Four reasons why you should run a marathon

Marathon starting line stoke: It's real, man. (Kirk Wells/Route 66 marathon photo)

Marathon starting line stoke: It’s real, man. (Kirk Wells/Route 66 Marathon photo)

So the fall race season has come to an end, and a whole slew of people finished their journey to 26.2, as in crossing that finish line for their first marathon. When you hear this news, you are one of three types of people: You appreciate having more member of the marathon tribe, as you’ve been there and done that; you shake your head, as there ain’t no way you’d do that; or you are curious about trying it out.

This post is all about those second two types. I’ll try to change your mind, or in the case of the curious, I’ll give you the nudge you need to sign up for that next big race.

Here are four reasons why you should run a marathon:

The challenge. When it comes to feats of physical prowess, there aren’t a lot of tests out there more serious and difficult than gearing up for your first marathon. It takes a few months minimum to train up for one, and the level of commitment to run all those miles for weeks on end is big. And so is the race. Can you do it? Do you have what it takes? Only one way to find out!

The fitness benefits. By the time I’d wrapped up marathon training, I was leaner and faster than I’d ever been (my fastest 5K, 10K, 15K and half marathon times all came within my first marathon training season). My cardiovascular strength was through the roof. If you can stay healthy, eat right and push on through training, you very well could end up in the best shape of your life.

The mental benefits. This is two-fold. First, long distance running has a meditative quality that is great for clearing your mind and emptying stress from everyday life. Second, by the time you get to where you’re running 20 miles on your weekly long runs, you’re going to have a sky-high level of mental toughness. Build that up and there’s no telling what you’ll be able to do.

Is it possible to feel this good as you cross the marathon finish line? Only one way to find out. (Chris Barnes/Route 66 Marathon photo)

Is it possible to feel this good as you cross the marathon finish line? Only one way to find out. (Chris Barnes/Route 66 Marathon photo)

The bragging rights. Unless you hang out with a pack of marathoners, there is a very good chance that only a rare few of your friends or family members will able to say they’ve done what you’ve done. Whether you finish 26.2 in three hours or six, crossing that finish line is a rare act of willpower. After your first, you might even amaze yourself with what you’ve done. Feeling the crowd support, crossing that finish and collecting that medal will feel pretty sweet. Once a marathoner, always a marathoner. No one can take that away.

So are you feeling the stoke? Find a good training program. Look for a goal race. Sign up.

Bob Doucette

Turkey Mountain update: Mall developer unveils its plans, and what you can do about it

I love these views at Turkey Mountain. But they're at risk.

I love these views at Turkey Mountain. But they’re at risk.

It’s been a little while since I’ve touched on the developments surrounding a proposed outlet mall at Turkey Mountain in Tulsa. Quite a bit has happened since then.

First, a few preliminaries for those of you unfamiliar with Turkey Mountain…

Turley Mountain is an urban wilderness area in southwest Tulsa, intentionally left as wild as possible and undeveloped, with the exception of a system of dirt trails and minimal signage. It’s become a local haven for hikers, cyclists, runners, families and equestrians, and it’s a true asset to the city.

Turkey Mountain is a conglomerate of properties. The city’s River Parks Authority operates the eastern part of Turkey Mountain, while the western section is privately owned by an assortment of property owners. Established trails run throughout the west side, including some which lead to the Westside YMCA. One piece of property is owned by a landowner who is seeking to sell it to Simon Properties, a huge mall development company that wants to build an outlet mall there. Construction of such a mall – and the infrastructure expansion that would come with it – would disturb or destroy wildlife habitat, eat some of those trails, and could have other negative impacts on the watershed in the Turkey Mountain area.

Needless to say, a lot of us are opposed to this proposal and would like to see the outlet mall built somewhere else. But Simon is intent on going through with its plans. On to the updates…

Simon unveiled its plans

On Friday, Simon Properties unveiled its plans for its proposed mall at Turkey Mountain. They’re dubbing it “Tulsa Premium Outlets,” boasting that it will have 80 stores and bring 800 jobs to the area, according to the Tulsa World newspaper.

A map of the outlet mall Simon Properties wants to build at Turkey Mountain's west side.

A map of the outlet mall Simon Properties wants to build at Turkey Mountain’s west side.

The map of the proposal shows what Simon calls an open air “village” type format, surrounded by a large parking lot. I didn’t see anything on the plans to indicate a buffer between the lot and the rest of Turkey Mountain, aside from what I guess is the thin strips of green along the fringes; all I can assume is that the mall will be separated from the rest of the area by a fence, a wall, or something like that. I could be wrong about that. Maybe Simon has plans to mitigate the encroachment this mall would have on the rest of Turkey Mountain. If so, a bunch of us would like to hear it.

