Monday, February 24, 2020

2019 in Review: A Year of Transitions

Looking out towards the Grand Canyon

In trying to come up with my overall thoughts on 2019, it really seemed like the only fitting way to encapsulate the general theme was with that of the "New Chapter/Transitions" cliché. While it's true that I had many many new and exciting experiences last year, the general trajectory of my year really involved saying a lot of "goodbyes", hanging up some hats,...and moving through some very large major transitions. I suppose in a way, we're all always moving from one chapter to the next, but I can't help but feel that 2019 represented one of my largest transitional years to date.

2019 in Review:

Not unlike many of my years over the past decade, 2019 started off with another Antarctic Research Adventure. What made this one so unique however, was that this particular deployment was not to any ice coring site high up on an Antarctic ice sheet, but rather to a remote location at sea aboard a very large vessel.  Back in late 2018, I applied to take part in an International Ocean Discovery Program sea-floor drilling expedition aboard the JOIDES Resolution ship. Normally, this type of expedition would not really align with my research or scientific interests, but in this particular case, the scientific questions that the expedition was seeking to address had to do with the history of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (something that does interest me). So, after having submitted my application, I was incredibly excited to find out that I was invited to join the team.  

In early January, I took 2 months off of my job at the Cold Regions Lab in Hanover, New Hampshire, headed down to Punta Arenas Chile, and boarded the large vessel for what would be two very long months at sea.

Over the course of the next 8 weeks, I had one of the most amazing and unique experiences of my life, working long hours as part of the scientific expedition party. I worked 12-hour days, 7 days a week, logging the physical properties of every core recovered from the sea floor, all while trying to maintain some semblance of a normal routine and avoid motion sickness from constant rough seas. I saw the most amazing icebergs floating off the bow of the ship, watched pods of humpback whales breach the ocean surface, laid out on the deck of the ship at night to witness the most amazing star-filled sky I've ever seen, and even ran a 660-loop marathon along the heli-deck. I made new friendships, and established new research collaborations which I hope will stay with me for years to come.  Of course with all of these positive experiences came long exhausting hours, some sleep deprivation, many days of homesickness, and of course the uneasy effects of an ever-sloshing boat in some of the roughest waters on earth.  Our expedition as a whole was fairly successful and we were able to recover over a thousand meters of sediment from the sea floor. Our team wrote up our entire findings while on ship, so we were able to come away with  publication from the endeavor to boot. We did learn a lot about the past behavior of West Antarctica by looking at what was deposited just off shore. Below are some highlight photos as well as my Strava Track for the Heli-Deck Marathon:

The JOIDES Resolution in the Southern Ocean (Drone Footage)

Large Iceberg

Humpback Whale

Another massive tabular iceberg

The Science Party for my Expedition

Some sediment cores 

On the Deck

Sampling a core

Weighing a sample

Using Gamma Ray Attenuation to measure density

Sunset off of the bow

The drilling derricks

Sunset on the last day at sea

The heli-deck (red arrows)

Calculations for my marathon

Actual Heli-deck (Site of my marathon)

Upon returning from the Antarctic, I had a little trouble re-adjusting...and things were moving quickly. While on the ship, I had come to learn that I had been asked to interview for a new academic position. This left me very little time to prepare as I didn't have reliable internet while on the expedition. As much as I wanted to kick back and relax a bit after the cruise, I had to immediately step it up notch to prepare my best job talk to date.

March and April were somewhat of a blur. I was trying to maintain my fitness for a fast (Boston-Qualify) marathon that I had coming up at the end of April with a good friend of mine, but was also now in panic mode over my short-notice interview. C and I decided to take a few days up at a cabin in the woods of New Hampshire to unwind before powering through the month. We spent two nights up near Crawford Notch and played around Bridal Veils Falls. It was nice to be back with C, and not be working a 12-hour shift on a large boat thousands of miles away. Something I had also remembered in all of the chaos of March was that I had agreed to Crew for friend and fellow Barker John Kelly at the full Barkley race on fools weekend. This meant somehow in the upcoming few weeks I need to prep for the biggest interview of my life, try to maintain at least a 50-mile week fitness level, and prep everything necessary to get JK through five loops again. Needless to say, I savored the 2 days of relaxation and meditation in the cabin, knowing what was to come.  

