With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Blisters spectator sign at Walt Disney World Marathon

In case you’re still wondering about my blog title…

2015 was a busy year. In fact, with apologies to the semester I took all those AP classes, it’s no exaggeration to call it the busiest year of my life so far. With RaceRaves gathering steam and new home ownership engulfing our spare time like The Blob, Katie and I felt very much like I’d imagine the proud parents of newborn twins must feel.

So my 2015 racing landscape was notably more sparse than in recent years. For instance, between May and November I ran exactly zero races, my longest streak without crossing a finish line since 2008. I notched marathons in only two new states (Florida and – race report still to come – Arizona), a rate of progress that will see me celebrating state #50 right around the time Puerto Rico & Guam gain admission to the Union. All the while, I watched through the envious lens of social media as friends took to heart our RaceRaves slogan to Run the world, collecting medals across the globe in countries such as Belize, China, Cuba, Greece, Hungary, Myanmar and South Africa, to name a few.

All that said, I was able to celebrate a few major milestones of my own this year (blogging frequency not among them). And though I’m not a big believer in looking back, how could I not revisit a few highlights of 2015 before looking forward to what’s shaping up as a can’t-miss 2016:

1) Walt Disney World Marathon (January): Florida was state #9 in my quest to run a marathon or ultramarathon in all 50 states. And freakish though the state itself may be (high praise from a Californian), with every day that goes by my memories of the 3 hours, 41 minutes, 42 seconds spent racing through the Disney World complex grow fonder. Not that they weren’t at the time – after all, I did stop nearly 20 times for photo-ops with the full spectrum of characters along the course. And I have a sneaking suspicion that before I reach state #50, I may be hopping another cross-country flight to Orlando to relive my WDW experience. (Current overall score on RaceRaves: 4.4/5.0 based on 13 ratings)

Mike Sohaskey at Walt Disney World Expo & finish line

2) Carlsbad 5000 (March): The Competitor Group’s signature event was the first time I’d ever paid to run a 5K, and only the second time I’d ever timed myself at the distance. And though I missed my goal of a sub-20:00 finish by one second, this oceanside race is easy to recommend. Where else can you run your own race, cool down and grab a front-row seat to watch the elites compete in theirs? Or meet an American running legend like Bernard Lagat, graciously shaking hands at the finish line? Or serendipitously bump into American marathon record holder Deena Kastor at her favorite local brunch spot? The word “race” doesn’t do it justice – Carlsbad is an all-out celebration of running. (Current overall score on RaceRaves: 4.9/5.0 based on 7 ratings)

Mike Sohaskey with Carlsbad 5000 elites

(L to R) Lawi Lalang (2015 Carlsbad winner), Bernard Lagat and Deena Kastor

3) Qualifying for Boston (May): I entered 2015 having shakily qualified for Boston in Berlin (3:24:14) and at the California International Marathon (3:24:15). With competition for much-coveted Boston slots at an all-time high, though, I knew those qualifying times had as much chance of earning me a Boston bib as a forged Kenyan passport. So rather than await September and the inevitable disappointment of a rejected application, I cranked up my weekly mileage to 60-70 and got down to work with my sights set on May’s local Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, one of SoCal’s finest. The result was a solid 3:22:07, a Unicorn-worthy time that seemed all but assured of landing me a spot at Boston in 2016.

That was, until the cheetahs showed up and nearly ruined the party. During application week, competition became so fierce that when the dust settled, beating my official qualifying time by nearly three minutes meant I’d survived the cut by 25 seconds. But the bottom line: survive I did, meaning Katie and I will be celebrating Patriot’s Day with the locals come April. And not a year too soon, since I’m suffering from Fenway withdrawal and my Red Sox cap is in desperate need of replacing. (Current overall score for Mountains 2 Beach on RaceRaves: 4.4/5.0 based on 5 ratings)

Mike Sohaskey - Mountain 2 Beach 2 Boston

4) Volunteering at The Special Olympics World Games (July/August): The World Games may have been the highlight of our first 2½ years in Los Angeles. As overused and diluted as the word “inspiring” has become, watching 6,500 athletes from 165 nations refuse to be defined by their intellectual disabilities was all-day inspiring. And volunteering at the World Games was that rare moment in time when spectating is more satisfying than competing. During the Closing Ceremonies, the high-five I shared with a gold medal winner from the Isle of Man was a fitting finale to an amazing week. If you ever have the chance to be part of a Special Olympics event, do yourself a favor and seize the opportunity.

Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015

5) USA Half Marathon (November): I first heard about the USA Half from Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray at the Running USA conference in February. The idea of a qualifers-only half marathon – a Boston-like event that faster half marathoners could call their own – had been on my racing wishlist for years, and I immediately added it to my 2015 calendar. Despite a lower-than-expected turnout, the race itself didn’t disappoint. Event production (with help from McGillivray’s DMSE Sports) was flawless, the course was challenging yet runnable, and as late November race venues go, San Diego is a no-brainer. A few tweaks could (and should) be made to improve the experience and attract more runners in 2016, but for an inaugural event the USA Half pretty much hit it on the screws. (Current overall score on RaceRaves: 4.2/5.0 based on 33 ratings)

Mike Sohaskey at USA Half Marathon expo

Those wings came in handy on race day

Thanks in large part to inordinately high finishes at the Walt Disney World Marathon (793/20,048) and the Inaugural Sunset Strip Half (28/1,739), my overall race percentile for 2015 was a best-ever 94.2, meaning I finished in the top 6% of the cumulative field for the six races I ran. Not bad for someone who just stepped up to the {eek} 45-49 age group.

So “quality over quantity” sums up my 2015 nicely. But looking forward, I’m even more excited about the roadmap for 2016 which includes:

  • in February, the US Olympic Marathon Trials here in L.A. along with my second Los Angeles Marathon (which was moved up a month to coincide with the Trials);
  • in April, state #11 and the 120th Boston Marathon, followed six days later by a – fingers crossed – injury-free return to Big Sur as a participant in the Boston-to-Big-Sur Challenge;
  • in May, my first 50-miler in the woods of Wisconsin, where legs willing I’ll spend a Saturday with Otter and Dan chasing my pride around Kettle Moraine State Park – you know, for fun.
Dan Solera & Dan Otto in Chicago

It’s all fun & games ’til these two talk you into a 50-miler

Clearly my 2016 promises to stay true to this blog’s title… and that’s just the first five months. Meanwhile our vision for RaceRaves continues to expand and evolve, and we’re psyched to announce some key upgrades & new features that will make the Internet’s best all-in-one race resource even better. Curious what the fuss is about? Check us out at RaceRaves.com (and my own Staging Area HERE) – we’d love to welcome you into our fast-growing community of Raving Lunatics!

RaceRaves logos in 2015

As always, the most memorable part of 2015 was the people. Through running in general and RaceRaves in particular, I’ve gotten to know some amazing (and amusing) athletes from around the globe. Best of all, I’ll be seeing many of them again – and a lot of new faces – on my continuing journey across all 50 states, all seven continents and as many countries as time, budget & body will allow.

RaceRaves Raving Lunatic collage 2015

So stay tuned, and as always thanks for reading – I realize my blog doesn’t cater to short attention spans, but then again if length were my guiding principle I’d be writing “5 superfoods runners must eat NOW!” listicles for Runner’s World.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2016 and your best running year yet. May the course be with you!

FINAL STATS of 2015:
2,222 miles run in 242 days (9.2 miles/day average)
0 days lost to injury (!)
107.9 racing miles
6 races (three marathons, two half marathons, one 5K) in 3 states (AZ, CA, FL)
Overall race percentile: 94.2 (up 5.0 from 2014, up 3.2 from 2012 & 2013) = 1,629/28,130 total finishers
Fastest race pace: 6:21/mile (Carlsbad 5000, my 5K PR)
Slowest race pace: 8:22/mile (Walt Disney World Marathon)
8 blog posts & 8 RaceRaves articles published
Check out my racing profile (past, present & future) on My Staging Area on RaceRaves

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Comments
  1. Dan says:

    2015 was a phenomenal year for you, even if it wasn’t as packed with bibs as usual. Huge accomplishments, both on and off the race course; truly one for the books. You must be incredibly proud of your efforts, from building an amazing site from the ground up, to earning that coveted BQ and buying a new home. I’d almost say you have set the bar too high for this year …

    I can say the same for me, for the most part, and 2016 is shaping up to be a continuation of that trend. I have yet to write my own retrospective, which is a sign that I haven’t been as good about writing as usual. I agree that my blog isn’t designed for hits (and the decline in activity over the last 3 years has proven that), but I do appreciate my readership. So, though we may not have a post-a-day, I believe we continue to write not only to hone the craft, but because we know the RIGHT people are there to join us for the ride.

    I look forward to hearing about how you intend to tackle the 50-mile training challenge. I can barely remember what I did back in 2013 but I’ll have to dig up those stats come March if I want to make it to Ice Age feeling confident (if that’s at all possible).

    Happy New Year!

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Dan, appreciate the kind words – particularly from someone who got roadrunner-fast {meep meep!} and PR’ed nearly every distance he ran in 2015. I thought I’d set the bar too high with Antarctica in 2013… then I felt sure I couldn’t top two World Marathon Majors in 2014… and now a Boston Qualifer in 2015. Luckily life’s all about tackling new challenges, and 2016 will be no different. As long as I can keep doing that, I’m confident each year will continue to build on and add its own unique twist to my running narrative.

      Speaking of new challenges, if I can survive to June that may be good enough to call it a successful year. As of now, with Boston & Big Sur up first, I honestly have no idea what my training regimen will look like for Ice Age (maybe a 20-miler the day after Big Sur?). But I’ll definitely be looking to compare notes. And I do know fear is a powerful motivator, one I’ll have on my side between now and May.

      I couldn’t agree more about the blog. If my goal – now or ever – in doing this were page clicks, then I would’ve lost interest in the process long ago. But I do love writing the blog, especially as it lets me relieve other life stresses, and that’s been the point from day one. No matter how frequently (or infrequently) I write or how widely read my posts may be, I have every intention of continuing to blog through continent #7, state #50 and beyond. And with no shortage of ideas for future posts, some of which I hope to make time for this year, the well is far from dry. The fact that other runners and even non-runners take the time to follow my journey is a much-appreciated bonus.

      With Dan’s Marathon having taken its title to heart and ramped up its 50-state challenge to the marathon distance, and with 3 more World Marathon Majors still calling your name (patience, London too will see the light…), I’m also looking forward to many more compelling tales from the Solera World Running Tour.

      Thanks for the support in 2015 and always Dan, it means a lot – both here and on RaceRaves. Here’s to at least one finish-line meeting in 2016!

  2. Kristina says:

    You had an amazing year, Mike, and 2016 is sure to be another great one, especially with the Boston Marathon! Hopefully we will be able to cheer you on at a race this year, and when you do go back to the Walt Disney World Marathon, we can join you. Nico may even join you as a runner by then.

    Happy New Year!

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Kristina, love the idea of meeting in Orlando for a post-holiday vacation! Best of all they have distances for the entire family: 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon (or all of the above, for diehards seeking the coveted Dopey medal). And with Sara & Nico both getting faster and more athletic by the day, I need to keep running to stay a step ahead for as long as possible. Speaking of which, I still have in reserve one tale from 2015 that’s begging to be told, courtesy of The Boy… ☺

  3. Jen says:

    Congrats on a fantastic 2015! Your 2016 looks chock full of excitement already – maybe even more so if I finally get my butt down to LA to visit you and Katie! 😉

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Jen, if I can make it through May still standing then the last 7 months of the year should be all downhill (meaning “easier”, though ironically downhills are actually tougher for me). And YES, our guest room is always yours – keep in mind the Carlsbad 5000 is in early April, if you’re looking to chase a 5K PR by the ocean!

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