2016: A Year In Review

Now is the time of year when we runners take a moment to look back and review our running accomplishments and experiences over the past twelve months. Most reviews I read/have read start like this, "This year didn't go as planned...." Right? 

Well, mine is no exception. 

It wasn't so much that my performance had been terrible (it was), but it was more that I didn't really set any realistic running goals. In fact, I think I set one goal, which I subsequently missed. But, before you think to yourself this is another self-deprecating, woe-is-me post, there are some pretty decent highlights that may not have put me on the podium, but did allow me to enjoy a solitary fist pump. 

Heading West

2016 started out pretty dramatically with my wife and I picking up and moving from Boston to Seattle in January. But, in the middle of moving we made our way to Orlando and the 2016 Dopey Challenge. As with every Dopey Challenge, the goal is to survive the onslaught of both the miles and the unending stream of "pixie dust" that encapsulates you everywhere you go. I'm not a pixie dust kind of guy, in fact I think I'm allergic to it. But, as always, a good time was had and I even managed to get a good 10k race in (even as it poured). While we may not be as into Disney races as we have in the past, Dopey Weekend will continue to be in our foreseeable future. 

Some Hot Chocolate to Go With Those Hills

My first major race post-Seattle move was the Hot Chocolate 15k in a rainy and raw Seattle morning. As it so happens once in a while, the heavens decided to open up just as the starting gun fired, drenching us runners in a deluge of cold rain. However, even as the rain continued to pelt me with its icy daggers, the hills were the real demoralizer. I had thought I had run hills in the past, but nothing compared to the ego-killing monsters that cut out the Emerald City's landscape. 

What the hell am I wearing?

A Sea of Pink

I had little time to lament my Hot Chocolate race as the following week I was headed back to Orlando to run my first runDisney Princess Half Marathon. Really, this was a weekend for my wife and her best friend with the husbands relegated to cheering duty. But, we all had a chance to get in our respective races, giving me a chance to stretch my racing muscles a bit. I was put in Corral B, so I called out the invitation for the ladies to chase me down in my pink attire, which many of you flew right past me. I had read a lot of horror stories online about the weekend, but all in all, the race (weekend) was really fun. I wouldn't mind doing that race again.

I'm such a princess......

..who kicks ass.

Rockin' & Rollin'

June brought a warmish summer and the Rock & Roll Seattle Half Marathon. This was my first experience with the Rock & Roll race series, but we wouldn't be going at it alone. Carlee and Linzie made their way up to Seattle to join my wife and I in the race. The course was a great mix of urban Seattle and wonderful waterways that surround it. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't catch up to Carlee and her blazing speed. At the end of the race, there she was as positive as always. We celebrated by watching 1,000 naked cyclists ride past us in Fremont's Solstice Parade. 

This is an odd medal. 

#JustBeARunner

June also brought a very honest post from me to the running community about the role of bloggers, brands and readers. The over saturation of "influencers" was just too much for me to stand, so I offered up some tips on how to curb the brand crazy. The positivity and reaction was swift and amazing. So many of you shared your praise for the post and contempt for what the running social landscape had become, I was truly humbled. Thank you.

 I should also mention how I decided to pare down my ambassadorships to brands I felt most represent who I am. Dirtbag Runners is a no brainer as they are easily the best group of runners out there. Crista Scott is a visionary and her team of misfit runners are the epitome of community. 

Momentum Jewelery was a sleeper hit in my book in 2016, giving me the chance to show men can express their motivations, too. 

You May Know

2016 brought my You May Know series to the blog with the candid conversations with such running greats as running writer/humorist, Mark Remy;  running legend, Bart Yasso; Oiselle CEO and runner rights advovate, Sally Bergesen; and runner/television/Netflix phenom, Andrea Barber. 2017 is already lining up for more great interviews. Stay tuned!  

Two-Wheeled Motion

The middle of the year also brought me something that I have wanted for a long time, a bike. To be honest running had really started to become stale and I needed to find something to keep me interested in fitness, so after a lot of researching I settled on a pretty smooth Cannondale. To date, it's been my first choice on method to hit the road if the weather is good. 

