2016 Wrap up

It’s time once again to do my yearly wrap-up. Even before I was doing the daily blog adventure, I was putting together yearly summaries, and so the tradition continues.

For many of us, 2016 felt like a horrible year. In fact at trivia night on Wednesday, we decided to name our team F#%* 2016!. There have been countless articles over the past few days trying to reassure us that 2016 wasn’t all that bad, and in fact a lot of good happened. However, I think the real reason many of us feel distressed about 2016 is not because we can’t see the good things that happened around us, but because all the bad things that happened took punches at our sense of hope for the future.

The election of 2016 was a brutal and sad chapter in our country’s history. I try to avoid politics as much as I can on the blog, but I make no secret that I am not a member of the conservative camp. However, I pride myself on being able to have intelligent discussions with people who disagree with me. The key point being that intelligent discussions cannot take place when Twitter and inflammatory Facebook meme’s are the jumping off point for communication. Civil discourse took a plunge off a cliff this year, and it was replaced with reactionary and emotional yelling. Seeing our society devolve like this, saps our hope for the future.

The year 2016 was also marked by the deaths of many cultural icons that were loved by many. It’s difficult to watch people in the public space pass away, but I acknowledge that in many ways this is simply the way things go as we age. Many of the people that we lost this year spent much of their lives battling drug addictions and their bodies were the worse for it. Therefore, it only makes sense that many of them, of similar age, would start to suffer the consequences.

Yet, that acknowledgement does not dampen the sense of loss, and the realization that these very creative people will no longer be adding to the world with their immeasurable talent. When someone of great talent passes, the world feels dimmer with the snuffing of another a flame of creation. This contributes to our general sense of loss of hope, as the future feels darker without the presence of many of these individuals.

This is also why regular folks like you and I need to do what we can to continue to create things in this world. That was a big part of the reason I started this daily blog to begin with. After reading a post from Wil Wheaton at the end of 2014, I decided I needed to do something to keep myself creating, as a world without creators is a pretty dull place. Hence, the daily blogging started in 2015, with nothing more than an idea to make something new every day, where something wasn’t the day before. It’s my hope that by continuing to contribute to the general ethos of creation in the world, maybe 2017 doesn’t have to feel as hopeless as it does right now.

My plans for the blog in 2017 will be my post for tomorrow, and this is still 2016, so let’s talk a bit about what’s happened this year. I’ve already talked about my year in photography, in cycling, and in running. So what else has gone on this year in my life?

My wife and I were able to do a bit of traveling this year, with many small trips around the state. We also had a large trip to Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula to celebrate our belated honeymoon. Traveling by train was one of the most amazing and enjoyable methods I’ve ever traveled, and I can’t wait to do it again. I almost wish there was an easy train to Vegas where we go every year to visit family.

Much of our traveling around the state involved hiking, running or biking. We picked up some nice daypacks and spent some time with them on the Superior Hiking Trail this summer. We also did some camping, and it renewed our love of sitting out in the woods next to a nice fire, relaxing or reading under the stars. So much so that we picked up a fire pit at home and this fall saw us going through a ton of wood on a weekly basis.

We also spent a lot of time relaxing with tabletop games this year, and made frequent visits to Fantasy Flight Game Center. We discovered some great new games, like Lanterns, and got a taste of an awesome game called Mechs and Minions. This fall we also started up a D&D group, and I’m really looking forward to DM’ing our campaign in 2017.

The wife and I also spent plenty of weekend nights up in Blaine watching the Minnesota United FC play their final season before advancing to Major League Soccer. We had a mediocre season, but we’re very excited about getting to step up to the top tier. We even got some of our family to join in the season ticket craze and we all went and picked out our seats at TCF Bank Stadium for next year.

From a TV show perspective, the wife and I have started catching up with all the DC Comic TV shows on CW. I started watching Arrow while she was on an internship, and when she got back I caught her up and we’ve been watching Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow together for fun. Soon we’ll add Supergirl into the mix. We just need to get caught up before the season starts in Fall 2017, and then we can watch new episodes as they come out, and don’t need to avoid spoilers.

I also got my largest tattoo yet this year, and I’m already thinking about what to get next. I’ve got a folder on Google Drive that I use to store ideas for future imagery. I know that I eventually want to get more artwork going down my arm, but I want it to be significant imagery that reminds me of my family. I obviously take my time in thinking about things like this, as they don’t just wash off. Perhaps 2017 will be the year I start getting more of that done.

We watched a bunch of movies this year that became good fodder for blog entries, as I got to talk about what I didn’t like or loved about them. The best ones were the ones that surprised us with how much fun they were, despite going in not knowing what to expect. Doctor Strange is a great example of that.

