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2015 Wrap-Up12/31/2015

Ah, the end-of-the-year summation. Feels cliche, but I’m kind of a reflective guy, so here goes.

My life is easily divided between mind and body (though, in reality, I don’t believe in that division). The most apt way to represent those two categories is through the books I read and the adventures I have outside, in the mountains, getting very tired. As such, what follows are what I—looking back—determine to be the highlights.


At the beginning of this year, I had the (completely arbitrary) goal of reading 52 books this year. In 2014, I’d managed 43 titles, so one per week seemed like a doable objective. Alas, some particularly beefy volumes—Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song (1100pg) and Harlot’s Ghost (1300pg!), Atlas Shrugged (nearly 1200pg), and Anna Karenina (an actually fairly reasonable 800pg)—tripped me up a little from the requisite book-per-week pace, along with my usual laziness in the summer months where adventuring takes precedence over reading. So, I managed 48 books this year. What follows are some thoughts on my top 10 (in chronological order) notable books from that list of 48.

1.) The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I liked this way more than expected. I loved her prose and her ability to combine genuine human insight into a readable, page-turning story. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014. Quite excited, actually, that this is going to be turned into a Hollywood movie soon.

2.) The Brothers K by David James Duncan
This one really surprised me because I really wasn’t a fan of The River Why, the first book I’d read by DJD. For some reason, this one was way better. All of the usual themes: loyalty to family, human relationships, religion, etc. etc. but damn, presented and elucidated so well.

3.) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Won the Pulitzer in 2001, which is why I picked it up. Really glad I did, because it was fantastic. Who knew that a story about two cartoonist cousins in the 1940s could be so compelling?

51fK4Z64zjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_                                     Human_stain
4.) I Married A Communist and The Human Stain by Philip Roth
I have a fraught relationship with Roth as an author. The first book I read by him was American Pastoral, which was amazing and had me excited for more. Then I floundered through literally a half dozen others where I seemed to just get more and more disappointed with each one. But then this year I read these two, which, along with American Pastoral, complete Roth’s post-War Nathan Zuckerman Trilogy. I still think AP is the best, but both of these books very nearly live up to that original standard for me.

5.) Oblivion by David Foster Wallace
I’m not usually a big fan of the short story. I tend to prefer the more fully-realized characters and plot arcs of full-length novels. This collection of stories completely exploded that opinion for me, but, honestly, I shouldn’t have expected any less from DFW. “Mister Squishy”, “Good Old Neon”, “Oblivion”, and “The Suffering Channel” were highlights. Simply put, I’ve never read anyone else who is able to evoke and describe the inner lives of humans as well as DFW.

6.) In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Mathiessen
Uff-dah, this was a slog. But, a worthwhile one. Having grown up on an Indian reservation in northern Nebraska (Santee Sioux), I felt that the story of the 1975 shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the American Indian Movement, and Leonard Peltier‘s subsequent imprisonment was something that had some personal relevance for me and that I needed to learn more about it all. But straight, journalistic, nonfiction like this is tough for me. Sometimes doing the hard work is necessary.

7.) House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
Whoooo-boy! This book is nuts. And a lot of fun. Seemingly firmly ensconced in the post-postmodern genre, the book is incredibly layered: a book within a movie within a book within a story. Prolific footnotes and appendices. Metaphysics, surrealism. Surprisingly easy to read, though, despite its apparent formatting complexities. If you’re looking for something completely different, check this one out.

8.) The Tower by Kelly Cordes
Though I’ve read a ton of it, I’m generally not a huge fan of mountain literature. I am a huge mountain geek, though, and the exhaustive nature of this book fed into my tendency to want to really get to know a place . For me, it was enormously interesting and, honestly, a page-turner. I can see how a lot of people might not be nearly as interested, though.

9.) A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. Insightful, articulate, poignant. The narrative arc jumps around in time, space, and perspective, but, ultimately, held together way better than I expected. Would definitely recommend.

