Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Year in the Rearview Mirror

This is only the second post I've made all year. I could use some lame excuse about how I was busy or that I never got around to it, but in the end all I can say is that there is no excuse. If anything is for certain it is that this year has been crazy. If I could use one word to describe 2015 it would be "emotional." In some ways it was the best year of my life. In other ways, it was the worst.  As per custom from the last few years, here is a rundown of 2015.

2015 started off great. The Patriots won the Superbowl in February, which, for anyone who knows what kind of fan I am, was beyond awesome. Tessa and I went down to Massachusetts to watch the game with some friends who we don't get to see often. The game was great, the atmosphere was nerve-wracking but great, and the win was obviously great. 2015 was off to a tremendous start.

In March, I was offered the head coaching position for the middle school track team at Gray-New Gloucester Middle School. I had been an assistant coach at the middle school a few years before and had found my way up to the high school, so I wasn't entirely sure that I would enjoy going back to the middle school. After some contemplation I decided to take the position. I continued to coach the high jump at the high school level a couple of days a week while coaching the middle school. It turns out that this was a great choice as coaching middle schoolers, while it may not seem it, was somewhat refreshing. They tend to be a little more eager to learn than some of the high school athletes who think they know it all by the time senior year rolls around.

One of the middle school athletes I coached went on to compete in USA Track and Field for a Maine team during the summer. I coached her individually as she competed primarily in the 400 meter and 800 meter events. She ended up breaking the state 11-12 year old 400 meter record and narrowly missed the 800 meter record. I couldn't of been more proud of her accomplishments!

I once again ran the Patriot 5k in May. With my wedding coming in June, this was my focus race for the year and trained extremely hard for it. After all, it is one of my favorite races so I wanted to have a good showing. I changed up my training from previous years in an attempt to set a 5k PR. Going in with the expectation that I would run well and PR but without the expectation of a specific time kept me loose heading into race day. I ended up PRing by 19 seconds with a time if 16:34. This was completely unexpected but I was extremely proud of it!

June of 2015 brought the highlight of the year and of my life. I married my best friend on the 27th of June in what turned out to be just an absolutely perfect day for an outdoor wedding. We were joined by many family and friends who watched us get married. Certainly a day that Tessa and I will never forget. Here are a few pictures of the day.

During the summer, I set several more PRs while running for Unum in the Maine Corporate Track and Field Association. It was a great season that ended with us winning another state championship and with me winning the Tim Smith Award. The Tim Smith Award is a prestigious award handed out to the top distance runner of the season and is an award that at least four Maine Running Hall of Famers have won before. It was truly humbling winning this award but I was even happier that Unum won another state title.

As the fall came around, another cross country season started up. Our boys team was coming off back-to-back seasons of having gone to the state meet. This was the first time they had done this since the late 80's; however, us coaches weren't sure if the 2015 team had the talent to make it three trips in a row. We had some good freshmen mixed with some experienced seniors, which is a combination that could go a number of ways. It turned out that the boys team was better than advertised and made it to another state meet. The girls team showed a lot of improvement from 2014 with the addition of some solid freshmen. Both teams are trending up heading into the 2016 season!

With the conclusion of the cross-country season comes hunting season here in Maine. Tessa isn't usually too crazy about one long season heading into another as they both take up quite a bit of my time, but the fall is my favorite time of year because of cross country, football, and hunting. Spending time in the woods with dad while hunting for whitetail deer has been something I've loved to do since I was 12 years old. This season was no different. Dad and I hunted hard through a variety of different conditions - cold, warm, wind, snow, and so on. On Monday of the last week of the season, I saw the largest deer I had ever seen on hoof. I didn't have an opportunity for him as he was moving swiftly through the trees. The next day I returned to the same spot, hoping for the very slight chance that he had hung around the area. I hadn't been seated in my stand for more than 30 minutes when he walked by again. I couldn't believe it! I took the opportunity to take the deer, which turned out to be my largest deer I have ever taken. It was a humbling and proud moment for my dad and I and is a hunt I will never forget. So far 2015 had been unbelievable.

The Christmas season was upon us as December rolled around. All of my family and friends were happy and healthy which is the best gift anyone could ask for. It was looking like 2015 was going to be a tremendous year.

How quickly things can change.

Uncle Jeff and I sharing a laugh at a prior Christmas party. Aunt Cheryl in the front.
On Tuesday, December 15, 2015 my Uncle Jeff unexpectedly passed away at his home. I had seen him two days prior at a family Christmas party. We sat, talked, ate food, shared stories, and had a beer together. My uncle and I had a tradition of going to a concert a year together over the last 10 years or so and we talked about the next one we were going to see. Everything was normal and everyone was having a great time. Then, the evening of December 15th, two days later, my mother called and said right away that she had some terrible news. My mom and Uncle Jeff were extremely close. He lived a few towns over from my parents and they saw each other often and talked every other day. The news was absolutely devastating. Uncle Jeff was a tremendous person. He was always willing to help others and always put family first. He would work holidays so others could be home with their families. He was always good for a laugh (as seen in the above photo) with his quick wit and humor. At the time of this blog post the reason for his passing is inconclusive. Uncle Jeff was great in a lot of ways; however, one thing he wasn't good at was routine visits with a doctor. His diet wasn't exactly stellar and he wasn't a regular exerciser. If there is anything that anyone can take away from such a terrible thing is that diet and exercise, along with regular checkups may save your life, or at the very least extend it. Personally, I'm good at the diet and exercise piece but need to take better precaution by visiting a doctor more regularly. Uncle Jeff had a major impact on a lot of people and will be truly missed.

Reeling from the devastation of losing Uncle Jeff, it was hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Tessa and I went through the motions but were never really fully into Christmas this year. We had a tree and my parents came down on Christmas day to exchange gifts. Overall it was a low-key Christmas, which is what we all needed.

The next day we packed up and headed to Lamoine to visit Tessa's father. We brought our two dogs, Doug and Lucy, and were ready to get away for a night. Some of you may remember Lucy from a blog post back in 2011. We arrived a Lamoine, took the dogs for a walk with Tessa's dad, drove around to various parts of Lamoine to see certain things, then returned back to Tessa's parents house.
Lucy on the left, Doug on the right
We were sitting around, talking, having good conversation, when I saw Lucy giving me the look that she needed to go to the bathroom. So I let her and Doug out the door, not thinking twice about it. Tessa's parents lived 50-75 yards from a relatively quiet road and they were always good about going to the bathroom and then coming back to the door once they were done. A few minutes later I opened the door but no Doug and Lucy. When I called to them 2015 instantly got worse. The next thing I heard in the quiet night was what sounded like a car hitting a tree, followed by two whimpers. I ran back in to tell Tessa and her dad that I thought a dog just got hit down on the road. I sprinted outside and into the dark street to find Doug standing next to Lucy, who was laying in the road. No car was in sight. She was still alive as I gently picked her up and loaded her into the back seat of Tessa's dad's truck as we headed to the emergency vet. He drove with Tessa in the passenger seat while I sat in the back with Lucy. She died a few minutes later.

I am devastated by the death of my "adventure buddy" Lucy.

How can two loved ones in my life be taken so unexpectedly and so closely together? I am going to struggle with that question for the rest of my life.

I know this is a fitness blog so maybe these stories that aren't necessarily health-related don't belong. Keep in mind that writing and reflecting can be therapeutic for us and for our minds and souls. Sometimes we just need to sit down with our thoughts and let them out.

2015 was the best and worst year of my life. I have never been more excited about a January in Maine.

Being an avid runner, I am dedicating this running season to my dog and my uncle. I went on countless runs with Lucy over the 5 years we were together. She used to cry incessantly with excitement at the beginning of every run we'd go on. Running was one of her favorite things to do. Uncle Jeff wasn't much of a runner. In fact, I don't think he had ever run much at all at any point in his life. He used to ask me about my races and about high school cross country season and how the team looked. I am dedicating this season to him too because if he had a little more consistent exercise, maybe things would have ended differently. I don't know. It just seems like the right thing to do.

For 2016, enjoy every minute you spend with your loved ones for you don't know if it will be the last. Make time to take care of yourself. Schedule a visit with your doctor or primary care physician.

Enjoy all that life has to offer. It is too short not to.

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