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This is yet another incarnation of my personal blog. Here's where you can read about what I do when I'm not at work: hiking, seeing plays and other shows, eating, traveling, etc.

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Lessons on the trail

Posted by gck Saturday, January 19, 2019 0 comments

It was Saturday morning and I was running a short trail race. I wasn’t racing it; I’d signed up for it months earlier, and now I was on a 50k training plan that would have me running an extra 6 miles after the race, so I was taking it pretty easy. I happily bumped into a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a year, and we decided to run together at a leisurely pace, chatting a lot and catching up on things.

The trail was rougher than I remembered. Most of it was single track, and there were rocks and slippery roots everywhere. As an added challenge to this obstacle course, somehow the timing worked out this year that the fastest half marathon runners (who started earlier in the morning) were hitting the start of the loop at the same time as we started, which meant we were getting passed by quite a lot of speedy runners throughout the course, often in locations that weren’t really meant for passing. Because of all this, we were passing other runners very conservatively, only if they were significantly slower or if we were in a section of trail that was wider.

So my friend and I are running, chatting away about Orangetheory or something similarly harmless, when the runner in front of us, whom we’ve probably been following for a little while, steps aside to let us pass, so we do. But right before I get out of earshot, she says, “I’m out here to enjoy nature, not to listen to your chatter.”

Uh, what?

She didn’t say it in a particularly nasty tone of voice, but to me, the words themselves were pretty bitchy. I asked my friend if she thought the woman was being rude or not, and my friend didn’t think so.

But through the race and even after it was over, it kept nagging at me. I am no newbie to trail annoyances, but when someone chooses to make a remark like that, to me, she’s telling me that I’m doing something wrong. Was I supposed to run slower if I was going to talk, so she would be further ahead? Or run faster and pass everyone I got close to so they wouldn’t be subjected to the sound of my voice for very long? Or not talk at all while I was running? I don’t think so. Who was she to dictate how I was to run my run?

Then I started thinking about how SHE was in the wrong. If she was so annoyed, she could have run faster to get away from us. It’s not like we were running that fast. Or just stepped aside as soon as she heard chatter behind her, if she didn’t want to listen to it. Orrrrrr maybe she could not sign up for a race with hundreds of people in it if she didn’t want to hear any people! Oooh, the righteous outrage!

Then the devil’s advocate side of my brain was like, “So you get to dictate how she is to run her run?” Yeah, okay. Maybe not.

I think with trail running, you have to learn to accept what you get. It’s not always going to be that smooth, inspiring, meditative communion with nature that the shoe ads show you. There might be a mud puddle that you don’t manage to quite jump over. There might be a rock that appears out of nowhere, just in the right place for you to kick really hard. There might be trees down over the trail. You might roll your ankle or get stabbed in the shin by a hidden branch. The trail might morph so that it seems like all of it is going uphill. But you learn to adapt, to get stronger, and to love the experience that you are given at that moment. And I guess that includes moments where another runner is snarking about your chatter.

So thank you, runner lady, for unintentionally reminding me about what trail running really is. You run your way, I’ll run mine, and hopefully we’ll both adapt and keep enjoying the trails.

Seawheeze 2018

Posted by gck Wednesday, October 24, 2018 0 comments

Goal Achieved?
A < 2:15 yes!
B < 2:25 (new PR) yes
C finish without injury



September 22, 2018
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Official time: 2:13:47


Somehow, the Seawheeze Half Marathon entered my radar around the time of the lottery, and Sandy, Don, and I decided to enter. Don and I were already scheduled to run The Great Ferry Race in July, but Sandy was adamantly sticking to her plan to never run a half marathon again, so she entered the lottery but was praying to the Lottery Gods that she wouldn’t get in. She did not get in. Don and I did. Then Sandy was sad. Fortunately, the Lottery Gods saw her sadness and gave her a spot… but not until mid-August, with approximately one month to train.

My half marathon PR was set on my first half marathon, at 2:25. I’ve definitely improved as a runner since then, and I’d run four other half marathons, but none of them were PR races, due to some combination of factors: lack of training, hilly course, being sick, and/or running at someone else’s pace. Seawheeze was pretty ideal for a PR: flat course, I could run my own race, and I was already running a half marathon less than 3 months earlier, so I’d be prepared for the distance. I just needed to be consistent with my training and make sure I was in good running shape.


