Bike commuting revisited: Six things to know

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I’m a few months into this whole bike commuting thing. Thus far, I’ve done all the things I’m supposed to do — get a reflector vest, lights for the bike, and so forth. It seems to be going decently.

Like I said before, I’m doing this out of necessity. I’m sure it would be really admirable if I was all about saving the planet, or finding yet another way to squeeze in even more fitness and outdoors stuff in my life. No need to have me fitted with a cape and shirt with a big “S” on it, though. I’m in it because I don’t want to pay for downtown parking, which would run me anywhere from $400 to $1,200 a year, depending on how I managed it.

But has it been worth it? I’d say yes and no. But mostly yes. The best way to explain it is to go over what I’ve learned. So if you’re thinking about a bike commute, here are my observations…

Be prepared to spend some money to save some money. This assumes you’re buying a bike on the cheap like me. You can spend hundreds of even thousands of dollars on bikes — something I wasn’t prepared to do. I spent $150 on mine. But while it was in good shape, it still needed some tweaks to get it road worthy. I also had to buy all that gear I mentioned earlier, plus a few other things. All told, I think I spent as much or more on bicycle gear as I did on the actual bike. And there is still more work that can be done. Budget accordingly.

The logistics of bike commuting can be a real pain in the butt. It usually means packing a backpack with my food, my work clothes, and all of the other stuff I’ll need for the day. There is also getting the gym clothes I wear during the ride. Putting all this stuff together — packaged and folded so it will fit in the pack — takes about 30 minutes. That’s about 25 more minutes than how it used to be when I was in walking distance from my office, and maybe 20 minutes more if I were driving. Logistically speaking, walking and driving are easier. Biking takes more prep work, and it can be annoying after awhile.

There will be days when you don’t want to physically exert yourself to get to your job. The uphills get old. The downhills are easy — though not quite as easy as plopping your duff in the driver’s seat, turning on some tunes and motoring your way to the office. The physical commitment involved with driving is pretty much nil, and nil is what I feel like some days.

Check with your office or job site about their policy on where you can stow your bike. It would be a real bummer to gear up for bike commuting only to be told you had to lock up your bike somewhere else for the day, out of sight, and left to the elements — and opportunistic thieves.

Be prepared to see an immediate benefit to your legs. Even a short daily commute is going to work your legs more than other forms of commuting. The muscle underneath will be a little firmer, the quadriceps a little better defined, and so forth. Pumping those pedals to get to work is really a rad form of multitasking — arriving on time to work while getting a mini workout.

Enjoy the savings that do come. Because they will. Gas is cheap right now, but not using gas is cheaper. In fact, all the costs associated with using your car every day go down when you leave the car in the garage or driveway most of the week. I usually drive two or three times a week, max. That’s it. I gas up my car maybe once a month, and normally only half way. Cycling also means fewer oil changes, less tire wear and so forth.

So there you have it. My first post on this subject touched on some other things, so check out that link and see if this is something you might want to do.

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Bob Doucette

Running: Taking the speed work seriously

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Something I did on a whim may end up being one of the cooler things I’ve done, at least when it comes to running.

Coming off the fall race season, one in which I had some of my slower race times (and not coincidentally, a season in which I came in at my heaviest), I was hoping to keep some momentum going as those summer months round the corner. As has been typical for me, my thinking is the longer I can run, the better conditioned I’ll be.

But I’ve learned something, courtesy of a running coach who is a trainer at my local gym. When the new year turned, the trainer, a fella named Steve, started a running club with a program that put an emphasis on speed. I figured what the heck, I’ll sign up. So instead of gearing up workouts based on how long my weekend long run is, I’ve been focused on how fast I can go over shorter distances.

What this means is not following a Hal Higdon plan to marathon or half marathon glory, but rather how fast I can push it on a set of eight 400-meter intervals. Or 800-meter intervals. Or 1,000-meter intervals.

Let me tell you, this is hard. Really, freaking hard. Yes, it’s tough to grind out a 20-miler. But it’s also tough to command your body to move faster than it’s used to going, and hold that pace well after you want to quit.

