Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Breckenridge, Here We Come!

It's time to get excited about our trip to Breckenridge - Spring Break cannot come soon enough. In anticipation, I did some reading to see what was in store -- Laima and the kids have been several times, but this will be my first trip. Cannot wait to get some snowboard lessons under my belt and hit the mountain! Last year was their 50th Anniversary as well, really amazing!


(Notes and images from Breckenridge.com.)

Breck opened on Dec. 16, 1961 and the resort celebrated 50 years later on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011 in the midst of one of the resort’s signature annual events, the Winter Dew Tour. The Town of Breckenridge hosted a champagne toast off Ridge St. to honor the people that have made this town great over the years as well as Los Lobos at the Riverwalk Center for revelers later that night.

The conception of building a ski resort in Breckenridge began during the late 1950s, when Bill Rounds of the Porter and Rounds Lumber Company became interested in bringing skiing to the valley. The Peak 8 Ski Area (as it was first known) opened on December 16, 1961 with one double chair and a midway unloading station in addition to one short T-bar.


Some other noteworthy statistics from Breck’s first 50 years:
  • Breck has received approximately 17,500 inches of snow (1,416 feet) since the resort opened in 1961.
  • Breck has welcomed visitors from all 50 US states and over 60 different countries.
  • Breck has hosted approximately 39 million skiers and snowboarders since 1961 (the first season featured around 17,000 total skier visits, as compared to 1.63 million in 2010/11).
  • Breck was the first ski resort in North America to install a high speed quad chairlift, in 1981.
  • Breck became the first ski resort to allow snowboarding in Colorado, in 1984.
  • Breck installed the Quicksilver Super 6, the first and only double loading chairlift in the USA, in 1996.
  • Breck built the highest high-speed quad chairlift in the world, the Imperial Express Superchair, topping out at an elevation of 12,840 ft. in 2005.


Mountain Stats:

Base Elevation: 9,600 feet / 2,926 meters
Summit Elevation: 12,998 feet / 3,963 meters
Vertical Rise: 3,398 feet / 1,036 meters
Lifts: 31 Total
  1. 2 high-speed 6-passenger SuperChairs
  2. 7 high-speed quad lifts
  3. 1 triple lift
  4. 6 double lifts
  5. 1 8-passenger gondola
  6. 5 surface lifts
  7. 9 carpet lifts
Lift Capacity: 37,880 people per hour
Operating Since: December 16, 1961
Total Ski/Ride Terrain: 2358 acres / 954 hectares
Groomed Daily: 600 acres / 241 hectares (29% of total terrain)
Bowls: 772 acres / 312 hectares
Terrain Parks: 25 acres / 10 hectares
Snowmaking: 565 acres / 228 hectares
Number of Trails: 155
Longest Trail: Four O'Clock - 3.5 miles / 5.6 kilometers

CANNOT WAIT!

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Balance Socks Review

I love socks. Socks can make or break a workout, maybe even more than a shoe can, sometimes. Maybe it’s because they are so much closer to the foot, the feedback more immediate. Recently, Laima and I had an opportunity to try out some New Balance socks (check out her thoughts over at Women’s Endurance Gear).


Enhanced Shield q1:
  • X-Wide (Fits up to 4E)
  • Stability fit arch support and hold
  • High density shock cushioning
  • Soft acrylic
  • Comfort Toe
Contents: 86% Acrylic, 12% Polyester, 1% Nylon, 1% Spandex, Exclusive of Ornamentation

Just a nice basic sock. Worked as promised. Wide feel is great for people like me with large volume feet, but may be too much for those of normal width.

I'm running afoul of the Velominati here,
 if not for the tall black socks,
then surely for the hairy legs.

Enhanced Dry:
  • Stability fit arch support and hold
  • Lightning Dry Moisture Management
  • Breathable side vent panels
  • Comfort Toe Seam
  • Reinforced heel and toe abrasion
  • Medium density comfort fit
  • Y heel pocket fit
Contents: 92% Polyester, 7% Nylon, 1% Spandex, Exclusive of Ornamentation

Three-pack is a great value. Super comfortable socks, I ran in these, cycled in these, and they have become my go-to sock for daily wear. Really comfortable – I like that they look like a normal black dress sock unless you’re up close, but perform like a sport sock.


Technical NBx lc1:
  • Stability fit arch support and hold
  • Left/Right Fit
  • Cocona™ fabric moisture and odor management
  • Seamless Toe
  • Lightning Dry Moisture Management
Contents: 38% Cocona™ Polyester, 22% Polyester, 22% Olefin, 12% Nylon, 6% Spandex, Exclusive of Ornamentation

I love non-white socks, maybe because they make me think of trail running. These were whisper-thin in feeling, but great in performance. Comfortable on street, trail, and treadmill.

Nice, un-flashy socks that get the job done. More information on the New Balance socks can be found at GoldToe.com or ShopNewBalance.com.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - via Jennifer at Maguire Public Relations, Inc. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give it a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the websites, the opinions are my own.)

