The Top Fuel Experience

Many people buy their cars based on how many miles (or kilometres) they can travel on a single tank of gas. There are other features like cargo space, leg room, and style, but for arguments sake, we will focus on fuel economy. Some modern car manufacturers can boast that their cars can achieve as much as 55 miles to every gallon of gas (mpg), or more. In the world of drag racing, where getting from point A to point B, as fast as possible from a standing start is the only goal, fuel economy is non-existent.

1933 Willy's Coupe with a 1700 hp engine

1933 Willy's Coupe with a 1700 hp engine

The fastest, most advanced category in drag racing is Top Fuel. While this vehicle does have four wheels and a driver’s compartment, it is not technically a car. It is a purpose-built, racing machine capable of attaining speeds of 330 miles per hour (mph) or 530 kilometres per hour (kph). That is more than five times the legal speed on any 400 series highway in Ontario. What makes this even more astounding is that this is accomplished in just 1000 feet or 308 metres and under four seconds.

This machine is commonly known as a dragster, an elongated form that can be as much as 25 feet long with a wing on both front and back. The rear wing can generate downforces of 2000 pounds onto the rear tires, helping the dragster gain much needed traction.

Propelling this vehicle down the track is a 500 cubic inch, all-aluminum V8, producing roughly 8000-10000 horsepower (hp). No one really knows exactly how much horsepower these engines make simply because there is no engine dynamometer that can withstand the violent power these engines can produce. Five hundred cubic inches may sound like a lot, but in drag racing, this engine is considered small. With modern technology, engines can now grow to 1005 cubic inches. The average family sedan we see every day travelling the streets past our homes, have roughly 117 cubic inch engines producing a paltry 150-200 hp.

Fueling these 500 inch bullets is a fuel known as nitromethane, or more commonly referred to as nitro in drag racing. Nitro is a combustible fuel that when poured out onto a level surface, it will burn with a gentle blue flame, appearing almost like liquid. Gasoline on the other hand, burns violently with rolling, black smoke and yellow flames. Inside the engine is where gasoline and nitro take on even more drastic differences. Nitro is an oxygen based fuel. It carries its own oxygen source with it. So, if you want your engine to make more power, you simply add more fuel, where as with gasoline, there is a delicate balance that must be maintained if the engine is going to operate correctly.

Going back to fuel economy, even a car with bad fuel economy such a Chevrolet Camaro with a 426 hp engine, can achieve over 20 mpg. A Top Fuel dragster will burn roughly 12 gallons of fuel on a single run lasting less than four seconds. All of this fuel is forced into the engine via a top-mounted supercharger, producing 50 pounds of boost (One pound of boost is equivalent to twice the amount of atmospheric pressure being forced into the engine cylinders). If we were to translate that into mpg, a single mile under full power would require 63 gallons of fuel. One gallon of nitromethane costs $67.00 US. Figuring in exchange, and totally disregarding the lunacy driving a Top Fuel dragster on a public road at full power, a typical 10 kilometre commute to work would cost upwards of $25,326.00. Hardly economical.  What makes nitro so violent is that under the compression of the supercharger forcing that toxic cocktail of fuel and air into a space smaller than your fist, compliments of the piston moving upwards to the pinnacle of the compression stroke, is that nitro doesn’t burn at this stage. It explodes. Violently. That is why if you ever go to a Top Fuel race, the first thing that is evident is that the sound is completely different. It almost sound like a series of small explosions at idle.

Reaching these insane speeds in less time it takes to sneeze, you're at risk of equipment fails, engines self-destruct, and sometimes tires literally coming apart. Top Fuel is an extreme sport done in the safest manner possible. There are emergency crews at both ends of the track and paramedics waiting for the inevitable to happen. Some drivers have died in the pursuit of speed, yet many drivers accept the danger willingly. Speed is addictive, it’s that rush of adrenaline that hits you with the push of the accelerator pedal. Like most sports, it is very expensive. As the old saying goes, speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?


MARK LENTZ

I'm a 44-year-old guy currently planning my first long-distance hike. It will start on the first of May, 2016, and will cover 2518 kilometres, from Echo Lake in California to Manning Provincial Park at the British Columbia border.  This will be my biggest, grandest, most epic accomplishment in my life so far. 

