Tag: Hiking

Ten Years of Walking

Ten Years of Walking

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

Warren Buffett

I’ve got a habit. I walk, hike and run a fair amount every day. Perhaps my favorite activity is to hike – at some speed between a trot and a gallop. I also love numbers and have used a pedometer to keep track of my miles walked each day for the last ten years: 2012 to 2021. I made spreadsheets each year and have looked at the data trends over each week and each month of a year. This is an update from my previous post Quantifying Hiking and Running Part 1 with eight years of data.

Thus, I have now accumulated ten years of walking data:

Table 1: Yearly Mileage
Year Miles Age
2021 3001 63
2020 4347 62
2019 3174 61
2018 3387 60
2017 3286 59
2016 2754 58
2015 3117 57
2014 3008 56
2013 2634 55
2012 2470 54

Table 1 shows the sum of my walking (in miles) for each month of the last ten years:

YearJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear Total
20212592332802272413422382592362402122343001
20202352202612834905895806072632512683004347
20193012412892422382502732692762802742423175
20183182713152523043152723382293012402323387
20172562962982592862952882832142912812403287
20161871881932152062252382672673052691942754
20152452582602442662812473062552502372693118
20142242112392062122532823022652672752733009
20132101902082292432382562202212091992112634
20121472011841922422382451902002132022142470
Average2382312532352733032923042432612462413118
Table 1: Miles walked per month, 2012 to 2021

I also like to see the cumulative amount I have walked each month over the course of a year. Table 2 summarizes my walking progress each month over the course of a year:

YearJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
202125949277299912401582182020792315255527673001
202023545571699914892078265832653528377940474347
2019301542831107313111561183421032379265929333175
2018318589904115614601775204723852614291531553387
2017256552850110913951690197822612475276630473287
20161873755687839891214145217191986229125602754
2015245503763100712731554180121072362261228493118
201422443567488010921345162719292194246127363009
201321040060883710801318157417942015222424232634
20121473485327249661205145016401840205322552470
31182Total
Table 2: Cumulative Miles Walked per Month, 2012 to 2021

The total over ten years is 31,182 miles or 50,186 km. That’s an average of 260 miles or 418 km a month.

A few things worth pointing out:

First, I had my biggest walking year in 2020 – during the COVID pandemic I walked 4347 miles (6996 km). The reason for this high mileage was I entered the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000K race. In this four month long virtual race, I covered 1907 miles ( 3069 km) from May through August. Another way I covered miles in 2020 was by walking and running every street in my town. One reason I covered many miles was to see what it would be like to hike the Appalachian Trail – a goal of mine that I thought I might do in 2020 or 2021.

Next, for six years I covered was in the 3000 mile (3001-3387 mi; 4829-5451 km) range. I first broke 3000 miles in 2014 and again in 2015. I was able to cover more than 3000 miles again from 2017 to the present. I started trail running in 2017. I was able to complete the Badger Mountain 50 mile race; it was slow and steady. Another 2017 challenge was finishing the Issy Alps 50k, that was far tougher than the Badger Mountain race for me.

In 2018, I tried twice to run 100 mile races: Badger Mountain 100 (69 miles) and Bryce Canyon 100 (81 miles). While I didn’t complete them, I learned much. I still think I may do a 100 mile distance,, however, my current thought would be to walk rather than run. From 2017 to the present, I have had some great hiking, fastpacking and backpacking adventures with my friends.

My favorite year was 2015. I achieved no major milestones in running, backpacking or hiking. What I did accomplish was to recover from surgery on my esophagus to treat achalasia, a rare disease that I have. Achalasia has been a challenge for me. There is no cure or much known about the disease. Thanks to the work of my medical team, lead by thoracic surgeon Dr. Brian Louie, I was able to return to a vigorous life. My view going forward after my January, 2015 surgery has been “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero” (“Seize the day, put very little trust in the future.”) As an achalasia patient, I am grateful to be able to explore the world by covering as many miles as I can.

