The Odd Journey That Was 2015...

My last workout of 2015
Where do I even start with this one? I guess the best place to start is to say that I'm grateful for 2015. It was my worst year for fitness since I started in 2009, but I think it was exactly what I needed. I've known for several years that I need to change the way I god about my fitness and my health goals, but I just never could do it. 2015 proved to be the time that everything came to a head and as I leave this weird year for 2016, I am left with little choice but to make those changes finally. Sometimes you have to give up before you can start over.

Running the Miss. Blues Marathon 1/10/15
Things started out quite well. I had completed the Pensacola Marathon in November of 2014 and was finishing up my training for my first back-2-back marathon weekend in January of this year. (Race report here) I felt great, I was running pretty strong, I was relatively confident. I was still pretty overweight, and still not strength training or cross-training like I knew I should, but I was about to run two marathons in two states in two days. How bad of shape could I be in? I successfully completed those two marathons, and did them in better times than I had expected. I completed the Mississippi Blues Marathon in 5:23:06, and the First Light Marathon in 5:36:24, for a combined time of 10:59:30. Obviously not spectacular, but given that this was my first back-2-back weekend and my average marathons are right around 5 hours, I was surprised I did so well. And I was proud that I bounced back to only lose 13 minutes from the first race to the second. Obviously my training had produced the endurance I was shooting for, and that's something I was very proud of. It's still rather amazing to me that I ran two marathons in one weekend. It's definitely not something I ever really thought I was capable of.

The Blackwater Trail Challenge 50k
Coming off the ridiculous cold (17° at the start) of the Mississippi Blues Marathon, no surprise I got sick. I missed a little training, but still felt good going into the Blackwater 50k a little more than a month after my back-2-back marathons. (Race report here) I did okay, but not great. Man, looking at this picture it's easy to see the problem. I could run far, but it's crazy how out of shape I am/was. But it was a great race, a beautiful course, lots of friends, and lots of fun. I'm glad I ran it, and I look forward to getting into better shape so I can run it again, maybe in 2017.

Equinox 50 Mile/50k
Then came my biggest challenge of the year. My first 50 miler... or so I thought. It was a train wreck. (Race report here) It was effectively the end of my year. It rained the entire time, sometimes quite heavily, and the trail was muddy and often under several inches of water to trudge through. I'd like to blame that rain for my terrible day, but that would be dishonest. It was a factor, no doubt, but I was the problem that day. I was excited going into the race, but I woke up that morning uninterested and wanting to go back to sleep instead. I got started okay, but just a few miles in I knew it wasn't my day and I wasn't going to finish the 50 miles. It was a LOOOOONG day trudging through, feeling like hell, not having any fun. As I walked (yes, mostly walked with a little running) I thought about how out of shape I am. I thought about how I know I can and should do better. I thought about why I failed that day. I know I can complete a 50 miler, and I still plan to get there some day, but I know that things must SERIOUSLY change before I set such a goal again. I ended up completing the 50k in a ridiculous almost 10 1/2 hours, but in my head it's a DNF. It was most certainly a failure, and it was most certainly my own creation. It was a tipping point that had probably been coming for a couple of years. I knew I was at a point that I had to change, because I certainly didn't want to have a day like that EVER again.

Kristy & I at the Pensacola Blue Wahoos opening day
Honestly, though, as bad as that day was I left confident in my ability to complete a 50 miler. I KNEW I could do it. I just knew I needed to get back to being focused on fitness overall rather than running only. But the immediate focus was going to be on resting and recovering. I'd been training for quite a while, so it was time to take it easy. I did a little running, but not much. I did a little weight lifting, but REALLY not much. I mostly just tried to enjoy life. The problem was, I was getting even more out of shape and it started to show in my mentality.

I stopped really wanting to run or work out, so I just didn't. In fact, even with having run two marathons and two 50k, 2015 was by far my lowest total running mileage year since I started in late 2009. Less miles than my first full year as a runner. Just half the miles of the year that I couldn't run for 8 weeks with a stress fracture. I just wasn't motivated to run and I didn't care. The further I was getting from the failed 50 mile attempt, the more I was getting myself down about it. The less happy I was with myself and the more disappointed I was in allowing myself to get so out of shape that I failed so miserably.

