Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flag at half-staff...

...for Doctor Robert Cade, creator of Gatorade. The creator of Gatorade died of kidney failure today, at the age of 80.
Here's the full story.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Race Recap!!

Team ARFE - SmartWool
2007 USARA National Championships

This year’s USARA team consisted of Chris Edmundson, Suzie Snyder and Bruce Swanson (representing Massachusetts, Colorado and New York, respectively). Our team had a great experience at this year’s National Championship race and it’s a pleasure to share it in this brief race recap.

We all had a geography lesson this year as we added Mark Twain National Forest and the town of Potosi, Missouri to our internal maps and experience bases. From my perspective, it was quite similar to the southern Catskills where I live and train every week. The YMCA Trout Lodge was the host hotel for the event and provided an excellent lakefront location in the midst of the forest and included numerous recreation halls, boat launches and easy access to a labyrinth of secondary roads, gravel roads and trails. We spent part of the pre-race meeting educating our race directors and our fellow racers on Leave No Trace principles. It’s an activity we undertake at almost every race we go to, but it was nice to see how many racers were already educated, either by word of mouth or by our efforts in the 2007 racing season.

General Plan
Unlike our recent 24-hour efforts, we decided to pamper ourselves with a reserved room for all three nights of our stay in the host hotel. We could then leave our gear in the room during the race and have a place to sleep afterwards. Our departure flights left on Sunday, so we had plenty of time to depressurize afterwards.

The Race Start – Short Version
The race organizers inadvertently extended an act of kindness by denying us access to our maps, checkpoints, order of events and other instructions until 5AM the day of the event. This allowed us to get a reasonable amount of sleep the night before the race – especially for those whose traveling odyssey began that day with a 3AM alarm. The unfortunate implication of this blissful night of sleep was that our mapping, route planning and other preparations were completed in less than two hours prior to the 7AM start.

The race start involved a couple of twists to separate teams: sending one member on a mile-long mission to get the first passport while the remaining two paddled a half-mile down the foggy lake. This was followed by perhaps a mile of paddling as a team and a ROGAINE section that we would complete 3:12 into the event. We later determined that in our haste, we chose a ROGAINE route that was not optimal - we had traveled farther than necessary and our reasonably athletic initial efforts were surpassed by slower teams. Not to worry – the race was much longer than this.

Putting the Hammer Down
We transitioned to our bikes after our mediocre start and we soon settled into an aggressive but comfortable pace. The temperatures rose above the sub-freezing level we’d started at and a clear, sunny day began. Thankfully, our performance beyond this point fell in line with our usual capabilities in terms of athletics, skills and equipment (top 10%) and navigation (something less). During the first biking leg we went from gravel roads to singletrack and we steadily moved up in rank. Conditions were dry and rocky with a full complement of fall leaves concealing some horrific rocks and other hazards that you would often notice when they’re too close to avoid them. We had one flat and one chain-break, but could just as easily have had a cranium-break at the speed we were going.

The biking leg was followed by a hiking leg. That concluded at the beginning of the paddling section. We had been warned in advance about the low water conditions and we weren’t disappointed. We chose to carry our own carbon kayak paddles and in retrospect, it was a good idea since we were able to pass several teams on the water. It seemed every couple hundred meters we found ourselves walking the boat across shallow gravel or over fallen trees. Although the low waterflow was seen as the enemy, a higher waterflow would not have been a panacea. The obstacles we encountered would have formed nasty sweepers and would have been far more hazardous, especially at night. Our paddling effort ended perhaps 40 minutes after dark as temperatures were dropping quickly. We made an awfully cold, wet transition to foot travel in the immediate vicinity of a blazing fire. Twenty minutes of walking allowed us to eat and heat up our frozen extremities.

The End is Near
Several checkpoints found in the night on foot brought us to the bike drop once again. Our one flat tire for the event occurred a few pedal cranks away from our transition spot, but it was fixed in record time. We set off on a quick and smooth single-track section for perhaps 10k followed by gravel roads and a short jaunt in the briars for the final checkpoint.

We finished one minute shy of 3AM in 8th place. Overall, we were on foot for about 9.5 hours, paddling for around 3 hours and biking for 7.5 hours. It was a great reward to shower and to get some sleep prior to sunrise.

We would like to thank our sponsors at SmartWool, GoLite, Gatorade, and CW-X for the support. It allowed us to qualify for, enter, and race in the National Championships. Thanks to LEKI for getting us here in a carbon-free manner, and, certainly not least, to Jason and Laura Elsenraat for a terrific race!

We had a great “support” network in the form of Jim Holden and Pamela Robbins who served dual duty as volunteers for the event and as our sponsors and organizers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

ARFE-SmartWool's (non) Race Report

This past weekend, ARFE Management almost did not participate in the USARA National Championship.

We were not on time for the pre-race meeting. We almost missed the pre-race meeting! We were so late that we did not stop at the famed Gateway to the West on our way there. This is what the thing looks like from I-55:

We watched our smart, wonderful team run 250 people through a Leave No Trace presentation from the wayyyy back.

This brings our tally of people educated in Leave No Trace by ARFE's involvement, by the way, to a whopping 2000. Way to go, team!
We also did not get a good night's sleep before the race. Instead, we spent it meandering around the huge Wal-Mart SuperCenter in lovely Potosi, MO. When we finally did get to our campsite, we speculated that it must be a beautiful campsite, although we did not see any of it, because it was pitch black.
We did not see the campsite the next morning, either. (Still pitch black when we left.)
We almost did not find our team before they left, because this is what race start looked like:

We just barely found them, thanks to our trusty Crew Queen. After race start we had breakfast in the lovely Trout Lodge YMCA and almost did not see our team go by our their way to the first checkpoint, because we thought they were misguided, badly lost, Loch Ness monsters:

Your Crew Queen, Crew Minion, and Gatorade Jim then drove off to our first checkpoint, where we were not active:

and where we most certainly did not abuse a certain food-scientist-turned-cabana-boy so much that he felt compelled to leave on his bicycle, taking our mascot with him:

Whatever happened, we most certainly did not fall out of our chairs because we were sleeping while teams were being checked in, and certainly not in full view of a camera:

We spotted ARFE-SmartWool in 28th place, far behind where we thought they would be, but who are we to talk? We were most clearly Not Racing. Still, they looked like they were having fun, and we were pleased for it.
we drove onto the next checkpoint, not finding at first try, or even second try, but we were not late! we sat about with some great supporters for team Road Rash from Nebraska, and Jerry and Sherry Simpson, of SportRaxx, and their crazy awesome dog-with-the-handlebar-ears Gonzo. (Gonzo did not like our Sprocket. I suspect that's largely because Gonzo spotted Sprocket being dressed up like a patsy at the pre-race meeting the previous night:)

