Green Tea Sherbert

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grand Canyon Run Rim to Rim to Rim

The GCR3 was voted as a Rave Run in Runner's World and one of the top 25 trail runs in America. So when some of my friends from Vancouver invited me to join them, I figured I had better do it. I knew I was going to have a kid soon, so I had better get this type of thing done now whilst I am still a d.i.n.k.

I hadn't done all that much running in the last few years. After running the West Coast Trail in 2006 I had really not done much running training. But I felt I was pretty fit from cycling and xc skiing, so I figured, barring injury, I would be able to pull it off with about a year's notice.

February - A couple of casual Sunday 10km runs with the Boulder Road Runner's.
March - A couple of runs a week, getting ready for the Bolder Boulder. Some intervals here and there.
April - Same. Really picking up the cycling now, getting ready for Ride the Rockies.
May - Run Bolder Boulder. Get stitch at about 6km and have to stop and walk for a few minutes. Tough uphill course though. Starting to do 2-3 hour trail runs in Boulder.
June - Ride the Rockies. After Ride the Rockies, 2 runs/wk. one 2-3 hours, plus a 10km run.
July - Ran the Boulder Backroads marathon course with my friend Stephen Meratla. I had convinced him to run the GCR3 with us, so it was good to have a training partner for those long training runs. Mesa Trail, and sometimes up Bear Peak.
August - Starting to do some monster 3-4 hour trail runs with huge elevation gain. Usually Bear Peak up West Ridge. Then a 10km run in the week. Training sporadic due to 10 day trip to Vancouver. In Vancouver I did lots of hiking and a four day mtn bike trip with 6-9 hour rides on most days.
September - Last week in September I did a 5 hour run - 3 Peaks. Start South Mesa Trail, up Towhee to South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, West Ridge Trail to Green Mtn. Down Saddle Rock to Ranger Station.
October -1st weekend - Chautauqua- 2.5 hour run up Mesa, West Ridge to Green Mtn, down to Chautauqua. Then a 10km run on the road with Stephen.

My knees usually started to feel a bit sore after a big weekend run if I really pushed the downhill but they were usually pretty good. Unfortunately I had gone for a short 10km run with Stephen a few days before and my knee had felt sore even to just walk ever since. In fact at the pre-run dinner I told all my friends that I would likely be turning around at the river which is about a third of the way to the North Rim.

At the end of my long runs I would often feel pretty nauseous and I once harfed (called Ralph on the porcelain telephone) all over the living room floor. Thanks Sharon for cleaning it all up! After a bit of googling I figured I had the symptoms of hyponatremia. I seemed to be able to prevent it by eating salt tablets, salty crackers and pretzels. They were a welcomed break from energy bars.

The Route
South Kaibab down, over to the North Rim, back on the Bright Angel Trail.
11000 feet of elevation gain
76km total.
Temperature - A surprise cold front had come in. There was snow on the rim.
0 C at start, ~25C in the canyon during mid day. Most of the time it was ~15 degrees. Perfect.

I didn't bring any tights or really warm gear, so I was worried about being really cold when finishing and starting.

Photo Links
Willy has the most complete set of photos:

13 bars - A mix of Cliff, Pro bars, Odwalla Bars.
5 gels - Gu, Honey Stinger. No caffeine
bag of gluten free pretzel sticks.
15 salted multigrain crackers
10x200iu ibuprofen
25 salt tablets

Allan had ordered lunch for all of us from the Phantom Ranch. Bagel, cream cheese, electrolyte drink, sausage, raisins, pretzels. It sounded great.

There was lots of debate over food. I had about 4 bars and 2 gels left over at the end. I only ate half a bagel and the pretzels. The rest I gave back. I didn't think I would be able to digest it all and I certainly didn't want to have to carry it. I gave away a bunch of pretzels and crackers at the end as well.

What it's all about.
  • Camelbak Octane 2L running pack
  • conventional Montrail runners
  • Garmin 310xt GPS watch
  • GoLite running shorts with two front pockets for quick access to food and a rear zip pocket for credit cards and cash.
  • GoLite running cap
  • Bolder Boulder Running T-shirt
  • Contact lens case of sunscreen
  • pocket medical kit
  • Duct tape (taped to medical kit). Great for blisters
  • Nikon point and shoot camera

The Who
Willy, Alan, Duhane, Tomi, Magnus, Chloe, Steven, Stephen
Friends with whom I would run, xc ski and goof around with from Vancouver.
It was fantastic to catch up with these yahoos again and the 14 hour low intensity run allowed us quite a bit of time for idle chit chat.

