Year in review: I must say, 2013 pretty much rocked

bobd1

I guess it’s that time of year when those of us in the blogosphere look back on the previous year and share our thoughts. Far be it from me to buck the trend! But seriously, 2013 was a pretty great year overall, one marked by some great experiences. Here’s a quick recap:

Running

I’d say this is where I made the most progress. I’d been back into running for a couple of years by the time 2013 started, with a few races under my belt. I definitely had plenty of room for improvement, so early on I set some goals, then reset those goals as time passed on.

In February, I laid up a bit and raced in the Post Oak Challenge 10K trail race. A month later, I ran the Snake Run trail race in Tulsa, settling in on the three-hour event. In that one, I placed decently and threw down 15.1 miles. To that point, that was the longest distance I’d ever run.

Boston Strong at the OKC Memorial Marathon, where I did the half.

Boston Strong at the OKC Memorial Marathon, where I did the half.

When April rolled around, it was time for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I’d never run a half marathon, though I’d already exceeded that distance. This was by far the largest run I’d ever done, with somewhere around 25,000 runners taking part.

I ran it in 2:20, which isn’t all that fast. But some really cool things happened.

For starters, the race starts at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, one of the most beautiful and moving monuments in the nation. If you don’t believe me, then go there and see for yourself. I can remember the horror of the April 19, 1995, bombing (I covered it for a small newspaper back then), the construction of the memorial and now this race. Having it happen two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing made this event even more significant to me, and doing it with such a huge crowd, well, it’s just something you have to experience. I’ll be back there again.

Secondly, I got to run the last five miles with a friend of mine who was also running her first half marathon. Carrie was battling some knee pain, but we kept each other motivated to finish, and finish we did. A lot of grit in that gal!

I steered clear of most races over the summer, taking a break in late spring before ramping up marathon training in July. What a process that turned out to be!

As the weekly mileage piled up, I got stronger. Lost some weight. Got faster. The first real test would come in October with the Tulsa Run 15K.

In 2012, I ran it in a plodding 1:44. At the time, I was just glad to have finished it. A year later I was a different athlete with much higher expectations. The 2013 race was the same course as 2012, and when it was over, I knocked it down in 1:28. I felt pretty good about that, then set my sights on the year’s big prize: the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa.

I’d never run a marathon, and my longest run to that point was 21 miles. It was 25 degrees at gun time, and I was heading into uncharted territory for me.

I knocked off the first half in 2:10, but really slowed down the last six miles. I wrapped it up in 4:50, right in the middle of the pack, but at a better pace than all my long training runs. A great experience, and one in which I am pleased. But I’m looking forward to improving that time.

There were a few 5Ks and a 10K mixed in there. One of my goals for 2013 was to get a 5K done in 24 minutes. I missed that goal, running the Turkey Trot in 26 minutes. But that’s three minutes faster than my best 5K of 2012. So that’s progress.

For me, this was the prize for a year's worth of hard work.

For me, this was the prize for a year’s worth of hard work.

I’d say 2013 was pretty productive in terms of running, and it’s another layer of a foundation that I hope to build on going forward. Maybe a 4:30 marathon? Sub-24 5K? An ultra? We’ll see. I never started 2013 thinking I’d do a full marathon. So stay tuned.

In the mountains

Like previous years, I was limited to heading into the high country to the summer and fall months. But the times I got away provided some memorable trips.

In June, I joined a few friends for a trip into the San Juans near Ouray, Colo., to tackle the southwest ridge of Mount Sneffels.

Clockwise, from top left, are Chuck, David, me and Noel on Mount Sneffels' summit.

Clockwise, from top left, are Chuck, David, me and Noel on Mount Sneffels’ summit.

The route is a fun, extended Class 3 trip that bypasses the scree hell of this gorgeous peak’s standard route. I highly recommend it. The ridge going up was intriguing in terms of climbing, and incredibly scenic. We went down the standard route, which gave us a chance at practicing a snow climb descent. I’m always down for a little snow.

What I wasn’t down for was the dozen or so other climbers going up and down Sneffels’ snow-filled upper gully without proper gear. And then there was the guy (who we never saw) who left two scared, tired and inexperienced/ill-equipped partners in the gully while he tagged the summit. Not cool, but glad we could help them.

