Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 Thru Hike Syndicate Ambassador

It's official!  I've been selected as a Thru Hike Syndicate Ambassador for 2015!  As an ambassador, I'll be sharing all of my PCT adventures with a broad community of outdoor enthusiasts and I will have the chance to put some amazing products through the wringer while I'm at it!

My mantra for the bigger life changes I have been striving for in the past few years has been "Why Wait?" It comes from a moment in 2013 when a friend so easily voiced her desire to section hike the PCT.  Hearing my long-term goal of thru-hiking echoed in her words, I realized that putting off my life goal was arbitrary.  After that, the technical pieces of time, support, and money fell into place, allowing my thru-hike hopes to be realized!

2015 is going to be another great year to remember!  As much as I look forward to living in every single moment I'm out on the trail, I also look forward to working with Vasque FootwearDarn Tough Vermont SocksOsprey PacksLeki USA, and Nemo Equipment!  And, to everyone reading this, I ask you, what goals have you been putting off?  And, really... why wait?

Thru Hike Syndicate on Facebook
Thru Hike Syndicate Tumbler

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Looking Back on 2014

Rather than focusing on the 2014 goals I did or didn't hit, this post is going to be dedicated to celebrating the little things that I am thankful for in the past year.

Career / School
I started art school in the fall of 2013.  Since then, I've managed to give every class 100% of my effort and maintain my Art School 4-point-0.  I'm 5/7 quarters in to finishing my degree and will start my first of two portfolio sessions on Monday.  I've made friends, I am positive when I'm at school, and I have contacts in the faculty that I trust will speak to my work ethic and talent.  Most importantly, I am passionate about entering the field of photography!

Fitness / Triathlon
This past year had a rough learning curve for maintaining a base-level of fitness while being a full-time student again.  I started out on a training plan, but, with my primary focus being to get everything I could out of the gift of an art education, I kept missing workouts.  Every time I couldn't give my fitness plan 100%, I felt terrible - like I was letting my coach and my own body down.  It took me a few months to come to grips with the fact that I needed to adjust my expectations.  2014 became a year I needed to get back to the basics of just enjoying the fitness I could maintain while prioritizing school above all else.  On the personal side, I wore my Betty Ambassador kit with pride in a few running races, a sprint triathlon, a duathlon, and an all-women's bike camp.  I also pulled on my ambassador jacket every time I went out to support friends & family as they took on their own goals!

Adventure / Backpacking
As much as my return to college wasn't conducive to a consistent workout plan, it WAS conducive to having time off every 3-months between quarters - I spent those times off extremely wisely ;) Outside of a hiking on the weekends when I could, I spent my birthday thru-hike/biking The Enchantments, and the summer break was spent out on the West Coast Trail.  I also made a quick trip up Mt. St. Helens in the most beautiful weather I've had on that mountain.  All in all, a great year for fitting in trips where I could and it proved to be an asset for testing out gear I plan on using on the PCT this summer!

Little Things
One of the bigger pushes I made this year was to move to all organic and some homemade beauty products.  Outside of toothpaste (strangely, one of the hardest non-organic product for me to give up), I'm 100% organic.  I'm am making my own face wash, face lotion, and deodorant, too.

One fear I had in leaving Ironman/Engineering was that I'd lose touch with my those communities.  That is one of the big reasons that I have continually been making extra effort to keep in contact with friends that I don't see on a regular basis - I am very happy to have maintained, if not strengthened, so many of my invaluable friendships.

Outside of that, I have been enjoying all o the extra time I've had with my beautiful pups this year.  On afternoon class days, I wake up with them by my side and on so many photo days, I just drag them along.  Aaaand, I've been riding my re-built Nishiki on errands around my neighborhood.  She's a heavy old bike...but she reminds me to feel the wind on my face at a slower pace from time to time.

All in all, 2014 has been a really great year.  I'm thankful for all of the good stuffs it brought and I look forward to rolling into 2015 with all this momentum for reinventing myself!

Till Next Time,
This Little Engineer

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Strive to Appreciate - Teresa Nelson's Story

In wrapping up this most recent quarter of Art School, one project rose to the top as my favorite.  It turns out that I love creating lil videos showcasing some of the amazing people in my life.  I'd like to send out one more big thanks to Teresa Nelson for sharing this story with an open-heart.  She worked on this project with my classmate and me with the same diligence that she spent guiding me through my first few years of Ironman training.

Till next time,
This Little Engineer

Thursday, December 4, 2014

America the Beautiful

Alright, all.  I made my Tri-Themed Gift Lists and had intentions of making a backpacking-themed list to follow...

