Year in review: A roller coaster 2014

2014 was all about high country dreamin'.

2014 was all about high country dreamin’.

If I recall 2013, I dubbed it as a pretty incredible year. A lot of firsts happened then, giving thoughts to how much more could be done in 2014.

Well, not so fast. I’d say there were some great moments, but there were other things that got in the way of a few of my goals. But even with all that, 2014 turned out to be a good year anyway. So here’s a recap:

RUNNING

After a rough spring and summer, I rallied a bit in the fall. This was at the Escape From Turkey Mountain trail race in September.

After a rough spring and summer, I rallied a bit in the fall. This was at the Escape From Turkey Mountain trail race in September.

Unlike 2013, there would be no marathon. I topped out at 25K (twice), and did so with mixed results.

Coming off a pretty bad little illness earlier in the year, I got in shape enough to finish the Post Oak Challenge 25K. In 2013, I ran the 10K in the same event. The difference between the two is quite stark. Needless to say, I felt that Post Oak’s rugged and hilly 25K was every bit as hard as the marathon I ran three months earlier. I clocked in at around 3 ½ hours, pretty slow for that length of a race. I definitely have some redemption due to me here in a couple of months.

A couple of weeks later, I logged 15.75 miles at the 3-hour Snake Run, topping my previous result in that race by a half mile. I felt pretty good about that, though I attribute it to better in-race gamesmanship rather than fitness.

That led me to April’s half marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. That was where I ran my first half marathon a year earlier. I had high hopes going into that one, but a 2-hour delay to the start, warm temps and so-so conditioning led me to logging a time that was nearly identical to the year before. A 2:22 was fine for my first time, but a little disappointing for the second go-around.

Summer was a bit of a bust. Too much work, not enough training. But I rallied late in the season, good enough to whip myself into better shape. I didn’t set PRs, but I was in the neighborhood: a 1:32 at the Tulsa Run 15K, a 2:17 at the Route 66 half marathon and about 30 seconds off my PR in the 5K, a 26:37. I’m a bit heavier right now, so those times, while not fast, seem to be OK for now.

Me and Dan after the Route 66 half marathon in November. It ended up being a pretty good race.

Me and Dan after the Route 66 half marathon in November. It ended up being a pretty good race.

Going forward, I’m still trying to strike the balance between strength and endurance. I’m integrating more sprint and hill training into my workouts. And in the weight room, things are starting to get interesting. Consistency will be key.

OUTDOORS

The crew before heading up Wetterhorn Peak.

The crew before heading up Wetterhorn Peak.

A lot of good things happened in relatively short periods of time. My only regret was not being about to get out more. But in those short trips, ah man. Sweetness.

In late June, I joined up with some of my Colorado buds for some fun in the San Juan range. We had a rewarding climb of Wetterhorn Peak, which has turned into my favorite thus far. It ended up being a snowy, cloudy and cool day that included a gorgeous approach hike, a fun scramble to the summit, some dicey moments on the descent and a wild ride of a glissade on the lower slopes. This, not to mention the great company I had: Friends from past trips as well as new ones. I’d do this climb again.

Getting ready to hit the toughest sections of Wetterhorn Peak.

Getting ready to hit the toughest sections of Wetterhorn Peak.

A month later, I was back in Colorado for another go at the peaks, this time targeting the mountains of Chicago Basin. He basin is in the heart of the San Juans. But unlike past trips, this one did not lend itself to car camping. It’s just too remote.

Instead, it included a steam train ride to a trailhead and a 7-mile hike in to the campsite. From there, four 14ers await.

These were some of the fun folks who I had the privilege of backpacking into Chicago Basin with.

These were some of the fun folks who I had the privilege of backpacking into Chicago Basin with.

I got two of them : Mount Eolus and North Eolus. The ridge route we took on Mount Eolus was probably the airiest of I’ve done in Colorado, but extremely rewarding. It was also hard work: The hike up the headwall leading to the peaks is no joke, and at that point I was in pretty sad condition. By the time I got back to camp from those first two peaks, I’d resolved to take the next day off.

That didn’t slow down the rest of the crew, which went up and tagged Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak. One gal, named Kay, proved particularly ambitious, summiting a couple of 13ers to boot. My friend Matt, who drove up from Tulsa with me, climbed his first 14er, and his second and third. He impressed us all.