That was overshadowed by the ridiculously picturesque summit views looking down on the Dallas Divide and Yankee Boy Basin. And let’s not forget the company I had on this trip. Noel, Chuck and David are rock stars, and I hope to hike and climb with them again very soon.

Earlier that week, I had a chance to take another friend up his first 14er. Brent, aka, Animal, is a fitness coach, jiu jitsu brown belt, bouncer and online entrepreneur who has a love of mountains and recently moved to the Denver area. I figured a perfect starter peak was Mount Evans, close to Denver and a good place to cut your teeth on high country adventure.

Animal starts blasting his way up the lower slopes of Mount Spalding on our way to Mount Evans' summit.

Animal starts blasting his way up the lower slopes of Mount Spalding on our way to Mount Evans’ summit.

We chose the Mount Spalding to Mount Evans traverse, which I highly recommend. It’s a little less traveled than some of the other routes, and the views of nearby Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth Ridge are spectacular.

Animal killed it. He was way stronger on his 14er than I was on mine. We shot the breeze afterward at a sweet brewpub in Idaho Springs and pretty much tried to solve the world’s problems in one night over hot food and cold beers. Always a great way to end a day trip into the mountains.

In the fall, some of my other Colorado buddies invited me on a climb of Capitol Peak, a tough, exposed and beautiful mountain in the Elk Range. This would have been my toughest climb to date, and I looked forward to the challenge.

But the weather conspired against us. The trip was planned the same weekend that Colorado was pounded by 100-year flood events that devastated Boulder, Estes Park and other mountain towns in the northern Front Range and foothills. The Capitol Peak climb was washed out.

Since I was already in Colorado, I decided to salvage the trip. So I ended up going further south into the Sawatch Range and car camped at Missouri Gulch.

Others had expressed interest in joining me on a trip up Missouri Mountain, but one by one they all had to bail. So this turned into my first solo 14er ascent.

The trail disappears into the mist near the top of Missouri Mountain. Doing this solo was amazing.

The trail disappears into the mist near the top of Missouri Mountain. Doing this solo was amazing.

I wasn’t at my best that day, and the weather was dodgy throughout. But the rains held off. The ethereal and spooky atmospherics of the cloud cover, the near solitude going up the mountain and the wildlife made this one of the most spectacular days in the mountains I’ve ever had. I can see myself doing another solo ascent in the future.

So 2013 ended with three 14er summits, and a bonus 13er summit to boot. Not bad for this ole flatlander. For 2014, my hope is for more summits, with tougher routes. Class 4 peaks in the San Juans and the Elk range come to mind, and some time in the Sangres would be good as well.

The blog

When 2012 ended, Proactiveoutside had just over 20,000 page views and some growth. In 2013, interesting and at times explosive things happened.

Traffic steadily went up, but it was a post I wrote a day after the Boston Marathon bombing that blew my mind. Or, more accurately, the reader response to it.

The theme, in short, was that despite the tragedy and evil of the attack, good people doing great things would win the day. People read the piece, shared it, retweeted it, and linked to it. A day after it published, more than 30,000 people read it. It blew up on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, on Twitter. CNN quoted it online and linked to it. To date, about 42,000 people have clicked to read it. It hit a nerve, and I’m grateful for everyone’s comments, shares and the time they took to read. It’s humbling.

Another post made WordPress’ Freshly Pressed roster, which was also pretty cool. I got a lot of comments from fellow WordPress bloggers on that piece, in which I wrote about running trails just for the fun of it.

To date, Proactiveoutside had been viewed more than 101,000 times. More than 1,600 people follow the site, and over 1,300 comments on 361 posts have been made. Included in all of that are fitness tips, gear reviews, trip reports, outdoor news, essays and other stuff I hope people have enjoyed.

One nice subplot to all of this: Salomon was kind enough to send me a pair of Sense Mantra trail running shoes to test and review, and EnergyBits sent me a sample to try as well. I’m always grateful to companies who seek my opinions on their products, though most of the gear I review is purchased or otherwise obtained on my own.