From there we trudged back to HQ, where we were to spell the folks who'd been working since race start, and were told that we could sleep for the next three hours! Oh, joy!
We piled into our team's room (who knew what they were doing, anyway? Racing, or summat?), and did not get three hours of sleep. We got half an hour of sleep, and then were told that the first teams were coming into the finish, stat!
Two of us piled out of the room, where we did not realize that it felt warmer outside because it was not yet the deep of night (our sleep cycles were all verklempt, you see), found a room to cram into, rather than mucking about outside, and cranked up the heaters for the racers that were coming in.
Then we did not fall asleep or make much coherent conversation until the Team M.O.A.T., our pals from the northeast EMS, Washington State wunderkinds DART-Nuun came in. Crew Minion waited anxiously for a little while longer, looking for ARFE pals Timberland, before she gave in to sleep. She's told she missed Team ARFE-SmartWool by a mere 1/2 an hour, but the Crew Queen was on hand to welcome in her racers, and all was good.
What? You want to know what happened during the race? Well, this is what we have racing teams for. Stay tuned for a race report from Team ARFE-SmartWool.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


ARFE-SmatWool takes 8th place! Team Travel Country Outfitters FINALLY wins Best Garbage, after three years of trying. Team Terra Firma wins 2nd place Best Garbage after picking up after ARFE-SmartWool (inadvertently) drops a water bottle on course!
Aaaand, Jason and Laura Elsenraat pu on a terrifically good show!
Stay tuned for the full news and photos tomorrow morning. Pooped now; going to bed after a great weekend! Thanks, USARA and Bonk Hard!
As always, huge thanks to our sponsors, SmartWool and CW-X, for making Best Garbage available, and to LEKI, for making our travel to these events carbon neutral.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

off to nationals!

can't wait to see our old friend EMS and Timberland there; looking forward to a strong showing from our ARFE-SmartWool members Bruce Swanson, Chris Edmundson, and Suze Snyder! good luck, everyone, and stay warm!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Great News!

Team ARFE-SmartWool, captained by the ever-vigilant Bruce Swanson, finished second in the four-person championship category at NYARA's Shag race this weekend. Our friends at Team GOALS came in first place after a battle in the orienteering section, as relayed by Mr. Swanson, and team A-List came in first place in the two-person category.
Big thanks to Chris Edmundson, as usual, and to guest stars Jen Shultis and Sara Percy, for pulling off another great race for Team ARFE-SmartWool. Now it's onwards and forwards to nationals!


Weekend activities

ARFE is at NYARA's Shag race this weekend and doing double duty with some fun ARFE activities at Odyssey's AR Series Fall Championship! Keep an eye out for results here!

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Crew Minion [Hearts] Coffee

Even better if it's fair trade and organic, or maybe even shade-grown!
Well, guess what? On Jim's epic trip to Montana to ride with a bunch of top-notch cyclists and stick them with needles and scalpels in the name of Gatorade research, he tracked down some GREAT COFFEE "for triathletes and cyclists."
No, I don't know what this means. What I do know is that Evan and Owen, the two coffee nuts and cyclists who own a little company called 53x11 Coffee, have given us the OK to pass on some great savings to you.
Go to 53x11 Coffee's web site, order some awesome coffee, and, when you check out, enter the code 53x11 for ten percent off. Hooray!!! Of course, tell 'em we sent you.
What's the best thing about Evan and Owen? We love their 53x11 Clean Up Crew, which regularly keeps their favorite trail rides trash-free, and also, this page, in which they describe the fact that they drag everything to the FedEx on bike, and in which Evan holds his breath to conserve oxygen. Heh, heh.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Inspiration from the Crew Queen

The Crew Queen recounts a terrifically inspirational visit with none other than the Grand Doyenne of adventure racing, Danelle Ballengee:

You guys seem like the perfect target audience for me to babble on for
a bit about my weekend.

Indulge me for a moment...I had the pleasure of listening to Danielle Balangee this weekend (and hanging with Taz the wonder mutt). I was working for EAS at the Pike's Peak Ascent & Marathon, and she was there. She has won that race 4 times and was there to be the official starter and also to share her tale. I've heard it from other people and read it a million times, I've treated patients just like her and I've been to her fundraiser...but to hear her tell her story of rescue and recovery and rehab is chilling and inspiring. She was one tough chick before, but now she's even more so.
She did complete a solo 24 back in May without telling her physical therapist or her
doctor (and only 2 mos out of her wheelchair). She did not run at all, but she
finished. In fact, now she can only jog up to 30-60 min lightly due to pain and weakness. It was incredible to see her walk--the last time I saw her she was chair-bound with slippers. She said her foot pain was the most limiting factor to her activity tolerance, but she's hiking several hours per day. She was showing us how she has a strong right calf muscle (she did a bunch of toe raises) and a very weak left calf (she could only do about 2 with difficulty and loss of balance).

Anyway, she's awesome, and I was happy to be patting Taz as she announced the start of the marathon this morning. She reminded me, once again, of two things that bear reminding, both professionally and personally. 1). Strong core...get one. Train the deep muscles and use them. If you have them..relearn how to use them better and train them more. I was so excited that she talked about deep-core muscles--yes, I'm a physical therapy dork. 2). Remember that we are all lucky to play/race/live as hard as we do (it's a sick necessity and way of life for most of us) and we are
lucky to have the toys we have ( bikes, gear, skills) and the means to use them.

Good night from an exhausted and inspired crew queen/EAS junkie.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

5430 Long Course Triathlon

Per the Crew Minion's request, the Crew Queen is going to post a little tale about her first half Ironman. After several marathons and with the help of a somewhat recent move to one of the tri capitals of the country (Boulder, CO), I've decided to enter the triathlon world. I've spent the last 3 months being extremely disciplined in my training and am happy to report that I had a great race last Sunday. I thought for sure my legs would be trashed and I'd feel 1000 times worse than any marathon, but this was not the case. It's hard to tell whether it was the quick pace of the course, the 13.1 miles on trail, the new bike or the Smartwool multi-sport socks (love them!) that contributed to my success. Having signed up for the race with hope of breaking 7 hours as a newbie, I am happy to report that my final time was 6:11 and I finished in the top half of my new age group (I'm officially in the 30-34 group and living out here in enduro-world, that's a scary/fast group to be in). My TA's were rather speedy...perhaps that was the Crew Queen making her presence known.

Swim (1.2 mi): well I have a history of panicking (case and point was 0.93 miles of the backstroke in this years Wildflower Olympic course) and this race was no different. In anticipation of not being able to put my face in the Boulder Reservoir (despite months of training in it and only it..no pools this time bc the blue line makes you weak), I began with the back stroke. About 0.2 miles in to the 1.2 mi swim the world settled and I was able to begin doing the freestyle approach for which I had been training. However, I quickly realized I was being passed and, in the interest of time, returned to the backstroke. I have confidence that with some speed training I will be able to do a proper swim in my next race.

