30 March 2012

Diablo Trails Challenge 50k

I recently started volunteering at Save Mount Diablo, a local non-profit that focuses on land preservation and restoration as well as environmental education. Sounds like a perfect fit for me!

Save Mount Diablo is hosting a 5k, 10k, 21k, and 50k trail race on Earth Day (April 21). If you're in the area, you should consider running/walking one of the races. If that's not your cup of tea, then please help out by volunteering in the morning. Comment below if you're interested and I'll put you in touch with the right person.

Oh, and I'm writing about my progression as a runner and training for this race for a local newspaper. My first article is now published

29 March 2012

Peter Grubb Hut Ski Trip

You know the cliche: when it rains, it pours? Well, we've been having a severely dry winter up until three weeks ago. Then it started pouring. And it's been that way every since. 

Rain here brings a smile to my face, and not because of the positive ions. Rain down here means snow up in the Sierras. And it couldn't have come at a better of time. 

Flash back to November, when K made reservations for the Peter Grubb Hut near Donner Pass (NW of Lake Tahoe). There are a few huts in the Tahoe area and reservations fill up quickly for winter weekends. K was able to make reservations for Sunday through Tuesday. The timing lined up with Spring Break, and seasonally usually means good snow and longer days. 

Flash forward to the Saturday prior to our trip. It was raining here, snowing up there. Not just snowing, but dumping. Multiple feet per day of fresh snow. I don't think we would have gone on this trip had this giant storm system not come through. 

Our trip was a great success. I can't thank K enough for organizing this trip, and B for flying half way across the country to join us, and E for being E. 

Peter Grubb Hut.
A few notable things from this trip:
  • We didn't have a map or GPS. This is pretty standard for me. However, we were trying to find the hut in a near whiteout snow storm, which covered most snow tracks. Using our memory and a few navigation techniques, we got pretty close to the hut. Eventually we resorted to using our iPhone which showed the location of us, the trial, and the hut. It was almost too easy. Of course, this is not something to be relied on. But still, it's amazing!
  • The Peter Grubb Hut is really well designed and in a fantastic location. However, the enjoyment of your trip is related to many things out your control, mostly weather (in our case: snow!) and hut-mates (in our case: a huge group with several snorers)
  • While skiing on day two, we met Louise, a 70 year old woman who was backcountry skiing by herself. She is an incredibly athletic, accomplished person that was kicked our butts up and down the mountain! 
  • Louise mentioned the Tahoe Vertical Challenge.  This is a fairly new website where backcountry skiers can log how much vertical they ski each day. In addition to building the backcountry skier community, it also benefits the Sierra Avalanche CenterAlpenglow Sports has agree to donate a certain monetary amount for each foot of vertical recorded. As of today, skiers have logged 5.5 million feet! That sounds great, but it's still a far way from the target of 15 million feet. So if you ski, snowboard, or snowshoe in the backcountry, please sign up at TahoeVertical.com and start logging your activities!
All smiles on the way in . . . until we got lost in a white out. 

E. skiing along Castle Ridge

We started the second day with avalanche transceiver practice. This was B's first time using a transceiver, or backcountry skiing for that matter, but you would never be able to tell! 

B. on her way up. 

We had to quickly adjust our group photo as my camera, on a 10-second timer, started tilting downwards. 

Discussing our options.

Who wouldn't be happy here?

And this is why we do it! E. getting in some great turn on her tele skis. 

Our day: skin up, ski down. Repeat. 

Winds were supposed to be gusting 70-100 mph. I don't know how it didn't wipe the smile off of B's face!

You can see the snow whipping across me.

Taking cover behind a tree while planing our descent. 

My favorite photo. 

They keep coming back for more.

We followed Louis' advice to find the best powder. It was worth the extra climb.

Sporting our Berghaus Velum Smock (l) and Jacket (r).

The hut one morning after a good snowfall. 