Once back home, I ran a 21 mile long run on the Boston Marathon course, prepped for my big interview, and began sorting the logistics for JK's Barkley run. Somehow, it still felt like a lot less work when compared to the shifts on the ship.

Regarding the interview...
I did manage to put together a pretty darn good talk and was able to do all the necessary research on the existing faculty in the that I could come prepared with the very best version of myself. C and I flew out to Flagstaff and spent a few days in town while I went through 2-days of intense, non-stop interviewing. I managed to get in a nice 15-mile run in town once the dust settled, and all I could think while on that run was, 'I would so love to live here. I hope I get this job!" We even took a short drive up and over to Barringer Meteor Crater near Winslow AZ. This is one of those places I've wanted to see since I was in grade school, so was extremely excited to be there.

As you probably already know reading this... I did get that job....but much more on that later...

Playing at Bridal Veils Falls, NH

Dreams of ice climbing...

My annual pilgrimage to Frozen Head

I finally framed my 2012 Barkley memories

LINK: STRAVA: Boston 21 Miler

LINK: STRAVA: Loop Around Flagstaff

Barringer Meteor Crater

Woot! Now that's a crater!

After playing around in Frozen Head with JK, I was finally back home trying to catch up on work and running. While I was waiting to hear back about my job interview, I did sneak away to run a 10k and volunteer at the TARC Spring Classic. It rained most of the day, but was still a blast. A few weeks later, my friend Melissa and I flew out to Vegas to run the Revel Mt. Charleston Road Race. This is admittedly a very fast downhill course, but I wanted to try to qualify for Boston again and was willing to take any advantage I could. I knew that the BAA had upped their qualify times, so in order to genuinely qualify, I would have to at least run a 3:10, but probably more like a 3:07. My PR was a 3:06, so it was going to be tough.

I ended up running a sub 8-min/mile trail 10k at TARC which gave me a little confidence boost heading into Vegas.

Volunteering at the rainy Spring Classic

Good day out on the trails

As I traveled out to Vegas, I kept trying to tell myself not to be stupid, and just shoot for that 3:07. Don't try and get that elusive sub-3 that I've always so desperately wanted. But as I'm sure you can already guess by the tone....I did run stupidly, and it almost cost me a qualifier.

Quick Race Recap for Vegas:

The race started out with a modest hill for the first 1/2 mile. I kept it somewhat chill and watched my heart rate. As soon as we crested though, I went bonkers. For over 22 miles I averaged sub-7 minute pace...and it was glorious. I PR'd my half-marathon time at the split for the marathon in 1:28. As the long descent gradually leveled out, I kept thinking to myself..."Do I really still feel this good? Am I actually going to break 3 hours?!"

But no.... I wasn't. As I made the turn just after mile 22 towards town, still averaging sub-7 pace, the course began to introduce some very small climbs. In addition, the temps had risen to over 80 degrees and about the time I hit the 23-mile aid station, I felt myself catastrophically bonking. It was over. I tried desperately to gut it out but as soon as I saw the 3:00 hr pacers trot past me effortlessly while I was hunched over chugging some water, I knew I had lost it. I ended up having to walk a small amount in those last 3 miles and it cost me over 6 minutes of time.

When I finally did cross the finish line, my time was 3:06:53. So, in some sense, I got exactly the time I was shooting for, and likely would be returning to Boston...but I still couldn't help feel incredibly defeated and upset. With a little more training, I think I could have gone sub 3.

After a few hours, I came around, and started celebrating at the fact that I'd likely be returning to Boston (assuming my BQ-3 would be enough). Despite the last 3-miles of misery, and that I had to endure the discomfort of was a really good experience that I got to share with a good friend.