There were a number of people on this trip I’d never met, and a couple I only knew via social media. Kay was one of those, Jenny another. Both aren’t just turning into real mountain hounds. They already are. So add them to a list of outdoor women I know (talking to you, Noel and Beth) who more than hold their own.

Probably the best mountain view I've seen to date, from atop North Eolus.

Probably the best mountain view I’ve seen to date, from atop North Eolus.

I almost forgot: There was a 13er hike that week as well, when Matt and I hiked Mount Snitkau as a warmup to the real show at Chicago Basin. It was a worthwhile hike on its own, packed with scenery, and so close to Denver. I can see going back to Loveland Pass.

On the western edge of Black Mesa, looking into New Mexico.

On the western edge of Black Mesa, looking into New Mexico.

The last outing of the year took me to Black Mesa, in far western Oklahoma. This is a place I’d long wanted to see, not because it was the state’s high place, but because I’d heard how beautiful it was. Black Mesa didn’t disappoint. I did this one solo, and experienced the kind of solitude I hadn’t ever had before. I knew I’d enjoy that. I’ve come to a point where I need it. Add that to the stories people told me along the way and the unique experience that it was, and that little journey into the Panhandle may have been one of the most memorable I’ve had in many years.

I look forward to going back to Chicago Basin, back to Colorado, and also exploring places closer to home.

ON THE SITE

It was a good year for expanding readership on the blog. I had to cut some things out (no more Weekly Stoke), but that freed up time to concentrate on trip reports, essays and posts about fitness topics.

It also freed up time to get a few more gear reviews up. I’m always down to test new stuff.

As of this writing, the blog recorded more than 53,000 views for 2014. I also expanded its social media footprint via Facebook and Instagram. Those are growing slowly, but they’ve been a nice outlet to connect with existing readers as well as new folks. Since Proactiveoutside was created three years ago, nearly 155,000 people have given it a click.

For that I’m grateful. Thanks for reading, interacting, and being a part of this little project. Here’s to making 2015 that much more memorable!

What do you have planned for the coming year? Let’s hear it!

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Dan’s inspiring words about his first half marathon

There are a lot of great stories that come out of big races. People take up running, struggling to make it a half-mile without having to stop. Months later, they’re crossing the finish line with a bunch of mile behind their backs, a finish line under their feet and then a medal around their neck.

A friend of mine named Dan is one of those guys. He is a classic story of a guy who was a committed non-runner who made a total about-face.

Usually this space on Fridays is reserved for the Weekly Stoke, but we’ll do a different version of that now. The following is taken from a Facebook post he made Friday, five days after pounding out 13.1 miles at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. His words speak for themselves, so I’ll let Dan do the talking now.

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Dan (left) and his brother-in-law Corey after finishing the half marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

Dan (left) and his brother-in-law Corey after finishing the half marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

We have all seen them, those obnoxious little white ovals stuck to the back of other people’s cars proudly displaying their accomplishments…13.1, 26.2, 5k,10k or whatever. Until Sunday I looked at those stickers as a symbol of signs of a superiority complex or as an outright plea for affirmation and frankly I saw them as just that…until Sunday.

As I was plodding along on my own 13.1 mile journey I had time for some self-evaluation (what else can you do when running?) I thought about the events that had brought me to that place, to mile number 8 of 13.1 and I realized that the 13.1 on that sticker was WAY more than a just an arrogant advertisement of accomplishment, sure it is all about bragging rights but it is also about so much more.

For me it is about the day in August that I decided that I needed to get off the couch and it is about the fact that I had to walk for the first few days because I was too out of shape to run. It is about getting up at 5:30 in the morning to run one block and walk two, telling myself “just do more today than you did yesterday, even if it is only running one block further.” It is about the 150 or so miles that I ran before I decided that I might be in good enough shape to train for a half marathon, and for sure it is about the 280ish miles that I ran during training.

For me that stupid little sticker represents me basically running from Wichita, KS to Dallas, TX in this process (not all at once), and forcing myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other even when I did not want to, but it also represents something else. It represents the support I had from friends and family, Craig my running buddy who got up and went with me even though he did not run in the race. Corey and Eliya Bolgrin my brother-in-law and sister, even though we did not get to run together as much as we wanted to it was still fun when we did and you are both great encouragers (and Corey it was fun to get to run the race with you, thanks man!) Bob Doucette, always encouraging me to get out and run in spite of the cynicism that I had toward running for so long. 

