Friday, April 22, 2011

Digital Disconnection Week

In honor of Earth Day, and for the sake of my own productivity and peace of mind, I've decided to take an entire week off from digital distractions.  Due to my academic obligations, I cannot quit all forms digital media, but I have decided that starting Sunday I will make an effort to unplug from all forms of distracting media for a week.  I'm trying this as sort of an experiment on my productivity, but also as a way to recapture some "fresh air" in both the literal and metaphorical sense.  I miss the days of being able to truly breathe in the world.  Just 15 years ago, I remember coming back from class freshman year, going to the coffee house with notebooks and textbooks, and watching everyone there simply read a book.  There was no wi-fi, no real cell phones, no kindles, and no facebook.  People talked, people laughed, people played scrabble, people enjoyed life.   On campus today things are very different.  All this week I've taken times to simply stop and observe the undergraduates and it sincerely makes me sad.  If I stand on the beautiful grass-filled quad near the steps of the Old Main Building here and look around, here is what I see:  I see dozens of undergrads all walking aimlessly while looking down at their phones.  Everyone is plugged in.  Everyone wants to talk to everyone else EXCEPT those that are right next to them.  Most of the time these students are scarfing down an unhealthy snack, wearing dirty sweatpants and shirts, and aren't watching at all where they are going.  They are zombies, with more of their "life" inside the confines of a small an imaginary world that exists inside of a smart-phone.  It is so easy to get caught up in it though and I'm just as guilty.   Just 5 years ago, I wrote my thoughts down with a pen inside a composition notebook.  Now, just like everyone else, I put them on  I'm sure there is some sort of happy medium in all of this, but I do now acknowledge that the world is evolving to a more digital one....this is unavoidable.

I think back to one year ago on the Pacific Crest Trail and how easy it was to go without all of these things.  Sure I had a phone, but it was almost always turned off (except for the 20 minutes a night where'd I'd write a journal entry).  I didn't care about websites, or emails, or television....and it was spectacular.  In Antarctica, I had no access to anything except very limited email....and it was also spectacular.  Now, back in my digital corner of life, the distractions are right at my fingertips, and so easy to get sucked into.  Well, I need to prove to myself that I can go without just like before.  I like a simple life, so why shouldn't I make it happen?

And so, I'll see how it goes.  Who knows, maybe I'll do so well that I'll do it for more than a week.

For those that want it spelled out, here's what this all means:
I will/may still,
  • Check school email (simply can't avoid this until this summer when I take off for short vacation)
  • Keep my phone on for calls only
  • Work on research related data and writings on my laptop
  • Use internet connection to download scientific papers, and pertinent research materials.
    • BUT, will keep internet usage to an absolute minimum.
  • Listen to music on iPod
  • I might still update my running database (but only immediately after completing a run)
I will NOT,
  • Watch any television
  • Use phone for texting or surfing
  • Surf any sort of websites not related directly to schoolwork
    • This means no blogger, no news, no social media, no trailjournals, no youtube, etc...
  • Play any sort of online or computer digital/video games (I almost never do this, but am listing anyway)
  • Use GPS or digital mapping software.  (atlases are still just as good)
  • several others I'm forgetting
  • Probably not do DVDs either...hoping to turn off TV completely.  Might consider still going to see a movie with someone.
  • So basically, any non-school-related digital distractions

Things I look forward to doing that I have missed:
  • Spending more time with people (both specific and in general)
  • Playing my guitar more
  • Reading real books
  • Talking to, and having conversations with real people
  • Sitting on my outdoor deck with real lemonade
  • Taking time to make a good meal
  • Kayaking
  • A true feeling of freedom
  • Actually enjoying my runs
  • Riding my new bike more
  • Simply getting out more
  • etc etc
I realize this all sounds a bit cliche', but it's something I want to do for myself.  I hope to breathe in a little of that fresh air again.

So, here's to unplugging this Sunday!