Bike(56 mi): perfect. What more can I say. I came in at 3 hours even and my bike has made me so fast. I was told I'd be laughed of the course with my camelback full of Gatorade Endurance but rest assured, even the pros were wearing the camelbacks...ha! Hydration rules!

Run (13.1 mi): slow but strong. By the time the run hit it was about 11am the light cloud cover was long gone. The 95 degree blazing sun was upon us and it was hot. Thanks to Chris I was never a moment with out my GoLite hand held water bottle and plenty of icy cold water to keep me cool. Soaking wet beneath my GoLite visor I literally did not notice the heat.

I finished the race with a bounce in my step, a smile on my face and plenty of energy to have continued if necessary. I will definitely do this race next year and hope to tackle a few more half Ironman distances including the famous Wildflower Long Course. In the meantime I've got a few marathons and a 200mi relay to get through as I consider seriously doing a full Ironman in 2009.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

helping ARFE

hi there,
just wanted to let you guys know of a super-easy way to help out ARFE.
instead of using your regular search engine, go to www.goodsearch.com
we've registered with them as a not-for-profit...and every time you search using goodsearch.com, we get a penny.
i know, it doesn't sound like a whole lot...but please consider using them instead.
in our drive to help outdoors sports take care of our playgrounds, we need all the help we can get.
you can download a search tool right into your window, so it pops up every time.
goodsearch.com uses the yahoo search engine, so you'll get the same search results you'd get from yahoo, anyway.
do let us know if you encounter any kinks--you have to plug ARFE into the space below your search. there should be a function that allows you to just use it as the default.

ARFE management

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Crew Minion's Rules for a Good Race

University Square.

This weekend, the Crew Minion raced with Team ARFE-SmartWool's alter-ego, the all-women's squad heretofore known as The Fab Flab. She learned a few things at Planet Adventure'surban sprint race.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare (with apologies to Leave No Trace)
a. Pull a butt muscle and a calf muscle in the week before the race.
b. Be sure to attend a movie, a lunch, two dinners, a happy hour and a breakfast meeting in the five days before the race.
c. Have complete emotional breakdown the whole week before the race.
d. Sleep as little as possible. Four hours on Thursday night and one hour on Friday night should do it.
e. Leave an hour to pack.
f. Remove pedals from bike. Stick them in a plastic bag that looks exactly like a doggie-poo bag so you can be sure to leave them behind.
g. Rush through racking bikes and wheels on roof, ensuring a weak connection between wheel and rack, thereby ensuring that wheel pops off roof while you are bolting down LakeShore drive, one hour late to pick up race partner and drinking partner Abby.
h. Leave Chicago at the worst possible hour, turning a three-hour drive into a five-hour epic.
i. Whatever you do, do not look at your Gmap directions until you are already on the wrong highway and on your way to St. Louis instead of Indianapolis.
j. Forget that your other race partner Lindsay is packing to leave Chicago forever and so has no gear. Also do this at the last minute.

2. Be a Good Person (with apologies to Doctor Phil)
a. Spend time with your friends. When going to the grocery store, take the race coordinator with you so that you can share psycho dashing from cold cuts aisle to granola aisle to Gatorade aisle.
b. Indulge your urges: Unpack and repack six times in an hour.
c. Be kind to others: Ask, twenty times, if everyone has everything they need.
d. Allow others to help: Ask race coordinator for CO2 gun, spare bike gloves, spare pedals, spare bladder.
e. Be self-sufficient: Provide CO2 cartridges all by yourself.
f. Encourage networking! Ask race coordinator for spare wheel. Race coordinator asks racing partner. Racing partner gives up spare wheel, which is shipped to bike drop by willing third teammate, who has sprouted some Andy-Gibb-hair in the time since the Crew Minion last saw him and is totally unrecognizable. Third teammate is thus forced to interact with the volunteer at the bike drop watching over the bikes. Ta Da!!! A new social circle is born.

3. Be active! (with apologies to Denise Austin)
a. Start each day with a bang: Awakened at 4:30 AM race day by teammate. Bolt awake immediately. Sit upright and yell, "4:30! What the hell! Sh*t!" (Earn self ten pushups for swearing; startle third teammate awake, who wonders out loud, "Geez, does she wake up like this every morning?")
b. Fuel up: Eat Cheetos for breakfast.
c. Encourage walking: Park as far away from TA as possible in order to take advantage of shade. Walk between car and TA six times.
d. Keep heartrate up: pre-race meeting is very closely followed by madcap loading of racers into buses for trip to race start. Team is split into two buses. Two team members will run from mystery start to bike drop, where we will pick up all of our bikes and then run to a meeting point with our third teammate. Lindsay is elected to run first. We meet at the designated spot in good time.
e. Keep brain active: After initial flipping of street map from side to side, struggling to orient self, am in second-to-last place. Think am in Washington DC instead of Indianapolis when see that streets of Indy are named after all states. Washington DC map in head is totally useless; re-focus on map at hand, finally get going.
f. Know your surroundings: We pick up the next three checkpoints in good order and learn a few things about Indy in the process: DID YOU KNOW THAT THERE ARE NINE LAMPPOSTS AT THE NORTHWEST ENTRANCE OF THE CONSECO FIELD HOUSE??? Write answers on arm until realize that need to mark them on passport. Points for being an airhead are awarded. Relish in irony of being biggest bubble-head on team and only non-blonde.
g. Add variety to your workouts: Drop bikes and head to stair climb. Pass a couple of teams on the way. Complete stair climb in good time. Flash back to Indianapolis Wild Onion, where we climbed the same building and DNF'ed.

First National Bank. Site of two stair climbs in the Crew Minion's life.

h. Keep a good attitue: Vow never to think of Indy Onion again during this race.
i. Have Exercise partners: Head back to bike drop; pick up bikes, rollerblades, and tow system for triad. Beg off running due to twinging calf and butt.
j. Keep it interesting: Visit gorgeous historic region of Indianapolis. Marvel over Victorian houses. Think to self that race fees will eat all budget before can afford such house. Drag roller-blading partner over cobblestones. Express regret. Visit "Elvis plaque" to pick up last clue before heading back to bike drop; wonder what Elvis has to do with Indy. (First person to answer this question in an e-mail gets a pair of SmartWool socks. Send your answer to: yishun (at) ARFE (dot) org

4. Slow and Steady...(Apologies to Aesop)
a. Foster community: If you can't find something, ask a townie. Particularly one who's been jogging for three hours and clearly has run the length of the trail you're on many times over.
b. Take breaks: Stop for a required checkpoint at a bar, down a pint glass of Guinness before continuing on.
c. Take Care of Yourself: Apply sunblock and chow on granola bars while waitinig for ropes harnesses to be freed up during a backyard ropes section involving some high-tension steel cables, lots of carbiners, and a cargo net.

