Heidi and I have been talking about simplifying our lives for the last few years. I can’t tell you how many conversations we’ve had that started off with, “We should sell all of our stuff and…” or “I wish we could just get rid of our house and….” I mean, I feel like we had done a pretty good job getting rid of a lot of superfluous shit and did the best we could to curtail new purchases. But, we still lived in a 2500 square foot house and, consequently, had more space and things than we really needed.

Around the beginning of the year we started having serious conversations about “walking the walk” instead of just “talking the talk.” The “We should” and “I wish” conversations gradually turned into “Let’s actually….”

So we contacted a friend of ours who’s a realtor and put our house on the market. We figured since the housing market was on the rise we might as well see if we could get a good price for it. If we did, we’d dump it and figure out our next move. If we didn’t, we’d stay in the house and keep enjoying it since we loved our house/neighborhood and didn’t really have to move. But after a couple months on the market, we got a good offer from the right buyer and entered escrow.

OK, now what? We had decided we didn’t want to buy a new house right away because we weren’t really sure what we wanted. We had even toyed with the idea of moving away from San Diego in the somewhat near future and didn’t want to get locked into anything. We tried to find a house or condo to rent, but the rental market was hotter than the housing market and finding a decent place, at a reasonable price, was turning out to be really hard. Since escrow was a ways out, though, we had some time to keep looking while we started to pare stuff down.

In short order Heidi became a craigslist power-broker and started getting rid of a lot of things that were either redundant (I mean, who needs two couches?) or just too big/heavy (armoire!) to move. So we started the “massive Swanson sell-off.” And, honestly, it was pretty fun. We had a fire sale/yard sale and got to meet a lot of different people while we made deals with them. After a couple weeks of wheeling and dealing, our downstairs was basically empty. Now we just had to find the right place to move into.

Empty downstairs

Empty downstairs

As I mentioned, finding a nice house or condo rental that met our needs wasn’t going to happen so we started looking at apartments. The first place we called had an opening, a garage, and allowed cats. No in-unit laundry, but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. After waiting as long as we could to make sure escrow wasn’t going to fall through, we signed a one year lease on a 950 square foot apartment in Encinitas.

The whole point of this exercise is to get rid of shit so we can move into a smaller place and live a simpler, richer life. Paraphrasing the Minimalists, “It’s not about less, it’s about more — more time, more money, more meaning.” With that in mind, I was pretty set on 1) not using an external storage unit and 2) moving ourselves. I’m dead-set on #1, but I’m not sure how strongly I feel about #2 (like everything, I’m sure there are exceptions). That said, part of me thinks that if you can’t move yourself, you probably have too much stuff. So we pared down even more and when we were got the keys to the apartment, started the move.

We made a bunch of small trips with our car, which took a lot of time because we only have one car. But, Heidi was able to get most of our small stuff moved over and set up during the week. We rented a truck from UHAUL on a Saturday and started moving our big stuff in the morning and were done by mid-afternoon. It was a long, tiring week, but it felt good to have moved things on our own and we probably saved a few hundred bucks doing it ourselves.

We’ve been in our new place for a few weeks now and things are going really well. We’re still adjusting to apartment life, but it really hasn’t been as big of a change as I had expected. It sucks not having an attached garage, but we’re working around that by keeping our frequently-accessed bikes in the apartment so we have easy access to them. The kitchen is a little small, but we’ve gotten creative using the space we have.

Kitchen extension

Kitchen extension

Bike rack

Bike rack

We haven’t used our dishwasher since we moved in — it’s now being used to store our pots and pans rather than wash them. And we don’t have a microwave (aka science oven), which is working out a lot better than I had thought. I was expecting we were going to have to rush out and get one right away, but we just use the oven to heat things up. It takes a couple minutes longer, but we don’t really notice it. Which in many ways is the theme of downsizing: there are some things you miss and it takes some time to adjust. But overall, your food tastes as good. Your showers are as hot. Your bed is as soft. And you still have your essential “stuff”. Our life isn’t any worse because we don’t have a formal dining room. Or his and her offices. Or a huge closet filled with clothes we don’t wear. Or vaulted ceilings to make our house hot in the summer and cold in the winter….

