Friday, February 27, 2015

Energy Gels

For many years, my kayak trail snacks have consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, an apple or banana and a bottle energy water. This was great for all those riverside meals that included a stop.  However, I soon found some of my trips were non-stop and I had to eat on the run.
That's when I became enticed by those little metallic lightning bolts of packaged energy gels, those super sugar jams to make all of us run faster, leap higher and paddle harder. We have seen them on display in the health aisle of grocery store. The packaging screams ENERGY with dazzling delicious and exotic flavors. Cherry Blaze, Chocolate Outrage, Vanilla Bean, Mandarin Orange and Salted Caramel. Wow! Sounds like my all my favorite ice creams. How can I resist?
They all feature convenient, easy-to-use squeeze packages—simply squeeze into mouth and follow with a bit of water. Just like the astronauts. Now I'm feeling pretty heroic. This kayak trip may not be to the moon, but were going eat like it is. Besides there is NASA like science behind these gels. Look at the ingredients. Words that I can't pronounce or even spell, listed in small print that is to hard to read. Energy, chocolate and endurance, just add water and go.
The gels are reliable, portable and convenient way of delivering carbohydrates to the body during intense exercise, said Dr James Morton, senior lecturer in exercise metabolism and nutrition at Liverpool John Moores University in an interview with The London Telegraph. 
“The traditional approach was to feed carbs with fluids, but we now know now we can feed them in the form of gel and get the same results,” he says. “From a practical point of view, you don't have to carry round lots of fluid – carry the gel then use drinking stations when you need fluid.”
The gels are marketed to marathon runners and road bikers hence the term drinking station. But they are also good on hikes and paddles while carrying your own water. The gel packets fit into a pack or PFD pocket with ease. But, experts say they shouldn't stay in there long.
 In reality,  gels only make a difference if you're running, hiking, biking or paddling for  a sufficiently long time. The process of digestion takes 45 minutes to an hour before the body can begin to use them as a fuel. A good rule is to down one before your hike or paddle and get that lift during the trip.
However, if you decided to consume the gel mid-trip your body will receive an instantaneous boost before gaining the real benefits once the sugar's of the gel have been processed in digestive system.    Nutritionists say this occurs because the receptors in the mouth are linked directly back to the brain.  Detecting carbohydrates, neural signals are sent telling your body it's receiving nutrients, and in turn allows you to push harder in the short term. Of course I get that from a Snickers candy bar, but try keeping that in your PFD on hot summer day. 
 To see if the gels would hold up on the water, I took a couple of the most popular brand along on some river outings. The Clif Shot from the makers of the Clif nutrition bar, is made from 90% organic ingredients had a sweet mellow taste. It was chocolate, so just seeing that gave me a fast-hit of energy. While the Stinger's gel made from a combination of pure honey is pretty sweet experience. GU gave a number of selections from chocolate to salted caramel. They were all a treat for me.
So all of them passed my taste and texture test with ease.
We all have different tastes. Some have caffeine, but many don't. Pick a brand and flavor that works for you. Just remember these are concentrated sport drinks. To get the full effect of the gel, make sure you drink it with water, while on the water.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Foul Weather Fan

  No epic adventure started with "On a bright sunny day. . ." tweeted adventurer Sean Conway.

We were grateful for the rain. It has been very dry since Christmas. Raindrops bounced off the windshield in big thuds before the wipers could push them away. We were driving down a winding road to the lake after leaving the highway. Gray clouds were everywhere as the lake came into view.  As we parked and began unloading the sky unloaded on us.

What is about adverse weather that makes my boat trips more memorable? A man vs nature type endeavor.  I'm not saying, I don't like bright sunny days. I really do. Nothing is better than kayaking along while being kissed by the sun. In a state known for its sunshine, I have experienced lots of dazzling days this past year. However, across most the country unfavorable climates and kayaking coexist. Snow, rain. sleet and fog are paddled through heartily.