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Holy Rollers



Ever since I got my bike, I knew I wanted to get a bike trainer so that I could ride through the winter. I could ride outside, but 1. I don’t like to be cold and it gets cold on a bike let me tell you, and 2. I’m too lazy to wash my bike, so the slush and salt would just destroy the frame and components. I had always leaned towards getting rollers, as it seems a more natural way to train, but I came across a fixed wheel trainer for $15 at our local thrift store, so I could never justify the cost of also getting rollers.

Laima has started using my bike trainer and it is, from a lazy man standpoint, a pain in the butt to change the bikes, adjust the settings, etc. With my birthday coming up (I look pretty good for 57, right?), I finally bit the bullet and asked Laima to buy me rollers. As it turned out, Performance Bike had a sale on some relatively inexpensive rollers that also had decent reviews overall, the Travel Trac Technique PRO Alloy Rollers. Great timing.


We brought them home Saturday afternoon; I cleared some space in the basement, and then got it set up Sunday late morning. First ride was after lunch, when I put Little Worker down for his nap and I had the house to myself (no one to hear me scream when I rode off and crashed). WHOA! Totally different experience. I had the TV on (hockey highlights), but I was too petrified to look up most of the time. It is not easy riding rollers, let alone getting on to the bike! I rode for 20 minutes in all, and it felt like an hour on the road or at least a half hour on the fixed trainer. My balance SUCKS! so I spent a lot of time weaving back and forth on the rollers, hoping not to fall off. Of course I did, but only twice, pretty good in my opinion. Apparently it takes most people several weeks to get the balance dialed in. Can’t wait to have this down so that I can start watching TV again - my mental toughness is pretty weak as well.

I can’t imagine ever going back to a fixed wheel trainer again – even though it’s terrifying, this is so much closer to riding on the road. Another benefit is how quiet the rollers are – I usually wear headphones on the trainer, due to its noise as well as the furnace, washer, etc., but with the rollers I could easily hear the TV, even though it wasn’t on that loud.



Do you ride rollers?
Any tips?


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Friday, February 24, 2012

Pinterest


Source: Pinterest

Have you started using Pinterest yet? I delayed for as long as my curiousity allowed, then took the plunge recently. Still not completely sure exactly how it fits in with all my other social media, but the FitFluential folks have been pushing it. Plus, I have to admit, it’s kind of addictive.

Don’t know about Pinterest? Basically it’s an online scrapbook into which you can “pin” photos and videos onto “Boards” (think scrapbooks) organized, or not. People who like your pins can then re-pin them on their own boards, comment on the pin, or “Like” it. It’s kind of a neat way to share things you find interesting from around the Web.


The only true downside I see, beside it being a true timesuck, is that each Pin has to be separate, at least as far as I can tell. So if you find ten images on a website you want to share, you have to pin all ten individually. It would be cool to be able to mass pin, but maybe that’s too impersonal.

Interested? You need to request an invite from Pinterest or from a member you know to join. Feel free to follow me at http://pinterest.com/kovasp/ and I’ll follow you back!

Are you on Pinterest?
How do You use it?

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Unsanctioned Racing


I'm a big fan of corporate humor, especially tongue-in-cheek and actually funny. Pearl iZUMi has struck just the right tone with their "Unsanctioned Racing."

Running. What was once a bona fide sport now more closely resembles a corporate-sponsored exercise class. But every year in the back alleys of our cities and in the great parks of our nation, thousands of men and women get together to run. To compete. To race. No, you won’t find these races in the paper. There are no official times or logo-laden goodie bags. These races are under the radar, off the grid and underground. Some call them “unsanctioned.” Others call them a good old-fashioned foot race. No fees. No permits. No red tape. Just racing in its purest, most unadulterated form. And we’re here to unofficially champion these unofficial races. All we ask in return is that you run like an animal. (Source: Unsanctioned Racing)

Check out the video and head to the Unsanctioned Racing Facebook page. Through the Facebook app, you can set up your race with friends, map it and announce it via this page. Depending on attendance for each race, a different level of swag is provided by the good folks at Pearl iZUMi. Not an official sponsor, gotta love it.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Kurt, We Hardly Knew Ye



Kurt Cobain’s birthday was Monday. He would have been 45 years old, just about a year younger than I am. I remember the first time I heard of Nirvana, the first time I saw photos and video of them, and just wanting to hate them because of their grunge look and long hair. Little did I know how much I would grow to appreciate their music. There was so much more to them than their appearance and I think it took them as much by surprise as the rest of us when they became a worldwide phenomenon, selling countless records and spawning innumerable bands. It was a truly sad day when Kurt killed himself – we’ll never know what he would have contributed as he matured and his life continued to evolve.

From WikipediaKurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American singer-songwriter, musician and artist, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana. Cobain formed Nirvana with Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1985 and established it as part of the Seattle music scene, having its debut album Bleach released on the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989. After signing with major label DGC Records, the band found breakthrough success with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from its second album Nevermind (1991). Following the success of Nevermind, Nirvana was labeled "the flagship band" of Generation X, and Cobain hailed as "the spokesman of a generation".

Cobain, however, was often uncomfortable and frustrated, believing his message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, with his personal issues often subject to media attention. He challenged Nirvana's audience with its final studio album In Utero (1993). During the last years of his life, Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, illness and depression. He also had difficulty coping with his fame and public image, and the professional and lifelong personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love. On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle, the victim of what was officially ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The circumstances of his death have become a topic of public fascination and debate. Since their debut, Nirvana, with Cobain as a songwriter, has sold over 25 million albums in the US alone, and over 50 million worldwide.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Night-time Snowboarding

A suit of lights and cool atmospheric music
add up to a really gorgeous visual!

