Sunday, June 9, 2013

REI Garage Sale Assessment

I had never been to one of these storied sales, I happened to be off and in possession of a $100 gift card, so I brewed up some coffee and pointed the Cherokee towards Greenville.

Greenville is not a large or very busy store, so there wasn't a huge amount of stuff for this one.  I had heard that these sales could get out of hand, so I felt some apprehension melt a little when an employee came around handing out little handbills with some rules of the trail.

I got there about 7am the morning of and there was around 70 people in front of me in line.
I had done some research and many suggested knowing what you want when you go in so you can look for that first.  I wanted a bike trainer and some clip on aerobars.  I don't know if there were any aerobars, but there was one trainer and it got snapped up pretty quickly.

Here's what I ended up with.

 I got a Long Big Agnes Aircore pad whose advertised problem was "water stains on bottom, Holds Air!"  Next I found a pair of really functional Prana pants.  They're called the Stretch Zion Pant and had "stitching coming apart" on their tag.  I was looking for that last little something to make the trip worthwhile.  I was standing at a table sorting through a bunch of non-working electronics when someone sat down a little sack in front of me.  I guess they didn't feel like waiting through the growing checkout line for this one little item.  It was a Sea to Summit silk sleeping bag liner.  The tag notes "seam popped around head."

The Return Tags
The break down:

Item           New Price    Paid Price    Savings
Silk Bag     69.95           19.83          50.12
Sleep Pad   49.93           29.83          20.10
Pants          75.00           39.83          35.17

So, if these prices are correct, the I saved $105.39 or 54% off.   A good deal, to be sure, but not mind blowing.  If I would bought some socks or shoes, the savings percentage would have been a great deal higher, but that's not why I was there.  I hate wearing socks and I have plenty of shoes.

All in all I'm satisfied.  The defects were well documented and were not things that would bother me in a product.  Take, for instance, the pants with the stitching coming apart.
These pants are really cool.  They have a couple of vent holes in the crotch area, a built in belt that doesn't go all the way across the front, and, as you can see in the picture, buttons so you can secure the pants leg for your bike commute to work or whatever.
Or, the sleeping pad.  I call it that because it sounds a lot better than the mattress with the stains on it. Ewww!  The stains or near the bottom of the photo.

The popped seam towards the top of the bag.  If this bothered me I could sew it up.  It doesn't bother me.  I am so hot-natured that I am always on the hunt for something super cool to sleep in.  Bag liners do great for me instead of sleeping bags when it's warm out, but you still want to cover up.

Well that's it. Peace, homies!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

If All My Friends Jumped Off of a Bridge

So, there!  I did it.  I signed up for my first triathlon.  Yeah, I know.  One of those. 

An integral part of Triathlon training
Many men in middle age buy a sports car or take some other pleasurable extreme.  I did most of my pleasure seeking in my twenties, so now I'm signing up for suffer fests.  In a couple of weeks I'll be running Rock Creek's Chattanooga Stage Race, a 3 day stage race covering 60 miles, and in September I'll be doing the Rev 3 Cedar Point Triathlon

140.6 miles of super extra flat land in Ohio.  The largest elevation gain I'm likely to encounter is if there are waves kicking up in Lake Erie that day. 

Doing something this long requires a solid "Why?"

The Start:  "Why am I doing this?"
4 hours in :  "Why am I STILL doing this?"
5 hours in:  "Why am I STILL doing this?"
6 hours in :  "Why am I STILL doing this?"
et cetera...

First, let me tell you why I've never done one before.

Rollin' it out, trail runner style.

I know that I am a trail runner.  How do I know?  One way is that I instinctively make fun of triathletes.  I mean, those clothes, their fuel belts, their Oakleys?  Another giveaway that I am an animal of the trail is that I enjoy a race as a mostly social gathering.  I'm not really dawdling, but I would not call what I'm doing "racing."

Triathlon training, on the other hand, is all about shaving minutes, seconds, and legs.(and arms?)  Now, get this, I'm reading beginner training books and, to be fair, they usually have a sentence about how your goal for your first triathlon should just be to finish.  Then, they spend a couple hundred pages talking about gear that will save you ounces or a minute of time and techniques so that when you're racing, you can climb higher up into your age group. 

I mean, some people are training balls out so they can place a little bit higher in their age group.  No prize, no recognition, and some are sacrificing their adrenal glands, sleep, social life, and family.  Don't get me wrong. Many know how to balance and have a healthy perspective, but normal people usually just blend into normalcy such that I don't notice them.

There's nothing wrong with trying to get a better time or being a better racer or moving one place in your age group in a race versus last year, but I can't justify some of the seemingly unnecessary intensity that some think it requires. 

I could continue and go further down the hater rant hole, but let's refocus and look at why I DID decide to sign up and do my first triathlon.  The reason: Meg Wempe. 

Meg is a triathlete. She's also an Ironman.  Meg also likes the trails.  Though we've known each other since high school, it was only about 3 years ago that we started running together on the trails of upstate South Carolina.  We've even done a few trail races together.  One day in a bout of smack talking, Meg says "You may be able to beat me in a running race, J Scott, but you couldn't beat me in a triathlon!" 

There it is.  It was that easy.  All someone had to do to get me to train for 3 months and then drag my body across 140.6 miles of Sandusky, Ohio was talk the tiniest bit of trash. 

That sort of motivation only lasts a little while, so I had to search for a more meaningful, long-lasting "why."

Enter the non-profit Team Red, White, and Blue. 
They help returning vets by organizing social and athletic events to reintegrate them back into the society that they belong.  Many of our modern vets return with physical, mental, and moral injuries and find themselves severely disjointed from their community, friends, and even family.  PTSD, survivor's remorse, and a host of other obstacles often drive folks to drug and alcohol abuse, seclusion, and suicide. 

Meg and I are a couple of these
Team RWB gives folks a social and physical outlet to reconnect, belong, and function actively. 

I believe in what they do and how they do it, so that is
my "why." 
Meg and I have a team called "Team Outsiders."  We love to be and recreate outside.  Also, when we were in high school, Meg and I were voted "Most Unique"  for our senior class superlatives, so the name is very appropriate. 

Team Outsiders has a donation page to raise money for Team RWB, please take time and give as little or as much as you want to help our returning vets that are having to overcome so much.

When I am training and I hit a tough spot, I think of many of the testimonies of the soldiers who have returned and are in so much physical and emotional pain. I also think about how there are so many in their position who would trade me, pain for pain, to be in the position that I am.  Team RWB gives them the chance to exchange some of their war-related hollow pain for athletic related enjoyable pain.