At Any Given Time

Andy’s family was able to learn more about his accident this morning.

On Wednesday evening, after my wife made five days of calls, I was sitting at my desk with Andy’s phone. On a whim, I opened his Strava App to see what he’d been doing over the last little while.

Strava is a web-based application that lets athletes share their training. You can upload from any GPS-enabled device. I use my watch, and my Peloton bike, to automatically share my stuff with anyone who’s interested.

As soon as I opened the app, I saw that Andy had been recording a workout when he fell. Quickly realizing what I had in my hand, I saved the workout and notified the Sheriff’s Office.

I pulled the workout up on Strava and opened satellite view. I saw Andy’s day start at the parking lot, head up the Flatirons Freeway and end up at the morgue. Ugh.

I think the Deputy must have closed Strava when he took possession of Andy’s phone, which didn’t have a passcode on it. Strava only records when you’re moving so this saved the battery life.

Seeing Andy’s day, visually, really hit me. I’m feeling it as I share with you.

Why am I sharing with you?

I am going to tell you why.


Since turning 30, I’ve been gradually whittling away at my acute risk exposure.

  • Mountaineering
  • Technical rock climbing
  • Bike racing
  • Avalanche terrain
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Small propellor-driven aircraft in mountainous terrain

I lost very little by eliminating these items from my life.

Why?

Because I was able to look deeply at the reasons I wanted to hang onto things that could ruin my life.

What’s the source of your risk-seeking behaviors?

For me it was a combination of factors: a lack of impulse control, a short-term high and a desire to do things other people couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do.

Elite sport forced me to address my impulse control issues.

I replaced short-term highs with the serenity that comes from having good judgement.

I refocused my desire to do difficult things… I focus on being a better person over time and have a set of habits that nudge me in this direction => my wife/son are my backcountry partners and I wake up very early each day.


If you are not ready to make a change then I understand. I’ve been working at this for 20 years.

I’ve kept areas of risk in my life.

  • Traveling alone in the backcountry
  • Winter driving on highways
  • Riding bikes on open roads
  • Skiing the toughest downhill terrain I can manage
  • Skiing trees

Here’s what I’d like you to do.

Minimize the impact of your choices on the people around you.

Pay attention when friends and associates die doing what you do. I haven’t had a friend die from bike racing but I can put a named-deceased on each of the other lines in my list.

Run a GPS-track in the backcountry and have it automatically ping to a satellite. Every ten minutes my location bounces off a satellite to a web page. Your family is going to want your body when you’re done with it.

Outside the backcountry? How about a Road-ID bracelet and a Garmin Watch.

Share your definition of late. Andy made this crystal clear and it saved us a lot of worry over the years. It also let us know immediately when he was in trouble.

Sure, it’s tough to watch his Strava file on Google Earth, but it’s a lot better than wondering what happened for the rest of our lives.

Those are the big three.

At the micro-level, I mitigate risk with fitness, snow tires, a big vehicle, knowledge, avoiding risk-seeking peers, not calling audibles, turning around and carrying everything I need for running into someone else’s emergency (because it’s never going to happen to me, right?). 😉

Risk works both ways. Lots of little risks become material, yes.

But also, chopping your tail risk and combining with mitigating factors… can reduce your likely penalty over a lifetime of repeating the same choices.

And, just in case you get chopped, remember the Big Three => Pay Attention, Run GPS to a Satellite and Define Late for those who love you.


One last thing.

Here’s how I make key decisions in my life.

September of 2000: I was sitting in a very nice townhome in Hong Kong. At 31 years old, I had arrived at the top of socio-economic pyramid, exceeding my wildest childhood dreams.

I was doing work that I was good at, and I was well paid for that work. Outside of work, I was a top athlete in the local amateur community and had a great group of friends. Yet…

I felt empty when I looked ten years out. All I could see was an older, wealthier version of myself.

That’s not the life I wanted.

The filter I used…

You’re 50 years old and sitting in a doctor’s office. He tells you the tests came back and you have pancreatic cancer.

How do you feel?

Balance that against something I told my friend KP after he ticked past the age his father died…

What if you don’t die young?

Choose Wisely.