2015 Year in Review

It’s time once again for my annual year in review (and my final entry in my Create-a-thon 2015!). Even before I was blogging everyday I still put up post at the end of the year to talk about what happened that year and what I’m looking forward to in the new year.

IMG_3768If I were to characterize 2015 in a couple of words it would be ‘transition’ and ‘patience’. In the area of transitions we had quite a few things going on. The year started with my step-son heading back to school, embarking on a new career choice. My wife continued to work at her job until mid-way through the year when she transitioned to something different while she finishes out her education. I also transitioned to a new job midway through the year, as well as acquired a different car. My running also transitioned from road running to more trail running.

On the patience side of the coin, I’ve needed to learn to wait as my step-son and wife both finish out their education early next year, and transition into new careers. I have to wait as my own kids move through their schooling and start to decide what they want to do in their adult lives. Much of the things that my wife and I talk about are plans for when these transition happens in the future, but for now it’s a lesson in patience.

IMG_3228The year 2015 also saw my wife and I traveling a fair amount, even if it was just short weekend trips. We visited my wife’s family in Nevada in the early part of the year. We also took a trip to Omaha to visit some extended family later in the summer. Much of our other travel revolved around running, and traveling to local races. I believe we only slept in our own beds 4 weekends throughout September and October, as our fall running calendar filled up rapidly.

IMG_3549All of my travel allowed me to visit and sample a lot more breweries, and my beer exploration badges on Untappd are higher than they ever have been before. Additionally, we got to visit many of the local breweries that have popped up in the Twin Cities area, giving us tons of options on nights we want to venture out for some time out of the house.

2015 also allowed us much time to spend with family and friends, both old and new. Running played a huge part in meeting lots of new people, and one of my oldest friends was 12096086_10153766629880362_8545574795820529144_noften a partner in crime for our early morning weekend runs, as he builds up his running stamina. Getting to spend time with family, both in-town and out-of-town, was a blessing in the year as well. Many of our friends and family are tabletop gamers, and we’ve gotten to experience a TON of new games this year.

IMG_3687Today is New Year’s Eve, and I decided to take the day off of work for no reason other than I wanted a day off. My new job has been more stressful than I had planned, but things are finally getting organized in a way that I want them to be. My plan for the day is to relax and enjoy the final day of 2015. Maybe we’ll watch a few movies, or play a few games, tonight to ring in the New Year and welcome in another 365 day journey that is going to be full of new adventures and new changes to write about in 2016.

Happy New Year everyone!

2015 Running year in review

2015 was a huge year for me when it came to running. After having a pretty good year last year, achieving my second full marathon, I set my sights even higher for the new year. Very early in the year I decided that I wanted to start to transition from road racing to trails. I had a variety of reasons for doing this, which many regular readers of this blog will have read about over the past year.

With this in mind I decided to put a lot of trail races on my calendar. However, I wasn’t quite done with road racing, as I decided to do my third marathon this year, at Grandma’s Marathon. My goal for this year was to beat my 5 hour wall. Additionally, I wanted to complete a race every month of the year, which I’m happy to report that I managed to complete.

My race year began slowly with the Securian 5K in January, followed by the Valentine’s Day 5K in February. By March I was upping the distance and completed the Hot Dash 10 mile race, a new race put on by Twin Cities in Motion, the organizers of the Twin Cities Marathon.

IMG_3353April is when my biggest challenges began. To kick off my year of running trails I signed up for the Zumbro 17 mile trail race. I volunteered the day before to help out the 100 mile racers, and got to meet a ton of great people. On Saturday I got my first lesson in trail running, and Zumbro was only too happy to dish out some punishment. Although my time wasn’t amazing, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to get back on a trail again for another run.

IMG_3425I finished off April with the Get in Gear 10K, a traditional race for me. Then I dumped into May with my next big trail challenge, the Superior Spring 25K. The previous fall my wife and I had hiked the route of the race, so I knew what I was in for, but what I didn’t expect was the incredible amount of mud. Despite the slogfest that the race became I had an amazing time, and finished 15 minutes ahead of my goal time. I got to hang out at the finish line for hours afterwards, and once again solidified my belief that trail folk are some of the best folk around.

With my big spring race out of the way I committed to running as many of the Endless Summer Trail Runs as I could. I ran the Lebanon 10K in May, the French 5K in June, the Lebanon 7 mile in July and the Hyland 7 mile in August. I missed out on the final race at Murphy Hanrehan, but I’ll make sure to get that one next year.