Somewhere around mile 24. Utter Misery

You can see the exact moment I fell apart...Mile 23

Me and Melissa Celebrating our finishes

As April progressed I soon came to learn that I was being offered a new position in Flagstaff. My job interview was a success. C and I of course were ecstatic, but it also meant that the Summer was going to be incredibly hectic and require an enormous move...from essentially two apartments. I was still keeping a small place up in Vermont for when I was working in the lab, in addition to our bigger place in Boston.  Assuming we did decide to move, it was going to require a lot of logistical planning, a very long road trip, and probably a lot of headaches.

As we were negotiating our situation, and me starting the conversations at my current job...I was still trying to get in some of my favorite runs on the side. In the first couple weeks of May, I headed home to Rochester NY to visit with family and to run the Mind The Ducks 12 hr event again. I had no intention of running it seriously, or for the full 12 hours, but really just wanted to spend a good part of the day with friends and enjoying my home town. Knowing I was likely moving very far out west, I couldn't help but think it may be the last time I'd be running the course. I certainly would not be visiting Rochester as much as I did while in New England (where it was only a 6 hour drive away).

At MTD, I took it easy, and enjoyed the day. I ended up running 44 miles before deciding I had enough. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my nephew and just relaxing with family. It was a great way to tip my hat to MTD...a race that I've really enjoyed over the past 5 years. 

MTD loop in Webster NY (my hometown)

The very next week, I made my 7th pilgrimage to another event that I have come to cherish. Up in the northwest corner of the tiny state of New Jersey, there exists a bucolic rural county: Sussex. In this part of New Jersey where the largest "town" has a population less than half of a typical baseball stadium (~20k), arguably the biggest attraction is the state high point monument which sits at a modest 1803 ft, and is marked with a Washington-Monument-style obelisk (only much, much smaller). 

NJ Highpoint visit in 2013

I visited this spot back in 2013 early on in my quest to hit all state high points. Back then, I only had a handful (I now sit at 42/51 including DC). So why do I bring up this seemingly insignificant back corner of the country? Well because nestled within this small corner, is a an even smaller unincorporated community known as Augusta, which at last census had a total population of 887. This community is home to the quaint Sussex County fairgrounds...which at first glance is really just a collection of a few buildings, and horse stables. Upon further inspection, one might notice a loop road that circles the western edge of the fairgrounds. It just so happens, that if you start to draw out a path from the center of the grounds, out and around that road and back again, you can create loop that is exactly 1 mile in length.

Sussex County NJ

The Fairgrounds amongst the rural farm community

The Fairgrounds zoomed in

It turns out, that I have spent almost 20 full days of my life circling that single 1-mile loop, covering over 1303 total miles on foot. To put that into perspective, that is half of the distance I covered on the entire Pacific Crest Trail, on a single one-mile loop.  The event is called "3 Days at the Fair". As I noted, I have been participating in this event every year since 2013. Typically, I would run the 72hr event, but this year, I only wanted to spend a day there enjoying the company of friends....again knowing that it might be a while before I return (if ever). Looking through my awards from that event, I realized I still hadn't received their 50k coin, so I opted to run two 50k's. It was a big success, and 62.2 miles later I had amassed my 1303 lifetime miles. I was quite content at to be able to spend a day with friends, and making loops on course I had become so very familiar with. If you count the miles I have run on the same course at the One-Day events in November, I have actually amassed over 1500 miles along that single 1-mile loop in rural New Jersey. Quite ridiculous if you think about it.

Over 1500 total miles on this loop....

Circling the NJ Fairgrounds

Lifetime miles at the event puts me in 13 overall place

All of my 3 Days "coins" over the years

My FULL 3 Days collection.