So will I have one of those stickers on my car, maybe but only because I now understand how much work goes into earning that sticker. Even if you have always been a long distance runner all of your life, you don’t just wake up one day and run that far (I’m sure there are a few who do, but EVERYONE hates them…right?) And to my friends who are just now getting into running or are thinking about getting into running I just have this to say…I was the guy who “ran only when being chased, and that was negotiable” and now it doesn’t totally suck and it is even kind of enjoyable (some days still suck) but stick with it. You don’t have to run like the wind or run from here to the moon in the first month, just keep putting one foot in front of the other at whatever pace you find yourself at and keep telling yourself to do more today than you did yesterday and who knows, we may pass each other in a race one day.

***

Well said, Dan.

Bob Doucette

Race recap: The 2014 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

A stormy start to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. (Dave Morris photo)

A stormy start to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. (Dave Morris photo)

From the word go, I could tell that this year’s Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was going to be a dicey proposition. Severe weather was predicted the morning of the event, and like that family relative who no one likes, it made a timely  appearance.

But for me, the race – in which I did the half marathon – was screwed a long time ago not by storms, but my own, shall we say, omissions. We’ll get to that in a minute.

The race

Like I said, a storm clouds formed and a squall line hit downtown Oklahoma City right at race time. It had been scheduled to start at 6:30 a.m., presumably (and wisely) to avoid the warm temperatures that often hit Oklahoma in late April. A comfortable high of 84 is great to most people, but people who run long know that is really hot for a race like this.

High winds, rain and lightning showed up just before 6 a.m., forcing several delays. The race organizers nearly pulled the plug on everything, citing safety concerns, but we got our window to run at 8:15 a.m., much to the relief of 26,000 antsy runners.

At 8 a.m., I jogged to my car, got hailed on, then found my corral. I was ready to go.

The winners

I’d almost like to believe that times were a bit slower this year than in the past, mostly because of the weather conditions that prevailed later in the race. But there were still some good showings by this year’s champions.

Jason Cook, of Norman, Okla., won the men’s marathon with a time of 2:42.

For the women, Camille Herron, of Warr Acres, Okla., clocked a 2:51 time to capture the win.

He men’s half marathon event went to Arya Bahreini (1:10), while the women’s title was won by Brianne Robbins (1:28).

At the finish line. I'm the guy in black waving to the crowd.

At the finish line. I’m the guy in black waving to the crowd.

How it went

Despite the predictions of severe weather, the storms that came through Oklahoma City were not that bad. It was humid as all get-out, but the temperatures were mild, even a little cool and the winds were pretty tame. That was a huge relief.

The sun peeked out of the clouds sometime after 9:15 or so, and it was about then that the temps started to rise. I began to feel a little warm with around four miles to go, but for those behind me and for the marathoners, rising temps would haunt them badly. Oh, and that south wind kicked up too, just as marathoners would start making the long, uphill trek toward the finish line around mile 17 or so. One friend of mine, who is far faster than me, got bogged down by the heat and wind so bad that he didn’t finish his 26.2 until he’d been out there for six hours.

As for me, I have to say that I earned what I got. Last year, I ran the half in 2:22. This year, 2:22. A repeat performance when I’d been gunning for two hours or less this spring.

This was a disappointment to me. That’s 12 minutes slower than my previous 13.1 PR, and really, I just slogged this one out. I could blame the late start, the lack of sleep the night before, or even the rising temps toward the end. But I’m not going to because those weren’t factors.

The real reason behind this year’s results was I winged it on my training. Plus, I allowed myself to gain about eight pounds from my marathon race weight. So while I was able to get some big runs in this winter and spring (two 25K races, a 13-mile training run and a couple of 10-milers), it was all the other training I did not do that did me in.

Lesson learned.

My guess is that I rebelled against the rigidity of last fall’s training schedule. Well, there’s a reason people do training programs. They work. Winging it does not. Sticking to a training schedule helped me finish a marathon and set new PRs in the half, 15K and 5K. Winging it got me 2:22.

If I want to just run and have a good time, I could do it like this again. If I want to get faster, I’ll need to buckle down.

