The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Apr 2010

Pushing the Human Body to New Extremes

Marathons, triathlons, and speed ascents. I hear about these events and one thought pops into my head: There's no way I could do that ("crazy" is a close second).

Radiolab, a science show on WNYC in New York, recently took a look at just how far the body can go. Their new episode, "Limits" (embedded below) explores the chemistry behind feats of endurance. They begin with a story of physical collapse during Ironman Kona (video above), but the majority of the program focuses on the Race Across America. Their guide to the RAAM? Outside contributing editor Daniel Coyle.

-- Jonah Ogles

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The Best Creeking Paddle: Werner Powerhouse

Dave_Illgen Give me a well-crafted paddle, and I’ll take a grocery cart down a Class V. Give me a clunky, over-weighted paddle, and you couldn't pay me to roll in a kiddie pool. A poor paddle equals poor paddling. It's that simple.
As a general rule, a good creeking paddle should be as tough as a bull's horn, lighter than a Mexican pilsner, and far less expensive than your boat. Your best bet: the Werner Powerhouse ($240, 34 oz).

Five years ago I bought a Werner SideKick. I can't break it. I always bring it to the river as a backup. I've seen almost a dozen carbon-fiber paddles snap like toothpicks, but I have never seen a paddle made with Werner's continuous-weave fiberglass break. I could probably dismantle an armored Humvee with the thing and still go creeking. That's good piece of mind in the eddy.

After a season paddling with the Powerhouse, I now feel the same way about it as I do the SideKick. Actually, I like it more. The big difference is the blades. They're huge. The catch is clean, powerful, and smooth throughout the entire stroke, and you can feel it. It's perfect for the must-make boof or combat roll in aerated water. Granted, you have to be a reasonably strong paddler to utilize the full-sized blades effectively. But let's face it: If you can't comfortably paddle with full-sized blades, you might want to reconsider hucking 30-foot waterfalls.

The Powerhouse comes in both a straight shaft ($240) and neutral bent shaft ($315) model. There is also a carbon-fiber version. I personally prefer paddling with a straight shaft, mostly because that's what I learned on. It's also the most cost-effective and lightest version available.

Another suggestion: Make sure you take advantage of Werner's sizing charts to ensure you get a paddle that fits you. A paddle that doesn't fit is like a helmet that doesn't fit. It's stupid, awkward, and dangerous.

--Dave Costello

Photo by Michael Sterner

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Running Tunisia

Ray Zahab is back on the adventure scene. After completing his record run across Lake Baikal with Kevin Vallely to draw attention to the global clean-drinking-water crisis, Zahab will return to Tunisia. The first time around, he starred in the documentary Running the Sahara, narrated and executive-produced by Matt Damon. This time, he will lead a group of four young adults--Andy Dilla, Jill Gilday, Connor Clerke, and Kajsa Heyes--across the desert as part of an i2P expedition to help raise funds and awareness for the water crisis in Africa. The group will traverse 200 to 250 kilometers, and they aim to make it through in about eight days, with the goal of running 25 to 50 kilometers per day. 

Check out the video above to see how the team prepped for Tunisia and what gear they'll bring. And watch the video below to learn more about the team.

--Aileen Torres

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Marathon Prep Revs Up in Boston

For one day in the middle of April, Bostonians can do what they love to do best: look down their noses at everyone. No matter that the western half of the country has bigger waves, bigger mountains, and bigger open spaces. For one day, a 228-foot, gently sloping uphill in Newton becomes as infamous as the soaring peaks of the Rockies. On Marathon Monday, Boston is king.

Patriots' Day, this year celebrated Monday, April 19th, is a chance for Boston to stand up and shout "We were first!" And unlike the Fourth of July, our other big holiday, no one else celebrates Patriots' Day, so no one can steal our thunder. Classic rock stations play "I love that Dirty Water" by the Standells once every three hours as 25,000 registered athletes pour into our proud city. The Boston Athletic Association's Boston Marathon is as much ingrained in our identity as clam chowdah, the Green Monstah, and pahking our cah in Hahvahd Yahd. Just like Fenway, we'll never have a corporate name for this celebrated competition. ING Marathon? Please.

This Monday marks the 114th Boston Marathon, the country's oldest and arguably most prestigious marathon. It's been run in driving rain (1970, 2007), snow (at least five times), extreme heat (at least ten times) and a partial eclipse of the sun (1939). But this year, a new natural phenomenon is affecting many runners from Europe: the volcanic eruption in Iceland that grounded planes has stranded at least two dozen runners, and one elite runner, Abdellah Falil, of Morocco, according to the AP

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Obama Launches Drive to Get More People Outside

President Obama began a drive today to both conserve more of America's wild lands, and get Americans to get outside and enjoy it more. It's called the Great Outdoors Initiative.

Here is a full transcript of the President's remarks from the conference where he signed a memo creating the initiative. The details on what exactly the initiative will entail are emerging, but will entail a lot of dialogue over the next few months with people who have good ideas for how to manage and protect our wild spaces.

Basically, this is what it will look like, in the President's own words:

1) "First, we’re going to build on successful conservation efforts being spearheaded outside of Washington -– by local and state governments, by tribes, and by private groups -– so we can write a new chapter in the protection of rivers, wildlife habitats, historic sites, and the great landscapes of our country."

2) "Secondly, we’re going to help farmers, ranchers, property owners who want to protect their lands for their children and their grandchildren."

3) "Third, we’ll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the “Let’s Move” initiative to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often."

4) "And fourth, we want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across America have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago."

Here are some other key comments from the President at the conference:

"In the months ahead, members of this administration will host regional listening sessions across America.  We’ll meet with everybody -- from tribal leaders to farmers, from young people to businesspeople, from elected officials to recreation and conservation groups.  And their ideas will help us form a 21st century strategy for America’s great outdoors to better protect our natural landscape and our history for generations to come."

"Understand, we’re not talking about a big federal agenda being driven out of Washington.  We’re talking about how we can collect best ideas on conservation; how we can pursue good ideas that local communities embrace; and how we can be more responsible stewards of tax dollars to promote conservation."

"...I do, for the same reasons that all of you do; for the same reason families go outside for a picnic or campers spend a night in a national park, and sportsmen track game through the woods or wade deep into a river.  It’s a recognition passed down from one generation to the next, that few pursuits are more satisfying to the spirit than discovering the greatness of America’s outdoors."

"And when we see America’s land, we understand what an incredible bounty that we have been given.  And it’s our obligation to make sure that the next generation enjoys that same bounty."

"So, yes, we are working faithfully to carry on the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt in the 21st century.  But we also know that we must adapt our strategies to meet the new challenges of our time.  Over the last century, our population grew from about 90 million to 300 million people, and as it did, we lost more and more of our natural landscape to development.  Meanwhile, a host of other factors –- from a changing climate to new sources of pollution -– have put a growing strain on our wildlife and our waters and our lands."


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