10.) Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Despite really wanting to, I definitely did not like or enjoy this book. Good gawd. Frankly, it’s mostly just unflaggingly brutal, revolting, and borderline incoherent. But, early in the year This American Life had an episode where they showcased a BBC radio program on Burroughs that was narrated by Iggy Pop. The whole podcast was fascinating and engrossing (I mean, Iggy’s narration is classic, and any excuse you can get to play The Stooges or Nine Inch Nails on TAL is notable in my opinion), and the impact of Burroughs on so many other parts of pop culture that I do appreciate was undeniable, so I felt like I owed it to myself to at least check him out. I highly recommend the podcast. As for the book, I’ll just say, I’m glad I’ve done my due diligence, but I certainly don’t feel compelled to dig any deeper. Maybe I’m just not hip enough, but reading this with any kind of attention is excruciating.


My year in the mountains was defined by expanding my activities, and thereby, my perspective, identity as an athlete, and ambitions. This year I skied, biked, and climbed—all  sports that I had various levels of previous experience in—way more than ever before. This mostly came about because of my ongoing struggles with staying healthy as a one-sport (running) athlete, but I can honestly say that as a result of this diversification, 2015 was probably my most rewarding year as an outdoor athlete. Silver lining, maybe, but because of this, I’m feeling the most confident and optimistic that I ever have about my ability to have durability and longevity as an athlete. Again, in chronological order, the highlights.

1.) Transgrancanaria 125K (March 6)

The only race I did all year, and it was a real experiment. The race itself is great. I really enjoyed the variety inherent in the course. It was the first race I ever showed up to the starting line lacking confidence in my ability to even finish. In an effort to stay healthy, I was skiing a bunch in the two months prior, but was only able to average a laughable 38 miles per week of running. And a lot of that “running” was actually steep hiking and scrambling. So, at least I had a lot of vertical gain. Basically, this race showed me that with some tweaking I can still be internationally competitive without the mega-mileage that I used to rely on for confidence and fitness.

2.) Longs Peak Triathlon FKT (Aug 14)

I did this via Kieners, which is the easiest way to fulfill the East Face and 5th-Class requirements of a proper “triathlon” effort (biking, running, climbing) on Longs Peak. After a summer of almost exclusively biking for my cardio activity, I was fantastically unfit in terms of running and altitude, so I look forward to taking another crack in 2016 and cutting off a bunch of time.

3.) Climbing the Diamond with Bill (Aug 21)

I spent all summer climbing in Eldo Canyon with Bill Wright and Boulder Canyon with Mauricio Herrera. Collectively, focusing so consistently on this with these two partners was a huge highlight of the year for me. My day on the Casual Route with Bill in late August was the most obvious culmination of all this time spent on a rope. I’m still a little bummed with my performance that day (only leading one pitch, feeling like I climbed poorly on nearly every pitch), but it was definitely a milestone experience for me and gave me confidence for bigger dreams going forward.

4.) Biking the Grand Loop Double Century (Aug 23)

This year, my eyes were opened to the utility and joy of road biking. I know, it seems weird that I’d be psyched by riding a bike on the roads, but I really like covering ground. The Grand Loop is a local classic and covers a ton of ground. Looking back, it seems a little crazy to me that I did this only two days after climbing the Diamond car-to-car…both are really long days. Like a lot of adventures, this one was helpful in shifting my perspective so that a 9hr/140mi ride to the summit of Mt. Evans and back from Boulder a couple weeks later wasn’t nearly as intimidating as it maybe should’ve been.

5.) Cirque of the Towers scrambling (Sept 21)

The Wind River Range in Wyoming never disappoints. This alpine basin is spectacular, inspiring, and I can’t wait to go back. The main thing here was building on the confidence I got from an earlier outing in the Glacier Gorge, and getting psyched about things to do in the future. If I’m doing things right, everything is a stepping stone in a gradual progression.

There are lots of things that don’t make this list that will remain some of my fondest memories from 2015—all of the bike-to-the-trailhead peak-bagging outings I had, innumerable days scrambling in Eldo and the Flatirons, countless other mornings climbing…I guess the important thing to recognize is the richness of life that comes with intensity of experience. Get after it.

Finally, here are just a couple of the new songs from 2015 that had my head bopping the most.

That classic loud-soft dynamic. I love a well-delivered wail.

Reminiscent of one of my favorite bands of all-time—TV On The Radio.

Twangy, but catchy. And great lyrics.

28 responses to “2015 Wrap-Up”

  1. Hannah says:

    If you are seriously coming around to the short story genre I would recommend your next step be Tenth of December by Saunders. It’s the kind of dark satire that sticks with you & is best showcased in shorter format.