We’re saving about $2000 a month by living in this apartment. I’m commuting to work by bike 3 days a week (30 miles round trip) and, since I work from home one day a week, that means I only have to ride my motorcycle to work 1 day a week. We’re biking to the YMCA for swimming (1.5 miles) and Heidi is biking to get groceries (.5 miles) and to volunteer at the shelter (2 miles). I’m not sure how much of a tax hit we’ll take by not being able to deduct our mortgage interest. According to our tax guy, we should still be well ahead, but we’ll see how that goes next April. At any rate, it’s making a ton of sense financially and is giving us the opportunity to keep our car parked and use our bikes more for transportation.

Some people probably think we’re a little weird for willingly trading in the big house for a little apartment. I guess I don’t have too much to say about that — different strokes for different folks, right? By all accounts we have a pretty amazing life right now and I don’t think either one of us feels we’re being deprived of anything. We’re definitely playing the game while thinking ahead a few moves. So with any luck, this whole experiment will help us reach our goals sooner. But it’s really more than just getting us closer to retirement or financial independence or whatever label you want to put on it. It’s giving us the opportunity to live a life less cluttered, which is worthwhile in and of itself.




Heidi and I watched Unbreakable: The Western States 100 the other night and we both loved it. I highly recommend it if you’re interested in trail running and want to learn a bit more about the Western States 100 and the top guys running it. I’d heard of Anton Krupicka a few years ago, but never really took the time to learn about him, etc. I’ve been reading/watching a few interviews with him over the past few days and really like his attitude and his minimalist approach to life and running. I’m starting to get the itch to do an ultra running event so we’ll see what happens after my upcoming marathon.




What a beautiful, simple, and amazing life/philosophy.




Last year Heidi and I raced the St George Ironman 70.3 and, frankly, had a hell of a time. To clarify, we both finished and had a good experience — I mean, how bad can it be when you’re in a beautiful part of the country doing something you love? But, we got kicked in the face a bit on the run portion of the race.

I’ve been thinking about that run for the past 11 months and how I wanted a second shot at it. In 2013 I felt like I had (for me) strong swim and bike legs of the race. But, the run is just so damn hard and since I wasn’t prepared for it, I ended up slowing way down and eventually had to walk a few miles of it. So after we pulled the trigger in January and registered for a second go-around, I set my sights on improving my run.

My parents drove down from Boise again this year and met up with us at the Sand Hollow campground, which is where the race starts. Heidi and I got there on Thursday afternoon and, after getting our camp stuff set up, had time for a quick swim in the reservoir.

Campsite at Sand Hollow

Campsite at Sand Hollow

Sunset at Sand Hollow

Sunset at Sand Hollow

We did a short ride and run and took care of the race logistics (bike and run gear drop-offs) on Friday. We hung out with my parents and then called it an early evening to get rested up for the next day’s festivities.

Whenever we tell people that we’re camping before a race, they usually say we’re hardcore or that they’re impressed by it. And while I will say there are definitely some challenges that go along with camping and racing, I just love camping and being out in the open so much that it’s worth any of the minor inconveniences that go along with camping. I’m not sure Heidi feels as strongly about it as I do, but she likes it enough to put up with it. That said, there are a couple major challenges with STG 70.3 camping.

  1. The swim-to-bike transition area is lit up with generators all night before the race and the MC/music starts playing around 5am. So sleep the night before the race can be a little dicey.
  2. Hot. Damn hot. Friday was really warm and when you’re camping (in a tent) there’s no way to escape that. So it wears you down a bit even before you’ve started racing. And, after a tough day of racing, you have to go back to your tent, which is basically in the middle of the desert (think: no shade), and try to cool off. In 95 degree heat.

Anyway, everything went well logistically on Saturday morning and we made it to the starting line without any issues. The forecast called for light winds, but really warm temps so we were bracing for a very warm run. The conditions were perfect, though, at the start of the race.

Me and Heidi before race start

Me and Heidi before race start

Super fans!

Super fans!

