Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Top 9 Year in Review

Here we are at the end of the year again and it is hard to believe how fast 2016 went by. Wasn’t it just last week that I was planning goals for this coming year and thinking back on what an amazing year 2015 was?

I look back on 2016 year as a year of growth for me. It was a year of challenging myself, feeling uncomfortable, feeling intimidated and out of place. It was a year of pushing outside of my comfort zone in all areas of life not just what I talk about here, but also at work and in my personal life, as well as with running and triathlon. This year was full of firsts and new things and throughout that process I learned a lot about myself. When I look back at the year, what I am most proud of is overcoming a lot of the intimidation I felt in many areas of life and the feeling that I wasn’t good enough.

2016 was new territory for me in many ways. I took on a new distance of racing, the Half Ironman, and made the decision to train on my own, without a coach or a formal plan. I stepped away from the diet program that has always been a fall back for me. I decided to consciously do LESS races and focus only on the big ones in my schedule. But this year wasn’t just about training and racing – it was also a year of celebrating loved ones and welcoming new loved ones. Of travel, of moving, and of growing up in many ways.

On Instagram, the New Years-y thing to do is post your “Top 9” which includes your top “Liked” and commented on photos of the past year. I was looking forward to seeing what this was for me, and not surprisingly, my Top 9 was dominated by NYC Marathon, Half Ironman World Championships, and Half Ironman Chattanooga.

However, it got me to think about what my personal “Top 9” for the year would be, determined by myself and not by my social network and filter abilities.

1. Half Ironman Journey.

It feels like, what more can I say here, right? Well, if you know me well enough, there is always more that can be said. This journey is broken up into two periods for me, based on the training for the two races. From January to May, was full of a lot of anxiety and stress for me as I trained. Nearly every time I got on the bike, it was a new distance PR of some sort. The travel, the back-to-back biking and running weekend workouts, and overall newness/lack of comfort/anxiety in life was hard and wore on me.

The race itself in Chattanooga was incredible. I exceeded my expectations of a 7-hour finish by over 30 minutes. I sobbed when I returned home after the weekend. It meant so much to have a friend with me at that race, and one of the things that I will always remember looking back on that weekend was how meaningful it was to have Brick there with me, the weekend before her 30th birthday.

From May to September, as I trained for my next Half Ironman in Australia, I went about it completely differently. After the whirlwind of going from not wanting to do another HIM to committing to Half Ironman World Championships in Australia, I knew I needed to go about training completely differently and I did. I hired a triathlon coach. I hired a nutritionist. I joined the Atlanta Triathlon Club. I bought a heart rate monitor. I invested in aero bars and bought my first “official” biking gear. I joined group rides as a regular part of my training.

The work I was putting in showed. Weight dropped off, improvements started to be seen easily in my training, and I felt fantastic. Most importantly, I didn’t have the anxiety and stress I had in training for Chattanooga and I went into the race feeling wonderful about myself.

2. Turning 30.

This happened right alongside the end of training for Australia. I left two days after my birthday. However, before that, I truly had a wonderful time. I turned 30 feeling so confident and amazing about myself. Part of it had to two with how I looked, yes. As I mentioned, those changes I made in training and diet were really working for me. But I also felt strong. I felt confident and I felt happy, which was what I wanted.

I celebrated my birthday surrounded by love with fabulous women in Atlanta and with warm wishes from family and friends around the country. To top it off with adventure and a trip around the world… I couldn’t have asked for more.

3. Global travel.

I traveled out of the country four times this year. Twice professionally and twice personally. I visited two new countries/continents and truly had some of the most memorable times traveling I’ve ever had. The first trip in February brought me to Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates. Then Mexico in March into April. Singapore in May. And then of course Australia in August into September.

With three of those trips happening before my first Half Ironman, I also had the unique experience of training all around the world. The travel certainly made training a challenge but I was determined not make it work and not train, while on the road, which led to some of the coolest memories of sunrise swimming in Singapore (and Dubai!), spin classes in Dubai, and runs in Mexico. I am truly proud of my grit and determination despite the jet lag, work schedules, evenings out, and early morning meetings – I did all of this and went to Chattanooga well prepared for my race and didn’t miss out on any of these life experiences

They all involved exotic destinations, culture, adventure, beauty and great friends from different parts of life. It was an amazing year for international travel!

