The Outside Blog

Adventure : Jun 2012

Armstrong Claims 2nd Half Ironman Win

Lance Armstrong won his second Half Ironman triathlon in two weeks on Saturday, dominating a record field of 1,600 athletes at the Ironman 70.3 in Hawaii. Armstrong, who has raced in five triathlons this year, finished with a time of 3:50:55, breaking the course record by six minutes. Runner-up Greg Bennett finished two-and-a-half minutes later. “I’m having fun. That tells me I’m doing the right thing," said Armstrong. The former professional cyclist dominated the Florida Half Ironman two weeks ago, beating the runner-up by more than 11 minutes. Armstrong will compete in the Nice, France, full Ironman in June in the hopes of qualifying for the Kona world championship in October.

Read more at Bloomberg Businessweek

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'Outside' Takes on the Teva Mountain Games

Photo: Nick Davidson

This past weekend, we sent a good chunk of our staff up to Vail to cover and compete in the Teva Mountain Games. For those of you not familiar with the event, over the past 11 years it’s evolved into a bona fide festival: athletes from around the world compete in 24 different races over the course of four days. But that’s just part of it. Nearly every event, from bouldering to mountain biking to fly-fishing, also has recreational divisions. And then there’s everything else, from free concerts and film series to slacklining and SUP demonstrations to mud runs and the always-popular dogs-jumping-into-water events.

The resulting mash-up of athletes and revelers makes for a pretty fun mix: you’ve got guys like pro cyclist Tom Danielson, who decided at the last minute to show up and smoke the competition in the road bike time trail, clomping around in their spandex kit and tear-dropped aero helmet. But you’ve also got visor-wearing fly fisherman; superfit moms and dads pulling bike-trailers filled with kids; and just about everybody in-between. And dogs—lots and lots of dogs, everywhere.

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Multisport Athlete Sari Anderson on Staying Active While Raising a Family

Multisport athlete Sari Anderson has managed to find a pursuit for every season. When we caught up with the 33-year-old endurance racer, she'd just returned from her final ski mountaineering competition of the season, Patrol des Glaciers, in Zermatt, Switzerland. At Sunday's Teva Mountain Games, she ran, biked, and kayaked her way to winning the Ultimate Mountain Challenge multisport contest. When she isn't training for or competing in back-to-back endurance races, Anderson is taking care of her kids, Axel and Juniper, ages two and five, at their home in Carbondale, Colorado. Anderson will be leading the advanced mountain bike sessions at Outside in Aspen this year.

You're perpetually in between endurance races. Did we catch you in the middle of a training session?
Today is a rest day, so I just did a short, seven-mile run. My next competition is a 70-mile mountain bike race in Colorado, so I did mountain bike intervals yesterday.

Between ski mountaineering, adventure racing, mountain biking—how do you decide where to train?
I try to spend my time close to home, near Aspen, because I have two kids. There’s great mountain biking in Aspen and throughout the valley, great singletrack that’s absolutely gorgeous. All summer long, I can usually get out on a different big three- or four-hour mountain bike ride each weekend. And the skiing's great—excuse me, my son’s trying to mow down the flowers. Mow on the lawn, please, not in the garden? Sorry about that.

How do you balance raising two young kids and maintaining a very active lifestyle?
I don’t have a lot of downtime. I usually get up and train at five in the morning, or, on a day like today, I’ll take the kids with me. My husband is super supportive. Last night, he put the kids to bed so I could get in a mountain bike ride.

Beyond that, all of my training has a purpose. I make a point of getting in quality workouts, versus trying to get in as many miles as I can. I probably train almost half as much as the people I compete against: 10 or 12 hours each week, as opposed to 20 hours a week. It’s not just being out there for the sake of being out there.

What makes a quality workout?
Before I had kids, I would just go out and ride for as long as I wanted. I had never done an interval before two years ago, when I started working with my coach. Now I do intervals a few days each week, and I weight train. It’s really pushing myself harder.

There have been various studies recently that support that style of training.
I do it because I really don’t have much of a choice, but I do think there’s a reason—knock on wood—that I haven’t been injured. The shorter training periods really help that. I don’t get overtrained, and I’m super motivated all the time because I don’t feel like I have to go out for a long time.

What is your favorite discipline?
Right now I think it’s ski mountaineering. It used to be that I trained in ski mountaineering in the winter to stay in shape for the summer, for adventure racing, and now I feel like it’s almost switched. With the kids, I’m not able to adventure race and travel like I used to.

