Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Booth or Table?

Who shot President Lincoln? Was it John Wilkes Booth or John Wilkes Table? The answer is obvious, as any smart fifth-grader will tell you: Booth. When you're a 405 lb fatty in a restaurant, and they ask you, "Booth or table?" the answer is equally obvious: Table - because you can't fit in a booth.

So, yesterday, I was having lunch at a cafe with my friend Traci, and we were faced with the dreaded booth. Now that I'm substantially slimmer (296 lbs this morning!), I not only fitted in the booth, but my stomach didn't even touch the table!! Win!

Less than 2 pounds off target
My "target" for the end of May was 294 lbs. I missed it, but only just (by less than 2 lbs). So, the journey continues. My target for the end of June is 286 lbs, so I have ten pounds to go, in thirty days. I can do it!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Finally below 300 lbs

It's taken a long time (almost 12 months) but I finally broken through the psychologically important 300 pound barrier today.
299.6 lbs (135.9 kg) today
Before I left for southern Oregon, last week, I had been 306.4 lbs. At my first post-hike weigh-in (yesterday) I was down to 301.6 lbs. This morning I tipped the scales at 299.6 lbs!

I know, I haven't published any details of that Oregon trip yet. They will follow soon. I'm just really excited to have achieved this one goal, and am also really excited about some of the new adventures that I'll be taking part in over the next few months and years. Details to follow.

Friday, May 20, 2016

D day - The adventure begins in ernest

Waiting for our ride to the beginning of our trail. After eight months of planning, and 28 hours on trains, we're about to take out first steps in the rain. The plan is to reach Crystal Springs by this evening.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

On our way to Oregon today

The day has finally arrived! I've been contemplating this day and this journey for eight months now, thinking about it, planning it, dreaming about it, and now it's here. Birdie and I will be leaving Helena in just over an hour, heading up Interstate-15 towards the Amtrak station in Shelby. Our backpacks are packed. Hers weighs about 25 lbs, mine weighed in at 38 lbs! When I think of my personal weight loss journey over the past 11 months, I've lost the equivalent of two and a half big backpacks!

This morning, on the bathroom scales, I was at 306.4 lbs. We'll see how much I lose in the next 11 days (the next time I'll weigh myself). These last few weeks have been up and down much more than normal. My diet has had a lot more carbohydrates in it than normally (well, the 'new normal', anyway). I've also been struggling in a psychological battle with food. I'm determined that I'm going to WIN that particular battle, so there will be renewed action on that front when I return to Helena at the end of May.

I'm sad that we won't be hiking the 'real' Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) because of all the snow on it, but we've managed to come up with an alternative that is almost as long (still 72 miles), and that takes us past a nature reserve and bird sanctuary, so there should still be some sights to see on the way, and good photos to take and share afterwards. I also won't get to see Crater Lake up close - this year - but my plan is to come back in two years time (2018) and do it all again. Except, then, I'll come back in March - when there's a lot more snow, and I'll be properly equipped and trained to deal with it. How about that for making lemonade out of lemons!?

Once I get back home (Sat, May 28th) I'll upload all of my photos to an online album, but some pictures may get posted from my cell phone before then. https://goo.gl/photos/JvhZBZosKDhSAApT6 is the address of the album. There's a tentative schedule of where we'll be at http://www.ergoob.org/pct2016/schedule, and a near-real-time map of our whereabouts at http://www.ergoob.org/pct2016/where (also reachable via https://share.delorme.com/janesdaddy). The password is the name of the state that we are hiking in (with a capital 'O' at the beginning). 

I would like to thank all my friends and others who have supported me in the past eight months, either with the physical preparation, or with words of encouragement. Thank you. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Weather looking wet and cool for the big hike (PCT d - 2)

It's Oregon! I should have expected it, right? And I'm British, so I should be used to it, right?

Here is the weather forecast for Fort Klamath for the next few days.

Fort Klamath weather, wet and cool
Friday (May 20th, our first day of actual hiking) will bring a quarter inch of rain. Daytime temperatures for the week will be around 60 °F, with nighttime temperatures at or just below 40 °F. It'll be warmer at the end of the week, but still raining occasionally.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Need a forklift truck (not really) (PCT d - 6)

I think we're almost ready to go. Our Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) adventure has become the "almost-PCT" or "nearly-PCT", thanks to the 4-foot deep snow on the only part of the PCT in Oregon to have snow - the precise bit that we'd planned to hike on. I've been monitoring the monitoring stations along the way, and the snow is melting; just not quickly enough. The level is going down at the rate of about 2" a day (16 inches a week), but it's still at 52" (over 4 feet) today (see http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/nwcc/plot?time_zone=PST&intervalType=+View+Current+&sitenum=1000&report=SNOW&timeseries=Daily&interval=MONTH&format=plot&autoscale=true&legendpos=below for an example). As such, some of the steep hills would be simply too dangerous for inexperienced (but enthusiastic!) hikers such as Birdie and me. We don't have crampons and ice axes, or any of the other gear necessary for our safety on a steep, hilly climb through that much snow (good safety video at http://sectionhiker.com/winter-skills-how-to-use-an-ice-axe-for-self-rescue/), so we devised an alternate plan for our seven days of hiking.

