Doing some race directing

A couple of years ago I started hearing about winter ultramarathons. These are long winter events that are steeped in the survivalist culture of Alaskan events such as Iditarod. The idea is that you go a long distance in the middle of winter, with only your gear, and your wits, to help you survive.

Modern winter ultramarathons are still survivalist events, but in a slightly more structured environment. Participants traverse a set distance by foot, fat bike, or ski, within a prescribed timeline, carrying all their gear with them as they go. There are no lush aid stations, and you can’t accept help from anyone who’s not involved in the race. The biggest ones in the upper Midwest are the Arrowhead 135 and the Tuscobia 80/160. As the names imply, these are huge distances (135, 80, and 160 miles respectively), and for beginners, they feel out of reach.

I started having conversations with folks about shorter distance versions of these races, and discovered that none really exist anywhere near me. So, I did the next most logical thing for someone who thinks like I do. I created my own.

On Monday we announced our first ever race, the St. Croix 40 Winter Ultra, which will be held on January 12-13th at St. Croix State Park, near Hinckley, MN. This short-course event will give people a chance to see if they have what it takes to even attempt the longer distances. Participants will also need to prove that they can use their gear, such as their bivy-sack and stove. These are key elements for surviving a harsh Minnesota winter night, while traveling 40 miles alone.

I’m no stranger to running things, I do it for my career. I’ve also run multiple aid stations at some of the biggest trail ultras in the Midwest. Of course, none of that is going to make us any less anxious and nervous about stepping up to the big leagues and fully directing a race. However, I’m incredibly excited about this idea, and I can’t wait to show people how amazing winter in Minnesota can be. I want to give people a chance to experience these amazing events in a safe and constructive way, and help them build confidence for the future. I also want to help them learn to respect the history and tradition of these events, and how to give honor to those who are doing even more amazing things than this.

Today begins a new adventure. I’m stoked to see where it all leads.

2017 Year in Review

2017 was one of those years that seemed to take forever. Maybe it was the changing political climate, or the anticipation of big life events coming up, but it feels like I’ve been writing the date 2017 for a long time.

The year started with the inauguration of a president that causes myself, and many like me, great fear and embarrassment. As someone who has spent a career in government, it is painful to watch it shredded by people who have no idea what it is that government actually does, or how it does it. It became a frequent topic on social media, and I ended up creating an entirely different Facebook Page to share my blog on, so that I wasn’t constantly being dragged into arguments.

IMG_1725.jpgAside from politics, this year also saw the passing of my father-in-law, and a lot of activity around that. Thankfully, this was the only funeral that I needed to attend this year. It did mean some big changes around the holidays for our extended family, but overall, it’s been going OK.

I continued to visit many breweries in 2017. Twice this year we ended up in the Council Bluffs/Omaha area, and I got to see some of the best beer that Iowa has to offer. We also made a trip up to the Brainerd area and got to try four solid Minnesota breweries that I’d love to go back to. I made a few trips up the North Shore, and always hit my favorites, as well as some new haunts. Even extreme south west Minnesota has some cool beer to offer. All of this was in addition to continuing to sample the amazing beer culture that has developed around the Twin Cities area. I used to have to brew my own beer to get creative, new stuff, but not anymore.

IMG_1893.jpgMy biking and running posts summarized my year in those areas well. I did try to do some weight training early in the year, but ended up falling away from that. Right now, I’m just dealing with a weight problem that I need to solve early in 2018. Despite all of this, I still feel like I’m in better shape than I was 10 years ago. I’m getting older, but I know I can still accomplish a lot.

The family continued to grow and become adults. It’s amazing to see the little boys that I used to chase around, turn in to men with jobs, cars, and apartments. Despite regrets about what type of parent I was, I am happy that it seems like everyone is getting along OK, and becoming productive members of society.

On that same note, it’s hard to believe that next year Lisa and I celebrate our first five years of marriage. It’s been an amazing journey, and we’ve had some incredible adventures. I know that the future will continue to bring many more amazing times as well.

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My job is still a job. I struggle with being interested in corporate IT anymore, but it pays the bills, and I’m actually a really good manager, which gives me some satisfaction. There are days that I want to just get rid of it all and buy and RV and live on the road, but then other days I look at my paycheck and realize that giving that up is harder than you’d think.

Overall, it’s been a good year. I’m excited for 2018 and another kid graduating high school. I’m also excited about opportunities with groups like Upper Midwest Trail Runners, and the Beer & Bikes group. I enjoy the circles that these groups travel in, and they give me a lot of pleasure to be a part of. Hopefully, I’ll still be able to balance work and life next year so that I can do the things I want, which being able to afford it.

As we close the book on 2018, remember to hug those you love, and remember that life isn’t always as long as we think. Things are scary in the world, but as long as we stick together, we’ll make it through stronger on the other side. Thank you for journeying with me again in 2017, and we’ll see you all next year!

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2017 Running Year in Review

2017 was supposed to be another high point in my running. After completing two years with over 1100 miles, multiple ultra races, and feeling like I was at the top of my game, 2017 was going to be more of the same. However, the second half of 2016 started to see a slow decline in my running, and everything pretty much came apart in 2017.

runninggraphI tried to start strong, but by February, injury and illness had sidelined me for many days when I should have been out there moving. By July I made the decision that I wasn’t having fun with this, and I needed to make an adjustment. I cancelled all my big races for the year and started just focusing on smaller, 25K-ish distances. That worked pretty well to help me enjoy things more, but it still didn’t dull the frustration that my body just isn’t where it should be. I’ve even had some mental breakdowns in the past couple months with frustration about what I’m able to accomplish right now vs. what I want.