Pacific Crest Trail: One Year Later

Southern Terminus (1 year ago)

One year ago, I was sitting comfortably in Dulles airport having missed my connecting flight to San Diego.  Already, my pre-adventure to hike the PCT was off to a not-so-fortunate start.  Washington DC was blanketed with a thick fog and our plane, having attempted three landings, was forced to divert to Pittsburgh.  After an hour on the ground in the lovely steel city, we then made our way a second time to DC and landed.  I was already stressing about how I was going to make it to the kick-off in time.  I had a whole detailed plan for taking various city and rural busses to make it once in San Diego.  Now it was all up in the air.    I sat there waiting to be moved up the flight wait-list for another flight to San Diego and turned my attention to a TV that was showing some "Breaking News".  It was about the large explosion that happened on some oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  Many people were thought to be killed or injured.  I quickly realized how trivial my "bad day" was and made a decision right then and there, to relax....and no matter what obstacle or challenge came my way on this upcoming adventure, to not get worked up or stressed about it.  I was supposed to be doing this hike as a way to bring myself back in to alignment...not put myself further out of it.  I breathed in, and breathed out, and told myself, "things always have a way of working out".  (As a side note, we all know how the oil rig explosion turned out.  11 men were killed and the environment was severely impacted).

Six hours later I walked out of the front doors of San Diego airport, stood at the curb, took in a deep breath of the ocean air....with absolutely no plan or idea how I was going to get to the kick-off.  I had missed all busses and had no place to stay.   

No stress......I kept thinking.

15 seconds later, a car drove by, honked at me while someone screamed out the window, "PCT HIKER? Hop in!"   That's when I knew, things were going to be ok.  The trail magic had started.  I was graciously allowed to stay with Scout and Frodo (trail angels).  I ate a whole mess of food, slept in their back yard, and met lots of great hikers.  The next morning, I got a free ride to the southern terminus at 7:00 am, and was able to hike up to the kick-off right on schedule.   Little did I realize this small taste of trail magic would end up heralding an entire theme of kindness along the trail.

Scout and Frodo house (1 year ago)

For almost my entire journey along the twisting and often snowy tread of the PCT, I was greeted by wonderful people, altruistic attitudes, and honest intentions.  Sometimes it's easy to forget in the busy lives we all lead, bumping our way through crowds full of short-tempered and often short-sighted people, that true kindness and those with real vision, still exists.  On so many occasions, houses were opened up to me.  People drove me around, never asking for money, and often for tens of miles.  I was constantly offered free food and had the amazing experience of hearing the most wonderful stories from just about every walk of life.

One year later I look back with an almost disbelief of it all.  I have been gradually compiling my blog entries, journal entries, notes, and photos over the past year into a sort of personal "memoir".  A single source that I can go to to relive my experience.  Just as I wrote a year ago in my epilogue, when I read through it, it still feels as though I am remembering a movie about someone else.  It's hard to truly believe that I was in that "movie" despite having many very lucid and detailed memories from the journey.

Sitting here at my sterile desk, in my sterile office back at school trying to put together notes for my next thesis/manuscript, it's hard not to wish I were back out there.  There is certainly a part of me that wants to just say "screw it", and leave this to go on another wandering.....but now is not the right time.  I am content with where i am right now.  I am focusing this year on school and the ultrarunning as well as a potential smaller trip this summer.   There is that next big idea floating in there, in the back somewhere, which will someday make it's way front and center.  Thru-hiking is a part of who I am now and that will never change.  Part of my being is now inexorably tied to it and will be as long as I live.

So moving forward, I hope that we may we all enjoy the various wanderings and adventures in our own lives, and show as much kindness to others as we can.


"A life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.  It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically" - Thoreau

"Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life, that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them" - Thoreau

Leaving the border (1 year ago)

Filling up vial with Mexican Dirt

Dumping Mexican dirt 2663 miles later in Canada

Note:  The actual date for this should be April 22nd.  I arrived in San Diego on the 22nd, and started hiking the 23rd. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's on for 2011?

Out for a jog in Antarctica

It's usually about this time that I put together an update and a video rambling off my "goal for 20xx"...something new to push myself.  Something different.  While I certainly have not become apathetic, nor have I given up on this philosophy, I'm just having a hard time thinking past the next two days lately.  This holds especially true in light of the enormity of my PCT trek last year.  This will obviously be a step-back year with a much different approach.  I have thought a bit about what I'd like to do this year besides the immense loads of research and schoolwork, and while I've come up with a few interesting ideas, I haven't decided on anything definitively.  Mostly, this year will be a close repeat of 2009.  I have plans to run a lot of trails and compete in some ultras.  I can tell you what I do know.

