Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mercer Island 10K, Race Report

After months of inconsistent training, I've come to the realization that I need to be happy with all of the activity I do manage on a given day.  Some days, my school work is going to force me to miss my workouts - some days, I am going to get in some great miles and strength training.  Any day I get in my workouts has become a "good day" and I find I am much more aware of those good days this year!

My fastest 10K to date was a 46:01 in December of 2007 - the same year I started running.  I don't think I realized how easily running came to me in my first year.  I put in a lot of work (running 5-6 days a week with at least one two-a-day as well as my fair share of strength work), but, again, I was fortunate for my wings.

Running today was a lot of fun even if I was nearly 10-minutes off my 10K PR.  I have come so far in learning how to pace and what my HR means for my body.  Today I went out easy (the first mile was overall downhill), my heart rate steadily climbed within the range I was shooting for throughout the race, and I was able to negative split the race with my final two miles being the fastest of the day.  I didn't bonk and all of those things combined means I raced much smarter than I did back in 2007 - even if I haven't put in the time it would take to best my standing 10K PR.

Even better, I was able to get to my car to snag my camera and back to the race to spectate the finish of the half marathon with my teammates.  There was a lot of positive energy in the team right now and I remember exactly why I'm drawn to this community.  How can you not love to be surrounded by positive, tenacious, hard-working people though?

My stats:
Distance - 6.22 miles
Elevation Gain - 427'
Time - 55:46
Avg HR - 168
Avg Pace - 8:58
18/88 Div Place
71/410 Women
160/615 Overall

This Little Engineer

Friday, March 21, 2014

PCT Sponsorship Update

As an update on my PCT attempt to find sponsorship, I’ve been shot down 2/2 thus far.  Even though I've just started sending out emails/letters, knowing I've been shot down 100% of the time puts a damper in my enthusiasm.  As much as I think I can pay back companies that take me on in both product shots…

...and lifestyle shots…

… so many of the ultra light companies I’m approaching just don’t have the resources to help a girl out.  I understand and respect that – the last thing I want to do is strain these smaller companies that are bringing great innovations to the market.  Any form of rejection is a bummer though.

Moving on, I’m wondering if I should be approaching this from a different angle.  Perhaps there’s a way to use my services upfront and have them pave the way as I go.  If that sounds vague, that’s because I’m not sure exactly what I mean yet.  Perhaps I should be writing companies begging for work – letting them know the funds will be facilitating a trip w/their gear on the PCT.  Maybe I should be out shooting images to auction off as a personal fundraiser (although I feel this cheapens my hope to raise funds for a cause greater than myself in the long-run).  Maybe I should be offering up my photography on a $$$ per hour rate to do anything you need doin! 

Figuring out the ins and outs of being financially dependent for the first time in… since I was 18 (ish?)… is challenging.  I’m still working at it through. 

Till next time,

Your Little Engineer

Thursday, March 13, 2014

PCT and Gear(-d’de-gear-gear-gear)

My first lesson in becoming a true thru hiker?  Being an ultra light version of a weekend warrior is a v.v.different thing than being a ultra-light (or even, light-weight) thru hiker.  As someone with a formerly full-time engineering job, some of the ways thru hikers cut weight seems a little crazy for the way I’ve learned to backpack (via classes, seminars, and experience w/my weekend warrior type friends).   I mean, having a first aid kit that weighs just 2oz?  Can that really be enough to tend to everything you might need?  Also, not carrying an emergency thermal blanket?

That said, I’m starting to stretch my brain and I know it would be a good idea for me to have the setup that I plan to use on the PCT ready to roll for my annual ladies’ backpacking trip this summer.  This would allow me to make any needed improvements/tweaks before I rely on it for a full 5-months in 2015.  The big issue I’m running into now?  As an art student, I simply cannot afford gear upgrades at this point in my life.

