The Hiker’s Hike…

Havasu Creek Canyon, Arizona circa April of 2000

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking I might not be getting the best experience out of my hikes.  I think about how I used to hike and what made me excited about a particular trail and something has changed.  I feel like I’ve been doing so much fitness-oriented hiking lately that I can’t down-shift and enjoy a hike purely for the experience.  As I make the effort to change this, it made me start thinking about why I hike, what draws me to the trail and how what the trail has to offer changes my approach to the hiking experience.

Slot Canyon in Northern Arizona

What draws me to the trail these days is very much about goals.  I find myself choosing hikes based on bagging a new peak, beating a previous time or simply logging miles in to my fitness routine.  My choices are less about the experience and more about the route, the terrain and how fast I think I can complete it and get back home.  So much so that I don’t even carry a camera with me anymore.  There’s really nothing wrong with this, especially since I am in recovery from an injury and I am focused on training for a race.  Fitness goals are very important to me right now, but I do miss hiking purely for the joy of discovery.

Havasu Creek near confluence with Colorado River

When I first moved to Arizona and began hiking in the desert, every hike was about getting to see something new.  It was about the varied terrain, the exotic and esoteric plants, the fascinating little creatures that scurried about…it was about the journey.  The desert was a new place to me and I would find myself randomly picking hikes in far off places just to see what I could find.  I wanted to stand under a new waterfall, look from a new peak, see new trees and hear new birds.  I recall hikes where I would spend huge amounts of time just watching a rattle snake, or the spectacle of a tarantula migration or inspecting some old piece of mining equipment long since left behind.  Some of my best and most memorable hiking experiences were from this time in my life.  A time when every trip was a new adventure in every sense of the word.

Today I feel torn.  Part of me enjoys the convenience of a trail within a 10-minute drive of my house in the city that offers me 3, 5 or 7 mile options that I know I can complete in a set amount of time.  It’s definitely better, in my opinion, than asphalt.  But there’s another part of me that misses the exploration side of hiking, the adventure and the sense of discovery.  I feel like I should have more reverence for the trail, more respect and acknowledgement of the uniqueness that makes each trail special.  The problem I have is that many of these local trails just don’t feel special anymore.

I think it’s time to push out of my comfort zone.  It’s time to visit new places, take the road less traveled and reintroduce ADVENTURE to the outdoors again.  I know there are amazing places out there that I have yet to visit and I want to start making those destinations more of a priority.  We all hike for different reasons and there is no right or wrong, as long as you enjoy yourself and stay safe.  I can still run in town and climb local peaks to build cardio and endurance, but I really want to hike the kind of trails that used to fill me with a sense of wonder…a true Hiker’s Hike.

And who knows, maybe I’ll start carrying a camera again…

Grand Canyon, Arizona circa October, 2007

 

A Thankful Year…

Well, it appears to be that time of year again…  Winter heavily lumbers in, the frantic holidays quickly approach and our minds instinctually seem to review and quantify the accomplishments of the previous year.  Most of us take special time each year to focus on the happy successes, the wonderful gifts and the hard won accomplishments that make up the highlight reel of our lives over the last 12 months.  It’s a time to give special attention to the things that are so easily taken for granted throughout our hectic, time-crunched day-to-day existence.  Each Winter season, if we are doing something right, the list of things we are truly Thankful for gets longer, stronger and more meaningful.

This year especially, has been a year filled with things to be thankful for.  Even though the year has not been easy and I still struggle in many ways to improve many aspects of my life, I find myself feeling happier and more accomplished than ever.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve struggled with some health issues over the past several years.  I went from a very healthy, active athletic man to lethargic, sedentary and overweight suffering from pain and mobility issues.  Over the last couple of years I’ve managed to get my health problems identified and under enough control for me to take my life back.  I am now back to being healthy and active and feel like I’ve got control of my life again.  This has allowed me to get back to enjoying a life in the outdoors as much as possible.  It’s allowed me to recover a part of myself I felt I had lost and would potentially never find again.  It’s incredibly satisfying to feel like myself again.

