Reflections on 2017

Sometimes when I’ve done a year in review, I’ve listed the races I did, including times and how I placed. That would be a pretty short re-cap this year. It also wouldn’t capture even a sliver of what 2017 was actually about. I was trying to figure out how to organize some kind of yearly reflection post but if there were too few races, there was too much of everything else. Too many critical moments, important people, insights and choices and changes. It was a big year.

One thing that has helped me reflect on the year is a series of goal-setting conversations  at Sub-30 over the past few weeks that have been truly rewarding. A lot of them have been focused around the question of “Finding your why”. Why get up at 5:30am or even earlier to go jump in a cold pool and swim? Why ride hour after hour on a bike that doesn’t go anywhere? Why track down yet another physical therapist? Why run when it’s too hot or more recently when it’s way too cold? I’m not totally there yet with my answer, but I am much closer than I used to be.

An exercise that has proved enlightening on the whole “find your why” topic has been picking a word for the year. The word for the year provides a kind of focal point, something to refer back to when you might be losing your way. I first heard about it from FatMan of the FatMan Chronicles, who got it from the Two Gomers, who got it from Oprah. But even Mario Fraioli is getting in on the act [in issue 113]. I’ll have more to say on my word for 2018 later, but over at Running for Real, someone asked people to come up with a word to describe 2017 retroactively, a somewhat different project, but a really good one.

I had thought that my word for 2017 was “Relentless”. That’s how I felt all spring as I pushed and pushed and pushed. First with my many (failed) attempts to return to running and then more successfully as I switched my focus to recovery. When I didn’t really want to go to the pool, when I was tired of driving around to physical therapy, when I had to wait what seemed like forever for my custom orthotics to arrive – Relentless is a word that helped me get through it.

But in looking back over the whole of 2017, relentless did not feel right for the second half of the year. In a classic things-look-darkest-before-the-dawn scenario, the turnaround came with the diagnosis of a partial tear of the plantar fasciia, not just regular old PF. That diagnosis brought five weeks in the boot and a much-needed change in focus. It also indirectly led to a change in coaches because it was during the hiatus from running that got to know Coach Mick and eventually signed on with him.

Even though the return to running seemed glacial, other non-running parts of life improved as well. In May, Rose and I officially joined First Church of Middletown, claiming a spiritual home after decades of searching and dabbling. I spent the summer traveling, for work and fun, going to Switzerland, Scotland, Germany, Cape Cod, Ithaca and twice to Pennsylvania. The traveling weeks sometimes felt relentless but mostly joyful. I got to see some beautiful parts of the world. I spent time with valued friends and colleagues. I learned an awful lot. I was able to walk and even run in some of those places.

In July I returned to running again and officially started getting workouts from Coach Mick on July 24th. I ran five races in the fall, starting with a 5K PR at Old Wethersfield, then the VIA Marathon Relay in September, the Hartford Half, the Ghost Train Half, and the Manchester Road Race. Some of those races had relentless aspects to them, but more than anything, my heart was so happy. When I look back over my photos from those races, I see smile after smile. If the word for the first half of the year was relentless, for the second half, it had to be joy.

But the word I ultimately want to choose for 2017 is “reborn”. The word is stolen from a friend over at Running for Real, but it fits so well. Remember that butterfly post? Six months of relentless patience. Six months of utter joy. Reborn indeed.


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3 Responses to Reflections on 2017

  1. Kevin says:

    A joy that is shared by many who know you who have watched the rebirth!

  2. Bryan Board says:

    As I have read and thought about this post, it keeps striking me how tied together your Key Words are. It isn’t impossible to have Joy without Relentless, but it seems more often than not, a Relentless pursuit, Leads to Joy. And when you have reached that point of Joy, then you view everything around you different. You really do feel, Reborn. Sometimes the Relentless, the Joy, and the Reborn can apply to a singular pursuit, such as running. But even when it does, the Reborn spreads over to affect how you view and interact with the other areas of your life as well. Thank you, for this post. And for sharing all three words, all three aspects of your life and this past year. – B

  3. This is really beautiful. I think it’s hard to choose a single word to describe a year like yours (or mine). And when the word has a connotation of harshness and being unforgiving, like relentless does, it’s nice that the second word is so utterly simple and happy. When we are relentless in our passion, the outcome is joy. How perfect!

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