Winter Routine

We’re coming up on a year since everything shut down in mid-March 2020, so this is the first January that I’ve been full-time working from home. For most of 2020, my morning routine several days a week was to take long bike rides before work. I would get out of the house at around 6:30am and ride for anywhere from 2 to 2.5 hours. I kind of suspected that the routine might change a bit come winter, and indeed, it has.

The first big change was in October, when I bought an under-desk treadmill. I had been considering getting one of these for a couple of years. I had been using a standing desk regularly at work, but quickly found that static standing didn’t work for me for long periods of time. I had to be moving around. While standing, I constantly found myself pacing around the office, wandering around the hall outside my office, etc. On the other hand, I could hike for hours and hours on end with minimal breaks. So, I figured that if there was a way to walk while working, I’d be able to stay on my feet and out of the chair for longer periods of time.

When the pandemic hit and I started working from home full-time, I found myself getting less exercise. My biking mileage didn’t drop, but it was all concentrated in the morning, vs. a morning and afternoon commute each day. On top of that, I found that I wasn’t getting out for afternoon walks as I used to do regularly at work, and with meetings shifting to Zoom/Webex, I wasn’t getting free exercise from walking between buildings for meetings, either. I needed something to fill the gap, and a treadmill seemed like the perfect answer: I could work and exercise at the same time. The treadmill has lived up to my expectations — I walk on it anywhere from 2 to 4 hours a day, and my average daily step count on work days has ballooned from under 10k to over 20k.

I kind of expected my biking mileage to drop in the winter, and it has, but not for the reasons I initially thought. I figured the cold temperatures would limit me to shorter rides, but so far, this has been another of Maryland’s famous warm, wet winters, and we haven’t really had a true cold snap yet. In actuality, running, hiking, and climbing have been reducing the frequency of my rides. Could be worse, I suppose. It will be interesting to see how my routine is affected if we ever get a true cold spell, or a significant snowstorm, but I’m not holding my breath for either of those things to happen this year.

Geocaching Goals

I’ve been geocaching regularly for 8 years now. While I used to enjoy doing it for its own sake, over the past few years, it’s become more of an excuse to get outdoors for activities such as hiking, kayaking, etc. One of the things that’s really cool about geocaching is that it brings you to outdoor locations you might not otherwise visit. For example, if not for geocaching, I likely would never have visited Liberty or Prettyboy Reservoirs, various remote areas of Patapsco Valley State Park, or any number of other out-of-the-way places in the area.

One aspect of geocaching is the concept of a “challenge” cache. This is a cache that you can only “find” if you have met an arbitrary goal chosen by the challenge cache creator. One simple geocaching challenge might be to find, say, 100 other caches, which would make you eligible to find and log an associated challenge cache.

I have a love/hate relationship with challenge caches. The rules for constructing challenges used to be fairly arbitrary, which led to some interesting and creative challenges. A few years back, Groundspeak, the company that runs the most popular geocaching listing service, tightened the rules for what constitutes an acceptable challenge. While well-intentioned, the result has been kind of a dumbing-down of geocaching challenges, and lately, there has been an explosion of somewhat frivolous challenges, to the point where “power trails” of 20 or more challenge caches have popped up in various areas. Challenge caches by themself are not an issue, but when they begin to saturate a given area, they can become a “barrier to entry” to new players in the area who want to pick up the hobby. I know that, when I was new to the game, I would have been discouraged if I had looked at the geocaching map, and seen that most of the caches near home were challenges that I would be ineligible to “find” until I had been caching for many years. One way that Groundspeak could address this might be to add a special “proximity rule” for challenge caches that is much greater than the 0.1 mile for traditional caches: for example, only allow one challenge cache per square mile. I think that would level the playing field nicely, allowing for challenges while preventing them from becoming too prevalent in a given area. But, that’s just my opinion. I’m sure many challenge cache aficionados will vehemently disagree with me.

Now that I’m off my soapbox, I’ll talk about a type of challenge that I enjoy. Several years back, one of my goals was to find a geocache for each day of the year. It was a very effective motivator to get me out of the house. I finally completed that quest on Feb. 29, 2016. Once that’s done, you can try to find two caches for each day of the year (which I still have yet to accomplish, thanks to Christmas Day), and on and on. I have friends who are working on 5 caches/day, 10 caches/day, etc. Then you can move on to finding one of a specific type of cache for each day. My current project is to find a puzzle or “mystery” cache for each day of the year, and my goal is to do so by the end of 2022. While you could argue that it’s a “frivolous” or “arbitrary” goal, I’ve planned several bike rides, hikes, etc. around finding mystery caches on specific dates, and it’s been a good motivator to get me outdoors during these crazy times. Once I’m finished, I’ll have to find another “arbitrary” goal to pursue, just to stay motivated.