Running around

Airstream. Lake Anita State Park, Iowa.

We rolled in to Lake Anita State Park on Friday evening. The weather was nice. 78 degrees and no wind.

So naturally the place is busy with “Weekenders” – streamer_j’s term. There are people who only drink astonishing volumes of alcohol on special occasions, like St. Patrick’s day. It’s exciting for them. “Weekenders” are like that but with camping. They have enormous fires, blaring radios, lots of kids and dogs. Concerningly, the kids are always off leash.

But there is a refuge at Lake Anita though where all of this can be avoided – the primitive camping area. Armed with a full fresh water tank and a quiet generator to top off the battery, here we — Alfred and me — are, with the nearest tent camper about a quarter of a mile away.

After this third cup of coffee we will head off for a run around the lake, which is what we do here. I also tow him around in a dog trailer behind my fold up bike.

Alfred in his trailer. Lake Anita State Park. Anita, Iowa.

He also loves fetch. Loves. Even more exciting is playing fetch from the beach into the lake.

Chuck-it at the beach, Pomona State Park, Kansas

Running around

This post is an unnecessary continuation of a scribble I wrote in September last year.

To start with, a metric. I checked in to the Airstream in late 2013 at 6′ 0″ and 197 lbs. Today I hover around 165 lbs. That is a reduction of about 30 lbs. How was this accomplished? Running around.

Running around is fun. I enjoy it. I think that’s the most important thing. If I enjoyed cycling more I’d probably do that instead.

Data adds to the fun, for me. It may not for you.

Today I am not entirely concerned by distance but more concerned with pace, but to begin with I stretched myself through distance. Can I run 2 miles, 3 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles? That was fun, particularly introducing new locations to the mix. I had lots of fun running while listening to “Zombies Run!” which integrates into a fantastic app. called Runkeeper.

I found this strategy led to me chronically hurting myself. I’d go all out then be barely able to walk for three days.

Then I discovered Runkeeper’s training programs. These are created by professional coaches. Say you want to run a 10K. It automagically creates a training schedule. So I signed up for the 16 week 10K program. Through this I built slowly but consistently and my weekly mileage went up dramatically.

I ran a 5K in Des Moines and won it. That was (a) not an accomplishment and (b) fun mainly because there was a free beer at the end. I’d do more races but not to win. They are fun to participate in.

I hit a battery wall around 8 – 9 miles. Or when it was cold. My iPhone battery can’t survive more than 4 seconds exposed to Iowa. On a good day – at the precise temperature required for the iPhone to work – with the GPS going (for Runkeeper) it would die off at about the 9 mile mark.

For that reason I switched to a Garmin 310XT, which has a battery life of about 20 hours, in Iowa, in winter. I am not selling Garmin here. I would prefer not to have an extra gadget. It was a battery decision. As an aside, I do think Garmin produces far too many redundant bits of hardware and should massively pare down their portfolio and focus on software quality.

To spice things up a bit I have started running in different locations to break up a long and boring series of Iowan trails.

How about a jog around Central Park at Christmas?

Or a 10K around the Washington Monument?

I have other fun locations planned.

Fun with data collection

The data is not just about maps, distance, time, heart rate and calories. Throw in a Wi-Fi enabled scale, blood pressure monitor and a step counter (I use the Garmin Vivofit but it doesn’t matter).

Bam! Now that’s fun. I run. Weight goes down. Fat % goes down. Blood pressure goes down.

In May of 2013 my corporate-sponsored blood pressure was hovering around 138 over 86. Today it’s about 121 over 74.

By the way, I used MyFitnessPal to automatically connect Withings to Garmin and CopyMySports to automatically drop it all in to Runkeeper.

There is a also social aspect. Through Garmin Connect I am part of a few groups and have a bit of friendly steps competition with work colleagues.

Does any of this data matter? Obviously not. If you run (and don’t binge on beer afterwards), you will lose weight. Your blood pressure will come down. You don’t need to measure that for it to occur. And I may not bother measuring it in the future. For now it is fun and motivating to see the results.

So what else? I played around with tracking calories using MyFitnessPal. That was fun. But it’s futile in my opinion. All the other data is collected by sensor. It’s consistent. Food tracking is not. To be accurate really does mean measuring every bite and knowing precisely what’s in it. That’s fun . . . (?)