I had some low mile years. Why? For 2012 and 2013, the answer was full-time work got in the way of walking. I was able to retire from full-time work in September, 2013. I did some part-time work in 2014 and 2015 as well as attending college to learn biology, From 2016 to the present, I have been active in volunteer work at some non-profits but have much more time to spend outdoors.

My worst year was 2016. It wasn’t the lowest mile year but it was the most annoying. I kept injuring my right knee, then my right hip, then my left knee, then my right knee. I think there were two things that caused these problems. I was running a lot on hard surfaces ( I was training to run the Philadelphia Marathon with my brother). More important, the muscles of my right knee were much weaker than my left knee – which I figured out with the help of my doctor in December, 2016. So, after 2016 I minimized running on hard surfaces, started strength training and switched from cushioned shoes to zero drop trail running shoes. The important lesson for me: Avoid injuries if you want to cover miles.

Figure 1: Cumulative monthly miles for selected years 2012, and 2018 to 2021

Figure 1 illustrates how I’ve done over the last ten years. The bottom set of points are from 2012; my lowest mileage year. The top set of points are for 2020; my highest mileage year. There are three sets of data in a range in between the lowest and highest. These are years 2018, 2019, and 2020.

I want to write in the future about my daily tracking methods – many times the fact that I was behind my goal got me motivated to do more miles. What I do every single day is how I cover many miles in a year. Another useful topic is how walking has affected my health; in general it’s been very positive but I ought to write my lessons learned.

Let me close by thanking all my friends and family who have put in miles with me. I always enjoy the company; hopefully you do as well. Of course, sometimes I have an excessive number of words per mile! Well, I have to dash off now; got a few miles to cover today.

Which is the best place for hiking?

Me at the snout of Carbon Glacier, Mount Rainier, 2012

For me, it’s Mount Rainier National park, a large volcano of the Cascade volcano chain in North America. Why?

  1. I have been hiking here for 43 years, since I was a teenager. I have seen changes occur over the years: ice caves have closed, floods have occurred, roads have closed.
  2. My family and friends have had many great days on this mountain. I’ve never had anyone regret spending time here.
  3. Next, I have spent a good chunk of my life learning the flora, fauna, geology and ecology of this mountain region. There’s always something new to learn here.
  4. It’s also fairly easy for me to access. In fact, the local Cascade and Olympic mountains are why I live near Seattle, Washington.
  5. Exploring here is never boring. I have spent much of my time exploring the alpine areas above 2000 meters. There are also dense forests. fast moving rivers, lakes and many wonderful places. While not a mountaineer, I climbed the heavily glaciated 4392 meter summit in 2011.
  6. Finally, it’s just a place I love.

For each of us the answer’s going to be different. How would you answer this question?

PS – This was an answer I wrote on Quora, slightly edited, to this question:
https://www.quora.com/Which-is-the-best-place-for-hiking

Quantifying Hiking and Running Part 1

For the last eight years (2012-2019), I’ve been keeping tracking of my daily steps and miles using a pedometer.  I realize there are better gadgets to do this: Fitbits, watches, and phones that will do this job with more data and better graphics. I like to “roll my own” and I thought I would write up what I have been doing. I welcome constructive feedback; my goal is to maintain and improve my fitness as I age through data analysis.

I record my mileage data daily and analyze my results weekly, monthly and yearly.  Here is a link to my monthly and yearly mileage data in a Google Sheets file. In Table 1, I want to look at my mileage results on a yearly basis; I’ve also included my age. I can see that my mileage increased significantly after 2013, one reason for this is a greater emphasis on hiking and running. I can also see a drop in yearly mileage in 2016; this was due to some medical problems that required surgery, I had some months were I couldn’t exercise very much. In 2017 and 2018 I was training for ultra marathons and had increased my annual mileage. I find having yearly goals, such as races or long distance hikes, motivates me.

Table 1: Yearly Mileage
Year Miles Age
2019 3174 61
2018 3387 60
2017 3286 59
2016 2754 58
2015 3117 57
2014 3008 56
2013 2634 55
2012 2470 54

Here’s a summary of the mileage I’ve done month by month. Table 2 provides a monthly view of my mileage.

