Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Funny: Downers Grove

Laima and I live in Downers Grove, which is a western suburb of Chicago. It’s a good place to live, nothing overly exciting, but a safe, generally friendly locale which has pretty much all you’d want in a small town, only it’s surrounded by other suburbs.

I was kind of searching around on YouTube and came across a video of Emo Phillips singing a song about Downers Grove. Pretty funny, but maybe you have to live here.

Emo Philips is an American entertainer and comedian born in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove. Much of his standup comedy stems from the use of paraprosdokians (a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part) and garden path sentences spoken in a wandering falsetto tone of voice and a confused, childlike delivery of his material to produce the intended comic timing in a manner invoking the 'wisdom of children' or the idiot savant. (From Wikipedia.)

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Smart Marathon Training Book Review

This fall, the plan is to run my first ultra, a 50K at The North Face Endurance Challenge. To train for that, I decided to look at ultra training plans as compared to marathon training plans. Needless to say, the plans were all over the map, and none really spoke to me as something I wanted to follow. I could probably run a lot more than I do now, but it seems when I push it too much, I just end up getting injured, which obviously is counterproductive. My comfort zone is three runs a week: a tempo day, hills or speedwork, and a longer slower effort. I add cycling as a crosstraining, because I feel that this is the most complementary sport. None of this is based in science.

I was really excited to hear about Jeff Horowitz’ Smart Marathon Training, a book that espoused exactly what I was already doing, but explained it from a coaching and scientific perspective. “Old-school marathon training plans ask runners to crank out 70 to 100 miles a week. It's no wonder those who make it to the start line are running ragged. Smart Marathon Training maps out a healthier, more economical approach to training that emphasizes quality over quantity. This innovative program eliminates junk miles, paring down training to three essential runs per week and adding a dynamic strength and cross-training program to build overall fitness. Runners will train for their best performance in less time and avoid the injuries, overtraining, and burnout that come from running too much.”

I feel like this book was personally written with me in mind. I am already planning on adapting the 21 week intermediate marathon training plan to train for the 50K. The biggest difference between what I was doing and this plan is:
  • I’m not just making stuff up as I go along;
  • My cycling will be incorporated in a more meaningful way.
  • I’ll be adding the cross-training program, which should help me get more fit and hopefully lose a bunch of weight, both of which will benefit my running.
I still haven’t decided whether I’ll follow the exercises and weightlifting Horowitz has in the book – I’m leaning more towards something like P90X or Insanity instead. I have a desire to incorporate bodywork exercises rather than actual weightlifting, it seems more natural and beneficial. That detail will be decided later.
Even if you don’t want to follow his plans, Horowitz’ book is a great primer for anyone looking to move beyond the 10K – half marathon, marathon, and beyond. This book is a great reference for any runner’s library.

Source: Smart Marathon Training

About the Author: Jeff Horowitz is a certified running and triathlon coach and a personal trainer who has run more than 150 marathons across six continents. Formerly an attorney, he quit law to pursue his passion for endurance sport and now works with DC Tri; The Nations Triathlon; the nonprofit summer camp ACHIEVE Kids Triathlon; and Team Hope, a charity fund-raising training group that benefits the Hope Connections Center, a cancer-patients service organization. Learn more about Jeff at

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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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Take A Hike: 7 Great Social Media Tools for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Any hiker will tell you: there’s nothing better than reaching the summit of a mountaintop, after hours of maneuvering treacherous terrain and, in some cases, braving inclement weather conditions. The crisp air, the breathtaking view, the indescribable feeling of triumph—these are things that simply cannot be replicated online. But that doesn’t mean you need to unplug to gear up for a serious hike. Social-media integrated sites and tools can be incredibly useful hiking companions, whether it’s an app for knot-tying, trail-blazing, or a social network for hikers. Here are our favorite social media spots for serious hiking enthusiasts:

1. All Trails: is a great resource for hikers. Sponsored by National Geographic, it is one of the most popular digital networks for hiking and outdoors enthusiasts. You can find tons of resources on outdoors activities—from snowboarding and skiing, to mountain biking and hiking. You’ll also find an invaluable database of trails and local events, and you can track your activity metrics or keep a “trail journal” to document your trip. Best of all, the site boasts an iPhone app, so that you can access these resources when you need them most.

2. Social Hiking: This spot is a must for anyone who loves social media and the art of active hiking. Social Hiking provides a platform for users to share their hiking adventures in real time on the web. The site syncs up with your social media channels, including Twitter, Flickr, Qik, and Facebook, so that others can share your “outdoors progress live.

3. Knots, Splices and Ropework iPhone app: When you’re hiking, a knot instruction guide can come in pretty handy. This iPhone app gives you access to tons of knots and splices, and provides concise directions so you can replicate them when you need a really good knot on the go.