There is a much better way. You know what’s good for you and what’s not. There really is very little need for the “in moderation” qualifier.

Smoking is bad for you. Don’t do that.

Drinking alcohol is bad for you. Don’t do that (nobody has one glass of red wine – if you do you’re missing the point).

Vegetables are good for you. Eat those.

These decisions are binary. They are yes/no. You don’t need to track them. You can eat as many vegetables as you want! No need to track that. If you choose not to drink nor to eat junk food, there really is no need to track what you eat. Your body will thank you.

This applies to exercise too. Exercise is good. Do that. I only track that because the data is fun for me, so that’s it. Perhaps tracking food is fun for you, if so, do that.

So I could sum up the dietary aspect of all this as follows: give up drinking and go vegan.

Perfect score every day? Absolutely not. But we’re not counting. There is no trending. No unbroken streak. No concept of cheating. Each decision I make is simply binary in the moment. If I had a cream cheese bagel for breakfast that doesn’t impact the right decision of a vegan salad packed with micro-nutrients for lunch.

Funnily enough, when you take out all the tracking, trending, pressure, guilt, whatever around caloric intake and clean eating, and simply make decisions in the moment and forget about them – you tend to make the right decision most of the time.

Good and bad

When I started writing this post I was going to show a map of running around somewhere and call it good. I’ve strayed a bit off course here. So I might as well conclude the thought.

I don’t propose here that there is any intrinsic good or bad in a decision to be a runner, a cyclist, to live in an Airstream, to be thin, fat, a smoker, a drinker, a whatever or nothing at all. You might make an argument about the impact of your decisions on others, say your family. That probably has merit. You might even delve into the spiritual and the obligation you have to your body and the life around you. Or perhaps take a more altruistic perspective and ask whether society has an obligation to support your health decisions through the health system. All interesting points and with merit. I suppose what I’m saying is your lifestyle is not for me to judge unless you’re directly causing harm to others.

But I do propose that there is a good and bad about what you eat. Our method of producing meat in the volume our species feeds on it is disgraceful. It is clearly evil. Please be careful reading this. I am being precise in saying our method of producing meat is evil. There is a great deal of writing on this topic. One well written view is here.

If evil is not of great concern, then it is also indescribably inhumane and crippling to the environment. There just isn’t a single meritorious argument, scientific, moral or spiritual, to support factory farming.

So when it comes to food, I don’t count or track, but I do try to make a good decision with each meal. I think everyone would agree that if we choose to eat meat (including fish and dairy), we have an obligation to support meat that is farmed as humanely as possible.

So that’s it. Now I’m off to run around with Alfred.

– Anthony, Lake Anita State Park, Iowa

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If we didn’t live in an Airstream, we probably wouldn’t run around as much

Cheyenne Mountain run

In Life-Before-Airstream most of my running mileage was on a treadmill for basic fitness. Headphones in. Average distance precisely 4.00 miles. Average speed precisely 6.8mph. Then press “STOP.” Headphones out.

In Life-After-Airstream I run more often for basic fun. Headphones in, GPS on. Terrain varies. Weather varies. Distance varies. Speed varies. It’s almost as though I’m a product of nature. Headphones out.

This post is not intended to be a bragathon – I’m certainly no athlete! But in my last post I tritely lectured, “Your Airstream provides a new context for living. Its flaws don’t matter one little bit. Remember why you bought it. Do those things.”

For us, improving our health was one of those things. So I thought I would provide some evidence. Conveniently it turns out 2014 has been the year of fitness milestones. Here are a few.

* * *

Best distance: 12.9 miles (and most calories burned – 1,539).
July 22nd, Boyd Lake State Park, Fort Collins, Colorado.

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I remember this run well. I ran without water (dumb) and my legs gave out at the end with the heat and sun.

* * *

Longest duration: 3:32:06.
Greatest elevation climb: 2,861.
August 3rd, Pike National Forest (nr. Lake George), Colorado.

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This was a fun run/scramble/climb of 9.5 miles around Badger Mountain in the Pike National Forest, Colorado. Photographs and Gratuitous Garmin Adventure.

* * *

Best average pace: 7:34 per mile.
All right so this one was less exciting – I pulled it off on a treadmill at the Overland Park Marriott, Kansas.

