- and 90-pound dumbbells back to the rack without a resulting cacophony, why can’t everyone else?

Carelessly dumping the weight to the ground or on the stack when you’re finished shows a lack of consideration for anyone else around you. I know I’m not alone in thinking this.

So why do people do this? Who are the types of people who do this? Let me enlighten you…

The “Look at Me! I’m strong!” lifter. This guy is the dude who grabs the big dumbbells or loads up the bar with a bunch of plates. He’ll breathe really loud and grunt a bunch. Might even yell out a bit to psyche himself up. But if that does not get your attention (and satisfy his urge to have everyone around him know he’s in “beast mode”), then there’s always the tried and true tactic of dropping those heavy weights on the ground with a triumphant thud.

Note to this guy: We probably already know you’re lifting something heavy. We just don’t care all that much. And we care even less when you drop your weights. If you’re strong enough to hoist that thing, you’re strong enough to put it down peacefully without all the drama. Please stop.

The tough guy. A lot like the guy above, the tough guy varies somewhat in that he doesn’t necessarily want to impress you with his lift. Instead, he forcibly lets you know that he doesn’t care about the weights, the gym or you. It doesn’t matter if that loud clang cracks a plate on the machine or breaks the welds on a dumbbell. Tough guy doesn’t care. He walks away from his dropped weight (and resulting crash) like The Rock walks away from fiery cinematic explosions. Consequently, this is also the guy who throttles his Harley in the subdivision or peels out of the grocery store in his bad-ass ’97 Mustang. In his mind, perception is reality, and he wants you to perceive that he’s gangsta-tough.

Note to this guy: You don’t look tough. You look like a douche. And like the fella who drives the overly blinged-up sports car or the giant tricked-out pickup, your gym behavior indicates you’re probably making up for shortcomings in, er, other areas.

The “one rep too far” guy. I appreciate this dude’s effort. Not wanting to slack, trying his hardest to squeeze out every ounce of effort he can to make progress, this guy is going to burn it out until he can’t lift any more. And when muscle failure arrives, he just can’t help himself – or resist gravity. All his strength gone, the weight wins – and falls loudly to the ground.

Note to this guy: Chances are, if you’re dropping the weight because of muscle failure, you might be doing it wrong. And however tired you are, you should still have enough control to rest your weight carefully down. Don’t let your fatigue dictate your behavior. If you lose control of your weight, something’s wrong. And it’s not fatigue.

The injured guy. This dude drops the weight because, in mid-rep, something pops. Or tears. Pain ensues, and the lift must be stopped. This sometimes means dropping the weight. This is understandable. And for the most part, you get a pass. Injuries happen. But…

Note to this guy: Injuries don’t happen in a vacuum. Maybe your training style makes you prone to injuries. Or perhaps your eyes were bigger than your pecs and there was just too much weight in your hands. Or possibly your form sucks. Whenever an injury occurs, you need to re-evaluate what you’re doing to make sure this doesn’t turn into a chronic thing. I’m not saying all injuries are the fault of the lifter. Sometimes freaky stuff just happens. But in most cases, your injury is related to something you did – or did wrong.

Weight rooms can be noisy places. It’s hard not to make noise when you’re deadlifting, or performing Olympic lifts. But for the most part, you can lift right, lift under control, and lift with some consideration to others training and to gym owners by not dropping your stuff. It doesn’t make you look strong, tough or dedicated. It makes you look rude, douchey and out of control.

So stop already!

Bob Doucette

5 reasons why swallowing a bug is awesome

Icky pest or the next big thing in sports nutrition? You decide!

Icky pest or the next big thing in sports nutrition? You decide!

The other day I was out running trails when something startling happened. A bug flew into my mouth and right down my throat.

It wasn’t a huge bug, thank goodness. But enough to make me gag. Despite my best efforts I wasn’t able to cough the little sucker up. Down the hatch!

I’ve also snorted a bug while riding a bike. No recovering that one, either.

Spend enough time on the trails, it’s gonna happen. You’re going to eat a bug, and not on a dare.

Gross, right? But there is a silver lining. The following may be the most awesome list you’ve ever read on this subject. Of course, it might be the only list you’ve ever read on this subject. Anyway, here goes…

Protein! Carb up for a big run or ride all you want, but you also need some protein to balance things out and help rebuild muscles torn down from a hard workout. And guess what? Bugs are a great source of protein and healthy fat, much better than beef, pork or chicken. Who knew!

