Mt. Hood Rendezvous: Modern Style

This is the place

This past weekend I was one of the 70 or so folks that came to Hood River, Oregon to witness the marriage of  The Mayor and Genius.

In 2010 I walked the Pacific Crest Trail with them for five months. I last saw them on June 16, 2017  in Hallowell, ME for lunch where they made me promise to keep quiet with the announcement that they had just become engaged.

Big News!

I’m here in a rural AirB&B cabin rental for a few nights in Washington, beside Buck Creek, just north of the Columbia River with my fellow Triple Crown hiker Axilla and Train, who joined up with Megatex on our 2010 thru hike of the PCT.

Buck Creek cabin

When Train heard that three of the MeGaTex posse were pulling together again to attempt a Continental Divide Trail thru-hike in 2013, Train fired up his interior locomotive and became a driving force of movement and good judgement that assisted the gang in emerging from that graduate-school-level of hiking with our souls and bodies battered, wizened, but more importantly, transformed into the fully functioning human beings that we are today.

Uncle Tom, Dick Wizard, Trail, and General Lee- April 2010

My other Triple Crown partner on all thee of the major US National scenic trails is Dick Wizard, Mayor’s older brother, who is staying across the Columbia River with his most excellent wife Emmie and their families.

We spiffed up pretty well for the wedding.  I need to buy a suit.

Wizard, Me, The Mayor, Axilla, and Train

We were thrilled to hike from Government Camp on the PCT today.

This area remains startlingly beautiful.

IMG_4215
Axilla and Train on PCT – June 17, 2018

Stepping off the trail, I could not pull myself away from studying the thick shingles of bark on an ancient, giant evergreen of some west-coast type that was adorned with psychedelic colors of orange and green mosses, with clumps of lichen moving about a bit in the occasional gust of wind.

When I last passed though the PCT here, I stopped on a hiking break for trail magic, provided by Water and Bucket, two folks I hiked with for a bit on the Appalachian Trail in 2017. They fed us up and also supplied a few of the renowned Oregon microbrews. We visited them and their new baby, Ren, yesterday at their new house.

Old hiking friends remain close, even after years of physical separation. Living outside for months at a time as a part of a group does it to you, if you are fortunate to find the right group.

My thoughts on “The Three A’s” via The Hiking Life

Both on and off the trail I live each day with little projection of my hope and fears into the future.  On my last thru-hike (completing the CDT), the challenges that came each day were more than enough to deal with on a daily basis,  these difficult events forced me to stay in the present.  Being present is actual Being.  It still works for me.

I receive e-mails from legendary backpacker Cam Honan, and today he’s going on about what he refers to about the “Three A’s” – Accept, Adapt and Appreciate – of wilderness travel, a set of principles that have represented the cornerstones of all Honan’s backcountry trips since 1996:   https://www.thehikinglife.com/2018/06/the-three-as-2/.  Do read this.

I gave two packpacking presentations last week:  The West Bay Rotary and The Jackson Library in Tenants Harbor, ME.   A key message for both talks was my need to embrace the principles of improvisation.  At both events I presented this slide, a cover shot of a book that was given to me by Brad Purdy, who shares that most of his successes as a chef were largely due to his training in improvisational theater.  I may not be a thespian, but I carry a Kindle of this book on my iPhone and refer to it when I am out and about.

w204

This book is short, but so sweet.  After reading Cam Honan’s blog post, Madson fills in the details of exactly how to adapt to unexpected challenges.  Pushing through the pain ain’t exactly the mantra that brings me results any more, as regular readers of my own blog post will acknowledge.  When I screw up now, it takes me so much longer to heal up and be off the trail.   Last season, a crash on my mountain bike and my last stumble of the trail each resulted in a month’s hiatus from engaging in both those activities.

I’m still learning.  For those of you that would like to learn more about how I translated obstacles to opportunities over 2,500 hard won miles in five all-encompassing months in 2013,  consider buying my new book,  In the Path of Young Bulls.  It’s real news.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Justin Lee and Alan Widmaier in CA on PCT (2010)

 

 

 

 

 

How Heart Rate Variability Training Fits Into my Fitness Plan

For the past four years I’ve been in the daily practice of measuring my heart rate variability (HRV). It takes me four minutes at best, after sitting up in bed, at the end of the first of my twice daily thirty 30 minute mediation sessions.