At the National Memorial, post race. I didn't get the time I wanted, but being a part of this race is always pretty special.

At the National Memorial, post race. I didn’t get the time I wanted, but being a part of this race is always pretty special.

This is not to say that there weren’t some awesome things that happened in this race. I had three friends who ran their first half marathons, one of them with her older sister (who just happens to be a marathoning machine). It was great to see their satisfaction of having accomplished such a big goal.

And there is a reason why this race has been named one of 12 in the country that should be on every runner’s bucket list. The atmosphere is incredible, starting off in the shadow of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

The marathon, the Memorial, and the community support surrounding this event are testaments to the city’s resiliency. Oklahoma City has come such a long way since April 19, 1995. In the days after the federal building bombing, people saw what the city and the state were made of, and it is admirable.

In the years since, the city has boomed. A beautiful memorial was built. And a marathon was born. Being a part of that story, even with a less-than-ideal finish, is still an awesome thing.

Bob Doucette

Previewing the 2014 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

Runners take off at the 2013 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. (Oklahoma Sports & Fitness photo)

Runners take off at the 2013 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. (Oklahoma Sports & Fitness photo)

We’re about a week away from Oklahoma’s biggest long-distance event, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Whether you’ve never run it or have been in it since the beginning, there is something different about this race. The crowd support is great, the course memorable, and the starting line venue — the Oklahoma City National Memorial — is about as moving as anything you’ll ever see. With 25,000 participants joining you, well, you get the picture. It’s a heck of a big-race experience.

Pre-race: You can pick up your race packets at the Health and Fitness Expo on April 25 and 26 at the Cox Convention Center in downtown OKC. Expect large crowds and long lines, but the crew keeps those lines moving pretty fast. There is no race day packet pickup.

If you’re staying at a hotel downtown, there are plenty of places to eat and things to do in Bricktown, which is the city’s downtown entertainment district. Just keep in mind that a lot of people come down here on the weekends, so some restaurants won’t be easy to get into.

On the morning of the race, there will be parking within walking distance of the start line. Shuttles will also be running from several hotels to the start line. There is a 5:30 a.m. sunrise service at the Memorial, if you’re up to be there that early.

This race is an early starter — 6:30 a.m.

The course: Marathoners and half-marathoners cover a lot of the same ground, but the marathoners continue north for a ways while half marathoners turn west, then back south on the north edge of midtown. There are some things you should know about the course…

First, it starts fast, and downhill. You’ll run through downtown, then east through Bricktown on a flat track before you face your first obstacle, the Walnut Avenue bridge. It’s a bridge that goes over railroad tracks, so you can expect a nice, long incline that goes for a couple of blocks before heading down.

From here, there will be a longer, gentler climb into the Capitol complex. From there, you’ll journey west and north around Edgemere Park, then up into Honor Heights. It’s here that your next big obstacle appears — Gorilla Hill. It’s a steep pitch through a wooded neighborhood, and it definitely has a party atmosphere. A lot of people make a big deal out of this hill, but it’s not that bad. The crowd support here is awesome, and don’t be surprised if you get offered shots or beer.

Just north of here is where the marathoners and half-marathoners split. Folks running the full continue north on Western Avenue while half-marathoners turn west on 50th Street, then south on Classen.

Marathoners continue north through the tony neighborhoods of Nichols Hills, then into The Village before turning west toward Lake Hefner. When you get to the lake, you’ll head north for a short leg, then go south through what is, by all accounts, the crux of the run.

There are a couple of reasons for that. One has to do with the course; the other has to do with spring conditions in Oklahoma. Let’s address the latter first.

Spring weather in Oklahoma is relatively unpredictable, with storms possible. But those usually do not hit until the afternoon. One constant in the spring, however, is the wind. Strong southerly winds often barrel in through the Southern Plains and can be quite stout. Lake Hefner is wide open terrain with no wind blocks to speak of.

From the lake, you’ll go southeast back through Nichols Hills and then south to Classen Boulevard. This section is worth noting, as many runners lament the long incline you face going much of the way back south. The grade is not steep — it just doesn’t let up until somewhere around 23rd Street. So for marathoners, that means a steady upward grade for more than four miles. Half marathoners get to endure it for about two miles. Add to that the likely south winds, and yes, this is a tough stretch coming at a crucial time for full marathon runners — between Mile 19 and Mile 23.

