Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nutrition Tracking Spreadsheet

As of today, I am officially free to resume my "normal activity."  (See my last post for a bit of the back story on why I had been medically prescribed to do nothing strenuous for the last month.)  This normal activity is going to include a bouldering session later this evening as I resume my normal training for climbing.  In addition to my normal plan for workouts, I am going to pay more attention to my diet.  To that end, I have created a spreadsheet that I thought others might find useful as well.  You can download it here.

The spreadsheet counts the total number of calories as well as the grams of carbohydrates, fat, and protein in your diet.  It is pre-loaded with a variety of foods on the "Food Database" sheet, essentially everything that was in our pantry at the time.  However, you can easily add your own foods just by inserting a food and copying the relevant information from the nutritional information on the package.  The "Overview" sheet displays a dietary summary of any daily information you have entered, including the total number of calories consumed as well as the ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in your diet, expressed as percentages.  You can use this information to adjust your diet according to your goals.

The third spreadsheet, "Daily," is the crux of the matter.  It tracks the food you consume every day.  The most difficult part of using the spreadsheet is simply having the discipline to record food as you consume it as well as portion your food according to serving size.  However, you will be surprised how quickly you learn to estimate portions with accuracy.

My personal plan for this spreadsheet is to track the macronutrient ratio in my current diet with the goal of reducing my carbohydrate consumption and increasing my protein intake.  It could also be used to adjust the amount of fat in your diet, count calories, learn about proper food portioning, or any number of other things.  Feel free to take a look and post a comment if you have any questions.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


A little over three weeks ago, while up in New Hampshire preparing for an American Mountain Guides Association Rock Instructor Exam, I underwent emergency abdominal surgery after my intestines decided to twist on themselves and basically stop working. Needless to say, this derailed any plans I might've had to climb anything and I got to spend a few nights in the hospital. The story below is a short piece I wrote about the experience.