4. Lightweight Outdoors: Everyone’s favorite outdoor blogger, Phil Turner, is an invaluable social media resource to count on when gearing up for a hike. The freelance outdoor writer lends plenty of great hiking tips and insight on his blog, Lightweight Outdoors. Whether it’s a rundown of his latest trip to Arran, or a review of a new outdoor-themed DVD, outdoor enthusiasts are sure to learn a great deal by keeping an eye on his site.

5. This Hiking Trail: This Hiking Trail is a great site for hikers everywhere. Based on your location, it identifies local hikes in your area and highlights hikes of interest. You can also search for hikes with special features, like those that allow dogs. Simply input your zip code and find the best local hikes your neck of the woods has to offer. The site is also integrated with several social networks, so you can share your favorite hikes across the web.

6. Trails: This “intuitive GPX mapping” iPhone app lets you track your hiking route via GPS–it also provides topographical views so that you can gauge the terrain before you embark on your trek. Great for geotagging and geocoding, this site enables users to share trips and tracks via Google Earth.

7. American Hiking Society: The American Hiking Society’s webpage is a catch-all for hiking resources. The site features hiking news, current events, featured trips, programs and much more. You can find volunteer opportunities, hiker supplies, and plenty of ways to donate to environmental preservation organizations. And the AHS is very active on social media channels—just check out their Facebook and Twitter accounts for even more outdoor insight.

This post originally appeared at the social news site Social Web Daily.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

sport science smarter t-shirt Product Review

"better living thru sport science - When true technical performance fuses with incredible comfort and versatility, smarter performance™ is the result."

sport science claims their dri fit shirts are as comfortable as your old favorite cotton tee. AND they won’t start to stink like your other tech gear. Hmmmm….

sport science sent me a smarter t-shirt, “the performance tee that feels like cotton. This super comfortable, super versatile top is constructed of quick-drying, fresh-smelling sport science fabric.”

I ordered a Large in the Heather Sand, because if these shirts were as comfortable as claimed, I knew I’d want to wear it with jeans. The shirt fit spot on, true to size. To date, I’ve run in the shirt 5 or 6 times and it still looks (and smells!) brand new. From the apparent sweat, you can see it’s working as designed. I’ve also worn it with jeans for a casual look and yes, I do look fabulous (it’s probably the shirt). I wear this shirt as a regular tee as often as I do for running - these are amazingly versatile. Probably the most comfortable tech tee you'll ever own.

To further reach out to the most active, most involved people, they are always excited to work with teams, clubs, and events to create unique shirts for the team’s needs. sport science™ shirts provide a fantastic canvas that can be either screenprinted or fusion printed™ to the team’s specifications.

Buy the shirts or connect at the sport science website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog, courtesy of sport science. 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, March 26, 2012

Allen Lim Five Tips On Diet

  1. Listen to yourself first and foremost. If eating something makes you feel like crap, then don’t eat it unless it’s worth it to you to feel like crap.
  2. Prioritize foods that come in their own wrapper.
  3. Don’t try to drink all your calories.
  4. If you don’t know how to cook, stop eating out all the time and learn some skills that go beyond just pushing buttons on a microwave.
  5. Don’t “should” yourself. …Should is filled with assumption and is just a lazy way of sounding smart with zero commitment to any form of execution. Rather, use common sense and commit to eating and cooking real food.
Source: Road Bike Action

Allen Lim is a sports physiologist, primarily known for working with cyclists – he can found on Twitter  and at Skratch Labs.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Running Naked

Source: Blonde Ponytail

Now I’m not talking about sans Garmin, but birthday suit naked. Jen Burn asks “Is running nude in your future?” in an article in this month’s Trail Runner magazine. She writes about the growing popularity of clothing-optional races around the country and in our neighbor up North. “Whether the appeal is simply a tick off the old bucket list or the draw of competition in a novel setting, nude racing provides an opportunity to experience nature at its most basic. If nothing else, it makes the age-old dilemma of what to wear on race day a lot less stressful.” I’m not sure I have the balls for it, as she so eloquently writes, but it is intriguing.

Though I’m sure there’s more, here’s a short list of races that accompanied the article:

Bare Your Buns

Bouncing Buns 7K Trail Run
Sunny Rest Resort // Palmerton, PA // June 2012
A well-marked, wooded trail race with age-group prizes, a cash bar and access to all the amenities of the resort with your entry.

Wreck Beach Bare Buns Run
Vancouver, BC // August 2012
Enjoy age-group awards, a finisher’s certificate and race shirt for racing the scenic 5K on the sands of Wreck Beach, Canada’s first and largest clothing-optional beach.

The “Original” Bare Buns Fun Run
Kaniksu Ranch Family Nudist Park // Deer Lake, WA // July 2012
Follow an out-and-back 5K course through a scenic forest then indulge in a weekend of recreational activities.