McMillan Running was offering a free month of training plans right as I was getting started on this cycle, so I signed up, plugged in some numbers, and came out with a plan… that I barely followed for a week before giving up. Instead, I fell back on my normal strategy of “winging it.”

“Winging it” ideal: Increasing long runs on the weekends, plus some short runs during the week.
”Winging it” during hiking season: Hike all weekend. Find some weekday to squeeze the poor long run in. Maybe run during the week.

My training log (teal = short run, blue = long run, red = race)

Any “real runner” would roll their eyes at me running a half marathon on ~12mpw, but this was actually a bit of an improvement for me over my past training cycles. Not shown are a large number of hiking miles, which were good for endurance and leg strength. I also struggled with being sick for some time in my training and a few weeks of very poor air quality due to forest fires on the West coast. I don’t have treadmill access, so on days where the air was dangerous, I didn’t run.

Going in to the run, I felt very good about my ability to complete the distance. What I was uncertain about was how fast I’d be able to do it. The calculators were telling me that I should be able to run <2:15 if properly trained… but was I properly trained?

The Race

It’s been awhile since I’ve run an out-of-town race, and I was a little worried about how things were going to go race day. Normally at home, I’d properly hydrate the night before and then wake up early on race day to get water and a good breakfast in well before the start. I managed the hydration just fine, and breakfast was a combination of leftovers from dinner the night before and an energy bar. I did have to do one last minute restroom stop right before race time, which of course is the worst time for lines. I passed by a set of portapotties with a line that didn’t seem like it would end before the race started, and fortunately there was a set with no lines right by the corrals.

The Start

The 2:15, 2:20, and 2:25 pacers were all in the same corral, and they were lined up almost side by side before the race started, so Sandy, Don, and I all ended up finding each other and waiting together. I thought I’d been cutting it close with my bathroom trip 5 minutes before the race started, but it ended up taking probably 30 minutes for our corral to get to the start line. By this point, the corral had shifted from movement and other people jumping in that the pacers were quite a bit ahead of us.

Don and I said bye to Sandy right away and took off running after the 2:15 pacers, which made for a pretty fast mile 1. I was used to running this pace on my short runs, so it felt great. Don didn’t like it quite as much. From that point on, I stayed with the pacers the rest of the race, though I realized pretty quickly that I took way longer than they did at aid stations, so I’d speed up as we approached one to buy myself some time, then catch up with the pacers afterwards. At some point, probably around when we hit a long hill, Don fell behind, and he said he could still see the pacers for awhile but was never able to catch up again.

Rainy, but still scenic

The course was a nice, pretty tour of Vancouver. It was fun to see Granville Island and run around Stanley Park on the Seawall. The race did a great job of getting unique and enthusiastic cheer stations to keep us all energized: people cheering on spin bikes (they looked like they were working harder than I was!), drag queens, mermaids, musicians, police officers, and more. I didn’t take too many pictures because it was raining for a good part of the race, but there are plenty of other race reports on the internet that have good photos.

My energy levels felt really good until about mile 9. For the first half of the race, I was even questioning if I could push harder to go for a 2:10 finish. I had half a pack of Clif Bloks in my shorts and I ate them one at a time, starting around mile 6. This was my first time consuming non-liquids during a race, and it worked really well – in fact, I wish I had more. The last few miles, especially once I got past my training maximum of 11.5 miles, were a slog. It was made worse by a misplaced mile marker around mile 10 that made it feel like the longest mile ever. Then at the finish line, it seemed like people were saying “only .1k further” for at least half a mile! But I knew during this struggle that I had my A goal in the bag, and I just needed to win the mental battle to finish the race. I pulled away from the pacers near the finish line (at the halfway point, I’d imagined running a fast last mile, but by the time I got there, my legs were not interested) and crossed at 2:13:47!

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Me and two of the 2:15 pacers (photo credit: pamcakes_ontherun), Seawheeze medal

The pacers (“pace beavers” cuz Canada) really made the race more fun for me. It was my first time running with pacers, and not only was it helpful to have someone keeping me on track with my pace, they were also talking to us and cheering (“You, you, you, race, race, race! We, we, we, pace, pace, pace!”). One of them even Skyped his dad, showed him the race scenery, and had us all sing him happy birthday!