The Run

Because I was so excited about the run I only managed a 3 hour sleep, but we all agreed that the amount of sleep the night before didn't matter that much.

Planned to start at 4:30AM. Actual start was at 4:45 AM. Got lost (tick tock tick tock...
) looking for not so well sign posted South Kaibab trail. Willy's wife Iona and Alan's wife Natalie got up at 3:30AM just to drive us to the start.

We started in the dark with headlamps with the temperature hovering around freezing with me wondering why I had gotten out of my warm bed. Two steps into the canyon Chloe had to pop a Tylenol because her knee was already giving her issues. This actually gave me some confidence. I figured if Chloe was in worse pain than me, I would be able to grow some and make it all the way as well. I could feel my knee, but it wasn't that painful. I popped an Advil about 1/2 hour in.

The stars were incredibly bright. We couldn't really see down very far but there were 1000' sharp drop-offs just beside the trail. The quick way down. I kept telling myself to just look straight ahead on the trail because I recall a story of another runner twisting his ankle when he was looking at the drop.

It was interesting seeing a bunch of headlamps in the canyon below us. I guess we weren't alone. I couldn't rationalize why people would be trying to get out of the canyon at dawn.

The sun finally started coming up after about half an hour. It was invigorating to see the sunrise in the canyon. You could sense everyone's spirits rising. Willy was singing at this point and there was a lot more chatter.

We got to phantom ranch at 40 minutes, topped up water, emptied bladders and stashed our warm clothes under a rock.

The next part was the most enjoyable running. Right along the canyon floor where it was fairly flat, and the running surface was relatively smooth wide dirt and rock trail. Most of us felt good so we pushed the pace a little bit. Unfortunately Chloe's knee prevented her from being able to go on. Sadly she turned around at about half way. I think it turned into an 8 hour run for her. Not bad for a bum knee. I got a little nervous now because I knew I was probably the next most injured person. I popped another advil and kept going. Actually my knee had started to feel better now that we weren't descending anymore.

We slogged it up the 5000 feet to the top of the north rim. 6.5 hours. Ugh. I felt pretty tired going up. I wasn't sure if I would be able to turn around and go all the way back. Meanwhile Willy booted on way ahead of us. Last night he mentioned he smoked all through his twenties.

These energy bars were wreaking havoc with my GI system. I really enjoyed the newly cleaned outhouses at the top of the North Rim.
Willy had stashed some coke and Gatorade at the top of the North Rim. We were all now jacked up on high fructose corn syrup so we just flew down the North Rim. Woot. This was easy.

We had some small celebrations at 42.2 km (a marathon) and at 50km (the farthest that Duhane, Alan and Magnus had ever run before). Willy was hauling ass. He would run ahead of us to video us, then be behind us, then run ahead again.

We ran right to Phantom Ranch (60km) with very few stops. Here we had a break. Another stop at the beautifully clean toilets to deal with my GI system. I am just glad I didn't have to go on the trail. The salty crackers seemed to help a lot, but I was getting to the point where I could not get down any energy bars or gels. Pretty dangerous when we had about 6000' of climbing to go.

We grabbed our lunches from Phantom Ranch. All I could stomach was half a bagel and the apple. I kept the bag of pretzels for later.
Other than my GI system, my legs and rest of my body felt great. Then we hit the last 4kms up to the top of the South Rim. My GPS said we didn't have far to go distance wise, so I was thinking we were almost there. Maybe we could do this in 13 hours? Unfortunately that last climb went on forever. I hung on with the fast group of Magnus (X-Bionic) and Willy for most of the way, but then my stomach seemed to get the better of me. I had to stop and sit down because I felt so nauseous. I thought I might need a push up the hill. I ate a few more salty pretzels and crackers, downed some salt tablets and felt a little better so I slowly started to walk again. I was in between groups at this point and felt sorry for myself.

Shortly after I ran into a tough guy high-school football player and his girlfriend who were stopped in the dark at the side of the trail. They had water but no more food. I gave them a couple of salt tablets and some pretzels. I should have given them an energy bar too... It probably took them hours to do get up in the dark. I felt sorry for them, but I didn't want to go at their pace because I had been climbing for about 3 hours and I just wanted to get to the end.

At 14.20 I finished alone in the dark. We had a great dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge. I had a soup, salad, a Trout dinner, then almost a full spaghetti dinner on top of that. I also drank about a litre of water and Sprite at dinner. I was so dehydrated that I kept drinking all night and didn't have to go to the bathroom for hours still. My urine was dark orange and stank every time I went to the bathroom for the next 24 hours.. ughh.

We all felt great at dinner. For us endorphin junkies, we had just got our fix. Most of us had been training for most of the year for this. I am so glad it went well for us. As Alan, the organiser, said: "an amazing experience with a fantastic group". You only get the opportunity to do these things a few times in your life. It can be tempting to bail out because of other commitments. I sacrificed a bunch of bike races and delayed getting on with jobs around the house. I really have to thank Sharon, my wife, for being so understanding!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ride the Rockies 2011

Where: Crested Butte to Georgetown.

Ride the Rockies is a 6 day road bike tour through the back roads of Colorado's Rockies. The course is different every year, but I have never heard a negative review of the tour. It always travels through bucolic countryside and majestic mountain passes.

Why not? Eat, sleep, ride. I have more vacation than Sharon, what better way to use it.

I went all by myself.. and 2200 other cycling enthusiasts.

The Good
  1. Passing 300 people per day. Even Lance doesn't do that in a race. Many people were not in great shape, so I passed them quite easily.
  2. Beautiful views.
  3. The people in the towns were very welcoming.

  4. Road intersections were controlled to prioritize cyclists.
  5. All the riders had something in common
  6. Stories from Davis Phinney (first American to win a stage at the Tour de France 1986) and Ron Kiefel (first American to win a stage at any Grand Tour 1985)
  7. Reaching the tops of Cottonwood Pass, Rabbit Ears, Berthoud Pass and Tennessee Pass knowing it was mostly downhill after that.
  8. Staying in a hotel on Day 3 and 4. So nice to not have to wait in line to use the toilet or shower. So peaceful!
  9. Debating whether Lance is clean.

The Bad
  • Getting woken up at 5:30AM every day by other people's tent zippers.
  • Lining up to use the bathroom every morning.
  • Forgetting my Clif Bars one day and eating too many animal crackers.
  • Canucks losing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and Vancouver hooligans rioting. Not so proud to be a Vancouverite.

The Beautiful
  • The views from almost anywhere on the ride.
  • Dr. Dave's Specialized Tarmac with Zipp 404s.
  • Kim's Team Astana BMC frame that was ridden in the Tour de France. It was decked out with Campy Record.
  • Parambir's immaculately creased turban. Somehow he kept the creases perfect despite it being in a duffle bag for a week.
  • Adiel's flourescent green bandages.
  • The smell of the burgers at the top of Berthoud Pass 11200 feet. The last pass we had to climb. It was below freezing at the top.

Daily Routine
  • Everyone would seem to get up (and wake me up) right around dawn (approx 5:30AM)
  • Eat a community provided meal of pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, fruit, coffee ($5-$10)
  • Line up for the toilet
  • Brush teeth
  • Determine weather for the day by looking at the sky and trying to figure out what the temperature would be like 3000 feet higher and 2 hours later in the day.
  • Change into what seemed to be sensible cycling gear
  • Pack up tent.
  • Load 50 lb bag onto truck while wearing cycling cleats
  • Get bike from bike corral
  • Ride for 4-5 hours
  • Arrive at new town often exhausted
  • Eat
  • Hurry to find a nice spot on the field where there were fewer snorers
  • Setup tent
  • Line up for shower. Usually there was just a short line.
  • Eat
  • Listen to RTR talk, go to beer garden, go to free yoga class, complain about how tough the climb was, complain about how sore your butt is.
  • Complain about how my face was peeling from sunburn despite re-applying waterproof SPF50 sunscreen.
  • Ice my sit bones.
  • Show off my cyclist farmer tan.
  • Eat

  • 6 days of riding
  • 409 miles or 658 km - Like cycling from Whistler to Portland, except with a lot more elevation gained.
  • Weight lost - 4 lbs
  • Elevation gained - 21604 feet
  • Highest Elevation reached 12,125 feet (Cottonwood pass)
  • 2200 people start which includes 100 people who didn't register.
  • 1800 people are estimated to finish.
  • Deaths - 2
  • Resuscitated- 1
  • New friends - 5
  • New friends named Dave - 3
  • Debates about whether Lance was clean - 7.
  • Household income of average cycling fan - 96k USD/yr.

Toughest Part
Having GI issues and having to spend 2 nights in outhouses, then having to ride the next day. Actually the toughest part was getting passed by a girl on a pink bike.

Would I do it Again?
Maybe. After I figure out my GI issues and figure out a more comfortable saddle. Next time in the south of France or Spain? Anyone?

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Alive and Kicking

Hey Guys!

I just wanted to send out another update so you know I'm still alive and kicking... :o)

The movers finally arrived with our stuff on May 5th, so we spent just over two weeks living out here on an air mattress in an empty apartment. It was pretty hard actually and when we finally got our real bed set up I collapsed on it and actually cried tears of relief... It was kinda boring the first two weeks without all our stuff really... All we could do for entertainment was go out to eat and walk around. We were much happier when our bed, couch, and all our sporting equipment arrived...

From Wild Basin Hike

The weather here's been really crazy so far... There's so much variation during the week. Some days it's a comfortable warm sunny day, other days are blazing hot and I'm told it will get much hotter in summer, but many days it's been cold and unusually rainy. We've also had some super windy days (warm and cold) and one day I drove right through the middle of a mini-dirt-tornado that formed right in front of me on the road (brown out for 3 seconds)! There's also plenty of thunderstorms as they tend to form over the Rockies and roll our way... Last week I was standing outside watching a storm from work and I saw more lightning in those 10 mins than I've seen in my entire lifetime!

Overall it has been a simple and comfortable life out here... Steven and I have been watching movies like crazy to make up for our lack of social lives... :o) The apartment complex has a movie library, so it's super easy, and free! We also went to see Star Trek, at the only Longmont movie theater, on the opening weekend. Steven was so worried about it being sold-out that we showed up over an hour ahead to time to buy tickets. When the movie started, the theater was only half full. That's how small Longmont is... [The Star Trek movie was AWESOME]

From Wild Basin Hike

Cycling has been going really well for Steven. He loves it! The roads have wide shoulders and/or cycling lanes, there's very little traffic, and we live right by the countryside so he can extend his ride out to visit many a cow... I've been learning to mountain bike on my new Kona Cinder Cone in my new clip-in shoes! It's pretty scary stuff sometimes, with catus plants growing on the side of the trail, but I'm determined to join Steven on his quest to mountain bike Moab so I've gotta just suck it up and train. I'm going play ultimate this summer in the Boulder league which starts next week. It's great because everyone signs up as an individual, fills out a survey about their skill level, and then the league holds a draft with volunteer captains to form the teams... Hopefully it'll be a good opportunity for me to make some friends out here!

So it seems like I'm not a very good blogger... I suspected as much, but luckily, Steven is better at that sort of stuff, so I'm just going to point you to his blog... I did manage to put some pictures up on Picasa though! Here are the links...

Some pics on Picasa:

Steven's Blog (updated regularly):

That's it for now! Hope to see some of you Vancouver folk while I'm back for Annie's wedding in a couple weeks!


Dark and Stormy

From lightning

Last night I awoke to the sound of a garbage truck emptying the dumpsters. Crazy, why was it doing this at 2AM. And the truck kept emptying them. About 5 in 5 minutes. It must be those cows next door up to no good.

Finally I got out of bed to check out what was going on. Another thunderstorm. We seem to be getting them two or three times a week out here. There have even been tornado funnel clouds spotted nearby.

Above is my attempt at actually trying to capture lightning on flash memory. Well atleast I managed to pull the trigger in time to get it. I think I need a tripod and remote to do it properly.

Hopefully our flight back to Vancouver tomorrow doesn't get postponed because of another storm.

As a reminder from Emlyn, to make a Dark and Stormy, you need gingerbeer, dark rum and a lime wedge or lime juice.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rocky Mountain National Park

From Rocky Mountain National Park - Loch Vale and Mills Lake

Less than an hour's drive to the trail head from our front door is one of America's best National Parks, Rocky Mountain National Park. On Sunday we had our first taster. We liked it so much, we bought a season pass. Here are pics from two lakes, Loch Vale and Mills Lake, both start from the Glacier Gorge trail head.

Even though much of the trail was covered in snow and the weather was pretty cold and wet, there were a surprisingly large number of people out. It thinned out a lot if you hiked more than 1/2 an hour, but it was still pretty busy on the rest of the trail. I can understand why people say to start hiking early.

From Rocky Mountain National Park - Loch Vale and Mills Lake

Also I noticed a lot of guys in camouflage hats and jackets. And not just the normal fashion camouflage that the back street boys wear, but the real hunting kind. I guess they're not allowed to hunt in the park, but I always feel a little apprehensive about hiking around guys with guns. I'm sure there are a lot of "hunting accidents" in these parts.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Riding with Patrick Okens

My friend Patrick, came to visit me from Vancouver for some cycling and R&R in Boulder.

I've spent the past two days trying to keep up with Patrick up The Front Range Mountains close to Boulder.

Patrick loves to tell the story of the first time that we rode together. Somehow it was just him, me and Cypress mountain. We both pretended to be just having a normal conversation talking about such banal things as the weather and what we wanted to do when we grew up. At the same time we went as hard as we could to see what the other had. Eventually conversation faded as I had to drop behind Patrick and draft off him just trying to hang on. If I recall correctly he was about 200m ahead of me by the end.

Boulder is at about 5000ft. According to Emlyn, at this elevation there is 12% O2 in the air. At sea level there is 18% O2 in the air. Things like walking up the stairs, running, and cycling up mountains tends to hurt. Since I had acclimatized to the elevation I thought I could easily keep up with Patrick this weekend. So our first ride was a flat ride, with a sharp climb at the end.

We started out slow and steady because Patrick was unsure how he would feel at elevation. After about ten minutes, I felt a bit restless, and decided to take it up a notch or three and kept the cruise control at 38kph for a while on the flat. Hmm, Patrick's dropped off a bit. Good sign. Hopefully I will hurt him enough on the flats so that I can actually stay with him in the mountains!

Well it was not to be. Patrick DaLuca is a rhythm climber. Once he hits a nice long he puts his head down hill he gets into a solid rhythm and doesn't look up, or slow up until he's at the top.

Here is me fixing a mechanical on Day 2. It was a real mechanical, but it was also a convenient time to rest up for the long climb. I remember feeling great after this stop. I think I was actually leading the climb after this stop.

We had a couple of fantastic rides this past weekend. Snow capped peaks, famous mountain man Ward cookies at the top of the mountain.

Here we are, time to refuel! No comments about the apron!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Preparing for Moab

Now that we are so close to the Mecca of mountain biking, Moab, we've decided that we must try to go there while we're here.

Sharon, keen to go to Moab, has decided that she had better learn how to mountain bike. So we're training here in Boulder.

Because of the semi-desert climate, the trees aren't nearly as dense as the rainforest of Vancouver. This is great because you actually get to see the mountains around you. And the views are outstanding. Unfortunately these photos were taken with my camera phone, but there is a snowcapped 14000 ft peak in the background.. really.

In fact it's a little dangerous, I have been caught looking out at the view and almost missed the rocks jumping out at me.

There are supposedly lots of places to ride of similar beauty all over Colorado. No wonder everyone here seems to own a $2k mtn bike.

I am looking forward to riding in a place called Crested Butte. Apparently there are some epic rides there where you spend much of the ride in the high alpine. At one point you ride over a glacier.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cycling in Longmont Colorado

I just had to write something quick about the road riding here. It's phenomenal. Compared to traffic snarled Vancouver with narrow roads, this place is something to write home about. No wonder so many pros train here.

So far I have just ridden short 1.5 hour rides close to Longmont. But I'll often ride for periods of 10 minutes and only see one car (and 30 cows). The shoulders are huge such that often riders are two abreast. If you want flats, you can ride for hours on winding farm roads past cows, horses, bison and deer. If you want hills you can ride West into the mountains up past red rocky canyons and gulches.

Admittedly I do miss my commute past English Bay and seeing the ocean views out to Horseshoe Bay... but that can wait.

The local mountain biking looks more rocky and sandy rather than wet and rooty. We just hiked up one of the local spots called Hall Ranch. Hopefully our mountain bikes will arrive soon.

All for now.

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Driving Vancouver to Longmont Colorado

Hey Guys!

Just an update to say that we made it safe and sound to Colorado!

I can't believe Steven and I just drove half-way across the country... It was a very scenic drive starting from southern Montana, through Yellowstone National Park, Grant Teton Park (gorgeous), and in southern Wyoming.

We took our time completing the 24hr driving route in 3 days, spending the night in small-town Missoula Montana, and in the Whistler-like ski resort town of Jackson Hole Wyoming. We left Vancouver at about 9:30am on Friday and made it to Longmont about 7:30pm on Sunday!

It was a good road trip with good weather and good company (Steven, me, and Radio Lab)... :o) Sunday night we stayed in a hotel in Longmont and when I closed my eyes for bed I kept seeing mountain range after mountain range pass me by...

Monday morning we signed our lease at the Shores and moved in... Well, with what we had brought with us in the car anyway. The movers came to pack our stuff in Vancouver last Thursday and it won't be here for another week or so. Then we went to our respective work places and after work we went to the the 24-hr Super Walmart! We bought some basic groceries, two ulti chairs, an air mattress and a pump. Now we were really ready to settle into home! :o)

Tuesday was a big day for me too because Agilent was notifying employees about their layoff status. I was quite worried because I thought being remote would increase my chances of being chosen... However, as it turns out, I was not laid off and I will get to enjoy the beautiful Loveland Colorado office for the next 6-9 months. It's a super big building (on just one floor) with a maze of cubes (maybe 600)! It has a cafeteria with cheap food, lots of outdoor patio space with tables and chairs, so I can eat my lunch in the sun staring at the beautiful mountain view... There's also a fabulous gym for employees right in the building, they call it the Wellness Centre, and they offer free yoga, spinning, circuit training classes! It's also got lots of fancy weight-training equipment (some stuff I've never seen before). It's great! I can't wait to get into high-altitude shape! :o)

So far this week we've been eating out a lot (since we only have one pot at home)... We had dinner with Emlyn in Boulder on Tuesday, dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Longmont on Wednesday, and then dinner at a cool/authentic local taco place on Thursday. Thursday night we also did some more grocery shopping at King Soopers which is also 24 hours... I cannot understand how this small town can support two 24hr grocery stores. There's also a Super Target, and who knows, maybe it's 24hrs too!

Thursday evening I also went to an ultimate clinic in Boulder! It was really good instructional stuff and I see that I will need to learn to play ulti in the wind! I didn't really network much though because my muscles felt like jello after 2 points of scrimage so I ended up leaving early... But it's a 4 week clinic so hopefully I'll see some familiar faces next Thursday too. I also plan to drop by the Spring league on Sunday and see if I can pick up a couple of points here and there... :o)

Finally, Friday morning (today), we had the Comcast people come and install internet at home! Yay! So now I should be able to call you guys to catch up instead of writing these long emails... :o) We are using Skype for long-distance calls and it works great! If you're on Skype too then please add me as a contact... I'm listed in the directory as Sharon Kong and my Skype ID is skongalong. Easy to find me! :o)

Well, time to go hunt for another restaurant... Thanks for reading this far! I hope you all are doing well and that I get a chance to talk with you soon... We will try to post some pictures this weekend so I'll send out another update then!

Here's the map of where we went. If you click on "View Larger Map" it will highlight the route that we took.

View Larger Map

Once we get our stuff from Vancouver we will be able to post photos from our trip. We should get it sometime this week.

We've become the stereotypical American consumers. We have spent every other night shopping at Super Walmart (yes much larger than a normal Walmart) REI and at Costco. Bigger is better. REI is having a 20% off sale next week. Watch out!

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