Somewhere in the madness that was May, C and I also found time to actually attend a baseball game at Fenway Park. I had always heard that no other baseball experience was quite like it...and it the case of our experience, it was made even more memorable by the fact that the Red Sox were playing Cleveland. I lived for over 13 years of my life in Cleveland, and had become an incredibly faithful Tribe baseball fan. I watched as they made it to, yet failed to complete, a World Series three separate times over the past 25 years. On top of that, having lived in the Boston area for the past few years, and coming to realize my utter distaste for Boston sports franchises, I couldn't wait to sit in the seats, fully clothed in Cleveland gear, and cheer loudly for the Tribe. For the entire game, Cleveland was losing and it wasn't looking good. I was definitely getting some angry looks by Red Sox fans. But then, something incredible happened. Cleveland rallied in the 9th inning to come back 5 runs to win it! It was spectacular. I left the stadium admittedly a bit smug about it, but it felt damn good. In all seriousness, attending a game at Fenway has been on my "bucket list" for quite some time, and it definitely delivered.

View from Home Plate at Fendway

Ninth Inning Rally!

Amidst all the chaos of May, C and I also decided to take the Ferry over to Martha's Vineyard for their annual 100k charity bike ride. We had essentially done an unofficial version of this ride the year before, so this year decided to register for the real thing. Unlike with last year's miserable, cold rain...we had perfect cycling weather throughout the day. We took our time, stopped at lovely spots, and finished mid-afternoon. It was a really fun way to spend a weekend on the island, especially considering we both knew it might be a very long time before we make it back.

Marthas Vineyard 100k

Resting near the Martha's Vineyard Beach

Having  good day on our bikes!

When June finally rolled around, I had come to learn that the Hardrock 100 was likely going to be canceled due to extreme snowpack. We had already planned another entire vacation around the run, so we were somewhat in a scramble trying to figure out what we would do instead. Still go to the San Juans? Go somewhere else? Cancel our trip altogether? While we were deciding, I had registered to run a 50 miler locally near Boston as a final tune-up race for Hardrock. I thought about just pulling my name, but was also itching to get in a good race. Ultimately, I decided to still go out and have some fun. I changed my goals to instead focus on going slowly, and having fun. Knowing that Hardrock was canceled, another idea had started to creep into my that was growing in intensity, and one that I knew I may only get once chance at...but more on that in a bit....

The 50 miler (North Face 50 Wachusett), ended up being a feisty little course, with quite a bit of technical trail navigation. I took my sweet time with it, during a pretty hot day, and finished in 11.5 hours. I wasn't upset by this slower time, as I knew I was not really racing.

Finishing the North Face 50 (MA)

Wachusett course (8000' of gain)

As June progressed several things started to come into focus more clearly. 
  • First, Hardrock was definitely canceled, and we made plans to alter our vacation. We would still fly to Denver, but take our rental car up to Wyoming instead. Our vacation would center around Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We would be mostly camping and just enjoying some quiet time before things got crazy in August with our move.
  • Second, we had finalized our move plan to Arizona, taken care of most of the required paperwork, signed a lease in Flagstaff for an Apartment, and tied up most of the loose ends. All that was left was the big moves themselves. I say 'moves' because the cross-country move would entail moving out of two separate apartments (MA and VT).
  • Lastly....and this was the plan that was borne out of that idea I mentioned previously, I was going to finally go after a self-supported fast time on the Vermont Long Trail. I have talked previously about this on this journal, but I had come to realize that based on the way the stars were aligning, my fitness level, that Hardrock was canceled, and that we were about to leave New England (possibly forever), this was likely the only chance I was going to get at this speed hike. I was completely honest with myself about it however and while I was in good shape, I was not in shape to break the current FKT. Still, my goal going in was to see how fast I could comfortably go, and could I match my friend Travis's time (6 days 17 hours).