Swim
I felt like I pushed it pretty hard during the swim, but still kept things under control so I wouldn’t completely blow up. There’s a big difference between “swimming” and “being a swimmer” and, falling deeply into the former camp, I have no illusions about my swimming times. I do the best I can to get through the swim and hope to keep getting better as time goes on. I shaved off a little over a minute and a half from last year’s swim so I was happy about that.

Bike
I have two main bike racing strategies:

  1. Go ape-shit and bury myself. Then suffer the consequences on the run (which will probably suck anyway so why not make hay while the sunshines?).
  2. Keep things under control and save something for the run. Because, as evidenced by last year’s STG performance, the run is usually where I need all the help I can get.

Like life, though, races aren’t black-and-white, so the last two years I’ve taken a hybrid approach to the bike — go really hard on the first half, as it’s mostly flat/downhill. Then take it a little easier on the hillier second half so I have enough in the tank for the run. That seemed to work pretty well this year, as I knocked off about 3 minutes from my overall bike time. As mentioned, the course is pretty fast at the beginning as you make your way out of the Sand Hollow/Hurricane area and into St George. There are a couple short climbs outside of Hurricane, but nothing terrible. Once you get through St George, though, you get into Snow Canyon, which is simultaneously awesome (beautiful!) and gnarly (big hill!). But, it’s a really fun bike route that has a lot of variety and is very scenic. I didn’t have any mechanical issues so I was thankful for that. I stayed on the nutrition and hoped I would avoid any serious cramping issues on the run.

Run
The run starts off with a gradual uphill and then gets nasty about 2.5 miles in. I generally need a mile or so to get settled in because, after hammering it on the bike for almost three hours, you feel a bit “out-of-sorts” when you start running. But at St George this transition period is basically uphill so it sucks. Last year I felt like crying about .5 miles into the run and this year was no different. But, I’m learning to be patient, run through the discomfort, stay calm, and get settled in. So that’s what I did yesterday. And, after a couple miles I started to feel better. Then I hit the right-hander onto Red Hills Parkway, which pretty much feels like you’re going up a wall. But, I kept telling myself this is why I spent hours running up hills over the course of the last 3 months. “Whatever you do, don’t walk. Just keep running, get over the son-of-a-bitch, and then we’ll deal with the other hills as they come.” And that’s what I did — I ran up the whole grade and, once I hit the top, knew I’d be OK for the rest of the race.

There are a bunch of other hills over the rest of the run — some bigger than others. But, I was so damn stoked to have not walked on that first one (like I did last year) that I just kept plowing forward. Someone had put up a race sign in Snow Canyon that said, “Ironman. It’s you vs. you.” I can’t think of a better way to sum up why I train and why I race. I certainly didn’t set any speed records out there on the run. But, during the entire run I’m battling with myself and with the monster inside of me that wants to stop after every step. I don’t really care how I fare against other people. I’m racing against myself and the forces inside me that want to give up. I couldn’t be happier with yesterday’s race because I didn’t give up and stayed on it for the entire race.

Me and Heidi post-race

Me and Heidi post-race

All-in-all an amazing weekend. It’s so great to get out and race with friends, watch my wife race and shave off 30+ minutes from her last year’s time, hang out with my parents, and camp at a beautiful campground.

Race results
Swim (1.2 miles): 00:35:12
Bike (56 miles): 02:45:23
Run (13.1 miles): 01:49:11
Overall (70.3 miles): 05:18:46




One of the best sites I discovered last year is Farnam Street Blog. It’s kind of hard to describe what the site is all about. Without putting too much thought into it, I would say it’s like a long-read version of kottke.org for book lovers and/or people who just want to become smarter. OK, it’s probably not that much like kottke.org, but I will say both curators (Jason Kottke and Shane Parrish) have an uncanny ability to find interesting stuff on the web and package it up in an engaging way. I would highly recommend subscribing to the weekly newsletter (I think it’s called “Brain Food”) and see if you find any of the articles interesting. Whenever I see that e-mail pop into my inbox I make a point to check it out right away. (The same thing can be said for the Quora weekly newsletter, which is really awesome, too.)

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