2021 was my biggest year of running. I'm reining myself in a bit for 2022,
targeting only a 100 kilometer run at the end of August or a 50 miler at the
beginning of September, with one other 50-60k or trail marathon as a training
run during summer. I'm going to do plenty of running, but no serious workouts
until later in March. Until then I will be prioritizing skiing with family and
Hi, my name is Sean Gillies, and this is my blog. Blog is short for "web log".
Individual posts to a web log are called "posts", not "blogs". I write about
running, cooking and eating, travel, family, programming, Python, API design,
geographic data formats and protocols, open source, and internet standards.
Mostly running and local geography. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado, and
sometimes in Montpellier, France. I work at Planet Labs PBC. I appreciate
emailed comments on my posts. You can find my address in the "about" page
linked at the top of this page. Happy New Year!
I finally got prescription glasses. I've needed them for a couple of years.
Like a lot of middle-aged people I am slightly near-sighted. On top of this
I have some astigmatism which is especially bad when I haven't slept well.
I see pairs of stars at night, pairs of hawks soaring in the distance. It
really messes with my ability to read text on a screen from the back of a room
at the end of a long day.
I'm wearing them while driving, shopping, watching movies (on our 4k TV), and
reading text on the external monitor in my office. I don't wear them while
running or reading a book before bed. While I'm still getting used to circular
things not being exactly circular, I'm enjoying a sharper view of the world
beyond my laptop screen.
Early in 2020 I had the idea of registering for races outside Colorado in 2021.
You know, after the pandemic would be over. One of the classic Mid-western
ultra-marathons, if I won the lottery. Sadly, these races were cancelled in
2020 and no clear end to the pandemic was in sight at the end of the year.
I decided to stick to races that wouldn't require flights and accomodations.
I would run the relatively small races in my neighborhood, all of which I've
run before, but in
2021 I would run all of them in 6 months and complete the Gnar Slam.
Here are the numbers for 2021 (as of 2021-12-27).
410 hours, 52 minutes of running (18% more than in 2020).
2001 miles distance (+15%)
264,514 ft of elevation gain (+17%)
6 pairs of shoes retired
My achievements for the year include:
Completing the Gnar Slam (Quad Rock
50 mile, Never Summer 100 km, Black Squirrel Trail Half-Marathon, Blue Sky
The low points of my 2021 season were being injured for most of March and half
of April, and mental fatigue from the corporate union-busting at my day job
(gaslighting, vague threats, pervasive fear, uncertainty, and doubt are part of
the playbook) which undercut my Black Squirrel training. Happily, I fully
recovered from the injury just before Quad Rock, and found myself a new job
just before Blue Sky.
Many things went right in 2021. I did a bunch of long alpine runs with Mike
Thompson and look forward to doing more of that in 2022. I got a lot better at
descending trails. I'm faster, more confident, and use less energy going
downhill. I was only injured once and it didn't require a trip to the emergency
room. I wasn't attacked by a mountain lion. All in all, a very positive year.
I'm looking forward to the next one. I don't have a firm plan for 2022 yet, but
will probably run a little less and not do any ultra-marathon event until the end of summer.
I've gathered photos that appear in previous posts into a Flickr album.
I'm inspired by Leigh Dodd's garden retro to write about my
own gardening adventures in 2021. I was raised in a gardening family and have
almost every year tended at least a small patch of something, even when we were
on sabbatical in Montpellier. To be clear: I don't depend on my own produce to
live and have huge respect for people everywhere who do, whatever the scale.
I'm paid well to write and deploy software systems, and everything my family
needs is available from grocery chains and local producers. I garden because
I'm curious about the natural history of agriculture, for the connection to the
earth and sun, for the daily excuse to get up from the chair in my home office,
and because some vegetables are so much tastier when grown at home.
Fort Collins, Colorado, my home, at 1500 meters elevation, is marginal for
agriculture. We're in the USDA's Zone 5b, like Albany, New York. We get all
the sun anything needs and adequate water for irrigation thanks to reservoirs,
but the growing season can be unpredictably short due to late or early frosts.
Hail can be a problem here, too. Some populated places northeast and southeast
of Fort Collins get hail six days annually on average. We get less, 2-3 days,
but in tough years we've had our garden wiped out multiple times.
Growers have success with apples in some microclimates in Masonville near Fort
Collins, but generally fruit growers on the east side of the Rockies have more
success several degrees of latitude to the south. That's where Rocky Ford
melons and Pueblo chiles thrive. Major crops around Fort Collins are winter
wheat, alfalfa, corn, and in earlier times, sugar beets. Growers of anything
that require a longer season or protection against spring frosts depend on
greenhouses or cold frames. I don't have either, yet, so I muddle through the
hard seasons and revel in the easy seasons. 2021 was one of the latter.
