Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Best of Your Blogs - 2010 Edition

I’ve realized a stark truth about this blogging thing: Namely that it’s completely narcissistic.

And while I am a bit chagrined about this fact, I continue to plow forth with race reports, reflections, personal revelations, and opinions in which you may or may not be interested. (Although, ever since Victoria assured me that all writers are narcissists, I don’t feel so bad about it.)

The irony, and my primary comfort here, is this: The best stuff you guys write about is you. For me, that’s what it’s all about. Sure, you write great gear reviews. You talk about training techniques, race logistics, favorite trails, and who might win Ultrarunner of the Year. These are all interesting topics of discussion, (some more so than others).

But these are not why I read your blog. (Honestly, I’m pretty much a skimmer if it’s not about YOU. Sorry.)

I’ve learned that I read blogs for two primary reasons.

1) You know how to write. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if you’re writing about running, other endurance sports, your quirky job, raising your bright but impertinent children, the pointless yet painful argument you had with your Alzheimer’s-afflicted father-in-law, or the way you slipped on the ice in front of your hottie neighbor. You know how to put words on a page, and you convey something meaningful to me in the process. Thank you!

2) I like you. I want to hear about you and what you’re up to. Yes, I want your stories. You’re a cool person (as far as I can tell) and I can relate to you.

That’s it. You don’t have to be fast. You don’t have to know a lot about training, or gear, or what witty thing Jon Stewart said last night. You just have to be you. (Isn’t that nice?)

That’s why, this year, instead of writing some huge reflection piece on my racing season, I’m writing a huge reflection piece about your racing season! Well, no actually, don’t worry; it’s just about your blogs.

You guys write awesome blogs!

So, enough with the introductions. This is what I recall seeing in the blogosphere this past year.

Favorite Photos

Two bloggers easily come to mind for this one.

Banff Trail Trash. If you lived in a place as beautiful as Banff, then you, too, could have incredible photos in every single post like Leslie does. Mind bogglingly beautiful scenery there. You’d have to put up with a lot of cold and darkness though. I prefer the photos, I think.

On the opposite end of the quantity spectrum, though possibly superior in quality, is RunJunkie’s Singletrack:Photos. Expertly taken, well chosen images of outdoor life. Simply beautiful.

Favorite Blogger Who No Longer Posts

Zero to Boston. It seems now that Dean has qualified for, and run, Boston, he’s less inspired to post. Who knows what’s going on, maybe it’s that Publagia, but I really miss his sense of humor and quirky insights about running. (Dean, are you okay???) Peruse his archives to learn about topics like smart alec marathon posters, running sub-culture, and why all runners are liars.

Favorite New (to me) Blogger

Run Home Pam. Pam is so obviously a writer. A very good one. I don’t know why I insist on loving things that make me cry, but I adore this post. And if you’re not interested in shedding a few tears, try reading this one - still heartfelt, just less painful. Pam doesn’t post often, but I’m completely okay with that. I’ll take this kind of quality over quantity any day.

Favorite Race Reports

Race reports are often my favorite blog posts to read, but as such, they have a tendency to blur together by the end of the year. I chose three favorites here, not because they were necessarily the best, but because they still stand out a bit in my mind, each for their own reasons.

TNF 50 Mile SF by Geoff Roes. I don’t regularly read too many blogs of the elite runners, but I really appreciated this report on a second place finish from our 2009 and 2010 Men’s UROY. Geoff’s well chosen words convey a sincere respect for his competitors that is a nice compliment to his immense talent.

Father/Daughter Day at the Big Sur 5K. A few things I could say about why I like this post: 1) I love it when girls love running, and, 2) I’m especially impressed when first-time racers pace themselves well. Also, 3) it kind of reminds me of when I used to attend 5K races with my own dad. You know, back in the days when he could still beat me.

Marathon des Sables. Epic race, beautiful piece, amazing writer. Just go read it.

Favorite Poem

RunJunkie’sThis is Just to Say – Ultrarunner’s Edition” Believe it or not, there are a number of runner poets out there. I find the two activities go together quite well, actually. And even though Hank wrote this one back in 2009, he found occasion to repost it last spring, so I feel quite justified in including it as a 2010 piece. I love the simple beauty of William Carlos Williams, and this one is inspired by his poem, “This is Just to Say." It makes me smile.

Favorite Humorous Post

I can’t say I saw a lot of competition in this category this year. Maybe that’s just a reflection of my own mindset. Or maybe this is what happens when the economy tanks and unemployment rises: We lose our funny. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FUNNY?

Honestly, I still recall funny posts from years past, like the time Claire rode in a bike race with John Kerry and a fellow competitor shared her plan to nip by him right at the finish and then turn and berate him loudly for being such a loser. (This made more sense back when the post was written, around the elections, and it was much funnier the way Claire described it.) Or what about that time at a triathlon when Donald declared to an obnoxious girl in the port-a-potty line that he was only in possession of eight toenails, just to shut her up? Then there were the old Mark Tanaka posts, such as the year-in-review with a lustful French beauty queen, and an awesome, quirky race report. (To Mark’s credit, I’m already giving him the 2011 award for most backlogged race reports posted in the shortest amount of time - seven reports in as many days!)

It seems to me that there is just a bit less goofiness out there. What’s up?

Fortunately, I know this girl, Meghan. Maybe you know her too? She wrote this brilliant and hilarious recap of Fastpacking in the Land of Phalli. She must have been online with Urban Dictionary to write this one, because her vocabulary here is truly impressive. A pillar of wisdom, that woman.

Favorite Non-Running Post

Russ’s “How I learned to Love a Loincloth” series. An account of his one-time summer job acting as various superheros at children’s birthday parties in L.A., most of this series was written in 2009. The last one, however, just squeaked across the line in January, 2010, so I say it qualifies. Equal parts hilarity and charm, these posts are sweet surprises in the running blogosphere. Here are the individual links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and The Finale. Read and enjoy!

That about wraps it up for this year. Thanks for all the beautiful blog posts, everyone – including the many that I didn’t even mention. I really appreciate the time, effort, and love that you guys put into your posts.

Now go out there and write something I can link to in my 2011 review. (Thanks!)


  1. What a great post Gretchen. I have similar reasons for reading blogs although I am admittedly terrible at keeping up. I also confess that I skimmed this post a little bit, c'mon, it wasn't about you:) Love Dr. Mark , one of my favorite people even though I rarely read his posts, see sentence number #2, "terrible at keeping up". I always smile when I think of Tanaka because he always does something that makes me shake my head and laugh. The stories come back when someone mentions his name and I laugh on the inside. One of my favorite Mark stories; huddling in the bushes during a thunderstorm at the Kettle Moraine 100-miler in 08 with his glasses and watch thrown in the bushes (metal) and then having a hard time finding them when the lightning subsided.

  2. I completely and totally agree with you, Gretchen. The heartfelt, personal posts are the best. Thanks for putting this together. This is a post I'll keep coming back to.

    I adore your blog. One of the main reasons I came back to blogging after taking a couple of months off was that I missed you! The blogosphere creates this weird sort of literary connection amongst all of us kindred spirits. Kind of what letter writing used to be, I imagine. So cool of you to acknowledge that and celebrate it here.

  3. Rick is right, I remember Mark's story about his brush with lightning death at Kettle Moraine, too. Good stuff!

    I'm glad you pointed out Pam in CT. Lovely blog and I can't wait to hear more from her!

    Thanks for putting me on your list. I'm touched. Hugs!

  4. That's right why to read blogs! And that's exactly why yours would be at the top of my list. I really don't care which race you placed at that much, but I AM eagerly awaiting for a continuation of your PCT adventures back in a days...with all the life lessons:)

  5. Rick - I hear you about keeping up. (That's what skimming is for! Right?) And, I totally remember that story about Mark, too. Laughing right now just thinking about it! Hee hee hee!

    Pam - Awww, you missed me? That's so nice! It does create a neat sense of community across distances, doesn't it? It won't surprise you to know that I was a huge letter writer between ages 18 and 24 or so. Huge. I used to send my friends essays. Ha!

    Meghan - Yay, you and Pam connect! I love it. And of course you're making the list. Trust me, I had to edit you out of a few categories so I wouldn't appear so biased.

    Olga - Thank you! Hmm, you think I should do a Part 2 of the PCT post? Well, it's a thought, but there's a lot on my "to write" list these days. :) You write some pretty insightful posts these days as well!

  6. What a cool post. It's especially helpful for me, since I've almost completely given up on finding new blogs to read, since I can barely read the ones I already subscribe to. But you pointed out a few that I'll have to take a look at.

    "Raising bright but impertinent children" ... does your mom have a blog, too?

    And I'll never ever EVER lose to my daughter ... will I?

  7. Donald - Thanks, you should definitely check out some of these blogs! And maybe my mom has a blog ... but I wouldn't tell you about it if she did! :P

    The fun-yet-difficult thing about running with your daughter is that she'll be getting older and faster, and you'll be getting older and ... well, you know. But think about that awesome time when you'll have met in the middle and really be able to race together! So exciting!

  8. Hope you had a good run through Bartley Ranch yesterday evening. I would have turned and run with you but I was going "easy" and you looked to be keeping a pace that was faster than I wanted to go!

    Hope you have a good season of writing and running!


  9. Thank you for the shout-out! I had a blast writing those loincloth entries. Makes me think I had to endure those shows for a reason.

    And thank you for pointing us all toward new blogs to poke around on! As you know, I adore this here blog myself.

  10. Darren - Great to see you! Funny I had the same thought about turning around and running together. I was kind of "in the zone" though, as you noticed. BUT, please drop me an email and we can connect for some running in the future. I typically run after school - 4:00. It would be great!

    Rusty - I loved that series! (Well, I guess that's obvious.) When do we get more like that?

  11. Funny, those are the same reasons I read YOUR post :) -- Cousin Julie

  12. Soon! I've got something in the works.

    because I am not busy enough.

  13. Fantastic post, Gretchen, and I'm not just saying that because I made the esteemed list. There is so much out there to follow that it's great to have a thoughtful best-of to guide the way. Thanks for the insight and great writing. As always. Cheers.

  14. Ok, so this was the kick in the butt for me to stop being such a passive blogger. I've been reading your blog for awhile - I really love it. I'll stop being so sneaky and join in.

  15. Julie - Ooh, thanks for reading!:)

    Hank - Well, this is obviously a very limited list. I know there are a ton of wonderful blogs out there that I haven't had the time to search out, but this is at least a small slice of my reading list. Thanks for writing such a great blog!

    Pecwanpete - Hooray! Thanks for coming out of the woodwork to say hi. (I love comments!) I checked out your blog - beautiful pictures! Perhaps a future candidate for "favorite photos"? :)

  16. Thanks, Gretchen, for this awesome post (as well as the mention), -- great list and commentary. So much blogging now, it's hard to sort through everything. Will do some reading-- once I get caught up again (I'm on a roll, let's hope it lasts).