I know I probably have fans forming a metaphorical line around my virtual home, waiting for my take on the year that has just passed, and who am I to disappoint you?

2016 wasn’t really all that bad a year (except that 97% of the celebrities that I love decided to die … hang in there, Betty White!!), but I’m ready to be done. To be honest, I’m always ready to be done by this point. I realize that I could give myself a fresh start on any given morning — January 1st holds no special magic that makes resolutions more sparkly and successful — but I always feel the tug to conform and keep on keepin’ on with my 2016 resolutions to the bitter end.

Some highlights from the year: a great trip to Indy to do a trail run that I had no business doing, an awesome family reunion under the bright Vegas lights, my introduction and falling in love with Zion National Park which I then consummated with a week-long girl’s vacation in October, another trail run that I *really* had no business doing (even though it was gorgeous), finding and actively training on the Swallow Cliff stairs (which regularly kicked my ass), jumping on the Jonathan Fields bandwagon and starting up what’s been an awesome book club with a bunch of awesome ladies ….  and basically making it through the year in one piece (always something to celebrate!).

And now you’re probably wondering how I did on my 2016 resolutions, right? I mean, if I were in your shoes, I’d totally be on the edge of my chair, almost frantic with my desire to know. In fact, I’m not entirely certain how y’all have made it this far.

Shall we get on with it?

2016: The Year of Hustle. The year where I would get off my butt and really get things done. The year where I would be in motion and moving towards all the things that I desired, rather than waiting patiently on my couch for all those things to magically make their way to me. And here’s what I said I’d do, with the actual results following each entry in italics.

Race every race. This sounds frighteningly straight forward, doesn’t it? You’d think there would be no problem with this one, except, historically speaking, there is. I’d sign up for a race, all excited and such, and then the day would come around and I’d be tired or it would be raining or I thought Belle looked sad that I was contemplating leaving her and I’d skip out on it. I have a drawer full of race shirts that I’m (almost) too embarrassed to wear because I didn’t earn them. But this year? None of that funny business. I’ve signed up for 5 races already, I did one today and have got 4 to go. Also – just to keep me accountable, I’ll post hilarious and/or tear-jerking race reports that will become instant viral hits. Or at least I’ll post a race report. Well … this first one wasn’t quite as successful as I hoped, but it wasn’t awful either. I did not race every race — I skipped two of them, if I’m remembering correctly — but I did pick up three extra races along the way, just for fun. So, while I didn’t strictly fulfill this resolution, at least I did in spirit by completing five races. And there was that week-long trip to Utah where I hiked and hiked and hiked and hiked some more. It’s almost like I’m an overachiever, right? 

Train for every race. This will take some work. But, I’ll say one thing — it’s desperately necessary! Feeling like you’re going to collapse on a race course isn’t an especially fun thing (it’s possible I have recent firsthand experience with this), so I’ll do what I can to make the whole racing thing more enjoyable. Which means becoming best buds with my treadmill this winter. I’m glad we have a decent relationship so far. (shuffles feet embarrassingly) Perhaps I didn’t do this as well as I could have. Or perhaps I did this almost not at all. I did train for my Utah trip — I set a goal to be able to do 20 flights of stairs at my local torture forest preserve and I accomplished that. With that said, I didn’t do a whole lot of running this year — I meant to, really I did! — with no excuse other than it didn’t feel all that good to run. Later on in the year, I started biking more (on the bike trainer) and that seemed a little more joint-friendly, so I’ll look to mix it up a bit in the coming year.

Work through the freecodecamp.com curriculum. In all, doing this evenings and weekends, it should take me a little over a year to finish. I’ve got a little coding background, so I’m hoping that it will go a little faster for me, but we’ll see — web design is not my forte. What’s my end goal with this? To be honest, I’m not sure. I know I’ve been enjoying learning it and another skill to add to my skillset backpack (you keep your skills in a backpack, too, don’t you?) is never a bad thing. While I’m not leaving my job until they either kick me out or I retire, having a side hustle in my pocket (that’s where you keep your side hustles, right?) gives me just a little sense of security. And perhaps a little sense of smugness, too (just kidding!)(okay, maybe not!)(no, really, just kidding). Didn’t happen. Still on my radar, but just didn’t have the time to devote to it and it’s not something that you can pick up and do once a week — it requires consistent dedication. 