Simon has competition

Friday’s press conference was the third of three from outlet mall developers this fall. Two other competitors – the Cherokee Nation and Horizon Properties earlier showcased plans for upscale outlet malls on the east side of the Tulsa metro area.

The Cherokees want to build a huge outlet mall adjacent to their golf course and casino complex in Catoosa, a small town just northeast of Tulsa. The city of Tulsa would rather have something inside Tulsa’s city limits as to collect sales tax dollars. So the money angle is big. But the Cherokees have the land, the money and the existing attractions to make it work.

Horizon’s proposal is on Tulsa’s east side and within the city limits. But for whatever reason, the city seems to like Simon’s proposal better.

In any case, there is agreement that only one of these proposals is going to actually turn into reality. All three are competing to sign up the retailers needed to be viable. So the race is on.

Money seems to trump the grand plan

Interestingly, the city’s long-term plan for Turkey Mountain does not include retail development.

Over the years, planners and advisory groups – working in conjunction with city officials and a regional municipal planning group, the Indian Nations Council of Governments –  had formed an opinion and a plan for the entire Arkansas River corridor as it runs through Tulsa, including Turkey Mountain, which is on the river’s west bank.

Not only does the plan not say anything about plopping large retail developments around Turkey Mountain, it actually advocates expanding the wilderness area.

According to INCOG’s Arkansas River corridor master plan:

“Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area occupies one of the most prominent locations along the river corridor and represents a unique opportunity for substantial urban wilderness in close proximity to the heart of metropolitan Tulsa. The park should be expanded to the extent possible through the acquisition of adjacent undeveloped property and preserved in perpetuity as an urban wilderness/open space area, Development within the park should be limited to uses complementary to this great natural resource, such as hiking, equestrian trails and stables, environmental education and related uses.” (emphasis mine)

And here we are now, with a huge corporation waving dollar bills in people’s faces, and the city seems to be forgetting what planners, through a lot of thought and study, decided what was best for the area.

So some points…

Tulsa Premium Outlets isn’t just near the Turkey Mountain area referenced above. It would be inside of it. While the land on which it would be built is privately owned, it is still part of the larger area the master plan deemed needed for the preservation of wild land “in perpetuity.”

City leaders, in considering Simon’s proposal, need to be asking how the mall fits into the master plan, and come to the correct conclusion that it doesn’t. The INCOG plan said anything developed in that area should somehow promote or complement activities “such as hiking, equestrian trails and stables, environmental education and related uses.” How exactly does a shopping center do that? The answer is simple. It doesn’t.

The city needs to think regionally, and realize that there are other viable proposals that can fill the outlet market. The Tulsa Regional Chamber has made a big point of not just promoting economic activity inside Tulsa’s city limits, but to think regionally. So on that front, the Cherokees’ plan makes sense. It’s a natural spot for development and wouldn’t consume any wild land. And if the city and business interests are dead set on having an outlet mall inside the city limits, Horizon has a plan for that.

The city needs to take a hard look at environmental impact. The watershed into Mooser Creek is quite large, encompassing the bulk of the greater Turkey Mountain area. Do we know what pipeline relocation, road widening and mall construction will do to the watershed? How will all that affect the YMCA? How many trails are going to be lost due to the mall and to road widening? How badly is wildlife going to be squeezed? And lastly, with all these serious questions out there, is it really worth it to move forward?

I know INCOG’s blueprint is not law or anything like that. But it’s a wise plan, one that takes into consideration that some things are worth more than the short-term gains of increased sales tax dollars and low-wage retail jobs.

This is what Turkey Mountain should be about. Shopping can happen anywhere. But  we only have so many trails for families to enjoy.

This is what Turkey Mountain should be about. Shopping can happen anywhere. But we only have so many trails for families to enjoy.

What we gain from keeping Turkey Mountain wild is immense. Wildlife keeps its habitat. People win from having a wild place in which they can go, get healthy and be out of an urban environment. And preserving the area not only puts a stamp on positive community values, it also gives us an opportunity to teach children the value nature offers.

For city planners and the City Council, I’d ask that they remember these points before rubber-stamping Simon’s project.

As for those of us in Tulsa, it’s time for a little action. There is a petition you can sign where you can show support in keeping Turkey Mountain wild. You can write and call your City Council representative to let them know what you’re not keen on an outlet mall at Turkey Mountain. And if you’re on social media, post your photos and opinions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and tag it with #KeepTurkeyWild.

Time to get crackin’, folks. Be heard.

Bob Doucette

A Crossfit skeptic finds three silver linings to the movement

Not the best looking form, but I admire their enthusiasm.

Not the best looking form, but I admire their enthusiasm.