A Night-time Snowboarding Short Lights Up the Last of the Winter Snow

Fashion photographer and filmmaker Jacob Sutton swaps the studio for the slopes of Tignes in the Rhône-Alpes region of south-eastern France, with a luminous after hours short starring Artec pro snowboarder William Hughes. The electrifying film sees Hughes light up the snow-covered French hills in a bespoke L.E.D.-enveloped suit courtesy of designer and electronics whizz John Spatcher. "I was really drawn to the idea of a lone character made of light surfing through darkness," says Sutton of his costume choice. "I've always been excited by unusual ways of lighting things, so it seemed like an exciting idea to make the subject of the film the only light source." Sutton, who has created work for the likes of Hermès, Burberry and The New York Times, spent three nights on a skidoo with his trusty Red Epic camera at temperatures of -25C to snap Hughes carving effortlessly through the deep snow, even enlisting his own father to help maintain the temperamental suit throughout the demanding shoot. "Filming in the suit was the most surreal thing I've done in 20 years of snowboarding," says Hughes of the charged salopettes. "Luckily there was plenty of vin rouge to keep me warm, and Jacob's enthusiasm kept everyone going through the cold nights.



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Monday, February 20, 2012

Guest Post: Top Apps in 2012 for Cyclists

Don’t get left on the side of the road—technology will help you find rides, fix your bike, and fuel properly



Did the chain fall off your bike? Are you looking to find like-minded cyclists to ride with?  There's an app for that? Or do you want to map your cycling routes so that you can find them next time? Of course, you do! The good news is that there’s an app for that and tons of other cycling-related information, techniques, and tools, many of which are completely free—as long as you have mobile broadband service.

So to help you map your bike routes, fix your flat tires, improve your cycling abilities, track your speed and distance, and hook up with group rides in your immediate area—here are my picks for top apps in 2012 for cyclists:

1. iMapMyRide (Free)
iMapMyRide is a must for any cyclist because it finds biking routes within 10 miles of your home and servers them up for you to take advantage of. This app also provides user reviews so you know the good (smooth trails) from the bad (loads of dog walkers), plus interactive maps, as well as detailed terrain reports on routes, including things like climbs and elevation changes.

2. BikeDoctor ($4.99)
Ever got stuck in the middle of a ride because of a flat tire or chain discombobulation? Well the Bike Doctor app teaches you the basics of DIY bicycle maintenance and repairs so you’re not stuck miles from home without a proper-running ride. This app offers a user-friendly navigation complete with color, step-by-step visual instructions for all basic bike repairs.

Safety is the primary concern of Cycling Proficiency—regardless of if you’re a newbie biker or a veteran cyclist. This app provides a rundown of the rules and laws of the road for cyclists, bike technique tips, and even advice on how and what to purchase as far as cycling clothing. It’s all you’ll ever need as far as cycling common sense.

4. Cyclemeter GPS ($4.99)
The ultimate cycling tracking app, Cyclemeter GPS tracks your speed, distance, elevation, and time—right in the app itself—so there’s no need to transfer data over to a computer or another mobile device. Cyclemeter GPS also integrates directly with Google Maps so you can map out and share your favorite cycling routes via Facebook or Twitter with your felling bikers. How cool is that?

Are you looking for like-minded cyclists to ride with? Or just hoping to hook up with a regular, organized riding group in your immediate area? The Rendezvous app can help with that by planning and arranging rides for you. Meet up with the newest cyclists in your area, share a rendezvous point, invite other cycling friends on rides, see who else is along for the cycle, or if you’re already booked with a group you can send messages, see the mapped out route, set reminders for your group, examine the terrain, or even let them know if you’re running late for the daily ride.


Bikes pedal thanks to your feet—and your feet work better if you’re properly fueled for the ride ahead. Don’t be left on the side of the road due to poor nutrition. Let the Calorie Tracker app from LiveStrong keeps track of all your meals, your portion sizes, your calorie, fat and protein intake to ensure you’re properly nourished and adequately meeting your diet goals (if you’re trying to build muscle or shed a few extra pounds). This brilliant app syncs with the LiveStrong DailyPlate website, so you don’t even need to manually enter your food intake, the app does it all for you.


Author bio: Melanie Gray is a writer for BBGeeks, a popular site that provides BlackBerry news, commentary, reviews and beginner BlackBerry tips for BB newbies.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Pearl iZUMi Thermal Arm Warmer Product Review


The P.R.O. (Performance + Race Optimized) Series is 3D Motion Engineered for the most demanding athletes with the highest standards for leading-edge apparel and footwear design, construction and craftsmanship. By integrating the newest innovations in technology, race-ready fit and detailed construction with P.R.O. level fabric technologies; the P.R.O. Series is the pinnacle of our no-compromise design and performance philosophy.

The Pearl iZUMi Thermal Arm Warmers provide great coverage with innovative upper arm and wrist scallops. P.R.O. Thermal Fleece panels provide optimal warmth, while their nylon face sheds the weather. A poly back holds warmth and is soft next to skin.