Locally sourced! You can feel really good about yourself in that the bug you just snarfed didn’t have to be trucked in from South America. Absolutely no carbon footprint was made in the consumption of your little mini-meal with wings. Way to go, you!

Organic! Yes, by choosing (or not choosing) to dine on your locally sourced six-legged snack, you can rest assured that this little morsel contains no GMOs, artificial colors or flavors or anything else that might poison the temple that is your body. Nothing but pure, home-grown, all-natural insect. Yum!

Cruelty free! Ah, yes, more balm to soothe your conscience. Free-range, cage-free animal protein is respectful and kind in respect to the bug in question, right up until the point it goes down your gullet. Be content in knowing that during its brief life, your bug was a happy bug. And happy bugs taste better.

Gluten free! Hey, you gotta ride the hot trends in nutrition, and the gluten-free wave is the biggest thing to hit the food industry since oat bran. No processed wheat product here. In fact, it’s a good bet that these little critters are largely allergen-free altogether. Peanut allergy? Lactose intolerant? No prob. As long as you can stomach the ingestion of the invertebrate kind, you’re good to go with no wonky bowels, hives or swelling. Or so we hope.

So there ya go, five things to remember the next time an insect flies a little too close to your grille and happens to get sucked into you gaping maw. As a bonus, you can pat yourself on the back for taking part in the glorious circle of life while getting your workout on.

In conclusion,  you can look at it one of two ways: as a horrifying, gag reflex-inducing incident, or you just being awesome, getting your nutrition in the most natural and hands-free method known to humankind.

You go, you.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

The Weekly Stoke: An epic free-solo climb in Mali, pull-ups, San Juan alpine goodness and when to cut the rope

Mont Blanc in the Alps. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mont Blanc in the Alps. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Hopefully everyone found some adventure and outside time last weekend. But if you didn’t, I’ve got some stuff here to inspire your next trip. This will be a two-video version of the Weekly Stoke!

First, check out this video of climber Catherine Destivelle doing an amazing free solo in Mali. I’m not sure when this took place, but it’s pretty cool just the same.

Speaking of climbing moves, everyone knows that pull-ups are great for climbers. Having trouble getting them done? This writer has some good tips.

In this one, a husband a wife have an eventful hike in the San Juan mountains of Colorado.

And speaking of the San Juans, these guys put together an awesome four-peak summit fest in the Wilson Group.

We know blood doping and performance-enhancing drugs have been shown to help pro athletes gain an unfair edge. But what happens when a regular Joe cyclist starts hitting the juice? This writer experimented on himself and put his newfound powers to the test.

Scientists have an answer to why glaciers in the Alps started melting before the onset of climate change. And guess what? We are doing it to ourselves yet again.

And finally, a little humor in this video. Apologies in advance for some of the language, but this is pretty funny stuff.

The Weekly Stoke: Mountain speed attempts, ‘epic adventures’ on Mount Sherman and how to travel in Kyrgyzstan via mountain bike

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I hope everyone had an awesome Fourth of July, and chances are, many of you are enjoying a long holiday weekend. Hopefully you are in the midst of doing some awesome stuff. Back here in the Southern Plains, about 120 runners are getting ready to do an overnight 50-miler in Tulsa. Alas, I am not in their number. What I am ready to do, however, is throw out another edition of the Weekly Stoke!

Even in failure, some folks manage to accomplish a lot and astound is mere mortals. For starters, here is ultrarunner/mountaineer Anton Krupica’s account of his unsuccessful attempt to set a new speed record on Nolan’s List — a route of linking together 14 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Keep in mind, he wasn’t hiking these, he was running them. Entertaining writing here.

And then there’s this one: John Prater made a valiant attempt to break Ted “Cave Dog” Keizer’s speed ascents of 55 Colorado 14ers, and acquitted himself quite well despite falling short. This is a longer read, but an excellent account.

Here is a very funny and satirical trip report of four people’s ascent of Mount Sherman, considered one of the easier and more simple mountain hikes in Colorado.

Finally, there is this video – about 25 minutes – about a guy who traveled to the climbing havens of Kyrgyzstan using only his wits, a mountain bike and a Soviet-era road map to guide him. Enjoy!

The Weekly Stoke: Boston Marathon advice, the amazing Kilian Jornet, an escape artist and climbing humor

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I’ve got a great collection of links, and the first one is rather timely. The Boston Marathon is this Monday, and this blogger has some tips for first-timers in America’s premiere marathon event. There are also good general tips for marathon runners in there, too.