This is one of those posts that’s not going to make anyone very happy. But here it is: Despite everything I don’t like about Crossfit, I have to admit some small level of grudging appreciation for a fitness movement that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

I say this just a few days removed from doing a trail run with some friends, then getting to the trailhead and seeing about 60 people around a park pavilion, wrapping up a Thanksgiving family-oriented get-together with some exercise, and then food and drink afterward. I’ll get more in that subject later in this post. But first, a few qualifiers.

As I said, I’m not a Crossfit fan. I don’t like the fact that it takes basically three days and $1,000 to become certified to the point where you can open your own gym. I don’t like workout plans that have you perform very technical, difficult lifts as many times as you can within a specific time range. Constant variation/muscle confusion is overrated. And don’t get me started on kipping pull-ups. Just no. At its best, I can see where some people could physically benefit from Crossfit, but only to a point. At worst, I foresee injuries. Lots of injuries. They happen to the best Olympic lifters who are coached correctly; how much worse is it going to be for a novice lifter jacking up 20 straight clean-and-presses in 90 seconds? Lots.

But there are some things that I have to reluctantly acknowledge as positives. Seeing I’ve put Crossfit on blast a few times, it’s time for this skeptic to give it its due.

Crossfit has introduced lots of people to weightlifting. And by weightlifting, I mean using barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells, not those pin-and-plate machines too many people are fruitlessly playing around on in their local fitness centers. People are deadlifting, squatting, and cleaning barbells in Crossfit gyms (I refuse to call them “boxes”) across the country. The quality of coaching may be all over the place, and the method in which they’re used can be suspect. But you have to think some crossfitters will take the time to learn how to do Olympic and power lifts right, or even better, that their coaches will teach them right. And if not, the exposure to good lifts will eventually lead them to correct form, usage and eventually, real gains. No matter who you are, you can benefit from lifting heavy things. Book it.

Crossfit had drawn a lot of people into fitness who otherwise are not responsive to other popular forms of exercise. Not everyone is a runner, an MMA fighter, a cyclist or whatever. Many exercisers just aren’t interested in aerobics classes, spin sessions or other forms of group exercise formats that are common in most gyms. But Crossfit bills itself as a system that prepared people with functional fitness, one that gives you strength to prepare you for whatever physical needs the world might throw your way. Whether or not that’s actually true, that selling point appeals to a lot of people in a way that’s different than a step aerobics class. The result: More people trying to get fit. I may not like the method, but it’s still a gateway that just could take otherwise out-of-shape people and set them on a path that could get them healthier. Eventually. Maybe.

Crossfit does a remarkable — one might say outstanding — job at giving fitness-minded people a sense of community. Last Thursday, me and two other fellas went on a 5-mile trail run. I saw another small group of trail runners and a couple of hikers, too. But at the trailhead, 60 or more crossfitters and their kids were getting in a group workout and some fellowship time afterward. Did I mention this was on Thanksgiving Day? That gym must have one heck of a bond with its members to drag them out to a park on a holiday morning (and it was 30 degrees!) where most people are focused on their home life. Crossfit gyms do a pretty decent job at building camaraderie among exercisers. They encourage each other during workouts, and use their common bond to create friendships and accountability that’s almost impossible to find at other gyms. Now it can get a little weird — the goofy insider terminology, the incessant talking about Crossfit, and even the semi-cultish defensiveness about the whole thing — but you can’t deny the fact that there is power within a group, and exercisers are more likely to achieve their fitness goals or even surpass them when they have positive voices in their ear.

So there it is. I try to be fair-minded when evaluating things like this and not just endlessly bag on something I don’t like without taking a harder look. I still won’t do Crossfit, nor would I ever recommend someone get into it. Or at least not until the movement reforms itself to something safer and more sustainable. I just see too many problems in the things crossfitters commonly do, and far too much butt-hurt in the Crossfit community when its weaknesses are called out. But as I’ve often seen throughout my life, silver linings abound. Even for Crossfit.

Bob Doucette

My week of running: Half marathon, trail time, and a Turkey Trot 5K

Well, it’s been a heck of a week for running. All that training came down to a couple of races and a lot of high-effort running. And it’s been good.

The week started with the Route 66 half marathon. I had wondered if I would have a pang of regret for not having signed up for the full marathon. I can honestly say that when the marathoners turned east from the rest of the pack after Mile 12, I had no feeling of regret at all. None. I knew I was about done, and they were still more than 13 miles from finishing.

That’s not to say I won’t do another full. The challenge is still interesting to me. One of these days I’m going to write something about why you should go for 26.2. But I was fine with the half (a great, fun distance that has a training schedule much more friendly to your life outside of running), and good with the 2:17 time I posted. Mission accomplished.

