As the year 2016 begins, I want to take a look back at 2015 and a look forward to 2016. This retrospective and prospective follows annual summaries for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Each year is different and has special highlights.
My 2014 summary included a look forward to 2015. In light of what I actually did and experienced in 2015, last year’s prospective turned out to be an excellent preview:
I plan another overseas hiking adventure, along with friends in the Tahoe Donner Hiking Club. We’ll hike for 9 days in the Dolomites (in Italy) followed by another week in the Julian Alps (in Slovenia). I am busy planning other exciting adventures for before and/or after the hikes. I will be planning some steep hikes as training, hopefully including more new-for-me segments of the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail challenges of 2014 were great ways to explore parks and open spaces, and I hope to be able to do 2 or 3 challenges again in 2015. Each organization selects different trail segments to highlight each year, so these will definitely not be simple repeats. And the Bay Area Ridge Trail is expected to expand by 20 miles in 2015; I’ll plan to hike these additional segments as they are formally dedicated. My plans for walking events are currently undecided while I sort out hiking plans and other special events, but I’ll at least do Bay to Breakers again and I’m sure a few other timed walking events will be added. Last but not least, I hope to stay healthy and injury-free, and I do what I can pro-actively to support that goal.
Stats: With that preview in mind, I start my summary of 2015 with a look at the numbers. As usual, the activities I summarize are those I track by recording GPS data. This means my hiking and fitness walking-type activities, but I don’t try to track distance or steps for other day-to-day activities like running errands or walking around the house/office. Besides carrying my GPS, I also usually carry a pedometer during fitness walks; when I’ve not carried a pedometer I estimate my steps based on the terrain and my experience. Occasionally I wear a pedometer for a hike, and that helps me to estimate steps for that type of terrain.
I separate my activities into these main categories: hikes, training walks, and rehab walks. I am very pleased that, once again, 2015 was injury-free, so there aren’t any rehab miles that need to be included in my summary. My training walks are generally nonstop and fairly brisk, so if I walk slower than usual (e.g. if I’m walking with a friend) or stop for photos, I classify the walk as a hike. Usually, though, I wear running shoes for a training walk and trail shoes or hiking boots for a hike.
A 2015 goal that I didn’t mention at the beginning of the year – partly because I hadn’t thought of it yet and, in any case, I decided to keep it very quiet and informal – was to walk/hike 2015 total miles of GPS-tracked activities. Based on my 2014 total of just over 1700 miles, this was a very ambitious goal indeed. The summary table shows, though, that I did achieve it! Besides improved overall conditioning, the primary consequence was probably my weight: during the training leading up to my Alpine trekking adventure I lost 8 pounds, leaving me at 97 pounds the day before I began the trip. Fortunately I have re-gained essentially all of the weight: I’m naturally slender, but I didn’t need to be that light!
Here is a comparison of some totals over the last 5 years. Note that 2011 was the year in which I broke my hip in late October, and consequently I spent 2 months of 2011 and 4+ months of 2012 in rehab. Even though I only spent about 5 days completely off my feet at the time of my hip fracture, it should be no surprise that I’m able to walk and hike more when I’m injury-free.
In a way it’s difficult to put into perspective 2,081 miles, or 219,000 vertical feet (that’s over 41 miles, and of course I descended a roughly equal amount), or over 4.5 million steps. My stats were pretty comparable for 2013 and 2014, so that might be my “natural” good-health baseline. I certainly ramped up my training during the spring and summer months, but a closer look at month-by-month totals shows that my mileage was higher in 2015 for every month except August (my Irish Dream Adventure in 2014) and December (when I decided to see if I could hit 1700 miles in 2014, and I consciously tapered off in 2015). Not surprisingly, the additional miles in 2015 were predominantly hiking rather than fitness walks. Compared to 2014, my 2015 mileage was about 22% higher and my step count was about 24% higher, the latter reflecting a greater proportion of hiking miles, where my stride is naturally shorter. My elevation gain was a whopping 65% higher, reflecting the increases in total and hiking mileage, moderately steeper hikes, and a greater number of hilly training walks.
For the first time since 2008, I did not enter – or therefore complete – a single half marathon timed event in 2015.
Although this summary includes tables of numbers, I also want to mention several highlights for the year. After all, the journey is really much more than numbers!
Hiking: From a hiking – and fitness – perspective, the highlight of 2015 was my Alpine trekking adventure in the Italian Dolomites and Julian Alps (Slovenia), with additional adventures in Cinque Terre and Croatia. As I write this summary I have not yet written posts about most of this trip, but it was an amazing experience. The training was hard work, and some of the hikes were, too. But the training definitely paid off, in terms of the beautiful scenery, new experiences, and a satisfying feeling of accomplishment.