    • Lynn says:

      “Please help us show support for the postal service by Occupying the Post Office on Monday, Dec 19th. Come to the downtown Corvallis post office any time between 10 am and 2 pm to hold signs and banners outside, or to help educate the customers inside about the impending closure of 3700 rural and small town post offices across the co;u1ry&#821tn40 in Oregon. We are also in danger of losing 6-day delivery, and eventual total privatization of the whole postal system. Occupy Corvallis supports the postal service!” -Leah Bolger

  2. Sara says:

    The Brothers K is such an incredible read. Glad to see it on your list. It is one of a handful of books I’ve read more than once, and will likely read again. I agree, its better than The River Why.

  3. David T says:

    Hey awesome review and nice list of books and music.

    What have you been up to the last few months running/climbing/biking/skiing wise?

  4. larry says:

    Did you ever read the book called The gentleman who got chased by 10 Grizzly Bears and beat 9 of them?

  5. larry says:

    Music highly recommended “Sweet Mountain Lionna” bite bite bite

  6. Barry Bliss says:

    An album by Jagged Leaves will be coming out on Yellow K Records soon. You might like them.
    Thanks for the writing/sharing.

  7. eric morris says:

    Given your affection for DFW, I wonder if you had a chance to catch The End of the Tour while it was in cinemas…and if so, what’d you make of it? I’m afraid I don’t personally know much about the man and/or his life, but I’ve read that Jason Segel’s performance is stellar.

    • anton says:

      eric – I did see The End Of The Tour (and, of course, had read Lipsky’s book when it came out a few years ago). I went in with quite guarded expectations, which enabled me to leave the theater thinking the movie was about as good as it could possibly be. I thought Segel was surprisingly solid. I find that he has a general likeability in most of his roles.

  8. Russell Lee says:

    You’re such a compelling writer. I’m just so inspired by your insight and perspective. Excellent year-end post. Definitely gonna check out some of the books you mentioned. I look forward to more great posts to further inspire my own adventures. Thanks

  9. Peter Rank says:

    I read the Brothers K this year too, and while I certainly didn’t hate it, I found the material to be somewhat derivative. The prose often times fell back on a style that I would describe as “when in doubt, pummel the reader with adjective-laden rants.” I didn’t hate it though.

  10. Samantha says:

    Finally – a person that can just admit that Naked Lunch isn’t their thing. I read Junky and Naked Lunch back-to-back during my most pretentious year on earth at 27. Sometimes I forget which chapters go with which title. I tried my best but just couldn’t melt into the pages and adore it like so many others seem to. I did the same back-to-back thing with the films Tommy Boy and Black Sheep. Reads slightly less on the intellectual scale but just as frustrating, I assure you.

    Good reads for 2015. Happy New Year to you and all of your readers!

  11. Markus Mueller says:

    “Basically, this race showed me that with some tweaking I can still be internationally competitive without the mega-mileage that I used to rely on for confidence and fitness.”

    Well, we are trying to tell you this for years :-)

  12. mtnrun says:

    Congrats on signing for La Sportiva! Can’t wait to see what you have planned for 2016!

    Hopefully you will be working on some product development with LS as well. Just picked up a pair of Mutants a few weeks back. Impressive grip. Think the upper is a bit over-complicated but the outsole has been tremendous on the snow, mud, rocky trails. Legit.
    Will be odd not seeing you in the NB but LS makes complete sense, and has me excited about the direction of the company. Best of luck.

    • Theresa says:

      Nej! Jag ska sätta på mig en stenhård rustning när vi åker dit och hälsar på! Men tanken på att få en till Jin&houndd#8230; Går ju inte att få bättre

  13. Barry Bliss says:

    It’s true, I see. You are now working with La Sportiva.
    When I decided to get some minimalist running shoes I went with NB. I figured if you were using them they’d be fine for me. I now have maybe 6 pair. I emailed NB once and told them I bought their shoes because of the reason I mentioned above.
    Anyway, I am wondering if La Sportiva has minimalst shoes. (Minimalist works well for me.) I’ll have to check it out.
    Good luck with your continued advenures.
    NB’s loss is La Sportiva’s gain.