Read less than last year. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still have a 50 book goal for the year, but with all I want to do, something’s gotta give. No more wild and crazy 60+ books this time around. #FAIL I just can’t stop reading!! Though, I think I’ll stay under the “crazy 60+ books” demarcation line, so there’s that. Beyond that, it’s been a good book year — I think that this year has brought me books that I love more than any other books I’ve read. There might be a blog post in there somewhere.

Give 100% to Living Brave course. I signed up for Brene Brown’s online semester course and while I have the track record of letting these sorts of things fall through the cracks, I’m determined to really get something out of this. It’s based on two of her books — Daring Greatly and Rising Strong — and what it has to teach is something I need to learn. Of course, one of those things is “you should really follow through on things that you pay money to do”. We’ll start with that lesson. #FTW!!! (in 2016, I totally got into hashtags … now I’m totally cool, right?) Man, I totally demolished this course … and it demolished me in return. I learned more than I thought I would going through this course, and I highly recommend it if it comes out again. There was a point where I wanted to give up because it was shedding light on stuff about myself that made me a little uncomfortable, but self-growth is so satisfying once you get through to the other side and can see where all the pieces fit. 

SLEEP. Last night I was going through a worksheet designed to ferret out goals and intentions and what I found myself mentioning over and over was how much getting enough sleep affects my life. It’s difficult when I’m getting up 4 days a week at 4:30am, but it’s doable; I’ve done it before and I can do it again. And really, I can’t overestimate how frickin’ important this is for me. If I want to have the energy and motivation to get all the things done that I want, I have to SLEEP. Without that, I come home from work, collapse on the couch and barely move until it’s time for bed. Which doesn’t really facilitate goal-reaching and stuff. Though I do end up very well-versed on Modern Family re-runs. Still incredibly important, still something that I go through periods where I struggle to get enough. I’m so much more mindful about it, though, so at least I know when I’m screwing myself up.

Turn off the TV. First, get rid of cable. I don’t need the cost, I don’t need the channels (and then I can spend all that cable money on running clothes, am I right?). All I have to do is get someone in here to mount an antenna on my roof and run the necessary cables to make it all work. My pie-in-the-sky goal? Limit TV watching to 10 hours a week. There’s just so little that’s on TV that I need to watch to enjoy life. I GOT RID OF CABLE!! And I’m so happy about it! The bill was just getting bigger and bigger, and I cut it off at the knees. Now my only tie to Comcast is for my internet connection (which is still too expensive, but — unfortunately — not something I can live without). I did end up subscribing to SlingTV, which gives me ESPN and a handful of other cable stations, but the fact is that I no longer turn on the TV and start flipping to stations to find something to watch. Because there is no on-screen menu of what’s on, my TV watching goes like this:  grab my phone, put in my passcode, bring up the TV Guide Listing app and see if there’s anything on that I would want to watch. If not, the TV doesn’t even get turned on. And I find that these days, even though the TV is on, I’m rarely really watching it — it’s just background noise. Facebook and online newsmedia has taken the place of evil timesucker these days (Facebook is mostly the gateway to all the articles). Especially with the election and all the fall-out, I want to stay informed and updated with politics. Of course, this leads to never-ending streams of articles that I want to read. And it disguises itself as something that’s feeding my brain, and so it feels educational, somehow, and not wasting time. I’ll need to figure this out in 2017.

Bring more creativity into my life. Write more, listen to more music, even do some adult coloring books (which sounds dirty now that I’ve typed it out, but here’s a link so you know I’m not a pervert with crayons). With the TV off, that gives me more time to do the things that allow my creativity to flow, whether from writing stuff here, finding new music to listen to or just journal writing. Creativity is good stuff, people. You should check it out. I did a few writing classes, which are always so damn gratifying. I also signed up for an at-your-own-pace online fiction writing course, which I’ve just started — I’ve never written fiction and decided that it was time to stretch that muscle a bit and see what it’ll do. I created a couple of playlists on Amazon Music that I love (who else out there misses the days of painstakingly putting together a mix tape for your friends? I LOVED doing that). I even took a ton of photos in Utah which reminded me how much I love photography and how I missed having a real DSLR camera — which I then remedied by spoiling myself and getting a refurbed Canon. 

So, that was 2016 in a nutshell. It was a good, stable year, for the most part. I had a few casual friends turn into always-have-my-back friends. I went an entire year without having to mess with my antidepressant meds because they’re doing such a great job. I now have a group of #sturdygirl hiking friends that I can take AWESOME hiking trips with. I’ve been weight-stable (weight +/- 5 pounds) for well over a year now (first time in 5 years that I haven’t gained weight!). I lost a roommate but gained a former roommate who’s happier than I’ve ever seen her. My family is happy and healthy, as am I. What more is there to ask for?