It’s also hard for a guy like me, who has never been fast. It gets even harder to be fast when you’re carrying 10 extra pounds of bad weight.

But interesting things have been happening. I’ve been doing this program for three weeks now. So far, the speed is coming along.

Here's a place where you can work on some speed.

Here’s a place where you can work on some speed.

We did a 2-mile time trial last weekend. Our group is a mix of veteran runners, young speedsters and newbie plodders. I’m just an overweight slow guy. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep up with the front of the pack, finishing those 2 miles in 16 minutes, 41 seconds. So that’s about an 8:20 mile.

For many experienced runners, this is no big deal. People run marathons at faster paces than this. Lots of them, actually. But digging a little deeper, I calculated my 5K PR from a couple of years ago – 26:08 – and lo and behold, that’s holding about an 8:20 pace. I set that mark in 2013, right after having trained for a marathon, and weighing a full 16 pounds less than I do now. Looking where I was even a month ago, I’d say this is progress.

But why is this important to me? Well, for a couple of reasons.

First, I want to be better. Even though I’m far removed from my youth, I know I can improve. Many people in the running community will downplay this, saying I should just enjoy the run, not be a slave to the clock, and do my thing for the sheer joy of it. I agree with that sentiment, but there is also joy in achieving more. PRs are awesome too, right? And something else that can’t be discounted: There is serious enjoyment when you go for a run, with no clock or any performance pressure, and still kill it. Crush the hills. Bust the wind. Clock mile after mile, running hard, just because you can. Sure, you can enjoy a slower run. But smashing a run for fun feels awesome. I’ve had a taste of that, and I want it back.

Second, faster runners make for fitter people. This is important to me because I understand that many of the other things I do, particularly in the mountains, requires a good deal of cardiovascular fitness. When you struggle on the mountain, really suffer, it can rob you of the beauty of the moment. It can also rob you of a summit. I’ve been perilously close to being turned back for just that reason, when I was too almost weak of heart to finish the job. I don’t want to be that guy. Let the mountain turn me back, not my own physical shortcomings.

When it comes to performing at altitude, cardiovascular fitness is key. But not all cardio is created equal. It’s one thing to get into a rhythm, but what happens when you enter that anaerobic stage? That happens on the mountain, when you’re pushing uphill at 12,000, 13,000 or 14,000 feet. Your heart pounds, your breath is quickened, and you can’t catch your breath. You know what that looks like? Speed work. It looks a lot like pushing beyond your limits as you run as fast as your body will allow for a mile or three. When you’re breathing so hard you’re almost at puke stage, can you kick up your pace for those last couple hundred meters? Is that applicable in the high country? Yes. Yes it is.

I’ve found that I’ve been complacent when it comes to this form of fitness. Give me a couple of months and I can run 13 miles in a couple of hours and change. I can comfortably run in the middle of the pack on most long-distance races. That’s fine, but there are rewards for pushing harder. Working to be fast – even if that’s only relative to you – will make you fitter. It will make you physically tougher. And mentally stronger.

So I’m not looking at booking my first 50K. Not now, anyway. There’s work to do. How close can I get to 20 minutes in a 5K? What time can I post in, say, a 10K trail race? How fast can I run a mile? And what sort of benefits will all this stuff reap? Time to find out.

Bob Doucette

Standoff at Malheur: It’s past time for the Oregon occupiers to leave

The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge continues. (Sacramento Bee photo)

The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge continues. (Sacramento Bee photo)

It’s been about three weeks since a group of self-proclaimed militia members broke off from a planned demonstration, drove to a southeastern Oregon wildlife refuge and, fully armed but facing no one, camped out and “took over” the federal facility’s headquarters.

The original protest, which took place in the town of Burns, was against the resentencing of a couple of ranchers who had originally been convicted of setting fire to public lands in an effort to cover up poaching. They denied that, but served sentences a federal judge later said were too short to satisfy federal sentencing guidelines. So back to jail they would go.

