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Reboot 24 April 2017

Oh, let's see. What's going on around here?

My fifth Wilderness First Responder course was completed in February and I am now certified for two more years. The course took place at the OMSI Hancock Field Station in Central Oregon and this was my third time taking the course there. Highly recommended location as you live and breathe both the outdoors and wilderness medicine while there. Hard to beat ten days being in one location with one group of people all focused on a single goal. The conditions were cool and a bit damp at times, but I still got in a number of trail runs and a hike. Returning from the course I definitely felt refreshed, despite it being a reasonably intense course.

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Tina and I returned about a week ago from our eight days taking the Denali Prep on Mt. Rainier course by Alpine Ascents. For only being out eight days for this trip, I spent as much time researching and shopping for gear as I did for my PCT thru-hike. The weather on Mt. Rainier can be quite challenging in winter and every single article of clothing we brought was definitely used. My longest winter camping trip in a tent up to this point had been three nights at Crater Lake, so this course definitely upped my experience level. The weather cycled between clear and cold to blustery and whiteout. Overall we probably received 4-5 feet of fresh snow, which required us to twice get out of our tents in the middle of the night to clear the snow away from the tents. Brrrrr...

Sadly, the conditions did not allow us a chance to head up to Camp Muir for a night or two. I am reasonably ok with that as we still got plenty of practice with snow travel, using sleds (up and down slopes), using pickets, building anchors, belaying off a snow cliff, and numerous other technical skills. As the guides, David and Stuart, emphasized though, the main point of the Denali Prep is to let the mountain teach you the less-technical skills of merely living on a mountain in a tent for an extended period. Keeping fed, keeping hydrated, staying warm, going to the bathroom, maintaining your living area while still being able to go out and travel/work in the environment. We both feel a bit more comfortable tackling even more challenging trips and have already started daydreaming about more ambitious alpine climbs in the next year.

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I mentioned last time that I was trying to get into the Cascade Crest 100 mile trail race. Alas, it was not to be. I was something like 212 on the waitlist and since they only have 160 spots, the odds were definitely not in my favor. So, instead, I am now signed up for the NUT 100K on August 19th that goes along the scenic North Umpqua River Trail. Also, I am number 11 on the waitlist for the Mountain Lakes 100 mile race that takes place partially along the Pacific Crest Trail down near Olallie Lake Resort here in Oregon towards the end of September. Both look gorgeous and challenging. With the Rainier trip complete I am shifting from training for mountaineering to training for some seriously long trail runs.

My training plans are primarily based off the knowledge I am gleaning from Training for the New Alpinism, written by Steve House and Scott Johnson. Also been using the related Uphill Athlete website to learn even more and watch their training videos. The tricky aspect is that I am not completely dedicated to focusing on trail running. For instance, I skinned up Mount St. Helens last Friday because it was a nice day and who wouldn't want to go up there and ski down thousands of feet? Naturally, I also want to do the McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway bike ride here in a month or so, once the snow clears out. Trail running is only one aspect of what I want to do this year. The balance of all I want to do and what I need to do to successfully complete those runs...that is part of the challenge.

At a minimum I have a few longer runs mapped onto a loose schedule and then I will try to fill in the blanks on a weekly basis while diligently keeping track of what I am doing using my fancy Garmin fenix 3 HR and Strava. I am sure it will be fine. Not worried at all. Nope.

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And now comes the final bit. I quit my job at the end of March. This was a reasonably long time in coming. There was a sudden, seismic shakeup in Engineering's senior management in early December, which left a significant void of leadership that never got filled in. Then a couple developers got fired a month later and while the reasons may have been valid, it was sudden and not communicated particularly well. Hiring of developers also reached a standstill, so the team I was promised to help me build a top-priority project never appeared.

All of these things combined to make an Engineering team that was unfocused, uncertain, understaffed, and painfully ineffective.

Given my experience as a CTO and VP Engineering for multiple small startups, I tried to provide guidance and do tasks to help improve things...but it went nowhere. Work that should have been done in a couple weeks would take months. Round about meetings with the product team led to tasks that were abandoned half-complete or rushed to completion at the last minute with numerous QA issues. It is hard to come home most nights feeling exhausted and with the clear idea that you are being paid extremely well to be useless.

There were good days, days when things got done and done right. Too many days were not like that though. I came back from my Wilderness First Responder training feeling refreshed and energetic, and then I immediately had four shitty days in a row at work. Since I was the lead engineer on a major project, I gave a full four weeks notice and so my last day was March 31st.

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What's next? No idea. Again. I joined Vacasa because it was in Portland and thought it was time I tried a more stable, reliable, and larger company. A nice, steady paycheck with benefits and hopefully the chance to learn a different kind of development thanks to more data, more money, and a larger team. It was a good idea, simply did not pan out. It is clear to me now that I need to be in a leadership position with a company whose product I believe in. Vacation rentals is not really my passion and I would rather lead senior engineers than be part of their chorus.

Thanks to the Rainier trip preparation, the trip itself, and a week of recovery I have now been unemployed for over three weeks. I am thinking I will look around this week and see what's out there. Make inquiries and work on a few of my own, neglected coding/writing projects. One thing I have not done recently with technology is play and learn new things. I miss that and it is one of the things that I find most rewarding. Time to move forward.