Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just Call Me the Cycling Camel

I continue to be enamored with bicycling. Not only am I riding home from work most afternoons -- a four-mile task which involves a very steep hill -- but I now find myself becoming more and more interested in endurance rides. Long distance endurance. I somehow got it into my head that it would be cool to bike to Austin, a trip which my dad surmises would take at least twenty four hours by car. Why do I want to ride to Austin? Other than to see my sister-in-law and friends living there, I'd just like to see if I could. The challenge is enticing.

That lofty goal stated, I must also confess that I am nowhere near ready to bicycle from the top to the bottom of the United States. Upon discussing the matter, the Best Husband Ever and I thought that with the proper gear (i.e., a road bike -- at the moment I'm pedaling a Wal-Mart-purchased mountain bike) the trip would take at least a week, if not longer to account for trekking over various mountains and ranges. A small task? Not in the least.

I have no idea if my cross-country biking adventure will ever come to fruition. I do know, however, that I'm currently loving the fifteen to twenty mile rides I'm adding to my hill hauls. The breeze generated from the speed of biking makes it a much more safe and enjoyable activity than running when the summertime temperatures trickle toward 100*F. For longer rides, though, I don't like to depend on the breeze alone to beat the heat. To keep myself hydrated and my body ticking along as it should, I made a nifty new purchase at REI last week. Meet the CamelBak!

If you've never heard of a CamelBak before, it basically is just what the name sounds like. This product is a backpack that totes water instead of stuff (although it can do some of that, too) in a pouch tucked inside. A rubber tube extends from the pouch out of the pack to a little mouth spigot that the user can drink from, straw-style. Or beer hat-style. CamelBaks come in a variety of sizes and water capacities to serve folks efficiently over both short and long distances.

I chose the Aurora Hydration Pack, which boasts a 50 oz. capacity that makes it ideal for one to two hours of use. The Aurora is one of CamelBak's unique female-specific line of packs which fit against the shape of women's bodies better than the unisex packs. I think that the Aurora is worth every penny of it's $55.00 USD price tag. Here are some of this pack's perks:
  • It feels light and comfortable, with little sweat accumulation underneath the pack
  • The water inside the pack stays cool and clean-tasting
  • Two zippered pockets and one mesh pouch allow me to tote essentials (I.D., keys, SPF lip gloss, a change of prescription glasses, MP3 player) without giving me space to over pack (because you know I'd take advantage of it if I could!)
  • It's so handy to have fresh water available at a moment's notice during long workouts -- I find it amazing how much of a boost a single sip affords!
  • My CamelBak makes me feel like one of the cool kids
I'll say it again -- just like my running sneakers, this purchase was definitely worthwhile. I'd say the Aurora is worth it's weight in gold, but it doesn't weigh all that much to begin with that I'm not sure that's really a descriptive expression for how I feel about the pack. Still, I am now firmly convinced of the fabulousness of CamelBaks.

Unfortunately, this amazing product does have its flaws. As great as the CamelBak is for bikes and hikes, it falls short when it comes to running. I took it out for a three mile jaunt yesterday, and due to the heat I decided to forgo a shirt, opting to wear only a sports bra and shorts. This turned out to be a mistake. The CamelBak, although a smooth and streamlined fit for low impact sports, transformed into a bouncy beast when I began to run while wearing it. This was just plain annoying and uncomfortable. My simple discomfort soon took a turn for the worse, though, and when I returned home later I made an unwelcome discovery -- my wonderful new CamelBak had rubbed a spot on my shoulder raw. Ouch.

To its credit, the pack continued to be comfy when I returned to biking today in spite of yesterday's running sore. I'd like to try running with the CamelBak again on a flat surface while wearing a t-shirt. However, I don't think that will alleviate the bouncing issue.

Still, I think that the Aurora is 98% amazing. So I recommend it if you're going to be doing any biking, hiking, or walking in the heat this summer. Or if you've decided to go for distance. Like Austin.

Update! In one of my latest posts I declared a new personal goal: to get up 30 minutes earlier each day to spend time with God. And guess what? I have! Sure, two days of success doesn't seem too impressive to the untrained I, but I think it's a heck of a place to start. Onward!

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"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King