This is only breakfasts and some snacks
Having acquired all the other equipment and consumables in prior weeks, the last piece was to buy our breakfast food and snacks. Yesterday was my pay day, so I was able to buy a load of tasty oatmeal bars (a brand I would highly recommend, if the company will send me a free box of them  ;-) some nut bars (some with dark chocolate), some fruit leathers, some beef jerky and some salami. Some of the stuff may get repackaged so as not to take up so much space, but it's really the weight that's going to be the big issue. When I've been going out on my practise hikes recently, my pack has weighed up to 35 pounds, and that was with no more than a few days worths of food. Including the train journey down to Klamath Falls, we'll be taking nine days worth of food with us. Full details of our schedule, our list of gear, the original (now revised) schedule, and our near-real-time location can be found on the main ERGOOB website at http://www.ergoob.org/pct2016/.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Alternate route for PCT2016 hike

Alternative route because of snow
With the news on Friday that snow on the PCT is still three to four feet deep, Birdie and I had to change our plans slightly. Instead of the 100 mile hike that we had originally planned, it's now going to be closer to 66 miles long, with each day being only 10-12 miles in distance, instead of averaging 15 miles per day. Still, it'll be a good workout nonetheless!

The course on the map marked with a red line to the left is the old, original route. The purple line further right, with green triangles, is the new route, which is shifted east a little bit. It's still in view of the mountains to the west, and some bird sanctuaries and stuff on the other side. It goes along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway (http://www.volcaniclegacybyway.org), northwest out of Klamath Falls. Parts of our new route are on Forest Service land or County roads, so they'll be nicely maintained and a lot more level than the PCT.

Also, one of the nights should be at the Jackson F Kimball State Recreation Site, which has 10 primitive campsites and also a vault toilet, so we won't have to poop in the woods that night.

There's a possibility, if the snow isn't too deep, that we can get back onto the original trail at the end of Day 3, and still see the actual Crater Lake. If not, I'll have to come back some other time (later in the year!)

Ups and downs and a new PB (PCT d - 9)

For those readers who didn't already know, I weighed 405 lbs eleven months ago, in mid-June 2015. This morning I tipped the scales at ...
303 lbs (137.4 kg)
303 lbs - 102 pounds less than when I started this adventure (... this lifestyle change, if you like).

Steady progress

It was admittedly much easier at the beginning, when I was losing between 12 and 14 pounds a month. Then, my average fell to between nine and ten pounds. I've had a couple of months with some small wobbles, but the trends is still downwards.

The small downer from the weekend was that I had to spend the entire time researching and plotting a new course for our Oregon trip next week. With the discovery that the snow on the real Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is still several feet high on the very section that I was going to be on, our new course runs almost parallel to it, but at a lower elevation, just to the east of the PCT, on flatter ground. The new course is also slightly shorter - only 66 miles instead of 100 miles. But still, it'll be an average of 10-12 miles a day. More details about that in a future blog post.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Fridges and freezers (PCT d - 12)

I had totally planned to write about my refrigerator, this lunchtime, but then got distracted by the map showing snow depth on the PCT. Yikes!

The point of the fridge photo was that there's not much in it, which reduces the scope and possibility for overeating. There's milk and half-and-half for my tea and coffee, with a pitcher of filtered water for drinking. A can of Spam, some mixed greens (kale, spinach and chard), some bean sprouts, grated carrot, a bit of red onion (all for salads), a cucumber, some lettuce, a small boneless beef steak, some butter and some eggs. That's it!

3-4 feet of snow on our section of the PCT - plans have changed now
The snow depth map comes from http://www.postholer.com/gmap/gmap.php?trail_id=1&depth=1, which shows several feet of snow on the trail itself, although surrounding highways are clear: https://www.tripcheck.com/Pages/RCMap.asp

If push came to shove, and we couldn't walk on the PCT at all, the distance from Klamath Falls to Chemult on US-97 is about 72 miles, but the scenery is not nearly as exciting!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Win! And you still have both hands. 306 lbs (PCT d - 13)

I was so starving hungry last night, dear reader, that if you had been in my apartment, I might have eaten your hand off or even your whole arm. Fortunately, my cupboards were essentially bare, and my refrigerator was pretty empty too. The result (of not stuffing my face, needlessly):
306.4 lbs (139 kg)
That's the lowest I've been in, I don't know, four or five years. After missing my target for April, it suddenly makes the psychological 300 pound barrier by May 11th seem attainable.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Our chance to show how badly we want something (PCT d - 15)

Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, who learned that he had pancreatic cancer and was given a terminal diagnosis: "3 to 6 months of good health left". He gave an upbeat lecture titled "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" in September 2007 which became a popular YouTube video. In it, he had many good pieces of advice, including this:

"The brick walls aren't there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."
People are asking me, more and more, if I'm ready for my 100-mile long Oregon trip. The answer is, Yes. I feel like I've done all of the things I could possibly do to get myself ready in terms of acquiring the correct gear, preparing myself physically and mentally for the challenge ahead. Now, we just have to get there (in 15 days time), and start taking those first steps.