...but all that feels right is telling everyone that I believe in the National Parks System.  If you're in the USA, one of the absolute best gifts you can give those you love (and yourself) is the chance to get out and see our parks.  As much as I love traveling abroad, there are so many magnificent places in this country I have yet to see.  Sooooo, get an America the Beautiful Parks Pass and make 2015 the year you visit the floor of the Grand Canyon, the year you canyoneer in Zion, the year you see your first hoodoo in Bryce, the year you stood in awe of the big walls of Yosemite, and the year you found the wonder of the Rain Forests in WA...  Really, just get out there and fall back in love with the land that is our country.

Till next time,
This Little Engineer

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Pacific Crest Trail Ambassador Applications

The following Q&A is something I typed up for a Pacific Crest Trail-related ambassador opportunity. In pulling the trigger for my application, I realized I was proud of these responses - no matter how everything falls out.  I'm am thankful to be living int he moments leading up to such a great adventure.


Describe your motivation to thru hike. 
Backpacking has a way of stripping life of all pretenses.  You are not a title, you are not your earthly possessions, and you are free of your internet alter egos.  Growing up in the outdoors, I have always thought of the world without walls as my home.  Though my need to follow other life goals, like education and career, have often taken me from the outdoors, returning to the woods always feels like coming home.  For me, thru hiking is the one place where I am able to find peace with my need to be outside and my need to have a purpose and vision.  Thru-hiking is where I go to re-center myself and feel joy without restraint.  Over the years, I have come to realize that my life-balance depends on returning to the woods and experiencing and sharing ‘home’ with others.

When do you plan on starting your thru hike? 
My thru hike will start on April 25th and I plan to hike from the Mexico border into the ADZPCTKO to revel in the joy that we will all feel as our community celebrates the start of shared adventure.

How many months do you expect it to take? 
~4.5 months.  I typically find my background in the endurance racing/hiking communities means that I’m a faster hiker by nature.  Though I plan on letting my adventure fall out as it will (I have 6-months at my disposal), I tend to think I will finish the PCT in under 5-months (and probably closer to the 4-month mark).

List any hiking/adventure experiences or accomplishments you have had. 
In the past, my adventures have had to fit in with my engineering education and career.  This means that I thru hike in 3-6day trips whenever possible.  My favorite trips often become favorites because of the people I share the journey with.  Here is a short rundown of those fav’s:

- My first travel to backpack experience was the Kalalau, Kauai.
- Hiking through the Grand Canyon, N to S, during the HEAT of August
- One day thru hiking and biking the Enchantments on my 32nd Birthday
- Backpacking thru the Haleakla Crater on my first all-women’s’ trip and falling back in love with Hawaii where I lived for a summer in College
- Speed hiking the West Coast Trail and sharing my love for the beautiful PNW with East Coast Friends

In the middle of those hikes, I also am proud to have taken a 4-month long mountaineering course through the Boeing Alpine Climbing Club, where I learned glacier travel, glacier rescue, winter navigation, winter camping skills, and high altitude training.

Along the way, triathlon, specifically the Ironman distance became a big part of my life as well.  Over the course of my triathlon career, I have made amazing friendships while running two full Ironman races, five half Ironman races, three stand alone marathons, and countless half marathons and sprint triathlons.  As much as the outdoor community, the triathlon community has provided a great deal of inspiration and support in my life – it is another community of people who are living their lives to their fullest while working steadily towards big dreams!

What do you think your biggest obstacles will be in completing your thru hike? 
Though I often leave my loves, my husband and two pups, behind while out hiking, this will be the longest I have left home without their presence in my life.  My husband and I have learned to work through separation as he has spent a few years away for training/deployment with the National Guard, but leaving those you love behind always takes strength.  I am thankful to have learned about mental toughness while training for Ironman as it inspired the mantras I use to cope with homesickness I know I will experience while out on the trail.  Barring any physical illness, I actually think homesickness will be hit me hard at times while solo hiking.

What achievement are you most proud of in your life? 
My life has recently taken a few big turns as I realized I was following a route that wasn’t inline with my chi.  It took a bit of courage, but I recently walked away from a decade-long career in Engineering to study photography full-time as a student at the Art Institute of Seattle.  My long-term goal is now to use my photography to support the endurance hiking and racing communities as well as to return to teach photography to others.

Overall, I am so proud in the way I lived life to it’s fullest while pursuing engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of technology.  Part of my heart will always belong to that campus and the people who made that environment home for me.  I am proud that I pursued engineering and lived life to it’s fullest while I tried to make that career path work.  I am proud to have found a life balance that allowed me to have a career, to race a sport I love, and to make the type of friendships that will last a lifetime.