Coventry’s 5K XC Run
Coventry Club and Resort // Milton, VT // June 2012
Open to all ages (under 18 must have signed consent by a legal guardian), the race is entirely off road, and access to resort amenities is included with entry.

Sunny Streak 5K
Sunny Sands Resort | Pierson, FL // June 2012
Compete for a custom Sunny Streak medal (top three male and female runners), but stay for the random prize drawings and giveaways, post-race pool party, nine-hole golf course and more. Registration fee includes resort entry for the weekend.

Here’s a look back at the classic Nike ad for the Bear Butte Running Camp I’ve shared before:

Ever run naked?

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

JP Kinkaid Chronicles Book Review

From the Author: This multi-book story is narrated by English ex-pat and rock (and) roll superstar guitarist John Peter (JP) Kinkaid. While each book in the Chronicles has a mystery element, each follows the last in a complex arc that follows JP, with his multiple sclerosis, heart condition and unusual personal history, as he finally comes of age in his fifties. The Kinkaid Chronicles give the reader an all-access backstage pass to how musicians work, live, and love.

The JP Kinkaid Chronicles are 6 books (and one soon to come) following the protagonist, as he plays guitar for international superband Blacklight, works on side projects such as the Fog City Geezers and The Bombardiers. The books bring all sort of adventure, from murder to drug abuse to wild relationships to health issues. As JP and supporting cast (wife Bree, members of Blacklight and other bands, Patrick Ormand the cop turned security consultant, and others) travel between the Bay area, England, and the Continent (with forays all over the world while touring), bad things happen, sometimes to the band members, sometimes to both appealing and unappealing side characters.

Another aspect of this series is the ongoing dramatic relationships JP has with his inner circle and those that move in and out of that select group. His flawed first marriage, subsequent betrothal to Bree, and all the emotional baggage that are included are a constant through the books. It is a never ending back and forth on whether they are happy or at each other’s throat, constantly shifting between a power struggle and a close bond.

The last overarching theme is JP’s health. Suffering from multiple sclerosis and a heart problem, along with myriad other problems aging men have, the illnesses impact but never stop the plot. JP works to maintain the various interests he holds, using coping mechanisms, his medication, and even an implant to continue his projects.

These are well-written books, with a healthy dose of sex, drugs, and rock and roll that will make you feel like you are right there with Blacklight. After I read these books, I read several rock legend’s rather candid autobiographies of the excesses of the rock world, and Grabien has captured the same feeling in her novels. The only drawback that I found, common to most series, is that the author needs to repeat certain data so that each book can stand on its own and make sense. However, if you read the books one after another (and you’ll want to), there is quite a bit of repeated background. A minor problem since the books are so much fun to read.

About the Author: Deborah Grabien can claim a long personal acquaintance with the fleshpots — and quiet little towns — of Europe. She has lived and worked and hung out, from London to Geneva to Paris to Florence, and a few stops in between. In 1981, after spending some years in Europe, she came back to Northern California to stay. She’s a music editor for Green Man Review, specializing in all things Bay Area, Rolling Stones or Richard Thompson. Deborah’s been happily married to Nicholas Grabien since 1983. A San Francisco native and another member of the local music scene in its heyday, Nic is a bassist, while Deborah plays guitar. They share a passion for rescuing cats and finding them homes, and are both active members of several local feral cat rescue organizations. Deborah has a grown daughter, Joanna, who lives in New York. They also run the non-profit Kinkaid Foundation, which provides funds for those recovering from surgery or struggling to live with a chronic illness on a fixed income. Like JP, Deborah herself has lived with multiple sclerosis for nearly a decade. These days, in between cat rescues and cookery, Deborah can generally be found listening to music, playing music on one of eleven guitars, hanging out with her musician friends, or writing about music, insofar as her multiple sclerosis will allow.

Get more information on Deborah Grabien’s website,  follow her on Twitter,  and connect on Facebook

(Disclaimer: I was sent these books for free to review on my blog, courtesy of Plus One Press. I did not pay for the items, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the author's and company's websites, the opinions are my own.)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

BENGAY Pain Relief Product Review

The endurance gods smiled on me recently, sending me pain relief when I was suffering. Can’t recall how it happened, but I somehow tweaked my back, right along the line between upper and lower. The pain was pretty excruciating, even for one as macho as me. In a cosmic coincidence, I was offered the opportunity to try out some BENGAY Pain Relief Products – hallelujah!

BENGAY® Pain Relief + Massage Gel

Made of the active ingredient Menthol 2.5%, along with inactive ingredients camphor, carbomer, DMDM hydantoin, isoceteth-20, isopropyl alcohol, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, sodium hydroxide, water, this is a product that goes on COLD, but then feels like it’s working right away. Massaging nubs uniquely designed to massage in the powerful relief of the BENGAY® gel are paired with the no mess applicator which controls the product flow. The scent starts disappearing in minutes.