We had a mild winter and early spring. We always plant lettuce, radish,
turnips, and snow peas as soon as the ground thaws here. A late frost nailed
our apricot blossoms, but everything else did fine. The garlic I planted in
fall thrived, too.
We replicated our favorite feature of 2020's garden: an endless supply of
cucumbers from a deep container in one of our garden's sunniest spots. We give
these Japanese varieties deep soil, compost, sun, water, and some structure to
climb on and they go nuts. We were picking 2-4 fancy $2 cucumbers every day for
3 months. This was the most profitable part of my garden by far. If you're
interesting in growing cucumbers and have limited space, don't overlook the
The spring and summer of 2021 were notable for the absence of hail and
generally sunny and warm conditions. I rolled the dice on sweet mellons of two
varieties, Charentais and "Minnesota midget", and we had plenty of each. It's
unlikely we'll have such good conditions next year. Some of the Charentais
melon were as good as I've had in the south of France. Growers in Lunel,
Hérault, would have been proud.
My kids, who turned 13 and 16 at end the end of 2021, love cucumbers and sweet
melons, but are deeply skeptical of zucchini or any other curcurbit that we
cooks. I planted one zucchini plant this year and every fruit was grated in the
service of zucchini fritters. Zucchini are reliable here, despite that we grew
fewer than we did in previous years.
The season was going so well I planted beans after pulling up the garlic and
there was plenty of time for them to grow and yield lots of tasty bean pods.
My tomato crop was very disappointing, a combination of exhausted soil and
increasing shade from one of our backyard trees, but the pepper and basil crop
more than made up for it. My father gave me Carmine and Aleppo pepper starts
and they exploded at the end of the summer.
At the close of 2021 all I have going on in the garden are dormant perennial
herbs, chives, and scallions; garlic bulbs; and the potted rosemary bushes that
we bring in the house at night.
What grew well? Lettuce, cucumber, melon, peas, beans, peppers, dill, basil,
garlic, green onions. None of these shared the same soil except the beans and
garlic, which seems to be a sign.
What didn't grow well? Tomatoes. Next year, I will plant them in a different,
sunnier bed, or buy them from someone else!
What will I do differently? I'll grow more spring and fall greens like
spinach, kale, and mizuna. I would also like to have a constant supply of cilantro and
parsley. I can't expect such luck with melons, so I might skip the Charentais.
Otherwise, no major changes.
I'm back at home and looking forward to a normal week without holidays or
emergencies. Despite my backlog I'm still not working on software projects on
the weekends, or at least am being very selective about what I do. Yesterday
I did a lot of yardwork and today I went for a 2.5-hour run in the foothills.
I'm in Boise, Idaho, for the week, working from my mother's house and helping
her and my stepfather deal with an emergency. I don't want to over-share, so
let me just say that the situation is improving and we all feel lucky and
grateful. I'm doing a lot of driving and am staying up late to catch up on work
and stuff. As a little treat, I'm eating the famous potatoes and running on the
fantastic trail system north of downtown.
Monday was my first day at Planet. I suspect most of
my readers know a bit about the company. For those of you that don't, Planet
operates several constellations (fleets) of satellites and sells imagery of the
Earth captured by the telescopes and imaging systems carried on the spacecraft.
8, the US
government's global imaging satellite revisits a place on Earth every 16 days,
and will be joined by Landsat 9, reducing the revisit time to 8 days. The
European Space Agency's pair of Sentinel-2 satellites
revisit every 5 days. Planet's constellation of Dove cubesats revisit every place on Earth every
day. It's a unique dataset. And one that is complemented by another
constellation of satellites that can be programmed
to focus on specific areas of interest. I've been a customer and user of this
kind of imagery for years; it's going to be fun to switch to the other side. My
position is "Senior Staff Engineer" and my home team is Developer Relations,
led by Sara Safavi. I'll be on the services side, not the spacecraft
side, of a talented team, doing a mix of familiar things at a new level,
unfamiliar things, and things that have never been done before.
Current status: not working but busy. I postponed and deferred a lot of
personal stuff in October and need to catch up. Ruth will be traveling for
a week starting Saturday and I'll be solo parenting. Then, I'm starting my
new position and will have many Zoom meetings to attend. In my free time I'm
going to prioritize sleep, reading, and being outside. The leaves aren't going
to rake themselves. Expect some delay if you mail me with a question or open
a GitHub ticket.