1K Photo Challenge – Adventures In Caving

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Cave People of Spring Valley Cave

This month I had the pleasure of joining the Minnesota Caving Club for my first caving experience. I’ve been interested in going caving since watching the film The Descent, right before all the cave-ins and death. It not only looked like a fun, new challenge, but would also be a different kind of hiking adventure.

Being a complete newbie to Caving, I was not sure what I’d need. I shot an e-mail to the club president who told me all I need to do is to dress in clothes I don’t mind getting dirty. Just to be safe, my girlfriend and I went on a trip to gather some helmets, gloves, headlights, and boots for our caving endeavor.

The club met pretty far south in Minnesota early in the morning. Since we were a good distance away from their meeting location we got up before dusk. Not being familiar with the southern part of Minnesota, we got a bit lost once or twice in the vast farmland that stretched for miles. We met up with John “The Cave-man”, president of the club. John guided us down a 2-hour trip towards Rochester where we traveled to a privately owned cave.We learned that we were traveling to several caves that day, all of which were owned by John. I2cPe6CThe club itself consisted of a number of outgoing experienced cavers all very friendly to talk to. We also found that most of the equipment we did buy was completely useless for the cave, but the club had more than enough gear to spare. We spent little time above ground before going on our under ground tour down the cave.

Now, when I thought of caving, I had a different sort of idea of what I’ll be getting into. My only experience in caving was being guided through a Tourist Attraction of a cold environment that was extremely well lit. This caving experience was a whole another level than that tourist attraction. Shortly after getting into the cave we found ourselves in a cool damp area that was a complete blackout only lit by out head lights. The pathway was not the familiar flat terrain, but a rocky area where each step had to be taken with precision and caution.
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During our tour, our guides, Anna and Trish, talked to us about certain caving techniques and information about how the cave’s structure formed.We got to some of the more unique area of the cave shortly into the tour. I was grateful to have skipped out on the fatty foods all this time, because we ended up spending a good chunk of time crawling on our stomachs through thin crevices to reach hidden rooms. Some of these crevices definitely had to involve some shimming, flexibility, and a good chunk of upper body strength. Especially when some of the holes we  crawled through lifted our legs completely off the ground.

 

 

Since it was Spring a few of the cave pathways were not taken because of flooding. However, this only opened up the opportunity to explore other structures that required a TGuLvtgdifferent kind of traversing to get through. The second half of our caving adventure was on the higher ground. This was definitely the time to learn if you’re afraid of heights since much of the exploration involved shoving ourselves in between cave walls 20 feet above the ground and carefully stepping our feet to find the ladder mounted between the rocks.

The entire adventure did not feel extremely physical, but the four of us, all young and fit, were sweaty and out of breath by the time we finished. After we settled for lunch we took above ground to explore the creek and smaller caves around the area. Unfortunately for us, my girlfriend and I had to cut it short due to a family emergency. Although, both of us agree that the entire experience was definitely a memorable one, making it my top pick for the 1K Photo Challenge day of the month.

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1K Photo Challenge – Starting A Journal

A few weeks ago, Ransom Patterson, writer on College Info Geek, wrote an article about the importance of keeping a journal. Ransom found that since he started a journal he was able to develop a log that allows him to reflect on his life and see how he has developed over time.

Now when Ransom was talking about keeping a journal he mention how it’s more ideal to keep a daily journal rather than documenting one whenever you feel like it. This not only builds strong journaling habits, but also is a great way to express your thoughts and feelings on that day.

As some of you are aware, my Challenge List is a journal documenting milestones achieved in my life. When I first read about keeping a daily journal I figured doing it online only made sense for me. Although, when I look through all of my previous blog entries I found that a lot of them are formatted in a way that takes a while to write up. I felt that creating a daily journal here will not only require me to write a lot each day, but it will also take away from the entries that are there to reflect on each goal achieved on my list.

So, with that being said, I decided to create an online photo journal. A photo journal not only allows me to document each day visually, but also gives me the ability to write very brief descriptions about my thoughts and feelings that day. This photo journal will document one photo that involved a progression/event that has significance towards my goals.Every 30 days I will be taking the best/memorable/eventful photo and writing a reflection of that day. The reason why I call it a “1k Photo Challenge” is because I felt I needed an overall goal to motivate me for updating my daily journal. Since I like challenges, I thought I’ll make one that requires me to journal once day, for 1,000 days.