A view on the trails at Turkey Mountain in Tulsa.  Pretty great way to spend the morning.

A view on the trails at Turkey Mountain in Tulsa. Pretty great way to spend the morning.

Training didn’t take a break — I was in the weight room the day after the race, but held off running for a couple of days. It’s not like I was very fast last Sunday, but I ran hard and my body needed a break. So a short run on Wednesday, followed by a fun time on Thanksgiving.

I’ve made it sort of an unofficial tradition to get in a run on every major holiday. Usually I do this alone, but this week, I was joined by a couple of other fellas for some time on the trails out at Turkey Mountain.

Danny is a guy I knew only in the virtual world, but he’s a local guy who is getting into trail running. Danny is pretty fast, much more so than me. But he liked the idea of hitting the trails with someone (in this case, me) who knew Turkey Mountain pretty well. It was cool to meet him face to face (love how social media can make things like that happen) and run with the dude.

Did I mention Danny is pretty fast? Well, so is the friend he brought with him, Lael. This dude ran the full marathon last weekend, and did it in something like 3:36. I led (and labored) most of the way, and I appreciated their patience in running more at my pace. They could have easily gone much faster. But in return, I got to show them a few new places and give them ideas for new, longer routes on the mountain.

It was an amazing morning for a run. Maybe 28 degrees and sunny. We even saw a few other runners. Five miles later, I felt more than justified in committing an act of warlike gluttony that afternoon. I easily replaced the calories I burned.

And then, Black Friday. I have another tradition developing for that. Instead of battling crowds to buy cheap TVs or whatever, I run Tulsa’s Turkey Trot downtown. It’s always a hilly challenge — no big deal if you’re running casually, but I honestly try to run it hard. It was no different this time. I’m still not fast, recording a 26:35 — 19 seconds off my fairly pedestrian PR at last year’s Turkey Trot. Being in marathon shape last year meant a faster finish. But boy, 5Ks are hard for me. Pacing and effort is always a challenge. If I were a little lighter and my cardio a bit stronger, I could get to 24 minutes. But that’s going to take some work. I’ll keep looking to my nephew Hunter and niece Hillary for inspiration on that front — they’re collegiate runners who are well below 20 minutes at that distance. Not sure that will ever be me, but it’s something to shoot for.

Post-race goodies at the Turkey Trot. Cookies and beer is a weird combo, but I consumed it all anyway.

Post-race goodies at the Turkey Trot. Cookies and beer is a weird combo, but I consumed it all anyway.

In any case, some 1,100 people ran it. One couple used it as a stage to get married after they crossed the finish line. Families ran it together. Many novice runners used this as their big running challenge of the year. For them, this was their marathon, and it’s pretty cool to see how they relish in that finish. As for me, a medal, a cookie, a water and a beer. I’ll take it.

And so ends fall race season. A week of running hard, and trying to run fast. Now it’s time to make the transition into spring races, and then hitting the peaks. This is a continuous cycle I truly love to put on repeat.

Bob Doucette

Race recap: 2014 Route 66 half marathon

Dan and I after our shake-out run the day before the race, in front of the start line. WARNING: More mean-mugging to come.

Dan and I after our shake-out run the day before the race, in front of the start line. WARNING: More mean-mugging to come.

Oftentimes, running is a process. You use different ways to measure progress or success. One of the ways I do that is through races. A good road race or trail race can teach you a lot about where you’re going, what you’re doing right and wrong, and just how far you can push yourself. And it’s not just the race itself, but also the weeks and months of training that come before the big day.

There’s only one problem with that: A lot of things can happen from the beginning of a training cycle to race day.

I’d set a more ambitious goal for this fall, hoping to break the two-hour barrier in the half marathon. My fastest time for 13.1 miles is 2:11, recorded at the halfway point of last year’s Route 66 Marathon in my hometown of Tulsa. I didn’t have a lot of interest in running another full marathon just yet, but I was looking forward to charging hard in that event’s half marathon this fall.

A rough spring and summer meant that I was close to starting from scratch last August. Things were going well, though. I stayed healthy, increased my miles, added some really good strength training and started to see my times come down. After pulling off a 1:32 at the Tulsa Run 15K a month ago, I seemed to be poised to take my half marathon to the next level this past Sunday.

Then I got sick. More than a week of being knocked out of training, right at peak training time. Other obligations consumed training time to the point there was really not much more I could do except stay healthy and run the best I could on race day.

It’s at this point where I realized I needed to reset my goals. That two-hour barrier would have to wait for another day. Was a PR possible? Maybe. But realistically, here’s what I didn’t want to do: Repeat my lackluster performance at last spring’s Oklahoma City Memorial half marathon.