After I finished, Shawn congratulated me, and I got in a very long line for my swag and brunch box and started checking the live tracker to see where the others were. Don finished not far behind me, and Sandy was on track for a massive PR. I kept refreshing the tracker, waiting for her to hit the last checkpoints, and she made it! She didn’t expect it at all, especially with her short training period.

At the Sunset Festival. We are too old for Diplo.

It’s been awhile between the race and me writing up this report, so I’ve had some time to process. I was riding a post-race high for some time… I’d forgotten how good it can feel to race for time and run well. I was on top of my nutrition and hydration, and I ran a pretty smart, steady race. I did feel that despite my tiredness towards the end, I could have finished a little faster, since I had expended extra energy speeding up at the beginning of the race and at each aid station, but I wouldn’t have changed that for this race. I’m also thinking, for the first time ever, that a 2:00 half marathon may be within my reach. Not now, but at some point, with a higher training volume. Kinda scary! I’m sure the time will come again, but getting faster at road races isn’t a goal for me right now. I took less than a week off running and then launched into my next cycle: training for a trail 25k!

(official time was 1s off from the tracker)
My pace sure looks good in km!

Stitch Fix #YOLO Party

Posted by gck Friday, July 27, 2018 0 comments

And now for a break from the normal mountain talk…

Awhile back, I started getting boxes from Stitch Fix, a personal stylist service where a stylist chooses 5 items for you and you pay for what you want to keep. I got one of my friends hooked by giving her gift certificates, and we found it particularly fun to get boxes at the same time so we could open them and try them on together, doing our best in-person, perky imitations of Youtube unboxing videos. It didn’t take long for our unboxing parties to expand to more people (this time, men!).

My friend’s birthday was this month, and she decided she was going to do a “YOLO” fix – not write anything about what she wanted and see what showed up.

Even better… what if ALL of us did YOLO fixes in honor of her birthday?!

So we did. I think her stylist note said something like, “It’s my birthday, send me anything you want.” The rest of us just wrote, “YOLO.” One person even got an e-mail back from Stitch Fix, asking if that was all he wanted to say to his stylist and reminding him that he still had time to change it.

41857600940_a1420b0a8a_othe YOLO boxes

The unboxing was very dramatic… but as we started going around, we were disappointed to see that a lot of our first items were safe picks.

This is not what we had in mind!

But then my friend pulled out the second item in her box, and we all burst into laughter. Low cut crop top?! YOLO! This was YOLO!

Yessss! YOLO!

The items in our boxes continued to alternate between the very safe (socks?!) to the more adventurous (shark shorts!).

There was conservative golf attire…


And a patterned shirt that matched the rug…


All of us were styled by stylists that we’d had before, so the items weren’t completely random. Mine even referenced requests I had made in the past, probably frustrated by the fact that I didn’t give her anything useful this time (sorry!).

Birthday girl’s stylist won the contest for most YOLO, with the crop top, a romper, and a brightly patterned maxi skirt. Rug man’s was a close second, with the rug-patterned shirt and a lilac button down. But everyone had something in an adventurous color or style…

Except me. Mine was a good fix tailored to me, which meant nothing crazy. My stylist knows me too well! It’s ok, though, since my friend made me try on her crop top and romper.

My fix:



The mens’ fixes:




And the rest of the birthday girl's fix:



And that’s a wrap! We’re looking forward to our next party. Our stylists will be probably be relieved to get more helpful requests next time.

Want your own Fix? Get one here!

The Great Ferry Race

Posted by gck Tuesday, July 3, 2018 1 comments

I’m not a very consistent runner, but sometimes things will draw me back to running. Last year, I started trail running with Northwest Trail Runs, an attempt to combine hiking and running and help me increase my speed in both. This year, I was drawn in by Orca Running’s beautiful R-Pod medal, a prize for anyone who completed 3 or more races with them in 2018. I got a few of my friends onboard and signed up for my three races: the Kirkland Shamrock 5k in March, the Snoqualmie Valley 10k in June, and my first half marathon in a few years, the inaugural Great Ferry Race.