From Outside Magazine, here’s a profile of Kilian Jornet, an ultramarathoner who set a speed record for ascending Mont Blanc. Keep in mind, mountaineering is this guy’s secondary sport.

Also from Outside Magazine: Have you ever heard of Troy Knapp? Folks in rural Utah sure have. Part criminal, part survivalist and part escape artist. A fascinating read about how a guy lived on his wits, survival skills and thievery in Utah’s backcountry.

Ever wonder what it would be like to literally drive to the ends of the earth? These guys actually did it, traversing Argentina’s Patagonia to drive to Tierra Del Fuego on South America’s southern tip. Via the Adventure Journal’s Overlandia series.

This guy set a goal to travel, under human power, 3,333 miles this year to mark his 33rd birthday. Read here how he is making this commitment work.

Here’s a story that’s better read than experienced: Surviving an avalanche during a solo climb up Colorado’s Long Peak.

Some humor for ya: Brendan Leonard (semi-rad.com) tells you how to make sure your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse never participates in your chosen outdoor sport ever again.

And then there’s this bit of climbing humor that even a novice like me can appreciate. It’s safe for work and pretty hilarious. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

What makes you more awesome than others: You speak the lingo

Rare is the case where you see the world through the lens of “us.” It’s a lot more common to see it as a case of “us” and “them.”

Much of the time, the line of separation is one where one side speaks a different language than the other. This is even true when you’re in a society where most of us actually speak the same tongue. The Southern drawl, the Yankee brough. Y’all vs. youse. City slickers and country folk.

We’re not technically divided into tribes in this country, but we tend to get tribal in other ways. This is especially true among the physically active.

I’ll bring you a few case studies, each distinct, and possessing their own linguistic peculiarities.

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Sometimes the verbiage is the more of a currency of the land. It separates the beginners from the veterans. This would be the case with runners.

Running is not really a skill sport, at least not in the way of other sports or activities. Everyone more or less learns how to run shortly after learning to walk.

But becoming a more serious runner means navigating the training methods and pitfalls of being able to run far. People who have been around the block a time or ten (figuratively speaking) will know all about tempo runs, speed work and fartleks (which sound funny for obvious reasons, but aren’t much fun in reality).

We tend to pay attention to things like splits when we compete, and we’re pretty good with acronyms, too. PRs and PBs (synonyms to boot!) are way better than a DNS or a DNF.

And try explaining a chip time to someone who has not run a race. It’s just easier to talk about amongst those who have actually donned said chip which measures your actual time in competition.

So to a small degree, runners enjoy a bit of an insider’s thing when it comes to talking with other runners. I see it as a mild dialect of the English language, easily learned but just foreign enough to those outside the tribe as to make them feel excluded, or at least a little different.

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If the runner dialect is somewhat subtle, it’s anything but that for climbers.

I find climbers to be a pretty great bunch. Open-minded and chill. Mostly tolerant of newbs (this term actually crosses over into a lot of areas when describing people who are new to a particular activity, and is sometimes synonymous with “gapers” in ski lingo). But climbers have their own language within our language.

I lean more toward the newb category for climbing than running, but I know some of the parlance. Generally speaking, I know what it means to send a 5.7 or a V4 (though I can’t tell you what exactly qualifies as a V4), and I know for certain you DO NOT want to take a whipper while leading a 5-anything. If that all sounds Greek to you, you’re not a climber. And that’s OK with them. They figure you’ll learn in time, and are cool with it if you don’t. Well, mostly.

Climber-speak is actually somewhat mongrel in nature. It’s part English, part stoner, and part French. Yes, French. The French pioneered much of modern climbing and mountaineering, so many climbing terms (particularly when it comes to real alpinism) comes from the French language.

Words like couloir (snow gully), glissade (sliding on your butt down a snow slope) and serac (a tower of ice and snow) are all French mountaineering terms used by English-speaking mountaineers as freely as one might say “rope” or “harness.”

Climbing slang can be pretty funny, sometimes unintentionally. “Woodie” and “tea-bagging” definitely have different connotations among climbers than they do among the rest of you who currently have your minds in the gutter.

Like I said, climbers are a pretty open bunch. They’re a set-apart tribe, to be sure, but are as welcoming as any clan might wish to be. They’ll be happy to show you the ropes on a juggy route so you can start easy, before you start trying to tackle more difficult, slabby crack climbs. By the time you get to that point, you’ll actually know what all that jibberish means.

