2016 will always be the year that I will remember having said, “Are you FUCKING kidding me?” or “What is WRONG with people?” or “This can’t be happening,” or quite simply “Shit,” more times than I could count. That being said, it was not a bad year (I mean, until it was) overall.
In the running spectrum, I never even attempted to reach that 23:00-24:00 5K I blathered on about at the beginning of 2016. I think I did some speed work for a while, had a few laughs at my splits, vaguely considered another 5K, and then it got hot. Instead, Cheryl and I signed up for a late summer half Marion in Utah, another of the downhill Revel series. The Cottonwood race is one of their steepest races, and while a downhill marathon has a serious point of diminishing returns (i.e. destroyed quads for the final 3 miles), I wondered if a half might actually be somewhat faster than it would be on a regular course.
It was. My goal pace was about an 8:47 pace, which would put me in at NYC Marathon qualifying time. And please calm down, because I’m still totes Oh Hell the Fuck No to marathons. It was just a goal to shoot for. My training plan was mostly just moderate miles and consistency and trying not to become a pig and some downhill runs on the treadmill. The TMs at our gym can do a 3% (or whatever) downhill, so I built up to 9 miles within 15-20 seconds goal pace.
As with all the Revel races, it was stunningly beautiful, chilly, and somewhat surreal. Partial sunrise/stars at the start, remote silent mountaintop, a moose grazing at mile 4 (IKR?!), tailwind, downhill, and zilch spectators with cowbells or YOU CAN DO IT sunshine-up-the-ass signs until the last couple miles. The half did not seem to have any point of diminishing returns. I was able to maintain an 8:25 pace all the way to 11.5, at which point the course flattened out and I was pooped and slowed down to about 8:45. In general, I think the downhill course gave me about 15 seconds a mile, given that my overall pace was 8:32. (And there is no way I would have done that otherwise. NO WAY.)
So that was a YAY! race. Afterwards, Cheryl and I went into Salt Lake City to see Temple Square which was oddly relaxing in a kind of sterile, ornate, Osmond family kind of way. After that, we were starving and in serious need of a beer and could not for the life of us find a restaurant with a bar ANYWHERE. That, in comparative contrast, was aggravating in a sterile, tsk tsk, Osmond family kind of way.
Anyway, that trip also included 3 days at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Earlier in the year, we had also visited Acadia N.P. in Maine. Any national park deserves its own extensive blog, so I’ll just say that if you haven’t made a point to visit our national parks, you really oughter. I’ve been to maybe 20 of the parks, and there isn’t one that I haven’t been stunned by with the exception of Congaree Swamp which, naturally, is about 20 minutes from where I grew up in SC (GO COCKS). However, if you like swarming black flies, a squishy boardwalk through swamp water, and spectacular wildlife in the form of squirrels, this is the park for you.
Other highlights of 2016 included my oldest niece’s graduation from Vassar, camping weekends at 3 state parks, meeting up with a crazy woman in Gatlinburg as she passed through while hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, and a Run Bitches/SOBs trip to Des Moines, Iowa, for a race. Des Moines was unexpectedly pleasant, and in stark contrast to Salt Lake City, there was a bar every 15 feet. Thanks to Crazy Woman, we were advised to visit the High Life Lounge where one can enjoy a Schlitz while perusing binders of Playboy magazines from the 60s. Heavenly.
And then came November. Gah. Like a number of people I know, I was physically sick the night of the election and spent the following week in a state of zombie-like tearfulness/anger/disbelief/horror/beverage intake. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about the election of this racist, self-serving, proudly sexual-assaulting, pompous, misogynistic, bullying, hateful fascist? I generally try to see both sides of most political debates, but I, like so many Americans, am at an utter impasse with Trump. How anyone with even a dwindling sense of common decency could have either voted for this pig of a man or abstained from voting against such a horror is beyond me.
I was never over-the-top about Hillz, but I certainly never saw her as the dangerous, utterly incompetent, hateful, sexual predator we now have as president-elect (vomit). My sense is that she could have been a good, even great, president in spite of the mistakes she’s made in her , hello, 30 years of public service, much of it helping children and young people.
But congratulations, dumbed-down America! We now have a bloated and bombastic tangerine with tiny hands as our wannabe dictator.
Anyway, the horror was somewhat assuaged by an emergency gathering of like-minded friends the weekend after the election. Wine and pizza and a serious overuse of ridiculous superlatives and expletives always helps put any unpleasant event into perspective. Sort of. Not really. But that evening solidified the fact that righteous indignation does, in fact, enjoy company. We enjoyed it so much that several of us will be going to Washington, D.C., next month for the Women’s March on Washington. There’s this overwhelming sense of helplessness right now, and I know it’s just getting on the bus, riding to D.C., and walking from Independence Avenue to the Capitol, but it’s something, you know?
Which reminds me of one of the other best parts of 2016. Last month, two weeks after the election, we got the chance to go hear John Lewis speak when he accepted the Nashville Public Library Foundation Award. It was hands down the best speech imaginable at one of the worst times possible. In fact, he may have been the best and most inspirational speaker I have ever heard.
“If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it! Get out there and push, and stand up, and speak out, and get in the way the same as my generation got in the way. Get in trouble–Good trouble. Necessary trouble.”
So here’s to 2017. I have a feeling it’s going to be a weird and rocky year, but with any luck we’ll get into some good and necessary trouble along the way.