BENGAY® cold therapy

cold therapy is a menthol pain relieving gel with PRO-COOL™ technology. Used for pain relief, it has a vanishing scent and provides a fast-acting blast of cold. Deep penetrating and long-lasting, this gel is ideal for muscle and joint strains or sprains.

Both of these products were used concurrently, though not together, over a week’s time or so, and definitely provided pain relief. The initial feeling of the cold was a shock (and ticklish), but made it feel effective. These products work! By the end of the week, I felt pretty much back to normal, with only the typical middle-aged complaints.

More information can be found on the BENGAY website.

(Disclaimer: I was sent these products for free to review on my blog, courtesy of Bengay, via Laforce+Stevens. I did not pay for the items, 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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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

THRIVE Book Reviews

Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life was Brendan Brazier’s first book, bringing vegan know-how to the endurance sports world. In this title, Brazier’s program promises the following results: lower fat/increased muscle tone; aging signs reduced; better sleep/rest; increased energy; better mental clarity; and a stronger immune system. The book includes a whole foods meal plan with recipes, making it easy for anyone to follow.

Brazier followed up with Thrive Fitness: The Vegan-Based Training Program for Maximum Strength, Health, and Fitness, a book that shoes how a vegan diet can enhance performance in any endurance endeavor. Following the program will reduce sugar cravings, enhance sleep and recovery, increase energy and build strong, lean muscles.

Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health is his most recent effort, and makes the connection between personal and environmental health. Brazier’s “Nutrition-to-Resource Ratio” reveals which foods use the least natural resources not only help conserve the environment but are healthier for us as well. From breakfast to dessert, 200 recipes make eating and snacking easy.

I’ve been an off and on again vegan for many years (25?), and it’s great to see a high-level endurance athlete espousing the diet, but also going further. Not only are these books chock full of great nutritional advice, it’s tied in to training and also to the environment, important things to all of us. One of the best things about these books is that there are so many options offered, pretty much everyone can find something to like. It is often said that if most American consumers switched to a vegan diet for one day a week, it would make a bigger difference than driving less or other suggested ways to preserve our environment. These books make it easy for endurance athletes to try the vegan lifestyle without worrying about impacting their performance.

While the triad of books makes for a complete reference, all of the titles stand on their own.

About the Author: Brendan Brazier, professional Ironman triathlete and creator of VEGA, an award-winning plant-based nutritional line, is regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on athleticism and plant-based nutrition. He lives in Los Angeles, California, and Vancouver, British Colombia.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free to review on my blog, courtesy of Da Capo Press. 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, March 19, 2012

State Of the (b)Union

Springtime, and it’s finally a pleasure to run outdoors – though I always enjoy watching movies on the treadmill, there is plenty of satisfaction in hitting the local forest preserve for some much-needed trail time. Over the winter, I usually don’t train with any particular purpose besides maintaining some semblance of fitness. Since November, I’ve run 48 times, for a total of 175 miles, averaging 3.66 miles per session. So nothing major, but it seemed enough. This year, for some reason, my first couple of runs were complete death marches, no fun at all. It truly felt like I hadn’t run in months.

This weekend, I finally had a decent run, just over 4 miles in some humid and warm conditions. I’m thinking that maybe I just got overly used to the treadmill doing the work for me. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to keep just meandering along with my base-level running, then will start a marathon training plan to prepare for my first ultra this fall.

At some point, I’ll find a half marathon to race, to gauge my fitness and work on hydration and nutrition. Laima and I are signed up for June’s Warrior Dash, but apart from that, the slate is clean.

I’m pretty excited about training for the ultra, more for the overall experience of the event than the event itself. The North Face Endurance Challenges  are well-run events and we’re planning on renting an RV and camping at the finish line for the weekend. Laima will run a half marathon that weekend and there are kids races both days, so everyone will be participating.

How’s your spring training going?

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Friday, March 16, 2012


Recently, Laima (Women's Endurance Gear) and I became FitFluential Ambassadors, invited by Jess over at Blonde Ponytail. While we haven't actually worked with them in terms of product reviews or the like, it is clear that this is a fast-growing, energetic group.

Yesterday, I was the beneficiary of being in the Ambassador Spotlight on the FitFluential blog. I also discovered that both my Ambassador page along with Laima's are both up on their website. Head over there to check them out!

Are you interested in becoming a FitFluential Ambassador?

From the website:

"We choose our FitFluential Ambassadors based on myriad factors, but, we are looking for the best of the best. We hand pick our Ambassadors based on their content, attitude, audience and potential. We encourage our Ambassadors to be active on as many social media platforms as possible, and we take that into consideration when evaluating an application. However, we know that everyone starts somewhere. A solid positive attitude, great personality and compelling content will get you started. Everything else can be added and cultivated, so if you think you’ve got what it takes, GET STARTED. Apply now.

What does a FitFluential Ambassador do?