So with these plans well laid out, all of my waking thoughts began to shift to the Long Trail. I fell asleep with the map in my hands, dreamt about it, and anxiously waited for the days to count down. C would be out of town during my hike but would be able to drop me off at the Canadian border to start. I picked up a Garmin InReach tracker so I would have a way to keep in touch with her, but also as way to post my position online for friends and family to track my progress. I set up a shared tracking page and tested it in the weeks before my hike. All of my food was coming together, gear was tested, and maps were studied. I spent hours pouring over Travis's hike report from several years ago to get a feel for where I might be presented with both high and low points on the trail (literally and figuratively). I knew doing an early July hike on the LT would be a lot tougher than a September hike due to much more mud, bugs, and higher temps. But still, I was eager and excited to take on the challenge.

I wrote an incredibly extensive hike report on this site detailing every day of my journey...including all of the highs and lows. That post can be found here:

Rather than take more time rehashing the experience, I will simply say that it was simultaneously one of the most rewarding and most grueling experiences I've ever had. There were times when I was so completely defeated, I literally collapsed on the side of the trail, falling asleep in a pile of leaves. There were other times, when I was completely overwhelmed by the incredible magnitude of what I was doing too...and for better or for worse (I think better), the experience has had a permanent effect on me. There is just something so intrinsically magical about the Vermont Long Trail that cannot be explained in words. I truly believe it has to be experienced, however not necessarily in 7 days (unless you also want to come away nearly destroyed with feet that will undoubtedly take 6 months to fully heal). At any rate, rather than go through it again, I figure it's easier to just post some of my favorite highlight photos...

At the start....VT/Canada Border

Still smiling on day 2

Looking back at Mt. Mansfield

Quite discouraged at the Maine (AT/VT) Junction

Sunrise from Glastonbury Peak

Perfectly still pond about 6 miles from the finish

VT/MA Border...and a finished hike

When I returned from my Long Trail hike, I was in really bad shape. It took me weeks to feel normal again, and I had developed a lot of persistent pains, particularly in my knees. I genuinely screwed up my body quite badly. Thankfully, with Hardrock canceled, and our trip planned for Wyoming, I looked at this as a really good way to simply relax and enjoy some well-earned 'rest'.

I flew out to Colorado and met C there...and after renting a car, we set out for our trip to Wyoming. I never wrote an entry here about our trip, but suffice it to say, it was exactly what we both needed and gave us both a chance to exhale before our lives upended. If it's possible to imagine what a 'perfect' 10 days around Wyoming would be like...I truly believe we had that experience. We watched sunsets along mountain streams while looking out to the Grand Tetons. We laid in a hammock strung between trees, while geysers erupted in the distance. We paddled down a river in view of stunning mountains and geology, while Bald Eagles flew overhead. We fell asleep to crackling campfires and stopped at every amazing geologic road cut to examine the stratigraphy. We even hiked along preserved ruts from the original Oregon Trail wagon train. At one point, we stumbled upon the 'oldest steakhouse in Wyoming' in a literal ghost town. We shared the best steak either of us has ever had in out entire lives (and this is coming from someone that almost never eats red meat). The entire vacation was all very sublime and exactly what we both needed.

Wyoming Geology

Mountain Lake Camping

Hammock lounging

The Tetons

More Tetons

Mountain Waterfall

Typical Campsite

Ball Deagle

View from our campsite

Hammock lounging by active geyser

....and there it goes!

Identifying the 'Great Uncomformity'

Actual 'Rut' from the Oregon Trail wagon trains

Greatest Steakhouse in the world....

Sun setting over Yellowstone Falls.

As August finally came upon us, we completely shifted all of our mental efforts towards our new move. The logistics alone were quite complicated, so we both found ourselves getting quite burned out. Somehow though, we not only connected all the dots, but also managed to have one of the most fun cross-country road trips I've ever been on. We took many detours along the drive from Boston to Flagstaff, many involving National Parks, bizarre roadside Americana, state high points, or just weird towns like Roswell. We were definitely happy to be done with the driving by the end, but overall the move out West was quite fun. Our moving truck did make it with our belongings...*mostly* intact, so we were pretty relieved about that too.

A full write-up about our Cross-Country Move to Flagstaff can be found here:

Here are some of my favorite pictures from that adventure...

