Thursday, July 30, 2009

Novices learn to kayak on Lake Norman

A kayaking tour with the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation is a cheap and easy way to learn the basics of paddling.

This video appeared on

24 Hours of Booty expanding to ATL

This blog appeared on

The popular fundraiser 24 Hours of Booty is nearing the $1 million mark this year, and it's expanding to Atlanta.

Last weekend's event at the Booty Loop in Myers Park, raised more than $875,000 to fight cancer.

"We had a fantastic event this year and are thrilled about these preliminary numbers. We are closing in at breaking the $1 million mark as donations continue to come in for both the Charlotte and Columbia [Md.] events," said Basil Lyberg, executive director of 24 Hours of Booty, in a press statement.

The Charlotte event drew 1,200 riders from 24 states July 24-25. Celebrity carpenter Brandon Russell of TLC's "Trading Spaces" and Sir Purr of the Carolina Panthers were the official event starters.

Along with holding the event in my hometown of Columbia, MD, Sept. 26-27, the organization plans to expand to Atlanta next year. Atlanta takes the popular fundraiser to a city rich with cultural and nightlife options. Plus, it's home to so many celebrities.

It's going to be crazy.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's BOOTY time!

I'm headed to the beach this weekend, but I wanted to leave you with a little workout inspiration.

Friday - Good cause. Good friends. Good fun. It's 24 Hours of Booty. It starts today and ends Saturday. Even if you don't know anyone participating, it's lots of fun. People camp out and there are all kinds of vendors. Plus, you can stand along the route and cheer on the riders.

Saturday - The Amica Triathlon is the newest event in the North Carolina Triathlon Series. It's going down at Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie.

Saturday and Sunday - Lake Norman is the final stop of the 2009 Hyrdo-Turf APBA Watercross National Tour. This a highspeed race and the last one drew about 10,000 spectators. Beatty's Ford Park.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ready to try trail running?

If you've been looking for a way to spice up your 5K run then try trail running. Basically it's running on single track trails. Head to the nearest park and hop on a mountain bike trail.

Then, when you're feeling pretty good try the 2009 Trail Run Challenge at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. It's August 22 at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. It's a 5K and a 10K.

Here are a few tips:
*Try flat trails if you're a beginner.

*Plan to run fewer miles at a slower pace on trails than you do on the roads. It's going to kick your butt.

*Watch for obstacles such as rocks, roots, logs and branches.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Camping in the Carolinas

I'm not sure what I liked best about camping at Ocracoke Island. It's a toss-up between hearing the ocean on the other side of the dune. Or walking out our tent, up a hill and watching the sunrise over the ocean.

I try to go camping every year, and apparently the recession is sending more people outdoors, according to a New York Times article. If you're thinking about taking a camping trip this summer, the Observer listed some of the most popular spots in the Carolinas.

I love Ocracoke Island on the Outerbanks. I stayed at the National Park Services campground. It's the closest I've been to camping directly on a beach. The drawback is cold showers and little shade. If you go, plan to spend about a week. It's an eight-hour drive from Charlotte.

For our trip, we drove to Kill Devil Hills and stayed in a hotel overnight. The next day we drove the remaining hour or so, and took a ferry to the island. The hotel stay gave us a chance to get a good night's sleep before we tackled setting up camp.

If you have kids, Myrtle Beach State Park is a good option. It's on an undeveloped portion of the beach so it's clean and quieter than the beach access near the strip. The park has a general store that has any supplies you forgot. There are also kids' programs. The park is crowded and the campsites are close together so there isn't much privacy. It's extremely family friendly so your kids can easily meet other people their age.

I also love Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. It's only a four-hour drive. The tent campsites are private and shaded, and the park has hot showers. It offers plenty of trails for walking and exploring. There's also the Atalaya, a Moorish-style winter home of Anna Hyatt and Archer Huntington, sculptress and philanthropist. The park also has a genera, which really can open containers and coolers.

So far, it's BMYF 1, raccoons 1.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Trail linking area counties underway

A trail linking 15 counties in the Charlotte are is underway. The realization of the Carolina Thread Trail began with the opening of the publicly accessible, three-mile Rocky Creek Trail along the Catawba River south of Charlotte, according to a story by the Charlotte Observer's Bruce Henderson.

