Today is New Year’s Eve, and as we prepare to begin a brand new year, I feel the need to look back on 2017 just one last time.
What a year it has been. In regards to my running, it was a whirlwind of training miles, races, multiple PR’s, breakthroughs in mental barriers, bonding of new friendships, running/racing experiences, and training partnerships. It was, also, a year of several PR attempts, failures, residual race fatigue, and heartbreaking personal loss.
JANUARY began with (yet another!) blast of personal drama involving my daughter with her newfound “freedom” and typical bad decisions of the 18 year old child trying to make her breakthrough into the world of adulthood.
I was working multiple jobs for 4 seperate employers and my heart was broken, but I laced up my asics and ran through it.
FEBRUARY came and the race year began. I performed for and acknowledged a PR for the 10-mile segment of a 15-mile race.
Meanwhile, my husband and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary (of our 13 year relationship) and embraced the fact that we have finally made it!
If we were ever to break, it would have been over the course of the previous year when our life and love had been tested in so many ways and from so many angles; yet, we had found a way through it, together, and were now stronger than we have ever been. “You be the anchor that keeps my feet on ground; I’ll be the wings that keeps your heart in the clouds.”
MARCH held faithful training miles, a few “failed” long run attempts, miserable race conditions, and rising mental doubts, as marathon season neared; yet, still, I ran.
APRIL hit me with injury; a sprained ankle just 2 weeks prior to the Pittsburgh Marathon.
MAY kicked off with the Pittsburgh Marathon, and I ran; Goal: 04:29:59. Result: 04:27:56.
Subsequent LCL strain due to running this marathon on previously stated sprained ankle. The remaining weeks of this month were spent recovering.
JUNE began with the first of several local 5K’s for this year. I came close to a PR, but failed to reach it by less than one minute. I still blame the disgruntled pacer who went out way too fast and burned everyone in her pace group because she had been assigned to pace below her desired 7:30/mi group. (Still ran well enough for an AG award though.)
On June 19th, I hit the road for the very first time with Shep; who has since become my Coach, closest running friend, and training partner in our mutual goal of “Chasing Boston”.
He introduced me to track workouts…that sometimes kicked my A$$.
JULY, I celebrated my birthday.
And, shortly after, we packed up and headed to Erie. With my best friend by my side for fun and my newfound pacer/friend for strength, I PR’d the Presque Isle Half Marathon with a 1:59:17.
AUGUST presented me with a new fulltime career opportunity and I gratefully made this transition. One fulltime job; very little heavy lifting, steady daylight hours, holidays off, and only a few, as needed, Saturday shifts. I, also, took a LOA from my (now) part time/casual position on the Ambulance. The professional transition went relatively smooth but the month still found me struggling with my haphazard mix of running/racing goals, waning motivation, and desire for fun in the summer sun. My husband and I took a brief vacation at the beach, where I opted to play the role of ultimate beach bum and chose not to run a single mile.
Sometimes, though, you simply need to give yourself a training break; proof being in the fact that I returned home to earn another AG award with a new 5K PR of 24:17. (With the help of another friend and locally famous runner.)
SEPTEMBER came and we packed up again and headed back to Erie. There, with my running crew, and long distance friends, we ran the Erie Marathon.
I was on track for a significant marathon PR (approximately 4:04) But I chose to abandon my goal in exchange for heeding the call to help a seriously struggling runner survive this race.
I did, however, get to celebrate another friend’s personal best marathon and very first Boston qualifier on this memorable day.
It was an honor to be a part of everyone’s experiences that weekend.
I concluded the month with a late entry into The Great Race 10K in Pittsburgh with friends. It was excessively and oppressively hot, yet, we kept close throughout the course and all finished with respectable times and no heat related illnesses or injuries.
OCTOBER began with my heart calling me back to the beach for one last sun/sand/surf filled weekend with my best friend for this year.
Followed by a last minute registration, with hope for “redemption”, in the Steamtown Marathon.
“A fast, predominately downhill course in cool fall temperatures.”- they said.
This was the worst race that I have ever experienced; hotter and more humid than I imagine the proverbial “hell” to ever be, culminating in a series of 4 significantly steep and sloping uphill climbs in the final 3-4 miles of the race, resulting in my worst marathon time to date: FIVE MISERABLE HOURS. (And a trip to medical to pick up my friends.)
That being said, the people I traveled with, met along the way, ran with, and shared meals, moments, jokes, and the entire hellish race experience with, will forever hold a “RUNDERFUL” place in my mind, heart, and memory.
And who knows? Maybe we WILL go back one day to exact our revenge on the “Electric City”?
But for right now, my answer is still a resounding “HELL NO!”, to which I can hear their resounding response, “THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!”. (If you were there, you understand.)
October continued with a trip to Buffalo Creek, where my crazy/fun friend/pacer doned a banana suit and ran me to, yet another, half marathon PR for the year: 1:57:35.
I was feeling strong and almost invincible, when life decided to throw a heartbreaking curveball my way. On October 26th, my parents were killed in a car crash while traveling to one of my mother’s many doctor’s appointments.
We have had a “difficult” relationship and life complicated by the rules and restrictions of a religion to which they chose to devote their lives. I was forced to deal will alot of issues; spiritual, financial, logistical. Heartbreaking emotions and questions of God, life, and the unkown weighed heavily upon me. It was hard to breathe, let alone run. But Shep stepped up…and “Shep’s Flock” followed suit.