The next step is now petitioning some really rad companies to see if they would allow me to become an ambassador for their brands.  The good news is that as a somewhat trendy, female thru hiker, and (wannabe) bad arse, I’m a rare resource as I also have photography skillz to offer ;)  For reals though, it surprises me that more of these amazing ultra light specific companies are not showcasing the benefits this gear has for other (fiercely strong but) smaller peeps!  As someone topping the scales at 5’1” and a whopping #125 (of muscle, yo), I am beyond excited to implement the following upgrades:

Honestly, I love this tent.  It was a huge upgrade at 36oz from my 4# REI quarter dome.  That said, a tarp tent can weight in under a single pound for a 1-person space.

This solo shelter (w/the additions listed above as well as a 48” tent pole) weights in around 18oz (and forums report it weighs even less)!  There are a few other companies out there also making products of this caliber!

Sleeping Bag
This bag is extremely comfortable, (was) warm, and packs down v.v.small.  It has been a great bag for the past 3-years but I’m finding it to not be warm enough for my PNW adventures these days.  It weighs in at 22.7oz.

This quilt weights in at 17.1 oz, which blows my mind!  Also, this 30-deg quilt is reviewed above the 30-deg it claims.  Btw, this quilt is actually made in a size for smaller people (size small is for a 5’6” height).  Again, there are a few other companies also leading the market for ultra light quilts.

What I’m using:  Jetboil Sol
This stove can be extremely handy and is obviously quick!  It weighs in at 10.5 oz though and the fuel can be a challenge to find.

Example Upgrade: Caldera Cone Alcohol Stove
This setup should weigh in just around 3oz (excluding my snowpeak pot).  On top of that, I will be able to find fuel at nearly all of my resupply stops!

Sleeping Pad (for use out of the desert)
What I’m using: An older (2011?) version of a Neoair.  14.2oz

Example Upgrade: NeoAir Xlite, Size Small.  This upgrade would weigh in at 8oz, such a no-brainer as an upgrade!

Bear Canister
What I’m using: Bear Vault
Though I have no functional complaints about this canister, it weighs in at a whopping 40.3oz.  It’s a great value in that it’s extremely affordable.  That said…

Example Upgrade:  Barikade (Custom 703 in^3)
This carbon fiber canister weighs in at a measly 11.25oz and is such an obvious upgrade if I can find a way to afford this beauty!  The other reason this is a higher item on my list is simply that I will probably carry it for the entire trip.  I realize you don’t “need” the canister till you’re in a higher risk area for bears, so we’ll see if this plan changes as I get further along in PCT planning.

Alright, wish me luck, friends!  I’m excited to start making connections but I’m obviously nervous as only a true Little Engineer would be ;)

Monday, March 10, 2014

PCT and a Cause Greater than Myself

Planning for the thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (along side planning for all my other adventures) has been revitalizing.  It’s given my mind a new path to wander, my heart a new possibilities to dream of, and a new community to learn from.

Unfortunately, I'm realizing that solo hiking (not sharing the weight) means that a lot of my weekend warrior type gear is just a little too heavy - I need to consider upgrading to thru-hiking specific items.  My fitness plans for this year will keep my body where it needs to be to take on the trip.  I also have a databook in hand to start working out my plan for daily millage and resupply.  With all of that, I have my head fairly wrapped around what still needs to be done… for the most part. 

What I’m lacking is a purpose other than just taking on one of my life goals.  I really would like to tie my journey back into a cause greater than myself.  My friends and family know that my greatest passion lies in inclusion through the open flow of knowledge with the emphasis on bringing women into sport/adventure.  Basically, I’m searching for a way to start a symbiotic relationship with an organization that will help me grow as a person and photographer while I help bring awareness and knowledge to their cause.

I need to put a bit more research into this concept before I start contacting organizations, but recommendations are definitely welcome at this point!!

Till next time,
This Little Engineer

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Prep for Bike Touring the Olympic Discovery Trail with Pups!