I’m pretty sure each time I’ve trained for a half marathon, I’ve said that I have no motivation to do one again. But this event was compelling for a few reasons:

  1. Inaugural!
  2. The unique concept. The event started with a ferry ride, and the run started right off the ferry dock.
  3. The location on Bainbridge Island, with approximately 1/3 of the course on trail.

I had all good intentions of being properly trained for the race, but a large number of out of town weekends in April and May derailed it all. I ended up having to do a huge jump in long run distance to hit a number where I was comfortable going up to 13.1, and it was pretty rough. I knew it wasn’t going to be my best performance, but I was hoping for a reasonably unmiserable experience without injuries.

Seattle from the ferry dock
Seattle from the ferry dock

On race day, parking downtown by the ferry dock, as the event organizers promised, was very easy because it was early on a Sunday. The ferry terminal was full of runners, and the ferry passengers who weren’t there for the run were looking around quite bewildered. I did day-of packet pickup, and there was a mix up where many people who registered really early didn’t end up having their personalized bibs printed. They had also run out of blanks, so I was given the bib of someone who canceled, with their name blacked out. It was a little disappointing because the bib was a cool design, and I would have liked my personalized one as a race souvenir, but I guess running as Haley Strandness makes for a good story, too. My friends looked her up online and apparently she’s quite a good athlete, so I felt honored.

I am Haley Strandness
I am Haley Strandness

It was a nice, short ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island. It’s nice to have all of those boat bathrooms for the 30 minutes before race time instead of having to stand in line for Honey Buckets! And gear check was a car on the car deck! How fun is that? When we got close, the ferry announced that all runners were to congregate on one of the upper car decks (where there were no cars). An Orca Running person tried to shout course instructions at us, the important thing being that we were waiting for all the cars to unload, then we’d walk off the ferry and wait for a horn to blow to signal the run start. Oh, and he mentioned that the course was a difficult one due to all the hills, and hats off to us for running it.

Runners gathered on the car deck
Runners gathered on the car deck

On the ferry dock ready to start running
On the ferry dock ready to start running

As I mentioned earlier, the course/location was appealing to me. It wasn’t another Greenlake or Seattle Center or Sammamish River Trail course. And Bainbridge Island did not disappoint! Though the weather made it so we didn’t get any distance views, we still had some nice scenery. Lots of green, lovely trail through the parks, and a pretty lake. We were also encouraged by the locals, including a huge cheer from ferry passengers waiting to depart as we arrived and an adorable little boy standing in his yard playing the runners a trumpet serenade. And there were the entertaining signs that someone put up on the second half of the course, some humor to boost our spirits. The short cut was tempting!

img_20180701_101110_29273512918_o  img_20180701_101207_29273519388_oimg_20180701_101402_29273522358_o  img_20180701_103022_43095069232_o
Fun signs along the course

I disagreed with that last sign. There was plenty of time for walking. Especially because the hills Would. Not. Stop. When I read the course description, I was under the impression that the trail sections of the course would be the difficult ones. It was the exact opposite! The trails were fantastic and my favorite part of the course. See the elevation profile below? The giant downhill and the flattish section after that was where the trail part was. I knew when we did the big downhill that we’d be in for some major gain later on, but the killer was that even after we gained all of that elevation back, it still went up and down and up and down and up and down, all the way until the last quarter mile. Brutal roads! For the sake of energy conservation, I walked most of the uphills. And so did many other people.

elevation profile

oh yay another hill
oh yay another hill

But I finished, and they called out my name correctly as I crossed the finish line, so Haley doesn’t have to worry about having an abnormally slow time on her record. I finished in 2:34:53, which is almost exactly the same as my time for the 2012 Seattle Rock n Roll Half (an easier course that I was even less properly trained for, so also a lot of walking). I’m happy with that. But I was even happier when I saw the taco bar at the end! I LOVE when there’s real food at the end of a race, and these tacos totally hit the spot. And though it dumped rain on us for most of the run (that was fun), it cleared up at the end, allowing us to sit and enjoy our tacos outside.

