Climbing, the Different Types of Jackets Involved

Climbing is an exhilarating sport. However, it’s very important to choose the right jacket to wear while doing so. For this reason, you should know about the various types of jackets that are available for you to choose from. Continue reading »

Your Help Is Needed To Help Win a $250k Grant From Pepsi To Complete a Community Skateplaza

A close friend of mine and local skateshop owner Andrew Po has been working with the city here to get a skateplaza built for nearly 8 years. The project is being built with zero tax-payer dollars and will be free for anyone to use. Through a small grant and lots of donations he’s helped the city secure enough money to break ground this past January and complete the first of three Phases for a late spring launch of part of the plaza. More money is needed to to continue phase II and III. This project has the full support of the mayor, city and residents, it just needs more funding. Continue reading »

Attention all big city hikers!

I’ve been asked to put a piece together for BACKPACKER magazine about great hikes in city parks.  Ever been in a city for a long weekend or a business trip and wanted to get some hiking in?  Do you live in an urban area with a bangin’ city park?  Can you get lost in a forest as easily as you can get lost on your streets?  Then I want your help!!

Continue reading »

Book Review: Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes

Now that I’ve started to run, mostly to train to be a better cyclist, I wanted some inspiration in addition to learning how to run better and more efficient.  I remembered an article I had read in Maxim a few years back and then again in Wired magazine called The Perfect Human, both about a guy who runs ultras, running events exceeding 100 miles.  Intrigued by the story of a man who runs all night and gets pizza delivered to intersections to keep fueled, his name, Dean Karnazes, has always stuck with me.  A quick search and I found one of his books, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner and ordered a copy.

It only took 3 days to read, it was that good.  The book starts off like Heft on Wheels with regards to a half chapter about something that’s happening right now, in this case an entertaining story on Dean getting Pizza and pie delivered to a corner along some some desolate highway that he’s running along near midnight.  The following few chapters explain Deans childhood, as a runner, a brief encounter with a running couch he hated and in turn how one conversation with the coach made him stop running for years, and how hard he worked to get through college and grad school and land a dream job, get married and live a pretty normal, happy life.

Dean’s reality check happens on his 30th birthday, drunk, running 40+ miles in his boxers across town.  This in turn starts a chain of events that, before you know it, you’re listening to his blow-by-blow story of running the Western States Endurance Run, a 100 mile cross country race where less than 30% of entrants finish in 24 hours or less.  Those who do, get a belt buckle.  It’s argued to be one of the toughest, demanding runs in the world.  This takes up the bulk of the middle of the book, it’s very detailed and gives you an idea of what kind of person Dean really is, but I won’t spoil the race results for you.

More goals started to mount and Dean tells about running the Badwater race across Death Valley.  It was so hot his shoes melted in the first hour of the race, he then realized the other runners were sticking to the white line for a reason.  Then off to the South Pole to take part in the first marathon race down there.  After running most of the ultra’s available, he started to run to regular marathons, in some cases 60 or 80 miles, timing them so he’d show up only a few minutes before the gun would go off, and placing really well in the 26.2 mile races.

The start of the book where Dean gets a Pizza delivered starts to come around again towards the end, where he tells of The Relay, a 199 mile race in California that’s split up into 36 legs and 12 members per team.  Each team member runs 5.5 miles, takes a break, gets driven to the next spot where they need to run and the race continues.  Dean did it himself, starting several hours before the teams, and the pizzas from the start of the book get delivered just less than half way through the race, where he picks up the story.  Again, I’m not going to spoil the ending, but this man has heart, lots of it.

Dean covers some of the many questions people ask him throughout the book too, the most common question is why? Which is indirectly answered towards the end of the book.  It was a great read, and while I have no intentions of ever running a marathon (26.2 miles) or anything longer, his outlook on life and the sport of running did serve as some motivation for me to pick the pace up on my 5k times and start to look at stretching those runs out to 5 miles and maybe even a 10k.

Best part is, you can pick-up a used copy of this book for under $3!

Book review: It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong

While reading through Heft on Wheels a few weeks back I made some mental notes, mainly of the the authors remarks about how he read in Lance Armstrong‘s book, It’s Not About the Bike and was inspired to climb Beech Mountain in North Carolina.  Mike did it to prove something to himself, but I was curious why it had inspired him, so I ordered a copy of the book and read it over about a weeks time.