I’ve started this project about a month ago and already it has been a positive way for me to look back and see how much I’ve grown in just a mere 30 days. I recommend everyone to start a journal of their own and start writing in it every day. It has been a very encouraging way to go out and find adventure in life. If you have created a daily journal give a comment below on where it can be found and how it has been an influence for you.

Zombies Run! Spring 2016 Virtural Race

This week I had the pleasure of running Six to Start’s 2nd Zombies Run! Virtual Race. As a new found lover of races, I thought this race would be the perfect chance to challenge myself and run my first race competitively. It also seemed excitingly to participate in a race that immerses you into a Post-Apocalyptic story throughout the run.For those of who may not be familiar with this app, I would highly recommend trying it out. I’ve done a review of the application which can be found here.

The best thing about doing a virtual race was that it meant I had more flexibility on when I can race.The Spring 2016 virtual race could be run any time between March 30th – April 11th. This time range helped lessen the work of revising my running schedule to work 20160401_170438around a specific date. Another positive side to this was that, since I could plan my own route, I was able to pick a running path that was as little uphill as possible. When March 30th rolled around I got a pack containing a shirt and an envelope saying “Open After Completing Mission”. The T-shirt was one of the most comfortable, breathable articles of clothing I’ve ever had for running gear. I was so excited to wear it I chose to push my Run’s date to occur several days earlier.

Race Day arrived so it was time to gear up and race. While this may not be my first race I’ve done, this was going to be my first competitive race. Being an avid long distance runner, I felt the best way to challenge myself was to attempt the 10k as fast as possible. So, I followed my race day with as much consideration as I did with my marathon. I made sure I was well-hydrated, filled with carbs, and wearing the right amount of clothing so I can go at an optimal pace. I clicked start on my mission and off I went.

Not repeating the same mistake as my marathon run, I made sure that my first half of the race was maintaining a constant pace throughout. During my run I was deep focused on breathing, “Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth”. Since I was not running a full 26.2 miler, I made a few changes to how I approached this run. When running downhill I did not slow myself down to maintain my pace, but kept my stride so my pace was slightly faster. When going uphill I pushed myself to go slightly faster so I did not lose pace during my run.

This worked out for me during the majority of my run, but by mile 5 I was starting to fe20160401_170758el the effects of my energy expenditure. However, what kept me going at my pace was the Zombies Run! Application reminding me just how much distance I had left. By the time I hit the 6 mile marker I thought, “Just .2 miles left to go, time to pick up the pace”. At this point I booked it into full sprint mode to reach the end of my run. I heard the wonderful words, “Race Over, you can stop running”, before I slowed down to a cool-down jog. The 90-second sound post-race sound clip playing at the end of the run was exactly what I needed to catch my breath without my blood pressure going out of control. When the words “Mission Completed” were announced I stopped running altogether and stretched out.

Normally after a run I stay away from drinks that contain calories, but today I felt like this 6-miler was different. I gave the run my all and managed to even achieve a PR (39:42] by the end of it. I had a Gatorade saved for the race which was drunk with pride. Six to Start put on one entertaining Virtual Race completed with some pretty sweet rewards. I am taking what I learned from this race to plan out my races in the future. To all my fellow racers out there, I hope you had fun and gave it your all.

Goal 45 Accomplished: Take a Yoga Class

If you had been following my blog back in November you may have noticed that I participated in this 16-month challenge called “Buff Buddies”. This challenge ended up being the push I needed to get back into serious training by working out every single day. Out of the seven days of working out I had dedicated one of these days to be a “rest day” to stretch out and do light exercises for muscle recovery.

One of the most influential workouts I took up since putting in rest days has been Yoga. I’ll be the first to admit that, while I have done Yoga following Youtube videos, I am still a total newbie at the practice. I felt that the only way to truly understand the power of Yoga would to at least be to consult an expert in the field. Since Buff Buddies was coincidentally occurring before 2016, I thought what better way to get into the sport than to put it in as a Challenge item.

When I went into the Spirit of the Lake Yoga I thought it was like stepping into a different world. The office was filled with a lots of herbal tea bags, natural oils, and prayer beads. I was greeted by a very eccentric, tan-skinned, instructor who had very little body fat.I signed up for the drop-in Beginner’s class then took my place on a mat in a room filled with two very fit twenty year-old dudes and about five middle-aged women. The atmosphere definitely felt slow and calming, a complete opposite from my usual environment training at the Parkour academy where you’ll find muscle-bound guys doing flips to the sound of Dubstep.