I am on the floor of the hotel room, clutching my abdomen in the fetal position.
* * *
I am on the floor of the bathroom, clutching the toiletbowl. Spattered spit and vomit decorate the forty-year old linoleum.
* * *
I am on the floor of the emergency room, kneeling on hands and knees, barely noting the texture of the thin, blue and gray layer of carpet underneath me. With each exhalation I manage to move the pen in my hand furiously and illegibly across the paper in front of me. Name. Social security number. Date of birth. Address.
The receptionist looks on, a slightly amusing mixture of bewildered and aghast. I clutch the edge of the counter and slowly heave myself up, paperwork in hand. I slide it across the desk and return to my spot on the floor.
* * *
I sit in triage for a seemingly interminable period. The physician finally arrives, “palpating,” but really just poking and prodding the parts of me that already hurt. She leaves and the “needling” begins. I lay there, distracted from the various pricks in my arms by undulating pulsations of the most excruciating pain imaginable tormenting the area surrounding my navel. Soon, a wave of coldness rushes over my left arm, near my elbow. Then comes a swell of warmth flushing down me from head to toe. Finally, my body allows me the respite of unconsciousness.
* * *
I awake to an older woman entering the room.
“How is your evening going?” I smile weakly as I tremble from the pain, made bearable by anti-inflammatories and mild narcotics.
The technician looks startled but pleased with my query. “Pretty good,” she replies. “Better than most folks—I just got here.”
Later, she will nominate me for the unofficial award of “nicest patient ever.” She asks if I want to watch TV. I politely decline. I have been dozing. It is, after all, 11:00pm.
“Are you sure?” she implores.
I do not need TV right now. I do not want it. I can sleep. I want to sleep. And I can think. I can even read the quaint locally-published magazine sitting on the table nearby. She insists on bringing me the remote control and showing me how to operate it before she leaves.
Sometime later I decide that I could, in fact, use the distraction of television. The remote is broken.
* * *
The surgeon greets me in the recovery room. We have a conversation half-remembered before they wheel me along to my new home. After some significant re-arranging of furniture and beds, I am brought to rest in room 119, bed B. I vaguely understand that there is another person sharing the room with me.
* * *
Jim sits across the room behind a curtain. His wife accompanies him for most of it. Sometimes, he tries to move, and then he coughs the most horrible cough, a sputtering, wet hacking that is clearly producing something. Jim wants to sit up. It is his goal for the day. He announces this intention after finishing the coffee-flavored McDonald’s milkshake his daughter and grandchildren have brought. His son-in-law says he must work through lunch and can’t stop by, apparently for the third time this week. Jim and his wife say they understand. Who wouldn’t?
He pages the nurses when his visitors leave. Without being overly patronizing, they help him adjust the array of tubes protruding from various locations on his body. They leave.
His wife prepares lunch for him. He rolls over, invoking the name of his Lord. He cries. In his attempt to prop himself up he curses the pain. He sinks back down and coughs that awful cough.
The orderly hurries past the crying man and wordlessly drops a tray of liquid food at my bedside, hurrying away with a tense expression. Jim sobs.
I eat some orange gelatin.
* * *
“Do you want to bathe?” she asks.
I am confused. Why would I want to bathe? Am I supposed to? Do I need to bathe? I haven’t bathed for five days. Am I supposed to want to bathe? How would that even work? Do I get to shower? Would it be a sponge bath?
And what exactly did she mean when she used the phrase “freshen your johnnies?”
* * *
I walk a lap around the hospital wing, IV tower in tow. It hurts, being stabbed in the abdomen, but not so much as I would’ve thought. It’s probably attributable to the precision of a scalpel as opposed to the myriad other potential ways to come by a puncture wound. It could also be the painkillers, but I’m fairly certain those wore off long ago.
I return to my room. Jim’s visitors have left. He sits with his curtain drawn back, staring blankly at the wall. Perhaps it’s the morphine and the Ativan. Perhaps it’s because his wife just left for the day. Perhaps it’s the cancer.
Or perhaps it’s because Dr. Chin just talked to him about considering hospice care.
They think Jim is going to die. I think Jim is a bad-ass.
* * *
Apparently, my intestines fixed themselves. The stitches will dissolve on their own. Until then, I have been forbidden to lift more than twenty pounds for a month, provided I don’t want a hernia. But I am allowed to go swimming in a week if I’m feeling well enough.
Everyone tells me I look good. I get the feeling the nurses half expect me to come out of my room doing backflips, or at least standing totally upright, which is equally outrageous at this point.
They don’t tell Jim that he looks good. I want to cry.
* * *
Jim’s wife sets a small sketchbook in my hand.
“That’s for you,” Jim croaks at me from across the room.
I open it to the first page and chuckle. I read all of Jim’s clever cartoons, a variety of comedic sketches and wordplay, each one giving cancer the finger and bitch-slapping death in its own way. I am overwhelmed that Jim has retained his sense of humor throughout the ordeal.
I silently begin to cry.
* * *
I have been discharged. I hobble out of the room with my wife, passing Jim and his wife on the way.
“Take care of yourself,” I tell Jim.
“You too,” he says. “Hope you get better soon.”
I wish I could say “likewise” and believe it.
As we walk down the hall to the automatic doors, I flatly say to my wife, “Jim is going to hospice today.”
She squeezes my hand. Our friends cheerily greet us in the parking lot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Journey to the Center of...Somewhere

In addition to recently starting a climbing guide service (check us out at http://www.peregrineclimbingguides.com), I work part-time leading trips with the University of Alabama Outdoor Recreation (http://urec.ua.edu/ornews.cfm). This past weekend my co-leader, Stephen, and I went on a scouting mission to Anvil Cave, near Hartselle, Alabama in preparation for an upcoming trip we will be leading in October. I had visited the cave previously but wanted to review our intended route and show Stephen where we would be going. My wife, Susan, and Stephen's wife, Jerry, came along with us.

I was particularly excited for this trip as it represented my first serious outdoor excursion since the end of August when I had emergency abdominal surgery. The first week or two of mandatory down-time following surgery proved a useful respite, but by the third week I was growing increasingly stir crazy. A pleasant flatwater paddle and a walking cave seemed like a great way to slowly get back up to speed without overdoing it.

The Anvil Cave is unique in that access is by water only. To get to the entrance you must first paddle your way down Flint Creek, which only adds to the adventure.