PCT  (Pacific Crest Trail Organization) MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op)

hikingtrailbackpackingbackpacktenthiking shoes


Snug as a bug

My first layer is a compression shirt. Its job is to pull moisture away from the skin and move it into the next layer.

My first layer is a compression shirt. Its job is to pull moisture away from the skin and move it into the next layer.

When venturing out for a long distance hike, whether it will be for one day or ten, staying warm in cooler temperatures is critical. As fall gives way to winter, evening temperatures can dip well below freezing in a couple hours. If you are sweating profusely when you stop, you need to have shelter, and/or a fire to keep warm. Hypothermia can set in quickly, hindering your ability to assemble your shelter or start a fire.

Strenuous exercise, outside in the elements for so many consecutive hours, your body becomes accustomed to being warm or hot. When you stop for more than 10 minutes, severe chills can, and most likely will, set in.

My last long distance, single-day hike of fifty kilometres, left me with extreme chills and shaking, despite the fact that I was indoors and it was 22 °C . If I had been on a multi-day hike, this could have been life threatening. My pocket thermometer said it was -1  °C  when I reached my car that night. Had I been camping instead of going home, a fire would have been deemed lifesaving.  Always carry matches and an emergency fire starter even if you are only going for a day hike. Pace yourself in cold weather, and don’t work up too much of a sweat. Your clothes may not dry properly or even at all without a source of heat such as a campfire or a wood-stove.

Adding a third layer allows the movement of moisture to continue outwards where it will evaporate. Adjust the amount of layers to the weather. Check the weather forecast for the area you will be hiking. Be wary of approaching weather systems, they may come sooner than expected, leaving you unprepared.

Adding a third layer allows the movement of moisture to continue outwards where it will evaporate. Adjust the amount of layers to the weather. Check the weather forecast for the area you will be hiking. Be wary of approaching weather systems, they may come sooner than expected, leaving you unprepared.

A layering system for clothing works best. Your first layer, known as the base layer, is clothing that go next to your skin. This should be snug fitting without being too tight to restrict circulation. This first layer wicks the sweat away from your body and pushes it into the next layer of clothing, helping to keep you dry. I wear a Nike compression shirt as my first layer followed by a Helly Hansen Dry shirt. Together, they keep my skin dry. Never wear cotton or denim while hiking, this absorbs water and does not dry out. Ideally, you will need three to four layers, or more, to stay warm and dry. Pace yourself, unless you have a nice warm car to get you home at the end of the day, keep the sweating to a minimum.  

Your next layer should also be a wicking material and slightly thicker. This should be a long-sleeve design to keep your arms covered and to aid in sweat absorption. Over this, you can have a jacket like a Salomon Shell jacket, or a sweater. Again, let the outside temperature and your level of activity, determine how many layers you will need. To avoid being caught in an unexpected weather system, bring enough clothing options so you can adjust to the weather.

And finally, all the layers are on. In cold weather you will need something for your head, neck, and hands. You won't always need these items, but keep them in your pack if the temperatures plummet.

And finally, all the layers are on. In cold weather you will need something for your head, neck, and hands. You won't always need these items, but keep them in your pack if the temperatures plummet.

Spend your money on quality clothing, $50 to a $100 for a base shirt is the norm. Second and third layers will be in the range of $50 to $200 or more. Quality clothing is not cheap, but you will soon realize that the better clothing is worth the extra cost. Helly Hansen, Patagonia, and Arcter’yx, are all high-quality manufacturers of outdoor clothing. When in doubt, seek advice from the people who do this for a living. MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) and Bushtaka, have qualified staff that are more than willing to discuss your needs. 

 

 


MARK LENTZ

I'm a 44-year-old guy currently planning my first long-distance hike. It will start on the first of May, 2016, and will cover 2518 kilometres, from Echo Lake in California to Manning Provincial Park at the British Columbia border.  This will be my biggest, grandest, most epic accomplishment in my life so far. 

PCT  (Pacific Crest Trail Organization) MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op)

hikingtrailbackpackingbackpacktenthiking shoes

Have feet, will travel

There is a coolness to the air, the leaves are turning golden yellow and scorching red. Mornings are now greeted with a layer of sparkling frost and you can see your breath floating in the air in front of you. Fall is a great time to hit the trails. There are no bugs, the stamina-crushing summer heat is no longer an issue, and the colours on the hills are incredible.

Oboz Tamarac hiking shoes, Leki trekking poles, and Osprey Atmos 65 AG backpack. All essential items for a great day or weekend hike. 