Both Canoe & Kayak and Adventure Kayak magazines always publish photos of boat men and women manning up against the harsh environment. Sarah Outen and Justine Cugenven pounding through heavy wind, rain and waves while making their way through the Aleutian Islands, while kayak adventurer Daniel Fox's expedition from Victoria B.C., to San Francisco experienced a full blast of nature making his trip come to an end.
"The wave literally fell on me, and within a second the kayak was broken in two below my  knees," Fox told, Canoe & Kayak, "It was quite a swim."

The heavy rain didn't last long. Just long enough to send two fishermen running for cover and get our gear and kayak seats a little wet. This was the first time my kayak partner Erik Allen had brought me to Rollins Lake. The lake at 2,100 elevation is on the western side of the Sierra near Colfax, California. It is 900 acre reservoir with 26 miles of shoreline, perfect for paddling year round. Erik was on mission to scout out some trails near the mouth of the Bear River. Our plan was to kayak up the lake and river as far as we could before the current pushed us back.
 The water looked like green emerald under the gray skies. We kayaked along the rust color shore, breaking up the quiet water. Around the bend loomed a bank of mist hanging over the lake. Erik, who grew up close by has paddled the lake many times before, but for him there is always something new.
"Rollins Lake is always changing," whispered Erik, "It never looks the same."

Lakes are like that. I thought back to my paddling days in Minnesota, remembering the way the snow looked along the shore of Red River Lake and the way the rain came down in the early spring on Beers Lake in Maplewood State Park. The day's conditions has framed many of my paddling memories. My sons will always start their tale of camping with, "Remember how cold it was or how it rained when we went to..." The day's weather has added to our experiences whether it was fair or foul.    

A layer of fog engulfed us as we paddled farther along.  It was like floating on a cloud. I let Erik  paddle up farther ahead so I could get a photo. Before long he disappeared in the white haze dropping into the unknown.      

Our paddle through the mist added to the magic of our trip to the lake. The rainy and foggy weather are now etched into another paddling memory.
If you wait for the perfect day. You will never go. "Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating," said English writer John Ruskin, "There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather."


Friday, February 13, 2015

Solo Skier Seeking Adventure

By Kristen Collins
Waking up before the sun rises is a bit of a rarity for me, but there’s something about the crisp cold air hitting your sunblock slathered face and the feeling of wool base layers against your skin that help ease you into an early morning. After I make a quick stop for a Venti 5 shot latte, my weekly trip to Tahoe will begin. I had always gone with groups of people because I thought skiing alone would be so boring. But the lack of a boyfriend, and the lack of friends with similar days off from work, made the hopes of group skiing nearly impossible for the 2014-2015 season. I’m not the kind of girl that lets things like that get in the way though. I wanted to ride my brand new ski set up. I couldn’t let my 2015 K2 Potion 90’s or Lange XT 90’s sit in my room any longer so clean and pristine. They needed to shred, to feel that rush I was craving. So the solo days began.
At first I was nervous to ride alone. I thought I would get bored of hearing my own thoughts, or just lonely not having anyone to talk to. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was liberating my first solo day. I hit more runs in half a day of riding than I ever had on a full day with a group of people. I rode what I wanted, when I wanted, every time. Armed with nothing more than my iPhone and my headphones, I was able to connect with music, Mother Nature, and even with God. There’s something about being alone on a mountain face, surrounded by trees and snow that make you feel connected again and completely alive. It was somewhat of an accomplishment. It empowered me to realize I didn’t need others to push me, I was capable of pushing myself to try new things.

