2019 Year in Review

As tradition dictates, it’s time for my annual New Year’s Eve Year in Review. I’ve been doing this since 2005, and there’s no reason to stop now. As I looked back over some of those early entries (on a previous blog) each of them seemed to start with, “Wow, it was a big year!” Once again, that’s probably the only way to sum up 2019.

39767886713_1f3cb38578_kThe year started out with Lisa and I putting on our first event, the St Croix 40 Winter Ultra. This was a dream of ours for years, and in January we got to see it happen. People had a great time, and our mission of educating people about how to survive in winter events was a success. As I write this, we’re gearing up for the 2020 version in just under two week.

img_3667February saw more singing gigs with Lisa in choir. I got to attend some wonderful concerts throughout 2019, including a very special one focused on African American music, that I dragged my friend Michael to. Lisa’s continued with Vocal Essence into this season, and so the end of 2019 has also been filled with different concerts. This time I’ve been volunteering as an usher for them which has been a lot of fun.

My biking year started off strong with my fat bike, and despite some issues finding a good bike rack that I liked, I had a great beginning of the season. As soon as the snow started falling at the end of the year I grabbed the fat tires again and began commuting to the train station almost every day (instead of driving). In the summer months I bought a new gravel bike, and can’t wait to get back on it come Spring.

DSC09185March saw me taking a trip with my youngest to Chicago. It was a great time together, and I feel like we started to communicate more as adults on that trip. I know our relationship hasn’t always been the smoothest, but I feel like we’re in a good place now. I finally feel like I’m becoming more of the dad I always should have been.

The running season kicked into high gear in April and the trail race season kept me busy on quite a few weekends. Although, this year we did opt to skip a couple of traditional races, just so that we could reclaim some of our Summer. It also afforded us more time to take the biggest trip we’ve ever done. We headed to Lake Tahoe in California to help our friend Julie with her 200 mile race, and then immediately hopped on a train to Colorado to help Mike with his 100 miler. It was an epic adventure and completely exhausting. Even though we’d never do it the same way that we did, I can’t say I regret it. I got to see so many amazing things that I can’t be sad about being tired and worn out.

fabdd329-48b1-43f9-8e24-b59bafaac483In my personal races I had my biggest year yet (not an exaggeration) running my first 100K race, my first 100 mile race, and attempting my first winter ultra marathon. These, along with a few other smaller races, gave me some incredible memories to wrap up a decade of running. I’ll be posting a more substantial recap of my decade of running in the coming weeks. I’m not 100% sure what 2020 will hold, but I know that I have zero regrets about what I’ve accomplished, and where I’ve met my limits. I’m in this for the long haul, and I’ve got lots of time to accomplish whatever I want to set my mind to.

By May we settled into some nice weekend adventures, often to State Parks we had never been to before. Some of them were a bit buggier than we wanted, but we almost always had a good time. Because of our long trip out west, we didn’t do quite as many weekend trips this year, but that’s probably a decent trade-off. We had planed on a final trip up north before winter hit hard, but alas, just like in years past we had to cancel everything due to a massive snowstorm that was socking the area.

76685742_564700044286447_2390032945264984064_o.jpgI continued as the president of the board of directors for the Upper Midwest Trail Runners Association for another year. I’ve entered my second term, and will probably start to wind down my involvement and pass the baton in the coming years. I feel like I’ve done a good job leading the organization, and it’s time for others to come and leave their mark.

img_0357Although I didn’t brew any beer this year, I got to sample quite a bit. Towards the end of the year I had hit my 2500th unique beer since I started tracking in Untappd. I love collecting new flavors, and trying new things. Beer is often just another adventure for me, and a way to experience the flavors of the world in a delightful package. I still have all my beer brewing equipment, so perhaps next year will see at least one brew day again.

We also got to see a lot of new tv shows and movies this year. Some of our favorites were The Expanse, the Mandelorian, and the Boys. We also got into watching some great YouTube channels like How to Drink and Binging with Babish. And of course, the wonderful world of Bon Appétit, especially the Gourmet Makes series.

On the blogging front, I tried to be a bit more consistent by having regular features. I put together a bunch of product reviews that became my “Tuesday Review-Day” series. I also started tracking my fitness in a weekly recap blog that went beyond the numbers to a journal of how the week went overall. I still haven’t settled on my theme for the blog next year, but I feel like Finding My Best Life was a great theme for 2019.

There were lots of other things that happened in 2019, such as changing jobs, going to concerts, and visiting lots of people. In many ways I feel like I found my best life.