There was a bell for people to ring if they got a new PR. It wasn’t ringing very much, and I suspect most of those who did ring were first half marathons. But that’s okay – sometimes it’s nice to take on a challenging course. I didn’t make it to the finish line before they did the awards ceremony, but I read later on that the first three finishers were all female! That’s so awesome.

Finish line taco!
Finish line taco!

Mora Ice Cream was conveniently located between the finish line and the ferry terminal, so there was an ice cream stop after tacos! I had blueberry and maraschino cherry cream, and both flavors were absolutely delicious.

Mora Ice Cream
Mora Ice Cream

My body tends to want to shut down after long runs, so it was a struggle to stay awake during the ferry ride and car drive back, but I made it. And my legs were not even that sore the next day. My phone, however, had accumulated water from the rain through cracks on the screen protector, so there’s an unusable area in the center of my phone that’s slowly shrinking as the water dries.

The medals
The medals

Half Marathon #1 of 2018: Done. I get a very short recovery week, and then it’s back to training again for my next race… stay tuned, I’m hoping for a PR.

Meadow Roving at Mount Rainier

Posted by gck Saturday, January 27, 2018 0 comments

Lupine and other wildflowers

I had a busy summer and fall in 2017 and have done a poor job maintaining this blog. I’m hoping that during these winter months I can do a little catch up with photo processing and blogging.

I’ve made a number of trips to Mount Rainier National Park over the past few years. One particularly memorable trip was in 2016, when I took some interns to the park to convince them that Washington was awesome, and we saw a bear! On that trip, as well as several others, I talked to a person in uniform who identified herself as a “meadow rover.” These people were always friendly, enjoying their hiking, and talking to visitors about the park. They also told me about the meadow roving program and encouraged me to sign up. I had considered it for 2016 but had my Mountaineers class already, so 2017 was the year!

Meadow rovers (+a hiker) at Sunrise

So what exactly does a meadow rover do? I jokingly refer to it as being a “fake ranger.” We wear khaki hats and shirts with badges that say “National Park Service Volunteer,” but to the untrained eye, we’re often mistaken for rangers. This is by design. One of the duties of the meadow rover is to encourage visitors to follow park rules. Because we aren’t actually rangers, we can’t directly enforce anything, but the uniform makes people a lot more receptive to feedback. I’ve been with non-uniformed people who ask people to follow the rules on trails (“leash your dogs”) and generally the response is a dismissal (“yeah whatever”) or occasionally aggressive (“mind your own business”). The interaction is very different when I’m roving and I ask someone to stay on the trail (“oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t notice I was stomping all over the flowers!”).


Being trail cop is not my favorite thing. But as a rover, we not only want compliance, but also to be able to educate people about why the rules exist and what human impact does to the beautiful scenery that people are there to see. I feel very strongly about keeping these beautiful places beautiful for future visitors, and it makes me sad when I see fragile flower meadows turn into bare patches of dirt because people wanted to get a better photo. Did you know that one step off the trail tramples on average more than 15 plants?

A family of marmots at Paradise

Another responsibility of the meadow rover is to talk to visitors and answer questions. This is my favorite part of roving! My hiking buddies are already used to me pointing out the lupine, paintbrush, penstemon, pasqueflower, etc. and then quizzing them on it later. It’s a lot of fun to talk to visitors about what they’re seeing and what their experiences have been, and it helps me learn more, too. (I’m so bad with trees) I know that when I’m out hiking, I enjoy having the opportunity to talk to rangers. Since forest service budgets make it impossible to have as many rangers out there as we’d like, meadow rovers attempt to fill that gap. One of the most well known (and one of my favorite) meadow rovers is an 80+ year old woman named Anne Marie  who’s at Paradise almost every day, rain or shine. She still hikes up to Panorama Point in the snow! I hope I can be like that at that age.

Showing visitors how to plunge step down a snowy slope

The last major duty of a meadow rover is to carry a radio and use it as needed. We had one incident over the summer where a parent approached us and said her children were missing, and we called in, started, and participated in the search and rescue operation. Everything ended up fine, fortunately, and it was good to be able to help out. There are often enough rovers spread out on the popular trails that someone in need could find a rover instead of having to hike down to the visitor center.