Susan in the bow as we paddle up Flint Creek

After carefully navigating some distance down the still waterway around downed trees, fishing lines, and an old dishwasher, we had arrived. We pulled out on river right at a shallow, muddy embankment choked with rushes and reeds. We donned our boots, kneepads, helmets, and headlamps and hiked the few hundred feet inland to a short, broken sandstone bluff. However, the small cliff line that greeted us did not look familiar at all. Anvil Cave has four entrances at ground level, whereas this cave had but one entrance down a jagged sinkhole. What was supposed to be a simple reconnaissance of a familiar cave was proving anything but.

We debated our next course of action for some time. Should we go into this unfamiliar cave entrance? Anvil Cave does have sink hole entrances, and this could lead us to familiar portions of the cave, if we could successfully navigate the maze-like passages to get there. But if we could find the sink entrance, why were we unable to find the ground level entrances that should have been nearby? There had been recent seismic activity in Alabama; was it possible that the ground-level entrances had collapsed? If so, did we really want to go into a cave that might be unstable?

We finally decided that we should at least check it out. If nothing else, we had found some entrance to some cave, and for the purposes of our trip, it was more important that we found a cave if not the cave.

Upon entering, we found limited evidence of previous exploration; there were a few dead glow sticks, a Pepsi can, some arrows painted on the walls at various intersections, and a ball of string that ultimately proved quite useful. However, there was little else signifying human passage. It appeared that there had been one or two solid explorations of the cave but not too much other activity.

A few cool formations we found in the cave

As we wandered through the grid-like tunnels, we were constantly searching for a passage to "main street," the largest continuous passage inside Anvil Cave and a clear landmark that would, at least in theory, help us locate the ground level entrances. After exploring every major passage short of squeeze tunnels, we stopped for lunch to discuss our options. They were somewhat limited:

1) start exploring random squeeze tunnels in the vain hope that we would find "main street"
2) go back to the entrance, hop back in the canoes, and paddle some more because we were at the wrong cave
3) pack it up and go home

Stopping for lunch

Since getting lost in a random cave and quitting without know where we were did not appeal, we decided to go back out to the boats and try again. We stood in the daylight for quite some time pondering our location, which proved to be more of an art than a science. We had a very basic map and a rough idea of where we should be, but little else. The only things we could really identify with confidence were the creek, the cliff in front of us (one of many on the map), and a house in the distance. We had not even brought a compass as they do not usually work properly in caves. Besides, finding the entrance to the cave was supposed to be the easy part!

As we stood knee deep in mud and poison ivy, I realized that I not only had a compass, but even a GPS. I had brought my iPhone along to take pictures, but completely forgot that it could also tell us where we were. I opened up the maps application on my phone and confirmed what we had all just decided--we still had another mile of paddling to do to get to Anvil Cave. We had just explored some other cave.

The blue marker is Anvil Cave. The red marker is the unknown cave we explored.

We launched the canoes and paddled further upstream to a much more familiar looking take-out. We ambled uphill the few yards to the cliff line and were greeted with the unmistakable entry to Anvil Cave, a ground-level entrance indelibly signified by graffiti. The broken sandstone was spray painted with the word "hole" and an arrow indicating the obvious passage into the cave. Now quite confident in our position, we were able to head home, the scouting mission a success. Not only did we find Anvil Cave, we have the option of exploring a more technical, less impacted cave system as well. It's always good to have options.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The introduction.

Welcome to "Rock. River. Run." This blog will follow the many hapless misadventures of Derek DeBruin and Susan DeBruin in their pursuit of "living the dream" as it were, in this case, spending as much time as possible climbing, paddling, and trail running.

Expect humorous anecdotes, epic tales, trip reports from the far flung reaches of the world (well, maybe someday), gear reviews, technical tips, shameless advertisements, brutally honest prose, tactless rants, proto-academic research informing quasi-scientific sports nutrition and physical training plans, painstakingly crafted short stories, links to random videos and cool photos, and sometimes just plain drivel.

Regardless, the whole thing should be mildly entertaining. Or at least distracting. Or something to do when you're bored at work and you need it to look like you might actually be doing work when really you're trying to live vicariously through others, despite the fact that their lives aren't really that much more interesting or exciting. So click that "follow" button and come along on a wondrous journey as relayed through the text (and maybe even photos and videos) brought to you over the mystical tubes of the internet through the eye-straining back-lighting of an LCD monitor. Enjoy.

Oh. And a picture of us. Seemed like a good idea.