2019 Running Year in Review

The year 2019 is my tenth year of running, and is seems appropriate that I celebrate that milestone with a bang. I’ll be writing a retrospective post on the past decade in a few days, but for the moment I want to spend a little time looking back at just this past year, and how I’ve grown and changed as a runner.

After a couple of down years, 2018 was a strong year for me. I found my groove and figured out how to get back to loving running. I continued that trend into 2019 and decided to tackle some challenges that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. In fact, 2019 blew the doors off of anything I’ve done in previous years.

DSC02628I started out the year with something fun and stupid, the Sandlot Minor League Half-Marathon. That means 13.1 miles around a baseball diamond. It was crazy and my right hip hurt for 2 weeks after that. However, it was fun to get out and support some of my crazy friends.

In May things got more serious with The Willow 20 mile race. This was a newer race on the scene put on by veteran race director Chris Swenke. He does a great job with his races, and this one was no exception. It was a fun course, and I had a great time. It wasn’t the fastest 20 miles I’ve ever done, but I enjoyed myself which is what counts.

bt-trail-races-341From there it was time to really get down to business. That’s because I decided to sign up for my first ever 100K race, the Badger 100K. This is a race put on by the Ten Junk Miles crew who are friends of mine. I’ve wanted to do a rail trail for a while, and this looked like the perfect excuse. It also had a super generous cutoff (over 30 hours) which meant I could take as long as I needed. I didn’t need the full 30, and finished under 18, with a lot of learning in my head to take with me into the future.

I put that to the test when two weeks later I did the Marquette 50K. Since I was still recovering from Badger, I didn’t go into Marquette with any big time goals in mind. I had signed up for Marquette the past two years, but for one reason or another never made it out there. This time my friend Mike make sure I showed up. Expect for climbing Hogsback, this race was a ton of fun, and I encouraged my wife to sign up for the 2020 version. It’s just the kind of course that she’ll love. Plus, I get to tag along and spend some time visiting the town next year.

fabdd329-48b1-43f9-8e24-b59bafaac483All of this led to my biggest accomplishment of 2019 which was my first 100 mile race at the Savage 100. This course was the site of my first ultramarathon distance and so it was appropriate to mark this milestone here. The race went as perfectly as I could have hoped, and I was tremendously proud of how well I worked myself up to this. Now that I’ve broken the 100 mile barrier, I can see myself making a few more attempts at that in my lifetime.

Finally, I’m finishing out the year with the Tuscobia 80, my first winter ultramarathon. It’s ironic that the whole reason I started the St Croix 40 Winter Ultra was because there was no place for people to get experience with winter ultras without stepping up to the 80 mile distance. Yet, now here I am doing the 80 myself. Unfortunately, the race didn’t go as well as I hoped and I dropped at mile 35. My back wasn’t tolerating pulling the sled, so I have some things to work on in the future.

img_4937As with last year, a large part of my training was done running with my wife. That meant I was moving a little slower than normal for me, which really helped me with the long slow slogs of the 100K and 100 mile. It helped me build up endurance instead of just speed (which I’m pretty much given up on ever having in abundance again).

img_5369As an added bonus, we also got to spend time pacing friends on their races. We headed to Lake Tahoe to help Julie with the Tahoe 200 and then headed right to Colorado for Mike’s 100 mile race in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. All of this work built up the tools that I needed to make this an amazing year.

When all is said and done, this was a massive year for me. Even with my DNF at Tuscobia I managed 6 ultra distance events between racing and pacing. I’ve never attempted more than 2 in a year before. In hindsight, it was probably too many, and my goals for next year will be a bit more reasonable. I need to remember to balance out my desire to “do everything” with the realities of burn-out.

I’m not finishing the year with as much mileage as last year, but I’m OK with that. Combined with all the extra biking that I did, this was still my most active year ever. I’m learning to find that balance with biking, running, and hiking, that makes me a well rounded outdoors person, not just a runner. I’m loving looking for adventures, and I want to be ready for them, whatever mode of transport is required.

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2018 Biking Year In Review

Although not quite as big as my running year, 2018 saw me biking a lot more than I ever have in the past. I’ve really come to love the idea of two wheeled transport, and wish that my job was close enough for me to actually do it as a commuting option. I did commute a couple times this year, but not nearly as much as I would like to. My wife and I also didn’t get out quite as much as I had hoped together, but I did get her a new bike seat, so hopefully that will help encourage some additional adventures next year.