IMG_3481June was a busy race month with the Lola 10 mile, the Break the Stigma trail run, and my marathon revenge… Grandma’s Marathon. I focused on a solid game plan going into the race and beat my 5 hour goal by almost 15 minutes. It was a tremendously encouraging accomplishment, and even if I never do another road marathon again, I’m happy with what I got done.

July found my wife and I doing our traditional Red, White and Boom Half-Marathon Relay. This has become somewhat of a tradition for us, and we decided to make it again again in 2015. The course was different this year, which made every turn a surprise. Sometimes those surprises were good, and other times, not so good. But we got it done and enjoyed getting in a early morning summer run.

IMG_3713The only race in August was my Endless Summer Trail Run race. Most of the rest of the month was preparing for another amazing challenge, the Moose Mountain Marathon. This race is part of the Fall Superior Trail races, and would expose me to parts of the Superior Hiking Trail I had never been on before. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done, and took me seven and a half hours, but I knew that it was all time well spent, preparing me for what would come later in the fall.

The rest of September was filled with smaller races like the Minnesota One Mile, the Run@Work 5K and the William O’Brien 10 Mile trail race. We finished out the month participating in the Goosebumps 24 hour run, where I managed more miles than I had planned, and had an awesome time doing so. Plus, there were mountains of bacon.

IMG_3853October found us taking on the Twin Cities Looney Challenge as part of the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend. We ran the Twin Cities 5K and 10K, back to back on Saturday. Then got up on Sunday morning and ran the Twin Cities 10 mile race, otherwise known as the ‘shortcut to the Capitol’. The rest of October was spent prepping for my biggest challenge yet, and my first ultra marathon, Surf the Murph 50K. The entire experience was amazing, and despite complete exhaustion and lots of pain, I loved meeting the challenge. Between Moose Mountain and Surf, I learned that I’m quite capable of being on my feet for long periods of time, and that I can accomplish these amazing distances that I never thought I could before.

November and December wrapped up with the Turkey Trot 6K on Thanksgiving, and a fun Reindeer Run 5K in mid-December. I also took some time to give my body some rest because I knew that in 2016 I was going to be challenging myself again, this time with the Zumbro 50 mile trail race.

As I look back on my running year, I’m amazed at the statistics of what I’ve accomplished. This year was the highest mileage year ever for me, with a short 2 mile run this morning, to land at 1,111 miles for the year. This is higher than I’ve ever done by over 200 miles.

RunningGraph2015

Even more striking is the amount of elevation change I’ve endured over the year. I climbed almost 20,000 more feet this year than last year with over 33,000 feet total.

RunningElevationGraph2015

IMG_3529In addition to all of my running, I also committed to more biking this year, and benefited a lot from the additional cross training. I logged over 500 miles for the year, and enjoyed moving my legs somewhat differently than when running.

When all is said and done, 2015 was an amazing year for me and running. I challenged myself with things that I have never thought I could do before, and I’ve given myself confidence to try even more things in the future. I still need to work on my weight loss, getting back down to where I want to be, but I understand things take time. I’m thankful for everyone who’s supported me, and run with me in 2015. I’m excited to make many more memories in 2016, and continuing this crazy adventure that I started only 6 years ago.

Create-a-thon 2015

This week marks the end of my goal to create something every single day of 2015. Although I’ve been late a couple of times throughout the year, I have managed to create a blog entry of some fashion for every single day. I knew I was a bit worried when I started that I would lose interest a few months into the year, but I’m happy to report that I kept it going, and felt that some of my entries from the second half of the year were just as strong as the start.

As a bonus my friend Wes also joined me in blogging everyday, and has also completed his journey as well!

A few interesting points of note:

  • I tried doing some audio blogging, and though I liked it, I did lose rhythm with it and never continued it. I feel I’d need to be more dedicated to keep up with a podcast type of blog than trying to just randomly sprinkle in some audio posts.
  • Many days I simply created a picture. Some people might find that a cop-out, but what I discovered is that sometimes I wouldn’t have anything to say, but I could always find something to take a picture of.
  • I’ve managed 5,412 views, 3,525 visitors and 713 likes, with only a couple days left to go.
  • My most viewed story was my Open Letter to Minnesota Liquor Stores.
  • My second most viewed was my Spongebob movie review, which I totally didn’t expect.
  • Most of my writing fell into certain categories, but beer and running topped the list as my two most talked about topics. Technology was probably a close third.