I also started making bread this fall, and it’s something I’ve come to really enjoy. My cinnamon bread has been a big hit at family and friend gatherings, and even just my simple white bread has been nice to have around. I’m thinking of trying a sourdough next year and see if I can get that to come out right, as I love a nice pull-off loaf of sourdough.

Needless to say, much has happened over 2016. In many ways it was a good year, and in many ways it had it’s struggles. I still muse about what the future will bring for me, and what I really want to do with the second half of my life. Everything still feels like we’re in a bit of a transition phase, and will be for a bit longer. All I know is that I feel like the time is getting closer for me to be able to make some transitions in my life. I know my wife has had a year of transition this year, and is finally into something stable, so perhaps it will be my turn in the not too distant future.

Writing this blog every day for 2016 was a tremendous experience, and tomorrow I start again for another year. I have lots of ideas and thoughts for next year, and I hope to be able to get them done. I even have a few things that might surprise people, and might even surprise me. All that is for tomorrow though. For now, it’s time to say goodbye to 2016 and wish everyone reading this a happy and blessed New Year!

 

2016 Running year in review

This year was my strongest year of running so far. I set out at the beginning of the year with some lofty goals, and although I didn’t meet all of them, I still crushed some of my previous records. This was a year of challenging myself to distances I had never attempted before, and finding new ways of giving back to the trail running community.

My big goal race of the year was the Zumbro 50 mile trail race. That meant my training started in earnest in December of last year. I decided to follow a training plan from Relentless Forward Progress, and overall I was happy with the structure that it laid out. I wasn’t nearly as diligent on my cross training days as I should have been, but I felt very strong going into the race.

However, before Zumbro I had one other bonus race; the Blood, Sweat, and Beers race in Boulder City, Nevada. This was a 13 mile race through Bootleg Canyon, on rugged desert terrain in February. I went into the race thinking it would be no big deal, but all my winter training actually set me up for a tremendously rough day in Nevada heat. I managed to finish in around 3 and a half hours, but ended up passing out from heat exhaustion at the restaurant afterwards. Needless to say, not the way I wanted to start my race year.

img_4367Once I was home and recovered I fell right back into training, and ended up putting down a great 50K during a local fat ass. Soon enough race day was upon me, and I joined with a bunch of other poor souls at midnight to go for a jog in 17 degree temps. I completed the 50 miles in just under 16 hours, and it was one of the most amazing experiences in my running career. Seeing my body get a second wind during my third lap, and actually being able to run across the finish line was tremendous.

dsc_0574After my achievement at Zumbro I had a couple of 10K trail races before hitting the Spring Superior 50K. It was at Spring Superior that I came face to face with the dreaded DNF. It was a hot one this year, and my body just couldn’t cool down. With memories of Nevada in my head, and a desire to avoid puking my way up and down Moose Mountain, I dropped at the last aid station. It wasn’t how I wanted to go into the summer months, but between the 50 mile hangover and the heat, I just wasn’t up for it. This is now my target race for 2017 to get revenge.

June found me doing a couple of pavement half marathons, despite being my lowest month of mileage all year. The North Olympic Discovery Marathon was an interesting addition to our Seattle trip, though I wouldn’t bother with it again. The funner one was the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon during Grandma’s Marathon. I felt great that day and had a really good race, and celebration with friends afterwards.

By this point in the year all the early training had caused me to peak back in April, and summer months found me running less and less. I did the Afton 25K and a few small races, including a local 1 miler. The season finished up with a few more smaller trail races, and a 21 mile run at the Grand Traverse. My goal was to finish with a strong 50K at Surf the Murph again, but after one loop I decided I was done with racing for the year and hung it up after a 25K loop.

13268076_1424235170935967_872642157315270516_oAlthough it seemed like my year fell apart towards the end, I still managed to blow away a ton of goals. Beyond the 50 mile finish (first time ever), I will still finish the year very close to 1200 miles. I won’t know the final number until Saturday, which is my final run of the year, but it should be right around 1170, which is over 50 miles more than last year. The fact that I was able to put down two 1100+ years in a row is very impressive to me, especially considering I just started this craziness 6 years ago, and before that wasn’t athletic at all.

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The biggest surprise this year came when I checked my veloviewer graph for elevation. Before I started trail running my best elevation year was 2014 with 14,000 feet. As I transitioned to trails in 2015 I knocked out a 33,000 foot year. However, in 2016 I blew the doors off of everything and smacked down a 57,000 foot year. When I first looked at the graph I actually couldn’t believe it. That was a major jump in elevation, and it made me feel a lot better about the fact that I was doing almost the same number of miles as 2015, but almost twice the elevation.