The outpouring of love and outreaching of hands and hearts from so many people in all areas of my life (personal, professional, and athletic) solidly confirmed what I have spent the last 15 years already believing, deep down in my soul; that some friends are closer than family. And relationships forged through the experiences of life as a Paramedic on the front lines of emergency medicine, and through the blood, sweat, and tears of the runner racing the clock on a racecourse are not bonds that can ever easily be broken. These people are a part of me. And so long as we are all alive and facing the challenges of this life, not a single one of us will ever have to go it alone.
NOVEMBER came and I picked myself up to run my final 5K race of the year. The Santa 5K, just 2 days after my parent’s funeral. It was hard to get out of bed that morning; hard to go out and be in the company and presence of other people; especially when “everyone” knew what had just happened in my life. But I showed up and finished it; logging a nearly 90 second course PR and attempting to rejoin the land of the living.
Just a few days later, though, Life decided to throw another nasty curveball. My friend/Coach lost his wife of 33 years. She died during a medical procedure. Once again though, “Shep’s Flock” responded with an outpouring of love and logged miles.
The weeks that followed are a blur of “eat, sleep, work, run, repeat”, roller coaster of emotions, impromptu running dates (despite inappropriate attire), and days of reminding each other to:
On November 19th, we piled into my Jeep and took a short trip out to my final race of the year: The Greenway Trail Grin & Bear It Half Marathon.
We ran with no pace, no goal, no pressure to PR. We ran simply to be together, to breathe the cool air, and share the magic and misery of multiple miles.
We ran to prove to ourselves that, despite the difficulties that we face and the moments when we believe we can’t go on, there is never a moment when we are truly alone. There is never a reason “good” enough or an excuse “big” enough for us to give up. We may slow our pace in order to “rest” awhile, but we never stop moving forward; and we never have to face these challenges alone.
Finally, the month of DECEMBER was upon us. Shep and I have continued to share our thoughts, plans, and dreams of “Chasing Boston” and, furthermore for him, another sub-3 hour marathon. We have become accountable to each other for early morning workouts at the gym and late day runs in the dark. But, as the holiday season approached, the “rush” of parties and family obligations began to wear me down. All good things, this time, but tiring nonetheless. I celebrated my first Company Christmas party with my new employer (WorkCare) and my fantastic, family-like coworkers.
Also, the Annual Christmas Party with Medic Rescue, celebrating my best friend’s 10 years of service in EMS, as well as, recognition for the 15 years of my own.
Meanwhile, my daughter has finally “seen the light” and taken a bold and courageous stand for the betterment of her own future. This is a story that has yet to unfold in its entirety, but I can not deny the glimmers of hope that have begun to reignite inside my heart.
So, amongst all such good things coming together to close out this whirlwind of a year, it has become necessary for me to take a step back over the past few days. I cancelled my planned workouts, utilized PTO to cover my time off from work, and I have given myself permission to relax and simply “take it all in”. A brief break from the crazy busy pace of life, in order to “recharge my batteries”. Sleep in a little…or alot. Sip my coffee slowly. Cook a good meal. Watch the snow fall. Look at the stars and feel small in comparison. Admire the sunset. Take my time when kissing my husband or holding his hand. Pet my dog…and all FOUR of our crazy cats. (Thanks, mom!) Read a few books. Silence my cell phone. Quiet my mind. And in this time, I see what needs to be done in order to make 2018 all the better. For me, it has eveything to do with the quoted words of Laozi:
I have spent way too much time dwelling on things of the past; feeling guilty, questioning, and crying over things that I can not ever fully answer, understand, or change.
I have wasted just as much time with my mind so loud and sometimes manic; stressing over the “what if’s”, the “when’s”, and the “how to’s” of the future, also, in regards to things that I can neither control nor change.
What I crave most in my life right now (and evermore) is peace. “Peace” like when I’m laying in bed at night with my husband, with our greyhound asleep beside us, and there is nowhere to go and nothing to do and nobody to “be”. “Peace” like when I’m at the beach with my best friend and all we have is time to spend with our toes in the sand, faces in the sun, and the ocean waves lapping the shore around us. “Peace” like when I am at the gym with Shep and all we have to focus on is keeping proper form and counting our sets and reps. “Peace” like when I lace up my shoes on a day off from work and I go to run any number of miles that I want, at any pace that I feel, and I have no time goal or mileage goal or specific workout to accomplish; I run just to RUN, and I breathe in deep and easy and feel the freedom that running gives me. “Peace” that can come only from living in the here and the now, with no concern for what tomorrow will bring. This is the kind of peace that makes every detail better, stronger, clearer, and brighter. It makes life simpler, easier, and the future less daunting. This peace can only be achieved when you learn to quiet the noise; the noise around you, as well as, in your own mind. Simplify your life and focus only on today, only on this moment, and the immediate task at hand.
Be present. Be positive. Be hopeful. Be truthful. Be good.
Look around. Interact. Impart. Take it all in. This moment, these people, this life. And on this cold and snowy eve, as you raise your glass to toast goodbye to 2017 and welcome the New Year 2018, know that, despite its hardships, troubles, and heartaches, it really is a good life.