These are truly comfortable arm warmers, snug yet not constrictive, warm yet not cloying. They ride low on the wrist and high up towards the shoulder for good coverage. Over several wearings, I never noticed them riding down or sagging – they are thick and well-made (like all Pearl iZUMi products). For optimal testing, I wore the arm warmers on my bike with a thick cotton shirt, layering a wind vest over it. The shoulders were the only area not covered by the windblocking of either the arm warmers or wind vest and immediately felt the cold weather. These arm warmers really do the job!

With an L and an R on the respective arms, tough not to put these ergonomic arm warmers on correctly.

If you are a cold weather cyclist or runner, consider adding these to your gear closet. Perfect for use on their own on cooler days or as an additional layer under a toplayer or jacket for some extra protection on the usually exposed arms. At $30.00 well-worth the price for the quality, comfort, and performance.

Check out Pearl iZUMi's website, like them on Facebook, and check out their videos on YouTube.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this item for free to review on my blog, courtesy of Pearl iZUMi, via Outside PR. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

How's Your Running Body?

Phil Wharton had a great article in the January 2012 Running Times about good running form, how different parts make up the whole, how to test for problems (or for what's right!), and ways to improve:

Good running form plays a large role in remaining injury-free, and remaining injury-free plays a large role in being able to run farther and faster. Let's start by looking at five basic elements of good running form. Then we'll get into some tests to see if your body has the structural integrity to maintain those elements of good form.

THE PARTS OF THE WHOLE



1) POSTURAL ALIGNMENT: Any deviation from optimal alignment will reduce efficiency and lead to musculoskeletal injuries.

2) RANGE OF MOTION: Flexibility is crucial to ensuring complete mobility throughout the running motion. Limited range of motion inhibits the body's ability to complete the full running gait cycle, thereby displacing forces and causing imbalances.


3) JOINT INTEGRITY STRENGTH: Your body must mobilize the forces of landing with 2.5–5 times body weight on every step; multiply that by the number of steps per mile, the number of miles run per year and the number of years you've been running, and you can begin to grasp the impact that your runner's body endures. To assist the body in properly handling these forces, strength is required, particularly at the joint intersections and tendinous attachments, which serve as the body's hinges or fulcrums.
 
4) MUSCLE ACTIVATION: The nervous and muscular systems work in concert; to move efficiently in forward motion, activation of your posterior muscles (gluteals, hamstrings, lower back) is required. The muscles must first be strong and functioning well before they can adequately "fire." Active-isolated flexibility and strengthening, dynamic range-of-motion exercises and form drills will begin this process of muscle activation and reinforce or "cue" these proper movement patterns in the body.



5) BIOMECHANICS: The integration of correct postural alignment into the running movement requires attention and thought. Some basic concepts are: run tall, making sure that your neck and shoulders are in alignment slightly behind you; land on your forefoot to midfoot with your foot landing directly under your center of gravity; stay light on your feet; stay low to the ground, without shuffling, yet don't bounce or "prance." This optimal positioning will keep your power to the ground and propel you forward in an efficient manner.

To read the entire article and to see all the self-tests, head over to RunningTimes.com or try to find the hardcopy at a library.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Guest Post: GU Roctane Product Review

Back a month (or two) ago, I won Kovas' Most Valuable Reader contest, with a grand prize of a canister of GU's new Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Drink AND a GU sample pack. I was thrilled, both to be recognized for the fantastic blog reader that I am and because, being terminally short of funds I'm hesitant to try new things and risk wasting money on something I don't like. The one catch to my winnings was that I also had to review the drink, but since I clearly love sharing my opinions about everything that was no problem.


According to the GU Energy Labs website, Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy drink includes the following key performance ingredients:
  • 240 calories of complex and simple carbs that is optimized for rapid absorption and energy accessibility and key electrolytes such as sodium and potassium so you can get your calories and hydration all in one drink.
  • Ideal carbohydrate ratio - Unique ratio of complex and simple carbohydrates are podium-proven to better maintain glucose levels than simple or complex carbs alone
  • Key electrolytes - Sodium and potassium properly maintain hydration
  • Taurine - Can help maintain heart & muscle performance during prolonged exercise which would otherwise lead to fatigue and decreased performance
  • Caffeine (except grape flavor) - Stimulates the central nervous system and reduces pain perception leading to prolonged exercise, delayed fatigue and increased performance
  • Beta-Alanine - Supplements dietary beta-alanine to improve muscle buffering capacity and performance during intense efforts
  • Branch Chain Amino Acids (Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine) – Shown to serve as an additional fuel source (when taken with carbohydrates), reduce muscle damage, enhance recovery and delay fatigue – all critical during intense or long efforts
  • Histidine Amino Acid – helps to buffer Ph during exercise
I took my reviewing responsibilities seriously, using the Roctane energy drink in a variety of settings, including a couple of short runs, mountain bike rides ranging from 1-4 hours, and 6-10 mile trail runs. I was given the tropical fruit flavor to review, and I liked its taste. The powder mixed in well with the water and had a nice, light flavor. I tend to get cramps in cooler weather because it's harder to keep on top of hydration when I'm not as thirsty, but the Roctane kept me drinking more regularly. It also didn't aggravate my frequently cranky stomach, which was a huge plus.

