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!

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