The year that was: Looking back on a challenging, educational and fruitful 2015

I gladly chose to #OptOutside. (Jen Baines photo)

All things considered, 2015 was a challenging but rewarding year.

Sometimes you have one of those years where things don’t quite go as you planned. But in retrospect, you find that some pretty great things happened despite the challenges. Those silver linings always shine though. 2015 was that sort of year.

The past year was marked by setbacks, unmet goals and some disappointments. But in the midst of that, there were quite a few lessons learned — things that propelled me forward toward the end of 2015 and should reap some benefits going forward.

RUNNING

Cue the heroic "Braveheart" music, and imagine me yelling out, "This day, I will choose my destiny! I will choose not to suck!"

Running took a hit, but there was a rally in the fall. Momentum is back on my side!

I’d say it is in this area, and in fitness overall, where I fell flat. After a decent 2014 (which followed an amazing 2013), I backslid significantly. I took a break from races, which in itself is not a bad thing. Sometimes you need to back off.

But without any goals on the horizon, I slacked off on my training, with predictable results. I gained some bad weight, got slower, and lost that “free” feeling I’d earned after a season of marathon training two years ago. It became laborious.

Fortunately, I rallied in the fall, a season in which I declared that I was choosing not to suck. I ended up running three road races over three months, capping it off with a second half marathon at the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa. By the time I got into the last weeks of training for that race, I got my running groove back.

What I learned: It’s easy to lose your conditioning, and hard to regain it. You don’t have to race, but you do need to keep challenging yourself.

IN THE MOUNTAINS

Me at the Keyhole, which would have to be my summit that day. (Noel Johnson photo)

I didn’t conquer the mountain. It conquered me. At the Keyhole on Longs Peak.

A few things conspired against me when I turned my attention to the high country. By summer, my fitness wasn’t where it should have been, so when I joined some buddies in a climb of Longs Peak, I wasn’t at my best.

But it was the weather that did us in. Despite being an early July attempt, storms created near-winter conditions high on the peak. High winds, wet snow and a slippery rock made it a no-go, turning us back about a mile and a thousand feet below the summit at the Keyhole formation. It was the right decision, but frustrating nonetheless.

In the business, we call this trail porn. Sweet trail, awesome mountains, wildflowers in bloom. Inspiring lust for hikers everywhere.

Silver linings of came in the form of weather windows that gave me views like this. On Cupid, near Loveland Pass.

The entire week was like that. I had plans to do some easier peaks, too, but I only got one decent weather window for a quick hike up Cupid, a minor 13,000-foot peak near Loveland Pass.

But I gained good experiences in all of this, able to spend time with good friends, take some amazing photographs and learn what it’s like when the mountain says no.

Trail magic.

Trail magic on Mount LeConte.

All this was in the back of my mind heading into the fall, and a family gathering in Tennessee put me tantalizingly close to the Appalachians. I was determined to stand on top of a mountain before year’s end, so I took my sister-in-law Jen with me for a hike up Mount LeConte, my first foray into the Smokies and a memorable one at that. I love the Rockies, but I’ve got room in my heart for those wonderful East Coast peaks as well.

ADVOCACY

Turkey Mountain and the Arkansas River in Tulsa. Two natural resources that people are starting to value more.

Turkey Mountain and the Arkansas River in Tulsa. Two natural resources that people are starting to value more.

This was a big high point in 2015. I’ve been working with the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition for more than a year now, and many of our efforts have been focused on protecting the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area from commercial development. More specifically, from being home to an outlet mall.

I wrote a lot about this, and the coalition made a compelling case to keep Turkey Mountain wild. Tulsans came out in droves to town hall meetings to discuss the plan, with an overwhelming majority taking the side of conservation.

City council members listened, and so did the outlet mall developers. The plan for Turkey Mountain was scrapped, moved to another part of the metro area. And more recently, there is serious discussion about expanding the urban wilderness as part of a sales tax package that should go before voters in the spring. This was a huge win not only for the coalition and Turkey Mountain, but for the entire city. If not for the tireless work of the TUWC, it’s doubtful the mountain would have been protected.

ON THE BLOG AND ONLINE

It was a good year for the blog. The number of readers I had grew, and you all responded kindly to a number of posts I threw your way.

The most popular was written shortly after my attempt on Long Peak: Seven Signs It’s Time to Bail on a Summit. Apparently, thousands of you have experienced the same thing.

Three of my top 10 posts of 2015 had to deal with the ongoing developments concerning Turkey Mountain. A lot of people shared those posts in hope of letting their friends know what was going on and what was at stake. I appreciate that more than you know, especially given how things turned out.

In addition to the blog, I continued to meet more of you in the virtual world via Proactiveoutside’s Facebook page, Instagram account and on Twitter. I definitely appreciate every follow and like I get!

LOOKING AHEAD

Somewhere just under 13,000 feet, I'm taking a break. Ran some, hiked some up here. The Sense Pro is good in the alpine.

See ya on the trails, friends!

I choose not to look at 2015 as a disappointment. There were letdowns, but there were also some incredible moments, good times with good people, and resounding successes, most of which were shared with others.

My hope is that 2016 will see greater accomplishments, more time outdoors, and perhaps a bit of news from yours truly. Stay tuned, my friends! And may your 2016 be a great one.

Bob Doucette

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