Team RWB Regional Hiking Clinic in FDR St. Park, GA
One upside to this lack of running and working out was that I discovered a passion for something I had only passingly considered before. I became a big fan of hiking, and I even went on a couple camping/hiking trips. I even attended the Team RWB Southeast Regional Hiking Clinic, which was amazing and I made lots of new friends. I bought a nice TETON Sports backpack, and some gear. I hope to get some newer, nicer, lighter tent and sleeping bags, but I definitely now have the desire to spend time out walking and camping. It's like a whole new world opened up to me, which probably wouldn't have had I successfully completed the 50 miler.

Kristy & I at the Royals vs Rays game in Tampa on 8/28
Of course, there is life outside of being a runner/athlete too, so let me get to some of that for a bit and get back to my fitness in a little bit. In late August, Kristy and I went on a trip that is one of the best I've been on in years. We started out by Heading down to Tampa to visit our good friend Nidia and catch a couple baseball games while the Royals were in town playing the Rays at Tropicana Field. We had a blast visiting with Nidia, and having left KC, it was great to see the Royals live again. It didn't hurt that they were in first place in the entire American League at the time!! Having been a fan for about 32 years, most of which were terrible, It was fun to see them doing so well. But more on that later....

Kristy & I with the actual
Atlantis Orbiter
After a couple of days in Tampa, Kristy and I headed over to Cape Canaveral for a few days visiting the Kennedy Space Center. I am a HUGE space nerd, so this was like a dream come true for me. Kristy has always been amazed by the shuttles, but never quite as interested in space as I am. This trip got her much more interested, though. We got to see so many amazing things that it's hard to even list them, or even pick a particular picture to include. We saw the actual retired space shuttle orbiter Atlantis, the capsule from the Apollo 14 mission that landed on the Moon, an actual left over Saturn V rocket (not used after the program was ended earlier than planned), The actual control room from which the Apollo missions were launched, the actual Gemini 9 capsule, a memorial to the crews lost on the tragic Challenger and Columbia disasters, met astronaut Clayton Anderson (serviced the Hubble several times), and countless other amazing artifacts. I learned so much, and seeing the passion the NASA people have for their current mission and plans was inspiring. It's going to be amazing to see all the things NASA is working on as they come into reality, and the crazy technologies that will come out of those explorations. I felt like a little kid running around amazed by all of these things we were seeing. What an awesome place. I could spend a week there and not see everything. Unfortunately, weather scrubbed the rocket launched planned while we were there, so I guess we'll have to go back and see one another time.

Let's get back to the Royals for a moment. I've been a Royals fan since we moved to Kansas City in '83, and I'm just old enough to remember the 1985 World Series Championship. I also remember the utter failure we've been ever since. Not a single playoff game from the final game 7 of the '85 World Series until making a wild card last year in 2014. We made it all the way to the World Series against the Giants, only to come up 90 ft short in 7 games to take the loss. After 29 years without playoffs, it was hard to be optimistic that we'd make another wild run like that just one year later. No, we'd had our chance and lost.

Well, in 2015 we ended the year with 95 wins, which was good for the best record in the American League and second best in team history. In 2014, we absolutes rolled through the playoffs, winning the wild card game, sweeping the ALDS, and sweeping the ALCS, before taking the World Series loss. We squeaked by some rough spots to beat the Astros in the ALDS 3 games to 2. We then had another hard fight getting by the Blue Jays 4 games to 2 to win our second consecutive American League Pennant. It would have been hard to pick who would win when we went up against the Mets in the World Series. Two very evenly matched teams. It sounds like we beat them pretty soundly going 4 games to 1, but it was a hard fought battle from the start. Game 1 was a 14 inning affair that tied the major league record for longest game in World Series history. We came back in the 8th inning or later several times to steal wins. In game 5, we were losing and many fans seemed down and out, accepting that the Royals would lose and come back to KC to hopefully take the series at home. But the Royals staged another thrilling come from behind victory that took 12 innings and left me in tears. I was up almost the entire night watching coverage and crying. I was 8 years old again watching my favorite hold that trophy high. I hope we continue to be a competitive team moving forward. This has been a fun, thrilling two year ride so far.