In that one, I came in a little out of shape and posted a nearly identical 2:22 that I’d done the year before. That was fine for a first-time effort, but to do that again a year later was a disappointment. If I did that a third time, or, even worse, came in slower, that would be wholly unacceptable.

The race

This was the ninth annual Route 66 Marathon, and it holds a special place in my heart – it’s where I ran my first marathon. The course is awesome – scenic, hilly and challenging. Just like in the past, the course support was outstanding, and fan support was good. An estimated 11,000 people ran it, showing how the race is growing in popularity.

Route 66 challenges a lot of local runners, and others from nearby cities and towns. I had friends from the Oklahoma City area who said after the race that they weren’t ready for the hills. There are some big ones on 15th Street and 21st Street, and as the course winds its way through the neighborhoods of midtown, a steady diet of smaller, rolling hills that eat you up if you’re not ready.

I knew what was coming, having run it last year. And with the course change at the Tulsa Run (lots of big hills this time), I had a good gauge of how I’d perform when the hill portions came up.

We lucked out on the weather, for the most part. Instead of breezy conditions with temps in the mid-20s like we had last year, we had overcast skies, high humidity and 57 degrees at gun time this year. The humidity was a factor, but overall, really good conditions for a long-distance event.

Runners line up in the B corral for the race. An estimated 11,000 people ran the Route 66 marathon and half marathon races.

Runners line up in the B corral for the race. An estimated 11,000 people ran the Route 66 marathon and half marathon races.

The winners

There must be something in the water in Norman, Okla. October’s winner of the Tulsa Run resides there, and the overall winner of the marathon on Sunday, Jason Cook, is also a Norman resident. He clocked in with a 2:37:16, four minutes faster than the second-place finisher. A truly dominant performance.

Among the women, a hometown gal, Melissa Truitt, took top honors with a time of 3:10:38.

Among the half marathon competitors, Edmond’s Mark Thompson breezed in with a 1:10:34 while the women’s winner, also a Tulsan, clocked in at 1:22:09.

How it went

As I said earlier, I had to reset my expectations. In addition to the illness issues that hit me a few weeks ago, I’ve been hitting the weights a little harder, running fewer miles and putting on a little weight. As of race day, I was about 10 pounds heavier this fall than I was last year.

Obviously, coming in heavy for a race isn’t a good thing. If you want to run fast, you want to come in light.

However, there were benefits to my slight change of physique. I’ve been working hard on my lower body and back. In doing so, I’ve also been doing a good deal of speed and hill work while also concentrating on engaging my glutes more when I run. That means a slight change of gait, but it also means using those big muscles to keep things cranking. It takes some getting used to. However, it definitely does make a difference in terms of speed.

My friend Dan came up from Oklahoma City to run this one, so we did a shakeout run the day before the race. Dan is a strong runner. He’s tall, too. I knew that I wouldn’t be running with him for very long. But it was cool to have him up there to talk a little shop, then compare notes when the race was over.

My biggest struggle is I hadn’t done a double-digit-mileage run in well over a month. Between the Tulsa Run and race day, my longest run was just 5 miles. And now I was going to do 13.1. The prospect of a third straight 2:22 was very real.

So there were a few things I decided to do during the race that I believed would help make up for all the deficiencies I’d be battling along the way.

First, to just go with the flow during the beginning of the race. I often get impatient with slower runners during that first mile and spend the first 10 minutes or so busily picking them off so I can get into a clearer area where I can set my pace. That usually makes for a fast start. Sometimes too fast. So I made a conscious decision not to do that. Instead, I just let the flow of the crowd carry me until things opened up more naturally.

Second, I allowed myself to change my gait on the hills. A good strategy is to conserve energy on the uphills (don’t blast through them unless you’re just a stud) and bomb the downhills when gravity is your friend. I did that, but with a twist – on the downhills, I lengthened my stride and really just tried to relax. A lower cadence (fewer footfalls per minute) means even less energy expended, and my legs were strong enough to take the punishment downhill running brings. On the flats, I shortened my stride, and on the uphills, shortened them even more. It was all about conserving energy and finding places to bank time (on the downhills) where I could also rest a bit.

Lastly, I decided to make sure that my rest stops were utilized to the minimum. Now that doesn’t mean I ran by them. I used them nearly every time, but instead of gulping a whole cup of water, I’d drink a half and dump the rest. Same with Gatorade. I alternated between water and Gatorade, but made sure to sip a half cup and go rather than drink in the whole thing. The result: almost no cramps, and no need for a bathroom stop. I also did not eat anything during the race. I’ve learned that it’s OK to run slightly dehydrated, especially if you’re used to it, which I am. And really, midrace fueling is something you need only for full marathons or ultras. No need to eat during a half.

