Life of adventures

As I’ve gotten into mid-life, I’ve learned more and more about who I am as a person. As I’ve looked back on things I love and enjoy doing and I’ve stared to discover a theme. I like exploration and adventure.

When I was 16 I wanted to get my driver’s license as quickly as possible. I had grown up without a car and I was getting tired of taking the bus everywhere. Plus, I wanted the freedom to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong, I was an explorer by bus as well. We would go all over the Twin Cities, transferring from bus to bus, all the time. I would explore on my own, riding the bus at a young age. But a car… that was freedom. It took me 3 times to pass my driver’s test, but when I did, the very next day I went for a long drive. I went out to Stillwater and just enjoyed being free and seeing what I wanted to see.

When I got to college and adulthood I would also do a lot of walking. There were times when I would walk for hours, seeing if I could get somewhere on my own two feet. With the arrival of kids my walking became more confined to times when we went for a walk as a family, but when the kids were young, a long drive around the Twin Cities to get them to fall asleep wasn’t unheard of.

After my divorce I was living in Saint Paul for a couple of years, and I would usually park my car after work on Friday and then not drive it again until Monday morning. That meant doing all of my shopping and exploration by foot. It was a great way to clear my head, and I loved the challenge of going farther away without needing a vehicle.

When I moved back to Fridley I got a bike and starting doing a bit more riding. During this time I had also gotten in to running, and eventually trail running, which gave me another outlet for exploration. Most days I would just run my normal routes, but every now and then I would decide to just head a random direction, and figure it out as I went. Trail running also gave this sense of adventure, racing on new trails, or exploring a new park on the weekends.

A couple of years ago my wife and I picked up a small pop-up camping trailer. We discovered that we were spending a lot of money on hotels because we both liked getting out of town on the weekends. This opened up a whole new avenue of exploration as we could set up a home base as just about any campground we could find. It’s led us to explore as many of the Minnesota Sate Parks as possible, even if it’s just for a quick one night getaway.

This year I’ve decided to really pick up more of the biking. My work is in downtown Minneapolis and don’t have parking provided. So this means that I need to either take the train/bus or bike to work. It’s opened up a whole new arena of adventure as I’ve had to figure out bike and bus routes to get me where I need to be, when I need to be there. It’s also slowed my commute down a bit, and allowed me time to look around and relax, instead of stressing in rush hour traffic.

All of this is to say that I’ve discovered that I really love adventures. As I look back on all these different facets of my life, it’s shown me that I’m happiest when I’m exploring and discovering new things. Even in my athletic endeavors I look forward to the journey, and seeing if I can make it to the destination, more than the act of competing. I think that’s a big reason why winter ultra marathons are so fascinating to me, and I’m anxious to try my first one this coming December.

I think a lot of this has to do with one of my key strengths in the StrengthsFinder profile which is Input. The strength of Input means that I’m a cataloger and collector. I like to put things in order and look at the systems around things. I believe that many of my adventuring tendencies are in some ways, an attempt to catalog memories of the world. A way to collect new experiences to my overall store of knowledge.

Knowing this about myself helps me to think about how I want to spend my time. It helps me prioritize what I want to do on weekends, or with my time off. I feel like I’ve really honed in on something that’s important to me, and that’s a great feeling to have. I don’t know that anything drastic will change in my life, as we’ve tended to be rather adventurous anyway, but knowing this gives some great context to the antsy feelings I get frequently. It makes me understand that even a simply bike ride for coffee on a Sunday morning can help scratch that itch that is my love of adventure.

Quick Review: Niterider Sabre 80

A few weeks ago I was on my usual Wednesday night Beer & Bikes ride, and as usual I had my rear tail light flashing on the way down. Even though it was daylight, I find it’s a good practice to be illuminated as much as possible when traveling on busy city streets. When we arrived at the brewery I discovered that my rear light was no longer functioning. I assumed the battery had died prematurely, and since I had a rear helmet light with me, I didn’t worry about it.