This upset many locals in Harney County, who felt like the ranchers got a raw deal. But what really got people’s attention is what happened after: When Ammon Bundy, son of now-famous Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, took a crew of armed men to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, holed up in the refuge’s headquarters, and said they weren’t leaving until federal public lands were given back to locals. They vowed to stay for years, if need be, until they got their way.

The takeover highlights a couple things, first being the ongoing tension that ranchers and private landowners have with the federal government. When the government owns most of the land out West, it’s bound to happen, and any time you reach an agreement with the feds, there are going to be strings attached. Naturally, some landowners find common ground with the Bundy clan and their ongoing disputes with the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies.

But a second thing on which it sheds light is a disturbing trend much bigger than stakeholder friction with the government. It looks as if there is a growing desire to make public — and armed — stands against the authorities an acceptable tactic for earning concessions on public lands the rest of us would never enjoy.

Going back to 2014, Cliven Bundy made news when the BLM finally got tired of him failing to pay grazing fees that he’d racked up over several years. His debt to the government is in the seven- figure range, and he was warned that if he didn’t pay up or remove his cattle from public lands, his cattle would be moved for him.

But when the BLM showed up to make good on its promise, so did Bundy’s supporters — a collection of like-minded folks from closer to home and a number of out-of-state militia types, armed with weaponry that you might see soldiers carrying into war zones. When the groups met face-to-face, federal workers had militia weapons trained on them, so they backed down. Cliven Bundy got his way because the BLM didn’t want some of its employees felled in a hail of gunfire.

Fast-forward to earlier this month, and it appears the desire for armed confrontation is still high with this bunch. Ammon Bundy, a Montana rancher, his brother, and a gaggle of out-of-state militia men are standing guard at their new possession, with federal law enforcement watching from a distance.

None of the refuge’s employees were at the facility with the Bundy group arrived, so the takeover was pretty easy. But they’ve taken to social media, asking people to send food, clothing and whatever else might help them endure a lengthy stay in the Oregon high desert.

A growing number of Harney County residents are ready for the Bundy bunch to leave. (ajc.com photo)

A growing number of Harney County residents are ready for the Bundy bunch to leave. (ajc.com photo)

What they haven’t received, aside from their own small number, is any real support — not locally or nationally. The county sheriff wants them gone. A Native American tribe that calls southeastern Oregon its ancestral home has been very public about wanting the group leave. Most locals are wary of their presence, and weary of the standoff, noting that they don’t feel safe with the potential of the standoff escalating. And the call for supplies has been met by people sending the occupiers packages of plastic phalluses and sex toys instead of the requested snacks. You might say the public response to their pleas has been acidly comical.

But the occupation of the wildlife refuge is no farce. There are real costs here, something conservationists, hunters, birders and outdoor enthusiasts have made clear. The Bundy militia wants the government to “give back” public lands to the people, but fail to understand that those very lands belong to all of us. Even neighboring ranchers understand this. One of them in particular was angered when militia members tore down a fence separating his land from that of the refuge, and immediately had his crew reinstall the barrier, telling The Oregonian newspaper that he has no problem working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on grazing deals.

That’s not to say that the friction between private and public isn’t real. It is. Ranching is a hard life with razor-thin profit margins, especially in the vast, dry lands of many western states. And if bureaucrats aren’t working closely with stakeholders, arbitrary decisions can turn into blow-ups quickly.

But the wildlife refuge itself has belonged to the people — every U.S. citizen — since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. We set aside public lands knowing that there is more to natural resources than what we can cut, mine, graze or extract. Diverse ecosystems make the land healthier, which can actually help agriculture. Unspoiled lands attract tourism, and thus more jobs. Conservationists of old, like Roosevelt, knew that the country’s heritage was intertwined with the natural realm.

Now that’s being threatened. Threatened by people who dress and arm themselves as if they’re going to war (I’m continually amazed at how some people want to look, feel and be seen as special forces heroes without the sacrifice needed to be given that honor). Threatened by men itching for a fight, deluded by the lie that their battles will start a revolution (you can see how well that worked for Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols). Threatened by opportunists who keep saying God told them to do this, to take what really isn’t theirs alone (though shalt not steal, anyone?). While they haven’t come out and said it, the implication is they’re not leaving unless their impossible demands are met, or until blood is shed.