Oboz Tamarac hiking shoes, Leki trekking poles, and Osprey Atmos 65 AG backpack. All essential items for a great day or weekend hike. 

Your feet are perhaps the most important part of your body when it comes to hiking or backpacking. Hiking boots or shoes are readily available at any outdoors store. Pick a shoe that has a tough sole with an aggressive tread design and good ankle support. Also, when buying footwear for hiking, it is wise to go up a size; your feet will swell over the course of the day, causing your toes to jam into the front of your shoes or boots. Oboz Tamarac shoes are available in regular and wide widths and have a great tread design. They are available at MEC and retail for about $140.

For a step up in quality and fit, Lowa boots are at the top in quality and durability. They are flexible enough so that they require little to no break-in period. They can handle the added weight of packs over 35 pounds, or 16 kilograms. They retail around $250 and up.

For longer excursions, a boot with added ankle support is preferred, but not essential. It could help prevent a sprained or even broken ankle while hiking. Keep in mind when buying footwear whether you will be carrying a heavy pack or just a day pack. As a rule, when carrying over 20 pounds, or nine kilograms, the mid-sole of your footwear should be stiffer to compensate. Some of the higher-end models come with a carbon-fibre mid-sole, ultralight and very durable.

Hiking poles are great to have with you on the trail. When hiking for extended periods of time, your hands swell as a result of your heart pumping blood to feed your leg muscles oxygen. Your hands swell from the excess blood flow, making your hands feel stiff. Using hiking poles gives your arms and hands a small amount of exercise, using up some of the extra blood flow. Try it - you’ll notice a difference.

Hike the Distance Twitter


MARK LENTZ

I'm a 44-year-old guy currently planning my first long-distance hike. It will start on the first of May, 2016, and will cover 2518 kilometres, from Echo Lake in California to Manning Provincial Park at the British Columbia border.  This will be my biggest, grandest, most epic accomplishment in my life so far. 

PCT  (Pacific Crest Trail Organization) MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op)


Get out there

On the trail at Gatineau Park

On the trail at Gatineau Park

Hiking and backpacking is a terrific way to experience nature. Ottawa and Gatineau Park combined contain hundreds of kilometres of easily accessible trails. Trail maps are available from a variety of sources like Gatineau Park, or from the City of Ottawa. If you don’t have a car, there are buses that venture out to the Gatineau Park area and several locations around the city of Ottawa. For those more adventurous, Lake Placid in New York State, holds some of the best hiking around. 

There is a difference between hiking and backpacking. With hiking, most people carry little more than a bottle of water. Backpacking is exactly what the name suggests; you are carrying a pack with all of the supplies you will need. For a multi-day excursion, the supplies you will need can really add up. For a day hike, you will want a small (20-litre or less) backpack with some snacks and at least two litres or more of water. When hitting the trail, food should be high on your list even for short hikes. Pack nutrient-rich, high-calorie foods like nuts, cheese, energy bars, and bagels with peanut butter to help you accomplish your mileage goals with energy to spare. Eating a small amount every two to three hours is best. Avoid eating until you are full, as this will only make you tired.

Trails in Ottawa, while plentiful, are less challenging. They are very flat and the trails aren’t that long or difficult. Decent hiking can be had in Gatineau Park. The trails there range from easy to moderate. The biggest obstacles are the bugs, so pack plenty of bug spray if you go between May and September.

Scarface Mountain, Lake Placid, New York

Scarface Mountain, Lake Placid, New York

For a novice hiker/backpacker, the most important item you can buy right now is shoes or boots. Be sure to pick the one that’s most comfortable as soon as you put them on. Remember, you could be wearing them for 10-12 hours at a time. If your feet hurt, you are not going to be enjoying yourself. Everyone’s feet and walking style is different. Someone carrying a small pack or even no pack at all, will have drastically different needs than someone like me, who has a pack weighing nearly 40 pounds or 18 kilograms. So get some quality footwear and go hiking. You’ll love it, I promise.


Mark Lentz

I'm a 44-year-old male currently planning my first long-distance hike. It will take place the first of May, 2016 and will cover 2518 kilometres, from Echo Lake in California to Manning Provincial Park at the British Columbia border.  This will be my biggest, grandest, most epic accomplishment in my life so far. 

PCT  (Pacific Crest Trail Organization) MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op)