I started this blog as a way to chronicle my adventures hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail. In 2014 I was proud to complete my circumnavigation of the then-dedicated segments, totaling about 350 trail miles. For 2015 one of my goals was to hike the newly dedicated segments. I hiked two new segments on their dedication days – honored that I could help to plan one of the dedication ceremonies – and two others shortly after their dedications. A couple of short segments – under a mile each, I think – remain on my To-Do list for 2016. Two notable hikes on the Ridge Trail were fund raisers: I did the 20-mile version of Ridge to Bridge as a participant and the 27-mile version of the Ridge Trail Cruz as a volunteer hike sweep. The latter hike was my longest of the year, probably my longest ever. At almost 29 miles it was even longer than my longest training walk for a marathon!
A second, shorter, trip outside the US involved attending the 2015 World Synchronized Skating Championships in Hamilton, Ontario. While I was there I was fortunate to hike a segment of the Bruce Trail and to visit several beautiful waterfalls in the area.
For 2015 I signed up for two trail challenges: one on the Tahoe Rim Trail and one sponsored by the East Bay Regional Park District. I completed both challenges, each consisting of 5 or 6 hikes on associated trails. I also enjoyed several hikes on new-for-me segments of the Pacific Crest Trail, where I have an ongoing “project” to attempt to hike all 270 miles of Sections J through M between Sonora Pass and Belden. I am about 60% of the way there. Note that the portion I’m attempting to hike is only about 10% of the entire PCT.
During 2015 I completed three multi-segment hikes or trails, each with special interests or challenges. The first was a 61-mile trek, spaced out over nearly 2½ years, from the edge of San Francisco Bay to the edge of the Pacific Ocean, hiked with several of my skating friends. We called the trek Edge to Edge, and I completed the last segment in June with a ceremonial finger-dip into the ocean.
The second was the 40-mile Military Ridge Trail in Wisconsin. This was another multi-year trek, spanning 3 years. I visit my brother every July to attend a long-standing family reunion, including a few hikes in each visit.
A third multi-segment trail completed during 2015 was the Ohlone Wilderness Trail in the Bay Area. This trail is only 30 miles long, but the eastern 20 miles has no additional trailheads, necessitating a 20-mile hike through the extensive wilderness area. I hiked this entire trail in 2015.
In 2014 I added new categories for birding walks and wildflower walks. Focusing on bird and wildflower sightings, especially when they are numerous, adds a new dimension to some of my hikes. A highlight in 2015 was seeing a pair of endangered whooping cranes while visiting Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin with my brother.
In spite of the ongoing drought in California, I found the wildflowers to be numerous and spectacular. I think that any type of wildflower that does well in lower-moisture conditions had a great blooming season in 2015.
In the Dolomites I saw many wildflowers but just a single edelweiss, a protected plant nearly everywhere it is found in the Alps.
Although technically neither bird nor flora, I happened to encounter something like 5 tarantulas during Fall hikes. Here is one, right on the trail, in Alum Rock Park, San Jose. The extent of its legs is bigger than my fist.
Fitness walking: For the first time since I did my first half marathon in 2008, I did not enter any half marathons in 2015. I had decided to focus my summer training, preparing for the Dolomites trip, on strength and endurance rather than speed. In fact, I modified several outings that normally would have been regular training walks: modified by carrying a pack loaded up to my planned trekking pack weight. Because I returned from Europe a scant 48 hours prior to my local San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon I decided to only attempt the 10k distance. In spite of my unconventional training, I missed a new personal record (PR) by only 15 seconds! I also completed Bay to Breakers (12k) and a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot (10k). Most of my fitness walking is just that, with distances from 3 or 4 to 14 miles. I like to think that I maintain my base fitness level such that, pretty much any time I like, I can go out and complete a half marathon distance, 13.1 miles – certainly not at race pace, but without getting notably sore afterward.
Preview of 2016: While I’ll enjoy many hikes with the Tahoe Donner Hiking Club, our next overseas hiking adventure isn’t until early 2017 – in the southern hemisphere, where it will be summer. In fact, the heavy training for that will be at the end of the Sierra hiking season, providing a bit of extra challenge. Group hikes on several more segments of the Pacific Crest Trail are already being planned. I plan to sign up for the Tahoe Rim Trail and East Bay Regional Park District trail challenges again. Also, once again the Bay Area Ridge Trail is expected to add as many as 15 miles, and it is always nice to hike new trail as soon as it is dedicated. I have a number of ongoing hiking projects: for example, hike a trail in each of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s open spaces, or a trail in each of the East Bay Regional Park District’s parks, or all of the hikes in one of my hiking books, find a certain type of mariposa lily or other special wildflower, and so on. As for walking events, I have already signed up for the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose half marathon, as well as Bay to Breakers. Because I’m doing the half marathon, I may add a couple more timed events during the spring/summer season. Run the Edge, which offered a “2015 miles in 2015” challenge for 2015, has already announced a “2016 miles in 2016” challenge. At this point I’m not sure whether I will try, even informally, to cover quite so many miles. Of course, in order to accomplish any of these goals I hope to stay healthy and injury-free. And that means continuing to do what I can pro-actively do to support my health.