Well, it's that time of year again. The time to reflect back on the previous 12 months and try to see some patterns, or make some sense of how things went. The truth is, this post is really hard to write because this year just feels so huge in many ways. I had some of my deepest lows this year, but I'm finishing it on one of my highest highs.
There's so much to explore here that I think I may need a second post to really focus on just the last few months because something has truly seemed to shift for me for the first time in a long time, and August–December deserve a little more depth.
I went back and read my recap of 2020, and it's amazing how just last year COVID was new and unexpected and unknown, and now it just feels like part of life. These last two years have been simply indescribable, but I need to try.
So, for now, here's a "brief" rundown of my 2021.
I started the year strong. I was in the midst of the Zooma Run Winter Warrior Challenge, so being active every day was an expectation that was becoming a habit. I enjoyed marking off each day on the calendar, and this realization — that checking a box gives me a sense of accomplishment — eventually led me to get a dry erase fridge calendar that has made a huge difference for me this year.
Those lessons were especially necessary over the summer, but let's not skip spring.
After an extensive interview process, I finally started a new job (and my new career)! Finding work in a new field after over a decade in education felt weird and amazing. Liberating. I feel like...wow, I finally got out!
For awhile balancing my new schedule with running wasn't too difficult, but when the Winter Challenge ended on Valentine's Day, I found myself slowing down. Early mornings and full days took a lot out of me, and after seven months of basically making my own schedule, it was quite an adjustment.birthday weekend brought heavy snow and I got to enjoy a snow day for the first time since childhood. The snow delayed my birthday plans (cake and a birthday run) but it ended up being a pretty good day after all.
|Distance can't stop us from celebrating together!
I learned to become a morning runner and to actually enjoy running before work. I was waking up naturally with the sun anyway! Between February and April, I averaged 2-3 miles about three times a week, and I was going over to Scott and Robby's to use the Peloton weekly.
In March I began keeping a magnetic monthly calendar to help track my workouts and it made a big difference...but it also went through some evolution between March and December. It's a silly, basic thing, but I need to make note of it because it made the single most impactful change to my fitness this year. The impact didn't happen right away, but it made a big difference in the long-term.
I also got my first Pfizer COVID vaccines in March and April and hosted Passover, which was really pretty wonderful to experience for the first time in our new state.
Then in May — really in mid-April — the wheels fell off. I found myself swept up in a depressive episode, uninterested in waking up early or leaving the house after work.
I absolutely know what caused this episode, but it's not something I want to post here on the blog. The important thing here is to know that I began looking for a therapist. Although at the time everyone had waiting lists a month long, I did eventually find and click with someone who really helped me sort out all the stuff going on in my head. But in May, I struggled.
|Despite lacking motivation, I tried to get outside and get some natural movement in. Easy hikes and walks were key.
I ran a grand total of three times and completed three Peloton rides in May. But I wasn't hard on myself. In the past, time off has always made me feel guilty and worthless; this time, it was like I knew my body just needed a break, and I let myself wallow a bit.
Then, in June, Scott and Robby had houseguests all month, and I didn't want to bother them. That meant no Peloton usage, but it also meant that my desire to move, which began to resurface, had to be satisfied by running. I put my shoes back on and got to work.
The runs were slow and short, most under two miles, but moving again felt good.
Two big things led me to a bit of an epiphany in June. First, my friend Kim passed away. Then, I finally found a therapist. These two events helped shift my perspective on things, and I realized that I've kept this blog for years and all my social media supports it — everything is running-related. I began to feel I'd lost the joy, the purpose behind running, that I was running to post about it for others, rather than because it was something for me.
I took a hard step back from Instagram and suddenly the joy flooded back in.
Even before I moved to Seattle, I began following local running Facebook groups. For months, I watched the Seattle Green Lake Runners Group and wished I had the guts to join them. In July, with the encouragement of my therapist (and Matt's handholding) I finally made myself join a Saturday morning run. I didn't meet anyone that day, but the fear subsided, and I finally began to make an effort to make some friends here.
|My first time joining the group by myself.
I joined the group twice more by myself before I met a mini group of regulars who ran at my pace and were aiming for similar distances as I was. Soon, Saturdays with the SGLRG became an expectation, solving two problems I was having: accountability and loneliness.
By August, I felt back at it. I was consistently meeting some of the women from my mini group on Thursday mornings for a pre-work run, as well as joining the larger group for long runs on Saturdays. I began building my mileage for the first time in a year.
|The Saturday group is so big, it basically feels like running a race.
In August a friend invited me to a Facebook group focused on doing Peloton strength workouts, and in September I finally began doing those workouts. Incorporating the strength calendar provided in the group rounded out my weeks.
For the first time in my life, I began to enjoy strength workouts and cross-training. I've never been more consistent than I am now, not even when I was training for marathons! Who am I?!
|At first I was only tracking that activities had been completed; when I felt ready for it, I began tracking mileage and Peloton ride durations, too.
Back on track and feeling stronger than ever, Tall Sarah from my Thursday running group raised the idea of running a 10k on Halloween. That got me thinking about preparing for such a race, and I went ahead and signed up for the Run Scared 10k and then, wanting a chance to prepare, the Where's Wenda 5k on October 10.
In the midst of that, I found myself scrolling back through the blog and reading my race recaps, in an effort to remember how to prepare for race day. Soon I was simply clicking "next", reading through old entries at random, remembering that I used to actually know some stuff about running. What a strange feeling, to become aware of how much you've forgotten.
Anyway, October rolled around. Tall Sarah had a groin injury but Standard-Sized Sarah ran both races with me. She and I shocked ourselves with our race results for the 5k. Note to self: consistency and running hills pays off.
|This was also the first time Sarah and I hung out after a run!
From October to December, my months just kept improving. I was incredibly consistent in all of my workouts, sticking to my schedule and feeling so proud and fulfilled every time I added a workout to my calendar.
I missed only two of my planned workouts in November and raced a 5k on Thanksgiving with Matt and Sarah, shaving 9 seconds off my average pace since October.
Also in October, got my COVID booster (Moderna) and enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukkah at Scott and Robby's.
As for my vaccines, I never had any side effects from any of them, which I'm hopeful is a good sign that my body doesn't feel much impact from COVID. As time goes on, I am losing hope that we'll ever be out of this pandemic, and I wonder what the future will look like in a country closing in on a million deaths and millions more impacted by long COVID.
So here I am in December, feeling determined, committed, strong, and hopeful...and actually enjoying adding variety to my workouts (again, who am I?!) and working out six days a week. This is the strongest month I've had all year, with the highest running mileage and strongest commitment to being happy and balanced.
|My favorite holiday tradition, year three.
I have been working to shift my mentality when it comes to "fitness" and all that, but maybe that's best left for another post.This month we got some major, record-breaking snowfall and for the first time I actually tried running in sub-freezing temperatures on icy roads, and it really wasn't so bad. In fact, it's kind of fun!
|Not pictured: the screws in the bottom of my shoes to give me traction on the ice!
Washington really does feel like home, now, and there are some things I hope to see in our future here, but I refuse to jinx 2022 so all I'll say is that I'm looking forward to another year in Seattle.