When I initially thought Yoga I thought of it as just doing a lot of stretching. To my surprise, there was a lot of meditative techniques that mixed into the class. We started the class by reviewing the seven chakras in yoga. We were going over the Fire Chakra, which basically came down to a lot of heavy breathing and a lot of positions meant to raise our body’s temperature. I found that a lot of the different sort of poses we had to hold wasn’t so difficult to do, but when it came to maintaining a rapid breath while being in a one legged plank, it ended being quite the feat.

After one hour of being put in different positions and doing rapid breathing we ended our session lying on the floor working on slow breathing techniques. Now that I was able to gather my thoughts I came to the realization that my body was stretched, hot, and dehydrated. I didn’t feel like Yoga was as excessive as the workouts I usually do, but my entire mind felt exhausted while my body felt awake. My sore muscles also felt a lot more relaxed by the end of class..

I felt very renewed afterwards. During the entire workout I was able to release my mind and decompress. The workout ended up being a calming experience that benefited me more mentally than it did physically. I personally am not a spiritual kind of guy, but I did feel like doing Yoga allowed me to be more grounded to the earth.

Spirit of the Lake Yoga felt like an extremely welcoming place that gave me a pleasurable experience different than what I’m use to in my workouts. If you are ever in the Minnetonka-Excelsior area I would highly recommend signing up for one of their classes. I am looking forward to coming back for one of their later workshops, Yoga for the Runner.

2016 Challenge List:
45 Take a Yoga Class

50 Points in 50 States(Highpointers)

A little while ago I posted an entry explaining this idea called “The Impossible List” where I define the differences between an impossible list and a bucket list. I also provided my own Impossible List as an example. In my Impossible list I have an item where I would climb the highest point in each state.  Since I cannot post all 50 states in the Impossible List without making the post super large, I decided it’ll be more ideal to make one post that will link each state I climbed to its own individual post.

HighPoint List || Progress: 3/50

State Highpoint Elevation(ft.) Completed
Alabama Cheaha Mountain 2,407
Alaska Mount McKinley 20,320
Arizona Humphreys Peak 12,633
Arkansas Mt. Magazine 2,753
California Mount Whitney 14,494
Colorado Mount Elbert 14,433
Connecticut Mt. Frissell 2,380
Delaware Ebright Azimuth 448
Florida Britton Hill 345
Georgia Brasstown Bald 4,784
Hawaii Mauna Kea 13,796
Idaho Borah Peak 12,662
Illinois Charles Mound 1,235
Indiana Hoosier High Point 1,257
Iowa Hawkeye Point 1,670
Kansas Mount Sunflower 4,039
Kentucky Black Mountain 4,139
Louisiana Driskill Mountain 535
Maine Katahdin 5,268
Maryland Backbone Mountain 535
Massachusetts Mount Greylock 3491
Michigan Mount Arvon 1979
Minnesota Eagle Mountain 2301 8.15.2015
Mississippi Woodall Mountain 806
Missouri Taum Sauk 1772
Montana Granite Peak 12799
Nebraska Panorama Point 5424
Nevada Boundary Peak 13140
New Hampshire Mount Washington 6288
New Jersey High Point 1803
New Mexico Wheeler Peak 13161
New York Mount Marcy 5344
North Carolina Mount Mitchell 6684
North Dakota White Butte 3506
Ohio Campbell Hill 1550
Oklahoma Black Mesa 4973
Oregon Mount Hood 11239
Pennsylvania Mount Davis 3213
Rhode Island Jerimoth Hill 812
South Carolina Sassafras Mountain 3560
South Dakota Black Elk Peak 7242  7.19.2017
Tennessee Clingmans Dome 6643
Texas Guadalupe Peak 8749
Utah Kings Peak 13528
Vermont Mounts Mansfield 4393
Virginia Mount Rogers 5729
Washington Mount Rainier 14411
West Virginia Spruce Knob 4863
Wisconsin Timms Hill 1951  6.29.2016
Wyoming Gannett Peak 13804

Goal 47 Accomplished: Go Snowboarding

Back in middle school I took a field trip to a ski resort where I learned to ski for the first time in my life. After a few hours of lessons I took onto the bunny slope to begin my Olympic Skiing career. In one hour, my short dream of being a professional skier was shattered when I found myself repeatedly falling face first into snow. I chose to hang up my skis for the rest of that day and spent my remaining lunch money trying to get the high score in Pac-Man.