Of course, it's difficult to directly compare the effects of one drink over another since you can't exactly replicate the circumstances surrounding a run or ride, but the only really terrible run I've had lately was also the only run I've done without the Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Drink. There were other factors at play besides my drink choice, but it makes me wonder if it would have been better with Roctane instead of plain water. Overall, it seemed very effective. My energy level stayed up throughout the runs and rides, my stomach behaved itself, and my legs stayed cramp free. In fact, the only bad thing is that, now that my mileage is ramping up in my 50k training plan, I'm out of Roctane!


The GU sample pack was a great bonus, too. I've discovered a love for GU Chomps, and now that I've used my favorite flavors of the energy gels, I'm being forced to branch out and have already found out that I like some of the other flavors as well. Thanks to Outside PR, GU Energy Labs, and Midwest Multisport Life for the opportunity to sample all these great products!


About the Author: SuperKate:
  • Secret Identity: Completely average first grade teacher, loving wife, and mother of three.  Loves to read, write, and drink margaritas.  Wishes her super power was to drop dress sizes in single bounds.
  • Special powers: Able to leap in over my head at a single bound, donut eating, sarcasm
  • Sidekick: Taking applications
  • Weaknesses: Chocolate, naps

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Halo Headband Product Review

I sweat A LOT. I like to wear hats and occasionally headbands, which are helpful, but end up getting soaked through pretty quickly. Enter Halo Headband.

Halo Headbands are technically designed to keep sweat and sunscreen out of your eyes and off your glasses while training, working out, racing, or just working hard. Halo Headbands include our soft and comfortable Sweat Block Seal. This exclusive water-tight seal redirects sweat away from your face. (US Patent 6,567,991)

Note how headband keeps earbuds securely in place

I tried out the Halo Anti-Freeze, which is designed to let you stay active in cooler weather. This band is wider up front and completely covers your ears. Features include ear protection for warmth in cold weather, slim to fit under helmets, Sweat Block Technology. One size fits all, which meant it was snug on my head, but not uncomfortable.

This is a very simple product and it works. No extras, no confusion, just comfortable on the head and over the ears. No sweat in the eyes. Fabric is smooth and stretchy and came through a wash just fine. 

I also used the Halo II Pullover, which is simpler yet. Read Laima's review of the Halo II over at Women’s Endurance Gear.

For more information and to purchase, visit the Halo Headband website, and like on Facebook.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this item for free to review on my blog, courtesy of Halo Headband. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Nick Goepper, Midwest Skier


The kids and I watched coverage of the Dew Tour from Snowbasin yesterday. Ski slopestyle to be exact. I was in for a total shock as the kid who won that competition hails from Indiana…yes, Indiana! The youngest skier on the Slopestyle roster, Nick Goepper got his start skiing on the Perfect North Slopes  in Lawrenceburg, Indiana - Lawrenceburg is down where Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky meet, and one would never guess that someone growing up there could grow up to Dew Cup greatness. Nice for the kids to see that they can chase unusual dreams, even here in the Midwest.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dude, Where's My Headband?


XLBands: Like That Other Band - GLAMMED

The new XLBands headband, hand-crafted at home with love, respect, attention to detail, and room for individuality.

The product and packaging aim to be eco-friendly and resource-conserving while being a functional and cutting-edge fashion statement.


Each XLBand can be customized before shipping by one of the resident artisans or by the consumer using the included "GlitzNGlam" kit. Pre-washed and pre-shrunk, XLBands can be machine-washed and dried...even after "glamming."

You may have seen earlier generation XLBands on the likes of the Punky QB Jim McMahon and tennis star Bjorn Borg. And when he tired of the long dangling length of fabric behind his head, Rambo turned to XLBands. And, in 1991, an early prototype was given to Fidel Castro - it is said he wore it under his hat and is buried with it.


To use: XLBands may be worn full-wifth, folded over, rolled...your choice! Unlike with similar products, there are NO RULES!  

XLBands are FREE! Only available in a limited supply and only available for a limited time, XLBands cannot sponsor athletes or contribute to charities in any other way than product.

(Accessories sold separately. Not available in stores. Not to be confused withe the Dudeband. Actual mileage may vary. Some small parts may pose a choking hazard to small children. No consideration was given for this review. Any imagined or actual problems should be taken up with the management.)

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Beginning Guitar: Apple’s GarageBand



As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I decided to emulate my Guitar Hero  son Tazer and start playing guitar as well. I love to try out new things and usually I try to pick up as much as I can on my own. This is two-pronged: one, I am one who learns more from doing and making mistakes and two, I am a cheap son-of- a-bitch. So I’ve been exploring differing ways to learning, starting close to home. Our Mac computer comes with GarageBand, Apple’s multi-faceted app.

"Welcome to the school of rock. A Mac-size practice space. Your own recording studio. If you want to learn to play an instrument, write music, or record a song, GarageBand has everything you need.

First GarageBand teaches you how to play. Then it tests your chops. As you play along with any lesson, record yourself. GarageBand listens in real time and tells you how you’re doing. You’ll see how well you played with colored notes, a progress bar, and a performance meter. You can check your rhythm and note accuracy, keep track of your progress, and beat your best score — all while perfecting your skills.