An S.C. state grant paid for the Rocky Creek Trail. The National Audubon Society has designated the trail and the surrounding land on both sides of the river an Important Bird Area, marking its significance as wildlife habitat.

The Great Falls Hometown Association, Katawba Valley Land Trust, the town of Great Falls, S.C., parks and natural resources departments and Audubon South Carolina partnered to develop the trail.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Marathons too easy?

Editor's note: This story appeared in this month's issue of the Charlotte Observer's SouthPark Magazine.

Charlie Engle has one piece of advice for anyone interested in running 100 miles: “Don’t be afraid.”

That’s easy for him to say. In 2007, the Greensboro native, along with Canada's Ray Zahab and Taiwan's Kevin Lin, ran across the Sahara. Yes, the desert. And they did it for fun.

It took them 111 days to jog, walk and limp the 4,600 miles from Mali to Egypt – the equivalent of two marathons a day. During the trek, Engle was the relentless motivator, pushing himself, his fellow runners and his pit crew to tough it out through windstorms, dehydration, blistered feet and frazzled nerves. Their adventure was documented in the film “Running the Sahara,” which had a special screening at Ballantyne Village in May (DVDs of the film are available at The trek became a campaign to raise international awareness about the need for fresh water in Third World countries, but the three also did it to see if they could.

“I’m not interested anymore in doing things I know I can do,” says Engle, 46. “I want my challenge to be something that I genuinely have a good shot at failing.”

Engle’s attitude makes him the perfect poster-boy for the growing adventure sports community. He is an ultrarunner, though his Sahara trek was a bit extreme even for the ultrarunning community. More and more people across the country are running races longer than marathons. An ultra is any race over 26 miles. Beginners often start with a 50-kilometer race (or 30 miles), and a 100-mile race is for more experienced runners.

Ultramarathons have been popular in the underground running scene since at least the ’60s, but in the last few years they’ve become more mainstream. The number of people participating increased 12 percent last year compared to 2008, says John Medinger, publisher of California-based UltraRunning magazine. The number of races has increased 20 percent, he says. The races, which have fewer slots than typical events, also fill faster now than in previous years.

Medinger says extreme sports stoke some people’s thirst to push themselves. Many people used to think marathons were the ultimate, but now they realize there’s something beyond that.

“It triggers their imagination,” Medinger says. “People like adventure.”

Engle is writing a book to help new ultrarunners prepare for their first adventure. For now, he offers free tips and advice at He says most ultrarunners start as marathoners. The first step is overcoming the mental hurdles from the marathon experience. People often recall the pain they’ve had from running a marathon and assume an ultra will be worse and longer, he says. The body can withstand the pain as long as the runner has the proper nutrition, hydration and pace, Engle says.

“Ultrarunning is very much a mental sport,” says Engle. “It truly is a matter of convincing yourself to continue.”

It’s also a time-consuming sport. Training takes months and involves running for hours. Engle says it’s more important to determine how long you plan to run rather than how many miles. Runners experience good and bad days during an ultramarathon, but the key is to keep running, he says. The sport also requires an extremely well-planned diet to make sure the body consumes enough fuel. Engle says ultra runners live in a constant carb-loading phase.

“You really get to eat what you want,” he says.

For Engle, eating what he wants means shoving fruits and vegetables into a two-horsepower blender. He’s a vegan, and an oddity. Ultrarunning requires large sums of calories, which are hard for vegans to consume. The wiry Engle consumes more than 3,000 calories a day thanks to his fancy blender. He swears he has a good smoothie recipe with kale, spinach and peanut butter.

“I feel really, really good these days,” he says.

Most ultrarunners eat food that requires chewing. At an ultramarathon race the aid stations are like buffets, with pizza, soup, quesadillas and other offerings, says Boyce Bedrock, a Charlotte-based ultrarunner and blogger.

“You name it and I’ve seen it an aid station,” Bedrock says.

Bedrock says he knows about 20 to 30 ultrarunners in the Charlotte area. There are also ultra communities in Raleigh and Asheville. The Carolinas boast the popular Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run and the Mount Mitchell Challenge. The Mount Mitchell race is a 40-mile race in February that Engle says is just plain hard. The Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, in April, typically sells out each year, and is starting to draw runners from throughout the country. It has a 50-mile option, which Engle ran a few years ago. It’s in a park, which makes it good for beginners because it’s a controlled environment.