  • In May, I will be running my third Pocono Marathon....the official start to my 2011 race season (although I did run a 10-mile race a few weeks ago as a warm up, and may do a 10k here or there).
  • For Memorial Day, I will be spending the weekend with family up in Rochester where I will run a 5k race with both my sister and mom.  The first time the entire Fegy family will be running together.  (dad will be there too).
  • Some time in May or June, I hope to head back to one of the first places I ever hiked, and this time with good company, to do a little 42-mile slow-paced fun jaunt along the Black Forest Trail
  • I have no scheduled races in June, but will probably sign up for the Laurel Highlands 50k as a primer race for July.
  • For 2.5 weeks in June I will again be playing in Colorado at the Ice Core Lab!
  • In July I plan to run the Finger Lakes 50 and Vermont 100 again.
  • Rest of July and August is still being worked out.  If I decide to do something different, it will be in here somewhere.  I have thought a lot about incorporating either my kayak or new touring bike into the mix though....and whatever I do, will be limited to ~ 2 weeks.  I will say that I am seriously considering the Long Trail though.
  • September - December I will be laying low and really focusing on school.
  • December - Off to Antarctica again....for the last time. :-(
I guess once I figure things out, I will try to post the details up here.  Regardless of what I decide on though, it will undoubtedly be memorable.

hike on/happy trails/happy running everyone 

make your lives extraordinary

Friday, April 8, 2011

Earth: The Operators' Manual

ETOM airs this Sunday at 10:00 PM on PBS

While I certainly have made comments on various hiking/running equipment here, I don't normally use this site as a means to "plug" any sort of product or program.   Well, I am going to break my own rule here and make an exception for something that I particularly think is worth it and that I belive in.

My advisor here at Penn State, Dr. Richard Alley, is an incredible and inspiring individual to work with and to work for.  When I came to Penn State, I didn't know anybody in the world of glaciology or climate.  Everyone told me, "'ve got to meet Richard, he's awesome!".  Little did I know that a few months later I'd be asking him to be my advisor.  Penn State is unique in that you can be accepted into the graduate program without having a set advisor from the start.  You can take a semester or two to work through classes and then choose an advisor that you feel represents your interests the most.  Hopefully, they have grant funding for you, but even if not, there's opportunity to TA classes for your tuition/stipend.   After one semester, and several talks with Richard about bubble ice, I knew it's what I wanted to study and that he was who I wanted to work with.

...and I was off.   Bubbling away.  I have been so fortunate to not only have been under the guidance of such an inspiring scientist (and National Academy Member!), but I have also been able to spend time in Colorado and Antarctica....3 (and soon to be 4) times!   This is also putting aside the fact that my other committee members are just as inspiring (Sridhar and Todd).

Considering just 5 years ago, I was staring at a wall inside of a cubicle telling myself , "this isn't what I wanted to be when I grew up", I feel that my life has been blessed since.  I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunities that have come to me these past 4-5 years.

So....with that all said.  I am putting this link up to a program that airs this weekend.  The program is called "Earth: The Operators' Manual".  It is part 1 of a 3 part series on how we know that climate change is actually real, and the real unbiased science behind well as positive ways we can move towards sustainable/renewable energy.  Richard is the host and has also written a companion book, which I've been unable to put down since I started reading it.

This is really important.  People bicker back and forth about the "myth" of climate change, arguing that it's all a "government conspiracy", or a conspiracy among scientists to get grant money.   Richard doesn't care about the politics...he cares about the real science.   One of the first thing he says in this program is, "I'm a registered republican, I go to Church on Sundays, and I care about the future for my daughters".  This is not something you'd expect a "crazy left-winger climate nut" to say....which is what a lot of people think climate scientists are.