So far, the violence has been absent. Of that I’m grateful, and I tip my hat to federal law enforcement for learning the lessons from Waco that got some of their agents shot to pieces, then later ended in fiery horror. No one wants a repeat of that.

The only real action against the occupiers occurred when a couple of these dunderheads went grocery shopping in town, using government vehicles they didn’t have permission to use. I can only imagine the embarrassment the mighty warriors must have felt when they were relieved of their grocery sacks, cuffed, and hauled to jail in the back of a police car for auto theft. No glory in that, my friends.

The standoff is important because public lands belong to all of us, not just people with guns and free time on their hands.

The standoff is important because public lands belong to all of us, not just people with guns and free time on their hands.

But as the standoff persists and the feds keep watching, I wonder how it will end. Will the occupiers get frustrated and leave? Will the government cut off power and road access, trapping them in the compound? Will the militia mopes be prosecuted, or will they be free to go home like they did after the Nevada standoff in 2014? Or will this really end in a storm of bullets and clouds of tear gas?

However it goes, we’ve already lost something. For the better part of a month, out-of-staters with self-aggrandizing goals have disrupted the lives of the people of Harney County. They’ve called themselves “patriots” while forcibly commandeering and perverting the term. And with each passing day, they erode a part of what’s great about being an American — that we have wild places where all of us have ownership.

Bob Doucette

A look at some of the greatest explorers ever

Personal exploration is something we should all do. But did you ever wonder who the greatest explorers were?

Personal exploration is something we should all do. But did you ever wonder who the greatest explorers were?

Every now and then, I dive into the ole Twitterverse to take part in a select few chats, most of which deal with the outdoors.

One of them is the Adventure Travel Q&A, or simply known as #ATQA. Some very cool folks take part in this on a weekly basis, and the topics are interesting. The latest one really got me thinking.

The subject was “exploration.” I think there are two ways to look at this concept.

The first is personal exploration. By that, I’m talking about going to places new to you. This is the type of travel where you see something you’ve never seen before, revel in new experiences, and quite often, learn and grow. When people talk about “exploring” something, this is usually the type of exploration they’re referencing. For the record, I’m all for doing as much of this as you can.

The second type of exploration is more of the classic definition: An adventure where you are going somewhere no one has ever been, or doing something that’s never been done.

By this, I’m talking about those folks who were the first to summit the world’s highest peaks, to dive to the deepest part of the ocean, to see new lands never documented by man, or to peer into the darkest corners of space. We’re talking macro-exploration here.

The question was asked who the greatest explorers were. This is exactly the type of question that I can geek out on like nobody’s business. After some thinking, this is what I came up with:

A replica of an oceangoing Polynesian boat. Imagine crossing the Pacific Ocean in one of these.

A replica of an oceangoing Polynesian boat. Imagine crossing the Pacific Ocean in one of these.

The Polynesians. You want to know how there came to be people who live in places like Tahiti, Fiji or Hawaii? They didn’t jump on a steam ship or an airplane. Not originally. No, those brave folks used canoes and rafts powered by the wind (via small sails) and their own oars. The traversed the world’s largest ocean in vessels most of us would be scared to board on a big lake. But they did it, and covered THOUSANDS of miles, braving high heat, huge waves, big storms and hungry sharks. You may not know this, but the Hawaiian Islands make up the most remote island archipelago on the planet. European sailors didn’t land there before these bits of earth had long been discovered, explored and settled by Polynesians centuries before. I’d be hard-pressed to find another group of explorers more hardy than these determined mariners.

The Vikings sailed from Scandinavia to places like Iceland, Greenland and even North America in vessels like this one, centuries before Christopher Columbus.

The Vikings sailed from Scandinavia to places like Iceland, Greenland and even North America in vessels like this one, centuries before Christopher Columbus.