I read that six months after you had your son Axel you were winning national championships.
Yeah, that was the 24 Hours of Moab mountain bike race. I was part of a two-person mountain bike team, and it was hard. I was pumping and nursing in between laps. Five months after having my daughter, Juniper, I went to Abu Dhabi for a six-day adventure race. Now that was seriously exhausting: Racing with a team of three other guys and having to pump milk, in a country where we weren’t even sure if the women were going to be allowed to race in shorts.

So your kids come along?
Not always. They often stay with my husband or my parents. They do come for the shorter, closer events, like the mountain bike national championships in Moab, and events in Colorado.

What are you excited to do at Outside in Aspen this weekend?
I’m excited to see Brad Ludden, who started the First Descents kayaking camp for kids with cancer when he was 19. That’s just an amazing cause. It’ll be nice to see him and catch up.

I’m alo excited to participate. It’s a great way to get out there and meet new people and show people what Aspen has to offer. I’ve always enjoyed making sure that women stay active, especially after they have children. Their lives just get busier and busier. I like to promote that and get out there with some other women.

You'll be leading the advanced mountain biking groups, but you could just as easily head up the skiing or hiking activities. How did you get into ski mountaineering?
I had a couple friends whom I’d raced with who started ski mountaineering. In the United States, the sport is just 20 years old. The racers are largely a group of mountain bikers, adventure racers, and runners that are looking for another sort of competition in the winter. I really do race with a lot of the same people year-round in all sports.

Do you do all of these things because you can’t decide on just one?
I really enjoy it. My husband keeps saying, you should really concentrate on something and make that your forte. But I think I would burn out if I only mountain biked in the summer, or only did trail running. It’s one of the reasons that I fell in love with adventure racing, because everything I did was training. And I continue to enjoy all of it.

Outside in Aspen, June 8-10, is a weekend filled with outfitter-led adventure, including mountain and road biking, kayaking, rafting, trail running, fly-fishing, hiking, stand-up river paddling, and rock climbing for all skill levels. The weekend also includes parties, a base camp featuring Outside's Gear of the Year, a symposium with professional adventure athletes and Outside personalities.

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The Only Handheld GPS You'll Ever Need

The Garmin GPSMAP 62s is a great GPS for an outdoorsman/woman. Selling for around $373, it’s a piece of gear that offers a balance of cost and features.

When I was nine years old, I got lost in the woods for a night. To make up for it, I ended up spending over a decade as an army cadet and reservist, picking up some solid old-school orienteering skills along the way. I never got lost again. Not everyone who camps, hikes or works in the wilderness is emotionally scarred into learning how to survive outdoors like I was. For most people, owning a handheld GPS device is the best way to get from point A to point B. Which one should you buy? Up until last week, I couldn’t have told you. I’ve never had much use for GPS. To educate myself on the topic, I started by talking to Tyler Barrass at the Mountain Equipment Co-Op in Victoria, British Columbia. I asked him a simple question: What should an average Joe look for when he’s shopping for a handheld GPS device?

“You want to have an external antenna,” Barrass explained. “With the old-style models with the antenna in the face, you pretty much had to hold it level. You’d never get a signal in the city where there’s a lot of tall buildings, in canyons or thick foliage—you’re not really going to get a signal at all. An external antenna fixes a lot of those problems. You don’t have to hold it perfectly flat and you get a much better signal in covered areas.” He also made it clear that I should look for a handheld that has both internal and external memory. This provides the option to install maps and data downloaded from your computer at home, as well as the ability to slap a micro SD card into your GPS device that contains additional data like area-specific topographical maps, charts or city navigational data.

Outdoor Gear Lab echoed much of what Barrass had to say, and went on to recommend that if you’re serious about finding your way anywhere, you’ll also want to pony up the dough for features like a digital compass, a push button interface (because touchscreen-based GPS devices are slower to load, use more power and are harder to see in direct sunlight), and ensure that it’s built to survive the environment you’ll be using it in.

The Garmin GPSmap 62s has everything Barrass and Outdoor Gear Lab mentioned and more. Weighing in at 9.2 ounces it’s got enough heft that it feels solid when you hold it, but it's still light enough that jamming it in your hip pocket between uses is no big deal. It can run off of two AA batteries for up to 20 hours before they need to be swapped out.

With 62s' backlit 2.6-inch color transreflective screen, you’ll have no problem figuring out where you are night or day, even in direct sunlight. Its rugged, waterproof case protects it from the elements as well as the occasional case of the dropsies.