Runners of the half and full share the course again, at least for a time. The course meanders through the Mesta Park neighborhood before eventually heading back downtown and to the finish.

Last notes on the course: It’s not too hilly (certainly not like Tulsa’s Route 66 Marathon), but the weather is often a major factor.

Last year, it wasn’t. Starting time temps were in the low 40s, with light winds present. It was sunny, dry and the highs were never above 60. In other words, perfect.

More likely is strong south winds and higher temperatures — there is a possibility that marathoners could be finishing in the 70s, which is pretty hot for that sort of distance. Course support is good, with frequent aid stations. But staying hydrated takes on an elevated priority of typical spring conditions exist.

I ran this one last year (the half), and it was an amazing experience. The size of the race, the crowd support and the meaning behind the race make this one a bucket list item for many, and for good reason. Be sure to check out the Memorial either before the race or some time after. If you’ve never spent time there, be sure to do it.

Other races: Included in the festivities is a 5K (start time about 6:40) and the popular Kids Marathon at 8:15. Those running the marathon relay will start the same time as the marathon and half marathon races.

Need more information? Check out the event’s website here.

Best of luck April 27!

Bob Doucette

Seen on the run: Springtime weekend long run

So far this winter and spring, I’ve been less than faithful to my training goals. It’s amazing how those planned long run days can get cut short at 6 miles because, well, just because. I’ve run a couple of 25Ks the last two months, but aside from those I haven’t done much in terms of “long run” training days.

I was determined to change that this weekend. The plan: Run 13 miles to top off a bigger week of training, three weeks away from doing the Oklahoma City Memorial half marathon at the end of this month.

I could not have picked a better day, and I’ve got the pics to prove it.

The following are a couple of shots from the halfway point, looking across the Arkansas River to its west bank and the wooded ridge known locally as Turkey Mountain.

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It was a cooler winter, but the signs of new life that come with spring are bursting through.

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One thing about warming temperatures is that people get out more. It always warms my heart to see people outside, doing whatever it is they like to do — walking, running, cycling or whatnot. The parks were filled with people.

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Here’s another view I enjoy when I run alongside the Arkansas River: The pedestrian bridge at 29th Street. At this point, I’m almost 11 miles into the run.

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This was a big weekend for outdoor events. In south Tulsa and Jenks, there was the Aquarium Run (half marathon, 10K and 5K) as well as the Luchador Run 5K. I’ve run the Luchador Run twice, and it’s a blast. They create a whole series of obstacles, and you try to chase people dressed as Mexican wrestlers (the luchadores). Many runners dress up as luchadores as well.

At the finish line, runners can get into a ring with a pair of luchadores, and there is a block party where luchador fights are staged. I didn’t run it this year because I really needed a run a lot longer than a 5K. But that race was just getting underway as I finished up. So I caught this scene from the Luchador Run after I’d finished up.

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Those sights and sounds make the long runs worthwhile, even beyond the training benefit. Saturday was no different. Hopefully your weekend long run was as good as mine.

Bob Doucette

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: The mess on Everest, man fights off a bear and one runner’s journey from Boston to Oklahoma City

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

This edition of the Weekly Stoke is going to have a pretty heavy emphasis on Mount Everest, but plenty of other goodies await. It’s been an interesting week in the outdoors.

First, I’m sure that most people have heard about the fight that happened at Camp 2 on Mount Everest. And there are many conflicting stories about how it went down. In short, three European climbers got in a conflict with Sherpas setting fixed lines on Everest, which led to a brawl in which the Europeans were assaulted by angry Sherpas. The Sherpas claimed the Europeans had ice kicked down on them while rope-setting work was being done.

One of the climbers, Simone Moro, tells the tale in this post.

And here, a second member of the European team, Ueli Steck, describes his version of the events. And it seems as if it was pretty scary. The parties did get together to forge a sort of truce, but many are saying that future incidents like this are not only possible, but likely. It seems the circus that is Everest just took a very dark turn.

A couple weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings, some of the runners who were prevented from finishing that race ran in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. CNN’s John Sutter tells the story of one of those runners, and weaves in some other storylines we well.

Here’s a list of the kinds of dudes you don’t want to be.

