2015: Goal, Theme & Challenge – Review

At the beginning of 2015 I wrote about my goal, theme and challenge for the year. I’ve posted a few updates throughout the year but want to take some time now to do a final review.

2015 Goal: Read 26 Books

Self Grade: 5/10

My goal was to read 26 books – I finished at 12.

This was just a miserable failure. I was certainly busy but I know for a fact that with time I spent playing through a few video games and watching a number of movies, I could have accomplished this with only consumption time.

To be fair, I believe this is the most books I’ve ever read in a year. Last year I read 17 but 6 were audiobooks. I had also strived to read more fiction, which 8 of the 12 were.

The complete list includes:

    • The Omnivore’s Dilemma
    • Death on the Nile
    • No Country for Old Men
    • Fluke
    • A Scanner Darkly
    • Managing Brand Equity
    • The Kite Runner
    • 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness
    • Life of Pi
    • The Great Divorce
    • Steppenwolf
    • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin


2015 Theme: Live Slower

Self Grade: 8/10

The key difference between my themes and goals is that the goal should be something relatively simple that I want to repeat in a measurable way to build a habit, while the theme is something I want to think about and practice, but I am not yet obliged to form it into habit.

That is all to say that I don’t think I actually went much slower this year, but I did think about it a good bit and was able to dip my toes in the water of it.

Resting is now a category of activity in my mind. It wasn’t before.

I leave 2015 having experimented with savoring moments – enjoying them deeply instead of just moving on to accomplish the next thing. I look forward to doing more of this.

2015 Challenge: Summit Mt. Whitney

Self Grade: 10/10

In August I summited the mountain along with a few friends.

This was a challenge I knew would be pretty easy. It was certainly a grueling hike and it took a lot of coordination to get permits and wrangle together three friends that now live thousands of miles apart. But of the three challenges I have done to date, this is the one where there was highest chance of success (and probably least chance of death – which are not necessarily correlated).


Summit Mt. Whitney: Complete

I did it. I stepped foot at the top of the tallest peak in the contiguous United States of America.


There isn’t a ton to report here, this was a fairly uneventful challenge. Recalling back to when I decided on it, one of the main reasons I selected this hike as my challenge was because it was the least intensive item on my bucket list.

Once I got a permit, and thanks to not sustaining any injuries this year, it was a fairly low risk endeavor. I considered finding ways to make it more challenging, bringing my 18 month old son along, doing it with nothing but a knife, trying to set a record – but, I stuck to my decision and kept things simple.

Now all of this isn’t to say hiking the 22 mile round trip which climbs over 6k ft of elevation was easy. It was physically difficult. I was out of breath, tired and sore all over. It was probably the hardest hike I’ve ever done, and I’ve done some gnarly hikes.

Here is the Strava data from day 1. (My Garmin got too cold at night and lost all of its battery, so no data from day 2) Over the course of ~6.5 miles we climbed nearly 4k feet and I averaged a heart rate of 136, often hopping up into the 150s for a bit. To compare, I averaged 138 during the bike ride of my Ironman last year. So I was working hard here – though for only 2.5 hours on day 1 opposed to the 11 of my Ironman. (Day 2 of the hike was 11 hours though)



I wasn’t recording at the time, but I did also sneak in a swim across an alpine lake at 10k ft. I was out of breath pretty quickly.


The weather was perfect, it was pretty warm and sunny during the day and dropped to probably the 40s, maybe 30s at night. There was little wind and no rain. I hiked the final miles to the summit in a t-shirt.

Our whole group, all former endurance athletes in various stages of out of shape, made great time on the trail. We all ended up with a bit of a sunburn, chapped lips and mild dehydration, nothing bad enough to stop our smiles.


One thing I really enjoyed digging into this trip was my body’s reaction to elevation. I haven’t really done much at high elevations outside of trying to do an Ironman at 6k ft last year and a few hikes in the 10k range. Hitting 14k would be a new record for me.

We brought a pulse oximeter along with us to measure our oxygen saturation at various elevations. I’ve included a chart below showing the two days (day 1 = black, day 2 = red) and my oxygen saturation levels at various stops along the way. (Here is some more info on oxygen saturation if you’re interested)


We camped day 1 at 6k feet and I got a reading of 96, perfectly inside the expected normal range of 95-100. We actually started hiking at 8k ft and you can see my levels slowly drop until we hit Trail Camp that night. 80 is not a great place to be. I’m told if I were in a hospital and had a blood saturation of 80, I would have been put on supplemental oxygen.

Overnight I became somewhat acclimated though, you can see the first red dot, my morning read at camp (same elevation as the night) is back up at 86.

When we hit the summit I hit 78 and had a significant headache. At that level I was ‘compromising organ function’ including my brain. A bit of focused breathing got me back up to normal however and we hung out at the summit for a bit before heading back down to thick air and abundant oxygen.

Total hiking time to the top was 5 hours (broken over 2 days – not including breaks).


The hike down was long. Over 100 switchbacks. Lots of impact on the feet and knees. I was physically drained, but we still managed to get down in ~5 hours.

With that I’m done with my 2015 challenge. Here’s hoping for something more eventful in 2016.

Summit Mt. Whitney: Permit Acquired

The first hurdle I faced when planning for my 2015 challenge was getting access to attempt the hike of Mt. Whitney.

Like many popular hikes, there is now a permit system in place to limit the daily travelers. This is done for the safety and enjoyment of those on the trail as well as to allow for the preservation of the location.

My goal was to get a permit that let me camp overnight and hike the mountain over two days – rather than attempting it in a single long day. That allows for a more leisurely pace and more enjoyable trip. The trade off is you have to carry sleeping gear.

I’ve had a good bit of experience getting permits from the U.S. Parks department and learned a few tricks. They key is to make sure you are flexible, and shoot for off-peak days when possible. Early or late season hikes are easier to secure as are mid-week hikes. Finally, if you don’t get a permit, always check for last minute cancelations. I’ve secured a few great hikes by calling every morning of a trip and adjusting my plans when a permit opened up.

This time, I didn’t need the above tips though – I just got lucky. I secured a group permit for 5 people on my first choice, a weekend in the peak season.

I’m not planning on training for the hike outside of a normal exercise routine. A few runs and bike rides a week and the occasional hike with my son on my back should be enough to ensure I can complete the hike.

Maybe I need to make things more difficult…