    • anton says:

      Barry – Being a strictly mountain company, Laspo kicks are, in general, of a more durable, rugged mold. Having said that, if minimalism shoes are what you’re looking for, both the Vertical K and the Helios are very lightweight (7-8oz) and flexible shoes with a 2mm drop, I believe. The uppers have pleasingly snug, sock-like fits and the outsole grip is truly exceptional (good ol’ sticky rubber). Be forewarned, I size up at least a half and usually a full size in Laspo running shoes as compared to NB (I was a 10.5 in NB, I’m sometimes an 11 and even more often an 11.5 (44.5 euro) in LS).

      • Adrián says:

        Anton, have you seen La Sportiva Anakonda, it´s a great minimalist shoes.
        I don´t know if it´s available in the states, but in europe (Spain at least) yes.
        Have a nice year

  14. Barry Bliss says:

    Thanks a lot.

  15. Patrick says:

    Hello Anton,

    I read Hal Koerner’s interview at the irunfar page where he speaks about his knee injury and remembered me reading something about a bruised meniscus on your blog. Did you ever have a torn meniscus? My meniscus is torn and now I have a cyst in it and my doctor wants to remove it and maybe a part of the meniscus. I am looking for alternatives because I am afraid of not be able to run anymore and now I am on the search of some experience from “real” runners and mountain athletes. I mostly run in forests or mountains. (Sorry, I am no native English speaker).

    Best regards,


  16. FET says:

    Why is 38 miles laughable? Maybe to some that is a major step in the right direction. Try not to be so elite and it appears 38 miles would be a lot for you right now.

    • anton says:

      FET – Absolutely. I was simply calling it “laughable” in the context of being adequate preparation for someone (me) who was ostensibly training to contend for the podium at a competitive, international, 80mi mountain race. Which, it is.

  17. Diana says:

    Hey Anton,

    Greetings from Romania! I was secretly hoping that at the end/beginning of the year you’ll bring into discussion some books, just as some other time, really grateful for the above list. My favorites in 2015 were The tender bar by J.R Moehringer , plus the amazing LAurus by Evgeny Vodolazkin. Regarding your comment at The Tower, do you plan to visit in 2016 places outside US?

  18. Nick says:

    I really enjoyed The Goldfinch also; House of Leaves is on my list for this year as well as Shirley Jackson’s Let Me Tell You (if you’re in to the short story format that is..).

    I’m curious, since you seem to be a bit of an NPR guy–anything on the All Songs Considered top albums of 2015 catch your ear?

  19. Dave says:

    I’m curious your thoughts on Atlas Shrugged. I read it knowing only that it was a fairly popular book and the title was something I’d heard many times. The only reason it wasn’t a struggle to get through its ridiculous length was because of how laughable I found it.

  20. LaMar Jost says:


    A comment from the peanut gallery — an old Denver lawyer who loves ultrarunning. You are inspirational. You are the first of what I view as the mountain chameleons. As an ultrarunner, biking may be viewed as weak — coasting a down hill gives the legs and (more importantly, the) mind a rest. As an ultrarunner, any type of rock climbing — save free soloing (think Alex Honnold) — may seem as weak — there is a safety net and it rarely covers 24+ hours. But, as you know, ultrarunning is really about self perseverance. Overcoming. You have overcome dogged injury — curse thy shins — to become a fully rounded athlete. You changed to the circumstance. You conquered. You persevered, as only an ultrarunner could do.

    I read the Skyrunner’s Manifesto before every long run (printed in front of Killian Jorenet’s book, Run or Die). I was on a mission to understand the start of the manifesto — “Kiss or Kill”. It is from a famed mountaineer, Mark Twight, and his essay “Kiss or Kill.” And the most important half of sentence in that essay, in my opinion, is: “All we had is ambition …”

    Ambition is all we have, and I thank you, my fellow Coloradan, for inspiring us all to be ambitious. And when our knees, shins, gastrointestinal system, or [fill in the blank] fail us, but our mind does not, we must adapt, change, survive. Like a chameleon. Move forward. Constantly move forward. Like an ultrarunner.

    So if 2016 only brings mountaineering or biking, it is because you are simply a mountain chameleon. But you will always be a ultrarunner because this is simply what we do: move forward.

  21. David Ponak says:

    I haven’t read In the Spirit of Crazy horse but if you haven’t checked out these two books you might enjoy them – Lame Deer Seeker of Visions by John (Fire) Lame Deer, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown for a well put together history.

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