Ropes. Way cool!

d. Play games: All those hours of cornholing paid off: Abby puts a beanbag into a board in quick order and we move on.
e. Some Girls are Bad at Football: In fact, all three members of the Fab Flab can now saw that we've attempted to throw a football through a tire and kick a field goal. Two of the three should say that we're bad at it. Abby can't say that. Stadium stairs are something we're all good at, though.

Football. The Fab Flab did not look nearly this impressive.

f. Help others: If a team is stuck trying to decipher an orienteering map, help them. And then move on in the opposite direction so as to never see them again while you pick up five points in good, speedy order.
g. Focus is good: When struggling to make it back to the paddling section on time to avoid being DQ'ed, try not to be distracted by liquor stores or volunteers yelling, "What's the Best Garbage prize today?"
h. Work Well with Others: When figuring out the paddling order, DO NOT put the tallest person in the middle of the boat, where she will get whacked in the head repeatdly by the person trying to steer the boat in the back.
i. Take Everything in Stride: When you hit a set of rapids that you can't navigate, and you get out of the boat to push, and the person holding onto the back end of the boat lets go of it so that suddenly you have a 100-pound boat bumping the back of your legs crosswise, DO NOT PANIC. Likewise for when you hit a huge rock and capsize your boat. Likewise for when you get out of the boat to push it into shore and find yourself in water you have to swim in.

Crew Minion's shoe after a wet canoe leg. See the little snail that's made a home in it? Mmmmhmmmm.
j. Confront Your Fears: If you are known to suffer from acrophobia and you see that a checkpoint is posted way up on a bridge staunchion, go get it. [This is advice you should heed about as often as you eat Cheetos for breakfast.) Under no circumstances, however, are you under advice to confront your fears of the rare fresh-water-dwelling, Fall-Creek, Indiana breed of shark, which lurks in murky shallow waters and is known to eat adventure racers . If an opportunity occurs, send in Lindsay after the checkpoint floating on a rubber ducky in the middle of Fall Creek, Indiana. Lindsay is from Florida. She understands large scaly creaures with a lot of teeth.
k. Exercise restraint: Under no conditions are you to say to your teammates, "Stop worrying. The boat is NOT going to tip over."
l. Know your strengths: You may not be the fastest team out there, but you might just have a good navigating day, nail every point without a single mistake, and manage to go through the last checkpoint just in time to qualify for second place, all-female division.

The Fab Flab. Crew Minion is sleeping to make up for lack thereof the previous two nights.
Thanks, Fab Flab! And a big thank you to Cristal Garrison for the spare wheel. And to Dave for the CO2 gun, the spare bike gloves, and the pedals. And to Andy Gibb for the bike wheel delivery. And, of course, to Planet Adventure, for yet another amazing race.

Steve (in Andy Gibb hair) and Cristal (in pigtails) are responsible for getting a spare wheel to me. Thanks, Indy Rootstock and Rachel!

Friday, August 3, 2007

SMAC and Art

You only THINK the two have nothing in common.
You'd be wrong. Paul Piorkowski, one of the most creative minds in adventure racing and race director at the Southern Michigan Adventure Club , has outdone himself yet again this year with his unique take on ARFE's Best Garbage program.
He asked teams at his July 21st sprint race to collect as much garbage as they could over the course (teams were allowed to drop off garbage at the end of each leg) and then build something artistic from it.
In Paul's words, "Trash will be judged on quantity, originality, mass, theme, and artistic quality of presentation."
What? You're surprised? We're not--remember, this is the man who, since the inception of Best Garbage, has consistently encouraged the absolute best of the best garbage: truck doors, front ends of Studebakers, and entire ceramic toilets must be credited to SMAC.
Below, we present to you, in order, first, second, and third places.
First place winners took home pairs of CW-X tights and shorts. Second and third places won two pairs of SmartWool socks per team member.
Kudos to all the great winners!

First Place! Team Absolute Endo's entry, "A Whole Lotta Trash We Dragged Through the Woods." No points for creative naming.

Second Place! Team Outdoor Riot's "Trashportation." Note the fine use of punnage in this title, and the perfect juxtaposition between vertical and horizontal tensions. Rrrright.

Third Place, from Team SnackyPants & Toots-in-Tights: Mission Michigan, is an international effort (okay, they're from Canada) and a social commentary. "People in glass houses shouldn't take personality-altering medications" is, alas, not up for a grant from the University of Waterloo, where Snacky-Pants is a veterinary-doctorate candidate.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

your friendly local hydration scientist...

...would like you all to know that he's now in Montana, "working."
If, that is, work means following 20 pro or nearly-pro cyclists around as they ride through montana, idaho, and colorado. and getting to ride with them.
well, there is the bit about sticking them with needles and taking sweat samples, but hey, who cares? it's montana! and idaho! and colorado!
you can follow jim's progress here:


Friday, July 27, 2007

a dope-y conversation

me: Have you been watching Le Tour?
Pal Tom: Just in the Times and various odds and ends.
me: Damned dopers!
Tom [frustrated]: you know, i was just telling someone, they should just have two starts. one for the dopers, one for the clean people. that way, all the dopers can race themselves, and all the clean people get to race each other.
me: [silence; am on floor laughing.]

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Crew Minion at rest

...SmartWool togs being put to good use.
Or summat like that.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Big Day for ARFE...

...and for SmartWool!
List of stuff Crew Minion Yi Shun and Crew Queen Pamela brought to the SmartWool headquarters in lovely Steamboat Springs, CO:

1. 30 mini notebooks
2. 36 mini gelpens
3. one honking-big laptop
4. one power cord
5. two matching SmartWool tops
6. two matching khaki skirts
7. two matching bike-link bracelets
8. one 1992 Toyota Corolla
9. one considerably speedier Subaru station wagon
10. thirty Leave No Trace Awareness certificates.

That's right, a large number of SmartWool employees and 15 members of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps are now Leave No Trace Aware!

Earlier this week, we did the same for the good folk at GoLite, our equipment sponsors. Thanks very much for having us!

Oh, what didn't we bring to the headquarters of the best title sponsor ever to walk this earth? A camera.

You'll just have to take our word for it. We were there, we promise.

Thanks, Rob, Dixie, and the folks at SmartWool, for having us! We learned so much from you, and hope you can say the same of us.

Pamela and Yi

Thursday, July 19, 2007

our favorite...

...AR junkie.

hello, chris, from team timberland!
check out chris' cool new project here.

hello from colorado

aaaand, hello from the bizarre world of Flatlanders trying to mountain bike at a mile and a half of elevation.
a race report from the Danskin Triathlon is up here. it is a tale of sucking wind, and, well, just plain sucking.
but you might enjoy the telling.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Cradle of Liberty Race Report

Bruce Tells the Story

This is the third year that Team ARFE-SmartWool has competed in the Cradle of Liberty 24-hour adventure race organized by GOALS ARA. Our team composition changed a number of times for this year’s event. We were first a four-person all male team. Then a three-person all-male team. Then just a two-person all-male team, and then, finally, the best combination possible in adventure racing: a three-person co-ed team. Our final setup was an interesting combination of ARFE staples Bruce Swanson and Chris Edmundson with a last-minute guest appearance of Jennifer Shultis. We were joined by a field of approximately 30 teams in Hickory Run state park for an event that was centered on Jim Thorpe, PA during ideal weather conditions.