However, when I returned home I discovered that my light wouldn’t take a charge, and was basically dead. I’ve had this tail light for a long time, and it’s been used and abused, so I wasn’t very surprised. This led me to start looking at a replacement. I really like the Bontrager lights, but they are a bit more expensive than I want, and plus I had just bought a Niterider mount for my rear rack a week before. As I went through the Niterider catalog, I decided to give the Sabre 80 a shot.

This light is economically priced, and despite putting out only 80 lumens, it seemed plenty bright. I’ve had it for a couple of weeks now have found it to be a solid performer. When I first got the light I had to spend some time figuring out how to get to the correct flashing settings. There are two modes on the light, a solid mode, where you get different brightness levels of a solid light, and a blinking mode. In the blinking mode there are a variety of settings, including a quick flashing setting that is my go-to for visibility and attention getting.

To switch between modes you need to hold the single button down until the mode switches. It takes a good 5-7 seconds of holding the button to get anything to happen, which makes it somewhat un-intuitive. Once you’re in your desired mode you can switch between the different settings with a single button push. The single button operation makes it a breeze to operate, once you understand what the button does.

I came to discover that a fellow Beer & Bikes rider had the same light, and so after being behind him at night, I feel confident that the Sabre 80 is a perfectly acceptable tail light. It’s bright, and has multiple modes, and it’s simple to operate. The battery life is the one weak spot, with only an hour or so at it’s max solid brightness level. However, in the flashing mode that I use I’ve never come close to running out of power. As with any tail light you should plan to recharge it every night that you use it. It’s just a good habit to get in to, so that you’re never left stranded.

For $30 you can’t really go wrong for a nice, simple, bike tail light. The Sabre 80 is a solid performer, and at the price, if you drop it and break it, you won’t feel that bad.

Fitness week recap – 6/24/2019

I’ve decided that I want to try something new in the blog for a few weeks. I’m going to try to do a weekly fitness recap each Sunday night of what I’ve done during the prior week. I’m looking for this to be a way to capture, not just the numbers and stats of my activities, but how it felt.

Week Starting 6/24/2019
Running:
35.5 miles
Biking:
63.6 miles
Steps:
130,139 (64.7 miles – 29.2 walking)

Impression: This week was much the same as last, but with a few less running miles. The week started out good with some solid runs early, and then a nice long bike ride for my Beer & Bikes ride. I also got in two commute rides, one just to the train station, and one fully to the office. The biking week finished out with a nice ride with my wife and our friend Abe to a cafe.

On the running front I had a solid 20 mile run at Afton on Saturday where my friend Mike and I repeated a bunch of the hills. I ended up with 2,800ft of vert, which is killer for the training. However, during the run my legs really felt heavy and tired. As I finished out the 20 miles I surmised that I might be doing a bit much right now with both biking and running, and need a little rest. Therefore, this upcoming week will be an intentionally low mileage week. A couple runs, nothing over 8-10 miles, and no biking all the way to work. I also will be missing my Wednesday Beer & Bikes ride due to a soccer game, so that will cut down my mileage.

I’m hoping I can get a little bit of recovery going in my muscles and hit things again next week. With my big 100K race coming up the first weekend of August, I need to make sure I’m focusing enough on my running, and balancing the biking more.

Savanna Portage Photos

I realized I haven’t posted this yet, so here’s my gallery of shots from Savanna Portage State Park. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were so bad that I didn’t get as many shots as I wanted. Stopping to take photos was just not a great idea.

https://swiftphotography.smugmug.com/Exploration/Savanna-Portage-State-Park-2019/

Quick Review: Harry Potter: Wizard’s Unite

I’ve been an avid Pokemon Go player for a while now, and also dabble in Ingress at the same time. These are both augmented reality games from Niantic, that mix your actual location in the world with game play. As you wander around your surrounding area you encounter various places and items that you interact with in game. In Pokemon, it’s random wild Pokemon that you can catch and add to your collection. In Ingress, it’s portals that you can hack to gain items, or destroy to take down the enemy team’s strength. These games are often very deep, and you can play them idly, as you go places. They also track your steps, and reward you for them, so it encourages you to get out and move.

