Show & Tell

Jan/Feb Roundup

The American Life is Killing You (Medium)
The Comfortable Life is Killing You (Medium)
Agnes Martin on How to Be an Artist (Artsy)
Banish ‘Eat Local’ From Your Environmental Playbook (Bloomberg)
Almonds are out. Dairy is a disaster. So what milk should we drink? (The Guardian)
The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake (The Atlantic)

The Uninhabitable Earth
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
4-Hour Workweek
Man’s Search for Meaning
The Bhagavad Gita
The Road

Life Abroad

A Year Abroad

It’s been a little over one year since we moved to Spain. Looking back, we did quite a lot in 2019.

  1. We traveled – Nice, Paris, Chamonix, La Palma, Valencia, Cadaqués
  2. We completed a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation
  3. We bought and renovated an apartment in Girona
  4. We lived in the mountains of Andorra in July, and in a tiny cabin below a glacier in Bionnassay, France in August
  5. I completed UTMB
  6. We hosted family and friends
  7. We made new friends
  8. We bought a home in Norway
  9. We had a baby, at home

Most surprising was our purchase of a home in Norway; most momentous, meeting Adya. We are thankful for it all, the product of and bookend to a decade no more.

To a Wild 2020, and beyond.

Life Abroad

La Tossa d’Alp

Views from La Tossa d’Alp (2587m), looking east toward Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park. About 2 hours from Girona by car, Brent and I skimo’ed this back in early January and I’ve been returning most weeks for solo reps up/down. The Salomon Ultra Pirineu takes place in the mountains in the near distance.

Show & Tell

2020 OKRs

OKRs, or “Objectives and Key Results,” were an integral planning tool during my time at Opendoor. We did these quarterly to align the company top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top around specific goals (Objectives), while setting measurable outcomes (Key Results) to track our progress towards each – an organisational “where do we want to go?” (Objectives) and “how will we get there” (Key Results). I decided to apply these to my personal life in 2020.

OKRs are not for everyone. As my Grandfather put it to me a few weeks ago, “Blake, my goal this year is just to make it to the end upright.” Fair enough 🙂 Or like me last year, sometimes letting things unfold is the way to go. I kept 2019 fairly open-ended outside of training for UTMB. Coming out of 2019, however, I had a clearer picture for where I want to go this year, what space I still want to explore and fill, and how I want to focus my time and energy. In this case, OKRs are a great fit for keeping me focused and pushing me along!

If you are interested in creating some of your own, feel free to use my OKRs and process, described below, for inspiration!

Show & Tell

2020: WILD

Wild is my word for 2020. I came across it twice while flipping through magazines in late November as Andrea, our moms and I began piecing together our Vision Boards for 2020 from cut-up parts of magazines in what has become a fun and creative annual pastime in setting our intentions for the year ahead. As a part of this tradition, we also choose a word for the year – a capstone to our final boards that captures their essence, and our year ahead, in a single word. “Wild” spoke to me.

Already I knew 2020 would include spending time in the mountains of Norway, where Andrea and I had a few weeks prior bought a home to fix-up, as either a summer home or forever home. Our time last summer in a tiny cabin just below the glacier in Bionnassay, France was intimate, cozy, simple and connected to nature in a way that I’ve yearned to get back to ever since leaving, and that Andrea was open to re-discovering in a more permanent way with our home in Norway. The more I read and think, the more I slow down, the more I yearn to be wild, to break free. Of what I am still discovering, but I know at a very deep level I feel most peaceful, most grounded and most connected to everything around me when I am part of nature – part of its pulses and rhythms and equilibriums.

Show & Tell

November Roundup

Pro Skier Trying to Ski Best Routes Before It’s Too Late (Youtube)
We Are Running Out of Air (The Atlantic)
The Sustainability Myth – Interview with Yvon Chouinard (Fast Company)
World thirst for oil keeps growing, with SUVs a key culprit (AP)
Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns (The New Yorker)
I’m a conservative Republican. Climate change is real. (Politico)
Hey, Jeff Bezos: I work for Amazon – and I’m protesting against your firm’s climate inaction (The Guardian)
A relatively painless guide to cutting plastic out of your life (Fast Company)
Partisans Switch Sides in Presidential Attributes Trade-Off (Gallup)
For the first time in history, U.S. billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class last year (Washington Post)
The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You (NYT)
US Income Tax Rates in History (Wikipedia)
The Power of Questions (Farnham Street)
Why Americans Smile So Much (The Atlantic)
The time for horse racing has passed. It’s time to outlaw it. (Washington Post)
Hunter Biden’s Perfectly Legal, Socially Acceptable Corruption (The Atlantic)
Let Trump Destroy Trump (Oped; The New York Times)
America’s current political moment might be so bad that it becomes good – George Will (WP)
To Change a Habit, Get Extreme. Progressively. (Behavioral Scientist)
WeFail: How the doomed Masa Son-Adam Neumann relationship set WeWork on the road to disaster (Fast Company)

for fun…
From leech collectors to knocker-ups, here are 16 weird jobs that no longer exist (Business Insider)
West Slabs of Olympus fast; June 2011 (Youtube)
Nils Frahm – Toilet Brushes – More (Live in London) (Youtube)
Here’s What Fruits And Vegetables Looked Like Before We Domesticated Them (Business Insider)