In a departure from many 24-hour race formats, this event had a mid-afternoon start on Saturday. This was a welcome change and avoided the usual scramble to leave work on Friday to arrive at check-in on time. The registration, gear assembly and route plotting would take place from 11:00AM to 1:45PM followed by a pre-race meeting and departure on buses for a 3:30PM start.

The event began in the town of Jim Thorpe with a short run to an assembly of 6-person rafts on the bank of the Lehigh River. We were fortunate to take an early lead and maintain a short, but critical distance ahead of the pack. This position gave us maneuvering capability around groups of recreational paddlers that was unobstructed by our own competitors and also gave us the ability to observe the lines chosen by the lead safety kayak around river obstacles. The roughly 10-mile paddle was very scenic, but it passed quickly. In less than two hours we were leaving our raft and transitioning to our bikes for some speedy biking back upstream.

The biking portion was an interesting combination of fast rail trails through the deep Lehigh river gorge in addition to some time spent on ridgeline trails and a couple passes through the town of Jim Thorpe. The ascents were on surprisingly gentle inclines, but one notable rapid descent from the town overlook into town required a little concentration. Nightfall came as we left our bikes to obtain two checkpoints on foot above a series of waterfalls. The final biking leg followed the winding river along the speedy, well-maintained rail trail. This concluded in the vicinity of our vehicles for a quick transition into the final orienteering portion.

The orienteering points were widely scattered and presented the usual challenges of distance, sharp hills, tight brush and navigation. One checkpoint, however, was placed on the opposite side of the park’s most famous geologic feature, a field of boulders 12 feet or more thick scraped from the nearby hilltops and deposited by glaciers and associated water flow during the last ice age.

We finished the event at the end of the orienteering portion on foot in approximately 22 hours. This landed our team in 2nd place for the elite category (3-person coed) and 2nd place overall.

We would like to thank GOALS ARA for organizing this event. The time and efforts of the volunteers, safety personnel, rafting company, park personnel and other involved parties were certainly appreciated.

Of course, this event gave us yet another opportunity to utilize the SmartWool, GoLite, and Gatorade products generously supplied to us by our sponsors. We couldn't have done this event without LEKI, either, who offset our carbon output for the year. Our 674-mile round trip produced 28 pounds of CO2.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

weekend update

Preliminary reports from the field indicate that Team ARFE-SmartWool finishes second steps behind Team GOALS at the Cradle of Liberty. Congratulations, Bruce, Chris and Jen! This is Team ARFE-SmartWool's third time qualifying for USARA Nationals this year. Special thanks to guest star Jen Shultis, on loan from Team EMS.
Best Garbage prize in this race goes to Team White and Nerdy, from lovely Pennsylvania. Props to the hometown team! They win terrific prizes from our Best Garbage sponsors, CW-X
Team ARFE-SmartWool senior ekes out a good finish in this weekend's LionHeart race, too. Tentative results from the field indicate a tough race over tough Ohiopyle terrain. Stay tuned for more on these pages.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Treetini and Greeple

We introduced the Treetini last night, and boy howdy, did we do it in style!
With terrific games inspired by Leave No Trace and our buddies at Carbon Neutral Events, and prizes provided by our amazing, generous sponsors at SmartWool, CW-X, and GoLite, we attracted a lot of attention and may even have won over a few more environmentally sensitive outdoor athletes!
The very talented Cynthia Lin performed last night. Little did we know, she too is a SmartWool fan! Says she ran a marathon in them!
Our staff last night was pretty incredible. We had a really wonderful group of Friends of ARFE who helped us out. Witness the wall of Greeple ("Green-wearing Sheeple") in SmartWool last night!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

partying, in a purely environmental sense

Those of you with a working knowledge of the way we do things here at ARFE know that we love our sport. You also know that we love to socialize. And that when we do socialize, we try to do it with the bigger picture in mind.
So it should come as no surprise to you that tonight, ARFE, in conjunction with Live It Green, LLC, is unveiling the first cocktail ever to be inspired by a bunch of grubby adventure racers--the Treetini .
Every cocktail sold at tonight's launch and from here on in at our local watering-hole-cum-restaurant, Uncommon Ground , will plant a tree.
And that's not all. Tonight, attendees of the third-ever monthly Green Room Session will have the chance to win terrific prizes from our sponsors, SmartWool and CW-X.
Keep your eyes peeled, for a running tally of how many trees we planted!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dover VT 24-Hour photo

Hi there,

Here's a photo from the 12-hour race this past weekend in Dover, VT. Your trusty Team ARFE-SmartWool finished second, but ended up third to SPTU due to a time penalty for missing a piece of mandatory gear.

I love this photo. It's proof positive that even the best of the best sometimes get confused when it comes to taking out a boat on rocky (durable! LNT principle number one!) terrain.

Big thanks to Joe and Kelly for both the crewing and the photos. More can be viewed here: www.jaubs.com (just click on the "welcome" at the bottom of the photo).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Crew Minion Wrestles a Mammoth

Dear Diary,
This weekend is my first adventure race in goodness knows how long, and I am AMPED! Today I'm racing with Jim and his friend JohnEric from work. The race is in a town called Crystal Lake, and boy is it pretty out here. We had to get up at some stupid hour of the morning to prepare, and I'm a little pooped, but other than that, I feel good.
I'm wearing a very sexy girdle around my waist because I tweaked an oblique muscle recently, and Jim's just come off of finishing an Olympic distance triathlon in the very hilly Elkhart region of Wisconsin, so we probably won't win, but oh well.
My favorite item of clothing this week. Ain't it purty?

Jim looked pretty strong finishing the Elkhart Triathlon. Let's see how he does in the race today, shall we?

It's JohnEric's first adventure race EVER, so I guess we'll just try to finish happy.
The Woolly was in danger of becoming extinct earlier this month, so we were happy to learn that our registration, and quite likely the registration of our friend Hans' team, pushed the number of teams needed for the race to go on over the edge. There are eleven teams, running the gamut from seasoned racers to triathletes to newbies.
Pre-race is busy. Pre-race meeting involves our standard Leave No Trace presentation and general rule review by race director Joe Davison, who also adds in the incredibly good news that he's procured two cases of beer for post-race consumption, and then we get our maps.
These are the world's biggest fricken maps (practically five feet tall and over four feet wide), but we are able to cut them down to 2x4. The course will cover between 40 and 60 miles, depending on whether or not we make smart route choices. We'll start on a canoe leg to retrieve a raw egg from the beach, canoe back turn in the egg, and take the first bike leg to an O course. From there we'll take our bikes 15-20 miles up to Wonder Lake, then canoe down the Nippersink Creek to a take-out, from whence we'll navigate our way back to our bikes and then back to the finish line.
Race start was hectic. Joe assumes a very casual stance in front of the races and bellows, "Forty-five seconds to race start!" I jump and sort of freak out, and then I promptly dump the boat. Twice. Why, yes! There are pictures! Support crew for the Brothers Grime got all of the actions on camera. Maybe I'll post them later. Maybe.