The Vikings. Coming a close second are the Scandinavian butt-kickers known more for their savagery toward the poor inhabitants of Britain, Ireland and Continental Europe. These guys were expert warriors, and adept at the art of psychological warfare. That’s what made their raids and acts of extortion so lucrative. But these folks were also capable sailors, be it along the coast, up rivers or in the open sea. On that last count, they one-upped Christopher Columbus by a few centuries, crossing the North Atlantic toward Iceland, Greenland and even North America. The Vikings briefly settled the southeastern coast of modern-day Canada before giving up — way back in the 10th Century. While they quit North America, the remains of their amazing feats of exploration can be seen in the ruins of Greenland and in the continuing civilization that flourishes on Iceland. Want to know how amazing this is? A typical Viking ship was powered only by sail and oar, and the ships themselves were a little over 50 feet long. Like the Polynesians, they did it without the benefit of modern navigation we take for granted today, and if you don’t already know, the North Atlantic can have some of the nastiest, stormiest weather on earth.

The moon landing may possibly be the greatest example of exploration in history, and certainly one of the greatest achievements in the history of the United States. Exploration!

The moon landing may possibly be the greatest example of exploration in history, and certainly one of the greatest achievements in the history of the United States. Exploration!

The astronauts. Be they American or Soviet space explorers (and many other nationalities now), astronauts (the USSR called them cosmonauts) take part in a type of travel that is completely novel, and overly hostile to the presence of humans. The science, technology and pure guts it takes to strap yourself into a metal can and rocket into the void cannot be understated. Think about it: You have to take everything with you — food, water and air — and protect yourself from blinding light, searing heat/deadly cold and unfiltered radiation. If everything goes right, you live, provided you can get home without frying in the earth’s atmosphere on the journey back. Everything about space is pretty much trying to kill you.

Among the grandest accomplishments therein has to be the moon landings. Seeing this happened nearly five decades ago, and how numb we are to such feats, it requires you to step back to really appreciate what the astronauts of the Saturn project did. They traveled tens of thousands of miles, LEAVING THE PLANET to land on a completely new world. Humans have walked on earth for all of our existence. Before Neil Armstrong, no living thing had ever sniffed the surface of the moon. A lot will be said about what the United States has accomplished in its brief history, but this monumental feat of exploration will go down as one of the country’s greatest-ever achievements. So you were the first to climb X mountain? Fuggetaboutit. These guys are the only living beings on earth to have set foot on another world.

You might be bumming because your own explorations don’t measure up to these badasses. But don’t be sad, little camper. Take heart. Our efforts pale in comparison, but the spirit is the same. The effort involved, the planning, and at times, the courage to carry it out, can be extreme. But think about how much you grow. The deeds of our greatest explorers illustrate how the process of adventure is a pretty awesome thing. Use that for motivation the next time the itch to explore arises.

Bob Doucette

13er Thursday: A gallery of some great peaks that don’t hit 14,000 feet

On the slopes of Cupid, a Colorado 13er that was remarkably free of people when I was there.

On the slopes of Cupid, a Colorado 13er that was remarkably free of people when I was there.

If you’re into the Colorado hiking and climbing scene, you know all about the  14ers, the peaks that rise to elevations of more than 14,000 feet. Colorado has more of those than any state in the country, 58 high points that hit that magic number.

To say that the 14ers are popular is an understatement. Many of these peaks get crowded in the summer, with packed trails and clogged trailhead parking lots. Looking for a moment of solitude in the mountains? That’s not likely among the 14ers during the peak season of summer hiking. You’ll need to hit ’em up in less friendly conditions that surround winter for that.

But there are plenty of other mountains in Colorado. Believe it or not, most of them don’t top 14,000 feet. And because of that, they’ve become the forgotten mountains of the peak bagger realm.

Fine by me. I like the 13ers. They’re wild, beautiful and largely absent of people. My experience in the 13ers is a little limited, but memorable just the same.

Enough words. Just take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

Grizzly Peal D is in there somewhere...

Grizzly Peak D is in there somewhere…

You can hike this one and many others just up the road from Denver, and chances are, you will see few people.

Iowa Peak (left) and Emerald Peak.

Iowa Peak (right) and Emerald Peak.

Just south of Missouri Mountain are these beauties.