I decided to branch out a little, creating a Facebook page and an Instagram account for Proactiveoutside. Check ‘em out!

This site is not a money-maker for me, though I wouldn’t mind it. I do it for fun.

Going forward

I hope 2014 can see as much progress, growth and fun that 2013 provided. I’m thankful for all your input and sharing these experiences with me, and I’m especially grateful to the folks who ran with me, hiked with me and climbed with me.

Here’s to another year of getting out there and getting it done.

Bob Doucette

Here's to a great 2014!

Here’s to a great 2014!

The Weekly Stoke: Surviving an avalanche, how to spot a bad partner, father-son adventuring and a new outdoorsy book

avy

We’re just a few days away from Christmas, and my guess is a lot of you have some time off to spend with family or just relax. My hope is that you’ll find some time to ski, board, snowshoe, hike, climb, run, bike, race or whatever it is you do outside while you’re off. Use your time to the fullest!

All that said, here’s an abbreviated version of the Weekly Stoke…

Not long ago, a video started making the rounds about a backcountry skier who triggered an avalanche in Utah. The slide partially buried her, despite her avy airbags deploying. That skier, Amie Engerbretson, tells her story, and does so in a detailed and humble way.

That said, stuff happens. But are there steps you can take to make sure you’re not out with bad skiing or mountaineering partners? This list shows some of the red flags you need to be looking for.

Want to see a great trip report? And the ultimate outdoor father-son adventure? Read this one from Summitpost. Beats Disneyland any day.

Finally, if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for that outdoorsy, road-trip-loving friend or family member, read this excerpt from Brendan Leonard’s new book. The guy can write, and he’s led a pretty interesting life on the road.

Have a great weekend, and Merry Christmas!

The Weekly Stoke: Adventure on the Amur, a new ultra, grizzly hunting in Yellowstone, and an appreciation of rocks

The Amur River, eastern Siberia. (Wikipedia commons photo)

The Amur River, eastern Siberia. (Wikipedia commons photo)

Reaching deep into the online outdoor universe, there are some cool things to be learned. A few nuggets to whet your appetite for adventure and achievement on the Weekly Stoke!

Four women went on an extraordinary journey, paddling the largest wild river (not dammed anywhere on its length) left in the world, the Amur of Siberia. This is the heart of adventure.

If you like altitude, amazing scenery and a physical challenge, a Texas transplant who now lives in Ouray, Colo., is planning a 100-mile ultramarathon in his new hometown. It’s scheduled for early August next year.

Speaking of ultra runners, this link has a short video about a blind ultramarathoner and his running companion. Inspiring stuff!

Could there be grizzly hunting in Yellowstone? The door may be opening for that soon.

Back to adventurous women: Here’s a Q&A with solo sailor Liz Clark, who sails across the globe.

And finally, Semi-Rad’s ode to rocks. If you’re a climber, hiker or mountaineer, well, you need to give it up to rocks.

Have an amazing weekend!

The Weekly Stoke: Adventure in Afghanistan, Grand Canyon goals, Chris McCandless photos and uncommon courage on Mount Everest

The Grand Canyon. (wikipedia commons photo)

The Grand Canyon. (wikipedia commons photo)

Thanksgiving and a big race got in my way a bit lately. But the Weekly Stoke is back! And at a great time. Yesterday was this blog’s second anniversary. I’ll get into more of that at another time, but for now, let’s celebrate Proactiveoutside’s second birthday with some great links for you to read on this cold, snowy day.

There’s “adventure,” and then there’s real adventure. These guys went looking for it in the mountains of Afghanistan. Yes, they climbed some peaks. But they got a whole lot more than that.

Let’s talk challenge. This blogger and outdoor enthusiast has set quite a goal for a rim-to-rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon.

After two decades, the family of Chris McCandless (of “Into the Wild” fame) has released a series of never-before seen photos of this man’s vagabond life in the West and his ultimate end in the Alaskan bush. A book with these photos is forthcoming.

This writer has a good list of things she wants her daughter to know about working out.

Long-distance running star Alberto Salazar has a list of his own, 10 Golden Rules of Running.

And finally, here’s a story about how this woman helped a violent situation on Mount Everest stop short of being deadly.