For many years, growing up, my family and I had enjoyed and active lifestyle.  As a family, we traveled and spent time outdoors being active and finding adventure.  I took this enjoyment of the outdoors into my adult life after I left California and spent a lot of time exploring the wilderness here in Arizona.  Losing this part of my life was devastating and now that I have it back I am amazingly thankful for being back in to an outdoor lifestyle (I’m sure REI is thankful for this as well!).

This blog is a testament to my renewed excitement at being a part of the outdoor community again.  In rebuilding my sense of self and my attachment to the outdoors I’ve stumbled across an amazing local and on-line community of outdoors enthusiasts and wilderness athletics that share my passion.  Through this blog I’ve been able to share myself with this community and it has served to reinforce and strengthen my relationship with, and passion for, the outdoors.  I’m thankful to ALL of you for visiting, reading, sharing and collaborating on this part of my life.

As thankful as I am about all my new friends this year, I can not be more thankful for old friends who have stood by me through the years.  I’m thankful for the friends and family that have helped as I struggle through maintaining a business in a weak economy, for the friends that have been there for me as I bounce in and out of town and for the friends who have given me a reason to smile and laugh when it seems too hard to do so on my own.  For the rounds of drinks, the trips to and from the airport, Sundays watching football, making sure the dogs get fed when I’m gone, Tuesday Steak Night, the encouragement to get back in shape, for making sure I don’t always hike alone, for help fixing the house, help fixing the truck and a thousand other things that make you guys great…..thank you.

Most of all, I am thankful to have the most amazing, beautiful, fun, energetic and exciting woman in my life.  Though our time together these days is limited, we make the most of it.  And this summer she gave me yet another wonderful thing to be thankful for when I asked her to marry me and she said ‘YES’.  So this year, I am very thankful for an amazing relationship with an incredible woman who, by this time next year, will be my beautiful wife.

Hardships and challenges aside, this has been a great year and is hopefully just a hint of the happiness to come.  I wish EVERYONE a happy, healthy and successful Holiday Season.

How my training diet ruined my life…

As many of you know, I have been having some major problems with my health lately.  Since mid September I have dealt with varying degrees of pain, swelling and inflammation that have left me temporarily crippled.  It’s a bad situation, but not as rare as I suspected.

About six or seven years ago, I began having problems with my feet.  After several years of dealing with pain I discovered I was suffering from Gout (and Gouty Arthritis).  Initially diagnosed as a stress fracture, it took many years and many doctor visits to discover this problem because I am not the typical Gout sufferer.  I did not have any of the typical habits, behavior or associated health problems typical of most Gout sufferers and blood tests did not show high Uric acid levels.  After much research and experimentation, I was able to control my problem through diet.  Until recently, I had not had an attack in almost two years.

In September of this year I met with a personal trainer/nutritionist.  My goal was to work up a training plan to cut some body fat and build some lean muscle.  The trainer provided me with a nutrition plan high in natural, lean animal proteins and filled with raw vegetables while, also, eliminating sugars and dairy.  All in all, a very clean, healthy diet.

Within a week I noticed a problem, but didn’t catch the hint right away.  After 5 weeks on the diet I was on crutches and in such ridiculous amounts of pain I could not focus, work or sleep.  So here’s how it developed…

Towards the beginning of the second week I was experiencing pain in my right foot, making it uncomfortable to walk.  The pain was intermittent and would come and go with varying degrees of intensity.  The pain was not as acute as I had typically felt during a true Gout attack, but the result was the same: immobility. Sometimes there was swelling and redness associated with the pain, and other times there was no swelling at all.  The pain seemed to move throughout the foot as well, often feeling like the source of pain changed from one day to the next.

This lasted for about 3 weeks before it seemed to leave my right foot, tricking me in to thinking it was gone.  Within a day or two, it manifested in my left foot with exaggerated intensity and quickly attacked my ankle making it nearly impossible to walk.  I struggled to get around for about a week before the Gouty Arthritis attacked my left knee leaving me no choice but to rely on crutches.  Every move resulted in huge amounts of pain, even sitting still the pain was, at times, unbearable.  My foot, ankle and knee experienced massive swelling and inflammation.  By this time, I had realized what the diet had done and was taking strides to change it.