Wow.  That’s about all I have to say.  The book is as the title suggests, it’s a story about a cocky kid who was dealt a few bad cards in life and rides his bike to get away from the troubles he has.  Only, it’s not about the bike or riding at all.  Sure this book has a few paragraphs in a chapter here and there about the technical aspects of riding and why Lance rides and all that stuff, but it’s much deeper than that.

Having known little about Lance Armstrong prior to reading this book, other than he’s won the Tour de France 7 times and a slew of other races, has had one nut cut off, used to date a few celebrities and started the Livestrong movement making it fashionable to wear a yellow rubber wristband, I knew very little about who he really was.  His book reads more like a confession, about riding too hard and too fast, racing one day and literally having surgery to remove cancer the next day and his intense physical pains while going through chemotherapy treatments.  Lance also goes into great detail about the emotional bonds between his friends, being stabbed in the back by some sponsors and still fully embraced by others.

It’s an inspiration to say the least and makes it easy to identify what it must be like to live with cancer, from both a first person point of view and through the eyes of his family.  Nothing is left untouched, even the conception of Armstrong’s first child had details most would never dream of sharing.

For cycling fans, there are some really good passages about how Lance gets spanked early on in his riding career, then post-cancer training through Europe and how he prepared himself for winning his first Tour.  While all this is going on, he confesses his emotional sins about not wanting to race, to drink beer and play golf and work whatever crap job he can just to feed those habits.

Cycling fan or not, this is a book worth reading, if nothing more than to see the struggle that Armstrong has survived through and now thrives from.  Having read this, I feel a bit more proud to support his cause in the 2009 Philadelphia Livestrong Challenge.

As a side note, Amazon has this book used for as little as $4 shipped, click here to order one.

Go Fly Yourself: Must-See Video

If you’ve had flying dreams where you just spread your arms and go, you can really do it in waking life. Completely amazing. Absolutely stunning landscape as well. Norway, anyone?

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/1778399[/vimeo]

Book review: Heft on Wheels by Mike Magnuson

It’s been no secret to long-time Randomn3ss readers that back in the summer I started to ride a road bicycle, then complete the MS charity ride and I’ve gone as far as losing 54 pounds, only 6 pounds away from a goal I set when i started riding just 5 months ago.  I’ve also been very active in the social networking site DailyMile and been rather addicted to tracking the miles and reaching new goals; I’ve even started to run.  Because DailyMile is tied in with Twitter, another service I love to hate and hate to love, I managed to grab the attention of long-time internet friend, fellow photographer and on-again off-again cyclist Ed Hidden hooked on DailyMile as well.  During one of the posts I made on DailyMile that got tweeted out via Twitter, he sent me a message asking if I’d like to read a book he recently finished, he’d mail it to me if so. Twitter continues to work for positive things!

Super stoked on this offer, I took him up on it and a few days ago Heft on Wheels arrived.  I had only done a quick search to see what the book was about, Ed told me very little other than it was a gritty, fat guy to skinny guy story.  Amazon has this to say,

a 255-pound, pack-a-day 40-year-old who’s desperate to get his life back into shape. And he chooses the challenge of cycling to achieve that, largely because of its total lack of mercy.

I’m not a reader, I’ve admitted that before, but I was stoked on this book.  Ed told me this isn’t so much of a story about a fat guy and how he got skinny, rather one’s struggle with getting thin.

I blew through just over one third of the book in my first sitting, finishing the entire book in 3 days, Mike Magnuson’s writing style is a bit odd, coarse and seems to be filled with a tad too much ADD if ya’ know what I mean.  Mike was an average guy who was always a little chubby and through years in college and then becoming a professor in college got himself up to a 100% full fledged drunk, seven days a week.  Teaching creative writing in college often led him to the bar with his students until 2am at which point they would go back to someones home and drink till 5, 6 and sometimes 7 the following morning.  This helped lead him up to a whopping 255 pounds, smoking more than a pack a day and overall, not feeling like the man he should be.