Alright, friends, I may or may not have fessed up to hittinga pretty big low over the holiday break when I seriously stumbled w/my identity in relation to my fitness.  It turns out that no longer having someone else plan out my workouts let me accept just doing the best I can on any given day.  This new promise to myself (for myself) to get back to general fitness is what proved to be the missing key to pulling my head out of my arse and seeing the goodness in life.  I feel like ‘me’ again, the bad arse me, who likes to plan random adventures.

Speaking of adventures, I’m furiously putting together our next trip.  In four weeks, I have a week-long Spring Break from Art School.  Ever since discovering the Worlds Between Lines blog, I have wanted to mix two of my loves as well – bikes and my pups!  For our first trip, we’re going to head out to the Olympic Peninsula to play along the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Map of the Olympic Discovery Trail
A few weeks ago, I scored a used kiddie bike trailer off craigslist.  After cleaning it up (deconstructing, serious scrubbing, washing fabrics, and reconstructing w/fresh packing greese), I set to making some needed updates.

First was patching up an obvious design flaw.  The trailer rests on a lower bar that is covered in fabric when it’s not attached to your bike.  This had been worn through by the previous owner, so I reinforced that section.

The largest time-sink was actually designing and sewing a new flat floor for the pups.

After that, I added a sleeping pad as a base layer.  This will keep the dogs safe from bouncing into the bottom bars as well as give their paws/claws something to dig into for stability.

Trailer with padding.
After the trailer was ready to roll, I tuned up my mountain bike (which I’ll be using to tour on for this trip).  With my entire set-up ready, I finally got to start working with my pups.  I thought they would struggle with the concept of getting into this contraption… silly me.  They were 100% ok with it considering there were treats involved ;-)

After posting this vid, I did get a bit of shiet about taking such small baby steps with my pups.  It sounds like a lot of my friends would’ve just thrown their dogs into the contraption and hoped for the best… most people don’t understand the border collie mind though.  If you place all the proper foundation in this dog version of an engineer’s mind, my pup will be rock solid dependable.  As long as she’s given the time to adjust and stretch, she really is a delightful dog.  If you press the wrong buttons in a BC, life could quickly become an unpredictable, shiet-show.  Training is all about how easy you want your life to be down the road (this is a concept you can apply to pretty much every situation in life, btw).

We still need to step up our game to make sure they’re ok with a moving trailer and I need to work with them on running along-side the bike (while towing the trailer) but that will be a two person job with JC to make sure each new experience is positive and controlled.  I’m not worried about these steps though.  Now that they’ve been hoping in and out of the trailer w/such ease, I think we’re going to be ok.

Anywho, I’m stoked.  Here’s the basic itinerary for our trip:
Day 1: Set up camp at Dungeness Spit Recreation Area
We’re going to ride East along the trail on day one and leave the mileage open-ended on this out-and-back ride.  If all goes well and we’ll start pushing the miles for Day 2-3.
Mileage: TBD 
Day 2: Ideally, we’ll pack up camp and head West along the trail.  Lunch will be in Port Angeles and we’ll continue on to Salt Creek Recreational Area to camp that night.  This will be the biggest mileage day.  If all goes well, we’ll camp in Salt Creek Recreation Area.  If things go poorly, we’ll just get a hotel or head back to Dungeness Spit Recreation Area.
Mileage: 60 
Day 3:  We’ll leave our camp set up in SC Rec Area and bike along Crescent Lake as far as we feel like going.  This will be another out and back.
Mileage: 30-50 
Day 4:  This is the last big mile day – we need to get back to Sequim and drive home.
Mileage: 60
This is a big first for us (touring with pups), so there is a lot up in the air.  I’ll let you guys know how it all plays out!

Till next time!
~Your Little Engineer

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pacific Crest Trail, Class of 2015

Ever since I knew it existed, I have wanted to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  I always thought I would wait to be post-dogs, which is likely a decade still down the road.  I also assumed my husband would look forward to such a great life adventure and willingly take a 5-6 month LOA from work. 

