2014 Recap, and a look ahead to 2015

2014 was a great year in running and getting grounded. I was fortunate to spend the year more or less fully engaged in my body, feeling alive and well and as uncrazy as possible in this crazy busy world. I’ve already written about many of these experiences, but its kind of fun to see them all cliff noted here from start to finish.

And we started 2014 right away January 1 with the New Year’s Day 5k run in Camden, to benefit kids in Malawi. Take away message? It is so much better to start the new year getting up and running headlong into a fresh start than it is to be sleeping off the last night of the old year. So much better.

February, start writing Trees with the Fur On! Wow! Awesome! Thank you to the 10 people who regularly read this.

Sprinting to the finish (note the lack of snow for this poor snowshoe race).

Sprinting to the finish (note the lack of snow for this poor snowshoe race).

February, Great Pond Mountain (Not a) Snow shoe race. This is when I realized just how goofy the Maine Maritime Academy Cross Country team really is. They are also pretty talented. Their coach is very involved in the local running scene, and they bashfully win every race he brings them to.

People said that we looked "So Happy" in this photo. In reality I am screaming at Jerome to run faster.

Bridge the Gap: People said that we looked “So Happy” in this photo. In reality I am screaming at Jerome to run faster.

Early April, Bridge the Gap 10 miler on Verona Island. Freezing, windy, awesome. Running across the Waldo Hancock bridge with a police escort: Priceless.

Not quite as early Early April, Vermont Half Marathon Burlington VT. Course started in a suburban neighbor hood north of Burlington, looping through residential cul de sacs. Course ended running through a train yard and into an industrial park (after a few more residential cul de sacs). In the middle was a bit along the lake. Not a race I need to go do again (but if you are interested in running through an active train yard, by all means, sign up), but the weekend was most excellent anyway because I spent it with my sister, and got to see good friends who now live in VT, spending the afternoon after the race with them and their kids dawdling in downtown Burlington (Ben and Jerry’s is the best recovery food, even if you have to wait in line an hour to get it).

Nice leg shot. Photo by Bryan McCarthy

Nice leg shot. Photo by Bryan McCarthy

End of May, Salomon Trail Festival at Pineland Farms, New Gloucester Maine, 25k race. Fun course, fun people, giant inflatable beer can at the start area. What more can you say? Nice scene, bad post race food* (unless all you want to eat after a 25k race is mayonnaise based macaroni salad). Next year, I’ll bring my own post race chow (or run a lot faster so that I can get to the post race potluck lunch before all the vegetables get eaten).

*I will say though that the food at the aid stations IN the race were far beyond anything I have ever experienced (I’d never seen pickles and gummy bears at an aid station before). This is due to the fact that the 25k runs on the same course at the same time as the 50k race, and they treat those ultra runners really well.

Early June, DIY adventure run Bradbury Mt. State Park, 8ish miles. I still want to bring my bike back here. (Apparently my most popular post ever—lesson learned? Write about a place near a big population center, a lesson I went on to immediately ignore-see next entry).

Mid June, DIY adventure run Cutler Bold Coast, 10 miles. My husband’s one and only trail running appearance of the season, which made this adventure run extra special, that and the fact that driving way, way, way down east is always really cool.

At the start, right after meeting Jewel's Dad.

At the start, right after meeting Jewel’s Dad. #alaskacliche

Late June, Homer Spit Run, Homer Alaska, 10k. I think my sister and I probably came the furthest to run this race this year. The course starts at the local high school and runs all the way to the end of a 5 mile long sand bar that protrudes into Kachemak Bay. You run past people living on the beach in RV’s, tents and old boats. You run under bald eagles sitting on the elevated tsunami warning sirens. You run past tourist shops, ice-cream shops, dilapidated bars, until you get to the end of the road (and the sand bar), and in our case, an outdoor painting workshop. Perhaps not a destination race, but if you happen to be vacationing in the Homer area at the end of June, one to definitely run.

End of July, Baxter Flora Project Volunteer week, Scientific Management Area, Baxter State Park. What makes a botany nerd happier than tramping around the woods for a week looking at plants and taking photos of them? Not much, except perhaps doing all that AND getting put up in a sweet cabin all your own with electricity and hot water and even wifi. The project (making a complete photographic field guide to every plant in Baxter State Park) is about half way done, you can support it here.

Herring Run Montage (I wasn't kidding about Winnie the Pooh). Photos by Sadie Gagner.

Herring Run Montage (I wasn’t kidding about Winnie the Pooh). Photos by Sadie Gagner.

August, the Herring Run, Mascarene New Brunswick, 10k. My friends Bryan and Sadie Gagner started this race at their home two years ago and it is unequivocally the BEST RACE EVER, that is, if you like a home town feel, incredibly nice Canadians, camping on site in their beautiful yard, a super family friendly vibe (Winnie the Pooh leads the kids on the course for the kids race), incredible fresh, local and lovingly prepared post race food including local salmon jerky, sausages and salad right from the garden, and a race that courses through mossy Bay of Fundy woods and along a cliff top shoreline and has to be timed just right so that runners can cross the mouth of a cove before the tide comes in. Next year it’s in June (the date bounces around to fit the relentless tides up there). Get out your passport and don’t miss it.

August DIY Adventure, Franconia Ridge, Franconia Notch New Hampshire. At least 100 people and I enjoyed a dreamy day in and out of the clouds along the high alpine ridge that makes up the east wall of Franconia Notch.

August Maine Huts and Trails, run and hut life. Wringing the last drops out of summer with a dash into the Flagstaff Lake Hut with my sis and niece. Now I know what all the hype is about!

Finishing up the Wildlands race.

Finishing up the Wildlands race.

October: Downeast Double Trouble Wild Lands Race, 6 miles. Ultra local, beautiful setting, great cause, great course. And lots of prizes. The second part of the Double Back series got snowed out and I missed the rescheduled race, so I have yet to actually complete this one two Downeast Punch.

On the course, Moab 2014.

On the course, Moab 2014.

November Moab Trail Half Marathon. This race showed me that I can jet set with the best of them. No one at work knew I had been ¾ of the way across the country over the weekend when classes started Monday morning.

December Full Moon Cadillac Run 9ish miles (?) Embracing winter running on almost every level. I think of this as super hero training.

Sprinkled throughout the year were many runs (and a couple of skis) on the Carriage Roads and hiking trails of Acadia National Park. Every time I go to the park to run or hike or run/hike I remember just how incredibly lucky I am to live within an hour of a national park. They’re National Parks for a reason, and that reason is that they are beautiful. Having one so close, and so well outfitted for four season woods and rock running is truly awesome.

What’s up for 2015? More of the same, sort of. I’ve got some financial goals I need to meet, so that might mean fewer race registrations. Which is ok, more than ok actually. Races for me aren’t races, I’m not running to win, and unless the field is very small, I’m not usually even running for the podium . Races are just running events, and sometimes it’s worth it to participate—because it’s a good cause, or an especially good community. Sometimes the support offered by the event is better than you could do for yourself on a self supported adventure. That is when it makes sense for me to sign up. But I’m going to be more choosy this year, and put together even more DIY adventure runs.

2015’s events agenda may include some of the following:

February: Maine Huts and Trails ski marathon. I like classic skiing, and I haven’t done a ski race in 15 years or so. This would be an excellent excuse to have to Nordic ski a bunch in the next month and a half. But…we need some snow.

April: Bridge the Gap, just because it’s the first big local race and everyone is so happy to be out running again after a long winter.

May: Seven Sisters race, I went to school in the Happy Valley (Connecticut River valley, Amherst Mass, Hampshire College) for a couple of years back in the 90’s, and when I left I never went back. But I’ve wanted to. This might be the perfect excuse—a trail run along the mountain ridgeline I could see from campus (and hiked on as a means of reclaiming my sanity).

May: Pineland probably. For all my complaining about the food, this event was really really great, and being 15k fit at the beginning of the season is pretty cool too. As long as the weather seems good, there’s a high likelihood I will be there.

June: Herring Run. Duh, I keep calling it the best race ever. Holding it this early means everyone’s times will be faster than normal, as we have the added incentive of outrunning the black flies.

June: Sky Race du Mt. Albert. This is this year’s impulse registration. I’ve been to the Chic Chocs in the winter several times (and will be heading back there again this March for more skiing), but I’ve never seen it in the summer. Now I’m going to see it in June, by running up and over Mt. Albert, the monolith in the center of the park. At least I’ll get to stay at the Gite du Mont Albert as my consolation prize!

August: This year’s birthday run will be an approximately 18 mile run through Baxter State Park with several of my friends. Likely to be the mileage and happiness apex of the summer.

Then we’ll see. I’m sure I’ll hit some of the local fall runs (like the Double back series). And I have yet to make it to a Baxter Outdoors event, or the Maine Nordic Trail festival in Presque Isle (you can do a mountain biking biathlon at this festival!). There are so many possibilities for adventure right here in Maine. Across Acadia National Park in a day? A nice Black Mountain circuit? What about a tour in the proposed Katahdin Area National park? And Big Spencer Mountain has been on my tic list for years. Maybe 2015 is the year.

When it comes down to it, my resolutions and intentions are the same this year as they are every year. Slow down, look closely, spend more time out side. Eat more wild foods, travel deeply in my bioregion, stand atop mountains I’ve never climbed before. Go camping all summer, sleep outside more often, learn the stars. Stretch, and strengthen. I think these are worthy goals, and ones worth repeating, building upon, honing and honoring yearly. Good luck to you as you find the boundaries of your life in 2015, and find ways to push beyond them.




Sarah O'Malley

About Sarah O'Malley

Sarah is a science educator, naturalist, writer, tide pool fanatic and burgeoning obsessive trail runner. From personal experience she believes strongly in the restorative power of contact with nature, especially experiences that make your heart beat a little faster or get your hands and feet dirty. She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula with her husband and two dogs.