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In many ways that was the story for me in 2016. I have fully embraced the trails, and much of my running is about conquering the mountains in my way, not speeding down the road to the finish as quickly as I can. It’s made my running more of an adventure, seeking out new challenges. In road running I would often challenge myself by trying to get faster and faster. On the trails it’s more about conquering a bigger hill or a longer trail. It makes this craziness more doable to me, mentally. It gives me goals that my aging body might be able to achieve, instead of just trying to push myself to get faster and faster.

13669647_10209315921871617_9210175466967533409_nThis year has also been a big year for me in terms of getting involved in the trail running community around the cities. I love volunteering at races and my wife and I spent time working at multiple races this year. I had intended to run a few of the Endless Summer Trail Run series races, but ended up volunteering for 3 out of 4 of them. We spent some time volunteering at Voyager, which was a ton of fun. Fall Superior has become a service event for us now, with running the aid station at County Road 6, and my wife working at Sawbill while I paced a 100 miler. I also put on my first fat ass at Elm Creek this fall, and had a close to 50 people show up for some fun on a snowy morning.

To top it all off I was also elected to the Board of Directors for the Upper Midwest Trail Runners Association. I hope to be able to use some of my experience working in government and politics to help get trail running working with parks to make sure we all have a great experience. I’m really looking forward to working with a bunch of great people to give back to the community that has given me so much.

As I look forward to next year, I am excited for the things I have planned so far. I feel like every third year or so I need to dial things back a little bit, so there are no 50 mile races planned for me. I have a couple 50Ks on the docket, but otherwise I’ll probably just be volunteering and running some smaller races. I’ll probably lower my distance goal down a bit, and I would expect my elevation to drop as well. I want to make sure I keep my body from getting too beaten up, as I’d like to continue this passion for as long as I’m able. I see so many older folks out there still going strong and pounding out the trails, and I want to be one of them someday.

For now, it’s a time to celebrate the great accomplishments of 2016, and be happy with all that I’ve accomplished. It was a great year for running, and I’m excited to keep it up again in 2017.

2016 Cycling year in review

Normally around this time of the year I do a retrospective on my running achievements. However, this year I also spent a lot of time on the bike, and so I’ve decided to toss together a review of my 2016 cycling as well. In terms of cross-training love hopping on the bike for a long weekend morning ride. It keeps me active, yet works my muscles in a totally different way than if I were just running another day of the week.

This year I set a goal of 650 miles on the bike, and I made that goal easily, topping off at 677 miles. This was over 150 mile greater than 2015, and frankly didn’t feel that hard to achieve. A big part of this was the fact that my wife took up biking this year, and so we did a bunch of riding together, which was a lot of fun.

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For solo rides I managed my first half-century ride this year, with an epic round trip adventure to Victoria, MN and visiting multiple breweries along the way. It was an amazing trip, and really opened my eyes to all the great bike trails that we have in the west metro area.

2016-08-07 (1)My wife and I also had a couple nice long rides together. We did a day trip to Sakatah Singing Hill trail, and a trip along Willard Munger during our camping at Jay Cooke. Since I added a hitch and bike rack to my car, we’ve been able to get out for even a few shorter weekday rides frequently. It’s been great to just hop in the car and head to the dam for a short 10 milers on a Tuesday night.

img_4904We also managed a few shorter rides to various breweries around the metro. I continued to ride with a Beer & Bikes group that my friend put together, and so most Wednesdays saw me biking down to NE Minneapolis to various taprooms. It combined my love of beer with my love of being active, and heck, most nights I worked off at least a portion of the beer calories on the ride home :).

I’m excited for next year and more riding adventures. My wife and I would like to hit quite a few more trails around the area, and bring out bikes with on some of our weekend trips. It’s a fun activity to do together and a good workout overall. I’m still not doing any racing on the bike, but I’m enjoying just challenging myself with longer distances, and taking in the amazing surroundings as we zip past.

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2016 Photography year in review

One of my hobbies is photography, and as many people who frequent this blog know, I post a bunch of pictures here. I also have a Flickr album that people are welcome to follow, as I try to post most of my good pics there.

This year has seen me get a few shots that I’m rather proud of, and I felt like I should post a few of them here to wrap up the year. As I sat down to put this together I just saw the news that Carrie Fisher passed away. She was The Princess of my youth, showing us a strong female role model in science fiction. So today, I’m sharing this retrospective of pictures as a way to show something beautiful in the world once again. It’s a habit that 2016 has forced upon me far too many times.

Enjoy, and I look forward to sharing more pics in 2017!

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Sunset in La Push
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Silverwood
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Tettegouche
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Mushrooms
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Duck
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Moon
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Cascade River
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Cascade River
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Bird
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Tettegouche

My wife gets me

From my lovely wife I also got some drinkware. In this case, a couple of wine glasses that are overlaid with constellations of the summer and winter sky. These things are really cool looking, and since they are summer and winter, each glass is unique from the other. I love astronomy and this is an awesome gift from a woman who gets what I like.

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