I beg you all to watch this show with an open mind and try to remember that I work for Richard and that I know him...and can tell you that there is no spin, there is no "agenda",  he's being honest and speaking about the true science.   I found a very old journal entry I made years ago that I think still went something like this:

We absolutely HAVE to take on the issue of global climate change.  It is real, and it is happening. If we could all just for once, stop and pull away the political spin, and just try to talk about it like the intelligent evolved people that I thought we were, and not the stubborn, argumentative, brats we've become.....we might actually lead the world in this fight (instead of lagging behind every other country).
Where's that "U-S-A" chanting crowd we all saw after 9/11?  We need them back....and we need to start fighting real threats.....not 92 year old grandmothers taking off their shoes at airports.

Anyhoo....give it watch people, and see what you think.  It airs this Sunday at 10:00 PM on PBS.  I have hope for the future and I know we can achieve greatness in this world....but we have to stop acting like bratty children.  It does no one any good.

Richard answers ten common frequently asked climate change questions:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Have Publication, Will Travel

After 3 and a half years of coursework, writing, editing, re-editing, and first peer-reviewed scientific manuscript has been accepted (Journal of Glaciology).   This manuscript is based on the research I did for my Masters Degree...basically a cleaner version of my Thesis.  

Cool, am I done now?   *kidding*

In all seriousness, it's nice to see hard work pay off.  I remember back in my old office-working life I switched to a higher paying job that involved project management.  Sure, the bigger paychecks were nice, but there was no longer that tangible reward or payoff from my hard work.  Years would go by and I would simply move from one project to another.  It was a real downer not to have anything physical to look at and say, "this here, this *thing*, is what came out of those years".  I guess I could say these servers are up and running because I help build them...but it just wasn't the same.

There's a lot of negative talk about working in natural sciences, and sure the job market does stink right now.  People always quote the , "publish or perish"line.  Sure there's some truth to that if you want a good academia job, but publishing also gives you tangible accomplishments, something I like.

So may this be the first of many peer-reviewed papers that I write over my next x-number of decades.  Hopefully, they won't take as long to finish in the future :-)

As a side note, a fellow grad student in our department here (thanks Rebecca Boon) gave a recent talk on her research, and used iMovie to make an animation of how we all travel to Antarctica.  I didn't realize the new version of iMovie had these built in features (I still use the old '08 iMovie HD).  I liked it so much that I put this little animation together to show you all the travel involved for me to get to my field site, WAIS Divide, so that I can get ice-core data for my PhD.

Keep in mind, this doesn't include the 5 hour drive from State College up to Rochester.

Roc - Chicago ~2 hrs
Chicago - LA ~4hrs
LA -  Auckland ~13hrs
Auckland - Chch ~1.5hrs
Chch - McMurdo ~5hrs
McMurdo - WAIS ~3hrs

Getting to WAIS Divide, Antarctica

Here's Rebecca's Original Video which highlights a lot of what the Penn State ice-geophysics folks due down in West Antarctica (...and yes, I'm the "PhD wannabe"....sigh)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Service, The Fat Ass Phenomenon, and Rest Days

Lloyd Hall - Start of the Philly 100
"No Fees, No Awards, No Aid, No Wimps, No Whining"

For those of you wondering, this is the official slogan of what are affectionately known as "Fat Ass" events.  I am somewhat sheltered in my little corner of the "running world"...and just kind of do my have been previously unaware of such events.  Well that all changed this past weekend.

With Spring rapidly burgeoning, I decided to knock out some volunteer/service time at a local race.  This would cover me for any potential ultras this season.  My brief internet scan of ultras came up with the Philadelphia 100 endurance run.  I have never really been to Philly and I thought it would be fun to take a day trip down there (about a 3 hour drive).  I emailed the race director and asked her if there was room to help out at an aid station...and she told me something along the lines of, "well there's no real aid stations, but you can help out at the main start/finish station by watching peoples stuff and helping if they need anything".   I remember thinking what kind of 100 miler doesn't have aid stations?  This is when I discovered Fat Ass events.