Taken from Sonja's blog
- loved her most recent entry.
As we age though, life goals become more and more apparent.  For JC, he wants and needs to be successful in his career above everything else.  I don’t think either of us realized that when we were just 22/23 and taking the first steps on our career paths.  On my end, I never guessed loving the technical side of engineering would mean I needed to walk away from a corrosive environment to protect myself.  I also didn’t realize that a poor work environment would drive me further and further into exploring other facets in my life.  Specifically...

I never guessed I would be driven to the decision to take on the PCT in 2015.

It still feels like I’m trying those words out for size.  When I say them, I am in awe, I am nervous, and I question if I am capable of the mental resilience I will need to hike for 5-months straight.  If nothing else, those doubts and those fears are what make me certain this is the next adventure that will allow me to stretch and grow closer to the person I want to be.  Without fear and uncertainty, there is no challenge – without challenge, what are we really living for?

Thankfully, I already have a plethora of long weekend thru-hiking trips under my belt.  For the past few years, I’ve been whittling weight off my base set-up, so that will also be a huge advantage.  I have also completed a 4-month long mountaineering course, which will be invaluable along some of the CA sections of the trail. 

As for how I’m further preparing:
  • I’m soaking up as much information on the technical aspects of such a long thru-hike as well as the culture I will experience.  I’ve joined forums, I’m following blogs, and I’ve found books to read.  My knowledge base has just over a year to take in all that I will need to know.
  • I will start actually planning my route and stops during my summer break. 
  • I will head out on a nearly 2-week trip this summer, which will be my first experience planning for and using a dropped supply box.  This trip will also be used to fine-tune my set-up.
  • Recruiting a team!  This was the fun part.  I sent out notes to a lot of my friends who are both adventurous and who I am proud to know for their “goodness”.  The type of people who are strong yet kind, who will work together well, and who I know I could enjoy for 5-months strait ;)  I’ve been beyond fortunate that a handful (literally 4-5) are trying to go All In.  As much I will do this trip with or without a team, I always find life to be better lived when it’s shared with good people.  On top of those who are trying to make the thru-hike work, I have even more friends who have shown great interest in joining for a section hike.
  • Fund-raising.  I read a statistic that it will take $4K-$8K to hike the PCT (think of supplies and services needed – food, fuel, spare clothing, laundry, meals in towns, a few nights in hotels along the way, etc).  Basically, I have 13 months to sell a whole lot of pictures ;)

As always, I’ll do my best to keep y’all updated as I worth through all of the PCT planning this year.  It feels good to have given my heart something to dream about again.

As always,

This Little Engineer

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pink Betty Designs Ambassador!

Now that I've finally cleared the air about my 2014 goals, I am ready to announce the amazing news that I was selected as a 2014 Pink Betty Designs Ambassador!

The role of a brand ambassador is to spread the news of the brand you represent as well as the spirit of triathlon and racing throughout your community.   The big reason I jumped on the opportunity to rep for Betty Designs was because it stands for all that is rad in triathlon.  Their women's line brings a feminine edge to a sport that can be downright dirty.  It's the type of brand that allows you to be both ferocious and beautiful, which is something I believe in to my core.

Since so many of us have day jobs, families, and other communities we pour ourselves into, triathlon ebbs and flows to fill whatever time is left from day to day.  As a brand ambassador in 2014, I'll be showcasing what it is like to live a year without Ironman.  After several months of withdrawal, I feel like I'm finally ready to talk about this experience ;-)

For reals though, you'll also see me wearing my BD style out at all of the races/events I compete in as well as those I cheer for!  I'm also hoping to step up my volunteers hours at events to represent both the BD brand as well as my local TNM team - tri culture wouldn't survive w/out amazing volunteers at our events!  Finally, I'm going to be searching for as many opportunities as possible to use my photography studies to showcase the brand this year.  I'm not sure exactly how that will play out, but you'll know it when you see it!

Other than that, don't be afraid to ask me any questions about the brand if you have them.  Tit, sizing, wear & care - I'll do everything I can to help and might be able to send a little Friends&Family Betty Love your way!

As always,
This Little Engineer