It has a well-designed eight-button and directional pad interface, and any of the GPSmap 62s’ functions can be accessed with one hand. It's got an external antenna, which gives it a better chance to receive GPS data when you’re navigating under thick tree cover, heavy snowfall or walking along the bottom of a canyon than a handheld equipped with an internal antenna. With 1.7GB of internal memory and a microSD slot, you’ll be able to upload navigational data from your computer or slap a memory card pre-loaded with mapping information into the GPSmap 62s while you’re out and about. It even has a barometric altimeter baked into it to ensure more accurate elevation readings.

The GPSmap 62s’ on-board software puts the handheld’s hardware to excellent use. The device supports topographical maps, subscription-based satellite imagery and BlueChart g2 marine navigation. With the purchase of a Garmin City Navigator NT pack, the GPSmap 62s can be used for turn-by-turn navigation. Thanks to the company’s Custom Maps software, you can even scan paper maps and upload them to the handheld. The device’s internal memory is capable of storing 2,000 waypoints/locations, 200 different routes and a 10,000 point track log with up to 200 different tracks. In short, it’s got pointing you in the right direction covered.

Garmin’s also gone through the trouble to include a few extras to make getting where you’re going as enjoyable as possible: paperless geocaching, tide tables, a hunter/fishing calendar, outdoor GPS-based games and the ability to enter customized point of interest information are all standard features.

GPS Tracklog ate the Garmin GPSmap 62s up with a spoon, saying “The Garmin GPSMAP 62s brings a long-awaited update to the fabled and much-loved GPSMAP 60CSx, which has reigned supreme as the gold standard handheld GPS for more than four years.... The 62 series models are some of the best handheld units available today”. It’s a sentiment echoed by the New Zealand-based map merchants at MapToaster. Their review of the GPSmap 62s was close to two years old, so I contacted them via email to make sure they still felt the same way about the device. MapToaster’s John McCombs replied that “the 62s is still a good pick,” and that for heavy-duty outdoors use, it’s a great choice due to it’s durability, and how well it operates under dense canopy.

Even the picky survivalists at Apocalypse Guide felt that the 62s hit a sweet spot, saying “the cheaper Garmin GPS tracking units just don’t have enough of the necessary features and benefits, and you end up paying for unnecessary ‘bells and whistles’ with the more expensive units. We found that the Garmin GPSMAP 62S Handheld GPS Navigator is the “goldilocks” of the Garmin GPS devices—not too little, not too much ... just right!”

As much as I like the Garmin GPSmap 62s, there were a few things about it that annoyed me. For starters, you’ll have to remove its batteries anytime you want to swap out microSD cards. While the handheld’s buttons make navigating through the device’s menus and options a breeze, they’re a pain to use if you need to enter any text, like labelling a waypoint, for example. It’s worth mentioning that while you can see the screen in direct sunlight, the GPSmap 62s’ crummy 160×240 pixel resolution can make maps look a little jagged, and normally lush satellite imagery appear downright fugly. It’s also a little pricey, especially if you’re not planning on going for a hike any more than once or twice a year.

Most smartphones these days carry a GPS receiver as a standard feature. iPhone users can download GPS Kit for $10. If you own an Android handset, you can download BackCountry Navigator PRO GPS for $11. Either app will let you do some pretty basic navigating away from civilization, with pathfinding must-haves like route planning, waypoints and the in-app purchase of additional maps. I’d recommend against it though. Your smartphone isn’t designed to take a beating, and it’s likely not waterproof, although you can get a good case for it. What’s more, if you plan on taking a longer trip, you’ll have to bring along the means to recharge your battery. With the GPSmap’s 62s’ rugged build and 20 hours of use from a set of easily replaceable AA batteries, such quibbles are a non-issue.

Speaking of longer trips, the Magellan Explorist 710 might be a good choice for anyone planning an adventure away from home for an extended period of time. The Magellan Explorist 710 weighs about the same as the GPSmap 62s and matches it almost feature for feature—except for a couple of things: the Explorist 710 has 8GB of internal memory to the GPSmap 62s’ 1.7GB. That’s more than enough room for all of the maps and data you could ever need. Unfortunately, the Magellan only gets 16 hours of battery life—six hours less than the Garmin handset. It also lacks a barometric altimeter, and costs $420—a full $111 more than the GPSmap 62s.

Garmin makes other stuff too. Take the Oregon 550 for example. For $348, you get a waterproof handheld GPS device with a built in barometric altimeter just like the one in the GPSmap 62s. It’s got a larger, higher resolution display than the 62s has, which makes maps look great and easier to see when you’re using the handheld in the car as a turn-by-turn navigator. If you’re not thrilled with the GPSmap 62s’ button driven interface, you’ll likely love the Oregon 550’s touch screen but touch screens don't like wet hands, generally. Unfortunately, more screen real estate means more drain on the battery. The Oregon 550 only gets a maximum of 16 hours of battery life. If that’s not enough to dissuade you, the Oregon 550 also has an internal antenna, which means it’s reception won’t be as great the GPSmap 62s.