As an Ambassador, you’ll have numerous opportunities to work with our brand partners. That means when fitness brands want to partner with solid FitFluentials on product launches, social media campaigns or audition bloggers for long-term partnerships, our Ambassadors are the first to be invited.

Ultimately, the goal of FitFluential is to successfully connect brands in the fitness space with highly influential fitness enthusiasts that are an ideal match for that brand. An ideal match is one where the FitFluential member (and their audience) is a perfect representation of the brand’s target market. With that said, we will not only choose our FitFluential Ambassadors based on audience reach and content quality, but also on attitude. We all have diva moments, but it is important for our FitFluential Ambassadors to maintain integrity and professionalism when it comes to brand partnerships and representing the FitFluential community.

So, what are we looking for?

We want fitness fanatics of all kinds. If you are just starting your fitness journey or have been pursuing a healthy lifestyle for years, we want to hear from you. Is your passion running? Yoga? Kettlebells? Crossfit? Pilates? Zumba? Spinning? Triathlons? Marathons? Dirty Mud Races? Mountain Climbing? – whatever gets you moving and sweating, that’s fine by us. If you are regularly blogging, video blogging, tweeting and just plain SHARING your fitness walk with fans, tell us more."

How to apply:
  • Send an email to and tell them why you want to be the next FitFluential Ambassador. What makes you different and why you should represent FitFluential’s brand partners? Please include a link to your blog and your Twitter handle.
Let them know I referred you! (No, this is not a pyramid scheme, just being a brown-noser.)

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Brooks Running PureFlow Product Review

PureCadence on left, PureFlow on right

“The PureProject collection is a tribute to runners with a sense of adventure and a craving to grab their run by the horns. Radically lightweight, flexible materials merge with smart design to naturally align your stride and empower every push-off.” (Source: Brooks Running)

Split toe sole (to let your big toe work independently), an anatomical fit, an elastic band over the top of the shoe for a snugger fit, a minimal 4 mm offset from heel to toe, and a slimmer heel to encourage midfoot striking – these are the design points that Brooks put forward as a reason to wear these new shoes. The Collection consists of the PureConnect (the lightest and most flexible), the PureFlow (cushioned comfort), PureCadence (stability), and PureGrit (trail). I was lucky enough to try out the PureFlow, while Laima reviews the PureCadence over at Women’s Endurance Gear.

Two things you notice about the PureProject collection – their somewhat funky design and the vibrant colors of some of the shoes. I couldn’t resist and requested a pair in a vibrant green and yellow combination.

Fitwise, these shoes had a nice roomy toebox and actually were a bit longer than other Brooks shoes I’ve tried. The other Brooks shoes I’ve run have just fit with thin socks – not uncomfortable, just didn’t work with socks that had heavy forefoot cushioning. With the PureFlows, I felt like no sock was off limits.

When you run in size 13s like I do, you kind of expect a heavy shoe – that’s not the case with the PureFlows. Incredibly light but still cushioned, perfect for a bigger runner like myself.

Even though the cushioning does its job well, you never feel like you’ve lost contact with the ground. I ran with the PureFlows on the treadmill, street, sidewalks, gravel trails, and singletrack, and felt comfortable in all situations. Grip was adequate in a variety of footings, including some sucky mud on a wooded trail.

I’m not sure how many miles I’ve put on the PureFlows, butt they still look and feel brand new out of the box, pretty amazing after the variety of surfaces I’ve thrown at them. These are really well built and high quality shoes.

If you’re intrigued by the PureProject collection, I’d recommend trying them out, I’m sure one of the options would work for most people.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of Brooks Running. 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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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Acoustic Guitar For Dummies Product Review

The Acoustic Guitar Starter Pack For Dummies is the easiest and most convenient way to learn how to play the acoustic guitar. This pack provides everything you need to start playing guitar — all in one box! Included in the pack are a Kona acoustic guitar, gig bag, digital tuner, 3 picks and the Guitar Basics For Dummies book with CD. The Kona guitar features precision enclosed tuners, spruce top for rich sound, linden back and sides, steel strings, attached pick guard and a 10 year limited warranty. The digital tuner features an LED readout and a built-in microphone. (Source:

With Tazer and I both learning to play guitar, I opted to try out a variety of beginning guitar programs, including this one, which is an all-in-one deal. Purchasing this pack theoretically gives you everything you need to learn how to play guitar and it delivers, as far as I can tell.

The book is written by Mark Phillips and Jon Chappell and is both educational and extremely funny. Illustrated with black and with comics, it sets a relaxed tone, somewhat lightly sarcastic. As opposed to many other guitar instruction books I’ve seen, it is a very methodical approach, easing gently into playing the guitar.