With 22 new genre-based lessons (40 in all), you can pick up the basics of piano, guitar, or even both. Video demonstrations, synchronized notation, and instrument animations make lessons fun and easy to follow. And you can learn at your own pace. You’ll jam with the Blues Guitar and Rock Guitar series. You’ll master classical piano pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, or Chopin. And you’ll play Top 40-style piano with the Pop Piano series. The new built-in glossary is a great reference for tuning your guitar, changing strings, reading music, finding basic chords and scales, and more. With the Chord Trainer, you’ll master the most important guitar chords by shape, which makes it easier to keep them straight."


The GarageBand built-in tuner is relatively intuitive and useful. The lessons start out simply enough, but rapidly increase in difficulty almost right away. Though it’s a pretty package, I’d say this is too complex for most people to start out on, or at least it was for me. I know that someday I’ll come back to this, both as a refresher and to avail myself of the myriad features included.

Do you play guitar?
Did you learn on your own or use a teacher?

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

“EXTREME” DVD Review



Growing up in Southern California, I had ready access to the ocean (1 mile away) and the mountains (45 minutes away). It was an idyllic location to grow up. At that time, my sports heroes were not the typical baseball or football players, but rather more extreme athletes who were surfing, climbing at Joshua Tree and Yosemite, skiing Mammoth Lakes, and, Snurfing on the local hills (snurfing was the predecessor to snowboarding). I joined them in these pursuits to the extent I was allowed and could afford.

“Extreme,” the DVD, brought back so many of those memories. It’s a quick and interesting peek into big wave surfing, rock climbing, extreme skiing, and big mountain snowboarding. These days, as a father and husband, my pursuits are a bit more tame. This kind of escapist fun is just what I needed!

Extreme is a journey into the soul of adventure featuring a cast of world champion athletes. It takes you to the action of outdoor adventure sports like never before; skiing and snowboarding perilous, untouched mountain peaks; climbing vertical frozen waterfalls and magnificent red-rock spires; and surfing some of the largest waves ever surfed and windsurfing gale force winds.

The film combines incredible adventure sport action and narration from the athletes with an eclectic, contemporary soundtrack. Extreme shares an understanding of those who have made their passion into a lifestyle and provides a unique glimpse into the relationship between nature and humanity.

The Bonus Feature, “The Making of Extreme,” focuses almost exclusively on the use of the IMAX cameras in capturing the surfing footage. Some amazing shots of the enormous waves, well-worth watching.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

DailyMile Statistics



Now I haven't been on DailyMile for well over a year, but I still get emails along with Friend requests. At the beginning of the year, I got an email detailing my 2011 efforts (zero), along with the interesting stats seen above. Really interesting to me that Chicago is the most active community in the country, at least according to the DailyMile statistics.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Armpocket Xtreme i-30 Product Review


When I run, I always carry my phone – for safety and also I like to take photos along the way. I also sometimes bring a camera, in case I want higher quality photos or maybe some video. Add an iPod and suddenly it’s a lot of stuff to lug around. Though I sometimes do it, I really dislike carrying things in pockets, as they tend to bounce around. Backpacks and waistpacks are good alternatives, but sometimes they are overkill.

Fitting neatly into the next slot down are the Armpockets, armbands of varying sizes to fit a little or a lot, depending on your needs. I had the chance to try out the XTREME i-30 Black ($34.95 MSRP), with a touch-sensitive window to navigate your smart phone/music player. It fits the new large smart phones such as Droid X TM and EVO TM, though I used it to carry my Blackberry, keys, and iPod. The Xtreme i-30 is Armpocket’s largest armband with maximum storage and 3 interior pockets. The armband is available in 3 strap sizes, SMALL (arm size 7 - 11 inches), MEDIUM (arm size 10 - 14 inches) and LARGE (13 to 18 inches) measured around upper arm.

It’s made from recycled materials and soft natural bamboo rayon, so that makes the environmentalist me happy. Every Armpocket is 100% post-consumer recycled PET materials made from plastic bottles. Natural bamboo rayon is used instead of manufactured synthetic wicking materials. This is the ideal balance between providing Armpockets constructed from the highest quality materials while minimizing their carbon-footprint--a win-win proposition for everyone.

Though the Armpockets can be washed using a cold, delicate machine wash program, iIf your Armpocket model has reflective piping, they recommend hand-wash only, and line dry out of direct sun. This will also extend the life of the water-proof interior lining. The reflective material will pre-maturely deteriorate if placed in a washing machine.


This is a really comfortable armband, even packed full of all my extra stuff. I wore it both upright and upside down to see if there was a difference in feel, and there wasn’t. (Actually, I put it on upside-down accidentally midrun, but…) The cord on my iPod stayed neat and out of the way either direction and the Armpocket stayed firmly in place without having to cinch the hook and loop fastener tightly.

Highly recommended if you carry tech items, need space for nutrition, and dislike carrying a larger backpack, wearing a waistpack, or keeping it all in your pockets.