My wife has asked me if I’m planning to continue in 2016 with this trend. I’m currently on the fence about it, but I’m leaning a little bit towards continuing. I have a few more days to decide for sure 🙂

Big thanks to everyone who’s been following me and commenting in 2015. I hope you have a great start into the New Year, and Happy Blogging!

 

Why I don’t homebrew as much anymore

One of the things that readers of this blog know is that I really like beer. I’m often at new breweries trying new beers, or picking up local beers when I’m out of town. I really like beer.

Since 2008 I’ve also been a homebrewer. A good friend of mine got me into the hobby and I’ve had a lot of fun growing myself from a simple extract setup to my full all-grain process, with a keg freezer for easier dispensing. However, for the past year or so I haven’t been homebrewing nearly as much as I used to.

For many years I was actively brewing beer, sometimes multiple times in a weekend. I’ve entered homebrew competitions, and even won a few medals. I joined a local homebrew club and attended a lot of meetings, and volunteered at some of our competitions. I’d also often give away bottles of my beer to friends, and trade bottles with other brewers.

Yet, in the past year I’ve brewed only twice (that I can recall). I still have a half a keg of my last brew that I’m slowly working through, and I even have in my head what my next brew will be, but I still haven’t bothered to actually brew it. So what has changed that I’m not longer as interested in the hobby as I used to be?

I think that a few things have contributed to my change in habit. There’s the obvious reason that often happens to people; life gets busy, and it’s hard to make time for hobbies, especially ones that take an entire afternoon on a weekend. But I think that even more than that, the main reason I’ve stopped brewing as much, is the explosion of really good local beer on the market.

For many years, the selection of local craft beer was 2-3 brands. Summit, Surly and Schell’s were about the only breweries out there producing decent craft beer in my area, and despite producing decent stuff, if you wanted more adventure you had to make it yourself. You could look at out-of-state breweries, and I often did. I’ve bought tons of beer from west coast and east coast breweries that have helped to fill in the gaps that local brewers weren’t filling. But again, if I wanted something local, it doesn’t get more local than my own garage.

In the past 3-4 years however, our local craft beer scene has exploded with dozens of new breweries. Some of these are taproom-only affairs, but now that canning craft beer has become so popular, many of these small breweries have started distributing as well. It’s easy to head to the local liquor store and have my pick of dozens of different brews from all over the state. Despite the quality being somewhat hit/miss in the early days, now, just about everything you get is well done.

In addition, most of these breweries also have taprooms that allow you to relax and enjoys some pints in a cool, hip environment. Many taprooms feature incredibly unique brews that you can’t get in store, like amazing sours and limited edition seasonal brews and infusions. Growlers make it super easy to take the beer home with you and keep my fridge stocked with even more choices. Additionally, with so many nice places to go and drink beer at, it’s sometimes desirable to go out for a beer instead of staying in.

I think that this explosion is the main motivator behind why I don’t brew quite as much anymore. Competitions don’t really interest me anymore, as I find them to mostly be a crap-shoot once you’re at the level of brewing good beer. Homebrew clubs can be fun, but if you’re not brewing, then going to club meetings doesn’t make as much sense.

All this combines to mean that for the foreseeable future, I’ll probably just be an occasional brewer. I doubt I’ll ever give up the hobby completely, but I doubt I’ll ever be quite as active a homebrewer as I once was.

Running Analysis

Yesterday my wife and I had the unique opportunity to have a running analysis done by Joe Uhan from iRunFar.com. He was in town and was at one of the local running stores doing free analyses for a couple of hours. A friend of ours joined us and all three of us had Joe take a look at how we were running and give suggestions about how we could improve.

One of the things I liked about the analysis was that Joe used his phone to video me running in a couple different positions, and then we reviewed the video with him asking me questions and pointing out things visually. He then had me make a couple corrections, and video’d me again to show the difference.

The main thing that he wants me to work on is using my toes to push off with. Splaying my toes and really putting power into my push off. Not only does this help me be more power efficient but it has the added benefit of correcting my “riding in the back” stance. One of the other things that the video showed is that I stand up too tall and don’t lean forward enough when running. This means that I’m over-striding, not because of my leg reach, but because of body position. By pushing off with my toes more, it forces my upper body forward, correct that position to be more correct.

It was really cool to get an outside opinion on my running form, and it will be hard work trying to put it into practice over the next few months. At least when I’m able to, right now everything is completely snow covered, and any running form is bad as you’re just trying to stay upright.