WOD With Warriors at Anthem CrossFit
Okay, back to fitness. On November 11th, me and many others from our Team RWB chapter took part in the WOD With Warriors event at Anthem CrossFit. I had tried CrossFit once in 2014, and I didn't enjoy it, so when we had the Spring WOD With Warriors I opted to help with the food rather than take part in the workout. For whatever reason, when the November event was coming around, I decided to join in the workout this time and see if I'd like it more this time. It was an amazing workout, and a lot of fun. There are so many inspiring people and great coaches at Anthem. After that, I got to thinking about how I need to get back to better strength training and more intensity. I kept trying to do my old weight lifting plans, but never got back to the intensity level I want/need. I started to think that maybe CrossFit would be a good solution.

After a workout at my new-found home, Anthem CrossFit
I went back almost a week later on 11/16 for a regular class to see what I thought. I figured best case scenario I'd start going once a week. Well, it was a brutal workout that took every drop of energy I had. We also had a great coach that helped me, encouraged me, and pushed me pretty hard. Yeah, I was hooked. Two weeks later, the first week of December, I went to the week long On-Ramp program, and have been going 4-5 days a week all month. I've already seen some improvement, and I haven't had this much fun working out in years. Finally, I found something to help relight my fitness fire. I never would have guessed CrossFit would be something I'd get into, much less be the thing that got me excited to be healthy again.

My Real Appeal starter kit
Now I look forward to 2016. My goals are about fitness and attitude, rather than my usual mileage or race goals. I want to be fit again, and I want to get back to being a positive, proactive person. To that end, I've joined a program now being offered through my work. It is a year-long well being program that is provided for free. We have a coach, and we have weekly meeting to talk about different fitness/health topics, challenges we face, victories we achieve, etc. I think having this accountability and help for a full year will help me not only get back in shape, but actually stay in shape this time.

Pete, Ian, me, and Ashley at the
WOB run on 12/23
I've also decided to run the Gulf Coast Half Marathon on 4/10/16, and the Double Bridge 15k on 2/13/16. I think training for these will help get my running back to a more consistent level, and get me to work on speed again. I know I will get back into great shape by managing what I eat again (with the help of the Real Appeal program), CrossFit, and half marathon training. This will set me up well to train for the 2016 Pensacola Marathon, which I deferred my 2015 entry for. I do not want to run another marathon without being in shape. I've been running pretty strong considering all the time off, and CrossFit is definitely working me very hard, so I am quite confident. Many people will tell me it is the wrong approach, but in 2015 I am getting back to "working out too much" like I used to when I was fast, strong, confident, and happy. I plan to run 4 days a week, CrossFit 4-5 days a week, hike once a week, and whatever else comes along to add to that. I'm excited to push myself again. I love that at the end of my workouts I am completely spent and have given 100% every time. It's fun, and I truly love the feeling of complete exhaustion. Time to focus on fitness rather than just running.

One of the most exciting things heading into 2016 is that I have stepped up to the challenge of becoming the Chapter Captain for the Pensacola Team RWB Chapter. Any of you that know me, know that I am a firm believer in this organization. I've been with Team RWB since late 2012, and was on the leadership team of the Pensacola chapter since we first became official in the Fall of 2014. Our current Chapter Captain has decided to step down to pursue some personal opportunities after having started this chapter, so I accepted the opportunity to step up. I love this team, I believe in our mission, and I believe that I can help us continue to grow and connect with more veterans.

Trivia night at Beef O'Brady's with Team RWB 12/29
2016 is going to be a fun, challenging year in many ways. 2015 was a roller coaster that reminded me that I need to get back to caring more for myself. It felt like a disaster of a year, but looking back now I see that I did have some good accomplishments, I did have lots of fun experiences, and I learned lessons that will help me move forward and become happier and healthier than I have ever been. I started working on my 2016 goals in mid-November of this year, so I'm ready to get this thing going. Happy New Year to all of you!! I wish you nothing but happiness and health as we start another orbit around our local star.

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