For those of use that make the plunge into ultrarunning, we all know well how expensive race fees can get.  Add to that the cost of travel, hotel rooms, food...and suddenly an already expensive $250 race costs over $600.  The upside is that you get well manned aid stations, great help through the race, medical stations, t-shirts, swag bags, and belt buckes (or other awards).   In an effort to sort of "stick it to the man" and make it more simply "about the running", several folks banded together and created Fat Ass events.  Long story short, a Fat Ass event is a FREE ultra run that is set up by runners for runners.  There is no aid, you bring your own support, food, and crew...and run however you want to.  You keep your own time, and everything is based on the honor system.  Bascially, it's a organized group long-run.  A truly awesome idea.

This was what the Philly 100 was.  I drove down on Saturday morning and made my way to the start of the 8.5 mile Schuylkill Loop.  This loop is done 12 times in order to finish the 100 miler.  I sat there all day as runners came in finishing various loops and gave them whatever support I could.  I had an absolute blast.  I chatted away with other runners, met two grand-slammers, and even met a runner who last year completed the grand slam AND badwater.  That's some craziness.  On the drive home I couldn't help but think what a great idea these Fat Ass events truly are.  A group of people that love utrarunning, get together, and simply have fun with it.  I am a firm believer in this sort of mentality.  Sure it's nice to do the "official" races, of which many I'm sure I will do, but I am certainly going to start keeping my eye open for any local Fat Ass events.

On a side note, This whole experience has made me realize the value and importance of rest days.  My current training program has me resting every Friday...with a cross-training day on Mondays (which I now call my cycling day).  This is an aggressive schedule for me as I had previously rested two days a week.  Needless to say, Fridays are a beautiful thing.  I have come to love Fridays so very much.  The days that I can truly be a potato...because I've earned it, and because my body needs it.  What I've come to realize is just how important these rest days are.  I don't care if you are thru-hiking the PCT or training to be an olympic marathoner, you need a rest day in there once in a while.  This past weekend, because of my service at Philly, I decided to do my Saturday long run on Friday.  Then, when I did get home Saturday evening, I decided to do my Sunday 8 miler that night so that I could take Sunday off instead. On Sunday morning I got asked to join a group on a 25 mile cycling trip.  Who was I to pass up my first group ride on my hot set of new wheels?  I decided to swap my cross-train Monday to Sunday...and push my rest day ahead another day.   So I sit here now on Monday, having gone 9 straight days without a break, and my body is tired.  Usually I'm excited about my rest days, but today all I can think about is how I have to run again tomorrow.  

Moral of this story: Take and enjoy your rest days regularly...and don't put them off too long.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Old Antarctic Explorer

Well today my little corner of the world revolved around Antarctica.  Word came down from on high today, and I have been asked to make one more return trip to WAIS Divide this upcoming season (2011-12 season).  I know what you're thinking.  Wasn't this past season the last season of drilling?  Well...sort of.  It's rather complicated, but the long story made short is that there is indeed another season of ice-coring coming up later this year.  It will be quite different from years past however in that drilling will not start until late December or early January and will be limited to a very small amount of ice.  There are other projects taking precedence over the drilling for the first half of the season.  For me, this is a win-win situation.  Not only do I get to go back to WAIS and be a part of an amazing project AND continue my own side-work with surface and snow-pit observations, BUT it will be a shorter season than normal.  

This is fantastic!  

Don't get me wrong, I love field work...especially in Antarctica, and I love being a part of the WAIS Divide project, but for three years in a row I've missed My birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and been away from friend and loved ones for nearly three months each go 'round.  I would like to actually be around for the Christmas Season.  Well, I will still likely miss Christmas this year (as my departure would be the week before), but I will be around for Thanksgiving and a good part of December.  This also means I will only be away for a little over a month total too...which is still a long time to be away, but much nicer than 3 months.  This really is an absolutely perfect scenario in my book.  The WAIS camp this year will be very minimal and much different than previous years.  Not sure how it will be managed or run, but there will certainly not be a 40+ camp population for the entire season.

So....lots to plan and look forward to this upcoming school year! 

As a side Antarctic note,  after three years, three field seasons, and over 6 months of my life in Antarctica...I finally received my official service medal in the mail today.  The Antarctic Service Medal is a tradition started back in 1960 and is one of the only official military medals that can be awarded to civilians.  I was pretty excited, and honored, to receive it.

My official Antarctic service award and medal