For Engle, Umstead would be like a training race. After running across the desert, he has fewer adventures to conquer.

He does want to complete a challenge he failed last year: He tried to set a record running across America. His goal was to run at least 70 miles a day from San Francisco to New York. He fell apart in Utah, and had to complete the trip on his bicycle. He had sponsors for the event and a web following.

“My body just completely disintegrated,” he says. “I basically failed in front of more than 100,000 internet watchers. That was a big, big public failure.”

Engle is setting himself up for another challenge in July. After placing third twice at Badwater Ultramarathon, Engle wants to win this year. It’s a 135-mile race from Badwater in Death Valley (282 feet below sea level) to Whitney Portals on Mt. Whitney (elevation: 8360 feet). The temperatures reach up to 130 degrees. Ninety top runners will compete in the non-stop race, which has a two and a half day time limit.

“I’m going for the first time with the stated goal to win the race,” he says.

Here are Charlie Engle’s top five tips for doing a first ultra.

1. Choose a race somewhere you would like to visit. Ultrarunning is about the entire experience, not just the running.

2. When creating a training plan, focus on time, not distance. In other words, plan to run for three hours instead of 18 miles. This takes some of the pressure away from feeling like you must run a certain distance to have a good run. Some days are better than others and most of us can commit to time more easily than distance.

3. Create a nutritional plan that guarantees that you can consume about 300 calories per hour during your training runs because this is what you will have to do during the race.

4. Tell everyone you know you are running your race so you will have lots of support. They will help you when times get tough.

5. Remember 75 percent of Ultrarunning is mental and the rest is all in your head. Have fun.

For more information on ultramarathons:
UltraRunning: Web site dedicated to the sport.
Charlie Engle: The ultrarunners’ Web site.
Ultra Adventures: Website for NC ultrarunners.

N.C. races:
Umstead 100 Endurance Run: Considered a good race for beginners.
Mount Mitchell Challenge: Run from Black Mountain to Mount Mitchell, eastern America's highest point, and back again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Great cycling opportunities in LKN

Editor's note: This story appeared in the Charlotte Observer's Lake Norman Magazine.

If you're considering getting into cycling, there's no better time in the Lake Norman area to take to the road or the woods.

The sport is growing, and experts say reasons for customers range from seeking stress relief to finding alternatives to gas-guzzling cars. Members of the cycling community are excited about recent developments ranging from new mountain biking terrain to a proposed cycle network.

Experienced mountain bikers can look forward to a new section of the Itusi trail. It's a challenging bike trail under construction at Lake Norman State Park in Troutman. Volunteers have been building the trail for more than a decade. The newest three-mile addition, Laurel Loop, will have larger rocks, narrower paths and fast descents with turns. Other sections of the 13-mile Itusi are good for beginners.

The trail makes the park an attraction that draws cyclists from other parts of the state, says Wes Davidson, manager of First Flight Bicycles, which has helped build the Itusi.

“There's a ton of people that go ride that trail,” he says. “The more and more mileage we get, the more and more people we will have to ride.”

Road cyclists, meanwhile, are excited about a proposed Lake Norman bike network. The N.C. Department of Transportation has selected Lake Norman and its four counties (Mecklenburg, Iredell, Catawba and Lincoln ) for the state's first regional bike plan.

The idea is to create a safe and lasting network of bike lanes and paths that connect to parks, transit stations, downtowns, the lake and other destinations.
The N.C. DOT committed $171,000 to complete a plan, and they've been seeking public input. In May, residents had an opportunity to comment on the plan at a series of meetings. Possible sites for the network include Lake Norman State Park, Blythe Landing Park in Cornelius, Beatties Ford Park in Denver and the Davidson College lake campus.

“It really opens up the door for the cycle community and getting out with our family to bike for fun,” says Sarah Matchett, a manager at Cool Breeze Cyclery in Mooresville.

Matchett leads several area rides for the shop. There are four rides, from novices to experienced, on Sundays at Lake Norman State Park. Matchett also leads a women's ride on Wednesday mornings in Davidson. She knows the challenges cyclists face on the road.
Motorists have been slow to accept bikes on the streets, Matchett says. Back roads are fine, but some roads, such as Brawley School Road in south Iredell, are more dangerous, cyclists say.