The maps we actually got were a LOT bigger than this.

JohnEric and I laughed our little rear ends off, while Jim stewed in the front of the boat. He is angry all the way out to the beach where we were to retrieve our eggs, and then he makes me all anxious when I get out of the boat to find the egg. See, the thing is, they are up on the beach like four feet from where we docked the boat, but he's screaming at me, telling me I'm going the wrong direction, and I get all flustered and end up running all the way down the beach, like, a quarter mile, and then I have to backtrack until I find the eggs sitting right under a huge neon-orange construction cone. Fortunately, four other people follow me out there. [I am SO not going to the prom with Jimmy. He's mean.]
After I hand over the egg to Joe, we run to our bikes and try to start the ride. We're missing JE, though, and then we spot him rinsing off his little feetsies in some water. Who rinses off their feet in an adventure race?
We hustle out of there and, with another team hot on our tails, make it over to the first test, which is on a ball court. We have to shoot a free throw, a three pointer, and make a volleyball serve into a hula hoop. I was kind of hoping I'd get to use the hula hoop to hula in, but that didn't happen.
We zoom off pretty quickly. Jimmy makes a minor navigation error and almost crashes us all, but we get over to the O section safely, where we immediately get fouled up on the first point.
We end up nailing all of the other points, although we spot Hans' team coming out of the woods well ahead of us, and, after another few minor errors that involve backtracking, we get back to the O start to find that we are not, indeed, last.
We hot-foot it out of the O-meet area and start the long ride north to Wonder Lake and the canoe put-in . I am really enjoying the flat terrain and sound of the crazy cicadas humming, and then I look down and see that I've acquired a hitchiker.

A new friend!

I guess we must've be flying, because that little booger stays on me until we stop.
I am thanking goodness for my road bike and speedy road shoes when I see the first...big...hill.
Hello, did someone forget to tell the Flatlanders that hills hurt? JE, who is sweeping to make sure I didn't get left behind, mutters, "holy candy!" and zips past me to the top of every hill, standing in his saddle.
We pass the Brothers Grime at some point, sitting on the side of the road changing a flat. It is the first of three for them that day, a fact that gives us only a minor edge over this strong team from Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Illinois.
Two big hills later, I am huffing to the top, watching Jim and JE circle around like vultures while they wait for me, and then I spot the convenience store. Jim asks if I wanted to stop to refuel, and I say, "Ur..Eeee...OK." I creak to a stop, and JE decides to take the opportunity to refill his bladder and his belly.
Little did we know that he was stopping for a picnic.

Ten long minutes later, we continue on the final 4 miles to the put in, where we are greeted with fresh fruit (oh joy!), treats for trash (oh boy!), and the news that the first team has come through nearly two hours ago and still not been back ("holy candy!").
We grab an apple and a cookie, and were off.
We navigate the twisty turns and the easy water of the Nippisink Creek in perfect weather. The red-winged blackbirds are everywhere; the other people on the river look at us in amusement, and the prairielands and rushes of Glaciers State Park make the whole trip seem like a really amazing dream. I've read about the praries before, but never had a chance to experience them first-hand. We catch up to the Brothers Grime, who had passed us while we were refueling at the canoe put in, only to be overtaken by them fairly soon afterwards.
Then come the trees. High water and many fallen trees lead to one member of Brothers Grime losing his helmet. Well, he may have lost his helmet, but I almost lose my head when Jim grabs a branch to prevent from colliding with it and then (with warning) has to let it go as we pass by underneath and it whips towards my head. Yikes!
There are a few tiny little rapids, during which I, sitting in the bottoom of the boat, become almost scandalously well acquainted with a few rocks and roots.

Our route on the Nippersink. Maniacal trees and rocks not illustrated. Put in and takeout (red and green, respectively) clearly marked.

An hour later, we pull out and visit the potty. I eat a few more Tylenol (girdle is nice, but of less help than, say, a few Percoset might have been), and we set off just behind the Brothers Grime.
We assume a leisurely but smart course, choosing to walk to stave off any more pangs from my peevish oblique, and then we take a good look at a park map and chart a route straight through Glaciers that allow us some great up-close encouters with a few frogs, a toad, a ton of butterflies, some hardy prarie grass, and then...oh, then, accursed thistles.
Prickly prickly. Jim disappears from sight. See, his philosophy is, "The faster I get through this, the faster it'll be over," which translates to me as, "Screw my teammates, I'm getting the hell outta here!"
JE and decide that a wade through the creek would put us on better, less prickly ground, and we are right. We muck our way back to the canoe put-in and are shocked to see that Hans' team, which had been well ahead of us before this leg, were still not back. We worry marginally, and then I become rapidly elated at the thought of finishing in a better place than we thought we'd be. Why, no, it wasn't very sporting of me.
The ride back (16 miles) is no fun. We keep a pretty good 17-mile-an-hour clip for about the first third, and then I get cranky, and then I have to be pushed up a hill, and then, finally, oh wonder of wonders, we pull into the race finish at a whopping eight and a half hours after race start, and in sixth place. We are solidly middle of the pack, for sure.
Hans' team, having gotten lost in Glaciers and attacked by a renegade bunch of cicadas as well as having had a water bottle thrown at them by a bunch of jackass teenagers on the roads, pulls in shortly after that despite two flat tires, and then, a team who called themselves The Quitters, who had pretty much been hot on our tails the whole race. The Brothers Grime, having suffered three flats, come in shortly afterwards. The final team to come in was no team at all, but one single female, who had finished the race after both of her teammates had dropped out. Pretty ballsy, if you ask me.

Hans looked like this after the race. Then he got up and ate a whole watermelon and drank a can of bad beer.

All in all, it was a wildly successful race for everyone involved. We had a terrific time. Big thanks to Joe for hosting and creating the Big Woolly, and for hosting the ARFE programs.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Racing Ahead 12 Hour Un-official results

Per Joe, Team ARFE-SW made up a crazy amount of time on the bike leg and finished 11 minute behind Team EMS!!! First accounts are that Suzi was a rock star on the bike...no surprise there. Some question about manditory gear check so we are waiting to hear all penalties and CP tallies before official results are posted.