* * *

Longest run at sea level (a made up milestone): 9.7 miles.
January 4th, 2014, Dauphin Island, Alabama.

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Alfred came along (photograph) on this one .

* * *

What about something a little more gentle?

On August 2nd I took a memorable 11.4 mile hike with Alfred and Julie to find the first Geocache ever placed in Colorado.

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* * *

4 miles is still my daily standard. Fortunately Pomona State Park in Kansas has a nice 4.3 mile loop – my new treadmill.

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Alfred came along (photograph) on this particular run around Pomona too.

* * *

Now, to the beach.

(probably wouldn’t be here without an Airstream)

– Anthony, Dauphin Island, Alabama

A bite too far

Rainbow

It’s late spring in Kansas. Hot, humid and thick with things that scurry, crawl, fly and bite. Unquestionably the worst of all are ticks. I don’t need to traipse through the jungle – they like me and seek me out. Unsurprisingly, I don’t like this at all.

For those unaccustomed to the Mid-west let me assure you there is no good time to be here. People love it for a number of reasons, none of which relate to climate. My mother shared a story with me about a “Field of Dreams” 25th anniversary reunion in Iowa. All I could think about were the things that must have been buzzing ferociously around poor Kevin.

Bugs have been a nuisance but they have alerted me to a deeper malaise – our descent into camping.

Since we started this adventure we have generally moved from campground to campground. Some much better than others, but campgrounds nonetheless. There have been limited forays into the exotic world of boon-docking including a Wal-Mart parkling lot in Atlanta and a US Forestry Service road in the San Juan National Forest.

Never have we really been alone. Even in the San Juan National Forest there were other campers around. Or in the case of our week alone in Petit Jean State Park, there were plenty of state employees to provide uninvited company.

So no matter how we may be guilty of presenting it, this isn’t “Into the Wild.” I am convinced there isn’t any “Into the Wild” left in the states we roam, no matter how crafty we are at taking photographs.

Truth be told, much of the time we’re in the proximity of people without shirts. There are people in golf carts checking on us. There are bugs.

In short, and in truth, we’re camping.

A reasonable person would probably be thinking, “you’re in a camper at a campground. What on earth did you think you were doing?”

Right. We actually really enjoy meeting other people – many of whom wear shirts. This descent into ramble is not really about wilderness camping vs. campgrounds. The shirts thing and bugs are just “lest you forget you are camping” reminders.

The thing is, when we embarked on this adventure our goals were to achieve greater simplicity, freedom and health. We weren’t thinking, “we love camping and wish we could camp every day.” The camping part was rather tangental to the whole thing.

We have made great progress towards our goals. We have downsized, simplified, rekindled our sense of freedom and wonder (and discovered disturbing limits) and our health has improved measurably.

But, perhaps inevitably, we seem to spend a lot more time simply camping now. We could survive a zombie apocalypse – for a while.

It’s a lull that filled us with doubt but we we’re re-committing to why we started. To simplicity, freedom and health.

Most immediately we must leave the bugs behind.

– Anthony, Pomona State Park, Kansas and in the air on AA 3701 to San Francisco

High-Altitude Exercise

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I have recently been wondering why exercising here in Colorado is so much more difficult than it was in Alabama.

For example, when we were in Dauphin Island, I ran nearly a 10 mile run. Well actually it was only 8.98 miles (I keep track of all my activities in Runkeeper). But it was the farthest I had ever ran before. Awesome mile stone achievement for me. Running along the beach for the first time too! That was most likely the motivator that got me to do it.

Now we are up in Colorado Springs. The day after we arrived I tried going for a run and it nearly killed me. I ran 1.62 miles and was completely out of breath the majority of the run. I’ve always heard ‘there is less oxygen at high altitude’. So I just figured that was my problem, my body just wasn’t used to this elevation yet.

Fast forward a week. I just went for a run and did 3.10 miles. Now yes I did double my last mileage amount, but not very gracefully. So this has made me wonder what is going on?

After a quick google search I have found my answer from Active.com

“It’s not the lack of oxygen that makes your body work so hard at altitude. It really has to do with the barometric pressure. Even at 10,000 feet, there is still 29 percent oxygen in the air, and out of that 29 percent you only take in around 10 percent of the oxygen you breathe. The big challenge is your ability at altitude to extract the oxygen and get it into your bloodstream at altitude.”