If your travels will will take you far out of cell-phone range, you might also want to consider the DeLorme Pn-60W. When paired with one of the company’s inReach Satellite Communicators, you’ll not only be able to find your way through the bush, you’ll also be able to send text messages via satellite from anywhere in the world, and provide your exact location and signal for emergency assistance should the need arise. Unfortunately, being able to do so doesn’t come cheap. First, you’ll have to pay $337 for the DeLorme Pn-60W. Then you’ll need to fork over an additional $250 for the inReach Satellite Communicator, as well as a communicator subscription package which will set you back between $10 and $50 per month (plus a one-time activation fee). When you consider that the Pn-60W feels kind of awkward in your hand, only gets 13 hours of use out of two AA batteries, makes changing batteries a chore, and has a screen that’s even smaller that the one on the GPSmap 62s, it’s not really all that attractive.... Unless you want to send a text message from the cusp of the Angolan highlands that is.

If you like the look and feel of the GPSmap 62s, you could also go up or down a model in the GPSmap 62 line, but I wouldn't. The Garmin GPSmap 62 is just as tough as the 62s, but costs roughly $73 less. That extra $73 buys you the GPSmap 62s’ built-in three-axis compass, which makes it easier to get an accurate reading of your geographical location. At the price end of the Garmin line up is the GPSmap 62stc. It’s got all of the same features as the GPSmap 62s, along with preloaded 100K topographical maps. They offer a lot more detail than the 62s’ basic maps do. It also packs a five-megapixel camera. That’s a great feature for geocachers looking to preserve a record of their stash locations or take a visual trophy of their finds. But at $480 it costs over $100 more than the GPSmap 62s. No one needs another device with another camera built into it, and especially not when it’ll cost you over $100 more for the privilege.

My advice is pick up the Garmin 62s and try it’s basic map functionality on for size. Why buy more than you really need?

Last Year’s Model: The Garmin GPSmap 62 series is the updated iteration of their GPSmap 60 line of handheld devices. For reasons known only to those selling it, the 62s’ older, less functional predecessor, the GPSMAP 60CSx, can be had for $590. Not worth it.

This review originally appeared on The Wirecutter.

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The Urban Conservationist

I am an unabashed city kid. I grew up in Washington, D.C., where urban parks—no matter how small—were my nature. That is why my column is called "Urban Conservationist." It sounds like an oxymoron: Urban centers are beyond conservation, right? Wrong. Urban conservationists are exactly what the world needs. Lots of urban conservationists. Billions of urban conservationists.

When I began working for The Nature Conservancy after graduate school, I had the opportunity to see some wondrous places through my work—the Amazon rainforest, the high peaks of the Andes, the grasslands of the Mongolian steppe, the reefs of the Caribbean and the majestic forests and prairies of the Rocky Mountain West.

But now I am living in New York City and I am, once again, a city kid. And as a conservationists, I couldn't be more thrilled.

I believe cities are civilization's greatest invention to address the conservation challenges of our time. Scientists project that global population will reach nine, perhaps 10 billion people this century. Two thirds to three quarters of the world's population will live in cities. That means that by 2100 there will be nearly as many people living in cities as there are people on Earth today.

Cities are where we are most innovative, most diverse, most egalitarian. In cities our children get better educations, and out communities live more sustainably. Cities have the most efficient energy and transportation systems, smaller carbon footprints, more expansive recycling programs, and the opportunity—nay the imperative—to provide clean air and clean water for billions of people.

And our cities have nature. New York City has more kinds of plants and animals than Yellowstone National Park. While Yellowstone may have bison, wolves, elk and grizzlies, New York City has humpback whales, sharks, seals, world-class migratory bird sites, species found nowhere else, and the fastest animal on earth—the peregrine falcon.

Urban conservation is about harnessing the potential of our greatest invention, the modern city, and using it to connect urban people to nature. That might mean wild nature, rural nature, or suburban nature, but it can and should also mean urban nature. There is nature right here in our backyards and our parks; even the green strips running down big avenues like Broadway contain natural value. By harnessing this potential we connect people to nature—and nature to people. In doing so, we will conserve the lands and water on which all life depends.

The Nature Conservancy has been around for more than 60 years, working in places like the Amazon, the Coral Triangle and the Adirondacks. We've intentionally steered clear of cities. That won't work for us anymore. It's time we became urban conservationists. It's time we all became urban conservationists.

This column was originally published in Origin magazine.

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