Headed into the last leg

ARFE-Smartwool was 4th into the TA and the 3rd team was all male. At this point it looks like they are in 3rd with 23 min behind EMS who is in the #1 spot. The last leg consists of 5 or 6 CP's and is all mountian bike...an ARFE strength. All reports are that everyone looks good and is ready to rock the last leg. Winner expected to finish around 2-3pm EST. Results will be posted later this afternoon as I'll be away from the computer. YAY ARFE-SW!!!

Racing Ahead 12 Hour update

A text message at 4am mountain time (6 am eastern) alerts me that the gate to the beach where the race was meant to start is closed. The race directors were scurrying around to find an alternate start for this race. Team ARFE-Smartwool waits patiently for the official start and the much anticipated maps. The race got under way at 7am and after about 5-10 min of plotting and laminating, ARFE-SW was off along with the first one-third of the other teams. A quick team dash down a street to the boats and they were off on a lengthy paddle which includes an O section. Kelly said she could see them on the water and they were cruising by other teams. They are due back into the one and only TA momentarily for a quick transition to the bike. Chris and Bruce will be sharing the nav responsibilities today. More after the transition...

Friday, June 8, 2007

Racing Ahead 12 Hour

We interupt the compelling conclusion to our LNT Master Educator course to join Team ARFE-Smartwool at the Racing Ahead 12 Hr in West Dover, VT. ARFE-SW will begin racing at 6 am on Sat June 9th. Last report from the pre-race meeting: No report. The team will receive all maps and instructions at the start of the race. The only thing we know now is that the start is on a beach but the discipline is unknown. Competing this weekend will be Chris, Bruce and new-comer Suzi Snyder. Suzi is an experienced triathlete with notable finishes including #15 in the amature division at the Xterra World Championship (I hope I got that right). Crew for this race (yes there is crew for a 12 hr, don't ask.) will be Kelly Piche and Joe Aubin. For the 7 newest LNT Master Educators out there, yes it is the same Joe that was featured in several stories.

Best of luck to everyone and I'll do my best to update first thing in the morning (keep in mind 6am start=4am in CO so there might be a delay due to sleep and there is a chance they'll finish before I rise, but I'll do my best).

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The saga continues

I think I forgot to mention that Chris has to teach a lesson on principle three, Disposing of Waste Properly. Everyone likes this lesson, because it's about how ARFE poops in the woods and whether or not anyone notices. The thing is, the Crew Minion has already pooped in the woods, and she's discovered that the lovely hobble-bush, which grows at low elevation in New Hampshire, is terrific as nature's TP. Props to Chris and Christian both for passing on the knowledge!

Hobble Bush leaves. So soft! So fluffy! Comes only in single-ply, regrettably.
...Chris and Pamela sleep outside and wake up with zero bug bites whatsoever. By contrast, the Crew Minion wakes up feeling sore and sticky, although not from any mere bugs: she's slept with a rock and a tree stump under her calves, and Kathy and Amber are equally maimed, from having slept on a slope that has them sliding towards the foot of the tent every four minutes. Oh well, we say, all in the sake of Leaving No Trace shall we suffer.
Chris shares some more insight on digging a hole to poop in. He also demonstrated some lovely, ur, stances for pooping: the Orangutan hang, the Warrior Two, the...oh, never mind. We're sorry we didn't get pictures. No points to Jim for leaving the camera back at camp while Chris was showing us how he drops the kids off at the pool.

Brekkie was oatmeal and coffee. Huge props to Amber for bringing along her French Press!
We packed up (Crew Minion's stuff was strewn everywhere) and moved on to our next campsite, a whopping 2.7 miles away. Christian, Jim, Jeff, and Kathy moved on to the actual campsite, which was going to be a challenge: Christian had made it our jobs to find a suitable "pristine" camp area, one that had never been used before.
When we got there, the master's crew was gone looking for the site, and we encountered a lovely family and their dog, which reminded us of both Principles six (Respect Wildlife) and seven (Be Considerate of Other Visitors). More on that later.
We settled at the camp site and quickly decided that a day at Christian's favorite swimming hole was in order. Chris brings along his 700-page Poker Bible to peruse as he sunbathes. The rest of us take a REALLY QUICK DIP in 50-degree water and emerge feeling reborn.
Christian teaches us a very important Inuit word: Nuan'aar'puq. It means "to take extravagant pleasure in living." The Crew Minion thinks she is feeling a little bit like that, as she absently scratches at a black fly chew-site and Takes Extravagant Pleasure in It.

Jim goes in for a dip and comes right back out again. Brrr!
Chris and Crew Queen go for a run.
Jim and Crew Minion drag back to camp; Yi Shun is contemplating the emerging blister on her left big toe from ill-fitting Tevas. She contemplates further the purchase of Chacos when she returns to Plymouth and Takes Extravagant Pleasure in That.
Together again, Amber points out an Indian cucumber plant. She shows Yi Shun how to dig it up, which proves to be an enormous mistake, because Yi Shun eats one teeny little root and decides she wants a whole salad of them. Amber immediately reminds Yi Shun of Principle Number four, Leave What You Find. Yi Shun feels sheepish but then quickly recovers.

Mmmmm. Indian cucmber.
Crew Queen takes us through the rest of the lesson, pointing out that there is a fine line these days between artifact and Stuff That Just Doesn't Belong. She cleverly hides some pretty glass bottles, an ancient beer can, and some other things and challenges us to discern which are garbage and which are artifacts. The whole crew decides that it's all garbage and needs to go.
There is a curious pair of New Balance sneakers that look relatively new. They are paired together and the team wonders if we should look for a body to go with them.
Yi Shun abandons the idea in search of more cucumbers. She is quickly curbed by the voice in her head reminding her once again of Principle Four: Leave What You Find, Leeeave What Yoooou Finnnnd, Leeeeeave...
Back at camp, we discover a little abandoned mouse's nest. We all want to take it home, but we hear again: Leeeeave What Yoooou Finnnnd.....We step around the mousie nest, even though it's REALLY REALLY CUTE!

Mousie nest. Insert squealing noise here.

Later that night: Curious sound of cards shuffling. Chris has morphed into some sort of gambling enabler and has taken Crew Queen under his wing to produce more of his poker-playing ilk. More on this later.

This is an ominous vision of things to come.
As part of Kathy's lesson on respecting wildlife, Christian teaches us about Bear Hangs. He employs a pretty impressive pulley situation that the Crew Minion hopes someoone wrote down somewhere.

Christian, bear-proofing. Chris, in the foreground, thinking up poker strategies.
Kathy leads a lively discussion on dogs and how they ought to behave in the woods. Both the Crew Minion and Kathy admit to preferring their dogs to run with them off leash. Christian says something about "Personal Ethics." Sigh.
We awaken to a really nice day, temperature wise, and a nice challenging uphill hike ahead. The vegheads go on ahead, which the meat-eaters, having packed on many packages of tuna in the previous days, drag behind. We have lunch in a stream and continue uphill to our last campsite, an AMC shelter.
Tune in later for more on principle seven and news about our last day in the woods.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Did I say "Tomorrow"?