Perhaps I am most proud though, of listening to my heart and having the strength to set out on a new and uncertain path.  I am so fortunate to find support in my community of friends and family and I proud to be living a life that helps all of us believe in our dreams.

Who or what motivates you to undertake thru hiking the PCT?  Why? 
In refocusing my life in a direction that I knew I was interested in long before I took the steps to peruse photography, my new life mantra started to include phrases like, “why wait?!”  Now has become my time to throw myself into living the life I have dreamed.  Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail has always been on my horizon; however, it was just always a fuzzy concept until I took the first steps in redirecting my life.  Finally, my motivation, my support system, and my life path aligned in a way that made my life goal of hiking the PCT feel 100% “right” for 2015.  What motivates me is a dream; what helped me make the decision was a mantra; and what will ensure I complete my PCT trek is my passion, tenacity, and support system (both off and on the trail).

When backpacking, what is the one piece of equipment you couldn’t hike without? 
Maybe it’s my passion for the wonders of engineering that makes me a total gear girl but this question is right up my alley.  I 100% believe in all of the gear I carry and I would borderline say we have a relationship of love.

My Osprey Exos 58 has been with me for several years now and that pack and I have a fantastic symbiotic relationship.  I take care of it and it has never done me wrong.  It proudly bears a patch of Hawaii, where I first traveled to backpack and where I first spent a summer doing what I wasn’t supposed to do (I moved to Hawaii to experience a summer of living a simple life, rather than seeking an internship in engineering like most of my peers).

Outside of that, I miss my camera dearly when I leave it behind.  As a photography student, my camera is in my hands daily.  When I leave it behind for weight-sensitive adventures, I always return home to feel like I just can’t share my adventures to their fullest.

Are you planning on hiking solo?  If not, who will be hiking with you? 
I’m excited to be hiking solo this coming summer!  In taking the PCTA’s example, I am looking forward to embracing those who are just discovering the dream of the PCT.  I am hopeful this will become the summer of the solo female hiker and I am excited that my long-time goal will be aligning with those inspired by the book/movie “Wild”. 

Who do you hope you will inspire by thru-hiking the AT or PCT? 
The greatest way you can inspire others is by living a life full of passion.  That is simply what I plan on doing while out on the PCT – I plan on enjoying every moment of my PCT journey.

As for the literally how, I plan on populating my blog, instagram, twitter, and facebook as I go.  I’m working on a system that allows me access to the images I will be taking my full-frame camera (yes, I do plan on bringing my camera with me to really enjoy my new photography education).

Are you thru hiking for a cause? 
I’m not currently supporting a cause with this thru-hike.  I am extremely passionate about women in sports and adventure but I haven’t found an outlet for that passion yet.  I will have a few photography essay projects brainstormed for my trip.  I would also be open to suggestions for photography projects this team would like to see on the PCT.

Please add any other information you feel portrays your character and tells your story. 
Though I’m goal-driven, detail-oriented and technical in my skillset/background – I believe in creating the life you love.  There are so many things I hope to experience in my life.  As much as I am usually scheming of ways to see those dreams realized, I try to live my days IN the moment as that is usually when I am my happiest.  Also, as much as I am a self-motivated and fairly independent dreamer, I also find that a great deal of my happy memories center around the people who shared them with me.  Life is about community, communication, joy and sharing – I look forward to sharing my PCT experience and feel incredibly fortunate that life has given me the opportunity to enjoy all 2665(ish) miles.

As always,
This Little Engineer

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Michaela's Ironman Story

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a triathlon teammate & friend, Michaela, on a video project the week before her first Ironman.  The following is a short video that captures that grey area between the months and months of training and actually experiencing your first Ironman.

This Little Engineer

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holiday Gift List | RUN

Alright guys, as always, less is often more, but I'm trying to throw out a handful of gift items for those of you still searching for the perfect items for your athlete.  The following is a list of my running favs that I use over and over, year after year.

The other two legs of this tri-themed gift list can be found here:
Holiday Gift List | SWIM
Holiday Gift List | BIKE

Holiday Gift List | RUN

Lululemon Lined Dance Studio Pant
A few posts ago, I mentioned my favorite lined Lululemon pants.  Since those aren't currently in production, I highly recommend their close second, the Lululemon Lined Dance Studio Pant.  These are a AFTER run pant.  I wear the glorious full luxtreme Speed Tight to actually run in during the fall/winter.  They are perfect but what feels amazing as soon as you're done with your run is pulling on warm & cozy, super-soft casual pants after a workout.

Gore Women's Alp-X 2.0
This jacket is actually meant for cycling and is featured in my previous post as well.  Though it's meant for cycling, I still run in this jacket as it is extremely comfortable and really traps in your body heat for those COLD runs.  What is better is that you're not purchasing a separate jacket for both bike and run.