The book starts off with Mike talking about getting hit by a truck while riding, then goes on to explain what got him there.  If this was a movie, it would say Present day under that part and 4 years earlier where the story picks up.  In a nutshell, Mike realized in his mid 30’s that something needed to be done, and by the age of 38 he was pretty disgusted with himself.  It was that birthday he quit smoking, drinking and got back onto a road bicycle, a Trek 5200 that he raves about heavily in the first few chapters.

Ed was right, this isn’t a how-to book, this is more of a journal, a journey to be more correct, of a man’s struggle with himself.  To speed the diet, Mike consumed nothing more than water and three 400 calorie protein shakes for months.  He talks about being the slowest, weakest rider in the group rides he does at his local bike shop, about buying XXL cycling gear and about his love and passion for the sport.  Outside of the time-line jumps he does fairly often, this book really kind of grabs ya.

The interesting part is that Mike almost seems to punish himself, he looks for pain, he traveled to North Carolina to climb the highest hill east of the Mississippi, he rode what many consider to be the toughest American road race in a total downpour.  He rode 12 months a year, in the dead of winter and in the searing heat of summer.

For this, he not only became a thinner man, dropping his weight down into the 170’s, he became a better teacher for his students and a better writer, penning several books and many magazine articles.  It wasn’t until the last few chapters of the book that I started to question the relationship with his family.  Throughout the book Mike talks about these epic rides, 100-150 miles a day, 450-550 miles per week, often waking early to ride before work and riding into the night after.  Right around the time my mind was questioning his family, of which he has a wife and two children, he addresses them, and apologizes for not being there enough.

The book is part inspiration, part entertainment and all Mike Magnuson.  Mike seriously beat the crap out of himself, in ways that were more than likely not healthy, he makes no lame excuses for his drinking problems or for how he ended up so fat.  He simply writes out a two year journey of his life and what he went through to get there.  It also deals heavily with friends he had, friends he lost and friends he made during cycling and training.

Bringing the story full circle, the end meets up where the beginning started, with the crash.  I won’t ruin the end, but it’s not a sad one.

Heft on Wheels appealed to me not only as someone who’s interested in cycling, but because Mike went through something I have, being fat and out of shape to thinner and in shape, it was easy for me to see the similarities in that.  While I don’t drink and don’t smoke, there is a lesson to be learned in here.  The only flaw with the book is Mike’s obsessive use of the term Trek 5200, an all carbon fiber bicycle that I know he must have been proud of but comes off as an advertisement after the 35th mention of it.  The scatter-brained writing style bothered me at first, as Mike often skips ahead 3 months in the first half of a chapter and then goes 2 months behind within the same chapter to better explain the story.  I learned to like it, and I think it actually helped me get through the book faster.

During the Twitter conversation Ed and I were having, Brad, who follows both of us had said he heard of the book and was interested in hearing more about it when I was done.  After a quick discussion with Ed, he said the best thing to do with the book would be to give it to someone else who could appreciate it.  So, it will be in the mail shortly Brad!  I hope it brings you the same enjoyment as it did Ed and I and you in turn give it to one of your readers.

If you’ve just read a book that blew your doors off and think I should read it and write a review, Contact me for my shipping address, maybe we can turn this into a huge book-passing thing.  Since this whole thing more or less started because of DailyMile and Twitter, follow me at:

Special thanks to Ed for mailing me the book to read in the first place!

When a 5-year-old has better basketball skills than you

Randomn3ss reader Janelle sent me a link to one seriously amazing 5-year-old kid.  She has basketball skills that I could only dream of.  I highly doubt she will ever be the last one picked during recess pick-up games.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l25bkqWPAQI[/youtube]

Found something you think is worth sharing?  Drop me a message through the Contact page or contat me via Twitter @mikepanic.

Its All Fantasy

I am not in the NBA. I have not played competitive organized basketball since 1998 when i was a senior in highschool at Friends Select in center city Philadelphia. I attempt to play basketball a few times a week but alas, over the years i have had numerous injuries ranging from tendinitis in my knee and shoulders, torn ligaments in my ankles, broken ribs etc etc… The older i get the more my body seems to reject the notion of consistently playing basketball. Thus all i have left to indulge my dreams of NBA superstardom (or even a 12th man on the bench) is fantasy basketball.