To purchase or for more information available on the Armpocket website, follow on Twitter, and like on Facebook.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this item for free to review on my blog, courtesy of Armpocket. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Iron War Book Review



Iron War (Boulder, CO: VeloPress, 2011), by Matt Fitzgerald, is the story of the infamous 1989 Hawaii Ironman triathlon race, but it goes much deeper than that. Part history, part psychological profiling, part sport science, the book weaves seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive whole.

“Within their minds a pitched battle is being waged between unimaginable suffering and an equally intense desire to resist that suffering and win. The pain in their thighs, especially, is so severe that in any other context they would find it impossible to walk a single step. Yet each continues to run sub-six-minute miles because each still believes the pain is worth the hope of winning.”

“Who is ultimately stronger? The answer is undetermined. Dave does not know, nor does Mark, nor do the spectators who trail them in a reverent hush. One of these two men must soon break the other—in body, mind, or spirit. Who will it be? Not necessarily the faster man. The battle being waged now is about will as much as skill. Already both men have pushed deeper than ever before into the inferno of suffering that stands between every racer and his final performance limit. The winner of this fight is likely to be the man who dares to push deepest. Eight hours of racing are culminating in a game of chicken.”

It’s a fascinating book, more so because the men profiled are not just still alive, but actively participating in the multisport world as coaches. I’ve read some comments in various places that neither Dave Scott not Mark Allen were happy with the resulting book, but it appears that Fitzgerald was pretty thorough in terms of interviewing the men, their rivals and fellow athletes, and then extrapolating mental states, motivators, and results. Perhaps too much liberty was taken. I couldn’t find anything definitively stating that.

Interestingly enough, what actually interested me the most was not the actual story about the race, but the side tangents into sport science, specifically the idea of control entropy and improving the running stride. I don’t profess to really understanding control entropy – here’s the definition from the book: “Control entropy refers to the variability or unpredictability of the behavior of a physical system.” For running, as exhaustion nears, form should fall apart. However, studies showed that, as exhaustion neared, the subjects actually became more robotic in stride, with less variation in form. This then, also plays into people trying to change their natural form to mimic what is considered a “perfect form.” Studies though, show that this is less efficient than simply racking up the miles in order to make one’s natural form more efficient. Fascinating stuff!

It is a long and thorough book and, while there were times when I wanted to put it down, it kept drawing me back in. Recommended for any student of the sport but also for any endurance athlete who has an interest in what mentally and physiologically can make one stronger.

About Matt Fitzgerald: A New Hampshire native, Matt became a runner at the age of eleven, after running the last mile of the 1983 Boston Marathon with his father (who had run the whole thing) and his two brothers. Although he never intended to marry his passions for sports, fitness, and writing, that’s how it worked out. Matt’s byline has appeared in a long list of national publications including Bicycling, Maxim, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Outside, Shape, Stuff, and Women’s Health. The son of a novelist, Matt has a special passion for writing books. His best-known titles include Racing Weight, Brain Training for Runners, and Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide.


More info and other books on the VeloPress website,  follow on Twitter, and Like on Facebook.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free to review on my blog, courtesy of VeloPress. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ocean Spray® Fruit Flavored Snacks



With four children, Laima and I are always thinking about snacks. Especially for times when we're on the go. Variety is key and, while we want them to be healthy snacks, we don't want the kids to feel deprived when they see some of the less healthy things their friends eat.

With new Ocean Spray® Fruit Flavored Snacks, you need not look any further. Available in two delicious varieties, Ocean Spray® Fruit Flavored Snacks provide kids with the great tasting snacks they crave and parents with the confidence that they come from a good place.


Ocean Spray® Fruit Flavored Snacks are:
  • Made with real fruit juice and natural colors and flavors.
  • 80 calories, gluten free and contain 100% of the Daily Value of Vitamin C.
  • Available with year round Double Box Tops.
We've tried them in a variety of situations, including a cold day of snow tubing. The snacks became chewier, but didn't completely freeze - the kids loved that! We now keep a bunch of the bags in the car console, for emergency situations and times when some quiet would just hit the spot.
The fruit snacks come in two varieties, Assorted Fruits and Berries + Cherries. To my uneducated palate, they all pretty much tasted like sweet gels, but the kids discussed the various shapes and flavors and came up with favorites, so it just shows how wrong I am.


Disclosure: Ocean Spray® Fruit Flavored Snacks and information have been provided by Ocean Spray® through MyBlogSpark.

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Giveaway: Win Mizuno This Valentine’s Day



We are given one day a year to really put our feelings on display. This Valentine’s Day, Runningshoes.com are giving you the chance to do just that. They’ve teamed up with running shoes maker Mizuno for this heart-filled holiday to give away two pairs of the 15th anniversary limited edition Mizuno Wave Rider.

They chose this specific model because of its color scheme—a crystal cranberry for the ladies and a very bright ruby red for the gentlemen. While these are truly the hues of love, we all know that there’s more to running shoes than the color. The latest generation of the Wave Rider is an amalgamation of greatness that the Wave Rider shoe has come to represent. It balances light weight, cushioning and stability with a super smooth ride.

So, how can you win yourself a pair? All you have to do is answer the simple question below in the comment section of the Win Mizuno post. Then the staff of RunningShoes.com will vote on their favorite answer.

What do you love about your running buddy?