If you read on in that article, it basically says my body needs to make more red blood cells. Which then has all sorts of other benefits than just being able to go for a jog out here.

I will just keep training and my body should adapt to being in the high altitude. Easier said than done! But it does sound like the benefits could be worth the work.

Julie, Colorado Springs, CO

 

Why and Why Not?

Cheyenne Mountain, sunset.

This post was modified from the original on 2014-03-22 at Pomona State Park, Kansas.

On June 30th, 2013, at 5:08pm I was thinking about Airstreams at my home in Waukee, Iowa. I know this because I wrote a simple pros and cons list in Evernote. I called that list “Why and Why Not?”

Why?

  • Simplicity. It is more difficult to fill a small space with clutter.
  • A trailer has a real limit to its own maintenance.
  • We’ll get outside more.
  • Whilst running costs are likely to remain high, we won’t have so much tied up in things.
  • I like to travel. “Wanderlust.”
  • Rain falling on the roof.

Why not?

  • No back yard for Alfred.
  • Some everyday things are harder in an Airstream – for example emptying black water and using a laundry.
  • Campgrounds are not glamorous.
  • It may be taxing for Julie if I am not there.

After 120 days of living in an Airstream did I have this right?

Why?

Simplicity. It is more difficult to fill a small space with clutter.

Yes, that’s right.

A trailer has a real limit to its own maintenance.

Yes, that’s right. Although we have been surprised by how many repairs there are, maintenance is limited in scope and we never think about re-modelling.

We’ll get outside more.

Yes, that’s right. We try to travel with the seasons and enjoy being outside more often. We also bought cold weather togs.

Whilst running costs are likely to remain high, we won’t have so much tied up in things.

Yes, that’s right. In fact the numbers were uncannily accurate. We are financially almost entirely virtual now. Click click. We’d have real problems with an EMP.

I like to travel. “Wanderlust.”

The wanderlust hasn’t worn off – it’s grown.

Rain falling on the roof.

Why not?

No back yard for Alfred.

It’s really not difficult at all. Living in an Airstream you find yourself going outside regularly anyway for one reason or another, which is good.

An important piece of our decision to do this was to focus on our health. We’re running farther and walking often. Our dog Alfred is always with us. We think every day is an exciting day for Alfred.

In the winter we have had entire state parks to ourselves for days. Or if not an entire park, a large section of a park. Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas, Pomona State Park in Kansas, Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado. We shouldn’t admit it, but we break the rules about dogs on leashes in these instances.

The biggest dog issue? Dog hair. This is endless war. We fight it every day with a Dyson and large pet hair sticky roller.

Some everyday things are harder in an Airstream – for example emptying black water and using a laundry.

This is partially right. The black water isn’t an issue. I still don’t understand why people fuss about it. The real difficulty is temperature. When the temperature drops into the 20s for more than a day you are in the business of thawing dump valves and pipes each time you need to empty a tank.

For Julie the laundry is a major inconvenience. When the park has a laundry on site this is much less of a problem. Julie loads the laundry bag, takes her kindle, and is back an hour or so later. When the park does not have a laundry (many state parks have laundry facilities but close them in the off season) then you’re in the business of going to a laundramat. We have found a few dry cleaners that also do laundry paid for by the pound.

Campgrounds are not glamourous.

This is partially true. We’ll stay at off-interstate KOAs when we have to if we’re dashing from A > B. They aren’t glamorous. But that experience isn’t glamorous. You’re looking for a place to plug in for the night. In contrast we have been astounded by many state parks. Petit Jean in Arkansas. Cheyenne State Park in Colorado. Pomona State Park in Kansas. Lake Fort Smith State Park in Arkansas.

It may be taxing for Julie if I am not there.

This is true. All alone at 3am in an empty state park.

You get an instinctive sense of a place, which may be completely unfounded. For example, there was something about an evening at Lake Chicot State Park in Arkansas that unsettled us. Even Alfred woke up growling in the night.

That park is located in the heart of “The Most Southern Place on Earth” – the Mississippi Delta. Bordering the park are Washington and Humphreys Counties, MS, jointly tied for 5th poorest in the country. There’s also Issaquena County, 4th poorest in the country. East Carroll Parish, LA., 12th poorest in the country. (The Poorest Counties in America).

Some tweets around that stay convey the mood.