The guitar itself was a really nice surprise. I’ve seen this starter pack advertised as low as $80, so I expected a pretty low-level guitar. Surprisingly, this parlor-sized Kona is pretty decent (not that I’m an expert). I play this Kona, my Fender acoustic, and my son’s Baby Taylor on nearly a daily basis, and this guitar is right in there with them. Is it equal to either of the others? No, but it has a surprisingly pretty tone, though pitched higher than I personally like.

This is a really great starter pack, especially for the price, recommended for anyone with an interest in learning guitar. A very serviceable guitar paired with a useful instructional book make this a winner, especially at the price.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of John Wiley and Sons, 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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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It’s Spring – Time For Outdoor Cycling!

Yes, I know that, if you’re mas macho or live in California, you’ve been riding outside through the winter, leaving us wimps on the trainers indoors. Even with the mild winter, I rarely ventured outside, so I’m excited to head outdoors again.


Spring time is when I take inventory and decide what I needed to do to get ready. One thing for sure – after a winter’s worth of riding on the trainer with one set of tires, I’ll need to find some new ones. Most people will use a cheap tire for indoor riding, but with 2000+ miles on this pair, I planned on replacing them anyway, so I left them on.

Other ways to get ready for Spring riding:
  • Clean your bike – getting rid of all the dust and grime will protect the parts and make them work correctly and be less likely to fail.
  • Loosen, remove, then replace seats and seat posts, so they don’t freeze into the one position.
  • Using a torque wrench (you really should own one), tighten all fittings to recommended tightness – don’t overtighten (this is where the torque wrench comes in), which can lead to cracking or failure.
  • Take some time to look over the spokes and spin the wheel to check for trueness.
  • Really check out your tires – this is literally where the rubber meets the road. Spending some money on new tires is cheap insurance. Good tires will make cycling more enjoyable and safer to boot. Before riding, inflate them to the correct PSI.
  • No benefit to having great tires if you can’t stop – before heading out, check the brake pads for alignment and wear. Replace if you have any concerns.
  • Find a race that’s 2-3 months away that will give you motivation to ride.
  • Find a training plan that fits your goals and the amount of time you have to train.
  • Make this the year you find a coach!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Cleveland, OH

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, OH. It's something I'd planned on doing for several years now and finally things fell into place.

The first thing you notice as you walk up is, of course, the unique design of the building. A pyramid, a tower, and a cube are melded together to create a building unlike anything else I've seen. When I first saw the building, I thought there seemed to be some nods to I.M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre and possibly Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum, but neither is wholly present. Turns out Pei is the architect -- according to the Hall website, Pei stated: "In designing this building," says Pei, "it was my intention to echo the energy of rock and roll. I have consciously used an architectural vocabulary that is bold and new, and I hope the building will become a dramatic landmark for the city of Cleveland and for fans of rock and roll around the world."

The entry is into an open atrium, with the exhibits starting on the lower level and then moving upwards via escalators or elevator. The top two floors hold special exhibit galleries, both of which were closed when I visited.

I walked through the museum twice, once before lunch, and once in the early evening. The first time the audience consisted mostly of touristy-looking people and school groups, while the evening group appeared to be folks coming by after work.

What I liked

This is an amazing collection of memorabilia, truly exciting to see some of the fantastic historical artifacts that have been placed here. It's nice to see the breadth of honorees and types of music included. As a music aficionado, but not historian, it was most interesting to see the gaps in their collection -- that may be from lack of space or just not having artifacts. The varying ways that things are presented - photos, instruments, music, video, text -- is very thorough and educational.

What I Didn't Like

This building appears to have been built more for looks than usefulness. It's an awkward set-up, especially moving upwards rather than down, but maybe that's just my impression. I also felt like the exhibits were overly crowded, too many things to see in too short a time. In addition, many of the exhibits had musical accompaniment, and the sounds sort of blended together into a din of sorts. I'm definitely spoiled by the museums here in Chicagoland, but the cafe was a glorified hot dog stand, definitely less than what I expect of a museum location.

Overall Impressions

I approach rock and roll from a punk perspective, so would have liked to see at least such local jewels like the Pop Shop mentioned along with the Agora, but I realize space is at a premium and, maybe, the bands I grew up with are not necessarily that important from a history perspective.

Just the sheer amount of outrageously cool rock and roll stuff was worth the visit. I think the way I did it, with an initial visit to walk through the entire museum to get a lay of the land, with a return visit to look at certain items more closely. It would probably be worth getting a two-day pass in order to watch all the films that I could not and I'm sure another day would be needed if the special exhibits were up.

(While in Cleveland, I also had the opportunity to check out The Flying Fig restaurant, worth a detour if you are in the area.)

(Disclaimer - I was provided a media pass to visit the museum. Apart from that, I received no compensation in exchange for this review, nor did I agree to give the museum a positive review in exchange for the pass.)

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Smells Like Teen Spirit - Muppets

Nirvana and The Muppets -- can't imagine a better way to end the week or start the weekend...

Have an awesome weekend!

