A New Year

As I’ve come to be accustomed to in this crazy life of mine, time has been flying by, and here we are in 2012.

Typically, the holidays are a time to slow things down, leave the “grind” of daily life behind, and reflect on the times and memories of the past year. For me, this holiday season was about as much of a frenzy as any typical day. But, fortunately, reflection for me is something that rarely ceases, as I find myself constantly reflecting on the time I’ve spent in a given day, week, month and the way I’ve spent it; the things I’ve managed to accomplish or missed out on; the tasks and goals that still remain burning in my mind and my plan to arrive at them; and of course, the people I surround myself with during all of this.

And, conveniently, as it’s nearly 1:00 a.m. and those ambitions and tasks are weighing on my mind too much for me to sleep, I’ve finally got a chance to slow down enough to be able to put these reflections into words.

Frankly, I find the concept of the New Year a bit skewed. It seems to have become such a symbolic ‘turning point’ in the lives of many. And while I do like the symbolism of a “fresh start,” so to speak, I question why it has to be so heavily associated with the New Year. Why not tomorrow? Why not right now? If you want to change something, or “start over,” it seems there is no time like the present. But alas, it seems we get so caught up in the ebb and flow of our daily lives that sometimes we become unable to take ourselves out of context for even just a brief moment to assess whether we’re really in the right place with what we’re doing each day. So if the New Year provides a chance to do this, and a motivation to create change if it’s warranted, then so be it.

I also find that the New Year seems to embody a sense of “leaving the past behind.” I’m not a big fan of this notion. In my opinion, we should embrace the past — good or bad — and carry it with us as we move forward.

And that’s exactly what I’m planning to do with my new year: reflect on this past 365 days, what it has brought me and the lessons it has taught me, and carry those lessons, that progress and those memories with me as I journey ahead.

Looking back on 2011, I think it’s easy to say I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked, but maybe I just need to look at it differently. Athletically, I missed out on some of the goals that I set for myself, but far surpassed others. I did not qualify for the 2011 Ironman World Championships in Kona. I did not break the 2 hr. 20 min. mark in an Olympic Distance Triathlon. I did not get to compete in my first Xterra, as I became injured and missed nearly two months of racing.

I did, however, break 11:30 (11:20, in fact) in the Ironman distance, and place top-10 among all women in the same race (Vineman 2011). I did achieve a new PR in the Olympic distance (2:21:50). Most recently, I did come back from an eight-week running hiatus due to injury and turn in a huge PR in the marathon, running a 3:15:24 at the California International Marathon in December. This alone was an incredible achievement for me, and more importantly a major breakthrough in my running and racing. I far exceeded my goal and even my own expectations and beliefs of what I could achieve in this race. I felt great throughout nearly the entire run — a definite first for me for the marathon distance, and undoubtedly the most amazing aspect of the day. As I ran through miles 18-24 (my usual breakdown period) feeling strong, I was literally in total disbelief of what my body was achieving and the way I was feeling. I was probably grinning from ear to ear as I ran, totally in my own element, and on top of the world.

Sometimes it really just all comes together. And even — okay, especially — when it shocks the hell out of you, it feels amazing. Indescribable, really. I’d say having that sensation alone, of being totally impressed by and in awe of the capabilities of my own body and mind, is a major achievement in itself. I had this feeling more than once this past year. Most notably, in the CIM as well as in the Vineman in July — two of the best races of my entire life. That right there is something to smile about. But there were other accomplishments too. Smaller, perhaps, but still significant in their own way.

I raced less this year than I have in the past, but I definitely raced better. Perhaps I’m finally learning the lesson that ‘more’ isn’t always the right answer. I missed out on several races, and months of running, due to my injury, but I learned to be okay with it. I gave so much of myself to the sport of triathlon this past year. I trained hard, and with heart, and desire. I never let myself give up. I struggled some, for certain, but I pushed through, and I really do believe that I persevered. I improved as an athlete, significantly. But most importantly, I had a great time. If nothing else, this past year absolutely solidified in my mind my love and passion for athletics, the place they maintain in my life, and their presence at the center of my being. I feel more confident than ever that I am doing the right thing by investing so much of my time, my effort and myself into my athletic pursuits. Day in and day out, they have carried me through this past year, and I could not be more thankful.

As I think about 2012, I am excited to continue to act on that passion, and see what I can do with it. As you might have predicted, I’m also not a huge fan of the ‘New Years Resolution’ concept. But I do believe strongly in ongoing goal setting, and again, perhaps the changing of the calendar provides a good time to re-focus on our goals, and what we need to do to really accomplish them. Yes, I want to go faster. But I have much to achieve en route to doing so.

Naturally, I know that I need and want to train both harder and smarter. I want to race more challenging fields and perform better. But I also know that, for me, improving my athletic abilities also means that I need to improve other aspects of my life. My training and racing are just one piece of an interlocking puzzle that sometimes seems so tough to fit together. So yes, while I want to bike more, swim harder and run faster, making that puzzle fit is my overarching foal for 2012; my resolution, if you will.

Balancing the many facets of life can be so much more difficult than it sounds. I want to write more, and reach more people with that writing. I want to be a better coach and help my athletes achieve more. I need to earn more financially, in order to make this life sustainable; though I don’t necessarily want to. I need to learn how to juggle four jobs along with training and racing, or find a way to let one take over and lessen the load. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with thinking about all I am trying to accomplish and the fact that it can seem so unrealistic. But yet, somehow, I am still optimistic about what is to come. While I may struggle sometimes, I know my heart is in the right place, because I am pursuing my passions.

For now, all I can do is continue giving 100 percent, keep believing in myself and my goals, and hold out faith that things will fall into place when the time is right. I don’t know for sure whether that will be in 2012, but I’m going to move forward into this year with my head held high, carrying the lessons, failures and achievements with me as a foundation, and continue progressing. Because, really, what else is there to do?

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