From mile 4-7, my legs and glutes felt like lead. Part of that was the hilly nature of the middle of the course. Part of that was being heavier and a little more muscly. But my hydration strategy worked, and by the time I hit mile 8, I was good.

Me and Dan post-race, mean-muggin. And since this is Oklahoma, every day is a good day for a gun show.

Me and Dan post-race, mean-muggin. And since this is Oklahoma, every day is a good day for a gun show.

My conditioning bit me a bit after mile 10, just before the uphill climb into downtown began. But I had enough in the tank to sprint out the home stretch and cross the finish with a 2:17. Not a PR, but way better than my last half marathon showing. I’m totally good with that.

Dan blasted out a 2:13, despite being challenged by the hills and a wonky knee that announced its presence after mile 10. He’s a tough dude.

So what’s the lesson? It’s good to set goals with your running. But it’s also OK to reset those goals. If you come in stronger than you thought, raise the bar. But if circumstances work against you, you don’t have to give in to failure and disappointment. You just need to be realistic and find a new way to triumph.

As I write this, I can feel soreness in my joints, but also in those muscle groups I’ve been working so hard to strengthen. That tells me a couple of things: It tells me that I’ve learned to better use my body when I run, and it tells me that all that strength training paid off in terms of improving a race time when I had no business expecting anything good.

That’s a small victory, to be sure, especially when my initial goal was so much higher. But it’s also something to build on. I’ve got other races planned, and I know that despite the bumps in the road, what I am doing terms of training hasn’t been in vain.

Totally the opposite. What I’m doing is working.

Bob Doucette

My love of the outdoors: Who I have to thank for it

Me being in places like this didn't happen in a vacuum. A lot of people were and still are a part of my ongoing outdoors journey.

Me being in places like this didn’t happen in a vacuum. A lot of people were and still are a part of my ongoing outdoors journey.

I got into an interesting online discussion where the question was asked, “Who was it that instilled in you a love of the outdoors?”

This is a great question, because I don’t think anything happens in a vacuum. No one just walks outside and says, “I think I’m going to be an outdoorsy person.” Something has to light that fire, and in most cases that fire is lit by someone your with.  So here is my list of people who lit and stoked my love of the outdoors.

My parents

These two were there when I was a mere sprout, doing the little things that got me outside. This is the three of us after the Oklahoma Memorial marathon.

These two were there when I was a mere sprout, doing the little things that got me outside. This is the three of us after the Oklahoma City Memorial marathon.

Last week, I wrote about my (fading) fading dream of living the mountain life. A part of that dream was created in 1976 when my parents bought this amazing little cabin in the Rockies. So many formative adventures started here.

Easter at the family cabin in Colorado.

Easter at the family cabin in Colorado.

All of us really loved that place. It was our base camp for fishing, hiking, watching nature and launching outdoor dreams.

My sister Shiela, her friend Valerie and myself looking at doing a little fishing near the family cabin.

My sister Shiela, her friend Valerie and myself looking at doing a little fishing near the family cabin.

You can never underestimate how those small experiences outside can grow into wonderfully big expressions in adulthood. They are formative and significant. So parents, if you want your kids to love and respect the outdoors, turn ‘em into little rippers now. My parents did, and all of their kids were better for it.

My brother-in-law, Mark

Mark and a nice gar. This dude can fish.

Mark and a nice gar. This dude can fish.

A born-and-bred Texan, Mark met my sister when they both lived in the Denver area. During his early 20s, he spent a lot of time feeding his love of fishing out in the Colorado high country, angling for trout in the streams and beaver ponds of the Rockies.

Shortly after they married, Mark was kind enough to take me fishing several times. We hit plenty of places in northern Colorado, out west near Eagle, and then south not far from Buena Vista and Tincup.

Thirteen-year-old me (awkward!) with a stringer full of fish Mark and I bagged near Eagle, Colo.

Thirteen-year-old me (awkward!) with a stringer full of fish Mark and I bagged near Eagle, Colo.

These were the trips where I learned to fish for trout, the reason why I almost never get skunked when I’m getting a hook wet in a trout stream. I learned how to fish, how to read a river, and how to appreciate how awesome the settings are for trout fishing. It’s no accident that most of the first mountains I hiked and climbed weren’t far from those old fishing holes. The first time I laid eyes on the incredible skyline of Mount Princeton, Mount Yale and Mount Antero was when the two of us were driving west in Mark’s little pickup, heading to where we’d camp and fish the next day.

My brother Mike

My brother Mike on the slopes of Wheeler Peak, N.M.

My brother Mike on the slopes of Wheeler Peak, N.M.