This past week the newest release landed, Harry Potter: Wizard’s Unite. The basic premise is that some unknown force has been causing things to appear in random places around the world. To protect the secrecy of the wizarding world you must cast spells to free these items and allow them to return to their proper place in the world. You also encounter fortresses where you can do battle against dark forces, both solo, and with your friends. There is also a large crafting and leveling component to the game which promises some longevity.

As someone who’s been playing Pokemon Go for a while, there was an immediate comparison to that game, and how it did or didn’t measure up. In fact at first blush, I was very underwhelmed by Wizard’s Unite. I found it to be clunky and inelegant, with far too many things to keep track of. Many of the first reviews out there agreed, that this felt like too far of a departure from the beloved game style of Pokemon Go, while still just being a skin over the same mechanics.

However, I’ve now been able to spend more time with the game, and I’m changing my tune. The more I get to know the interface, and the various mechanics, the more I’ve found myself enjoying it. Yes, there’s a steep learning curve to really understand everything that’s going on, but once you’ve figured out the basics, it starts to become more natural.

Here’s where I think Wizard’s Unite get’s things right.

  • Using the mechanic of tracing the outline of a spell works really well on a touch-based device. Once you learn the spells motions it becomes pretty rudimentary to cast them when required, and it’s different than just throwing a Pokeball everytime.
  • In addition to casting the spell, the method for determining success is a fun balance between being careful and being quick. You might be able to trace a spell perfectly, but slowly, and that lowers it’s effectiveness. However, trying to go faster can result in missing the outline too much and failing to cast the spell at all. It ends up being a neat balancing act.
  • The story throughout the game is fun and engaging. You’re trying to solve a mystery, and that’s always fun. As you unravel more and more of the plot, you get to meet more characters, and that makes reading the filler dialogue more interesting.
  • The Harry Potter world is presented well, and despite the fact that many things are just cosmetic (like which House you choose to join), you feel like you’re in the actual world of Harry Potter. There are tons of references to books, movies, and extra material throughout the game that help keep you engaged.

So where do I think they got things wrong?

  • The energy mechanic needs some adjustment, but not for the reason you may thing. Many people are bemoaning the lack of energy that they’re finding to cast spells, but much like Pokeballs in Pokemon Go, it takes time to build up your supplies. I think in time, balancing always having energy available won’t be such a big deal. My issue is that energy is used for too many things, and you can only replenish it at certain places. In Pokemon you can get more Pokeballs at any stop or gym. In Wizard’s Unite you can only get energy from Inns, and sometimes greenhouses. But yet you need to use energy any time you’re casting spells either in the wild, or in a fortress. Pokemon never asked you to use your own Pokeballs in a gym or raid. In Wizard’s Unite you have to spend not just energy, but runes as well, meaning that you’re using up two forms of currency.
  • Spawn and de-spawn rates need some tweaking. It feels like the number of times that an encounter ends with the challenge disappearing is far too many. In Pokemon Go the wild creature can run way and you miss your chance to catch them. It’s not terribly common, but it happens. In Wizard’s Unite it feels like it’s happening way too often. Additionally, foundables seem to resist your spells way too often.
  • Better guides online. This is a game that has a lot of depth built in to it. It would have been great if some of the tutorials would have been presented in a website or YouTube video (much like Ingress). I think they missed an opportunity to help people really understand what they were doing here.

Apart from that, I’m not finding much to hate on. The complexity of things like growing plants in greenhouses, or mixing potions could be simplified a bit more, but they do make the game feel like it has more depth than others. Perhaps in the future, some simplification of the number of spell ingredients would be nice.

I’m looking forward to seeing if I’m still playing frequently in a couple weeks, or if I’ve gone back to Pokemon, but for now I’m enjoying a bit of something new.