17807508_10211516353697703_2921031989954479547_oAll of this aside, I still had a mostly decent year from a mileage perspective. As of the time of this writing I’m just over 700 miles, and might still sneak in one more run before the grand total is set. My runs were mostly shorter, with my longest being 19 miles at the Icebox 480 event. My speed has dropped considerably, and so many of my runs are not at the same performance level of years past. I did manage a few cool races, including the Bluff Tuff Half, Trail Mix 25K, and the Grand Traverse 16 miler. None of these were blowing apart speed records, but I found a way to enjoy them.

So where do I go from here? In 2018 I need to work on getting things back in shape physically. The first part of that is losing 15-20 lbs. I need to get my weight back down to where it was in 2011 and keep it there. Carrying around extra pounds is killer when trying to run. Second, I have started visiting a chiropractor more regularly to get my back in alignment, and hopefully help with some of my other aches and pains.

IMG_0192Finally, I just simply need to run more often in 2018. I need to commit to getting out the door at least 4 times per week, and spending time on my feet. I lamented recently about finding time to run, and that’s something I need to focus on more in 2018. I’ve got an idea for a schedule in my head, and hopefully I can pull it off. I also need to ensure I’m getting in as much cross training as I can to strengthen other areas of my body besides my running legs. I think a reason I came up with so many injuries this year was due to being pretty out of balance.

My plan for races in 2018 is to continue to keep focused on shorter distances, however, I do want to get in at least one 50K. I haven’t fully decided which one it will be yet, but I’m targeting some time in Spring. That means getting off my butt in the winter and getting it done. I’d also like to hit a few races that I’ve never been to, and make them into mini-vacations, maybe with some brewery tourism alongside them. There’s a lot of cool races that offer shorter distances that I might be able to take part in.

I’m also going to continue to volunteer a lot at races this year. I love helping run races, and spending time at aid stations and helping other runners, brings me a lot of joy. I know that this will continue to always be a part of my running life. I might even look into the possibilities of directing some races myself as well.

17761188_1292694630811795_2395707704103357846_oDespite 2017 not being what I wanted it to be, I’m excited for the future. I’m starting to feel mentally more connected to running again. I want to be better at this, and I know that takes work. It may mean that I need to prioritize other things in life differently, but I’m hopeful I can keep everything in balance as much as possible. After all, running is nothing if not a balancing act.

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2017 Biking Year in Review

2017 was another good year for me when it came to biking. I set a goal early in the year of matching last year’s total of just over 650 miles, and I’m happy to report that I met that goal. My 2017 total was 653 miles, which is just 5 miles shy of my 2016 total. Despite matching my previous year’s total in mileage there were a few significant differences with my biking this year.

First of all, I biked a lot more days than in 2016. In 2017 I went out a total of 78 times for rides, vs. 55 rides in 2016. However, since I managed roughly the same distance, that meant that my average ride was shorter. The big difference was in my Sunday morning rides. In 2016 I had three 30+ mile rides, in addition to my annual 50 miler. However, in 2017 I only had a single 26 mile ride in addition to my 50.

IMG_1582.jpgMy 2017 totals were helped by my more consistent riding on Wednesday nights for the Beer & Bike group. I managed to ride 6 more Wednesdays this year than last year, only missing 8 rides all season. I also managed to commute to work a couple of times this year, which I really hope to continue more of next year.

IMG_1827.jpgI also had a chance to get more involved in bike work this year. I did some basic maintenance on my current Trek, and volunteered at the Free Bikes for Kidz event, fixing up bikes. I’ve also started working on rehabing an old cheap bike to see if I can make some nice improvements to it to make it more comfortable.

I would love to commit to getting a fat bike in 2018, but I’m not sure I can justify the expanse. I would love to have a reason to extend the biking season into the colder months, but for now I’ll have to be content with just running in the winter. I also want to commit to more long rides in 2018. IMG_1868.jpgI feel like I missed out on a lot of mileage this year that I could have easily gotten if I had just hauled my butt out of bed on a weekend morning. I also need to get my wife out riding more, as I think she only came with me on one or two occasions.

I’m looking forward to an exciting 2018 in the biking realm, and I have a lot of high hopes for what I can achieve. My mileage goal will be upped from this year, and I’m going to need to really commit to spending more time in the saddle, even when I don’t feel quite like it. I hope your 2017 involved some 2 wheel fun, and that you’re also looking forward to a great 2018!

The blog in 2018

Three years ago I embarked on a journey. I decided to start blogging on a daily basis, and for the most part, I’ve kept that up for three years. It’s been an amazing journey, and a phenomenal challenge. However, it’s also been a bit of a struggle as of late. Trying to keep my mind fresh enough to post something unique and interesting every single day can be fun, but it can also be a struggle. Especially, since I feel like I have a lot of other things on my plate right now.

Therefore, in 2018 I will be reducing the number of posts that I make. Don’t get worried though, I’m still going to be here quite regularly. I’m simply going to drop from 7 posts per week to 3-4. That will allow me a bit more time to work on long-form pieces that I feel need more attention, as well as be more intentional with the photo posts that I do.

Spending the past three years blogging on a daily basis has been an incredible way to get the juices going, but now I feel like I need to spend more time being thoughtful in what I write, and ensuring that I’m completing my arguments like I want, or spinning the tale that I want to share. I want to be a better, and more creative, writer, and the next step in that journey is to take all the momentum from the past three years and put it to work on honing my writing craft.

I can’t wait to see where this will take me in 2018, but I’m excited to give it a shot!