Mike was another guy who loved to fish, and some of my earliest memories of fishing were with him as we plied the waters of the Kishwaukee River in northern Illinois, or on nearby farm ponds. We kept that fishing habit up for a long time, and what Mark started in me, Mike honed even further.

It’s so very Mike that Mark and I showed him the ropes of trout fishing, and later on, he was teaching me.

Later on, Mike grew a passion for hiking and climbing the Colorado 14ers, the mountains that rise to more than 14,000 feet in elevation. He inspired me to hike my first big mountain, Wheeler Peak, N.M., and was there with me on my first three 14ers in Colorado.

Mike and I on the summit of Mount Elbert, Colo.

Mike and I on the summit of Mount Elbert, Colo.

A few years later, we brought our brother Steve into the 14er fold, with all of us tagging the summits of Quandary Peak and Mount Bierstadt.

Mike, me and Steve atop Quandary Peak, Colo.

Mike, me and Steve atop Quandary Peak, Colo.

Mike left us far too soon. He passed away in 2011 from cancer at the age of 47. In so many positive ways, however, his legacy lives on in his family and friends, things that go way beyond the mountains. But my little 14er obsession has its roots in hearing Mike talk about those early hikes up Mount Bierstadt, traversing the Sawtooth Ridge, and climbing Longs Peak.

My friend Johnny

Closer to home, my adventure bug got numerous feedings from my friend Johnny Hunter. We met through martial arts, and it was there that we discovered a shared love of hiking.

Johnny Hunter on the crags of Mount Mitchell, Okla.

Johnny Hunter on the crags of Mount Mitchell, Okla.

I’d been to the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma before, but really got to explore them with Johnny. We’ve tagged a bunch of peaks out there, anything from gentle hikes to airy, exposed, slabby climbs. Johnny is one of those guys with no fear of heights and is always up for adventure.

The two of us, with no real coaching from anyone, did our first snow climb together on Mount Shavano in Colorado. And he’s been there with me on other mountain ascents numerous times. Anytime the adventure siren calls, Johnny is game.

My Colorado mountain buddies

There are too many of them to name, as this circle has grown quite a bit over the years. But those who are consistently in the mix, and have been there during those critical times of growth, include friends Bill Wood, his sister Beth Ketel, Noel Johnson, Chuck Erle and David Bates.

Me, Beth and Bill atop Mount of the Holy Cross, Colo.

Me, Beth and Bill atop Mount of the Holy Cross, Colo.

Clockwise from left, Chuck, David, me and Noel atop Mount Sneffels, Colo.

Clockwise from left, Chuck, David, me and Noel atop Mount Sneffels, Colo.

I’ve learned a ton from these folks, and I’m continual appreciation how they took me, a comparative noob, under their wing like I was an equal partner. That sort of humility and patience is a rare, beautiful thing you find much more commonly in hikers, climbers and mountaineers. Here’s hoping for more summits with this gang, and all of the other folks in Colorado I’ve met and hiked/climbed with since. You know who you are.

So there you have it. From my childhood to the present, these are the people who have created and sustained that love of the outdoors in me.

Do you have people like that in your lives? Feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear your stories…

Bob Doucette

Fitness: Deadlifts, clean-and-jerks, pull-ups and more for a full-body workout

Old-school weightlifting can lead to huge strength gains. Make the barbell your friend.

Old-school weightlifting can lead to huge strength gains. Make the barbell your friend.

I’m a creature of routine. I find things that work for me, then stick with it. This can be a good thing when it comes to training; while some preach constant changes (muscle confusion, brah!), I’m more of the type who believes you create a program, use it over time and give it time to work.

However, there comes a time to change things up. It’s a tough balance between distance running and weight training for me. These forms of exercise compete with each other for time and resources. Want to be fast? You won’t be very muscular. What to be big and muscly? Fine, but forget about being fast over the long-haul.

I’ve accepted that reality. I know that I’ll only get so big or so fast, and I’m cool with that. As long as I can tough out a race over 15 miles or more, I’m good. And while I may not ever be a body builder or a power athlete, I like the idea of being strong. A little bit of both goes a long way in terms of staying healthy for a long time, and performing well in the outdoors.

Anyway, I digress. I decided it was, in fact, time to shake things up. My leg-day workouts were getting too long, too taxing. And there were areas in my training that got short-changed as a result.