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Still other tribes, while possessing much smaller vernaculars, are quite proud of their set-apartness. Right now, I’m thinking of Crossfitters.

Since this phenomenon is relatively new, the terminology is not widely known to those outside the tribe. I’d say there’s a good chance you don’t know what a WOD is, why you’d want to go to the box, or who the hell Uncle Rhabdo is. When you see these terms in social media (along with lots of talk about burpees and AMRAP), it’s usually with a hashtag of #getafterit. That’s sort of a secret code for other Crossfitters that lets them know that whatever was just posted is worth getting lathered up about.

It should be worth noting that there are differences between the nature of the language of Crossfit and that of climbers and runners. Whereas the latter two developed organically, the Crossfit dialect is much more manufactured, all part of an effort to make participants feel like part of the group, grafted into a super-motivated clan of clean-and-jerking, squat-thrusting, mega-kipping acolytes.

The result is that once you get in the group, you get drawn in by the intensity, camaraderie and competitiveness that is built in to Crossfit. After you get the lingo down (it’s not extensive, so this happens quickly), they’ve got their hooks in you for good, or at least until you blow out your shoulder doing too many muscle-ups for time.

I’m not completely sure what to conclude from all of this. Humans have shown a natural tendency to cling to those who are like ourselves and divide ourselves from those who are different. Habits and activities are part of that dividing line, and so is language. There are a lot of reasons why we do this, not least of which is to not only cleave ourselves from the larger pack, but to elevate above it.

If you don’t believe me, count the number of “13.1” and “26.2” stickers you see parked at the next running event. Or listen to climbers gripe about the lameness of “ball sports.” And don’t even try to get in a conversation with a Crossfitter that might question how effective their workouts might be. You’re begging for an impassioned talking-to.

But rather than lament the divisions, I’m trying more to understand them. There are at least elements of these and more in which I’ve dipped my toes. Learning the language of these groups brings understanding. And with understanding, enlightenment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to plan on how I’m going to set a PR sending that 5.7, hoping Uncle Rhabdo doesn’t give me a bad case of Elvis leg.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Fitness today: The ridiculous things we do

Some thoughts in the days before the Route 66 Marathon here in Tulsa…

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the world of fitness and how it has evolved lately, and I’ll probably have more profound (?) thoughts on this at a later time. But for now, I’ll have some fun with it, because there are some things we do these days that appear, on the surface, to be ridiculous.

And sometimes we do ridiculous things that are not in dispute.

One trend that has surfaced is the effort to mix core training, balance and strength training. Bosu balls are all the rage. Stability exercises are hot. So we invent new, amazing, inventive and imaginative ways to exercise our bodies so we, too, can yell with conviction, “This is Sparta!”

I guess that’s what this guy was thinking…

 

Laugh, but disastrous attempts to challenge those stability muscles create scenes like this in gyms across the country every day. My advice: Take up swimming, dude.

OK, so some people do some crazy things. Surely the fitness industry won’t succumb to the weirdness taking over gyms across the world, right?

Er, well, think again. I bring you the Ball Bike.

 

Oh yes. Gaze upon its greatness. Bathe in its cross-training, stability-inducing glory. Pedal your way to power. Wreck your core while seated on the Swiss ball. And work that chest with Nordic panache! This version of the Ball Bike retails for about $2,400; the home version goes for $700.

Never mind that you can get the same core, leg and cardio work by running. Throw in some push-ups and you get the same thing for the price of a pair of shoes.

Surely no one will buy in, right? Think again. People bought Shake Weights and Ab Rollers, remember?

So basically, don’t rely on human nature to rightly regulate gym behavior. Something stronger is needed. And we have to act before extreme fitness madness sets in.

Nip it at the bud, I say. At the first sign of trouble — say, someone hogging a piece of equipment for 15 minutes while talking on the phone — or misusing a station at the expense of others, bring in Liam Neeson.

I’ll let Liam sum it up in his own words.

😉

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Don’t be ‘that guy’ at the gym: Pure video gold

Well, after a week-long hiatus from the blog, I figured now was a good time to reappear. Lots of good stuff to come, but first, I have to share this awesome video. If you remember, I posted about not being “that guy” at the gym recently.

I loved writing that post, but I love this video more.

Watch and enjoy.