Saying goodbye to the Vermont Apartment

Saying goodbye to the Massachusetts Apartment

Our moving truck

A very disorganized pile of all of our belongings...

All organized and 'walled off'. We paid per foot used. 
We budgeted for 13 feet and just barely got it all to fit.

My last sunset in Vermont

Car all packed and ready to go!

Visiting my nephew in Rochester NY

Swinging through Pittsburgh

Kecksburg UFO monument

Roadside dinosaur in...KY?

Summit of Guadalupe Peak (Texas Highpoint)

On top of Texas (105 degrees F)

State highpoint map. 42 of 50 now visited.
All the hard ones are left...

Inside Carlsbad Caverns

After 8 days, we finally made it into our new home State

Arizona Geology

Officially an NAU lumberjack

As we navigated the starting of our new jobs and careers, we both found ourselves in a bit of a panic. We were trying to survive hours of orientation meetings, while also preparing completely new course materials and becoming familiar with all of the various departments and faculty on campus. The last few weeks of August were a whirlwind, but eventually things did start to settle down long enough for us to breathe. As I became more familiar with my new surroundings, I also came to learn that there are many within my new department that also run. So like any runner new to a town, I signed up for a local trail race with a few of these colleagues. I also made sure to make time to get up and down Humphreys Peak a few times. I learned very quickly that it was going to take me some time to get used to life over 7000 feet. I was most certainly 'gaspin'. One thing that I did notice was happening with much more frequency was that I was literally tripping on the trails. I took a nasty spill at 'Gaspin', and then another really bad one coming down from Humphreys. In both cases I did quite a number on my knees. I decided to start investigating new footwear and ultimately stumbled upon Topo Ultraventures. I wrote an entire post about my long search for good trail footwear. I have since run many races in these shoes, and never once tripped. So far, I couldn't be happier with how these new shoes have treated me.

Here is my entry all about trying to find the right footwear for me...

Trail through the Aspen

A week after tumbling down Humphreys, I threw my name in for one of Aravaipa's races. I knew that the Mogollon Monster is an absolutely ridiculous course, and one I was no where near trained for...but thankfully they also offered a 35k version. I figured what better way to try out some Arizona trails than to head the 90 minutes down to Pine AZ for a day along the rim. This was also my first test race in the Topo shoes...which was ultimately a huge success.  I learned quickly that running in desert is very different than what I'm used to. I was definitely dehydrated several times throughout the day, but still managed to have a fairly good time. There was a lot more climb than I was prepared for, so the day was quite long.

Along the Mogollon course...

The very next weekend, I finally made my way out to Frozen Head in Tennessee for the Barkley Fall Classic 50+k. This is an event I had told Laz that I'd wanted to run since its inception in 2014...but never was able to make work. This year, I finally made the time for it, and suffered my way through what was easily one of the most difficult 50k courses I've ever been on. Forgetting for a moment that the course was probably closer to 40 miles, the climbs and heat of the day, made this event as tough as the name implies. I was not in shape for it, so it was a true suffer-fest. I eeked out a finish, and was happy to call it completed. This is one I don't know that I'll ever do again, simply because it takes a special kind of training and mentality going in....and frankly does incur some misery. There are no GPS watches allowed during the race, so I have no Strava Track from it. I did write about my run at the BFC 50k in a full race report here though:

When I was still feeling good early in the day...

Topping out on Rat Jaw

Scaling the Prison Wall

The finisher Medal

As October and November rolled along, C and I were both settling into our new jobs fairly well. I had been teaching my class with fairly good success and getting comfortable with lectures and instruction. I was happy to be working with students again and quite honestly having a blast.

In late October I was nursing some knee pain, which I came to find out later was due to my improperly fitted bicycle that I was using to commute every day. I had signed up for the Javelina Jundred so I could run with my friend Melissa from Boston (The same Melissa that rescued me at the end of the Long Trail). I still needed a Western States Qualifier but was in no way prepared for a 100-miler. I knew if I were to run it, there'd be A LOT of hiking. I asked Melissa her plans, and she noted she planned to run the first 40, then run-walk from there out. I asked if she'd be ok with just doing the race together and she agreed. We ended up spending over 26 hours together on the course and while there were certainly low points, it ended up being a really rewarding experience. I'm very grateful to have had such a good friend stick with me for the entire 100. We did end up hiking quite a bit, but both still came away with good memories, and a WS qualifier. The course was pretty good, but we both got a bit weary with the 5 loops. My Garmin actually recorded for the entire run (thanks to a little sneaky on-the-go charging) so I do have a full track.

Javelina Course

Smiling on Lap 2 at Javelina

Watching sunrise during Loop 5

Success! Thanks for the great company Melissa.

I wrote about the Javelina in a length post here:

Just one week after the Javelina, and still quite sore, I did manage to make one last trip out east for my yearly pilgrimage to Central VA and the Mountain Masochist. This would be my 5th running of the MMTR with my Barkley friends. For JB, this would be his 20th! If you recall, the last couple of years saw AT's 20th finish, as well as Travis's. I'm just happy to have an excuse to goof off for a weekend and trade ridiculous stories with these guys. It's always a blast. As usual, we managed to cut the race way too close...and finish with just over 10 minutes to spare. 

Mountain Masochist 50 miler

MMTR 2019

Finishing with 14 minutes to spare...
Plenty of time...

I talked about MMTR in my November post as well:

The very next week, I went up and down Humphreys again back in Flagstaff, and finally managed to do the entire round-trip in under 3 hours (moving time). My total time was just over...but close enough in my book. I was quite thrilled with this outcome and it marked a nice way to basically cap off my 2019 running season. I was ready for my annual December rest before my yearly January streak month and the start of the new year.

The rest of November moved along fairly smoothly. I began wrapping up course material for my class, and all of the students within the Climate program presented their research at a big forum just before Thanksgiving. It was a great way to cap of a fun course. We presented all of our results to the Office of Sustainability here on campus, and they will be incorporating our research into their new Climate Action Plan.

Thanksgiving weekend, C and I finally made time for a short trip somewhere, that neither of us have ever been too, but both have been waiting desperately to see: The Grand Canyon. The best part of our visit was that just before we left town, it snowed over 14 inches in the park. This meant we'd get to see the Grand Canyon for the first time, but covered in snow! We did what any sane person would do, and rented snowshoes from a local store in town, and set out to explore the park. We spent two full days exploring the snowy wonderland and both were at loss for words most of the time. I thought I'd be able to comprehend the magnitude of the Grand Canyon....but simply was unprepared. It was absolutely ridiculous.

Two happy geoscientists...

Snowy Grand Canyon

Looking towards the North Rim

More snow in the Rim

Elk just roaming around

Snow and stratigraphy

Snowshoe fun...

After Thanksgiving, I did still find time to do a little exploring, but all was incredibly easy paced. I finally made it down to Fisher Point in Flagstaff...a well known spot with some cool cliffs and great sandstone outcrops. On that run I again tripped and really busted myself up good. That fall was worse than any other and it was at that point that I officially gave up on Altra brand shoes forever. As I sit here and type this late in February, I still have unhealed scabs from that fall. 

Fisher Point Run

Headed to Fisher Point

Fisher Point (near Walnut Canyon)

In Mid-December, C and I made our way out to San Francisco for the Annual AGU (American Geophysical Union) conference. While there I was able to meet up with an entire group of old friends and fellow ice core researchers. It was quite profound to sit with these folks and think about how I met them all my first or second season in Antarctica, and how now, most are either post-docs or faculty at various Universities. How fast things progress....

Pack of Ice-core researchers in San Francisco

While in San Francisco, I found time to run down Lombard street and the Filbert Steps...just because...why not? A few days later we did some hiking up and around the Marin Headlands with family and it finally seemed like the weight of our first semester was lifting. It finally felt like we were able to exhale.

Lombard and Filbert Steps

Top of Lombard Street

Headed down the Filbert Steps

Very large Banana Slug in Marin

Beautiful Marin hike

When we finally made it back from the travel and chaos, we enjoyed a nice quiet holiday in our new home. We set up our first tree, opened some gifts, and sat by a warm fire as the snow continued to fall outside. We did eventually make our way to Florida for the last week of December, and enjoyed several days with family and the warm sunshine. I carried on my somewhat-annual tradition of starting my running back up in earnest, by running loops around my mom's housing complex. This is the 3rd or fourth time that I've done this, and it's always a nice way to start things back up again.

A tiny frog in Florida

We made it back to Flagstaff just before New Years, and decided to celebrate it like any good attending the 'World Famous' Pinecone drop downtown. It's meant to mirror the Ball Drop in Times Square...only much more silly. We were shocked at the size of the crowd, but couldn't think of a better way to say goodbye to 2019 than with a goofy celebration in our new home town. 

The Great Pinecone Drop of 2019!

The street crowd in downtown Flagstaff for the New Year celebration.

A few days later, C and I would drive up through Northern Arizona and into Southwestern Colorado for a relaxing few days around Durango before the start of the new Semester. On the drive we drove past Monument Valley and reflected on how fortunate we've been the past year. I couldn't really think about how and where to end this post, so thought this was a pretty good place. I have no idea yet what 2020 is going to bring for me. Already in the first two months I've had quite a slew of amazing experiences that I can't wait to write about at the end of the year. One thing I do know, is that I'm definitely looking forward to heading back to the Boston Marathon this year for what I hope will be a much better experience than in 2018. Lastly, I'm eagerly awaiting my return trip to Hardrock to experience the wonder of that course again. That is probably what I am most looking forward to.

From an academic point of view, 2019 was also an incredibly good year for me. Aside from the obvious new job at NAU, I was also able to be quite productive with regards to getting some of my overdue research wrapped up and published. I managed to be involved with 7 separate manuscripts...2 as first author. I also finally finished setting up my research website here:

  • Hartman et al., “Volcanic glass properties from 1459 C.E. volcanic event in South Pole ice core dismiss Kuwae caldera as a potential source”, Scientific Reports, 9, 14437.
  • Winski DA et al., 2019. “The SP19 Chronology for the South Pole Ice Core – Part 1: Volcanic matching and annual-layer counting.”, Clim. Past, 15, 1793-1808.
  • Rowley NS, AM Carleton, JM Fegyveresi, 2019. “Relationships of West Greenland supraglacial melt-lakes with local climate and regional atmospheric circulation.” International Journal of Climatology, 1–14.
  • Fegyveresi, JM et al.,  2019. "Visual Observations and Stratigraphy of the South Pole Ice Core (SPICEcore): A Preliminary Holocene (~10.2 ka) Accumulation Record and Depth-Age Chronology." ERDC/CRREL Report No. TR-19-10. ERDC-CRREL, Hanover, NH.
  • Gohl, K. et al., 2019. “Expedition 379 Preliminary Report: Amundsen Sea West Antarctic Ice Sheet History.” International Ocean Discovery Program.
  • Rowley NS and JM Fegyveresi, 2019. “Generating a supraglacial melt-lake inventory near Jakobshavn, West Greenland, using a new semi-automated lake-mapping technique.” Polar Geography, 1-20.
  • Fegyveresi JM et al., 2019. "Instruments and methods: A case study of ice core bubbles as strain indicators". Ann. of Glaciology, 60(78), 8-19.


So with this all said, I'd like to gracefully tip my head and express my gratitude to whatever cosmic forced were at play that allowed me to have the amazing 2019 that I did. I am extremely excited by this wonderful start to my proverbial next chapter. Every morning I wake up here in Flagstaff, I am practically giddy with how things have turned out...and I know just how fortunate I am.

So with that I say....Hike on my friends, 
And I now say goodbye to 2019. May 2020 be another year full of adventures and new experiences...

Near Monument Valley...