“We're sort of in the baby stages,” Matchett says.

Matchett says they try to make it easy for cars to pass because they know it's frustrating to be stuck behind slow-moving bikes.

“We have as much right to be there as anybody else,” she adds.

Whatever kind of network the N.C. DOT builds will be a welcome addition to the area, because more people are taking to the roads on bikes. Arleigh Jenkins, of Trek Bicycle Store, says in recent months they've seen more customers buying bikes for different reasons. Last year, new customers said they wanted inexpensive transportation to save money on gas. Once the economy soured, Jenkins noticed more customers bought bikes for their families.

“People realize their kids aren't getting enough exercise and people are trying to find things that are local and cost-effective,” she says.

Cycle shops (many of which have rides and clubs)
Cool Breeze Cyclery
Mooresville Gateway (Exit 33)
124 Trade Court
Suite F
Mooresville, N.C.

First Flight Bicycles
216 S. Center St.
Statesville, N.C.

Spirited Cyclist
Rosedale Shopping Center (Exit 23)
9911-A Rose Commons Drive
Huntersville, N.C.

Upcoming rides

2009 Lake Norman Excursion, July 18. Lowe's Corporate Headquarters.
Cackalacky Cup 2009, August 21-23. Lake Norman.
Hospital 2009 Kids Triathlon Series, July 25. Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics, 11725 Verhoeff Dr. Huntersville,.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Beer is your enemy

What if the thought of drinking your favorite beer or eating your favorite food suddenly made you recoil? Charles Stuart Platkin is a personal trainer who uses people's unhealthy desires, such as cake and rum, to motivate them to lose weight. He calls himself the Diet Detective.

Imagine if your weakness is beer, and your personal trainer made you workout by unloading beer kegs at a grocery store. Read about how Platkin uses similar tactics to to motivate people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles. For example, he made one client walk for 2 1/2 hours while carrying a slice of cake.

Would something like that motivate you to get in shape and live healthier?

I'm trying a new bootcamp

The morning dew soaked through my sneakers and socks as I jogged up a steep hill beside Crownpoint Elementary School in Matthews. During the hourlong Rock Hard Bootcamp by Jennah Hardy, the hill became my friend.

I joined three other women for the 6 a.m. morning workout. We jogged up and down the hill. We lunged up the hill and squatted up the hill. The squats killed me. Oh and then we did these walking lunges with a torso twist. That killed me too. The day's workout also included agility drills involving running around cones and rope ladders. Those ended with arm-aching barbell exercises.

So far the camp feels a little more laid back than Operation Bootcamp, but the intensity of the workout can be hard if you push yourself. Hardy uses the terrain and school playground equipment for the workout.

It's three days a week for three weeks. Hardy also offers evening sessions. On Wednesday mornings she does additional interval running training on the school's field. That's not part of the camp, it's just for fun. She also does runs after the Saturday morning camp. I have a meeting this morning, but I'm definitely going to join her next Wednesday for the post camp interval run.

Also, I'm not going to call out a certain friend who was supposed to workout with us this morning, but you know who you are. You've been swearing for a month that you're going to do a bootcamp and you haven't done one yet. Not even one day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Catching up with Carlton

I'm back from a week and a half of dranking, eating and hanging with the family. I was in the DMV for a family reunion and some good ol' mom's cooking. Now, I'm paying the price. Although, I worked out my usual five days a week, I still picked up some poundage.

This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. for Operation Bootcamp at Latta Park. There will be one additional free camp at the park on Thursday. Workouts start promptly at 5:45 a.m. The next paid session begins Monday. The slots are filling fast.

On Wednesday, I'm trying Jennah Hardy's Strive For Life bootcamp in South Charlotte. I'll let you know what I think.

Speaking of bootcamps, I finally caught up with Creative Loafing editor Carlton Hargro. We had lunch last week and he filled me in on life after Operation Bootcamp.

Yes! He's still working out. He said it hasn't been easy working out on the treadmill.

"I'm try to get that intensity like my chest is going to explode," he said. "It's tough, I cannot get a good workout."

Carlton said he works out four days a week. His attitude is better and he feels more energized.

I'm trying to convince him to run a 5K with me. We'll see what happens.