Tri'ing For More

Now that I had a noble steed, it was time to get back into multi-sport events. I had undertaken a gym triathlon the year before, but it wasn't a "real" tri, rather a timed event in each sport. But, I had been itching to give a real one a go, so off I headed to the mountains of Washington to give the Lake Tye Triathlon a shot. In true fashion, I signed up for the race 10 days before and hadn't been swimming since our cruise the previous November. Suffice to say, my expectations were low going into my sprint race. 

As you could imagine, I finished dead last in the swim - it was so bad, one of the marshals on a paddle board stayed next to me nearly all 200 meters and asked me if I was going to drown - but I persevered and wouldn't quit. Coming out the 12-mile bike portion, I had jumped to 112th place, and by the end of the 5k run, I skyrocketed to 38th place. Not too shabby,

Three sports in one race? Yes.

I'm definitely hooked on tris and already have two planned for 2017.

West Coast Mouse House

Since we now lived on the west coast (that still sounds weird), there was no way we weren't going to miss the chance to see all of our friends during Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend in September. So, at the last minute we scored some bibs, shacked up with our friends Jen & Lena and made our way south to Anaheim. After a terrible experience with JetBlue, we found our way to La La Land and among dear friends. This race was my first real experience with "stomach distress" that nearly made me pull out of the race completely. However, I finished in some awful time and swore I'd never race there again (we've already signed up for 2017). Oh, well.

These guys. These are MY guys. 

Hometown Race

October brought me the Chicago Marathon, my absolute favorite race in the world. But,  if you know me you already knew that. If you don't think the Chicago Marathon is the greatest race in the world, I will straight up fight you. Of course, being from Chicago I may be a little biased, but the course, crowd and atmosphere seriously cannot be beat. Boston? Nope. New York? Please. Chicago has you beat. 

This year was my first year attempting Chicago as just a fun run. I really hadn't put in the right training (thanks, bike) so I got real and decided to just enjoy myself. That strategy completely paid off in spades, as every high-five I gave and hug I received upped my enthusiasm even if it sacrificed time. It was also another year running for Team PAWS, which saves lives of animals. I'll always be down for that. 

We also got to spend a lot of time with the always wonderful Whittakers, I was glad to show them my city and I think they appreciated that. I'm already signed up for next year and plan to go back to my race mode. I know I have more to give that course. 

This race is boss. 

Wine & Done

November is another staple race, the Wine & Dine Weekend in Orlando at Walt Disney World. This year, Disney offered up a new race challenge, the Lumiere Challenge, which consisted of a 10k and half marathon, so we had to try it.

Full disclosure: The Wine & Dine Half used to be my absolute favorite half in the world, but a serious of missteps from runDisney has really taken this race out of contention for anything. Instead of it being a night race, the half was now held in the early morning with a less than stellar course (water treatment facility). I know there's a lot of construction happening at WDW, making it tough to set strong courses, but I have really lost my appetite for this weekend. 

While the pictures were amazing, the weekend lacked that excitement it used to have. 

Closing Out 2016 On the Trails

The last race of the year brought me my first trail race of the year. I'm still way into trail races, but timing and a new city didn't really allow for a stronger trail race schedule, which bummed me out. So, when my wife asked if I wanted to run the Seward Solstice 4.2 trail race in Seattle's beautiful Seward Park, I didn't need a lot to say yes. 

This race was an absolute blast! The course was a two loop jaunt through some of the hilliest terrain the city has to offer. At first, the course started out flat and then dumped us into some woodsy terrain that tortured us with undulating hills, overgrown roots and all smiles. I was in no way ready for this little soul killer. The race started at a chilly 27 degrees, but quickly heated up to 100 with all the work my body had to do to survive. Kudos to Northwest Trail Runs for an awesome time. 

Jazz hands!

So, as you can see 2016 was not a year filled with many miles, training plans and grueling workouts. Should it have been? I really don't know. Honestly, I haven't really had that fire in me all year and haven't missed it. Rather, it was a year to just enjoy the sport when I wanted to enjoy it and not because I had to run. 

What 2017 will look like is anybody's guess, but I know that it certainly will contain more biking and swimming. Maybe I'm turning a corner and shifting priorities to other races, only time will tell. 

I hope your 2016 went well and that you use your experience, whether positive or negative, to steer your 2017.

Happy New Year.

Run fast. Run smart.