Now, after dealing with getting the pain under control, I can break down what happened.  People with a disposition for, or history of, Arthritis (Gout, RA, Gouty Arthritis, Pseudo-Gout, etc.) should limit their consumption of animal proteins.  According to a Mayo Clinic web-article outlining a healthy “Gout Diet”,

“Animal proteins are high in purine. Avoid or severely limit high-purine foods, such as organ meats, herring, anchovies and mackerel. Red meat (beef, pork and lamb), fatty fish and seafood (tuna, shrimp, lobster and scallops) are associated with increased risk of gout. Because all meat, poultry and fish contain purines, limit your intake to 4 to 6 ounces (113 to 170 grams) daily.”

My training diet prescribed 12 to 15 ounces of animal protein per day.  In addition to this I was consuming two protein shakes per day and a breakfast consisting of a 7 egg-white omelette.  The animal based proteins are the biggest problem.  Though some people have reported problems with Gout attacks when taking supplemental Protein Shakes, it is usually admitted that the protein shakes are a part of an already high-protein diet.  In fact, most Protein Shake supplements these days are dairy based Whey Protein and in a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine,

We found a strong inverse relation between consumption of dairy products, especially low-fat dairy products, and the incidence of gout. The ingestion of milk proteins (casein and lactalbumin) has been shown to reduce serum uric acid levels in healthy subjects because of the uricosuric effect of these proteins. Conversely, a significant increase in the uric acid level was induced by a dairy-free diet in a four-week randomized clinical trial. Since dairy products are low in purine content, dairy protein may exert its urate-lowering effect without providing the concomitant purine load contained in other protein sources such as meat and seafood. Although other nutrients in dairy products may be responsible for the inverse association, there is currently no relevant biologic or metabolic evidence available.”

The above referenced study points to the second major flaw in my training diet: the elimination of dairy.  Dairy products like low-fat milk, cheese, cottage cheese typically have sugar and salt levels we were trying to avoid in the diet plan supplied by the nutritionist.  As it turns out, eliminating dairy from my diet may have been the catalyst that enabled the severe problem I developed on this diet.  This from a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, “…consumption of dairy products, especially low-fat dairy products, is associated with a substantially reduced risk of gout.”

It also seems that the overall goal of attempting to reduce my body fat may have played a factor.  Over the last 18 months, I have lost nearly 60 pounds.  I have been very careful to lose the weight safely and gradually using a combination of exercise and healthy eating.  In an article discussing obesity and Gout from the Mayo Clinic, “…avoid fasting and rapid weight loss because these can promote a gout attack.”  Though I never had fasted and certainly do not consider my weight loss “rapid”, the fact that I was working to lose weight may have played a role in my issue as well.

Aside from Gout, there are many studies that point to high-protein diets as the culprit for chronic pain issues.  There is a condition commonly referred to as Protein Arthritis, which can cause chronic pain and inflammation in the major joints, back and legs.  Pain usually comes on during times of rest and can be mitigated through activity.  From The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery,

“There is a definite relation between high protein intake and chronic joint pain; this is not always indicated by high uric acid content in the blood, although it may be. There is a definite form of arthritis due to or associated with incomplete metabolism, poor elimination, or both. This condition is found in the young as well as in the old; in the lean as well as in the fat; in those of active as well as those of sedentary habits.”

The associated paper, written by Paul B. Magnuson, M.D., describes many case studies where a patient’s chronic pain issues where a direct result of a high-protein diet and could be managed and/or eliminated through diet.

So, what do I do now?  Well, I am going back to what was working before, following a healthy, clean raw-foods diet with a limited amount of animal protein. I will also reintroduce dairy to my diet and continue to limit over-processed foods with high sodium and sugar content. This from the New England Journal of Medicine,

“A diet designed to prevent gout should derive its protein content from egg whites (instead of whole eggs) and milk products, and should eliminate or substantially reduce consumption of meats and seafood.”

“A higher total intake of animal or vegetable protein was not associated with an increased risk of gout. Actually, our results regarding vegetable-protein intake suggest that protein from vegetable sources may have a protective effect, although its magnitude appeared to be smaller than that provided by dairy protein.”

And from the same article,

“Overall, however, our findings provide prospective evidence that meat consumption and seafood consumption are associated with an increased risk of gout, whereas consumption of dairy products, especially low-fat dairy products, is associated with a substantially reduced risk of gout. In contrast, moderate intake of purine-rich vegetables or protein is not associated with an increased risk of gout.”