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Three For Thursday

It's the last day to enter the New Balance sock giveaway, over at Women's Endurance Gear!

I recently read Keith Richard's autobiography Life, full of interesting stories and a bit of rock and roll history as well. A huge tome, it's pretty quick reading - a good read for fans of the Rolling Stones or the era in general. I'm reading Eric "Slowhand" Clapton's autobiography now, pretty amazing the bands he ended up playing with.

Expect a Brooks PureProject review soon, probably next week - PureCadence for Laima and PureFlow for me. These are really surprising shoes!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bringing It To Life With Electricity

Tazer and I have the guitar bug. We've been playing our acoustics for a couple of months now. Last week we went to his school's Battle of the Bands, which in this case was comprised of parents rather than students. Coming home it was all we could talk about - playing music. It seems time we need to step it up, noisewise at least.

After doing some research and consulting with Patrick (of Stuff), I took the plunge and ordered some basic gear, the Epiphone Les Paul 100 guitar and the Line 6 Spider IV 15 amp.

Epiphone Les Paul 100

"The Epiphone Les Paul 100 is the electric guitar you want, if you're starting to get serious about your music. The mahogany body with maple top delivers classic solid, heavy tone while the bolt-on mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard are easy to play. Features 700T/650R open-coil humbucker pickups and chrome hardware. The Epiphone Les Paul 100 guitar features classic Les Paul design and tone."

Line 6 Totally Amp'd
Spider IV 15
Guitar Amp Starter Pack

"The Line 6 Totally Amp'd Spider IV 15 Guitar Amp Starter Pack contains everything you need (minus the electric guitar) to get rocking. In one big box comes the following useful items: Line 6 Spider IV 15 guitar amp, gig bag, Headphones, Spare set of strings and peg winder, Guitar cable, Electric tuner, Guitar strap, 3 picks, and an Instructional DVD."

(Images and text from Musician's Friend.)

Amp is on its way, unfortunately the guitar is on backorder for a couple of weeks, so it will be the end of the month before we can rock out. Neighbors beware! :)

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fasting and Endurance Sports

I recently decided to fast for one day a month, as a way to rest my body and brain. Now I’m not talking about a hardcore fast with no food or liquids, but a modified fast in terms of lower calories. I've done it twice now. On the days I fasted, I had my coffee in the morning, tea at work, and had broth for lunch. Pretty minimal in terms of calories, but plenty of liquids, so dehydration definitely wasn’t a concern.

As these were on Mondays, my day off from training, it seemed like the opportune day for this test.

I already train in a fasted state, as I do not eat before most of my morning workouts and don’t always take in liquids beforehand either. Never really felt it to be a problem, but obviously this was a longer time period without solid foods.

Then it struck me. Tuesday mornings are a scheduled run – how would my fasting affect that? Was it dangerous? What could I expect?

Research was in order.
  • The rationale behind intermittent fasting is that the practice results in metabolic adaptations that reduce body fat levels and improve cardiovascular and brain health. There is some solid scientific evidence that intermittent fasting does indeed have these effects in certain animals. In addition to impairing endurance performance by reduce muscle and liver glycogen and blood glucose levels, intermittent fasting is likely to sabotage performance further by interfering with recovery from training. It is clear from the scientific literature that fasting after exercise retards the various recovery processes, which are inseparable from the processes by which athletes gain fitness in response to training.
  • Method Using a crossover design, 10 moderately trained, active Muslim men performed 60 min runs on a treadmill in the fasted (Ramadan, RAM) and non-fasted (Control, CON) state on two separate counterbalanced occasions. After familiarisation, four subjects performed their CON trial 1 week before Ramadan, while the other six subjects performed their CON trial 1 week after the Ramadan month. The subjects' last meals were standardised before their exercise trials. The 60 min continuous endurance running criteria test consisted of 30 min preloading run at 65% maximum oxygen consumption (Vo2max) intensity speed, followed by another 30 min time trial (TT) where subjects manually adjusted their speeds so as to cover the greatest possible distance. Conclusion Ramadan fasting has a small yet significant negative impact on endurance running performance, although the impact varies across individuals.
  • It may seem counter-intuitive, but endurance athletes actually have higher protein needs than their strength training counterparts. While carbohydrates are the best fuel source for intense training, including generous portions of protein in your diet as an endurance athlete helps prevent muscle catabolism during extended duration activity (Bridge, P. et al. (2002). Muscle protein catabolism during prolonged exercise versus 84hr fasting in endurance trained athletes. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 5(4), 131.).
  • Early studies agree that fasting is detrimental to overall physical performance and to endurance performance in humans; however, a study in rats reported an ergogenic effect where time to exhaustion was increased by a glycogen-sparing effect of elevated free fatty acids in blood resulting from a 24-hour fast. Later studies on humans have also found a detrimental effect of fasting on exercise endurance, with the exception of 1 study which found no difference. The discrepancy between humans and rats could not be explained by level of glycogen sparing, mode of exercise, duration of the fast, physiological differences or level of training. The intensity of exercise, and a potential placebo effect of fasting, are possible reasons for the conflicting results. Despite reduced endurance performance, fasted humans are able to exercise and maintain blood glucose homeostasis; the specific cause of an earlier onset of fatigue during a single bout of exercise in the fasted state remains unclear.
Not an overly aggressive sampling, but once again, as with so many things relating to endurance, results seem to be a mixed bag and no clear benefits or long-term detriments were seen.