(I have maintained a continuous 48 year practice of Transcendental Meditation, which I consider it to be the core technique of my health practices. Yes, I have accumulated over 10,000 hours of meditation practice. Malcom Gladwell put forth the statement that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field.)

I learned about HRV from a demonstration that I observed in a psychology workshop with Larry Starr, Ed D. Dr. Starr has included neurofeedback in his psychology practice, where he utilizes HRV to reduce client symptoms of ADHD and anxiety.

“Simply put, HRV is a measure of the time gap  between individual heart beats while your body is at rest. The heart, in fact, speeds up when you inhale, and slows down when you exhale. This difference is known as HRV. A healthy, well-rested body will produce a larger gap, and higher variability”. – Dr. Phil Maffetone

HRV technology had been around for over 50 years but has only been recently available for home use. Long used in hospitals in treating heart patients, HRV has only recently been applied to endurance training.

I have been totally satisfied with the Sweetbeat HRV App for the iPhone, which pairs via Bluetooth with my Yahoo Ticker chest strap.

Here is a screenshot of two years of data, indicating a positive trend:

From the App Store: “SweetBeat HRV, the newest iOS application by SweetWater Health, provides real-time monitoring using state-of-the-art sensor technology and data correlation algorithms. Patent-pending correlation algorithms provide insight from other health and fitness devices. SweetBeat HRV also integrates and correlates data with popular fitness platforms like MapMyFitness, Fitbit and Withings. The next big thing in body-hacking is to understand the information presented in the data users track every day. SweetBeat HRV correlates metrics like HRV, stress, heart rate, weight, steps, calories, and so much more. SweetBeat HRV utilizes the popular food sensitivity testing and HRV-for-training features in the original SweetBeat app.”

I use the App for two purposes:
1) Primary is in determining whether my body is in a stressed state from over-training. In general, my daily 75-90 minute hike or bike ride results in a higher (better) HRV reading, but if my reading dips, the program prompts me to take an easy training day or even a day off in order to bring my body back into balance.
2) HRV readings also correlate with the occurrence of a cold. I’m generally a healthy guy, succumbing to normal bodily aches,  pains, and even tendonitis only when I have tripped on a hike or crashed on my mountain bike. In fact, over the past three years I have not had the flu (I do get the flu vaccine.) and I have only had a single brief cold that lasted for 5 days. My HRV reading dropped significantly one day a couple of years ago, where I was prompted to take it easy and rest up. The next day I experienced a sore throat and two days later my head swelled up with the full-blown symptoms of a bad cold.  My initial low HRV reading had been in response to my body beginning to muster antibodies to address the cold, a situation of which I was totally unaware.

HRV literature also reports being able to detect food sensitivities through the use of HRV readings, although I have not attempted to employ this aspect of the technlogy.  I’m sort of an I -can-eat-anything-person.

For further reading on HRV, I’ll refer you to this blog post by Phil Maffetone:

Heart Rate Variability: What It Is and How It Helps With Training
By Dr. Phil Maffetone  (April 29, 2015)

Real Training Should Be Challenging

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Justin Lee and Alan Widmaier in CA on PCT (2010)

If you are interested in surviving or enjoying a  backpacking adventure this season  you better be ready to embrace some suffering.     At our house, I am constantly buffering my workout plans so that I don’t get into a disagreement with my wife and hiking partner, Auntie Mame. She is encouraging me to behave like a normal 68 year old guy and chill more often.

For example, I was falling behind in mileage regarding my goal of hiking 1,000 miles this year and outside the rain was falling.   Skipping today’s 75 minute hike in favor of better weather would be what normal people would do.

Well, if you are a backpacker, then  you will someday walk in the rain.  Better get used to it . Also, most of us have purchased rain gear but you won’t know how it works unless you wear it in the rain, drizzle, sleet, or snow.  Doesn’t it make sense to get out when you are close to home and you can warm up and dry out after the outing?