Fremont Lookout

I hope to continue as a meadow rover in years to come! If you are interested, there is more information here about this and other volunteer opportunities. Citizen scientist? Trail maintenance? Lots of great ways to help out in this beautiful national park.

IMG_5099  Gleaming Lights of the Souls, Yayoi Kusama

A few years ago, I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen. It’s a wonderful museum, and I’d spent a few hours walking through the galleries and enjoying the sea view outside. Happy with what I’d seen and almost ready to make the journey back to the city, I chatted with a stranger about my favorite parts of the museum. He said his favorite was a room with lots of lights, something that I’d managed to skip on my way through. It sounded like it was worth walking back for. It was so easy to miss because it was just a door, and there wasn’t a line of people to get in. I walked in with one other person and enjoyed this beautiful cosmic view of color-changing lights stretching into infinity. It was described as looking into a sea of city lights. I had forever to experience this universe and take all the photos I wanted (though I only took a few), and it ended up being my favorite part of the museum and one of the highlights of the entire trip.

Life (Repetitive Vision)

I noticed that Louisiana had a Yayoi Kusama exhibit for awhile, and I briefly considered flying back to Copenhagen to see it, but it didn’t end up making sense logistically. Then I noticed that an exhibit was scheduled to be at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and I got really excited. The Asian Art Museum is currently closed for renovations, so it ended up being at the main Seattle Art Museum. I saw all the advertisements and figured I’d catch the exhibit some Thursday while they were open for later hours… then I found out that all advance tickets had already sold out. The only way to get tickets was to wait in line to get some of the limited day of tickets.

Infinity Dots

So of course, I did that. The exhibit has been immensely popular, but it seems like there have been enough day of tickets so that everyone in line early has been able to get in at some point in the day. The experience ends up being about infinity lines: line to get in the door when the museum opens, line to buy a ticket, line for your ticket time to get into the exhibit, and line at each of the infinity rooms. Of the hour or two you spend in the exhibit, the vast majority of it ends up being in line, with only 20-30 seconds allowed in each infinity room before an employee knocks on the door and kicks you out. The 20-30 seconds seems short, especially in Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, which has lanterns that change brightness – 30 seconds isn’t enough to experience one cycle of change. And you can go in more than once, but it might be another half hour wait in line. There were other pieces of Kusama’s art to look at while waiting in line, but they weren’t nearly as interesting as the rooms.

Phalli’s Field

It might not be apparent to all viewers, since they’re so cleverly disguised in pop patterns, that those tentacles all over the place are actually phalli. Apparently back in the 60s, Kusama was busy making all sorts of phallic art, lots and lots of tentacles! She was working on Phalli’s Field, and she wanted more penises, but she got tired of having to sew them all. So she did some experimentation with mirrors and discovered that she could multiply the penises this way… and the infinity rooms were born. The infinity rooms in this exhibit are mostly full of whimsy: dotted phalli, pumpkins, and polka dot balloons. Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity stands out as more mystical, with its brightening and dimming lanterns echoing into infinity. It was the most similar in aesthetic and tone to Gleaming Lights of the Souls that I’d seen in Copenhagen, and it was my favorite in this exhibit. It also had the longest line.

The Obliteration Room

Kusama’s art isn’t for everyone. Critics might say that it isn’t anything groundbreaking, it just looks kind of cool and makes for cool internet selfies, etc. What I like about it is the way it invites the viewer to participate. In the infinity rooms, the door closes you into this small physical space, but the mirrors make you feel completely immersed in an expansive and beautiful world with a very pronounced mood. In The Obliteration Room, the participation is defined: each visitor is given a page of dot stickers, and each sticker must be placed somewhere in this previously white room. Together, they interact with the room to create the art.

Dots Obsession – Love Transformed into Dots

With such short time in each room, I tried to minimize the photo taking (but couldn’t force myself to abstain completely, except in the pumpkin room where photos are prohibited), and most of the rooms are not captured in the photos on this post. For me, the photos will help bring back the memories, but they can’t capture the real feeling of being there. Even though I griped about the lines and the short amount of time allocated for experiencing the art, I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience this unique exhibit. (Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors @ Seattle Art Museum from June 30, 2017 – September 10, 2017)