10.02.2017

Looking Back: September

For the first couple of weeks in September I was traveling, and then the remaining weekends were spent doing weekend trips, so I was barely home all month! Here are how the totals added up:

Running: A lot of my running miles this month were due to the fact that I hiked the Kungsleden, a long distance trail in Sweden, and I am counting those miles! I ended up running 336 miles, 225 of which were due to the Kungsleden. In addition, I completed 36.4 miles on the bike, bringing my total to 177 miles out of my goal of 180 miles. I am slacking a bit on the Yoga front, and only did one session, out of my goal of 4 times per month.

Teusajaure Lake, along the Kungsleden, Sweden

Reading: Once again, I did not read as much as I thought I would, as I was on vacation for the better part of the month. However, as it was in August, I did a lot of hiking and by the end of the day on these days, I was pretty tired and reading was not really a priority. However, I ended up reading eight books and most of them were pretty good! Here they are, in order of preference (audio books are in italics).

Born a Crime****
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper****
The Kitchen House****
A Man Called Ove****
The Nix****
Another Brooklyn***
Do Not Say We Have Nothing***
The Association of Small Bombs**

Travel: As stated above, for my yearly vacation this year I went to above the Arctic Circle in Sweden, where I hiked the Kungsleden trail. In addition, I spent a couple of days in Stockholm, running and exploring and hanging out. It was kind of funny to be in the land of people who look just like me, as most of my travels have been to places where I tend to stick out like a sore thumb!  I also went to Santa Cruz for a day at the beach with the folks, Napa for some wine tasting with friends, and to Tahoe for a weekend in the mountains! This was definitely a "last hurrah of summer" month and as you can see, I am trying to make the most of the good weather while it lasts!

Lake Aloha, South Lake Tahoe, CA

Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA

Hagaparken Lake, Stockholm, Sweden


Etc.: The garden went a bit wild while I was on vacation and the zuchinnis are so hard they will probably last in my compost for several years. In addition, I have about 4 zillion tomatoes, but have not been home long enough to can them yet! That is definitely something I need to get a move on with, as I definitely do not want them to go to waste! I also had a few figs (eaten!) and many cucumbers and CORN! Hurray for corn. It was so sweet and good and fresh!

Get in my belly!


What did you do this September? What is your favorite vacation activity? Do you have any good recent book recommendations?

9.18.2017

Currently: The Sweden Version

Happy Monday everyone! I just flew back from Sweden yesterday evening and it's some time in the middle of the night PDT, or lunch time in Europe, and I can't sleep, so I thought I would do a quick "currently" for my trip!

Reading:  The Association of Small Bombs, which I am about halfway through, but am not loving. It's okay, but not showstopping. On my vacation, I also read four other books which were all pretty good, but I will recap those in my September looking back!

Loving: The fall colors in Sweden! We don't get "seasons" very much in the Bay Area and being in Sweden reminded me of Autumns back home! 




Thinking: about my next vacation... just kidding! I'm thinking about how fast this last one went and how it will be to be back at work today (there are going to be so many emails to go through)! 

Frustrated: that I did not complete my entire hiking goal. However, the weather was poor and I was camping in a tent and I know I made the right decision. I just hate "giving up" without reaching my goals.

Feeling:  Hungry! When you are carrying all of your food on your back, you can only carry so much, which for me was about 3,000 calories per day. When you are hiking 10 - 12 hours per day, you just cannot keep up, calorie-wise. Ever since I left the trail, I have been carb-loading!!! Okay, really I've been overall calorie loading.

Anticipating: Going over all of my photos and reminiscing all the good parts of the trip! I did a cursory review and it's funny how I already forgot some of the early days. It's nice to recall them again and again!  




Watching: I did not really watch any TV while on vacation, but I did watch a few movies on the plane: Ms. Stone, When Harry Met Sally and Moneyball to name a few.

Working: will be interesting today. Usually September is not crazy busy, but I will have a lot of catching up to do after being gone for two weeks!

Grateful: that I get as much time off of work as I do. Technically I get about 20 days off (4 weeks) and I am required to take ten of the days consecutively, which I don't have much of an issue with! I know some people do not get very much PTO and I feel very glad that I do!

Listening: To audio books: A Man Called Ove, and next up Kitchen House. I did not really use my phone on the trail as I did not want to run down the battery in case I needed it for an emergency, so I didn't really listen to much!
 

Reindeer!

Wishing: the floors would clean themselves. How is it that I clean everything before leaving on vacation but when I come home, there is still dirt everywhere? I blame the house elves.

What did you do this weekend? What are you currently wishing for? What are you anticipating? 