Enjoy your weekend!

Hiking, climbing and mountains in Oklahoma? Yep. A tour of the Wichitas

A lot of space on this site has been dedicated to mountains and places outside of my home state, and lately, it’s been pretty run-heavy. One might think the only outdoorsy thing to do in Oklahoma is to go run trails or ride mountain bikes.

You’d be mistaken.

Sometime in the future, I’ll give you a full outdoors tour of the state. It’s much more diverse than the prairie image you might have in your head. But that’s for later. For now, I wanted to focus on one place, and give you a greatest hits tour.

The Wichita Mountains make up a small range in southwestern Oklahoma. Most of the range is within the confines of a wildlife refuge. Walk in their midst and you’re in one of the oldest ranges in the world, older than the Appalachians by a good number of years. Some geologists say these granite domes date back about 600 million years. By contrast, the Rockies are about 70 million years old; the Himalayas, among the youngest, are about 20 million years old.

Anyway, here are some sights and a few words about them…

elk

Elk Mountain: This is one of the more accessible mountains in the range, just past the visitor’s center and a gateway landmark into the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area. It’s a one-mile hike to the summit, with incredible views into Charon’s Garden. The hike is Class 1 on a well-marked trail that never gets too steep. For the more adventurous, the more sheer south face has plenty of technical rock climbing routes of varying degrees of difficulty. Route description

boulder

Boulder Field hike: From the same trailhead to access Elk Mountain’s summit trail, you can also hike into the Boulder Field, which is really a route that winds its way through the ravine between Elk Mountain and Mount Lincoln, as well as several smaller peaks. You don’t get a lot of elevation gain or loss, but this is a rugged 6-mile trip that includes a lot of boulder hopping, a few short scrambles and sights that include a waterfall during the wetter spring months. You can do an out-and-back to Treasure Lake, or just park a car at the other end, then pick up your other ride when you’re done. This is a classic Oklahoma hike and one you have to put on your list if you’re exploring the Wichitas. Route description

crabeyes

Crab Eyes: One of the most recognizable landmarks in the entire range, Crab Eyes is a small peak with two delicately placed boulders perched atop its summit. This is a fun and pretty easygoing hike that ends with a pretty sweet perch to take in the sights. If you’re feeling more energetic, you can do  short, exposed scramble to the summit. This includes shimmying upwards between two rock slabs and a highly exposed catwalk – or crabwalk, if you choose – to the top. There is also a challenging crack climb on the peak’s west face. There are some bolts installed, but some lead climbing experience would help. Route description

sunset

Sunset Peak: Another great hike is to Sunset Peak. You’ll take the same trail into Charon’s Garden that you do for the Boulder Field and Crab Eyes, but you’ll turn west to the far end of the wildlife refuge and do a tiny bit of off-trail hiking to get to this long ridge and its two peaks. The approach hike is a little long, but the hike and scramble to the top of short and direct. If you’re feeling energetic, make the traverse to the north summit and tag ‘em both. Route description

mitchell

Mount Mitchell: The wildest peak in the range, getting to the top requires, at a minimum, a Class 3 scramble with a highly exposed hop to the summit block. Tougher routes, Class 4 and 5, are also available. The peak may be the most remote in all of the range, and perhaps the most remote locale in all of western Oklahoma. You’ll find every route up to be mentally engaging and the summit one of the most rewarding in all of Oklahoma. This is my personal favorite. Route description

granite

Twin Rocks Mountain and Granite Mountain: I put these two together because they are neighbors, and summiting both on the same outing is very doable. From the Treasure Lake parking lot, hike west and through a scenic gorge that takes you to the foot of both mountains. Twin Rocks is mostly a Class 2+ scramble with maybe a short Class 3 section near the top. Granite is more demanding, with Class 3 and 4 routes to gain its upper slopes. Both peaks’ west faces are more sheer and go from Class 4 to Class 5. They are some of the most rugged in the range, taking a back seat to Mount Mitchell, of course. But the views of Elk Mountain, Mount Mitchell and deeper into Charon’s Garden is nothing short of amazing. Route description

There are, of course, many other peaks and sights to see here. The Wichitas are filled with wildlife, the most famous being a herd of buffalo. But deer, Elk and a host of other creatures are all over this place. I have yet to go there and not see buffalo. If you go in the fall, take special care not to get too close; they’re very twitchy during rut and can be quite aggressive. For that matter, don’t get to close any time of year. You don’t want to piss off a 1,500-pound animal with horns.