I am reading more and more about Stoic philosophy and mental/ physical training.

Check out this brief, but excellent email that I received from a Stoic website I subscribe to.  It’s perfect!   If ancient Stoics can practice in the rain or snow, why shouldn’t we ?

screenshot 14

Henry Flagler, a top lieutenant for John D. Rockefeller and one of the pioneering developers of Florida:
“I trained myself in the school of self-control and self-denial. It was hard on me but I would rather be my own tyrant than have someone else tyrannize me.”
Like Cato, Flagler trained himself in doing without. He wore only a thin coat, he carried his own lunch, he economized. He did this so he could get used to feeling the sting of the cold, the laugh of his peers. He didn’t want these things to have power over him, and he never wanted to feel fear—the fear of what if something bad happens.
As a result of this training, he became stronger, he became invincible to fate and misfortune and as he said, tyranny. No one could be harder on Flagler than he was on himself, and while that might seem like hard living it was also free living. And that’s the point. It’s not easy to be a Cato or a Flagler, but when things get hard, real hard, you’ll regret being anything but a Cato.

(Want to discuss today’s meditation in more depth? Join Daily Stoic Life.)

Humbling Heart Rate ?

I’m concerned that I’m pushing my heart rate too high on the bike. I’m 68 years old. Two weeks ago I rode my typical Sunday ride up and around Ragged Mountain, where I averaged 155 beats per minute for over two hours with a maximum reading of 173.  For a full 30 minutes of the ride my heart pushed  out 161-171  beats per minute.  My normal resting pulse ranges from 47-55 bpm .   I record data wearing  a Garmin chest strap that is linked to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS unit.  From there I send it to Strava for saving o my profile.

Here’s a Veloviewer 3D elevation rendering of the ups, downs and all-arounds of the same 8 miles ride that I took this past Sunday:

Here’s the traditional view of the ride.  It ain’t easy! These  two images are not aligned correctly, but I bet you can rotate them  in your mind’s eye.

I talked to my doctor about it last week while he was trimming away at a plugged sweat gland that was causing me pain on the side of my foot.  He thought my heart/arteries were OK, but also said that he had at least a handful of apparently healthy patients who were athletes in their early 70’s that dropped dead from unexpected heart attacks.

So he’s getting me a referral for a consultation with an electro-cardiologist who has a exercise specialty.  That’s all I want, a chance to talk to someone who has knowledge and background to address concerns.  My own father died at 72 of heart disease, and my paternal grandfather died from what might have been heart disease when my father was a baby.

In the meantime, I’ll keep pushing it on the bike, rest up adequately between my two-wheeled adventures, keep up the meditation, and start ramping up the relatively short summer/fall veggie consumption season.

Here was my lunch today:

Spring onions, fiddlehead ferns, my own kimchi, tempeh, rice noodle oup.

 

 

 

Why I am going back to hike the East Coast Trail

First read this overview, released today ( May 9, 2018) –>>via Newfoundland, Canada: The travel spot that the natives love | CNN Travel

Not only are there no ticks in Newfoundland, the hiking is world class on the East Coast trail (ECT).

img_0704

I flew from Boston to St. John’s there last year to hike the 170 mile East Coast Trail, dubbed one of the Top Ten Backpacking Trails by National Geographic in 2011.

This coastal trail definitely lives up to its description as a “genuine wilderness walking and hiking experience”.  Printed materials from the East Coast Trail Association describes the trail as passing directly over the most easterly point in North America at Cape Spear as it connects over 30 communities (some were abandoned) along the route.

FullSizeRender 20
Hiking to Cape Spear lighthouse

I enjoyed visiting the communities along the way where people were welcoming and were interested in speaking with us.

I have written a daily blog report, complete with daily pics spanning my two weeks there that can be viewed here.

Here’s three minutes of drone footage from last August that was shot and produced by Mark Shaw of HMS Images, my hiking partner on this adventure.  Recently I have been giving presentations on this thru-hike.  Please contact me if your organization would like to have me present this summer.