Table 2: Monthly Mileage
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
2019 301 241 289 242 238 250 273 269 276 280 274 242 3174
2018 318 271 315 252 304 315 272 338 229 301 240 232 3387
2017 256 296 298 259 286 295 288 283 214 291 281 240 3286
2016 187 188 193 215 206 225 238 267 267 305 269 194 2754
2015 245 258 260 244 266 281 247 306 255 250 237 269 3117
2014 224 211 239 206 212 253 282 302 265 267 275 273 3008
2013 210 190 208 229 243 238 256 220 221 209 199 211 2634
2012 147 201 184 192 242 238 245 190 200 213 202 214 2470
Mean 236 232 248 230 249 262 263 272 241 264 247 234 2951

For example, in the first three months of 2016 my mileage was lower than usual, these were months when I was recovering from surgery. Looking at the monthly mileage data, a high mileage month for me has been greater than 300 miles. For each month, I have computed the mean monthly mileage. My mileage tends to be lower in the shorter winter and early spring (December through April); the most likely cause is the dreary Pacific Northwest winters I manage to slog through each year. There are some exceptions such as 2018 when I was training for a 100 miler in the winter and 2019 when I spent time in South America during the winter.

Another way I like to view the monthly mileage data is a cumulative view. Table 3 shows the cumulative monthly data over the course of a year.

Table 3: Cumulative Monthly Mileage
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2019 301 542 831 1073 1311 1561 1833 2102 2378 2658 2932 3174
2018 318 589 903 1155 1459 1774 2047 2385 2614 2915 3155 3387
2017 256 553 850 1109 1395 1690 1978 2261 2474 2765 3047 3286
2016 187 375 569 783 989 1214 1452 1719 1986 2291 2560 2754
2015 245 502 762 1006 1272 1553 1800 2106 2362 2612 2849 3117
2014 224 435 674 880 1092 1345 1627 1929 2194 2460 2735 3008
2013 210 400 607 837 1079 1317 1573 1793 2014 2223 2422 2634
2012 147 348 532 724 966 1205 1450 1640 1840 2053 2256 2470

The sum of all the yearly mileage is 23,831 miles over 96 months or 248 miles per month. Now, how does this compare to my goal performance?

In 2014, I decided to set a goal of 3000 miles in a year. A yearly goal of 3000 miles works out to an average of 250 miles per month or 8.22 miles per day. Before that, I had goals but they were haphazard. Here are my monthly goals for each year (adjusted for leap years.

Table 4: Cumulative Goal Monthly Mileage
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2019 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2018 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2017 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2016 255 493 748 995 1249 1496 1751 2006 2252 2507 2754 3009
2015 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2014 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2013 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2012 255 493 748 995 1249 1496 1751 2006 2252 2507 2754 3009

Once I had my goal and actual monthly mileage, I can compute the difference. A negative number indicates that I am less than my goal. Figure 1 shows the cumulative difference from goal over eight years.

Figure 1 shows five trends that are significant to me.

  1. January, 2012 to May, 2014 there is a negative slope: every month my actual monthly mileage was generally less than my goal of 250 miles per month./li>
  2. June, 2014 to December, 2015 the slope is mostly positive; my actual miles were greater than my goal of 250 miles per month.
  3. January to July, 2016 the slope is again negative; this is the period of time when I was recovering from surgery.
  4. mid-2016 until the end of 2018 I have been (mostly) exceeding my goal of 250 miles per month; the slope is positive with a few wintertime plateaus.
  5. For 2019, the slope is still positive but not as steep, I haven’t been traing for ultra marathons; only a trail marathon and lots of hiking

Keeping track of my monthly mileage difference from goal provides me some useful month to month feedback. Of course, I am motivated by numerical metrics; not everyone is. I have discovered there is a quantified self community; that discovery came just a few years ago. I welcome feedback from everyone. It’s good to learn from others!

I find that this feedback, along with yearly specific hiking or running goals such as run a 100 mile race or hike the Appalachian Trail (a 2020 goal) keep me on track and motivated.

In part 2, I will add my daily and weekly hiking and running goals and tracking methods.