Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

I just finished scrolling through all of the titles of my blog posts, looking at the calendar on the fridge, and scanning the race reports and running log. Seriously, I could type until the ball drops tonight at midnight but to save my fingers and your time, I thought a subject-oriented approach might be a good summation of the year. So here we go...and I promise to be as succinct as possible:

Awesome bobble-head male/female awards at the 5K
Building Marriages/Community/Relationships: My wife and I, now in our 23rd "official" year, certainly have a passion for others in hurting marriages, those looking for financial freedom, and encouraging community amongst each other whether that's in the church, across church lines, within our community or in a geographical area. We basically remain "at the ready" and definitely feel called and equipped in this area to help. Our year began with an 11-week marriage study in our home dubbed "Real Marriage" that went very well. We took a week or two off after that and immediately launched our first "Financial Peace University" by Dave Ramsey. We filled a class to capacity and held it at our local town hall for free.  That was 9 weeks and my only regret/disappointment is that the program really doesn't provide a follow-up piece for afterwards. I often wonder how all the families are doing today with their budgets and debt snowball. Regarding community, I have to brag on my wife a bit. She leads a "Weekend Backpack Outreach" that provides meals to kids every other Friday for them to take home for the weekend. In a nutshell, a group of churches across denomination lines along with a local business fund this program that is offered to all families in our school district on the "free lunch" program. If they accept, they get a "backpack" full of food for the weekend. (It's actually a bag) Today, she leads the distribution of 85 backpacks every two weeks to our elementary/middle/high schools. Awesome, eh?! Sort of joined to this program was a 5K race I directed in November called the Run with the Son 5K. I kinda just fell into the race director job and was my first stint at it. It went well and collected some food for the local food pantry and the monetary "profit" went straight into the backpack program. I can't skip one last community-minded event...the 8th Annual Waterfalls Run that took place last Saturday in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Some 300-400 runners took to the trails in warmer-than-normal conditions to see our three majestic waterfalls but first filled our SUV full of non-perishables and gift card/cash/check donations in the amount of $1115!! This went immediately to the Freedom House in Kent, OH where male veterans are moving from homelessness to getting up on their own two feet in their own home/apartment. If there was a "cherry on top" in 2014 for this category, this would be it. Leaning into 2015, we'll be leading a marriage retreat in Amish Country at the end of February. We can't wait!

Travel: This will be quick as I tend to keep this pretty close to my chest and don't write about family vacations. 2014 was relatively tame in comparison to 2013 that included Hawaii but it was still great. We spent a week in Williamsburg, VA that included seeing great friends, some beach time and a day at Busch Gardens. On our departure day, we were being ran out of town by Hurricane Arthur. Quite literally, the outer bands were over Williamsburg the day we left and I went on a very memorable run, regardless. This photo is from that run where I managed to get in 10 miles on July 4th. It was a blast! We also did a few other mini-vacations, one to Rehoboth Beach, DE and the other to Lakewood, NY. I'm a self-proclaimed craft beer snob and Rehoboth is home to Dogfish Head and Lakewood to Southern Tier, two of my favorite craft brewers. At both, we found a bed-n-breakfast to stay at sans kids and really enjoyed the time away together. Both were fantastic trips so please reach out if you want any details for yourself. For 2015? Well, that's just gonna stay hush-hush. :)

Career: Unfortunately, I don't talk too much about this anymore on here due to privacy/security concerns. Bad guys in the middle east tweeting out to kill folks just doesn't sit well with me. You'll notice I won't name those groups or give any detail. Search engines are crafty in finding things and I won't help them! I will say this, though: For those of you who know how I pay the bills, 2014 was a banner year. It really couldn't be better. In fact, I received an award last week as the Inspirational Leader of the Year...for the entire eastern half of the country. It was quite a humbling honor to receive and I'll do my best to continue to be worthy of such an award in 2015. I wish I could remain in my current "occupation" for many, many more years to come but that's not possible. I expect it all to come to a close within the next 4 or so years.