Mid October every year. The oppressive heat of the summer gives way to the cool kiss of the fall winds. The shake off their green hue and display a technicolor dream coat that leaves even Joseph in awe. Basketball players lace up their sneaks, rubber soles sqeaking on hard wood as they break up and down the court. And the common fan can have a part of it in the fantasy world. At this time every year i gather with a group of friends to draft our teams. The weeks leading up to the draft are spent talking about the upcoming season. We talk about projections, about players, about teams, about how awesome it is that the boredom of summer sports gives way to the fastest growing sport in the world. We wonder if basketball will take over soccer as the number one sport worldwide one day and whether or not it can be a conduit to peace between warring countries. We worship at the alter of basketball and the fantasy draft is our form of prayer.

I am in three fantasy basketball leagues this year and last night was my first draft. This is by far the most important of the three drafts as there is a $100 buy in and in April if you stand at the top of the 12 teams that are registered you can win $1000. The day was spent doing massive research online instead of doing the research that we should have done for our actual places of employment. Dozens of text messages were sent back and forth between all of us. Phone calls were placed, the excitement was brewing.

The draft is like Christmas. Its something you look forward to for months. Its not only a sign that the season is upon us but its also your own personal stake in the NBA. Not only will you cheer for your favorite team but now you will also cheer for players on your fantasy team. Its okay if a player on my fantasy team like Kobe Bryant scores 50 points against my real favorite team, the Philadelphia 76ers as long as the Sixers win. But i need Kobe to score those points, and also pick up some assists, steals, threes, and shoot high percentages. But please dont beat the 76ers on the court in reality.

So if the draft is like Xmas, then when Yahoo Sports system goes down and doesnt allow anyone to enter your live online draft – that must be like finding out Santa Claus is not real. Last night 12 of us were signed online eagerly awaiting the draft when the “enter live draft now” button never appeared. Text messages sent, phone calls placed, as most of us panicked at the thought that one of us would miss the draft. Nay, it was all of us. None of us would be able to draft our team as the system would go ahead and draft for us automatically. We all sent angry emails to Yahoo and shortly there after received emails from the server host apologizing and saying it would be remedied and we would be able to draft again on Sunday afternoon. Sunday afternoon, a time when we are asured to be home watching our favorite football teams and cheering for our fantasy football players to score 3 touchdowns. As long as they dont score the winning touchdown against our favorite teams.

Its All Fantasy.

National MS Society City to Shore Ride 2008 – Completed!

Yesterday I rode 45 miles in the National MS Society City to Shore Ride 2008, which everyone helped me raise $825 and I trained my ass off for. I woke up at about 4:44am to the sound of rain, which I knew would be here this weekend. Knowing I didn’t have to get up until 6, I tried to fall back asleep, which I wasn’t real successful at. Just after 6 I rolled out of bed, put Oatmeal in the microwave that I got ready the night before and started to get dressed. After eating the oatmeal, I managed to also eat a whole wheat tortilla, peanut butter and granola all wrapped up as one. For someone who rarely eats in the morning, this was a chore. I then loaded my bike into my car along with most everything else I was taking, including a clear cycling rain jacket I ran all around town Thursday trying to find, and woke up Bella. Yes seriously, she was still under the covers in bed sleeping and not happy that I woke her up. Took her for a quick walk and reviewed everything I needed to take with me in my head once more.

At 6:30ish John showed up, a friend who was doing the ride with me, and we started to unload the bike form his car and pile it into mine. Shortly there after we hit WaWa so John could grab a bagel and we got on the road, at which point John tells me he is recovering from being sick. Great, it’s going to be wet and gross out all day and he’s already sick. This can’t be good.

Directions said it would take about 2 hours to get there, we did it a little faster and didn’t hit any traffic I was expecting to, arriving at the start location just after 8:30, there were already a fair amount of people there but parking was not an issue. John had some last minute money he needed to turn in, we both went to the bathroom again and got out bikes ready. Then we stood around, chatted with some random people and stood around more. The information I had was arrive at 9:30, on the road by 10:30, but they announced that they were trying to put us on the road by 10am, which we were thankful for.

