Saturday, January 5, 2019

Best of 2018

This was a year to remember, like few others. I won't capture it all here, but as I do every year, here are some highlights from running, trails and travel for 2018.  

1.             New York City Marathon

I was thrilled to receive the news early this year that I lotteried into the New York City Marathon. I have wanted to run this marathon since I was a teenager, when I watched the now legendary finish where Rod Dixon passed Geoff Smith in the final half mile for the win. There's only one New York, and running the five burroughs in a day is a great way to see the city. I was just one of 50,000+ runners, making my way through town. 

The best part of the day was finding my wife Deborah at the finish line. It has been an eventful year for us. Her excitement and joy for me in this simple accomplishment warmed my heart in the best way possible. Just being able to get to New York to do this trip together was a mission extraordinaire, and one which had our focus until the week before. The race and trip were also special because my sweet sweet AC and her husband Dave joined us. Seeing them at Mile 16 was a highlight, as was attending the Lion King on Broadway with them. Throw in a visit to MoMA (Starry Night! Warhol!), some Bolivian after-race food, Central Park, and everything else NYC, and it was one amazing trip.

2.             The Fowl Run 10k

I run the Fowl Run in Mount Vernon most years, in early November. The race is so well organized, and is minutes from home. The course is flat, on a familiar route, passing through neighborhoods and fields, with swans usually somewhere along the way. I'm putting this event near the top of my highlights for the year because I ran the race in under an hour. I set this 10k goal at the start of the year, and here I met it. While not an extraordinary time, it reflect that this was my best year in running in the past five years.  Something to build on.

3.             The Big Island

 We went back to the Big Island! Aloha! The trip was spectacular. Several months later, I think maybe our favorite part was seeing the star show up on Mauna Kea. It was a cloudy, cold day up high, and we didn’t have much hope of seeing stars. But once the sun went down, the sky cleared and the universe opened up to us. Astronomers had their big telescopes out, and with their laser pointers they directed us around the Zodiac, the Pleiadies, and the Milky Way.  I've seen stars from high altitude before, but I think this was a first for Deborah. The rest of the trip was great of course too—when is it not great in Hawaii? Highlights included the Botanical Garden (amazing plant biodiversity), the Hilo Farmer’s Market, touring coffee farms, a horse ride on the range, and watching the Hawaii morning news with coffee. I managed to also fit in the Run for the Hops 5k, which is a well organized event, with the fruits of Hawaii at the finish line.

4.             The Woolley Runs Marathon

So, I did this event again, and not well. I really like it--flat, quiet, and a time to meditate on trail. This event ranks here, in a kind of infamy,  because I did the whole thing with an umbrella, in classic ultrarunner style. It wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty special in its own way--wind coming in hard, umbrella collapsing, a few chipper words from Stan as his tent blew over--just that kind of day.

5.             Nookachamps Half Marathon

 This one wasn’t pretty either, but it makes the list because Mike and Rich came up, and afterwards we had a full day of breakfast and birdwatching in the Skagit Flats. Just good to spend time with friends outside.

6.             Mercer Island Half Marathon

The only special thing about this one is that I did it,, for the first time, after knowing about the event for 30+ years. I've done most of the major, long-time events in Western Washington--probably Eastern Washington too. For me, this has been a glaring omission, especially since in my late teens, or so, I worked on Mercer Island. This is another terrific event, on a beautiful rolling course, with views of beautiful houses and Lake Washington. Hopefully I get back sooner than later.

7.             The Seattle Marathon

For the first time in a few years, I went ahead and did the full marathon. I used to have an annual streak on this race that was double digits. The course changed this year, and there seems to be fewer runners than in the past. I feel like the event needs a recharge. Still, I really enjoyed my day, and especially running the first half with Rob and logging some miles on the Burke-Gillman. 

8.            Spokane River Run 25k

I made the journey east to Spokane for the first time in probably a decade, to visit a good friend and his family, and then to run the Spokane River Run 25k. I managed to listen to all of Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology on the way. The Spokane River Run rolls through Riverside Park, mostly on soft trail through lodgepole pine. It is not technical, but it is beautiful eastern Washington running and supports a good cause. I sort of wish I had just done the 50k. Cause to return, I suppose.

9.            Washington D.C.

 I had to visit DC for a conference in December, and fit in some meaningful family time in the process. A brief window opened up, and so I laced up and ran the monuments, including the National Christmas tree. Washington D.C. is a great town for workout runs, because you can pass iconic site after site. My favorite discovery on this run was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, above the reflecting pool, where MLK's spot for his "I have a dream" speech is marked.

10.         Skagit Runs

OK, this is not an event either, but I had some downright terrific runs from our doorstep this year. I stretched things out a bit, going 10, 12, up to 14 miles. These runs quickly got me out into the corn fields of the Skagit flats, running by barns and farm equipment, as well as along the Skagit River, and into other quiet country places. My focus was to just maintain a pace, and these runs became valuable escapes for me on Saturday mornings. I made a conscious shift to focus on running a steady pace, as opposed to the run/walk pace that trails sometimes demand. We live in a beautiful part of the world, and there is a lot to be seen, right here in the valley. I feel like these runs, even more than the events, helped me get a little more back into the flow of running. 

The year was full, with many more events and runs.  As typical, I ran the Berry Dairy Days Half, the Great Sedro-Woolley Footrace, and the March Point 10k.  I ran my 15thconsecutive Baker Lake 50k, on a beautiful day.  There was a Skagit Flats Half—a new tradition, I ‘m thinking; and a Padden Relays

I didn’t spend much time in the high country—hopefully I’ll make up for that this year. There was a day where Seth and I tried rockhounding, visiting the Walker Valley site in Skagit Valley looking for geodes. Pretty funny, the two of us pounding rocks with ordinary hammers, with motorcycles buzzing around. Found one, which though small, sits in my office. There were also numerous drives around the valley with Deb, including one memorable drive out to the Farmhouse. 

There were also some high quality shows. A Pearl Jam show with Seth F., albeit a tough one for me, though it was said to be one of their best. Deb and I saw the incomparable Angelique Kidjo cover the Talking Heads Remain in the Light album at Benaroya. We also saw the Lion King on Broadway with AC and Dave. And perhaps my favorite: Hamilton at the Paramount with Deb in February, a show to remember.

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