So I split up some of the stuff I do on leg day, then added some more goodies. The end result? A workout that blasts the posterior chain (back, shoulders, glutes and hamstrings) while also balancing out a rather imbalanced weekly workout schedule. Here’s a review of the exercises:

Barbell deadlift: I do four to five sets of these. I start light, but quickly get heavy. This is a power lift, one that requires heavier weights and lower reps. Stand at the bar, feet about shoulder width apart. Hand grips vary; I choose to have one hand palm out, one hand palm in (the axle grip), and both hands gripping the bar outside of my stance. Grip the bar tight, and tense those lats. Pull up on the bar to take up any “slack,” or the little bit of room that exists between the bar and the plates. Keeping your head and neck in a neutral spine position, drive up by firing your quads, squeezing your glutes and driving your hips forward. Your back should be straight, and your chest slightly up (to the point where someone could see the logo on your shirt as you began the lift). When you’re at standing position, your chest should be out (proud) and your shoulders slightly back. Then slowly lower the weight down, bending at the knees and getting your hips back. Tip: DO NOT hunch your back; keep it straight. And don’t tilt your head back to look up at the mirror; doing so will deactivate your hams and glutes and overly recruit your lower back, which you DON’T want to do. If you can’t avoid hunching over and pulling with your back, use less weight and get the form right.

Barbell clean-and-jerk: One of the standard Olympic lifts, this is also a power move, and a complicated one at that. The clean-and-jerk is very technique-oriented, and I recommend good coaching and research before performing this move. That said, it’s an awesome full-body, compound exercise that builds explosiveness and power, and ultimately, strength in your legs, core and back. Stand at the bar in a deadlift position, but place your hands further apart than in the deadlift, and both palms down (no axle grip). To start the lift, explode up with the bar, but instead of stopping at a deadlift finish position, raise that bar to a front-squat position. You will likely come up on your toes a bit (the whole leg gets involved). Once in this position, you will do a push-press to finish the move — squat down slightly, then explode up powerfully with your legs, press the bar up, and lock out. For balance purposes, you might feel comfortable having one leg forward, one back, then coming to a neutral standing position once this lift is complete. This lift is easier shown than explained in type, so here ya go:

I do this in sets of four reps. This ain’t an exercise where you do high-rep sets. Even so, you will get a cardio element during your sets. Tip: This exercise is VERY technique oriented, and it is a riskier move than most other lifts. It’s vital you do weight you can handle, and don’t break form.

Farmer’s walk: This one is a lot easier to master. Simply pick up two heavy weights, then walk slowly with them in your hands for a minute. Dumbbells or plates work here. Maintain good posture and keep tension on your shoulders. A real trap-buster, and it will really help your grip strength, too.

Nothing beats the old-fashioned dead-hang pull-up.

Nothing beats the old-fashioned dead-hang pull-up.

Pull-ups: The king of back exercises, especially those broader lat muscles. But don’t be fooled, pull-ups and chin-ups are awesome for the entire back/shoulder muscles groups, as well as for your biceps and grip strength. I strongly recommend doing dead-hang pull-ups (no kipping) for optimal strength gains and muscle growth. Grab the bar, and “pack” your shoulders (don’t start from a completely relaxed position); flex your shoulders so they are supporting your weight at the bottom of the lift). Concentrate on pulling your chest toward the bar until your chin clears it, then lower yourself slowly. With this, do as many reps per set as you can.

Rear-delt band pulls: Band pulls? Really? Yes, really. I’ve read some really great stuff from elite lifters who use band pulls to strengthen those small backside shoulder muscles (rear delts, rhomboids), which in turn opens their chest and allows them to get huge gains in exercises like the bench press. Take an elastic band and grab both ends with your hands. Then slowly stretch the band out until your arms are fully extended in full-wingspan mode. Then slowly return to your starting position. Sets of 20 to 25 reps are good on this one.

Flexed-arm hangs: A good finishing exercise for the back. Go up to the pull-up bar, then pull yourself up to where your chin clears the bar. Hold that position for, say, 10 seconds. Then slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat. As you get stronger, increase the time.

So my workout looks like this:

Deadlift: sets of 8, 6, 4, 3, 2 (increasing weight)

Clean-and-jerk: 3 sets of 4 reps (increasing weight)

Farmer’s walk: 3 sets, 1 minute per set

Pull-up: 3 sets, as many reps as possible for each set

Rear-delt band pulls: 3 sets of 20

Flexed-arm hang: 3 sets, 10 seconds per set (more time if you’re stronger)

This is causing me to redo some of my other workouts during the week, but I’m good with that. A lot of the things I do are geared toward promoting a stronger posterior chain. This has a couple benefits. First, you can’t be a strong person without a strong back. And second, if you’re an endurance athlete, that entire posterior chain — back, glutes, hams and calves — need to be strong if you’re going to perform well and prevent injuries. Elite distance runners may need to tweak this (for the sake of being fast). But in general, if you’re interested in a high level of general fitness, doing the work on that ole backside should be a priority.

Bob Doucette