I felt fine throughout the morning and early afternoon both times. The first day, in order to be prudent, I decided to eat dinner. I didn't really notice a difference the next morning compared to normal rest days. The next month, I was planning on skipping dinner, but chickened out. A mental hurdle I still need to overcome.

I’m definitely going to continue fasting once a month and, eventually, will make it through a whole day, including dinner. If nothing else, it's good to: 1. Know the feeling of hunger, and 2. Know I can control my eating - maybe I can start doing it more consistently.

Ever fasted before exercise?

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Monday, March 5, 2012

March 5 – This Day In History

What a day! Something I’ve never been able to master, the Hula-Hoop, was invented, Jim Morrison of the Doors was arrested on charges of lewd behavior, “Ballad of Green Berets” hit #1, and, best of all, Joseph Stalin died.

  • "On this day in 1963, the Hula-Hoop, a hip-swiveling toy that became a huge fad across America when it was first marketed by Wham-O in 1958, is patented by the company's co-founder, Arthur "Spud" Melin. An estimated 25 million Hula-Hoops were sold in its first four months of production alone.
  • The Dade County Sheriff's Office issued an arrest warrant for Doors' lead singer Jim Morrison. He was charged with a single felony count and three misdemeanors for his stage antics at a Miami concert a few days earlier.
  • Near the very height of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, on March 5, 1966, American popular-music fans made a #1 hit out of a song called "The Ballad Of The Green Berets" by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler.
  • On this day, Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union since 1924, died in Moscow. Like his right-wing counterpart, Hitler, who was born in Austria, Joseph Stalin was not a native of the country he ruled with an iron fist. Isoeb Dzhugashvili was born in 1889 in Georgia, then part of the old Russian empire."

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy birthday Theodor!

It's pronounced Zoice, not Soose.
  • "Adults are obsolete children.
  • Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.
  • Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
  • You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go.
  • You're in pretty good shape for the shape you are in. "

Lots of info at

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Maneaters: Bears DVD Review

Using real footage mixed with dramatic reconstructions, survivors of man-eating bear attacks talk through their gut-wrenching en¬counters, while experts analyze bear behavior and explain the reasons why one of the world’s most formidable predators is turning on us. Along with Maneaters: Bears, four additional features of ter¬rifying bear scares from Human Prey and Stranger Among Bears combine to caution viewers of the life-threatening situations that can arise when man meets bear. See examples of human behavior that may put us at risk. Learn how to react when faced with these unexpected dangers. And witness the miracle of survival against all odds. Maneaters: Bears takes the viewer up close and personal as father and daughter hikers are savagely attacked, a camper nearly loses his hand, and a gardener is lucky to survive an ambush in her own front garden. (Source: Discovery Store)

Bears are cool. From our first teddy bears to viewing them at the zoo and, if you’re lucky and at a safe distance, seeing them in the wild, bears are one of nature’s alpha creatures that have captured man’s imagination for ages. Unfortunately, they are also feared and, what man fears, man often destroys.

When I first saw the DVD cover, I was expecting an anti-bear movie, justifying humans killing them to protect “our space.” The title “Maneaters” also gave me some concern. But this is Animal Planet, part of the Discovery Group, and, while they definitely are all about the entertainment value, they are also good about education. So I deferred judgment.

Right off the bat, I wouldn’t recommend this to kids, not sure at what age this would be appropriate. The reenacted bear attack scenes gave even me pause, with incredibly loud sound of the attacks and copious blood spattered in all directions. Photos of the actual damage inflicted by the bears are truly scary.

But…there’s always a but. There is a lot of great information included, and the bears are actually cast in a beneficial light, with humans taking the brunt of responsibility for most maulings and the rare death. Lots of ways to protect yourself, to take precautions. While one might want to be as quiet as possible, to view and hear nature at its purest, in bear country you want to give notice. As a non-hunter, one statistic really gladdened my heart – most attacks occur when a bear reaches an animal shot by a hunter while the hunter is near the animal. Another good reason not to hunt with anything beyond a camera lens.

This is an entertaining and highly informative DVD – beyond the somewhat overwrought attack reenactments, this is, as so many things from Discovery, a worthwhile view.

To purchase, visit the Discovery Store.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - via Krupp Kommunications, 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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