They had called for rain but it didn’t rain our whole drive down and upon arriving, the sun even came out for a while. John had a bit of a choice to make at this point. It wasn’t raining, but he brought a jacket with him since they called for it, and he wasn’t coming back to the car with me, his family was meeting him at the finish so they could enjoy the beach for a while. Leaving the jacket in my car wasn’t an issue, but he had it packed full of snacks, car keys and a bunch of random stuff he needed to ride with and couldn’t find his jersey that had pockets in it that morning. 20 minutes later, 2 minutes before the start, he said screw it and wore the jacket.

The start was kind of uneventful, there were honestly not a lot of people at the 45 mile start, maybe 100-150, but within 1 mile we meshed into an intersection with thousands of others who had started 30 miles earlier at the 75 mile start and we were deep in the packs now. It was kind of crazy, on certain roads packs of cyclists were 50-75 yards long and taking up both lanes of traffic. We had been warned to follow NJ traffic laws, clearly no one cared. Police were at nearly every intersection to block traffic for us so we didn’t have to stop and everyone was really happy. The roads were wet, but no rain. We were both amazed at how flat the roads were, seriously no hills, maintaining 20 mph was no chore at all and we hopped into a few pace lines here and there, but John’s throat didn’t allow him to breath easily and his jacket was acting a bit like a kite, so we didn’t stick in any for too long. We did pass people, a lot of people, some of which I’m sure were in over their heads when they signed up for the ride and thought – hey it’s only a bicycle, I used to ride one when I was a kid, this can’t be too hard.

Looking at the cue sheets before the ride, we noted 3 rest stops. The cue sheets themselves, which I took, were not needed as you just needed to follow the convey, but we both felt that 3 stops in a 45 mile flat ride weren’t all needed. John did want to stop at the first one, about 12 miles in, so he could get some food to take with cold medicine before rolling on, planning on skipping the second and hitting the third. Upon entering the first stop we were greeted with rows of people cheering us on but it was a packed rest stop, partly because it was the first stop in 20 miles for the 75 mile riders. We both looked at each other and said, lets turn around and hit the second stop. A loud, familiar pop sound and I got off my bike, it sounded like a broke a spoke. Checking the bike, all appeared OK though, we started off riding Within 30 feet I knew things weren’t right, hollered up to John and hopped off, spinning my rear wheel. It was out of true by more than a half inch, catching on the brakes. I flipped the lever for the quick release on my brakes and double checked the spokes, broke a drive-side spoke, sure as shit. Luckily it was at a rest stop, they do free bike repairs there. Problem was, there was a line.

After waiting for about an hour, the nice guys at the repair tent fixed my spoke and got the wheel true enough to ride, all for free. Off we go, time to warm up to riding again. As luck would have it, the temperature hung between 68 and 72 the whole ride, so while John sweated his cold out a bit, I enjoyed a pretty good ride in just a jersey, the rain jacket was left behind in the car.

The ride continued on smoothly, we passed people, racers passed us, the roads were wet and dry and some felt like cobblestones, but all in all I felt really good when we pulled into the second rest stop at about mile 24. Grabbed a mini Clif bar, a half a banana, flushed it down with some water and let a little water go at a porta-potty. Everyone was in such a great mood, enjoying the weather and the fact it hadn’t rained, some were taking their time and really laying out on the parking lot of whatever business this was setup in, clearly having a tougher physical time doing it than others. John made a few quick calls, we stretched and headed off.

Between stops 2 and 3 we had small periods of mist, not even a drizzle, but it wasn’t bad and we didn’t really get wet. Some more crappy roads and finally some smooth ones, pulled into the 3rd rest stop at around mile 36, just wanted to get off the bike and walk around, John wanted to put a little more food in his stomach and we headed off for the last stretch.

The last stretch had the worst pavement of the trip, but still ridable, sand was starting to show in the roads, that’s how we knew we were getting closer and people were out cheering a bit more. It’s also the first real traffic we had to actually ride in. The coarse crossed a few major highways and the police couldn’t help us there, we jammed in 2 or 3 wide on the shoulder while cars were on our left and had to wait for green lights. This took a bit loner than I would have liked, but it’s a charity ride, not a race, so it wasn’t terrible.