 

If you have experienced seemingly random joint pain, chronic pain, or any other related issues I would love to hear your story.  

If I can help any single person rid themselves of pain, or find an answer to a chronic problem that is continually misdiagnosed, I will be very happy about having told my story.  Understanding how your body metabolizes proteins and what problems can come from consuming too much protein is important to feeling better and being more active.  Mine was a problem that, multiple times, completely wrecked my health.  Doctors have a difficult time diagnosing these nutrition related issues because the symptoms are so general and misleading.  If you suspect you may have an issue, simply try reducing (or eliminating) your protein consumption for a month and see what happens.  What could it hurt?

Hiking, Rappelling, Canyoneering….oh my!

IMAG0253Ok, I’m getting in deep. I know I am but it’s so much fun!

I took a basic class this morning to do some rappelling because I haven’t done it in years. I loved it, I couldn’t get enough. I could have done that all day and never tired of it. It’s been a while since I’ve seriously put some time into canyoneering and exploring and I am very excited about the prospect of exploring some really unique and remote canyons with some well equipped and well trained guys. I have a feeling getting set up with all the gear isn’t going to be as expensive as I expect. I already have a lot of gear, just need a few specific things and I can be set up.

Can’t wait to get set up and trained and get serious about this stuff! Awesome!

Welcome to 2011!

I’m genuinely excited for 2011.  Last year was a horrible business year and I’m happy to leave it behind.  2011 already looks to be a better and brighter year with work coming in the door, money changing hands and lots of new work on the horizon.  I’m looking for 2011 to be the opportunity we’ve been waiting for to expand and grow my various companies.

Personally, last year represented a low point and a high point for me.  I went through some serious depression last year but ended up finding the love of my life.  Now as I go in to the new year I am amazingly happy and excited about my future.  It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth every ounce of hardship.

2011 finds me feeling good, optimistic and hopeful.

Never Forget…

There are events in the history of this country that will forever be remembered.  Some events are remembered and honored for the great loss and pain this country has suffered and some events are celebrated as examples of our strength, pride, honor and compassion.  September 11th is, in my eyes, an event that represents both sides.  The tragic and sudden loss of life at the hands of our enemies has been compared to the attack at Pearl Harbor.  But the amazingly heroic and tireless efforts of the police, medical, search and rescue and other emergency services that were compelled to duty that day are something this country should be proud of.

Above and beyond the professionals called to duty on that day, many average citizens found themselves in position to help, to lead, to save lives.  There were many heroes that day and out of that tragic event this country rediscovered it’s inner strength.  And that is what is important to remember.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….

a sea of trouble...

… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

It seems that life likes to find balance wherever it can. Just at the time in my life where I am finding the most difficulty professionally, I am finding the greatest joy personally. The economic blow to the construction industry has left my previously successful business foundering in a sea of disappearing jobs, non-paying clients and rising operating costs. I find myself constantly looking for places to cut costs or evaluating priorities of the importance of each individual bill or debt. I never thought that after 12 successful years in business I would find myself living paycheck to paycheck.

While struggling financially and professionally, I have been finding success personally. I am finally at a point where I feel healthy. For the first time in nearly 6 years I don’t have to deal with immobilizing pain. I don’t feel trapped in my own body and can finally start to get back into shape. I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds since January when the pain started going away. I now feel almost as healthy and strong as I did over a decade ago.

I’ve also begun to develop a relationship with someone I deeply care about. She is an amazing source of happiness to me and I look forward to every minute we spend together. She has become what is most important to me.

Dealing with a failing business is difficult. However, things are beginning to look up, work is on the horizon, there will be money again soon. Struggling through this may give me a better outlook on how to manage the business and never take the work for granted. The happiness I have found personally will make the professional struggle seem easier. I’m just hoping to eventually achieve that perfect Life / Work Balance where total happiness is found.

Welcome to my blog…

It’s been quite a while since I’ve managed my personal Blog. I’ve decided that the only sensible thing to do is start over. There’s really no rhyme or reason as to the content of this Blog as yet, but in time a theme should reveal itself and the content will prove to have some purpose….or so I hope.

For now, I will simply use this space as an outlet for work, travel and personal experience. If nothing else, I hope it is entertaining.