Do they always say the right thing to get you motivated? Or do they make killer post-run smoothies? They know there is something about them that keeps you running with them (and not away from them!). Whether it is your best friend, your pet or your significant other, tell them what it is that makes them so darn special.

And if you’re buddy is of the human variety, they could score themselves a pair of new Mizuno kicks too!

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. The winner will be announced on Feb. 15, 2012.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cyclist Safety Precautions


I ride a motorcycle for fun and a bicycle for exercise. Experiencing both has shown me that in regard to safety precautions, the two are relatively similar. Neither offer any protection if you fall, you need to wear proper protective gear when you ride, and you cannot control what those around you do in regard to your own safety. I spend a lot of time writing about motorcycle accidents, but bicycle safety is just as important. These are the important safety precautions you must take when you cycle.

Know and Abide By the Traffic Laws

It seems pretty obvious that you should know and follow traffic laws, but the fact is that many cyclists don’t learn their state’s bicycle laws. Each state is different and you must become familiar with the laws for your own safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009, 2 percent of all traffic related deaths were bicyclists; considering that bicycles are a less used mode of transportation than motor vehicles, that’s actually a high percentage. In 2009, 52,000 bicyclists were injured and 716 were killed in traffic accidents. The average age for a bicycle related fatality is 37 and for injuries it is 28, so don’t think children are the ones who are generally involved in bicycle accidents.

Remember What You Are On

You’re on a bicycle, not a passenger vehicle. If a car hits you, the driver probably won’t be injured; even at low speeds, however, you probably will. Always be aware of your surroundings to prepare for other people who may not be aware of you or who drive recklessly. Accidents happen too often; a split second mistake or decision can lead to you being seriously injured. Always be aware of places that you can retreat to if you see someone coming towards you and double check that your path is clear before you turn or cross streets. Do not make quick movements. Turn and place yourself in locations that are predictable; doing the unpredictable could lead to an accident. According to the NHTSA, in 2008, 69% of fatal bicycle accidents were in urban areas; be especially mindful when you are riding in busy, congested areas, like downtown destinations.

Maintain Your Bike

Maintaining your bicycle is imperative to your safety. You should consistently check that the following components are working properly:
  • Tires
  • Gears
  • Brakes
Wear the Proper Gear

Wear brightly colored gear so that you are as visible as possible to other motorists. ALWAYS wear a helmet; according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 91 percent of those in fatal bicycle traffic accidents in 2009 were not wearing a helmet. You should also wear gloves, proper gripping shoes, tightly fitting clothes that will protect your skin if you fall.


For more information on road safety please visit our website.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

It's been shelved for now, but have you heard about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)? Eerie attempt by the government to usher in a new era of Big Brother type regulation of the Internet. I definitely feel that counterfeit drugs, pirated videos, and stolen copyrighted material is very uncool, but I don't think that crushing the little guy will stop any of it. Shutting down a pirate website will only delay the inevitable - as bloggers, we all know how easy it is to set up a website. The other side of the coin is the staggering amount of research needed to weed out the outkaw websites from those who are (at least trying to) follow the rules.

Source: Highball Blog

"The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the sites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyright material, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. Claiming flaws in present laws that do not cover foreign owned and operated sites, and citing examples of "active promotion of rogue websites" by U.S. search engines, proponents say stronger enforcement tools are needed.

Opponents say the proposed legislation threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing material posted on a single blog or webpage. They have raised concerns that SOPA would bypass the "safe harbor" protections from liability presently afforded to Internet sites by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Library associations have expressed concerns that the bill's emphasis on stronger copyright enforcement would expose libraries to prosecution. Other opponents state that requiring search engines to delete a domain name could begin a worldwide arms race of unprecedented censorship of the Web and violates the First Amendment.

Pfizer spokesman John Clark testified that patients could not always detect cleverly forged websites selling drugs that were either mis-branded or simply counterfeit.

RxRights, a consumer-advocacy group, issued a statement saying that Clark failed "to acknowledge that there are Canadian and other international pharmacies that do disclose where they are located, require a valid doctor's prescription and sell safe, brand-name medications produced by the same leading manufacturers as prescription medications sold in the U.S." They had earlier said that SOPA "fails to distinguish between counterfeit and genuine pharmacies" and would prevent American patients from ordering their medications from Canadian pharmacies online."

Source: Wikipedia

This means you might not be able to order  drugs from a Canadian Pharmacy  or enjoy videos on YouTube, let alone share images and content on Facebook - Constantin wrote very clearly on this over at the Highball Blog:

“Basically, the entertainment businesses (Hollywood movie brands and music production companies) are trying to enforce a law that will shut down websites that offer access or information on how to access their copyrighted material.

The problem is that the government will have to power to seize your website and block your domain name just because a commentator left a link that leads to a site that shows copyrighted content. And if you embed a video on your blog that contains copyrighted footage or music (I know I did that) you're in the same bucket with big time spammers and hackers.

And since the law is formulated in broad terms, there will be enough room for them to decide what should be online and what not. So this is nothing else than the beginning of a censorship.

If they consider that what you say or show might cause revenue losses for the entertainment industry, they'll shut you down.

Websites that you enjoy and benefit from will also be affected - YouTube, Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, Posterous, Facebook, Twitter - all sites where users create and distribute content.”

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