We dug a snow pit to test the snow layers. E. Measured the snow depth at almost 2 meters, which is quite low for us.
How many people can we fit in this snow pit?

E. isolating a column of snow with her Black Diamond Saw.

K. thought she'd bring home an snow block.

Last descent of the trip and it's coming down hard!

B. - a natural rock star.

Second favorite photo. More subtle.
Do we have to go home? 

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1 Year Ago: Southern France
Published photo essay: Argentina's Lake District
2 Years Ago: Bogota, Colombia

27 March 2012

Waiting for Perfect

I'm an opportunist. For those of you that know me, this statement isn't a surprising assertion. However, I have realized that I'm of the passive sort. I often wait until the last minute to make decisions, thereby maintaining my options for as long as possible. All doors are open until I make a decision, at which point the other doors close and I'm left with only one way to go.

This method of decision-making usually ends in positive results for me. I can wait until I have the best information before I pull the trigger. I'm flexible to take advantage of new opportunities that avail themselves late in the decision-making process. Some says it's my Irish luck, others say things just work out for me. 

In our travels, this meant that we could adjust our schedule based on how much we actually liked a location, rather than being stuck to a pre-determined plan, largely based on information gathered from outside sources (books, websites, and friends recommendations)

After our first day of skiing in the Dolomites, we changed our schedule to stay here for 5 weeks.
The flip side of my passive opportunism is that the lack of commitment also means I miss out on certain opportunities or have uncomfortable, immediate "unknowns" in my future. I guess I've adapted to this and don't stress out about what's going to happen next. But that's a very self-centered position, as a lack of plan often stresses interactions with my friends and family. 

This too was evident during our great journey, and I was slightly embarrassed at times. I am deeply indebted to the many people who adapted to my un-scheduled itinerary.

Is it bad that I'm opportunistic? It is who I am. I can't change myself. I have to be honest about that and embrace it.

At some point you just have to go for it.
Can I improve? Absolutely. This is where I have to focus on being active, not passive, about my life. I can't wait for the opportunities to open up before me. I have to keep doing what I'm passionate about, and then the opportunities will follow. They'll be more frequent and more fantastic than just receiving what comes my way.

To help me achieve my progress, I need to surround myself with people who will help me along my path. This doesn't mean that I need their blind support, as that might make me complacent. A diversity of outside influences and a little agitation is generally good.

Finally, I have to focus on being thankful for all the good things in life. Everyone has the capability to do this. Can you imagine if we all make this a habit?

In summary, here are a few important things that I've learned from traveling and in the previous six months of re-entering "civilization."
  1. Get to know yourself
  2. Be honest about your character
  3. Embrace your strengths and flaws
  4. Surround yourself with people who will help you achieve your goals
  5. Have gratitude for the goodness in your life

How Did I Get Here? And Why I am in this Handbasket?

Sometimes if feels like we're far away from where we're going.

In the previous six months, or even year, I've applied to nearly a hundred jobs and find myself lucky to get an interview. It's been a very difficult time for me, thinking that nobody wants me. My 10 years since college have led me nowhere. I have nothing to offer our capitalist society. Or so it feels.

K has been pushing me, gently but consistently, to stop waiting for someone to pay me to do something I want to do. Instead, I have to pursue my passions, thereby making myself more attractive to my next employer. As counter-intuitive as this sounds, I'm going to spend less time looking for a job and more time doing things I love - blogging, volunteering for the environment, photography, and being active in the community.

So, check in regularly as I'll be posting about our current adventures in skiing, hiking, and now running ultra-marathons, plus more about our food, exercise and other lifestyle choices. Join me as I stop waiting for perfect and start making it happen.

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08 March 2012

2012 Photo Contest Winners! @ Backpacking Light

Last May, K and I spent 6 weeks in Norway. Most of that time we were in mountains, backcountry skiing. I took at least a thousand photos. It looks like one of them wasn't so bad . . .
2012 Photo Contest Winners! @ Backpacking Light