After I rode Northstar alone, I felt like a bit of a bad ass.  I consider it my home mountain because I can get there in an hour and a half, so most trips to Tahoe land me in “The Village”. I thought since I could rip the front side, backside, and even hit a few things in the Burton terrain park, I was ready to challenge myself even more. It was time to try a new mountain. I felt like a confident skier but I’m still learning. I didn’t have the privilege of growing up in the sport or even discovering it in high school or college. I started skiing 3 years ago when I started working for Any Mountain, a Ski and Snowboard shop in Roseville. We got free season passes for being employees, and I took full advantage of the perks.
It only made sense to try riding Heavenly next. It was the next closest resort my pass worked at, and I had been wanting to see that view that everyone always talks about. I was not disappointed. This season most people have been talking about the terrible conditions in Tahoe, the lack of snow, and the lack of storm systems in the forecast. But for me this season has been about self-reflection and realization. I didn’t care that I couldn’t hear my music at some points of riding because the sound of ice was too loud under my skis. I didn’t care about the bare spots of grass and dirt I would have to avoid on some runs. I didn’t even care that most of the California side was closed at Heavenly. I was there, alone, and seeing all of Tahoe from the top of the mountain. It was beautiful.

After that incredible view, it gave me the urge to finally chase after some actual powder. Which left me with no other choice but to make the trip to Kirkwood. This time I armed myself with a GoPro and a friend… Well, two friends… Well, two snowboarders. Which really meant I’d be riding alone once I got there, so the company for the extended drive time to the mountain was appreciated. I had stopped checking weather reports because it had become depressing. So as we began making the drive and got hit with dark clouds and rain, we couldn’t help but get excited when it started turning to sleet, and then eventually actual snow. As we curved down highway 88 around Caples Lake, I’d look up through my moon roof at my ski racks and see my skis covered in ice and snow. Maybe it was a little wet, but it was exciting! There was going to be actual snow, powder, and at Kirkwood. When we pulled into the Resort and got out of the car it was pure bliss. It was snowing. I couldn’t help but send out a few Snapchats acting out the scene in “Edward Scissorhands” when Winona Ryder spins around with her hands out as ice shavings fall down over her head. And in my signature ‘snow bunny white’ ski pants, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a movie. It was incredible.
I bundled myself up, strapped on the chesty harness for the GoPro and started recording. I had the best time just chasing fresh tracks down every run. I could actually see my skis performing better, feel them float over the freshness, glide through the trees and dig into power through my turns. It was so amazing. I felt good, so good I decided to really challenge myself through the terrain park. I can’t help but be attracted to the thrill of catching air, and I hadn’t tried rails or boxes yet so I thought, eh, I’ll be fine. I was, and got some really funny footage out of it. I couldn’t have laughed any harder than that moment. I tried and I failed, but it didn’t matter because it was so much fun. That’s all that mattered to me. I didn’t want to leave the mountain saying to myself, I should have tried that. I wanted to leave saying, I can’t believe I did that. 

There’s been several other solo trips since and a few group trips too, which are always a great time. But there’s something about being alone that drives me to Tahoe every week. Maybe it’s because I know Northstar so well but it always seems to hit me when I find a hidden stump in the trees. I take out my ear buds and just sit there, soaking it all in. I realize how lucky I am to have the opportunity to even get a season pass, let alone be on top of a mountain. It’s always a little humbling to see how small you are and how big the outdoors around you is. These are the times I know I will always cherish when I’m older. These small moments I take when I’m challenging myself, and even at times inspiring myself, are moments I don’t ever want to forget or stop experiencing. When the snow snobs start saying things like, “why bother” or “there’s no snow in Tahoe” I can’t help but chuckle. Because sometimes it’s not about the snow, or fresh pow. Sometimes it’s just about being there to remind yourself you’re capable of anything if you give yourself the chance. Sometimes we need to take more small moments to appreciate what we have in front of us. What better place to have these reflections than on the face of one of Tahoe’s amazing mountains? Just in case you were wondering, I have mastered the art of hitting the box since my first attempt! See you on the Mountain, or in the village by the fire!
Kristen Collins is a guest blogger for Outside Adventure to the Max.  If you have an adventure to share, contact Nick Carlson at