IMG_2248.JPGAt the beginning of the year I picked up some studded tires for my hybrid bike, and gave a little bit of winter riding a try. I only got out a couple of times, but it was a lot of fun, and showed me that you can actually do this year round. Once the snow cleared I was able to start getting out a bit more regularly.

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PC: Michael Tangen

One of the most consistent times that I ride is on Wednesday nights with our Beer & Bikes crew. My friend Michael started this years ago and it’s been a great way to keep consistently riding each week. Our little group grew a bit this year and we’ve added a few new regulars. It’s been fun getting to know more people through the biking community, as it’s still a group that I’m not quite as connected to.

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PC: Abe McEtheron

I also managed some nice weekend rides, including a trip down to Saint Paul to cheer on the Twin Cities Marathon. I had a ton of fun on this ride and might make it a tradition. I also did my third annual Fall Fifty+Five ride. This is a 50 mile bike ride that include stops at 5 different breweries. This year we had a ton of people join us, and from the sounds of it almost everyone had a great time.

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PC: Michael Tangen

One of the other joys of biking this year is learning more and more about how to maintain and fix bikes. I spent a lot of time learning about how to tune up my ride and even make some slightly more in-depth repairs, such as shifters and disc brakes. I then got to practice my skills with the wonderful organization Free Bikes 4 Kidz. They take donated bikes and fix them up to give away to kids who don’t have bikes. It’s a great thing to be a part of, and I’m super happy that our Beer & Bikes group did this activity again this year.

DSC08967Finally, this fall I took the plunge and purchased a fat bike. I’ve only managed a handful of rides so far this winter, but simply knowing that I have the option is awesome. Plus, I feel like I’m much more likely to connect with the adventure/off-road biking community than the typical road bikers. Similar to how I’m more of a trail runner than road runner. Maybe it has to do with the beer and beards?

Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 12.09.07 PMAt the end of it all I had a new high mileage year of 735 miles, which is not too shabby for someone who also ran 1602 miles throughout the year. I’m hoping to break 1000 next year with my ability to get on wheels in the winter time now. The biggest challenge I’m currently facing is trying to sell my old bike rack so that I can buy one that will fit my fat tire bike. Hopefully, I’ll have that squared away soon.

Cheers to all my fellow beer loving bikers, and can’t wait to do more rides in 2019!

 

2018 Running Year In Review

2018 was the biggest, and most different running year I’ve had yet. As I entered the year, I had to make some changes to my mental state if I was going to have more success than I did in 2017. After coming off some incredibly big years in 2015 and 2016, I ended up spending a lot of 2017 trying to push a reset button. When I started out in January of 2018 I was still battling some injuries, some illness, and some questioning of what I wanted my year to look like in running.

IMG_2344Early on I decided that I wasn’t going to sign up for any races in 2018 until I was sure I was ready for them. In fact 2018 ended up being one of my lowest number of race years ever. I wanted to get back to the joy of running, and continually banging my head against the wall of races I wasn’t ready for wasn’t a good idea. All of that needed to change.

IMG_2456I started the year out slow and steady and built up some good long runs as the weeks progressed. By February things were starting to really click again, and I was feeling great with having zero pressure about an upcoming race day. In March I managed a couple really solid 20+ mile runs, one of them with my good friend Mike. It was after that run with Mike that I decided I was ready for another shot at an ultra. I went home and signed up for the Chippewa 50K which was a little over a month away.

31880916_1004097819714989_4681658212569579520_nRace day came and I was tremendously nervous. Once I got on course I started to calm down, but at the start I still had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t ready. In the end though I managed to get it done, and despite not setting any PRs, I came away from the race with a lot of knowledge about myself, and how to continue to move myself through the dark places we fall in to on ultras.

33781994_1983613511649334_4959292251567030272_oI decided to join my wife at the Treasured Haven Farms 12 hour run, and once again knocked out a 50K+ distance race. If it hadn’t been for the horrendous heat and humidity that day I probably would have hit 40 miles, but I decided to just take what I could with the conditions. Once again, I felt like I learned a lot about how you should never decide that how you feel at one point in a race is how you will feel throughout the entirety. I had a wonderful comeback at the end of that race that showed me things can change incredibly quickly.

The rest of the year only had 4 other races, a couple of which were just little fun 5Ks. The real story of the year though is how strong I was able to be throughout. I managed to set multiple PRs on the Afton 25K loop, and found myself in a position to simply “choose my own adventure” for most of my long runs. Sometimes this would result in 2-a-days, simply because I felt good and wanted to get out again. Other times I found myself discovering new places, and having little adventures that were simple but meaningful.

Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 9.31.32 AMPerhaps the biggest story of 2018 for me is that I finished up the year with a new all time total of 1602 miles on the year. This is a HUGE milestone for me, as my previous high mileage year was 1160 miles. One of the biggest reasons I was able to do this was because I chose to run with my wife Lisa on many days. This accomplished two things. It got me out more often, since she was on a training plan, and I wanted to spend time with her. It also meant that I was running a lot slower in my training runs, and that allowed me to really pound out a lot more miles, a lot stronger than I had been able to in the past.

IMG_20180708_084140I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in 2018. I have signed up for a couple races in 2019 already, but I’m approaching everything much more cautiously, and looking to try and just maintain and build slowly. I don’t know if 2019 will be as big or bigger than 2018, but I’m not really all that concerned. My attitude towards running has completely changed, and I’m finding joy in the process again. It’s a great place to be, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

2018 Year in Review

Like clockwork, it’s New Years Eve and time once again for me to work on my 2018 year in review. This year was a big year in many ways, but for the most part, much of it was good. I didn’t blog as much in 2018, and that was intentional. I had been doing a daily blog post for 3 years straight, and I simply needed a break. It was a great mental exercise, and sometimes I miss it, but I was happy to have less pressure to create content on a daily basis. My plan for 2019 is to move towards a more scheduled, and regular, approach to posts, but it won’t be daily again in 2019.

My lack of blogging, and a very busy weekend, meant that I still need to do my yearly running and biking review. Despite being 2019 tomorrow, I think I’ll post those in the coming days as a reflection of the past year. I’ve got some big news to share in my running one in particular.

2018 was a year of changes and self-discovery for me. As my kids have gotten older I’ve found myself questioning more and more what I want to do with the second half of my life. I’ve mused about this on multiple occasions on this blog, but still don’t have any solid answers. However, I’m feeling more secure that I’m on a journey that will soon find some enlightenment.

At the end of 2017 I wrote the following words:

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.

Those words are even truer this year than last. I changed jobs in 2018, making a lateral position move to a place where I assumed there would be less stress and more opportunity. However, just the opposite has happened. My final months of 2018 have been some of the worst times I’ve ever had in my IT career, and I’m more and more determined to make some kind of change in the coming year.

This year I also had the milestone of celebrating my oldest son’s graduation from high school. Although he’s not quite on the college path that we had assumed he would be on, he’s making progress and is learning more and more what it means to be an adult. He’s a smart kid and I have no doubt that he’ll work it all out in time.

We managed some travel this year with our annual trip to Vegas in the winter, a bunch of trips for races, and a nice camping journey in the Porkies. I also took my oldest with me to Milwaukee where I got some new tattoo’s and we got to spend some father-son time together. Despite these trips, we didn’t get the camper out as much as we had hoped, and next year we need to spend more time relaxing in natural places.

One other exciting part of 2018 is that my wife and I started a small company to put on trail races, and our first race is coming up in January 2019. The St Croix 40 Winter Ultra is a winter-survivalist race, overnight in the cold. It’s meant to be a training ground for tougher races like the Tuscobia 80/160 or the Arrowhead 135. It’s also meant to be a place for Lisa and I to start developing our chops and hopefully expand to other events in the future.

I continued for another year as the President of the Board for the Upper Midwest Trail Runners Association, and plan on keeping that up for a bit longer. I love giving back to a wonderful community, and feel proud every thing this group has been able to accomplish in 2018. I’ve found that I love being a part of vibrant communities that bring joy to people.

A few other notable items from 2018 in no particular order

  • Got back to brewing some beer for the first time in a while
  • Visited dozens of taprooms and had lots of fun brewery trips
  • Got an awesome portrait lens for my camera which has been amazingly fun
  • Went to lots of MN United FC games and am really stoked about the new stadium next season
  • Read more books than I have in a long time

Finally, I did end up finishing the year with a tougher bout of anxiety than I’ve had in a long time. It came with all kinds of strange new symptoms, but from all my medical tests (and I’ve had a lot of them), I’m mostly healthy. I’m hoping that like in the past things will slowly calm back down and I’ll be able to return to a more normal feeling body. I know a lot of my issues relate to my sense of identity and purpose in my life, so perhaps as my job/career situation gets more settled things will get easier.

Here’s to wishing all of you a happy new year, and a happy 2019. Thank you for everyone that’s shared this journey of 2018 with me, and I look forward to more adventures to come.