A solid 2016. Thanks for the memories, 2016, and now I look forward to the lessons that 2017 has to teach me.

See? Not just me saying it. It’s official and everything. No wimps. No whiners.

Once again, through the wonders of peer pressure, I found myself out in the cold, freezing my tuckus off, waiting for a race start. The Pere Marquette Trail Run — the race whose motto is “No wimps and no whiners” — was going to be 7.5ish miles of climbing and descending (i.e. 7.5ish miles of pain), by the sounds of it. We were sitting around the fire, trying to keep from freezing pre-race, and I shook my head at myself and smiled, knowing that I’d be warm and cozy at home if it weren’t for these crazy people that I called friends. And that despite the appeal of my couch, I wouldn’t have it any different than to be here with them.

Of course, that was before the race. Let’s just say that over the next 2+ hours, it’s possible that I violated the “no whining” rule, you know, once or perhaps twice. Just a note to make it clear how ill-prepared I was for this race — the last time I ran 7.5 miles was when I raced my last marathon. In 2011. My very flat 2011 marathon. So, yea. I knew I could finish, but I also knew I’d be slow.

The race didn’t pull any punches — the first mile contained about 400 feet of climbing, right off the bat. Just in case I didn’t know what I was getting into, the course reduced me to a walk even before I started sweating. I was on the tail-end of the racers — we were all in the last wave to go off, and I was in the back of that last wave — and there were a handful of us smiling and joking about the climb. Good times, good times. As the climb continued, we got strung out and by the end of the first mile, I only saw glimpses of other runners, most ahead, but a few behind me.

I have to admit, it was kind of a weird feeling being so isolated and yet knowing I was in a race. Back in my former life, I was consistently in the top 10% of my age group, usually, so I was never without a crowd of people. And even now, there’s usually a bunch of people who amble along at my current pace. But this particular race — maybe it’s the length or the hills — doesn’t attract a whole lot of slow runners, as I was to find out.

The “no really, I’m not a fire!” warming fire.

But it was a gorgeous place to run. Or walk/hike/run, which is what I was actually doing. Being slow meant that I could occasionally stop and take pictures — some of the climbs forced me to have to catch my breath anyway, might as well snap a few photos while I was at it, right? And while it was cold outside, it was cold in the way that runners like — as soon as you get going, everything warms up and it’s quite comfortable. It reminded me why I used to really enjoy winter running. And my strategy worked well: hike the uphills, run the downhills and do the best I could with running on the (very few) level sections.

Things started to go downhill (ha! I’m punny!) somewhere just before the 4 mile mark. I was feeling okay, but tiring quickly and it soon struck me that I was only about halfway done. I think if someone had been watching me, they would have seen my shoulders slump dramatically, like I was a teenager being told, no, they couldn’t go to that party where all the super-popular people were going to be even if it meant that would make them a social pariah. You remember how that goes, right?

Regardless, my mood took a hit, but I wasn’t whining quite yet. I was getting cold — I hit a section that was windy, and that cut through me like the Snowmiser from the Christmas cartoon — but the hills weren’t quite as bad. Plus, I might go uphill at the speed of a grandma with a walker, but I can descend like a bat out of hell. Or a bat out of someplace much colder than hell, in this instance.

Throughout all of this, I didn’t see more than a few other runners. One woman, who had done something bad to her knee and was limping to the aid station, provided me with some much-needed small talk while I walked with her until the aid workers came. While I ordinarily don’t mind being on my own, I was starting to realize that I missed having people around me to chit chat with when the going got a little tough. Again – this race was unlike any other than I had done recently.

The beginning of the first unending uphill.

Back to the race. I moved on from the last aid station, which I believe was at around 5.5 miles, and my attitude soured. I was tired, I still had two miles to go, and I was cold. I knew there were very few people behind me, though, so I kept moving because I didn’t want them to catch me. For whatever reason, my ego had hooked itself on the idea that as long as I wasn’t the last to finish, this would be a victory (completing ignoring the fact that simply being there, taking on this really tough course and finishing in whatever place, would be a victory). Head down, one foot in front of the other. It felt like a marathon death march.