Roughly five miles from the finish supporters started to really come out along the rodes, some had signs of how many more miles it was. I think at roughly the 3 or 3.5 miles to go mark someone was screaming “You’ve done it! It’s all downhill from here!” This made John happy, although again, this was all flat, but none the less, he took off and I followed. His eyes quickly opened up wide, very wide.

After a half mile of sprinting at speeds in excess of 25mph, a huge bridge into Ocean City, NJ was looking at us. I was ahead of John and looked back to see his reaction, his mouth gaping open, his eyes wide and clearly not thrilled. Anyone who has driven there knows these bridges. They go from sea level to maybe 75 feet tall, I could be wrong, I Google’d it and couldn’t get an answer so figure slightly higher or lower, but when looking head on, from a bicycle, it looked a bit intimidating. Clearly the person screaming out that it was all downhill wasn’t a NJ native and didn’t know about these bridges. All the training I had done I knew they wouldn’t be a problem and only had to drop one gear about half way up and another about 5/8th of the way up. Once at the top, I slowed down and waited for John so we could roll down the other side together. Things were going well, we were less than two miles from the end and my body felt great.

John saw the second bridge and I can’t tell you how many curse words came out of his mouth. Partly because we were looking at it from the side view now, and it looked long, really long, steeper than the one we just did too. John’s sickness and sore throat meant he couldn’t get all the air in and out of his lungs as fast as he’d like, but there was no way he was walking this. We kept a good pace at the base and I took off, counting on seeing him come down the other side. This bridge I went up much faster, sadly it was also much more dangerous. There were a lot more novice bikers on the ascend than the last, and that meant very slow speeds and wobbly front tires, causing them to do little unpredictable zig-zags back and forth, there were also a lot more cars, so passing in the lane of traffic wasn’t always an option and I lost some of my momentum waiting for other people to move right so I could pass left.

Flew down the back side and waited up for John near the base. Some zig zags through really nice beach houses and we started to hear the roar of people. Balloons and police lined the crowds at the finish where we were met with tons of people clapping and cheering, we had made it. We were funneled down some barriers, I joking said I felt like cattle, and then into the local football stadium. Neither of us knew where we were going so we just followed everyone else. Someone told us where we could park our bikes, but we found a spot and just stood by them, John called his wife to find out where they could meet and I started to ask where I could get a bus back to my car at. John and I both got our completion medals and a shirt at this point, and also decided that we didn’t need to really hang out until the 3pm dinner started, so we started to make our way out of the finish party.

ms_medal.jpg

I found the intersection where the buses would take me back to my car, John and I shook hands and he went off a few blocks to meet up with his family, grab dinner and enjoy the beach.

There were supposed to be buses running every hour on the hour, it was now 2:40pm but the next one wasn’t scheduled to leave until 4pm. A late 40’s couple was at the check-in tent with me and scoffed at the idea having to wait nearly an hour and a half to catch a bus back, I joked and said they could ride back, apparently they didn’t appreciate my humor as they gave me dirty looks; seriously, it’s a charity ride, you donated your time, relax a little. They then went on to go to the check-in tent every 15 minutes until we left, on about time at 4pm, to see if there was a way to get this going faster.

While waiting I saw just about every kind of person who had completed this ride, all walking tall with their medals on, all sharing stories about how the ride went and smiling. Seriously great atmosphere. I also took notice to one man, maybe in his 50’s, who had just completed the ride and had an oxygen tank with him, another woman, perhaps in her late 30’s who had a prosthetic leg from the knee down who was proudly displaying her medal. If these two people can complete the ride, anyone can. I started this ride and knew no one with MS, doing it purely to get myself into better shape, complete something unselfish and help raise money for a good cause. It took a lot of hours of training to loose the 20 pounds I did and complete this ride and I regret no part of it. That, along with all the Thank-You’s I heard from so many people who I don’t know and will never see again at the finish is my reward for doing the ride.

The MS ride, along with thousands of other charity rides take place all over the world throughout the year, please look into doing one, not for yourself, but for those who will benefit from your participation. I will be doing this ride again next year and will start collecting donations for it shortly, please consider donating.