YOu should all know that "tomorrow" in ARFE-speak as it pertains to your Miss Midwesterly is a bit of a loosey-goosey term.
We are completely swamped this weekend with prep for the very exciting Untamed Virginia race, and we apologize for the delay in our ongoing photographic and journalistic recounting of the Leave No Trace principles.
There's much more to learn, so just hang tight. I'll be back soon, with daring exposes on how Team ARFE-SmartWool and ARFE Management practise and employ Principles four, five, six, and seven.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Notes from the Field

What's ARFE like out of its managerial chair, and what's Team ARFE-SmartWool like out of its CW-X and SmartWool baselayers? We all got a chance to find out this past long weekend, in the woods of New Hampshire's White Mountains. Team ARFE-SmartWool members Chris Edmundson, Kathy Rowe, Jeff Rowe, and Jim Holden; Crew Queen Pamela Robbins, and your own favorite Crew Minion Yi Shun Lai spent some time in each other's company over the long weekend. Under the tutelage of Plymouth State University's incomparable Christian Bisson, we were properly schooled in Leave No Trace standards and their uses insofar as adventure racing goes.

Christian taught us everything we need to know about Leave No Trace, and then some. Read on for more.

Thursday, Day One:
Chris picks up Yi Shun and Jim in Boston. We realize that Chris packs for a camping trip like a drag queen summering in Rio: Four enormous bags and a man-purse. Chris defends the haul by saying he "packed for every activity possible," at which point our Crew Queen, cramped in the front seat with Chris' man-purse, pulls from it his reading material: a 700-page tome of poker instruction. The Crew Minion realizes that she is in for a long drive, as Jim and Chris instantly start gabbing about poker strategy and Chris reveals that he played poker for an insane amount of time on Tuesday night, thereby leaving him so tired that he sleeps through Pamela's arrival in Boston Wednesdsay night. Pamela is remarkably forgiving.
We are joined in the clasroom by the incomparable Amber Rethwisch, an Americorps volunteer who quickly became a part of the ARFE family and spent most of the camping trip in a bug net. She was smart.

Amber, in her de rigeur bug net. We wanted to take her home with us, she was that cool.

We spent this day in the classroom learning about the background of Leave No Trace, handing out homeword assignments, and packing our food. And I don't just mean Mylar bags of dehydrated onion soup, or beef stroganoff, or whatever, I mean food. Christian is a Leave No Trace instructor in the NOLS tradition, which means that he wants to teach us how to really cook in the backcountry. He had us carry out well over 55 pounds worth of nourishment: cake- and pizza-dough flour, dehydrated eggs, quinoa, pasta, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, elephant garlic, cumin, lentils, oatmeal, chai, tea,...Your Miss Midwesterly looked at the haul and noted somewhat drily that the stuff going on this camping trip well outweighed what was in her refrigerator at home here in Chicago, which amounts to a bag of baby carrots for Sprocket, fifteen beers, and Gatorade. We learn about LNT's first principle, Plan Ahead and Prepare.
We spend the first night in PSU's Loon Lake cabin, which is on a lake (duh) and affords the Crew Minion some valuable swimming time. Chris and Crew Queen go rock climbing. Crew Minion, Jim, Kathy, and Jeff head out to dinner at a terrible restuarant, but the company is good enough to drown out the awful service and so-so food. We return to find the cabin overrun with college students who are simultaneously swilling gin and cranberry juice (the mixologist in the Crew Minion cringes) and talking about the day they spent jugging ropes. The Crew Minion wonders how eleven people are going to share one shower, and then she realizes that only one of the college students has intentions to shower.
Beds in cabin are squeaky-squealy like stuck pigs; Jeff is a snorer; Jim is a moaner; Chris has a nightmare and tries to punch his way through the wall to Jim. Pamela shushes Chris; Crew Minion spends night stewing neurotically and uselessly over horrible service in restaurant. All in all, a restless night, and the college students are the only ones who get any sleep.

Friday, Day Two:
Up at 5AM.
Four of us head out to Dunkin Donuts to get some coffee and donuts; Pamela and Chris, both health-and-environment-conscious vegans, opt out.
We meet Christian and Amber at the PSU parking lot, divide up into cars for the ride to the trailhead, get out of the car, and realize quickly that the Black Flies in the region like to chew on people. Between packing, swat at bugs; kill several triumphantly. Christian looks horrified and gently shoos bugs away from his face.

Amber, left, sans her bug net, cringes from a dive-bombing kamikaze black fly. Pamela picks at one that gets stuck between her teeth. Chris crashes the photo.

Christian had notified us before that he'd be sure to shorten our hiking days to making time for training in the afternoons: the first day's hike is a whopping one-point-five mile! We split into two group to lesson the impact on the trail: four and four, traveling about ten minutes apart. It's part of Amber's lesson on traveling on durable surfaces, Leave No Trace's second principle.
Chris looks like he needs exercise, so Pamela and Crew Minion indulge him by letting him carry us over a stream. Crew Minion is so pooped from the trip that she uses the time on Chris' back to hydrate.

Chris looks happier carrying us over a stream, doesn't he?

At camp, a lovely idyllic site set by a stream, Christian and Amber help us to pick durable sites to set our tents up on. There's an existing "social" trail leading from the kitchen area to the tents, so we don't have to create a new one. We set the kitchen area well away from the tent area, to reduce impact. We set up two kitchens, ostensibly for the same reasons, but we all know it's because the veg-heds, of which there are four, want nothing to do with heathen meat-eaters.
Chris goes for a run up Mount Israel; Pamela gamely jogs it; Crew Minion, Jeff, Kathy, and Jim hike it and sit up top for a little while, baking and enjoying a Blackberry-less life.

Mount Israel, at 2380 feet elevation, is bigger than anything the Midwesterly folks have seen in a long time.
After our hike, everyone converges on the swimming hole for a little dip, and we converge on a mis-placed bridge to exercise Leave No Trace principle number four: Leave What You Find. Someone's moved the bridge over swampy water to a completely unreasonable location, so we move it back to where it won't create a new trail and where it'll be better served. Chris loses a Chaco in the muck; Crew Minion remembers why she dislikes swamp mud, and everyone goes back to camp, feeling like we did something good.
Dinner is quinoa, lentils with cumin, tuna steaks for the meat-eaters, and tempeh for the vegheads. Kathy and Jeff struggle with the quinoa for a little while until the Crew Minion sticks her spoon in the pot, eats a mouthful, and pronounces it ready.

Kathy and Jeff struggle over the quinoa.
Jeff shows us how to build a mound fire with sand from near the swimming hole, which we haul back to the hole after we're done; Jim teaches a sample Leave No Trace awareness clinic in the style we'd employ at a race, and we give him feedback and brainstorm, using Amber's teaching experience, for ways to reach more racers and people.
Tune in tomorrow for Days Three and Four.