Every once in awhile I like to reflect back to these sort of moments and compare them to where I am now. While I may have never fulfilled my short-term dream of being an Olympic Skier I did manage to become insanely good at Pac-Man. As I got into college I made friends with a lot of people who love to hit the slopes every winter. I was invited every so often to join them, but I told them I wasn’t too much of a fan of skiing. One of them suggested that instead of going to the slopes to Ski, I give snowboarding a shot. Being a lover of physical activities and new challenges, I thought I’ll give it a go.

I saved up my paychecks to book a hotel room with a couple of mates over in St. Cloud for a weekend. After we got settled in our hotel, my friends and I packed in the car and headed to Powder Ridge Lodge.I booked a private 1 hour lesson with a snowboarding instructor to learn everything from ground up. Since my snowboarding lesson wasn’t for a few hours I took the time to go snow tubing with a couple of friends.It felt like quite the adrenaline rush to start off my Slope experience by going 20MPH in an inflatable tube.

After a few hours of tubing I went to my snowboarding lesson to meet my instructor. My instructor took things slow by drilling a few basic techniques down. When I got comfortable with that it was off to the Bunny Hill. Being the impulsive “dare devil” that I am I went to the very top of the slope and found myself frequently falling on my arse. Eventually my hour was up but I was still falling down the slopes every so often. However, rather than hang the board up to play Pac-Man, I told myself to keep going for it. After a few more hours I was finally able to go down the slope without once falling on my butt. I kept at it well after dusk just to make myself consistent. I then rewarded myself with a sore bottom and a cup of hot cocoa.

The entire experience was definitely rewarding. I may not go professional in the future, but I now know a new skill which I can continue to improve on. When I reflect on this moment, I feel proud that I didn’t stray away from this skill because I wasn’t good at it. It made me realize that the only way to ever be good at something new is to work it out while taking in the bumps and bruises along the way .It’s best for me to keep in mind that the road to success will always be a rough one and I just need to learn how to drive on it.

2016 Challenge List
47 Go Snowboarding ACCOMPLISHED

Buff Buddies Week 16: Finale

It is the last week of the Buff Buddies series meaning my 16-week Buff Buddies journey comes to an end. For week 16 I stayed active for every single day with a variety of exercises including long runs, 8 mile hikes, weight lifting, Parkour, and Martial Arts. I surpassed my weekly 14-hour goal for myself by a good few hours. Overall it was a fantastic last week to end Buff Buddies.

When I started my Buff Buddies journey I felt like I was not fulfilling a satisfying workout regime. There were days I often skipped workouts which showed itself through my physique and physical abilities. When I took up Buff Buddies my goal was to try to push myself harder each week so I showed progress through each Buff Buddies post. I felt like I accomplished that for the most part and now will take this experience to keep pushing myself hard well after Buff Buddies.

In week 0 I mentioned a quick few goals I wanted to complete after my 16 weeks:

LIST OF GOALS

Rock climb a V4 Route (Week 0’s Best: V2, Week 16’s Best: V4)
5:00 Minute mile (Week 0’s Best: 6:25, Week 0’s Best: 6:01)
20 consecutive pull Ups (Week 0’s Best: 12 Week 16’s Best: 16)
Swim 500m in 11:00 minutes (Week 0’s Best: 15:10, Week 16’s best: 10:26)

Despite only accomplishing half of my goals I did manage to accomplish at least two of them as well as progress in the two I didn’t complete. I feel like I may have over-estimated my running and pull up goals. With the addition of my regular workouts and physical training I found it hard to consistently fit in workouts for my pull ups and speed runs. Although, this does not mean I’m going to give up on them. I put these down as long-term goals that I plan on accomplishing before the end of this year. I will be posting updates on this in my personal blog.

Now to take a look at my physical results:

Week 0:
Weight: 151 lbs
Body Fat %: 9%

Week 16:
Weight: 153 lbs
Body Fat %: 7%

Body Photo Comparison

While I may have not have gone as far as weight gain goes I am proud to find I have lost some body fat along the way. There also seems to be some noticeable differences in my Parkour training in what I can do and how much better I can do it. It feels that my improvement in Parkour becomes a reflection of my 16-weeks of doing Buff Buddies. I am grateful this Buff Buddies challenge existed, it really gave me the push I needed to get back on my regular workout regime and continue to improve myself further than before. I may have not have met all my goals but I certainly feel like I have the tools I need to keep growing. I hope everyone who joined in on the Buff Buddies challenge also saw some noticeable improvements in the end. Let what you have accomplished during these 16 weeks help you go strong for the rest of your life. Keep training hard!