The excitement of it all is linked to the prospect of unknown problems, and having the ingenuity to solve them. Also, it'll be 11 days of minimal exposure to electronics and the Internet; seven days of sunshine and fresh air (although, it is Oregon, so it might rain!?)

Slow and steady wins the race
Despite the little blip in the downward path of my weight loss, I'm just as determined as ever to have a successful month of May, and get back on track. I'm going to find a way around the wall, or over it, or under it, or through it - whatever it takes.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Never give up (PCT d - 16)

After ten months of losing about 10 pounds of weight, month on month, I've finally had a month when I only recorded a tiny loss - about 1 pound.

Blantently stolen from a friend's Facebook page
I attribute this to a change in diet during the preparation for my Oregon trip. Whereas I had been cutting back heavily on carbohydrates, a lot of hiking and trail food, which I've been consuming more of lately, is very calorie rich and high in carbs.

Alert readers of this blog will have noticed that I didn't post my end-of-April target and actual weight yet. I was worried that I might not even have lost anything at all compared to the end of March, when I tipped the scales at 315 lbs. Having gone up and down a lot during the past month, I was still at 316 lbs on April 29th. Thankfully, the last day of the month was a Saturday, so I was able to stay in bed an extra three hours. For some reason, an extra couple of hours in bed in the morning equals a pound less on the scales. If only it were that easy all the time! Anyway, when I got up (after the English Championship football - the last match of the season for my shitty team [Reading FC]  next Saturday, thank goodness!) I was under 313 lbs. Whew!

Just for the record, my target had been 303 lbs for the end of April, breaking through the 300 mark on May 11th, then a target of 294 lbs by the end of May. With almost twenty pounds to lose in four weeks, it seems unlikely but stranger things have happened!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Slow going up Refrigerator Canyon (PCT d - 17)

My friend Marie and I decided to go up Refrigerator Canyon (http://www.visitmt.com/listings/general/national-forest-trail/refrigerator-canyon-trail.html), part of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area. The first quarter-mile is interesting, as it enters a narrow canyon (10 feet wide) with 200-foot high limestone walls and a small, shallow stream running through the middle of it.
Fallen trees everywhere

Just like my experience at Bear Trap Canyon, three weeks earlier, the trail was full of fallen debris, only this time is was mostly fallen trees not large rocks. There must have been a dozen or more places in the first couple of miles where very large trees had fallen across the path, necessitating either climbing over the large obstacle or walking around it. It was not always easy.

Me, with a 32 lb backpack
It felt like we were constantly walking uphill, which 98% of the time was accurate. It wasn't super steep in any one place, but it was uphill all the way. In broad figures, the trailhead was at about 4,647 feet elevation, and the point at which was stopped was at about 5,270 feet. A quick bit of math here: a 623 foot gain over 10,560 feet is equal to a 5.9% grade (that's quite a bit). We had to stop after a couple of miles because of a large fallen tree blocking the way and because of the light rain, which was making the trail a bit muddy and slippery. We decided, afterwards, that it had been the right thing to do to turn around. We still gotten a really good workout. Our heart rates had gone up to aerobic levels, and our legs had definitely felt the three and a half hours of activity.

Female Rocky Mountain wood tick
After I got home, I discovered yet more fellow travellers, as I spotted a couple of small female Rocky Mountain wood ticks (I think that's what they were).

So, we walked 4 miles altogether in 3.5 hours - not especially fast. Would I do it again - sure! Later in the season, when the fallen trees have been cleared, and when it's not so muddy. I'd make sure to set off very early in the morning, to give myself the maximum chance to hike the entire 9.5 miles that I had plotted out, including making time for a picnic/lunch at Bear Prairie (near the end), before returning the same way to the beginning again.

There are signs warning of the presence of bears, and I did have my bear deterrent spray with me, but we didn't see any large animals. I did have an opportunity to discharge the spray for a fraction of a second, just to make sure it actually works. In fact, since I was practicing for my Oregon hike, I took an almost full backpack with me yesterday to emulate conditions there. It weighed 32 lbs.

There are more photos at https://goo.gl/photos/wbNRTE9Kgushd9SeA.

GPS tracking points recorded every minute