Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Magic 8 Ball's predictions for winter weather.

Three-month outlook temperature map from NOAA.
Magic 8 Ball Prediction Tool
The ridiculous changes in temperatures (30 deg F to 70 deg F to 20 deg F to 50 deg F???) and the uncertainties in weather forecasts made me slightly cranxious yesterday. I checked the NOAA Climate Center page and the three-month outlook is confusing for Western PA: both the temperature and precipitation maps show that there are equal chances for above, normal, and below average temperatures and precipitation from December through January.

These model uncertainties made me think of the results one might expect from using a magic 8 ball to make weather predictions, so in this article I report the results from my testing of the magic 8 ball's ability to predict weather and answer tough questions.

Monday, November 26, 2012

We're mountain people!

Ale: “Hey, Michael, why aren’t my gears working? I’m pedaling but the bike isn’t responding.” [feet moving in fast circles as the bike slows down while going up a hill]
Michael: “That’s because your wheels are spinning fast enough going into the hill that you need to switch into a lower gear.”
Ale: “Oh, that makes sense.” [bike and Ale topple to the side due to lack of momentum going up said hill]
Michael: [laughs, shakes head, mutters something about intelligence]


Ale: “Hey, Michael, we’re mountain people!” [big cheesey grin on face while rounding a corner on the trail and then flying down a rocky part through two trees]
Michael and Cathy: [doubled over in pain from laughing]

In addition to dominating some turkey, three types of dressing, and old-fashioned southern pecan pie, this past weekend was spent dominating mind and body while learning new skills on a mountain bike.

And, acting like a mobile comedy show for the enjoyment of my brother, Michael, and cousin, Cathy.

We had some fun this past weekend at Blankets Creek, Michael’s “home” riding spot in Canton, GA.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thank you

Thanksgiving is on Thursday. So here's a poem about all of the people who I thank from the deepest places in my heart: 


a comfortable place to sleep when traveling far from

all of the incredible opportunities.

allowing me to learn from you, and make mistakes and learn from them.

always being ready with a meal and glass of fine wine and coffee.

answering the phone at 2 AM.

being family.
being the first person I want to call when something incredible happens.

calming my heart.

clearing my vision when it becomes blurred.

converting a misunderstanding into a beautiful collaboration.
finding the most beautiful flowers.
facebook messaging into the wee hours of the morning.
giving me a calm escape on difficult days.

helping me grow into the person I want to be.

highlighting when the ‘boose is loose.
keeping me focused on my nature and making me a better person.
listening to me during my highs and lows.
making the geochemistry happen.

supporting my training, riding, and racing.
            reminding me about God and love.
                        teaching me about the rocks, how to see the important details, and how to write.
encouraging me to have fun, do my best, and remember my way home. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

All-out ninja samurai kung fu warrior mentality mode.

I entered into my 2012-2013 off-season training with goals to become stronger and faster, and to develop a sharper focus with my training and riding. In my post-Nationals blog article, I highlighted the mentality of Beatrix Kiddo during her training with Pai Mei (from Kill Bill Vol. 2) as one of my primary sources of inspiration for my off-season training. Jb and I started the off-season Phase 3 plan a few weeks ago, and there have been a number of revelations and breakthroughs along the way.

Calluses and blisters after waxing and lifting
My hands were destroyed after spending the past two days scraping off summer wax and waxing on new layers on multiple boards. In addition to the waxing, today's gym session with Jb involved lots of gripping heavy things that required chalk. But, like with Beatrix training with Pai Mei, sometimes destroyed hands are part of the growth proces.

After watching both volumes of Kill Bill while waxing boards today, I was inspired to characterize my current training mentality as the "all-out ninja samurai kung fu warrior mentality mode."

At least, I think those are all of the terms that describe Beatrix's fighting style...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Video Artistry Part No. 2

The power of nature and strength of the ocean are very apparent after Sandy's rampage throughout the northeast United States last week. We felt a little bit of the storm in Western PA, although my heart definitely was with my NY and NJ friends and family, especially when the before-and-after photos were being posted on Facebook.

Photo from NowThis News. Credit: Daniel Edward Ekdahl, a friend of
NowThis News (Sea Bright, NJ). (Thanks to Laura Redman for sharing this photo!)
There are a number of volunteer efforts focused on helping send supplies to NY and NJ. If you have any direct links to pages for donations, etc., please leave the link and a description of the charity/activity as a comment to this post.

As for the second wave of learning the Adobe Premiere Pro software, I played with some shots of the Pacific Ocean collected with my GoPro along the Oregon Coast.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Video Artistry Part No. 1

The Dude: Who is he?
Maude Lebowski: Knox Harrington. The video artist. 
(From The Big Lebowski)
This is the first in a series of "Video Artistry" posts, inspired by some of the places I've traveled and scenes that I've seen during the off-season.

Now that I have Adobe Creative Suite on the computer, I figured it would be a good idea to learn how to use the Premiere Pro video editing software before the season starts.

The first video, titled "going home." tells the story of my drive home to Pittsburgh along I-376E.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Music for breathing and inspiring revolutions

This past week training and research were pretty intense -- both in my needs to step up to some new levels mentally and physically, and in the need to counteract the intensity with some recovery time. When these extremes present themselves within the same week, I turn to music.

Below are a couple of playlists I've been developing over the past couple of months. The "Revolution" playlist is for pre-lab/workout energy jump, and the "Breathing" playlist is for post-workout and times when my brain needs a rest. 

What are some of the tunes you rely on to amp up for a workout or to help you breathe after really intense moments?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gravity and Transformation.

October is transition time -- the leaves on the trees are turning all sorts of beautiful colors. The air temperature is doing crazy things. It's time for the next training phase: Pre-Season. Although training is part of my life year-round, now is the time to step up the game and level of focus for the snow season.
Change in season at Seven Springs, photo by Jb.

When zoning in on the mental, physical and emotional focus needed to prepare for boardercross, learning about the challenges, accomplishments and transformations from others (athletes, new mothers, research colleagues...) helps me to focus. It's the power of the hero story. Learning about how that hero deals with a challenge, conquers it, and transforms in the process keeps me inspired. Having an example of how others have dealt with their challenge provides me with a data point on how I can conquer my own battles.

The story consuming my mind since yesterday afternoon is Felix Baumgartner's

Monday, October 8, 2012


Agenda for the day
My recent travels to Oregon ended with a visit to the coast to watch waves toss around rocks. The only planned components of this journey involved visiting tidepools, eating something delicious, and ending my travels in Portland for the evening.

The first leg of the mini-journey involved a drive from Albany to Newport to visit Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. The designation is appropriate -- the tidepool areas are quite outstanding. I arrived right before low tide and was fortunate to see many sea anemones and a couple of big starfish at my first stop.

Sea anemone

Monday, October 1, 2012

September Travel Tour Nutrition

Beans and rice, chicken patty, and avocado-tomato-cucumber
salad, made with love by my grandparents. 
Last month some of my research responsibilities took me to Washington, DC, and Houston, TX. A couple of things I learned during these travels: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (but not so much that you need to pull over every 20 minutes on the highway), and sometimes fruit chews can provide just the right amount of energy while running through the airport. The following are lists of some things I felt good about, and some things I can improve for future travels that I learned from these two trips.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tonight's Low: 43˚F.

Ale riding in excellent snow conditions
during February 2011 (Canyons, UT).
Now that temperatures are FINALLY more reasonable (thank you, Earth), my hopes for a better winter than last year are starting to rise. By "better," I'm referring to colder, snowier conditions, so no offense to the warm-weather lovers out there (even though you have above-freezing for the majority of the year in Pennsylvania - now it's our time). Riding in the rain last season was miserable.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Whale Tail.

Why the whale tail? And how is Drea such an awesome artist?

MURI PARAOA (whale tail): speed, strength, sensitivity,
and a strong connection to the sea
Nick and I spent a few days in Aguadilla and Playa Jobos during a visit to Puerto Rico last year. We stopped by one of the surf shops, and during a conversation with the owner I noticed a rack of interesting necklaces. Although the necklaces were from New Zealand he told us that he appreciated the surf/ocean themes that they represented, and therefore wanted to sell them in his shop. The black whale tail necklace stood out to me, and he told me that the symbol is associated with speed and strength. I immediately thought about boardercross and purchased the necklace. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fight for it.

The International Snowboard Training Center posted something a couple of weeks ago that made me do a double-take while scrolling through my Facebook news feed. The information didn't make sense. Then additional trustworthy snowboard sources posted the same information. "X-GAMES CROSS EVENTS CANCELLED FOR 2013."

ESPN cancelled all cross events (boarder, skier, and mono) from the Winter X-Games. As the reality of the announcement hit, the social media sites went insane with comments.

SBX course at Copper Mountain, USASA Nationals 2012. Look at all of the riders ready to race. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

MacGyver It: What's in the back of your fridge?

Butternut squash, chicken, tofu, and black beans with lime
Planning nutrition is an important part of my day. Needing to maintain enough energy for work at the lab, training, and also needing to account for the physical stresses of travel, results in some situations where I look at the food options in front of me and feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone version of Iron Chef. Given some of the ingredients available to work with at times, it’s more similar to how I imagine a food-version MacGyver challenge: develop something nutritious that leverages the available food in the fridge or at the hotel breakfast buffet, but that doesn’t make me hurl. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

La la la la...palooza

Summertime means summer music festival time, and this year we traveled to Chicago for Lollapalooza. In addition to spending time with some of our closest college friends (and the new baby, who I babysat at one point, which was least the baby was amused), an introduction to Intelligentsia coffee, being totally amazed by my friend's marathon aspirations, and having an opportunity to wear all sorts of different bandanas throughout the weekend…the music was incredible. The absolute high point for me was on Friday night– a gorgeous Chicago sunset turned to a perfect summer evening, and then BOOM! The Black Keys.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Rock Lobster

View on the ride up to Palmer
The intensity of UV increases with altitude – there’s less atmosphere to absorb sunrays. Unfortunately, I was too excited about riding at Mt. Hood last week (JULY SNOW!!!) and totally ignored skincare, which resulted in a burn. Yup, total rock lobster, but a happy one. After some great meetings with colleagues at our Albany lab and Oregon State earlier during the week, I took a day of leave to ride Mt. Hood. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Inspiration n'at

This is the most difficult time of the year. The air is hot and humid and thick and hot; research plans for next year are being written and reviewed; and keeping inspired to train for the snow when it seems both so close and far away becomes challenging with the lure of summertime pool time. One thing about inspiration -- it shows up when you least expect it, which also is when you need it the most. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's Volcanic: Mt. Hood April 2012

I traveled to Oregon at the end of April to discuss some research with new colleagues, and spent my Saturday before leaving riding at Mt. Hood with some fellow geochemists. I’d traveled to Timberline once before (back during 2010) but this past April was a much more incredible experience.

View from top of Palmer lift

Eating snow

Sunday, June 17, 2012

2012 USASA Nationals Recap Part 4: Tree riding finale (and more snow, please).

We spent the rest of our time at Copper riding through trees and exploring different areas of the mountain that still had ride-able snow. The trees and snow were fun, although our last day was very windy and icy (felt just like home on the east coast!). 

Monday, June 4, 2012

2012 USASA Nationals Recap Part 3: Hot Water

On Sunday, April 1, the first day of competition at Nationals, Rebecca and Nick spent time riding around at Copper, Eilis took a break to spend time with a friend, and Jb and I watched some of the open class boardercross races. Later that evening, our plan was to head west to an "unknown special surprise destination" that involved bathing suits and some hot water. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

2012 USASA Nationals Recap Part 2: "Look! Rocks!"

I arrived in Colorado on Wednesday, March 28. After unloading my gear in the room and meeting with Jb (who had just finished practice day #1 on the boardercross course), we left Copper Mountain to run some errands. Through this particular area of the country, I-70 is one of the most spectacular drives because of the geology.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012 USASA Nationals Recap Part 1: Race Day

We'll start the first part of the 2012 Nationals blog series with the results...
Ale: 4th place overall, Masters Women, 2012 USASA Nationals
Jb: 9th place overall, Masters Men, 2012 USASA Nationals

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

And the results...

...2nd place in time trial qualifiers, with an overall 4th place finish in Women's Masters SBX at USASA Nationals. Coach Jb races today, so more detailed updates coming soon!!!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Yup, Banana Peppers

During check-in today for the first practice day on the USA Snowboard Association Nationals 2012 snowboardcross course, the person handing out bibs and lift tickets asked, "so, Banana Peppers?" They're listed underneath my name on the rider list as one of my sponsors. I just smiled and said yes, and told him that Banana Peppers makes a lot of good food that this hungry Ale needs in order to have enough energy for racing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nice Rocks

[Meant to post this last week but was caught working on other geoscience things...more regular updates on the trip to Nationals and events at Copper Mountain to be posted over the next week, check back soon for new updates!]

View from I-70 in Colorado
Coach sent photos from his drive along I-70 into the Front Range last week. I pulled out my Roadside Geology of Colorado book and sent him photos of roadcuts and descriptions of geologic features. There are some nice rocks out there. I am definitely looking forward to USASA Nationals at Copper Mountain, but also look forward to being a geology nerd when not focused on training and racing. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why am I doing all of this anyway?

My First Snowboard Jacket
In the process of repairing my crash pads, and tending to a small bruise in the one area not covered by the pads, the question flashed through my mind: why am I doing all of this? I also wondered why my butt pads keep ripping during crashes, but ignoring the jokes I'm sure are to come from my brothers about "the caboose being loose," I'm focusing on the first question...

Why am I doing all of this? 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Races and training and planning, oh my!

Ale and Jb at Snow Trails
The actual date on which the Christmas decorations are taken down is a pretty good indicator of how focused I am with my riding during any particular season. This year the magic date was February 20…not as ridiculous as 2009’s record (sometime during late March) although a major reason for packing up the tree and the ornaments was because they were in the way of accessing my wax station. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Definitely Race Season

Ale (#6) and Ashley (#15), Whitetail 2012

Between racing and work and some other volunteer stuff, January has been crazy-go-nuts. One major lesson from this race season so far: lake effect snow can turn a 3.5 hour drive home from NY into a painful 7 hours...

Here are a few pictures from the first races of the season at Whitetail and Holiday Valley...thanks to the USASA Appalachian Series (my home series) and the Western NY Series for hosting such great race events. First in Women's Masters so far for all of the races. Videos and detailed updates coming soon!!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Snowpack and Snow Leopards

This past weekend the conditions finally were decent enough to spend two full days in the snow without: a) rain, or b) granular springtime-like gross stuff. There are some rocks scattered in a few areas, but for the most part we rode and carved in SNOW! La Niña has been less than helpful with producing a sustained snowpack this season, although this snow leopard will take whatever cold temperatures and snow she can get.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Finally, we have some snow...sort of...

We finally have snow in western Pennsylvania!

Sort of.

December was full of travel and riding, and January is turning out to be the same. For the most part, the travel has coincided with the 40 to 50 degrees F days, and the riding also has coincided with some of the 40 to 50 degrees F days (with at least some snow covering the slopes). Snowboarding in the rain is less than fun, but I keep reminding myself to be thankful that I've been able to make at least a few turns this season.

There are a few posts in the works with updates on riding, climate and geology, how to keep up a healthy 2300 calories per day while on a crazy cross-country trip, and my World Wildlife Federation "Find Your Inner Animal" results, but those need some additional work before the meantime, enjoy the video from opening weekend at Seven Springs in December (featuring my bro, Michael, and his Atlanta crew):