And then there’s this list — the six most dangerous hiking trails in the U.S.

And finally, the story to end all stories: A man fights off an Alaskan brown bear with nothing more than a tripod and his bare hands. Try topping  that one at the office watercooler!

Looking back on the 2013 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

Runners take off at the 2013 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. (Oklahoma Sports & Fitness photo)

Runners take off at the 2013 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. (Oklahoma Sports & Fitness photo)

The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is dubbed as “a run to remember.” Aside from being the state’s biggest race, its main purpose is to memorialize the 168 people who died in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

This year’s race lived up to that. But in more than one way.

At the forefront in people’s minds was the suffering caused by that 1995 attack. But right up there with it were the fresh wounds in Boston, where on April 15 two bombs were set off, killing three people and injuring scores more near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

The police presence was significant. Nearly 25,000 people ran in this year’s marathon, half marathon (me included), relay, 5K and kids marathon events. As far as I know, there were no incidents, just a smooth day in perfect conditions.

For me, any event like this also makes me think of my oldest brother Mike, who died two years ago from cancer. All of these things swirling around, mixed in with the excitement and anticipation of the athletes on the course, makes for a very potent atmosphere.

The night before was spent, in part, visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial. It’s hard to describe how that place feels. A scene of such death, sadness and terror is now so peaceful and idyllic. It’s as close to holy ground as you could see in Oklahoma City.

The next day, at 6 a.m., I spent a few minutes walking to the starting corrals. Me and several thousand other people. We were all trying to get to the chutes and find good place to line up. But then an announcer on the public address system asked people to observe a moment of silence for 168 seconds – one for each person killed in the 1995 bombing. Three more seconds were tacked on for the Boston victims. Everyone stopped in the tracks. Downtown got quiet. Even all these years later, the degree of respect and seriousness around the bombing runs deep in Oklahoma City. It was one of my favorite moments the entire day.

Not too long after, the race started. From where I was, it took almost 7 minutes to finally cross the starting line. To be expected with so many people running. But it came with a cool nod to Boston: “Sweet Caroline” was blasting out of the speakers as we crossed. What a great way to start the day!

One thing where all of us lucked out: The weather was perfect. Fifty-two degrees at the start, and light winds. I was worried that we’d instead get the typical OKC spring conditions: warm, humid, and a 20 mph south wind blasting you in the face for the entire second half of the race. No such problems.

Running downtown was awesome. It was a fast downhill that eventually jogged east through Bricktown, Oklahoma City’s large, vibrant and fairly new entertainment district. And then, the first obstacle of the race, at Mile 2: the Walnut Avenue bridge.

I’d like to leave people a piece of advice when gearing up for races like this: Train on hills. Don’t avoid them. Getting your miles on flat, fast tracks won’t prepare you for long uphill climbs, which this bridge is. I was surprised at how many people stopped to walk it halfway up.

Pushing north, the course went through the state Capitol Complex, then along the northwest side before heading into the Crown Heights neighborhood. This was home of the second and, regarded by most, toughest obstacle of the course: Gorilla Hill. Lots of people in the neighborhood came out to cheer people on as they climbed this hill, which in my estimation wasn’t any tougher than the bridge. It’s just a matter of adjusting your breathing and digging in. With all of the people out there providing encouragement, it’s a fun little stretch.

About five miles north of downtown, the marathoners split off from the rest of us, heading into the well-heeled environs of Nichols Hills, then to Lake Hefner on the northwest side of the city. The rest of us went west, then south as the halfway point passed.

At this point, I was getting hungry, so I stopped to open the wrapper of a Snickers Mini (my go-to hiking and long-run fuel) when I got a surprise. From behind me, longtime friend Carrie Carter tapped me on the shoulder and said hey. I knew a bunch of people in this race, but with so many people there I saw none of them until Carrie popped up. A running buddy sounded pretty good about that time. So at Mile 8, we took off to finish this one out.

We chatted it up for awhile. Carrie was bothered by nagging knee pain, so I decided to stick with her until the end. Years before, she’d been part of a group of women who trained for the SheRox Austin Triathlon, but was victimized by a stomach bug that took out a bunch of her comrades. Years later, at another friend’s urging, she signed up for the Memorial half.