Also, if you obsess over US Politics (as I do, unfortunately), here are a few podcasts I recommend:

Left, Right & Center (NPR)
Hacks on Tap with David Axelrod and Mike Murphy
The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg 
Shields and Brooks (PBS Newshour)


30 Days (Running) in Andorra

For most of July we lived in the small town of Arinsal in Andorra, a tiny “mountain-locked” country sandwiched between the Pyrenees of France and Spain and just a few hours by car or bus from Barcelona. I first learned of Arinsal when researching potential running races for 2019 – Arinsal hosts the Skyrace Comapedrosa, which starts and ends in the town center, covering 2.300m of elevation gain (4.600m of total elevation change) in a mere 21km and summiting Comapedrosa, the tallest point in Andorra, along the way. Naturally, it seemed like a great place to live and train – and without all the crowds of more popular trail running destinations like Chamonix.

I was able to log almost 70 hours of running & hiking while we were there, along with 33.000m of elevation gain and 360km, for an average elevation gain of 92m/km. This training block of low-intensity aerobic work with significant elevation change was critical (for me at least) for showing up confident and prepared for UTMB.

Show & Tell

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

About as opposite as you can get from watching a re-run of Friends, I am still feeling the hangover and lingering headache from this book, the sore feeling in my stomach from having been punched in the gut, repeatedly, over many days. Not since watching The Deer Hunter have I been so deeply affected by a work of fiction or art.

Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North follows a group of Australian POWs in WW2, chronicling in riveting and horrifying detail a single day in their lives working on the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in the early 1940s, from that point jumping back and forth through through time to also capture their lives leading up to that point, and after, for those who managed to emerge from the war at all. At the center of the story is Dr. Dorrigo Evans, an affable but internally conflicted Australian officer responsible for the 1.000 or so POWs at this particular POW camp, and as with other characters in the book, the prior years that led and shaped him into the person he was on that particular day, and how that day, in all its brutality and inhumanity, shaped him and his life thereafter. There is a love story central to Dorrigo’s life, and to the novel, but for me the themes of war, destiny, empathy, randomness and chance, blind loyalty, redemption, tragedy and loss all speak deepest.

Why would anyone read such a book? For the same reasons that watching too much Friends on repeat numbs the mind and soul, this book sharpens both. It forces you to think and ask questions of yourself, and of society, that you might not otherwise think or take the time to ask. “A good book … leaves you wanting to reread the book” comments Dorrigo early in the book, whereas, he says, “a great book compels you to reread your own soul.” This book will ask you to do just that.

PS – I say all of the above as someone who has watched many a Friends episodes over the years! 🙂


Race Report – UTMB 2019

It was a 10-year goal to run and finish UTMB. This dream began two and a half years ago after a failed summit up Mt. Rainier led me to sign up and race the Grindstone 100 two months later to begin the qualifying process for UTMB. I completed the Kodiak 100 and Mogollon 105km last year, finishing 3rd place and 2nd place, respectively, and together with Grindstone earned the points needed to qualify for the lottery for this year’s UTMB race (despite the qualifying criteria, each year there are still more people who qualify than spots available). I found out in early January of this year that I had been one of the approximately 2.500 runners selected for this year’s race.

Andrea and I spent July in Andorra and August in a small town outside Chamonix so I could focus and train for this year’s UTMB race. I also raced the Mont Blanc 90km race in late June to prepare and ran a 3-day preview of the UTMB course in early August. I was well prepared going into tho race and as I do for most races, I went into it with 3 goals: first, to finish (always my first goal!); second, to finish in under 30-hours; third, to finish in the top 100 – my “A” goal if everything went well.

With an amazing crew, a lot of training(!) and a bit of luck, I’m thankful to say I was able to achieve all 3 goals. I finished in 28:02:57 for 69th place overall (out of the 2543 starters) and was one of the top Americans to finish this year’s race. Following is my race report for this year’s 2019 UTMB.

Show & Tell

10 Year Goals

I wrote these down before moving to Spain in 2019. The goals – some vague, some specific – are in no particular order, and unlike past ones, the process and journey are of more import than any end point or destination.

  1. Climb Denali
  2. Run UTMB
  3. Speak Spanish fluently
  4. Play Moonlight Sonata’s three movements
  5. Be a skilled outdoorsman
  6. Have a home in the mountains with a fireplace, wood stove, bookshelves and garden
  7. Entertain with storytelling and conversations
  8. Build and create
  9. Have a small family, prioritizing travel, experiences, non-traditional education & time together
  10. Write a book/memoir

Thinking about who and where I wanted to be in 10-years time – as well as the values and themes I wanted to prioritise over that time – brought into sharp contrast my priorities at the time (work, money, “success,” etc.). But it also highlighted the changes I needed to make in my life if I wanted to prioritise what was truly important to me. After that, it just takes the courage and faith to act.