What. A. Year.
With 2017 newly over, I'm inspired to look back at my photos from the past year, to reflect on my travels and to think about how I spent the past twelve months. How do I summarize the year? What were my brightest moments? Darkest?
In reflection, I can honestly say 2017 was a year of goal setting and accomplishment and a year of creative growth. I haven't done the math but it feels like I set and realized more goals in 2017 and make more art than in the previous decade. While none of these triumphs were Everest-sized, even small wins filled my sails. I believe the inherent act of setting a goal and achieving it can build to something greater. These were a few highlights from 2017.
Hot, Sweaty Yogi
Exactly a year ago I chose to spend 2017 focused on my health. As a 35-year-old, I had begun to feel the wear of a very active lifestyle. I knew that burning the candle at both ends would only go on for so long before I would begin to experience ramifications from running on empty. Sometimes literally. This was why I made health my intention. Whether the dimension was mental, physical or emotional I used this theme to help me make choices. Opt for the kale over the frozen pizza... at least most of the time.
As an expression of this I committed to taking a hot yoga class at least once a week for a year. While I had gone to classes on and off in the past, I never gave yoga a fair try. I felt ill in the stifling heat and didn't share the exuberant praise that so many Yogis expressed. But... I did like how my body felt after class. My core felt strong and my hips were open so I had to give it a fair shake.
My routine was intense to say the least but it fit with my work schedule: wake at 5:15 a.m., stumble out of bed, dress and grab a coffee at Starbucks. I'd them down the essential caffeinated beverage while listening to 90s hip-hop in my car. By the time I entered my local Hot Yoga Experience studio around 5:50am my heart was pumping and I was ready for the 65-minute class.
LET'S DO THIS!
As a trail runner who roams in the wild, the idea I had to show up at a particular class time and listen to an instructor order me around was completely alien. Luckily, I battled through this discomfort.
By the time each class was over my hair, bare chest and shorts were saturated with sweat. But I was also awake, alive and mentally steady for the day. While it took months of practice, towards the fall I starting to hate hot yoga a little less. What had started as a despised habit I conscripted myself into gradually grew into a valued form of exercise, and a form of reflection and meditation. Honestly, namaste.
When I took my last class in December I couldn't help from smiling. I had aimed at something that was threatening to me: heat, strict instruction and rigorous activity. But I made a plan, put in the effort and realized this sweaty, sweaty goal.
Moviemaker & Creator
In the fall of 2016 a good friend and an accomplished adventurer, Richard Kresser, handed me SD cards with footage from an epic climb and run he did around a series of Cascade Volcanoes: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt Hood. He accomplished this 247-mile feat back-to-back and solo over six and half days. What a BEAST!
"Want to make a movie?" Richard asked.
Flattered, but also intimidated, I decided to jump at it.
While I had committed to becoming a filmmaker a year earlier after being laid off and had the technical skills to film and edit, committing to making something "real" was scary. Nevertheless I agreed. After a few post-adventure interviews with Richard, his girlfriend and his friends and family, I logged the new footage and the hours of content Richard had shot. Slowly I pieced together a narrative of his solo adventure. By summer 2017 I had assembled a 17-minute feature that I had confidence in. For the first time ever I had combined professionally produced motion graphics with licensed music into a cohesive story. In mid-August, we screened Dick's RASH: The Up, Down and Around at Seven Hills, a loved, local running shop.
We received over 100 RSVPs for the Tuesday night screening, a quantity that the shop couldn't possibly seat, but I also knew that at least 30-40% of the folks would be no-shows as Seattle traffic and work got in the way. Boy was I wrong. I think the final count was 98 people seated EVERYWHERE inside the running shop. We bought 70 beers and quickly burned through those and the pizza the Altra Running brand rep kindly funded. At the end of the screening, we hosted a Q&A where Richard answered technical questions on gear and his inspiration for the RASH challenge. The event could not have gone better. As I drove back to my home that evening a grin spread across my face. I did something scary, made some art and learned a bunch along the way. How cool!
After a successful screening in Seattle, Richard and I headed down to Portland to show the movie and host a Q&A at Evolution Healthcare and Fitness. Evolution wasn't just a top-notch training center, but also has the largest non-theater HD projection system in the city. I was amazingly lucky to get to show the movie there.
Dick's RASH had one more trick up it's sleeve. At the end of the year I learned that North Bend Theatre was having a film festival. While I couldn't attend due to travel, Richard was able to attend so I entered the film for consideration. A week later I got the great news: the movie picked up accolades for 3rd place selection also fan favorite. This meant bragging rights and a $200 in cold hard cash (ok, really, a check, but you get what I mean).