I wasn’t about to break any records in this one (2:22 finish). I found a new purpose in the race as being Carrie’s pacer. This was her first half, and if I had anything to say about it, she was going to finish it. Carrie’s a strong gal in many ways. I’m not sure she really needed my help, but just the same, I played the part of cheerleader on the hoof.

She proved her mettle. That knee was really bothering her (she mentioned something about “childbirth” to describe the pain), but stuck with it. Even on one bum wheel, she was going to finish sub-2:30.

And that she did, 2:23. I was stoked for her, more so than anything I did.

I took a few photos, as did a few others who were watching/cheering us on. Here’s a few…

The line for packet pickup was HUGE. The line made a huge U in the lobby of the Cox Convention Center.  But surprisingly, it was also fast.

line

Even though the hotel room smelled like a chain smoker, the views were good. One shot of downtown, the other of Bricktown.

downtown

brick

A shot from the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

gate1

The next morning, this is a shot of a very large crowd in the corrals near the start.

starting

Near the finish, I’m chugging home (I’m in the blue cap). I might be slow, but I still got the mondo calves.

mondo

This is me and friends Tammy Poyer (center) and Carrie. Tammy is fast (1:54).

friends

Me being the sentimental type, showing off a few things motivating me that day: Representing OKC, Boston, and with the orange “Team Doucette” wristband, my brother Mike.

remember

Post-race, me and my parents looking album-cover cool. They came up from DFW to watch me plod across the finish.

fam

I might add that the organizers of the race offered free entries to people who ran in Boston but who could not finish because of the bombings there. More than a few showed up. One of many reasons why this race is so great. If you haven’t run this race, make some plans to do so, even if you’re not from Oklahoma or the surrounding area. It’s a fast track, a great event and a qualifier for future Boston Marathons.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Experimenting with the taper week: Intervals pre-Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

maralogo

So it’s the taper week before the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I’ve been training and racing a lot this winter and spring, and now it all comes down to actually backing off in the days leading up to the event.

I have a pretty bad history when it comes to planning an actual taper week. Illness trashed my training in the month before the Tulsa Run last fall. And I didn’t back off at all before March’s Snake Run trail race. Both went fine, but I’m sure proper planning and training might have made them go better.

So here I am, healthy and focused. But I’m without decent guidance on how to actually program this week, aside from just backing off my miles. So I did some research and found some information that looked intriguing.

The suggestions: 400-meter intervals all week. More specifically, a half-mile warm up, then intervals is decreasing numbers as the week goes by. The suggested pace was 5K speed.

I customized it a bit. I did my intervals in segments of three city blocks. So this week, it’s going to look like this:

Day 1: Half-mile warm-up, 5 intervals (rest between until you’ve caught your breath), jog back to the gym.

Day 2: Half-mile warm-up, 4 intervals.

Day 3: Half-mile warm-up, 3 intervals.

Day 4: Half-mile warm-up, 2 intervals.

Day 5: Half-mile warm-up, 1 interval.

Day 6: Nothing.

Day 7: Race.

I’ve already done Day 1, so that means Saturday is my “do nothing” day, and Sunday is my race, the half marathon. I’ll keep lifting weights as normal, though my leg day is going to be scaled back.

And obviously, lots of water and carbs at the end of the week. If I end up outperforming what I did at the Snake Run (15.1 miles in 2:55), then we’ll know I had fresh legs and a successful plan. If not, well, at least I learned something.

How do you do your taper weeks? Let me know!

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

The Weekly Stoke: OKC Marathon steps up, bushwhacking, killer beavers and the most amazing wingsuit stunt ever

Photo by The Oklahoman

Photo by The Oklahoman

I’m a day late on this one, but it’s been that kind of week. Here’s what I’ve got for The Weekly Stoke:

Organizers of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon made a very cool offer to runners who were unable to finish the Boston Marathon because of the bombings.

Speaking of Boston, here’s a list of people doing awesome things in the wake of the bombings.

Killer beavers in Belarus? Yeah, that happened.

This guy has a take on bushwhacking. Might it be the next official outdoor activity? How many calories can you burn bushwhacking? Maybe a burger/fries/2 beers worth. Read on here.

And finally, I give you this: The most amazing wingsuit stunt I’ve ever seen. And since we’re talking about wingsuits, you know it’s going to be pretty awesome. Watch it below: