A few years ago I put up a blog post I deemed “Embracing my inner dork,” which in and of itself was pretty dorky, but the truth is that I’ve thought about that a lot over what is now almost nine years and over that time I’ve edified my dork-ness to an even greater level, and it has worked out fine.
That said, even then I didn’t relay a deep, dark secret, because….it was too dorky even for me to admit. But I think it’s time I come clean. I have been keeping track of all my various activities – all of them, every day – for twenty years. If you ask me “what did you do on September 19, 2012?” I’ll be able to tell you. Same for January 12, 2009, June 6, 2018, yesterday, and yes, even August 5, 2002. It’s all encapsulated on a little spreadsheet called “Fun”, and I’m happy – or embarrassed? – to say that it’s turning twenty this year, which is a fine time to admit to its existence!
Fun started out as a simple way to take some notes for future reference for things like paddling rivers: what the water level was, how long it took, how hard was it, etc, mostly for future reference to be helpful if/when I did it again, or if anyone else wanted beta about something I’d done but maybe kinda forgotten some of the key details. I tried scribbling those notes in guidebooks, but between my near-illegible handwriting on a poor venue and a lack of structure to the exercise I didn’t really follow through with it. So as I’ve said many times, when the going gets tough, the tough….create a spreadsheet! So that’s what I did. And in the summer of 2002 I started keeping track of my adventures on a spreadsheet named Fun.
Fun immediately turned out to be a fairly fulfilling pastime; the geekiness of it was offset by the comfort associated with the knowledge that when I was going to do an adventure again I’d know some of the details.
I was so comforted, in fact, that it was clear that it was time to go bigger. As a pathological endurance geek, I got curious about my performances (I was doing more formal competitions then) and decided to track not just the adventures, but also my little activities like day to day simple rides and runs. Strava was just a far-off dream at that point, but the human nature that no doubt influenced the idea, development, and popularity of Strava was there, and like a lot of people I had created a handful of little time trials from points A to B, and it was fun to see how I did at various times of the year and – as it turned out – various years over years. So Fun became not just a personal adventure tracker, but also an activity tracker. And Fun fed on itself; as I remembered to fill in my daily activities, I was putting pressure on myself to keep it up; it doesn’t really fly to have all my June activities recorded but then have big gaps in July, only to renew the effort in August. I “had” to stick with it! So I have….for twenty years.
|17-Jan||surf kayak||mission beach||ajp, Tom kara pesto, susan||a little bigger|
|18-Jan||climb||j-tree||susan, ajp, sara||clear, chilly||nice|
|19-Jan||mt bike||red rocks||ajp||clear, chilly||awesome singletrack|
|20-Jan||mt bike||st george||ajp||clear, chilly||green valley/stucki|
|22-Jan||b/c snowboard||usa bowl||mike, pd||clear, nice|
|12/26||shuffle||porter fork||ash||v easy, warm, crowded!|
|12/28||b/c skiing||west porter to main||ash,. colin, jj||glorious|
|12/29||b/c skiing||gobblers shoulder to cabin||paul||glorious|
|12/30||b/c skiing||gobblers to raymond||paul||stormy|
|12/31||shuffle||porter fork||ash, Jj||rain, cold, snow!|
Fun is pretty simple (isn’t it always?). I just record the date, activity type, what it was, who with, conditions, and any notes (lately it’s been a lot of “backcountry skiing” and “glorious!” ). However, I have an additional column tucked in there: “new?” Ashley and I both love doing new things, so I put a one in the column if the activity/venue is new. Sometimes “new” isn’t quite so easy, actually; is skiing one new run that we stumbled upon in a day of skiing a few other old runs indeed something “new”? Not really. My cutoff is about half-new. Though as Ashley likes to say: “It’s your game; you can cheat if you want!” I am actually less excited about how many actual days I got in than I am about the total “new” things; to me it’s a good litmus test of the quality of the year, and of course every year it gets harder after ticking off more things. For many years I was averaging about 70 new things per year, but due to our extended trip in the UK and Europe the TD world record was shattered with 174 new things; 2022 was a good year!
Usually “paddling” constitutes this:
But it can also be this:
There are a fair number of days where two activities are done, and my general rule of thumb is that the different activities either need to be in 2 different venues and/or have a change of footwear. Sorta dumb rules, but again, according to Ashley “it’s your game, you make up the rules!”
I have another small column tucked in as well: “new people”. Despite the obvious challenges associated with doing outdoor activities with folks who are relatively unknown in terms of their skills, experience, strength, safety, risk tolerance, suffering tolerance, and entertainment value, it’s always fun to meet new folks and learn both about them and from them. However, I’ll be honest: many of my days are with my standard partners, who seem to have their own Fun too:
But Dave – on the right, was “new” and a great addition:
For many years I used excel, and I realized how much I came to value Fun when I kept making sure to make backups of the excel file so that I wouldn’t lose it….which I then did! My computer – along with my bike and a bunch of other stuff – got stolen a little over a year ago, and I had to re-create a fair bit of Fun that hadn’t been backed up. As I was whining about that someone told me about this new thing called “Google” and that it had something called “Sheets” that could be saved online -and I could fill it in with my phone, instead of trying to keep track on my phone with some non-Fun app and then backfilling the excel doc and then backing it up. So Fun in the Sheets; I was all in!
Part of the value of Fun is….value. Like a lot of outdoor geeks we have a lot of outdoor shit bulging out of our garage and basement, and we like to use it. But getting actual value out of our purchases is a function of how much we use it. If I happened got a yen to replace my 22 year old Trek US Postal Service road bike a quick scan of Fun shows the story: I have only been riding my road bike about 6 times/year, and getting a new bike would be sorta silly. Even mountain biking, which I feel like I do “a lot” is only a 40ish-day per year activity, so for me to throw down multiple thousands of dollars for a new bike would not really pencil out very well. That said, “penciling out” something that provides a ton of fun is not the only metric that should be used and indeed what is the “value” of the joy of ripping down twisty, buffed singletrack in a beautiful desert?
Totaling up the number of days of Fun is also a way to kind of keep me honest; for example, I consider myself to be an “experienced” canyoneer, but the truth – according to Fun – is that I only go canyoneering a dozen days per year or so; far less than I go backcountry skiing, for example, and it’s important to acknowledge that even if I think I have “a lot” of experience canyoneering – a similarly risky sport that can be fraught with challenges and has a lot of activity-specific knowledge borne out of extensive experience – I simply don’t have the same level of experience. But even there, Fun is pretty helpful; if I’m prepping for an upcoming trip I can do a search for “Imlay” canyon in preparation to get a reminder of how long it took and any specific gear/issues for Imlay canyon the last time I did it, if indeed I was responsible enough at that time to record such things as time/issues/gear!
A big part of the value of Fun is simply being able to remember fun. While generally I’m not the nostalgic type, it’s nice to flip to the yearly sheets and check out what we were doing at this time in 2014 or 2009 or 2007 and get the mild buzz of “oh wow, that was so fun!” I find that most folks measure time by their parenthood status: “I was on that scuba trip while I was pregnant” or “We did that hut trip when Billy was going into first grade” or whatever; as a non-parent the days/months/years have the potential to simply turn into one long blur, and it’s nice to be able to bring those bygone years back into focus.
This time of year I look forward not only looking at the year’s stats (and comparing them to previous years in the “stats” sheet) but also copying the year’s sheet and pasting it into another sheet called “total”; it’s this sheet that I use to search for activities across the vast span of time, and kind of marvel at how a lifestyle of trying to get out and do something fun every day can really add up over time; remarkably, I’m up over 7700 activities.
Yep, it’s super geeky. But we all have our geekiness, and I’ve tried to embrace mine. And in the process I’m continuously am reminded that I am blessed and fortunate enough to have the health, partners, motivation, wife, and opportunities to have a lot of Fun.