Beyond Dick's RASH, I also make about a dozen short movies about running. My favorites from 2017 are linked below and are also available on my YouTube channel:
- BECU Shred Event, a humerous promotional video that was inspired by 1980s monster truck rally commercials
- Your First Time, an edit poking fun at something that eventually happens for all runners
- United with Pride, a video I filmed and produced celebrating BECU's staff participation at the 2017 Seattle Pride Parade
- Hiking the AT with Dad, featuring my Dad and brother on a four-day AT hike in Connecticut
- Sahale Peak 2.0, documenting my climb with Uli Stidle of Sahale Peak after failing to summit three years earlier
Another creative accomplishment I am proud of is writeing a LinkedIn blog post "How CEO Dara Khosrowshahi Can Become The Savior of Uber" which was featured by the social network in their news wrapup of Dara being selected as Uber's new CEO.
Closing a Chapter in North Seattle
Nine years earlier as a bright-eyed 27-year-old I bought a condo in the Northgate neighborhood of Seattle. In March of last year I sold it. So much life was lived in between. When I signed the sale paper I reflected on what I had accomplished and gained: I survived the housing crash of 2009, the expected drama of a home owners association, and picked up skills as a HOA president and board member, landlord, and even made it through two flood incidents that required significant renovations. While my venture into homeownership wasn't entirely positive or wildly cash-positive, I managed it. I balanced budgets, paid bills and didn't run when luck turned against me. This was adulthood in its rawest: now milestones of success, but milestones of "owning it", the lemons and lemonade.
Thank you to the friends who were part of my Burke Ave life: Allison, Jeff and Kristin, 11, Gary, Regan, and many others. While my financial benefit following the experience could buy little more than a used 1995 Honda Civic, the wealth of memories, skills and knowledge will pay dividends far into the future... at least I hope. Oh, and I'm not going to be on an HOA board again.
Racing & Adventures
I saw this trend in successfully setting and realizing (mostly) goals, too. Three years earlier I was denied a sweet marketing role at Dakine (ouch!) after being enchanted by the adventurers paradise, Hood River. Ever since I promised myself that I'd go back there to either live full time or at least to have an extended stay. In August I made it happen and stayed with friends and at an AirBNB while working remotely. Each morning before work I'd run or mountain bike with Luna Tuna. The evenings and weekends I'd enjoy the local breweries or go exploring with friends. Hood River wa exactly what I was looking for. The only downside was that wild fires were burning across British Columbia causing a plume of heavy smoke to blow south and settle in the Columbia River Gorge. This meant that halfway through my visit the stunning town I loved so much was suddenly shrouded in thick smoke. A heatwave added to the discomfort. Nevertheless, I was proud of realizing a goal that I had previously set forth.
I also committed to tough races in the spring and summer and was able to see through the training and preparation all the way through to race day earning finishes at Orcas Island 50k, Gorge Waterfalls 100k, Beacon Rock50k and Needles 25k.
The biggest challenge of the summer was a wild running/mountaineering race called the Mt. Baker Ultra. Starting at midnight in Concrete, Washington, competitors ran to the base of the mountain, summitted Sherman Peak (just shy of the true summit), and reversed course back to Concrete for a total of 50-miles and 10,000+ feet of climbing. While I ended up not summiting on race day due to an unexplained flash illness, I did run 45 of the 50-mile course and was proud of my efforts, and knew I'd be back next year.
All of my running pursuits were focused on preparing me for a September return to Idaho. I HAD to earn a finish at the challenging IMTUF 100 in McCall, Idaho. Three years earlier I had DNF'd on the course at mile 52. Luckily, my return put my heart at ease and I earned a finisher buckle (triumphantly detailed in this blog post).
I rounded out the year by fitting in a successful climb of Sahale Peak and a last-minute trip to the Grand Canyon to run the Rim-to-Rim-Rim trail. Both of these experiences were goal achievements for me so I was thrilled that I could fit them into 2017 before winter weather closed the trails.
And for my finale...
As I had done for the past three years, I also organized a group summit of a local mountain to celebrate the last dawn of year. Happy 2017!
I'm grateful to my boss, Gerard, and my colleagues at BECU for their confidence in me as a marketer and storyteller. I'm grateful for my friends who I adventure with on trails near and far. I'm grateful to my family for their support and for their visits to meet up in Philadelphia, Seattle and Salt Lake City.
Do I have goals for 2018? You bet!
- Travel abroad to France
- Develop my technical mountaineering skills
- Finish Orcas 100 and CCC
- Make my next "big" movie and continue to develop my craft
We'll see what else presents itself.