You get it. Unsettled.

So if we’re in a place that isn’t 100% comfortable for Julie, then she and Alfred spend the evening in a local hotel if I need to go away overnight for work.

After 120 days, what’s missing from this list?

Weather

You can keep an Airstream as warm as you like, for a price. You can reliably get water into it with the appropriate kit. What you can’t do trivially is get rid of the waste water, unless you start skirting.

We have done zero-ish cold for weeks. So we’re not talking the art of the possible but we are talking the art of the reasonable.

If I were to draw an arbitrary line on a map I’d probably have it run somewhere through the middle of Kansas and Missouri. Say Springfield, Missouri for the sake of argument. If you can’t spend much of the winter below that line, your Airstream is going to be a lot of work and very expensive (propane).

2014-03-22 update: after a couple of “Polar Vortex” weeks I would now move this line further south to the middle of Arkansas.

Travel stress

Sticking to a tight schedule on the road is stressful. We started out trying to travel too much. When you are dashing from place to place, keeping meeting schedules, things like frozen pipes turn an already stressful day into an unforgiving drama quickly.

So we travel less now. We give ourselves more time. If I need to get from Denver to Kansas City in one day, I’ll fly, as much as I dislike it. For 2014 we’re aiming to stay in each spot for 3 – 4 weeks before moving.

Maintenance

Imagine the most unreliable vehicle you have ever owned. Now combine that with a 20 year old Landrover Discovery. You are visualizing the maintenance implications of an Airstream.

Every day something doesn’t break is a blessing. After about 90ish days our confidence was built up and we became at peace with it. Before that it was a major source of stress.

So that’s it. “Why and Why Not?” revisited and evaluated. We have discovered that it’s true, “love will find a way.”

– Anthony, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado

The GGS

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One of the top reasons we changed our suburb lifestyle was for health. So now that we are really underway with Airstreaming, I wanted to share one of my favorite healthy things.

Every morning (or at least try for everyday!) I enjoy what is called a Glowing Green Smoothie. I take no credit for it’s creation. I first heard about it from my lovely sister, who also strives for a healthy lifestyle. I bought the book The Beauty Detox Solution, by Kimberly Snyder.

In the book she talks about all the benefits from fruits and vegetables. She also has the GGS recipe in the book as a morning meal. You would be amazed at how many fruits and veggies you can pack into a blender and have it come out tasting delicious!

I personally find I have more energy and become more alert just by having one of these a day.

A problem with making the smoothie in an Airstream is that you need a lot of counter space for all the ingredients. It can also be troublesome to find good quality fruits and veggies on the road. So my newest plan (which I only tried out this morning) is to make a HUGE batch and freeze it.

I bought a dozen 12oz canning jars and they are currently filled up and in my freezer. I used to just fill a big plastic jug and refrigerate it. But Kimberly states in the book that after about 2.5 days of refrigeration it starts to go bad. By freezing it we will just have the perfect size jar of GGS every time. I also won’t ever have to find myself dumping leftovers down the drain. Since it does take quite a bit of time and energy to make in my small kitchen.

If anyone has a New Years resolution to be a bit more healthy, I really recommend trying this! Yes it is GREEN, but so good! Your body will thank you!

– Julie, Dauphin Island, Alabama

Fresh Air

While sitting out an ice storm is probably not the best time to think about opening windows. But I have been planning this post for a while so here goes.

We know it’s important to have ventilation in RVs primarily to eliminate moisture which will lead to mold. What I hadn’t really thought about was air quality.

Around May of this year I started geeking out with some fitness tracking devices, including the Withings Smart Body Analyzer. One of its functions is to continuously monitor air quality (CO2 levels specifically).

The results are quite interesting. Screenshot below taken from the Withings iPhone app showing a 24 hour period in our Airstream. Notice the CO2 level falls during the day, when we open a window or two, and rises during the night when we tend to close windows as the temperature drops.

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Thanks to the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, I learned “NIOSH considers that indoor air concentrations of carbon dioxide that exceed 1,000 ppm are a marker suggesting inadequate ventilation.” During the night we have reached twice that level.

The temperature range is a bit off. We store it on the floor at the back of thr Airstream so it’s representing floor temperature back there rather than the air temperature in the trailer (about 10 degrees higher).

– Anthony, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas