Reside in Houston and Enjoy Adventure Racing?

Join us this evening in welcoming Houston Fit Adventure Racing to the ACK Houston store. Houston Fit Adventure Racing is conducting a free  summer season informational session to help you learn more about training programs that will prepare you for adventure racing. Houston Fit Adventure Racing offers specialized training for aspiring and experienced adventure racers looking to improve their performance, or anyone looking to improve their fitness and have fun by participating in a variety of endurance sports.

ACK Houston
5822 Bissonnet,
Houston, Texas 77081

Date and Time: TONIGHT! Wed, April 27 at 7pm

One lucky person will win a Brunton Eclipse 8096 Adventure Racing Compass so don’t miss out!

Hope to see you there! – ACK Houston

Why Don’t YOU Have a CamelBak Hydration Backpack?

CamelBak Lobo Hydration Pack 2011

No seriously, why don’t you have one? It’s the perfect accessory for the athlete, outdoors person or even backyard gardener. Regardless of your activity, CamelBak Hydration Backpacks provide the necessary hydration that will make your experience that more enjoyable — especially here in Texas on a hot summer day! Of course, it doesn’t have to be hot to stay hydrated. You should always drink water when exerting any energy regardless of how cool it is outside.

I got my CamelBak a few years ago and it has been a staple of many outings. From riding my bike, paddling my kayak to working out at the gym and playing basketball, I don’t leave the house without it. It’s better than a water bottle for obvious reasons but I specifically enjoy having storage options to help keep track of all my stuff. Depending on the style, there is usually ample space for extra clothes, a bathing suit and/or a place for your keys, phone and wallet. Of course, I particular enjoy using a CamelBak when paddling since it allows me to drink without disrupting my motion.

At ACK we carry a wide variety of CamelBaks and even a cleaning kit. Regardless of your budget or activity, you’ll be sure to find exactly what you are looking for.

On a side note, I want to know how YOU use your CamelBak, leave me a comment below.

Go Live,
Zach – ACK Austin

Map Knowledge: Squiggly Lines, Yes…Squiggly Lines

Ever look at a trail map and wonder what all of the squiggly brown lines are for or what they mean? These lines are referred to as contour lines and they represent elevation changes on the map. When you look closely you can start to decipher where these lines represent the terrain like a hill, mountain, canyon, cliff or the plains. Each of  these lines follows an exact elevation measure in either feet or meters above a constant, sea level.

Click for a larger view

Check out the example map to the left. Upon closer examination you will notice that some of the contour lines are double the thickness of the other lines. These double-thick lines are referred to as the index lines and the thinner lines are called intermediate lines.  When you follow along an index line you will find a printed elevation. In the case of the example map we have two index lines that are both labeled as 1000. This tells us that these lines are 1000 feet above sea level.  If we had a full map we could find the bar scale, which is usually located in the margin, and printed near it you we would find the contour interval. This would tell us the change in elevation between each of the contour lines. Since we don’t have the full map we can use other features on the map to figure out the contour interval. Near the left center of the map we have a peak. The top of the peak has a small triangle and to the left of that it is marked 1505.  This indicates that the top of the peak is 1505 feet above sea level.  Since there are 5 contour lines from the peak to the index line that is marked 1000, we can determine that the contour interval is 100 feet.  Now you know that as you cross over from one contour line to the next you are either gaining or losing 100 feet of elevation each time.

In the bullets below I’ve included a few more tip about reading map contour lines. If you are really interested in mastering map reading, start with the book Be Expert With Map & Compass, by Bjorn Kjellstrom, it’s a great learning tool. Not only does it explain maps, map reading and compasses in plain English, but it also includes exercises and tests to help reinforce the lessons.

Contour Line Tips:

Click for Details
  • The closer together the contour lines the steeper the slope
  • There is no beginning no end to a contour line, they are a continuous loop, if you were able to walk along a contour line you would neither gain nor lose elevation and would eventually return to the place that you started
  • Mountain peaks are usually represented by a triangle or an X and show a printed elevation next to them
  • Depressions are usually indicated by making small hash marks on the downhill side of the depression, pointing toward center (check out the lower right corner of the example map)
  • If your path is regularly crossing contour lines of increasing elevation you are going uphill and conversely if the elevation is decreasing you are going downhill
  • Generally, when contour lines cross a stream, river, ravine or valley they take on the shape of a V with the point of the V pointing uphill and when they indicate a spur or the ridge on a hill the take on the shape of a U, with the curved end of the U pointing downhill
  • Another way to determine the contour interval is to find two adjacent index lines, subtract the smaller elevation from the larger and then divide this by the number of contour gaps you cross going from one index to the next

Have fun exploring the unknown!


24 Hours of Rocky Hill Ranch

The 24 hours of Rocky Hill Ranch is an annual 24-hour mountain bike race that takes place near Austin, just outside of Smithville, Texas. Competitors race in teams of 2 through 8 persons on a 9 mile course. Relay teams trade off riders after each lap. For the truly insane there is a solo division, and to be honest I think those people are mentally unstable. I like the fact that the makeup of the teams can be both women and men. Team Austin Canoe and Kayak was an 8-person team made up of 7 men and 1 woman with ages ranging 25 to 51. This race is the real deal but our focus was to have fun.

In my opinion we did admirable for a first time team finishing 14th out of 19 teams in our division. For many of us this was not only the first time racing, the first time riding at night, the first time going without any sleep for an extended period of time and the first time being out in the woods with nobody to help you if you have a problem. Yes, I was one of the first timers but I was very excited. I trained for 3 months leading up to the event.

And here is where it all began. I shot out of the gate for my first lap with my legs pumping as hard as I could, attempting to attack “Chuck’s revenge” — which is pretty much a mile long climb. After a quarter of a mile it felt as if my lungs were about to burst, my legs were becoming as weak as “Jell-O” and I found myself pushing my bike up the hills more than once. I have to admit, the rest of that ride was miserable. It wasn’t because of the physical exhaustion but rather the fact that I crashed hard crossing a series of roots around mile 3, losing my handlebar bike light for the remainder of my lap (my own stupidity for not checking the battery cord). For the remaining 6 miles I cursed the trail, my bike, the night, the timers, the race organizer, my teammates and everyone else I could think of while I gutted out the remainder of the lap with only my headlamp. As I completed my lap and returned to the transition area I found myself upset, tagged my teammate Perry who was eager to get back out on the trail and trudged 50 yards over to our campsite.

I sulked in camp for a few minutes as I dreaded my next turn which would come sometime between 12 and 1 a.m. Th night wore on while my other teammates rode their laps. We talked, we ate, we tried to play some games but mostly we sat around the campsite enjoying each others company. We also tried to sleep at different parts of the night but it was tough with so much activity around us.

When I was tagged in for my next dreaded lap, I rode off with an almost Zen like feeling. Fact is, I don’t consider myself an elite athlete, never been one, why in the world did I think I would show up on this day and ride the greatest lap this place had ever seen? Well, I am a guy that doesn’t give up. What kept me going is that it didn’t matter what my time was, all that mattered that I was going to make the most of it by giving this lap my all and enjoy it the best that I could. I realized there was no sense in sulking or feeling angry and reminded myself that I don’t get that many opportunities to be out in the woods with my friends doing this type of thing.

So onward I went and I rode the hell out of that lap — enjoying every minute of it. So what if I needed to occasionally jump off and push my bike? All this made me think of all the things we miss or don’t do because we are afraid we won’t do well or place near the top and worry that people may think less of us for finishing at the bottom half of the standings. My participation was enough for me and it was something to be proud of. It kind of reminds me of the ACK Fishing Challenge that was occurring that same weekend. I know that many would-be participants don’t compete because they don’t think they will do well. I can think of a lot worse things to be doing than fishing with some new friends, eating some pizza, having a good time and getting some free gear regardless of my finish.

So, back to my own personal challenge. Despite a few hurdles, it was a great success for team ACK plus I now have a cool looking ACK racing jersey. I’d like to thank our sponsors including Thule, Wilderness Systems, Powerbar, GSI, Yakima, Malone and NRS for supporting our team. I also want to extend a big thank you to Steve, Liam, Glen, Josh, Perry, Lara and Tim for a great weekend.

I can’t wait until the next event and you can expect to hear more from team ACK.


P.S. Speaking of racing jerseys, we also sell them! Click here for pricing and details. They are great for triathlons, running events, bike races, canoe and kayak races and even fishing tournaments.