9.01.2017

Looking Back: August

August was a good month! As usual, it was filled with lots of outdoor activities, family and friends! I love summer!

Running: In August I clocked 197 miles. About 122 of those were in the Wind River Range, and another 31.5 of them were from the Tamalpa Headlands 50k. Other than that, I actually had a couple of "easy" weeks! I actually biked about 41.6 miles though, which brings me to a total of about 141 miles, which is 78% of my 180 mile goal for this year! This month I kind of fell short on the yoga front, and I only did 2 sessions.

Reading: I thought I would read a lot on the hiking trip, but usually we were so tired that we went right to bed (sometimes as early as 7 pm). So, that plus the driving took out about 10 days of reading. However, thanks to audio books, I did "read" 5 books in August (sorted by preference / audio books in italics).

Her Every Fear ****
Think Like a Freak ****
Dreamland Burning ****
The Light of Paris ***
The Body of Death ***

Travel: I was not really home for even one weekend in August! The first two were spent in Wyoming; the third near San Jose and the last in Marin County at my grandma's 85th birthday! It was a busy month of events and travel.

Haystack Mountain, Wind River Range, WY
Wind River: Looking northeast from Chimney Rock @ 12,000 ft
The Eclipse. I didn't look at it, I swear!

SF Giants game with Dad
SF Giants game with Dad

Etc.: The garden is in full swing. I have tomatoes coming out of my ears! Speaking of ears, the corn has ears now too! I am not sure when they will be ready to pick, but it's so exciting to have a new vegetable in the backyard. Also ripening are the figs, cucumbers and zucchini. Still pending potatoes (maybe) and hot peppers. Interestingly, this year I had a lot of volunteer squash and tomatoes (aka, they replanted themselves from seeds from last year) and they are actually bearing fruits! I have canned regular tomatoes and tomato salsa and will probably do another batch of canning next month, likely tomato sauce and/or more plain tomatoes.

I think this qualifies as a plethora.

Snack Time! 
How was your August? What is your favorite in-season fruit or vegetable?

8.28.2017

2017 Goals: (Better Late Than Never) Mid-Year Check In

In January, I posted nine goals and it's time to do a mid-year check in to find out where that I need to focus on getting my bootie in gear!

1. Run a 100 mile race -- Done June 2017. Bryce 100M is in the books!

2. Run 2,400 miles / Climb 450,000 feet -- In progress / on track. Stats mid-July = 1,300 miles (54%) / 244,000 ft. (58%)

3. Conquer the hills -- Needs work! (A lot of work)!  The goal was to PR on the following:
(1) Marincello: Goal = beat 15:41 total or 10:53/mi -- best so far = 16:36 total or 11:31/mi
(2) Bobcat: Goal = beat 21:33 total or 10:39/mi -- best so far = 23:19 total or 11:31/mi
(3) Regular 12: Goal = beat 1:45:00 total or 9:03/mi -- best so far = 1:57:51 total or 10:09/mi

4. Read 52 books (with at least 4  of them off my home shelf) --  Done June 2017. Stats mid-June = 57 books. Also, as of mid-June, 6 of them have been off of my own shelf and I have given away 4 of them after I have finished them.

5. Bike or Run Commute once a week to work -- In progress / probably on track. The rain finally stopped, but then I got a flat tire and then I got lazy. I need a total of 180 biking miles (1 round trip per week = approx 3.5 miles). Stats mid-July = 35.4 miles (19% done). I have not run commute even once this year.

6. Try 12 new things -- In progress / probably on track. This can be a new place, a new food, a new activity, or...whatever! I have definitely added a few to my list but need to keep finding new things to try!

7. Spend less money than last year -- In progress / on track. As of the end of Q2, I have spent 26% less than last year. However, I did buy a car last year in March, so it's not surprising that the first two quarters this year are lower. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out after Q3, as I bought a lot of new backpacking gear this quarter.

8. Complete my yard project -- In progress / probably on track. In the front, I have done about 90% of the project. I still need to finalize the drip system and add rocks to one grassy area, but I am waiting for it to dry up first.

9. Complete my wall art / photo project -- In progress / probably on track. I did finally put up some photos! However, this is only about 75% done. I have to pick out a few larger photos to print and then hang them, which is something I tend to put off!

So I am done with two, on track with two, probably on track with four and need serious work on one!

How are your 2017 goals coming along? Have you spent more or less money than last year?