Oklahoma is often envisioned with the words of the famous Broadway song of the same name – winds sweeping down the plains. But if the Wichitas prove anything, the state has plenty of rugged, rocky and wild places within its confines. Hikers and rock climbers should take note and make plans to visit the Wichitas. It’s about a 2-hour drive from Oklahoma City, 3 hours from Dallas.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

The Weekly Stoke: The perils and joys of wilderness, Amazon spookiness, mountaineering basics and thoughts on running marathons

quebec

This is one day where I wish I could spent it entirely outside. Fall weather can be awesome! If you’re inside and need some outdoor inspiration, here ha go. This week’s Weekly Stoke!

A Canadian man on a long-term wilderness adventure in northwestern Quebec got more than he bargained for after a bear trashed his campsite and ate all his food: Three months in the bush, and rescued in the nick of time.

Despite the risks, wilderness adventure has its rewards. So says this writer in the Adventure Journal.

Another one from the Adventure Journal: A list of 14 scary things you might encounter in the Amazon.

We’ve got two daily doubles in the Stoke. The fist of two from the Wall Street Journal: How to get into mountaineering when you’re over age 50.

No. 2 from the WSJ: A graphic which shows the difference in how men and women tackle marathons.

And finally, this thoughtful essay about learning when to cool your heels when it comes to training for big races.

Enjoy your weekend, folks. Race hard, climb high and go far.

The Weekly Stoke: Best running surfaces, “Fight Club,” exploring remote places and a ski moment one guy would like to forget

fightclub

It’s race week for me, so I’ve been a little bit preoccupied in my thinking and such. Foremost on my mind: Get outside and do something. Hopefully you’re doing just that. But if you’re stuck inside for the time being and have some time to kill, check out the goodies on this edition of the Weekly Stoke:

Are you having Achilles pain? Could be a case of your glutes not doing their job.

What’s the best running surface? The answer in this link might surprise you.

I love this idea. Via the Adventure Journal, a couple is exploring the most remote places in each of the nation’s 50 states.

Brendan Leonard takes a look back at one of the great films of the ’90s, “Fight Club,” and what it means to him 14 years after its release.

This is a couple of weeks old, but it’s awesome: a photo gallery of finish line moments from the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis. Pure web gold here, folks.

Finally, check out this video. It takes a awhile to get going, but when it’s done you’ll be glad you’re not this guy.

Oklahoma climbing: Quartz Mountain Fall Gathering is weekend of Nov. 1

Quartz Mountain, also known as Baldy Point.

Quartz Mountain, also known as Baldy Point.

If you’re in Oklahoma or north Texas and interested in rock climbing, save Nov. 1 on your calendar.

That’s the day of the Quartz Mountain Fall Gathering. Quartz Mountain is a small granite peak in southwestern Oklahoma that has some pretty fantastic climbing routes. Quartz Mountain, also known as Baldy Point, is the most prominent peak on the western edge of the Wichita Mountains. You can find great rock climbing throughout the range (slabby granite is pretty much the rule here), but many believe the best walls are on Quartz.

Here are some details about the Gathering, which I gleaned from the event’s Facebook page:

- Cost is $3 per person per night covers camping fees and showers (available at the Nature Park camping area a short drive away).

- Parking is at the foot of the climbing area, which means short approaches to climbs and quality tailgating between.

- Open campfires are not permitted. If you plan to cook out, bring a stove.

- Help protect this pristine area and the privilege to gather here by minimizing your impacts. Please disperse your tent sites, make use of the restroom facilities, and carry-out all trash. By doing so, you will insure that Baldy’s natural resources are protected and that the Park continues to grant the climbing community a special use permit for future events.

Also, please note Quartz Mountain Nature Park’s rules and regulations for the event:

1) No liquor or drugs. Beer is permitted.

2) No firearms.

3) No mountain bikes.

4) No campfires.

5) No tree cutting or trimming.

6) Pets must be on a leash at all times.

7) Barbecue grills are permitted in the parking lot.

8) Bivying and tent camping are permitted 100′ east of the parking lot.

9) Sleeping in your vehicle is permitted.

10) Carry-out and dispose of all trash and waste.

Getting there: (Directions via Summitpost.org) Baldy Point is located in extreme southwestern Oklahoma 17 miles north of Altus and 45 miles south of Interstate 40. From I-40, exit 66 at Clinton/State Hwy 183. Drive 45 miles south to the town of Hobart. At Hobart, turn west on state highway 9 for 10.2 miles to the town of Lone Wolf. Just before Lone Wolf, turn south on state highway 44 and drive for 9.5 miles to the entrance to Quartz Mountain State Park on the right. From Dallas/Ft. Worth, take U.S 287 northwest to Vernon, Texas. At Vernon, go north on U.S. 283 to Altus, OK. In Altus, 283 changes to state highway 44. Go 17 miles north of Altus on state hwy 44 to entrance of Quartz on the left.

At the entrance to the park, drive north for 1.4 miles on 44A until coming to a “Y” intersection. A sign will be there for “Baldy Point.” Go left (west) at the “Y”, following the sign, and continue on new paved road for about a mile until passing Baldy Point on the right and reaching an intersection. If you cross a new bridge, you have gone too far. Turn right (north) at the intersection and drive on a paved road for 1 mile until reaching a dirt road aligned with telephone poles on the right. A sign will be on the right for “Baldy Point.” Turn right (east) on the dirt road for .4 miles. The road will Y….go right, then a left shortly after to the parking lot.

For more information about the peak, check this link.

So there’s the scoop. For more information about the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition, check out the coalition’s website here.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Places I like: Missouri Gulch Basin, Colorado

misgulch2

When I first laid eyes on Colorado’s Missouri Gulch Basin more than ten years ago, it was after a grueling, albeit short, hike with an overly loaded pack on my back. Ten other people were with me, most of whom were also laden with burdens a bit too heavy for their own good.

Lightning and rain pounded down on us from the skies. When we finally made camp and the skies cleared, we were treated to one of the sweetest alpine amphitheaters I’ve ever seen.

A high ridge flanked the west while Mount Belford stood tall to the east. To the north, the rugged and lofty wall that is Missouri Mountain. The basin itself was covered in green, willows down low and alpine grasses and flowers higher up. I knew that some point I’d come back to this amazing place.

Ten years later, I was back. My pack was considerably lighter. And this time, I was alone.

I can’t overemphasize how taxing the hike up is. Or how beautiful. The geological structure of the basin carries even the smallest sounds, which can be both magical and haunting: the pika’s high-pitched chirp, for example, versus the urgent call of the raven. Either way, sound carries much further and more clearly than it ought.

If I go back again, I’ll make sure I’m in better shape. If I do, I’m sure I’ll walk out of those woods with new and amazing impressions to go along with the memories I already have.

misgulch1

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

The Weekly Stoke: Ueli Steck on Annapurna, Les Stroud, survival stories, NYC and Marine Corps Marathon news, and caves under Mount Hood

Annapurna. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Annapurna. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Took the week off last week, but we’re right back to it with some good links on this edition of the Weekly Stoke! Check these out:

Congratulations to Ueli Steck for his successful ascent of Annapurna. Steck had twice been denied this mountain’s summit, but this time did it in style, climbing its south face solo. That’s a feat that has never been done before, and just months after his harrowing brawl incident on Everest.

Les Stroud talks about what survivalism is really all about, and has some critiques for others who take their chances just for the TV cameras.

Here are some tips for summiting Pikes Peak.

From The Adventure Journal, a list of the 9 most intense bivvies.

Here’s a first-hand account of what it’s like dealing with a rescue situation in the backcountry, also from The Adventure Journal.

Some victims of the Boston Marathon bombing are learning to run again.

Organizers of the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York City Marathon are banning hydration packs from being used during those races.

Finally, check out this cool video of exploring caves under Oregon’s Mount Hood.