Running: Ha..yea, I'd save this for last, right?! Actually, I'm saving my newfound passion for last. Running was good and strong in 2014. I started it out with an unwritten or unmentioned goal of running 200 miles per month for a cumulative 2400 for the year. Well, I was well on track for that! I ran less races and when I did race, I set a few PRs, particularly at the 50K and 40 mile distances. I also ran one of my strongest-ever marathons at the Inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in late April. (In 2015, it will be my one and only marathon for the year.) I also began a running streak on June 19th that meant I must run at least 1 mile per day and I had a goal to do it for years. Well, it lasted until October 18th when I called it quits, 122 days into my streak. Why, you ask? Well, in late September, I began to feel what I felt in late 2009 during my last 100-mile finish and most of 2010...a symptom that lead to a MRI of a stress fracture. This time, it was on the opposite leg. Warning signs were going off everywhere. In October, I backed my mileage WAY off just to keep the streak alive and on October 18th, I bagged it. It just wasn't worth it. Knowing I need to get stronger "whole body" to ward these running injuries off led me to what I began in November...CrossFit. Today, those symptoms are gone...completely gone. Not a lick to be felt at all and I've tested myself for 26.2 miles on asphalt to be sure. So as the year closes, I'm very happy with my running in 2014. I ran my final 3 miles this morning to round out my annual total to 2100.00 miles. That's a 30 mile personal record for any other year of my life! While my mileage has dropped to under 100 miles a month as you can see in the graph below, I'm running stronger than ever, thanks to my new "routine" Monday-Friday. For 2015, the mileage totals will be far lower but I still have lofty goals that include race distances from the half marathon to the 100-mile trail race and even a 24hr endurance run. The races will be few but carefully selected and I plan to give it everything I have at every one. My most sought after goal in it all would be to finish the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Trail Run in under 24 hours. In my three 100-mile finishes, I have not cracked that barrier but I was closest at the Kettle. Stay tuned! Also in the running arena: sponsorships. Brooks Running has taken a huge turn away from empowering the local runner that promotes them via social media, blogging, etc. The big downturn began last year at this time and this year, they have killed the entire program. It ends my 5 year relationship with them but it comes as no surprise. Watching them from a business standpoint, I knew it was only a matter of time. I still continue to wear their Pure Flow 3 as my primary road shoe and the Pure Grit as my chosen trail shoe. My other sponsorship is with Hammer Nutrition and I just found out that I was selected again for 2015! I absolutely love Hammer, how they do business, how they keep their products U.S.-made, and focus on quality. It is an honor to represent them again in 2015!

CrossFit: It's been quite a ride for the first 8 weeks! If you want to catch up on my perspective of it all, there is a label on the right sidebar labeled crossfit and you can see all the posts together. Bottom line: humbling, awesome, tough, challenging, fruitful. This image, here, though is from a few days ago that I haven't blogged. Known simply as a "sweat angel," these can often be found right after a workout in a CrossFit gym/box as athletes collapse to the floor after finishing and leave what you see here. Just prior to starting a workout a few days ago, I told a friend that it was going to be a "sweat angel worthy" workout and wow, how right I was. I didn't pass up the opportunity to make my own angel afterwards...and put my heart back in my chest. CrossFit gets a bad rap by many and many consider it some kind of cult. I have been addressing all of these things as I write about my own journey because I once hated on this whole CrossFit thing myself. However, I have no problem admitting that and also how it's working for me. The added benefit outside of becoming stronger and fitter is the time with my wife because we do it together. For 2015? Keep on doing it. Dues already paid for January! I am anxious to see how it impacts ultra running without increasing the mileage much at all. I will share one tidbit from today's workout, the last workout of the year: We were doing an overhead squat as part of the WOD (Workout of the Day) that involves holding the weighted bar overhead while lowering all the way down in a squat. As a distance runner for 17+ years, my flexibility is total garbage and squatting down was a joke when I started. Today, it is SO much better and it's because I work on it there and at home...even in the office. :) Anyway, my trainer threw a compliment my way during the workout and again afterwards which totally made my day. He's an awesome trainer but compliments are earned and not a given. Because I know that and because this is something I've struggled at, it meant the world. "Thanks, Charlie!"

Happy New Year, everyone! Instead of making resolutions, resolve to make permanent change...for the better!

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