Gilpin Peak. Rugged stuff near Telluride.

Gilpin Peak (left). Rugged stuff near Telluride.

Yankee Boy Basin is home to some seriously amazing 13er scenery.

Kismet and Potosi.

Kismet (right) and Potosi.

See what I mean?

Campsite view of Peak 18.

Campsite view of Peak 18.

The 13ers can be quite dramatic, even if their names are not.

Pigeon and Turret peaks.

Turret and Pigeon peaks.

One word. Wow.

13ers everywhere. In the distance, Vestal and Arrow peaks.

13ers everywhere. In the distance, Vestal and Arrow peaks.

Did I say wow? Yes. Yes I did.

Coxcomb, Redcliff and somewhere over there, Precipice peaks.

Coxcomb, Redcliff and somewhere over there, Precipice.

They look good in snow, too.

Matterhorn Peak.

Matterhorn Peak.

A knockout, right?

Precipice Peak.

Precipice Peak.

Indeed, they are. In all seasons.

So there ya go. It doesn’t have to be 14,000 feet to be awesome. There are more than 600 of these amazing 13,000-foot rockpiles out there. Plenty to explore away from crowds.

Scenic Mount Sniktau's summit ridge.

Scenic Mount Sniktau’s summit ridge.

Bob Doucette

Waterlogged: When it’s time to give the trails a break

My favorite place to run, but maybe now is not the best time to be there.

My favorite place to run, but maybe now is not the best time to be there.

This is the time of year when I would like to transition my long runs to the trails. I’ve got two trail races I’m eyeing over the next couple of months, and it makes sense to put those big miles on the dirt tracks of the woods.

But there is a problem. As it turns out, 2015 was the wettest year in Oklahoma history, capped off by an extraordinarily heavy weekend of rain over the Christmas holiday. Adding to that was some rain and snow over the past couple of days.

My local trail running haunt, the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area, is saturated. The last time I ran there, only the highest trail atop a ridge crest was halfway dry. Everything else was anything from muddy to flooded.

Mud and standing water is a de facto badge of pride for trail runners. Trail running is tougher than road running, mostly because the paths trail runners take don’t avoid elevation gains, traverse sketchy terrain and force runners to tackle the elements on their terms. Part of that includes mud.

I’m OK with that. Especially when it comes to races, rotten route conditions add a little spice to the event.

But there comes a time when you have to think bigger. The places where I run are pretty busy, and not just with runners. Cyclists, hikers and other trail users frequent my local trails by the hundreds every day, at a minimum. All that use has an impact on trails under the best of conditions. Add enough rain to the mix and trail erosion and degradation is greatly accelerated.

So when Saturday’s programmed long run came up, I stayed off the dirt and hit the pavement.

I know one person won’t cause much damage. Neither will 10. But hundreds will when the trails are in such poor condition, as they are now. And with so much rain behind us, it may be a bit before they dry out to the point where erosion and other damage is slowed.

As a trail runner, I care about the places I run. I care enough to get active in protecting the places those trails cross. I want to make sure the trail system is cleaned of trash, protected from urbanization and maintained in a sustainable way. I’ve even learned a little bit about trail restoration along the way.

But I also know that part of protecting those trails can be more passive. In their current state, my presence will likely add to deeper ruts and other associated harm that comes from my weight digging into the mud via my feet.

It’s also key to understand how many runners, hikers and even some cyclists react when confronted with a big pool of water in middle of the trail. Most try to sidestep it, to avoid getting their feet wet and to preserve those pristine kicks from the dingy stains of muddy water. Never mind that the edges of the trail are also likely to be very muddy, and that going around mud puddles causes even more damage, which is why we are told to run through the middle of the mess in the first place. But human nature is what it is.

So while I take a little pride in coming home from a trail run with mud splattered all over me, I also understand that maybe now it’s a little too muddy, a little too wet, and a bit too fragile for me. Not everyone will share this conviction, and I understand that. But it is something we should consider.

Maybe next weekend it will be different. But for now, I’ll grudgingly pound pavement and give my trails a break.

Bob Doucette

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