8.24.2017

Wind River Range -- Part Two -- Logistics

Planning a week long hiking trip is fun, if you are an excel nerd, or maybe a chemist, or an outdoor enthusiast. Okay, never mind, it is actually fun no matter what! For me, planning is part of the package that makes up the perfect gift, a trip of a lifetime. I am not going to go into that here; you will be able to read more about that in part three, the trip report. For now, I will just say that the work that goes into something, be it the planning or the hiking or the sweat and the tears, or the cold nights and long days, makes the reward all that much more sweet.

The Plan: So the first thing I had to do was figure out where I wanted to go. I had been wanting to hike the Sierra High Route (SHR), which is an off trail route in the Sierras, for some time. However, it is about 200 miles long and at my estimate, I could hike about 20 miles per day, which would put me at 10 days, or too many days to do the trip on a one week vacation. So I looked for other options and found the Wind River High Route (WRHR), which is in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, very close to Jackson, Yellowstone and the Tetons. However, I will admit, I had never heard of this section of the Rockies before. However, this route, which was also off trail, was closer to 100 miles, which I figured I could do in one week. So, I invited my ultrarunning friend Dr. G and the planning began.

The Route: We used the Andrew Skurka guide, along with CalTopo maps and the app "Offline Maps" which has USGS topo maps that you can download to use offline. Skurka gives you a few GPS way points but the route is not mapped out for you. Dr. G loaded the waypoints into the Offline Maps as well. We also had a compass and paper topographical maps.

The Big Three: Next, it was time to get my gear list together. Luckily, I have a skeleton list already made out for other trips, so that part was not too much reinventing the wheel. However, this time, I wanted to finally buy some of those elusive lightweight items that had been on my wish list for so long. The main one was a sleeping bag. They say that there is a "big three" of hiking: the sleeping bag, the sleeping pad and the tent. These items, aside from food, are generally the heaviest in your pack. I had been shopping around for a lightweight but not super expensive sleeping bag for years and had even bought one once which turned out to not be warm enough. This time I bit the bullet and spent a little more in the hopes that this time I would have the sleeping bag of my dreams (see how I did that?)

I bought the following and will likely review them at some point: Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 degree sleeping bag (29 oz), Hyperlite 2400 Southwest Backpack (28.6 oz), and the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Small size (8 oz). Dr. G carried a two man tent, which weighed about 2 lbs (32 oz). Therefore, my big three + my backpack only weighed about 4 lbs, or if you include the weight I carried to compensate for not carrying the tent, it was about 5 lbs. To put it in perspective, my old backpack, which I love and have used a lot, weighs about 5.5 lbs empty. Yes, I said empty!

The Clothing: For clothing, my plan was to wear the following: running shorts, short sleeved running shirt, underwear, bra, socks and Saucony trail running shoes (Nomad). I would carry the following: Mountain Hardware windbreaker, long sleeved running shirt, Montbell rain jacket, rain pants, beanie, buff, gloves, MH down jacket, sleeping shirt (long sleeved), NorthFace tights, extra underwear, socks & bra. All of the clothing I carried (not counting clothing worn) weighed about 39 oz or 2.5 lbs.

The Other Stuff: I also had to bring toiletries, kitchen items (pot, pan, spoon, bowl, fuel, matches etc.), first aid, dry bags, water purifier, electronics (phone, charger, headlamp, camera etc.) and other utility items (knife, rope, compass, trash bag, whistle etc.). All together these weighed about 4 lbs.

Base Pack Weight: This is all things, excluding consumables, which include food, water and fuel. My goal was to keep this weight under 20 lbs, as I estimated food would be about 1.7 lbs per day x 6 days, which would be about 10 lbs, and I wanted to keep my pack under 30 total lbs. My total base weight ended up being about 11.5 lbs!! I was very excited about this.

The Food: This was the most fun but definitely the most time consuming portion of the planning. Oh my, I just said "portion." Ha. Seriously though, the goal is to carry the most amount of calories in the least amount of weight. We planned to try to have approximately 3,000 calories per day worth of food, which would hopefully be no more than 1.7 lbs per day. This sounds easy, right? You just load up your pack with Top Ramen and PowerBars, right? Nah. My goal was to have food that: (1) is nutritious, (2) tastes good, (3) is inexpensive (no $8 Mountain House meals), (4) can just have hot water added to it to cook and that (5) has some variety.

So I did a lot of weighing and calorie counting and math and came up with this food plan: Breakfast consisted of either muesli or oatmeal with milk, nuts and freeze dried fruit. Both were about 700 calories. There would also be coffee, with powdered milk and sugar, which would be about 80 - 100 calories. Lunch and snacks would consist of various nuts, bars, jerky, and dried fruit and would consist of about 1,200 - 1,600 calories per day. Dinner would consist of a curried top ramen dish, a mashed potato with bacon dish or a rice and beans dish, each clocking in at a little over 700 calories. I also brought olive oil to supplement, which is about 100 calories per serving. All in all, the goal was about 2,600 - 3,000 calories per day.

The H2O: I brought a 1.5L bladder and a 0.5L soft flask for water. Each liter of water weighs about 2 lbs, but my plan was to try to carry the least amount possible and fill up frequently, so as to keep the pack weight down.

Total Pack Weight: My food ended up being about 1.4 lbs per day. This, plus an estimated liter of water, would bring my total starting pack weight to about 23 total lbs. HOWEVER...Dr. G carried the tent and I carried some of his food, which brought my total up by about 4.5 lbs bringing my actual starting pack weight to 27.5 lbs.

The Verdict: This is the lightest I have ever been when doing a multi day backpacking trip. I lugged over 40 lbs up Mt. Whitney for a one night trip. I will (hopefully) never have to do that again. The pack felt comfortable and even when climbing up a steep rock or going through a tight squeeze, it was not too cumbersome.

A couple of things I would probably leave behind: the olive oil (it leaked plus we never used it), the all purpose soap (I did not shower, bathe, or use soap to do dishes or clean clothes like I thought I might), my sleeping shirt (I slept in my hiking clothes, although it is nice to have a possible dry shirt if needed), sports bra (I wore one and brought a spare and ended up wearing neither in the end) and my just-in-case tank top (it was never warm enough).

A couple of things I might bring some of / more of: gauze (I had tape but no gauze and I got a pretty big scrape which could have used a bit bigger of a cover), socks (I brought one spare but having wet feet is a pain), a different water carrying system (more on that in the trip report) and a different/newer charger (my solar charger is old and ran out of juice fast, plus it was not sunny so I could not recharge it).

A couple of things I could not have lived without: this Picaridin bug lotion (NO bug bites when applied, even with mosquitoes SWARMING), Advil, Neosporin / Bandaids / Leukotape (as mentioned above, I got a scrape and it was nice to have something to clean it), earplugs (my tentmate was a snorer, plus the sleeping pads are loud) my new sleeping bag (fabulous! We spent one night in a snowstorm and I was not cold at all), maps/compass/GPS (after all, this was an off trail trek), Garmin 910ST, camera (I took about 800 photos), Yaktrax (I almost left them behind), and nuts (fat, protein and carbs all rolled into one, which keeps you feeling more full throughout the day).

In the end, I ate every speck of my food, except for the olive oil and one packet of Justin's Peanut Butter. I also used everything in my bag, except for the few things mentioned above and any emergency items (rope, knife, first aid). There was nothing that I really missed or really felt was dead weight. I felt that the packing ended up being pretty much perfect. I may try to compress a few things down a bit more with a compression sack so I can fit a little more if I am hiking for more days. I also need to figure out my water system and probably configure one extra pocket on the front of my pack (my pack has two hip pockets but no chest pocket). Otherwise, things are looking pretty good!

Have you ever planned for a long hiking or backpacking trip? Or maybe a long vacation? What is your logistical planning strategy?

8.17.2017

Wind River Range -- Part One -- Trail Conditions

At the beginning of this month my friend Dr. G and I went hiking in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. It was hard for us to find online information regarding weather etc., so my trip report is going to consist of three parts: (1) Weather Report / Trail Conditions, (2) Logistics and (3) Trip Report. This way if anyone needs trail info, they will hopefully be able to find it here. If you are reading this and don't plan on hiking, you can skip part one and wait until part two or three come out! 

A taste of what's to come

I will go into this in more detail later, but most of our hike consisted of traveling on the semi-charted and very informal "Wind River High Route." (See here for the Skurka version or the Wilson/Dixon version) Described by Andrew Skurka as being approximately 66% off trail, it consisted of a lot of boulder hopping, stream fording, snowfield crossing, bushwhacking and route finding. This was a huge challenge as well as being a lot of fun. However, there were some things that it would have been nice to know beforehand. 

First and foremost, there was A LOT more snow than I expected. Most of the route is above 10,500 feet and much of it is even in the 12,000 foot plus range. I knew there would be some snow; I knew this year was more snowy than others have been. However, there was still even more snow that I expected even after taking certain factors into consideration. I brought Yaktrax and Dr. G had micro-spikes and we used them a lot! However, depending on your expertise, I would even say that some sections warranted crampons/ice axes or at least trekking poles, especially if you are inexperienced or faint at heart. 


Wilson/Dixon descending the south side of Alpine Lakes Pass in 2013 (source)

Dr. G ascending the south side of Alpine Lakes Pass Aug 2017

Dr. G ascending the south side of Alpine Lakes Pass Aug 2017 (he is the tiny speck beyond the tiny rock)

Foodwise, I ate ALL of my food. When the hike was done, I had one packet of peanut butter (180 calories) left over. I had eaten every other scrap of food that I brought. I will go into more detail about this in the logistics portion of this series, but basically my takeaway is that I forgot how much the altitude and constant movement can burn up those calories!

In addition, of the seven days we hiked, five of them had rain, hail or snow. One night, as we were camping at about 11,000 feet, we got snowed on and woke up to the sound of the snow sliding off the top of the tent to the ground. The next day there was a beautiful layer of new snow, which was priceless, but it was hard to see the rocks underneath to see where to step or to determine where the best path was. Needless to say, I wore pretty much everything that I brought, even the "just in case" layers, and I was mighty glad to have bought a new sleeping bag before setting out. Also, if you do not have a waterproof backpack, I suggest dry bags or at the very least a trash bag pack liner. 

Rainy but never gloomy!

New snow! Beautiful but hard to get traction! Looking north from Europe peak.

Due to the above and probably other things such as route finding errors and variability of the route in general, the hike took us a lot longer than expected. The total route is supposed to be 96 miles, so we thought it realistic that we would take five or maybe six days to complete the route. However, due to a few wrong turns and snowy days, it took us seven days, we only averaged about 15 miles per day AND ended up with a total route distance of 114 miles. 

If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them! 

For my normal readers, have you ever gone off trail when hiking? Have you ever heard of the Wind River Range?

8.01.2017

Looking Back: July

“Warm, mellow summer. The glowing sunbeams make every nerve tingle. The new needles of the pines and fir are nearly full grown and shine gloriously.”  - John Muir

Running: I had a couple of pretty substantial weeks of running, bringing the total in July to 238 miles and about 40,800 feet of climbing. In addition, I am finally getting back on the bike, and logged about 65 miles this month. Last month, I also did about 20 miles. My goal was to ride to work once a week, which is about 5 miles. However, for the first half of the year, I basically did not ride at all. So now I have to maintain an average of about 10 miles per week or 40 miles a month, which I am on track to do if I keep it up!

I have also been doing yoga 1 - 2 times per week (this one). The yoga and the biking are definitely making my legs more heavy when I run, but I think that's mostly because this is the first month of doing all of it together. Hopefully my body will get accustomed to all the different activities and it will be stronger rather than more tired!

Reading: In July, I did a lot of driving and quite a few solo runs and bike rides. What this ended up translating to was more "reading" in the form of audiobooks! I read a total of 11 books, 5 of which were audiobooks (in italics). There were some pretty good ones. I have listed them below in order of preference (with books from my own shelf in bold). I have noticed one thing: my liking an audiobook can depend a lot on whether or not I like the narrator, which isn't really fair to the author. Also, I tend to not pay as much attention when I am listening to a book versus reading it myself, especially since usually I am driving or doing something else at the same time rather than focusing only on the book. However, it is a great way to get two times as many books read!

My First Summer in the Sierra***** (see review here)
These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine 1881 - 1901****
Everything You Want Me To Be****
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town****
The Mothers***
Silver Bay***
Everything, Everything***
By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept***
The Reason For God**
Fortune's Rocks**
My Brilliant Friend**

Travel: What a great month! I actually had a couple of weekends at home, which is very odd for a July, but I am not complaining! I got to finally do some things around the house, as well as prepping for my next trip, which is in August. However, I did spend some time in Oregon, as I always do in July, and I also went on a camping trip to Mammoth, which was a little different than expected due to the heavy amount of snow in the Sierras this year. Let's just say that running was superseded by slip-sliding, hiking and route finding and the camp site that we wanted was still located on a closed road. It was still a lot of fun and the high Sierras were beautiful covered in snow and ice.

Thousand Island Lake, CA

Emerald Lake, CA

Garnet Lake, CA

Garnet Lake, CA

Shadow Lake, CA

Devils Postpile, CA

Smith Rock State Park, OR

Mt. Washington, OR


Etc.: So far in the garden there are some ripe tomatoes and a few cucumbers, but I think that a rat is eating my zucchini as I keep finding chewed nubs. Darn it, varmit. So I am just starting to be able to have tomato salads and to have a once in a while cucumber snack. I also had some potatoes that were sprouting eyes, so I planted them last week for a "fall planting." We shall see if they take! And the corn is growing! No ears yet, but it's getting taller!


Corn (on the left), end of July. Tomatoes in the background on the right.

Where did you go in July? What is your favorite summer read so far? Do you have anything fun planned for the rest of the summer?