4. Becoming an aunt again.

In October, right after their 2nd birthday my twin niece and nephew, Jack and Bridget, became big siblings to Baby Thomas, born in the same month. I am beyond grateful that I was fortunate enough to be able to time a trip home to be there for Baby Thomas’s birth. I have never met a baby the day they were born so to be there for my nephew was truly a blessing and I felt like I was a part of a miracle happening. I couldn’t believe that the night before this little I was holding in my arms was inside of my sister while we watched television. It gave me such perspective on what a miracle bringing a child into this world is and I fell in love with Baby Thomas and the moments this year I was able to spend with him (and of course J and B too!)

5. Celebrating loved ones.

This year I attended 4 weddings of important people in my life. One of my friends from Upstate NY, my college roommate, and two of my childhood best friends Teenie and KO. I was able to be there for Teenie’s bachelorette as well and that was so special to me. In addition to these weddings, I had other friends get engaged, get pregnant, and accomplish major life moments. As little as it may seem in comparison to these bigger life events, my little twin half brothers also completed their second 5K and ran it on their own – which made me so proud and I celebrated from afar! There were new jobs, moves, and so much to celebrate in the lives of my loved ones this year that I felt so thrilled to be a part of and for them.

6. A refresh in Atlanta.

On the topic of moves, I made my own this year! In mid-November, I relocated within Atlanta, moving closer into the city and downsizing into a smaller apartment that fit my needs better. It is in an incredible location and I am in love with my easy access to friends, great restaurants, and beautiful places to run. It felt like my life in Atlanta got “refreshed” a bit this year between the move, meeting new people through triathlon, and focusing more on the people that matter.

7. Seeing new cities and travel within the U.S. 

The international travel often gets all the glory, but this year brought new domestic travel as well! I visited new iconic cities of New Orleans and Miami, and returned to Nashville. I had an amazingly fun trip to San Francisco, returned to Chicago, NYC a few times, Wilmington, NC and a few trips back home to New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts where I was able to see new parts of cities I’ve spent a lot of time in before, such as Providence.

8. Strengthening friendships.

In Atlanta and elsewhere, I had a lot of friendships blossom and grow that I am so proud of. The people in your life truly make it what it is and I am so beyond thankful for the amazing people I have in my life. I was able to travel with friends new and old, reconnect with people I haven’t seen in years, get closer with people within Atlanta and also friends I’ve had since childhood. As you grow older, friendships become harder to maintain and it makes me happy to see that I am strengthening some of these bonds in my life.

9. Pushing myself professionally.

Although I don’t talk about that much, as this is my “Top 9” I have to include this because it was an important year for me professionally. I felt very challenged in my role and doubted myself a lot. I am proud of myself for where I ended up this year and the impact I was able to bring to my team and company.

So there you have it. It's not everything, as NYC Marathon and running coach class and giving back through running isn't here, and so many other important life, family and friend events... but this was what came to mind as how to summarize my year. 2016 challenged me and it pushed me. It woke me up a bit to areas I still need to work on in life and places where I can improve. When I finished the Half Ironman in Australia, I was SO happy because in addition to getting a PR from my time in May, I also saw so many areas where I could improve. I think that is a good metaphor for my entire year – not just in triathlon. I am so excited about everything I accomplished in 2016 but also so excited because I know there is more I can do in 2017.

I have set up 2017 to be a year with big goals. Goal that’s that also make me nervous and feel beyond my reach right now. But I also feel like I am prepared with the toolkit of what I need to achieve them. Unlike last year at this time, I KNOW what to do, I just need to do it. I fell off the bandwagon in October through December quite a bit and have gained back the weight I'd lost and need to rebuild some of my base training, but I'm ready for the challenge. I know what needs to be done.

I will continue to work on my diet with the nutritionist (who doubles as a therapist sometimes.) And I’ve switched around coaching programs and will be working with a local coaching group in Atlanta, that I am very excited about. My circle of people supporting me is strong and I am strong. 2017 is a year of going after goals. I’m ready. Bring it on!

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