I came out of the woods from one trail, saw the lodge where the finish line was, and was then directed to go back into the woods to finish off the race. I knew I had about 1.5 miles left to go, so I gamely struck back out. That section? That climb was the work of the devil. There was a part where stone stairs had been helpfully placed, but for a short person like me, they were quite the challenge. I started wondering whether I was going to need some technical climbing gear to finish this race out (okay, so perhaps I exaggerate, but this might have been one of my whining incidents). There was a guy taking race pictures on the trail — he told me that once I got to the top of the stairs, it was mostly downhill from there. I latched onto that thought as if my life depended on it.

This was a “holy crap I can’t breathe, might as well take a picture” rest stop.

The stairs almost killed me, or at least killed my desire to live, but I finally reached the top. I came out of the trail onto a limestone clearing and I saw 3 other trails and nothing to tell me which one I was supposed to take. As a racer, it’s always my job to know the course, but I’ve never had to worry about this and so I didn’t on this day, either. But there I stood — one path curled back around kind of the way I came, which seemed like a reasonable path to take. One path went further uphill and away, and I decided that even if that WAS the race course, I wasn’t doing it. The third trail was off ahead of me and seemed to head further out. Remember, I had just come from the lodge where the finish line was — that was behind me — and I knew I didn’t have much more than a mile to go.

I made a guess and started to head down the other trail that curled back towards the lodge, figuring that even if it wasn’t right, I wouldn’t screw myself up too much. I didn’t go down too far — probably about an eighth of a mile — and then as I kept going down, I was less able to keep my bearings and decided to double back and just take the trail that I knew would take me back to the lodge even though it wasn’t the course. At this point, I was too cold and tired to mess around with getting myself lost or further away from where I was supposed to be.

I popped out of that trail back into the limestone clearing and two safety-orange vested people were coming from the stone stairs trail — they were the race sweepers — the people responsible for following the last runner. They directed me to the correct trail (not the uphill one, luckily, but the one that seemed to go away from where I wanted to be) and forward I went. They were really nice and encouraging, but all I wanted to do was put distance in between myself and them. Even though I know better than to feel this way, I was embarrassed to be that last runner.

I was headed downhill, so all was good. Even exhausted, I could run downhill. Of course, it wasn’t all like that. I would run, then have to walk when the trail turned slightly uphill. I hung my head, trying not to let it all get to me, feeling myself start to fall apart.

This was about the time that I started not liking this race anymore, but damn those views were still outstanding.

I saw a guy ahead of me and I made him my target. I could beat him. He was being tentative on the downhills, so I became as reckless as he was careful, gained on him, passed him and tried to put distance between us. With a quarter mile or so to go, we hit the flat before the finish line. No longer going downhill and having run out of gas about 2 miles back, he probably had the same idea I did about not being last, picked up his pace, passed me and I had absolutely no answer.

Finally, I came around the corner with the finish line in sight. There were very few people around, but my friends where there whooping it up and cheering for me — I absolutely loved seeing them there. It’s such a balm to the soul to know that there are people who support me, encourage me and know that even though I might be slow, I’m always out there doing the best I can.

Wait – did I take a wrong turn and end up at the beach??

And despite that, the shame monster in my head was unrelenting. I crossed the finish line, tears in my eyes, and could only think about how badly I felt because they were there freezing waiting for me to come in. My lizard brain told me in no uncertain terms that this isn’t something I should have been doing, that I should be in better shape, that I should be faster, that I didn’t deserve the love that these friends were so freely giving me.

All that is absolutely wrong, of course. I know this. Here’s how wrong this is — if I came in with exactly the same finish time, but there were people behind me still, I would have been elated with my performance! I knew going in that the course was really challenging, and I set a goal for myself … and I beat that pace goal by 1:50m/m. What’s not to be proud of about that? And frankly, being the last to cross the finish line only means that I started AND finished this bitch of a race. Just like everyone else. In fact, I did more since I did some ad hoc sightseeing in the middle of the race when I didn’t know where I was going.

It took me a bit to collect myself and calm myself down. It didn’t help that I was absolutely chilled to the bone and probably didn’t eat or hydrate enough while I was out there. As we drove to lunch, I told those voices to take a hike (see – still had a sense of humor about it!) and leave me alone. They may have ruined my race finish for me, but I certainly wasn’t going to let them ruin the rest of my day — not when I had such awesome friends to spend time with.

The lesson out of all of this? No matter how much progress I think I’m making in terms of being okay with no longer being speedy or in shape, I’m still not all the way there with accepting myself. This is tough work! But I’ll continue working away at it. I’ll continue being peer pressured into races that I think are absolute craziness. And I won’t have it any other way.

The reason I keep doing all this crazy stuff.