Lululemon Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve
My go-to top during the winter as a base layer is a Lululemon Long Sleeve Swiftly.  These tops breathe extremely well and fit smoothly next to the skin.  It makes them perfect on their own or easily layered with other items.

Smartwool Cozy Mittens
Gloves or mittens to keep your digits warm while you run area  must.  Though I favor Smartwool brand items, cheaper glove liners work as well.  I prefer mittens to keep my fingers just a little bit warmer.  I like having 2-3 pairs around - I guess I'm a bit of a snotty runner as my gloves need to be washed weekly.

Skida Alpine Headband
If you haven't noticed the trend, I'm really in love with the Skida brand (remember to check out their +1 program if you order one of their products)!  I have one of these headbands and am hoping to add a second one as this is also on my wish list this holiday season.  When the cold months hit, I really just love pulling out my bright and fun headbands for winter activities.  Beanies tend to be a little too warm for me (and make my head sweat), whereas my ears freeze.  Headbands are perfect for my activities!

Half Buff Neck Gaiter
I always always have on a neck gaiter in cold weather.  This half buff is the perfect size to wear as a headband in warmer weather or as a neck gaiter to be pulled up over your nose/mouth while you run.  This is another item that I have a few of for winter running/skiing/hiking months, so I don't think you can go wrong in picking up one of these for the person you're shopping for.  Best yet, pick one out that matches their beautiful Skida ear warmer.

Smith Optics Facet Sunglasses
Top off your fresh accessories with a pair of fun sunglasses.  I don't usually wear my wind blocking sunglasses when running - I tend to reach for something more fun that has dark lenses.  The shades listed stay on snugly without causing any pressure points.  These smiths also have little rubber grippy type sections on the nose, so they stay in place when I'm active.

Petzl Tikka R+ Headlamp
Considering that winter means shorter days, there's a good chance you'll be running in the dark at some point this season.  For that reason, I recommend getting a headlamp that will both stay in place and recharges (yay, environment).  I've had good luck with the Petal Tikka R+ Headlamp and would recommend it to others.

Nathan Streak Vest
Continuing on the theme of staying visible, I'm rather fond of my Nathan Streak Vest.  It improves my visibility while running in darker conditions without restricting my movement.  It also doesn't hurt that it doesn't look too dorky and is easy to clip my blinking LED lights to for even more visibility.

iPod Shuffle 2
There is nothing that gets you through long miles like (great friends and) tunes.  2g has always been enough storage space for me and I tend to prefer the simplicity of the clip.  It's easy to switch through songs you don't like and I can't imagine I would ever look at the screen of the larger iPods while working out.  The best part about this little gift is that you can have a personal note inscribed on the back for free.  My iPod shuffle was actually a gift from JC back in the day and I still see the quote he created for me every time I put it on.

Yurbuds are a great gift for those of us who find ourselves running in the rain a lot. The caps on these have protected my headphones form getting wet (even though they are designed to be sweat-proof) on 3+hour long rainy runs.  The ones I have actually required you to send in a photo of your ear next to a quarter (for reference) so they could size them properly.  If these one-size version fits as well as my older, sized version, these will make a great gift.

The Original SPI Belt
My SPI belt was purchased before my first half marathon back in 2007 and it's still in perfect shape.  I use mine for nutrition and as a race belt (purchase toggles for $2 or make your own to hold on the race bib).  This will fit an entire marathon worth of powerboat gels for me though it starts to get a little bit bouncy at that point.  There are way more fancy race belts out there...but sometimes simplicity really is where it's at.    The other thing I will mention about race belts is that it's ok to have more than one - I have a second one in my backup "oh shiet" bag (which always lives in my transition bag) that has saved me more than once at a race.  The bonus is that this belt is machine washable, so quite easy to clean up after you accidentally spill a race gel all over the inside of the pouch.

Garmin Forerunner 920XT
If you feel like really splurging on you runner, I watch capable of tracking heart rate and a few other stats is very nice.  You can get a more simple watch for a pure runner, but your triathlete might be especially thankful for a Garmin 920, which has swim, bike, AND run features.  This is definitely a bit overkill... but oh, so fun!  I still rocking the 910, so I'm going to be jelly of those who add this to their arsenal this season.

Nun Energy Sampler Pack 
Finally, I've been a big fan of Nuun over the years, but I'm really in love with their newer Energy-specific electrolyte tablets.  If your runner enjoys Nuun as well, I'd highly recommend picking them up a sampler pack of the Nuun Energy tablets as a stalking stuffer.  It gives them a perfect chance to try all of the energy favors to see which ones they'd like to add to their training regime in the future.

Till next time.
This Little Engineer